Archive : June

Gastroenteritis in Dogs

What Is Gastroenteritis in Dogs?

Gastroenteritis in dogs is defined as an inflammation of a dog’s stomach (gastro-) and small intestine (-enteritis). In simple terms, gastroenteritis is an upset stomach. Pet parents might use the term “dog stomach bug” to describe this kind of illness, but the possible causes go beyond a viral infection.

If your dog has bloody diarrhea or vomit, go to the emergency vet immediately, as these are signs of acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS).

Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome (AHDS) / Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)

Acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome, also known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE), is a specific and critical form of enteritis. It is a medical emergency and one of the most serious causes of diarrhea in dogs.

AHDS can be fatal—your dog can become septic (caused by a dangerous infection in the bloodstream), lose too much protein, or experience complications.

Dogs affected with this disease have been shown to have inflammation of only the intestines, not the stomach. If you suspect your dog has AHDS, take them to the vet immediately.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Dogs

Take your dog to the emergency vet if you see the signs of AHDS:

Sudden onset of bloody diarrhea with no known cause, such as a change in diet

Vomiting, with or without blood

Lethargy  (moving slowly, sluggish)

Call your vet if your dog is showing any signs of gastroenteritis:

Sudden vomiting

Sudden diarrhea


Dogs suffering from gastroenteritis exhibit a sudden onset of vomiting and/or diarrhea and may lose a large volume of body fluids and electrolytes. This can cause dehydration. Monitor your dog’s hydration and activity level.

If your dog is dehydrated and/or lethargic, go to the emergency vet. This indicates a more serious situation that needs immediate treatment.

You can check for dehydration by gently lifting the skin on the back of your dog’s neck. If it stays raised and doesn’t go back to place quickly, your dog is probably dehydrated.

Another tip to test your dog for dehydration: press on your dog’s gums, which should turn from white back to pink within 2 seconds. If the pink takes any longer to come back, your dog is probably dehydrated.

Other signs of dehydration include:


Dry nose and eyes

Dry, pasty gums and thick saliva

Loss of appetite

Loss of skin elasticity (when you pull your dog’s skin and it is slow to snap back)

Causes of Gastroenteritis and AHDS in Dogs

Gastroenteritis in dogs can be caused by many underlying issues. Your vet can run diagnostic tests to help you figure out why your dog is sick. Some possible causes include:

Dietary indiscretion (meaning your dog ate something they shouldn’t, such as fatty food, food that’s gone bad, or inedible objects)

Gastric ulcers



Kidney failure

Liver failure

Bacterial infection, such as clostridium, campylobacter, salmonella, or E. coli

Viral infection, such as parvovirus, coronavirus, or distemper


Food allergies

The exact cause of AHDS remains unknown. Some vets theorize that the condition begins with a bacterial infection in the intestine caused by Clostridium perfringens type A.

This infection creates dangerous toxins that erode the protective lining of the intestine, allowing fluids and blood to leak out.

How Vets Diagnose Gastroenteritis in Dogs

This diagnosis is made when a dog has a sudden case of vomiting or diarrhea, has been sluggish and lethargic, and hasn’t had an appetite. Describing your dog’s symptoms can help your veterinarian make the diagnosis. Your vet will also check your dog for dehydration and signs of abdominal pain.

To rule out other possible causes of vomiting and diarrhea, such as parvovirus, parasites, a gastrointestinal obstruction, cancer, kidney disease, and other more serious conditions, your veterinarian may need a fecal analysis, bloodwork, X-ray, or ultrasound.

Diagnosis for AHDS in Dogs

Your vet will also consider AHDS as a possible cause if your dog has bloody, watery diarrhea; dehydration; and an elevated packed cell volume (the number of red blood cells currently circulating).

There is no specific test to diagnose AHDS in dogs. If no other cause is found for your dog’s symptoms, a diagnosis of AHDS may be made as a “diagnosis of exclusion.”

An Addisonian crisis, which is when a dog with Addison’s disease has acute gastrointestinal symptoms that are often bloody, can look exactly like AHDS. This is fatal if untreated.

Since an Addisonian crisis and AHDS are both so serious, it is critical to take your dog to the vet immediately if they are dehydrated or have bloody diarrhea.

Treatment for Gastroenteritis in Dogs

The goal of treatment is to stop the vomiting/diarrhea and maintain hydration.

Depending on your dog’s condition and the underlying cause, your veterinarian may administer anti-vomiting medication, antibiotics, and antacid medications specifically formulated for dogs.

If your dog is vomiting, the medications will be administered through injection. Your dog may also require hospitalization for IV (intravenous) fluids and electrolytes.

Treatment for AHDS in Dogs

AHDS is very serious and cannot be treated at home. If your dog has bloody diarrhea or vomit, go to the emergency vet immediately.

Dogs with AHDS are losing a life-threatening amount of fluid, protein, and electrolytes, and they must be hospitalized for aggressive IV therapy, electrolyte supplementation, and medication.

With AHDS, the survival rate is 90-95% if appropriate, aggressive therapy is started quickly. Most dogs recover in two or three days.

Recovery and Management of Gastroenteritis in Dogs

After your dog comes home from the vet, you can continue care. If the vet finds that your dog’s gastroenteritis is caused by something that’s contagious, isolate your dog from your other pets. Do not allow your dog to eat or drink until there has been no vomiting for 6 to 8 hours.

Then you may give your dog small amounts of clear liquids (water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte solution) every 2 hours.

If your dog does not vomit the fluid after 12 hours, give frequent, small meals of boiled hamburger and rice or boiled chicken and rice, about ¼ cup or less per feeding. Your vet might also send you home with samples of a low-fat, easily digestible prescription diet such as these:

Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d Digestive Care Low Fat canned dog food

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EN Gastroenteric canned dog food

Recovery From AHDS in Dogs

Part of your dog’s recovery plan from AHDS should be a bland diet that’s high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat. Your vet may offer you special canned food, or you can cook for your dog.

Cooked rice or pasta; potatoes with some cottage cheese; lean, boiled ground beef; or skinless chicken are good choices for a couple of weeks as your dog’s gut heals and their appetite returns. Ask your veterinarian about options for cooking for your dog to ensure that you provide the right nutrients in the right amounts.

Gastroenteritis in Dogs FAQs

How can I treat my dog’s gastroenteritis at home?

If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, you should always call your veterinarian. They can ask you specific questions to help assess how serious the situation is.

