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Unruly Behaviors in Dogs

Jumping, Digging, Chasing, and Stealing Behaviors in Dogs

All of these actions are within the range of normal dog behaviors. However, a dog that is not kept active enough may behave excessively in one or more of these ways. This can be especially true of dogs that are normally high energy by genetic disposition or character. 

Jumping up excessively as part of a greeting, for example, can be associated with separation anxiety and the excitement of having the human companion return home. Digging can often be associated with other behavioral disorders, neurologic disorders, or abdominal pain.

Symptoms and Types

  • Jumping on people
    • During arrivals, departures or greetings
    • Exploring the contents of countertops
  • Digging
    • Along a fence line
    • In areas of recent gardening
    • At rodent holes
    • On interior flooring
    • Worn claws (nails)
  • Stealing
    • Items displaced, hidden
    • Food items missing from surfaces (i.e., tables)


  • Jumping
    • Excitement, encouragement of excited behavior
    • Separation anxiety
  • Digging
    • Following scent of rodents
    • Anxiety
    • Regulation of body temperature
    • Boredom or lack of adequate exercise
    • Hunting behaviors (food catching or retrieval)
    • Escape from confinement
    • Pain
    • Separation anxiety
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
    • Neurologic disease
  • Stealing
    • May be attempt to get your attention
    • Desire for a food item, lack of internal discipline
  • Chasing
    • Herding instinct
    • Hunting
    • Play
    • Defense


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


Anything that produces an action or reaction


An animal’s attitude or temperament

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Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs commonly results in destructive or otherwise inappropriate behavior when an owner leaves the pet or is not in close proximity to it. Behaviors that may be seen include vocalization, destroying objects, digging, or even depression. However, these behaviors may also be due to other conditions or environmental cues. Therefore, it is important for the behaviorist or veterinarian to obtain the dog’s history before attributing separation anxiety as the primary or sole cause of the behavior.

Symptoms and Types of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety causes some pets to be extremely destructive while their owners are away. Typically, separation anxiety occurs during the first hour of the owner leaving. They may also vocalize, attempt to follow the owner, or defecate or urinate in the house. Some dogs will stop eating, act depressed, hide, whine, or pant. These dogs will usually behave in an excessively excited manner when the owner returns home.

Diagnostics for Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Other behavioral conditions may mimic separation anxiety, so it is important to analyze the symptoms and history of the dog. There may be underlying medical issues, so seeing a veterinarian is an important step. Also, young animals may have other reasons for similar behaviors. For example, teething kittens may need appropriate things to chew on or may not be fully housetrained and may not truly be experiencing separation anxiety.

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Loss of Balance (Unbalanced Gait) in Dogs

Ataxia, Vestibular Disease in Dogs

Ataxia is a condition relating to a sensory dysfunction that produces loss of coordination of the limbs, head, and/or trunk. There are three clinical types of ataxia: sensory (proprioceptive), vestibular, and cerebellar. All three types produce changes in limb coordination, but vestibular and cerebellar ataxia also produce changes in head and neck movement.

Sensory (proprioceptive) ataxia occurs when the spinal cord is slowly compressed. A typical outward symptom of sensory ataxia is misplacing the feet, accompanied by a progressive weakness as the disease advances. Sensory ataxia can occur with spinal cord, brain stem (the lower part of the brain near the neck), and cerebral locations of lesions.

The vestibulocochlear nerve carries information concerning balance from the inner ear to the brain. Damage to the vestibulocochlear nerve can cause changes in head and neck position, as the affected animal may feel a false sense of movement, or may be having problems with hearing. Outward symptoms include leaning, tipping, falling, or even rolling over. Central vestibular signs usually have changing types of eye movements, sensory deficits, weakness in the legs (all or one sided), multiple cranial nerve signs, and drowsiness, stupor, or coma. Peripheral vestibular signs do not include changes in mental status, vertical eye movements, sensory deficits, or weakness in the legs.

Cerebellar ataxia is reflected in uncoordinated motor activity of the limbs, head and neck, taking large steps, stepping oddly, head tremors, body tremors and swaying of the torso. There is an inadequacy in the performance of motor activity and in strength preservation.

