Monthly Archives: November 2011

Popular Dog Breeds and their Health Issues

Some of our most beloved dogs suffer from serious illnesses that we must be aware of.  Browse the following list of breeds to understand the top health issues.


Siberian Husky: Autoimmune Disorders

Siberian Huskies seem to be predisposed to a variety of autoimmune disorders, many of which affect the skin. These conditions cause sores and hair loss, often on the face. One immune condition affects both the skin and the eyes and can lead to eye problems like glaucoma and cataracts. Treatment for these disorders is corticosteroids to inhibit the immune system.

Bulldog: Respiratory Problems

Like all dogs with those adorable smashed-in faces, bulldogs can suffer from breathing problems. Your bulldog’s small nostrils, elongated soft palate, and narrow trachea are the reasons why he probably snores, and they can lead to a life-threatening emergency if he gets overheated or overtired. That’s why it’s important to keep bulldogs cool in the summer and never overdo it with exercise.

Pug: Eye Problems

With their squashed faces and bulgy eyes, pugs are at risk for eye problems. The most serious is an eye popping out of its socket. This can happen if a pug gets into an accident or a fight with another dog. If this happens, cover the eye with a damp cloth and rush your dog to the vet. The vet can put the eye back in place, although whether the dog will retain vision in the eye depends on the severity of the damage.

German Shepherd: Hip Dysplasia

Many large breeds are prone to hip dysplasia. In hip dysplasia, the joint’s ball and socket don’t fit together properly, which causes pain, arthritis, and problems walking. When looking for a German shepherd puppy, ask the breeder whether the parents have been screened for hip dysplasia. Parents with healthy hips are more likely to produce puppies with healthy hips.

Labrador Retriever: Obesity

Any dog can become overweight, but labs are especially prone to it. And just like with people, obesity is linked to health problems in dogs. Labs need vigorous daily exercise. If your lab is constantly begging for more food, try giving her raw carrots, green beans, or apples to snack on. Since prevention is easier than weight loss, it’s best to consult with your vet on a diet plan that’s right for your pet.

Beagle: Epilepsy

Epilepsy, a brain disorder that causes seizures, seems to be more common in beagles than in other dog breeds. Epileptic dogs will usually have their first seizure between 6 months and 3 years old. Though epilepsy can’t be cured, frequent seizures (more than one a month) can usually be managed with antiseizure medication.

Shih Tzu: Wobbly Kneecaps

Wobbly kneecaps, or patellar luxation, are extremely common in toy breeds like shih tzus. In patellar luxation, the kneecap occasionally pops out of place, causing the dog to hobble, skip a step, or limp. The kneecap will usually pop back into position on its own, but in severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem and prevent arthritis.

Boxer: Cancer

Boxers are at higher risk for certain types of cancer, including lymphoma and mast cell tumors. Lymphoma is cancer of the lymph nodes, and mast cell tumors are a type of skin cancer. In both cases, the cancer is often felt as an unusual lump or bump on your dog’s body. Both of these cancers might be treatable, but it’s important to catch them early. So if you have a boxer, be sure to check him regularly for lumps.

Dachshund: Back Problems

Because of their long bodies, dachshunds are at higher risk for back injuries and spinal disk problems. The best way to keep your dachshund feeling her best is to keep her at a healthy weight. Excess weight puts strain on the back. Also try to limit stair-climbing and jumping down from furniture, as it can also put stress on the back.

Doberman Pinscher: Heart Condition

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious heart condition in which the heart’s chambers are stretched out and don’t pump blood effectively. Often, owners of dogs with DCM don’t even realize something is wrong until their dog collapses. Because DCM is so common in Dobermans, many vets suggest annual screenings. Medications can regulate heart rhythm and improve the heart’s ability to pump, but there is no cure for DCM.

Cocker Spaniel: Ear Infections

Dogs like cocker spaniels with floppy, furry ears are prone to frequent ear infections. The best way to prevent ear infections is to clean your dog’s ears every couple of weeks and occasionally flip her ears back to let them “breathe.” Also trim any hair growing on the underside of the ears with clippers to help keep the ear canals dry. Minimizing the frequency of ear infections may also prevent major problems down the road.

