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rec.pets.dogs: Health Care Issues FAQ

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Archive-name: dogs-faq/health-care
Last-modified: 30 Sep 2000

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This article is Copyright 1997 by the Author(s) listed below. 
It may be freely distributed on the Internet in its entirety without
alteration provided that this copyright notice is not removed.  
It may NOT reside at another website (use links, please) other
than the URL listed above without the permission of the Author(s).  
This article may not be sold for profit nor incorporated in other 
documents without he Author(s)'s permission and is provided "as is" 
without express or implied warranty.

                              Health Care Issues

   Cindy Tittle Moore,
   Copyright 1995-1997.
Table of Contents

     * Prologue
     * In General
     * Administering Medicine
     * Allergies
     * Aging
     * Bathing
     * Dental Care
     * Disease Transmission (Zoonoses)
     * Ears
     * Food
     * Incontinence
     * Neutering
     * Overheating
     * Puberty
     * Skin Problems
     * Temperature
     * Trimming Nails
     * Vaccinations
     * Vomiting
     * Worms

   Considerable information herein is summarized from Carlson & Giffin,
   authors of a home veterinarian handbook. I would like to thank them
   for their informative and accessible information. Any mistakes made in
   the summaries are my responsibility and not Carlson & Giffin's. I
   believe that I am within copyright laws by using summarizations (no
   direct quoting, except for the toxic plants section), my own
   organization of the material, and precise acknowledgement where
   This article is presented for informative purposes only, and should
   NOT be used to "replace" normal veterinary care. Rather, the
   information included is intended to allow you
     * to be aware of potential problems,
     * to be able to prevent some of these problems, and
     * to know when to take your dog in and what to tell your vet.
In General

   Your dog cannot tell you when it feels sick. You need to be familiar
   with its normal behavior -- any sudden change may be a signal that
   something is wrong. Behavior includes physical and social behavior;
   changes in either can signal trouble.
   If you familiarize yourself with basic dog care issues, symptoms to
   look for, and a few emergency care treatments, you can go a long way
   toward keeping your dog healthy. Never attempt to replace vet care
   with your own (unless, of course, you are a vet); rather, try to be
   knowledgeable enough to be able to give your vet intelligent
   information about your dog's condition.
   You should know some emergency care for your dog. This is beyond the
   scope of the FAQ, as you really need pictures or demonstrations. Check
   a home-vet book and ask your vet about them. Some of these include:
     * mouth-to-mouth resuscitation
     * CPR
     * temporary bandages and splints
     * inducing vomiting
     * a good antiseptic for minor cuts, scrapes, etc.; povidone iodine
       and similar antiseptic cleansers are recommended
   There are a number of good books that cover basic care for dogs. These
   Miller, Harry. The Common Sense Book of Puppy and Dog Care. Bantam
   Books, Third Edition (revised) (1987). ISBN: 0-553-27789-8
     Includes a section on practical home care, listing major symptoms
     you should be alert for, and listing general criteria by which you
     can determine a dog's overall healthiness. Discusses major diseases
     and problems, gives sketches on what may be wrong given certain
   Taylor, David. You and Your Dog. Alfred A. Knopf, New York (1991).
   ISBN:0-394-72983-8 (trade paperback).
     Taylor gives flow-chart questions to consider when deciding if
     symptoms are serious or not. Not as comprehensive as other care
     books, but a good start in understanding what you need to look for
     when your dog seems off. Includes illustrations of many procedures,
     such as teeth cleaning and nail trimming. Informative discussion of
     reproductive system, grooming, and dog anatomy.
   An *excellent* resource that details all aspects of health issues for
   dogs, and one that every conscientious dog owner should have is:
   Carlson, Delbert G., DVM, and James M. Giffin, MD. Dog Owners's Home
   Veterinary Handbook. Howell Book House, Macmillan Publishing Company,
   866 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022 USA (1980). ISBN: 0-87605-764-4
     This comprehensive book is a complete guide to health care of dogs.
     It lets you know when you can treat the dog, or when you need to
     take it to the vet post-haste. It lists symptoms so that you may
     inform your vet of relevant information about its condition. The
     arrangement of the material facilitates rapid reference.
     Illustration of key procedures (pilling, taking pulse/temperature,
     etc). Lists poisonous substances, including houseplants. A must
     have home veterinarian handbood.
Administering Medicine

   There are many devices to aid in administering medicine. In
   particular, pill plungers are effective and available by mail order. A
   syringe with no needle is good for liquids. Ask your vet for some
   other ideas.
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Open your dog's mouth and drop the pill down as far back as you can,
   on top of and in the center of the tongue. Close the dogs mouth and
   hold it shut while stroking the throat until your dog swallows. If it
   licks its nose, chances are that it swallowed the pill. Giving it a
   treat afterwards helps insure that the pill is swallowed.
   You can try hiding the pills in a treat, say cheese or peanut butter.
   Pill plungers work well, also.
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Tilt the chin up at 45 degrees, and place the neck of the bottle into
   the cheek pouch, between the molar teeth and the cheek. Seal the lips
   around it with your fingers and pour in the liquid. Large amounts can
   be given this way. Hold the muzzle firmly while the dog swallows.
   Bottles, syringes and eyedroppers can be used. Your vet can help you
   out here.
   If you must administer eyedrops to your dog and it resists, try the
   following trick: stand behind your dog and hold the eye open to
   administer the drops. You don't appear as dominating this way.

   Dogs can get allergies just like people do. However, symptoms involve
   skin problems rather than respiratory distress. Check the skin
   problems section over for possible clues toward allergies. A common
   culprit is fleas, but dogs can be allergic to many other things,
   including some types of food commonly found in dog food.
   A good way to have your dog's allergies tested is with an ELISA test.
   Your vet should know about this test and be able to have it done at
   your request.

