Posted on

What Causes a Puppy to Stop Growing?

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

Puppies that are not growing at a normal rate or who are too small for their age are stunted; that is, something has prevented them from growing naturally or at a normal rate.

There are several things that can cause stunted growth in puppies, ranging from intestinal worm infections to genetics. In this article, we will address the most common concerns associated with stunting, and whether or not these concerns actually cause stunted growth in dogs.

Does Worm Infection Cause Stunting?

The most common reason why a puppy’s growth becomes stunted is because they are infected with hookworms or roundworms. Intestinal worms are extremely common in puppies in the United States — they either contract worms from their mother or from the environment around them. If a puppy has an extremely heavy worm infestation, the worms can steal enough calories from the puppy to slow down her growth. Puppies that have a heavy worm burden typically look unthrifty: they have a poor haircoat, diarrhea, a big pot belly, and are small and thin despite a voracious appetite.

The good news is that once the puppy is free of worms, the body can heal itself and regain normal growth and development.

To prevent worms in your puppy, follow the deworming schedule set forth by your breeder and/or veterinarian. If the schedules differ, follow the worming schedule set forth by your veterinarian.

Does Malnutrition Cause Stunting?

A common question puppy parents ask is whether a puppy’s growth can be stunted by taking him off puppy food too soon. The short answer is no, you will not stunt your puppy’s growth by switching to adult food too soon or by mildly under-feeding. Puppy food is formulated to support normal growth and development, and, while it is not ideal, there are millions of dogs out there that do just fine on a diet that is formulated for all life stages, and which are fine to feed to a puppy.

On the contrary, you can do much more damage to your puppy’s long term joint health by over-feeding or giving supplements while the pup is still growing. According to the lifetime studies conducted by Purina on Labrador Retrievers, dogs will live on average two years longer and have much less chronic disease if you keep them slim their whole life. Ask your veterinarian about what the right body condition is for your puppy, and for tips on how much to feed to keep your puppy in his ideal condition.

Just like a human child, your puppy will go through growth spurts during the first year. There will be days when she may need to eat more than the amount she will need as an adult. My 75-pound Goldendoodle, for example, eats two cups a day of dry dog food, but when she was growing (about eight months of age) she would eat up to four cups of food a day. You will need to be flexible about the amount you are feeding her sometimes in order to support her growth and development.

Another common question is whether malnutrition itself will cause stunting. To be sure, puppies that suffer under extreme situations like starvation are at risk for stunted growth. But most puppies that are in caring, loving homes with pet parents who measure the appropriate amount they feed to their puppies — food that is adequate for supporting bones, muscles, and other tissues as they grow — will not have stunting from malnutrition, even if they keep the puppies slim.

Does Spaying or Neutering Cause Stunting?

Having your dog spayed or neutered early will not stunt your puppy’s growth, but it might affect the joints of large breed dogs. Studies show that early spay/neuter does affect the growth plate, delaying its closure and causing dogs to grow taller than they should have. This can predispose the dog to later joint problems. 

This is an excellent topic to discuss with your veterinarian. For small or medium sized dogs, the standard recommendation is still to spay/neuter the dogs between 6-8 months of age. For large breed dogs, however, the recommendation is to hold off until the dog is older to lower the risk of joint disease. For females, spaying should wait until after the first heat cycle, and for males, neutering can be scheduled when the dog is around two years old.

Ask your dog’s doctor for her or his recommendations on when to spay or neuter your dog, and ask them for their reasons behind their recommendations.

Does Strenuous Exercise Cause Stunting?

Engaging in strenuous exercise with your puppy will not stunt his growth, but the excessive impact associated with running may damage the growth plates of the long bones and cause them to develop abnormally, predisposing your puppy to joint issues later in life. Again, this is more a problem for large breed dogs because they simply weigh more.

Playing fetch and allowing your puppy the space to run around until she is tired is fine, but don’t take her jogging or running until she is done growing. For clients who want their medium or large breed dog to be their jogging partner, my standard recommendation is to wait until after 15 months to allow for the bones to grow properly.

