Featured Care Guides
Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.
Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.
Anal sacs are a set of glands that are just under the skin near your pet’s anus. The two glands arelocated at the 4:00 and 8:00 o’clock positions from the anus. The anal sacs fill with a foul-smelling fluid that is normally expressed through a tiny duct when animals defecate. Animals may use their anal glands to mark territory or repell aggressors, although a nervous dog or cat may accidentally express these glands when frightened.
Most antifreeze solutions contain high levels of ethylene glycol, an ingredient that, once metabolized, is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Pets are often attracted to the liquid because of its sweet taste. Even small amounts can be lethal to animals. A cat that walks through spilled antifreeze and then licks its paws may ingest enough to be fatal. As little as 2.5 tablespoons of antifreeze could kill a 20-pound dog.
Some animals may have several of these clinical signs, whereas others may have only one—perhaps an ear infection.
Bee stings can be a serious event and even life threatening in some cases. Dogs are at greater risk for bee stings than people, as they tend to chase or play with things that move. Dogs are likely to get stung in the mouth or on the nose, face, or feet by several different insects, including bees, wasps, and hornets.
Bladder and kidney stones are hardened accumulations of minerals found in urine. Common minerals involved include struvite, calcium oxalate, and urate. Dogs and cats can develop stones anywhere in the urinary tract. Stones can form in many different shapes and sizes.
A blood pressure test measures the pressure of blood against arterial walls as the blood is pumped through the body. As a general rule of thumb, blood pressure should not exceed about 160/100 mm Hg in dogs and cats. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure when the heart contracts. The second reading is the diastolic blood pressure, which is lower because it is the pressure when the heart relaxes between contractions. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Breast cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal mammary gland (breast) cells. If left untreated, certain types of breast cancer can metastasize (spread) to other mammary glands, lymph nodes, the lungs, and other organs throughout the body.
Most shelters and rescue organizations are overflowing with mixed breed and purebred dogs that are perfectly friendly and adoptable, but there simply aren’t enough homes for them. As a result, approximately three to four million unwanted dogs and cats are euthanized each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Producing more puppies, for any other reason than to improve the breed, just exacerbates the problem.
Bringing a new kitten home is exciting. These guidelines will help you and your kitten adjust to this big change in your lives.
Blood testing is commonly used to help diagnose disease or pinpoint injury in animals. It can also help determine the state of your pet’s health during regular physical exam visits. Although a CBC or a chemistry profile can be performed separately, these tests are frequently done at the same time; when the results are interpreted together, they provide a good overview of many of the body’s functions. As with any other diagnostic test, results of a CBC and chemistry profile are not interpreted in a vacuum. Your veterinarian will combine this information with physical exam findings, medical history, and other information to assess your pet’s health status and determine if additional testing should be recommended.
Anesthesia is defined as the loss of ability to feel pain. However, the term anesthesia is more commonly used to refer to a state of deep sedation or unconsciousness during which a patient is unable to feel pain.
Arthritis is a joint problem that can reduce mobility and cause pain. Often seen in older dogs, arthritis can by caused by injury, infection, the body’s own immune system, or developmental problems. The most common form of arthritis is called osteoarthritis (osteo = bone; arthr = joint; itis = disease) or degenerative joint disease. Normally, joints form smooth connections between bones. Osteoarthritis involves thinning of joint cartilage (a protective cushioning between bones), buildup of fluid within the joint, and the formation of bony growths within the joint. Over time, this can lead to reduced joint mobility as well as pain. Osteoarthritis affects one of every five dogs.
The bladder is an expandable sac, like a balloon, that lies toward the back of the abdomen and is part of the system that removes waste from the body. Urine flows from the kidneys through the tube-shaped ureters and into the bladder, where it is stored before being eliminated from the body through a tube called the urethra.
Canine chronic otitis is recurrent or persistent inflammation of the ear. One or both ears may be affected. Inflammation of the ear often leads to secondary infection caused by yeast or bacterial overgrowth. This condition can be quite painful.
Diabetes mellitus is an illness caused by the body’s inability to either make or use insulin, which is a hormone produced and released by specialized cells in the pancreas. Insulin permits the body’s cells to take sugar (glucose) from the blood and use it for their metabolism and other functions. Diabetes mellitus develops when the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or when the body’s cells are unable to use available insulin to take glucose from the blood.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.
Canine hip dysplasia is a painful disease that affects millions of dogs each year. It is an inherited developmental disorder of the hip joint and can lead to debilitating arthritis. Its progression can be influenced by environmental factors, such as weight gain, nutrition, and exercise. Certain breeds, especially larger ones, are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, but the disease can affect dogs of any size and breed.
Canine influenza virus (CIV) was first detected in 2004 in racing greyhounds in Florida. Investigators learned that this new canine influenza developed when an equine influenza virus adapted to infect dogs. This was the first time that an equine influenza virus had been found to “jump” from horses to dogs. According to Dr. Cynda Crawford of the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, canine influenza does not infect people, and there is no documentation that cats have become infected by exposure to dogs with CIV.
A high-quality, complete and balanced diet is important for the health and longevity of your dog. Among other benefits, a proper diet helps build strong bones, promotes healthy gums and teeth, protects immune function, and results in a lustrous haircoat. Unlike cats, which are carnivores (meaning that they must eat meat), dogs are omnivores, meaning that they can eat meat and plants as their primary food sources.
