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Dog Conditions and Nutrition: Ask the Veterinarian

Veterinarian Will Draper, DVM answers your questions about dog nutrition and dog conditions.

Question:
Can a dog stay healthy on a vegetarian diet?
Answer:

Dogs are omnivores, meaning they do well with both meat and plant-based diet sources. A dog can survive on a primarily vegetarian diet. However, for optimal health they need certain levels of protein and calcium that are best offered through animal-derived diet sources, the best of which is meat.

Question:
My 6-month-old puppy bit into a toad today. He has been shaking his head ever since, like he has something in his mouth. I checked his mouth and found nothing. It was an everyday, ordinary toad. Should I be concerned?
Answer:

There are species of toads that, when bitten or attacked, will release a toxin that can cause hyper-salivation (foaming at the mouth), and in extreme cases, seizures. I would recommend calling your veterinarian.

Question:
Can I give my dog aspirin for her muscle pain?
Answer:

You can give a dog buffered aspirin, which is an NSAID, in moderation. However, giving your dog too much aspirin can cause some gastrointestinal upset, even gastrointestinal ulcers or bleeding. There are NSAIDs that your veterinarian can prescribe for your dog that are safer and veterinarian-approved, with lower risks of complications.

Question:
I just had my dog spayed via laser surgery. What should I watch out for during the next few days?
Answer:

You should watch for some of the same things you’d watch for with conventional surgery; swelling at the incision site, excessive discharge (pinkish or yellow), re-opening of the incision, vomiting, and pale gums, which can indicate internal bleeding. You also want to watch for behavioral changes, such as lethargy or a lack of appetite. If you notice any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Question:
Can I feed my dogs peaches?
Answer:

As long as the skin and pit are removed, there should be no harm in feeding peaches to your dog. Peach pits are toxic to dogs and can of course cause an obstruction in their throats. The skin of a peach can cause gastrointestinal upset and even form a blockage going down.

Question:
Is it harmful to have my dog's anal glands removed? She has chronic infections and I don't want her to suffer.
Answer:

It is not harmful to have them removed, and sometimes this is recommended for pets with chronic anal gland issues.

Question:
My dog is drinking a lot of water and urinating a lot. He's lethargic and has gained weight. What could be wrong?
Answer:

The first two conditions that come to mind are diabetes and hyperadrenocorticism, or Cushing’s disease. Both can lead to excessive thirst and urination.

Although diabetic dogs will at times lose weight, you will also see these symptoms in dogs suffering from kidney disease. A visit to your veterinarian and a general workup (with blood work and urinalysis to start) can help provide the right diagnosis.

Question:
My dog is 17 years old and has started retaining a lot of water. His belly is huge! What can I do?
Answer:

Set up a visit and exam with your vet for a diagnostic workup, including blood work and a urinalysis. Your dog may be suffering from hyperadrenocorticism, also known as Cushing’s disease. This condition causes excessive urination and thirst, and dogs may also have a “pot-bellied” appearance. There are different treatment protocols for this disease that can help shrink your dog's belly.

Question:
Our dog has been having loose stools. The vet put him on one medicine, and then changed his prescription after only a week. We haven't changed the kind of food he eats and the vet checked him for worms and parasites. But he's all clear. What could be the problem?
Answer:

He could have a food allergy. Even though your dog has eaten the same diet for a period of time, he could acquire allergies to his food as he ages. I’d talk with the vet about a food trial to see if a hypoallergenic diet helps.

Question:
Our dog is acting strange. He's been lying around and hasn't been very playful like he usually is. His ears are warm and he has a dry nose. What could be wrong?
Answer:

It could be any number of things -- parasites, musculoskeletal problems (arthritis), infection, gastroenteritis, etc. You certainly need to get him in for a visit and exam with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Question:
I've heard that black licorice helps with congestion in humans. Could I give some to my dog for his congestion?
Answer:

No. Black licorice will not help your dog’s congestion. Your veterinarian can give much better options.

