Archive : April

Can Dogs Eat Grapes?

NOTE: Always check with your veterinarian first before giving your dog any new foods, especially “people foods.” What might be okay for one dog might not be good for your dog, depending on multiple factors, such as their age, health history, health conditions, and diet. Dogs on prescription diets should not be fed any food or treats outside the diet.

Humans eat grapes all the time with no problem, but are they safe for dogs?

You may be surprised to find out that grapes can be toxic to dogs—both puppies and adult dogs. This includes raisins as well. And yes, this does include all colors of grapes and raisins—purple, red, green, and white. 

Why Are Grapes Bad for Dogs?

Not only can grapes and raisins be a choking hazard, but they do contain a substance that can be poisonous to some dogs. Grapes and raisins have the potential to cause kidney failure and death in dogs that are affected by grapes.

We don’t actually know what the toxic compound is that makes grapes a possible danger for dogs. The toxicity appears to be in the flesh—or the meat—of the grape. This means that peeled grapes are just as toxic as those with skin on them. Raisins are technically more toxic than grapes because the fruit is more concentrated in the dried version.

It’s important to note that not all dogs that eat grapes will be affected. Each dog may react differently to the toxin. Typically, the smaller the dog, the smaller the amount of toxic food that is needed to cause harm. 

It may be that some dogs are sensitive to the toxin while others are not, or it may be that some grapes have the toxin and some do not. Since there are so many uncertainties, there’s no way to tell if your dog will be affected, and to what degree.

The bottom line is that you should avoid any potential threats to your dog’s well-being by not feeding them grapes at all. If you also have cats in the house, keep in mind that grapes and raisins are toxic to cats too. 

Can Dogs Eat Grape Jelly?

No, dogs cannot eat grape jelly or jam, as it will still contain the toxins found in grapes. In addition, jelly contains too much sugar for dogs and may also contain xylitol, which is toxic for dogs.  

What Should I Do If My Dog Ate Grapes?

Even if your dog has only eaten one grape or raisin, immediately contact your veterinarian or the pet poison helpline at 855-764-7661. Typically, they will advise you to take your dog to the vet right away to be examined and treated in person. 

You may have seen advice online about inducing vomiting at home or using activated charcoal to help. And although these things can help, do not try to do these things at home before speaking with your veterinarian. They may recommend against it, and you’ll probably need to bring your dog into the vet’s office immediately anyway. 

If you’re not certain whether your dog ate any grapes, it’s still important to contact your veterinarian and watch for signs of grape toxicity within the first 24-48 hours.

Signs of Grape Toxicity in Dogs

If you notice any of these symptoms of grape toxicity, take your dog to the vet immediately.

Vomiting and/or diarrhea: This usually begins within the first few hours of ingesting the grapes or raisins. You may see pieces of them in your dog’s vomit or stool. 

Increased urination: This happens during the initial stages of kidney failure.

Drinking a lot: This also happens during the initial stages of kidney failure.

Decreased urination or not urinating: This is a sign that their kidneys are shutting down.

Loss of appetite

Lethargy, weakness, or unusual quietness

Dehydration: You can check this by gently pulling up the skin at the back of your dog’s neck. If it doesn’t spring back into place right away, your dog is dehydrated.

Bad breath

How Vets Treat Grape Toxicity in Dogs

Your veterinarian may try to induce vomiting. After that, they may also use activated charcoal to help absorb the rest of the toxins and bind any remaining grapes or raisins in your dog’s stomach. 

To treat kidney failure, vets will typically try to support kidney function and flush out the toxins by using IV fluid therapy. They will also use medication to treat your dog’s symptoms, like anti-nausea medications and gastric protectants to prevent or treat stomach ulcers. 

Your dog will probably need to be hospitalized for at least 48 hours, so the vet can properly treat them and monitor their kidneys through bloodwork. 

If your dog was only mildly or moderately affected, they may end up with reduced kidney function, but could still recover with the appropriate medical care. 

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Victoria Lynn Arnold

Victoria is a freelance copywriter for the dog and pet industry, and has two big furbabies of her own. She’s always been passionate…

Thai Ridgeback

This rare breed is thought to be one of the world’s first dog breeds, originating in an area of Thailand known for its isolation. Because of this, the Thai Ridgeback is believed to be one of the few true purebreds. Known for its hunting and protection abilities, the Thai Ridgeback is still a rare breed outside of Thailand, with only about 300 of these dogs known to exist in the United States.

Physical Characteristics

This medium-sized dog breed has a short, smooth coat with pricked ears. The Thai Ridgeback gains it’s name from the ridge of hair that runs down the dog’s back. This dog breed can weigh anywhere from 35 to 75 pounds at a height range of 20 to 24 inches, with the females being notably smaller than the males.

Personality and Temperament

Due to this breed’s innate ability to guard and hunt without proper training, the Thai Ridgeback may be aggressive in attempts to protect its master. However, this trait is easily outweighed, as the breed is generally known as a loving addition to a family. Daily exercise for the Thai Ridgeback is suggested, as well as a place to rest in a warm spot of the house.


Because this dog breed originated in a tropical climate, the Thai Ridgeback generally does not do well in colder climates and should be kept as an indoor dog. The coat of a Thai Ridgeback requires little maintenance, however daily exercise is suggested to keep a healthy lifestyle for this breed.


The Thai Ridgeback is a strong breed, known to live anywhere from 12 to 15 years. Although this dog breed is known to be generally healthy, one disease to be aware of in the Thai Ridgeback is the Dermoid Sinus Cyst, which causes the skin to be unable to close along the spine.

History and Background

Ancient artifacts show that the Thai Ridgeback originated in the isolated islands of Eastern Thailand an estimated 4,000 years ago. Because this area was secluded from others, with poor transportation methods, this dog breed has remained very pure with little to no crossbreeding.

In Thailand, this dog breed was mainly used in hunting, with the ability to catch small animals, and as an efficient guardian of the home while its owners were away.

Today the Thai Ridgeback is considered a very rare breed outside of Thailand, with only an estimated 300 in the United States. The United Kennel Club recognized this dog breed in 1996.

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Bacterial Infection (Actinomycosis) in Dogs

Actinomycosis in Dogs

Actinomycosis is an infectious disease caused by gram positive, branching, pleomorphic (can change shape somewhat between a rod and coccus), rod-shaped bacteria of the genus Actinomyces, most commonly the A. viscosus species. Able to survive with little (microaerophilic) or no oxygen (anaerobic), Actinomyces is rarely found as the single bacterial agent in a lesion. It is more often a component of a polymicrobial infection with several bacteria present. In fact, there may even be synergism between Actinomyces and other organisms.

