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irish wolfhound health


Puppy Acne

Can dogs get pimples?  Yes, acne pimples and whiteheads are not a reserve for teenage girls and boys; dogs can as well get them. On a good note though, dog pimples stays around for just a short while. Continue reading to learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatments for pimples on dog’s skin. We have as well listed other dermal conditions that can be easily be confused with dog acne.




These days HOD can easily be diagnosed as Panosteitis in Irish Wolfhounds


This Great Dane puppy suffering from HOD shows swollen joints on the front legs This Great Dane puppy suffering from HOD shows swollen joints on the front legs

Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy (HOD) is a bone disease that occurs in fast-growing large and giant breed dogs. The disorder is sometimes referred to as metaphyseal osteopathy, and typically first presents between the ages of 2 and 7 months.[1] HOD is characterized by decreased blood flow to the metaphysis (the part of the bone adjacent to the joint) leading to a failure of ossification (bone formation) and necrosis and inflammation of cancellous bone.[2] The disease is usually bilateral in the limb bones, especially the distal radius, ulna, and tibia. [ Wikipedia] Diagnosis

Presto was fine for a couple of days after the initial flare-up and then the following Friday the same thing happened again! Once more we rushed him to the vets and they recommended X-rays (done a few days later) and he received more pain relief and more antibiotics.

The X-rays came back completely normal for his spine, legs, hips and tail. I should mention at this point that a friend’s Wolfhound puppy had just been diagnosed with meningitis on the spine after showing similar symptoms to Presto and so we were all very worried about a long term prognosis for Presto. Again, Presto had a relapse a few days after finishing the medication and so we were referred to a local veterinary orthopaedic consultant (Graham Oliver at East Midlands Referrals in Hucknall, Nottingham) for an emergency MRI scan. The MRI finally found the cause of the problem in the top of Presto’s femurs (the long bones in the back legs that go from the knee up to the hip) where a cloudy area in the bone identified an area of infection actually inside the bone itself (see image below): Image shows Presto laid on his back with his left hind leg visible on the right hand side of the X-ray. The red arrows point to the outline of a circle of ‘clouded’ bone which is where the infection is located. A subsequent bone tap and sample taken from inside the femur confirmed that infection was present. The sample was grown on in the lab, but the results were inconclusive (not unusual with samples taken from joints or bone), other than it was definitely some kind of infection.

Taking X-rays to determine a diagnosis is the usual first step with suspected HOD and will certainly rule out several other possible conditions at least. In our case the X-rays were not that helpful and so the MRI scanner was used to go right inside the bones and identify the problem areas. As you can probably imagine though, MRI Scans are not cheap (neither are a set of X-rays) and so the cost of such investigations may be prohibitive if the dog is not covered by pet insurance, so do not be surprised if a ‘tentative’ rather than definite diagnosis is made. In Presto’s case the symptoms were not the usual ones seen with HOD and so other possible conditions were also indentified including Osteomyelitis. Wherever possible, a definitive diagnosis is essential as it will also determine the effectiveness of the treatment given and possibly affect how well the dog responds. * Treatment* Treatment methods for HOD have been somewhat controversial and are also dependent upon the severity and symptoms displayed and also whether the condition is caught at an early or advanced stage. Dogs with severe and late stage HOD may require hospitalization, IV fluids, nutritional support, round the clock nursing as well as a host of medications. Most sufferers are given pain relief in the form of NSAID’s and antibiotics, but some dogs may also be administered immunosuppressants and steroids (the latter 2 treatments may not be applicable for young puppies due to the possible effects on the growth plates). In Presto’s treatment plan daily doses of antibiotics (Ceporex) and anti-inflammatories (Previcox) were used over a period of 3 months to halt and clear up the infection and prevent the bone disintegrating (which would have been disastrous and resulted in euthanasia), alongside pain relief when required (Tramadol). The treatment was very successful and we were thankful that we had caught the condition very early and also had excellent veterinary care from both of our vets.


