Category : Diseases A-Z

Infertility in Male Dogs

While infertility is not common in male dogs, it does happen. The dog may not be able to mate, or if mating does occur, fertilization does not happen as expected. If the stud appears to be infertile, the most common causes are due to injury or infection. It also may be brought about by a sudden hormone change.

Symptoms and Types

A smaller-than-expected litter size may be one indication of a fertility problem in a male that has mated, as are conception rates that are below expected. Infertility is sometimes due to sperm abnormalities such as misshapen sperm and a small production in sperm. If this occurs, visiting a veterinarian for a diagnosis is recommended. Treatment is not easy, but fertility can often be restored.

If the dog is not interested in mating, the cause is very likely a hormone problem. In addition, some dogs will experience reduced sperm production as they grow older.


Age of the dog — he may be too young, or too oldInjuriesDiseaseDrugsPhysical defects — unable to mount due to arthritis or some other problemUnable to ejaculateUnable to ejaculate into the femaleCongenital abnormalities are infrequent but do occur, particularly in certain breedsSperm count is lowDegeneration of the testes



Your veterinarian will want a medical history of your dog, as well as a history of matings. An examination of the reproductive anatomy and prostate will be conducted. The veterinarian will want to test for infections of the prostate and for tumors in the testicles.

Semen will also be collected and examined. It is important to know that a dog that is too young may not be able to produce enough sperm to impregnate a fertile female. In addition, young dogs sometimes have trouble because they lack experience or their sex drive may be underdeveloped.

In a dog that is over eight years old, the sperm will be tested to make certain that enough live sperm are available for successful mating. The test for live sperm is particularly important if mating has not taken place for six months or longer. However, there are times dead sperm is blocking the tract and a second test should be performed in this case. If lowered libido is the problem, hormone counts will be taken.

Next, the veterinarian will ask about previous litters your dog sired. An unusually small litter size for your pet’s particular breed is an indicator of lowered fertility. This will signal either a high count of abnormal sperm or a low count of normal sperm production. The veterinarian will also want to know how much time has passed since the last litter.

Finally, the veterinarian will be interested in the the bitches your dog has mated with. This is to rule out problems with the female dog. The age of the bitch and her physical condition will be important information, so you need to collect that information before your veterinarian conducts a thorough examination of your dog. It is also important to inform them if the bitch is related to your dog genetically.


The thyroid will be checked frequently if the diagnosis is a low sperm count. Thyroid replacement may be recommended in this case. Treatment should continue for six to eight weeks before the sperm count is checked againIf thyroid replacement does not improve the sperm count, hormone replacement may be considered. Gonadotropins are the usual treatment for stimulating sperm production. After four to six weeks, the semen will be tested againIf the dog is young, your veterinarian may recommend a “wait-and-see” approachIf the problem is prostate infection, treatment will consist of antibiotics and hormone therapyIf there is an abscess in the prostate, the treatment will identicalIf there is a tumor in the prostate, the effectiveness of the treatment will be dependent on the severity of the tumor 


Living and Management

It is best to keep dogs that are under treatment away from bitches in season, or in heat. They should not even run in the same yard. If the thyroid was treated and the treatment has been deemed successful, the dog should be watched to be certain the problem does not recur. If the prostrate was the problem, the dog should be watched carefully for a recurrence of the disease. As part of a long term plan, diet and exercise are important for keeping a stud dog in good health.

Colitis in Dogs

What Is Colitis in Dogs?

Colitis is a general term that refers to inflammation of a dog’s colon, also known as the large intestine.

The colon is the last part of the gastrointestinal system, following the small intestine.

By the time food gets to a dog’s colon, most of the nutrients have been absorbed, but a large, natural bacterial population within the colon further digests any leftover undigested food.

The colon also absorbs water, so when it’s inflamed and its cells aren’t functioning well, water isn’t absorbed properly, and it is expelled as diarrhea. 

Types of Colitis in Dogs

There are two forms of colitis in dogs:

Acute colitis refers to a sudden onset of symptoms that typically lasts only a few days. We see this often in dogs, and it usually clears up on its own.

Chronic colitis lasts for longer—from weeks to months. With chronic colitis, your dog will have multiple episodes of symptoms that keep coming and going, or symptoms that simply keep going. Either way, chronic colitis in dogs often requires a medical workup.

Symptoms of Colitis in Dogs

Signs of colitis in dogs include:

Urgency in needing to go to the bathroom

Soft or liquid stool

Straining or pain with defecation

More frequent bowel movements of smaller volume

Stool containing blood or mucus

Dog colitis symptoms will also vary depending on whether your dog has chronic or acute colitis.

Chronic Colitis

Dogs with chronic colitis are typically healthy and seem fine but have soft stools that might contain blood or mucus.

Acute Colitis

Dogs with acute colitis often have a sudden onset of diarrhea that ranges from soft stool to straight liquid. Their stool might also have some bright-red blood and/or mucus.

If your dog has acute colitis, they may have to urgently go outside multiple times and will sometimes go to the bathroom inside the house, despite being house-trained. They might appear to be straining to defecate as well. Vomiting can also occur, but it is not common.

Causes of Colitis in Dogs

In addition to presenting differently, acute and chronic colitis often have different causes.

Causes of Acute Colitis

Stress (e.g., boarding, traveling, moving, or environmental changes)

Dietary indiscretions (e.g., too many treats, eating people food, or getting into the garbage)

Sudden changes in diet


Foreign materials

Infectious agents, such as bacteria

Causes of Chronic Colitis

Parasites (e.g., giardia or whipworms)

Food hypersensitivity

Infectious agents, such as bacteria (e.g., campylobacter, salmonella, or clostridium) or a fungal infection like histoplasmosis

Foreign materials


Inflammatory bowel disease

Dysbiosis (leaky gut)

Idiopathic (when your vet is unable to define a specific cause)

Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Colitis

Any dog can get colitis. However, young Boxers and French Bulldogs are more prone to a rare type of colitis called granulomatous colitis.

In granulomatous colitis, a bowel segment becomes thickened or partially blocked due to a bacterial invasion of the intestinal wall. It results in bloody diarrhea and weight loss. Treatment includes antibiotic therapy and dietary changes as well as corticosteroids.

These are the steps a vet will take to diagnose colitis in dogs.

1. Medical History

Vets will start by getting a thorough history (asking you questions about the issue). This information helps your veterinarian to determine if the diarrhea is from the small intestine or from the large intestine.

Questions your vet might ask include:

How long ago did this start?

What does your dog’s stool look like? Is there blood or mucus in it?

Is your dog able to hold it to go outside, or do they have to go urgently?

Is your dog straining to defecate?

Is there any vomiting, fatigue, or lack of appetite?

Has your dog eaten anything recently that they typically don’t eat, or have they gone through a stressful event? Have you changed your dog’s diet?

2. Physical Exam

Next, your vet will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, including rectal evaluation. They will assess your dog’s dehydration level, check for pain or abnormalities in the abdomen and rectum, and assess the quality of their stool.

3. Fecal Analysis

In cases of both acute and chronic colitis, your vet will do a fecal analysis to determine if there are parasites. If you are taking your dog to the veterinarian for diarrhea, make sure to bring a fresh fecal sample in a sealed bag.

