Parasites and Puppies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intestinal worms

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

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

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

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

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

Heartworm

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

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

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

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

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

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

Single-cell protozoa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fleas and ticks

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skin mites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Gift You Don’t Want to Give Your Dog This Holiday

It’s that time of year for gift giving… showering those we love with things they don’t need. And because our pets are part of the family, they often get something too.

If you’re going to buy your dog a special bone to chomp on this holiday season, please read this first.

Warning from the FDA

At the end of November, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a report warning dog owners about processed bone treats.

Between November 1, 2010 and September 12, 2017, the FDA received reports from owners and veterinarians of 90 dogs getting sick and 15 of those dogs dying from these bones.

Although the FDA didn’t name a manufacturer and there is no official recall, the FDA warned that companies sell the dangerous products with marketing names like Ham Bones, Pork Femur Bones, Rib Bones and Smokey Knuckle Bones.

Ham Bone Pic

These “bones” aren’t uncooked bones you’d get from a butcher.  In fact, they’re not actual bones at all.  These treats are usually animal material that’s ground up and made into the shape of a bone.  Then they’re dried through a smoking process or baked.

The bones in question are for sale in groceries, pet stores and through online retailers.

The pet owners whose poor dogs got sick reported that their dogs suffered from:

Gastrointestinal blockages

Choking

Cuts and wounds in their mouths and tonsils

Vomiting

Diarrhea

Bleeding from the rectum

 

Unfortunately, some of these dogs died.

Not only did owners complain of illness, they also reported the treats splintered when chewed and some were moldy when opened.

So if you were going to buy your dog one of these treats, what can you get them instead?

Well, most veterinarians discourage giving your dog any bone to chew on, even a natural bone because natural bones have risks too.

Cooked bones are too brittle and will splinter. Be sure your holiday meal trash is far out of your dog’s reach.

And you don’t want to give your dog a raw bone either.  They can be too hard and cause broken teeth, abscesses, gum infections and other mouth problems.

And if they’re not sterilized, the meat remaining on the raw bone carries bacteria like salmonella. This is particularly problematic if the bone sits around for a long time.  If you have young children, old relatives or any immune-compromised person living in your home, this is dangerous.

Bones have no nutritional value.  It’s more important you feed your dog a well-balanced diet like Husse to insure they get the nutrition they need.  And find a safer alternative to satisfy their need to chew.

How about rawhide?

Rawhide is not part of the FDA warning.  But when you hear what rawhide is and how it’s made, you won’t ever want to give your dog this “treat”.

Rawhide comes from the underside of the hide of an animal… often a cow or horse, but not always. The top of the hide is the part used for leather products.

During processing of the hide—by a tannery, not a beef processing plant—it’s bathed in chemicals to prevent spoilage, remove hair and fat, and to clean and bleach it.

When tested, investigators found dangerous chemicals like arsenic, formaldehyde, mercury and lead in these treats.  Chemicals and preservatives are a concern.  But rawhide has other problems too.

A dog will chew on rawhide until it softens.  Then they’ll rip off pieces.  Big pieces can cause blockages.  And if your dog becomes obsessed with this treat, they may chew it so fast they choke.

A voracious chewer may eat too much of the rawhide causing gastrointestinal upset.

There are alternatives to processed bone treats, natural bones and rawhide. Talk with your vet to see what they recommend.  The pet industry realized the dangers of these treats, prompting them to develop many safer choices.

Even better than a straight up chew treat, consider stuffing a Kong toy with food and freezing it. Your dog will use physical and mental energy getting the food out.  This is great entertainment when you have a house full of guests and you need to distract your pooch or keep them busy in their crate.

Whatever the chew toy you give your dog this holiday season, be sure it’s appropriate for your dog’s chewing strength.  And always supervise your dog with a new toy or treat.

The best rule of thumb… if your dog’s not behaving normally, see the vet.

What types of chew treats do you give your dog?  Share with us in the comment section at the top of the page.

 

 

 

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Pancreatitis… Holiday Indulgence Is A Risk To Your Dog

This time of year veterinarians see a spike in cases of canine acute pancreatitis.  People aren’t the only ones who overdue it on the holidays.