You may be wondering why I have put this section at the end of the article, when it is more usual to include it at the beginning? The main reason is that most research is inconclusive and so the cause or causes of the condition are NOT known and therefore less emphasis needs to be placed on what causes HOD. Also, the temptation for many owners is to try and identify ‘what went wrong’ and often this results in them blaming themselves. Please try and avoid doing this if you find yourself in the same situation, concentrate instead on getting a quick diagnosis and treatment for your dog. Some research studies into the condition have suggested possible triggers for HOD including:

Lack of vitamin C Overdose of vitamin C Diet too high in calories Bacterial infection Viral infection Excessive calcium supplementation Reaction to vaccination In Presto’s case we believe that it was a viral infection that set off the HOD as we found the infection present in the femurs on examination.


In conclusion, be reassured that HOD is not that common, particularly in Wolfhounds and if diagnosed and treated, the condition can be dealt with very successfully (Presto made a full recovery over several months). Also, it is one of those conditions that look like several other things and prompt veterinary attention is essential. The cost of treatment can run into several thousands of pounds however, so it is another great reason to ensure that your dog has adequate insurance cover. In very severe cases HOD can be fatal, but generally the prognosis is good.

© Ali Irvine 2013


Pneumonia in Irish Wolfhounds

Sadly there has been a couple of incidents recently of Irish Wolfhounds contacting Pneumonia, and one of the hounds did not pull through. Our heart felt condolences go out to the owners at such a sad time. 

It is the view of many who have experienced pneumonia in their hounds that the use of Excenel really works, but must be kept going long enough to prevent it’s return.  Excenel is not actually licensed for use in dogs, but hopefully your vet will allow you to sign a disclaimer.  

In America the drug of choice for wolfhounds is Rocephin (ceftriaxone), a 3rd generation cephalosporin, which is not licensed in the UK. Excenel is the drug recommended by wolfhound people in the UK who have had experience of pneumonia. Excenel is also a 3rd generation cephalosporin, available in the UK licensed for pigs, but not licensed for dogs. To obtain it, a waiver needs to be signed by you. Wolfhounds are unique in their presentation of pneumonia.

They may have a normal temperature and their lungs may appear clear on x-rays.

There have been a number of cases of Vets misdiagnosing pneumonia as heart failure. If your wolfhound has clear lungs, does not have a raised temperature, but does have atrial fibrillation, some Vets will put the difficulty in breath ing down to heart failure, and treat that, not the pneumonia.

The Irish Wolfhound Health Group has put together this Guide to Pneumonia in the Irish Wolfhound:

In America the drug of choice for wolfhounds is Rocephin (ceftriaxone), a 3rd generation cephalosporin, which is not licensed in the UK. Excenel is the drug recommended by wolfhound people in the UK, who have had experience of pneumonia. Excenel is also a 3rd generation cephalosporin, available in the UK, licensed for pigs, but not licensed for dogs. To obtain it, a waiver needs to be signed by you and this can be requested from your Vet.

Note on Dosage: Anecdotal evidence suggests Excenel is given as a 4.5ml subcutaneous injection every 24 hours – and is often combined with Antirobe. This dosage is based on experience and a history of success using the drug for pneumonia in the Wolfhound. It has been observed that treatment length can vary from five days to six weeks, depending on the severity of the infection. It is strongly recommended that you discuss your dog’s requirements with your veterinary surgeon, ideally before the need for it arises, as not all veterinary surgeries will keep Excenel in stock.

Note to Veterinary Surgeon: Excenel is marketed as Naxcel in the US. Naxcel is licensed for UTI’s in dogs, information regarding Naxcel can be found on the Pfizer website.

Wolfhounds are unique in their presentation of pneumonia. They may have a normal temperature and their lungs may appear clear on x-ray for several days after the dog first shows signs of illness

There have been a number of cases of Vets misdiagnosing pneumonia as heart failure. If your wolfhound has clear lungs, does not have a raised temperature, but does have atrial fibrillation, some Vets will put the difficulty in breathing down to heart failure, and treat that, not the pneumonia.

Recognizing pneumonia

  •   Sudden onset.

  •   Difficulties in breathing.

  •   Head lowered and stretched forward level with the back, neck extended to expand the airway as much as possible.

  •   Dog reluctant/unable to lie on its side.

  •   Dog may or may not be coughing

  •   Temperature may be very high – but a normal temperature does not necessarily preclude a diagnosis of pneumonia.

  •   Their lungs may appear clear on x-ray.