Your veterinarian might diagnose acute colitis just based on the medical history, physical exam, and fecal analysis. However, the exact cause is often unknown since acute colitis usually clears up quickly on its own.

If the diarrhea persists for longer than two weeks, it is classified as chronic diarrhea and requires further medical attention. Typically, this consists of a course of antibiotics followed by a diet trial.

4. Diet Trial

Before pursuing advanced diagnostics, your vet will usually recommend a diet trial for your dog. The recommended prescription diets are low in fat, high in fiber, and formulated either for a sensitive gastrointestinal tract or with a novel protein to determine if there are any food allergies.

5. Abdominal X-Rays or Abdominal Ultrasound

If the diarrhea does not respond to a special diet, the next step is an abdominal ultrasound. This examines your dog’s intestines for any signs of foreign material, thickening of the intestinal wall, or enlarged lymph nodes. The ultrasound surveys the abdomen for any clue as to what might be causing the diarrhea.

6. Colonoscopy

The last step in colitis diagnosis is a colonoscopy. For a colonoscopy, your dog is put under general anesthesia, and a camera is inserted into their rectum and moved along the colon. Your veterinarian will look for any masses, signs of inflammation, or abnormalities. They will then take biopsies of the colonic wall to submit for further analysis.

Treatment for Colitis in Dogs

Do not give any medications at home. Dogs do not metabolize medications the same as humans, so giving your dog a human medication is very dangerous. It can also be counterproductive without knowing the exact cause of the colitis.

Take your dog to the veterinarian if you see any symptoms of colitis. They might initially provide some fluids under your dog’s skin to help with hydration. Then, depending on their findings, they may prescribe one or more of the following treatment options.

Metronidazole, Tylosin, and Sulfasalazine

Metronidazole, tylosin, and sulfasalazine are antibiotics that might also have some anti-inflammatory properties. Courses of these are often tried in the beginning to help resolve colitis, and if it does not improve, then your dog will undergo a diet trial and further diagnostics.

Dietary Fiber

Supplementing the diet with fiber improves diarrhea in many animals. It reduces water in their feces, prolongs transit time (allowing more water to absorb), increases the fecal bulk, and improves the intestine’s ability to contract. You can add fiber through a prescription fiber diet, canned pumpkin, or psyllium.

Bland Diet

A bland diet consists of a simple protein, like boiled chicken (no skin, no spices), cooked hamburger, or fully cooked eggs, as well as a simple carbohydrate, like white or brown rice or white or sweet potatoes. You can even add a small amount of plain, canned 100% pumpkin for fiber (make sure there are no other ingredients).

Prebiotics and Probiotics

Prebiotics act as food for the beneficial bacteria in the colon. They help maintain a healthy bacterial population in the colon, which, in turn, helps resolve diarrhea in dogs.

Probiotics are a protected culture of live bacteria that can help colonize the gastrointestinal system and promote beneficial bacterial balance. This also helps relieve diarrhea.

Prescription Diet

Your dog may be prescribed a novel-protein diet or a hydrolyzed-protein diet in the case of food allergies. Otherwise, high-fiber diets might help in certain cases of colitis.


Your vet may prescribe glucocorticoids for their anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties when previous therapy has failed to alleviate your dog’s chronic colitis.

They are used mostly with inflammatory bowel disease, which is diagnosed with a biopsy sample during a colonoscopy. If your dog requires a glucocorticoid to manage their diarrhea, they often have to stay on it long-term.

Recovery and Management of Colitis in Dogs

In cases of acute colitis, full recovery typically happens within a few days. Chronic colitis usually takes a longer time, requiring further diagnostics and trials of different medications and diets to see what helps.

Depending on the underlying cause, chronic colitis in dogs might not be curable, but it can often be managed and controlled through one or more of the following: diet, fiber supplements, antibiotics, and corticosteroids/anti-inflammatories/immune modulators.

Colitis in Dogs FAQs

Does colitis in dogs go away?

Acute colitis often clears up on its own within 24-48 hours. However, it does sometimes require veterinary assistance to fully resolve. Chronic colitis has many potential causes. Some can be treated, curing the colitis, but others can only be managed with medication or diet.

Because many other conditions can have the same symptoms, and because it may be chronic colitis, you should go to the vet if you see:

Urgency in needing to go to the bathroom

Soft or liquid stool

Straining or pain with defecation

More frequent bowel movements of smaller volume

Stool containing blood or mucus

What triggers colitis in dogs?

Stressful events, such as boarding, traveling, or moving, can trigger an episode of colitis. Eating something that upsets the gastrointestinal tract is another cause. There are many possible triggers, so seek veterinary evaluation if the diarrhea continues beyond 24 hours.

How do you treat colitis in dogs naturally?

As long as the dog still has energy and is eating, you can try a bland diet at home. Consider adding in some pumpkin for fiber as well as probiotics to help with the gut flora.

How much does it cost to treat colitis in dogs?

It depends on the cause and severity. The costs would include the examination, fecal analysis, sometimes blood work to assess hydration, fluids (if given), and medications. In severe cases, where the dog needs to stay at the hospital or requires advanced diagnostics, such as an ultrasound or a colonoscopy, the cost is quite a bit higher.

Can stress cause colitis in dogs?

Yes. Stress is thought to be a common cause of colitis in dogs.

What medication is used for colitis in dogs?

Special diets, fiber supplements, probiotics, antibiotics, and steroids can all be used for colitis depending on the severity, duration of symptoms, and underlying cause.

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Shelby Loos, DVM


Dr. Shelby Loos is a 2017 graduate from the University of Florida with a certificate in aquatic animal medicine. After completing a year…

5 Things Not to Do During Your Pet’s Cancer Treatment

By Dr. Joanne Intile, DVM, DACVM

Learning that your pet has cancer is devastating. Deciding on which, if any, treatment path to take is confusing and it is normal to feel anxious as you are making decisions for your pet. Owners frequently struggle with feeling a lack of control and search for options to enhance their pet’s prognosis during their treatment plan. While most of these choices are not harmful, sometimes an owner’s best intentions can unknowingly offset their pet’s progress. The following are suggestions of what to consider avoiding during cancer treatment to optimize your pet’s care.

Avoid starting your pet on any supplements or medications before talking to your primary veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist.

You might be tempted to start your pet on supplements, vitamins, or other medications as part of a regimen to aid in their body’s defenses against cancer and to support them through their treatments. Most supplements do not undergo regulation regarding content. These products, which may be touted as “natural,” could negatively interact with your pet’s prescribed medications, reducing the benefit of chemotherapy and harming your pet’s system.

Owners are often surprised to learn that some of the chemotherapy drugs we administer come from plants and are therefore also classified as natural substances. The effects of interactions between different natural substances, such as with conventional medicine and alternative medicine/supplements, are unpredictable at best. Veterinarians who cannot guarantee that mixing the two would not lead to treatment failure or harm will honestly explain their concerns and advise you on how to proceed.

See Dietary Supplements and Cancer Treatment: A Risky Mixture to learn more about potential negative interactions between supplements and chemotherapy.

Don’t overfeed your pet.

