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symptoms of anemia in dogs

Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs: 12 Signs Pet Owners Should Know

Why would pet owners need to know the symptoms of anemia in dogs? Spotting the signs of ill health is the best way to avoid costly treatment or, worse, potentially fatal sickness in your dog. Illnesses like anemia are subtle, requiring you to pay more attention to your furry friend if you want to catch it early.

Here is more about anemia in dogs from a trusted veterinarian in Tucson, AZ.

What Is Anemia in Dogs?

Before we look at the various signs of anemia, it is important to understand the underlying issues. Anemia refers to a condition where the dog lacks either red blood cells or hemoglobin circulating in the bloodstream. Red blood cells supply oxygen throughout the body while removing carbon dioxide from the cells.

Bone marrow produces these vital cells, which transport oxygen through hemoglobin, a protein. The cells do their job for three months before breaking down and letting a new batch take over. However, the process does not always play out the right way in dogs battling anemia.

Potential Causes of Anemia in Dogs

  • Infectious disease
  • Chronic diseases that inhibit red blood cell production
  • Ingestion or inhalation of toxins or poisons
  • Blood loss due to parasite activity
  • Lyme disease
  • Intestinal bleeding
  • Cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Bone marrow disease
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
  • Severe blood loss following accident or injury
  • Medications interfering with red blood cell production
  • Poor nutrition

Three Types of Anemia in Dogs

Blood Loss Anemia

Typically, blood loss anemia occurs after injury or surgery. However, it may also appear through a bleeding disorder or internal bleeding due to parasites.

Non-Regenerative Anemia

This type of anemia occurs when an underlying condition causes inadequate red blood cell production. Common causes include exposure to toxins, parvovirus, kidney disease, and bone marrow disease.

Hemolytic Anemia

With hemolytic anemia, the red blood cells break down faster than normal so that the bone marrow cannot produce enough red blood cells to take over.

12 Symptoms of Anemia in Dogs

So, what can pet owners expect to see in dogs with anemia? It depends on how long the disease has lasted, its severity, and the cause. It is also not uncommon for dogs to show no symptoms until the anemia becomes severe.

Moderate to severe anemia symptoms in dogs typically include the following:

  1. Pale gums
  2. Weight loss
  3. Sudden interest in eating non-edible items (pica)
  4. Reduced appetite
  5. Lethargy
  6. Weakness
  7. Breathing difficulties
  8. Faster than usual heartbeat
  9. Blood loss from the mouth, nose, reproductive, and digestive systems
  10. Unexplained bruising on the body
  11. Jaundice
  12. Loss of consciousness

If you spot any of these signs in your dog, seek urgent medical attention from a trusted veterinarian like Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic.

Professional Help for Your Dog in Arizona

Now that you know when to take your pet to the vet, consider putting a trusted team on speed dial. At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, we safely treat anemia through blood transfusions, chemotherapy, bone marrow transfusions, and more.

Call Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic at (520) 889.9643 today to discuss the symptoms of anemia in dogs or request an appointment in Tucson, AZ.

how to treat mange in puppies

How to Treat Mange in Puppies: A Short Guide

We all want our pets to be happy, healthy, and comfortable. You may feel like a bad parent if your dog seems sick or unhappy, but some things are simply out of our control.

At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, we care about your pets and want to help you keep them happy and healthy. Read on to learn how to treat mange in puppies and get them back to living a fun, carefree life. If you’re looking for a qualified and experienced veterinarian in Tucson, AZ, give us a call today.

What Is Mange?

Mange is a type of skin disease in dogs caused by parasitic mites. The mites feed on cells just beneath the skin’s surface. The two types of mange a dog can suffer from are 

  • Demodectic mange
  • Sarcoptic mange

Demodectic Mange

This type of mange is most common in puppies and older dogs. Demodex Canus is the mite that lives in most dogs’ hair follicles and skin oil glands that causes demodectic mange. These mites usually co-exist with their host animals with no problem.

However, for dogs with weakened immune systems, the Demodex mites can overpopulate and irritate the skin. Demodectic mange is initially hard to spot, but dogs may suffer secondary bacterial infections due to scratching once hair loss begins. The good news is demodectic mange is not contagious.

Sarcoptic Mange

A parasitic mite, known as Sarcoptes scabiei, is responsible for sarcoptic mange (or scabies) in dogs and other mammals. This form of mange is highly contagious and usually passes from one pet to another through contact at a vet clinic, dog park, groomer, kennel, or shelter. Scabies symptoms can take between two and six weeks to develop. 

In addition, pet owners can contract scabies from their pets. Your veterinarian can do a painless skin scraping to determine what kind of mange your pet may have.

How to Treat Mange in Puppies: Home Remedies

We highly recommend you bring your puppy to the vet if you think they have symptoms of mange. If you catch the issue in its early stages, some home remedies may be able to help.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Adding a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to your puppy’s food can help reduce itching and clear up scabs and irritated skin.

Lemon Slices

Slice a lemon with the peel intact and put it in boiling water. After it sits overnight, massage it into your dog’s coat with a sponge.


Apply some plain yogurt to your dog’s ears. This remedy is only good for areas your dog cannot reach with their mouth.

Olive Oil

Rub olive oil on your dog’s infected skin to reduce itching and inflammation.

Call Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic

If you need to know how to treat mange in puppies, the best way to ensure quick results is to go to a veterinary clinic. At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, we treat all pets in the Tuscon, AZ, area with care and compassion. Click the link to learn about tick infestation on dogs, and call us at 520-889-9643 to schedule your appointment.

treatment for heartworm

What You Need to Know About Treatment for Heartworm in Dogs

Heartworm is a blood-borne parasite disease in dogs. Known as Dirofilaria immitis, adult worms live in the heart, pulmonary artery, and surrounding large blood vessels of infected dogs. One dog can have as many as 300 heartworms at once. Prevention is the best way to keep your dog safe, but treatment for heartworm is often very successful.

