4 Health Care Considerations for Flat-Faced Dogs

By Jennifer Coates, DVM as seen in PetMD

Flat-faced dogs, like the French Bulldog, Pug, Boston Terrier and English Bulldog, are among some of the most easily recognizable dog breeds. Many of the most famous dogs on social media fall into these breeds.

 

While flat-faced dogs are undeniably cute, the physical attributes that make them so unique are what cause them to require special care considerations.

 

So before taking the leap and adding a flat-faced dog to your family, it is important to do some research into brachycephalic dog breeds to learn about the specific health issues and care requirements they have.

 

Health Considerations With Flat-Faced Dogs

 

Flat-faced dogs come with some unique health considerations. Not every individual will suffer from all of these conditions, but owners of brachycephalic dog breeds should be observant for their potential symptoms.

 

  • Respiratory Issues Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, also known as brachycephalic syndrome, is the name for the respiratory distress dogs with flat faces can experience. These dogs often have small nostrils, an elongated soft palate, extra tissue in the larynx and a narrower-than-average windpipe, all of which can lead to breathing difficulties.

 

Symptoms of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome include:

o    Difficulty breathing/wheezing

o    Excessive snoring, panting, coughing or gagging

o    Heat and/or exercise intolerance

o    Discoloration of the gums or tongue due to lack of blood oxygenation

o    Difficulty sleeping (especially when dogs lie on their sides)

o    Difficulty swallowing

 

  • Eye Problems – Since flat-faced dogs tend to have shallow eye sockets, their eyes protrude further than other breeds. This makes their eyes vulnerable to dryness, injury, infection and proptosis (displacement from the socket). Facial skin folds may also result in fur rubbing on the eye’s surface.

 

  • Dental Issues – Because of their relatively small jaw structure, dental problems, like overcrowded and overlapping teeth and an underbite, are common in brachycephalic dogs.

 

 

Caring for Flat-Faced Breeds

 

Awareness of the conditions that can afflict flat-faced dogs is important because there are things you can do to make their lives easier. For example, keeping these dogs slim is vital to their overall health. Monitor their diet and weight closely.

 

Exercise is also essential, but you need to take special precautions to prevent overheating and/or a worsening of breathing problems. Avoid walking or playing with your dog when it’s particularly hot or humid outside, and always watch for signs that it’s time to take a break.

 

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Spaying and Neutering Dogs 101: Everything You Need to Know

Reviewed for accuracy on January 8, 2019, by Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, DVM as seen on PetMD

Spaying or neutering is one of the most responsible ways dog owners can care for their pet. First-time dog owners are likely to have many questions about spaying and neutering procedures, from the risks involved to how much they will cost. Here are some answers to the most common questions that pet parents have about the spay and neutering process.

 

What’s the Difference Between Spaying and Neutering?

 

Spaying a dog refers to the removal of a female dog’s reproductive organs, while neutering refers to the procedure that’s done for males.

 

When a female dog is spayed, the vet removes her ovaries and usually her uterus as well. Spaying renders a female dog no longer able to reproduce and eliminates her heat cycle. Typically, behavior related to breeding instincts will cease, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), but this is not always true for every dog.

 

The procedure is also known as an ovariohysterectomy (where both uterus and ovaries are removed) or an ovariectomy (where only ovaries are removed). Both surgeries are equally safe and effective.

 

When neutering a dog, both testicles and their associated structures are removed. This procedure is also known as castration. Neutering renders a male dog unable to reproduce, but any behavior related to breeding instincts, like humping, usually ceases—but not always, says the AVMA. This may depend on the age of the dog and other factors.

 

Alternative procedures, like vasectomies for male dogs (the severing of the tubes that conduct sperm from the testes), are available but not commonly performed.

 

Why Spay or Neuter?

 

Animal shelters around the country are filled with unwanted puppies and dogs. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that approximately 6.5 million animals enter the shelter or rescue system annually. Of those 6.5 million animals, only an estimated 3.2 million find their way out of the shelter or rescue and into a home.

 

Spaying and neutering reduces the number of unwanted litters, which, in turn, helps to reduce the number of unwanted pets or stray animals that enter shelters or rescues.

 

These procedures also have specific health benefits that can help a dog live a healthier, longer life, and they may reduce behavioral issues. Spaying a dog helps prevent serious health problems, including mammary cancer and pyometra, a potentially life-threatening uterine infection, says Carolyn Brown, senior medical director of community medicine at the ASPCA.

 

Neutering male dogs helps keep them from developing testicular cancer, Brown says. Neutered male dogs are also generally less aggressive and less likely to stray from home. This helps keep them safe because they are less likely to get into fights or be hit by a car.

