Archive : January

Are Heartworms Contagious in Dogs?

Heartworm disease is not a new problem for dogs and cats, but it certainly has lots of myths and misunderstandings that surround it. These are a few of the major questions: “Can humans get heartworms from dogs? Are heartworms contagious to other dogs?”

This article will help clarify how heartworms are contracted, whether heartworms are contagious to other dogs or people, and how they can be prevented.

How Do Dogs Get Heartworms?

Let’s say a dog is infected with mature heartworms. These mature heartworms produce “baby” heartworms called microfilariae. The heartworm life cycle starts when a mosquito bites the infected dog and picks up the microfilariae as it feeds on the infected dog’s blood.

The microfilariae go through several larval stages in the mosquito, until they are “infective” or “L3” stage larvae. When the mosquito bites another dog, it transfers the L3 larvae to the new dog.

Once in the new dog, these L3 larvae become L4 larvae. The length of this stage can vary but it’s roughly 45 to 60 days. Only L3 and L4 larvae are killed by heartworm preventatives. This is why it’s so important to give the medication on time as prescribed.

The heartworms are now mature adult worms and have been present in your dog for 60 days. If the vet gave your dog a heartworm test, it would still come up negative. It takes an additional 120 days for the heartworm to show up on a standard heartworm test run at your veterinarian’s office.

During this period, any doses of heartworm prevention you administer will not be effective in killing the worms.

Are Heartworms Contagious to Other Dogs or People?

Since the mosquito is needed to carry the microfilariae, heartworm disease is not contagious from one dog to another dog. People also cannot get heartworms from dogs.

Dogs and humans can only get heartworms from infected mosquitos. That said, the likelihood of coming across a positive mosquito increases dramatically with just one heartworm-positive dog in the area.

How to Prevent Heartworm Disease in Dogs 

All heartworm preventatives have the ability to kill L3 and L4 larvae in dogs. There are many different formulations available, so you should ask your vet which one is best for your dog.

The most important part of any heartworm preventative medication is that you give it as prescribed. Heartworm resistance to our preventative medications is a growing problem, and it’s caused by pet parents not being consistent with their dog’s heartworm medication. The unintended result has been exposing adult worms to doses of medication that cannot kill them.

And if your dog does get heartworm disease, once they show symptoms, it’s already in a more advanced stage. For dogs, heartworm treatment is costly and involves several months of confinement and activity restriction, three painful injections, and the potential for long-term effects. The clear choice when it comes to your pet’s best interest is preventing heartworms to begin with.

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Laura Dayton, DVM


Dr. Laura Dayton is a small animal practitioner in Charlotte, NC. She graduated in 2010 from the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine….

Eye Injuries in Dogs

Corneal and Scleral Lacerations in Dogs

The cornea is the transparent outer layer at the front (anterior) of the eye. The sclera, the white of the eye, is composed of a tough covering that protects the eyeball. In medical terms, a penetrating injury is a wound, or foreign object that enters the eye but does not completely pass through the cornea or sclera. A perforating injury, on the other hand, is a wound or foreign body that completely passes through the cornea or the sclera. Needless to say, the latter is a greater risk to vision.

In medical terms, a simple injury involves only the cornea or sclera and may be penetrating or perforating. Other eye structures are not injured in a simple injury. A complicated injury perforates the eye and involves other eye structures in addition to the cornea or sclera. In fact, it can affect one or all parts of the eye. The entire middle layer of the eyeball that contains the blood vessels, and which is composed of the iris, the area between the iris, and the choroid — the layer between the sclera and the retina — can be injured by a complicated perforating injury. There may also be trauma to the lens, which will lead to cataracts or lacerations to the eyelid.

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

Symptoms of an injury to the eyeball may be represented by the suddenness of the symptoms (e.g., pawing at the eye, blinking rapidly, swollen, inflamed); blood in the eye, or a blood filled mass (subconjunctival hematoma), left from a sealed laceration; a foreign object in the eye that can be visually detected; the pupil is distorted, either reacting abnormally or shaped differently; the front clear covering of the eyeball, the cornea, is clouded (cataract); or, the eye is protruding. Any of these symptoms may be indicative of an injury to the eye.


The causes for an injury to the eye are all around, but some of the most common occurrences that lead to an injury follow:

When your dog has been running through heavy vegetationGunshot, fireworks, or other rapid projectiles in the vicinity of your dogPre-existing visual impairment or deformity in the structure of the eyeYoung, naïve, or highly excitable dogs that have not learned cautionFights with other animals; most notably, cats will scratch at the faces of dogs


If your veterinarian finds a foreign object in the eye, appropriate treatment will be determined. The nature, force, and the direction of the object’s impact will help to identify which tissues may be involved. The visual response to a menace (i.e, blinking in response to an object being brought close to the eye), as well as aversion to bright light, will be assessed. The pupils will be examined for size, shape, symmetry, and light reflexes. If a foreign object is not found, your veterinarian will consider an ulcer of the cornea, or some other naturally occurring cause that is affecting the eye, before looking into trauma to the deeper parts of the eye.


The course of treatment will depend on the severity of the injury and the part of the eye that was injured. If the wound is nonperforating and has no wound edge or opening, an Elizabethan collar for preventing the dog from scratching at the eye is often prescribed, along with antibiotic or atropine eye solutions. Nonperforating wounds that have a mild break in the tissue, or a pinpoint wound perforation, may be treated with a soft contact lens, an Elizabethan collar, and antibiotic or atropine solutions.

