Fatty Cysts in Dogs

Pet parents common ask questions about fatty cysts in dogs. Fatty Tumors, also known as lipomas or fatty cysts, are amongst the most common tumors that occur in dogs. Most fatty tumors are under the skin, in a space referred to as the subcutaneous space, which lies between the skin and muscle. The skin over the mass is generally normal in appearance.

Fatty tumors are generally soft although can be firm if they develop under deeper tissue layers. They can be movable or attached and are generally round in shape. Fatty tumors can vary in size but can grow to become very large. Some can be the size of an egg and others as big as a basketball. Some fatty tumors can be over 14 pounds in weight when surgically removed. Fatty tumors generally grow slowly. Dogs that tend to get one fatty tumor will tend to get more as they age.

Figure legend: Fatty cyst from a dog. This fatty cyst, also known as a fatty tumor or lipoma, was surgically removed from the body wall of an 8-year-old Labrador Retriever. This fatty cyst weighed 8 ½ pounds.

Fatty tumors are most common in middle-aged to older dogs. Fatty tumors can occur anywhere on the body but are most common on the chest and abdominal walls, legs, and armpits (axillae). They are more common in overweight dogs and occur about twice as often in female as compared to male dogs.  They can occur in any breed but are most common in Labrador Retrievers, cocker spaniels, dachshunds, Weimaraners, miniature schnauzers and Doberman pinschers. Lipomas can also occur in cats but are much less frequent.

How to Determine if the Mass on Your Dog is a Fatty Cyst

If your dog has a lump or mass, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is a fatty cyst to see your veterinarian. They have the experience to help you identify the type of tumor and provide recommendations for treatment or additional care. Your veterinarian may provide the following:

A complete examination. Your vet will look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of the kidneys, spleen, intestines, bladder, and liver.

  • Examine the skin lump. Your vet will evaluate the skin mass noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color, and more. They will also feel for additional lumps, which can be common in some dogs that develop fatty tumors. Most fatty tumors develop around the neck or over the body wall such as the rib cage or abdomen but can occur anywhere on the body.  The skin over the lump is generally completely normal without any sign of infection or pigmentation.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, ulcerations, and signs of infections, your vet will provide a recommendation as to the best approach to the fatty cyst.  They may recommend to evaluate the mass with a Fine needle aspirate (FNA), Biopsy, or recommend mass removal (often called “lumpectomy”).  Most times a fine needle aspiration can diagnose a fatty cyst on a dog.

Treatment of Fatty Cysts on Your Dog

No treatment is required for most fatty cysts. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow so large that they interfere with function or can break open and become infected. For example, they can occur in the armpit causing difficulty in a dogs ability to walk.  Some tumors can occur on the abdomen or chest way making it uncomfortable for a dog to lie down. Other tumors can become ulcerated and infected. In these cases, surgical removal is recommended to optimize comfort.

Figure legend: This fatty cyst was surgically removed and is sitting on the surgery table on the left. As you can see, it looks like a big ball of fat. This fatty cyst was removed from the right inguinal region in this 10-year-old Golden retriever. It was interfering with how this dog was walking and therefore was removed.

Other Types of Cysts

Some pet owners may confuse a fatty tumor with a sebaceous cyst. A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps that break open and drain a thick white to yellow cheesy substance. Some pet owners may believe this cyst is “fatty” and refer to this as a fatty cyst. Sebaceous cysts are generally small – less than 1 inch in size. For more information – please read sebaceous cysts in dogs.

Other Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

There are several additional causes of large bumps on dogs besides fatty tumors. Other large bumps in dogs may include:

Small Bumps on Your Dog

Some fatty tumors on dogs are small but many can grow to be very large. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?

What Large Bumps on Dogs Can Mean

Large bumps on dogs are common and can be a concern to pet parents. A skin bump in dogs is also referred to as growth, mass, lump, or tumor. Sometimes large skin bumps are felt during routine grooming or petting at home or can also be found by groomers during bathing and grooming.

A large bump in a dog can be anything from a bruise, a benign mass, to a malignant tumor. We will give you some common causes for large bumps in dogs and provide suggestions to help you keep your dog healthy. The biggest concern of pet owners is that the large bump on a dog could be cancer.

Causes of Large Bumps on Dogs

What one person may consider large may be very different from another and may depend on the size of the dog. For example, a 3-inch mass on a 5-pound Chihuahua may be huge relative to the same mass on a 140-pound Mastiff dog. For the purpose of this article, a large bump on a dog is over a couple inches in size.  There are many causes for smaller bumps.

Below are some possible causes for large bumps on dogs:

  • Large scabs – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture or wound.  Some scabs are small but some can be quite large depending on the underlying cause of the wound. Often clipping hair to evaluate this area can help determine if the problem is a tumor or a healing wound. Learn more about home care of a laceration in dogs.
  • Abscess – An abscess can appear as a large lump. An abscess is a localized pocket of infection that contains pus. Abscesses are caused by bacteria, parasites, or foreign material under the skin and develop quickly. They will generally break open at some point and drain.  Your veterinarian may need to evaluate the lump, lance the abscess in some cases, and provide pain medications and antibiotics. The most common cause for an abscess is an infection caused by a bite wound.
  • Hematoma – A hematoma is a large bruise. Most often this is associated with some trauma such as hit by a car or other type of trauma. Bruising can also occur from abnormal bleeding disorders. Learn more about bruising and bleeding in dogs. Dogs can also get hematomas in their ear flaps from shaking their heads which can be secondary to an ear infection. For more information, please read aural hematomas in dogs.
  • Fatty mass – Fatty tumors, also called lipomas, are amongst the most common bumps that occur in dogs. Fatty tumors generally soft but can be firm if they are under a layer of muscle. They can be movable or attached. They vary in size but can become very big. For example, a Labrador retriever recently had a lipoma surgically removed that was attached to his right rib cage that weighed over 14 pounds and was a little bigger than a basketball. Fatty tumors are not malignant but can grow to become large and interfere with a function such as walking. Learn more about Fatty cysts in dogs.
  • Lymph nodes – Some skin lumps are lymph nodes that can be felt under the skin. A common spot for pet owners to feel large lymph nodes are under the chin around the jawline. These lymph nodes are the “submandibular” lymph nodes. There are different causes of lymph node enlargement that can include anything from local infections to cancer.
  • Benign mass – There are several types of benign skin masses that can become large in dogs.  Some are listed above such as abscesses or fatty tumors. It can be impossible to tell the difference between a benign and a malignant lump without additional testing.
  • Malignant tumor – There are skin tumors that can be malignant. Some can occur in certain areas such as the mammary chain which can be mammary gland tumors.  Tumors of the testicles can also occur.
  • Organ tumors – Tumors of the liver or spleen can occur but generally aren’t obvious by most pet owners. However, some pet owners notice when their dog lays on their side that the abdomen looks distended or appears abnormal. They may even feel an abnormal bump. For more information about a lump that can occur on the spleen or liver – go to Hemangiosarcoma in Dogs.

How to Determine the Cause of a Large Bumps on Dogs

If your dog has a large bump, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is to closely examine the bump. Many times shaving the hair around that area is a big help to allow you to examine the bump and surrounding area. This may be best done with the help of your veterinarian.  Your veterinarian may perform the following:

  • A complete exam. They will want to look at your dog’s eyes, ears, listen to the heart and lungs, and feel the abdomen.
  • Examine the skin bump. Your vet will evaluate the skin bump noting the size, shape, depth, consistency, location, color and more.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the location of the tumor, size, any signs of infections, your vet will provide recommendations for the best approach to your dog’s skin mass.  They may recommend an additional test to evaluate the mass such as a fine needle aspirate (FNA), biopsy, or mass removal (lumpectomy”).

Common causes of large bumps on dogs include:

Small Lumps on Dogs

Some dogs may have small lumps. Common small tumors include Mast Cell Tumor, Melanomas, and Histiocytomas. Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean?

What Does a Black Lump on a Dog’s Skin Mean?

Pigmented lumps or black lumps on dog skin can cause pet parents to panic.  The concern often stems from how human medicine has educated us about our dangers of skin cancer. This is correct as just as with people, dogs can also get skin cancer.

One cause, and the most dangerous cause, of a pigmented lump or bump on the skin, can be a Melanoma in Dogs. First, let’s look at all the possible causes of black lumps in dogs and then we will offer additional information about melanomas.

Causes of Pigmented or Black Lumps on Dogs

There are many possible causes for pigmented or black lumps bumps on dogs. They may include:

  • Tick – A tick can be confused by a pigmented lump or black bump. Ticks are irritating arthropods that prey on dogs and attach themselves to the skin as they take their blood meals. Veterinarians commonly remove ticks from dogs that were mistaken as small-pigmented skin lumps. Learn more about how to remove a tick in a dog.
  • Scab – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture or wound.  Scabs can be large or small and are often pigmented.  Clipping the hair and careful close examination can usually reveal that it pigmentation is a scab and not a tumor.
  • Foreign body – Something caught in the hair next to the skin can be mistaken for a pigmented lump.  For example, this can be dried chewing gum, food, or a plant burr.
  • Insect bite – An insect bite such as from a wasp, bee, or spider can cause local skin inflammation that appears as a pigmented bump.
  • Puncture – A puncture can appear as a black bump in dogs. Punctures can occur from trauma or from a bite wound from another animal.
  • Abscess – An abscess is a localized pocket of infection that contains pus. The skin over the abscess is generally abnormal in color that can range from red to bruised/black. Punctures or bites can turn into abscesses. Clipping and cleaning the area will often reveal if an abscess is the underlying cause of the skin pigmentation.
  • Wart – Canine viral papillomas, also known as dog warts, is one of the most common causes of small lumps in dogs.  They are generally raised and look like small pale cauliflower bumps. Most warts are pale in color although when infected or traumatized, many will appear dark from the inflammation or blood. Some dogs will also lick these lesions, which causes additional pigmentation to the wart and the hair around it. This is most noticeable in white or light haired dogs. These benign masses are generally not a concern but can break open, become nicked during grooming, or become infected. For these reasons, some dog warts are surgically removed.  Surgical removal is curative although more often form on other parts of the body.
  • Histiocytoma – A histiocytoma is a small raised lump that primarily occurs on young dogs under three years of age. They most often occur on the face and legs.  Some dogs will lick at histiocytomas which can cause a pigmented appearance. These are benign and often spontaneously resolve.
  • Blister – A blister is a small fluid-filled bubble on the skin most often caused by friction, burning, or other damage. They can appear as pink raised lesions or have pigmentation if there is blood inside the lesion.
  • Cyst – A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps and are considered benign. These can become infected and open. They can be red or appear pigmented. Most sebaceous cysts do not require treatment.
  • Hematoma – A hematoma is a bruise that can be blue to black in color. Most often this is associated with some trauma such as hit by a car or other wound. Bruising can also occur from abnormal bleeding disorders. Learn more about bruising and bleeding in dogs.
  • Mast cell tumor (MCT) – Mast cell tumors account for approximately 20% of all skin tumors that occur in dogs.  They are commonly lumps in or just under the skin. Some dogs can have multiple masses that occur at the same time. MCT can occur anywhere on the body. Some MCT cause dogs to itch or lick which can cause discoloration of the mass.  Some dogs can have additional signs of illness such as weight loss, vomiting and/or diarrhea from the compounds released by the tumor. It is important to diagnose this type of tumor early and have proper treatment.
  • Malignant melanoma in dogs – This is a type of skin cancer that affects pigmented cells known as melanocytes. Because the underlying cells are generated from pigmented cells, the masses are generally brown or black in color. Tumors of melanocytes occur anywhere on the body including areas in the mouth, mucous membranes, and nail beds. Many melanomas are known to grow quickly and can spread to organs such as the lymph nodes, liver, and/or lungs.  It is important to diagnosis this type of pigmented tumor as soon as possible. There are various treatment options available including a DNA tumor vaccine.

