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Gastroenteritis in Dogs: Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment Options

Doggie diarrhea is nobody's idea of a good time. Knowing how to recognize gastroenteritis will help you get your dog treated for this icky digestive problem ASAP.


By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM 

March 21, 2022


Our dogs love us unconditionally. And while we love them right back, it can be tough to deal with a pooch whose digestive system is on the fritz.


Gastroenteritis in dogs is a common condition that is challenging to manage and can make dogs feel icky. If left untreated, gastroenteritis can progress to a life-threatening condition called Acute Hemorrhagic Diarrhea Syndrome (AHDS), formerly known as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis.

There's a lot to talk about with gastroenteritis, so let's dive right in so that you can learn all you need to know to make your pup's tummy feel better.

What is Gastroenteritis?

Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It is categorized as either acute or chronic. Acute gastroenteritis occurs suddenly, while chronic gastroenteritis can take weeks or even months to develop.

Symptoms of Gastroenteritis in Dogs

Gastroenteritis in dogs has many symptoms, but diarrhea is the main one. We'll focus on that first.

When dogs have gastroenteritis, their poop will change in consistency over time. The poop will be soft and wet initially, then become increasingly watery, possibly with mucus. Dogs may also strain to poop and have bathroom accidents in the house.

The diarrhea is often frequent, in large amounts, and may be explosive. Sometimes, the diarrhea will be bloody. Bloody diarrhea is a medical emergency that warrants an immediate trip to the emergency hospital.

Dogs with gastroenteritis may also vomit occasionally, especially after eating a meal. The vomit may be yellow from bile that is produced in the liver. As with diarrhea, bloody vomit is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.


Other symptoms of gastroenteritis in dogs are listed below:

  • Fever

  • Nausea

  • Listlessness

  • Lethargy

  • Appetite loss

  • Dehydration

  • Tender hind end

  • Tender abdomen, with reluctance to be touched or picked up by the belly

  • Weight loss (common with chronic gastroenteritis)


Dehydration is especially concerning in puppies and older dogs, who can become quickly dehydrated because of diarrhea-associated fluid loss.

Surprisingly, some dogs with gastroenteritis can appear just fine, aside from diarrhea. Don't be fooled, though. Gastroenteritis needs prompt diagnosis and treatment.

Because gastroenteritis can progress to AHDS, it's good to know the symptoms of AHDS:

  • Sudden onset of bloody, watery diarrhea

  • Bloody vomit

  • Lethargy


AHDS requires immediate emergency veterinary care.

What Causes Gastroenteritis in Dogs?

A dog's digestive system has a microbiome, a collection of all microorganisms in the gut which helps with digestion. Anything that disrupts the normal gut microbiome can cause gastroenteritis.

The list of causes of gastroenteritis is long:


It is not uncommon for the cause of a dog's gastroenteritis to remain unknown.

Diagnosing Gastroenteritis in Dogs

If your dog has symptoms of gastroenteritis, don't delay in making an appointment with your veterinarian. And remember—if your dog has bloody diarrhea or vomit, take them to the emergency veterinary clinic right away.

Gastroenteritis is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that other diseases that could be causing your dog's symptoms need to be ruled out first. Excluding other diseases takes a lot of detective work by you and your vet.

With so many potential causes of gastroenteritis, your veterinarian will ask you numerous questions, such as those listed below:

  • What has your dog eaten in the past 48 hours?

  • Has your dog eaten anything unusual or spoiled recently?

  • When did the diarrhea start, and what has it looked like? Is your dog also vomiting?

  • Does your dog have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes?


Your veterinarian will also examine your dog from head to toe, paying close attention to your pup's abdomen and checking for signs of dehydration.

Next, your veterinarian will run several diagnostic tests to get a better idea of what's going on. These may include:

  • Blood work

  • Urinalysis

  • Fecal exam (to check for intestinal parasites)

  • Abdominal X-ray

  • Abdominal ultrasound


Treatment for Gastroenteritis in Dogs


The main treatment goals for gastroenteritis are to stop the diarrhea and vomiting, restore hydration, and restore the proper balance of electrolytes (e.g., sodium, potassium). Various medications are available to address these treatment goals:

  • Antibiotics, such as metronidazole

  • Anti-nausea and vomiting medications

  • Anti-diarrheal medications

  • Medications to prevent stomach ulcers

  • Probiotics to restore your dog's healthy gut microbiome


Gastroenteritis can be treated at home. However, severe cases of gastroenteritis require in-hospital treatment, including intravenous fluid therapy.

