The best “present” you can give your pet

My favorite part of everyday is being outdoors walking or hiking with my dogs.  We get to enjoy each other and the beautiful surroundings…literally taking time to smell the flowers.  Something I witness all too often is a pet owner out with their dog walking with their head buried looking at their cell phone.

Really?  You have taken that precious time to walk your dog and you are still connected to your device?  The absolute best “present” you can give your pet is to be PRESENT.  Take time to really connect with them and give them your attention.  They live each day just to be with you, to please you, and to share that connection with you.

You have seen the stats on the how distracting our mobile devices are.  Data shows us that parents of human children will often be distracted by their phones during times that have traditionally been sacred family time.   A couple of eye opening stats from various studies for you:

-More than a third of children (11-18 years old) interviewed asked, would like their parents to stop checking their devices so frequently

-82% of kids interviewed thought that meal time should be device free.  14% of these kids said their parents spent time on their devices during meal time.  95% of those same parents when polled said they did not access their devices during meal time.

Many of us consider our pets our children.  Unfortunately, people have let these devices steal valuable time from these kids too!  If you are a busy parent and you are already trying to make time for your human children, your four-legged children may get pushed even further down the list.  If you are a working person you get maybe 5-6 waking hours at the end of each day to get everything in your home life taken care of and this includes giving true undivided attention to your loved ones.   We try to multi task just about everything in our lives but there are some things that are truly best to do without distractions.   Consider some boundaries that might benefit both of you.

-If you are a pet parent that does make time for a walk everyday…devote that time to your pet.  If you feel like you need to carry your cell phone with you as a safety precaution that is understandable; but leave it in the pocket and give your pup this time as your time together.

-Some people work in their home and think…well I’m home with them all day.  When we work from our home we are very focused on completing our work.  We are on our computers or talking on the phone, we are not generally giving our attention to our pet even if we are there in body.  It is important that you still take a few minutes to truly connect with them.  That might mean taking a 5-10-minute break to sit on the floor and play with the ball or just give your cat or pup belly rubs.

-Do you talk to your pet?  They are listening.  You might think I am just saying this because I am that crazy lady that talks to my own dog….maybe.  But there is some real research that says it matters.  A new study from the University of Sussex found that dogs process speech they recognize in a similar manner to humans, meaning that sounds they recognize are processed in their brain’s left hemisphere, while other sounds or unusual noises are processed in the right hemisphere. Because of the way the brain is “wired”, dogs will move their head to the opposite side of the side that’s doing the processing. Having speech and sound processed differently by the brain’s two hemispheres is very similar to how humans process speech.  According to the university, this means that dogs are paying attention to how we say things, who is talking and what we’re saying.

These simple things are good for you too.  Living in the moment and being present gives your mind and body a break that we all need.

In summary, just remember we have a big world with lots of moving parts that we live in each day.  Your cat or dog’s world is not as big; their life is centered around you and what interaction they get to have with you.  They give us their 100% the instant we ask for it, so it is the least we can do to take a little bit of time that is just for them.

Do you make special time each day for your pet?

 

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.

Giardia… What Do You Know About This Nasty Parasite?

My niece rescued a puppy recently.  This poor little thing has suffered from two bouts of giardiasis in the short time she’s had her.  My niece’s puppy got me thinking about my experiences with dogs and giardia.  And wow!  Is it unpleasant!

Giardiasis is an illness you probably haven’t heard of unless either you or your dog has experienced it.  That’s right… people can get it too.  In fact, it’s the most common intestinal parasite in humans.

What is it?

In dogs, giardiasis can be completely repulsive or it can go absolutely unnoticed.  It’s an illness caused by a single-celled parasite called giardia that infects the gastrointestinal tract.

Giardia is not a worm, bacteria or virus.  It’s a parasite.

This parasite can cause diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss and lethargy.  But some dogs show no symptoms at all.

There are 7 different types of giardia that affect dogs, cats and humans.  They’re labeled A through G.  Dogs usually get C and D, but can get A and B which are the strains humans get.  Cats are usually infected with F.

When people get “travelers diarrhea”, it’s caused by giardia.  They’ve likely consumed water contaminated by the parasite. This is not uncommon in some countries.

