PCD in Dogs

All About Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia

Primary Ciliary Dyskinesia, or PCD in dogs is a disease of the respiratory tract that occurs in humans, dogs and other species. It is genetically transferred; the mode of inheritance is currently believed to be autosomal recessive. PCD affects the cilia, or hair-like structures, on the lining of the mucus membranes in the nose, trachea and lungs.

Normal cilia move together in a wave-like fashion to move fluids through the system and protect the respiratory tract from inhaled pathogens. In a respiratory tract afflicted with PCD, the cilia are incorrectly formed and can’t move in unison. Consequently, fluids in the respiratory tract collect along with pathogens creating respiratory ailments and infections.


Because the symptoms mirror other more common respiratory ailments, cases of PCD have been misdiagnosed as bronchitis, bronchiectasis, bronchopneumonia and even canine distemper viral infection. Microorganisms that have been isolated from animals with PCD include streptococcus, staphylococcus, pseudomonas and mycoplasma.

In addition to the respiratory tract, PCD can affect other parts of the body:

  • Otitis media which causes infections and inflammation of the ears;
  • Renal fibrosis
  • Hydrocephalus which is a build-up of fluid inside the skull causing brain swelling; and
  • Bone abnormality, including abnormal sternum, vertebrae, and ribs.

 Proper Diagnosis of PCD

PCD usually appears in the neonatal period or prior to two weeks and up to 12 weeks of age in a dog. A majority of puppies affected have a rattling, raspy or snorkeling sound coming from their noses. A breeder may incorrectly believe the amniotic fluid has not been cleared from the puppy’s airway or that it is not nursing properly. Nasal discharge is also a common symptom of PCD.

It is harder to identify an adult dog with the disease. Generally, the adult dog affected with PCD will have repeated bouts of sinus infections, upper respiratory problems and pneumonia. If the dog has repeated chest or nasal infections, PDC should be suspected.

Unfortunately, a firm diagnosis can only be made by examining the cilia with an electron microscope or by a Gama x-ray. Puppies are not physically big enough for samples to be taken until they are about five weeks old. It is, therefore, important for your veterinarian to be familiar with the disease and to rule out other, similar health issues, such as bronchitis, bronchopneumonia and even canine distemper.

Fortunately, treating PCD is similar to treating other respiratory ailments. Also, adjusting the dog’s environment to remove dust, pathogens and other irritants will help your dog to live as comfortably as possible.

PCD usually appears in the neonatal period or prior to two weeks and up to 12 weeks of age in a dog. A majority of puppies affected have a rattling, raspy or snorkeling sound coming from their noses. A breeder may incorrectly believe the amniotic fluid has not been cleared from the puppy’s airway or that it is not nursing properly. Nasal discharge is also a common symptom of PCD.

It is harder to identify an adult dog with the disease. Generally, the adult dog affected with PCD will have repeated bouts of sinus infections, upper respiratory problems and pneumonia. If the dog has repeated chest or nasal infections, PDC should be suspected.

Unfortunately, a firm diagnosis can only be made by examining the cilia with an electron microscope or by a Gama x-ray. Puppies are not physically big enough for samples to be taken until they are about five weeks old. It is, therefore, important for your veterinarian to be familiar with the disease and to rule out other, similar health issues, such as bronchitis, bronchopneumonia and even canine distemper.

Fortunately, treating PCD is similar to treating other respiratory ailments. Also, adjusting the dog’s environment to remove dust, pathogens and other irritants will help your dog to live as comfortably as possible.

Treating the Dog with PCD

The good news is that many Dogs with PCD live happy, healthy and otherwise normal lives. Adjustments in the living environment, diet and exercise will help reduce how often or how severe your Dog’s infections and ailments will be.

Sinus and Ear Infections

Dogs with PCD will present different symptoms, but the typical one is a nasal discharge that is yellow or green, indicating infection. Dogs may also have a clear runny nasal discharge. Changes in thickness or in color may be the first indication that there is an infection. Increased ‘snorkeling’ or a wheezing sound, coughing or reverse sneezing are also signs of an infection.  Please note that your Dog may still be active and playful at the beginning of an infection.

Early treatment of infections is essential. If left untreated, they can become more serious and even progress into pneumonia.  Signs of pneumonia include lethargy, arching of the back, loss of appetite, labored breathing, increased coughing and fever.

The ears can also become infected. It’s important to treat these infections early, as well. Chronic ear infections can lead to loss of hearing. Early diagnosis and therapeutic interventions allow us to try and prevent the possible long-term complications of this condition.

The proper course of antibiotics and length of treatment is critical to insure infections are gone and a relapse is unlikely. Additionally, proper treatment limits the resistance to antibiotics that results from too much use. It is important to have a good relationship with your vet and to have an emergency plan in effect in case your Dog becomes sick over a weekend at night or on a holiday.