Proper nutrition is critical when treating gastroenteritis in dogs. Your veterinarian will likely recommend withholding food from your dog for up to 48 hours to rest his digestive system. If your dog is no longer vomiting, you can then start feeding him a bland diet in small, frequent amounts. A bland diet for dogs with gastroenteritis includes food like unseasoned, boiled chicken.

Rehydration options include adding an electrolyte supplement to your dog's water or giving your dog Gatorade or Pedialyte. Your veterinarian can recommend which rehydration option would be best for your dog.


Regarding recovery time, acute gastroenteritis often resolves quickly, but chronic gastroenteritis takes longer to treat.


Treatment for AHDS is aggressive. Unfortunately, AHDS is so severe that dogs can still succumb to the disease despite the aggressive treatment.

Gastroenteritis is a common disease in dogs that can be challenging to diagnose and treat. If your dog is showing any signs of gastroenteritis, make an appointment with your veterinarian so that your dog's tummy health can get back on track as soon as possible.

Dog Diabetes

Could Your Dog Have Diabetes?

Canine diabetes is one of the most common endocrine diseases affecting older dogs. Know the signs so you can seek veterinary treatment right away.


By Katie Boyce   Updated December 06, 2022


Canine diabetes is a serious disease and one that's on the rise. Melanie Puchot, DVM, DACVIM, and board-certified veterinary internal medicine specialist at NorthStar VETS Veterinary, Emergency, Trauma, and Specialty Center explains everything you need to know about this metabolic disease, from the causes and symptoms to dog diabetes risk factors and treatment options. 


What Is Canine Diabetes?


Like their human counterparts, dogs get diabetes when their bodies no longer produce or process insulin at a normal rate. Insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas, is responsible for the regulation of glucose absorption and blood sugar levels. 


In other words: glucose creates fuel for the body, and insulin is the delivery system that transports it. Without insulin, glucose cannot reach cells within the body. This triggers the body to produce more glucose, which then builds up in the bloodstream and causes health issues.


Also similar to humans, there are different types of diabetes in dogs. According to Puchot, however, one is much more common than the other. "Diabetes mellitus in dogs is most closely associated with Type I diabetes in people. This means that the pancreas has damage and fails to produce insulin. There are rare times when it is similar to Type II diabetes, meaning it is secondary to drugs or severe inflammation," she explains. In this second type, the dog's body produces insulin, but the body doesn't use it as it should.


Either way, it's a serious health concern. A dog with diabetes requires prompt veterinary treatment, so it's important to know the signs and seek help right away.

Common Signs of Diabetes in Dogs

If you're wondering if your dog could have diabetes, there are many symptoms to look out for. Some early signs of dog diabetes include:



These are the most typical symptoms, but there may be others. "Less commonly, we will see changes such as neurologic weakness with a change in their gait," Puchot explains.


These symptoms can often overlap with other endocrine diseases in canines. For instance, Cushing's disease and diabetes in dogs can present similarly but with some key differences. For example, while not a typical symptom of dog diabetes, panting is a common early sign of Cushing's disease.


If your dog isn't quite acting herself, it's important to schedule a visit with your vet to diagnose the underlying issue and begin proper treatment.

Causes of Canine Diabetes

The exact frequency of diabetes in dogs is not known, but research shows it's a rising trend. Banfield Pet Hospital's annual State of Pet Health Report surveyed 2.5 million dogs in their 2016 report, which analyzed 10-year trends of common diseases, and found that cases of canine diabetes increased by nearly 80 percent since 2006. It's also estimated that one in every 300 dogs will develop diabetes in their lifetime.  


While veterinarians aren't completely sure what causes diabetes, it's common enough to identify some common risk factors, including:


  • Age: Most dogs diagnosed with diabetes are middle-aged, approximately between six and nine years old (though the exact definition of "middle age" can depend on breed).


  • Sex: Female dogs are more likely to get diabetes than their male counterparts. However, males (particularly neutered males) are prone to diabetes, too.



  • Obesity: Just like with humans, excess body weight is a significant risk factor for diabetes.


  • Other medical conditions: Cushing's and diabetes in dogs are closely linked, as are other endocrine conditions such as pancreatitis

To protect your dog's overall health, be sure to make regular appointments with your vet, avoid table scraps and sugary sweets, and ensure your pup gets the exercise she needs.

