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Behaviour

Dog barking in the snow

Barking

Dogs bark to communicate their emotions. Different barks can mean different things and variations in bark sounds are also caused by individual characteristics. A Great Dane's bark sounds somewhat different to that of a Chihuahua even when they mean the same thing. All dogs bark at some time but if your dog is a persistent barker you should seek professional assistance before it becomes a nuisance to other people.

Read Barking
Dog training

Basic training for dogs

A dog owner is responsible for their pet in public places, so if your dog misbehaves you could be in trouble. A poorly trained dog can also be a danger to itself. Imagine the consequences if your dog ignores you and runs across a busy road. In order to have the perfect pet you will need to start training when your dog is very young. The rewards of this are clear – there is perhaps no greater pleasure than owning a well-behaved dog.

Read Basic training for dogs
Dog with ball in mouth

Boredom

Dogs, just like people, can get bored if they do not get enough mental stimulation. In the modern world pet dogs are often left alone at home for longer periods of time and in some animals this can cause significant problems.

Read Boredom
Dog chewing a child's toy

Destructiveness and chewing

Having a young puppy in the house brings much pleasure but puppies also bring with them many undesirable behaviours. Early training is important to ensure that your puppy grows up understanding the rules in your house and fits in with your lifestyle. All dogs chew at some point in their life and this is only recognised as problem behaviour when chewing affects objects you would rather weren't chewed!

Read Destructiveness and chewing
Firework display

Firework fear

Firework fear is a common problem in dogs. It is not surprising that animals are scared of fireworks since they are very loud (up to 150 decibels). Sounds this loud can be physically painful as well as inducing fear. The noise from fireworks also lacks a clear pattern, with the source of the noise not identifiable and sounds occurring in short repeated bursts. The unpredictable nature of the sounds can make even normal animals react fearfully. Animals may become more sensitive with repeated exposures to the noise. In some animals a true phobia exists and these animals cannot get worse with time since they are always fully reactive to the noise.

Read Firework fear
Puppy near kitchen roll, bucket and rubber gloves

House training your puppy

House training is the term we normally use for the process of training a puppy to go outside to urinate or defaecate (toilet) rather than toileting in the home. Once puppies have been house trained they should remain clean in the house throughout their life. If your dog has been house trained and then starts to mess in the house again you should consult your veterinary surgeon. A loss of toilet control can be caused by health problems and emotional disorders such as anxiety or fear.

Read House training your puppy
Dog covering ears

Noise phobias

If your dog is afraid of sudden noises then life can be miserable for both of you. Summer thunderstorms can become a major trauma and unless you live in a remote part of the country there is almost no way of avoiding fireworks. There are some simple tips that can help to make the whole experience more bearable for both of you, but to find a solution to the problem you will need to seek some expert help.

Read Noise phobias
Dog chewing fabric

Pica

Dogs sometimes eat things that are not food. Pica is defined as the persistent chewing and consumption of non-nutritional substances that provide no physical benefit to the animal. It can be a sign of distress or anxiety. There are many potential causes of this anxiety including changes in the social or physical environment or because of an internal oddness in how the animal perceives or interacts with the world.

Eating objects, such as rocks, can also be very dangerous for your dog, as these can be stuck in the stomach or intestine. Sharp objects, such as sticks, can cause damage to the delicate lining of the intestinal tract. It is therefore important that you know more about this behaviour to understand how to manage it appropriately.

Read Pica
Puppy with its owner

Separation anxiety

We ask a lot from our dogs when we expect them to fit into our hectic modern lives. Happily most dogs adapt to our lifestyle with ease but there are a few dogs out there for whom the modern way of life can get a bit too stressful at times. Some of these dogs turn to destruction as a way of releasing their feelings. Living with these dogs can be very stressful for owners.

Read Separation anxiety

Bladder problems

Old golden retriever

Cystitis (bladder inflammation)

As anyone who has ever suffered with cystitis (a sore bladder) will know, it is a very unpleasant condition. Although not usually life-threatening, cystitis can be very distressing for your dog. It is important to seek veterinary advice as soon as possible since most cases can be easily treated with a short course of antibiotic tablets.

Read Cystitis (bladder inflammation)
Jack Russell Terrier has had a toileting accident

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence means the loss of ability to control urination and can be caused by a variety of diseases. Incontinence is quite common in dogs but is usually more of a nuisance to the owners than a cause of distress to their pet. Urinary incontinence is more common in females than males because of the anatomical differences in the urinary tract especially the shorter urethra in the female.

Read Urinary incontinence
Urine sample

Urine samples: how to collect

Tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill, which means your vet may ask you to bring in a urine sample (water sample) from your pet to help find out what's wrong with your dog. Urine samples are usually taken to check for diseases such as diabetes or cystitis. Urine samples are also often used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms; this allows your pet to be treated earlier and more effectively.

Read Urine samples: how to collect

Blood diseases

Small dog

Anaemia

Red blood cells carry vital oxygen around the body. A shortage of red blood cells in the circulation is called anaemia. There are many different causes of anaemia in dogs and in most cases a variety of tests will be needed to diagnose the underlying problem. Severe anaemia can be life-threatening and requires urgent treatment.

Read Anaemia
German Shepherd dog

von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

This is the most common inherited bleeding disorder in dogs. It causes defective blood clotting due to reduced amounts of von Willebrands factor (vWF). This is a protein which helps tiny blood cells called platelets stick to each other and form an effective blood clot in the body.

Many breeds may be genetic carriers of this trait, but problems are most likely to be seen in Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherd dogs and Labrador Retrievers. Both sexes are affected equally.

Read von Willebrand's disease (vWD)

Cancer

Spaniel

Anal sac gland carcinoma

Anal sac gland carcinoma (also known as apocrine gland carcinoma of the anal sacs and anal sac adenocarcinoma) is a malignant tumour of the anal sacs of the dog. It is a relatively uncommon tumour but it is seen with increased frequency in English Cocker Spaniels in particular and other spaniels to a lesser degree.

Read Anal sac gland carcinoma
Dog with sad eyes

Brain tumour or cancer

Brain tumours in dogs are unfortunately as common as they are in people. Brain tumours can be devastating diseases and sadly cannot be cured in most animals. At present the only options for treatment are to improve the animal's quality of life and help them to live for as long as possible. Unfortunately all brain tumours are eventually fatal diseases.

Read Brain tumour or cancer
Sad Golden Retriever

Cancer in your dog - possible options

Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells. The speed with which a cancer spreads and the severity of the disease it causes depends on the type of tissue cell affected. As many as one in five dogs are likely to develop one of the many different forms of cancer at some stage of their lives. The risk of developing cancer increases with age. This means that, as dogs now enjoy a longer life expectancy through improved veterinary care, the number of animals with cancer has been increasing in recent years.

Read Cancer in your dog - possible options
Old golden retriever

Canine cutaneous mast cell tumors

Mast cell tumours are common tumours of the skin in dogs. Whilst many mast cell tumours can be cured by appropriate management, dogs that get one mast cell tumour can frequently develop other separate mast cell tumours elsewhere on their skin at other times in their life.

Read Canine cutaneous mast cell tumors
X-ray of dog's abdomen

Canine insulinoma

Insulinoma is a cancer of the pancreas, which can cause affected dogs to have a poor exercise tolerance or even collapse. Early diagnosis of this condition is essential to provide the most effective therapy.

Read Canine insulinoma
Sad black retriever

Canine lymphoma

There are many different forms of lymphoma in the dog, just as there are in humans. Some types of lymphoma are associated with better outcomes than others but most types respond favourably to the administration of chemotherapy. There are some that do not and it is important to attempt to identify these cases as other treatments may be indicated.

Read Canine lymphoma
Irish wolfhound

Canine osteosarcoma

An osteosarcoma is cancer of the bone. It usually arises in the bones of the limbs but can develop in the bones of the skull, spine or ribcage and there are rare cases of this cancer arising in non-bony tissues like mammary glands and muscle.

