Archive : September

Pododermatitis in Dogs

What Is Pododermatitis in Dogs?

Most dogs lick their paws, but when licking becomes excessive, problems can arise. Pododermatitis is a common condition in dogs that constantly lick or chew their paws. It starts with inflammation and can result in an infection of the skin, nails, nail folds, or foot pads.

Pododermatitis most commonly occurs between a dog’s toes. Pododermatitis is typically caused by a wide variety of conditions, rather than an actual disease itself. It can affect only one or all four paws  and can occur in any age, gender, or breed of dog.

While pododermatitis only affects the paws (podo means foot; dermatitis means infection or inflammation of the skin), it does often happen with other symptoms, such as itchy skin on the body and/or skin infections.

If left untreated, pododermatitis can become painful and lead to limping or lameness. If you suspect your dog might have pododermatitis, or if they are licking their paws excessively, contact your veterinarian to determine the cause and start a treatment plan.

Symptoms of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Licking, chewing on the pawReddening of the skin on the pawRed or brown stainingHair loss on pawSwollen pawPainful pawItchy pawLameness, limpingSwollen skin around the nailClear or opaque discharge, waxy or oily debris especially within the toe foldsLocalized swelling or small nodules, often between toesCan leak pus or bloody dischargeAbnormal odor from pawScar tissue formation

Breeds that are more impacted by pododermatitis include:

BoxersBulldogsBull TerriersGerman Shorthaired PointerGerman ShepherdsGolden RetrieversIrish Setters

Causes of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Pododermatitis has many possible causes, and more than one factor can contribute to it.

Allergies (atopic dermatitis, contact allergies, and food allergies) are the most common cause of pododermatitis in dogs. Allergies in dogs often cause them to have itchy paws, which leads to pododermatitis.Interdigital furunculosis occurs when there is a deep bacterial infection between a dog’s toes.Foreign bodies can also cause licking and irritated paws, leading to pododermatitis. Foxtail plants, parts of other plants, and grass seeds are common foreign bodies that embed themselves between a dog’s paws, leading to discomfort and infection.Trauma or insect bites on the paws can cause secondary bacterial and/or fungal infections from the excessive licking due to pain, discomfort, or itch your dog may feel. Trauma can also cause interdigital furunculosis, which in turn causes pododermatitis.InfectionsDemodex, also known as demodectic mange, is a skin parasite caused by overgrowth of mites on the skin. Mange causes itchiness and hair loss as well as red, scaly scab-like lesions on a dog’s skin and paws.Bacteria and Fungus/yeast: Malassezia is a common fungus and Staphylococcus is a common bacteria, both found normally on a dog’s skin/paws. When dogs lick their paws or they become itchy, the normal bacteria/yeast overpopulate and causes pododermatitis.Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin, hair, or claws in dogs that can lead to pododermatitis.Tumors of the skin such as histiocytomas, squamous cell carcinoma of the nail bed, and lymphoma can cause pododermatitis in dogs.Hypothyroidism and Hyperadrenocorticism/Cushing’s disease are both hormonal diseases that can involve pododermatitis, since they cause a dog’s immune system to be less functional.Autoimmune skin disease such as pemphigus foliaceus can cause pododermatitis, although this is uncommon in dogs.

There are certain factors that increase a dog’s risk of getting pododermatitis, such as:

Obesity, or large/giant breed dogs have an increased amount of weight put on their paws.Dog breeds with short, wiry hair around their feet. (Boxers, English Bulldogs, German Short-haired Pointers, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers are breeds prone to pododermatitis).Abnormal weight bearing on limb due to congenital defects, arthritis, or torn ligaments.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Pododermatitis in Dogs

Your veterinarian will take a complete medical history, as well as perform a physical exam to determine the extent of your dog’s condition. Pododermatitis itself can be diagnosed visually by looking for symptoms and lesions on your dog’s paws.

Your veterinarian will recommend the best skin diagnostic tests to help determine the underlying cause of pododermatitis to come up with the most effective treatment plan. If nodules are present on your dog’s feet, removing fluid from the center of the lesion can help with a diagnosis.

For more advanced chronic case, or those where a foreign body or tumor is suspected, a local or surgical biopsy and paw X-rays may be necessary. Blood tests will help diagnose any deficiencies in your dog’s hormones, such as thyroid hormone and cortisol levels.

