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.

Here’s Why Dog Knee Problems Exist

Dog knee problems are common. There are a few different causes. Two of the most common causes are a luxating kneecap, commonly referred to as a luxating patella or patellar luxation, and the other is a cruciate ligament tear, commonly referred to as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear. The focus of this article is to understand more about dog knee problems including how the dog knee joint works. We will discuss patellar luxation, treatment options, and costs for treating this disease.

First, it is important to know about the dog knee joint to better understand the common problems and treatment options.

What You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Knee Joints

Your dog’s knees are located on the back legs between the thigh bone (femur) and the lower leg bones (tibia and fibula).  The dog knee joint is also called the “stifle” joint.

Between the upper and lower leg bones is a kneecap, commonly called the patella. When the knee functions normally, the patella slides smoothly in a groove called the trochlear groove over the femur. There are strong ligaments in the knee at the top, bottom and on the sides. Ligaments attach thigh muscles to the kneecap on the top end and ligaments attach the patella to the tibia (also called the shin bone) on the lower end.  There are also ligaments on each side of the knee called the medial and lateral patellar ligaments. The ligaments on the inside and the outside of the knee help keep the patella smoothly riding in the groove.

Problems can occur when one of the ligaments tear, when a fracture occurs to the bones above, below or to the kneecap itself, or when there are genetic defects in the development of the knee joint such as an abnormal groove where the kneecap rides.

All dogs have a risk of a knee injury but certain breeds are predisposed to the different genetic problems. Small breed dogs are more predisposed to a luxating patella and larger breeds are predisposed to ligament tears. However, any knee problem can occur to any dog.

Here are a few breed predispositions:

  • Breeds predisposed to Fractures – Breeds that run free and unrestricted are at higher risk of trauma, such as being hit by a car.
  • Breeds predisposed to Luxating Patella – Patellar luxation is common in Yorkshire Terriers, Dachshunds, Pomeranians, Toy and Miniature Poodles, and BostonBulldogss. It is also seen occasionally in other breeds including Lhasa Apsos, Cocker Spaniels, Chow Chows, Bedlington Terriers, Australian Terriers, Japanese Chin, Shar-Pei, Tibetan Terriers, and Labrador Retrievers.
  • Breeds predisposed to Cruciate Ligament Tears – Cruciate ligament tears can occur in any breed but predisposed breeds include: Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, German shepherds, Newfoundlands, Bernese Mountain dogs, Bullmastiffs, Chows, American Bulldogs, Akitas, and rottweilers.  For more information and details on cruciate ligament tears – go to Ruptured Cranial Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears in Dogs.

Signs of knee injuries in dogs can vary. In some dogs, knee problems are identified on routine exams by your veterinarian and others are obvious by lameness.

Knee problems or injuries are the most common reason a dog will limp or be lame on a rear leg. Lameness can be constant or intermittent. It is common for dogs with a cruciate ligament injury to be persistently lame while some dogs with a luxating patella will have intermittent lameness or even seem to “skip”. Some dogs experience little discomfort and are relatively asymptomatic. In fact, some dogs seem unaffected and are diagnosed because their owners feel the kneecap pop in and out, such as when their dog is on their lap.

The best way to keep knee joints healthy is to keep your dog at an ideal weight. Obesity puts dogs at risk for injury and subsequent arthritis.  Additionally, if your dog hasn’t exercised for quite a while, don’t let him get extreme exercise. Prolonged inactivity followed by excessive exercise can be associated with knee injuries.  Because patellar luxation is considered a genetic condition, breeding dogs with this condition is not recommended.

One more thing about dog knee joints – injury to the knee can be very painful. Your veterinarian will commonly recommend pain medications that may include nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs (commonly referred to as NSAIDs). Commonly used NSAIDs include carprofen (also known as Rimadyl® or Novox® among others), Meloxicam (Metacam®), Derocoxib (Deramaxx), Grapiprant (Galliprant®), Etodolac (Ectogesic®), or Tepoxalin (Zubrin®).  These medications are commonly given with other pain medications including Tramadol or T-Relief (also known as Traumeel).

What is a Luxating Patella in Dogs?

