Archive : June

Demodectic Mange in Dogs

What Is Demodectic Mange in Dogs?

Demodectic mange, also known as red mange, is a parasitic skin infection caused by mites such as Demodex canis (most common), Demodex injai, or Demodex cornei. Under the microscope, it appears cigar-shaped with eight short legs.  

This type of mite is a normal inhabitant of the hair follicle, though it is usually not harmful. If the immune system is healthy, these mites cause no harm to their host. Dogs with immature or compromised immune systems that allow this mite to overgrow will develop clinical signs such as hair loss and red, scaling skin lesions. 

The mite normally lives in low numbers in the hair follicles of the skin. Demodex is most often transmitted from mother to puppy while suckling milk because of the pup’s immature immune system.  Exposure of a normal, healthy dog to one with demodex is not dangerous. Demodectic mange is not contagious between other dogs as it requires a depressed immune system to develop.  

Demodectic mange cannot spread from dogs to humans.   

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Clinical signs of demodectic mange include: 

Alopecia (hair loss) 

Skin scaling 

Bumps on the skin (papules) 

Pigmentation of the skin 

Thickening of the skin 

 Itchiness varies depending on secondary skin infections or if the lesions are localized to a certain area or are generalized over the body.   

In puppies, lesions often begin around the face and head due to feeding from the mother’s teat, but lesions can be found anywhere on the body. In more severe cases of generalized demodectic mange, pain, lethargy, fever, draining wounds, and skin swelling may be noted. Ear infections are also possible if the mite invades the ear canals.

Causes of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Demodectic mites typically live on the skin and benefit from their host while causing no actual harm to their host. Mange occurs, when the mite overgrows at the hair follicle, often in those with weaker immune systems such as puppies, whose immune systems are still forming, and older dogs with underlying illnesses leading to depressed immune systems. 

Demodex lives on all our skin, even in normal healthy dogs and humans. When the immune system is depressed, it overgrows causing itching and mange. Normally this mite is only passed between dogs as puppies and is most often passed from mother to puppy.  

How Veterinarians Diagnose Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Mange is most commonly diagnosed through skin scraping or hair plucking, and cytology. This is a non-invasive test that involves using a scalpel blade and scraping the skin deep enough for mild irritation or bleeding to be noted (this is necessary since demodex lives deep in the hair follicle) or simply removing hair at the root for assessment. The sample is assessed under the microscope. The presence of any mites is considered a positive result.   

Some mites can be found through fecal flotation or fecal testing because the dog ingests them while licking/chewing the skin. 

Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing can also be performed, but it can warrant false negative results and is often not necessary when diagnosis is evident. 

Finally, skin biopsy may be necessary in cases where the dog is not responding to therapy or if a diagnosis undetermined with other less invasive diagnostic tests. Biopsy is sometimes considered in more severe, generalized cases of demodex.  

Treatment of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Not all cases of demodectic mange require treatment. Most cases of demodectic mange that are localized to a small region of the body will spontaneously resolve in 1-2 months with no treatment. Other cases of localized infections can be treated with topical medication such as moxidectin and imidacloprid.    

If demodectic mange becomes generalized, medication is recommended for resolution of symptoms.  Miticidal treatment (oral or topical) is the most common type of therapy, including ivermectin, milbemycin, doramectin, amitraz, fluralaner (Bravecto), afoxolaner (Nexgard), sarolaner (Simparica), and lotilaner (Credelio). Dogs with MDR1 mutations should never receive ivermectin. This mutation can be determined through genetic testing. 

Miticidal therapy is continued until two consecutive negative skin scraping or hair plucking tests occur.  Special shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide are often recommended as these open and flush the hair follicles to allow dip and topical treatments to penetrate more efficiently. You should discuss the risks and benefits of these medications with your veterinarian before beginning to use them. 

Secondary skin infections due to inflammation can occur and require antibiotic therapy. It may be necessary to treat the skin infection before clearing the demodectic mange. 

It is also recommended to stop breeding dogs with generalized demodex infections as the disease is thought to have an underlying genetic and/or immune system cause that contributes to the overgrowth of mites. 

Recovery and Prevention of Demodectic Mange in Dogs

Most dogs with mange recover well with appropriate therapy in a timely manner. Secondary infections and underlying systemic illness are often the culprits in dogs that require chronic treatment.  

Mange can be fatal in dogs who receive inappropriate therapy or whose underlying medical conditions are not well managed.   

Demodectic mange does not require environmental cleaning as it does not typically transmit between dogs, though a monthly or tri-monthly miticidal preventative is still recommended. Dogs should remain on regular miticidal preventatives to avoid infection from other types of mites, fleas, and ticks unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian.

Demodectic Mange in Dogs FAQs

Is demodectic mange contagious to humans?

Demodectic mange is not contagious to humans.

How long does it take for demodectic mange to go away?

It can take weeks to months for demodectic mange to resolve depending on whether it is a localized or generalized infection and whether there are any secondary infections or underlying illnesses. Every dog will react differently to medications, so there is no exact timeline for resolution.

Does mange go away on its own?

Demodectic mange can resolve on its own in mild cases. It usually takes 1-2 months for mild, localized infections to resolve spontaneously.

How long is a dog contagious with demodectic mange?

Dogs with demodectic mange are not contagious to other dogs, pets, or humans.

Featured Image: Gabriel

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="64548/grzyb_0.jpg">


Katie Grzyb, DVM


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

Painful and Frequent Urination in Dogs

Dysuria and Pollakiuria in Dogs

Dysuria is a condition that leads to painful urination in the animal, while pollakiuria refers to abnormally frequent urination. While the urinary bladder and urethra normally serve to store and release the urine, these two disorders affect the lower urinary tract by damaging the bladder wall or stimulating the nerve endings in the bladder or urethra. In other words, you’ll have a pet that goes to the bathroom often, and it may even have pain or discomfort when it urinates.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.


Extreme irritability Discomfort or pain during urination Frequent “accidents” occuring indoors after he has been housebroken


Dysuria and pollakiuria are generally caused by lesions, stones, cancer or trauma in the urinary bladder and/or urethra. (Lesions and stones are good indicators of a lower urinary tract disease.)

Other factors include:

For the Urinary Bladder

Anatomic abnormalities Malfunction of bladder muscles Chemicals/drugs Medical procedures

For the Urethra

Anatomic abnormalities Kidney stones Urethral plugs Increased tension of the urethral sphincter (muscle used to control urine flow) Medical procedures

For the Prostrate Gland

Cancer Inflammation or abscess Cysts




After establishing a thorough medical and behavioral history on the dog, the veterinarian will be able to rule out a variety of causes, such as surgical procedures, spraying or marking territory, and drug usage. Once those are ruled out, the veterinarian will run tests (i.e., blood, urine, etc.) to determine which of the causes listed above is affecting your pet.


Dogs with less serious, nonobstructive lower urinary tract diseases are typically seen on an outpatient basis, while others requires hospitalization.

Treatment mainly depends on the underlying cause of the condition(s). But if an illness has led to dysuria and/or pollakiuria, it will include supportive therapies, along with any medication to help with the symptoms. However, these conditions often clear up rapidly after proper treatment has been given.

Dog Peritonitis

What is  Dog Peritonitis?

Peritonitis is a condition in which the membrane that lines abdominal cavity (called the peritoneum) becomes inflamed, often due to injury or infection. The peritoneum is a thin, watery lining that lubricates the abdominal organs (such as the stomach).  

This can cause fluid to build up in the abdomen. Peritonitis can be a very serious and life-threatening condition in dogs and requires immediate treatment.  