Are Certain Breeds at Risk for Stunting?

Is there any one breed that is more predisposed to stunting than another? There is a rare disease called pituitary dwarfism in German Shepherds and in some Labrador Retrievers that has a genetic component, but these conditions are very rare and not generally seen in companion animals.

Posted on

Dog Wheezing: Causes and Treatment Options

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

Wheezing is caused when something blocks the normal flow of air in and out of the airway, resulting in a whistling sound as a dog breathes. The blockage can be in either the trachea (windpipe) or large bronchi.

Constricted airways from asthma, allergies, mucus, foreign bodies, or infection can all result in wheezing. If a dog feels like he can’t get enough air, he may panic, or he may find a spot to lie down to try to breathe better. 

Non-emergency wheezing usually lasts only a few seconds. It may resolve on its own, or return intermittently, necessitating a trip to the veterinarian to sort things out.

If your dog is wheezing continuously, or his gums have a blue-ish tint indicating that he isn’t getting enough oxygen, or if your dog seems uncomfortable breathing, those are signs that the wheezing is potentially life-threatening; you will need to take your dog to an emergency veterinarian immediately.

The Most Common Causes of Wheezing in Dogs

Many things can cause wheezing in dogs. The following is a list of the most common causes.

Wheezing Related to Infectious Disease

Dogs can contract parasites that live in the lungs and airways, causing secondary conditions due to irritation of the respiratory tissues. Heartworms can cause wheezing, as can aberrant migrations of hookworms or roundworms.

One common cause of wheezing and reverse sneezing is nasal mites, a common parasite that is highly infectious between dogs. Dogs can carry nasal mites for years and the only sign you may see is wheezing or sneezing when the dog gets excited.

Bacterial and viral diseases can also cause wheezing and coughing. Dogs with wheezing due to infectious disease typically have a history of being around other dogs, such as being in an area where other dogs frequent, like the dog park, doggie daycare, or groomer.

Wheezing Related to Allergies

Dogs can have allergies just like people. Pollen, mold, dust mites, cigarette smoke, etc. can all cause allergies in dogs, including allergic asthma, which causes dogs to wheeze from constricted airways.

Dogs that wheeze due to seasonal allergies may only have problems during part of the year.

Wheezing Related to Collapsing Trachea or Bronchitis

In the dog, the windpipe is comprised of cartilage in a C-shape that is closed by a membrane that is flexible. In some small breed dogs, that membrane can get loose or floppy over time, and as the dog breathes in, the trachea can collapse on itself, narrowing the airway and making it more difficult for the dog to breathe. Collapsing trachea is common in Pugs, Maltese, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, and other small, short-nosed breeds. Excitement or exercise can make this type of wheezing worse.

Chronic bronchitis can also cause scarring in the airways, which can make the bronchi less flexible, leading to constant wheezing and coughing.

Wheezing Related to Heart Disease

Dogs that have congestive heart failure due to heart valve disease can also wheeze due to fluid build-up in the lungs. Dogs that have wheezing due to heart failure are typically older, though they can also be young, in rare instances. They tend to have a low energy level along with a persistent cough.

Wheezing Related to a Foreign Body

Wheezing due a foreign body in the airways is always an emergency. This tends to be a problem in dogs that chew on bones, balls, or toys; especially younger dogs. Dogs that like to run with balls in their mouth have been known to accidentally suck the ball down their throat.

If a foreign body completely obstructs the airway, a dog will pass out from the lack of oxygen. If the object only partially obstructs the airway, the dog will wheeze violently and may panic.

If you suspect that your dog is wheezing due to something he inhaled, take your dog to a veterinarian immediately for treatment. This issue cannot be resolved at home.  