Allergies are often diagnosed once the secondary infections have healed; it often takes longer to eliminate possible allergens from causing them. It’s important to inform your veterinarian about anything you have done (or seen) that might help them diagnose the cause of pododermatitis. Flea prevention status, use of topical therapies, new foods/treats, lifestyle, and environmental changes are things that will help your veterinarian determine the cause.

Treatment of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Once your veterinarian has determined the underlying cause of your dog’s pododermatitis, they can start them on a specific treatment plan. Small lesions that are not causing your dog discomfort, such as those involving one paw or between a few toes, might be treated at home with medicated wipes, mousse, and shampoos such as Duoxo ® S3 (wipes or shampoo) and Dechra ® products.

If your dog develops pain or the lesions on the paws become extensive or last more than a few days, contact your vet immediately. Antibiotics commonly used for skin infections include: Cephalexin, Cefpodoxime, and Convenia®.

Mange is treated differently, depending on the extent of the lesions. Topical creams and shampoos containing benzoyl peroxide are often used for small, localized lesions. Insect repellent and flea/tick prevention can also help with a demodex infection. Depending on the cause of your dog’s pododermatitis, anti-inflammatory or steroid medications might be prescribed as well.

Recovery and Management of Pododermatitis in Dogs

Depending on the cause of your dog’s pododermatitis, there may not be a cure. However, medical management to keep your dog pain-and-itch free is still possible. Most infectious causes of pododermatitis, such as those caused by bacteria, fungus, ringworm, and mange, can be cured with the right medications.

Hormonal causes can be successfully managed with medication to make up for the low volume of hormones produced by the body. The prognosis can be anywhere from good to guarded, depending on whether the underlying cause can be diagnosed and successfully treated.

Pododermatitis can be a very long and complicated process to diagnose and treat, and it can be quite frustrating to pet parents. Continued follow-up exams and diagnostics will help your vet get to the bottom of the issue as soon as possible, but it can take weeks to months.

You may be able to prevent pododermatitis. If you notice your dog licking right away, use a recovery collar and take them to the veterinarian for treatment of their underlying condition.

Pododermatitis in Dogs FAQs

How long does it take pododermatitis in dogs to heal?

Depending upon the underlying cause of pododermatitis, it can take days to weeks to months to heal. Some causes of pododermatitis can be cured and others can be managed with appropriate treatment.

Can pododermatitis in dogs go away on its own?

Pododermatitis requires medical attention and treatment to heal. If your dog has been licking and biting their paws with subsequent symptoms, contact your veterinarian.

Can dogs get pododermatitis from food allergies?

Yes, pododermatitis can be caused by food allergies in dogs. While licking and chewing the paws are common signs of food allergies in young to middle-aged dogs, this can also be from environmental allergies or other causes.

Featured Image:


Moriello M. Interdigital Furunculosis in Dogs. Merck Manual. October 2022.

Forsythe P. Canine Pododermatitis. World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 20215.

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="32918/MorrisonHeadshot.jpg">


Barri J. Morrison, DVM


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

Calcium Deposits in the Urinary Tract in Dogs

Urolithiasis, Calcium Oxalate in Dogs

Urolithiasis is described as the presence of stones (calcium deposits) in the urinary tract. The development of these stones is more common in dogs than in cats, and in older animals. In most cases the stones can be removed safely, giving the animal a positive prognosis.


The primary cause for the formation of stones is high levels of calcium in the urine. Some risk factors can include calcium supplements, excessive dietary protein or Vitamin D, high levels of steroids, Vitamin B6 deficient diets, and the consumption of dry food only diets.

While these stones can occur in any breed, several dog breeds comprise over 60% of all cases. These breeds include Miniature Schnauzers, Lhapso Apsos, Yorkshire Terriers, Bichon Frises, Shih Tzu’s and Miniature Poodles.

Symptoms and Types

Animals generally do not show signs of this issue, although trouble urinating is the most common symptom. If there is inflammation, an enlarged belly or the area surrounding the urinary region may be noticeable irritated. If the stones are large, they can sometimes be felt through the skin by a veterinarian.


X-rays and ultrasounds are performed to determine any additional underlying medical conditions causing the animal pain or trouble urinating. Also, blood work will be done to examine levels of nutrients to see if any are outside of the normal range.


One of the most common treatment options is the surgical removal of the stones. In some cases, shock waves can be used to help break up the stones. Also, depending on the size and severity of the stones, sometimes they can be flushed and massaged out of the animal’s system with a catheter and fluids.

