Archive : May

6 Signs it’s Time to Change Your Dog’s Food

Choosing a dog food can be a painstaking process — so much so that some of us stick with buying the same pet food for our dog’s entire life. “The truth is,” says Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, “we now know our pet’s dietary needs can and do change over time due to factors like their life stage, their overall health, and their activity level.”

What Age Should I Change My Dog’s Food?

When it comes to nutrition, there are three life stages which experts believe are important times in your dog’s life to discuss with your veterinarian. The first is the puppy life stage. During this period a dog food rated for “growth” is needed because it is specifically designed for puppies and kittens according to the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials, which sets standards for pet foods in the United States). “Puppies and kittens that are growing require pet foods with a higher protein level and a higher calorie count…to meet their growth requirements,” says Dr. Lorie Huston. “If these nutritional demands are not met, your pet’s growth may be stunted and/or your pet may become ill.” Pet foods rated for “reproduction” or “gestation/lactation” are also a benefit for pregnant or lactating females.

The second life stage for which you should consult your veterinarian about dietary changes is the adult life stage. “Obesity is the most common nutritional disease seen in both dogs and cats today,” says Dr. Huston. “One reason for this is improper life stage feeding. For example, [an adult] dog or cat — especially one that leads a sedentary lifestyle — may become overweight or even obese if fed pet food meant for puppies or kittens.” Pet food labeled as “all life stage” can also deliver excessive fat and nutrients your adult pet does not require, as it is formulated for kittens and puppies. Instead you should be looking for dog food rated “adult maintenance” by the AAFCO.

The third life stage to be mindful of is the senior life stage. Senior pets often have medical issues that may benefit from dietary changes. For example, a veterinarian may recommend a pet food that contains glucosamine and/or fatty acids such as DHA and EPA for senior dogs with mobility issues. According to Dr. Huston, feeding the appropriate pet food can also sometimes be an effective method to manage diseases like chronic kidney disease and heart disease. The AAFCO does not have a senior life stage, so look for a pet food with an adult maintenance statement for your senior dog.

What are other Signs it’s Time to Change My Dog’s Food?

In addition to consulting with your veterinarian about nutrition as your dog undergoes changes in life stage and lifestyle, it’s vital to watch out for certain visible signs a change in diet is needed. Here are six common signs you’ll want to be wary of…

1. Dull, Flaky Coat

Diets rich in essential fatty acids are a key component in keeping a dog’s skin healthy, and therefore his or her coat, in tip-top shape. Many dog foods are designed with skin and coat improvement in mind. Look for a diet containing both Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to make your dog’s coat shiny and bright in no time.

2. Lethargy/Weakness

If your dog had recently undergone a stressful event, illness, or surgery, he may understandably be a little worn out. Diets with high levels of antioxidants can help boost the immune response to accelerate your dog’s recovery and get them back on their feet in no time. Remember: a dog who is suddenly acting lethargic and weak should be evaluated by a veterinarian before making dietary changes.

3. ‘Senioritis’

Depending on the size of the animal, pets are considered middle-aged to senior around 5-7 years. And as our dogs age, their nutrient requirements change too. Senior diets, for example, are generally lower in calories but higher in fiber, and often have supplements specific to this life stage such as joint support and antioxidants. Forgo “all life stage” pet food for senior pets, says Dr. Vogelsang. It is formulated with kittens and puppies in mind and will deliver excessive “fat and nutrients your senior pet does not require”.


4. Hefty Midsection

It doesn’t take much for a pet to wind up with some extra weight on their frame — and this is particularly noticeable with small dogs. “If your pet needs to lose a few inches,” says Dr. Vogelsang, “a diet specifically designated for weight loss will ensure that they still have the proper amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals while ingesting fewer calories.” These diets take advantage of the latest research in pet weight management to ensure your dog is on their way to a healthier weight in no time! If your dog is extremely overweight or obese, however, it’s best that you consult with your veterinarian for a therapeutic nutritional solution.

5. GI Disturbances

“Chronic flatulence, loose stool, or rumbly stomachs can be the result of food intolerance or the low quality of food that you’re feeding your pet,” says Dr. Vogelsang. GI upset is an inconvenience to owners as well as being uncomfortable for your pet. Consult with your veterinarian as the solution may be as easy as switching to premium dog food or a sensitive stomach diet that’s right for your pet.

6. Itchy Dog

Allergies are common in pets, and food is just one of several possible causes. Regardless of the cause, though, allergic pets may benefit from a low-allergen diet that reduces the amount of potential allergens they are exposed to. Your veterinarian can recommend either a prescription diet or an over the counter sensitive skin diet, depending on your pet’s particular needs.

Plan for Success

Choosing the proper diet is one of the most important ways to ensure your dog’s long-term health, but it’s no substitute for medical care. If you suspect your dog may benefit from a new diet, consult a veterinarian! Good food and good choices lead to a long, healthy, happy life.

Portions of this article were adapted from Six Signs it’s Time to Change Your Pet’s Food by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM.


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Jessica Vogelsang, DVM


Jessica Vogelsang, DVM, is a person who loves too many topics to be able to stick to one descriptor: writing, dogs, communication, cats,…

Dog Eye Allergies: Symptoms and Treatment

If you notice that one or both of your dog’s eyes are red, you may be wondering what the cause could be.

Dogs with allergies more commonly show symptoms related to the skin or intestinal tract, but it is possible that allergies may be causing the irritation in your dog’s eyes—just like in people with seasonal allergies.

