Is Your Dog A Speed Eater?

I can speak to this subject with a lot of experience!  We rescued our 8-year-old Lab when she was 2.  She came to us with a host of emotional and behavioral problems.  One problem was the voracity with which she consumed her food.

Yes, she is a Lab.  And we know all Labs love their food.

But this wasn’t a normal Lab’s love of food.  All fingers and hands needed to be quickly out of the vicinity of the bowl when it hit the ground.

Almost instantly, it became clear this was no laughing matter.  Most meals came back up shortly after she ate.  She’s our third Lab.  And although all three of our Labs loved their food, never had any of them eaten so fast they threw it all up.

After speaking with our vet, we realized we had to make some changes.

Timing how quickly your dog can empty the bowl may seem like a fun game but speed eating can cause health problems.  These can be serious, especially in a big dog like a Lab.

What causes a dog to eat too fast?

If we’re not talking about a sudden increase in appetite and the sudden onset of speed eating, dogs eat fast because of:

A learned behavior from puppyhood – Puppies often compete with their littermates to get enough food.  That may even be the case when they’re nursing.

The fear of competition from another pet in the house – If you have another pet, your dog may fear they’ll steal their food before they finish it.

Poor nutrition – Low quality food may not be providing enough nutrients, leaving your dog feeling hungry even after they’ve just eaten.

A parasite – Parasites can affect your dog’s ability to absorb nutrients from their food, again leaving them feeling hungry.

If your dog typically eats at a normal speed but suddenly they eat very fast or are always hungry, this can be a health issue—a hormone production or thyroid problem.  See your vet at once.

When my greyhound had thyroid cancer, he couldn’t get enough food.  A dog that wasn’t interested in food was suddenly stealing my kids’ sandwiches off the kitchen counter… in plain sight.  That’s a warning sign.

But that’s not what we’re talking about here.  I’m talking about a dog that eats too fast from the day you bring him home.

Why is eating fast problematic?

Interestingly, a dog’s mouth isn’t even considered a part of their digestive system because unlike in people, no part of the digestion process happens there.

Food is out of the mouth and into the body in seconds.  Dogs have pointed teeth for tearing big pieces of food at a time and getting the food down fast.

In humans, digestion does start in the mouth.  Our flat teeth and saliva break the food down before it even leaves the mouth.

But if your dog is gulping mouthfuls of food, that’s not what nature intended and they can choke. Although dogs don’t chew their food the way people do, they still need to swallow their food in manageable amounts.

Gulping also causes gas.  If your dog is gulping their food, they’re taking in a lot of air, making them gassy.

And all that air is the dangerous part.  A big dog that takes in a lot of air when they eat is at risk for bloat.  The stomach fills up with air and twists on itself.  This is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate emergency care.

And as in my Lab, speed eating can cause vomiting and other digestive problems. If you free-feed your dog, speed eating can also lead to canine obesity.  As soon as the bowl is empty, you’re filling it up again.  And your dog ends up getting too much food each day.

Remember too, that if your dog is eating at a breakneck pace because they’re afraid someone will take their food from them, they may show aggression when someone does.  And this can become a dangerous behavioral problem if not stopped.

How can you slow down your chowhound?

First, rule out a parasite by taking your dog to the vet.  In addition, feed the highest quality most nutritious food you can.  A super premium food like Husse is well-balanced to provide a nutrient-dense satisfying meal.

Once you’re certain your dog’s problem isn’t a parasite or poor nutrition, you can take simple steps to fix it.  And solutions abound!  Some may work and some won’t.

You might need to try a few things before you hit on the one or two that help your dog.  Every dog’s different.

Increase the number of meals you feed.  We feed our Lab three meals a day.  Eating less is easier on the digestion, even if your pup consumes that smaller amount faster than normal.

