Archive : January

Narrowing of Pyloric Canal in Dogs

Chronic Hypertrophic Pyloric Gastropathy in Dogs

Chronic hypertrophic pyloric gastropathy, or pyloric stenosis, or, is the narrowing of the pyloric canal due to an overgrowth of muscles of the region. This region of the stomach connects with the first part of the small intestine called the duodenum. The exact cause of the disease is still unknown, but it has been found to be either congenital (existing at birth) in nature or acquired later in life.

Cases of congenital hypertrophic pyloric stenosis is found to be common in the boxer, Boston terrier, and bulldog. The acquired disease, on the othe hand, is more common in the Lhasa apso, shih tzu, Pekingese, and poodle. Males are also more predisposed to this disease than females.

Symptoms and Types

The severity of symptoms directly correlates to the extent of the pyloric canal’s narrowing; these include chronic, intermittent vomiting (often several hours after eating), loss of appetite, and weight loss. Vomiting may contain undigested or partially digested food, and does not settle with the administration of drugs.


The exact cause for chronic hypertrophic pyloric gastropathy is still unknown, though it is believed to be either congenital (existing at birth) or acquired later in life. Risk factors that may play a role in influencing the disease process include:

TumorsChronic stressChronic gastritisStomach ulcersChronic increase in gastrin (hormone that stimulate secretion of HCL in stomach) levels


Your dog’s veterinarian will take a detailed history from you and perform a complete physical examination and laboratory tests on the animal. The results of routine laboratory tests, including complete blood profile, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis, may be variable depending upon the underlying cause. In dogs with severe ulceration, for example, anemia may be present. X-rays, meanwhile, may reveal a distended stomach due to stenosis of the pyloric canal. For more detailed results, your veterinarian may perform a gastrointestinal barium contrast study, in which barium sulfate is given orally to help highlight the location and extent of the narrowing on X-rays.

Another technique called fluoroscopy is sometimes employed. This imaging technique obtains real-time moving images of internal structures of the dog on camera with the use of a fluoroscope. The veterinarian may also employ endoscopy for detailed evaulation, in which he or she will look directly into the stomach and duodenum using an endoscope, a rigid or flexible tube that is inserted into the stomach and duodenum to visually inspect and take pictures of the region. Abdominal ultrasonography may also help in identifying the narrowing of the pyloric canal.


Treatment depends upon the severity of the problem. After reaching a diagnosis, your veterinarian will decide the treatment, including surgery if required. Surgery is most commonly employed to correct the pyloric canal narrowing. Fluid therapy, meanwhile, is used to stabilize a dehydrated animal due to chronic vomiting.

Living and Management

Proper nutrition (highly digestible, low fat diet) and activity restrictions will be instilled by the veterinarian, especially when the dog has undergone surgery. If recurrence of the defect should occur, a more aggressive surgical intervention will be required.

Overall prognosis after surgery is excellent and most animals respond well. However, in the case of neoplasia, prognosis is not good.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in Dogs

Carbon monoxide is produced by all sorts of everyday equipment: older cars not equipped with catalytic converters, barbecues, or propane heaters and cookers, to name just a few. And in an enclosed space, the levels of gas can quickly become poisonous for dogs.

What To Watch For

A dog near a carbon monoxide leak will first demonstrate lethargy. Unless supplied with fresh air, the dog will eventually fall unconscious and die.

Primary Cause

Carbon monoxide poisoning is generally caused by leaky equipment. This may occur in enclosed, unventilated spaces, though even large areas like garages can become a death trap if the leak is not plugged quickly.

Immediate Care

It is vital you move the animal suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning to a wide, well-ventilated area. However, do not put yourself in danger while attempting to rescue the dog. If he has stopped breathing, perform artificial respiration. And if after you check his pulse you notice his heart has stopped, perform CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) as well.

If breathing restarts, contact your vet immediately for advice on how to proceed. If the dog is still not breathing, continue CPR and artificial respiration (if possible) while you transport the animal to the vet or emergency hospital.


All equipment that uses propane or produces carbon monoxide as a by-product should be serviced regularly — for your safety as well as your pet’s. Never leave the engine running while a car is in the garage or, if you are performing maintenance on the vehicle, open the garage door and keep the area well-ventilated.

Megaesophagus in Dogs

What is Megaesophagus in Dogs?

Megaesophagus is a condition that decreases mobility in the muscles of the esophagus, the tube that connects the mouth and stomach. 

This decreased muscle function leads to esophageal dilation, or enlargement. Normally, when dogs swallow the food stimulates the muscle in the esophagus to contract, pushing the food from the mouth into the stomach. 

In dogs with megaesophagus, the muscles in the esophagus cannot properly coordinate this swallowing movement. As a result, food, and liquid accumulate in the esophagus, stretching it and preventing nutrients from being properly absorbed in the stomach. 

While dogs affected by megaesophagus may have an excellent quality of life, they can be difficult to manage and keep healthy. A close relationship with a veterinarian, time, patience, and understanding of the condition are needed. 