 

On the other hand, some diseases, like prostatic cancer and certain orthopedic conditions, are slightly more common in dogs who have been spayed or neutered. For most pet parents, however, the pros of spaying and neutering their dogs outweigh the cons.

 

When Should You Spay or Neuter Your Dog?

 

The traditional age for spaying or neutering a dog is between 4 and 6 months, although a spay clinic or shelter may safely spay or neuter dogs as young as 2 months old, says Brown. However, “each individual owner should discuss their specific circumstances with their personal vets,” recommends Brown. Several factors can influence the timing of spaying and neutering.

 

For example, a dog’s breed can make a difference. Research has shown that larger dog breeds tend to mature a little later than their smaller counterparts, explains Brown. An animal’s living situation may also be a consideration.

 

For example, a male and female from the same litter who are adopted into the same home should be spayed and neutered earlier, before the female goes into heat, Brown says. On the other hand, there’s less urgency to spay or neuter if the puppy is the only intact dog living in the house, she adds.

 

Most veterinarians recommend spaying a female dog before her first heat cycle. This varies but occurs somewhere between 5 and 10 months of age. Spaying before the first heat cycle greatly reduces her risk of developing dog mammary (breast) cancer.

 

For male dogs, adult size is an important factor. Small and medium male dogs are generally neutered earlier—around 6 months of age—while your veterinarian may recommend waiting until a giant breed puppy is a year or more before neutering.

 

But before a dog is spayed or neutered, it’s very important that the vet, whether at a private practice, a spay/neuter clinic or a shelter, give the animal a complete checkup to ensure he or she has no health issues, Brown points out. The pet’s owner should also provide a full medical history, because underlying conditions or current prescription pet medications could be relevant, she says.

 

Recovery From Spay and Neuter Surgery 

 

Dog owners can help their pets have safe and comfortable recoveries after being spayed or neutered by following some precautions recommended by the ASPCA:

 

  • Keep the dog inside and away from other animals during the recovery period.
  • Don’t let the dog run around and jump on and off things for up to 2 weeks after surgery, or as long as the vet advises.
  • Ensure the dog is unable to lick their incision site by using a dog recovery cone (popularly known as the “cone of shame”) or other methods, as recommended by the vet.
  • Check the incision every day to make sure it’s healing properly. If redness, swelling, discharge or a foul odor are present, contact your vet immediately.
  • Don’t bathe the dog for at least 10 days post-surgery.
  • Call the vet if the dog is uncomfortable, is lethargic, is eating less, is vomiting or has diarrhea.

 

Brown also recommends discussing pain management with the vet before the procedure is done to be sure that pet pain medication is sent home with the dog. Pain medication may or may not be needed, but it’s best to have on hand just in case, she notes.

 

A good way to gauge a dog’s recovery is that if the dog is comfortable and energetic enough to play, he or she is probably doing okay, says Dr. Marina Tejeda of the North Shore Animal League America’s SpayUSA based in Port Washington, New York.

 

However, a playful dog is not license to allow her to run around before she is fully healed. Feeling like her usual self is just evidence that your dog is on her way to recovering.

 

Is Spay and Neuter Surgery Risky?

 

Spay and neutering are common surgeries, but there’s always some degree of risk involved for animals undergoing surgery and with general anesthesia, according to the AVMA.

 

Dogs should be given a thorough physical exam to ensure their general good health before surgery is performed. Blood work may be recommended to ensure that the dog has no underlying health issues, says Dr. Tejeda. Liver and kidney issues and heart murmurs may require further investigation, she notes.

 

What Are Some Misconceptions About Spay and Neuter Procedures?

 

A number of misconceptions about spaying and neutering dogs persist. One of the most popular beliefs is that a sterilized dog will get fat. Not true, as long as dog owners provide the proper amount of exercise and dog food, notes Brown of the ASPCA.

 

Dogs do tend to need fewer calories (by about 20 percent) after being spayed or neutered, but changing their diet appropriately and keeping them active will prevent weight gain.

 

Another misconception is that spaying or neutering a dog will change a dog’s personality. That’s not true, either. “It shouldn’t change their behavior much at all,” Brown says. If anything, it may help stop unwanted behaviors such as marking in the house.

 

What Does It Cost to Spay or Neuter Your Dog?

 

The cost of spaying or neutering a dog varies widely by geographic area as well as the size of the dog. Petfinder reports that most animal hospitals charge more than 300 dollars for the surgery. A low-cost clinic may charge in the range of 45 to 135 dollars, but this varies by location.

 

But the proliferation of low-cost spay and neuter clinics makes it worth researching the low-cost options available in a given area. Organizations SpayUSA and the ASPCA offer searchable national databases to help dog owners find affordable spay and neuter resources in their areas.