   Although aging is irreversible, some of the infirmities of an older
   dog may in fact be due to disease and therefore correctable or
   preventable. It is important for any dog over six years of age to be
   examined thoroughly every six months.
   In particular, you want regular blood work done on your dog. For
   example if kidney function declines, you want to know so that you can
   switch to kidney-sensitive diets.
   A recently published book is
   Hampton, John K. Jr., PhD, and Suzanne Hampton, PhD. Senior Years:
   Understanding your Dog's Aging Process. Howell Book House. 1993. ISBN:
  Behavioral changes
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin) Older dogs are more complacent,
   less energetic and curious. They may be forgetful, and sleep more.
   Crankiness and irritability are common. They are less tolerant of
   changes in the environment; in particular you may wish to have someone
   come by and check the dog at home rather than kennel it when you leave
   on vacation. Older dogs in hospitals and kennels go off their feed,
   become overanxious, and bark frequently.
  Physical changes
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Loss of muscular tone and lessened activity may result in the neck and
   body becoming more bulky, but the legs more thin. Resistance to cold
   is impaired and older dogs should always have a warm and draft-free
   bed. Arthritic dogs may need a padded surface on which to sleep.
   Moderate exercise helps keep the joints supple, and should be
   encouraged, but not beyond its ability to do so. Also, some
   conditions, such as heart trouble, may necessitate restraining it from
   exercise. Toe nails will require more frequent trimming. Stiffening
   joints may make it more difficult for the dog to keep its genital and
   anal areas clean. The skin may dry out and require some care to keep
   it clean and less dry.
   Loss of hearing and sight may occur. Tooth and gum disease is fairly
   common. Kidney failure and disease is more common (look for increased
   thirst and other symptoms of kidney failure). Incontinence (mostly in
   older spayed females, treatable with estrogen) may appear.
   An older dog needs less calories; the food must be of high quality so
   that it still gets the nutrition it needs with fewer calories.
  Geriatric Vestibular Disorder
   Common in older dogs, apparently something happens neurologically in
   the connection between the brain and the inner ear (sometimes
   infection, sometimes inflammation). Very little is actually known
   about it, but it does tend to subside after about a day or so.
   Unfortunately, the dog is generally unable to eat or drink, as it is
   completely disoriented.
   Dogs rarely show any enduring effects from such an episode other than
   sometimes their head leaning or tilting to one side.

   You may need to bathe your dog on occasion. The main thing to remember
   is that dogs' skin is more delicate than humans. It is much more prone
   to drying out when you wash it. Human based shampoos are formulated to
   remove all the oils. You need to get one formulated for dogs that will
   remove dirt but not the essential oils for the coat. Dogs that are
   frequently bathed may require some supplements (such as Linatone or
   vegetable oil) to keep their skin and coat healthy.
   A condition called impetigo may result from not rinsing all the soap
   out. Other general problems, such as fleas that prefer dried-out skin,
   may occur.
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   First, groom your pet to rid its coat of any mats or knots. Bathing
   will not remove these and in fact will worsen them. Plug its ears with
   cotton to prevent water in the ears. To prevent soap-burn in the eye,
   smear the eye area with a little vaseline, or administer a drop of
   mineral oil in each eye.
   Wet your dog thoroughly. Using a nozzle and spray is much easier.
   Using a shampoo formulated for dogs (the pH balance of human shampoos
   is wrong), lather and rinse its head carefully, keeping soap and water
   out of its eyes and ears. Lather and rinse the rest of its body.
   Relather and rinse any other areas that had stubborn stains.
   Rinse your dog *thoroughly*, and then rinse it again, even beyond when
   you think you've got all the soap out. Try adding Alpha-Keri bath oil
   (one teaspoonful per quart water) to the final rinse for coat luster.
   Do NOT use vinegar, lemon, or bleach rinses; they are acidic and will
   damage the dog's coat and skin.
   Dry your dog gently with towels, and keep it indoors until it is
   completely dry to avoid chilling.
  Dry shampoos
   Dogs with very oily coats may benefit from "dry-cleaning" in between
   baths. Calcium carbonate, talcum/baby powder, Fuller's earth, and
   cornstarch are all effective. They can be used frequently without fear
   of removing essential oils or damaging the coat and skin.
   Apply the powder, then brush out, against the lay of the hair, from
   the bottom up (toes to head) with a soft bristle brush. Then brush the
   whole dog normally to get all the powder out.
   Do not use petroleum solvents, which are extremely harmful, to remove
   the tar from your pet's skin. Instead, trim away excess coat
   containing tar where possible. Soak remaining tarry parts in vegetable
   oil overnight and then give your dog a complete bath.
   Sap (especially pine tree sap) often must simply be trimmed off.
   However, some people have had success with Murphy's Oil Soap.
Dental Care

