Risky Kisses… Should We Let Our Dogs Lick Us?

If you asked me before I wrote this article, my answer to this question would have been an unequivocal yes. But my research has made me rethink this position because dog kisses may not be a good idea for everyone.

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve heard the myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s… and you’ve also heard this is absolutely false.

Let’s face it, we all know where our dogs stick their tongues. They eat junk in the street, dead animals in the yard, and sometimes their own poop. Even the most diligent dog owner cannot watch their dog 24/7.

Could their mouths be germ-free? I’m afraid not.

If you’re like me and you let your dog lick you, you’re opening yourself up to the risk of wound infection and stomach illness.

Capnocytophaga and Pasteurella are bacteria that live in the mouths of some dogs and cats. They can cause serious infection if they get into a wound or the bloodstream.

Parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium are transmitted through stool and cause diarrhea.  So if your dog is a poop eater, or just likes to lick their butt, these parasites (and others) can be in their mouths.  And a lick can pass them to you.

Salmonella and Campylobacter, common causes of food-borne illness, may also live in the mouth of your dog. They can both pass from dog to human.

But here’s the thing, these bacteria and parasites rarely cause harm to healthy adults. So… I personally will continue to let my dogs lick me.

However, there are people who should not let their dogs lick them—kids under 5, the elderly, and anyone with a compromised immune system. If you are receiving chemo, pregnant, an organ recipient, or have diabetes or HIV/AIDS, you should not be letting your dog lick you.

And that means anywhere on your body, not just your face. If your dog gives you a slobbery kiss, be sure to wash with soap and water.

Knowing what I do I will be careful, as should you, to never let my dog’s saliva anywhere near open skin. I hadn’t given this thought before. But after researching this topic, I’m certain that’s a bad idea.

Even letting my dogs lick my teens’ faces when their acne is flaring is a risk. Pimples are openings in the skin and are susceptible to infection.

At the same time, we’re aware as dog owners that an open cut on our skin is a magnet for our dog’s tongue. They instinctively want to lick the blood from an open cut. This is a behavior that would protect an injured dog in the wild because the smell of blood attracts predators.

And so it can be a challenge to keep your dog away if you are bleeding. But you must. And if they get a lick in, wash it with soap and water.

You might be thinking as you’re reading this that a dog bite would make you susceptible to the same bacteria. And that is very true. If you are ever bitten, be sure to wash the bite and watch for infection.

Know too there is a connection between dog kisses and the risk of being bitten. Some dogs don’t like to give or get kisses. And some dogs don’t like your face in theirs. They feel threatened.

So if you or your kids are getting in your dog’s face for a kiss, and your dog doesn’t like it, they may bite.

66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck, according to the American Humane Association. There are many reasons for this.  I’m sure some of those bites occurred because the child was leaning in for a smooch.

Dogs that don’t want kisses may back away, look away, or lick their lips. Heed the warning and back off.

In addition, if you’re thinking you can avoid bacteria from your dog’s mouth by kissing them on the top of their head or somewhere else on their body… think again.  Dogs lick themselves all over which leaves bacteria on their fur. And bacteria from their ears or other body parts they scratch can end up on the top of their heads too.

As a matter of fact, if you play fetch with your dog or tug with them, the slobbery ball or tug toy is laden with the bacteria found in their kisses. You’re exposing yourself to the same nasty organisms.

If you don’t wash your hands after play and then eat your lunch, you’re no better off than if they licked your mouth.

So what is a dog-kiss loving human to do? Be a responsible pet owner.

Be sure your dog sees the vet at least annually and have them checked for worms and other parasites. Don’t let them eat through garbage. If your dog shows signs of illness, see the vet. And don’t let diarrhea go untreated.

For many, dog kisses are part of the joy of dog ownership. We dog owners presume those kisses are our dogs way of showing us love… even if they’re not.

For this reason, we’ll probably continue to let our dogs kiss us. But we’ll be a little wiser about the dangers, and better able to protect our vulnerable family members from serious health problems now that we understand the risks.

Have you ever contracted an illness or infection from your dog? Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.

Separation Anxiety… Why So Many Dogs End Up in Shelters

Do you have a dog that suffers from separation anxiety? Then you know how frustrating it can be for you and how devastating for your dog.

If you are a dog owner but haven’t experienced this disorder, it’s only a matter of time. A dog in your future may show you what it’s like to come home to destruction, defecation and self-inflicted injuries from trying to escape.

This is a serious situation and one that can diminish your pet’s quality of life, not to mention your relationship with them.

If you’ve ever experienced anxiety, you know how horrible it feels. But you understand that everything will be okay. Your dog doesn’t understand that. All they know is they are terrified that you’ve left them alone and they’re certain something bad will happen.

