Anorexia (Loss of Appetite) in Cats

Anorexia is a term used to describe the situation where a cat loses his appetite and does not want to eat or is unable to eat. Appetite is psychological, dependent on memory and association, as compared with hunger, which is physiologically aroused by the body’s need for food.

There are many causes of anorexia in cats. Often, a loss of appetite is the first indication of illness. Diseases of the digestive system (esophagus, stomach, intestine, liver, pancreas), the kidneys, the blood, the eyes, mouth, nose, and throat, the skin, the brain, and many other organs in the body can cause a loss of appetite. Pain of any cause can also make a cat less willing to eat.

Alternatively, cats will occasionally refuse food for reasons that are much less serious, such as dislike for a new food, or behavioral reasons (new home, new animal or new person in household, etc.)

Regardless of cause, loss of appetite can have a serious impact on your cat’s health if it lasts 24 hours or more. Very young animals (less than 6 months of age) are particularly prone to the problems brought on by loss of appetite.

Diagnosis of Loss of Feline Appetite

Because of the numerous causes of anorexia, your veterinarian will recommend certain procedures to pinpoint the underlying problem. These may include:

  • Physical examination including buccal exam (looking at the gums), auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), abdominal palpation (feeling the size and shape of the organs in the belly), and taking the temperature and weight
  • Complete blood panel and urinalysis (urine test), to screen for certain diseases of the internal organs
  • X-rays of the chest and the abdomen
  • Fecal examination (microscopic evaluation of the stool to look for parasites)
  • Additional tests, depending on initial test results

Treatment for Feline Anorexia

Treatments are of two kinds: “specific” and “supportive.”

  • “Specific” treatments are those that deal with the underlying cause. That is, they either slow down or eliminate the problem that caused the loss of appetite in the first place. Examples of specific treatments that reverse loss of appetite include giving antibiotics to eliminate a severe bacterial infection, surgically removing a foreign object that was blocking the intestine, treating dental disease that made chewing painful, and so on.
  • “Supportive” treatments are those that help sustain a cat that is debilitated as a result of not eating. Examples include fluid therapy such as intravenous fluids (“IV”) or subcutaneous fluids (injections of fluid given under the skin), hand feeding or coaxing to eat, appetite-stimulating drugs, and others. For tips on getting a cat to eat – please read Tips on Getting Sick Cats to Eat.

Supportive treatments do not reverse the problem that led to the loss of appetite. They simply help “carry” the animal through the most difficult part of the illness.

Home Care for Anorexia in Cats

Home care is concerned with observing your cat for possible reasons for his anorexia and helping him to eat.

  • Note whether any recent change has occurred in the home environment, such as a recent move to a new home, a new person in the home or the addition of a new pet. These may contribute to the loss of appetite and should be mentioned to your veterinarian.
  • Note whether any other symptoms are present. The presence of symptoms in addition to loss of appetite should prompt a veterinary examination sooner, rather than later.
  • To combat dehydration, some animals can benefit from being given oral rehydration supplements such as Pedialyte®. Ask your veterinarian whether this is appropriate and how much should be given. Also, for tips on getting a cat to drink, please read Tips for Encouraging Your Cat to Drink.
  • Additional feeding techniques. If an animal is unwilling or unable to eat, feeding may be enhanced with certain techniques such as warming the food so it is easier for the cat to smell it, mixing in certain home-cooked ingredients specifically suggested by your veterinarian, or offering the food by hand or with an oral syringe. Any warmed food should be checked to make sure it is not too hot, which could scald the mouth or digestive system. This is particularly a concern when the food is warmed (unevenly) by microwave.
  • New foods. When therapeutic diets are prescribed for a certain medical condition, a cat may not eat that diet immediately. Mixing with the previous diet and gradually decreasing the amount of the prior diet over several days can be tried in order to avoid cutting the appetite completely.
  • Young animals (6 months or less) are particularly fragile when not eating, and loss of appetite for even 12 hours in a kitten of 1-6 weeks of age can be life-threatening. Regular milk (i.e. cow’s milk) is poorly balanced for cats, soft drinks (soda pop) and sports drinks are usually much too sweet and are deficient in electrolytes, and soup (e.g. chicken soup) is usually too salty and does not provide enough nutrients for energy. These infant animals may need to be fed a milk replacer by syringe if they have not yet been weaned; balanced milk replacers for cats are available. Oral rehydration solutions made for children are less well-balanced but are still better alternatives than soda pop, chicken soup, etc. It is essential that you consult with your veterinarian to determine what to feed and to determine how much to give.

In-depth Information on Anorexia in Cats

The reasons for which animals refuse to eat may be grouped into two major categories:

Psychological and Medical

  • Psychological causes imply that something in the animal’s environment has caused him to lose his appetite. Examples include moving to a new home, having a new person or new animal in the home, and switching to a new pet food.
  • Medical causes are disease processes that result in the loss of appetite.
  • A major difference between psychological loss of appetite and disease-related loss of appetite is that when there is disease, additional symptoms are usually present. These symptoms can include the new development of excessive salivation (drooling), vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or sluggishness, weight loss, labored breathing, signs of infection such as the discharge of pus or blood, or sudden changes in behavior.
  • Common diseases that make animals unwilling to eat include the following:

Gastrointestinal Diseases

If the esophagus (tube in the throat that connects the mouth to the stomach), the stomach, or the intestine, is inflamed (irritated) by disease, eating can become uncomfortable or nauseating, resulting in anorexia. Diseases that can cause this kind of irritation include parasites (worms), viruses such as parvovirus and coronavirus, other infections such as bacterial and fungal infections, ulcers, food allergy, inflammation of unknown cause (“idiopathic”), and certain infiltrative cancers. A complete or partial blockage of the digestive tract can also cause unwillingness to eat. This most often occurs with foreign bodies (objects that are swallowed and become stuck partway down the digestive tract) and cancers of either a benign or malignant nature.

