Thursday, September 18, 2014

Primer On Cushing's Disease

by Webvet

Cushing’s disease, named after the first physician who reported it, is caused by an excess of cortisol in the body.  It is most common in middle-aged to older dogs, especially poodles, dachshunds, Boston terriers, boxers, and beagles.

Cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone that is involved in metabolism and response to stress.  

It is produced by the adrenal glands, which are found on top of the upper part of the kidneys.  The adrenal glands produce cortisol in response to another hormone that is secreted by the pituitary gland.  The pituitary gland, which is found in the brain, is called the master gland because it secretes a number of hormones that act elsewhere in the body, telling other organs to release additional hormones.

A tumor in either the pituitary gland or the adrenal glands can lead to too much cortisol and Cushing’s disease.  

Common signs include excessive water drinking and urinating.  Dogs often develop a “pot-bellied” appearance because cortisol thins the muscles of the abdomen, allowing the belly to sag, as well as increases the size of the liver.  Other common signs include hair loss (symmetrical), skin rash, darkened or thickened skin, weakness, sluggishness, and wounds that don’t heal well.

Diagnosis includes tests to measure blood levels of cortisol under various conditions.  

Because a series of blood samples is needed on a defined schedule (every 1-2 hours), pets usually need to stay in the veterinary hospital for the day.

Treatment is aimed at decreasing the amount of cortisol in the body.  

Medications are available that destroy part of the adrenal gland (and so decrease the production of cortisol), or that counteract the hormone sent out by the pituitary gland to prevent the adrenal glands from producing too much cortisol in the first place.

Cushing’s disease can also develop in dogs that have had to be treated long-term with corticosteroid medications for other problems.  

These medications act the same way that cortisol does, so their side effects include the same signs, ie, drinking a lot of water, urinating frequently, etc.  When corticosteroid medications have been given long-term, they must be discontinued gradually to give the body time to get used to properly regulating its metabolism again.  Your veterinarian will work with you on a program to gradually decrease your pet’s dosage of corticosteroid medication.

  • Drinking a lot of water
  • Urinating more than usual
  • Pot-bellied appearance
  • Hair loss
  • Dark or thickened skin
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Weakness
  • Sluggishness


Visit WebVet for a wealth of information about the health and well-being of pets. All medical-related content on WebVet has been veterinarian approved to ensure its timeliness and accuracy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Understanding and Diagnosing The Limping Dog, Why To Probe The Paw

by  Krista Magnifico, DVM

There are a few conditions that are relatively simple, benign and resolve quickly but often present as a dog who refuses to bear weight on the leg.

This dog was brought in for limping.
Her foot hurt so badly she refused to walk on it.
Can you see the bruise on her pad?

For any dog who is either lame, or worst yet, carrying a limb, the best place to start is with a calm, relaxed, slow methodical hands and eyes on 'every-tiny-inch of the leg' approach. I see a whole lot of lame dogs, and I thought it might be helpful if I explained how I approach these cases.

Here is how I approach the dog who presents for "lameness."

When I am trying to determine the cause of a limp or lameness I always start with watching the dog ambulate. The best place to do this is in a closed, quiet, open room with as little furniture or hiding places as possible. In the exam room I will stand at the far corner and ask the owner to place the dog on the floor and calmly walk over to me as they coax the dog to follow. The dog will in most cases follow their mom or dad if they and this which allows me a few moments to watch them walk.

Analyze the walk

How much weight will they put on the leg? I scale lameness out of 1 to 5. 0 being normal, 5 indicating they will not put the foot on the floor.

This is my pup Jekyll. Grade 5.
I corrected his cruciate rupture a week ago, on the other side.
Time for this one to be done is now ASAP.
How much do the flex or extend at the joints? I want to see a good range of motion in every joint from the top to the bottom.

There are many subtle clues to a walking dog. They give me some hints about the bones, joints, muscles, and the nerves. When it comes to getting what you pay for an experienced eye from your vet can help your dog in innumerable ways. When a client calls me at 10  pm wondering whether their dog needs to go to the ER or whether they can wait until we are open I always tell them to send me a video. I can usually tell them with 30 seconds of a good walking clip.