Symptoms and Types

  • Weakness of the limbs
    • May affect one, two, or all of the limbs
    • May affect only the hind legs, or the legs on one side of the body
  • Tilting head to one side
  • Trouble hearing – non-responsive to being called to at normal voice pitch
  • Stumbling, tipping over, swaying
  • Excessive drowsiness or stupor
  • Changes in behavior
  • Abnormal eye movements – may be due to false feeling of movement, vertigo
  • Lack of appetite due to nausea (symptom of motion sickness from loss of internal equilibrium [balance])


  • Neurologic
    • Cerebellar
    • Degenerative:
      • Abiotrophy (prematurely the cerebellum loses function)
    • Anomalous:
      • Underdevelopment secondary to perinatal infection with panleukopenia virus in cats
      • A cyst located near fourth ventricle
    • Cancer
    • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
    • Toxic
  • Vestibular – central nervous system (CNS)
    • Inflammatory, unknown causes, immune-mediated
    • Toxic
  • Vestibular—Peripheral nervous system
    • Infectious:
      • Middle ear
      • Fungal
    • Diseases of unknown cause
    • Metabolic
    • Cancer
    • Traumatic
  • Spinal Cord
    • Degeneration of the nerve roots and spinal cords
    • Vascular:
      • Loss of blood to nervous system due to blockage of blood vessels by a blood clot
    • Anomalous:
      • Spinal cord and vertebral malformation
      • spinal cyst
    • Cancer
    • Infectious
    • Traumatic
  • Metabolic
    • Anemia
    • Electrolyte disturbances – low potassium and low blood sugar


You will need to give your veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have preceded this condition. Your veterinarian will order standard tests, including a blood chemical profile, a complete blood count, a urinalysis and an electrolyte panel.

Imaging is crucial for determining whether the disease is localized to the peripheral vestibular system, the spinal cord, or the cerebellum. Computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), myelography and spinal X-rays can all be useful diagnostic tools for non-invasive internal examinations. Chest and abdominal X-rays are also important for determining if cancer or systemic infection is present. An abdominal ultrasound should be done to check liver, kidney, adrenal or pancreatic functions.

If the source of the disease is suspected to be in the nervous system, a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) will be taken for laboratory analysis.


A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body


Something that is related to the whole body and not just one particular part or organ


a) A cavity in certain animals b) Term refers to a rear chamber in the heart or a cavity in the brain


The study of the spine after dye has been injected


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


Any growth or organ on an animal that is not normal

brain stem

The part of the brain that contains the medulla oblongata and other vital portions of the brain.


A state of balance or being balanced


The term used to describe the movement of an animal


A medical condition in which an animal is unable to control the movements of their muscles; may result in collapse or stumbling.

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Jumping, Chewing, Playbiting, and Other Destructive Behavior Problems in Puppies, Young Dogs

Pediatric Behavior Problems in Dogs

Undesirable behavior exhibited by dogs between puppyhood and adolescence, such as destructive chewing, jumping on people, and play biting, is medically referred to as pediatric behavior problems. Though these behaviors may be perceived as a “normal” trait of a puppy, it is often not acceptable behavior for a pet. It is important to address this as early as possible with behavioral modification therapies while the puppy is still impressionable.

Genetics do play an important role and behavior of young pups is likely to be similar to those of their parents. Certain breeds inherit certain problems like unruly, activity problems in working breeds of dog. However, such behavioral problems have been found to be more common in urban areas where opportunities for exercise and play are limited.

Symptoms and Types

Destructive Chewing

Initially, the pup may chew and damage furniture and/or other household items in the presence of family member, but after being caught and punished, he may continue be destructive when no family member is around.


Play fighting may be started by a family member initially, but can further escalate or become spontaneous afterward. This is a problem because the deciduous teeth of puppies are still sharp and can cause injury if it bites the hands, legs, and/or clothing of family members. Growling and barking may also develop, but usually differ from the acts associated with fear or justified aggression.

Jumping on People

Jumping on people and placing paws on visitors and/or family members typically occurs during greetings and when she is excited, but may occur when the pup wants attention or something in the person’s hand.

Getting on Counters/Furniture

The pup may get on the counters or furniture to grab an object to chew or eat. He or she may also jump on furniture during play, to get attention, or to rest.


While many behavior problems in puppies are species-typical, there are some causes that can worsen behavioral issues — many of which are related to inadequate supervision, control, training, exercise, and/or the pup’s general environment. Specific factors that may lead to the categories listed above include:

Destructive chewing

  • Poor nutrition or inadequate food provisions
  • Presence of mice or other small mammals in the walls or flooring
  • Spilled food on carpet or furniture
  • Insufficient or uninteresting toys
  • Escape behavior

Play biting

  • Teasing and rough play (i.e., encouraging pup to bite)
  • Long confinement periods, especially in small enclosures
  • Excited greetings by visitors or family members

Getting on Counters/Furniture

  • Insufficient or uninteresting toys
  • Desired foods or objects left on furniture
  • Uncomfortable floor surfaces or inadequate sleeping areas



You will need to give the veterinarian a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms. The questions will particularly focus on the pup’s environment, new additions to the family (including other animals), and other related topics. Laboratory tests, meanwhile, are often not conducted unless a concurrent disease or condition is present.


