Archive : March

Why Is My Dog So Clingy?

Does your dog always follow you around, never leaving your side? Is their attention always focused on you?

You may have what’s called a “Velcro dog.” Let’s find out what this means and whether you should be worried about your dog’s clingy behavior.

What Are Velcro Dogs?

If you answered “yes” to any of the previous questions, it’s likely that you have a clingy dog. Some refer to clingy dogs as “Velcro dogs” (named after VELCRO®) because it’s as if your dog is attached to you.

Although clingy dog behavior can be endearing, it can also be frustrating, especially when your dog just won’t leave you alone—even for a minute!

Why Is My Dog So Clingy?

There are several reasons why your dog may be clingy. It may just be a learned behavior, or it may be a sign of an issue. The best option is to make an appointment with your veterinarian so you can work together to determine the cause for your dog’s clinginess.

Here are some common reasons why dogs can be clingy:

Learned Behavior

Clinginess in dogs is often a learned behavior. Dogs learn this behavior from humans by the way we interact with them. If you  always give your dog food when they follow you into the kitchen, or you pet them every time they lie next to you, you’re teaching them that following you leads to some type of reward.

If you give puppies constant attention when they’re developing, they can become fearful of being alone and subsequently never want to leave your side.

Illness or Aging

Older dogs with vision or hearing loss, or those experiencing cognitive decline, can suddenly become clingy because their world is becoming unfamiliar to them.

Dogs who are ill or bored can also become clingy. Talk to your vet to understand what might be causing the sudden clingy behavior.

Anxiety and Stress

Dogs who have anxiety issues often develop clingy dog behaviors. Interestingly, dogs can also become clingy if they sense our stress or anxiety.

Dogs can also become clingy if you change their daily routine or make changes in the home or household that cause them stress.

Clingy Dog Breeds

As if all of these reasons weren’t enough, some dog breeds are prone to clinginess. For example, lapdogs, like Shih Tzus, tend be needy dogs. Also, working dogs, who are trained to be dependent, can become clingy.

Separation Anxiety

Clinginess in dogs can also signal a bigger behavioral problem: separation anxiety. It’s important to know how to differentiate between a clingy dog and a dog with separation anxiety so you know how to best manage the behavior. You will need the help of your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for this.

Clinginess and separation anxiety are similar but not exactly the same. Generally, what separates them is how a dog reacts to being away from their person or people.

Clingy dogs want to be around you when you’re at home, but they don’t panic when you’re not there. A dog with separation anxiety panics when you’re not around.

Separation anxiety causes dogs to engage in destructive, anxious behavior when left alone. Such behavior includes incessant whining, pacing, destructive chewing, and urinating or defecating in the home.

Clinginess becomes a problem when it progresses to separation anxiety. If a clingy dog starts becoming anxious or panicky when left alone, it’s time to suspect separation anxiety and seek professional behavioral help.

A veterinary behaviorist can help you implement behavioral modifications to reduce the anxiety. Fortunately, not all clingy dogs develop separation anxiety.

How to Help Your Dog Be Less Clingy

If you have a clingy dog without separation anxiety, there are ways you can teach them to become more independent. Here are several strategies that can help reduce a dog’s clinginess.

Increase exercise. A good bout of physical activity will tire your dog enough to where they have little interest in following you around. Make sure the exercise is appropriate for your dog’s age and health history. Consult your veterinarian for appropriate exercises for your dog.
 Stimulate their mind. A bored dog may become clingy because they don’t have anything better to do. Interactive toys keep dogs mentally stimulated and encourage independent play.
 Create a special space. Set up a space with your dog’s bed and favorite toys where your dog can go instead of following you around. Train your dog to go to this area with a cue like, “Go to your special space,” and immediately reward them with a treat when they go there.
 Desensitize your dog to your movements. Your dog has probably associated certain movements (e.g., going to the kitchen, grabbing your keys) with you rewarding or leaving them. To “normalize” these movements, practice doing them without actually going through with the normal activity that goes with them.

For example, go to the kitchen and start sweeping instead of getting food out, or grab your keys and turn on the TV instead of leaving the house. Eventually, your dog will learn that your movements don’t warrant much or any attention.

How to Help Clingy Senior Dogs

Aging dogs with vision loss can sometimes benefit from adding night-lights in dark areas. Also, keep the general setup of your home and furniture the same. Dogs with sight loss tend to learn their way around their environment through their other senses but can get confused when even a chair is in a different place. 

Certain foods and supplements have been shown to help with cognitive function in dogs, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. 

Finally, puzzle toys and other methods of mental stimulation have been proven to stimulate neurons in the brain, supporting cognitive function. 

If these strategies do not reduce your dog’s clinginess, consult either your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist for further guidance.

Featured Image: Khaikaew

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JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM


Dr. JoAnna Pendergrass is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. She is the owner of JPen Communications, a medical communications…

Australian Terrier

Originally bred as a sentinel and for hunting small vermin and tending livestock, the Australian Terrier is small and tough dog. This versatile worker has a a keen, alert expression and is a suitable companion in most environments.

Physical Characteristics

The Australian Terrier has an attractive ruff circling the neck with a crest of longer hair that enhances its intelligent and keen expression. This working terrier has a medium-boned, small, and sturdy body that is longer than it is tall. It can withstand harsh conditions and shows a ground-covering gait.

The Australian Terrier’s coat, which is blue and tan or red in color, is weatherproof. It is comprised of a 2.5-inch long outer coat that is both straight and harsh, and a soft, short undercoat.

Personality and Temperament

This Aussie breed is always eager to please, quite clever, and among the most obedient of terriers. It mixes well with other household pets and dogs, but is shy around strangers. Being a true “Earth” dog, it enjoys digging.

Even though it is among the quietest of terriers, it is also a tough and spirited dog, on its mark and chasing rodents whenever it can.