Read Canine osteosarcoma
Syringes

Chemotherapy for your dog

Although it can be frightening to learn that your pet has cancer there have been big advances in the treatment of cancer in animals. Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. If your dog is diagnosed with cancer it is possible that you will be offered some form of chemotherapy (perhaps alongside surgery or radiation therapy).

Read Chemotherapy for your dog
Hazardous substance symbols

Chemotherapy: safe handling

Chemotherapy is now a commonplace treatment for cancer in pets. In many people's mind the term 'chemotherapy' conjures up frightening images of people suffering with cancer (and the effects of treatment) - however chemotherapy in pets is usually very different.

Read Chemotherapy: safe handling
Vet examines a puppy

Lumps and bumps

Finding a lump on your pet can be a worrying experience. Although most lumps are harmless it is impossible to tell what a lump is simply by looking at it. If your pet has a swelling that lasts for more than a few days always ask your vet to check it for you.

Read Lumps and bumps
Intravenous therapy

Lymphoma chemotherapy

Lymphoma is a cancer of the lymph cells and can arise almost anywhere in the body. Lymphoma is one of the most commonly treated forms of the disease. Modern treatment protocols can be highly effective in controlling lymphoma and affected dogs can have several years of normal life with appropriate treatment.

Read Lymphoma chemotherapy
Radiotherapy machine

Radiotherapy for your dog

Pets today are healthier and, in general, living longer than ever before. However the increasing numbers of ageing pets mean that they are at increasing risk of developing cancer later in life. Radiotherapy aims to give a high dose of radiation to the cancer cells (doing maximum damage) whilst minimising the dose to the rest of the body.

Read Radiotherapy for your dog

Caring for your dog

Three-legged dog relaxes with companion

Amputee dog care

There are a number of reasons which may necessitate the removal of an animal's leg. The two most common of these are severe trauma, for example after a road traffic accident, or as management of a leg cancer. As a general rule, dogs cope far better with amputation than people imagine they will. Humans of course only have two legs, so losing one leg means a reduction to only one. Dogs have four legs so losing one still leaves them with three.

Read Amputee dog care
Bulldog with bottom in the air

Anal sac disease

Anal sac problems are very common in pet dogs and something frequently seen by veterinary surgeons. In most cases, the conditions are easily treated, though they can sometimes recur. This factsheet provides information on the location and function of anal sacs as well as discussing common conditions and their treatment.

Read Anal sac disease
Dog receiving acupuncture

Complementary therapies

Some forms of alternative or complementary medicine such as osteopathy and physiotherapy are widely used in veterinary medicine alongside conventional treatment. However, owners of dogs and other small animals are increasingly looking at other alternative therapies such as acupuncture, herbal medicine and homeopathy to help with a wide variety of common complaints.

Read Complementary therapies
Dog catching flying disk

Exercise - for a healthy, happy dog

All animals need exercise to be happy and healthy. Exercise improves general fitness levels and helps to prevent obesity. If your dog isn't able to work off their energy by exercising outside, they may do so inside! Taking regular exercise together will alleviate boredom and also strengthen the bond between you.

Read Exercise - for a healthy, happy dog
Dog eating from bowl

Feeding your dog

Although most pet dogs are now fed entirely on tinned or packaged food, their nutritional requirements are exactly the same as their ancestors' centuries ago. So to stay healthy, a domestic dog must receive a balanced diet containing all the nutrients that would be found in its natural diet. Dogs are adapted to eating a wide variety of food and can survive happily on an almost vegetarian diet, which would make a cat very ill.

Read Feeding your dog
Puppy eating from bowl

Feeding your puppy

The saying 'You are what you eat' applies to dogs as well as people, however more is not necessarily better. Puppies and young dogs suffer from a variety of bone and joint disorders. Especially important are those diseases caused by the incorrect feeding of puppies and young dogs, since these can be avoided. Over-feeding and over-supplementation with unnecessary nutrients and minerals can have serious consequences. If you are getting your first puppy make sure you ask your vet for advice on feeding them.

Read Feeding your puppy
The life cycle of a dog flea

Flea control

Fleas are the most common parasite in household pets and every dog is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. Fortunately, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your home. Your veterinary practice can give you advice on which flea control products to use, and how.

Read Flea control
Itchy dog

Fleas - an itchy business

Fleas are the most common parasite in dogs and every dog is likely to be infected at some stage in its life. However, with the advent of modern products it is possible to prevent fleas from becoming a problem in your household. You veterinary surgeon can give you advice on how to use these products effectively, so you can stop these nasty little insects making a meal of your dog and you!

Read Fleas - an itchy business
Empty medication packaging

Giving medicines to your dog

For most veterinary treatments it is important that medicines are given correctly. In the hospital, trained staff give medicines and it is important to ensure that you are able to continue to give the medicines once your dog has been sent home. If you have any doubts about how to give the medicine your pet has been prescribed, ask your vet or a nurse to show you.

Read Giving medicines to your dog
Wet dog with towel

Grooming your dog

Grooming your dog accomplishes much more than just making your pet's coat look nice and shiny. It will provide you with the opportunity to spend some "quality time" with your dog, combing, brushing, bathing and generally bonding with him.

Read Grooming your dog
Syringe and vaccine

Injecting your dog

Administration of medicine by injection is often referred to as giving drugs by the parenteral route. The other main means of administering treatment is via the mouth and digestive system - the oral route. Effective administration of medicine is a key part of most veterinary treatments and many medications are most effective when given by injection. Administration of medicine by injection is also essential for some drugs that are destroyed by acids in the stomach, e.g. insulin.

Read Injecting your dog
Bee on a flower

Insect stings

On a warm summer afternoon when your dog is playing in the garden they are at risk from inadvertently disturbing the local wildlife. Wasps and bees are the most common cause of insect stings in UK pets. However ants may also bite (or sting) pets. Bees and their cousins, bumblebees, wasps, hornets and ants, do not usually sting unless stepped on, touched, or molested. They are usually not active at temperatures below 13°C or on rainy days. Most stings therefore occur in midsummer around August.

Read Insect stings
Dog being microchipped

Microchipping your dog

Stray dogs and cats are a big problem in many countries. In the UK alone it is estimated that more than £250 million a year is spent by local authorities, police forces and animal welfare charities rounding up and looking after stray dogs and cats. It is much harder to calculate the emotional cost to both the owner and animal when a pet is lost. Microchips are a quick and efficient way to reunite owners with their lost pets, even across international frontiers.

Read Microchipping your dog
Dog with puppies

Neutering your dog

It is a sad truth that the number of puppies born every year is far greater than the number of good homes that can be found for them. As a result, thousands of healthy animals are destroyed and many unwanted dogs are left to fend for themselves. Having your dog neutered will not only help to reduce these numbers, it is also one of the simplest, safest and most practical ways of safeguarding your dog's health and welfare.

Read Neutering your dog
Fat Rottweiler

Obesity

In the wild dogs generally regulate the amount of food they eat. However, there is a trend for modern dogs, like modern man, to eat better food and take less exercise than their predecessors. Just as in people, there is a risk that your dog may become overweight. Obesity is an excessive accumulation of fat in the body - it does not just mean being overweight.

Read Obesity
Surgeon's gloved hands

Operations: caring for your dog before and after surgery

Most pets will have an operation at some stage in their life, e.g. for neutering (speying or castration) or to treat a disease. Nowadays most operations in dogs are fairly safe but the success of treatment and recovery depends to some extent on the quality of care that the owner gives before and after the operation.

Read Operations: caring for your dog before and after surgery
Bandaged dog on treatment table

Pet insurance for your dog

In recent years huge advances have been made in veterinary medicine. Vets can now do things to improve the health and welfare of dogs that would have been unimaginable or impractical only a few years ago. Not surprisingly, these advanced surgical and medical treatments are often expensive so that a vet's bill for intricate surgery or a prolonged course of treatment could be thousands of pounds. Many pet owners worry that they will not be able to afford to pay for treatment if their dog becomes sick or has a major accident.

