A variety of factors affect the health of your dog. In addition to regular preventative veterinary care, a balanced diet, clean dry bedding in a draft free area, daily exercise, love and companionship will go a long way to keeping your pet healthy.
This chapter is not intended as a substitute for veterinary care.
Finding a veterinarian
As an Otterhound’s caretaker, it is your responsibility to provide proper veterinary care. Choosing the correct veterinarian for your Otterhound is an important decision. Ask for recommendations from your breeder, local dog club or rescue group if you are in the same area.
It is important to have confidence in your veterinarian. Find out if your vet is available for after-hours emergencies, and if not, who will be available. The time to establish a working relationship with a good veterinarian is before you need it, not when you have an emergency.
As the costs of maintaining a pet rise, it may be advisable to consider pet insurance. There are many different programs available. You can find information on pet insurance on the American Kennel Club Website. You should also consult your veterinarian regarding an appropriate policy for your Otterhound.
Seizures are one of the most serious health concerns for Otterhound owners. Please see this descriptive presentation from Dr. Karen Munana of North Carolina State University on this topic.
Some Otterhounds may be prone to allergies, leading to skin and ear infections. Your dog should be treated by a qualified veterinarian.
The stomach twists and traps gas inside, causing extreme pain. Unless treated quickly, death may result. You can slow down your Otterhound's eating, if necessary, by using a special bowl with raised center, spreading the food over a cookie sheet, or even putting a large rock or brick in the bowl.
The Otterhound's long ears do not allow sufficient circulation of air. Ear infections often develop because owners are not diligent about cleaning their Otterhound's ears every week. If your Otterhound has recurrent infections, however, speak to your veterinarian about allergies.
An inflammation of the long bones often seen in Otterhounds from 5 months of age to two years. Because dogs outgrow pano, it is not considered a serious health problem. Lameness caused by pano may move from one leg to another and can last from a week to 6 months or more. Otterhounds with pano should not be exercised until symptoms disappear. Although pano itself is not serious, if an Otterhound is other wise injured and the ensuing lameness is mistakenly attributed to pano, lasting harm may result. Because X-rays can determine the presence of pano, a veterinarian should be consulted in any case of lameness.
A blood platelet disorder, also similar to Glanzmann's in people. The clinical presence of this bleeding disorder is relatively easy to spot because bleeding which cannot be stopped is the symptom. There is a genetic test for thromboplastic thrombasthenia in the Otterhound. Speak to your breeder about the status of your Otterhound's parents.
Hip dysplasia is a genetically inherited disease where the hip joint does not form properly to make a smoothly moving ball and socket joint. However, despite the genetic predisposition your hound may have to hip dysplasia, you can significantly increase the chances of their hips developing normally by keeping them thin while growing and not over-exercising them. Do not run/jog with your Otterhound until their growth plates are closed, which should be around 16-18 months of age.
Elbow dysplasia is an increasing issue in Otterhounds both in the US and abroad. It is a genetically inherited disease that causes osteoarthritis in elbow. You can increase the chances of your hound's elbows developing normally by attempting to limit the amount of jumping off of objects that they do while their growth plates are open. They should not be repetitively jumping until 16-18 months of age; before that they should not jump over the height of their wrists.
Idiopathic epilepsy (seizures of unknown origin) is a significant health concern in the Otterhound. In Otterhounds, seizures can be lumped into 3 typical categories: those starting before 1 year of age, those starting between 1 & 7 years of age, and those starting after 7 years of age. Each category has it's more common causes - please discuss seizures with your veterinarian if you see your hound having a seizure. Also please notify your breeder and a member of the Otterhound Club of America Health Committee as there is a list of hounds with seizures that is kept publically.
Otter Talks are topics of interest to our members. This one is done by members that have lived with dogs that have seized.
A presentation on an epilepsy research project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. (below)
An Owner's Checklist
Check your dog’s coat. It should be clean and shiny. Look for any bald spots or evidence of fleas or ticks.
Check your dog’s body and legs for any unusual lumps and bumps.
Check your dog’s eyes. They should be clear and free of discharge.
