You Make The Diagnosis: Name This Dog Parasite Found On Skin

Last week I examined a dog for itching and wound up with a surprising diagnosis. This beautiful dog has a history of allergies which require constant treatment to keep her comfortable. I though she had another breakthrough of her allergies or maybe developed a secondary bacterial or fungal infection. This wasn’t the case at all. During her examination, I found little black specks all over her body that moved. She also had thick tan colored crusts on the edges of her ears, excoriations on her abdomen and generalized inflammation. This dog itched constantly. She was miserable. Examine the microscopic image of the black specks below and then answer the following questions: What parasite is this? How did this dog become infected? Is it transmissible to people?

Diagnosis: Lice

Unfortunately, my patient was suffering from pediculosis which means an infestation of lice. Lice are small parasites that are divided into two groups: 1) Chewing lice that feed on the skin (secretions, hair, fur) 2) Biting lice that pierce the skin to obtain blood. Pictured above is a biting lice.

Lice spend their entire life on their victim. The adults lay eggs (nits) on the shafts of hair. Nymphs hatch from the eggs and then begin feeding on the host. They molt three times before they become an adult capable of reproducing.

Lice are spread through close contact with an infested dog or contaminated objects like bedding. My patient started itching after going to the groomer. Most likely, the groomer transferred lice from an infected dog to my patient through their tools.

Unlike fleas, ticks and mites, lice are fairly easy to treat because they spend their entire life cycle on the dog. There are many topical treatments that work well killing the lice within a week. I recommend treating all the dogs in the household when lice are involved. I also recommend cleaning the environment including dog beds, blankets and brushes to prevent reinfection. Since most lice are species specific, the varieties found on dogs don’t infest humans and vice versa. That means that cats don’t have to be treated either unless the lice infestation is caused by a variety called Heterodoxus spriniger. I treated my patient with Vectra 3D and she is feeling much better now.

Source: Shell, Linda original author, Rothrock, Kari revision author, ‘Pediculosis’ Associate Database, VIN, last updated 6/8/2017.

You Make The Diagnosis: Top 7 Health Problems in Beagles

Beagles are a wonderful breed of dog known for their unique personalities. They have a zest for life that never stops.  Their antics keep their human families in stitches. Maggie, pictured below, is the perfect example enjoying an afternoon on the boat. Beagles have a keen sense of smell and an immense joy for eating that make them wonderful working dogs.  The US Customs Beagle Brigade sniffs arriving passengers for illegal food stuffs. When a fresh piece of fruit is detected, the dog sits by the unsuspecting passenger. Beagles are also being used to detect bed bugs.

Unfortunately, beagles are prone to several health problems. Some are genetic while others are caused by their lovable personalities. Name the top seven health problems in beagles then scroll down to check your answer.

Image contributed by Jim Vail


  1. Obesity – The majority of beagles I treat are overweight leading to many health problems as they age. A great sense of smell coupled with an unending appetite can be a deadly combination. In the clinic, I use their appetite to my advantage by smooshing a treat onto the table. While the beagles licks it off, I can perform all kinds of treatments.
  2. Allergies (Atopic Dermatitis) – Beagles are prone to allergies that manifest as chronic ear infections, stained paws from constant licking, smelly skin from sebhorreha and infections, impacted anal glands that cause scooting and constant itching.
  3. Hypothyroidism (Low thyroid) – When I have an overweight beagle that isn’t losing weight on a diet, I recommend blood work to see how well their thyroid gland is functioning. Hypothyroidism is very common in this breed.
  4. Hyperadrenalcorticism (Cushings’ Disease) – Excess production of cortisol causes Cushings’ Disease. Affected dogs drink a lot of water, urinate a lot, have a pot-bellied appearance and skin that feels like tissue paper.
  5. Cruciate Ligament Rupture – The cruciate ligament is a tendon in the knee that provides stability. It is common for beagles to rupture this ligament while out doing their crazy activities.
  6. Eye Disease – Beagles are prone to several eye conditions including glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, cornea ulcers and prolapse of the gland of the third eyelid. The prolapsed gland looks like a cherry sitting in the inside corner of the eye which is why it is commonly called ‘cherry eye’.
  7. Kidney Disease – Unfortunately, many beagles develop kidney problems. That’s why I recommend annual lab work to catch it early.

The next time you see a beagle at the airport you are sure to smile (unless they sit down by your bag).

Image contributed by Jim Vail

You Make The Diagnosis: Irregular Dermal Masses Found In Young Dogs

Pictured below is the mouth of a young dog who came into the clinic after her family found many growths in her mouth. The masses don’t seem to bother her although I have seen other dogs chew, rub or lick them. Besides the mouth, these kinds of growth may be found on the skin, genitals and paws. Study the picture then answer the following questions: What is the diagnosis? What causes this disease? What is the treatment?