Injuries requiring surgical exploration or repair are as follows:

Full-thickness corneal lacerationsFull-thickness wounds with iris involvementFull-thickness scleral or corneoscleral lacerationsRetained foreign object or a posterior scleral (white of the eye) ruptureSimple nonperforating wound with edges that are moderately or overtly broken, and that are long, or more than two-thirds the corneal thickness

Your veterinarian will prescribe medications that are suitable to the seriousness of the wound. Antibiotics are usually prescribed, as well as anti-inflammatory medications and analgesics for pain.

Living and Management

Deep or wide penetrating wounds that have not been sutured need to be rechecked every 24 to 48 hours for the first several days. If the penetrating wound is superficial, rechecking every three to five days until it is healed is advised.

As to prevention, take care when introducing new puppies to households with cats. Discourage your dog from running through dense vegetation. Minimize a visually impaired or blind dog’s exposure to dense vegetation. If you are in an area that carries the risk of having debris transmitted to the eyes, like wooded areas, beaches, etc., it would be a good idea to have a bottle of saline eyewash to irrigate foreign debris from the eye.

Most eyes with corneal lacerations or a retained foreign object in the cornea are salvageable. The further back the injury, the poorer the prognosis for retention of vision. Cases that would warrant a poor prognoses, for example, would be an injury to the white, outer membrane of the eyeball, the sclera, or to the fluid part, the vascular layer of the eyeball; if there is no light perception; a perforated injury involving the lens; a significant hemorrhage in the vitreous, the clear gel that fills the space between the lens and the retina of the eyeball; or, retinal detachment. Penetrating injuries usually have a better prognosis then perforating injuries, and blunt traumas carry a poorer prognosis than sharp traumas.

Blood in the Front of the Eye in Dogs

Hyphema in Dogs

Hyphema, or blood in the anterior chamber of the eye, is a common condition among dogs. However, hyphema is a clinical sign and not a specific disease.

Symptoms and Types

The symptoms of hyphema are dependent on the extent of bleeding, whether vision has been impaired, and whether your dog has other, underlying systemic diseases.

Common signs that are observed during a physical examination are:

Blood within the anterior chamber of the eyeCorneal edema or corneal lesionsElevated intraocular pressure (IOP)


The most common causes of hyphema are:

Injury or trauma to the eye or headSevere retinal detachmentHypertension, hyperthyroidism, systemic deficienciesInfection by parasitesBleeding vessels – vasculitis, uveitis, uveal neoplasia, and lymphoma particularlyOcular defects – retinal dysplasia, collie eye anomaly, glaucoma, etc.

Hyphema can also be indicative of various ocular (eye) and systemic deficiencies, some of which may be life threatening. Therefore, its diagnosis and proper treatment is very important.


Hyphema is diagnosed through hematology and blood biochemistry tests, lab tests, and diagnostic imaging using X-rays and ultrasound tests.

A complete medical history will be taken and a thorough physical examination done to include or exclude possible causes for the condition.

Common diagnostic tests and procedures include:

Complete blood count with platelet countSerum biochemistry to measure serum levels in proteinCoagulopathy tests to assess blood coagulation functionsBlood pressureUrinalysis to exclude kidney diseasesChest and abdominal X-raysOcular ultrasounds (ultrasonography) to investigate the anterior portion of the eye and include/exclude possibilities of retinal detachment, lens displacement, abnormal masses, and vitreal hemorrhage.

Other advanced tests that may be performed include abdominal ultrasounds, X-rays of the head and eye orbit to detect hitherto unknown traumatic injuries, and hormonal tests (assays) of the adrenal glands. To detect bone marrow cancer, a bone marrow aspirate – the liquid found within the bone marrow – may also be done.


The objectives of hyphema treatment involve containing the inflammation and removing the underlying causes which contribute to the bleeding in the anterior chamber of the eye.

The common approaches to treatment are:

The use of corticosteroids as eye drops or ointment to cure inflammation arising out of the bleedingAtropine eye drops to dilate the pupil and minimize sticking between the lens and the irisInitiation of appropriate treatment for ocular deficiencies like retinal abnormalities (i.e., dysplasia), collie eye anomaly, glaucoma, etc.

Surgery may also be necessary for the correction of traumatic injuries and lesions.

Your dog’s activity will need to be restricted if the problem has been caused by a clotting disorder. A clot in a vein or artery can quickly become fatal when vigorous movement encourages the clot to travel to the heart. In cases of clotting, your dog will need to be treated specifically for dissolving the clot. In addition, if hyphema has significantly damaged your dog’s vision, it should not be allowed to go outside without supervision. Regular monitoring of the fluid pressure within the eye is also very important – daily checks for severe diseases, and in less severe cases, every two to three days until the condition has cleared up. To prevent your dog from inflicting further injury or irritation to the eye by scratching at it, you may want to ask your veterinarian for an Elizabethan collar – a wide collar that fits around the neck, preventing the dog from being able to reach its face with its paws.

Unless the ocular structures have suffered irreversible damage, the prognosis is usually good in case of traumas. In case of retinal detachments, secondary glaucoma will eventually develop, and surgical intervention may be necessary for relief of pain.

See Also

Heart Disease in Dogs

What Is Heart Disease in Dogs?