   Owners that practice good dental care with their dog will reap many
   benefits in the long run.
  Typical problems
   The most common cause of bad breath is excessive calculus and plaque
   deposits on the teeth. Bacteria live and feed in the plaque and
   produce gum and bone infection, pain, and bad breath.
   Calculus is a crusty collection of food particles, minerals, and
   bacteria that forms at the teeth-gum borders.
   Plaque formation eventually leads to gum disease, mouth odors,
   receding gums and bone destruction and infection. The rate at which
   plaque forms in your dog's mouth is mainly due to genetic
   predisposition, but can be slowed by daily oral hygiene using
   antiplaque liquid or gel and/or pastes and regular professional
   cleaning and polishing.
   Pyorrhea (inflamed and infected gums) of the teeth is often the cause
   of kidney infections and endocarditis in older dogs. The pressure on
   the gums and infection of the teeth is quite painful to your dog.
  Preventive steps
   An antiplaque liquid or gel (Chlorhexidine) can be applied to the gum
   tissue with a cotton ball or swab. As an alternative, a soft bristle
   toothbrush or finger brush can be used with a non-foaming enzymatic
   toothpaste manufactured for dogs.
   Treatments should be done daily or at least every other day, depending
   on the current problems. Only a few areas are particularly susceptible
   to plaque and calculus formation. The areas of greatest concern are
   the canines and upper back molars (side facing cheeks).
   Chlorhexidine penetrates gum tissue and prevents bacterial growth,
   plaque build-up, gingivitis, and bad breath. In addition to the
   canines and molars, look at the front incisor teeth and brush away any
   accumulation of hair and food at the gum line if present.
   To remove existing calculus deposits, your dog will require short
   general anesthesia and your dog's teeth will be cleaned with dental
   instruments along with an ultra-sonic machine that vibrates the
   calculus off the surface of the teeth. Calculus from under the gum
   tissue is carefully removed using a hand scaler. Finally, the teeth
   are polished to reduce purchase for new deposits. This can often be
   done when the dog is under anasthetic for other reasons, such as
  Cavities, etc
   Dogs do not commonly get cavities. When they do occur, it is more
   often at the root of the tooth rather than at the crown. Cavities can
   lead to root abscesses.
   Abscessed roots often cause a swelling just below the animal's eye.
   Generally, tooth extractions are needed at this point.
Disease Transmission (Zoonoses)

   Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Any worm infestation has the potential of causing problems in humans.
   Standard hygienic precautions will avoid most of these. Things to
   watch for: babies getting infected when playing near or on
   contaminated soil or feces, working in the garden without gloves.
   Rabies, toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, and tetanus (lockjaw) can all
   affect both dogs and humans. Again, simple hygienic precautions will
   avoid most problems.

   Your dog's ears should be clean, slighly pink-gray and have no odor.
   Problems with the ear to watch for include:
     * Red, irritated skin
     * Dirt or wax build up
     * "Coffee grounds" (rare)
     * Discharge
     * Foul odor
     * Frequent head shaking, or scratching/pawing at ear(s).
   The most common problems with ears are ear infections (yeast or
   bacterial). Ear mites are actaully pretty uncommon in dogs. In any
   case, any of the above symptoms are grounds for having the vet check
   your dog's ears out.
   Ear mites are treated with medication. Sometimes a reapplication is
   needed. Some people have gotten rid of light infestations by cleaning
   the ear out and then coating lightly with baby oil or mineral oil.
   Ear infections are a little harder to treat, usually requiring daily
   ear drops for a week or so, weekly drops for some time after that.
   Some dogs prone to ear infections need to have ear drops on a regular
   basis. Drop-eared dogs are a bit more prone to ear infections, as
   prick ears normally allow more air circulation.
   An easy home remedy to *prevent* ear infections (will not cure an
   existing one) is:
     2 Tablespoons Boric Acid
     4 oz Rubbing Alcohol
     1 Tablespoon Glycerine
     Shake well. Put 1 small eyedropperfull in each ear. Rub it around
     first, and then let the dog shake. Do this once a week and you
     shouldn't see any ear infections. It works by raising the pH level
     slightly inside the ear, making it less hospitable to bacteria.
   To clean out an ear that's simply dirty (some buildup of dirt and wax
   is normal, but excessive ear wax may indicate that something else is
   wrong), take a cotton ball, dip in hydrogen peroxide if you like
   (squeeze excess out) and wipe the dog's ear out. The canal is rather
   deep, so you will not injure your dog so long as you only use your
   finger to probe the canal. Clean all around the little crevices as
   best as you can. Use another cotton ball for the other ear. Be sure to
   dry the ears out thoroughly.