The medical term “allergic conjunctivitis” is used to describe inflammation of the eye that’s usually caused by environmental allergens like pollen and mold. Dogs with skin-based allergy symptoms (allergic dermatitis) are more likely to experience allergic conjunctivitis than dogs with no history of allergies.

If you believe that your dog is suffering from allergic conjunctivitis, it’s important to have them seen by a veterinarian to rule out other more serious diseases that can have similar symptoms.

Here’s what you need to know about dog eye allergies.

Symptoms of Dog Eye Allergies 

In dogs, redness of the eyes is a vague symptom that can be caused by a wide variety of underlying diseases.

For allergic conjunctivitis, the redness is usually seen in both eyes. You may also notice symptoms like:

Squinting of the affected eye(s)

Pawing at the face

Discharge coming from one or both eyes

Dog Eye Allergies and Itchy Skin

If your dog has a history of itchy skin, it’s worth mentioning to your veterinarian.

Dogs with itchy skin will more commonly experience allergic conjunctivitis than the general dog population.

Affected dogs are usually under 3 years of age when they first become symptomatic. Although all dog breeds have the potential to develop allergic dermatitis, common breeds with a predisposition for this condition include:


Cocker Spaniel

French Bulldog

German Shepherd

Golden Retriever

Labrador Retriever


West Highland White Terrier

How Do Vets Diagnose Dog Eye Allergies?

Although a test called “conjunctival cytology” may reveal inflammatory cells that will confirm a diagnosis of allergic conjunctivitis, the cells are not always present. As a result, many veterinarians will diagnose eye allergies through the process of elimination.

Your veterinarian may perform several brief tests to rule out diseases with similar symptoms, like eye infections, dry eye, or corneal ulcers. Other details, like your dog’s age, breed, and history of itchy skin, can also help point your veterinarian to this diagnosis.

In rare cases, a biopsy of the conjunctival tissue around the eyes—taken while your dog is under general anesthesia—may be needed to achieve a definitive diagnosis, or to rule out other, more serious causes of red eyes.

An emerging test called the conjunctival provocation test has shown promise as a quick and easy test to definitively diagnose allergic conjunctivitis. However, it’s currently not widely available and would likely be performed by veterinary dermatologists—not your general practice veterinarian.

What Can You Give Dogs With Eye Allergies?

In mild cases, simply flushing the eyes with sterile saline once or twice a day may be enough to remove the allergen and resolve the symptoms.

You should not use contact solution for this purpose.

Although antihistamines provide relief for people with eye-related allergies, antihistamines have a variable effect in dogs with this condition. Therefore, eyedrops containing steroids are often the treatment of choice for dogs with allergic conjunctivitis.

It’s important to note that steroid-based eyedrops can be very harmful to dogs with other, similar diseases in the eyes, so you should never start treatment without first consulting your veterinarian.

Severe cases may require the use of oral medications in addition to eyedrops.

Follow-Up Testing and Treatments 

Generally, a recheck is recommended after one to two weeks of treatment so that your veterinarian can assess how well the medications have worked.

If minimal improvement is seen, it’s possible to be seen by a veterinary dermatologist, who can perform allergy testing and other diagnostics to uncover which allergens may be triggering your dog’s allergic conjunctivitis.

If possible, the allergens are removed, often by changing the diet. If removing allergens is not possible, your dog’s dermatologist may suggest immunotherapy for long-term treatment.

If the allergen can’t be removed or treated with immunotherapy, it is very likely that a dog with allergic conjunctivitis will experience flare-ups throughout her life. Fortunately, the symptoms caused by allergic conjunctivitis are fairly mild, and with proper treatment and management, affected dogs generally live long and happy lives.

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Matthew Everett Miller, DVM


Matthew Everett Miller is a Kentucky native, veterinarian, and writer whose fiction and journalism have appeared in Slate magazine, the…

Paralysis of the Jaw in Dogs

Trigeminal Neuritis in Dogs


Sudden onset of the inability to close the jaw owing to dysfunction of the mandibular (jaw) branch of the trigeminal nerves (one of the cranial nerves) is a treatable medical condition called trigeminal nerve neuritis (inflammation). This is often due to nerve injury, which ranges from neuritis, demyelination (loss of the fatty sheath around the nerve which helps conduct the signal), and sometimes to fiber degeneration of all the branches of the trigeminal nerve and the nerve cell body.

Although it is occasionally seen in cats, trigeminal neuritis is mainly an illness of dogs.


Symptoms and Types


Acute onset of a dropped jaw Inability to close the mouth Drooling Difficulty in getting food in the mouth Messy eating No loss of feeling in the jaw or faceSwallowing remains normal                 




The underlying cause of trigeminal nerve neuritis is currently uknown, though it is possibly immune-mediated.




Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background medical history, onset of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. Your veterinarian will order a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel to rule out other diseases. Rabies is one of the more important disease conditions that will need to be ruled out. Diagnostic imaging like X-ray will be used to examine the skull and jaw bones, and bone marrow core biopsies and muscle biopsies can be used to rule out other possibilities for disease. 



The most effective treatment is supportive care. Your dog will need assistance with eating and drinking. If you are able to provide sufficient care at home, your dog may be treated as an outpatient, but if you cannot care for your dog, it will need supportive nutritional care in the veterinary hospital so that it is receiving adequate nutrients.


If your dog is still able to lap and swallow food that is offered, you can use a large syringe that is placed in the corner of the mouth to feed the dog water and pureed foods, with the dog’s head slightly elevated so that it can swallow easily. Fluids can also be administered subcutaneously (under the skin). Feeding tubes are rarely necessary for maintaining adequate food intake, but may be used if your dog is unable to take anything into the mouth or swallow the food that is given. 


