Tarry or Bloody Stool in Dogs

19 May 2017 | Filed in Dog Health

Halloween Dog Safety. Photo: G. Cioli
Halloween Candy

Everyone loves candy and on Halloween candy is everywhere. While your dog may have never been tempted by sweet treats before, keep in mind that candy probably has never been so accessible! On Halloween candy can be found in bowls, on tables, next to doors, in trick or treat bags being carried at dog level and in the hands of small children who might think your dog would like to share the snack. Candy also makes it onto the floor when spilled during the handout or dumped out for the all-important candy sort.

Spooky Sugar and Frightful Fats

While not all candy is specifically poisonous to dogs, it does contain large amounts of sugar and fat. The ingestion of large amounts of either can lead to pancreatitis in dogs.

Chocolate Nightmares

Present in a substantial amount of Halloween goodies, chocolate is highly poisonous to dogs even in small amounts (learn more about dogs and chocolate) and should never be shared with your pet.

Wrathful Wrappers

While wrappers are of no interest to humans and often end up scattered on tables and floors, they can look like a delightful snack to your four legged friend. While they might be empty and free of candy, wrappers can actually be as dangerous or even more dangerous than the candy itself. Foil and cellophane can cause life-threatening bowel obstructions, which may require surgery.

Repulsive Raisins

While you might be thrilled to see a healthy treat in Halloween goody bags — beware! Some people switch out the usual candy for a healthy snack of trail mix or raisins. While healthy for humans, raisins are highly toxic to dogs and can cause kidney failure.

Human Halloween Costumes

While you might not think your own costume has anything to do with your dog, there are a few things you should keep in mind.

Halloween costumes, especially children’s costumes, often include small parts and unusual materials that may resemble your dog’s toys or chew toys. They might even make unusual and tempting noises. Be careful not to leave the costume unattended and beware of any loose pieces that may become a doggie disaster.

Glow sticks and glow jewelry are a good way to keep your child visable, but could look like a toy/stick to your dog. If your child is carrying a glow stick, remind them that they should not wave it around in front of the dog. Chewing on glow sticks can cause your dog mouth pain, irritation and drooling and ingesting a glow stick can cause intestinal blockage.

Dog Halloween Costumes

While some dogs might like being dressed up, it’s wise to experiment first to see if a pet likes to be in clothing. When choosing your dog’s Halloween costume, remember these tips:

When selecting a Halloween costume for your dog, make sure that it fits well. A costume that is too restrictive or too loose could cause harm to your dog. Take time to acclimate your dog to the costume prior to the big day.

Make sure pet costumes do not limit an animal’s movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe or bark. Also check the costume for choking hazards.

For dogs that don’t like cosutmes, a Halloween collar, leash or bandana can be just as festive.

Halloween Decorations

Decorations are a regular part of Halloween fun, but some can pose a safety hazard to your dog and your home. Use fake cobwebs sparingly outdoors. These may adversely affect pets and wildlife. As with any holiday decoration, don’t let pets chew or eat items like crepe paper streamers or tinsel – these can discolor your pet’s mouth, cause upset stomach, choking and intestinal blockage.

Pumpkins and Jack-O-Lanterns

While many people feed small amounts of pumpkin to their dogs for health purposes, there is a big difference between cooked and pureed “food-friendly” pumpkin, and decorative, raw pumpkins.

Dogs should never eat the shell of a pumpkin or gourd, but during the fall season, many decorative pumpkins and gourds are coated with materials, such as glue, glitter or shellac that can be toxic to your pet.

Once Halloween is over, ditch the carved pumpkins. They can become dangerous as they may deteriorate and grow mold over time.

Re-think placing candles in Jack-O-Lanterns. Pets can easily knock them over and start a fire. There are many great battery-operated alternatives to light up your pumpkin that last longer and are safer for everyone!