Living and Management

It is important to reduce the animal’s activity levels following surgery. Possible complications from the formation of these stones are the blockage of the urinary tract and the animal’s inability to urinate. It is common for animals to re-form these calcium-based stones over time. Treatment on an ongoing basis will include the monitoring of calcium intake and the urinary patterns of the animal to observe if any problems develop.

If surgery was used to remove the stones, post-surgical X-rays are recommended to ensure that the stones were completely removed. Ongoing X-rays can also be helpful in frequent intervals and if the formation of these calcium stones is detected, non-surgical techniques can be used to remove or dissolve them.


The best prevention of recurrence is to monitor the animal’s calcium levels on an ongoing basis so that adjustments can be made in the diet to maintain normal calcium levels.

Intestinal Viral Infection (Rotavirus) in Dogs

Rotavirus Infections in Dogs

The double-stranded, wheel-shaped rotavirus causes inflammation of the intestines and in severe cases, dysfunction in the intestinal walls. It is the leading cause of diarrhea and gastrointestinal upset in dogs. And although it can be seen in dogs at any age, puppies are more prone to rotavirus infections, especially those less than 12 weeks old.

Cats are also susceptible to rotavirus infections. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

The primary symptom of a rotavirus infection is mild to moderate watery diarrhea. In severe cases, dogs may die from dehydration, extreme weight loss, and/or an unwillingness to eat. Dogs may also exhibit fatigue or lethargy.


The rotavirus is typically transmitted through contact with contaminated fecal matter. Dogs with underdeveloped or weak immune systems and those living in overly stressed environments are most at risk for the infection.


In dogs, your doctor will likely try to rule out other conditions before diagnosing rotavirus. Some causes for inflammation of the intestine may include parvovirus (a rash disease), coronavirus (a virus affecting the intestines), astrovirus (causes diarrhea), herpesvirus, distemper virus, and canine reovirus (also called kennel cough).

Lab tests to detect the virus may include laboratory examination of tissue samples, or microscopic exploration of feces. One such test is ELISA (or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay), a biochemical technique. Your veterinarian may also be able to identify the virus using a technique called virus isolation.

To formally diagnose rotavirus, a veterinarian will examine the intestinal villi (the small hairs lining the intestine) and other cells within the intestinal wall, using special instruments to detect the rotavirus and antibodies the virus may have produced.


Once the rotavirus is formally diagnosed, your veterinarian will begin treatment to ensure a prompt recovery. Treatment involves symptomatic relief to relieve the dog’s diarrhea and to help replace lost fluids and electrolytes. Your doctor will also advise temporary dietary restrictions to help alleviate some of your dog’s intestinal discomfort.

Antibiotics are generally not prescribed because they are only useful for bacterial, not viral infections.

Living and Management

Because rotaviruses are zoonotic, it is important that pet owners keep infected dogs away from young children, infants in particular. When handling the fecal matter of an infected animal, it is especially important to use precautions, such as wearing latex gloves and disinfecting the animal’s living area.

Humans living in developing countries are most at risk, often experiencing life-threatening diarrhea. Estimates suggest that in developing countries up to 500,000 children under age five die every year from rotavirus infections.


The best protection for a puppy is to consume the milk of an immune bitch, as they produce antibodies that may protect against the rotavirus.

Iris Cysts

Iridociliary Cysts in Dogs

Sometimes referred to as iris cysts or uveal cysts, iridociliary cysts are often benign and require no treatment. However, occasionally they may be large enough to interfere with vision or with the function of the eye.


Symptoms and Types

Iridiociliary cysts may be attached to various parts of the interior of the eye. They may be lightly or darkly pigmented and are semitransparent. They may be spherical to ovoid in shape. They can vary considerably in size and there may be more than one. They may be seen in one or both eyes.

In most cases, these cysts are an incidental finding. Only when they are large enough to impair vision or interfere with the normal functioning of the eye are they problematic. Glaucoma can be a complication associated with iridociliary cysts.



Cysts may be congenital or acquired.

Congenital cysts are caused by a developmental abnormality in the eye and affected dogs are born with the cysts.Acquired cysts may be the result of trauma to the eye or of uveitis (inflammation of the dark layers of the eye.) In many cases, the cause is never known.

There is a breed predilection in Boston terriers, golden retrievers and Labrador retrievers for iridociliary cysts. In golden retrievers, a syndrome of pigmentary uveitis and iridociliary cysts is seen. These cysts have also been associated with glaucoma in golden retrievers and in Great Danes.



Iridociliary cysts are diagnosed with an ocular examination.


In most cases, no treatment is necessary. If uveitis or glaucoma is present, these diseases will need to be treated appropriately. Laser coagulation can be used to remove particularly large cysts if necessary.