Symptoms of  Dog Peritonitis 

Symptoms of peritonitis vary widely and can be confused with symptoms caused by many other conditions. If your dog shows any of the following signs, bring them to your veterinarian immediately (especially if your dog exhibits two or more symptoms). 

Abdominal pain is a very common symptom of peritonitis. Dogs may show abdominal pain by appearing in a “prayer” position (rear end up in the air while their front legs and head are lowered onto the floor).  Abdominal distension or bloating may also occur.  

Other signs of illness include: 

Vomiting, nausea, or refusing to eat 



Weakness and lack of energy 


Pale gums 

Causes of  Peritonitis in Dogs

Peritonitis occurs when the abdominal cavity becomes injured and inflamed, so the condition has many possible causes. For example, peritonitis can occur when a dog suffers a penetrating injury or blunt trauma to the abdomen (such as wounds sustained from stabbing or kicking).  

Intestinal blockages caused by swallowing foreign objects can also lead to peritonitis. 

Other possible causes include: 

Ruptured bladder, uterus, or gall bladder 

Tears in surgical sites 

Ulcers (ulcer-related holes in the stomach lining can be caused by medication like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs) 

Abdominal tumors 

Disorders of other internal organs (e.g., heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, or pancreas) 

Twisted stomach or bloat 

Liver inflammation (hepatitis) 

Less frequently, peritonitis can be caused by blood-borne infection (e.g., bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic). Rarely, the cause of the peritonitis is unknown or cannot be determined.   

Although not inherited, some breeds have a higher likelihood of developing conditions that lead to peritonitis. For example, young large-breed dogs such as Labrador Retrievers may be more likely to swallow a foreign object (such as a sock or underwear), causing an intestinal blockage and rupture that results in peritonitis.  

On the other hand, breeds like miniature Schnauzers are more prone to pancreatitis, which also can lead to peritonitis. Finally, giant breed dogs such as Great Danes will be more likely to develop “twisted” stomach” (gastric dilatation and volvulus).   

How Veterinarians Diagnose Dog Peritonitis 

Diagnosing peritonitis begins with a physical examination to check for abdominal pain and fever. Your veterinarian will ask about your dog’s medical history, including recent surgical procedures and current medications (particularly NSAIDs). 

You will also be asked about potential trauma and anything your dog might have swallowed. Other tests commonly used to investigate peritonitis include: 

A blood test to assess overall organ function, white blood cell count and dehydration 

Abdominal x-rays to look for fluid within the abdomen as well as intestinal blockage or masses 

Abdominal ultrasound to confirm the presence of fluid in the abdomen 

A fluid sample drawn from a needle (abdominocentesis) to check for inflammatory cells and bacteria 

Treatment for  Dog Peritonitis

If the test results indicate peritonitis, your dog will need to be hospitalized and be put on IV fluids. Medication will be given to treat symptoms of nausea, pain, and diarrhea. Antibiotics will also likely be an important part of your pet’s care.   

Emergency surgery is usually required to repair the underlying cause of the inflammation, such as a rupture, wound, or abscess. In rare cases where the specific cause of the peritonitis cannot be identified, the surgeon will rinse the abdomen with sterile saline.

Recovery and Management of  Peritonitis in Dogs

Diagnosing and treating peritonitis as soon as possible is key to achieving the best outcome and minimizing complications. Recovering from this serious condition often requires 3 to 5 days (and sometimes more) following surgery.  

During this time, IV fluids, antibiotics, and nutritional support are required. Unfortunately, even with intensive support the survival rate is about 50%. If sepsis has set in, the survival rate is lower. 

Your veterinarian will discharge your dog when she is fever-free and can eat without throwing up. Expect a full recovery to take 10-14 days of rest with minimal activity.  

Depending on what caused the peritonitis in the first place, your dog can make a complete recovery and resume normal activity. For example, if peritonitis was caused by swallowing a foreign object, then it will be important to prevent a future occurrence.  

If the peritonitis was the result of an underlying issue, such as a bowel rupture caused by a tumor, then more extensive tests are required to diagnose and treat the cause. 

Dog Peritonitis FAQs

Can  peritonitis be cured in dogs?

Peritonitis in dogs is treatable. However, it is a very serious condition that can quickly become life-threatening and requires immediate, intensive veterinary care, including hospitalization and often surgery.

What causes septic peritonitis in dogs? 

The most common cause of peritonitis in dogs is a hole (perforation) in an internal organ, which can occur from a penetrating abdominal wound, ruptured intestines (from blockage or ulceration), splitting open (dehiscence) of surgical site(s), or erosion of stomach or intestines from a tumor. This can lead to a serious and life-threatening bacterial infection (sepsis) and requires immediately veterinary care.

Featured Image: Covington

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="62078/veronica-higgs-dvm.jpg">


Veronica Higgs, DVM


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

Claw and Nail Disorders in Dogs


Nail and Nail Bed Disorders in Dogs

Nail and nail bed disorders refer to any abnormality or disease that affects the claw or surrounding area, generally known as dystrophy. One type of nail disorders, paronychia, is an infection that causes inflammation around the nail or claw. Fungal infections, such as onychomycosis, can also occur in or around the nail bed.

Dogs may suffer from extremely brittle nails (onychorrhexis), or have nails that slough, peel, or chip away excessively (oychomadesis). Most nail or nail bed disorders have an excellent treatment prognosis and can usually be treated and remedied in a relatively short amount of time.

Symptoms and Types of Nail Disorders in Dogs

Common signs of nail or nail bed disorders can include:

Licking at the pawsLameness, difficulty walkingPain in the feetSwelling or redness of the tissues surrounding the nailsNail plate deformity (the part of the nail that overlays the nail bed)Abnormal nail color

Causes of Paw and Nail Disorders in Dogs

Common causes for nail or nail bed disorders can include:

InfectionBacteria or fungusTumor or cancerTraumaImmune system (immune-mediated) diseasesExcessive levels of growth hormoneDisorders present at birth (congenital)Cutting the nails too close to the nail bedNeoplasia


Diagnosing Dog Nail Disorders

In the event that there is a trauma to your dog’s nail bed, check to see if only a single nail is being affected. If multiple nails are affected, a serious underlying medical condition is the more likely cause for the disorder. A skin scraping may also be taken to determine what type of a skin condition your dog has, as well as a bacterial or fungal culture for further analysis.

Treatment for Paw and Nail Problems in Dogs

Treatment will be dependent upon the particular underlying medical condition that is causing the nail or nail bed condition. If the nail area is inflamed, surgical removal of the nail plate (the hard part of the nail) may be necessary to encourage drainage of the underlying tissue. Antibiotic and antimicrobial soaks are also effective for preventing or reducing inflammation, and for encouraging the healing process. If the condition is related to a bacterial or a fungal infection, topical treatments and/or ointments are often administered to the affected area.

Living and Management

In most cases, application of the topical treatment or ointment will clear up any nail issue. While there are typically not many complications that can arise from these disorders, it is important to observe your dog’s progress as it recovers, referring to your veterinarian if the healing does not appear to be progressing as it should.

Prevention of Nail and Nail Bed Disorders in Dogs

When clipping your dog’s toenails it is important to avoid cutting too close to the nail bed (also called the quick). The vein in the nail bed may inadvertently be cut, which can cause excessive bleeding and lead to an infection, and nicks to the skin can open your dog to infection as it goes about its normal routine of going outside for walks. It is essential that you look closely at your dog’s nails before cutting so that you know exactly where the free edge of the nail ends and the nail plate begins. Only the free edge of the nail should be cut.

The best way to protect your dog from a painful nail disorder is to research the proper methods for cutting the nails, pay close attention while cutting, and promptly cleanse and protect the area when an inadvertent injury does occur.