The Physical Exam

I then try to take an educated guess where I think the problem is. If I think it is in the toe I look at the opposite leg from the shoulder down. Then I examine the lame leg from the shoulder down. Your hands do much of the work in veterinary medicine. We palpate for muscle size, lymph node size and number, bone pain and irregularities, joint swelling and range of motion, muscle size and sensitivity, etc. I try to palpate every muscle belly, every nook and cranny, and every anatomical structure in the leg. I also have to remember that some lameness results from an injury to the spinal cord.

When I think I have found the source of pain, (remember we are lame usually because we are painful) I then focus on what the root cause is.

Here's a tip from experience; For almost every single lameness exam, after I have watched the dog walking, I warn the parent that I am probably going to have to muzzle their dog. I know that people hate muzzles, for some reason they think they are cruel punishment devices?, or that it is a reflection of their parenting skills (sometimes there is a hint of truth to this), but I am looking for clues for the source of the discomfort/pain and I am asking the dog to respond. We all respond to pain differently, and when I am restraining them prohibiting their ability to flee that only leaves them with one other option. And so, I expect that in almost all cases the dog will respond with their best defense, a snip, a bit, a growl, and a harsh warning to back my inquisitive annoying self off. I don't blame them. I would bite the hand that hurts me too!

Remember when it comes to assessing the leg for lameness you have a cheat sheet. Use the other leg/foot to help identify differences. Subtle clues like;

  • How much weight is being placed on the foot (a flatter foot has more weight on it).
  • How long the toe nails are. Indicates how the foot is used.
  • How the toes touch the ground. Is the dog reluctant or unable to place the foot correctly.
  • What is the muscle mass from one leg to the other. A loss of muscle mass indicates dis-use, and more atrophy indicates either severity or chronicity.
  • Is there saliva staining. A black/rust colored foot is a clue the dog is trying to tell you something.
This is Peanut.
Her mom noticed that she was intermittently carrying her back left leg.
Can you spot her boo-boo?

Peanut has a blister between her middle two toes.
For those of us who suffer walking around in a new pair of high heels we know how painful this is!
This pup was at being watched by a relative while her family was away on vacation. They are familiar with her seasonal allergies an have learned how to best manage them at home.The pet sitter didn't recognize that her allergies were flaring up. When her parents returned they were shocked to see how itchy, painful, and discolored she was.

Ellie Mae's feet are brown, the toenails are dark brown at the base.
She has been sitting around all week licking her paws.
They ITCH!
The last place to look is the toenails. A broken toenail can be incredibly bothersome and most dogs will lick at it incessantly and limp on the foot until the nail falls off or is removed.

Lorelei's nail is almost broken off at the base of the nail.
Every time she tries to stand on the foot the raw skin and jagged nail hurts her sensitive toe.
After a topical anesthetic was applied we quickly and pain-freely removed her broken toe nail.

My point is that limping dogs arrive for a multitude of reasons. 

A good exam, a thorough history, a watchful eye, adept hands, and maybe even an x-ray or two, and most of our limping dogs can be treated quickly, easily, and alleviated of their discomfort.

Most limping dogs are not an emergency. 

But the identification of the root cause, and a plan to assist the dog parents in understanding the consequences of waiting, and helping them to curb it in the future all help to find a quick end to a common presenting complaint.

The Treatment Plan

This should always be tailored to the patient and should address the following items;
  • How do we alleviate the pain?
  • How much time should it take for the lameness to resolve?
  • When should the problem be re-checked?
  • What are signs of the problem not resolving?
And, one of the most important, and frequently over looked parts of the treatment pan is;
  • How can we prevent it from happening again? Understanding how this occurred and how you can prevent it will hopefully keep your dog pain free and out of the vets office. (Almost ALL of the toe nail problems occur because people are not keeping them trimmed).

If you have a question, concerns, or just want to share your pet knowledge with our pet enthusiasts please visit We are a free pet community with a big heart.