The Lungs

The Dog with PCD will have trouble clearing its lungs of mucus and particles from the air, such as dust and pollen, causing him to cough, wheeze, sneeze and potentially develop an infection. There are some techniques you can use on a daily basis that will help your Dog clear his lungs. It is important that dogs with PCD never be given steroids or cough suppressants because coughing is the only way of clearing the lungs and nasal passages.

Steaming or Nebulizing and Coupage

Steaming loosens the mucus in the lungs and coupage aids the dog in coughing it out. Steaming can be done in a small bathroom by running hot water in the shower. You can also use a steamer such as a facial steamer designed for home use found in beauty supply stores and. Holding your dog or putting him in a crate will allow you to direct the steam toward his face. It’s important that you keep the steam at least five inches from the dog’s face so that you do not burn him. After ten minutes of steam, you should use a technique called coupage that uses body positioning and percussion to move drainage from the lungs. It is important you ask your veterinarian to show you the proper way to perform coupage. After two minutes of coupage, exercise will help the Dog to cough out the mucus, keeping his lungs clear and healthy. Playing indoors reduces the risk of the dog being exposed to dust and outdoor allergens. Up to three sessions a day is suggested.

A nebulizer is a device used to administer medication or moisture to people or dogs in forms of a liquid mist to the airways. It can be used in lieu of steam and takes less time. Your veterinarian can suggest the proper nebulizer for your dog. As with steaming, follow nebulizing with coupage and exercise.

A Suggested Daily Routine to Maintain Healthy Lungs

Consult with your veterinarian before using the suggested daily routine listed below.

If your dog is wheezing, coughing or has nasal discharge:

  • Morning:   10 minute Steam, 2 minute Coupage, exercise.
  • Afternoon:  Quick Coupage & Exercise.
  • Evening:  10 minute Steam, 2 minute Coupage, Exercise.

Note that with Coupage, you may NOT get an active cough

1 dose of Metacam to help with inflammation.
2 drops of SinoFresh in each nostril once every 24 to 48 hours

If your dog has PCD but is not experiencing any symptoms of PCD, it is suggested you follow this routine once or twice weekly.

This article and information contained herein are not to be used as a substitute for proper veterinary care.
It is critical that you get a VETERINARY diagnosis of PCD prior to using and discussing the following treatments with your vet.


Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Information About

Progressive Retinal Atrophy/Degeneration

Progressive retinal atrophy or degeneration (PRA or PRD) is the name for several diseases that are progressive and lead to blindness. First recognized at the beginning of the 20th century in Gordon Setters, this inherited condition has been documented in over 100 breeds, and mixed breed animals as well. PRA is not very common in cats.

The eye is a very delicate, yet surprisingly durable organ. It consists of several layers. The cornea is a transparent layer that covers the front of the eye. The iris is the colored part of the eye and it is responsible for letting in more or less light. The lens gathers and ‘bends’ light in order to focus it on the retina. In between the cornea and lens is an area of fluid which bathes the lens and helps it focus. The retina lines the inside of the eye and converts light into signals which travel down the optic nerve to the brain. A large area between the lens and the retina contains a jelly-like fluid called ‘vitreous.’ The vitreous gives the eye its form and shape, provides nutrients, and removes waste products.

What is PRA?

The retina is the structure affected in PRA. This important part of the eye receives the light gathered and focused by the other eye structures. It takes the light and essentially converts it into electrical nerve signals that the brain, via the optic nerve, interprets as vision. The retina contains photoreceptors, called rods and cones, which help the animal see in darkness (rods) and see certain colors (cones).

There are multiple forms of PRA which differ in the age of onset and rate of progression of the disease. Some breeds experience an earlier onset than others; other breeds do not develop PRA until later in life.

Normally, the photoreceptors in the retinas develop after birth to about 8 weeks of age. The retinas of dogs with PRA either have arrested development (retinal dysplasia) or early degeneration of the photoreceptors. Retinal dysplastic dogs are usually affected within two months of birth and may be completely blind by one year. Dogs with retinal degeneration are affected from one year to eight years of age and the symptoms progress slowly.
PRA worsens over time. The affected animal experiences night blindness initially because the rods are affected first. The condition progresses to failed daytime vision.

What are the signs of PRA?

Signs may vary depending on the type of PRA and its rate of progression. PRA is non painful and outward appearance of the eye is often normal, i.e.; no redness, excess tearing, or squinting. Owners may notice a change in personality of their dog such as a reluctance to go down stairs or down a dark hallway. This is characteristic of night blindness, in which vision may appear to improve during the daytime. As the disease progresses, owners can observe a dilation of the pupils and the reflection of light from the back of the eye. If the blindness is progressing slowly, the owner may not notice any signs until the dog is in unfamiliar surroundings and the lack of vision is more apparent. In some animals, the lens of the eyes may become opaque or cloudy.

