11 ways to manage pain in dogs and cats

By Deana Cappucci, BS, LVT, CCRVN, CCMT, VTS (Physical Rehabilitation) as seen in Animal Wellness Magazine

When it comes to managing pain in dogs and cats, these alternative modalities have a lot to offer. Consider trying one of these options before reaching for the pain meds.

Animals experience pain just like we do. But because dogs and cats are so stoic, most people don’t realize their animals are suffering. In nature, animals that show signs of pain or weakness are targets for prey, so they have adapted to hide their pain in order to survive. Learning how to recognize pain in your dog or cat is the first step, along with getting the problem properly diagnosed by your veterinarian. And there are many ways to manage pain besides medication. This article explores some alternative modalities for pain management in dogs and cats.

Recognizing pain in your companion animal

In dogs and cats, pain presents as a change in behavior or mobility (see sidebar). For instance, a dog experiencing pain from arthritis may not want to perform daily activities, such as going for long walks, or may have a hard time getting in and out of the car. Cats in pain may hesitate or avoid jumping onto higher surfaces, may hide more often, or experience a decreased appetite.

If you notice these signs in your own dog or cat, take him to the veterinarian for a checkup. Pain can arise from many different conditions and it’s important to find out which one is bothering your own animal so he can be properly treated.

Pain management – 11 alternative solutions

Fortunately, there are many ways you and your animal’s healthcare team can help manage pain and extend his quality of life.

1. Physical rehabilitation

Physical therapy is a service often used in human medicine to help patients recover from surgery or restore tissue function after an injury. Likewise, many modalities used in animal physical rehabilitation help reduce pain and inflammation to improve an animal’s comfort.

2. Laser therapy

3. Thermal therapy

Thermal therapies such as heat and cryotherapy are often used to improve circulation or decrease inflammation and swelling. Ice is added after surgical procedures to help reduce pain and swelling, whereas heat can be applied to sore muscles or stiff joints to provide circulation to the tissues and joints.

4. Therapeutic ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound uses low energy sound waves to warm up the tissue. It improves flexibility and promotes healing while decreasing pain and inflammation. It’s often used for animals with soft tissue trauma, such as muscle and tendon strains or sprains.

5. Extracorporeal shockwave therapy

This device uses high energy sound waves to stimulate the tissue, causing a physiologic response that leads to endorphin release for pain management, and promotes tissue healing. Animals that benefit from shockwave therapy include those suffering from arthritis, muscle and tendon injuries, or bone fractures that are not healing as expected. There are many different types of shockwave therapy, some of which may require light sedation due to the loud sound and intensity of the shocks.

6. Electrotherapy

Also known as E-Stim or TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), electrotherapy uses an electrical current that is applied to a painful area to inhibit the sensory response to pain. Electrical stimulation can help in cases involving arthritis, post-surgical recovery, or soft tissue injuries or trauma.

7. Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy

8. Acupuncture

Acupuncture uses small needles inserted into specific points on the body, causing a physiologic response. Acupuncture releases the body’s natural endorphins, which help control pain. It also stimulates nerves, which is beneficial for animals experiencing neurologic dysfunction like IVDD or degenerative myelopathy. Arthritis and soft tissue injuries also benefit from acupuncture.

9. Therapeutic exercise

Therapeutic exercise is used in animal rehabilitation to help strengthen weakened muscles that may be associated with an injury or post-operative recovery. Arthritis causes pain in the joints leading to weakness in the muscles. Therapeutic exercises help improve strength and mobility in arthritic animals, and those recovering from surgery or injury.

10. Hydrotherapy

Hydrotherapy, such as swimming in warm circulating water, or walking on an underwater treadmill, provides buoyancy while reducing pain on injured joints. The warm water causes vasodilation and increases blood flow to the tissue, which helps decrease pain in the muscles and joints. The hydrostatic pressure of the water provides body awareness that is helpful in older dogs, or those suffering from neurologic disease. The resistance of the water also improves strength as the animal swims or walks against the water.

11. Massage

Last but not least, massage and manual therapies alleviate taut muscles and increase circulation to the tissues. Massage brings blood flow to the tissue, providing oxygen and nutrients to the area. It can reduce pain by decreasing muscle spasms and improving the flexibility of joints. Massage can also decrease stress and anxiety, which can exaggerate pain. Most animals – and their humans – would benefit from a massage!

Ask your veterinarian if he or she offers any of these pain-relieving modalities, or seek out a veterinary rehabilitation center in your area. It is important to understand that although these modalities have therapeutic effects for managing pain and discomfort, other medical interventions may be added to your dog or cat’s regimen to provide the best pain relief and improve overall comfort. It is also important to know that not all animals are candidates for every modality, and that a consultation with a trained veterinary professional is necessary to discuss the best options for your own dog or cat.

