Snake Bit

You probably saw the heart-breaking image of this brave pup that intervened when he encountered a snake on a hike with his Mom.  This is a real danger you and your pet need to be aware of this time of year.    Depending on what part of the country you live in there are different deadly snakes you could encounter.  Common deadly snakes in the Eastern US include Copperheads or Cottonmouth snakes.  The Western US is always weary of Rattlesnakes (Todd, the pup in the photo, was bitten by a rattlesnake in Arizona).

todd the dog

Lets first talk about prevention.  There are precautions you can take to lessen the odds of your having this issue come up.  Your dog or cat can be in danger of a snake even if you have not left your own yard.  Some precautions you can take around your house and yard include:

-Snakes like hiding places.  Keep debris cleaned up around your yard.  Brush should be cleared out around flowers and shrubs and walkways.  If you stack fire wood store it indoors.  Toys and tools etc. should be kept off the ground.

-Clean up and spilled food or even bird seed in your yard.  This attracts rodents and the rodents are prey for snakes, so your will inadvertently attract them.

-Some say that pouring white vinegar around the perimeter of your yard will discourage snakes.  Snakes absorb it through their skin, so they will not want to slither over it.

If you plan to be out hiking or walking with your pet, you need to be cautious.

-If you live in the Western US there is a vaccine that your can give your dog for rattlesnake bites.  There are mixed opinions on the vaccine so check with your vet for advice.  But the claim is that if your dog has been vaccinated it could reduce the pain and risk of long term affects if they are bitten.  The vaccine is only for Diamond Head Rattler’s; it provides no protection against venom from the Coral Snake, Water Moccasin, or the Mojave Rattlesnake.

-Basic and specialized training.  A dog has a natural curiosity that can be deadly.  Basic training such as a “leave it” command is essential if you are in the outdoors.  You must be able to discourage your dog from investigating of you see a snake or any other creature for that matter.  It is important to keep your dog on a leash so that you can see the threat as they see it and give them a command.  There are specialized training classes for rattlesnakes.  The training uses negative reinforcement to teach a dog to avoid the sound of the rattlesnake.  Again, this not for everybody but you can seek details from a professional and determine of it would be right for you and your pet.

If your pet is bitten-

If your pet is bitten by a snake it may be life threatening.  The most common place for your pet to be bitten is around the face or neck.  Regardless if it is venomous or non-venomous it will be painful.  Your dog will have severe pain if it is venomous though.  You may or may not see the puncture holes from the bite.  You will usually always see swelling, bruising or bleeding from the bite area.

Venomous snake bite symptoms could be:

  • Shaking and tremors
  • Excessive salivation
  • Panting, shallow breath
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle weakness or even paralysis
  • Loss of bodily function or incontinence

You must get your pet to an emergency vet either way.  Even if it is a non-venomous bite your vet will probably want to prescribe antibiotics, anti-inflammatories or antihistamines.  If it is a venomous bite your vet may administer an anti-venom.  Symptoms do not always happen immediately so don’t be fooled into thinking they may be fine and it will just run its course.  A minor bite may improve within a couple of days with medication, but poisonous bites can be take weeks of recovery and can result in dead tissue, organ damage, loss of blood pressure or death.

Snake bites are nothing to mess around with.  It is better safe than sorry in this instance.

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING

Well it’s summer and the two-legged animals are out having fun with their four-legged family members.  In various parts of the country this might mean cooling off by frolicking around the pool, the lake or even the ocean.  If you have played ball with your dog around water, you might know how this game can go on forever…right?  If you keep throwing they will keep diving in and retrieving?

Well there are certain dangers with our pets that while are not common, when they do occur it is often deadly.  Hyponatremia is one of those conditions.  You have probably never heard of it, but it is essentially water intoxication.  We worry so much about keeping ourselves and our pets hydrated in the hot summer months, but this is when you take in TOO MUCH water.  The body of an animal (dog, cat or human) can only process a certain amount of fluid.  When there is more water going into the body than it can process the excessive fluid dilutes the other fluids in the body and this causes a dangerous imbalance.  Sodium is important and when sodium concentration in extracellular fluid drops, the cells start filling with water as the body attempts to balance the sodium levels inside the cells with falling levels outside the cells. This influx of water causes the cells – including those in the brain – to swell.