A well-behaved housedog, the Australian Terrier should be allowed to spend lots of time with its family. However, in order to prevent frustration, this adventurous and playful breed requires daily exercise in the form of a playful game, a moderate walk, or an off-leash run. The wire coat requires combing every week and stripping of dead hairs twice a year. For a neat look, the hair around the feet should be trimmed.

This terrier was bred to tolerate harsh Australian weather conditions, thus it can stay outside in warm and temperate climates.


The Australian Terrier, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 14 years, may be prone to health problems like Legg-Perthes disease, cruciate ligament rupture, and seizures. In addition, patellar luxation and diabetes are just some of the minor problems seen in this breed.

History and Background

Among the smallest of the working terriers, the Australian is its country’s national terrier. The breed — first exhibited as the “broken-coated terrier of blackish blue sheen” — originated in the late 19th century. Later names included Blue and Tan Terrier, the Toy, and in 1900 it was named the “Rough-Coated Terrier, Blue and Tan.” Generally, the dog was known for its tan and blue colors, but early representatives also showed sandy or red coloration. Eventually the dog became popular in both British homes and show rings.

A large number of breeds were crossed with the root stock of the Australian Terrier, including the Yorkshire, Dandie Dinmont, Scottish, Skye, and Manchester Terriers, resulting in a useful dog with a striking appearance.

The American Kennel Club would officially recognize the Australian Terrier in 1965, nearly 40 years after the breed arrived to the United states.

Inflammation of the Skin, Muscle, and Blood Vessels in Dogs

Dermatomyositis in Dogs

Dermatomyositis is an inherited inflammatory disease of the skin, muscles, and blood vessels. It typically develops in young collies, Shetland sheepdogs, and their crossbreeds. Similar symptoms have been reported in other breeds, such as the Beauceron Shepherd, Welsh Corgi, Lakeland terrier, Chow Chow, German Shepherd, and Kuvasz, as well as individual dogs. However, the condition in these dogs currently is classified as ischemic dermatopathy (low blood supply to the skin) and not dermatomyositis as previously reported. Studies suggest that dermatomyositis is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner (the chromosome is inherited from both parents), with variable expression. Skin lesions typically develop before six months of age, and may develop as early as seven weeks. The full extent of lesions usually is present by one year of age, with lessening afflictions thereafter. Adult-onset dermatomyositis can occur, but it is rare.

Symptoms and Types

Signs of dermatomyositis can vary from subtle skin lesions and inflammation of muscles, to severe skin lesions and a generalized decrease in muscle mass (known as muscle atrophy), with an enlarged esophagus (the tube running from the throat to the stomach). Skin lesions around the eyes, lips, face, and inner surface of the prick ears will vary in intensity; the entire face may be involved. The tip of the tail and bony prominences can also be affected.

Lesions may increase and decrease over time. They are characterized by variable degrees of crusted areas, with loss of the top surface of the skin (they are referred to as erosions or ulcers, based on the depth of tissue loss) and alopecia. Reddening of the skin (erythema), and accumulations of surface skin cells, such as seen in dandruff, or scaling skin, may be manifestations of this disease. The initial skin lesions may leave scars on the skin. More severely affected dogs may have difficulty eating, drinking, and swallowing.

Symptoms of dermatomyositis are usually seen in affected dogs before they are six months of age. Several litter-mates may be affected, but the severity of the disease often varies significantly among dogs that are affected by this disease. Foot-pad ulcers and ulcers in the mouth as well as nail abnormalities or loss may occur, along with inflammation of the muscles. Signs may be absent, or they may vary from a subtle decrease in the mass of the muscles extending from the top and side of the head, behind the eye, to the lower jaw, or they may be too generalized, with loss of muscle mass at equal points of the body. A stiff gait may also be present. There will often be a decrease in muscle mass of the muscles extending from the bone below the eye to the lower jaw muscle that acts to close the jaw, and in the muscles extending from the top and side of the head and behind the eye, to the lower jaw muscles that act to close the jaw. Dogs that have been diagnosed with an enlarged esophagus may come down with pneumonia. Conditions that can lead to pneumonia will need to be avoided.


Causes for dermatomyositis can usually be traced to a hereditary source, but can also be sourced to an immune-mediated disease, or to infectious agents.


Most dogs can be treated as outpatients, but dogs with severe inflammation of the muscles, and an enlarged esophagus, may need to be hospitalized for supportive care. If the condition is so severe that treatment will be ineffectual, euthanasia may be indicated and recommended by your veterinarian.

Living and Management

To protect your pet’s skin from further irritation or damage you will need to avoid activities that may traumatize the skin. Keep your pet indoors during the day to avoid exposure to intense sunlight, since ultraviolet-light exposure may worsen skin lesions. You may need to change your pet’s diet if it has an enlarged esophagus, or has difficulty eating and/or swallowing.

Your veterinarian may recommend hypoallergenic shampoos and treatment for secondary bacterial skin infections. Vitamin E, essential fatty-acid supplements, steroids to decrease inflammation, and a medication to improve blood flow may also be prescribed. Infected animals should not be bred out, and it is strongly recommended that intact animals be neutered.

Uterine Abnormalities in Dogs

Subinvolution of Placental Sites in Dogs

Involution of the uterus is the process by which the uterus contracts to its non-pregnant size after the delivery of the young. This usually takes 12-15 weeks to complete. Subinvolution, on the other hand, is the failure or delay in this normal process. This problem is more common in female dogs that are younger than three years of age, and/or in dogs that have experienced their first litter. All breeds are equally susceptible to this problem.

This is usually not a significant health problem, but because it resembles other reproductive problems, it must be checked by a veterinarian and differentiated as such.

Symptoms and Types

Generally, no systemic signs are present in these dogs. The only complaint is a sticky discharge from the vulva (vaginal opening) that goes beyond the six-week postpartum period, which provokes the owner to seek medical advice.


