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Dog paw with attached tick.

What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease (transmitted by insects or arthropods) in people, is caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by ticks that transmit the infection when they feed on animals and humans.

In the United States, Lyme disease occurs predominantly on the Pacific Coast, the Midwest, and Atlantic Coast states. About 75% of dogs living in endemic regions are exposed to infected ticks, but only a small percentage develop signs of disease.

Infected ticks must feed for about 24 hours to transmit the bacteria to a susceptible animal, so quick removal of ticks from your pet reduces the chance of infection.

Can I get Lyme disease from my pet?

If your pet has been diagnosed with Lyme disease you are not at risk of becoming infected directly from your animal. The bacteria increase to high levels in the blood of wildlife, but humans and domestic animals develop only low levels of the bacteria in their blood and at not high enough to infect a feeding tick.

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in dogs?

The most common sign of Lyme disease in dogs is arthritis, which causes sudden lameness, pain, and sometimes swelling in one or more joints. Other signs may include fever, lack of appetite, dehydration, inactivity, and swollen lymph nodes.

In severe cases, the infection can cause kidney failure and death, although this does not occur commonly in dogs.

Humans often show a skin rash that looks like a target, but this is rarely seen in infected dogs.

How is Lyme disease diagnosed in dogs?

A diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually made based upon a history of being in an endemic area, signs of arthritis, and favorable response to treatment.

A blood test can measure antibodies to the bacteria, but many dogs that live in endemic regions will have a positive result. A positive only confirms the dog was exposed to Borrelia burgdorferi, but not all exposed dogs show signs of disease.

How are dogs infected with Lyme disease treated?

Lyme disease is easily treated with antibiotics, and symptoms usually regress rapidly in response to treatment. Untreated, the disease becomes chronic and can cause kidney damage.

How can you prevent a dog from becoming infected with Lyme disease?

The best method of preventing Lyme disease is to avoid tick-infested areas, especially in the spring when the young ticks are most active.

When returning from a tick-infested area, do a thorough search for ticks on yourself and your animals. Ticks should be removed carefully with tweezers, pinching the tick near the point they enter the skin.

There are also many highly effective veterinary products that will kill ticks on your dog before they can transmit the bacteria. Early removal of ticks reduces the chance of transmission.

A vaccine has been approved for use in dogs for Lyme disease prevention, but most authors of veterinary articles on Lyme disease do not recommend vaccinating dogs in non-endemic areas. Not all authors agree on how effective the vaccine is in preventing Lyme disease or whether it should be given in endemic regions. For more information about tick control products or Lyme disease, consult your veterinarian.

What should I do if I suspect my dog may have Lyme disease?

What should I do if I suspect my dog may have Lyme disease?

If your dog is showing symptoms of Lyme disease, contact your veterinarian or the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Burmese Mountain Dog at the edge of a river full of Sockeye Salmon.

What is salmon poisoning disease?

Salmon poisoning disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in only dogs after they eat certain types of raw fish, like salmon and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed), that are infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola.

The parasite is relatively harmless except when it is infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning. 

Salmon poisoning occurs most commonly west of the Cascade Mountain range.

What are the signs of salmon poisoning disease?

Clinical signs generally appear within six days of a dog eating an infected fish. Common symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of appetite
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Dehydration

Salmon poisoning is treatable if it’s caught in time. If untreated, death usually occurs within two weeks of eating the infected fish. Ninety percent of dogs showing symptoms die without treatment.

How is salmon poisoning disease diagnosed?

Salmon poisoning can be diagnosed with a fecal sample or a needle sample of a swollen lymph node.

How is salmon poisoning disease treated?

Given the severity of the condition, treatment is relatively simple. An antibiotic will be prescribed to kill the rickettsial organisms that cause the illness, and a wormer will be given to eliminate the parasite. Most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days. 

If the dog is dehydrated, intravenous fluids are administered.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has salmon poisoning disease?

If you suspect your animal is sick, contact your veterinarian or the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital at 509-335-0711.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Urinary incontinence, or the involuntary passing of urine, is a fairly common problem in dogs. It is usually caused by a medical condition, and your dog likely is not aware it’s happening.

Although it can happen at any age, it is more common in middle- to senior-aged dogs and females. Severity can range from small leaks to the voiding of a large amount of urine.

What causes urinary incontinence in dogs?

Pets can be incontinent for many reasons, including abnormalities in parts of the brain and spinal cord that control bladder function, birth defects, and disease. As pets age, they may become incontinent because muscles that hold urine in the bladder weaken.

Incontinence in young animals is often caused by a birth defect known as ectopic ureter(s). The ureters carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder, and if one or both ureters bypass the bladder and connect to an abnormal location, such as the urethra or vagina, the puppy may drip urine.

Hormone-responsive incontinence occurs in neutered dogs of both sexes but most commonly in female dogs. The pet can urinate normally, but they leak urine while resting. Hormone-responsive incontinence can occur months to years after a pet is neutered.

Dogs with brain or spinal cord disease may either dribble urine or be unable to pass urine. Most often they will have other signs of nervous system disease, such as muscle weakness or paralysis.

Vulvovaginal stenosis, a condition in which the vagina at the level where the urethra ends is narrowed, is a less common cause of incontinence in female dogs. Occasionally when the pet urinates, some urine will get trapped in the vagina in front of this narrowed area. Then when they rise after lying down the urine pours out.

Older pets can also develop senility and simply be unaware they are dribbling urine.

How is urinary incontinence diagnosed in dogs?

Incontinence can be confused with diseases and infections that cause a pet to urinate frequently. The tests performed to evaluate a pet with incontinence depend upon the age of the pet and clinical signs.

A dye study of the bladder is usually performed, and it is common to collect a urine sample for bacterial culture and to see if the urine is dilute or shows evidence of an infection that could be the cause of incontinence.

Blood tests can detect evidence of kidney damage from infection or for the presence of diseases that might lead to increased urine production.

X-rays or ultrasounds may be used to look at the parts of the urinary tract.

Is urinary incontinence different than a bladder infection?

A bladder infection can cause a strong urge to urinate, but the animal is usually not truly incontinent since they know they are urinating. It is common to evaluate incontinent pets for the presence of a bladder infection.

How is urinary incontinence in dogs treated?

Urinary incontinence in dogs can often be successfully treated or managed with surgery and medications.

Specific treatment of an underlying disease or condition with surgery or medications may resolve incontinence. When no specific cause can be identified for the incontinence, drugs may be given that increase the tone of the muscles that hold urine in the bladder. Drug therapy for incontinence may be based on a trial of different drugs in various doses until an effective combination is identified.

What should I do if my dog is showing signs of urinary incontinence?

If your dog is exhibiting any signs of urinary incontinence, you should call your veterinary clinic or schedule an appointment with one of the internal medicine veterinarians at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital by calling 509-335-0711.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

What is a feeding evaluation for dogs with megaesophagus?

An individualized videofluoroscopic feeding evaluation will help to create tailored feeding, hydration, and medication plans for dogs with megaesophagus.

Megaesophagus is a condition in which the esophagus becomes dilated and is unable to contract to move food or water to the stomach. The evaluation will help to evaluate feeding strategies to determine the optimal food consistency, upright time needed, and liquid tolerance. It can also assess for esophageal function, swallowing abnormalities, or gastric reflux.

What happens during a megaesophagus feeding evaluation?

The evaluation takes place over two days. The first day the initial consultation is performed, diagnostics are discussed and completed as needed, and we work with you to create an imaging plan individualized to your dog. On the second day, the feeding evaluation is performed. Your dog will be placed in an appropriately sized Bailey chair and offered different food consistencies and a water equivalent spaced out over two sessions, typically two hours apart. Videofluoroscopy is used to watch the movement of food or water to the stomach. You will then receive an individualized consult to discuss the findings and recommendations and a report that is shared with your family veterinarian.

Is my dog a candidate for an individualized videofluoroscopic feeding evaluation?

Your dog can undergo the evaluation if it can comfortably sit in a Bailey chair for prolonged periods of time; will eat in a novel setting while in close contact with students and clinicians; is not aggressive with food or strangers; and does not currently have pneumonia. 

What are the risks of a megaesophagus feeding evaluation?

While we do our best to minimize the risk, all dogs with megaesophagus can regurgitate or develop aspiration pneumonia at any time. If a dog becomes too stressed or cannot be reasonably restrained, the session will be stopped.

What do I need to bring to my megaesophagus feeding evaluation appointment?

Up-to-date X-rays of your dog’s chest will be needed to rule out pneumonia. This can be done during your appointment or immediately prior to your visit, with the images sent to us. 

Bring a container of your dog’s usual food that we can potentially use during the evaluation.

We have our own Bailey chairs but if your dog is especially large or small, let us know in advance so we can make special arrangements if needed.

Dogs should not be fed the morning of the procedure but let us know if this is a concern for you.

Imaging periods are spaced several hours apart, so be prepared to spend most of the day with us.

How do I schedule a megaesophagus feeding evaluation?

For additional information or to schedule an appointment, please call 509-335-0711.

What is hypothyroidism?

Hypothyroidism in dogs is usually caused by inflammation or shrinkage of the thyroid gland, which is located in the neck and produces hormones that affect the function of many parts of the body. Dogs with thyroid disease usually have a low production of thyroid hormones.

Overactive thyroid glands in the dog are rare and are usually associated with cancer. Thyroid cancer can cause hypothyroidism, although it does not occur commonly in dogs.

Hypothyroidism occurs more commonly in medium to large breed dogs and usually in middle-aged dogs. Breeds commonly affected include golden retrievers, Doberman pinchers, and Irish setters.

Closeup of a retriever.
dog, retriever

What are some of the symptoms of hypothyroidism?

The most common signs of low thyroid function in dogs include:

  • loss or thinning of the fur
  • dull hair coat
  • excess shedding or scaling
  • weight gain
  • reduced activity
  • reduced ability to tolerate the cold

Hair loss occurs primarily over the body, sparing the head and legs, and is usually not accompanied by itching or redness of the skin. Some dogs will have thickening of the skin and increased skin pigment, especially in areas of friction, such as the armpit. Hypothyroid dogs often have ear infections and show ear pain, redness, and odor. Hypothyroid dogs may also develop skin infections that may be itchy and result in sores on the body. The accumulation of substances called mucopolysaccharides can cause the muscles of the face to droop, giving the dog a facial expression that is sometimes called “tragic.”

Less commonly recognized signs that may be seen in a small number of dogs include dilation of the esophagus (megaesophagus) causing regurgitation and abnormal function of nerves or muscles leading to weakness or abnormal ability to walk.

How is hypothyroidism diagnosed?

Blood tests can confirm a suspected diagnosis of hypothyroidism. Blood testing for hypothyroidism is often performed as a panel of several tests. The results of some of these tests can be influenced by the presence of other non-thyroid diseases, so test results must be considered in light of the whole picture.

How is hypothyroidism treated?

Treating hypothyroidism requires giving an oral replacement hormone for the rest of the dog’s life. Initially, thyroid hormone is usually given twice daily. Once the hair coat begins to improve, some dogs can be maintained on once-daily medication. It usually takes 4 to 6 weeks before regrowth of the fur is apparent.

Where can I get help if my dog has hypothyroidism?

Our board-certified veterinarians and specialists can help you get an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. Call 509-335-0711 to schedule an appointment or for more information.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Addison’s disease, or hypoadrenocorticism, is caused by a lower-than-normal production of hormones, like cortisol, by the adrenal glands, which are small glands located near the kidneys. Adrenal hormones are necessary to control salt, sugar, and water balance in the body. 

Addison’s disease occurs less commonly than the opposite condition, Cushing’s disease, which causes the overproduction of cortisol.

What are some of the symptoms of Addison’s disease?

Addison’s disease occurs most commonly in young to middle-aged female dogs. The average age at diagnosis is about 4 years old. The signs of Addison’s disease may be severe and appear suddenly or may occur intermittently and vary in severity.

Signs may include:

  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • lack of appetite
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • increased thirst
  • increased urine production
  • Weak pulse
  • Slow, irregular heart rate
  • Dehydration

When a pet is stressed, its adrenal glands produce more cortisol, which helps them deal with the stress. Because dogs with Addison’s disease cannot make enough cortisol, they cannot deal with stress, so the signs may occur or worsen when stressed.

How is Addison’s disease diagnosed?

A pet’s history, physical examination, and initial laboratory tests can provide suspicion for Addison’s disease, but a more specific test, an adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) challenge, should be performed to confirm the disease. 

Routine laboratory tests often show low blood sodium and high blood potassium. Increased blood potassium can cause life-threatening abnormalities in the heart rhythm. These abnormalities can cause the heart rate to be slow and irregular and can be seen on an electrocardiogram (ECG). 

Sick dogs often show a pattern of changes in their white blood cells called a stress leukogram. These changes are caused by cortisol. The absence of a stress leukogram in a sick dog may be a clue to consider Addison’s disease. The urine is often dilute.

X-rays of dogs with Addison’s disease do not show any specific abnormalities. The heart may appear smaller than normal and rarely the esophagus can be enlarged.

Addison’s disease can sometimes be confused with primary kidney disease.

How is Addison’s disease treated?

There are two stages of treatment for Addison’s disease: in-hospital treatment and long-term treatment.

Very sick dogs with Addison’s disease require in-hospital treatment, including intravenous fluids, cortisol-like drugs, and drugs to neutralize the effects of potassium on the heart. 

Long-term treatment involves the administration of hormones in one of two forms: a daily pill or a shot administered about every 25 days. Because dogs with Addison’s disease cannot produce more cortisol in response to stress, stress should be minimized whenever possible. It may be necessary to increase the amount of hormones given during periods of stress (e.g., boarding, surgery, travel, etc.). 

What is the prognosis for an animal diagnosed with Addison’s disease?

With appropriate treatment for Addison’s disease, dogs can live a long and happy life.

Where can I get help if my dog has Addison’s disease?

Our board-certified veterinarians and specialists can help you get an accurate diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. Call 509-335-0711 to schedule an appointment or for more information.

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian. Washington State University assumes no liability for injury to you or your pet incurred by following these descriptions or procedures.

Development of a Cytochrome P450 Phenotyping Test to Quantify Breed and Genetic Differences in Drug Sensitivities in Dogs

Purpose of Study

Adverse reactions to therapeutic drugs are a common and serious concern in veterinary medicine. These adverse reactions can be due, in part, to the speed at which a dog’s body is able to break down a drug. Like humans, each dog is unique in the way they ‘handle’ drugs. The purpose of this research is to develop a novel drug sensitivity test using blood or urine samples taken after giving a single, low-dose combination of three drugs.* Based on the amount of drug and drug breakdown product measured in the blood or urine, we will be able to determine whether a dog is a slow, fast, or normal processor of drugs (these measurable/observable characteristics are called a phenotype). Knowing a dog’s drug processing phenotype could help a veterinarian make an individualized drug treatment decision for that dog—such as whether to increase or decrease a drug dosage or whether to use an alternative drug.

*In a previously completed safety study, we identified a low-dose drug combination (three FDA-approved drugs) that could be safely given to dogs to measure drug metabolism without adverse effect


Aside from a free physical exam, there is no direct benefit to your dog for participating in this study. However, this project is intended to advance the development of a test that could help all dogs receive safer, more effective drug therapies.

Enrollment Requirements

Eligible dogs must be healthy, not taking any medications, comfortable at the veterinary clinic, and 1-12 years of age. This study is recruiting dogs weighing between 11-176 pounds. Dogs must be amenable to receiving oral medications and cooperative for examinations, including blood and urine collection.

Treatment Methods

Prior to enrollment in the study, we will review your dog’s medical history with you to make sure it is eligible to participate in the study. If the medical history review indicates your dog is healthy, we will work with you to arrange a study appointment at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (WSU VTH) in Pullman, WA. On the morning of the appointment, we will first give your dog a physical examination to confirm that it is healthy and eligible for the study. If we find something upon physical examination that would exclude your dog from the study, we will let you know and you will be free to take your dog home at that time. If the physical exam confirms that your dog is healthy and qualified for the study, we will proceed with the following study protocol:

  • After the physical exam, dogs will be assigned to a kennel and will be offered their morning ration of food, in addition to water. After one hour, we will remove any remaining food. Your dog will continue to have free access to water for the day.
  • Two hours after your dog finishes eating, we will give your dog the following medications, orally: bupropion, dextromethorphan, and omeprazole.
  • Blood samples (less than 1 teaspoon) will be taken from a peripheral vein twice during the study visit: prior to drug administration and four hours after receiving the drug.
  • Urine samples will be taken twice during the study visit via free catch: prior to drug administration and six hours after drug administration

Six hours after receiving the study drugs and nine hours after arriving at the VTH, your dog will be available to go home with you.

Owner Responsibilities

If your dog is not a current patient at the WSU VTH, you are responsible for informing us of your dog’s medical history. We will ask you to provide us with a list of any prescribed or over-the-counter drugs or supplements your dog is currently taking. You will need to bring your dog, along with its morning ration of food to the WSU VTH for a one-day visit (for a period up to 9 hours). It is not necessary for you to stay at the study site for the duration of this period.

Contact Information

Valorie Wiss
Clinical Studies Coordinator
cell: 509-432-5345