Living and Management


This disease usually spontaneously resolves after 2-4 weeks. One result of this disease is shrinkage of the muscles used for chewing. Once the condition has stabilized and your dog is able to move its jaws normally again, you can help your dog to strengthen the jaw muscles. Your veterinarian will recommend exercises for doing this based on your dog’s overall health and age.   

Heart Block (Mobitz Type I) in Dogs

Atrioventricular Block, Second Degree–Mobitz Type I in Dogs

The sinoatrial node (SA Node, or SAN), also called the sinus node, is the initiator of electrical impulses within the heart, triggering the heart to beat, or contract, by firing off electrical surges. The atria, the two upper chambers of the heart that receive  and send out blood, are prompted into action by the SA node’s electrical impulse, which then activates the atrioventricular node (AV node). The AV node conducts the normal electrical impulses from the atria to the ventricles, coordinating the mechanical activity so that the atria have forced the blood down into the ventricles before the ventricles contract to send the blood out into the body through the pulmonary artery and aortic artery.

Second-degree atrioventricular block occurs when the electrical conduction within the AV node is delayed. 

Most dogs with this condition show no signs, appearing to be in perfect health. The condition is also rarely noted in geriatric cocker spaniels and dachshunds due to fibrosis.  Low calcium levels and certain drugs (e.g., digoxin, bethanechol, physostigmine, pilocarpine) may predispose some animals to second-degree AV block–Mobitz Type 1.  Second-degree AV block–Mobitz Type 1 can also be brought about by diseases unrelated to the heart.

Symptoms and Types

Most affected dogs show no symptoms If induced by digoxin (a heart medication) overdose, dog may have vomiting and lack of appetite Fainting Weakness


May occur in normal, healthy animals Certain drugs can affect the AV node Diseases that are not directly related to the heart Cardiac neoplasia – masses of the heart


You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical exam, with a chemical blood profile and a complete blood count. A thorough history from you will allow your veterinarian to rule out masses, gastrointestinal disorders, high pressure in the eye and upper airway disease. X-rays may help detect some of these disorders as well. An atropine response test, which increases the firing action of the sinoatrial node and the conduction of the AV node will indicate if the disease is originating from the heart. 

An electrocardiogram (ECG, or EKG) recording can be used to examine the electrical currents in the heart muscles, and may reveal any abnormalities in cardiac electrical conduction (which underlies the heart’s ability to contract/beat).


Treatment will vary depending on the underlying disease causing the second-degree–Mobitz Type 1 atrioventricular block.  Most of the time however, the affected dog will be otherwise healthy and no treatment will be needed. 

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will guide you through a health plan for your dog that emphasizes the necessary diet and activity guidelines that will effectively treat the underlying cause of disease, if one is present.

Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs (Anal Sac Adenocarcinoma)

What Is Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs?

The most common type of anal gland cancer in dogs is called anal gland adenocarcinoma. Adenocarcinomas are cancers that start in glands.

The anal glands are scent glands that are positioned on either side of your dog’s anus. Anal glands spray a small amount of a foul-smelling substance when your dog poops. This natural function helps dogs mark their territory. Anal gland secretions are stored in the anal sacs.

Cancer can develop in the apocrine (sweat) glands associated with the anal sac. This cancer usually forms a mass that your vet may be able to feel during a rectal exam.

Causes of Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs

The exact cause of anal gland cancer in dogs is unknown. Anal gland cancer can affect both male and female dogs. It is more commonly found in the following breeds:

German Shepherd

Alaskan Malamute


Dogs in the Spaniel family, such as:

English Cocker Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Springer Spaniel

Symptoms of Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs

Symptoms of anal cancer in dogs include:

Discomfort in the area around the anus (perianal region)

Anal discharge

Scooting across the floor

Licking around the perianal area

Straining to poop


Anal gland cancer may be hard to detect at home. Instead, a mass in the anal region may be noted during a routine vet examination.

If the tumor is large enough, it may look like swelling in the anal region. It may also interfere with your dog’s ability to defecate, or it may cause ribbon-shaped stool.

In about 25% of anal gland adenocarcinoma cases, dogs will also have an elevated blood calcium level. Elevated calcium in dogs may cause increased thirst and urination, as well as decreased energy level and appetite.

Elevated calcium levels in dogs can be harmful to your animal. If high calcium levels are not medically addressed, your dog is at risk of kidney failure or damage.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs

Anal gland cancer in dogs is usually diagnosed when your vet feels a mass during a rectal exam or you or your vet notice swelling in the anal region caused by the mass.

To diagnose anal gland cancer in your dog, your vet will collect cells from the mass during a procedure called a fine needle aspirate. During this procedure, a thin needle is inserted into the affected gland and used to collect a small sample of cells. These cells are then examined under a microscope.  

If your vet still suspects cancer after the fine needle aspirate, they will confirm the diagnosis and determine the exact type of cancer. This will require a procedure called a biopsy with histopathology, meaning they will collect more cells and closely examine them. Bloodwork, abdominal ultrasound, and chest x-rays may also be recommended.

The bloodwork looks at the overall health of your dog’s organs, including calcium levels, which may be high due to the cancer.

Chest x-rays can detect cancer that has spread to the lungs or other nearby organs.

An abdominal ultrasound can show if the cancer has spread to internal organs and lymph nodes.

Consultation with a board-certified veterinary oncologist is recommended when anal sac cancer is diagnosed.

Treatment for Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs

When a dog is diagnosed with anal gland cancer, surgical removal of the anal gland and sac are recommended. Removing the tumor can help your dog live longer and can lower elevated calcium levels.  

