The Silent Dog Killer You’ve Never Heard Of

I read a heartbreaking story a few days ago.  A seemingly healthy Doberman died suddenly from a condition called dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).  A condition its owner was unaware he suffered from.

How devastating to lose a beloved pet to an illness you were unaware they had!

This horrible ailment can be a silent killer.  But it’s my hope that if you know what to look for, you may catch some early warning signs.  Early diagnosis and treatment can increase life expectancy and quality of life.

But unfortunately DCM is fatal.

What is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)?

DCM is a disease of the heart muscle that affects its ability to pump blood to the rest of the body.  From the picture below you can see that the disease causes the heart to enlarge and the walls of the heart to thin.

DCM in Dogs 2

Usually DCM affects one side of the heart more than the other.  In this illustration, the left side is enlarged.

An enlarged heart becomes overloaded, has weakened contractions, and can’t pump blood properly to the rest of the body.  Over time, this leads to congestive heart failure and death.

DCM occurs in dogs between the ages of 4 and 10 years old and more often in males than females.

It is most common in large and giant breeds like Dobermans, Boxers, Scottish Deerhounds, Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes and Newfoundlands.  But this condition also affects Cocker Spaniels.

Despite the prevalence in large breeds, DCM can happen to any breed but it’s not often found in small dogs… except for the Cocker.

Because some breeds are predisposed, there’s clearly a genetic component.  But no one is certain what brings this malady on.

A deficiency in taurine or carnitine has contributed to DCM in Dobermans, Boxers and Cockers.

Other underlying conditions like low thyroid levels, inflammation of the heart muscle, prolonged rapid heart rate, and poor blood flow to the heart muscle can also cause DCM.

What are the signs of dilated cardiomyopathy?

A dog with DCM could die unexpectedly, never having exhibited any symptoms of this deadly condition… like that Doberman I read about.  An irregular heart rhythm brought on by DCM is all it takes sometimes.

At first, the symptoms may be subtle and go undetected without a thorough exam.  Breathing that has a muffled or crackling sound due to fluid buildup in the lungs isn’t something you would notice. Missing pulse waves (which cause an irregular heart rhythm) and slow capillary refill time (the time it takes for the color to return after pressing on the gums) are signs of DCM that you would find only if you were looking for them.

More obvious symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, rapid or excessive breathing, coughing (especially during activity), excessive panting, and reduced interest in exercise are all signs that something serious is wrong.  The sooner you see your vet and they diagnose DCM, the faster you can begin treatment.

If your dog’s DCM has progressed to congestive heart failure, you’ll know by:

A swollen belly from fluid buildup

Fainting due to lack of oxygen flowing to the brain

A bluish gray tongue or gum color from poor oxygen flow

Weight loss due to inability to store healthy fat

Once the condition has progressed to heart failure life expectancy is 6 to 24 months depending on the breed and the progression of the disease.  Dobermans are so severely affected by this disease they rarely live more than 6 months. Cockers will survive longer.

What is so sad about DCM is the signs seem to develop over night.  But for months—maybe even years—the heart muscle abnormality is progressing silently.

If your vet suspects your dog is suffering from DCM, they will do a thorough examination. But they’ll want to run tests too.  A chest x-ray, electrocardiogram, and an echocardiogram will help to determine how the disease is progressing.

How about treatments for DCM?

The treatments that exist will improve heart function and treat the symptoms. There is no cure.  In fact in humans, a heart transplant would be indicated for this condition.

Your vet will prescribe drugs to improve heart contraction and slow rapid beating.  Diuretics will control fluid buildup in the lungs.

Vasodilators are drugs that induce dilation of the blood vessels and vets often prescribe them for DCM.

If your dog has a taurine or carnitine deficiency, their treatment may include supplements or a food like Husse’s Ocean Care or Optimal Limited that have these nutrients.  A thyroid problem will need thyroid treatment.

Your vet will decide the best course of action based on your dog’s needs.  But the treatment will only improve your dog’s quality of life for their remaining time with you, which the treatment may lengthen somewhat.

This is one of those conditions we as pet parents can’t control.  But we can educate ourselves so we may lessen our beloved pets’ suffering.