Yorkshire Terrier: Portosystemic Shunt

Portosystemic shunt (PSS) is a blood vessel birth defect that’s common in small breeds like the Yorkie. The portal vein carries toxins from the intestines to the liver, which cleans the blood. With PSS, the vein bypasses the liver, and toxins aren’t removed. PSS may cause poor growth, vomiting, confusion, and seizures. Most of the time, PSS can be corrected with surgery, and the dog will go on to live a normal, healthy life.

Golden Retriever: Skin Allergies

Does it seem like your golden is constantly licking? Unlike people, dogs don’t sneeze when they’re allergic to something. Instead, they tend to get itchy skin. And frequent licking, scratching, and chewing can lead to hot spots (red, oozing sores). To soothe itchy skin, give your dog baths with oatmeal shampoo, add an omega-3 supplement to his diet, and make sure he has regular flea treatment.

Poodle: Glaucoma

Poodles are one of a handful of breeds that are at increased risk for this serious eye disease. Glaucoma is a buildup of fluid in the eye, which causes pressure, pain, and eventually blindness. Early on, glaucoma can be treated with medications. But surgery and even removal of the affected eye may be necessary.

Rottweiler: Joint Problems

Large breeds like the Rottweiler are at risk for a variety of joint problems, including hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, arthritis, and osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD). OCD is a condition that develops in large, fast-growing puppies in which the cartilage in a joint doesn’t form properly. Feeding the right amount of a balanced diet may help keep your Rottweiler’s joints healthy. However, many dogs require surgery to remove the abnormal cartilage.

Miniature Schnauzer: Diabetes

Has your miniature schnauzer been drinking water like he’s just run a marathon? Is he suddenly having accidents in the house? He could have diabetes. Any dog can develop diabetes, but miniature schnauzers seem to be at higher risk. Diabetes is a serious condition, but with the insulin and diet changes your dog can live a normal, healthy life.

Chihuahua: Collapsing Trachea

Does your Chihuahua make a honking noise when she gets excited? She may have a collapsed trachea — a common problem in toy breeds. With collapsed trachea, the cartilage that normally holds the trachea open is weak, so the trachea flattens. Some dogs go their whole lives with collapsing trachea and have no problems from it; others require medication. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to prop the trachea open.

Pomeranian: Hair Loss

Pomeranians are predisposed to an adrenal gland disease called alopecia X, which causes hair loss. Alopecia X usually begins when a dog is young. If a dog with alopecia X is intact, spaying or neutering often causes the hair to grow back (the hair loss is caused by excess production of sex hormones). Melatonin supplements can also help.

German Shorthaired Pointer: Aortic Stenosis

Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aorta, the large blood vessel that carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the body. Aortic stenosis puts strain on the heart and over time might cause an irregular heart rhythm. When aortic stenosis is mild, there may be no symptoms. In more severe cases, the dog may be weak and tire easily. Unfortunately, aortic stenosis usually shortens a dog’s lifespan, but it can be managed with medications.

Great Dane: Bloat

Giant breeds like Great Danes are at higher risk for gastric dilation and volvulus, or bloat. This is a life-threatening condition that develops when the stomach fills up with gas and then twists, trapping food and gas in the stomach. If you notice your dog pacing, panting, and drooling excessively right after eating, call the vet right away. Bloat can be corrected with surgery, but it can be fatal if not treated quickly.

Shetland Sheepdog: Collie Eye

Shelties can be affected by a group of related eye problems known as “collie eye anomaly.” Collie eye affects the retina and the optic nerve. Mild cases may not affect the dog’s vision at all, but moderate to severe cases can lead to blindness. There is no treatment for collie eye, and it’s fairly widespread among the breeds that are affected by it. So before you bring a Sheltie puppy home, ask the breeder if he’s been tested.

Maltese: Little White Shaker Syndrome

This funny-named condition is just what it sounds like: tremors in small dogs that are white (although dogs with other coat colors can get it, too). It’s caused by inflammation in the cerebellum, which causes shaking that can be so bad the dog can barely walk. But the good news is that it’s treatable with corticosteroids, it’s not painful for the dog, and it usually subsides after a few weeks.

Boston Terrier: Cherry Eye

Because of their protruding eyes, Boston Terriers are susceptible to a number of eye problems, including cherry eye. In cherry eye, a tear-producing gland “pops out” from behind the dog’s third eyelid. It’s called cherry eye because the gland is round and bright red. Cherry eye can be repaired with surgery. Besides cherry eye, Boston Terriers are also at risk for dry eye, cataracts, and entropion (turned-in eyelids).