Excess Calcium in the Blood in Dogs

Hypercalcemia in Dogs

Behind the thyroid gland in the neck, there lie four parathyroid glands which secrete the hormone the body needs to regulate calcium and phosphorus. Parathyroid hormone and vitamin D interactions work to release calcium from the bones, gut, and kidneys for deposit into the bloodstream. When these interactions are disturbed, or when cancerous cells secrete hormones that interfere with calcium regulation, hypercalcemia can result. Hypercalcemia is characterized by an abnormally high amount of calcium in the blood. A dog is considered hypercalcemic when its total serum calcium is greater than 11.5 mg/dL.

Symptoms and Types

Increased urinationIncreased thirstLack of appetite (anorexia)VomitingDecreased gastrointestinal functionConstipationLack of energy/fatigue/lethargyConfusionDepressionEnlarged lymph nodes (swelling in neck)Bladder stonesHypertensionStupor and coma in severe cases


Abnormal or over functioning of the parathyroid gland (hyperparathyroidism)Cancer or tumorsBone deteriorating diseasesKidney failure – sudden or long-termUnder-functioning adrenal glandsVitamin D poisoning: from rodenticides, plants, or food (supplements included)Aluminum toxicity


Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam, with a blood chemistry profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. While a high serum is crucial to the diagnosis of hypercalcemia, the results of the other tests will help to indicate the origin of the hypercalcemia.

Radiograph and ultrasound imaging can also be used for diagnosing underlying conditions, such as kidney disease, bladder stones, or cancer. Fine needle aspirates (liquids) from the lymph nodes and bone marrow can be used for diagnoses of lymphoma, or cancer of the blood.


If your dog has been diagnosed with hypercalcemia, your veterinarian will very likely want to hospitalize it for fluid therapy. Once the primary disease is diagnosed, your dog will be given the appropriate medication(s). Your doctor will continue to check your dog’s serum calcium twice a day during its stay at the veterinary clinic, until calcium levels have returned to normal.

Living and Management


Your veterinarian will set up a schedule of follow-up appointments for your dog dependent on the underlying cause of the hypercalcemia.

Parson Jack Russell Terrier

The Parson Russell Terrier, also called the Jack Russell Terrier or Parson Jack Russell Terrier, was originally developed in England during the mid-1800s to assist hounds in fox hunting. This compact little dog ranges in height from 12-15 inches at the shoulder and typically weighs between 13-17 pounds. They are bred with a nearly inexhaustible energy and remarkable intelligence.

Caring for the Parson Jack Russell Terrier

When socialized around children early on, the highly energetic Parson Jack Russell Terrier is a good dog for an active family. And while this breed requires extensive exercise, the Jack Russell Terrier does not need a lot of grooming care due to their short coat.

Parson Jack Russell Health Issues

The Parson Russell Terrier is generally a healthy breed, but they are predisposed to a few health conditions.

Patellar Luxation

The patella (or “kneecap”) is a small bone that normally sits in a groove within the femur at the knee. In dogs with patellar luxation, the patella moves (or “luxates”) outside of its assigned groove when the knee is flexed. This inappropriate movement can cause discomfort and may lead to arthritis. 

Eye Conditions

The Parson Jack Russell Terrier is predisposed to several types of eye problems, including some that can cause blindness and pain if not treated quickly. If a pet is squinting, rubbing his eyes, has red eyes, or has discharge, they should be seen by a veterinarian right away.

Primary Lens Luxation: Primary lens luxation (PLL) is a hereditary condition seen in some lines of Parson Jack Russell Terriers. PLL occurs when the ligaments that hold the eye lens in place break down. This causes the lens to fall out of position, which can be painful and may lead to secondary glaucoma. Surgical removal may be recommended to control pain. Genetic testing for PLL is available.Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a painful condition that causes increased pressure within the eye. This can occur without an obvious cause (primary glaucoma) or due to a cause such as cataracts or lens luxation (secondary glaucoma). The most common signs of glaucoma are pain (squinting), discharge from the eye, lethargy, bulging eyes, or a cloudy/bluish color of the eye. If not treated quickly, blindness may occur.Cataracts: Cataracts are another common eye disease seen in Parson Russell Terriers. In most cases, the condition develops in older dogs as proteins and fibers in the lens of the eye break down, causing an opacity of the lens. This leads to blurred vision, which can progress to blindness. In most cases, this is an inherited condition, but cataracts can also be seen with diabetes mellitus or injuries to the lens.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in dogs as they age, especially in small breeds like the Parson Russell Terrier. Bacterial tartar and plaque lead to inflammation of the tissues around the teeth and eventually to tooth and bone decay. The best way to prevent dental disease is with daily tooth brushing using a dog-specific toothpaste.

