dog illness

  • Are you winking at me? Or is that just Horner’s Syndrome?

    04082015blogpic1We have all seen our dogs “wink” at us, whether one eye is avoiding dust, or has some crusties in it. But when your pet’s eye seems to disappear back into its head, the time for concern has come. Horner’s Syndrome is a neurological disorder of the eye and face, and often comes on suddenly. It can be found in many mammals, including cats and humans, but is often seen in dogs, especially golden retrievers or cocker spaniels.

    The nervous system has two branches: the sympathetic (“fight or flight” response) system and parasympathetic (“rest and digest” response) system. Horner’s Syndrome is a dysfunction of the sympathetic nerves of the eyes and surrounding facial muscles, causing the parasympathetic nerves to take over. It can be caused by an injury, tumor, spinal cord or brain disease, or inner ear problems. Sometimes Horner’s can also be idiopathic, meaning the cause is unknown. Symptoms of Horner’s Syndrome include the following on the affected side: droop of eyelid (ptosis), constricted pupil (miosis), sunken eye appearance, red and raised third eyelid (on bottom of eye), red and/or warm ear or face. Other diseases and problems can also cause protrusion of the third eyelid, so look for multiple symptoms. Sometimes an animal’s eating can also be affected, if they are having trouble with their facial muscles as well.

    If you observe any of those symptoms in your pet, see your veterinarian. To diagnose Horner’s Syndrome,04082015blog they will perform a couple of tests. X-rays and blood draws are most common, but other imaging (CT or MRI) may be necessary, as well as urine and spinal fluid samples. The treatment of Horner’s is really the treatment of the underlying cause or disease. For example, a severe ear infection disturbing the sympathetic nerves would be treated with antibiotics, while a tumor may require surgery. Horner’s symptoms often resolve spontaneously on their own, but can take up to several weeks. Sometimes eye drops are given in the affected eye 1-2 times a day, which helps the pupil return to normal. Horner’s Syndrome in itself is not fatal to your pet, but it can be a sign of a larger problem in their nervous system. So when your dog’s eyeball seems to have shrank into his brain, don’t panic, just make an appointment with the vet. And wink back at them!J

    Sources: VCA Hospitals, Healthy Pets/Mercola, PetMD,


  • Cold and Flu Season...for Dogs?

    flublogpicThe influx of cold weather for us in the Midwest means that it is cold and flu season. But did you know that your dog can also get “colds” and the flu? From coughing to fevers, contagious viruses can make your dog sick in a few different ways. Kennel cough and canine influenza are not serious illnesses in their own, but the secondary problems they can cause have the potential to harm your pet.

    Kennel cough is really a broad name to encompass a whole complex of infections, both viral and bacterial. These cause inflammation of the voice box and vocal cords of your dog, similar to bronchitis in humans. Kennel cough is very contagious, and is transmitted from animal to animal through direct contact and particles in the air. While the name does suggest that dogs can be more likely to contract a kennel cough infection after boarding at a facility, it can be transmitted anywhere that the animals have contact, like a dog park or pet store. Allowing face-to-face contact, and toy and water sharing with unknown dogs can increase the risk. The symptoms of kennel cough can vary depending on the exact virus or bacteria, but is trademarked by the dry cough a dog will have, often sounding like a honking noise. Your dog may also have a runny nose, or a mild fever, and occasionally cough up white phlegm. If the illness truly is kennel cough, most dogs will still have a good appetite and energy level, unless otherwise unhealthy. Vaccines against kennel cough which include parainfluenza, bordetella and adenovirus may help protect your dog against contracting the illness, but are no guarantee. Please also note that if your dog already has symptoms of kennel cough, the vaccines will not help. Most dogs recover on their own in about 3-6 weeks. Rest, fluids, and minimizing irritation to the throat (no smoking, use harness rather than collar) are the best remedy, just like a human cold. Older or sick dogs, as well as puppies, may require more care, and are more likely to develop pneumonia as a result of kennel cough.

