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Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

What Is a Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs?

A urinary tract blockage, or obstruction, is a medical emergency that causes a dog to have difficulty urinating or to even be unable to urinate. A dog’s urinary tract includes the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra, and an obstruction can be partial or complete. With an obstruction, dogs will strain and produce little to no urine.

This condition can happen in both male and female dogs, although it is more common in males because of the way their anatomy is structured. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from the bladder to be eliminated from the body. In male dogs, the urethra is longer and narrower than in females, which predisposes them to this very serious medical condition.

When dogs’ urinary tracts are obstructed, a rapid buildup of toxins occurs. If left untreated, it will lead to kidney failure and death. A urinary tract obstruction is most often caused by a stone formed in the bladder that gets stuck in the urethra, preventing urine from leaving the bladder.

Symptoms of Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

Clinical signs vary depending on the severity of the blockage. Dogs that have only a partial obstruction may:

Urinate small amounts frequently

Take a long time to be able to urinate

Strain to urinate

Have bloody or dark urine

Be unable to have a steady stream of urine (urinate in drops)

Have inappropriate urination

If the urethra is completely blocked, dogs may have:

Straining to urinate with no urine production

Lethargy, severe depression

Loss of appetite


Enlargement in abdomen

It is difficult to tell the difference between a urinary tract infection and a partial obstruction, but your veterinarian will be able to determine the problem during an exam.

Both partial and complete urinary obstructions are painful and will cause a dog to vocalize when they try to urinate. They may also be restless and have trouble getting comfortable when lying down or have difficulty getting up once down. Dogs may also appear to be constipated, as straining to urinate and straining to defecate can cause the same postures.

Causes of Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

The most common cause of urinary tract obstructions in dogs is bladder stones (calculi) that get stuck in the urethra. Stones can also form in the kidneys and get stuck in the ureters, but this is uncommon.

Other causes of urinary obstructions can be related to muscle spasms in the urethra, inflammation (swelling) of the bladder (cystitis), mucus plugs, prostate disease in males, scar tissue, blood clots, or certain cancers. An obstruction can also occur in male dogs when the os penis (bone within the penis that the urethra passes through) is fractured or broken.

With a complete obstruction, the bladder can get so enlarged that it can rupture and spill urine into the abdomen. Dogs with complete urethral obstruction will die within days if the blockage is not relieved. Your dog should be seen by a veterinarian immediately if they are unable to urinate.

Dogs with certain medical conditions can have an increased risk of developing stones and a possible obstruction. Yorkshire Terriers and Schnauzers with liver shunts will form stones from waste not removed by the liver properly. Dalmatians have a genetic predisposition to form urate crystals. Kidney, bladder, and prostate infections can increase the risk of struvite crystals and stones forming.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

Either your dog’s veterinarian or an emergency vet will take a complete medical history and perform a full physical examination to include palpation (touching) of the urinary bladder within a dog’s abdomen. Often, a distended (enlarged) bladder and even stones in the bladder will be felt during this exam.

A rectal examination is also important to feel stones in the urethra and, in male dogs, a vet can evaluate the prostate. Full bloodwork, urinalysis, and urine culture must be done to assess the kidneys for evidence of failure and to detect an infection or crystals in the urine.

Imaging of the urinary system is important for checking if a dog has an obstruction. Plain x-rays and x-rays using contrast are very valuable to look for stones within the bladder or urethra. An ultrasound of the abdomen will also be helpful to assess the kidneys for stones or changes such as tumors, clots, or stones that do not show up on x-ray. An ultrasound can also look at the prostate in male dogs to see if it is enlarged or abnormal.

The ultimate sign of a urinary obstruction will be if a urinary catheter cannot be put from the urethra into the bladder. Most, if not all, dogs need to be sedated in order to pass a urinary catheter. Occasionally, the vet will be able to feel the stone (or other cause) with the catheter and figure out if it is a partial or complete obstruction. Your vet can place a special contrast or dye into the catheter while your dog has an x-ray done to look for narrowing of the urethra that can be associated with tumors, clots, or scar tissue.

If there is evidence that the kidneys are not functioning properly and their potassium levels are high, an ECG (electrocardiogram) should be done, as high potassium levels can cause heart problems.

Treatment of Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

Urinary obstruction in dogs usually requires medical treatment to stabilize them for surgery and then surgical treatment to release the obstruction. Your dog will be hospitalized with an IV catheter to receive IV fluids and pain medications. Antibiotics are needed if there is evidence of infection, and other medications can be given to help with urethral muscle spasms, inflammation, etc.

Once they are stable, a dog can be sedated and a urinary catheter will be placed into the urethra. In some obstructions caused by bladder stones, the stone can be pushed from the urethra into the bladder to relieve the obstruction. A much less complicated surgery can then be performed to remove the stone from the bladder.

If the stone cannot be passed into the bladder with the catheter or the underlying cause is not a stone, surgical removal/correction of the blockage directly from the urethra will need to be done. If any abnormal tissue is present or if a tumor is causing the obstruction, your vet will be able to take a biopsy at the time of surgery when the obstruction is resolved.

There are many different bladder stones, and some might not need surgery as they can be dissolved with a special prescription dog food diet. A cystoscope can sometimes be used to remove small stones from the bladder instead of doing surgery. 

Recovery and Management of Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

Dogs will need several weeks of restricted activity and wearing an Elizabethan collar (cone) after surgery to remove a urinary obstruction. After surgery on the urinary tract, blood in the urine can remain for a few weeks depending on which surgical procedure is performed.

Most urinary tract infections should be treated for a minimum of 10-14 days with antibiotics. Pain and anti-inflammatory medications are also given after the obstruction is cleared. Repeat urinalysis and urine cultures must be done after the medications are finished to be sure the infection was treated properly.

Complications of urinary obstruction include tears in the urethra or bladder, resulting in urine leakage, bladder dysfunction, incontinence, or scarring in the urethra that can cause recurrence of the obstruction.

The prognosis is good for dogs that undergo most surgical or nonsurgical procedures to relieve a urinary blockage if they have not endured significant kidney or toxic damage from a prolonged obstruction.

Prevention of Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs

Prevention is possible in some cases of bladder stones, depending on their chemical makeup. If the stones were formed because of infection, it’s best to have routine urinalysis and urine cultures done to detect infection before the stone develops and decide if antibiotics should be prescribed. Periodic bladder x-rays or ultrasounds would also be helpful to prevent recurrence of a urinary obstruction. Early detection may allow your veterinarian to adjust your dog’s diet or medications before they need surgery.