Obesity (the storage of excess fat) is usually caused by excessive food intake and insufficient exercise. According to estimates, 40% to 50% of dogs are overweight and 25% of dogs are obese. Obesity is more common in older, less active pets. Dogs that are fed homemade meals, table scraps, and snacks are more likely to be overweight than dogs that are fed only a commercial pet food.
The pancreas is an organ in the abdomen that is involved in helping the body digest food. The pancreas releases enzymes (proteins that are involved in chemical reactions in the body) into the digestive tract to help break down fats and promote digestion. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, the condition is referred to as pancreatitis.
Canine parvovirus is a deadly disease that is caused by the canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) virus. The virus attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system of puppies and dogs. It can also attack the heart of very young puppies.
With many dogs living well into their teens, many owners wonder: When is a dog truly senior? The answer is that there is no specific age at which a dog becomes senior. Individual pets age at different rates. However, most dogs become senior at 7 to 10 years of age, and most large- and giant-breed dogs become seniors earlier than small-breed dogs.
A cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormality in a dog’s heartbeat. It may be associated with the rate (too fast or too slow), an irregularity in the heartbeat pattern, or a problem in the location where electrical signals are formed in the heart. Some arrhythmias may be harmless and do not require treatment, while others can be serious and life threatening.
A cardiac examination is an evaluation of the cardiovascular system, which includes the heart, lungs, and blood vessels. Many elements of a cardiac exam are usually performed (to some extent) during a routine physical examination in pets of all ages. However, for older animals, pets with a history of heart problems, or pets that are at risk for developing heart disease, more extensive testing is sometimes recommended.
Orphaned puppies should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Your veterinarian can give you advice on caring for puppies and might be able to provide you with contact information for animal rescue groups. During the first few weeks of life, puppies have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion.
During the first 7 to 8 weeks of life, puppies have specific needs for nourishment, warmth, socialization, and excretion.
Toxicosis is disease due to poisoning. Chocolate contains two ingredients that can be toxic to pets—caffeine, and a chemical called theobromine. While dogs and cats are both very sensitive to the effects of caffeine and theobromine, cats are usually not attracted to chocolate, so chocolate toxicosis tends to be less common in cats.
Kidney disease is a very general term used to describe several conditions that can affect the kidneys or damage kidney cells. If kidney disease progresses, it can eventually lead to kidney failure and death.
Ear infections are usually secondary to inflammation of the external ear canals (the tube-shaped part of the ear visible under the ear flap). Inflammation of the canals leads to the reproduction of normal bacteria and yeast that live in the ear to the point where the body is unable to control their numbers (called overgrowth). Other bacteria can also take advantage of the inflammation and unhealthy environment inside the ear to establish infection. The overgrowth of these organisms causes more inflammation. Inflammation of the ear canal causes swelling, making the tube narrower than usual. Inflammation also causes an increase in the production of wax. The ears become very itchy and painful. Severe ear infections can lead to eardrum rupture and middle and inner ear infections. Deep infections can lead to deafness and neurologic signs.
Coccidiosis is an intestinal condition caused by a microscopic, single-celled parasite. While there are several types of coccidia, dogs with this condition are usually infected with Isospora canis, while cats are infected with Isospora felis.
Most people are familiar with terms like Alzheimer’s disease or senility as they apply to humans. However, elderly dogs and cats develop a very similar condition known as cognitive dysfunction (CD).
Colitis is the inflammation of the colon, which is the last portion of the digestive tract. Under normal conditions, the colon stores feces while absorbing fluid and nutrients. When the colon is inflamed, these functions are affected. Additional fluid is left in the colon, resulting in diarrhea.
Your home can hold a lot of unrecognized dangers for your pet. Many common food items or household products can sicken or even kill animals. However, a few simple precautions can help keep your pet safe.
Congestive heart failure is a broad medical term that means that a dog’s heart cannot deliver sufficient blood to its body. This condition can be caused by a failure of the left side, the right side, or both sides of the heart.
Grief is a natural reaction to the loss of a pet. Regardless of whether the pet is old or young, or whether the loss is expected or sudden, family members and other people who were close to the pet will experience similar feelings when a beloved pet dies. These feelings, commonly called the five stages of grief, are the same as those experienced when a person passes away.
The cornea is the thin, transparent covering of cells on the front of the eye. The cells that make up the cornea are very fragile, so anything that rubs, scrapes, or irritates the eye can damage this thin layer of cells or rub some of them off. This is called a corneal ulcer. Corneal ulceration can occur if the eye is irritated by chemicals, dust, or inadequate tear production. Trauma, such as scratching, can also cause a corneal ulcer.
Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture is one of the most common orthopedic problems in dogs. A dog’s stifle joint corresponds to the human knee joint, and the CCL is comparable to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in humans. Just as in humans, a partial or complete rupture of this ligament is debilitating and extremely painful, resulting in lameness and joint instability. Untreated, CCL rupture results in additional degenerative changes in the joint and, eventually, osteoarthritis. CCL rupture can occur in any dog. Risk factors include obesity, existing osteoarthritis or instability in the knee, and a lack of proper conditioning for the activity taking place, such as a normally sedentary dog that suddenly begins vigorous play.
Many veterinarians recommend crate training as a good way to housebreak puppies, and in some cases, adult dogs. This training method is based on the principle that dogs prefer not to soil where they sleep. A comfortable crate not only provides a puppy with a secure, den-like atmosphere but also prevents destructive behaviors (such as chewing inappropriate items) and protects against household dangers (such as electrical wires) when a puppy isn’t being supervised.