Stress Free Halloween

Although it is tempting to include your dog in the festivities, sometimes the best option for everyone is to keep the dog away from the festivities all together. Halloween can be a scary and stressful time for your dog. Halloween is synonymous with spooky music, strange noises, creepy decorations and holiday pranks. The yells and screams of trick-or-treaters, doorbells ringing and a parade of costumed strangers at the door might all be in good fun, but your dog probably doesn’t know that.

Keep your dog inside. The late night commotion might cause your dog to spook and flee.

Take your dog on a long walk before Halloween night. This will help with anxiety and get them ready for an early bed time.

Create a quiet and comfortable room for your dog that will not have people going in and out of it. Consider playing music to drown out strange noises.

If you aren’t going to be home for trick-or-treaters, turn off the lights in the house so people will be less likely to knock.

Dog DNA and Humans

17 Apr 2017 | Filed in Dog Health

Between the time dogs and people first fought over a bone at a kill and the time they shared a burger at a drive-thru, humans somehow molded dogs into the most varied and specialized species on earth. They did all this without the concepts of evolution, genes or DNA.

Then came Darwin, Mendel, and Watson and Crick. The last century has seen more changes in dog breeding than the past 10 centuries combined. In the 20th century, researchers such as Stockard, Warner and Humphries, and Scott and Fuller undertook hundreds, if not thousands, of experimental crosses. But by the last quarter of the 20th century, large-scale dog genetic projects were gone, largely because dog-breeding studies took too much time, space and money.

A few researchers maintained small genetic projects. Gregory Acland and Gustavo Aguirre were searching for answers to progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) inheritance in dogs. Their pedigree analyses and crosses between breeds showed that several types of PRA existed, most of which were recessively inherited. Breeders clamored for some way to identify carriers, but without information about the dog genome, finding the gene and devising a DNA test was only a dream.

That dream started to materialize when Jasper Rind, a yeast geneticist, became interested in the inheritance of canine behaviors such as herding and swimming and ran into the same roadblock as Acland and Aguirre. But Rind was acquainted with the process of building genetic marker maps, so he assigned his post doc, Elaine Ostrander, to the task of building one for the dog.

Pressing forward

The project began slowly but got a boost in 1996 when Ostrander joined forces with Acland and Aguirre, giving her access to their samples and pedigrees. Their combined efforts produced the first rough map of the dog genome, with 150 markers. It didn’t pinpoint the gene for PRA, but it narrowed down its location to one chromosome.

Funding was still scarce because mice, not dogs, were the accepted animal model for human hereditary disease. That changed in 1998, when researchers discovered the mutation causing narcolepsy in Dobermans. Human narcolepsy researchers used the information from the narcoleptic dogs to better understand the process in people, something mouse research hadn’t provided. If dog genetic research was applicable in this case, why wouldn’t it be applicable in others?

In fact, dogs make ideal candidates for genetic research that can help people. They share many of the same diseases and environmental risk factors as humans, and they have highly distinctive breeds with distinct disease predispositions. Some breeds have been essentially inbred for hundreds of generations, and most dogs come with generations of known pedigrees. These reasons, among others, convinced the National Institute of Health to provide the funding needed to create a complete genome map of the dog.

It was completed ahead of schedule, and as technologies improved, maps based on other dogs were added in a fraction of the time the first map took. By comparing sequences from several dog breeds, researchers have identified 2.5 million places on the genome where changes in a single nucleotide frequency often occur, accounting for the variation we see in dogs. These single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) may soon be available in a public database called “CANMAP.”

Because dogs are more inbred than people, finding individual genes responsible for a disorder is comparatively easy. Generations of inbreeding result in sections consisting of millions of bases of identical DNA within a breed, as compared to only tens of thousands in people. And because breeds descend from only a few founders, a hereditary disorder found in a breed tends to arise from the same mutation in every affected member of that breed. This differs from the case in people, or even mixed breeds, in which it’s possible for diseases that look the same to be caused by different mutations.

