Glaucoma in dogs

Imagine one day you’re on the floor playing with your dog and you notice she’s pawing at her eye. You don’t think much of it. In fact, when she rubs her eye against your leg, you think she’s just being a mush.

But then, as the day goes on, your baby doesn’t seem interested in playing, eating, or doing much of anything.

Your reaction is probably not much of a reaction at all. You’re likely thinking, “Hmmm…let’s see how she is tomorrow.”

That’s dangerous!

There are some conditions, illnesses, disorders, that demand immediate attention— and glaucoma is one of them.

The signs can be subtle and sometimes nonexistent. That’s the problem with glaucoma. Before you realize there’s anything wrong, your dog is irreversibly blind.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye. Here’s how that happens.

The cells of the eye produce a fluid called aqueous humor. This fluid is different than tears. Aqueous humor nourishes the tissue inside the eye and it maintains the shape of the eye.

Tears, on the other hand, bathe and protect the outside of the eye.

In a normally functioning eye, the aqueous humor drains out of the eye and into the bloodstream through a sieve-like area called the drainage angle. Meanwhile, the cells of the eye are producing more aqueous humor.

When there’s a balance between aqueous production and drainage, eye pressure is normal. But when the drainage angle becomes partially or completely clogged, the pressure builds. This is the onset of glaucoma.

Primary vs. Secondary Glaucoma

There are two different forms of glaucoma; primary and secondary. Knowing which one your dog has is critical if treatment’s going to be effective.

With primary glaucoma, the pressure buildup is a genetic predisposition causing either the drainage pores to be too small or narrow drainage angles.

Some breeds are prone to this. The Beagle, Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound, Chow, Shar Pei, Jack Russell Terrier, Shih Tzu, Siberian Husky and Elkhound all seem to be genetically predisposed to glaucoma.

Interestingly, cats rarely suffer from primary glaucoma, though they can have secondary glaucoma.

When a dog has primary glaucoma, one eye is usually affected months before the other. Both eyes are not usually affected at the same time.

Secondary glaucoma is brought on by another condition like a wound to the eye, scar tissue that closes the drainage angle, bleeding in the eye, inflammation, displacement of the lens, a tumor, an infection or anything else that could cause a narrowing of the drainage angle.

In cats, secondary glaucoma is almost always caused by a condition called chronic uveitis, which will be next week’s blog topic.

Regardless of the cause of glaucoma, the buildup of pressure will destroy the cells of the retina and the optic nerve. The damage may be irreversible if it continues for too long, meaning permanent vision loss, and potentially blindness.

It’s so important to know the signs of glaucoma so you can act fast. As soon as you detect a problem, you must get your dog to the vet or you risk your dog losing their eyesight.

The Signs of Glaucoma

The signs of glaucoma are so subtle blindness may set in before you recognize there’s a problem. But knowledge is power…if you know what to look for you’ll be in a better position to act quickly.

Here are some symptoms:

Pain – Your dog will have a migraine-like headache…but they can’t tell you that. They may paw at their eye or rub against the furniture…but they may not. They may squint one eye or flutter their eyelid…but they may not. The point is, be on the look out for other signs of pain, like a lack of appetite or disinterest in activity.

Dilated pupil – The pupil may become larger in one eye than the other since usually one eye is affected at a time.

Cloudy cornea – A healthy cornea is usually clear and invisible, but increased pressure will initially stretch the cornea and tear the protein fibers of the cornea making it look cloudy. Then as the pressure gets worse, the fluid buildup in the cornea exacerbates the cloudiness.

Bloodshot eye – If the whites of the eye look red, the blood vessels are starting to be affected. At this point your dog’s vision may already be lost.

One enlarged eye – The pressure will eventually cause the eye to look enlarged and may cause it to protrude.

Any of these signs is immediate cause for concern. See the vet quickly…not tomorrow or next week. But immediately!

Glaucoma Treatment

Left untreated, glaucoma will cause blindness and a permanent enlargement of the eye. The pressure must be controlled fast.

Your vet will do an initial evaluation but if they suspect glaucoma, they’ll send you to a veterinary ophthalmologist. This is a condition that requires expertise.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from glaucoma and your vet doesn’t recommend an ophthalmologist, seek one out on your own.

