The Benefits of Doggy Sun Protection

I have owned dogs my whole life.  With each one, I try to be a better pet parent. I try to learn more and do more with each dog that comes into my life.

This week, I have to confess I have been remiss about protecting my dogs from the harmful effects of the sun.

Frankly, I hadn’t thought the sun was much of a problem for a dog.  After all, our dogs don’t have to worry about wrinkles.  And I thought they’re pretty well protected from sunburn by their fur.

It turns out I couldn’t be more wrong.

Wrinkles may not be a dog problem but skin cancer is.  In fact, skin tumors are the most common tumors in dogs.  And some breeds are more susceptible than others.

The three most common skin cancers in dogs are malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and mast cell tumors.

Malignant melanoma

Most malignant melanomas occur on the mucous membranes like the mouth.   But dogs can get them on body parts covered with hair about 10% of the time.

If untreated, they are fatal because they grow quickly and will spread to other organs.

Melanomas in dogs are caused by genetic factors.   There are breeds at greater risk for this form of cancer.  Schnauzers, Scottish terriers and other black dogs are prone to melanomas on their toes or on the toenail bed.

There seems to be a connection between a trauma or incessant licking and melanoma.  This causes the cells to multiply and in some cases mutate into cancer.

Squamous cell carcinoma

This is the one form of skin cancer in dogs linked to sun exposure.  It’s aggressive and can destroy a lot of the tissue surrounding the tumor.

It’s commonly found in dogs that spend time in the sun and dogs that live at high altitudes.  They’re closer to the sun.

You’re likely to find this cancer on your dog’s nose, ears, or belly… areas where there’s no fur for protection from the sun.

Squamous cell carcinoma appears between 6 and 10 years old and generally affects dogs with short coats, especially if they have light skin and/or light fur.

Large breed black dogs are prone to squamous cell on their toes.

Keeshonds, Basset Hounds, Standard Schnauzers, Collies, Dalmations, Bull Terriers and Beagles are prone to this cancer.

Mast cell tumors

Another fatal cancer, mast cell tumors are the most common skin tumor in dogs.  And no one knows for sure what causes them.  There is a link to inflammation or irritants on the skin.  Hormones may also affect mast cell tumor growth.

Sadly, I lost a dog to this.  Her diagnosis occurred when she was 8 which seems to be the mean age for this cancer.  Our vet surgically removed the tumors which gave her a few good years.  But the cancer ultimately spread to her lungs.

These tumors affect the mast cells, which play a role in the allergic response.  The cells cause the itching, swelling and redness on your pet’s skin that results from contact with an allergen.

But you need not worry that your dog is more susceptible to this form of cancer if they suffer from allergies.  There’s no connection.

Once again, though, genetics play a role.

Certain breeds are prone to mast cell tumors.  Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Labrador Retrievers, Beagles, Schnauzers and Golden Retrievers are more likely to get these tumors.  My girl was a yellow Lab.

So if you notice sores that don’t heal or keep coming back, or masses on your dog’s body, see your vet immediately.

Not all masses and sores are cancer.  One of my dogs is covered in fatty tumors.  But the vet has biopsied all of them and none are malignant… thank goodness.  Get them checked.  Early diagnosis is key to successful treatment.

Skin cancer prevention

Mast cell tumors and malignant melanomas have a genetic component.  There is no way to prevent them.  Early intervention is your best option.

But sun exposure is a risk factor for squamous cell carcinoma.  Limit your dog’s time in the sun, especially between 10 am and 2 pm.

Apply sunscreen to your pup’s ears, nose and other lightly furred/lightly colored areas of the body.

Be careful which sunscreen you choose for your dog.  Avoid zinc oxide, which is toxic to dogs if they swallow it.  Stay away from sunscreens that contain para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) and fragrance.  Both can cause adverse reactions.

Look for a waterproof sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that blocks both UVA and UVB rays—broad-spectrum coverage.

There are many dog specific sunscreens on the market.  But the FDA doesn’t test sunscreens for dogs.  So there will be no claims on the label.  As a result, you won’t know how effective it is at protecting your dog.

Ask your vet for a recommendation.  They may just recommend a sunscreen made for kids.

I probably don’t need to say this but you should never use tanning lotion or tanning oil on your dog.  This isn’t sun protection.