If these activities are occurring at the beach ingesting too much salt water is also a very serious condition called hypernatremia, which is technically the opposite of hyponatremia and is salt poisoning.  You will see the same quick deterioration and symptoms that dictate getting your pet to the emergency vet, but you need to make the vet aware that they were ingesting salt water.

Knowing how much your pup loves playing be very cautious of any change in behavior.  This condition materializes very quickly and is so dangerous.

Watch for any of these signs:

-loss of coordination

-sudden lethargy

-vomiting

-glassy looking eyes

-pale gums

-excessive slobbering

By the time you see difficulty breathing, collapse or seizure your pet is in serious trouble.  Get your pet to an emergency facility as soon as you see any signs and they can try treating this with (IV) electrolytes, diuretics, and medications to reduce brain swelling. With aggressive veterinary care, some dogs do recover, but tragically this condition often ends in death. 

Prevention is key here.  Just like children; our pets should absolutely be supervised around water. Be very aware of any activity that means your pet is opening their mouth when they are exposed to the water such as fetching a ball or even dogs that play and bite in the sprinklers.  When dogs are jumping in water or water coming out of a sprinkler the water is pressurized and you may not realize the volume of water that they are ingesting.  So, enjoy summer fun but if you are partaking in any of these activities limit the time spent exposing them to water without periods of rest in between.  Their body has got to have time to process the water that is being ingested.

Oils, diffusers oh my!

It seems the hot new thing is using a diffuser with various essential oils to take people away from their busy stress filled lives.  If you are thinking about one…consider your pets.  I have very nosey pets, so I do not even burn candles in my house but have considered a relaxing diffuser.  I have read some horror stories about animals losing their lives because of their pet parent using toxic oils.  I thought this topic deserved a deeper look.

The answer is not completely black and white.  As with many things; something in a large quantity can be dangerous but in a smaller quantity is perfectly safe.  We are often surprised when something natural can be toxic, but it absolutely can be.

I will first share with you the “PRO” side.  As I researched this topic there were two sources that I sourced for feedback.  The book  Holistic Aromatherapy for Animals and I interviewed Melissa Cash with “Young Living” who carries an animal specific line of oils.  Both sources provide some useful tips in how make the use of oils safe for your pets.  Before trying aromatherapy at home with your pets, keep these safety tips in mind—and be sure to check with your vet if you have any questions or concerns.

Dogs and cats are more sensitive to essential oils than we are, so even if you’re familiar with them for yourself, remember that it’s a different story with your pet.

  • Essential oils should always be diluted before use, even if just inhaling. Melissa says dilute, dilute, dilute!  Start small.
  • Do not add essential oils to your pet’s food or drinking water.
  • Avoid using essential oils with animals under 10 weeks of age.
  • Check with a holistic vet before using any essential oils on pregnant animals. Do not use stimulating oils (e.g. peppermint, rosemary, tea tree) on pregnant pets.
  • Do not use oils on animals with any history of epileptic symptoms. Some oils, such as rosemary, may trigger seizures (in humans too).
  • Do not use oils in or close to the eyes, in the ears, directly on or close to the nose, on mucous membranes, or in the anal or genital areas.
  • Also, never lock your animal in a room with the diffuser is going, it is important to allow your pet to move to another room if they are not enjoying the scent.
  • The Most important thing is to NEVER use low quality or adulterated/synthetic essential oils on or around animals (as it can be dangerous and toxic).

The five most common used oils with pets and the reported benefit:

  • Lavender:Universal oil, can use pure or diluted. Useful in conditioning patients to a safe space. May help allergies, burns, ulcers, insomnia, car ride anxiety and car sickness, to name a few.
  • Cardamom:Diuretic, anti-bacterial, normalizes appetite, colic, coughs, heartburn and nausea.
  • Chamomile:Anti-inflammatory, non-toxic, gentle and safe to use. Good for skin irritations, allergic reactions, burns.
  • Spearmint:Helps to reduce weight. Good for colic, diarrhea, nausea. Helps balance metabolism, stimulates gallbladder. Not for use with cats.
  • ThymePain relief, good for arthritis and rheumatism. Antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, excellent for infections and other skin issues.