Giardia goes through two phases.  The first is the fragile form when it’s growing and feeding on the gut.  Then it matures, and it’s encapsulated in microscopic cysts (sacs) that come out in your dog’s poop.  These cysts are very hardy and can survive for several months in the right environment—water and dampness.

How do dogs get it?

Dogs are infected when they consume anything with contaminated feces on it; another dog’s poop, a stick, a toy, grass, water.

When the dog swallows the cysts, they pass into the intestines and go through a transformation into a trophozoite, the growing feeding form.  They feed off the intestinal wall.  They reproduce by dividing and some become cysts. Those cysts eventually pass in the stool about 5 to 12 days from ingestion.

This is a parasite you’ll find any time of the year, anywhere in the U.S. and around the world.

What are the signs?

Some times a dog will be a carrier of giardia and will be asymptomatic, perhaps for many years. Then, without warning, after years of undiagnosed giardia your dog may have a sudden bout of bloody diarrhea.

But usually a dog with this parasite has symptoms.  Their diarrhea may be bloody, greasy, frothy, mucousy and very smelly.  They may have diarrhea continuously or intermittently.

Your dog may also vomit, seem lethargic and suddenly lose weight.

This parasite causes many gastrointestinal disturbances in dogs.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

If you suspect your dog has giardia, call your vet.  If left untreated, severe diarrhea can be fatal, especially in puppies, senior dogs, and dogs with health problems.

Your vet will need a fresh stool sample.  They’ll do one of two tests:  The fecal float test or the fecal ELISA test.  The float test checks for evidence of giardia cysts in the stool sample.  Whereas the ELISA test checks for giardia antigens in the dog’s body.

The float test isn’t very accurate.  An infected dog will shed cysts intermittently from their GI tract, making it possible to get a stool sample with no cysts in it.

As a result, false negatives are common with the float test.  Doing the fecal float test 3 times over the course of 5 days can improve the likelihood of detection though.

The ELISA test is more accurate but your vet will need to send the stool sample out to a lab.  It isn’t usually done in the office. So you’d have to wait for the results.

If your dog tests positive, your vet will prescribe one of two drugs, maybe both. Fenbendazole or metronidazole for 3 to 10 days is the usual treatment.  How long and which drug depends on your dog’s case.

Your vet may recommend a low-residue highly digestible diet like Husse to lessen the diarrhea during treatment.

Bathe your dog on the last day of treatment to remove any giardia that may be on their coat, especially around the hindquarters.  Start from your dog’s head and work towards their rear end.  After washing their behind, don’t touch the areas you’ve already cleaned.

Disinfect your dog’s bowls and toys in boiling water or the sanitize cycle in your dishwasher.

Steam clean upholstery and carpeting, and wash bedding on the sanitize cycle in your washing machine.

Disinfect hard surfaces with a bleach solution or a household cleaner made for disinfection.

Depending on the severity of your dog’s case and their overall health, they may need other tests, treatments, and follow-up.  But 2 to 4 weeks after your dog finishes treatment your vet will want to run another fecal test to be sure the giardia is gone.

If your dog has recurring giardia, consider whether the parasite is still living in their environment. If other dogs or cats live in the house, you may need to treat them as well.

Dirt and grass can harbor giardia for months.  Spray diluted bleach on the areas where they’ve pooped.  If you walk your dog in your neighborhood, take a spray bottle with you to spray the area after you’ve picked up their poop.

Are there serious risks?

Most healthy dogs recover from giardiasis with no complications.  But older sick dogs or dogs with compromised immune systems are at risk for complications including death.

In addition, people with compromised immune systems are at risk of getting giardia from a dog. You can’t be certain which strain your dog has.  They can have A or B.

So if someone in your home has cancer, AIDS, is very old or very young, they should take precautions. And use extreme caution when handling poop or giving the dog medicine.  Wash hands thoroughly after doing so.

Can it be prevented?

You can minimize your dog’s exposure to giardia by limiting their time at dog parks, kennels, doggy day care and the groomers.

Don’t let your dog drink from communal water bowls at the pet store, the dog park, or any other place in your community.

They should never drink from puddles, lakes, ponds or streams.  Feces from other animals may contaminate them.

Never let your dog eat another dog’s poop, or their own (that’s a topic for another day).

