Archive : April

Heart Valve Infection (Infective Endocarditis) in Dogs

Infective Endocarditis in Dogs

Infective endocarditis is a medical condition in which the inner lining of heart has become inflamed in response to an infection in the body. Generalized infections in the body may invade the inner lining of heart, as well as the valves of the heart. This type of infective endocarditis can occur in response to any infection of the body.

Endocarditis is more common in middle-sized to large breed dogs, with most between the ages of four and six. Males are generally at higher risk than females. If the underlying disease if not treated in time, complications can lead to heart failure and death.

Symptoms and Types

A variable set of symptoms may be present in patient depending upon the nature and site of infection, complications and extent of affects on heart. The following symptoms may be present in an affected dog:

Fever Cough Bluish discoloration of skin Weakness Lethargy Anorexia Weight loss Reluctance to move Body aches and pains Symptoms related to heart problems Difficult breathing Intermittent lameness Gastrointestinal disturbances


Bacterial Infections Previous major surgery


You will need to give your veterinarian a complete background history of your dog’s health, including information about the onset of symptoms, any illnesses or injuries your dog has experienced, any surgical procedures, and the duration and frequency of symptoms that have been apparent.

Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical examination, including basic laboratory testing: a complete blood count (CBC) test, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. The results of these tests may reveal information related to the underlying infection, and may point to the organs being affected.

Blood cultures will help to determine the causative agent involved in the infection and will also allow your veterinarian to determine the most suitable antibiotics for treatment of the underlying infection. A visual examination of the heart, using radiographic (i.e., X-ray) studies can help your veterinarian to determine the extent of heart involvement, and echocardiography, which uses ultrasound to image the inner organs, is an excellent tool for a detailed evaluation of the heart’s functioning ability. Your veterinarian will also need to measure the electrical activity of the heart, which is done using an electrocardiogram (ECG) to record the heart’s movement and impulses.


This is serious health problem for animals, and your dog will most likely require hospitalization for intensive care and treatment. Fluid therapy and antibiotic therapy will be given to restore and maintain body fluid levels and to control the infection, respectively.

Patients with valve involvement generally are not given a good prognosis. However, this is often dependent upon the stage of the infection and the functionality of the heart. Treatment is normally given over the course of 12 weeks, during which time your veterinarian will take multiple blood samples at regular intervals to measure how much of the infection, if any, is still present. After antibiotic therapy has stopped, blood samples will be taken to confirm that the infection has been resolved.

Living and Management

If your dog’s heart problem was mild, it will usually respond well to treatment. If the endocarditis was diagnosed in time, and aggressive treatment was employed along with a detailed follow up, the chances of a full recovery are also greatly enhanced.

You may need to take your dog to the veterinarian for weekly follow-up examinations, and to determine overall progress. Your veterinarian may also suggest a special diet for your dog to improve cardiovascular functioning and organ health. Treatment will be directed towards treating the underlying infection as well as the heart problems that have resulted from such infections. In cases where a diagnosis was not made early on, and the disease has had an opportunity to advance, the overall prognosis may be very poor due to further complications that are common in affected dogs. In such a case, your veterinarian will advise you on alternative plans. 

Narrowing of the Anal or Rectal Opening in Dogs

Rectal Stricture in Dogs

Rectal stricture is a condition where the rectal or anal opening is constricted due to the presence of scar tissue from inflammation, a previous injury, or an aggressive cancer growth. This narrow opening(s) obstructs the passage of stools, thereby resulting in issues with the cat’s digestive system. Rectal stricture is not hereditary.

Dogs and cats of both genders, and most breeds and ages may be affected by strictures. If you would like to learn more about how this condition affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms will vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some symptoms include constipation, diarrhea, and difficulties while defecating. The feces is often covered in mucus and blood-stained. There also may be a compensatory increase in the size of the dog’s large intestine as a result of the stricture.


Both male and female dogs suffer from strictures, as do most breeds and age groups. Although, dogs that have had rectal or anal abscesses, inflammation, fistulas, a foreign body in the anal passage, or fungal infection are at a higher risk of sustaining the condition. Cuts or wounds in the area, cancerous growths, and some surgeries (e.g., removal of part of the rectum for biopsy) can also put animals at higher risk for developing strictures.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the history of its symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the stricture. Some common tests include a complete blood count and a urinalysis, which will usually return as normal. If your dog has an existing infection or inflammation, the white blood count may be high.

A manual examination of the rectum might be required to determine the extent and location of the stricture. Ultrasonography of the abdominal area may also be performed; this might show thickening of the stomach walls and a change in the structure of the internal tissues, especially if cancer is present.

X-rays of the abdominal area and injection of contrast dyes (barium, air, or double-contrast enema) may show narrowing of the rectal and intestinal canal. These tests will be completed as a multi-step process: first, a warm water enema will be administered, followed by the dye injection six hours later. A combination of air and barium media is most effective for testing.

A colonoscopy, using a tubular, flexible camera inserted through the anal opening, will help your veterinarian to visualize the stricture internally and determine the extent of the stricture. This is also a convenient method for obtaining a tissue sample for further evaluation, which is helpful for determining if you dog has cancer, or a fungal or parasitic infection.


Once your veterinarian has differentiated between other conditions and strictures, treatment will involve relieving the dog’s pain and encouraging elmination of any waste still remaining in its intestines; this is done by using stool softeners, enemas, or drugs. Dogs should be given plenty of fluids prior to the administration of the enema; some dogs require anesthesia prior to the procedure.

Corticosteroids may also be given to regulate inflammation, but not before your dog is fully examined for the presence of an infection, since corticisteroids can have an adverse effect if infection is present.

The underlying cause of the stricture will then be treated in order to widen the cat’s narrowed canal. If an infection is found, your veterinarian will prescribe medications — either antifungals or antibiotics — to eliminate the specific infection your dog has.

Surgery may be advisable for widening the narrowed opening. This can be done by using a balloon-like device to open the canal, or for milder strictures, a temporary stent may be used. For more extensive lesions, partial or complete removal of the canal may be required. Antimicrobial drug therapy may be prescribed to prevent infections during and after surgery.

If a cancerous tumor is found to be present, radiotherapy and chemotherapy may be called for.

Living and Management

Be attentive to any recurring symptoms or signs in your dog. If the original cause of the stricture was cancer, symptoms of metastasis will be of concern. Some complications of medical management include ineffective treatment, diarrhea, dehydration, and adverse effects of medications.