How is PRA diagnosed?

Depending on the form of PRA, characteristic changes in the retina and other parts of the eye may be observed through an ophthalmic examination by a veterinary opthalmologist. More sophisticated tests such as electroretinography may also be used. Both tests are painless and the animal does not have to be anesthetized. If no abnormalities are found during the exam by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist, the dog can be certified free of heritable eye disease through the Canine Eye Registration Foundation(CERF).

How is PRA treated?

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PRA, nor a way to slow the progression of the disease. Animals with PRA usually become blind. Dogs are remarkably adaptable to progressive blindness, and can often seem to perform normally in their customary environments. Evidence of the blindness is more pronounced if the furniture is rearranged or the animals are in unfamiliar surroundings.

Can PRA be prevented?

PRA has been shown to have a genetic component. Puppies from parents who have no history of the disease and have been certified free of PRA will have less risk of developing the disease. Affected animals should not be bred and should be spayed or neutered. The littermates or parents of animals with PRA should also not be bred. If your dog develops PRA, notify the breeder, if possible.

In the last several years, DNA is being used to identify which genes are responsible for PRA. In one form of PRA called ‘rod cone dysplasia 1’ (rcd1), which affects Irish Setters, the gene mutation has been identified.

Progressive rod-cone degeneration (prcd) is the most widespread form of PRA and affects many breeds including Poodles, American and English Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, and Portuguese Water Dogs. Prcd starts with night blindness and progresses to total blindness at 3 to 5 years of age. The late onset of clinical signs in prcd is particularly devastating to breeding programs because many dogs have already been bred prior to the onset of symptoms. Thus, the development of a genetic test for this disease which could identify both affected animals and those that just carry the gene would be particularly useful. The researchers at the James A. Baker Institute have found a set of genetic markers that usually indicate the presence of the gene mutation that causes prcd in English Cockers, Labrador Retrievers,  Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, and Portuguese Water Dogs. Although the exact gene mutation that causes prcd has not been found, every dog that is affected with prcd has two copies of the genetic marker and every dog that does not have the marker is clear of prcd. Unfortunately, this test for the genetic marker is not as accurate in diagnosing prcd as it would be if the actual gene mutation was found.

Dog Breeds Most Commonly Affected by PRA, and/or Have DNA Testing Available 

 American Cocker Spaniel


 Cardigan Welsh Corgi*

 Chesapeake Bay Retriever*



 Doberman Pinschers

 English Cocker Spaniel*

 Irish Setter*

 Labrador Retriever*

 Miniature Schnauzer*

 Norwegian Elkhound


 Portuguese Water Dog*

 Siberian Husky*


 * Indicates DNA test available

This is because dogs that are not affected by prcd may still have the genetic marker present and have false positive test results. Thus dogs that are positive for the gene marker may be either false positives or may be carriers of the disease or may actually have the disease. The marker test may be done at a very early age, so potential breeding animals may be selected when they are still puppies.

Find out more about your dog here:

The Complete Guide to All Dogs

Airedale Terriers
Bichon Frise
Border Collies
Siberian Husky
Staffordshire Bull Terrier


C 2006 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
PetEducation.com (http://www.PetEducation.com)
On-line store at http://www.DrsFosterSmith.com
Free pet supply catalog: 1-800-323-4208


Hot Spots

Information About Pyotraumatic Dermatitis

                                              Hot Spots

Description and cause

Also known as acute moist dermatitis, hot spots are usually a disease of dogs with long hair or those with dense undercoats. It is often caused by a local allergic reaction to a specific antigen. Insect bites, especially from fleas, are often found to be the cause.

Other causes of hot spots include:

  • Allergies & Atopy(inhalant allergies) and food allergies
  • Mites: Sarcoptic Mange Sarcoptes scabei or Cheyletiella
  • Ear infections
  • Poor grooming
  • Burs or plant awns
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia(CHD) or other types of arthritis and degenerative joint disease
  • Anal gland disease

Hot Spots can change dramatically in size in a very brief period of time. What was the size of a quarter may easily be eight inches in diameter in six hours.Hot spots are circular lesions, usually found on the head, over the hip and along the side of the chest. They will be moist, raw, inflamed and hairless, and can be quite painful. Animals usually lick, bite or scratch the area, and thus irritate the inflamed skin even more. In fact, hot spots are sometimes called ‘pyotraumatic dermatitis’ because the self-trauma is a major factor in the development of hot spots.


The lesions are rare in the colder temperatures of winter. They occur in equal frequency in both inside and outside dogs. Many dogs develop several of these lesions over the course of their lives. However, this is not a long-term disease. A lesion will suddenly appear, be treated and be gone in less than a week Another lesion will suddenly appear later the same summer, the next year or never be seen again on that dog.