Has dilated cardiomyopathy affected your dog?  Share your experience in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How To Safely Store Your Pet Food

I’ve said often that researching and writing this blog have made me a more informed and smarter pet owner.   Years of pet ownership can lull you into thinking you know all there is to know… or most everything anyhow.  But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s always good to keep up to date and educated about issues that keep your pets happy and healthy.  And hopefully this blog helps you do that.

Food storage, which seems straight forward, is one thing I thought I had all the answers to.  But some things I’ve learned in the last few days are causing me to question that.  You may find, after reading this, you need to rethink your pet food storage too.

If you read this blog, you’re probably already putting a lot of effort into choosing the best quality food you can afford for your pets.  But do you know the right way to store it so it maintains maximum nutritional value and freshness?

Whether you feed dry, canned or raw there are right and wrong ways to store your pet’s food.

First, always check the “Best by” or “Best before” date.  All pet food has one on the packaging.  Once the food is past the date, it’s time to throw it out.

When you buy your food, choose a “Best by” date that’s far enough out you’ll be able to finish it before it’s spoiled.

Food can go bad even before the “Best by” date if the packaging is compromised.  So check before you buy to be sure bags aren’t torn or open, and cans aren’t bulging or leaking.

If the food doesn’t smell or look right when you open the bag, or if your pet won’t eat it, notify the manufacturer immediately.  If they’re reputable, they’ll refund your money or replace the food.  But more importantly, they need to know if there’s a problem in their manufacturing or packaging process.

Storing dry food

If you feed your pet kibble—which I do—air, light, hot temperatures and humidity can degrade your pet’s food.  Exposure to any of these environmental factors at the least puts your pet at risk of not getting the nutritional benefits from their food.  At worst, they can get very sick from mold, bacteria or rancidity.

High temperatures and moisture inside the bag of food can increase the risk of salmonella and other bacteria as well as mold growth.  This contamination can make your pet sick.  In fact, it can kill them.

I read a story on social media the other day about a family that lost two dogs who consumed moldy food.  After the dogs died, the owners inspected the bag of food and found the food at the bottom was covered in mold.  Somehow, moisture got in allowing the mold to grow.

This leads to another important storage consideration.  Many food manufacturers recommend keeping your pet’s food in the bag it comes in instead of transferring it to a food bin.  The bags are made to absorb any excess fat that accumulates and might turn rancid.

The bags also keep light out.  And moisture, if you are careful about where you store the food… off the floor and in a dry location.  You must also close the bag correctly by rolling the top down and securing it with a clip.

But if you leave the food in the bag, you won’t see all the food before your pet eats it.  You won’t see if there’s mold in the bottom until you get to the bottom. That’s a huge risk.  One I hadn’t considered before I heard of these poor dogs, and one I’m not willing to take.

But I was already using a food bin for reasons I’ll tell you in a minute.

My suggestion for you is to follow the manufacturers recommendation with regard to storing in the bag. You could empty the food, inspect it, and then put it back in the bag.

If you’re worried about fat turning rancid, this is a bigger problem for lower quality foods. They tend to spray the necessary fat in the recipe on the outside of the kibble.  Premium foods, like Husse, use a vacuum process so the fat penetrates the kibble.

If you feed a premium food, the risk of mold is a bigger concern than rancid fat.  So the argument for keeping the food in the fat-absorbing bag may not outweigh the risks of moisture getting in and mold growing.

This is especially the case if the manufacturer uses a micro perforated bag.  These bags have miniscule holes to keep air from building up and inflating the bags in the warehouse.  This can lead to puncture when the bags are stacked.  The holes are small enough to keep pests out but moisture can still get in.

If you opt for the food storage bin, metal or glass are better than plastic.  Plastic can leach chemicals and possibly retain residual fat.

But if you’re already using plastic like I am, that’s okay.  Just be sure to thoroughly clean the container between each bag of food. This assures that you’ve gotten rid of any left over crumbs which will go bad, or fats that have adhered to the container and can turn.

And don’t mix old kibble with new kibble.  Finish the old first.  If it has been over 6 weeks since you opened the bag… throw it out, wash the bin, and fill with fresh food.