If the veterinarian chose a balloon dilation procedure for the dog’s treatment, be aware deep rectal tears, hemorrhaging, or full-thickness tearing of the intestinal walls may occur. However, dogs with smaller strictures are usually treated easily and managed with balloon dilation.

Surgery may also result in fecal incontinence, secondary stricture formation, and opening of the wound site. Dogs requiring surgery will usually have limited prognosis due to frequent complications.

Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs (High Phosphorus Levels)

What is Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs?

Hyperphosphatemia is the term for high phosphorus levels in the blood. Phosphorus is a mineral found in bones that, together with calcium, helps to build strong, healthy bone structure. Phosphorus also helps to maintain cell structures and aids in cell energy production. Most of the phosphorus in a dog’s body is stored in bone, but a small percentage is present in the blood.  

Calcium and phosphorus have an inverse relationship. When phosphorus levels in the blood are high, calcium levels tend to be lower. For this reason, clinical signs of high phosphorus correlate with clinical signs of too little calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). 

Phosphorus is absorbed in the small intestine and is released in the urine. The kidneys and parathyroid glands are important in maintaining phosphorus levels. Diseases associated with the kidneys, bones, parathyroid gland, or gastrointestinal tract can lead to hyperphosphatemia. The most common disease leading to hyperphosphatemia is chronic renal failure (CRF). 

Symptoms of Excess Phosphorus Levels in the Blood of Dogs

Signs of kidney disease can be seen in cases of chronic, or long-lasting, hyperphosphatemia. These symptoms include increased thirst and urination, diluted urine, dehydration, or inappropriate urination. In animal that already have been diagnosed with chronic renal failure, hyperphosphatemia can speed up the progression of this disease. 

In high levels, phosphate can combine with calcium to create a solid. This causes a syndrome called metastatic mineralization, which means the decomposition of chemical compounds in otherwise normal tissues. The most common body systems affected by metastatic mineralization are the urinary system (the kidneys in particular) and the gastrointestinal system. Symptoms of metastatic mineralization can include muscle tremors, muscle atrophy, or seizures. 

Hyperphosphatemia in dogs can also cause lethargy, depression, or loss of appetite. 

Causes of Excess Phosphorus Levels in the Blood of Dogs

Young, growing dogs can have higher phosphorus levels due to increased growth hormone in their systems and increased need for phosphorus for bone development. Older dogs are more likely to have diseases that will eventually lead to the development of chronic hyperphosphatemia. 

Kidney disease is the most common cause of hyperphosphatemia in dogs. However, it can also be related to increased absorption of phosphorus through the gastrointestinal tract or through transcellular shifting (transport of solutes by a cell through a cell) of phosphorus, usually from bone. 

Hyperphosphatemia can also be related to: 

Vitamin D toxicity  

Enema intoxication through the use of phosphate-containing enemas  

Urinary tract obstruction 

Endocrinopathies (hyperthyroidism, hypoparathyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism) 


Nutritional supplementation  

Bladder rupture  

Bone or muscle disease  

Xylitol intoxication 


Acromegaly (overproduction of growth hormone) 

Occasionally, phosphorus will be elevated in cases of serious trauma or in conditions such as acute tumor lysis syndrome (seen most commonly with end stage tumors) and rhabdomyolysis, which is a muscular disorder. 

How Veterinarians Diagnose Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs

Hyperphosphatemia is diagnosed through a blood work profile called a biochemistry panel. Other diagnostic methods may be needed to discover the underlying cause of hyperphosphatemia. Those include imaging or additional bloodwork (such as thyroid testing or a complete blood count).

Treatment for Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs

Hospitalization may be needed in severe cases of hyperphosphatemia. Your dog may receive IV fluid therapy and medications such as dextrose, insulin, aluminum hydroxide, or calcium carbonate that can help to decrease phosphorus in the blood. 

When dogs are diagnosed with chronic elevations of blood phosphorus, they are commonly treated orally with phosphate binders. Dietary restriction of phosphorus is recommended through switching your dog to a low protein or prescription renal care diets. Because phosphorus and calcium bind together, in some cases restricting calcium intake is also recommended. 

In all cases of hyperphosphatemia, the underlying cause must be found and correctly treated to have the best outcome for your dog. 

Recovery and Management of Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs

Bloodwork is recommended at regular intervals in patients that have experienced frequent episodes of hyperphosphatemia or have a disease that causes hyperphosphatemia. Once diagnosed, it can be possible for the condition to be managed at home with medications including oral phosphate binders or phosphate-restricted diets. 

Dogs with acute cases of hyperphosphatemia that occur because of issues like vitamin D toxicity should recover fully after treatment with IV fluid therapy and use of medications for binding the phosphorus and are unlikely to require lifelong, at home management. 

Hyperphosphatemia in Dogs FAQs

What are high phosphorus levels in dogs?

A high phosphorus level in a dog means they have a disease that is interfering with the metabolism of phosphorus in their body, and it is causing phosphate levels to rise in the bloodstream. Diseases that could cause hyperphosphatemia include chronic renal failure (CRF), intoxication, hypoparathyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and cancer. 

Can high phosphorus levels in dogs be fatal?

High phosphorus levels and the diseases that cause them can be fatal if left untreated unless they are cases associated with young, growing animals.

Are some dogs predisposed to hyperphosphatemia?

Animals that are older with chronic renal failure are the most likely dogs to experience hyperphosphatemia. Juvenile animals are also prone to hyperphosphatemia because of phosphorus’s role in helping with bone growth and development. Cases of juvenile hyperphosphatemia tend to not be concerning for disease.


Veterinary Partner. Hyperphosphatemia.  

MacIntire DK: Metabolic Derangements in Critical Patients. ACVIM 2003.                                                                 

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Heather Newett, MPH, DVM


Heather is a practicing small animal veterinarian in Denver, CO. In her free time she enjoys hiking, horseback riding, and traveling to new…

Rat Poisoning in Dogs

What is Rat Poisoning in Dogs?

The ingredients in rodenticides, or rat poison, are extremely dangerous for dogs, and accidental ingestion is one of the most common forms of pet poisoning.

Rat poisons come in a variety of colors—such as green, blue, tan, pink, and red—and formulations, including pellets, bait blocks, powders, pastes, cereal, and soft baits.

Each of the four most common active ingredients in rat poisons have different mechanisms for poisoning and treatment for toxicity. Unfortunately, the active ingredient cannot be identified based on the appearance of the product or bait.

