Can I Minimize My Dog's Shedding?

A: Yes. Shedding is nature’s way of keeping dog’s skin and hair cleansed. There really is no way to avoid it. And it’s normal to expect high quantities of hair to shed twice a year with the change of seasons. However, the shedding can be curtailed with some diligence and effort from the owner. Frequent brushing is required to assist with the expulsion of unwanted hair from the dog’s body and/or to prevent mat development. Some breeds are higher-maintenance than others are because of their hair type, texture, or density. Some small dog high-maintenance breeds include Shit zhu, Maltese, Bichon Frise, and Cocker spaniels. Some large high-maintenance breeds include Newfoundland, St. Bernard, and German shepherd.

The appropriate grooming tools and technique is important too. A wire-bristle brush is best used for dogs with either dense coats, or fine or thin hair (single-coated breeds). A tool called the rake, which literally resembles a metal garden rake with two rows of teeth, is best used for all breeds possessing double-coats. The rake is what thins out the cotton-textured undercoat. It is the undercoat that sheds and mats.

Regardless of the tool used, proper brushing technique involves brushing through little sections of hair at a time. Grab a handful of hair with one hand. Using the brush in the other hand, gently swipe small sections of the hair in a downward motion back against the dog’s skin. This is similar to what ladies do to tease their hair for body. Also beware of the pressure used to brush. Too much pressure will irritate the skin and make it bleed. Always work from the bottom to top of the dog (belly to back; and back end to front end), and brush with the direction of the natural hair growth. Also don’t forget the legs, armpits, feet, and ears.

 

Do My Dog's Nails Need Trimming?

A: Yes. Neglected nail trimming leads to torn nails, and nails curling under the toes of the foot causing foot imbalance related ailments, and/or tendon strain, resulting in walking difficulty for the animal. The severity of the foot ailment will determine whether or not surgery is necessary to correct the condition. Also untrimmed dewclaws can curl around and re-enter back through the dewclaw pad which is extremely painful to the dog. It’s similar to the feeling people experience when having a construction nail puncture their foot. Removal of a nail in this condition is recommended to be done by a certified groomer or veterinarian to prevent the onset of infection of the pad. Pay especially close attention to the length of your dog’s dewclaws. They are often overlooked or forgotten during the toenail cutting procedure.

 

Is There A Way To Select The Right Groomer For My Pet?

A: Yes. Often finding the right groomer is best indicated by what questions the groomer asks potential clients. The groomer should ask what dog breed he/she will be working with. This is important to know because each breed has distinctive temperaments. Some breeds need to be handled differently than others. Also discussing the dog’s age, and any health issues will reveal to the groomer whether special care is needed while grooming. For instance, if a dog suffers from seizures, precautions need to be taken to prevent seizures from erupting during the grooming procedure. Grooming itself is a stressor for many animals. Furthermore, if a seizure does happen, the groomer will know how to work through it and keep your pet safe.

Hip dysplasia is another serious ailment that can require using special harnesses to help the animal stand for long periods of time. Its comfort is a plus as well. Such information will indicate to the pet owner that the groomer is knowledgeable about medical issues and practices. Therefore, they will know what to do in case of an emergency. It also indicates the groomer cares, and is willing to accommodate the pet appropriately to overcome whatever obstacles become evident during the grooming session.

 

Should Dogs Be Shaved For The Summer?

A: No. Dogs have different hair than humans. Hair types vary by texture, density, length, and layers. Dogs which possess the downy-cottony undercoat are considered double-coated breeds, and are not to be shaved at all. Some examples of double-coated breeds include Husky, Newfoundland, St. Bernard, Sheltie, and Collie. The undercoat is nature’s insulator from extreme heat, and cold temperatures. Therefore, the undercoat should be removed or thinned out by brushing only. Shaving this hair will often result in uneven hair growth when the hair comes back in, if it grows back in at all. The dog’s coat will have a patchy appearance. And dogs suffering from any illnesses like autoimmune disorders, diabetes, or thyroid imbalances will likely not have the hair grow back at all. If it does, the hair’s texture will be compromised. Brittle, thin, or rough feeling hair will be the result, and its purpose as nature’s insulator against extreme temperatures will be sacrificed.

As a general rule, shaving dog hair provides no benefit to the cooling down of the animal. Some veterinarians and groomers will recommend shaving dog hair for health reasons only. Hair which is extremely matted is painful to the dog because it pulls on the dog’s skin. It feels similar to having your own hair constantly pulled. And brushing mats this dense is torture for the dog.