Are you looking for the right vet for your dog? Dr. Neal is an experienced veterinarian in Tucson, AZ. Our team at Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic brings experience and compassion into the examination room. Call 520.889.9643 to schedule an appointment, and keep reading to learn everything you need to know about heartworm treatment for dogs.

How Is Heartworm Disease Spread? 

Many dogs with heartworms live with them for a long time before a vet diagnoses the disease. Heartworm transfers through bites from infected mosquitos, meaning it does not spread through other dogs. Infections happen during mosquito season when the mosquito population is the highest. 

Prolonged heartworm disease causes damage to the heart, liver, lungs, blood vessels, and kidneys. In the case of severe infection, the best route is to treat organ damage instead of heartworms.

What Is the Treatment for Heartworm? 

Treatment for heartworm has a 95% success rate. The veterinarian begins treatment by injecting a drug called melarsomine. This drug kills adult heartworms in the heart and surrounding blood vessels. Most dogs receive one injection followed by 30 days of rest. Next, the vet will administer two more injections 24 hours apart. 

Infected dogs will need a second form of treatment that kills heartworm larvae. This can happen either before or after the adult heartworm treatment. On the day they receive this treatment, your dog needs to stay at the vet to ensure that they have no adverse reactions to the medication. 

Dogs who receive treatment experience increased energy, improved appetite, and healthy weight gain. After recovery from treatment, your dog will start a heartworm-preventative program. This program focuses on stopping an infection from happening in the future.

What Should I Do After Treatment? 

Watch your dog and help them rest while they recover from the treatments. As adult heartworms die, they go to the lungs and lodge themselves in the small blood vessels. Reactions like mild coughing are common while the body absorbs the dead heartworms. 

Possible severe side effects include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting

If this occurs, contact your vet immediately. Even with treatment, some dogs may need lifelong treatment for heart failure. 

After successful treatment, your vet may recommend you start a program for heartworm preventives to protect your dog against future infections. Ask your vet about which heartworm-preventative program is best for your pet.

Learn More About Heartworm Treatment for Dogs

Treatment for heartworm is vital to save your dog’s life. At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, experienced staff brings compassion into every part of treatment. Visit us online to learn more about the services we provide and find the answers to questions like why your cat keeps scratching furniture. Call 520.889.9643 to schedule an appointment with Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic.

tick infestation on dogs

Tick Infestation on Dogs: Signs, Cure, and Prevention

Ticks are the banes of the existence of all animals. Every mammal on Earth is susceptible to tick bites and tick infestations, yet dogs always seem to get the brunt of the trauma. It could be the fearless nature of our dogs that causes them to trudge through tick-infested woods.

A tick infestation on dogs is not a laughing matter and can severely threaten a dog’s health. Our veterinarian office in Tucson, AZ, has plenty of experience with ticks, and we want to spread awareness. Here are some signs, cures, and prevention methods to help when your dog has ticks.

Signs of Ticks & Tick Infestations

If you’re worried about a tick infestation in dogs you own, don’t worry. Here are some easily-identifiable signs that you can check on your dog. Some symptoms are more severe than others.

Small Bumps on the Skin

If your dog has small, black or brown bumps on its skin, these are most likely ticks. Often, you won’t be able to see them until they mature, but once they grow, they’re relatively easy to spot. Simply run your hands through your dog’s fur routinely to find them.

More Serious Symptoms

Here are some more severe symptoms that the incidence of ticks can cause:

  • Rashes
  • Shivering
  • Fever
  • Weakness, fatigue, and partial or total paralysis
  • Chronic pain
  • Appetite loss
  • Kidney failure
  • Nose bleeds
  • Anemia and blood-clotting issues

Removing (Curing) Ticks

Removing a tick is as simple as firmly grasping it by the head with a pair of tweezers or a tick-removal tool. However, don’t, under any circumstances, squeeze a tick’s body. Its fluids are very toxic and can rapidly lower a dog’s health.

Preventing Ticks

If you want to prevent a tick infestation on dogs, here are some easy things you can do.


Tick sprays are very effective but laborious methods of tick prevention. Pet owners should spray these products on their pets, taking care of their eyes and ears. Each spray lasts for a certain amount of time before requiring reapplication.


Tick collars are a reasonably modern alternative to other treatment methods. These collars contain a chemical that ticks loathe, keeping them away. However, owners of active dogs should avoid these, as getting them wet reduces their effectiveness.


Shampoos are the most effective method for tick prevention, but they are also useful for dogs with a tick infestation. Lather it onto your dog during bath time and leave it on for ten minutes for best results!

Don’t be Afraid to Bring Your Animals to Us

Bring your dog to us if you’re ever afraid to remove adult ticks yourself. We can help reduce the chance of tick-borne diseases and protect your dog’s health. We have years of experience treating tick infestation on dogs and other animals.

At Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, we believe in providing quality service and knowledge for pets in our area. Visit our blog to learn more about what to do when you encounter abandoned kittens.

Call Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic at (520) 889-9643 to schedule an appointment for your best friend today!

dog destructive chewing

Destructive Chewing in Dogs: Reasons and Solutions

It is common for dogs, particularly puppies, to use their mouths for exploration, entertainment, and play. While a little playful chewing is common and rarely harmful, your dog’s behavior can quickly damage items in your home if you don’t address the problem. 

If you are dealing with destructive chewing, you should address the situation quickly to correct the behavior. Seeking the advice of a veterinarian may help the problem. Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic provides veterinary services in Tucson, AZ, and can help determine whether the behavior is normal or linked to a more significant problem.  

Here are some of the main reasons behind destructive chewing and how you can address the behavior. 

Cause #1: Separation Anxiety 

Adult dogs quickly attach to owners and can experience separation anxiety. A change in the family’s schedule, a new home, or being left alone for long periods can spark fear in your dog, resulting in destructive chewing.

Other signs of separation anxiety include frantic greetings, following you around the house, and barking when you leave. 


Punishing your pets when they display anxious behaviors is not the solution. Reacting harshly will only make the problem worse. Desensitization techniques can address dogs’ destructive chewing caused by anxiety, which exposes your dog to a stimulus starting at a low intensity. 