 

Diagnosis of Wheezing in Dogs

A veterinarian will need a detailed history from you – events leading up to the wheezing, when your dog first started to experience breathing problems, etc. Be sure to know your dog’s travel history, any medications that your dog is on, including heartworm prevention, and your dog’s vaccine history.

The physical exam, and possibly laboratory testing, will be used to determine the cause of your dog’s wheezing. Laboratory testing may include bloodwork, x-ray, and/or other testing as needed.

Treatment for Wheezing in Dogs

Treatment depends on the cause of the wheezing. With foreign bodies, your veterinarian will likely sedate your dog and remove the foreign body with medical instruments. If your dog is wheezing due to infectious causes, treatment will be aimed at eliminating those infections. 

If the wheezing is due to allergic asthma or bronchitis, your veterinarian will talk to you about medications that can be used to control that condition, and things you can do at home to reduce allergens for your dog, such as vacuuming, HEPA air filters, etc.

If the wheezing is due to heart disease, your veterinarian may prescribe medications to help the heart pump stronger and more easily.  Wheezing due to a collapsing trachea is treated with cough medication and by controlling the pet’s environment; i.e., making sure the pet has a cool place to rest where it cannot get overheated.

An Ounce of Prevention…

Some causes of wheezing cannot be prevented. However, infectious causes, such as kennel cough, heartworm disease, hookworms, roundworms, and highly infectious viruses such as distemper, can be prevented with proper vaccination and internal parasite control.

Heartworm infection can be fatal – signs like wheezing may not be present until the infection has gone too far for treatment options. When your veterinarian reminds you to get heartworm prevention for your dog, make sure to get it and give it to your dog regularly, as advised by your veterinarian, and follow all vaccine recommendations for your dog.

Posted on

Should Your Dog Join a Health Club?

If you are the typical full-time worker, you spend about 60 hours each week working, getting ready to work, and traveling to and from work. If you sleep a reasonable amount, there’s another 42-56 hours. That leaves roughly 52 hours to do everything else, including walking and exercising your dog (and yourself). Needless to say, it can be a challenge to make the time to stay physically fit, but with the rising numbers of canine and human obesity, it might be time to think seriously about joining a gym — a pet gym. 

Where Can You Find an Exercise Facility for Your Dog?

It will depend on where you live, but the increased need for a safe and comfortable exercise facility is driving the gradual growth of this business. If you live in an urban area, you will very likely be able to find a pet gym close to home. If you live in a suburban or more rural area, you will probably need to get in the car and travel a bit. There is also the option of enrolling your dog in a day class, so that he is getting his exercise while you are at work. For example, there are dog day care facilities that are specifically designed for group activities like walking, running and swimming. Some facilities are equipped with specialized swim centers to cater to dogs that love to swim or that don’t get the chance to do so on a regular basis. This form of exercise is not only fun for dogs, but is a perfect activity for older dogs, obese dogs, and dogs that have suffered previous injuries. The buoyancy of the water relieves the stress on arthritic joints as well as relieving pressure on the joints and bones due to excess weight. Even non-swimming breeds, like bulldogs and greyhounds, can take part as long as they are outfitted with a swim vest to hold their heads above water.  

A quick online search using your favorite search engine will turn up exercise centers in your area; some may be even closer than you think. In addition, check your local newspapers and community magazines for ads, and search your community phone books under the pet services classification.

Your veterinarian’s office is also a great source of information for recommended doggie day care centers. Pet trainers and local pet stores often will be familiar with some of the reputable services that are available as well. It might not hurt to ask around at the people gyms too — people who like to stay fit also tend to keep their pets fit too.

What You Should Look For in an Exercise Facility

Whether it is a facility that is made only for exercise, or it is a dog day care that includes a daily schedule for exercise, make sure to ask for a tour of the facility before you make a commitment to use their services. Get a good look at the equipment, the yards, the kennels, and any other place your dog will be spending time. Make sure that the people running the facility are accredited for recognizing and treating emergencies in animals and that they are very familiar with the physiology of a dog.

Are There Any Other Options?