If your dog is lethargic or showing blood in their vomit or diarrhea, take them to the vet immediately. Dogs with AHDS need to be hospitalized for care and cannot be managed safely at home.

After a vet evaluates your dog’s symptoms, they might determine that your dog can be safely managed at home, and they will give you a treatment plan for home care. This may include giving your dog small amounts of clear liquids (water, Gatorade, Pedialyte, or other electrolyte solution) every 2 hours, but only after vomiting has stopped for 6 to 8 hours.

If your dog does not vomit the fluid after 12 hours, give frequent, small meals of boiled hamburger and rice or boiled chicken and rice, about ¼ cup or less per feeding. Do not give your dog over-the-counter or prescription medication unless you speak to your veterinarian.

Can gastroenteritis kill dogs?

Yes. Gastroenteritis can often become acute hemorrhagic diarrhea syndrome (AHDS) when left untreated. This is the most acute form of gastroenteritis in dogs and can lead to life-threatening dehydration if not treated quickly.

Is gastroenteritis contagious from dogs to humans?

Some of the causes of gastroenteritis are zoonotic, meaning they are contagious from dogs to humans. Bacterial infections like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria would fall into this category.

Some of the causes are specific to dogs and harmless to humans, such as canine parvovirus and distemper. 

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Liz Bales, VMD


Dr. Liz Bales is a graduate of Middlebury College and The University of Pennsylvania School Of Veterinary Medicine. She focuses on unique…

Hemoglobin and Myoglobin in Urine in Dogs

Hemoglobinuria and Myoglobinuria in Dogs

Hemoglobin is an oxygen carrier in the red blood cells, which also serves to carry oxygen to the tissues, as well as the pigment that makes the blood appear red. The destruction of blood cells within the blood vessels frees hemoglobin into the blood plasma (the straw colroed liquid matter of the blood), where it binds with haptoglobin, a blood plasma protein which functions for the purpose of binding with free hemoglobin to prevent the loss of iron from the body. When all of the haptoglobin has been used up, hemoglobin spills over into the blood, binding reversibly to blood proteins and changing the color of the plasma from a faint yellow to pink. The unbound hemoglobin is then cleared through the kidneys.

Myoglobin serves the same purpose as hemoglobin but is particular to the muscles, and is differentiated by the amount of oxygen and carbon monoxide it delivers to the tissues (more, and less, respectively). Muscle damage releases myoglobin into the blood plasma, but it does not bind to serum proteins. Consequently, plasma color does not change, and the myoglobin is quickly cleared from the blood by the liver and kidneys. If there is too much hemoglobin and myoglobin in the blood plasma, these proteins will no longer be reabsorbed in the kidneys, and will instead spill over into the urine.

Not only can hemoglobin and myoglobin damage the kidneys, but their presence in the blood indicates low oxygen-carrying capacity, which can result in liver damage, serious illness, and shock, all of which serve to further decrease the amount of oxygen available to the body through the muscles and blood. In addition, the destruction of red blood cells inside the blood vessels, along with severe muscle damage, can bring about disseminated intravascular coagulopathy (DIC), an often fatal blood clotting disease.

Symptoms and Types

Increased heart rate Lack of energy, lethargy Fever Pale white or purple tinged gums Yellow skin and/or yellow whites of eyes (jaundice) Tenderness and bruising Blood in the urine (urine is pink or red-colored)


Some of the possible causes for hemoglobinuria and myoglobinuria are listed here.

Injury and trauma (heat stroke, extreme exercise, electric shock) Infectious agents (parasites of the blood) Low blood phosphate Hemoglobinuria: Genetic diseases Immune-mediated hemolytic anemia Myoglobinuria: Acute muscle inflammation Crush injury Extreme exercise Prolonged spasms/seizures Toxins, drugs, and food reactions: Copper Menadione (used as a vitamin K supplement) Mercury Methylene blue Acetaminophen (pain reliever) Zinc Onions Snake venom


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your dog, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health and recent activities. A complete blood chemical profile will be conducted, including a complete blood count, and a test to measure for toxic levels of copper and zinc concentrations. Your doctor will also probably take a blood smear to look for irregularities of the red blood cells, and may also use the ammonium sulfate test to detect hemoglobin or myoglobin presence in the blood.

A urinalysis to look for bilirubin in the urine is another test that will be necessary for pinpointing the exact cause of the condition. Bilirubin is a red-yellow bile pigment that comes from the degradation of the red pigment (heme) in hemoglobin; too much bilirubin cannot be processed by the liver and will spill over into the urine. Excess bilirubin in the blood is also the cause of yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Radiographs and ultrasounds are useful tools for visualizing the liver in case of copper-associated liver disease, or to reveal swallowed coins or cage bolts/nuts – both of which are common sources of zinc or copper poisoning.


The medications that are prescribed will depend upon your veterinarian’s final diagnosis of what is underlying the symptoms. If the condition is severe, your dog will be hospitalized for stabilization and fluid rehydration.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will advise you on when you will need to return with your dog for follow-up appointments. There may be further need for a blood chemistry profile, a complete blood count, urinalysis, packed cell volume (PCV) test, and an arterial blood gas analysis. Genetic diseases are generally incurable, but can sometimes be managed by taking certain precautions with your dog. For example, neonatal isoerythrolysis, a congenital condition which results in the destruction of red blood cells, can be prevented by not allowing greyhounds with exertional myopathies (muscle diseases) to race; restricting exercise in Old English Sheepdogs with exertional lactic acidosis (abnormally high levels of acids in the blood); and not allowing Bedlington and West Highland White Terriers with copper-associated liver disease to come into contact with copper.

Old English Sheepdog

There’s more to the Old English Sheepdog (OES) than meets the eye. For starters, the breed originated around 200 years ago, which means these fluffy dogs aren’t particularly old compared to ancient canine breeds. And while the OES likely hails from the west of England, the Old English Sheepdog Club of America (OESCA) says the breed’s ancestry could include dogs from Scotland and even Russia. Finally, the Old English Sheepdog’s original duties weren’t limited to sheep: These woolly work dogs were employed to move both sheep and cattle from the farm to the local market. 

But when it comes to their appearance and demeanor, the OES is largely as advertised. With a body like a panda covered in shag carpet—and a head reminiscent of the Truffula tree from Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax—the dogs are as jolly and playful as they look. Just don’t let the Old English Sheepdog’s size (60–100 pounds) fool you into thinking the breed is content to laze the day away. These gentle giants were bred to work and need plenty of mental and physical exercise to stay healthy and happy. 