Regardless of the container you use to store the food, never store it in the garage.  Summer temps can top 100 in there. And vitamins degrade at 104 degrees.  Garages can be humid too, increasing the moisture risk.

Find a cool, dry location in your house.  Possibly the pantry or another closet.  But storing in the pantry can contaminate other food products if the pet food bag has meal moths.

And that’s why I store my dogs’ food in a food bin.  Since my experience with these annoying critters—read Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon to hear more about that—I’ve emptied my dog food out of the bag to check for meal worms/moths.  And after reading about that deadly mold, I will continue to do so.

I store my food bins in the coat closet.  That moth infestation was not easy to get out of my pantry and I’d rather not go through it again.

Store the bin off the floor to avoid pests and moisture getting in.

If you empty the food from the bag, save the UPC code, lot number, brand, manufacturer, and “Best by” date in case you have a problem with the food or it’s recalled.

Storing canned food

If you feed your pet food from a can, those cans can stay fresh for years if unopened and stored in a cool, dry location.  Again, below 100 degrees.

But don’t buy more than you’ll use before the “Best by” date.

Once the can is open, it can last for 4 hours at room temperature.  Then you should throw it out.

Refrigerate any unused food for up to a week.  Cover the can with a plastic pet food lid or plastic wrap to prevent moisture loss and odor transfer.

If you don’t think you’ll get through the can in a week, then you can freeze single serve portions.  But freezing can change the texture and taste.

Storing refrigerated pet food

These types of foods have a short shelf life.  Check the “Best by” dates. Once they’re open for 5 days, you need to throw them out.  You may be able to freeze these foods, however.  But check the packaging to be sure.

Commercially produced raw food diets have storage instructions on the package.  If you make your own raw food diet for your pet, you may not be sure of the best way to store it.

Some meats spoils faster than others.  And raw meat contains high levels of bacteria, making proper storage even more critical.

You can refrigerate ground meats—whether beef, poultry or fish—for up to 2 days.  If you won’t get through it in that time, freeze it.

Large cuts of meat can be refrigerated for 3 to 5 days.  You can freeze meat if it’s wrapped well for 4 to 6 months.

Whatever food you feed your pets, be sure you are storing it so they can get the most nutritional benefit, and you can avoid a serious and potentially fatal illness.

How do you store your pet food?  Share your thoughts in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Signs Your Pet Has Seasonal Allergies

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

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

And our pets suffer too.

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

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

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

Here are 7 signs your pet has allergies:

1)  Chewing or licking their feet

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

2)  Constant licking of their body or groin

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

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

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

4)  Inflamed or infected ears

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

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

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

6)  Wheezing (more likely in cats)

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

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

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

What causes pet allergies?

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

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

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

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

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

How can you treat allergies in your pet?

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

During the warmer months:

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

You may want to try some allergy fighting supplements too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Unique Needs of Giant Breeds

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giant health conditions

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

Do your research!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giant nutrition

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

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

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

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

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

Giant training

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giant grooming

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything’s bigger with a giant

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

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

And enjoy your big love of a dog!

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

 

 

Worms In Your Pet Food… Disgusting But Not Uncommon

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

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

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

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

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

What are these things and where do they come from?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doggy Dementia… 21 Warning Signs

It’s not enough to worry about keeping our brains sharp as we age, we need to think about our dogs’ brains too.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, or CCD, is a problem for half of all dogs over 11 and can have devastating quality of life consequences.  Not unlike Alzheimer’s/dementia in humans.

It can be difficult to watch your beloved dog go through the changes in personality dementia causes.  But if you think senility is a part of the aging process and there’s nothing you can do about it, that’s not true.

Our pets will not live forever.  But being proactive when a problem starts will keep our fur babies healthy and happy for as long as they’re with us.

If you know the signs of CCD and act quickly, the treatments will be more effective.

What does dementia look like in a dog?

As our dog’s age they change.  No question about it!

A loss of hearing or vision can cause your dog to walk into walls or ignore your commands.  Kidney problems can mean accidents in the house.  Arthritis can make your dog avoid activity.  And cancer can bring about a lack of appetite.

Surprisingly, these can also be signs of canine dementia.  Because the signs of dementia are also the signs of so many other health problems, your vet must rule out other conditions first.

