Educational Articles

Dogs + Medical Conditions

  • The word ataxia means incoordination within the nervous system. There are several different forms of ataxia, depending upon where in the nervous system the abnormality occurs. The most common sign of ataxia, regardless of the cause, is an abnormal gait in which the dog is very unsteady on his feet. Treatment of ataxia will be influenced by the root cause. Pain management, supportive care, and creating a safe environment (e.g., preventing access to stairs) are cornerstones of ataxia treatment.

  • Atlantoaxial (AA) luxation is a condition in which instability, or excessive movement, is present between the first two vertebrae within the neck. This spinal disorder is most commonly seen in young, small breed dogs, such as Toy Poodles, Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas. Less commonly, however, large breed dogs and even cats can be affected.

  • Atrial fibrillation describes very rapid contractions or twitching of the heart muscle, specifically in the atria. Most of the time, atrial fibrillation in dogs occurs secondary to heart disease. In some large breed dogs, atrial fibrillation occurs as a primary heart problem. Most dogs who develop atrial fibrillation have underlying heart disease, so the signs that are observed are related to that disease and may include exercise intolerance, cough, or difficulty breathing. Treatment varies depending on whether the dog has primary or secondary atrial fibrillation. Your dog will need to be monitored on a regular basis.

  • Atrioventricular (AV) valve dysplasia describes a developmental malformation of the mitral or tricuspid valve. Bull Terriers, Newfoundlands, Great Danes, Golden Retrievers, Mastiffs, Rottweilers and Dalmatians are recognized to be susceptible to develop mitral valve dysplasia. Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Dogue de Bordeaux, Great Pyrenees, and Old English Sheepdogs are recognized as susceptible to tricuspid valve dysplasia. Exercise intolerance, accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, weight loss, and stunted growth may be seen. Difficulty breathing or collapse may occur if congestive heart failure develops. Treatment of AV valve dysplasia is focused on managing signs of congestive heart failure, generally using medications. Activity may need to be restricted based on your dog’s exercise tolerance and nutritional modification may be recommended.

  • AIHA or IMHA is a life-threatening condition which may occur as a primary condition or secondary to another disease. Most dogs with AIHA have severe anemia, their gums will be very pale, they will be listless and tire more easily, be anorexic and will have increased heart and respiration rates. Diagnosis involves CBC, biochemical profiles, urinalysis, and X-rays or ultrasound of the abdomen and chest. Treatment may involve blood transfusions and other medications over a prolonged course of time. The prognosis may be better if an underlying cause can be identified.

  • The body has an immune system that protects from foreign invaders that can cause disease and infection, however, if with an autoimmune disease, the immune system attacks itself by mistake, causing illness.

  • Bacterial pneumonia is an inflammation of the lung usually caused by bacterial or viral infection but can be caused by inhalation of an irritant. Typical signs of bacterial pneumonia include fever, difficulty breathing, lethargy and coughing. As these can also be caused by other disease, diagnostics include a full physical exam, blood work, radiographs, and may also require bronchoscopy with sample collection for cytology and bacterial culture and sensitivity. Treatment includes the use of one or more antibiotics that ideally would be selected using the results of a culture. Affected dogs may also require hospitalization and supportive care including intravenous fluids. Prognosis is good to guarded depending on the presence of predisposing factors.

  • Bandages or splints may be necessary at times if your dog has a wound or a broken bone. Bandages can be applied to the head, neck, chest, tail, or lower legs of a dog. Splints are usually applied below the knee on the back leg or below the midpoint of the humerus on the front leg. Home care is very important and you will need to monitor for changes closely. Your veterinarian will give you more specific directions for the length of time that your dog has to be bandaged.

  • Baylisascaris procyonis, also known as the raccoon roundworm, is a parasite found in the intestinal tract of many raccoons. In some cases, this parasite may also spread to dogs and cats.

  • Bite wounds are a common injury veterinarians see. If left alone, wounds have the potential to become more complicated, as they are likely infected and delaying treatment only makes it worse. Antibiotics, pain medications, and stitches may all be involved in the post-bite wound care.