Creatinine is a substance that the body produces during normal metabolism. The body eliminates creatinine almost exclusively through the kidneys’ filtration process, so measurement of creatinine is an accurate estimation of how well the kidney filtration processes are working. Anything that alters the ability of the kidneys to filter efficiently (such as dehydration) can cause changes in the level of creatinine in the blood.
Cushing's disease occurs when the body produces and releases excessive amounts of a hormone called cortisol. It is named after the doctor who first described it in people. The veterinary medical term for Cushing's disease is hyperadrenocorticism.
Demodectic mange is an inflammatory skin condition caused by microscopic mites of the genus Demodex. These mites are transmitted from mother dogs and cats to their puppies or kittens during nursing and become normal inhabitants of the hair follicles. In small numbers, the mites usually don’t cause problems. However, in animals with certain genetic factors, metabolic disease, or a compromised immune system, the number of mites can increase, causing skin inflammation.
Bad breath in pets may be a sign of periodontal disease that could lead to other health problems. Periodontal disease starts when plaque (a bacterial film) coats the tooth. Plaque hardens (calcifies) into tartar, a thick yellow or brown layer on the teeth. Tartar can irritate the gums, creating an environment where bacteria thrive. As the disease progresses, the gums become tender, red, and swollen and the bacteria continue to multiply. Eventually, the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that trap more bacteria and food particles. The gums bleed, the roots of the teeth may become exposed, teeth may become loose, and your pet may feel pain when eating. If the bacteria enter the bloodstream, they can create problems for organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
It’s estimated that 85% of all pets have periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years of age. Periodontal disease is a progressive disease of the supporting tissues surrounding teeth and the main cause of early tooth loss.
Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites include any parasites that live in the stomach or intestines of a host. A variety of GI parasites affect dogs and cats. They range from roundworms and tapeworms, which are visible with the naked eye, to microscopic organisms like coccidia and Giardia. Regardless of their size, GI parasites can cause serious illness and sometimes even death in pets. Some parasites are zoonotic, which means humans can become infected.
A pet with diarrhea has looser or more watery feces than normal and sometimes more frequent stools as well.
Ear cleaning can help treat or prevent ear problems. Some pets are prone to ear problems and may need regular ear cleanings between veterinary visits. Ear cleaning can help remove dirt and wax that can prevent medications from reaching inflamed areas. It can also get rid of allergens and microbes that may contribute to inflammation or infection.
An ear hematoma is a pocket of blood that forms within the exterior portion of a pet’s ear. Although both dogs and cats can have ear hematomas, the condition is more common in dogs.
Ear infections generally begin as inflammation of the skin inside the outer ear canal. Once the inflammation is present, discharge, redness, and other characteristics of an ear infection become established.
Ear mites are small parasites that live on an animal’s body, particularly in the ears of dogs and cats. Ear mites sustain themselves by eating skin cells, blood, and earwax. They deposit their waste (a dark, crusty debris) in the ear of the host animal. They also mate and produce eggs in the ear of the host. The mite’s entire life cycle is only about 3 weeks, and the mite spends its whole life on the animal. Ear mites are contagious to some other animals (for example, cats, dogs, and ferrets), but they are not contagious to humans.
Ehrlichiosis is a disease caused by bacteria of the Ehrlichia family. There are several species of Ehrlichia bacteria, and some of them can affect humans. Ehrlichiosis (whether it occurs in dogs or humans) is transmitted through the bite of a tick. The tick that most commonly spreads the disease is called the brown dog tick.
Elbow dysplasia is a painful, developmental disease that affects the elbow joints. The disease has a genetic basis, but nutrition and other factors play a role as well. Large breed dogs (such as Great Danes and Labrador retrievers) can be affected, as well as smaller dogs, like Dachshunds. Elbow dysplasia is essentially a failure of the bones and cartilage in the joint to grow and develop properly. Affected dogs experience pain, varying degrees of lameness, and may have elbow joints that are nonfunctional.
Endocarditis is the infection of the heart valves and/or inside lining of the heart. In most cases, the infection involves bacteria, but a fungus may also be responsible. The disease typically occurs in dogs, especially mid-size to larger breeds, and is rare in cats. Male dogs are most commonly affected.
Entropion is a rolling inward of part of the eyelid or the entire eyelid. It can occur on the upper and/or lower eyelid, in one eye, or in both eyes. When the eyelid rolls inward, the eyelashes can rub against the cornea (the clear covering of the eye), resulting in painful scratches. If left untreated, these scratches can lead to corneal ulcers and blindness.
Our companion animals are often treasured members of the family, and we mourn for them when they die or are euthanized. It is important to recognize your feelings of loss and grief and to express them in your own way. In addition, when your child is attached to a pet that dies or is euthanized, it is important to recognize his or her feelings of loss and help your child express those feelings.
A fecal analysis is a test that examines your pet’s stool to detect intestinal parasites, including worms (hookworms, roundworms, whipworms) and other organisms (coccidia, Giardia). It can also detect other abnormalities, such as increased numbers of bacteria in the stool. If your pet develops diarrhea, vomiting, or weight loss (clinical signs frequently associated with parasites), your veterinarian may want to perform a fecal analysis to help determine if parasites are part of the problem. However, some pets have intestinal parasites without any obvious clinical signs, so your veterinarian may recommend performing a fecal analysis during your pet’s regular wellness examination visits.
Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, and microscopic intestinal parasites (like coccidia and Giardia) are relatively common in pets, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t cause serious illness. Young, sick, or debilitated pets can even die if they are heavily infected with parasites. If your pet has parasites, accurate diagnosis, including identification of the parasite(s) present, is important to determine the best treatment and help ensure a full recovery. Fecal diagnostic tests, such as fecal flotation and Giardia testing, are an important part of this process.