Read Pet insurance for your dog
Puppy

Puppy care

Puppies are cute and it is very tempting to acquire one almost by accident. Taking on a puppy is a big responsibility - remember it will not stay a puppy for long. Within a year you will have an adult dog which may be expected to live for 10 years or more. Before getting a puppy think about whether you are able to make a long-term commitment and, if you are, what kind of dog will best suit your lifestyle.

Read Puppy care
Shaggy dog

Routine health care

We are all familiar with the phrase "A healthy pet is a happy pet" - but there is probably also something to be said for keeping your pet happy in order to maintain its health. Most owners know their pet very well and can quickly spot if it is feeling under the weather.

Read Routine health care
Old dog

Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia

Some of our beloved pets are living longer and longer lives. This is due in large part to the amazing care we provide for them. As our time with them grows, so does our bond and devotion. As they approach the end of life, it can be a very challenging time filled with questions and concerns. When it becomes clear your pet's life is drawing to a close, you may face a painful and difficult decision about whether your pet should be euthanased due to unmanageable illness or advanced age changes. This factsheet is designed to help you understand euthanasia options and provide guidance to everyone caring for the pet. 

Read Saying goodbye - options for euthanasia
Senior dog out walking

Senior dog care

A puppy is endearing to everyone but puppies grow up all too fast. By one to two years of age dogs of all breeds will be mature. Although individual dogs and some breeds age at different rates, most 10 year old dogs can be considered to be in old age, and many breeds show signs of ageing much more quickly.

Read Senior dog care
Dog tick

Tick control

Ticks are common external parasites (ectoparasites) affecting dogs in many areas of the world. Environments suitable for tick development include forest, grass and moorland vegetation, close to wild mammals or birds on which they can feed during their immature stages. Dogs and cats most commonly become infested with ticks when they are in walking, working or hunting in these areas. Some specialised ticks can develop in kennel environments. The risk of tick bites may vary with the time of year; dogs appear to be more at risk during the Spring and Autumn periods but this varies with geographical region and tick species. Ticks may cause several problems when they bite, many of which can be difficult and expensive to treat. For these reasons, if there is any risk, it is very important to use tick control and prevention.

Read Tick control
Removing a tick from a dog

Tick removal

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites that can affect your dog, especially if it goes out in the countryside or grassy areas during the Spring and Autumn months.

Read Tick removal
Vaccinating a puppy

Vaccinating your dog

There are a number of highly infectious and potentially fatal diseases which can affect your dog. There is no treatment for many of these diseases and young puppies who catch them often die. However, for many of these conditions there is a simple protection in the form of vaccination. Ensuring that your dog completes an initial course of vaccinations and then receives regular booster jabs is important if you want to keep your dog fit and healthy.

Read Vaccinating your dog
Syringe and vaccine

Vaccination protocols and safety

For a long time all new puppies and kittens were given a standard vaccination, which protected them from a number of infectious diseases. Recently a number of new vaccines have been developed and pet owners and veterinarians have begun to question the value of routine annual vaccination for adult pets.

This has led to development of the concept of tailored vaccination protocols. If your pet is not likely to be exposed to a disease there is little point in vaccinating them against it. Your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate choice of vaccine for your pet weighing up the benefits of protection against any risk associated with the vaccine.

Read Vaccination protocols and safety
The life cycle of the parasitic worm Toxocara Canis

Worm control

All pets will be affected by worms at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worm control
Dog roundworm (Toxocara canis)

Worms - a wriggly problem

It can be alarming to discover that your dog has worms but it should not come as a surprise. All pets are affected at some stage in their life and many will be re-infected unless they are given regular, routine worming treatment. Except in rare cases, worms are unlikely to cause serious harm. Getting rid of worms is relatively simple and inexpensive so regular treatment is strongly recommended, particularly as some types of worm can be passed onto humans.

Read Worms - a wriggly problem

Collapse

Dog with tongue out

Epilepsy (seizures)

If your dog has had a fit (convulsion) you will know how frightening it can be. Fits are not uncommon in dogs but many dogs only ever have a single fit. If your dog has had more than one fit it may be that he has epilepsy. Just as in people, there are tablets for dogs which can control the fits and allow your dog to live a long fulfilling life.

Read Epilepsy (seizures)
Dog prone on floor, eyes closed

Fainting (syncope)

Fainting (syncope) does occur in dogs but is less common than in people. When a dog faints it briefly loses consciousness and falls to the ground motionless but in most cases recovers within a few moments without treatment. It is important, but often difficult, to differentiate between fainting and fitting because the causes and treatments for the two conditions are very different. In addition, some other medical problems (for example, reduced blood levels of glucose, or certain diseases of the nerves and muscles) can cause episodes of weakness or collapse. If your dog collapses for whatever reason contact your vet immediately for further advice.

Read Fainting (syncope)

Dental disease

Dog's teeth

Dental disease in your dog

Dental disease is very common in dogs. Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten pets have some kind of tooth disorders. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the dog's teeth, gums and jaw bones. Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build up of plaque.

Read Dental disease in your dog
Cleaning a dog's teeth

Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Periodontal disease affects the area around the teeth and will eventually lead to tooth loss. Prevent this by brushing your dog's teeth, using the step-by-step guide included here. 

Your dog's teeth deserve as much care as your own!

Read Periodontal disease and how to prevent it

Ear disease

Hearing-impaired dog

Deafness in dogs

Deafness is quite common in dogs, particularly in older dogs and dogs with a white hair coat and blue eyes. Although deafness may cause a dog some problems most deaf dogs can be helped to live a happy life.

Read Deafness in dogs
Cleaning a dog's ear

Ear cleaning

Proper ear cleaning is essential in the management of ear disease. Debris and secretions can accumulate in the ear and this may prevent treatment from reaching deep inside in the ear and some medication may not work in the presence of secretions. It is also necessary to keep the ear canal clean so that your vet can examine your dog's ear properly if there is a problem.

Read Ear cleaning
Vet examines a terrier's ear

Ear disease in your dog

Ear disease is quite common in dogs and you should make ear examination part of a weekly health check for your pet. If your dog's ears look red or sore on the inside, if there is a smell coming from the ears or if your pet is shaking its head excessively then contact your vet for advice. Ear disease can quickly take hold and is unlikely to get better without treatment. Ear disease left untreated can cause permanent damage to the ear canals and make your pet more likely to have further problems in the future.

Read Ear disease in your dog
Grass seed heads

Grass seeds - down in the meadow

The grasses have now flowered and their seeds are all around. These seeds can get into any crack or crevice such as ears and eyes and will make these sore until they are removed. If your pet has a smelly ear, a weepy eye or keeps sneezing, a trip to the vets is in order to make sure they don't have a hidden grass seed.

Read Grass seeds - down in the meadow

Emergencies

Great Dane

Bloat (gastric dilation)

Gastric dilation, or 'bloat' as it is often known, is a very serious condition mainly affecting large breed dogs with a deep chest. Dogs with bloat are restless and unable to settle, they may drool saliva and vomit frothy foam. If you suspect that your dog has bloat you should call your vet or emergency service at once. Time is of the essence (bloat can kill in less than an hour). Your vet will want to see your dog immediately but try not to turn up at the practice unannounced - if you call ahead they will be ready for you when you arrive.

Read Bloat (gastric dilation)
Puppy with bandaged leg

Emergencies - what to do

Immediate veterinary attention can mean the difference between life and death for an injured dog following all but the most minor of accidents. Getting your dog to your vet (where all the necessary equipment is on hand) is quicker and gives the dog a better chance than calling a vet out to the scene of the accident. The most important thing to remember in an emergency is - don't panic! - this could cause further anxiety for an already frightened animal and it wastes valuable time.

Read Emergencies - what to do
Dog with thermometer and cooling compress

Fever - is it serious?