Try a bowl with obstructions.  They sell slow feeder bowls with plastic prongs that stick up or compartments.  Your dog has to work around the prongs or sections to get the food.  This slows them down.  Or try putting a brick or large rock (one too big to swallow) in the middle of the bowl.  You can also put a smaller bowl upside down inside the big bowl and put the food in the channel between the two.  If a bowl like this has the opposite effect because your dog becomes panicked that they can’t get the food fast enough, don’t use it.

Feed meals from a food toy or food puzzle.  A Kong toy stuffed with food will not only slow your dog down, it will give them mental stimulation as they work to get the food out.

Feed multiple pets separately.  This will eliminate the fear of competition.  You can try feeding them on opposite sides of the room, or in different rooms.

Scatter the food on the floor so your dog has to graze.  Picking up one kibble at a time will slow them down.

Use a muffin tin, dividing the food between each hole.  At least your dog will pick their head up long enough to move from one hole to the next.

Make feeding time game time, which will not only slow down your dog but will also provide mental stimulation.  Hide food in various locations in your house and tell your dog to “find it”.  Start by putting the food in locations your dog can see and progress to accessible hiding places.

You’ll find the greatest success by combining a few of these approaches.  For our Lab, feeding her more frequent smaller meals and using a slow feeder bowl did the trick.  Now she’s not a speed eater, she’s just the typical Hoover Lab that consumes any food in her path like a vacuum.

Does your dog eat too fast?  How do you slow them down?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Winter Blues… Pets Suffer From Depression Too

Short gray days at this time of year can make anyone feel a little low.  I attended college in Binghamton, New York where the sun didn’t shine from late October until late April.  I can tell you with certainty that when I was there, I suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD)… winter depression.  It’s a problem for many people.

But how about our pets?  Is it possible they’re affected by seasonal changes too?  And what about depression in general?  Can our pets be depressed?

If your pets are used to enjoying the outdoors—long walks in the park, games of fetch in the yard, hikes in the mountains—you can be sure they’re feeling down if bad weather’s keeping them housebound.

Are you noticing signs of the winter blues?  Our pets don’t care if the weather’s nice or not.  They still want and need to exercise… both their bodies and their brains.  Keeping a regular exercise routine, even if you have to take it indoors to an agility gym or play games of “Find It”, is essential to keeping your pet happy in every season.

But what about just generalized depression?  Have your pets ever been in a bad mood at other times of the year?

It’s likely pets experience depression, but maybe not in the same way people do.  We can’t be sure how our pets feel depressed because they can’t tell us.

In humans, doctors diagnose depression through dialog with a patient.  The patient can tell the doctor what they’re experiencing.  An animal has no ability to explain their state of mind.  So it’s a little more challenging to say they’re suffering from depression, as we think of depression.

But we know our pets suffer from depression-like symptoms.

Because of their inability to talk to us though, we can’t be sure that the symptoms they are experiencing are being caused by depression and not a medical problem.  The signs of depression are also linked to other health issues.

See your veterinarian as soon as you notice any of the behavioral changes I talk about in this article to rule out a health problem that needs treatment.

How do you know if your pet’s depressed?

A pet that’s depressed will act differently.  So take notice of any changes in their normal behavior.  Things like:

Lack of interest in playing

Sleeping more

Changes in appetite

Drinking less

Hiding

Destructive behavior

Aggression

Pottying in the house or outside the litter box

Lack of or excessive grooming

Lethargy

Withdrawing from attention

Moping

Pacing

Whining or crying

What would cause your pet to become depressed?

In pets, depression is short-lived, and it’s generally brought on by change.  A new home, a new baby or pet in the house, or a stay-at-home owner getting a job outside the house.  These can all lead to depression.

But the most common reasons for depression in our pets are the loss of an owner or companion animal.

Unfortunately, loss is a part of life… for everyone.   But there are ways to lessen the blow for our pets.

How can you keep those tails wagging?

During periods of change in your home, try to keep your pet’s routine the same.  Keep up with daily exercise, play and cuddle time—even if your new circumstances make it difficult.  Your pet needs their regular routine.