Lots of dogs get heart disease, particularly as they get older. The heart’s primary responsibility is to pump blood throughout the body, and when something goes wrong with such a vital organ the consequences can be serious.

Learning about the common types of heart disease in dogs can help you identify when a problem might be brewing. Dogs with signs of heart disease need to be seen by a veterinarian so they can get the care they need early on when options can work best, and they may need long-term evaluations by a veterinary cardiologist.

Most Common Heart Diseases in Dogs

Here are some of the most common types of heart disease in dogs:

Heart Valve Disease–The heart has four valves that keep blood moving in the right direction. When a dog is born with a faulty valve or a valve becomes diseased or damaged, blood flow through the heart becomes turbulent (less smooth). This causes a heart murmur and can eventually lead to congestive heart failure as blood flow becomes less efficient. Myxomatous mitral valve degeneration (MMVD) is the most common type of heart valve disease in dogs, and tends to affect older, small-breed dogs.

Myocardial (Heart Muscle) Disease—The heart is made mostly of muscle. If that muscle degenerates and thins, the heart becomes less able to pump blood. This is called dilated cardiomyopathy, or DCM. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM,­­ is another type of heart disease that develops when the heart muscle becomes too thick, preventing normal amounts of blood from filling the heart chamber.

Heartworm Disease—Heartworms are spread through the bites of infected mosquitos. Adult heartworms live in the lung’s larger blood vessels and in a dog’s heart. They cause a lot of inflammation and damage and can block the flow of blood from the heart into the lungs.

Arrhythmias—A heart rhythm that is too slow, too fast, or irregular can make it hard for the heart to pump blood to the lungs and rest of the body.

Shunts—Shunts are abnormal vessels or holes in and around the heart that prevent blood from circulating normally. Most cardiac shunts in dogs—such as patent ductus arteriosus and ventricular septal defect—are congenital (present at birth).

Stenosis—Puppies can be born with a narrowed area around their heart valves, making it hard for blood to pass through. Pulmonic stenosis and subaortic stenosis are the most common forms in dogs.

Pericardial Disease—The pericardium is the sac that surrounds the heart. The heart can’t beat effectively if the pericardium becomes stiff or if the area between the pericardium and the heart fills with fluid (usually blood) or air.

Congestive Heart Failure, or CHF—A consequence of many types of heart disease, congestive heart failure develops when the heart can no longer pump blood well enough to meet the needs of the body. Fluid may leak out of blood vessels and collect in or around the lungs, in the abdomen, or within other tissues.

Symptoms of Heart Disease in Dogs

Different types of heart disease can lead to different symptoms, but most dogs have some combination of the following signs of heart disease:


Difficulty breathing

Becoming tired easily


Weight loss


Blue-tinged or gray gums

Abnormal swellings (legs or belly, for example)

Difficulty sleeping



These signs can also be caused by other types of health problems, such as diseases affecting the lungs, so it’s important to get your dog to the veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible.

Causes of Heart Disease in Dogs

Heart disease in dogs is either congenital (present at birth) or acquired (occurs later in life). Symptoms of congenital heart disease usually develop in puppies or young adult dogs, and often genetics plays a big role in determining which dogs are affected.

Signs of acquired heart disease may not be obvious until a dog is middle-aged or older, even though genetics and a dog’s breed are still important determinative factors. Dogs that are overweight may be at higher risk for developing more severe symptoms of heart disease.

Nutrition plays a role in some forms of heart disease. For example, dogs that are fed diets deficient in the amino acid taurine are at an increased risk of developing dilated cardiomyopathy. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, appear to have a higher requirement for taurine in their diet.

Recently, a form of dilated cardiomyopathy has been associated with certain types of dog food (boutique, exotic, and grain-free), but taurine deficiency doesn’t appear to be to blame and a cause has not been identified.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Heart Disease in Dogs

The first step in diagnosing heart disease in dogs is a complete physical examination. The veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to your dog’s heart and lungs to check for abnormal rhythms and sounds like heart murmurs or crackles (evidence of fluid in the lungs).

Your vet will also feel your dog’s pulse and check for fluid buildup in the abdomen and other tissues. Be prepared to answer questions about your dog’s health history and the symptoms you have been seeing at home. A veterinary cardiologist may also be consulted.

Diagnostic testing for heart disease is usually needed. This may include:

Chest X-rays to look at the heart’s shape and size and to evaluate the lungs and other structures in the chest

Electrocardiogram (ECG) to identify heart rhythm abnormalities

Echocardiogram (an ultrasound exam) to watch how blood flows through the heart and to evaluate heart valves and muscle

Heartworm tests

Blood pressure measurement

Other lab work and diagnostic testing may be necessary, based on the specifics of the dog’s case.

Treatment of Heart Disease in Dogs

Many treatments are available for heart disease in dogs. Whenever possible, treatment is directed at the underlying cause. Sometimes a heart disease can be cured and a dog’s symptoms may disappear. For example:

Adult heartworms can be eliminated with injections of melarsomine, a derivative of arsenic.

Some types of arrhythmias can be managed with a pacemaker or with surgical interventions.

Surgery may also be an option to correct a cardiac shunt, stenosis, or some types of valvular or pericardial disease.