By comparing genetic maps from different breeds, researchers estimate how closely breeds are related to one another. This makes it easier to home in on mutations for diseases shared by related breeds because such mutations probably come from the same founding stock. When a similar-appearing disorder occurs in a distantly related breed, it’s more likely to arise from separate mutations. Collie Eye Anomaly, for example, occurs in several related herding breeds. This made it easier for researchers to narrow down the candidate genes to only a few that were shared by four different related breeds with the disorder.

Human-canine DNA

Which brings us back to the gene for PRA. At first glance, dogs with PRA seem to have the same disorder. But Acland and Aguirre’s early research had shown that different breeds get different types of PRA. The gene for the most widespread form of PRA, progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd), was among the first genetic mutations located in the dog. Since then, DNA tests have been developed for many canine hereditary diseases, including other types of PRA, von Willebrand’s disease, cystinuria, and others. Of course, some tests don’t quite make the list of Nobel Prize eligibility, but they’re still useful – and popular. In fact, some ongoing research is now aimed at finding genes associated with normal conformation differences such as skull and limb length and hair types.

In a few recent studies, the use of SNPs allowed the researchers to pinpoint target genes using just a handful of dogs. In one case, fewer than two dozen dogs were needed to track down the mutation responsible for white coat color in Boxers. It turns out that white Boxers really are different from your average white dog. The white is caused by the same mutation found in people with Waardenburg syndrome, which causes pigment abnormalities and hearing loss. The ability to use just a few dogs to find mutations opens the door for mapping less widespread conditions.

Success is often measured by funding. The AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Morris Animal Foundation both continue to fund genetic studies. Both organizations recently contributed to the $2.2 million needed for startup funds for the Pfizer Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium (Pfizer contributed more than $1 million), which is gearing up to collect tissues and fluids from 3,000 dogs over the next three years. And thanks to a grant for $16 million, European researchers have recently organized LUPA, a consortium of 20 universities. They plan to gather DNA samples and health histories from 8,000 dogs, using the data to look for genes for 18 diseases.

Dog Health Problems Related to Grooming Products

20 Sep 2016 | Filed in Dog Health

Grooming can help keep a dog healthy. Removing mats and tangled fur is a good way to prevent sores and other skin irritations from developing. Fleas, ticks and other parasites are more readily uncovered, and it is easier to spot lumps and tender spots when a dog is groomed. But some grooming products have unpleasant side effects on some sensitive dogs, Despite its benefits, grooming can cause problems, especially if a dog is allergic to ingredients in the products used.

Skin Irritants

Symptoms of skin problems due to a shampoo allergy include excessive scratching or licking, scabs, hot spots, scaly patches and flaky skin. Like people, dogs’ skin carries natural oils that shampoos can strip. Discontinuation of the offending products will usually stop the allergic reaction. Be certain to use products meant for dogs, rather than human shampoos, as dogs’ skin has a much higher pH level than humans’. Hypoallergenic shampoos are available from groomers and pet supply stores. In addition, veterinarians have prescription shampoos for dogs with severe allergies.

Cancer Threat

Some dog shampoos have strong ingredients including toluene, butyl acetate and ethyl acetate. For example, butyl acetate is a chemical solvent that serves as a foaming agent and is also used in upholstery shampoo and nail polish. These ingredients are thought to contribute to organ problems and an increased cancer rate in laboratory animals and humans. Read the label to find shampoos with less caustic ingredients. Hypoallergenic shampoos and natural-formula shampoos can be found at pet supply stores and from groomers.

Clipping Too Close

A dog’s skin can become irritated if it is clipped too close or if the clippers get too hot and burn the skin. Scabs can appear and the skin can become blotchy, usually clearing up on its own within a week. The skin can be treated with antibiotics if the irritation is severe and persistent.

Health Problems for Dog Groomers

On that proverbial other side of the coin, people who groom dogs can face health problems. These typically stem from daily exposure to chemicals, disinfectants and pesticides in some grooming products and manifest themselves as skin allergies and other maladies. In addition, some dog parasites can be transmitted to groomers. Treatment depends on the exact cause of the problem and often involves changing the dog shampoo and other grooming products used.

