Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

by Jean Hofve DVM

Urinary incontinence in dogs, means your dog has the inability to retain urine in his bladder … in other words, bladder leaks.

The urinary system is quite elegant. Urine is produced by the kidneys and fed through the ureters to the bladder. A sphincter (circular muscle) keeps the passage to outside closed until it’s voluntarily opened during urination. At that point, urine flows through the urethra to whatever object your dog decides to gift with his or her scent.

When the sphincter doesn’t stay fully tightened, involuntary leakage occurs. If the bladder is too full, urine can overflow into the urethra and escape. This often happens while your dog is resting or sleeping, or when she gets up from lying down.

Dribbling urine can also be a behavior issue if it happens when your dog is frightened or being submissive.

Signs Of Incontinence In Dogs

I probably don’t need to tell you how you’ll know your dog is incontinent. It’s usually pretty obvious!

The most common sign of urinary incontinence in dogs is wet spots wherever your dog sleeps. 

You might also notice …

  • Dampness around the hindquarters and thighs
  • Dribbling urine as she walks
  • Irritated skin or redness from the dripping (urine is caustic and can burn)
  • Licking the vulva or penis more than usual
  • Dribbling urine when she is excited, frightened, submissive, or stressed

What Causes Incontinence In Dogs

There are many potential causes and contributors to incontinence, including:

What this adds up to is the need for adequate testing to pin down an accurate diagnosis.

Breeds Prone to Incontinence

Research shows that females are more prone to urinary incontinence in dogs than males. Two UK studies found that urinary incontinence affects 3% of females overall, but more than 15% in high risk breeds. These include …

  • Irish Setter
  • Doberman
  • Bearded Collie
  • Rough Collie
  • Dalmatian

Prevalence in males is less than 1%, with breeds affected including …

  • Bull Mastiff
  • Irish Red Setter
  • Fox terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Boxer

Spay/Neuter Increases Incontinence

Urinary incontinence in dogs is more likely in spayed females, especially if they’re spayed early.  One study of 492 female dogs concluded that …

“Neutering itself and early-age neutering (<6 months) are major risk factors for early-onset urinary incontinence.”

Another study found that size was a factor in spayed females developing USMI (urinary sphincter incompetence). For every month neuter was delayed in the dogs’ first year, the risk of USMI was reduced in dogs weighing over 25 kg. The risk did not change for dogs under 15 kg.

So, if you decide to spay your dog of 50 lbs or more, it’s best to defer the procedure as long as you can.

RELATED: Read about other risks of early spay/neuter.

How Vets Diagnose Incontinence

Your vet will do (at least) a thorough physical exam, standard blood tests and urinalysis.

If these tests don’t point to an answer, your vet may do more specialized blood tests, urine culture, radiographs, ultrasound, or other types of scans.

If leaks started when your dog was very young, and the vet suspects an anatomical abnormality like ectopic ureter (see below), she may do a dye “urography” that traces the course of the ureter.

You want to determine the cause of your dog’s incontinence so you can treat it appropriately.  For example …

  • An older spayed female dog is most likely to have estrogen-responsive incontinence from spaying. But you don’t want to waste time and money treating that when the real problem may be something else that requires very different therapies.
  • Ectopic ureters or other anatomical issues may be corrected with surgery.
  • Incontinent dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections. That’s because the presence of urine in the urethra can provide a route for bacteria to climb up to the bladder and set up housekeeping.
  • If the problem is a urinary tract infection or uroliths (stones), then resolving that problem may quickly take care of the incontinence.
  • The same applies to hormonal issues that can be treated appropriately.

PRO TIP

Before we get to the details, my #1 recommendation for any kind of bladder problem is protect your stuff! Managing a dog with incontinence, a UTI, or inappropriate urination for any reason is unpleasant and frustrating.

Waterproof dog beds and washable pee pads make clean-up easy and convenient. If your dog sleeps on the bed, at the very least get a waterproof mattress pad, and perhaps a flannel or comfy waterproof flat sheet to put over the covers. Temporary use of doggy diapers may also reduce the emotional toll on the human family.

Conventional Treatments For Incontinence

There are several conventional approaches to treating incontinence problems.

Phenylpropanolamine (Proin®, Propalin®)

This drug releases chemicals that strengthen the bladder sphincter muscles. It’s not a cure … so if your dog stops taking it, she’ll go back to leaking urine.

Side effects in the manufacturer’s clinical trials included …

  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Restlessness or difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lethargy

Some more serious side effects can occur, usually at higher dosages. These include cardiac issues, tremors and difficulty urinating.

At low doses the risk of side effects is minimal, so some holistic vets may use this drug along with other alternative therapies.

Estrogen (Estriol/Incurin, DES)

This synthetic estrogen drug is often used for females with spay incontinence.  It comes with quite a list of side effects. Studies show adverse effects like …

  • Vomiting
  • Swollen/itchy vulva
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression (leading to euthanasia in some cases)
  • Hyperpigmentation and lichenification of vulva (black skin spots and thickened skin)
  • Hair loss
  • Vaginal hemorrhage
  • Seizures

Those are quite unpleasant side effects. But this drug also has some even more serious risks. It may cause cancer and bone marrow toxicity. There are good non-pharmaceutical substitutes.

Surgery To Correct Anatomical Abnormalities

If your dog’s incontinence is caused by an anatomical abnormality, your vet may recommend surgery.

The most likely kind of abnormality is ectopic ureter. It’s fairly rare, with reported incidence of less than 0.1%.

The ureters transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Ectopic ureter means that one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to the urethra, uterus or vagina. This can cause continual dripping of urine.

This problem is usually seen in 3 to 6 month old dogs, and females are 8 times more prone than males.

High risk breeds for this problem are …

  • Siberian Husky
  • Miniature and Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Collie
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

This condition may be corrected with surgery to redirect the ureter into the bladder.