More commonly, heart disease in dogs is managed with medications that can:

Help the heart to pump more efficiently (enalapril and pimobendan, for example)

Aid in the elimination of excess fluid from the body (furosemide or spironolactone, for example)

Normalize heart rhythm (atenolol, sotalol, propranolol, amiodarone, diltiazem, and digoxin, for example)

Your veterinarian may also recommend modifying your dog’s diet. Weight loss or nutritional supplements (taurine, for example) can help some dogs with heart disease.

Feeding a diet that is low in salt may help reduce fluid retention if a dog has congestive heart failure. Your veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet like Hill’s® Prescription Diet h/d Heart Care or Purina® Pro Plan Veterinary Diets CC Cardiocare. Many dogs who developed dilated cardiomyopathy while eating a boutique diet have returned to normal after being switched to more traditional dog foods.

Recovery and Management of Heart Disease in Dogs

When heart disease is caught early and treated appropriately, dogs often live happily for many more years.

However, severe cases of heart disease or those that have progressed to congestive heart failure bring with them a more guarded prognosis. There usually comes a time when available treatment options can no longer maintain a dog’s quality of life.

Heart Disease in Dogs FAQs

Are dogs with heart disease in pain?

Heart disease usually does not cause pain, but it can cause other types of suffering like difficulty breathing, constant coughing, and extreme weakness. Veterinary treatment can make dogs with heart disease feel much better.

What is the most common type of heart disease in dogs?

Small-breed dogs often develop leaky heart valves as they get older. Large-breed dogs are more likely to have problems with heart muscle functioning.

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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…

Lymphoma in Dogs

What Is Lymphoma in Dogs?

Lymphoma, also known as lymphosarcoma (LSA), is one of the most common cancers in dogs. LSA occurs due to an overgrowth and unregulated cellular division of lymphocytes, a type of cell that plays a crucial role in the immune system that helps protect the body from infection.

Although LSA can affect any organ of the body, it primarily affects parts of the immune system, including the lymphatic system, lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow. The lymphatic system is interconnected with the bloodstream, which is why LSA is considered a systemic disease and, as such, requires systemic treatment such as chemotherapy.

Types of Lymphoma in Dogs

There are several types of LSA in dogs, categorized by the organs affected. The most common are:

Multicentric Lymphoma: first noted in the lymph nodes

Gastrointestinal Lymphoma: affecting the stomach and intestines

Cutaneous Lymphoma: lymphoma of the skin

Less common types of lymphoma in dogs include:

Extranodal Lymphoma: an uncommon form that occurs when lymphoma develops in an organ outside the lymphatic system, such as an eye or kidney

Mediastinal Lymphoma: also uncommon, but occurs when lymphoma affects the lymphoid organs within the chest cavity, such as the thymus

Symptoms of Lymphoma in Dogs

The most common symptom of LSA in dogs is an enlarged, firm, non-painful lymph node. Dogs have multiple pairs of lymph nodes throughout the body, but the easiest lymph nodes to locate and feel are the prescapular (front of chest), submandibular (under the jaw), and popliteal (behind the knees). Usually one, both, or multiple nodes are enlarged.

Dogs with LSA may also experience:

Weight loss

Decreased appetite

Swelling of the face or limbs

Increased thirst and urination

Symptoms specific to the body area affected can also include dry, crusty skin with patches of hair loss, loss of color, and ulcerated skin (cutaneous LSA); diarrhea and vomiting (gastrointestinal LSA); and exercise intolerance, coughing, and trouble breathing (mediastinal LSA).

Causes of Lymphoma in Dogs

Cancer often occurs for reasons that are not well understood. Multiple factors that have been associated with certain cancers include:


UV damage or other environmental triggers

Certain viruses and infections

DNA mutations


There is rarely a single cause for cancer, and the development of lymphoma is no different.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Lymphoma in Dogs

In most cases, the first sign of LSA is enlarged lymph nodes. From there, your veterinarian may want to perform a cytology (when a needle is inserted into the node and cells are obtained) or biopsy (a larger needle is inserted into the node for cell collection or to obtain a chunk of tissue) of the lymph node and have the sample reviewed by a pathologist.

Once your dog is diagnosed, your veterinarian may recommend additional tests or refer you to an oncologist for further testing and treatment, including staging—to determine how far the cancer has spread. This may include chest x-rays, abdominal ultrasound, bloodwork, bone marrow aspirates, and IHC (immunohistochemistry) or flow cytometry, which helps determine the type of lymphoma.

Stages of Lymphoma in Dogs

LSA in dogs can be classified into five stages depending on the number of body systems affected:

Stage I: Single lymph node affected

Stage II: Multiple lymph nodes affected in a similar region

Stage III: All lymph nodes affected

Stage IV: All lymph nodes affected and organ involvement (spleen, liver, chest)

Stage V: Bone marrow involvement

Treatment of Lymphoma in Dogs

Lymphoma is one of the cancers that is most responsive to chemotherapy, and remission can often be achieved in well over 50% of dogs. Dogs tolerate chemotherapy much better than people do, and the doses prescribed are often lower, with fewer side effects than expected because the goal of treatment is to preserve the quality of your dog’s life for as long as possible. Some side effects can occur, such as:

Decreased appetite


Mild vomiting and diarrhea

Serious side effects, such as bone marrow suppression and secondary infections, can occur, but are not as common. Dogs, with few exceptions, do not lose their hair.