Brush and clean your dog’s teeth at least three times a week.
Make sure you can feel your dog’s ribs under the skin. If you can’t feel them easily, he is too fat.
Check and clean your dog’s ears weekly.
Your dog’s nose should be free of discharge.
Check your dog’s anal sacs and rectal area. It should be clean and not irritated.
Cut your dog’s toenails at least every two weeks.
Preventative Health Measures that Owners Can Take
Buy an Otterhound from a reputable breeder who will stand behind the health of his/her dog. If you adopt from a rescue group, discuss the health issues which may or may not affect your new hound.
Don’t overfeed your Otterhound. Obesity is harmful to your Otterhound’s heart, spine and joints.
Religiously clean your Otterhound’s ears once a week.
Trim toenails at least once every ten days to two weeks.
Check for impacted anal glands.
Brush teeth at least three times weekly.
Depending on the part of the country you call home, or where you and your pet travel, give your Otterhound regular heartworm medication and check for fleas and ticks.
Immunize your Otterhound for preventable diseases. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for your dog.
Do not let puppies climb long flights of stairs or jump off objects such as beds, couches or porches, especially before 16-18 months of age.
An Otterhound is safest in a secure, fenced area.
Make sure you continually “puppy proof” your home to keep your pet safe from toxic substances. If there is any sign of a medical problem, contact your veterinarian immediately.
BEWARE of Unprofessional Advice
Your veterinarian should be consulted when your Otterhound becomes ill. NEVER medicate your dog without the advice of a veterinarian. Don’t try home remedies, remedies from the neighbor, internet chat rooms, etc. Don’t use human prescription or nonprescription medicines without the advice of a veterinarian. Even over the counter medicines can be deadly. For example, acetaminophen can cause liver failure in dogs.
Recognizing when your Otterhound is “not quite right”
It is your responsibility to monitor your hound’s general condition and learn the importance of recognizing when he is feeling a bit off. While you don’t want to assume a loss of appetite is an emergency, in some cases it may be. Because your Otterhound can’t “tell” you when he is ill, watch for any changes in behavior such as loss or increase of appetite, restlessness, an unwillingness to move or exercise as usual and withdrawal or depression.
Delays in obtaining necessary treatment can have tragic results for your Otterhound. Since your dog cannot speak, it is important that you be able to describe his symptoms as accurately as possible.
If you believe that your hound is not well, check his vital signs, especially his temperature.
Dr. Joellen Gregory, Otterhound owner and veterinarian
Giving A Prescribed Pill
There are several ways to give your dog a prescribed pill.
Hide the pill in a small piece of meat or cheese.
If your Otterhound refuses this treat, open his mouth, place the pill at the back of the throat and close the mouth. Stroke the throat and watch for him to swallow, making sure the pill has been ingested. Allow the dog’s tongue to come out of his mouth slightly as he swallows. (Illustrated right)
When giving prescribed medication, follow the directions carefully. Don’t stop the medication unless directed by your veterinarian!
Administering Eye Drops or Ointment
Hold one hand under your Otterhound’s muzzle and rest your hand with the eyedropper on the dog’s skull. This will help prevent an injury if your hound moves.
Make sure you use the correct number of drops or amount of ointment.
If giving more than one medication, wait 5 minutes between medications.
Keep your veterinarian’s telephone number next to the phone. Ask your vet to help you put together a first aid kit for your dog.
Health Care Schedule
Regularly scheduled checkups are a great way to monitor your Otterhound’s health. Ask your veterinarian what he/she recommends.
Preventable Diseases through Vaccination
Before you bring your new dog home, check with your vet to be sure that your new Otterhound has been adequately inoculated by the breeder.
The following chart describes the diseases that are preventable by regular vaccination. Maintaining your dog’s vaccinations is one of the most important things you can do for his or her health. Boosters are often given at your dog’s annual exam. Duration of immunity is currently being studied, and vaccination schedules may vary based on your vet’s recommendation.