Krista Magnifico, DVM owns a small animal hospital in northern Maryland, where she practices everyday. She wants to make quality veterinary care available to everyone, everywhere at any time; trying to save the world 1 wet nose @ a time.  Her blog is a diary of he day-to-day life & the animals and people she meets. 

Dr. Krista is also the founder of, free pet advice and assistance.

To contact her, you may leave a comment on her blog, email her or catch her on Twitter or Facebook.

Articles by Dr. Magnifico:
Don't Make This Mistake: Ruby's Death To Heat Stroke 
Parvo: Cora's Story 
Jake's Laryngeal Paralysis
The Tip Of The Iceberg: The Unexpected Dental Dilemma
The Ear Ache That Wasn't Going Away: Tottsie's Story
Cody's Eyelid Tumor
Ruger's Mysterious Illness
The Day The Heart Stood Still: Timber's Story 
Different Definition Of Comfort Food: Levi's Story 
Savannah's Pancreatitis  
Histiocytoma: Rio's Mysterious Bump
Von Willebrand's Disease: Greta's Story 
Alice's Heart Murmur  
Jekyll Loses His Tail Mo-Jo 
Pale Gums Are An Emergency: Bailey's Story 
To Amputate Or Not To Amputate: Heidi's Story
Lessons From A Real-Life Veterinarian 
Charlie's Life Saving Lipoma Surgery  

Related articles:
Symptoms To Watch For In Your Dog: What Is That Limp?
Common Misdiagnoses (Part 2) 

Do you have a story to share?

Your story can help others, maybe even save a life!

What were the first signs you noticed? How did you dog get diagnosed? What treatment did/didn't work for you? What was your experience with your vet(s)? How did you cope with the challenges?

Email me, I'll be happy to hear from you!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Adoption Monday: Dahlia, Labrador Retriever Mix, Deerfield, NH

Check out this beautiful girl at Mary's Dogs Rescue and Adoption!

Dahlia is looking down the road for her home...she's a super friendly, super fun, super sweet girl! 

She's going to make a great addition to ANY family and she's ready to travel to NH so she can prove it! How about it?

Want to take her for a walk down YOUR road???

Dahlia is spayed, house trained and current on routine shots. Want more info on Dahlia? Call Mary's Dogs: or send along an email:

Ready to bring Dahlia home? Tell us about yourself and your interest in Dahlia in the adoption questionnaire. Check out all the wonderful dogs on Mary's Dogs Facebook Fan Page.


Mary’s Dogs rescues and re-homes dogs and puppies from Aiken County Animal Shelter, a high-kill shelter in South Carolina, USA. They also serve as a resource to communities in Southern New Hampshire and pet owners nationwide by providing education and information on responsible pet ownership, including the importance of spay/neuter, positive behavior training, and good nutrition.

Don't forget to check out Mary's Dogs Shop where you can shop dog and support their work!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

So, We Have A Bear

Moving up here we knew there were bears. We also knew there was one at the north side of our property.

They are SUPPOSED to stay away from where people are. At least up here.

In fact, in all the years of owning Jasmine's ranch we never saw one (though our neighbor says he did) and we found bear piles only after we weren't there for some time.

So when Cookie raced off into the bush chasing after something, we figured it was a bird or some other small critter. Cookie likes to chase birds. She's particularly angry with the hawks hanging around, perhaps because she doesn't like the competition for her mice.

Sometimes both Cookie and JD would run into the bush barking and we never thought much of it. They always came back well and JD gets mad even at ducks.

Has something changed?

There were couple nights when the dogs got really upset and wanted to get out of the trailer to get at something ...  Few days ago, after a rainy night, on our morning walk we found bear prints right where we were working the day before. He must have been there early in the morning.

The guys didn't show any interest in the prints, for which we were thankful.

The next day we found a fresh bear pile in neighbour's front yard.

That day Cookie went chasing something in the bush, barking quite a lot.

Now, she has been known to bark at turtles and toads as well. And squirrels when they refused to get off the tree long enough, taunting her.