It is important to remember that your dog is not acting out on purpose and that punishments often create more serious issues. 

Cause #2: Seeking Attention 

Dogs may act out to seek the attention of their owners. Owners give more attention when dogs and puppies display inappropriate actions, inadvertently reinforcing the behavior. A dog’s destructive chewing behavior results in more attention, even if it is negative. 


You can stop attention-seeking behavior by giving your dog plenty of positive attention each day. Identify your dog’s favorite chew items and put these objects where they cannot reach them. Ignore negative actions and praise good ones.  

Cause #3: Boredom

Dogs explore the world with their mouths and may chew clothes, furniture, and shoes if they are left without chew toys. Dogs may display destructive chewing behaviors if left alone for long periods without appropriate entertainment. Puppies need regular mental stimulation and outlets to curb negative actions. 


Dogs, particularly large breeds, need to lead active lifestyles to remain happy and exhibit healthy behaviors. Play with your dog regularly in safe areas and encourage your children to take them on daily walks. 

Increase your dog’s opportunities for mental stimulation, particularly when they are left alone. Purchase chew toys and use a clicker to encourage your dog to play with the toys instead of munching on other items. 

Taking your pet to a behavior class is another excellent way to reinforce the positive behaviors you are teaching at home. Are you experiencing destructive chewing or dealing with separation anxiety in greyhounds? Find out whether the behavior is normal or part of a more significant problem by making an appointment with Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic.

how to trick your dog into taking liquid medicine

How to Trick Your Dog into Taking Liquid Medicine

Regardless of breed, dogs have one thing in common: they don’t enjoy taking liquid medication. Dogs are intelligent about sniffing out pills, tasting medicine that’s mixed in, or wriggling away as you try to dispense liquid medicine. (Pill guns are a different story for another blog.)

Wondering how to trick your dog into taking liquid medicine? Here are five tried and true tricks from Tucson’s top-rated veterinarian, Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic, to get your dog to take medicine. Give them a try – we think you’ll find one that works for you.

Ask Your Vet for Compounded Medicine

Ask your vet if you can get the prescription compounded into ready-made dog treats. This makes your job easier and ensures that your dog receives the correct dosage. (Yes, we are happy to do this for our dog owners!)

Use a Syringe or Dropper

Draw the medication into the syringe or dropper (remember, 1ml = 1cc, 5cc = 1 teaspoon, and 15cc = 1 tablespoon). If it’s refrigerated, warm it in your hand first.

Get your dog into a comfortable spot or have someone hold the dog if needed. Grab the dog’s head with your non-dominant hand and place your dominant hand on top of its muzzle, circling with your thumb and fingers.

Then raise the dog’s nose toward the ceiling and squeeze your fingers behind its canine teeth. Place the dropper or syringe behind the canine teeth and squeeze the contents into the dog’s mouth. Praise your dog!

Peanut Paws

Another answer to the question “how to trick your dog into taking liquid medicine?” works wonders for most fur babies, as it doesn’t seem like medicine to your dog. Mix the medicine into your dog’s favorite brand of peanut butter (some dogs like all peanut butter, but you’ll find that some can be choosy!) Spread it onto a silicone mat and watch your dog enjoy the treat.

Canned Food

This method of hiding liquid medicine from dogs works wonders for some, but it doesn’t work with everyone. Food flavor choices that work best include duck and salmon combo, tuna, chicken casserole, and salmon.

Start with a small amount of food to make sure your dog eats it all. If the dog doesn’t eat it at that concentration, continue mixing in more food until you reach the “magic ratio.” If your dog doesn’t finish all of the food, it’s not getting a correct dose, so find a different method for next time.


If your dog likes bread, that’s an acceptable alternative to canned food. But be careful not to use breads that are toxic to dogs, such as raisin bread, garlic bread, any bread with xylitol (sugar alcohol), or bread with nuts and seeds.

Stay Calm

Your dog can sense your mood and emotions from speaking tone and body language. If you are uneasy, your dog will be too and less likely to respond as you want.

Now that you know how to trick your dog into taking liquid medicine, you’re prepared for any prescriptions your vet might give you. Click here to learn about the signs to take your pet to the vet.

For complete veterinary care, call Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic at (520) 889-9643 to schedule an appointment.

when to take your pet to the vet

When to Take Your Pet to the Vet: Top 7 Signs

Pets are a vital part of the family, but communicating with them can often be difficult. They may not be able to talk, but certain behaviors are cause for concern. For this reason, you want to be sure you can recognize the signs of distress and know when to take your pet to the vet.

If your pet begins to display any of these signs, have them come in for veterinary services in Tucson from Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic right away.

Different Eating Habits

While skipping a meal here and there isn’t usually an issue, not eating for two or more days is concerning. Often pets will do this if they have a mouth injury or are sick, or immediately following being spayed or neutered. When the opposite occurs, and your pet is unusually hungry, it may be a sign of a serious medical issue. Both are signs that your pet needs to see a vet as soon as possible.

Drinking More Water

Pets will often drink more water when the weather is warmer or activity increases. It becomes a problem if they drink excessively for several days without reasonable cause. This may be an indication of kidney disease or diabetes.

Strained Breathing

A notable sign of when to take your pet to the vet is labored breathing, fast panting, or shallow breaths. When this occurs in sync with sudden inactivity, weight loss, and coughing, it may signify a serious lung condition.


Like humans, pets will occasionally vomit to rid their bodies of something that didn’t agree with them. However, if they vomit blood for more than once in 12 hours, don’t wait too long before taking them to a vet. Vomiting that occurs along with diarrhea, lethargy, and a poor appetite can indicate dehydration or more serious conditions that require medical attention immediately.

Noticeable Eye Changes

A pet’s eyes can show signs of illness and should be seen by a vet if they remain dilated or constricted. Other indicators of when to take your pet to the vet are unusual discharge, drooping, or the third eyelid covering part of their eye.