If you live in a place where giardia is in the drinking water, buy a filter meant specifically for getting rid of this parasite.  Or boil your water.  And always let the water cool before giving it to your dog to drink.

But despite your best efforts, your dog may get giardia.  It’s common in rescue dogs.  It’s common when dogs come from breeders with lots of other dogs.  It’s common when dogs are with other dogs regularly.

The best you can do is treat giardiasis proactively if it happens to your dog… and have a lot of paper towels and Nature’s Miracle on hand.

Has your dog had giardiasis?  What were their symptoms?  Share in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)…  6 Things To Know

The new year is underway!  Maybe you’re thinking about starting it off with a new pet.   A kitty perhaps.  If you will rescue this cat and don’t know their background, feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) is particularly important to understand.

If you already own a cat, do you know about FIV?  Here are 6 things to be aware of.

1) What is FIV?

Feline immunodeficiency virus is like HIV in humans.  It attacks the immune system making a cat that has the virus vulnerable to other infections.

A cat that has FIV can appear normal for years.  But like HIV in humans, it progresses.  Eventually normal harmless bacteria found in the environment become a danger to an infected cat, making them seriously ill.  At that point, your cat will have feline AIDS.

Unlike HIV, humans can’t contract FIV.  It’s only transmitted cat to cat.

2) How does a cat get it?

A deep bite wound is the most common method of FIV transmission.  Aggressive, intact, male cats that roam and like to fight are most often infected.

Indoor cats are at minimal risk unless you bring an infected cat into your home and the cats fight. Casual contact between cats doesn’t seem to be an effective method of transmission.

Sometimes a mother can pass the virus to her babies in the birth canal, or through her infected milk.

Sexual contact is not a common method of spreading the disease either.

3) What are the signs?

When a feline is first infected there may be few noticeable symptoms.  Initially the lymph nodes carry the virus.  So you may notice the’re swollen.  And the cat may run a fever.

Because these initial symptoms are subtle, they often go unnoticed.

It can be years later before signs of immunodeficiency appear.  The cat’s health may deteriorate progressively.  Or the cat may experience periods of bad health and periods of good health.

Here’s what you may see:

Poor coat condition

Persistent fever with loss of appetite

Inflammation of gums and mouth

Abnormal appearance of the eyes

Wounds that don’t heal

Persistent diarrhea

Seizures

Behavior changes

Slow, progressive weight loss

Severe wasting (in later stages)

Change in urination habits

Several types of cancer are more common in cats with FIV as well.

4) How is it diagnosed?

Your vet will do blood work to diagnose feline immunodeficiency virus.  A blood test will detect FIV antibodies.

However, it takes 8 to 12 weeks for the antibodies to be detectable in the bloodstream.  So if your cat comes home with a deep bite wound, your vet will likely wait to test for this virus.

If you are adopting a kitten, having them tested before they’re 6 months old may not be useful. This is because kittens born to an infected mother will carry the antibodies from the mom until they’re 6 months old.  As a result, they’ll test positive even though they don’t have the virus.

And a cat that has been vaccinated against FIV will test positive even though they don’t have FIV. If you rescue a cat and don’t know their vaccination status, you might get a false positive on a blood test.

5) Can it be prevented?

It’s not likely your indoor cat will get FIV.  But if you’re concerned about an outdoor cat, keep them inside.

If your cat has FIV, keeping them in will protect other cats from getting the virus.  And it will minimize the risk to your cat of picking up other infections that will make them sick.

An infected cat is not likely to give an uninfected cat in your home the virus unless they are fighters.  Keep fighters apart.  And be sure to spay or neuter the infected cat to minimize the chances of passing FIV on.

Any adopted cat should be tested before bringing them into your home.  But remember if they’re younger than 6 months you may get a false positive.  Talk to your vet if you’re considering adopting a cat, especially if you have a kitty at home already.

If you bring a healthy cat into your home with an infected cat in it, that cat may expose the healthy cat to other serious infections.  Be sure to thoroughly clean the environment. Keep the sick cat’s food, water, litter boxes, toys and bedding away from the healthy cat.

Vaccinate against any other infectious diseases any new cat or kitten you bring into your home with an FIV cat in it.

Since I mentioned an FIV vaccine, you might think your cat should get it.  Although an FIV vaccine exists, it’s not effective and most vets don’t recommend it.

