Canine Obesity: It’s a Big Problem

Has your vet ever said anything about your dog’s weight?

A professional organization called the Association for Pet Obesity’s Prevention (APOP) recently released a report stating that most of the dogs in the U.S. are overweight, their owners don’t know it, and their veterinarians don’t feel comfortable talking to their clients about it.  This feels like crazyland to me!

I think I have to agree with the premise that most people really don’t recognize their dogs’ weight problem. When I attempt to have conversations with the owners of fat larger breed dogs, nine times out of 10, the owner will say, “Well, his mother and father both weighed over 100 pounds, these are just a large breed!” Or, “He’s in the weight range for the breed standard!” Ignoring the fact that the dog has no waist whatsoever and is literally covered with fat rolls.

Small dog owners often just think their dogs are cute. And as long as they can pick them up, they don’t think the weight is a problem.

When lick their own butts, it helps keep the anal glands in working order. Big dogs have fewer problems with their glands than small dogs partly because they have bigger, stronger tongues, which help massage and empty the glands when they lick their butts. When dogs like Dinah get too fat to reach their bottoms with their tongues, the glands can become impacted and infected unless the owner is aware of this and makes sure to either empty the glands or take the dog to a groomer or vet occasional to have the glands checked and emptied.

Anyway, to me, the most shocking part of the report is the allegation that 84% of the veterinarians who responded to the survey said they don’t want to upset their clients by talking about their dogs’ weight. But health and weight are so linked in dogs! I think that if a vet fails to discuss a dog’s overweight it’s a total dereliction of their veterinary duty! The problems associated with or directly caused by obesity in dogs are legion!

And yet, I get it. A vet only gets so much time with a client, and it probably often feels like there isn’t enough time to talk about the dog’s more pressing health issues and the overweight condition—even if the obesity may have contributed to the problem. Even at well-pet visits, people often spend more time discussing flea and heartworm preventives, vaccines, and the like.

My friend Tim Steele, a gifted dog trainer (who broke my heart by moving from my area to Florida a couple years ago), once told me that he never talks directly to dog owners about their dogs’ weight problems; he addresses his concerns to the dog—in front of the owner, obviously!  He’ll say, “Oh my goodness, who is measuring your food? Or are you sneaking into the refrigerator at night?! I think you need to get on a little diet!” Often, he reports, the owner will join the “conversation” at that point, saying something like, “Do you really think he needs to be on a diet?” instead of feeling directly confronted. I think that’s a genius approach—and perhaps one I can recommend to veterinarians!

My appreciation to reporter Tim Wall of Petfood Industry for being the first to cover the APOP’s 2023 survey.

Coconut Oil: The “Good” Saturated Fat

For some of us, coconuts conjure up images of palm trees and tropical locales. For others, they take us back to mouth-watering memories of our mother’s home-baked coconut cream pie – or even the sweet, gooey center of our favorite childhood candy bar! But did you know that besides tasting delicious, the oil pressed from the meat of the coconut contains numerous health benefits, for people and companion animals? Let’s take a closer look at coconut oil and why you should consider adding some to your pet’s diet.

If it’s saturated, isn’t it bad?

Fats are made up of fatty acids that fall into three categories – monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated. Saturated fats, which are predominantly found in animal products such as meat and dairy and are solid at room temperature, have been linked to a host of health issues in people such as obesity, high cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease. As a plant-based saturated fat, coconut oil was once grouped with other unhealthy fats, and people were advised to avoid consuming it.

However, even though coconut oil is a saturated fat, it is not unhealthy. In fact, it contains numerous health benefits!

The chemical structure in coconut oil is quite different from the fat found in, say, a steak or a slab of butter – and that difference has huge implications for our health and our pets’ health.

Whereas most saturated fats are comprised of long chain fatty acids (LCFAs), coconut oil is comprised mainly of medium chain fatty acids (MCFAs), or medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). Our bodies metabolize (break down) and recognize medium chain fatty acids differently than long chain fatty acids, producing a very different effect.

Benefits of Coconut Oil

There are many reasons to let your pet indulge in some coconut oil every day. For example, we now know that, unlike animal-based saturated fats that contribute to heart disease, coconut oil is actually heart healthy!

Coconut oil also contains lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid that converts in the body to monolaurin, a monoglyceride compound with numerous beneficial properties, including anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-protozoal. Lauric acid actually destroys lipid-coated bacteria, fungus and viruses such as herpes, the measles, influenza, hepatitis C and HIV, ringworm and athlete’s foot.

In addition, studies show that MCTs such as those found in coconut oil provide a wide range of health benefits, including:

  • Help with weight loss (MCTs increase metabolism, send signals of satiety and cannot be stored as fat)
  • Improve digestion and absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Benefit the skin and coat
  • Provide a rapid form of non-carbohydrate energy

Coconut Oil: The new “brain food”

But of all these benefits, my favorite is that coconut oil is scientifically proven to improve brain function in older dogs – findings that have important implications for people and animals.

In one study, 24 senior Beagles fed a diet supplemented with 5.5% MCTs showed significant improvement in cognitive ability within just one month. The study’s authors concluded that the MCTs (as contained in coconut oil) provided an alternative source of brain energy for the senior dogs.