How to Determine the Cause of a Pigmented Lump on a Dog

If your dog has a pigmented lump, the best way to help determine the underlying cause is to closely examine the lump. Your veterinarian may provide the following care during an appointment:

  • A complete examination of your dog looking at the eyes, ears, listening to the lungs and heart, feeling the lymph nodes, and feeling the abdomen to evaluate the size and shape of the kidneys, liver, spleen, bladder, and intestines.
  • Examination of the black skin lump. Your vet will evaluate the skin mass noting the size, shape, depth, texture, location, and color. Shaving hair around that area will help evaluate the pigmented lump and surrounding skin. This may be best done with the help of your veterinarian.
  • Provide recommendations. Based on the size, location of the mass, pigmentation, and suspicion that this lump could be cancerous, your vet will provide recommendations as to the best approach to determine the cause of the skin mass.  They may recommend evaluating the mass with a fine needle aspirate, biopsy, or mass removal often called “lumpectomy”.  If their level of concern about the mass is high, they will recommend sending a tissue sample to a laboratory for histopathology.

Treatment of Black Bumps on Dogs

Treatment recommendations will be determined by the underlying cause of the bump. An abscess may be draining, tick removed, and skin infection treated with antibiotics. For pigmented skin masses that are determined to be skin cancer, recommendations will depend on the type of cancer.  Possible treatments may include some combination of surgical removal of the pigmented bump, radiation therapy, and/or immunotherapy.

What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean

Small bumps on dogs are very common and can be a concern to pet parents. A skin bump is also referred to as mass, lump, growth, or tumor and these terms are often used interchangeably. Sometimes small skin bumps are felt during routine grooming or petting at home or can be found by groomers during bathing and grooming.

The concern is that a small bump on a dog could be cancer. Small bumps on dogs can be on the skin or under the skin. A small bump on a dog can something caught in the hair, a tick, insect bite, scab, puncture, blister, abscess, cyst, pimple to a small benign mass, or a malignant tumor.

Below is a list of some of the common possible causes for a small skin bump on a dog:

  • Foreign body – A foreign body can be on the skin such as something caught in the hair next to the skin can be mistaken for a small skin lump.  This can include anything from dried chewing gum, a plant burr, small rock or stick, mulch, food particles, or just about anything else.  A foreign body can also be in or under the skin such as a B-B pellet.
  • Tick – A tick can be confused by a small lump. Ticks are arthropods that prey on dogs and attach themselves to the skin as they acquire a blood meal. Veterinarians commonly remove ticks from dogs that were mistaken as small skin bumps. Learn more about how to remove a tick in a dog.  Also learn more about the danger of ticks in dogs.
  • Scab – A scab is a rough, dry crust that forms as a protective barrier over a healing cut, laceration, puncture, or wound.  Clipping hair and cleaning the area can identify if the small bump is a scab.
  • Insect bite – An insect bite such as from a bee, wasp, or spider can cause local skin inflammation that can appear as a small lump. Some bites can become infected.
  • Puncture – A small puncture can appear as a small skin bump in dogs. Punctures can occur from bite wounds or jabs from sharp objects. Punctures can form into abscesses that can also be mistaken for a skin bump.
  • Cyst – A sebaceous cyst is a small sac containing an accumulation of secretions produced by the sebaceous glands. They can appear as small bumps and are considered benign. In most cases no treatment is necessary. Sebaceous cysts will sometimes break open and a thick white to yellow cheesy substance will drain. If the decision is made to biopsy the cyst, complete surgical removal is performed and is curative.
  • Wart – Canine viral papillomas, also known as a dog wart, is one of the most common causes of small lumps in dogs.  They often look like small pale cauliflower or flesh colored raised bumps. These benign masses are generally not a concern but can break open, become nicked during grooming, or become infected. For these reasons, some dog warts may be surgically removed.  Surgical removal is curative although more can form on other parts of the body.
  • Skin tag – A skin tag, also known as an acrochordon or fibroepithelial polyp, is a benign growth that arises from the skin. They are commonly removed when they interfere with function. For example, skin tags that develop around the mouth can are accidentally bit when chewing or ones that dangle from the legs or abdomen which can be caught on something and break open.  Surgical removal is curative.
  • Histiocytoma – This is a type of small bumps that occurs primarily on young dogs under three years of age. Histiocytomas most often occur on the face and on the legs or paws. These are benign lumps that spontaneously resolve.
  • Blister – A blister is a small fluid filled bubble on the skin caused by friction, burning, or other damage.
  • Fatty mass – Fatty tumors are also called lipomas for fatty tumors. They often begin a small soft skin bumps but can grow to become larger. Learn more with this article Fatty Cysts in Dogs. (INSERT LINK)
  • Skin infection – A skin infection can appear as a skin mass, lump or tumor. Conditions such as pyoderma can cause raised red inflamed bumps. There are generally multiple lesions and is rarely isolated to one bump. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications are common treatments.
  • Benign mass – There are numerous causes of benign skin masses.  Some are listed above such as skin tags, dog warts, and cysts.  Many growths can appear the same and impossible to determine the type of tumor without additional laboratory testing.
  • Skin cancer – There are skin tumors that can be cancerous.  A common skin cancer in dogs is squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) that can result from sun exposure. SCC may appear as a skin bump that is red, white or grey in color. They are often malignant and require surgical removal. Tumors may develop on the nose, legs, and/or paws. Other types of cancer include Mast Cell Tumor or Melanomas.  Learn more about skin cancer in dogs.