Try a little sunscreen on a small area first to be sure your dog doesn’t react.

When you’re certain your dog isn’t allergic to the sunscreen and they’re not licking it, rub it on all body parts that aren’t well covered with fur.  And don’t forget the tummy between the hind legs.  Rub it in so it gets through the fur and into the skin.

Allow it to soak in for a few minutes before going outside.

Avoid contact with the eyes.  And just like you do, reapply your dog’s sunscreen after swimming.

What if your dog has a sensitivity to sunscreen or licks it off?

There are alternatives to sunscreen.  You can try sun-friendly apparel.  There are rash guards and sun shirts with built in sun protection factors of 50.  Doggy goggles and visors are an option for tolerant dogs.

If you have a dog that spends a lot of time outside, you can keep them out of the sun by using an exercise pen with a sunscreen cover… almost like a beach umbrella.

How do you know if your sun protection is working?

You’ll know when your dog is sunburned if their skin is red and tender to the touch.  Or if there’s hair loss, itchiness, dry or cracked skin.  These are all signs of too much sun.

See your vet if any of these symptoms persist.

This is the time of year to enjoy the outdoors with your dog.  Whether it’s a day at the beach or a romp in the backyard, be sure both you and your best buddy are wearing protection from the harmful effects of the sun.

Do you use sunscreen on your dog? Tell us which one you like in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning Of A Dry Nose

I have a golden retriever puppy. And I must say one of the cutest things about her is her adorable shoe polish-black wet button nose.

Those cold wet noses come with very warm hearts as any dog owner can attest. But what if your dog’s nose is dry and warm, instead of cold and wet? Should you be concerned?

Most of the time… no. But sometimes yes.

To understand what causes changes in your dog’s nose, you first need to understand what causes the nose to be wet.

What makes a dog’s nose wet?

The wet nose actually comes from the tears in their eyes.

Here’s how it works. A dog’s body produces tears to lubricate the eyes so they can move freely. Often the body produces more tears than necessary.

So what happens?

The excess tears flow through nasolacrimal ducts in the eyelids and out through the nose or into the throat. If you’ve ever had a good cry, you know the same thing happens to us, causing us to blow our nose.

But not only the tears dampen your doggie’s nose. When the tears drip down the nose, the dog will lick its nose too. The spreading of the tear fluid and the saliva from the licking make for a wet nose.

What makes the nose cool is the evaporation of the liquid on the nose. Breathing creates a similar effect. The warm moist air in a dog’s lungs will condense in his nose making it moist and cool.

When the weather’s hot, no condensation. So this cooling effect doesn’t exist and the nose will be dry.

A moist nose is one reason dogs have a great sense of smell. The wet nose can dissolve airborne scents more effectively.

What causes a dog’s nose to become dry and warm?

Now that we understand what causes the wet nose, we can understand better why it might dry out if a dog is sick.

A sick dog will often become dehydrated because the body uses more fluids to heal, especially if they have a fever. Even if your pet is drinking normally, they can become dehydrated when sick.

Dehydration will cause less tear production, and therefore a dry nose.

Some dog breeds are prone to clogged tear ducts like Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. And blocked tear ducts too will cause less fluid flowing through to the nose to keep it moist.

But here’s the thing about a sick dog. It has not only a dry nose. A sick dog will also be lethargic. They may not be eating normally. And they may sleep a lot.

If your dog’s nose is dry and their behavior is off, you should see your vet.

Here are reasons your dog’s nose can be dry even if they’re not sick:

1) Sleeping too close to a heat source in the winter

2) Allergies

3) Eating or drinking from a plastic bowl which can cause an allergic reaction

4) If they have a pale or pink nose, they may be sunburned

5) Not drinking enough water or panting excessively which causes fluid loss, can both cause dehydration

6) Extreme heat or cold

7) A very dry house in the winter or living in a dry climate like Arizona

A healthy dog’s nose can fluctuate between wet and dry many times over the course of the day as their environment and activity level changes.

When a dry nose is cause for alarm and it’s time to call the vet is when it becomes chronic or you notice; cracking, scabbing or sores; a thick, bubbly, yellow, green or black nasal discharge; or your dog’s pale nose is red and flaking.   These may be more serious conditions that need medical attention.