Urinary Tract Blockage in Dogs FAQs

Is a urinary tract blockage painful for dogs?

Yes, the primary symptom of a urinary obstruction, straining to urinate, is a response to the pain the dog is feeling in the bladder and urethra especially. The pain from a urethral stone is likely similar to what people feel when they have kidney stones, which is usually extreme. No matter what the cause of the urinary obstruction, it causes pain and discomfort to all dogs.

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Barri J. Morrison, DVM


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

How to Best Treat Arthritis in Dogs

By Ashley Gallagher, DVM

Arthritis is one of the most common ailments affecting dogs, especially middle aged to senior dogs. Whether the dog is large or small, arthritis can be a source of chronic pain and negatively affect quality of life. Also known as degenerative joint disease, arthritis occurs when a joint is unstable and causes the bones to move abnormally within the joint. Cartilage lines the joints, acting as a barrier between bones. Over time this abnormal movement erodes the cartilage and bone begins rubbing against bone, creating chronic inflammation and pain.

Ways to Treat (and Prevent) Arthritis in Dogs

The absolute best way to prevent arthritis in dogs is to keep your pet at a healthy weight. This will reduce the stress that the body places on joints and help keep things moving like they should. If you notice that your dog has some “extra padding” around the ribs or belly, you should speak with your veterinarian immediately to see if your pet is overweight. Your veterinarian will also be able to help you with a weight loss plan.

Therapeutic diets, found at your veterinarian’s office or at many online pet specialty retailers, are a great option for pets with mobility issues. These diets can be specifically formulated to address many health issues, including arthritis. For example, therapeutic pet foods with Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids balanced in a specific ratio can reduce inflammation and target pain pathways in dogs. When used properly under the supervision of a veterinarian, therapeutic diets can help arthritic pets resume running, walking, and jumping in as little as a few weeks. Your veterinarian may also recommend a therapeutic diet with glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, two commonly used nutritional supplements that support joint health by maintaining the cartilage and repairing any defects that might be present.

You may be tempted to supplement your pet’s current diet with fatty acids, glucosamine or chondroitin on your own, but be aware that it is difficult to get the proper balance with the diet. This will also add unwanted calories, which is undesirable when you are trying to keep your pet slim. Therapeutic diets that are specially formulated for arthritis have a lower overall calorie count and the additional calories from the fatty acids have already been factored in. Therefore you have a much lower risk of overloading your pet with calories, which can lead to weight gain.

Pets with arthritis aren’t necessarily incapable of exercising. Staying active actually helps many arthritic pets who suffer from achy bones and joints. It is, however, vital to consult your veterinarian before beginning an exercise regimen. Exerting your dog too much or too quickly may inadvertently do more harm than good.

If the above methods don’t do the trick, it may be time to discuss pain medication with your veterinarian. Joint disease should be addressed on multiple fronts in order to make your pet as comfortable as possible. But as the saying goes, prevention is always the best medicine. Keep your pet slim. And if you do notice some stiffness, limping or slowing down in your dog, talk to a veterinarian right away about therapeutic diets and other arthritic treatments available for your pet.

Image: Jaromir Chalabala / via Shutterstock

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Ashley Gallagher, DVM


Parasitic Blood Infection (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

Hemotrophic Mycoplasmosis (Haemobartonellosis) in Dogs

The mycoplasma is a class of bacterial parasites belonging to the order of Mollicutes. They are able to survive without oxygen, and lack true cell walls, making them resistant to antibiotics and therefore a greater challenge to detect and treat. They are the most common cause of urinary tract infections and pneumonia.

Hemotrophic mycoplasmosis is the result of infection of the red blood cells by the mycoplasma parasite M. haemocanis. Dogs usually will not show signs of illness or suffer from severe anemia (lack of red blood cells) with this kind of infection unless they have had their spleens removed (splenectomy). Since the purpose of the spleen is to filter and remove damaged red blood cells, the lack of this organ allows the mycoplasma to take a stronger hold in the system, and the body suffers systemically from the overload of damaged blood cells.

Symptoms and Types

Mild signs, unless the spleen has been surgically removedLack of appetiteListlessnessWhitish to pale purple gumsInfertility (both genders)


The mycoplasma bacteria is transmitted mainly by ticks and fleas that have fed off of other infected animals. It is also spread through fighting between animals (body fluid exchange); and rarely, from blood transfusion – where infected blood from one animal is transfused to an uninfected animal. Transmission of the mycoplasma from a mother to her young (typically through milk) is not yet proven to take place with dogs.

M. haemocanis (previously classified as H. canis) is the main type of mollicute that causes this condition.


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health and recent activities. A complete blood chemical profile will be conducted, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis, and a blood smear. The blood smear will be stained to identify the mycoplasmas in the blood. A polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, or a Coombs’ test, may also be used by your veterinarian to positively identify the presence of mycoplasmas.


If this disease is caught early, your dog will more than likely be treated with antibiotics and sent home. Depending on the severity of th einfection, your veterinarian will prescribe either a standard or long course of antibiotics for your dog. If anemia is also present you may also need to go with a course of steroid therapy. In most cases, only severely anemic, or very ill and listless dogs will be hospitalized. Fluid therapy, and possibly even blood transfusions, will be necessary to stabilize your dog if the condition has progressed to a severe stage. Left untreated, this disease can have fatal results.

Living and Management

Your dog will need to be checked by your veterinarian for progress within a week of treatment, when a red blood cell count will be performed to examine for mycoplasma levels. An infected dog can remain a carrier of the disease even after complete recovery. If you have other dogs in the home you will need to monitor them for possible symptoms and act quickly if symptoms do appear. In addition, breeding of affected dogs should be avoided until your veterinarian has given you the all clear.

The condition or disease described in this article can affect both dogs and cats (though it is not communicable between the two species). If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD Pet Health Library.

Xoloitzcuintli (Mexican Hairless)

A rare breed, the Xoloitzcuintli (pronounced “show-low-eets-queent-lee”) is a highly intelligent, calm, and compact dog. Also known as the Xolo and the Mexican Hairless, this breed is loyal and loving.

While their baldness, admittedly, isn’t for everyone, the Xoloitzcuintli Club of America says Aztec tribes revered them for their healing properties. The Nahuas, a Latin American indigenous group, believed the Xolo guided souls through the underworld. After hundreds of years by their pet parents’ sides, the Xoloitzcuintli is now recognized as the official dog of Mexico.