How to Determine the Cause of a Small Lump on a Dog

Small Skin Lumps on Dog

I Found a Hard Lump on My Dog — What is It?

Pet owners may pet or groom their dog to suddenly feel a hard lump on their dog that they have not felt before. This can cause concern, and in some cases, downright panic.  A lump also referred to as a mass, growth, bump or tumor, can occur anywhere on the body and come in all shapes and sizes. Some hard lumps on dogs can be benign and others malignant.  In this article, will review the possible causes for hard lumps on dogs and offer recommendations for what you should do.

There are many ways to describe a skin lump on a dog. The size, shape, texture, color, location, depth, and rate of growth are all characteristics that can help determine what kind of lump it is and what level of concern you should have.

Ways to describe a hard lump on a dog include:

  • Size- Dog lumps can range from very small and huge. In fact – some tumors, such as lipomas (also known as fatty tumor) in dogs can weigh several pounds.  Learn more about What Small Bumps on Dogs Can Mean and What Large Bumps on Dogs Can Mean.
  • Shape – Some dog lumps can be regular and others can be irregular. For example, most lipomas are round in shape.
  • Texture – Some dog lumps are firm and some are soft. Some tumors can have both components with part being soft and part firm.  Lumps that are commonly soft are fatty tumors. Learn more about Fatty Cysts in Dogs.
  • Color – Some hard dog lumps are under the skin and have only the color of the skin and other skin lumps on the skin can white, red (if inflamed), or pigmented brown or black. Learn more about What Does a Black Lump on a Dog’s Skin Mean? 
  • Location – Lumps can occur anywhere on the body. Most lumps that pet owners feel are on the skin, however, lumps can also occur on organs such as on the liver, spleen, and/or kidney. Skin lumps in dogs can grow on top of the head, neck, chest, body wall, axillae, legs, tail and just about anywhere else.  Hard lumps that involve the mammary chain (breast) are one of the tumors of concern and should be evaluated immediately.
  • Depth – Skin lumps can be on the skin (such as a mole or skin tag) or they can be under the skin. Lumps that are under the skin can be attached or moveable.
  • Rate of growth – Lumps in dogs can grow at varying rates. Some lumps grow very quickly, even over days or weeks, and some grow very slowly over months to years. Histiocytomas and Mast Cell Tumors are two types of fast-growing tumors. Fatty tumors tend to grow slowly.
  • Other – Some skin lumps can be ulcerated or even become infected. This can result from trauma to the mass, poor blood supply to the tumor causing necrosis of the tumor or be associated with certain types of cancer. Histiocytomas or Mast Cell Tumor can be itchy to some dogs.

These tumor characteristics can help guide your veterinarian as to what the hard lump on your dog may be. For example, many dogs get fatty tumors that can occur anywhere but are soft and commonly attached to the body wall. Fatty tumors are rarely firm and are uncommon on certain locations such as on top of the head. A large tumor that involves the mammary chain (breast) can be suggestive of cancer.

Another factor that is commonly considered when evaluating the cause and concern for a tumor is the age of the dog.  Some hard lumps are more common in young dogs such as Histiocytomas. While young dogs (under three years of age) are more likely to get histiocytomas (especially on the face and extremities), they can happen to dogs of any age in just about any location. Other types of tumors are more common in an older dog such as mast cell tumors, lipomas, skin cancer tumors, and breast cancer.

What is this Hard Lump on My Dog?

Most dog owners worry that a hard lump could be skin cancer. Skin cancer in dogs encompasses a broad category of tumors that includes any uncontrolled growth of cells of the skin or associated structures such as glands, hair follicles and supportive tissues (fat and connective tissue). The skin is the most common site of cancer in dogs. Skin cancer frequently occurs in dogs between 6 to 14 years of age but can occur at any age.