Of course, hair is shaved before any kind of surgery to protect the animal from contracting infections. Other examples of why shaving is recommended is because fleas and ticks cannot as readily be seen if burrowed deep within mats, yet they can still reach your dog’s skin for nourishment and reproduction. Flea infestation is serious and could cause your pet to become anemic, or even worse, your pet could die. Shaving is done before any flea dip to ensure the fleas are exposed to the shampoo designed to kill them. Skin wounds and infections can also develop beneath mats. Believe it or not some dogs have had live maggots chewing on such wounds. This only becomes evident once the mat is removed. In cases like this, repeated bathing does not eradicate the foul odor coming from the dog’s skin, or remove the pests. The odor, of course, is that of decaying flesh.

It is highly encouraged to brush your dog’s coat regularly. If a dog is not brushed as recommended for its breed, the above scenario could become a reality for your pet. If it does, a visit to the veterinarian will be necessary to remove all mats or shave the animal, obtain prescribed antibiotics, and flush the wounds.

Also dogs do not sweat like humans do. The only place on the dog’s anatomy which sweats is the pads of their feet. The best way to cool down your dog in the hot summer months is to provide him/her with a wading pool. Let the dog dip their feet in a shallow tub of water, stream, or lakeshore. Also do not walk your dog during the day when temperatures can reach more than 90 degrees.

 

Should My Dogs Share My Bed?

A: No. Although many people do share their beds and other household furniture with their beloved pets, it is not recommended. This is so for a few good reasons. Number one regards your health. Yes our pets are part of the family and we do love them, but dogs do have the ability to share contagious diseases with humans. Strep throat has often been the result of household dogs sharing the strep-causing bacteria, streptococcus, with people. This exchange can be done simply by rubbing your nose, or eating food directly after petting the dog without first washing your hands, for instance. The moisture remaining on your hands from surfaces of your dog’s nose, and tongue, and lips is the culprit. The streptococcus bacteria are prone to harboring in these areas of your dog’s anatomy. Another serious contagious disease is leptospirosis, a systemic bacterial disease of dogs which is contracted from ingestion of bacteria from stagnant water like puddles, ponds and lakes. This disease can be fatal! Kidney failure can result and if a person survives, he/she is likely to require dialysis for the reminder of their lives to regain kidney function artificially. The DHLP vaccination recommended by your veterinarian is an important weapon against the contraction of this disease by your pet. Other health issues include human contraction of staph infection, tape worms, and fungal infections like ring worm. People with diabetes or weak immune systems are particularly prone to contracting staph infections like cellulitis and folliculitis. These infections can typically be fought with antibiotics. But their severity can vary and in some cases, if the infection is too deep within the muscle tissue, antibiotics is discarded and replaced by surgical means to eradicate the infection.

Also it is important to remember that any dog, no matter how well trained, is still capable of biting when startled. People who share their beds with their pets risk getting bitten everyday. When suddenly startled awake, a dog’s immediate, instinctive reaction is going to be to bite. This is his/her self preservation technique. The animal will not mean any harm, but he may not have time to focus properly and recognize that he is biting his family members. Just keep in mind how incoherent you may be during the first 30 seconds or so after waking. This fog is is also experienced by dogs. Many serious, albeit accidental, bites requiring multiple stitches occur every year as a result of dogs sharing beds and sofas with humans. Be fair to yourself and your dog….please buy your dog his own bed and do not continue to allow him to share your furniture with you. Dog beds are available for purchase in pet stores to avoid such unfortunate incidences. Dogs enjoy having their own territory, allow him his own bed. Also, as a side note, keep in mind that dogs also behave better when they are allowed their own possessions, and personal space. I’ll agree there is nothing better than a good snuggle. Just try to remember to do the snuggling on neutral territory like the floor.

 

Immunizations

Many pets are regularly immunized against fatal diseases like distemper, parvo, and dog influenza viruses. But is it necessary? Yes and no. Immunizations serve their purpose. The shots given to our pets during their first 3 years of life is in fact, the biggest safeguard against contracting these diseases. Therefore it is highly recommended to immunize your pets during this period in their lives. However, research indicates that annual booster shots for these diseases can do more harm than good. Too much accumulated shot serum in the dog’s system causes a buildup which can lead to bacterial resistance and strain mutation to the serum, thus immunization ineffectiveness. Also cancerous tumors have been known to develop as a result of too much immunization. So how much is too much? The rabies shot is the only immunization required by law for your pet to have current. Unless extraordinary circumstances exist, continually giving the other immunizations like DHLP, Leptosporosis, and bordetella are unnecessary after your pet’s first 5 years of life to protect your pet’s health.

