Archive : October

Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

What Is Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs?

The biliary system in dogs is made of ducts that collect and direct bile from the liver and the gall bladder which stores bile. Just like any other tissue in the body, the ducts, gall bladder, and the liver can become inflamed. Inflammation of the ducts and gall bladder is called cholangitis. Inflammation of the liver is called hepatitis. These conditions can occur independently or together in what is termed cholangiohepatitis.

Symptoms of Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

The following clinical signs may be present during cholangiohepatitis in dogs:

Lethargy (decreased energy level)

Decreased to absent appetite


Weight loss



Jaundice (yellow pigmentation in the skin, whites of the eyes)


Distended, painful abdomen

Causes of Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

Cholangiohepatitis is more common in cats than dogs.

Conditions that interrupt normal flow of bile through the liver and from the gall bladder, such as gall bladder stones (choleliths) and thickened bile material in the gall bladder (gall bladder mucocele), can predispose dogs to the development of cholangiohepatitis. Infection from intestinal bacteria into the biliary system or spread of bacteria to the biliary system via the bloodstream, can also result in cholangiohepatitis.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

Initially, your veterinarian will recommend performing a general lab panel (blood and urine tests). This panel will provide an overall check of the organ systems and, in the case of cholangiohepatitis, changes in the values associated with the liver. Abnormalities in the liver values on lab work are not specific for cholangiohepatitis, as other liver conditions can cause similar changes in the values. Therefore, your veterinarian will recommend imaging the liver using ultrasound.

Liver size and the appearance of the liver tissue, gall bladder, and biliary ducts will be assessed. Fluid in the abdomen (ascites) can also be detected with ultrasound. 

Combining lab work and ultrasound findings may result in a suspicion for cholangiohepatitis, but liver and gall bladder biopsy and culture to check for bacterial involvement are needed for a confirmed diagnosis of this condition.

Liver biopsies and gall bladder bile collection can be obtained via ultrasound, guided needle aspiration, laparoscopy, or surgery. Ultrasound-guided needle biopsies/bile collection presents the greatest risk for leakage of bile into the abdomen, when compared to the other two biopsy methods. 

Liver biopsies will be evaluated for the type of inflammation present and will determine if the inflammation involves only the biliary system or if the liver tissue adjacent to the biliary ducts is also affected. Liver tissue and bile samples will be collected and checked for bacteria, via culture. If bacteria are present, the type of bacteria will be identified and a determination will be made regarding the best antibiotic(s) to use for treatment.   

Treatment of Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

If a dog has cholangiohepatitis due to impaired flow of bile, secondary to gall stones (choleliths) or a gall bladder mucocele, surgery is typically recommended to address the underlying problem. If a dog has a severely diseased gall bladder wall and bile leaks into the abdomen causing inflammation (bile peritonitis), surgical treatment is needed. A dog that is not responding to medications for cholangiohepatitis is also a surgical candidate.   

Medical management will include antioxidant medication, such as S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and possibly Vitamin E, to help the liver. Ursodiol, may be prescribed to help improve bile flow. Antibiotics will be chosen based on culture/sensitivity results and treatment can extend from six to eight weeks—sometimes longer. Pain medication will be provided if a patient pet shows signs of abdominal discomfort. Sometimes anti-inflammatory medication, such as prednisolone/prednisone may be used depending on the case.

Supportive care largely depends on the degree of illness. If a pet patient is vomiting, lethargic, develops jaundice, or runs a fever, hospitalization and IV fluid support is needed. Medications to help control nausea and pain will also be required. A severely ill pet may need special fluids or a plasma transfusion(s) if liver function is severely compromised. 

Cholangiohepatitis can be cured with medical and/or surgical treatment.  However, the condition can be fatal if a patient is more severely affected (has a ruptured gall bladder or bile peritonitis).

Recovery and Management of Cholangiohepatitis in Dogs

Treatment for cholangiohepatitis can extend up to eight weeks or longer. Depending on the degree to which the liver and gall bladder are affected, a patient may need to be on long-term medications such as SAMe, Vitamin E, or Ursodiol.

Your veterinarian will want to monitor liver values, and possibly other parameters routinely, (possibly every two-to-four weeks—or more frequently for several months. At least yearly, if not more frequently, lab work checks will be recommended for life. 

Recovery from cholangiohepatitis can take several weeks. If there is extensive damage to the biliary tract and liver, scar tissue may form, and a complete recovery will not be achieved. 

Overall, the prognosis depends on the type of cholangiohepatitis present (based on biopsy) and the severity of illness. A dog that is treated sooner in the course of this illness will have a better prognosis than a dog with a more advanced progression of cholangiohepatitis. A dog with a ruptured gall bladder and bile peritonitis has a guarded-to-poor prognosis. 

An annual examination, with yearly blood/urine testing, is potentially helpful in diagnosing this condition in its early stages. Even if a canine patient is not showing signs of illness, your veterinarian would note changes in liver values and recommend an abdominal ultrasound.


Center, Sharon A. Merck Veterinary Manual. Canine Cholangiohepatitis. 2022.

Morgan, Rhea V. Feline Chronic Cholangiohepatitis – Handbook of Small Animal Practice. 5th ed. Saunders; 2008.

Nelson, Richard W. and Couto, C. Guillermo. Hepatobiliary Diseases in the Dog–Small Animal Internal Medicine., 5th ed. Mosby; 2009

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Heidi Kos-Barber, DVM


I am a small animal general practitioner in western Washington. The clinic I have worked at for the past 14 years sees a variety of…

Heart Beat Problems (Fibrillation and Flutter) in Dogs

Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter in Dogs

A dog’s heart is divided into four chambers. The two top chambers are called the atria (single: atrium) whereas the bottom chambers are called the ventricles. Valves are provided between each atrial and ventricular pair, each on the left and right side. The valve between the right atrium and right ventricle is called the tricuspid valve, where the valve between the left atrium and left ventricle is called the mitral valve. The heart works with exceptional synchronization between the various atrial and ventricular structures, resulting in a consistent rhythmic pattern.

In both atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter this rhythm is disturbed and synchronization is lost between the atria and ventricles. Both conditions refer to a rhythm problem that originates in the upper chambers of the heart, that is, the atria. Atrial flutter is often a precursor to atrial fibrillation. In atrial flutter there is a premature electrical impulse that arises in the atria, resulting in a faster than normal heart rate, either regular or irregular in frequency, whereas in atrial fibrillation there is quivering type of contraction of the heart muscles, resulting in a rapid and abnormally paced heart rhythm, also referred to as arrhythmia. In atrial fibrillation the atria beat chaotically, resulting in irregular rhythms of the ventricle as well. Atrial fibrillation can occur with or without underlying heart disease. On an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of the heart, a distinct pattern can be differentiated in atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

Symptoms and Types

Atrial fibrillation is categorized by relevance, including:

Primary atrial fibrillationNo underlying cardiac disease involved – cause not identifiedSecondary atrial fibrillationSevere underlying cardiac disease like CHF is usually involvedParoxysmal atrial fibrillationPeriodic, recurrent episodes, which last for a short period of time (less than seven days), with the heart returning to its normal rhythm on its ownPersistent atrial fibrillationArrhythmia lasts for more than 48 hours, only responds to treatmentPermanent atrial fibrillationOngoing arrhythmia, cannot be treated

The symptoms generally relate to an underlying disease like congestive heart failure (CHF). Following are few of the symptoms related to atrial fibrillation.

Galloping heartExercise intoleranceWeaknessCoughDyspnea (Difficult breathing)Tachypnea (Rapid respiratory rate)LethargySyncope/Loss of consciousness (rare)


Chronic disease of the heart involving the valvesEnlargement of the heartCardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)Congenital heart diseaseNeoplasiaDigoxin toxicity (drug commonly used to treat various heart diseases)As a sequel congestive heart failure (CHF)Cause may remain unknown


After taking a detailed history from you, including your dog’s background health history and onset of symptoms, your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination. Laboratory tests include a complete blood profile, with a biochemical profile, complete blood count, and urinalysis. It is possible that the results of these tests may not reveal much information related to this disease, but they may be helpful for accessing an overall picture of your dog’s health and reveal other diseases, if present. Additional diagnostic tools include echocardiography (ECG), X-ray imaging, and color Doppler to help in characterizing the type and severity of any underlying heart disease.


