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Runny Nose in Dogs

As with people, dogs can have an occasional runny nose, especially if they’re prone to seasonal allergies. A little bit of thin clear discharge once in a while may be normal, but if it’s an abnormal color (yellow, green, cloudy, or bloody) or there are other signs such as congestion, coughing, sneezing, a change in behavior, or trouble breathing, prompt medical attention is recommended.

In younger dogs, the underlying cause is more likely to be congenital (an underlying issue they were born with), infectious, or related to toxicity. With older dogs, the cause is more likely to be related to a dental issue, cancer, or systemic disease.

What To Do if Your Dog Has a Runny Nose

As long as there’s a small amount of clear discharge without any additional signs, simply continue to monitor and watch for worsening signs. However, contact your veterinarian if you notice:

Congestion or labored breathing

Noisy breathing

Discolored nasal discharge (including blood)

Lethargy (abnormal tiredness)

Coughing, or coughing to the point of gagging

Eye discharge

Anorexia (reluctance to eat)

Any pain or swelling on the face or nose

If your dog is overheated there can be clear discharge coming from their nose. Unlike humans, who sweat through their skin, temperature regulation in dogs is through the pads of their feet and nose. If you notice clear discharge and your dog has recently been active or is out in warm temperatures, move them to a cool spot, preferably indoors, and be sure to provide water; if your dog continues to be exposed to heat, it could result in heatstroke, which is a medical emergency.

Causes of Runny Nose in Dogs

Nasal discharge is a relatively vague symptom that can encompass a wide range of causes. Working with your veterinarian to figure out the underlying cause is the best way to formulate a treatment plan. A runny nose in dogs could be caused by the following conditions:


In general, dogs can have allergies to fleas, a particular food, or allergens in the environment. A runny nose may indicate an environmental allergy; dogs can have seasonal allergies especially during the spring and fall as pollens, mold, and yeasts are increasing. It’s important to work with your veterinarian when allergies are suspected.


Cleft palate: The roof of a dog’s mouth is called the palate, and with a cleft palate, there’s an opening down the middle of the roof of the mouth. This opening allows communication between the nose and the mouth. Because a cleft palate can lead to serious medical problems, it’s important to contact your veterinarian if you suspect this condition.

Foreign body or trauma

Because dogs love to have their noses to the ground, they can inadvertently inhale things like blades of grass, seeds, or small pieces of wood. They can also accidentally bump into things and injure their noses.

Dental issues

Tooth root abscess

Oronasal fistula: an abnormal passageway, typically through the roof of the mouth into the nasal cavity, caused by a diseased upper tooth.


There are different types of nasal tumors in dogs, and swelling, deformity and irritation can cause nasal discharge. Specifically, adenocarcinomas are generally localized and develop from glands that produce mucus; because of the local aggressiveness of this type of cancer, there can be an incredible amount of damage to nasal tissue.


Canine Infectious Respiratory Disease Complex (Kennel Cough)

Fungal infections


Nasal mites

How Veterinarians Diagnose the Cause of Runny Nose in Dogs

Your vet will ask lots of questions to get a detailed history and perform a physical examination, focusing on listening to the heart and lungs and looking inside your pet’s nose and mouth.

If a viral infection is suspected, the history and examination may be enough for a diagnosis. However, your vet may ask to do a nasal swab cytology, which would involve using a swab to gently obtain some discharge to examine under a microscope.

A rhinoscopy (scope of inside of nose) is also done to look deeper inside the nose to see if a biopsy is needed.

If additional tests are needed, blood tests do not usually reveal the cause for nasal discharge. They may, however, show indications of other underlying systemic issues. X-rays or advanced imaging such as a CT scan may be required.

Treatment For Runny Nose in Dogs

Here are some ways you can help at home:

Until your dog is seen by a vet, continue monitoring them for worsening signs.

If your dog is not eating well, try warming up canned food so they can smell it better, making it more palatable.

If you’ve noticed some congestion, as long as your dog is otherwise acting normally you can try a humidifier to loosen any mucus.

After your pet has a diagnosis, treatments will vary depending upon the underlying cause.


If seasonal allergies are the offender, your veterinarian may offer supportive care or allergy medications, such as antihistamines or other prescription medications, to help ease the clinical signs.  


With any nasal tumor, your veterinarian will go through a series of diagnostics to determine the type of tumor, but also to determine if it has spread throughout the body. Once the tumor is staged (identifying the class and level of tumor), your vet will determine an overall treatment plan.

Cleft palate

Because of the opening in the palate that leads to the nose, food and water can get into the nose and cause a multitude of problems. Almost all cases of cleft palate require surgery to correct the abnormality and to help prevent additional and potentially fatal medical issues, such as aspiration pneumonia or infection.

Foreign body or trauma

If you know that your dog has something stuck in their nose, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately so it can be removed.

Dental Issues

If your vet suspects a dental issue, they will do dental X-rays to see the condition of the roots and bones. Your vet may prescribe antibiotics, pain medication, or extractions, then recommend a prescription diet.


Treating the cause of an underlying infectious illness is entirely dependent on the infectious agent. In the case of kennel cough or pneumonia, if a bacterial infection is involved, antibiotics are sometimes prescribed. In the case of fungal and parasitic infections, antifungal and antiparasitic medications are prescribed by your veterinarian.

Featured Image: Kravchenko


Brooks W. Kennel Cough in Dogs. Veterinary Partner, 2016.

‌Feldman E, Ettinger S. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. Vol 1. 6th ed. Elsevier Saunders; 207-210.

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Dr. Shawna Abrams


Does Saying Goodbye Help Prevent Dog Separation Anxiety?

Are you one of those dog owners who says goodbye to your pets as you walk out the door? Don’t be embarrassed—you are not alone.

Why do many dog owners feel the need to say goodbye or tell their dogs that they will be back?

Pet parents will say goodbye to their pets mostly because it is part of our human culture to notify our family of our imminent departure or to let them know when to expect us back.

