Category : Symptoms & What They Mean

Dry, Flaky Skin in Dogs

It is time for the Sunday afternoon bath—and as you lather the shampoo, you notice your dog has flakes throughout his coat, as well as multiple small scabs on his skin. Alarm bells may go off in your mind. However, there are many underlying reasons your dog may have scabs so it’s important to know what to look for and when it’s time to call the veterinarian.

What Causes Dry, Flaky Skin in Dogs?

There are quite a few causes of skin changes in dogs—so if you are noticing something different in Fido’s coat, call your veterinarian to help sort out the problem. Some of these changes are more serious and concerning than others.

All dogs are different—so the symptoms that go along with skin disease can also vary from dog to dog. Many dogs have multiple symptoms, and it can be difficult to sort through the variables. Some of the more common signs of skin problems in dogs include:

Hair loss (also known as alopecia)

Redness of the skin


Dandruff/flaky skin



Greasy feel to the coat



Cracked skin

These signs may be present in only one area—such as on the paws or at the base of the tail—or affect multiple areas.

As a rule, changes in the skin do indicate a problem that needs to be addressed— but many of them have simple fixes once properly diagnosed. Skin changes can also be seen in puppies.

The causes of these skin changes vary widely, from allergies to parasites. Perhaps the most common causes include fleas (which could be present even if you aren’t seeing them) and diet. Dogs that aren’t eating a high-quality food, or a diet that is not well-matched to their needs, will often develop a dull, dry, flaky coat.

Other issues include internal conditions such as Cushing’s disease and hypothyroidism. A skin infection will also present with similar signs. Some environmental issues—such as extremely dry air conditions or overly frequent bathing—can damage the skin and coat. Additionally, dogs that are not able to groom properly due to obesity or arthritis can develop skin disease.

What To Do if Your Dog Has Dry Skin

Due to the many underlying causes that can lead to skin disease, call your veterinarian as soon as you notice a change in skin or coat. Although in almost all cases this will not be considered an emergency, book an appointment as soon as possible.

If your dog is particularly uncomfortable or is experiencing significant itching or redness/bleeding, let your veterinarian know. They may have different recommendations as to how soon your pet needs to be seen, or may even suggest you visit the emergency clinic. You can also bathe your dog in an oatmeal shampoo to help relieve the itching temporarily.

In the meantime, you can try to relieve some of the discomfort your pet is experiencing.

How Vets Find the Cause of Dry, Flaky Skin in Dogs

In all cases of skin disease, your veterinarian will likely have several questions—including when the problem started and how the symptoms have changed over time. If you have photos of the condition, these may also be helpful for your veterinarian to see.

Your veterinarian will likely do a full physical examination, looking for other subtle changes that may be related, such as redness between the toes or in the ears. Most dogs will also need testing, including a skin scrap, to look for microscopic parasites, yeast, bacteria, and fungi. The veterinarian may also want to flea-comb your pet. More serious cases may require bloodwork or a skin biopsy to get to the bottom of the problem.

How to Treat Dry, Flaky Skin in Dogs

While your veterinarian will look for a formal diagnosis, it’s also important to share home life information so they know bathing schedules, what your dog eats, and where they spend most of their time.

Routine Baths

Do an inventory check on how often you’ve been bathing your dog. A good goal is to bathe once every two to four weeks, using something like a mild oatmeal shampoo. Your veterinarian might recommend something medicated at a different frequency, but for most dogs, a maintenance bath is probably all they need.


Does your dog spend a lot of time in a dry environment, or sleep near a heat source? The dry air might be part of the problem. Adding a humidifier to the area where they spend time might help.


Everyone chooses food for their dog with different thought processes: Perhaps cost is a huge factor, or your dog is a picky eater. Work with your vet to determine if a diet change is needed. They might be able to help you choose an over-the-counter food or they may recommend a prescription diet, depending on what your pup needs.


Your veterinarian may recommend a supplement to add to your dog’s diet. Many dogs seem to need more fatty acids than are present in commercial dog foods, and will see dramatic improvements in their skin and coats when given a fatty acid supplement. But start these cautiously, as they can cause gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting, diarrhea, and pancreatitis.

Flea and Tick Prevention

Perhaps most importantly, use flea and tick prevention every month, year-round, no matter where you live. These products often address more parasites than just fleas and ticks, and go a long way toward keeping your pet healthy. Ask your veterinarian which products they recommend for your dog.

Your vet may recommend additional treatments based on your pet’s diagnosis. These may include antibiotics; anti-parasitical medications; anti-fungal/yeast treatments; anti-inflammatories; and prescription topical products or foods.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Skin Healthy

Feed your dog a high-quality food that he digests and tolerates well. Many readily available foods from major manufacturers are affordable and good-quality. Every dog is different, and the trick is to find out what works for your dog—not what the guy down the street or the person on Facebook swears by.

Use veterinarian-recommended flea and tick products year-round. Some of these products also prevent diseases that can be contagious to people, so using them helps keep your entire family healthy.

Brush loose fur off your dog several times a week, trim their nails weekly, and bathe them in a mild shampoo every two to four weeks. Doing these things will help condition the skin; keep the skin and coat healthy; and help you notice potential problems at their onset.

Skin problems are no fun for dogs or their parents. Fortunately, when found early and diagnosed properly, most are quick and straightforward to treat.

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Sandra C. 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…

Edema in Dogs

What Is Edema in Dogs?

Edema is commonly thought of as swelling, but it’s actually more complicated than that.