If you cannot find an exercise facility in your area, you may consider creating your own exercise space. A treadmill (designed either for people or pets) is a perfect way to ensure that your dog is getting his daily walk, even when there are rainy, cold, or sweltering conditions that prevent outdoor exercise. There are also private dog walking and pet sitting services, many of whom offer extra playtime and walking during the day for dogs. Sitters and walkers, if requested to, can throw balls, play with rope toys, and take active pets for long runs.

Image: Taro the Shiba Inu / via Flickr

Posted on

Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome in Dogs

Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), more commonly referred to as gastric torsion or bloat, is a disease in dogs in which the animal’s stomach dilates and then rotates, or twists, around its short axis. A number of emergency conditions may result as a consequence of this gastric rotation, including progressive distension of the stomach, increased pressure within the abdomen, damage to the cardiovascular system, and decreased perfusion. Perfusion is the process of delivering nutrients via blood in the arteries to the body’s tissues. Insufficient perfusion may lead to cellular damage and even organ death.

Symptoms and Types

Symptoms of GDV include anxious behavior, depression, abdominal pain and distention, collapse, excessive drooling, and vomiting to the point of unproductive dry heaving. Further physical examination may also reveal an extremely rapid heart beat (known as tachycardia), labored breathing (known as dyspnea), a weak pulse, and pale mucus membrane (the moist tissues lining the body’s orifices, such as the nose and mouth).

Causes

The exact causes of GDV are unknown. A variety of factors, including genetics, anatomy, and environment, are most likely to blame. For example, dogs that have a first relative with a history of GDV have been shown to be at higher risk. Additionally, large and giant-breed dogs may be at higher risk, especially deep-chested breeds such as great Danes, German shepherds, and standard poodles. Although GDV has been reported in puppies, risk does increase with age.

Some factors that are believed to contribute to the development of GDV include ingestion of excessive amounts of food or water, delayed emptying of the gastrointestinal system, and too much activity after eating. In some cases, dogs affected by GDV have a history of gastrointestinal tract problems. It should be noted, however, that these characteristics do not necessarily occur with all cases.

Diagnosis

A primary method of diagnosing GDV is imaging techniques, such as x-rays of the abdomen. Other tests may include a urine analysis and testing concentrations of lactate substance in the plasma.

If GDV is not to blame, other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms may include bacterial infection, gastroenteritis (which is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract involving both the stomach and small intestine), or “food bloat” due to overeating.

mucus

A type of slime that is made up of certain salts, cells, or leukocytes

genetics

The study of the laws of inheritance n living things; may also be referred to as breeding

orogastric intubation

The process of passing a stomach tube from the mouth to the stomach

perfusion

The flow of blood through bodily tissue

tachycardia

A medical condition in which the patient has an abnormally fast heartbeat

gastropexy

The fixation of the stomach to the wall of the abdomen through surgery

gastrointestinal

The digestive tract containing the stomach and intestine

distention

The process of making something larger by dilating or stretching it

dyspnea

Having a hard time breathing; breathing takes great pains

gastric

Anything having to do with the stomach

gastroenteritis

A medical condition in which the small intestine and stomach become inflamed

dilation

The widening of something

Posted on

Can Pets Get Cancer from Owners’ Smoking?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

The Dangers of Second Hand Smoke for Pets

You must have been living on a desert island for the last few decades if you are not aware of the danger that smoking poses both to smokers and to the people who come in contact with second hand smoke. Less well known, however, is the effect that a smoke filled home can have on pet health.

First some definitions. Second hand smoke is smoke that is exhaled or otherwise escapes into the air and can then be inhaled by non-smokers, including pets. Third hand smoke is the residue from smoke that remains on skin, fur, clothing, furniture, etc. even after the air has cleared. Both second and third hand smoke can be referred to using the term “environmental tobacco smoke,” or ETS.

Now let’s take a look at the scientific studies that reveal a link between environmental tobacco smoke and serious diseases in cats and dogs.