Skin Discharge or Odor in Dogs

Overview of Skin Discharge and Odor in Dogs

Skin odor is a common manifestation of a skin infection. The most common skin infections are bacterial (superficial pyoderma) and yeast (Malassezia dermatitis) infections.

The bacterial infections are usually caused by bacteria that are part of the normal flora of the skin (e.g. Staphylococcus intermedius). For this reason the infection is not contagious to other animals. In dogs that have abnormal skin (e.g. allergies) the bacteria increase in number and cause red bumps (papules) and rancid odor. Some dogs with bacterial skin infections also develop excessive shedding, patchy hair loss and scaling. If the infection is left untreated, involvement of deeper parts of the skin is possible. In these cases nodules that have a purulent (pus) discharge develop. In most cases skin infections are secondary, so it is very important to pursue an underlying cause. Failure to do so will result in recurrent infections.

Animals often develop a yeast infection (Malassezia dermatitis), which manifests itself as greasy, red, itchy skin with a rancid odor. Areas most commonly affected include the ventral neck, groin, armpits (axillae) and perineal areas. This infection is also secondary to an underlying disease, most commonly allergies. In some dogs this may be a consequence of chronic antibiotic and steroid therapy but, as a general rule, dogs do not develop yeast infections after antibiotic therapy as commonly as people do.

Diagnosis of Skin Odor and Discharge in Dogs

  • History is very important for proper diagnosis of skin diseases. Your veterinarian will ask questions regarding the age of onset, progression of disease, and response to previous treatments.
  • Skin cytology provides useful information on the type and severity of infection. Your veterinarian may take samples of skin (e.g. swabs or tape impressions).
  • In some cases, a biopsy may be necessary to establish a final diagnosis. Some samples may be used for cultures of various types while others may be sent to a pathologist to obtain more information about the cells that are present in the skin. This is a fairly safe procedure and stitches may be places in the areas where biopsies were taken. They can be removed after 7 to 10 days.


Treatment for Bacterial Dermatitis

Treatment for bacterial skin disorders is antibiotics. Some of the more commonly used antibiotics include ampicillin, cephalexin, enrofloxacin, clindamycin, clavulinc acid and sulf based drugs. Other treatments may include:

  • Topical therapy of bacterial infection includes the use of shampoos and conditioners containing Benzoyl Peroxide (e.g. Oxydex®) or Chlorhexidine (e.g. Hexadene®). Mupirocin (Bactoderm®) may be used in areas of localized bacterial infection.
  • Minimum length of therapy for canine superficial pyoderma is 3 to 4 weeks. Minimum length of therapy for canine deep pyoderma is 8 weeks. As a rule therapy should be continued for 2 to 4 weeks beyond the resolution of clinical signs.

Treatment of Malassezia Dermatitis 

  • Systemic therapy is reserved for severe cases. It is important to note that griseofulvin is not effective against yeasts. Ketoconazole, itraconazole and fluconazole are all effective against Malassezia.
  • Topical therapy as sole treatment is only effective in mild cases while severe cases usually require systemic therapy. Selenium sulfide (Selsun Blue®) is a keratolytic, anti-seborrheic, degreasing agent that will kill Malassezia (effective in 65 percent of cases).
  • Ketoconazole shampoo (Nizoral ®) is approved in many countries for the treatment of seborrheic dermatitis in people and is usually effective in killing Malassezia.
  • Chlorexidine at 2 to 4 percent might be effective against yeasts, 0.5 to 1 percent is not effective.
  • Miconazole (Dermazole ®, Resi-zole® leave on conditioner) is also effective.
  • Vinegar/water rinse (1/5 to 1/10) is a cheap and effective long-term maintenance treatment to prevent relapses in dogs that are predisposed (swimmers).


Home Care

You will need to shampoo your dog with medicated shampoos. Benzoyl Peroxide is an excellent antibacterial antibiotic (e.g. Oxydex®, Pyoben® shampoo). Other antifungal shampoos contain miconazole or ketoconazole (e.g. Nizoral® shampoo for dandruff is now available OTC).

Contact time is important when using a medicated shampoo. You should allow a 10 to 15 minutes contact time for the product to be effective. Leave-on products are also available on the market for prolonged efficacy.

You may have to administer oral medications (either antibiotics or antifungal medications) to help treat the infection. Compliance is very important. Some dogs may require medications for a prolonged time as skin infections usually take a while to clear.

If your dog keeps relapsing with infections, it is important to pursue an underlying cause. This will decrease the frequency of relapses and reduce the risk of resistance to medications used for prolonged periods of time.

Obesity in Dogs

Overview of Canine Obesity

Obesity is defined as the excessive accumulation of body fat. Between 25 and 40 percent of dogs are considered obese or are likely to become obese. It is the most common nutrition-related health condition in dogs in our society.

The primary causes of obesity are overeating and lack of exercise. When regular caloric intake exceeds the energy burned, the excess is stored as fat. As little as an extra 1 percent caloric intake can result in a 25 percent increase over ideal body weight by middle age.

Most owners don’t recognize that their dogs are overweight until they take them to the veterinarian for another reason. Most pets begin slowly gaining weight and only a historical review of body weight reveals the insidious nature of this condition.

Dogs that are overweight may experience difficulty breathing or walking or they may be unable to tolerate heat or exercise.

Diagnosis of Obesity in Dogs

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine overall health and to provide recommendations for weight loss.

Diagnostic tests may include:

  • A thorough veterinary examination, including an accurate measure of body weight and an assessment of body condition score. A historical review of changes in your dog’s body weight is often helpful in establishing a pattern of weight gain and may help identify a particular event or change in environment that relates to the increase in body weight.
  • Routine blood work including a complete blood cell count, serum profile and urinalysis are necessary to determine if there is an underlying disease. If the results of these tests indicate a problem, additional tests are warranted to specifically identify the condition before starting a weight loss program.
  • Assessment of your dog’s current daily intake of all food, treats, snacks, table foods and exercise schedule is important in the development of a successful weight loss program. Clearly if the calculated caloric intake exceeds the calculated daily energy requirement of the dog at an ideal body weight, then excessive caloric intake is the cause of the obesity.

