Insect Stings… What You Need To Know

The summer’s warm weather brings us out of hibernation.  We spend more time outside this time of year and so do our dogs.

But we’re not the only ones who come out of hiding when the weather’s nice.  The bees, wasps, hornets, spiders and scorpions are all active in warm weather too.

What does this mean for your dog?  What would you do if your dog were stung by one of these critters?

If your dogs are like mine, their noses are always where they shouldn’t be when they are exploring the yard.

They sniff in holes, bury their heads in flowering shrubs, and paw at anything moving in the grass.  They don’t care how many bees are buzzing around their heads.

This can be dangerous behavior.   Complete oblivion can mean trouble if your dog sticks its nose where these insects are nesting.

Dogs are most likely to be stung by insects on their noses, in their mouths or on their paws because those are the body parts they use to investigate their surroundings.

If your pet is stung, you may hear them yelp or see them paw at their face.  Should you be concerned?

Well, that depends.  Let’s talk about which stings are harmless, which ones can be serious, and what you should do if this happens to your dog.

Bees, wasps, hornets

If your dog gets stung by one of these guys, and it’s only one sting not multiple stings, they will most likely be fine after the initial discomfort.

Remove the stinger right away… if you can find it.   The stinger will continue to release venom as long as it’s still in the skin.

Do not use a tweezer or squeeze the stinger with your fingernails. This can pop the venom sac, releasing more venom into your dog.  Instead, use a credit card or piece of cardboard to scrape it off.

Clean the area with cool water and soap.  You can apply a cold compress or an ice pack to reduce any swelling.  Use the ice for 5 minutes on/5 minutes off for the first hour.  Wrap the ice in a washcloth to avoid damaging the skin with direct contact.

You can also use apple cider vinegar on a cotton ball to neutralize the venom.  Do this a few times until the swelling subsides.

No cider vinegar on hand?  Try a baking soda paste.  Mix 3 parts baking soda with one part water and apply it to the sting once every two hours for the first day until the swelling goes down.

Aloe vera gel is also effective but be sure it’s pure aloe.  No aloe lotions.

When using any of these remedies always avoid the eyes.

A bee sting is painful for your dog, just like it would be for you.  But after the initial redness and localized swelling, a healthy dog shouldn’t experience any serious symptoms.

Your pet can have an allergic reaction making the sting more than just uncomfortable for your pet.  If there’s swelling around the face, not just at the spot of the sting, call the vet.  You can give your dog Benadryl but you must ask your vet for the recommended dose first.

The alarming symptoms are vomiting, diarrhea, disorientation, weakness, and difficulty breathing within a few minutes of being stung.  These are the signs of an anaphylactic reaction.  This is serious.  Get to the vetimmediately.

Additionally, shock can set in.  If their gums are pale, your dog is going into shock.  Get to the ER.  Shock can be fatal.

The good news is one sting rarely results in these serious reactions.  A dog is more likely to have a serious allergic response if they have been stung before or if they experience multiple stings at one time.

Consecutive stings can also result in a dangerous reaction.  To avoid another sting, don’t allow your dog outside by themselves until they recover.

Black widow and brown recluse spiders

The two spiders most likely to cause a problem for your dog are the black widow and the brown recluse.

The black widow lives all over the U.S. but primarily in the Southwest.  It has a distinctive red or orange hourglass on its abdomen.

The brown recluse lives in the Midwest and is active at night.  If this spider bites your dog, it’susually because they disturbed the spider when it was resting.

The bite of these two spiders can be a nonevent or very serious.

If a spider bites your dog, try to catch it in a jar so your vet can see it.  If a black widow is the culprit, watch for muscle cramps, entire body pain, shaking and panting.  The risk with this kind of bite is elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

Any of these symptoms means a trip to the vet.

The brown recluse destroys the skin surrounding the bite because of necrosis.  The skin cells die.  If the bite is on a limb, it can result in amputation.

I knew a dog that lost his tail from a spider bite.  The owners weren’t even aware he was bitten until he developed this terrible ulcer on his tail.