Caring for an Old English Sheepdog

The OESCA describes the breed as a “hardy, intelligent herding dog” with a “happy, rough-and-tumble disposition.” Though they were bred to work, Old English Sheepdogs make excellent family companions and can thrive indoors with daily opportunities to stretch their mind and body. While they are loving to family members of all ages, the breed may need time to warm up to people and other animals they don’t know.

The Old English Sheepdog’s incredible shaggy coat is a source of both allure and hesitation for potential pet parents. The OESCA says grooming needn’t be a deterrent, but you do need to set aside a minimum of three or four hours a week to keep their fur free from debris and matting.  

Old English Sheepdog Health Issues

The Old English Sheepdog is a generally healthy breed with a life span of 10–12 years. Still, the breed is predisposed to some health problems, which is why it’s so important to find a responsible breeder who screens for the following conditions:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, resulting in a looseness that leads to degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). 

Common signs include:


Reluctance to get up or jump

Shifting of weight to front legs

Loss of muscle mass in back legs

Hip pain

Mild cases can be managed with interventions like physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications. In more advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy 

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an umbrella term for a family of eye disorders in which the rods and cones of the retina either don’t develop properly in puppies (early-onset PRA) or begin deteriorating in adulthood (late-onset PRA). 

Signs of the disease include:

Reluctance to enter dark spaces

Clumsiness (especially in dark spaces)

Dilated pupils that constrict slowly in response to light

Eyes that are more reflective in the dark


There is no cure for PRA, and the condition eventually leads to blindness.

Autoimmune Thyroiditis  

Autoimmune thyroiditis causes a dog’s immune system to create inflammation that damages healthy thyroid tissue. It’s the most common cause of canine primary hypothyroidism, meaning the thyroid gland isn’t able to make enough thyroxine, the hormone that controls metabolism. 

Signs include:

Weight gain 


Hair loss (usually along the trunk, base of the tail, chest, nose bridge)

Dull, dry coat

Cold intolerance

Skin darkening

Recurrent skin and ear infections

Dogs with autoimmune thyroiditis are typically given a synthetic hormone (as an oral tablet) for the rest of their life.

Exercise-Induced Collapse  

Exercise-induced collapse (EIC) is a nervous system disorder that can cause dogs to collapse with excitement or stress in response to continuous intense exercise, particularly in warm weather. Affected dogs tend to experience weakness in their back legs first, and they may continue to walk or run while dragging their rear limbs, but symptoms can vary in severity.

EIC episodes aren’t painful, and dogs are typically back to normal after resting for 5–25 minutes. Treatment involves avoiding known and potential trigger activities. Because this condition is hereditary, responsible breeders should screen their pups for this condition before breeding.

Dilated Cardiomyopathy 

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease in which the heart muscle becomes larger and stretches out. This weakens the muscle’s ability to contract and pump oxygenated blood to the dog’s body. 

The signs of the disease are caused by either a lack of oxygen-rich blood in the body or fluid backup in the lungs. They include:

Rapid breathing


Blue gums or tongue

Wet coughing

Labored breathing

Exercise intolerance


Decreased appetite

Swollen belly

Fainting or collapse

There isn’t a cure for DCM, but the disease is typically managed with medications that decrease the heart’s workload, improve the heart’s efficiency, and remove fluid from the lungs. 

Congenital Deafness 

Most cases of deafness in dogs are hereditary and congenital (meaning present at birth) and are associated with white pigmentation. One or both ears can be affected. Though the condition is permanent, with some adjustments and training, dogs with hearing loss can live a happy, healthy life. 

Cerebellar Abiotrophy

Cerebellar abiotrophy (CA) is a condition in which the cells of the cerebellum (the part of the brain that regulates control and coordination of voluntary movement) develop normally before birth but then deteriorate over time. 

There is no treatment for CA. In Old English Sheepdogs, signs tend to appear in young or mature adults and include:

Poor balance

Wide stance

Stiff or high-stepping walk

Inability to climb stairs or stand without help

Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia

Cilia are hairlike structures that line various body organs, including the upper and lower respiratory tracts, auditory tubes, spinal canal, and brain ventricles, where they help move cells or surrounding fluids and also serve as a filter. But in dogs with primary ciliary dyskinesia, ciliary movement is uncoordinated or even completely absent. 

This can lead to:

Wet, productive coughing during exercise

Nasal discharge

Fast breathing and shortness of breath

Chronic sneezing and coughing that may produce mucous and pus

Infertility in males

The disease is typically managed with lifestyle modifications, oxygen therapy, and antibiotics when needed. 

Multidrug Sensitivity

Dogs affected by multidrug resistance 1 (MDR1) drug sensitivity are at risk of serious and even life-threatening complications after receiving specific doses of certain medications. The condition is caused by a genetic variant that allows drugs and toxins to build up and even cross into the brain. 

Signs of drug toxicity related to MDR1 drug sensitivity include:



Uncoordinated movement





There isn’t a cure for the condition, but it can be managed by avoiding certain medications and decreasing doses. 

What To Feed an Old English Sheepdog

No two Old English Sheepdogs are the same, so you’ll need to partner with your veterinarian to develop a feeding plan that’s nutritionally complete and balanced for your pup’s age, size, and health history. 

How To Feed an Old English Sheepdog

Most adult dogs should eat two meals a day: once in the morning and again in the evening. Because Old English Sheepdog puppies have a higher metabolism than adult dogs, it’s generally best to add a midday feeding, for a total of three meals. 

How Much Should You Feed an Old English Sheepdog?

Look at the nutrition label on your dog’s food bag. It should include a recommended daily feeding guide that will give you a general idea of how much to feed your OES based on their weight.

For a more accurate amount, ask your veterinarian. They will tailor their recommendation not only to your dog’s weight, but also to body condition score, lifestyle, and health needs.  

Nutritional Tips for Old English Sheepdogs

If your OES is eating a complete and balanced diet of dog food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), they shouldn’t need anything extra. However, nutritional supplements and even prescription diets are sometimes used to treat certain health conditions. Talk to your veterinarian before adding anything new to your dog’s diet. 

Behavior and Training Tips for Old English Sheepdogs

All dogs benefit from early socialization and training, but these investments can be especially important for large working dogs. Old English Sheepdogs have the size, energy, and power to cause unintentional harm without proper direction, such as knocking people down when jumping up to say hi.