Treatment must be directed at stopping the growth of the hot spot and eliminating the cause. In many dogs the initial cause is fleas, but lesions below the ear often indicate an ear infection, those near the hip may be the result of an anal gland infection, and so on. Whatever the cause, if it can be detected, it must be treated while the hot spot is being treated.

The first step in treating hot spots is clipping the hair over and surrounding the lesion. This allows air to get into the inflamed tissue and makes it easier to treat. The surface of the lesion is then cleaned with a non-irritating solution such as dilute Nolvasan solution. To help the lesion heal desiccating powders such as Burows solution (Domeboro powder and water) are often then applied. If the dog is very sensitive this may need to be done under sedation. In more severe cases the animal may be placed on oral antibiotics and given painkillers and anti-inflammatories such as buffered aspirin or steroids. (Do NOT give your cat aspirin unless prescribed by your veterinarian.)

We also need to prevent the dog from traumatizing the area even more. Elizabethan collars may be used if the lesion is on the top of the head, for instance. Nails can be clipped and socks can be put on the hind feet to reduce trauma from possible scratching.


Many dogs that have repeated problems with hot spots can have the incidence greatly reduced by keeping their hair clipped short during summer, giving them frequent medicated baths and following a strict flea control program. Depending on the location of the hot spot, cleaning the ears regularly and expressing the anal glands as needed may also be beneficial



C 2006 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
PetEducation.com (http://www.PetEducation.com)
On-line store at http://www.DrsFosterSmith.com
Free pet supply catalog: 1-800-323-4208




Rage Syndrome

Information About Rage Syndrome

Rage Syndrome is a serious but rare uncharacteristic behavioural problem (particularly in Spaniels). Rage Syndrome is often incorrectly diagnosed as it is sometimes confused with other forms of aggression.

What are the symptoms of Rage Syndrome?

Sudden attacks for no apparent reason; the dog will often be sleeping and then attack without warning. The eyes become dilated and sometimes change colour during and after an attack, the dog is totally confused when attacking and will not respond to any attempts to stop it. The attacks are very unpredictable and the dog will often appear disorientated afterward and unaware of it’s actions, then return to it’s normal self shortly after. Victims are usually members of the family and due to the lack of warning from the dog, suffer from a flesh wound that will need medical attention.

Is it true that only Red & Gold Cocker Spaniels suffer from Rage Syndrome?

Studies have shown that red/gold Cockers are more likely to suffer from Rage Syndrome compared to particoloured Cockers, but it is important to state that cases are rare and most reds/goldens live out normal, happy lives as family pets with no temperament problems at all. Temperament and behaviour problems happen in all breeds of dogs & behaviour can be influenced by many factors, not only genetics but also rearing, training & general health. Poor temperaments (not necessarily Rage-related) are occasionally seen in all colours,due to the fact that the Cocker Spaniel is a very popular breed and sadly, not all puppies come from knowledgeable, reputable breeders. It is also true to say that some owners make mistakes in training their dogs which can result in temperament problems. Please see our Breeder Advice section for more information about REPUTABLE BREEDERS & our Puppy Training section for advice on training.  What other breeds are known to suffer from Rage Syndrome? This problem has also been reported in American Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermanns, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards. Again, the number of affected animals is very small. This problem has also been reported in American Cocker Spaniels, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Dobermanns, English Bull Terriers, English Springer Spaniels, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Pyrenean Mountain Dogs and St. Bernards. Again, the number of affected animals is very small.

What actually causes Rage Syndrome?

Nothing has been established as yet. Although there have been studies, it still cannot be accurately predicted. There are many theories on what Rage Syndrome is & what it is caused by. These theories are: a form of epilepsy, a canine form of schizophrenia; low serotonin levels in the brain and thyroid dysfunction. Some also believe that Rage Syndrome is simply an extreme form of dominance-related aggression & is not a separate condition. For more information on the possible causes of Rage & details of previous research, please go to our Research section.Could Rage Syndrome have a heritable basis?Although there have been no large studies undertaken to prove this theory, it is certainly possible and some leading geneticists and behaviourists believe that there is a genetic component to this problem. Again, please refer to our Research section for more information.Can Rage Syndrome be treated successfully?Each case requires individual attention and what is prescribed for one dog may not work for another. Some treatments that have been recommended and tried are: change of diet, the use of d-amphetamine, vitamin B12 therapy, Oculucidon, neutering and progestagen therapy, anticonvulsants and behaviour modification techniques aimed at changing the dominance status of owners.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has Rage Syndrome?

It is important to remember that true Rage Syndrome is very rare. Concerned owners should consult their Veterinary Surgeon & ask for their dog’s case to be referred to an experienced behaviourist who can determine if the dog is in fact suffering from Rage or has some other type of aggression problem.