   There are many dog food formulations out there, ranging from
   inexpensive grocery-brands to expensive premium food. You should find
   out what suits your dog best: while many dogs have done just fine on
   dog chow, others do much better with other foods such as Nature's
   Recipe, Iams, Pro-Plan, etc.
   The theory behind the more expensive foods is that they are more
   digestible and contain less "bulk" and "fill." Hence, your dog will
   eat less in volume (and thus the extra cost of the food is somewhat
   offset) and excrete small and firm stools. You may need to experiment
   to find out how your dog does on different brands. Dogs vary in their
   individual reactions.
   Food should be fed once or twice a day. Put the food down and take it
   up again after ten to twenty minutes regardless of whether your dog
   has finished eating it. This discourages "picky eating" and lets you
   be certain of exactly how much food your dog is eating. Frequently, a
   problem is first indicated when your dog's feeding goes off, so
   scheduled feeding like this (rather than free feeding) will tip you
   off to potential problems right away.
   The larger or younger your dog is, the better multiple daily feedings
   are; simply divide up each day's portion into individual feedings.
   Fresh water should always be available, and changed at least once a
   Many dogs appreciate vegetables. In particular if your dog is fond of
   munching on the grass, you can often alleviate this by feeding
   vegetables to your dog. Stick with fresh, raw foods: carrots, broccoli
   and cauliflower stems, apple cores, etc are popular. Stay away from
   potatoes and onions.
  People food
   Feeding your dog "people food," i.e., table scraps and such is a poor
   idea. First, you may encourage your dog to make a pest of itself when
   you are eating. Second, feeding a dog table scraps is likely to result
   in an overweight dog. Third, if your dog develops the habit of gulping
   down any food it can get, it may seriously poison or distress itself
  Eating problems: gulping, etc.
   For a dog that gulps the food down so rapidly that gas is a result,
   you can slow down the rate of eating by putting large, clean rocks
   (3-4" diameter) in the dish along with the food.
  Home Cooking Food
   Cooking food for one's own dog is a trend that is increasingly
   popular. It is controversial, with some adherents claiming every kind
   of benefit possible and detractors pointing out problems. Whatever
   position one takes on this concept, it's clear that for the dog owner
   who wishes to proceed with, thorough research must be done. Tracy
   Landauer has kindly supplied a good overview. Please note that
   improper attention to the nutritional requirements of your dog will
   make him quite sick. This is not something to undertake lightly or on
   a whim:
   For anyone considering switching over to a raw diet, do your homework
   first; don't just jump in blindly.
   All of the books below should be available at either or
   Direct Book Services. Most folks start with the Pitcairn book. The
   first Billinghurst book spawned the unfortunate acronym, BARF (Bones
   And Raw Foods). Kymythy's book is also very easy to comprehend and use
   - she even includes charts and blank grocery lists. Goldstein's book
   is an excellent read.
     * Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Dr. Richard
       Pitcairn, DVM
     * The Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog, by Wendy Volhard
     * Reigning Cats and Dogs, by Pat McKay
     * Give Your Dog a Bone, by Ian Billinghurst (Australian vet)
     * Grow Your Pups on Bones, Billinghurst
     * The Natural Remedybook for Cats and Dogs, by Diane Stein
     * The Complete Herbal Handbook for Dogs and Cats, by Juliette de
       Baircli Levy
     * The Ultimate Diet, by Kymythy Schultze
     * The Nature of Animal Healing, by Martin Goldstein, DVM
   Wellpet is an email listserv dedicated to natural pet care and diets;
   warning, it's a high-traffic list, but for starters, their web site
   has a lot of the basics and great FAQs. Their web site would be the
   best place to get basic info about feeding raw and why. It's an
   inexact science, be warned. Subscription info there too. See
   There's also a discussion group on OneList called rawdiets, and
   another email list called K9 Cuisine.

   The most common occurrence of incontinence is in the older spayed
   bitch. Most often this is due to a hormonal imbalance and as such is
   easily treated in one of two drugs. The traditional way is with doses
   of DES (estrogen). Typically, the dosage is varied until the
   incontinence stops, and often the dosage can be later reduced
   altogether. Another method of treatment is with phenylpropanolamine
   (PPA, brand name Dexatrim) which tightens all the muscles.
   DES replaces the hormones, restoring the hormonal balance. PPA works
   independently of the hormones and as such, may introduce new problems.
   Both drugs are known to cause problems and side effects, although
   typically, the level of dosage that DES is administered at for
   incontinence will not cause problems. At high dosages, DES is thought
   to be linked with breast cancer and obesity. Since PPA tightens all
   muscles in the body, it can potentially cause serious side effects,
   especially with the heart. There is speculation that PPA is often
   prescribed at dosages too high for dogs. In humans, PPA is not advised
   when thyroid levels are low; this might also be a problem with dogs.
   Which drug is safer for your particular spayed bitch depends on the
   particular dog and her particular veterinary history. What's best for
   one dog might be bad for another, depending on what other veterinary
   conditions or susceptibilities she has.

   If you are not planning to breed your pet or put it to stud service,
   or your dog's breeding days are over, you will want to neuter it.
   There are a number of health benefits associated with neutering, for
   either sex.
   Technically, the general term for either sex is neutering; bitches are
   spayed and dogs are castrated. However, general usage is that bitches
   are spayed or neutered and dogs are neutered.
   Neutering is *not* a solution to behavioral problems; training is.
   However with some dogs it can alleviate some factors that make it more
   difficult to train. But you cannot expect to neuter your dog and have
   it turn into an angel without any work.
     Tip: let your dog eliminate before taking it in and again after
     getting it back. Many dogs, especially crate-trained dogs, will not
     eliminate in the vet's kennels during their stay.
   Dogs are castrated. A general anesthetic is administered, the
   testicles are removed (oriectomy) and several stitches are used to
   close it up. The scrotum will shrink and soon disappear after
   castration. You will want to neuter the dog around six months of age,
   although dogs can be neutered at any time after this. For example stud
   dogs are typically neutered after they are too old to breed, and they
   suffer no ill effects. Some clinics may use a local anesthetic
   Bitches are spayed; this is an ovario-hysterectomy (uterus and ovaries
   are removed). She must be put under general anesthesia. A large patch
   of fur will be shaved (to prevent later irritation of the incision)
   off the lower abdomen. You may have to take your bitch back in to
   remove the stitches. From a health point of view, the earlier the
   bitch is spayed, the better. Ideally, she should be spayed before her
   first heat, this reduces the risk of reproductive and related cancer
   (e.g., breast cancer) later in life considerably; not to mention
   guaranteeing no unwanted puppies. The most dramatic rise in risk of
   cancer occurs after the second heat or two years of age, whichever
   comes first before spaying. After that, while the risk is high, it
   does not rise further.
  Post-op recovery
   You will need to watch to make sure your dog does not try to pull out
   its stitches, and consult your vet if it does. You might, in
   persistent cases, need to get an Elizabethan collar to prevent the
   animal from reaching the stitches. Puffiness, redness, or oozing
   around the stitches should be also reported to the vet. Some stitches
   "dissolve" on their own; others require a return to the vet for
   For further information on how neutering may affect your dog, see the
   section on neutering in Assorted Topics.
   The cost can vary widely, depending on where you get it done. There
   are many pet-adoption places that will offer low-cost or even free
   neutering services, sometimes as a condition of adoption. Local animal
   clinics will often offer low-cost neutering. Be aware that spaying
   will always cost more than castrating at any given place since spaying
   is a more complex operation. Vets almost always charge more than
   clinics, partly because of overhead, but also because they often keep
   the animal overnight for observation and will do free followup on any
   later complications. Larger animals will cost more than smaller ones.
   Pet Assistance has a program to help you locate low-cost neutering.
   There may be an 800 number, but the San Diego number is 619-697-7387.
   They can refer you to a veterinarian in your area who will perform
   low-cost spaying or neutering. Other low cost/coupon assistance:
   1-800-321-PETS; Pet Savers Foundation at 1-800-248-SPAY. Most vets
   honor these coupons.
  Effect on behavior
   There is an extensive discussion on the effect neutering has on a
   dog's behavior in the Assorted Topics chapter of the FAQ. In summary,
   no one really knows, and for every example presented, a
   counter-example can be made.