Symptoms and Types

Pain and feverInfections on the face or neck area; usually localized but may be spread outSkin swellings or abscesses with draining tracts; sometimes yellow granulesInflammation of the cellular tissue behind the peritoneum, the smooth membrane which lines the abdomen (retroperitonitis)Inflammation of the bone or vertebrae (osteomyelitis), especially long bones such as those found in the limbs; this is secondary to the skin infectionWhen associated with spinal cord compression, motor and sensory deficits (i.e., trouble walking, touching, etc.)


Actinomycosis is thought to occur as an opportunistic infection; i.e., Actinomyces spp. is a normal inhabitant of dog’s mouth, but cuts, scrapes, or bite wounds in the mucosa or skin can cause an imbalance in the bacterial microenvironment. Other risk factors include periodontal disease and immunosuppressive disorders.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to the veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, complete blood count, and electrolyte panel. X-rays of dogs with actinomycosis will typically demonstrate periosteal (outer layer of bone) new bone production, reactive osteosclerosis (hardening of bone), and osteolysis (dissolution of bone).

For a more definitive diagnosis your veterinarian will submit a specimen of pus or osteolytic bone fragments for culturing. Gram staining, cytology, and acid-fast staining may also be employed.


The dog’s abscesses will be drained and lavaged for several days. In some cases, a penrose drain will be utilized, whereby a soft rubber tube is placed in the affected area to prevent fluid buildup. Depending on the severity of the infection, your veterinarian may also need to debride (cut open and/or remove tissue) or remove bone, which will require surgery.

Many veterinarians recommend the administration of antibiotics for a minimum of three to four months after the resolution of all signs. This will assist in fighting against other commonly associated microbes.

Living and Management

Observe the affected area for signs of infection and contact a veterinarian if the following signs are noted: itching, swelling, redness and/or draining. Otherwise, your veterinarian will schedule regular follow-up appointments to monitor your pet closely for recurrence. Redevelopment of infection at the initial site should be expected in about half of the cases.

Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

What Are Interdigital Cysts on Dogs?

Interdigital cysts are not true cysts. They are inflamed and infected tissue in the webbing between a dog’s toes. Once inflamed, these lesions are called furuncles. Furuncles are more commonly found on the top of the front feet; however, all four feet can be affected. With little space between the toes to spread, the furuncle ruptures through the skin and produces a draining tract.

Interdigital cysts or furuncles are painful and are the most common cause of draining tracts between the toes in dogs. Other causes of draining tracts are a reaction to a foreign object in the foot, infection of the hair follicle, or cancer.

Any dog can develop interdigital cysts, but dogs that are short-haired, allergy-prone, overweight, or obese are more likely to develop them.

Short bristly hairs in the webbing and increased webbing between the toes make these breeds more likely to get interdigital cysts:


Labrador Retriever

English Bulldog


Great Dane


Basset Hound

Symptoms of Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

Symptoms of interdigital cysts on dogs include inflamed, reddened skin in the webbing between the toes that may have extended from the bottom to the top of the paw. The swellings are deep reddish-purple, shiny, and hairless and range in size from 1-2 centimeters. They are also movable, which is why they are misnamed as cysts. They can break through the skin and produce a bloody discharge.

Interdigital cysts are painful, so dogs may limp, lick, and bite on the affected paw. There may be several nodules with new lesions developing as others resolve. 

Causes of Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

Interdigital cysts develop when hair follicles are traumatized, causing the microscopic opening of the hair follicle to enlarge. With limited space to expand, these follicles rupture and release their contents. The body sees this released material as foreign and creates an inflammatory reaction to it, as it does with bacteria, fungi, or mites.

The initial trauma is usually related to excessive weight on the feet, conformational changes (presence of increased webbing or gait abnormalities), or foreign material embedded in the skin. The presence of foreign material in the skin prevents complete healing of the infection. Until it is removed, the cyst or furuncle will recur.

The Demodex mite, a skin parasite, can cause interdigital cysts or furuncles as well as canine atopic dermatitis, an underlying skin condition. Until the mites are killed and the allergy causing atopic dermatitis is controlled, interdigital cysts will recur.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

The veterinarian diagnoses interdigital cysts or furuncles on your dog based on their history. First, they examine the dog’s paws looking for any discharge. To identify the cause of the initial trauma, the vet performs a combination of the following skin tests:

Skin scraping or examining plucked hairs to rule out infection due to Demodex mites

Impression smears, cytology, or culture to rule out other contaminants and determine the best antibiotic choice

Skin biopsy to confirm changes to the hair follicle

Bloodwork including hormone levels to rule out underlying disease

Elimination diet trial to rule out food allergies

Intradermal skin testing to rule out environmental allergens

Treatment of Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

There are three major treatment options of interdigital cysts in dogs: medical therapy, surgery, and CO2 laser:

Medical therapy: Medications include oral or topical anti-inflammatories, like steroids, and antibiotics. In severe cases, treatment is continued for four weeks after symptoms improve.Antibiotics alone may result in improvement, but without controlling the underlying cause of trauma the lesions tend to recur. Dogs often need systemic antibiotics of oral or long-lasting injectable medications for at least four weeks.Anti-inflammatories applied topically work best with only one lesion. Oral anti-inflammatories are needed for resistant cases or for dogs with multiple lesions.Surgery: Surgery removes the affected webbing and stitches the adjacent toes together, preventing the webbing from regrowing. This procedure changes the shape of the paw and can cause future orthopedic problems. Postoperative care is time-intensive and requires bandage changes 1-2 times daily. Foot licking and pain may still occur, so underlying conditions must be controlled.CO2 laser: Carbon dioxide lasers remove unhealthy, thin layers of skin with minimal damage to the surrounding area. Healthy skin can return without altering the shape of the paw. To achieve the best outcome, multiple laser procedures are needed.

Despite treatment and identification of an underlying disease, some dogs have chronic recurrent lesions. These lesions are best controlled with long-term topical medications, like cyclosporine, and weekly or biweekly medicated baths.

Recovery and Management of Interdigital Cysts on Dogs

Successful recovery and management of interdigital cysts on dogs can take months to achieve. It is dependent on managing the cause of the underlying trauma, decreasing re-exposure to traumas, and rebuilding healthy skin. Factors like wet, hard, or uneven environments, dirty kennels, or uncontrolled allergies prevent complete resolution of interdigital cysts.

Lifelong routine management is required to maintain remission. In most cases, medication to moderate the immune system’s response to environmental trauma is needed for long-term control.

Interdigital Cysts on Dogs FAQs

If a dog gets interdigital cysts once, are they prone to more cysts in the future?

