Why Dogs Shed

Have you ever seen the t-shirt that says, “Dog hair is my bling”? There are many days dog hair is my bling. And on those days, I’m hoping the lady on the checkout line staring at my fur-laden black leggings has seen that shirt too.

Shedding may be the one thing dog owners would say is the downside of owning a dog… if there is such a thing as a downside.

A better understanding of why and when our dogs shed can help us minimize the little fur balls around the baseboards… and maybe even the “bling” on our clothes.

Of the eight dogs I’ve owned in my life, only one of them was what people would call a non-shedder. But really… there is no such thing as a dog that doesn’t shed. All dogs shed (except the hairless ones). Some breeds just shed more than others.

This one “nonshedder” I had as a kid was a Kerry Blue Terrier. A Kerry has a single coat. It has no undercoat. Dogs with an undercoat are double coated.

And hair and fur, they’re often interchanged when we talk about a dog’s coat. But hair and fur are different. A dog with a single coat has hair. Dogs with a double coat are said to have fur.

The misconception that some dogs are nonshedders exists because dogs with a single coat shed much less than dogs with a double coat. But they too have to get rid of old hair, just like humans do, to make room for fresh healthy new hair. So they will shed but only minimally.

This distinction is one you’d be wise to understand if you’re thinking about getting a new dog. Knowing if the dog you’re considering has a single or double coat tells you a lot about how much you can expect your new best friend to shed.

The double coat

Many breeds have double coats, particularly breeds that originated in cold climates… breeds like Siberian Huskies, Malamutes, Labradors, Newfoundlands and Akitas.

But there are many other breeds that have double coats you might not lump into the “cold weather dog” category. Greyhounds, Beaucerons, Collies, and Wheaton Terriers have double coats too.

And I’ve only named a few of the double-coated breeds. The list is a lengthy one.

If you understand what a double coat is, you’ll understand why dogs that have them shed more.

A dog with a double coat has a soft insulating undercoat (hair closest to the skin) with a coarser topcoat made up of longer guard hairs that repel moisture.

The furrier Nordic breeds have fluffier heavily insulated double coats to keep them warm during those cold Nordic winters.   Their coats change with the seasons. They do this by blowing their coat twice a year—a very heavy shed in the spring and fall.

In the spring, a double-coated dog will shed its winter undercoat to empty the hair follicles and prepare for the new growth they’ll get for the summer.

A summer undercoat won’t be as thick as the winter undercoat. But it serves a different purpose… protection from the heat and sun.

Right about now, your double-coated dog may be blowing his summer coat. That’s typical in the fall when they’re preparing to grow their thicker winter coat.

These seasonal periods of shedding are more pronounced if your dog lives outside. The coat of an indoor dog that lives in a temperature controlled environment won’t change as much with the seasons because they’re not as reliant on their coats for protection from cold and heat. They’ll shed more consistently throughout the year.

Shaving the double coat

Bad idea!!!

Because I live in a warm-weather climate, I often see double-coated dogs that have been shaved… presumably to keep them cool. Or maybe to keep the fur off the furniture.

Don’t do it. The purpose of the double coat is to keep the dog warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Just because we’re cooler when we shed a layer of clothing doesn’t mean our dogs are cooler with less fur. We sweat through our skin. They don’t.

In fact, shaving your dog can cause some serious problems. They can suffer from folliculitis, and other conditions that affect the coat and skin. And because they rely on their coat for protection from the heat and sun, they can easily overheat without it and get sunburned.

Minimizing shedding

There are things you can do—other than shaving your dog—to cut back on the amount of hair that ends up in unwanted places.

Good grooming habits are the first line of defense. Brush your dog daily with a brush that’s meant for a shedder. This will loosen the hairs that would otherwise end up on your furniture.

When you bathe your dog, use a gentle shampoo made for normal or dry skin. Medicated shampoos or shampoos for coarse hair are often too harsh and can make your dog’s skin dry. The drier and itchier your dog’s skin, the more they’ll shed.

And a professional grooming once in a while will get a lot of the hair out. A groomer will vigorously rake the undercoat and do a de-shed treatment leaving the undercoat on the groomers floor instead of your floors.

Most importantly, keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy by feeding them a food rich in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids like Husse’s Lax & Ris or Husse’s Lamm & Ris.  This will substantially reduce shedding.

If you have a big shedder, your vet may recommend B vitamins. They can prevent conditions that cause dry itchy skin.

But if your dog is shedding so much that it seems abnormal to you, there could be more going on. Stress, disease and parasites can all cause shedding.

And hair that comes out in clumps leaving bare skin is not normal shedding. See the vet if you think the amount your dog sheds is unusual.

Hormonal factors play a part too. If you have an intact dog, they will shed with changes in their hormone levels. As a result, spayed and neutered dogs have denser fluffier undercoats. Hormones will cause pregnant and lactating dogs to also shed more.