   Dogs are not as good as people in shedding excess heat. You should
   take general care during hot and summer weather that your dog does not
   get too hot. Make sure shade and water is available and that there is
   some fresh air. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DOG IN A CAR on a hot day! Cars heat
   up much more quickly than you think and that one inch or so of open
   window will not help. If you park in the shade, the sun may move more
   quickly than you think. A water-filled pump sprayer can help keep your
   dog cool. But your best bet is to prevent overheating.
   Heatstroke is indicated by some or more of the following symptoms:
     * rapid or heavy breathing
     * bright red tongue
     * thick saliva
     * vomiting
     * bloody diarrhea
     * unsteadiness
     * hot, dry nose
     * legs, ears hot to touch
     * extreme: glassy-eyed, grey lips
   Wet the dog down gradually using cool, not cold water. Get it out of
   direct sunlight. Give it a little cool water to drink at a time. Cold
   compresses to the belly and groin helps. Get the dog to the vet. A dog
   that has had heatstroke before can be prone to getting it again.
   In general, a bitch can start her first estrus, or "heat" between the
   ages of 6 months to 18 months. If you know when her dam first went
   into heat, that will give you a good indication of what to expect with
   your puppy. It is often felt that the larger breeds take longer to
   enter heat than the smaller ones felt, but familial patterns, if
   known, are a more reliable indicator.
   The first signs of estrus include: a small amount of clear discharge,
   a modest swelling of the vulva (the external genital fold), and
   increased licking of the area. Some bitches have a shortened attention
   span. This period can last from 4 to 14 days. Other dogs will show an
   interest in licking the area (as opposed to just smelling it) as well.
   The next stage includes bloody discharge, which can be anything from a
   few spots of blood to leaving a trail behind as they go, and increased
   swelling of the vulva. The nipples will enlargen somewhat. This period
   can last anywhere from 4-14 days as well. At the end of this stage,
   the vulva is at maximal size.
   At this point the bitch is fertile and ready to be bred, and will
   accept male dogs. This stage lasts for several days. After the first
   heat cycle, the bitch's vulva and nipples will shrink down, but not to
   the puppy size that they were before.
   However, there is much individual variation. Some bitches can show
   little or no sign of being in season throughout much of their estrus
   cycle. Some will always accept male dogs (even when they are not yet
   fertile) and others never accept them.
   Spaying is generally done when the bitch is not in season. The
   increased vascularity (higher blood flow) in the organs makes the
   operation more risky. In addition, such an operation would alter the
   balance of hormones in the dog's body rather abruptly, a potential
   source of problems. However, it can be done, and often is if the bitch
   winds up unintentionally pregnant, for example.
   Male puppies are born with undescended testicles, just like human
   males. Somewhere between 4 months to a year, the testicles will
   descend, although you should be able to feel the testicles from about
   7 weeks onward. At about this time the levels of testosterone are
   peaking. An intact male dog between 10 and 12 months of age has about
   five times the testosterone level he will have in his final adult
   intensity, if he is not neutered!
   Male puppies will urinate like female puppies (by squatting) until
   about the time their testicles descend, and then will generally start
   to urinate standing up. Initial confusion is normal at this stage: be
   prepared for the puppy to raise the wrong leg, try to raise both legs,
   try to walk at the same time, or even try to use people as a "post"!
   You can encourage him to restrict his marking by praising him when he
   marks an acceptable item and scolding him when he is not. Discourage
   him from marking when you are on a walk; get him to mark around your
   yard as much as possible. (Marking, as opposed to urinating, is when
   only a small amount of urine is deposited.) Neutering early may or may
   not affect this behavior.
   If a dog has only one testicle, he is monorchid. If he has one
   undescended testicle, he is cryptorchid (unilateral); two undescended
   and he is cryptorchid (bilateral). Popular but incorrect usage calls
   the dog with one undescended testicle monorchid and two undescended
   cryptorchid. Granted, you may not be able to tell whether a dog is
   monorchid or has unlateral cryporchidsm without exploratory surgery.
   Undescended testicles often become cancerous and should be removed.
   Furthermore, such dogs should not be bred since the condition is
  Further Reading
   From a MedLine search:
   TI: Questions and answers on the effects of surgically neutering dogs
   and cats.
   AU: Johnston-SD
   SO: J-Am-Vet-Med-Assoc. 1991 Apr 1; 198(7): 1206-14
   TI: Effects of neutering and spaying on the behavior of dogs and cats:
   questions and answers about practical concerns.
   AU: Hart-BL
   SO: J-Am-Vet-Med-Assoc. 1991 Apr 1; 198(7): 1204-5
   TI: Gonadectomy in immature dogs: effects on skeletal, physical, and
   behavioral development.
   AU: Salmeri-KR; Bloomberg-MS; Scruggs-SL; Shille-V
   SO: J-Am-Vet-Med-Assoc. 1991 Apr 1; 198(7): 1193-203
   TI: Implications of early neutering in the dog and cat.
   AU: Stubbs-WP; Bloomberg-MS
   SO: Semin-Vet-Med-Surg-Small-Anim. 1995 Feb; 10(1): 8-12
Skin Problems