If your dog eats rat poison, it is important that you bring any remaining bait or packaging to the vet with you to aid in identification of the active ingredient. 

The four most common active ingredients are:  

Cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) is one of the most powerful rat poisons on the market and is highly toxic to dogs. It can produce life-threatening increases of calcium in the blood, resulting in hardening of soft tissues throughout the body, particularly in the heart, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and muscles. This damage can lead to multiple organ failure and death. This ingredient in commonly found in products like d-CON.
 Anticoagulants such as brodifacoum, bromadiolone, difenacoum, difethialone, and warfarin interfere with the ability for blood to clot, resulting in internal bleeding. They were once the main active ingredient in rodenticides, including the popular brand d-CON. However, in 2018, due to EPA regulatory changes, d-CON shifted from anticoagulant rodenticide to cholecalciferol. Anticoagulating ingredients are much less common now but still deadly. Products include JT Eaton Bait Block.
 Bromethalin causes swelling of the brain and may result in neurological symptoms such as lack of coordination, tremors, seizures, paralysis, and death. Bromethalin can be very toxic, even in small amounts. Products using it include Tomcat brands.
 Zinc and aluminum phosphides are typically used in mole or gopher baits but can occasionally be found in mouse or rat baits, especially on farms. Deadly phosphine gas is produced when the poison mixes with stomach acid. Unfortunately, food in the stomach increases the amount of gas produced, so do not feed your dog if they have ingested this type of rat poisoning. Products include ZP Mouse Pelleted Rodenticide.

If your dog eats rat poison (regardless of amount or active ingredient), take them immediately to a local veterinary hospital for evaluation and treatment. 

Symptoms of Rat Poisoning in Dogs

Clinical signs will vary depending on the active ingredient in the rat poison and the amount ingested. Unfortunately, symptoms often take 1-7 days to show after ingestion of a toxic dose.

Many rodenticides contain dyes (red, green, blue, pink, and tan) that may stand out in your dog’s stool.  Any time you see foreign material in your pet’s stool, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Clinical signs of anticoagulant rodenticides are based on signs of internal bleeding and may include:


Pale gums

Trouble breathing/increased breathing rate


Decreased appetite

Less common signs can include bloody diarrhea, nose bleeds, bruising, bloody urine, swollen joints, bleeding from gums, vaginal bleeding (if pregnant), pharyngeal swelling, and even seizures (from bleeding in the brain)

Clinical signs of cholecalciferol rodenticides are related to the hardening of soft tissues, with the kidneys being most susceptible, and may include:



Increased thirst and increased urination (which may be a sign of acute kidney failure)

Clinical signs of bromethalin rodenticides are related to the effects on the brain, and can include:

Lack of coordination/stumbling



Clinical signs of zinc and aluminum phosphides will be related to the toxic phosphine gas that is produced. The gas itself is corrosive and can damage multiple organs. Clinical signs with this active ingredient can occur within minutes, and in severe cases death can occur in as little as 5 hours after exposure. Clinical signs may include:


Vomiting (may be bloody)

Diarrhea (may be bloody)

Lack of coordination/weakness


Trouble breathing

Stomach bloating/abdominal pain

Phosphine gas has an odor of decaying fish or garlic and is extremely toxic to humans as well as pets.  If your pet vomits on the way to the veterinarian, be sure to roll down the windows (safely) for maximum ventilation. Any symptomatic person should seek advice from human poison control or medical professionals.

Causes of Rat Poisoning in Dogs

Most rat poison cases in dogs are the result of unintentional ingestion of bait. In rare cases, poisoning may be due to malicious intent. When you and your dog are visiting a friend or family member or leaving a dog with a sitter, ask about potential poisons around the home.

Poisoning in dogs can theoretically occur as a secondary or “relay toxicity” if a dog eats a rat who died from rat poison ingestion. This type of poisoning has never been documented in research, so while it is possible, it is considered highly unlikely.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Rat Poisoning in Dogs

If you see your dog eat any type of rat poison or suspect that they may have ingested rat poisoning, take them immediately to your local veterinary emergency hospital. 

An emergency vet will collect a thorough medical history to help their assessment. If possible, bring the bait packaging, because determining the active ingredient is crucial to treatment. Calling the pet poison hotlines may also be beneficial, as they can look up packaging information on the product. If possible, call the hotline while en route to your emergency veterinary hospital; time is of the essence in ensuring that your dog reaches medical care immediately.

The veterinarian will start with a physical examination to assess your dog’s mental and neurological status and check for any bleeding, bruising, or abdominal pain. 

A complete blood count, serum blood chemistry with electrolytes, and urinalysis will likely be recommended for a baseline evaluation. 

Depending on the active ingredient, coagulation panels (PT/PTT) may also be recommended to check your dog’s ability to clot. Often at the time of your visit, bloodwork will appear to be normal and will need to be monitored over the next 1-7 days. Other tests such as chest or abdominal x-rays may be recommended, depending on your pet’s clinical signs.

Treatment of Rat Poisoning in Dogs

Dogs should be treated as soon as possible for rat poisoning. Treatment will vary based on the active ingredient involved, so it is extremely important to determine the type of rat poison.

For most active ingredients, the vet will likely induce vomiting. (If the active ingredients include zinc and aluminum phosphides, the vet may induce vomiting in a well-ventilated area because of the risk to people. Activated charcoal may be given to treat other toxins.

After vomiting, treatment will depend on the specific active ingredient ingested:

For anticoagulant rodenticide, treatment will include at least 4 weeks of oral vitamin K as well as hospitalization for IV fluids, plasma and/or blood transfusions, and additional supportive care (such as oxygen therapy, gastrointestinal support, and antiemetics to reduce nausea and vomiting). 
 There is no antidote if a dog has swallowed rat poison with either cholecalciferol or bromethalin. Hospitalization is likely in both cases with IV treatment. Dogs that have swallowed cholecalciferol will also be treated to reduce calcium levels. Dogs swallowing bromethalin will be treated to decrease brain swelling.
 Poisoning by zinc and aluminum phosphide rodenticides includes antacids and similar medications to decrease the production and effects of the deadly phosphine gas. Additionally, liver protectant medicine and medications to treat tremors or seizures may be needed. 

Recovery and Management of Rat Poisoning in Dogs

Early diagnosis and aggressive treatment are crucial in treating rat poisoning in dogs. All rat poisons, regardless of the active ingredient, can be fatal, and dogs have their best chances of survival if seen quickly by a veterinarian. Overall, the prognosis is very good for dogs who receive prompt treatment upon ingesting a rodenticide. 

