• Vaccination is an important weapon against infectious diseases.
  • Some diseases, like rabies, are transmissible to humans, so protecting your pets also protects your family members and community.
  • Pets that stay indoors can also be exposed to infectious diseases, so even indoor cats can benefit from vaccinations.
  • Vaccines are safe and generally well-tolerated by most pets.
  • Vaccine selection and scheduling should be an individualized choice that you and your veterinarian make together.

Companion animals today have the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives than ever before, in part due to the availability of vaccines that can protect pets from deadly infectious diseases. Over the past several decades, the widespread use of vaccines has saved the lives of millions of pets and driven some diseases into relative obscurity.

Unfortunately, infectious diseases still pose a significant threat to dogs and cats that are unvaccinated; therefore, although vaccine programs have been highly successful, pet owners and veterinarians cannot afford to be complacent about the importance of keeping pets up-to-date on their vaccinations.


Although there are many types of vaccines, they tend to work through a similar principle. Most vaccines contain a very small portion of the virus or bacterium that is the infectious agent. Some vaccines contain small quantities of the entire virus or bacterium, whereas others contain particles that are part of the infectious organism. When this substance is introduced to the body in a vaccine, the body’s immune system responds through a series of steps that include making antibodies and modifying other cells that will recognize and target the organism later. When the vaccinated individual comes into contact with the “real” organism, the body will recognize it and react to protect the vaccinated individual from becoming sick by activating the immune system.

Vaccines protect your pet.

Vaccines are one of our most important
weapons against infectious diseases. Some diseases, such as “kennel cough” in dogs and rhinotracheit is in cats, can be transmitted directly from pet to pet.  f your pet is ever around other animals—such as at a kennel, dog park, grooming salon, or daycare facility—exposure to infectious disease is possible. Even pets that look healthy on the outside may be sick, so keeping your pet’s vaccines up-to-date is a good way to help prevent illness.

Even primarily indoor pets can be exposed to diseases.
Even if your pet doesn’t have direct contact
with other animals, some diseases can be transmitted indirectly. For example,  parvovirus infection, which is potentially fatal, is spread through contact with feces from an infected dog. Even if your dog never has contact with a dog infected with parvovirus, exposure to the virus can occur through contact with feces from an infected dog, such as in a park or on a beach. Lyme disease, a dangerous infection that is carried by ticks, is another disease that your dog can be exposed to without coming into contact with other dogs.

In cats, panleukopenia infection is potentially fatal and spread through contact with body fluids (mostly urine and feces) from an infected cat. Once a cat is infected with panleukopenia, it may shed virus in body fluids for a few days or up to 6 weeks. Panleukopenia can live in the environment (such as on contaminated bedding, food bowls, litter boxes, and other items) for a very long time, so contact with contaminated objects can spread the infection to other cats. Additionally, if a pet owner is handling an infected cat, failure to change clothes and wash hands thoroughly with the correct disinfectant can expose other cats to the disease.

Vaccines protect your family and community.
Some infectious diseases, such as
leptospirosis in dogs and rabies in dogs and cats, are zoonotic diseases. That means humans also can become infected. In the case of rabies and leptospirosis, both diseases can cause serious illness and death in infected individuals—including humans. Protecting your pets against these diseases also protects the rest of your family members, as well as other pets and people in your community.


All of the available vaccines for dogs  and cats have been thoroughly tested and verified as safe when administered  as directed. Most pets tolerate vaccines very well, although reactions can occur in some cases. Some pets can seem lethargic after receiving vaccines. Notify your veterinarian if your pet develops breathing problems, facial swelling, vomiting, hives, redness on the skin, or other unusual changes after receiving a vaccine. You also should tell your veterinarian if your pet has ever had a problem in the past after receiving a vaccine.


Many vaccines are available for dogs and cats, but every pet does not need to receive every available vaccine. So how do you know which vaccines your pet should have? The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) and the American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP) have summarized vaccine recommendations to help veterinarians clarify how to best protect dogs and cats through the use of vaccine programs. AAHA and AAFP evaluated the available vaccines and categorized them to provide guidelines on how commonly they should be used.

Vaccines are categorized as core, non-core, or not recommended. A core vaccine is one that all pets should receive. The core vaccines for dogs are rabies, distemper, adenovirus-2, and parvovirus. The core vaccines for cats are rabies, rhinotracheitis (feline herpesvirus-1), panleukopenia (feline distemper), and calicivirus.

Non-core vaccines are optional ones that pets can benefit from based on their risk for exposure to the disease. Examples include the vaccines against Lyme disease and leptospirosis in dogs, and the vaccines against feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus (or feline AIDS) in cats. Categorization of a vaccine as “not recommended” does not mean that the vaccine is bad or dangerous.

This designation simply means that widespread use of the vaccine is not currently recommended. Because core vaccines are recommended for all pets, your veterinarian will recommend keeping these vaccines up-to-date at all times. The decision regarding non-core vaccines should be made after you and your veterinarian have discussed the vaccines in question and whether your pet might benefit from receiving them.

Factors to consider include your pet’s lifestyle (how much time your pet spends outside), where you live, where you travel with your pet, and how often your pet has contact with other animals. Bear in mind that vaccine recommendations and your pet’s lifestyle can change. Your veterinarian may want to discuss modifying the vaccine recommendations to ensure that your pet is well protected.

Puppies and kittens generally
receive their first vaccines when they are around 6 to 8 weeks of age. Booster vaccines are generally given during your puppy or kitten checkup visits; your veterinarian can discuss the recommended schedule with you. Vaccines are generally repeated a year later. Although puppies and kittens are considered especially vulnerable to some diseases, it is also very important for adult pets  to be up-to-date on vaccines.

