Health Care Tips for Your Dog
The information listed below is intended to help dog owners but is not intended to replace the advice, counsel, or assistance of licensed personnel. It is always recommended that you seek the help of your veterinarian.
The Vaccine Controversy
While it is important to vaccinate our dogs, there is much debate about how often we should be administering vaccines, and if we should at all due to known side effects. Symptoms of "vaccinosis" (over-vaccination) may present themselves as skin diseases or allergies; year-round shedding, oily or smelly coat; inflammatory bowel disease; arthritis, spondylosis, seizures, loss of motor control; lumps, polyps and cysts, cancer, and even death.
If you're in doubt about your dog's immunity levels, get a titer test. When reading results, know that higher antibody titers indicate better protection. Distemper titers should be above 32; levels between 2-16 provide limited protection. Parvovirus titers should be above 80; levels between 16-32 provide limited protection.
It is recommended to compromise on vaccines, instead of forgoing them entirely. Single dose vaccines can provide lifelong immunity. Rabies vaccines are required by law in most states, but many areas allow a three-year vaccine instead of the annual shot. If you still feel the need to get booster shots, space them apart from each other and not all on the same day.
Dogs should also not be vaccinated along with another procedure, like surgery, spaying/neutering or dental cleaning. Avoid combination shots - they are basically daring the immune system to fight off a handful of diseases at once. The combo shots were designed entirely for human convenience (only one trip to the vet) and are considered by many holistic vets to be the worst for your dog's immune system.
To help relieve symptoms, there are shampoos and sprays that contain oatmeal, aloe and other natural products such as essential oils. Benadryl can be used to treat allergies, sleeplessness, insect bites or stings, and even motion sickness. The general rule of thumb for determining the correct dosage is 1mg per 1lb of the dog's weight, given 2-3x/day. Typical dosage is 25mg-50mg and it is best to not exceed this dosage. For topical use, cut open a Benadryl gel tab, mix with 1 drop of tea tree oil, then spread on gums or rub into bug bite. Beware of any meds that include a steroid such as Temaril or Prednisone, or anti-inflammatories such Tramadol, as as they can cause behavior issues such as anxiety or aggression.
The three common causes are insects, food and the environment. Check your dog for ticks, fleas, mites, bug bites or stings. Keep your dog's bed or crate spotlessly clean. Weekly vacuuming of carpeting and furniture and laundering of your dog's bedding will remove many allergens helping to control dust mites and mold spores. Be aware that cigarette smoke, perfumes, and cleaning products can also affect your dog.
Tennis balls! Some dogs can have allergic reactions to the rubber latex they are made with. Reactions can be mild to severe, causing skin rashes, hives, swelling and closing of the eyes, or closing of the airways. Instead of tennis balls, use rubber balls that manufactured to be safe for dogs.
If your dog is still itchy, consider feeding your dog a raw diet instead of kibble or can food. For dogs with skin allergies, it is recommended you feed rabbit or duck and avoid chicken and lamb. If it is a food allergy, you should see some improvement after the first few weeks.
If you are not able to reduce symptoms within a few days, do not wait to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet will probably recommend skin or blood tests to find out what's causing the allergic reaction.
Never give your dog any medication or supplement without first consulting a licensed veterinary professional. Beware of any meds that include a steroid such as Temaril or Prednisone, or anti-inflammatories such Tramadol, as they can cause behavior issues such as anxiety or aggression. Meloxicam is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory prescription drug (NSAID) that works well for pain and inflammation. Meloxicam dosage should not exceed 0.05-0.1 mg per pound. In a pinch, use buffered aspirin, not enteric-coated aspirin. Enteric-coated aspirin will not provide enough relief from pain as the buffered type since the dog’s digestive tract cannot break down the coating and it will just pass through the dog’s digestive tract. Buffered aspirin dosage should not exceed 20 mg per pound over a 48 hour period. Administer with food and only on rare occassions. Prolonged use can cause organ failure. Avoid over-the-counter products such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen or anything that has caffeine as they are toxic to dogs.