As the body’s “supercomputer”, the brain requires a lot of energy, most of which is satisfied when our bodies metabolize glucose from the foods we eat. However, as we age, we metabolize glucose less efficiently, leaving a “gap” in the brain’s energy requirement. When this occurs, alternative sources of fuel become important to fill this gap and provide much-needed energy to the brain. This is where MCTs such as those contained in coconut oil can help save the day:

  • Unlike regular fats (which the body metabolizes slowly), MCTs break down and absorb rapidly into the bloodstream, providing a quick source of non-carbohydrate energy.
  • MCTs readily cross the blood-brain barrier, supplying up to 20% of a normal brain’s energy requirement.
  • MCTs are important for ketone production, which serve as an additional source of “brain food”.
  • MCTs help the body use omega-3 fatty acids more efficiently and increase omega-3 fatty acid concentrations in the brain (a good reason to give your dog both omega-3s and coconut oil)

What to Look for

When purchasing coconut oil, opt for unrefined, cold-pressed varieties. If possible, choose organic brands to avoid potential contamination from pesticides. Coconut oil does not need to be stored in the refrigerator, but since it is light sensitive (like all oils), it’s best to keep it in a dark cupboard. Dark glass containers are excellent storage choices, as they protect the oil from light while also ensuring that no BPAs (harmful chemicals found in many plastic containers), leach into the product.

How Much

Studies show that coconut oil fed as 10% or less of your dog’s diet poses no digestive or other health issues. The agreed-upon amount to start is 1/4 teaspoon for dogs less than 15 pounds and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs. You will need to balance coconut oil for weight management.

If your companion dog is doing well and not exhibiting any side effects such as weight gain, the standard threshold is 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.

Since too much coconut oil can cause diarrhea, I advise exercising common sense and introducing it to your pet slowly.


Aldrich, G, 2009, “MCTs an overlooked tool in dog nutrition”. Feedstuffs, 81(35) :10.

Laflamme, DP, 2012, “Nutritional care for aging cats and dogs”. Vet Clin N Am: Sm An Pract, 42(4): 769-791,

Pan, Y, Larson, B, Araujo, JA, Lau, W et al, 2010, “Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs”. Brit J Nutr, 103 (12): 1746-1754,

Originally Published: April 4, 2013

Updated: May 11, 2024

Dog Stung By A Bee? Here’s How to Treat It

Dogs stung by bees can be hurt or even killed – bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants may all cause allergic reactions. Learn what you should do if your dog gets stung or bitten by these flying insects.

The Whole Dog Journal   

Spring is springing forth all over the country. Flowers, grasses, and trees are blooming, and the pollinators are out in force. This is great news for plants, and less great news for our canine friends. Dogs are more prone to being stung by insects than we are, given that they aren’t always aware that some of the buzzing, flying insects they love to chase can hurt! A dog stung by a bee can be scary, but care will ensure your dog will be okay.

The most likely sting suspects are the Hymenoptera species, which include bees, wasps, hornets, and fire ants. As an emergency veterinarian, I often treated dogs who suffered bee and wasp stings, with reactions ranging from very mild localized swelling and pain to anaphylactic shock. These symptoms were sometimes caused by a direct sting to the muzzle or paw, but in some cases, they occurred when a dog ingested a bee! It’s important to know what is normal and what is not when this happens.

The typical dog bee stinging event leaves the dog with a single sting on the muzzle or foot. This is because of dogs’ horizontal, four-footed orientation and their innate curiosity. The feet often find the insects when running through the grass, and the curious muzzle will follow.

In the case of most stings, there will be very mild redness and swelling. Your dog may suddenly limp and/or favor a paw, or have a red, swollen spot on the face. In some cases, a stinger can still be found in the wound. This is extremely difficult to find without a still, calm dog and a magnifying glass. In some cases, removal of a stinger must be done at a veterinary office. You can try to visualize and remove it at home, but it may not be possible.

Initial treatment for a sting or bite of this severity can consist of rest and a cold compress to relieve swelling and pain. Do not administer over-the-counter medications; these are generally not safe for dogs. If you are concerned that your dog is in significant pain, contact your veterinarian to discuss a pain-management strategy.

Hives, wheals, and welts are a moderate reaction to stings. Just like their human counterparts, dogs who have been stung can break out in unsightly hives. These are usually very itchy and uncomfortable. The first sign often noticed is the dog rubbing along furniture or scratching at the face and eyes. The hives may manifest as bright red streaks or lumps all over the body or be confined to a single place.

As long as there is no attendant vomitingdiarrhea, weakness, or collapse, this can be managed at home successfully. Diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl) can be given at 1 to 2 milligrams per pound of body weight. If using a Benadryl product, check to make sure there are NO other active ingredients. Some Benadryl products contain decongestants as well, and these can be dangerous for dogs.

Diphenhydramine can be repeated every six to eight hours as needed to help with hives. They can sometimes take hours to a few days to completely resolve. Diphenhydramine can cause drowsiness, but in some dogs, it can cause excitement (called a paradoxical reaction).

Severe Bee Sting Reactions in Dogs

In the most severe cases, dogs can develop anaphylactic shock. In canines, the shock organ is the gastrointestinal (GI) tract (in contrast to cats and humans, in which it is the lungs). Dogs in anaphylactic shock do not necessarily develop difficulty breathing. They are much more likely to develop sudden onset of vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse. The diarrhea and vomit can both be extremely bloody, in some cases.

This is an absolute emergency and should be treated as such. Once evaluated by a veterinarian, your dog will be treated with intravenous (IV) fluids, epinephrine, possibly steroids, oxygen, and very close monitoring. Diagnostic testing will likely include blood pressure monitoring, bloodwork, and maybe an abdominal ultrasound.

Often, when dogs are stung, it is not witnessed, so it can be difficult to determine the cause of the signs. Anaphylaxis can also look like an Addisonian crisis; severe, acute hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE); or mesenteric volvulus. One helpful test is the abdominal ultrasound. Gallbladder wall swelling (edema) can be used to determine if anaphylaxis is the true cause of the signs. Another indicator is that anaphylaxis is a very sudden onset in a previously healthy dog that has just been outside.