Besides, a chronic dry nose is uncomfortable and makes it more difficult for your dog to smell the world around them. And that’s an important part of being a dog.

If your dog’s nose is chronically dry and you’ve ruled out a medical condition, try petroleum jelly, coconut oil, or shea butter. Your vet may recommend one of the products on the market for dry noses.

Remember, a sick dog may have a dry nose. But a dry nose doesn’t necessarily mean your dog is sick.

Does your dog suffer from a chronic dry nose? How did you treat it? Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

A Cat’s Tongue… 7 Things You Never Knew

Whether you’re a cat lover, a dog lover, or both, you’ll probably agree they’re different.  One of those differences… their kisses.  Because cats have unique tongues.

They feel like sandpaper.

That’s because a cat’s tongue is covered in backward-facing papillae—barbs made of keratin, the same substance as human fingernails.

That sandpaper tongue serves several purposes, particularly for an outdoor cat or a cat in the wild.

1)   Grasping and pulling meat from the bones of its prey

The little hook-like structures on the tongue give the cat a good grasp on the meat of its prey.  This enables them to pull the meat from the bones very effectively.

2)   Collecting dirt, debris and loose hair from their fur

Cats groom themselves endlessly.  In fact, they spend more than half their waking hours on grooming.   That prickly tongue will catch anything on the fur that’s not supposed to be there

If you don’t groom them regularly, all the loose fur they lick up can lead to hairballs.

And those barbs, they’ll latch on to anything collected on the tongue.  Even something unintended for consumption.

Because the barbs face toward the throat a piece of yarn, string or tinsel in their mouth can be dangerous.  They’re not able to just spit it out. When not in licking mode, the spines lay flat.  And the cat will swallow these dangerous items.

Cat tongues are designed for intake only.

3)   Detangling knots

In a single swipe, a cat’s tongue moves in 4 different directions.  Because the spines are hook-like, the tongue acts like a flexible comb that snags on knots and teases them apart.  A handy grooming tool…

4)   Removing parasites

When your cat is grooming, their tongue removes anything in its path, including parasites and their eggs.

5)   Maintaining their ability to ambush their prey and hide from their predators

Cats are ambush hunters.  They will use extreme licking to hide their smell so they can go undetected by their prey allowing them to pounce before being noticed.

They will also lick every remnant of a fresh kill off their fur to avoid detection by their predators.

6)   Waterproofing fur

The sandpapery tongue helps redistribute oils produced by the cat’s skin to provide some waterproofing.

7)   Cleaning wounds

When a cat licks a wound, the barbs will get into the wound and clean out dirt.  And the saliva contains compounds that are antibacterial.

But a cat can go overboard and turn a tiny abrasion into a big lesion—and a big headache—if they lick themselves raw.

Necessity is the mother of invention—no truer words exist when speaking of adaptations in the animal kingdom.

Do you remember your reaction the first time a cat licked you?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Things You Never Knew About Your Dog’s Paws

When you are a dog lover, it’s easy to find the cuteness in everything about them.  From their head to their toes, they’re adorable. But have you given much thought to your pooch’s toes?  Or their entire paw for that matter?

Your dog’s paws are more than a mode of transportation.  They say a lot about a breed’s purpose.  Even if you own a mixed breed dog, their paws can tell you a lot.

And they’re important to your dog’s overall well being.

Since it’s getting hot in some parts of the country, especially in Arizona, it’s important to gather some paw knowledge so you can take care of them in the heat.

And it’s always fun to learn a few new facts about your best friend.  Here are 8 things you might not know about your dog’s paws.

1)   Dogs’ paws come in 2 basic shapes, cat and hare.

Cat-shaped paws are compact, small and round.  They can bear a lot of weight because the shape allows for stability and endurance.  Most large working dog breeds like Newfoundlands, Doberman Pinschers and Akitas have cat-shaped feet.

Hare-shaped paws resemble the paws of a rabbit or hare.  They have two elongated central toes that are longer than the outer toes.  This allows for speed and the ability to get a quick start from a resting position.  Not surprisingly Greyhounds, Whippets and Borzois all have hare-shaped paws.

Paws can also be webbed whether cat- or hare- shaped.  Breeds that are swimmers like Labrador Retrievers and Newfoundlands have cat-shaped webbed paws.