Old English Sheepdog Personality and Temperament

The Old English Sheepdog is an intelligent, affectionate, fun-loving family dog who can be a gentle, playful companion for people of all ages—though their size means that proper precautions should be taken around small kids.

Bred to work, Old English Sheepdogs have a moderate energy level and need daily physical and mental enrichment. With their background in herding and protecting livestock, they can be wary of other animals and may need time to warm up to new people.

Old English Sheepdog Behavior

Old English Sheepdogs were bred to work alongside people, and they’d still like to be by their humans’ sides. Without proper companionship and opportunities to use their brain and body, the breed can become bored, which can lead to behavior issues like excessive barking and chewing. 

Old English Sheepdog Training

All dogs go through a critical development period from birth to around 16 weeks. During this time, they learn how to interact with humans and other animals. Talk to your breeder about how to approach socialization, as this can have repercussions in adulthood.

Old English Sheepdogs are intelligent pupils and are typically eager to please their humans. Because of their large size, obedience training is an important part of keeping your dog and your family members (especially the youngest ones) safe.

Consistent positive training that uses rewards instead of punishment is the best approach for these affable dogs. The training process is also a great way to provide Old English Sheepdogs with mental and physical exercise. 

Fun Activities for Old English Sheepdogs

Long walks



Obedience training

Skills training

Agility training

Food puzzles

Old English Sheepdog Grooming Guide

The Old English Sheepdog’s coat is perhaps the breed’s most attention-grabbing feature. It might also be the feature that demands the most attention from the pet parent. All that fluff requires a weekly commitment to regular brushing and care, but both you and your pup will benefit from the one-on-one time. 

Skin Care

Good coat care is the key to good skin care. Moisture, dirt, fecal matter, and other debris such as burrs can get stuck against the skin thanks to the Sheepdog’s thick coat. Cuts and other skin issues can also easily go unnoticed.

Regular grooming can help keep skin clean and free from irritation and can give you an opportunity to check for scrapes and bumps. 

Coat Care 

Old English Sheepdogs have a double coat, and you should be prepared to spend three to four hours every week thoroughly brushing it out. Regular trims at the groomer can help make this task easier, but it will still be a time commitment. Without weekly brushing, the fur can easily become dirty and matted, which is unpleasant for both you and your dog. 

Eye Care 

Old English Sheepdogs’ characteristic peek-a-boo appearance is adorable, but what’s easy on your eyes may not be easy on your pet’s. In addition to obscuring vision, their facial fur can trap things like twigs and leaves next to their eyes.

Check their eyes daily for potential problems, especially after outside play. You can also trim the hair around their eyes or even tie it into a sporty bun. 

Ear Care

Avoid letting the fur under the ears become matted (as this can support bacterial and fungal growth) and check your dog’s ears for irritants like burrs after outdoor play. If you notice your dog’s ears are red or hot to the touch, or if they smell bad and seem to be bothering your pup, contact your veterinarian.

Considerations for Pet Parents

The OESCA has put together a list of needs (and potential annoyances) you should be prepared for before bringing home an Old English Sheepdog. If you can answer the questions below with a hearty “Yes!” you might be ready for an OES:

Do I have space for a dog of this size in my home? (Remember, they can weigh up to 100 pounds as adults and do best as inside dogs. Consider how you will transport them to and from the vet, as well.)

Can I devote three to four hours a week to brushing their coat?

Do I have the time to provide my dog with mental and physical exercise every day? And can I give them the daily companionship they need? (Old English Sheepdogs don’t do well when they’re alone for long periods.) 

Am I OK with having long, white fur on my clothes and furniture? With having wet, muddy paws and fur in my home on rainy or snowy days? With dripping whiskers after my dog drinks water? With some drooling?

Am I financially prepared to provide veterinary care, food, grooming, etc.? (Keep in mind that some of these things cost more for big dogs. For example, big dogs eat more food, and their medications are often more expensive.)

Can I provide my dog with the love and attention they need for their lifetime? (Old English sheepdogs can live 10–12 years or more.)

Old English Sheepdog FAQs

Is an Old English Sheepdog a good family dog?

Old English Sheepdogs look sweet, gentle, and fun because they are sweet, gentle, and fun. They do best in families who can provide plenty of attention and daily mental and physical activities. And while they can be loving companions to people of all ages, size matters. Interactions with small children should be closely monitored to avoid their being unintentionally harmed. 

Do Old English Sheepdogs shed?

Despite boasting some of the most luscious locks in the animal kingdom, Old English Sheepdogs are surprisingly average when it comes to shedding. Still, the hair will end up on your clothes and furniture, and the hair they do lose will be extra long. 

Do Old English Sheepdogs bark a lot?

Old English Sheepdogs aren’t particularly vocal, but they may alert you if people or other animals are approaching your house. Training can help keep barking at a minimum. 

How much do Old English Sheepdogs cost?

A purebred Old English Sheepdog puppy will likely cost $1,000–$3,000. It’s very important to find a breeder who is committed to the health of their dogs over profit.

The OESCA maintains a list of breeders who are club members in good standing and have signed the club’s Code of Ethics. If you would like to add an older dog to your family, try contacting an Old English Sheepdog rescue facility. 

Featured Image: iStock/chendongshan

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Sarah Mouton Dowdy

Sarah Mouton Dowdy has been writing about animal health since 2016, the same year she and her husband not-so-coincidentally adopted…

Types of Heartworm Preventive Treatment Products

By Jennifer Kvamme, DVM

When it’s time to purchase heartworm preventive medication for your dog or cat, you have several options to choose from. In order to purchase any of these heartworm medications, however, you must first have your dog or cat tested for heartworms.

If the test comes back negative, your veterinarian will then suggest a heartworm medication that will work best for your dog or cat’s particular needs. It’s very important to prevent this deadly disease, as prevention is much safer, easier, and cheaper than treatment. These heartworm medications are all very effective at prevention, as long as they are given in the proper dose on a regular schedule. 

The American Heartworm Society recommends that animals living in all parts of the U.S. be given heartworm preventive medications on a year-round basis. Here we will discuss some of the common options available on the market today.

Oral Monthly Heartworm Medications

The heartworm preventives you are probably most familiar with are the once monthly tablets or chewables. These products typically contain either ivermectin or milbemycin as the active ingredient. In the past, a heartworm medication was available containing diethylcarbamazine, but it had to be given daily to be effective. This drug has been since removed from the market, as newer products that are more effective have since emerged.