  •   There have been cases of pneumonia in wolfhounds following a lungworm infection. (Lung worm is no longer restricted to the south of England, and is present in most areas)

Treating pneumonia

 URGENTLY- if there is any doubt, treat with the antibiotics first, and argue later – do not take a wait and see attitude.

  •   Most Vets will want to administer an antibiotic intravenously, as it is important to hit it hard and fast.

  •   Fluids intravenously should be considered – but care should be taken if your wolfhound has a heartcondition.

  •   Excenel is the drug recommended by wolfhound people who have had experience of pneumonia in the UK.

  •   Other antibiotics have been used – Ceporex, Baytril and Antirobe, Cefuroxime, Zithromax, Marbofloxacin and Trimethoprim sulfa, but there is a better chance of preventing a recurrence with Excenel.

  •   Drug treatment needs to continue for at least 4 weeks.

  •   Steam and coupage can assist in moving the congestion from the lungs

  •   If your wolfhound has had pneumonia, it is more likely to have it again.

Convincing/ alerting Vets

 BEFORE THIS HAPPENS – Please have a conversation with your veterinary surgeon to ascertain their views on using Excenel should the situation arise. When a dog is already sick, it is not a good time to find out that your Veterinary Surgeon will not consider alternative treatments from the mainstream

The IWHG comprises members of each of the breed bodies. None is a qualified veterinarian: any suggestions made are based purely on the personal experience of those wolfhound owners who have had to use the drugs mentioned and are a guide only for you to discuss with your own vet. It is the responsibility of the owner to make a decision on any course of action they take with their hound and we strongly recommend that this is done in conjunction with your vet.

For more information and information sheet, please click on the link below 

Garlic For Dogs: Poison Or Medicine?

Written by Andrea Partee on February 17, 2013. Posted in Nutrition And Diet4 Comments

A few years ago I wrote about garlic on my website and was pleased when several people thanked me for telling the truth. And then there was this guy who told me I was going to be responsible for the death of hundreds of dogs, if not thousands because I was an idiot. I thanked him for his opinion since we are all entitled to have one, but it bothered me a lot.

Yes, I promote the use of garlic. Fresh, aromatic, organic garlic with a smell that lingers in the kitchen promising either a good meal or a good heal.So why do I go against AVMA warnings and give garlic to my dogs? I do it because common sense and an objective look at both the risks and benefits of garlic tell me it can provide great benefits to dogs with minimal risk. Remember, AMVA (American Medical Veterinary Association) members also think that raw food is unhealthy and would rather dogs eat a processed, chemical laden diet than fresh, raw free-range chicken or vitamin packed green tripe.

Why the controversy over garlic?

The primary reason AVMA is against feeding garlic is that it contains thiosulphate, which can cause hemolytic anemia, liver damage and death. However garlic only contains very small traces of thiosulphate and a dog would have to consume a huge quantity for any negative effects. Using Tylenol (acetaminophen) or benzocaine topical ointments to stop itching are far more likely to cause anemia in dogs.

Garlic’s medicinal properties

There are many health benefits to feeding garlic. Here are some things you might not know about this healthy herb:

  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic and won’t affect the good bacteria in the gut which are needed for digestion and immune health
  • Garlic is antifungal
  • Garlic is antiviral
  • Garlic boosts the immune system
  • Garlic makes dogs less desirable to fleas
  • Garlic is antiparasitic

What kind of garlic?

I stick with fresh, raw organic garlic and keep it on hand as a staple for both cooking and healing. If it’s fresh, I know the medicinal qualities are still there, unlike minced garlic which may originate in China and sit for months in a jar. Powdered garlic doesn’t cut it either. Kyolic Aged Liquid Garlic is a good choice if you don’t want to smash and cut every day.

How much garlic to feed

You can safely give a 1/2 clove per ten pounds of body weight each day, chopped or grated. Two cloves maximum per day for a large dog is a good guideline.

  • ½ clove for a 10 + pounds
  • 1 clove for a 20 + pounds
  • 1 ½ cloves for 30 + pounds
  • 2 cloves for 40 + pounds

My dogs are over 70 pounds but I stick with the 2 cloves.

Garlic tips

For optimum health benefits, let garlic sit for 5 to 10 minutes after cutting and before serving (or cooking). This allows the health-promoting allicin to form, so it’s worth the wait.