Yes. Lesions that recur despite therapy indicate your pet has an underlying disease (for example, canine atopic dermatitis, hypothyroidism, or another concurrent infection). Re-exposure to the trauma will also cause the interdigital cysts to recur.

Anything a pet parent can do to prevent interdigital cysts from forming in the first place?

Trauma and environmental factors play a role in the development of interdigital cysts or furuncles in dogs. A clean and dry environment is best for dogs to sleep and play in. Dirty kennels and walking in large amounts of gravel, sand, pebbles, or glass increase the chance for trauma, infection, and interdigital cysts. Some dog breeds are also prone to developing interdigital cysts due to increased webbing between their toes, propensity for weight gain, and genetic conformation.

Are there any natural products or techniques to treat interdigital cysts on dogs?

Many natural products and techniques that claim to treat interdigital cysts are better at preventing interdigital cyst than treating them. Since the true underlying cause is trauma, prevention is aimed at limiting or removing the trauma and decreasing the risk of infection and inflammation. Topical therapy  such as bathing and overall good hygiene is a key part of initial therapy against active lesions, along with medical care and management of chronic, recurrent lesions. Products with chlorhexidine and miconazole are recommended. Paw butters are beneficial after a cyst has healed, to keep paw pads supple.

Are interdigital cysts painful?

Yes. Interdigital cysts are painful for dogs because they continue to rupture within the skin, producing more layers of cysts, a larger inflamed area, and increased pressure when walking.

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Janice Thomas, DVM


Dr. Janice Thomas left Cleveland, Ohio, and headed south for warmer weather and less snow. She completed her medical studies at Tuskegee…

Too much Acid in the Body in Dogs

Metabolic Acidosis in Dogs

The lungs and kidneys help to maintain a delicate balance of acid and alkali in the blood, both normal components of a healthy blood supply. A condition of metabolic acidosis occurs when there is an increase in the levels of acid in the blood, which ultimately accumulates to abnormal levels in the body, causing various problems. This can occur due to loss of bicarbonate (alkali); acid production by increased metabolism; excess acid introduction into the body through an external source like ethylene glycol (resulting in ethylene toxicity); or by the kidney’s inability to excrete acid, which it normally does to maintain its level. Metabolic acidosis can occur in dogs of any age, size, gender, or breed.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms can vary considerably, especially if your dog is concurrently suffering from other health problems like diabetes or kidney disease. The most common symptoms that you may notice in a dog that is suffering from metabolic acidosis include:

Depression (especially if acidosis is severe) Rapid and deep breathing Diarrhea Confusion Fever


Ethylene glycol (antifreeze ingestion) Salicylate (aspirin) Chronic kidney disease Diabetes mellitus Severe shock


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including a background history of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition (such as suspected antifreeze ingestion, or use of aspirin to treat your dog). The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are causing secondary symptoms.

Your veterinarian will then perform a thorough physical examination on your dog. For the diagnosis of metabolic acidosis, a compete blood chemical profile will be performed to check the levels of acid and alkali in the body. The next step is to find the underlying cause of the metabolic acidosis in order to treat that problem along with correcting the acid level. Therefore, other test panels may also be used along with the blood chemical profile.


The treatment of metabolic acidosis is usually twofold. It involves the correction of the disturbed acid-base balance as well as addressing any underlying diseases, such as diabetes and/or kidney failure. Your veterinarian will give suitable fluid therapy in order to correct the acid balance. If the acidosis is mild, your dog will be able to go home after a short treatment. However, in cases of severe or complicated acidosis, your dog may need to be hospitalized for few days until it has stabilized. Diagnosis of the underlying problem/disease causing the acidosis is crucial for preventing future episodes of metabolic acidosis.


Living and Management

After returning from the hospital, keep a close eye on your dog for few days. If your dog starts behaving in a depressed manner, or is breathing rapidly even while at rest, check with your veterinarian. This is especially important for dogs dealing with some chronic health problems like diabetes, in which the next episode of metabolic acidosis may occur at any time.

Pet Food Ingredient and Label Guide

Choosing the right food for your pet can be a big decision, and one that weighs heavy on the minds of many pet owners.

There are so many options out there—dry, canned, freeze-dried, raw, “all-natural,” grain-free, etc.—and even more information and opinions to support or refute these various options.

And then you need to decipher the list of cat food or dog food ingredients in each potential formula to know what you are actually feeding your pet.

So where does one start? How do you make an informed decision about which diet is best for your dog or cat?

This guide will break down pet food labels and some common ingredients in dog food and cat food so that you can find the best food for your pet.

Jump to a section here:

Nutritional Needs and Requirements

Understanding Pet Food Package Terms

Understanding Ingredient Labels

Glossary of Cat Food and Dog Food Ingredients

Nutritional Needs and Requirements

The single-most important consideration in selecting a pet food is ensuring that the diet meets your pet’s nutritional needs of more than 30 essential nutrients, including:


Amino acids

Fatty acids



The right pet food should provide all nutrients in sufficient quantity and with appropriate ratios for your pet’s given life stage. That means that your pet’s food should provide enough calories to maintain their body weight at their particular life stage (e.g., adult maintenance, puppy/growth, geriatric, etc.).

AAFCO Approval and Label Requirements

A diet that meets these basic nutritional needs is referred to as “complete and balanced,” which should be indicated on the label as the Nutritional Adequacy Statement by the Association of American of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).1

Additional label information required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) includes the following:

Product identification (what it is)

Net quantity

Manufacturer or distributor name and address

Ingredient list

AAFCO recommends also including:

Feeding directions

Guaranteed analysis

Caloric content

Understanding Pet Food Package Terms

Pet foods are often labeled with eye-catching phrases, like “all-natural,” “organic,” or “wholesome.”

These terms sound similar but can mean quite different things about the product. Some of these terms are regulated by AAFCO and the FDA, while others are not. It’s important to know the difference and what these words actually mean.  

Here is an abbreviated version of the AAFCO definition that can help guide you, but if you want more information, visit AAFCO Talks Pet Food.

Regulated Terms: USDA, FDA, and/or AAFCO < img src="81034/USDA-Organic-label.jpg">


This term is regulated and is signified with a USDA Organic Seal. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Organic seal means that the pet food production and handling adhere to the requirements established by the USDA’s National Organic Program for human food regulation.

Certified organic pet foods must be made of at least 95% organic ingredients, and the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering is not permitted.1


There is no true definition for this in animal feed regulations, but according to AAFCO, for a pet food to be considered “human-grade,” every ingredient must be “human edible” and “manufactured, packaged, and held in accordance with federal regulations.”

