Will Blueberries Hurt Dogs?

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Will blueberries hurt dogs? It’s a good question, considering some human foods cause big problems for canines. The fact is that while blueberries are generally safe and even beneficial for most dogs, there are a few dogs who should stay away from them or eat them only in small quantities.

According to some sources, blueberries contain moderate to high amounts of oxalates (10). Dogs with a history of forming calcium oxalate urinary crystals should avoid eating fruit with significant oxalate levels. If your dog tends to produce oxalate urinary crystals, limit his intake of blueberries to a few berries once a week.

Oxalates are naturally occurring substances present in food. When oxalates are ingested, they can bind to calcium and form calcium oxalate crystals in urine. Some animals make more of these crystals than others. Calcium oxalate crystals sometimes clump together, forming kidney and bladder stones in dogs. 

will blueberries hurt dogs? xray of a dog with bladder stones

Dangers of Dehydrated Blueberries

There’s an unexpected danger to dogs who eat large quantities of dehydrated blueberries. The dehydrated berries draw water into a dog’s stomach and intestines. When eaten in extreme amounts, this water shift can cause diarrhea, dehydration and life-threatening increased sodium levels.

Sugar in Blueberries

Cultivated blueberries contain about 15 grams of natural sugar per cup. Compared to other sweet fruits like watermelon, that’s not much.

Still, this amount of sugar could be a problem for diabetic dogs. To be safe, consult your veterinarian before introducing fruit into your diabetic dog’s diet.

will blueberries hurt dogs? black dog waiting to eat a blueberry
Pretty please, may I have a blueberry?

Health Benefits of Blueberries for Dogs

Berries are nature’s vitamin pill. Whether it’s a blueberry, raspberry or strawberry, all these delicious fruits contain antioxidants. Antioxidants are super nutrients that may help prevent cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, hypertension and many other chronic diseases (8, 9).

Free radicals are cell-damaging metabolic waste products of all living organisms (4). Antioxidant nutrients protect cells from free radical damage.

One of the antioxidants in blueberries, anthocyanidins, is plant pigments. Anthocyanidins slow memory loss in humans, decrease the incidence of certain neurologic diseases and boost heart health (6, 2).

Blueberries contain a moderate amount of the antioxidant vitamin C. While dogs don’t require dietary vitamin C as humans do, it might still be beneficial for them to get a little extra from blueberries.

Another wonderful nutrient present in moderate amounts in blueberries is Vitamin K. This vitamin is instrumental in normal blood clotting function.

Blueberries Increase Blood Antioxidant Levels 

In a study published in 2006 in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, scientists fed blueberries to sled dogs before they exercised. They found that dogs fed the supplement had higher antioxidant levels in their blood after exercise compared to those who did not eat the fruit before exercising (3). 

Although not proven in this study, the assumption is that a higher level of blood antioxidants could mean dogs are less sore and worn out after exercise. 

dogs pulling a sled
Antioxidants in blueberries could help dogs recover from exercise.

Organic Berries Are Best

Use an organic blueberry source in your dog’s diet whenever possible. This fruit is on the Environmental Working Group’s list of foods that may contain large amounts of unhealthy pesticides if not grown organically (5).

Wolves Eat Wild Blueberries

Multiple studies on wild wolves have found a significant consumption of wild blueberries. The argument that dogs are strictly carnivorous like wolves gets a bit hazy in this case! 

Wolves may eat blueberries in large quantities as a last resort in times of food scarcity (7), but they also eat them as a regular part of their diet (1). 

Dogs adopt an omnivorous diet when they live with humans. The nutrients in the fruit can make up a beneficial and natural part of a domestic dog’s diet. 

can dogs have blueberries?

Blueberries as a Hypoallergenic Dog Treat

If you have a dog with inflammatory bowel disease, food allergy or sensitivity you know just how nerve-wracking it can be to find a healthy snack they can tolerate. Well, frozen or fresh blueberries just might fit the bill. 

With no source of animal protein and a delicious, slightly sweet flavor, blueberries make a convenient healthy treat for sensitive dogs. Go very slowly any time you’re introducing dog food and ask your vet first if your dog is particularly fragile. 

Can Dogs Have Blueberry Muffins or Bagels?

Want to share delicious human food containing blueberries with your dog? Well, the blueberries themselves shouldn’t be a problem. But you should carefully check the ingredient list before giving your pup a bite.

When it comes to sharing your blueberry muffin, bagel or other baked good, look out for the sugar substitute xylitol. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs even in small quantities.

You should also avoid sharing anything with macadamia nuts. These can cause temporary neurological problems when consumed by dogs.

blueberry muffins and bagels
Blueberry muffins and bagels might have other ingredients that are not dog-safe.

Blueberries May Cause Black Dog Poop 

Although blueberries won’t hurt most dogs, the dark pigments in blueberries might not be broken down as they make their way through a dog’s digestive tract. Don’t be surprised if you see dark blue-black stools after your dog eats them. 

If your dog has an upset stomach, diarrhea or any other symptoms of illness, it might not be the blueberry fruit causing dark poop. Bleeding stomach ulcers can also make dog stools black, so get your vet involved if you’re not sure what’s going on. 

Dental Staining

The dark blue pigments in a fresh or frozen blueberry can also stain a dog’s teeth. While not dangerous, you might be alarmed to see a greenish-purple tint on your pup’s teeth until you realize it’s from his berry healthy treat!

What Is Blueberry Facial for Dogs? 

You may have heard of giving a dog a “blueberry facial.” You’ll find recipes for homemade facials as well as commercial products. But it’s probably not the blueberries that help clean dogs’ faces. 

The commercial products invariably contain a small amount of synthetic ultramarine blue or violet dye. Ultramarine blue dye is also known as laundry bluing. It makes white fabric (and fur) appear whiter by dying it just a little bit blue. 

While these dyes are not necessarily unsafe to put on a dog, they’re not natural substances. And don’t be fooled by the presence of blueberry fruit in a commercial or homemade product. It’s unlikely that blueberries do much to remove tear stains when applied topically. 

White dogs show tear staining worse than dogs with dark coats.

Feeding Dogs Blueberries for Tear Stains

Another idea that’s popular on the internet is the notion that feeding your dog blueberries will cure him of facial tear staining. There is no evidence to back up this idea, but since blueberries are safe to feed your dog in small quantities, I see no reason not to try it. 

The antioxidants in the fruit could theoretically change the chemical composition of the tears that spill onto a dog’s face. Perhaps the antioxidants could decrease excessive tearing that occurs as a result of allergies? I doubt it, but it’s a theory!

Blueberries for Dog UTI

It’s a real drag when dogs get chronic bladder infections. I’m not surprised so many dog owners search for a natural way to break the cycle. 

Cranberries and cranberry extract have been touted as a natural bladder infection cure and preventive measure. The research to support the use of cranberries in dogs with bladder trouble is tenuous at best. 

Blueberries contain some of the same antioxidant nutrients as cranberries and some people think they might help stop dog bladder infections. But we have even less scientific evidence to support this than we have for cranberries. 

I think including a safe fruit like blueberries as a small part of a fresh dog food recipe could improve a dog’s overall health. That’s a step in the right direction when you’re fighting chronic infections, so go for it!

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page.

Click to View References
  1. Bosch, G., Hagen-Plantinga, E. A., & Hendriks, W. H. (2015). Dietary nutrient profiles of wild wolves: insights for optimal dog nutrition? British Journal of Nutrition, 113(S1), S40-S54.
  2. Do, R., Xie, C., Zhang, X., Männistö, S., Harald, K., Islam, S., … & INTERHEART investigators. (2011). The effect of chromosome 9p21 variants on cardiovascular disease may be modified by dietary intake: evidence from a case/control and a prospective study. PLoS Med, 8(10), e1001106.
  3. Dunlap, K. L., Reynolds, A. J., & Duffy, L. K. (2006). Total antioxidant power in sled dogs supplemented with blueberries and the comparison of blood parameters associated with exercise. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular & Integrative Physiology, 143(4), 429-434.
  4. Free radicals: How do they affect the body? (n.d.). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652
  5. Group, E. (n.d.). EWG’s 2021 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/full-list.php
  6. Higuera, V., Migala, J., Lawler, M., Palinski-Wade, E., Revelant, J., Bedosky, L., & Rapaport, L. (n.d.). What are Blueberries? Nutrition, health BENEFITS, RECIPES, MORE: Everyday Health. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-nutrition/diet/blueberries-nutrition-health-benefits-recipes-more/
  7. Homkes, A. T., Gable, T. D., Windels, S. K., & Bump, J. K. (2020). Berry important? Wolf provisions pups with berries in northern Minnesota. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 44(1), 221-223.
  8. In the news: Berries fight cancer. (2017, November 14). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.drweil.com/health-wellness/body-mind-spirit/cancer/in-the-news-berries-fight-cancer/
  9. UK, P. (2012, April 26). A bowl of berries a day ‘keeps alzheimer’s and dementia away’. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/04/26/red-berries-slow-alzheimers-dementia-risk_n_1454638.html
  10. UPMC: Your Health Education, Low Oxalate Diet. (2018, August). Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://www.upmc.com/-/media/upmc/patients-visitors/education/unique-pdfs/low-oxalate-diet.pdf

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Ask a Vet: My Dog Has Diarrhea But Is Acting Fine

Editor’s Note: NaturalPetsHQ.com is supported by readers and may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Recommendations are based on personal experience and criteria outlined in the article.