The act of determining an animal’s age by looking at its teeth


The term for a harness that is worn by certain animals; it fits over the head and the nose

deciduous teeth

Temporary teeth that go away as maturity approaches

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Itchiness, Desire to Scratch, Chew or Lick Causing Inflamed Skin in Dogs

Pruritus in Dogs

Pruritus is the medical term used to define a dog’s sensation to itch, or the sensation that provokes its desire to scratch, rub, chew, or lick its hair and skin. Pruritus is also an indicator of inflamed skin. Intense scratching can eventually lead to partial or full hair loss, but with treatment, prognosis is positive.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how pruritus affects cats, please visit this page in the petMD health library.


Some of the most common symptoms seen in dogs include:

  • Scratching
  • Licking
  • Biting
  • Chewing
  • Self-trauma
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Hair loss (alopecia)


There are many causes of pruritus, including fleas, scabies, lice, allergies, bacterial infections, abnormal cell development (neoplasia), and immune disorders.


A skin biopsy may be needed to determine the diagnosis as there are many triggers that can cause skin itching and the desire to scratch. Allergy testing is often used to determine and localize the cause of the itching or desire to scratch.


Something that causes itching


The prediction of a disease’s outcome in advance


Small, wingless insects that live as parasites on humans and some animals


The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.

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Excessive Vocalization in Dogs

Disruptive Crying, Whining and Barking in Dogs

Excessive vocalization refers to uncontrollable, excessive barking, whining or crying, often occurring at inappropriate times of the night or day. Such vocalization can be due to pain, illness, cognitive dysfunction syndrome (CDS), or may be related to a decline in hearing in senior pets.

CDS is often associated with night waking, during which excessive vocalization occurs. Dogs that are bred for work and high energy activities may be prone to excess barking.

Excessive barking may also be related to behavioral conditions, which may be controlled by behavior modification training. There are also some breeds that are better known for excessive and inappropriate barking. Many breeds of terrier, such as the Yorkshire, Cairn, Fox, West Highland White, and Silky terriers, are prone to barking without cause and may benefit from behavioral modification training. Other breeds include toy and miniature poodles, chihuahuas, and Pekingese.

Symptoms and Types

  • Night vocalizations in senior age dogs
  • Excessive barking in working-breed dogs
  • Excessive barking in high energy, nervous dogs
  • Vocalization caused by pain or illness
  • Vocalization disruptive to owners or others (e.g., neighbors)


  • Medical: disease, pain, CDS
  • Anxiety or conflict
  • Alarm barking – in response to novel stimuli
  • Territorial – warning or guarding response to sounds from outdoors
  • Social or attention-seeking behavior that is reinforced by verbal commands or return of owner to room
  • Distress vocalization (e.g. howling or whining) – often due to separation from mother, family, social group or owner
  • Growling may be associated with antagonistic displays
  • Stereotypical behaviors or compulsive disorders
  • Breed – genetic characteristics


If your dog’s increased vocalization is out of the ordinary, you will want to have health problems ruled out before considering behavior modification. Your veterinarian can perform a full medical work-up, including a chemical blood profile, complete blood count (CBC), urinalysis and electrolyte panel, along with a complete physical exam. Possible incidents that might have led to this condition will also be considered, and a thorough history of your dog’s behavioral health leading up to the symptoms will be taken into account.

It is critical to rule out a non-behavioral, physical cause of the vocalization first. Imaging can be helpful for ruling out medical/neurological disorders. BAER (brainstem auditory evoked response) testing can be done if auditory decline is suspected.


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


The term for a harness that is worn by certain animals; it fits over the head and the nose


Anything pertaining to what can be heard; hearing.

