Archive : December

Low White Blood Cell Count in Dogs

Neutropenia in Dogs

The white blood cells known as neutrophils are vital for fighting infection; when they drop very low, your dog is suddenly susceptible to all kinds of infections and illnesses. There are many possible causes: genetic predisposition, cancer, and certain drugs, among others.

This disease has had a lot of attention among researchers in recent years, and more is known about it now, especially about the genes that are responsible for many of the congenital neutropenia syndromes. However, less has been learned about the other kinds of neutropenia, especially those which are acquired rather than inherited.

This genetic disease is found in the stem cells of bone marrow. Sometimes it is called “gray collie disease” by some scientists because it is a stem cell disorder that occurs in collies. All collies have black noses except those that have the gene that leads to the white-cell deficiency. The puppies who inherit the disease are usually smaller and weaker than the others in the litter, and they begin to develop fever, diarrhea, joint pain or other signs. The puppies will often go through cycles, having dramatically low white cell counts and then rebounding. Unfortunately, most of them die in the first few weeks.

Belgian Tervurens also inherit this condition; however, it is typically more benign than with collies. Tervurens usually show normal on bone marrow tests and treatment is only necessary if the dog is unhealthy.

There is also a genetic factor that leads to neutropenia in some giant schnauzers. In this case, the deficiency in neutrophils is the result of a failure to absorb vitamin B12.

Symptoms and Types 

Frequent infectionsUnexplained fever, diarrhea, joint pain, etc.Newborn puppies are small and sick—fever, diarrhea, joint pain, etc. In collies, the color of the coat is diluted and noses are gray rather than black like the other puppies



Genetic predispositionInfectious agents—parvoviruses and tick-transmitted organismsDrugs, chemicals, and toxins—chemotherapy agents and cephalosporins; estrogen; Noxzema ingestion, et al.Lack of trophic factors—inherited malabsorption of vitamin B12 (giant schnauzers)



The breed is usually the first indicator in diagnosing neutropenia. If it falls in any of the categories that typically exhibit the genetic predisposition, your veterinarian will examine for the disorder. You will need to provide a drug history for your dog, as well as any possible toxins (such as Noxzema) and exposure to radiation. Blood tests will be run to determine it’s blood count. If your dog is a collie and the deficiency is cycling, tests will need to be run periodically. In addition, serological tests will be run to determine whether the dog might have been infected by ticks; X-rays and ultrasound will then be used to locate the sites of infection.

Bone marrow may be biopsied to determine the level of neutrophil production and to exclude other diseases. In the case of giant schnauzers, vitamin B12 may be administered on a trial basis. If your dog has a fever, a culture of the infection site or a blood culture may be done to determine what the infecting agent is.


The first consideration for treatment is secondary infection. If there is no fever, antibiotics will be prescribed. If the dog has a fever, the treatment will be more aggressive. The dog will probably be hospitalized and antibiotics administered through an IV. If anemia is acute, a transfusion may also be necessary.

Living and Management

There will be frequent blood tests. Also, be aware of any signs of an infection, such as a fever.

My Pet is Moving Less – What’s Up?

What to Watch For

As our pets age there are many clinical signs that we need to be on the lookout for to make sure they don’t need medical attention.  By keeping an eye out for subtle changes we can address issues early which give us the best chance to provide our pets with a healthy and happy life free of pain.  Underlying diseases that may affect your pet’s mobility include arthritis, injury, degenerative neurologic diseases, certain types of cancer, diabetic neuropathy in cats, and hearing loss.

Arthritis is the most common cause of decreased mobility in both dogs and cats.  Technically called degenerative joint disease (DJD) it occurs when abnormal movements in the joints cause erosion of cartilage.  This will progress to bone rubbing on bone which itself is very painful and leads to inflammation.  The inflammatory process creates a vicious cycle resulting in chronic pain for your pet.  Factors such as obesity, overly active lifestyle, joint conformation and genetic factors can contribute to this process.

The most obvious sign of joint disease is when a dog or cat starts limping, usually right after they have been resting or lying down. However, there are numerous other subtle signs that may indicate your pet is uncomfortable.  Perhaps your dog doesn’t charge up the stairs like he used to. Maybe your older pet seems to be “slowing down.”  Cats may start urinating or defecating out of the litter box because it is too painful for them to jump into it.  These are just a few examples. Bottom line: if you notice any changes in your pet’s behavior, talk with your veterinarian immediately.


Early treatment for arthritis can be as simple as switching to a prescription diet or starting supplements.  The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil act as a strong anti-inflammatory for the joints.  There are several glucosamine and chondroitin supplements on the market that help repair cartilage damage.  I recommend looking for a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement that also contains avocado/soybean unsaponifiables, Boswellia and green-lipped muscle. For your pet’s safety, consult your veterinarian for guidance in selecting and dosing over the counter supplements. For more advanced disease you should speak with your veterinarian about starting pain medication, acupuncture or physical therapy.

Traumatic injury resulting in a muscle strain or ligament tear can result in pain with decreased activity.  These types of injury usually present suddenly and resolve with pain medication and rest.  If it is something more involved like a cruciate ligament tear the pet will usually need surgical correction for full return to function and to avoid developing secondary arthritis.  Your veterinarian can help determine the extent of your pet’s injury.

Non-Arthritic Conditions

Neurologic conditions such as intervertebral disk disease, inflammatory conditions in the brain and spinal fluid or tumors of the spine can affect mobility in a variety of ways.  The most common clinical sign in these diseases is weakness or paralysis in one or multiple limbs.  You can also see neck or back pain, decreased appetite, lethargy and fever.  If you are concerned that your pet is experiencing these signs, please seek veterinary care immediately.

Certain cancers of the bones and cartilage can cause limping and decreased mobility.  These cancers are very painful and readily diagnosed with x-rays.  Pets are so adept at hiding their pain from us that we often don’t see any clinical signs until they stop putting any weight on the affected limb or develop a pathologic fracture.  Again early detection is essential for managing and treating these conditions as well as helping keep your pet from experiencing chronic discomfort. 