Dog Calming Products to Help Ease Dog Anxiety

There are many products marketed to reduce fear and anxiety and provide generalized calming effects in dogs, and you may find the array of options dizzying.

While some pet parents swear by certain dog calming products and report them to be useful in dogs with mild to moderate anxiety, few products have been tested and proven through scientific research to reduce anxiety in pets. When scientific studies have been performed, many of these studies are of lower rigor.

If you elect to use one or more of these products, keep in mind that the placebo effect may lead pet parents to perceive benefits in treatments that in reality are ineffective. This could delay treatments that actually work.

Here are the facts about some popular dog calming products that can help ease your dog’s anxiety.

Studies on Dog Calming Products

When you read about research on a certain dog calming product, know that some studies may have been performed on the functional ingredient in a product, not on the product itself. Also, the studies may have been performed on rats and mice, not on dogs and cats.

While the amount of scientific information on non-pharmaceutical calming products in dogs is increasing, there isn’t much data on the quality, safety, and efficacy for the majority of products.

Another thing to note is that unlike the US Food and Drug Administration’s testing of supplements for people, there’s no standardized monitoring system for pet behavioral supplements. This can lead to differences in ingredients, purity, quality, and efficacy between manufacturers and between batches.

This is why it is important to discuss with your veterinarian starting any supplement, even if you can buy it over the counter, before giving it to your pet.

Common Ingredients in Behavioral Supplements for Dog Anxiety

Behavioral supplements may include calming treats, herbal supplements, dietary supplements, and calming diets. Here are some of the common ingredients found in these products, along with scientific research on whether they reduce anxiety in dogs.


Alpha-casozepine is a lactose-free derivative of a protein in cows’ milk. Some research studies have suggested that this derivative helps reduce anxiety in dogs by acting on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain that produces a calming effect.

Alpha-casozepine has been shown to potentially reduce anxiety and fear of strangers in dogs.

But although it is sometimes administered for situational stress, such as during fireworks or vet visits, there is no evidence that it has any short-term effect.

Where to find it:

Alpha-casozepine is found in Zylkene (Vetoquinol) and is one of the main ingredients in some veterinary calming diets. Zylkene comes in capsules that can be given whole or opened and mixed with your dog’s food.


Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain. It’s secreted in high levels during the night and low levels during the day. Thus, it plays an important role in regulating the body’s natural wake/sleep cycle (circadian rhythm).

There is some evidence in humans that melatonin may help reduce anxiety and promote sedation before medical procedures. Side effects in humans can include sleepiness, headaches, and gastrointestinal upset.

Melatonin supplements have been used to reduce situational fear and anxiety and dogs, such as during veterinary visits, thunderstorms, and fireworks, as well as to promote sleep in dogs who are restless overnight. However, scientific evidence is lacking.

Where to find it:

It comes in tablet and capsule formulations, as well as dissolvable and/or flavored chewables. Make sure that any melatonin product does not contain xylitol, a class of sweetener that is highly toxic dogs. Melatonin appears safe to combine with other medications or supplements.


L-theanine is an amino acid derived from the tea plant. It is thought to help decrease anxiety and improve mental function by modulating GABA, serotonin, and dopamine, and by inhibiting glutamate, which is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain.

There have been several veterinary studies that showed L-theanine to have benefits in dogs, including reducing fear of strangers, noise phobia, and storm phobia.

Where to find it:

L-theanine can be found in Solliquin (Nutramax) chews, Composure (Vetriscience) chews, and Anxitane (Virbac) tablets. Supplements containing L-theanine are intended to be used on a daily basis and may require 4-6 weeks to have therapeutic effect.


L-tryptophan is an amino acid precursor for the formation of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is key to the regulation of many behavioral processes, including emotion, mood, aggression, and anxiety. Studies have suggested that there may be an association between the metabolism of L-tryptophan and fear in dogs.

Where to find it:

L-tryptophan has been added to some veterinary calming diets. One research study showed that one of these diets (which also contains alpha-casozepine) helped dogs to better cope with stress, while another study showed no effect on the dogs’ anxiety levels.


Valerian is a plant that may help pets sleep through the night and may ease anxiety. However, controlled research studies are not available.

Where to find it:

One study found that pet parents reported that the Pet Remedy diffuser, which contains valerian, reduced the intensity, but not the frequency, of anxiety-related behaviors. As with some other products, it may take several weeks before pet parents can see any therapeutic effect.

Magnolia Officinalis and Phellodendron Amurense

Magnolia officinalis is a flowering herb that has been shown to have an anti-anxiety affect in mice, and Phellodendron amurense is a bark extract that has been shown to protect the brain from the effects of stress and prevent mood disorders. Studies have shown both magnolia and phellodendron to reduce fear-related signs during thunderstorms.

Where to find it:

Solliquin (Nutramax) chews contain a combination of magnolia and phellodendron extracts.


The gut microbiome, which consists of diverse populations of intestinal bacteria, has been associated with several behavioral problems in dogs, including fear and anxiety-related disorders.

According to a blinded, placebo-controlled study conducted at the Purina Pet Care Center, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum BL999 reduced anxious behaviors such as excessive vocalization, jumping, pacing, and spinning in a small population of Labrador Retrievers.

Where to find it:

You can find Bifidobacterium longum BL999 in Purina Pro Plan Calming Care. It comes in individual packets of flavorful powder that is mixed daily with your dog’s food. It can take up to 6 weeks to take effect.

Dog Pheromones

Pheromones are chemicals that are detected by a special organ in dogs, the vomeronasal organ. Pheromones affect parts of the brain that lead to changes in behavioral and emotional responses. When female dogs nurse their puppies, they release dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) from their mammary glands. This has a calming effect on the puppies.

The effectiveness of DAP in reducing fear and anxiety in dogs is supported by quite a bit of scientific evidence. Research studies suggest that DAP may help reduce anxiety in numerous situations: changes in the household, car travel, boarding, veterinary visits, moving to a new home, when a new puppy is introduced to the home, in cases of separation-related disorders, and noise phobias, including thunderstorms and fireworks.

However, many of these studies are limited by their methodological quality. Furthermore, in some of these studies, other treatments, such as behavior modification, were also implemented at the same time as DAP. This does not mean that potential benefits of pheromone therapy should be discounted, but further research is necessary to better understand the potential benefits of DAP.

Where to find it:

Synthetic DAP is sold in collars, sprays, or diffusers. Pheromones are species-specific; in other words, the pheromones of one species will only affect other members of that species. The same is true for synthetic pheromones.

Adaptil (Ceva) spray can be applied to a crate or kennel or sprayed in a vehicle. The spray contains an alcohol base with an odor that dogs may not like, so spray it and wait at least 15 minutes before exposing your dog to that space, so the odor can dissipate. The effects last about 4-5 hours.

Adaptil plug-in diffusers aerosolize the pheromone up to 700 square feet, and the Adaptil collar and Sentry’s Calming Collar evaporate the pheromone. Both the diffusers and collars last for about 30 days.

Dog Anxiety Vests

Pressure vests or jackets for dogs are fitted to use pressure points to ease fear or phobias, such as during thunderstorms or fireworks. They are like a hug for dogs.

Like many other calming products, scientific research on the efficacy of these products is limited and inconclusive. A couple of studies found potential benefits of pressure vests for thunderstorm phobias and for separation anxiety in dogs, but the studies were of variable quality.

Subjectively, many of the pet parents in these studies believed that the pressure vests had positive effects on their dog’s anxiety levels.

