8 Myths About Spaying and Neutering Your Pet

Pet owners who think they have a legitimate reason for not spaying or neutering their pet will vehemently debate this topic.  But it’s an important part of every pet’s health care.

Spaying is the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus in a female.  Neutering is removal of the testicles in a male.

And neutering is also the general term used for the procedures in both males and females.

There is no legitimate reason to not neuter your pet.  Unless you are a responsible professional breeder of purebred dogs or cats breeding to maintain the characteristics of the breed, you should spay or neuter your pet.

Both procedures have lifelong health and behavioral benefits.

Spaying helps prevent uterine infections, and cancer of the breast, ovaries and uterus.  These are all usually fatal in dogs and cats.

In fact, when I was a child one of my dogs died suddenly from a uterine infection.  For some reason unknown to me, my parents didn’t spay her.  I would never repeat that mistake with my own dogs.  It was devastating!

In males, neutering prevents testicular cancer.  And those intact males will roam.  They’ll do anything to find a female.  That includes digging under fences and finding escape routes out of your home.  An animal on the loose can be hit by a car or injured in a fight with another male.

People who choose not to neuter their pet have some misconception about what it means to do so.

If one of these 9 myths is stopping you from spaying or neutering your pet, please rethink your position.

Myth 1:  My pet is a purebred and they’re too beautiful not to breed.

1 out of every 4 pets brought to shelters are purebred.  You are adding to the problem of overpopulated shelters if you breed your pet.  Even if you can find homes for the babies in your litter that means fewer homes for the purebreds in the shelter.

Myth 2: My pet will get fat and lazy.

The only reason pets get fat and lazy is because their owners feed them too much and don’t give them enough exercise.

Myth 3: My pet has such a great personality; I must breed them to get a whole litter of puppies or kittens just like my pet.

There’s no guarantee of that.  The best breeders in the world can’t guarantee the personalities of the puppies or kittens in a litter.

Myth 4:  Spaying/neutering is expensive.

This is not true.  Many states and counties have low-cost spay/neuter programs.  Here’s a link to the low-cost spay/neuter finder at the Humane Society of the United States.

The cost of not fixing your pet is likely to be substantially higher.  A litter requires expensive veterinary care and vaccines.

When your intact male gets out of your house and sustains injuries in a fight or run in with a car, the vet bills will be a lot more expensive than the cost of neutering him.

And another added expense is licensing.  Counties charge higher fees to license an intact dog than a dog that’s spayed/neutered.

Myth 5: I want my children to experience the miracle of birth.

This is not a good reason to add to the pet overpopulation problem.  YouTube is a video treasure trove of dogs and cats giving birth.  If you want your kids to experience birth, have at it.

Myth 6: I don’t want my dog to lose his protective personality.

If your dog has a protective personality, he has that trait because of genetics and environment not sex hormones.  He will be just as protective after he’s neutered.

Myth 7:  I don’t want my male dog or cat to feel less male.

This is your worry… not his.  Pets don’t “feel” male.  He will have no emotional reaction to being neutered and it will not change his personality.

Myth 8:  I’ll find good homes for all the puppies or kittens my pet has.

No, it’s likely you won’t.  Even if you do find them homes, you can’t be sure they’re all good homes.  And you have no control over what happens to those animals once they leave your care.  For all you know, they may end up in a shelter.  Or their puppies or kittens might.

There are many more benefits than drawbacks to neutering your pet.  Besides their health and reducing the pet overpopulation problem, your pet will behave better.

Dogs will bark less, mount less and be less dominant.  You can often avoid aggression problems by neutering early.

Cats will mark less, yowl less, and urinate less often if they’re fixed.

But most importantly your beloved pet is likely to live longer.  A 2013 article in USA Today revealed the results of a study that showed neutered male dogs live 18% longer than unneutered males. Spayed females live 23% longer than unspayed females.

And who doesn’t want to give their pet every opportunity to live a longer healthier life?

When you decide to spay or neuter your pet, speak to your vet about the timing.  The common recommendation is between 5 and 9 months. But studies show benefits to waiting until after puberty.

What are your thoughts about neutering your pet?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

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Water Dangers For Dogs

Summer is a favorite time of year for many of us.  And it’s such a wonderful time to enjoy our dogs in active pursuits like hiking, picnicking and swimming.

But as responsible pet owners, we need to know the risks we’re exposing our fur kids to when we embark on these activities.

I’ve written in the last few weeks about keeping our doggies’ paws and skin safe from the hazards of summer.

This week I’ll talk about the water.

I most definitely do not want to deter anyone from swimming with their pooch.  It’s great exercise for your dog… and you.  But it’s important to understand how to keep your dog safe around water.

I’m always amazed how much I learn when I research my blog posts.  And I consider myself a pretty knowledgeable pet owner.

This tells me we probably could all use to educate ourselves more to keep our pets happy and healthy.

Whether you swim with your dog in a pool, the ocean or a lake, there are real dangers out there… some you may never have heard of.

What do you know about water intoxication? 

This is a new one for me… and my pups are water dogs!

Water intoxication, or hyponatremia, is a rare but often fatal condition.  It happens when the dog drinks so much water that their sodium levels get excessively low.

When dogs ingest large amounts of water by lapping or biting at the water while swimming for long periods, they’re in danger of suffering from this condition.

If your dog likes to stay in the lake or pool all day, they’re at risk.  Does your dog dive for a ball or toy at the bottom of a pool over and over again?  They too are consuming large amounts of water.

My dog loves when I throw her ball into the pool over and over again.  And every time she grabs it and swims to the steps with the ball in her mouth, she takes in a ton of water.  She usually comes out choking.  If your dog does too, be aware of how much water they’re consuming.