Disease 1. Adenovirus Canine adenovirus type 2 (CAV-2) Very contagious
2. Bordatella or Kennel Cough Very contagious
3. Distemper Highly contagious. Ranges from mild to fatal.
4. Infectious Canine Hepatitis Canine adenovirus type 1 or (CAV-1) Highly contagious virus transmitted only to dogs.
5. Leptosporosis Humans can contract this from infected dogs.
6. Lyme Disease Good tick control is imperative to the health of you and your dog. As disease transmitted by the tick, most prevalent in wooded areas.
7. Parainfluenza Contagious
8. Parvovirus Highly contagious virus that can affect dogs of all ages.
9. Rabies Transmitted through the bite of an infected animal.
Symptoms 1. Coughing with an occasional fever. In some cases an opportunistic bacterial infection will take control in the lungs causing pneumonia. (The CAV-1 Vaccine and the CAV-2 are not used together. The use of one will cover both CAV-1 and CAV-2. The CAV-1 vaccination is not recommended.
2. Dry cough, harsh in nature; in young puppies, nasal congestion may be present. The vaccine won't prevent all viruses which cause coughing, but it's a good first step, particularly if you dog is in frequent contact with other dogs.
3. Early signs include fever, followed by nasal and eye discharge. Later signs include epileptic-like seizures, slobbering and shaking of the head. Another form od distemper called hard-pad, causes callus-like pads to form on the feet and a thick skin to form on the nose. Unvaccinated puppies are most susceptible.
4. Symptoms may be confused with distemper. In its mild form, a dog may simply be lethargic or show a loss of appetite. In its fatal form, a dog may exhibit bloody diarrhea and die suddenly. In its acute form a dog may have a fever, bloody diarrhea and vomit blood. Bleeding under the skin and from the gums may occur. Jaundicing of the eyes and painful abdomen are also symptoms. Dogs sometimes develop a clouding of the cornea called "blue eye". Vaccination for CAV-2 will be protective and vaccination of CAV-1 is not recommended.
5. Fever, loss of appetite, listlessness and depression are early signs. As the disease progresses, ulcers may appear in the mouth or tongue; severe thirst, bloody diarrhea and vomiting may occur. Your dog may stand and look painful in the abdominal area if the kidneys become affected. Treatment usually includes antibiotics and supportive therapy. (some feel that leptospirosis vaccines are unnecessary. Check with your vet.
6. Lameness and fever are symptoms. some dogs may test positive for Lyme disease and show no outward symptoms. Damage to joints and the neurological system may occur. Early antibiotic treatment may prevent permanent damage. Some dogs will have permanent lameness due to joint damage. Vaccination isn't a guarantee that your dog will not contract this disease but it substantially reduces the risk.
7. Coughing is the primary symptom. Fever may develop in severe cases. Death is rare, and supportive treatment is generally all that is called for.
8. Symptoms may follow two paths. Diarrhea: depression followed by loss of appetite, vomiting and a painful abdomen. Fever and profuse (sometimes bloody) diarrhea follow. Cardiac: affects the muscle of the heart. Young puppies stop nursing. Death can occur suddenly. some who recover develop chronic congestive heart failure. Treatment successes vary depending on the form and severity of the disease, as well as the age and condition of the dog. Puppies under the age of five months have the highest mortality rate.
9. There is no treatment for dogs. Personality changes may occur, a friendly dog may become aggressive, and vice versa. As the disease progresses, the dog may stare into space, avoid light and seek its own space. Diarrhea, vomiting and fever may be present. Two types of encephalitis may occur; "Mad dog" type is when an animal is vicious, has spasms in the face and bites at any animal in its way. A paralytic form causes the mouth to drop open and tongue to hang out. Drooling and coughing as well as uncontrolled movements are present.
Other Health Issues for Otterhounds
Constipation and Diarrhea
Fleas and Ticks
Stool eating (Coprophagia)
Tumors and cysts
In the absence of other symptoms, these conditions are often due to improper feeding. If either persist for more than one day, or if the diarrhea is extreme or bloody, consult your vet.