Leptosporosis is a respiratory disease similar to the human version of the flu. It is caused by the inhalation or ingestion of bacteria usually living in stagnant water. It is highly contagious between dogs and can be contagious to humans as well. Unless your pet is in an environment where he has access to stagnant water, this immunization is unnecessary.

Bordetella is a vaccine given through the nose to protect your pet from the airborne transmission of bacteria which will cause upper respiratory and lung infections. This infection is referred to as kennel cough and its main indicating symptoms are an actual cough, white to yellowish colored discharge coming from the nose, and labored breathing. This is a highly contagious illness which can be spread from dog to dog through the air. This vaccine is recommended for anyone who boards their pets at kennels, or takes their dogs to dog parks, for example, where multiple dogs are in close contact with one another.

As a pet owner, you have the right to refuse giving your pet these shots. Discuss your request with your veterinarian. Veterinary practices remind pet owners their pet’s vaccinations are due as a courtesy, not as a necessary benefit to your pet’s health.

 

Holistic Care: Beneficial Or Harmful?

A: What is holistic care? Holistic care is any form of medical care which uses organic means to rebalance both physical and mental states. It’s goal is to provide alternative approaches to both prevent and cure common ailments and diseases without the use of drug therapy and unnecessary surgery. Some examples of this include dietary augmentation with supplements made from herbal ingredients, Thai Chi, yoga, and other eastern medicinal practices. Chiropractic care also falls into this category.

Though still difficult to find, chiropractic care for pets has become more common over recent years and has proven to be an effective form of treatment for ailments stemming from misaligned vertebral columns and other joints throughout the body. In a nutshell, the manipulation of the bones and joints affects the nervous system. The nervous system controls many systems and organs throughout the body. A well functioning nervous system results in better function and performance of these systems and organs because these systems are all interrelated. A misalignment of the bones in the neck, for example, can result in lower back pain, weak, collapsing hind legs, and partial paralysis. Chiropractic care has improved these ailments in dogs. The alternative to this approach using western medicine would be to prescribe pain killers and anti-inflammory medications to mask the pain, but not address the ailment’s root cause directly. One great advantage to chiropractic care is that it is a drugless and mostly painless therapy. Chiropractic care should not replace traditional veterinary care, but can provide alternatives to the limited approach traditional veterinary care sometimes offers.

Chiropractic care provides preventative medicine, and treatment for many conditions. Some benefits for pets getting chiropractic care include improved mobility for those having trouble negotiating slick floors, or have trouble getting up or down. Also neurological issues such as toe dragging and poor hind end control can be improved with chiropractic care.

Chiropractic care also works very well in conjunction with other approaches including acupuncture, physical therapy, and traditional medicine. Statistics show that nearly every animal gains some benefit from adjustments. Sometimes it is dramatic and their problem is solved. Other times it is just a reduction in pain level. It is rare, however, that pets don’t show at least some improvement.

Chiropractic care does fall into a specialty category, but it can be very cost effective. Resolving misalignments can quickly improve ailments like lameness before a great deal of money is spent on medications, x-rays, and numerous vet visits. If chiropractic care does not improve the issue from which an animal is suffering, then additional testing can be performed to pinpoint the cause of the discomfort.

Because chiropractic care is considered a specialty, a DVM without chiropractic training is not qualified to perform chiropractic care. All certified animal chiropractors are required to be DVM’s first. Someone without DVM status performing chiropractic care is a good person to stay away from. An untrained hand performing manipulations on your animal can result in doing more harm than good. When seeking an animal chiropractor, always make sure that person is certified by the American Veterinary Chiropractic Association. That evidence is proof that the individual has completed the additional 1.5 years of course work and passed the certification exam.

 

Why Does My Dog Eat Poop?