Now let’s look at the cautionary side. The first resource I need to source is the ASPCA animal poison control info center and hotline.  This is their official advice on essential oils:

Cats are especially sensitive to essential oils, and effects such as gastrointestinal upset, central nervous system depression and even liver damage could occur if ingested in significant quantities. Inhalation of the oils could lead to aspiration pneumonia. There are significant variations in toxicity among specific oils. Based on this, we would not recommend using essential oils in areas where your pets have access, unless pets are supervised, or the use of the oil is approved by your veterinarian. 

There are multiple vets that have authored info on this subject; we’ll look at a couple.  According to Dr. Wismer, “The most common symptoms for cats and dogs exposed to diffused essential oils are drooling, vomiting, coughing, and sneezing. Diffusing oils can be fatal to cats and dogs that have asthma or other respiratory issues.”

She said that any essential oil could be harmful to pets, depending on how much they’re exposed to and how. But the especially toxic oils, where pets are concerned, include wintergreen, d-limonene (citrus), pine, cinnamon, pennyroyal, eucalyptus, and tea tree.

It is important to note that some of the best natural grooming products contain tea tree oil. This is one of those instances when the amount of the ingredient makes a world of difference.  The amount used in well respected grooming products is completely safe.

Dr. Melissa Shelton, DVM is a multiple cat owner herself and does seem that there are even more reasons to be cautious around your cat.  She says; “Cats are well known for being deficient in a liver enzyme that most all other animals have which helps them process things efficiently (cytochrome p450). So, that means a cat’s liver doesn’t metabolize items in the same manner or efficiency as other animals or humans. This is true even for foods and traditional medicines…not just essential oils. Everything, synthetic and natural contains a therapeutic/toxic profile. This means that even good things in nature when taken in excess can be toxic.”

Everybody agrees on one thing…caution is completely necessary.  If you decide to try a diffuser in your home or any use of essential oils be very aware of your pet.  What might be relaxing for you could be deadly for your pet.  Watch for absolutely any change in behavior and consult with your vet.

Symptoms of essential oil poisoning have included:

  • Muscle tremors
  • Weakness
  • Difficulty in walking
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive salivation
  • Vomiting
  • Excessive pawing at mouth or face
  • Drooling

Do you use oils for yourself?  Have you used them around your pets?

 

Why Dogs Eat Poop

Have you ever had a dog that ate poop?  Two of my dogs found poop to be quite a delicacy.  It’s a repulsive problem.

Shockingly, 16% of dogs eat their poop regularly, according to a study done at the University of California at Davis.  And it’s a common reason for re-homing or euthanizing a dog.  That’s sad!

What would cause a dog to develop this disgusting habit?

Well, in puppies coprophagia (poop eating) is instinctual.  In older dogs, it’s a health or behavior issue.

A normal puppy will often eat their poop because they’ve learned this behavior from Mom.  To keep her den clean and to protect her babies from predators, Mom eats the poop to get rid of the scent.

A puppy will follow Mom’s lead and learn to eat poop but they’ll usually outgrow the habit.

Sometimes though, the taste of poop can become normal for a puppy because they taste and smell it on their mom’s mouth.  She may regurgitate food that’s mixed with the poop she’s eaten.

Mom also licks the pups tush to stimulate pooping in the first three weeks, which also leaves fecal matter in her mouth.

The puppy becomes used to the scent of poop on Mom’s breath and the taste of poop when the feces mixes with regurgitated food.

This normalization can make breaking the poop eating habit difficult.

While exploring the world, eating poop is normal for a puppy.  But if they are eating a well-balanced healthy diet, they should stop doing this.

Why wouldn’t a puppy outgrow poop eating and why would an older dog suddenly start?

Sometimes poop eating in puppies continues long after it should stop because they think food should be poop flavored from their days with Mom.