With rapid and aggressive treatment, most dogs will recover from this type of shock, but early treatment is essential. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend carrying an EpiPen Jr for future outdoor travels with your dog. Despite having this on hand, any suspicion of an anaphylactic event should prompt immediate evaluation by your veterinarian.

When Your Dog Suffers Multiple Bee Stings

Initial symptoms in dogs include multiple bites, marked pain and swelling, hyperthermia (temperature can elevate to a deadly 107 degrees), heavy panting, rapid heart rate, and in some cases, muscle tremoring.

There is no antidote, so treatment is aimed at supportive care. This must be aggressive, as dogs can later develop systemic effects such as kidney failure. The kidney failure develops due to generalized muscle trauma from the stings and hyperthermia. When the muscle is damaged, extra myoglobin (a muscle enzyme) is released into the bloodstream. This must be metabolized by the kidneys, and excess amounts can cause renal damage. This will lead to a dark brown color to urine and elevated blood urea nitrogen (BUN) and creatinine.

Treatment is centered on maintaining hydration with IV fluids, pain relief medications (generally strong drugs like opioids), and close monitoring of vitals and bloodwork. NSAIDs like carprofen and meloxicam should be avoided due to the risk of kidney failure.

A different and less-common scenario is a sting to the inside of the mouth or the tongue. These stings can be more severe because of the amount of pain and swelling. In rare cases, swelling in the mouth could lead to airway inflammation, obstruction, and labored breathing. While this isn’t common, it can happen. If you know that your dog was stung in the mouth or on the tongue, monitor closely for any signs of respiratory distress. These include wheezing or other noisy breathing, coughing, and difficulty pulling air into the lungs (inspiratory dyspnea). Seek veterinary care!

In these cases, your dog may need to receive respiratory support. This might include an oxygen mask, nasal oxygen prongs, or in serious cases, where the upper airway is obstructed, the placement of an emergency tracheostomy tube. This allows the veterinarian to bypass the swollen upper airway and provide the patient with life-saving oxygen. These are temporary and will be removed when the swelling has resolved enough to allow normal respiration.

Most reactions to bee stings are mild, but it is important to recognize the more severe symptoms so that immediate treatment can be started and systemic effects minimized.

What About Killer Bees?

A special note about Africanized killer bees should be made. These are a hybrid of two honeybees: the western honey bee and the Iberian honey bee. They were hybridized in Brazil in the 1950s with hopes of increasing honey production. Unfortunately, swarms escaped quarantine and migrated through Central America and into the Southwest and Florida. These bees are still largely isolated to those areas, but with global temperatures in flux, they can be expected to spread.

Unlike the usually docile honey bee, these bees can be very easily aggravated and aggressive and even chase victims. When annoyed, they tend to attack in large swarms. Interestingly, the venom is the same as other honey bees, which are rarely fatal. It is the multiple stings that can be fatal for animals and humans.

Catherine Ashe, DVM, practiced emergency medicine for nine years and now works as an associate veterinarian at Skyland Animal Hospital in Asheville, N.C.

Kennel Cough and Colds

From the Whole Dog Journal

Excerpted from Kennel Cough by Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD

The two most common afflictions of the respiratory system are the “common cold” and kennel cough. Both of these ailments are usually instigated by any of a number of viruses, often followed by secondary bacterial invasion. The severity of the symptoms varies widely, but in most “colds” they are mild and include wheezing, coughing, reluctance to move, and perhaps a mild fever.

Kennel cough (a.k.a. infectious tracheobronchitis), on the other hand, can produce symptoms that appear extreme, with a dry, hacking cough accompanied by frequent, intense gagging. I’ve had caretakers rush their kennel-coughing dog in to see me, thinking he has a bone caught in his throat. Despite its appearance, a typical case of kennel cough is not life-threatening, and it tends to run its course in a few days to a week or so. But it is a disease that is frustrating for pet and caretaker alike.

Kennel cough results from inflammation of the upper airways. The instigating pathogen may be any number of irritants, viruses, or other microorganisms, or the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica may act as a primary pathogen. The prominent clinical sign is paroxysms of a harsh, dry cough, which may be followed by retching and gagging. The cough is easily induced by gentle pressure applied to the larynx or trachea.

Kennel cough should be expected whenever the characteristic cough suddenly develops 5 to 10 days after exposure to other dogs – especially to dogs from a kennel (especially a shelter) environment. Usually the symptoms diminish during the first five days, but the disease may persist for up to 10-20 days. Kennel cough is almost always more annoying (to dog and her caretaker) than it is a serious event.

For advice on preventing kennel cough as well as natural and effective ways to soothe the symptoms, purchase Kennel Cough from Whole Dog Journal

Dr. Prupas Brought AlignCare Service to Los Angeles

Dr. Jeremy Prupas, chief veterinarian for the Los Angeles City Department of Animal Services, helped launch a service called AlignCare in 2019, which aids needy pet owners with veterinary bills they often cannot pay.

“The goal is not just to help the animal.  It’s to help the whole family. The idea is that if someone is having problems paying for a pet’s care, there are probably other things going on in that family’s life that they need help with.  So AlignCare has [focused on] the human side of this problem.

“That’s really what got my attention at the very beginning.  This is really the One Health approach to try to get help for everybody who needs it.”

The concept originated with Dr. Michael Blackwell, a veterinarian at the University of Tennessee veterinary school.  “I became friends with him in one of the [veterinary] groups I was in,” Dr. Prupas said.  “I learned a lot about AlignCare from him.  And I said to him: ‘You know what, Michael, let’s try it.  I don’t know why we can’t make it work in LA.’”

The Los Angeles project – the first community trying to implement the program from the ground up.  It initially is focused on South Los Angeles, where Downtown Dog Rescue is a major player in pet welfare. 