A: Dogs eat poop because instinctively they are attempting to correct a nutritional imbalance or nutritional deficiency in their diet. Once that nutritional imbalance is corrected, the poop eating will cease. If your pet lives in a multiple animal household, the other dogs will also eat poop. Therefore, all dogs in a multiple dog household must be treated simultaneously. To stop this undesirable behavior, changing the dog’s diet to a better quality dog food is the first recommendation. Talk to your veterinarian for suggestions. If changing the diet fails to work and the behavior persists, follow this recipe. (This recipe does not stop dogs from eating cat poop, however.) Get to your nearest health food grocery store (Whole Foods, for example) and purchase brewers yeast and plain yogurt. All you need are these two ingredients. Mix 1 Tablespoon brewers yeast and 1 Tablespoon plain yogurt together. Supplement your dog’s food with this mixture one meal a day for two weeks. Then diminish the frequency of the dosage. Supplement your dog’s food with the same mixture quantity only one to two times weekly for the next one to two weeks.

 

Does My Dog Need Teeth Cleaning?

A: Yes. All dogs need their teeth cleaned periodically to maintain healthy mouths. Although it seems absurd to brush dogs’ teeth and do dental cleanings, dental health is a very important health maintenance procedure. Just as in humans, excessive tartar buildup will cause gum disease and eventual internal diseases affecting your pet’s organs. Some dogs will need more care than others. It all depends on their individual salivary production quantities, genetics, and general dental health. Dogs possessing weak teeth caused by enamel deterioration, for instance, will fight gingivitis their entire lives because the enamel barrier is not present to protect their teeth and gums from bacteria caused by plaque buildup. This will be the case with dogs who were accidentally prescribed the infection fighting antibiotic tetracycline before 4 months of age. (The use of this antibiotic also damages the development of human adult teeth as well, research indicates.)

The reason pet teeth cleaning is so expensive is because the procedure requires dogs to be anesthetized so cleaning can be accomplished quickly with minimal irritation to your pet’s mouth, and teeth dodging on the part of the veterinarian. The procedure is considered surgery. Additionally, necessary teeth pulling to save diseased gums or eliminate the pain caused by rotten teeth can also be accomplished easier while the pet is under. It is less painful for your dog too!

Dental chews recommended by veterinarians are good tools to keep tartar buildup to a minimum. However, raw hide chews do not fall into this category. Raw hides can get stuck in your dog’s intestinal tract causing blockages, and sometimes death. But teeth brushing is the best approach to maintaining proper dental health of your pet. Have your veterinarian coach you about teeth brushing technique so you can carry on with this care at home. This an a very important preventative measure people can do for the health of their pets. Some dogs actually don’t mind the procedure, and your wallet will definetly feel the benefits.

 

The Danger Of Fleas

Many people are unaware of the dangers fleas present to pets. Fleas are your pet’s archenemy! They are insects that live on the dog’s skin for nourishment and reproduction. Fleas can reproduce at a rate of up to two thousand fleas within a four-month period. If ignored, fleas can lead to tapeworm infestation of the GI tract, anemia (requiring blood transfusion by a veterinarian), and even death. It’s important to keep pets protected with flea-deterrent medication year-round, especially in climates that stay relatively warm, since fleas do not die during the winter seasons of warmer climates.

 

How Long Will My Dog Live?

A: The lifespan of dog breeds will vary. Not only are health issues a component in determining how long you can enjoy your pet, but other factors like size will also determine the amount of time dogs will live. A general rule is that smaller dogs will live longer than big dogs. Small is defined as any dog breeds by which dogs weigh under 30 pounds. Examples of these dogs are Chihuahua, toy and miniature poodle, yorkshire terrier, miniature pinschers, west highland terriers, and shih tzus. Many dogs in this category can live anywhere from 15 – 18 years.

Medium size dogs are those breeds which fall into the 30 – 65 pound range. Examples of breeds falling into this category include dalmatian, pointers, vizsla, husky, australian shepherd, and sheltie. Their lifespan typically is 12-15 years.

Large size dogs include all dogs that weigh 65+ pounds. Samoyed, great dane, Labrador retriever, golden retriever, saint bernard, great pyrenees, setters, newfoundland, swiss mountain dog, German shepherds, and the rottweiler all fall into this category. Unfortunately some of these dog breeds only live 6-8 years on average. This is true for the great dane, newfoundland and saint bernard. However, dogs possessing slimmer physiques like setters can live 10-14 years with minimal health issues.