Dog Heatstroke Survival Guide

18 Jun 2016 | Filed in Dog Health

I began competing in agility eight years ago with my Chihuahua, Ruben. I was soon hooked, and it wasn’t long before my weekends were planned around whichever agility trial was taking place. I retired Ruben at 7 years old, but around that time my Border Collie, Torque, decided disc-dog competition was his niche. For a period of time, that was the dog sport that occupied my weekends.

When my Pharaoh Hound, Logan, joined the family, I had the opportunity to try dog sports I had not yet experienced. It started out innocently enough with conformation events, but while working on conformation, I decided to try Logan in lure coursing. Logan turned out to be a natural, and has been awarded multiple Best-in-Field titles.

Agility, disc-dog competition, conformation and lure coursing are offered year-round, rain or shine. About a month ago, I experienced a problem I had never encountered. For the first time in almost a decade of competing in dog sports, one of my dogs experienced heatstroke. At a lure-coursing event, Logan became overheated. He’s completely recovered now, with no apparent long-term negative effects, but it was an experience that demonstrated firsthand how quickly this potentially life-threatening condition can arise.

What is heatstroke?

In simple terms, heatstroke occurs when a dog loses its natural ability to regulate its body temperature. Dogs don’t sweat all over their bodies the way humans do. Canine body temperature is primarily regulated through respiration (i.e., panting). If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot evacuate heat quickly enough, heatstroke can occur.

To know whether or not your dog is suffering from heatstroke (as opposed to merely heat exposure), it’s important to know the signs of heatstroke.

A dog’s normal resting temperature is about 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Once a dog’s temperature rises above 105 degrees, physiological changes start to take place, and the dog begins to experience the effects of heatstroke. At 106 to 108 degrees, the dog begins to suffer irreversible damage to the kidneys, liver, gastrointestinal tract, heart and brain.

If a dog is experiencing heatstroke, you may observe excessive panting; hyperventilation; increased salivation; dry gums that become pale, grayish and tacky; rapid or erratic pulse; weakness; confusion; inattention; vomiting; diarrhea; and possible rectal bleeding. If the dog continues to overheat, breathing efforts become slowed or absent, and finally, seizures or coma can occur.

The amount of damage a dog sustains when stricken with heatstroke depends on the magnitude and duration of the exposure. The longer and more severe the exposure, the worse the damage will be.

What to do:

Pay attention to your dog. Recognizing the symptoms of heatstroke and responding quickly is essential for the best possible outcome.

Get into the shade. If you think your dog is suffering from heatstroke, move it into a shaded area and out of direct sunlight. Apply cool water to the inner thighs and stomach of the dog, where there’s a higher concentration of relatively superficial, large blood vessels. Apply cool water to the foot pads, as well.

Use running water. A faucet or hose is the best way to wet down your dog’s body. Never submerge your dog in water, such as in a pool or tub – this could cool the dog too rapidly, leading to further complications, including cardiac arrest and bloating.

Use cool – not cold – water. Many people make the mistake of using cold water or ice to cool the dog. When faced with a dog suffering from heatstroke, remember that the goal is to cool the dog. Using ice or extremely cold water is actually counterproductive to this process because ice and cold water cause the blood vessels to constrict, which slows blood flow, thus slowing the cooling process.

Don’t cover the dog. One of the keys to successfully cooling your dog is ensuring the water being placed on the dog can evaporate. Never cover an overheated dog with a wet towel or blanket. This inhibits evaporation and creates a sauna effect around your dog’s body. Likewise, don’t wet the dog down and put it into an enclosed area, such as a kennel. Any air flow during the cooling process is helpful in reducing the dog’s body temperature. Sitting with the wet dog in a running car with the air conditioner blowing is an ideal cooling situation.

Keep the dog moving. It’s important to try to encourage your dog to stand or walk slowly as it cools down. This is because the circulating blood tends to pool in certain areas if the dog is lying down, thus preventing the cooled blood from circulating back to the core.