What does separation anxiety look like?

A dog that suffers from real anxiety will show signs before you even leave the house. They may drool and pace as they see you going through your usual departure routine.

When you come home, you may find they’ve peed or pooped in the house. They may have tried to chew or dig their way out of the house, and may have broken teeth or bloody paws from their escape attempt. Chewed windowsills and clawed doors are common.

Dogs can severely injure themselves by jumping through windows in their panic to get out.

You may also come home to a full voicemail box with complaints from neighbors that your dog barked and howled all day.

Upon your return, they’ll act like you’ve been gone for years.

Separation anxiety is much more intense than separation distress.  Distress is a low level of stress and not usually as destructive.

The behavior of a dog suffering from separation anxiety differs greatly from the behavior of a dog that has a medical problem that causes them to have accidents. Or a dog whose owner hasn’t housebroken them completely, or correctly.  So the dog isn’t sure where they’re supposed to do their business.

It’s also very different than the behavior of a dog that is destructive because they’re bored, under exercised or needs to chew.

What causes this disorder?

No one knows for sure what causes separation anxiety in some dogs but not others. But to understand why some dogs suffer from it we only need to look at the behavior of their pack ancestors.

Pack animals need their pack to survive. In the wild, an animal by itself will starve because it needs the pack to hunt. It also needs the pack to protect it from predators. So isolation means almost certain death.

It makes sense that a pack animal like a dog is hard-wired to fear isolation.

In today’s world, we see more and more dogs suffering from separation issues, or at least showing the manifestations of separation anxiety, than we did 40 years ago. It’s more common now for dogs to be left home alone all day.  In those days mom was often home most of the day to keep a pet company.

So it’s possible that dogs would have shown the same signs of anxiety years ago if they were alone for 8 hours a day, but it didn’t happen as often.

Because of this destructive and frustrating behavior, too many dogs end up at shelters. It’s no surprise that this problem is most often seen in dogs adopted from shelters. Whether it’s because many dogs are given up for this reason, or because shelter dogs are more insecure as a result of having lost a person close to them, no one knows for sure.

What can you do if your dog can’t be left alone?

I must be frank. This is a behavior problem that will take work… a lot of work. And patience. And probably some medication too… for your dog that is.

But first be sure that what your dog is experiencing is actually a separation problem, and not a training or health problem.

If your dog suffers when they are alone but are okay with a pet sitter or even another dog in the house, that’s isolation distress or anxiety. They don’t want to be alone.

You might fix this problem by getting another dog. But I would suggest trying that out by borrowing a friend’s dog first to see if it helps.

If your pet can’t bear to be apart from you, or another member of your household, even if they aren’t alone, they are suffering from separation anxiety or distress. There’s no quick fix for this. It will take counter conditioning.

If your pet is suffering from a low level of stress, whether it’s separation or isolation distress, you can probably fix the problem yourself by conditioning your dog that good things happen when they’re alone.

You can train your dog to associate the fear of being alone with something they love like food. You can give them a food puzzle when you leave the house or a stuffed and frozen Kong. They only get that special treat when you leave the house. You take it away as soon as you return.

This will only work with a dog that suffers from mild distress. A highly anxious dog will not eat when you leave.

If you give your dog something they love when you leave, your dog will soon develop an association between being alone and a special tasty treat. And your dog’s fear may be replaced with positive feelings.

This will not work with a dog that’s severely anxious. In this case, your dog must gradually become accustomed to being left alone for longer and longer periods—starting with short intervals only a few seconds long. These short separations must be anxiety free.

As soon as the separation is filled with fear, your counter conditioning will backfire.

If your dog is really anxious, crate training may not be an option either. The crate just exacerbates the anxiety. You can give a crate a try when you are around to watch your dog’s reaction to it. If they become stressed or anxious when they’re crated and you’re there, it will only be worse when you’re gone.

You must confine your dog in a small room with a baby gate until your dog has overcome their anxiety and can be safe roaming a larger area. And that may never happen. The safest place for them to be may always be confined in a room.

If your dog is suffering from separation anxiety, you will need to enlist the help of a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. Your vet may be able to help you if they’re expertise is in animal behavior.

But a dog trainer may not. Most trainers are not certified animal behaviorists. And this problem requires an expert.

What might an animal behaviorist suggest?

They can help you set up a behavior modification plan. This plan will lay out how many short separation stints you need to do each day, how long the separation can be, and for how many days before you can increase the duration. This can take several weeks.