A less invasive method is cystoscopic-guided laser ablation. It’s done under anesthesia and involves inserting a ureteral catheter into the ectopic ureter. A laser then “ablates” (removes) the wall of the ureter. This effectively moves the opening from the urethra to the bladder. One study showed a 47% success rate for this procedure.

PRO TIP

However you decide to treat your dog’s incontinence … adjust and increase your dog’s potty break time. This will help reduce the amount of urine in the bladder at any one time.  Make sure she goes out to pee before you leave for work or school, and right before bedtime.

Natural Treatments For Incontinence

These are some of my favorite alternative approaches for urinary incontinence In dogs.

Chiropractic, Acupuncture, And Osteopathy

These hands-on treatments are excellent choices that can be very successful in resolving incontinence. They’re especially effective if urinary incontinence in dogs is due to physical issues like spine misalignment, muscle spasms, or nerve injury or impairment.

Read how to find a practitioner under the “Find A Holistic Vet” section below. You may also be able to find a local veterinary rehab facility that offers these modalities.

Herbs And Nutraceuticals

These are some effective options, depending on the cause of your dog’s incontinence.

  • Wild Yam extract has estrogenic and anti-spasmodic effects, but may require fairly high doses (100 mg per 25 lbs. body weight). It’s often included in herbal blends with Rehmannia, licorice, red clover, cranberry, and other herbs. Follow package directions for products intended for dogs. If using a human product, the dose is based on a 150 lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight.
  • Soy isoflavones are the best natural substitute for estrogen, but be sure you choose an organic product, since most soy in the U.S. is GMO (genetically engineered). Vetriscience Vetri-Bladder chews are a good choice; give 1 chew per 30 lbs. body weight once a day. The same dose applies to their canine Bladder Strength tablet, which also contains supportive herbs.
  • Estroven® contains Rheum raponiticum extract. he dose is based on a 150-lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight. It may work by itself or need to be combined with estrogenic herbs. Estrogenic herbs include soy, Mexican wild yam, black cohosh, dong quai, red clover.  It’s best to ask a holistic vet or herbalist for help using these herbs.
  • Herbs that are good for urinary tract infections (if that’s the cause of your dog’s leakage) include cranberrygingerturmericolive leaf, and uva ursi. Cranberry prevents E. coli bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall; olive leaf has antibiotic properties; uva ursi is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory; turmeric and ginger are great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs. They are available in a wide variety of combinations, usually with other natural antioxidants.
  • Anti-arthritic herbs, such as turmeric, ginger, Boswellia, yucca, and barberry, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants work best in combination; many such products are available, but my favorite (which I take myself!) is Boswellia Complex by Standard Process. A small or medium size dog can take 1/2 tablet twice a day; for large and giant breeds, give a whole tablet twice a day. CBD also relieves pain and may be a good adjunct.
  • Chinese herbs are very useful; but it’s important to work with a veterinarian trained and experienced in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. These herbs are powerful, and appropriate formulas must be individualized for your dog.
  • Glandular support. Here again, Standard Process shines. Symplex F is excellent as a replacement for hormones missing due to spaying. Symplex M is for neutered male dogs. Both products also support the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. Both synergize well with Vasculin, which contains a multitude of herbs and vitamins that support healthy blood vessel and nerve function.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from a marine source have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Protein and collagen are both important for any muscle, including the bladder sphincter. The bladder itself is also a muscular organ. Protein is also a natural urinary acidifier. Bone broth and a higher protein diet may be helpful.

Homeopathy

A good homeopath can work virtual miracles. There are many remedies indicated for urinary incontinence in dogs, but it’s important to work with a qualified homeopathic veterinarian. The choice of remedy and potency must be highly individualized for not only incontinence, but also for the dog’s personality, environment, history, and many other factors. 

I have seen homeopathy restore bladder and bowel control in a dog who had been hit by a car, after months of unsuccessful medical management. Find a homeopath at The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH).

RELATED: Homeopathy Basic For Dogs

The next two approaches are newer and less common, but worth exploring with your holistic vet. Studies show promising results with these therapies.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Research has found that injections of Clostridium botulinum toxin into the bladder wall (50-100 botulinum toxin units per animal in 10 injections) successfully prevented recurrence of incontinence in dogs for up to 5 months.

Electrical Stimulation

Researchers are currently experimenting with implants that provide electric stimulation to the nerves in dogs with a spinal cord injury. While it’s not likely to be coming to your local veterinary clinic, veterinary teaching hospitals may incorporate it in the not-too-distant future.

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Support Your Dog’s Overall Health

Finally, as with all chronic health problems, it’s important to keep your dog as healthy overall as you can.

Not all incontinent dogs can be completely cured. But with the right management and therapies, it can be well controlled … so you and your dog can enjoy a long, happy, and puddle-free life together.

What to Feed a Cat for Weight Gain

by Liz Bales DVM

When veterinarians talk about a cat’s weight, it’s usually focused on feline obesity.

While obesity is a prominent health issue among cats, many cats are also struggling with being underweight. And similar to losing weight, gaining weight gain can also be a tricky issue for cats. It’s not just about changing food portions.

First, you’ll need to find out why your cat is losing weight. Then you can determine a plan of action that includes a diet that will safely help your cat return to a healthy weight.

Create a Plan of Action for Your Cat

Once you and your veterinarian have a plan for treating the underlying disease, you can get to the hard work of weight gain. Your veterinarian will likely have specific suggestions for your cat based on their age and medical needs.

A diet that is customized to your cat’s specific medical condition is likely to result in the best outcome. Your vet will also identify your cat’s ideal weight, and can do regular weigh-ins to make sure that your plan is effective and that your cat does not exceed his/her ideal weight.