But the question is, does your dog care if you do or don’t? Find out if it means anything to your dog, whether it actually makes things worse, and what you can do about dog separation anxiety.

Does Your Dog Need You to Say Goodbye to Him?

Research on dogs suffering from separation anxiety has indicated that dogs know well in advance when their owners are going to leave.

You may not realize that you are projecting your pending departure as you prepare to leave—well before you say “goodbye.” Most people will put their shoes on, grab their jackets, pick up a bag or purse and keys, and head towards the front door.

Some owners may put out special dog toys or treats for their dog right before they leave. These are all signals that tell your dog that you are going to leave.

Other pet parents will go through elaborate displays of affection such as hugging their dogs and/or kissing them and telling them they love them and will be back.

Every dog’s reaction to their owner’s departure will vary according to their personality. It is not unusual to hear dogs vocalize after their owners leave. Some may whine, bark or howl briefly as the owners leave and, within a few minutes, settle down. 

These dogs are exhibiting contact-calling behavior, which is a series of vocalizations some social species will use to try to contact other members of the group that may have wandered off beyond the immediate area. Dogs will typically demonstrate this behavior with barking or howling; it’s like they are saying, “Hello, are you there?”

Some dogs may even scratch at the door or run to the window to watch their owners leave.

The majority of dogs appear to tolerate their owners’ absence with minimal drama. However, 14-29 percent of the dog population may suffer from owner-separation-related distress.

For a dog with separation anxiety, making the departure and return greeting routine very exciting and dramatic may enhance the dog’s anxiety when they are all alone.

How to Know If Your Dog Suffers From Separation Anxiety

Most pet parents rely on signs that something’s amiss in their home—such as scratches on the door, items that are chewed up, or evidence of house soiling—to detect separation anxiety. If they do not see anything amiss, they usually think that their dogs were fine.

Some people may not find the house torn apart but may later hear from their neighbors or landlord that their dogs were vocalizing intensely when they first left or throughout the entire length of their absence. 

If you are unsure whether your dog suffers from separation anxiety, record his behavior for 15-20 minutes after your departure using a device such as the Petcube Bites Wi-Fi pet camera or Pawbo+ Wi-Fi interactive pet camera. You can also use the camera on your computer or leave your phone behind to record their activity.

It is really important that you actually walk out the door, lock it, and walk or drive away. The dogs will know if you are just pretending to leave because they won’t hear the familiar indicators, such as your footsteps fading away or the start of the car engine.

Then you can review your dog’s behavior and show the recording to your veterinarian or a trainer or behaviorist. Dogs suffering from separation anxiety will exhibit the most intense anxiety and distress during the first moments the owners are absent.

Treating Separation Anxiety in Dogs

If your dog does not appear to get upset after you have left, then you can continue to say goodbye to them when you leave.

If you have determined that your dog does get upset in your absence, it is best to seek professional help right away. They can help determine whether your dog is suffering from mild, moderate or severe separation anxiety.

Mild Separation Anxiety

Dogs that show some mild anxiety may be less upset if they receive long-lasting dog treats, like WHIMZEES Stix dental dog treats, or if they have to work for their favorite treats in a dog puzzle toy, like the Milk-Bone Active biscuit-dispensing ball.

Moderate to Severe Separation Anxiety

For dogs that exhibit a moderate to severe level of anxiety, it is best to downplay your departures by not saying effusive goodbyes or greeting them excitedly when you return home. 

A board-certified veterinary behaviorist can provide a diagnosis and recommend a treatment plan that includes immediate management options, behavior modification exercises and the potential use of anti-anxiety medication, if warranted.

Other educated dog professionals, such as Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAAB) can also help but will not be able to make any recommendations regarding pet behavior meds.

Dogs that become so upset that they exhibit panicked behavior that may cause injury to themselves or damage the house might need prescription pet medication. In some cases of severe separation anxiety, injuries have included dogs breaking their teeth, pulling out toenails, jumping out of windows, or chewing holes through the walls.

When the owners do not have other options, such as the use of daycare or a pet sitter, medication can sometimes help to decrease the dog’s anxiety so that they can tolerate being left home alone. The distress these dogs experience is a mental health crisis. The quicker the problem is addressed, the better the prognosis.

By: Dr. Wailani Sung

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Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to…

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) In Dogs

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What Is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) In Dogs?

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a term used to describe a group of genetic disorders that eventually result in loss of vision for dogs. Although the time period can vary, many dogs will lose their sight entirely within 1-2 years of symptoms.

PRA occurs when the rods and cones in the eye’s retina fail to develop shortly after birth (early onset PRA) or begin to atrophy when they are adults (late onset PRA). The retina is a thin layer of cells that lines the back of the eye; it converts light that enters the eye into a signal that can be transmitted to and interpreted by the brain. The cells that detect light in the retina are called photoreceptors.

Rods are photoreceptors for black and white vision and help process movement. They work well in low light, which dogs rely on for night vision. Cones are photoreceptors for color vision and are important during well-lit conditions. 

Dogs have many rods and fewer number of cones as compared to humans. This is why dogs can detect movement and see better in the dark but have poorer color vision than people.

When PRA occurs, rods are often the first affected, followed by the cones. Pet parents often note the signs of PRA when their dogs seem to have trouble seeing in the dark.

Although PRA can affect any breed or age of dog, several breeds have a higher risk. More is being learned about how genetic mutations affect different breeds. Losing vision is distressing, but PRA itself is not a painful process compared to other disorders that result in blindness. 

Two Forms of PRA in Dogs

Early-onset PRA is often referred to as retinal dysplasia and occurs in puppies around the time they are weaned (8-12 weeks of age). In these puppies, the rods and cones did not form properly, and they will quickly lose the ability to see. 

Late-onset PRA occurs in adult dogs that are 3-9 years old and is a “true” atrophy—the rods and cones lose their ability to function and vision is lost. 

Symptoms of PRA in Dogs

Symptoms vary depending on the dog and how quickly the disease progresses. Some changes pet parents may notice include: 

Reluctance to go outside at night or to enter a dark room. 

