Health and Safety

In a perfect world, dogs would live long, healthy lives and die peacefully in their sleep at a ripe old age. Sadly, our world is far from perfect and illness and injury is just another part of life. Below are common problems to guard against.

Common Illnesses


Allergies are a common nuisance for humans and animals alike. Just like humans, dogs can suffer from inhalation, contact and dietary allergies.

Inhalation allergies can be caused by pollen, dust and mold/mildew. These occur seasonally or year round depending on exposure.

Contact allergies are usually pretty obvious. For example, if you bathe your dog with a new shampoo and her skin becomes irritated and she loses her hair, you may infer that she is allergic to the new shampoo. Most allergies are diagnosed based on the owners observation.

Flea allergies (flea bite dermatitis) are a form of contact allergies, usually to flea saliva, and can be controlled with strict flea prevention.

Dietary allergies can be tricky to diagnose. Many people opt to try food trials to determine the source of the allergy. This can be a long process as it can take some time for the offending food to leave the dog’s system. Food trials include changing a dogs protein or carbohydrate source. Some common offenders are wheat, beef, chicken, soy and corn and is a good jumping off point when starting food trials. Read food labels carefully to avoid accidentally feeding an offending ingredient.

Broken Toenails.

If a dog’s nails grow too long they may crack or break. Keep the nails trim for their comfort and safety. If a broken nail is bleeding, you can stop the bleeding with styptic powder, an electric nail cauterizer or silver nitrate. These items can be found online or at a pet specialty store.

Eye Irritations and Infections

Eyes that are excessively teary or have build up is likely due to an infection, injury or foreign object. Your vet can prescribe the appropriate ointment or drops. Many cities have eye specialists specifically for dogs and cats. Do not use human eye drops, there is a different in pH levels of dogs and humans and the products can actually burn the dog’s eyes.

Fly Bites

If your dog is an outdoor dog or divides his time between house and yard, he is at the mercy of flies. Flies will bite a dog around the ears and face, where he is most vulnerable. Flies bite and open the skin causing multiple tiny ulcers or produce small, red bumps covered with bloody crusts. Flies can cause damage to the skin and worst-case scenario, your dog may lose part of his ears. Some flea and ticks prevention can repel flies as well. Failing that, you can use a roll on fly ointment. The best treatment is prevention.


Foxtails are seeds from grasslike plants that have a sharp, burrowing head and a tail resembling a fox’s. These seeds can get lodged in your dogs fur and ears and burrow into his skin. Once there, they can cause abscesses and even enter organs. These are tiny little seeds that can cause major damage. Check Fido’s ears, skin and coat and check between the toes for burrs after he’s been outside. If you find a partially buried one, use tweezers to pull it out and check for signs of infection.  If you see any pus, swelling or redness around the entry site, take him to the vet. Whenever possible, keep your dog away from foxtails. If he does come into contact with foxtails, comb through his coat a couple of times daily to remove any that are embedded.


Many people take for granted that dog’s have bad breath, however, this is something that can (and should) be prevented. Bad breath can be indicative of illness, an abscessed tooth or gum disease. Ideally, you want to brush your dog’s teeth daily with a specially made canine toothpaste (available at most pet stores). Feeding him a high quality dog food can also help keep teeth clean, and greenies or other dental treats are beneficial in moderation. A vet can also clean his teeth periodically.

Hot Spots

A hot spot is an area of skin inflammation (moist dermatitis) that may become infected. The symptoms include reddened skin, missing fur, and oozing, wound like lesions. Allergies, matted fur or other minor irritations are usually the culprit. Shave the hair surrounding the hotspot and clean the area twice daily. You can treat the area with a 10% Betadine/90% water solution or by purchasing over the counter hot spot remedies. In the case of severe hot spots a trip to the vet may be in order.