Routine dental cleanings are recommended for your Jack Russell Terrier to evaluate the mouth, remove plaque and tartar, polish teeth to prevent future build up, and treat or extract teeth that are significantly unhealthy.

Pulmonic Stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital disorder found in Parson Jack Russell Terriers. A heart murmur is almost always present with pulmonic stenosis. This heart defect occurs when there is an abnormal valve between the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery that causes an obstruction of blood flow from the heart to the lungs.

What To Feed a Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Feeding an Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)-compliant commercial kibble or wet food is a good way to make sure that the Parson Russell Terrier receives a complete and balanced diet. 

Parson Jack Russell Terrier puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for puppies or designated for “all life stages.” For adults, dental-focused diets may be recommended by your veterinarian to help prevent dental disease. A light or diet meal may be recommended for a heavier dog to maintain a healthy body condition and weight.

How To Feed a Parson Jack Russell Terrier

The Parson Jack Russell Terrier is a highly energetic breed, but care needs to be taken to ensure that they don’t become overweight. Weight concerns can be addressed by feeding two to three small, measured meals per day. Some terriers may require a light or diet food. Consult your veterinarian on the best way to feed your Jack Russell.

How Much Should You Feed a Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Just like humans, the recommended caloric intake required varies between individuals due to differences in physical size, metabolism, neuter status, and activity level. The best way to determine the feeding quantity is to talk with your veterinarian, who can calculate caloric needs for the individual. Additionally, the feeding guide labels on your dog food provides valuable information.

Nutritional Tips for the Parson Jack Russell Terrier

Jack Russel Terriers may benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids into their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and even in some specially formulated dog foods. These fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories that help to support your dog’s skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart.

Behavior and Training Tips for Parson Russell Terriers

Parson Jack Russell Terrier Personality and Temperament

The Jack Russell Terrier has almost as much personality as he has energy. This can present as a playful and clever dog who has a stubborn streak during training. They may be excessive barkers if their energy is not expended regularly, and they may also dig in the yard if not stimulated and exercised. 

Some Jack Russell Terriers have a high prey drive, which could make them difficult to walk for a child or unsteady adult because they may bolt at the sight of smaller animals in the neighborhood, including cats. No matter what dog breed you have, it’s always important to microchip your pet in case they wander off.

Parson Jack Russell Terrier Behavior

The high-energy Jack Russell Terrier needs to expend a lot of energy—or he may become an excessive barker or digger. Pent-up energy can also present as anxiety. With appropriate socialization and training, the Jack Russell is a confident and entertaining pet. But because of their hunting roots, some Jack Russells also have a high prey drive and love to give chase.

Parson Jack Russell Terrier Training

Jack Russell Terriers should begin obedience training and socialization at an early age, and they should be exposed to children and other dogs in a supervised setting early as well. As such an intelligent breed, they may get bored with standard training. Positive reinforcement and training games will help keep them interested. 

In addition to training, sports and exercise will help with behavioral concerns by keeping their minds active and their bodies tired. Some can be stubborn in training, so pet parents need to have patience.

Fun Activities for Jack Russell Terriers



Obedience training


Nose work

Parson Jack Russell Terrier Grooming Guide

While Jack Russel Terriers have three coat types—smooth, rough, and broken—they have minimal grooming needs and are mild to moderate shedders.

Skin Care

The Parson Jack Russell Terrier should be bathed every two to four weeks with a gentle, dog-specific shampoo.

Coat Care

Weekly brushing with a soft brush will help prevent excessive shedding.  A stripping comb can be used to remove dead hair if your Parson Jack Russell has a rough coat.

Eye Care

No special eye-related grooming care is necessary for this breed. However, if squinting or ocular discharge is noted, contact your veterinarian. These can be signs of more serious eye conditions.

Ear Care

Cleaning the ears every two weeks for maintenance helps to prevent ear infections.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The Parson Russell Terrier makes an extraordinary pet when given proper care, exercise, and early socialization. Due to their high energy levels, they need a lot of exercise. If their energy is not expended, you’ll be dealing with excessive barking, digging, or anxiety.

Additionally, Parson Russell Terriers should be extensively socialized around other dogs and children, ideally at an early age. Due to their history as a hunting breed, some individuals may have a high prey drive. They have minimal grooming needs and are generally healthy.