French Bulldog: Breathing Problems

Like his English cousin, the French bulldog is susceptible to breathing problems. Also known as brachycephalic airway syndrome, this set of breathing problems is a result of the breed’s pushed-in nose, elongated soft palate, and narrow trachea. Extreme heat or too much exercise can cause a French bulldog to struggle to breathe, so it’s best to keep him indoors on hot days.

Dog Owner Mistakes

Although we all have great intensions, sometimes mistakes are made when caring for our dogs.   These mistakes can seem harmless; however can be very critical for our pup.  The following is a list of the most common mistakes dog owners make.


Dog Health Mistake 1: Not Getting Preventive Care

Although annual exams may coincide with needed vaccinations, simply getting your dog vaccinated isn’t the same as a full physical exam. Among other things, a comprehensive checkup may include:

  • Blood work
  • A fecal examination for intestinal parasites
  • Examination of a dog’s gums, heart, lungs, teeth, eyes, and ears

Talk to your veterinarian to learn more.

Dog Health Mistake 2: Neglecting Dental Care

As on human teeth, plaque forms on a dog’s teeth after eating. If left alone, the plaque builds, causing inflammation, decay, and eventually bone and tooth loss. And while this silent war goes on in your dog’s mouth, she’s probably experiencing pain you don’t notice because dogs, like cats, instinctively hide pain.

Gum disease is actually five times as common in dogs as in people. But it’s easy to prevent and to treat with dental care that includes:

  • Daily brushings
  • Good quality food
  • Regular oral X-rays, exams, and cleanings
  • Safe, teeth-cleaning treats and chew toys

Dog Health Mistake 3: Overfeeding

It can be difficult enough to balance our own diets, much less that of our dogs. So talk to your vet, who will help you select a good, high-quality food for your dog and give you tips on exercise and treats. That’s right — you don’t have to stop sharing occasional goodies with your pooch, as long as 90% to 95% of your dog’s diet is healthy and well balanced.

Dog Health Mistake 4: Sharing Medication

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, are the most common cause of pet poisoning in small animals, according to the ASPCA. Even small doses can be toxic. Antidepressants, muscle relaxers, decongestants, vitamin D derivatives, oral diabetes treatments, and other common human drugs can all pose risks to pets, from seizures to coma to death.

Dog Health Mistake 5: Delaying Critical Care

We often delay medical care for ourselves, waiting for a bump, pain, or rash to go away. So it may seem natural to do the same thing with our dog.

There’s a problem with that, however: Dogs don’t have the words to let us know exactly what they’re feeling. Your canine companion could be in pain, sick, and even gravely ill — and chances are you wouldn’t know it because of dogs’ instinct to hide infirmity.

Don’t wait to see if a health problem in your dog gets better on its own. Call your vet if your dog isn’t eating or is eating less, vomiting, lethargic, has diarrhea or fever, or just doesn’t seem well.

Exercising with your Dog!

Exercise is best fit with a friend or exercise partner.  Well your dog can be just that!  A trip to the vet for your dog and a doctor’s checkup for you is recommended before starting an exercise program. Here are some tips on how to involve your dog in your exercise regime!


Brisk walking is an ideal exercise for human and hound. The benefits include a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, more energy, denser bones, and a lower risk of depression. In dogs, regular walks can also reduce common behavior problems.


If long walks don’t entice you, try dancing with your dog. Also called musical freestyle, you choreograph a dance routine to upbeat music. You’ll have your pooch running between your legs and performing other tricks, while both of you get an aerobic workout. The benefits of dance include burning calories and developing greater stamina, better balance, lower blood pressure, and improved muscle tone and bone density.


Not all dogs are built to jog. Greyhounds, for example, are pros at short-distance sprinting, but can become fatigued during long-distance runs. If you want to jog with your dog, choose a breed that is suited to distance-running, such as a Labrador. Wait until your pup is full grown and then gradually build up to a 30-minute excursion. This should include five minutes of warm-up, 20 minutes of jogging, and five minutes of cooldown. Remember that dogs can’t sweat, so avoid the hot times of the day and stop if your dog is lagging behind you.