An oncologist can help decide the best medication or medications for your dog. There are multiple chemotherapeutic drugs used in the treatment of LSA, including:







In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend removal of a lymph node or organ affected by LSA. If chemotherapy is not an option, speak with your veterinarian about the use of steroids alone. Although not a first line of treatment, prednisone can improve clinical signs and increase the comfort of your pet, if only for a few weeks.

Despite the most aggressive of treatments, LSA cannot be cured, and most dogs will relapse at some point. A second remission, though more difficult, can be achieved for some dogs. Humane euthanasia may be recommended when the cancer and its effects can no longer be controlled.

Recovery and Management of Lymphoma in Dogs

Although LSA can be treated and go into remission, the regression of cancer, it cannot be entirely cured. You can expect the cancer to return, and another round of chemotherapy—often a different protocol than previously given—will be needed to achieve remission, which can be quite difficult. The vet should continue to examine your dog frequently for signs of relapse (often seen with enlarged lymph nodes), and it’s important to follow recommendations for recheck exams and follow-up testing.

Additionally, remember that quality of life instead of quantity is the goal for your dog with LSA. The side effects and treatments are often not as severe as what is seen in human medicine, and dogs can maintain a normal, happy and positive life throughout treatment and follow-ups.

Lymphoma in Dogs FAQs

Are there ways to prevent lymphoma in dogs?

Unfortunately, lymphoma is not preventable, but routine checkups and at-home vigilance are key to early diagnosis and treatment.

What is the life expectancy of a dog with lymphoma?

The life expectancy of dogs with lymphoma varies. Without treatment, the mean survival time is 4–6 weeks. Approximately 50% of dogs will survive beyond this time frame and approximately 50% will die prior to it. For dogs that do undergo chemotherapy, the mean survival time is about a year.


 Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine Lymphomas.

Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology. Canine Cancer.

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Michael Kearley, DVM


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

Dandruff in Dogs

If you’ve noticed white flakes in your dog’s fur, you might be wondering if they have dandruff  or whether dogs even get dandruff. Yes, they can. Dandruff, or seborrheic dermatitis, is common in dogs and humans alike.

Dandruff is not typically a sign of a serious condition, but you can talk with a veterinarian to find out what may be causing it. Make an appointment sooner rather than later if you see symptoms like extreme itchiness or a change in weight or behavior.

Here’s what you need to know about the types of dog dandruff, what to look for, any possible causes, and best treatment options.

Types of Dandruff in Dogs

Not all dandruff in dogs looks like white flakes. It can be either dry or oily, or it may not even be true dandruff. The underlying skin may or may not be red or patchy from hair loss. Here are the most common types:

Seborrhea sicca (dry seborrhea): This dry dandruff may appear as white flakes with crusty skin.

Seborrhea oleosa (oily seborrhea): Your dog’s skin may have an oily feel and give off an odor.

Walking dandruff: If the dandruff seems like it’s moving, this is called Cheyletiella and is actually a type of mite.

What Causes Dog Dandruff?

Dandruff in dogs can be caused by several factors, including:


A vitamin deficiency (such as a lack of omega fatty acids)

Hormone imbalance

Immune-related issues

Genetic condition (more commonly seen in American Cocker Spaniels, West Highland White Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, and Basset Hounds)

Low humidity that strips the skin of moisture and dries it out

Health conditions, including hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid glands), autoimmune conditions (pemphigus), and diabetes mellitus

Cheyletiellosis, or “walking dandruff,” is caused by white mites that can be seen with the naked eye. The mites lay their eggs in the dog’s fur and cause extreme itchiness.

Bacterial and fungal skin infections

Diagnosing Dandruff in Dogs

To diagnose the underlying cause of dandruff, a veterinarian may:

Perform a physical examination

Ask how long the dandruff has been occurring, whether your dog has been scratching (or showing other habits that indicate discomfort), and what your dog’s diet/water intake is

Take skin samples (skin scraping) and material from your dog’s hair to check for mites or lice

Suggest allergy tests, such as a food elimination diet or an intradermal skin test, if an allergen is suspected

Examine skin cells and debris from your dog’s ears for yeast or bacterial infection

Do a tissue biopsy to test for cancer

Do blood tests to screen for:

Diabetes mellitus

Cushing’s disease

Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone)

Home Remedies and Treatments for Dog Dandruff

In simple cases, dandruff may be prevented with good nutrition and regular grooming. Some veterinarians may suggest adding omega-6 fatty acids to the diet, but always check with your veterinarian before changing your dog’s diet.

Be sure to talk with your vet for at-home remedies that fit your dog’s situation. Never use anti-dandruff products for humans; these products can be harmful to dogs.

Other treatment recommendations may include:

Bathing your dog regularly, using an oatmeal-based dog shampoo or soothing shampoos such as Virbac Epi-Soothe. Persistent dandruff may require a prescription shampoo to calm itchy, aggravated skin.

Frequent brushing is important to massage the skin and help spread a dog’s natural oils over their body. Using the right brush is also important (one with the right firmness for your dog). Depending on your dog’s coat, you may try FURminator de-shedding tools for different coat lengths, or products like de-matting brushes and shine/condition soft-bristle brushes.

Mites (cheyletiellosis) require extensive treatment because they can live up to 10 days on everyday objects.

All pets with mites should be bathed 6 to 8 times a week. A vet may prescribe rinses containing insecticide and lime sulfur, along with oral medication.

Bedding, kennels, and rugs can be cleaned to prevent reinfestation.

Dandruff in Dogs FAQs

Why does my dog have dandruff?