“Basically, the idea is that you form a partnership with community veterinarians, and they agree that they will discount their prices.  They submit their invoices on the internet and AlignCare pays them directly.”

Participating hospitals are asked to lower their fees as much as they can, Dr. Prupas said.  “I think AlignCare asks them for a 20% cut.  But the hospitals decide what they’re going to charge.  AlignCare doesn’t interfere with the decisions of the vets or the practice owners.”

The pet owner is responsible for 20 percent of the discounted bill, he said, “so they

still have a stake in it.  But it’s a way for the pet hospital to feel that it will get paid.  And the veterinarian makes the decisions with the pet owner on what kind of care they’re going to provide.”

“The goal is that if any pet owner comes into a vet hospital or to a shelter asking for help, they’re going to be referred to AlignCare.  They would go online and fill out an application.  It’s very simple. Basically, the pet owner would just have to prove that he or she is on some form of assistance.  If you can prove that it’s almost automatic that you’re accepted into the program.  Then the pet owner is told of the hospitals that are part of the program and chooses which hospital to visit.”

He said that AlignCare includes a national team of veterinary “social workers” who will help families by referring them to whatever social services they need and helping them converse with their veterinary teams if there are any issues.  There are also “human support coordinators” who can help pet owners sign up for the program and make necessary arrangements such as appointments and arranging transportation to the hospital.

The challenge, he said, can be in where the money comes from to pay the AlignCare part of the bill.  “The idea behind it is that the community donates the money to pay the bills.  For instance, in LA we’ve been talking to several different animal welfare organizations.  

“Making it sustainable is really what keeps me up at night.  How will we be able to raise enough money to keep this going as we expand?  That’s why we decided to start slow and small.”

And, he pointed out, there are major benefits for pet families who get financial help.  Besides helping them avoid the strain on the family budget of a large expenditure, it can prevent the mental – sometimes physical – trauma of losing their pets and it can keep the family structure intact.   

The next step for Los Angeles AlignCare will be to expand beyond South Los Angeles and to get more veterinarians involved, Dr. Prupas said.  We’re looking for more veterinary hospitals that might want to join.  We’ll also need to expand in a way that doesn’t make us run out of money.”

Dr. Prupas has served as chief veterinarian for Los Angeles Animal Services for nearly 14 years.  He supervises six shelters that employ six veterinarians and 22 RVTs.  He earned his veterinary degree at the University of Pennsylvania and has practiced in Connecticut and San Diego, where he owned a feline practice. 

Are onions toxic to dogs?


Onions are one of many common human foods that are toxic to dogs. Here’s what to do if your dog eats an onion.

Written by Emily Johnson & Andrew Corti-Cervantes 

— Medically reviewed by Dr. Erica Irish & Dr. Jennifer Schott 

Updated March 1, 2024

an dogs eat onions?

Table of Contents

The essentials

  • Avoid onion products — Onion powder is more toxic to dogs than fresh onion and appears in a surprising number of foods. 
  • Watch for signs of onion toxicity — Even a small amount of onion can trigger symptoms including lethargy, panting, decreased appetite, vomiting, and elevated heart rate.
  • Onion toxicosis can be fatal — Clinical signs often show up within 24 hours and quickly worsen, so it’s vital to get your pup to a veterinarian ASAP.

Are onions toxic to dogs?

Yes, onions are among the foods considered toxic to dogs. They contain a compound known as N-propyl disulfide  , which causes oxidative damage to a dog’s red blood cells, resulting in anemia and, in extreme cases, death. 

Whether raw or cooked, all parts of the onion plant are toxic to dogs, including the flesh, leaves, juice, and any processed powders. The same goes for the rest of the allium family, including chives, leeks, red, white, yellow, sweet, or green onions, and even garlic.

How much onion is toxic to dogs?

Onion poisoning gets worse the more onions a dog ingests. It’s commonly reported in pets who consume more than 0.5% of their body weight in onions, though the exact amount of onions that would be dangerous for your dog depends on factors including their weight, age, breed, and any underlying medical conditions they might already have (like diabetes, liver disease, or anemia). 

👉 Certain Japanese dog breeds, including Akitas and Shiba inus, have proven especially susceptible to onion toxicosis.

Toxic levels of onion, based on size of dog

Dog size (pounds)Breed exampleRaw onionDiced onionOnion powder
Small (10 lbs)Chihuahua, shih tzu, pomeranian1/10 of a medium-sized onion1/10 cup1/10 tablespoon (or ⅓ teaspoon)
Medium (30 lbs)Beagle, cocker spaniel⅓ of a medium-sized onion⅓ cup⅓ tablespoon (or 1 teaspoon)
Large (60 lbs)German shepherd, golden retriever⅔ of a medium-sized onion⅔ cup⅔ tablespoon (or 2 teaspoons)

These servings are calculated using one medium-sized onion weighing half a pound as a base (the equivalent of one cup of diced onions, or one tablespoon of onion powder).

Symptoms of onion toxicity in dogs

If you think your dog may have eaten an onion or onion powder, look out for:

  • LethargyWatch for a lack of interest in playtime, walks, and other activities your pup usually loves.
  • Weakness. Dogs may collapse, take longer to stand, be unsteady on their feet, or experience shaky limbs
  • Decreased appetiteYour pup might be uninterested in food and treats or refuse their favorite foods altogether.
  • Pale gumsAny gum discoloration that isn’t normal for your dog might indicate a problem.
  • Fainting. Watch your dog’s overall responsiveness and for any sudden losses of consciousness.
  • Reddish urine. Red or pink discoloration in your dog’s urine after exposure to onion is a sign that something is wrong.
  • VomitingDrooling and dry heaving are frequently seen before a dog begins vomiting, which can all be signs of a more serious health problem.
  • Elevated heart rate. Larger dogs have a slower heart rate (about 70 beats per minute), while smaller dogs have a faster heart rate (about 120 BPM). Dogs with noticeably rapid heart rates should be seen by a vet.
  • Panting. While normal for excited dogs, when combined with other symptoms, heavy panting could indicate a serious problem.