If the cancer has spread to local lymph nodes, they will also likely be removed with surgery.

If the cancer has already spread to other parts of your dog’s body, surgery to remove the anal gland mass may still be performed to make your dog more comfortable, but it might not prolong their life span.

Recovery and Management of Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs

Chemotherapy is frequently recommended to prevent further spread or recurrence. In cases where surgery is not possible, radiation therapy may be recommended to shrink your dog’s tumor.

Anal Gland Cancer in Dogs FAQs

How long do dogs live with anal gland adenocarcinoma?

If surgery is performed to remove the tumor, and there’s no evidence of metastasis (spread), dogs can live 1-2 years.

How aggressive is anal gland cancer in dogs?

Anal gland adenocarcinomas are very aggressive and invade tissues around the tumor. They also have a high rate of metastasis (spread). Anal cancer in dogs can spread to any part of the body but usually spreads to local lymph nodes first.

Is perianal/anal sac adenocarcinoma curable in dogs?

Anal gland cancer can be curable in rare cases if it’s caught in the very early stages and treated aggressively with surgery plus chemotherapy.


Vail DM, Thamm DH, Liptak JM. Withrow & MacEwen’s Small Animal Clinical Oncology. Elsevier; 2020.


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Virginia LaMon, DVM


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

Hair Loss in Dogs (Alopecia in Dogs)

What Is Alopecia in Dogs?

Alopecia, also known as hair loss, is a very common condition in dogs. Alopecia is different from shedding, which is a normal part of your dog’s hair growth cycle and depends on the dog’s breed. Alopecia refers to either thinning hair or spots of hair loss (bald spots). Where the hair loss occurs can depend on the underlying cause.

Symptoms of Alopecia in Dogs

Depending on the cause of the alopecia, there may be accompanying symptoms including:

Mild to severe scratching (but sometimes no scratching at all)

Skin that is red, inflamed, thickened, oozing, bleeding, malodorous, or pigmented (black)

Skin with papules (red spots), pustules (pimples), plaques, or hives. 

If the alopecia is caused by parasites, they may or may not be visible. Fleas, ticks, and lice can be seen with the naked eye; mites and fungal elements such as ringworm cannot be seen. Often the dog will cause trauma to their skin by excessive scratching, causing open wounds. Many dogs will have other affected areas, such as ears and feet, particularly with certain allergies.

Causes of Alopecia in Dogs

There are numerous causes of alopecia in dogs. Here are some of the most common ones:

Ectoparasites (fleas, lice, mosquitoes, mange mites such as Demodex or Sarcoptes)

Spider bites or insect stings

Skin infections (bacterial, fungal)

Allergies (inhaled, contact, insect)

Atopy, a genetic predisposition to develop allergic reactions or diseases

Anxiety-related or underlying pain with self-trauma

Autoimmune disorders

Endocrine diseases (e.g., hyperadrenocorticism, hypothyroidism, seasonal flank alopecia, sex hormone-responsive)

Genetic causes (e.g., Alopecia X, color dilution alopecia, certain breed predispositions)

Nutritional (starvation or unbalanced diet, vitamin deficiencies)

Environmental (e.g., outdoor, filthy, hot, or moist conditions)

Vaccine site alopecia

Chemical exposure, burns


Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Alopecia

Dogs that are especially prone to alopecia include:

Mexican Hairless, Chinese Crested (“normal”)

Genetic: Bulldogs, Dobermans, Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Greyhounds

Nordic breeds: When clipped, hair may not return for Siberian Huskies, Pomeranians, and others

Atopy-prone breeds: Golden and Labrador Retrievers, Bulldogs, West Highland White Terriers, and others

Any breed with poor husbandry, especially puppies, is prone to Demodectic mange

How Vets Diagnose Alopecia in Dogs

A thorough physical exam by your veterinarian is the single most important step in diagnosing the cause or causes of alopecia. It is seldom a quick fix when it comes to skin disorders in dogs. Your vet will take multiple factors into consideration before determining what diagnostics are appropriate in your dog’s case (including age, breed, sex, health status, and prior medical history). 

Unfortunately, there is no simple “recipe” to fix alopecia in dogs. Figuring out the cause is essential to choosing treatment options. Also, many (if not most) causes of alopecia are ongoing conditions that will need periodic medications or other treatments. Understanding this before you even make the vet appointment will go a long way in saving you from frustration if symptoms return in the future.

When seeing your veterinarian, be prepared to answer thorough questions about your dog’s history, including:


Number of pets in the home

Degree of pruritus (“itchiness”)

Past treatments

Dog’s environment (indoor/outdoor)

Dog’s “job” (hunting dog vs. couch potato)

Parasite medications

Prior health issues or blood work abnormalities

Exposures (pond water, wooded areas, wild animals, etc.) 

Once your vet has these answers, they can examine your pet and determine possible causes. Your vet will check closely for any evidence of fleas or flea “dirt” (feces), ticks, or saliva-stained areas such as the feet, tail base, and flanks. 

They will also note any unusual odors. Yeasty feet smell like Fritos, and ears have unique smells depending on yeast or bacteria. Your dog’s skin may have a waxy or greasy feel, which will help decide what topical therapies to use. 