It’s not surprising how often dogs get diarrhea when you think about how they love to eat things off the ground and also lick their rear ends! Even my own dog gets an upset tummy occasionally. I want to share with you what I do when my dog has diarrhea but is acting fine.

When my dog has diarrhea but is acting fine otherwise, I have her skip one meal. That gives her GI tract a chance to rest and heal. I give her water but no food. At the next mealtime, if she has had no other symptoms, I feed her my homemade dog food recipe for diarrhea.

If your dog has other symptoms like poor appetite, lethargy, vomiting, etc. take her to see a veterinarian right away.

Is It Diarrhea or Just Loose Stool?

Technically, diarrhea includes any feces that have increased water content. You may see a pudding-like form, mushy poo with mucus or the dog’s stool may be totally liquid. But a vet will consider soft stool to be diarrhea even if it’s not completely liquid.

what to do when your dog has diarrhea

Sudden Dog Diarrhea Symptoms

These symptoms occur with acute large intestine diarrhea, sometimes called colitis.

Large intestine acute diarrhea happens when food moves through the large bowel too quickly. The large intestine can’t absorb water from the stool fast enough, so it’s passed in the feces.

  • Mucus in stool-this looks like clear or tan jelly which might look like it’s encasing the dog’s poop
  • Bloody stool (streaks of blood are common, larger amounts where it looks like strawberry jam may be hemorrhagic gastroenteritis)
  • Straining to pass small amounts of stool
  • Increased frequency and urgency to poop
  • Pacing, can’t get comfortable
  • Decreased appetite (complete lack of appetite is more serious)
  • Lethargy, irritability
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Noise from guts
  • Passing gas
  • Scooting bottom on the ground due to anal irritation from watery diarrhea
  • Poop accidents inside the house due to increased urgency

Small Intestine Diarrhea

Small intestinal tract diarrhea symptoms differ in that there is little straining, blood, mucus, etc. Feces are passed with normal frequency but may have increased volume.

Small intestinal diarrhea often causes weight loss, whereas large bowel diarrhea usually doesn’t. Problems in the small intestinal are more likely to cause chronic diarrhea and should be managed with the help of a vet.

Common Causes of Diarrhea in Dogs

1. Dietary Indiscretion (Garbage Gut)

“Garbage Gut” is by far the most common cause of dog diarrhea. Dogs will eat garbage, dead animals, non-food items, and all manner of things that can upset a dog’s intestinal tract.

2. Stress and Anxiety

Being left alone, grooming, boarding, changes in the home environment, traveling, vet visits, change of usual diet. All of these things can cause changes in normal intestinal movements.

Dog diarrhea can come on in surprisingly fast as a result of stress. I’ve seen dogs get dropped off for boarding and start passing diarrhea before their owner even leaves the building.

3. Low-Quality Food

Long-term use of low-quality diets favors a less healthy microflora population in the guts. Cheap dog foods contain more fiber and are less digestible. Over time, the intestines become inflamed and are sensitive to even the slightest insult.

4. Infectious Disease and Parasites

Canine parvovirus is a major infectious cause of diarrhea, occurring most frequently in unvaccinated puppies. Viral infection from canine coronavirus and distemper also cause abnormal dog stool.

Bacterial infection is another common cause of watery stool in dogs. Causative organisms might be Salmonella or Clostridium.

Intestinal parasite infection from hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, Giardia, etc. is a common cause of puppy diarrhea and upset stomach. 

Adult dogs can also develop infections, especially in heavily contaminated environments. Infections are spread between dogs (or other animals) so dogs who socialize or travel are more at risk.

5. Other Systemic Diseases

Mild to severe diarrhea is a symptom of many diseases including kidney disease, liver disease, endocrine problems, pancreatitis, and cancer to name a few.

German Shepherd lying on wood floor

Why Does My Dog Have Diarrhea at Night?

There is a mysterious phenomenon where some dogs have normal stool during the day and diarrhea only at night. There’s no specific known cause for this, but here are a few things that could lead to nighttime doggy diarrhea.

  • Exercise in the late afternoon/evening
  • Medication given in late in the day
  • Excitement late in the day
  • Evening treats or snacks

Should I Exercise My Dog When He Has Diarrhea?

It’s OK to take walks and engage in mild to moderate exercise if your dog’s only symptom is diarrhea. Be wary of these signs that exercise is making things worse:

  • New symptoms like vomiting or lethargy
  • Increased volume or frequency of diarrhea
  • Bloody diarrhea
  • Dog is very tired after exercise
  • Decrease in appetite

Another caveat to exercising a dog with diarrhea: if the temperature outdoors is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, take a day off and let your buddy rest up. Hot days can really zap a dog who is already on the edge of dehydration. 

When Is Home Treatment OK? 

When my dog has diarrhea but is acting fine in every other way, I like to take a wait-and-see approach. As long as she still has an appetite and doesn’t seem weak or nauseous it’s safe to see if the episode passes within a day.

Mild cases of diarrhea will often resolve with no specific treatment. However, fasting and feeding a bland diet can make dogs feel better while their body resolves the imbalance.

If your pet is weak, passing a lot of bloody diarrhea or has been sick for more than two days, please seek veterinary care right away. Don’t waste time trying home remedies!

Safe Home Remedies for Mild Dog Diarrhea

These suggestions are for dogs who have only had diarrhea for 1-2 days but are still acting normal plus eating and drinking OK.

Withhold Food for 12-36 hours

If you’re like most of my clients, you panic when I suggest having your dog skip a meal or two. But short-term fasting is often the most helpful thing you can do to help firm up your dog’s feces. And think about it-you’d probably instinctively skip a meal or two if you had bad diarrhea.

Provide free access to water. You may also serve 1/4-1 cup of bone broth a few times a day.

Don’t worry that your dog won’t be able to handle fasting. Most of them only pester you at mealtime but then go on about their usual business when they figure out what’s going on.

Dogs are well-adapted to skipping a meal or two as long as they have adequate access to water. Fasting provides rest for the tissues in the intestinal tract and allows them to concentrate on healing rather than digesting food.

Abdominal Massage

Have your dog lie next to you on his side or back in a comfortable position.

• Start at the back of the sternum/front of belly area and gently stroke down the middle of the belly toward the pelvis 10 times.

• Gently make circular massaging strokes over the belly using a clockwise direction 10 times.

Acupressure for Diarrhea in Dogs

Massage each of these acupressure points with your fingertip(s) for 1-3 minutes using moderate pressure. Repeat massage and acupressure every 30 minutes to every few hours.

what to do when your dog has diarrhea

• Massage the area on the outside of the back leg just below the knee. This is a powerful point Stomach 36. It has been shown to have positive effects on motility and pain in the gastrointestinal tract (3).

• Massage the area on the outside of the elbow, the softer area in front of the point of the elbow. This is the location of Large Intestine 11 which has been shown to have a pain-relieving effect when stimulated (1).

Apply Gentle Warmth on Abdomen

You may use a warm water bottle wrapped in a towel (not too hot!) or a heating pad wrapped in a towel set on low. Don’t apply heat for more than 10 minutes at a time and don’t force it if your dog resists. Warmth might not feel good to some dogs.

Stay Upbeat

Maintain a positive attitude in your language and demeanor around your pet. Although it’s tough not to fret over them, it will make them more nervous and delay recovery. Stress is a common cause of diarrhea and loose stool in dogs and your dog will feed off your stress.

Would you want your hospital nurse or doctor to stand over you wringing their hands with worry? No! Refrain from hovering over your dog! Try to act normal and tell her you’re going to help her feel better soon.

Homemade Dog Food for Dogs with Diarrhea

After fasting, start with a very simple, low-fat, bland diet. Try this easy homemade recipe for a few days. It’s not a balanced diet, so don’t use it long-term.

chicken and rice meal

Turkey or Chicken & Rice Recipe for Dogs with Diarrhea

Serving Size:
about 8 for medium sized dog
45 minutes


  • 1 cup white rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 pounds lean ground turkey (85% lean or leaner) or chopped boneless/skinless chicken breast


  1. Place water and rice into a large pot and bring to boil over medium heat.
  2. Reduce heat to low and simmer rice for 15 minutes.
  3. Add ground turkey or chopped chicken breast to rice, breaking it up with a spoon.
  4. Cook over medium-low heat for another 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is very mushy and turkey/chicken is cooked through (no pink). You can add more water if it looks too dry. The goal is to have a stew-consistency with the rice mostly broken down and mushy.