Caring for a Xoloitzcuintli

Xoloitzcuintles tend to be healthy dogs. They live a long life of 13–18 years and are happy to spend it with their family, both human and canine.

According to the breed club, Xolos come in three sizes:

The Toy Xoloitzcuintli, which stands 10–14 inches tall

The Miniature Xoloitzcuintli, which is 14–18 inches tall

The Standard Xoloitzcuintli, at 18–23 inches tall

No matter their size, Xolos have a very distinctive look that developed naturally over the centuries. They have big ears, a long muzzle, and almond-shaped eyes, but what’s most eye-catching is their coat (or lack thereof). These hairless dogs from Mexico are mostly naked, but some can have coarse hair on the top of their head, on their feet, and on the tip of their tail.

Xoloitzcuintli Health Issues

Xolos are a very healthy breed that, thanks to their natural development, aren’t prone to many of the health conditions a lot of domestic dogs have. While the breed club recommends hip, cardiac, patella (kneecap), and ophthalmology tests for your Xolo dog, common conditions affecting these body parts aren’t super prevalent in the breed.

Skin Conditions

Adolescent Xolos are prone to acne on their lips and muzzle. Dogs with acne will have red bumps, pimples, or blackheads on their skin that can become scarred, especially if the dog scratches at them. To help keep your Mexican hairless dog’s skin clear, Xolos need regular baths with special shampoo.

You’ll also need to help them keep their face clean and dry, especially after eating, drinking, or rooting in the dirt. Consider using a special pet wipe to help.

Due to being hairless, Xolos are also prone to having sensitive skin. Care should be taken to ensure they are not exposed to chemicals, sun, or extreme changes in temperature. Consider a doggy sunscreen or a pet-friendly moisturizer to keep their skin healthy.

Orthopedic Conditions

Xolos are prone to a few orthopedic conditions, such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxations. Hip dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip joint, while patellar luxations are caused by laxity in the tendons of the kneecap that cause the bones to slide off each other.

These are both conditions that occur during development and, depending on severity, may or may not cause symptoms in your pup. Lameness or limping, a bunny-hopping gait, and trouble with stairs are common symptoms in affected dogs. Your vet will treat your Xolo with anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements, and surgery is recommended in severe cases.


According to the breed club, Xolo dogs love to eat. This means that, if you don’t stick to scheduled, measured-out meals, their appetite easily leads to obesity. Obesity in dogs can cause all sorts of additional health problems, including:



Kidney disease

Increased risk of cardiovascular disease

Exercise intolerance

What To Feed a Xoloitzcuintli

Mexican hairless dogs need to eat a dog food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines. Xoloitzcuintli puppies should eat a puppy-specific food until they’re 1 year old, when they can transition to adult food.

How To Feed a Xoloitzcuintli

Xolo puppies should eat at least three times a day on a regular feeding schedule. Start feeding them twice a day once they reach adulthood. If your Xolo is eating too fast, reduce the gobbling with a slow feeder bowl.

How Much Should You Feed a Xoloitzcuintli?

How many calories your dog gets depends on their health, current weight, and lifestyle. Because there are three different Xoloitzcuintli sizes, the range these pups can eat varies a lot.

Use your dog food packaging to find basic guidance on how much food your Xolo dog needs. Talking to your vet will give you a better estimate, as they can take into account your specific dog’s health history.

Nutritional Tips for the Xoloitzcuintli

As long as your Xolo is eating a well-balanced dog food, they shouldn’t need supplements. That said, your vet might prescribe supplements on an as-needed basis if your pup’s health requires them.

Behavior and Training Tips for the Xoloitzcuintli

Xolo dogs are known for their smarts and loyalty, making them a good fit for new pet parents and experienced families alike. They need about 20 minutes of exercise every day, whether that’s a long walk, neighborhood jog, or afternoon hike.

“Xolos need daily exercise and enjoy long walks and some brief opportunities to run,” says Paola Cuevas, MVZ. “Daily mental and physical stimulation helps prevent the development of destructive or aberrant behaviors.”

Xoloitzcuintli Personality and Temperament

As a working dog, Xolos are often reserved and wary of strangers, the breed club says. But while they’ll never shower strangers with affection, they form strong bonds with their pet parents. They are also playful and can be great friends to kids who know how to properly interact with pets. But remember: Interactions between children and dogs always need to be supervised.

These dogs also have a high prey drive and might dart after squirrels, rabbits, and other small animals. Introduce this dog to a cat slowly and carefully, so they understand kitties aren’t something to chase. Always keep your Xolo on a leash or inside a fenced yard when they’re outside.

Xoloitzcuintli Behavior

Xolos are small, but their bark is big. They’ll often use their loud voice to alert their family to passersby, but they won’t bark for no reason.

“Xolos will for sure let you know if anyone is near your door,” Cuevas says. “Like most dogs, Xolos like to watch their home. And if they are not properly desensitized and used to visitors, they might get anxious about newcomers.”

Xoloitzcuintli Training

As with all dogs, Xoloitzcuintles respond best to positive reinforcement training where they are rewarded for good behavior. Though they’re smart and can quickly pick up on cues, the breed club says this breed requires consistent training.

It’s also important to socialize your Xolo puppy so they don’t grow up suspicious of new people. 

Fun Activities for the Xoloitzcuintli


Playing in the backyard


Puzzle toys




Trick training

Obedience training

Snuffle mats

Obstacle courses



Xoloitzcuintli Grooming Guide

Because they lack a full coat, Xolos don’t require the grooming routine many other dog breeds have. However, their skin needs regular attention.

Skin Care

As a hairless dog, Xolos need regular bathing. Between baths, you’ll need to:

Wipe them down with a washcloth to keep their skin clean.

Keep their skin hydrated with dog-friendly lotions and creams.

Lather them in doggy sunscreen before they go outside, to prevent sunburns. Never use sunscreen made for humans on dogs, as the ingredients in them can be toxic for our canine companions.

Because acne is common for Xolos, you may need topical or oral medications to treat their skin. Chat with your veterinarian to see how you can help reduce your dog’s acne.

Eye Care

Xolos shouldn’t need special eye care. But if you see your Xolo pawing at their eye, squinting, or having eye discharge, take your dog to the vet to check for an eye infection.