   Remember that a dog's skin is composed of only one layer, so it is
   much more delicate than a human's skin, which has three layers. A
   dog's skin depends on the hair and oils on it to keep it in good
   Some preventive steps:
     * Keep your dog properly fed to prevent dry skin
     * When bathing your dog, use dog-formulated shampoo to prevent dry
     * Groom your dog regularly; some problems are caused by matted hair
       providing breeding grounds for a variety of skin diseases, regular
       grooming also helps keep you aware of any incipient problems
     * Keep your dog flea and parasite free
     * Check your dog regularly for foxtails, burrs, and other sharp
       objects it may pick up when outside
  Relieving dry skin
   Some things to try:
     * Shampoos with lanolin
     * A good soak in cool water
     * Non-drying shampoo: eg, Hy-Lyt EFA is non-allergenic
     * Medicated shampoos may help with allergy-induced problems
     * Avon's Skin-So-Soft(tm) added to the rinse water
  Allergies followed by staph infections
   Once a dog has an allergic reaction, it is quite common to have a
   secondary staph infection. Many vets aren't familiar with this. The
   staph infection may stay around long after the allergy is gone.
   A vet that specializes in dermatology can be of great help in dealing
   with skin problems. See if your vet can refer you to such a person.
   Some studies on primrose and fish oil in helping relieve or cure
   secondary infections from allergies are documented in DM, March 1992.
   More information may also be obtained from writing to the RVC
   Dermatology Dept, Royal College St, London. NW1.
  Summary table
   It is beyond the scope of this FAQ to examine any of these skin
   problems in great detail, but here is a summary table of possible
   problems. Summarized from the summary tables in Carlson & Giffin,
   pages 67-69.
    Itchy Skin Disorders
Name          Symptoms
Scabies     | *intense* itching, small red spots, typical crusty ear tips
Walking     | puppies 2-12wks, dry flakes move from head to neck to back,
Dandruff    | mild itchiness
Fleas       | itching/scratching on back, tail, hindquarters
Lice        | on poorly kept/matted coat dogs, uncommon, may have bald spots
Ticks       | irritation at site of bite, often beneath ear flaps or thin skin
Damp Hay    | severe itch from worm larvae, contacted from damp marsh hay
Itch        | (regional)
Inhalation  | severe itch, face rubbing, licking paws, seasonal
Allergy     | also regional
Flea Allergy| scratching continues after fleas killed, pimple rash
Dermatitis  |
Contact     | itching/irritation at site of contact
Dermatitis  |
Allergic    | repeated or continuous contact (eg flea collar),
Contact Derm.   rash may spread
Lick sores  | "boredom sores", licking starts at wrists/ankles

    Hormone-related Hair Loss or Poor Hair Growth
Name          Symptoms
Thyroid     | loss of hair
Deficiency  | (see Canine Ailments)
Cortisone   | hair loss in symmetrical pattern, esp. trunk, skin is thin
Excess      | may also be from steroid treatments
Estrogen    | greasy hair, hair loss in flanks/abdomen, wax in ears, loss of
excess      | hair around genitals, enlargened nipples, dry skin, brittle hair
Estrogen    | scanty hair growth, smooth soft skin
deficiency  |
Acanthosis  | hair loss in armpit folds, black thick greasy rancid skin
Nigrans     |
Seborrhea   | "dandruff", hair/skin oily, yellow brown scales on skin,
            | resembles ringworm

    Other Hair Loss, etc
Name          Symptoms
Collie Nose | sunburn on lightly pigmented nose, loss of hair next to nose
Ringworm    | scaly/crusty/red circular patches .5-2in diameter w/hair loss
            | in center and red margin at edge (not from a worm)
Demodectic  | hair loss around eyelids, mouth, front leg, young dogs
mange #1    |
Demodectic  | progression of #1, patches enlarge & coalesce, pyoderma
mange #2    | complications, affects all ages
Calluses,   | gray/hairless/wrinkled skin over elbow, pressure points
elbow sores |

    With Pus Drainage (Pyoderma)
Name          Symptoms
Puppy       | impetigo: pus filled blisters, crusty hairless skin
Dermatitis  | on abdomen, groin; acne: purple-red bumps on chin, lower lip
Hair pore   | pimple-like bumps on back, sometimes draining sinus,
infection   | hair loss
Skin Wrinkle| inflamed skin, foul odor in lip fold, facial fold,
Infection   | vulvar fold, tail fold
Hot Spots   | in heavy coated dogs, painful inflamed patches of skin with
            | a wet, pus covered surface from which hair is lost
Cellulitis  | painful hot inflamed skin (wound infections, foreign bodies,
            | breaks in skin)
Abscesses   | pockets of pus beneath the skin, swells, comes to a head & drains
Puppy       | under 4mos, sudden painful swelling of lips, eyelids,
Strangles   | ears and face, draining sores, crusts, and sinus tracts
            | (prompt vet attention required, do not pop "acne")