Symptoms of Megaesophagus in Dogs

The hallmark sign of megaesophagus is regurgitation. Keep in mind that regurgitation is different from vomiting. Vomiting is an active process that involves gagging, retching, and the body actively, often forcibly, ejecting the contents of the stomach. 

Regurgitation, in contrast, is a passive process. Typically, dogs will open their mouth and food or liquid appears to fall out without any heaving or stomach contractions. Regurgitation frequently occurs many hours after a meal and typically does not have bile, because it was never in the stomach.

Dogs with megaesophagus may have a difficult time swallowing and show excessive salivating. Often, during the regurgitation process, the esophageal contents may be expelled through the nose and even accidentally breathed into the lungs, causing aspiration pneumonia. These dogs can become very sick with fever, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and coughing. 

Dogs with megaesophagus typically have ravenous appetites, but they develop poor, thin, weak body conditions due to the inability to get nutrients into their stomach for processing. Sometimes, pet parents and veterinarians may notice a small bulge in the neck when the esophagus is distended. 

Causes of Megaesophagus in Dogs

In rare cases, megaesophagus can be reversed. However, most cases are permanent and require life-long care.

Primary megaesophagus (present at birth) is not well understood by veterinarians, but most cases of primary megaesophagus might occur due to incomplete nerve development in the esophagus. Some breeds have a known genetic marker causing congenital megaesophagus, including: 

Wire-Haired and Smooth Haired Fox Terrier

Miniature Schnauzer

Chinese Shar-Pei

German Shepherd

A congenital form of myasthenia gravis (a neuromuscular condition) causes megaesophagus and is reported in the following breeds: 

Jack Russell Terriers

Springer Spaniels

Long-Haired Miniature Dachshunds

Golden Retrievers

Labrador Retrievers


Secondary, or acquired megaesophagus is more common and may occur at any age. Acquired myasthenia gravis is the most common causes for secondary megaesophagus, but any other disease that affects the function of the esophagus may cause this condition.

Acquired myasthenia gravis is a neuromuscular autoimmune disease that destroys the connection between nerves and muscle, including the esophagus, and causes general skeletal muscle weakness. 

Approximately 25% of dogs with acquired megaesophagus have myasthenia gravis. While the symptoms are like congenital myasthenia gravis, the cause, testing, and treatment are different. 

Obstructive disorders may cause megaesophagus by physically blocking the esophagus from functioning normally.  In these cases, the muscle and nerves of the esophagus are normal, but chronic distention directly in front of the obstruction causes muscle dysfunction.

Examples of obstructive secondary megaesophagus include:

Some medications can cause a narrowing of the esophagus, and food cannot adequately pass.

Foreign bodies stuck in the esophagus can prevent normal swallowing.

Cancer in or around the esophagus can also partially block the esophagus. 

Vascular ring anomalies are caused by abnormal development of vessels near the heart. Fetal vessels that should disappear by birth remain intact, encircling and constricting the esophagus. 

Disorders (many of them autoimmune) that affect the body’s muscles can also lead to megaesophagus, including:


Systemic lupus erythematosus


There are many other causes of megaesophagus, including: 

Central nervous system neoplasia

 Botulism and tetanus

Endocrine disease, like Addison’s disease and possibly hypothyroidism


Esophagitis, or esophageal irritation and inflammation

Nerve issues 

Some breeds, especially large breed dogs, are also more likely to acquire megaesophagus. These include: 

German Shepherd

Great Dane

Labrador Retriever


Chinese Shar-Pei

How Veterinarians Diagnose Megaesophagus in Dogs

Veterinarians often suspect megaesophagus based on clinical signs and history alone. To confirm the diagnosis, multiple tests may be recommended. 

Radiology: Megaesophagus is routinely diagnosed through x-rays. The esophagus is not normally seen on x-rays, but the mass of food and/or air can be detected, which may lead to a diagnosis. X-rays can diagnose megaesophagus but do not always determine the cause. 

Fluoroscopy: This test is similar to an x-ray but is performed in real-time during swallowing to assess the esophagus’ ability to contract. 

Other tests: Esophagoscopy (video scope into the esophagus), blood tests, tests for various neuromuscular and endocrine diseases, and muscle biopsies may all be used to determine the underlying cause of megaesophagus.

Treatment of Megaesophagus in Dogs

Treating the underlying condition is most important when treating megaesophagus. Some forms of megaesophagus can be reversed or cured, but there is no guarantee. Especially depending on severity and length of time, even if the underlying disorder is treated, the damage done may be irreversible. 

For dogs with this condition, management centers on making sure they get their nutritional needs met, as well as receiving any supportive therapy. This means monitoring closely for serious side effects like aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia is the most common complication of megaesophagus, upwards of 40% of dogs have pneumonia at the time of their diagnosis. 

Supportive therapy for dogs with megaesophagus includes:

Raising food and water bowls to let gravity help the eating process. 

Food bowls should be at head height

Bailey Chairs are used to keep the dog in an upright position for at least 10 minutes, preferably 20-30 minutes, preventing most of the food and liquid from accumulating in the esophagus. These chairs look like highchairs for dogs and can be custom-built for growing puppies and all sizes of adult dogs. 