How Much Rice + Turkey to Feed a Dog With Diarrhea

  • small dog about 1/4–1/2 cup
  • medium dog 1/2–1 cup
  • large dog about 1–2 cups

(give this amount twice a day for 2–3 days)

Pumpkin Fiber Helps

The high fiber content of pumpkin can help decrease the water content of stools. Traditional Chinese Medicine advocates say pumpkin is a “special” food that benefits the digestive system.


Keep in mind that pumpkin is high in carbohydrates. A dog’s natural/ancestral diet is low in carbohydrates so using a lot of pumpkin could delay recovery.

Add about 1–3 tablespoons of canned, unsweetened pumpkin per meal for a few days. Don’t continue to use it unless you think it’s helping.

Scrambled Eggs for Diarrhea?

Eggs are a source of high quality digestible protein. Most dogs do well with eggs fried or scrambled using minimal oil (or even hard boiled).

Think of eggs as a supplement to other food and not a sole source of nutrition. You could add a cooked egg to the homemade recipe for diarrhea I listed above.

Over the Counter Supplements to Harden Soft Stool

Slippery Elm Soothes Irritated Tummies

Slippery Elm is an herb that acts as a demulcent, coating the inner surfaces of the GI tract which may help protect it. At least one large study has found this herb helped dogs recover from vomiting and diarrhea (2).

400 mg capsules are widely available in grocery and health food stores. For a small dog (1-15 pounds) give 1 capsule twice a day, a medium dog (16-45 pounds) 2 capsules twice a day and large dogs (46-75 pounds) may take 4-6 capsules twice a day.

It’s best to give the supplement at least 30 minutes before a meal. This herb is considered safe for use in dogs but consult your veterinarian first if your dog has other health problems or takes medication regularly.

Probiotics for Dog Diarrhea

Probiotic supplements contain beneficial bacteria that can help normalize a dog’s intestinal microflora during and after a bout of diarrhea. Give the label-recommended dose for at least 7 days. You should see soft stools harden over a period of a week or less.

Human Anti-Diarrhea Medicines

I know it’s tempting to give your dog some of the human medicine you have in your cupboard. Dogs are quite sensitive to this kind of treatment.

Seriously, I’m a vet and I don’t even give human diarrhea meds to my own dogs when they have a problem! There are safer options that are just as effective.

Stay away from over-the-counter medicines like Pepto Bismol (most dogs HATE the flavor of it anyway) and Imodium unless your vet tells you to give it. These medications can cause serious problems in certain situations, so it’s not worth the risk.

Learn how to choose a good probiotic for your dog: How to Find a Good Probiotic!

Dog Diarrhea DO’s

Do Gradually Re-Introduce the Previous Diet

Once stools look more normal, add a little more of the previous food your dog was eating over 2-3 days. Watch for the recurrence of symptoms.

Do Upgrade Your Dog’s Diet

Whole-foods, less-processed meals can improve short- and long-term health. Ask your veterinarian for help buying or home-preparing a complete and balanced diet for your dog.

Do Enlist the Help of a Veterinarian

If diarrhea persists in spite of using these recommendations for 2-3 days, your dog needs to see a vet. If your dog is also vomiting, refusing food or showing other unusual symptoms, there may be something more serious going on. Your vet can help you sort things out quickly.

DON’T Do This

Don’t Demand Antibiotics from Your Vet

Antibiotics like metronidazole and amoxicillin alter the population of the normal gut bacteria making a return to normal more difficult. Sometimes antibiotics are appropriate, but most of the time they cause more harm than good.

Don’t Give Anti-Diarrhea Meds Without Vet Guidance

Anti-diarrheals like Imodium/loperamide can slow the motility of the gut. Infectious agents are retained longer and can cause more damage than if they were passed quickly in diarrhea.

Don’t Start Changing the Food Frequently

Using a bland diet means choosing one food and sticking with that for up to a week. Automatically assuming your pet is reacting to every food and making lots of changes over a period of days will make things worse.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking your dog is “allergic” to every food. True food allergies are not that common in dogs.

Don’t Expect an Instant Cure

Watch for signs that your dog “feels more like herself.” You’ll see her moving around more, seeking attention/less hiding, or improved sleep.

Just because the stool is not normal right away doesn’t mean healing isn’t occurring. Give the body a little time! Most dogs with acute diarrhea show improvement in well-being within 24 hours and resolution of symptoms within 2-4 days.

Don’t Wait to See a Vet

If your dog refuses food and/or water for more than 24 hours, is losing a lot of blood, seems weak, depressed or has trouble breathing he needs professional help. These are signs of a more serious disease and can best be treated by a veterinarian.

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page. 

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Ask a Vet: Can Cats Eat Dog Treats?

Editor’s Note: NaturalPetsHQ.com is supported by readers and may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Recommendations are based on personal experience and criteria outlined in the article.

Pet food manufacturers rely heavily on marketing principles when they produce cat food only meant for one breed or dog food for one particular size of dog. In reality, the ingredients used in all pet foods and treats are strikingly similar with only the macronutrient values varying.

Cats can safely eat many dog treats but there are a handful of ingredients in some dog treats to look out for and avoid feeding to cats. Those are garlic, onion and propylene glycol. However, if a cat only ate one dog treat with these ingredients, the amount ingested is likely too small in most cases to cause major harm. 

Two Popular Dog Treats Compared 

Now that you know what to look for, you should be able to quickly identify dog treats that are not great for cats to eat. Let’s take a look at a few popular brands of dog and cat treats to compare the ingredients. 

The first treat, Pup-peroni is a “soft-style” treat for dogs. Many soft dog treats contain propylene glycol which acts as a moisture-retaining agent. This particular treat also has garlic powder and onion extract. All three are no-no’s for cats! Read on to the next section to find out why. 

Pup-Peroni Original: NOT OK for CATS

Can Cats Eat Dog Treats: NOT Pup-Peroni!
OK occasional indulgence for dogs but NOT OK for cats!

I consider Pup-Peroni the ultimate indulgent dog junk food to be enjoyed by pups occasionally (like me enjoying a Snickers bar). But keep the Pup-Peronis away from your cats! They contain all three of our “cat caution” ingredients.

Ingredients: Beef, Meat By-Products, Soy Grits, Sugar, Liver, Salt, Propylene Glycol, Garlic Powder, Caramel Color, Potassium Sorbate (Used As A Preservative), Natural Smoke Flavor, Sodium Nitrite (For Color Retention), Red 40, BHA (Used As A Preservative), Onion Extract.

Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks (Biscuit-Style): OK for CATS

The good old classic dog biscuit style Milk-Bone dog treats are OK for cats. Read the label and you won’t find any of the caution ingredients:

Ingredients: Wheat Flour, Wheat Bran, Meat and Bone Meal, Beef Fat (Preserved with BHA), Poultry By-Product Meal, Wheat Germ, Chicken Meal, Salt, Bacon Fat, Dicalcium Phosphate, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Brewers Dried Yeast, Malted Barley Flour, Iron Oxide (Color), Choline Chloride, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Niacin Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Sodium Metabisulfite, Red 40, BHA (Used As A Preservative), Blue 1.

Other Dog Treats That Are OK for CATS

A recent search for the best-selling dog treats on Amazon.com produced the following lists. All of these dog treats are SAFE for cats when eaten occasionally. 

Dog Treat
Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
GREENIES Pill Pockets Natural Dog Treats
Greenies Teenie Dental Treat Dog Treats
Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks Dog Treats
Milk-Bone Small MaroSnacks Dog Treats
Pedigree DENTASTIX Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Glycerin, Oil of Rosemary
Glycerin, Rosemary Extract
Dog Treat
Blue Buffalo Blue Bits Natural Soft-Moist Training Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Glycerin, Oil of Rosemary
Dog Treat
GREENIES Pill Pockets Natural Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Glycerin, Rosemary Extract
Dog Treat
Greenies Teenie Dental Treat Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Dog Treat
Milk-Bone Flavor Snacks Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Dog Treat
Milk-Bone Small MaroSnacks Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Dog Treat
Pedigree DENTASTIX Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients

Can Cats Eat Dog Jerky?

Cats can safely eat some dog jerky treats but not all kinds. You have to check the label for the cat caution ingredients (propylene glycol, onion and garlic).

The term dog jerky covers a number of different dog treats. The simplest kind of jerky would be homemade treats made from strips of dehydrated meat. With no other ingredients besides meat, this kind of dog jerky is fine for cats to eat. 

Take a look at these two examples of commercial dog jerky treats with one being OK and the other not so good for cats.