Treatment of Obesity in Dogs

Treatment of any concurrent or underlying disease that affects obesity is recommended.

  • Lower your dog’s daily caloric intake by changing the dog food product (there are several diets formulated for weight loss) or the amount fed daily.
  • Increasing fiber or water intake may sometimes be necessary to satiate your dog.
  • Increase exercise activity. To enhance exercise, a variety of leashes and toys are available.


Home Care

Weight loss should be a family effort. All members of the family must admit the animal is overweight and commit to a weight loss program. It may be helpful to maintain a log of intake (food and treats) and weight to monitor progress. It might be most effective if one person takes charge of feeding your dog, but all members can help exercise him.

To achieve significant weight loss, the diet must be changed to a therapeutic veterinary diet specifically designed for weight loss. Simply feeding less of your dog’s regular food is rarely, if ever, successful. Owners must be willing to measure exactly the amount of food offered and minimize treats. If treats are necessary, offer low calorie snacks such as air popped popcorn or a piece of vegetable (such as a carrot).

Re-check visits are essential every 4 to 6 weeks to monitor the weight loss since adjustments to the feeding plan are often needed. As your dog approaches ideal body weight, caloric intake must be reduced further to maintain weight loss.

Most dogs require an 8 to 12 month weight loss plan to reach their ideal weight. Most dogs do achieve ideal or near ideal body weight when the owner and family members are committed to improving the pet’s health. Most owners continue feeding the weight loss diet, only at a higher food dose, to maintain their pet’s ideal weight.

Specific recommendations depend upon the underlying disease. For obesity due to:

  • Excessive caloric consumption. Once an ideal weight has been achieved, a low calorie food should be continued, treats and snacks should be minimized and the exercise program continued.
  • Diabetes mellitus. Regular recheck visits are necessary to monitor insulin dose and effectiveness. Body weight changes should also be checked regularly.
  • Hypothyroidism. Regular recheck visits are necessary to monitor thyroid dose and effectiveness. Body weight changes should also be checked regularly.
  • Blood thyroid levels should also be checked regularly particularly if the dog is losing weight.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism. Regular recheck visits are necessary to monitor medical management. Body weight changes should also be checked regularly.

Diet Recommendations for Overweight Dogs


  • Hill’s Prescription diet w/d®Treatment
  • Eukanuba Glucose-Control®
  • Eukanuba Restricted Calorie®
  • Eukanuba Weight Loss Formula®
  • Hill’s Prescription diet r/d®
  • Waltham Calorie Control®
  • Purina CNM OM-FORMULA®
  • IVD Mature® or IVD Hifactor®


In-depth Information on Obesity in Dogs

  • Diabetes mellitus. There is a relationship between obesity and diabetes, where overweight and obese animals become insulin resistant. These animals often begin to show the early signs of diabetes mellitus which are excessive drinking, excessive urinating and hunger. As the disease progresses, the dog eventually loses weight.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease). This condition occurs when the dog’s adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of the hormone cortisol. Affected animals do not usually gain weight, but rather have a fat re-distribution to the abdomen and therefore have a potbellied appearance which mimics weight gain.Call your veterinarian if you suspect that your dog is overweight, or if your pet begins experiencing difficulty breathing or exercising or appears unable to get comfortable. Also, have a veterinarian examine your pet to determine if these abnormalities are present before instituting a weight loss program.

Diagnosis In-depth

Your veterinarian will want to determine the cause of your dog’s obesity before deciding upon treatment. Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

  • A thorough physical examination, including an accurate measure of body weight and an assessment of body condition score.
  • Assessment of your dog’s current daily intake of all food, treats, snacks, table foods and exercise schedule.
  • Routine blood work including a complete blood cell count, serum profile and urinalysis. If the results are normal, obesity is probably the result of excessive caloric intake and decreased energy expenditure. However, if the results of these routine tests indicate a potential problem, additional tests are warranted to specifically identify the condition.Additional diagnostic tests may include:
  • Blood and urine glucose (sugar) levels. Diabetes mellitus can be diagnosed based upon detecting high blood glucose level and the positive detection of glucose in the urine. Sometimes a series of blood glucose measurements are needed to confirm the diagnosis.
  • Urine cortisol:creatinine ratio. Hyperadenocorticism should be suspected when the ratio is high.
  • ACTH stimulation test. An adrenocorticotrophic hormone stimulation test is used to better diagnose hyperadenocorticism.
  • Low dose dexamethasone test. This test, used in concert with the urine cortisol:creatinine ratio and an ACTH stimulation test, yields a definitive diagnosis of hyperadenocorticism.


Treatment In-depth

Therapy recommendations are dependent upon the underlying cause of the obesity. Take your dog to your veterinarian for a complete work-up before beginning a weight loss program to rule out major diseases.

Constipation in Cats

Overview of Feline Constipation

Constipation is infrequent, incomplete, or difficult defecation with passage of hard or dry feces. Constipation is sometimes used interchangeably with obstipation, which is intractable constipation where defecation becomes impossible. It may cause great distress and pain in cats. 

IMPORTANT: If your cat is straining in the litter box, it is critical to know for sure if your cat is straining due to constipation or due to the inability to urinate. A urinary obstruction is life-threatening and often mistaken for constipation in cats. 