For sick cats, returning to a healthy weight is about more than just calories. Diets for specific conditions are customized to have the right macronutrients and micronutrients to provide weight gain while addressing the unique disease-related concerns.

What to Feed a Cat to Help Them Gain Weight

If your cat’s medical problem is under control—parasites are treated or painful teeth are pulled—correcting the calorie deficit may be the only treatment necessary.

Here’s what your veterinarian will look for in a healthy cat food for weight gain.

Find a Type of Food That Fits Your Cat’s Preferences

The most important first step is to find a food that your cat enjoys eating but that doesn’t cause stomach upset. You want a food that fits their dietary requirements but is also highly palatable so they will want to eat it.

It’s not unusual for a cat to have a strong preference for a specific flavor, type (canned/dry) or even texture of food. The same goes for a cat being repulsed by one or more of these factors.

Navigating your cat’s preferences is the first, and most important, step of getting your cat to eat well.

Make Sure the Food Fits Their Nutritional Needs

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need to get the essential nutrients for their health from animal products.

The natural prey for cats, such as small rodents, are estimated to contain around 55% protein, 45% fat and 1–2% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

Although the macronutrient breakdown of prey is only 1-2% carbohydrate, most cats can use up to 40% of their diet in the form of carbohydrates as a good source of energy.

In general, dry food contains more carbohydrates than wet food.

Cat Food Options for Weight Gain

Good quality kitten food is an excellent choice for weight gain in healthy cats. And most cats enjoy eating kitten food.

Royal Canin Feline Health nutrition dry cat food for young kittens is nutrient- and calorie-dense and tends to be highly palatable to most cats.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe high-calorie cat foods like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Recovery RS canned cat food or Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care canned cat food.

These formulations are highly digestible and provide the extra calories your cat needs to gain weight.

Calculate How Much to Feed Your Cat

Once you have found a food that fits your cat’s needs and also gets them excited about mealtime, it’s time to work out the right portion sizes.

Math is our friend here. In general, for gradual and healthy weight gain, it’s best to assess your cat’s resting metabolic needs and then to feed this amount of calories plus 20% more.

Your vet can help you translate this into the correct amount of the food to feed.

Tips for Helping a Cat Gain Weight

Addressing the underlying health issues, selecting the right food and figuring out how much to feed are vital for success.

But that’s just the starting point. Once you have that sorted, you will need to establish a feeding routine.

Here are a few tips for getting your cat to eat reliably and gain weight safely.

Feed Small, Frequent Meals

A cat’s stomach is only about the size of a ping-pong ball. So it’s normal that your cat won’t eat a lot all at once.

Whether your cat prefers wet food, dry food or both, try feeding one tablespoon of food every few hours.

These small, regular meals are better tolerated than large meals and can reduce the risk of vomiting after a meal.

Try Warming Up Your Cat’s Wet Food

Cats are stimulated to eat by the smell of their food. Warming up wet food can help make the food more aromatic and enticing to your cat.

To heat your cat’s food, put their food in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for a few seconds.

The optimal temperature for most cats is at, or near, their body temperature—38.5°C (101.5°F).

Offer the Right Snacks Between Meals

Healthy snacks between meals can aid in putting weight on your cat.

Try tempting your cat with a few high-protein, simple bites of freeze-dried chicken, like PureBites chicken breast freeze-dried raw cat treats, between each meal.

Decrease Your Cat’s Anxiety

A calm cat is a happy cat, and happy cats are more likely to have a good appetite.

Cats are solitary hunters and solitary eaters. That means that they prefer to eat their meals without being bothered.

When your cat has been unwell, it’s normal to want to hover over them. But your cat will likely eat better if you give them some space.

Talk to Your Vet About Appetite-Stimulating Medicine

There are a few medicines available from your veterinarian that can help stimulate your cat’s appetite.

An hour or so after talking the medicine, your cat will feel the urge to eat. You can even ask if your vet can get the medicine in a transdermal form (patch or gel for the skin or gums), so that you can avoid having to give a pill.

6 Appetite Stimulants for Dogs

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

A change in a dog’s eating habits, either up or down, is a clue that something is not right with your dog. When a dog refuses to eat out of the blue, he is telling you that he doesn’t feel well, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. There are many things that affect a dog’s appetite, such as dental disease, undiagnosed pain, stress and anxiety, upset stomach, infectious disease such as worms or influenza, or cognitive dysfunction.

In humans, we know that taste decreases with age, and humans on cancer treatment say that nothing tastes good. The same may be true for our canine companions. When your dog doesn’t eat, it is important to visit your veterinarian to figure out what isn’t right, and fix it. If it is going to take some time to resolve the underlying issue, then an appetite stimulant may be indicated to support your dog on the road to recovery.

When Can Appetite Stimulants Help My Dog?

Appetite stimulants are indicated when a dog refuses to eat long enough that it impacts his health, consistently does not consume enough calories to support a healthy weight, is on a medication (such as chemotherapy) that decreases appetite, is recovering from an illness and needs appetite support, or to help a dog eat a new diet. Dogs with kidney disease, for example, can have underactive appetites that lead to weight loss, or may not want to eat their therapeutic kidney diet. An appetite stimulant can help in this case to get the dog the nutritional support that he needs. There are several options that your veterinarian can suggest, including pharmaceutical, natural, and holistic options.

Ways to Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

Rotisserie Chicken

For a sick, debilitated, or geriatric dog who is picky about eating, one of the easiest (and cheapest) options to try is tempting him to eat rotisserie chicken. We all know how good rotisserie chicken smells in the grocery store when we walk by—and it smells even better to dogs. Even the pickiest eater will often gobble up his food if you doctor it up with a little white meat from a rotisserie chicken. Do not give dogs the bones or skin from a rotisserie chicken, and if they are instructed to eat a low-fat diet, only feed the white meat portions. Other easy strategies to try to increase appetite include hand-feeding and microwaving the food to warm it up.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, while it cannot cure a condition, is known to reduce pain, inflammation, and nausea. Dogs with decreased appetites due to medical conditions such a diabetes, kidney or liver failure, inflammation of the pancreas, or hormonal conditions, such as Addison’s disease, are known to benefit and have an increase in appetite after acupuncture sessions.