Dog Jerky OK for CATS

Store-bought dog jerky usually has other ingredients added as preservatives, flavoring and moisteners. Purina Waggin’ Train dog jerky treats are OK for cats to eat with the following ingredients: 

Ingredients: Chicken Breast, Vegetable Glycerin.

Dog Jerky NOT OK for CATS

On the other hand, let’s examine another popular dog treat in the jerky style. At first glance, it looks very similar to the previous product. 

This Newman’s Own beef dog jerky is NOT OK for cats due to the inclusion of garlic powder. One bite of these treats won’t kill your cat, but long-term feeding could cause anemia.

Ingredients: Beef, Brown Sugar, Garlic Powder, Salt, Natural Flavor, Apple Cider Vinegar, Paprika, Mixed Tocopherols (a Preservative).

Can Cats Eat Dog Chews?

Rawhides and bully sticks are typically safe for cats because they don’t contain any of the big three cat-caution ingredients. But they’re still pretty notorious for causing upset stomachs and diarrhea in some dogs and the same could be expected for some cats. 

A pet owner should check the label on anything considered a dog chew. Look out for the three caution ingredients: onion, garlic and propylene glycol. Avoid feeding your cat any dog chew with these ingredients. They’re not highly toxic, but if your healthy cat eats enough she could develop anemia. 

Can Cats Eat Peanut Butter Dog Treats?

It seems like most dogs LOVE peanut butter! But can cats eat peanut butter or dog treats containing peanut butter? 

Plain peanut butter (sweetened or not) is OK for cats, it’s the other ingredients added to dog treats that could be a problem. Check all labels for the same three cat-caution ingredients we’ve been discussing: garlic, onion and propylene glycol. 

You may have heard that the sugar-free sweetener xylitol that is present in some peanut butter is highly toxic to DOGS. Fortunately, xylitol is not toxic to cats (5).  

Peanut Butter Dog Treats OK for CATS

Here’s a beloved dog treat made with peanut butter. These would be OK for cats to eat considering the label doesn’t have any caution ingredients:

Ingredients: Peanut Butter, Barley, Rice, Oats, Malted Barley Extract, Vegetable Glycerin, Tapioca Starch Modified, Cherries, Potato Protein, Dried Cultured Whey Product, Sunflower Lecithin, Salt, Phosphoric Acid, Turmeric Spice, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Proteinate, Citric Acid For Freshness, Mixed Tocopherols For Freshness, Rosemary Extract.

Heinz Body Anemia in Cats

Some ingredients in dog biscuits and chews can cause health problems for cats. However, in most cases, a single treat or even a treat once a week probably won’t cause any trouble.

In other words, if your cat sneaks a bite of a dog biscuit with these ingredients, you don’t need to rush her to the veterinarian. If she eats treats with these ingredients daily for multiple days, you could see some changes on blood tests whether or not you notice any symptoms. 

The problem caused by our three cat caution ingredients (onion, garlic and propylene glycol) is oxidative changes in the oxygen-carrying compound, hemoglobin, inside a cat’s red blood cells. The caution ingredients cause hemoglobin to twist and rupture the red blood cell’s membrane. If enough red blood cells rupture, the cat will experience symptoms of anemia including:

  • Pale gums
  • Increased respiratory rate
  • Weakness
  • Decreased appetite
Alliums like onion and garlic can cause anemia when cats eat significant quantities.

Onions, Garlic and Other Alliums

Cats are quite sensitive to foods from the allium family which includes onion, garlic, chives and leeks. These plants contain a compound called n-propyl disulfide which causes oxidative damage inside red blood cells. 

Dogs can tolerate a bit of onion or garlic powder in their dog food and treats, but cats have developed anemia after eating chicken baby food containing onion powder for a couple of months (9).

Propylene Glycol

Propylene glycol is a preservative used in some semi-moist dog food and treats. High levels cause Heinz bodies and increased D-lactate levels in cats which can cause depression and ataxia (wobbly gait) (4). 

The changes to hemoglobin caused by propylene glycol may not be severe enough to cause clinical signs if a cat eats just a little bit. But one study found Heinz body formation and associated anemia in cats fed as low as 6% of their diet from propylene glycol (2). 

It’s definitely not a great idea to feed dog treats containing onion, garlic or propylene glycol to your cat on purpose. And especially avoid feeding them habitually!

can cats eat dog treats? Gray and white cat eating a treat held by a person's hand.
I hope that’s NOT a Pup-Peroni!

Safe Ingredients You May Have Heard Were Toxic to Cats

Plenty of well-meaning individuals have given questionable advice on the internet about ingredients in dog food and cat food that are supposedly poisonous to pets. The following ingredients may be confusing or controversial, but they’re really not poisonous, except in the case of xylitol which IS poisonous but only to dogs. 


Vegetable glycerin is a liquid substance derived from natural oils. Glycerin is used as a “humectant” in pet food and treats. It is toxic to animals only when eaten in MASSIVE quantities. One study showed cats excreted glycerol in their urine when it made up 10% of a cat’s diet, but it had no apparent health consequences (8). 


Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) are commonly used preservatives. The US FDA (3) and the National Cancer Institute have determined these substances are safe when added to food in small quantities. While it’s true that they have cancer-promoting properties but only when consumed in massive quantities. They also have ANTI-CANCER properties (7)! 

My advice? If you can avoid pet food and treats containing BHA and BHT, all the better. But don’t panic if your dog or cat gets an occasional bite of these preservatives. 

can cats eat dog treats with rosemary extract?

Rosemary Extract

Rosemary extract is included as a natural preservative in pet supplements, food and treats. A few years ago, internet speculators were asserting that rosemary extract causes seizures or other neurological problems in cats. 

The concern probably stems from the fact that rosemary essential oil has a large amount of phenols which cats are very sensitive to. But rosemary extract is collected in a different way from essential oil and doesn’t contain the same compounds (6). 

We don’t have any science-backed evidence of rosemary extract causing problems in cats. A 2008 study found no signs of acute toxicity in rats when they were fed a whopping 2000 mg/kg of rosemary extract (1). 

The essential oil of rosemary could cause a problem for cats, but there is no data documenting acute problems in cats eating a tiny amount of rosemary extract used as a preservative in dog treats. 


Xylitol is a sugar substitute used to sweeten human food products. Xylitol is highly toxic to dogs, causing blood sugar problems and liver failure even at low doses. It’s not an ingredient you’ll find in dog treats, anyway, but I wanted to point out that xylitol is NOT TOXIC to cats (5) as several internet sources would have you believe.

Dog Treats NOT OK for CATS

This table shows popular dog treats that have ingredients that would be a problem for a cat or kitten. Avoid feeding these to your cat, but a single bite or rare ingestion of a whole treat is unlikely to cause noticeable problems.

Dog Treat
Good'N'Fun Triple Flavored Rawhide Kabobs for Dogs
Wellness Natural Grain Free Puppy Training Treats
Milk-Bone Soft & Chewy Beef Snacks Dog Treats
Snausages In a Blanket Beef & Cheese Flavor Dog Snacks
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Garlic Powder
Garlic Powder
Propylene Glycol
Garlic Powder, Propylene Glycol
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Vegetable Glycerin
Vegetable Glycerin, Rosemary Extract
Dog Treat
Good'N'Fun Triple Flavored Rawhide Kabobs for Dogs
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Garlic Powder
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Vegetable Glycerin
Dog Treat
Wellness Natural Grain Free Puppy Training Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Garlic Powder
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Vegetable Glycerin, Rosemary Extract
Dog Treat
Milk-Bone Soft & Chewy Beef Snacks Dog Treats
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Propylene Glycol
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients
Dog Treat
Snausages In a Blanket Beef & Cheese Flavor Dog Snacks
Cat UNSAFE Ingredients
Garlic Powder, Propylene Glycol
Controversial But Cat SAFE Ingredients

My Favorite Treats Safe for Dogs and Cats

My all-time favorite pet treat for both dogs and cats is simple, dehydrated turkey breast. Here’s the brand I like: 

Pet parents, cats and dogs all love these treats. They stay fresh a long time and it’s easy to break off tiny pieces for rewards and training. I also like to toss the little pieces for animals to distract them from procedures that might upset them (like taking their temperature, etc.). 

Unlike dehydrated liver treats (which is kind of like “crack” to many animals), you won’t overdose your pet on vitamin A even if you give them quite a few of these turkey treats. 


So, can cats eat dog treats? Many dog treats are perfectly safe for cats. But some have ingredients that can cause health problems for cats if they eat a lot or eat the treats regularly over a period of days to weeks. 

Always check the label on any dog treat you plan on feeding to a cat! Look out for garlic, onion, and propylene glycol. If you see any of these listed on the label’s ingredient list, don’t feed that treat to your kitty. 

There are plenty of dog treats without these problematic ingredients that your dog will love. Then you don’t have to worry at all if your pup decides to share one of his nummies with his feline furry friend!