 

Grooming

Dog hair varies by texture, weight, density, dog breed, and coat types. Many times mats develop because the grooming tools used are not adequate for the breed specific hair type. Before investing in grooming tools for your pet, discuss which ones are best suited for your dog’s breed type. There are two main grooming tools-the wire brush, and the rake. For example, a wire brush is best used for dogs with either fine curly, or dense hair like poodles or cocker spaniels. These breeds do not shed. The maltese, bichon frise’, and king charles spaniel are breeds that also fall under this category. This tool is appropriate for dog breeds which possess only a single layer of hair in their coats. The rake is used for the double-coated hair types. Coats consisting of two distinctly different textures, layers, and purposes are found on breeds such as husky, german shepherd, labrador retriever, Newfoundland, Chesapeake Bay retrievers, and greater swiss mountain dogs to name a few. The undercoat hair is dense and looks and feels similar to cotton. It provides insulation against unforgiving weather and extreme air and water temperatures. The outer guard hair, the colored hair we see, is comprised of a more course, thick texture with every hair shaft. Double-coated breeds such as those listed above will shed their hair regularly throughout the year. However, this shedding will be extreme twice a year consistent with seasonal temperature fluctuations. Though made of plastic, the rake literally has the appearance of a metal yard rake, teeth and all. The rake with two rows of teeth work best at thinning out the undercoat and pulling it out and away from under the outer guard hairs. Those hairy tumbleweeds accumulating in all the corners of your house is the undercoat. That’s what sheds. If brushing these types of dogs gets neglected, the undercoat will mat tightly against the dog’s skin and will become extremely painful to the dog. To avoid having to call a groomer to alleviate that scenario by shaving your pet down to the skin, simply brush regularly and remember to brush following the same direction the outer hair falls.

Sometimes mats become present because proper brushing technique has not been conducted by the pet owner. Always brush your pets from bottom to top. Start with the feet and work your way slowly up the legs doing one small section at a time. Grip a handful of hair in one hand, while using the other hand to brush the hair back down onto the dog’s body like women do when teasing bangs of their own hair to achieve body. However, the strokes do not need to have muscle behind them. Be cautious of the brush’s contact with the dog’s skin. Too much pressure will be abrasive and cause bleeding. Remember to brush in the same direction of the outer hair growth. Continue this procedure with the pet’s body. Start at the belly and work your way up to the back doing a little section at a time. And of course, don’t forget the ears and tail.

Dogs with dense hair like cocker spaniels will require diligence, and more time to get through the brushing procedure than other dog breeds. Also, dog breeds with fine, or curly hair will require more frequent brushing sessions. Their hair will mat easily. Be sure to brush these dogs at least every other day to diminish the amount of mats your dog can accumulate. It’s recommended to schedule a consistent time of day for brushing. Make it part of your routine. Then it’s less likely to be forgotten.

Terrier breeds like the wire hair Jack Russell, Kerry Blue, Airedale, and wire fox terrier fall into the category of dog breeds requiring a different type of grooming all together. These breeds don’t require daily brushing because nature has provided them with a unique outer coat consisting of wire textured hair. This hair does not cover the body entirely. Instead a thin layer of wire hair covers much denser, shorter hair lying closer to the dog’s body. Proper grooming technique for these breeds involves hand stripping. The outer wire hair is plucked off the dog with a special tool to allow the remaining hair to lay flat and undisturbed against the dogs skin. It’s similar to the plucking of eyebrows that some women endure. However, hand stripping does not hurt the dog because the wire hair removed is already dead and separated from the dog’s skin. (In nature, these breeds were bred to flush out birds and various varmints from underbrush and bushes. When doing so, the wire hair would become stripped from the vegetation’s abrasive qualities anyway.) This hand stripping is done in 4 week rotations. It takes approximately 12 weeks for hair to completely grow out. The rotation is done to accommodate the hair growth in 1/3 growth cycles. It’s important to recognize that if these breeds are groomed using clippers, the coat’s texture and integrity will be compromised. Some coats may take on a different color where clipped from the rest of the body, or become cottony-textured and unmanageable. If clipped for too long, the resulting cotton-like appearance of the dog’s coat will be beyond repair. For the best interest and coat appearance of dogs falling under the terrier breed category, have your groomer use the proper hand stripping method for grooming. Your pet will thank you for it.

 

Does My Dog Pee Indoors On Purpose?