Parson Jack Russel Terrier FAQs

Is a Parson Jack Russell Terrier a good family dog?

The Parson Jack Russell Terrier is a wonderful pet for the active family when socialized early in life to other dogs and children. Children should be taught how to handle and behave around dogs. The Parson Jack Russel Terrier’s high energy means exercise is a requirement for a well-behaved dog.

Are Parson Jack Russell Terriers smart dogs?

The Parson Jack Russell Terrier is an intelligent breed. Positive reinforcement training is very effective, although some individuals can be stubborn.

Is a Parson Jack Russell a good dog for kids?

The Jack Russell can be a good dog around children if socialized around them at an early age. But remember that every dog is an individual, and individual temperaments should be taken into account. The child should also be instructed on how to properly handle dogs and how to behave around them. Children should always be supervised around dogs, no matter the breed. 

What does the name “Jack Russell Terrier” mean?

The name “Jack Russell” is named after Reverend John Russell, who bred some of the earliest terriers in this line for fox hunting. Their hunting job was to bring the fox out of its hole with their sharp bark.

What’s the difference between Jack Russell Terriers, Parson Russell Terriers, and Russell Terriers?

Though you might hear three different names, there are only two distinct dog breeds. The Jack Russell Terrier and the Parson Russell Terrier are the same breed—the dogs were first called Jack Russells, but the name was changed by the American Kennel Club to Parson Russell Terrier. Despite this, it’s still common for Parsons to be called Jack Russell Terriers or Parson Jack Russell Terriers.

The Russell Terrier is a related breed that broke off from the line and became its own dog. Though the dogs look nearly identical, the Russell Terrier is slightly smaller than the Parson and has shorter legs.

Featured Image: iStock/Maksym Belchenko

< img src=";base64,R0lGODlhAQABAIAAAAAAAP///yH5BAEAAAAALAAAAAABAAEAAAIBRAA7">< img src="84004/Virginia_LaMon_DVM.jpg">


Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn…

Seizures in Dogs

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

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

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

Seizures vs. Tremors vs. Shivering

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

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

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

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

Types of Dog Seizures

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

Generalized Seizures

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

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

Ictal phase: This is the seizure itself.

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

They are completely unaware of their surroundings.

They fall over and become stiff.

They paddle their limbs.

They may urinate or defecate.

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

Generalized tonic seizures (stiffness without paddling)

Generalized clonic seizures (paddling without stiffness)

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

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

Partial Seizures

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

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

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

What Causes Seizures in Dogs?

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

Infection or inflammation of the brain

Cancer affecting the brain

Head trauma

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)

Liver disease

Hypocalcemia (low blood calcium levels)

Kidney failure

Low blood oxygen levels

Lead toxicity

Organophosphate toxicity

Antifreeze poisoning

Hydrocephalus (buildup of fluids in brain cavities)


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

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

Are Certain Dog Breeds More at Risk for Seizures?

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


Basset Hounds


German Shepherds

Border Collies

Australian Shepherds


Belgian Tervurens


Bernese Mountain Dogs

Irish Setters

Saint Bernards


Wire Fox Terriers

Cocker Spaniels

Labrador Retrievers

Golden Retrievers

What To Do When a Dog Has a Seizure

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

A seizure that lasts longer than 5-10 minutes

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

More than two seizures in 24 hours

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

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

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

How Vets Find the Cause of Your Dog’s Seizures

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

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

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

Treatments for Dogs With Seizures

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

Seizures more frequently than every 4-6 weeks

Seizures that last longer than 5 minutes or so

Seizures that cluster together

Required hospitalization for seizures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


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

Lung Lobe Twisting in Dogs

Lung Lobe Torsion in Dogs

Torsion, or twisting, of the lung lobe results in the obstruction of the dog’s bronchus and vessels, including the veins and arteries. The obstruction of the blood vessels causes the lung lobe to engorge with blood, which results in necrosis and death of the affected lung tissue. This may lead to many complications, including coughing up blood, tachycardia, or shock.

Male dogs are at a higher risk of lung lobe torsion than females, as are large, deep-chested. However, small dogs such as pugs (especially those younger than four) are also at risk, most often with the spontaneous form of lung lobe torsion.