The eye doc will test the pressure in the eye. In a normal dog, it will be between 10 and 20 mmHg. With glaucoma, it’s often between 30 and 50 mmHg.

The vet will determine if it’s primary or secondary glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma requires treating the underlying condition. If that’s an infection, they’ll prescribe antibiotics. If that’s a tumor, surgery may be necessary.

But first and foremost, the treatment plan will reduce the pressure and the amount of fluid produced, increase drainage of the fluid, and provide pain relief.

Most of the treatments for glaucoma are topical ointments, but some are oral meds. Unfortunately, though, these treatments aren’t long-term solutions. Surgery is often the only long-term fix. And what type of surgery depends on whether or not this condition has already permanently affected your dog’s eyesight.

With primary glaucoma, your greatest hope is to minimize pain and save the vision in the unaffected eye. Vision is often lost in the first eye because glaucoma comes out of left field. Onset to diagnosis is not usually quick enough.

But once you know your dog suffers from primary glaucoma, you can be much more proactive in protecting your dog’s remaining eye.

The eye doctor can test to see the likelihood of your dog getting glaucoma in the other eye. And you’ll know what the signs are so you can get treatment fast if it happens.

Removing the Eye

Regardless of why or how your dog ended up with glaucoma will seem irrelevant to you if they are permanently blind.

If they’re blind, you’ll have to make the difficult decision whether or not to remove your doggie’s eye. This seems frightening. But an enlarged, blind eye with glaucoma is painful to the dog.

Dog’s are remarkable creatures. They adjust well to living with one eye. And they’re not vain, so how it looks will only matter to you. But you’ll love them no matter how they look, and you’ll be glad they won’t be in pain.

So keep an open mind if this is your vet’s recommendation.

Do you have a dog that lost their sight to glaucoma? What treatment option did you choose? You may be able to help someone else going through this with their doggy. Please share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More scoop on poop…can your dog be constipated?

Just in case last week’s post left you wanting more, we thought we’d take the poop topic a little further.

Did all that poop talk leave you wondering about constipation in dogs? They can definitely be constipated, and the signs there’s a problem are usually subtler than finding a big pile of diarrhea in the yard.

Constipation can lead to big health problems if ignored, and it may mean a serious condition is brewing.

Constipation is infrequent, incomplete, or difficult defecation that results in hard or dry poop. It’s not a disease. It’s really a sign of an underlying problem.

What causes constipation?

Just like in people, constipation can be caused by many different factors. It can happen to anyone and any dog—regardless of age, breed or sex. It is more common in older dogs though.

It can be brought on by:

  • Eating a foreign object – bone, hair, stones
  • Environmental factors – stress from being boarded or hospitalized
  • Pain – anal gland impaction or abscess, arthritic hip or knee
  • Obstruction – tumors, hernias, enlarged prostate, hair near anus matted with poop
  • Neuromuscular disease – disc disease, spinal deformities in pelvic area
  • Metabolic disorders – hypothyroidism, kidney failure
  • Medications – pain meds
  • Dehydration

Because some of these conditions can be very serious, it’s important to talk to your vet if you notice your dog is constipated. Catching a problem early will hopefully result in a better outcome.

What are the signs of constipation?

It can be difficult to differentiate between constipation and other conditions. A constipated dog may be lethargic, dehydrated, vomiting and not want to eat—these are symptoms of many illnesses.

But here are some other things to look for that are more specific to constipation:

  • Straining to poop with little or no output
  • Hard dry poop
  • Infrequent poop
  • Swelling around the anus
  • Small amount of liquid stool with mucus in it, and maybe some blood

Severe constipation can lead to obstipation, which is when the constipation goes on so long that the poop gets impacted in the colon and can’t be passed.

What is the treatment for constipation?

If your dog gets to the point of obstipation, veterinary intervention is the only solution. Under general anesthesia, the vet will remove the poop manually.

If the dog isn’t too impacted they may be able to get the poop to pass with an enema.

But constipation is usually more easily treated. First, your vet will identify the underlying cause.

Then your vet may suggest:

  • Increasing fiber in the diet with a high-fiber food or a supplement
  • Feeding a highly digestible, low-residue diet – less stool makes the colon’s job easier
  • Suppositories

And be sure to increase hydration and activity. Just like in humans, exercise gets the system moving. And water is essential to digestion and the body’s ability to move waste through the “plumbing”.

