My Dog Is Not Eating, What Do I Do?

A common reason for dogs to visit the veterinarian is for the concern that “my dog is not eating”.  The medical term for not eating is anorexia.

Sometimes canine anorexia is complete which means a dog will not eat anything and other times the anorexia is partial where a dog will eat but only if the food is augmented with more palatable things such as cooked chicken or beef or other table food. Another common scenario when a dog has partial anorexia or a decreased appetite and won’t eat his food but will eat treats.

There are many reasons why a dog will not eat or has a decreased appetite. Below we will discuss some of these reasons and give you tips on what you can do at home and when you should see your veterinarian.

First, why will a dog not eat his food but eat treats?

Dog Won’t Eat His Food But Will Eat Treats

Many times when dogs get sick or feel ill, the first symptom that we observe is a decreased appetite. Some dogs will still eat if you “doctor-up” the food with canned food, cooked meats such as chicken or hamburger, or offer other table scraps or human foods. Other dogs will eat only treats but not their food.

There are many causes of anorexia in dogs. Anorexia is considered a symptom, which means it can be caused by many different diseases.  In some cases, a decreased appetite can be one of the first signs of illness. For example, diseases of the stomach, liver, intestine, and/or pancreas can cause a decreased appetite or anorexia. In addition, diseases of the kidneys, blood, and brain can cause a decreased appetite. In addition, dogs that are in pain or have infections are often unwilling to eat. Learn more about Anorexia in Dogs in this complete medical article written by a board-certified veterinary specialist.

Get some good tips on how to get your dog to eat at What to do When Your Dog Won’t Eat His Food — But He Will Eat Treats.

Look for Other Symptoms in Your Dog

When a dog is not eating, closely evaluate him for additional symptoms or problems. It is important to know if the anorexia is the only symptom or if they’re other symptoms. Take your dog out on a leash so you can observe all his or her habits.

Monitor your dog for:

  • Is there vomiting? If s0, how frequently? Is it undigested food or bile? Is there blood?
  • Are the bowel movements normal? Is there diarrhea? Have you seen abnormal blood or mucous? Is the stool black that can suggest digested blood?
  • Is your dog scooting?
  • Is your dog urinating normally? Have you noticed straining or more frequent requests to go out? Is there any change in the urine color? Have you noticed blood?
  • Is your dog coughing? Any trouble breathing? Exercise intolerance?
  • How is your dog’s attitude? Is he/she active, playful and happy? Are you noticing lethargy?
  • Is your dog drinking? Have you noticed decreased or increased thirst?
  • Has your dog lost or gained weight recently?
  • Have you noticed any lameness or trouble walking?
  • Is there any evidence that your dog is in pain?
  • Does your dog have an abnormal odor or foul odor on his breath?
  • Have you noticed any abnormal skin tumors or growths?

If your dog is showing any other abnormal symptoms such as not eating, vomiting, lethargy or anything else, please see or talk to your veterinarian. These observations may help identify the underlying cause of the inappetence.

How to Get Your Dog to Start Eating

If your dog is not eating, how do you get your dog to start eating?

  1. Consider the flavor your dog may like most. Just like humans, every dog is different as far as what he or she likes. Some prefer fish flavors, others beef and yet others may like poultry.
  2. Some dogs prefer dry food over canned and others prefer canned over dry.

The best approach is to try to get your dog to eat something….really anything. Start with healthy choices then work to other options. Begin by offering your dog his regular food but if he won’t eat that, then try something else.

  1. You may offer a bland diet such as a combination of boiled hamburger with rice as an option that works well in some dogs. You can purchase a commercial version of this diet e.g. Hill’s Science Diet i/d or make your own. Get our recipe on How to Make a Bland Diet for Your Dog.
  2. Offer your dog some different canned dog foods to help stimulate your dog’s appetite. Choose one that he has had and likes but if that doesn’t’ work, pick something new. The best approach is to add a small amount of canned food to his regular food and hope that he eats the combination of regular food with some of the canned.

If this doesn’t work, then you can start trying other options. Please see our article on Home Care of Dogs with Anorexia for some really good tips on how to get your dog to eat.

Home Care for the Dog that Won’t Eat

Dogs that won’t eat or have a diminished appetite, also known as anorexia, is a common symptom reported by pet owners. It can be a minor problem or a very significant life-threatening problem. There are many causes for this common symptom and a decreased appetite can suggest the start of many different diseases or problems.

As a pet owner, you may not know what to do when this happens, so this article will focus on what you can do for your pet at home and help you to understand when you should seek help from your veterinarian.

Here are some of the most common questions pet owners ask about canine anorexia:

What is Anorexia in Dogs?

Anorexia is the lack of appetite, not eating, or eating less than normal.

What Causes Lack of Appetite in Dogs?

Anorexia or lack of appetite in dogs can be caused by a variety of problems including fever, infections, pain, food change, as well as just about any other problem. Lack of appetite or decreased appetite can also indicate a systemic problem such as cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, liver disease, infectious diseases as well as just about any other problem.  For a full list of possible causes, go to Causes of Anorexia in dogs.

What Can I do at Home for my Dog that Won’t Eat?

Specific home treatments for anorexia in dogs is dependent on the cause of the anorexia or lack of appetite. For example, if the underlying cause is kidney problems- then your dog needs more diagnostic tests and fluid therapy.  Or if the cause is an infection, the treatment may be antibiotics.