Often when you put a hand on your dog it feels warm, particularly on a patch of bare skin. This is because the normal body temperature of a dog is higher than that in people. Body temperature is maintained within a fairly narrow range (between 37.8°C / 100°F and 39.3°C / 102.7°F) although it varies slightly during the day, with lowest temperatures recorded in the morning and the highest in the evening. Fever is simply an increase in body temperature and can be seen with many disorders in dogs.

Read Fever - is it serious?
Dog laying on grass

Fitting in dogs - an emergency?

If you have witnessed an animal or person having a seizure (convulsion or fit), you will know how frightening it can appear. An animal suffering a generalised seizure (also known as grand mal seizure) will be unconscious. They may show violent, rhythmic movement of their legs, excessive drooling and twitching of the face and jaws. Some animals cry out and it is not uncommon for them to lose control of their bladder or bowels.

Although time seems to slow down when you are faced with a seizuring animal most seizures only last for 2 minutes or less. Seizures are not uncommon in dogs, but many dogs have only a single seizure in their lifetime therefore do not be unduly alarmed if you witness your dog having a seizure. Remember your dog does not know what it is doing during a seizure so it is important to keep you and your pet safe.

Read Fitting in dogs - an emergency?
Dog in car waiting for owner

Heat stroke

We have all heard that 'dogs can die in hot cars' - the frightening thing is how quickly this can happen. A healthy dog can suffer fatal damage from heat stroke in only a few minutes in a car. The interior of cars can also reach damaging temperatures on days that do not seem very hot so great care should always be taken before leaving your dog in a car. Heat stroke also happens to dogs outside of cars. Whenever it happens it is a true emergency and veterinary attention must be obtained immediately.

Read Heat stroke
Dog vomiting

Poisoning

Poisoning can occur if a poisonous substance is swallowed (solids or liquids), breathed in (gases) or absorbed through the skin (normally liquids). Poisons are substances that damage the cells in the body. In order to cause harm they must enter or come into contact with the body.

Many poisons are products we use every day and can be found in food, medications, household and garden substances. Accidental poisoning in dogs is usually caused by substances we commonly have around the house, e.g. human medications and pest control products.

Read Poisoning

Eye disease

Blind retriever dog

Blindness in dogs

Some causes of blindness in dogs, such as cataracts, are treatable. Other causes, such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), are not. If there is any doubt as to whether the blindness is treatable, then referral to a veterinary ophthalmologist is recommended.

Read Blindness in dogs
Border collie

BVA-KC-ISDS eye testing scheme

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is a joint scheme between the British Veterinary Association (BVA), the Kennel Club (KC) and the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS). It was first set-up to help eradicate progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Collie eye anomaly (CEA) but now covers 11 inherited eye diseases in 59 breeds of dog.

The BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme is the most popular inherited eye screening scheme in the UK and Ireland. Schemes in use in other parts of the world include those run by the ECVO (European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) and the OFA Eye Certification Registry.

Read BVA-KC-ISDS eye testing scheme
Dog with cataract

Cataracts in dogs

Cataract is a disease of the lens of the eye in which the normally clear lens becomes opaque or white. This interferes with vision and can result in blindness. Many owners confuse a less serious problem of older dogs eyes with cataract. In some cases an eye specialist may be able to operate on the eye to remove the cataract.

Read Cataracts in dogs
Beagle with red eye

Conjunctivitis in dogs

If your dog has a sore or red eye, or there is discharge from the eye, then it is important to contact your vet. Your dog may have an infection in the eye, but a discharge can also be caused by a foreign body (such as a grass seed) caught under the eyelid. It is important that diseases of the eye are treated quickly to prevent any permanent damage being done.

Read Conjunctivitis in dogs
Corneal ulcer in a boxer dog

Corneal ulcers - a sore eye

The basic structure of a dog's eye is much the same as a human's eye. Consequently dogs can suffer a similar range of eye diseases to humans. Because the eye is complicated, delicate and easily damaged, all eye problems require immediate veterinary attention.

Read Corneal ulcers - a sore eye
'Dry eye' in a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

'Dry eye' (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

If your dog has recurrent problems with their eyes or has a sticky discharge that does not seem to go away you should contact your vet. It may be that they have a problem with tear production in the eyes. Lack of tears leads to dry eyes which are sore and often become infected or damaged. If this condition is recognised and treated early on it may be possible to control the condition and prevent permanent damage to the eyes.

Read 'Dry eye' (Keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
Vet putting drops into puppy's eye

Eye medication: how to give to your dog

Eye problems in dogs are quite common. Tears quickly wash out any treatment put in the eye so eye drops need to be given several times a day. This means you will have to learn how to give the treatment at home.

Read Eye medication: how to give to your dog
Close up of a dog's nose

Progessive retinal atrophy (PRA)

There are many causes of blindness in dogs and if you suspect that your dog's eyesight is deteriorating you should contact your vet immediately. Some of the causes of blindness can be treated and vision can be retained. Sadly, other causes like PRA cannot be treated but your vet may be able to help you cope with living with a blind dog.

Read Progessive retinal atrophy (PRA)

Gastrointestinal disease

A sad dog

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)

Almost all dogs will suffer from diarrhoea at some point in their lives. In most cases this lasts no more than a few days and dogs generally get better without any treatment. However, in a few cases the diarrhoea is due to a more serious underlying cause and does not resolve. EPI is one of the conditions that can result in chronic diarrhoea.

EPI results in a reduced ability to digest food this means that an affected pet will suffer from chronic diarrhoea and be significantly underweight. Dogs with EPI have a good appetite but despite consuming lots of food they are literally starving.

Read Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI)
Dog eating from bowl

Food allergy

We probably all know people who are unable to eat strawberries or nuts due to an allergy but it isn't only people who can react to their food. Whilst food allergies are not common in dogs they can be affected too. Food allergies can produce many different symptoms, some of which can be quite distressing for your pet. No allergy is pleasant, but at least with a food allergy it is usually possible to avoid the cause of the symptoms so that your pet can lead a normal life.

Read Food allergy
Vet holding a dog

Oesophageal foreign bodies in dogs

Some dogs are very greedy and any dog that thinks it is under threat of having a tasty bit of food taken away from it may swallow something without chewing properly. Dogs that scavenge are at particular risk of picking up and swallowing something they should not eat. Often scavenging merely results in an upset tummy but sometimes a piece of foreign material can become lodged in the throat. This is a potentially very serious condition and if you think your pet may have something stuck in its throat you should contact your vet immediately.

Read Oesophageal foreign bodies in dogs
Bulldog bowing

Pancreatitis

Almost all dogs will have a tummy upset at some point in their lives. In most cases this will get better over a few days without any treatment. Occasionally vomiting may be a sign of something more serious in your pet. One such disease which can cause vomiting is pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a condition with a huge range of severity from almost no clinical signs to severe abdominal upset and even death. If you are at all worried about your pet's health please make an appointment with your vet.

Read Pancreatitis
Dog vomiting

Vomiting and diarrhoea

Vomiting and diarrhoea are very common in dogs. Both are symptoms of other conditions rather than diseases in their own right and there is a vast range of dog diseases in which diarrhoea and/or vomiting may occur. In many cases the problem may be successfully treated without ever pinpointing the actual cause. However, the information that you give your vet may be vital in deciding whether the case is serious enough to need further detailed investigations.

Read Vomiting and diarrhoea

Heart diseases

Listening to a dog's heart beat

Aortic stenosis

Aortic stenosis is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

If your vet identifies a heart murmur in your puppy it is essential to have further investigation to establish the cause of the murmur so that appropriate treatment can be given early.

Read Aortic stenosis
Dog among autumn leaves

Canine heart testing schemes

Congenital heart diseases are not uncommon in puppies and some of these are inherited. Pedigree dogs have many inherited diseases and different breeds each have their own problems. Many dog breed societies employ testing schemes to detect individuals affected with certain conditions at any early stage of the disease at an early age. Early detection is important, not only to ensure appropriate treatment for affected dogs but also so that these animals can be excluded from breeding programmes to prevent them passing on the disease to their offspring.