And dogs like the Dachshund that hunt small animals that burrow also have webbed feet.  This allows them to move more dirt when they dig.

Cold climate breeds will have very wide paws for traction on snow and ice. The Newfoundland has the king of all paws… huge webbed feet with long toes that help them negotiate the icy terrain and frigid waters of Newfoundland.

2)  Dogs are digitigrades.

Digitigrades walk on their toes not their heels.  This enables them to move more quickly and quietly than an animal that carries their weight in their heels.

3)   Each paw has digital pads, a metacarpal pad and a carpal pad.

The 4 digital pads and 1 metacarpal pad act as shock absorbers for the bones and joints in the foot.

The carpal pad helps with balance, slowing down and stopping.

Dog Paw

Photo Credit: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock

Dogs that spend a lot of time outside and are active will have rougher thicker pads than the couch potato that spends most of their days inside.

The pads help your dog distinguish between types of terrain.  As your dog ages, the pads become more sensitive and adaptable to different surfaces.

If you try booties to protect the pads, your dog may resist because they rely on their pads to identify the surface they’re walking on.

The pads insulate the inner tissue of the paws from extreme temperatures. This is why their feet don’t get cold when walking in the snow.  The fatty tissue that makes up the pads doesn’t freeze like normal skin would.

They can, however, burn very quickly on hot pavement.  This time of year be sure to test the pavement with the palm of your hand before letting your dog walk on it.  If you can hold your hand on the street for at least 10 seconds without it being too hot, it’s probably safe for your dog.

Pads can get irritated not only from a hot surface but also from walking on rock salt and other chemicals on the ground.  Not to mention the danger of your dog ingesting those chemicals if they lick their paws.

Booties are good protection, especially if you live in a place like Arizona where summer temps reach 115.  But as I said your dog may fight them, or be tentative when walking with them.

4)   That corn chip smell is bacteria.

If you’ve ever thought that Frito scent was just another cute thing about your baby, you’ll be surprised to learn it’s a build up of bacteria over time.  That’s why you won’t notice it on a puppy.

It’s normal though and rarely causes any problems.

5)   There are sweat glands in your dog’s paws.

Dogs only produce sweat on parts of their bodies not covered with fur, like the nose and the pads of their feet.  Their primary means of cooling the body is by panting.  But the sweat glands in the paws help with the cooling process.

When a dog is nervous or stressed, their paw pads may be moist—like sweaty palms in humans.

6)   Dewclaws are the remnants of thumbs.

You’ll find dewclaws on the front paws of most dogs.  Sometimes they’re on the back paws too.  And some breeds like the Beauceron, Great Pyrenees, and Briard have double dewclaws on the back paws.

Front dews contain bone and muscle and are good for gripping a chew toy.

But there’s no muscle or bone in the back dews, making them pretty useless.

But breeds with double dews use them for gripping when walking on steep slopes.  Or if they’re herding dogs, they’ll use them when they’re on the backs of the sheep to hold on.

7)   Claws grow out of the bone unlike human fingernails.

As a result, they share the blood supply with the bone.  The blood supply is visible in the nail.  It’s called the quick.  The quick also has nerves.  If you clip it while trimming the nails, it’s painful and bleeds a lot.

It’s easy to see the quick on a dog with white claws.  If the claws are black or opaque, it’s more difficult. Clip only the pointed end or let a pro do it if you’re not sure where the quick ends.

Claws are tougher and thicker than fingernails but they grow just as fast. It’s important to maintain them so they don’t grow so long they hinder your dog’s ability to walk.

Active dogs can keep the length under control just from wearing them down on the ground.  If your dog isn’t very active, you’ll need to trim them or ask your vet to do it.

8)   You can’t predict the size of your adult dog by the size of its puppy feet.

Contrary to popular belief, a puppy’s paws are not always a good indicator of their adult size.

Bulldog puppy paws are enormous but they don’t grow to be big dogs.  Some times a puppy with big paws will be big.  But the best indicator of a puppy’s ultimate size is its breed, or combination of breeds, and the size of its parents.

A puppy will not usually be bigger than its biggest parent.  And most pups will reach 75% of their adult height by the time they’re 6 months old.

Little paws are one more perfect thing about a puppy.  They’re just adorable in every way.

So be sure to get your puppy used to having their paws handled from the time they’re young.  Massage them regularly.