The general approach for home care of a dog that won’t eat may include:

  • If your dog won’t eat a meal, doesn’t finish his food as quickly as usual, only eats part of his meal and there is no vomiting, has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own.
  • Monitor your dog closely. If you notice that your dog isn’t eating like normal – step up your observations of your dog. Take note of the following:
    • Is there any vomiting?
    • Take him out on a leash and monitor the bowel movements for signs of diarrhea.
    • Are the urinations normal?
    • Is he or she drinking normally?
    • Is your dog acting lethargic?
    • Do you notice any weakness? Trouble walking?
    • Is your dog coughing? Any trouble breathing?
    • Does your dog seem painful?
    • Are the gums pink or pale?
  • Look for a predisposing cause for the lack of appetite such as exposure and possible ingestion of trash or toxins, any change in the food, ingestion of plants, new treats, or any other changes. If possible, eliminate the source of the problem.

If your dog doesn’t eat a meal and you cannot take your dog to your veterinarian (which is recommended), then you may try the following:

Note: Please check with your veterinarian before giving ANY medications. Administer only prescribed medications. Many over-the-counter (OTC) medications that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs.

  • If there has been no vomiting, encourage your dog to drink fresh clean water. Crushed ice or adding ice cubes to the water can encourage some dogs to drink.
  • Offer something enticing and easily digestible to encourage your dog to eat. For example, you may try small frequent feedings of a bland digestible diet such as: Hill’s Prescription Diet i/d, Iams Recovery Diet, Provision EN or Waltham Low Fat are commonly recommended foods. You can make a homemade diet of boiled rice or potatoes (as the carbohydrate source) and lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese (as the protein source). Here’s our recipe on How to Make a Bland Diet for Your Dog.
  • Feed a small amount of this food at a time. Don’t overfeed your dog as he may eat the entire bowl and if he hasn’t been eating or his stomach is upset – he could vomit, thus creating another problem.
  • Feed only a small meatball-size portion at a time. If there is no vomiting, you may offer another small meatball-sized amount about one hour later.
  • You may also try adding warm water or low-sodium broth to your pet’s food to increase the palatability of the food.
  • You can try feeding canned dog food. Again, feed only a small amount to ensure your dog is tolerating it ok before feeding the whole can. Heating the canned food in the microwave for a few seconds can also help entice some dogs to eat. It releases the aromas that can appeal to dogs. If you use the microwave, stir it around with your finger to ensure there are no “hot spots” that could burn your dog’s mouth.
  • If healthier food choices are not working, you can try some pet “junk” food. If you have given him a McDonalds hamburger periodically and he loves (and seems to digest it ok) then try it again. Peanut butter (for dogs, please check the label as some human peanut butter now contains xylitol which is toxic to dogs), pet snacks, lower-quality canned food (which is usually palatable), sandwich meat, etc. are some possible choices to entice your dog to eat. Another option is cat food. Small amounts of cat food can be very enticing to dogs, as it has more protein than dog food. Do not feed large amounts of fatty foods, as this can lead to other health problems such as pancreatitis. If your dog doesn’t eat his real favorites – then you can start worrying.
  • Many veterinarians recommend Pepcid AC® (generic name is Famotidine) to decrease stomach acid. This helps some dogs. The dosage most commonly used is 0.25 to 0.5 mg per pound (0.5 to 1.0 mg/kg) every 12 to 24 hours. A 20-pound dog should get about 5 to 10 mg once to twice daily. This is an oral medication, which can be found at most pharmacies in the antacid section. Pepcid AC® (Famotidine) does not require a prescription. It is often used for three to five days.
  • Ideally, if your dog eats, feed the bland diet for two days. Then gradually return to regular dog food over the next one to two days. At first, mix a little of your dog’s regular food into the bland diet. Feed that for one meal. Then feed a 50/50 mix for one meal. Then feed ¾ dog food and ¼ bland diet for a meal. Then, return to feeding your dog’s regular food.
  • Leash-walk your pet to allow observation of bowel movements, normal urination and any additional vomiting that may otherwise occur without your knowledge.

IMPORTANT WARNING!

What to Do if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag

There are many kinds of canine skin bumps, growths, lumps, tumors, and “tags”. Some skin tumors in dogs are benign (noncancerous) and some skin lumps are cancerous. A dog skin tag is a type of skin growth that can occur anywhere on the body but are common on the face, head, neck, elbows, and/or chest. Skin tags are common in humans and also commonly occur on the face, head, face and upper chest. Dog owners frequently have questions about dog skin tags wondering if they are cancerous, a problem that can turn cancerous, or no problem at all.

Below we will discuss what is a dog skin tag, how to determine if it is a dog skin tag vs wart, how to tell a skin tag from a cancer bump in dogs, and steps for dog skin tag removal. Before deciding if a skin tag is a problem or not, let’s look at exactly what is a dog skin tag.

The medical terms for a skin tag is an acrochordon or acrochorda (pleural) and is also known as fibroepithelial polyp. A skin tag is a small flap of skin with a small base often about the size of a grain of rice but can be bigger or smaller. Some dog skin tags can be the size of a grape or even larger and appear to “dangle”.

Dog skin tags most often occur around the face, head, neck, armpits, elbows, and eyelids, but can occur anywhere on the body. Some deep chested large dogs will get clusters of skin tags over the chest area.

A true skin tag is generally painless and harmless. They generally do not change over time into something cancerous.

They are often diagnosed when combing or brushing your dog. They are easier to see on dogs with dark hair coats as they are often pink, fleshy, and protrude brightly. It is common for some pet owners to mistake a skin tag for an attached tick.  Collars, leashes or grooming procedures such as combing or brushing your dog, can irritate dog skin tags.

Why Do Dogs Get Skin Tags?

You may be wondering…“Why do dogs get skin tags”?  The cause for skin tags is largely unknown although but is considered to be genetic. There are some breed predispositions such as they are more common in bulldogs, boxers, and Great Danes although they can occur in any breed. Dog skin tags appear to be more common in dogs as they get older. Dogs that get skin tags will often have more than one.