Diabetes Complications in Dogs

If not properly managed, diabetes can cause serious health issues. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is often caused by an overdose of insulin. Low blood sugar levels can cause brain damage and other life-threatening complications, so it's important to monitor your dog's blood sugar regularly.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia in dogs include:

  • Trembling or shaking

  • Heart palpitations

  • Loss of coordination or consciousness

  • Acting disoriented or confused

  • Sudden weakness or fatigue

  • Nervousness or sudden agitation

  • Seizures

If your diabetic dog is experiencing any of these symptoms, get her to the vet right away as it may be an emergency.


Another common complication of dog diabetes is cataracts, which can cause blindness quickly, often before pet owners even realize their dog has diabetes. In fact, as many as 75 percent of dogs with diabetes develop cataracts, and 75 percent of those dogs will lose vision within a year if left untreated. If your dog's eyes suddenly appear cloudy or have a blue-ish gray tint over the pupil, contact your vet for diagnosis and treatment options.


Finally, a serious complication of diabetes in dogs is diabetic ketoacidosis. When the body can't access glucose due to diabetes, it begins to break down fat stores as a way to fuel the body's cells. However, this creates "ketones," a poisonous byproduct that can quickly result in serious health complications.


In fact, ketoacidosis is sometimes part of the final stages of dog diabetes. "Advanced stages of diabetes will lead to profound weight loss and specifically muscle mass loss. They can become very weak as well from muscular and neurologic changes. Finally, they will develop the diabetic ketoacidosis complication which will lead to vomitingdiarrhea, lethargy, and decreased appetite," Puchot explains. These symptoms, along with tremors or seizures and abnormal breathing patterns, could be signs your dog with diabetes is dying.


If you see any of these signs in your dog, seek emergency veterinary treatment immediately.

Is It Possible to Treat Diabetes in Dogs? 


There's no cure for diabetes. Still, your veterinarian can prescribe a treatment plan to help manage the disease. Dogs with diabetes mellitus typically require two injections of insulin every day to stabilize their blood sugar levels. A dog diabetes diet plan is also a key part of treatment, as consistent feedings help keep blood sugar levels predictable and maintain a healthy weight.

It's important to work closely with your vet to tweak your dog's treatment plans. Consistency is key, and while a missed dose of insulin might be tolerated by the body, it's very important to administer injections regularly. Diet and exercise are key components of a healthy life for a diabetic dog, but they aren't enough on their own. Attempts at treating dog diabetes without insulin are not recommended and are potentially life-threatening.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Diabetes? 

"Without insulin therapy or treatment for diabetes mellitus, dogs can develop life-threatening complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis, which can lead to multi-organ failure," Puchot explains. "This can happen quickly and is seen within one to two months after development of diabetes." So if your dog is showing any symptoms, it's important to schedule a dog diabetes test with your vet right away.


But diabetes doesn't have to hold your pup back. In fact, dog diabetes life expectancy stats are encouraging. "When properly treated and monitored, dogs can do excellent with diabetes mellitus, have a full life, and normal life expectancy," Puchot says.


While there's no surefire formula to safeguard your dog from a diabetes diagnosis, there are plenty of ways to give your pup a full, happy, life. Feed her recommended servings of wholesome food, establish regular exercise routines, and schedule a visit with your vet to ensure she's healthy and up-to-date on all vaccinations.

Dogs Seasonal Allergies

Can Dogs Have Seasonal Allergies?


The most common allergens for dogs fall into three general categories: 


  • Environmental (also known as Atopy). This often includes the same things that make humans sniffle and sneeze that your dog inhales, such as plant pollens, mold spores, dust mites—and even cats


  • External parasites. Uncontrolled fleas can pose a big problem. However, some dogs might also be overly sensitive to ticks and ear mites


  • Food. Yes, your fur baby can be allergic to certain foods, including gluten, soy, dairy, and various proteins.


'Seasonal' allergies in dogs can be somewhat misleading, as some pets might be affected by environmental irritants all year long. Because plants vary by season and environment, symptom severity is often seasonal in nature. A change of geographical location can sometimes exhibit or resolve allergic reactions. This allergic response is known as canine atopic dermatitis or atopy skin disease.


Most dogs that suffer from atopy begin to show signs in young adulthood, typically between 1–3 years old, but this varies depending on the dog.


This disease is thought to be hereditary and thus, purebred dogs are commonly affected, although it's important to note that any dog, including mixed breed dogs, can suffer from atopic skin disease.