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page.

Click to View References
  1. Anadon, A., Martinez-Larranaga, M. R., Martinez, M. A., Ares, I., Garcia-Risco, M. R., Senorans, F. J., & Reglero, G. (2008). Acute oral safety study of rosemary extracts in rats. Journal of food protection, 71(4), 790-795.
  2. Bauer, M. C., Weiss, D. J., & Perman, V. (1992). Hematologic alterations in adult cats fed 6 or 12% propylene glycol. American journal of veterinary research, 53(1), 69-72.
  3. CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. (n.d.). Retrieved April 17, 2021, from https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=172.115
  4. Christopher, M. M., Eckfeldt, J. H., & Eaton, J. W. (1990). Propylene glycol ingestion causes D-lactic acidosis. Laboratory investigation; a journal of technical methods and pathology, 62(1), 114-118.
  5. Jerzsele, Á., Karancsi, Z., Pászti-Gere, E., Sterczer, Á., Bersényi, A., Fodor, K., … & Vajdovich, P. (2018). Effects of po administered xylitol in cats. Journal of veterinary pharmacology and therapeutics, 41(3), 409-414.
  6. Labs, V. (2017, April 06). Is rosemary bad for my pet? Retrieved April 17, 2021, from https://www.vetriscience.com/blog/2017/04/is-rosemary-bad-for-my-pet/
  7. Kahl, R., & Kappus, H. (1993). Toxicology of the synthetic antioxidants BHA and BHT in comparison with the natural antioxidant vitamin E. Zeitschrift fur Lebensmittel-untersuchung und-forschung, 196(4), 329-338.
  8. Machado, G. S., Pezzali, J. G., Marx, F. R., Kessler, A. M., & Trevizan, L. (2017). Palatability, digestibility, and metabolizable energy of dietary glycerol in adult cats. Journal of animal science, 95(2), 752-760.
  9. Robertson, J. E., Christopher, M. M., & Rogers, Q. R. (1998). Heinz body formation in cats fed baby food containing onion powder. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 212(8), 1260-1266.

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3 Reasons Your Dog Is Pacing & Panting (Especially at Night)

Editor’s Note: NaturalPetsHQ.com is supported by readers and may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Recommendations are based on personal experience and criteria outlined in the article.

“Help! My dog keeps panting and won’t settle down!” This distress call comes in from time to time from clients who have been up half the night because your dog is pacing and panting. Are you up in the middle of the night because of a certain dog who is panting and restless at night? I sure hope not, but if you are, know you’re not alone.

The causes for dogs panting at night include pain, illness, anxiety, neurological and cognitive problems. In addition to pacing and panting, the same dogs may be plagued by restlessness at night, difficulty lying down, and crying or whining. I’ll help you play detective to home in on the underlying cause.

Why Do Dogs Pant Excessively Sometimes?

Let’s discuss the three big reasons for dog pacing and panting that cover most situations:

1. He Doesn’t Feel Good (Pain or Illness)

2. He’s Worried (Anxiety)

3. Neurologic or Cognitive Problems

I’ve had plenty of clients complain about their dog panting at night. They’re up at 3 a.m. wondering, “Why is my dog panting and restless?” Although it can happen at any time of day, it’s enough to drive a normally rational human to exhausted frustration when it happens at night.

Why abnormal panting and pacing always seems to happen at night is up for debate. It could be simply because you’re home and trying to rest so it is more obvious (annoying). And some dogs might be more disturbed when the house is dark and quiet.

Read through the following sections to get some ideas on why your buddy is breathing hard and restless.

1. He Doesn’t Feel Good

Dogs don’t have a great means of communicating with humans that they’re in pain. In fact, most people don’t even recognize that their pet is uncomfortable until it’s severe enough to make them stop eating or stop walking.

Owners sometimes think their dog is panting for no reason but heavy panting and pacing are often a sign of pain. Dogs with a painful condition are unsettled and restless because they hurt too much to lie in one position for very long.

In dogs, pain can come from different sources including:

Muscle and Joint Pain in Dogs Who Won’t Settle Down

Dogs living with osteoarthritis experience aching from degenerative joint disease which is very common in dogs over the age of seven. Symptoms of musculoskeletal pain include stiffness, limping, decreased activity as well as having a hard time settling down and panting at night.

It’s hard to tell exactly where the soreness is coming from in some dogs, but sometimes they get so sore you’ll notice your dog keeps pacing and won’t lay down for very long. They seem to be restless, when in fact they’re just too sore to settle.

Glucosamine supplements like Glycoflex 3 are well-tolerated and may help ease chronic musculoskeletal soreness. I often have seniors take Zesty Paws Curcumin Bites for inflammation, too.

Get more tips for achy joints: How to Help Your Dog With Arthritis at Home

Glycoflex III chewable tablets
My senior dogs take Glycoflex 3 (also available as chew treats).

Stomach or Intestinal Pain

Esophageal, stomach, intestinal, pancreatitis and colonic irritation cause mild to severe pain. There may or may not be other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased appetite. Chronic GI distress is common in dogs.

If you’ve ever experienced nausea, you know the feeling is impossible to ignore. Dogs who are nauseated from stomach irritation, pancreatitis, or medicine may become distressed. Pacing, abnormal panting and restlessness is their way of trying to deal with the unpleasantness of nausea.

Nauseated dogs often have other symptoms like vomiting, eating grass, licking themselves or objects, drooling, increased drinking, or decreased appetite.

Neurological (Back) Pain

Intervertebral disc disease (slipped disc) is common in small and large breed dogs.

It can cause mild, chronic discomfort or severe, acute pain. Dogs with IVDD have a hard time getting comfortable and tend to pant more than usual.

They are often restless and won’t lay down due to back pain. Other symptoms include a dog yelping randomly, hiding, panting and shaking.

Bladder Pain

Bladder infections and stones are common in senior pets and certain breeds of dogs. Common symptoms of urinary tract infection and inflammation are increased frequency of urination, peeing in the house or bed, straining to urinate, foul urine odor, and blood in the urine.

When a client says, “Why is my dog panting and restless?” I always check a urinalysis as part of the workup. In some cases, unrest and heavy panting may be the only symptoms of urinary tract infection.

Collie (dog panting at night)

Drug Side Effects

Medication side effects can cause nausea, discomfort, hyperactivity and nervousness. If your restless dog is taking any medicine, ask your veterinarian whether it could be causing the unwanted symptoms. Here’s a list of a few medications that might cause agitation or abnormal panting and pacing:

DrugSide Effects
Corticosteroids (prednisone, prednisolone, methylprednisolone)Restlessness, aggression, increased thirst, hunger & urination
Opioids (morphine, buprenorphine and hydromorphone)Hyperactivity, restlessness & panting in some dogs
Phenylpropanolamine (brand name: Proin)Increased blood pressure, restlessness
Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories (Rimadyl, Deramaxx, Previcox, and Metacam)Stomach and intestinal pain, diarrhea, vomiting and restlessness
Sedatives (Xanax/alprazolam, Valium/diazepam, acepromazine)Paradoxical restlessness, agitation
Antihistamines (Benadryl, Zyrtec)Paradoxical hyperactivity, restlessness


Commonly referred to as “steroids,” these drugs make some pets feel anxious. Corticosteroids also cause an increase in thirst, hunger and urination that can lead to restlessness.


Opioids are used to treat severe pain. This class of drugs stimulates some dogs to the point where they won’t lay down. But sometimes it hard to know if it’s the drugs or the pain when your dog keeps panting and won’t settle.

These side effects may show up during use or when they’re discontinued. Opioids have been known to cause some dog panting at night.

Phenylpropanolamine (brand name: Proin)

Vets prescribe Proin to control urine incontinence in dogs. Most do fine with it but it may have a stimulatory effect that leads to restlessness in some.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs)

Anti-inflammatories work wonders for inflammation but they also cause gastrointestinal irritation. NSAIDs might cause pacing and quick respiration due to GI distress.


Even sedatives can make dogs restless. It’s a well-known fact that some dogs will have a paradoxical reaction to sedatives. Instead of becoming relaxed and sleepy, they feel anxious and alert.

Benzodiazepine drugs are the most notorious for causing paradoxical reactions in dogs. Acepromazine is another sedative that can cause agitated behavior.


Most dogs get sleepy or feel no effect from taking antihistamines. But a few dogs pant and may become paradoxically hyperactive, restless or anxious when they take antihistamines.

Cushing’s Disease

Also known as hyperadrenocorticism, Cushing’s Disease symptoms are caused by excessive cortisone production by a dog’s adrenal glands. The disease occurs in dogs at a rate of about 1 to 2 cases per 1,000 dogs each year (1).

When an animal has too much naturally-produced cortisone, it’s like he’s taking large doses of steroids (prednisone) every day.