There are steps you can take if you or your dog is bitten that can dramatically decrease the risk of complications. First, control any bleeding by applying a clean towel or washcloth to the wound and apply firm pressure. If the wound is superficial, clip the fur around the wound and then clean the wound gently & thoroughly with hydrogen peroxide. Extreme care must be used since bite wounds are painful and your dog may bite out of fear or pain. You may have to muzzle your dog. Continue cleaning the wound gently 3-4 times a day. It is important to monitor the wound for signs of infection such as excessive redness, swelling or pus. If you notice any signs of infection then a visit with your doctor or veterinarian is needed to evaluate the wound, properly clean it, and make recommendations for treatment such as prescribing antibiotics or a surgical drain. It is also important to restrict movement to avoid reopening the wound delaying healing and increasing the risk of abscessation.
There is much controversy around this, pros and cons for both. Intact dogs want to stray and wander from home due to a desire to mate. Unable to fulfill this need, they can become frustrated and start urine marking, mounting and even become aggressive. If the procedure is done prior to adolescence, these behaviors can be eliminated in most dogs. There is also a decreased risk of mammary, ovarian, and testicular cancers.
This does not mean that you do not need to train your dog. Many believe that neutering a dog will get rid of all his behavior problems. This is a myth. If your dog continues to have serious behavior problems after he’s neutered, contact a dog trainer/behavior specialist.
Less well-known are the adverse effects to neutering/spaying too early. It inhibits the dog's physical and mental development. There is an increased risk of obesity and diabetes, prostate and bone cancer, arthritis and hip dysplasia. There is also an increased risk of endocrine disorders, such as hypothyroidism which can be linked to aggression and anxiety.
Knowing that most behaviors can be managed through good training, it may be beneficial to wait until your dog is 1-2 years of age before having the procedure done.
Trimming Your Dog's Nails
Using a sharp pair of "dog" nail clippers, snip just the very tip of your dog's nails. A good rule is to cut the nails parallel to the toe pads, so that the nails just clear the floor. When using a guillotine cutter, the blade should slice upward from the underside of the nail. If you are using a Dremel tool, carefully hold the tool against the surface of the nail with a slight pressure, removing just a small amount from the tip. Be careful that the tool is not getting warm and heating your dog’s toe. Remember to trim the dewclaw nail, on the inside of the leg.
Even if the nails are very long, only trim off the pointed tip. Otherwise, you may hit the quick, which will bleed and be very painful for your dog. If the tip of the nail begins to bleed, apply pressure using styptic powder, baby powder, or even corn starch. With white nails, you can see the quick as a pinkish spot within the nail. With dark nails, you can see the quick if you shine a flashlight up next to the nail, or you can trim a small part of the nail and then look at it from straight on. The quick will be a small dark circle within the nail. This spot has a group of nerve endings and blood vessels that you cannot clip. When you see this, stop.
The quick will lengthen if you don't trim the nail regularly. Trim off more of your dog's nails once a sharp tip grows again. This could take a few weeks. Gradually, you will be able to decrease the length of the nails.
Some dogs wag their tails constantly, hitting them repeatedly against solid objects causing injury. You will want to wrap your dog's tail in a towel and seek veterinary help to be sure there isn't any nerve damage. To prevent tail injuries, you may want to wrap the tail in vet wrap tape. Using a smaller crate, lined with bedding/padding, can also be helpful. In worst cases, you may need to have the tail docked by your vet.
Motion sickness is normally caused by confusion of the senses. The eyes report that your body is in motion, but the ears say that you are not moving. This is more commonly seen in puppies and younger dogs because the ear structures used for balance aren't fully developed. Have your dog's ears checked as an inner ear infection can also cause motion sickness. Your vet can prescribe medication for your dog when you travel.
If your dog has experienced a few car rides that left him nauseated, he may have been conditioned to equate travel with vomiting, even after his ears have fully matured. Stress can also add to travel sickness, so if your dog has only ever ridden in the car to go to the vet, he may literally worry himself sick on the road.
Stop taking your dog for rides and instead gradually build your dog’s tolerance to car trips.