These products may have small but beneficial effects on canine anxiety and are probably worth trying. For some pets, wearing an anxiety vest may actually be fear-provoking or discomforting, so do not force your dog to wear a product if they seem uncomfortable.

Pressure vests are meant to fit snugly but to not be restrictive. For proper fit, see that you can slip two fingers with ease underneath the vests. Pets should never be left unsupervised while wearing a vest, jacket, or cape.

Dog Anxiety Vests to Try

One dog anxiety vest that is popular with pet parents, according to some reviews, is ThunderShirt, which comes in a variety of sizes.

Food and Puzzle Toys

Food toys and puzzles can distract dogs from stressful events and promote soothing alternative behaviors, such as foraging and licking. In other words, they can give dogs something else to do besides worry!

Food toys are most effective when a dog’s triggers for anxiety can be identified, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or visitors coming into the home. A food toy is best given in a safe space that is quiet and away from the stressor. You can give it to your dog just before the onset of stressful events, to divert their attention from the trigger and prevent their anxiety from escalating.

If you repeatedly pair something positive, like a food toy, with something negative, like a stressor, your dog will be more likely to form positive associations with their triggers over time. However, if a dog’s anxiety is too high, then they may not be interested in food.

Food and Puzzle Toys to Try

There are a multitude of food toys and puzzles available. Look for products that take 15 minutes  or more for dogs to finish or solve, and that are not so difficult that they might cause frustration. Here are some good options:

Lick mats

A KONG or Zogoflex stuffed with a dog’s favorite food

Snuffle mats (a mat with spaces to hide food and treats to encourage sniffing and foraging behaviors)

Slow feeders

Problem-solving puzzles

Freezing the food in these products will make them last longer. Stash several food toys in the freezer so you are prepared before predictable stressful events, like fireworks or storms.

For puppies, a stuffed toy with a heartbeat and heat pack may provide calming effects when the pet is left alone.

Make a Plan With Your Vet to Manage Your Dog’s Anxiety

Discuss treatment options with your veterinarian or a veterinary behaviorist. This helps ensure that you choose products that are safe and effective for your pet.

Veterinarians will also evaluate your pet for a potential physical problem that may be causing or contributing to their anxiety. Calming products almost certainly will not help if an underlying medical disorder is present.

Featured image:


Andersen L, Werner M, Rosenberg J, et al. A systematic review of peri-operative melatonin. Anaesthesia. 2014;69(10):1163–1171.

Araujo J, de Rivera C, Ethier J, et al. ANXITANE® tablets reduce fear of human beings in a laboratory model of anxiety-related behavior. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2010;5(5):268–275.

Araujo J, Faubert M, Brooks M, et al. NOVIFIT® (NoviSAMe®) tablets improve executive function in aged dogs and cats: implications for treatment of cognitive dysfunction syndrome. International Journal of Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine. 2012;10(1):90–98.

Araujo J, Landsberg G, Milgram N, et al. Improvement in short-term memory performance in aged beagles by a nutraceutical supplement containing phosphatidylserine, Ginkgo biloba, Vitamin E, and pyridoxine. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2008;49:379-385.

Bauer J. The essential nature of dietary omega-3 fatty acids in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2016;249(11):1267–1272.

Beata C, Beaumont-Graff E, Diaz, C, et al. Effects of alpha-casozepine (Zylkene) versus selegiline hydrochloride (Selgian, Anipryl) on anxiety disorders in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2007;2(5):175-283.

Berteselli G, Michelazzi M. Use of L-theaning tablets (Anxitane Tablets™) and behavior modification for treatment of phobias in dogs: a preliminary study. Proceedings of the 6th International Veterinary Behavior Meeting, Riccione, Italy. 2007:114–5.

Bosch G, Beerda B, Beynen A, et al. Dietary tryptophan supplementation in privately owned mildly anxious dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2009;121(3–4):197–205.

Buckley L. Are pressure vests beneficial at reducing stress in anxious and fearful dogs? Veterinary Evidence. 2018;3(2):

Buckley L. Is alpha-casozepine efficacious at reducing anxiety in dogs? Veterinary Evidence. 2017;2(3):

Cottam N, Dodman N, Ha J. The effectiveness of the Anxiety Wrap in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia: An open label trial. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2013;8:154–161.

Cottam N, Dodman N. Comparison of the effectiveness of a purported anti-static cape (the Storm Defender) vs. a placebo cape in the treatment of canine thunderstorm phobia as assessed by owners’ reports. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2009;119:78–84.

Denenberg S, Landsberg G. Effects of dog appeasing pheromones on anxiety and fear in puppies during training and long-term socialization. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2008;233:1874–1882.

DePorter T, Landsberg G, Araujo J, et al. Harmonease chewable tablets reduces noise-induced fear and anxiety in a laboratory canine thunderstorm stimulation: a blinded and placebo-controlled study. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2012;7(4):225–232.

Dewey C, Davies E, Xie H, et al. Canine cognitive dysfunction: pathophysiology, diagnosis, and treatment. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 2019;49(3):477–499.

Estelles G, Mills D. Signs of travel-related problems in dogs and their response to treatment with dog-appeasing pheromone. Veterinary Record. 2006;159:143–148.

Frank D, Beauchamp G, Palestrini C. Systematic review of the use of pheromones for treatment of undesirable behavior in cats and dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2010:236(12):1308­­­-1316.

Gaulter E, Bonnafous L, Bougrat L, et al. Comparison of the efficacy of a synthetic dog-appeasing pheromone with clomipramine for the treatment of separation related disorders in dogs. Veterinary Record. 2008;156:533–538.

Gaultier E, Bonnafous L, Vienet-Legue D, et al. Efficacy of dog appeasing pheromone in reducing behaviours associated with fear of unfamiliar people and new surroundings in newly adopted puppies. Veterinary Record. 2009;164:708–714.

Graham L, Wells D, Hepper P. The influence of olfactory stimulation on the behaviour of dogs housed in a rescue shelter. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2005;91(1-2):143-153.

Gruen M, Griffith E, Korman J. Treatment of canine separation anxiety using a pulsed electromagnetic field device: a pilot study. Presented at the IVBM Conference, Washington, DC. 2019.

Hansen M, Halladin N, Rosenberg J, et al. Melatonin for pre- and postoperative anxiety in adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015;4:CD009861.

Heath S, Barabas S, Craze B. Nutritional supplementation in cases of canine cognitive dysfunction – a clinical trial. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2007;105:274-283.

Kato M, Miya K, Ohtani N, et al. Effects of prescription diet on dealing with stressful situations and performance of anxiety-related behaviors in privately owned anxious dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2012;7(1):21-26.

Kim Y, Lee J, Abd el-aty A, et al. Efficacy of dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) for ameliorating separation-related behavioral signs in hospitalized dogs. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2010;51(4):380-384.

King C, Buffington L, Smith T, et al. The effect of a pressure wrap (ThunderShirt®) on heart rate and behavior in canines diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2014;9(5):215-221.

Landsberg G, Huggins S, Fish J, et al. The effects of a nutritional supplement (Solliquin) in reducing fear and anxiety in a laboratory model of thunder-induced fear and anxiety. In: Proceedings of the 11th International Veterinary Behaviour Meeting, Samorin, Slovakia. 2017:94-97.

Landsberg G. Therapeutic agents for the treatment of cognitive dysfunction syndrome in senior dogs. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry. 2005;29(3):471-479.

Landsberg G, Beck A, Lopez A, et al. Dog-appeasing pheromone collars reduce sound-induced fear and anxiety in beagle dogs: a placebo-controlled study. Veterinary Record. 2015;177(10):260.