Very few pet foods can meet this standard, so if you see “human-grade” on the label, you might want to call the company to ask about their manufacturing procedures .1

Terms That Are Not Regulated

Natural, All-Natural, or 100% Natural

The label claim of “natural” has a loose definition.

Natural dog or cat food ingredients must be of plant, animal, or mined sources, which most ingredients are, and can undergo any manufacturing process except a chemically synthetic process.

Chemically synthesized ingredients include many vitamins and minerals, preservatives, and flavor and/or color additives.

“All-natural” or “100% natural” means that every ingredient used complies with this, or the label can specify certain ingredients as “natural” (e.g., “natural chicken flavor”).

If a product is “all-natural” or “100% natural,” it is not likely to be complete and balanced, because most vitamins and minerals that are added to pet foods are synthetic. Therefore, supplementation would likely be necessary to meet your pet’s specific nutrient requirements.1

Holistic or Wholesome

The terms “holistic” and “wholesome” are used to imply “whole-body health,” but they do not tell you anything about what ingredients are included, how or where the ingredients were sourced, or how the product was manufactured or handled.


Most manufactured retail pet foods are not truly raw, as heat processes are often used to prevent bacterial growth.

If a food is labeled as raw and is not misbranded, it’s important to follow sanitary handling practices for raw meat to minimize bacterial cross-contamination.

Understanding the Ingredient Label

Of the regulated information on a pet food label, most pet owners perceive the ingredient list to be the most important.

The FDA requires that every ingredient included is named following the established AAFCO definitions and that ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance by weight. This means that the heaviest ingredients are listed first.

Quality and Quantity of Cat and Dog Food Ingredients

The list does not provide any information on the quality of the cat or dog food ingredients included or whether they are used in amounts that provide any sort of nutritional benefit to your pet.

For example, ingredients that appeal to pet owners, like blueberries and kale, probably provide little nutritional benefit to your pet because of the relatively small quantities added, whereas poultry by-product sounds less appealing but is included as a primary ingredient because it provides your pet with essential nutrients.  

Contacting the Pet Food Manufacturer

If you ever have a question about the ingredients in cat food or dog food, do not hesitate to do a little homework.

Some pet food manufacturers have very descriptive websites with lists of commonly used ingredients and descriptions, but if you cannot find the information there, contact the manufacturer.

A responsible pet food manufacturer should provide you with the ingredient information, including the source and why it is included in their formulation.

Glossary of Cat and Dog Food Ingredients

The list of ingredients in cat food and dog food can be exceptionally long with confusing terminology.

However, it’s important to understand the established definitions for those terms so that you can make a well-educated decision on which food to feed your pet, rather than a decision led by perception.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common cat food and dog food ingredients and what they mean.

Jump to a specific term here:

Amino Acids 

Arginine | Histidine | Isoleucine | Leucine | Lysine | Methionine | Phenylalanine | Taurine | Threonine | Tryptophan | Valine | L-carnitine | L-lysine monohydrochloride | L-cysteine | DL-methionine

Animal Products 

Animal By-Product Meal | Animal Digest | Dried Egg Product | Meat | Meat and Bone Meal | Meat By-Products | Meat Meal | Poultry | Poultry By-Products | Poultry By-Product Meal | Poultry Meal


Animal Fats | Coconut Oil | Fish Oils | Glycerin | Palm Kernel Oil | Vegetable Oils


Carrageenan | Cassia Gum | Guar Gum | Xanthan Gum

Hydrolyzed Protein

Plant Products 


Grains | Bran | Gluten | Hull | Meal and Flour | Middlings (“Midds”) | Starch

Corn | Whole Corn, Ground Corn, Cornmeal, and Corn Flour | Corn Starch | Corn Gluten 

Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, Soybean) | Peas | Pea Fiber | Pea Protein | Pea Starch | Soybean Flour 

Root Vegetables | Beet Pulp | Cassava Root Flour | Potato Protein | Potato Starch | Potatoes


Boron | Calcium | Chloride | Chromium | Cobalt | Copper | Fluorine | Iodine | Iron | Magnesium | Manganese | Molybdenum | Phosphorous | Potassium | Salt/Sodium Chloride | Selenium | Sodium | Sulfur | Zinc

Natural Flavors


Artificial Preservatives | Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) | Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT) | Ethoxyquin |

Natural Preservatives | Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) | Calcium Propionate | Mixed Tocopherols


Bifidobacteria | Enterococcus | Lactobacillus


L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate | Menadione Sodium Bisulfate Complex | Vitamin B7 (Biotin)

Amino Acids

Essential amino acids are those that must be provided by a pet’s diet. They can be contained within animal or plant protein sources, meaning you won’t see them listed, or they can be added on their own, in which case you will see them listed.

There are 10 essential amino acids for both cats and dogs, and one that is essential for cats2:








Taurine (essential for cats)




Depending on the ingredients of the pet food, other nonessential amino acids may still be added to ensure that the food is nutritionally complete and promotes certain health aspects.

Other commonly added amino acids include:

L-carnitine (for maintaining a healthy body weight)

L-lysine monohydrochloride



Taurine (can be added to dog food)

Animal Products (Meat)

All animal products added to pet foods are defined and described by AAFCO.1 Each can provide a valuable source of protein and amino acids, and in sufficient quantity, meet the protein requirement of dogs and cats.

The pet food industry utilizes many parts of animals that are not consumed by people but are still highly nutritious and commonly consumed by our canine and feline friends’ wild counterparts. This helps the overall production of meat to be a more sustainable practice.

Animal By-Product Meal: Rendered (or processed) product from animal tissues, excluding hair, hooves, horn, hide, manure, or gastrointestinal (GI) contents.

Animal Digest: Materials resulting from chemical or enzymatic degradation of clean animal tissue, excluding hair, horns, teeth, hooves, and feathers.

Dried Egg Product: Eggs that have been separated from the shell and dried provide an excellent complete source of protein and fat, containing all essential amino acids and fatty acids.

Meat: Clean muscle (skeletal, tongue, diaphragm, heart, esophagus) from mammals, with or without the accompanying fat, skin, nerves, and blood vessels.

Meat and Bone Meal: Rendered (or processed) product from mammal tissues and bones, excluding hair, hooves, horn, hide, manure, or GI contents.

Meat By-Products: Clean, non-rendered (not processed) parts of mammals other than muscle, usually consisting of organs, blood, and bone and not including hair, horns, teeth, and hooves.

Meat Meal: Rendered (or processed) product from mammal tissues, excluding hair, hooves, horn, hide, manure, or GI contents.