Ear Care

Clean your dog’s ears after every bath. Using a dog-specific ear cleaner will help prevent ear infections from occurring.

Considerations for Pet Parents

A Xolo is happy being by your side, whether you’re in an apartment or a house—as long as they get daily exercise, that is. Keep these hairless dogs on a leash when you’re out on your run or walk. Their high prey drive means they will run after smaller neighborhood animals.

While Xolos love the people they’re close to, it can take a long time for them to warm up to strangers. You must socialize your Xoloitzcuintli puppy early and often to help with their natural wariness.

Featured Image: Adboe/Masarik

Xoloitzcuintli FAQs

Are Xolo dogs good pets?

Yes, well-trained and socialized Xolos are great pets! They are a good fit in active families where they can get at least 20 minutes of exercise every day. 

How much do Xolo dogs cost?

Xolos can cost $2,000–$4,000. The Xoloitzcuintli Club of America has a directory of vetted ethical breeders you can use to find a puppy.

Are Mexican Hairless dogs hypoallergenic?

While no dog is completely hypoallergenic, Xolos can be a good fit for some people with allergies. But before you bring home a Xoloitzcuintli puppy, spend time with the breed to see how your allergies react.

How do you pronounce Xoloitzcuintli?

Xoloitzcuintli is pronounced “show-low-eets-queent-lee.” The common abbreviation for their name, Xolo, is pronounced “show-low.”

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Kaitlyn Arford

Kaitlyn Arford is an award-winning freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the American Kennel Club, Betterpet, PetMD, and more. As…

Cane Corso

The Cane Corso, or Italian Mastiff, is a smart and affectionate breed known for its large stature and loyal nature. The Cane Corso size is impressive—these dogs can weigh over 100 pounds and can stand 28 inches tall at the shoulders. Cani Corsi (the proper plural of Cane Corso) have large heads, expressive faces, and a muscular appearance.

The Cane Corso is a working breed. Historically, Corsi served as watchdogs, farmhands, and even canine soldiers. The breed’s ancestry dates to ancient Greece and Rome, but Cane Corso dogs weren’t popular in the United States until the 1980s. The name can be translated from the Latin as “bodyguard dog” or “guard dog of the courtyard.” But while these dogs have historically been protectors, today they can make loyal companions.

Caring for a Cane Corso

Cane Corso dogs are intelligent, eager to please, versatile, and intensely loyal to their humans, but they can also be willful, according to the Cane Corso Association of America (CCAA). As with other large guardian dogs, it’s important to provide early socialization with people and other animals. Like most large dogs, they require a good amount of exercise to keep up with their muscular shape.

The most common Cane Corso colors are black and black brindle, but they can also be chestnut brindle, fawn, gray, gray brindle, and red. They may also have a black or gray “mask” pattern on their face. The coat is smooth and short, requiring minimal grooming. Cane Corso ear cropping is common, but it (along with tail docking) is mostly done for cosmetic reasons and the American Veterinary Medical Association opposes both procedures.

The Cane Corso lifespan is approximately 9–12 years, which is a little longer than average for a giant-breed dog. They can adapt to extreme temperatures but typically do better in warmer climates.

Cane Corso Health Issues

These dogs are generally healthy, as most Cane Corso breeders screen for common health conditions. However, potential pet parents should be aware of the following possible health issues.


Maintaining a lean body weight is ideal for all dogs, but especially for large or giant breeds because obesity can cause stress on the body and lead to other health issues. Your Italian Cane Corso will benefit from regular exercise and being on a well-balanced diet to avoid obesity. Always work with your veterinarian to determine the best nutrition plan for your dog’s life stage.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a degenerative joint disease that affects the back legs. Elbow dysplasia is a similar condition that affects the front legs. Bone and joint problems are a common cause of pain in large- and giant-breed dogs. Clinical signs include limping, decreased range of motion, and other signs of pain—especially later in life, as arthritis sets in.

Treatment for degenerative joint diseases can include:

Weight loss

Physical therapy

Joint protection supplements

Anti-inflammatory medications

Pain medications


Testing, such as the PennHIP, can help predict your dog’s lifetime risk of hip dysplasia.

Idiopathic Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a seizure disorder, and “idiopathic” refers to a condition that arises spontaneously, when there is no known cause. These seizures usually develop in dogs around 3 years of age. While there is no cure, the seizures can be managed with medication. Dogs with idiopathic epilepsy can live long, productive, happy lives.

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange is a skin condition in dogs that can develop due to a genetic predisposition. Puppies have an immature immune system, which can leave them susceptible to demodex mites. Adult dogs with underlying health problems can also develop demodectic mange. The skin condition is not contagious to other dogs.

Clinical signs of demodectic mange include:

Hair loss

Scaly skin

Red bumps

Darkening and thickening of the skin

Varying degrees of itch

While common around the face and head in puppies, the lesions can develop anywhere on the body.

Not all cases of demodex require treatment; very small lesions can resolve on their own in one or two months. Larger skin lesions or those distributed all over the body can be treated with topical and/or oral medications. Affected dogs should not be bred.

Eyelid Abnormalities

Italian Cane Corso dogs are susceptible to a few different eye conditions.

Entropion is the most common eyelid abnormality in dogs. The eyelid rolls inward and the eyelashes rub on the cornea (the eye surface).

Ectropion usually affects the lower lids, causing a “droopy eye” look. The eyelids appear to fold away from the eye and may be inflamed.

Cherry eye occurs when the gland of the third eyelid is out of its proper position. The third eyelid is in the inner corner of the eye (close to the muzzle), and when the tear gland that is associated with it is out of position, it appears as a pink or red mass.

These conditions can cause chronic irritation and secondary bacterial infections and conjunctivitis. Surgery is the only way to correct these eyelid issues, and eye medications will likely be part of the recovery process.

Bloat and GDV (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)

Large, deep-chested dog breeds are susceptible to a life-threatening stomach condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus. It can occur suddenly when the stomach enlarges with gas (bloat) and then twists on itself (GDV).

If you notice your dog’s stomach area enlarge quickly or your dog appears to have abdominal pain (whining with or without touching belly, stretching with front legs down/back legs up, reluctance to walk, not eating), contact an emergency veterinarian immediately.  

While bloat can sometimes be treated with aggressive medical intervention, a GDV requires emergency corrective surgery to save the dog’s life.