Dandruff can occur in dogs as a result of dry, flaky skin; as a reaction to an allergen; or as the result of a mite infestation.

Should I be worried if my dog has dandruff?

Dandruff is usually not a cause for concern unless there are other signs, such as constant scratching or symptoms that may suggest a more serious underlying condition, like diabetes or Cushing’s disease.

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Skin Bumps (Granulomatous Dermatoses) in Dogs

Sterile Nodular/Granulomatous Dermatoses in Dogs

Sterile nodular/granulomatous dermatoses are diseases in which the primary lesions are nodules, or masses of tissue that are solid, elevated, and greater than one centimeter in diameter.

The nodules are usually the result of an infiltration of inflammatory cells into the skin.  This may be a reaction to interal or external stimuli. 

Symptoms and Types

Nodular dermatofibrosis in German shepherds, 3–5 years old Calcinosis circumscripta in German shepherds, younger than two-years-old Malignant histiocytosis in Bernese mountain dogs May affect any age, breed, or gender, although Bernese mountain dogs are at higher risk for malignant histiocytosis and German shepherds are at higher risk for nodular dermatofibrosis


Amyloidosis – a waxy protein deposit, or amyloid, in the body Reaction to foreign body Spherulocytosis – disease of red blood cells Idiopathic sterile granuloma and pyogranuloma Canine eosinophilic granuloma – eosinophils from blood infiltrates the skin Calcinosis cutis – skin disease accompanying Cushing’s disease in dogs Calcinosis circumscripta – skin stones, similar to calcinosis cutis Malignant histiocytosis – abnormally spreading immune-type cells Cutaneous histiocytosis – immune-type cells spreading to skin Sterile panniculitis – inflammation of the skin Nodular dermatofibrosis – bumps filled with excess elastic skin material which accompanies kidney disease Cutaneous xanthoma – a benign skin problem, involving immune cell infiltration usually accompanies hyperlipoproteinemia or diabetes mellitus


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, with a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms.

The physical exam should include a dermatologic exam, during which skin biopsies for histopathology can be taken to determine if structural changes have occurred in the tissue.  Skin scrapings will also be examined microscopically and cultured for bacteria, mycobacteria and fungi.


Most of these skin disorders can be treated on an outpatient basis, unless they have reached a severe stage. A few of these disorders, such as malignant histiocytosis, amyloidosis, and nodular dermatofibrosis, are almost always fatal.  Dogs with calcinosis cutis may need to be hospitalized for sepsis and intense topical therapy.

Some of the other forms of dermatoses with nodules or granulomas are discussed below:

Amyloidosis: no known therapy, unless the lesion is solitary and can be surgically removed Spherulocytosis: the only effective treatment is surgical removal Foreign body reactions are best treated by removal of the offending substance if possible For hair foreign bodies, the dog should be placed on softer bedding and topical therapy with keratolytic agents should be initiated. Many dogs with hair foreign bodies also have secondary deep bacterial infections that need to be treated with both topical and systemic antibiotics Malignant histiocytosis: no effective therapy. It is rapidly fatal Calcinosis cutis: underlying disease must be controlled if possible.  Most cases require antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infections. Hydrotherapy and frequent bathing in antibacterial shampoos minimize secondary problems. If lesions are extensive, serum calcium levels should be monitored closely Calcinosis circumscripta: surgical excision is the therapy of choice in most cases  Sterile panniculitis: single lesions can be removed surgically Nodular dermatofibrosis: no therapy for most cases, because the cystadenocarcinomas are usually bilateral For the rare unilateral case of cystadenocarcinoma or a cystadenoma, removal of the single affected kidney may be helpful Cutaneous xanthoma: correction of the underlying diabetes mellitus or hyperlipoproteinemia is usually curative


Living and Management

Your veterinarian will prescribe medication dependent upon your dog’s diagnosis and condition. If your dog is taking long-term glucocorticoids, bloodwork and a urinalysis will need to be performed every six months. If your dog is taking dimethylsulfoxide for calcinosis cutis, bloodwork should be performed every 1-2 weeks to monitor calcium levels until they are regulated.

Pneumonia (Interstitial) in Dogs

Interstitial Pneumonia in Dogs

Pneumonia refers to an inflammation in the lungs, while interstitial pneumonia refers to a form of pneumonia in which the inflammation occurs in the walls of the alveoli (the air cells of the lungs), or in the interstitium (the spaces between the tissue cells of the alveoli). The alveoli are cellular components of the airway where oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged.

Interstitial pneumonia can occur in both cats and dogs, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. For example, the West Highland White Terrier and Bull Terrier are believed to be more susceptible to interstitial lung disease, which can lead to secondary interstitial pneumonia. Miniature Dachshunds are most susceptible to infection by Pneumocystis carinii, a parasite transitional between the stages of fungus and protozoa that causes the lung disease pneumocystosis.

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


Symptoms vary depending on the severity of the disease. Some symptoms that may appear include rapid breathing (tachypnea), coughing, difficulty breathing (dyspnea), mild fever, and discharge from the eyes. Exposure to toxic elements, for example, may also result in gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and a decreased amount of urine production.


There is a wide range of conditions that can lead to interstitial pneumonia in dogs. Bronchiolitis obliterans organizing pneumonia, a congenital (birth) defect, is characterized by inflamed airways and surrounding tissues, and increased odds of interstitial pneumonia.