Dog skin tags are most commonly diagnosed by your veterinarian after examining the growth. The classic appearance of a dog skin tag is a small raised soft piece of skin with a small base often referred to as a pedicle. It should not be ulcerated, inflamed or bleeding unless it is being irritated by a collar or by grooming.

Skin tags in dogs are not dangerous. Dog skin tags are generally permanent and do not regress. Generally, the only way they go away is by surgical removal.

If your dog has a skin tag and it is red, inflamed, draining, pigmented, then please see your veterinarian. Either the skin tag it is infected or not an actual skin tag and a different type of tumor or cancer.

Dog Skin Tag vs. Warts — What’s the Difference?

Is it a dog skin tag vs wart? This is a common question that dog owners ask.  Dog skin tags can appear similar to warts but there are differences. Warts, like skin tags, can grow anywhere on the body and dogs that get one will generally get more.

The biggest difference between a skin tag and a wart is the appearance of the bump. Skin tags generally are small, soft, thin, flesh-colored, floppy, and have a stalk or pedicle base.  You can generally move a skin tag back and forth with your finger. Warts, on the other hand, are thicker and attached to the skin over a broader area. They are generally flatter. Warts, known by the medical term as viral papillomas, are benign, non-cancerous tumors caused by a virus in dogs and other pets. Warts are more common in young dogs and often are around the mouth commissures of the lip or are in the mouth. Learn more about Canine Viral Papillomas (Dog Warts).

Another common question pet owners ask about dog skin tag is “How do you prevent dog skin tags?” The answer is that there is nothing you can do to prevent dog skin tags.

Can Skin Tags Turn Into Cancer Bumps on Dogs?

Can a dog skin tag turn into a cancerous bump? The answer is no. Skin tags are considered harmless and are not considered “precancerous”.

Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

There are several types of skin tumors that develop from the skin and adnexa (the parts adjoining the skin). The most common tumor is the Lipoma, commonly referred to as a “fatty tumors” and the second most common is a tumor arising from the sebaceous glands called sebaceous adenomas.

The sebaceous glands produce an oily substance called sebum, which lubricates the skin. The ducts of the sebaceous glands empty into hair follicles. A different problem that can occur in dogs that arises also from the sebaceous gland is a Sebaceous Cyst, but is less common in dogs.

Overview of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The development of sebaceous cysts is thought to develop from an obstruction of the follicles, leading to abnormal accumulations of sebum.

Sebaceous adenomas are benign tumors that originate from the landular or ductal tissue. In dogs, they are common on the head, neck, back, eyelids and limbs. They are generally hairless protrusions firmly attached to the skin. They can have the appearance of cauliflower.

Sebaceous adenomas develop more often in dogs as they get older and are most common in dogs over the age of 7 to 8 years. Dogs that are prone to sebaceous adenomas tend to get more sebaceous adenomas as they age.

What to Watch For

Sebaceous adenoma can turn into sebaceous adenocarcinoma, which is a malignant tumor.  Please monitor your pet for any changes in the sebaceous adenoma that could suggest a malignancy including rapid growth, changes in color, or ulcerations.

Diagnosis of Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

The diagnosis of a sebaceous adenoma in your dog will largely be based on the history and examination of the mass. Veterinarians can often diagnose sebaceous adenomas be physically looking at it.

Dog owners often mistake a sebaceous adenoma with an Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyp in Dogs (commonly referred to as a dog skin tag) or with Canine Viral Papillomas (commonly referred to as dog warts).  This article may be helpful in the section that tells you how to tell a skin tag from a wart.

Your veterinarian will ask questions about your dog’s mass that may include:

  • How long has the mass been there?
  • Is there only one mass or are there others?
  • Has it gotten larger or smaller or changes in appearance?
  • Does the mass appear to be attached to the underlying skin?
  • How fast is it is growing?
  • Have there been any recent injuries or injections?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s behavior, such as eating less, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy?
  • Are there any other lumps, tumors, masses, or growths?

A complete physical exam will be done and your veterinarian will pay particular attention to the appearance of the mass, whether it is hot or painful, whether it is within the skin or under the skin, if it is attached to underlying tissues, if it is ulcerated, and where it is located on the body.

Additional tests may include:

  • Fine needle aspiration. A diagnosis can often be made by placing a small needle within the cyst and suctioning some cells out of it with a syringe. Microscopic evaluation of the cells will often be suggestive of a sebaceous adenoma.
  • An aspirate of the mass with a small needle may be done to collect cells for staining and examination under a microscope (cytology). This test usually requires no anesthesia and often leads to a diagnosis.
  • If the mass is ulcerated or draining fluid, a microscope slide may be touched to the fluid to make an impression for microscopic examination. This is referred to as an “impression cytology”.
  • A biopsy may be taken to send to a veterinary pathologist for examination. The biopsy may involve removing the entire mass or removing a piece of the mass.
  • A piece of tissue may be submitted for culture if infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi are suspected.

Treatment of a Sebaceous Adenoma in Dogs

If the growth is diagnosed as a sebaceous adenoma, no treatment is required.  However, some sebaceous adenomas break open, bleed, become infected or are irritated by leashes, collars, halters and/or grooming procedures. Some sebaceous adenomas are close to the mouth and become damaged when eating. Another common location is on the eyelid that can cause the mass to rub on the eye potentially causing corneal ulcerations. In these cases, surgical removal of the sebaceous adenoma is recommended.

Sebaceous adenoma can be removed surgically by removing the mass with a wedge of underlying skin to ensure the entire mass is removed.  Surgery can be performed under general anesthesia however some sebaceous adenomas can be removed using local anesthesia such as lidocaine.

Skin Tags (Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyps) in Dogs

Overview of Dog Skin Tags

The medical terms for a dog skin tag is an acrochordon or acrochorda (pleural) and are also known as a fibroepithelial polyp.