Most dogs will remain hospitalized for observation and treatment for 2-6 days, depending on the active ingredient and how much rat poison was ingested. Typically, blood tests will be performed several times.

Prevention of Rat Poisoning in Dogs

Prevention is key! Keep all rat poisons away from your dog and in a secure place. Consider an alternative form of pest control, such as live traps that do not include poisons.

If you must put out rat poison:

Keep a detailed record of how much was placed

Know what kind of product (including the active ingredient)

Take a picture of the ingredients in case you need to refer to it later for veterinarian treatment

Mark where you dispensed the rat poison

If your pet is going to visit a friend, family member, or sitter, be sure to ask if they have rat poison out and keep the dog away from those areas

Never let dogs eat unidentified objects on walks, as these can include toxins and poisons and be hard to determine after the fact. Finally, remember to monitor your pet’s stool carefully, as many rodenticides contain dyes (red, green, blue, pink, and tan) that may be noticeable before severe symptoms begin.   

Rat Poisoning in Dogs FAQs

How can you tell if a dog has eaten rat poison?

Sometimes it can be very difficult to determine if your dog ingested rat poison if you did not witness them eating it. However, rodenticides contain dyes (red, pink, green, blue, and tan) that can often be seen after the fact in your dog’s stool. 

Other times there are no indications until your dog becomes sick. If your pet has any of the symptoms listed above, take them to an emergency veterinary hospital immediately.  

How much rat poison is lethal to dogs?

There are four main active ingredients in rat poisons—anticoagulant rodenticide, cholecalciferol, bromethalin, and zinc and aluminum phosphides. The amount of rat poison that is lethal to dogs will depend on the size of the dog and the active ingredient. However, since rat poisons are considered highly toxic and deadly, any ingestion of rat poison means your dog should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. 

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Veronica Higgs, DVM


Dr. Veronica Higgs is a 2010 graduate from Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine.  She then completed a 1-year rotating…

Heart Beat Problems (Standstill) in Dogs

Atrial Standstill in Dogs

Atrial standstill is a rare heart rhythm disturbance characterized by abnormal ECG (electrocardiogram) findings. Specifically, the ECG identifies missing P-waves, a measure of the electrical activity in the atria, the top two chambers in the dog’s heart.

Atrial standstill can be temporary, persistent, or terminal (due to complications such as heart failure) and is most commonly seen in English springer spaniels. Along with absent P-waves, the ECG of the dog may demonstrate a slow heart rate with regular or irregular rhythm.

Symptoms and Types

Lethargy Muscle wasting Slow heart rate (bradycardia) A spontaneous loss of consciousness (syncope)


Abnormally high concentrations of potassium in the bloodstream (hyperkalemia) Heart disease, especially those associated with the atria (e.g., atrial myopathy)


Although routine laboratory tests, including complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, are conducted on the animal, often atrial standstill is confirmed through ECG (electrocardiogram) findings. Other common findings include abnormally high levels of potassium and sodium in the blood — both of which are only found with a biochemistry profile. These results may also indicate abnormalities related to other concurrent diseases. Echocardiography, meanwhile, will help your veterinarian diagnose the type of heart disease and the severity of the issue.



In some dogs, atrial standstill is not a life-threatening condition and no hospitalization is required. However, in others it may be serious enough to require immediate intensive care. Such animals typically have an abnormally high blood potassium level or are suffering from severe dehydration. In these cases, intravenous fluid therapy is used to stabilize the animal. If the dog’s heart rhythm cannot be rectified by ordinary means, a pacemaker may be surgically implanted into the chest or abdomen. This small medical device helps control the abnormal heart atria activity.

Living and Management

The prognosis of the dog depends on the underlying disease causing the heart rhythym disturbance. If it is corrected quickly and (when present) hyperkalemia is reversed, the long-term prognosis is excellent.

Your dog will require rest in a stress-free environment, away from other pets and active children, to help control the symptoms of persistent atrial standstill. Even with a pacemaker, however, the symptoms of lethargy and weakness may persist. Dogs with pacemakers also require regular follow-up exams and periodic ECGs to monitor the effectiveness of the device and the heart’s rhythm.


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The cheerful, energetic Vizsla was first bred in Hungary, where the breed was originally developed as a hunting companion. The prized athletes—named for the Hungarian word for “pointer”—have a smooth, red-golden coat, can weigh up to 55-60 pounds, and stand 22-24 inches tall. Because these pups adore time with loved ones, they are best for pet parents who are willing to establish a strong bond with their four-legged friend and ensure they receive plenty of daily exercise and affection.

Caring for a Vizsla

Hungarian Vizslas are considered one of the oldest-known hunting dogs, which means they are natural athletes that aim to please, according to The Vizsla Club of America. The high-energy, intelligent breed needs regular mental and physical stimulation, which can be everything from jogging and swimming to agility training. These tall, long-eared beauties are extremely loyal and friendly, making them ideal family pets for households with children. But pet parents should be prepared to provide their Vizsla with plenty of room to roam and dedicate ample time to training them from a young age.

“Their strong energy levels make them unsuitable for apartment living and necessitate a roomy setting,” says Alex Schechter, DVM. “Vizslas prefer to live in homes with sizable gardens or easy access to green areas. They work best in houses with grown-ups and older kids. Children should always be under adult supervision when playing with dogs, regardless of the breed.”

The medium- to large-size dogs are very intelligent, and Vizsla puppies respond well to positive reinforcement training. To keep your pup’s beautiful coat looking her best, a rigorous grooming routine isn’t required, though regular brushing is recommended.

Vizsla Health Issues

The Vizsla dog breed is generally healthy and has an average lifespan of 10-14 years. That said, they are susceptible to some health issues. Pet parents can prevent these conditions by getting their puppy from a reputable Vizsla rescue or a breeder who responsibly tests their dogs.

Hip Dysplasia 

Characterized by an abnormal growth or development of the hips, hip dysplasia is a common condition faced by medium- and large-breed dogs such as Vizlas. Larger dogs are more likely to develop hip dysplasia, which involves an unstable fit of the hip’s ball and socket joint. Pups with the condition commonly display reduced activity and limited mobility. There are many options for treating hip dysplasia depending on the severity, including nutrition supplements, weight management, anti-inflammatory and pain medications, and surgery. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is an inherited disorder that causes the deterioration of the retina, a light-sensitive layer of cells in the eye, which can result in the gradual loss of eyesight. It isn’t a painful condition for Vizslas, though symptoms include night blindness, sensitivity to bright light, and dilated pupils. While there is no treatment for PRA, it can take months or years for the disease to cause blindness.