The ulceration can take a long time to heal and can become infected.  If gangrene sets in or the venom enters the blood stream and travels to the organs, the brown recluse bite can be fatal.

Signs of this spider’s bite can be nothing at all or some local pain followed by itching.

The signs of a more serious reaction are bloody urine, fever, chills, rash and weakness.

The skin surrounding the bite can be red with a white lesion and a dark central scab.

Because the dying skin tissue can lead to the loss of a limb, the faster the vet can diagnose a brown recluse bite the better.  And the more likely you’ll prevent complications.

Scorpions

If you live in the Southwest, scorpions are what nightmares are made of.  There are hundreds of species of these little devils.  Many of them are non-venomous and, although painful, their stings are not life threatening.

But, the bark scorpion—one of the more common species—is extremely venomous.  If one of these gets your dog, it can be fatal.

If a scorpion stings your dog, restrict their movement to keep the venom from flowing from the sting to other parts of the body.

Call your vet to get the right Benadryl dose and to tell them you’re on the way.  It’s advisable to see your vet if a scorpion stings your dog.

You don’t want to wait for the drooling, watery eyes, dilated pupils, trembling or breathing difficulties to set in.

Or course, how your pet responds to any of these stings or bites is dependent on their age, weight, and general health.  But an allergic reaction can happen to any dog.  Be prepared and know what to look out for so you can act quickly if necessary.

Has your dog ever been stung by one of these creatures?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fleas and Ticks 101

The summer’s winding down. In some parts of the country, the kids are getting ready to go back to school. If you’ve gotten this far without fleas and ticks feasting on your pets this summer, don’t get too comfortable yet.

The end of summer and early fall is still active for fleas and ticks, and the worst time of year in many parts of the country. If you live in a place that doesn’t get colder than 30 degrees for long periods, you can never get lax about these nasty parasites. Flea and tick season never ends for you.

If you’ve experienced fleas or ticks on your pets, you know it’s no fun. And it can be downright dangerous. These parasites carry disease and discomfort with them.

If you have been fortunate enough to be a pet owner who hasn’t experienced these annoying pests, you may not know the implications of an infestation… or even how to deal with it if it happens to your pet.

Now’s a good time to brush up on your flea and tick knowledge.

How do pets get fleas and ticks?

These little creatures are external parasites. They feast on the blood of your fur baby by biting them.

Fleas come from other animals that enter your pet’s environment. That might mean your yard, but it can also mean the woods where you hike. The park where you hang out with other dogs. Or a kennel where you’ve boarded your pet.

The animal that carries these pests could be a cat or dog. But it can also be a raccoon, rat, or other wild animal.

The female flea lays eggs on the host animal. Those eggs then fall off in your yard or where you’re dog plays. The eggs develop into adults and the fleas jump onto your pet looking for a place to get a good blood meal.

Once the adult fleas have found a home on your pet, they rarely jump to other pets. They’re happy to have a meal and will stay where they are. But the adult females will lay eggs on your pet. And those eggs could fall off in your home, turn into adults, and leap onto your other pets.

Ticks live 18 to 24 inches off the ground in tall grass or low shrubs. When your dog is walking by and brushes against the foliage, they dislodge the ticks that then climb onto your pet.

Can these parasites make your pet sick?

These bugs are not only annoying to your pet, they also carry disease.

The most common reaction to fleas is flea allergy dermatitis. The salivary protein in the fleabite causes an allergic response. Your pet will bite, scratch and even lose their fur.

It only takes a few bites to cause a reaction. And all the scratching can result in a secondary bacterial or fungal infection.

If your pet is infested with fleas, they can become anemic from all the blood loss. An old, ill or very young animal can become weak and even die.

Fleas can also transmit tapeworm to your pet… little rice-like worms found around the rectum, in poop, or on your pet’s bed.

Ticks can transmit more than a dozen very serious diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. These can kill your pet.

Tick-borne diseases vary from one area of the country to another. So talk to your vet about which diseases are prevalent where you live.

Are fleas and ticks more common in some parts of the U.S. than others?

Ticks and fleas are worse in some parts of the country. And they’re worse at certain times of the year.