Clumsiness and bumping into things (especially in dark rooms, new environments, or after furniture has been rearranged).

Dilated pupils that slowly constrict in response to light.

Eyes that are more reflective in the dark (the eyes may glow more than they used to when a picture is taken using flash).

Cataracts, which may be the first sign pet parents notice.

Causes of PRA in Dogs

PRA is an inherited disorder in dogs with no successful treatment options. In most dogs, PRA is caused by an autosomal recessive trait, meaning that if a dog would have inherited a defective copy of the gene from both their mother and father. 

In a few breeds of dogs, PRA is a dominant gene, meaning it occurs if they receive one defective copy of the gene. There are also some breeds with a gender-linked version of PRA in which male dogs are more commonly affected than females. 

Several genetic disorders that lead to PRA have been identified and can be detected using genetic testing. However, some versions are not yet identified, so genetic testing with no evidence of PRA does not mean a dog will not be affected. 

In dogs with PRA, typically the rods will start to atrophy and lose their ability to function first.  This will result in decreased ability to see in dark or dimly lit light.  Eventually, the cones will also atrophy. Once all the rods and cones have atrophied, vision is lost. 

The time to onset of atrophy and how quickly atrophy occurs varies based on the genetic mutation, but most pets that are affected will be blind within 1-2 years after the onset of clinical signs. 

Breeds at higher risk for early onset Progressive Retinal Atrophy/Retinal Dysplasia:

American Staffordshire Terrier

Bedlington Terrier

Pit Bull Terrier

Sealyham Terrier

Belgian Malinois (Shepherd)


Cardigan Welsh Corgi


Irish Setter


Miniature Schnauzer

Norwegian Elkhound

Breeds at higher risk for late/adult-onset Progressive Retinal Atrophy:


American Cocker Spaniel

Australian Cattle Dog

Australian Shepherd


Bedlington Terriers

Border Collie


Chesapeake Bay Retriever


English Cocker Spaniel

French Bulldog

Golden Retriever

Labrador Retriever

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever

Italian Greyhound


Miniature Poodle

Samoyed (more common in males)

Shetland Sheepdog

Siberian Husky (more common in males)

Silky Terrier

Tibetan Terrier

Toy Poodle  

How Veterinarians Diagnose PRA in Dogs

Diagnosing PRA often involves examining the retina, using a tool called an indirect ophthalmoscope. This is an optical tool worn on the veterinarian’s head (or attached to eyeglasses) and used to view the back of the eye.

The vet will look for changes in the retina and optic nerve. They may see increased reflection in the part of the eye that “glows” in photos when light hits the eyes. These changes can be subtle in some dogs and may require referral to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Both eyes will be equally affected.

Cataracts or other issues may prevent a vet from viewing the retina. In these cases, a special diagnostic procedure called an electroretinogram (ERG) can be used to evaluate the retinas’ ability to perceive light.

Genetic tests using a blood sample may be performed to detect the presence of genetic mutations. 

Treatment of PRA in Dogs

Sadly, PRA cannot be treated, and dogs with this condition will eventually lose their sight.  For this reason, dogs with PRA (and their parents and siblings) should not be bred.  Some veterinarians may recommend antioxidants or a supplement called Ocu-Glo when PRA is first diagnosed, although there are few studies to support their use. 

If a dog develops cataracts, the cataracts are generally not treated because vision will not improve. In some instances, cataracts can lead to inflammation within the eye or glaucoma—these can be painful and special eyedrops may be prescribed. 

Recovery and Management of PRA

Loss of vision in dogs will require some adjustments, but dogs rely heavily on other senses like their superior sense of smell and keen sense of hearing, and they can have an excellent quality of life despite being blind. Some things that may help dogs with decreased vision or blindness include: 

Providing a safe, familiar area where furniture and objects are seldom moved. Try to keep beds, food dishes, and water dishes in the same area. Consider using a fountain or bubbler as their water dish, so they can hear where their water is located.Blocking off stairs and other hazardous areas using baby gates. Also, pet parents can put protective covers on sharp corners and objects. Get down to your dog’s level to see what needs to be covered.  Training that relies on verbal cues or even gentle touches. You can learn to use verbal cues to help dogs navigate their environment, using simple directional words such as left, right, up, down, stop, go, slow.  Taking steps to help them feel safe and secure. Try to stick to a routine as much as possible. Consider leaving the TV or radio playing around them to provide background noise. Playing with them and modifying some of their favorite activities. Use toys that make noise, or consider toys that are filled with treats with a strong scent so they can seek them out.Using a leash and harness to help dogs navigate the house, yard, and new or unfamiliar areas. If they are often bumping into things, consider looking into a special harness with a halo that helps dogs better detect their surroundings: Informing people that meet them that your dog is blind, and discussing what helps them feel most secure when being approached. Explain how you typically approach them, such as the verbal command you use to let them know you are there, and how you typically touch them. 

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Jamie Case, DVM


Dr. Jamie Case graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in 2017, after receiving a Bachelor of Science…

What To Do if a Snake Bites Your Dog

You are out for an enjoyable hike when it happens: your dog manages to find a snake nestled in the rocks. Although you call him back, it is too late. He yelps and comes back limping. This is the first time you have ever had to deal with a snake biting your dog. What do you do now?

Why Do Snakes Bite Dogs?

It is quite easy when your beloved pet has been hurt by a wild animal to immediately blame the critter for the injury. However, most animals—snakes included—will only attack a much larger creature, like a dog, if they feel threatened. 

Curious dogs can approach snakes quickly and often come in quite close, making the snake afraid. The snake’s natural reaction is to strike back which results in a bite to your pet. Although it is unfortunate if your dog gets injured, both parties played a role, and the snake most likely acted out of fear.

Fortunately, snake bites to dogs are relatively rare. They usually occur with dogs that hike and explore extensively in rocky areas. Also, many snakes present in North America are nonvenomous. Although a bite may be very painful, no toxin is injected with the wound and severe reactions are uncommon. This isn’t always the case, however.