Unknown, but young and/or inexperienced dogs appear to be at increased risk.


Your veterinarian will take background medical history and will also conduct a physical examination to evaluate your dog’s overall health. The results of the routine laboratory tests include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, all of which are typically normal in these patients. Diagnostic imaging should be used to view the internal abdomen; X-rays may reveal a thick walled uterus.


In some patients, the disease symptoms resolve spontaneously before or at the next point in the estrus cycle (i.e., heat). In case of complications, medical therapy may be required to resolve these symptoms. In most cases, there are no complications, but in rare instances, severe anemia is present and a blood transfusion may be required to save the life of the patient. If it appears to be affecting your dog’s health in an adverse way, your veterinarian may recommend surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus. If future breeding is not desired, this is the best option. Surgical removal of the uterus and ovaries is normally helpful in permanently resolving the problem.

If, however, you do wish to breed your dog again, and your veterinarian gives you the go-ahead, in most cases, subsequent pregnancies are normal and there are no concerns. This may depend on the overall health of your dog and her response to the breeding process.

Living and Management

Few complications are known to occur in patients with this condition. In the rare instance that there is a complication related to subinvolution, anemia is one of the most likely problems. You will need to closely observe your dog’s mucous membranes to make sure that her blood supply is sufficient. Any change in the color of the membranes — whether they are pale or bluish in color — should be reported to your veterinarian immediately for further evaluation. Laboratory testing is also recommended for assessing the status of a possibly anemic condition. Similarly, you will need to watch for any excess discharge from the vagina and report to your veterinarian about the consistency, color and quantity of the discharge.

In cases that are absent of infection, show spontaneous remission, or where surgery has been employed to resolve the issue, the overall prognosis is generally excellent and the patient recovers without any further complications.

Urinary Tract / Kidney Stones (Calcium Phosphate) in Dogs

Calcium Phosphate Urolithiasis in Dogs

Urolithiasis is a condition in which stones (uroliths) are formed in the urinary tract. There are various types of these stones seen in dogs — among them, those made from calcium phosphate. Also known as apatite uroliths, calcium phosphate stones are more often found the kidneys than the urinary bladder.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms may vary depending on the location, size, and number of stones within the urinary tract. In fact, some dogs display no outwardly visible signs of the issue; it is only discovered later during a routine checkup, if at all. The following are some typical symptoms associated with calcium phosphate urolithiasis:

Increased urination (polyuria)Difficulty urinating (e.g., dribbling of urine)Pain when urinatingBlood in urine


Excessive calcium in dietExcessive use of mineral supplements (e.g., vitamin D)Various kidney diseases/infections


After completing a complete medical history of your animal, your veterinarian will perform a physical exam on the dog, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and an electrolyte panel. Although the results of these tests may be normal, there are exceptions. In some dogs, the biochemistry profile may show abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood. In dogs with severe kidney damage or urinary tract blockage, high levels of waste products like urea may be found in the blood.

Biochemical changes related to underlying disease are also helpful in diagnosing the underlying disease or condition. Additionally, microscopic urine examination is useful in identifying the type of stone.


As there is no effective medications available for this type of stone, dissolution of the stone is the mainstay of treatment. Surgery may be required to remove the stones from the urinary tract, especially in cases in which other procedures cannot be used.

In some cases, the stones can be pushed back into the bladder if they are causing urethral obstruction. A technique called urohydropropulsion is often used for this purpose. This technique involves using a special urinary catheter inserted into the urethra to push back the stone into the bladder.

There is also a new technique called extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy, which is minimally invasive. This technique works by producing shockwaves focused on the stone leading to breakage of the stone and subsequent expulsion through urine.

After removal of stone by either technique, your veterinarian will use appropriate radiographic procedures to verify complete removal of stones. Abdominal x-rays or ultrasound are typically utilized at three to five month intervals to enhance early detection of stone formation to prevent repeat surgery.

It is also important that the underlying cause of the stone formation be treated properly to prevent future episodes from occurring.

Living and Management

Typically, your veterinarian will prescribe a new diet plan for your dog. Such plans will help prevent future episodes from occurring. Likewise, it is important that you do not alter your dog’s diet drastically without prior consultation with your veterinarian. 

9 Ways to Stop Fleas From Biting Your Dog, From Flea Shampoo to Vacuums

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on June 7, 2019 by Dr. Natalie Stilwell, DVM, MS, PhD

Ah, the joys of the outdoors. Swimming, hiking and going to the park—all reasons to look forward to going outside. But fleas? Not so much.

Not only are these blood-sucking parasites unsightly and creepy, but they can also cause some serious issues, such as allergies and skin infections.

So, how can you keep your dog flea-free year-round?

All pets in your household should receive flea prevention, even if you don’t think they have fleas. All pets are at risk, including those that don’t spend much time outside. It just takes one trip outdoors to bring fleas into the home, which can quickly infest the house and put you and your pets at risk.

It’s also important to provide flea prevention year-round, even in colder climates, as fleas will happily survive in a heated home environment for up to a year.

Here are 9 methods for keeping fleas away—not just from biting your canine companions but also from getting into your home in the first place.

1. Flea Shampoo

Giving your dog a flea bath with a special medicated flea shampoo can be an inexpensive (though labor-intensive) method of protecting your dog year-round. Many flea shampoos kill fleas on contact and prevent them from returning.

In addition to killing adult fleas during bathing, the best flea shampoos for dogs also prevent flea eggs and larvae from maturing into adults for a prolonged period of time. Many of these shampoos also include ingredients like oatmeal or aloe to soothe itchy skin.

You may need to give your dog a flea bath as often as every one to two weeks, as the effective ingredients won’t last as long as a topical or oral medication.

2. Topical Flea and Tick Treatments

While topical flea medications seem like they would only work on the spot they are applied to, they are actually very effective at covering the dog’s entire body.