A: No. Not all dogs pee indoors on purpose. Many factors can contribute to the cause behind in-house urination. Some dogs can do this to express anger or anxiety when left home alone. Some breeds are spiteful and will do this behavior to “get at you.” However, there are some medical issues that must be taken into consideration when determining the reason behind indoor urination. Sometimes a urinary tract infection will prompt this behavior, even with well trained, house-broken dogs. This infection is prevalent in both male and female dogs. Bladder infections and bladder stones are other illnesses which can prompt this behavior. Any sources of infection require a visit to the veterinarian. Antibiotics are most commonly recommended to cure both urinary and bladder infections. However, bladder stones are a more serious matter that may require surgery to cure. Your veterinarian will verify the existence of stones by doing a series of tests including blood work, xray and ultrasound of the bladder. Sometimes stones too small to be seen with these tests can be hidden inside the ureter (the tube connecting the kidneys to the bladder.) If this is the case, surgery will be necessary to remove the stone and prevent death from urinary blockage. Bladder stones can also be controlled by changing the dog’s diet, adding small amounts of cranberry juice to his water, or giving cranberry tablets daily as part of a routine meal supplement. Though these are all good suggestions, it is extremely important to see your veterinarian if you suspect your dog may be suffering from any indication of urinary distress.

 

Health Issues

Many dog breeds have congenital health issues. Small breeds commonly possess a tendency for weak knees. This can lead to painful injuries like torn ACL which requires surgery to repair. If one hind leg knee is injured at some point in the dog’s lifetime, odds are extremely high that the other hind leg knee will also suffer the same injury and require the same treatment eventually. This is especially true with older dogs, or those dogs who are overweight. This injury is caused most often by dogs jumping from furniture, leaping down stairs, or rough house play with other dogs or humans.

Other congenital health issues include seizures, and rage syndrome. Some breeds who are prone to seizures include pekinese, poodle, shih tzu, and cocker spaniels. Depending upon the intensity and frequency of the seizures, medication such as dilantin or phenobarbital may be recommended by a veterinarian to control this health issue. Seizures are a serious matter which can be fatal to your pet. Their intensity can vary and change as your pet ages. Quirky behavior such as a rigid body and staring off into space at nothing can be indicative of minor seizures. Constant monotone barking while staring off into space often prompted by loud noises or other unconventional stimuli is indication of a mild to moderate seizure. Flipping around uncontrollably (convulsions), eyes rolled back in the head, salivation, urination and defecation, and unconsciousness are all symptoms of grand mal seizures, the most intense and serious kind of seizure. Also bear in mind that seizures themselves may be a symptom of other health issues, brain tumors, for example, that require immediate veterinary attention. If you suspect your pet may be suffering from seizures, it’s imperative to visit your veterinarian immediately.

Rage syndrome is comparable to bi-polar disease in humans. It’s symptoms are rather similar and include calm behavior one minute, followed by sudden unexplainable aggressive and explosive behavior the next minute. There seems to be no connection reflecting what stimuli prompt the aggressive behavior. Rage syndrome runs genetically throughout the spaniel breeds. Therefore caution should be exercised when choosing one of these dogs for a pet. Breeders do their best to keep these genes from transferring to offspring when breeding, but are not always successful, and may not disclose any unwanted behavior tendencies of puppies to prospective buyers. If your veterinarian suspects rage syndrome may be inherited by your pet, he may recommend putting the animal down so the pet doesn’t become a danger to you or other members of your family.

Large dog breeds are prone to hip dysplasia. This condition is the abnormal development in anatomic structure of the hip joint. Labrador retrievers, German shepherds, and Rottweilers are three such breeds of which this condition is common. Hip dysplasia is a congenital defect which can be present at birth, and becomes more pronounced with age. Some dogs have had successful surgery to correct the hips, but this can be a dicey solution because of cost and post-surgical challenges. Also the severity of the dysplasia will make this proposition a gamble. If your pet has dysplasia, it’s best to consult your veterinarian about what can be done to keep your pet comfortable as he/she ages.

Large dogs are also prone to death by stresses, some are related directly to their size. Heart failure is common among large breed dogs. Great Danes typically die from heart failure. Boxers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds all are prone to cancer. Another common malady is bloat. Bloat can strike most any large breed dog and is one of the most common killers in dogs. Bloat is the result of gas accumulation in the stomach and, in severe cases, twisted or flipped stomach and pinched intestines which block the escape of gas either by burping, or through the anus as flatulence. It is extremely painful. Some key symptoms of bloat include agitated, pacing behavior, a distended belly, whining, the inability to stand and walk properly, unsuccessful attempts to vomit, salivation, excessive water drinking, dog having a hunched over appearance, dog looking for a hiding place, and pain in the abdomen when gently touched. Rapid pulse and breathing may also be present. Immediate surgery is the best treatment for this condition. It is not always successful because odds are likely the animal will suffer from bloat again in its lifetime. The cause for bloat is not altogether understood. However, there does seem to be a link between hard exercise directly following a big meal. Another cause may be a diet comprised of mostly grain, instead of high amounts of proteins. If you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat, see your veterinarian immediately. Time is of the essence! Bloat can cause death within a couple hours of the onset of symptoms.