Your veterinarian will first diagnose the level of flutter or fibrillation your dog is experiencing, and whether there is an underlying disease of the heart, such as CHF, that is responsible for the atrial arrhythmia. If the heart is beating too rapidly, your dog will be treated medically for the rhythm to be slowed down. If no underlying disease is found to be present, the treatment will be directed towards normalizing the rhythm of heart and getting the sinoatrial node back into sync with the atrioventricular node (AV) node. If the fibrillation is a chronic problem (more than four months), the success rate drops accordingly and problem recurrence is common in these cases. Electrical shock therapy may be used to normalize the rhythm is some cases. If underlying cardiac disease like CHF is present, the treatment will also be directed towards its treatment, along with stabilizing the heart rhythm.

Living and Management

Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding diet, exercise, rest, medication, and management of your dog’s health at home. In cases of primary atrial fibrillation, recurrence can occur, especially in patients with chronic problems. Observe your dog’s health and call your veterinarian if you notice any symptoms that appear out of the ordinary. In cases of severe cardiac diseases like CHF, a high level of commitment and care will be required on your part for the treatment and management of your dog’s at home treatment. Keeping a diary of all events and staying in touch with your veterinarian throughout the treatment period will help you to follow your dog’s progress and notice any problems as soon as they occur.

Controlling Your Pet’s Eating Behavior

Some pets eat like they are never going to see food again, gulping it down so fast they barely have time to chew it, let alone taste it. If it seems that your dog or cat is eating meals faster than necessary, and is behaving in an obsessive manner towards the food, there are some methods you can use to modify your pet’s behavior.

Why is Eating Fast Bad?

First, why should you be concerned with your pet’s eating speed? Because they are not chewing their food thoroughly, rapid eating can lead to choking or gagging. Also, because this type of eating behavior often is associated with greedy behavior, it can lead to aggressive behavior if another pet or person comes close while the animal is eating. In households with children or other animals, an animal that gobbles down its food can be a danger to anyone it perceives as a competitor for its food.

There is also a medical condition that affects some animals, especially large-breed dogs, called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). The rapid eating and gulping results in excessive air, fluid and food filling the stomach, followed by swelling (dilatation) of the stomach cavity. As the stomach expands, it can twist around on its axis (volvulus), making it impossible for anything to pass through the stomach to the intestines. If this occurs, the animal can go into shock and die quickly.

What Causes This Behavior?

For some puppies and kittens, mealtime is a competition to get enough food before it is all gone — a casualty of their littermates and the adult animals. It may have even started while the animal was nursing. This becomes a pattern of behavior, and is carried on into a new home. The behavior may be most pronounced when there are other animals in the home, but it may also be present even if s/he no longer has competitors.

Of course, there are also underlying medical conditions that can lead to this behavior. Your pet may be infected with parasites that are affecting the body’s ability to absorb the nutrients in the food. Another possibility to consider is that the food is simply nutritionally inadequate for the animal’s needs and is leaving the animal feeling hungrier than it should as a result.

What Can Be Done?

There are several possible solutions you can try to modify your pet’s behavior. One recommendation is to place objects such as toys or balls that are too large to swallow in the food bowl — with the food — so that the animal must eat around the object. Another method using the same idea is to partition the food by placing a smaller bowl inside the larger bowl. Placing the small bowl upside down in the larger bowl, pour the food into the space around the small bowl. This makes it so that your pet can only take small bites from the narrowed space. Or, if time is not an issue, you can try feeding your pet small meals throughout the day, so that large amounts cannot be consumed at once.

There are also feeding bowls that are designed to slow an animal’s eating speed. These bowls are often made with embedded pegs in the hollow of the bowl, so that the animal cannot grab large bites all at once. Other products are made to disperse the food slowly. A timed dish that allows specific amounts at a time; a compartmentalized dish that the animal must adjust to get to the small portions of food (such as sliding tops that can be moved with the paw or snout); or a ball that holds food but must be manipulated by the pet to release the contents from the ball.

As far as nutritional concerns, make sure to feed your pet a high-quality, highly digestible cat or dog food so that you can be sure that his or her nutritional needs are being met.

And, as a matter of course, you should make sure that your pet is free from parasites. A regular good health visit with a veterinarian should turn up anything that should not be there, and if anything is found, it can be treated before it becomes a life threatening issue. In any case, if your pet is behaving in an aggressive way while eating and you have children or other pets in the home, you will need to protect them by setting aside a space where your pet can eat without feeling threatened and defensive.

See Also

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Rhodesian Ridgeback

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The Rhodesian Ridgeback is an intelligent, gentle, and courageous dog that can make a terrific family pet for the right household. The breed is named after the ridge of hair that grows down the center of the breed’s back.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a large-breed dog, weighing 65-90 pounds and standing over 25 inches high at the shoulder. They are muscular, powerful, and athletic dogs originally bred for guarding and protection.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks, also known as African Lion Hounds, were bred as hunting dogs that could flush out and track but not kill wild game and large predators, including lions. The breed’s standard has not changed in 100 years, and the dogs’ looks and temperament are similar to those originally developed in Africa.

Caring for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are classified within the hound group by the American Kennel Club. They are great athletes, with stamina and endurance. They are known for their strong affection toward people they know, and if properly trained they are even good with children. They are typically standoffish toward strangers and protective of their family, although the breed is not typically aggressive.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are generally easy to train and they enjoy the company of humans and other dogs. They can be independent and stubborn, which is why they require firm training with positive reinforcement. They also require exercise—at least 45 minutes a day. With their physical and mental fortitude, Ridgebacks require daily enrichment to keep from getting bored.

Ridgebacks have short hair of only one color: wheaten. However, they can have varying shades of this color, from light brown to reddish. This breed has a strong, square head with a black or brown nose and floppy ears. The hallmark is the ridge of backward-growing hair down the midline of the back. At the shoulders, two identical whorls, or cowlicks, form opposite each other.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is usually a healthy breed, with few medical issues and minimal grooming requirements. When given proper care, they can live 10-13 years.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Health Issues

In general, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are healthy and tough dogs. However, responsible breeders should screen and monitor their dogs for certain health issues commonly seen. It is important to inquire about breed testing when looking to purchase a dog from a breeder.


Hip and elbow dysplasia is common in many large-breed dogs and is caused by an abnormal bone and surrounding connective tissues, typically of the hip or elbow joints. Dysplasia causes rubbing and degenerative changes within the joint, leading to lameness, pain, and weakness.

Severe cases can show signs early in life, but dysplasia most often affects older dogs as the disease progresses. In young dogs with severe cases, surgery may be necessary. In most older dogs, the condition is managed with a combination of weight management, pain relievers, joint supplements, and alternative therapies such as laser treatment, physical therapy, and acupuncture.

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Autoimmune thyroiditis is a disease of the thyroid gland resulting in low thyroid values. These can lead to weight gain, lethargy, skin conditions, and more serious heart issues or seizures. Veterinarians typically test Ridgebacks’ thyroid levels once a year.

Dermoid Sinuses

Dermoids are defects of the skin and nervous system during development that result in tubelike openings under the skin, which can be readily felt shortly after birth. Severe sinuses may reach as deep as the spinal canal. These sinuses can become infected and painful, causing secondary issues.

Surgical removal is the treatment of choice. Reputable breeders typically have puppies tested and treated before they ever reach a new home, but dermoids may return if not completely removed.

Other Diseases

While dysplasia, thyroiditis, deafness, and dermoids are the most common health issues in Rhodesian Ridgebacks, there are others they are at higher risk for, including:

Eye abnormalities, such as cataracts, entropion, persistent pupillary membranes, and distichiasis

Degenerative myelopathy

Cervical vertebral instability (wobbler syndrome)

Cerebellar abiotrophy (ataxia)

Congenital deafness

What to Feed a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Providing proper nutrition is one of the most important things you can do to keep your Rhodesian Ridgeback happy and healthy. Most veterinarians recommend feeding Ridgebacks large-breed dry-food formulations from pet-food companies that employ full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionists, such as Hill’s, Purina Pro Plan, and Royal Canin.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides detailed information and recommendations regarding the safety and nutritional content of dog foods. Always make sure your Ridgeback’s food has the AAFCO seal of approval.