Treating onion toxicity in dogs

If your dog is exhibiting any of the above symptoms, the best thing you can do is to get them to your vet as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will do bloodwork and diagnose your dog’s condition based on their symptoms and test results. If the blood tests detect hemolytic anemia (the formation of Heinz bodies  on a blood smear) after possible onion exposure, all signs point toward onion toxicity.

If your dog recently consumed onions, your vet may induce vomiting to try and remove the toxins from their body. Alternatively, they may give your dog activated charcoal to help absorb the toxins in their stomach. 

Intravenous fluids can also help flush your dog’s bloodstream and rehydrate them if they’ve been vomiting. In extreme cases, your dog may require a blood transfusion or supplemental oxygen.

Safe vegetables for dogs

While onions are toxic, there are plenty of healthy and safe vegetables for dogs  . These include:

  • Broccoli. Broccoli is high in fiber and vitamin C and low in fat but is known to cause gas when given in large amounts. It’s best used as an occasional treat.
  • Brussels sprouts. Loaded with nutrients and antioxidants, Brussels sprouts are healthy but can also cause gas.
  • Carrots.  A great low-calorie snack that is high in fiber and beta-carotene (which produces vitamin A). Plus, they’re great for your dog’s teeth!
  • Celery. Full of vitamins A, B, and C, celery is also known to promote a healthy heart and fight cancer.
  • Green beans. High in fiber and low in calories, green beans are also full of healthy vitamins and minerals. When buying canned green beans, look for low-salt or no-salt options.
  • Peas. All types of peas are safe and healthy for dogs, including green peas, snow peas, sugar snap peas, and garden or English peas. They have several vitamins and minerals and are high in protein and fiber.

Your dog may not be able to eat onions like we can, but there are plenty of dog-safe foods out there you can use to add some variety to their regular treat regimen. Just make sure to get your vet’s okay before introducing any “people foods” into their diet. 

When in doubt, remember that commercially prepared, vet-formulated dog food is always the safest option. It may be tempting to share everything we eat with our furry best friends, but keeping certain foods to ourselves is a simple, effective way to keep our pups healthy.

Frequently asked questions

Are onions bad for dogs or cats? 

Plants that are members of the allium family (including garlic, shallots, leeks, and onions) are all toxic to dogs and cats. These plants contain harmful compounds known as disulfides and thiosulfinates, which cause gastroenteritis, break down the body’s red blood cells, and eventually lead to anemia. In severe cases, onion poisoning can be fatal for pets. 

Will a small amount of garlic hurt my dog? 

Since garlic is smaller and about five times more concentrated than onion, dogs can experience toxicity symptoms after ingesting just one clove’s worth. Still, most dogs would need to eat several times that amount to consume a lethal dose of garlic, so your dog will probably be okay if they eat a couple of tiny pieces that accidentally fall on the floor. Keep in mind that like onions, garlic is especially toxic to particular types of dogs, especially Japanese breeds. 

How much onion is a toxic amount for dogs?

If your dog gets into onions, it only takes .5% of their body weight to be a toxic amount. That’s equal to one small onion for a medium-large dog.

How long does it take for onion toxicity in dogs?

Symptoms typically show up within 24 hours but can be delayed for up to seven days after the onion is ingested.

Why are onions harmful to dogs?

Onions contain N-propyl disulfide, a toxic compound that causes a breakdown of red blood cells, leading to anemia in dogs.

What happens if dogs eat onions?

Dogs who eat onions can develop a condition called hemolytic anemia. This condition breaks down a dog’s red blood cells, leaving them without enough red blood cells to function properly. It can lead to limb weakness, fainting, vomiting, pale gums, decreased appetite, and more. Severe onion poisoning in dogs can be fatal.

© 2024 Betterpet – Advice from veterinarians and actual pet experts

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and Prevention

March 30, 2024 / General Health / By Dodds

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and Prevention

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCD) is a gradual and common degenerative disease in dogs due to changes in the brain.

Four decades ago, we would have thought that CCD is a part of “the normal aging process” in a companion dog. It can be. However, research has revealed that CCD is analogous to dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease in humans.

Similar to other degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis, CCD is the interplay of genetics, environment, nutrition, and lifestyle that continues to be unraveled. Fortunately, research has given us diagnostic tools, signs, and treatment options to delay or lessen disease progression.

Signs of CCD

Signs of CCD can be so gradual that companion pet parents may not even notice them because they adapt to them or excuse them.

  • Disorientation
  • Behavioral changes – ex. irritability
  • Interaction – ex. nonrecognition of familiar people or pets
  • Sleep pattern changes
  • House-soiling
  • Activity level changes
  • Anxiety
  • Learning changes

Of course, the signs could be due entirely to something else. For instance, house-soiling. Did the companion dog’s environment change due to a move, urinary tract infection (UTI), weather, addition or loss of a companion, new baby or child in the home, CCD, or a combination of two or more? Fortunately, tests are available to gauge the level of CCD.


Hemopet’s CellBIO test does not directly diagnose cognitive decline. CellBIO measures cellular oxidative damage, which has been proven to be associated with cognitive decline.

Veterinarians will also need to rule in or out other potential causes of the signs such as UTIs or hypothyroidism, and have a few other tests available to diagnose CCD such as the Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Rating Scale (CCDR) or Canine Dementia Scale (CADES).