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Excessive Production of Saliva in Dogs

Ptyalism in Dogs

Ptyalism is a condition characterized by the excessive flow of saliva, also referred to as hypersalivation. Pseudoptyalism (i.e., false ptyalism), on the other hand, is the release of excess saliva that has accumulated in the oral cavity. Saliva is constantly produced and secreted into the oral cavity from the salivary glands. Production of saliva increases because of excitation of the salivary nuclei in the brain stem. The stimuli that lead to this are taste and touch sensations involving the mouth and tongue. Higher centers in the central nervous system can also excite or inhibit the salivary nuclei. Lesions involving either the central nervous system or the oral cavity can cause excessive salivation as well. Diseases that affect the pharynx, esophagus, and stomach can also stimulate excessive production of saliva. Conversely, normal saliva production may appear excessive in animals with an anatomic abnormality that allows saliva to dribble out of the mouth, or are affected with a condition that affects swallowing. Ingestion of a toxin, a caustic agent, or a foreign body can also lead to ptyalism.

Young dogs are more likely to have a form of ptyalism caused by a congenital problem such as a portosystemic shunt. Under normal conditions, the portal vein enters the liver and allows toxic components of the blood to be detoxified by the liver. When a shunt is present, the portal vein is inappropriately connected to another vein, which causes blood to bypass the liver. Yorkshire terriers, Maltese, Australian cattle dogs, miniature schnauzers, and Irish wolfhound breeds have a relatively higher incidence of congenital portosystemic shunts. Enlargement of the esophagus is hereditary in wirehaired fox terriers and miniature schnauzers, and familial predispositions have been reported in the German shepherd, Newfoundland, great Dane, Irish setter, Chinese shar-pei, greyhound, and retriever breeds. Congenital hiatal hernia has been recognized in the Chinese shar-pei. Giant breeds, such as the St. Bernard and the mastiff, are known for excessive drooling.

Symptoms and Types

  • Loss of appetite – seen most often in dogs with oral lesions, gastrointestinal disease, and systemic disease
  • Eating behavior changes – dogs with oral disease or cranial nerve dysfunction may refuse to eat hard food, not chew on the affected side (patients with unilateral lesions), hold the head in an unusual position while eating, or drop food
  • Other behavioral changes – irritability, aggressiveness, and reclusiveness are common, especially in dogs with a painful condition
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Regurgitation – in dogs with esophageal disease
  • Vomiting – secondary to gastrointestinal or systemic disease
  • Pawing at the face or muzzle – dogs with oral discomfort or pain
  • Neurologic signs – dogs that have been exposed to causative drugs or toxins, and those with hepatic encephalopathy following consumption of a meal high in protein



  • Conformational disorder of the lips – particularly in giant-breed dogs
  • Oral and Pharyngeal Diseases
    • Presence of a foreign body (e.g., linear foreign body, such as a sewing needle).
    • Tumor
    • Abscess
    • Gingivitis or stomatitis: inflammation of the lining of the mouth, secondary to periodontal disease
    • Viral upper respiratory infection
    • Immune-mediated disease
    • Kidney disease
    • Ingestion of a caustic agent, or poisonous plants
    • Effects of radiation therapy to the oral cavity
    • Burns (e.g., from biting on an electrical cord)
    • Neurologic or functional disorder of the pharynx
  • Salivary Gland Diseases
    • Foreign body
    • Tumor
    • Sialoadenitis: inflammation of the salivary glands
    • Hyperplasia: over proliferation of cells
    • Infarction: area of necrotic tissue caused by loss of adequate blood supply
    • Sialocele: salivary-retention cyst
    • Esophageal or Gastrointestinal Disorders
    • Esophageal foreign body
    • Esophageal tumor
    • Esophagitis: inflammation of the esophagus secondary to ingestion of a caustic agent or poisonous plant
    • Gastroesophageal reflux
    • Hiatal hernia: stomach bulging up into the chest
    • Megaesophagus: enlarged esophagus
    • Gastric distension: bloating of the stomach
    • Gastric ulcer
  • Metabolic Disorders
    • Hepatoencephalopathy – caused by a congenital or acquired portosystemic shunt, where the liver is not able to remove harmful substances from the blood, and the toxins are diverted to the brain
    • Hyperthermia: high fever
    • Uremia: kidney failure
  • Neurologic Disorders
    • Rabies
    • Pseudorabies
    • Botulism
    • Tetanus
    • Dysautonomia: disease of the nervous system
    • Disorders that cause dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing
    • Disorders that cause facial nerve palsy or a dropped jaw
    • Disorders that cause seizures
    • Nausea associated with vestibular disease
  • Drugs and Toxins
    • Caustic/corrosive toxins (e.g., household cleaning products and some common house plants).
    • Substances with a disagreeable taste
    • Substances that induce hypersalivation.
    • Animal venom (e.g., black widow spiders, Gila monsters, and North American scorpions)
    • Toad and newt secretions
    • Plant consumption may cause increased salivation (e.g., poinsettia, Dieffenbachia)