A skin tag can be described as a growth of skin with a small narrow base. It is generally the color of the underlying skin but can be slightly darker. Dog skin tags are often about the size of a grain of rice but can be bigger or smaller and some can be very long in dogs.  Most dog skin tags look like small pieces of hanging or dangling skin. Dog skin tags are permanent growths unless you have them removed.

The most common location for dog skin tags is around the face, head, neck, armpits, eyelids, elbow and chest, but can occur anywhere on the body. They can occur in clusters, especially on the chest (sternum) in a heavy deep chested dog. Skin tags are also common in humans and also frequently occur around the face, head, face and upper chest.

A dog skin tag is considered a benign type of tumor. Benign tumors are proliferations of cells that do not invade other tissues or spread to other locations. A true skin tag is generally painless and harmless. They generally do not change over time into something cancerous.

Their significance is largely cosmetic, as pet owners may not like how they look on their pet. They may need removal if they inhibit any important function, become damaged and bleed, or become a nuisance. They can create issues when grooming, as they can be accidentally cut. Other problem can occur if a collar rubs on the tag causing it to break open, bleed, or become infected.

The cause for skin tags is largely unknown although there are some breed predispositions e.g. they are more common in Great Danes, Bulldogs, and boxers.  Friction is thought to be a factor in some skin tag clusters on the chest that can occur in large deep-chested dog breeds. They can occur at any age but are more common in dogs as they age and are most common in dogs over the age of 7 or 8 years.

Many pet owners confuse a dog skin tag with a canine sebaceous adenoma or common dog “wart”. Learn more about Sebaceous Adenomas (LINK PENDING) and Canine Viral Papillomas (Dog Warts). This article has a helpful section about how to tell a skin tag from a wart – go to “What to do if Your Dog Has a Skin Tag” (Pillar article – link pending).

Diagnosis of Skin Tags (Acrochordon or Fibroepithelial Polyps) in Dogs

The diagnosis of a skin tag in your dog will largely be by the history and physical examination.  Generally, veterinarians can diagnose a dog skin tag be looking at it. It is generally soft, attached to the underlying skin with a narrow stalk, hairless, easily moveable, and flesh colored.

Your veterinarian may take a complete history and ask questions about any growth that may include:

  • How long has the skin tag been there on your dog?
  • Is there only one skin tag or are there others?
  • Has it gotten larger or smaller or changes in appearance?
  • Does the skin tag appear to be attached to the underlying skin?
  • How fast is it is growing?
  • Have there been any recent injuries or injections?
  • Are there any changes in your pet’s behavior, such as eating less, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea or lethargy?
  • Are there any other lumps, tumors, masses, or growths?
  • Have you done anything to “treat” or remove the skin tag?
  • A complete physical exam will be done and your veterinarian will pay particular attention to the appearance of the mass, whether it is hot or painful, whether it is within the skin or under the skin, if it is attached to underlying tissues and where it is located on the body.

Additional tests may include:

  • An aspirate of the mass with a small needle may be done to collect cells for staining and examination under a microscope (cytology). This test usually requires no anesthesia and often leads to a diagnosis.
  • If the mass is ulcerated or draining fluid, a microscope slide may be touched to the fluid to make an impression for microscopic examination.
  • A biopsy may be taken to send to a veterinary pathologist for examination. The biopsy may involve removing the entire mass or removing a piece of the mass.
  • A piece of tissue may be submitted for culture if infectious agents such as bacteria or fungi are suspected.

These tests are generally not required for a typical dog skin tag.

What to Watch For

Any new lump or bump should be evaluated right away, especially a lump that is rapidly growing, is warm or painful, is ulcerated or bleeding, is irregular in shape or is well attached to the tissues under the skin.

FIP in Cats

FIP in cats is an abbreviation for “Feline Infectious Peritonitis”. This is a disease caused by mutation of a virus called the feline coronavirus, commonly abbreviated in literature as FCoV.  FIP in cats is fairly uncommon, affecting less than 1% of cats. However, once the virus mutates, it is generally a progressive and ultimately fatal disease.

FIP in cats is most common in cats 6 months to 2 years of age with a slightly higher distribution in male cats. Certain purebred cats also have a higher incidence including Asian breeds such as Himalayan and Birman cats.

Below we will discuss what is FIP in cats, signs of FIP, FIP symptoms, if FIP is contagious, and give you information on the FIP vaccine.

What is FIP in Cats?

FIP in cats is a disease caused by a mutated coronavirus. Feline coronavirus is commonly present in the intestines of cats.  In fact, it is estimated that approximately half of the cats in single cat households have the virus. It is even more common in multi-cat environments e.g. catteries where it is estimated that up to 90% of cats may have coronavirus.

Most cats that have coronavirus live a normal life. However, it is estimated that 5% of cats with coronavirus will go on to develop FIP. In this small percentage of cats, the virus mutates into a pathogenic and harmful virus that causes a variety of problems that we will discuss below under “Signs of FIP in Cats”. This only happens in some cats and the cause is uncertain but is most likely related to the cats’ immune system.

It is important to understand that FIP in cats is NOT transmitted from one cat to another. This can be confusing to some pet owners. The coronavirus CAN be transmitted from cat to cat, but FIP CANNOT be transmitted from one cat to another.

Once a cat has been exposed to coronavirus, 95% will have a normal life. When the coronavirus mutates in the other 5% this is what causes FIP.

What are the Signs of FIP in Cats?

There are two forms of FIP in cats. The first form is called effusive (also known as wet or feline coronavirual polyserositis) FIP and second is called non-effusive (also known as dry or granulomatous) FIP. It is possible for cats to get both forms of the disease.  Signs of FIP in cats generally develop over weeks to months.