When deciding what to feed your new puppy, make sure you get reliable, professional veterinary advice.
Dealing with an injured pet can be scary and frustrating. In many cases, you don’t know how bad the injury is, and your pet may not be acting normally. If your pet is injured, the first thing you need to do is try to remain calm. If possible, try to determine how severe the injury is, but remember that caution is extremely important when approaching an injured animal. Any pet, no matter how calm or friendly he or she may usually be, can bite or scratch when in pain.
Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is a severe allergic reaction to a flea bite. Both dogs and cats can develop FAD. Affected pets have an extreme allergic reaction to certain proteins in the flea’s saliva, which the flea injects into the pet’s skin during biting and feeding. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction.
Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort for your pet and can also cause serious diseases.
Food allergy (also called food hypersensitivity) refers to a type of physical reaction to food. Food reactions are classified into two categories: those that are the result of immune system stimulation and those that are not. Food allergy occurs when the immune system begins to overreact to ingredients that the pet has eaten with no problems in the past. Food intolerance occurs when what is eaten has a direct, negative effect on the stomach and/or intestines, such as spoiled meat, chewed up toys, food additives, and abrupt changes in diet. Food intolerance is not an immune reaction.
Fructosamine testing involves checking the level of fructosamine in the blood, and this testing is one of the ways a diabetic pet is monitored. Fructosamine is a protein that binds very strongly to glucose (sugar) in the blood. Because fructosamine occurs in proportion to blood glucose, it can provide an accurate estimate of the amount of glucose in the blood. When fructosamine is measured, it helps determine the average glucose level for the previous 2 to 3 weeks.
Gastrointestinal (GI) parasites include any parasites that live in the stomach or intestines of a host. A variety of GI parasites affect dogs. They range from roundworms and tapeworms, which are visible with the naked eye, to microscopic organisms like coccidia and Giardia. Regardless of their size, GI parasites can cause serious illness in dogs and sometimes even death. Some parasites are even zoonotic, which means that humans can become infected.
Giardiasis is a diarrheal disease that can affect many species, including dogs, cats, and humans. It is caused by Giardia, a single-celled parasite that attacks the gastrointestinal tract of infected animals. Among experts, there is some question about (1) the number of Giardia subtypes that can cause disease in animals and (2) the potential of these subtypes to also infect humans. While humans are susceptible to infection with Giardia, infection by the same subtypes prevalent in animals is thought to be exceedingly rare but remains a point of controversy and investigation.
In diabetic patients, spot-checking the blood glucose (or blood sugar) is a quick and direct way to tell what the level is. The rapid result permits quick detection and management of a dangerously low or an extremely high level. However, blood glucose testing provides only a “snapshot” of the total blood glucose “picture.” The test result does not indicate what the blood glucose level will be 2 hours later, 8 hours later, or the next day. Your veterinarian needs to do other testing to obtain this information.
Whether animals feel emotions in the same way people do is a mystery. However, their behaviors are commonly interpreted as reliable expressions of mood—for example, relaxed, fearful, or aggressive. Based on observed changes in behavior, it is thought that some dogs and cats grieve after losing a close human or animal companion. In 1996, the ASPCA conducted a study of mourning in companion animals and found that more than half of dogs and cats had at least four behavioral changes after losing an animal companion. Many of these changes, such as eating less and changes in sleep patterns, were similar to behaviors exhibited by grieving people.
A heart murmur is an abnormal sound that a veterinarian hears when listening to a dog’s heart through a stethoscope. Normally, a veterinarian hears two sounds, a “lub” and a “dub,” which are the sounds of the heart valves closing as blood circulates through the heart. An additional “whooshing” sound, known as a heart murmur, is usually associated with a disturbance of the smooth blood flow through the heart.
Heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal condition that affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of animals. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major blood vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. These worms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.
The word stroke comes from “strike,” and heatstroke means “to be struck down by heat.” Heatstroke is a life-threatening condition suffered when a pet is unable to lower its body temperature. Cells in the body become damaged when the core body temperature is between 106°F and 109°F.
Despite the adage about a dog’s nose being warm, cold, wet, or dry, any of those signs may, in fact, be normal. Many other signs can give you a better indication of illness in a dog. For example, any changes such as decreases in energy level (e.g., sleeping more), decreased appetite, or weight gain/loss may signal that your dog is not feeling well.
A number of human foods are dangerous to pets. Many of these foods may seem tasty to our pets but can prove deadly if eaten. It can be very tempting to offer pets food from the table, but pets should not be given human food unless recommended by your veterinarian.
Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA) is a type of illness known as an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system does not recognize itself; cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, causing damage. In dogs and cats with IMHA, the body’s red blood cells come under attack. When red blood cells are severely damaged, they can burst; this is known as hemolysis. Therefore, IMHA is a condition in which red blood cells are attacked by the body’s immune system and destroyed by hemolysis, resulting in anemia (an inadequate quantity of red blood cells). Red blood cells can be destroyed within the blood vessels or in the spleen, liver, or bone marrow (where they are produced).
Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (IMT) is a type of illness known as an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system does not recognize itself; cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, causing damage. In dogs and cats with IMT, the body’s platelets are attacked and destroyed, resulting in reduced numbers of platelets in the blood vessels. Platelets (also called thrombocytes) are cells that are needed to form blood clots and repair damaged blood vessels. Thrombocytopenia occurs when there are too few platelets in the blood.