A luxating patella is a condition in which the patella (kneecap) no longer glides within its natural groove in the femur. It is also referred to as a “patellar luxation” or “trick knee”. When the knee becomes displaced to the inside, it is called “Medial Patellar Luxation (MPL) and when it is displaced to the outside, it is called “Lateral Patellar Luxation (LPL)”.  The luxation can vary in degrees from mild and intermittent to severe when the luxation is permanent.

15 MORE Human Over-the-Counter Drugs Safe for Dogs

Some human drugs are dangerous and can even be fatal when given to dogs. When a dog develops a health problem at home such as vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing, many pet owners want to know what they can safely give their dogs at home before taking their dog to the veterinarian.

Not only is important to know which medications are safe but also which medications are available to you without a prescription. Drugs you may obtain without a prescription are referred to as “OTC” drugs which means over-the-counter. OTC drugs are available at most pharmacies such as Wal-Mart®, Walgreens®, CVS®, Target®, and/or online pharmacies and drug stores.

Below are 15 more over-the-counter medications (OTC) that are commonly used in humans and can be used safely in most dogs.  For the first 15 over-the-counter medications (OTC) that are commonly used in humans and can be used safely in most dogs, please visit this article: 15 Human Over-the-Counter Drugs Safe for Dogs.

Allergy Medications (con’t)

16. Cetirizine (Zyrtec®)

Cetirizine, commonly known by the brand name Zyrtec®, belongs to a class or drugs known as antihistamines, similar to Benadryl. It is commonly used in dogs with allergic symptoms such as inflammed and/or itchy skin.  In cats, Cetirizine is more commonly used to treat inflammation of the nose and sinus. Many pet owners prefer Cetirizine over Benadryl because of its longer lasting effects.

A common dose used for dogs is 0.25 to 0.5 mg per pound of body weight. Therefor a 10 pound dog would get 2.5 to 5 mg total dose and a 50 pound dog would get 12.5 mg to 25 mg total dose. Common OTC pill sizes are 10 mg.

For more information on how to safely give Cetirizine in dogs.

17.  Chlorpheniramine (Chlor-tabs® or Chlor-Trimeton®)

Chlorpheniramine maleate is a type of anti-histamine drug commonly used in dogs with allergies to control itching.  Human formulations include Chlor-tabs®, Aller-Chlor®, Chlo-Amine®, Chlor-Trimeton®, and various generic preparations. A common side effect is sedation and therefore is occasionally used as a mild sedative.

Chlorpheniramine is contraindicated in dogs with glaucoma, lung disease, heart disease, high blood pressure and prostate gland enlargement.

Chlorpheniramine is available in 2 mg, 4 mg, 8 mg, 12 mg and 16 mg tablets and as a 2-mg/5 ml oral syrup.  Most dogs take 4 to 12 mg (total dose) orally. Learn more about how to safely dose Chlorpheniramine in dogs.

18.  Fexofenadine (Allegra®)

Fexofenadine, commonly known as Allegra or Telfast, is an antihistamine drug that can be used to control itching and other signs related to allergic conditions. It is important only to use products that indicate the active ingredient is Fexofenadine. Formulas containing Fexofenadine and pseudoephedrine, such as Allegra-D can be toxic to dogs so please be VERY careful. Make sure if you give Fexofenadine to your dog, that Fexofenadine is the ONLY ingredient. Learn more about how to safely give Fexofenadine to your dog.

19.  Loratadine (Claritin®)

Loratadine, commonly known as Claritin or Alavert, is a type of antihistamine drug commonly used in dogs to control itchy skin. Loratadine is typically considered less sedating than other antihistamines. Learn more about how to safely dose Loratadine.

Pain Medication

20. Traumeel (T-Relief®)

T-Relief is an over-the-counter homeopathic medication commonly used to pain and inflammation associated with arthritis and musculoskeletal injuries, such as with arthritis, sprains and traumatic injuries.

T-Relief contains a combination of plant and mineral extracts. It has gained popularity in veterinary medicine as an alternative to the class of drugs called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (commonly abbreviated as NSAIDs) because of its good results with minimal to no side effects.

T-Relief is available in the forms of tablets, drops, injection solution, ointment, and gel.  Learn more about how to safely dose Learn more about how to correctly dose Traumeel (T-Relief) in your dog.

T-relief is commonly used with other pain relieving drugs. When combined with other drugs, it can sometimes allow you to use lower doses of medications associated with more side effects.

