Health Problems and Concerns for Dogs in the Central Oregon Region


Cheat grass:

Dispersal form of grass seed enters body cavities (particularly ears, nose and under eyelids) and penetrates skin between toes and elsewhere on the body causing irritation and infection.

Juniper Pollen Allergy:

Many animals, and people, who have never before shown signs of allergy do so when Juniper trees release pollen. Dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, present with itchiness of the face, ears, front paws and/or tail head.

 Mushrooms:   Common lawn and garden mushrooms can cause neurological excitability or seizure-like behavior in dogs who ingest them.  Treatment often involves inducing vomiting or stomach lavage and supportive care until toxic elements are cleared by the dog’s liver and kidneys.  Residual damage to these organs may be a concern given the particular type of mushroom and the amount ingested.

Encounters with Wildlife

Salmon Poisoning:

     Dogs eating the raw flesh of members of the Salmonid family (trout, steelhead, salmon) or licking where fish have been cleaned can  result in infection with Neorickettsia, an infectious microorganism carried by a larval stage of flatworm that resides in salmonid muscle tissue. The disease primarily affects the dog’s intestinal tract (poor appetite, vomiting, hemorrhagic diarrhea) and how sick the dog gets depends upon how much of the infectious organism they ingest. Clinical signs range from mild to fatal. Mild cases may resolve on their own and result in lifelong immunity to future disease. More severe cases require antibiotics and possibly hospitalization to provide supportive care. Dogs caught in the act of exposure can be treated with antibiotics orally to good effect, but the degree of immunity that results is questionable. The disease shows up four to 21 days after exposure, often initially with vague and non-specific clinical signs. History of potential exposure is very helpful in making diagnostic and treatment decisions. Disease is generally thought to confer lifelong immunity.


Coyotes and mountain lions actively seek dogs and cats as prey in Central Oregon, even in some residential areas. Small pets are particularly vulnerable, and coyotes may be bold enough to hunt during the day. Deterring the presence of coyotes and not feeding deer or other wildlife are effective preventive strategies.

Deer Attack:

Both does and bucks will aggressively attack dogs, particularly when fawns are present and during the rut (Fall breeding season). These attacks can result in fractures, internal injuries and death.


    Venomous rattlesnakes are present in certain areas of Central Oregon, particularly along streams and rivers. They tend to be timid snakes but do pose a threat to inquisitive or aggressive dogs. Most strikes from the common Pacific Rattlesnake are dry, that is without venom injection. Venom, even in small quantities, can potentially cause acute allergic reactions, tissue damage,  or infections.  Rattlesnake vaccines are available but are of questionable advisability.    


    Dogs commonly encounter these slow creatures and are sadly rewarded for their inquisitiveness. A slap from the tail will deposit quills in the muzzle, and dogs who attack will be rewarded with a mouthful or better of the painful stickers. The quills should be removed without leaving fragments under the skin, and a thorough examination of the mouth and throat conducted to assure that none go undetected. This most often requires sedation.  One would hope that such an encounter would prove educational enough to prevent future encounters, but some dogs require repeated episodes to cure them of their persistence.

Raccoons & Skunks:

    Some areas of Central Oregon have resident populations of raccoons and skunks which can cause problems for pets.  Raccoons can be ill-tempered with dogs and inflict serious injuries including bite wounds and limb fractures.  Skunks can inflict their trademark scent which makes your pet unwelcome in confined .  Leaving food outside for cats or dogs is a major cause of attracting these animals and resulting conflicts.  Feeding dogs and cats in a room accessible to the outdoors with a pet door has resulted in raccoons and skunks in the house.

Skunk Spray Neutralizing Recipe

Internal Parasites


    An intestinal protozoa found in nearly all streams, rivers, ponds, and lakes in Central Oregon. GI signs such as poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, often with mucus and blood, and occasionally fever are typical. Diagnostic tests are used to detect the parasite, but it is so common that history and clinical signs are often enough to initiate treatment. Most dogs remain lifelong carriers and may relapse in the future. Giardia is transmissible to humans from water sources or from infected animals.


    No particular intestinal roundworms are unique to Central Oregon, but due to the influx of residents from diverse areas of the US, non-regional parasites are not unusual.


    Tapeworms commonly infect dogs who hunt and eat rodents,  or clean up rodent kills provided by an accommodating cat.  The other source of infection is ingestion of infected fleas.  This most often occurs when the dog travels out of Central Oregon to an area that supports a more robust flea population or a dog visiting from one of these areas provides  an infestation.


    Heartworm has not established itself as a self-sustaining disease in Central Oregon, and our current climatic conditions may be prohibitive to the mosquito vector that transmits the disease. But, infected dogs from other areas have been diagnosed and treated here. Circumstantial evidence of local transmission in the La Pine/Sunriver areas points to the possibility that a dog in the wrong place at the wrong  time may result in infection. We advise that dogs living or spending time in these areas or other mosquito infested areas of Central Oregon, particularly areas frequented by tourists, be treated monthly with heartworm preventive medication.  Dogs traveling out of Central Oregon should also receive treatment for a minimum of two months after exposure is over.  In complying with manufacturer’s recommendations, we advise heartworm testing prior to administration of the preventive medication, yearly testing of dogs who have had significant exposure and testing every two years of dogs in which exposure is unknown or uncertain.

External Parasites


     The sucking louse of dogs, Linognathus sp. is prevalent in Central Oregon and is very easily spread from dog to dog. The louse is very small and appears similar to a grain of dirt on the skin. Infestation occurs over the entire body and causes the dog to be very itchy.