Symptoms of hyperadrenocorticism include increased thirst, appetite, and urination, weight gain, pot-belly appearance, hair loss, and panting for no reason. The disease occurs more often in dogs 9 years and older so it’s a common finding for a senior dog panting at night.

One of the most bothersome symptoms reported by my clients is their dog panting at night, often accompanied by pacing or general restlessness. It may be due to weight gain or feeling hot (nobody knows for sure).

Cushing’s disease’s tendency to cause frequent urination, constant hunger and an unquenchable thirst makes them even more restless.

Ask your vet about testing and treatment. There are a couple of treatment options for Cushing’s dogs that greatly reduce their symptoms.

Labrador dog pacing and panting, senior dog panting at night

Laryngeal Paralysis

The larynx is the “Adam’s Apple” part of a dog’s throat that houses the vocal cords. Muscles in the larynx become paralyzed when there is damage or degeneration of the nerves supplying the area.

Symptoms of laryngeal paralysis include increased panting, noisy or heavy breathing, difficulty sleeping, changes in voice and exercise intolerance. Affected dogs tend to pant and pace when they have trouble breathing.

Heart or Lung Disease

When an animal can’t oxygenate their blood properly, a feeling of panic and restlessness sets in. Occasionally, after doing the appropriate testing, we find out this is the reason a dog is panting and pacing so much.

There are many diseases that can affect a dog’s heart and lungs. Some of the more common forms of heart disease are congestive heart failure, bacterial or fungal pneumonia and bronchitis. In these cases, dogs pant due to oxygen deprivation.

Watch for coughing, a bluish tongue. You’ll notice rapid breathing even while your pet is sleeping.

If you suspect breathing difficulty, get your buddy to a clinic immediately as their condition can deteriorate quickly.


Overheating can occur at temperatures lower than you might expect. When I lived in the South, it seemed like we’d see a rash of dogs with heatstroke every year on the first few warm days of spring.

Symptoms of heatstroke include excessive panting, weakness or agitation, very red tongue and gums, or the dog’s gums and tongue might be bluish.

I always notice heatstroke dogs seem to open their mouth wider than you see with normal panting and their tongue looks super long!

If you check a rectal temperature and it’s over 103, your dog might be overheated. After wetting him down with tepid water, get him to a vet clinic immediately.

This kind of trauma can be life-threatening even days after your pet seems to have partially recovered.

Help for Pain & Disease-Related Restlessness

Diagnostic Testing

The best way to make a real difference in your behavior is to find a specific cause and treat it appropriately. Targeted treatment will save time and money and help everyone get a good night’s sleep sooner.

With so many possible causes for agitation, testing is necessary to choose the best treatment. Most dogs will need these basic diagnostic tests from their veterinarian:

  • Physical examination
  • Blood tests, urinalysis, and tests for Cushing’s disease if indicated
  • Radiographs (x-rays), possibly ultrasound or other special imaging studies

Once you figure out what’s bothering your buddy, you can try some of the following tips in addition to whatever treatment your vet recommends…

Put on a Brave Face

Maintain a positive attitude. Dogs are masters of interpreting human behavior. When pet parent shows worry, frustration, and anger it invariably affects their dog’s behavior.

Upgrade Your Pup’s Bed

More comfortable bedding can make a huge difference for dogs who are sore or underweight. When it hurts to lay down, it’s tough to relax at night.

I recommend starting with a high-quality, thick bed (Amazon link) that is larger than you would think necessary. Some dogs love having a bolster on at least one side of their bed. You might need to experiment to find one your buddy really loves.

I bought a couple “deep dish” beds (Amazon link) over six years ago and they’re still in good condition after many washes. My dogs love the thick memory foam on the bottom and the bolster around three sides.

black dog lying on dog bed

One of my dogs on a Memory Foam Dog Bed (Amazon link)

Increase Exercise

Geriatric dogs are notorious for not wanting to get up and move around but it helps them a lot to have regular exercise.

Take your buddy on daily walks lasting at least 5-10 minutes. You can go longer if your buddy is up to it but stop early so you don’t overdo it.

Try taking a walk in the evening before bedtime, especially if your dog is restless and panting at night.

The exercise helps keep a dog’s muscles and joints limber and getting out of the house satisfies the psychological need for stimulus.

For dogs who can’t walk due to severe health issues, outings in an awesome stroller like this one (Amazon link), or even a short car ride can be beneficial.

Environmental Enrichment

Boredom is not good for the psyche of dogs. They need something to think about, something to do with their minds. Sleeping 23 hours a day is not a luxury, it’s a sign of extreme boredom!

Try some food puzzles and interactive toys. One of the most popular interactive dog toys I’ve ever seen is the Orbee-Tuff Snoop Ball (Amazon link), shown below. Load it with low-calorie treats and your dog will have a blast rolling the ball around to get the treats out.

Orbee Tough Snoop ball for dog pacing and panting, dog panting at night

Or make your own inexpensive interactive dog toy by overturning a few plastic cups and hiding a treat under one of them. It may seem trivial to you, but this kind of “thinking” game has big positive payoffs for dogs.

Don’t believe the old adage that old dogs can’t learn new tricks. Any dog with a brain can learn and adapt but you might need to figure out the appropriate level of training for your dog.

Try using clicker training to teach your dog some simple behaviors like standing on a certain carpet to get a treat. Dogs love positive reinforcement training. And it’s very gratifying to see your dog make the connection between what you’re asking him to do and getting a reward!

Upgrade Your Dog’s Diet

Introduce some fresh foods to increase natural anti-oxidants and healthy fats in your dog’s diet. Ask your vet first, especially if your dog has health problems or a very sensitive stomach. Slowly introduce low-fat, bland fresh foods. Start with a tablespoon of pureed cooked green vegetables (broccoli is popular), baked sweet potato, or lean cooked meat.

Gradually increase the number of fresh foods your dog eats daily over a period of weeks. You can feed up to a third of a dog’s daily food intake from non-balanced fresh foods and not risk causing deficiencies.

The intact vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats in fresh foods give dogs a health boost. It also provides variety and psychological rewards.

Read my article about What to Do When Your Older Dog Stops Eating.

Herbal Remedies

Gingko Biloba, Bupleurum, cat’s claw, ginseng, Rehmannia… herbal remedies like these (and many others) have been used through the ages to treat human ailments. Herbs can also benefit dogs suffering from pain, anxiety, and cognitive changes.

Find a veterinarian trained in herbology if you want to try this option. There are so many combinations of herbs, you could waste a lot of time and money trying to choose the best one to treat your dog’s specific condition.

You can find a list of vets in your areas who work with Chinese Herbs on the Chi Institute’s website. The Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association’s website can also guide you to veterinarians versed herbology.

Remember, even though herbs are natural, they can cause unwanted side effects when used inappropriately.

Natural Anti-inflammatories and Joint Supplements

If your vet suspects pain is the cause of your dog’s pacing and panting, try some natural supplements before reaching for a prescription.

Natural anti-inflammatories like turmeric and Boswellia quell the hurt of age-related arthritis without the harsh side effects of prescription medications. Glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM are joint supplements that lubricate aging joints and increase mobility.

  • Zesty Paws Curcumin Bites Contains turmeric’s active ingredient, curcumin, coconut oil and a black pepper extract to increase absorption.
  • GlycoFlex 3 Perna canaliculus (green-lipped mussel), DMG, glucosamine and MSM lubricate joints and decrease soreness.

Want to try natural pain relief? Read this: Turmeric and Curcumin for Dogs

Alternative Therapies

Alternative therapies are helpful for dogs with painful conditions like osteoarthritis. All these can be used in conjunction with natural or prescription pain medicines. Click on the links above to find a practitioner near you.

Prescription Pain Medications

If you’ve tried several of the gentler options but the result is not good, consider using prescription pain medication. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work well for more serious pain conditions.

Popular brand names include Rimadyl, Previcox and Deramaxx. These are quite effective at controlling pain but they’re strong medicines. They can produce serious side effects, so try some of the gentler options mentioned above first.

Dogs with severe pain may need more than prescription NSAIDs. Veterinarians prescribe gabapentin, tramadol, hydrocodone and other opioids for dogs with pain that can’t be controlled with NSAIDs. They are reserved for those dogs who really need them due to their negative side effects.

2. He’s Worried

Another big cause of dogs panting at night is anxiety. The cause could be from physical changes or from something that’s purely behavioral.

Vision and Hearing Problems

If your old dog is panting and restless, it could be from worsening vision and hearing. Although most dogs develop hearing loss gradually, you might not notice it until they’re nearly deaf. Most senior dogs have some level of hearing loss by age 12 (6).

Do your dog’s eyes look cloudy? That’s common in dogs over the age of seven, but noticeable vision loss is not as common as noticeable hearing loss. The reason is that as long as dogs have some vision they can compensate pretty well, so you might not notice mild visual impairment. Very elderly dogs are more likely to have trouble seeing, especially in dim lighting.