Changing the form of food based on the dog’s specific needs. This may mean changing their diet to gruel, meat balls, canned food, or even liquid. 

Providing smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. 

Encouraging dogs to sleep with their front end slightly elevated. 

Medications can be prescribed to treat specific side effects or complications, as required:

To treat irritation of the esophagus

Sildenafil may help the number of regurgitation episodes and has been associated with weight gain.

Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat aspiration pneumonia.

Recovery and Management of Megaesophagus in Dogs

Fortunately, although this condition requires management, dogs can lead happy and relatively normal lives. 

Dogs typically have better outcomes the sooner megaesophagus is diagnosed. Prognosis also improves if a dog has not experienced aspiration pneumonia.

Pet parent dedication, patience, and close monitoring with a veterinarian are key to managing megaesophagus dogs successfully. Veterinarians will want to frequently examine these dogs to monitor weight and body condition and bloodwork parameters, in addition to screening for signs of aspiration pneumonia. 

Megaesophagus in Dogs FAQs

How long does a dog live with megaesophagus?

Dogs can live normal life spans, but in most cases the condition will require lifelong management.

Can a dog survive megaesophagus?

Yes, dogs with megaesophagus can live happy lives with regular veterinary care and pet parent dedication. 

What are the signs of megaesophagus in dogs?

The most common sign of megaesophagus is regurgitation. 


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

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

Rothrock DVM, Kari. Veterinary Information Network®, Inc. Megaesophagus (Canine). January 2020.

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Lauren Jones, VMD


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

Steroid-Responsive Meningitis-Arteritis in Dogs

Inflammation of the Meninges and Arteries Resolved with Steroids in Dogs

Steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis describes the combined conditions of inflammation of the protective membranes covering the spinal cord and brain (meninges), and inflammation of the walls of the arteries. It causes changes in the blood vessels of the heart, liver, kidney, and gastrointestinal system.

Steroid-responsive meningitis-arteritis occurs worldwide and it is thought dogs may be genetically predisposed to the disease. However, any dog breed may be affected. Moreover, it occurs mainly in dogs that are less than two years of age.

Symptoms and Types

The disease can be sudden (acute) or long-term (chronic):


Increased sensitivity to stimuliStiff neckNeck painStiff gait (walking motion)Fever of up to 107.6 degrees Fahreinheit


Further neurologic problems: paralysis, hind leg weakness, etc.


UnknownPossibly immune-mediated, related to abnormal IgA production (Immunoglobulin A – an antibody in the mouth and on mucosal surfaces)Triggered by environment, possibly infectious cause


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition, such as accidents or previous illnesses. Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical exam on your dog, including a neurologic exam. Standard laboratory tests will include a biochemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel. A sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will also be taken to check for cells and protein levels.


Your dog will need to be hospitalized initially to treat the fever and for fluid therapy. Ice packs or cool water baths are the standard treatment for lowering body temperature, but your veterinarian will base which treatment to use on your dog’s overall condition. The dog’s physical activity level should not be reduced, as muscle atrophy can result from lack of movement. If your dog is in pain or suffering from paralysis of any kind, you will need to plan a physical routine that will work around those problems, while still keeping your dog in motion to prevent muscle atrophy. Your doctor will prescribe pain medication and steroids for your pet, and can help you to make a plan for keeping your dog physically active without placing too much pressure on the dog and causing more pain or stress.

Treatment must be continued for six months or the patient will relapse.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule a follow up appointment for your dog every four to six weeks after the initial treatment to check the bloodwork and to test the CSF. Treatment lasts about six months.

Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

What Is Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs?

Dry eye syndrome in dogs, also known as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS), involves decreased or inadequate tear production. Tears are important to the lubrication, comfort, and overall health of a dog’s eyes. Tears also contain antibacterial proteins, mucus, white blood cells to fight infection, and other enzymes to help keep the eyes clear and free of debris, infection, and irritations. 

A dog’s tears have three parts: 

Lipid (fat) layer  

Aqueous (water) 

Mucin layer  

Two glands, the lacrimal and third eyelid, are responsible for producing the watery layer of tears. In dogs with dry eye syndrome, these glands contribute little or nothing to the tears, even though the glands responsible for the lipid and mucin layers still function. This typically results in dry but gooey, mucous-filled eyes. 

Symptoms of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

Dogs with dry eye syndrome can exhibit one or many of the following symptoms: 

Red, inflamed, irritated, and painful eyes 

Redness and swelling of the conjunctiva, or the tissues around the eye 

Frequent squinting and blinking 

Dryness on the surface of the cornea—the outer clear dome-shaped part of the eye 

Mucous-like discharge on the cornea (may be yellow or green if a secondary bacterial infection is present) 

Obvious defects and irregularities of the cornea, including increased vascularization (abnormal growth of blood vessels to the injured area) and pigmentation as the eye attempts to heal and protect itself 

Possible vision impairment and blindness 

Causes of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

The cause of dry eye syndrome in a dog can be due to one or a few underlying conditions. Your veterinarian will be able to determine what may have caused your pet’s diagnosis based on the dog’s medical history and an exam. Some of the underlying causes may be due to: 

Immune system dysfunction: Most cases of dry eye syndrome in dogs are caused by the immune system attacking and destroying the lacrimal and third eyelid gland. Unfortunately, veterinarians do not know why this happens.  