Landsberg G, Nichol J, Araujo J. Cognitive dysfunction syndrome: a disease of canine and feline brain aging. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice. 2012;42(4):749-68.

Levine E, Ramos D, Mills D. A prospective study of two self-help CD-based desensitization and counter-conditioning programmes with the use of Dog Appeasing Pheromone for the treatment of firework fears in dogs (Canis familiaris). Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2007;105:311–329

Lloyd K, Wills A, Taylor S. The anxiolytic effects of valerian (Valeriana officinalis) on the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). 2019; Contribution to conference: poster.

May K, Laflamme D. Nutrition and the aging brain of dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2019;255(11):1245-254.

McGowan R. “Oiling the brain” or “Cultivating the gut”: impact of diet on anxious behavior in dogs. Proceedings of the Nestle Purina Companion Animal Nutrition Summit, Florida. 2016:91-97.

McGrath S, Bartner L, Rao S, et al. A report of adverse effects associated with the administration of cannabidiol in healthy dogs. Journal of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association. 2018;52:34-8.

Mejia S, Duerr F, Griffenhagen, G, et al. Evaluation of the effect of cannabidiol on naturally occurring osteoarthritis-associated pain: a pilot study in dogs. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association. 2021;57(2):81-90.

Michelazzi M, Berteselli G, Talamonti Z, et al. Efficacy of L-theanine on noise phobias in dogs: preliminary results. Veterinaria (Cremona). 2015;29(2):53-59.

Milgram N, Landsberg G, Visneksy M. Effect of apoaequroin on cognitive function in aged canines. In: Abstracts of the 17th Congress of ESVCE and 1st Annual Congress of ECAWBM. Avignon; 2011.

Mills D, Estelles M, Coleshaw P, et al. Retrospective analysis of the treatment of firework fears in dogs. Veterinary Record. 2003;153:561–562.

Mills D, Ramos D, Estelles G. A triple blind placebo-controlled investigation into the assessment of the effect of Dog Appeasing Pheromone (DAP) on anxiety related behaviour of problem dogs in a veterinary clinic. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2006;98:114–126.

Morris EM Kitts-Morgan S, Spangler D, et al. The impact of feeding Cannabidiol (CBD) containing treats on canine response to a noise-induced fear response test. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2020;7:

Osella M, Re G, Odore R, et al. Canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome: prevalence, clinical signs and treatment with a neuroprotective nutraceutical. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2007;105(4):297-310.

Palestrini C, Minero M, Cannas S, et al. Efficacy of a diet containing caseinate hydrolysate on signs of stress in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2010;5(6):309-317.

Pankratz K, Korman J, Emke C, et al. Randomized, placebo-controlled prospective clinical trial evaluating the efficacy of the Assisi anti-anxiety device (Calmer Canine) for the treatment of canine separation anxiety. Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2021;20(8):775092.

Pekkin A, Hanninen L, Tiira K, et al. The effect of a pressure vest on the behaviour, salivary cortisol and urine oxytocin of noise phobic dogs in a controlled test. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2016;285:86-94.

Pike A, Horwitz D, Lobprise H. An open-label prospective study of the use of l-theanine (Anxitane) in storm-sensitive client-owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2015;4(10):324-331.

Reme C, Dramard V, Kern L, et al. Effect of S-adenosylmethionine tablets on the reduction of age-related mental decline in dogs: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Veterinary Therapeutics. 2008;9(2):69-82.

Riemer S. Effectiveness of treatments for firework fears in dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior. 2020;37:61-70.

Santos N, Beck A, Maenhoudt C, et al. Influence of ADAPTIL® during the weaning period: a double-blinded randomised clinical trial. Animals. 2020;10(12):2295.

Sheppard G, Mills D. Evaluation of dog-appeasing pheromone as a potential treatment for dogs fearful of fireworks. Veterinary Record. 2003;152:432–436.

Siracusa C, Manteca X, Cuenca R, et al. (2010) Effect of a synthetic appeasing pheromone on behavioral, neuroendocrine, immune, and acute-phase perioperative stress responses in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 2010;237:673–681.

Taha A, Henderson S, Burnham W. Dietary enrichment with medium chain- triglycerides (AC-1203) elevates polyunsaturated fatty acids in the parietal cortex of aged dogs: implications for treating age-related cognitive decline. Neurochemical Research. 2009;34:1619–1625.

Tod E, Brander D, Waran N. Efficacy of dog appeasing pheromone in reducing stress and fear related behaviour in shelter dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2005;93:295–308.

Wells D. Aromatherapy for travel-induced excitement in dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2006;229(6):964-967.

Yeh YM Lye X, Lin H, et al. Effects of Lactiplantibacillus plantarum PS128 on alleviating canine aggression and separation anxiety. Applied Animal Behaviour Science. 2022;247:105569.

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="69748/alison-gerken-dvm.jpg">


Alison Gerken, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident)


Dr. Alison Gerken is a second-year resident in veterinary behavior at the Florida Veterinary Behavior Service under the mentorship of…

Intestinal Parasitic Infection (Strongyloidiasis) in Dogs

Strongyloidiasis in Dogs

Strongyloidiasis is an intestinal infection with the parasite Strongyloides stercoralis (S. canis). Typically, only the female nematode will be present in the dog’s intestinal lining, causing, among other things, severe diarrhea. S. stercoralis is relatively host-specific, but there is a potential for transmission to humans.

Symptoms and Types

Inflammation of the skin, rash (dermatitis) Cough, bronchopneumonia Diarrhea or constipation, especially in newborn puppies Blood in stool Mucus in stool


There are several ways your dog may become infected with S. stercoralis, including skin penetration, ingestion of contaminated feces, and nursing from an infected bitch. There is an increased prevalence of stronglyoidiasis in kennels, especially when there is poor sanitation and high temperatures and humidity.


The challenge your veterinarian will face will be distinguishing the cause of the dog’s symptoms, which may be due to several other parasites or bacteria or viruses. He or she may culture a sample of your dog’s feces, or perform a colonoscopy on the animal to identify the infective agent.


Unless intravenous fluid supplementation is needed to stabilize your dehydrated dog, it will be treated as an outpatient. Preferred anthelmintic medication, which destroy and remove internal parasites, include ivermectin and fenbendazole.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will want to schedule monthly fecal examinations monthly for the first six months after treatment to assure clearance of infection. During this time, your dog will intermittently shed parasitic larvae and require regular deworming sessions. He or she will also recommend a thorough cleaning of your pet’s area and/or kennel to eradicate any potential larvae. You should, however, take precaution when handling the dog or items used by the animal, as humans can sometimes become infected with S. stercoralis., causing rashes, severe abdominal discomfort, and diarrhea.

Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and active medium-sized dogs with natural herding instincts and muscular and agile builds. They were originally bred to be used as working dogs.

Australian shepherds stand between 18-24 inches tall and typically weigh between 40-65 pounds when full grown—with males being generally larger than females.

Caring for an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs that love to have a job. They are known to be intelligent and loyal dogs that are typically friendly but can sometimes take a bit of time to warm up to strangers.

Due to their herding background, Australian Shepherds can have a prey drive, which means they love games like fetch and frisbee. It also means they like to chase and nip at moving objects—like children, cats, cars, and other wheeled objects like scooters, bikes, and golf carts. However, with early socialization, they can live harmoniously with cats, children, and other dogs.

Australian Shepherds historically have docked tails, but this is not for cosmetic reasons. They are either born with naturally bobbed tails or their tails are docked for job-related reasons, such as for identification purposes or to avoid injury.

With their lifestyle and temperament being so high-energy, pet parents of Australian Shepherds need to be considerate of their joint and hip health to ensure healthy mobility at all life stages.