The drops work by a process of translocation, where the dog’s oil glands spread the medication throughout the body.

These medications are not affected by bathing, swimming or being out in the rain.

Topical treatments will kill and repel fleas for several weeks before the need for reapplication and may also work to interrupt the flea life cycle.

Your veterinarian can help you to pick out the best topical product for your dog that’s appropriate for her age, size and breed. You will need your vet’s prescription to purchase topical flea and tick medication.

3. Oral Flea and Tick Medication

Flea pills are popular with pet parents, and they can be used alone or in combination with topical treatments depending on how severe the flea risk is.

Once-a-month flea control pills come in the form of small, chewable tablets. They work to disrupt the life cycle of fleas but will not kill adult fleas on your pet.

Flea pills are somewhat easy to administer, even for dogs that are difficult to medicate, with added flavors to make them more like treats.

4. Flea Collar

Flea collars are another option, though their effectiveness may depend on the invasiveness of the fleas in your environment and how much contact the flea collar makes with your dog’s skin (in order to transfer the chemicals).

Your veterinarian can help you decide if a flea collar is an effective solution for your dog.

Before choosing a particular flea collar, find one that is appropriate for your dog’s age and size. Keep in mind that some collars can have a strong smell that may be offensive, so be sure to read reviews before purchasing. 

After fitting a flea collar for your dog, cut off any excess length of collar to prevent your dog from chewing on it. Watch for signs of discomfort (e.g., excessive scratching) when your dog is wearing the collar in case an allergic reaction occurs.

5. Flea Dip

A flea dip is a concentrated chemical that needs to first be diluted in water and then applied to the dog’s fur with a sponge or poured over their back.

This is not like a shampoo bath, and you will not rinse your dog off after applying the dip product.

The chemicals used in flea dips typically kill adult fleas for two weeks or less. These chemical products can be very potent and are messy to administer, so flea dips have become less popular than other control methods.

Ask your veterinarian if a flea dip is recommended for your dog; misuse can lead to toxic reactions, both in pets and in the people treating them.

6. Flea Powders, Sprays and Wipes

Flea powders (the kind you apply on your pet), sprays and wipes are relatively inexpensive methods for repelling fleas.

However, the spray or fine powder forms can be irritating to the mouth and lungs if breathed in (for both dogs and humans). It’s important to avoid applying these products near your pet’s eyes, nose and mouth.

As these products will wear off the skin faster than a topical treatment, you may need to reapply them as often as every two days.

Ask your vet before using flea powders, sprays and wipes, and use them with caution. These are not the most effective or convenient methods for flea control on your pet.

7. Cleaning the House

Did you know that adult fleas account for less than five percent of the total flea population in an infected home? That’s why a thorough house cleaning is a crucial step in breaking the parasite’s life cycle for even mild infestations.

You will need to clean daily until the situation has been brought under control, as immature fleas can persist for several months in the environment.

Vacuum the entire house, giving extra focus to your dog’s favorite areas and all corners and baseboards. A recent study has shown that vacuuming can collect and kill fleas at all life stages—it is 96 percent effective at killing adult fleas and 100 percent effective at killing flea eggs.

Wash all of your dog’s bedding and toys with hot, soapy water, and vacuum the car, too. Even if your dog never rides in your car, you may be carrying fleas on your shoes or pant cuffs.

Removing the majority of flea eggs and larvae will help reduce the population of adult fleas hatching in your home.

8. Household Sprays, Carpet Flea Powders and Foggers

To further treat your home, sprays, carpet flea powders and/or foggers are available that will kill the adult fleas, as well as the larvae and eggs as they hatch.

Sprays and foggers are available at your veterinarian’s office, but they must be used with caution, as these products can be toxic to fish, birds, cats and children.

Most carpet flea powders claim to kill adult fleas, flea eggs and flea larvae, and some will even kill ticks.

Read labels carefully and ask for advice from your veterinarian before attempting to use these products. If you’re concerned about treating your home thoroughly in cases of severe infestation, you may want to hire a professional exterminator.

9. Trimming Your Yard


Keeping your lawn, bushes and trees consistently trimmed back will help reduce the population of fleas in your backyard.

If you still have a problem, consider using yard sprays or granular treatments. Or, you might consider hiring a pest control service for regular yard treatments.

Just be careful when using these products, as they can be harmful to pets, pond fish and humans.

Talk to your vet about which of these methods you should be using for your own flea situation—you might need combine several to provide comprehensive flea treatment for your pets and your home.

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Signs of Anxiety in Dogs and Puppies

There’s been a huge shift in understanding and treating human anxiety over the past decade. Our canine counterparts also feel stress and anxiety, but they can’t verbalize their feelings, which makes it hard to know when they’re feeling anxious.

When you become a dog parent, you take on the job of recognizing what causes anxiety for your pup. If you lessen these causes, you can make your dog feel as safe and comfortable as possible in their environment. Signs of anxiety in dogs can be subtle, which makes it even more important for you to be vigilant and learn to identify what may be causing their stress.

Stress in dogs can be broken down into three types: fear, phobias, and anxiety.

Fear is an instinct in response to an external threat. Analyzing the situation helps you figure out if it’s a normal or inappropriate response. For example, fear aggression could be normal if there’s a true threat to your dog or their loved ones. In other cases, fear aggression is considered inappropriate if it’s directed at a person who is not showing any signs of being a threat to your dog. Remember that your dog may interpret the situation differently, and something that is not a threat to you may be to them.

Phobias are excessive fears to an external stimulus. The most common phobias in dogs are noise phobias (fireworks, loud noises, thunderstorms).

Anxiety is an uncomfortable feeling or fear related to the anticipation of danger. For instance, separation anxiety occurs when a pet has abnormal reactions to being away from their owner, whether for short or long periods of time.