Traditionally, many vaccines were repeated yearly, during regular checkup examinations. However, research has shown that some vaccines can protect pets for longer than 1 year. In light of these findings, the AAHA and AAFP guidelines note that some vaccines don’t need to be repeated more frequently than every 3 years. The decision regarding how often your pet needs vaccine boosters depends on several factors, including your pet’s overall health status and risk for exposure to the diseases in question. Your veterinarian may recommend annual boosters after considering your pet’s lifestyle and disease exposure risk.

The decision regarding how often to administer any vaccine (annually, every 3 years, or not at all) should be an individualized choice that you and your veterinarian make together. Vaccination remains one of the most important services your veterinarian offers, and although vaccination is a routine procedure, it should not be taken for granted. It also allows a regular opportunity for your veterinarian to perform a physical examination, which is very important for keeping your pet healthy. Protecting patients is your veterinarian’s primary goal, and developing an appropriate vaccine protocol for your pet is as important as any other area of medicine. TVN



There are 3 major types of allergy that can affect your dog or cat:

  • Environmental allergy (atopic dermatitis): allergy to indoor or outdoor environmental substances such as pollen, dust mites, molds, feathers and hair. This is the most common allergy in most parts of Canada.
  • Food allergy (cutaneous adverse food reaction): allergy to ingredients in food, including occasionally ingested ingredients. It is much less common than environmental allergy.
  • Flea allergy (flea bite hypersensitivity): fleas are a common cause of allergy around the world, though they are rare problem in places with harsh winters like Quebec and the Prairie provinces.

In this document, we will discuss environmental allergy and food allergy, as their clinical signs are often identical.

What is an allergy and what are allergens? 


Allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body to the presence of a substance, usually a protein, which is normally harmless. This substance is called an “allergen”.

Allergens are quite varied in nature. House dust mites, grass, tree or weed pollens, environmental molds (fungi), feathers, and food proteins are all harmless substances capable of causing allergic reactions in allergic pets. Interestingly, environmental allergens are primarily absorbed through the skin in pets, rather than by inhalation, although both forms of allergen exposure may contribute to symptoms in the allergic pet.

The significant overlap in symptoms associated with various allergies and their secondary infections lead to making allergy a complicated condition. Additionally, an individual animal is rarely allergic to one thing.

An allergen is a substance that can induce, or trigger, an allergic reaction in an allergic pet. The allergic pet over-reacts to an allergen present in its environment or food, whereas non-allergic pets do not react to these substances.

Allergic pets are usually sensitive to multiple allergens! One individual may be allergic to a variety of pollens, another may be allergic to pollens and house dust mites, while another may be allergic to house dust mites and a dietary ingredient. Various combinations are possible. All such combinations of potential allergens leads to the common allergy symptom of itchiness (pruritus) in dogs and cats! Fortunately, it is not always necessary to identify all the allergens involved or to treat all the allergy complications at the same time. It is sometimes enough to eliminate the major causes of itchiness so that the patient improves, and becomes comfortable.

The main symptom of environmental and food allergy is itchiness which can mainly result in scratching, licking, biting, rubbing, over-grooming, and head shaking. The allergic dog is typically itchy at the paws, belly, neck, ears and face. Subsequently, due to self-inflicted trauma, there may be hair loss, redness, and crusts.

Most allergies (particularly environmental allergy) begin in young adults. However, they can begin at any age. There are sometimes additional clues in the patient history that help the veterinarian to differentiate between environmental allergy or food allergy:

  • Environmental allergy (atopic dermatitis) is a familial disease and the presence of similar symptoms in parents can be an important clue. There is a long list of breeds that are predisposed to developing environmental allergy, but this disease may affect an individual from any breed.
  • An environmental allergy may also be associated with eye and/or respiratory problems.

Some itchy cats may not scratch but instead groom themselves excessively, leading to hair loss. The allergic cat may have crusty dermatitis, or red, oozing, raised plaques on skin. Scratching, head shaking, paw biting may also be noted.


  • The symptoms of environmental allergy can be seasonal (for example, grass & weed pollen causing summer allergic symptoms) although year-round problems are also commonly associated with environmental allergy.
  • Food allergy can be accompanied by digestive symptoms (for example diarrhea, excessive gas, and frequent bowel movements).
  • A sudden allergic flare after eating a specific food is suggestive of food allergy. Despite some suggestive signs that help differentiate food and environmental allergy, it is very difficult to distinguish these two diseases in most allergic pets. Moreover, both environmental and food allergy may affect a proportion of allergic patients, thus diagnosing one condition will not rule out the other.

Secondary infections in the allergic patient

Skin allergies almost always result in a disturbance of the fragile balance that characterizes healthy skin. Affected skin and ears are more susceptible to infection by microorganisms that are naturally present on the skin in low numbers. On an allergic pet, these organisms can proliferate and give rise to secondary infections. These infections are caused by bacteria (usually Staphylococcus spp.), a yeast (fungus) called Malassezia, or both. Secondary infections of the skin and/or ears can greatly aggravate allergic symptoms and add to the pet’s discomfort and suffering. Infection identification and control are essential when treating an allergic patient.

How to approach allergies in pets

If your veterinarian suspects that your pet is suffering from an allergy, a stepwise plan is usually suggested. In many pets, the initial stage involves investigating the major causes of itching that can closely mimic allergies. Parasitic itching (fleas and other ectoparasites) should be excluded. This can involve a trial treatment even if parasites are not seen on your pet, as they can be very hard to find. Another step will be to recognize and treat secondary infections, often based on microscopic examination (cytology) of material collected from the skin or ears. If an infection is present, topical and/or oral antimicrobial treatment will be prescribed.