Many of the various oral heartworm medications available today have more than one function. Some will not only kill heartworm larvae, but will also eliminate internal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms, and/or whipworms. There is an oral product available that includes ingredients that also work to eliminate fleas by stopping them from producing live eggs.

The good thing about these types of heartworm medications is that they only need to be given once a month for prevention. You need to watch your dog or cat to be sure he/she chews the entire piece or tablet and doesn’t spit any of it out. Otherwise, the heartworm medication loses its effectiveness. Dogs or cats that have an allergy to beef products may not be able to take a flavored, chewable product. Your vet can provide a possible alternative if this is the case for you.

Topical (Spot-on) Heartworm Medications

There are a few topical heartworm preventive medications available for both dogs and cats. These heartworm medications are applied monthly to the back of the dog or cat’s neck, or between the shoulder blades on the skin. Not only do these preventives protect against heartworms, they also kill fleas. Those heartworm preventives made with selamectin can work to eliminate ear mites, mange mites, and ticks (in dogs only), and will even kill some internal parasites (in cats).

Moxidectin is another active ingredient in topical heartworm preventives available for both dogs and cats. This ingredient (along with imidacloprid) works on heartworm larvae and fleas, as well as hookworms, whipworms, and roundworms in dogs — and ear mites, roundworms, and hookworms in cats.

Some dogs and cats may not like having the spot-on applied to their skin and will rub themselves against furniture, carpet, etc., after application, in their attempts to remove it. These heartworm preventives are toxic if ingested, so you may need to watch or isolate your dog or cat to be sure he/she doesn’t come into contact with children or other animals for a time after application (to prevent product from getting on hands, or from animals grooming each other).

Injectable Heartworm Medication 

Moxidectin can also be used for dogs as an injectable heartworm medication for up to six months with one injection. This heartworm preventive not only kills heartworm larvae, it also eliminates hookworms in dogs. It is not available for use with cats.

The product has gone through some safety concerns and was voluntarily taken off the market in 2004 after reports of side effects. In 2008, the product was returned to the veterinary market with restrictions on its use. Veterinarians must administer this heartworm medication to their patients, and this is only after intensive training in its proper use. Your veterinarian is also required to record the lot number of the product used for your dog and must report any adverse effects that may come up. 

No matter which medication you prefer to give your dog or cat, make sure you read labels closely and follow all instructions for use. Tell your veterinarian if your dog or cat shows signs of illness after administration, and be sure to have your dog or cat tested yearly for heartworms.


 Image: WilleeCole / via Shutterstock

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Jennifer Kvamme, DVM


How To Train a Dog With Positive Reinforcement

What Is Positive Reinforcement?

You may have heard the term “positive reinforcement” and possibly some descriptions of what it means. The term actually has two meanings: It is a process that helps dogs (actually, all pets) learn new skills, and is also used to identify a group of trainers who use positive reinforcement as their main method of training.

Compared with other methods, positive reinforcement strengthens behavior, builds trusting relationships between pet parents and their animal companions, and protects the behavioral health of pets. 

Simply put, reinforcement is a process that strengthens a behavior. There are two categories of reinforcement: positive and negative.

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement

The “positive” in positive reinforcement doesn’t mean “good.” It means “added.” Reinforcement means to make something stronger. When using this method to train a pup, you add something immediately after the behavior that will strengthen that behavior throughout the dog’s training. The thing we add is typically something the dog likes or wants, like a treat or a belly rub. If the behavior doesn’t happen consistently over a period of time, positive reinforcement has not been achieved.

An example would be teaching your dog to potty outdoors instead of on your new hardwood floors. When your dog begins to eliminate, wait quietly until they finish. Once they do, deliver a few delicious treats and verbal praise. This will create a desire for them to do their business outside and collect their prize. This should now happen more because it is being positively reinforced.

If you are training your dog and the desired behavior is not happening more often when asked, then you are not successfully using positive reinforcement. “Positive reinforcement doesn’t work” is a statement that isn’t actually true. It is more accurate to say that “positive reinforcement has not occurred,” which means there is something wrong with the execution. 

The dog also decides what has a reinforcing effect and what does not. For example, a dog that just ate a full meal might not find food as reinforcing as access to outside or play to burn off the energy from their meal. On the other hand, a dog that has been exercising for an hour and has not been fed in several hours may find food highly reinforcing.

Negative Reinforcement

The concept of negative reinforcement, a complex component of learning, also leads to a similar confusion. “Negative” does not mean bad; It means “subtracted.” Positive and negative reinforcement are similar because they both strengthen behavior.

Positive reinforcement means adding something immediately after a behavior occurs and negative reinforcement means taking something away immediately after the behavior occurs. With negative reinforcement, the “something” that is taken away or removed is usually something the dog does not find pleasant and would like to avoid. For example, if there is something happening the dog thinks is scary, like a person running toward them or trying to pet them, they may snap at them. If the scary thing stops or goes away, then snapping may have been negatively reinforced.

Negative reinforcement is a tricky process. It is often confused with punishment, and when used traditionally it is not a humane way to train your pet. That’s because they must be confronted with something they want to avoid—something they perceive as painful, scary, intimidating, or threatening. The minute a person adds something negative to a pet’s environment, there is fallout. Three major fallouts of using negative reinforcement are:

Creating a negative conditioned emotional response

Eroding trust with the handler

Increasing fear, anxiety, and stress

Positive Reinforcement Is Also a Movement

Positive reinforcement is also a movement based on the philosophy that, as professionals and pet parents, we should be focused on strengthening the behavior we want to see, as opposed to reacting and punishing behavior we don’t want to see.

Because of the way punishment is often used, it comes with multiple potential fallouts, like a statistical increase of fear-based behaviors and probability of aggression. Training is a tool that should serve as a fun and rewarding way to communicate with your dog.  

How Do You Use Positive Reinforcement?

When training your dog with positive reinforcement, you deliver a physical or verbal prompt for a behavior, wait for the dog to complete the behavior, and deliver something the dog wants. Repeat this process several times to assess the change in the behavior. Is the dog sitting more reliably, more frequently, or faster?

It’s not enough to say, “I gave my dog a treat after he sat so I used positive reinforcement.” You may have done this, but if sitting on cue doesn’t happen more often, you have not positively reinforced the behavior. 