Breeds such as various types of retrieversterriers (particularly West Highland terriers), and bulldogs are more prone to environmental allergens.

Dog Seasonal Allergy Symptoms


Signs of allergies in dogs differ from those in humans.  A dog's seasonal allergy symptoms frequently appear around the ears, underarms, front legs, and feet. You might notice signs of atopic dermatitis such as:



If your dog is scratching, head shaking, rubbing, or licking excessively, they're uncomfortable, and it's time to take them to your veterinarian. These behaviors can cause or aggravate secondary ear and skin infections by further damaging the skin's protective barriers. So, the sooner the better!


How to Help Dogs with Seasonal Allergies


If your fur baby is having chronic bouts of scratching, itching, paw licking, ear and or skin infections you may want to have an allergy test done. You can talk to your vet about it and what steps to take after your get the results back. The tests will tell you what foods and environmental elements your pooch is allergic to or are sensitive to.

The best home remedy for easing discomfort and maintaining a healthy skin barrier is to bathe your dog with a gentle veterinarian-approved shampoo. There are some on the market that don't strip away their natural oils (which causes more dry skin and itching!) and often contain Omega–3 fatty acid supplements for healthy coats. Ask your vet for product recommendations — for both your dog's health and to get the most value for your money. "There are a lot of gimmicky products which may not only be ineffective but also worsen your dog's condition, so watch out!"


You can give your dog Benadryl or some other type of over-the-counter allergy medicine but consult your veterinarian first to make sure it's ok and what the dosage should be.


Some Tips That Should Help Ease Your Pup's Discomfort


Like us, dogs who are atopic can react to numerous things. For example, if you've heard of hay fever in dogs, this is technically a pollen allergy or seasonal allergic rhinitis. It's actually a response to various types of fine pollen grains released by trees, grasses, and weeds to fertilize within their species.


But remember, environmental allergens such as dust mites and mold spores (and possibly the cat!) can also cause an allergic reaction for your dog. So after allergy testing, your vet will provide some additional tips for minimizing the effects of their specific irritant, such as:


  1. Wipe off their paws and coat after being outside with clean, wet cloths.

  2. Don't spend a lot of time outdoors when the pollen count is high (this varies by area and season).

  3. Steer clear of areas with diverse vegetation.

  4. Mow the lawn shorter.

  5. Clean bedding once a week in hot water. 

  6. Use a dehumidifier to reduce dampness.

  7. Invest in a quality air purifier

  8. Vacuum often and use wet cleaners on hardwood floors. 

  9. Don't keep your pet in a damp garage or basement.

  10. Provide separate areas for your pooch and kitty to sleep and eat to reduce dander and saliva exposure.

10 Common Dog Health Prblems

10 Common Dog Health Problems

There are a number of reasons for dogs to become sick. Even though taking really good care of your dog can lower the risks of health problems, they can still occur. Regular vet visits can help catch any issues or problems before they get out of control. Know your dog and keep an eye out for any signs of illness. Just like humans, there are many health issues that can affect dogs. Here are the 10 most common health problems:


Skin Problems

There are a variety of skin issues a dog can experience. Itching and scratching are obvious signs of a sking problem. You may also see rashes, redness, dry skin, inflammation, lumps, bumps, skin sores, dandruff, flaky or scaly skin, and hair loss.

There are several reasons a dog may develop skin problems, including allergies, parasites, skin infections, and more. If your dog is constantly scratching or chewing, or if its skin appears abnormal, see your vet before your dog becomes downright miserable.

Ear Diseases

Ear infections often cause dogs to shake their heads and scratch their ears. Approximately 20 percent of dogs suffer from ear infections. It’s particularly common in breeds with floppy ears like cocker spaniels and basset hounds. It’s common to see wax buildup or debris in their ear canal and there can be a bad odor. Others may experience pain, itchiness, redness, swelling, and crusting in the ears. If left untreated, it can cause serious damage. If your dog is exhibiting signs of an ear infection for more than a day or two, go to your vet. Ear infections sometimes accompany skin issues. In addition, they may be related to allergies.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary issues are common in dogs. Simply known as UTI, this condition can make it uncomfortable for your beloved companion to pass urine. Signs of UTI include inappropriate urination, frequent urination, increased thirst, bloody urine, and lethargy.

It's frustrating to deal with a dog who is peeing in the house. Many owners chalk it up to behavioral issues or lack of training. However, your dog may have a urinary tract infection, especially if it is a puppy or has other underlying medical conditions. These symptoms can also be associated with other medical conditions, such as kidney disease and diabetes, so if this sounds familiar, bring your dog to the vet so the urine can be checked.