Edema is the accumulation of abnormally large amounts of fluids in the tissues between the body’s cells—and when this fluid accumulates, swelling is the visual result.

This swelling occurs either because too much fluid moves from the blood vessels into the tissues or because not enough fluid moves from the tissues back into the blood vessels. Both scenarios result in a fluid imbalance. Edema also commonly occurs as a side effect of significant disease such as heart failure, kidney disease, liver disease, or malnutrition.

Simple swelling is also an abnormal fluid accumulation and imbalance. But traditionally, we think of swelling as caused by inflammation, such as from an injury, trauma, or tumor. Edema and swelling are often terms used interchangeably, and edema does cause swelling—but with edema, significant diseases are often involved.

Symptoms of Edema in Dogs

Thankfully, your dog’s other symptoms can help identify the underlying cause of edema.

If an animal has swelling in just one small part of their body, such as part of a leg or one side of the face, inflammation is usually the underlying cause.

Sometimes, the dog will just look puffy all over, as if their entire body is swollen. This can happen when the body doesn’t have adequate protein, has too much sodium, or if there is a severe bacterial infection.

Another common symptom is a very swollen abdomen, sometimes looking as though the dog has swallowed a large ball. This can happen because of edema (fluid accumulation), but it’s more commonly associated with organ swelling or the accumulation of blood in the abdomen. When it is just fluid, heart disease is one of the most common causes of this.

Most commonly, the swelling isn’t visible—but signs of the fluid show up in different forms, such as difficulty breathing (caused by pulmonary edema or effusion, aka fluid in the chest) or neurologic symptoms/seizures (cerebral edema, or fluid in the brain cavity). Because the early signs can be more subtle, these can be the most challenging cases.

Causes of Edema in Dogs

Edema caused by inflammation is usually less serious than other forms of edema. Once the cause of the swelling is diagnosed and identified, the inflammation can be resolved, which usually also eliminates the edema.

Other forms of edema are much more significant and serious. Fluid in the abdomen is most commonly caused by heart disease, liver disease, kidney failure, or cancer. Fluid in the lungs occurs frequently with heart disease. Fluid in the nervous system can be the result of trauma, toxins, or severe metabolic disorders such as diabetes and electrolyte abnormalities.

How Do Vets Diagnose Edema in Dogs?

The first thing a veterinarian will do is take a thorough history and conduct a complete physical examination. This combination will often give enough information to know where to start the diagnostic testing.

Most dogs will need a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Some dogs will also need a thyroid test.

Many times, a veterinarian will request permission to aspirate some of the fluid for examination. This can be particularly useful when fluid has accumulated in the chest or abdomen, but other areas—such as the central nervous system and joints—can also have fluid removed for analysis.

Often, X-rays and ultrasound examination are also useful.

Getting an answer for the edema and a treatment plan often requires a battery of tests, so your veterinarian can be sure of a diagnosis and select the best options moving forward.

Treatment for Edema in Dogs

In all cases, treatment for edema will depend on the underlying cause. If the swelling was caused by inflammation, removing the cause of the inflammation and treating with anti-inflammatories is the likely strategy.

Edema secondary to organ failure (heart disease, liver disease, or kidney disease) is more complicated, in that the key to getting rid of the fluid will depend on properly diagnosing and treating the underlying disease.

For example, if there is heart disease, an echocardiogram is likely needed to get a full diagnosis. The treatment will then require a combination of drugs to help the heart, as well as additional medications to reduce fluid buildup.

Dogs with cerebral edema may require a CT scan or MRI to look for the underlying cause, and may need to have some fluid removed and examined. Once again, treatment will depend on diagnosis. It may involve a combination of antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and anti-seizure medications, as well as drugs tailored to remove the fluid.

Recovery and Management of Edema in Dogs

Many cases of edema will require hospital stays. Edema caused by inflammation is often the quickest and simplest to resolve, and can often be done while your pet is at home. Edema caused by organ failure or that affects the nervous system, however, can require multiple-day hospital stays.

Almost all cases of edema will require care and medications at home after the office visit, while others—such as edema from heart failure—will likely require lifelong treatment.

Any edema in dogs—other than that which affects a small area of the body, such as a single leg or ear—is usually considered serious, requiring thorough investigation and aggressive treatment. Once the underlying cause is found, however, it often becomes easier to develop an appropriate treatment plan.

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Sandra C. 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…

Bruising in Dogs

Bruising is caused by ruptured blood vessels that lead to discoloration of the skin from the underlying hemorrhage. Most commonly, bruising is secondary to trauma to the tissue and tends to be self-limiting (resolve on its own without treatment).

But sometimes a bruise isn’t so straightforward. Sometimes hemorrhage occurs spontaneously with no known trauma, which is concerning for disorders of the clotting (or coagulation) system in the body. Normal blood clotting should stop this. But when the body’s clotting system malfunctions, spontaneous bleeding or a lack of blood clotting can happen, which can have severe or even fatal side effects.  

Coagulation system disorders include:

Clotting abnormalities

Decreased platelets in the body (a normal white blood cell made by the bone marrow that helps form blood clots)

Defective platelets

Severe overreaction of the body’s proteins (termed disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC)

What Does a Bruise on a Dog Look Like?