Markers are also a helpful tool. Clickers are one of the more popular markers used in training. They help communicate to the dog exactly what they did to earn the reinforcer. It’s used to mark the exact moment the dog has completed the task and right before the reinforcer is delivered. For example, if you ask your dog to sit, wait for the moment your dog’s bottom contacts the floor and then immediately use the marker to “mark” that moment. Then deliver the treat. Working with a certified professional trainer can help get you clicking in no time.

Tips on Using Positive Reinforcement

Be sure you are actually using it: Track your training so you know that what you are working on is getting better. That is, when you ask your dog to sit, are they doing it immediately every time you ask?

Training environments: Ensure there is very little distraction when practicing a new behavior with your dog.

Select your reinforcers with care: In a structured session, use something you know will be satisfying to your dog. Remember, they decide what is reinforcing and what is not.

Use a marker: Marking the behavior functions as a secondary reinforcer as long as the marker—clicker or word—is paired with the primary reinforcer.

Sessions should be short and fun: Select one skill, work on it for 5 minutes, add verbal praise to your primary reinforcer, take breaks, and end the session while the dog is still enjoying it.

Most importantly, have fun!

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Erika Lessa, CBST, CDBT, CDBC, CPDT-KA, Fear-Free Certified


Erika Lessa has been helping pet parents live quality lives with their dogs through education and coaching as a certified behavior…

Sjögren-like Syndrome in Dogs

Sjögren-like syndrome is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease seen in adult dogs. Similar to the eponymous human illness, this syndrome is typically characterized by dry eyes, dry mouth, and glandular inflammation due to the infiltration of lymphocytes and plasma cells (white blood cells which produce antibodies). It is also associated with other autoimmune or immune-mediated diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and pemphigus.

The underlying cause of Sjögren-like syndrome is currently unknown.  However, autoantibodies which attack the glandular tissues are thought to be a factor. Dog breeds that are more prone to this syndrome include the English bulldog, West Highland white terrier, and miniature schnauzer.  (Cats do not seem to develop this Sjögren-like syndrome.)

Symptoms and Types

Typically, the onset of symptoms associated with Sjögren-like syndrome begin once the dog reaches adulthood. Such symptoms include:

Dry eyes due to insufficient tear production (keratoconjuctivitis sicca); most prominent clinical feature Inflammation of the tissues around the eye (conjunctivitis) Inflammation of the cornea (keratitis) Abnormal eye twitching (blepharospasm) Redness of the tissue around the eyes Corneal lesions (opacity to ulceration) Inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) Ulcers in the mouth (stomatitis)


Because it develops concurrently with other immune-mediated and autoimmune diseases, there appears to be an immunologic factor to Sjögren-like syndrome. Some dog breeds may also be genetically predisposed to this disease.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a complete blood count, biochemistry profile, and urinalysis. Your veterinarian may also employ a Schirmer tear test to determine if the tear production is at a normal rate (0 to 5 millimeters per minute).

A few common serological results seen in dogs with Sjögren-like syndrome include:

Hypergammaglobulinemia (lots of antibodies in the blood) revealed by serum protein electrophoresis. Positive antinuclear antibody test Positive lupus erythematosus (immune-disorder causing skin disease) cell test Positive rheumatoid factor test (immune-disorder causing arthritis) Positive indirect fluorescent antibody test for autoantibodies (antibodies the animal may have against its own body)


Often directed at managing concurrent diseases and controlling controlling keratoconjunctivitis sicca. This entails the use of topical tear preparations, immunosuppressive or anti-inflammatory drugs, and topical antibiotics for secondary bacterial infection of the cornea. Dogs that do not respond well the these methods may require surgery.

Living and Management

Your veterinarian will schedule regular follow-up appointments to examine the dog’s progress and manage concurrent diseases and side effects associated with immunosuppressive drugs.

Silky Terrier

Originally a cross between the Yorkshire and Australian Terriers, the Silky Terrier was eventually recognized as a separate breed. It is a friendly and joyful lapdog with a beautiful blue and tan coat.

Physical Characteristics

The Silky Terrier’s refined body, which is long compared to its height, enables the dog to have a light-footed and free gait. Originally bred to terminate small rodents, this miniature variety of a working terrier retains the features required for a vermin hunter. Its expression is keen, while its blue and tan coat is silky, straight, and glossy, countering the body instead of falling to the ground.

Personality and Temperament

The clever Silky Terrier can be mischievous and has a tendency to bark excessively. It is unlike any other soft lapdog: feisty, curious, playful and bold. Because of this, some Silky Terriers are known to be scrappy towards other pets or dogs.


Even though this terrier is hardy, it is not suited for outdoor living. The Silky Terrier is also an active breed, requiring more exercise than the average toy terrier. Its exercise requirements can be met with vigorous indoor or outdoor games, or a moderate on-leash walk; however, it prefers an opportunity to roam and explore on its own (just make sure it is done in a secure area). Its coat, meanwhile, requires combing or brushing on alternate days.


The Silky Terrier, which has a lifespan of about 11 to 14 years, may suffer from minor problems like patellar luxation and Legg-Perthes disease. Diabetes, epilepsy, allergies, tracheal collapse, and Cushing’s disease may sometimes be seen in this breed as well. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run knee and elbow exams on the dog.

History and Background

The ancestor of the Silky Terrier, developed in Australia in the late 19th century, was the Yorkshire Terrier. Early on the Silky Terrier had an attractive tan and steel blue coloration, which was crossed with blue and tan Australian Terriers to enhance its color of the coat while retaining its robust form.

The dogs that stemmed from these crosses were originally referred to as Australian Terriers or Yorkshire Terriers. Some breeders, however, thought they initiated the development of a different breed altogether and displayed these dogs as Silky Terriers. But by interbreeding the Silky Terriers, a true breeding strain developed. As two disparate areas in Australia were chosen for the breed’s development, different breed standards were set in 1906, and again in 1909 and 1926.

The most popular name for the breed in Australia was Sydney Silky Terrier, but in 1955 it was altered to the Australian Silky Terrier. In the same year, the Sidney Silky Terrier Club of America held its first meeting, later changing its club name to the Silky Terrier Club of America. It was not until 1959 that the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. Today, it is considered a joyful yet mischievous lapdog.

Thunderstorm Phobias in Dogs

Reviewed for accuracy on March 2, 2022 by Dr. Lauren Jones, VMD

Dog thunderstorm anxiety is a disorder characterized by a persistent and exaggerated fear of storms, or the stimuli that are associated with storms. This phobia is complicated and sometimes difficult to manage because it involves physiologic, emotional, and behavioral components.