Poultry: Clean muscle (skeletal, tongue, diaphragm, heart, esophagus) from chickens, with or without the accompanying fat, skin, nerves, and blood vessels.

Poultry By-Product: Clean parts of poultry carcass, including head, feet, organs, and whole carcass.

Poultry By-Product Meal: Rendered (or processed) product from poultry tissues; can include necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, organs, and whole body, but excludes feathers.

Poultry Meal: Rendered (or processed) product from poultry tissues, excluding head, feet, organs, and feathers.


Fats might not have a good reputation, but they are necessary and pose many benefits in pet food:

Serve as a good source of energy

Provide 2.25 times more calories than protein or carbohydrates

Help with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, E, D, and K

Supply essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids

Add palatability to the food

Omega-3 and Omega-6

The ratio of essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty contents of various oils is important because the balance helps combat inflammation. Omega-3s are antioxidants, and a diet higher in omega-3s can have benefits for the skin, haircoat, joints, etc.4

Animal Fats: These can show up on labels with a specified source (e.g., chicken, beef, pork, etc.) or as unspecified (e.g., “animal fat” or “poultry fat”). Mammals and poultry sources tend to be higher in omega-6 fatty acids, whereas a fish source is higher in omega-3s.

Coconut Oil or Palm Kernel Oil: Recent research has revealed the benefit of these “medium-chain triglycerides” in diets for aging dogs, particularly those with canine cognitive dysfunction, as they promote memory and the ability to focus.5

Fish Oils: Can have a specified source, like salmon oil, or show up as “fish oil.” Fish oils provide more omega-3 fatty acids. These consist of docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, and the quantities may be specified in the Guaranteed Analysis on a pet food label.

Glycerin: A carbohydrate derived from fats and oils that is added to help retain moisture in soft (semi-moist or canned) diets.

Vegetable Oils: Can have a specified source, like canola, sunflower, or safflower oils, or show up as “vegetable oil.” Vegetable oils generally provide more omega-6 fatty acids.


Common gums in pet food are:


Cassia gum

Guar gum

Xanthan gum

These are sources of soluble fiber that increase the bulk and water content of the feces and increase production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are important sources of energy for the cells of the colon, and they help promote water and electrolyte absorption in the large intestine.6

Hydrolyzed Protein

A rich-source protein derived from either vegetable sources (soy, corn, wheat) or poultry feathers.

The source ingredient is heated and chemically processed to generate a low-molecular-weight protein source that is:

Highly digestible

Easily absorbed

Readily bioavailable

Hydrolyzed proteins are found in hypoallergenic pet foods. The use of hydrolyzed poultry feathers has an added benefit of providing a sustainable protein option.2

Plant Products

Plant products can provide a source of protein and/or carbohydrates/fiber, depending on the type and how it is processed.


Often referred to as “powdered cellulose,” it’s derived from the pulp of fibrous plants and provides a good source of insoluble fiber. This adds bulk to the diet, which offers satiation (the feeling of being full after a meal).

Cellulose is also added to cat foods to minimize hairball formation. It draws water into the GI tract and helps hair, consumed while grooming, to move along and be excreted in the feces.


Common grains in pet foods include:







Whole Grain vs. Refined Grain

Grains are categorized as either “whole grain,” meaning all parts of the grain are present (germ, bran, and endosperm), or “refined,” meaning they are processed with the germ and bran removed.

The grain endosperm contains gluten and starch. These various parts of the grain can be used as ingredients in cat food and dog food, and each provides a different purpose and set of nutrients.

These are important when considering certain pet health issues. For example, in diabetes, minimizing starch (found in endosperm) to reduce blood sugar spikes is the goal. And when managing obesity, it is important to optimize dietary fiber sources to help the pet feel full without providing additional calories.

Grain By-Products

Bran: This is the outer layer of the grain, just under the hull. Present in long-grain or brown rice and removed in processing to make white rice. Good source of fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

Gluten: A type of protein found in the endosperm of grains, after the starch has been removed, that provides an available and low-cost source of protein in pet food. For example, 1 gram of corn gluten meal contains approximately 50% more protein than 1 gram of chicken.

Hulls: Hard outer covering of the grain that provides a source of insoluble fiber/roughage. Insoluble fibers increase the bulk and firmness of the feces but absorb water.

Meal and Flour: Ground grains (whole or refined), where meal is a coarser grind than flour. If it comes from refined grains, meaning the bran and germ are removed, the meal/flour will have a high starch content.

Middlings (“midds”): Small particles created during the grain milling process that are low in starch and good sources of protein, fiber, phosphorous, and other nutrients.

Starch: The other component of grain endosperm, aside from gluten. Starch is a readily available carbohydrate that provides a source of energy.  


Corn can be included in pet foods in these forms:







Whole Corn, Ground Corn, Cornmeal, and Corn Flour: When properly milled, these provide a source of easily digestible carbohydrates that are used by dogs for energy.

The finer the product is ground, (flour > meal > ground), the more easily digested it is.

All of these forms also provide protein and amino acids, linoleic acid (omega-6 essential fatty acid), and antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin E).

Corn Starch: Made from the starchy part of the corn kernel, it can be used as a thickening agent for dog foods and is reported to be the least allergenic form.3

Corn Gluten: A low-cost and viable protein source.


Common legumes in pet foods include peas, lentils, soy, and beans, and they are often used as substitutes for grains in grain-free pet food diets.

Legume By-Products

Pea Fiber: Derived from ground pea hulls and provides a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber.

Pea Protein: A protein concentrate extracted from peas that provides iron and many of the essential amino acids, including lysine. Iron and lysine are both important for healthy muscles and a healthy immune system.

Pea Starch: This is the starch component of the pea, separated from the protein component and hull. Provides a readily available source of energy and iron.

Soybean Flour: The portion of the soybean leftover after the oil has been removed and the soybeans are ground into a fine powder. Soybean flour is a good source of protein, containing many essential amino acids, fiber, fatty acids, some B vitamins, and minerals like potassium.

Root Vegetables

Beet Pulp: Beet pulp is the fibrous by-product left over from sugar beet processing. It is a good source of both insoluble and soluble fiber, providing good fecal consistency and beneficial volatile fatty acids.

Cassava Root Flour: Cassava root is cooked, dried, and ground to produce a fine powder flour. This provides a carbohydrate source for energy and a source of minerals, including iron, manganese, and zinc. Often used in grain-free diets.

Potato Protein: A protein concentrate extracted from white potatoes. Good source of protein for limited-ingredient prescription pet foods.