Still other health issues are breed specific. Shih Tzu’s, for example, are commonly prone to eye problems such as corneal ulcers and ingrown eyelashes. Dogs possessing these ailments will require surgery to prevent further injury to the eyes. Hernias and hypoglycemia are other health anomalies to be aware of when considering commitment to the Shih Tzu as a pet. Dachshunds most always suffer back injuries. To prevent these injuries this breed especially should not be allowed to jump down from furniture or other high places.

Furthermore, it is not uncommon for all breeds to suffer from allergies, whether it be dust, carpet in your home, grass, pollen, mold, or even food. The types of allergies dogs suffer from varies and is an individual thing. Some don’t suffer from any allergies. Others may suffer from a myriad of allergies. Relatively inexpensive tests can now be performed by your veterinarian to determine what your pet is allergic to. If you find the allergy is something controllable within the dog’s environment, the allergen can be removed or minimized, and the dog will be much more comfortable as a result. Steroids are often recommended to treat allergies, but long-term use of steroids is risky, and in itself can be the catalyst for a number of health issues down the road.

Food allergies are common, however. The dyes in processed foods are one culprit. The gluten from wheat and other grains can also be a concern for allergens. Constant licking of paws until they are bloody is one symptom of a present food allergy. Food notorious for red dyes includes gains burgers, for example. Beneful also contains dyes within it’s dry food. Though its marketing stresses the food contains vegetables and real beef, it is wise to read the ingredients label on the bag to determine if in fact this is true. If the label reads corn meal, beef byproducts, wheat,….dye # 2,3, etc., beware. Although buying this food is likely done with pure intentions to provide a balanced diet for your pet, it’s best to supplement his/her food with real vegetables bought in the grocery store. Feed raw or steamed carrots, zucchini, broccoli, peas, or green beans. These veggies are also a good replacement for cookie treats. They keep your pet’s weight better under control.

In general it is highly recommended for people to carefully research breeds for health issues, and breed traits before making a commitment to pet ownership. Dog/human compatibility in any household will greatly be influenced by the combination of breed temperament and disposition, and the lifestyle of the humans living in the home. Many dog breeds are good looking on the outside, but may not be the right match for everyone. Each dog breed was bred to do specific tasks like herding, for example. These dogs include shelties, Australian shepherds, German shepherds, Bouvier de Flanders to name a few. Behavioral instincts possessed by dogs will remain with the dog throughout its life and cannot be modified with any amount of training.

When selecting a pet, it’s also important to consider health issues to further investigate how much money a potential owner is willing to commit to the animal’s health and well being throughout its life. It’s not fair to discard the dog upon becoming ill because the owner figures out THEN that he doesn’t have the finances to afford the animal. Also potential pet owners are encouraged to factor in how much time they are willing to commit to grooming the pet of their choice. Some breeds require more maintenance than others, and it’s important to realize that executing proper, consistent grooming procedures is not only part of the commitment to pet ownership, but also is beneficial to the pet’s health. Consider grooming as preventative health care because many ailments requiring vet visits can be avoided by consistent grooming. To enjoy the happiness of dog/human companionship, remember to be fair to both the dog and yourself.

 

Why Do Dogs Bite?

A: First of all, it is important to understand why dogs bite. Biting is an important form of communication for dogs. Biting is done for several reasons. 1: One important reason dogs bite is because biting is used to establish position within the pack. Dogs roam naturally in packs. Within these packs a social hierarchy exists whereby each dog has his/her place in the pecking order, (or ranking position) from top dog to the dog at the hierarchy’s bottom level. The top dog is referred to as the Alpha dog, the leader of the pack. He is the dog by which all the other dogs within the pack look to for guidance. The pack leader is responsible for developing trustworthy relationships. This is done by protecting those in the pack from danger, problem solving, establishing and reinforcing behavior boundaries so others in the pack know what is expected of them, and keeping the other dogs aware of their established positions within the pack. 2: Other reasons for biting include disciplinary action taken among dogs to correct unwanted behavior, to establish respect or dominance, to take a defensive position if threatened, or to play. It’s important for all dog owners to be able to distinguish the difference between these types of bites and act accordingly. It is imperative that dog owners become the leader of the pack and take on the responsibilities of the alpha dog in order to gain the trust and respect from the dogs in the household and earn well-balanced, well-behaved dogs. 3: Dogs who are teething while their adult teeth erupt (4-10 months of age) will chew anything they can get their mouths around to relieve the discomfort teething produces. This reason for biting should never be discouraged. The chewing behavior in this scenario is instinctively programmed by nature.