As with any other unusual behavior in your dog, be sure to act quickly if you think something is wrong. Most health problems are more easily treated if caught early, so call the vet as soon as possible if your dog is showing signs of constipation.

If constipation becomes a recurring problem, talk to your vet about changing your dog’s diet or supplementing with bran, pumpkin or psyllium—natural sources of fiber.

And always feed your dog the highest quality food you can afford, to be sure they are getting a balanced diet for healthy digestion.

If you aren’t familiar with Husse, you can read about the high quality of their food here. It’s a super premium food that will give your dog the balance of nutrients needed to keep them healthy.

Has your dog ever been constipated?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

The scoop on poop…your dog’s that is

Poop is a subject few people like to talk about, unless you’re a 6-year old boy. Whether human or pet, people are embarrassed—or maybe slightly nauseated by a conversation about poop.

But poop can tell us a lot about what’s going on in the body…ours and our pet’s.

If you’re a poop averse pet owner, you probably aren’t checking your dog’s poop regularly to be sure there are no changes. In fact, you might not even recognize changes if you don’t know what your dog’s poop usually looks like.

If you just let your dog out in the yard to do their business and don’t follow up with a poop check, you could be asking for trouble. Trouble in the form of a serious health problem that’s gone unnoticed.

What’s a normal poop?

There really is no such thing as a normal poop. Every dog is different. Some dogs poop twice a day, some four times a day. Some dogs’ poop tends to be soft while some dogs tend to have very firm poops.

What’s normal for your dog is the color, consistency, appearance, frequency, size, and odor of their poop every day. What’s not normal is when one or more of these things change.

The color of your dog’s poop

Your dog’s everyday poop is probably pretty close to a chocolate brown (excuse the food analogy…it works). Some dogs have poop that’s a little lighter, some a little darker.

But here’s what it shouldn’t be…

Green, orange, yellow, black, white, grey, or red—none of these are a good sign.

Black tarry poop is a sign that your dog is bleeding in their upper GI tract and is ingesting it. This can be very serious and requires a visit to the vet.

Green, orange or yellow poop is not a problem if it only lasts one or two bowel movements. In that case, it’s likely your dog ate something, like a crayon, that caused the discoloration.

But if these colorful poops continue or are accompanied by a change in eating behavior or activity level, it could mean a gall bladder problem or other serious issue.

Ingesting rat bait can also cause green poops. So call your vet and be sure to tell them if your dog could have gotten into any kind of rodent poison.

Poop that comes out white, as opposed to turning white when it dries out, means your dog is consuming too much calcium. This can be a problem if you feed a raw diet that consists of a lot of bone, and can result in chronic constipation too. Talk to your vet about how much calcium is too much.

Grey greasy poop can be a sign of exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI). The pancreas isn’t functioning as it should and nutrients can’t be properly absorbed. This is a condition that can be managed if you catch it. So get to the vet.

If your dog’s poop is red, and after close inspection you realize the red is fresh blood, this may be nothing more than straining from constipation or diarrhea that caused some broken blood vessels. If it’s gone after one or two poops and your dog’s behavior is unchanged, it’s probably nothing.

But if there’s a lot of blood, it continues more than 24 hours, or is accompanied by changes in behavior, call the vet. This can be a perforation, an ulcer, or possibly cancer.

A puppy with bloody stool, vomiting, lethargy and horribly stinky poop, may have parvovirus. This is definite cause for concern and a reason to get to the vet.

The consistency of your dog’s poop

More often than not, your dog’s poop will be formed and the consistency of Play-Doh. But all dogs get diarrhea from time to time.

If your dog’s like mine, they’re continually eating things they shouldn’t like grass, mulch, and sticks. These things can cause stomach distress and often result in vomiting and/or diarrhea.

If your dog’s behavior is unchanged, it’s likely the diarrhea will pass in a day or two. But if it’s accompanied by vomiting, a change in appetite, or lethargy, you’ll want to call your vet.

And recurrent bouts of diarrhea should be checked out too, whether or not there’s a change in behavior.

Diarrhea can also be a symptom of an intestinal parasite. Sometimes a parasite, like tapeworm, is visible in the poop. Small white pieces that look like grains of rice in the stool, near the tush, or on your dog’s bed are a sign that something is amiss.