The next stage is usually work up for food allergy, if the pet’s signs are present year-round. The only way to diagnose or rule out a food allergy is with an 8-week “elimination diet trial” followed by a diet re-exposure challenge. It is important to complete the elimination diet trial under the supervision of a veterinarian for best results. Every patient is an individual, and it can take some time to find a diet that works best for your pet. Switching between various pet store diets is unlikely to work. Unfortunately, the available tests that utilize blood, hair, or saliva to diagnose food allergies are highly inaccurate and have been disproven by many studies. Pets that do not improve within the 8-week elimination diet trial very likely suffer from environmental allergy. Identification of the culprit environmental allergens for your pet can be undertaken using intradermal or blood allergy testing. Allergy testing is not used to confirm or rule out environmental allergies, as that diagnosis is obtained by ruling out other possibilities, not by relying on test results. The results obtained from allergy testing are used to formulate an immunotherapy vaccine to desensitize your pet to the allergens causing the symptoms, making the environmental allergy easier to manage long-term.


  • Although food and environmental allergy have similar clinical signs, their diagnosis and management plans are quite different. A specific dietary change (elimination diet) helps control food allergy in affected pets, while also helping with ruling out a food allergy in pets affected with other conditions such as environmental allergy. Allergy testing and allergy immunotherapy are used to help manage environmental allergy after your pet’s veterinarian has ruled out other possibilities.
  • There are many treatment combinations available for the management of allergies. An individualized treatment plan is needed for every patient, thus it may sometimes take time to find one that is best for your pet. Successful management of allergies involves close follow-up with your veterinarian.

While both environmental allergy and food allergy are lifelong diseases that are not curable, both can be effectively managed with appropriate treatment in order to help your pet live comfortably and with a very good quality of life.


Source: w w w . c a v d . c a


Elimination diet trials can be tough! We’re here to help. The Canadian Academy of Veterinary Dermatology would like to share some information and tips about this
very important diagnostic step. Your veterinarian has reason to believe that a “cutaneous adverse food reaction” – which we will simply call a “food allergy” – might be playing a role in your dog’s skin or ear problems. By addressing this allergy, you can help your dog feel much better. That’s the good news! The bad news is that there is no accurate skin or laboratory test for food allergies in pets. And a dog with a food allergy looks just like one with environmental allergies and might, in fact, have both.

Currently, the only way to diagnose a food allergy is using an elimination diet trial. The elimination diet trial (also called a “hypoallergenic” diet trial) is an 8-week test period when your dog can eat one thing, and one thing only: the food recommended by your veterinarian. Any other food, even a tiny treat, can affect the results of the trial. To give your dog the best chance of responding, you must be 100% strict with the trial for the full 8 weeks. We know that this is easier said than done!

What happens during those 8 weeks? If your dog has a food allergy, you will see a gradual 50% to 100% improvement in his condition, depending on whether other allergies are present. After 8 weeks, your veterinarian may ask you to return to your dog’s regular food and treats to see if his symptoms return. This step is called a dietary challenge, and is only done after your veterinarian has reassessed your dog. The challenge is recommended because many other factors (medications, season changes) can contribute to your dog’s improvement during those 8 weeks.


We’re often asked the following questions:

I haven’t changed the food recently and my dog’s poops are perfect; could he still have a food allergy? Yes! In fact, most dogs with food allergy have eaten their food 2 years or longer. And it’s very common for the allergy to affect only the skin or ears. How common are food allergies? Estimates vary, but about 20% of dogs with allergic skin disease have a food allergy. What could my dog be allergic to? Almost anything! Food allergy is an inappropriate reaction of the immune system against a normal – and perfectly safe – food ingredient called an “allergen”. The most common allergens are proteins in food, which are abundant in meats but also found in grains, fruit, and vegetables. Common allergens for dogs include beef, dairy, chicken, and wheat. But there are many others!

What is an Elimination Diet?
Simply put, it’s any food that we think doesn’t contain the ingredients that your dog may be allergic to. Elimination diets, also called “hypoallergenic” diets, fall into two categories: novel
ingredient diets and hydrolyzed diets. A novel ingredient diet is made from foods that your dog has never eaten. This makes the ingredients new, or “novel”, to his immune system. The immune system usually tolerates these ingredients because there hasn’t been time for an allergy to develop. A novel ingredient diet can be veterinary kibble or wet food, or a home-prepared food, based
on your veterinarian’s recommendation and your preference.

Although they can be very effective, there are a couple of drawbacks to novel ingredient diets. It can be difficult to
find ingredients that are truly novel if a dog has already “eaten everything on the Ark”. And we suspect that in some cases, dogs can cross-react to ingredients that they have
never eaten. For example, some dogs allergic to beef may show symptoms when fed lamb or venison, even if they have never eaten these meats. A hydrolyzed diet is made with ingredients that are broken down (hydrolyzed) in a way to make them very small. These tiny fragments are so different from the full-sized protein that they are much less likely to trigger an allergy. So even if your dog  as an allergy to soy, he might safely be able to eat a food made from hydrolyzed soy. Hydrolyzed diets can be a good choice in dogs that have eaten a wide variety of foods and treats.

In addition to being hypoallergenic for your dog, the food must also be one that he digests well and eats happily for 8 weeks. Each dog is different, so sometimes we have to try a few different foods before we get it right! What treats can I give during a diet trial? None, unless they are specifically made to accompany the recommended food. Don’t assume that treats with a hypoallergenic label will be suitable. Even the tiniest amount counts: the flavouring in a single monthly heartworm pill is enough to set off an allergy. Think of a child with a peanut allergy. Would you give them “just one” peanut? Want to show your dog some love during the diet trial? See the Tips for Elimination Diet Trials below.


Can I feed fruit or vegetables?
Fruit and vegetables can sometimes cause allergic reactions too. Don’t assume they will be OK.
Set your dog up for success by being as strict as possible!

Can I use a pet store food to diagnose a food allergy? How about a grain-free or raw diet?
We recommend using veterinary diets or home-prepared foods for the elimination diet trial. Studies show that some store-bought foods can contain small amounts of ingredients not listed
on pet food labels, making them unsuitable for the 8-week elimination diet trial period. Grain-free diets are not effective for elimination diet trials unless your dog only has a known
grain allergy. And because we rarely know what your dog is allergic to when we start the diet trial, we would miss many food allergies by simply switching to a grain-free diet.
Raw foods are not recommended for diet trials. They don’t work any better than their cooked counterparts, and pose health risks to your dog and your family.