Bruising ranges in shape and size depending on location and the underlying cause. Bruises can appear in two different ways:

Petechia: Pinpoint, stippled, red-to-purplish bruising of the skin or other mucous membranes, such as the gums

Ecchymoses: Larger, blotchy bruises that are dark red or purple

Both petechia and ecchymoses can be found anywhere on the body, especially when they’re caused by trauma. The most common places for initial spontaneous bleeding are on the:



Armpit or inguinal regions

Whites of the eyes


What To Do if Your Dog Has a Bruise

If you don’t know what caused your dog’s bruise, have them evaluated by a veterinarian to make certain there are no signs of internal bleeding. This is especially important if you notice any other symptoms along with the bruising, such as:


Trouble breathing

Pale gums


Severe lethargy

Neurologic signs (wobbly gait, seizures, tremors, etc.)

A veterinarian should evaluate spontaneous bruising or bleeding as soon as possible. This may mean bringing your dog to an emergency veterinary hospital after hours or when your primary care veterinarian is not available. Because we cannot be certain about progression without diagnostic testing, spontaneous bleeding is considered a medical emergency.

What Causes a Bruise on a Dog?

Causes of bruising in dogs are extensive and include:


Post-operative redness or bruising: Mild, self-limiting bruising is usually normal after surgery. If the bruise spreads, swells, oozes, is painful, or does not show improvement within 72 hours, this can be a sign of something more concerning.

Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP): This is a condition where an overreactive immune system leads to destruction of the body’s platelets. It can be idiopathic in cause—or caused by secondary issues such as certain drugs, cancers, or tick-borne diseases.

Bone marrow suppression causing low platelet counts: This usually occurs secondary to cancers or drugs, specifically chemotherapy.

Rodenticide (rat poison): Most rat poisons on the market cause malfunction of the platelets, which leads to systemic bleeding and eventually death.

Congenital disorders that cause platelet malfunctions.

Congenital or acquired disorders that cause coagulation disorders/deficiencies, such as Von Willebrand disease or Hemophilia A.

How Vets Diagnose Bruises in Dogs

Diagnosis starts with a complete medical history and physical examination. This history can ascertain whether there is history of trauma or toxin ingestion, review current medications, and check for other systemic diseases that can lead to bruising/bleeding.

A physical examination helps investigate locations and presentation of bruising on the skin or mucous membranes. It also assesses for internal bleeding or other abnormal findings, such as tumors or heart murmurs/arrhythmias.

Diagnostic testing may include the following:

Full blood work and urine testing

Blood smear under the microscope to manually count platelets

Blood clotting testing (PT/PTT)  

Buccal mucosal bleeding time (BMBT): This test evaluates platelet ability to form a blood clot. A small incision is made in the gums, and blood clotting time is assessed.

Chest and abdomen X-rays to assess for signs of cancer, liver disease, or foreign material

Abdominal ultrasound to assess for systemic disease and/or cancer

Infectious disease testing, including viral testing and tick-borne testing

Von Willebrand factor testing: Seen most commonly in Dobermans, this condition often leads to spontaneous bleeding due to clotting factor deficiencies.

Bone marrow aspirates/biopsies are performed to evaluate if the bone marrow is producing platelets, and/or if any obvious cancerous or immune-mediated processes are evident.

Treatment for Dog Bruises

There is no specific therapy for bruising in dogs; treatment is dependent on cause. Bruising secondary to mild to moderate trauma may require no treatment. But bruising due to clotting deficiencies may require hospitalization, whole blood transfusions, plasma transfusions, steroid therapy, and more intensive treatments. Bruising secondary to infections, such as tick-borne diseases, is treated with appropriate antibiotic therapy.

In general, if your dog has a bruise spreading locally (or to other parts of the body) and is not improving after 72 hours—or the bruising is paired with other systemic signs such as pale gums, weakness, not eating, vomiting, collapse, trouble breathing and/or lethargy—it’s important to get a veterinary assessment ASAP, even if that means an emergency visit.

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Katie Grzyb, DVM


Dr. Katie Grzyb received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University in 2009. She continued her clinical training at…

Why Is My Dog Drinking a Lot of Water?

Many things can influence how much water your dog drinks every day, from the weather to your pet’s exercise, diet, and medical conditions.

Excessive thirst, which is known medically as polydipsia, can often go unnoticed. However, it’s important to know how much water your dog normally drinks so you’ll notice any change in their routine. Drinking a lot of water can be a sign that something is wrong, and an early diagnosis of a medical condition often makes treatment simpler and less invasive.

Learn more about why your dog’s water intake may have increased and what your next steps should be.

Key Takeaways

Many underlying health conditions can lead a pup to drink excessive amounts of water.If your dog is drinking a lot of water, this may lead to additional symptoms like excessive peeing.Never deprive your dog of water unless specifically directed by your veterinarian.

How Much Water Should a Dog Drink Daily?

A general guideline for a dog’s water intake is about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight. For example, a 10-pound dog should drink about 10 ounces of water per day.

Puppies, very active dogs, dogs that are nursing, and dogs that live in warm climates will typically drink more water than the general guideline. Your dog may also drink less than normal if they eat canned food that contains water.

No matter how much your dog is drinking daily, NEVER deprive your dog of water unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Your dog should have access to water at all times, even overnight or if they seem to be drinking a lot and needing to go out more often. Water deprivation can cause dehydration and lead to electrolyte imbalances and sometimes kidney malfunction.

How to Determine How Much Your Dog Drinks Daily

To see how much water your dog is drinking, fill the water bowl to the same level at the same time every day. If you want to be precise, measure how much water you put in the bowl in the morning, then measure how much is left at the end of the day.

There are also bowls that have measurements on the side. This might not work if the bowl tends to spill or get tipped over by any pets or young children in the house.