Incontinence can be indicative of bladder or urinary tract infections or bladder stones. Have your vet examine the dog to determine the cause of the incontinence. Incontinence can be caused by many different problems. It can involve the bladder, or urethra, it can even be caused by brain or spinal cord injuries or abnormalities. Incontinence differs from bladder infections in that the dog knows he’s urinating but can’t stop himself. Incontinent dogs are unaware that they are urinating.
Note: If your dog crouches down and urinates  or urinates when you scold him, that may be a simple accident, or even submissive urination. Scolding him will aggravate the problem. If your dogs urinates when people greet him exuberantly, this is excitable urination. Remaining calm around your dog will help with both problems.


Many lumps are usually benign, but they should all be checked out by your veterinarian. Lumps that are oozing, red, dark coloured, oddly shaped, irregular in shape and size, or swiftly growing should be cause for concern. Lumps on a female dog’s mammary glands may be cancerous. A large lump on the stomach may be a hernia.

Rapidly growing lumps may be an abscess, which is usually serious. A vet must drain those and prescribe antibiotics.


Pyometra is a life threatening uterine infection of intact female dogs. It may occur six-eight weeks after a females last estrus. It may come very suddenly and without warning. Spaying your dog will prevent pyometra.Pyometra is a bacterial infection of the uterus which results in the accumulation of infection in the bloodstream or abdominal cavity. It is primarily caused by heightened levels of progesterone, found naturally or induced by hormone therapies.

A dog with pyometra will be lethargic, will not eat, show excessive signs of thirst, vomit, and have a high temperature (above 102F). If the cervix is open, you will see a huge amount of blood and pus, if it is closed you may not see a discharge and the infection can spread to the bloodstream. Other organs are often affected. Pyometra is a very serious condition. A vet may be able to save her, but many dogs lose  their lives to this condition.


Despite, the misleading name, ringworm is a fungus, rather than a worm. Your dog will lose his hair and round patches of scaly skin will be left in its place. The face, ears, paws, and tail are most often affected.  Ringworm is highly contagious to humans and animals, so exercise caution. Your vet will prescribe a betadine solution to treat the skin.


A seizure is caused by a burst of electrical activity in the brain.

There are many causes for epileptic seizures, including diseases such as rabies, distemper,poisoning, liver failure, an imbalanced diet, kidney failure, head trauma, brain tumors, hormonal imbalance, exposure to chemicals or heatstroke. Some seizures are idiopathic, a fancy word to say that vets haven’t the slightest idea to their cause.

Their are two types of seizures, grand mal and petit mal. During grand mal seizures, your dog will go into compulsive fits, he may lose control of his bowels or bladder, shake compulsively, and whimper. These seizures usually will last anywhere from a few seconds to less than 5 minutes (average about two minutes). As he emerges from the seizure he will be disoriented. Grand mal seizures are typical of epilepsy.

Petit mal seizures are brief, your dog will space out for a few moments. He may have a sudden facial feature (a snarl) or he may just fall over. This seizure, like the grand mal, will leave him very disoriented.

It is rare, but sometimes the seizures cluster, they continue for more than a few minutes. If not immediately treated your dog may suffer brain damage or death.

Some dogs experience one seizure and never have another. Sometimes they reoccur.

If your dog is diagnosed with idiopathic seizures, your vet may put him on a daily treatment of phenobarbital, primidone, or potassium


If your dog is in a dangerous location when a seizure occurs, move him to safety. Otherwise, leave him alone! Disturbing a dog during seizures may trigger more seizures.

Vomiting and Diarrhea

Vomiting is caused by irritation of the stomach. Dogs vomit for many reasons. Sometimes to clear an obstruction, sometimes after eating grass, or due to an enlarged esophagus, parvovirus or other serious illnesses. Sometimes vomiting can solve the problem of whatever caused the dog to vomit in the first place. If your dog vomits more than twice, projectile vomits, becomes dehydrated has a fever (over 102F), has diarrhea in conjunction with the vomiting, or dry heaves, immediately take him to the vet.

Vomiting may also be caused by viral or bacterial infections of the digestive tract. Parasites such as roundworms or hookworms may also cause your dog to vomit. Sometimes you can examine the vomit to discover the problem. If the vomit contains foreign material (the batten of a toy) or white roundworms (which looks like coiled spaghetti) then you can easily guess why the dog was vomiting. If the vomit contains red blood, then he may be bleeding at the beginning of the digestive tract. A black dirty appearance may suggest bleeding further down the tract. If he is vomiting bile then his stomach is empty or the duodenum has been irritated.