Read Canine heart testing schemes
Sleeping Labrador puppy

Congenital heart diseases

Bringing a new puppy into the family is an exciting time and should be a time of great joy. It can be particularly distressing to find that your new arrival has a problem. It is important that you get your new puppy checked over by your vet so that any obvious problems can be identified before you become too attached to it.

Read Congenital heart diseases
Boxer dog

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a disease affecting the heart muscle. It is the second most common heart disease in dogs (after mitral valve disease). In DCM the heart is unable to contract normally and as the muscle stretches the heart gets larger. DCM affects mainly middle-aged large and giant breed dogs and some spaniels. Small breeds of dog are occasionally affected. Male dogs are more likely to be affected than females. Animals with DCM usually develop signs of heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms.

Read Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)
Dog laying on grass

Heart disease in your dog

Heart disease is increasingly common in dogs - probably because their average life expectancy is increasing due to improved veterinary care. Some heart defects, e.g. hole in the heart, are present from birth (congenital heart defects) but only cause signs as the dog gets older. Other diseases develop later in life as a result of the effects of ageing or damage to the heart. The most common heart diseases in the dog develop as the dog ages and its heart starts to wear out.

Read Heart disease in your dog
Tablets

Heart disease: drug treatment

Heart disease does not necessarily mean heart failure. Many dogs with heart disease have no outward signs of illness and are able to lead relatively normal lives without any medication. However, most heart diseases will get worse and once symptoms start, treatment will probably be required for the remainder of your dog's life.

Read Heart disease: drug treatment
ECG

Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)

There are many different heart problems that can affect dogs. Some of these affect the rhythm of the heart beat and one such condition is atrial fibrillation. This is most commonly seen in large and giant breeds of dog but can be seen in smaller dogs associated with heart disease. Atrial fibrillation does not cause any specific signs so it is unlikely that you will identify this as a cause of illness in your pet. However, any heart disease should be taken very seriously and an early visit to your vet can help to achieve a good outcome.

Read Heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation)
Sad Golden Retriever

High blood pressure (hypertension)

Hypertension (high blood pressure) has long been known to be a problem in people and is being increasingly recognised in pets. Hypertension is very common in older people and is often associated with smoking, or with stressful living. In animals, hypertension is almost always caused by an underlying disease.

Read High blood pressure (hypertension)
Vet listening to dog's heart beat

Investigating heart disease

It is important that your vet can recognise the early stages of heart failure (and therefore when to begin therapy, if necessary). Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy. Heart disease and heart failure are not the same thing. In the early stages of heart disease most animals are able to cope although their heart is not working as well as normal. Animals can live with some forms of heart disease without showing any signs of illness at all. Heart failure occurs when the heart disease is more severe and signs of malfunction (usually coughing or breathlessness) develop. Investigations of animals with heart disease are important to identify early signs of failure and to establish the appropriate timing and type of therapy.

Read Investigating heart disease
Vet listening to dog's heart beat

Mitral valve disease

Mitral valve disease is the most common cause of a heart murmur in dogs. Many cases are detected by a vet after a routine examination (such as before vaccination) before dogs show any signs of illness. If your dog has been diagnosed with mitral valve disease your vet will offer advice on when (and whether) treatment is necessary. Many dogs with this condition live long and happy lives.

Read Mitral valve disease
Vet holding a dog

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
Jack Russell Terrier

Pulmonic stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Pulmonic stenosis
Old golden retriever

Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is one of the more common congenital heart defects in dogs. It is sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart. The condition is often discovered in apparently healthy dogs by a vet during a routine examination (such as before vaccination).

Read Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Hormonal diseases

Poodle

Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism)

Although Addison's disease can be a very serious disease the changes it causes can be very subtle in the early stages. The signs of the disease are variable and often vague. It is important to get an early diagnosis because, with treatment, affected animals can lead a normal and full life.

Read Addison's disease (hypoadrenocorticism)
Dog with Cushing's disease

Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

Although Cushing's disease is a severe disease the changes it causes can be quite subtle in the early stages. Many owners do not recognise the signs of Cushing's disease in their pet, instead confusing the changes caused by the disease with ageing. It is important to get an early diagnosis for this disease because, with treatment, affected animals can lead a normal and full life.

Read Cushing's disease (hyperadrenocorticism)
Injecting a dog

Diabetes mellitus

Diabetes is a relatively common disease in older people and is being recognised more frequently in older pets. If untreated the disease has serious effects and will ultimately result in the death of your pet. The good news is that the majority of diabetic animals can now be treated and may live normal, happy lives if you are prepared to invest time and money in their care.

Read Diabetes mellitus
A Dachshund with hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism (Thyroid hormone deficiency)

Thyroid hormone is produced by a small organ in the neck. A lack of this hormone (hypothyroidism) may cause a whole range of problems. Dogs with this disease are often mistakenly thought to be just getting old. It is worth looking out for this disease because treatment is simple - with daily tablets to replace the missing hormone your dog could be given a new lease of life.

Read Hypothyroidism (Thyroid hormone deficiency)

Infectious diseases

MRSA culture on a petri dish

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections

MRSA (Meticillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus) is a nasty bacterial infection that has been widely reported in the media. It has been in the news for the sometimes fatal infection of people and has been dubbed 'the superbug' and 'flesh eating bacteria'. MRSA can also occur in pets; however, dogs more commonly can be infected with a different, although similar infection: MRSI (meticillin resistant Staphylococcus intermedius) or MRSP (meticillin resistant Staphylococcus pseudointermedius).

Read Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections
Homeless dog

Distemper disease

Distemper is a serious viral infection, most often seen in dogs less than one year old. Highly effective vaccines have ensured that distemper is rarely seen in vaccinated pet dogs. It is still a problem in the UK in unvaccinated pets, particularly in urban areas. In other countries the disease is still a big killer of dogs.

Read Distemper disease
Black Labrador puppy in long grass

Ehrlichiosis

Ehrlichiosis is a serious parasitic infection of dogs, transmitted by ticks in warm or tropical regions and occasionally elsewhere. The most serious form of the disease has a long course of many months to years and usually proves fatal. Ehrlichiosis may be seen in dogs in non-tropical countries if the animals have travelled from areas where the parasite is common.

Read Ehrlichiosis
Mosquito

Heartworm disease

This potentially serious parasitic disease can cause heart failure and other complications. In most countries where the disease occurs, preventative treatment is given to pet dogs to ensure they do not become infected.

Read Heartworm disease
Young dog rolling in the grass

Infectious hepatitis

Infectious hepatitis is a serious viral infection, most often seen in dogs less than one year old. It primarily causes damage to the liver. Although dogs with mild disease usually recover, the disease is often fatal in severely affected animals. Recovered animals can shed infection for many months and may be a risk to other dogs. An effective vaccine is available that can protect your dog from the disease.

Read Infectious hepatitis
Dogs in boarding kennels

Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis)

Kennel cough is not a serious disease in most otherwise healthy dogs. However, it is very contagious and will spread rapidly around the dog population. As its name suggests, it causes coughing that can go on for a month in some cases.

Read Kennel cough (acute tracheobronchitis)
Dog with leishmaniosis

Leishmaniosis

Leishmaniosis is a potentially fatal disease of dogs that can also affect other animals including humans. It is spread between animals by sand flies. Unfortunately domesticated dogs harbour the infection and your dog may catch it especially in countries around the Mediterranean, e.g. southern France, Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and the Middle East. Leishmaniosis is not uncommon in the UK because of the number of infected dogs travelling here. However, the sandfly that spreads the parasite between individual dogs, has not been identified in the UK yet.

Read Leishmaniosis
Working Labrador Retriever in water

Leptospirosis

Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection affecting the gastrointestinal tract or liver and kidneys of young dogs. Until recently the disease was uncommon as a result of an effective vaccination programme in the UK. However, we have recently seen development of infections caused by new types of leptospira not covered by the old vaccine.