If your pet is moping, try not to reward that behavior by lavishing affection on them.  Instead, get them to do something that makes them happy and reward that behavior.

For instance, grab the leash for a walk.  If they wag their tail and show excitement, praise that happy behavior.

With a cat, give them their space.  But when they come to you, try to engage them in an activity they like and give them affection when they respond.

If you use this method of behavior modification early on, you can often avoid a prolonged period of depression.

Most pets bounce back in a few days or weeks.  They just need a little more TLC, exercise, and attention.

But if your pet falls into a depression you aren’t able to help them shake, talk to your vet about meds.  Some of the medications used for depression in people are also available for our pets.  Vets often prescribe drugs like Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft.

Medication takes time to kick in—up to 2 months.  But your pet probably won’t need to be on it for more than 6 to 12 months.

If you prefer to take a more holistic approach, herbal supplements are available for pet depression.  A holistic vet can help you find the one that’s right for your dog or cat.

But remember, never give your pet any drugs or supplements without talking to your vet first.  They can have adverse effects if your pet is sick or is on other medications.

Depression is treatable in people and pets.  It just takes a little education to see the signs so you can act… because happiness is something we all want for our pets.

Has your dog or cat suffered from depression?  How did you know and what did you do about it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

Colds… Dogs Get Them Too

In most areas of the country, it’s cold outside.  Snowy, icy, wintery weather keeps us indoors this time of year.  Being in close quarters spreads germs and is a surefire way for us to get sick.

Winter’s cold and flu season impacts us.  But what about our dogs?

Most definitely!  They can’t catch a cold or the flu from us because their viruses differ from ours. But when they get a cold, their symptoms are often the same.  Sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, and a runny or stuffy nose make our dogs miserable too.

The right diagnosis is important

The thing about these symptoms is they can mean your dog has a cold, or they can be a sign of something else.  Some conditions with symptoms similar to a cold are very serious.

For instance, canine distemper.  It’s a viral infection that can be deadly.  The symptoms include coughing, thick discharge from the dog’s eyes and nose, and a high fever. But with distemper your dog may also vomit, not typical with a cold.

Besides distemper, parasites and fungal infections can get into the lungs, heart and trachea. These conditions also bring on cold-like symptoms—specifically coughing and breathing problems—and can lead to life-threatening complications.

The sneezing, coughing, and watery eyes can also be allergies.  They can make your dog miserable but they’re generally not life threatening.  There’s help for canine allergies.  So talk to your vet.

Many people confuse kennel cough with a cold.  A dog can easily contract kennel cough from another dog that has it.  Usually when you’ve boarded your dog or your dog has come in contact with a dog that has recently been in the kennel.  It causes a dry honking cough and you have to treat it.

How about the flu?  People often say they have the flu when they have a bad cold.  But your dog probably doesn’t have canine flu.  It’s not that common.  But any dog that comes in contact with it is likely to get it because most dogs are not immune to it.

Coughing, sneezing and nasal discharge look the same in canine flu as they do with a cold.  But the flu may bring on lethargy and loss of appetite.  Just like in humans, your dog will seem sicker with the flu than a cold.  If you suspect the flu, call the vet.  A dog with the flu can get pneumonia and that’s serious.

If you suspect that your dog’s symptoms are something more than a cold, it’s always a good idea to get them to the doctor.

Dogs catch colds the way people do

One way a dog can catch a cold is from another dog that has one.  And, surprisingly, your dog can catch a chill just like you can.

When your mother threatened, “You’ll catch a chill”, did you wonder why you should care?

Well, if you catch a chill, your body needs to work harder and use more energy to stay warm.  Expending more energy lowers your immune system.  The same is true for your dog.

So if your dog often gets a cold, try to keep them dry and warm in the winter.  A nice cozy sweater when they go outside is a great idea.

Many dogs will live their whole lives without ever catching a cold.  But some dogs get them every year.  It depends on the dog and their ability to fight infection.