    Lumps or Bumps on/beneath Skin
   (all lumps should be checked by vet even if not apparently painful)
Name          Symptoms
Papillomas, | anywhere, including mouth, not painful
Warts       | can look like chewing gum stuck to skin
Hematomas   | (bruises) - esp. on ears, from trauma
Tender Knots| esp. at site of shot or vaccination, painful
Cysts       | smooth lumps beneath skin, slow growth, possible cheesy
            | discharge, possible infection, otherwise not painful
Possibly    | rapid growth, hard & fixed to surrounding tissue,
cancerous   | any lump from a bone, starts to bleed, a mole that spreads or
lump        | ulcerates, open sores that do not heal (only way to tell for
            | sure is a biopsy)

   Skin problems are not easy to diagnose and cure, but there is a lot of
   research going on. Something that can help is to keep a diary for the
   dog. Every day, record what the dog ate, what the weather was like,
   whether it is itching or not, and anything else that might be relevant
   (visitors, for instance, when it is bathed, and so forth). It's
   sometimes hard to recall all the variables that might be affecting the
   dog, but if you keep a diary, sometimes patterns become very clear.

   Normal temperature range for a dog is 100 to 103 degrees Fahrenheit.
   Because dogs regulate their temperature less efficiently than people
   do, there is more variation in "normal" temperature. Your dog's
   temperature will be higher just after exercise, on a hot day, while
   snuggled under a blanket, etc.
   Dogs' temperatures are normally taken rectally. Try a digital read-out
   rectal thermometer, available at any drug store. Put a little Vaseline
   or KY Jelly on the tip, insert gently into the rectum (not too far),
   and hold for a minute or so. The digital model has a beeper that goes
   off when "done." The thermometer is easy to clean with soap & water or
   wipe with alcohol.
Trimming Nails

   Most dogs need to have nails trimmed at some point. While the vet will
   often clip them for you, many dogs need their nails trimmed more often
   than that to prevent injuries and other problems associated with
   overgrown nails.
     A tip: Look for illustrations of dog nails. Most dog care books
     will have one. Cardinal (a dog products vendor) provides a small
     poster that illustrates not only normal nail clipping but also how
     to gradually work back the length of nails that have grown too long
     and is quite informative.
   Use nail clippers available at pet stores. Look for the guillotine
   type (don't use the human variety, this will crush and injure your
   dog's nail) and get blade replacements as the sharper the blade is the
   easier this procedure is. There is another kind that looks like
   scissors with hooked tips that are also good, and may be easier to
   handle (however, the blades cannot be replaced on this type).
   Before cutting the nails, examine them carefully. If the nails are are
   white, the difference between the nail and the pink quick is easy to
   see (use good lighting). If the nails are dark, it will be much harder
   to tell where the quick is, in which case you must take care.
   If your dog resists having its nails trimmed, try trimming them while
   you sit on a couch with the dog on its back in your lap. By putting
   the dog on its back, you make the nails accessible and put the dog in
   a submissive position where they are less apt to fight. As with many
   things, this is easiest if you start while your dog is still a pup.
   If the cutter is sharp, the nails won't crack if you cut at right
   angles to the nail. that is, hold it so that the blades are on the top
   and bottom of the nail, not to the sides of the nail.
   Do not cut below the quick. It will be painful to your dog and bleed
   everywhere. When in doubt, trim less of the nail. It will just mean
   trimming more often. Clip the portion above the quick for each nail
   and don't forget the dewclaws. Keep a styptic pencil on hand to
   staunch any blood flow. Flour or cornstarch will help in a pinch.
   Dewclaws are a "fifth" toe, positioned as a "thumb" to the rest of the
   nails and they do not touch the ground. Not all dogs have them, and
   they may be found on the front legs only or on all four legs. Many
   dogs have their dewclaws removed when they are puppies to prevent
   infection resulting from easily injured dewclaws. Some adult dogs that
   regularly tear their dewclaws should have them removed. While they
   take longer to heal than three-day old puppies that have had theirs
   removed do, the pain of periodically tearing them and going in to the
   vet to have them bandaged back up makes the surgery worth while.
   The nail grinder avoids the potential problems of cutting the quick,
   nails cracking, and sharp edges afterwards. The nails can also be
   thinned, allowing the quick to recede, resulting in shorter nails and
   a tighter paw.
   RC Steele and other mail-order companies sell them for about $45. One
   model is the Oster Pet Nail Groomer, Model 129, with two speeds. Some
   dogs may be spooked by the noise. It may help to watch someone who
   knows how to use it first.
   You can use a wood rasp and file your dog's nails down. Also, if you
   clip them, using a plain file afterwards helps smooth the edges down
   and keep them neat. You can use "people files" or purchase files
   shaped for this purpose.

  Regularly scheduled shots
   An indispensable part of keeping your dog healthy is to keep its
   vaccinations up-to-date. A table, lifted from Carlson & Giffin, shows
   all the major vaccinations (at minimum) that a dog in the US should
   have. Conditions in your area may necessitate additional shots; ask
   your vet about them as they may not always be routinely included in
   normal shot programs. DHLPP is a combination shot: Distemper, (Canine)
   Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, (Canine) Parainfluenza, (Canine) Parvovirus.
 Age                Vaccine Recommended
5-8 wks           | Distemper - measles - CPI
14-16 wks         | DHLPP, Rabies
12 mos & annually | DHLPP
12 mos &          | Rabies
3 yr intervals    |