Allow the dog to drink small amounts of water. Cooling the dog is the first priority. Hydration is the next. Don’t allow the dog to gulp water. Instead, offer small amounts of water that’s cool, but not cold. If the dog drinks too much water too rapidly, it could lead to vomiting or bloat.

Avoid giving human performance drinks. Performance beverages designed for humans are not recommended because they are not formulated with the canine’s physiology in mind. If you can’t get an overheated dog to drink water, try offering chicken- or beef-based broths.

Health Problems Caused by Coprophagia in Dogs

18 Nov 2015 | Filed in Dog Health

As unappetizing as it may sound, coprophagia, the act of consuming feces, is common with dogs. In most cases, this act is behavioral, though medical conditions, such as malnutrition can contribute. In addition to being a highly undesirable behavior, your dog’s coprophagia can increase his risk of exposure to various parasites and infections. While some dogs choose to eat their own feces, the greatest risk occurs when eating feces from other dogs or other animals.


Animal feces, regardless of species, host a variety of different parasites. Roundworms, hookworms and whipworms spread through exposure to fecal matter, as do giardia and coccidian. If you also have a feline companion, the litter box may offer a buffet for your dog. Unfortunately, cat feces can carry the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, which causes toxoplasmosis. Symptoms vary based on the parasite involved but can include vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss. If left untreated, parasitic infestation can be fatal.


Canine hepatitis, caused by adenovirus type 1, is a highly contagious viral disease. While commonly transmitted through contact with contaminate urine, hepatitis can spread through the ingestion of infected feces. Symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, pain while eating, yellowing of the eyes and gums, seizures and increased thirst and urination. Because vaccines are available for canine hepatitis, those at greatest risk include puppies and unvaccinated dogs.


Canine parvovirus, or CPV, is a highly contagious viral infection that spreads through direct and indirect contact with an infected dog. Parvovirus sheds in the feces of infected animals and can survive in the stool and surrounding soil for up to a year. Ingesting the feces will spread the virus, though simply sniffing infected feces is enough to cause infection. Symptoms of parvovirus include severe and bloody diarrhea, vomiting, anorexia, lethargy and fever. Because vaccinations against parvovirus are available, puppies and unvaccinated dogs are at the greatest risk.


While coprophagia is typically a behavioral issue, it is best to rule out any underlying causes of the behavior, such as poor nutrition. Talk with your veterinarian to ensure you are feeding your dog an appropriate diet and he is getting the necessary nutrients. Adding enzyme supplements may be necessary to improve digestion or absorption, but don’t do it without a vet consultation. Clean your dog’s living area of all feces on a regular basis. If your yard is open to other dogs, check the yard for feces and dispose of it before allowing your dog to go outside. When taking your dog to local parks or a walk around the neighborhood, keep him away from other animal feces. Keep your cats’ litter boxes out of his reach.

German Spitz Health Problems

17 Oct 2015 | Filed in Dog Health

If you’re thinking about welcoming a German spitz into your household, it’s a smart idea to soak up as much knowledge as possible about the ebullient and animated breed. The German spitz is a jovial pooch that, while generally robust, does indeed have several typical health problems.

German Spitz Longevity and Exercise

Dogs of the German spitz breed, for the most part, tend to be healthy. They also tend to have longevity on their side, according to the German Spitz Club of Great Britain. With proper diet, care and attention from their owners, these bright dogs often live to be anywhere from 10 to 15 years in age. Regular exercise is vital for these dogs, although their physical activity needs are comparatively minimal. They usually do well with daily walks.