Other causes include lung cancer, and metabolic disorders such as uremia, in which excess levels of urea and other nitrogenous waste products, which normally are excreted through the urine, appear in the blood.

Exposure to toxic elements through inhalation of dust, gas, or vapor, are also suspect in the diagnosis of causative factors.


There are a wide variety of diagnostic procedures that can be used if symptoms related to interstitial pneumonia appear, including a urine analysis, blood tests, x-ray imaging of the pleural cavity (the area between the chest wall and lungs), and an electrocardiography (ECG) test, used for measuring the electrical impulses of the heart, and for the detection of irregular heart rhythms related to increased pressure on the lungs.

Two more diagnostic procedures that are common when pneumonia is suspected are a tracheal wash, which involves a collection of the fluids and substances lining the trachea (the respiratory airway through which air is transported), and a bronchoscopy, by which a small tube with a tiny camera attached is inserted into the mouth and led into the bronchial airway so that a visual inspection can be made.


Dogs with severe symptoms should be actively treated in hospital. This is especially important if your dog is exhibiting respiratory distress, in which case an oxygen mask will be used for administering oxygen therapy. Antimicrobial medication to prevent secondary bacterial infection is often prescribed.

Additional medication is dependent upon the underlying cause for the interstitial pneumonia; your veterinarian will advise you on the appropriate medications and home treatment.

Living and Management

Following initial treatment, activity should be restricted, and exposure to any harmful substances, such as dust, vapor, chemical fumes, or tobacco smoke, should be avoided. Administer medications on a regular basis and in full, as prescribed by your veterinarian, and schedule regular follow-up visits.


While there are many causes of interstitial pneumonia, there are a few things dog owners can do to help prevent the development of this disease.

Properly vaccinate your dog. Bring it to your veterinarian for regular deworming. Place inhalation hazards, such as materials that give off toxic fumes, in a safe and secure area that is out your pet’s reach.

Excessive Potassium in the Blood in Dogs

Hyperkalemia in Dogs

Hyperkalemia is expressed by markedly higher than normal concentrations of potassium in the blood. Normally eliminated in the kidneys, potassium and its increased acidity in the dog’s blood can have a direct impact on the heart’s ability to function normally, making this a high priority condition. Elimination is enhanced by aldosterone, a hormone that causes the tubules of the kidneys to retain sodium and water. Therefore, conditions that can inhibit renal elimination of potassium can be a direct cause of hyperkalemia.

Meanwhile, pseudohyperkalemia — which is characterized by a rise in the amount of potassium due to excessive leakage of potassium from the cells, and which takes place during or after blood is drawn — is not uncommon in the Akita breed.


ArrhythmiasWeaknessCollapseFlaccid paralysis (limp, not rigid paralysis)


Pseudohyperkalemia, false hyperkalemia, is a finding which occurs when a sample of blood that has been taken is not analyzed or separated promptly. Because some blood cells contain high concentrations of potassium, this intracellular potassium is released into the blood serum, causing the potassium concentration to appear to be artificially high. Another cause, low potassium elimination from the body, may be related to anuric (absence or defective excretion of urine) or oliguric (scanty urine production, renal failure) conditions. Also contributing are physical traumas such as urinary tract rupture or urethral obstruction, and some gastrointestinal diseases.

Additional causes include:

High potassium intake (e.g., use of oral or intravenous potassium supplements)Fluid therapy with potassium supplementationAdministration of potassium-sparing diureticsConditions associated with acidosisFluid in the abdomenTraumaKidney diseaseKidney stones in male dogsThrombocytosis (high platelet counts) and leukemia


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset 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 secondarily. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.

Hyperkalemia is often characterized by an intermittent history of gastrointestinal complaints, weakness, and collapse. Your veterinarian will check for hypoadrenocorticism (an endocrine disorder). If your dog is straining to urinate or is experiencing low urine output, he or she will consider urinary obstruction or oliguric/anuric kidney failure.

Diagnostic imaging will include radiographic contrast studies, which uses an injection of a radiopaque/radiocontrasting agent into the space to be viewed in order to improve visibility on X-ray. Ultrasound can also be used to rule out urinary tract rupture or obstruction of the urinary tract.

Because hyperkalemia can affect the blood’s ability to flow normally, further affecting the heart’s ability to function at full capacity, an electrocardiogram (ECG, or EKG) recording will be used to examine the electrical currents in the heart muscles, and may reveal any abnormalities in cardiac electrical conduction (which underlies the heart’s ability to contract/beat).


Treatment varies according to the underlying cause. Supportive measures will first focus on the symptoms, lowering potassium levels to normal blood levels, while pursuing a definitive diagnosis. Saline, given at 0.9 percent, is the fluid of choice for lowering potassium concentrations and blunting the effects of hyperkalemia on cardiac conduction.

If the dog is dehydrated or hypotensive (abnormally low blood pressure), fluids can be administered rapidly. Medications will be prescribed as appropriate by your veterinarian.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up exams to recheck potassium levels, which should be relative to the frequency dictated by the underlying disease. Your doctor will repeat ECG checks frequently until any rhythm disturbances are resolved.