Truthfully, of the eight dogs I’ve had, not one of them ever caught a cold.  But my sister had a dog that had several colds over her life.  Every dog is different.

Keep your dog’s immune system strong.  Regular exercise, a nutritious diet, access to clean fresh water, and a clean living environment are prevention measures you can take to keep colds away.

Treatment is similar too

Just like you would if you caught a cold, keep your dog hydrated.  Feed them healthy food—even chicken soup as long as it’s not too hot and there are no bones.  Keep them warm and dry.

Humidify the air near the area where they sleep if they’re having trouble breathing.  You can also fill the bathtub with hot water to create steam and let your dog lay on the bathroom floor (NOT in the tub).  Steam clears the sinuses and lungs.

If your dog is healthy overall, they’ll be over their cold in a few days.  But some dogs need antibiotics or other meds.  If your dog’s symptoms are lingering for more than 3 or 4 days or they’re worsening, see your vet.

Very young and very old dogs should see the vet at the onset of symptoms.  Their immune systems can’t fight off a cold and may need some other interventions.

If you have multiple dogs and one has a cold, separate them.  Colds are contagious, dog-to-dog.

Just like you can’t give your cold to your dog, they aren’t contagious to you.  Remember, they are different viruses.

Has your dog had a cold?  How did you know?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

12 Tips to Calm Your Pet This New Year’s Eve

In a few short days, 2016 will come to a close. If it’s been a year you’re happy to see end, you’ll likely be celebrating.   As will your friends and neighbors who are happy to turn the page on the calendar.

With all that celebrating there’ll surely be noisemakers, fireworks, loud music and maybe some hootin’ and hollerin’ in your home or your neighborhood.

Although the carousing may be a release for us, our pets don’t feel quite the same way. For them, loud noises can be terrifying and anxiety provoking, making New Year’s Eve less than enjoyable for our furry family members.

If you have a seriously anxious pet, they may tremble, hide, pace or pant. With moderate anxiety your pet may lick their lips and yawn a lot.

Knowing you have an anxious pet enables you to be proactive and prepare.   Here are 12 things you can do to minimize your pet’s stress.

1) Confine your pet to a safe place. If your pet is crate trained, they’ll probably be comfortable there. But if your pet isn’t crate trained, now’s not the time to try it. Instead, put them in a safe room where they can’t get themselves into trouble.

2) Play relaxing classical music or the television at a volume that’s loud enough to drown out the frightening noises, but not too loud to cause more anxiety.

3) Spray lavender oil on your pet’s bed or favorite blanket. Or just let them smell it.

4) Try canine or feline pheromones that help your pet feel safe. These come as plug-in room diffusers or sprays.

5) Talk to your vet about ProQuiet, a chewable tryptophan tablet that works for cats and dogs. Sileo is a prescription medication for dogs that reduces anxiety without sedation. Ask your vet if it’s right for your dog.

6) Take your dog out for as much exercise as possible before the festivities begin. And keep your cat moving with toys and laser pointers before the evening gets going. They’ll be too tired to be stressed.

7) Try desensitizing earlier in the day or a few days before by making loud noises, blowing the noisemakers, and clanking the pots and pans. This may not work for extremely anxious pets.

8) Try a pressure point coat like ThunderShirt. These jackets put constant gentle pressure on a dog’s pressure points and promote a sense of calm by creating the sensation of being held.

9) Distract your pet with food puzzles or some new toys. Spritz a new toy with catnip to keep your cat engaged. And I never met a dog that didn’t love a Kong stuffed with peanut butter.

10) Allow your pet to follow you around if that helps them stay calm. If that’s not possible or you’re going out, hire a pet sitter. This is particularly advisable if your pet is extremely anxious.

11) Some say you shouldn’t comfort or coddle a frightened pet. It will reinforce their negative behavior. But some say it’s okay to show calm affection. I’m personally in that camp. If you were scared, wouldn’t someone speaking soothingly calm you down? When your pet is calm, reinforce that behavior with treats. And always stay calm yourself so your pet sees that everything’s okay.