Cats and rarely dogs can develop neurologic disease secondary to diabetes.  This is usually seen as weakness in the hind limbs called a “plantigrade stance” where the pet’s hocks are dropped almost touching the ground.  If you notice this in your pet speak with your veterinarian about testing them for diabetes.  If caught early and insulin therapy is started, diabetic neuropathy can be reversible.

Hearing can Affect Mobility

Finally decreased hearing can result in your dog or cat not leaping off the sofa to greet you when you walk in the door.  Unfortunately there isn’t much we can do to test or treat for this, but it is good information to discuss with your veterinarian to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on.

A dog or cat’s activity level and mobility can tell us a lot of important information about their overall health, especially as they age.  Any changes, either subtle or drastic, should be discussed with your veterinarian.  Treatment could be as simple as adding in a supplement or additional tests may be necessary to make sure your pet is healthy and pain free.

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Ashley Gallagher, DVM


Anemia Due to Chronic Kidney Disease in Dogs

Erythropoietin (EPO) is a glycoprotein hormone, produced in the kidneys, that controls the production of red blood cells. For development and maturation of red blood cells to take place, bone marrow requires an adequate supply of erythropoietin, so in cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD), where the kidney is unable to function well enough to produce adequate amounts of EPO, the marrow is likewise unable to produce an adequate supply of red blood cells. Lack of RBC production will inevitably lead to anemia in dogs that are suffering from this condition. Anemia due to CKD is usually seen in middle-aged to older dogs but can also occur in young dogs.

Symptoms and Types

Anemia in this case is principally related to chronic kidney disease. The symptoms are mixed, relating to both the CKD and the anemia. Following are some of the symptoms related to anemia in the presence of CKD:

Weight lossFatigueLethargyDepressionWeaknessApathy (state of indifference)Cold intoleranceChanges in behaviorTachypnea (rapid breathing)Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)Syncope (fainting)Seizures


Following are some of the causes for chronic kidney failure and anemia:

InheritedCongenital (pups born with the problem)Acquired form ( in later life)Iron deficiencyInfectionsCancerBlood loss through the alimentary tract (the entire canal from the mouth to the anus)Diseases that cause disruption of RBCs


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including a background history of symptoms. After taking a complete history, your veterinarian will conduct a complete physical examination on your dog. Laboratory tests will include a complete blood profile, a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. The results of these tests will provide valuable information for the diagnosis of the cause of the kidney failure and the extent of anemia related to it. Your veterinarian will be particularly interested in knowing the level of erythropoietin in the blood. Specific tests may be used to diagnose the underlying cause of the chronic kidney disease and resulting anemia. An examination of the bone marrow examination may be conducted to evaluate the structure and functions of the bone marrow. X-ray and ultrasound imaging will show any abnormal structure of the kidneys that is typical in chronic kidney disease, and ultrasound may reveal smaller than normal or irregular-shaped kidneys, both characteristic of chronic kidney disease.


Treatment involves treating the symptoms related to the chronic kidney failure: replacement of deficient erythropoietin and resolution of the anemia. Supportive therapy will be started immediately to meet energy demands. In cases of severe anemia, a whole blood transfusion will be performed. Iron will also be added to the supportive therapy in cases with low levels of iron in the blood. Erythropoietin replacement provides both rapid and long-term correction of anemia related to chronic kidney failure.

Living and Management

It must be remembered that in most cases of chronic kidney failure, long-term treatment and management will be required. Regular evaluation will be required to follow your dog’s progress and to avoid further complications. Your veterinarian will schedule follow-up visits for once a month until your dog’s condition has stabilized. During these visits your veterinarian will record your dog’s blood pressure and adjust the dosage of various drugs being given to your dog. The treatment of chronic kidney disease and anemia is not without side effects, you will need to consult with your veterinarian throughout the process in order to ensure proper management of your dog’s health.

Correction of anemia through erythropoietin replacement therapy will improve overall health of your dog, including improved appetite and activity level. Your dog will be more playful, gain more weight, and will also be in a better position to cope with cold intolerance. Despite these short-term benefits, unfortunately, the long-term prognosis of patients with chronic kidney failure is usually poor.

Ear Hematomas in Dogs

What Are Ear Hematomas in Dogs?

Ear hematomas in dogs, also known as auricular hematomas or aural hematomas, occur when blood vessels rupture in the earflap, or pinna. As the blood accumulates, your dog’s ear will swell, forming an aural hematoma. 

Symptoms of Ear Hematomas in Dogs

If your dog has an ear hematoma, an ear infection is often its cause. One sign of an ear infection in dogs is excessive headshaking, caused by irritation in the ear.

If your dog’s ear is infected, their earflap will swell and become red and warm to the touch. The swelling may involve the entire earflap, or it may cover only part of it. You may also notice a foul odor or discharge coming from your dog’s ear.

In most cases, only one ear will be affected; however, both ears can have hematomas.

Causes of Ear Hematomas in Dogs

The most common cause of an ear hematoma in dogs is an ear infection or other irritation within the ear. Dog ear infections cause irritation that results in headshaking, which in turn, causes the ear hematoma.

Other causes for headshaking, such as ear mites, having something stuck in their ear, and underlying issues such as allergies, can lead to an ear hematoma. Less commonly, allergic skin disease in dogs, immune disorders, trauma, or blood clotting deficits can cause ear hematomas in dogs.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Ear Hematomas in Dogs

Ear hematomas are diagnosed by physical examination. The veterinarian will recognize the characteristic signs: the earflap is warm and swollen, and often red and inflamed-looking on the inside. Most often, hematomas are noticed with an ear infection or other reasons for constant headshaking.

Addressing the primary cause for your dog’s headshaking is also necessary. The vet will examine your dog’s ear with an otoscope and will often recommend taking a sample or ear swab for cytology. This means looking at the swab under a microscope to identify the presence of bacteria and/or yeast.