Some pets with cancer, especially cats, will show signs of a poor appetite during treatment. This occurs because of the disease process itself and in response to the prescribed treatments. In those cases, veterinarians frequently lift the typical dietary restrictions placed on companion animals and permit owners to offer a wider variety of foods, including typically prohibited menu items such as fast food or other kinds of “people” food. But for pets whose normal appetites are not being affected by treatment, overfeeding them and/or routinely offering food items the pet would not normally ingest can cause gastrointestinal upset, which may mimic adverse signs from treatment, leading to confusion about how best to proceed. In addition, pets can easily become overweight even with minimal overfeeding, which can exacerbate previous orthopedic disease and lead to concurrent health problems, including cardiorespiratory disease and pain, resulting in a reduction in the pet’s quality of life.

While it’s understandable to want to keep your pet happy during this difficult time, it’s better to shower your pet with attention and toys and activity and not to overdo it with calorie-rich “comfort” foods.

Don’t be a loner.

You may encounter individuals who question your decision to treat your pet’s cancer, arguing that you’re being selfish or traumatizing your animals. Personally, I’ve been told countless times that treating pets with cancer is the equivalent of “torturing” them. Such harsh judgment can be isolating, making you second-guess your choices and intentions. Please find reassurance in knowing that there are thousands of owners who choose to treat their pets, just as you are, and these individuals can be your best resources for information and as sounding boards for you to express your concerns, questions, and frustrations.

Many owners of pets that have undergone cancer treatment are happy to provide insight and advice to owners considering their options. This may be in person or via the Internet. For example, Tripawds is an online community of owners of pets with three (or fewer!) limbs that is an excellent resource for owners considering limb amputation for bone tumors.

Skip the dog park (but only at the specific times outlined by your veterinary oncologist).

Pets receiving chemotherapy can experience temporary drops in their white blood cell counts at specified times following their treatment. During these periods where the immune system is being compromised, animals are more susceptible to infection. While the overall risk of illness is low, there will likely be times you should avoid situations where your pet might encounter new pathogens. This may mean occasionally missing a trip to the dog park or groomer, or keeping your typically outdoor cat indoors for a short period of time. In addition, reducing stress levels to a minimum during periods where your pet may have lowered immune defenses is of utmost importance. This means limiting houseguests (two or four legged) if your pet is the kind to become anxious in such situations, avoiding boarding your pet if you decide to travel (get a pet sitter to stay at your home instead), or taking your pet with you rather than leaving them alone if they have a tendency toward separation anxiety.

While such physical challenges may seem to cause significant negative impacts in your pet’s quality of life, the important consideration is that this change is truly temporary and will only be for a few days following certain medical treatments your pet receives.

Don’t be afraid to ask your vet questions.

You will likely have dozens of questions about your pet’s condition and treatment plan and it’s important to have those questions or concerns addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible. You probably won’t think of all of them right away, so writing them down as they occur to you is important.

While the internet is a valuable resource, internet writers do not know your pet personally. Your veterinarian and/or veterinary oncologist will be the most appropriate resource for your concerns. You should never feel that any question is insignificant, and if you are feeling that you or your pet’s needs are not being met, voice your concerns. This empowers you to make the best decisions about your pet’s care and to feel confident in the plan.

Some questions to consider:

What is the exact type of cancer my pet has and where in his/her body is it found?What signs should I look for that could indicate disease progression?How will I know if my pet is having a reaction to treatment?What can I do at home to help my pet through treatment and what are the “triggers” I should use to know when I need to call my veterinarian?What is the expected cost of treatment and further testing?

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Joanne Lynn Intile, DVM, MS, DACVIM


EPI in Dogs (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs)

What Is EPI in Dogs?

EPI stands for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. EPI in dogs is a health issue that has serious effects on the pancreas. It happens when most of the cells that produce digestive hormones don’t function normally.

The pancreas is a small organ located under a dog’s stomach, next to the beginning of the small intestine (the duodenum). The pancreas has two vital functions:

Producing insulin, the hormone that moves sugar from the bloodstream into cells.

Producing digestive hormones, including lipase to break down fat, proteases to break down protein, and amylase to break down starch.

Different cells within a dog’s pancreas are responsible for performing each of these functions. When enough insulin-producing cells are damaged, dogs develop Type I diabetes. And when the cells that produce digestive hormones aren’t working, the result is EPI in dogs.

Is EPI in Dogs Curable?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs. Once the pancreas is damaged to the point that symptoms of EPI develop, you will need to give your dog pancreatic enzyme supplements and possibly other treatments for the rest of their life. However, with proper management, your dog can live a healthy and happy life.

Symptoms of EPI in Dogs

Without adequate digestive hormones, the food that a dog eats can’t be broken down and absorbed.

As a result, dogs with EPI typically lose weight. Your dog may also:

Have a ravenous appetite

Eat feces (coprophagia)

Eat other unusual things (pica)

Have soft stool or diarrhea that is pale, greasy, and/or especially smelly—this is due to the presence of undigested food within the intestinal tract

Have excess gas

Have flaky skin and a rough coat

Other symptoms may be present in severe cases or if a dog is suffering from another condition in addition to EPI.

Causes of Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

The most common cause of EPI in dogs is pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA). This is especially true when EPI is diagnosed in a relatively young dog less than four years old.1

PAA appears to be an autoimmune disease, meaning that a dog’s own immune system attacks and destroys the pancreatic cells responsible for producing digestive enzymes. The primary risk factor for PAA in dogs is genetic, which is why EPI is seen more frequently in certain breeds of dogs.

German Shepherd dogs are most at risk, but studies have shown that these breeds also have an increased incidence of EPI 1,2,3:

Rough-Coated Collies

Chow Chows

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Cairn Terriers


West Highland White Terriers

Cardigan Welsh Corgis

Border Collies

Australian Heelers

Australian Shepherds

Shetland Sheepdogs

However, any dog can develop EPI, and not all cases of EPI are linked to genetics. Diseases that destroy large parts of the pancreas, like pancreatic cancer or severe and/or chronic pancreatitis4, or other more rare conditions may also be to blame.

How Vets Diagnose EPI in Dogs

A veterinarian may suspect that a dog has EPI based solely on their symptoms and breed or history of health problems, but lab tests are still necessary because other diseases can have similar clinical signs. Here are several tests that can help diagnose EPI in dogs.

Blood Chemistry Test and Complete Blood Cell Count. The veterinarian will run blood chemistry tests and a complete blood cell count to get a picture of your dog’s overall health and to look for problems, like anemia (a low red blood cell count), that are sometimes associated with EPI.
Trypsin-Like Immunoreactivity Test (TLI). The best test specifically for EPI in dogs is the trypsin-like immunoreactivity test (TLI). Trypsin is a digestive enzyme produced by the pancreas that is normally present at low levels in a dog’s bloodstream. In dogs with EPI, blood-trypsin levels are significantly lower than they should be. The test is easy to perform by drawing blood, but dogs cannot eat for 8-12 hours before the sample is taken.

Other tests for EPI are available but don’t provide results that are as reliable as the TLI test. However, they may be appropriate under some circumstances.

Vitamin Deficiencies or Folate Abnormalities

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiencies, are common in dogs with EPI. Folate (another type of B vitamin) levels can be normal, high, or low.