Retinal Dysplasia in dogs

Information About Retinal Dysplasia in dogs

Most cases of retinal dysplasia in dogs are hereditary. It can involve one or both retinas. Retinal dysplasia can be focal, multifocal, geographic, or accompanied by retinal detachment. Focal and multifocal retinal dysplasia appears as streaks and dots in the central retina. Geographic retinal dysplasia appears as an irregular or horseshoe-shaped area of mixed hyper or hyporeflectivity in the central retina. Retinal detachment occurs with complete retinal dysplasia, and is accompanied by blindness in that eye. Cataracts or glaucoma can also occur secondary to retinal dysplasia. Other causes of retinal dysplasia in dogs include infection with canine adenovirus or canine herpesvirus, or radiation of the eye in newborns.
Retinal Dysplasia

Retinal Dysplasia photo

Retinal Dysplasia

Labrador with Retinal Dysplasia

Commonly affected breeds

·             Bedlington Terrier – complete retinal dysplasia.

·             Sealyham Terrier – complete retinal dysplasia.

·             Rottweiler – focal or multifocal.

·             English Springer Spaniel – focal, multifocal, or geographic.

·             American Cocker Spaniel – focal or multifocal.

·             Beagle – focal or multifocal.

·             Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – retinal folds, geographic, or retinal detachment.

·             Labrador Retriever – focal, multifocal, geographic, or complete retinal dysplasia. It can also be seen in combination with a congenital skeletal disorder.

·             Australian Shepherd – retinal dysplasia occurs with other eye disorders, such as an oval pupil, microcorne (small cornea), cataracts, and retinal detachment

Information from wikipedia.org
Re-printed under section 2 of the GFDL

Information About Sarcoptic Mange

Information About Sarcoptic Mange

Sarcoptic mange, commonly known as canine scabies is caused by the parasite Sarcoptes scabiei. These microscopic mites can invade the skin of healthy dogs or puppies and create a variety of skin problems, the most common of which is hair loss and severe itching. While they will infect other animals and even humans, they prefer to live their short lives on dogs. Fortunately, there are several good treatments for this parasite and the disease can be easily controlled.

Who gets sarcoptic mange?

Sarcoptic mange can infect all ages and breeds of dogs. While it prefers to live on dogs, this particular mite will also infect cats, humans, and foxes. Cats, foxes, and humans all have their own particular species of mite within the Sarcoptes family. Each species of mite prefers one specific kind of host (e.g.; dog), but may also infect others. Since all of these species of mites have a similar life cycle and respond to the same treatment, we will assume that the vast majority of dog infections are caused by the mite Sarcoptes scabiei and treat accordingly.

What is the life cycle of Sarcoptes scabies?

The mites usually spend their entire life on a dog. The female mite burrows into the skin and lays eggs several times as she continues burrowing. These tunnels can actually reach the length of several centimeters. After she deposits the eggs, the female mite dies. In 3-8 days, the eggs hatch into larvae which have 6 legs. The larvae mature into nymphs which have 8 legs. The nymph then molts into an adult while it is still in the burrow. The adults mate, and the process continues. The entire life cycle requires 2-3 weeks.

The mites prefer to live on the dog, but will live for several days off of the host in the environment. In cool moist environments, they can live for up to 22 days. At normal room temperature in a home, they will live from 2 to 6 days. Because of the mite's ability to survive off the host, dogs can become infected without ever coming into direct contact with an infected dog.


dog with mange

dog with mange

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are varied but usually include hair loss and severe itching on the elbows, ears, armpits, hocks, chest, and ventral abdomen (belly). The mites prefer to live on areas of the skin that have less hair. As the infection worsens it can spread over the entire body. Small red pustules often develop along with yellow crust on the skin. Because of the severe itching and resultant scratching from the dog, the skin soon becomes traumatized and a variety of sores and infections can develop as a result. The itching seems to be much worse in warm conditions such as indoors or near a stove or heat vent. If the infection goes on untreated or is mistakenly treated as an allergy, the skin may darken due to the constant irritation, and the surrounding lymph nodes may become enlarged.

Sarcoptic mange is a somewhat common infection and many cases have often been misdiagnosed as severe atopy (inhalant allergy). Any time we see a dog who does not have a prior history of allergies and develops severe itching, or if the itching is not seasonal but year-round, we have to suspect sarcoptic mange.

The intense itching caused by the sarcoptic mite is actually thought to be caused from a severe allergic reaction to the mite. When dogs are initially infected with Sarcoptes they do not develop itching for several weeks. If the animals are treated and then reinfected at a later time, severe itching starts almost immediately, which indicates the itching may be due to an allergic reaction. However, the standard treatments for allergies generally will not decrease the symptoms of scabies, and will do nothing to cure the disease.

How is sarcoptic mange diagnosed?

Trying to get a diagnosis for scabies can be very frustrating. The standard method is to perform a skin scraping and then identify the organism under the microscope. Unfortunately, on average, only twenty percent of the infected dogs will show Sarcoptes mites on any given scraping. Therefore, if a dog has a positive skin scraping the diagnosis is confirmed, but a negative scraping does not rule out sarcoptic mange. Therefore, most diagnoses are made based on history and response to treatment for scabies.