Persistent Coughing

While an occasional cough is usually nothing to worry about, your pet will require medical attention if it continues for more than two days. There are various reasons they may be coughing, so testing would be needed to make a proper diagnosis. Common reasons your pet may be coughing include an infection, kennel cough, or something lodged in their throat.

Pet Shows Signs of Pain

One of the most apparent indicators that a pet needs to see a veterinarian is when they show signs of pain. These may include limping, flinching, yelping, crying, panting, hiding, and unwillingness to move. A vet can help narrow down the source of the pain and resolve the issue quickly.

Taking Your Pet to the Vet

Vet visits are often stressful for our pets and can lead to anxious behaviors. Here are tips when taking your dog to the vet compiled by our Santa Cruz Veterinary Clinic team to make your visit as seamless as possible. Call us at 520.889.9643 today to make an appointment.

taking dog to vet

Tips When Taking Your Pet to the Vet for the First Time

Excited about bringing your new puppy or kitten to their forever home? Now that you’ve stocked up on food, toys, and other essentials, it’s time to make an appointment with the vet. 

Besides your family within the household, the vet will be the most important person in your pet’s life. After all, they’ll be keeping your furry friend healthy throughout their life and caring for them when they’re ill. Throughout this article, we will be discussing the following helpful tips for taking your pet to the vet for the first time.

Set Up a Vet Visit Right Away

Even if you purchased your pet with a certificate of good health from a shelter or breeder, it’s a good idea to get them checked out right away. Consider making an appointment with the vet within the first two weeks of bringing your puppy or kitten home. Your pet may be on a vaccination schedule or require specific medication to keep them healthy in their new environment. 

While you may not anticipate an emergency occurring within the first few days of bringing your pet home, you never know what can happen. Building a rapport with a veterinary clinic you can trust early offers peace of mind. Our Tucson, Arizona veterinarians provide the best care for pets at every stage of their life. 

Consider Investing in Pet Insurance

Pet insurance can help you save significantly on veterinary visits as most policies reimburse up to 80% after deductibles. In fact, insurance policies cover services like spaying and neutering, intestinal parasites, and flea and ticks prevention. Additionally, pet insurance protects against emergency vet bills. 

Preparing for Your First Veterinary Visit

Are you nervous about your pet’s first veterinary visit? Here are some easy tips you can follow to help things go smoothly and to get the most out of your visit:

  1. Don’t forget to bring your pup or kitten’s adoption papers from the breeders or the shelter. These papers let your vet know what vaccinations your pet has and which ones they still need. 
  2. Bring along a list of the medications and supplements your pet is taking and how often you’re giving them to them. 
  3. If you are a new pet parent, you might have a few questions you would like to ask the vet. Write them down beforehand and bring the list with you to the visit. 
  4. Pack a few treats to help keep your pet calm during the appointment.
  5. If your pet is small, you might want to consider bringing them in a carrier to protect them from potentially combative pets. Using a carrier will also help your pup or kitten feel safe in a new environment.

What Can You Expect from Your First Visit

Believe it or not, taking your pet to the vet for the first time is one of the most important visits you’ll have. During this visit, the vet will dig into your pup or kitten’s health history, go over their dietary needs, and they may even take blood work to uncover any hidden issues. The vet will also check for infections, heart murmurs, fleas, and ticks. You can reach out to us today to learn whether dogs need to be vaccinated for neutering.

Dog Teeth Problems

dog teeth problems

Much like humans, dogs can also develop oral diseases, including broken teeth and periodontal diseases. Dogs are five times more susceptible to dental problems than humans. In addition, the prevalence of periodontal diseases is at 80% among dogs over the age of 3.

The most common dental problem among dogs is bad breath. However, this is quite harmless when not accompanied by other serious dental diseases like periodontal disease. In the same line, cavities are also common among dogs and harmless when they are not a symptom of something serious.

This is because canines have an alkalizing mouth which promotes the buildup of plaques in their mouth. As bacteria multiply, their symptoms also do. As a result, it can lead to inflammation and tissue damage. This causes tooth loss and pain for your pup.

This article takes you through the various dog teeth problems often seen in your pet. Keep reading for signs, treatment, and prevention.

What is Dental Disease in Dogs?

Unlike humans, canines have little to no problems with tooth decay. But most dogs over three years old have dental disease. It comes in four stages, generally beginning with plaque and tartar in the mouth. This then leads to lightly inflamed gums, often called gingivitis.

If left untreated, they can progress into severe gum disease (periodontitis). And in due course, it may involve loss of bone and soft tissue around the affected teeth. In severe cases, it can affect other organs in your pet’s body and even organ failure.

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental diseases seen in dogs. More than two-thirds of dogs aged three and older have the disease. Another common condition seen is fractured teeth. However, cavities are pretty rare and are present in only 10% of oral conditions.

When do Dogs Get Teeth Problems?

Dogs generally develop gingivitis at two years of age. However, it can get better with regular treatment. By the time they are three years of age, most dogs would have developed a dental disease. Gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease at about 4-6 years of age. When left untreated, it leads to bone loss.

Are Dental Problems Common in Dogs?

Dental disease is quite prevalent in canines. It is one of the most common ailments seen by vets. Unfortunately, only a few pets show outward signs of the disease. Therefore, it is up to the vet and the owner to spot this painful condition.

Of all dental diseases, periodontal disease is the most common infectious disease. It is a progressive, inflammatory disease that affects the supporting structures of the teeth. It is also the leading cause of early tooth loss in dogs.

Is the Dental Disease in Dogs Fatal?

Periodontal disease can cause more complications than just pain and loss of teeth. Untreated inflammation in pets can be a leading cause of liver, heart, and kidney diseases. In the end, they can untreated gum disease can destroy the bone so much so that even the slightest pressure can fracture your dog’s jaw.

Common Dog Teeth Problems

Dental complaints are the most common health problem for dogs. One of the most common issues is bad breath. Bad breath though harmless, does show signs of bad dental health. On the other hand, Cavities are uncommon and periodontal, or gum disease in canines is not.

Periodontal disease is one of the most commonly encountered health problems in dogs. The condition affects about 80% of pets by the age of three.

Teeth issues can harm the overall health and dog’s quality of life of your dog.

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

Plaque is an adhesive film on the inside of the tooth. It is a whitish substance consisting mainly of bacteria. The plaque creates a foul smell that increases with time unless you brush. When left unattended, they cause tooth decay and gum disease.

If not brushed within 24 – 48 hours, the plaque thickens into a hard substance called tartar. Also called calculus, tartar is a yellow or brown-colored substance that stays affixed to the teeth. At this point, they are not removed by brushing and will need to be scraped with a hard object. Once it reaches the gum line, it can irritate, leading to gum disease.

The primary signs dog owners will notice are poor quality breath, stained teeth, and red gum line. As it progresses, you may also find worsening breath and bleeding gums. Other contributing factors for gum disease are age, diet, breed, and genetics.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a painful bacterial infection that affects the liver, heart, and kidneys when left untreated. As the name indicates, it affects the gums and the bones that surround the teeth. The dental disease is generally silent—there aren’t many apparent early signs and symptoms. However, once it advances, it causes untold pain for your dog, missing teeth, bone loss, swollen gums, and more.

Gingivitis/Gum Disease

vet brushing dog teeth

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease. The gums are inflamed due to the bacterial plaque, but the infection hasn’t reached the bones and ligaments. So in truth, the tartar that you see isn’t the reason for the infection.

When the hard tartar digs into the gums and gets under the gum line, it starts a vicious cycle of infection. The bacteria get trapped, which causes damage to the supporting tissues and the surrounding bone structure.

The inflamed gums become red or purple and swollen, bleeding on contact. Gingivitis at this stage is reversible. It is treated via a professional dental cleaning (under anesthesia). Following that, pet owners should follow proper oral hygiene, such as daily tooth brushing and dental cleaning.


In the case of periodontitis, the infection is much more severe and affects the gum tissue, bones, and ligaments. As the vital supports of the teeth diminish, pockets develop around the roots of the teeth. This allows food, bacteria, and other debris to collect, causing infections.

The bacterial buildup in these pockets secretes a toxic substance causing further damage to the tissue. The resulting inflammation triggers the dog’s immune system, bringing in the white blood cells to fight the bacteria. However, in the process, the surrounding tissues and bones are also damaged. Over time teeth loosen and begin falling from the mouth.

Dentists treat periodontitis with a professional cleaning and regular treatment. In severe cases, your pet may require oral surgery to reach the root surface.

Tooth Root Abscess

In severe cases of periodontal disease, the bacteria reaches deep into the roots of the teeth. And then, it starts destroying the root depriving the tooth of its blood supply resulting in tissue destruction. This stimulates a response from the immune system, which floods the area with white blood cells (pus or abscess). At this stage, your pet would require a surgical intervention. The abscess affects the molars and presents itself as a swelling under the eye.

However, the tooth root abscess may also be linked to mouth trauma when dogs chew hard objects and injure their mouths. In addition, the infection causes the swelling and facial deformity, which can be pretty painful.

Tooth Fractures

Tooth fractures are common among dogs that are constant chewers. They happen when the dog chews on hard objects such as hard nylon chews, bones, antlers, and pig hooves. Your pet pooch should not chew on anything that doesn’t have a bit of a give.

The size of the chew also contributes to fractured teeth. A large chew toy will make the gum and tooth flex to an angle so that one side of the tooth is split. It is called slab fracture. Tooth fractures should be treated to save the tooth. If the pulp is exposed, root canal treatments and tooth extractions are the only options.

Retained Baby Teeth

All puppies have baby teeth which then fall out, making space for adult teeth. The adult teeth come in by the age of 6 months. In some cases, the puppies retain the baby teeth leading to overcrowding. Unfortunately, there is no way to treat retained baby teeth. However, dentists can remove them under anesthesia.

What are the Signs of Dental Problems in Dogs?

The signs of dental diseases in dogs are quite underrated. These cause your pooch untold pain and discomfort. Though these symptoms can sometimes be mistaken for older dogs, pet owners can see marked changes like:

  • Bad breath
  • Discolored teeth
  • Plaque and tartar buildup
  • Bleeding gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Loss of interest in chew toys
  • Loss of appetite or difficulty eating
  • Increased drooling
  • Missing teeth
  • Fatigue
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Sneezing and nasal discharge (due to periodontitis in upper canine teeth)

Dog Breeds with Bad Teeth

Few dogs, especially the smaller ones, present a greater risk of developing periodontal diseases. However, as a pet parent, you need to be diligent with these breeds.

  • Pug face dental problems like plaque and periodontal disease as a result of the short-muzzled bone structure. They also suffer from overcrowding of teeth.
  • Chihuahua has a small mouth to host all 42 teeth. This makes them susceptible to periodontal disease.
  • Yorkies often have retained baby teeth.
  • Boxers and large breeds such as Great Danes and bulldogs suffer from gingival hyperplasia 0r thickening of gums.
  • Collie suffers from an overbite, soft tissue trauma, and tooth-on-tooth wear.
  • Dachshunds have a narrow muzzle hence making them susceptible to periodontal disease.

Why do Small Dogs have Teeth Problems?

Small breed dogs such as Chihuahuas, Pugs, and Yorkies are susceptible to dental disease. The consensus is the small heads which lead to overcrowding. There is not much space between the teeth, presenting more space for food particles to collect bacteria.

They also retain their baby teeth which again is a reason for overcrowding. In addition, other breeds such as pugs and Boston terriers have bite problems.

How do I Prevent Dental Disease in Dogs?

The most common risk factor for periodontal diseases in dogs is inadequate oral hygiene. The key to managing periodontal diseases is prevention. As long as their teeth remain clean, they will not harbor bacteria, and the gums will also stay healthy.

Dogs Do Not Show Signs of Teeth Pain

veterinarian examining dog teeth problem

Less than 5% of dogs show outward pain in their teeth as a result of periodontal disease. This is because their animal instinct doesn’t allow them to show any pain. As a result, they have evolved to hide even the chronic pain.

Even with bleeding gum and cracked teeth, your pet would prefer to wag his tail rather than show you that he is sick. He will be the happy dog you know.

Examine Your Dog’s teeth daily

You’re unlikely to diagnose serious oral problems in a dog’s mouth. However, there are things worth looking for between all these vet cleanings. Look out for broken teeth, discolored teeth, and loose teeth. Other signs to look out for include:

  • Blood on chew toys or water bowl
  • Bad breath(within 1-2 months of cleaning)
  • Swelling in or around the dog’s mouth
  • Increased resistance to brushing

Know the Signs of Dental Diseases in Dogs

Stay vigilant for broken or discolorated teeth as well as if the teeth are turned. Too often, breeders, even vets, are looking at the signs that the pet is old. Unfortunately, all these signs of mouth cavities go wrong all too often. There are plenty of things that can happen in your dog’s mouth — but most of it can go unnoticed.

Keep an Eye on Their Oral Health

Taking care of your pet’s oral health is akin to taking care of your own. Here are some simple steps you can follow to ensure optimum health,

  • Pet owners should do annual oral examinations, dental x-rays and dental cleaning every year under general anesthesia.
  • Daily tooth brushing is the key to a healthy mouth. A pet toothpaste and pet toothbrush with a little bit of patience can help keep your pet healthy and happy.
  • Give your pet safe chew toys to keep its mouth in top form. It helps slow down the progression of periodontal disease. For example, give them hard and rubber toys or thin rawhide bones.
  • Feed your pet healthy foods suitable for his dietary needs. This includes food with additives to prevent plaque and dried food to scrub their teeth.


Veterinary dentistry is always available to help your dog with his periodontal disease. However, keep in mind that it is already advanced by the time you notice any signs of periodontal disease. So, the best treatment option is prevention.

vet examines dog teeth

Daily tooth brushing is much more than clean teeth. It is the difference between a bundle of joy and a sick dog. It is also worth providing them with lots of opportunities to chew. And always feed your dog a proper diet. Finally, be sure you see your doctor during the day for regular checks. If you suspect gum damage talk to a vet first – brushing is sometimes ineffective.

If your dog is showing signs of periodontal disease, contact a vet. They will examine the nature of the disease and suggest a treatment plan.

In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is a world-renowned and trusted veterinarian that you desire for keeping up with your pet’s vaccinations at the proper time to ensure its health. Contact us today to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and check-ups.

Common Chihuahua Health Issues

Brown Chihuahua

A small dog with a big personality – that’s a chihuahua. It is also the smallest of all 155 American Kennel Club (AKC) dog breeds weighing no more than 6 pounds. A national symbol of Mexico, these amusing “toy dogs” stand among the oldest breeds of the Americas, with a lineage going back to the ancient kingdoms of the pre-Columbian era. Furthermore, chihuahuas also get along well with the family and make for an excellent apartment dog.

Chihuahuas are generally healthy amongst other breeds of this size. They also outlive most canines, big and small. However, it can also be plagued with health concerns. This article takes you through the common health issues a chihuahua may face, symptoms, and life expectancy of this breed.

Keep in mind that your chihuahua is not likely to face any of these illnesses, but it pays to be aware of them.

Do Chihuahuas Have a Lot of Health Problems?

Chihuahuas are generally a healthy breed and can outlive most dogs. They are one of the rare breeds that have the longest lifespan averaging at 20 years.

However, their small size attributes to a lot of health problems. Furthermore, they are prone to breed-specific health issues. Despite that, they are resilient when it comes to illnesses.

Common Chihuahua Health Problems

Chihuahua with Mask

Most of the health issues of a chihuahua are genetic and related to the particular breed. And as such, they have quite a few illnesses, but not all are life-threatening. And it doesn’t mean that all chihuahuas get them. Your pet may be more at risk for the below-mentioned diseases. Here are the common health problems chihuahuas are predisposed to:

Spinal Injuries

Injuries are the leading cause of health issues among small dogs, particularly chihuahuas. Chihuahua likes to follow their owner around and often shadow around. Due to their fragile nature, even minor accidents can cause serious injury.

Spinal injuries occur with dogs that play with larger dogs. An acute spinal injury causes nerve damage leading to paralysis. It may also cause spinal disc damage, which puts your chihuahua in pain and lots of it.

The latter is also called Intervertebral disc disease or IVDD. In serious cases, your pet may become paralyzed or lose motor functions in certain parts of the body. Call your vet if he is

  • Unwilling to jump
  • Cries for no reason
  • He lowers his head when you pick him up

He may be in severe pain. Depending on the severity, your vet may suggest surgery.

Canine Distemper

Chihuahuas are very susceptible to viral illnesses such as distemper. Unfortunately, it is rather contagious and transmitted between canines through the air. Also, it doesn’t have any cure either. Hence it is all the more important to get your pet vaccinated. The common signs of canine distemper include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Runny nose
  • Red eyes
  • Coughing
  • Lethargy
  • Heavy Breathing
  • Temperature

At the onset of symptoms, you need to contact your vet right away. However, do not take your chihuahua to the vet without an appointment. Your vet will notify you after making arrangements such that other dogs do not get infected.

Patellar Luxation

As the name indicates, patellar luxation is the dislocation of the kneecap. It is a common hereditary condition among chihuahuas. There are different levels of dislocation depending on where the patella resides.

Patella consists of three parts: thigh bone, calf, and kneecap. For a dog with this condition, the kneecap dislocates quite often. The symptoms of luxation include:

  • Varying pain degrees
  • Abnormal gait
  • Lameness
  • Immobility (in worst cases)

If it’s one leg, your dog can pop it back into place by kicking his leg sideways. Depending on the severity, the treatment varies. In manageable cases, physical therapy can adjust his gait. For severe cases, corrective surgery is the only option. Whatever it is, they can lead a normal life.

Tracheal Collapse

Collapsed trachea is one of the common conditions seen in “toy dogs” like the chihuahua. The trachea is made of rings of cartilage. This structure provides strength and flexibility to the trachea. However, in chihuahuas, the cartilage is weak and prone to collapse when the dog inhales.

This condition also leads to a narrow windpipe. The symptoms include:

  • Goose-honk cough
  • Gagging
  • Difficulty breathing

As the condition worsens, the airways thin, making it difficult for your pet to breathe. In advanced cases, the lack of oxygen can affect other organs.

As for treatment, vets prescribe bronchodilator drugs for mild to moderate cases. As the severity increases, you may have to resort to surgery. To prevent collapse, it is recommended not to use collars for chihuahuas. Instead, go for harnesses to protect their fragile throat and airway.

Dental Disease

Chihuahua Dental Health

Dental disease affects more than 80% of chihuahuas before two years of age. Due to their small heads, they experience teeth overcrowding. It makes it easy for food to be trapped between the teeth resulting in plaque. If left untreated, results in gum disease, periodontitis, and premature tooth loss.

Besides that, chihuahuas also have weak teeth. Moreover, some are born with very little enamel. Hence prone to rot and cavities, not to mention bad breath.

Chihuahua can also retain their baby teeth well into adulthood. This condition is called deciduous canine teeth, where the adult teeth develop askew. Unless pet owners maintain dental hygiene, your dog could lose not only its teeth but also its life. In addition, dental issues often affect the joints, kidneys, liver, and heart.


Hypoglycemia, also called low blood sugar, is one of the most common health conditions seen in chihuahuas. A hypoglycemic attack can cause issues in the nervous system leading to seizures and sometimes coma.

Unfortunately, these attacks come without any warning. Sometimes your dog may show any of the following symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Tremors
  • Weakness
  • Restlessness

Even a mild case can escalate quite fast, resulting in permanent brain damage. Hence it is advised to take quick action since this is a medical emergency. Therefore, the best treatment for Hypoglycemia is to take necessary precautions and avoid it at all costs.


While shivering isn’t a medical issue, most dog owners are worried when they see their pet shiver. However, shivering is pretty common among chihuahuas. The reason being, this dog breed doesn’t have much fat under its skin.

Furthermore, chihuahuas tend to have a hyperactive metabolism. As a result, they are losing their body heat all the time. Hence they tend to shiver much more than other dog breeds. However, it may also be a sign of a more severe problem. While this is not a concern, you may want to contact your vet if you notice something abnormal.

Heart Disease

Heart diseases are the leading cause of death in chihuahua. The common heart defect is the weakening of heart valves such that it no longer closes tight. This results in the book leaking through the valves, causing a heart murmur. However, if detected early, it can be brought under control with the help of drugs.

Apart from that, they are also susceptible to “Patent Ductus Arteriosis.” In chihuahuas with PDA, the valve that carries blood to both the parts of the heart doesn’t close as it should. Hence excess blood is carried to the lungs resulting in fluid buildup and heart strain. The symptoms include:

  • Coughing
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue during exercise
  • Weakness in hind limbs
  • Shortness of breath

Another heart condition often sees in small breeds such as chihuahua is a chronic valvular disease. In a dog with this condition, leaf-like valves grow thick and go out of shape. As a result, it doesn’t close well, causing reduced valve function and cardiac output.

The most obvious symptom is a loud heart murmur in the left side of the chest. This condition is degenerative and progressive. If not treated at the right time, it can advance into congestive heart failure.

Pulmonic Stenosis

Pulmonic stenosis is a congenital heart disease where the valve is malformed. This causes the heart to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. As a result, sufficient blood doesn’t flow to the heart.

Depending on the intensity of the condition, the treatment varies. Mild cases require dietary changes, while advanced cases need heart surgery. Undiagnosed, pulmonic stenosis can be deadly since the heart can fail under stress. The symptoms include:

  • Fainting
  • Exercise intolerance
  • General fatigue

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common conditions seen in chihuahuas. It is often seen in larger breeds where the puppies grow rather fast into their bodies. In chihuahua, however, its fragile frame is a cause of dysplasia. Any injuries that happened in their youth manifest as hip dysplasia when they grow older.

This condition often presents as displacement between the hip joint and thigh bone. Depending on the severity, your dog may need no treatment or corrective surgery. The symptoms include:

  • Lameness
  • Abnormal gait
  • Varying degrees of pain
  • Difficulty walking


Chihuahuas have a soft spot on the top of their head called a molera. While this is a characteristic of chihuahuas, a large molera is cause for concern. This condition is called hydrocephalus. It happens when the cerebrospinal fluid accumulates around the brain.

Hydrocephalus is seen in chihuahua puppies nine months of age or younger. The signs of hydrocephalus include:

  • Swollen head
  • Listlessness
  • Lethargy
  • Grogginess
  • Deficient coordination

Dogs affected by hydrocephalus can have:

  • Partial or full blindness
  • Dementia
  • Seizures(in worst cases)
  • Death

Chihuahuas with mild hydrocephalus can live into adulthood and lead a normal life.


According to the “American Kennel Club,” a chihuahua should weigh no more than 6 pounds. Unfortunately, obesity is a critical health issue among dogs of all breeds. It leads to many illnesses, including heart disease, arthritis, cancer, and back pain. Apart from that, obesity can worsen joint problems and metabolic and digestive disorders.

The primary reason for obesity is the doggie treats and leftover food. While it is difficult to refuse a treat, they are better off with a walk or a game. Not only is it safer, but you’d also get to spend some quality time with your dog.

Eye Problems

Chihuahuas develop a host of eye problems, of which some are inherited. If not treated right away, they can lead to blindness and can be much painful.

Glaucoma, an eye disease found in humans, can also affect your dog’s eyes. It is a painful eye condition that leads to blindness if not treated at the right time. The symptoms include:

  • Watery eyes
  • Redness
  • Bluing of the cornea
  • Squinting
  • Enlarges and swollen eyes (advanced condition)

Another eye condition often seen in chihuahuas is dry eye. A chihuahua with a dry eye has reduced secretion by tear glands hence cannot keep the eye moist. This leads to itchy eyes and infections. The symptoms include:

  • Dull and dry eyes
  • Thick discharge
  • Squinting
  • Pawing at the eyes

While this is a painful eye disease, it is also treatable. Your vet will prescribe an ointment which you would have to apply for the rest of your dog’s life.

Senior chihuahuas are also affected by cataracts, a common cause of blindness. A chihuahua with this condition will have an opaque and cloudy lens instead of a clear lens. Surgery can remove the cataract and restore his eyesight. However, few pets may learn to live with the blindness and adjust to the new normal.

Liver Problems

Chihuahuas are prone to liver problems, in particular the Portosystemic Shunt. In this condition, a part of the blood supply to the liver goes around it. This deprives the liver of the much-needed blood necessary to grow and function properly.

A dog with a portosystemic shunt loses the ability to remove toxins from its body. You’ll see symptoms such as:

  • Stunted growth
  • Seizures

Treatment ranges from medication and a special diet to surgery in advanced cases.

Kidney Stones

Kidney stone is common in older chihuahuas, especially males. It is a small stone-like formation made of calcium in the kidney and bladder. Over time they can cause a lot of pain to your dog. The symptoms include:

  • Bloody urine
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Intense pain

Generally, the stones can pass out on their own. However, if your chihuahua has too much difficulty when trying to urinate, you may want to consult with your vet. In rare cases, the stones cause blockages resulting in medical emergencies.

How to Keep Your Chihuahua Healthy

Small Dog Hooked Up to Vitals Monitor

While they are at risk for the above conditions, chihuahuas are generally healthy. As long as you treat them at the right time, they can live a long and full life. In order to have a thriving dog, you need to ensure a healthy lifestyle for your chihuahua. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that your chihuahua is healthy.

Give Him the Right Food

Chihuahuas are tiny dogs with a playful nature. To keep up the energy, you need to feed them with high-quality food. Any dry food with 30% protein and low in salt is perfect for them. However, you may have to feed them in small quantities multiple times a day. This is because their digestive system cannot handle a lot of food in one sitting.

Chihuahuas also have the tendency to become obese, so avoid overfeeding them. Consult with your vet and decide on a diet regimen based on his activity level. You should also avoid human food, especially coffee, chocolate, onions, and garlic.

Groom Your Chihuahua

Chihuahua is of two types: the long-haired and smooth coat. The grooming needs also vary depending on the coat. The former requires frequent grooming three times a week with a pin brush. This gets rid of the loose hair. For a smooth coat, weekly grooming with a soft-stiffened brush is sufficient.

Ensure that you clean the ears, trim the nails, and brush his teeth. Moreover, bathe him with a dog-safe shampoo every two months. Use lukewarm water for bathing him and drying him with a towel soon after.

Chihuahua is prone to a lot of dental problems. Ensure that you brush him right from the puppy stage so that he is not averse to brushing.

Ensure Regular Preventative Care

The first step of preventative care lies with you. Check its body for any abnormalities during grooming. Contact your vet if you see any swelling, redness, or swelling. Besides that, ensure that your chihuahua is vaccinated with the recommended vaccines.

Annual visits are crucial for chihuahuas. Even if they are healthy, the vet will log his height and weight to log the aging process. In addition, your vet can catch many of the illnesses mentioned above early on during the annual visits.

Excercise Your Chihuahua Daily

For such a tiny animal, your obedience training class is blessed with abundant energy. It has enough energy to run and play the whole day without getting tired. Due to their nature, they can take short walks but not strenuous exercises. For example, a walk around the block is too hard for them.

All pets require training and your chihuahua is not an exception. However, they are challenging to train. You’ll need a regular and consistent training schedule if you are to train him. Having said that, the chihuahua is also a fast-learning dog. Enroll him in a puppy kindergarten class or an obedience training class for training.

How Do I Know if My Chihuahua Is Healthy?

In addition to the annual visits to the vet, here are some indicators of a healthy dog.

  • Shiny coat: A healthy dog will have a shiny coat due to the natural oils. Licking, scratching, or chewing could be signs of skin allergies and inflammation.
  • Fresh breath: A clean-smelling breath is the sign of the absence of tartar buildup.
  • Consistent weight: Obesity is the leading cause of health concerns in chihuahuas. In the same line, your pet should also not lose weight, as it can be a sign of an illness.
  • Regular bowel and bladder movements: Changes in the bowel and bladder movements can indicate health issues.
  • Alert: Chihuahua is generally quite active. If your dog has any sudden changes like sleeping more or disengaged, it may also indicate a health issue.
  • Clean ears: Your dog’s ears should be devoid of wax buildup, discharge, or smell.

What Is the Life Span of a Chihuahua?

Much like the other toy breeds, chihuahua may look small and frail. However, they are spirited and feisty, to say the least. The life span of a chihuahua is between 15 – 20 years, much more than the average life expectancy of dogs. Generally, small breeds have a longer life span than larger dogs. It also helps that chihuahuas are quite healthy compared to other breeds.

What Do Chihuahuas Usually Die From?

Chihuahua Life Span

The leading cause of death in chihuahuas is cardiovascular disease. 18.5% of the little dogs died due to heart disease. It is most common among adult dogs over the age of 14.

Apart from that, trauma and infection are also the cause of deaths amongst chihuahuas. 16.8% died due to trauma, and 10.5% due to infection. Being small breed dogs, they are susceptible to trauma, including accidents and falls.


Chihuahuas have a long life span of almost 20 years. They are sassy, loving, and feisty. For a generally healthy dog, chihuahuas are plagued with several health problems. On a positive note, most of them are manageable as long as you treat them early. The older a chihuahua, the more illnesses it will face.

As long as you can ensure a healthy lifestyle, your dog is less at risk of the aforementioned conditions. Be informed, be aware, and be diligent; and you can mitigate any risk to the health of your furry friend.

In Tucson, Santa Cruz Pet Clinic is a world-renowned and trusted veterinarian that you desire for keeping up with your pet’s vaccinations at the proper time to ensure its health. Contact us today to schedule your pet’s vaccinations and check-ups.

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