Treatment of Ear Hematomas in Dogs

Several different dog ear hematoma treatments exist to reduce the swelling.

In some cases, when medical management is attempted, medications such as steroids, antibiotics, and/or pain relievers may be used. These may also be used in combination with surgical treatment, such as ear drainage or an incision. Underlying conditions such as ear mites or ear infections will also need to be treated.

Surgical drainage of the ear hematoma may be recommended if the swelling is large enough to cause pain, discomfort, or blockage of the ear canal. Your vet might also suggest surgical drainage if they are concerned that scarring may lead to permanent deformity of the ear canal.

In this procedure, the hematoma would be pierced and drained under anesthesia, but it is likely to recur and may need to be drained multiple times.

In most cases, a drain is placed in your dog’s ear to keep additional fluid from building up within the earflap. Alternatively, a surgical incision with strategically placed sutures may be placed through the earflap to discourage the accumulation of fluid and encourage drainage.

Curing an ear hematoma also means dealing with the initial disease that caused your dog to shake their head in the first place, whether it’s an ear infection, mites, or something else.

Recovery and Prevention of Ear Hematomas in Dogs

Dog Ear Hematoma Surgery Recovery

After ear hematoma surgery, the veterinarian may place bandages over your dog’s ear and head and will recommend an Elizabethan collar. At home, you may be asked to administer medications by mouth or in the ear via a hole in the bandage. You will also need to monitor the bandage.

A follow-up appointment will be needed so your vet can assess healing. The E-collar must be worn to prevent your dog from scratching at the wound, which could result in trauma to the area and removal of the bandage and/or stitches.

In some cases, despite prompt and appropriate medical care, scarring can result in slight deformity of the earflap.

Prevention of Dog Ear Hematomas

Preventing ear infections and ear mites will also help prevent the formation of hematomas in your dog. When ear infections or mites do occur, they should be treated promptly to avoid the formation of a hematoma.

If you see these common signs, take your dog to the vet so they can be properly diagnosed and treated for an ear infection or ear mites before a hematoma develops:

Frequent head shaking

Excessive ear scratching

Pain, redness, or odor

Crust in the ear or discharge

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Christina Fernandez, DVM, DACVECC


Dr. Christina Fernandez obtained her DVM degree from St. George’s University in 2007 and membership with the Royal College of Veterinary…

Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

What Is Multiple Myeloma in Dogs?

Multiple myeloma is a rare type of blood cancer that can develop in plasma cells, which are white blood cells that make antibodies to help your dog’s body fight off germs that can cause them to get sick. Plasma cells are found in bone marrow, the spongy material in the center of your dog’s bones.

Plasma cells that become cancerous make abnormal antibodies that can hurt instead of help your dog. These cancerous plasma cells build up faster than healthy plasma cells and eventually become the main type of plasma in your dog’s bone marrow. Multiple myeloma typically starts in multiple places within the bone marrow.

The abnormal antibodies coming from cancerous plasma cells can make their way to other organs in the body such as the kidneys. This can cause these organs to not function properly.

Symptoms of Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

It can take years for symptoms of multiple myeloma to appear, but your dog may experience:

Signs of pain, such as more sensitivity to touch


Weight loss

Abnormally low numbers of white blood cells and blood platelets

Abnormally high levels of calcium in the blood

Bone damage from the breaking down of bone cells, causing the spinal cord to compress and bones to break most often in the spine, pelvis, ribs, skull, or areas of the leg closest to the trunk of your dog’s body

Kidney failure

Heart disease

Causes of Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

There is no single known cause for multiple myeloma. Exposure to chemicals, constant activation of the immune system, illness from a viral infection, and genetics are all suspected to play a role.

The Giant Schnauzer, Labrador, Golden Retriever, and German Shepherd breeds have higher rates of multiple myeloma, but it is not clear why.

Gender does not seem to be a risk factor for multiple myeloma, although neutered females and intact males are overrepresented in some case studies.

As with most other cancers, older dogs are more likely to be affected by the disease. The average age of diagnosis for multiple myeloma is eight to nine years old.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

Multiple myeloma is very rare and makes up less than 1% of all cancers in dogs, so it may not be the first suspected cause of your dog’s symptoms.

Multiple myeloma has four classic criteria that can be tested to confirm its presence. At least two must be met for a diagnosis to be made.

Your dog’s vet will do several different tests to find which, if any, of these signs are found:

Visualizing bone damage–Your veterinarian may use X-rays or computed tomography (CT scan) to see your dog’s bones. Bones with a “patchy” appearance may be damaged, which is a common clinical sign of multiple myeloma.Finding the number of plasma cells–Your veterinarian may take a sample of cells or a piece of tissue from your dog’s bone marrow to find out the relative amount of plasma cells. Multiple myeloma may be present if more than 20% of the cells in your dog’s bone marrow are plasma cells.Checking levels of globulin in blood–Your veterinarian may do blood work to find the levels of globulin present in your dog’s blood. Globulin is a type of protein, and there is a lot more of it when a dog has multiple myeloma.Examining the amount of Bence-Jones proteins in urine–Your veterinarian may analyze your dog’s urine to figure out the level of Bence-Jones proteins present. Bence-Jones proteins are a type of antibody. High levels of these in urine is a sign of multiple myeloma.

Multiple myeloma does not result in a solid tumor mass because it is a blood cancer found throughout the body’s bloodstream and bone marrow. This can make staging for multiple myeloma (the process of figuring out how much cancer is in your dog’s body and where) more difficult. Regardless, staging may be a helpful indicator of how far your dog’s cancer has progressed.

Multiple myeloma can go unnoticed for a number of years before clinical signs can be seen, so it’s hard to tell how long your dog has been living with the disease. However, your veterinarian may be able to estimate how severe your dog’s multiple myeloma is by comparing relative levels of abnormal antibodies and proteins in their blood or urine.

Treatment of Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

Most dogs with multiple myeloma tolerate treatment well and can greatly benefit from it.