Changes in diet, nervousness, and overeating can all cause diarrhea. Sadly, so can parvovirus, internal parasites, moldy food, allergies, or other very serious illnesses. If your dog is dehydrated, has a fever (normal temperatures for dogs is between 100.5F and 102F) or has bloody diarrhea, bring him to the vet immediately.

Irritation deep down in the digestive tract of the small or large intestine causes muscle spasms to speed up peristalsis and can cause your dog to defecate before he has completed the digestion process. Mild diarrhea (not accompanied with vomiting) can be treated with a table spoon of kaolin product (Kaopectate) or bismuth subsalicylate (Pepto- Bismol). Give one to two tablespoons per 10lbs of body weight every 4 hours with Kaopectate  and every 12 hours with Pepto-Bismol.

Do not feed your dog his next meal to see if conditions improve. Give your dog plenty of water or pedialyte. His next meal should be a mixture of boiled hamburger and rice. If his condition worsens or if there is no improvement, take him to your vet.

Red blood and mucus can be indicative of a damaged colon, feces that resembles black tar suggests digested blood higher up in the tract. Soft stool indicates an irritated colon and runny diarrhea can indicate incomplete digestion.


Accidents happen, even to the best prepared and most cautious people. Always keep your vets number and the number to the emergency vet handy.

First Aid Kit

Having a first aid kit for your dog is important, it should include

+Aspirin (not acetaminophen or ibuprofen)

+Bandage (Large and small)

+Bandage scissors

+Bandage tape

+Betadine solution

+Cortisone cream

+Disposable latex gloves

+Hydrogen Peroxide

+Kaolin Product (Kaopectate)

+Number to local poison control

+Mineral Oil

+Petroleum jelly

+Pressure bandages

+Muzzle (your dog will be under stress and a scared or injured dog is likely to bite)

+Rectal Thermometer

+Self- adhesive wrap

+Sterile gauze wrappings

+Sterile sponges

+Surgical glue

+Syrup of ipecac

+Triple antibiotic ointment (TAO) or nitrofurizone



Broken Bones

Most fractures are caused by car accidents, and falls from heigh areas. Breaks to the femur, skull, jaw, pelvis and spine are the most common. Signs of a fracture include pain, swelling, and an inability to bear weight. Fractures to the head, chest or back, may be life threatening. Use a stiff board to transport the dog and immediately take him to the vet.

A broken leg below the knee or elbow can be fixed by a splint (made from a small narrow board, rolled up piece of cardboard, rolled up magazine or other stiff object and wrap it around the injured area with an ACE bandage or VetWrap.) When wrapping the splint, cross the joints above and below the fracture. Fold the cardboard, magazine, newspaper or place the board around the leg. Extend the splint from the toes to above the knee or elbow, wrap it (but not tightly) with the ACE bandage or vet wrap. In a pinch, tape, a necktie or a belt will work.  Immediately take your dog to the vet.

A dog that is in pain may bit in self defense, if necessary, muzzle the dog.


A severe burn requires immediate medical attention. Minor burns can be treated with a cool compress or cold water. Apply for about 20 minutes to relieve the pain and lessen the injury. Do not use water on extensive burns or your dog may go into shock. After the burn has blistered it can be treated with aloe vera.

A first degree burn causes the skin to become red, swollen and painful. It should heal in about five days.

A second degree burn is deeper and there is blistering. These burns are extremely painful, but barring any infections, should heal in about three weeks (21days).

A third-degree burn is a burn than goes through the thickness of the skin and extends into the subcutaneous fat. These burns appear charred, dry and leathery. Because these burns destroy the nerve endings, they are not as painful. If more than 50% of the dogs body is involved in a second-degree burn and more than 30% by third-degree burns, survival is unlikely. All but minor burns require immediate medical attention.

If the burn is caused by chemicals such as kerosene, gasoline, acid or alkali, immediately flush the area with copies amounts of water for ten minutes. Bathe the dog with mild soap and water (wear gloves) and blot dry. If there are signs of burning contact your veterinarian.