Signs of a Snake Bite on a Dog

Snake bite symptoms can vary greatly depending on the location of the bite and the species of the snake. The most common signs include swelling, bruising, and pain at the site of the bite. If the snake was not venomous, this is likely the extent of the problem.

If the snake was venomous, the signs may progress to include extensive swelling that spreads rapidly and includes bloody discharge at the site of the bite. The toxin will often lead to shock, which can include:

Pale gums

Mental dullness

Changes in breathing (either slower or faster than usual)




Signs typically worsen with time as more organs and systems become affected.

It is important to realize that actual bite marks—or fang holes—may or may not be seen. Very small or young snakes may not leave easily visible wounds, so it is not safe to assume that if you do not find marks on your dog, it has not been bitten. When in doubt, have your dog checked out. Dogs are smaller than people, so a snake that is venomous to humans is even more so to dogs.

How To Treat a Snake Bite on a Dog

Dogs that have been bitten by a snake need to be seen by a veterinarian immediately, whether that snake was venomous or nonvenomous.

If your dog was bitten by a snake, remove the dog as quickly as you safely can, and carry them to the car (it is better to not allow them to walk on their own even if they are able). Take a photo of the snake (if you can do so safely) and call the nearest veterinarian to find out if they are able to treat your dog right away.

If possible, send a photo for identification. The exact treatment involved will depend on the species of snake, and a proper medication can be chosen more easily if the snake species is known. Rattlesnake and coral snake bites are best treated with antivenom, and calling the veterinary hospital ahead of time to see if they have—or can rapidly get—antivenom is a helpful time saver.

En Route to Veterinarian for Snake Bite

During travel to the veterinary hospital, keep the bitten part of the dog below the level of the heart, if possible, because this will slow the spread of toxins. Keep yourself and your pet calm. Remember, most snakes are not venomous, but immediate treatment is still the key to a good outcome.

Studies have shown that giving first aid to dogs before taking them to the veterinary hospital does not reduce the amount of care needed nor will it improve the eventual outcome. It is far better to spend that time getting veterinary help as quickly as possible and skipping doing your own first aid for dogs that have been bitten.

How Veterinarians Treat Snake Bites on Dogs

Treatment at the emergency hospital will depend dramatically on the species of snake involved, the location of the bite, and the severity of the signs. For example, treatment for a bite on the paw by a nonvenomous snake might only require cleaning the wound and giving antibiotics and pain medications. But a more severe bite to the face from a rattlesnake will need much more extensive treatment and hospitalization.

Moderate to severe bite wounds often need longer hospital visits, commonly ranging from eight to 48 hours (and sometimes longer). These dogs need treatment for the bite locally (such as treating the wound, preventing infection, and addressing pain) but also for the systemic side effects of shock and organ compromise.

Common treatments include IV fluid therapy to help support blood pressure and treat shock. If the species of snake is venomous and an antivenom is available, this will be the cornerstone of therapy. Supportive care often includes pain medication and sometimes antibiotics and antihistamines. Other treatments may be necessary depending on the exact clinical signs your dog shows. Of highest concern are animals that show neurologic (nervous system) problems or breathing distress, in which case a ventilator may be needed. Many pet patients need multiple blood tests to track organ functioning and the progress of therapy.

Luckily, most dogs do survive snake bites—even of the venomous variety—with prompt and aggressive treatment.

Types of Snake Bites on Dogs

The types of snakes likely to be involved in a snake bite incident will depend on the part of the country you live in, the lifestyle of your dog, and the resident populations of snakes. Some regions may only have the common garter snake as a concern for snake bites, while others have a variety of venomous snakes.

Of largest concern are the rattlesnakes, followed by coral snakes, cottonmouths, and copperheads. But regardless of the snake involved, the key to survival is still fast and proper treatment. If your dog was bitten by a snake, seek veterinary care as quickly as possible.

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Sandra Mitchell, DVM, DABVP


Sandra Mitchell is a 1995 graduate of the New York State College of Veterinary Medicine. Since graduation, she has worked in many fields…

How Ordinary Folks Deal with Pet Allergies

The Solution May Be Easier Than You Think

When Lynne and Mike Petersons’ two youngsters started begging them for a pet more than a few times a day, it was time to think about it seriously. The dilemma: Mike suffers from allergies to cats and dogs.

“The decision to get a pet didn’t come easily,” said Lynne. “We knew things could get difficult with the allergies. But having grown up with pets, I honestly believe they teach you how to be a better person — not to mention it teaches children the value of caring for another creature.”

Mike was in agreement, but he looked into his options before getting a pet. “I decided to keep our bedroom pet-free, to help reduce any allergy attacks. Of course, the usual meds and sprays were going to be more a part of my life from now on in, but it’s worth it to keep your kids happy.”

As the Petersons pointed out, the idea of having a designated pet-free room gives a person with allergies a safe haven to retreat to if the allergies get bad. Just make sure the door is kept shut and that the pet isn’t allowed inside under any circumstance.

“We also invested in HEPA air filters for all the rooms,” explained Mike. “This kept the allergens in the air to a minimum. Luckily we don’t have cloth curtains, so we didn’t have to worry about pet hair and dander and allergens getting trapped in them. But those were the easy parts.” The hardest part? Deciding on whether to get a dog or a cat.

“We were torn,” said Lynne. “I’d grown up with cats and my daughter wanted a cat, but our son wanted a dog.”

“That kid’s wiley,” Mike added. “He tried to get both a dog and a cat, but we weren’t having it!”

Laughs aside, the Petersons knew they had to pick the right pet — a pet that would set Mike’s allergies off as little as possible. “We read up and found cats are often higher in allergens than dogs, even the so-called hairless breeds. So we decided to go for a dog. Apparently the longer, constantly growing haired dogs are the best for people with allergies.”

Still, they knew it would be a gamble — often it depends on the person and the animal. “We had narrowed it down to between a Bichon Frisé and a Poodle, when Lynne suggested we all go down and see what we could find at the local pound.”