Do several small sessions over a few days. Get your dog used to just approaching the car. Then just sitting next to the car. Then laying down in the car with the engine off. Then laying down in the car with the engine running. When your dog is ready, take only short trips around the block. Take short car trips to places your dog enjoys, like a park.
Buy special toys that your dog enjoys and only has access to while in the car.
Limit your dog's food consumption prior to travel.
Prior to going anywhere, give your dog a jellybean or two plain ginger cookies or ginger snaps.
Keep the windows open enough to help balance the air pressure inside the car.
Try to make sure your dog is facing forward. Use a doggy seat belt or travel crate if needed.
Travel crates have the added benefit of containing vomit or diarrhea should your dog become ill.
Keeping Dogs Cool
If you feel hot, chances are so does your dog. When dogs are hot (or stressed), they will try to release heat by panting and may secrete pheromones from the glands in the pads of their paws, leaving behind damp paw prints when they walk. However, this is not enough to cool them down. Dogs are able to release heat and cool themselves down more efficiently by laying on cool surfaces such as a cool tile floor,
by jumping into a pool or getting hosed down. Counter-intuitively, fur also helps a dog cope in the heat. Fur actually insulates the body from both cold and heat, much like the insulation in your home. So while it may seem that your dog would be cooler if you shave your dog's coat in the summer, it can actually make your dog hotter.
If your dog seems sluggish, perhaps confused, weak and uncoordinated, panting heavily, tongue and gums looking bright red, gray or purple, drooling excessively and possibly showing signs of fear, your dog is in trouble! Take your dog into the shade or a cool room. Run a constant flow of slightly cool water over his body, the head, neck, chest and groin areas. Use your hand to wipe off the water so it carries the heat with it. Allowing your dog to lay on the steps of a swimming pool works great too. Seek immediate medical attention!
To prevent heatstroke, walk only in the coolest parts of the day during the summer, and keep the walk short. One good rule of thumb is to put your palms or bare feet on the sidewalk; if it's too hot for you, it's too hot for a dog. Keep your home cool or well ventilated. Keep bowls of cool fresh water both inside and outside the house. Think twice about taking your dog on trips and to outdoor events, where it might be hard to prevent them from becoming overheated, and NEVER leave your dog in a parked car on a warm day.
Providing Enough Water
Your dog should drink 1 oz of water per pound of body weight each day. Toy dog breeds, puppies, as well as senior pets, need more water as they are prone to dehydration. Pets with certain health conditions, including kidney disease and diabetes, may also require more water than average. If you are feeding your dog moisture-rich foods, such as a raw diet, some of the water requirements will be met during meals. If you are feeding a dry kibble, you will need to provide more water than normal as this type of diet actually puts incredible stress on the kidneys because of its lack of moisture.
Signs Your Pet May Be Dehydrated
One of the simplest ways to determine if your dog needs to drink more water is to lift some skin at the back of the neck, then let it go. If well-hydrated, the skin will quickly fall back into place, otherwise the skin will fall slower and may stay in a tent formation. You can also check your dog’s gums; they should be moist and slick, not dry or sticky. Also, if you press on your dog’s gums, they should turn white and then quickly turn back to pink when you remove your finger. Other signs of dehydration include fatigue, loss of appetite, panting, sunken or dry eyes, dry nose, constipation. Signs of severe dehydration include weakness and difficulty walking. If your pet is severely dehydrated, get to an emergency veterinary center right away, as your pet will need to be given fluids intravenously.
Bloat (gastric stomach torsion)
Bloat requires IMMEDIATE medical attention or the dog will die. This happens when the stomach flips over (torsion), cutting off blood supply and quickly leading to necrosis (tissue death). Time is critical; minutes can mean the difference between life and death. Do not wait, insist on immediate x-ray.
(This video is used as an educational tool so others can learn to recognize when a dog bloats. The owners had no idea what they were seeing and as soon as they realized something was wrong, he was rushed to the emergency vet in enough time and is now home and doing well.)
Head & tail hanging down
Swelling between rib cage and hips (may not be visible, insist on an x-ray!)