 

The signs of FIP in cats will depend on which form of FIP they acquire.  When the virus mutates, generally one of two things happen. Sometimes the virus affects the blood vessels which is what happens with the “wet” form, or the cat develops granulomatous lesions which is what occurs in the “dry” form of FIP.

 

With the wet form of FIP, cats develop vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels) which causes abnormal fluid accumulations. If the fluid accumulation occurs in the chest (also known as a pleural effusion), common signs are trouble breathing. If the fluid accumulation occurs in the abdomen (commonly referred to as ascites), the abdomen can become distended. The excessive abdominal fluid is uncomfortable and causes signs such as nausea, decreased appetite, lethargy, weight loss, vomiting, and/or diarrhea. Most pet owners don’t notice the distended abdomen but will take their cats to the vet for trouble breathing or the signs that result from abdominal distension.

 

The dry form of FIP in cats causes granulomatous lesions to various organs including the eyes, skin, and/or nervous system.  A granuloma is a collection of immune cells that form in response to the virus and can be found with many different diseases. The granuloma creates lesions on the skin, in the eye, or nervous system that cause associated signs of FIP. For example, if granuloma forms in the brain, a cat may have trouble walking, be off balance, develop head tremors, and/or seizure just to name a few possibilities.

Many cats with FIP will also have a fever and eventually become anemic (pale).

What are the Symptoms of FIP in Cats?

FIP symptoms in cats may include any or all of the following:

  •   Fever
  •   Lethargy
  •   Depression
  •   Loss of appetite
  •   Weight loss
  •   Vomiting
  •   Diarrhea
  •   Unkempt appearance
  •   Trouble breathing or difficult breathing
  •   Distended abdomen (ascites)
  •   Jaundice (yellow color of the skin, eyes, ears, nose or gums)
  •   Pale gums
  •   Trouble walking or unsteady walking (ataxia)
  •   Seizures or paralysis with nervous system involvement
  •   Eye abnormalities

FIP Symptoms Kittens

FIP symptoms in kittens can be the same as those in adult cats. Some kittens with FIP will appear lethargic and fail to thrive relative to their littermates. They tend to sleep more, play less, appear lethargic, sometimes vomit or not eat, and overall fail to grow like a normal kitten. When the wet form is present, it can be more common to see a profoundly distended abdomen.

Is FIP Contagious?

The question “is FIP contagious” is a common and important one. As mentioned above, the cause of FIP is an abnormal mutation of the coronavirus. Coronavirus is contagious cat to cat, but FIP is NOT contagious cat to cat.

Does Your Dog Need Anxiety Medication?

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. That is the human definition of anxiety but it also fits well for dogs.

When we talk about canine anxiety, we are generally referring to dogs that are displaying behaviors of anxiety that are inappropriate to the circumstance. For example, a dog that is anxious because the fire alarm is going off and everyone is running out of the house has clear reason to be anxious. Most of us would be anxious as well. But a dog that chews up part of the door when the owner goes to work is demonstrating an inappropriate response to a situation.

Many dog owners wonder if their dog is normal or has anxiety. Does your dog have anxiety? Learn more about anxiety with this article Is Your Dog Suffering from Anxiety?

Below we will review signs of canine anxiety, natural treatment options, dog anxiety medications, sedatives including the popular drug Trazodone for dogs, and sedative options for grooming.

How to Help With Anti-Anxiety for Dogs

Signs of anxiety in dogs can vary and include pacing, restlessness, inability to relax, inability to sleep, digestive problems, aggression, destructive behaviors, and/or even self-mutilating behaviors.

There are several questions to consider when dealing with an anxious dog. Your veterinarian may ask you these questions and the answers can lead to discussions about what else you can you do to help your dog or if your dog needs anti-anxiety medications.

  1. What behavior is appropriate and what is inappropriate for your dog?
  2. What behavior is tolerable to a dog owner and what is not?  Some dog owners put up with a lot and others do not.
  3. When does the anxious behavior occur? Is it constant or intermittent?
  4. What is causing or contributing to the anxiety? Are there triggers? It is not always possible to answer this question but it is important to look for the underlying cause. Eliminating the source of the anxiety can be paramount to successful treatment.
  5. What has already been done to treat the anxiety?  What has worked or not worked for your dog? Has anything made it worse?

If you have a dog with anxiety, and you believe his behavior to be inappropriate and want to help, the best recommendation is to see your veterinarian. Veterinarians have different backgrounds, interests, and skill sets when it comes to dealing with behavioral issues in dogs.  It is possible, depending on the veterinarian and your situation, that they could refer you to a trained behaviorist.

Generally, medication is the last resort for treating dog anxiety. Most veterinarians prefer to treat it without drugs if possible. However, sometimes medications are prescribed as we will discuss below.

Next, we will review various treatments for canine anxiety from natural treatments to drug therapy.  What will work best will depend on the behaviors your dog is exhibiting and your individual situation.

Eliminate the Underlying Cause for Your Dog’s Anxiety

The most natural way to try to treat canine anxiety is to look for and eliminate any underlying causes. For example, if the anxiety is due to boredom, then the treatment of choice is to make sure that your dog gets plenty of exercise.  For most healthy dogs, this means at least 20 minutes of nonstop activity twice a day.

In this particular case, the recommendation to ensure your dog gets plenty of exercises may involve you creating a fenced in yard, getting another dog to play with, frequent trips to a dog park, taking long walks, hiring professional dog walkers, and/or enrolling in doggie daycare. These are all great ways to ensure your dog gets lots of stimulation and is not “bored”. A tired dog is often a happy dog.

Behavioral Modification & Training

Some behaviorists have success with treating canine anxiety by using positive reinforcement for good behaviors and ignoring bad behaviors. Another recommendation is to seek obedience training. This can help instill independence and confidence in your dog. There are many books available on training as well as available trainers in most areas. Here is an article that covers some training basics – go to Guide to Training Your Dog.