An expert will suggest things like changing your routine. So instead of grabbing your keys and running out the door to go to work in the morning, pick up your keys throughout the day and watch television. Or make dinner.

Change the association between picking up your keys and leaving the house, to picking up your keys means nothing important happens.

If you always put your briefcase in the car a few minutes before you leave the house, put your briefcase in the car in the evening before you sit down to dinner.

Make your routine unpredictable. And do this for several weeks.

Little changes will minimize the anticipation and spiraling anxiety your dog feels when they see you getting ready to leave the house. If you leave your dog when their anxiety level is heightened, it only worsens the problem. Your dog needs to be calm before you leave them.

Exercise your dog for at least 30 minutes before you will leave them alone. And be sure you finish exercising them at least 20 to 30 minutes before you will leave.  Then they can settle down before you go, yet still be a little tired.

Goodbyes and hellos should be calm. If your dog gets crazy, turn your back and walk away. Acknowledge them only when they settle down.

Give your dog lots of physical and mental stimulation to reduce anxiety. Food puzzles make them use their brains.

You can play “find it” with their food, hiding small piles around the house when you leave. This can be a good distraction and keeps their brain working.

Take them to lots of new places and give them new experiences. New sights and sounds provide stimulation.

These things will give your dog more confidence and will also tire them out. A tired dog is less likely to be anxious.

Be sure your dog has appropriate chew toys when you’re gone. Chewing and licking has a calming effect.

There are many parts to the separation anxiety dilemma, which is why it’s so important that you enlist the help of an expert.

Your dog doesn’t suffer from separation anxiety? Hold on…

Separation anxiety can suddenly become a problem for a dog that has never showed signs of a problem before.

An abrupt change in routine can trigger separation problems. If you’ve always worked from home but suddenly get a job outside of the house, your dog may find it difficult to adjust to being left alone for 8 hours a day.

Moving to a new house or a household member moving out of the house can cause anxiety.

But a little preparation and training can head off a problem. If you are planning a lifestyle change that will affect your dog, talk to a certified animal behaviorist first. They can help you implement strategies to get the dog used to the change before it happens.

What about medication?

Dogs that suffer from severe separation anxiety will need medication to decrease their anxiety enough so that you can leave them alone for short spurts during behavior modification sessions.

Dogs with mild separation problems may only need medication. If the meds enable them to be alone without fear that’s often enough for them to become conditioned that they can be by themselves and be okay. Eventually they won’t even need the meds.

Most dogs will need meds and behavior modification.

It’s very important to see your vet as soon as your dog exhibits separation anxiety. The longer you let the problem continue, the more you are reinforcing the fear associated with being alone.

Remember that anxiety isn’t something your dog can control. So never scold or punish them for doing damage when you’re away. Punishment will only cause more stress and anxiety, making the problem worse.

Have you had a dog that suffers from separation anxiety or distress? How did you handle it? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.






9 Health Problems That Affect Senior Pets

Having had dogs my whole life, it seems to me pets go from being babies to being senior citizens almost overnight.

As pet owners, we understand that the quality of our pets’ years is more important than the quantity. So how can we be certain that their senior years are golden and not rusty? Regular veterinary checkups and early detection.

There are some tell tale signs of aging that can help you spot a problem… hopefully early enough to treat it and slow its progression.

Both cats and dogs show similar signs of aging and can suffer from the same health problems when they’re senior citizens.

Old age for cats and small dogs is about 7 years old. Large breed dogs have shorter life expectancies and are seniors when they are 5 or 6.

If your pet is approaching its golden years, here are 9 problems you want to know about because they can impact the quality of your pet’s life in old age.

1) Vision problems – A pet can have vision problems at any age, but just as in humans eyesight can get worse as your pet grows old.

An accident, cancer, or glaucoma can all result in vision loss. But there are other seemingly unrelated health problems that can affect vision too. For instance, elevated blood pressure, hyperthyroidism and kidney disease.

So if you notice a sudden loss of vision, see your vet immediately.

2) Kidney disease – This is one of the leading causes of illness in senior cats but dogs can suffer from it too. You may see an increase in drinking and urination. And it can affect appetite and cause weight loss.

The good news is early detection and treatment can slow the progression.

If you notice a sudden lack of urination, this can mean trouble too—particularly in cats. They are prone to urinary crystal/stones. These stones can cause an obstruction which requires immediate medical attention.

Read my post, Urinary Crystals and Stones… What are They?, to learn more about this dangerous condition.

3) Dental disease – In dogs, bad breath is a sign that something is brewing in your dog’s mouth. Bleeding gums are a sign of dental disease as well.

If you’ve been practicing good oral hygiene throughout your pet’s life, you’ve saved yourself a lot of headaches. But it’s not too late to take care of your pet’s pearly whites if you haven’t already.