In severe cases of EPI, dogs may become deficient in vitamin K, which can lead to bleeding. Your veterinarian will measure your dog’s cobalamin, folate, and possibly some other vitamin levels to determine which supplements are necessary to return your dog to good health.

Treatment for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs

In theory, treatment for EPI in dogs is fairly straightforward: Dogs eat the missing pancreatic digestive enzymes with their meals, and any other abnormalities, like low cobalamin levels, are addressed.

Unfortunately, the reality of treating EPI can be a bit more complicated.

Pancreatic Enzyme Supplements

You should add pancreatic enzymes to your dog’s food for every meal. Powdered pancreatic enzyme supplements like PancrePlus Powder for dogs and cats, Thomas Labs Bio Case Pancreatic Enzyme Powder dog and cat supplement, and PanaKare Plus Powder for dogs and cats are easy to use and usually effective.

Tablets are also available, but they don’t seem to work as well as the powders.

Tips for Administering Pancreatic Enzyme Powders to Your Dog

Mix the powder thoroughly into your dog’s food before you give it to your dog because it can irritate their mouth.

Some pet parents report that letting the food sit for little while to allow “predigestion” improves their dog’s response to treatment. Research doesn’t seem to back this up, but it doesn’t hurt to try if your dog’s condition isn’t improving as well as expected.

Follow the dosage instructions on the label or provided by your veterinarian, but once your dog’s symptoms are well-controlled, the goal is often to find the smallest amount of the enzyme supplement that works for your dog.

Raw Pancreas Meat 

Another source of pancreatic enzymes is raw pancreas meat from other animals.

You can purchase the organ meat from butchers, raw pet food suppliers, and other sources, but handling and feeding raw animal products increases the risk of food-borne illnesses like salmonellosis for everyone in the house.

A commonly recommended starting dose for pancreas meat is 1-3 ounces mixed with each meal, but follow your veterinarian’s recommendation. The amount your dog needs will be based on the specifics of your dog’s case.

Tips for Feeding Your Dog Raw Pancreas Meat

You can grind up and freeze pancreas meat in the appropriate portions and then thaw it before mixing it thoroughly with each meal.

Whether they are delivered in powder form or with pancreas meat, most pancreatic enzymes are broken down in a dog’s stomach. Medication that decreases stomach acid secretion, like omeprazole, may be used if this is a concern.

Vitamin Supplementation

Dogs who have low blood levels of vitamin B12, folate, and/or other vitamins need supplementation. Initially, vitamin B12 shots are superior to oral administration, but once your dog’s condition is stable, you can usually switch to an oral cobalamin supplement.


Some dogs with EPI develop an overgrowth of bacteria in their intestinal tract, which can be managed with antibiotics (often Tylosin). Many dogs only require antibiotic treatment for a month or two as their condition improves, but some may benefit from long-term treatment.

Your veterinarian may recommend other treatments based on a dog’s symptoms and additional health concerns.

Recovery and Management of EPI in Dogs

After proper treatment is started, most dogs with EPI quickly start to feel better. Their symptoms can improve over the course of a few days to weeks.

If that’s not the case, and your dog’s symptoms aren’t improving, discuss other treatment options with your veterinarian. Ask if switching to a different diet makes sense.

EPI Diets for Dogs

There is no one type of diet that benefits all (or even most) dogs with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency.

Some dogs seem to do better when switched to a highly digestible food that is relatively low in fat and fiber, while others improve with more fiber or fat, or they do just fine with whatever it is that they normally eat.5

If your dog continues to respond poorly to treatment, it’s possible that they could be suffering from more than one health problem, and additional diagnostic testing may be necessary.

EPI in Dogs FAQs

What is the most common cause of EPI in dogs?

Pancreatic acinar atrophy (PAA) is the most common cause of EPI in dogs. PAA is primarily a genetic disease that leads to a dog’s immune system destroying the cells in the pancreas that make digestive enzymes.

What do you feed a dog with EPI?

A common recommendation is to feed dogs a highly digestible dog food that is relatively low in fat and fiber. However, different types of food seem to work better for different dogs, so you may have to try several diets before finding a good fit.

Your veterinarian can help you figure out the best food for your dog.

How do you test a dog for EPI? How much does it cost to test for EPI in dogs?

The best test for EPI in dogs is the trypsin-like immunoreactivity (TLI) test, which involves taking a blood sample after a dog hasn’t eaten for 8-12 hours.

The cost of a TLI test varies but is usually around $100. Other tests will be necessary to plan appropriate treatment.

How can I treat my dog’s EPI at home?

You can’t treat dog EPI at home without going to the vet first.

Treatment of your dog’s EPI will require a veterinary visit and you will need to go through a process of finding the right balance of supplements and medication. However, once that balance is found, the management of EPI in dogs at home is fairly straightforward.

Dogs with EPI are usually managed at home with pancreatic enzyme supplementation and cobalamin supplementation. Some dogs also require additional vitamin supplements, antibiotics, medications to reduce the secretion of stomach acid, and other treatments to manage their symptoms.


1. Wiberg ME. Pancreatic acinar atrophy in German shepherd dogs and rough-coated collies. Etiopathogenesis, diagnosis and treatment. A review. Vet Q. 2004 Jun;26(2):61-75. doi: 10.1080/01652176.2004.9695169. PMID: 15230051.

2. Batchelor DJ, Noble PJ, Cripps PJ, Taylor RH, McLean L, Leibl MA, German AJ. Breed associations for canine exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. J Vet Intern Med. 2007 Mar-Apr;21(2):207-14. doi: 10.1892/0891-6640(2007)21[207:bafcep];2. PMID: 17427378.

3. Parambeth JC, Suchodolski JS, Steiner JM: Epidemiological Data in Dogs with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency – A Retrospective Study (2003–2012). ACVIM 2014.

4. Watson PJ. Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency as an end stage of pancreatitis in four dogs. J Small Anim Pract. 2003 Jul;44(7):306-12. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-5827.2003.tb00159.x. PMID: 12866928.

5. Westermarck E, Wiberg ME. Effects of diet on clinical signs of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency in dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc. 2006 Jan 15;228(2):225-9. doi: 10.2460/javma.228.2.225. PMID: 16426193.

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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…

Shoulder Joint Ligament and Tendon Conditions in Dogs

Bicipital Tenosynovitis, Brachii Muscle Rupture, and Supraspinatus Avulsion in Dogs

The shoulder joint is a “ball-and-socket” joint. In four legged animals it is made up of the scapula/shoulder blade bones, and the humerus/upper bone of the front leg. These bones are supported by ligaments and tendons. A ligament is a band of connective or fibrous tissue that connects two bones or cartilage at a joint, and a tendon is a band of connective or fibrous tissue that connects a muscle to a bone.