In dogs and cats, the vertebrae (bones of the spine) are cushioned on either end by disks of soft cartilage. Occasionally, these disks can rupture, or herniate, into the vertebral canal, causing compression of the spinal cord. This condition is known as intervertebral disk disease (IVDD). Spinal cord compression is painful and can affect nerve supply to the legs and other areas of the body.
Pet obesity has become a very common problem. Studies indicate that nearly 50% of adult dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese, and that percentage increases among older pets. Obesity increases the risk for other serious health problems, including osteoarthritis, diabetes (in cats), heart and respiratory diseases, and many types of cancers. Overweight pets are also at increased risk for complications during anesthesia if they need to undergo surgery or other procedures. And if a pet already has a health condition, obesity makes the problem that much harder to manage. Being overweight can also lower your pet’s energy level and hamper his or her ability to enjoy an active lifestyle with you and your family.
The larynx is the structure at the back of the throat (at the entrance to the trachea) that opens to allow airflow in and out of the trachea and lungs. It also closes to prevent the entry of food and liquids into the lungs during swallowing. Also known as the voice box, the larynx enables dogs to bark and howl.
Leptospirosis is a potentially serious disease caused by the bacterium Leptospira interrogans. It affects dogs but can also infect a wide variety of domestic and wild animals and humans. The bacteria can survive for long periods of time in water and are frequently found in swamps, streams, lakes, and standing water. The bacteria also survive well in mud and moist soil, and localized outbreaks can occur after flooding. Infected animals can continue to shed the bacteria in their urine for months or even years after recovery. Carriers of the bacteria include raccoons, opossums, rodents, skunks, and dogs. The disease is transmitted to dogs when they have contact with urine or contaminated water or soil.
A lick granuloma is thickened, raised area of skin that is often hairless, inflamed, infected, or ulcerated, resulting from excessive, repetitive licking or chewing. These lesions are typically found on the lower legs, and may occur alone or on more than one limb.
A lipoma is a benign (noncancerous) mass that is made of fat cells. Owners often notice these lumps on the chest, abdomen, and limbs of their pets, but lipomas can also occur inside the chest and abdomen.
Lymphocytes are white blood cells that normally work to protect the body as part of the immune system. Occasionally, a change occurs within the cells that causes them to become destructive and reproduce uncontrollably. This is a type of malignancy, or cancer, called lymphoma or lymphosarcoma. Dogs and cats may be diagnosed with lymphoma. Boxers, golden retrievers, and basset hounds are dog breeds that are at a higher risk for developing this type of cancer.
Macadamia nuts are a common ingredient in cookies and candies. In dogs, eating macadamia nuts is associated with illness. Toxicosis occurs when a dog ingests enough of the nuts to cause damaging effects in the body.
Malassezia dermatitis (MD) is a yeast infection of the skin caused by the organism Malassezia pachydermatis. Malassezia pachydermatis is a yeast organism that normally lives in small numbers in the ears and on the skin. The infection occurs when this organism grows in large numbers. In its most severe form, the infection can cause a thickening of the skin (lichenification), making it resemble an elephant’s skin (hence the name pachydermatis).
Weight loss can result from decreased intake of calories, malnutrition (inappropriate diet), inadequate absorption or digestion of food (leading to malnutrition), or alterations in metabolism that make the body burn more calories than it is taking in. However, weight loss is not always an immediate cause for concern—it can be normal for pets to lose or gain small amounts of weight from time to time. For example, dogs may gain a little weight in the winter due to decreased activity and then lose those extra pounds when the weather warms up and activity increases. In fact, many pets fluctuate within a range of a few pounds on a regular basis.
It is recommended that you identify your pet even if you don’t plan to let him or her go outside. Even “indoor” pets can get out by accident, and many lost pets are never returned to their owners because they have no identification. Collars and tags are popular, effective methods of identification, but they can come off. Microchips, which are implanted just under the pet’s skin, are one way to permanently identify pets.
Just like people, dogs can have motion sickness, which can make even short car rides stressful for dogs and their owners. Fortunately, there are ways to ease or eliminate your dog’s motion sickness, including conditioning your dog to car rides and using medications recommended by your veterinarian.
Neutering, also known as castration, is a surgical procedure that involves removal of the testicles. It is a common surgical procedure performed on male dogs and cats to eliminate the ability to impregnate females. Neutering is also used to treat certain medical conditions, such as testicular cancer, anal tumors, and some forms of prostate disease.
Currently, studies estimate that approximately half of the pets in the United States are either overweight or obese. The health consequences of obesity in pets include increased risk for joint disease, heart and respiratory problems, and diabetes. Some researchers also have redefined obesity as a chronic inflammatory condition that can have other harmful effects in the body. Being overweight is not cute and it is not just a nuisance; it is now being recognized as a medical problem that should be managed long-term to reduce associated health risks.
Most dental disease starts with the accumulation of plaque and tartar on a pet’s teeth. These substances contain bacteria, which can get under the gums and weaken the supporting tissue around the teeth. As a result, abscesses (pus-filled swellings) can form, and teeth may loosen, become painful, or fall out. Bacteria may also enter the bloodstream and infect the heart, kidneys, and liver. A professional veterinary dental cleaning is required to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth and beneath the gum line.
Normally, the patella (kneecap) sits in a groove at the bottom of the femur (the major bone of the upper leg), where the femur and tibia (the major bone of the lower leg) meet at the knee. The patella is held in place by tendons and ligaments that keep it relatively stable against the femur. Patellar luxation occurs when your pet’s patella luxates from (slips out of) its normal position. The kneecap can slip to either the inside (medial patellar luxation) or the outside (lateral patellar luxation) of the femur.