 

SpayUSA offers vouchers that cover part of the surgery’s cost at participating clinics. Dog owners can also check with their local municipalities for specific low-cost and affordable options for spay and neuter procedures.

 

Dr. Tejeda points out that low-cost care provided by spay and neuter clinics does not necessarily mean the care will be less comprehensive than what a private practice provides. “Low-cost does not mean low-quality,” she emphasizes. Ask for a breakdown of the costs associated with your dog’s spay or neuter to get an idea of what is and what is not included.

 

 

By: Samantha Drake

 

STROKES IN DOGS AND CATS

By W. Jean Dodds, DVM on March 24, 2019

With the untimely passing of actor Luke Perry, awareness of strokes came into the spotlight. Can dogs and cats have strokes? Yes; they can. Here’s what you need to know.

Types

Just like humans, dogs and cats can have one of two types of stroke: ischemic or hemmorhagic.

Ischemic
Ischemic strokes are caused by a blood clot, called a thrombus, which forms inside one of the brain’s arteries. The clot then blocks blood flow to a part of the brain. However, unlike humans, its typically only involve the smaller blood vessels in pets.

An embolism is a small blood clot (or piece of atherosclerotic plaque debris in people) that develops elsewhere in the body and then travels through the bloodstream to one of the blood vessels in the brain.

Hemorrhagic Stroke
There are two types of hemorrhagic strokes: intracerebral and subarachnoid.

An intracerebral hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel inside the brain bursts and leaks blood into the surrounding brain tissue.

Subarachnoid strokes are typically caused by an aneurysm, which refers to a weakening of an artery wall that creates a bulge, or distention, of the artery. This type of stroke involves bleeding in the area between the brain and the tissue covering the brain, known as the subarachnoid space.

Signs

The symptoms or signs of strokes are similar in dogs and cats. They are rare and usually occur in geriatric pets.

Cats

·         Abnormal eye movements

·         Altered mental status

·         Circling

·         Head pressing

·         Head tilt

·         Muscle spasms

·         Not using the legs normally

·         Seizures

·         Unequal pupil sizes

·         Unsteadiness when walking

·         Weakness

Dogs

·         Abnormal behavior

·         Abnormal eye movements

·         Abnormal eye positioning

·         Blindness

·         Falling to one side

·         Head tilt

·         Inability to walk or walking with an uncoordinated gait

·         Loss of consciousness

Causes

Cats

·         Brain tumors

·         Cancer

·         Diabetes

·         Heart disease

·         High blood pressure

·         Hyperthyroidism

·         Kidney disease

·         Liver disease

·         Lung disease

·         Vestibular disease

Dogs

·         Bleeding disorders

·         Cancer

·         Cushing’s disease (hyperadrenocorticism)

·         Diabetes

·         Heart disease

·         High blood pressure

·         High and prolonged doses of steroids like prednisone

·         Hypothyroidism, severe

·         Kidney disease

·         Vestibular disease

Prevention

A stroke is usually caused by an underlying disease. The best preventative measure is to monitor the pet periodically in order to diagnose the disease before a stroke can occur. Disease diagnosis involves twice yearly check-ups in geriatrics and annually in younger pets , which includes routine blood, endocrine and urinalysis screening.

What to Do in the Event of a Stroke

If you think your companion dog or cat has suffered from a stroke, please take him or her to a veterinarian as soon as possible. As well, we recommend that you always keep the phone number and address of your area emergency veterinarian on hand for all pet related emergencies.

 

8 Fun Games You Can Play With Your Dog

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

We all love our pets but dogs seem to need a lot of entertaining, right?  No worries, you’ll have a lot of fun too if you play these games with them:

 

1. Play Frisbee fetch — If your dog loves to play fetch-the-ball, consider adding a Frisbee to the mix. Agile, athletic dogs can be taught to catch flying discs. It’s a good idea to start small, by rolling the Frisbee on the ground toward your dog. Once she’s picking up the disc as it’s rolled to her, try tossing it to her at a very low level.

If she’s able to catch or at least stop it in mid-air, you can gradually increase the height and distance you throw it. If the Frisbee seems to hold your dog’s interest and focus, you’ll can teach her to bring it back to you so you can continue throwing it for her.

2. Expand your dog’s vocabulary — With time, patience and lots of practice, most dogs can learn to associate certain words with certain objects. Here’s how to start. Give two of your dog’s favorite toys a name — something simple, like “ball,” “bear” or “baby.” Remove all other toys from sight to help him focus. Say the name of one toy and throw it so he can retrieve it. Do this a few times, repeating the name of the toy as you toss it. Then do the same with the other toy.