Causes of Constipation in Cats

  • Dietary
  • Environmental
  • Drugs/Medications
  • Painful defecation
  • Mechanical obstruction (physical blockage)
  • Neurologic disease
  • Metabolic and Endocrine diseases

    What to Watch For

  • Straining to defecate and passing a small amount of feces or none at all
  • Hard, dry feces
  • Infrequent defecation
  • Small amount of liquid feces produced after prolonged straining
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Depression
  • Diagnosis of Constipation in Cats

    The diagnosis is usually made by a supportive history and physical examination findings. However, there are many tests that may also help. The following is a list of the most common tests that your veterinarian may recommend:

  • Baseline blood tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile, and urinalysis
  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Treatment of Constipation in Cats

    There are several things your veterinarian might recommend to treat your cat with constipation symptomatically, prior to instituting a full diagnostic work up.

  • If an underlying cause has been identified, remove it if possible.
  • Discontinue any medications that may cause constipation. Your veterinarian will advise.
  • Alter the diet to include bulking agents such as methylcellulose, bran, or pumpkin.
  • Promote frequent exercise.
  • If a cat is severely impacted and/or dehydrated, it may be necessary to hospitalize for fluids, enemas, and possible manual removal of feces, which often necessitates general anesthesia.
  • Home Care and Prevention

    Your veterinarian may recommend some treatments at home. These may include:

  • The use of lubricants, suppositories or laxatives.
  • Warm, soapy water enemas. Do not use over the counter enemas unless directed by your veterinarian. Some may be toxic to your cat.
  • Abdominal palpation. Owners of chronically constipated cats may be taught to palpate their cat’s colon abdominally to detect constipation before it progresses to obstipation.
  • In-depth Information on Constipation in Cats

    Causes of Feline Constipation

    There are many causes of constipation. Although it is not unusual for a normal cat to have a bout or two of constipation over the course of her life, it is not normal or acceptable for recurring problems, hence, establishing an underlying cause should be attempted in these cases.

  • Dietary related factors are the most common cause for constipation in veterinary medicine. Foreign material, especially hair, bones, sticks, and sand can form hard masses that the cat has difficulty eliminating. In some cases, this material is retained, causing an inability to defecate and eventual obstipation. In addition, diets low in fiber may predispose to constipation.
  • Certain environmental factors may contribute to constipation. Limited exercise, limited access to water, and failure to provide the appropriate time and place for defecation may cause fecal retention and constipation.
  • Certain drugs, including antacids, Kaopectate, iron supplements, antihistamines, barium, and diuretics may cause constipation.
  • Painful defecation associated with anorectal disease (anal sacculitis or abscess, stricture, rectal foreign body or tumor, or rectal prolapse) or trauma (fractured pelvis, limb, or back, laceration, bite wound).
  • Mechanical obstruction (something physically blocking the path of stool elimination) can be caused by extraluminal (from outside the colon wall) or intraluminal (from inside the colon wall) causes. Extraluminal disorders causing constipation include narrowed pelvic canal from a previous fracture, sublumbar lymphadenopathy (enlarged lymph nodes above the colon) and rectal tumors. Intraluminal disorders include colonic or rectal tumors or polyps, rectal foreign bodies, strictures, diverticulum (outpouching of the colonic wall) and rectal prolapse.
  • Neurologic disorders including paralysis, spinal cord disease, disc disease, rabies, lead toxicosis, dysautonomia (a hereditary condition), and idiopathic megacolon can all cause constipation.
  • Metabolic and endocrine disorders can cause constipation as they may impair normal transit through the colon. These include hyperparathyroidism (a disorder causing elevated calcium levels), hypokalemia (decreased potassium) and kidney disease.

    Constipation is relatively common in cats. However, it must be differentiated from obstipation and megacolon. Obstipation is intractable (resistant to control) constipation, and megacolon is a condition of extreme dilation of the colon. Obstipated cats or those with megacolon are always constipated; however, constipated animals are not always obstipated or have megacolon.

    Constipation can occur in association with any disorder that impairs the passage of fecal material through the colon, slowing its transit time. This delay in transit allows the removal of additional salt and water from the feces, producing harder and drier stools.

    Systemic signs of constipation vary. Feces can be retained for days before any deleterious effects are observed. Some animals may display mild signs, such as a slightly prolonged posture while defecating, and then produce a dry, firm stool. Others will have frequent or painful attempts to defecate with little or no fecal passage. Severely constipated patients often exhibit depression, weakness, lack of appetite and vomiting. These animals are quite ill and may require hospitalization. It is important to establish a definitive diagnosis and cause, especially in the cat with recurrent constipation.

  • Head Tilt in Dogs (Vestibular Signs)

    Overview of Head Tilt in Dogs (Vestibular Signs)

    A head tilt is a persistent tilt or turn of the head along the animal’s central axis to one side or the other and is usually described according to the side of the head that turns down. A head tilt usually indicates vestibular signs that may be a problem in the animal’s middle or inner ear.

    There are many causes for head tilt. Some of these include:

  • Ear infections or mites
  • Idiopathic (unknown cause)
  • Foreign bodies such as grass seeds
  • Head trauma
  • Ototoxic drugs (drugs that are toxic to the ear)
  • Punctured ear drum
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Cancer
  • What to Watch For

  • A tilt of your pet’s head to one side or the other
  • Redness or pain associated with the ear
  • Falling, circling, or rolling (usually toward the direction of the head tilt)
  • Nausea due to vertigo
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Pain associated with chewing or opening the mouth.
  • Diagnosis of Head Tilts in Dogs 

    A head tilt is a symptom of a potentially serious medical condition. The cause of the head tilt should be investigated thoroughly by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian may investigate your pet’s head with a variety of means, which may include:

  • A complete medical history
  • A complete physical examination
  • Neurologic evaluation
  • Blood and urine tests
  • X-rays of the head
  • CT scan or MRI of the head
  • Brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test
  • Spinal (or cerebrospinal) tap
  • Treatment of Head Tilt in Dogs

    Treatment of a head tilt is primarily supportive until a definitive cause can be identified. Supportive treatment can include:

  • Intravenous fluids, especially if the pet is vomiting from nausea
  • Antiemetics
  • Antivertigo medications
  • Topical ear medications
  • Injectable or oral antibiotics
  • Home Care

    If your pet is falling or rolling, protect him from objects such as furniture and stairs. Your pet may need assistance with walking or require being carried. Always support your pet, especially the head. If your pet has a head tilt, be careful and assist with descending and ascending stairs.