As cats age, they can suffer from feline tooth resorption. You’ll remember from my recent post, 10 Signs Your Cat is Suffering From Feline Tooth Resorption, this is a painful problem. So watch out for drooling, difficulty chewing, or reluctance to eat.

If you’re seeing signs of a tooth problem, see the vet.

4) Lumps, bumps and rashes – Cancer is as common in dogs as in humans and it can happen at any age. It’s less common in cats.

But if you feel bumps or lumps on your dog or cat, have them checked out by the vet. They may be nothing more than harmless fatty tumors. All my labs have had those. But they’ve had cancer too.

So be sure the doc biopsies the lump to rule out a malignancy.

Rashes, lesions, hotspots, and hair loss can all crop up in old age but are usually treatable. It’s important to make sure these things aren’t a sign of something more serious. Because early treatment is critical to quality of life.

5) Weight changes – A sudden unexplained drop in weight could mean diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, or hyperthyroidism.

The first inkling I had that my greyhound was sick was weight loss. Only I didn’t know it.  I thought his quick metabolism was to blame for his declining weight. No matter how much we fed him, he kept getting thinner. Sadly, I was wrong, and he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.

The flip side can mean trouble too. A pet that is overweight is prone to more problems. Just like in humans, obesity increases the risk of many illnesses including cancer, diabetes, heart problems and joint disease.

Your pet may need a senior diet, like Husse’s Senior for dogs or Exclusive Limited for cats. Or a therapeutic diet prescribed by your vet.

And all pets need exercise to stay healthy.

6) Joint disease – If your pet is overweight, joint disease may become a problem when they’re a senior.

Keep your pet at a healthy weight with proper nutrition and exercise, and you’ll minimize these problems and the pain associated with them.

Arthritis can be a problem for older pets whether they’re overweight or not. Just like for older people. If your pet is reluctant to jump, run or take part in their normal activities, their joints may hurt them.

Some dogs are prone to hip dysplasia, a very painful and debilitating condition you can read about in my post, 9 Signs Your Dog May Suffer From This Debilitating Condition.

Although hip dysplasia isn’t a problem for cats, arthritis is. If your cat isn’t using the litter box, they’re not grooming themselves, they’re not eating… these can be signs they’re in pain.

Your vet may suggest an orthopedic bed or ramps to improve the quality of life of a pet with joint pain. And ask about adding antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids to your pets diet. These are beneficial in treating inflammation.

7) Hearing loss – Is your pet slow to respond to commands they know? Do they ignore you—more so than usual—when you call their name? They may be losing their hearing.

Dogs and cats can learn to live with a hearing deficit. It just may take some

adjustments on your part. Talk to your vet to find out how you can help your pet live with a hearing loss.

8) Constipation – It’s common in dogs that are experiencing painful pooping due to hip dysplasia or anal gland disease. And it’s common in cats too.

Don’t let constipation linger. It can cause an obstruction and that can be serious.

If your pet is constipated, be sure they drink a lot of water. Your vet may also prescribe a high-fiber diet until the problem’s under control.

9) Cognitive dysfunction – Unfortunately our pets can become senile, just like we can. It’s called cognitive dysfunction and behavior that’s out of the norm may tell you your pet’s suffering from it.

You may find they’re disturbed by loud sounds, become aggressive, bark or meow more, are confused or disoriented, have accidents, aren’t interested in playing, are grouchy, or they don’t respond to voice commands.

Have your vet check them out if you suspect they’re getting senile. There isn’t a whole lot that can be done but some lifestyle changes may help.

As your pet ages, it’s important they see the vet more often. A check up twice a year is a good idea. And it’s up to you to spot subtle changes. Sometimes these are the only signs you’ll get that there’s a problem.

And early detection is critical in treating and slowing the progression of disease. Not to mention minimizing your pet’s pain.

Is your senior dog showing signs of aging? Tell us how in the comment section at the top of the page.




11 Signs Your Pet Is in Pain

The only thing worse than seeing our fur babies suffering in pain is knowing they were suffering, and we didn’t realize it.

Instinctually, dogs and cats will try to hide their pain in order not to appear weak to a predator. But there are subtle signs you may notice if they’re suffering.

1) Excessive grooming

When a dog or cat is in pain, they will often groom the area that’s causing them pain to clean and care for the wound. Even if there is no wound but the pain is internal, they may lick the spot.

2) Heavy panting

When your dog pants, you probably think nothing of it. But excessive panting warrants attention. It’s a sign of stress and that stress can be caused by pain.