Chemotherapy is often the first choice of treatment. Approximately 80 to 95% of dogs diagnosed with multiple myeloma benefit from chemotherapy within three to six weeks.

 Oral chemotherapy medications that may be prescribed include:

Melphalan (most commonly used with a corticosteroid called prednisone)Chlorambucil and cyclophosphamide (may be prescribed either alone or together)Doxorubicin (most often used for relapses and may be used with another chemotherapy drug, vincristine)

Radiation can also help to treat multiple myeloma and ease bone pain to make your dog more comfortable.

Fluid therapy may be suggested to make sure your dog is hydrated and has the right level of electrolytes. This can be especially helpful for dogs with kidney failure due to multiple myeloma.

Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as corticosteroids like prednisone or dexamethasone, may be prescribed to help reduce swelling. Inflammation is an important natural reaction to injury and infection in the body, but too much inflammation can be painful and can damage healthy cells. Furosemide is a medication that can help reduce swelling. It can be particularly helpful for dogs with kidney failure and heart disease due to their multiple myeloma.

Bisphosphonates, such as pamidronate, may be incorporated into your dog’s treatment plan as well. These can be useful for stopping the breakdown of bone cells, which helps to decrease the level of calcium in your dog’s blood, ultimately improving their bone condition and relieving pain.

Recovery and Management of Multiple Myeloma in Dogs

Multiple myeloma is rarely cured, and dogs who achieve remission are expected to relapse. Fortunately, multiple myeloma is manageable so long as your dog is checked by their veterinarian often. This means that regularly scheduled blood tests and examinations by a veterinarian will be needed.

Doing things that help to keep your dog otherwise healthy and comfortable while they are living with the disease can help. For example, your dog’s veterinarian may suggest feeding them a well-balanced diet low in carbohydrates and high in cancer-fighting compounds like omega-3 fatty acids, giving them a daily multivitamin to ensure their nutritional needs are met, or administering medication as prescribed to control their pain levels.

Talk to your veterinarian to help you figure out which practices may be best for your dog.

Multiple Myeloma in Dogs FAQs

How long can a dog live with multiple myeloma?

Dogs with multiple myeloma can live 18 months or longer post-diagnosis if they receive treatment. Chemotherapy treatment typically results in the longest median survival times.

How common is it for dogs to reach remission with multiple myeloma?

In a study of 60 dogs with multiple myeloma that were treated with the chemotherapy drug melphalan and the corticosteroid drug prednisone, 43% had complete remission, 49% had partial remission, and 8% did not respond to treatment.

On average, how much does treatment for multiple myeloma in dogs cost?

The average cost for chemotherapy in dogs varies depending on what drugs are used and can range from $100 to $500 per dose. If radiation is necessary, the cost will be much higher, as radiation in dogs requires them to be under general anesthesia and might cost anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on how many sessions are needed.

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An overview of multiple myeloma in dogs and cats. DVM 360. Published October 1, 2019.

Brister J. Multiple Myeloma in Dogs and Cats. Veterinary Partner. Published April 13, 2020. 

Matus RE, Leifer CE, MacEwen EG, Hurvitz AI. Prognostic factors for multiple myeloma in the dog. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 1986;188(11):1288-1292.

Multiple Myeloma. Veterinary Society of Surgical Oncology (VSSO). Published 2019.

Ricci M, De Feo G, Konar M, Lubas G. Multiple myeloma and primary erythrocytosis in a dog. Canadian Veterinary Journal. 2021;62(8):849-853.

Wachowiak IJ, Moore AR, Avery A, et al. Atypical multiple myeloma in 3 young dogs. Veterinary Pathology. 2022;59(5):787-791.

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Charlotte Hacker, PhD

Dr. Charlotte Hacker is a biologist and writer. Her PhD focused on the study of high-altitude carnivores, which led to projects…

Bartonella Infection in Dogs

What Is Bartonella Infection in Dogs?

Bartonellosis, commonly known as cat scratch fever, is a bacterial infection that dogs and cats can get in their bloodstream. It is carried by fleas, ticks, lice, and sand flies. It can cause fever and inflammation of many organs in the body, including the heart. Bartonella spreads from these bugs and parasites.

The infection has a higher prevalence in the South than in other areas of the United States. Worldwide, cats are found to be more commonly infected with the bacteria than dogs. However, dogs that are used for hunting and herding and live outside or in rural settings are more likely than indoor dogs to be exposed to parasites that carry bartonella.

Symptoms of Bartonella Infection in Dogs

Dogs that are infected with Bartonella may show signs of:


Swollen lymph nodes

Sore muscles; difficulty getting up or reluctance to run or jump

Nose irritation such as discharge and/or nosebleeds

Digestive upset (vomiting or diarrhea)

Inflammation of the heart (coughing, difficulty breathing, or fainting)

Causes of Bartonella Infection in Dogs

The bartonella infection is spread through bites from fleas, ticks, sand flies, and lice to their hosts. The host animal can then spread the infection to people if they scratch or bite a human, making it a zoonotic disease. This is known in humans as cat scratch fever (even though it is not always transmitted by a cat scratching a human’s skin). It is less common for a human to get infected with Bartonella from a dog, which could come from a bite.

There are six species of Bartonella known to infect dogs (B. henselae, B. vinsonii, B. clarridgeiae, B. elizabethae, B. washoensis, and B. quintana), but the most common is B. henselae, the strain that is responsible for cat scratch fever.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Bartonella Infection in Dogs

Once a veterinarian performs a complete physical exam, they may recommend a complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile, and urinalysis. They are checking for signs of infection and inflammation and the effects on the body’s organs.

Blood testing is the best way to diagnose bartonellosis in a dog. These tests are sent to veterinary diagnostic labs.

IFA (immunofluorescence antibodies) testing is useful for detecting exposure to Bartonella. Cultures can also be done on blood and affected tissues, like lymph nodes or even heart valves in the case of infections causing endocarditis, inflammation of the heart.  