Natural Treatments for Canine Anxiety

Holistic treatments for anxiety such as “calming treats” work in some dogs.  Examples include Composure by VetriScience®, Zukes® Calming Dog Chews, Pet Naturals Calming Treats, Sam’s Yam Calmly Chamomile, Rescue Remedy, Animal Essentials Tranquility Blend, and Ark Naturals Happy Traveler.

Plug in adaptors called “Dog Appeasing Pheromone or DAP” have been shown to calm dogs.  These adapters are liquids that are diffused when you plug them into an electrical outlet, similar to those diffusers you commonly find at stores such as Bath and Bodyworks. DAP is used to treat separation anxiety, neophobia (extreme or irrational fear or dislike of anything new, novel, or unfamiliar), noise phobia, and fear of transportation. Check out this article written by behaviorist Dr. Nicholas Dodman who gives you tips and insight on using DAP in dogs.

Clonidine (Catpress) for Dogs and Cats

Overview of Clonidine (Catpress) for Canines and Felines

  • Clonidine, commonly known as Catpress® or Duraclon®, belongs to a class of drugs known as central alpha 2 adrenergic agonists and is similar to xylazine. It is a sedative that can also provide pain relief as well as muscle relaxation to dogs.   It is also used to treat inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and cats and behavioral disorders in dogs.
  • Please NOTE:  There is a drug on the market with a similar name that has caused confusion and errors. Please don’t confuse Clonidine with Klonipin® (clonazepam).
  • In humans, Clonidine is used to treat a variety of medical problems including high blood pressure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders (ADHD), anxiety, withdrawal from smoking, alcohol or drugs, as well as other uses.
  • Clonidine works by stimulating alpha-adrenoreceptors in the brain that impacts the central nervous system, blood vessels, heart rate and blood pressure.  It also works to provide pain relief to the spinal cord with epidural use.
  • Clonidine is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.

Brand Names or Other Names Clonidine

  • Human formulations:
    • Clonidine HCl Injection for epidural use: Duraclon®
    • Oral tablets Catapres®
    • Clonidine HCl Oral Modified-release (12-hour for humans) Kapvay®
    • Clonidine HCl Transdermal: Catapres-TTS®
  • Veterinary formulations:
    • None

Uses of Clonidine for Dogs and Cats

Precautions and Side Effects

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, Clonidine can cause side effects in some animals.
  • Clonidine should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Extreme caution must be used if clonidine is given to animals with heart disease, low blood pressure, shock, breathing problems, severe liver or kidney disease, a known seizure disorder, or if the animal is severely debilitated. Clonidine is not recommended in animals receiving epinephrine or those with heart arrhythmias.
  • Clonidine is not recommended for use in breeding, nursing or pregnant pets.
  • Clonidine may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with clonidine. Such drugs include epinephrine, certain narcotics, barbiturates, prazosin, prochlorperazine, acepromazine, drugs to treat blood pressure, heart medications including propranolol, digoxin, amitriptyline, and clomipramine.
  • Adverse effects of Clonidine include vomiting, constipation, sedation, collapse, low blood pressure, aggressive behavior and slow heart rates. There can also be a temporary high blood sugar (hyperglycemia).
  • Signs of overdose or toxicity may include low blood pressure, low heart rates, vomiting, lethargy and weakness. Please call your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your dog ingested an overdose of Clonidine.

How Clonidine is Supplied

  • Clonidine is available in oral tablets, oral modified-released tablets, transdermal and as an injection for epidural use.
  • Clonidine HCl Oral Tablets: 0.1 mg, 0.2 mg & 0.3 mg
  • Clonidine HCl Oral Modified-released Tablets: 0.1 mg
  • Clonidine HCl Transdermal: 0.1 mg/24hrs, 0.2 mg/24hrs, and 0.3 mg/24hrs

Dosing Information of Clonidine for Dogs and Cats

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting with your veterinarian.
  • Clonidine may be given with food or without food. Clonidine tablets should be stored away from light in moisture such as in the sealable light-resistant container.
  • In dogs, the dose used to treat behavioral issues is as follows:  Clonidine is dosed at 0.005 to 0.02 per pound (0.01 to 0.05 mg/kg) orally. For example, a 22-pound dog may be given a total dose of 0.1 mg tablet.
  • When beginning Clonidine for behavioral issues, a lower dose is generally started which can be gradually increased. The lowest possible effective dose is recommended to address the primary problem and minimize the risk of side effects.  Clonidine is most effective when used with other behavioral modification methods. It is recommended to give Clonidine 90 minutes to 2 hours before the expected anxiety-inducing event.
  • In dogs, the dose used to treat inflammatory bowel disease:  Clonidine is dosed at 2.2 to 4.5 micrograms per pound (5 to 10 micrograms/kg) orally every 8 to 12 hours.
  • In cats, the dose used to treat inflammatory bowel disease:  Clonidine is dosed at 2.2 to 4.5 micrograms per pound (5 to 10 micrograms/kg) orally every 8 to 12 hours. This is often used as a last resort after other more commonly recommended medications have been used and failed.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Even if your pet feels better, the entire treatment plan should be completed.

