Ear infections can be no less troublesome in dogs than they can be in humans. Add to the problem an infestation of ear mites, and you're guaranteed to have a restless, unhappy pet, one that's constantly shaking its head and scratching at his ears.
Ear mites are easily treated by cleaning the ears with a medicated ointment. However, you'll need to get a solution from your veterinarian, since most mites have become resistant to the chemicals (sevin, pyrethins and thiabendazole) used in over-the-counter preparations. Be sure to clean the ears of all animals in the house, not just the affected pet, in order to prevent the mites from spreading. [...]
Cataracts are one of the most common eye problems in dogs, and they show up in canines of all breeds and in animals both young and old. As with humans, the only successful treatment is surgery.
The word "cataract" literally is Latin for "break down," and refers to a problem that develops with the fibers in the lens of the eye. The disruption of these fibers causes the lens to become cloudy, reducing vision. There are several types of cataracts, which have different causes. All, however, result when the biochemistry of the eye (66 percent water and 33 percent protein), becomes out of balance. The end result is that too much water remains in the lens of the eye, while the percentage of insoluble proteins increases. The combination causes the cloudy white coating, loss of transparency and loss of vision characteristic of cataracts. [...]
We all know how uncomfortable it is to have any type of intestinal woe. Imagine the agony, then, of a gastric torsion, in which the stomach and spleen can literally twist and kink. The condition is excruciatingly painful, and, if ignored, is invariably fatal.
Gastric torsion cases occur most often in large-breed, deep-chested dogs, such as the Bloodhound, Labrador Retriever, Doberman Pinscher, Akita or Great Dane. This is a condition that is not connected to a dog's age or gender. In fact, cases can spontaneously occur in healthy dogs of all breeds, usually shortly after a meal. [...]
Neuromuscular diseases affect animals as well as humans, and one of the most common is known as Acquired Myasthenia Gravis. It's a disorder that interrupts communication between the nerves and the muscles. It's also an autoimmune disease, meaning it's caused by the body's own immune system turning against itself. Specifically, the immune system attacks and destroys junctions, which are places where the neurons (nerve cells) and muscles interconnect. Once these junctions are destroyed, the adjacent muscles cannot be controlled or are poorly controlled.
With myasthenia gravis, a dog will experience muscle weakness, especially in the limbs and the muscles affecting the eyes, facial expressions, throat and esophagus. Sixty percent of affected dogs will become fatigued after any significant exercise; others will develop difficulty swallowing or noticeable changes in their voice. The dog may appear only slightly affected, or else be almost entirely immobile. [...]
Few eye problems cause more discomfort in dogs than the hereditary condition known as entropion. This is a problem that causes the eyelids to roll inward, pressing the eyelashes against the sensitive eye surface, and leading to pain, tearing and vision loss.
The lower lid is affected more often than the upper eyelid, although the condition can affect both. Entropion normally appears when the dog is young, before 1 year of age. Owners will notice their pet squinting, tearing excessively, avoiding bright lights and strong winds, and possibly pawing at its eyes or rubbing its face against the ground. The eyes also may appear red and irritated. As you can imagine, the pain of the lashes pressing against the sensitive cornea of the eye is significant. Over time, if the condition is not repaired, the cornea will be ulcerated and scarred, producing not only pain, but also reducing or destroying the dog's vision. Nerve damage also may occur within the eyelids and structures around the eye. [...]
Say the word "glaucoma," and people are more likely to think of their grandmother than their Great Dane. However, glaucoma also affects animals of all types, including dogs.
Glaucoma occurs as a result of increased pressure within the eye. Cells inside the eye produce a clear fluid, known as the aqueous humor, which feeds the tissues inside the eye, as well as keeping the eye in its proper shape. Normal eye pressure is maintained through a balance of fluid created by the eye and drainage provided by ducts within the eyeball and surrounding structures With glaucoma these drains become blocked, yet the eye continues to produce fluid, increasing the internal pressure. Over time, this can cause the eye to stretch and enlarge, causing pain and damaging vision. [...]
"Parvovirus" is a word guaranteed to remove the smile from the face of any dog owner. There are several strains of "parvo," all of which are lumped together and produce the same symptoms. The virus is the single most contagious of all diseases that strike dogs, and it is spread in multiple ways. The virus can survive for five months and longer on hands and on inanimate objects like food pans, cage floors and clothing. It is also readily transferred by insects, rodents and through infected feces. All strains of parvovirus are hardy, able to survive exposure to heat and other harsh environmental conditions. [...]