And continue massaging them when they’re adults.  Paw massages are good for your dog’s feet. They’re a good way to find things that shouldn’t be there.  And they’re a great way to bond with your pet.

What do you think about doggy paws?  Tell us in the comment section at the top of the page.

7 Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

It’s April and everyone in my home is sneezing, wheezing, coughing or scratching… including our dog.

Spring is a beautiful time of year.  Everything’s in bloom.  The bees are buzzing.  And the landscape is vibrant… no matter where you live.  But with all that pollen comes allergies.

And our pets suffer too.

Pets may have some of the same symptoms as humans.  But unlike humans, the telltale sign of seasonal allergies in pets is a lot of scratching.

Their allergies usually manifest in allergic dermatitis—skin irritation or inflammation.

Because their symptoms are different than ours, their suffering often goes unnoticed. But they can be just as miserable.

Here are 7 signs your pet has allergies:

1)  Chewing or licking their feet

You’ll notice redness between their pads or toes from excessive licking or chewing.

2)  Constant licking of their body or groin

If the licking continues, this can cause loss of hair, redness, scabbing and hot spots.

3)  Rubbing their face on furniture, carpet, grass, walls

Excessive itchiness is so uncomfortable, your pet will rub against anything to relieve it. The stress of itching and scratching can even cause loose stools.

4)  Inflamed or infected ears

Head shaking, ear scratching, hair loss, odor or discharge around ears, are signs there’s a problem.  Allergies can cause yeast or bacteria to grow in the ear resulting in infection.

5)  Recurrent hot spots (dogs) or facial scabbing (cats)

The scratching can make your pet’s skin inflamed and infected.  In dogs, a hot spot may form.  This is a loss of hair on a patch of skin that becomes red, oozy and inflamed.  On your cat, you may see scabs on the face.  Not likely hot spots though.  They’re rare in cats.

6)  Wheezing (more likely in cats)

Pets rarely have the same respiratory allergy symptoms as people. But it can happen. The may wheeze, particularly cats. Or they may have a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing or coughing.

7)  Generalized redness (eyes, oral tissue, chin, paws, anus)

The inflammation caused by an allergic reaction to something in your pet’s environment can cause their mucous membranes to become inflamed and red.

What causes pet allergies?

Pets can have seasonal/environmental allergies, food allergies, flea bite allergies and contact allergies.

But you’ll know it’s a seasonal allergy if you only see the signs at certain times of the year—typically spring, summer or fall.

If you live in a place where there is no hard freeze, environmental allergens can cause problems year-round.  As a result, it can be difficult to differentiate between seasonal allergies and food allergies.

Food allergy symptoms can be the same as seasonal allergies.  Read more about how to know if your dog has a food allergy here.

Pollen, grass, mold and dust mites cause seasonal allergies in pets, just as they do in people. So minimize your pet’s exposure to these allergens to ease their misery.

How can you treat allergies in your pet?

The best way to help your pet is to keep them and their living areas as free from allergens as possible.

During the warmer months:

  • Soak their feet in a footbath or wipe them with a wet towel after a walk to keep allergens from coming into your home.
  • Bathe them frequently using a hypoallergenic shampoo, or one for sensitive skin.
  • Wipe them down with a grooming wipe after they’ve been outside.
  • Vacuum and clean floors and pet bedding often, using nontoxic cleaning agents.
  • Keep your pet off the grass if possible. If that’s not feasible, try booties.

You may want to try some allergy fighting supplements too.

Quercetin suppresses histamine release.  Bromelain and papain increase the absorption of quercetin which makes it more effective.  The three taken together decrease pain and inflammation from irritated mucous membranes.

Then there are Omega-3 fatty acids.  They decrease inflammation and reinforce the skins barrier.  Salmon oil is a great source of Omega-3.  Look for a food like Husse that already has it in most of their recipes.

And coconut oil is good to add to your pet’s diet.  It has lauric acid which helps decrease yeast production, a cause of infection in the ears.

Talk to your vet before you give your pet any supplement as it can cause an adverse reaction if your pet suffers from other health problems or takes medications.

And talk to your vet, too, if your pet’s symptoms are so severe that the itch/scratch cycle is causing the skin to become inflamed and tender.  This can progress to open sores, scabs, hair loss and infection if allowed to continue.