Medications: Certain drugs can cause dry eye syndrome as a side effect, usually very shortly after a dog starts taking these medications. This type of dry eye syndrome can be temporary and may go away once the medication is discontinued. However, permanent damage can be done, and there is no way to predict which animals will have dry eye syndrome or how long it will last. Be sure to talk with your vet about possible side effects of all medications.  

Genes: Congenital alacrimia is a genetic form of dry eye syndrome and occurs in some breeds, most notably Yorkshire terriers. This is typically noticed in only one eye.  

Endocrine conditions: Some systemic disease (such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease) frequently decrease tear production. 

Infectious diseases: Canine distemper virus, leishmaniasis, and chronic blepharoconjunctivitis can all lead to dry eye syndrome. 

Medical procedures: A common abnormality of dogs is a prolapsed third eyelid gland (more commonly known as cherry eye). While it is not recommended, some surgeons remove the gland entirely, leading to permanent decreased tear production. Local radiation for tumors can also cause permanent damage to the lacrimal and third eyelid glands. 

Neurological problems: Loss of nerve function to the glands (commonly secondary to an inner ear infection) can decrease or stop production of tears. 

Traumatic injury: Dry eye syndrome can occur with damage to the glands after severe inflammation or injury (such as from wounds or car accidents). 

Transient causes: Anesthesia causes a temporary loss of tear production, as does the medication atropine. Once these are removed, tear production normally returns.  

How Veterinarians Diagnose Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

Vets use the Schirmer Tear Test (STT) to diagnose dry eye syndrome and measure aqueous tear production in dogs. This is a simple, painless test involving a strip of special paper placed in the lower eyelid. The moisture and tears from the eye wick onto the paper for 60 seconds. At the end of that time, the vet measures the tear production on the paper. For test results, more than 15 millimeters of tear production per minute is normal, while less than 10 millimeters indicates dry eye syndrome. Your vet may repeat the test to confirm the diagnosis.  

After the STT, your vet may also perform a fluorescein stain test to look for corneal ulcers. The stain makes an ulcer glow bright green under a black light. The vet may also use a test of intraocular pressure to look for inflammation or glaucoma. These conditions are common with dry eye and important to diagnose and treat at the same time.

Treatment of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

Your vet will determine the best treatment for your dog, depending on their diagnosis and their previous medical history. Treatment options may include: 

Lacrimostimulants: Most commonly, vets prescribe ophthalmic cyclosporine (a class of medications) or tacrolimus to stimulate tear production. Cyclosporine, when applied in the eye, keeps the immune system from harming the lacrimal and third eyelid glands, thus allowing tear restoration. Tacrolimus is typically used only if cyclosporine fails.  

Lacrimomimetics: Artificial tears moisten the surface of the eye, improve comfort, and help flush debris and allergens. These eye lubricants are essential to use with primary medications for dry eye syndrome, like cyclosporine, especially early in the treatment process when tear production hasn’t fully recovered. Only use artificial tears if your vet directs you. 

Antibiotics: Bacterial infections and corneal ulcerations may also require broad-spectrum topical antibiotics. Dogs whose dry eye syndrome is related to the nervous system are treated with pilocarpine, which stimulates glandular secretion.  

Surgery: Dogs who don’t respond to treatment may require a surgery called parotid duct transposition, which carefully redirects saliva glands in the dog’s mouth to the eye, so that saliva can be used as tears. 

Recovery and Management of Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs

Your vet will do the STT every 3-4 weeks initially to confirm the medication and treatment plan is working for your dog. If there is still inadequate tear production, dosing frequency and medications can be adjusted. Most dogs with dry eye syndrome improve within 12 weeks, with many showing positive changes within the first 6 weeks. Once a dog has adequate tear production, periodic rechecks should be scheduled, usually every 3-4 months.  

Most dogs respond to the treatments available and return to normal vision and a pain-free life. Monitoring and early veterinary intervention are important. In dogs with an STT of 2-14 millimeters per minute, there is more than an 80 percent chance of regaining normal tear production. In more severe cases—dogs with a response of 0-1 millimeters per minute—the full recovery rate falls to less than 50 percent.

Dry Eye Syndrome in Dogs FAQs

Is dry eye in dogs curable?

Some types of dry eye syndrome are reversible. However, the most common causes are only manageable with medication.

Are dogs with dry eye syndrome in pain?

Without proper tear production, eyes become irritated, inflamed, infected, and even ulcerated. All of these conditions are extremely uncomfortable and painful for your dog.

Can I use over-the-counter eye drops for my dog?

Over-the-counter artificial tears and eye lubricants are critical to the overall comfort and stability of the eyes when your dog has dry eye syndrome, especially early on. It is important to use products approved for dogs, and to discuss any product option with your vet first.