The Effects of Tobacco Smoke on Cats

A study published in 2002 demonstrated a greatly increased risk of malignant lymphoma (also called lymphoma or lymphosarcoma) in cats with exposure to ETS. The relative risk for malignant lymphoma in cats with any household ETS exposure was almost 2 ½ times higher than that seen in cats who lived in smoke-free households.

For cats with five or more years of ETS exposure, the relative risk climbed to 3.2. In other words, these poor cats were more than three times as likely to develop lymphoma as were cats who lived in a home where no one smoked.

This study and others also strongly suggest a link between oral cancers in cats and third hand smoke. It is thought that cats groom the toxins contained in tobacco smoke out of their fur, which damages tissues in their mouths. This eventually leads to oral cancer.

The Effects of Tobacco Smoke on Dogs

Dogs can become seriously ill after long term exposure to second and third hand smoke as well. Two studies, one published in 1992 and the other in 1998, determined that cancer of the respiratory tract was more common in dogs who were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Interestingly, the type of cancer the dogs got was influenced by the shape of their heads.

The risk of nasal cancer increased by 250% when dogs with long noses (picture a Collie) were exposed to tobacco smoke. On the other hand, dogs with short or medium noses tended to develop lung cancer under similar conditions.

When you think about it, these findings aren’t all that surprising. The extensive nasal passages of long-nosed dogs are good at filtering out the toxins contained in cigarette smoke, which protects the lungs to the detriment of the nose. These same toxins pass right through the relatively shorter noses of other dogs and then become lodged in and damage the lungs.

Many other studies underline the damage that tobacco smoke does to the lining of the respiratory tract and a possible link to non-cancerous diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Do Alternatives Help?

By now you might be thinking, “I’ll just smoke outside.” While direct research into the effect that outdoor smoking has on pet health hasn’t been performed, we can look at a 2004 study on infants and draw some conclusions. It found that smoking outside of the home helps but does not eliminate smoke exposure to babies. The infants of parents who smoked outdoors but not inside were still exposed to 5-7 times as much environmental tobacco smoke in comparison to the infants of nonsmokers. Similar results could be expected for pets.

And what about vaping? Again, no direct research into the health effects of second and third hand vaping solution on pet health has been done, but according to the American Lung Association:

In 2009, the FDA conducted lab tests and found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges. A 2014 study found that e-cigarettes with a higher voltage level have higher amounts of formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

It’s hard to imagine that inhaling substances like these or licking them off their fur could be completely risk free for pets.

Conclusions

Looking at the science brings us to the inevitable conclusion that second and third hand smoke exposure is very dangerous for pets. If you must smoke, do so outside or switch to vaping, but know that you are still likely putting your pets’ health at some degree of risk… to say nothing of what you are doing to yourself.

References

Environmental tobacco smoke and risk of malignant lymphoma in petcats. Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS. Am J Epidemiol. 2002 Aug 1;156(3):268-73.

Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk. Reif JS, Dunn K, Ogilvie GK, Harris CK. Am J Epidemiol. 1992 Feb 1;135(3):234-9.

Cancer of the nasal cavity and paranasal sinuses and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke in pet dogs. Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS. Am J Epidemiol. 1998 Mar 1;147(5):488-92.

The dog as a passive smoker: effects of exposure to environmental cigarette smoke on domestic dogs. Roza MR, Viegas CA. Nicotine Tob Res. 2007 Nov;9(11):1171-6.

Demographic and historical findings, including exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, in dogs with chronic cough. Hawkins EC, Clay LD, Bradley JM, Davidian M. J Vet Intern Med. 2010 Jul-Aug;24(4):825-31. 

Methylation of free-floating deoxyribonucleic acid fragments in the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of dogs with chronic bronchitis exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Yamaya Y, Sugiya H, Watari T. Ir Vet J. 2015 Apr 29;68(1):7.

Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Matt GE, Quintana PJ, Hovell MF, Bernert JT, Song S, Novianti N, Juarez T, Floro J, Gehrman C, Garcia M, Larson S. Tob Control. 2004 Mar;13(1):29-37.

Image: MaxPhoto / Shutterstock

Related health content:

Electronic Cigarettes Connected to Canine Fatalities

Finding the Causes of Cancer in Cats and Dogs

Tips for Preventing Cancer in Cats

Posted on

6 Pet Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing

by Diana Bocco

Warm noses, eating grass, and dangerous foods—none of them mean exactly what you think they mean. Misconceptions about your pet’s health abound and some of them can actually harm your furry one if you aren’t able to differentiate truth from myth.

Here are six common myths about dog health that you may have fallen for in the past.

Myth 1: A Warm Nose Means Your Dog is Sick

Warm nose equals a fever, right? Sorry, but no. In fact, it is absolutely a myth that a warm nose means your dog is sick, according to Dr. Shelby Neely, DVM, a Philadelphia-based veterinarian and the director of operations for the online vet service whiskerDocs

While it’s difficult to pinpoint how this myth got started, Neely suspects it might have become a prevalent belief when canine distemper, a contagious viral infection, was more common. “Dogs that are sick with distemper may have a thickening of the nose, which may alter its temperature and moisture,” Neely explains. 

So why is your dog’s nose warm sometimes and not others? It could be for many reasons—“from being overheated to genetics to normal fluctuations throughout the day,” Neely says. 

If your suspect your dog might be sick, Neely says a much better diagnostic measure is to observe the way your dog is behaving, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. “In addition,” Neely adds, “nothing replaces an actual thermometer for assessing a dog’s temperature.”

Myth 2: A Few Table Scraps Will Not Hurt Your Dog’s Health

This is also a myth. In fact, human food can be quite dangerous for dogs. “Dogs are not humans and they have very specific diet requirements to keep them healthy, which are different from ours,” Neely explains.

Take, for example, things like garlic, onions, grapes, potato leaves, walnuts, and anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol—all seemingly innocent foods that could cause serious harm to your dog, according to Neely.

Other foods to worry about include cooked bones, as they can splinter and pierce the bowel, explains Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. Dr. Morgan is certified in acupuncture and food therapy and is a member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

In addition, many table foods are too high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and carbohydrates, according to Morgan. “So if you want to share some broccoli, feel free,” says Morgan. “But foods high in salt, sugar, and fat can be problematic for our pets.”

Why is that? Simply put, sugars cause the pancreas to release insulin, which is then used to convert the excess sugars into fat. The result: pet obesity.

“High fat diets and snacks cause the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and can lead to pancreatitis, which can be life threatening,” Morgan adds.

Myth 3: Dogs Must Be Vaccinated Every Year

dog vaccine

While rabies vaccines are mandatory in most states, the rest of the vaccines are discretionary and should be given only to dogs that really need them.

To be clear, all puppies should receive a full core vaccination protocol to build immunity against a multitude of highly fatal diseases, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, owner of Animal Acupuncture and a licensed veterinarian certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.  “These [core vaccinations] include canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and rabies,” Barrack explains.  

Non-core vaccinations, on the other hand, may not be necessary for all dogs, depending on their lifestyle. “This also is true for older dogs, whose vaccination frequency recommendations depend on the individual lifestyle in question,” Barrack says. “It is important to take into account geographic location, exposure to other dogs, and underlying disease.”

A clear example: If dogs do not have contact with other dogs in day care or boarding, it makes no sense to vaccinate them for influenza and bordetella, explains Morgan. And the leptospirosis vaccination should only be given to dogs that have exposure to the disease, said Morgan. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife and rats.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that some vaccines likely create immunity for longer than one year, so they do not need to be administered annually. “Distemper and parvovirus vaccinations may give immunity to pets for 5 to 7 or more years,” Morgan says.