If your cat spends time in a cattery or another home with felines, be sure those cats don’t have FIV.

6) Is there a treatment?

There is no cure for FIV.  Therapy will consist of treating the infections.  Most cats with it can live normal lives for years.  But you must manage their health.

You can extend the asymptomatic period by feeding your cat a well-balanced nutritionally complete diet like Husse to keep their immune system functioning as long as possible.

Never feed a cat with FIV a raw diet.  Uncooked meats carry the risk of food-borne infection, a risk a healthy cat may handle but not one that’s immune compromised.

Your vet will want to see your cat every 6 months to maintain continued good health. But once an infected cat has had one or more severe infections, the outlook is not good.

Keep watch for any changes no matter how subtle and call the vet if you notice anything out of the ordinary.  Early intervention in managing infections is essential to maintaining your felines quality of life.

Does your cat have FIV?  How have you managed it?  Share your experience in the comment section at the top.

9 Winter Dog Dangers

In many parts of the world, it’s cold outside.  In some places, it’s freezing with a wintery mix of ice, rain, and snow.  Most people don’t like being outside in that weather.  But what about our dogs?

Your dog may love frolicking in the snow and walking in the brisk temperatures.  But many dogs don’t like the cold at all.  And some shouldn’t be exposed to it even if they do enjoy it.

1) Cold temps

Just because your dog has a fur coat doesn’t mean he’s better able than you are to handle extreme weather.  Especially if your dog is a puppy, a senior or suffers from health problems.

Fur is not always a great insulator, particularly wet fur.  And toes, noses and ears are vulnerable because they have little protection.  Even a fashionable coat has its limits.

Dogs with short fur or short legs will be more susceptible to the cold. They’re closer to the cold ground and have more surface area relative to their size.

Extremely cold weather can cause hypothermia if your dog’s body temperature drops below 100°F.

Hypothermia can kill your dog but the signs will depend on the severity.  Here’s what to look out for:

Violent shivering

Lack of mental alertness

Weak pulse

Lethargy

Muscle stiffness

Shallow breathing

Fixed/dilated pupils

Lack of appetite

Coma

Cardiac arrest

If you suspect your dog is hypothermic, get them out of the cold and bring them inside where it’s warm.  Wrap them in blankets heated in the dryer and call your vet immediately.

Frostbite often precedes hypothermia and can cause permanent damage to your dog’s skin.  The tail, ears, footpads and scrotum are most vulnerable.

Watch out for pale, grey, or blue skin that then turns red and puffy.  If any part of their body hurts when touched or their skin stays cold or shriveled, these are signs of frostbite.

Call the vet right away and apply warm—not hot—water to the affected area for 20 minutes.  Never use a hair dryer or heating pad to warm the skin because they can cause burns.

Handle the frostbitten body parts with care in order not to permanently damage the skin.

Even if they’re not frostbitten, your dog’s pads can suffer in other ways.  They can become dry and cracked from the cold, and from walking in the ice and snow.

If your dog has a lot of fur between their pads, the snow can build up and create ice balls that irritate the pads.  Keep the fur between the toes short to minimize this problem.

Or try booties if your dog will tolerate them. You can practice with baby socks first to get them used to something on their feet.

If that doesn’t work try Musher’s Secret, a wax developed in Canada for sledding dogs.  It keeps pads moist and prevents cracking.

The salt on the roads can irritate the pads too, not to mention how sick your pet can get from it.  More on that in a minute.

What if your dog is an outside dog?

Dogs are meant to live in our homes, but if your dog can’t live in your house and they live outside, you must protect them from winter weather.

Be sure they have a warm, dry, draft-free covered shelter that’s raised off the ground.  Inside the shelter should be warm dry bedding that’s checked daily and changed regularly.  Consider an electric heating product designed specifically to warm dog bedding.

Provide fresh, unfrozen, clean water every day.  There are warmers made for this purpose.

Outside dogs need more food in winter because they burn more calories to stay warm.  Ask your vet how much to feed your dog this time of year.

If weather is particularly harsh, bring your dog inside.  If you wouldn’t want to be outside, your dog shouldn’t be.  At the very least, set up a warm shelter in your garage.