Microphthalmia is a disabling genetic condition that occurs when a dog's eyeballs are smaller than normal, severely restricting its vision. With this condition, the internal structures of the eye are abnormal as well, resulting in a prominent third eyelid and small eyes that appear to be recessed into the dog's eye sockets.
Microphthalmia is inherited in many dog breeds through recessive genes. It also can appear in puppies whose mothers received certain types of medication during pregnancy. Owners of affected dogs will notice that their eyeballs appear smaller than normal for the animal's breed, and there may also be noticeable signs of visual impairment. In fact, most dogs with the problem are either born blind, or else eventually become blind or severely visually handicapped. [...]
The thyroid gland performs a variety of functions, but is probably best known for its effect on regulating metabolism. Common in dogs and humans, hypothyroidism occurs when a dog's or person's body isn't producing enough thyroid hormone. In dogs this causes a wide variety of chronic symptoms, including lethargy, hair loss, a dull coat, skin problems, weight gain, obesity, anemia, high cholesterol and even a slowed heart rate or abnormal heart rhythms. As with humans, the symptoms are vague enough and non-specific enough that it's common for a dog to have the condition for several years before being diagnosed and treated. [...]
Among the many eye conditions that can affect dogs is one that isn't painful, but is nonetheless heartbreaking. Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA, is a genetically inherited condition in which the eyes are basically "programmed" to go blind.
PRA can appear in any breed of dog, and is equally prevalent in purebred and mixed-breed animals. It's usually transmitted through a recessive gene, meaning two carriers of the gene must mate in order to produce an affected pup. The exceptions to this rule occur in Bull Mastiffs and Old English Mastiffs, where the PRA gene is dominant, so only one parent need have the gene in order to produce pups with PRA. Also, the gene is linked to gender in the Samoyed and Siberian Husky breeds. In these breeds, the disorder appears more often in males than females. [...]
Lumbar-sacral syndrome occurs when the nerve roots and spinal cord are compressed at the point where they pass through the lumbar-sacram portion of the lower spine, near the hips. The disease is also known as "cauda equine" syndrome.
This disorder can be inherited (congenital), meaning it is present at birth, or it also can be developed after birth. It can appear at any age and in both males and females, and is common in dogs that have been struck by an automobile. Large-breed dogs are affected more often than smaller breeds, and the syndrome is seen most often in German Shepherds. Dogs that are severely overweight also can develop the condition. [...]
Pelger-Huet Anomaly is an inherited condition in which certain blood cells are mutated, specifically the neutrophils and eosinophils, which are white blood cells actively involved in the immune system. The disease is passed through a dominant gene, which makes it critical that affected animals not be bred. [...]
Sunburned noses aren't solely the domain of small children in summertime. Certain breeds of dogs also can be sensitive to sunlight, causing them to develop lesions on their noses, eyelids and lips. Known as nasal solar dermatitis (NSD) or "Collie nose," it is an inherited disorder and is usually worse in locations with a sunny climate. [...]
Retinal dysplasia, or RD, is an inherited disorder in which the retina of the eye is malformed. To understand retinal dysplasia it's first necessary to understand the basics of the eye's anatomy. The retina itself is the nerve-containing structure in the back of the eye that takes in light and converts it into electrical signals. These signals are then transmitted to the brain via the optic nerve, and interpreted by the brain as vision. Formation of the eye in utero is a complex, multi-stage process that is closely tied to development of the entire nervous system.
There are three forms of retinal dysplasia. The first and least serious occurs when the two primary layers of the retina do not form together properly, creating folds in the inner retinal layer. In geographic RD there are larger areas where the retina is malformed in addition to the inner retinal layer. In the most severe form of the disease, the two retinal layers do not meet at all, resulting in retinal detachment, or separation, from the rest of the eye. [...]
If you notice your dog squinting and pawing at its eyes, or if the eyes are red, inflamed and watering heavily, a trip to the veterinarian is in order. It's possible in this case that your dog may have distichiasis, a condition that occurs when the eyelashes grow abnormally, placing them in direct contact with sensitive eyeball tissue. The hairs are often long and stiff and grow out of oil glands within the eyelids. In most cases there are multiple improperly grown hairs, and both eyes are affected. Also, even though dogs usually have no lower eyelashes, in cases of distichiasis both lower and upper eyelids can be affected. [...]