Hypothyroidism is a condition in canines characterized by the decreased production of hormones in the thyroid gland. Like in humans, this gland serves an important function in dogs’ metabolism. If the organs aren’t producing enough hormones, body functions slow, resulting in symptoms such as weight gain, lethargy, chronic skin and ear infections, and an unhealthy coat. If left untreated, hypothyroidism can shorten your Vizsla’s lifespan. But thankfully, the condition can be treated with a lifelong oral medication.


Dogs with epilepsy have recurring seizures that are caused by abnormal, involuntary electrical activity in the brain that can be sporadic and mild to frequent and severe. Seizures can take many forms, but dogs experiencing a generalized seizure may: 

Fall down

Unintentionally urinate and/or defecate

Stretch out their legs

Become unaware of their surroundings

Have difficulty walking

Be confused

Display abnormal behavior

Have tremors or convulsions

While seizures are unsettling for pet parents and can be life-threatening in certain cases, many dogs with epilepsy live long, happy lives—if they receive prompt and appropriate care from a veterinarian.

What To Feed a Vizsla

To help your Vizsla maintain a healthy weight, avoid health conditions, and be her happiest, she must consume the proper amount of high-quality dog food approved by the Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and have access to fresh water. 

How To Feed a Vizsla

Ivana Crnec, DVM, recommends an age-appropriate diet that is complete and balanced for your Vizsla. One thing to keep in mind when feeding a Vizsla is that they’re susceptible to bloat due to their deep-chested body. “To prevent this potentially life-threatening condition, use a slow-feeder bowl or snuffle mat,” Crnec says. “Also, avoid exercise immediately prior to and after mealtime.”

How Much Should You Feed a Vizsla?

To determine the appropriate quantity of food to give your Vizla, talk to your veterinarian. They will assess your pup’s age, activity level, and other factors to determine how many calories your dog needs to consume daily. It’s crucial to keep an eye on your dog’s weight and modify it as necessary. 

“Vizslas should reach adulthood weighing between 40-65 pounds,” Schechter says. “Speak with your veterinarian if you have any worries about the weight or diet of your dog.”  

Nutritional Tips for Vizslas

Treats should only make up 10% of your dog’s calorie intake and never replace their commercial food diet, according to the Pet Food Institute. Vizslas fed a complete and balanced diet shouldn’t need any nutritional supplements (unless they’re recommended by a veterinarian), so be sure to invest in a food catered to your dog’s life stage (puppy, adult, or senior).

Essential nutrients in dog food include carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, fat, and protein, the right combination of which will help your tail-wagging companion maintain a healthy energy level and look and feel her best.

Behavior and Training Tips for Vizslas

Vizsla Personality and Temperament 

If you prefer lounging on the couch to heart-pumping activity, a Vizsla isn’t a good match for you. According to the Vizsla Club of America, a Vizsla needs at least seven hours of exercise per week and relishes activities such as walking, jogging, running, or swimming. That means pet parents who love being outside are the best companions for Vizslas.

Vizslas are loyal canines that adore other members of their pack. They can be gentle and affectionate with children and live contentedly with other dogs and even cats, though proper (and early) socialization is essential. And remember: Pet parents should ensure that children and pups are always supervised during play, regardless of the breed. 

“The Vizsla is an affectionate dog that gets along well with children and is patient and understanding,” Schechter says. “But for small children under the age of 6, [a Vizsla’s] excitement can be too much.”

Vizsla Behavior

Because they love to stick by their pet parents at all times, Vizslas have been nicknamed “the Velcro dog.” As a result, they’re sensitive pups that require consistent positive training and caregiving. They love problem-solving, and if they’re not given ample amount of attention, the pups are prone to boredom, which can result in undesirable behavior such as chewing or getting into closets and cupboards. 

The Vizsla Club of America notes that the best pet parents provide jobs for their dogs, such as obedience, agility, and field tests. Because of their curious natures, Vizslas shouldn’t be left unsupervised. Crate training is recommended to keep their mischievous tendencies at bay, particularly when you’re not home. 

Vizsla Training

Vizslas are known for their intelligent and easy-to-train natures, and they have been trusty hunting companions for centuries. “They are both very intelligent and eager to please—a combination that results in easy trainability,” says Crnec. “Positive reinforcement is the best training approach. Considering the Vizsla’s size and pulling strength, I suggest paying extra attention to leash training.’

Positive reinforcement is a training method that involves using praise and treats to reward good behaviors, and it should start as early as possible in your Vizsla puppy’s life. Because Vizslas are also a sensitive breed, they require the care of a patient pet parent who is willing to commit to a calm and consistent training schedule. 

Fun Activities for Vizslas


Walking or running




Dock diving


Agility training

Vizsla Grooming Guide

The Vizsla is blessed with a short, red-golden coat that requires only basic care: an occasional bath and brushing. To minimize the risk of periodontal disease, brush your dog’s teeth regularly using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. 

“A good grooming routine for the Vizsla is integral to keeping them healthy and happy. With regular brushing, bathing, trimming, and checking of eyes, ears, and teeth, all it takes is a little effort to keep your Vizsla looking great and feeling [her] best,” says Michelle Lehr, CCMT, a canine massage therapist and nutritionist.

Skin Care

Vizslas don’t require a regular bathing routine, but your adventure buddy may sometimes benefit from a wash in the shower or tub, particularly if they get wet or dirty outside.

Coat Care

The Vizsla breed does not require a lot of grooming, but Lehr recommends establishing a regular brushing routine, as the Vizsla’s gorgeous rust-hued coat is still prone to shedding and matting.

“Regular brushing not only helps reduce shedding and matting, but also helps to improve

circulation and spread natural skin oils throughout the fur,” she says. “A slicker brush and a pin brush are both good choices for brushing a Vizsla and should be used at least once a week.”

Eye Care

Because congenital eye conditions—such as progressive retinal atrophy—are a common condition in Vizslas, pet parents should also look for symptoms, such as impaired night vision, light sensitivity, and dilated pupils.

Ear Care

Vizslas are prone to ear infections, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your pet’s ear hygiene and clean their ears regularly, particularly during and after bath time and if your pup goes for a swim. 