Symptoms and Types

Pain Fever Lethargy Loss of appetite (anorexia) Coughing (sometimes with blood) Difficulty breathing, especially while lying flat (orthopenea) Increased respiration rate Coughing up blood Increased heart rate Pale or bluish mucous membranes (cyanosis) Shock


Lung lobe torsion is inconsistently found with pre-existing conditions such as trauma, neoplasia, and chylothorax. However it also occurs spontaneously, due to a thoracic or diaphragmatic surgery, or, on occasion, due to an unknown cause (idiopathic).


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC). These tests may reveal valuable information for initial diagnosis and may show signs of infection, anemia. It will also reveal the level of immune response of your dog. If the number of white blood cells is abnormally lower than the minimum normal range, the prognosis is very poor.

Your dog’s veterinarian may decide to take a small sample of the accumulated fluid for further evaluation, while ultrasound, computed tomography, and radiographic studies often reveal more details about the problem. Loss of normal architecture and blood vessels, along with opacification of the affected lung are usually seen in an X-ray.

In some cases, surgery is required for definitive diagnosis and treatment.


Your dog may need to be hospitalized for intensive care and treatment, especially if surgery is required, which is often the treatment of choice to remove the affected lobe and correct other abnormalities. If abnormal fluid or blood is present, your veterinarian will place a chest tube to allow for drainage. If your dog is not able to breathe normally, ventilator support is given to assist in breathing. Oxygen therapy, fluids, and antibiotics are also typically added to treatment protocol. And if the dog survives, shrinking and fibrosis of the affected lobe will be seen.

Living and Management

After surgery, your dog may feel sore and need pain killers, as well as cage rest, for a few days. However, most animals recover fully after a successful operation. The chest tube is often kept in for a few days to allow drainage of fluid. Your veterinarian will describe the proper handling of this tube. If you see any untoward symptoms, including breathing problems, immediately call your dog’s veterinarian. Otherwise, follow his or her instructions and bring the dog in for regular examinations.

Racoon Disease in Dogs

Baylisascariasis in Dogs

Most commonly called “raccoon disease” because of its prevalence in the raccoon population, baylisascariasis comes from contact with raccoon feces, and from ingesting animal tissue that is infected with the Baylisascaris procyonis parasite.

Commonly referred to as roundworm, the B. procyonis larvae is found in a large part of the animal population, including humans — making this a zoonotic disease, which means that it can be spread from an infected animal to other animal species, which includes humans. Raccoons are the optimal carriers of this worm, since the health of the raccoon is not adversely affected, making it the ideal host and disseminator of the parasite. The B. procyonis larvae is typically spread through the fecal material into the environment. Any contact with the feces, or with soil that has been used by an infected raccoon, may lead to systemic infection. Therefore, it is essential to practice methods of avoidance and caution in areas where raccoons are prevalent.

Intermediate carriers are birds, rabbits and rodents, amongst other animals. The larva is known to migrate to the brain, where it affects the nervous system. In this weakened state, the small animal becomes an easy catch, and the larva is ingested when the predator animal (i.e., a dog) ingests tissue from the infected animal. This is another way in which the worm is disseminated to other animals.

This disease is known to occur throughout the United States, with reported outbreaks in zoos and on farms. However, an outbreak can occur wherever animals are kept together in large groups.

While this infection can often be treated in adult dogs, it is almost always fatal for puppies. In addition, because the worm sometimes attacks the brain and nervous system, this infection may be mistaken for rabies. If rabies is suspected, you may wish to ask your veterinarian to test for the presence of the B. procyonis.

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.

Symptoms and Types

Two types of baylisascariasis have been reported in dogs: intestinal infection and visceral disease. The development of the roundworm begins with ingestion of the roundworm eggs. They then migrate to the intestines, where they further develop before their final migration into the viscera (the organs that occupy the abdominal cavities), the nervous system, or the eye. These types of infections are referred to, respectively, as larval migrans; visceral larval migrans (VLM); neural larval migrans (NLM); and ocular larval migrans (OLM).

The intestinal form is most commonly found in adult dogs, while infection of internal organs, particularly the brain and spinal cord (visceral disease) is more common in puppies. Often, there are not any outward symptoms associated with early onset of the disease, but occasionally dogs will show signs of neurological disease due to the worm attacking the nervous system. Signs of neurological disease (NLM) include:

Unsteady walking/loss of coordination or muscle control (ataxia)Difficulty eating/swallowing (dysphagia)Lethargy, lying down excessively (recumbency)CirclingSeizureConfusion, lack of attention

Infection of the viscera (VLM) may present symptoms of liver and/or lung disease, while infection of the eye (OLM) may not be apparent until your dog has lost the use of its vision.