Question:
: I have an 11-year-old female Maltese that constantly licks and bites at her hindquarters. We've tried using corticosteroids, hot spot medications, and sprays. But nothing has worked. What other kinds of treatment would you suggest?
Answer:

Have you checked for fleas? That is usually what will cause a dog to chew at its hindquarters. I’d talk with your veterinarian about your dog's behavior and discuss the best flea preventative options. Also have your vet check her anal glands to make sure they aren’t full and causing her discomfort.

Question:
My dog suddenly started sleeping longer hours and always seems to be in a deep, deep sleep -- to the point where I have to wake him up. Do you think he is ill?
Answer:

If he is older, this is not uncommon. However, the best way to determine such is for your veterinarian to do a good, full exam and possible workup to rule out any potential issues.

Question:
My 7-year-old golden retriever has very pale gums. Is this something I need to be concerned about?
Answer:

Yes. Pale gums indicate anemia, meaning a low number of red blood cells. Your dog may be losing blood cells because his/her body is attacking and destroying them. Or your dog could have worms or some other cause of blood leakage in the body, such as tumors or an injury you don't know about. Contact your veterinarian immediately.

Question:
Can dogs take Allegra?
Answer:

Dogs have been prescribed Allegra for allergies. But I would never recommend giving Allegra to your dog without your veterinarian’s consent and dosage recommendations. There are other medications that may be more appropriate for your dog's needs.

Question:
My friend has three older dogs, all different breeds. In the last couple of months, all three dogs have suddenly developed bladder problems. They are leaving puddles in the house and their urine is a bright orange. They also seem to be in pain when urinating. What could be the problem? Could they all have been poisoned?
Answer:

It is possible they were poisoned. It would be unusual for all three dogs to suffer from urinary tract infections at the very same time. It's also possible that two of the dogs are urinating inappropriately because one, who may actually be ill, is doing so. These symptoms indicate a possible urinary tract infection, bladder issues, or a combination. Hopefully your friend has consulted with a veterinarian. One of the first things I’d do is perform urinalyses on all three dogs.

Question:
I'm caring for an older Pinscher with canine autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Is this condition painful for dogs? If so, how can I relieve her pain? How long can a dog live with this condition if it is untreated?
Answer:

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) can cause discomfort and, if left untreated, a dog with this condition will not live very long because her body is destroying its own red blood cells, which are crucial for life. Medication can help relieve her discomfort. But it depends very strongly on what is being used to treat the condition. Prednisone is commonly used, although it should not be administered with certain analgesics because of the potential gastrointestinal side effects. Talk with your veterinarian.

Question:
I have a 2-year-old Doberman. What type of food should I give him and how many times a day should I feed him?
Answer:

A high-quality, adult dog food is best, dry or canned. Adult dogs are typically fed one to two times daily.

Question:
My boxer has raw, reddish skin around his eyes and nose. Is there something I can buy over-the-counter to treat it?
Answer:

This could be an autoimmune disorder, where your boxer’s immune system is attacking his own skin cells. This could also be a sign of a bad allergic condition. I recommend a visit to your vet, rather than attempting to treat it yourself with OTC medications that may not help at all.

Question:
My dog has diarrhea. I was told to feed him rice until I get his meds. Will rice really help? If so, can I give him brown rice instead of white rice?
Answer:

You can give him brown instead of white rice, and a bland diet can help resolve diarrhea. However, if it persists for over 48 hours, you should have him checked out by your vet.

Question:
My dog is secreting a clear fluid from his behind. The fluid has a fishy smell and he keeps licking it. So his breath smells horrible! What could be wrong with him and what can I do?
Answer:

It sounds like his anal glands are full. By licking at them he’s helping the release of the anal gland fluid, which can be clear and carries a nasty odor. You should take him to your veterinarian to have him checked out. It may mean something as simple as having his anal glands expressed, or emptied.

Question:
My 1-year-old Chihuahua just ate a bunch of my lisinopril pills (10 mg tablets). What should I do?
Answer:

Being that this is a medication for high blood pressure, get him to a vet as soon as possible.