“I thought it was important to rescue an animal,” Lynne said. “Luckily we found a Bichon Frisé mix.” Lynne also emphasized the importance of having the pet neutered, as this also helps reduce the allergens.

So how have they faired with the dog? “With the kids put on weekly bathing and grooming duties that helps to reduce the allergens further, medications and our other environmental efforts, things are going great,” Mike said. “My allergies are kept to a minimum, and everyone is in love with our newest family member. I can’t imagine ever being without a pet.”

The Petersons’ story is uplifting for anyone who suffers allergies and wants (or has) a pet. In this modern world, there should be no reason why you should have to live without the wonderful love of a four-legged friend — even if it is furry.

9 Tips for Helping a Dog That’s Scared of Fireworks

Fireworks might be awe-inspiring for some people, but many dogs are scared of fireworks and find the sound and spectacle terrifying. Dog fireworks anxiety can leave your pets in a panicked state.

It should go without saying that anxious dogs don’t belong at fireworks displays. But even dogs at home can be overwhelmed by the noise, especially if the neighbors are setting off their own fireworks. That’s why it is so important to help your pet.

Dogs that are scared of fireworks might hide, tremble, pace, or whine in response to the sounds, leading pet parents to consider trying medications to help deal with the behaviors. However, the following tips might help reduce dog fireworks anxiety.

1. Use Sound Training to Relieve Dog Fireworks Anxiety

You can help dogs that are afraid of fireworks learn to cope with them by setting up training sessions throughout the year, well in advance of events such as the Fourth of July or New Year’s Eve fireworks displays.

Begin by playing a fireworks sound effect (many are available free online) at a very low level for a brief period while giving your dog a series of small, tasty dog treats and lots of praise when they remain calm. Then turn the sound off and stop giving treats.

Repeat the process, always with the sound at a low level, until your dog looks to you expectantly when it starts. Always be sure to check that your dog is comfortable with the sounds and not displaying signs of anxiety.

Gradually turn up the sound in subsequent training sessions, varying the recordings to include a variety of firework types, until your dog begins to associate the noises with goodies and praise for having a calm demeanor. This may desensitize your pet to the noise of fireworks.

2. Try a Dog Anxiety Vest

Much like swaddling helps calm infants, a snug garment that puts gentle pressure on your dog’s torso can reduce fireworks anxiety.

Get your dog used to wearing a pressure wrap—like a dog anxiety vest—before fireworks so that by the time the event arrives, your dog will be comfortable with the garment.

Check out the ThunderShirt that uses a patented “hugging” design to help reduce stress from dog fireworks anxiety.

3. Schedule a Pre-Fireworks Workout

Going for a long hike or spending time playing with pals during the day will help wear out your dog before the fireworks begin.

A dog that’s mentally and physically exhausted might be less likely to react to fireworks, so plan a day of fun activities that will leave your dog ready for a snooze.

4. Schedule Meals and Potty Time Early

It’s important to time your dog’s dinner and potty trips well in advance of nightfall, since fireworks typically start as soon as the sun sets. There’s nothing worse than a dog that’s scared of fireworks that needs a potty break but is too terrified to step out the door.

Give your dog enough time to finish his dinner, digest, and potty before the noise begins so he’s not forced to hold it during an already stressful period.

5. Keep Your Pup Occupied During Fireworks

Provide distraction by giving your dog something delicious to focus on during fireworks, like a KONG Classic dog toy. Stuff the busy toy with special goodies like your dog’s all-time favorite treat so that he has something else to focus on during the noise.

You can also give your pup a frozen treat to gnaw on, like a carrot. 

Anxious dogs don’t belong at fireworks displays, but even dogs at home can be overwhelmed by the noise.

6. Muffle the Noise

It’s easy to understand why dogs are scared of fireworks; the unpredictable booming sounds can be perceived as an impending threat and make a dog feel vulnerable.

While counterconditioning with a fireworks recording throughout the year will help your dog learn to cope with the noise, an easy way to manage dog fireworks anxiety during the event is to simply muffle the sounds with something else.

Plug in a white noise machine or turn on some calming music loud enough so the fireworks are camouflaged. If your dog’s “safe zone” is his crate, you can also cover the top, sides, and back with a thick blanket and play music or sounds for him. Just make sure your dog can leave the crate if he wants to.

7. Comfort Your Dog

You might have heard that comforting your dog in times of stress can reinforce his fears. However, your dog’s reactions to fireworks are based on a legitimate fear. Providing comfort during this time is appropriate and often helpful.

Sitting close to your dog, petting him gently and offering quiet words of reassurance during scary events like fireworks can help to center your dog and might even reduce his fearfulness. Plus, doing so will help your dog understand that you’re his partner and that he can always turn to you when he’s feeling scared.

8. Consider Calming Supplements

Calming supplements can be used to help support your pet during stressful events such as fireworks. Calming treats such as VetriScience Soft Chews or Nutramax Solliquin Chews promote relaxation without sedation.

Another alternative is a pheromone collar or diffuser. These calming solutions can really help your furry friend relax during stressful times.

9. Consult a Professional

If your dog’s behavior doesn’t improve, find a positive trainer to help you and your dog work through relaxation protocols.

If your dog’s fireworks anxiety puts them or you in danger, talk with your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist about anxiety medication for dogs and whether it’s necessary.

Remember that your dog’s fireworks anxiety is a visceral response, and it will likely take a multi-step approach to help your dog feel more comfortable with the sounds.

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Victoria Schade, CPDT-KA


Victoria Schade has been a dog trainer and writer for over twenty years. During that time her dog duties have included working behind the…

Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

What Is Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs?

There are over 10,000 species of mushrooms in the United States, but only about 100 are toxic. However, it can be very difficult to accurately identify mushrooms to determine which are safe and which are poisonous. Depending on the specific mushroom ingested, mushroom poisoning in dogs can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, and seizures, as well as liver and kidney failure. 