Choking or Trouble Breathing

Signs of choking include gagging, coughing, gums and tongue turning a pale blue, and wheezing. Seek immediate veterinary attention. Remove your dogs collar and check the throat for obstructions. If you see something you can remove with tweezers, do it. (Using fingers can push the item further down his throat) If an item is lodged in his throat, push on his abdomen right beneath the rib cage. If he is not breathing, perform mouth to mouth (see below).

Cuts, Injuries, and Bites

Minor scrapes and cuts can be cleaned with a 10% betadine, 90% water solution, followed by TAO and keep a cautious eye out for infection. Signs of reddening, infection or inflammation, indicate that it’s time to take Rover to the vet. Severe cuts will require suturing. Use pressure bandages to stop the bleeding and take the dog to the vet. Arterial bleeding (bright red and sprays out with each heartbeat) should be treated with pressure bandages and an immediate trip to the vet.

For punture wounds, determine how deep it is. If a foreign object is lodged in the skin, keep it there if practical. Seek immediate veterinary attention.

Cut paw pads can be treated with styptic powder and an antibiotic. Wrap the foot with gauze and put a bootie on it.


When the body loses more water than it takes in, dehydration occurs. This can happen during any season. Water makes up 80% of your dogs body. Signs of dehydration include extreme thirst, watery diarrhea, sunken eyes, lethargy, dry mouth, elevated temperature (over 103F), vomiting, skin does not snap back into place when pinched, breathing problems, pale gums and weakness. Do not muzzle a dog who is dehydrated. Move her into a cool, well ventilated area. GIve her cool water or pedialyte. Do not use cold water as it will cause the capillaries in the blood to contract and preserve heat. Make sure she can breathe. Remove the dogs collar and any article of clothing she may be wearing. Take her to the vet.

A quick way to cool a dog down is to put cool (not cold) water on her paws and belly. A dog cools down from the bottom up.


Not all dogs are good swimmers, some dogs (pekingese and bulldogs, for example) are built to sink-not float, and even good swimmers can become tired. If a dog has inhaled excessive amounts of water, lay him down with his head pointed downhill so the water can drain out of his lungs and mouth. Gently press down on his abdomen, just below the rib cage to ensure that the water is gone. If he is not breathing, do mouth to mouth resuscitation. (See below) Seek veterinary attention.

If you have a pool, do not leave the dog in it unsupervised. Teach the dog how to walk out of the pool (many can not escape on their own) so they can get out if they ever get in unsupervised.

Do not let your dog on icy ponds, lakes, rivers. Many dogs fall through and can not escape. Many people have drowned trying to save their fallen pets.

Even if your dog can swim, keep him in a specially made canine PFD (personal flotation device) on boats, you never know when an accident can occur.

Electrical Shock

Dogs, (especially puppies) love to chew and most dogs can not tell the difference between electrical wire and a shoestring. Teach your dog a strong “Leave it” command and keep her away from electrical cords at all times. Many pet stores carry citronella rubber cord coating in the small animal section. This can be used for dogs as well.

If Peaches does chew through an electrical cord and suffers a shock, do not touch her as the potential for getting shocked is too high. Use a nonconductive item (i.e. a wooden broom handle) to unplug the cord. Maintain proper body temperature, and seek immediate veterinary care. Administer mouth to mouth if she is not breathing.

Take care when out doors to prevent lightening strikes. Make sure that you and your dog are not the tallest point around. Seek lower elevation and avoid narrow drainages and canyons.


Ideally, you would take your dog to the vet if she gets pierced by a fishhook. If no vet is available, you may have to muzzle your dog, locate the hook’s barb and push it through the skin (if necessary) snip it off with a pair of wire cutters and remove the hook. Contact your vet (so she can prescribe the necessary antibiotics).

If your dog swallows a fishhook, contact your vet immediately.