There are many reasons for a dog to throw up. It is not necessary to rush your dog to the vet each time, but at the same time, it is not something you should ignore. If your pup keeps vomiting or if there are other symptoms such as diarrhea, lack of appetite, or lethargy you should see the vet right away. It could be a sign of toxicity, gastrointestinal blockage, or other serious diseases.


The potential causes of diarrhea are similar to those of vomiting. Diarrhea may occur on its own or be accompanied by vomiting. One or two episodes of diarrhea may not be a pet emergency, however, recurring diarrhea can lead to dehydration. See your vet if diarrhea persists, appears black or bloody, or if it accompanies vomiting and/or lethargy.



It is inevitable that your dog will have to deal with some sort of parasite. They may be external parasites, like fleas and ticks, or internal parasites like heartworms and intestinal worms. Symptoms of parasites generally vary, depending on a few factors. These include the kind of parasite that has plagued your pet, where it lives, and how severe its infestation is. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent parasites from attacking your dog, usually with monthly preventive treatments. Educate yourself about canine parasites so you can protect your dog.

Dental Issues


Similar to humans, dogs can develop canine dental disease due to high levels of plaque buildup. This is a serious and often overlooked health concern for dogs.

Several signs indicate that your pet may have dental disease. These include difficulty eating, bleeding of the gums or teeth, loose teeth, and bad breath. Plaque and tartar in your dog's mouth harbor dangerous bacteria, causing damage to the teeth and gums.


Even worse, the bacteria can enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to damage to the heart and kidneys.6 The key to protecting your dog is prevention.


Obesity is a common health problem seen in dogs. It's also one of the most preventable.

There are several contributing factors: age, genetic predisposition, lack of exercise, and overfeeding.

Obesity can lead to serious health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and orthopedic problems. Again, obesity can be prevented (and can usually be reversed) through proper diet and exercise.


Arthritis is defined as inflammation of a joint or multiple joints in the body. This joint problem can restrict your dog’s mobility. In dogs, the most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, also called Degenerative Joint Disease.  Osteoarthritis most often occurs in seniors, though it may also be an effect of old injuries or congenital disorders like hip dysplasia. The good news is that it can typically be managed. If you see your dog slow down or limp before and after walks bring them to the vet to get checked out. Other signs include licking or chewing on tender areas and behavioral changes.


Dogs are curious and food-driven. They tend to get into a lot of things that they shouldn't! Toxins come in many different forms and are often (but not always) ingested. Plants, medications, household items, cleaning products, and even some foods can poison your dog.  Some of the most common poisonous human foods are chocolates, grapes, raisins, onions, and caffeine. Signs of poisoning vary widely and depend on the type of toxin your pet was exposed to.

The signs can range from vomiting to drooling, breathing difficulties, seizures, or worse, coma.  


Find out what dangers may exist in your dog's environment.

If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately!

Dogs Asthma?

Can Dogs Have Asthmas?

How To Treat Your Pup's Breathing Problems


By Austin Cannon       Medically Reviewed by Deb M. Eldredge, DVM          Updated July 27, 2022


Your veterinarian will need to diagnose it before treatment can start.


We humans with asthma can have a tough time without our inhalers. But what about our furry friends? Can dogs have asthma? Do they have inhalers, too? 

Yes and yes, according to Lori Bierbrier, DVM and ASPCA Community Medicine's senior medical director. Asthma in dogs is usually caused by allergies, she says, but it's still not very common—and you'll want to make sure your pup isn't wheezing because of another breathing condition. 

If you're worried that your dog might have asthma, here's what you should know. 


Can Dogs Have Asthma?


It's uncommon, but yes. Of course, you'll need your veterinarian to determine if your dog has asthma. There are several conditions that can cause breathing problems in dogs—like kennel cough or even heart disease—so asthma might not be the culprit. 

And remember: Brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, like English bulldogsFrench bulldogs, and pugs, often have trouble breathing, Bierbrier says. But that's likely because of their anatomy rather than an affliction like asthma. 


Signs and Symptoms of Asthma in Dogs


This is a serious illness, Bierbrier says, adding that there are several signs of asthma attacks in dogs, including:


If your dog starts exhibiting these signs, contact your veterinarian immediately. If they're unavailable, you may need to call or visit an emergency vet's office.