    Fleas are uncommon in many parts of Central Oregon due to the inhospitable dry and cold climatic conditions. They are found in rodent burrows, deer beds, and other protective micro-climates. Dogs with fleas visiting from other areas may provide a source of infestation that can become an ongoing problem if they establish themselves in a household.  The important thing to remember is that fleas live in a dog’s surroundings and are on the host to feed, then jump off.  This means that environmental control is key to eliminating infestation. Applying a flea repellent prior to traveling with your dog to an area where fleas are a problem is well advised.


    As with fleas, ticks are uncommon in many areas of Central Oregon and are primarily associated with wildlife hosts.  Tick-borne illnesses such as Lymes Disease are not recognized as being prevalent in this area.  Occasionally we see ear ticks which cause the dog a good deal of head-shaking and distress before they are removed.

Cuterebra larvae:

    The larval stage of the cattle fly, Cuterebra, will occasionally be found as a lump under the skin with a hole at one end through which the grub can be seen. These must be removed intact and generally require skin incision to accomplish this.

Hemorrhagic Enteritis (Suspected Clostridial):

    Dogs exposed to certain areas of Central Oregon can present with fever, lethargy, poor appetite, and fresh-red blood in vomit and diarrhea.  In some cases, this is associated with scavenging deer or elk carcasses, but often the source is unknown.  Treatment with injectable antibiotics and aggressive supportive care are necessary as life-saving measures. This disease looks very similar clinically to Parvovirus and Salmon Poisoning.  

Infectious Diseases


   The only documented cases of Rabies in Deschutes, Jefferson and Crook Counties have been in Bats. The documented incidence is low, but with the presence of other potential wildlife reservoirs in Central Oregon, such as raccoons, skunks, coyotes, fox, routine precautions are prudent. All dogs and cats should be vaccinated and contact with wildlife avoided.


  Parvo is a common disease in this area. The disease affects the digestive tract and ranges from mild to deadly. It commonly affects young, unvaccinated dogs and is typically seen in outbreaks that affect focal areas of exposure. Isolation of pups until their initial vaccination series is complete, a comprehensive vaccination series beginning at 9 weeks of age, then yearly vaccination, provides very effective means of protection.


  Distemper is an uncommon disease that is occasionally seen in Central Oregon, almost exclusively in dogs that are unvaccinated. It initially is seen as a respiratory disease that is followed by intestinal and neurological disease. Distemper is highly contagious and is spread by aerosol and direct contact routes. The disease affects all members of the Canine family, and also ferrets, raccoons, skunks and select members of the cat family. In dogs and cats vaccination is very effective.

Kennel Cough (Infectious Tracheobronchitis):

  Infectious Tracheobronchitis is a common disease of the upper airways of dogs, and to a lesser extent cats, that is caused by several different viruses or bacteria. It presents as a severe, productive cough, or sometimes sneezing, and is highly contagious by the aerosol route. Commonly it is spread in areas where dogs congregate such as dog parks, groomers, boarding kennels, and dog shows. We typically vaccinate for the worst of the viruses, Parainfluenza, and the most common of the bacteria, Bordatella, to good effect. Some boarding kennels require vaccination within 6 months of boarding and we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of cases that we have had to treat under these circumstances. Dogs can be asymptomatic carriers of Bordatella and other infectious agents causing kennel cough but become symptomatic with stress or other relaxation of immunity.

Environmental Problems

Footpad Trauma:

    Typical ground footing found in Central Oregon can be very hard on dog’s footpads at nearly any time of the year. Lava rock and gravel, crusty snow and ice can all be very abrasive, causing loss of protective footpad callus and open sores. Salt used to melt ice can cause chemical burns to feet with direct contact and similar lesions in the mouth if the dog licks it’s feet.

Automotive Antifreeze Toxicity:

    Ethylene glycol is extremely toxic to dogs and can be fatal if ingested even in small quantities. Because it has a sweet taste it is particularly attractive to some dogs. Non-toxic brands of automotive antifreeze are available and advisable in households with children and pets.    

Dry Skin:

    Our dry climate is a common cause of itchiness, scaly skin and recurring skin infections from scratching. Humidifiers in the house, moisturizing shampoos and conditioners, and fatty-acid supplements are all effective measures to correct these problems.


    Ear and tail tips, and toes, particularly of thin-coated breeds are prone to frostbite with sub-freezing temperatures.  Wind-chill can rapidly drop still-air temperatures well below zero and damage can result quickly.


     Another consequence of sub-freezing temperatures is the potentially life-threatening loss of core body heat. Young pups and geriatrics are particularly at risk, as are thin-coated dogs. Heated, dry shelter should be available during cold-weather months. Heavy-coated and Arctic breed dogs often thrive in conditions that are deadly for others, and choose to stay out in the elements rather than seeking shelter.

Ice Entrapment/Drowning:

    Dogs can break through thin ice on rivers and be swept under the ice to drown.  Likewise, on frozen ponds or lakes they can break through thin ice creating a very dangerous rescue situation. Keeping dogs on a leash under such circumstances is prudent.

 Blue-green Algae:

    Natural lakes and reservoirs throughout the Cascades occasionally have blooms of blue-green algae that pose a hazard for both humans and pets.  The algae produce toxins that can produce numbness, tingling and dizziness that can lead to difficulty breathing and heart problems.  Symptoms of skin irritation, weakness, diarrhea, nausea, cramps and fainting can also be seen,  all of which should receive medical attention.

     If you observe thick, brightly colored foam or scum at a lake, pond or river, don’t let your pet drink or swim in the water. If the dog has already been in the water, wash vigorously with large volumes of fresh water and do not allow the dog to lick its coat until bathed. You can view precautions for affected areas from the Harmful Algae Bloom Surveillance Program at