Considerations for Pet Parents

The cheerful, athletic Vizsla is a wonderful companion for active pet parents who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. Those who bring a Vizsla home should be prepared to provide them with at least one hour of exercise per day. Though they can live in smaller quarters when given an ample amount of physical stimulation, larger homes are more suitable for the graceful, sporty pups. 

While the breed is eager to please and highly trainable with positive reinforcement methods, the dogs have a sensitive nature and require the attention of a patient and doting caretaker. Vizslas that receive consistent training from a young age and are properly socialized can grow into affectionate family dogs.

“The Vizsla is an energetic dog breed with go-all-day stamina. [She] also enjoys being mentally stimulated and challenged,” Crnec says. “The Vizsla is great with children and gets along well with other dogs. [She’s] gentle and affectionate with family members.”

Vizsla FAQs

How much are Vizsla puppies?

The average cost of a Vizsla puppy can range from $1,000-$1,800, depending on the source, lineage, location, and other factors. Pet parents who want to invest in a Vizsla puppy should also consider the costs of care, including vet visits, training, and food.

How long do Vizslas live?

The average lifespan of a Vizsla is 10-14 years. 

How large do Vizslas get?

Vizslas are lean medium- to large-size dogs that stand up 22-24 inches tall. Like most other dog breeds, females are typically smaller than males.

What were Vizslas bred for?

The Vizsla breed is likely descended from 8th-century Hungarian hunting dogs. They have been pictured in stone etchings alongside a hunter and a falcon, according to the Vizsla Club of America. Over the centuries, they evolved from the companion dogs of early warlords and barons to coveted pets of Hungarian nobles. At the end of World War II, the Vizsla started arriving in the United States, where the breed is still known as a prized hunting buddy, graceful athlete, and devoted family member.

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Patricia Kaowthumrong

Patricia Kaowthumrong is a Colorado-based freelance writer and editor who covers food, travel, pets, and other lifestyle topics. In her…

Bacterial Infection (Metritis) of the Uterus in Dogs

Metritis in Dogs

Metritis is inflammation of the endometrium (lining) of the uterus due to a bacterial infection, usually occurring within a week after a dog has given birth. It can also develop after a natural or medical abortion, miscarriage, or after a non-sterile artificial insemination. The bacteria that are most often responsible for infection of the uterus are gram-negative bacteria like Escherichia coli, which often spreads into the blood, causing a blood infection. The infection may lead to sterility, and if left untreated, septic shock, a lethal condition, may follow.

Symptoms and Types

Discharge from the vulva that smells bad; discharge with pus, or pus mixed with blood; discharge that is dark greenSwollen, dough-like abdomenDehydration (the skin stays tented for a few seconds when pinched)Dark red gumsFeverReduced milk productionDepressionLack of appetiteNeglect of puppiesIncreased heart rate if the bacterial infection has become systemic


Difficult birthProlonged delivery, perhaps with a large litterObstetric manipulationRetained fetuses or placentasNatural or medical abortion, miscarriageNatural or artificial insemination (rare)


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis. These tests will help your veterinarian to determine whether the bacterial infection has spread to the bloodstream, where the infection might have originated, and how dehydrated your dog is. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition.

Diagnostic tools, like radiograph and ultrasound imaging, will allow your veterinarian to visually examine the interior of the uterus for any retained fetuses, excess fluid accumulation, and/or abnormal amounts of abdominal fluid production due to uterine rupture.

A sample of the vaginal discharge will also be taken for cytologic (microscopic) examination. A culture of both aerobic and anaerobic bacteria (bacteria that lives with oxygen, or without oxygen, respectively) will be used for identifying the bacterial populations present in the blood, and a sensitivity of the isolated bacteria will be performed so that the most appropriate antibiotic treatments can be prescribed.


Your dog will need to be hospitalized for fluid therapy, and to correct and stabilize any electrolyte imbalances. If the infection has reached sepsis, your dog will also be treated for shock. Your dog will also need to be placed on broad-spectrum antibiotics until the bacterial culture and sensitivity results return from the lab; then, depending on the results of the tests, your veterinarian will switch your dog to the antibiotic best suited for eliminating the bacteria that are causing the infection.

If the metritis is not in an advanced stage, your dog will most likely respond to medical treatment. However, medical treatment does not always prevent the infection from progressing to a generalized abdominal infection and ruptured uterus. If future breeding is not planned, having your dog spayed is the treatment of choice. This solution is especially appropriate when retained fetuses or placentas are present within the uterus, when the uterus has ruptured, or when the uterus is severely infected. Patients suffering from a long-term infection that is not responding to medical treatment may improve after a surgical cleansing of the uterus.

Living and Management

If your dog is nursing and has been diagnosed with a bacterial blood infection, it will be better to hand-raise her puppies to prevent transmission of the infection through her milk, and to prevent exposure to the possibly harmful effects of antibiotics on the puppies undeveloped systems. Keep in mind that animals that have been treated for infection have a chance of becoming less fertile or infertile, making future breeding difficult, or even impossible. 

Dog Anxiety Help: How to Calm Down an Anxious Dog

By Dr. Megan Petroff, DVM

For people, anxiety can feel overwhelming and debilitating at times. If you have a dog that struggles with fear, anxiety, or stress, it’s important to be supportive and patient.

Calming a frequently anxious dog is possible, but it may require collaboration between you and your veterinarian, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

If you have a nervous dog, here’s some insight you can use to identify the signs and triggers, and steps you can take to help calm your dog’s anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Recognize the Signs of Dog Anxiety

“Dogs use body language to communicate how they are feeling,” says Ashley Atkinson, CPDT-KA and behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

For example, if your dog seems uneasy or is fixated on licking, they could be communicating nervousness, stress, or fear. There are many subtle signs of dog anxiety.

According to Dr. Susan Konecny, RN, DVM, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society, some clinical signs include:





Lip licking

Frequent yawning

Decreased appetite

She also says that some physiological effects of anxiety can include:

Increased salivation or drooling

Dilated pupils

Increased heart rate and panting

Skin lesions from self-trauma


Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Anxiety

Once you learn how to detect when your dog is anxious, you can begin to identify the triggers that are causing the anxiety. Write down the signs that you see and describe the situations and circumstances when your dog showed these signs. Then schedule an appointment with your vet so they can rule out underlying medical issues,and help you get the right treatment for your dog.