2) De-icers

I mentioned that salt used for de-icing could be dangerous for your dog.  It can burn their pads.  And if they swallow enough when they lick their paws, they can get very sick.  This applies to other de-icing chemicals too.

If you are de-icing your own property, only use a pet-friendly product.  They do exist.

If you walk with your dog beyond your property, be sure to wash your dog’s paws, legs and belly when you get home.  Removing the chemicals from your dog’s body before they can lick it off can prevent serious illness, and potentially death.

3) Darkness

The sun rises later and sets earlier in winter.  Shorter days mean more hours of darkness.  If you walk your dog early in the morning or late in the afternoon, it may be pitch-black.

You and your dog are harder to see.  Wear reflective clothing and use a reflective collar or leash so you’re more visible to drivers.

4) Rodenticides

When the weather gets cold, the rodents come inside to stay warm.  So there’s a greater need for rodenticides in winter.  And your dog could come in contact with these deadly chemicals.

If rodents are seeking shelter in your home, be sure to use a professional exterminator.  They will know howto safely apply these products and will place them out of reach of your dog.

5) Cars

You may think leaving your dog in the car is only dangerous in the summer.  But winter is just as unsafe.  In cold temps, a car can turn into a refrigerator, keeping the cold trapped inside.

Never leave your dog unattended in your vehicle when it’s hot or cold outside.

6) Frozen water

It can happen in seconds… your dog falls through the ice on a seemingly frozen lake or pond.  You can avoid this catastrophe by keeping your dog on a leash.

Stay away from any body of water that looks frozen.  You don’t know how thick the ice is.

7) Dry heat

Frostbite isn’t the only risk to skin in the winter.  The dry heat in your home can cause your dog’s skin to become itchy and flaky.

Humidify your home if you can.  And keep winter baths to a minimum to preserve the natural oils in the skin and coat.  If your dog comes in from outside and they’re wet, towel dry them as quickly as possible.

8) Heat sources

Fireplaces, space heaters and wood-burning stoves attract dogs.  They’re a nice warm place to curl up when it’s cold outside.  But they can burn your dog, or start a house fire, if they get too close to these sources of warmth.

Never leave your dog unattended when one of these heating sources is on.

9) Antifreeze toxicity

During the winter, antifreeze poisoning is common.  Only a lick or two of this colorful sweet fluid can kill your dog.

If you suspect your dog has swallowed antifreeze from a puddle in your garage or on the street, get to the vet immediately.

Quick aggressive intervention is the only treatment for antifreeze toxicity.

Dogs are like people.  Some can tolerate the cold, some can’t.

If your dog is very young, old or sick, they should not be outside in cold, wet weather except to do their business.  No coat or booties can keep them safe in extreme temps.  Those garments are meant for healthy adult dogs.

Keeping your dog safe in the winter is just common sense. If the weather is too nasty for you to be outside, it’s too nasty for your dog.

How cold is it where you live?  How do you keep your dog safe? Share in the comment section above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coconut Oil… The Risks And Benefits To Our Pets

If you’re keeping up with the latest human health trends, you may feel like I do…  every wellness recommendation includes coconut oil.  It seems to be the panacea of the 2010s.

Many animal health sites tout the benefits of coconut oil too.  I was with a friend recently who told me her holistic vet prescribed it for several of her dog’s ailments.

That got me thinking… is coconut oil everything it’s cracked up to be?  Are there benefits to using this oil with our pets?  And are there risks?

Well, there are some definite benefits to using coconut oil.  But also many unfounded claims about its effectiveness. And there can be risks.

The truth

Coconut oil comes from mature coconuts.  It is edible, so it’s used in food.  And these days you can find coconut oil in many beauty products.

This oil is high in saturated fat and is made up mostly of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). That’s where the supposed health benefits are.

The fatty acids that make up MCTs travel directly to the liver.  The liver absorbs those fatty acids and uses them for energy.  They’re not stored in the body.

MCTs contain lauric acid, which is antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral.  They also contain capric and caprylic acids, which are antifungal.

So how can coconut oil help your pet?  It can be very beneficial when used topically.

If your pet has dry, itchy skin, cracked paw pads or a dry nose, you can rub coconut oil into the skin. It’s great for elbow calluses too.   Here’s a link to a recipe for paw balm you can make yourself.