Depending on lifestyle and caloric needs, your Rhodesian Ridgeback may require a slightly more specific and tailored diet to maintain lean muscle mass. This strong, athletic breed may require higher protein levels, with nutrition optimized to fuel strength and stamina. Rhodesian Ridgebacks with working jobs (field and hunters, agility and show dogs) may require this level of nutrition, as well as other active pets who enjoy frequent running, hiking, swimming, and play.

How to Feed a Rhodesian Ridgeback

Most veterinarians recommend feeding adult dogs, including Rhodesian Ridgebacks, twice a day—typically in the morning, once they wake up, and again around dinnertime. Ridgebacks are smart and capable animals who can “counter surf” to steal human food off tables. Human food can lead to gastrointestinal upset, pancreatitis, toxicities, and obesity, so try to keep your Ridgeback from obtaining human food.

Always feed dogs a diet that is appropriate for their life stage. Puppies have very different nutritional requirements than senior dogs. Discuss with your veterinarian any diets that claim to be suitable for all life stages before feeding them to your Ridgeback.

If your pet tends to swallow food without chewing, you may want to consider slow-feed bowls or other options that deliver a small portion at a time. Eating too fast can cause gastrointestinal upset, as well as other serious medical issues such as bloat.

How Much Should You Feed a Rhodesian Ridgeback?

Refer to the side of the bag and talk to your veterinarian to determine the proper amount to feed your Ridgeback, based on weight and body condition. Your veterinarian will also consider your Ridgeback’s activity level, age, and pre-existing conditions when making a recommendation on caloric intake.

Review the bag’s guidelines and nutritional value (how many calories or kcals are in each cup) so that you and your veterinarian can make an informed decision. For example, a 75-pound dog typically needs 1,200-1,500 calories a day, but this may vary dramatically when you factor in energy levels. Field-trial hunting dogs may require over 2,000 calories a day, while an older family pet may only require 1,000 or so. Some dogs are prone to obesity and may need a calorie-restricted diet. Always check with your veterinarian to determine the proper amount of food for your Ridgeback.

Nutritional Tips for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Omega-3 fatty acids are a great supplement that can help keep your dog’s skin and coat soft, shiny, and healthy. These supplements also promote a strong heart, immune system, brain, and vision.

Supplements containing glucosamine, like Cosequin or Dasuquin, can help keep the joints of large-breed dogs healthy, which is vital to an active Rhodesian Ridgeback. Talk to your veterinarian before starting any supplements to make sure they are appropriate for your pet.

Since Rhodesian Ridgebacks are a breed predisposed to dysplasia, it’s important to keep yours from becoming obese. The heavier an animal is, the more strain is placed on the joints, resulting in pain and difficulty with mobility.

Behavior and Training Tips for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgeback Personality and Temperament

While the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a watch dog, they also make fantastic family companions, forming strong bonds with their humans. As a guardian dog they can be somewhat standoffish to strangers; their trust must be earned. They are gentle and quiet dogs who rarely bark, chew, or dig if they are given appropriate physical and mental stimulation.

Ridgebacks can do well with other dogs, especially if they are properly socialized when younger. Many will enjoy being part of a pack and form close bonds with the other dogs in their family. They have a moderate amount of energy, requiring at least an hour of daily exercise. Mental enrichment is also important; Ridgebacks may get bored if left alone in a cage all day, leading to unwanted negative and potentially destructive behaviors.

Rhodesian Ridgebacks can have an independent and stubborn side to their personality, so training is crucial for this breed.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Behavior

Bred for hunting and protection, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are highly protective of their family but rarely aggressive. Well-trained Ridgebacks will alert a family of a perceived threat and may even position their bodies between their family and danger. They rarely bark, so when a Ridgeback does bark, be sure to promptly investigate the cause.

These are highly athletic and curious dogs, known to steal human foods and other items. Puppies are more prone to these behaviors, so training must start from day one. They may also get into trouble with chewing, digging, or other destructive behaviors if they aren’t mentally and physically stimulated enough and left alone too much.

Rhodesian Ridgeback Training

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is easy to train and takes quickly to jobs like hunting or tracking. They are endurance athletes and can perform in anything from field trial events to agility competitions to the show ring. While the Ridgeback excels in these types of situations, these dogs adapt easily to many living situations. They don’t need a specific  job to be happy and healthy.

Because of the Ridgeback’s innate instinct to protect, additional guardian and protection training is not recommended, as it may intensify their natural instincts to a dangerous level and make them overly aggressive. Instead, Ridgebacks should be trained to listen to commands given by their family that indicate no further action is needed from them. Ridgebacks can be stubborn and independent, so obedience training throughout their entire life is critical.

The Rhodesian Ridgeback was originally a hunting dog in Africa, and they have retained a high prey drive. They can be independent and stubborn, so consistent positive-reinforcement training techniques are ideal for this breed. Training should start early with puppy socialization and obedience training and continue throughout their life.

Fun Activities for Rhodesian Ridgebacks

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are excellent family pets, well-suited to physical activities that pet parents can share. They are athletic, smart, and powerful dogs who excel at:


Field trial

Hunting events

Obedience competitions


Lure coursing




For training, your Ridgeback may enjoy:



Homemade puzzles

“Busy” treats

“Touch” or clicker training

Rhodesian Ridgeback Grooming Guide

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is generally easy to care for. They don’t have much odor, and their grooming requirements are minimal. Their short coat does shed a moderate amount, however. Weekly brushing and monthly bathing sessions can help decrease the shedding.

Ridgebacks can be resistant to nail trims, so training them early on to calmly allow their feet to be touched and nails to be trimmed or filed can be helpful to alleviate stress during nail-trim time.

Occasionally, Rhodesian Ridgebacks are born without the gene for the backward-growing hair and are referred to as Ridgeless Ridgebacks. These dogs still have the other traits innate to the breed, just without the defining ridge. The Ridgeless are not show dogs, and they are not normally bred

Skin Care

The Rhodesian Ridgeback doesn’t require any special bathing products, unless suggested by your veterinarian. Over-the-counter shampoos for dogs are acceptable, and veterinarians typically recommend oatmeal-based sensitive-skin formulations. Ridgebacks should be bathed approximately once a month, with more frequent (every 2 weeks or so) nail trimmings.

Coat Care

The Rhodesian Ridgeback’s coat requires the same maintenance and care with or without the ridge. Since these dogs shed frequently, weekly brushing can help keep the coat free of excess hair. Baths, at least once a month, will keep the hair glossy and healthy.

Eye Care

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is predisposed to a few eye conditions, so work with your vet to identify and treat any potential issues.

Otherwise, the Ridgeback doesn’t require any routine eye care. Dogs who are working sporting events may have a higher exposure to allergens that cause eye itching, redness, and watering. Hunting and tracking dogs may be at higher risk of eye trauma from branches, grass, or insects.

Ear Care

Ridgebacks are not at higher risk of any ear diseases. Their ears do require routine cleaning, however, usually at the same time as baths. Some dogs may produce more wax, requiring additional cleanings. Always look in your dog’s ear canals during routine brushing and bathing to ensure there is no evidence of infection, foreign material, or insects—especially if your Ridgeback spends a lot of time outside.

Contact your veterinarian if your Ridgeback’s ears have excessive discharge, a bad smell, redness, or itching, as there may be an ear infection.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The Rhodesian Ridgeback can be the ideal dog for many families. Ridgebacks are loyal, affectionate, and protective. When properly trained and socialized, they can be a terrific addition to the family and coexist peacefully with other dogs, children, and even cats.

As with any breed, it is important to do your homework before bringing a pet home. Researching, visiting, and interviewing breeders is a great way to get to know the breed. Likewise, attending agility trials, hunting, or obedience events can give you a firsthand view of how the breed works and interacts with humans.

The ideal home for a Rhodesian Ridgeback provides the pup with lots of space to run and offers plenty of time for mental and physical stimulation. Pet parents who can engage their dog in obedience, agility, hunting, and other sporting events can satisfy this requirement, but the breed can also do well with a daily walk or jog followed by a game of fetch. Ridgebacks are versatile but do require a significant amount of time, energy, and commitment.

While gentle and generally easy to train, the Ridgeback can be stubborn and independent. If Ridgebacks are not properly trained and socialized as puppies, they can be more wary of strangers and, like all dogs in that situation, can develop unwanted behaviors.

These dogs are fierce guardians, with a very large presence. They require a pet parent who is knowledgeable about the breed and about training strong-willed dogs. For these reasons, the Rhodesian Ridgeback is typically not recommended for first-time or novice dog owners.