Common Diagnostic Tests

Depending on the exam findings, your vet may recommend one or more of the following tests:

Skin scrapes (for Demodectic or Sarcoptic mange)

Cultures (for bacterial infections)

Tape preps (looking for bacteria, yeast, and inflammatory cells)

Black light and/or fungal cultures (for Dermatophytosis or ringworm)

Ear smear to look for bacteria, yeast, cells, or mites

Skin testing for allergies

Possible food trials

Blood tests (for organ function and endocrine diseases)

Fecal exam (for parasites)

Biopsy (for autoimmune diseases or cancer)

Treatment for Alopecia in Dogs

Treating alopecia depends entirely on the cause. If it is merely cosmetic and one small lesion, no treatment may be needed. Depending on the cause, one or more of the following may be recommended:

Food trials

Medications (antibiotics, antifungals, steroids, antihistamines, anti-parasiticides, anti-inflammatory or anti-pruritic medications such as Apoquel, Atopica, or Cytopoint injections) 

Topical therapy (medicated shampoos, sprays, ointments, or dips)

Surgical removal


Recovery and Management of Alopecia in Dogs

If the underlying cause of the alopecia is identified, avoiding the cause in the future is very important. It is not always that simple, however, so controlling what you can will go a long way in managing your dog’s alopecia. That includes using effective, regular flea control; keeping your dog clean and well groomed; and avoiding known allergens. 

If and when your dog starts to have alopecia in the future, it is vitally important that you see your veterinarian quickly in order to stop the progression of symptoms.

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Sandi Huffman, DVM


Dr. Sandi Huffman graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1998. She worked in small animal medicine in…


Rottweilers are a large dog breed with broad heads, strong jaws, and wide-set eyes. They are working dogs that have been a recognized breed in the United States since 1931.

Purebred Rottweilers have a limited coat coloration that should be composed of a black base with mahogany, rust, or tan accents. Many Rottweilers appear to have a “bobtail,” which is rarely a natural occurrence. Most “bobtail” Rottweilers have had their tails surgically docked.

Rottweilers are 22-27 inches tall and weigh 80-135 pounds. They are at risk of becoming obese and may develop diseases such as arthritis if they become obese. With proper care, Rottweilers  live 9-12 years on average.

Caring for a Rottweiler

Caring for a Rottweiler requires knowledge about their health problems, grooming needs, and dietary, exercise, and mental health care requirements.

Rottweilers are loyal, protective, and slow-maturing dogs. Due to their genetic predisposition, they need exercise for at least 60 minutes a day. They are intelligent and therefore easily bored, so they must have regular stimulating activities to prevent unwanted behavior.

They have great teeth and are strong chewers, so dental maintenance is less intensive compared to other breeds.

Because they are prone to having many health problems, routine veterinary exams are important for keeping Rottweilers healthy.

Rottweiler Health Issues

Rottweilers are generally healthy dogs but have a few issues to look out for.


The Rottweiler breed is prone to obesity, so pet parents need to be diligent about their dog’s mealtime and food portion size. Rottweilers need to consume 1,600-2,300 calories a day. Amounts vary for pets that are not spayed or neutered, have increased or decreased amounts of exercise, or are pregnant or nursing.

Your veterinarian can help you determine the best weight management plan for your dog. This includes monitoring their diet and exercise routines as well as their treat intake, and ensuring they do not eat table scraps or another pet’s food.

Canine Hip or Elbow Dysplasia

Rottweilers are known to suffer from canine elbow dysplasia (CED) and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). These conditions affect the joints in the hips and elbows and can cause instability and pain. Both conditions can also lead to arthritis if not properly treated.

Hip and elbow dysplasia are difficult to manage. Surgical correction may be appropriate in some cases, and lifelong physical therapy and joint supplements are recommended. Keeping your dog’s body at a healthy weight is necessary to avoid further damaging diseased joints.

Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture

A dog’s cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) is similar to a human’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Due to their large size and high energy levels, Rottweilers commonly rupture their CCLs—just like humans tear their ACLs.

This injury is best treated with orthopedic surgery, followed by lifelong joint supplement administration and physical therapy.

You can reduce your Rottweiler’s risk of a CCL rupture by avoiding high-impact activities such as lurching and knee-twisting movements during play, maintaining a healthy weight, and engaging in low-impact exercise on a regular basis.


Osteosarcoma is a painful, metastatic, and aggressive bone cancer that Rottweilers are predisposed to.

If you see any signs of pain or lameness in your Rottweiler, take them to your veterinarian for an evaluation as soon as possible.

Osteosarcoma is usually easily diagnosed through a physical exam and radiography. It can be treated effectively if it is diagnosed at a very early stage.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Rottweilers are also predisposed to gastric dilation volvulus (GDV)—a severe case of bloat—because of their deep chests and relatively narrow abdomens. GDV occurs when the stomach bloats with gas or food material. Its swelling allows it to rotate, blocking flow of material into or out of the stomach.

The stomach will continue to swell as more gas and digestive fluids are produced, and there is a significantly decreased blood supply to the stomach during this process. GDV is fatal if not treated immediately.

A preventative surgical procedure, called a gastropexy, is often recommended by veterinarians to pet parents of at-risk breeds. If this procedure is not performed, always monitor your dog for abdominal swelling, non-productive vomiting, or prolonged difficulty to find a comfortable position.


Entropion is a common eyelid condition in which the eyelids curl inward and the eyelashes point toward and rub against the cornea.

Unless this condition is surgically treated, it causes constant eye irritation and excessive tearing.

Entropion also increases risk for corneal ulceration and eye infections.

Subaortic Stenosis

Heart murmurs are abnormalities that a veterinarian may find during the routine physical exam of a Rottweiler. This condition may be caused by subaortic stenosis (SAS), which can lead to sudden death, especially in undiagnosed, untreated puppies.

If a veterinarian diagnoses your dog with any cardiac abnormalities, consult with a veterinary cardiologist as soon as possible. Some cardiac diseases can be managed with lifelong administration of oral medications.