12) Leave the neighborhood for a quieter place if possible.

One or two of these alone may not work. You may have to try several of them to have any effect on your pet.

In spite of your best efforts, you may come home to damage if you leave your pet alone on New Year’s Eve and there’s a ruckus in your neighborhood.

Whatever you do, don’t scold them! Your pet needed an outlet to express their anxiety. Or they may have been trying to escape from it.

What if your typically calm pet unexpectedly becomes anxious on New Year’s Eve? This can happen as pets age. Especially if they suffer from health problems or the dementia I wrote about in my last article.

Awareness can go a long way in minimizing your pet’s stress. It allows you to plan if you know you have an anxious pet.

But there are also things on the list you can do if your normally relaxed pet starts to unravel. Look out for the signs your pet is melting down and confine them to a safe place. Play calming music. Give them a stuffed Kong toy.  And sit with them for a while.

In some pets, the anxiety is so severe they hurt themselves. They may bloody their paws trying to escape out a closed door or possibly even jump from a window. And never tie up your anxious dog outside. They can injure themselves trying to escape the tether and runaway.

Always be sure your pet has a collar on with identifying tags and that they are micro-chipped, in case they get loose.

It’s unfair to let a pet suffer. Talk to your vet if you know you have an anxious pet.

For humans, the holiday season is a time for joyful celebration. But we rarely consider what our pets think of all the hoopla.  We can make the festivities enjoyable for all our family members with a little planning.

A happy and healthy 2017 to you and your pets!

How do you keep your pet calm when they’re frightened of noises? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

Doggy Dementia… 21 Warning Signs

It’s not enough to worry about keeping our brains sharp as we age, we need to think about our dogs’ brains too.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or CCD, is a problem for half of all dogs over 11 and can have devastating quality of life consequences.  Not unlike Alzheimer’s/dementia in humans.

It can be difficult to watch your beloved dog go through the changes in personality dementia causes.  But if you think senility is a part of the aging process and there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s not true.

Our pets will not live forever.  But being proactive when a problem starts will keep our fur babies healthy and happy for as long as they’re with us.

If you know the signs of CCD and act quickly, the treatments will be more effective.

What does dementia look like in a dog?

As our dog’s age they change.  No question about it!

A loss of hearing or vision can cause your dog to walk into walls or ignore your commands.  Kidney problems can mean accidents in the house.  Arthritis can make your dog avoid activity.  And cancer can bring about a lack of appetite.

Surprisingly, these can also be signs of canine dementia.  Because the signs of dementia are also the signs of so many other health problems, your vet must rule out other conditions first.

Here are 21 things to look out for if you have a senior dog.

  • They get lost in the corners or behind furniture
  • They have trouble finding and using doors
  • They don’t respond to their name
  • They can’t navigate the house and seem disoriented
  • They’re restless at night, sleeps during the day
  • They don’t signal to go out and have accidents
  • They don’t want to play
  • They don’t respond to sounds or people
  • They don’t recognize family
  • They tremble
  • They’re extremely irritable
  • The lick excessively
  • They don’t self-groom
  • They lose their appetite
  • They’re slow to learn new tasks
  • They don’t respond to commands they’ve previously learned
  • The bark, howl, and whine inappropriately
  • They pace or wander aimlessly
  • They stare at walls or into space
  • They startle when you turn lights or television on
  • They’re hesitant to take treats

If the alarm bells are going off as you read through this list, call your vet.  Don’t chalk it off to old age.  A senile dog is an anxious and unhappy dog.  Just like any other aspect of aging, we need to manage dementia for our pets so they can enjoy the best quality of life possible as they enter their golden years.

Remember too, that symptoms may start off mild but cognitive decline can worsen.  If you get a treatment plan in place, you may be able to delay serious dementia.

What causes CCD?

There are 3 major pathological changes that occur in the brain in older dogs that can cause diminished mental function.