Puppy Diaries #3. Caring For and Training Our New Pup

Dear Diary,

Sommer has been home for a few weeks and we’re getting into a groove – she’s teaching me as much as I’m teaching her! I’m noticing a distinct rhythm to our days. The schedule revolves around eating, playing, exercising, chewing (with any luck, on a bully stick and not the furniture or carpet), peeing, pooping, and napping – lots of pup naps! What a relief it was, after a couple of weeks at home, she finally started sleeping a seven-hour stretch at night. Getting sleep helped my mood considerably! Potty accidents are still a problem, and I try not to lose patience with her as well as myself. I know that when she has an accident, it’s my fault for not paying attention to how long it’s been since she last went out. But in my defense, it can be hard to keep track of the dog, the kids, my work, dinner, laundry and every other thing that’s going on in the three-ring circus we call life. Even with the challenges and occasional frustrations, there are moments each day that make the hard work and craziness worthwhile, such as the eager greeting we get not only when we come home from being out, but when we leave a room and re-enter it two minutes later. There’s nothing like a puppy’s “welcome home”!

Acclimating to Life With a Pup

Our first weeks home with Sommer were a rollercoaster ride – highs, lows and everything in between. Every morning we’d wake up to her little barks. Something is barking! What is it? Oh, wait! WE HAVE A PUPPY. Yay! That was certainly a daily high point that made every morning feel like Christmas morning. Then we’d scramble downstairs to release her from her crate, and she’d be so excited, she’d pee on the floor. Ugh. A low point!

We soon learned though, that in a world of high-tech, there’s was a lot to be said for the simple pleasures of owning a pup. Cuddling, tossing a ball around the house, creating homemade obstacle courses (she was surprisingly nimble at Army-crawling under furniture) became favorite family pastimes, and lured our boys from their iPads and phones. For our boys, who are ages 12 and 15, Sommer provides a means to release pent-up energy after school, and an emotional outlet for their love and affection, two things that can be hard for kids to demonstrate as they get older.

The main challenge as Sommer acclimated to her new environment, with no littermates and a new pack leader in me, was sleep. Her first two nights at home were the worst and were accompanied by loud crying. I gritted my teeth and did not let her out of her crate, because I felt it would teach her that loud crying would result in her getting what she wanted. That was one behavior I did not want to encourage! It was tough, and I gritted my teeth and had to restrain myself from running to her crate to pick her up, but we got through it.

In addition to trying to discourage crying, we also tried hard not to reinforce negative behavior by responding to her when she jumped up for attention or nipped. I made sure that no one in the family petted her, picked her up or paid any attention to her when she jumped or nipped. A firm “no” and a turned back was enough to stop her in her tracks. Fortunately, Sommer instinctually needed to be near me as her pack leader, and any time I rebuffed her for negative behavior, she quickly corrected in order not to be exiled. It was amazing how quickly she developed habits, and I tried to make them good ones!

As we acclimated to each other, I also made an effort to pick up on Sommer’s signals and body language. What was she trying to tell me? Her pounce-y and bouncy self was right at home with our family, but if another dog came near, she would jump on me to be picked up, even when we were in our own yard. Every person on the planet has something that causes them stress, and apparently, other dogs are Sommer’s stressor. Ha! So, I signed up for a Puppy Obedience class in order to socialize her and help her be more accustomed to being around her “peers.”

Caring For Our Pup

Within a couple weeks of bringing her home, we were at the vet’s office for vaccinations and a check-up. Weeks later, on the second visit, she had a couple more vaccinations, and after I brought her home, she became listless didn’t want to get off the couch or eat a treat. Alarmed, I called the vet, who directed me to bring her back for observation and treatment for a reaction to the vaccination. Sommer was admitted to the animal hospital for a few hours for treatment and observation. As I handed over my credit card and watched the vet tech carry her away from me, my stomach was in knots. Fortunately, I’d signed up for pet insurance, so that was one less worry. Still, I exhaled a huge sigh of relief when I got the call that she had recovered well and was ready to be picked up.

Symptoms and Causes of Nausea in Dogs

Nausea in dogs is a very common problem. This symptom can occur by itself but is also very common just prior to the act of vomiting. In humans, nausea is also referred to as “feeling sick to your stomach” or “queasy” and is associated with a feeling of discomfort and unease in the stomach. In dogs, nausea is harder to define since dogs can’t tell you they are “sick to their stomach.” In many occasions, it is unclear that there is an issue until the dog vomits.

The most common symptoms of nausea in dogs are lack of appetite, licking, restlessness, and drooling. Nausea can make some dogs restless during which time they will pace and appear unable to get comfortable. This is common just prior to vomiting. Other dogs with nausea will lie in the same spot drooling.

Overview of Canine Nausea

Nausea is a nonspecific symptom, which means there are many different possible causes. Common reasons for canine nausea include eating too fast or overeating, changes in diet, eating something indigestible or spoiled, licking something with an unpleasant taste (such as cleaning chemicals or topical flea prevention products), motion sickness, side effects of some medications, and any disease or condition that would cause vomiting.

Nausea in dogs can be caused by disorders of the gastrointestinal system (stomach and/or intestines) or it can be secondary to a disease from a different system cancer, acute kidney failure, chronic kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, or various infectious diseases. The variety of causes can make finding the root cause of nausea a challenge.

At one time or another, your dog may have episodes of vomiting before which he probably had a period of nausea. Vomiting may be a sign of a very minor problem or it may be a sign of something very serious.

**An occasional, isolated episode of nausea with or without vomiting is usually normal and not a reason for major concern.**

The severity or concurrence of other signs will determine whether specific diagnostic tests are recommended. Important considerations include the duration and frequency of the nausea, so it is important to monitor these things. If your dog vomits once then eats normally with no further vomiting, or has a normal bowel movement and is acting playful, then the problem may resolve on its own. If the nausea and vomiting continues after your dog eats, if your dog acts lethargic, or doesn’t want to eat, then medical attention is warranted. Learn more about what you can do at home for the vomiting dog.