Read Leptospirosis
Vet examines a puppy

Parvovirus disease in your dog

Parvovirus enteritis is a serious viral infection of the gastrointestinal tract of young dogs. The virus attacks the cells of the gut resulting in vomiting and profuse diarrhoea. Parvovirus also suppresses the immune system and causes a profound decrease in the white blood cell numbers circulating in the blood. The management of parvoviral enteritis includes intravenous fluids and supportive treatment.

Read Parvovirus disease in your dog
Dog foaming at the mouth

Rabies

Rabies is a very serious disease, killing more than 30,000 people around the world each year. There are few reported cases of recovery from confirmed infection. If you plan to take your pet abroad then they will need protection against this deadly disease.

Read Rabies
Ringworm infection on a German Shepherd dog

Ringworm

Ringworm is the common name given to a fungal infection also known as dermatophytosis. Ringworm is not uncommon in dogs and if your dog has skin problems it may have ringworm. The disease is highly contagious and can be passed on to humans so if any signs develop it is important that you seek veterinary advice immediately.

Read Ringworm

Lameness

Old dog

Arthritis

Arthritis is a familiar problem for most vets. A large number of dogs are diagnosed with arthritis. Arthritis simply means an inflammation of joints and animals with arthritis usually suffer with pain and stiffness in their joints. Arthritis is typically a problem in older pets. However, many animals with arthritis will have had signs of disease from an early age if their arthritis is caused by problems with joint development.

Read Arthritis
German Shepherd dog

Back problems (Cauda equina diseases)

Back problems in dogs are not uncommon. Many breeds are affected by disk disease but diseases of the spinal cord itself are also a problem. These diseases are painful and affect a dogs mobility. Medical management may help some dogs, but in severe cases surgery may be needed.

Read Back problems (Cauda equina diseases)
Two puppies laying back to back

Bone problems in young dogs

Puppies continue to grow and develop for months or years after birth. Giant breeds may not reach full adult size for 18 months or 2 years. During this growth period they are at particular risk from bone and joint disorders. Some of these are inherited such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Damage can also result from traumatic injury.

Read Bone problems in young dogs
Labrador dog

BVA/KC elbow dysplasia scoring scheme

Elbow dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club (KC) introduced the elbow dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read BVA/KC elbow dysplasia scoring scheme
X-ray of a dog with hip dysplasia

BVA/KC hip dysplasia scoring scheme

Hip dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club (KC) introduced the hip dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read BVA/KC hip dysplasia scoring scheme
Dog with lame leg due to cruciate ligament rupture

Cruciate ligament rupture (torn knee ligaments)

Cruciate ligament rupture is the famous knee injury of professional footballers. It is surprisingly common in dogs too. If the ligaments are damaged they need to be replaced during an operation on the knee. After the operation most dogs return to full athletic fitness.

Read Cruciate ligament rupture (torn knee ligaments)

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors. The Kennel Club introduced the elbow dysplasia scoring scheme to identify affected dogs at an early stage so that they could be prevented from breeding and passing the condition to their puppies. The scheme has been widely adopted by several breed societies.

Read Elbow dysplasia
Labrador dog

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common and often debilitating joint disease affecting many larger breed (usually pedigree) dogs. Affected dogs have a genetic tendency to develop the disease but the severity of the disease can be influenced by other factors.

Read Hip dysplasia
Young dog jumping

Joint problems in young dogs

Puppies continue to grow and develop for months or years after birth. Giant breeds may not reach full adult size for 18 months or 2 years. During this growth period they are at particular risk from bone and joint disorders. Some of these are inherited such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Damage can also result from traumatic injury.

Read Joint problems in young dogs
X-ray of a dog with a realigned kneecap, showing the use pf pins and wire

Luxating patella

Owners of some dogs may notice that they often 'hop' on one of their back legs carrying the other. This strange behaviour may be caused by an unstable kneecap or 'patella'. Although most common in small breeds of dog any breed of dog can be affected. Most dogs show clinical signs of lameness less than one year of age. The condition can be mild and occasionally can be managed conservatively but the majority of animals will need an operation to correct the problem if they are to have a normal, active life.

Read Luxating patella
Basenji

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a condition that was first described in people in Lyme, Connecticut, USA in the 1970s and discovered in dogs in the 1980s. It is an example of a tick-borne disease (see below) and is one of many diseases that are passed between animals using intermediate hosts or vectors.

Read Lyme disease
Close up of a dog's nose

Myasthenia gravis

Myasthenia gravis (MG) literally means grave (gravis) muscle (my-) weakness (asthenia). It is an unusual cause of generalised weakness in dogs.

Read Myasthenia gravis
Dog with sad eyes

Myositis

If your dog suddenly finds it difficult or painful to take exercise they may have myositis. Myositis is an inflammation of the muscle. It can be a serious and painful condition and may be an early indicator that your pet is ill in some other way. A veterinary examination is important to try to identify a cause of the problem so that appropriate treatment can be given.

Read Myositis
Dog with tongue out

Neuromuscular disorders

Neuromuscular disorders in pets can be very frightening for owners. Apparently healthy animals may collapse at exercise or become paralysed over a period of a few hours for no apparent reason. An accurate diagnosis is important as, with appropriate early treatment, many conditions can be managed such that the animal makes a full recovery over time.

Read Neuromuscular disorders
Vet examines a black Labrador

Pain management

Long term (chronic) pain is as debilitating in animals as it is in people. Constant pain significantly reduces pleasure in life and can lead to sleeplessness and a poor appetite. Simple measures to control even mild pain can result in a happier, healthier pet.

Read Pain management
Vet holding a dog

Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

A slipped disc (also known as intervertebral disc herniation) is the most common cause of paralysis in dogs.

Read Slipped disc (Intervertebral disc herniation)

Neurological disease

Empty medication packaging

Bromide

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from nerve cells in the brain. Bromide suppresses seizure activity by reducing the electrical charge within these cells.

Read Bromide
Dog with tongue out

Epilepsy (seizures)

If your dog has had a fit (convulsion) you will know how frightening it can be. Fits are not uncommon in dogs but many dogs only ever have a single fit. If your dog has had more than one fit it may be that he has epilepsy. Just as in people, there are tablets for dogs which can control the fits and allow your dog to live a long fulfilling life.

Read Epilepsy (seizures)
Labrador dog

Facial paralysis

Facial paralysis is quite common in dogs, particularly in middle to old-age. The term is simply the description of drooping of muscles in the face, which is caused, not by damage to the muscles themselves, but to the nerves supplying them.

Read Facial paralysis
Jack Russell Terrier

Inflammatory CNS disease

Animals with brain disease may show sudden, dramatic signs and become very poorly extremely quickly. In other cases the signs are more vague and it may be some time before your vet gets to the bottom of the problem. Diseases affecting the brain are not limited to brain tumours and include conditions affecting the blood supply (stroke), causing inflammation (meningitis or encephalitis), trauma or malformation of the brain. Many of these diseases can be treated (or at least managed successfully) to give your pet a good quality of life, so it is very important that conditions are investigated and an accurate diagnosis made so that the best treatment can be given.

Read Inflammatory CNS disease
Labrador dog

Ischaemic myelopathy

Back (spinal) problems are common in dogs and some breeds of dog may be particularly at risk of particular types of spinal problem. Affected dogs may have neck or back pain or show a variety of signs including difficulty walking, jumping, using one or more legs or even complete paralysis. These signs may occur suddenly (acute spinal problem) or more progressively (chronic spinal problem).

Many different spinal problems (slipped disc, fractured spine, spinal infection, spinal tumour, ischaemic myelopathy) can cause similar signs. Ischaemic myelopathy is a disease that comes on very suddenly without warning and can be very frightening, however most affected dogs recover. If you suspect your dog might have a spinal problem (especially an acute one) you should make sure your vet checks them over as soon as possible.