Mirtazapine

When natural options stop working, it is time for pharmaceutical intervention. Mirtazapine is a common drug that is prescribed to dogs who have a decreased appetite due to other conditions that make them feel queasy, such as kidney disease or cancer, or medications such as chemotherapy. Mirtazapine acts on the central nervous system and increases serotonin levels, so it is important that it is not given to dogs who are on SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors).

Meclizine

Meclizine can help with appetite in some dogs. Meclizine is an antihistamine that is known to reduce nausea due to vertigo. If your dog is not eating due to nausea, there are several other medications available, such as maropitant, a common drug available through your local veterinarian.

Ghrelin Receptor Agonist

There is a new medication on the market for dogs that mimics the effect of ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes a dog or a person feel hungry. The medication binds to ghrelin receptors and signals the brain to cause the dog to feel hungry.

CBD Products

Finally, for those of you living in states where it is legal, CBD (cannabidiol) products manufactured for pets are exploding onto the veterinary scene. The benefits include reduction of pain and increase in appetite. It is important to note that CBD from hemp is not THC, and marijuana is toxic to pets. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations.

It is important to note that these suggestions do not replace medical advice. If your dog is not eating and you have not seen your veterinarian, you should make an appointment to rule out serious underlying health issues that are causing your dog not to eat.

Why Do Dogs Pant? Is Your Dog Panting Too Much?

By Sophia Catalano, DVM as send in PetMD

Panting can be a normal behavior for a dog, but it can also signal an underlying medical issue.

So how do you know when your dog’s panting is a sign that something’s wrong? Here’s what you need to know about dog panting.

What Causes Dog Panting?

Here are some common reasons why dogs pant.

Heat 

Panting is a normal behavior for happy and active dogs. It helps dogs cool themselves down because they can’t sweat like humans do.

Panting allows a dog to rapidly inhale, humidify, then exhale the air, which increases the evaporation of water from your dog’s nose and lungs. The evaporation of water cools the body from the inside out.

A large amount of water can be evaporated in a short amount of time when a dog’s panting, so always make sure that your dog has access to plenty of fresh water on hot days.

This type of normal panting can be quite heavy, but the level of heavy breathing should correlate with the air temperature or amount of activity your dog is doing.

Excitement

Dogs also pant when they are excited. Panting is a normal behavioral response when something exciting happens, like meeting new people or getting a treat. This type of panting can be rapid and shallow, and it’s often accompanied by whining.

Stress

Similar to dog panting that’s brought on by excitement, dogs also commonly pant and whine when they are stressed.

If you see your dog panting, take note of their body language. Are their eyes wide and weary? Are they looking away and yawning? These are some common body language cues that indicate your panting dog is stressed.

Assess the situation to determine how you can make your dog more comfortable to prevent them from becoming fearful or more stressed.

Pain

It is important to know that dog panting can indicate nausea, discomfort, and pain. Your veterinarian can assess whether your dog is panting because they are in pain by conducting a thorough examination and possibly diagnostic tests.

Medicine

Medications, especially prednisone or other steroids, may cause increased panting even when your dog is not hot, excited, or stressed. This is a common side effect, and if your dog’s panting is excessive, you should talk with your vet.

Heatstroke

Overheating, or heatstroke, will cause heavy panting in dogs, which can quickly lead to dehydration and death if untreated. Treating heatstroke requires emergency veterinary care.

Dogs that are overheated pant very heavily and will likely appear uncomfortable in some way. They could be restless, laid out flat, and/or not responding to you because they are so focused on cooling themselves.

You can prevent heatstroke on hot summer days or while hiking and spending time outdoors by taking frequent breaks, seeking shade, and offering your dog plenty of water. Do not have your dog out in high temperatures or for long periods of time. Dogs with short snouts should stay cool and hydrated on warm days as they are more prone to heatstroke.

NEVER leave your dog in a hot car. The interior of a car can reach scorching temperatures and threaten your dog’s life in as little as 10-15 minutes, even on mild days. Run the air conditioner or leave your friend at home when running errands.

How Can You Tell Normal Dog Panting From Excessive Panting?

Use these tips to help determine whether your dog’s panting is normal or a sign that something is wrong. If you have any feeling that your dog is panting excessively or abnormally, call your vet.

Take Note of What Your Dog Is Doing

Panting should correlate with the outside temperature or activity. Healthy dogs usually don’t need to pant in the absence of exercise or excitement.

Could your dog be stressed, excited, or hot? If so, this is probably normal dog panting. If your dog is panting or breathing rapidly during rest or sleep, however, this is often abnormal panting.

Look for Other Symptoms

Is your dog lethargic or not eating well? Have they been coughing? Other symptoms are clues that can help distinguish normal panting from abnormal panting. These clues will help your vet diagnose the cause of your dog’s panting.

Pay Attention to Changes in Your Dog’s Panting Sounds

Changes in the sound of your dog’s panting shouldn’t be ignored. Some dogs, particularly Labradors and Golden Retrievers, are predisposed to a condition called laryngeal paralysis. This is a dysfunction of the vocal cords that causes the airway to not open as wide as it should. The result is a characteristic abrasive sound when these dogs pant.

Similarly, dogs with short snouts like Pugs and English Bulldogs can make abnormal snorting sounds while panting due to a long soft palate or excessive tissue in the throat that causes obstruction of the airway.

Dogs with either of these conditions are more predisposed to heatstroke because they cannot efficiently pant to cool themselves. Keep them cool and watch for these sounds when they pant.