What to Feed a Rottweiler

Feed your Rottweiler a food that matches their life stage. A puppy should be fed a puppy food, an adult dog should be fed an adult dog food, and a senior dog should be fed a senior dog food.

Choose a dog food that is approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Some pet food companies have even developed diets specifically for Rottweilers, and these are generally appropriate. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best food option for your dog.

Grain-free diets are not recommended, as they increase the risk of developing heart disease, which Rottweilers are predisposed to.

How to Feed a Rottweiler

Rottweiler puppies should be fed at least 4 times a day because their blood glucose levels are far less stable than adults. They also require calories sufficient for growth and metabolism maintenance. Feeding a puppy diet is recommended until 12 months of age.

Adult Rottweilers can be fed one or two times a day. Since Rottweilers are prone to obesity, many pet parents use kibble from their dog’s food as treats. Kibble also counts toward their total daily meals to help maintain a healthy weight.

When they are 5 to 7 years old, Rottweilers should be fed a diet formulated for senior dogs. Senior diets are generally lower in calories per serving, contain omega fatty acids and joint supplements, and have easily digestible proteins.

How Much to Feed a Rottweiler

Appropriate caloric intake is important to keeping your Rottweiler at a healthy weight.

A rule of thumb is that Rottweilers should be fed 1,600-2,300 calories a day. This may vary for pets that have not been spayed or neutered, have increased or decreased amounts of exercise, or are pregnant or nursing.

A veterinarian will assess a Rottweiler’s body condition and can provide an individualized caloric intake recommendation.

Nutritional Tips for Rottweilers

It is important to consult a veterinarian regarding the best dietary supplements. Highly recommended supplements for Rottweilers include:

Omega-3, -6, and -9 fatty acid supplements, which support joints, coat, and cardiac function.

Joint supplements containing glucosamine, chondroitin, and methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), which help prevent arthritis.


Behavior and Training Tips for Rottweilers

Rottweiler Personality and Temperament

Rottweilers are gentle, fearless, and sometimes stubborn. They are fun to interact with, due to their eagerness to please humans.

They are very intelligent and trainable dogs. This intelligence means that boredom can lead to unwanted behaviors, so providing mental stimulation is important for a Rottweiler.

Early socialization and positive reinforcement are also recommended—especially when they are puppies. Positive interactions with strangers will help prevent or reduce separation anxiety, fear, and aggression.

Rottweiler Behavior

Rottweilers have very strong protective instincts, which is why they are commonly used as guard dogs.

However, that territorial personality can lead to barking habits and aggression toward strangers. It’s important to make sure that signs of possessiveness, aggression, and anxiety are addressed immediately.

Roughhouse play should be avoided with Rottweilers, especially when they are puppies, as it can cause them to become mouthy. They must be trained to have appropriate bite inhibition.

If there is concern that a Rottweiler may be a bite risk, professional intervention with a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist is advised as early as possible.

Rottweiler Training

Rottweilers learn new commands very quickly, which makes them excellent service or police dogs. Positive reinforcement is the recommended training method for these dogs, as it provides consistent and long-lasting behavioral memory.

Other training methods include negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment. There are situations when these methods may be useful, but they should only be used under the guidance of a qualified dog trainer or behaviorist.

Kennel training can also be helpful for Rottweilers. Providing a safe space for your dog to spend alone time in and rest helps them feel more secure in their home. Kennels can also help with managing potty training and preventing unwanted behaviors like destructive chewing and excessive barking.

Fun Activities for Rottweilers

Fun activities that you can enjoy with your Rottweiler include:




Dock Diving



Obedience training

Rottweiler Grooming Guide

The grooming routine for a Rottweiler is fairly low maintenance, but they do shed quite a bit. So weekly grooming is recommended.

Tooth brushing at least three times weekly is required for maintenance of good oral health. Dental cleanings using anesthesia and under the care of a veterinarian are recommended annually after Rottweilers reach the age of 2 or 3.

Skin Care

A Rottweiler’s skin tends to be quite healthy, so it’s best to not bathe them more than once every two to four weeks, except for medical purposes.

Coat Care

Rottweilers have a medium-length coat that sheds a lot. This means that daily to weekly brushing might be necessary to help manage their coat health and control the amount of dog hair around your home.

Eye Care

Rottweilers do not require any specialized eye care unless they have been diagnosed with entropion eyelids. When doing your weekly brushing, check their eyes for excessive tearing or blinking, discharge, and irritation.

Ear Care

Regular ear cleaning is not advised unless it is recommended by a veterinarian for medical purposes.

Considerations for Pet Parents

If you choose to bring a Rottweiler into your life, consider several important factors:

Rottweilers are gentle creatures that can develop aggressive and territorial behaviors if not properly socialized or trained as puppies. They also require a lot of daily exercise, human interaction, and mental stimulation.

Rottweilers can have several serious health problems that may need lifelong management. Complying with your vet’s recommendations is imperative to keep these dogs healthy and happy.

US state and local governments enforce breed-specific legislation (BSL) that limits ownership of Rottweilers within certain municipalities. So be sure to check that Rottweilers are allowed not just in your state and community, but in your neighborhood and building.

Rottweiler FAQs

Is a Rottweiler a good family dog?

Rottweilers make great family dogs, but need to be trained from an early age to prevent mouthiness or aggressive behavior.

Are Rottweilers smart dogs?

Yes, Rottweilers are extremely intelligent.

What were Rottweilers bred for?

Rottweilers were initially bred to be herding dogs in Germany. Eventually the need for Rottweilers as herding dogs diminished, and they became working dogs.