But they may also continue to do this for health or behavioral reasons.  In addition, an older dog may suddenly start scavenging for poop.

If your adult dog is eating poop and they’re showing other symptoms like weight loss, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or behavioral changes, this could be the sign of a health issue.  Talk to your vet.

Here are the main causes of coprophagia.

Poor digestion – Feeding a diet that’s low in digestible nutrients may cause the food to come out the way it went in.  To your dog, that tastes good.  A problem with the digestive system may also cause the food to come out undigested.

Diseases of the intestinal tract, liver and brain, parasites, malabsorption syndromes, diabetes, Cushing’s, thyroid disease –  Your vet can rule these out.

Drugs – Some medications like steroids can cause your dog to eat poop.

Boredom –  If you leave your dog alone for hours, they may play with and eat their stool.

Stress – A dog that’s crated for long periods or a dog that’s re-homed may eat poop because they are under stress.  Any stressful situation can bring this habit on.

Hunger – Is your dog getting enough to eat during the day?  If they aren’t, anything that seems edible will do as far as your dog is concerned.  If you aren’t sure how much to feed, ask your vet.

A dog can also be hungry if they’re harboring a parasite that’s leaching nutrients from their system.  Your dog will look to supplement their diet any way they can.

Attention Seeking – If you’ve freaked when you’ve seen your dog eat poop, they’ve learned they can get you to react when they do.  Even if they’re getting negative attention, they may continue to eat poop to get a rise out of you.

Alternatively, a dog may eat their poop to get rid of the evidence if you’ve yelled at them for having an accident.

Restrictive confinement – Puppy mill dogs crated all day may eat poop.  In addition, these dogs may lack food, which encourages poop eating.

I rescued a greyhound that was a poop eater.  Long hours crated at the track was probably the cause.

Isolation –  Dogs locked in a basement or garage away from their people may eat poop.

Associating poop with food –  This can happen if you feed your dog too close to where they do their business.

Living with a sick or elderly dog –  A healthy dog may eat the sick dog’s poop to protect the pack from predators… instinct.

If you live in a multi-dog home and one of the dog’s eats the poop of another, it could be a sign that the pooper is sick and not sufficiently digesting their food.  To the poop eater, eating their housemates poop is like scoring another meal.

And finally, some dogs just like to eat poop.

How can you stop this behavior?

From my experience I can tell you it’s difficult to end this behavior if a health problem isn’t the cause.

Start by feeding a high–quality digestible food like HusseThis will ensure your dog’s body is using the protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients in their food and not pooping them out.

Assess your dog’s level of exercise, playtime and the attention you give them.  Dogs need those things.  If they’re not getting what they need from you, they’ll let you know.  And they may do that by eating their poop.

You can try additives in the food.  These stool-eating deterrents never worked for my dogs.  And studies show they work in only 2% of cases.  Some say meat tenderizer added to the food makes the poop unpleasant as a snack.

The best advice is to be diligent about picking up your dog’s poop as soon as they go.  And always walk your dog on a leash so they can’t eat another dog’s poop.

There haven’t been many studies of coprophagia even though it’s a common habit.  But the little research that’s been done revealed things about a dog’s preferences.

Interestingly, dogs will rarely eat soft poop or diarrhea.  They like their stool snacks firm.  Most dogs that eat poop want it to be fresh… 1 to 2 days old.  Females are most likely to eat poop and intact males are least likely.

And 85% of poop eaters prefer eating another dog’s poop to their own.

Even if your dog doesn’t eat dog poop, most dogs love cat and horse poop.  So prevent access to this delicacy if you own a cat or your dog is around horses.

Although coprophagia is a difficult behavior to change, you can avoid the problem by cleaning up after your dog and controlling them on a leash when you are away from home.  Much better alternatives to giving your pet up, or worse yet, euthanizing them.

Does your dog eat its poop?  How do you handle the problem?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

Cannabis And Dogs

With all the talk about medical marijuana, do you wonder if it might help your aging or infirm dog?

I do.  After all, if marijuana has medicinal benefits for humans, why wouldn’t it be beneficial for our pets?