Now put both toys on the ground and say the name of the first toy. Each time he goes to it, reward him with praise and treats. If you want to make it more challenging, have him bring the toy to you for his reward. Repeat this with the other toy. When you’re sure your dog is consistently identifying the right toy by name, you can try expanding his vocabulary even further using additional toys or other objects.

3. Create a simple at-home agility course — Setting up an agility course for your dog and teaching her how to navigate it can be very mentally stimulating for her, and fun for you. Items to consider include a sturdy crate or stool, a chair to jump on or run under, a box with open ends to crawl through, a pole attached to two stools or boxes to jump over, a hula hoop to jump through and a disc or ball to catch.

Tailor the course to your dog’s physical ability, focus and attention span. Teach her to handle one obstacle at a time, and make sure to offer lots of praise, treats and other high-value rewards each time she conquers an obstacle. This should be all about fun, not work!

4. Play indoor hide-and-seek — Hide and seek challenges your dog’s obedience skills (so obedience training is a prerequisite for this activity) and provides both mental and scent stimulation. Here’s how to do it. Grab a few treats and give your dog a sit-stay command. Go into another room to hide, and once you’re out of sight, call him. When he finds you, reward him with praise and treats.

If you’ve taught your dog a find-it command that sends him in search of something, you can also play hide and seek with objects or food treats. To play, show your dog what you’re about to hide, and then do a sit-stay or put him behind a closed door so he can’t see you. Hide the object or treat, then go to your dog and tell him to find it.

Unless he’s a canine Einstein or has played the game awhile, you’ll probably need to give him verbal cues as he gets close to, or farther away from the object. You can also give physical hints by pointing or moving toward the hiding place until he catches on to the game. When he finds the hidden object or treat, be sure to make a huge deal out of it with lots of praise and a few additional treats.

5. Lead your dog in a stair aerobics session — If your dog is fully-grown (his joints are fully developed) and you have stairs in your home, this game is a good way to get his heart pumping.

Go to the bottom of the stairs and put him in a sit-stay. Throw a toy up to the landing, then give him the nod to go after it, bounding up the steps as fast as he can. Allow him to come back down the stairs at a slower pace, to reduce the risk of injury. Ten or so repetitions of this will get his heart rate up and tire him out. Stair exercise in conjunction with a device like Dr. Sophia Yin’s brilliant Treat&Train system can provide the foundation for an excellent winter workout program for dogs.

6. Turn on the water hose — If your dog isn’t afraid of spraying water or getting wet, on warm days you can turn your backyard hose into a fun chasing toy. It’s best to have a nozzle on the hose that shoots out a jet of water. Make sure the force of the jet isn’t too much for her and take care not to spray her in the face. This can be accomplished by standing a good distance away as you move the jet around for her to chase.

A word of caution: be sure to monitor your dog’s activity closely, since water from a hose (or sprinkler) is under pressure and she can ingest a great deal of it in a short amount of time, potentially causing water intoxication.

7. Bring out your dog’s prey drive with a flirt stick — Also called a flirt pole, it’s a simple pole or handle with a length of rope tied to one end, and a toy attached to the far end of the rope. You can buy one or create your own homemade version, just be sure to use regular rope and not flexible or bungee cord.

Flirt sticks appeal to the prey drive in dogs and they’re a fun way to exercise your pet in your backyard (or in the house if you have the space or your dog is small) without overly exerting yourself. The game is simple — just drag the toy on the ground in a circle, and your dog will chase and tug at it.

The flirt stick can be a fun way to help your dog with basic commands like sit, down, look, wait, take it, leave it and drop it. It’s also useful for helping him practice listening while in a state of high arousal and cooling down immediately on command.

8. Liven up your walks by playing find-it — On your daily walks with your dog, after she’s done her business and checked her pee-mail and the two of you are just strolling along, you can use the time to stimulate her mind. Give her a sit-stay, show her a treat and then place it on the ground out of her reach.

Return to her and give her a treat for holding her sit-stay, then give her the find-it command to get the other treat. Repeat this a few times, and then make the challenge a bit more difficult.

Place the treat under some leaves, behind a tree or on a rock. Stop at several spots as though you’re hiding the treat there but hide only one treat. If you’re playing the game off-leash, make sure you’re in a safe area, and don’t hide treats beyond your line of vision. Keep your dog in sight at all times.