Pemphigus is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks the connections between its own skin cells, causing blisters to form on the skin and mucus membranes. Autoimmune diseases result when the body’s immune system does not recognize itself. Cells that normally attack invading viruses and bacteria begin attacking the body’s own cells, causing damage. The term pemphigus comes from the Greek word for pustule (a blister on the skin that is filled with pus).
Your veterinarian can see signs of gingivitis and tartar buildup by examining your dog’s mouth. However, since most periodontal disease occurs beneath the gum line, the only way to truly assess your dog’s mouth is to perform an examination while your pet is under anesthesia. Your veterinarian can use a dental probe to measure any loss of attachment around each tooth and take dental radiographs (x-rays) to assess for bone loss, abscesses, and other problems.
Animals that have seizures are often given phenobarbital to help control and prevent seizure activity. Many animals, especially those with epilepsy, require lifelong therapy with phenobarbital. Because animals can absorb and metabolize this medication differently, it’s important to monitor blood levels on a regular basis.
Pets with pica or coprophagy eat substances that are not considered food. Pica involves the eating of objects. Dogs may be more likely to eat objects such as rocks and toys, while cats may eat clothing, strings, and kitty litter. Oriental breeds of cats are more likely to eat fabrics and wool.
Most lung tissue is made up of tiny clusters of air “balloons” (called alveoli). Each balloon is lined by a thin layer of cells and surrounded by a network of very small blood vessels. When you breathe in, air fills the balloons. The cells in the lining and the small blood vessels exchange oxygen from the air for carbon dioxide, which you then breathe out. The main pathway from the lungs to the outside of the body consists of the trachea (the large airway that begins at the back of the throat and continues down into the lungs) and the nostrils.
Polyuria (PU) and polydipsia (PD) are the medical terms used to describe excessive urination and excessive drinking, respectively. Because these two abnormalities tend to occur together, the abbreviation PU/PD is commonly used.
Potassium bromide is used alone or in combination with other anti-convulsant medications to help control and prevent seizures. Potassium bromide is administered primarily to dogs and less frequently to cats.
Pregnancy is the time between conception and birth when puppies develop and grow inside the mother’s uterus. By day 40, the fetus has eyelids, claws, and hair, and the gender is apparent. While toy breeds tend to have smaller litters of one to four puppies, larger breeds may carry as many as eight to 12 puppies. After 56 and 70 days, or about 2 months, puppies are ready to be born.
Heartworm disease is serious and potentially fatal. It affects dogs, cats, and up to 30 other species of mammals. Heartworm disease has been reported in all 50 states. It is caused by parasitic worms (heartworms) living in the major vessels of the lungs and, occasionally, in the heart. Heartworms are transmitted (as microscopic larvae) through the bite of an infected mosquito. The scientific name for the heartworm parasite is Dirofilaria immitis.
During the birthing and nursing processes, puppies and kittens ingest bacteria that make themselves at home in the intestines. Some of these bacteria are beneficial to the pet, and some are potentially harmful. The beneficial bacteria help digest food, produce energy for the cells lining the digestive tract, and help with immune function. They also help keep the potentially harmful bacteria to a minimum.
Socialization is the learning process through which a puppy becomes accustomed to being near various people, animals, and environments. By exposing puppies to different stimuli in a positive or neutral way, before they can develop a fear of these things, owners can reduce the likelihood of behavior problems in the future and help build a stronger bond between pets and the rest of the family. The critical time to socialize a puppy is during the first 3 to 4 months of its life.
Like children, puppies need to learn the appropriate behavior for living in a household and interacting with others. Puppies also seek positive reinforcement and are willing and able to learn.
Pyoderma is a bacterial infection of the skin. It can occur when the skin’s natural defenses break down, allowing common skin bacteria to multiply out of control (called overgrowth). Bacteria from another source may also take hold when given the opportunity. Other organisms, such as yeast and fungal organisms, can take advantage of the skin changes that occur with pyoderma and establish their own infections. Dogs and cats of any age can be affected by pyoderma.
Pyometra is a severe bacterial infection of the uterus that can be potentially life threatening. The condition is most common in older, unspayed female dogs that have never had a litter, but it can occur in any female dog or cat that has not been spayed. In dogs, pyometra is most likely to happen in the first few weeks to months after a heat cycle.
Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that attacks the central nervous system. All warm-blooded animals, including wild animals, dogs, cats, and humans, are susceptible to it. Once clinical signs appear, rabies is generally fatal. However, the disease is also generally preventable through vaccination.
Traditionally, treatment for arthritis in dogs (more commonly called osteoarthritis) has focused on using medications to relieve joint pain and inflammation. Many veterinarians also incorporate joint supplements, weight control, and other management tools to give arthritic dogs more help. However, medications can’t improve a dog’s strength or fitness level, which directly affects mobility. Rehabilitative medicine, also known by the term rehab, can help meet this therapeutic need. Properly undertaken, a rehabilitative medicine program can dramatically increase strength and mobility, improving overall quality of life for dogs with osteoarthritis.
Despite the name, ringworm is not caused by worms, but by a fungus. Most infections in pets are caused by one of three types of fungi, the most common being Microsporum canis. The fungi invade the superficial layers of the skin, hair, and/or nails. Because fungi thrive in moist environments, these organisms are especially persistent in humid climates and damp surroundings.