In my quest to find the answer to that question, I’ve gained clarity.  But I’ve also learned cannabis is a slippery slope.  Here’s why.

Just like in humans, marijuana can relieve many unpleasant medical conditions and symptoms.

But because it’s not legal in many states, and the federal government doesn’t recognize marijuana as legal in any state, little research on dogs (or humans) has been done.

Veterinarians won’t recommend it for fear of losing their licenses.  And you can’t get a medical marijuana card for a dog.

But cannabis, the plant marijuana comes from, can be helpful in relieving some debilitating health conditions.  And if you decide cannabis is right for your dog, ways exist to get it.  We’ll discuss those in a minute.

How can cannabis help your dog?

Marijuana can relieve symptoms of cancer, seizures, stress, anxiety, arthritis, back pain, nausea and other gastrointestinal issues.

There is much anecdotal evidence of improved quality of life in once-suffering pets.  But no scientific research to back it up.

And as long as it’s considered a controlled substance by the federal government, research on cannabis will remain stalled.

How does cannabis work?

Here’s a little lesson in marijuana, one byproduct of the cannabis plant.  Cannabis contains over 400 known natural compounds and at least 60 plant-based cannabinoids.

Cannabinoids are like messengers that travel to receptor sites in the endocannabinoid system, which all vertebrates have.  This bodily system regulates many physiological and cognitive processes including appetite, pain sensation, and mood and is the system of the body most affected by cannabis.

In marijuana, the two cannabinoids produced in greatest abundance are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Of all the cannabinoids found in cannabis, only THC will make you high. CBD provides the medicinal component and THC the psychoactive component.  Any cannabis product you would give your dog would contain a low dose of THC, not enough to get them high.

In fact, many products for dogs get their CBD from industrial hemp, a product with many purposes.  Hemp, like marijuana, comes from the cannabis plant but does not have psychoactive properties.

Cannabis grown for industrial hemp has a very low THC content, only around .3%.  The THC content of cannabis grown for marijuana can be 6 to 7%, sometimes up to 20%.

The two cannabinoids used together are what make medical marijuana most effective.  So a small amount of THC is necessary.

The receptors the cannabinoids bind to determine the effects of cannabis.   There are two main cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2.  In dogs, CB1 exists in the brain, salivary glands, and hair follicles.

CB2 is in the skin, immune system, nervous system, and some organs.  As in humans, it’s important to give your dog the right cannabinoids to achieve the desired effect.

And correct dosing is critical!  Your dog will not get high if the dose is correct.

Although death from marijuana in dogs is rare if it’s used correctly, an overdose can be life threatening.

The biggest risk of an overdose in dogs is them getting into your stash.  Most dog deaths related to marijuana overdose occurred when the dog ate edibles infused with pot that contained large amounts of chocolate, raisins or coffee.  All toxic for dogs.

Consuming large amounts of marijuana, however, can be fatal.  The signs of an overdose are lethargy, dilated pupils, balance problems, drooling, muscle twitching, vomiting, involuntary urination and even unconsciousness.  Get to the vet if you suspect your dog got into your pot.

How much cannabis should I give my dog and how do I get it?

Determining the correct dose is one of the greatest challenges because there is no research to tell us the right dose.

Weight doesn’t determine dosage.  The efficiency of the endocannabinoid system affects dosage.  Your vet must observe your dog to assess that.

If you decide to give your dog medical marijuana, you must find a vet who has experience using it for treatment.  Many holistic vets do.  They can suggest reputable manufacturers and correct dosing.  But they will not dispense it.  And they are not able to give you a medical marijuana card for your pet.

Dogs are usually given a topical oil or an edible—a food item made with marijuana or infused with cannabis oil—which you can buy at a dispensary.

If you live in a state where marijuana is legal you can get it easily.  If you live in a state where only medical marijuana is legal and you have a medical marijuana card, you can go to a reliable dispensary and find products made for dogs.

Only give your dog a product formulated for them.

Dogs are more sensitive to cannabinoids than humans.  They need a much smaller dose.  There is a concern in the veterinary community people will use their own experience with medical marijuana as a guide and will give their pets too much.