Kaswan RL, Salisbury MA. A new perspective on canine keratoconjunctivitis sicca: Treatment with ophthalmic cyclosporine. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 1990;20(3):583-613.

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Lauren Jones, VMD


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

Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

What Are Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs?

Female dogs have five pairs of mammary glands on their abdomen, usually starting just below the armpits and running down toward the groin area. The function of the mammary glands is to provide milk and nutrients to the dog’s offspring.  

While most dogs are typically spayed during their puppy years, many dogs who are not spayed at a young age will go on to have litters during their lifetime. Female dogs that have had previous litters will often exhibit prominent mammary glands that can be visible or felt by touch.   

Only about half of mammary tumors in dogs are malignant (cancerous).  

These types of mammary tumors include:  

Benign adenomas (nonmalignant) 

Mammary carcinomas (malignant)  

Mammary sarcomas (malignant) 

Mixed mammary tumors (can be nonmalignant or malignant)  

Inflammatory carcinoma (highly malignant and more aggressive) 

It’s important to check your dog’s mammary glands at routine exams with a veterinarian. 

Symptoms of Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

A female dog’s mammary glands should be soft and pliable; and there shouldn’t be any lumps or firm swellings. If you happen to notice a lump, have your dog examined by a veterinarian immediately.  

Sometimes, dogs with mammary tumors can experience a variety of other symptoms, such as: 

Tenderness, warmth, or pain at the location of the tumor  


Decreased appetite and weight loss  



Causes of Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

Mammary tumors are common, especially in unspayed female dogs, as hormones like estrogen and progesterone play a role in both mammary development and cancer formation. The exact cause, however, is unknown at this time.  

Mammary tumors are less common in dogs that are spayed. The likelihood of a dog spayed prior to her first heat cycle developing a mammary tumor is about 0%. If that same dog were spayed after her first heat cycle, the chance of mammary tumor development would rise to 8%. If the same dog went through two or more heat cycles, she would have about a 25% chance of developing a mammary tumor. 

Even though only about half of these tumors are cancerous, any tumor should be taken seriously and tested for further diagnosis.  

How Veterinarians Diagnose Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

Your veterinarian will perform a physical exam in which the mammary mass can easily be palpated (touched). Often, but not always, benign tumors feel like small, well-defined, firm masses, while malignant tumors feel stuck to underlying tissues, are not easily moveable, and have indistinct borders.  

Your veterinarian may also want to perform some basic blood work along with a fine needle aspirate. In this test, a needle is inserted into the mass and cells are collected and sent to a lab for analysis. This test is often performed in a hospital on an outpatient basis and does have some limitations. Your veterinarian may also want to do a biopsy (removal of skin/mass tissue) to send out for further diagnosis.  

Chest radiographs and an abdominal ultrasound may be recommended as follow-ups if the results show cancer, since most mammary tumors spread, or metastasize, to the local lymph nodes, chest, and possibly the liver.  

Tumors that are large, have spread to other organs, are ulcerated (skin broken open), have a history of growing rapidly, or are attached to deeper tissues (i.e., the muscle layer) unfortunately carry a poor prognosis. Average survival times range from several months to several years.  

Treatment of Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

Mammary gland tumors in dogs typically requires surgery. Chemotherapy and radiation can be used if the tumor is too large, has been incompletely removed through surgery, or has already metastasized, but surgical removal of the tumor is usually the treatment of choice.   

Tumors that are not cancerous can most likely be left alone (unless cosmetically concerning or bother the dog) but should continue to be monitored for any changes in size or consistency.

There are five types of surgeries for mammary gland tumors in dogs:  

Lumpectomy: removal of the mass  

Simple mastectomy: removal of the mass and associated gland 

Regional mastectomy: removal of the mass, the associated gland, and nearby glands and lymph nodes 

Radical or unilateral mastectomy: removal of the entire mammary chain (radical or unilateral mastectomy)  

Bilateral mastectomy: removal of both mammary chains (bilateral mastectomy)   

Recovery and Management of Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs

The best preventative care for mammary gland tumors in dogs is to ensure your dog is spayed, especially at a young age. If you adopt a dog who has had litters in the past, or an unknown history, it’s important to have a conversation with your veterinarian to determine spay options in order to limit any further mammary gland issues.  

For mammary gland tumors that are diagnosed and surgically removed, your veterinarian will most likely recommend follow-up appointments to check in on your dog’s recovery. 

Mammary Gland Tumors in Dogs FAQs

What is the life expectancy of dogs with malignant mammary gland tumors?

The average survival time for dogs diagnosed with a malignant mammary tumor is variable, depending on the type (sarcoma vs. carcinoma), stage, spread of the tumor, degree of invasiveness, and grade. It can range from 1 month to almost 2 years but depends on the dog’s diagnosis.

How do you get rid of mammary gland tumors in dogs?

These tumors are generally removed with surgery. Other therapy options such as chemotherapy and radiation can also be used, but typically mammary tumors need to be surgically removed.

What does a mammary tumor look like on a dog?