Because highly toxic mushrooms can be deadly to pets, any mushroom ingestion should be treated as a medical emergency. If your dog ingested any wild mushrooms, seek immediate veterinary care. 

Symptoms of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Clinical signs of mushroom poisoning in dogs may affect pets quickly (within 15-30 minutes after ingestion), but they can also be delayed up to 24 hours. It may take 2-3 days to see evidence of liver and kidney failure. 

Common clinical signs of mushroom poisoning include:




Abdominal pain


Abnormal heartbeat

Trouble breathing

Uncoordinated movements/stumbling


Increased drinking and urinating

Yellow discoloration to gums and eyes


There is no simple test to differentiate a poisonous mushroom from a non-poisonous one. Therefore, unless a specialist can quickly identify a mushroom as non-toxic, all mushroom ingestions by pets should be considered potentially toxic, and a veterinarian should see the pet immediately. Mushroom poisoning in dogs can be fatal, so do not wait until clinical signs are noted. 

Causes of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

In the U.S., there are approximately 100 toxic species of mushrooms, but most fatal species are Amanita, Galerina, or Lepiota. Mushroom poisoning in dogs can occur any time throughout the year, but it’s most commonly reported in September and October, when many mushrooms grow.

The mechanism of poisoning can vary depending on the species of mushroom, but the deadliest is the Amanita species, which is absorbed by the stomach when ingested. The toxins (amanitins) travel to the liver, where they can kill liver cells and cause liver failure. The amanitins are then excreted by the kidneys, which can result in subsequent kidney failure. The amount needed to make a dog sick varies depending on the mushroom species, but in the deadly Amanita species, a single mushroom may contain enough toxin to be lethal. 

Other species of toxic mushrooms are often grouped based on the clinical reactions they cause. For example, a relatively large group of mushrooms can cause gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea, which can be severe and lead to significant dehydration and decreased heart rate. There are also mushrooms that cause neurologic and hallucinogenic effects when ingested, resulting in stumbling, tremors, and even seizures. And then there are poisonous mushrooms that primarily target the kidneys, causing illness through kidney failure. 

It’s important to remember that accurately identifying mushrooms can be very difficult and should not be attempted unless you are a mushroom specialist (mycologist). If your dog eats any wild mushrooms, take them to the veterinarian immediately.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Your veterinarian will start with a thorough history of any possible toxins your pet may have been exposed to. It’s always helpful to tell your vet if your pet was recently hiking, traveling, or out of your sight when they got sick, even if you did not see them eat a mushroom. If you know your pet ingested mushrooms, try to bring a sample of the mushroom to your vet for examination. It’s best to store the mushrooms in a damp paper towel or paper bag, because plastic bags can cause mushrooms to spoil faster. It may also be helpful to photograph the mushroom in nature—and be sure to get shots from all angles.

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination to assess your pet for abdominal pain, assess their heart rate, check their neurologic status, and assess for dehydration. A complete blood count, serum blood chemistry, and urinalysis will all likely be recommended for a baseline evaluation.

While there are laboratory tests to screen for mushroom toxins in blood, urine, and vomit, these tests are not readily available and cannot usually be completed quickly enough to be of clinical assistance.  They are also limited in that not every species of mushroom has a corresponding laboratory test. That means a complete history of any possible mushroom ingestion is crucial.   

Treatment of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Decreasing the stomach’s mushroom absorption is the top priority, so identifying what mushroom your dog ate may actually have to wait. Even veterinarians are not mushroom experts, so once your pet is stable, your vet may need to research the mushroom based on your sample and photos. 

If your pet ate mushrooms within the past two hours, your veterinarian may induce vomiting at the hospital as a means of decontamination. If your dog is already showing clinical signs, it may be too late to induce vomiting, as there is a risk of aspiration pneumonia. The vet may also give your dog activated charcoal to bind any additional toxin in the stomach.   

Unfortunately, there is no specific antidote for mushroom poisoning in dogs. Treatment varies depending on the type and amount of mushroom ingested. Some dogs may be treated outpatient, with symptomatic care for vomiting and diarrhea. However, if the mushroom cannot be identified or is identified as highly toxic, your dog will need to be hospitalized and started on IV fluids for hydration and supportive care. Generally, therapy will be started to try to prevent signs from developing, even if the dog is not showing any immediate signs of illness.

Medications will be given to treat the symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea, as well as treatment for muscle twitching and seizures. Additional therapy may include liver-support medications.   

Recovery and Management of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment are crucial for a successful outcome. Mushroom poisoning can be fatal for many reasons, from neurologic symptoms like seizures to liver and kidney failure. Overall, the prognosis is very good for dogs that are treated quickly. 

Most dogs will remain hospitalized for 3-5 hours, but will need more bloodwork to monitor their liver and kidney values daily for 72 hours following the ingestion. If the liver and kidney values are normal at that time and the dog is neurologically okay, no long-term consequences are anticipated. However, dogs with elevated liver and kidney values may end up with chronic liver and kidney disease. Although many mushrooms are not fatal, some dogs may still die from mushroom poisoning despite receiving therapy. 

Prevention of Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs

Prevention is key when it comes to toxicities in dogs. Even though there are many non-toxic mushrooms, it’s safest to assume all mushrooms are toxic until proven otherwise.

Check your backyard regularly and remove any mushrooms you find. When taking your dog on a walk or hike, keep them on a leash anywhere mushrooms may be growing. The best way to prevent mushroom poisoning in your furry friend is to prevent them from having access to mushrooms in the first place! 


Peterson, Michael E. Small Animal Toxicology. 3rd ed. Elsevier Saunders; 2001.

Hovda, Lynn, et al. Blackwell’s Five-Minute Veterinary Consult Clinical Companion: Small Animal Toxicology. 2nd ed. John Wiley & Sons; 2016.

ASPCAPro. Mushroom Poisoning in Dogs.

Pet Poison Helpline. Mushrooms.

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Veronica Higgs, DVM


Dr. Veronica Higgs is a 2010 graduate from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  She then completed a 1-year rotating…

Cold and Flu Medication Toxicity in Dogs

What is Cold and Flu Medication Toxicity in Dogs?