When in Doubt, Call Your Vet

How do you know when to call your vet? Short answer: Whenever you are concerned. Don’t wait and worry about your dog’s panting needlessly. Leave it to your veterinarian to determine if your dog is experiencing abnormal panting.

What to Do if Your Dog Is Panting Heavily

If you think something is wrong, take these steps to help your dog immediately.

If your dog is overheating:

Act quickly, but don’t panic:

  • Cool your dog by wetting them with a hose, and move them indoors or at least to the shade.
  • Offer them water to drink.
  • Call your veterinarian or a local emergency hospital for guidance.
  • If you have to bring your dog to the hospital, run the air conditioner in your car.

Your dog may be hospitalized to receive treatment with fluids and to have blood work done to make sure their organs were not damaged.

If your dog’s panting is accompanied by any other symptoms:

Consult a veterinarian right away to schedule an appointment.

Your pet may need blood work or x-rays to rule out many concerning diseases. Treating the various other causes of excessive panting can range from giving your dog medication at home to hospitalizing your dog for advanced treatment.

You know your dog’s behavior best, so if you’re concerned, call your veterinarian. You may be saving your pet’s life.

Causes of Bad Odors in Cats

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

When you think of smelly pets, cats aren’t the first species that come to mind. Cleanliness is one of their biggest draws, after all. So, if you start to detect a bad odor emanating from your cat, you need to take notice. In most cases, foul feline smells are a sign that something is seriously wrong.

The best way for pet parents to start to determine what could be making their cats smell bad is to focus on the exact nature of the odor and where on the body it’s coming from.

Mouth Odor

A healthy feline mouth doesn’t stink, but a lot can go wrong to change that. Dental disease is the most common cause of unpleasant cat odors. Plaque and tartar accumulating on the teeth, gums becoming inflamed and separating from their underlying structures, and loose teeth all provide the perfect environment for bad breath. Food lodges in abnormal gum pockets and rots there, and bacterial infections that produce foul odors can proliferate in the unhealthy environment. Bad smells may also develop as a result of foreign material getting lodged in the mouth, trauma to oral tissues, and oral tumors.

Sometimes systemic diseases will cause abnormal smelling breath. Most notably, kidney disease can lead to a urine or ammonia-like odor coming from the mouth. Diabetes mellitus may produce a sweet or “fruity” smell or, when a cat’s condition has worsened, an odor similar to nail polish. Cats with severe liver disease or an intestinal blockage may have breath that smells like feces.

Skin Odor

The skin is another relatively common source of bad odors in cats. Skin infections often develop as a result of other, underlying health problems such as wounds, allergies, parasites, cancer, immune disorders… basically anything that disrupts the skin’s normal protective mechanisms.

Bacterial infections usually have a putrid odor, but depending on the type of organism involved you may even notice a sweet smell. Yeast infections are typically described as smelling “musty.”

If your cat develops an abscess, oftentimes due to bite wound from another cat, and that abscess ruptures, you’ll probably notice a very foul odor associated with the pus as it drains.

Regular self-grooming is one of the reasons that cats tend to have little odor associated with their skin. When cats are sick or aren’t flexible because of arthritis or obesity, they can’t groom themselves well and may develop a greasy, unkempt coat that has a slightly “funky” odor.

Ear Odor

Most feline ear infections also have odors associated with them. Musty smelling yeast infections sometimes develop when a cat has an allergy or other condition that alters the environment within the ear in a way that promotes the growth of yeast.

Bacterial infections can have a no obvious underling cause or be related to allergies, polyps, tumors, foreign bodies, etc., and they tend to smell fetid or somewhat sweet, depending on the specific type of bacteria involved.

When cats have an ear mite infestation, their ears typically contain a dark material that looks a little bit like coffee grounds, which may have a foul odor associated with it. 

Rear End Odor

Healthy cats are such fastidious self-groomers that you rarely catch a whiff of urine or feces emanating from their back ends… unless they’ve just emerged from the cat litter box. But when cats can’t groom themselves normally, typically because of arthritisobesity, or systemic illness, that might change.

Cats, particularly long-haired cats, with diarrhea can accumulate fecal material in the fur around their hind end, and a urinary tract infection might be to blame if you become aware of an unusually strong smell of urine from the rear end of your cat.

Cats have two anal glands, one on either side of the anus, that produce a musky or fishy smelling material. Under normal circumstances, pet parents are barely aware that these glands exist, but if your cat becomes scared or excited, he or she may release their contents. The smell can be truly overwhelming but as long as it only happens intermittently, it is usually normal.

Infections, tumors, and other conditions that affect the anal glands’ functioning can result in more persistent odors.

Getting Rid of Bad Smells in Cats

Of course, cats will sometimes smell for perfectly obvious and relatively commonplace reasons, like after eating a can of super stinky cat food or wandering outside and investigating the garbage, but unless you can easily identify a benign source of your cat’s odor, make an appointment with your veterinarian. The doctor will start with a complete health history and a physical examination (including a close look at your cat’s mouth, skin, ears, and hind end) and then should be able to tell you where the smell is coming from and what needs to be done next to diagnose and treat it.

Is Dry Nose a Sign of Illness in Dogs?

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

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How Dogs Use Their Nose

Dog noses are fascinating little structures. Not only do dogs use their noses for breathing, dog noses also drain excessive tears from the eyes through tear ducts. In addition, they have sweat glands, which help to cool the body through sweating.

Dog noses are also involved in collecting information about the environment. They do this through sniffing, but not all of the “information” is carried through the nasal passage. When a dog licks her nose, she transfers all sorts of scents to specialized scent detection olfactory glands located on the roof the mouth. This allows the dog to process her environment.