Shoulder-joint ligament and tendon conditions make up the majority of causes for lameness in the canine shoulder joint, excluding osteochondritis dissecans (a condition characterized by abnormal development of bone and cartilage, leading to a flap of cartilage within the joint). It is a disease that occurs in medium to large-breed dogs when they become skeletally mature, around one year of age or older. The average age for development of this condition is between 3 to 7 years of age.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms will depend on the severity and long-term nature of the diseaseA decrease in muscle mass is a consistent finding for all conditionsBicipital tenosynovitis (an inflammation of the tendon and surrounding sheath of the biceps tendon – at the front of the shoulder blade)Onset is usually subtleOften of several months’ durationTrauma to the limb or shoulder may be the inciting causeSubtle, intermittent lameness that worsens with exerciseShort and limited swing-phase of gait owing to pain on extension and flexion of the shoulderPain inconsistently demonstrated on manipulation of shoulderRupture of the tendon of the biceps brachii muscle (upper limb)Signs similar to bicipital tenosynovitisMay have sudden (acute) onset due to a known traumatic eventUsually subtle, long-term (chronic) lameness that worsens with exerciseMineralization of the tendon of the supraspinatus (shoulder joint) muscle — onset is usually subtle

Long-term (chronic) lameness that worsens with activity

Forcible separation (known as an avulsion) or fracture of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle (tendon that connects the scapula/bone of the shoulder blade with the humerus/bone of the upper limb)Signs are similar to mineralization of the supraspinatus tendon.Deterioration and scarring (known as fibrotic contracture) of the shoulder muscle — usually sudden (acute) onset, occurring during a period of intense outdoor exercise (such as hunting).Shoulder lameness and tenderness gradually disappears within two weeksLeft untreated, condition results in long-term (chronic), persistent lameness, usually taking place 3 to 4 weeks later; may not be particularly painful to the dogDecrease in muscle mass of the infraspinatus muscle (muscle atrophy)When patient is walking, lower limb swings in an arc away from the body, as the paw is advanced


Indirect or direct trauma is a likely culpritRepetitive strain injury (indirect trauma) is the most common causeOverexertion and/or fatiguePoor conditioning before performing athletic activities (i.e., lack of previous exercise, overweight, or inappropriate preparation)


X-rays will be needed to determine what is wrong with the shoulder. Ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may help identify muscle injuries, bicipital tenosynovitis, and rupture of the biceps tendon. It is also useful for determining the location of calcium densities near the intertubercular groove, where the long head of the biceps meets the upper part of the humerus. A joint tap and analysis of fluid from the joint will help identify intra-articular (within the joint) disease. An arthroscopic exploration of the shoulder joint will help diagnose bicipital tenosynovitis, rupture of the biceps tendon, and will confirm or rule out intra-articular disease. This method of diagnostics is performed using an arthroscope, a specially equipped endoscope, which is a tubular device that can be inserted into the joint in order to remove fluid, tissue, or other material for analysis. It includes a camera for visual inspection, and can be outfitted with tools for removal of samples, and for treating the cavity or internal structure.


If the disease is severe and long-term your dog will need to be hospitalized for surgical intervention. If the condition is not severe, your dog may be treated on an outpatient basis, especially if the shoulder joint problem was found early.

With bicipital tenosynovitis (inflammation of the tendon and surrounding sheath of the biceps tendon), there is a 50-75 percent chance of success with medical treatment. Surgery is usually required when there is evidence of long-term (chronic) changes and failure to response to non-invasive medical management. Rupture of the tendon of the biceps muscle generally requires surgery. Mineralization of the tendon of the shoulder muscle may be an incidental finding. This condition may require surgery after excluding other causes of lameness and attempting medical treatment. Forcible separation (avulsion) or fracture of the tendon of the shoulder muscle often requires surgery because of persistent bone-fragment irritation of the tendon. Deterioration and scarring of the shoulder muscle requires surgery.

Ice packing (known as cryotherapy) immediately following surgery can help to reduce inflammation and swelling at the surgical site. It will need to be performed five to ten minutes every eight hours for three to five days after surgery, or as directed by your dog’s veterinarian. Regional massage and range-of-motion exercises can improve flexibility and decrease loss of muscle mass (muscle atrophy) after the initial recovery period. Your veterinarian will advise you on when you should begin physical therapy with your dog.

Medical treatment will require strict confinement for four to six weeks. Following surgery, how much activity your dog can participate in depends on the procedure performed; your pet’s veterinarian will provide instructions regarding postoperative activity and restrictions. It is important to follow your veterinarian’s recovery protocols closely to avoid a recurrence or worsening of your dog’s physical health. A premature return to normal activity will likely worsen signs and lead to a long-term (chronic) condition.

Weight control will be a part of your dog’s long term care as well, so that excess pressure on the limb does not aggravate the tendons. Depending on your dog’s starting weight, your veterinarian may recommend a strict diet for weight loss, or merely a maintenance diet to prevent weight gain.

Living and Management

Most patients require a minimum of one to two months of rehabilitation after treatment. Medically managed bicipital tenosynovitis is often successful after one or two treatments in 50-75 percent of cases, with no long-term (chronic) changes. Surgically treated bicipital tenosynovitis has good to excellent results in 90 percent of cases. Recovery will need to be taken slow, with gradual increases of physical movement. Full function may take two to eight months.

Surgically treated rupture of the tendon of the biceps muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; more than 85 percent of patients show improved return to function. Surgically treated mineralization of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; recurrence is possible, but uncommon. Surgically treated forcible separation (avulsion) or fracture of the tendon of the supraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; recurrence is possible, but uncommon. Finally, surgically treated deterioration and scarring (fibrotic contracture) of the infraspinatus muscle has a good to excellent prognosis; patients uniformly return to normal limb function with appropriate recovery time and physical therapy.

See Also

Chest Bone Deformity in Dogs

Pectus Excavatum in Dogs

In pectus excavatum, the sternum and costal cartilages are deformed, resulting in a horizontal narrowing of the chest, primarily on the posterior side. The sternum, or chest bone, is a long flat bone located in the center of the thorax, and the costal cartilages are the cartilages that connect the chest bone with the ends of the ribs. In appearance, the middle of the chest appear to be flat or concave, rather than slightly convex.

Brachycephalic (short-nose) breed dogs are predisposed to this condition and in most cases are born with (congenital) this disability.


Symptoms and Types

Difficult breathingUnable to perform routine exerciseIncreased depth of breathingRecurrent lung infectionsWeight lossCoughingVomitingPoor appetiteFailure to gain weight


There is a genetic predisposition in some dog breeds, particularly brachycephalic breeds, but pectus excavatum can occur spontaneously in any breed. The condition may not be obvious until several weeks after birth unless it is a severe form.

Raising puppies on surfaces causing poor footing may also predispose these animals to developing such a condition.


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, any information you have of its parentage and genetic background, and the onset of symptoms. Routine laboratory tests will include complete blood tests, biochemical profiles, and a urinalysis.

Your veterinarian will conduct multiple X-rays of the thoracic cavity to confirm the diagnosis of pectus excavatum. These X-rays will reveal the actual deformities and related structural abnormalities. In some patients, the heart may be shifted from its normal place on the left side of the thoracic cavity due to the abnormal shape of the bones. Abnormalities and concurrent diseases related to the respiratory system will also be visible on X-rays. Echocardiography, a sonographic image of the heart, will be used to further evaluate the heart, its functioning ability, and possible cardiac defects.


Surgery remains the only treatment option for repairing this deformity. However, if the disease is mild and your dog only has a flat chest, then it may be improved without surgery. In such cases, your veterinarian will instruct you in manually compressing the chest in such a way that will encourage the sternum and costal cartilages to take on a more convex shape.