Will I need to feed the recommended diet forever?

In most cases, no. Even if your dog has a food allergy, your veterinarian can often recommend foods other than the trial diet that will work for long-term feeding. And of course, if your dog does not improve by 8 weeks, there is no reason to continue the food.

Why is the diet trial so long?

It takes a long time for the skin to normalize after a food allergen is removed. A diet trial lasting 8 weeks will diagnose about 95% of food allergic dogs. On the other hand, a trial lasting 4 weeks will diagnose only about half.

How can I find out exactly what my dog is allergic to?

If your dog reacts to his previous food or treats, you might wish to find out exactly which ingredients caused the problem. Your veterinarian can guide you through a sequential process (provocation) that involves adding individual suspected food allergens to the diet for up to two weeks at a time.

Tips for Elimination Diet Trials

  • Tough love. You will need to be strong when confronted with those big brown eyes asking for a treat. Think of the possible health benefits for your dog. Or imagine a peanut-allergic
    child asking for a peanut butter cookie!
  • Take it slow. Don’t switch to the new food overnight. It’s a recipe for refusal and stomach upset. Take at least one week (or longer) to make the transition, starting with a very small amount of the new food on day one. Start the 8-week countdown on the first day you feed only the elimination diet.

  • Don’t give up. Though we always recommend a food that we think is best for your dog, what your dog actually thinks matters most. Call your veterinary team if you encounter food refusal, diarrhea, or any other problems. Veterinary diets are guaranteed, so the food can be returned and replaced with another if your dog doesn’t like it.
  • “Good dog!” Make the food into a treat by putting it into your dog’s cookie jar and using it as a reward. If your dog gets food from the kitchen counter or table, have a stash of the
    food at these locations. You can even hide it in a food-dispensing toy to make it more fun for your dog. As your veterinary team for other tips on rewarding your dog.
  • No stealing! Feed your dog separately from other pets to make sure he doesn’t sneak into their bowls.
  • Don’t mix and match. Stick to one type of food during the trial. For example, don’t add a venison canned food with a hydrolyzed dry food. No one food is 100% hypoallergenic for every dog,  o
    feeding more than one type increases the chance of “missing” a food allergy.
  • Oh no, pills? If you struggle to give oral medications to your pet, ask your veterinarian about alternatives such as injections or topically applied treatments, or even delaying the diet trial.
  • Let your pack know. Your dog may have an entourage: children, neighbours, dog walkers, dog daycare staff, pet store staff, and members of your family. They need to know about the diet trial!
  • Plan ahead. Purchase the food well in advance of when you will run out.
  • Stay clean. Keep the food in its original packaging, or thoroughly wash the container you use for storing the food.
  • Keep track. Keeping a calendar of your pet’s symptoms, medications, and food can really help us figure out what’s working, and what’s not.
  • Don’t panic! If you make a mistake, it’s OK. Record it on the calendar and keep going with the diet trial.
  • Stay strong. For the sake of your dog’s health, do your best to stick with the trial for the whole 8 weeks. Call your veterinary team with questions, or to ask for help.

Every dog is different. We know it takes patience and effort to complete an elimination diet trial. But if your dog has a food allergy, your persistence can make a world of difference to his quality of life. Hang in there!

Canadian Academy of Veterinary Dermatology
Promoting the advancement of veterinary dermatology in Canada

Source: at


Signs Your Dog Might Be Suffering in Your Absence

Do you worry that your dog misses you a little too much? Does your pup chew or destroy things in the house when you are not there? If so, your pet may have separation anxiety.

Look for the “classic” signs

  • Vocalization
  • Destructiveness
  • House soiling

Other behavioral and physiological signs related to separation anxiety

  • Panting, pacing, or drooling
  • Hyperventilation
  • Gastrointestinal signs, such as vomiting and diarrhea
  • Inappetence: Does she wait for you to get home before eating?
  • Increased anxiety when owner is preparing to leave
  • Excessive greetings upon your return

These signs may appear in some (but not all) dogs

● Becoming withdrawn or inactive
● Extreme levels of panic and escape behavior that results in self-trauma (common for dogs who are crated when left alone)

The only way to be sure is to collect video
Set up your phone to record video and point the camera toward where you exit your home. Leave the home as you normally would, and either walk or drive away. Stay out of the home for at least 10 minutes.

Check the recording when you get back. Evaluate what you see! Did you notice any of the following?

  • Pacing or panting
  • Vocalization
  • Pawing at door
  • Nervous walking from the door to a window

If you notice any of these signs, talk to your veterinarian and show them the video. Some options that may be suggested include:

  • Doggie daycare
  • Leave the dog with a friend or relative who stays home
  • Take the dog to your workplace
  • Leave the dog in a different area of the home that’s not associated with increased anxiety

If none of these options are viable, pheromones, nutraceuticals, and anxiolytic medications may also be prescribed.

What not to do
Do not confine your pup in a crate—this may further her anxiety and she could hurt herself trying to escape

Remember: If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, they are suffering. Talk to your AAHA-accredited veterinary practice about ways to help.