One of my labs panted like crazy towards the end. I live in a warm place, so I assumed she was just cooling herself. But when I look back, I realize she was panting all the time… not just after activity.

I took too long to realize the panting was a sign of her pain.

Besides panting, you may also find that their breathing is faster or shallower. This can be a sign it hurts to breathe but it can also be a sign of general pain.

Your pet may be subtler. If they lick their lips when you touch a part of their body, they may be telling you it hurts.

3) Inappetence

Lack of appetite, particularly if your pet is a good eater, should be a red flag. Their pain may make it difficult to stand or to lean over the bowl. But when you’re in pain, you sometimes just don’t feel like eating.

Inappetence can be a sign of many ailments, some serious. So this definitely warrants a trip to the vet.

4) Shyness and aggression

An animal in pain can act out. They may try to bite or scratch if you try to touch them. If your always-sweet dog growls or snaps, or your mellow cat tries to bite or scratch you, they’re trying to tell you something. They’re going into protection mode so you don’t hurt them.

Have your vet evaluate your pet so you don’t get hurt.

If your friendly pet is suddenly hiding or doesn’t greet you at the door like usual, check for pain. They may avoid you so you don’t hurt them.

Some pets will seek constant affection when they’re suffering. But if the pet that typically likes to be held won’t let you pick them up or cries when you do, this is a warning sign.

Any noticeable change in attention seeking should cause you to question if something’s up.

5) General behavior changes

Is your pet depressed, lethargic, or mentally dull? Any extreme changes in behavior should cause the light bulb to go on.

If your pet suddenly won’t walk steps, jump, climb, or chase a ball something’s wrong. Everyone knows what it’s like to be in pain. You don’t want to do anything that’ll increase the pain.

You may also notice limping or stiffness when they stand.

A general disinterest in the things your pet used to love is a signal that something’s amiss.

6) Unexplained accidents

When a pet is in extreme pain, they may have accidents in the house. When the pain is too much to get up, a dog may not make it outside to do their business and a cat may not get to the litter box.

And if squatting is painful, they may just do their business in their bed.

7) Excessive vocalizations

If your dog is vocal, they may become less vocal. If they’re typically quiet, they may start whining, whimpering, yelping, growling, snarling, or howling. Do you find they’re vocalizing more than usual?  Check it out with your vet.

Cats may purr more. Purring is not always a sign of pleasure, so take note if your cat is purring more than is typical for them.

8) Changes in sleep

Sleep is important for healing. As a result, your pet may sleep more than usual. Sometimes though, they’re sleeping more because it hurts to move.

If your pet is pacing and not sleeping, they may be too uncomfortable to stay in one place and rest.

9) Postural changes

Your pet that normally curls up in a ball to sleep may lay flat on their side when they’re in pain.

They’re back may be arched or sunken, while some may get down in a prayer position with their rear-end up in the air and their abdomen stretched.

Your pet may take a rigid stance or their usually perky tail may be tucked.

10) Eye changes

This one may not be immediately obvious to you. Pain can cause your pet’s eyes to become dilated. Conversely, animals with eye pain often squint and their pupils may become smaller.

11) Restlessness

If you’ve ever been in severe pain, you know you can feel agitated and restless. It’s difficult to sit or lie down. The same goes for your pet.

If you see they’re pacing— or sit or lie down and then immediately get up— they’re uncomfortable.

Sometimes your pet will sit or lie in an unusual position to minimize their pain.

Anything out of the ordinary should alert you to a problem. If you sense something’s up, reach out to your vet at once.

The sooner you identify your pet’s pain, the sooner you can treat it. But never, ever give your pet a human pain med without talking to your vet first.

As our pets age, things will hurt. They’ll get sick.  And our young pets will have those inevitable accidents and illnesses.  But minimizing their pain and keeping them happy is our job as a pet parent.

Knowing what to look for will help you spot a problem quickly so you can manage your pet’s pain and keep them comfortable.

Has your pet ever been in severe pain? How did you know? Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.




Is Your Dog a Farter?

Although we dog owners love most everything about our dogs, there’s one thing we could live without… flatulence— more commonly known as gas.

All my dogs have been great producers of gas. But my greyhound, he was a professional farter. So much so, my kids lovingly renamed him Sirfartsalot.

Thankfully, gas is not usually a sign of anything too serious. But it can really affect your quality of life and your ability to enjoy your dog. And if it happens when you’re in a public place, it’s embarrassing!

But gas can usually be resolved once you figure out what’s causing it.

Flatulence is the release of accumulated gas in your dog’s intestinal tract. The natural bacteria in the gut break down the food. But certain foods don’t breakdown and get digested the way they should. And gas is the unpleasant result.