If you live in a state where medical marijuana is not legal, you may still be able to buy hemp products.  These products still offer the benefits of CBD.

As with any medication or supplement, I can’t stress enough the need to seek the advice of a veterinarian before you give your dog cannabis.

Marijuana instead of medicine?

Marijuana should not replace any medicine your vet recommends.  You can use it in conjunction with traditional treatments, or when other treatments have failed.

It is not a cure-all.  But marijuana does not seem to have the life-threatening side effects of many traditional medicines.  It doesn’t cause organ damage, stomach distress or sedation.

When considering medical marijuana for your dog, be realistic about its capabilities.  But if it can improve your dog’s quality of life, marijuana may be worth a try.

Do you use marijuana to treat a medical condition in your dog?  Share your experience at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gastrointestinal Obstructions… They Can Happen Before You Know It

It started with a little throw-up on Monday morning.  By Thursday afternoon, my 1-year-old Golden had a 10-inch incision in her abdomen.

Let me explain. Last Sunday in a moment of inattention, my mischievous little girl Shea ate a 2-inch hole in my living room carpet.

Although this was out of the ordinary, even for her, I wasn’t overly concerned.  She eats a lot of junk, i.e. sticks, tree pods, assorted leaves and other yard debris.  Since I’ve had her, she’s never gotten sick from these antics.

In fact, she’d never even thrown-up in the 10 months we’ve had her.  This seemed different.

By Monday, I knew something was up.  She got sick 4 or 5 times during the day.  But her typical voracious appetite continued, and she was her usual ebullient self.

A change in behavior and appetite are indicators of something serious.  And I saw none of that.

That night she got sick, and the next day she threw up after she ate.  Now her behavior started to change.  She seemed unhappy.  This was Tuesday.

We went to the vet. X-rays showed some gas in her stomach but nothing concerning.  The doc felt she irritated her stomach when she ate the carpet.  “Feed her chicken and rice and call if she doesn’t improve.”

She didn’t improve. By the next afternoon, she seemed worse.  She stopped eating, and she was lethargic… for her.

Back to the vet we went.  The vet would run a barium series, which would detect an obstruction if she had one.

A barium series is a series of x-rays taken over 4 to 8 hours while your dog drinks barium.  The barium appears white on the x-rays.  As it moves through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the vet can see its progress.  If the barium is unable to pass, there’s an obstruction.

Shea wasn’t at the hospital 10 minutes when I got a call that the first x-ray looked a lot different from yesterday.  They hadn’t given her the barium yet, but it was clear there was an obstruction.  The x-ray showed a pronounced build-up of gasses in her GI tract.  She needed surgery.

When all was said and done, she had three obstructions.  The carpet wasn’t the only problem.  A tough string from the carpet backing connected two of the obstructions.  The lower obstruction was trying to pass but the string connecting the two obstructions held it in place.

Here are the contents of Shea’s stomach.   The problematic string is in the center of the photo.

IMG_3188

The vet told me that string could have perforated the intestines and potentially killed her. Thankfully we caught it in time. And she’s doing fine.

Let me share with you some important information about gastrointestinal obstructions.  An obstruction is an emergency that can lead to death if not handled quickly.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is a gastrointestinal obstruction?

A GI obstruction is a blockage in the stomach or intestines that prevents solids or liquids from passing through the GI tract.

It’s a fairly common condition because dogs don’t care what they eat.  Particularly young dogs that are at greatest risk.

Obstructions can happen to cats too.

What are the signs of an obstruction?

Vomiting

Lack of appetite

Weakness

Diarrhea

Weight loss

Dehydration

Bloating

Your dog may not suffer from all of these.  My dog didn’t have diarrhea.  But she also didn’t poop for 4 days.

What causes an obstruction?

Foreign objects like the carpeting Shea ate are not the cause of all obstructions.

A tumor, inflammation of the GI tract, a hernia, intussusception, pyloric stenosis and mesenteric torsion can all cause an obstruction.

Intussusception is when a section of the small intestine slides into the adjoining section. Intestinal parasites can cause intussusception.