The most common method of acquiring the infection originates from sharing an area with infected raccoons. A dog can become infected with the disease from coming into contact with raccoon feces, from ingestion of B. procyonis eggs, which may remain viable in the soil long after the raccoon feces has disintegrated or been removed, from ingestion of animal tissue that is infected with the roundworm (e.g., rabbits, birds, etc.), or from close contact with other infected animals.


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, including a background history of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected. Knowing the path the parasite has taken is essential for treating the infection appropriately.

The intestinal form of baylisascariasis is found by examining the dog’s feces, while the larval form may be found in association with other diseases such as rabies, canine distemper, and congenital neurological defects. A direct fecal smear test will detect the intestinal form of the disease, while the larval form can usually be found through an eye (ophthalmoscopic) examination, or by a laboratory examination of a tissue sample.


If your dog tests positive for this parasite, there are several medications that can be administered.

For the intestinal form:

Pyrantel PamoateFebantelPraziquantelIvermectinMibemycin Oxime

For the larval form:

CorticosteriodsLong-term albendazole

Living and Management

A follow-up visit is recommended two weeks after the initial treatment, in order to analyze the feces for worms, and then again after a month to check for the intestinal form of the disease. This is a zoonotic disease, so it is transmissible to humans and other animals, with children being at the highest risk of acquiring the infection and of suffering the worst effects. Accidental ingestion of roundworm eggs can cause serious disease in humans. Ingestion may occur as a result of playing in sand that has been used by raccoons or other infected animals, from contact with soil that is infected with the eggs, or from contact with infected feces (during the course of cleaning it up). It is essential to be especially cautious until you have been assured that your dog has entirely recovered from the infection and is no longer shedding the eggs through its feces. Disposable gloves should be worn when handling your dog’s waste materials, and hygiene regarding the hands and nails will need to be a priority if you live in an area that is occupied by raccoons.

The location where your dog contracted the roundworm should be well observed and monitored, and neighbors should be notified of the risk to their own pets.


The most important preventative step is to keep pets away from areas with raccoons and to prevent pets from ingesting animal tissue. Other steps that can be taken to protect your family and pet from this parasite are to keep sand boxes covered, check your property for raccoon droppings and deceased animals, and make sure that your dog or puppy has been dewormed.

Skin and Eye Inflammation Due to Autoimmune Disorder (Uveodermatologic Syndrome) in Dogs

Uveodermatologic Syndrome in Dogs

Your dog’s immune system produces chemicals called antibodies to protect its body against harmful substances and organisms such as viruses, bacteria, etc. An autoimmune disorder is a condition in which the immune system cannot tell the difference between harmful antigens and its own healthy body tissues, leading it to destroy the healthy body tissues. Uveodermatologic syndrome is one such autoimmune disorder known to affect dogs.

Some breeds are at an increased risk of developing this disorder, including Akitas, Samoyeds, and Siberian huskies. However, dogs of all ages are at risk.

Symptoms and Types

Inflammation of the interior of the eye (uvea) Loss of skin pigmentation (leukoderma) in the nose, lips, eyelids, footpads, scrotum, anus, and hard palate


Underlying autoimmune disorder


After recording a complete history, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical and ophthalmological exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Standard laboratory work will include a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. The results of these tests are often found normal in animals with this disorder.

Your veterinarian will also take skin tissue samples to be sent to laboratory for evaluation. The veterinary pathologist will examine the tissue sample microscopically to distinguish any changes that are characteristic of this condition.


Immediate therapy is of utmost importance in order to prevent permanent damage to the eyes. If treatment is not started in time, your dog may develop complications and may even become permanently blind.

The main objective of the treatment is to suppress the abnormal immune response that is taking place against the healthy body tissues, in this case the eyes and skin. Based on the final findings, the appropriate injections and eye drops will be prescribed for your dog.

Because suppressing the immune system can lead to its own complications, you will need to go over the details of this approach with your veterinarian. There are important steps that need to be taken to protect your dog from acquiring serious infections while it is undergoing immune system therapy.

Living and Management

During the initial course of treatment, you may need to visit your veterinarian twice every week. During each visit your veterinarian will conduct laboratory testing and eye examinations to monitor your dog’s progress and adjust medications as needed. Drug doses need to be adjusted regularly to prevent some of the complications that are often related to immunosuppressive therapy.

Finally, you will need to monitor your dog’s overall health and report anything of concern to your veterinarian so that it can be resolved quickly, before it becomes a possibly life-threatening issue.