There are many different causes for excessive salivation. You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including vaccination status, current medications, possible toxin exposure, a background history of symptoms, and any other possible incidents that might have precipitated this condition. Your doctor will need to distinguish between hypersalivation associated with a condition that is causing difficulty swallowing, from hypersalivation associated with nausea. Depression, lip smacking, and retching are some of the signs your veterinarian will look for. Your doctor will also want to give your dog a complete physical examination, with special attention paid to the oral cavity and neck, along with a neurologic examination. Diagnostic tools may include x-ray and ultrasound imaging to determine whether there is a problem in the structure of the liver, or in any other internal organs. If an immune-related disorder is suspected, your veterinarian may also want to conduct a biopsy of tissue and cells.


Excessive salivation at the mouth


A cavity in the mouth where the respiratory systems and gastrointestinal systems come together


A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body

radiation therapy

A treatment of certain neoplasms that is administered using an x ray


Something that is related to the whole body and not just one particular part or organ

vestibular disease

Any disorder of the neurons that may be characterized by rolling, circling, falling, etc.


A condition of having only one side


Having to do with dead tissue


A medical condition in which the mouth becomes inflamed


To slow something down or cause it to stop


A disease of the brain of any type


Condition in which eating and/or swallowing is difficult

brain stem

The part of the brain that contains the medulla oblongata and other vital portions of the brain.


The tube that extends from the mouth to the stomach


The digestive tract containing the stomach and intestine


The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.


The condition of having a part of a body part protruding through the tissue that would normally cover it


Referring to the liver


The term for the nostrils and muscles in the upper and lower lips of an animal; may also be used to describe a type of tool used to keep an animal from biting

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Does Your Dog Have a Snoring Problem?

by Geoff Williams

Sleeping in a bed with a dog isn’t for everyone. It can be soothing to have that big lug of a Lab pressed up against you, but you may well be sleeping with a dog that likes to hog the blankets or fill up most of the available space on the mattress. And, of course, you may have a dog that snores. Loudly.

It’s that last part that may trouble you the most. Humans who snore loudly are often candidates for sleep apnea, a disorder in which you stop breathing briefly while you’re out cold. As you can imagine, it’s a serious medical condition for humans, and so you may well wonder if your dog’s loud snoring might be a sign of a health problem.

Although your dog’s snoring may be perfectly normal, as it turns out, you are right to be concerned. So if you’re wondering whether to take your snorer in to see the vet, here are some things you’ll want to know.

Some Dog Breeds Are Predisposed to Snoring

Do you have an English bulldog, Shih Tzu, or Pug? These breeds are brachycephalic, which means that your dog has a broad, short skull with a short snout; i.e., a short breathing passage. It also means you’re probably the pet parent of a snorer.

“As we breed dogs to have shorter snouts, the soft palette in the back of their throat doesn’t change, and that can be a problem,” says Dr. Jeff Werber, a veterinarian who has a private clinic in Los Angeles and has become known for taking care of the pets of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Eva Longoria, Magic Johnson, and two of the Jonas brothers (Kevin and Nick).

Dr. Werber says that a lot of factors can go into your dog’s snoring, especially when they’re a breed with a smaller snout. How your dog’s body is positioned when sleeping, the shape of the dog’s neck, and the length of its nose are all factors that can influence a dog’s breathing. “It can all contribute to the snoring,” Dr. Werber says.

None of this means that if you have, say, a Boston terrier, that you automatically need to take your dog in to the vet to have his snoring checked out, and it doesn’t mean that if you have a different type of breed, like a collie or greyhound, you’re off the hook. Still, with the smaller breeds, you do want to be on the lookout for potential issues.

DR. Werber has five dogs (and six cats), and two of those dogs are French bulldogs. He says that he knew from the moment he got them that he was doomed to listen to some interesting sounds. When they get too loud, Dr. Werber says that he’ll often change his dogs’ positions in order to get the snoring to stop. Some pet experts even suggest getting a humidifier, which increases the moisture in the air and can help dogs (and humans) to sleep better.

What Causes a Dog to Snore? It All Comes Down to Breathing

Just like with humans, snoring in dogs generally occurs when air movement is restricted in the nasal passageways or throat.

Some of what can cause dogs to snore may simply be that they like to sleep on their back, so their tongue ends up partially blocking some of the air movement in their passageways. Or your dog might be allergic to dust or second-hand smoke, each of which can lead to snoring.