Endocarditis is best diagnosed via an echocardiogram, an ultrasound of the heart.  Preliminary tests such as blood testing for general infection, an EKG, and chest X-rays can be done with your general veterinarian prior to referral for the echocardiogram if needed.

Treatment of Bartonella Infection in Dogs

The good news is that bartonellosis can be treated with antibiotics. A 4- to 6-week regimen of doxycycline, amoxicillin, or enrofloxacin has been shown to be effective in treating the infection. Because of the long course of treatment with antibiotics and the desire to prevent antibiotic resistance, treatment is primarily recommended for symptomatic animals only.

Recovery and Management of Bartonella Infection in Dogs

Symptoms of bartonellosis in dogs usually resolve after 2-4 weeks of treatment. Mild swelling of the glands and generalized fatigue could continue for months, though this is uncommon.

Prevention of Bartonella Infection in Dogs

There are no vaccines to prevent bartonellosis. Good flea and tick prevention, which can be recommended by your veterinarian, is important in preventing this disease. It is also important to monitor your dog when they are in areas where these bugs are native or prevalent, and removing any visible fleas or ticks is always a good preventive measure.

Humans who are immunocompromised should avoid rough play or being bit by dogs at risk for being infected with bartonella. Puppies, who have sharp teeth and can do more nipping and biting, can be a source of infection, especially to immunocompromised people. There is no documentation that humans can be infected directly via a tick or flea. 

Bartonella Infection in Dogs FAQs

Is a bartonella infection fatal to dogs?

Bartonellosis is rarely fatal in dogs. The most severe cases are those that cause severe inflammation of the heart.

Can bartonella infection in dogs be cured?

It cannot be completely cured, but it can be brought down to subclinical levels. It is recommended to treat infected dogs with antibiotics, especially if they live in households with immunocompromised humans. The likelihood of transmission of the bacteria from subclinical carriers of the bartonella bacteria is unknown, but a lower risk to humans is presumed if the dog is subclinical. 


Lashnits E, et al. “Study Evaluates Accuracy of Tests for Bartonella Infection in Dogs, Addressing ‘Big Gap’ in Veterinary Medicine.” University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine, July 2021;

“For Veterinarians,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 2020;

“How Likely Is Bartonellosis in Dogs?” Galaxy Advanced Micobial Diagnostics, November 2019;

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Stephanie Lantry, DVM


Dr. Lantry is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native. She knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian and worked towards that…


The Leonberger is a giant dog breed whose name is derived from the town of Leonberg, Germany. According to legend, the reddish-gold dog was bred in the 17th century by crossing Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards, and Great Pyrenees to resemble the lions on Leonberg’s coat of arms. The breed became popular with European royalty because of the dogs’ friendly temperaments and long coats, and the Leonberger worked on farms as well.

After nearly going extinct during World War I and World War II, today the Leonberger dog breed is most often found working in search-and-rescue and living alongside their humans as companions.

The Leonberger size is impressive—these dogs stand 25–32 inches tall and can weigh as much as 170 pounds. And because of their stature, the Leonberger life expectancy is shorter than the average dog, at only 7 years.

Caring for a Leonberger

Leonbergers are strong, muscular dogs that, if appropriately socialized and trained, are gentle giants. They are loyal to their family, gentle with children, patient, calm, and confident pups. Along with their easygoing temperament, Leonbergers are intelligent, easy to train, and prefer to have a job to focus on. They love to play but don’t mind being a couch potato either. Whatever family they’re in, they want (and need!) a lot of affection from everyone.

Leonbergers are a sexually dimorphic breed, meaning males and females have different appearances. Male Leonbergers are powerful and masculine, with a lion mane-like scruff around their neck. Females are more slender and graceful. But no matter which gender your Leonberger is, they require a great deal of grooming due to their beautiful, long coat.

Leonberger Health Issues

Leonbergers have a few discernible health issues that are seen in most giant-breed dogs. If you’re bringing home a Leonberger puppy, it’s smart to consider purchasing pet insurance.

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

One of the most concerning health conditions Leonbergers can develop is gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), a severe form of bloat. This is a condition where the stomach twists on itself, causing decreased blood flow to the stomach and continued gas distention, leading to a very enlarged stomach. This condition is a medical emergency and fatal if left untreated. Clinical signs of GDV in dogs include:

Non-productive retching



Abdominal swelling

Weakness or collapse

A preemptive surgical procedure called gastropexy is often performed on young Leonbergers to eliminate the risk of their stomach twisting in the future. This procedure does not eliminate bloat, but it does eliminate torsion.

Joint Problems

Leonbergers are also prone to joint issues, including hip dysplasia. This condition is when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, becoming loose and painful. Thankfully, hip dysplasia has become less of an issue for Leonbergers as breeders screen their dogs for the inherited condition.

Arthritis is common in this giant breed as they age, due to their immense size. Weight management, joint supplements, and controlled exercise are excellent preventative actions against arthritis in Leonbergers.


According to the Leonberger Health Foundation, cancer is the leading cause of death in Leonbergers. These dogs are susceptible to osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and hemangiosarcoma (a cancer that develops in the blood vessels).

Heart Disease

Dilated cardiomyopathy is another common cause of death in Leonbergers. This is when the heart becomes enlarged and doesn’t function properly. Symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy include:


Lack of appetite

Panting or labored breathing



Treatment for dilated cardiomyopathy typically includes medications to help the heart pump and manage arrhythmias.


Older Leonbergers can develop cataracts, a condition where the eye lens becomes cloudy and hinders vision. If left untreated, cataracts can lead to blindness. Fortunately, this can be treated with surgery.

What To Feed a Leonberger

Leonbergers should be fed a high-quality, well-balanced diet either commercially manufactured by a reputable company such as Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin, or Purina. They should be fed a formula that’s appropriate for their life stage: puppy, adult, or senior. 

Giant-breed dogs such as the Leonberger are prone to obesity, which can worsen arthritis. So it’s very important to monitor their calories, weight, and body condition. 