  Vaccination failure
   Vaccinations may fail under the following conditions:
     * vaccinations are improperly administered (should always be by or
       supervised by a vet)
     * the dog has some innate inability to respond
     * the dog has already been exposed to the disease in question
     * the puppy is too young for the vaccination to "take"
  Other vaccines
   Not an exhaustive list: Other vaccines and preventives should also be
   given such as heartworm, Lyme disease, etc, when needed. Heartworm
   prevention should begin around 5 months, but then it depends on where
   you live. Those living in warmer, damper areas with higher
   concentration of heartworm may want to start earlier. Lyme disease
   vaccine instructions recommend giving it around 12 weeks; Bordatella
   vaccines (for Kennel cough) around 6 months or earlier depending on
  Vaccine overload?
   Be sure your dog is safe and vaccinated against everything you think
   the dog may be exposed to, however, don't overload its system! You can
   do more harm than good by vaccinating your dog for everything all at
   once than if you stagger the vaccinations and let the individual
   immunities build up gradually.
   For some interesting material on new suggested vaccination protocols,
  Up-to-date on shots?
   Do you know what it means when your vet tells you your dog has ALL its
   shots? Chances are, your dog isn't. Stay informed and read up in some
   of the dog literature about what types of vaccinations your dog should
   have. Then make sure your vet has administered vaccines for the
   appropriate things -- it's up to YOU to make sure your dog has *all*
   its shots, not your vet.
   For an interesting article on vaccinations, see the May 1992 issue of
   Dog World. Another thoughtful article by Christine Wilford, DVM is in
   Gazette, January 1994.

   One of the most common and non-specific symptoms that a dog can have.
   You must look at how and what it is vomiting. If your dog vomits once
   or twice and then seems its normal self, it is probably not serious.
  Non-serious causes
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Most commonly: overeating. Animals that gulp their food and
   immediately exercise (esp. puppies) are likely to vomit. This is not
   serious. Feeding in smaller portions more often helps eliminate this
   problem. In particular, if the vomit looks like a solid tube of
   partially or non digested food, your dog ate too fast.
   Note that eating grass or other indigestible material is also a common
   cause of vomiting.
  Types of vomiting
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin)
   Repeated vomiting:
          Its last meal is first vomited. Then a clear, frothy liquid.
          This suggests a stomach irritant. Grass, spoiled food, other
          indigestibles, and certain infectious illnesses (such as
          gastroenteritis) all cause irritation of the stomach lining.
   Sporadic vomiting:
          The dog vomits off and on, but not continuously. No
          relationship to meals, poor appetite. Haggard appearance and
          listlessness may indicate an internal organ disorder, a chronic
          illness, a heavy worm infestation, or diabetes. A thorough
          checkup is called for.
   Vomiting blood:
          Fresh blood indicates a break in the mucus lining somewhere
          between the mouth and the upper small bowel. Common causes are
          foreign bodies, tumors and ulcers. Material which looks like
          coffee grounds is old, partly digested blood -- the problem is
          somewhere in the stomach or duodenum. Vomiting blood is always
          serious and requires a trip to the vet.
   Fecal vomiting:
          If the vomit is foul and smells like feces, there is an
          obstruction somewhere in the intestinal tract. Blunt or
          penetrating abdominal trauma is another cause. The dog will
          become rapidly dehydrated with this type of vomiting and
          requires vet attention.
   Projectile vomiting:
          The vomit is forcefully expelled, sometimes for a distance of
          several feet. It is indicative of complete blockage in the
          upper gastrointestinal tract. Foreign bodies, hairballs,
          duodenal ulcers, tumors and strictures are possible causes.
          Intracranial pressure can also cause projectile vomiting,
          causes can be brain tumor, encephalitis, and blood clots. Take
          the dog to the vet.
   Vomiting foreign objects:
          Includes bone splinters, rubber balls, (pieces of) toys, sticks
          and stones. Sometimes worms. You may want to have the vet check
          your pet for any other foreign objects, although not all of
          these will show up readily on x-ray scans.
   Emotional or Stress vomiting:
          Sometimes excited or upset dogs vomit. Remove the dog from the
          source of distress. If it is something it will encounter often,
          you will have to train the dog to remain calm around the
   Motion sickness:
          Vomits in the car. Most dogs will outgrow this problem. Check
          with your vet if it does not. See Carsickness in Assorted
          Topics for further comments.

Worm          Symptoms
roundworms  | pot belly, dull coat, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of weight
hookworms   | anemia, diarrhea, bloody stools (esp. puppies)
tapeworms   | "rice" on anal area or in stools, possible diarrhea/vomiting
whipworms   | loss of weight, some diarrhea, difficult to detect
threadworms | profuse watery diarrhea, lung infection symptoms (esp. puppies)

  Preventing worms
   (summarized from Carlson & Giffin.)
   The best way to deal with worms, of course, is to make use of worm
   prevention techniques.
   Most worms have a lifecycle that makes it easy to reinfest dogs
   because only part of that lifecycle is on the dog. Steps you can take
   to control worms in general:
     * If you have a kennel, do not use dirt. A water tight surface that
       can be hosed down is best; gravel works also. Remove stools from
       pens daily.
     * Lawns should be kept short and watered only when necessary. Remove
       stools from the yard daily.
     * Control fleas, lice, and rodents, as all these pests can be
       intermediate hosts for tapeworms.
     * Do not let your dog roam, as it may ingest tainted meat. Any meat
       fed to your dog must be thoroughly cooked.
   Most puppies have worms, as some immunity to worms only comes after
   six months of ages and the mother will infect them with her dormant
   worm larvae. Puppies should be wormed at 2-3 weeks and again at 4-6
   weeks. You should be especially vigilant for worms while your puppy is
   still growing; a bad case of worms can seriously interfere with its
   development. Bring fresh fecal samples in regularly to the vet for
    Health Care Issues FAQ
    Cindy Tittle Moore,
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