    In-depth Information on Canine Head Tilts  

    Vestibular signs, a disturbance of our sense of balance, can be seen as a head tilt as well as other alarming signs such as falling, rolling, continuous circling and nystagmus (rhythmical, jerky movements of the eyes). Other signs of vestibular disease include nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite.

    The vestibular apparatus in the inner ear maintains our sense of balance. It is a delicate sense organ that is completely surrounded by an extremely hard bone (petrous temporal bone) at the base of the skull. The inner ear has intimate connection with the brain via the auditory and vestibular nerves. The inner ear is also associated with the middle and external ear.

    Since the inner ear is intimately associated with the middle and external ear, signs associated with ear infections such as malodorous discharge from the ear, scratching or shaking the ear and pain or redness of the ear may be seen.

    A head tilt is usually described according to the side of the animal’s head that turns down. Animals typically fall or roll towards the same direction as the head tilt. Nystagmus (an involuntary rhythmic movement of the eye) is only a symptom of vestibular disease and does not indicate severity of the disease.

    Since the middle and inner ear are located close to the temporal mandibular joint (jaw), there may be pain associated with chewing or opening the mouth. These animals may even yelp out in pain while they are yawning.

    Causes of Head Tilts in Dogs

    The most common cause of vestibular signs is ear infections. Damage to the inner ear structures or the brain itself may cause vestibular signs. Vestibular signs indicate either a problem in your pet’s inner ear or brain. It is very important for your veterinarian to determine quickly whether the cause of your pet’s vestibular signs are due to disease of the inner ear (peripheral vestibular disease) or to disease of the brain (central vestibular disease). The choice of different diagnostic tools and the prognosis depend on the suspected location of the problem. In general, peripheral vestibular disease has a better prognosis than central vestibular disease.

    There are many causes for head tilt. Some of these include:

  • Otitis media-interna. Infection of the middle or inner ear caused by bacteria, mites or even foreign bodies such as grass seeds is the most common cause for vestibular signs. Infections may initially affect only the outer ear, but if this inflammation ascends into the middle and inner ear, vestibular signs may be seen.
  • Idiopathic (unknown cause). In older dogs this is the second most common cause of peripheral vestibular signs. This disease (Geriatric Canine Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome) can cause catastrophic vestibular signs acutely. The dog may have problems walking and standing, and may also experience nystagmus and vomiting. Pets can improve with little treatment, although other causes such as ear infections and brain tumors should be ruled out.
  • Ototoxic drugs can damage the ear resulting in vestibular disease. Not all animals have trouble with these particular drugs and medications; some of the most common ear medications contain some of these drugs. If your animal is being treated with one of these medications, it may be due to the administration of the drug. To determine if your pet’s symptoms are caused by the drugs, contact your veterinarian and discuss this possibility. The list of potential ototoxic agents include:

    Antibiotics such as gentamycin, streptomycin, amikacin, neomycin, kanamycin, erythromycin, chloramphinocol, polymyxin B or metronidazole.

    Some ear cleaners including ethanol (alcohol), chlorhexidine, idodine containing medications, centrimide and benalkonium chloride.

    Diuretics such as furosemide, ethancrynic acid and bumetanide.

    Antineoplastic (cancer fighting) medications such as nitrosoureas (CCNU and BCNU) and cisplatin.

    Some of these drugs can also cause deafness.

    Other causes of head tilt include:

  • Head trauma can cause vestibular signs that may resolve with time.
  • Endocrine diseases such as hypothyoidism can cause vestibular signs.
  • Encephalitis affecting the area of the brain responsible for maintaining the sense of balance can cause vestibular signs. Some of the inflammatory causes for vestibular signs include canine distemper virus, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, ehrlichiosis, cryptococcosis, blastomycosis, coccidiomycosis, toxoplasmosis, neosporosis and granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis.
  • Neoplasia (cancer or tumors) in older pets affecting either the ear or brain can cause vestibular signs. Some tumors can be removed successfully after diagnosis using CT or MRI.
  • Deafness (Hearing Loss) in Dogs

    Overview of Deafness (Hearing Loss) in Dogs

    Deafness is the inability to hear and can be caused by either conduction or neurologic abnormalities. In dogs, there are several causes which include: 

  • Conduction deafness is caused by abnormalities of the pinna (external ear), ear canal, tympanic membrane (eardrum), auditory ossicles or middle ear. Waxy debris occluding the ear canal, tympanic membrane, and severe ear infections are all examples of diseases causing conduction deafness.
  • Neurologic or sensorineural deafness is caused by abnormalities of the inner ear, auditory nerve or in the brain itself. Inherited deafness, drug toxicity and age-related deafness are diseases causing sensorineural deafness.

    Deafness can be unilateral (affecting one ear) or bilateral (affecting both ears). Unilateral deafness is difficult to recognize without specialized equipment. Because of the cost of the equipment, testing is generally limited to veterinary referral hospitals, specialists and university clinics.

    There are over 35 breeds of dogs reported to have hereditary sensorineural deafness. Breeding dogs should be tested for deafness. Animals found to have inherited deafness in one or both ears should be removed from breeding programs.

    White-haired, blue-eyed cats have a higher incidence of deafness than the general feline population.

    What to Watch For

  • Not responding to spoken commands
  • Responding only when the pet can see you
  • Sleeping more than normal
  • Not waking unless you physically touch them
  • Turning in the wrong direction when you call them
  • Shaking the head or pawing at the ears
  • Diagnosis of Deafness in Dogs

    Diagnostic tests are needed to determine the ability to hear and the presence of an underlying disease or cause of the deafness.