To get rid of the smell on your hands, rinse them under water while rubbing them with a stainless steel spoon! I don’t know why it works, but bless the woman who told me this long ago.

A great home remedy recipe

An ear medicine I’ve kept on hand for years started out when my kids got ‘swimmers ear’ one summer. It’s simple to make and since garlic is an antibiotic, antibacterial, and antifungal it covers several possibilities.

Crush 2 cloves fresh garlic; wait ten minutes and add them to 1/3 cup olive oil. Heat in a pan (do NOT boil) for several minutes. Let cool. Strain and store in a glass bottle with a dropper and apply it directly in the ears.

The only possible drawback to this remedy is every time I smell it I want pasta and garlic bread!

My dog has a swelling on the elbow

This is known as a bursa ( Hygromas).  These swellings are filled with fluid, normally occuring over a bony area, such as elbow, hocks and boney bottoms.  They will disappear almost as suddenly as they have appeared of their own accord.  For further information see the notes on Bursas.

Liver Shunt Test - Irish Wolfhound Puppies

We always shunt test our puppies, and it is a day we like to get behind us.  With some of our litters our vet and veterinary nurse came to us, but for our last  litters we started to visit our the surgery.  We find that we work as a team: our vet, two if not three nurses and two of us.  We pull up outside the back door and the smooth system commences, with love cuddles and hugs all the way.

Time is of the essence from being fed to having the blood drawn.  Each puppy has blood taken for the bile acid test, and  for AHT.  From experience the samples are best taken from the lower front leg.  Some puppies are very brave and some not so, but there are plenty of us available for the traumatised!  After blood has been taken, each puppy is vet checked, mouth, eyes, ears, heart listened to, joints, stomach and of course the boy bits. 

For ease and expediency I microchip at home, and have the forms ready with the chip identity stickers on.  I also take the rest of the microchip stickers  and these are used on vaccine cards and sample bottles.  My biggest fear has always been mistaken identity, and chipping is I feel the only assured way to be certain. In addition it serves another purpose for new owners as they are assured they get the puppy they have chosen.  This is something that I feel very strongly about. The first bonding moment is very important, and sometimes it’s the puppy who chooses their new owners and home. 

So far I have never had a puppy fail a test, but no doubt that day will come, and I will have to remain strong for that moment. Hence I hate liver shunt test day and waiting for the results.  Although we say we can spot a shunty puppy and so does the vet, but the element of surprise is always there.

What is a Liver Shunt?

Liver shunts cause serious and sometimes fatal outcomes in dogs. A liver shunt, or a portosystemic shunt, is a normal fetal blood vessel that in the womb bypasses liver tissue, allowing the mother’s system to filter out toxins for the developing puppy. In some animals, however, the shunt remains open after the animal is born, compromising its liver function, slowing growth, and eventually resulting in death of many affected animals.

What are bile acids?
Bile acids are produced in the liver and stored in the gallbladder between meals. They are released into the intestines to help break down and absorb fats, and are reabsorbed and stored again until they are needed. Dogs with liver shunts have increased blood bile acid concentrations because the liver does not get a chance to remove and store these chemicals after they are reabsorbed.

So please when buying your puppy ask to see his or her liver shunt certificate, and enquire if that certificate is included in your puppy pack,  because it should be. At no extra cost to the breeder either.  Check the microchip number against your puppy’s number.  This can be found in the centre column underneath the Idexx name.  See Test Report for one of my puppies.  It still happens that breeders don’t test, or say they have tested, and haven’t, for whatever reason. One such incident has happened recently, two puppies were sold and the new owners had to cope with very sick puppies and £4,000 in vets fees each.  Please check and ask for your shunt test report.  

More very useful information can be found here: 

In Accordance with the Irish Wolfhound Club Code of Conduct point 

19)    Are strongly recommended to screen all puppies for Portosystemic Shunt and only stock clear of the condition should be sold. Affected hounds should never be used for breeding.

In Accordance with the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Requirements it states:

Liver shunt testing of all puppies prior to being sold


" Irish Wolfhound Puppies grow like weeds" ~ The Big DO’s and DON’Ts Sheet

I would say the most difficult thing about raising an Irish Wolfhound is keeping them safe from their own exuberance.  They grow like weeds, and you need to perfect the careful balance of nutrition and exercise to protect them.  This seems a particularly hard message to convey to new owners, that such care should be taken for the first year during the growing process.