21. Zeel

Zeel® is a homeopathic medication used to treat pain and inflammation often associated with musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains and traumatic injuries, and as supportive therapy in pain and inflammation of the musculoskeletal system such as with arthritis in dogs and cats. Like T-Relief, Zeel® has gained popularity in the United States an alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NASID) to treat pain and swelling.

Zeel® is available in the forms of tablets, ointment, and drinkable ampules. Zeel® can be used in conjunction with other pain medications and is sometimes used in conjunction with another homeopathic medication called Traumeel (T-Relief). It can be used safely with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), steroids, and other pain relief drugs.

15 Human Over-the-Counter Drugs Safe for Dogs

Some human drugs are dangerous and can even be fatal when given to dogs. When a dog develops a health problem at home such as vomiting, diarrhea, or coughing, many pet owners want to know what they can safely give their dogs at home before taking their dog to the veterinarian.

Not only is important to know which medications are safe but also which medications are available to you without a prescription. Drugs you may obtain without a prescription are referred to as “OTC” drugs which means over-the-counter. OTC drugs are available at most pharmacies such as Wal-Mart®, Walgreens®, CVS®, Target®, and/or online pharmacies and drug stores.

Below we will give you information about 30 over-the-counter medications (OTC) that are commonly used humans and can be used safely in most dogs.

We will include information about stomach medications which can be used in dogs with sensitive stomach or vomiting, drugs to treat diarrhea, pain medications, drugs for coughing, drugs that can be used to treat dogs that have allergies and are showing symptoms such as itching, medications to use on dogs that get car sick, and a safe eye product.

It is recommended that you work with your family veterinarian before giving any medication to your dog.

Human OTC Stomach Medications Used in Dogs

  1.     Famotidine (Pepcid®)

Famotidine, commonly known by the brand name Pepcid® among others, is a histamine H2 receptor antagonist that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. It is frequently used to treat stomach problems such ulcerations and for pets with nausea or are prone to vomiting.

Famotidine is the most commonly used in this class due to its improved mechanism of action and length of action.  Famotidine has largely replaced previous generation drugs, such as Cimetidine and Ranitidine. We will discuss these medications more below.

Famotidine is available in both injectable and oral tablet sizes. Common oral sizes include 10 mg, 20 mg, and 40 mg. A common OTC size is 10 mg. A common dosage is 0.25 mg to 0.5 mg/pound once to twice a day.

For example, a 10-pound dog would get 2.5 mg to 5 mg total dose or ¼ to ½ of a 10 mg tablet.  A 20-pound dog would get 5 mg to 10 mg per dose which would be ½ to 1 10 mg tablet.

Here is more information on how to safely dose and use Famotidine in dogs.

  1.     Ranitidine (Zantac®)

Ranitidine, commonly known by the brand name Zantac among others, is a histamine H2 receptor antagonist that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. Like Famotidine listed above is commonly used to treat stomach problems such ulcerations.

Ranitidine is available in both injectable and oral tablet sizes. Common oral sizes include 75 mg, 150 mg, and 300 mg. Here is an article on how to correctly dose and use Ranitidine in dogs.

  1.     Cimetidine (Tagamet®)

Cimetidine, commonly known by the brand name Tagamet® among others, is the oldest common histamine H2 receptor antagonist drug that decreases the production of acid in the stomach. Cimetidine is less commonly used due to the development of new and better drugs in the class of histamine H2 receptor antagonist.

However, in a pinch, some pet owners have this medication in their homes and can use Cimetidine. Famotidine (also known as Pepcid and discussed above) and Ranitidine are known as Zantac and discussed above) both have fewer drug interactions with longer activity.

The risks associated with Cimetidine mostly evolves around its interaction with other drugs. If your dog or cat is on other medications, it is better to choose a newer generation histamine H2 receptor antagonist such as famotidine (Pepcid) discussed above that does not have those same possible adverse effects from drug interactions.

Learn more about how to safely dose Cimetidine in dogs and drug interactions that you should know about.