Potato Starch: Potato starch is added to grain-free diets as an alternative to grain. It is considered a “resistant starch,” meaning it is resistant to digestion in the small intestine, which may be beneficial for intestinal cell health and promote a healthy population of intestinal bacteria (“prebiotic”). However, these health benefits have not been proven yet in dogs and cats.

Potatoes: White or sweet potatoes commonly provide a source of carbohydrate or starch, often used in grain-free pet food diets.


The mineral requirements of dogs and cats may not be completely met by cat or dog food ingredients, so individual minerals are often added to supplement the diet.

There are seven macro-minerals:








There are 11 trace minerals:












Many mineral supplements are provided as a chemical compound (e.g., calcium carbonate) or as chelated (attached) to a carrier compound like an amino acid (e.g., zinc methionine, ferrous sulfate).

Salt (Sodium Chloride): It is added in some veterinary prescription diets to promote thirst and water consumption. This helps to generate a less concentrated, or more “watered-down,” urine, which is beneficial in diseases of the urinary tract, like kidney disease or to help treat bladder stones.2

Natural Flavors

Natural flavors are added to pet foods to enhance palatability and can include spices, broths, and yeast.


Preservatives are added to pet foods to maintain quality, palatability, and shelf-life longevity. Available as artificial additives or natural, but natural tend to be less effective, meaning that the product will have a shorter shelf life if no artificial preservatives are used.7

Artificial Preservatives include:




Natural Preservatives include:  

Calcium propionate

Ascorbic acid (vitamin C)

Mixed tocopherols (also a good source of vitamin E)


The goal of adding beneficial bacteria to pet food is to promote a healthy GI tract by preventing and treating gastroenteritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and mitigating food allergies.

Common bacteria in probiotic formulations for dogs include species8 of:





Depending on the ingredients of the pet food, vitamins may be added to ensure that the dog’s and/or cat’s nutrient requirements are met and/or to promote certain health aspects.

Most of the names of added vitamins are straightforward on the pet food label, like vitamin B7 (biotin).

However, a few vitamin names can be more obscure:

L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate provides a source of vitamin C.

Mixed tocopherols provide a source of vitamin E.

Menadione sodium bisulfate complex provides a source of vitamin K.


1. AAFCO 2020 Official Publication. Champaign, IL. Association of American Feed Control Officials, Inc. 2020; 759.

2. Hand MS, Thatcher CD, Remillard RL, et al. (Eds.) Small Animal Clinical Nutrition. 5th edition. Topeka, KS: Mark Morris Institute.  

3. Olivry T, Bexley J. Cornstarch is less allergenic than corn flour in dogs and cats previously sensitized to corn. BMC Vet Res. 2018. 14(207).

4. Bauer JE. Timely topics in nutrition: The essential nature of dietary omega-3 fatty acids in dogs. JAVMA. 2016. 249(11): 1267-1272.

5. May KA, Laflamme DP. Nutrition and the aging brain of dogs and cats. JAVMA. 2019. 255(11): 1245-1254.

6. Donadelli RA, Titgemeyer EC, Aldrich CG. Organic matter disappearance and production of short- and branched-chain fatty acids from selected fiber sources used in pet foods by a canine in vitro fermentation model. J Anim Sci. 2019. 97(11): 4532-4539.

7. Gross KL, Bollinger R, Thawnghmung P, et al. Effect of three different preservative systems on the stability of extruded dog food subjected to ambient and high temperature storage. J Nutr. 1994. 124(S12): 2638A-2642S.

8. Grzeskowiak L, Endo A, Beasley S, et al. Microbiota and probiotics in canine and feline welfare. Anaerobe. 2015. 34: 14-23. doi: 10.1016/j.anaerobe.2015.04.002.

Featured Image: FotografiaBasica

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Amanda Ardente, DVM, PhD


Dr. Amanda Ardente founded Ardente Veterinary Nutrition LLC in August 2017, based on a long-term goal of combining her passion for…

Bleach Poisoning in Pets: What You Should Know

By John Gilpatrick

Is bleach poisonous to dogs and cats? The short answer is “yes,” but it’s a little more complicated than that.

Dr. Lynn Hovda is the director of veterinary services for the Pet Poison Helpline. She and her colleagues field calls about bleach poisoning regularly, but most cases aren’t emergencies.

“It all depends on the type of bleach the pet is exposed to,” she says. “The majority of cases are regular household bleach, which is an irritant but not a corrosive agent.” This means the symptoms can sometimes be treated by you at home relatively quickly and painlessly.

Other cases involving ultra-concentrated bleach can more serious, Hovda says. Household bleach has a pH level around 11, while ultra-concentrated is generally closer to 12 or 12.5. This is mostly used by professional cleaners and on farms, so Hovda says calls about these cases are few and far between, but the handful the Pet Poison Helpline does receive every year are serious—severe lesions on the skin, down the esophagus, and into the stomach that can take weeks or months to heal.

Non-chlorine bleach (also known as color-safe bleach) may also be dangerous because it contains hydrogen peroxide. This may cause vomiting in addition to tissue irritation.

It’s an important condition to be aware of so you can initiate or seek treatment as quickly as possible. Continue reading for more information about bleach poisoning in pets.

How Do Pets Get Into Bleach?

For the most part, it’s exactly as you’d expect, says Tina Wismer, DVM, DABVT, DABT and medical director of the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center. “People are cleaning their floor and pour some bleach into a bucket,” she says. “Maybe they step away for a minute and forget to block it off from their pets or they spill some and aren’t able to clean it up in time.”

If you dilute the bleach with water before using it to clean, you may prevent the worst possible poisoning. “The more diluted it is, the less toxic it is,” Wismer says.

Severity of the poisoning also depends on how much the animal is exposed to, and dogs and cats (as well as some breeds of each) will react differently to consuming the chemical.

“Some dog breeds like Pomeranians will turn their nose up at bleach after tasting it,” Hovda says. “Labradors, however, might down the entire bucket.” She adds that cats are more like Pomeranians but they could experience bleach poisoning if they walk on a bleach spill and lick their paws afterward.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Bleach Poisoning?

The ultra-concentrated bleach will cause chemical burns and lesions both internally and externally. Color-safe bleach generally causes vomiting, and if it has a high concentration, blood might appear, Wismer says.

For the majority of cases, which involve household bleach that has been diluted in water, symptoms begin within minutes. These include heavy drooling (especially in cats) and redness and irritation on the skin and in and around the mouth. Hovda says you may also notice your pet pawing at her mouth or in other ways acting abnormally. Vomiting is less common in these cases, but for the Labrador-type pets who consume a lot, it may come back up.

How is Bleach Poisoning Treated?