Both of these tests rely on observations, which can be subjective. So, the best method is to complete one of the tests every six months or so on any dog of any age (particularly seven years or older). You can do this at home. Doing it on a scheduled basis instead of daily or weekly gives the room needed to account for seasonal changes, or “good days” and “bad days.”

The researchers that developed CADES performed comparisons every six months to validate their test. Sadly, they found that the rate of conversion at the 6-months follow-up of normal aging to mild cognitive impairment was 42%, while conversion rate of mild to moderate cognitive impairment was 24%. At twelve months, the conversion rates almost doubled to 71.45% and 50%, respectively.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Rating Scale (CCDR)

Instructions: Circle the number that corresponds to your dog’s behavior based on frequency, transfer number to score, multiply where needed, add to calculate total.

How often does your dog pace up and down, walk in circles and/or wander with no direction or purpose?12345
How often does your dog stare blankly at the walls or floor?12345
How often does your dog get stuck behind objects and is unable to get around?12345
How often does your dog fail to recognize familiar people or pets?12345
How often does your dog walk away while, or avoid being petted?12345
QuestionsNever1-30% times31-60% times61-99% timesAlwaysScore
How often does your dog have difficulty finding food dropped on the floor?12345
QuestionsMuch LessSlightly LessThe SameSlightly MoreMuch MoreScore
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog now pace up and down, walk in circles and/or wander with no direction or purpose?12345
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog now stare blankly at the walls or floor?12345
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog have difficulty finding food dropped on the floor?12345(Multiply by 2)
Compared with 6 months ago, does your dog fail to recognize familiar people or pets?12345(Multiply by 3)
Compared with 6 months ago, is the amount of time your dog spends active?12345
0-39 = Normal; 40-49 = At Risk; 50+ = CCDTotalScore

Canine Dementia Scale (CADES)

Circle the number that corresponds to your companion dog’s behavior or signs, calculate the category score, and add all the category scores.

A. Spatial OrientationAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Disorientation in a familiar environment (inside/outside)02345
Failure to recognize familiar people and animals inside or outside the house/apartment02345
Abnormally responds to familiar objects (a chair, a wastebasket)02345
Aimlessly wandering (motorically restless during day)12345
A reduced ability to do previously learned task12345
B. Social InteractionAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Changes in interaction with a man/dog, dog/other dog (playing, petting, welcoming)02345
Changes in individual behavior of dog (exploration behavior, play, performance)02345
Response to commands and ability to learn new task02345
Expression of Aggression02345
C. Sleep-Wake CyclesAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Abnormally responds in the night (wandering, vocalization, motorically restless)02345
Switches over from insomnia to hypersomnia02345
TotalScore X 2 (0-20):
D. House SoilingAbnormal behavior of the dog was never observedAbnormal behavior of the dog was detected at least once in the last 6 monthsAbnormal behavior appeared at least once per monthAbnormal behavior was seen 2–4 times per monthAbnormal behavior was observed several times a weekScore
Eliminates at home in random locations02345
Eliminates in its kennel or sleeping area02345
Changes in signalization for elimination activity02345
Eliminates indoors after a recent walk outside12345
Eliminates at uncommon locations (grass, concrete)12345
Total score (A + B + C + D)0–95:
Clinical stage:
• Normal aging (Score 0–7)
• Mild cognitive impairment (8–23)
• Moderate cognitive impairment (24–44)
• Severe cognitive impairment (45–95)

Treatment of CCD

No cure exists for CCD, but there are many tools available to slow its progression.

Prescription Medications – There are prescription medications available. Instead of resorting to those immediately, talk to your veterinarian about trying the other methods mentioned below.

Activity, Activity, Activity! – We cannot stress enough the need for physical activity such as a walk and interactive toys.

Diet –

  • Leafy greens (supply folate, vitamin B- 9) – kale, spinach, collard and mustard greens
  • Cruciferous vegetables (supply folate, carotenoids) – broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussels sprouts
  • Beans/legumes (supply choline)
  • Whole grains (gluten-free = quinoa, millet, rice, soy, corn, flax, TEFF, tapioca)
  • Berries/cherries (supply anthocyanins, antioxidants, vitamins C and E). In fact, you can use them as treats.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory) – Fish oil is an example. We prefer smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies. These fish do not have a build-up of mercury in their systems. The high DHA contains higher concentrations of vitamin E, taurine, choline, and l-carnitine, which can also play a positive role in healthy cognitive function. Whatever fish oil you choose, please ensure your companion dog does not have a food sensitivity or intolerance to it as revealed by NutriScan.
  • Yellow squash, asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, beets (supply folate, vitamin A, iron)
  • Nuts (supply omega fatty acids, vitamins E and B-6, folate, magnesium); but not macadamia, walnuts, hickory nuts or black walnuts, pecans and Brazil nuts for dogs
  • Seeds (supply zinc, choline, vitamin E)
  • Spices (are anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory; eg. turmeric)
  • Herbs such as Ashwagandha, an anxiolytic to help reduce chronic stress

Supplements –

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid – Hemopet’s proprietary blend, BioBlend Super 6, contains alpha lipoic acid.
  • Medium-Chain Triglycerides – An excellent example of this is unrefined, expeller pressed coconut oil. The agreed-upon amount to start is 1/4 teaspoon for dogs less than 15 pounds and 1 tablespoon for larger dogs. You will need to balance coconut oil for weight management. If your companion dog is doing well and not exhibiting any side effects such as diarrhea and weight gain, the standard threshold is 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day. Coconut oil is high in fat and can cause diarrhea if too much is given.
  • Melatonin
  • S-Adenosylmethionine (SAM-e)
  • Phosphatidylserine – Is found in many cognitive support blends. Two well-known examples are Senilife and Aktivait.