Potential pet parents should also be prepared for a moderate amount of shedding from Rhodesian Ridgebacks. They have minimal grooming needs but they require routine veterinary care, such as vaccines and preventative medications. As they get older, they may require professional dental cleanings performed by veterinarians to keep their teeth and gums healthy.

Owning any dog is a privilege and a responsibility, and the Rhodesian Ridgeback is no exception. In return for proper care, training, and commitment, this breed can provide lifelong love, affection, and faithfulness.

Rhodesian Ridgeback FAQs

Is a Rhodesian Ridgeback a good family dog?

If properly trained and socialized, the Rhodesian Ridgeback can be a wonderful family companion.

Are Rhodesian Ridgebacks smart dogs?

Rhodesian Ridgebacks are very smart dogs and require daily mental stimulation to keep them from becoming bored.

How much does a Rhodesian Ridgeback cost?

The price of a well-bred Rhodesian Ridgeback varies by location and breeder. The best way to determine the general cost for a Ridgeback is to start talking to breeders and owners at shows or events. Rescue Ridgebacks and Ridgeless Ridgebacks may be an alternative that costs less, but they may come with health or behavioral issues due to previously neglectful pet parents. Keep in mind that Rhodesian Ridgebacks are placed for adoption through no fault of their own and can lead wonderful, normal lives once they find a forever home.

What is the Rhodesian Ridgeback known for?

The Rhodesian Ridgeback is known as an all-purpose hound, with a ridge of fur growing backward down the center of the back.


Hill’s Pet. Rhodesian Ridgeback Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits.

Canine Inherited Disorders Database. Rhodesian Ridgeback.

The Canine Health Information Center. Rhodesian Ridgeback.

American Kennel Club. Rhodesian Ridgeback.


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Lauren Jones, VMD


Dr. Lauren Jones graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2010, after receiving her bachelor’s degree…

Stomach Disorder (Loss of Motility) in Dogs

Gastric Motility Disorders in Dogs

The spontaneous peristaltic (involuntary, wavelike) movements of the stomach muscles are essential for proper digestion, moving food through the stomach and out into the duodenum — the first portion of the small intestine.

Excessive gastric motility, with muscular contractions occurring too frequently, causes pain, whereas below normal motility causes delayed gastric emptying, abnormal gastric retention, gastric distention/bloating, and other related signs. Symptoms may occur at any age but it is less common in young dogs than in aging dogs.

Symptoms and Types

Clinical symptoms vary depending on the primary cause responsible for the gastric motility disorder. The following symptoms are commonly seen in affected dogs:

Chronic vomiting of food, especially soon after taking mealNauseaLoss of appetite (anorexia)BelchingCompulsive eating of non-food substances (pica)Weight loss


Idiopathic (cause unknown)Secondary to other metabolic disorders, such as:HypokalemiaUremiaHepatic encephalopathyHypothyroidismSecondary to primary gastric disease, such as:GastritisGastric ulcersAfter gastric surgeryAfter use of certain drugsIn case of excessive pain, fear, or trauma


A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis to look for the potential cause of the decreased or increased gastric motility. Dehydration, acid-base imbalances, and electrolyte imbalances are common in cases with chronic vomiting. An electrolyte profile will help in determining the extent of dehydration and other related abnormalities.

Abdominal X-rays will help in locating excess gas, fluid or food in the distended stomach. To improve visibility on X-ray and examine the movement of the stomach, barium sulfate can be used for contrast abdominal radiography. This method uses a medium, in this case barium sulfate, to bring the interior of the body into sharper focus by adding a substance to the organ or vessel that will be visible on X-ray imaging. The barium is mixed with meal and fed to the dog, and serial radiographs are then taken to determine the length of time it takes for gastric emptying.

Ultrasound is also a valuable diagnostic tool for stomach motility evaluation, and endoscopy is commonly employed for real time evaluation of the various abdominal organs, including stomach. An endoscope is a tubular device that is outfitted with a lighted camera and gathering tool. It is inserted into the body, generally by mouth, and threaded into the organ that is to be examined (e.g., bladder, stomach, etc.) so that your veterinarian can better view the internal structure of the stomach organ, discovering masses, tumors, abnormal cells, blockages, etc. The endoscope can also be used to collect a tissue sample for biopsy.


Most dpgs do not require hospitalization for this condition; most likely, you will be able to return home with your pet after the initial treatment. In cases of severe bodily fluid loss (dehydration) or vomiting, your dog will need fluid therapy to restore fluid deficit and electrolyte imbalances. For proper management, a special diet may be advised for some patients with recurring gastric motility problems. Liquid or semi-liquid diets are often recommended to facilitate gastric emptying. Moreover, frequent small volume meals are preferred for affected dogs.

In most uncomplicated cases, dietary manipulations alone are sufficient for successful resolution of the problem. However, in some dogs, drugs to increase gastric motility may also be employed. Animals with gastric obstruction will require surgery for correction of the problem if it cannot be resolved by any other method.

Living and Management

In most dogs with uncomplicated gastric motility problems, the initial treatment results in a successful resolution of the problem. If your dog does not respond to the initial therapy, a further diagnostic workup may be required. The length of the treatment will depend on the resolution of the underlying disorder. If surgery is performed, it may take 10 to 14 days to regain normal gastric motility and function.

Blastomycosis in Dogs

What Is Blastomycosis in Dogs?

Blastomycosis, sometimes called “Blasto,” is a systemic disease (a disease that can affect the entire body) caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis. The fungus is found in soil, where moisture and decomposing matter—such as leaves, feces, and other organic material—are commonly found. Because moisture is required for its growth, the fungus is commonly found in areas near water.

The fungus starts as mold in the environment and creates spores—tiny reproductive cells that can spread into the air. Spores release in the air whenever the soil they live in is disturbed. Spores can then be inhaled into a dog’s airways or embedded in the skin, where it can develop into blastomycosis.

The warmth of the host’s body allows the spores to transform into a budding yeast. The yeast colonizes the lungs or skin, and from there can spread to the bloodstream and infect other organs. The organs most likely to be affected are:

Lungs/respiratory system

Skin and subcutaneous tissue



Lymph nodes 



Less common targets are the prostate, liver, mammary glands, and heart.

As the disease progresses, the yeast colonizes and infects additional organs. Once three or more organs are involved, the dog’s prognosis is typically poor. If the disease is caught early and symptoms are mild, most dogs respond well to treatment. 

Symptoms of Blastomycosis in Dogs

The signs of blastomycosis are dependent on which organs are involved. In about 85% of cases, affected dogs first have a dry, harsh cough. In as many as 50% of cases, they will have skin nodules with pus. Owners of dogs visiting or living in areas close to water should watch out for the following symptoms:

Respiratory issues, including coughing, difficulty breathing, and nasal discharge (especially bloody nasal discharge)

Draining skin nodules/lesions


Swollen lymph nodes

Weight loss or lack of appetite

Eye issues, such as inflammation, blindness, or swelling

Urinary issues, including bloody urine, difficulty urinating, or enlarged testicles in males

Neurological signs, such as head tilts and seizures


In most cases, skin lesions and respiratory problems are the earliest symptoms of blastomycosis in dogs.

Causes of Blastomycosis in Dogs

Blastomycosis typically occurs when soil contaminated with the fungus is disturbed, allowing airborne spores to be inhaled by the dog. Sporting or hunting dogs are at an increased risk, as they are more often in these contaminated areas. In addition, the spores can enter through the skin. Areas that consist of water and decomposing matter, or were recently disturbed due to construction, increase the risk of exposure to the disease. 

How Veterinarians Diagnose Blastomycosis in Dogs

A complete physical examination with a detailed history is helpful for diagnosis of blastomycosis. It can often be mistaken for other conditions, so it’s important for a vet to rule out any other common conditions during diagnosis.

 Your veterinarian may start with the following:

Blood tests

Imaging (radiographs, ultrasound, or CT scan) to examine the lungs

Urinalysis to look for yeast




Definitive diagnosis can be obtained by finding the organism in tissue, or through biopsies or an aspiration from skin lesions. (An aspiration is when a small sample of an area is collected through a needle and sent out for further analysis.)

It’s important to provide your veterinarian with any information about where your dog has been, in case it’s an area of high-risk for exposure. Be sure to mention any recent vacations or trips with your pet.