In some dogs, a splint application will work to reduce the mild defects. However, in cases of moderate or severe inward sinking of the sternum, surgery is indicated for correction of the defects. The technique used by your veterinary surgeon will depend on your dog’s age and the extent of the problem. Dogs with respiratory problems that are directly related to this condition, meanwhile, generally improve substantially after surgery and will start breathing more comfortably.

Living and Management

Prognosis is very poor for severely affected patients, but a timely intervention and reparation at an early age may help improve the prognosis. Follow your doctor’s guidelines for physical therapy at home if your dog has a mild form of the condition.

After surgery, your dog may feel sore and will need proper rest in a quiet place, away from other pets, active children, and busy entryways. You might consider cage rest for a short time, until your dog can safely move about again without overexertion. Trips outdoors for bladder and bowel relief should be kept short and easy for your dog to handle during the recovery period.

Your veterinarian may also prescribe a short course of pain killers until your dog has fully recovered, along with a mild course of antibiotics, to prevent any opportunistic bacteria from attacking your dog. Medications will need to be given precisely as directed, at the proper dosage and frequency. Keep in mind that over dosage of pain medications is one of the most preventable causes for death in household animals.

Fungal Disease (Sporotrichosis) of the Skin in Dogs

Sporotrichosis in Dogs

Sporotrichosis is a fungal disease that affects the skin, respiratory system, bones and sometimes the brain. Infection is caused by the virtually ubiquitous dimorphic (mold and yeast) fungus, Sporothrix schenckii, which typically infects via direct inoculation – that is, through abrasions of the skin or by inhalation. The origin of the fungus is environmental; it is naturally found in soil, plants and sphagnum moss, but it can be communicated zoonotically between different animal species, and between animals and humans.

In dogs, the disease occurs more commonly in hunting dogs because of the increased likelihood of puncture wounds associated with thorns or splinters.

Symptoms and Types

Cutaneous sporotrichosis

Bumps, or lesions on the skin surface, swollen lymph glandsNumerous nodules that may drain or crust, typically affecting the head or trunkPrevious trauma or puncture wound in the affected area is a variable findingPoor response to previous antibacterial therapyCombination of cutaneous and lymph form—usually an extension of the cutaneous form, which spreads via the lymphs, resulting in the formation of new nodules and draining tracts or crusts.Lymphadenopathy (disease of the lymphs) is common

Disseminated sporotrichosis

Rare, occurs when the initial infection spreads into the body to a secondary locationSystemic signs of malaise and feverOsteoarticular sporotrichosis occurs when the infection spreads into the bones and jointsSporotrichosis meningitis occurs when the infection spreads into the nervous system and brainSymptoms include loss of appetite (anorexia), and weight loss (cachexia)

Pulmonary sporotrichosis

Occurs as a result of inhalation of  Sporothrix schenckii sporesInfected animal is more at risk of developing pneumonia


Animals exposed to soil rich in decaying organic debris appear to be predisposedIn dogs, puncture wounds associated with foreign bodies provide an increased opportunity for infection. Cat scratches provide a similar opportunityExposure to other infected animals increases the risk factorImmunosuppressive disease should be considered a risk factor


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.

It is important to note that this is a zoonotic disease, meaning that it is communicable to humans and other animals, and proper precautions will need to be taken to prevent the spread of infection. Even if you do not have a break in your skin, you are not protected against acquiring the disease.

An examination of the fluid from the lesions is often necessary to confirm an infection. In dogs, special fungal stains may aid in the diagnosis, but a negative finding does not rule out the disease. Laboratory cultures of the deeply affected tissue often require surgery to obtain an adequate sample. These samples will be sent for analysis, along with a special note to the laboratory listing sporotrichosis as a differential diagnosis. Secondary bacterial infections are common.


Because of its potential for infection in humans, your dog may be hospitalized for the initial treatment. In many situations, outpatient therapy may be a consideration. Several antifungal drugs are available for treatment of this infection. Your veterinarian will choose the type that is best suited to your dog. The treatment generally takes some time; at least several weeks after the initial treatment before the patient is considered recovered.


Although difficult to prevent because of its prevalence in the environment, it is helpful to determine the source of the Sporothrix schenckii, so that you can take steps to prevent repeat infections.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will set up a schedule of follow-up appointments at around every 2–4 weeks in order to re-evaluate your dog. Clinical signs will be monitored and liver enzymes will be assessed. Side effects associated with treatment will be evaluated, and treatment will be adapted according to your dog’s reactions. If your dog does not respond to therapy, your veterinarian will make changes in the medication.

Overproduction of White Blood Cells in the Bone Marrow in Dogs

Hypereosinophilic Syndrome in Dogs

Hypereosinophilic syndrome is a disorder of unknown cause, characterized by persistent eosinophilia — sustained overproduction of eosinophils (white blood cells of the immune system) in the bone marrow. However, its suspected cause is a link to a severe reaction to an unidentified antigen, or impairment of the immune response and control of eosinophil production. This is a multi-system syndrome, with invasion of the tissues by eosinophils and subsequent organ damage and dysfunction. It frequently has a fatal outcome.

Organ damage can result from the effects of eosinophil granule products and eosinophil-derived cytokines, a category of regulatory proteins that are released by cells in the immune system into the tissues. Common sites of infiltration include the gastrointestinal tract (especially the intestine and liver), spleen, bone marrow, lungs, and lymph nodes (especially those in the abdominal area).

Less common sites of infiltration include the skin, kidney, heart, thyroid, adrenal glands and pancreas. This condition is rare in dogs, but Rottweilers may be predisposed.


Lethargy Fever Loss of appetite (anorexia) Intermittent vomiting and diarrhea Weight loss Emaciation Enlargement of the liver and spleen Thickened (diffuse or segmental) intestine that is non-painful Abdominal masses Itching and seizures (less frequently) Mesenteric and possibly peripheral lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes in the abdominal region or other areas of the body) Mass lesions caused by eosinophilic granulomatous (inflamed masses of tissue) involving the lymph nodes and/or organs


The cause of hypereosinophilic syndrome is unknown. However, it is believed to be cause by a severe reaction to an underlying, as yet unidentifiable antigenic stimulus that may be composed of two different strains of a virus.


The veterinary examination will consist of standard laboratory work, including a complete blood profile, chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health and onset of symptoms. Additional diagnostics will include a bone marrow aspiration and/or core biopsy of the cells, and a biopsy of the affected organ or mass. It is typical for the blood test results to show increased amounts of multiple types of white blood cells, most notably leukocytosis (leukocyte), basophilia (basophil), and eosinophilia (eosinophil). The results of the blood tests may also show anemic conditions, and the biochemical profile may show abnormalities in the case of organ dysfunction.

Diagnostic imaging can be helpful in determining the extent of organ damage as well. Radiographic contrast, which uses an injection of a radiocontrasting agent into the area to be viewed, may be used to improve visibility of the internal organs. These X-rays may show thickened intestines and abnormalities in the lining of the intestines. Other findings may be reactive hyperplasia (abnormal enlargement) of the lymph nodes due to eosinophil infiltration, and fibrosis (excess fibrous connective tissue) and thrombosis (coagulation in the arteries) surrounding the heart.