Read Ischaemic myelopathy
Close up of a dog's nose

Neuro-diagnostic tests

If your pet is unwell it can be a confusing time trying to make sense of what your vet is doing and why. There are many tests commonly used in veterinary practice that help your vet to work out what is wrong with your pet. This information sheet explains what we are looking for when they perform tests to investigate an animal with a disease affecting the nervous system. Some of these tests can be done in general practice, but others are more difficult to perform or interpret and your pet may need to be referred to a specialist for these.

Read Neuro-diagnostic tests

Neurological examination

A neurological disease is one that affects the brain or the system of nerves running throughout the body. The signs of illness can range from very mild (a weakness in one leg) to very severe (the inability to stand). In order for your vet to investigate the disease they need to know where the problem actually lies.

If your pet has difficulty walking this may be because of a problem with the nerves in its leg, pressure on the nerves in its spine (like a slipped disc) or a problem in the brain. Only by careful examination can your vet identify where the problem is likely to be in order to perform the most appropriate tests.

Read Neurological examination
Spaniel

Paroxystic events

A paroxysm is a sudden uncontrollable attack and in people is often applied to events like a fit of giggles. In animals a paroxystic attack is more serious and describes a disorder that starts suddenly but also resolves quickly. A one-off event like this may be nothing to worry about but if the experience is repeated you should contact your vet immediately for advice. Attacks may occur at home or at exercise and the most important concern initially is to make sure your pet cannot hurt themselves during the attack. There are many causes of these attacks and your vet will need to investigate further in order to find out what is causing the attacks so that appropriate treatment can be given if any exist for this type of attack.

Read Paroxystic events
Tablets

Phenobarbital

Seizures are caused by abnormal electrical discharges from nerve cells in the brain. Phenobarbital suppresses seizure activity by reducing the electrical charge within these cells.

Read Phenobarbital
Pug

Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)

Until recently, it was thought that strokes were very rare in domestic pets. In the last few years, with the advance and increased availability of more specialist tests, strokes are being recognised more often in pets. The thought of your pet suffering a stroke may be frightening - but you should not be alarmed as strokes are often not as debilitating in animals as they are in people. With appropriate care your pet may do very well.

Read Stroke (cerebrovascular accident)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Syringohydromyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS)

Syringohydromyelia, also known as Chiari-type malformation (a reference to the human disease) and caudal occipital malformation syndrome, is a common disease in dogs. Affected dogs develop a cyst-like lesion in their spinal cord and this causes pain, and movement abnormalities. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS) are genetically predisposed to develop this neurological abnormality but it can also be seen in other breeds. The diagnosis of syringohydromyelia can easily be confirmed using MRI which is now readily available for veterinary patients.

Read Syringohydromyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels (CKCS)
Dog laying on grass

Vestibular syndrome

Vestibular syndrome refers to a group of diseases that affect the balance system also known as the vestibular system. Common signs of vestibular syndrome include loss of balance, falling, rolling over, abnormal flickering of the eyes and general wobbliness. The signs of vestibular disease often come on very suddenly and if your pet develops these signs it can be very frightening. Many people mistakenly think that their pet may have suffered a stroke. However, most affected animals recover over a few weeks.

Read Vestibular syndrome
Great Dane puppy in water

Wobbler Syndrome

This condition is encountered most frequently in large and giant breeds of dog, and especially Dobermans. It causes progressive difficulties in movement and an abnormal gait. Investigation and surgical treatment is usually carried out by specialist veterinary orthopaedic surgeons or neurologists.

Read Wobbler Syndrome

Reproductive problems

Pregnant Labrador bitch

Birth control in the bitch

Most responsible dog owners want to prevent unplanned breeding and the production of unwanted puppies. Most forms of birth control prevent the heat cycle of bitches, and so mating and conception does not occur. The cycle can be controlled permanently or temporarily. Pregnancy prevention is also possible after an unplanned mating has occurred.

Read Birth control in the bitch
Golden retriever puppies

Breeding from your dog

A bitch (female dog) can produce 1-2 litters of puppies each year. If you are not intending to let your bitch have puppies then you might consider having her neutered. However, if you do decide to breed from your bitch there are many things to consider to ensure that both mother and puppies are strong and healthy.

Read Breeding from your dog
Puppy showing its tongue

Cryptorchidism (retained testicles)

When a male puppy is in the womb its testicles are drawn up inside the body. After birth the testicles begin a journey from inside the tummy (abdomen) to the scrotum. Both testicles should have descended to the scrotum by six month of age and be easy to palpate. If testicles do not end up in the scrotum by this age they are said to be 'retained'. Retained testicles are a relatively common occurrence in male puppies, particularly in certain breeds. If your puppy has retained testicles we will probably recommend an operation to remove them (castration).

Read Cryptorchidism (retained testicles)
Pregnant bulldog

Eclampsia (puerperal tetany)

Canine eclampsia, also sometimes wrongly called  "milk fever", is a dangerous condition brought on by low levels of calcium in the blood stream. It is also called hypocalcaemia and puerperal tetany and needs emergency veterinary attention.

Read Eclampsia (puerperal tetany)
Retriever with toy in mouth

False pregnancy

Some unneutered female dogs develop changes several months after a season. This is often referred to a 'false pregnancy' or 'pseudopregnancy'. In most animals this is not a serious condition but it can be inconvenient for the owner and disturbing for the animal. Usually the condition resolves without any treatment but if you are not thinking of breeding from your pet then it is worth considering neutering to prevent this condition.

Read False pregnancy
Handling a newborn puppy

Hand-rearing puppies

Fortunately it is very unusual for a mother to be unable to rear her puppies herself. Taking on the task of bringing up a litter of puppies is rightly daunting and it requires considerable dedication for the first 4 weeks. If you are placed in the situation of having to rear puppies by hand you should contact your veterinary practice for advice.

Read Hand-rearing puppies
Small dog

Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)

Pyometra is a common disease in un-neutered female dogs that requires major surgery to cure. Though potentially very serious, many animals respond well to the treatment and can expect to make a full recovery. The best way to protect your female pet against pyometra is to have her neutered.

Read Pyometra ('pyo' or womb infection)
Chihuahua with puppies

Whelping - potential problems

Just like it is for women, giving birth is a completely natural process for bitches. In most cases the delivery will go smoothly and your bitch will manage better without any interference. However, you should keep a watchful eye on proceedings as problems can occur. If your bitch is having problems then early intervention could save her life as well as that of the puppies.

Read Whelping - potential problems

Respiratory problems

Pug

Brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome (BUAOS)

If you are considering buying, or already own, a dog with a short nose such as a Pug, Boston terrier, Pekingese or Bulldog then you need to be aware of the welfare issues surrounding brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome.

Read Brachycephalic upper airway obstruction syndrome (BUAOS)
Yorkshire Terrier

Collapsing trachea

If you have a small dog that coughs every time it gets excited or pulls on its lead it may be suffering from tracheal collapse. Tracheal collapse results in narrowing of the airway and, if left untreated, can progress over time causing severe consequences for your pet. If your dog develops a cough that does not get better after 2 weeks you should make an appointment to see your vet.

Read Collapsing trachea
Poorly dog

Coughing in dogs

It is not uncommon for dogs to cough occasionally. However, if your pet is coughing frequently or has persistent episodes of coughing then you should seek veterinary advice. There are many causes of coughing and many of these can be treated successfully. Some dogs occasionally cough when they get excited or pull on their lead. Many causes of coughing if left untreated, can progress over time causing severe consequences for your pet. If your dog develops a constant cough, an intermittent cough that does not get better after 2 weeks or becomes at all unwell then you should make an appointment to see your vet.

Read Coughing in dogs
Coupage

Coupage for dogs

If you think your pet has a respiratory condition that might benefit from coupage, seek advice as soon as possible from your veterinary surgeon or veterinary physiotherapist.

Read Coupage for dogs
Brittany spaniel

Laryngeal paralysis

Laryngeal paralysis causes respiratory (breathing) noise and exercise intolerance in medium and large breeds of dogs. The disease is very slowly progressive and may start very subtly, so by the time you notice significant breathing noise or inability to exercise it might be quite far progressed. If you notice these changes in your dog you should seek veterinary advice and have a vet check your dog for possible associated problems or diseases.