Shaking the head, scratching and/or an odor from the ear may indicate an ear infection. The structure of the Otterhound ear does not allow air to circulate well, and the ear infections are common. sometimes, ear mites may be the cause. Failure to treat can cause damage to the eardrum. Preventative care cis suggest to reduce the chance of these infections. Keep your dog's ears clean with a good quality ear cleaner. This should be done at least once a week. Consult your vet if you see a problem.
The presence of fleas and/or ticks can have an adverse effect on your dog. It is important for your dog's general condition to keep these pests under control. There are several ways to prevent or rid your dog and home of an infestation. Seek the suggestion of your veterinarian regarding products to use on your dog or in your home. Remember, it doesn't do any good to jus remove these pests from your dog if you don't remove them from your home , yard and automobiles.
Plaque and tartar build up on your dog's teeth can cause an infection of inflammation of the gums as gums pull away from the teeth. Symptoms include foul breath, bleeding gums and excessive drooling. Diminished appetite or difficulty in eating may be seen. Veterinary care should sought, as the problem can become quite serious and painful for your dog. Infection from the gums can travel to the heart and other internal organs. Preventive care is advised through regular brushing (at least 3 times per week).
Commonly occurs in dogs left in cars in hot weather, left outdoors without shade, left unattended in a drying cage or exercised too hard in hot weather. Rapid breathing, bright red mucus membranes, vomiting and a high rectal temperature are signs of heat stroke. Steps should be taken immediately to cool the dog through a cool water hose or bath. Do not submerge the dog in ice. Veterinary treatment should be sought immediately.
Areas of inflamed skin which are often caused by repetitive scratching or chewing the area may "weep" and be very moist. The size of a hot spot can increase virtually in front of your eyes! Treating hot spots effectively involves finding the source of the fleas, mites, allergy or insect bite, and eliminating the cause. The spot should be kept clean and dry. Your veterinarian should be consulted.
Painful swelling can occur from bee, wasp, yellow jacket, hornet or ant stings. These stings can cause a dog to have an allergic reaction and go into shock. If your dog has difficulty breathing shortly after a sting, seek veterinary care immediately. This can be a life-threatening condition. Bees leave a stinger behind that should be carefully removed with tweezers. For general discomfort, ice packs can relieve swelling and pain. DO NOT use "human" allergy medication without consulting your veterinarian. Some of these medications may contain compounds that can be deadly to dogs.
Fleas, contact allergies and food allergies can all contribute to itchy skin. Most dogs don't develop allergies until they are three years of age or so. Treatment varies with the severity of the allergy. Secondary infections, such as ear infections, skin infections and paw infections, often accompany allergies. It is not always possible to "cure" an allergy, but it is possible in most cases to "manage" one. Veterinary care should be sought.
The presence of blood in the urine, inability to urinate or an increase in frequency of urination can all be signs of renal disease. These range from renal failure, infections and occasionally the presence of bladder or kidney stones. Any change in your dog's elimination habits should be considered a cause for immediate veterinary attention to identify and treat the cause. Your dog should urinate in a strong, steady stream with no straining.
Several different mange mites can cause a variety of hair loss as well as extreme itching. Sarcoptic and demodectic mange are two of these. Veterinary care must be sought.
Intestinal parasites include roundworms, whip worms, hookworms and tapeworms. These parasites can cause a variety of symptoms including anemia, vomiting, diarrhea and coughing. They can represent a health hazard to your pet. A fecal examination of your dog will provide your veterinarian with a diagnosis and proper treatment.
Curious by nature, Otterhounds are subject to poisoning from many sources. Symptoms vary and include the following: diarrhea, vomiting , seizures, rash and mouth irritation, drooling and in some cases death. Many house plants, shrubs and trees are poisonous. Additionally your dog may come into contact with strychnine, arsenic, meth aldehyde, lead, zinc phosphate, warfarin, antifreeze, petroleum products, products commonly found in household cleaners and organo-phosphates such as sevin. Many of these substances are found in rat poison, garden products such as fertilizer and insecticides, flea or tick treatments, and some dewormers. Toads, garbage and human medication can also be poisonous to dogs. Unless you know exactly what your dog has ingested and have consulted with your veterinarian or animal poison control hotline, DO NOT induce vomiting. If you know the substance, follow veterinary or poison control instructions exactly. The National ASPCA poison control hotline is at 888-426-4435. There is a charge, which can be paid by credit card. In addition, in many cases, local poison control hotlines can assist with basic questions. In all cases, consult your veterinarian.