    But what about the doggie flu? Canine influenza (H3N8) is a highly contagious illness that dogs can get from being in proximity to other sick dogs. Direct contact and droplets in the air (millions after a sneeze!) from a flu-carrying dog are easily picked up by your pet. Canine influenza (CIV) can have a range of symptoms, with a mild moist cough, nasal discharge and lethargy, to the more severe. Some dogs (especially older ones or those who have preexisting health conditions) may run a high fever, cough up blood, refuse to eat, and develop pneumonia. Mild cases of CIV do not require extensive care, and the dog usually recovers on its own in 10-30 days. Supportive care may be given, like a cough suppressant, and supplements. Sometimes antibiotics are prescribed to treat any accompanying infections, but do not resolve CIV itself. Severe cases of canine influenza may require hospitalization, including IV fluids, strong antibiotics and more. Flat-faced breeds (like pugs and bulldogs) are more at risk of complications (like pneumonia and sinus infections) but not contracting the flu itself. A vaccine for CIV does exist, however, it may not be right for every dog. For example, if I lived in the remote countryside, where my dog had little contact with others and no reported cases of CIV in the area, I probably wouldn’t vaccinate him or her. Canines that live in urban, highly populated areas, with reports of CIV are the most likely candidates for the vaccine. While your dog could contract the flu and recover on its own, it is still important to consult your veterinarian. Most will do a blood test to confirm, as well as an x-ray to see if any pneumonia is developing. Canine influenza is not contagious to humans, and there is no evidence to support that it can harm you. However, you can spread the germs from dog to dog, so those who work in boarding facilities, dog-walkers, pet-sitters and shelter volunteers should be sure to sanitize all equipment and their hands between each contact.

    Just like the colds and flu that people can get, kennel cough and canine influenza are not fatal to a dog. However, the secondary problems they can cause, and the threat that they pose to elderly or sick dogs can be a dangerous situation. If you suspect your dog has any illness, contact your vet for advice and keep your dog away from all others. Quarantining your pet ensures that it does not make other dogs sick, especially those who may not recover as well. While we like to think our pets don’t get sick, a little cough and fever are possible, so keep on the lookout, and take care of your canines!

    Sources: ASPCA, The Center for Disease Control (CDC),,

  • That Poo Germ

    the poo germClostridium is a strain of bacteria, which can sometimes be harmful. The two most common strains are clostridium perfingens, and clostridium difficile (also known as C-Diff). These bacteria can be found in raw meats, rotten foods, feces, marine sediment (like standing water), decaying vegetation, and trash. They are also both found in humans as well as animals, and are often present in the body without symptoms. The immune system passes them and combats any ill effects on its own, and no harm is done. However, sometimes the bacteria can lodge in the intestine, where they produce large amounts of endospores. When levels become too high, clostridial enterotoxicosis can occur, causing illness and other problems.

    When a pet suffers from clostridial enterotoxicosis (sometimes just referred to as clostridium), the symptoms and severity can vary widely. In dogs, the most common signs are repeated diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal cramps (seen by aversion to food, contact or movement), fever, blood in the stool, lethargy, and gas. It is less common in cats, but can be seen in diarrhea with mucus (will be shiny), or vomiting. Clostridium symptoms can be acute, and over in less than a week, or recur frequently, appearing for a few days every few weeks. Often it is harder for cats to get rid of, due to litter and their frequent grooming (licking feet, etc). These symptoms however, can mimic that of a parasite or other health problem, so your pet will need to be tested at a vet. They are usually diagnosed with a fecal sample, and blood tests may be done to check for other problems (immune system problems, vitamin deficiencies, etc). Clostridium is treated with antibiotics, and sometimes a high-fiber or probiotic diet. In animals that have other health problems, or severe cases, more aggressive therapy may be needed (IV fluids, vet stay, etc). While a pet is being treated, they should be isolated from public areas, and their feces handled with caution. The bacteria can be transmitted to humans, and can cause illness in the young, elderly, immune-compromised, or ill. Bag and dispose of all bowel movements immediately, and then wash your hands. Use appropriate sanitizing agents on litter boxes and area where feces has been (some antibacterial wipes do not kill C-Diff, so check the label).

    The best way to deal with clostridial enterotoxicosis is to take steps to prevent it. Provide your animal with a consistent routine and feeding schedule. Sometimes a change in diet or daily activities can cause stress on a pet, which reduces their ability to fight off bacteria on their own. Keep them away from other sick animals. Keep their food and water indoors, and if it must be outside, put it on a raised surface (not the ground). Do not allow your dog or cat to drink from puddles, lakes, ponds, etc, and keep them supervised in such an environment. Clean up feces properly, do not let them eat it (this includes the dog finding a snack in the cat’s litter box)! And most importantly, take your pets in for regular checkups. If they are healthy in other areas, they will be more likely to pass the clostridia on their own without any symptoms.

    A simple little bacterium can be passed out of the body without any problems, or can cause severe illness and gastrointestinal distress in an animal. Always monitor your pet for signs of illness, and contact your vet if you suspect clostridial enterotoxicosis or another problem.

    Sources: VetInfo, PetMD