Rodenticide poisoning occurs when dogs and cats accidentally eat mouse or rat poison. These products contain a wide range of ingredients that differ in potency and effect. In general, most rodent poisons cause one of three effects in animals:
Roundworms are extremely common parasites that spend their adult lives in the intestines of puppies, kittens, dogs, and cats. There are several species of roundworms. Some can grow to about seven inches in length and cause severe illness, especially in younger pets.
Sarcoptic mange (scabies) is an intensely itchy skin condition of dogs that is caused by microscopic mites called Sarcoptes scabiei.
Tears are produced by the eyes to reduce irritation, supply oxygen, and help keep the surface of the eyes moist. When tear production is inadequate, the eyes become painful, red, and irritated. This condition is commonly called dry eye, but the medical term is keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS).
Seborrhea is a general term used to describe skin and hair that has excessive amounts of flakes (like dandruff) and/or grease. In most cases, the term describes the clinical signs, and not a disease itself.
A seizure (convulsion) is the sudden transmission of nerve impulses from the brain that causes involuntary muscle activity. The seizure may affect just one part of the body, such as the face, or the entire body. When the whole body is affected, it is called a grand mal seizure. A seizure may be a one-time event, but if seizures occur repeatedly over the course of weeks or months, they are categorized as epilepsy. Epilepsy is common in dogs but relatively rare in cats.
While a puppy can tug at anyone’s heartstrings, choosing a puppy should be more than an emotional decision. All too often, the cute and cuddly puppy that is purchased on impulse is relinquished to a shelter because it grew up to be a large, rambunctious dog. That’s why it pays to do your homework before you even look at a puppy.
Separation anxiety is a behavior problem in which a dog panics after (and sometimes before) being left alone. Dogs with this problem may vocalize, pace, urinate, defecate, and/or engage in destructive behavior before and/or after their owner leaves. Escape attempts by affected dogs can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around windows and doors.
A wide variety of skin and coat conditions can cause your pet to itch and scratch, but pinpointing the problem can sometimes be difficult because many skin disorders have similar outward signs. Below are four major categories of skin conditions seen in cats and dogs.
A spay, also known as an ovariohysterectomy (ovario – hyster – ectomy) is one of the most common surgical procedures performed on female dogs and cats. This surgery removes the entire uterus and both ovaries. The primary reason for performing a spay is to prevent unwanted pregnancy. However, the procedure has other uses, including treatment for uterine cancer and uterine infection.
Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures used to remove the reproductive organs of dogs and cats. Spaying is the removal of the uterus and ovaries of a female dog or cat. Neutering is the removal of a male dog’s or cat’s testicles. These procedures are also sometimes referred to as “sterilizing” or “fixing” pets.
Dogs may urinate inappropriately in response to a perceived threat, which may be intentional (for example, when an owner scolds the dog) or unintentional (for example, when an owner displays a dominant behavior, such as looking directly into the dog’s eyes). Submissive urination is the dog’s way of communicating that he or she is not a threat and is submitting to the person’s dominance.
- Dogs that spend most of their summer days inside are protected from many warm weather hazards, but only if the temperature inside the home remains within a healthy range. In an effort to reduce energy usage and costs, some pet owners shut off fans and air conditioning when they leave the house in the morning and turn them on when they return later in the day. However, when temperatures outside reach dangerous levels, temperatures inside the house can, too. Being shut inside a hot house can be deadly for your dog. Dogs can’t sweat; they rely heavily on panting to cool themselves off. When the temperature in the environment increases, panting becomes less effective. This means that your dog could be locked inside with minimal options for cooling down.
Tapeworms are long, flat, parasitic worms that live in the intestines of dogs and cats. Several species of tapeworms can infect pets. Most have a head that attaches to the intestinal wall and a series of segments, called proglottids, that make up the worm’s body. An adult tapeworm can reach 6 inches or more in length and has the appearance of a white piece of tape or ribbon.
A wellness examination is a complete physical examination along with diagnostic testingthat may include bloodwork, urinalysis, and checking a stool sample for parasites. In many cases, a wellness examination can help detect the early stages of disease. Often, your veterinarian will schedule this exam when your pet is due for vaccinations.
Feline hyperthyroidism is the most common glandular disorder of cats older than 8 years. The disorder is usually caused by a benign tumor in one or both of the thyroid glands, which are located on either side of the neck. These tumors cause the thyroid glands to over-produce thyroid hormones. In rare cases (1% to 2%), the tumors may be cancerous.
Ticks are small, eight-legged parasites that must drink blood in order to survive and reproduce. Ticks don’t fly, and they can’t jump (unlike fleas). In fact, ticks are more closely related to spiders and mites than to “insects” like fleas. Of the hundreds of tick species, approximately 80 are found in the United States. Ticks can feed on a variety of hosts including birds, dogs, cats, and people.
- The trachea is the main airway that starts at the back of the throat and continues down into the lungs. Under normal circumstances, the trachea (made mostly of cartilage) is fairly stiff and shaped like a tube. However, in some dogs, the cartilage of the trachea loses some of its stiffness over time. As a result, the wall of the trachea begins to collapse inward as the dog breathes. Instead of the inside of the trachea being shaped like a circle (tube), it can take on a half-moon shape or collapse even more severely into a more flattened shape. This is what occurs with tracheal collapse.
Obviously, if a dog will be working as a search and rescue dog or service assistance dog, proper training is extremely important. But what if you’re just looking for a dog to share your life and be a couch potato with you? In truth, even companion dogs, large and small breeds alike, need training to learn proper behavior among people and other dogs.