The best way to keep your Cane Corso from developing a life-threatening GDV is gastropexy. This surgery is often done when Cane Corso puppies are being spayed or neutered. A gastropexy permanently attaches the stomach to the inside body wall—this fixation of the stomach keeps it from being able to twist upon itself.

What to Feed a Cane Corso

The Cane Corso is considered an all-purpose working dog. Corsi require a high-quality, age-appropriate diet to meet their nutritional needs. These diets are usually labeled puppy, adult, or senior. Any dog food that is labeled for “all life stages” should only be used for puppies, as these are not usually formulated for older dogs.

It’s highly recommended that all dogs eat a diet approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), which ensures that the formulation meets or exceeds established standards.

How To Feed a Cane Corso

Because Cane Corso dogs are susceptible to bloat and GDV, pet parents need to take some precautions when feeding their dog. For one, always feed an Italian Cane Corso smaller meals throughout the day (instead of one big meal). You should also avoid using elevated food bowls and prevent your dog from exercising just before or after eating.

Avoid offering your pet table food or animal bones, as this may cause stomach upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. High-fat foods can cause pancreatitis.

How Much Should You Feed a Cane Corso?

In general, Cane Corso puppies should be fed three to four times per day on a regular schedule, and adult dogs should be fed at least twice a day. How much you feed is determined by the specific food’s caloric density and your dog’s energy requirements, but asking your veterinarian for portion sizes is best.

Nutritional Tips for Cane Corso Dogs

Dogs that are on a well-balanced, AAFCO-approved diet do not need additional vitamin and mineral supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, some supplements may be helpful for joint health, digestive health, and providing a well-rounded health plan.

Joint supplements: Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM supplements (such as Dasuquin with MSM) are great for promoting joint health. MSM has all-natural anti-inflammatory properties. Omega-3 fatty acids (high-quality fish oil) are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties as well when given at appropriate doses. Research shows that reducing inflammation helps to control pain associated with osteoarthritis, which is a common problem in dogs with joint issues.

Probiotics: Probiotics are great for promoting gut health. Some come with other benefits, such as Calming Care, which helps ease anxiety, and Zesty Paws, which contains pumpkin, adding fiber to the diet.

Behavior and Training Tips for a Cane Corso

Cane Corso Personality and Temperament

The Cane Corso temperament is loyal and unwavering. These dogs are great companions and enjoy having a family with children to watch over. However, their instinct to take charge can be an issue for pet parents who haven’t invested in training their Corso dog.

These dogs must be trained and socialized starting at a very young age to be accepting of new people, animals, and situations. Training can start as soon as your new Cane Corso puppy comes home. This breed might be best suited to a family with older children due to its larger size.

The Cane Corso is reserved, confident, and extremely attentive to their surroundings. They tend tend to be quiet dogs.

Cane Corso Behavior

The Cane Corso temperament is loyal and unwavering. These dogs are great companions and enjoy having a family with children to watch over.

With a deep ancestry as working dogs, Cane Corso dogs can be sensitive and serious. Their behavior largely depends on the care and training they receive when they are young. They can be gentle and affectionate in the right hands, but if the pet parent is inexperienced or unkind, the Cane Corso can become reactive.

Make sure to supervise your Cane Corso during interactions with children or other pets, and always teach children how to properly interact with dogs. Corsi like to have their family close by, ideally in the same room. Consider placing dog beds in the rooms where you spend the most time.

Cane Corso Training

This intelligent working breed thrives on activity and having a job to do. Like most large dog breeds, the Cane Corso benefits from a fenced-in yard and frequent walks or runs. These dogs enjoy agility training, skills training, dock diving, and other activities that keep their mind enriched and their body fit. If they are not exercised and stimulated often, they may get themselves into trouble with bad behaviors such as digging, pawing, and jumping. The Cane Corso is not as toy-oriented as many other breeds, and most are not interested in retrieving.

Fun Activities for a Cane Corso

Nose work

Flirt pole

Obstacle or agility courses



Cane Corso Grooming Guide

The Cane Corso has a smooth, short, double-layered coat that does not require much maintenance. However, Corsi do shed throughout the year, especially during the spring. Their nails should be trimmed regularly, as excessively long nails can be painful and cause problems with walking and running.

Skin Care

The Cane Corso is a low-maintenance breed when it comes to skin care. Corsi only need to be bathed a few times a year, usually during the spring’s high shedding periods, or when they get dirty. Bathing your dog too frequently strips the coat of the natural oils that protect the skin.

Coat Care

Weekly brushing—daily during shedding season—with a medium-bristle brush, a rubber grooming mitt or tool, or a hound glove will remove dead hair before it can fall onto the furniture. Brushing also helps remove dirt and promotes new hair growth.

Eye Care

Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Ensure that the eyelids and eyelashes are not rubbing on the eye or drooping outward, which would indicate a need for surgical correction. Using a mild eye-cleaning wipe can help prevent tear staining.

Ear Care

Check ears weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an ear infection. Regularly cleaning a dog’s ears if the dog is not having any issues can be more harmful than helpful. Adding excessive moisture to a dog’s ear with frequent bathing, swimming, or overuse of ear-cleansing liquid may promote bacterial growth in the ears, causing an ear infection.

Considerations for Pet Parents

While Cani Corsi have historically been protectors, today they can make loyal companions.

Before bringing a Cane Corso puppy into your home and family, consider whether you can put the time and effort into training, socializing, and exercising your new pet. Because these are large dogs, having a big space (ideally with a large yard) would be best. A tall, sturdy fence in the backyard is recommended. A Cane Corso is not a good dog breed for those who live in apartments.

Cane Corso FAQs

Is a Cane Corso a good family dog?

With proper socialization, Cani Corsi can be good family dogs, as they are bred to be loyal and loving. The Cane Corso is best suited to a family with older children, due to the breed’s large size. Make sure to supervise your Cane Corso dog during any interactions with children or other pets, and teach children how to properly interact with dogs.

Are Cani Corsi smart dogs?

The Cane Corso is extremely intelligent and needs consistent lifelong training from a pet parent who will be clear about expectations.

How much does a Cane Corso cost?

The average cost of purchasing a quality Cane Corso puppy from a reputable breeder is about $1,500–$2,500. However, for a Cane Corso puppy with top breed lines and a superior pedigree, the cost may be $3,000–$5,500. You can also find Cane Cori at rescues and shelters.

Is the Cane Corso a Pit Bull?