Canine Nausea – What to Watch For:

Common signs of nausea in dogs may include:

Other signs that can be associated with nausea may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Dry heaving (this can be associated with an emergency condition called “bloat”).
  • Dehydration (persistent vomiting can lead to dehydration)
  • Abnormal behavior or physical abnormalities associated with prolonged vomiting such as the presence of lethargy (reluctance to move), abdominal pain, lack of appetite, diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting or other physical abnormalities.

Diagnosis of Nausea in Dogs

Optimal therapy for any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of nausea and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Tests may include:

  • Complete medical history and physical examination, including abdominal palpation. Medical history will most likely include questions regarding the following: exposure to trash; vaccination history; diet; appetite; general health; associated vomiting and character of vomitus (frequency, progression, presence of blood duration of vomiting); weight loss; past medical problems; medication history and presence of other gastrointestinal signs such as diarrhea.
  • Your veterinarian may recommend a number of laboratory tests which may include a complete blood count (CBC), a serum biochemical panel, and a urinalysis.
  • Fecal examination (to determine presence of parasites or blood)
  • Plain radiography (X-rays) or contrast X-rays (X-rays performed after your dog is given a contrast material such as barium or aqueous iodine) which can help to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Ultrasonography is an imaging technique that allows visualization of abdominal structures by recording reflection (echoes) of inaudible sound waves to determine the size and shape of abdominal organs, it can also detect changes in the consistency or texture of organs.
  • Endoscopy may be useful for diagnosis or to remove certain foreign bodies in the stomach. This technology can also be used for examination of the stomach and a portion of the intestine and to obtain biopsies of abnormal areas noted during the exam.

Treatment of Nausea in Dogs

Common treatments for canine nausea may include one or more of the following:

  • Eliminate the predisposing cause (e.g. exposure to trash, change in diet, stop any medications that may be contributing to the nausea, etc.) can help. Patients who eat too quickly or overeat can be treated by feeding small portions at a time or by using feeders designed to slow eating.
  • An acute episode of nausea with or without vomiting in a playful dog, in the absence of other physical abnormalities, may be treated symptomatically without hospitalization (outpatient treatment). This may consist of subcutaneous fluids, injectable antiemetics (drugs used to control nausea and vomiting), and a follow-up appointment if the symptoms are not resolved immediately.  A drug commonly used to treat nausea is Maropitant (commonly known by the brand name Cerenia).  This drug comes in both injectable and oral forms. Many times a dog is given an injection and sent home with the oral pills.
  • Dogs with abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy or any other physical abnormality may be treated with hospitalization. Therapy may include intravenous fluid administration, 24-hour monitoring, and drug treatment. This is often combined with diagnostic testing to determine the cause of the vomiting.
  • Sick dogs may require referral to an emergency or 24-hour hospital that offers care around the clock.

Home Care and Prevention of Nausea in Dogs

Follow-up with your veterinarian for [[AWT|5679|re-examinations]] of your dog as recommended and administer any medications they prescribe. If your dog experiences an inadequate response to previous medical measures, a further workup may be indicated to determine the underlying cause of the nausea.

  • Treatment for nausea is dependent on the cause. Symptomatic therapy of an episode of nausea and vomiting includes withholding food and water for 3 to 4 hours. If your dog has not vomited by the end of this time, offer water a few tablespoons at a time. Continue to offer small amounts of water every 20 minutes or so until your dog is hydrated.
  • After the small increments of water are offered, gradually offer an easily digestible food. 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 usually recommended. Homemade diets of boiled rice or potatoes (as the carbohydrate source) and lean hamburger, skinless chicken or low-fat cottage cheese as a protein source are also recommended. Here are instructions on how to make a bland diet at home.
  • Medications to reduce stomach acid may be recommended. A common and safe medication commonly used at home is famotidine (Pepcid). For dosage and medication information, go to the Drug Library article on Pepcid.
  • Gradually return your dog to regular food over 1 or 2 days. If vomiting continues at any time or you note the onset of other symptoms, call your veterinarian promptly.
  • If your dog is not eating, acts lethargic, vomiting starts or continues, or any of the other physical abnormalities mentioned above begin, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your dog needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your dog is having the clinical signs mentioned above, expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. These recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

Prevention of nausea in dogs is aimed at minimizing your dog’s exposure to trash (bones, food products), foreign material (socks, strings, etc.) or toxins. Walk your dog on a leash to minimize exposure to foreign material that may be located outside. Monitor your dog’s appetite and general health as well. If your dog is overeating, feed smaller and more frequent meals to prevent further nausea.

Puppy Diaries #2: Picking Our Pup and Bringing Her Home (8-12 Weeks)

Dear Diary,

After an exhilarating and exhausting seven-hour drive, including stops at every. single. wayside. between Kenosha, Wis. and Minneapolis, we made it! We are home, and we have a pup. Her name is Sommer (Norwegian for “summer” and pronounced the same). She’s eight weeks old, weighs five pounds, and wakes up every few hours to go outside. Somehow our boys manage to sleep through the whining and crying (Sommer’s, not mine), so the nighttime duties are left to my husband and I. Potty accidents, worries about whether she’s eating and drinking enough, appointments for vaccinations — the experience is uncannily similar to bringing home a baby. In a nutshell? Bringing home Sommer has been intense, hilarious, fun, heartwarming and a little crazy at times.