At the vet's office, the vet and vet techs will examine your dog and run some tests to check her respiratory system, Bierbrier says. Your dog will likely undergo an X-ray as well to determine if there's an infection anywhere in her chest.  


Here's What Might Be Causing Your Dog's Asthma


Bierbrier says canine asthma is typically the result of your dog reacting to something she's allergic to. Some allergens may cause your dog to itch, but the ones that cause asthma attacks are airborne—pollen, dust mites, cigarette smoke, perfumes, and air fresheners. 

You'll need your veterinarian to determine if your dog's asthma—or other health concerns—are caused by allergies. Thankfully, there are several ways you can test your dog for allergies. Just consult your veterinarian on the best way to do it for your pup.    


How To Treat Asthma in Dogs


If your pup does indeed have asthma, you'll need to consult your vet on how to best treat her. They might prescribe medicine for your dog through an inhaler. In fact, some of it is the same medication we human asthmatics use. (My brand of inhaler is even a dog-friendly option. Solidarity!)  

"Inhalers with prescription medication can be fitted to a mask and used to relax the airways and make it easier to breathe," Bierbrier says. 

You'll need a veterinarian's blessing before you go the inhaler route, and they'll likely be able to train you and your dog how to use the medicine and mask.  

And while the medicine can help fight off your dog's symptoms, you can also take preventative measures to keep your pup feeling good. 

First, if it's hot and humid outside, stop your dog from exercising or exerting herself. (Even if your dog doesn't have asthma, you should still be aware when it's too hot outside for your dog.) You can also keep your house free of the allergens that could cause your dog's asthma to flare up, Bierbrier says. That includes: 

  • Vacuuming regularly

  • Cleaning pet beds

  • Installing an air purifier

  • Smoking outside the house

  • Lessening the use of fragrances, perfumes, and air fresheners 


If you follow that plan, you'll likely relieve some of your dog's—and your own—asthma symptoms. 

cause staph infections

What Causes Staph Infections in Dogs?


By Sarah Mouton Dowdy  Medically Reviewed by Michelle Moyal, DVM May 24, 2022

Article from


Bacteria are a natural part of your dog's body, but they can use cuts, irritation, and illness to go from normal to nasty.


Staph infections in dogs are caused by bacteria. No surprises there. But did you know that bacteria is actually a normal part of your pet's microbiome? The microbiome is a natural combination of bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites that live on or in the bodies of dogs, humans, and other animals. Believe it or not, these microbes are beneficial when they are kept in balance.

All dogs have several species of Staphylococcus bacteria from birth and they likely acquire it from their moms and their environment, says Amelia White, DVM, MS, DACVD, Associate Clinical Professor of Dermatology at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine in Auburn, Al. "In healthy dogs," she explains, "this bacteria can typically be found in the mucous membranes (e.g. nose, mouth, genitals). It only becomes a problem for dogs when they become sick or injured."

What Causes Staph Infections in Dogs?

"Staph" (pronounced staff) infections in dogs are caused by an overgrowth of Staphylococcus bacteria. Staphylococcal bacteria on your dog's skin is normal, but staph infections of the skin (also called staphylococcal dermatitis) definitely aren't. The difference between the two comes down to the pet's skin barrier and immune system. When these are compromised, an infection can occur.

"When animals become ill, pathogenic (i.e. disease-causing) bacteria inhabiting the skin can overgrow the 'good' bacteria and lead to infections at various body sites," White explains. "For example, dogs with allergic skin disease have dysbiosis of the microbiome or an imbalance of good and pathogenic bacteria. During an allergy flare, these pathogenic bacteria are found in higher numbers on the skin and are thought to contribute to the inflammation and unhealthy condition of the skin."

This irritation of the skin's barrier, coupled with the scratching, chewing, and licking that tends to accompany allergies in dogs, can allow opportunistic staphylococcal bacteria to penetrate and infect the skin.

In addition to allergies (like flea allergies, food allergies, atopic dermatitis, or seasonal allergies), the Merck Veterinary Manual notes that staph infections can be triggered by:

  •  Skin wounds or burns

  •  Hormone issues (such as hypothyroidism)

  •  External parasites (such as mange or fleas)

  •  Hair follicle abnormalities (like follicular dysplasia)

  •  Keratinization disorders (such as seborrhea)

  •  Poor grooming

  • Anatomy (such as deep skin folds)


Staph infections can occur in any dog regardless of breed or age, but they are more common in older pets because their immune systems are weaker.