Australian Shepherds are athletic and agile. Without thorough and proper recall training, this breed should be kept on a leash or confined to a secured fenced yard—they are master escape artists if left unattended. 

Australian Shepherd Health Issues

Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. However, they are predisposed to a few health issues more common to the breed.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia are inherited conditions that sometimes afflict Australian Shepherds.

These conditions occur when either the hip or elbow joints develop improperly, resulting in malalignment and development of significant osteoarthritis and pain.

It’s very important that breeders obtain certified screening for these genetic conditions prior to breeding any Australian Shepherd to reduce the risk of passing these conditions on to their puppies.

When purchasing a puppy, check to ensure proper Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) screening or that a PennHIP screening has been performed on the puppy’s parents. If you have adopted an Australian Shepherd or are not able to obtain any parent documentation, you can still get your dog screened for hip and elbow dysplasia to know their risk as they grow.

Dogs with hip or elbow dysplasia will need special care as they age—the amount of care will depend on the severity of the dysplasia. Management options include medications, joint supplements, and therapies. There are also surgical treatment options that can correct malalignment and help improve mobility.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a term used for a group of eye diseases. These degenerative diseases affect the photoreceptors in a dog’s retina. Photoreceptors are responsible for helping the dog see better in low light, detecting movement, and detecting color. As the cells atrophy/deteriorate over time, a dog’s vision will deteriorate as well—eventually resulting in incurable blindness.

PRA can present itself anywhere between the ages of 3-9 in dogs. There is also an early onset form of PRA that affects puppies within their first few months of life. This form occurs when the photoreceptors develop abnormally instead of deteriorate over time.

This is an inherited condition, so dogs that have been diagnosed with PRA should not be bred.

PRA is not a painful condition for dogs, and there is no current effective treatment or cure. The first signs of PRA are typically night blindness and increased clumsiness (walking/bumping into things). However, since dogs rely heavily on all their other senses as well, they can live long, happy lives without their vision.

Hereditary Cataracts

Hereditary cataracts can also occur in Australian Shepherds and can be passed on from parents to their litters. Hereditary cataracts most commonly occur in dogs between the age of 1-5 years old.

A cataract is the “clouding” of the lens of a dog’s eye. This clouding prevents the passage of light and images directly to the retina, which reduces a dog’s vision.

Cataracts can progress over time and ultimately lead to blindness or glaucoma. Currently, the only approved treatment option for cataracts is surgery. Your veterinarian can recommend a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist to determine if cataract surgery would be appropriate.

Iris Coloboma

Iris coloboma is another ocular condition that more commonly affects Australian Shepherds. This condition occurs when the iris (the colored part of the eye that surrounds the pupil) fails to develop properly.

The result can be either that the iris is too small—causing no major issues—or that the iris is too big—causing light sensitivity and discomfort. While the light sensitivity and discomfort will not affect quality of life, these will need to be considered when determining the best lifestyle for the dog. In some cases, dog goggles can be used to act as sunglasses and reduce the impact of light sensitivity and the amount of squinting. But to prevent further eye complications, it’s recommended that severely affected dogs are kept out of bright and direct sunlight.

This is an inherited condition, so breeding pairs should be certified to have normal eyes by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, with the results recorded through the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) within the previous year. There is no treatment available.

Puppies should have their eyes examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist after 6 weeks of age, and prior to being acquired.


Primary epilepsy, a seizure disorder caused by an abnormal electrical disturbance in the brain, is another inherited condition seen in Australian Shepherds.

Unfortunately, there is no genetic testing available to identify which dogs may carry genes associated with epilepsy. Depending on the frequency of the seizures, dogs with this condition may require lifelong daily anti-seizure medications to control their symptoms.

Multidrug Resistance Mutation (MDR1)

Multidrug resistance is a genetic mutation most commonly found in herding breeds, including Australian Shepherds.

When dogs have this condition, it can affect how their body processes certain drugs and medications. The MDR1 gene makes dogs more sensitive to certain ingredients found in commonly used medications for flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, diarrhea, and certain cancers. The result is that dogs with the MDR1 gene experience more significant side effects to these medicines at doses that would normally be tolerated by dogs of similar size.

The MDR1 gene can be detected with a DNA test. Talk with your veterinarian about testing and DNA test options. They will also be able to provide guidance on alternative medication options that will not lead to drug-related toxicity.


Certain genes that control the coat color of an Australian Shepherd can affect their hearing.

Dogs who have two merle-colored parents and have inherited double-merle genes are more likely to be whiter in color. This lack of pigment can affect their hearing as well, especially if there is a lot of white color on the head or ears.

A BAER (Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response) test can be performed to determine if deafness is present.


Lymphosarcoma is a cancer seen slightly more commonly in Australian Shepherds.

This disease occurs when the body forms abnormal lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. It often presents as swollen lymph nodes, but these abnormal cells can develop in any organ in the body.

Thankfully, it’s one of the most treatable forms of cancer in veterinary patients, with a good success rate in dogs receiving chemotherapy.


Hemangiosarcoma is a devastating cancer that has an increased incidence in Australian Shepherds.

It most commonly presents as a bleeding tumor within the abdomen, typically affecting the spleen and/or liver. It can lead to acute lethargy, weakness, collapse, and pale gums, and is sometimes fatal.

Typically, surgery is required to control the internal bleeding and for definitive diagnosis of the type of tumor.

Unfortunately, even with chemotherapy the prognosis is very poor, with average survival time of 6 to 9 months with both surgery and chemotherapy.

What to Feed an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds should be fed a high-quality diet, whether commercially manufactured or home cooked under the guidance of your veterinarian or a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. Fresh water should be available at all times.

Australian Shepherds with a working job (i.e., search and rescue, herding on a farm, or guide dogs) or high activity level (i.e., field training, fly ball, run several miles a day, hike frequently) may require a higher protein/higher fat diet to meet their needs. Diets labeled as “performance” or “sport” should be considered under the guidance of a veterinarian.

How to Feed an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds can be fed normally in a standard pet food bowl.

Meal feeding helps to monitor appetite as well as control intake; this is preferred over filling the bowl and allowing them to graze.

Some Australian Shepherds that are highly food motivated may be prone to eating too fast. For these dogs, it’s worth considering a slow feeder bowl to help them slow down and prevent gastrointestinal upset.

How Much to Feed an Australian Shepherd

How much you feed an Australian Shepherd depends on their life stage, body condition score, activity level, and brand/type of food you’re feeding.

Growing puppies should be fed a standard puppy food until they are spayed/neutered or reach skeletal maturity (approximately 12-16 months). Once they reach their full, adult size, they should be slowly transitioned to a high-quality adult diet or performance diet if they have excessively high energy demands—such as working dogs or dogs that accompany owners on lengthy fitness routines like running and hiking.

Despite their high energy levels, some Australian Shepherds can be prone to gaining weight as they age, so frequent reevaluation of their dietary needs is important. Your veterinarian will also want to have them evaluated and tested for conditions that may promote weight gain, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.

Nutritional Tips for an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds tend to be very active dogs and can develop osteoarthritis as they age.

Adding in joint supplements as they age at the recommendation of your veterinarian should be considered.

Australian Shepherds also are predisposed to certain eye conditions, so supplements targeting eye health may also be beneficial.

Behavior and Training Tips for an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd Personality and Temperament

Australian Shepherds are loyal, intelligent dogs with a strong character. Many Australian Shepherds are quite friendly, but some can be reserved toward new people. With a proper introduction, they will often warm up and be accepting.