My gut was telling me otherwise, though.

Cookie came back and was fine and hubby said she was just chasing some birds again. Perhaps ...

The day after that we went for a morning walk and all was well. Just some birds to chase and a hawk to give heck to. Cookie really gets upset when he hangs around.

When we returned for another walk at noon, Cookie got very upset.

She ran into the bush and barked. When I called she came racing back, only to turn around and continue the chase after SOMETHING. It took quite a bit of barking before she was satisfied enough to come back.

As we continued on our way, I found a fresh pile right at the spot we walked in the morning. There was nothing there then.

"She scared the shit out of the bear," hubby joked.

My mood wasn't as light. I didn't like the bear just hanging around like that. And during the day. Until then we thought he might have come around at night only.

And I didn't like the idea Cookie chasing an animal so much larger than she is.

Fortunately, I found out that bears are typically scared of dogs and than even a small dog can chase a bear away, unless there are cubs involved.

That made me feel somewhat better.

Meanwhile, we have to figure out how to keep the bear from hanging around. It's not food or garbage, at least not on our property; we know better. But it seems that a bear can travel about 30km to a food source in one day. So if he found a source within 30km, we just might happen to be on the way.

When it seems he might be close around I do put Cookie on the leash. But otherwise, she is not a dog who can live tied up all the time.

So that is my dilemma. We just came from an evening walk--and it's not late yet--and both dogs were quite upset about something they were smelling.

Was it the bear?

I did report him hanging around our yards to the toll-free number specifically for this. They filed it and normally what they do is that they relocate the bear(s). But the person I was talking to on the phone was saying that it is probably too late in the year to do anything right now.

Related articles:
From The End Of A Lead Line To Casa Jasmine: Meet Cookie, Our New Adoptee
Creative Solutions And An Incidental Product Review
Taming Of The Wild Beast: Cookie's Transition To Civilization  
Staying On Top Of The Ears: Cookie Is Not Impressed  
Who's Training Whom? Stick And Treat 
Observation Skills Of Dogs  
If You Want Your Dog To Do Something, Teach It  
Tricks? It's Not Just About The Tricks 
What Constitutes The Perfect Dog?
Are Dog Training Classes Really For The Dogs?  
Look Where You Want To Go: Finding My Reactive Dog Training Zen Zone? 
Dog Training And Emotions 
Dog Training And Emotions: Postscript
Dogs Love Sentences In Question Form?
Not All Dog Trainers Were Created Equal Either 
A Thought On Separation Anxiety
Happy One-Year Adoptoversary, Cookie!
About Freedom, Trust And Responsibility: A "Pilot Study"

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Teaching Focus And Eye Contact


Donna Hill, Donna Hill B.Sc. B.Ed., has a degree in zoology and a teaching degree. She has 20 years experience in adult and child education and enjoyed teaching people how to observe animals in nature as a nature interpreter, field biologist and train-the-trainer for presentation skills and now applies her knowledge and skills to help people and their dogs. She helps people with disabilities to train their own service dogs and has experience working with autistic and developmentally delayed teens. She uses plain English to explain what you are doing and why and also provides analogies you can relate to. She was also a Girl Guide and earned the highest honor as well as worked in the Tourism industry as a information counselor. She loves to share key information with people!

Visit her blog at Online Clicker Training Tutorials & Coaching.

Check out her two Youtube channels supernaturalbc2009 and supernatural 2008 for more awesome videos. Her motto is "Yard by Yard, Life is hard. Inch by Inch, It's a Cinch!" Break everything down into it's simplest parts and it's achievable!

Don't forget to visit Donna's FB group Observation Skills for Training Dogs or connect with Donna on Twitter.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cardiac Dysfunction From Kidney Disease In Dogs Study

University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine is running a study to investigate possible cardiac dysfunction resulting from chronic disease, renocardiac syndrome.

For more information or to enroll your dog, contact JD Foster

Source article:
Canine Cardiovascular-Renal Disorder Study
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