 

Additional Articles that May Be Helpful:

Resources & References:

  • Adams H. Adrenergic agonists and antagonists. In: Reviere J, Papich M, eds. Veterinary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. 9th ed. Ames, IA: Wiley-Blackwell; 2009.
  • ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline.
  • Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals. Catapres (clonidine) tablet package insert.
  • Current Veterinary Therapy XV, Bonagura and Twedt.
  • Long KM, Kirby R. An update on cardiovascular adrenergic receptor physiology and potential pharmacological applications in veterinary critical care. Journal of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care 2008.
  • Murrell JC, Hellebrekers LJ. Medetomidine and dexmedetomidine: a review of cardiovascular effects and antinociceptive properties in the dog. Vet Anaesth Analg 2005.
  • Ogata N, Dodman NH. The use of clonidine in the treatment of fear-based behavior problems in dogs: An open trial. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research 2011.
  • Pet Poison Helpline.
  • Plumb’s Veterinary Handbook by Donald C. Plumb, 9th Edition.
  • Textbook of Veterinary Internal

 

Trazodone (Oleptro®, Desyrel®) for Dogs and Cats

Use of Trazodone in Canines and Felines

  • Trazodone HCl, also known simply as Trazodone and by the brand names of Oleptro®, Desyrel®, is used in dog and cats with behavioral problems or various anxiety related problems including fears and anxiety related to veterinary visits and hospitalization.
  • Trazodone is categorized as a Serotonin 2a antagonist/reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It is an antidepressant that is often used for behavioral disorders. It works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced. This drug increases serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a chemical that facilitates transmission of “messages” among brain cells.
  • Behavioral disorders in dogs and cats are common causes for veterinary visits. Behavioral problems are also a frequent reason for euthanasia of pets, especially when unacceptable or dangerous animal behavior is involved. Over the past decade, veterinarians have begun placing increasing emphasis on training and behavior modification, and animal behavior specialists have adopted drugs used in modifying human behavior for animal use. Trazodone is one of these drugs.
  • It is relatively inexpensive making it appealing over some other behavioral modification drugs.
  • Trazodone is used to treat depression, insomnia, alcohol withdrawal, cocaine withdrawal, and migraine prevention, as well as other uses which can make it available for accidental exposure in dogs. For more information about Trazodone Toxicity – go to: What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone® Medication? (ADD ARTICLE AND LINK)
  • Trazodone is a prescription drug and can only be obtained from a veterinarian or by prescription from a veterinarian.
  • This drug is not approved for use in animals by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) but it is prescribed legally by veterinarians as an extra-label drug.

Brand Names and Other Names of Trazodone

  • This drug is registered for use in humans only.
  • Human formulations: Oleptro, Desyrel®, Desyrel Dividose and various generic equivalents.
  • Veterinary formulations: None.

Uses of Trazodone in Dogs and Cats

  • Trazodone is used for behavior modification of dogs. Trazodone may be used for separation anxiety and other anxiety related conditions (such as fear of fireworks).  Learn more about – Is Your Dog Suffering From Anxiety?
  • Other uses may include for the treatment of anxiety during hospitalization and for short-term relief of anxiety associated with activity restriction such as cage rest after surgery, especially orthopedic surgery.
  • Studies documenting use of Trazodone in cats was limited, however Trazodone is being frequently used in cats for travel anxiety and trips to the veterinarian for cats who are very fearful and anxious.  Data shows that it is safe and well tolerated for use in cats.

Precautions and Side Effects of Trazodone

  • While generally safe and effective when prescribed by a veterinarian, Trazodone can cause side effects in some animals.
  • Trazodone should not be used in animals with known hypersensitivity or allergy to the drug.
  • Trazodone should be used with caution in dogs and cats with a history of liver, kidney, or heart disease. Trazodone can cause priapism (prolonged erection) in humans and therefore should be used with caution in male breeding dogs.
  • Trazodone may interact with other medications. Consult with your veterinarian to determine if other drugs your pet is receiving could interact with Trazodone. Such drugs include drugs classified as diuretics, antibiotics (enrofloxacin, ciprofloxacin, erythromycin, clarithromycin), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (selegiline and amitraz), diazepam, phenylbutazone, digoxin or buspirone. Certain anti-fungal medications (i.e. ketoconazole, fluconazole itraconazole) can change the metabolism of Trazodone and require that a lower dose be used. Additional drugs that have potential interactions include aspirin, cisapride, metoclopramide, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g. carprofen, Rimadyl®, Novox®, Deramaxx®, Meloxicam and more), ondancetron, tramadol, and/or fluoxetine (Prozac®).
  • Side effects associated with Trazodone include lethargy, sedation, vomiting, diarrhea, panting, hyperactivity, ataxia, increased anxiety, increased appetite, shaking, restlessness, and/or agitation.
  • Side effects will generally improve with time so may veterinarians recommend waiting a few days to determine response if the side effects are mild.
  • When large quantities of Trazodone are ingested, pets may seizure or even go into a coma state. It is recommended that overdoses should be promptly treated by your veterinarian.

How Trazodone Is Supplied

  • Trazodone is available as both brand name and generic formulations.
  • Common tablets sizes include 50mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg.
  • Trazodone extended-release oral tablets sizes include 150 mg & 300 mg.

Dosing Information for Trazodone in Dogs and Cats

  • Medication should never be administered without first consulting your veterinarian.
  • In dogs, there is a range of doses. They include 2.5 mg per pound per day to 15 mg per pound every 24 hours. The average dose is approximately 3.5 mg per pound per day. Lower doses are used when combined with other behavioral modification medications. Most veterinarians prescribe Trazodone at the lower dosage range to minimize side effects and may gradually taper the dose up after 3 to 5 days.
  • Another method to dose dog is by total mg size based on weight. For example, initial dosing for dogs less than 22 pounds is total dose of 25 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 22 to 44 pounds the total dose of 50 mg every 12 to 24 hours, dogs over 44 pounds may be prescribed 100 mg every 12 to 24 hours. After 3 to 5 days of the initial dosing, a higher target dose may be recommended. Target dosing for dogs less than 22 pounds is a total dose of 50 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 22 to 44 pounds the total dose of 100 mg every 8 to 24 hours, dogs 44 to 88 pounds may be prescribed 200 mg every 8 to 24 and dogs over 88 pounds may be prescribed a total dose of 200 – 300 mg every 8 to 24 hours.
  • Trazodone may be given on an empty stomach or with food. If your dog gets nauseated or vomits after dosing, give Trazodone with a small meal or treat.
  • For cats, Trazodone has been infrequently used. The documented doses used in cats is 50-100 mg total dose for short term use.
  • Pets must receive Trazodone for 2 weeks before it can be determined that the medication is ineffective.
  • The duration of administration depends on the condition being treated, response to the medication and the development of any adverse effects. Be certain to complete the prescription unless specifically directed by your veterinarian. Even if your pet feels better, the entire treatment plan should be completed.
  • Dose should be gradually withdrawn or withdrawal symptoms made occur.