Early socialization is very important. Australian Shepherds can be good with children, cats, and other dogs as long as they are well socialized. Their innate herding tendencies may still result in their attempting to herd and possibly nip other small animals and children if this behavior is not redirected.

Due to their protective nature, Australian Shepherds are apt to bark at strangers and strange noises, but they don’t tend to be excessively vocal unless triggered.

Australian Shepherds are highly energetic and maintain their energy levels through their adult life and sometimes into their senior years. As a result, consistent exercise and mental stimulation is a must for this breed. Without an outlet for their energy, the Australian Shepherd may develop destructive behaviors.

Australian Shepherd Behavior

With proper training, good socialization and adequate regular exercise, Australian Shepherds can be very well-behaved dogs. They are also very loyal and attentive to their owners, so it’s not uncommon for them to become a shadow and follow their pet parents around as much as possible.

In some cases, this attachment to their favorite humans can develop into separation anxiety, so be sure to work with a trainer and develop healthy attachment styles.

Due to their high energy and intelligence levels, Australian Shepherds can find destructive ways to offload their energy, such as digging and chewing, if not properly stimulated mentally and physically on a regular basis.

Australian Shepherds can be more reserved and occasionally become fearful, which can lead to behaviors such as fear biting. Early socialization is very important.

Australian Shepherd Training

Australian Shepherds are very intelligent and motivated dogs that respond to training readily. They thrive on being trained with advanced behaviors, as it helps to exercise their mental drive.

High-level exercise and long-distance running/hiking sessions should be avoided until they are fully grown, which typically occurs between 12-16 months. This helps to ensure they don’t hurt their joints, hips, and elbows during their growth years, which could lead to long-term mobility issues.

Fun Activities for Australian Shepherds

Agility training

Field trials

Herding trials

Fly ball

Advanced obedience training


Australian Shepherds excel in working jobs, specifically herding. They also do well in working jobs like police search-and-rescue, guide dogs, and service dogs.

Australian Shepherd Grooming Guide

Australian Shepherds have a double-layer water-resistant coat that comes in many different color patterns, from simple black and white to tricolor and a mixed merle pattern. Their eyes are typically brown or blue.

Since their coat is medium in length, it will require routine upkeep and weekly care. Their active, outdoor lifestyle will also mean they need more frequent grooming.

Skin Care

Weekly brushing sessions will help keep their coat looking best and avoid development of matted fur, which can result in inflammation and infection of the underlying skin.

Coat Care

Australian Shepherds are moderate shedders, so frequent brushing can help to minimize shedding during their shedding season.

Due to their active nature, Australian Shepherds are often outdoors in the mud and dirt, so bathing may also be more frequently necessary.

Close shaving of the hair is not typically recommended, as their double coat helps to protect them from both heat and cold by holding a layer of temperate air close to their body.

Eye Care

Since Australian Shepherds are predisposed to certain eye issues, routinely checking them and monitoring for excessive discharge or change in appearance is a good habit to get into.

Ear Care

With the increased need for bathing and longer hair, clean and check your Australian Shepherd’s ears routinely.

By cleaning their ears, you can prevent infections or the buildup of dirt or debris. These cleanings also ensure that you fully dry your dog’s ears after each grooming session to prevent moisture buildup, which can lead to ear infections.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Australian Shepherds are highly energetic and maintain their energy levels through their adult life. This means they require daily devoted exercise for physical and mental stimulation. Owners must be committed to providing Australian Shepherds with the time and attention they require; otherwise, their undirected energy can make them more likely to exhibit destructive behavior.

Training and socialization will also be a vital part of the Australian Shepherd’s development and mental growth. Australian Shepherds also thrive with advanced training exercises and fun dog sports, so be ready to invest heavily in their training both in time and finances.

This breed also needs to be thoroughly socialized to prevent nipping and attempted herding of children, cats, bicycles or cars. Socialization can also help to prevent separation anxiety or reactive behaviors to strangers such as barking or fear biting.

They are generally healthy with a life expectancy of 12-15 years. Common health conditions include hip and elbow dysplasia, multidrug resistance mutation (MDR1), ocular conditions, epilepsy, and various cancers.

Australian Shepherd FAQs

Is an Australian Shepherd a good family dog?

Australian Shepherds can make excellent family dogs. However, it is important to ensure they are well socialized with children. They may try to nip/herd young children or small animals due to their herding instincts.

Are Australian Shepherds smart dogs?

Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and very receptive to training and mastering tasks/skills quickly. It also means they are great escape artists and excellent at finding outlets for mental stimulation (no matter how destructive) if not provided constructive ones.

What are the drawbacks of an Australian Shepherd?

Australian Shepherds are high-energy; they require dedicated exercise time daily. They are not suitable for owners who do not have the time to ensure they are properly exercised; they can turn that energy toward destructive behaviors.

Australian Shepherds can be reserved and occasionally become fearful, which can lead to behaviors such as fear biting. Early socialization is very important.

How much do Australian Shepherds cost?

Cost can vary depending on the breeder, location, lineage, and color markings. Average price typically ranges between $500-$2,000.


United States Australian Shepherd Association

Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute


Featured Image:

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="77773/Katie-Ryan-DVM-1.jpg">


Katie Ryan, DVM


Dr. Ryan is a 2012 graduate of Michigan State College of Veterinary Medicine. Following graduation, Dr. Ryan enjoyed a brief stint in…

Vitamin D Poisoning in Dogs

Vitamin D Toxicity in Dogs

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (i.e., stored in the fatty tissues of the body and liver) that is vital in regulating the calcium and phosphorous balance in your dog’s body. It also promotes the retention of calcium, thus aiding bone formation and nerve and muscle control. When ingested in exorbitant levels, however, vitamin D can cause serious health issues.

Chemicals used to kill rodents are the most common source of vitamin D poisoning in dogs, though excessive use of vitamin D in the diet or drugs containing high levels of vitamin D can also lead to toxicity. Dogs of all ages are susceptible, but young dogs and puppies are at higher risk.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms usually develop within 12-36 hours after ingestion of rodent killing agents. However, the time in which the symptoms become readily visible may vary depending on the source of vitamin D toxicity. Such symptoms may include:

VomitingWeaknessDepressionLoss of appetiteIncreased thirst (polydipsia)Increased urination (polyuria)Dark tarry feces containing bloodBlood in vomitLoss of weightConstipationSeizuresMuscle tremorsAbdominal painExcessive drooling


Accidental ingestion of rodent-killing chemicalsExcessive use of vitamin D dietary supplements


Your veterinarian will take detailed history about your dog’s diet and any supplements it may be taking. He or she will also ask if your dog has access to rodent-killing chemicals at home or in your yard. A complete physical examination will then be conducted, including routine laboratory tests such as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, electrolytes, and urinalysis.

If your dog is suffering from vitamin D toxicity, the biochemistry profile will indicate abnormally high levels of calcium and phosphorous in the blood. It may also indicate abnormally low levels of potassium in the blood along with an accumulation of nitrogenous waste products. In some dogs, the biochemistry profile may even indicate an abnormally high level of liver enzymes and low levels of protein (called albumin) in the blood. The urinalysis, meanwhile, will indicate abnormally high levels of proteins and glucose in the urine.

Some patients with vitamin D toxicity also show various blood clotting derangements, like bleeding from various body sites due to excessive loss of platelets (cells responsible for the clotting of blood).

More specific testing will include measuring the levels of vitamin D in the blood and an ECG (echocardiogram) to evaluate your dog’s heart. Various abnormalities, including abnormally slow heartbeat, may be found in dogs suffering from vitamin D toxicity.