You want to get a handle on allergies quickly because seasonal allergies can become year-round with continued exposure to allergens.

Particularly for older pets, the more exposure to environmental offenders, the more intense and longer lasting the allergic response becomes until the allergy season just doesn’t seem to end.

Firstly, your vet will tell you to feed your pet a high-quality well-balanced diet free of fillers and animal by-products.  A food like Husse.

Also, avoid a high carbohydrate diet.  Just like in humans, carbs increase inflammation in the body.

Your vet may also recommend an antihistamine to help the itching.  And in severe cases, your vet may prescribe a steroid.

Steroids have many serious side effects and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Because they can cause high blood pressure and kidney disease, your pet will need regular blood work and urine tests if they’re on them long-term.

And if the scratching has caused a secondary skin infection, the vet will prescribe an antibiotic.

If your pet’s allergies are so severe they need steroids, it may be time to talk to the doc about allergy testing and shots.

Yes, that’s right… allergy shots aren’t just for human kids anymore.  They can be very effective in pets.

With the right combination of intervention and prevention, allergy season doesn’t have to be miserable for you or your pet.

What do you do to minimize your pet’s allergy symptoms?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unique Needs of Giant Breeds

We can all agree there’s a dog for everyone.  Whether you choose a mixed breed or a pure breed, dogs come in all shapes and sizes to appeal to what you’re looking for in a pet.

If you’ve chosen a giant pure breed or mixed breed dog, it’s important to know their needs differ from those of small and medium-sized dogs.

Giant breeds are unique.  They’re defined as a breed that weighs over 100 pounds.   That’s bigger than some people.  And huge dogs can have huge problems if you don’t take care of them properly.

With a life expectancy averaging 8 years, they don’t live as long as smaller dogs.  But with some awareness, your gentle giant can live a healthy, happy life… if not a super long one.

Giant dogs have different health issues and nutrition requirements than small and medium-sized dogs.  They even have different training and grooming needs.

Before buying or adopting one of these guys, be sure you know what’s involved.

Giant health conditions

Different breeds are predisposed to different health issues.  But the bigger the dog, the more health problems you’re likely to encounter.

Do your research!

Some large breeds are susceptible to heart problems, eyelid problems, bone cancer, spine problems and thyroid problems.

All giant breeds are prone to joint and ligament problems, arthritis, obesity and bloat (a deadly condition) because of their large frames.

Awareness of breed specific health issues will help you catch a problem early or possibly prevent one.

The most common problem in giant dogs is hip dysplasia, a painful and debilitating condition.

Strenuous exercise, exercising on hard surfaces, and obesity can increase the risk of getting it. It’s hereditary though.  If you’re buying a giant breed, ask the breeder for written hip certifications on both parents.

In addition, puppies under 3 months shouldn’t over exert themselves by taking part in your exercise regimen.

Even as an adult, strenuous exercise is not advisable for a dog this size.  If you’re getting a dog to be your running partner, a giant breed may not be the right choice.Speak to your vet.

As they grow, don’t let them get fat.  They’ll need space to exercise every day but it’s not likely they’ll be as high energy as a smaller dog.  Moderate—not strenuous—exercise is advisable for these guys.

But if you think getting a giant dog will allow you to skip out on exercising them, not only is your dog at risk of becoming obese, but you’ll soon find out that boredom can destroy your home.

A good portion of the health risk associated with giant dogs is the danger of growing too quickly. A puppy can go from a pound and a half at birth to 120 pounds by their first birthday.  That’s rapid growth and it can cause unstable joints.

Nutrition is important in this regard.  You never want to overfeed your giant puppy.  So no free-feeding.  And it’s critical to feed a diet that’s nutritionally balanced for the needs of a giant breed.

Giant nutrition

Feeding your dog a food that is intended for giant breeds is essential to keeping them healthy.  These dogs need the right combination of protein, fat, calcium and phosphorus so their growth is slow and steady.  Sudden growth spurts add to the risk of health problems.

A puppy food like Husse’s Valp Maxi is formulated for the needs of a giant breed puppy.  It’s not only nutritionally balanced.  It also includes ingredients to support joint health like glucosamine, chondroitin and Omega 3 fatty acids.