Fleas like warm humid conditions. So they’re not common in dry places like the Southwest. But the Gulf Coast and Southeast U.S. are flea infested.

Fleas are worse during mid to late summer and early fall. Ticks are most prevalent early spring and late fall. But these critters are around any time of year.

Ticks are almost everywhere but are particularly problematic in the Upper Midwest and Northeast where Lyme-carrying ticks are the worst.

How do you know if your pet has fleas or ticks?

There are many species of ticks and fleas. The large ticks are easy to see or feel on your pet. Especially when they are engorged after enjoying a blood meal.

Deer ticks are very tiny… the size of a pinhead. They’re not so easy to find. It’s a good idea to do a careful inspection of your pet if they’ve spent time in an area that’s known to have ticks.

If you live in a tick prone area, do a check once a day.

If your pet has fleas, they’ll scratch incessantly. In cats, you may notice excessive grooming.

Run a flea comb through your pet’s fur. Dump the hair onto a white paper towel. Dampen it with water. Red stains mean fleas. The red is flea dirt—basically poop.  It’s digested blood. Yuck!

How do you get rid of ticks and fleas?

If your pet has ticks and you’ve never removed a tick before, get the help of your vet. You must grasp the tick with a pair of tweezers as close to the mouthparts as you can get. Then apply steady pressure until the tick lets go. You don’t want to pull the tick out and leave the mouth in your pet.

Never use anything to remove a tick that could hurt your pet, like lighter fluid or a match.

Fleas are a nightmare to get rid of. I know this firsthand.

Talk to your vet about treatment. You will likely have to treat several times. Not only must you treat your pet, you need to treat your home, any environment your pet spends time in, and all other pets in your home.

You can have an exterminator fog your house if the infestation is bad.   If it isn’t horrible, you can vacuum the rugs. Throw out old bedding. And launder all other items in hot water.

Can you prevent ticks and fleas?

There are many prevention products on the market. Talk to your vet about the best one for your pet.

Often, one product can prevent both ticks and fleas. They are usually topical treatments. You apply the fluid directly to the skin between the shoulder blades or on the back of the neck.

These products need a prescription from your vet and are generally safe if you follow the directions. But of course, a pet can react to anything applied to their skin.

Over-the-counter flea and tick preventatives are not effective.  Fleas are often resistant to the synthetic pyrethrins in these products. People over apply them because they don’t work. That’s dangerous for your pet, you and the environment.

Remember too, prevention products meant for dogs should never be used on a cat and vice versa.

Talk to your vet about whether you should treat your pet year-round. That will depend on where you live, where you travel with your pet, and what activities your pet partakes in.

There are natural prevention options on the market too. Some work better than others. If you use a natural product, you must also flea-proof your pet’s living environment.

Minimize brush and tall grass in your yard to prevent fleas and ticks from taking up residence. Remove leaf litter.

These bugs don’t like sunlight so don’t give them shady hangouts. Ticks will also hide under shrubs or porches. Try to prevent your pets from laying in those areas.

Keep your pets out of tick habitats like heavily wooded areas and tall grass.

If you live in an area with a lot of ticks, you may need to treat your property with a pesticide.

Fleas and ticks can cause serious illness and make your pet miserable. It’s important to check your pet regularly. And use the prevention methods I’ve mentioned to stay ahead of a serious assault.

Have you ever had a flea infestation? Have you had to remove a tick from your pet? Tell us about it in the comment section above.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

The Benefits of Doggy Sun Protection

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

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

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

It turns out I couldn’t be more wrong.

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

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

Malignant melanoma

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

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

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

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

Squamous cell carcinoma

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mast cell tumors

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

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

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

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

Once again, though, genetics play a role.

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

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

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

Skin cancer prevention

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you know if your sun protection is working?

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

See your vet if any of these symptoms persist.

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Meaning Of A Dry Nose

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

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

Most of the time… no. But sometimes yes.

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

What makes a dog’s nose wet?

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

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

So what happens?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2) Allergies

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

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

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

6) Extreme heat or cold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.