Most mammary tumors in dogs often look like a ball of varying size protruding from the skin on the abdomen. Additionally, mammary tumors can feel like small, well-defined, firm masses on, near, or around the gland itself. Some can feel as if they are attached to structures deeper than the skin and are not easily moveable, and their borders are usually indistinct.

Are mammary tumors in dogs painful?

Mammary tumors in dogs can often be painful and uncomfortable, which is one of the reasons to have your dog examined. Your veterinarian may want to diagnose and treat her and may prescribe pain medication.

What does mammary gland tumor removal surgery cost?

Depending on the type of surgery performed—from a simple lumpectomy to a more aggressive and involved bilateral mastectomy—you could expect to spend anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to more than a thousand.

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Michael Kearley, DVM


Dr. Michael Kearley graduated from the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. He graduated with a certificate in…

Hyperparathyroidism Due to Kidney Failure in Dogs

Abnormally High levels of Parathyroid Hormone due to Chronic Kidney Failure in Dogs

Secondary hyperparathyroidism refers to the excessive secretion of parathyroid hormone (PTH) due to chronic kidney failure. More specifically, the cause of secondary hyperparathyroidism is absolute or relative lack of calcitriol production — a form of vitamin D that stimulates the absorption of calcium in the intestines, calcium resorption in bone, and promotes the effectiveness of the parathyroid hormone in aiding bone resorption. Low concentrations of calcium also play a role in increased levels of PTH in blood.


The majority of symptoms relate to the underlying cause of chronic kidney failure. In some patients with chronic kidney disease, bone resorption starts around the teeth and jaw, causing a loosening of the teeth and a softening of the lower jaw, a condition known in the medical community as “rubber jaw.”


Any underlying disease that causes chronic kidney failure.


You will need to give a detailed history of your dog’s health, the onset and nature of the symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam to evaluate all of the body systems.

Blood testing and biochemical profiles may reveal azotemia, an accumulation of toxic amounts of nitrogenous waste products (urea) in the blood, waste products that are usually excreted in the urine and voided from the body. This condition is also referred to as uremia. There may also be abnormally higher levels of the phosphate in the blood and abnormally low levels of the calcium in the blood. For definitive diagnosis, your veterinarian will perform measurements of serum PTH concentrations. Moreover, low to normal concentrations of calcium in the blood will help in confirming a diagnosis of secondary hyperparathyroidism. Bone X-rays are also helpful in determining bone density, especially around the teeth.



Treating the underlying kidney disease is a major goal of therapy in patients that have been diagnosed with secondary hyperparathyroidism. Abnormally high levels of phosphorous in the blood is treated by using chemicals that bind to the excess phosphorous in the blood, and the diet is controlled to limit phosphorous ingestion by way of food.

To overcome calcitriol deficiency, calcitriol is given to increase calcium levels, but in very small doses that are calculated by your veterinarian based on your dog’s specific need.

Living and Management

Depending on the severity of kidney failure, it is very important to check the serum concentrations of calcium, phosphorous and urea nitrogen weekly or monthly. If your dog is receiving calcitriol, you will need to closely monitor the dog, as calcitriol therapy may lead to some untoward symptoms or complications.

Parathyroid hormone (PTH) concentrations will also need to be checked on a regular basis. Though renal secondary hyperparathyroidism treatment may slow down overall progression of kidney failure, the long-term prognosis is very poor in these patients.

Liver Disease in Dogs

by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Ask anyone to name the vital organs of the dog and you’ll get the usual: kidney, heart, lungs, brain, but for some reason people keep forgetting the liver. It may not look like much—a large, muddy brown-colored wedge of tissue sitting motionless in the abdomen—but don’t be fooled; the liver is as vital to life as an organ can be.

Due to its central role in the body, the liver is susceptible to a wide variety of problems that can threaten the health of dogs, so it’s important for owners to be aware of the signs and causes of liver disease in order to keep your pet in optimum health!

Signs of Liver Disease in Dogs

The liver is a multi-purpose organ: it detoxifies the blood, helps break down drugs, metabolizes sources of energy, stores vitamins and glycogen, produces bile acids necessary for digestion, and manufactures important proteins necessary for blood clotting. Because of its behind-the-scenes role in so many important bodily functions, liver disease can manifest as a wide variety of symptoms depending on the vital function affected. Liver disease often has a cascade effect on other body systems.

One of the most common symptoms of liver disease is jaundice, a yellowish tinge to the skin most often noticed in the eyes, gums, and ears. The liver is responsible for excreting bilirubin, a by-product of red blood cell breakdown. When the liver isn’t functioning as it should be, this bilirubin builds up in the blood and leads to the yellowish appearance of the patient.

Hepatic encephalopathy is another common sequelae to liver disease. Hepatic encephalopathy refers to a collection of neurologic signs that occur in pets with liver disease and includes seizures, disorientation, depression, head pressing, blindness, or personality changes.

Other common symptoms of liver disease are gastrointestinal signs, such as decreased appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss, increased drinking and urination, and changes in stool color. Dogs may develop fluid retention in the abdomen, commonly referred to as ascites.