Long-term maintenance therapy will be employed to control or reduce the eosinophilia and organ damage. High serum immunoglobulin concentrations (the fraction of the blood serum that contains antibodies) can signify a good response to treatment with prednisone, a corticosteroid given to reduce inflammation, and therefore a better prognosis. Prednisone can be effective at suppressing eosinophil production. In some cases, chemotherapy may be appropriate for inhibiting DNA synthesis, in effect, reducing the reproduction of cells. Massive tissue infiltration can impede treatment and usually leads to a poor prognosis.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up examinations for your dog to monitor eosinophil count (not always indicative of tissue infiltrates) and myelosuppression (by which bone marrow activity is decreased) if chemotherapeutic drugs are being used. Clinical signs will also be monitored along with any physical abnormalities (e.g. loss of appetite, lethargy, vomiting, and diarrhea).

Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs

What Is Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs?

A pulmonary contusion in dogs is an injury or bruising to the lungs that results from a blunt trauma to the dog’s chest (thoracic cavity) due to an impact with a dull, firm surface or object—such as when the dog is hit by a car. This injury causes a hemorrhage, or uncontrolled bleeding, from the damage done to the blood vessels in and around the lungs.

Pulmonary contusions can range from mild bruising in one lung lobe to severe hemorrhage of the entire lung. Contusions can develop and progress for up to 24–48 hours after a blunt force trauma to the thoracic cavity and the lungs. Dogs that have suffered such a trauma might initially appear to be breathing normally, but this bleeding can rapidly worsen as time goes on and cause your dog to develop serious respiratory distress and even death.

If your dog has any trauma to the chest or body, it should be considered and treated as a medical emergency. Your dog should go to their veterinarian or an emergency vet as soon as possible and remain there for treatment and observation for at least 48–72 hours.

Symptoms of Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs

The following are clinical signs associated with pulmonary contusions in dogs. The severity of the signs and symptoms will depend on the extent of the trauma and how much lung tissue is affected.

Rapid, abnormal breathing (tachypnea)

Trouble breathing

Coughing, with or without blood or blood-tinged fluid

Blood from the nose (epistaxis)

Signs of thoracic trauma, such as broken ribs

Vomiting, retching

Wheezing, especially during exhalation

Wobbly gait or inability to stand

Blue or purple gums

Pale gums

Vocalizing excessively

Causes of Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs

Pulmonary contusions can occur after any blunt trauma, such as:

Being hit by a car

Falling from a significant height

Abuse or cruelty by humans

Being kicked by another animal

Non-penetrating bite wounds

Crushing injury

Motor vehicle accidents (where a dog is hit by a car) are the most common cause of pulmonary contusion in dogs. Pulmonary contusions occur in 40–50% of dogs with chest injuries and should be suspected if your dog has been hit by a car.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Pulmonary Contusions in Dogs

Diagnosis of pulmonary contusions in dogs is based on a recent history of trauma to the thorax/chest, symptoms of respiratory distress, or diagnostic testing. Since pulmonary contusions can take up to 48 hours to develop, your dog might initially have no clinical signs. X-rays of the chest might initially be within normal limits, but as time goes on, they can start to become abnormal and show signs of fluid in or around the lungs.

After a complete medical history is taken and a physical exam is done, other diagnostic testing in addition to X-rays might be needed to assess your dog’s injuries and susceptibility to developing pulmonary contusions. Your veterinarian will also run baseline blood work to look for evidence of anemia or other adverse effects from having a traumatic accident. If possible, a blood gas analysis will be done to assess your dog’s ability to breathe normally and oxygenate their blood.

If your dog has sustained blunt force trauma, it should be taken to the vet right away. While you are on the way to the vet, it’s best to have your dog in a crate or doggy car seat to ensure their safety. Ideally, have another person sit in the car near the dog to give them extra love and attention and keep them as calm as possible.

Treatment of Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs

Pulmonary contusions require aggressive treatment, including keeping your dog in the hospital for at least a few days. In mild cases, oxygen therapy is needed by putting small tubes into your dog’s nose or having them wear a special mask. If your dog does not tolerate this, most hospitals have a special oxygen cage to place them in.

In severe cases, blood in the lungs is suctioned through the mouth, and then your dog will need to be intubated. Intubation is when a tube is placed, via the mouth, down into the lungs to provide oxygen to the body. Intubation will also require sedation for your dog, so the tube stays in position.

If the dog is severely affected, and especially if they are having trouble breathing, a chest tube might be needed to drain the blood accumulation. This tube is placed in your dog’s chest under anesthesia or heavy sedation.

An IV catheter will need to be placed so your dog can get both the medications they need for the symptoms they have and supportive fluids for hydration and a healthy blood pressure. Pain medications are also an important part of treatment. Depending on the severity of your dog’s pulmonary contusions, they might even need to be put on a ventilator to assist them with breathing.

Even in mild cases of pulmonary contusion, your dog will likely need to spend some time under strict cage rest to allow them to recover from their contusions as well as any other injuries they sustained from the trauma. In dogs that have injuries such as broken bones or air buildup in the chest, surgery may be necessary.

After being stabilized and hospitalized until they are breathing normally, your dog will be able to go home to continue recovering with strict rest and any needed medications, such as pain medication, antibiotics, and anti-inflammatories.

Recovery and Management of Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs

Pulmonary contusions usually get worse before they get better. Respiratory issues often get worse 24–48 hours after the trauma, but then hopefully begin to improve. Although your dog might be feeling much better, pulmonary contusions typically take seven to 10 days to fully resolve. That’s why  your dog needs to be on strict cage rest for a few weeks after their injury.

If your dog has sustained a blunt injury to the chest and has not developed any signs of troubled breathing after 48 hours, they are unlikely to develop any. Dogs that do not have other bodily injuries will have a better prognosis than those with secondary issues such as rib fractures or damage to other organs.

If your dog has trouble breathing or they need to be temporarily intubated or put on a ventilator, their prognosis is less favorable for a complete recovery.

After pulmonary contusions, your dog might have a compromised respiratory system, meaning you should be cautious with their exercise and other activities that put excess strain on the lungs. In a case like this, and depending on the severity of their injuries, a dog might need to be on lifelong medications to help keep the airway open as well as to manage pain.

Pulmonary Contusion in Dogs FAQs

What is the survival rate of a dog with pulmonary contusions?

The survival rate depends greatly on the severity of the injuries sustained. One study showed that three out of 10 dogs with severe pulmonary contusions survived.

How long does a pulmonary contusion take to heal in a dog?

Pulmonary contusions usually get worse before they get better. Respiratory issues often get worse 24–48 hours after the trauma, but hopefully they will begin to improve within three to five days of the injury. Although your dog might be feeling much better, pulmonary contusions typically take seven to 10 days to fully resolve, hence the need to have your dog on strict cage rest for a few weeks after their injury.

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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…

Cancer in Dogs: Symptoms, Types, and Treatment

What Are the Most Common Types of Cancer in Dogs?

Masses and lumps in dogs are relatively common, but not all of them are cancerous. When a mass isn’t cancer, it is referred to as benign. In most cases, benign masses grow more slowly and don’t spread to other parts of the body, so they don’t pose a serious health threat.

By contrast, cancerous masses are characterized by cells that can multiply. They are known as malignant tumors and may grow rapidly—spreading to other organs and parts of the body, causing potentially serious health problems. How fast cancer grows and where it spreads depends on the type of cancer.