Additional Tips for Preventing Separation Anxiety

  • Owners should avoid leaving the dog suddenly for 4–8 hours, especially if the dog has not been left alone for any length of time.
  • Departures should be very short at first and the behaviors of the dog should be the guide. Owners might start with a 2- to 3-minute period of leaving the dog alone. This could just mean confining the dog in the crate or closing a door between the owner and dog while the dog eats his meals.
  • Length of departures should then be gradually increased a few minutes at a time. Once the dog has been shown to be calm and anxiety free for the first hour, then it is likely that it will be OK for several hours, but the next departure should be limited to 2–4 hours. These lengths of departures should be repeated a few times before going to 8-hour departures.
  • If the dog is a puppy, the length of departures should be limited according to how long the pup can hold his bladder. As a general rule, most puppies can only hold it for about 1 hour per month of age. Therefore, an 8-week-old puppy can probably not go more than a couple of hours without eliminating. A 12-week-old puppy can probably only wait about 3 hours. If you leave a puppy confined for longer than he can comfortably go without eliminating, this can teach the puppy to dislike being confined.
  • Every departure should be associated with some type of special treat. For very short departures, owners might consider a few small pieces of treat, but as the departures are lengthened, the treat should be something that will keep the dog busy for a longer period. Stuffed Kongs or similar food toys are ideal for this. If treats such as these are reserved for times when the dog is alone, they will eventually learn to associate these “good things” with being alone.
  • Avoiding a lot of drama associated with departures and arrivals may be helpful and will certainly do no harm. This does not mean that people must ignore their pet, only that they should avoid making a big fuss. Getting the dog excited prior to departing may simply leave the dog in a high state of arousal, which is not conducive to the calm, relaxed feelings that we would like the dog to have when alone. Getting the dog very excited about arrivals can reinforce excited behaviors and only emphasizes the contrast between owner presence and owner absence,
    possibly making it harder for the dog to continue to associate being alone with feeling great.

Valarie V. Tynes, DVM, DACVB, DACAW 



Cataracts are an abnormal opacification (clouding) of the lens deep inside the eye. The lens is a clear structure located behind the iris (the colored part of the eye), and its function is to focus light entering through the pupil into an image that is perceived by the retina in the back of the eye. With different extents of cataract formation, the entire lens may be opaque (cloudy) or just a part of it may be opaque. If more than 30% of the lens is opaque, vision is generally impaired in the affected eye as a result. This does not threaten vision overall if only one eye is affected, but often cataracts develop in both eyes simultaneously, which can compromise sight and even lead to blindness.

With cataracts, the normally black pupil looks cloudy or white in bright light. A similar, but less serious condition that resembles cataracts is called nuclear sclerosis. This is a normal, older-age-related haziness of the lens that is often referred to as “cataracts” in everyday terms. Nuclear sclerosis rarely compromises vision, is very common as dogs age, and progresses (worsens) much more slowly than true cataracts. Telling the difference between nuclear sclerosis and true cataracts is important because there is almost never a need to treat nuclear sclerosis, whereas cataracts require a search for a cause (the cataracts may be the first sign of a generalized disease that requires treatment) and may cause blind-ness. The difference between nuclear sclerosis and true cataracts is determined by a veterinarian during a routine examination of the eyes.

Cataracts are common in dogs but rare in cats. Some dog breeds are prone to hereditary cataracts. Breeds that commonly have inherited cataracts that can deteriorate to the point of causing blindness include the miniature poodle, American cocker spaniel, miniature schnauzer, Golden retriever, Boston terrier, and Siberian Husky. The most common cause of cataracts is heredity, where the likelihood of developing cataracts at some point in life is transmitted genetically. Other causes include diseases such as high blood sugar due to diabetes or low blood calcium levels. Cataracts can occur spontaneously (for no known reason) in older animals or can be a result of inflammation of the inside of the eye, called uveitis. Several infectious diseases can cause uveitis. Other causes include toxic substances, radiation, and nutritional deficiencies. Inherited cataracts may be present at birth, appear in a young pet, or not occur until the pet is older.

Cataracts can be diagnosed by physical examination; special instruments may be used for determining the exact location of the cataract within the lens, which can help determine the cause of the cataract (and therefore help to make the best treatment plan and long-term outlook known). If uveitis is also present, further tests will be needed to determine if a deep-seated eye infection is causing the uveitis. Routine blood and urine tests may be recommended to evaluate the possibility of diseases that can cause high blood sugar or low blood calcium. If cataract surgery is an option, ultrasound evaluation of the eye may be recommended to look for detached retinas or other eye defects that might be involved with, or masked by, cataracts. Before cataract surgery, a test called electroretinography will be used to evaluate the retina to be sure it is functional; otherwise, correction of the cataract would be of no benefit if some other part of the eye was nonfunctional and vision was not restored despite surgery. Cataract surgery can only restore vision if the other structures in the eye are normal.


If cataract surgery is an option for your pet, it should be performed as early as possible. Cataract surgery is easier and has a higher success rate in the earlier stages. Cataracts that are not removed may eventually cause severe and painful, chronic eye conditions such as uveitis, glaucoma, or retinal detachment. Since the damage caused by these problems often cannot be reversed, cataract surgery should be considered early rather than late. The most important first step is to have confirmation that the cloudiness of the lens of the eye is indeed a cataract and not an “impostor” such as nuclear sclerosis. Veterinary ophthalmologists, whose work is entirely limited to treating animals with eye problems, may be a valuable resource prior to deciding about cataract surgery. They are known as Diplomates of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmology and can be located in most large city centers in North America ( Once cataracts are confirmed, it is important to schedule surgery before complications develop, since these may be irreversible. Cataracts tend to grow larger more quickly in younger dogs than in older dogs.


The process that leads to cataract formation is irreversible. Therefore, no medication exists that can clear cataracts, and the treatment of choice is removal of the cataract from within the eye with surgery. The outlook for good vision is excellent after surgical removal of inherited or diabetic cataracts. Treatment and outlook for other types of cataracts depend upon the cause. Surgery can involve removal of the cataract intact or the use of phacoemulsification, a process whereby ultrasonic waves are delivered within the eye to dissolve the cataract-containing lens, and the dissolved fragments are removed during surgery. Intraocular lenses, which are synthetic lenses that replace the lens removed with the cataract, can be implanted at the time of cataract removal for better near-field vision.