Swimming is an all-in-one workout that is especially beneficial for people or dogs with arthritis. Because it’s a low-impact sport, swimming is easy on the joints. But that doesn’t mean it’s a wimpy workout. Swimming works various muscle groups, improves endurance, and strengthens the heart and lungs. Not all dogs enjoy swimming, so start slowly. Use toys or treats for encouragement, and if your dog still resists, find another sport.


Frisbee offers a classic canine workout. You can play a relaxed game in your own yard or join a formal “Disc Dog” team. Participating in competitions may give you and your dog greater motivation to practice regularly.


If your area offers hiking opportunities, you’ve got one lucky dog. Like walking, you’ll need to maintain a brisk enough pace to elevate your heart rate. And if you live in an area where ticks carry Lyme disease, make sure you cover up and apply an insect repellent containing DEET – and have your dog vaccinated. After hiking, inspect your body for ticks and do the same for your dog.

Agility Training

Agility training is another popular goal-oriented sport. Your dog races through an obstacle course with ladders, hurdles and tunnels, while you run alongside offering praise and encouragement. The fast pace provides both of you with an excellent cardiovascular workout, while your dog also develops improved coordination. Participate in organized competitions or look for a park with an agility course you can use on your own time.


Downward-dog takes on a whole new spin when you bring your dog to yoga class. “Doga” incorporates your pet into Hatha yoga poses. For example, you recline in resting pose with your legs bent over your terrier’s torso. Classes are springing up across the country, but this is no fat-burner for Fido.

Dog Park

To provide a chance for off-leash play, find a local dog park. Off-leash running and playing lets your dog set his own pace, so he can burn energy and rest when he’s tired. Other perks include the chance to socialize and the mental stimulation that comes with unfettered exploration. Dog owners also get a workout trying to keep up with their pets. It’s a good idea to complete some obedience training before allowing your dog off-leash.


Is your Cat up all night?

Even though your cat may be asleep all day and enjoying themselves, they sometimes can be up during the night and disturb your rest.  Here are some tips on how to ensure your cat does not keep you up at night.


  • Schedule a few interactive play sessions with your cat during the evening. Try using toys that can mimic the movement of mice and birds, such as toys that dangle and wiggle. Games with ping-pong balls, soft balls and furry mice toys are great for cats who like to fetch. Play until your cat seems tired.
  • Feed your cat a main meal just before your bedtime. Cats tend to sleep after a big meal. If your cat continues to wake you during the night for food, purchase a timed feeder that you can fill and set to dispense once or twice during the night. If your cat’s hungry, he’ll learn to wait by the feeder rather than bother you while you’re sleeping. Make sure you reduce meal sizes so that your cat doesn’t gain weight.
  • Incorporate a variety of enrichment activities to keep your cat busy during daylight hours. The more active your cat is during the day, the more likely that he’ll sleep at night.
  • If your cat is social with other cats, consider adding a second cat to your family. If the two cats are compatible, they’ll probably play with each other and leave you alone at night. However, romping cats can make quite a racket, which might disturb your sleep just as much as one cat trying to wake you!
  • Playful cats sometimes unintentionally injure their sleeping owners. For instance, your cat might notice your eyes moving under your lids as you sleep and swat at your face in play. If your cat tries to play with you or wake you while you’re sleeping, you might need to shut him out of your bedroom at night. If he cries and scratches at the door, you can discourage him by placing something in front of the door that he won’t want to step on, such as vinyl carpet runner placed upside-down to expose the knobby parts, double-sided sticky tape, aluminum foil or a Scat Mat™ (available at most pet supply stores or through online pet supply sites). Alternatively, you can set a “booby trap” outside your door. Try hanging your blow dryer off the bedroom door knob, or placing your vacuum cleaner five or six feet away from the door. Plug the dryer or vacuum into a remote switch (available from Radio Shack). When your cat wakes you by meowing outside your door, you can hit a button on the remote to turn on the appliance. Your startled cat probably won’t return to your door after that!

What you should NOT do

  • Unless you suspect that your cat is waking you up because he’s hurt or sick, don’t get out of bed and attend to him. If you get up and feed your cat, play with him or even interact with him, you will have inadvertently rewarded him for waking you. As a result, he’ll try harder and harder to wake you each subsequent night. Even getting out of bed to scold your cat won’t work well, because negative attention from you may be better than no attention at all.