Pyloric stenosis is when the opening between the stomach and small intestine narrows.

Mesenteric torsion is a twisting of the intestines around the connective membrane between the intestines and abdominal wall.

How is an obstruction diagnosed?

The vet diagnosed Shea’s obstruction by x-ray but he would have used a barium series if necessary.

Some vets will do an ultrasound or endoscopy.  Endoscopy is a tube inserted down your dog’s throat with a tiny camera at the end.  This allows your vet to see into the GI tract but doesn’t always enable the doc to identify multiple obstructions.

Are there treatment alternatives?

Not many. In the early stages, your vet may hydrate and take a wait and see approach.  Some obstructions pass on their own.

The risk is tissue damage and perforation.  We were fortunate Shea had neither.  But if she did, they might have needed to remove some of her intestines.  Or worse yet that string could have torn through her intestine causing the contents to leak out.  This can cause sepsis and ultimately death.

And because your vet may not know if the object is sharp or long, like Shea’s string, the risk is serious.

After surgery, your dog will need to stay inactive until your vet removes the staples, about 12 to 14 days. That will be harder on you than them if your dog is high-energy like my Shea.  After the first day, she was ready to go… despite the 50 or so staples in her stomach.

You also must monitor vomiting and hydration.  Shea did not continue to throw up once we got her home.  Had she, we would have had to return to the vet for IV hydration.

Your dog will be eating only soft bland food until those staples are out.  Nothing hard in the GI tract, including treats. That’s difficult.

How do you stop this from happening?

Good luck. That’s my great challenge with Shea.  Certainly, she will never be out of her crate without a watchful eye following her in the house until she’s done with this puppy stuff.  But she is a dog, and she needs freedom to run in the yard.

I will follow her around for a while telling her to “leave it” but realistically I know I have little control over what she ingests outside.

My vet told me he has rock-eating dogs that come back every few months for surgery.  That’s heartbreaking.

I think I’ll call my trainer once those staples come out.

Has your dog ever had an obstruction?  What did they eat?  Share your comments at the top.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Parasites and Puppies

There are few things in life more thrilling than bringing home a new puppy.  We plan.  We buy toys, treats, the perfect food and a crate.  We charge the battery on our phone to take endless photos.

But we don’t think about the parasites this little ball of fur might have feasting on it when it comes into our home.  We assume our new baby is perfect in every way… and healthy.

But more often than not a puppy will come home with a parasite.

A 2013 study of 56 healthy puppies done by Husse showed just how common parasites are. Two-thirds of the puppies tested positive for coccidiosis, half were positive for roundworm, and a third were positive for giardia.

These precious babies have undeveloped immune systems.  Their bodies can’t fight off a parasite like an adult dog can.  In fact, a recent puppy of mine came home with two parasites; giardia and fleas.

“What is a parasite?” you may be wondering.  It’s an organism that lives in or on another organism (the host), getting its nutrients from the host.  They can make your dog’s life miserable and some can even be deadly.  Not to mention contagious to people.

The best way to curtail your puppy’s suffering, and yours, is to be proactive in tackling these parasites.  Get your puppy checked out by your vet—be sure to line one of those up before puppy comes home—the first week they’re home.

Some parasites will cause symptoms right away.  Some will not.  Your vet will know what to test for even if your pup is showing no symptoms.

Here are the ones most likely to affect a puppy.  I won’t delve into great detail about the ones I’ve already written posts on but I’ll link to those posts for more info.

Intestinal worms

These are common in puppies.  Most professional breeders will de-worm the litter before they go home, as will rescue organizations.

Roundworm, tapeworm, hookworm and whipworm are the most common intestinal worms affecting puppies.  Mom’s pass the worms to their babies in utero or when nursing.

You can get these worms too.  And in the case of roundworm, they can be dangerous.  Especially in children who can go blind if infected by them.  Be sure you and your children wash your hands after playing with the puppy.

In dogs, intestinal worms may cause diarrhea, vomiting, pale gums, a swollen belly or a dry coat.

If your vet suspects worms, they’ll ask for a fecal sample.  Your vet will prescribe de-worming medications if the test comes back positive.