Check out your dog the next time she is intently sniffing something; you will notice that she sniff, sniff, sniffs, and then licks her nose, transferring all the information about what other dogs, cats, squirrels, or other creatures might have left — a “scent mail”, if you will — for her to read.

Does a Warm, Dry Nose Mean a Dog is Sick?

Clients often ask me if their dog’s nose is warm and dry, does that mean the dog is sick? Not necessarily, I tell them. Some dogs have dry noses because they just don’t lick their noses often. Sometimes, however, a dog will have a warm, dry nose in relation to a fever, but it can get tricky. That is because if a dog has the flu, she can have a fever with a warm, dry, nose, or a wet, runny nose.

Dogs can also lick their noses excessively due to neurological conditions (partial seizures), excessive anxiety, behavioral reasons (dogs will lick their muzzles to signal submission), or because their nose itches from allergies.

If your dog is acting sick, feels warm, seems to licking her nose excessively, and/or is coughing or sneezing, then it is time to the see your veterinarian to figure out what is wrong, and then fix it.

Diseases That Can Cause Dry Nose in Dogs

There are some diseases that can cause a chronically dry nose. Auto-immune disorders, such as lupus or pemphigus, can cause changes in the surface of the nose that leads to dryness, cracking, and bleeding.

Auto-immune disorders are diagnosed with blood and urine testing, and a biopsy of the nose. They are treated with immuno-suppressive drugs, such as prednisone.

Severe allergic reactions to pollenmoldfood, etc. can lead to redness and swelling of the nose, as well as to excessive rubbing and scratching of the face. Allergies can be treated with anti-histamines, and in severe cases, steroids must also be prescribed.

Dry Nose from Sunburn and Face Shape in Dogs

Excessive sun exposure, especially in dogs that have pink skin, can cause sunburned skin on the nose that can peel and crack.

Still other dogs, especially brachycephalic breeds such as Pugs and Bulldogs, can’t lick their nose very well because of the conformation of their skull. These dogs will often develop a lumpy, crusty, chalky, cracked, uncomfortable nose in place of the cute little black button that used to sit on their face.

Treatment for Dry Nose in Dogs

For a case of chronically dry nose, your dog may benefit from a prescription lotion specifically designed to hydrate and nourish the skin on the nose.

Because dogs are nose lickers, whatever lotion is used must be safe for ingestion. Most skin lotions that are sold over the counter are not safe for ingestion. It is for this reason that I do not recommend treating the nose with any over the counter lotions unless your veterinarian has specifically recommended it to you.

If you notice changes in the way the skin on your dog’s nose looks, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss options in diagnosis and treatment.

The Contrasting Communication Styles of Dogs and Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

Dog barks and cat purrs couldn’t sound more different, but they do share one thing in common, which is that they can serve as a form of communication with you, their owner. Your cat may use a special “solicitation purr,” which is more urgent and “less pleasant” than a typical purr, as a tool to get you to feed her.

You may hear the solicitation purr — a low-pitched purr with a high-frequency voiced component that sounds almost like a cry or meow — early in the morning when your cat is hungry.1 Dogs also use barking as an effective form of communication, both with humans and other dogs. Yet, this natural and beneficial vocalization is sometimes perceived as a nuisance, especially if it’s persistent or takes place at inopportune times.

Like cats’ purrs, dogs also use different types of barks in different situations and for different reasons, which you can become more in tune with to develop a deeper bond with your pet.

Different Types of Dog Barks

Generally speaking, dogs use longer, lower frequency barks in response to a stranger approaching and higher pitched barks when they’re isolated.2 Your dog’s voice is also capable of communicating in a variety of nuanced tones beyond barks, including huffs, growls, whines, whimpers, howls and more. Each will be unique to your dog, and if you have multiple dogs, you can probably easily distinguish one dog’s bark from another’s.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons, ranging from distress to trying to attract your attention. The key to understanding why a dog is barking lies in looking at the context, as although dogs make an incredible variety of sounds, comparatively little research has been done to uncover what individual barks mean. Examples of why dogs bark include:3

Excitement — A high-pitched yip or yowl is often a sign that something exciting is happening in your dog’s mind, and may be accompanied by an alert body position, wagging tail, spinning in circles and feet tapping.
Attention — If your dog looks at you and barks, then pauses and barks again (then repeats and repeats again), he’s probably trying to get your attention. He may want food, a belly rub or a game of tug-of-war; he’s trying to tell you something about what he wants.

One word of warning before giving in, especially if your dog is barking for treats — if you give your dog a treat in response to the barking, it will teach him to bark more to get more treats.

Boredom — A bored dog may bark because he’s got nothing better to do, or because he’s trying to get your attention to play with him or take him for a walk. If your dog barks due to boredom, increase his physical activity and provide outlets for mental stimulation.
Fear/Anxiety or Territorial — If a strange dog or person is approaching your home, or your dog feels threatened, he may use defensive barking, which tends to be deep, persistent and may have a growl tone to it as well. A fearful dog will have a low tail, possibly between the legs, and a low head posture, while a territorial dog will have a straight tail and more alert posture.
Stress — Dogs may also bark due to stress, such as due to a change in your household. In this case, consider talking with an animal behavior specialist about desensitization and counter conditioning exercises for a stressed-out pet. Basic obedience training may also help.
Surprise — If you startle your dog, he may let out a single, high-pitched bark because he’s surprised, similar to the way you might say “Oh!” when startled.
Pain — A dog in pain may bark a higher pitched bark with a staccato quality. If your pet does this when you touch him in a certain area or suddenly starts barking at unexpected times of the day or night, it’s time for a trip to your veterinarian.
Canine Dementia — If your dog barks into a corner or a wall, barks unusually at night or in response to nothing, cognitive dysfunction could be behind it. You should have your dog checked out for canine dementia.

