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.

 

 

Leptospirosis…  A Danger To Our Dogs and Us

If you’re a dog owner in Arizona, you’ve been hearing some pretty scary stuff on the news lately. Leptospirosis is all over the headlines here.   Over 50 cases in dogs have been reported in the last year.

It hasn’t been a problem here in the past.  In fact, it’s rare in Arizona and when it occurs, the cases are sporadic.  Not this time.

The outbreak in Arizona started in February of 2016 with two clusters; one involving show dogs and one involving a boarding facility.

As a dog owner in Arizona, I’m concerned.  I haven’t heard much about Leptospirosis and knew little about it.  So I thought I’d do some research.

Leptospirosis — lepto for sake of ease — is an infection caused by corkscrew-shaped bacteria.  This bacterium is called Leptospira.

There are hundreds of strains, or serovars, of Leptospira. It’s found all over the world.  But the three serovars most often seen in dogs are Canicola, Grippotyphosa, and Pomona.

It’s an illness that can be mild to serious in dogs.  And it’s zoonotic, meaning people can catch it from their pets.

Lepto is found in areas with high annual rainfall.  It needs a wet environment to survive and is more common in summer and fall because the organism won’t survive a frost.

Arizona is a desert… not a place you’d call rainy.  Definitely not tropical.  And not a state with a lot of marshes—wet muddy areas these bacteria love.

So why the sudden outbreak?  It’s been wetter than usual in Arizona.  We’ve had stretches of cool weather during long rainy periods, allowing water to stay around.

And lepto lives in standing water contaminated with infected urine from an animal with the illness.

It also survives in soil and mud.

Transmission

Infected animals spread the disease to other animals and humans through bodily fluids such as urine.

Dogs can become infected with lepto if mucous membranes or skin with an open wound come in contact with infected urine, urine-contaminated soil, water, food or bedding.

If your dog likes to swim or wade in water, other than a chlorinated pool, you may court trouble.  Contaminated water is most often where a dog will get it.

But any standing water after a heavy rain, or even a puddle of urine at the dog park, can be a conduit for the bacteria.

If you live on a farm, irrigated pastures can be sources of infection too.  And Leptospirosis can live in contaminated environments for months.

If you are a breeder, you should know mothers can pass this disease to their puppies through the placenta.  And sometimes lepto can pass from one dog to another during breeding.  Talk to your vet before breeding your dog if you think they’re at risk of being infected.

Dogs that are most at risk are:

Dogs that hike

Dogs that swim in natural water

Dogs that come in contact with farm animals

Dogs that live on the fringes of wild land where wild animals live

Dogs that hunt

Dogs that live in areas with standing water or flood zones

Dogs that spend time at dog parks, dog shows, doggie daycare

Dogs that spend time in boarding facilities

Dogs that travel often or are with dogs that travel

 

This illness is preventable if you take precautions.

Don’t let your dog swim in natural water… drink potentially contaminated water… or have contact with wildlife (especially rodents).  And don’t expose them to urine from another animal.

Make sure any boarding facility you bring your dog to is clean and free of rodents.  Be on the lookout for droppings.

In addition, talk to your vet about vaccinating your dog.  The vaccine requires two injections, 3 to 4 weeks apart, and it lasts a year.  If your dog participates in any high-risk activities, your vet will likely suggest the vaccine.

Because you can get sick from your dog with Leptospirosis, vaccinating your dog may be a good idea if you or someone in your household has a compromised immune system, or if you have young children.

Also remember to wash your hands after walking your dog.  Avoid areas where pets urinate and wash any clothing that may have come in contact with animal urine.

Symptoms

Depending on the health of your dog, their symptoms can be nonexistent to serious…   sometimes even resulting in death.

If you’re worried your dog was exposed, look out for:

Lethargy

Lack of appetite

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Muscle pain

Stiffness

Weakness

Trembling

Reluctance to move

Bleeding (nosebleeds, bruising)

Cough

Weight loss

Difficulty breathing

Fever

Runny nose

Jaundice

Red eyes

Bloody vaginal discharge

If lepto goes untreated and your dog’s body cannot fight it off on its own, it can affect the liver and kidneys.  Sometimes, causing permanent damage and even death.

There are signs when the liver and kidneys are affected.  Frequent or decreased urination, excessive drinking, or yellow eyes or skin mean it’s time to see the vet because there’s damage to these organs.

Your vet will take blood and urine from your dog.  And they’ll run a titer test to see how your dog’s immune system is responding to the illness.  This also helps the vet figure out your dog’s level of infection.

Treatment and Management

If your dog has a severe case of Leptospirosis, they’ll likely need to be hospitalized.  There they can receive fluid therapy for dehydration and anti-vomiting drugs.

If they’re not eating, the vet can deliver nutrition through a gastric tube.  And a blood transfusion may be needed if there’s severe hemorrhaging.

Your dog will be on antibiotics for at least four weeks.  But lepto is a treatable disease if caught before your dog suffers major organ damage.

While your dog is being treated, you must keep them isolated from children and other pets.

Wear gloves while handling your dog and any of their waste.  And disinfect any areas where your dog has vomited, urinated, or left any other bodily fluids with a bleach solution.

Leptospires may be shed in your dog’s urine for weeks after treatment, even if your pet seems to be completely recovered.  Continue to take precautions to avoid contaminated body fluids.

If you own cats, talk to your vet.  This is an illness that’s rare in cats.  If they get it, the symptoms are mild.  But because they don’t get it often, we don’t have a lot of information about the disease in cats.

If you live in Arizona, prevention is the best course of action.  Avoid standing water, wet soil, and urine from other animals.  Dog parks are not the best place to exercise your dog until the outbreak is over.  And talk to your vet about the vaccine.

How are you protecting your dog from Leptospirosis?  Share 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.

 

 

 

 

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.