People often use over-the-counter cold and flu medications when they’re not feeling well, to help with congestion, fever, coughing, sneezing, pain, and various other symptoms. While some of these medications can be given to dogs for certain conditions, do so only after consulting with your veterinarian.

Some cold and flu medications have more than one active ingredient, which can make them dangerous for your dog.

If you suspect your dog has swallowed any cold or flu medication, please contact your veterinarian, an emergency hospital, and/or pet poison helpline as soon as possible.

How Are Cold and Flu Medications Toxic to Dogs?

Human cold and flu medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, contain ingredients that can be deadly to pets. These medications can affect many parts of a dog’s body. While the cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels) and central nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and associated nerves) are the most affected, the gastrointestinal tract (stomach, intestines, colon), kidneys, and liver can be involved as well.

What Cold and Flu Medications Are Toxic to Dogs?

Acetaminophen (Tylenol, Paracetamol)


Chlorpheniramine (Clomicalm, ChlorTabs, Aller-Chlor)

Clemastine (Dayhist)

Diphenhydramine (Benadryl)

Promethazine (Phenergan, Promethegan)

Meclizine (Bonine, Travel-Ease)

Loratidine (Claritin)

Cetirizine (Zyrtec)

Cough medicine

Dextromethorphan* (Delsym 12 hour, Robitussin, Vicks Dayquil and Nyquil, Tussin Cough DM, Robafen Cough)

Cough drops

Can also contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs


Imidazolines (over-the-counter topical decongestants)

Oxymetazoline, xylometazoline, tetrahydrozoline, and naphazoline

Nose drops





Eye drops


Visine LR

Oral decongestants (tablets, capsules, syrup taken by mouth)

Phenylephrine (Sudafed PE, Benylin, Neo-Synephrine)

Pseudoephedrine (Sudafed, Nasofed, Equiphed)


* While all the medications listed above can be toxic to dogs, there are some that, if prescribed by your dog’s veterinarian and given in the correct amount, can be useful for dogs with certain medical conditions.

Symptoms of Cold and Flu Medication Toxicity in Dogs

Clinical signs of toxicity from different cold and flu medications may include:


Stomach upset (vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite)

Dry eye (redness, discharge, swelling around eyes)

Swelling of the face, paws, and forelimbs

Symptoms of liver failure

Icterus (yellow coloring to the skin and mucus membranes—eyes and gums)



Elevated heart rate


Abdominal pain




Central nervous system excitement/hyperactivity or depression/sedation

Profuse salivation


Rapid breathing (tachypnea)

Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)

Cough medication

Low doses cause depressive effects and high doses cause stimulatory effects.

Ataxia, stumbling



Stomach upset (vomiting, diarrhea)


Tremors, seizures


Nervousness, shaking

Dilated pupils (mydriasis)

Elevated body temperature (hyperthermia)

Oral decongestants



Elevated heart rate (tachycardia)

High blood pressure (hypertension)


Topical decongestants

Stomach upset



Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Low body temperature (hypothermia)

Low heart rate (bradycardia)

If your dog ingests any cold and flu medication, or you suspect they may have, do not wait for your dog to have symptoms, since time is of the essence. It’s best to bring your dog to your vet’s office or an emergency hospital as soon as possible. Calling the pet poison helpline is recommended as well. They can help to guide the treatment process with you and your veterinarian.

Are Vitamins and Natural Medications Toxic to Dogs?

Vitamin C and echinacea are the least toxic vitamins or natural medications that are sometimes given to dogs, but they can cause mild stomach upset. However, zinc is highly toxic to dogs at large doses and will cause a dog’s body to destroy its own red blood cells, leading to a possibly life-threatening anemia.

Most multivitamins also contain iron, which can be toxic to dogs and cause burning and irritation to the lining of the mouth and the gastrointestinal system. In large amounts, supplemental iron can also cause liver failure in dogs.

What to Do If Your Dog Ingests Cold and Flu Medication

If you suspect your dog has ingested cold and flu medication or is showing signs of medication toxicity, contact your veterinarian, an emergency hospital, and/or pet poison control as soon as possible.

It is never recommended to make your dog vomit at home. All induced vomiting should be done with the guidance of a veterinarian or veterinary staff. If induced vomiting is done at home it can cause life-threatening conditions, such as aspiration pneumonia or chemical burns to the digestive system.

It is very important that you provide as much information to the veterinarian as possible, including:

Name of medication

Milligram dose of each tablet/capsule/liquid

Approximately how much medication is missing/suspected to be ingested

Time of possible ingestion

It’s best to overestimate how much medication your dog may have ingested to determine worst-case scenarios.

Treatment Options for Cold and Flu Medication Toxicity in Dogs

Poisoning cases can be scary, but treatment is available—and the sooner it is started, the better. Your veterinarian may choose to induce vomiting in your dog if the toxin was recently ingested and the dog is not yet showing signs of toxicity.

If your dog has ingested a large amount of cold and flu medication, your vet might insert a stomach tube to flush out your dog’s stomach with water. They can also administer activated charcoal to deter the medication from absorbing into the bloodstream, which causes further toxicity.

Treatment of cold and flu medication toxicity is aimed at correcting symptoms and providing supportive care, since there are no specific antidotes to these medications. It is important that dogs in this condition be kept warm and quiet and are closely monitored, to make sure they remain responsive and their breathing is normal. This likely means your dog will have to stay overnight in the hospital.

IV fluids will be administered to keep your dog hydrated and keep the kidneys functioning normally. Antinausea medications and liver protectants may also be used to help your dog recover from this toxicity. If anemia develops, a blood transfusion will likely be needed.

Prevent Cold and Flu Medication Toxicity in Dogs

Good medication practices include keeping all original packaging until the medication is gone, in case the information is needed. Also, when repackaging medications, such as adding them to a pill organizer or other non-medicinal container, use extreme caution. It may seem convenient to put a plastic bag with some Tylenol, vitamins, and a few cold tablets in your purse or pocket, but think of the potential complications if your dog eats the entire contents.