If you have multiple pets and they are microchipped, you can get separate bowls that will open only to specific microchips, making it easier to isolate how much one dog is drinking daily.

But if you notice that your dog is drinking a lot more than usual or needing to go out to pee a lot more often, make an appointment to see the vet.

Try these water bowls and fountains to keep track of your dog’s water intake:

INSTACHEW Puresmart Pet Water FountainNecoichi Ceramic Elevated Water BowlEyenimal Intelligent Stainless Steel Bowl

Why Is My Dog Drinking So Much Water?

There are many factors that affect how much water a dog drinks throughout the day. There are also many medical reasons dogs can have excessive thirst. Here’s a list of possible causes for drinking more water than usual.

Canned Food Diet

Canned food contains more water than dry food, so dogs that eat canned food may drink less water. This is because they are getting a portion of their daily water intake from their food.


Puppies often require more water because their kidneys don’t concentrate urine as well, which leads to increased urination. They also tend to be more active and lose more water through vomiting or diarrhea. Geriatric dogs can also drink more (or less) due to cognitive dysfunction or medical issues.


Certain medications can cause increased thirst and urination. These medications include diuretics (such as furosemide or torsemide), anti-seizure medications (such as phenobarbital), and corticosteroids (such as prednisone).

Hot Climates

Dogs that live in warmer areas can become dehydrated more easily, increasing their water intake requirements.

Frequent Exercise or Increased Activity

Dogs that exercise frequently will require more water to hydrate themselves. Puppies also might drink more water than adult dogs due to higher activity levels.

Health Conditions

Certain medical issues can lead to excessive thirst. The most common reasons include:

Electrolyte Imbalances

Sodium or salt imbalances can lead to increased thirst and urination in dogs. Sodium draws water to it, and the kidneys will not hold or store water appropriately if there is an imbalance of sodium and potassium in the water.

Dehydration, high-sodium meals, certain toxins, and other medical conditions can cause electrolyte issues. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, not eating, weakness, and/or neurologic signs (e.g., circling, falling over, ataxia, or seizures), take your dog to the vet.


Heat, exercise, and illness can all cause dehydration and lead to water-seeking behavior. Signs associated with dehydration can include lethargy, tacky gums, ropy saliva, bright red gums, excessive panting, and skin tenting. Severe dehydration can be very harmful and even fatal, so it’s important to get your dog to a veterinarian if you see these signs.

Vomiting or Diarrhea

These can lead to dehydration, causing a dog to drink more water. If your dog drinks too much water at once, it can cause more vomiting/regurgitation. If the gastrointestinal signs are frequent, severe, or persistent, seek veterinary care.

Hyperthermia or Fever

Elevated body temperature can cause increased thirst in dogs, whether from infection, inflammation, pain, immune-mediated disease, toxin ingestion, excessive exercise, and/or heat stroke.

If your dog is panting excessively, seems very lethargic, or has significant rope-like saliva and/or cherry-red gums, take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for evaluation.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure (or renal failure) is a chronic progressive condition defined as the inability of the kidneys to efficiently filter waste products. As toxins filter out from the bloodstream, they draw excess water with them, which may lead to increased urination. This in turn causes dehydration and an increase in water intake.

Kidney failure ranges in severity, depending on how advanced it is. In the early stages, only monitoring and diet change may be needed. For more severe kidney failure, hospitalization may be required.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes is a disease where the pancreas does not produce enough insulin (or the body stops responding the insulin produced). This causes a rise in blood sugar (glucose) levels. The body tries to eliminate excessive sugar through the urine, and the glucose draws water with it. Increased thirst and urination are the first clinical signs of diabetes noted by dog owners.

If you see those signs along with lethargy, decreased appetite, weakness, an abnormal smell to the breath (ketotic breath), and/or vomiting/diarrhea, seek immediate veterinarian care. Untreated diabetes mellitus can lead to a potentially fatal condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetes Insipidus

Diabetes insipidus is a rare condition in dogs causing excessive thirst and large amounts of urine. Despite drinking large amounts of water, these dogs can often become dehydrated from the amount of urine they are producing. Though frustrating, this condition does not require immediate medical therapy. However, since you won’t be able to tell the difference between the types of diabetes, see the vet to determine the cause of your dog’s increased thirst and urination.

Cushing’s Disease

Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, this condition is caused by the overproduction of cortisol (stress hormone) and steroids from the adrenal glands. This causes increased thirst and urination. Other clinical signs include a pot-belly appearance, panting, thin skin, hair loss, and increased hunger. It is often diagnosed by the presence of symptoms. Cushing’s disease does not require immediate medical therapy.


This life-threatening condition is an infection of the uterus in female dogs that have not been spayed. Bacterial toxins released into the bloodstream affect the kidney’s ability to hold urine, which leads to increased urination. Dogs will often drink more water to compensate for the increase in urination.

Pyometra often has other symptoms, such as pus originating from the vulva, fever, lethargy, changes in appetite, and vomiting. Pyometra is fatal if left untreated, due to the infection spreading throughout the body (sepsis). 

Liver Infection

Bacterial infection of the liver (most commonly caused by infection with Leptospirosis) leads to increased urine production and increased thirst. This infection is fatal if left untreated. Leptospirosis is passed through infected rodent urine and is most commonly found in stagnant water puddles or ponds.

There is a vaccine that protects dogs against this infection. If your dog has been drinking a lot of water or been recently swimming in a pond or drinking out of rain puddles, and they are not up to date on their Leptospirosis vaccination, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for testing and treatment.