There are also serious health issues to consider, like an abscessed tooth that makes its way into the nasal sinus passages, or even sleep apnea. Both conditions can, of course, require surgery.

That said, a sleep apnea diagnosis for a dog is extremely rare, says Dr. Carol Osborne, who owns the Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. Dr. Osborne adds that snoring is quite often an indicator that a dog has hypothyroidism, which is when the thyroid gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone that controls metabolism. It’s a fairly inexpensive health fix, although it does require keeping your dog on medication for the rest of its life.

Diagnosing hypothyroidism “involves the vet taking a little blood sample and sending it to the lab, and if the thyroid levels are low, then we simply give your dog some medication—a little tablet—and the problem goes away almost immediately,” Dr. Osborne says.

Another Cause for Snoring in Dogs: Excess Weight

Dr. Osborne says that one of her patients is a Pomeranian who should weight nine pounds but weighs 17 pounds

“You have to be careful telling someone their pet is overweight. It’s a great way to lose a client,” Dr. Osborne says.

But she did tell her client, and they are working together to bring down the Pomeranian’s weight. When a dog is overweight to morbidly obese, extra fat can also collect in the throat, which blocks the airways and causes snoring.

Signs You Should Get Your Dog’s Snoring Checked Out

If your dog has never snored but all of a sudden is snoring, that should be investigated,” Dr. Werber says.

“We would want to know if there’s a problem with his nose, like a severe infection. Are we looking at something in the back of their throat? But if your dog has always snored, and he’s otherwise happy and playful and active, and the snoring is only at night, then don’t worry about it.”

In other words, rest easy.

Actually, that may be a poor choice of words. If your dog is snoring loudly throughout the night, you may be getting anything but rest. So what’s the solution?

“Ear plugs work very well,” Dr. Werber says.

See Also: 

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Dementia (Geriatric) in Dogs

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome  in Dogs

Cognitive dysfunction syndrome is a condition related to the aging of a dog’s brain, which ultimately leads to changes in awareness, deficits in learning and memory, and decreased responsiveness to stimuli. Although the initial symptoms of the disorder are mild, they gradually worsen over time, also known as “cognitive decline.” In fact, clinical signs of cognitive dysfunction syndrome are found in 50 percent of dogs over the age of 11, and by the age of 15, 68 percent of dogs display at least one sign.

Symptoms and Types

  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Anxiety/restlessness
  • Extreme irritability
  • Decreased desire to play
  • Excessive licking
  • Seeming disregard for previously learned training or house rules
  • Slow to learn new tasks
  • Inability to follow familiar routes
  • Lack of self-grooming
  • Fecal and urinary incontinence
  • Loss of appetite (anorexia)
  • Changes in sleep cycle (i.e, night waking, sleeping during the day)


Although the exact cause of cognitive dysfunction syndrome is currently unknown, genetic factors may predispose an animal to develop the condition.


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health to your veterinarian, including the onset and nature of the symptoms and possible incidents that might have precipitated the unusual behaviors or complications. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination to evaluate the overall health status and cognitive functions of the dog. Routine blood tests, ultrasounds, and X-rays are also employed to rule out other diseases that may lead to behavioral changes associated with cognitive dysfunction syndrome.

urinary incontinence

A medical condition; implies that the patient is unable to control their urination.


An element found in trace amounts in soil; closely related to sulfur

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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Dogs love to munch away on grass, and some even make it part of their daily routine. Fortunately, most experts believe it isn’t something you should worry about. So why exactly do they gobble up that green stuff in your yard?

Scavengers ‘R Us

Dogs, unlike their catty counterparts, are not carnivores. But they’re not like your garden-variety omnivores, either. For tens of thousands of years, these opportunistic scavengers have devoured anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.

The modern dog, partly because of evolution and domestication, is no longer like its ancestors, which frequently ate their prey entirely, including the stomach contents of plant-eating animals. Instead, dogs today seek out plants as an alternative food source. Most commonly the plant is grass — since that is what is closest at hand — but wild canines are known to eat fruits, berries, and other vegetable matter, too.

Clearly, dogs can find their nutrients in a wide range of plant foods, but that doesn’t explain why Fido usually throws up after eating grass.


A type of animal feed that is high in fiber; may include hay or pasture crops


The ability to create a disease where a disease might not normally be found, usually due to an ill timed or unlikely weakness


The eating of grasses and plants that are low to the ground