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Why Your Cat Purrs

Cat purrs have been described as “opera singing for cats” and involve a neural oscillator sending messages to laryngeal muscles, which causes them to vibrate during inhalation and exhalation, similar to vibrato.4 Domestic cats, some wild cats and other animals, including hyenas, guinea pigs and raccoons, also purr, so why do they do it?

It’s been suggested that purring may have developed to keep cats healthy as they spent long hours silently, and stilly, in wait of prey. Cats purr with a frequency between 25 and 150 Hertz, a sound frequency that is beneficial for improving bone density and healing.5

“Because cats have adapted to conserve energy via long periods of rest and sleep, it is possible that purring is a low energy mechanism that stimulates muscles and bones without a lot of energy,” Scientific American reported.6

Purr frequencies also correspond to vibrational and electrical frequencies used to treat bone fractures, pain, muscle strains, wounds, joint flexibility and more, adding more credence to the theory that purrs may be a form of self-healing.7 While humans often associate the soothing sound of a cat’s purr as a sign that their cat is content, cats also purr when they’re injured or frightened, while they’re in shelters and at the vet.

They may use purrs as a form of stress relief or to calm down, and cats may also use purrs after giving birth to lead their kittens, which are born blind and deaf, toward them.8

Since cats also often purr when they’re cozy on their owner’s lap, getting a good scratch, it could also be a sign of happiness or a way to encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing. Purring is normal and natural in cats, but if your cat is acting unusually, it’s a good idea to contact your veterinarian, even if he’s also purring.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

An old study from the 1970s identified 12 positions that 60 intact male and 53 intact female adult beagles used to pee:

  • Stand: Standing normally
  • Lean: The body is leaning forward and the hind legs are extended to the back.
  • Flex: The hind legs are partially flexed so the rear end is slightly lowered. The hind feet usually remain under the body (no straddle).
  • Squat: The hind legs are straddled and sharply bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is kept straight.
  • Handstand: Both hind feet are lifted off the ground. They may be unsupported or placed against a vertical surface.
  • Arch: The hind legs are usually spread and bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is rounded, and the tail is lifted away from the ground.
  • Raise: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground but the leg is kept relatively low.
  • Elevate: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground. The foot and leg is held high.
  • Lean-Raise: A combination of the Lean and Raise postures.
  • Flex-Raise: A combination of the Flex and Raise postures.
  • Squat-Raise: A combination of the Squat and Raise postures.
  • Arch-Raise: A combination of the Arch and Raise postures.

The researchers found that females squatted most of the time but that the squat-raise was also quite popular. Females used most of the other positions too, albeit on a limited basis. Male dogs, on the other hand, had a more restricted repertoire. All of them demonstrated the elevate posture and some used the raised position, but the squat-raise and lean-raise only occurred rarely and the other positions weren’t noted at all. Keep in mind, however, that all the male dogs in this study were mature and intact.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

 

Now that all the positions that a dog is likely to take to urinate have been identified, the question “Why?” has to be asked. What does it mean when a dog picks a particular posture at a particular time?

It’s important to remember that urination serves two purposes for dogs—elimination and marking. Both male and female dogs scent mark, but the behavior is more pervasive in males. Dogs who are marking preferentially urinate on vertical surfaces. If they urinate high up on that surface, the urine can flow downward covering a greater area, which leaves a stronger message to anyone who subsequently passes by. Peeing up high may even make a dog seem bigger than he actually is. This is probably why the elevate posture is so popular among males.

Interestingly, leg-raising is a behavior that only develops in male dogs as they mature. The authors of the study on beagles note that the lean posture, which deposits urine directly on the ground, “is typically used by male puppies and juveniles.”

But what about females? That’s where the handstand posture comes in. There’s no better way for a female dog to urinate at least as high as and maybe even higher than a similarly sized male can.

Research supports this hypothesis in female dogs. A paper published in 2004 looked at the urinary behaviors of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers while they were being walked close to and further away from their “home area.” The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…”

So, when dogs take a position that results in their urine hitting an object above the ground’s surface, chances are they are doing so to maximize the value of the scent they are leaving behind.

It’s important to note how many peeing positions are perfectly normal for both male and female dogs. Which ones they use depends on many factors including the dog’s location, age, sex, and possibly their reproductive status. The only time to be concerned is when a dog that usually pees in one position switches to another. This could be a sign of pain or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

3 Summer Safety Tips to Keep Companion Animals Healthy

By Ryan Goodchild

Picture of Zoey Heath ( one of Diane’s beloved clients)

 

Pets are a constant source of love, affection, loyalty, and support. So when it comes time to plan some summer fun for your family, you should be sure to include any furry members.

Summer can be a blast for your animal companions, as long as you’re aware of some potential hazards. You can protect your pets, keep them healthy and happy, and focus on fun with these three important summer safety tips every pet parent should know.

Furkids and Summer Fireworks Don’t Mix

 Summer celebrations tend to involve fireworks, which can be pretty scary for your pets. In fact, shelter stats show that more animals are reported missing from July 4-5 than any other days or time of the year. One of the most helpful steps you can take is to update microchip info.

However, you may also want to keep your pets safe by adding a fence to your yard. Fence installation prices average right around $4,500, but this number can vary according to the size of your yard and the sort of materials you prefer. Where you live can also impact pricing.

 

Speaking of location, if you need to find reliable local contractors to install your fence, you should try searching online first. There are plenty of websites that offer reviews and ratings, and you can also use these websites to check whether the pros you’re considering have a license and insurance. With a secure and new fence, you won’t have to stress about letting pets out around holidays.

Beware of Ticks

Now for a summer statistic that will make your skin crawl. Although the warmest months always see a rise in tick populations, entomologists are predicting that this summer will be THE summer of ticks and tick-borne diseases. That’s bad news if you and your pets love the outdoors!