  1.     Calcium Carbonate (Tums®)

Calcium carbonate, commonly known as Tums®, is an antacid and oral phosphate binder. It is commonly used as a calcium supplement in dogs with chronic hypocalcemia and to treat hyperphosphatemia associated with chronic renal (kidney) failure. Calcium carbonate can also be used as an oral antacid and for conditions such as esophagitis and/or gastroduodenal ulcerations. However, calcium carbonate is uncommonly prescribed as an antacid as there are stronger and more effective antacids.

There are many oral calcium carbonate products available in chewable and regular tablets in common sizes are 500 mg, 750 mg, and 1000mg. There is also oral suspensions 1250 mg/5mL.

The dose most commonly used in dogs as an antacid is 0.5 grams and up to 5 grams total dose orally every 4 hours as needed.  Small dogs can receive 500 mg, medium sized dogs 750 to 1000 mg and larger dogs 2000 mg.

Why People Are Looking for Rehoming for Dogs

Sometimes, through circumstances beyond your control, you may have to think about rehoming your dog. The good news is that there are people out there who are looking for rehoming for dogs.

Many people who are thinking of adding a new dog to their family think that rehoming is definitely the way to go. They would rather find a dog that has been living in a good home. The dog has been well taken care of and it is already trained.

If you’re thinking of getting a rehomed dog, just be sure that you know what you’re getting into. Find out as much as you can about the dog. Find out why the current owner is rehoming the dog. Ask for the dog’s veterinary records. Does the dog have any medical conditions or special needs? Find out if he is good with children or other household pets. Get as much information about the dog as you can before you make up your mind.

Rehoming is different than adoption or rescuing. With rehoming, it is up to you to make sure that the dog has been spayed or neutered, and that all vaccinations are up to date. Always ask the dog owner these questions to make sure the dog is ready for your home.

Rehoming Your Dog

When you have to give up your dog to a new home it’s never easy. But you may be forced to give up your pet for reasons beyond your control. You might have financial problems that prevent you from properly caring for your dog. You may be facing foreclosure. You may have found that you have a pet allergy. There can be any number of good reasons that it is no longer possible for you to care for your dog, and your primary objective is to find him a good home.

When searching for a good home for your dog, always start with your inner circle. Speak to family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. One of them may be willing to take your dog and give him a good home. Talk to everyone you know about rehoming your dog. Sometimes word of mouth goes a long way toward finding a new home for your beloved pet.

Speak to your veterinarian. He or she may know of someone who would be willing to take your dog. Speak to the breeder, person or rescue organization you got your dog from – they may be able to help you rehome your dog.

If you have no luck finding a new home for your dog this way, it’s time to broaden the search. You just have to make the right connections. Ask your veterinarian to post flyers in the office. Talk to local shelters and see if they can help match your dog to a potential new owner. They may have a bulletin board or a newsletter where you can advertise.

Use your social media to reach out to others. Post your dog’s photo or a great video. Tell your dog’s story and ask your connections to share the information on their social streams. Look for adoption websites where you can advertise and ask your local shelter if they have a website where you can post your dog’s information.

Make flyers and put them up in high traffic areas. Post them at the grocery store, the office, at school, at church, and in veterinary offices.

Good advertising makes it easier to connect with a new potential owner. Always remember to list your contact information. Have a good photo of your dog. Make sure to describe your dog and all of the wonderful things that make him so special. The better you describe your dog the easier it will be for potential new owners to get to know him. Let them know that the dog is spayed or neutered and tell them that your dog’s vaccinations are up to date. It is always best to have all vaccinations up to date before trying to rehome your dog.

Rehoming Your Dog to Strangers

If you find that you have to give your dog to someone that you don’t really know, you may be worried. The questions just keep going through your mind. Will my dog go to a good home? Will they take care of him? Will he be happy there?

When you are rehoming your dog to someone that you don’t know, it’s good to take precautions. Ask the right questions before placing the dog. You can ask the potential new owners to fill out an application and you can also ask them to show you their home. Find out if there will be children or other household pets in the home. It’s important to make the best possible match for your dog.

The Irreverent Vet | Dog Flu

The canine influenza virus is on the rise. The simpler term for this illness is one with which you might be familiar: dog flu. You didn’t know that your dog could get the flu? No one did before 2004. That’s when the condition was first discovered. However, a different strain affected horses before that.