Our pets share so much of our lives that many of us don’t want to consider traveling without them. Whether you are flying, driving a car, or RVing, sharing a trip with a pet can add richness to the experience. Proper planning can make the travel experience better and less stressful for you and for your pet.
Nail trimming is an important aspect of grooming your dog. Your dog’s nails should be trimmed when they grow long enough to touch the ground when the dog walks. Dogs that aren’t very active might require weekly nail trimming. Dogs that are regularly walked on sidewalks might never need their nails trimmed. Dewclaw nails need to be trimmed because they don’t wear down from walking. Ask your veterinarian or a veterinary technician to teach you the safest way to trim your dog’s nails.
Ultrasonography is a type of diagnostic technique known as an imaging study. This means that when a doctor performs ultrasonography (sometimes called an ultrasound study) he or she can see pictures, or “images,” of parts of the patient’s body. Other examples of imaging studies include x-rays (radiography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging).
Pet owners can be passionate about choosing the best food for their pets, but with thousands of pet food products on the market, how do pet owners make the best choice? Pet food labels are a good place to start. Understanding the label information can help pet owners make informed decisions about the food they feed their pets.
Kidney disease is a broad term meaning that the kidneys are not functioning properly. Acute kidney disease occurs quickly, often over the course of a few days, and is caused by a lack of oxygen to the kidneys or exposure to toxins such as antifreeze, pesticides, and some medications. If treated promptly, acute kidney disease may be reversible. Chronic kidney disease occurs over the course of months to years and is usually progressive, meaning that it worsens over time. Early detection and treatment of chronic renal disease can slow the progression of the disease and help keep your pet more comfortable.
Kidney failure: Acute kidney failure is the sudden loss of kidney function, which may be caused by a number of factors, including decreased blood pressure, toxins such as antifreeze, ureteral or urethral obstructions, and diseases, such as leptospirosis and Lyme disease. If diagnosed early and treated aggressively, acute renal failure may be reversible. Chronic kidney failure is long-term loss of kidney function that cannot be reversed, but treatment may help slow the progression of the disease.
Urinary tract infections are common in dogs and, to a lesser degree, in cats. Signs of a urinary tract infection include increased drinking, increased or more frequent urination, urinary accidents, bloody urine, or urinating small amounts at a time.
Vestibular disease is an illness that affects a group of small organs called the vestibular apparatus. The vestibular apparatus is located in the brain and inner ear. These organs are responsible for an animal's ability to remain balanced, detect the degree of head rotation, and determine overall body position. Vestibular disease can result if the vestibular apparatus is damaged.
Vomiting is defined as the forceful emptying of the stomach’s contents. It is caused by a signal from the brain to the stomach that originates in a part of the brain known as the vomiting center. Vomiting initially developed because it helps save animals from poisoning. Nerves in the abdomen or certain substances in the bloodstream indicate to the brain that the animal may have eaten something toxic, and vomiting can help to rid the body of the toxic substance. Although this does occur now, the actual ingestion of toxins has become less of a threat to our pets than to their wild ancestors; over time, many more triggers began to induce the brain to signal vomiting. Prolonged vomiting can be dangerous because it can lead to life-threatening dehydration.
Euthanasia is the painless, humane termination of life. There are times when medical science has exhausted all of its capabilities and euthanasia is the only way to prevent an animal from suffering needlessly. However, the decision regarding when to euthanize is fraught with medical, financial, ethical, religious, moral, and sometimes legal considerations. Euthanasia is therefore a medical procedure that needs to be discussed (however painful that discussion may be) and considered fully before a final decision is made.
Whipworms are one of several internal parasites that can live in the large intestines of dogs and, rarely, in cats. This type of worm is named for the whip-like appearance of its body, which has a thicker head that tapers into a thinner tail.
If your pet is on a prescribed diet, keeping him or her on that diet is essential for the best possible health and quality of life. Your veterinarian has carefully selected your pet’s prescribed diet based on his or her specific needs, so this food should not be changed.
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Here are tips to manage this condition and minimize your dog’s discomfort.Read More
Fleas are blood-feeding parasites that can infest many species of birds and mammals. Although fleas on dogs and cats don’t infest people, fleas may bite people if an area is heavily infested. Flea infestation is one of the most common medical problems veterinarians see, and pets suffer greatly from this condition. Flea bites can trigger severe allergic reactions in some pets. The intense itching caused by flea infestation causes pets to scratch and bite themselves. This can lead to skin wounds, skin infections, and general misery for your pet. Even if your pet is not allergic to flea bites, fleas can transmit serious diseases, such as bartonellosis (the bacteria that causes “cat scratch disease” in people), and other parasites, like tapeworms.Read More
Anal sacs are a set of glands that are just under the skin near your pet’s anus. The two glands arelocated at the 4:00 and 8:00 o’clock positions from the anus. The anal sacs fill with a foul-smelling fluid that is normally expressed through a tiny duct when animals defecate. Animals may use their anal glands to mark territory or repell aggressors, although a nervous dog or cat may accidentally express these glands when frightened.Read More
Most antifreeze solutions contain high levels of ethylene glycol, an ingredient that, once metabolized, is extremely toxic to dogs and cats. Pets are often attracted to the liquid because of its sweet taste. Even small amounts can be lethal to animals. A cat that walks through spilled antifreeze and then licks its paws may ingest enough to be fatal. As little as 2.5 tablespoons of antifreeze could kill a 20-pound dog.Read More
Some animals may have several of these clinical signs, whereas others may have only one—perhaps an ear infection.Read More