Why do some dogs have more gas than others?

Maybe you’ve heard that certain breeds are gassier than others. Specifically, brachycephalic breeds… dogs with short noses like Bulldogs, Boxers, and Boston terriers.

There is no clear evidence this is true. But some believe that the position of their short noses causes them to take in excess air when they breathe.

The veterinarians in the doubters camp feel excess air may cause burping but shouldn’t cause farting. Others believe that taking in excess air for any reason including eating too quickly or exercising too soon after eating can cause gas.

It can’t hurt to reduce the risk of taking in too much air by having your excited eater dine in a quiet room with no disturbances or distractions. If competitive eating causes your dog to eat too fast and take in too much air, separate your dogs.

Smaller more frequent meals can help too.

And never exercise your dog less than an hour before or after eating because that can cause bloat as I discussed in Could Your Dog Fall Victim to this Deadly Condition?, even if it doesn’t cause flatulence.

Regardless if too much air intake is to blame for gas, we know for sure the following 7 things can cause gas.

Low quality diet – This is the most common cause of gas. Indigestible carbohydrates and less digestible meat byproducts can lead to gas. Gas is the fermentation of poorly digested food. So feed your dog a super premium highly digestible food and you’ll notice less odor coming from your dog’s rear end.

If the first few ingredients on the label of your pet’s food are corn, soy, sugar or an unspecified protein meal, the food is of low quality and isn’t highly digestible.

Food allergies or sensitivities – Gas can be a sign that your dog is not tolerating something in their diet. What they may be allergic to is not always easy to identify.

In my article, 5 Signs Your Dog May Have a Food Allergy, you can learn more about how to isolate the offending ingredient in your dog’s food.

Sudden dietary changes – If you need to change your dog’s diet, be sure you do it gradually. A sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach and cause gas.

Dietary indiscretion – Is there a dog owner in the world that doesn’t have a story about the time their dog ate _____________? Fill in the blank. Every dog has eaten something they shouldn’t have either from the garbage can, the street, or maybe your kid’s backpack.

Depending on what they eat, it can really upset their stomach. And cause gas.

I find with my dogs that excessive gas is often the precursor to diarrhea.

Stress – When a dog is stressed, their digestion can suffer. Not unlike humans. The day I rescued my greyhound from the track, I learned about the relationship between stress and flatulence. The car ride home was a long one. He was so stressed and just kept passing gas… the whole 40-minute ride. Poor guy! Poor us!

And my new puppy that exudes confidence wherever she goes is surprisingly very nervous in the car. Whenever we go for a ride—pretty much daily—she blesses us with some awfully unpleasant emissions.

Table scraps – It’s not a good idea to feed your dog table scraps. If they’re eating a well-balanced diet, introducing food from the table isn’t necessary and can upset their digestive systems.

This is particularly true if they are lactose intolerant and you give them cheese or ice cream. If you do, expect gas!

And fatty foods… they can really be difficult for a dog to digest.

Gastrointestinal disorders – If your dog is eating a healthy high-quality diet without any unexpected extras, and they’re still gassy… see the vet.

A condition that disturbs the intestines’ ability to absorb nutrients can cause gas.

They could be suffering from a gastrointestinal disorder like ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, giardia or another parasite. But there are usually signs besides gas if something more serious is going on.

Keep in mind that anything that upsets the microflora (healthy bacteria) in the digestive tract can also make your dog gassy. That includes antibiotics.

Antibiotics disturb the healthy bacteria in humans too. If your dog is on antibiotics, consider giving them a probiotic to support the microflora in their systems.

In fact, if your dog is gassy, your vet may recommend adding a probiotic to their diet. Probiotics offer a lot of benefits. My article, Probiotics… Do Pets Need Them Too?, talks all about why you should consider a food like Husse that includes probiotics in its formulation.

How to reduce the gas

What’s causing the gas is something going into your dog’s digestive system. If your dog has a flatulence problem, start with their food.

A highly digestible food with high-quality protein and lower fiber will often get rid of the problem. Go with the best quality food you can afford to feed your dog.

A super premium food like Husse is a great choice. It’s highly digestible, and all of their foods contain a high-quality named protein source… no generic meals, no byproducts.

And don’t forget exercise. Just like people, dog’s need exercise to get their bowels moving and their digestive tract working. Both necessary to reduce gas.

Is your dog gassy? What’s worked to resolve the problem? Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.



9 signs your dog may suffer from this debilitating condition

There’s nothing more heartbreaking than seeing our beloved pets unable to enjoy being active and playful.

Unfortunately, when our dogs are suffering, they can’t tell us what’s bothering them. But our pet parent intuition knows when something is up.