Here are 21 things to look out for if you have a senior dog.

  • They get lost in the corners or behind furniture
  • They have trouble finding and using doors
  • They don’t respond to their name
  • They can’t navigate the house and seem disoriented
  • They’re restless at night, sleeps during the day
  • They don’t signal to go out and have accidents
  • They don’t want to play
  • They don’t respond to sounds or people
  • They don’t recognize family
  • They tremble
  • They’re extremely irritable
  • The lick excessively
  • They don’t self-groom
  • They lose their appetite
  • They’re slow to learn new tasks
  • They don’t respond to commands they’ve previously learned
  • The bark, howl, and whine inappropriately
  • They pace or wander aimlessly
  • They stare at walls or into space
  • They startle when you turn lights or television on
  • They’re hesitant to take treats

If the alarm bells are going off as you read through this list, call your vet.  Don’t chalk it off to old age.  A senile dog is an anxious and unhappy dog.  Just like any other aspect of aging, we need to manage dementia for our pets so they can enjoy the best quality of life possible as they enter their golden years.

Remember too, that symptoms may start off mild but cognitive decline can worsen.  If you get a treatment plan in place, you may be able to delay serious dementia.

What causes CCD?

There are 3 major pathological changes that occur in the brain in older dogs that can cause diminished mental function.

1)  The brain shrinks

2)  Dopamine levels drop

3)  Beta-amyloid plaque (a protein) accumulates in the brain

Any one, or all, of these things can result in memory loss and impaired cognition.

We know what happens in the brain that contributes to diminished cognition.  But just like in humans, no one knows why these changes in the brain happen to some but not others.

In dogs, there may be genetic factors that predispose them to senility.

What are the treatment options?

First, your vet must rule out a health or behavioral problem before confirming CCD.  If they’re certain dementia is causing your dog’s symptoms, there is unfortunately no cure.

But there are treatments.  And they can be effective in slowing the decline and reducing anxiety.

Anipryl, a drug used to treat Parkinson’s in people, is approved for use in dogs with CCD.  It can take a few months to kick in, but it works in many dogs.  The earlier you start it, the more effective it is.

Your vet will likely suggest environmental enrichment.   Schedule exercise and play time into your dog’s daily routine.  Introduce new toys and teach some unfamiliar, simple commands to improve memory.  Even spending time with a doggy friend can be beneficial.

Diet’s important too.  A food rich in antioxidants, like Husse Optimal Light, is important to brain health.   Studies show that combining diet and environmental enrichment improves cognition in dogs with dementia.

Sometimes doctors will also suggest supplements like Vitamins E and C, selenium, flavonoids, beta carotene, carotenoids, carnitine, and S-adenosylmethionine (SAM-e) which studies show improve mental function.

A dog suffering from CCD should see the vet twice a year to assure treatments are keeping stress and anxiety in check, and that your dog is still enjoying a good quality of life.

But it will also be up to you to keep your dog’s environment as stress free as possible.

Don’t move furniture around, or redecorate.  Keep clutter to a minimum so the dog can easily negotiate its surroundings.  Use short commands to avoid confusion.

Know your dog’s limit with new situations, people, places and other dogs.  And develop a routine feeding, watering and walking schedule that your senior pup can count on.

If you’re noticing your dog’s quality of life is deteriorating and the treatments recommended by your vet aren’t helping, consider talking with a veterinary behaviorist.  They may be able to help your confused pet.

If you prefer holistic options, talk to your vet about Chinese herbs and/or acupuncture to treat senility.  These treatments have worked.

As our dogs age, there’s little we can do to stop the clock.  We all want the best for our pets. We want them in our lives as long as possible.  But we can’t be selfish.

My vet once said something that stuck with me.  I always remind myself of his words when it’s time to make that gut wrenching decision to euthanize.  What he said was simple, but it hit home. “It’s the quality of the years, not the quantity,” he said.

If your dog is living a life filled with anxiety at every turn, that’s not quality.  When our senior dogs decline, we need to be compassionate.  And always remind them they may change but our love for them never will.

Does your dog suffer from Canine Cognitive Dysfunction?  How do you deal with it?  Please share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.