Knowing why and when your dog sheds can help you get on top of it. But in spite of our best efforts, a shedder’s gonna shed. Duct tape… it works!

How do you deal with your shedder? Share with us in the comment section at the top of the page.

7 Herbs That May Be Good For Your Cat

You may or may not believe in using herbal supplements to treat what’s ailing you. But have you ever thought about using them for your cat’s medical conditions?

They can often help where traditional medications have fallen short. And they can also be a terrific complement to traditional medicine.

Just as herbs are beneficial for treating conditions in people, they can help our pets too.

But always check with your vet before giving herbs to your cat. Some herbal supplements can be toxic if you give your cat too much. And they can be inadvisable if your pet is taking other meds.

And remember that a supplement can be good for one condition, but make others worse. Only your vet can tell you if your cat is a good candidate for herbal remedies.

Here are 7 herbs to consider for your feline.

1) Valerian Root

People use valerian root to help them sleep. In cats, it has the opposite effect. Valerian root will give your cat a boost of energy. This is helpful if you have an overweight, lazy cat you’d like to get moving.

Valerian root is a great alternative to catnip if your kitty isn’t a fan. Or you can use both on different occasions. It makes them feel euphoric and can reduce stress. Actinidine is the active ingredient in valerian root that produces the euphoric response.

You can sprinkle valerian root on their scratching post or toys. You can even find toys laced with it.

2) Dandelion

Dandelion root is a diuretic. It promotes liver detoxification and keeps the urinary tract healthy.  The root of this pretty yellow flower is just good for digestion.

And how about a laxative?  Does your cat need one? Dandelion root’s a natural remedy.

You may be wondering about the flower itself.  Well, it can be a safe and gentle pain reliever.

3) Catnip

If you have a cat, you know catnip is kitty crack. It’s an herb in the mint family. If a cat eats catnip, it acts like a sedative. But if your kitty sniffs it, this herb also known as Nepeta produces a “high” that lasts for about 10 minutes.

Nepetalactone is the compound in the leaves and stems that produces the response in your cat. The scent mimics that of feline pheromones. The “high” your cat feels from sniffing this herb may make them act hyper.

Cats inherit the sensitivity to Nepetalactone and only about half of all cats are actually sensitive to the herb.

Because the sensitivity takes time to develop, young kittens won’t react to catnip. Your cat must be several months old before they experience the “high”, if at all. And if your cat is exposed to it often, they may lose their sensitivity.

4) Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a natural antibiotic. Make a goldenseal tea.  Strain, cool, and make a compress for infected or irritated eyes.

You can also use goldenseal as a disinfectant on wounds. Turn the powdered root into a poultice and apply it to skin infections or ulcers.

Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory properties too.

5) Eyebright

Eyebright is an herbaceous flowering plant. It’s one you might never have heard of.  But this is an herb that seems to be a panacea for upper respiratory infections. Eyebright helps nasal mucous, sneezing, and breathing difficulties, as well as eye rubbing. It also supports the immune system.

Eyebright is often made into a tea—1 to 2 teaspoons added to your cat’s food. Or use it as a wash for the nose or eyes.

6) Nettle

You may choose to buy this one in supplement form to avoid having to harvest it from your garden. The little hairs that cover the nettle plant will sting your skin and cause blisters. Its other name is stinging nettle… for a reason.

But nettle packs a health punch!

A tea of nettle is helpful in treating seasonal allergies. There are histamine-like substances in nettle. These substances may slow the body’s own release of histamines… the cause of those allergic reactions.

Nettle is rich in vitamins and minerals including Vitamin C and iron. These nutritive properties make nettle an all-around great addition to your cat’s food.

It also reduces itchy skin from fleabites when used topically. And there’s evidence nettle may help with kidney function.

7) Parsley

Veterinarians use parsley to support urinary tract health. It helps prevent kidney stones and is used to treat cystitis.

Parsley stimulates appetite in cats that are poor eaters. And it’s good for digestion, not to mention fresh breath!

Parsley has a lot of folic acid… very beneficial to heart health. And some claim parsley discourages tumor growth, particularly lung tumors.

In cats that have given birth, parsley is useful in promoting lactation and contracting the uterus. But never give parsley during pregnancy. It can cause contractions.

You can also rub parsley leaves on the skin to help with bruising and itching.

These are only a handful of herbs that are natural remedies for what’s ailing your kitty. There are many other herbs that can be helpful where traditional medicine hasn’t been. You can get lots of information on this topic from a holistic veterinarian.

And if you decide to grow any of these herbs in your garden, you’ll want to research the best and safest ways to use them. A holistic vet can help.

But if you decide to buy herbs in supplement form instead of growing them, buy from a reliable source. Reputable sellers should be more than happy to tell you how to use them effectively and safely.

Herbs are generally not harmful when used topically.

But as I said at the start, herbs taken orally can endanger your cat. Some herbs are poisonous. Some are only poisonous in high doses. Some are contraindicated with traditional medications. So always talk to your vet before starting your cat on any herbs or herbal supplements.