Why Does My Dog Keep Drinking Water and Throwing Up?

Dogs will often drink water when they have an upset tummy. Though we are unsure if this is to give them relief or to induce vomiting, it occurs frequently. This can be secondary to many medical issues, including mild inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract (gastroenteritis), pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease, foreign body obstruction, and cancers.

Why Is My Dog Drinking Lots of Water and Licking Their Paws?

These signs together can be caused by dehydration, allergies, pain, or even behavioral issues, including anxiety, stress, or cognitive dysfunction (the dog version of dementia).

Why Is My Dog Drinking Lots of Water and Peeing a Lot?

Dogs that drink a lot of water will often urinate a lot. This is partially due to how the body processes water–such that if the dog is drinking a high volume of water, then a high volume of water is being processed in the kidneys, and a high volume of urine is produced. There are many medical conditions that can cause a dog to feel more thirst and drink more water, such as kidney disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease.

Why Does My Dog Drink a Lot of Water at Night?

Dogs may excessively drink water at night for all of the above medical issues, but this can also be caused by:

DehydrationCognitive dysfunctionHigh-sodium treats or food at nightNot enough water available during the day, especially if a dog is crated during the day with no water bowl.Dry air—You may notice your dog drinks more at night when the heat goes on in your home. This is due to drying out of the air. Consider using a humidifier where your dog sleeps to help alleviate this behavior.Boredom/anxiety/stress—Give your dog plenty of affection and playtime to avoid excessive thirst in the evenings.

When to Go to the Vet for Excessive Thirst in Dogs

It can be difficult to know when to bring your dog to the veterinarian when it comes to excessive thirst.

If excessive thirst is paired any of the following symptoms, then is it extremely important to get your pet evaluated as soon as possible:

VomitingDiarrheaLethargyDecreased appetiteSevere panting  Respiratory distressAtaxia or weaknessCollapseBlood in the urineStraining to urinateGeneral malaise

Go to an emergency veterinary hospital if your general practice veterinarian is not available. The emergency veterinary team can help to determine if this is a true emergency, and often will start with a physical examination and general diagnostic testing to investigate the cause of the clinical signs.  

If your dog is otherwise acting normally—eating well, happy, acting alert—then it is okay to schedule an appointment with the veterinarian at their next available time, even if that is a few weeks away.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Excessive Thirst in Dogs

There are many tests that help to investigate the underlying cause of a dog’s excessive thirst. First, your veterinarian will try to obtain a thorough history of your dog. This is the time to give your vet any information you have about their water intake or other abnormal behavior. Next, they will perform a complete physical examination.

They may also discuss multiple diagnostic tests to help explore possible medical issues. These tests may include:

Full bloodwork to assess the kidney enzymes, sugar levels, liver enzymes, electrolytes, and red and white blood cell counts.Urinalysis: A general urine profile to assess the concentrating ability of the kidneys and assess for protein, blood, crystals, white blood cells, and bacteria in the urine.Urine culture and sensitivity: This is a more specific urine test to assess for bacterial growth in the urine and determine the best antibiotic to use to kill off this bacteria.X-rays of the abdomen to look for bladder/urethral stones and tumors in or around the bladder, and to rule out uterine infections and enlargement/mineralization of the prostate.Abdominal ultrasound to assess all of the internal organs for any abnormalities.ACTH stimulation testing to rule out Cushing’s disease.

Treatment for Dogs That Drink a Lot of Water

The approach to a dog that is drinking a lot of water depends on the underlying cause:

Dehydration: Treatment depends on severity. For mild cases, offering fresh water frequently can be enough. For moderate to severe cases, subcutaneous or intravenous fluid therapy is performed by a veterinary team.Vomiting/diarrhea: Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the gastrointestinal signs, and often includes antiemetic (anti-nausea and anti-vomiting) therapy, anti-diarrheal therapy, diet changes, and fluid therapy.Hyperthermia/fever: Treatment is dependent on the cause of the elevated body temperature. Cooling measures and intravenous fluids are often used for hyperthermia, while antibiotic therapy and fluid therapy are among the other options for treating fevers.Kidney failure: Treatment is based on the stage of renal failure. These can range from fluid administration at home to hospitalization for intravenous fluids, low-phosphorus diets, appetite stimulants, gastroprotectant medications, or blood pressure medication, with or without antibiotic therapy.Medication side effects: Often the side effects of these medications are self-limiting, as the body normalizes over the first 1-2 weeks of taking them. Sometimes dose adjustments are made by the veterinarian if urination becomes excessive, to avoid urinary accidents in the house.Diabetes mellitus: Insulin therapy is the mainstay of treatment for diabetes mellitus. Insulin dosage and type is determined by your veterinarian and often requires frequent dose adjustment in the beginning stages of therapy. Sometimes hospitalization is required if this condition becomes more serious and results in diabetic ketoacidosis.Diabetes insipidus: Treatment of this condition is based on whether it is central (CDI, or related to inadequate production of a brain hormone called ADH) or nephrogenic (NDI, or related to resistance of the kidneys to respond to a hormone called ADH). CDI is treated using a synthetic hormone called desmopressin, or DDAVP. NDI is often treated using a medication called hydrochlorothiazide and a low-sodium diet.Cushing’s disease:This condition is usually treated using a medication called trilostane, which is a synthetic enzyme used to decrease the production of excessive cortisol in the body.  Pyometra: Surgical removal of the infected uterus via ovariohysterectomy is the most common treatment. For open, draining uterine infections, longer courses of appropriate antibiotics can often clear the infection, but these infections often recur until the uterus is surgically removed.Leptospirosis infection: This often requires hospitalization with intravenous antibiotics, fluid therapy, and gastroprotectants. If diagnosed and treated early on, most dogs can be cured.Electrolyte imbalances: Treatment for these conditions is dependent on the cause and type of electrolyte imbalance. Sometimes this includes hospitalization and fluid therapy, and in other cases, treatment is as simple as a diet change and avoidance of high-sodium treats.