Your vet can easily test for and treat worms and other parasites, so don’t wait to make an appointment if you suspect something’s up.

When you notice mucus on your dog’s poop, whether the poop is formed or watery, it usually indicates there’s an irritation or inflammation of the intestines. The intestines will produce mucus to protect sensitive cells.

Again, if this only lasts a few poops, your dog probably ate something they shouldn’t have. But if it continues, see your vet.

Most dog owners get worried when their dog has diarrhea. But what happens when the poop is rock-hard?

This can happen when your dog eats too many bones or rawhides, they don’t drink enough water, their nutrition is inadequate, or they’re constipated and the stool is retained in the colon or rectum for too long.

Chronic constipation can cause serious problems so be sure to address this with your vet as soon as you detect a problem.

The appearance of your dog’s poop

If you find things in your dog’s poop that don’t belong there, take note.

It can be a red flag that they are eating something that might be causing diarrhea. Lots of grass or leaves in the poop can be the cause of stomach distress.

And it can be a signal that there are other health issues going on, even with no diarrhea.

Clumps of hair in the poop means excessive grooming…the result of allergies, stress and other medical conditions.

Undigested food in the poop, other than corn or other grains, might indicate an allergy or digestive disorder.

So be alert to not only diarrhea, but other changes in appearance too.

The frequency and volume of your dog’s poop

If your dog normally poops a lot, this is caused by the food they eat.

Dogs who eat kibble will produce larger poops than dogs on wet food because there is a higher fiber content in kibble.

Lower quality food will also produce larger poops because what the body doesn’t use gets eliminated.   And lower quality foods will have more fillers with little nutritional value.

If you feel like you’re picking up after an elephant rather than a dog, consider a higher quality food, like Husse.

When it comes to the frequency of poops, all dogs are different. I have a Lab that poops once maybe twice a day, but my Greyhound pooped at least 4 times a day—consistently.

We always used to joke that he never missed an opportunity to poop. If he went out in the yard, he pooped. But that was normal for him. He did it every day.

If your dog starts pooping more or less frequently, and you haven’t changed their food, something’s up. Talk to your vet.

The smell of your dog’s poop

I saved the best for last. Although your dog’s poop probably doesn’t smell like a fresh bouquet of peonies, the smell should be pretty consistent.

Dogs on a “grain-free” food will often have stinkier poop because of the higher amounts of potatoes, peas and other ingredients that aren’t natural in a dog’s diet. Their bodies may not be able to absorb some of the nutrients in these foods, and they’ll be more highly concentrated in the poop.

If suddenly the smell of your dog’s poop is unusually offensive, this can be the sign of a problem. But a onetime smelly poop isn’t cause for alarm. Sometimes our doggies decide to eat things they shouldn’t and that can mean stinky poop. If the smell persists, that’s when you need to talk to the vet.

 

Decoding your dog’s poop is mostly about detecting change that lasts for more than a few poops. And noticing if your dog’s behavior or disposition seems different too.

Listen to your instincts and call the vet if you are concerned.

If you are disgusted by the poop conversation, I should warn you that the vet will likely want you to bring a stool sample to your appointment. And whether that sample is watery or solid, it will need to be fresh—less than an hour old.

What’s the strangest looking poop your dog’s left for you? Share your experiences in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

What’s the best protein source for your dog?

As humans, we think a lot about what we eat. Maybe a little too much. What’s better for us, chicken or red meat? Fish or chicken? Is one fish better for us than another?

But do we give as much thought to the ingredients—particularly the protein—in our dogs’ food?

We may research the best brands to search out what we think is the best quality food, but most of us don’t give much thought to the protein source in the food. Or whether one protein has greater nutritional value than another.

Maybe we should…because dogs may be omnivores, meaning they can survive on an animal-based or plant-based diet, but we don’t want our pets to merely survive. We want them to thrive—to be the healthiest and happiest they can be.

That means they need to eat a diet that consists of an animal protein as its main ingredient, and one with substantial nutritional value.

Why is protein so important?

Protein is necessary for growth and development, and for a healthy immune system. The building blocks of protein, the amino acids, are what’s important about protein.

There are 22 amino acids, and our dogs need all of them to be healthy. They produce 12 of them in their bodies. The other 10 have to come from their diet, making them essential amino acids. They are arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine.