Diagnosis: Viral Papillomatosis (Warts)

Viral papillomatosis or warts are found on the face and mouths of young dogs. The most common cause is canine papilloma virus-1. In older dogs, the warts can occur anywhere on the body. Dogs with immature or compromised immune systems become infected after direct contact (touching the warts) or indirect contact (touching objects that have been contaminated with the virus including bowls, bedding, toys and collars). In most cases, the warts will resolve on their own as the dog’s immune system matures.

For more information on canine viral papillomatosis, please seen my next blog.


-Brooks, Wendy. ‘Viral Papillomas of Dogs’, Published 09/10/2001, Revised: 06/09/2017.

You Make The Diagnosis: Name This Fecal Parasite Found in Dogs

Pictured below is a worm that was found crawling on the fur around the anus of a dog. The owner also found more of the worms on the dog’s stool. Study the picture of this flat, off-white colored worm and then answer the following questions: 1) What is the name of this parasite? 2) How is it differentiated from maggots? 3) How are animals infected?


Diagnosis: Tapeworm Taenia pisiformis and Dipylidium caninum are the most common types in dogs.

The worm or parasite in the picture is a tapeworm segment.  Unfortunately, no eggs were found during fecal analysis to determine the exact species. The segments of tapeworms are flat whereas maggots are round. Dried segments look like grains of rice. Tapeworms are made up of a head and neck followed by segments that make up the rest of the body. Each segment absorbs nutrients from the small intestine of the host. Segments at the end of the worm, break off and are discarded in the feces. Fleas eat the segments releasing the eggs inside. Dogs and cats are infected when they eat fleas.


-Rothrock, Kari. ‘Tapeworm Infestation’ Associate Database, VIN last updated 10/31/2012.

You Make The Diagnosis: Dental Fracture In Dogs

Pictured below is the right side of a dog’s mouth. During her annual exam, I noticed an abnormality on her upper fourth premolar called a slab fracture. Part of the enamel had fractured away from the rest of the tooth exposing the pulp cavity. The gingival tissue is still attached which holds it in place. With the  nerves exposed, the tooth was painful. It was also infected. The tooth was removed and now this dog is pain free. Please study the picture then answer the following questions: What is this fracture called?  What causes this type of injury to occur?

slab fracture

Diagnosis: Slab Fracture

Chewing on hard objects is the cause of these fractures. Here is a list of the most common objects that I have seen cause slab fractures in my canine patients:

  1. Cow hooves
  2. Ice cubes
  3. Bones
  4. Hard toys such as Nylabones. The gumabones from the same company are softer.
  5. Deer antlers

When deciding what to let your dog chew on, remember the advice given by the veterinary dentist, Dr. Steve Holmstrom. He discourages people from giving their dogs anything that doesn’t bend or break easily, anything that makes you grimace at the thought of chewing it yourself and anything that would hurt if it hit your kneecap.

You Make The Diagnosis: Thickened Black Skin in Dogs

The pictures below are of the abdominal skin of a dog. The skin is black in color and thickened like an elephant’s skin. Although this dog developed it on the abdomen, it can also commonly occur around the anus, underarms and muzzle. Look closely at the pictures and then answer the following questions: What is the term used to describe this kind of skin?  What causes this condition to occur?

photo 1 (8)

photo 2 (7)

Diagnosis: Lichenification

Lichenification is the term used to describe skin that looks like elephant skin. Here are the most common causes of this condition ranked in the order I see them:

  1. Food Allergy
  2. Pyoderma – Bacterial infection of the skin
  3. Malassezia Dermatitis – Fungal infection of the skin by an organism called Malassezia
  4. Atopic Dermatitis – This is often simply called allergies or environmental allergies
  5. Demodectic Mange – I have seen dogs with lichenification of all their skin from demodex mites
  6. Cutaneous Diroflilariasis
  7. Primary and Secondary Acanthosis Nigrans

You Make The Diagnosis: Common Borzoi Health Problems

The Borzoi breed of dogs came from Russia where they were used to hunt wolves. Borzoi have long thin bodies that are built for speed. I think of them as Greyhounds with long hair. They are part of the sighthound group which includes Afghan hounds, Basenji, Ibizan hound, Irish Wolfhound, Pharaoh hound, Saluki, Scottish Deerhound and whippets as well as greyhounds.

Pictured below is a beautiful girl named Shoshone. Like most Borzoi, she is a quiet girl who rarely barks. She enjoys a morning run with the other dogs in her family, checking on the horses and long naps on her well-cushioned bed. Although she is healthy, Borzoi are prone to several health problems. Name the disease. (HINT: Most of these are the same problems found in other sighthounds.)



  1. Hypothyroidism caused by either autoimmune thyroiditis or idiopathic. Since sighthounds generally have lower levels of T4 and free T4, correctly making this diagnosis can be difficult. Testing for TgAA is used to look for dogs who are genetic carriers of this disease.
  2. Ophthalmic Disease including microphthalmia (small eyes) and chorioretinal disease. Although retinal degeneration is seen in Borzoi, it is under debate because the degeneration is different than what is commonly observed in other breeds.
  3. Cancer including hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma and osteosarcoma. In my experience, osteosarcoma (bone cancer) is more common in large and giant breeds of dogs. The most common places I see it are on the femoral and humeral heads.
  4. Bloat which is a life-threatening condition where the stomach fills up with gas. Although it can occur in any breed of dog, it is far more common in large, deep chested dogs.
  5. Heart disease including cardiomyopathy as well as valve disease.
  6. Allergies especially in the white coated dogs.
  7. Dysplasia of the hip and elbow.
  8. Degenerative myelopathy which is a progressive disease that results in paralysis.