Resources & References:

  • Plumb’s Veterinary Handbook by Donald C. Plumb, 9th Edition.
  • Use of oral Trazodone for sedation in cats: a pilot study. J Feline Med Surg. 2015;0(0): Jillian M Orlando1; Beth C Case2; Andrea E Thomson3; Emily Griffith4; Barbara L Sherman5
  • Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Ettinger & Felman
  • Current Veterinary Therapy XIV, Bonagura and Twedt
  • Current Veterinary Therapy XV, Bonagura and Twedt
  • ASPCA Pet Poison Hotline
  • Pet Poison Helpline

Interesting Related Articles:

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone® Medication?

Dealing with Canine Ingestion of Trazodone®

Dogs commonly eat things they shouldn’t, especially the stray tablet or capsule from the medicine cabinet that may ultimately fall on the floor. According to the Pet Poison Helpline, almost half of their calls are about pets ingesting human medications such as Trazodone. Many of these drugs can be toxic due to a dog’s smaller size and differences in human and canine metabolism and toxicities.

Today, we’ll look at what happens to your dog if it accidentally ingests Trazodone®, and what you should do.

What is Trazodone®?

Oleptro, Desyrel®, Desyrel Dividose, also known by the generic name “Trazodone”, is a drug commonly used for the treatment of human depression, anxiety disorders, and insomnia. Other uses in humans include the treatment of obsessive-compulsive symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorders, panic disorders, control of nightmares, fibromyalgia, alcohol and cocaine withdrawal, migraine prevention, schizophrenia and erectile dysfunction.  Trazodone was extremely popular as an antidepressant in the 1980’s and 1990’s but is less commonly used due to the common side effect of sedation associated with Trazodone.

Trazodone is categorized as a serotonin antagonist reuptake inhibitor (SARI). It works by altering chemicals (serotonin) in the brain that may become unbalanced.

Trazodone is available as both brand name and generic formulations. Common tablets sizes include 50mg, 100 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg.

Is Trazodone® Routinely Prescribed to Dogs?

Trazodone® is prescribed to dogs and cats for a variety of behavioral problems including aggression, fears, anxieties, urine marking and compulsive disorders. For more information on the therapeutic use of Trazodone in dogs and cats, go to the pet drug library: Using Trazodone in Dogs.

The therapeutic dose used in dogs is as follows:

  • In dogs, there is a range of doses. A lower dose is generally started and gradually tapered up to minimize side effects. The dosage range goes from approximately 2.5 mg per pound per day to 15 mg per pound per day. The average dose is approximately 3.5 mg per pound per day. Lower doses are used when combined with other behavioral modification medications.
  • Currently, trazodone is not widely used in cats but appears to be safe and well tolerated.  Doses generally used are 50 mg to 100 mg per cat for anxiety.

What to Do if Your Dog Eats Trazodone®

In general, Trazodone® is considered toxic to dogs if enough drug is ingested. The toxicity depends on the amount ingested relative to your dog’s body weight.

The most common side effects include agitation, aggression, incoordination, excessive drooling, panting, hyperactivity, vocalization such as barking or howling, tremors, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea, dilated pupils and/or sedation. Some dogs will experience elevated blood pressure, heart rates and body temperature.

The amount of drug that can cause problems in a dog varies with each individual dog. Some depression and sedation have been documented when a dog ingests 3 mg of Trazodone per pound of body weight. Most dogs will experience neurologic abnormalities including drooling, trouble walking, incoordination, tremors and seizures at higher doses. Neurologic side effects can be more severe in dogs with a history of seizures or epilepsy. Doses over 250 mg per pound can be fatal. Some dogs can be much more sensitive to Trazodone than other dogs and lower doses can cause severe side effects in death in some dogs.

If your dog ingests Trazodone®, call your veterinarian for recommendations. Some veterinarians may recommend that you induce vomiting in your dog if toxic doses were ingested within the past few hours. For more information, go to How to Make a Dog Vomit.  For Trazodone® the best time to induce vomiting to prevent drug absorption is within 15 minutes of ingestion. Induction of vomiting is NOT recommended if your dog is showing any neurological abnormalities.

Monitor your dog carefully and ensure they are behaving normally. Monitor for tremors, seizures, sedation, hyperactivity, trouble walking, vomiting, or lack of appetite.

When Should YOU Call Your Veterinarian?

Call your vet immediately if your dog ingests Trazodone® and get his or her advice.

Call your vet if you see any abnormalities or concerns with your dog. If you notice vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, pale gums, difficulty breathing, lack of appetite, tremors, seizures, hyperactivity, trouble walking or any other signs, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How is Trazodone® Toxicity in Dogs Treated?

There is no specific antidote for Trazodone toxicity in dogs. Treatment will be determined on the amount your dog ate, size of your dog, concurrent medical problems, when the toxic dose was ingested, and symptoms your dog is displaying. If your dog ingests Trazodone®, call your veterinarian for recommendations.