 

Resources for Pet-Friendly Travel

By Dr. Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

The following resources provide a wealth of links and information on pet-friendly hotels, vacation rentals, timeshares, campgrounds and RV parks, restaurants and bars, attractions and activities:

PetFriendlyTravel.com Bring Fido
GoPetFriendly.com PetsWelcome.com
Take Your Pet DogTrekker
PetFriendly.Travel Pet Hotels of America
Pet Friendly Travel on Facebook National Geographic’s The Dog Lover’s Guide to Travel
AAA Pet Travel

 

 

7 Tips for Safe Air Travel With Your Dog

With that said, if you do decide to bring your pet on a flight, here are some tips to help keep her safe and relatively comfortable:

  1. Make sure your dog is fit to fly — Very young animals, elderly pets, ill pets, pets with a chronic health condition, pregnant animals and brachycephalic breeds are among the types of pets for whom air travel is in my opinion an unacceptable risk. In fact, many commercial airlines have in recent years banned flat-faced pets from their planes due to the significant health risks involved.

Talk with your integrative veterinarian about whether your dog is a good candidate for air travel. You’ll also want to get any required health certifications, for example, pets traveling to a different state by air must have a current rabies vaccination and a certification of veterinary inspection within 10 days prior to travel.

  1. Make sure your dog is very comfortable in her carrier before heading to the airport — Long before your scheduled flight, your dog should view her carrier as a safe place. Purchase it well ahead of time and get her used to hanging out in it at home.
  2. Make sure your dog is wearing a secure collar and a current ID tag — Also keep a photo of your pet on your person to help with identification in case he is lost.
  3. Bring your dog in the main passenger cabin with you if possible — Whether or not your pet can fly in the passenger cabin will depend on his size and the airline you use. Most if not all airlines only allow dogs in passenger cabins that can fit in a carrier small enough to slide under the seat.

Having your dog right there with you, in a climate-controlled cabin, has obvious benefits and is by far the best way to travel by plane with a pet. Book your flights as early as possible since airlines only allow a certain number of pets to travel in the passenger cabin.

You won’t be able to remove your dog from the carrier during the flight, so make sure he isn’t traveling on a full stomach and has an opportunity to relieve himself shortly before you board the aircraft.

  1. Avoid flying in very hot or cold weather and book nonstop flights whenever possible — In warmer months, book morning or evening flights so you’re traveling during the coolest part of the day. In cold weather, try to fly during the warmest part of the day.

Nonstop flights are highly preferable to connections, especially if your dog is flying in the baggage compartment or cargo hold. Keep in mind that direct flights are neither nonstop nor connecting but are preferable to a connecting flight. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage or cargo area, retrieve her as quickly as possible when you land at your destination.

  1. If your pet will be traveling in the baggage compartment or cargo hold, invest in a good-quality carrier — Defective or inappropriate carriers are behind most of the problems with escaped or injured pets during air travel. A suitable carrier will be TSA-approved, have secure construction (for example, locking bolts), metal doors (not plastic), metal rods that fasten the door to the container, a strong and effective lock mechanism, and no wheels.
  2. Reduce your pet’s anxiety with natural remedies — I’m not a fan of sedating pets for travel except in the most extreme circumstances, and only in consultation with a veterinarian. If your dog is so anxious she needs to be tranquilized to fly, she really shouldn’t be put through the experience if it can be avoided.

If your dog must be sedated for travel (usually due to hyperactivity) she must be in the cabin with you so you can monitor her throughout the flight. Never, under any circumstances, sedate a pet that cannot be supervised. Natural calming agents that may be beneficial include ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola.

To help reduce your dog’s anxiety during a trip, consider giving flower essences such as Jackson Galaxy Solutions orally before, during and after travel, and mist her carrier with specially blended pet-friendly essential oils such as those from the Earth Heart line. I also recommend homeopathic aconitum for extreme fear, if warranted. CBD oil can also be very effective at reducing stress. Try out the protocol prior to travel to make sure you’re happy with the results.

Diane recommends Rescue Remedy Bach Flower Essence 4-5 drops directly in mouth or on treat throughout the travel to keep your pet calm.  It also helps to have an animal communicator talk to your pet before the journey to explain everything that is going to happen to help alleviate stress for your pets.

If your dog has never flown before, you can gauge her potential response to air travel by how well she travels by other means. If she relaxes comfortably in her crate during car rides, chances are she’ll handle air travel reasonably well.

Most if not all the major air carriers have information about traveling with pets on their websites. If you’re thinking about flying with your dog, I recommend you contact the individual carrier as a first step. Find out what pet restrictions apply, approved carrier/kennel dimensions and other critical information you’ll need for planning purposes.

This is the time of year when many people, weary of winter, start looking forward to the warm months ahead and summer vacation. If you’re a dog parent, you’re probably also facing the question of whether to bring your pet on your trip this year or leave her at home.