Heavy, labored panting
Abnormal behaviors, whining, pacing, inability to sit or lay down comfortably, refusal to eat
Gagging or attempts to vomit, but nothing coming up, except ropy, slimy saliva
Never provide food or water unless your dog is calm and breathing normal
Drinking a lot of water very quickly when hot and thirsty puts dogs at risk for bloat.
Slow down eating by feeding smaller meals or hand feed
Switch to a raw food diet
Allow your dog to relax for 1 hour before/after eating
Feeding Your Dog
Do not “free-feed” your dog! If your dog does not eat his food, pickup his bowl and he must wait for the next feeding time. There are many benefits to this. Success in training and house-breaking relies heavily on keeping your dog on a consistent feeding schedule. What goes in regular will come out regular.
Make sure you are feeding your dog the proper amount (approx 2% of body weight) of quality dog food each day! The common brands found in grocery stores are the equivalent of fast food, you get what you pay for and you pay for it in vet bills and unwanted behaviors. If the ingredients in your dog food contains corn, wheat or grain, meat by-products, bone meal or anything but a real specified type of meat, stay clear. You can find a list of the best brands of dog food at DogFoodAdvisor.com
. Instead of kibble or food from a can, consider feeding your dog a raw food diet
to improve your dog's overall health, reduce allergies, and improve behaviors. While the better quality dog food may cost more, your dog will produce less waste, your vet bills will be lower, and your dog will feel and behave better.
"We are what we eat."
The food you feed your dogs will impact their health and their mood. The "hot" dog will typically seek cool places, can be hot to the touch, may pant at inappropriate times (while at rest), may be restless, and affected by allergies that create high-arousal. These dogs should be fed cooling foods such as rabbit, duck, goose, beef, pork, or fish.
The "cold" dog will show signs of general weakness, fatigue, slow movement, and a preference to lay around. They will typically seek warm places, have poor appetite, fecal or urinary incontinence, stiffness or joint pain that gets worse with rest or cold weather, and have coldness in their ears, back, and limbs. These dogs can be helped by feeding warming foods like chicken, lamb, venison, or turkey.
Taking Dog Poop Seriously
Your dog's poop should be brown & firm. If it has a really foul odor, an abnormal color, or any other consistency, it should indicate an alert. If any part of the feces moves, run to the nearest vet as your dog may have worms.
Most of the colors we see in our dog's poop is the result of something they ate. However, be on the alert for black, tarry stools or bright red blood as this can mean internal bleeding. Gray or yellowish stool may indicate parasites. Mucus and blood in the stool may indicate parasites or possible tumors. White stool may indicate a lot of calcium in the body, usually seen after the dog has been eating raw bones, however if your dog is not being fed bones, it can signify something serious is wrong, such as a problem with the pancreas or gall bladder, or it could signify a blocked bile duct. If you see more than one or two abnormal bowel movements within 48 hours, please call your vet immediately to have your dog examined.
Coprophagia [cope-ruh-fey-jee-uh, -juh] (eating faeces)
This is a very common behavioral problem. Dogs will eat poop if they are stressed, bored, hungry, or have a vitamin deficiency. You will want to first consult a veterinarian to check for a vitamin deficiency. You will also want to make sure your dog doesn't have any parasites. Then make sure your dog is on heartworm prevention & is current on vaccinations.
The best solution is vigilance. Accompany your dog outdoors on-leash, watch for poop on the ground, and don't let him eat it. Don't scold your dog if he does eat it, just work on your vigilance and timing. Call him off it when you see him go for it, use the leash to pull him off it if you need to, and then praise him for leaving it and coming to you. Make sure you are also walking your dog everyday along with play time. Exercise, routine, and consistency will help reduce stress & boredom which can lead to unwanted behaviors like eating poop. Also, examine your dog's environment and remove or block things that may be causing him stress, such as access unruly children.
Be sure your dog is getting enough water and is eating quality dog food. To help loosen things up so stool can be eliminated, take your dog for a 20 walk.
Need a little help? Try the "Match Trick"!