But you don’t have to get fancy.  You can use the oil straight up with no additions.  If you’re using it on dry flaky skin, rub the oil directly into the skin.

You can also use it for a shinier coat.  Take a small amount of oil in your hands.  Rub them together and pat the coat.  Run your fingers through the fur.  Not only will coconut oil improve the look and feel of your pet’s coat, some say it will also help if your pet smells.

Coconut oil is often touted for its antibacterial use on sores and minor cuts.  Be careful with this one.  If your dog has hotspots, using coconut oil can make the problem worse.  Hotspots are self-inflicted when a dog licks obsessively.  If they like the taste of coconut oil, using it on their skin can exacerbate the licking and worsen the hotspots.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that coconut oil has antibacterial benefits but no studies have yet been done on animals.

If your pet has a skin problem, be sure to talk with your vet before using coconut oil to be certain you’re treating the underlying problem.  They may recommend you use the oil as part of a treatment plan that includes other medications.

Coconut oil may be helpful as a parasite repellent.  A small study in 2004 found that a coconut oil-based remedy was effective for repelling sand fleas and reduced inflammation from fleabites. But tests have not been done on the cat and dog flea… the ones that love your pet.

Most veterinarians suggest, if using coconut oil, combining it with traditional repellents.

A 2015 human study found rinsing the mouth with coconut oil every day reduced plaque and plaque-caused gingivitis.  You could make the leap and say it would help your dog’s dental health too.  But the study involved swishing the coconut oil around the mouth and it’s hard to get a dog to swish.

Many dogs like the taste of coconut oil and it may help with dental hygiene… and bad breath too. So if you’d like to brush your dog’s teeth with coconut oil, it probably won’t hurt.

Does your pet have a hard time swallowing a pill?  Here’s another use.  Coat the pill with coconut oil.  It will be easier for them to swallow and they generally like the flavor.

The unsubstantiated claims

Coconut oil is promoted as a cure or prevention for everything from digestive problems to cancer.  Some say it improves cognitive function in older dogs.  Others say it helps with allergies and weight loss.  None of these claims are supported by science.  There have been no studies.

That’s not to say coconut oil can’t be helpful for some of these ailments. But there just isn’t scientific proof yet.

The risks

If the anecdotal evidence is enough for you and you want to try coconut oil with your pet, speak to your vet first.  They can monitor the effects and educate you to the downside.  Because the high saturated fat content can make some conditions worse.  Pancreatitis for example.

The high fat content is also a problem if your dog is overweight.  Some veterinarians say it adds a lot of calories with little nutritional value.  And there’s concern this oil can raise cholesterol levels and block the arteries too.

Although coconut oil is well tolerated by most pets, some may have an allergic reaction. And too much can cause diarrhea.

Remember too that coconut oil does not provide the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids your pet needs in their diet.  So be sure you’re still giving your pet salmon or flaxseed oil, besides the coconut oil.

How much and what kind?

If you give your pet coconut oil, use only the organic virgin cold-pressed kind. Easy to find at any health food store.

Start slow to be sure your pet isn’t allergic and to avoid diarrhea.

Start with ¼ teaspoon a day for small dogs and 1 teaspoon a day for big dogs.  Work up to 1 teaspoon per 10 pounds of body weight per day.

If you have a cat, start with 1/8 teaspoon a day for an average size cat.  Work up to ¼ to ½ teaspoon once or twice a day.

What I’ve learned about coconut oil is that it has some proven benefits.  And it may even have greater benefits yet to be studied.  But I would proceed with caution.

Coconut oil is not a cure-all. Take the advice of your veterinarian before adding any supplement to your pet’s diet.

Do you use coconut oil for your pets?  How have they benefitted? Have they had any adverse reactions?  Share your experience with us at the top of the page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urinary Tract Infections… 9 Signs Your Dog May Have One

Many times my articles come from my personal experiences as a pet owner.  Like this week’s post, for instance.  It came about as the result of a weekend stressing over whether my dog had a urinary tract infection (UTI).

My 10-month-old golden is in heat.  You’ll see why that’s relevant in a minute.  In my last post about spaying I mentioned there are benefits to waiting until after the first heat before spaying.  And here we are. This is her one and only cycle.