Thunderstorm phobia occurs in both dogs and cats, but dogs are more susceptible to this type of fear.

Why Are Dogs Scared of Thunder?

The exact cause of dog storm anxiety is unknown, but it may include a combination of the following factors:

Lack of exposure to storms early in development

Unintentional reinforcement of the fear response by owners

A genetic predisposition for emotional reactivity (the condition appears to be more common in herding breeds)

Dogs can react to a variety of stimuli associated with storms, including the sound of thunder, dropping barometric pressure, rain, flashes of lightening, and electrical charges within the air.

What Are the Signs of Dog Storm Anxiety?

Dogs can exhibit a variety of responses or behaviors in reaction to a thunderstorm. Some common signs of a thunderstorm phobia include:




Hiding or remaining near the owner



Excessive vocalization

Self-inflicted trauma


How Is a Thunderstorm Phobia in Dogs Diagnosed?

Your veterinarian will need to rule out any conditions that can cause similar behavioral responses, such as separation anxiety, pain, and neurologic problems.

Additional testing may be necessary to ensure that the dog is healthy enough to be given anti-anxiety medications, if that is deemed necessary.

How Does Thunderstorm Anxiety Affect Your Dog Physically?

Fear, anxiety, and stress can affect body systems in a variety of ways, including:

Cardiovascular—high heart rate

Endocrine/metabolic—increased cortisol levels, stress-induced hyperglycemia

Gastrointestinal—inappetence, gastrointestinal upset

Musculoskeletal—trauma resulting from escape attempts

Respiratory—rapid breathing

Skin—acral lick dermatitis (skin damage due to chronic licking that is thought to release endorphins and promote a sense of calm)

If your dog’s thunderstorm phobia is severe, and storms occur with some regularity where you live, the chronic effects could lead to a decreased quality of life and potentially problems like immune dysfunction and an increased risk of infection.

Talk with your veterinarian to decide the best way to approach and help manage your dog’s anxiety-induced behaviors.

What Can You Do to Relieve Dog Storm Anxiety?

Most dogs cannot be cured of their thunderstorm phobias, but management is possible. In a study published in 2003, 30 out of 32 dogs showed significant improvement in their symptoms with appropriate therapy.

Comfort Your Dog

It’s perfectly acceptable to offer comfort if your dog seeks it during a storm. It’s a common misconception that doing so might accidentally reinforce your dog’s fear, but fear is a visceral response that can’t be altered by a petting or kind words.

Create a Calming Environment

Playing some calming music to mask the sound of the storm and offering your dog a food puzzle or chew might help your dog refocus during a storm. Plan ahead and try to anticipate noxious events. Watch the news to anticipate weather events so you can begin calming your dog before it even begins.

Create a safe, calm space where your pet cannot hurt themselves, such as a crate. You can even cover the crate with a blanket to decrease visual stimulus and mute sounds. You can also decrease auditory stimulus by conditioning your dog to wearing headphones or using cotton balls in their ears.

Try a Dog Anxiety Vest

Body wraps like the ThunderShirt ease anxiety in fearful dogs, but allow your dog enough time to acclimate to a ThunderShirt prior to using it during a storm. Introduce the garment slowly and use treats to help your dog make a positive association to it. The Thundercap is a great addition to the Thundershirt to allow your dog to comfortably move around while decreasing noxious stimulants like flashing lights.

Surround Them With Dog-Appeasing Pheromones

Calming pheromones like those included in Adaptil diffusers, collars, and sprays are another good option.

Give Them Calming Supplements 

Anxiety-relieving nutritional supplements like Nutramax Solliquin calming chews and VetriScience Composure behavioral health chews may also help dogs that are scared of thunder or other stimuli associated with storms.

Ask Your Vet About Anti-Anxiety Medications and Behavioral Modification

Prescription anti-anxiety medications for dogs are sometimes needed with more severe storm phobias or for dogs who do not respond to over-the-counter treatments. Your veterinarian can also recommend a behavioral modification plan to help your dog learn to remain calm when a thunderstorm approaches.

While your veterinarian has many prescription options to help treat thunderstorm phobia, you may want to talk to them about the product Sileo – it is the first and only FDA-approved noise aversion treatment for dogs. 

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Bacterial Infection (Nocardiosis) in Dogs

Nocardiosis in Dogs

Nocardiosis is an uncommon infectious disease affecting several body systems, including the respiratory, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems. Both dogs and cats may become exposed to the infectious, saphrophytic organism, which nourishes itself from dead or decaying matter in the soil. Typically, the exposure occurs either through open wounds or via inhalation.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of nocardiosis are largely dependent on the site of infection. If, for example, it occurs in the pleural body cavity, which includes the lungs and surrounding membranes, symptoms can include emaciation, fever, and raspy, labored breathing (dyspnea). If it is a skin infection, symptoms can include the presence of chronic non-healing wounds and, if left untreated, draining lymph nodes. If the infection is not localized in one specific area of the body, the symptoms may include fever, weight loss, and lethargic behavior. Also known as disseminated nocardiosis, this form of nocardiosis is most common in young dogs.


The infectious organism is found in the soil and can enter the dog’s body through open wounds or through the respiratory tract, when it inhales. Nocardia asteroides is the most common species affecting dogs. However, they may also be susceptible to Proactinomyces spp., but it is very rare.

In addition, dogs with compromised immune systems or those suffering from autoimmune diseases increases the likelihood of this type of Nocardia infection.


Your veterinarian will analyze cells from the dog’s thorax or abdomen to identify the causative organism. Other diagnostic procedures, such as X-rays and urine analysis, are employed to rule out other potential causes, including fungal infections and tumors.


Treatment for nocardiosis is largely dependent upon the site of infection and subsequent symptoms. If pleural effusion is apparent, hospitalization will be necessary to prevent dehydration. Surgical drainage of the fluid may even be required. Otherwise, long-term antibiotic therapy is vital for fighting off the infection.

Living and Management

Because nocardiosis frequently affects the musculoskeletal and central nervous system, it is imperative that you carefully monitor the dog for fever, weight loss, seizures, breathing difficulties, and lameness for at least one year after therapy.


General cleanliness and frequent disinfection of your dog’s wounds or cuts may help prevent this type of infection, especially if your dog has a weakened immune system.

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

What Is Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs?

The canine elbow is a complex articulating joint made up of three bones: the humerus, the radius, and the ulna. These bones work together to allow a dog to bend, run, and play.