Heartworm

This is one of the most dangerous parasites your dog can contract.  Heartworm is transmitted through the bite of a mosquito with heartworm larvae in its blood.

Heartworm settles in the heart as opposed to the digestive tract.  This worm can cause heart failure and death.

The problem is that it takes 6 months from the time of infection for symptoms to show, at which point it’s usually too late to treat the condition.

Because heartworm is a silent killer initially, you want to prevent this parasite from the getgo.  Prevention should start when your pup is 8 weeks old.  Talk to your vet about the alternatives.

When symptoms begin to show, they’re serious.  Your dog may be lethargic, have a cough, difficulty breathing, a swollen belly, and changes in heart rhythm.  These may lead to collapse or death.

In mild-to-moderate cases, there is medication to kill heartworm but it can take 6 months or longer to be certain your puppy no longer has worms.

Single-cell protozoa

Last week’s post covered one of these nasty parasites, giardia.

Another common single-cell protozoa is coccidia.  It’s extremely contagious to other dogs and can cause severe illness.

A puppy will get coccidia from exposure to mom’s poop if she’s shedding infective cysts.  These cysts are like the cysts formed by giardia.

This parasite is one that primarily affects puppies 6 months or younger because the immune system of an older dog is able to fight off the effects.  As a puppy ages, it develops an immunity to coccidia.

An older dog may carry the parasite but won’t likely get sick.

A puppy with coccidiosis, the condition caused by coccidia, may have mild to severe bloody or mucousy diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and dehydration.  If not treated, a young pup can die.

The treatment for coccidiosis is 1 to 3 weeks on a sulfa drug, depending on the severity.  The meds don’t kill the organisms.  They inhibit their reproduction. As a result, the treatment can take a while to get rid of this parasite.  Over time, the puppy’s immune system develops which ultimately removes the organisms from the body.

Your vet may also suggest a highly digestible low residue food like Husse Valp to help manage symptoms.

To prevent coccidiosis, insect and rodent control on your property is critical.  Cockroaches and flies can carry coccidia from one place to another on their bodies.

Mice and other rodents can ingest coccidia.  If your dog kills and eats one of these critters with coccidia, they’ll get infected.

Fleas and ticks

Unlike the other parasites, these show on your dog’s skin.  Fleas live in their fur.  They bite their host and live off their blood.  This can be very uncomfortable for your puppy.

Many pups are allergic to flea saliva making the itching even more intense.  Excessive scratching can lead to raw, scabby and swollen skin.  And if the scratching continues too long… skin infections.  Fleas can also transmit tapeworm.

Ticks feed off the blood of dogs too, and depending how many ticks are on your dog, the blood loss can be severe.  Even resulting in anemia.  A severe tick infestation can make your puppy very sick.

Ticks also carry serious diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

If you see your puppy scratching a lot, pay attention.  You may see the fleas on their belly.  And you may feel a tick if you move your hands over your puppy’s body.  They often latch on between toes, on the ears, or in the armpits.

Many flea and tick treatments exist, from topical oils to chewable tablets.  Talk to your vet about the best treatment for your puppy.  And remember, you may need to treat your home too.

Skin mites

These too are external parasites that burrow into the skin.  But they aren’t visible to the naked eye.  They often occur in the ears.

Mites can cause skin irritation, rashes, red scaliness, hair loss, and what looks like dandruff.

The sarcoptes scabiei mite causes mange also known as canine scabies.  And mange is very contagious to other dogs and to humans.  In humans, you know this parasite as scabies.

Topical gels, benzoyl peroxide shampoo, and anti-parasitic applications are used in combination to treat mites.

Tell your vet if you notice anything unusual about your puppy.  A good vet will talk to you about these puppy parasites and check for any appearance of them at your first visit.

Parasites are not only unpleasant for your dog, they are often contagious to humans.  And a case of scabies sure isn’t the way you want to remember those early days with your puppy.  So be proactive.  Treat a problem.  And enjoy that fleeting puppyhood.

Have you had a puppy with a parasite?  Share your experience in the comment section above.