Vitamin D toxicity is an emergency that requires immediate treatment and hospitalization. In fact, the initial 72 hours are crucial in saving the life of your dog. If the compound containing toxic amounts of vitamin D was ingested recently, your veterinarian will induce vomiting. There are also various drugs which bind the toxic compounds and prevent further vitamin D absorption.

To maintain proper hydration and correct electrolyte imbalance, intravenous fluid therapy may be utilized. Additionally, intravenous fluids are important in promoting the excretion of calcium through urine.

In case of severe anemia, blood transfusion may be required. Secondary bacterial infections are also commonly associated with vitamin D toxicity. In these cases, antibiotics are prescribed. If seizures become a problem, your veterinarian will prescribe anti-seizure medication.

Living and Management

Due to the prolonged hospitalization required, treating dogs with vitamin D toxicity is very expensive and laborious process. To monitor the progress of therapy, periodic laboratory testing is required, including determining the dog’s calcium and phosphorous levels.


The best way to prevent vitamin D toxicity in dogs is to keep rodent-killing agents out of your pet’s reach and consult your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet and/or starting it on a vitamin D supplement regimen. 

Are You Feeding Your Dog the Right Amount?

One of the best ways to keep dogs healthy is to feed them the right amount of a high-quality dog food. Feeding your dog too much or not enough can have certain health consequences.

Here’s why it matters and what you can do to determine how much to feed your dog.

Why the Right Dog Food Amount Matters 

If you feed your dog too little, they can suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

However, If you feed your dog too much, it will eventually result in obesity and its related health issues, like:

Musculoskeletal problems like osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament ruptures, and intervertebral disk disease

Congestive heart failure

Labored breathing

Cushing’s disease

Skin disorders

Some types of cancer

Shortened life span

Reduced quality of life

Giving your dog the right amount of quality dog food can help support your pet’s overall health and keep them feeling their best.

How to Find the Right Amount of Dog Food for Your Dog

You need to account for several factors when determining exactly how much your dog should be eating.

Consider the Important Factors

The correct meal size depends on factors like:

Type of food

Number of meals

Body weight

Metabolic rate

Amount of exercise

Look at the Feeding Guide on the Bag

To start the process, take a look at the feeding guide on your dog food’s label. They are usually presented as a table that looks something like this:

< img src="45674/feeding-chart.jpg">

Unless stated otherwise, these amounts give you the total that is recommended for your dog over a 24-hour period.

Most adult dogs should eat two meals a day, and puppies often require three or more feedings, so you’ll need to divide the amount in the table by the number of meals you are offering.

Take Your Dog’s Lifestyle Into Account

Combine this information with your knowledge of your dog’s lifestyle to come up with the initial amount of food to offer your dog.

For example, if I had a relatively inactive 35-pound Corgi who had a tendency to gain weight, I might start with a little less food than the table recommends. On the other hand, if my dog was a 35-pound Border Collie who never sits still, I would feed a little more.

Consider Using a Calorie Calculator

Another option is to try using a calorie calculator for dogs, but keep in mind that while these often spit out a precise number, your dog’s actual needs may be as much as 25% more or less.

Determine Your Dog’s Body Condition Score

Whichever method you pick, you’ll have to use a scale or body condition scoring system to fine-tune the amount of food you offer.

Your veterinarian can help you decipher your dog’s body condition score (BCS) and determine an appropriate calorie amount.

In general, dogs who are at a healthy weight:

Have an “hourglass” figure when you look down on them from above. The abdomen should be narrower than the chest and hips.

Are “tucked up” when you look at them from the side. This means that their chest is closer to the ground than their belly when standing.

Have ribs that are not readily visible but are easily felt with only light pressure.

Keep a Record of Your Dog’s Weight Change

Check your dog’s weight every 2-4 weeks and keep a diary of your results. If your dog is inappropriately gaining or losing weight, adjust your portion sizes appropriately. Make sure to discuss these changes with your veterinarian so they can ensure that there are no underlying conditions.

Reassess the Portion Size if You Switch Foods

Every time you change dog food formulas, you will have to go through this entire process again, because the number of calories in the food will be different.

Always Talk With Your Veterinarian

Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health or diet. They can help you determine exactly how much food to offer based on the specifics of your dog’s case.

< img src="45674/dr_coates_sig.png">

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Featured Image:

Learn More:


< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="45674/jen and apollo2.jpg">


Jennifer Coates, DVM


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

Estrela Mountain Dog

The Estrela Mountain Dog, or Cão de Serra da Estrela, is an intelligent and independent dog from Portugal. Though playful and extremely loyal, it is not the ideal pet for first-time dog owners. The Estrela has tendency to bark and protect its territory fiercely, and will typically only obey a strong-willed person.

Physical Characteristics

The Estrela Mountain Dog is a fairly large dog (66-110 pounds, on average) with an athletic build. It comes in two coat types: short and long. The long-haired Estrela has a thick, slightly coarse outer coat that may be flat or slightly waved, and a dense undercoat which is typically light in color than the outer coat. The short-haired Estrela has a similar outer and undercoat, but it is comparably shorter.

The coloring of the coat is commonly fawn, wolf gray, and yellow, with or without brindling. There may also be white markings or shadings of black throughout the coat. Blue coloration is sometimes found but is considered undesirable. The Estrela has droopy ears and a long, bushy tail.

Personality and Temperament

The Estrela Mountain Dog is calm but will not hesitate to come to the defense of those it loves, making it an exceptional guard dog. Because of this it is also often distrusting of strangers and will require proper training and socialization as a puppy.

The Estrela Mountain Dog, though dominant, can get along well with other pets. However, it may take some time for it to get accustomed to another dog in the home.


The Estrela’s rough hair will not tangle easily, though it may mat behind the ears. Typically the coat requires just one deep brushing every week.

Due to its nature, the Estrela will tend to roam far if not placed in a large, fenced yard. Nevertheless, it can flourish in a smaller area (though ideally not an apartment) as long as it is taken out to exercise frequently.


The Estrela Mountain Dog, with an average lifespan of 12 to 16 years, is a hardy and healthy breed. However, as with many other large dogs, it has a tendency to suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia.

History and Background

Considered one of the oldest breeds in Portugal, the Estrela Mountain Dog has been protecting flocks of sheep for many centuries. A brave and intelligent dog, shepherds depended on their ability to identify and scare off wolves and other hungry predators. Eventually their skills were used to guard large estates by local aristocrats, and by the 19th century the number of Estrelas used by local shepherds had begun to fall. However, it was these new larger estate dogs that would eventually become the base for the modern breed of Estrelas.

The first Estrela was entered into the show ring in 1908, but because of the Portuguese peoples’ admiration of foreign breeds and their insistence on castrating the Estrelas to prevent them from leaving their flocks to mate, the number of Estrelas began to diminish.

From 1908 to 1919, special shows called concursos were held to promote and preserve the Estrela breed in the region. By 1933, the first official breed standard was established.

Prior to World War II, the Estrela breeders were still primarily the shepherds and farmers of the region. But by the early 1950s, interest in the breed returned, and the annual concursos were reinstated with the intent of stimulating interest among the Serra residents and to encourage them to adhere to the official standard.

Although the long-haired variety was most popular at shows during this period, these so-called “show dogs” represented only a small portion of the Estrela population in Portugal. Today the same holds true — many of the working Estrela dogs are short-haired.

The interest in Estrellas declined again in the early 1970s; there was even some concern about the degeneration and even possible extinction of the breed. However, the Portguese revolution of 1974 led to several changes in Portugal, including a resurgence in the use of native breeds in dog shows.

In 1972, the United Kingdom became the first country to establish the Estrela Mountain Dog outside of Portugal. It can now be found in several countries around the world.