    Deafness can be assessed by observing the animal’s behavioral response, such as lifting or turning the head, after making a noise out of the animal’s view. Dogs suspected of being bilaterally deaf can be challenged with sounds of increasing intensity from different directions. Be careful not to make sounds that can be “felt” through vibrations.

    Animals suspected of having hearing deficits should have a thorough otic (ear) and neurologic examination performed. The ear canal and tympanic membrane can be examined with an otoscope for ear wax accumulation, foreign bodies, infections or inflammation.

    Other diagnostic tests may be recommended based on the results of the history and physical examination.

    Treatment of Deafness in Dogs

    Results of the history, physical examination and initial tests will determine the need for further diagnostic tests and will help determine the appropriate treatment for your pet’s deafness.

    Conduction deafness can be corrected if the cause, such as wax accumulation or infection, can be eliminated. Cleaning the ears should be done with care to prevent damage to the eardrum. Only well-trained and knowledgeable people should use cotton-tipped applicators such as Q-tips to clean the ears. Caution should be used. Dogs with severely dirty ears may need to be cleaned under anesthesia by a veterinarian.

    Infection may need to be treated locally (in the ear canal) and systemically with antibiotics.

    Sensorineural deafness cannot be reversed with medications, surgery, or hearing aids. Hearing aids have been used in dogs and cats but the majority of the animals do not tolerate the presence of the hearing aid in the ear canal.

    Home Care

    Testing can be done at home to assess hearing. Remember that your pet may “feel” sounds such as a door slamming or steps across a hardwood floor.

    Treatment prescribed by your veterinarian should be performed as directed. Medications should be given as directed until finished.

    Dogs that are born deaf can be trained to respond hand signals. A bell can be attached to a deaf animal’s collar so that if he gets away he can be found.

    Deaf dogs need to be closely supervised especially around traffic since they cannot hear dangers such as cars.

    In-depth Information on Deafness (Hearing Loss) in Dogs

    Animals that are deaf tend to sleep soundly and do not respond promptly to calls for them. Sometimes, they will continue sleeping until they are awakened with a touch. Unilaterally deaf animals may sleep through calls to them if they are lying on their good (hearing) ear.

    Hearing is important for pets because they depend on auditory cues for commands as well as alerting to dangers in the environment. However, deaf animals can make great pets once the deafness is recognized.

    Causes of deafness can be divided into either conduction disturbances or sensorineural disturbances. Conduction deafness is caused by abnormalities of the pinna (external ear), ear canal, tympanic membrane (eardrum), auditory ossicles or middle ear. Sensorineural deafness is caused by abnormalities of the inner ear, auditory nerve, or in the brain itself. Some of the more common causes of deafness in cats are:

  • Old age
  • Congenital or inherited deafness
  • Otitis externa, which is inflammation of the external ear
  • Otitis media, or inflammation of the middle ear
  • Otitis interna, or inflammation of the inner ear
  • Loud noises such as gunfire
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Tumors in the ear or in the brain
  • Diuretics such as ethacrynic acid, furosemide and bumetanide
  • Ototoxic drugs, which are drugs that have a deleterious effect on the ear or the otic nerve, such as gentamycin, neomycin, streptomycin, amikacin, polymyxin B, minocycline, erythromycin and chloramphenicol
  • Otic cleaning agents such as ethanol, iodine, chlorhexidine and benzalkonium that are infused into the middle ear through a perforated ear drum
  • Other drugs such as salicylates, cetrimide and cisplatin that can cause temporary and permanent hearing loss

    Deafness can be unilateral (affecting one ear) or bilateral (affecting both ears). Partial deafness is difficult to recognize but in some animals, partial hearing loss can be observed by some owners. Unilateral and partial deafness can be tested using a brainstem auditory evoked response (BAER) test. The BAER test requires specialized equipment that may only be available at veterinary referral centers. The BAER test is the only reliable and accurate way to assess deafness, particularly unilateral deafness. Animals as young as 5 weeks old can be tested for deafness using the BAER test. The BAER is absent in affected animals.

    Dogs and cats born deaf usually inherit this problem from their parents. Inherited deafness is sensorineural deafness due to degeneration of the inner ear structures. You will typically notice the deafness at a young age. White, merle or piebald coats increase the chances that an animal has inherited deafness. Deafness has been linked to certain breed characteristics such as heterochromia iridis (incomplete iris pigmentation) although definite links have not been proven. A list of canine breeds with reported inherited deafness include:

  • Akita
  • American pit bull terrier
  • American Staffordshire terrier
  • Australian heeler
  • Australian shepherd
  • Beagle
  • Border collie
  • Boston terrier
  • Boxer
  • Bull terrier
  • Catahoula leopard dog
  • Cocker spaniel
  • Collie
  • Dalmatian
  • Dappled dachshund
  • Doberman pincher
  • Dogo Argentino
  • English bulldog
  • English setter
  • Fox terrier
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Parson Russell terrier
  • Maltese
  • Miniature poodle
  • Mongrel
  • Norwegian dunkerhound
  • Old English sheepdog
  • Papillon
  • Pointer
  • Rhodesian ridgeback
  • Scottish terrier
  • Sealyham terrier
  • Shetland sheepdog
  • Shropshire terrier
  • Walker foxhound
  • West Highland white terrier

    In animals that have inherited deafness, all the breeding animals should be tested using the BAER test. If they are found to be deaf in one or both ears, they should be removed from the breeding programs. Inherited deafness cannot be treated with hearing aids or surgical treatment.

  • Regurgitation in Dogs

    Overview of Canine Regurgitation

    Regurgitation is the backward flow or effortless evacuation of fluid, mucus, or undigested food from the esophagus. Unlike vomiting, it is not accompanied by nausea and does not involve forceful abdominal contractions. It is a symptom of esophageal disease and not a disorder in itself.