A smart solution to this teething is to provide the dog with acceptable items to chew on. An old washcloth is recommended because it can be soaked in water, twisted and rung out, then stuck in the freezer. The frozen cloth can be used over and over again, and the cold helps to numb the gums, thus providing a pleasant result from the chewing activity. (However, remember that dogs DO NOT easily distinguish the difference between similar items. For example, don’t provide a human sock to be chewed on thinking the dog will only chew on that sock exclusively. All socks in the house will become fair game as far as the dog is concerned. To provide only one sock acceptable to chew on out of several socks within reach only confuses the dog.) Furthermore, the dog should not be encouraged to chew on items the owner doesn’t want disturbed. Don’t give the dog old shoes, underwear, socks, or other items the owner considers useless if he/she doesn’t want the dog to chew on similar perfectly good items. Correcting unwanted behavior can be done with appropriate means. But don’t put the dog in an unfair position. Other good chew items include frozen baby carrots and peas and green beans. Excellent nutritional value is a benefit from these items as well.

The key to successful biting discouragement as well as any form of training is consistency. Lift the dog up by his front legs to look him straight in the eyes and say no in a firm tone to discourage unwanted behavior each time that behavior is displayed. For example, If an item was chewed on that the owner wishes be left alone, correct the dog as explained above, remove the item in question, then immediately replace that item with one that is acceptable to chew on. Also it’s important to decide what behavior or activities are acceptable to you before you begin training your pet, then never waiver from that set of rules. Inconsistency such as the acceptability of getting onto furniture only sometimes just confuses the dog. The message needs to be cut and dried, simple. The dog either IS or IS NOT allowed onto furniture, for instance. And training will be much more successful if rules are never allowed to be broken and messages are reinforced with consistency. Same message, same situation, all the time. I like to use the SMART training method. SMART stands for Same Message Always Reinforces Training. *An important note to keep in mind also is to remember to reinforce good, acceptable behavior with positive reinforcement like saying “good dog” to the dog in a soft, soothing tone while giving gentle pets or hugs. Finally, playing tug with your dog is a slippery slope because the game is fun, but there becomes a fine line between tug for fun and tug that leads to aggression. ANY breed of dog can be taught to be mean and unruly. Be careful to reinforce good behavior and discourage bad behavior like aggression. Aggressive biting is a behavior best modified by soliciting the help of a trained professional.

Though aggressive biting is a behavior that can be prompted by play unintentionally, it also is a form of biting which can be dangerous. Aggressive biting directly follows a warning of barred teeth and growls when a threat is present and does not go away. To the dog this type of threat may be humans in some cases. A dog’s fear may also become the catalyst of aggressive biting. The “unknown” stimuli such as environment, behavior, noise, or object can all be scary to dogs, and their reaction will be to bite. Ever hear the expression, “a strong defense is a present a tough offense?” The dog thinks this way too. To ward off perceived danger, the dog will display aggressive behavior to protect himself from whatever the dog considers to be a threat to its safety and well being.

To help avoid the development of aggressive biting behavior, it’s important to socialize dogs from the time they are puppies. Introduce them to strange objects, different races of people, noises, movements, all kinds of environments and situations. Let them investigate these “scary” things. By sniffing objects, and roaming through places, dogs can get acquainted with what is considered to be “strange,” and can ascertain that nothing will hurt him/her. In other words, allow them to face their fear. This exercise will also help dogs become more secure, confident, and more comfortable in their own skin. The dogs will learn to respect and trust you, its owner, as well resulting in a strong bond between you and your pet.

Biting can also be an indication of poor health. Just as humans get cranky when they don’t feel well, dogs will do the same. If this is the case, biting can erupt spontaneously. This is an important note to remember! Spontaneous biting warrants a trip to the veterinarian to check for brain tumors, the onset of blindness, thyroid gland imbalance and other forms of illness. Also remember that older dogs, just like humans, can become senile, resulting in mental impairment and momentary confusion. All of these factors can contribute to aggressive behavior.

 

 

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