Anytime a behavior change is noted in a pet, medical problems in other areas of the body could be at play. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm that your pet is otherwise healthy.

In all cases, it’s best to seek the help of your veterinarian to make sure you are doing everything you can for your dog. When no other cause is found, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication if needed, and/or recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists

If your veterinarian thinks it’s necessary, they may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to help your dog.

These veterinarians are specialists who have done a residency for three or more years in clinical behavior medicine, and passed a board-certification exam. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists are experts in treating fear, anxiety, and aggression in pets.

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has a directory on their website with the current board-certified veterinary behaviorists near you.

Tips for Calming Your Dog’s Anxiety

Your veterinarian can help create a plan for relieving your dog’s anxiety, and it may include the following steps. Some are simple actions you can try at home, and others require your veterinarian’s oversight.

Remove Triggers That Cause Your Dog’s Anxiety

If you’ve already gone to your veterinarian to rule out other illnesses, and they’ve helped identify possible stressors, then it may be as simple as removing those stressors and seeing if your dog’s anxiety lessens.

For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs or people, you can skip the dog park. Alternatively, you can take your dog for walks when fewer people will be outside, play in a fenced yard if you have one, and play games inside the home.

Try Dog Appeasing Pheromones

Dog appeasing pheromones are synthetic pheromones similar to the calming pheromones that female dogs give off while nursing puppies.

These pheromones can help reduce anxiety in some dogs and are available in a few different forms. There are collars, sprays, and diffusers, so you can choose the best option for your dog.

Exercise With Your Dog

Exercise can help with our own anxiety, and research studies have shown that greater levels of exercise in dogs are associated with lower levels of aggression, fear, and separation anxiety.1

Create a Sanctuary Space

Some dogs get so anxious in certain situations that no amount of calming, praising, or rewarding will give them relief. “When this is the case, they need a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and simply unwind,” says Dr. Konecny.

This can help in many situations, such as if they are nervous:

When visitors come to your home

During loud noise events (fireworks or thunderstorms)

Drowning out ambient sounds with white noise may also help them relax in their sanctuary room.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Anti-Anxiety Medications

If your dog is truly struggling with anxiety, you can talk to your veterinarian about whether anti-anxiety medications would be beneficial.

Some pet owners worry about using these medications:

Will it make their dog sleepy all the time?

Will it change their personality?

Will these types of medications shorten their dog’s lifespan?

When treated with the proper medications, your pet should exhibit less anxiety, seem happier, and still have the same personality. If your veterinarian isn’t sure what to prescribe, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best medication for your dog to help them thrive.

Try Behavior Modification

Sometimes, additional modalities are needed to treat behavior problems in pets. Behavior modification can help you change the emotional response your dog has to offending situations or triggers.

Through this cognitive therapy, your dog can learn to become less afraid of stressors and more calm. In some cases, behavior modification can help a dog to the point where they will no longer need to be on medications.

This is something a veterinary behaviorist can help you with as well.

Be Supportive

Learning and avoiding what causes your dog stress, ruling out possible underlying illnesses, and seeking professional help will all improve the quality of life for your anxious dog.

Scientific evidence has shown that stress has negative effects on health in people, and this is true in dogs as well. A 2010 study of 721 dogs concluded that, “The stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.”2 For this reason it’s important to be proactive to help your dog with their anxieties.

Don’t give up. The solution may not be quick or easy, but with dedication and the right professional assistance, you can help your dog be happier and healthier.


1. Lofgren, Sarah E., et al. “Management and Personality in Labrador Retriever Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 156, 2014, pp. 44-53.

2. Dreschel, Nancy A. “The Effects of Fear and Anxiety on Health and Lifespan in Pet Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 125, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 157-162.


See Also

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Megan Petroff, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident)


Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

What is Hepatozoonosis?

Hepatozoonosis in dogs is an infectious disease caused by a single-cell organism called a protozoan. There are two main types of Hepatozoonosis: Hepatozoon canis, carried by the Brown Dog tick, and Hepatozoon americanum, carried by Gulf Cost ticks.

A dog can become infected by swallowing a contaminated tick or by eating prey animals that are infected by ticks. Dogs that hunt or scavenge on outdoor prey or those that live in areas with high Brown Dog or Gulf Coast tick populations have a higher risk of exposure. In most cases, a dog will show symptoms 4 to 10 weeks after ingesting the tick.       

The disease occurs in the southeast and south-central United States, specifically Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Florida, where the Gulf Coast and Brown Dog ticks are more common.

Hepatozoonosis caused by H. Americanum can be debilitating and eventually fatal within a few months without treatment. Pet parents are not at risk because the disease cannot spread to humans.

Symptoms of Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

Infection with H. canis tends to be less severe, and since these organisms like to live in the immune system (lymph nodes and bone marrow) and blood storage organs (spleen) they tend to have symptoms of enlarged lymph nodes, pale gums, and lethargy. Some pets infected with H. canis have very mild or even unnoticeable symptoms.

With H. americanum infections, symptoms can become debilitating without treatment. Symptoms may include:



Weight loss

Muscle or bone pain

Muscle loss

Discharge from the eyes

Pet parents may first notice a reluctance to rise, a stiff gait when walking, and lethargy due to fever.  They may notice that the dog become hypersensitive to touch (hyperesthesia) and may scratch or self-mutilate. As the condition worsens, a dog may lose muscle.

Causes of Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

Unlike most tick-borne diseases, which are transmitted from a tick bite, hepatozoonosis is transmitted by swallowing an infected tick. Dogs can also acquire the infection by eating a tick-contaminated carcass of a wild animal. Recent studies have also shown that dogs can get the infection from eating a wild animal that has the infection, even if the dog does not eat a tick directly.

Fortunately, this disease cannot be transmitted from dog to dog.    

How Veterinarians Diagnose Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

Diagnosis of hepatozoonosis in dogs starts with a comprehensive history of the dog’s daily routine, geographic location, and recent tick exposure.  Other methods for diagnosis may include:

Physical examination

Complete blood count

Blood chemistry analysis



PCR testing

Muscle biopsy

A veterinarian will look for anemia in the blood, and for high levels of a type of white blood cells called neutrophils. Rarely, the disease-causing protozoan can be seen in your pet’s blood sample. In x-rays, a vet will look for bone lesions. These tests are all used to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms, such as diskospondylitis, meningitis, canine distemper, and polyarthritis (as well as other tick-borne diseases in dogs).