Cases involving ultra-concentrated bleach are emergencies. If you think your pet has consumed or been topically exposed to concentrated bleach or has potentially gotten any type of bleach in her eyes, you should consult a veterinary professional immediately.

Exposure to diluted household bleach and color-safe bleach can sometimes be treated at home. If the irritation is limited to the skin, give your dog a long bath with lots of water and a little bit of dog shampoo or mild dishwashing soap, Hovda says. Pets who have ingested a small amount of color-safe bleach will usually vomit a few times and then return to normal.

If your dog or cat drank some bleach and is drooling but not vomiting, you want to encourage him to drink to rinse off any bleach that is still in contact with the lining of his gastrointestinal tract. This is easier for dogs, who usually eat and drink anything you put in front of them, than it is for cats. Hovda suggests using a little bit of tuna water to make it more appealing for cats to drink. Giving your dog or cat a small bowl of milk can also encourage him to drink and help neutralize any bleach that is still present.

For most of these cases, the symptoms should subside 30 to 45 minutes after treatment, Hovda says. If they do not, it’s best to consult your vet who can evaluate your pet’s condition and, if necessary, prescribe medications to relieve discomfort and help the lining of the gastrointestinal tract heal.


How Can Bleach Poisoning Be Prevented?

Keep bleach away from your pets. When not in use, bleach should always be kept in a place that’s not reachable by your dog or cat. While you’re cleaning, Wismer says you should put your pet in another room and do whatever you can to make the bleach totally inaccessible.

“Leave your pets with some of their favorite toys to keep them occupied and entertained while you clean,” she says, and whatever you do, clean up spills right away. You never know what can happen if you leave them unattended.

Mouth Cancer (Gingiva Fibrosarcoma) in Dogs

Gingival Fibrosarcoma in Dogs

As dogs age, they sometimes develop growths in their mouths. One type of oral growth is a fibrosarcoma, a cancerous tumor derived from fibrous connective tissue. Fibrosarcomas are relatively low in malignancy, growing slowly and generally not spreading to other organs, though they do aggressively invade other tissue and bone that is near them. The most common location for a fibrosarcoma of the the mouth is in the gums (gingiva).

Dogs that are affected with fibrosarcomas are, on average, seven and a half years old, but these tumors have been seen in dogs from the age of six months to fifteen years. Larger dogs and Golden Retrievers seem to be affected more than other dogs, and male dogs more often than female dogs.

Symptoms and Types

Excess salivation Bad breath (halitosis) Loose teeth Difficulty picking up food Difficulty chewing food (dysphagia) Blood coming from the mouth A growth in the mouth Weight loss


There are no known causes for gingival fibrosarcomas.


Your veterinarian will need a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. For example, when your dog stopped eating, when you noticed its teeth were loose, how much weight it has lost, etc. A mass or tumor in the mouth will be apparent during the physical examination, and the location of the swelling will be differentiated from the gums or the lymph nodes beneath the jawline. The lymph nodes will be examined by palpation, and if they are found to be swelled with lymph fluid, a sample may be taken by needle so that the fluid can be examined for cancerous cells. Standard tests include a complete blood count and biochemical profile to confirm that your dog’s internal organs are in healthy functioning order. Your veterinarian may also order x-ray images of the thorax (chest) to make sure that there is no evidence that the tumor has spread into the lungs. X-rays of the skull will also be taken to see if any of the skull bones have been affected by the tumor. In some cases, a computed tomography (CT) scan can be utilized to determine how severely affected the skull bones are are how far the tumor has metastasized (spread) into the bone. Your veterinarian will also take a biopsy of the tumor for laboratory analysis. This will help your doctor to determine exactly what type of tumor is in your dog’s mouth.



Treatment depends on how large the tumor is and how much of the surrounding bone is affected by the tumor. If the tumor is very small and does not affect any of the surrounding bone, it may be removed through a technique that uses freezing (cryosurgery). Generally, a large amount of surrounding tissue must be removed along with the tumor. In some cases, this means that part of the lower jaw must be removed (hemimandibulectomy) along with the tumor. Most dogs recover well after this type of surgery.

If the tumor is too large to be removed safely, radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy may help to control the tumor and its symptoms for a while. Chemotherapy is used to give relief from symptoms when the tumor cannot be removed.

Living and Management

If your dog’s tumor is removed by cryosurgery, its mouth will be sore for a while. You will need to give your dog food that is soft enough that it does not need to be chewed. This way your dog will be able to continue to eat as its mouth heals and return to feeling normal as quickly as possible. Your veterinarian can advise you on some appropriate food options.

If your dog has had surgery to remove the tumor and part of its lower jaw, it will stay in the hospital for several days after surgery until it has stabilized. It will need to be fed intravenously (IV) during this stage of recovery. Your veterinarian will monitor your dog’s pain level and its ability to eat and drink. Once your dog is able to go home, it will probably need to eat soft food for some time after. Because part of the lower jaw is missing, it will take longer for your dog to eat a meal as it learns to compensate for the missing bone. In some cases, you will need to sit with your dog and assist it in eating, feeding it small amounts of food by hand. Your dog may be given pain medication to help it though the roughest part of the recovery stage. Follow your veterinarian’s directions carefully regarding the medications, and the amount and frequency, to avoid overdose.

If your dog is not able to have surgery because of complications that would make it too dangerous, your veterinarian may recommend either radiation therapy or chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can either be given by IV, or directly into the tumor. Both of these types of therapy can help to reduce the size of the tumor along with the symptoms. Keep in mind that radiation therapy can also make the mouth sore, so your dog will need to eat soft food until the pain passes. Your dog may be given pain medication to help with the soreness. The drugs used for this type of treatment can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting. If your dog is not eating because of this side-effect, you may be given medications to help control the nausea so that your dog can continue to eat normally. Follow all medication directions carefully and consult your veterinarian if you should ever be in doubt. Overdose of medication is one of the most preventable causes of death in dogs.

Coonhound Paralysis In Dogs

Idiopathic Polyradiculoneuritis in Dogs

Acute canine idiopathic polyradiculoneuritis (ACIP) is a creeping paralysis due to acute inflammation of the nerves. This disease is often seen in dogs that live in North America as well as in those areas where raccoons are present but overall incidence is quite low. Any breed is at risk, but dogs that regularly come into contact with raccoons are at increased risk, such as hunting dogs and dogs that live in rural or wooded areas.

Symptoms presented by ACIP are also classified under a condition referred to as coonhound paralysis. Diagnosis with this disease does not necessarily involve an encounter with a raccoon.