The Cane Corso and Pit Bull are not the same. The Cane Corso is a specific breed of dog, whereas the term “Pit Bull” often refers to an umbrella of bully breeds, including the American Staffordshire Terrier, American Bulldog, and Staffordshire Bull Terrier.

What is the origin of the Cane Corso breed?

Italy is the birthplace of two mastiff-type breeds, the Neapolitan Mastiff and the Cane Corso. These are both descendants of an ancient Roman war dog, the canis pugnaces.

Featured Image: Didkovska

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Barri J. Morrison, DVM


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

What’s in Natural Dog Food?


We all want to offer the best in nutrition to our pets, but selecting the right diet can be difficult when there are so many options. In many cases, the terminology and “buzz words” used on pet food labels can make it even more confusing.

“Natural” is a term that you’ll find on a lot of pet food packaging. But how is “natural dog food” different from other dog food? Is it an official term? Are natural dog food diets better?

To help you navigate the labels, this guide will explain everything you need to know about the term “natural” and what it means for dog foods.

What Is Natural Dog Food?

The term “natural” conveys an understanding that the item can be found in nature and is not manmade or produced secondary to a chemical or synthetic process. So do pet food companies have to adhere to any regulations to call specific formulas or ingredients “natural”?

Does the FDA Regulate Natural Dog Food?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet defined the term “natural” in relation to pet food labeling. Instead, the FDA relies on the requirement that the label information must not be false or misleading. The FDA requires that all animal foods be safe to eat, produced under clean and sanitary conditions, contain no harmful substances, and be truthfully labeled.

Many FDA regulations for proper labeling of products are based on models provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This voluntary membership organization provides guidelines for the local, state, and federal agencies that regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds, including dog and cat food.

What Are the AAFCO Guidelines for Natural Dog Food?

Guidelines established by AAFCO are followed for properly displaying certain terms such as “natural” or “organic” on products. Understanding the meaning of some of the terms used by pet food companies is a great starting point to finding what you are looking for in an individual product.

AAFCO defines “natural” as follows:

“a feed or feed ingredient derived solely from plant, animal or mined sources, either in its unprocessed state or having been subject to physical processing, heat processing, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not having been produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process and not containing any additives or processing aids that are chemically synthetic except in amounts as might occur in good manufacturing practices.”

Essentially this means that an ingredient can be present in its natural state or may have been handled under a nonchemically synthetic process, and it does not contain chemically simulated additives.

When Can a Dog Food Be Called “All-Natural”?

“Natural” can be used to describe certain ingredients in a product or the entire product. A product can claim to be “all-natural” or “100% natural” when every ingredient used to create the product falls under the AAFCO definition of the term.

What Ingredients Are in Natural Dog Food?

The accepted definition of natural encompasses a wide array of ingredient components, as the majority of ingredients found in pet food products are indeed from plant, animal, or mineral sources.

These ingredients are still considered to be natural if they undergo commonly used processing during manufacturing, or if they contain only trace amounts of synthetic compounds.

Ingredients are not considered natural if they have been chemically synthesized. This would include:

Artificial flavor or coloring



Synthesized vitamins or minerals

A product that is labeled as natural will often include a disclaimer stating that there are added vitamins or minerals that are needed in order for the product to be a complete and balanced diet.

What’s the Difference Between Natural, Organic, and Holistic Dog Food?

You might see these terms used on their own or with each other on pet food labels, but they are not interchangeable.

Natural Dog Food

Natural dog food implies that the ingredients used exist in nature and are not manufactured by humans. This can pertain to the product as a whole if all ingredients are natural, or to individually stated ingredients such as “natural beef flavor.”

Organic Dog Food

AAFCO defines products as “organic” when they meet the requirements for production and handling set forth by the National Organic Program (NOP) of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The NOP regulates that crops, livestock, and agricultural products said to be organic are certified to the USDA’s standards. These products must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients and will display a USDA organic seal.

Holistic Dog Food

The term “holistic” means taking into consideration a dog’s whole being, as opposed to focusing on individual factors. For dog food, holistic has very little meaning, as there is currently no legal definition nor regulation for it under the FDA, AAFCO, or the USDA. It is often used as a marketing term as it has no accepted specific relation to ingredients that are used in a product.

Is Natural Dog Food Better?

Most people feel that the less processing involved and fewer additives in a food, the better the food is. However, it’s not as simple as a blanket statement that natural dog food is better. As with all products, just because something is natural, it does not necessarily mean that it is safer or of superior nutrition or quality.

Even foods that are all-natural can have too much or too little of individual nutrients, and the addition of some synthesized nutrients such as sources of amino acids, vitamins, or minerals is often required to achieve a food that is nutritionally complete.

While selecting a dog food, look for claims that the product is “complete and balanced;” this ensures that the diet meets AAFCO’s nutrient profile requirements.

No diet is “one-size-fits-all.” Selecting the ideal option for each individual pet is a decision that should be based on a number of factors, including:

Life stage

Breed and size


Special considerations

Your veterinarian is a great resource for discussing diet options and finding the right fit for your pet’s needs. They can answer questions and make suggestions that take your pet’s life stage, breed, and medical history into consideration to find the ideal diet to support your pet’s best health.

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Ashley Joy, DVM


Dr. Ashley Joy graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2014, after receiving a Bachelor of Science…

Skin Ulcers and Depigmentation (Immune-Related) in Dogs

Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus in Dogs

Cutaneous (dicoid) lupus erythematosus is one of the most common immune-mediated skin diseases in dogs. Like other immune-mediated diseases, it is brought on by the abnormal activity of the immune system, whereby it attacks its own body.

Cutaneous lupus erythematosus affects dogs of all ages, with a predisposition in the following breeds: Collies, German shepherds, Siberian huskies, Shetland sheepdogs, Alaskan malamutes, chow chows, and their crosses. It is considered a benign variant of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), which is also an immune mediated disease.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of cutaneous lupus erythematosus depend on where the immune system is attacking the body, and may appear or disappear and vary in intensity. The following are a few of the more common symptoms seen in dogs:

Skin depigmentation (loss of pigment) on the lip and tip of the nose Formation of erosions and ulcers (following depigmentation) Loss of tissue and scar formation to fill in the lost tissue Chronic, fragile lesions (may bleed spontaneously)

Lesions associated with this disease may also involve the outer ear area and more rarely, the feet and genitalia.