Do you give your cat herbs? How have they helped? Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

Pumpkin for Dogs and Cats… 6 Reasons To Give It To Your Pet

Fall is here and pumpkins abound this time of year. Halloween brings them out in all their glory. Now that the tricking and treating is done, what do you do with that big orange squash?

Well, if it’s carved… enjoy it a little longer and then throw it out. But if your pumpkin is untouched and undecorated consider cooking, pureeing and adding it to your pet’s food.

From the flesh to the seeds, pumpkin’s got essential fatty acids, nutrients and fiber that are beneficial for our cats and dogs.

Here are 6 reasons you should consider feeding it to your pet… if not fresh pumpkin then canned pumpkin from the store. It’s full of good stuff.

1) Digestive Health

Because pumpkin is such a fantastic source of fiber, it’s helpful for constipation and diarrhea.

Constipation is common in senior cats. If your kitty suffers from it, talk to your vet about adding a little pumpkin to your cat’s food.

The increased fiber—3 grams per cup—makes the stool bulkier. Bulkier stool stimulates the colon and makes the muscles contract to move the stool through the colon and out the tush.

And pumpkin’s helpful with diarrhea too. If your dog eats something they shouldn’t and they end up with loose stools, give them a little pumpkin.  The fiber in pumpkin bonds together in your pet’s digestive tract and acts like a sponge to absorb excess water in the diarrhea.

Pumpkin is good for general stomach upset in your dog or cat.

2) Urinary Health

The seeds of the pumpkin are a healthy treat for your pet too. They are rich in essential fatty acids (omega-3) and antioxidants (Vitamin C) that support a healthy urinary tract.

If your pet suffers from incontinence, kidney stones or crystals, talk to your vet about pumpkin seeds as a wholesome treat.

3) Weight Loss

The high fiber and water content (90%), and low calories and fat in pumpkin can help your overweight pet slim down.

Replace a little of their food with pumpkin. It tastes great. And even though you’ve cut calories and fat, the fiber helps your pet feel full.

4) Nutrient Dense

Pumpkin is not only high in fiber and low in fat and calories, it’s full of nutrients.

The omega-3 fatty acids found in pumpkin are good for the skin and coat. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory benefits as well. My post Omega-3 Fatty Acids… Your Pet Needs Them Too! talks all about that.

Pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene (cancer fighting), magnesium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, copper, and Vitamins A and C.  So although there’s no documented science that pumpkin is beneficial to the immune system, it seems logical that it couldn’t hurt.

Beware… some of these vitamins and minerals can be toxic though if levels get too high. So never give your pet more than a teaspoon or two of pumpkin a day. And always check first with your vet to be sure it’s okay for them to have it.

5) Hairballs

Are hairballs a problem for your cat? Well, pumpkin’s a natural solution. The fiber helps move hairballs through the cat’s digestive tract. And if your cat eats pumpkin regularly, it can prevent hairballs from forming in the first place.

6) Hydration

If your pet eats dry kibble, their bodies need to secrete more gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes for digestion than with wet food. Adding a moisture rich food like pumpkin to dry kibble reduces the dehydrating effect.

How do you make pumpkin edible for your pet?

Well, definitely don’t feed it to them raw. Cook it or buy it canned.

But if you buy the canned stuff, be sure it’s just pureed pumpkin. Don’t buy pumpkin pie filling. It’s loaded with sugar, spices, preservatives and fat, which can all add up to stomach upset for your pet.

If you’re going to cook fresh pumpkin, it’s simple. Cut the pumpkin into small pieces. Cut off the pith and the seeds. Put the pumpkin skin-side down in a roasting pan. Add ¼ inch of water and bake uncovered for 1 hour or until tender at 300 degrees. When the pumpkin’s cool, cut off the skin and mash or puree the flesh.

To feed the seeds, cook them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Roast them at 375 degrees for 5 to 10 minutes. Let them cool and then give only 1 or 2 a day as a treat. They are high in fat which can cause diarrhea if you give your pet too many. Store the leftovers in an airtight container.

Because pumpkins are big and canned pumpkin is plentiful too, you can end up throwing most of it away if you don’t plan.

Pumpkin puree will only last a week in the fridge. And since you will only give your pet about a teaspoon a day, a good amount will end up in the garbage at the end of the week. But here’s what you can do.

Use ice cube trays to make individual daily servings. Once frozen, separate a weeks worth into small containers. Then each week defrost one container at a time.

If you freeze the pumpkin puree, be sure to mix it when it defrosts because the water will separate from the pulp.

You can feed your pet a teaspoon of pumpkin by itself as a treat, or mix it in with their food. But get the okay to add pumpkin and find out the right amount from your vet.  Otherwise, you may end up with a case of diarrhea.

Do you feed your pet pumpkin? If so, do you buy canned or feed fresh pumpkin? Tell us the effect it’s had on your pet in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.