Puppy Pick-Up Day Arrives

You would’ve thought I was waiting to hear whether I’d been accepted into the Ivy League by the way I was pacing a path into the carpeting that August afternoon. In reality, I was waiting for a text from our breeder to find out which puppy of the five in the litter would be ours. I shouldn’t have been tense, but we were last on the list, so we had no control over which pup we’d get. And, I’d made a big, fat rookie pup mom error: Via the photos and emails from the breeder during the previous eight weeks, I’d gotten attached to one particular pup.

Our breeder had warned against such foolishness. My higher self, the one that meditates, eats vegan and practices yoga daily, understood that all the pups were equally fabulous and any one of them would make a great dog. Our boys certainly felt that way, as they changed favorites every week. But my less-evolved self had fallen head over heels with one pup: The little girl wearing the pink collar.

Admittedly, the fact that we have two (human) boys had me naturally leaning toward a girl, even if it was a canine girl. When Nicole shared that there were four girls and one boy in the litter and that the first family to pick wanted a boy, I was happy as could be. Still, of the four girls, the girl in the pink collar reached out and grabbed my heart. It wasn’t that she was the cutest or most photogenic, although of course, she was both cute and photogenic. In the photos, she had a look on her face that said she wasn’t 100% convinced about this photo-taking operation, which made me chuckle. She looked like one cool customer. Everything inside me screamed, “that’s our dog.” I shared photos of the litter with my mom, and she picked the girl with the pink collar. I showed the photos to a friend and my sister-in-law, and they each picked the girl with the pink collar. Still, I didn’t share my wish with Nicole, as I didn’t want to seem desperate or weird, two things that I was starting to wonder about myself.

On the day that families went to the breeder to pick their pup, we were an hour away in Chicago, visiting friends. Because we were last on the list, we couldn’t pick our dog until the end of the day, which wouldn’t allow us enough time to make the seven-hour drive home to Minneapolis. We’d agreed that whatever pup we got, our breeder would send her to a nearby trainer for a night, and we would pick her up the next morning. All afternoon, I paced as I tried with varying levels of success to keep my mind occupied. Finally, at 5 p.m., a text came in from our breeder, saying: “Congrats! The pink collar girl is yours!”

I won’t pretend I didn’t dance around the room and cry a bit while screaming, “The pink collar girl! She’s ours!”

Meet Sommer! The Pup behind Puppy Diaries.

I breathlessly texted back, telling her Sommer’s name and sharing that she was the one we secretly wanted all along. Our breeder responded that two different families had decided to take Sommer, but wound up choosing a different pup. These happy coincidences seem to happen with each litter, she said, and it never ceases to amaze her how things usually work out for the best.

Faith in the universe affirmed, we set off the next morning for the trainer’s house. There we found a gaggle of pups romping in an outside pen. Some were digging at the edge of the fence, but Sommer was wisely keeping an observant eye from a distance. The trainer handed her over, and I scooped her up in my arms and snuggled her.

What Causes Bad Breath in Puppies?

Bad breath is one of the most common symptoms in dogs and is a very common complaint from dog owners. It most often occurs in adult or senior dogs but puppies can get bad breath too!  Learn more about the Causes of Bad Breath in Dogs? and Why Some Dogs Breath Smells like Fish.

Below, we will review common causes of bad breath in puppies, how to stop bad breath, and review products you can use to make puppy’s bad breath better.

Here’s Why Puppy’s Get Bad Breath

The reasons puppies get bad breath can be some of the same reasons as older dogs although there are some differences in puppies.

Below are 8 possible causes of bad breath in puppies:

  1. Ingestion of Stinky Stuff. Puppies explore the world with their mouths and can chew on and/or ingest things as they explore. This is especially true with puppies that are teething between the ages of 8 weeks and 6 months. Learn more about Teething in Puppies. Puppies may ingest foul and sometimes stinky things that can cause bad breath. Some examples include dead animals they may find in the yard, mulch, compost, trash, and/or spoiled food.
  2. Ingestion of Foreign Bodies. Puppies may ingest un-digestible objects that can lead to problems that cause bad breath. Ingested items can get stuck in the stomach and intestinal tract that can cause vomiting and bad breath. Learn more about Gastrointestinal Foreign Bodies in Dogs and Puppies.
  3. Tooth Abscess. A tooth abscess is an infection around the tooth that can cause bad breath. Although less common in puppies, it is possible to have a bad tooth at any age.
  4. Oral Ulcerations and Infections. Ulcers in the mouth can occur from a puppy that ingests or licks caustic substances. Because puppies are curious and commonly get into things causing chemical exposure that can lead to oral ulcerations and infections. Caustic substances that a puppy may lick or chew on include cleaning chemicals, soap and detergents, laundry or dishwater detergent pods and liquid potpourri.  These agents can cause oral ulcerations and infections that cause bad breath in puppies. Another cause for an oral infection is wounds that occur from a fight. Some dogs sustain bites around and in the mouth from fights with other animals.
  5. Respiratory Infections. Pneumonia and infections of the trachea can cause foul smelling breath. It can be especially noticeable during exhalation (breathing out) and coughing.
  6. Problems with Bones. Some bones given to puppies can break and splinter causing trauma to the oral tissues. Bones can also become lodged in the roof of the mouth or around the lower teeth and jaw. This can cause trauma to the tissues, an infection, and foul odor.
  7. Digestive Problems.  Some puppies may have digestive problems that can lead to bad breath. Feeding a high quality easily digestible food formulated for puppies can help digestion.  In addition, puppies commonly have worms which should be treated by your veterinarian with a deworming medication.
  8. Other. There are additional causes of foul breath in dogs that don’t commonly occur in puppies but are common in adult dogs. They may include gum disease, periodontal disease, oral tumors, lung cancer, kidney disease, and uncontrolled diabetes (diabetic ketoacidosis). Some pet owners even describe their dogs breath to have a foul fish type odor.  Learn more in Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