The good news is that protecting yourself and your pets from these creepy crawly pests is pretty easy. If you plan on taking some summer walks in the woods with your furkids, and your area is prone to ticks, consider treating your clothes with a quality repellent. Ask your vet about flea and tick preventatives for your pet to keep them safe on wilderness adventures.

If your pet does bring some ticks home, you should use CDC recommended guidelines to safely remove them and disinfect the affected area. Proper disposal is key since coming into contact with a crushed tick can also spread diseases to you and your furry family members.

Furry Coats Can Leave Pets Prone to Heat Exhaustion

 

Another summer pet hazard to be mindful of? The sun and heat. Because your pets have fur, walking them outside in peak summer temperatures is like you trying to run outside in a thick winter coat. The normal range for a dog’s body temperature is between 100.5 – 102.5 Fahrenheit.

If your pets are active in the sun, heat, and humidity for too long, their temperatures can quickly rise to dangerous levels. Their respiratory rate will elevate as well, which can have severe consequences and even be fatal. Flat-faced or brachycephalic breeds are at an increased risk.

The best thing you can do to prevent deadly heat stroke in your pets is to keep them indoors and cool during hot summer afternoons. If you can’t keep them inside, be sure to provide them with plenty of shade and cool water. You should also know how to cool down overheated pets. Most importantly, never leave your pets in a hot car as death can occur rapidly.

Pets are like family. So be sure to protect yours like family this summer! Watch out for dangers like fireworks, ticks, and extreme temps, and have a happy, healthy season with your furkids.

 

With Diane Weinmann’s guidance and resources, you can communicate with your beloved pet. Be sure to check out her website for more guides like this one and to discover how you can open the door for communication with the animals you love.

 

Treating Compulsive Dog Behaviors

By Lisa Radosta, DVM, DACVB

Can dogs have OCD? Not really, but they do get compulsive behaviors. What is the difference? Obsessive compulsive behaviors include obsessive thoughts, which don’t apply to dogs since we can’t know what they are thinking. Instead, in dogs, these disorders are called compulsive disorders. Here are some other important insights into this curious dog behavior we call compulsive disorders…

What are Compulsive Disorders?

Compulsive disorders (obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD) occur in dogs, although not with great frequency. These behaviors are exaggerations of normal dog behaviors. They are exhibited for longer than expected periods of time, are repeated out of context, and in situations in which they would be considered abnormal.

Common dog behaviors which can be classified as compulsive include spinning, tail chasing, fly biting, light chasing, barking, chewing, staring into space, sucking on a toy, or sucking on a part of the body.

What Causes Compulsive Disorders in Dogs?

Compulsive disorders are caused by conflict, stress and/or frustration. With each stressful event that your dog encounters, there is a release of neurotransmitters involved with the stress response. When a dog is frustrated or stressed, he may start to perform a normal behavior such as holding a toy in his mouth in order to relieve that stress. If holding the toy in his mouth actually reduces the neurotransmitters involved with the stressful event, the dog is likely to perform that behavior again when he is stressed. For some dogs, this behavior becomes ritualized and repetitive because of the intense reward that is associated —reduction of the physiologic feeling of stress or frustration.

Over time, compulsive behaviors progress and get worse. Dogs often start to perform the compulsive behavior with any stressful event, not just the original inciting situation. The behavior can take over the dog’s life replacing normal sleep and feeding habits. It can cause injury to the dog as the impulse to perform the particular behavior becomes stronger and stronger. Dogs that chase their tails often end up mutilating the tail requiring amputation, while dogs that suck on themselves frequently cause skin infections.

 

Sometimes, what appears to be a compulsive behavior is actually an attention seeking behavior. Even behaviors which start as a frustration related behaviors can be rewarded inadvertently when owners pay attention to the dog when he performs the behavior. For example, if an owner yells No!, that is still regarded by the dog as attention and can perpetuate the behavior.

If you think that your dog exhibits a behavior for your attention, try the following tests. First, videotape your dog when you are not home to see if and when the behavior occurs in your absence. Next, try walking out of the room the next time that your dog performs the behavior. If he does not perform the behavior in your absence, your attention or presence is most probably a part of the problem.

Some dog breeds are predisposed hereditarily to certain compulsive behaviors. For example, Bull Terriers and German Shepherds are commonly seen for tail chasing. Labrador Retrievers exhibit oral compulsive behaviors such as pica, whereby the dog is driven to pick up any object and eat it. Doberman Pinschers are well known for flank sucking, whereby the dog holds and sucks on the skin of the flank for long periods. The best way to know if your dog is predisposed to a certain type of behavior is to speak to your veterinarian about your breed’s genetic predisposition. Then, if possible, speak to the owner of your dog’s parents to learn of their behavior.

How Do You Treat Compulsive Disorders in Dogs?

The first thing to do if you think that your dog has a compulsive disorder is to go to your veterinarian for help. Because medical conditions can cause signs similar to compulsive behaviors in dogs, it is extremely important to rule out medical diseases such as neurologic, endocrine, gastrointestinal, and orthopedic disorders. Your dog should receive a thorough physical examination as well as screening labwork before considering treatment for a compulsive disorder.

If your dog is completely healthy and is free of pain, he may have a compulsive disorder. Compulsive disorders are treated with medications to lower arousal and conflict as well as behavior modification to give the dog an alternate coping strategy outside of the compulsive behavior. Treatment is often prolonged and continues for the life of the dog. If your dog is diagnosed with compulsive disorder you can expect some ups and downs in treatment and in your dog’s behavior. Often chronic cases are referred to a board certified veterinary behaviorist for treatment.

The best thing that you can do for your dog if you suspect a compulsive disorder or if your dog repeatedly displays any behavior, even if it seems harmless now, is to seek help from your veterinarian. When compulsive behaviors are treated early and quickly the prognosis is much better than if they have progressed to a chronic state.