If you are unsure whether your pet needs to be revaccinated or not, Barrack recommends asking your veterinarian for a blood test run called a titer. “Titers can be taken from a blood sample to determine if the dog has enough antibodies to maintain immunity status or if booster vaccines are needed,” Barrack explains.

Depending on your pet’s titer, revaccination might not be immediately neccessary.

Titers measure the quantity of antibodies present in the bloodstream of a previously vaccinated dog, but the results do not necessarily parallel with immunity status. And antibodies are only one portion of a healthy immune response to a particular bacterial or viral disease. Titers are useful for identifying animals who are potentially at risk—that is, those with negative titers—but a positive titer doesn’t mean a pet is 100% protected.

“Titers are most commonly performed for distemper and parvovirus,” Morgan explains. “We recommend titers for all our patients and we recommend never giving vaccines if a dog is sick, has cancer or other chronic disease, or is being treated for an illness.” 

If you would like to explore your options in titer testing for your pet in place of an annual vaccination, discuss your pet’s individual heath risks with your veterinarian.

Myth 4: It’s OK For Dog to Lick Their Wounds

Many pet owners actually believe that they should let their dogs lick their wounds to speed up healing. While there is evidence that some of the enzymes in saliva can aid in the healing process, there are other things lurking in the mouth that can do just the opposite.

According to Neely, while licking the wound can help remove dirt, there’s more harm than good that can come from allowing your dog to lick his wound. 

“Dogs’ mouths, just like every living being, can have some nasty bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected,” says Neely.

In addition, while licking can keep an incision moist—therefore delaying healing, which can be good for a wound that needs to be allowed to continue to drain for a bit—Neely points out that it can also irritate the wound, making it worse. “[Licking] can even remove stitches that have been placed there by your veterinarian,” Neely says.

The best move? Prevent your pet from licking its wounds at all costs, even if it means making your dog wear the dreaded E-collar for a while.

Myth 5: Dogs Eat Grass to Make Themselves Vomit

sick dog, dog eating grass, why do dogs eat grass

The truth is that not all dogs eat grass, and those that do may do it for different reasons, according to Morgan. In fact, Morgan points out that a lot of dogs simply seem to enjoy eating grass, either because of the taste or because they’re attracted to some of the nutrients it contains. “Grass is high in potassium, chlorophyll, and digestive enzymes,” Morgan explains.

That said, some dogs will instinctively eat grass when they have an upset stomach, and while a sick dog does not know to eat grass with the intenion of vomiting, doing so often does result in vomiting. “Coarse, tough grasses are particularly effective at inducing vomiting,” Morgan says.

If your dog enjoys eating grass, Morgan recommends making sure there are no chemicals or pesticides sprayed where the dog has access.

“Unlike cats, dogs aren’t exclusively carnivores, so they like some roughage or plants in their diets,” Barrack says. “So if you notice your dog eating a lot of grass, you may want to include more vegetables as a source of roughage in their diet, or get a small tray of grass for your home.”

Myth 6: Only Old Dogs Get Kidney Disease

Although kidney disease is often seen in older pets, it can occur at any age. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Bull terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and others, are more likely to develop some type of kidney disease, but all dogs and cats are at risk.

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from kidney disease—excessive drinking and urination are early signs—get your dog to your veterinarian right away.  

A urinalysis should be performed to assess the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine, says Neely. This is done by measuring the urine specific gravity, which will be lower than normal in pets with kidney disease. “In addition, blood tests can be performed to assess kidney function, with the two most common being creatinine and BUN, or blood urea nitrogen.”

While kidney disease can be fatal if left untreated, early detection can easily change the outcome. “With early detection, treatment can be started, which can lead to pets living many years—even normal lifespans,” Neely says.  

This article was verified and edited for accuracy by Dr. Joanne Intile, DVM, DACVIM.

See Also:

Do you know which foods and leftovers are safe for your dog to eat? 5 Holiday Table Scraps that Could Kill Your Dog