Read Laryngeal paralysis
The life cycle of parasitic lungworms

Lungworms in dogs (Angiostrongylus)

Referring to Angiostrongylus vasorum as a lungworm is quite misleading. Although the early stages of the parasite do affect the lungs and severely infected dogs may show signs of coughing, other signs are far more common. These lungworms (Angiostrongylus vasorum) are also known as the French heartworm.

This is a parasite where the adult worm infects dogs but the young stages are carried by slugs and snails. The parasite itself may not cause the dog any problems unless present in very large numbers. However, in order to survive in the blood vessels the parasite releases substances which affect the clotting of the host's blood. Thus infected dogs are more prone to bleeding than normal dogs. This bleeding can pose a life-threatening risk to an affected pet. Thus this parasite is can be more dangerous to a dog than the more common worms that live in the intestine and it is very important to take precautions to prevent infection.

This disease used to be confined to dogs living in the South of the country (especially the South East, South West and South Wales). However, in the last ten years the disease has become much more common and has been seen in dogs as far North as Scotland. All dogs in the UK should now be considered potentially at risk.

Read Lungworms in dogs (Angiostrongylus)
The life cycle of parasitic lungworms

Lungworms in dogs (Oslerus osleri)

There are several species of worms that can infect the airways of dogs and these are termed lungworms. One of these, Oslerus osleri (previously known as Filaroides osleri) is a parasitic worm with the adult worms found in the upper airways (trachea). Infection is not common in most of the UK and generally affects dogs in kennels (such as racing greyhounds).

Read Lungworms in dogs (Oslerus osleri)
Sneezing bulldog

Sneezing dogs

All dogs, like people, sneeze sometimes - this is completely normal and should not cause you any concern. However, if your dog cannot stop sneezing, shows signs of distress while sneezing or continues to sneeze intermittently for more than a week you should contact your vet for advice. Sneezing is not a disease in its own right but can be an indicator that something is wrong with your pet.

Read Sneezing dogs

Skin disease

Acral lick granuloma

Acral lick granuloma

Lick granulomas are moist, fleshy pink sores usually on a dog's legs. They are caused by excessive licking at the site and are frequently caused by an underlying disease that needs to be properly diagnosed and treated. If you suspect that your dog has a lick granuloma you should seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Read Acral lick granuloma
German Shepherd dog

Anal furunculosis (perianal fistulas)

Anal furunculosis (also called perianal fistulas) is a distressing condition commonly affecting German Shepherd dogs and occasionally other breeds. The problem is one of chronic deep infection, inflammation, discharges and ulceration around the tail base and anus. The condition may progress to involve a large area around the back end of the dog. It can be very difficult to cure or control but recent advances in treatments are proving encouraging.

Read Anal furunculosis (perianal fistulas)
Corgi wearing a protective collar after a veterinary procedure

Atopy

Living with an itchy dog is no fun - but being an itchy dog must be worse! Atopy affects around 1 in 10 dogs to some degree. In dogs the condition can cause a variety of signs: skin disease, runny nose, itchy eyes and (very rarely) asthma. If your dog persists in licking its feet or has recurrent ear or skin infections, it may have atopy. As a general rule itchy skins do not resolve without treatment; so if your dog is scratching an early visit to your vet is advisable. Itchiness is not normal, nor is it a habit.

Read Atopy
St Bernard dog

Hot spots (wet eczema, pyotraumatic dermatitis)

Sometimes dogs develop a sore spot on the skin which oozes and irritates. Often this develops over the space of just a few hours. The critical step in managing these spots is to stop the dog worrying them but veterinary attention should be sought to ensure there is no underlying condition that needs treatment. In most cases early treatment results in a rapid resolution of signs.

Read Hot spots (wet eczema, pyotraumatic dermatitis)
A West Highland white terrier with deep pyoderma

Skin fold pyoderma

Pyoderma means bacterial infection within the skin. Usually this occurs within the top layers of the skin (superficial pyoderma), and is a common medical problem in dogs. Deep pyoderma, when infection penetrates further into the skin, is much more serious and may take months of intensive treatment to cure.

Read Skin fold pyoderma
Boxer dog

'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Cheyletiella infection is a form of mange that is also known as rabbit mites and walking dandruff. This is an itchy skin condition caused by small parasites living on the skin surface. The mites can be found on many animals including dogs, cats and rabbits and can be transmitted from pets to people. Early recognition is important as the condition can be simply treated.

Read 'Walking dandruff' (Cheyletiellosis)

Travel

Dogs in boarding kennels

Choosing a boarding kennel

It would probably be less traumatic for most dogs to be looked after by an experienced and reliable 'pet sitter'. Pet sitters are individuals who come to your home and stay there when you are away. They look after your dog in his or her normal environment. The majority of dog owners, however, have to rely on boarding kennels. Pet sitters are more expensive and some people may have concerns about relative strangers in their home. Taking care when choosing a boarding kennel can minimise stress for your dog, ensuring that they return home fit, healthy and happy.

Read Choosing a boarding kennel
Dog by the sea

Disease risks when travelling to continental Europe

An increasing number of owners are taking their pets with them on holiday when they travel to continental Europe. This factsheet provides information on the more important novel diseases that your dog may come into contact with abroad.

Read Disease risks when travelling to continental Europe
Pet passport

Pet passports

Pet passports are part of the European Union (EU) Regulation on the movement of pet animals. Certain non-EU listed countries may also issue a passport. Dogs travelling on Pet Passports must be treated against tapeworms before entering the UK from most countries. The treatment will be recorded in the passport.  

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Dalmatian poses in a suitcase

Taking your pet abroad

The Pet Travel Scheme (PETS) allows for limited movement of pets between the UK and some European countries under controlled conditions.

Read Taking your pet abroad
Dog and owner enjoying a coastal view

Travelling with your dog

For most family dogs travelling is an exciting and often enjoyable experience. Dogs like to be included in whatever their family is doing and quickly learn that a car journey often leads to a walk. Unfortunately a few dogs find travelling very stressful because they feel frightened or travel sick. When taking any pet on longer journeys it is important that you are properly prepared.

Read Travelling with your dog
Dog at home

Travelling: leaving your pet behind

International travel is becoming increasingly common for pets and the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which even allows limited movement of pets through Europe and the UK, is now fully operational. However, many pet owners still prefer to leave their pets behind when they go away.

Read Travelling: leaving your pet behind

Veterinary procedures

Endoscope

Endoscopy - the inside story

Sometimes it can be really helpful to look inside an animal to see what is going on. There are many ways of examining the insides of an animal: blood tests, imaging techniques (like X-ray and ultrasound) and sometimes it is necessary to operate to find out what is going on. Endoscopy is an alternative to some forms of surgery. Endoscopy is increasingly being performed in general practice and your vet may suggest it for your pet if it has a breathing problem or bowel trouble.

Read Endoscopy - the inside story
Urine sample

Samples and tests - how they help your vet

Laboratory tests are used by vets to help them diagnose disease in animals that are ill. Increasingly, they are also used as part of a routine health check to detect hidden disease before the development of obvious symptoms. This allows your dog to be treated earlier and more effectively. A very important use is to test that your dog's kidneys and liver are working properly before a surgical operation.

Read Samples and tests - how they help your vet
MR scanner

Scanning - the inside picture

The term 'scan' is often used to describe the method of obtaining an image of the inside of the body. This may be done with ultrasound (details of which can be found in a separate factsheet), which is often available in veterinary practices and may be performed at your vet's surgery. Recently, more specialised scans (MRI and CAT scans) have become widely available for pets - however it is likely that your pet would need to travel to a specialist centre for one of these scans.

Read Scanning - the inside picture
Vet reviews x-ray

X-rays and ultrasound

Veterinary medicine has made many advances in the last 10 years and many local veterinary practices are now able to perform x-ray and ultrasound examinations.

Read X-rays and ultrasound