Treatment of Blastomycosis in Dogs

Antifungal medications are typically prescribed for blastomycosis and are given orally. They often must o be given for several months, but your dog can be treated at home if the illness is not severe.

Dogs with difficulty breathing may require oxygen therapy and hospitalization until they improve. In severe cases, or when medication does not work, prolonged hospital stays, intravenous medications, and further care may be required.

Dogs whose eyes are severely affected may not respond well to treatment and may require topical medications. If significantly affected, the eye may need to be surgically removed.  

Recovery and Management of Blastomycosis in Dogs

There is no way to prevent blastomycosis, aside from avoiding high-risk areas where the fungus may be  present. The prognosis for most dogs is positive, if treatment is provided as soon as symptoms start and medication is given correctly.

Pets with severe lung disease may appear worse at the beginning of treatment because the fungal organisms are dying. They may not improve for one to two weeks after the start of treatment, and so close monitoring should be done during this time, regardless of any additional underlying condition.

Once the organism affects the brain, seizures are common and may be uncontrollable. Dogs with brain involvement often die, and if more than three body systems become involved (meaning the disease has spread), the prognosis is typically poor.

Relapse can occur in dogs with very severe cases of blastomycosis or those for whom treatment was stopped too soon. These relapses are most common within the first 6 months after treatment.

It is unlikely that once recovered from the disease, the dog will be completely immune. Routine veterinary appointments, including annual exams, are critical to ensure the health and safety of your pet.

Blastomycosis in Dogs FAQs

How long can a dog live with blastomycosis?

Prognosis is poor without long-term treatment. The disease will continue to progress without intervention.

Is blastomycosis contagious to humans?

Blastomycosis cannot be spread to humans from dogs through the air, such as breathing or coughing. However, blood transmission, for example through a dog bite, can occur. Care should be taken to change and dispose of bandages and bandage materials by using proper protective wear, such as gloves. This is especially true for those who are immunocompromised, as there is a risk of inhalation of the fungus forming on bandages.

How did my dog get blastomycosis?

A dog may contract blastomycosis when soil contaminated with the fungus is disrupted and the spores are released and inhaled or enter through the skin.


Lundgren B. Veterinary Partner. Blastomycosis Is a Systemic Fungal infection Affecting Dogs and Cats. March 2006.

Taboada J. Merck Manual Veterinary Manual. Blastomycosis. March 2008.

Taylor S, Gaunt C. DVM360. Canine Blastomycosis: A Review and Update on Diagnosis and Treatment. May 2009.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fungal Diseases: Blastomycosis. February 2022.

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Kristin Sadler, DVM


Doberman Pinscher

The Doberman Pinscher is thought to have been first bred by Louis Dobermann, a German tax collector, in the late 1800s. He likely crossed Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Weimaraners, and Greyhounds.  

The Doberman Pinscher is a loyal dog known for intelligence and guarding ability. While often kept as a family dog, this breed is also used for security, police work, and guiding, as well as search and rescue. 

The Doberman is considered a large-sized dog. They typically grow to be between 24-28 inches tall and weigh 60-100 pounds. 

Caring for a Doberman Pinscher

Doberman Pinschers are energetic dogs. They are also curious and intelligent, and so require an active lifestyle that keeps them both mentally and physically stimulated. Without consistent exercise, Dobermans will seek out their own entertainment, which can lead to destructive and unwanted behaviors. Due to their high energy level, they are not always an ideal pet for families with very young children. 

Doberman Pinschers are also known for loyalty and love of family, and this can lead them to be protective of their people. Ideally, pet parents start proper socialization and training early and stay consistent.  

Dobermans have a strong prey drive, so they may not be the ideal pet for families with other small animals in the home, such as guinea pigs, rabbits, or cats.

Doberman Pinscher Health Issues

The Doberman Pinscher is a healthy breed, but there are a few health issues that pet parents should know to look out for.  

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus  

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a condition that comes on suddenly and requires immediate life-saving intervention. It occurs when the stomach fills up with food or gas that causes expansion and increased pressure. The stomach can then rotate, which in turn causes inadequate blood supply to the spleen and stomach. If the condition is not treated quickly, shock, tissue damage, and even death can occur.  

Increased risk of GDV is seen in:  

Older dogs with a deep chest, like the Doberman 

Dogs that are fed from elevated bowls  

Dogs that are fed only once per day 

Symptoms of GDV include:  

Distended abdomen 

Nonproductive retching 




These signs can progress to weakness, collapse, elevated heart and breathing rates, and poor blood flow. 

Immediate veterinary intervention is needed to stabilize and treat GDV. The longer a dog has this condition without intervention, the greater the risk of death. Initially, fluid therapy, oxygen therapy, and decompression of the stomach may be performed. Surgery, called a gastropexy, is sometimes required to return the stomach to the right location and secure it in place.  

A prophylactic gastropexy can also be performed before GDV even occurs, to secure the stomach in the right position. These procedures are often done at the same time as the spay/neuter. 


Hypothyroidism is a condition that causes an underactive thyroid gland, which controls metabolism. In hypothyroidism, the body either attacks its own glands or the gland is replaced with fat. 

Signs of hypothyroidism in a Doberman Pinscher include:  

Weight gain 


Brittle coat 

Skin infections 

Increased cholesterol in the blood 

Hypothyroidism is diagnosed through blood work. It is treatable with a thyroid hormone replacement medication called levothyroxine. 

Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is degeneration of the heart muscle that causes the muscle of the left ventricle to become very thin and pump weakly.  

Symptoms of the disease may occur suddenly or progress gradually as it worsens over time. Congestive heart failure can occur secondary to DCM. Signs of DCM include: 

Exercise intolerance 



Rapid breathing 

Increased breathing effort 



Sudden death 

Your vet may suspect DCM if these symptoms are observed or if a murmur is heard via the stethoscope. X-rays and/or an echocardiogram (ultrasound of the heart) are used to further characterize and diagnose this disease. 

DCM is a very serious condition that requires intensive treatment, and not all dogs will return to normal. Medical treatment for DCM slows the progression and helps control the symptoms, including medications to: 

Control arrhythmias (anti-arrhythmics) 

Lower vascular pressure and increase muscle strength (pimobendan) 

Remove excess fluid from the body (diuretics) 

Lower blood pressure and resistance (ACE inhibitors) 

Slow the heart rate (cardiac glycosides) 

Dilate the blood vessels (vasodilators) 

A correlation between DCM and grain-free diets has been found, but it is not fully understood. Discussion with a veterinarian regarding the risks and benefits of grain-free diets for Doberman Pinschers is recommended. 

Von Willebrand’s Disease 

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is a genetic blood disorder that is seen in Doberman Pinschers more than other breeds.  

This disease causes a deficiency in a protein called the von Willebrand factor, which is necessary for platelets to stick together and form a clot. In dogs that are deficient in this protein, the blood may have difficulty clotting, which can lead to bleeding from the nose, vulva, bladder, or gums. Additionally, dogs with this condition may bleed for a long time after trauma or surgery. 

If there is concern about vWD, a screening test, called buccal mucosal bleeding time, may be performed. This test measures how long it takes for a small cut in the mouth to stop bleeding. If this time is longer than usual, additional testing is needed to confirm vWD.  

Since some dogs with vWD do not have notably prolonged bleeding until later in adulthood, blood levels of von Willebrand’s factor can be measured to help with diagnosis. Many vets recommend testing for vWD prior to any planned surgery, including spays, neuters, and dewclaw removals. 

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a genetic disease that causes abnormal conformation of the hip joint. This formation of the joint is also influenced by growth rate, hormones, diet, and exercise.  

Hip dysplasia happens when the hip joint is too loose, so the cartilage and bone begin to wear down. As the body attempts to stabilize the joint, degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis may develop; arthritis, in turn, leads to pain, limping, and difficulty rising. 

Maintaining a lean body condition is important for preventing arthritis in Doberman Pinschers. Many vets recommend low-intensity exercise and supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin for dogs diagnosed with hip dysplasia. 

Hip dysplasia is diagnosed on x-rays of the hips. The hip joints may also feel loose on manipulation. When pain is present, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are frequently prescribed to reduce inflammation and pain. Other modalities to control the pain include acupuncture and laser therapy. If pain cannot be controlled, surgery may be recommended. 