Question:
Our Bassett hound takes prednisone for a spinal problem. What can she take with the prednisone for pain and nausea?
Answer:

There are medications, like Tramadol, for instance, that can be given with prednisone and can help with pain and nausea. You don’t want to give NSAIDs like aspirin with prednisone because they can cause gastrointestinal upset. The best thing to do is talk with your vet and discuss the best options.

Question:
My Pomeranian had puppies seven weeks ago. She's weaned the puppies, but her breasts are still engorged. Other than using a warm compress, what else can I do for her?
Answer:

Usually warm compresses and time will suffice. Her breasts should dry up soon. However, if she seems ill (lethargic, not eating, etc.) you should consult with your vet. Also, if her breasts remain engorged, if you notice her breasts are really red and warm, or if there's any yellowish discharge, she should be seen by your vet immediately to rule out mastitis.

Question:
Our dog has a cough. How (if at all) should we treat it?
Answer:

Many different maladies can cause a cough in a dog: bacterial infection, viral infection, allergies, parasites, or even a foreign body. A cough can also be something more serious, like cancer or heart disease. Consult with your veterinarian to figure out what's going on.

Question:
My dog is 16 years old and going blind. Her eyes have been leaky and she now has a white spot in her left eye. What could the white spot be and what can I do for her?
Answer:

The white spot may be a cataract, which can also cause increased pressure in the eye (glaucoma) and subsequent eye discharge. This can be very painful. The best thing you can do is consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible for the best treatment options.

Question:
My dogs are scooting around on their bottoms, which are now red and swollen. What's wrong with them? What can I do?
Answer:

It sounds like their anal glands are full, and this will cause irritation and redness in their “bottom” areas. You should take them to your veterinarian for a checkup. It may mean something as simple as having their anal glands expressed, or emptied. These glands can also become infected. So they may need antibiotics and treatment if this is the case.

Question:
Are almonds toxic to dogs? If not, are there any reasons why dogs shouldn't eat them?
Answer:

Almonds can be toxic to dogs. They can contain cyanide-type compounds.

Question:
I just adopted a 1-year-old black Lab that was mistreated and malnourished by his previous owner. He's so thin that his spine and ribs are protruding from under his skin. What should I be feeding him right now to get him to a healthy weight?
Answer:

Consult with your veterinarian first and make sure he doesn’t have any other issues going on, like internal parasites, or worms). If all is well, a high-quality puppy food -- higher in fat and protein -- would be great for proper muscle growth and weight gain.

Question:
My Jack Russell ate the netting of a pork roast. Will he be able to pass it, or do I need to call the vet?
Answer:

It is highly unlikely he will be able to pass it. You should definitely get him to the vet.

Question:
Our 6-month-old German shepherd has cracking and bleeding sores around her eyes that seem to itch. We haven't changed her food (dry puppy food) since she started eating solids. What could be wrong with her skin and how can we help her?
Answer:

She might have some sort of allergy. But she could also have mange. The best way to help her is to get her to your veterinarian for an exam and proper treatment.

Question:
I have a 16-month-old German shepherd. Is it OK for him to eat cooked chicken meat, liver, and gizzards with rice?
Answer:

Cooked and unseasoned (especially no salt) chicken should be fine. But make sure all of the bones are removed. I’d also recommend that you feed this kind of food to your dog in moderation. Quality dog food provides a fine diet for dogs.

Thank you for joining us for WebMD Ask the Veterinarian. Be sure to check in on Thursday, Jan. 19, at 1 p.m. ET when we discuss Cat Training and Behavior. Sign up if you'd like an email reminder the day before the event.

WebMD Ask the Specialist Transcript

Reviewed by William Draper, DVM on November 13, 2011

The opinions expressed in this section are of the Specialist and the Specialist alone. They do not reflect the opinions of WebMD and they have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance or objectivity. WebMD is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health provider because of something you have read on WebMD. 

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