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Katie Grzyb, DVM


Dr. Katie Grzyb received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from Ross University in 2009. She continued her clinical training at…

Red Eyes in Dogs

Red eyes are a prevalent eye issue in dogs and puppies. It’s also a very common presentation for a wide variety of conditions, from external irritants and excessive dryness to many diseases.

Red eyes are an indication of inflammation in one of the components that make up the dog’s eye. Depending on the cause, red eyes can mean anything from a minor issue to a serious—even life-threatening—medical condition. A dog with red eyes can also be at risk of significant vision loss or blindness. The degree of redness may or may not be indicative of the severity of the problem.

If you notice your dog’s eyes are red, take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Types of Red Eyes in Dogs

Redness in a dog’s eye comes from one of the following locations within the eye:

Episcleral Injection

The white of the eye is called the sclera, which is the tough outer layer of the eye. This type of eye redness occurs when the blood vessels of the sclera become enlarged (congested), thus becoming more straight instead of tortuous (winding).

Episcleral injection is an external sign of an intraocular disease. This means you see redness on the outer part of the eye, but it indicates a disease process inside the eye, such as uveitis or glaucoma.

Conjunctival Hyperemia

The conjunctiva of the eye is a thin membrane that covers the sclera near the front of the eye and also covers the inside of the eyelid. Conjunctival hyperemia is congestion of the blood vessels within the conjunctiva, making the vessels enlarge and causing increased redness.

Extraocular diseases—meaning diseases that affect the outside of the eye, such as conjunctivitis—cause this type of red eye in dogs.

Subconjunctival Hemorrhage

Underneath the conjunctiva, deeper within the tissues of the eye, a diffuse redness can occur in which the blood vessels of the eye are completely hidden. This type of redness will take up the entire white part of the eye and is often a result of over-restraint, trauma, clotting disorders, or strangulation.

Corneal Neovascularization

In response to a defect on the cornea, new blood vessels will form on the surface of the eye, called corneal neovascularization. This can be superficial, deep (focal or one spot), or 360 degrees deep.

This type of redness occurs with scratches on the surface of the eye, inflammatory conditions of the cornea (keratitis), and diseases such as glaucoma or uveitis.


Hyphema is a hemorrhage, or pooling of blood, within the anterior chamber of the eye. This type of redness will be noticed as complete redness, or a dull or bright red line in the eye. This can occur from clotting disorders, trauma, uveitis, or systemic hypertension (high blood pressure).

There are many symptoms that can accompany a red eye that might give clues as to where the problem lies, such as:

Third-eyelid inflammation

Discharge from the eye

Ruptured blood vessels

Swelling in or around the eye

Pain or discomfort (as evidenced by pawing or rubbing the eye and/or squinting)

What To Do if Your Dog Has Red Eyes

If you notice your dog has redness in their eyes, he should be examined by his veterinarian as soon as possible. A red eye should be evaluated right away to start any necessary medical treatment to preserve your dog’s vision.

Causes of Red Eyes in Dogs


Just as in humans, dogs might get red eyes from environmental allergies to things such as pollen or dander. This can often cause your dog to have itchy eyes as well.

Allergies are treated with a variety of methods depending on the underlying cause, but can include oral medication such as antihistamines and/or eye drops to help secondary infections that might pop up.


Inflammation of the surface of the eye, or cornea, causes redness to your dog’s eyes. Similar to pink eye in people, conjunctivitis can be from an infectious agent such as bacteria or viruses, trauma, or environmental irritants. It’s often accompanied by excessive discharge from the eye.

Conjunctivitis is treated with topical medication such as drops or ointments. Severe cases might require oral medications.

Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)

KCS, also known as dry eye in dogs, happens when your pup has little to no tear production. When this occurs, they won’t have the normal protective function of the surface of the eye. This leads to scratches and other abnormalities to the eye that will cause it to become red.

This is an issue with your dog’s immune system and can go along with other conditions such as diabetes. KCS is treated with a combination of topical eye medications and oral medications to stimulate the immune system. Dogs with KCS should also use an artificial tears eye drops to keep their eyes lubricated.


Entropion in dogs is the inward turning of the eyelid that causes the eyelashes to irritate the surface of the eye, leading to redness. The condition often causes chronic, recurrent eye infections, including swelling and discharge. Entropion is treated with corrective surgery.

Cherry Eye

Cherry eye is when a small gland inside the dog’s third eyelid becomes inflamed and protrudes. It’s often noticed as a small red swelling or lump in the inner corner of the eyelid. Mild cases can be treated with anti-inflammatory eye drops, while severe cases require corrective surgery.

Eye Injury or Trauma

External irritants or foreign material in or around the eyes can cause redness. Common examples include grass, hair, toxic gases/fumes, fights with other animals, and tree branches.

Trauma often causes ulcers on the surface of the eye along with pain, squinting, and rubbing of the eyes. Depending on the severity, this can be treated with topical eye medications, pain relief, and/or oral medications.

Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers are open sores on the surface of the eyes that may or may not be visible to the naked eye. Ulcers are often caused by trauma but can also be the result of bacterial or viral diseases. Aggressive medical treatment is necessary to avoid vision loss.


Glaucoma is caused by increased pressure within the eye that causes red eyes and can lead to blindness. It often occurs in dogs with uncontrolled or unregulated diabetes, but it can also be hereditary or develop from other disease processes. Cloudiness on the eye’s surface can also be present.

Medical treatment combined with surgery is often necessary.


Uveitis is characterized by decreased pressure within the eye caused by infection, metabolic diseases, toxins, injury, or eye tumors. This causes the eye to be red and will be painful, so you might see your dog squinting. Cloudiness on the surface of the eye can also be present. Uveitis is often managed with topical and oral medications.


This is inflammation of the eyelid due to entropion, infection, irritation, or allergies. The eye(s) will often be red, itchy, and swollen, with or without squinting and rubbing at the face due to pain. Depending on the underlying cause, it can be treated with eye medications, oral medications, or even surgery.


Benign or malignant tumors growing behind or within the eye can cause red eyes in dogs. Depending on the extent and severity, surgery might be necessary.

High Blood Pressure

Increased blood pressure can cause the small blood vessels in the eye to rupture, leading to a very red eye. If left untreated, this condition will lead to blindness. Treating the underlying cause of high blood pressure with methods such as oral medication should help resolve the red eyes.

How Vets Diagnose the Cause of Red Eyes in Dogs

Your veterinarian will assess your dog’s medical condition by obtaining a complete medical history and performing a complete physical exam (including a thorough examination of the eyes).

They will likely recommend laboratory testing to determine the underlying cause of your dog’s red eye(s). Lab work should include a chemistry profile, complete blood count, electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis. Special non-invasive eye testing will be performed, such as:

Schirmer tear test: Measures tear production to diagnose KCS.

Fluorescein stain: Allows evaluation of the surface of the eye to check for scratches or changes to the cornea. A positive stain will diagnose a corneal ulcer.

Tonometry: Measures the intraocular pressures to diagnose glaucoma or uveitis.

More advanced testing for red eyes would include an ultrasound of the eye and surrounding tissue, blood pressure monitoring, and even advanced imaging such as a CT scan or an MRI.

Treatment for Red Eyes in Dogs

If you notice your dog has red eyes, schedule an appointment to have them seen by their veterinarian as soon as possible. If their vet is not available, this can be considered a medical emergency in some cases and your dog should be examined by your local emergency vet for initial treatment and diagnostics.

A cold compress with a soft washcloth can help temporarily soothe any pain or discomfort by decreasing inflammation. Make sure triggers such as smoke, fumes, pollen, and dust are avoided until the cause of the red eyes is determined.

A pet-specific eye wash or eye wipe can be used if your dog will tolerate it. Artificial tear eye drops can also be helpful if your dog’s tear production is low and to lubricate the eye and surrounding tissues.

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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…

Seizures in Dogs

A seizure is caused by a sudden surge of uncontrollable electrical activity within the brain. Exactly where in the brain that electrical activity occurs and how much of the brain is involved determines what pet parents witness when a dog has a seizure.

Dogs who are having seizures need veterinary attention. Left untreated, seizures tend to get worse, which can lead to permanent neurological damage or death. But with appropriate care, many dogs who have seizures can live long and happy lives.

Seeing your dog shake or have any type of seizure is scary, and in the moment, you probably don’t know what to do to help. This guide will explain what a seizure looks like, the types and causes of seizures, what to do if your dog has one, and how they are treated.

Seizures vs. Tremors vs. Shivering

Sometimes what looks like a seizure may not be a seizure at all. It’s easy to mistake muscle tremors or even shivering for seizures in dogs, because they can all involve uncontrollable muscle movements.

Evaluating a dog’s mental status will sometimes, not always, help you differentiate between seizures and muscle tremors or shivering.

When a dog experiences muscle tremors or shivering, they are still fully aware of their surroundings. Most types of seizures, however, will affect a dog’s ability to sense and respond to the world around them. They may be unconscious, just seem “out of it,” or anything in between.

However, some types of seizures don’t affect a dog’s mental status, which makes them difficult to diagnose. If you can, take a video of your dog during one of their episodes and show it to your veterinarian. This will help the doctor figure out what is going on.

Types of Dog Seizures

So, what are dog seizure symptoms? That depends on the type of seizure the dog is experiencing—generalized or partial.

Generalized Seizures

When most of a dog’s brain is affected by abnormal electrical activity, they will experience generalized seizures. This is what people usually picture when they think of seizures. Generalized seizures can be divided into three phases:

Pre-ictal phase (aura): Before the seizure, many dogs seem to experience what is commonly known as an aura. People who have seizures often describe unusual sights, smells, or other sensations in the seconds or minutes before a seizure. Dogs probably experience something similar and may become restless, exhibit unusual behaviors, or stare vacantly into the distance.

Ictal phase: This is the seizure itself.

Dogs usually experience tonic-clonic (also called grand mal) seizures and have the following symptoms:

They are completely unaware of their surroundings.

They fall over and become stiff.

They paddle their limbs.

They may urinate or defecate.