How To Feed a Leonberger

Leonberger puppies should be fed giant-breed puppy food. They need three or four smaller meals on a regular schedule until they’re 5–6 months old. Once they reach adulthood, these meals can be changed to twice-daily feedings, one in the morning and one in the evening.

Because Leonbergers are susceptible to bloat and GDV, pet parents need to take precautions when feeding their dog:

Do not feed your Leonberger their entire daily allotment of food at once.

Do not use elevated food bowls.

Avoid exercise right before and after mealtimes.

How Much Should You Feed a Leonberger?

Every dog is different, so the number of calories they need to keep weight and health stable also varies from dog to dog. Discuss the best dog food brands and how much to feed your Leonberger with your veterinarian.

Many giant-breed dog food diets contain vitamins and nutrients that support joint health, as Leonbergers are prone to degenerative joint disease as they age. These commercially formulated diets also have heart-healthy ingredients such as taurine and L-carnitine, which can help lessen the risk for heart disease. 

Nutritional Tips for Leonbergers

Joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can be helpful for Leonbergers. These should be started as soon as your dog reaches their full adult size. Talk with your vet before giving these supplements (or any others) to your pet.

Behavior and Training Tips for Leonbergers

Leonberger Personality and Temperament

Leonbergers are loving and playful with those they trust. They’re great with children, amenable to other dogs, and welcoming to strangers when well-socialized.

They are generally calm and quiet, but they require brisk exercise at least once every day, such as a long walk or hike. Leonberger dogs prefer to have a job, whether it be pulling sleds, swimming, or agility training.

Leonberger Behavior

Leonbergers are usually calm and do not bark or dig much. While laid-back, they require a lot of interaction with people and don’t do well when left alone for long periods of time. They would prefer around-the-clock love and attention, if possible, and need to be in a house of homebodies.

Leonberger Training

Though bred to be independent, Leonbergers are also highly trainable with experienced pet parents or professional trainers who are familiar with the breed. They respond well to training that’s consistent, repetitive, and positive.

Fun Activities for Leonbergers


Cart-pulling or sled-pulling




Leonberger Grooming Guide

Leonbergers require a lot of grooming due to their dense double coat. They shed persistently throughout the year, with even heavier shedding periods twice a year. Leonberger dogs should be with a family that is committed to grooming them thoroughly and frequently. 

Skin Care

Leonbergers need regular bathing and brushing. Typically, they should be bathed every two to four weeks.

Leonbergers can have allergies, which lead to a flaky, dry coat. Consider supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids if your pup has skin allergies or is older in age.

Coat Care

Leonbergers should be brushed every day—without this rigorous grooming, they are prone to matted fur, especially behind the ears, on the back of the legs, throughout their undercarriage, and on their chest.

Eye Care

Luckily, Leonbergers do not require a great deal of eye care. The hair on their face is shorter and usually doesn’t affect their eyes. Tear staining is minimal, if there at all. But because Leonbergers are prone to cataracts as they age, pet parents need to monitor their dog for any progressive sight issues and/or cloudy eyes.

Ear Care

Routine ear cleaning is important for this breed because of their propensity for allergies and their floppy ears. Ear cleaning with a veterinarian-approved product that contains a drying agent should be used (such as Epi-Otic or TrizULTRA) every two to three weeks.  

Monitor for redness, discharge, pain, and itching, as these could be signs of an ear infection. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The perfect home for a Leonberger is one with a loving, attentive family that is willing to exercise and groom their dog daily. Leonberger dogs do well in homes with or without kids and other pets, but the breed is not cut out for city life. This large breed needs a big yard with a strong fence that they can run around and play in.

Leonbergers also don’t do well in homes where they are often left on their own. They are affectionate and loyal dogs that love their family and want to be around them as much as possible.

Leonberger FAQs

How much does a Leonberger cost?

The typical Leonberger price is anywhere from $2,000–$4,000 in the U.S. Cost varies depending on the breeder, breeding lines, and genetic testing for puppies.

Are Leonbergers good family dogs?

Leonbergers are great family dogs. They love affection and quality time with their pet parents, and they’re also generally good with children and other pets.

Is a Leonberger a rare breed?

The Leonberger is a relatively rare breed—in fact, they almost became extinct in the 20th century.


American Kennel Club. Leonberger History: The “Secret Mascot” of Leonberg.

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Katie Grzyb, DVM


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

Excess Iron in the Blood in Dogs

Iron Toxicity in Dogs

In the event that there is a high volume of iron present in the blood, damage can occur within the cells. While iron is an essential nutrient for the regular functioning of a dog’s body, when it is present in large quantities in the bloodstream, it can become lethal. Dogs may be ingesting unhealthy amounts of iron when they are being given multivitamins that are not appropriate for their age, size or health status, or when they are ingesting dietary supplements or pregnancy supplements that have been left within their reach but that are not intended for them. 

Symptoms and Types

Iron toxicity occurs in dogs in four separate stages.

Stage I (0–6 hours)

Vomiting Diarrhea Depression Gastrointestinal hemorrhage Abdominal pain

Stage II (6–24 hours)

Apparent recovery

Stage III (12–96 hours)

Vomiting Diarrhea Depression Gastrointestinal hemorrhage Shock Tremors Abdominal pain

Stage IV (2–6 weeks)

Gastrointestinal obstruction from stricture formation


The most common cause of iron toxicity is the ingestion of pills within the home environment. A toxic dose is considered to be in excess of 20 mg/kg.


Your veterinarian will need a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated/preceded this condition. A complete blood profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. If there is an abnormally high level of iron in the bloodstream, this will show up on the results of the blood tests. If it is suspected that your dog ingested iron pills, diagnostic imaging may be used to help locate them and to determine whether they can be removed from your dog’s digestive system before they can be fully absorbed into the body.