Signs of Stress and Anxiety in Dogs

It is important to be able to distinguish between normal and anxious dog behaviors, which requires familiarity with your dog’s normal behavior.

Most of the time, relaxed dogs will have round, open eyes; weight on all four legs; a raised tail; and raised, forward-facing ears. They will breathe normally unless they are panting from play or exercise.

Here are some dog anxiety symptoms to watch for.

Pacing and Shaking

Just like humans, dogs often pace or make wide circling movements repeatedly when stressed. This can be a sign of panic or nervousness in general. Your dog may also shake or tremble. This often stops once the stressor is gone.

Increased Heart Rate and Panting

The autonomic nervous system kicks in automatically when stress occurs. This is the “fight, flight, or freeze” response to external fears or stressors. It is an involuntary response system for survival and adapting.

Dogs also have a sympathetic nervous system. When a dog is stressed, this system releases adrenaline and increases their heart rate and respiratory rate, which is often seen as panting.  


Dogs do not only yawn when they are tired—they also yawn when they’re nervous. Usually, these yawns are frequent and longer than when they are tired.


A dog’s nervous system is activated by stress and causes drooling and frequent lip-licking or “lip-smacking.” This is also seen when a dog has nausea and may have something to do with activation of the gastrointestinal tract by the nervous system.

Compulsive Behaviors

Dogs engage in a number of behaviors to help calm themselves, but these can become compulsive and destructive when they are really stressed. Common compulsions include licking themselves excessively, licking floors or walls, barking excessively, or chewing objects compulsively.

Often, this behavior can lead to skin infections from overgrooming, foreign body ingestion, upset stomach from ingesting things, digging behavior (holes, bedding, rugs), or destroying their crates in order to break free. Crying or barking can also be a self-soothing behavior in anxious dogs, or a way to alert us to their stress.  

Hypervigilance (Dilated Pupils, Ear Signals, Stiff Posture)

Dogs with anxiety often have dilated pupils and blink faster. They tend to stand stiffly at attention when preparing for impending danger, but this behavior may also be related to the involuntary freeze, fight, or flight autonomic nervous system response.

The whites of their eyes tend to show more than when they are calm, and their ears can either be standing at attention or pinned back against their head in times of stress. Tucking their tails between their legs or shifting their weight to their hind end can also be signs of fear in dogs.

Hiding or Acting Depressed

Stressed dogs will often hide behind you or objects such as chairs or cars to avoid stressors. They may seem hyperactive and use their muzzles to nudge your legs or hands to tell you to move away from the stressor. Your dog may also completely shut down, stop moving, and seem depressed or disassociated from the situation.

Having Diarrhea or Accidents

Adrenaline affects dogs similarly to humans, causing an urge to go to the bathroom. Your dog may immediately posture and urinate as a result of stress, dribble urine, lose control of their bowels, or even have diarrhea.

This behavior is modulated by the sympathetic nervous system. A lesser gastrointestinal sign of stress in dogs is a decreased appetite. A stressed dog may even refuse their favorite treats if their anxiety level is too high.


Dogs who are stressed often shed more, and this is frequently seen during veterinary visits.

How to Help an Anxious Dog

Here are some tips you can use to help your dog avoid or react to stress.

Avoid Stressful Situations

The most important treatment for stress and anxiety in dogs is limiting the exposure to stressful situations. Avoid interactions that may cause an anxious response.

For example, in cases of separation anxiety, set up a calm, quiet space with safe toys and items that smell familiar. Start training your dog by leaving them for very short periods of time.

Every time you return, praise your dog, and perhaps give them a small, healthy treat. Through repetition and slowly increasing the length of time that you are gone, your dog will learn that you will always return, and their stress will start to fade.

If your dog is stressed by having new people in their environment, keep them confined in a calm area of the house when new people are there to avoid a fear-induced interaction.

Try New Strategies in a Safe Environment

Abrupt desensitization, where you expose your dog to the thing that is causing stress until they no longer react, is no longer thought to be the best way to help with stress and anxiety in dogs.

Continuing to introduce triggers often increases your dog’s fearful responses. Instead, you should teach new strategies and ways for your dog to respond to stress.

To establish a new response to a stressor, you must develop a reward program for your dog, such as offering food, love, or an activity/playtime. The reward should always be earned, and training will be slow and steady. This should be done in a stable, safe environment, and not during anxious situations.

Treatment starts with learning control strategies at home, where your dog is required to earn everything by responding appropriately when you give a specific cue. This creates a predictable response from your dog’s perspective. Starting with calm tasks such as “sit” or “lie down” and then eventually moving to “focus” and “escape” responses will help set expectations for what will happen.

With focus responses, the goal is to have your dog make eye contact with you or focus on a treat/toy to distract them from stressors. Escape response is training your pet to go to a safe, calm environment (such as a bed or a room) as soon as they feel stressed. Using yummy treats can be helpful until they learn where their safe space is.

Never punish your dog physically or by scolding them, since this is ineffective and will only raise their stress level and teach them to fear you.

It is important to have realistic expectations. Some issues may be lifelong or require training or medications that can only be given by a training specialist, veterinary behaviorist, or veterinarian.

Ask Your Vet About Anti-Anxiety Medications

Your veterinarian may recommend prescription anti-anxiety medications (including Fluoxetine, Clomipramine, or Alprazolam). These are almost always prescribed with the recommendation of behavior modification training.

The medication type and dosage will be based on your dog’s age, other medical conditions, and triggers. Medications often take several weeks to months  to improve anxiety, and they often require adjustments and regular bloodwork. The minimum treatment for anxiety in dogs usually averages 4-6 months but can take years in some cases.

Medication therapy may help alleviate your dog’s response to triggers and can assist in learning new behaviors. However, when medication is weaned or discontinued, their anxious behaviors may return. Medication is usually continued lifelong.