Dogs, just like humans, can get cancer. In fact, about 25% of dogs will develop some form of cancer in their life and about 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer. While not an exhaustive list, below are some of the more common types of cancers seen in dogs:

Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma: This cancer affects the anal glands, which are scent glands located in the rectum­. It can metastasize (spread) to other parts of the body.

Hemangiosarcoma: This tumor often arises from blood vessels, so it theoretically can arise anywhere. However, it is most found in the heart, liver or spleen. It is an aggressive type of cancer and has usually already spread by the time a diagnosis is made.

Lymphoma: There are several types of lymphoma that dogs can get, but the most common affects the lymph nodes. It is one of the most common forms of cancer in dogs, but fortunately it is the type most responsive to chemotherapy.

Mammary Gland Carcinoma: Female dogs have about five pairs of mammary glands, and these types of tumors are more common in unspayed females. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone play a role in mammary development and cancer formation.

Mast Cell Tumor: This is the most common cancer of the skin, which can be difficult to determine with sight alone since the appearance can vary. These tumors have a variable prognosis and can range from low to high grade—meaning they are less likely or more likely to spread to other areas in the body.

Melanoma: This type of cancer can occur on the skin or in the oral cavity; these tumors are typically malignant when found in the mouth and require aggressive surgery and/or combination of radiation and chemotherapy. They usually show signs associated with dental disease like bad breath and decreased appetite. 

Osteosarcoma: This is the most common cause of bone cancer in dogs, which is highly aggressive and painful. This cancer commonly affects the legs of larger breeds of dogs.  Treatment often includes surgery followed by chemotherapy or radiation.

Transitional Cell Carcinoma: This is the most common type of urinary cancer, which usually affects the bladder the most and often causes symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection

General Symptoms of Cancer in Dogs

Dogs with cancer can show multiple symptoms. Some may have a lump or bump, new swelling, a wound that doesn’t heal, swollen lymph nodes, or abnormal bleeding. But many symptoms are nonspecific, including:

Abdominal distension

Behavioral changes or other neurological issues like seizures or head tilt

Coughing or changes in respiration

Decreased appetite and weight loss

Exercise intolerance

Pale gums


Vomiting and/or diarrhea

If you are even slightly worried about your pup—especially if you notice a change in behavior or find a new lump—schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an exam.

General Causes of Cancer in Dogs

Cancer often occurs for unknown reasons and can be influenced by many factors, including: 


Viruses and infections

Chemical and toxin exposure


DNA mutations

UV damage or other environmental triggers

What Does a Cancerous Lump Look Like on a Dog?

Cancerous lumps cannot be distinguished from benign, non-cancerous lumps based on visual appearance alone, so don’t try to self-diagnose at home. Lumps vary in size, shape, and appearance; some may feel firm and immovable, whereas others may feel soft and pliable. Some may appear hairless or pigmented, and others ulcerated; some may be painful when touched, and others not; some may be felt underneath the skin, and others may be felt above the skin.

It’s important to differentiate lumps from lymph nodes, as dogs have multiple pairs of lymph nodes (underneath the jaw, in front of the shoulders, under the armpits, and behind the knees) that can typically be felt as small, oval-shaped, non-painful swellings underneath the skin. Lymph nodes can become enlarged and may be a symptom of cancer. If you find a new lump or bump on your dog, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis.   

How Veterinarians Diagnose Cancer in Dogs

A physical exam is used to look for any abnormal or unexplained lumps, bruises, or masses large enough to be felt during palpation (pressing on the surface of the body to feel the organs or tissues underneath). Your veterinarian may want to perform an FNA (fine-needle aspirate) of the mass, where a sample of the tumor is collected and submitted for analysis. Alternatively, a biopsy (larger sample of tumor collected, usually under heavy sedation or anesthesia) may be performed and studied for type, malignancy, and grade. All of this provides insight into how the cancer may progress—either aggressively or not.

Bloodwork and urine testing usually follows to look for signs that may narrow the problem to a specific organ or body system. Imaging with radiographs or ultrasound may also be recommended to screen for masses in the chest or abdomen. 

Once diagnosed, your veterinarian may recommend additional tests or refer you to an oncologist for further testing and treatment, including staging (staging determines the extent the cancer has spread). This may include CT scans, bone marrow aspirates, or additional biopsies.

The prognosis will vary depending on the type of cancer and it is influenced by grade and stage. Usually, the higher the grade and greater the stage the worse the prognosis. 

General Treatments of Cancer in Dogs

Generally, there are three options for cancer treatment in dogs—surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. Some cancers may respond to one type of treatment, while others may require a combination of some or all to arrive at a favorable prognosis. Unfortunately, a full cure is difficult to find. Some chemotherapy medications often used include:












Treatment and Management of Cancer in Dogs

Treating and managing cancer in dogs is different than treating cancer in humans, as there are different goals and expectations. The goal is to maintain a good quality of life, and drug dosages and frequency of administration are often less than what a human would be prescribed, which minimizes side effects. The most common in dogs are decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, although serious side effects such as bone marrow suppression and infections can occur. With few breed exceptions, dogs do not lose their hair.

While they are on chemotherapy, it is important to keep your dog comfortable and manage their pain appropriately. This means an effective partnership with your veterinarian, adhering to proper appointment recommendations, and following through with bloodwork monitoring and other testing. 

Caring for a dog with cancer is a challenge and can be burdensome and emotional, but remember to take advantage of each day’s opportunities for play, bonding, and love. 

Knowing when it is time to stop treatment or consider euthanasia is both variable and individual for all pets and pet parents. Many factors such as prognosis, metastasis, risks of treatment, cost, and quality of life are often considered. But when it comes to quality of life, which can be subjective, keep in mind the 5 Freedoms:

Freedom from hunger and thirst

Freedom from discomfort

Freedom from pain, injury, and disease

Freedom to express normal behavior

Freedom from fear and distress

Your veterinarian is the best resource when it comes to knowing when it “is time.” Your vet is trained in end-of-life care and disease outcomes, and there are many resources and tools that can help when it comes to making this difficult decision. 

Reducing Cancer Risks in Dogs

Unfortunately, there is very little a pet parent can do to prevent most cancers from occurring. Routine checkups and evaluation of any new lumps or unexplained illness(es) should immediately prompt a veterinary visit. Limit sun and UV exposure, have your dog spayed/neutered, and if your dog is a breed predisposed to certain tumors, more frequent screenings are recommended.

Cancer in Dogs FAQs

How often should dogs be checked for lumps and bumps?

Your dog should be provided an annual exam every year with your veterinarian, but senior dogs should have more frequent visits as needed (especially if they are managing an underlying condition). Mast cell tumors can develop quickly and can change size fast, so it’s critical to schedule an appointment as soon as you discover any new lumps or bumps.  

What is the difference between a mass and a tumor in a dog?

In general, a tumor and a mass are terms used interchangeably. It’s important to note that both terms don’t always indicate cancer, as some tumors can be benign and some masses can occur as the result of an injury or infection (abscess). 


American Veterinary Medical Association. Cancer in Pets.

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Michael Kearley, DVM


Dr. Michael Kearley graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He graduated with a certificate in…