    The timing of regurgitation in relation to eating is determined by the location of esophageal dysfunction, degree of obstruction, and presence or absence of esophageal dilatation. For example in dogs:

    • Regurgitation immediately after eating is most likely to occur with proximal esophageal lesions or esophageal obstruction.
    • Regurgitation may be unassociated with eating when the esophagus is dilated, because this provies a reservoir for food and fluid.
    • Selective retention of fluids over solid food is more likely with partial obstruction.

      Causes of Regurgitation in Dogs

    • Esophageal Structural Disorders – which include foreign bodies, stricture and vascular ring anomaly
    • Esophageal motility disorders – which include megaesophagus

    What to Watch For

    • Weight loss
    • Coughing
    • Difficulty breathing
    • Lethargy

    Veterinary Care for Canine Regurgitation

    Care should start with a discussion with your veterinarian who will obtain a medical history about your pet. The initial differentiation between vomiting and regurgitation is important because, not only are different organs involved, but also different diagnostic techniques and therapeutics are warranted. Diagnostic tests and treatment should follow.

    Diagnosis of Regurgitation in Dogs

    Diagnostic tests are usually needed to determine the cause of regurgitation. A thorough medical history is of paramount importance, confirming that your dog is regurgitating and not vomiting. A thorough physical examination is always necessary as well.

    Diagnostic tests for regurgitation in dogs may include:

    • Complete blood count (CBC)
    • Biochemical profile
    • Urinalysis
    • Endocrine testing (ACTH stimulation, thyroid profile)
    • Thoracic (chest) radiographs (X-rays)
    • Acetylcholine receptor antibody test, antinuclear antibody testing
    • Electromyography and muscle biopsy
    • Esophagram (barium swallow)
    • Fluoroscopy
    • Esophagoscopy
    • Blood lead and/or organophosphate levels

    Treatment of Regurgitation in Dogs

    Treatment of the regurgitating dog can either be supportive or specific, where the latter can be instituted when a known underlying cause is identified.

    Supportive therapy for regurgitation in dogs may consist of the following:

    • Dietary modification
    • Gastrointestinal motility (movement) enhancing drugs
    • Acid blocking agents and esophageal/gastric coating agents in cases of suspect or associated esophagitis
    • Hospitalizing and restoring fluid and electrolyte balance and nutritional support in the severely ill patient
    • Antibiotic therapy in cases of pneumonia

    Home Care

    Home care recommendations depend on the underlying cause of the problem. The following general recommendations should be considered:

    • Administer all prescribed medications and practice the directed feeding instructions.
    • Watch very closely for signs that might suggest secondary pneumonia, which include labored breathing, coughing and/or general lethargy and a poor appetite.
    • Pay close attention to the body condition of your dog. Maintaining an appropriate nutritional plan can sometimes be difficult in these dogs.


    In-depth Information on Regurgitation in Dogs

    • Megaesophagus (esophageal hypomotility) is the decreased/absent esophageal movement or peristalsis that often results in dilatation (stretching beyond normal size) of the esophagus. It may be congenital (existing from birth) or acquired (noninheritable trait that results later in life).
    • Esophageal inflammatory disease.
    • Esophagitis is an inflammation of the esophagus. It may be a primary entity or secondary to other disorders.
    • Myositis is an inflammatory/immune disorder that affects the muscles.
    • Intrathoracic extraluminal (in the chest cavity but outside of the esophagus) disease.
    • Vascular ring anomaly is a congenital disorder that causes an entrapment and compression of the esophagus and, in turn, a partial obstruction (blockage). Megaesophagus and regurgitation often occur secondary to this obstruction.
    • Intrathoracic (in the chest) tumors or masses may compress the esophagus from the outside, causing regurgitation.
    • A hiatal hernia is an abnormality of the diaphragm allowing part of the stomach to be displaced into the chest cavity. Regurgitation is one of the most common signs seen with this disorder.
    • Intraluminal (inside) esophageal obstruction.
    • An esophageal stricture is an abnormal narrowing of the esophagus, often secondary to either esophagitis or some inflammatory event, such as a foreign body.
    • Esophageal foreign bodies often cause regurgitation due to an associated esophagitis or physical blockage. Foreign bodies usually lodge at the narrowed areas if the esophagus, including the thoracic inlet, at the base of the heart, or at the hiatus of the diaphragm.
    • Tumors or masses can grow within the esophagus, causing obstruction and regurgitation.
    • An esophageal diverticulum is an out-pouching of the esophagus. It can be congenital or acquired.
    • Neuromuscular dysfunction resulting in megaesophagus.
    • Myasthenia gravis is a disorder affecting the neuromuscular (nerve and muscle)junctions often causing generalized weakness, in addition to megaesophagus/ regurgitation.
    • Polymyositis is a disorder associated with inflammation and weakness of the muscles, including the esophagus.
    • Endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism, hypoadrenocorticism) can be associated with regurgitation.
    • Certain toxicities (lead, organophosphate) can affect the esophagus and cause megaesophagus and regurgitation.
    • Systemic lupus erythematosis is an immune disorder affecting multiple systems, occasionally causing megaesophagus and regurgitation.
    • Polyneuritis is a disorder associated with the inflammation of multiple nerves, occasionally causing megaesophagus and
    • Idiopathic (unknown cause) megaesophagus is one of the most common causes of regurgitation. This is generally a diagnosis of exclusion, after all of the above diseases have been ruled out with appropriate diagnostics.

    Preputial Discharge (Licking Penis) in Dogs

    Overview of Preputial Discharge in Dogs

    Preputial discharge is any substance flowing from the prepuce, which is the fold of skin that covers the penis. Often, licking at the prepuce/penis accompanies the discharge, so we may use the terms interchangeably.

    General Causes of Canine Preputial Discharge

    Preputial discharge may consist of blood, urine or pus. The normal dog should have no discharge, although a small amount of whitish-yellow “smegma” can accumulate around the preputial opening, and is not considered clinically significant.