Your primary care veterinarian may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist when severe anxiety issues are noted, or if previously attempted treatment plans fail to help. It is important to learn your dog’s triggers to be able to help them have a calm, balanced, and positive quality of life.

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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…

6 Best Flea and Tick Prevention Products for Puppies

A new puppy coming home raises a lot of questions and concerns in addition to the excitement. These questions include finding the best flea and tick prevention once your puppy is old enough to start preventative care. Choosing the right product can be done with confidence and doesn’t have to be a stressful experience, with the right guidance.

Why is Flea and Tick Prevention Important for Puppies?

Flea Prevention for Puppies

Flea and tick prevention protects puppies by killing any fleas or ticks that latch onto a puppy’s skin. Once on your dog, these parasites feed on your puppy’s blood and can cause anemia (significant blood loss). If the flea and tick infestation is serious enough, a puppy may need a blood transfusion to survive. 

Fleas can also transmit an intestinal parasite called tapeworms. If a puppy eats a flea infected with tapeworms, it can acquire tapeworms. These intestinal parasites cause itchiness and irritation around the anus.

Tick Prevention for Puppies

Ticks can transmit a variety of bacterial diseases that can become severe including:

Rocky mountain spotted fever




Lyme disease

While not every tick carries bacteria, others may carry more than one type. If a tick does carry a bacterial infection, it must feed on a puppy for at least 24 to 48 hours to transmit the bacteria into the puppy’s bloodstream and cause a tick-borne disease.

Flea and Tick Prevention Schedule for Puppies

Always administer flea and tick prevention to puppies year-round to fully protect them from parasites. Most dogs spend a great deal of time outdoors which can increase the likelihood of encountering fleas and ticks. 

Even if puppies spend little time outdoors—or solely use pee pads indoors—they are still at risk for acquiring fleas and ticks. Humans can also unknowingly carry fleas and ticks inside the house either on their clothing or shoes. It’s easy for fleas and ticks to jump on pets from these sources and feed.

If you maintain a strict schedule for administering flea and tick prevention to your puppy, you will protect them from fleas and ticks, as well as tapeworms and the tick-borne diseases they carry.

6 Best Flea and Tick Prevention Products for Puppies

Bravecto 1 month chew comes in a pork-flavored hydrolyzed chew that protects against fleas and ticks for 1 month. Once a puppy is over 6 months of age, it can be switched over to the Bravecto 3-month chew that is given every 90 days for flea and tick prevention. 

Nexgard is an oral flea and tick prevention that comes in a soft, beef-flavored chewable tablet. It is to be given with a meal once monthly to kill and protect against fleas and ticks.

Simparica Trio protects against fleas, ticks, heartworms, roundworms, and hookworms. Simparica Trio comes in a liver-flavored chewable tablet that is to be given once monthly.

Simparica is an oral flea/tick prevention, without heartworm or intestinal parasite prevention. It comes in a liver-flavored chewable tablet and is given once monthly with a meal.

K9 Advantix II is a waterproof topical flea/tick prevention that kills mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, and lice and repels biting flies. Packaged in applicator tubes, this product needs to be applied directly to the skin in two to three doses on the back once monthly.

Seresto flea/tick collar is odorless, water resistant, and is worn around the neck.   Seresto collars protect against fleas, ticks, and lice for up to eight months. As a puppy grows, its collar may need to be loosened so it is not too tight around the neck due to growth. It is not recommended to remove the collar when puppies take a bath or go swimming. 

Oral flea/tick products are the most effective, killing fleas and ticks within 24 hours—which is faster than topical products, or Seresto collars. Collars take 24 hours to kill fleas and 48 hours to kill ticks, which leaves time for ticks to transmit a tick-borne disease before being killed by the active ingredient in the Seresto collar. Because fleas are becoming resistant to topical flea/tick products, oral flea and tick prevention is recommended as the fastest, most effective way to kill fleas and ticks.

What to Consider Before Starting Flea and Tick Prevention

When choosing the best flea/tick prevention for your puppy, it is important to talk to your veterinarian to ensure your puppy is set up for success before starting its preventative care. Your veterinarian will want to make sure the following list is complete before introducing any new medication.

Age of Puppy

The age of the puppy is important to determine when a dog can appropriately start flea and tick medication. If your puppy is a rescue, your veterinarian will be able to determine an approximate age based on its physical features and other health indicators.

Weight of Puppy

Remember your puppy will grow for several months but the amount of growth will depend on the breed. Toy, medium, and large-breed dogs grow until they are a year of age, while giant breed dogs, like Great Danes and Mastiffs, grow until they are 18 months of age. As your puppy grows, the weight range of the flea/tick prevention needs to be adjusted based on the rate of its growth. At every exam appointment, your veterinarian will weigh your puppy to dispense the proper dose of flea/tick prevention.

Flea and Tick Preventatives for Dogs Only

Always purchase flea and tick prevention made specifically for dogs. Flea and tick products for dogs are not to be used on cats or any other animal. Likewise, flea and tick prevention for cats should never be used on your puppy. Read the product directions before applying and keep these products away from children as they can be harmful if ingested or get into the eyes.

Maintain a Consistent Schedule

Set a reminder on your phone or calendar for when your puppy is due for flea/tick prevention. Skipping or delaying a recommended dose of flea and tick prevention increases its chances of acquiring fleas and ticks. Some flea/tick preventatives provide stickers to put on your calendar as a reminder. 

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Michelle Diener, DVM


I live in Raleigh, North Carolina. I obtained by BS degree in Biology at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2000 and my DVM degree at NCSU in 2006. I have…

Tear in the Heart in Dogs

Atrial Wall Tear

A dog’s heart is divided into four chambers. The two upper chambers are the atria (singular: atrium), and lower chambers are the ventricles. In atrial wall tear, the wall of the atrium is ruptured. This typically occurs secondary to blunt trauma, but may be due to some other cause. As with other wounds, the protective mechanisms of the body take over and heal the tear, with resulting scar formation, but if the tear is significant, heavy bleeding can lead to sudden death. A major tear, at the least, can cause serious illness. Trauma of this type may occur in dogs of any breed, age, size, or gender.