And how about garden hoses and sprinklers?  Does your dog enjoy catching the water that comes out of them?  This can be dangerous. Because the water is pressurized, your dog is swallowing more water than you think.

No one’s saying you shouldn’t do these things with your dog.  Just be sure not to over due it.

Take frequent short breaks from fetching a toy in the water.  Minimize chasing water from a hose.  Don’t let your dog dive to the bottom of the pool over and over.

And give your dog regular breaks from swimming.

Also watch how much water your dog drinks after exercise.  If they drain a whole bowl, wait a while before filling the bowl again.  Over hydrating can lead to water intoxication as well.

Most dog owners think a lot about dehydration but rarely give thought to the dangers of over hydration.  Now you see how both can be problematic.

Learn the signs of water intoxication and act quicklyto get help.  If your dog has been swimming, playing in the water or drinking large amounts of water, the following signs mean trouble:

Vomiting

Lethargy

Bloating

Glazed eyes

Excessive salivation

Loss of coordination

Difficulty breathing

Seizures

Get to the emergency vet clinic immediately.  This is a condition that progresses very quickly and can reach the point of no return fast.

Any breed or size dog can become a victim of water intoxication.  But small dogs will show signs much faster.

Did you know swimming in the ocean could cause salt poisoning?

This is the opposite of water intoxication.

Hypernatremia is the buildup of too much sodium in the blood stream from drinking salt water.  This causes similar symptoms as hyponatremia and is also life threatening.

Swimming in the ocean is not the only thing to bring this on.  Retrieving—over and over again—an ocean water–soaked tennis ball is another way dogs swallow lots of salt water.

When you’re at the beach, be sure you give your dog lots of breaks from water play.  And offer a lot of fresh water so your dog isn’t tempted to drink the ocean water.

If you’re dog isn’t willing to drink from the water bowl every 15 minutes or so, use a squirt cap and squirt it into their mouth.

How about those jellyfish sunning themselves on the shoreline?

If you like strolling on the beach with your dog, be sure they avoid these guys.  Whether the jellyfish are in the water or on the sand, they’re a potential danger to your dog.

Their tentacles contain a stinging toxin that can cause a reaction anywhere from mild to anaphylactic.  Make sure your dog not only avoids stepping on it, but they don’t eat it.

Even the dried tentacles baking in the sand for hours or days can cause a reaction.

The most toxic of the jellyfish to both humans and dogs is the Portuguese Man O’war.  These suckers can be as big as 12 inches long and 5 inches wide… with tentacles as long as 165 feet!

They are purplish blue and aren’t even considered jellyfish.  But they are jellylike.  Avoid them at all costs.

If a jellyfish stings your dog, remove the tentacle without touching it directly and see your vet immediately.

Beware the blue-green algae!

If you prefer to give your dog the pleasure of a pond instead of the ocean, risks lurk there too.

Blue-green algae can be very harmful.  If your dog swims in it, they may get a rash.  If they drink it, the toxins in the algae can cause damage to their organs.

You should always wash your dog after swimming but particularly if they were swimming in algae-laden water.

These algae live in standing bodies of fresh water or the slightly salty water found in a pond near the ocean.

The smell of the algae will often attract your dog so keep them away if the water has a bluish green tint.

If after a romp in a pond you notice the following, see the vet ASAP:

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Weakness

Difficulty walking

Bloody urine

Giardia, crypto, lepto… oh my!

The standing fresh water in small lakes, ponds and puddles are a breeding ground for all kinds of parasites and bacteria.

Giardia and crypto sporidium are the most common.  They cause gastrointestinal distress.  But most dogs, fortunately, will recover quickly from these parasites.

But leptospirosis, which I wrote about recently, can be deadly if not caught early.

What about swimming in a pool?

My dogs have always loved the pool.  And who could blame them?  When you walk out the door and it’s 115 degrees, the pool is very refreshing.

But I find the chlorine dries out my dog’s skin.  Just as it does mine.  Hose your dog thoroughly after they swim in the pool to get the chlorine off.

The chlorine in pool water isn’t particularly dangerous because it’s highly diluted.  But you wouldn’t want your dog drinking a lot of it.

On the other hand if they get a hold of a chlorine tablet or the liquid form you pour in the pool… that’s trouble.  Luckily, the odor is so unpleasant, it usually keeps them away.

If you’re going to introduce your dog to the pool, be sure they know how to get out.  The biggest pool danger for dogs is drowning.

If they can’t find the exit, or haven’t learned how to negotiate the steps or ladder, they may panic or scramble trying to get out.  This can cause them to tire and drown without help.  Just because paddling is instinctive doesn’t mean a dog won’t panic or get tired.

The body composition of some breeds like bulldogs and greyhounds doesn’t lend itself to swimming.  They will drown.  So know your breed!

If you have a pool but you’re not sure how to acclimate your dog to it, hire a trainer to help you.

For dogs that don’t swim but are interested in the pool, buy a life vest to keep them safe.  But always supervise your dog in the pool—just as you would a child—even if they’re wearing a life vest.  That’s the only way you’ll see if they get into trouble and if they’re consuming too much water.

Floppy-eared dogs run the risk of ear infections.  Be sure to dry the ears after your dog swims to avoid infections.  This can become a chronic problem if your  dog’s a regular swimmer and their ears stay wet.

Maybe you don’t want your dog in the pool.  Or your dog can’t swim.  Consider fencing the pool to keep your pet safe.

But whatever you do… go out and enjoy the weather and the water with your dog.  Just keep a cautious eye on them to be sure they’re not going overboard.

Is your dog a swimmer?  Do you take them to the lake, the beach or the pool?  Share your water experiences in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.