How is scabies treated?

There are several ways to treat scabies. In the past, the most effective treatment had been to clip the dog if he had long hair, bathe him with a benzoyl peroxide shampoo to cleanse the skin, and then apply an organophosphate dip (Paramite). Amitraz dips and Mitaban (also organophosphates), and lime sulfur dips (Lymdip) have also been used effectively. The animals are usually dipped once every two weeks for two to three times. While effective, these dips are very unpleasant to apply for both the owner and the dog. Because the dip must come in contact with the mites and many mites live on the face and ears of dogs, great care must be exercised when applying these dips to these sensitive areas. The dips can be toxic to humans and are not suitable for very young, old, or debilitated animals. In addition, there are some reported cases of resistance to these dips in some cases of mange.

Fortunately, there are several other products that have been extremely effective, safe, and convenient in treating sarcoptic mange. Selamectin (Revolution) is a newer product, which is a topical solution that is applied once a month and provides heartworm prevention, flea control, some tick protection and protection against Sarcoptic mange. Liquid ivermectin is another alternative that is sometimes used. It is used at much higher concentrations that are found in heartworm preventives (e.g., Heartgard). Ivermectin should not be used in Collies or Shetland sheep dogs and should be used with caution in the herding breeds. In dogs that are sensitive to ivermectin, some veterinarians have been having success using milbemycin oxime (Interceptor) at an off-label dose. Both ivermectin and Interceptor should only be used under direct veterinary supervision and care.

In addition to treating the dog, the environment can be treated with a residual insecticide (e.g.; permethrin).

How is sarcoptic mange prevented?

Because your dog does not have to come into direct contact with an infected dog to contract scabies, it is difficult to completely protect him. Places where large numbers of dogs congregate are obviously more likely to harbor the mange mite. Since fox and the environment in which fox may spend a large amount of time can transmit the mite to dogs, keep dogs away from fox and these areas. In my experience, dogs that are well groomed, eat a good diet, have a healthy skin and coat, and do not spend much time with other dogs or where dogs are brought together, are less likely to contract this disease. With the new product Revolution, we have an approved product that will help prevent Sarcoptic mange.

How is scabies treated?

Yes, although when humans get Sarcoptes scabei from animals, the disease is generally self-limiting, causing only temporary itching. There is a human race of Sarcoptes, which is transmitted from person to person. This human race of sarcoptic mite causes a rash on the wrists, elbows, or between the fingers. In infants, the rash may appear on the head, neck, or body.

C 2006 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
PetEducation.com (http://www.PetEducation.com)
On-line store at http://www.DrsFosterSmith.com
Free pet supply catalog: 1-800-323-4208

Information About Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis

Information About 
Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis

SAS is a proven inherited condition; however, a commonly accepted mode of inheritance has not been determined for all breeds.  Studies indicate that it is either an autosomal dominant trait with variable penetrance or a polygenic trait; in either case, the mode of inheritance is complex, making it difficult to predict patterns of genetic transmission.  By eliminating all SAS affected dogs from the breeding pool, we will have a chance of keeping this disease from spreading within the Bernese population.

There is enough evidence of SAS in Bernese Mountain Dogs to warrant routinely screening our breeding animals for heart problems. The symptoms of SAS can be very subtle and the correct performance of cardiac evaluation by board certified veterinary cardiologist is crucial for determining whether or not a dog is affected. Diagnosis of SAS is almost an art. In spite of available technology, without the proper expertise to evaluate heart function, an affected dog can be called “clear”. (Some cardiologists have recommended that evaluation of breeding animals for SAS be performed at 1, 2, 4, and 6 years of age, due to the late onset of some of the murmurs associated with the defect.

What is SAS?

Subvalvular aortic stenosis, also referred to as subaortic stenosis or SAS, is a common heart defect in dogs, especially Newfoundlands, Golden retrievers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds.

The heart anatomically is divided into 4 chambers separated by 4 valves. The 4 heart valves ensure that blood only flows in one direction through the heart. The aortic valve separates the main pumping chamber (left ventricle) from the aorta, a large blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body. In dogs with SAS, there is added tissue below the aortic valve (hence “subaortic”). This abnormal tissue creates an obstruction (“stenosis” is the scientific term) that the heart has to overcome to pump blood to the body. This stenosis makes the heart work harder than normal. A heart murmur is created by blood being pumped across the stenosis into the aorta.

What happens to dogs with SAS?

SAS comes in many grades of severity. We subdivide them into mild, moderate, and severe. Dogs with mild disease usually lead a normal life without complications. Dogs with severe disease may die suddenly or develop exercise intolerance, fainting, rear limb weakness, or fluid in the lungs (heart failure). Heart failure can cause coughing, rapid breathing, or shortness of breath. The course of dogs with moderate disease is hard to predict. All dogs with SAS are predisposed to heart valve infections (endocarditis).