Hold 1-2 paper matches by the strike end and lubricate the paper end. Then insert the paper end into the dog's anus, leaving the match's strike end hanging out. Then immediately get your dog moving. The paper matches will cause the dog's sphincter to start contracting to push the matches out. Most dogs will poop within 1-3 minutes.
Still no luck? Take your dog to your veterinarian.
Diarrhea & Soft Poop
There are many causes of diarrhea in dogs. Stress, food intolerance, intestinal parasites, tumors, or side affects from medications such as dewormers or antibiotics are common. In most cases, it is caused by sudden changes in a dog's diet or living circumstances. Overfeeding can also cause chronic soft or liquid poop. When it occurs, start by resting the gastrointestinal tract by withholding food for 24 hours, providing only water and probiotics. Then put your dog on an easily digestible and bland diet.
Serve only 50% of your dog's normal food portion the first day, increasing the amount each day by 25% until you are at your dog's normal daily portion size. Be sure you are feeding your dog quality dog food! (see DogFoodAdvisor.com
) If you believe your dog's diarrhea was a result of stress, find ways to make your dog comfortable, examine your dog's environment and work to remove any stressors.
If your dog continues to have diarrhea and shows no improvement or worsens after 48 hours, or at anytime your dog's stool becomes greasy, foul smelling, or has occasional mucus and blood, see your vet immediately! These symptoms can be caused by intestinal parasites or cancerous tumors. Ask your vet to take x-rays, blood and faecal tests. Once your dog is healthy again, feeding a proper raw food diet can help prevent more infections of the intestinal tract.
In multi-dog households, your dog should be isolated and treated, or the entire pack treated together, with meds prescribed by a veterinarian. Kennels, poop scoopers, etc, should be cleaned with a disinfectant such as Best Shot 256. All areas used for exercise should be considered contaminated for at least 30 days. Let surfaces dry out. Always immediately pickup your dog poop. Wash hands with hot soapy water after handling dog and faeces.
Symptoms are your house-trained dog suddenly starts urinating in the house or another inappropriate area, or straining to urinate, or involuntary or uncontrollable leaking of urine, or urinating more frequently or in smaller amounts than usual. The dog's urine may be bloody, foul-smelling or cloudy. Other symptoms can be an unexplained increase in thirst, lack of appetite, lack of energy, or obsessive licking of the genital area.
Finding wet spots in your home doesn't necessarily mean your dog has a medical issue. Make sure your dog is being allowed outside frequently enough. If you think your dog does have incontinence, it could be from a urinary track or bladder infection, or a partial blockage of the urethra. Dogs who have been spayed or neutered may urinate normally, but leak urine while resting. This could be due to hormone incontinence.
Treatments will depend on the cause. See your Vet for a physical exam, blood and urine tests. Your Vet will prescribe the proper medication or hormone supplements and proper treatment. Ask your Vet about estrogen supplements, Resources Canine Incontinence Support, and HomeoPet Leaks No More.
Dogs don’t smell like freshly showered people, they’re not supposed to! A healthy dog who is regularly brushed and bathed should not smell bad. If your dog has an unpleasant odor, you need to find out what it is.
If your dog has a pungent, musty, unique odor that can been compared to moldy bread, cheese popcorn, or corn chips, your dog may have a yeast infection. Scratching and butt scooting are also signs. See your Vet.
If your dog smells like rotting fish and spends a great deal of time licking, digging, or scooting the rear end, your dog may have inflamed, infected or impacted anal glands. See your Vet.
Really bad gas could just be poor diet. If the gas stays constant, or is accompanied with diarrhea or constipation, your dog could have a bacterial infection or parasites. See your Vet.
Oh no! Skunk! Bathing your dog in tomato juice is a myth. To get rid of skunk odor, mix in a pail: 1 quart of 3% hydrogen peroxide, ¼ cup baking soda, 2 teaspoons dishwashing liquid. While wearing gloves, use a sponge to rub the mix into your dog's coat and skin. Avoid getting any into your dog's eyes! When you rinse the head area, tilt your dog's chin upward so the solution runs back off his neck and does not run down into the eyes. Rinse and repeat until the odor is gone. Your final rinse should be very thorough.