    There are many potential causes. These include:

    • Disorders affecting the prepuce, including neoplasia (cancer), trauma, foreign body or inflammation of the penis/prepuce (balanoposthitis).
    • Disorders of the urethra, including neoplasia, trauma or stones (calculi).
    • Disorders of the urinary bladder including infection, calculi, inflammation or neoplasia.
    • Disorders of the prostate, including infection or inflammation of the prostate (prostatitis), neoplasia, enlargement (hyperplasia), cyst or abscess.
    • Bleeding disorders (coagulopathies) including decreased platelet count (thrombocytopenia) or ingestion of rat poison
    • Urinary incontinence (inability to hold urine) secondary to an ectopic (abnormally placed) ureter or improperly functioning sphincter (tissue that acts like a door, controlling the release of urine).

      The presence of preputial discharge most often suggests an underlying problem, ranging from a mild, relatively benign disorder, to a severe, even life threatening disease (such as a coagulopathy)

    What to Watch For

    Diagnosis of Preputial Discharge in Dogs

    • Baseline tests to include a complete blood count (CBC), biochemical profile and urinalysis. Although results may be within normal limits, they may reveal overt infection and inflammation.
    • A bacterial urine culture to rule out a urinary tract infection
    • A bacterial culture and cytology of the preputial discharge
    • A coagulation (clotting) profile to document a coagulopathy in cases of hemorrhagic discharge.
    • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays) to evaluate the urogenital tract, including the prostate
    • Abdominal ultrasound to assess the prostate and urinary structures

    Treatment of Preputial Discharge in Dogs

    Although specific therapy may be indicated once a definitive diagnosis is established, there are several things that can be done to treat the symptoms while awaiting test results.

    • Remove or treat any obvious inciting or underlying cause, such as foreign body, tumor or infection
    • Flush the prepuce daily with antiseptic solution.


    Home Care

    • Administer all prescribed medication as directed by your veterinarian.
    • Observe your pet closely. If the clinical signs are not improving or are getting worse, contact your veterinarian at once.




    Top 20 Dog Symptoms That Send Them to the Vet

    20 Most Common Canine Symptoms

    Dogs get a variety of symptoms and a variety of diseases.

    First, just what is a symptom? Many pet owners confuse the symptom with the actual disease.

    A symptom is defined as a physical sign or physical sensation that is evidence a disease is present. For example, vomiting is a symptom. Vomiting can result from a variety of diseases or problems such as diabetes can cause vomiting, as can liver disease, a urinary obstruction, diet changes, worms, eating something not digestible. Symptoms have a variety of possible causes.

    Another example is limping. Limping is a symptom. A Dog could limp because of a sprain, soft tissue injury, broken bone or…due to a broken nail.

    Symptoms can guide your veterinarian toward a diagnosis or help your veterinarian decide which tests would be most helpful in your pet. For example, if your pet is limping, your veterinarian may need to perform an x-ray and may not do blood work.

    Which symptoms are most common?

    These 20 symptoms that occur in Dogs account for over 25% of veterinary visits in the United States.

    Here is the list of most common dog symptoms:

    1. Diarrhea
    2. Vomiting
    3. Skin Mass
    4. Lethargy
    5. Lameness/Limping
    6. Itching
    7. Urinary incontinence
    8. Seizure
    9. Cough
    10. Colitis
    11. Pain
    12. Decrease in appetite/anorexia
    13. Back pain
    14. Bloody stool
    15. Bloody urine
    16. Fever
    17. Neck pain
    18. Urinating more
    19. Hives
    20. Abdominal pain

    Here is a complete guide to all dog symptoms. Go to: Guide to Dog Symptoms

    If your dog is experiencing any of the above symptoms – please see your veterinarian.


    Halitosis (Bad Breath) in Dogs

    Overview of Halitosis (Bad Breath) in Dogs

    Halitosis, or bad breath, is an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s mouth. It’s more than just “doggie breath” in that it is offensive.

    There are several products on the market to help you deal with doggie breath including dog toothbrush and paste, dog treats that can help minimize tartar or freshen dog breath as welll as doggie breath drops. It is first important to understand and treat any underlying diseases that may be causing the foul odor.

    Usually halitosis has oral causes, although sometimes it can be caused by other disease processes. Possible causes of bad breath in dogs include:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)
  • Abscessed tooth or teeth
  • Bone or hair stuck in mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Foreign bodies in the mouth (such as plant material or grass awns)
  • Oral neoplasia (tumors of the mouth)
  • Lung diseases, such as lung cancer
  • Severe kidney disease
  • What to Watch For

  • Oral discharge
  • Oral pain
  • Bloody oral discharge
  • Drooling
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Difficulty eating
  • Depression
  • Diagnosis of Halitosis in Dogs

    Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the bad breath and help guide subsequent treatment recommendations. In dogs, some tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination
  • A complete oral exam, which may require a brief anesthetic
  • Periodontal probing (a blunt probe that is used to check the gum/tooth interface) to identify gum and periodontal diseases
  • Full-mouth radiographs (X-rays) with a dental machine
  • Treatment of Halitosis in Dogs

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

  • Removal of foreign object if present
  • Treatment of any oral tumors as needed
  • Periodontal therapy and root planing (cleaning/scraping the teeth under the gums)
  • Home Care

    Home care recommendations will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Some steps that you can take to help eliminate your dog’s bad breath include:

  • Brushing your dog’s teeth daily. Tooth brushes/finger brushes and special toothpastes are available from your veterinarian.
  • Spraying 0.12 percent chlorhexidine (prescribed by your veterinarian) into your dog’s mouth once a day for seven to fourteen days.
  • Following dietary considerations recommended by your veterinarian. Special diets that may be beneficial include Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D® or Eukanuba Restricted-Calorie Rewards®.
  • Evaluation by your veterinarian if the bad breath persists.