It’s also possible for dogs to experience these types of seizures:

Generalized tonic seizures (stiffness without paddling)

Generalized clonic seizures (paddling without stiffness)

Generalized seizures without stiffness or paddling (sometimes called petit mal seizures), during which they simply lose consciousness for a period of time

Post-ictal phase: After the seizure has ended, dogs will go through a post-ictal phase when they can be dull, lethargic, restless, unsteady on their feet, or even temporarily blind. The post-ictal phase usually lasts for a few minutes to a few hours, with longer and more severe seizures usually leading to a longer and more dramatic post-ictal phase.

Partial Seizures

Unlike generalized seizures, partial seizures involve abnormal electrical activity in just one or a few parts of the brain. Dogs experiencing partial seizures often exhibit unusual movements that are limited to a specific part of their body. For example, one leg may kick repeatedly, or they may have signs like lip licking or fly biting (snapping at the air).

The terms “focal” or “partial motor” seizure may be used to describe the situation if the dog doesn’t seem to experience any mental changes during the seizure. Partial seizures that do involve a change in awareness are sometimes called complex partial seizures or psychomotor seizures.

Dogs can have pre-ictal and post-ictal phases with partial seizures, but the signs tend to be milder than those associated with generalized seizures.

What Causes Seizures in Dogs?

Many health problems can lead to seizures in dogs, including:

Infection or inflammation of the brain

Cancer affecting the brain

Head trauma

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

Liver disease

Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels)

Kidney failure

Low blood oxygen levels

Lead toxicity

Organophosphate toxicity

Antifreeze poisoning

Hydrocephalus (buildup of fluids in brain cavities)


These are just some of the underlying causes of seizures in dogs. But when dogs have reoccurring seizures and a thorough health workup doesn’t identify an underlying cause, veterinarians will usually diagnose them with primary epilepsy.

Some causes of seizures are more common at certain life stages than others. For example, hydrocephalus and hypoglycemia typically affect puppies, while brain cancer is more commonly diagnosed in older pets. Dogs with primary epilepsy usually first develop seizures when they are 1-4 years old.

Are Certain Dog Breeds More at Risk for Seizures?

The reasons why some dogs develop primary epilepsy are not fully understood, but genetics is certainly involved. Any dog can have seizures, but the following breeds are at a higher-than-average risk for developing primary epilepsy:


Basset Hounds


German Shepherds

Border Collies

Australian Shepherds


Belgian Tervurens


Bernese Mountain Dogs

Irish Setters

Saint Bernards


Wire Fox Terriers

Cocker Spaniels

Labrador Retrievers

Golden Retrievers

What To Do When a Dog Has a Seizure

If you think your dog is having a seizure, the first step you need to take is the hardest—don’t panic! Most seizures only last for a minute or so and don’t cause any long-term damage. But there are times when seizures can be dangerous. Get to a veterinarian immediately if your dog experiences any of the following:

A seizure that lasts longer than 5-10 minutes

Seizures that cluster together and don’t give the dog enough time to recover in between

More than two seizures in 24 hours

During the seizure, simply remove anything from your dog’s surroundings that might pose a risk (a lamp that might be knocked over, for example) and let the seizure run its course. If your dog is in a risky situation, like at the top of the stairs or in the street, try to gently move them to a safer spot.

Don’t put anything in your dog’s mouth, because you may inadvertently make it hard for them to breathe. Honey, maple syrup, or sugar water will help dogs only if they are having seizures due to low blood sugar levels.

After the seizure is over, keep your dog in a safe area and monitor them until they come out of their post-ictal phase. Once they are steady on their feet and are mostly back to normal, you can give them a little water and take them outside for a potty break. Wait a bit longer before you offer some food.

How Vets Find the Cause of Your Dog’s Seizures

Dogs that have had a seizure for the first time should be seen by a veterinarian. The doctor will need to look for any underlying health problems that could have caused the seizure.

The diagnostic process for seizures starts with a thorough health history, a physical examination, and a neurological examination. This will probably be followed by bloodwork, a urinalysis, and a fecal exam.

Depending on the results, the veterinarian may also recommend specialized laboratory tests, taking a sample of cerebrospinal fluid for analysis, or an MRI or CT scan.

Treatments for Dogs With Seizures

Whenever possible, veterinarians will prescribe treatments for any underlying health problems causing the seizures. But when seizures continue or when a dog has been diagnosed with primary epilepsy, anti-seizure medications may be necessary. In general, veterinarians will prescribe medications to control seizures when dogs have:

Seizures more frequently than every 4-6 weeks

Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes or so

Seizures that cluster together

Required hospitalization for seizures

Many medications can help reduce the severity and frequency of seizures in dogs. Phenobarbital and potassium bromide are two relatively inexpensive first-line treatments.

If those are ineffective, veterinarians can prescribe other anti-seizure medications such as zonisamide (Zonegran), levetiracetam (Keppra), gabapentin (Neurontin), and pregabalin (Lyrica). Sometimes anti-seizure medications can be combined for better effect.

Veterinarians may also prescribe diazepam (Valium) or similar medications to be given on an emergency basis if a dog experiences a severe seizure.

Dogs with primary epilepsy or those that continue to have seizures despite treating underlying diseases often need to take anti-seizure medications for the rest of their lives.

The goal of treatment isn’t necessarily to eliminate seizures. It may be better to reduce seizures to a level where they don’t interfere with a dog’s quality of life and to minimize medication side effects, like sedation or increased thirst and urination.

Your veterinarian will need to regularly monitor your dog’s drug levels and bloodwork to ensure that treatment is as safe and effective as possible. It’s also a good idea to keep a seizure diary at home, so you can quickly note trends in seizure frequency and severity.

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary…