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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.

Image of the computer screen on a heart monitor.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs?

Just like humans, dogs can get a form of heart disease called dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes weakened heart contractions and poor pumping ability. As the disease progresses, the heart chambers become enlarged, one or more valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure develop.

What causes dilated cardiomyopathy in dogs?

The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is unclear in most cases, but certain breeds appear to have an inherited predisposition. Large dog breeds are most often affected, although it also occurs in some smaller breeds, such as cocker spaniels.

Occasionally, dilated cardiomyopathy-like heart muscle dysfunction develops secondary to an identifiable cause such as a toxin or an infection. In contrast to people, heart muscle dysfunction in dogs and cats is almost never the result of chronic coronary artery disease, or heart attacks.

What are the signs of dilated cardiomyopathy?

Early in the disease process, there may be no detectable clinical signs, or the pet may show reduced exercise tolerance. In some cases, a physical examination by a veterinarian can detect abnormal heart sounds and irregular heart rhythm as the disease progresses.

As the heart’s pumping ability worsens, blood pressure starts to increase in the veins behind one or both sides of the heart. Lung congestion and fluid accumulation, or edema, often develop behind the left ventricle/atrium. Fluid also may accumulate in the abdomen or around the lungs if the right side of the heart is also diseased. When these symptoms occur, heart failure is present. Weakness, fainting episodes, and sudden death can result from heart rhythm disturbances.

What are the signs of heart failure in dogs?

Dogs with heart failure caused by dilated cardiomyopathy often show signs of left-sided congestive failure, including reduced exercise ability, tiring quickly, increased breathing rate or effort for the level of their activity, excess panting, and cough (especially with activity).

Sometimes the cough seems soft as if the dog is clearing its throat. Poor heart pumping ability and arrhythmias can cause episodes of sudden weakness, fainting, or sudden death. Some dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy experience abdominal enlargement or heavy breathing because of fluid accumulation in the abdomen or chest.

More advanced signs of heart failure can include labored breathing, reluctance to lie down, inability to rest comfortably, worsened cough, reduced activity, loss of appetite, and collapse.

Signs of severe heart failure may seem to develop quickly with dilated cardiomyopathy, but the development of underlying heart muscle abnormalities and progression to overt heart failure probably takes months to years.

How is dilated cardiomyopathy diagnosed?

A cardiac exam by a veterinarian can detect abnormal heart sounds and many signs of heart failure. Usually, chest radiographs (X-rays), an electrocardiogram (ECG), and an echocardiogram are performed to confirm a suspected diagnosis and to assess severity.

Echocardiography can be used to screen for early dilated cardiomyopathy in breeds with a higher incidence of the disease. Resting and 24-hour (Holter) ECGs are sometimes used as screening tests for the frequent arrhythmias that usually accompany dilated cardiomyopathy in some breeds, especially boxers and Doberman pinchers.

What treatments are available for dogs with dilated cardiomyopathy?

Asymptomatic cases of dilated cardiomyopathy may be treated with medications to slow the progression of the changes leading to heart failure and as symptoms advance. Since the disease is irreversible and heart failure tends to be progressive, medications and dosages usually must be increased over time.

What should I do if my dog is showing signs of dilated cardiomyopathy? 

If your dog is showing any symptoms of dilated cardiomyopathy, you should immediately contact your veterinarian or WSU’s 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.

Siamese cat drinking from a puddle on a driveway.

Antifreeze is extremely toxic to animals and can cause fatal kidney failure. Unfortunately, dogs and cats find the liquid quite tasty and will eagerly drink it up when given the chance.

What should I do if my pet ingests antifreeze?

Contact a veterinarian immediately if you see your pet drinking antifreeze or suspect it had access to antifreeze. Very small amounts of antifreeze can be fatal.

For example, a cat can ingest a fatal amount of antifreeze by simply licking its paws after walking through a puddle of the chemical. Five tablespoons are enough to kill a medium-sized dog.

If you suspect your animal has ingested antifreeze, staff at the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital are available for emergencies 24/7 and can be reached at 509-335-0711.

What are the signs of antifreeze poisoning in dogs and cats?

Signs of antifreeze poisoning depend upon the time after ingestion. In the first hours after ingestion, the pet may be depressed, stagger when moving, and have seizures. They may drink lots of water, urinate large amounts, and vomit.

The pet may appear to feel better only to get much worse a day or two later as its kidneys fail. Signs of kidney failure include depression and vomiting. The amount of urine they pass will often decrease to a very small amount.

How is antifreeze poisoning in pets diagnosed?

The diagnosis of antifreeze poisoning is made by blood and urine tests, although some of these tests will show negatives by the time kidney failure develops. Antifreeze poisoning should be considered in any free-roaming dog or cat with consistent signs.

How is antifreeze poisoning in pets treated?

Treatment for antifreeze poisoning needs to be started as soon after ingestion as possible to be effective. The earlier treatment is started, the greater the chance of survival. Once kidney failure develops, most animals will die.

If the pet is seen within a few hours of ingesting antifreeze, vomiting is induced to remove any antifreeze still in the stomach, and charcoal is placed in the stomach to bind antifreeze in the intestine. Antifreeze itself is not very toxic but it is broken down by the liver to other components that cause the damage. If the pet is presented to a veterinarian soon after drinking antifreeze, a drug is given that impairs the liver from converting antifreeze to these toxic products, allowing the unconverted antifreeze to pass in the urine. These drugs are useful only when given early and are not effective after the pet is showing signs of kidney damage.

Animals that present to a veterinarian in kidney failure due to antifreeze poisoning can occasionally be saved with aggressive treatment. Some specialty veterinary practices offer dialysis that can be used to eliminate waste products not being removed by the diseased kidneys to keep the pet alive and give the kidneys a chance to repair. Whether the kidneys will repair themselves or not depends on how severely they are injured. Unfortunately, kidney damage caused by antifreeze is usually severe and irreversible. Kidney transplantation has been performed in dogs and cats.

How can I prevent antifreeze poisoning?

There are several steps you can take to protect your pets from being poisoned by antifreeze.

  • Keep new and used antifreeze in a sealed, leak-proof container
  • Take used antifreeze to a service station for disposal – don’t pour it on the ground
  • Check driveways for puddles of antifreeze that may have leaked from the car
  • Consider the use of alternative antifreeze products that are less toxic to pets
  • If antifreeze is placed in toilets make sure the lid is down and the door to the room is closed

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 proc

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.

Effect of N-acetylcysteine in dogs with spinal cord injury – a prospective, blinded clinical trial

Purpose of Study

Spinal cord injury is a common problem in veterinary medicine. In severe cases, spinal cord injury can lead to permanent loss of sensation, paralysis, urinary and fecal incontinence, and, in some cases, death. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant commonly used in veterinary medicine for the treatment of acetaminophen toxicity. In clinical studies NAC has been shown to have valuable effects for humans and laboratory animals with spinal and brain injuries. NAC is affordable, has little to no adverse side effects, and has a wide margin of safety. The purpose of this study is to evaluate whether NAC helps to lower the biomarkers of spinal cord injury and oxidative stress and aid in the recovery of dogs with spinal cord injuries.


By participating in this study, you and your dog will be contributing to potentially groundbreaking research that will help determine if N-acetylcysteine can help dogs such as yours with spinal cord injuries. Dogs enrolled in this study will receive the assigned study treatment (either NAC or placebo) at no cost to their owners.

Enrollment Requirements

  • To participate in this study, dogs must present to the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital (WSU VTH) within 72 hours of the onset of their non-ambulatory status.
  • Eligible dogs must be diagnosed (either before or after arriving at the WSU VTH) with intervertebral disc extrusion, fibrocartilaginous embolic myelopathy, or acute non-compressive nucleus pulposus extrusion in the thoracolumbar spine.
  • For this study, dogs can be of any age or weight.

Treatment Methods

Once enrolled, your dog will be randomly assigned to one of two groups: the study group (which will receive NAC) or the control group (which will receive a placebo). All dogs will receive their assigned treatment intravenously starting from the time of MRI/CT diagnosis, then every 6 hours for a total of 7 treatments and will need to remain at the WSU VTH for the duration of these treatments (approximately 48 hours). Blood and urine will be collected prior to the first treatment and two hours after the last treatment to measure biomarker levels.

Owner Responsibilities

  • Owners must bring their dog to the WSU VTH for an appointment with the Neurology Service, or through the Emergency Service in order for their dogs to qualify for this study. Treatment for this study will only be administered at the WSU VTH and cannot be done at any other veterinary clinic.
  • Owners are responsible for the costs associated with routine diagnostic testing, surgery, and hospitalization of their dog

Contact Information

Dr. Sarvenaz Bagheri
Resident in Neurology & Neurosurgery

Australian Shepherd

What is multidrug sensitivity?

Some dogs and cats have a mutation in the MDR1 (multidrug resistance 1) gene also known as the ABCB1 gene, which plays an important role in limiting drug distribution to the brain and in enhancing the excretion of many drugs. Animals with the mutation may have severe adverse reactions – including tremors, disorientation, blindness, lack of muscle control, and death – to some common drugs.

How common is the MDR1 mutation?

It can occur in up to 75% of some dog breeds and it affects 4% of all cats. Herding breeds, like collies and Australian shepherds, and long-haired whippets, have the highest occurrences. It is also found in Shetland sheepdogs (shelties), old English sheepdogs, English shepherds, German shepherds, silken windhounds, and a variety of mixed breeds.

Which drugs should I be concerned about?

Many different drugs and drug classes have been reported to cause problems in dogs with the MDR1 mutation. Drugs that have been documented to cause reactions include:

  • Ivermectin (antiparasitic agent) While the dose of ivermectin used to prevent heartworm infection is safe in dogs with the mutation (6 micrograms per kilogram), higher doses, such as those used for treating mange (300-600 micrograms per kilogram), will cause neurological toxicity in dogs that are homozygous for the MDR1 mutation (MDR1 mutant/mutant) and can cause toxicity in dogs that are heterozygous for the mutation (MDR1 mutant/normal).
  • Eprinomectin (antiparasitic agent) Cats with the MDR1 mutation have experienced severe neurological toxicity and death after being treated with a monthly heartworm preventive containing eprinomectin. In contrast to dogs, these adverse effects occurred when the product was used at the manufacturer’s recommended label dose.
  • Selamectin, milbemycin, and moxidectin (antaparasitic agents) Similar to ivermectin, these drugs are safe in dogs with the mutation if used for heartworm prevention at the manufacturer’s recommended dose. Higher doses (generally 10-20 times higher than the heartworm prevention dose) have been documented to cause neurological toxicity in dogs with the MDR1 mutation.
  • Loperamide (ImodiumTM; antidiarrheal agent) At doses used to treat diarrhea, this drug will cause neurological toxicity in dogs with the MDR1 mutation. This drug should be avoided in all dogs with the MDR1 mutation.
  • Acepromazine (tranquilizer and pre-anesthetic agent) Dose reductions are required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal.
  • Butorphanol (analgesic and pre-anesthetic agent) Dose reduction required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal.
  • Chemotherapy agents (Vincristine, Vinblastine, Doxorubicin, Paclitaxel) Dose reductions are required for dogs MDR1 mutant/mutant and MDR1 mutant/normal to avoid severe toxicity.
  • Apomorphine This drug is used to induce vomiting in dogs that have ingested poisons/toxins. It can cause central nervous system depression in dogs with the MDR1 mutation at standard doses.

How do I find out if my animal has the MDR1 mutation?

Our team at WSU has developed a test that can tell you if your pet has the MDR1 gene mutation. Order a testing kit by contacting the WSU Program in Individualized Medicine by email at or by calling 509-335-3745. Order a test online.

Why should I get my test from WSU?

WSU researchers made the initial discoveries of both the canine and feline MDR1 mutations and were the first to develop diagnostic tests to determine an individual animal’s MDR1 genotype. Scientists at WSU continue to conduct research to identify problem drugs.

WSU holds the patent and is the only organization licensed to perform stand-alone MDR1 genotyping in the United States.

Washington State University holds the U.S. Patent (US 6,790,621 B2) for the MDR1 genetic test. 

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.