What to Feed a Doberman Pinscher

Feeding commercial kibble or wet food that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to make sure that your Doberman Pinscher receives a complete and balanced diet. These dogs need easily digestible protein for healthy muscles, including the heart. Inclusion of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) in the diet supports healthy skin, coat, kidneys, and heart. 

How to Feed a Doberman Pinscher 

Ask your vet whether your Doberman’s diet should include grains. There is a correlation between grain-free diets and dilated cardiomyopathy, to which the Doberman Pinscher is already predisposed.  

Elevated bowls should be avoided, as these can increase the risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) or bloat. 

How Much to Feed a Doberman Pinscher 

Just as it is for humans, the recommended caloric intake for Doberman Pinschers varies between individuals due to different physical sizes, metabolisms, and activity levels. While usually large in size, Dobermans can vary widely in size and weight, so caloric needs also vary.  

Additionally, different foods have different caloric concentrations. For example, an average neutered adult Doberman Pinscher weighing around 75 pounds requires roughly 3½ cups of a kibble that has 400kcal/cup. Maintaining a healthy weight is important for protecting a Doberman’s joints.  

An individualized feeding plan should be discussed with your veterinarian. 

Nutritional Tips for Doberman Pinschers 

Talk with your veterinarian about adding omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) to your Doberman’s diet. These act as natural anti-inflammatories and help to support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Doberman Pinschers

Doberman Pinscher Personality and Temperament 

The Doberman Pinscher is energetic, alert, fearless, and loyal. These dogs do well in an active home where they can use their intelligence. Exercise and space for free play are necessities. They can be destructive if left alone and/or bored. 

Doberman Pinscher Behavior 

Despite their history as a guard dog breed, Dobermans can be fun and loving family dogs. While children should always be supervised around dogs, Dobermans are usually patient with young children.  

They may also have a strong prey drive, which could lead to chasing small animals, including cats. Not all Dobermans interact well with other dogs, but early socialization can help. 

Doberman Pinschers are not particularly vocal, but given their guard-dog history, training is needed to manage how much they bark.  

Doberman Pinscher Training 

The Doberman Pinscher is extremely intelligent and thrives in obedience and basic dog training. Dobermans love to have an outlet for all their energy, so providing a consistent training and socialization routine early in life is a great way to encourage good behavior and redirect undesired behaviors. Without training, Dobermans can become pushy and unmanageable, as well as reactive to novel stimuli (such as strangers, new sounds, and new objects). 

If you are planning on bringing a Doberman Pinscher into your home, be prepared to put in a lot of training and socialization hours to help your dog grow into a well-adjusted canine citizen. 

Fun Activities for Doberman Pinschers 


Nose work 


Obedience training 

Doberman Pinscher Grooming Guide

Doberman Pinschers have distinct colors, including black, fawn, blue, and red. The blue fur relates to the dilution of the black coat. Rust-colored markings are present above the eyes, on the muzzle, on all legs, and below the tail. The breed can also be white in rare cases. 

Dobermans have a short, smooth coat and are known to be moderate to heavy shedders. 

Skin Care  

Doberman Pinschers have generally healthy skin that requires minimal upkeep. Monthly or as-needed baths are enough to keep them clean. 

Coat Care 

While the Doberman Pinscher has a short coat, regular brushing (daily or a couple of times a week) is a good idea to help manage shedding.  

Eye Care  

Dobermans have no special eye-care considerations. Just be sure to give them a quick check when you are brushing or bathing to make sure there are no issues.  

Ear Care  

Dobermans generally have very healthy ears, but regular ear checks and cleaning are always recommended. If you notice a lot of debris or redness, make sure to notify your vet to see if you should bring your dog in for an appointment.   

Considerations for Pet Parents 

The Doberman Pinscher is a very active dog breed. Dobermans require routine physical and mental exercise, so they do best in a very active home. These are also dogs that thrive with a lot of training and socialization, and it is important for helping them grow into well-adjusted adult dogs.  

Dobermans do have a strong prey drive, so homes with small animals are not ideal, unless there has been extensive socialization and training. Socialization can also help Dobermans to be more tolerant of other dogs. 

A healthy Doberman should have a physical exam performed by a veterinarian at least once annually. The breed is predisposed to dilated cardiomyopathy, a type of heart disease, so special attention should be paid to symptoms like lethargy, exercise intolerance, coughing, or collapse. 

Many vets recommend testing for von Willebrand’s Disease (a blood-clotting disorder) prior to any planned surgery, as it is inherited in Doberman Pinschers. Breeders may elect to have genetic testing performed to look for von Willebrand’s Disease. 

X-rays of the hips can be performed in young dogs to look for evidence of hip dysplasia. If it is present, supplements may be recommended to help prevent degenerative joint disease and osteoarthritis. 

Doberman Pinscher FAQs

Is a Doberman Pinscher a good family dog?

Dobermans are a patient and loyal breed, so a well-trained and socialized Doberman Pinscher can make a good family dog. Children should always be supervised when interacting with all dogs, including Doberman Pinschers. These dogs may be protective of home and property. 

Are Doberman Pinschers smart dogs?

The Doberman Pinscher is an immensely intelligent breed, making these dogs good candidates for intensive training. 

Is there a difference between a Doberman and a Doberman Pinscher?

These terms are interchangeable and refer to the same breed. 

What are Doberman Pinschers known for?

Dobermans are known for their security and guarding skills. They may be protective of the home. Their intelligence and loyalty make them exceptional candidates for training. 


American Kennel Club. The New Complete Dog Book. CompanionHouse Books; 2017.  

American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Gastric Dilatation-volvulus. 

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). 

American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Canine Hip Dysplasia.  

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Canine von Willebrand Disease.  

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Virginia LaMon, DVM


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

Cataracts in Dogs

What are Cataracts in Dogs?

A cataract is an imperfection, an opacity, or a “clouding” of the lens of the eye. The function of the lens is to allow passage of light and images directly to the retina where vision occurs. The lens should be crystal clear, but diseases of the lens, like cataracts, can change its transparency or clarity.

Cataracts may be too small to interfere with vision, so large as to drastically impair vision or anywhere in between. To detect cataracts in dogs, simply look for whiteness on the pupils in one or both eyes.

Cataracts are classified by:

The dog’s age at onset:

Congenital: present at birth

Juvenile: young dogs

Senile: older dogs

Anatomic location



Degree of opaqueness can be broken down even further to the following:

Incipient: Cataracts are so small they often require magnification to diagnose. These involve less than 15% of the lens and cause no vision loss. Many dogs won’t notice these, and surgery to remove the cataract is rarely recommended at this stage.

Immature: Cataracts involve more than 15% and up to 99% of the lens—often multiple layers or areas. The retina can still be seen during examination and visual deficits are typically mild. Significant vision loss usually occurs with cataracts that cover 75% of the lens, but the degree to which it affects the dog varies.

Mature: Cataracts involve the entire lens, and the retina cannot be seen during examination. Visual deficits are often significant, with blindness or near-blindness often detected. Dogs with mature cataracts can only see changes in light. They should undergo surgery to remove the cataracts if all other systemic illnesses are under control.

Hyper-mature Cataracts: the lens begins to shrink, and the lens capsule appears wrinkled. Lens-induced uveitis (inflammation within the eye) often occurs at this stage.

If cataracts occupy less than 30% of the lens, or if only one eye is affected, they rarely cause reduced vision. When the opacity covers about 60% of the total lens area, vision loss often becomes obvious. If the opacity progresses to 100% of the lens, the dog will be blind in the affected eye. Whether the cataract remains stable or progresses depends on the type of cataract, the breed of dog and other risk factors.

Hereditary cataracts occur commonly in young dogs between 1 and 5 years old. Breeds most susceptible to hereditary cataracts are:

American Staffordshire Terrier

American Cocker Spaniel

French Bulldog

Labrador Retriever

Miniature Poodle

Miniature Schnauzer

Boston Terrier

Siberian Husky

Yorkshire Terrier

Welsh Springer Spaniel

Cataract that dissolve on their own without treatment is referred to as cataract dissolution, and can cause deep inflammation within the eye. The cataract completely blocks light from entering the eye through the lens and keeps your dog from seeing. The condition is still treatable at that time with surgery, but without treatment, the condition can develop into glaucoma.