The Big DO’s and DON’Ts Sheet

Whilst being the proud owner of a Wolfhound puppy is a huge delight it also brings with it a large responsibility, as you are now in charge of rearing the puppy until it fully develops and reaches adulthood. This sheet is designed to guide you through the main pitfalls of bringing up a giant breed puppy and if you follow these simple steps any disasters should be kept to a minimum!


• Do feed your puppy on a healthy balanced diet. A Complete dog food is recommended that is no higher than 23% protein and 12% fat. Ideally the Complete should also be gluten and grain free and hypoallergenic. It is unlikely that you will be able to find a Complete puppy food that is so low in protein so we advise an adult food either fish or meat based, but without too many minerals.

• Do allow your puppy free exercise in a secure area preferably on grass every day. Although giant breed puppies have fragile bones and joints they do require some exercise to build up muscle tone and stamina and so a run around on the lawn with their owner keeping an eye on them is important.

• Do take your puppy out to meet people and other dogs once it has been fully vaccinated. Socialising your puppy is very important and any dog needs to get used to new places and experiences such as going in the car to visits friends and family or going to the park to meet other dogs


• Don’t over exercise your puppy under any circumstances. Usually Wolfhound puppies are not walked until they are 6 months old and then they are built up gradually, initially only walking for 5 minutes. Despite their size, Wolfhound puppies are very delicate and their growing bones and joints need to be treated with great care. Any mistakes in exercise under a year old can affect the puppy for the rest of its life.


• Don’t let your puppy walk on slippy surfaces such as tiles, laminate flooring, wood flooring or cushion flooring/lino. Slippy floors are responsible for a huge amount of injuries in both puppies and older dogs of all breeds, but giant breed puppies are particularly susceptible to mishaps. They will slide on these slippy surfaces and hurt their legs and other parts of their body. Some of these injuries can have disastrous consequences. 

• Don’t let your puppy play with other dogs unsupervised, even if they are your dogs and they are playing at home. Generally it is recommended that a Wolfhound puppy does not play with older/larger dogs until it is at least a year old. Again, letting your puppy run riot with other dogs is likely to end up with the puppy being hurt or injured.

• Don’t let your puppy walk up and down stairs, and prevent them from jumping out of cars.  Keep impact on all joints to a minimum, even getting on and off sofa's in an exuberant manner may harm. 



Soft Toys & Irish Wolfhounds Expereince

Irish Wolfhound puppies love to play around and rag soft toys.  They are very amusing to watch, but it is exactly how they  would treat their quarry.  

One really kind friend kept buying me very expensive soft dogs toys, and although Misty was very good with them, and never ripped anything to pieces in her life, this excellent sensible behavior did not follow through for all of them. 

 As toys were left around, heads and limbs were ripped off, especially in the favorite game of tug of war. I cared not for  this game, the mess it created with stuffing everywhere and the fact they had started to eat the stuffing like candy floss, I saw a problem in the making.  I removed every toy, whole, headless, limbless and torn to shreds. I banned all soft toys.  Problem resolved, or so I thought. 

Months later, when the young juvenile delinquent had grown, into an even lager one, he appeared lethargic.  I rested him, and watch him like a hawk, he wasn’t eating, he wasn’t pooing, he wasn’t well.  He lacked energy and his  bounce had gone.  

Lifting him into the car we rushed to the vets, only to find a young newbie on duty.  She could not find anything obvious, and wanted to send me home.  I refused to leave, and “asked” that everything was thrown at him, from x-rays and scans  to bloods.  Under no circumstances was he to be left in the back pen to get better.  

Two hours later a senior vet called me, to say that he had operated and removed a long fabric thing from the delinquents intestines … about 12 inches and sown up at one end from what he could tell.  It was the tentacle off the late stuffed octopus he must have retrieved from some hiding place. 

My vet informed me, we had been just in time, and how right I had been to jump up and down at my appointment.  He also said that socks were the most popular items he removed, golf balls, and even a tennis ball. 

 £850 pounds lighter and an octopus tentacle, we all went home and lived happily ever after without any more soft stuffed dogs toys.