Elbow dysplasia is a condition related to abnormal bone growth and/or development that alters the function of this joint, leading to abnormal weight distribution, pain, and arthritis—which most certainly affect a dog’s ability to bend, run, and play. Elbow dysplasia is seen more often in younger, large-breed dogs. 

Typically, elbow dysplasia is diagnosed as having four lesions, involving different parts of the joint:

Ununited anconeal process (UAP): UAP occurs when there has been separation of the anconeal process, a part of the ulna. This is usually noted at 4-8 months of age. Initially, the anconeal process is held by fibrous tissue to the ulna, but due to variable factors like trauma, it fails to fuse or becomes detached and the joint becomes unstable.Fragmented coronoid process (FCP): FCP occurs when the coronoid process, a part of the ulna, fails to attach to the rest of the bone. It is problematic because that piece aids in the articulating surface of the joint. Without it, looseness, inflammation, and arthritis develop within the joint.Osteochondrosis of the medial humeral condyle: During development, cartilage eventually turns into bone, but in this case, that process doesn’t occur. So, where bone should be—specifically, where the medial condyle attaches to the humerus—cartilage, instead of bone, becomes the articulating surface. This can subsequently flake off, causing pain, swelling, and lameness. Medial compartment disease (MCD): MCD occurs when an abnormal amount of pressure from one joint surface erodes the other articulating joint surface, causing bone to become exposed, inflamed, and painful. This form of dysplasia carries the worse prognosis, as it cannot be reversed, and the cartilage cannot be replaced. Surgery may be a possibility, but further research is needed.< img src="78746/Elbow dysplasia in dog.jpeg">


Symptoms of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Dogs are typically not screened for elbow dysplasia, unless it is known to have occurred in the dog’s bloodline, or the breed is predisposed. Most signs are fairly noticeable to the pet parent and the veterinarian, but some can be subtle, making the condition hard to diagnose. Dogs most often experience:

Lameness or limping in one or both forelimbs, sometimes seen with a head bob. Most dogs will still be able to bear weight on the limb

Swollen elbow

Thickened joint

Decreased range of motion

Pain on manipulation of the joint

Elbow bulges out toward the side

Abnormal gait

Hesitant to run or play as before

Causes of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Elbow dysplasia is thought to be an inherited condition, but it has also been associated with:

Prior trauma

Nutritional imbalances or deficiencies

Defects in cartilage growth or bone development

Hormonal factors

Certain large-dog breeds are predisposed to the condition, which more often affects both elbows rather than one. These include:

Bernese Mountain Dogs

Labrador Retrievers

German Shepherds




How Veterinarians Diagnose Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

A physical exam will help localize the source of pain and discomfort to the elbow before x-rays will be taken of the limb. Sometimes, in order to obtain more accurate diagnostic images, your dog may need to be sedated or anesthetized. X-rays are almost always taken of the opposite limb as well for comparison purposes and to determine if disease is present in that elbow as well.

If the signs cannot be determined on x-rays, a CT scan or arthroscopy (scoping, using a camera called an arthroscope, to take images of the elbow joint) may be ordered. In some cases, treatment of the condition can also occur during the arthroscopic procedure.

Treatment of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The goal of any treatment for elbow dysplasia is to slow the progression of arthritis and allow the dog to use the elbow properly. Surgery is by far the most recommended course of treatment, not only to remove any diseased or damaged tissue but also to return functional ability to the joint. Surgery should be performed as soon as possible in order to prevent further joint trauma.

It is important to note, however, that even with surgery, some degree of arthritis will develop. Because most surgeries are aimed at removing the part that is causing the dysplasia, the joint will be missing vital structures and won’t fit perfectly together.

Given the technical prowess needed for repair, arthroscopic surgery is often preferred, as it is minimally invasive. This is usually performed by a veterinary orthopedic surgeon. 

Dogs that are not candidates for surgery are treated supportively with:

Medications aimed at decreasing pain and inflammation, such as NSAIDs like Rimadyl®, Galliprant®, and meloxicam

Joint supplements containing glucosamine and chondroitin, which help decrease inflammation, promote healing, and retain water, giving the joint more cushioning (similar to WD-40 for gears)

Weight management, as any additional weight is that much more problematic for the joint

Adequan®, an injectable medication that inhibits cartilage loss, to help restore joint lubrication and relieve inflammation

How Much Does Elbow Dysplasia Surgery Cost?

Cost and the ability to properly care for your dog post-op and throughout the rehabilitation process should be strong considerations in determining the best course of treatment for your dog. Of course, this should be a conversation you have with your veterinarian, but most surgeries cost $1,500-$4,000 per elbow, depending on your region.

Recovery and Management of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

The prognosis for elbow dysplasia in dogs is good long-term, especially if degeneration is minimal or not apparent. The recovery period is often several weeks followed by several more of physical therapy and rehabilitation. It’s important to follow through, as this will often lead your dog to a faster recovery and better outcome than surgery alone.

Rehabilitation with passive range-of-motion exercises, massage, acupuncture, or even physical therapy will be recommended and should be pursued in order to provide the best return to function as soon as possible. Additionally, exercise restriction will be important long-term, along with minimizing the impact of running, especially on hard flooring. 

Dogs that cannot undergo surgery for one reason or another can live a long time with the condition. However, degenerative changes will develop over time, along with osteoarthritis, and your dog will suffer chronic pain. As such, medications like those mentioned above may be prescribed, along with joint supplements and diets.

Prevention of Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs

Because the condition is thought to have a genetic component, any pets with elbow dysplasia should be spayed or neutered to keep them from passing on the condition. Also, the parents shouldn’t be bred again.

Minimizing trauma or additional stress to the joints—by, for example, keeping your dog from jumping down from furniture or going up and down stairs—may be helpful, as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Screening your puppy for this condition with x-rays would be advisable if your puppy is a breed susceptible to the condition.

Elbow Dysplasia in Dogs FAQs

Is elbow dysplasia in dogs curable?

Unfortunately, elbow dysplasia cannot be cured. But it can be well managed. Surgery and medications can give your dog a relatively good quality of life. Playing fetch is not out of the question!

How long can a dog live with elbow dysplasia?

Dogs with minimal arthritis at the time of diagnosis have a much more favorable prognosis than those that have significant arthritis. Fortunately, with surgical therapy, and even with medical management to an extent, dogs with elbow dysplasia can go on to live a fairly healthy life.

Featured Image: iStock/xavierarnau

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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…