They are used as guide dogs for sight-impaired people and also provide services to people with other disabilities. Rottweilers are also used as family dogs, personal guard dogs, police dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs.


American College of Veterinary Surgeons. Small Animal Topics: Canine Hip Dysplasia. 2022.

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Heather Newett, MPH, DVM


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

Why Is My Dog Always Hungry?

Although dogs may seem perpetually interested in food, an excessive appetite (called polyphagia or hyperphagia) may signal a more serious issue that should be examined by a veterinarian.

If your dog is always hungry, they could have a problem with their metabolism, leaving them abnormally hungry, and they may be begging or whining even after eating.

So how can you tell if your dog is just very interested in food or has an underlying problem?

Here’s what to look for, possible causes, and when to see a vet.

What to Check For if Your Dog Is Always Hungry

If your dog doesn’t have any other symptoms and appears to be fine other than wanting to eat all the time, schedule a vet visit within 1-2 weeks or at the earliest time available.

Dogs that are suddenly hungrier than usual often have other symptoms. As a rule of thumb, any change in eating or bathroom habits should prompt a visit to the veterinarian.

Call your vet if you see any of the following:

Increased thirst and urination

Vomiting or diarrhea

Changes in weight (gain or loss)

Changes in body shape, such as a growing potbelly and shrinkage of muscle

Eating non-food items

Causes of Increased Appetite in Dogs

There’s no clear-cut cause for why a dog might be obsessed with eating. It could stem from a psychological issue, such as stress or learned behavior, or a medical issue, such as not getting the right nutrients or an underlying health condition.

That’s why you’ll need your vet’s help in getting the root of the problem. They can perform tests and ask questions to rule out certain causes. Here are some of the most common causes of increased appetite in dogs:

Psychological issues, such as anxiety or stress

Learned behavior, due to poor nutrition (either fed too much or too little)

Aging process (as dogs age, some will begin to crave food more)

Medication, such as prednisone

Metabolic disorders, such as diabetes mellitus and hypoglycemia

Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

Gastrointestinal disorders that interfere with nutrient absorption, which can include:

Inflammatory bowel syndrome


Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

Parasites/infections that interfere with nutrient absorption

How Vets Find the Cause for Increased Appetite in Dogs

Your veterinarian may want to run a range of tests to determine the underlying cause for the sudden increase in appetite. They will usually start with the least invasive tests to try to rule things out. Here are some diagnostics your vet may want to do:

Complete medical history and physical examination

Blood panels, such as a complete blood count


Tests for parasites, such as fecal flotation and Giardia tests

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) stimulation test or low-dose dexamethasone suppression test (LDDS) to check for Cushing’s disease

Imaging tests such as ultrasound

Serum trypsin-like immunoreactivity test (TLI) to check for exocrine pancreatic insufficiency

Endoscopy examination (may be considered after additional testing is completed)

Treatment of Increased Appetite in Dogs

Don’t delay in getting your dog examined by a veterinarian if they appear to be suffering from constant hunger. Treatment will include giving your dog supportive care for the symptom of polyphagia as well as dealing with any underlying conditions:

Behavioral-related causes may be addressed by feeding smaller portions more frequently and carefully supervising your dog’s food consumption.

A metabolic issue, such as diabetes mellitus, may be treated with daily insulin injections and dietary changes.

If Cushing’s disease is diagnosed, medication may be prescribed.

Infection or parasites will be treated with medication and/or deworming.

For exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, your vet will recommend dietary changes and medications.

Treatment for cancer can include chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation treatments.

Increased Appetite in Dogs FAQs

Do dogs eat more as they get older?

Yes. Sometimes this is due to underlying health conditions, such as diabetes mellitus or Cushing’s disease, or a medication they’re taking, like prednisone.

Why does my dog eat like he’s starving?

Many conditions can trigger increased appetite in dogs. A dog may have learned the behavior because they were not properly fed or became anxious about food. Or, they may have developed a metabolic condition or infection or have parasites. Your vet will need to do an exam, ask questions, and do some tests to rule out certain causes.

When is overeating a concern for dogs?

You should call your vet if you notice a sudden and dramatic change in your dog’s dietary habits.


Hall E. Merck Veterinary Manual. Malabsorption Syndromes in Small Animals. June 2020.

Steiner J. Merck Veterinary Manual. Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency in Dogs and Cats – Digestive System. October 2020.

Stem Cell Disorders Due to Abnormal Development and Maturation in Dogs

Myelodysplastic Syndromes in Dogs

Myelodysplastic syndromes are a group of disorders affecting the dog’s hematopoietic stem cells, which forms all the types of blood cells in the body (i.e., red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets). These disorders are characterized by the abnormal development and maturation of hematopoietic stem cells, and may be primary (congenital) or secondary (due to cancer, drugs exposure, and/or infections).

Myelodysplastic syndromes more common in cats than dogs.

Symptoms and Types

Weakness Lethargy Pale mucous membranes Weight loss Excessive bleeding Recurrent infections Enlargement of spleen and liver


Infections Bone marrow dysplasia Immune-mediated neutropenia (due to steroids) Drug toxicity (e.g., estrogen, cytotoxic anticancer agents, or trimethoprim and sulfa combination)


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 conduct a complete physical examination, as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count (CBC). Blood testing is especially important in making the diagnosis, as it may reveal abnormal reduction in the number of blood cells (cytopenia). In some dogs, megaloblastic anemia is also seen.

Other abnormal findings may include large, bizarre platelets and immature granulocytes (type of white blood cells) with abnormal shape and sizes. Your veterinarian will also take bone marrow sample to evaluate the red blood cell and white blood cells production process and identify abnormalities.