Symptom and Types

Symptoms usually appear 7-14 days after contact with raccoonStiff gaitGeneralized slow reflexesLow muscle toneWeakened vocal abilityLabored breathingDecrease in muscle bulkFacial muscle weaknessMuscular weakness in all four limbs which may progresses to paralysis in all limbsPainOversensitivity to pain stimuli


Besides the known connection that has been made with affected dogs coming into contact with raccoon saliva, the exact cause of ACIP is still unknown. Viral or bacterial infections are suspected to be responsible, and because of the correlation with the nervous system and neural pathways, an autoimmune link is being researched. It is thought that white blood cells may be attacking the nerves.


Your veterinarian will take a detailed background medical history from you before making the full physical evaluation. You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition, such as whether your dog has had recent contact with a raccoon.

As part of a standard physical examination, routine laboratory tests will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile and urinalysis. Usually the results of all these tests are found to be within normal ranges. More specific tests will also be done, including specific testing for determination of abnormalities of electric activity in peripheral nerves, and an analysis of the spinal fluid, which will require a spinal tap, and the brain fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF), to look for specific infections that may be causing the paralysis.


Onset of the symptom may occur rapidly, but in many cases, they are progressive, worsening over the course of days and weeks as the paralysis spreads from the back legs through the body, and the respiratory system becomes more impaired. If the inflammation has progressed to the point that your dog is having difficulty breathing, it may need to be hospitalized for few days until it is fully out of danger.

Some patients can develop severe respiratory problems, requiring ventilator support until the system has recovered enough for the dog to breath easily again. Because affected animals are often not able to drink water, your veterinarian will also administer intravenous fluids if your dog has become dehydrated. Depending on how far the disease has progressed, your dog may also need physiotherapy because of generalized muscle atrophy.

Living and Management

Good home nursing care is mandatory for speedy and successful recovery. Some affected dogs may require special consideration for proper feeding and drinking; you may even need to feed your dog by hand for a few days until it is able to eat on its own again. Rest is essential, and the easiest way to achieve is that is by setting aside a quiet, comfortable space in the home, away from entry ways and heavy use rooms, where your dog can recover. Do not allow the dog to get overexcited, or be bothered by active children or other pets. If it is difficult to limit your dog’s movement, cage rest may be considered a more practical option.

While your dog is resting, make sure to check in throughout the day, turning it from one side to the other about every four hours in order to prevent pressure sores, which can result from prolonged rest in one position. Regular bathing is also required to prevent urine and fecal scalding. During the recovery period, stay close to home, with just short, slow outdoor trips for urinary and bowel relief. If your dog is too paralyzed to walk, you may need to consult with your veterinarian about the need for a catheter.

Your veterinarian will brief you on the physiotherapy protocols to prevent further aggravation of weakened muscles, but massaging the muscles and gently stretching the dog’s limbs will help to keep the muscles from atrophying excessively.

You may need to take your dog to veterinary physiotherapist for physiotherapy sessions over the course of several months. Stay in touch with your veterinarian, discussing any complications you may notice overtime and progress your dog is making. You may need to take your dog to a veterinarian for a regular progress evaluation every two to three weeks.

Recovery is different for individual dogs. Some may begin to recover quickly, within days and weeks, while others never completely recover. At home care and therapy is essential, in either case.

Heart (Aortic) Blood Clot in Dogs

Aortic Thromboembolism in Dogs

Aortic thromboembolism, also referred to as saddle thrombus, is a common heart condition which results from a blood clot dislodging within the aorta, leading to the interruption of blood flow to tissues served by that segment of the aorta. The largest artery in the body, the aorta distributes oxygenated blood to many parts of the body, including the legs, kidneys, intestines, and brain. Therefore, complications arising in the aorta can be very serious.

Aortic thromboembolism is rare in dogs in comparison with cats.

Symptoms and Types

Vomiting Paralysis Pain (especially in the legs) Abnormalities with gait and/or lameness Difficult breathing (e.g., tachypnea) Unusual barking or anxious temperament Bluish or pale nail beds and food pads Hypothermia


All forms of cardiomyopathy (i.e., dilated, hypertrophic, etc.) Infection of the bloodstream (e.g., septicemia) Hyperadrenocorticism (dogs) Protein-losing nephropathy (dogs) Sepsis (dogs)


You will need to give the veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination, urinalysis, and biochemistry profile — which may show abnormally high creatine kinase enzyme level due to muscle damage. Moreover, the levels of aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase are typically found in dogs with aortic thromboembolism due to muscle and liver damage.

Dogs under stress may have abnormally high level of glucose in the blood. Mild increase in blood urea nitrogen and creatinine may also be present due to low cardiac output and possibly due to presence of blood clot in a kidney. In some dogs, electrolytes imbalances as well as low levels of calcium and sodium and high levels of phosphate and potassium may be present.

Chest X-rays, meanwhile, commonly show an abnormal enlargement of the heart and a collection of fluid within the lungs and in the pleural cavity. In rare cases, the X-rays may reveal a tumor in the lungs. Abdominal ultrasounds may help your veterinarian identify the exact location of the blood clot, and echocardiography will confirm an abnormal enlarging of the heart, which is a common cause for aortic thromboembolism.


Most dogs with this condition require immediate intensive care and hospitalization to prevent complete heart failure. Hospitalization is also necessary to minimize the stress and pain associated with this disease. Dogs with breathing problems require oxygen therapy to reduce the stress of rapid breathing and to allow achieving required levels of oxygen in the blood.

Thrombolytics medications, which are used to dissolve the blood, are essential for treatment. Dogs that do not respond to conventional treatment, however, will require surgery to remove the blood clot. Your veterinarian will also give pain killers to reduce the severe pain associated with this disease.

Living and Management

Unfortunately, the prognosis for most dogs with aortic thromboembolism is not good. Even with treatment, clots can again develop and block the aorta. If blood supply to the legs are not restored quickly, permanent muscular abnormalities may develop in the affected limb.

Dogs recovering from aortic thromboembolism should not be allowed to move and should be placed in a stress-free environment, away from other pets and active children. Severe pain is a common symptom associated with this disease and many dogs find it difficult to urinate due to problems with their posture. You may need to gently press your dog’s bladder to assist in urination. In addition, most affected dogs find it difficult to eat and may require new foods to tempt the palate. This lack of appetite (anorexia) may lead to further complications. Seek your veterinarian’s advice for dietary changes.

Lastly, closely monitor your dog and watch for bleeding, which may occur due to the type of medications frequently used in the treatment of this disease. If you observe any sort of bleeding, immediately call your veterinarian.

To monitor the progress of treatment, frequent checkups and laboratory tests will be required. If the dog does not respond to treatment, your veterinarian may recommend euthanizing the animal due to the severe complications.