Glaucoma happens when fluid in your dog’s eye doesn’t drain properly, causing a painful increase in the pressure of the eye. Not all untreated cataracts develop into glaucoma, but dogs who have glaucoma are often not candidates for cataract removal surgery. Medical and surgical treatments exist for glaucoma, but in general, it carries a poor prognosis for preserving long-term vision.

Symptoms of Cataracts in Dogs

Puppies with complete juvenile cataracts won’t be able to see well and may start bumping into things. You may also see that the middle of the pupil has a white spot.

Bring your dog to the veterinarian if you see any signs that the eyes have changed in color or clarity. Also, if puppies are squinting or scratching at their eyes, or showing any signs of illness, bring them to the veterinarian as soon as possible.

When dogs have a cataract, it distorts their vision. Therefore, symptoms are usually related to the degree of vision loss. A cataract can start out the size of a pinpoint and grow to the size of the entire lens, and cause blindness. Dogs with less than 30% lens opacity will display few – if any – symptoms, even though there might be a visible lesion on the eye.

Cataracts cause dogs to experience disorientation or confusion if the cataracts develop quickly, such as with diabetes mellitus. Inflammation associated with cataracts can be painful and lead to glaucoma, which is even more painful. The pain is from the body reacting to what is perceived as a foreign substance on the lens. If the cataracts are caused by diabetes mellitus, you may also see increased thirst and urination, changes in appetite, and/or weight loss in your dog, along with lesions on the eyes and associated vision loss.

Causes of Cataracts in Dogs

The most common cause of cataracts in dogs is hereditary/genetic disease. Cataracts also occur commonly in dogs as a complication of diabetes mellitus. There are other causes that are much less common, such as:

Old age

Trauma, such as electric shock

Inflammation of the eye’s uvea (uveitis)

Low blood calcium levels (hypocalcemia or hypoparathyroidism)

Nutritional deficiencies (less understood, but cataracts have been linked to lack of amino acids such as Tryptophan, during development of puppies who are fed commercial milk-replacer supplements)

Exposure to UV light (most common cause of cataracts in humans), radiation or toxic substances

Cataracts that are secondary to diabetes mellitus are increasingly common in dogs. The increased blood glucose causes sugars within the lens of the eye to accumulate. Normally, these cataracts develop quickly and can rupture the lens capsule. If the cataract is a result of diabetes mellitus, it’s possible to slow the progress by changing your dog’s diet and insulin intake. If the cataract has progressed far enough, surgery might also be an option.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Cataracts in Dogs

If you notice a cloudiness in one or both of your dog’s eyes, it’s important to have the dog examined by your veterinarian as soon as possible. The vet will ask about your dog’s medical history and previous health concerns, including when you first noticed the symptoms, and conduct a complete physical examination to focus on the eyes and structures around the eye. Initial diagnostic testing (such as a complete blood count, serum biochemistry profile and urinalysis) usually do not show any abnormalities unless there is co-existing disease, such as diabetes mellitus or hypocalcemia.

During the initial eye exam, your vet will use several tests to make a diagnosis of cataracts. These preliminary test results will also establish a baseline for comparing your dog’s progress over time. It will be necessary to dilate your dog’s eyes to get a better look at the outside edge of the cataract and the back of the eye (if possible). Cataracts should also be differentiated from other lens imperfections in young dogs and the normal increase in nuclear density (otherwise known as nuclear sclerosis) that occurs in older animals. Tests include the following:

Slit lamp biomicroscopy: A special light is shone in the dog’s eye, which allows for direct examination of the lens.

Schirmer tear test: A small filter paper is placed inside the dog’s lower eyelid. When the paper is removed, it is tested for moisture content to measure tear production.

Fluorescein stain: Usually neon orange or yellow, ocular stains are used to evaluate the integrity of the surface of the eye, looking for defects to the cornea, such as scratches or the presence of any foreign materials.

Tonometry: After numbing the surface of the eye with an eye drop, the vet uses a small “pen” to tap the surface of the eye to measure intraocular pressure.

If your veterinarian is unable to do these tests, or the test results indicate an abnormality, you will be referred to a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist in your area.

If based on the state of the eyes and the appearance of the cataracts, it is decided that cataract surgery is needed, further testing will be done to ensure that the retina (the structure in the back of the eye that processes light information and sends it to the brain) is healthy. Some cataracts occur secondary to or are associated with loss of retinal function or retinal detachment.

Pre-operative tests to evaluate the retina include an electroretinogram (ERG) and an ocular ultrasound to measure the electrical responses of cells present in the retina. These tests usually require your dog to be sedated and can take a few hours. If retinal function is compromised, this will affect your dog’s ability to see well – even after cataract removal. In these cases, cataract surgery is not recommended.

Treatment of Cataracts in Dogs

There are no medical therapies currently available to reduce or “cure” cataracts. Currently, surgery is the only option. Research is ongoing into a few topical eye medications including topical aldose reductase inhibitors (ARI eye drops) have shown some success in cataracts caused by diabetes mellitus.

To guarantee the best chance of restored vision after cataract surgery, the health of both the eyes and the dog are evaluated. This step is critical, as any underlying diseases such as a skin or a dental disease should be under control prior to cataract surgery.

Cataracts are a progressive disease, and if surgery is recommended, it should be done in a timely manner. Pre-operative medication must begin and continue for several days to a few weeks prior to surgery to make sure any inflammation in the eyes associated with the cataracts is controlled. The long-term success rates reported in dogs following uncomplicated cataract surgery range from 85–90%.

The only definitive therapy for cataracts is removal of the diseased lens using a modern cataract surgical method called phacoemulsification. This surgical procedure involves the emulsification, or liquefying, of the eye’s lens with an ultrasonic probe. Once the lens is liquified and removed, fluids are replaced with a balanced salt solution. A corrective or artificial lens, similar to a contact lens, may be implanted on the eye during surgery. This new lens will be permanently attached to the eye.

Cost of Surgery for Cataracts in Dogs

Estimated costs are as follows:

Initial exam with an ophthalmologist: $200–$300

ERG, ultrasound and blood work: $1,000–$1,200

Cataract surgery on both eyes: $2,700–$4,000, including pre-operative examination, surgery, anesthesia, operating room use, hospitalization, and post-operative medications.

The average cost is $3,500, which may include a post-operative checkup as well.

Remember that these costs are only estimates and may increase or decrease depending on the nature of the cataracts, the presence of systemic disease (such as diabetes mellitus) and whether complications occur during or after surgery.

Recovery and Management of Cataracts in Dogs

After surgery, dogs are usually kept in the hospital overnight. They must wear an Elizabethan collar or inflatable cone to keep them from scratching at their eye. Owners will be given eye drops to administer to their dog at least two to four times a day while at home.

Surgery to correct a dog’s cataract involves a lifelong commitment from the owner. Dog owners looking to treat immature cataracts must start their dog on a regimen of multiple anti-inflammatory eye drops at the time of diagnosis. These drops will likely need to be used throughout the dog’s life.

The rate of progression of this disease depends on the underlying cause of the cataract, the location of cataract and the age of the dog. Cataract surgery for dogs with diabetes mellitus appears to yield the same success rate as for hereditary cataracts.

Prevention of Cataracts in Dogs

Since most cases of cataracts are hereditary, there isn’t much a pet parent can do to prevent the condition. However, feeding your dog a high-quality diet that is rich with omega-3 fatty acids can help promote eye heath. Discuss  supplement options with your vet to find the best product that is the most beneficial.

You should also be mindful of how much exposure your dog has to UV rays. You can help prevent cataracts in dogs by blocking harmful UV rays, by making sure your dog has plenty of shade while outdoors and having them wear protective goggles such as Rex Specs if you are in an area of high exposure area. 

Cataracts in Dogs FAQs

Can cataracts in dogs be removed?

Cataracts in dogs are surgically removed using a technique called phacoemulsification, which offers an 85–90% success rate.

Can cataracts in dogs be treated?

There are no medical therapies currently available to reduce or cure cataracts. Surgical treatment is the only permanent solution that can restore your dog’s vision.  

Can dogs live comfortably with cataracts?

No. Cataracts left untreated can cause deep inflammation within the eye and lead to glaucoma. These conditions are very painful.

What are immature cataracts in dogs?

Immature cataracts in dogs involve from 15–99% of the lens, and often involve multiple layers of the lens, or different areas. The retina can still be seen during examination, and visual deficits are typically mild. Usually, significant vision loss can be seen with cataracts that cover 75% of the lens or more, but the degree to which this impacts the dog varies.