Sudden loss of hearing and vision can cause a dog distress and worry, especially at night when light and sounds are not as strong as during the day. Dogs sometimes cope with this kind of distress by pacing and panting.

An anxious dog due to thunderstorm phobia.

Psychological Distress

If you’ve ever stared at the ceiling at midnight, worrying about something that happened during the day, you know anxiety is an enemy of sleep. The same is true for dogs.

Separation anxiety, noise and storm phobia all prevent dogs from relaxing. If there’s something (or someone) new in the home or in their routine, some dogs react with pacing and panting.

When one of my dogs was young, the minute she heard wind, rain or loud noises she’d start panting and shaking and wouldn’t leave my side! Even after she jumped on the bed with me, my dog was unsettled the whole time.

There may even be a noise bothering your dog that you haven’t even noticed. Machinery, fireworks and even the neighbor’s beeping smoke alarm battery alert can drive dogs crazy. I’ve used Adaptil diffusers and Composure chews with L-theanine successfully when my dog gets upset over stormy weather.

Help for Dogs With Anxiety

Anxiety is a very common problem in dogs these days. Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help your dog feel more secure. After consulting with your veterinarian, check out some of the following options to help your dog calm down, settle in and stop pacing and panting!

Calming Supplements

Most calming supplements contain l-theanine, an amino acid shown to decrease anxiety in noise-phobic dogs (4). The brand I recommend is Composure.


Adaptil is a pheromone-based compound that comes in the form of a diffuser, a spray or a collar. Pheromone therapy has shown promise in reducing symptoms of stress in dogs (7).

Pressure Wrap/Thundershirt

Animal behavior researcher Temple Grandin discovered anxious animals respond positively to steady pressure applied over the large surfaces of their bodies. A Thundershirt is a convenient way to use a body wrap on your dog. They are clinically proven to decrease behaviors associated with anxiousness in dogs (2).

VetriScience Laboratories Composure, Calming Support for...
Adaptil [DAP] Calming Spray (60 mL)
Thundershirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket, Platinum, Medium
Through a Dog's Ear (3-CD Box Set) Calm Your Canine Series
VetriScience Laboratories Composure, Calming Support for...
Adaptil [DAP] Calming Spray (60 mL)
Thundershirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket, Platinum, Medium
Through a Dog's Ear (3-CD Box Set) Calm Your Canine Series
VetriScience Laboratories Composure, Calming Support for...
VetriScience Laboratories Composure, Calming Support for...
Adaptil [DAP] Calming Spray (60 mL)
Adaptil [DAP] Calming Spray (60 mL)
Thundershirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket, Platinum, Medium
Thundershirt Sport Dog Anxiety Jacket, Platinum, Medium
Through a Dog's Ear (3-CD Box Set) Calm Your Canine Series
Through a Dog's Ear (3-CD Box Set) Calm Your Canine Series

Calming Music

Don’t scoff at this suggestion! It actually works.

Joshua Leeds is a sound researcher who developed a line of CD’s called “Through a Dog’s Ear” with music to calm dogs. I’ve played them for many dogs and they seem to have a beneficial effect. The music is also pleasant for humans since the CD’s use classical music you’ve probably heard before. I find that when humans are relaxed, their dogs will be more relaxed!

A white noise generator is another option to cover bothersome noises if music is too distracting.

Sedatives/Anxiolytic Meds for Pacing and Panting Dogs

If you’ve tried everything outlined here without improvement, or if your dog is causing harm to himself, seek guidance from your veterinarian. I always save these strong medications for extreme cases due to their risk of side effects.

In many cases, drugs can calm your dog enough so gentler methods will begin to get through to him. He may only need to take strong drugs for a short period of time until behavior modifications take effect.

3. Neurologic or Cognitive Problems

Dogs of any age can be affected by neurologic diseases, including cognitive problems. Dogs over the age of about nine or ten experience these changes more often. The older a dog gets, the more likely she is to have one or more neurologic problems resulting from aging. This can result in excessive panting in older dogs, along with other symptoms.

Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS)

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CDS) is also referred to as senility or dementia. Dogs over 11 years old are at increased risk for developing CDS, but it can start as early as 7 years old. The older a dog gets, the more likely they are to develop at least one symptom of CDS.

Dogs affected by canine CDS show strange behavior, confusion, wandering, loss of house training, poor memory, abnormal sleep-wake cycles, changes in social behaviors, decreased play behavior and decreased appetite. CDS is a common cause for old dog pacing and panting, especially at night.

A dog with CDS pacing and circling.

Brain Tumor

I almost hate to list this one because I don’t want you to jump to the conclusion that your dog has a brain tumor. However, the reality is that any dog can get cancer. According to PetCure Oncology, dogs over the age of five are more at risk for developing brain tumors. Brain tumors are not super common in dogs, but not also not rare.

If your senior dog is suddenly pacing and acting weird, walking in circles or seems “not with it,” get a vet to check him. It can be hard to differentiate between brain tumors, cognitive abnormalities and inner ear problems but your vet can help to sort things out.

Help for Dogs with CDS

If you and your vet determine your dog has symptoms of CDS, there are many things you can try to make your life with your dog more peaceful. Some of the following recommendations are more proven than others. Discuss supplements with your dog’s veterinarian, especially if your dog has other health problems.


Melatonin is an over-the-counter hormone that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. It’s generally regarded as safe for use in dogs but ask your vet first. Melatonin given 30 minutes before bedtime may be just the thing to help your older dog relax at night.

Make sure you provide darkness, too! No leaving the lights or TV on at all hours of the night.

Click the link below to view chewable melatonin tablets made especially for dogs on Amazon.com.


SAM-e stands for S-Adenosyl-L-methionine. SAM-e is a chemical made naturally in the body from the amino acid methionine. SAM-e is beneficial in improving age-related mental decline (5). 

Denosyl is a canine supplement that contains the right amount of SAM-e for dogs (click the link to view on Amazon.com). I’ve had hundreds of client dogs take SAM-e and recommend it for dogs with cognitive problems.


dog pacing and panting

Senilife is a nutritional supplement that contains Phosphatidylserine and Pyridoxine to regulate and restore neurotransmission, plus Resveratrol, Ginkgo biloba and vitamin E to provide neuronal antioxidant protection.

This combination of nutritional compounds and herbs formulated to support healthy brain function in senior dogs. The manufacturer recommends starting dogs at age six and up.

Some of my clients and veterinary colleagues swear by Senilife (click to view on Amazon.com) for senior dogs who aren’t as sharp as they used to be.


MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides. MCTs are a special kind of fat that is metabolized into ketone bodies which act as an alternative energy source for aging brains. A 2010 study showed improved cognition in dogs treated with MCT oil (3).

Try this MCT oil supplement made specifically for dogs (click to view on Amazon.com) and start with very small amounts to avoid digestive upset.


If your dog is panting at night or pacing excessively, don’t panic. First, analyze the situation and try to figure out if anything has changed that might be bothering your dog. Choose one or two of the options discussed in this article and give it at least a week before you give up on it.


  • Changes will take time, any sign of improvement is encouragement to keep going.
  • Try only one intervention at a time so you’ll know if it works for your dog’s panting and pacing.
  • If symptoms get worse, stop the new intervention. If things don’t improve, get a veterinarian exam as your dog’s health can change quickly.

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page. 

Click to View References
  1. de Bruin, C., Meij, B. P., Kooistra, H. S., Hanson, J. M., Lamberts, S. W. J., & Hofland, L. J. (2009). Cushing’s disease in dogs and humans. Hormone Research in Paediatrics, 71(Suppl. 1), 140–143.

2. King, C., Buffington, L., Smith, T. J., & Grandin, T. (2014). The effect of a pressure wrap (ThunderShirt®) on heart rate and behavior in canines diagnosed with anxiety disorder. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 9(5), 215–221.

3. Pan, Y., Larson, B., Araujo, J. A., Lau, W., De Rivera, C., Santana, R., … & Milgram, N. W. (2010). Dietary supplementation with medium-chain TAG has long-lasting cognition-enhancing effects in aged dogs. British journal of nutrition, 103(12), 1746–1754.

4. Pike, A. L., Horwitz, D. F., & Lobprise, H. (2015). An open-label prospective study of the use of l-theanine (Anxitane) in storm-sensitive client-owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research, 10(4), 324–331.

5. Rème, C. A., Dramard, V., Kern, L., Hofmans, J., Halsberghe, C., & Mombiela, D. V. (2008). Effect of S-adenosylmethionine tablets on the reduction of age-related mental decline in dogs: a double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Veterinary Therapeutics, 9(2), 69.

6. SHIMADA, A., EBISU, M., MORITA, T., TAKEUCHI, T., & UMEMURA, T. (1998). Age-related changes in the cochlea and cochlear nuclei of dogs. Journal of veterinary medical science, 60(1), 41–48.