1)  The brain shrinks

2)  Dopamine levels drop

3)  Beta-amyloid plaque (a protein) accumulates in the brain

Any one, or all, of these things can result in memory loss and impaired cognition.

We know what happens in the brain that contributes to diminished cognition.  But just like in humans, no one knows why these changes in the brain happen to some but not others.

In dogs, there may be genetic factors that predispose them to senility.

What are the treatment options?

First, your vet must rule out a health or behavioral problem before confirming CCD.  If they’re certain dementia is causing your dog’s symptoms, there is unfortunately no cure.

But there are treatments.  And they can be effective in slowing the decline and reducing anxiety.

Anipryl, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s in people, is approved for use in dogs with CCD.  It can take a few months to kick in, but it works in many dogs.  The earlier you start it, the more effective it is.

Your vet will likely suggest environmental enrichment.   Schedule exercise and play time into your dog’s daily routine.  Introduce new toys and teach some unfamiliar, simple commands to improve memory.  Even spending time with a doggy friend can be beneficial.

Diet’s important too.  A food rich in antioxidants, like Husse Optimal Light, is important to brain health.   Studies show that combining diet and environmental enrichment improves cognition in dogs with dementia.

Sometimes doctors will also suggest supplements like Vitamins E and C, selenium, flavonoids, beta carotene, carotenoids, carnitine, and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) which studies show improve mental function.

A dog suffering from CCD should see the vet twice a year to assure treatments are keeping stress and anxiety in check, and that your dog is still enjoying a good quality of life.

But it will also be up to you to keep your dog’s environment as stress free as possible.

Don’t move furniture around, or redecorate.  Keep clutter to a minimum so the dog can easily negotiate its surroundings.  Use short commands to avoid confusion.

Know your dog’s limit with new situations, people, places and other dogs.  And develop a routine feeding, watering and walking schedule that your senior pup can count on.

If you’re noticing your dog’s quality of life is deteriorating and the treatments recommended by your vet aren’t helping, consider talking with a veterinary behaviorist.  They may be able to help your confused pet.

If you prefer holistic options, talk to your vet about Chinese herbs and/or acupuncture to treat senility.  These treatments have worked.

As our dogs age, there’s little we can do to stop the clock.  We all want the best for our pets. We want them in our lives as long as possible.  But we can’t be selfish.

My vet once said something that stuck with me.  I always remind myself of his words when it’s time to make that gut wrenching decision to euthanize.  What he said was simple, but it hit home. “It’s the quality of the years, not the quantity,” he said.

If your dog is living a life filled with anxiety at every turn, that’s not quality.  When our senior dogs decline, we need to be compassionate.  And always remind them they may change but our love for them never will.

Does your dog suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?  How do you deal with it?  Please share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

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 depending on the fact the lady on the checkout line staring at my fur-laden black leggings has seen that shirt too.

Shedding… the one thing we can all agree is a doggy downside.  If there is such a thing.

A better sense 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 say is a non-shedder.  But really… 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 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.  Dogs need to get rid of old hair, like humans do.  This makes room for fresh healthy new hair.  So a single coat will shed but only minimally.

This distinction is one you’d be wise to understand if you’re thinking about getting a new dog.  If you know the dog you’re considering has a single or double coat, you’ll know 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 breeds that aren’t “cold weather dogs”— like Greyhounds, Beaucerons, Collies, and Wheaton Terriers — that have double coats too.

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

If you understand what a double coat is, you’ll understand why dogs with 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 are fluffier with a heavily insulated double coat 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 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 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.

To shave or not

Because I live in a warm-weather climate, I often see double-coated dogs whose owners have shaved them… presumably to keep them cool.  Or to keep 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.

How to minimize 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 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 groomer’s floor instead of yours.

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

But if your dog’s shedding seems abnormal, there could be more going on.  Stress, disease and parasites can all cause shedding, as well as hormonal factors.

If your dog is intact, 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 shed more too.

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.

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.