There are many conditions that cause our dogs to avoid activity but hip dysplasia is particularly debilitating.

This is a condition that affects mostly large and giant breed dogs like Saint Bernards, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, and German Shepherds. But small and medium-sized breeds can get it too.

In simple terms, hip dysplasia is an abnormally formed hip socket. The ball and socket don’t meet each other properly causing the joint to rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. This causes pain and lameness. In its most severe form it can cripple your dog.

Hip dysplasia is one of the most common skeletal diseases seen in dogs.

Here are 9 signs your dog may suffer from this debilitating condition:

Decreased activity

Difficulty getting up

Reluctance to run or jump

Won’t climb stairs

Lameness in hind legs

Bunny hopping

Back legs are unnaturally close together

Loss of muscle mass in thigh muscles

Enlarged shoulder muscles from taking excess weight off hips

Hip dysplasia may affect both hips or just one. And it can start when your dog is young… sometimes as early as 5 months. Or you may notice a problem as your dog is aging and the joint is degenerating. Without early intervention, hip dysplasia will cause osteoarthritis.

If your dog is suffering from early onset hip dysplasia, the symptoms they experience will relate to the looseness or laxity in the joint. Later disease results in problems caused by degeneration of the joint and the ensuing arthritis.

Causes of hip dysplasia

There is a very strong genetic component to this orthopedic disease.

If you buy a large purebred dog from a breeder, the first question to ask is if the parents and grandparents are OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) certified. And ask to see the certifications.

Parents and grandparents with good hips are less likely to have puppies with bad hips, but it’s no guarantee they won’t.

If you rescue a dog, it’s a crapshoot. Selective breeding is the only prevention… and there’s still no guarantee.

Nutrition plays an important role. If a dog predisposed to hip dysplasia grows too quickly, gains weight too quickly or is obese, they have an increased likelihood of developing the disease. If you feed a lower fat, lean diet to a large breed puppy it will promote slower growth.

And feeding a premium food like Husse Valp Maxi (for large breed puppies), Optimal Giant and Lamm & Ris Giant may improve the odds. These foods are formulated to provide the nutrition required to minimize the health concerns associated with large breeds.

In addition, these three foods contain salmon oil. The Omega-3s in fish oil are a natural anti-inflammatory and provide many other health benefits. You can learn more about these benefits in my article Omega-3 Fatty Acids…Your Pet Needs Them Too!

And for the doggy already suffering from hip dysplasia, your vet may suggest adding fish oil to their diet.

Exercise can play a role too. And this one’s a double-edged sword. A young dog that’s over-exercised and is predisposed to the disease has a greater likelihood of developing it. But dogs with greater muscle mass are less likely to get it.

Hmmm!  The answer is exercise your dog but don’t overdo it.

Treating hip dysplasia

Once diagnosed, your vet’s treatment recommendation will depend on many factors such as your dog’s age, severity of the disease, your dog’s activity level and its size.

Surgery is an option, but it’s expensive. For most people, medical management is the likely choice.

Many medications are on the market today that will halt the degeneration of the joint. But any deformity or degeneration that exists will not go away.
Besides anti-inflammatories and pain meds, medical management may include:


Weight management

Warm and comfortable sleeping area

Physical therapy

Supplements including glucosamine, chondroitin, and Omega-3s

Your vet will want to follow-up with regular exams and possibly new x-rays to evaluate the progression.

This is one of those conditions that may mean lifestyle adjustments for your dog. But if caught early, it’s possible to slow the progression and enable your baby to have a good quality of life.

Does your dog suffer from hip dysplasia? How have you treated it? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.


People foods dangerous for pets

We all may be a little guilty of indulging our fur babies sometimes with table scraps, or by sharing a tasty human treat with them. And there are foods we eat that are definitely safe for our pets to eat too.

In fact last week, I talked about healthy fruits and veggies great for sharing.  This week I’ll tell you about the foods that are a definite NO for your pets.

These foods can be downright deadly! Many of them you may already know are dangerous. Some may be a surprise.

You may not believe in giving your pet human food, and that’s okay. But you can still find yourself with a sick dog or cat that ate something they shouldn’t have. A pet parent’s vigilance can’t always prevent a dog or cat from helping themselves to something left on the counter or in the pantry.

If your pet is showing signs they ate something they shouldn’t have (vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, difficulty breathing, seizures), call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center 888-426-4435, your vet, or the emergency clinic without delay.

Here are 15 foods to keep out of reach of your pets.

Alcohol – Besides the symptoms above that would be typical if your pet ate any of these foods, alcohol can also cause decreased coordination and even death. Keep any alcoholic beverages or foods made with alcohol, away from your pet.