There are three primary conditions which can affect an intact male dog: prostate enlargement, prostate infections, and in a few cases, prostate cancer. Symptoms may include constipation, straining to pass stool, difficulty passing urine, and blood or pus in the urine. While neutering a male does not eliminate the possibility of prostate problems, it does significantly reduce their likelihood, and is a good practice for your pet. Consult your veterinarian if you see symptoms.
This is a disease of the uterus which follows generally within two months following a bitch's heat cycle. Excessive consumption of water, licking at the vulva, or diminished appetite can all be signs of pyometra. There may or may not be a discharge. This is a life threatening disease, and in many cases spaying the bitch is the best treatment. They threat of pyometra, reduction in the likelihood of mammary cancer and the elimination of the possibility of having unwanted puppies are several reasons to spay your bitch.
Nonpoisonous snake bites may be of little concern. Bite marks are horseshoe shaped. Poisonous snake bites can be fatal. You may be able to see two fang marks. If you can identify the species, do so. There are antivenoms available in many parts of the country. If your dog suffers a poisonous snake bite, restrain the dog, and apply a tourniquet above the bite. If possible suction the poison out of the wound. Keep the dog quiet and seek veterinary care immediately.
One of the most common causes of shock in dogs is being hit by a car. Other causes are heat stroke, dehydration, poisoning, and hemorrhage. Sign of shock are drop in temperature, shivering, pale mucus membranes and a weak faint pulse. Keep the dog warm and quiet and transport to your veterinarian immediately.
Coprophagia is an offensive habit to humans but is not unnatural in dogs. While there can be a medical cause, it may be the result of boredom, hunger or stress and can become an annoying habit. Some feel that meat tenderizer or a product called ForBid, will make the taste of stool objectionable to discourage the dog. There is no fool-proof way to correct the behavior. If it's a new behavior for your dog, consult your veterinarian to rule out underlying medical causes. Keep the yard well-scooped, hand walk the dog for elimination.
It is not uncommon for a dog to tear out a nail from near the base of the toe. The dog may limp or bleed profusely. Pack the nail bed with cotton or use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Ask your vet to see if any portion of the nail that remains needs to be removed.
Fairly common in dogs. Most do not pose significant risk. It is advisable that your veterinarian examine all tumors and cysts.
Dr. Sandra Sawchuk, UW Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital
Additional advice from some Otterhound Owners
Some Otterhound Owners like to make their own solution to treat those beautiful ears and avoid infection. They call it "the Purple stuff". Combine 16 ounces of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol 4 tablespoons boric acid powder 16 drops of Gentian Violet 1% solution (ask your pharmacist to order it)
Mix it well and shake it to mix it each time your use it or the powder will settle at the bottom.
Apply it to sore and infected ears using a large syringe. If ears are very sore do not rub them. Use for a week and then check to see how the ears are. If they are clean use the mixture either for maintenance every couple of weeks or when needed.
Helpful Hint: Your hound will shake its head after you apply it so be careful. Either wear purple or apply it outside.
An Otter Talk on the use of titers to determine when your dog needs a vaccine is presented by Joellen Gregory DVM, member of the OHCA.
More thoughts on cleaning those big ears: Many Otterhounds have a lot of hair in their ears and owners have trouble cleaning it out. Talk to your veterinarian about using Nair (the product some women use on their legs to remove hair. Apply the Nair (I use Nair with Aloe) carefully so that a head shake does not result in the product getting on you causing you to lose hair in places you prefer not to! View the videos for instructions--left, right and then center below. This video was made with a Barbet that also has a large amount of ear hair. This was not the first time for her having this done so she did not have as much hair as she did the first time. Many thanks to my friend for demonstrating this process and my vet for making this suggestion to us.