Low Blood Calcium in Dogs

Hypocalcemia in Dogs

If your dog has lower than normal levels of calcium in its blood, it is suffering from the medical condition known as hypocalcemia. Calcium plays an important role in vital bodily functions such as bone and teeth formation, blood clotting, milk production, muscle contraction, heart pumping, vision, and in the metabolism of hormones and enzymes. Therefore, calcium deficiency is a serious condition that requires immediate treatment.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the problem. However, some of the more common symptoms include:

Muscle twitching and tremblingUncoordinated or stiff gaitPantingFace rubbing against objectsVomitingLack of appetiteFeverWeakness

In mild cases, no symptoms may be observed until total calcium level fall well below normal (6.7 mg/dL).


Albumin is a protein found in the blood and significant fraction of calcium remains bound to albumin along with free calcium in the blood. If the level of albumin falls (hypoalbuminemia) due to some other problem or disease, it also affects the total calcium level. Although it accounts for more than 50 percent of hypocalcemia cases, low levels of calcium associated with hypoalbuminemia are not generally associated with any symptom.

Hypocalcemia may also be due to:

Kidney failure (acute or chronic)Poor calcium absorption in the gutAlkalosis (condition in which the body fluids have excess base alkali)Hypoparathyroidism (Inadequate secretion of parathyroid hormone resulting in abnormally low levels of calcium in the blood)Hypoparathyroidism secondary to surgical removal of the thyroid gland (thyroidectomy)Nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidismOxalate toxicity (e.g., lily, philodendron, etc.)Hypomagnesaemia (low levels of magnesium in the blood)Acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)Rickets (early age disease caused by deficiency of vitamin D and sunlight associated with impaired metabolism of calcium and phosphorus)Puerperal tetany (Clinical neurological syndrome characterized by muscular twitching and cramps and seizures; associated with calcium deficiency [hypoparathyroidism] or vitamin D deficiency or alkalosis)Phosphate-containing enemas used in patients with severe constipationCitrate toxicity in patients with multiple blood transfusions were conducted for some other health problem


There are occasions where a laboratory error reflects hypocalcemia when in fact your dog is just fine. To verify, it is important you give a detailed history of your dog’s health, onset and nature of symptoms, and possible incidence that might have precipitated the condition. Your veterinarian will also perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all body systems to evaluate overall health of your dog. Routine tests including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis will provide valuable information about the blood calcium levels and information about the possible inciting cause(s) of hypocalcemia in your dog.

If kidney failure is the precipitating cause of hypocalcemia, complete blood count may show anemia in dogs with chronic kidney failure. Anemia may also be present in patients with nutrition related secondary hyperparathyroidism or poor intestinal absorption of calcium in the gut.

In case of infection or inflammation (like pancreatitis), the number of white blood cells may have found to be abnormally high. In some dogs with pancreatitis, amylase and lipase enzymes are also found to be elevated. In dogs with low levels of albumin (hypoalbuminemia), the biochemistry profile will show levels of albumin and disturbances in calcium levels. Meanwhile, if alkalosis is a cause of hypocalcemia, the blood gas analysis will reveal abnormally high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood of your dog.

Dogs with with kidney failure ethylene, glycol toxicity, or oxalate toxicity may present abnormally high levels of Blood Urea Nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine. Phosphorous derangements are also common in conditions leading to low calcium levels and in patients with kidney problems, ethylene glycol toxicity, oxalate toxicity, and hypoparathyroidism, biochemistry profile may show abnormally high levels of phosphorous. High phosphorous levels and hypocalcemia may also be found in the blood if enemas containing phosphorous are used in patients requiring enema; in constipation, for example. Urinalysis may reveal abnormally low concentrated urine and presence of glucose in patients with kidney problems or ethylene or oxalate toxicity.

To determine if the low level of calcium is responsible for the symptoms present, your veterinarian may order further testing to find the concentration of ionized fractions of calcium, which is the active form of calcium in the blood. In case of ethylene glycol toxicity, the ethylene glycol test will be performed to confirm the toxicity. Your veterinarian will draw a blood sample from a vein of your dog and will send it to the laboratory to determine the levels of ethylene glycol in the blood. Normally, the level of ethylene glycol in the blood should be zero. If hypoparathyroidism is suspected, more detailed tests to evaluate the functions of the parathyroid gland will be conducted.

Radiography of the abdomen may reveal smaller than normal sized kidneys in dogs with chronic kidney failure and large-sized kidney in animals with ethylene glycol toxicity, oxalate toxicity, or acute kidney failure. Dogs with nutrition related secondary hypoparathyroidism, meanwhile, may display low bone density on bone X-rays.


Generally, hypocalcemia is corrected through calcium supplementation therapy under close monitoring, so as to prevent side-effects related to calcium overload. Your veterinarian will also monitor the electrocardiogram data (EKG) because calcium has a direct effect on heart and significant calcium level changes leads to abnormal EKG findings.

After intravenous calcium therapy, your veterinarian may like to continue calcium supplementation for an extended period of time to prevent relapse. In addition, severe cases of hypocalcemia may require extended hospital stays.

Living and Management

In cases with transitory hypocalcemia, the initial calcium therapy will generally resolve the problem. However, if the hypocalcemia was due to a serious health problem, it will need to be treated further to prevent future episodes. Hypocalcemia due to nutrition and parturition (the act of giving birth) may also require further action.

If your dog’s hypocalcemia is related to nutrition, for example, your veterinarian will make new dietary recommendations. While bitches that have recently given birth may be separated from their puppies. In these cases, the puppies can be nursed by hand until the dog’s hypocalcemia has properly been addressed.