Symptoms and Types

Sudden weakness Fainting Sudden death Rapid heart rate Ascites (abnormal collection of fluid in the abdomen) Difficult breathing


Blunt trauma to the thoracic cavity (chest) Neoplasm in the heart Other cardiac diseases may play some role


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination on your dog, into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Complete blood tests, with a biochemical profile, complete blood count and a urinalysis will be performed. However, these tests may not reveal much information for the diagnosis of this disease. For confirmation of an injury to the atrial wall, your veterinarian will use specific diagnostic procedures and tests. X-rays, ECGs, echocardiography, color Doppler studies, and other such techniques will reveal structural and functional abnormalities pertaining to the heart. Any defect in the atrial wall, or scar formation indicating a past injury may be visible using some of these techniques.



Treatment will be directed toward overcoming any complications resulting from the atrial tear. If scar tissue has formed at the site of tear, your dog may stabilize but the possibiltiy of future complications will continue to be an issue. Surgery to correct the defect may be advised for some patients, but the outcome is, unfortunately, not always rewarding. Strict cage rest will be advised for such patients to encourage healing avoid further complications.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, long-term survival is very low for these patients, even if the tear has sealed through scar formation. However, if your dog has showed significant improvement your veterinarian may only schedule regular visits for progress evaluations. Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding cage rest, diet, and other management issues.

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

What is Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs?

Congestive heart failure (CHF) is a condition in which fluid builds up (congests) due to the heart’s reduced ability to pump blood efficiently throughout the body.

A damaged heart may struggle to pump blood, which can cause blood to back up in the lungs that can lead to fluid accumulating in the chest, abdomen, or both, depending on the type of CHF.

A dog’s heart consists of a right and left side, as it does in people. The right side is responsible to receive oxygen-poor blood from the body and transport it to the lungs where it receives oxygen. The left side is responsible for pumping the oxygen-rich blood back out to the body to nourish the tissues.

CHF can be described as right-sided or left-sided:

Left-sided CHF: The more common type to occur in dogs occurs when blood backs up in the lungs, causing swelling in the lungs (pulmonary edema). Dogs with left-sided CHF will usually have a cough and difficulty breathing. 
 Right-sided CHF: When the right side of the heart malfunctions, the main circulatory system becomes backed up with blood throughout the body, and fluid gathers in the abdomen (ascites) or limbs (peripheral edema).

Stages of Congestive Heart Failure

The risk and progression of CHF in dogs is classified by stages similar to the way it is categorized for humans with CHF. The stages run from an initial risk for developing CHF but not showing any symptoms (Stage A) to severe symptoms (Stage D).

Stage A: Dogs with a higher risk for developing CHF but currently show no symptoms or structural changes to the heart. Dogs with a genetic risk include small breeds such as Miniature Poodles, Cocker Spaniels, Terrier breeds, and some larger dogs such as Great Danes or Dobermans.
 Stage B: Dogs with a heart murmur (a “whooshing/swishing” sound) that a vet can hear but does not show any symptoms. A murmur indicates turbulent blood flow within the heart 
 Stage B2: Dogs that show a structural change on an X-ray/radiograph or echocardiogram (a specialized ultrasound to diagnose the heart) but are without symptoms.
 Stage C: In this stage, symptoms of heart disease are present. Dogs in this stage will have current or historic clinical signs of congestive heart failure, but still respond positively to medications and treatment. 
 Stage D: This stage is referred to as “end-stage” disease. In this stage, a dog will typically have severe symptoms of disease that unfortunately no longer respond to medications or other treatments.

Symptoms of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Symptoms of CHF in dogs can be one or more of the following clinical signs:

Coughing, sometimes even coughing up foam

Difficulty breathing

Increased rate of breathing, even when resting

Inability to exercise

Fatigue, lethargy and weakness

Cyanotic (blue) gums 

Distended abdomen

Collapse or sudden death

Seek an emergency vet immediately if your dog is experiencing any signs of respiratory distress or trouble breathing. Your dog may need hospitalization and immediate care when experiencing moderate to severe signs of congestive heart failure.

Causes of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

There are many possible causes of congestive heart failure in dogs but the most common is myxomatous mitral valve disease (MMVD), also called chronic mitral valve disease, degenerative mitral valve disease, mitral insufficiency, or endocardiosis.

The mitral valve, also known as the bicuspid or left atrioventricular valve, is on the left side of the heart and acts as the doorway between the left atrium and the left ventricle. MMVD occurs when the doorway fails to close, which results in blood leaking through this valve. Over time, it results in left-sided congestive heart failure due to a decreased ability for the left side of the heart to pump oxygen-rich blood to the body. The cause of mitral valve disease is unknown, but there does seem to be a strong genetic component. Many small-breed dogs have a genetic predisposition for mitral valve disease as a cause of congestive heart failure. 

In large-breed dogs, the most common inherited form of heart disease is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), characterized by the heart muscle becoming weak and unable to properly contract. This causes the heart to dilate. Some examples of dogs predisposed to DCM include Doberman Pinschers, Boxers and Great Danes.  

Other causes of CHF in dogs include:

Heart valve disease

Defects or holes in the walls of the heart (ventricular septal defect) 

Congenital cardiac defects (patent ductus arteriosus, pulmonic stenosis and aortic stenosis) 

Accumulation of fluid in the sac around the heart (pericardial effusion) 

Heartworm disease 

Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) 

Increased blood pressure 

Infection (endocarditis) 

Tumors (chemodectoma, lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma) 

How Veterinarians Diagnose Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Diagnosing congestive heart failure will start with listening to the heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Most dogs will have a heart murmur which will be graded in severity from 1 to 6.  