Sources:                                                 -www.borzoiclubofamerica/org


You Make The Diagnosis: Abnormal Bowel Function In Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Pictured below is an X-ray of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The dog’s belly was distended and painful. This patient was also having problems walking.  The dog had been normal up until a few days ago. Study the film and then answer the following questions: 1) What is the gastrointestinal condition seen in this X-ray? 2) Does the dog have any orthopedic or neurological conditions? 3) What sex is this dog? 4) Does this dog suffer from anorexia?

Whidby ConstipationIVD Xray before

Whidby ConstipationIVD Xray before annotated


  1. Constipation – The colon is distended with feces. It is so full that gas is accumulating in the small bowel causing bloating. (Marked with yellow lines that extend from side to side.)
  2. Intervertebral Disc Disease – Look closely at the vertebra between the ribs and pelvis. The disc spaces between lumbar vertebra 2-3, 3-4 and 4-5 are narrowed which indicates a disc problem. (The disc space marked with a red circle is L3-4.  L2-3 is to the left of the circle and L4-5 is the the right.)
  3. Bridging Spondylosis – On the bottom of the 3rd and 4th lumbar vertebra, an abnormal outgrowth of bone is forming. The bone is trying to bridge the gap between the two vertebrae to stabilize the joint. (Marked with the red circle.)
  4. Male – Dogs have a bone in their penis that shows up on X-rays. Look at the right side of the X-ray just in front of the femur to see a long narrow bone lying under the abdominal wall. (Marked with a blue box.)
  5. This dog has a great appetite. His stomach is full of food with a little gas. (Marked with white star.)

Treatment of this dog started with an injection of an opioid to relieve pain and an enema to evacuate the colon. After two enemas, the bloating and feces were gone. Although there was still gas in the intestines, the little guy felt so much better. I think his constipation occurred because his disc disease was either making it too painful to defecate and/or it was interfering with nerve function in the colon. He was discharged with medication to soften his stools as well as medication for his back.

Here is the X-ray taken after the enema. Now his intestines are filled with gas which looks black on X-rays.

Whidby Constipation IVD Xray After


You Make The Diagnosis: A Dog’s Teeth

Pictured below is the  X-ray of 3 year old, female Boxer taken during a dental evaluation. She sometimes bled from her gums, especially after chewing on hard objects. Her physical examination was normal except for one problem – she was missing two of her lower incisors. Incisors are the small teeth between the large fangs or canine teeth. Normally, there are 6 incisors on the upper and lower jaws – 3 on the rights side and 3 on the left. Her family thought they fell out awhile ago. Study the image and then answer the following questions: 1) Identify the abnormalities found on this film? 2) Did the missing incisors fall out? 3) How is this condition treated?

Bailey Pre-extraction snip

Diagnosis: Fractured Incisors. Crowns (Part of teeth above gum line) are missing but roots are still present.

Fractured teeth are a common problem in dogs and cats. The crown of the tooth breaks off leaving the root still embedded in the periosteal bone. Anesthesia and dental X-rays are required to find this condition. These painful roots would have been missed if an anesthesia free dental was performed.

Bailey Pre-extraction snip outlined roots

Broken roots are extremely painful. They were removed, the bone was curetted to get rid of infection and the gingiva was sutured closed. Note on the post op film that the entire root has been extracted. It is important to remove the entire root, tip and all, to prevent infection and pain.

Bialey Post-extraction snip

This dog did very well after her procedure. She is backing to eating well, without any blood.



You Make The Diagnosis: Coughing and Gagging Dog

Pictured below is the mouth of a friendly Labrador Retiever who needed dental X-rays and a periodontal treatment. When he was being intubated, examination of the back of his throat revealed an abnormal right tonsil. While I was examining the tonsil for a good place to biopsy it, I found the abnormal structure being held with the forceps. Examine the image and then answer the following questions: What is the mass? What caused it? How is this condition treated?

polyp tonsil

Diagnosis: Fibromucosal Polyp

The mass held with forceps is a fibromucosal polyp that was attached by a band of connective tissue to this dog’s right tonsil. Although this is a benign condition, it is very uncomfortable for the dog. This large mass hung in the back of his throat making it difficult to breathe and eat. He coughed, cleared his throat and gagged a lot. These polyps are caused by chronic irritation usually from trauma, an infection or a foreign body that is stuck in the tonsil. Surgical removal is curative as long as all of the polyp is removed. The good news for this dog is that the margins were clean. Here is the picture of his throat taken with the polyp removed. The tonsil is outlined in red and the sutured stalk is highlighted in yellow.

tonsil post op snip