I boarded her last week because I was out of town.  When she came home she was having accidents in the house.

At first I thought maybe she’s doing this because she’s in season.  After 2 days of following her around with paper towels, I decided something’s up.

It’s been a while since once of my dogs had a UTI so I thought I should refresh my memory about the symptoms.  I did research.  By the time I finished surfing the web, I was pretty convinced she had an infection.

One soup ladle of urine and a visit to the vet later, my prediction was confirmed… UTI. More on the soup ladle in a minute.

Because these infections are unpleasant—for you the pet parent and your dog who’s in pain—I wanted to share the details of my experience.  If you know the signs to look for you can spare any unnecessary suffering.

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection is most often a bladder infection but it can be an infection in the kidney, ureters, or urethra.

They’re much more common in females than males.   As dogs age, they become more vulnerable.  From 7 on, dogs are more susceptible.

The cause of a UTI is usually bacteria that enter the urethra.  The bacteria can come from anywhere… poop, dirt, etc. Most often, a healthy dog will ward it off.  But a dog with a weakened immune system might not be able to fight off an infection.

That’s what happened with my girl.  It was the perfect storm.  The hormonal changes from her cycle coupled with the stress of being boarded lowered her immunity.

In addition, she had more crate time when she was boarded so she probably didn’t relieve herself as often as she would normally.  Because she didn’t flush out the bacteria, an infection took hold.

Poor nutrition can also affect the immune system resulting in an infection.  And dogs with frequent UTIs may need to change their diet as part of their treatment.

Less often, UTIs are caused by something more serious like cancer, bladder disease, kidney disease, diabetes, or prostate disease.

What are the signs?

If your dog has a UTI, the symptoms can be obvious but they can also be subtle.  Sometimes, a dog may show no signs at all.

But if your dog shows any of the following signs, it may mean a UTI.

Straining to urinate

Crying while urinating

Accidents in the house

Blood in the urine

Frequent urinating in small amounts

Dribbling urine

Frequent licking of genitals

Lethargy

Loss of appetite

My dog was having accidents in the house.  And as I think about it, her constant squatting outside was her straining to go, even though I thought it was because she was in heat.  Blood in the urine—couldn’t really tell because she was bleeding from her heat.

Other than that, she seemed normal.

UTIs feel no different to a dog than they do to a person.  A constant feeling you have to go.  Hence all the accidents.  They’re pretty miserable.

How does the vet diagnose and treat a UTI?

Here’s where the soup ladle comes in.  If you think a 10-month-old golden retriever who’s in perpetual motion will let you stick a cup under her when she’s peeing, you are mistaken.

But a soup ladle gives you the perfect trajectory.  I didn’t have to get too close to her to make her scoot away.  And she never even felt the ladle slip under her to catch the urine.  It works perfectly.  I recommend it if you ever need to get a sample.

Your vet will want a free catch sample.  This is the first morning urine.  If you’re not going straight to the vet, refrigerate the sample.

If you can’t get a sample, your vet may collect urine by inserting a needle into the bladder. This procedure is relatively painless with few complications.

They’ll do a urinalysis in the office to see if there are white blood cells in the urine indicating infection.  Then they’ll send the sample out to be cultured to find out what type of bacteria is causing the infection.  This determines which antibiotic your vet will prescribe.

In my case, the vet gave me an antibiotic he uses to treat 90% of the bacteria he sees in UTIs.  If the culture comes back tomorrow and he needs to change the meds, he will.  But he wanted to get her treatment started and he probably won’t need to make a change.

Can you prevent a UTI?

Yes and no.  You always want to be sure your dog is eating a well-balanced nutritious diet like Husse to keep their immune system functioning normally.

Also, be sure your dog is drinking enough water every day so they urinate often.

Your vet may recommend a probiotic to prevent recurring UTIs.  They get rid of the bad bacteria and help the immune system.  Many super premium foods like Husse include probiotics in their recipe.

But my dog is a healthy 10-month-old, and she got an infection.  You can’t control everything.

The good news is most dogs recover from a urinary tract infection with no complications. But you should act quickly if you suspect an infection because a UTI can travel to other organs if it’s untreated. And an infection can be the sign of a bigger underlying problem.

Has your dog ever had a UTI?  How did you know? Share in the comment section above.