Frostbite and Hypothermia

Frostbite occurs when I dog’s body temperature becomes so low (below 95F) that he can not warm himself. Elderly dogs, puppies, toy breeds and breeds with short coats are at greater risk of hypothermia. Signs that Fluffy is suffering from Hypothermia include lowered body temperature, shivering, and lethargy. This will be followed by stupor, shock, unconsciousness and ultimately, death. Lack of food (for energy) and dehydration can speed up hypothermia. Hypothermic dogs can withstand prolonged periods of cardiac arrest. CPR may be required in some dogs.

Slowly warm your dog up by wrapping him in blankets or lying next to him, beneath the blankets to help warm him. If he is conscious, offer him warm broth to drink. Seek immediate veterinary assistance.

Frostbite occurs when a dogs skin becomes damaged as a result of the cold. Frostbitten skin will turn white, severely frostbitten skin will turn black. Sometimes affected skin will shed off, leaving a raw sore.

If the skin is white and intact, warm it slowly in tepid (not hot!) water. As circulation returns, the skin will become red and swollen. This will cause your dog some pain. Do not rub or massage the affected parts, handle them with care. If the frostbite has sores, wrap them with antibiotic ointment and gauze. For any and all cases of frostbite, seek immediate veterinary assistance.


Typically, heat stroke occurs in warm weather, but it can happen at any time your dog’s breathing is restricted or if kept in a area with poor ventilation. Do not muzzle a dog who is suffering heat stroke. Move little Rupert into shade or a cool, well ventilated area. Give your dog cool water to drink, soak him in tepid or cool water. Do not use ice-cold water, this will cause the capillaries to shrink and he will be unable to cool down. Remove collars and make sure that he can breathe. Immediately take him to the vet. Heat stroke can cause  kidney failure, irregular heartbeat, spontaneous bleeding, or seizures, which can occur hours or days later. Heat stroke can cause laryngeal edema, this seriously worsens breathing problems and may require an emergency tracheostomy. This may be prevented with an injection of cortisone before the onset of respiratory distress.

Brachycelphalic breeds (pug nosed breeds such as pugs, pekingese or English and French bulldogs) are at greater risk for heat stroke.

Heat stroke is preventable. Keep your dog in a well ventilated, shaded area in the summer. Always provide fresh water. Do not exercise your dog in hot weather.  Never leave your dog in a car during warm weather. Even if the windows are down, it takes very little time for the temperatures to become deadly.

Years ago, I placed a reptile habitat thermometer in my car in the summer. This thermometer had a range of up to 170F. Hours later I came back to the car, checked the thermometer and was shocked to see that it had broken. The car exceeded temperatures of 170F. This kind of heat can easily kill a dog, cat or child. Please do not leave them in a car unattended.

Insect Bites and Stings

You can treat insect bites and stings with over the counter antihistamine, your vet can tell you the proper dose per weight of dog. If your dog has severe swelling or difficulty breathing, take him to the vet right away. This may be an anaphylactic reaction, which is life threatening.

Most spider bites are nothing to worry about, however if Max was unfortunate enough to be bitten by a Black Widow or Brown Recluse spider then it can be very fatal if left untreated. Black Widows live all over the U.S. while Brown Recluses typically reside in warmer climates like the southeast and lower midwest. If you suspect a Brown Recluse or Black Widow has bitten your dog, seek medical attention.


Always keep the number to local poison control handy.

There are many different poisons that little Bailey can ingest (antifreeze, chocolate, prescription medication, etc) as well as poisons that your dog may come in contact with (fertilizer, pesticides, etc).

Call your veterinarian or local poison control center and tell them what chemical your dog ingested. Carefully follow the vets or poison control center’s directions. Do NOT induce vomiting unless told otherwise, some poisons can harm her more on the way back up.

How to Give Your Dog Mouth -to- Mouth

If your dog has stopped breathing, the only way to save her life may be to administer mouth- to-mouth resuscitation. Remove your dog’s collar and any other restricting device or article of clothing and make certain that her airway is clear. Close her mouth, hold her jaws together and gently blow into her nose. Do not blow hard, you may risk over inflating the lungs and risk rupturing a lung. Her side should move as if she were breathing on her own. Release and let the air escape her lungs. Breathe in again and release. Continue to do this until she is breathing again on her own.