Traveling with dogs is commonplace these days, but the fact is, as bonded as we are to our furry companions, we’re much better equipped to handle disruptions in routine than animals are. As much as our dogs love to be with us, they thrive in a familiar setting with a structured daily routine.

Taking your dog away from home and her daily schedule for several days or weeks can generate a level of anxiety even your constant presence can’t overcome. Now, that’s not to say you absolutely shouldn’t bring her along or that she won’t have fun, but you should be aware that her travel experience will be very different from your own. If you do intend to bring your dog with you on vacation this year, plan ahead and keep your pet’s safety top-of-mind.

Traveling Safely by Car With Your Dog

Putting your dog into a crate, carrier or secure harness is for their safety as well as yours. An unrestrained dog or cat can be a distraction while you’re driving and can become a projectile in the event of an accident, which is life-threatening for both your pet and other passengers.

You’ll want to choose a crate or carrier that fits your dog snugly, with enough room to be comfortable but not excess room (which poses a risk in the event of an accident). The crate or carrier should then be secured into the back seat or cargo area of the vehicle — not the front passenger seat.

While you can fasten almost any crate or carrier in your vehicle using elastic or rubber bungee cords, this method may not be secure enough in an accident, putting your pet at risk of injury. In addition, many pet restraint manufacturers claim their products are crash-tested and safe for use in a vehicle, but there are no established test protocols or standards required to make such claims.

Fortunately, the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) and Subaru have collaborated to perform crash tests on a wide range of harnesses, carriers and crates on the market. CPS actually provides a list of crash test-certified pet restraint systems (up to date as of November 2018).

The CPS and Subaru also crash-tested pet travel seats. These are portable booster seats for small dogs that are placed on the passenger seat or console to elevate small dogs so they can see out the windows. None of the four tested seats safely restrained the (stuffed) dogs in the crash tests,1 so whil

 

14 Common Health Warning Signs in Dogs

By Dr. Karen Becker

 

When our dogs don’t feel well, or we suspect they don’t, it would be such a relief if they could just tell us, wouldn’t it? It’s incredibly stressful to have a dog who, for example, is clearly miserable judging by her hunched posture, tucked tail and sad eyes, and there’s no way to gauge what’s going on, how long it might last or how serious it is.

Even if you’re very disciplined about taking your dog for regular veterinary checkups, it’s still very important to be alert for changes in her health or behavior between visits. After all, you know your furry best friend better than anyone, and you’re her first line of defense when there’s a problem brewing beneath the surface.

The Morris Animal Foundation lists common signs to watch for in dogs that should always prompt a call to your veterinarian.1

1. Skin lumps or bumps — Most of the time, lumps and bumps on a dog’s skin are harmless, though they can be unsettling and ugly. However, it’s important to have new growths evaluated by your veterinarian. It’s rare that a growth requires emergency action, however, occasionally a mass like an abscess or cyst may require urgent care.

My recommendation when you find a growth is to monitor it. If it’s growing or changing quickly, you’ll want to see your veterinarian as soon as possible. However, if you notice, for example, a discoloration on the skin or what looks like a skin tag that doesn’t get bigger or change over the course of days, weeks or months, then just mention it to your vet at your pet’s next wellness exam.

2. Sudden collapse — this is an emergency! — When a dog collapses, it means he experiences a sudden loss of strength that causes him to fall and not be able to get back up. If a collapsed dog also loses consciousness, he has fainted. Either of these situations is an emergency, even if your dog recovers quickly and seems normal again within seconds or minutes of the collapse.

All the reasons for fainting or collapsing are serious and require an immediate visit to your veterinarian. They include a potential problem with the nervous system (brain, spinal cord or nerves), the musculoskeletal system (bones, joints, muscles), the circulatory system (heart, blood vessels, blood) or the respiratory system (mouth, nose, throat, lungs).

3. Dramatic weight gain or loss — If your dog seems to be gaining a lot of weight, it’s most likely a result of what she’s eating (e.g., a dry diet), how much she’s eating and a lack of physical activity (most dogs — no matter their size or age — don’t get nearly the exercise they need).

However, it’s also possible that a tumor in her abdomen can make your dog appear to be gaining weight or getting fat, so it’s best to give your veterinarian a call if your dog is getting bigger and you don’t know why.

On the flip side, often a loss of appetite is the first sign of an underlying illness in dogs. There can be many reasons your dog isn’t hungry or refuses to eat, but not eating can begin to negatively impact his health within 24 hours. And for puppies 6 months or younger, the issue is even more serious.

Weight loss is the result of a negative caloric balance, and it can be the consequence of anorexia (loss of appetite) or when a dog’s body uses or eliminates essential dietary nutrients faster than they are replenished. Weight loss exceeding 10 percent of your dog’s normal body weight will be a red flag for your veterinarian. There can be several underlying causes, some of which are very serious.