Signs and Symptoms of Staph Infections in Dogs

The signs of staph infections in dogs largely depend on where the infection is located, White says. Bacterial infections of the skin (commonly referred to as pyodermas) can affect both the superficial and deeper layers of the skin, she continues. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, superficial infections typically affect a dog's chest and abdomen. Deeper infections are more commonly found on the muzzle, chin, between the toes, and on pressure points like elbows, knees, and hocks (lower part of hind legs).

Superficial skin infections are the most common skin infections in dogs, says White. Common signs include:

  •  Red, hot, swollen skin

  •  Skin lesions like papules (small, red bumps), pustules (acne), crusts, and erosions

  •  Hair loss

  •  Itchiness


Dogs with deeper infections in the dermal and fat layers of the skin may show these signs:


If you see any of the above signs in your pet, regardless of whether they correspond to superficial or deep infections, it's time to take your dog to the veterinarian.

Diagnosis and Treatment for Staph Infection in Dogs

If you suspect your dog has a staph infection, your veterinarian will need to physically examine your pet and will likely recommend various tests (like a bacterial culture or skin cytology) to get to a diagnosis. Because staph infections are secondary infections, it's crucial to determine the primary cause so it can be treated as well. If the primary cause is not addressed, it is very likely that the staph infection will continue to come back!

According to White, topical antiseptic therapies are safe and effective treatments for staph infections. "This includes the use of medicated shampoos, sprays, wipes, mousses, and creams for several weeks," she explains. "When bacterial infections are in the bloodstream or deeper layers of skin, antibiotics are administered as pills or injections to help treat the infections."

White notes that the treatment regimen required for staph infections can be tricky for pet parents to follow—especially those with busy schedules and dogs who are difficult to medicate—but that it's vital to remain diligent for the sake of antibiotic resistance. "When these medications aren't administered on time or for a long enough duration, antibiotic resistance is more likely to develop," she continues. "Resistant skin infections like methicillin-resistant (MRS), multidrug-resistant (MDRS) Staphylococcus are common in both human and veterinary medicine, and they complicate treatment." It's very important to use all of the medications prescribed by your veterinarian.

Moreover, because staph infections are contagious, White says that an antibiotic-resistant infection in one pet poses a risk to other pets and even people living in the same home (especially if they have suppressed immune systems or open sores). If your pet is diagnosed with an antibiotic-resistant staph infection, your veterinarian will likely suggest extra precautions, such as wearing gloves when handling infected items and regularly disinfecting surfaces with bleach.


Once the staph infection is treated, White says it's important for pet parents to follow up with their veterinarian to make sure the primary cause of infection has been properly diagnosed and managed. "When the primary disease is left untreated," she explains, "the skin infection will return." So, it's best not to assume that your dog's staph infection is gone just because the skin looks better.

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How tokeepyor dog healthy

How To Keep Your Dog Healthy 

By AKC Staff /

June 16, 2019

Your dog will rely on you to keep him in good health. A proper diet, regular exercise and grooming, and routine check-ups at the veterinarian will help keep your dog in top form. It’s also important for you to get to know your dog’s habits — eating, drinking, sleeping, and so forth — since sometimes a variation in those habits can be an indication that he isn’t feeling well.


Ask your veterinarian for advice on healthcare and prevention and be sure to seek medical advice if you think your dog is ill or hurt. AKC Pet Insurance can help with the cost of providing quality healthcare throughout your dog’s life.


Signs of Good Health


Healthy skin is flexible and smooth, without scabs, growths, white flakes, or red areas. It ranges in color from pale pink to brown or black depending on the breed. Spotted skin is normal, whether the dog has a spotted or solid coat. Check your dog for fleas, ticks, lice, or other external parasites. To do this, blow gently on your dog’s stomach or brush hair backward in a few places to see if any small specks scurry away or if ticks are clinging to the skin. Black “dirt” on your dog’s skin or bedding may be a sign of flea droppings.



A healthy coat, whether short or long, is glossy and pliable, without dandruff, bald spots, or excessive oiliness.



Healthy eyes are bright and shiny. Mucus and watery tears are normal but should be minimal and clear. The pink lining of the eyelids should not be inflamed, swollen, or have a yellow discharge. Sometimes you can see your dog’s third eyelid, a light membrane, at the inside corner of an eye. It may slowly come up to cover his eye as he goes to sleep. The whites of your dog’s eyes should not be yellowish. Eyelashes should not rub the eyeball.