How do dogs “get” SAS?

SAS is transmitted genetically. This has been studied in the Newfoundland breed; the mode of inheritance in this breed is either autosomal dominant with modifiers or polygenic.  Dogs with mild disease do not necessarily produce dogs with only mild disease, i.e. a dog with mild disease may sire a litter with severe disease. This defect develops very soon after birth (at approximately 3 weeks of age), and continues to worsen through maturity.

How is SAS diagnosed?

SAS is suspected based on a combination of physical examination findings including a heart murmur heard over the aortic valve. In dogs with a murmur, definitive diagnosis and assessment of severity requires echocardiography with Doppler. Echocardiography allows visualization of the 4 heart chambers and valves and the anatomy of the subaortic area. Doppler allows estimation of the pressure created in the heart by the obstruction. The degree of pressure elevation correlates with the disease severity. Some dogs with very mild disease are hard to distinguish from normal  dogs even with this technology.  Radiographs of the heart and an electrocardiogram (ECG) are important in the evaluation of dogs with moderate to severe SAS but are usually normal in dogs with mild disease.

What should be done if my dog has mild disease?

These dogs should not be bred so castration or spaying is recommended. Due to the risk for heart valve infections, prophylactic antibiotics should be prescribed by a veterinarian for any potential bacteria exposure (dentals, skin infections, minor cuts or abrasions).

Can a dog with severe disease be treated?

Therapeutic options are limited. Surgery can be performed at some Universities, but it is expensive. Balloon catheter dilation can also be performed at some referral centers. This procedure involves passing a catheter with a balloon on the end down an artery in the neck.  The balloon is centered across the stenosis and then inflated to open up the stenosis. This procedure helps to decrease the obstruction in some dogs. Medical therapy may be prescribed to try and decrease the work load of the heart (beta-blockers) or treat signs of heart failure once they develop.

How can I decrease the risk of transmitting this defect?

First, have all breeding animals listened to at maturity by a veterinarian. If no murmur is present, these adults do not have clinical SAS.  Second, have all litters listened to carefully. Timing of this exam is tricky; the older the puppy is at the time of examination, the better. Age is important because the defect is progressive early in life such that a murmur will be easier to detect in a
16 week puppy than an 8 week old puppy. Also, young puppies can have innocent murmurs (murmurs not caused by a heart defect). Innocent murmurs go away by 16 weeks of age. Innocent murmurs are difficult to differentiate from mild SAS. We recommend pups be at least 8 weeks old for screening; 12 weeks old is better, and 16 weeks old is ideal. If a pup is to be used for breeding, auscultation should be repeated as a mature adult (over 1 year of age). If pups with SAS are detected, have the sire and dam examined, and do not repeat the breeding.

Are there undetectable carriers of SAS?

Yes. A dog with no murmur may be a carrier of SAS. These dogs are not detectable at this time. Hopefully, future studies will identify a genetic marker that will lead to a rapid, noninvasive blood screening test for this defect and aid us in eliminating this heart breaking problem from so many wonderful breeds.

Information About Canine Syringomyelia

Information About Canine Syringomyelia

Chiari malformation occurs in dogs and, in some breeds, such as the cavalier King Charles spaniel, it is very common indeed. The Cavalier is a lovable and loving spaniel that was established as a breed in 1928 in response to a reward offered for recreating a spaniel similar to those depicted in portraits of the era of the British King Charles II. Their friendly disposition ensures that they are one of the most popular toy dogs in Britain, and they are also increasingly common in other western countries, including the USA.

Clare Rusbridge, a veterinary neurologist working here in England, met her first dog with Chiari malformation, ‘Beau’, in 1995. Beau had been sent to Clare because he had a forelimb, (i.e., arm), weakness. In addition, he appeared to suffer from intense neck and shoulder irritation, especially when he was walked with a neck collar and leash. A consequence of this was that he scratched in the air with one hindlimb whilst walking. At first Clare was bewildered, and despite many tests, she could not find the cause of Beau’s strange signs. It subsequently became apparent that Beau was not the only Cavalier with this scratching behaviour. Finally, in 1997, Clare was able to get access to a MRI scanner that could image animal spinal cords. Five dogs, including Beau, had a scan revealing that they all had syringomyelia and a Chiari malformation. Eight years on and hundreds of Cavaliers all across the world have now been diagnosed with the disease.