Bray, Emily E et al. “Associations between physical activity and cognitive dysfunction in older companion dogs: results from the Dog Aging Project.” GeroScience vol. 45,2 (2023): 645-661. doi:10.1007/s11357-022-00655-8,

Dodds, Jean. Exercising Your Companion Dog and Mental Health, Hemopet, 20 Jan. 2020,

Madari, Aladar, et al. “Assessment of severity and progression of canine cognitive dysfunction syndrome using the canine dementia scale (cades).” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 171, Oct. 2015, pp. 138–145,,

Salvin, Hannah E et al. “The canine cognitive dysfunction rating scale (CCDR): a data-driven and ecologically relevant assessment tool.” Veterinary journal (London, England : 1997) vol. 188,3 (2011): 331-6. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2010.05.014,

Skoumalova, A et al. “The role of free radicals in canine counterpart of senile dementia of the Alzheimer type.” Experimental gerontology vol. 38,6 (2003): 711-9. doi:10.1016/s0531-5565(03)00071-8,

Yarborough, Sarah et al. “Evaluation of cognitive function in the Dog Aging Project: associations with baseline canine characteristics.” Scientific reports vol. 12,1 13316. 25 Aug. 2022, doi:10.1038/s41598-022-15837-9, navigation


Maintenance Ear Cleaning

Whole Dog Journal Editorial Staff – March 20, 2024

Holistic veterinarian Stacey Hershman, of Nyack, New York, took an interest in ear infections when she became a veterinary technician in her teens. “This is a subject that isn’t covered much in vet school,” she says. “I learned about treating ear infections from the veterinarians I worked with over the years. Because they all had different techniques, I saw dozens of different treatments, and I kept track of what worked and what didn’t.”

Maintenance Cleaning

Dr. Hershman’s healthy ears program starts with maintenance cleaning with ordinary cotton balls and cotton swabs. “This makes a lot of people nervous,” she says, “but the canine ear canal isn’t straight like the canal in our ears. Assuming you’re reasonably gentle, you can’t puncture the ear drum or do any structural damage.”

Moisten the ear with green tea brewed as for drinking and cooled to room temperature, or use an acidic ear cleanser that does not contain alcohol. Dr. Hershman likes green tea for its mildness and its acidifying, antibacterial properties, but she also recommends peach-scented Derma- Pet MalAcetic Otic Ear Cleanser or Halo Natural Herbal Ear Wash.

“Don’t pour the cleanser into the dog’s ear,” she warns, “or it will just wash debris down and sit on the ear drum, irritating it.” Instead, she says, lift the dog’s ear flap while holding a moistened cotton ball between your thumb and index finger. Push the cotton down the opening behind the tragus (the horizontal ridge you see when you lift the ear flap) and scoop upward. Use a few dry cotton balls to clean out normal waxy buildup.

Next, push a Q-tip into the vertical ear canal until it stops, then scoop upward while rubbing it against the walls of the vertical canal. Repeat several times, rubbing on different sides of the vertical canal. Depending on how much debris is present in each ear, you can moisten one or several cotton balls and use two or more Q-tips.

“You don’t want to push so hard that you cause pain,” she says, “but for maintenance cleaning using gentle pressure, it’s impossible to harm the eardrum. I refer to the external ear canal as an L-shaped tunnel, and I tell owners to think of the vertical canal as a cone of cartilage. People are always amazed at how deep the dog’s ear canal can go. I often have them hold the end of the Q-tip while I demonstrate cleaning so they feel confident about doing it correctly without hurting their dogs.”

If excessive discharge requires the use of five or more Q-tips, or if the discharge is thick, black, or malodorous, Dr. Hershman recommends an ear flush.

For more on diagnosing and treating ear infections, purchase Ear Infections by Whole Dog Journal.

6 Household Items Toxic to Dogs

from the Whole Foods Journal

By Editorial Staff Published:February 9, 2024

Dog Dangers eBook from Whole Dog Journal

This probably goes without saying, but always keep potentially harmful items in closets, drawers, or cabinets that your dog can’t open, not on a table or countertop or in a bag left on the floor. Make sure your kids understand these rules. And always supervise your dog’s play indoors and out. A curious puppy or dog can quickly find a way into even items that seem harmless — but can actually be quite harmful to pets. Here’s a rundown of common things you might have in your home.