Before I talk more about the dog flu, let me introduce myself. I’m the Irreverent Vet. I’m not afraid to tell you what I really think about controversial issues related to pet and dog care. I often have strong opinions. Even if my views are unpopular, they’re always based on science. I think it’s important to let you know the facts so that you can make the best decisions for your family and your furry loved ones.

In this article, I’m going to talk about the dog flu. In 2015, a new strain of this virus was discovered, according to Time. The highly contagious respiratory disease affected hundreds of dogs in the Chicago area. It’s making its way around the U.S. again. At the beginning of the summer of 2017, the dog flu hit Florida and California. Since 2015, cases have been confirmed in more than 30 states. Should you be worried?

Most dogs don’t die from the flu, although six of the dogs in the Illinois outbreak unfortunately did. If the illness becomes severe, your dog could be hospitalized for complications. Old and very young dogs are at the greatest risk. Even if your dog lives through it, this disease can cost you thousands in medical bills and tug at your heartstrings. I don’t know a pet owner who wouldn’t be devastated to see their dog so sick. Find out the symptoms and what you can do to prevent this disease.

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Dog Flu Symptoms

How do you know if your dog has the flu? The symptoms are similar to those of human respiratory viruses. Your dog may cough, have a runny nose, or spike a fever. It may be too tired to move and refuse to eat. Of course, if you noticed these symptoms, you would bring your dog straight to the vet. It’s unusual to hear a dog cough or sniffle. The most serious side effect of this illness is pneumonia. About 20 percent of dogs with the flu don’t show any symptoms, though. Still, your infected dog could pass the disease to another animal.

How Does Dog Flu Spread?

Dogs can’t wash their hands. Plus, they’re pretty slobbery, and they’re not careful about putting things in their mouths. Canine influenza spreads through saliva and mucus. If an infected dog coughs or sneezes on your dog, it’s over. Well, it may have just begun. Doctors think that just about every dog that is exposed to the virus does contract it. Like I said before, one in five dogs may not have any symptoms.

Although there have been no documented cases of this flu in humans, people can spread the disease to their dog. Let’s say you work with animals. You’re unaware that Spot has H3N2, the newer strain of the influenza. Spot licks you, sneezes on you, and gets his germy saliva all over your skin and clothes. The microbes only live about two minutes on your skin, and you wash your hands so well that you’re going to remove all traces from them. The virus can live for a day or longer on your clothes, though. You go home to your own little Fluffy, he licks your shirt, and he gets sick.

It’s highly unlikely that your dog will come down with influenza if he stays home all day and isn’t exposed to other animals. Dogs can pass it to cats, though, and your pet could come in contact with it while he’s saying hello to the neighbor’s dog on your morning walk. Your pet is much more prone to coming in contact with the germs if he hangs out in tight quarters with lots of other dogs. The June 2017 Florida outbreak is thought to have started at a dog show. Your dog could catch it at the groomer’s, daycare, animal shelter, boarding kennel, or dog park.

Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails

An old joke about wagging tails goes like this: A young boy is afraid to pet a dog. An adult says, “He’s friendly – look, he’s even wagging his tail.” The boy responds, “Yeah, but he’s barking and growling – I don’t know which end to believe!”

This poor excuse for a joke contains a lot of truth, because a wagging tail does not necessarily mean a dog is friendly. So, if a wagging tail does not always indicate friendliness, what does it mean?

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A dog’s tail position and motion is incorporated as a component of a complex system of body language that domestic dogs use, along with “verbal” cues such as barking, growling or whining, in order to communicate. A wagging tail indicates excitement or agitation. But whether the dog means it as an invitation to play, or to warn another dog or person to stay back, depends on other body language.

A slowly wagging tail that curves down and back up into a “U” usually indicates a relaxed, playful dog. If his ears are erect and pointing forward, and he is in the classic “play bow” position, he’s inviting you to play.

A tail that is held higher, whether wagging or not, indicates dominance and/or increased interest in something. If the end of the tail arches over the back, and is twitching, you may be faced with an aggressive dog.

Tail position and movement is simply used as a social indicator for other living things. Dogs generally don’t wag their tails when they are alone. For example, if you pour your dog a bowl of food, he may wag his tail excitedly at the prospect of eating. But if he finds the bowl already filled – without anyone being around – he will usually not wag his tail. He may still be happy to eat, but there’s no one around with whom to communicate his happiness.