Fluids will be given to the dog in high doses to help correct the shock and to correct the acidosis that is occurring in the dog’s blood stream. If possible, the additional unabsorbed iron pills will be removed from your dog’s stomach, either by using antiemetic drugs to induce vomiting, or by performing a gastric lavage. This latter method is done with a saline solution that is slowly pumped into the stomach cavity to wash the contents of the stomach out. The contents are removed in small amounts using another tube.

Living and Management

It is important to monitor the dog’s blood enzymes and liver enzymes following the treatment. Your veterinarian will schedule a follow-up exam to test your dog’s blood to make sure that the iron levels have been controlled. It is also important for you to observe your dog for any signs of gastrointestinal obstruction following the iron toxicity, as the digestive system may react to the toxicity or the medical procedures that were used to resolve the toxicity.

Anemia in Dogs

What Is Anemia in Dogs?

Anemia is a common clinical problem that shows a decrease in red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs are produced in the bone marrow and carry oxygen to all tissues in the body.

Dogs show signs of anemia in various ways, based on its cause, severity, and duration. As anemia worsens, dogs show clinical signs of shock and failing cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Anemia can be severe and life-threatening. Seek veterinary care immediately if your pet has pale gums, is struggling to breathe, is actively bleeding, or has unusual bruising.

In general, there are three ways that a dog can be anemic:

RBC loss: The bone marrow produces normal amounts of RBCs, but they are lost or leak outside the blood vessels.

RBC destruction: The body destroys the RBCs too soon.

RBC decreased production: The bone marrow does not make enough RBCs.

In addition to these general types, anemia may be described by how responsive the bone marrow is.

In regenerative anemia, the bone marrow correctly responds to the decreased RBC count and starts making new RBCs.

In nonregenerative anemia, the bone marrow does not produce enough RBCs.

Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

Clinical signs of anemia in dogs vary based on cause, severity, and length of disease. Dogs with chronic conditions may have vague, or no clinical signs until the anemia becomes severe. These dogs can acclimate to lower RBC counts over a longer period, whereas a dog with an acute blood loss may immediately show signs of distress and illness. Common signs of anemia in dogs include:



Decreased appetite

Pica (eating non-food items)

Weight loss

Pale mucous membranes (gums)

Increased heart rate

Increased respiratory (breathing) rate

Difficulty breathing


Small or large bruising over the body (petechiae and ecchymoses)

Jaundice (buildup of yellow coloring in blood and tissue)

Blood loss from nose, mouth, or urogenital or gastrointestinal systems

Causes of Anemia in Dogs

Anemia occurs in all breeds, ages, and genders of dogs. Some breeds are predisposed to a certain type of anemia, called Immune-mediated Hemolytic Anemia (IMHA) including:

American Cocker Spaniel

Miniature Schnauzer


Doberman Pinscher

English Springer Spaniel


Bichon Frise

Miniature Pinscher

Old English Sheepdog


Blood loss, when acute, occurs secondary to trauma, surgery, coagulopathies (poor clotting), rodenticide toxicity, a ruptured spleen, and bleeding cancers (hemangiosarcoma). Chronic blood loss can also lead to anemia in cases of long-term gastrointestinal ulcers, parasites (hookworms and fleas), tumors, lack of nutrition, and some drugs.

RBC destruction occurs when normal RBCs are removed from the system inappropriately and too early. Normally, RBCs last around 110 to 115 days in dogs and are removed by the spleen, liver, or bone marrow when they are old.

Common examples of this type of anemia are:

IMHA occurs when the immune system attacks the red blood cells. This can happen secondary to a trigger, such as some drugs, infections, cancers, or inflammatory diseases. It can also occur with no clear cause.

RBC parasites, such as babesia, can induce anemia.

Oxidative stress causes anemia and occurs in onion/garlic toxicities, acetaminophen and benzocaine toxicities, and zinc toxicosis, for example. Oxidative stress causes the normal oxygen-carrying hemoglobin to change to methemoglobin, which cannot bind or deliver oxygen to cells.

Mechanical damage can occur to RBCs in heartworm disease, vasculitis, cardiac disease, liver disease, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), and in some cancers.

Other causes of RBC destruction include some infections, incompatible blood transfusions, genetic RBC abnormalities and disorders, diabetic ketoacidosis, propofol administration, and hypophosphatemia (low phosphorus).

Decreased RBC production occurs when the bone marrow does not make enough RBCs. This type is, inherently, nonregenerative. The following can all affect the body’s ability to produce RBCs:

Chronic inflammatory diseases

Chronic kidney disease


Addison’s disease

Immune conditions



Bone marrow suppression via infectious agents, drugs, and toxicities such as:

Infectious agents—Parvovirus, babesia, ehrlichia

Drugs—Chemotherapy agents, lead, methimazole, phenobarbital, fenbendazole, TMS, albendazole

How Veterinarians Diagnose Anemia in Dogs

Often, veterinarians may suspect anemia based on a patient’s history and clinical exam findings—especially if the dog has pale gums, bruising, or obvious abdominal tumors. However, anemia is only diagnosed by performing bloodwork to assess the RBC count as well other RBC factors such as size, shape, and color, which may help find the severity, chronicity, or cause of the anemia.

Complete blood count (CBC): This test looks at multiple RBC factors. These all help the veterinarian to chart the best plan of treatment for anemia.

PCV/TS: This is a relatively easy and quick diagnostic tool to look at the packed cell volume, which is another way to monitor the RBCs.

Reticulocyte count: This test looks for increased numbers of young RBCs, showing a regenerative response.

Biochemistry and urinalysis: These tests will look at organ function and other parameters that may be causing the anemia.

Slide agglutination test: This simple blood test looks for abnormal clumping of RBCs in IMHA.

Cytology or blood smear: This test evaluates RBCs under a microscope and may help find the cause and the bone marrow’s response.

Bone marrow evaluation: This test can help look for causes of anemia by examining the bone marrow for cancer, signs of regeneration, or infectious agents.

Imaging: Radiographs and ultrasound may help look for underlying causes of anemia, such as bleeding tumors.

