Dog Health FAQ


Question: My 2-year-old dog was just diagnosed with a heart murmur. The Vet doesn’t seem to be concerned. What exactly is a heart murmur and should I be worried?
Answer: A heart murmur is a vibration caused by abnormal blood flow through the heart. These vibrations are heard as “murmurs” when your veterinarian listens to the heart with a stethoscope. The causes of heart murmurs include: Valve disease, heart defects present at birth, anemia, heartworm disease and hyperthyroidism. Therefore, treatment for heart murmurs is based on the cause of the murmur and, if present, the associated clinical signs. There are a lot of pets diagnosed with murmurs that have no clinical signs and never require treatment. So the prognosis, or outcome, depends entirely on the cause of the murmur itself. Ask your vet to discuss your pet’s murmur with you and see if they have determined the exact cause of this murmur. Oftentimes animals with murmurs will need to have ultrasounds of their heart to help diagnose the cause. Your vet can refer you to a board certified cardiologist if this is necessary.


Question: Why does my dog eat her own stool?
Answer: Coprophagy is the ingestion of feces. It is not uncommon in dogs but is rare in cats. Most dogs usually eat dog or cat feces, although other animal feces, if available may be eaten as well. Coprophagy is a normal behavior of lactating female dogs, which usually ingest the feces of their puppies from birth to about 3 weeks of age. There are numerous medical conditions that can cause coprophagy: diabetes, intestinal parasites, hyperthyroidism, and non-specific diet deficiencies are a few. Once a medical condition has been ruled out the current thinking is that many of these dogs have behavioral problems. Therefore, stressful conditions or abrupt changes in the animal’s normal routine should be identified and eliminated. There are also products on the market that you can add to your dog’s diet to deter her from eating her own stool.


Question: How long does it take a puppy to lose all of his puppy teeth?Answer: Generally speaking, most dogs get their full permanent set of teeth between 7 and 9 months of age. Factors that affect the time of eruption include general health and nutritional state, sex, body size and season of birth. Interestingly, teeth of female dogs erupt earlier than males and teeth of large breed dogs and dogs born in the summer also erupt earlier.


Question: How does acupuncture work and is it as effective in animals as it is in people?
Answer: Acupuncture has been used successfully for nearly 5,000 years on animals as well as humans. According to Chinese philosophy, disease is an imbalance of energy in the body. Acupuncture therapy is based on balancing the energy and correcting the flow of energy, thereby healing the patient. Acupuncture works primarily through the central nervous system, affecting musculoskeletal, hormonal and circulatory systems. It has been shown to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and release certain neurotransmitters and endorphins (the body’s “natural painkillers”.) Acupuncture, in small animals, is most commonly used for musculoskeletal problems such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, disc disease and long term injuries. It has also been used successfully in treating allergies, skin problems and certain types of neurological disorders. To determine if it is right for your pet ask your regular veterinarian and/or see a veterinarian licensed to perform acupuncture.


Question: My sister wants to adopt a Pit Bull but I’m worried because I have four kids. Aren’t these aggressive dogs?Answer: Pit Bull Terrier’s aggressiveness is primarily due to the result of encouragement from their owners. These dogs are usually not born aggressive. Any dog’s behavior is determined by genetic makeup, environment and training. Pit Bulls do have a low threshold, which means they can be trained to become aggressive more easily than other breeds of dogs. However, Pit Bulls can be very sweet devoted pets. All animals should be judged on an individual basis and not condemned because of their breed. Have your sister take the dog to a veterinarian right away to not only examine the dog but to also asses his personality and find out if he gets along with humans, dogs and cats. Sometimes this particular breed is trained to be dog aggressive so you should check for this right away.


Question: My 12-year-old Lab seems stiff in the morning. Do dogs get arthritis and how is it treated?
Answer: Older dogs and cats can suffer from arthritis, an inflammation of the joints in the back, hips, shoulders, ankles, wrists and knees. There are different treatments available, but the first thing is to take your dog or cat to your veterinarian and have the affected joints x-rayed. Depending on the results of the x-rays, your vet may prescribe a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin, Rimadyl Etogesic or the new cox-2 inhibitor Deramax. Dosages for animals are different than for people so make sure you check with your vet before giving any medication. If your pet is overweight, the first step would be to get them on a reducing diet combined with exercise. Swimming is great for dogs with arthritis because it allows for full range of motion of the joints but with very little impact and they can actually build muscle. Some experts believe that high concentrations of fish oils and vitamin e can help control arthritis pain and inflammation. Glucosamine HCL, Vitamin C and MSM are also over the counter supplements, which have been shown to help animals with arthritis. But remember to check with your vet before starting anything.


Question: We recently boarded our dog at a facility and he came back with a terrible cough. Our Veterinarian diagnosed kennel cough. What causes this and should we be concerned?
Answer: Kennel cough, or infectious tracheobronchitis, is an upper-respiratory disease that is caused by a combination of a virus (parainfluenza) and a bacterium (bordatella). It is highly contagious and dogs can pick up the disease at pet shows, public parks, kennels, grooming shops or any place where dogs are in close contact. It usually starts as a dry hacking cough, which can be accompanied by sneezing and/or vomiting. It is spread through the air just like the common cold in humans. Most cases clear up with antibiotics and cough suppressants but occasionally, if not properly treated, it can develop into pneumonia. Dogs should be vaccinated once a year to protect against kennel cough. This vaccine is called bordetella and is usually administered into the dog’s nostrils rather than injection. It is painless, effective and usually starts working within 48 hours.


Question: How come every time my dog gets a blood test they always add on a urine test? Is this really necessary and what information does it tell you?
Answer: Your vet is absolutely justified in requesting a urine test when they send out a blood sample. A routine urinalysis can provide very valuable information about the health condition of your dog. If something shows up in the blood sample often times you need to correlate the findings with abnormalities found in the urine. A urinalysis includes not only examining the urine sediment under the microscope, but determining the pH and the specific gravity as well. Measurements of blood, protein, bacteria, casts, glucose, ketones, bilirubin and crystals are also determined. A urinalysis can aid in the diagnoses of diseases such as bladder infections, diabetes, kidney disease, protein loss, liver disease, endocrine disease and even cancer. I can’t tell you how many times a routine urinalysis detects an illness way before the pet start to exhibit clinical signs to their owners. I recommend a urinalysis on cats and dogs once a year until the pets reach seven and then, depending on the pet, I may recommend it twice a year after that. The cost, usually around $25.00, is minimal compared to the wealth of information that a urinalysis will provide. Remember animals tend to mask their signs of illness until the problem becomes too severe. Preventative medicine is the best choice for you and your pet!


Question: Is it okay for me to give my dog chocolate every once in a while?
Answer: Chocolate can be lethal to pets because it contains theobromine, which causes increased heart rate, central nervous stimulation and constriction of arteries. Clinical symptoms range from vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and excitability to cardiac failure, seizures and even death. This can occur as quickly as 4 to 6 hours after ingestion. Baking chocolate contains the highest amount of theobromine with white chocolate containing the least. A potential lethal dose is only one pound of chocolate in a 16-pound dog. So, I would not recommend giving chocolate to your dog. If your pet does get into some you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
Please note, articles in the Animal Resource Library are for reference only, and are not meant to diagnose or treat any medical or behavioral issues your pet may be experiencing.