Your veterinarian can recommend diagnostic tests to evaluate your pet’s liver function and determine the cause of the liver disease. Commonly recommended tests are blood tests, abdominal ultrasounds, x-rays, and urinalysis.

Common Disorders of the Canine Liver

Vessel Abnormalities: In young dogs, one of the most common liver disorders is a birth defect called congenital portosystemic shunt. In these cases, a blood vessel is present that bypasses the liver, causing a buildup of toxins that the liver would normally take care of. Congenital portosystemic shunts are suspected in young dogs who have stunted growth, develop seizures, or seem disoriented.

In older dogs, we more commonly see acquired shunts, which develop when there is a blood pressure backup in the liver due to hypertension or cirrhosis. In an effort to get around the “jammed” region, new vessels grow to bypass the blocked area, but they also bypass the liver cells themselves.

Treatment depends on the anatomy of the shunt. If it consists of one large vessel outside of the liver, as is more common with congenital shunts in small breed dogs, surgery can be very successful. Shunts inside the liver or those consisting of multiple vessels may not be surgically repairable, and in those cases the patient has to be managed with a low protein diet and medications to help reduce the amount of toxins in the blood. In these cases, the liver problem isn’t cured, but instead the emphasis is placed on controlling the symptoms.

Endocrine Diseases: Certain diseases that affect the endocrine glands can lead to liver problems. Diabetes mellitus, hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), and hyperthyroidism can all cause impaired liver function because of their effects on the organ. In these cases, treating the underlying endocrine disease is the most important component of improving liver function.

Infectious diseases: Because the entire blood volume passes through the liver, it is especially susceptible to a variety of infectious diseases. The liver can be infected by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi.

The most common viral disease associated with the canine liver is infectious canine hepatitis, which can cause inflammation and scarring. This is a vaccine-preventable disease.

Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that can lead to liver disease, though many people associate it more with kidney disease. Dogs are infected with leptospirosis through contaminated water sources, and the disease can be spread to humans.

Leptospirosis is diagnosed by blood test or tissue biopsy. While it can be challenging to diagnose due to the wide variety of nonspecific clinical signs, the bacterial infection can be cleared with early treatment. Secondary liver and kidney damage may be permanent. Commercial vaccines for leptospirosis are available for at-risk dogs.

Coccidioidomycosis and histoplasmosis are the most common fungal causes of liver disease. Dogs are exposed through spores in the environment. These fungal infections can be difficult to clear and often require months of treatment with anti-fungal medications. Because of the difficulty in treating fungal disease of the liver, the long-term prognosis is guarded.

Liver masses: Dogs are susceptible to several types of liver masses. Liver cysts can be present from birth or acquired with age. Though often benign, large or growing cysts can cause symptoms of liver disease. Surgical excision is usually curative.

Liver cancer: Cancer of the liver comes in two main forms—primary tumors, which originate in the liver, and secondary or metastatic tumors, which means they spread from another area in the body. Primary tumors are less common than metastatic ones. Depending on the type of cancer, location, and number of masses, treatments may include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or a combination.

Breed Specific Liver Diseases in Dogs

Certain breeds of dogs are predisposed to specific liver conditions. Copper storage disease is a known problem in Bedlington terriers, Doberman pinschers, Skye terriers, and West Highland white terriers. In these dogs a metabolic defect causes copper to remain in the liver, leading to chronic hepatitis. Amyloidosis, caused by a malformed protein that accumulates in the cells, is a disease of Chinese Shar-peis.

Is Liver Disease Fatal for Dogs?

Depending on the severity of the disease and whether or not the underlying cause can be treated or eliminated, the prognosis for canine liver disease varies. If the cause is addressed before long-term damage occurs, the prognosis can be excellent. The liver is the only visceral organ known to regenerate, so in that respect it is truly remarkable.

Chronic or severe liver disease, however, has a poorer prognosis. In those cases, treatment is limited to managing the progression of disease and minimizing symptoms.

The most common medical management involves a higher carbohydrate/low protein diet to reduce the amount of circulating ammonia in the bloodstream, vitamin supplements, lactulose to bind toxins in the gut, antibiotics, and vitamin K if the patient has bleeding problems. It is essential that your veterinarian monitor your pet regularly if he or she has liver disease in order to control the symptoms.

Even with intensive management, many patients die of their disease, though good control extends the length and quality of their lives.

How Can Liver Disease in Dogs be Prevented?

Not all cases of liver disease can be prevented, but certain precautions can reduce the risk of specific diseases. Dogs should be vaccinated for infectious canine hepatitis and, for some dogs, leptospirosis. Keep your pet away from known toxins. And most importantly, know the signs of liver disease and see the vet sooner rather than later if you are concerned! Early intervention and treatment is one of the key factors in treating liver disease and preventing serious signs.

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Jennifer Kvamme, DVM



First known as the Ainu, this dog breed was named after the people it lived with and later the area of Japan it was believed to have originated in. The Hokkaido is known as a great hunter as well as loveable and loyal pet.