7. Tod, E., Brander, D., & Waran, N. (2005). Efficacy of dog appeasing pheromone in reducing stress and fear-related behaviour in shelter dogs. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 93(3–4), 295–308.

Pinterest graphic for Dog Panting at Night, Dog Pacing & Panting

Can I Use Coconut Oil for My Dog’s Ears?

Editor’s Note: NaturalPetsHQ.com is supported by readers and may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this post. Recommendations are based on personal experience and criteria outlined in the article.

Many of my clients want to know if it’s OK to use coconut oil for dogs’ ears with infections. But most of what they’ve heard about how coconut oil cures everything from the common cold to cancer is greatly exaggerated. Buried somewhere under all the hype are some nuggets of truth about the benefits of coconut oil in dogs.

As a rule, coconut oil is a gentle natural substance that is well-tolerated by most dogs. When applied to a dog’s skin, coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and moisturizing effects. It’s also soothing to irritated skin and may help prevent the recurrence of chronic ear infections (otitis externa) in dogs.

Let’s talk about how you can use coconut oil for dogs’ ears to clean them and prevent infection.

How to use coconut oil for dogs ear infection
Red inner ear flap on a dog.

Why Dogs Get Ear Infections

Environmental allergies and food hypersensitivity are the most common causes of otitis externa in dogs. It can be difficult to definitively diagnose either of these problems without spending a lot of time and money. Vets often make a presumptive diagnosis of allergy based on response to oral or topical steroids. 

Diagnosing food hypersensitivity requires a several-month food allergy trial followed by a challenge with the suspected allergy food. 

Parasites like ear mites are another primary cause seen more often in young dogs who spend time around other animals. 

Bacteria and yeast infections cause secondary otitis externa, usually as a result of allergies or foreign objects (grass seeds, hair, etc.) in the ear.

Coconut Oil Kills Bacteria and Yeast on Skin

Multiple studies have found that components of coconut oil reduce populations of bacteria on contact, including Staphylococcus aureus. Staphylococcus aureus is a common ear bacteria that overgrows in allergic and infected dog ears.

Photomicrograph of Staph. aureus, a common finding in dog ear infections

Research also shows coconut oil also stops yeast. Most of the studies examined coconut oil’s effect on Candida species which is not the main type of yeast infection present in canine ears. Still, it’s possible coconut oil would have a similar effect on Malassezia yeast overgrowth which affects dogs.

Coconut Oil Lubricates Allergic Skin

The moisture level of allergic skin is abnormal and allows for increased growth of bacteria. A study on humans with allergic skin disease found that coconut oil worked better than olive oil at reducing bacterial infection and overgrowth when used topically on allergic dry skin.

Coconut Oil for Ear Mites

Ear mites (Otodectes cyanotis) are parasites that inhabit the ear canal of dogs and cats. They eat the wax and oil produced by ear skin. They cause a lot of inflammation and itchiness and sometimes even lead to secondary bacterial and yeast infections. 

Many different kinds of culinary oils can be used to clear the infestation by  “smothering” the ear mites. Coconut oil has the added benefit of being a mild antibiotic agent. 

What kind of coconut oil for dogs?

Should Dogs Eat Coconut Oil?

Scientists have found coconut oil has anti-inflammatory effects when fed to rats. Although it provided some relief from experimentally-induced inflammation, it was much less effective than ibuprofen.

The nutritional value of coconut oil for humans revolves mainly around its medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). In people, MCT oil may promote satiety and prevent fat storage (1). We don’t know exactly what coconut oil does nutritionally for dogs. 

It’s important to note the antibiotic factors in coconut oil are inactivated in the presence of starch and protein in food. Proteins in the blood also inactivate the active components of coconut oil.

That’s why including coconut oil in a dog’s diet is unlikely to be effective in treating ear infection and inflammation. Besides, many dogs are very sensitive to dietary fat and adding even a teaspoon could set offpancreatitis in some.

I recommend my clients skip feeding their pets coconut oil. You’ll get a bigger bang for your buck by applying coconut oil directly to the inflamed ear skin.

What Kind of Coconut Oil to Use for Your Dog

In general, there are two kinds of coconut oil available in the mass market. Refined coconut oil is processed to remove some of the coconut solids after its pressed. Unrefined, or virgin coconut oil is not processed as much and retains more of the therapeutic compounds we’re looking for to treat infections and inflammation.

Look for virgin coconut oil and if you can find an organic one, all the better for the environment. You can find virgin coconut oil in most grocery stores as well as ordering it online. I like Raw Paws Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for Dogs & Cats, 16-oz -… which is both unrefined and organic.

How to Apply Coconut Oil to Dogs’ Ears

If your dog has an ear problem for the first time, it’s best to see your vet for a proper diagnosis. For dogs with a chronic, low-grade ear infection, you can do home care consisting of regular cleaning followed by applying coconut oil.

1. Clean Out Debris

I recommend Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner, 8 oz as an ear wash. It is gentle and effective at removing waxy goo from inflamed dog ears. It has a mild aroma and doesn’t sting inflamed skin the way apple cider vinegar or hydrogen peroxide does.

Depending on how inflamed the ears are, I have my clients use dog ear cleaner daily for a week, or for less severe cases once or twice a week.

Make sure to literally flood the ear canal with the liquid, wiping out the excess with a soft cotton ball. If you see blood, stop the procedure as wiping more can make inflammation worse.

After cleaning with Epi-Otic Advanced, allow at least 30 minutes for the ears to dry.

Using coconut oil for dogs ears
Applying softened coconut oil gently to a dog’s ear.

2. Wipe Ear Flap With Coconut Oil

Next, apply warm, high-quality coconut oil such as Raw Paws Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for Dogs & Cats, 16-oz -… directly to the ear flap to moisten the skin. You can wipe away excess oil, but don’t rub as that can irritate the skin more.

3. Apply Oil Into Ear Canal

Finally, use a dropper or teaspoon to dribble a few drops of melted (but not hot) coconut oil into the ear canal. Gently massage the base of the ear to distribute the oil.

Massage base of the ear to distribute oil in the ear canal.

There is no need to rinse coconut oil off your dog unless you notice increased redness.

Side Effects of Coconut Oil

Despite its gentleness, coconut oil can cause skin irritation for some dogs. If you notice the skin in your dog’s ear looks redder or develops bumps or sores, discontinue the use of coconut oil and seek help from your veterinarian.

In the event of an allergic reaction, wash the ear flap with mild soap then rinse the coconut oil off your dog with lots of lukewarm water.

Use warm saline solution several times to rinse the coconut oil from the ear canal.


Scientific studies show that coconut oil has antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. But these effects are not as strong as those of pharmaceutical medications, so don’t rely on coconut oil to cure a moderate to severe ear infection on its own.

We don’t have any studies that prove coconut oil’s effectiveness in dogs for any ailment including an ear infection.

In general, coconut oil is a natural remedy that’s safe to use topically for ear infections in most dogs. Watch for uncommon adverse skin reactions to coconut oil application and discontinue use if this occurs.

The content provided on NaturalPetsHQ.com is for informational and entertainment purposes only. Our content is not intended to take the place of professional veterinary advice and should not be relied upon to guide or influence the medical treatment of any animal. For more information please see our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use page. 

Click to View References
  1. Coconut Oil. (2020, July 14). Retrieved April 10, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coconut-oil/
  2. Intahphuak, S., Khonsung, P., & Panthong, A. (2010). Anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antipyretic activities of virgin coconut oil . Pharmaceutical biology, 48(2), 151-157.
  3. Kitahara, T. et al. Antimicrobial activity of saturated fatty acids and fatty amines against methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus . Biol. Pharm. Bull. 27, 1321-1326 (2004).
  4. Ogbolu, D. O., Oni, A. A., Daini, O. A., & Oloko, A. P. (2007). In vitro antimicrobial properties of coconut oil on Candida species in Ibadan, Nigeria . Journal of medicinal food, 10(2), 384-387.
  5. Rouse, M. S., Rotger, M., Piper, K. E., Steckelberg, J. M., Scholz, M., Andrews, J., & Patel, R. (2005). In vitro and in vivo evaluations of the activities of lauric acid monoester formulations against Staphylococcus aureus . Antimicrobial agents and chemotherapy, 49(8), 3187-3191.
  6. Verallo-Rowell, V. M., Dillague, K. M., & Syah-Tjundawan, B. S. (2008). Novel antibacterial and emollient effects of coconut and virgin olive oils in adult atopic dermatitis . Dermatitis, 19(6), 308-315.
  7. Wille, J. J., & Kydonieus, A. (2003). Palmitoleic acid isomer (C16: 1Δ6) in human skin sebum is effective against gram-positive bacteria . Skin Pharmacology and Physiology, 16(3), 176-187.

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How to use coconut oil for dogs' ears.