When your puppy is full grown, it’s important you continue to feed a balanced giant breed foodHusse’s Optimal Giant and Lamm & Ris Giant (for sensitive stomachs) are formulated for a giant adult dog with the correct nutritional balance.

If you’re not sure your dog’s food has enough glucosamine, chondroitin or Omega 3 fatty acids, talk to your vet about supplementation.  Healthy joints depend on them.

And if you’re unsure of how much to feed your dog, ask your vet for the correct portion size to avoid rapid growth in a puppy or obesity in your adult dog.

Giant training

These huge breeds are some of the most loving and gentle dogs that exist.  But even the sweetest dog can be dangerous if they are unruly.

A 120-pound mush can hurt a person if they jump on them to greet them.  Or if they drag you down the street to get to the neighbor’s dog.

It’s all the more important to train your giant breed to prevent injury to you, friends and family, and your dog.  A sizable dog needs to know who’s boss.  You are the master and your dog needs to know that.

Start the training early to instill good habits from the start.  It’s a lot easier to teach the right behavior than to correct bad behaviors.  Especially once a dog has grown to be as big or bigger than you.

And because these dogs are so big, they can reach counters and access things that smaller dogs would never see.  This can be dangerous to them.  That dark chocolate Easter bunny sitting on your counter is lethal for a dog.

Be sure to find a reputable trainer to teach you positive training techniques that avoid any punishment.

The most important commands they’ll teach you are sit and stay, off, and leave-it.  You’ll also want to teach your dog he doesn’t get attention when he jumps and he needs to walk nicely on the leash.

A basic obedience class will teach you how to teach your dog to be a good citizen and family member. But you must practice every day and be consistent.

Giant grooming

Although grooming a dog is important no matter their size, grooming can be more challenging when your dog is as big as you.

As with any dog, start grooming early. When your puppy is young, get them used to the bath.  And play with their feet, ears and tail so they’re comfortable with you touching them when it’s time to groom.  And reward them with a special treat when you do so they associate being touched with pleasure.

Maintain their coat by brushing several times a week.  This is especially important if they’re double-coated like a Newfoundland.  If you don’t brush regularly, getting the matted fur out when you bathe them will be a nightmare.

Clean their ears once a week and brush their teeth daily. If you take care of “general maintenance” regularly then the occasional bath will be much simpler.

Brush them thoroughly to get out any matted fur before the bath.

It’s not likely you’ll be able to bathe your dog in your bathtub.  So plan for an outside bath.  Keep your dog on a leash to maintain control and use a collar earmarked for bath time so it won’t matter if it gets wet.

If you don’t have the space to bathe your big dog, many pet stores have self-serve pet washes. Even if you have the space, it’s a good way to avoid the mess in your home.

If your dog is double-coated, try diluting the shampoo, working it into the fur, rinsing and repeating.  It’s easier to get diluted shampoo through the coat than a big thick blob of shampoo.

Drying can take a while if you have a big double-coated dog.  Towel-dry well.  If you will use a hair dryer, be sure to put it on cool or use a pet dryer.

Big dogs need special nail clippers that can accommodate their sizable claws.  Clip small amounts off at a time to avoid cutting the quick (blood vessel in the nail).  And trim several times a month.

Be sure to get them used to paw handling when they’re young or you’ll be wrestling your full-grown 120-pound dog on mani/pedi day.  And don’t forget treats to distract and reward them.

Everything’s bigger with a giant

Expect not only your food budget to be bigger with a giant breed.  Everything needs to be bigger and more expensive with a dog that’s over 100 pounds.

Toys need to be tougher.  Leashes and collars need to be more durable.  Beds need to be larger, and food bowls need to be sturdier.  Budget accordingly!

And enjoy your big love of a dog!

What has your experience been with your gentle giant?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

Several years ago, my home was infested with little moths.  Mostly in the kitchen.  My husband and I could not figure out where they were coming from.

When the exterminator came, he knew exactly what they were.  To our surprise, he went right to the pantry to assess our problem.  He told us these moths were in one of the dry food products on our pantry shelves.

We could never identify which food item it was—even after we emptied every packaged dry food into plastic containers.   We found nothing.

But knowing what I do now, I suspect they came from our dogs’ food.

We never found bugs in any of their food or ours.  But these common household invaders love pet food!  And other dry food.

What are these things and where do they come from?