  • Use all medications exactly as directed.
  • Realize that cataracts may occur for genetic reasons or maybe the first sign of a generalized disease (“tip of the iceberg” phenomenon). If you see a cloudiness to the eye that you suspect is a cataract, then a routine veterinary visit is recommended to confirm whether a cataract is actually present.
  • Pay attention to your pet’s ability to see; blindness in dogs and cats may be difficult to detect but usually involves stumbling or bumping into objects when they are in unfamiliar territory.


  • Do not overestimate or underestimate the possibility of cataracts when you notice that the normally black pupil has become gray or milky white. Since there are many different causes for cloudiness in the eye, a veterinary evaluation is necessary to know whether it is a cataract and if the condition is serious enough to warrant specific attention.
  • If your pet has cataracts, do not allow him or her to be near high places such as the tops of stairs (use a baby gate if necessary), edges of walls or cliffs, etc. Even a small amount of lost vision may be enough to cause serious injury from a fall that would not have occurred before the cataract existed.


  • If vision seems to be deteriorating, as evidenced by bumping into objects or walls or falling or stumbling in unfamiliar territory.


The following are signs that a cataract may be forming:

  • Cloudiness or white areas visible in the pupil of the eye.
  • Loss of vision.


  • As determined by the type and extent of cataract and whether surgery is performed.


  • Pets with cataracts that are known or suspected to be inherited should not be bred.

From Cohn and Côté: Clinical Veterinary Advisor, 4th edition. Copyright © 2020 by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


Canine infectious respiratory disease complex (CIRDC) is a combination of clinical signs caused by one or more contagious respiratory pathogens (germs); the complex is better known as “kennel cough” and may also be called “contagious tracheobronchitis”. There are many bacterial and viral pathogens that contribute to CIRDC (see list). If any one of these damages the airways, it sets up the opportunity for other CIRDC pathogens, or for ordinary bacteria, to cause a secondary infection that can be quite serious.

Just as for people with contagious respiratory infections (e.g., the common cold, influenza), most infected dogs will recover from their illness with or without treatment. Just as people are more likely to pick up a cold from school or work, dogs are more likely to pick up infections when they are exposed to other dogs. This might be at an animal shelter, a boarding kennel, a groomer, doggie-daycare, a dog park, or even at a veterinary clinic. A variety of factors makes infection after exposure more or less likely (vaccination status, age, stress levels, etc.). Although CIRDC is highly contagious between dogs, it is not contagious to people.

Clinical signs are similar for infections with any of the common pathogens that cause CIRDC. The most common symptom is coughing, which might be severe and can last for weeks. Other common signs include runny nose, runny eyes, poor appetite, and lethargy. Some of the pathogens cause other signs. For instance, distemper virus can cause vomiting and diarrhea, muscle twitching, or even seizures. While most cases of CIRDC will resolve on their own, dogs can develop severe illness and secondary lung infections. If this happens, pneumonia can cause difficulty breathing or can even lead to death.

Common pathogens contributing to CIRDC:

Bordetella bronchiseptica

Canine adenovirus

Canine distemper virus

Canine herpesvirus

Canine influenza virus

Canine parainfluenza virus

Canine respiratory coronavirus

Mycoplasma cynos

Streptococcus equi


Your veterinarian will probably suspect CIRDC based on your dog’s recent history and physical examination. If typical respiratory signs occur shortly after boarding or another easily recognized source of exposure, or if your veterinarian is aware that there has been a recent rash of CIRDC in the area, there may be no need for additional testing. On the other hand, if your dog is more ill than expected or if there is a reason to suspect a secondary pneumonia, a variety of blood tests, x-rays, or even an airway wash might be suggested.


There is no specific medicine used for treating kennel cough, and most dogs will recover even if they are not treated with any medications. Unless your dog is so ill that intravenous fluids or extra oxygen are required, treatment will be done at home. It is very important that you keep your sick dog away from all others because these infections are quite contagious between dogs. Viral infections must run their course, and they do not respond to antibiotics. That said, your veterinarian might prescribe antibiotics either because he or she suspects a bacterial pathogen instead of a virus, or to prevent/treat secondary bacterial infections. As long as there is no sign of pneumonia, your veterinarian might also prescribe cough suppressants to make your dog more comfortable. Cough suppressants don’t stop the cough completely, and they might make your dog drowsy. Cough suppressants must be avoided if your dog develops complications of infection such as pneumonia.

It is likely that your dog will not feel like eating or drinking as much as normal while they recover. Make sure there is always clean water available, and offer tempting canned food for several days. Avoid using a neck collar because that can start a coughing spell. Basically, your dog needs tender loving care (TLC) as their body fights off the infection, much as you would need TLC while fighting off a cold or flu. In most cases, your dog will be feeling better in a week or so, although the cough may linger for a few weeks longer than that.


  • Pay attention to your dog’s breathing. It should not appear labored or fast.
  • Let your dog rest. This is not the time for long walks or a jog.
  • Make sure that your dog has plenty of fresh water and tempting food.
  • Ask your veterinarian if you should monitor your dog’s temperature at home.
  • Humidification can be helpful if your dog is congested. Allowing your dog to lie on the floor when you take a hot shower might help ease their congestion.
    • Talk to your veterinarian about a vaccine for your dog to decrease the chance of contracting kennel cough if you know that your dog will be exposed to new dogs in the future (boarding in a kennel, attending dog shows, etc.).
    • Observe your dog closely if you are giving a cough medicine that can cause drowsiness or that can cause anxiety. If this is the case, contact your veterinarian to determine whether the dosage should be changed or a different medication substituted.
    • Give medication only as directed.


  • Don’t give medications unless they are prescribed or approved by your veterinarian. Many medications made for people can be dangerous for dogs.
  • Don’t use a neck collar.
  • Don’t allow your dog to be around other dogs for several weeks after infection. Not only can your dog pass on the infection, but your dog will be more likely to catch something else from the other dog while his/her own body is run down.
  • Don’t expect that antibiotics will cure the disease. Just as with the common cold, in most cases the infection should resolve on its own and antibiotics could cause more harm than good.