4. Changes in chewing, eating and drinking habits — If your dog is having difficulty chewing, there’s something painful going on in his mouth that needs investigating. Possibilities include dental or gum disease, a broken tooth or tooth resorption.

Changes in your dog’s appetite or eating habits can signal any number of underlying problems, from oral disease to a gastrointestinal (GI) disorder to cancer. If your dog is suddenly drinking his water bowl dry, it’s also cause for concern. Excessive thirst (along with excessive urination) are symptoms of several disorders, including urinary tract problems and kidney disease.

5. Non-healing sores or wounds — If your dog has a sore or wound that isn’t healing, the most immediate concerns are pain and the potential for infection. There are many nontoxic therapies that can successfully treat these wounds, including manuka honey, negative pressure wound therapy (NPWT), shockwave therapy and laser therapy.

Since sores that won’t heal can also be a sign of a more serious underlying disease such as cancer, I recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment.

6. Loss of energy — A lethargic dog will appear drowsy, “lazy” and/or indifferent. She may be slow to respond to sights, sounds and other stimuli in her environment. Lethargy or exhaustion is a non-specific symptom that can signal a number of potential underlying disorders, including some that are serious or life-threatening. If your pet is lethargic for longer than 24 hours, it’s time to make an appointment with your veterinarian.

7. Bleeding or discharge from any orifice — “Orifices,” or openings into and out of your dog’s body, include the eyes, ears, nose, mouth, anus and urethra. If you notice bleeding or unusual discharge from any of these openings, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Be aware that digested blood in your dog’s poop will appear as black tarry stools. Fresh blood in the stool indicates bleeding in the colon or rectum. Either situation is cause for concern and should be investigated as soon as possible.

Blood in your dog’s urine, called hematuria, can be obvious or microscopic. There are a number of serious disorders that can cause bloody urine, including a blockage in the urinary tract, a bacterial infection and even cancer. Vomited blood can be either bright red (fresh) or resemble coffee grounds (indicating partially digested blood). There are a variety of reasons your dog might vomit blood, some of which are relatively minor, but others are serious and even life-threatening.

8. Persistent cough — Coughing in dogs, unless it’s a one-and-done situation, generally indicates an underlying problem. Examples include a possible windpipe obstruction, kennel cough, bronchitis, pneumonia, heartworm disease, heart failure, and tumors of the heart and lungs. All causes of coughing require investigation, and in most cases, treatment.

9. Change in breath or body odor — A common cause of stinky breath in dogs is dental or gum disease, which is entirely preventable in the vast majority of cases. If your pet’s mouth has reached the point of emitting a foul odor, it’s past time to make an appointment with your veterinarian for an oral exam.

Poor skin and coat condition can cause unpleasant body odor in dogs, as can a yeast infection. If your pet’s normal “doggy smell” suddenly turns sour, give your veterinarian a call.

10. Persistent lameness, stiffness or limping — Mobility problems in dogs are always a sign of an underlying, often painful condition such as arthritis. There are many things you and your veterinarian can do to either resolve or effectively manage the disorders that inhibit your dog’s ability to move around comfortably, so it’s important to have him seen by your vet as soon as possible.

11. Difficulty breathing, urinating or defecating — A dog in respiratory distress will have labored breathing or shortness of breath that can occur when he breathes in or out. Breathing difficulties can mean that not enough oxygen is reaching his tissues. Additionally, dogs with heart failure may not be able to pump enough blood to their muscles and other tissues.

Respiratory distress often goes hand-in-hand with a buildup of fluid in the lungs or chest cavity that leads to shortness of breath and coughing. If your dog has sudden undiagnosed breathing problems or appears to be breathing harder, heavier or faster than before, he should see a veterinarian immediately.

Difficulty urinating includes discomfort while urinating, straining to urinate and frequent attempts to urinate with little success. If your dog cries out while relieving himself, seems preoccupied with that area of his body or is excessively licking the area, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. There are several underlying causes of urinary difficulties, some of which can result in death within just a few days.

Your dog should poop at least once every day because it’s an important part of his body’s natural detoxification process. He’s constipated when he either has difficulty pooping (and the stool he produces is dry and hard), or he isn’t pooping at all. This is why it’s so important to keep an eye on those daily “deposits.” The quantity, color, texture and smell, along with the presence of mucus or blood in your pet’s feces (and urine), are all indicators of his general well-being.

Often, what passes from (or in the case of constipation, doesn’t pass from) your pet’s body is the first sign of a health problem, so you should regularly monitor your dog’s potty area and familiarize yourself with what “normal” looks like for your pet.