  1. Xylitol. It’s a low-calorie sweetener that is derived from birch trees. It was first created in Finland during World War II, when sugar supplies were interrupted. Xylitol has a lot of dental benefits for humans, including the prevention of cavities, dental plaque, dry mouth, and bad breath. It also has the unique ability to remineralize tooth enamel. You can find xylitol in candy, nasal sprays, mouthwash, gum and as an artificial sweetener. Dogs, however, should not consume xylitol. In dogs, xylitol causes a rapid drop in blood sugar. This can cause seizures in dogs, which sometimes lead to death.
  2. Chocolate. While the rule that the darker the chocolate, the healthier it is may be true for people, the opposite is true for dogs. Chocolate’s problem ingredients are theobromine and caffeine, which dogs absorb through their gastrointestinal tracts too fast and put damaging stress on the liver. In dark chocolate, these naturally occuring ingredients are more concentrated and are likely to lead to serious problems, death included. Note: Cocoa powder, in some cases, can be as concentrated as dark or baking chocolate. Even cocoa bean shell mulch, a popular garden product, can be toxic when swallowed by chocolate-craving chow hounds.
  3. Grapes and Raisins. The toxicity of grapes to dogs is still not really understood by scientists. Reactions vary from dog to dog. Some dogs can eat grapes regularly and never have problems. Accidentally eating a few grapes probably won’t affect a dog of any size. But when ingested in siginificant quantities – as little as 2.5 ounces – this fruit can cause kidney failure.
  4. Onions. Onions and their cousins, garlic, are rich in a compound called thiosulphate, which is toxic to dogs. Being much more thiosulphate-potent than garlic, onions pose a threat to dogs if they eat just a single serving – about one good-sized onion. Thiosulphate causes hemolytic anemia (“Heinz factor”) in dogs, a condition that bursts red blood cells. Symptoms of hemolytic anemia can develop in a range of time – generally within a few hours, but can also be after a few days. Signs of hemolytic anemia include depression, weakness, no interest in food, vomiting and diarrhea. In a progressed case, the dog’s urine will become red from dam-aged blood cells. As oxygen-carrying red blood cells die off and leave the dog’s body, the dog becomes suffocated.
  5. Garlic. Garlic is a tricky one because when used topically and sprinkled over food, it is great for dogs. It fights ear infections, internal infections, boosts immune systems and lowers blood sugar. But it also contains thiosulphate. Many holistic veterinarians and health care experts believe that feeding doses up to 1 small clove of garlic per 20 pounds of body weight per day are not likely to pose problems for dogs. When uses topically for wounds or ear infections, it is harm-less. If your dog were to eat a whole head of garlic, on the other hand, refer to the earlier section on onions.
  6. Macadamia Nuts. The good news is that we have no documented cases of macadamia nut poisoning that has led to death. It alleviates after it passes through the dog – in around 12 to 36 hours. The bad news is symptoms are dramatic. Hind-end weakness, lethargy, depression, vomiting, and diarrhea all come after eating as little as 1 gram of macadamia nuts per pound of a dog’s body weight.

For a more comprehensive guide on keeping your dog safe, download Dog Dangers now.



VMBS NEWS — March 28, 2024

A black and white border collie puppy lays on a crochet blanket looking tired as if they have parvovirus.

Springtime brings a vibrant burst of life and marks a time when many puppies are born. 

As a result, the spring also presents peaks in canine health concerns that can impact puppies in the months after they are born. Among these is parvovirus, a highly contagious and potentially deadly disease.

Dr. Kathleen Aicher, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, explains why parvovirus is so contagious between dogs, emphasizing the vulnerability of puppies and how crucial vaccinations and treatment are in preventing the infection from spreading.

The Role Of Parvo Vaccinations

There are several factors that make parvovirus a highly contagious infection that can be fatal without prompt and intensive veterinary care.

“Parvovirus is very easily transmitted between dogs because it takes very little exposure to cause infection, and dogs who are infected can shed the virus for a few days before they exhibit symptoms, unknowingly exposing other dogs to the virus,” Aicher said. “The virus is also very resistant to extreme temperatures and cleaning, so it can remain in the environment for a long time, putting dogs at further risk.”

Parvovirus is especially dangerous for puppies, who have weaker immune systems compared to adult dogs and are highly susceptible to parvo until they are fully vaccinated.

In fact, most puppies and dogs that get sick with parvovirus either have not been vaccinated or have not yet completed their vaccination schedule.

“Puppies may get some initial parvovirus protection by antibodies from the mother, if she is vaccinated, but it is unknown how long this protection might last,” Aicher explained. “For these reasons, there are well-established vaccine schedule guidelines that veterinarians follow to keep puppies protected during the time that they are most vulnerable to infection.”

Vaccinations against parvovirus — which have significantly reduced the number of infected dogs — should initially be given by veterinarians when puppies are 6-8 weeks old, followed by boosters up to 16-20 weeks old. 

Until they are fully vaccinated, Aicher encourages owners to keep their puppies away from areas where dogs congregate, such as dog parks, doggy day care, boarding facilities, and pet stores, particularly if they are displaying any signs of illness. 

“If owners want to begin training their puppy in a class with other owners and puppies, they may be able to find places in which there is a policy of only allowing healthy, vaccinated puppies and that practice effective and regular disinfection of the facility,” Aicher said. “Owners might also bring their puppy to spend time with fully vaccinated, healthy adult dogs who belong to friends or family members.”

Battling Parvo With Veterinary Care

Despite the effectiveness of vaccines, owners should remain aware of parvovirus symptoms, as early detection and treatment can make a significant difference in recovery for puppies.

“Parvovirus is always suspected highly for any suddenly sick puppy, regardless of vaccination history, and any such puppy should see their veterinarian right away,” Aicher said. “Classic symptoms of parvovirus include severe diarrhea, particularly with blood or a very bad smell. Puppies may also be vomiting, have a poor appetite, feel warm or very cool to the touch, or act lethargic and weak, with very low energy.”

Because of how infectious parvovirus is, Aicher advises owners to contact their veterinarian before bringing in a sick puppy for an appointment, allowing the veterinarian’s office to take precautions that protect both the puppy and other dogs in the hospital. 

“Many veterinary hospitals will treat any sick puppy as a parvovirus suspect until proven otherwise, which means they might wear protective gear, use a special exam room, or want to test your puppy for parvo before bringing them into the hospital,” Aicher explained. “The typical test for parvovirus is very easy to perform and results can be obtained very quickly.”

Veterinarians will then discuss the diagnosis in more detail and share their concerns based on the puppy’s history and physical exam. Aicher noted that, frequently, infected puppies will need to remain hospitalized for supportive care until they recover because of how sick they can become.

Despite the dangers of parvovirus, the impact of the disease can be reduced with proper vaccination and swift veterinary care, ensuring that puppies grow up healthy and happy.

Pet Talk is a service of the School of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to