  • Call if you notice that your dog is having any trouble breathing – too fast, too slow, funny noises, or anything else concerning should prompt a call.
  • Call if your dog refuses to drink for more than a day or refuses food for more than two days.
  • Call if your dog becomes markedly listless or very depressed, refusing to walk about the room.
  • Call if the coughing is interfering with your dog’s ability to rest.
  • Call if your dog’s symptoms seem to be getting worse instead of better after a few days.
  • If you observe any signs of an adverse reaction to the medication, such as hives (bumps under the skin), weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, or drowsiness.
  • If you are having difficulty giving the medication to your dog.


  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Refusal to drink or eat
  • Worsening cough or lethargy


  • If symptoms improve, there is likely no need for a follow-up visit. At your next regularly scheduled appointment, discuss if any changes to your dog’s vaccination protocol might be warranted.


There are vaccinations that prevent some, but not all, of the infections that cause CIRDC. Vaccines can help prevent (or reduce sever-ity of illness if infection does occur) distemper virus, adenovirus, parainfluenza virus, influenza virus, and Bordetella bronchiseptica.

Some of these vaccines are considered “core”, meaning that every dog should receive that vaccine (for example, distemper virus is a core vaccine). Most of the vaccines are considered “non-core”, or optional. The decision as to whether to use these vaccines depends on a number of factors, including your dog’s risk of exposure.

Vaccines come in different forms. Many of the different respiratory vaccines are bundled together, while others protect from just one pathogen. Some are given by injection, while others are given in the nose or mouth. Some must be repeated every year, while others are given only every three years.



Brachycephalic means short-headed (short-nosed), and many breeds of dogs have been bred for this type of appearance. Bulldogs, boxers, Boston terriers, Pekingese, pugs, and shih tzus are all examples of breeds with a short-nosed, “pushed-in,” or brachycephalic, face. The bones and associated structures of the head are shaped in such a way as to give these dogs the typical appearance of their breed. However, this shape also causes mild to severe breathing problems because the upper airway often is too small—especially the nasal passages, glottis (throat), and trachea (windpipe).The term brachycephalic airway syndrome describes the anatomic abnormalities and the respiratory problems associated with having an excessively short nose and face. This applies to short-nosed dogs more often than short-nosed cats like Persians. There are different ways in which the upper airway of brachycephalic dogs can be misshapen and cause problems. Any or all of them may be present in a particular dog.

  • Stenotic nares: Narrow, small nostrils make it difficult for the dogs to draw in air through the nose.
  • Elongated soft palate: Excessive tissue of the soft palate can obstruct the flow of air through the pharynx and larynx (upper throat). This is the most common component of the brachycephalic airway syndrome.
  • Everted laryngeal saccules: These small sacs in the very back of the throat are normally inverted (tucked away) and cannot be seen. With excessive negative pressure, which occurs when these dogs inhale, they can be sucked inside out– everted —and further obstruct the airway.
  • Hypoplastic trachea: The windpipe, or trachea, may be narrower in diameter than normal, resulting in increased resistance to airflow when the animal breaths. The symptoms of this syndrome vary based on the severity of the anatomic irregularities. The abnormal structures are present from birth, but obvious problems often do not arise until the dog is over 2 years of age. Some dogs only develop mild symptoms and do not require intervention. Heavy snoring during sleep, or the typical “snorting” of an excited bulldog or Boston terrier are mild examples, and many dogs are not otherwise affected. However, at the other extreme, some dogs develop such a degree of airway obstruction that they have trouble breathing at all, especially on inhaling.

The condition tends to slowly worsen over time. Increased resistance of airflow over a long period of time can cause increased obstruction and weakening of other parts of the throat, and complications such as laryngeal collapse can occur. Such severely affected dogs may become cyanotic (bluish tongue and gums caused by oxygen deprivation) and experience exercise intolerance and syncope (fainting). These very serious symptoms are exacerbated by obesity, hot weather, and excitement, and dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome should avoid these conditions, especially if respiratory difficulty is noted to worsen. If an episode of dyspnea (difficulty breathing) is severe enough, the dog could die from brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Confirming that brachycephalic airway syndrome exists in a certain dog is based on your description of the symptoms you have observed, any medications or treatments and whether they made any difference, and so on. Your veterinarian will be interested in details such as when the breathing difficulties occur, how severe they are, and if they are worsening (more severe, more frequent, or both) over time. There are many respiratory disorders that produce symptoms similar to brachycephalic airway syndrome but that are completely different disorders. Therefore, your veterinarian will want to identify whether any of the anatomic components of the syndrome is present in order to choose the best treatment.

The physical examination can confirm stenotic nostrils (small nostrils), but the other three components of the syndrome require special examination. Under sedation, an inspection of the larynx using a laryngoscope (speculum with a light) can detect an elongated palate and everted laryngeal saccules. Radiographs (x-rays) of the chest may be taken to rule out other airway of lung diseases and to visualize the size of the trachea.


It is important to realize that this condition is chronic and progressive. If you are living with a brachycephalic dog, you should discuss possible problems with your veterinarian and follow instructions. Many mild cases can be managed at home by avoiding stress, avoiding overheating, and preventing obesity (see below). In other cases, surgery may be recommended to trim excess soft tissue from the nostrils, palate, or larynx. Overall, prevention and precaution are the keys to taking care of dogs with mild or moderate brachycephalic airway syndrome.

Brachycephalic airway syndrome does not necessarily affect life expectancy. However, an episode of respiratory distress can quickly worsen into an emergency situation. You must monitor your pet closely to avoid these situations and to intervene early if complications (such as replacement of the pink color of the gums and tongue by a blue color—cyanosis) occur. A dog having difficulty breathing can easily panic and increase his or her respiratory efforts, which in turn can create swelling in the structures of the upper airway and cause a self-perpetuating decline in respiratory function. In such cases, it is important to keep the animal cool and calm while heading directly to a veterinary facility.