Physical Characteristics

The Hokkaido is a medium-sized dog breed that weighs anywhere from 45 to 65 pounds at a height of 18 to 22 inches. This spitz type breed has small, triangular upright ears and small eyes with triangle markings. The Hokkaido has a thick and harsh double coat that comes in red, brindle, sesame, black or black and tan/white.

Personality and Temperament

A strong hunter, the Hokkaido is brave, smart, and has a great sense of direction. In addition to this, the Hokkaido is known as a faithful and loving dog that does well with children when it is socialized early enough. The Hokkaido would not make the best apartment dog, as it is an active breed that does best with a large yard.


Due to its thick coat, the Hokkaido requires daily brushing to maintain the coat and needs moderate daily exercise to stay in shape such as a long walk.


Considered a generally healthy breed, there are no known health issues specific to the Hokkaido. This breed lives an average life span of 11 to 13 years.

History and Background

The Hokkaido, which was named after the area where it was developed, is said to have originated when Ainu migrants brought the small dog with them to Japan in the 1140s. In 1937 it was designated a protected species in Japan. In 1996 it was recognized by the UKC. Today the Hokkaido continues to be a popular hunting dog.

Featured Image: Shimabukuro

Intestinal Protein Loss in Dogs

Protein-Losing Enteropathy in Dogs

A dog’s health is largely dependent on the body’s ability to digest and make use of the food that is a part of the dog’s regular diet. When the digestive process goes off track, a diseased condition will follow. Protein losing enteropathy is one type of condition that affects a dog’s ability to function fully; enteropathy being any abnormal condition relating to the intestines. There are a number of diseases that can damage the intestines enough to cause this extra protein loss.

Nutrients make their way through the body by way of the bloodstream. From the stomach, the food that has been eaten enters into the intestines, where it is divided into what is useful for the body and what is not. The useful, nutritious bits are picked up by the bloodstream as it passes through the intestines, carrying them to the rest of the body, where they are converted into various types of energy.

As the bloodstream picks up these nutrients, a small amount of protein leaks from the blood vessels back into the intestines. Usually these proteins are digested in the intestines, absorbed back into the blood, and used by the body to make more protein, but when the intestines are damaged, more protein leaks out into the intestines than the body can replace.

Although this condition can affect any breed or age of dog, some dog breeds are more likely than others to suffer from protein losing enteropathy, including the soft-coated wheaten terrier, basenji, Yorkshire terrier and Norwegian lundehund.

Symptoms and Types

Occasional bouts of diarrheaChronic diarrheaWeight lossLack of energy (lethargy)Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)Enlarged abdomenLegs and feet may be puffy or swollen (edema)


Cancer in the intestinesInfection in the intestinesBacteria such as salmonellaFungal infectionIntestinal parasites like hookworms and whipwormsInflammation of the intestines (inflammatory bowel disease)Food AllergiesStomach or intestinal ulcersCongestive heart failureProblems with the movement of lymphatic fluid out of the intestines (lymphangiectasia)


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health and onset of symptoms. A thorough physical examination will be performed, and will include standard laboratory work – a complete blood count, biochemical profile and urinalysis. Your veterinarian will use these samples to determine your dog’s blood protein level and blood calcium level. There are several causes that will need to be ruled out in order to make a diagnosis. Your veterinarian will order stool (fecal) tests to check for intestinal parasites, intestinal infections, and other indicators that your dog is losing protein from its intestines.

Your veterinarian may also check the blood vitamin levels, which will be low if your dog is losing protein from its intestines. X-ray and ultrasound images of your dog’s chest and abdomen will allow your veterinarian to visually examine these internal structures for evidence of internal ulcerations or tumors, and will also display the heart’s capabilities, and whether its performance appears to be abnormal. If your veterinarian needs a better visual of the stomach and intestines than external devices can provide, an endoscopy may be performed for a better view. In this test, a small camera, attached to a tube, will be passed through your dog’s mouth or anus into the intestines so that the walls of the stomach and intestinal tract can be closely inspected for ulcers, tissue masses (tumors), or abnormalities in the wall or cell structure. The endoscopic device also allows for taking samples of tissue while it is inserted, and is a much less invasive method for performing a biopsy. Bioptic analysis is an especially useful diagnostic tool for determining why an animal is losing protein through its intestines.


Treatment will depend on the underlying disease that is causing your dog to lose protein through its intestines. If your dog’s protein level is dangerously low, it may need a transfusion to replace some of the blood protein.

Living and Management

In most cases there is no cure for protein loss through the intestines. Your veterinarian will work with you to develop a treatment plan to help you manage your dog’s symptoms, including exercise, and a diet that will ensure that the best possible amount of nutrients are being absorbed by your dog’s body. During follow-up visits, complete blood counts and biochemical profiles will be done to make sure that your dog’s blood protein level is stable and not becoming dangerously low. Your veterinarian will also check your dog to make sure it is not having trouble with breathing and does not have fluid built up in its belly.

Follow your dog’s cues as far as exercise goes. You may need to change your dog’s walking schedule or route, depending on its physical needs. Allow for a quiet space for your dog to rest after physical exertion, away from active children and other pets.

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