Never give your dog human medication unless you have consulted and approved its use with your veterinarian. Do not leave pills on the counter or the bottles within reach of your dog. If you drop any medication, pick it up immediately so your dog cannot eat it.

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Barri J. Morrison, DVM


Barri Morrison was born and raised and currently resides in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. She went to University of Florida for her…

Are There Really Any Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds?

Reviewed for accuracy on February 13, 2020, by Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM

Dog lovers who suffer from itchy eyes, a runny nose, or difficulty breathing around dogs might find hope in low-shedding breeds that are marketed as “hypoallergenic.”

While it might make sense that dogs that aren’t big shedders would be less likely to trigger allergic reactions, there’s more to consider when it comes to pet allergen exposure.

Are Low-Shedding Dog Breeds Truly Hypoallergenic?

The fact is that all breeds produce proteins that can be allergens. These are found in their dander, saliva, and urine. Fur can carry these proteins but isn’t their primary source.

Since all dogs produce potential allergens, no dog breed is truly hypoallergenic—even if they do shed less than others.

Contact with any of those substances can cause reactions in sensitive people. Unfortunately, a study published in 2011 showed no difference in the level of dog allergens in homes with “hypoallergenic” versus “nonhypoallergenic” dogs.

Other research has shown that what seems to matter most is whether or not a person reacts to an individual dog rather than that dog’s breed.

7 Low-Shedding Dog Breeds

Even if it doesn’t mean that a dog will be hypoallergenic, you may look to low-shedding dog breeds for other reasons, such as reduced amounts of hair around your home, in your car, and on your clothes.

Here are seven low-shedding breeds:

Airedale Terrier

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The largest of all terrier breeds, this “King of Terriers” is known for having a devotion to family, courage and fearlessness. Airedale Terriers are alert, active dogs that are eager students who can excel at basic obedience training and beyond.

Airedales aren’t as tightly wound as other dogs in the terrier family, but they’re still energetic dogs that require plentiful exercise to put a dent in their energy levels.

Their short, wiry coats are low-shedding, and you can further reduce shedding with regular brushing to catch stray fur.

Bichon Frisé

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This petite white dog has glamorous looks mixed with a playful and affectionate temperament. The Bichon is an outgoing, curious, and cheerful dog wrapped in an adorably fluffy package.

Clever and willing to work, Bichons can master basic obedience as well as tricks to entertain their fans. Bichons have high-maintenance grooming needs, and even though they are a low-shedding breed, loose hairs can become caught in the undercoat and lead to matting.

Professional grooming is suggested to keep a Bichon’s coat in peak condition. 

Chinese Crested

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Image: Abramova

This head-turning toy breed has two varieties; hairless and powder-puff. Chinese Cresteds are as playful as their appearance suggests; they’re friendly and entertaining and can excel at competitive dog sports.

While the hairless option provides obvious benefits, the powder-puff’s impressive waterfall of hair is also low-shedding. And even though a hairless Chinese Crested might appear to be a “low-maintenance” breed, they need protection from the elements.

Hairless Chinese Cresteds are susceptible to cold and can easily sunburn, so they require you to pay attention to the temperature and to apply a dog-safe sunscreen when outside. Occasional moisturizing is also suggested to keep a Chinese Crested’s spotty skin in peak condition.


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Poodles come in three sizes; toy, miniature, and, standard, ranging from just 4 pounds all the way up to 70 pounds.

No matter the size, poodles are known for their keen intelligence, athleticism, and ease of training. Poodles are charming and affectionate family dogs that have a sense of humor.

They’re also active dogs that require both mental and physical exercise to meet their daily requirements, and because they’re eager swimmers, water sports can be a great fit.

The poodle’s low-shedding coat is a bonus, but the tight curls mean that without a close cut, the breed needs frequent grooming to prevent mats.

Portuguese Water Dog

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The “Portie” is a highly trainable family dog that’s a mix of whimsy, mischief, and high intelligence.

Originally bred to work in the water alongside fishermen, the Portuguese Water Dog’s steadfast work ethic persists to this day, and they need vigorous exercise to stay happy.

They’re intelligent dogs that are easy to train, but they are prone to be independent thinkers, which means they need ongoing mental stimulation.

The dense Portie coat requires frequent grooming.

Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier

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This blonde beauty is a working dog disguised in a glamourous coat. Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers were bred to perform a variety of farm jobs, which translates to a keenly intelligent dog with a tendency to be an independent and potentially willful thinker.

The affectionate Wheaten can be an excellent family dog who forms close bonds to their people.

Their low-shedding coats require careful maintenance to prevent matting, including frequent brushing.

West Highland White Terrier

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Image: Senyavskaya

These jovial terriers are known for their jaunty, outgoing nature. Compact and hardy, Westies have big personalities packed into little bodies. They’re intelligent enough to become easily bored, and while they’re loving dogs, they have an independent nature.

Westies are busy and playful dogs, and thanks to their ratter heritage, they’re always willing to give chase if they spot something small and fuzzy in the yard.

A low-shedding breed, the Westie’s bright white coat requires regular grooming to strip away loose hair.

By: Victoria Schade

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Sago Palm Poisoning in Dogs

What Is Sago Palm Poisoning in Dogs?

Sago palm is an extremely toxic houseplant and landscaping plant seen in tropical and subtropical environments. It is common in the southern states, such as southern Florida and Georgia, but sold across the United States.

The sago palm is a member of the order Cyadacae, genera CyadsMacrozamia, and Zamias. Examples of Cyad family commonly include: Japanese cycad (Cycad revoluta), Cycad (Cyas cirinalis), Cardboard palm (Zamia furfuracea), and Coontie plant (Zamia pumila). 

How Are Sago Palms Poisonous to Dogs?

All parts of the sago palm are toxic, but the seeds (nut) are the most toxic. Ingesting as little as one seed can result in poisoning and even death to dogs.