This infection is from exposure to mosquitoes or infected dog. See your vet for proper treatment.
During at-home treatment, isolate your dog from spreading infection, keeping your dog in a crate/kennel in a cool, isolated, quiet area. Your dog's crate will also keep your dog as still as possible. Your dog should get very little exercise, only potty breaks, on-leash, away from any excitement. Pickup poop after every dropping to prevent dogs from eating infected stool. Keep activity and excitement levels down, not allowing anything near the dog that can increase heart rate, excitement and anxiety levels, preventing cardiac failure.
This is where "mangy mutt" comes from. It is caused by an infestation of microscopic spiderlike mites. Dogs may scratch and bite themselves with great ferocity and develop lots of hair loss and crusty skin infections near the ears, elbows, legs, and face in the early stages. It will later spread throughout the body. Mange can be highly contagious to both human and dogs, so if your dog is diagnosed with mange, everyone & every pet, and all places where the dog shares space, furniture, etc will need to be treated. Consult with your veterinarian to decide on the best course of action for your pet.
Apply a drop of essential oil such as cedarwood, rose geranium, or peppermint to a q-tip. Vicks VapoRub works too. Gently swab the tick for about 20 seconds. The tick will come out on its own and may be stuck to the q-tip when you lift it away.
Another method is to use a tick removal tool such as a "tick key", a little gizmo that resembles a bottle opener, but has an opening that comes down to a very thin point. Your technique is important. Start by parting your dog’s fur where you see a tick, slip the tick into the key, slide the tick down to the v-point, and then gently turn & lift, just as you would remove a cap off a bottle, and pull the tick out by the mouthparts. You can also use tick tweezers. Be sure to grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, taking care not to break off the head, leaving the head embedded. Also, do not grab the tick by its body or it might regurgitate infected fluids into your dog's body.
Our first line of defense is to use only products that are safe for our dogs, such as essential oils. However essential oils will only repel ticks, not kill them. Sometimes we need to consider the risks between tick borne diseases and the possible side effects from using products that contain chemicals such as Permethrin SFR
- You can make your own repellent by mixing the following:
- 15 drops Cedarwood
- 2 drops Neem
- 3 ml Permethrin SFR
- 0.5 ml Pyriproxyfen
- Add to 4oz spray bottle, fill with distilled water
- Or add to 2oz squeeze bottle, mix with coconut oil
Apply a small amount behind your dog's ears, back of the neck, between the shoulder blades, a few spots down your dog's spine to above the base of the tail, back of the legs, in the armpits and upper chest. At each spot, part the fur until the skin is visible, rub it in so it makes contact with your dog's skin. Do NOT apply excessive amounts as some of the solution could run off on to areas where your dog may lick. Do not re-treat more often than once every two (2) weeks. You may also want to add a little in your dog's bedding.
Remove yard debris, especially leaves. Keep lawn mowed short. Spraying your yard on a regular basis with products such as Cedarcide Yardsafe
or Wondercide Yard & Garden
will help repel them, but not kill them. To kill them, you will need to spread Bifenthrin
granules and water them or wait for a light rain. If you can't beat em, it may be best to hire a professional pest control expert to treat your home.
When a dog has megaesophagus, the esophagus stays enlarged and does not push the food down to the stomach. The food is eventually regurgitated. This is not the same as vomiting. There is usually no retching and heaving, instead the food or water basically just falls back out of the mouth or throat with no warning. The food may even appear tube shape.
Treatment: There is currently no cure for megaesophagus. The main treatment method is life style management. 1- Elevated feeding should be practiced as this uses gravity to pull the food into the stomach. This can be done by using a Bailey chair
. A Bailey chair is a specially designed chair that allows the dog to sit upright (like a begging position) while eating. You will want to keep your dog in this elevated position for at least 10-20 minutes after eating. 2- Find the right food and consistency that works best for your dog and stick with it. There is no one type that has been found to be the best. 3- Feedings should be given in frequent, small meals as opposed to few, large meals. While this requires changes in your dog's eating habits, in most cases your dog may live a long, happy life.