Although the disease is brought on by abnormal activity of the immune system, the exact cause of the overactivity is unknown. Factors that are suspected to bring on the disease include drug reactions, viruses, and ultraviolet (UV) light exposure.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to your veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count — the results of which are typically normal. A small tissue sample may also be taken from the affected area for further evaluation.


This disease is not life-threatening and symptomatic treatment is often sufficient in most animals. Antibiotics, vitamin supplementation, and topical medications are commonly used. Severe lesions, on the other hand, may be disfiguring in nature and may require a more aggressive therapy. In some dogs, drugs to suppress the immune system are also employed to counter the over-reactivity of the immune system.

Living and Management

Follow your veterinarian’s guidelines regarding care of skin lesions; these lesions may bleed spontaneously and need proper attention during the treatment period. The dog should be protected from direct sun exposure (i.e., UV light) and may require sunblock.

You may be asked to bring in your dog every 14 days after initiation of treatment to evaluate clinical response. Laboratory testing, meanwhile, is conducted every three to six months to evaluate the disease and the effectiveness of the treatment. This disease is progressive in nature and remission is seen in the majority of patients. However, if immunosuppressive therapy is required on a long-term basis, prognosis is not good.

In addition, because of the genetic nature of the disease, your veterinarian will recommend against breeding a dog with cutaneous lupus erythematosus.

Eyeworm Infection in Dogs

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

Many different health problems can make a dog’s eyes red, swollen, and runny. Wounds, infections, allergies, anatomical abnormalities, and foreign material trapped on the surface of the eye are some of the most common, but did you know that a type of parasite called an eyeworm might also be to blame? Read on to learn all about eyeworms in dogs and what can be done to treat and prevent them.


Causes of Eyeworms in Dogs

Eyeworms (Thelazia californiensis is the most common species) are transmitted to dogs through contact with certain kinds of flies. Research points to canyon flies (Fannia benjamini complex) as the primary vector of eyeworms in the western part of the United States, but it is possible that different flies are involved in other locations. Thelazia californiensis and other types of eyeworms have been diagnosed in most parts of the world.

The eyeworm lifecycle is fairly straightforward. Adults that are living on the eyes an infected animal breed and lay their eggs. When a fly comes by to feed on the tears of the animal, it picks up the larvae that have hatched from the eggs. These larvae mature within the fly and then migrate to the fly’s mouthparts at which point they are deposited on the eyes of another animal when the fly feeds again. Eyeworms can infect dogs, cats, wildlife, livestock, and even people.

Symptoms of Eyeworms in Dogs

Unsurprisingly, the presence of a worm living on a dog’s eye is very irritating, particularly because Thelazia have sharp serrations on their outer surface that can damage the sensitive structures of a dog’s eye. The body reacts to this with a lot of inflammation, which can lead to redness of the eye and surrounding tissues, swelling of the conjunctiva (the mucous membranes around the eye), excessive tearing, itching, and squinting. Sometimes the cornea (the clear outer surface of the eye) can become ulcerated or scarred. When dogs have only a few eyeworms, their eyes may look almost normal. Heavily infected dogs typically have more severe symptoms.

The worms themselves are often visible upon close examination of a dog with eyeworms. They are white to cream in color, thin, and can range from 10 to 15 millimeters (around one-half of an inch) in length. Thelazia may be visible on the surface of the eye but can also be found under the eyelids (including the third eyelid) and within the ducts that carry tears to and from the eyes.

Diagnosing Eyeworm in Dogs

Veterinarians can usually diagnose eyeworms based on a physical examination alone. It may be necessary to numb the dog’s eyes with a topical anesthetic or to sedate the dog to get a good look under the eyelids.

Treating Eyeworm in Dogs

The most common way to treat eyeworms in dogs is to physically remove the worms. A veterinarian will apply a topical anesthetic to the surface of the eye and/or sedate the dog. The worms can then be gently plucked away using forceps or flushed out using a sterile saline rinse. Veterinarians may also prescribe medications that will kill the parasites. Options include ivermectin, moxidectin, imidacloprid, and selamectin. A veterinarian will determine which form of treatment is best based on the situation.

Dogs with severe eye inflammation caused by eyeworms may also need topical or systemic anti-inflammatory medications to bring down swelling and reduce redness and irritation. Dog antibiotics may also be prescribed to treat or prevent secondary bacterial infections.

Living and Management

Dogs that are recovering from an eyeworm infection should be monitored closely. If the symptoms worsen at any point or fail to improve over the course of a week or so, contact your veterinarian.

Preventing Eyeworm in Dogs

Keeping pets indoors during times when flies are active would prevent most cases of eyeworms in dogs. Research has shown that flies that can carry eyeworms are present year-round in Southern California, but fly activity could certainly differ in other parts of the country.

If fly avoidance is not possible, the routine use of a fly repellent labeled for dogs or a medication that kills parasites (e.g., oral milbemycin) may be advisable. Speak to your veterinarian about what type of preventive measures would be safe and effective for your dog.

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary…

Nerve Disorder Affecting Multiple Nerves in Dogs

Peripheral Neuropathy (Polyneuropathies) in Dogs

Polyneuropathy is a nerve disorder that affects multiple peripheral nerves. Unlike the central nervous system, which has the vertebrae of the spine, and the bone of the skull to protect it, the peripheral nerves are more exposed to the elements that enter into the body and come into contact with the body, so they are more susceptible to physical injury and toxic damage. They are spread over the entire body, and are responsible for conscious, coordinated movement (somatic), for automatic physical responses (autonomic), and for the movement of the digestive system (enteric).

Myelin, the white, fatty, lipid material that acts as an insulator coat (also called a sheath) for some nerve fibers, can be lost through a process called demyelination, a condition that causes the myelin to deteriorate, resulting in electrical signals in the nerves being lost, and impairing function. Or, there may be axonal degeneration with secondary demyelination. Axonal degeneration occurs when the actual nerve fibers deteriorate within the myelin sheath.