On potty walks, constipated dogs tend to look like they’re trying to go or need to go, but nothing’s happening. If after a few minutes of hunching and straining your dog doesn’t go or produces poop that is small, hard and dry, you can reasonably assume he’s constipated.

Sometimes constipated dogs appear bloated and painful, especially when trying unsuccessfully to poop. The stool a constipated dog does manage to pass is often darker than normal and may contain mucus, blood or strange debris. If your dog seems constipated, make an appointment with your veterinarian so she or he can check for underlying conditions.

12. Vomiting or diarrhea — Unless your dog vomits or has a bout of diarrhea as the result of eating something she shouldn’t have, which you have identified, it’s cause for concern. Chronic vomiting or diarrhea are red flag signs of an underlying problem that requires your veterinarian’s attention.

13. Eating more than normal — If your dog suddenly becomes food-obsessed (or more food-obsessed than usual), a relatively unlikely but potentially serious possibility is the presence of an underlying medical condition that causes excessive hunger, no matter how much he eats.

I recommend making an appointment with your veterinarian if your dog seems to be extra hungry even though he’s eating well, and especially if he’s also losing weight.

14. Excessive drinking, panting, scratching or urination — A brewing bladder infection, other types of infection, a metabolic problem such as Cushing’s disease and diabetes can cause excessive thirst and water consumption. Some forms of cancer cause pets to drink more. If your dog is drinking more water than normal, you should have her checked by your veterinarian to rule out an underlying condition.

Normal panting typically occurs when your dog’s body is overheating and is considered a natural, healthy response. Abnormal panting, on the other hand, may be a sign that your dog has a physical or emotional issue that needs further investigation.

Abnormal panting is excessive compared to your dog’s normal panting behavior and occurs during times when she isn’t overly warm and doesn’t need to cool her body down. It doesn’t sound quite like normal panting — it may be louder or harsher, for example, and requires more exertion.

If your dog suddenly starts panting at inappropriate times or the panting seems heavier than usual, you should be concerned, but there’s no need to panic. Make an appointment with your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s symptoms and have her checked out.

If your dog is scratching a lot, there can be any number of causes, all of which deserve investigation. A chronically itchy dog feels miserable, and in addition, underlying causes of itching almost always get worse over time when they aren’t diagnosed and effectively treated.

Excessive urination in dogs typically goes hand-in-hand with excessive thirst as discussed above. Both situations are clear signs of an underlying disorder that requires a vet visit.

 

 

Training Kitty to Come When Called

 

Training Kitty to Come When Called

by Karen Becker and comments by Diane Weinmann

 

Can you imagine your cat coming when called just like your dog?  Well, it can be done and he/she might already be trained to respond you just don’t realize it.

So why would you need to have your cat respond to you when called?  Life and death situations come to mind in the event of a natural disaster or fire.  It’s also important not to use this training to call your cat for anything he might (or will surely) find unpleasant, like giving him medication or taking him for a veterinary appointment. In those situations, says Christensen, it’s better to go find him so that he doesn’t make any associations between being called and a negative result.

You may not realize it, but your cat probably already comes when he’s “called” by any sound that tells him it could be mealtime, such as the whir of the electric can opener. If there’s no sound involved, he’ll be called by the aroma of his meal being prepared. Since he’s already answering these calls, you can easily build on this foundation, says veterinary behaviorist E’Lise Christensen in an interview with Adventure Cats.1 The trick is to pair calling your cat with something he’s already responding to.

First you need to decide precisely how you’ll call him from now on when you want him to come to you. For example, you can call him by his name using a different vocal inflection, or by his name followed by “come” (“Fluffy, come”) or preceded by “here” (“Here, Fluffy Fluffy”). The key is to consistently use the same words and tone of voice each time you call him to you.  According to an animal communicator, it helps the “call” if you visualize the cat coming to you in your head as you call their name.

You can also use high-value treats to train kitty to come when called. Standing next to him, call him to come and then immediately give him a treat. When it’s obvious he’s made the connection between your call and yummy treats, you can start increasing the distance.

Move a few feet away from him, call him, and when he comes to you, give him a treat. Once he’s doing this consistently, gradually increase the distance between you. If things go according to plan, he’ll be reliably responding to your call from all over the house. Keys to successful training sessions:

  • Plan to do several sessions each day to help your cat maintain his training; keep each one short — no more than five minutes
  • Never, ever punish your cat for not coming when you call — it’s ineffective and can cause him to become stressed or fearful
  • Always reward him, no matter how long it takes him to respond to you; remember that you’re asking him to do something entirely unnatural for a cat