Avocado – It contains persin—a fungicidal toxin similar to a fatty acid—which is toxic to pets in large amounts. Persin is not only in the fruit, it’s also in the leaves, seed and bark of the avocado plant. So also be careful if you grow avocados.

Caffeine – Anything with caffeine is dangerous to your pet. Coffee, tea, energy drinks, sports drinks, and soda all have caffeine. In addition to the typical symptoms associated with eating something harmful, signs of caffeine poisoning are hyperactivity, restlessness, heart palpitations and excessive thirst. And it can cause death.

Chocolate – Theobromine is the component in chocolate that’s toxic to our pets. Like caffeine—also present in chocolate—it’s in the methylxanthine class of drugs.  Methylxanthines are beneficial to human health but can be deadly for your dog or cat.

Dark chocolate has higher levels of theobromine than milk or white chocolate. Baking chocolate has the most.

Coconut, Coconut Oil, Coconut Water – A small amount of coconut probably won’t hurt your pet. But it may cause diarrhea. In large amounts, it can make your pet really sick. And never give your pet coconut water because it has high levels of potassium (good for humans but not your fur baby).

Grapes and Raisins – No one knows for sure what makes grapes and raisins toxic. But we do know that it can cause kidney failure. So although your dog may love chasing a grape around the kitchen floor… refrain.

Macadamia Nuts – Nuts contain a lot of oils and fats which can cause stomach distress and even pancreatitis. But macadamias, for some reason no one’s certain of, will make your pet very sick.

Milk and Dairy – Dairy products may make your pet sick but they won’t likely kill them. Dogs and cats don’t have a lot of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose in milk. As a result, too much dairy can mean diarrhea and stomach upset, not unlike lactose intolerance in humans.

Even cats, reputed milk guzzlers, should stay away from the white stuff.

Onions, Garlic and Chives – These three are alliums and ingesting them can cause hemolytic anemia in dogs and cats. It’s serious and can cause weakness, breathlessness, loss of interest in food and potentially death.

They’re dangerous in all forms; raw, powdered, cooked and dehydrated. And it’s not just a large amount that will make your pet ill. Even small amounts consumed regularly can cause poisoning.

Cats seem to be more susceptible but dogs are also at risk if they consume too much.

Persimmons – The seeds of the persimmon are the problem. They can cause inflammation and/or block the small intestine.

Raw Meat, Raw Eggs, Raw Fish – The biggest concern with raw meat and eggs is bacteria like Salmonella and E. coli that can make pets and people sick.

Raw fish can contain a parasite that causes “fish disease” or “salmon poisoning” disease. It can be fatal if not treated. But cooking does kill the parasite.

Raw eggs also contain an enzyme called avidin that decreases absorption of biotin (an important B vitamin). This can lead to skin and coat problems. But avidin is destroyed when eggs are cooked.

Raw Bones – Many people give their dogs raw bones because they feel it’s a natural treat… something dogs would have consumed in the wild. But domesticated dogs should never chew on a raw bone. They’re not their wild ancestors.

Raw bones are dangerous because they splinter and can damage the digestive tract. They’re also a choking hazard.

Salty Foods – Our pets aren’t intended to consume salt. Sharing salty human snacks like chips and pretzels is a bad idea. Too much salt can cause sodium poisoning which has the usual symptoms… vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, seizures, and can lead to death.

Xylitol – This natural sweetener is safe for humans and found in gum, candy, baked goods and toothpaste. But it’s particularly dangerous for our pets.

It causes insulin release which can ultimately lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If your pet consumes xylitol they may become lethargic, lose coordination and vomit. The symptoms can progress to seizures, elevated liver enzymes, and liver failure in only a few days.

So keep your pet out of your purse, the kids’ backpacks, suitcases… anywhere there may be items sweetened with xylitol.

Yeast Dough – Yeast causes dough to rise. If swallowed, the yeast dough may rise in your pet’s stomach. This can be painful and cause bloat – a life-threatening emergency. You can read my post about the signs and dangers of bloat here.

Yeast is also dangerous because it produces ethanol.  Ethanol is alcohol. If raw bread dough is ingested, your pet can become drunk. The same dangers of consuming alcohol I mentioned above apply to yeast consumption.

Many of the items on this list are probably foods you would never consider giving your pet. Some of the items may be foods you’ve given to your pet in the past. But knowing what may be harmful can head off a lot of heartache. And knowing the signs of poisoning can be life saving.

Has your pet ever consumed one of these toxic foods? Tell us about your experience at the top. Maybe you can save another pets life.