Treatment is usually non-specific unless the underlying cause is identified. Often, dogs suffering from myelodysplastic syndromes are prone to severe complications, such as infections, and require intensive nursing care. In these cases, these animal will undergo antibiotic therapy until their white blood cell count normalizes. These dogs are also more susceptible to severe anemia and hemorrhages and will require multiple blood transfusions.

Living and Management

Regular blood testing is required throughout treatment to evaluate the animal’s progress. Unfortunately, the overall prognosis of these animals is not good, even after treatment. Maintaining the dog stable is, however, necessary to prevent further aggravation of symptoms.

Can Dogs Have Panic Attacks?

Anticipating a fearful or negative experience with certain people, objects, animals, or situations can lead to anxiety.

But when does anxiety veer into panic? Can dogs have panic attacks? Here’s everything you need to know about panic attacks in dogs.

Can Dogs Experience Panic Attacks?

Dogs can certainly experience panic attacks, similar to people. People who suffer from panic attacks report a sudden feeling of intense fear.

They may experience a physiological response, such as an elevated heart rate. They may also sweat, tremble, be nauseous, and have a headache.

Usually, there is no specific trigger, but the panic attack can occur during times of high stress.

How Can We Tell If a Dog Is Having a Panic Attack?

Of course we cannot ask a dog how they feel, but we can look for the signs of panic, such as:

Sudden panting



Excessive salivation

Looking for a place to hide

Seeking their owner’s attention in a frantic manner

Pawing or jumping up on their owner

Digging in the bed, closet, or bathroom


Gastrointestinal upset (immediate defecation or diarrhea, for example)


One of my canine patients who was experiencing panic pulled out the drawer under the oven and tried to hide in the opening.

How to Tell the Difference Between Anxiety, Phobias, and Panic Attacks in Dogs

Is your dog having anxiety, suffering from a phobia, or having a panic attack?

Phobias vs. Panic Attacks in Dogs

How we distinguish a phobia from a panic attack is based on a presence of a trigger. If there is a specific trigger that elicits those intense reactions from your dog, then it may be classified as a phobia.

People with phobias have described it as experiencing an irrational fear of something. This feeling can be similar in dogs.

The trigger can be a sound, person, object, location, or situation. Many dogs experience phobias to thunderstorms and fireworks.

Usually there is no trigger that causes the panic attack in a dog.

Dog Anxiety vs. Panic Attacks

So what about anxiety?

Anxiety comes when your dog is dreading a specific event or situation. The anticipated threat can be real or perceived.

An example is a dog showing signs of anxiety before a vet trip. They have picked up on the cues that they are going to the vet, and become anxious about the encounter. Some signs of anxiety in dogs include:




Eliminating inappropriately or involuntarily

Soliciting attention from their owners

Pulling ears back against their head with the head lowered and tail hanging down or tucked under the abdomen

Tips For Helping Dogs Cope With Panic Attacks

Dogs that experience panic attacks should receive a thorough physical examination from their veterinarian. Diagnostic tests may be performed to rule out any medical causes for the reactions.

Provide Plenty of Exercise and Mental Stimulation

Pet owners should also make sure they provide plenty of physical and mental exercise for their dogs—as long as their veterinarian approves the level of exercise.

A minimum of a 15-20 minute walk and/or 15-20 minutes of play every day can reduce a dog’s stress levels.

Providing your dogs with puzzle toys to work for their meals can also help stimulate and tire out their brain.

Short training sessions can be helpful to keep your dog mentally occupied as well.

Offer Comfort to Your Dog During a Panic Attack

If your dog is having a panic attack and he comes to you for attention, you can pet, hug, or hold him if that helps ease the signs of his panic.

Depending on how intense the episode is, you can try to:

Distract and redirect your dog to play with toys

Take your dog for a walk

Practice basic dog obedience cues or tricks for high value-treats

 Other dogs may enjoy being pet, brushed, or massaged by their owners.

You should also provide a place for your dog to hide. Play calming classical music and make sure the space is free of external stimulants (house traffic, other pets, etc.). You can also use dog pheromone sprays or plug-in diffusers to help reduce anxiety in that location.

Look Into Supplements or Medication to Help Manage Your Dog’s Panic Attacks

Some dogs may benefit from the use of natural supplements such as l-theanine or l-tryptophan. Both are ingredients that have a calming effect on animals.

However, if your dog experiences intense panic attacks, where they are hurting themselves by trying to jump through windows or chewing or digging through the walls, they need to see their veterinarian to have antianxiety medications prescribed for them.

Antianxiety medication can be used as needed. In some cases, a pet may benefit from a daily maintenance medication to keep them calmer overall.

If your dog is experiencing panic attacks on a regular basis, then the maintenance medication can help them cope with these episodes. It may also reduce the frequency and duration of the panic attacks.

Avoid Punishing Your Dog

Just like with humans, getting angry at someone who is experiencing panic will rarely resolve the issue. In most cases, it will only make it worse.

So, yelling at your dog, spraying them with water, forcing them to lie down, or using a shock collar is not going to help a dog that’s experiencing a panic attack.

These techniques will only increase fear and anxiety. Your dog cannot control their emotions or physiological responses in these scenarios. If they could control themselves and choose another option, they probably would.

No one who has experienced a panic attack reported that it was a pleasant experience and wanted to experience another. Your dog needs your love and support to help them through their time of need.

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Wailani Sung, MS, PhD, DVM, DACVB


Dr. Wailani Sung has a passion for helping owners prevent or effectively manage behavior problems in companion animals, enabling them to…