Symptoms and Types

Motor and sensorimotor nerve disorders (automatic movement):Weakness or paralysis in all four legsWeak reflexes, or lack of reflexes (automatic physical responses)Weak to no muscle toneMuscle deterioration (atrophy)Muscle tremors, tremblingSensory nerve disorders (pain/pleasure nerve receptors):Spatial disorientation (inability to judge the space around oneself)Weakness to loss of consciousnessNo muscle deteriorationNo muscle tremorsUnder-active thyroid glandParalysis of the voice boxParalysis of the throat/esophagus, affects ability to eat and drinkFacial paralysisDizziness, instabilityDysfunctioning autonomic nervous system (not under conscious control) :Dry noseDry mouthDry eyes – low tear productionSlow heart beat rateLack of an anal reflex


Congenital/inheritedDysautonomia: abnormal functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which causes excessive body fluid output, lack of reflexes, and lack of coordinationImmune-diseaseMetabolic diseaseHypothyroidism (under-active thyroid gland)A tumor in the pancreas, the gland that produces insulinInfectiousNeospora caninum parasite — affects the hind legs, possibly with paralysis, deteriorates muscles (atrophy), impairs immune system; parasite is transmitted through infected animal meat (i.e., dog eats animal that has the parasite in its body), through contact with animal feces that has the parasite in it, usually another dog’s feces, or soil that still has residual infected feces in it; can also be passed from a pregnant animal to its developing fetus through the placentaCoonhound paralysis (polyradiculoneuritis) — mainly affects hunting dogs that have come into contact with raccoons that carry the infection; affects the four legs, and the muscles that control barking and breathingCancer medicationsToxinsThallium — used in rodent poisonOrganophosphates — used in fertilizers and pesticidesCarbon Tetrachloride — used in insecticidesLindane — used for killing weeds, insects, and lice



Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. A chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel, and a urinalysis will be used for confirming, or for ruling out any underlying diseases. Your veterinarian may also opt to perform additional blood tests, and a spinal tap, to look for specific disorders.

Chest and abdominal x-rays can be crucial for diagnosing visible peripheral polyneuropathies. X-ray and ultrasound imaging can help to rule out (or confirm) cancer, but the most important diagnostic tool for identifying peripheral neuropathies is electrophysiology – measuring the electrical flow of the body’s tissues and cells. An analysis of tissue sample (biopsy) from the muscles or peripheral nerves can provide further information about the disease process your dog is experiencing.




Animals can usually be treated on an outpatient basis. However, dogs with acute polyradiculoneuropathies will have inflammation at the roots of the spinal cord nerves, and are at risk of respiratory failure. They should be hospitalized for observation in the early phase of the disease to prevent this. Dogs with dysautonomia should be hospitalized to receive fluid therapy and/or administered (parenteral) feeding. 

Dogs with hyperchylomicronemia, conversely, may spontaneously recover after two to three months of being fed a low-fat diet. Dogs that have been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus should have their blood glucose and diet closely monitored.

An excellent related treatment for patients with peripheral polyneuropathies is physiotherapy, for encouraging restoration of the affected musculature and nerve memory.


Living and Management

It is important to understand that the cause of many polyneuropathies can never be determined, and treatment of the primary cause of polyneuropathy may not cure your dog. In some cases, the peripheral nerves will continue to deteriorate, and your dog’s disease will worsen.

Dogs that have been diagnosed with congenital or inherited forms of polyneuropathies should not be bred. Generally, it is advisable to neuter an animal that is suffering from this condition to prevent accidental breeding. For example, female dogs that have been infected with the Neospora parasite should not be bred, since one of the ways the parasite transmits itself is by spreading to the fetus through the placenta.

Dogs that have developed coonhound paralysis (polyradiculoneuritis) will need to be protected from repeated exposure to raccoons, since the initial infection does not impart later immunity from it.

Polish Lowland Sheepdog

The Polish Lowland Sheepdog is lively, clever, and self-controlled. It has an intense desire to please, which makes it an excellent herder. It also has excellent memory.

Physical Characteristics

As this breed is muscular and strong, it can effectively control livestock. Its fluid movement, with long strides, allows it to trot easily for hours. The medium-sized and cobby Polish Lowland Sheepdog (or PON, as it is sometimes referred to) has a slightly long body that provides good agility. Its energy-efficient gait is also enhanced by its inclination to amble.

Its dense, shaggy, and long double coat is purposely not trimmed to provide the dog a good deal of protection from harsh weather. In-toeing (where the toes point inward) are regarded to be natural in this breed.

Personality and Temperament

The loyal and lively PON has spent centuries perfecting the art of being an efficient shepherd. Being a true territorial breed, it is often suspicious of strangers, but is also very affectionate to those with who it is familiar.

The Polish Lowland Shepherd loves to bark and show off as well. It is a quick learner but does not blindly follow commands. It has a willful and independent side, too.

Although the Polish Lowland Shepherd has a shaggy look, it can be very serious. PONs are generally good with thoughtful children, other pets, and dogs, but if a dog challenges them, they are sure to fight back.


This dog requires mental and physical exercise every day. It especially does well when it is allowed to live indoors and play outdoors, learning agility exercises or herding. To maintain the dog’s coat, it should be brushed every two or three days.


The Polish Lowland Shepherd, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 14 years, does not not generally suffer from any major or minor ailments. However, a veterinarian may recommend hip and eye exams for this breed of dog.

History and Background

In many parts of the world, Polski Owczarek Nizinny is the common name for the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. In the U.S., its popular nickname is “PON.” The origins of the breed probably go back to Central Asia, to a Tibetan breed like the Tibetan Terrier that traders introduced to Eastern Europe. Tibetan dogs with long coats were said to be interbred with Hungarian sheepdogs that had corded coats and were said to have been introduced in the 4th century by the Huns.

The big, flock-guarding dogs kept away large predators; the small PONs, meanwhile, moved and controlled sheep along with shepherds, and they even acted as vigils against intruders. They did not scare the sheep like the larger dogs and could work throughout the day. For centuries, they continued to work on the Polish lowlands until there was an interest by Europeans in purebred dogs late 19th and early 20th centuries.

This, as well as Polish national pride after the First World War, created interest in selectively breeding and promoting the Polish Lowland Sheepdog. Many dogs of this breed left the plains to work and stay on large estates.

PONs were displayed at a Warsaw dog and poultry show in 1924. And just as breeders were about to start a registry for the PON, in 1939, Poland was invaded by Germany. After the war about 150 PONs remained, but many dog lovers sought to revive the breed.

The Polish Kennel Club registered the first PONs in 1957. A particular PON named Smok is often attributed with setting the breed standard, which was sanctioned in 1959. The 1965 World Dog Show further drew spotlight on the breed, causing dog fanciers worldwide to want them even more.

The American Kennel Club admitted the PON in 2001 under its English name, the Polish Lowland Sheepdog.