If you suspect your puppy has any of the problems identified above, is not eating, vomiting, appears lethargic, is coughing, and/or seems painful around the mouth, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible. They can help you evaluate your puppy for abnormalities that can cause bad breath.

How to Help Stop Bad Breath in Puppies

Below are a few tips to help stop bad breath in puppies:

Brush those teeth. One of the best things you can do to help bad breath in puppies is to brush their teeth. Make it a positive experience. Pick out a veterinary approved toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste that has an appealing flavor to your puppy. Start slowly by touching your puppy’s teeth and gums gently and rewarding your puppy with praise for positive behavior.  Learn more about How to Brush Your Dog Teeth. Here is an article on dental products for dogs.

Provide safe chew toys. Ensure your puppy has plenty of safe chew toys that cannot be ingested. Some puppies will chew on and ingest toys, which can lead to life-threatening obstruction in the stomach or intestines. Ensure they are safe for your puppy’s size and are not a choking hazard.

Here’s How to Cure Your Dog’s Bad Breath

Believe it or not – one of the most commonly searched terms on the Internet is “dog bad breath cure”. Because bad breath in dogs is such a common problem, there are literally thousands of products on the market to treat or help bad dog breath. There are dozens of commercials and infomercials promoting dog bad breath products that “cure bad dog breath.” This has led me to test many of these products over the past decade. Products include various foods, treats, chews, water supplements, pills, capsules, powders, liquids, herbal therapies, and more.

First, an important question is “how do you identify what is causing your dog’s bad breath” and “how can you cure it?” Which products really work?

First, let’s identify what can cause bad breath.

How To Identify What’s Causing Your Dog’s Bad Breath

To identify the underlying cause of your dog’s breath may require a visit to your veterinarian.

Your vet may ask you the following questions:

  • How long has your dog had bad breath? Was it recent or has it been months?
  • What do you feed your dog? What brand and flavor of food are you feeding? What treats are you giving? Has there been any recent change in the food?
  • Does your dog have exposure to trash, dead animals, compost, the litter box, or other items that can be ingested, chewed, and that could lead to bad breath?
  • Does your dog have other symptoms? Respiratory diseases or infections, lung tumors, nasal tumors, and diabetes can all cause bad breath in dogs. Is your dog sneezing? Coughing? Having trouble breathing? Exercise intolerance? Increased thirst or urination? Has there been any recent change in weight e.g. unexplained weight loss or gain?
  • Is your dog vomiting or having diarrhea? Diseases involving the esophagus, stomach or intestines can cause bad breath.

Please discuss any abnormalities or concerns with your veterinarian.

Once your vet has a good history on your dog, they will likely perform a physical examination that includes listening to the heart and lungs, feeling the abdomen, and most importantly evaluating the teeth and mouth. Diseases of the teeth, mouth, and gums are the most common causes of bad dog breath.  Learn more about the causes of bad breath in this article My Dog’s Breath Stinks: What Are the Causes of Bad Breath? This article is also helpful – Why Does My Dog’s Breath Smell Like Fish?

What Kind of Treatment Will Help Eliminate Your Dog’s Stinky Breath

The best things you can do to help your dog’s bad breath is to see your veterinarian and allow them to help you determine the underlying cause of the bad breath. Based on the cause, they can recommend a dog bad breath cure. For example, if the cause is a respiratory infection, the treatment cure may be antibiotics. If the underlying problem is diabetes, they can treat your dog with insulin. If the cause is dental disease, the best treatment cure is a dental cleaning or other procedures to fix the underlying tooth or gum problem.

The ideal way to treat and cure stinky dog breath is to prevent it before it starts. Before your dog has dental disease, brush your dog’s teeth at daily. Plaque forms daily and takes 24 to 48 hours to turn to tartar. By brushing daily, you can remove the plaque and prevent it from turning to tartar.

The ideal time to begin brushing your dog’s teeth is either after a dental cleaning or when your dog is young and teeth are new and clean. In puppies, the ideal way to start is by touching your dog’s teeth and gums and give positive reinforcement for good behavior. Puppies do get bad breath as well. Learn about What Causes Bad Breath in Puppies?

To begin your tooth brushing routine, you will need a soft toothbrush and veterinary toothpaste with a flavor appealing to your dog. Do not use human toothpaste. Pick a time that works with your schedule so this can be part of your daily routine. Do not begin by brushing all your dog’s teeth in one session. Begin slowly by offering your dog the toothpaste only and provide plenty of praise when your dog responds positively. Gradually work up to a full 30-second brushing of all the teeth over a few weeks. For more details – go to “How to Brush Your Dog Teeth”. This article includes excellent information written by a veterinary dentist. Even with daily brushing, your dog may need thorough periodic professional dental cleanings.