Grade 1: Very soft murmur, often difficult to hear 

Grade 2: Soft murmur but readily heard

Grade 3: Moderately loud murmur

Grade 4: Loud murmur

Grade 5: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope, barely touching the chest. The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart (palpable thrill)

Grade 6: Very loud murmur that can be heard with the stethoscope of the chest (not touching the skin). The vet can feel a vibration through the chest wall over the heart (palpable thrill) 

If your veterinarian suspects CHF, he or she will likely want to perform a chest X-ray/radiograph to check for heart enlargement or evidence of fluid on the lungs (pulmonary edema). Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) may also be used to assess the rate and rhythm of the heart.

At this point, your veterinarian may refer you to a veterinary cardiologist for more specialized testing such as an echocardiograph or ultrasound of the heart. An echocardiograph is the most useful tool to identify the source of a murmur, the likely cause of CHF, and a measurement of the heart’s ability to pump blood.

Treatment of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Your vet will likely recommend treating both the underlying heart disease (if possible) as well as any fluid accumulation. An underlying cause such as heartworm disease may be treatable, but in most cases the cause of congestive heart failure cannot be cured; it can only be managed.

Medications for CFH in Dogs

The specific medication used to treat CHF in dogs will vary depending on the underlying cause and severity. Your veterinarian or cardiologist will determine the appropriate drugs, dosages and frequency, and should be consulted before any changes.  

The mainstay of congestive heart failure treatment medically is typically diuretics (water pills). Diuretics decrease the fluid accumulation in the lungs, abdomen or legs, depending on the initial cause of heart failure.

Pimobendan is another commonly used medication in the treatment of CHF. This drug improves the ability of the heart to contract, increases pumping action, opens blood vessels and reduces the amount of work the heart has to do to perform.

In treating myxomatous mitral valve disease and dilated cardiomyopathy, Pimobendan has been shown to delay the onset of heart failure and increase overall survival time, when started before symptoms appear (stages A and B CHF).  

Other medications that can be useful in CHF may include Digoxin, Diltiazem, Angiotensin-converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers. Your dog will likely be placed on a combination of medications — tailored by your veterinarian—to address their specific CHF and underlying heart disease.  

Oxygen Therapy for CHF in Dogs

Dogs with left-sided heart failure, or those with significant fluid in the lungs, may not be able to get enough oxygen from their lungs to their blood stream. In such cases, a dog may benefit from oxygen supplementation.

Your dog may be placed in an oxygen cage, or provided oxygen via tube through the nose. Alternatively, direct airflow toward the face may be provided (called “flow by” oxygen).

In severe cases, a dog may need to be intubated (placing a tube down the trachea) to administer oxygen or even mechanical ventilation (having a machine breathe for them), but this is associated with a poor prognosis. 

Nutrition for CHF in Dogs

Nutritional management and diet may be used in addition to medical therapies. Nutrition tailored to your dog’s underlying heart condition may help slow the progression of heart disease and improve quality of life. Nutritional goals, diet recommendations and supplements should always be discussed with your primary veterinarian, veterinary cardiologist or potentially a veterinary nutritionist.  

Specific dietary supplements such as fish oil/omega fatty acids, taurine and L-carnitine may be considered to decrease inflammation, help manage arrhythmias and improve heart function.  

Other recommendations may include weight management, maintaining muscle mass and eating a balanced diet. Again, your veterinarian, cardiologist, and/or veterinary nutritionist should be consulted prior to any diet changes or addition of any supplements.

Recovery and Management of Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs

Recovery and management will vary based on the cause of the CHF and should be tailored to your specific dog by your veterinarian and/or veterinary cardiologist. However, most dogs will be able to enjoy a moderate level of exercise and activity without strict restrictions.  

One important aspect of at-home care in left-sided congestive heart failure patients is monitoring the respiratory rate, which is the number of breaths per minute. The respiratory rate can indicate the level fluid accumulation in the lungs and help determine if you need to see your veterinarian.

As a rule of thumb, a dog at rest should have a respiratory rate of less than 30 breaths per minute. Be sure to count in and out as one breath and be sure the dog is at rest or sleeping when you count. Do not try to count its respiratory rate immediately after physical activity.  

Your veterinarian will also monitor periodic chest X-rays to assess the heart size as well as any evidence of fluid in the lungs. Blood work, including kidney values and electrolytes, will likely be recommended every 3-6 months to ensure your pet is tolerating the heart medication. The veterinary cardiologist will likely want to recheck an echocardiogram every 6-12 months to assess changes in the heart and make adjustments in medication as needed.  

There is no cure for congestive heart failure in dogs, but with diligent management and daily medications, your dog can have a good quality of life and likely extend its survival time. However, once stage D congestive heart failure develops, the median life range is nine months.

Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs FAQs

How long can dogs live with congestive heart failure?

Once congestive heart failure develops, survival time in dogs is expected to be between 6 to 14 months at stage C. Early detection and proper medical care are keys to improving a dog’s prognosis.

What are the symptoms of the final stages of congestive heart failure in dogs?

Stage D is referred to as “end-stage” disease. In this final stage, a pet will typically have severe symptoms of disease that unfortunately no longer respond to medications or other treatments. These symptoms include cough and coughing up foam, difficulty breathing, increased respiratory rate/effort even when resting, inability to exercise, fatigue/lethargy/weakness, cyanotic (blue) gums, distended abdomen, and collapse/sudden death.

How can I help my dog with congestive heart failure?

The pet parent should take their dog to the local emergency vet immediately if congestive heart failure or respiratory distress is suspected. 

Is congestive heart failure in dogs painful?

Dogs in congestive heart failure typically do not display obvious signs of pain. However, humans in congestive heart failure have described chest pain as a factor, so it’s possible dogs also experience some discomfort. Seek veterinary care if you feel your pet is in pain.

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Veronica Higgs, DVM


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