If your dog has consumed more fatty table scraps than usual, or maybe got into the garbage and devoured the fatty remains of the carved turkey this Thanksgiving, they may find themselves with a case of this very painful condition.

The pancreas is an organ in the body that produces and secretes enzymes that aid in digestion. This organ also makes insulin, which controls blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Acute pancreatitis is the sudden (acute) onset of inflammation in the pancreas.  The inflammation makes the digestive enzymes start working in the pancreas instead of waiting until the enzymes reach the small intestine where they normally get to work.  As a result, the enzymes start digesting the pancreas.

In severe cases of pancreatitis, the enzymes leak into the abdomen causing the digestion of other organs too.  This can seriously damage the organs and result in death if not treated quickly.

Causes

There are things besides overdoing the fatty table scraps that can cause the sudden onset of pancreatitis.  Other contributors are:

Obesity

High-fat diets

Endocrine diseases

Medications

Toxins

Trauma to the abdomen

Scorpion stings (not a problem for most dogs in most of the country)

 

Sometimes, the cause is unknown.

Pancreatitis can occur in any dog but it’s more common in miniature schnauzers, miniature poodles and cocker spaniels.  It’s also more common in older dogs that are overweight and female.

Symptoms

The most common signs of pancreatitis are the same things you’d see if your dog was suffering from a thousand other illnesses: loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

But some other more concerning symptoms can occur like a swollen abdomen, an arched back, lethargy, restlessness, gagging, difficulty breathing, dehydration, and an increased heart rate.  In some cases, your dog may run a fever too.

If you suspect your dog has overloaded on too many table scraps passed under the table by doting relatives and they are exhibiting these symptoms, call your vet immediately.

Diagnosis and treatment

Your vet will take a full medical history and do a complete physical exam.  In addition, they’ll run blood work and may also do imaging, like ultrasound or x-rays.

Treatment will mostly consist of managing symptoms.  Meds to relieve pain and reduce vomiting and nausea.  IV hydration and nutritional supplementation. And maybe antibiotics if there’s a secondary infection.

Your vet may also restrict food and fluid intake to allow for healing.  Depending on the severity of your dog’s symptoms, treatment may mean hospitalization.

Once the symptoms are under control and your dog can be at home, your vet may limit activity and recommend a low fat, high carb diet.  This diet may be temporary until the pancreas heals, or permanent if pancreatitis is recurring or chronic.

Most healthy dogs will recover from acute pancreatitis.  A dog that has other health problems may have a harder time getting over it.

And severe cases can be fatal.

Prevention

Although you can’t completely prevent pancreatitis, you can most definitely reduce the risk of your dog getting it.  Manage your dog’s weight, avoid high-fat diets and table scraps, and keep the garbage pail out of your dog’s reach.

Feeding a well-balanced premium dog food like Husse can help prevent this condition.  Husse formulates their foods to provide the right balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates.

Husse Pro Limited, Prima Plus, Senior and Optimal Limited are all specially formulated for weight management and contain 9% or less fat.

Risks

Pancreatitis is unpredictable.  If the case is mild, and it’s your dog’s first episode, they will likely recover fine.  You may only need to watch their diet to prevent recurrence.  But sometimes what seems like a mild case can recur and be serious.

A dog with chronic (recurring) pancreatitis can develop serious complications.  The digestive enzymes can destroy the insulin producing cells in the pancreas resulting in diabetes.

And a condition called pancreatic insufficiency or maldigestion syndrome can result when the nutrients in your dog’s food aren’t absorbed.  They’re pooped out instead. This can cause malnutrition.

Your dog will be ravenous, have diarrhea and lose weight if they are suffering from maldigestion syndrome.  And although they are eating, they are starving to death because their body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs.

It’s best to manage your dog’s overall health to avoid pancreatitis, and these serious and life-threatening complications.  Like with most other illnesses, early diagnosis of pancreatitis will improve your dog’s long-term prognosis.

Is your dog suffering from holiday overeating?  Has your dog ever had pancreatitis?  Share your experience 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.