Home management consists mostly of avoiding situations that can lead to respiratory problems. Obesity increases the work of breathing, so it is important to make sure that dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome maintain a lean body weight. Overheating and prolonged panting can be dangerous to these dogs. Keep your dog cool on hot, humid days and never leave him or her in a car, outside on a hot day, or in an enclosed kennel. Be careful to avoid allowing overexertion on walks or at play when the temperatures outside are high.

Stress also poses a major risk. In dogs with brachycephalic airway syndrome, it is important to discourage excited behavior such as persistent barking at visitors or pulling on a leash. Use a harness instead of a collar to avoid pressure and swelling to the neck.

If your dog has this condition and it worsens to the point of requiring hospitalization in an emergency situation, treatment may include the following: tranquilization to calm the dog down, antiinflammatories given by injection to decrease swelling in the nose and throat, and supplemental oxygen. The veterinarian may need to perform a temporary tracheostomy (surgical opening into the throat) if the condition has reached a life-threatening state. As for humans, such a procedure involves a plastic tube that is surgically placed into the trachea for a few hours or a day or two to bypass a swollen or collapsed larynx so that the dog can breathe.

If your dog has brachycephalic airway syndrome, your veterinarian will be able to help you decide if surgery is appropriate to increase the size of the airway and reduce the risk of future breathing difficulty. Trimming small nostrils or a long palate might be performed when your dog is a puppy to try to avoid later problems. Once problems occur, referral to a special surgery facility may be necessary since the surgery is often delicate, and complications if the surgery if improperly done can be difficult to manage. Surgery most often involves resection (trimming) of stenotic nares to widen the nostrils, resection of the soft palate, and/or resection of everted laryngeal saccules. Other components of the syndrome, such as the small (hypoplastic) trachea, cannot be corrected with any medicine or surgery. An important consideration is that surgery may be most effective if performed on young dogs before there is a problem. Once the soft tissue structures of the larynx are chronically inflamed, surgery may be less helpful.


  • Take a brief, 1-2–minute video recording (including audio) of your dog’s symptoms if you think they might be caused by the brachycephalic airway syndrome. Showing this video to your veterinarian during an appointment can provide valuable information when the symptoms are occurring only intermittently and not “on demand” in the veterinary hospital during your appointment. Remember, however, that no veterinarian can confirm brachycephalic upper airway syndrome on a video clip alone; an appointment is necessary to evaluate your dog and see the video clip at the same time.
  • Understand that many brachycephalic dogs do not realize the limitations of their narrow airways and will not hold back their enthusiasm or physical activity until a respiratory crisis is well underway. You should be your dog’s safeguard in this way, knowing when to stop on a walk, or during play, especially in warm weather.
  • Proceed with surgical correction if your veterinarian recommends it. Dogs that have proper correction of even just part of the brachycephalic airway syndrome generally lead much happier, much more comfortable lives because they can breathe better. If uncertainty exists about the diagnosis, a second opinion is possible with a veterinarian specialized in surgery. A list of these specialists can be found at
  • Keep your dog at a lean body weight. If your dog is carrying excess weight, weight loss is an extremely effective way of helping to reduce the risk of having a respiratory crisis.
  • Train your dog to exhibit calm behavior in stressful situations, such as when the doorbell rings or meeting other dogs.
  • Monitor your dog closely for worsening of symptoms, in terms of intensity of symptoms, frequency of symptoms, or both.


  • Do not use neck collars and do not allow your dog to pull while on a leash. Use a harness or Gentle Leader-type face collar instead.
  • Do not allow your dog to become overheated.
  • Do not allow strenuous exercise.


  • If your dog is having trouble breathing, an immediate trip to the veterinarian is usually warranted even on an emergency basis—this can be life threatening.
  • Call if your dog seems very anxious for no apparent reason.
  • Call your vet if your pet collapses or faints, as this too can signal an emergency.


The following are signs of worsening of brachycephalic upper airway syndrome:•Increasingly noisy breathing (stridor)

  • Respiratory distress (more than just panting—working to breathe)
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Excessive snoring or restless sleeping habits (dog cannot sleep deeply)
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Cyanosis (gums and tongue turning blue)
  • Syncope (fainting)


  • Follow instructions regarding postoperative care if your pet has surgery.


  • Other conditions can appear with similar symptoms:
    • Laryngeal paralysis and tracheal collapse also cause difficulty breathing with odd sounds.
    • Heart failure, lung disease, or bronchial problems can all cause signs of breathing difficulties.
    • Masses in the upper airway (nose, larynx, or trachea) can obstruct respiration and make strange sounds when breathing.
    • Reverse sneezing, a generally harmless, sporadic burst of very loud sounds. With reverse sneezing, once the bout is over, the dog acts perfectly normal. There are many videos of this phenomenon online if you would like to see if this matches the noise your dog makes.
  • Tests including chest radiographs (x-rays) are often essential to help narrow the possible causes of the breathing problems.
    • Laryngeal collapse is an end-stage condition that can follow years of living with brachycephalic airway syndrome. The cartilages of the larynx become weak and are no longer able to hold the airway open, causing severe obstruction of the airway. This advanced stage may benefit from surgery in some cases, but laryngeal collapse should be made less likely by having brachycephalic airway syndrome identified and surgically corrected early.

From Cohn and Côté: Clinical Veterinary Advisor, 4th edition. Copyright © 2020 by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About CVC

Chappelle Veterinary Clinic is a full service Veterinary Clinic which offers a wide range of veterinary care for cats and dogs, including routine exams, vaccinations, preventative care, diagnostics, surgery, spay and neuter, wellness services, dental cleaning, emergency and more.

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