These pantry pests can come into your home in any dry food package.  You can just as easily infect your home from a box of cereal as you can a bag of dog food.

The most common food pest—and the one that infested our home—is the meal moth.  You may find these moths in the food package or flying around your home like we did.

Larder beetles, cabinet beetles and carpet beetles are also common pantry pests.  Thankfully, we didn’t have those.

Moths and beetles go through the typical life cycle you would expect from a bug… egg, larvae, pupa and adult.

If you open a bag of dog food and find bugs in any of these life stages, don’t panic!  Believe it or not, it’s not that unusual.

If you’re wondering how you’d know, the moth eggs are white grey and measure 1 to 2 hundredths of an inch.  The mother will lay about 400 eggs at a time—hard to miss.  And beetles can lay between 45 and 90 eggs at a time.

The larvae look like worms.  Yuck!  They’re caterpillars that will turn into moths or beetles.

The worms will move away from the food before they pupate (make a cocoon).  So you may find them on your pantry shelves, or the walls or ceilings in the kitchen.

Once they spin their cocoon, there may be webbing or silk in the corners of the pantry or in the food packaging itself.

Adult moths are small, only 1/2 to 5/8ths of an inch, and can be reddish or grey/white depending on the type of moth.

However, light attracts the beetles.  You may see them on your windowsills.

But if you open a bag of dog food and find worms or beetles, you have a problem.

If you find these in your pet food should you change foods?

Not necessarily.  Pet food manufacturers try their best to minimize the likelihood of these creatures getting in their pet food.

They heat the food to high temperatures during the manufacturing process.  This eliminates these pests.  But often the problem occurs after the food leaves the manufacturer.

In a warehouse, a store, or your home, pet food is a magnet for these moths and beetles.

Pet stores sell many brands of food that come from lots of different locations (manufacturing facilities and warehouses) where the contamination could have occurred.

Also, pet stores sell birdfeed, a common source of food for these moths and beetles.

Birdfeed does not go through the heating process during manufacturing that dog and cat food does.  So contamination of the bag of pet food can happen at a pet store that sells birdfeed.

Remember too, these bugs may already be living in your pantry when you bring the pet food home.  They will be attracted to your pet’s food and find their way into the bag.  This is a good reason not to store your pet’s food in the pantry.

Likewise, if the pests are in the bag of pet food, they will find their way to the other dry foods in your pantry.

Storing pet food in another part of your home won’t eliminate the problem.  But if these pests are in your pet food when you bring it home from the store, keeping it out of the kitchen may prevent spreading the pests to your food.

But don’t store pet food in the garage. It can get too hot causing the nutrients to break down.

Although pet food manufacturers do their best to eliminate these pests, it’s still not uncommon for them to get into your pet’s food.  And it’s not a reflection on the food manufacturer or the quality of the food.

If you open a bag of food and you find eggs, worms, silk webbing, moths or beetles, return it to your pet food retailer.  The retailer should take the food back without question and exchange it for a fresh bag.

If your pet has eaten the food before you notice these guys are living in the bag, don’t be too concerned.  They may be repulsive but they’re harmless.

If moths or beetles are living in your pantry, how do you get rid of them?

Inspect the dry food in your pantry.  If you find pests in any life stage, throw out the whole package.

Store all foods that aren’t contaminated in plastic or glass containers.

Vacuum the entire pantry especially in cracks and corners where bugs or bits of infested food can be hiding.  Then throw out the vacuum cleaner bag.

You may find a stray moth flying around for up to 3 weeks.  But if you still see them after 3 weeks, you haven’t gotten rid of the source.

If there’s a food product you’re not sure isn’t contaminated, you can put it in the freezer at 0 degrees for 4 days.  But personally, I’d throw it out if in doubt.

Don’t ask your exterminator to spray an insecticide.  That won’t work.

You’d only be spraying the empty cabinets where you keep your food.  You’re not going to spray your food, or your pet’s food.  And if you don’t get rid of the source, the bugs will live on.

Since my experience with meal moths, I empty the dog food bag into a dog food bin as soon as I get it home from the store.  If there’s anything living in the bag that’s not supposed to be there I’ll find it before the pest can contaminate other food in my home.

Have you ever found worms, moths or beetles in your pet’s food?  Share at the top of the page.