Just like any other nutritional deficiency, a shortage of one of these amino acids can spell trouble for your dog’s health.

There is a way to know which proteins provide the amino acids your dog needs, and if the protein provides it in the right proportions and in a way that the body can use it. It’s a measure called biological value, and it ranges from 0 to 100.

The higher the protein’s biological value, the more usable it is by the body. Take a look at this chart from The Consumer’s Guide to Dog Food. You can see that there’s a substantial difference in usability from one protein to the next.

Ingredient

Biological Value

Eggs

100

Fish Meal

92

Beef

78

Milk

78

Wheat

60

Corn

54

Wheat Gluten

40

And you’ll also notice that animal protein has a higher biological value than plant protein. Chicken, a very common ingredient in dog food, has a biological value of 95.

Husse premium products contain egg and poultry protein because they are such high quality sources of protein. They are easily digested and utilized by your dog’s body.

How much protein does my dog need?

Depending on the size of your dog, their life stage, and their activity level they require different amounts of protein. You can find the percentage of protein on the dog food label.

The recommended percentage of protein in your dog’s diet should fall within the following ranges:

Puppy 22-32%

Adult 15-30%

Performance Dog 22-32%

Sled Dog 28-34%

Lactating Dog 25-35%

These are pretty wide ranges but keep in mind that, although you don’t want to feed too much protein, slightly exceeding what your dog needs generally won’t hurt them.

If your dog consumes too much protein, some will be secreted in their urine. The rest will be used as calories or converted to fat. Of course, this can result in an overweight dog.

If you stay within the recommended ranges, your dog should get the protein they need. Most dog foods assume the recommended amounts and add slightly more.

What’s the downside of feeding too much protein?

There are some risks to feeding your dog a diet that is too high in protein.

In the past, a high protein diet was believed to cause kidney damage but recent research seems to refute that. However, a dog with kidney or liver problems should definitely not consume too much protein. Talk to your vet to be sure your dog’s diet is not exacerbating their kidney or liver disease.

Feeding your dog a diet with too much meat can throw off the balance between other nutrients like calcium and phosphorus. This can cause problems with bone growth.

Protein is calorie dense, so too much protein can pack on the pounds leading to obesity. And that’s a huge health risk.

If you feed a large breed puppy too much protein, they may gain weight too quickly and this can lead to joint problems. Joint problems as a puppy can lead to serious problems like arthritis down the road.

Remember too that protein is the most expensive ingredient in your dog’s food. If you are feeding your dog a food with too high a protein content, you’re probably paying more than you need to.

Like humans, dogs do best with a balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Super premium dog foods like Husse provide that balance.

What should I look for on the dog food label?

It can be confusing to decipher the ingredients on the label of your dog’s food. It shouldn’t be, and a premium food without anything to hide won’t be. But some commercial foods have vague names for some of their ingredients because they’re just not wholesome.

Here are some things to look for.

The first ingredient on the label should be a protein source like a recognizable meat or meat meal. For example, chicken or chicken meal.

Meat meal is a dehydrated form of meat. Its low moisture provides a more concentrated form of protein.   Meat meal from a specific meat source like lamb meal or chicken meal is fine.

Try to avoid a generic meat meal with no specific origin like bone meal, meat meal, and poultry meal. Although they can be high in protein, the biological value of these ingredients is very low so they don’t provide the amino acids in the right proportions to give your dog what they need.

Most commercial foods will contain both a meat and a specific meat meal for balanced nutrition.

Avoid food that lists a grain with a low biological value like corn, corn gluten and wheat as the first ingredient.

Meat byproducts seem mysterious and maybe even a little frightening. If you’ve heard that byproducts include horns, hooves, hair and teeth, that’s not true according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). They regulate the pet food industry.

But byproducts can include blood, organs and bones, and in the instance of poultry byproducts…heads and feet.

Not all byproducts are harmful to your dog but they have a low biological value, making them nutritionally inferior to meat and meat meal with a specified origin.

Choosing a super premium dog food like Husse takes some of the guesswork out of knowing if you’re feeding your dog a high quality food. Husse uses high quality protein sources that give your dog all the amino acids they need.

Do you read the dog food label before choosing a food for your dog? Share your thoughts in the comment section above.