The skin inside your dog’s ears should be light pink and clean. There should be some yellow or brownish wax, but a large amount of wax or crust is abnormal. There should be no redness or swelling inside the ear, and your dog shouldn’t scratch his ears or shake his head frequently. Dogs with long ears that hang down may need extra attention to keep the ears dry and clean inside and out.



A dog’s nose is usually cool and moist. It can be black, pink, or self-colored (the same color as the coat), depending on the breed. Nasal discharge should be clear, never yellowish, thick, bubbly, or foul-smelling. A cool, wet nose does not necessarily mean the dog is healthy, and a dry, warm nose doesn’t necessarily mean he’s sick. Taking his temperature is a better indication of illness.


Mouth, Teeth, and Gums

Healthy gums are firm and pink, black, or spotted, just like the dog’s skin. Young dogs have smooth white teeth that tend to darken with age. Puppies have 23 baby teeth and adults have around 42 permanent teeth, depending on the breed. As adult teeth come in, they push baby teeth out of the mouth.


To check your dog’s mouth, talk to him gently, then put your hand over the muzzle and lift up the sides of his mouth. Check that adult teeth are coming in as they should, and not being crowded by baby teeth. Make sure the gums are healthy and the breath is not foul-smelling. Look for soft white matter or hard white, yellow, or brown matter. This is plaque or tartar and should be brushed away.


Mouth infections can lead to serious problems in the gums and other parts of the body, including the heart, so it’s important to give your dog’s teeth and mouth special attention.


A dog’s normal temperature is 101 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (38.3 to 39.2 degrees Celcius). To take your dog’s temperature, you’ll need a rectal thermometer. Put some petroleum jelly on the bulb of the thermometer. Ask someone to hold your dog’s head while you lift his tail and insert the thermometer about an inch or so into the rectum. Do not let go of the thermometer. Hold it in until the temperature is read (about 3 minutes for a mercury thermometer), and then remove gently.


Heartbeat and Pulse

Because dogs come in a wide range of sizes, their heartbeats vary. A normal heart beats from 50 to 130 times a minute in a resting dog. Puppies and small dogs have faster speeds, and large dogs in top condition have slower heartbeats. To check your dog’s heartbeat, place your fingers over the left side of the chest, where you can feel the strongest beat. To check the pulse, which is the same speed as the heartbeat, press gently on the inside of the top of the hind leg. There is an artery there and the skin is thin, so it’s easy to feel the pulse.



Urine is a good indicator of a dog’s health and should be clear and yellow. Most adult dogs have one or two bowel movements a day. Stools should be brown and firm. Runny, watery, or bloody stools, straining, or too much or too little urination warrant a call to the veterinarian.



A healthy dog’s weight is the result of the balance between diet and exercise. If he is getting enough nutritious food and exercise but still seems over-or underweight, he may have a health problem. Don’t let your dog get fat by giving him too many between-meal snacks; obese dogs often develop serious health problems. The best way to tell if your dog is overweight is to feel his rib-cage area. You should be able to feel the ribs below the surface of the skin without much padding.



Regular vaccinations from your veterinarian can keep your dog from getting serious and sometimes fatal illnesses such as distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, leptospirosis, coronavirus, and rabies. Vaccination is also available for kennel cough, a respiratory problem that affects young dogs or dogs exposed to many other dogs.


A puppy’s first vaccines ideally should be given at five or six weeks of age and continue over a period of several weeks, up to sixteen weeks. Afterward, regular booster shots provide the protection your dog will need. Be sure to stick to the schedule your veterinarian gives you to ensure immunity.


When to Call the Vet

You should alert your veterinarian if your dog exhibits any unusual behavior, including the following symptoms:


  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination for more than twelve hours.

  • Fainting.

  • Loss of balance, staggering, falling.

  • Constipation or straining to urinate.

  • Runny eyes or nose.

  • Persistent scratching at eyes or ears.

  • Thick discharge from eyes, ears, nose, or sores.

  • Coughing or sneezing.

  • Difficulty breathing, prolonged panting.

  • Shivering.

  • Whining for no apparent reason.

  • Loss of appetite for 24 hours or more.

  • Weight loss.

  • A dramatic increase in appetite for 24 hours or more.

  • Increased restlessness.

  • Excessive sleeping or unusual lack of activity.

  • Limping, holding, or protecting part of the body.

  • Excessive drinking of water.

  • When the dogs' gums are white.

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