Cavaliers with syringomyelia usually have their first signs between 6 months and 3 years of age; however, dogs of any age may be presented. Progression of the disease is very variable. Some dogs have the tendency to scratch with mild pain only and other neurological signs never, or very slowly, develop. Others can be severely disabled by pain and exhibit neurological deficits within 12 months of the first signs developing. Many people suffering with syringomyelia may find the clinical signs experienced by dogs familiar. Pain is by far the most important feature of the disease. Many ask the question, “How can you tell a dog is in pain?” It is not very difficult, especially if the dog in question screams for apparently little reason, i.e., having its ear groomed. Once friendly, pets may become withdrawn and stop wanting to play. Owners often report that their dog is worse at night; when first getting up; during hot or cold temperature extremes; when excited; or related to posture, i.e., preferring to sleep with head elevated. The dog may seem to be overly sensitive to touch on one side of the neck / ear / shoulder / chest and often scratch at that area. Some dogs develop a scoliosis and some have weakness. Treatment of dogs is very similar to humans with the same condition. The bond between dog and owners can be as close as     between humans, making it very difficult to make decisions about treatment such as surgery.

Amber Atha, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
with scoliosis resulting from syringomyelia

Find out more about your dog here:

The Complete Guide to All Dogs

Airedale Terriers
Bichon Frise
Border Collies
Siberian Husky
Staffordshire Bull Terrier

by Clare Rusbridge BVMS DipECVN MRCVS

Information About Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome

Information About Vogt-Koyanagi-Harada syndrome
(VKH syndrome)


Vogt – Koyanagi – Harada syndrome (VKH syndrome) is a condition seen in humans and dogs involving various melanocyte-containing organs, characterized by uveitis (inflammation of the inside of the eye), poliosis (whitening of hair), vitiligo (loss of pigment in the skin), and meningitis, although dogs with this syndrome rarely develop meningitis. It is also known as uveodermatologic syndrome. VKH syndrome is an immune-mediated disease. The mechanism of the disease is thought to be T helper cell mediated autoimmune attack of melanocytes in the skin and uvea of dogs and humans, and in the central nervous system and inner ear of humans.
In dogs VKH syndrome (often called VKH-like syndrome) most commonly affects young animals and is seen most commonly in the Akita Inu, but also in the Siberian Husky and Samoyed. Uveitis usually occurs first and is often severe enough to cause blindness. VKH syndrome can also cause retinal detachment, cataracts, and glaucoma. Pigment partly disappears from the retinal pigment epithelium and iris. Skin lesions include loss of pigment and hair on the eyelids, nose, and lips. Symptoms and biopsy will confirm the diagnosis. Treatment is with immunosuppressive drugs such as prednisone and azathioprine. The prognosis is guarded


Information About Von Willebrand’s disease

Information About Von Willebrand’s disease

What is Von Willebrand’s disease?
Von Willebrand’s Disease is a common inherited bleeding disorder.

Clotting is a complex mechanism. In addition to platelets, clot formation is the result of a long chain of chemical reactions carried out by individual molecules called ‘clotting factors.’ Each factor is numbered such that factor I leads to a reaction with factor II forming a new substance. This then reacts with factor III and so on to factor XII.

In Von Willebrand’s Disease, the dog is missing a substance, which helps the platelets form clots and stabilizes Factor VIII in the clotting process. This substance is called ‘Von Willebrand’s factor.’ Because of the deficient clotting of blood, dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease have excessive bleeding upon injury. This would be similar to hemophilia in humans.
Certain breeds have a higher incidence of vWD than others. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Shetland Sheepdogs, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, German Shorthaired Pointers, Golden Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and Scottish Terriers all have a higher than normal incidence, showing that it can be inherited.

What are the symptoms?
Excessive bleeding is the main symptom. Bleeding generally occurs after a wound or surgery. In these cases, the blood simply does not clot in the normal time, and bleeding is extensive. Dog’s with Von Willebrand’s disease may also develop nosebleeds, or bleeding from the gums. Bleeding may also occur in the stomach or intestine in which case the stool may either have blood in it, or be black and tarry. Some dogs will have blood in their urine. Bleeding into the joints also occurs, which can cause symptoms similar to those of arthritis.

The diagnosis of Von Willebrand’s is made through a test, which checks for the level of Von Willebrand’s factor in the blood.

What are the risks?
These dogs, without treatment, can bleed to death following surgery, or what might be normally considered less than life threatening injuries.

What is the management?
Transfusions with blood collected from normal dogs is the only proven way to treat Von Willebrand’s disease. Some dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease also are Hypothyroid – meaning they have lower than normal levels of thyroid hormone. These dogs will benefit from thyroid hormone replacement therapy.

Some studies have been done which suggest a drug called desmopressin acetate (DDAVP) may help dogs with a bleeding episode. The drug can be administered intranasally (into the nose) to increase clotting. There is still some controversy over whether this treatment is effective.

There is no cure for Von Willebrand’s disease. Prevention through eliminating affected individuals from any breeding program is the goal of veterinary medicine today. Tests are available to determine which dogs may have this trait. All individuals with a history of this disorder in their backgrounds should be tested.