Once these initial tests are done, your veterinarian will likely send out a PCR test to confirm infection. A PCR test looks for the protozoan’s DNA in a dog’s bloodstream. A biopsy of muscle tissue may be necessary to confirm the presence of the protozoan, as this is the primary location for the organism to live.

Treatment of Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

While there is no long-term cure for hepatozoonosis, treatments can help alleviate the symptoms and increase survival time. Treatments include hydration, assisted feeding of a high-calorie diet, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to reduce inflammation and pain medication. 

Anti-protozoa medication will likely be prescribed, which can increase lifespan and quality of life. Two  therapy options are commonly used. The most common therapy uses three medications, which together are referred to as TCP:

T for trimethoprim-sulfadiazine (an antibiotic)

C for clindamycin (also an antibiotic)

P for pyrimethamine (an anti-parasitic)

Another therapy options utilizes ponazuril, an anti-parasitic that may be used alone.

Your veterinarian will likely recommend long-term treatment with decoquinate (an anti-parasiticide that can be mixed with food) twice daily for 2 years to reduce chances of symptoms returning.

This therapy does not clear the protozoa completely from the dog’s system, but it reduces their number to lower the inflammation and accompanying symptoms. Relapse of symptoms is likely as remission tends to only last 2-6 months after decoquinate is discontinued. Without treatment, the body becomes debilitated and the muscles waste away, which can lead to death within months. 

With H. canis infection, treatment generally consists of use of an anti-protozoal medication called imidocarb twice monthly for multiple months. Healthy dogs without additional diseases can potentially be cleared of the protozoan with consistent care.

Recovery and Management of Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

The triple combination therapy is commonly prescribed for 14 days. By this time, if the dog is responding to therapy, movement and activity should improve as pain recedes. Dogs have used decoquinate therapy for years, and the consensus is that the therapy increases survival time and good quality of life.  It is important to mention that dogs with hepatozoonosis cannot be cured, and management of the disease is a lifelong process.

Prevention of Hepatozoonosis in Dogs

The only effective way to prevent Hepatozoonosis is to prevent your dog from ingesting ticks.  There are many safe and effective tick treatments to ask your veterinarian about that can be administered every 1-3 months.

Other strategies include:

Using year-round tick control on your dog in endemic areas

Preventing your dog from eating prey animals outside where ticks are common

Keeping your house and yard free of ticks (which may require professional pest control assistance)

Hepatozoonosis in Dogs FAQs

Can canine hepatozoonosis spread to humans?

No, canine hepatozoonosis cannot be spread to humans. 


Companion Animal Parasite Council. American Canine Hepatozoonosis. April 2013.

Allen K, Li Y, Kaltenboeck B, et al. Diversity of Hepatozoon species in naturally infected dogs in the southern United States. Veterinary Parasitology. 2008;154(3–4):220-225.

Panciera R, Ewing S. American canine Hepatozoonosis. Animal Health Research Reviews. 2003;4(1):27-34.

‌Little S, Allen K, Johnson E, et al. New Developments in Canine Hepatozoonosis in North America: A Review. Parasites & Vectors 2; 2015.

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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…

Bone Deformity and Dwarfism in Dogs

Osteochondrodysplasia and Achondroplasia in Dogs

Osteochondrodysplasia (OCD) is a growth and developmental abnormality of the bone and cartilage, which results in lack of normal bone growth and bone deformities. Where osteo refers to the bone, chondro refers to the cartilage, and dysplasia is a general term that is applied to abnormal growth. Dog breeds that tend to be predisposed to this disorder are great Pyrenees, Alaskan malamutes, Samoyeds, Scottish deerhounds, Labrador retrievers, basset hounds, and Norwegian elkhounds.

Achondroplasia is a form of osteochondrodysplasia in which the bones do not grow to the normal size, based on what is expected of the breed. This is caused by a mutation of the fibroblast growth factor receptor gene. The result is abnormally short limbs, a condition called dwarfism. In some breeds this trait is selectively encouraged, such as with the dachshund, Skye terrier, and Welsh corgi. Other breeds that are reported to be affected are bulldogs, German shepherds, basset hounds, Boston terriers, pugs, Pekingese, Japanese spaniels, shih-tzus, beagles, English pointers, cocker Spaniels, and Scottish terriers.

These disorders are genetically acquired.

Symptoms and Types

Larger than normal headUndershot jaw with shorter noseCrooked teeth due to shorter jawAbnormal bone shapePoor growth or lack of growthBones appear shorter than normalEnlarged jointsSideways bowing of forelimbs – front legs are more likely affectedSpinal deviation to either side of the body


Osteochondrodysplasia is an autosomal dominant genetic disorder, meaning that it can be passed along by either gender and only one parent need carry the gene for an offspring to be potentially affected.


You will need to give your veterinarian a detailed medical history, including when you first noticed symptoms of growth abnormality, and any information you have about your dog’s genetic background. Routine laboratory testing will include a complete blood count, biochemistry profile and urinalysis to rule out other causes for the disorder. X-rays of the affected limbs will be taken, which will show abnormalities related to bone growth and structure. X-rays of the spine will also show such abnormalities in patients with spinal deviation. To confirm a diagnosis, your veterinarian will take a sample of tissue from the small bones of the body and send it to a veterinary pathologist for further diagnostic testing.


After establishing the diagnosis, your veterinarian may decide to correct the problem with surgery. However, results of such corrective surgery are usually not rewarding. Pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications are recommended for many affected patients as bone deformities can cause significant pain for these patients. Your dog’s feelings of comfort and its projected life-span depend on the severity of the problem. If it is relatively minor, it is entirely possible for your dog to go on to live a relatively comfortable and healthy life.

Living and Management

The prognosis of this disease depends on the extent of problem. There is no definitive treatment option available for treating this disorder, and the outcome varies according to the severity of the disorder and which bones are affected. For some dogs, the bone dysplasia can be incapacitating, while for others, learning to compensate for the smaller limb size and reduction in mobility is successfully achieved.

Dogs that are affected with osteochondrodysplasia may be more prone to arthritic developments. This is something to be aware of as your dog ages. Another precaution to keep in mind is the risk of obesity that is a common side effect of this disorder. Make sure that you stay to a healthy diet and be observant of your dog’s weight and physical health. If your veterinarian does recommend pain medications, be sure to use them with caution and with full instruction from your veterinarian. One of the most preventable accidents with pets is an overdose of medication.

As these disorders are genetically acquired, breeding is not recommended.