Eye Issues

As far as medical issues go, these spirited pooches sometimes have eye issues, including persistent pupillary membranes, multifocal retinal dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy. If you acquire a German spitz and ever notice any hints of eye irregularities, whether loss of eyesight, widening of the pupils or anything else, it’s crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention regarding the matter.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation, in which the kneecap isn’t situated in its proper position, also occasionally appears in dogs of this breed. This orthopedic disorder is seen frequently in the canine world, not only in the German spitz breed, but also in Pomeranians, Boston terriers and Chihuahuas. If a dog has patellar luxation, he’ll display issues with straightening his limbs, which in turn results in problems walking normally. Many dogs with luxating patellas also hobble conspicuously.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Another health ailment that these dogs sometimes experience is idiopathic epilepsy, with abrupt seizures occurring. When epilepsy is idiopathic, its specific causes are uncertain. If a German spitz, or any other dog, suffers idiopathic epilepsy and the condition remains ignored, it frequently leads to worsening of the seizures, with the seizures typically becoming more intense and occurring more often.

Other Common Medical Problems

Other medical problems that are common for the German spitz breed include autoimmune disorders and joint issues, according to Margaret H. Bonham, author of the book “Northern Breeds.” If you ever notice any symptoms that indicate possible autoimmune or joint issues in your pet, take him to the veterinarian immediately. Regardless of whether your German spitz exhibits signs of health issues, it’s essential to take him to the veterinarian for checkups on a regular basis. Adult canines should go to the vet a minimum of once yearly. Owners of middle-aged and elderly pets should aim to take them to the vet two times a year.

Hereditary Health Problems of a Basset

19 Sep 2015 | Filed in Dog Health

Originally bred as a hunting companion, the wonderfully good-natured Basset hound is a loyal and mellow family oriented canine. According to Just Basset Hounds, these stocky low-riders are generally strong, healthy and long-lived dogs. However like most dog breeds, there are certain hereditary health issues to which Basset hounds are predisposed.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly called bloat, occurs in dogs with deep, narrow chests like the Basset. It develops when a dog takes in tremendous amounts of air during exercise or when gulping food or water. If the air is not released properly the stomach rotates, cutting off blood supply to the heart. If not treated almost immediately it can be fatal. Symptoms include swollen belly, excessive drooling, abdominal pain, restlessness, panting, shallow breathing and nonproductive vomiting or retching.


Glaucoma occurs when extreme pressure builds inside the eyes. According to Dogtime.com, if not treated in its early stages glaucoma can cause blindness. Signs of glaucoma in Bassets do not typically appear until a dog is approximately 2 years old, but when they do appear the disease progresses rapidly. Symptoms to watch for in one or both eyes include redness, squinting, tearing, bulging, enlarged pupils, cloudy corneas or indicators of pain such as rubbing or pawing at the eyes.

Bleeding Disorders

Canine thrombopathia and Von Willebrand’s disease are hereditary bleeding disorders common in Basset hounds. Both of these conditions prevent proper clotting and cause prolonged or excessive bleeding. Signs of a bleeding disorder include blood in stools or urine, excessive bleeding from wounds, bleeding from the nose or gums and red splotches on the belly.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap pops or slides out of its normal position. This condition is usually present at birth but typically does not manifest until much later. There are four grades ranging from occasional luxation to severe dislocation that may require surgical correction. Signs of patellar luxation include intermittent lameness, abnormal gait, hopping or skipping and pain while running.

Joint Dysplasia

According to Just Basset Hounds, hip and elbow dysplasia are common conditions in Bassets. They occur due to abnormal development in the hip or elbow joint. Hip dysplasia can cause debilitating lameness and arthritis. Signs of hip dysplasia are staggering, difficulty running or jumping, abnormal gait and difficulty standing or sitting. Elbow dysplasia usually can be treated but may lead to arthritis as your dog ages. Signs of elbow dysplasia are stiffness or lameness in the front legs.

Intervertebral Disc Disease

Like other breeds with long spines, the Basset is prone to intervertebral disc disease. It’s important to support your Basset’s back and bottom when lifting him, and to not allow him to jump up or down from extreme heights. Symptoms of back problems include difficulty raising up on the hind legs, paralysis and loss of bladder or bowel control. Depending on the severity of your dog’s condition, treatment can range from anti-inflammatory medication to surgical correction.

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