Do dogs become blind because of cataracts?

If not treated properly, most cataracts will lead to total blindness in the affected eye or eyes.

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Barri J. Morrison, DVM


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

How to Choose the Safest Flea Treatment for Your Dog

Finding an effective, safe flea treatment for your dog is an important pet parent task. Here’s what you need to know to make sure your dog gets the flea protection they need with as little risk to their health as possible.

What to Consider When Picking the Safest Flea Treatment for Dogs

Keep in mind that no two pets are the same. Therefore, a product that’s commonly considered to be safe flea and tick prevention for dogs may be a great option for one pup but not for another. Factors to consider include:

Age: Flea treatments must be age-appropriate; many are not made for puppies younger than eight to 12 weeks of age. Look at the product’s label for this information.

Breed: Coat type may influence your decision. While topical flea preventions can be used with all fur coat types (even thick coats), it’s important that the product is applied directly to the dog’s skin. If you have a pet with a thicker coat, this can be challenging—and the medication won’t work correctly if it’s only applied to the dog’s hairs.

Your pet’s health history: Your dog’s medications or supplements, concurrent health conditions, and previous reactions to flea and tick preventatives should be taken into account. For example, if your pet has a history of seizures, some flea preventions may be safer than others. 

Your pet’s lifestyle: The presence of children and other pets (especially cats) in the household and your pet’s daily activities/exposure to the outdoors are important details.

Where you live: Which parasites are common in your area? Is resistance to certain preventatives a concern?

Your veterinarian will take these details into account and help you decide which flea and tick preventative is best for your dog. Many of the safest and most effective options require a veterinarian’s prescription, so have this discussion sooner rather than later.

Types of Safe Flea Treatments for Dogs

Veterinarians typically recommend dog flea and tick collars, topical flea and tick treatments, or oral flea and tick medications (sometimes in combination) to fully protect their patients. Here are a few of the safest flea treatments for dogs on the market today and some of their pros and cons.

Dog Flea and Tick Collars

Under many circumstances, newer dog flea collars are safe options for flea and tick control (unlike older collars, which were largely ineffective).

The Seresto collar is a very popular and effective option. It uses flumethrin and imidacloprid to kill fleas at multiple stages of development, and kills ticks as well. The collar’s effectiveness lasts up to eight months (as long as you minimize its exposure to water), so it is a convenient alternative to monthly prevention treatments.

However, if you have small children in your home, do not let them play with a Seresto collar or the included reflector clips. Flea and tick collars tend to leave traces of the chemicals that make them effective around the dog’s environment and on your pet, so this may be a concern with young children who tend to put everything in their mouths.

Some dogs have had local skin reactions to the collar that resolve when it’s removed. Always consult your veterinarian before using any flea and tick product, including Seresto.

Topical Flea and Tick Treatments for Dogs

Several safe flea treatments for dogs are available as topical (or spot-on) treatments, and many offer protection against far more than just fleas.

For example, Advantage Multi is a prescription treatment that uses the active ingredients imidacloprid and moxidectin to kill heartworms, hookworms, whipworms, roundworms, sarcoptic mange mites, and fleas. However, it doesn’t kill ticks and dogs should not be allowed to lick the application site for at least 30 minutes to avoid potentially serious side effects.

Frontline Plus is an over-the-counter product that uses fipronil and (S)-methoprene to attack fleas and ticks at every life stage. It also eliminates chewing lice and helps to control sarcoptic mange infestations. While it shouldn’t be ingested, a few surreptitious licks by your dog won’t cause major problems.

As is the case with flea and tick collars, if you’re unable to keep your pet away from small children or animals who may come into direct contact with the medication before it has dried or absorbed into your pet’s skin, a topical treatment might not be the ideal solution.

If you have cats in your home, talk to a veterinarian before choosing a topical flea and tick medication for your dog. Some utilize ingredients such as pyrethrin or permethrin, which are incredibly toxic to cats.

Ideally, you should wait several days after application to bathe your dog. Topical treatments generally need to be applied monthly.

Oral Flea and Tick Medications for Dogs

There are several oral prescription flea and tick medications that are quite safe for dogs. These preventatives come in pill and chew forms, and your vet can help you find the right one for your pup’s age.

Simparica is an excellent choice for flea and tick protection. The monthly chew also comes with an option for heartworm protection, too, as Simparica Trio. But while Simparica is usually safe flea and tick treatment for dogs, it shouldn’t be prescribed to dogs with a history of seizures.

Trifexis employs spinosad and milbemycin oxime to keep dogs protected from heartworms and intestinal parasites as well as fleas, but it does not work against ticks. Your vet will need to prescribe this treatment.

Bravecto chews (it also comes as a topical) offer long-lasting protection from fleas and ticks—up to 12 weeks per dose. It uses the active ingredient fluralaner, which kills adult fleas and ticks. Bravecto also requires a prescription from your veterinarian. But, like Simparica, Bravecto shouldn’t be prescribed to dogs with a history of seizures.

Oral flea and tick medications are great for households with small children or other small pets who may be in danger of coming into contact with the chemical residue from flea collars or topical medications. The most common side effect reported for prescription oral flea medications is vomiting.

No medication is without the risk of side effects, but leaving parasites untreated is far more dangerous, as your pet could develop flea-related or tick-borne diseases. Your veterinarian can help you pick out the safest and most effective flea and tick treatment based on your dog’s age, lifestyle, health status, and other unique characteristics.

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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…

Overproduction of Red Blood Cells in Dogs

Polycythemia in Dogs

Polycythemia is a rather serious blood condition, characterized as an abnormal increase in the amount of red blood cells in the circulatory system. It entails an increase in packed cell volume (PCV), hemoglobin concentration (the red pigment of the blood cell), and in red blood cell (RBC) count, above the reference intervals, due to a relative, transient, or absolute increase in the number of circulating red blood cells.

Polycythemia is classified as relative, transient, or absolute. Relative polycythemia develops when a decrease in plasma volume, usually caused by dehydration, produces a relative increase in circulating RBCs. Transient polycythemia is caused by splenic contraction, which injects concentrated RBCs into the circulation in a momentary response to epinephrine, the hormone that reacts to stress, anger, and fear. Absolute polycythemia is characterized by an absolute increase in the circulating RBC mass, as a result of an increase in bone marrow production.

Absolute polycythemia, typified by increased RBCs in the bone marrow, can be primary or secondary to an increase in the production of EPO. Primary absolute (called polycythemia rubra vera) is a myeloproliferative disorder characterized by the excessive, uncontrolled production of RBCs in the bone marrow. Secondary absolute polycythemia is caused by a physiologically appropriate release of EPO resulting from chronic hypoxemia (lack of oxygen), or by inappropriate and excessive production of EPO or EPO-like substance in an animal with normal blood oxygen levels.

The condition affects 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


VomitingDiarrheaLack of water intakeExcessive urination


Lack of energyLow exercise toleranceDark-red, or bluish gumsSneezingNosebleedsEnlarged abdomen



VomitingDiarrheaDiminished water intakeKidney diseaseHyperventilation



Primary absolute

Rare myeloproliferative disorder(bone marrow disorder)

Secondary absolute

Not enough oxygen in the blood (hypoxemia)Long-term lung diseaseHeart diseaseHigh altitudeImpairment of blood supply to the kidneysInappropriate EPO secretionKidney cystSwelling of a kidney due to urine being backed-upOveractive adrenal glandOveractive thyroid glandTumor of the adrenal glandCancer



Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and an electrolyte panel. Your veterinarian will also measure oxygen levels in the blood. Hormone assays (using blood samples to analyze hormones) can also be used for measuring EPO levels. Radiograph and ultrasound images are also useful for examining the heart, kidneys, and lungs for underlying diseases that could be causing polycythemia.

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. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are causing secondary disease symptoms.


For this condition, your dog should be hospitalized. Your veterinarian will decide, dependent on the underlying cause of the polycythemia, whether your dog needs to have some of the excess red blood cells removed by opening a vein – called a phlebotomy, or “letting” – and whether the excess has been caused by low levels of oxygen in the blood, which would require some amount of oxygen therapy. Your dog may also need to be treated with fluid therapy, or with medication if there is a diagnosis of a blood marrow disorder (myeloproliferative/polycythemia vera).

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up appointments with your dog as necessary to assure a normal packed cell volume, and to follow progress.