Other tests: Serology for infectious agents, fecal tests, coagulation profiles, endocrine testing, organ function tests, and biopsy of tumors are all other possible tests for dogs with anemia.

Treatment of Anemia in Dogs

The primary goal for dogs with anemia is to treat the underlying condition. Treatment varies based on chronicity and severity of the disease. Some common treatment methods for anemia include:

Surgery to remove bleeding masses or repair traumatic wounds

Vitamin K therapy to treat rodenticide poisoning

Antiparasitic drugs to treat internal parasites

Antibiotics to treat tick-borne or other infectious agents

Discontinuing offending drugs

Steroids or immunosuppressing medications to treat autoimmune diseases

Blood products to provide RBCs and other important blood cells

Supportive care, including intravenous fluids

Recovery and Management of Anemia in Dogs

Most veterinarians use serial complete blood count and/or PCV/TS testing to watch the dog’s response to treatment, in addition to watching any other diseases potentially causing the anemia. In general, if the underlying disease is treated, anemia may take multiple weeks for the dog to return to normal, but clinical improvement is usually noted within a few days.

These dogs may require life-long medical management and monitoring for recurrence. Some causes of anemia such as trauma, infectious agents, or parasites, may be cured. However, severe cases of anemia may be too progressed to treat, even with aggressive therapy.

Management varies based on the predisposing factor and may be lifelong. Dogs with IMHA are at risk for flare-ups. Care should be taken whenever administering medications or vaccines in those dogs to decrease the risk of a recurrence.


Etienne Côté, Ettinger SJ, Feldman EC. Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine: Diseases of the Dog and the Cat. Elsevier; 2017.

Tilley LP, Smith FWK. The 5-Minute Veterinary Consult: Canine and Feline. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2005.

Veterinary Information Network. Anemia (Canine).

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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…

Tonsil Cancer (Squamous Cell Carcinoma) in Dogs

Tonsillar Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Dogs

A squamous cell carcinoma of the tonsils is an aggressive and metastatic tumor that arises from the epithelial cells of the tonsils. The epithelium is the cellular covering of all of the internal and external surfaces of the body, protecting the organs, inner cavities and outer surfaces of the body in a continuous layer of multi-layered tissue. The squamous epithelium is a type of epithelium that consists of the outer layer of flat, scale-like cells, which are called squamous cells. While all types of squamous cell carcinomas are invasive, carcinoma of the tonsils is particularly aggressive.

This type of tumor is highly invasive and local extension into the surrounding areas is common. This tumor also metastasizes to other areas of the body, including the nearby lungs and distant organs. As with other types of squamous cell carcinomas, middle-aged and older dogs are more commonly affected. In this case, the incidence is higher in dogs living in urban areas as compared to those in rural environments.

Symptoms and Types

Difficulty with eating Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia) Breathing difficulties Bad breath (halitosis) Excessive salivation Oral discharge with blood Weight loss


Exact cause unknown Ten times more common in dogs living in urban areas than those in rural areas


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough medical history of your dog’s health and onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination, which will include a thorough examination of the lymph nodes in the neck area. Abnormally large lymph nodes are indicative of an immune system response to an invasion, but only a laboratory examination of the lymph node fluid and tissue will show the type of involvement. That is, whether the invasion is viral, bacterial, or cancerous in nature.

After the initial examination, your veterinarian will order routine laboratory tests, including complete blood count, biochemical profiles, and urinalysis. The results of these tests are usually normal in these patients unless some concurrent disease is present. Your veterinarian will take a biopsy from the lymph nodes to be sent to a veterinary pathologist. This tissue sample will be processed and analyzed microscopically for cancerous cells in order to reach a definitive diagnosis. Your veterinarian may also take X-rays of your dog’s skull and thoracic regions to search for evidence of metastasis. Skull X-rays in some patients may show bone involvement — where the tumor has spread into the bone — and thoracic X-rays can help identify the amount of metastasis into the lungs.

Your veterinarian may also take X-rays of your dog’s skull and thoracic regions to search for evidence of metastasis. Skull X-rays in some patients may show bone involvement — where the tumor has spread into the bone — and thoracic X-rays can help identify the amount metastasis into the lungs.


Surgery may be used to perform an aggressive excision of the tonsils and affected tissue. However, most patients at the time of diagnosis are inoperable, either because of the location of the tumor, or the extent to which it has spread before its effects have been observed.

Removal of the affected lymph nodes may be conducted to prevent further spreading of cancerous cells, but it seldom provides a permanent cure. Radiotherapy may also be used in some patients, but its success has not been satisfactorily confirmed, so it is seldom used for these patients.

In cases where it is possible to operate and remove most of the affected area, the tumor and affected lymph nodes will be removed, and the surgery will be followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to prevent or slow down the spread of cancerous cells to other areas of the body.

Living and Management

Good nutritional support will be essential for ensuring the maintenance of your dog’s body weight and condition. It is important to monitor your dog’s food and water intake while it is recovering. After surgery, your dog will very likely not have much of an appetite, and will not want to eat or drink in great quantities. It may be necessary to temporarily use a feeding tube. In these cases you veterinarian will show you how to use the feeding tube correctly (placing it directly into the dog’s stomach), and will assist you in setting up a feeding schedule.

After surgery, you should expect your dog to feel sore. To minimize discomfort, your veterinarian will provide you with pain medication for your dog. In addition, you will need to set up an area in the house where your dog can rest comfortably and quietly, away from other pets, active children, and busy entryways. Trips outdoors for bladder and bowel relief should be kept short and easy for your dog to handle during the recovery period. Use pain medications with caution and follow all directions carefully; one of the most preventable accidents with pets is overdose of medication.

Overall prognosis in affected animals is poor due to the aggressive nature of this tumor and frequency of metastasis to other body locations. Even with treatment, overall survival time generally is not more than several months. The decision to go forward with surgery or chemical therapy will be based on the actual prognosis. In some cases, end of life pain management may be in order.