Helping Your Overweight Dog

By Joanne Keenan as seen in dogs Naturally Magazine

Have you ever searched online for the best dog food to help your overweight dog with weight loss? You’ll find the who’s who of commercial dog foods. But will the food help your dog lose weight?

Probably not. What you’ll find is that the ingredients don’t differ much from the standard dog processed diet. Some are labelled low-fat … but (just like the human weight-loss industry) … they use extra carbs to replace fat. 

Dog Food For Overweight Dogs

Your first stop for a diet for overweight dogs might be the pet store or your vet’s office. You’ll find a wide range of weight-loss, grain-free, and reduced-fat options, with questionable ingredients. Here are some of the ingredients used in weight-loss diets as fillers. And they also lack nutrients.

Powdered Cellulose 
This is non-digestible plant fiber, often from wood pulp. It’s essentially sawdust … woody fiber without any nutritional value. Cellulose dilutes the number of calories in each serving. It also gives your dog the feeling of fullness. But you’ll notice the volume of poop also increases.

Beet Pulp
This is a high fiber by-product of the sugar beet industry. It’s considered an inexpensive filler. Some reports say it has health benefits. Still, its vitamins and minerals get removed for other purposes. All that remains is fiber that passes through your dog like any other fiber, despite its origin in a root vegetable.

Brewers Rice 
This is the small grain fragments left over after whole grains of rice are milled. It’s an inexpensive grain filler without any nutritional value. It will bulk up your dog’s poop and make him feel fuller.

Chicken By-Product Meal 
This is a dry rendered product known as slaughterhouse waste. This is what remains from slaughtered chicken. It’s usually anything but meat and includes feathers, fat, feet and beaks.

Soy Flour, Soy Grits, Soybean Mill Run
Soy is problematic for several reasons. Soy is a low-cost alternative to meat protein but can be highly allergenic. Most soy is also genetically modified and harvested using toxic glyphosate as a desiccant. Soy grits are left after the extraction and removal of oil and soy meat. Soybean Mill Run is the hulls after the soy meat is removed.

So … when there’s soy in a dog food, it artificially increases the protein content without adding meat. These soybean by-products are also inferior sources of amino acids. They are an unusable protein that your dog can’t digest. 

You’ll also find grain-free foods that contain different legumes (also used as a low-cost source of protein), instead of grains. These are just as starchy as grains and should be avoided for your overweight dog.

Many ingredients in manufactured, weight-loss dog foods include grains, legumes and low-quality proteins. And you should also be aware of ingredient splitting. That’s when the same ingredient gets divided into sub-types and listed separately on the label. But added together, they’d usually be the largest ingredient (by weight). 

Weight Control Dog Food Labels

Here are the top ingredients listed on a few random labels.

  • Weight Glucose Management: Water, pork liver, whole grain corn, chicken, cracked pearled barley, powdered cellulose, chicken liver flavor …
  • Weight Reduction: Whole grain corn, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, powdered cellulose, soybean meal, soybean mill run, chicken liver flavor, dried beet pulp, pork liver flavor … 
  • Grain-free, Reduced Fat: Chicken meal, field peas, lentils, potato, tapioca …
  • Reduced Fat, Grain-free: Deboned cod, turkey meal, salmon meal, lentils, yellow peas …
  • Reduced Fat: Chicken, rice, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal, corn germ meal …

With the exception of pork liver, deboned cod and chicken, the above ingredients offer little to no nutritional value. Those that aren’t stripped-down grains or fillers are carbohydrates your dog doesn’t need.

How Carbohydrates Cause Overweight Dogs

Processed diets are high in carbs and unhealthy fats, and low in protein …. and that leads to weight gain. 

According to animal nutritionist Dr Richard S Patton PhD, dogs in the wild ate a diet that was 4% carbohydrate. They’d get some carbs from wild berries or the stomach contents of their prey. Yet today’s processed food often has 40% carbohydrates or more. 

Most dogs need about 25–30 calories per pound per day to maintain a healthy weight. So, a 30-pound dog needs about 800 calories a day. And a lot of the calories in kibble are from carbs. So, if you reduce the kibble and feed a whole food, meat-based diet, you can feed your dog the same amount of calories … but he’ll get healthier foods and better nutrition. And it’ll be easier to control his weight.

Is My Dog Overweight?

So … how can you tell if your dog is overweight? The easiest way to tell is to see if you can feel his ribs. Holistic vet Dr Edward Bassingthwaighte offers this guideline: make a loose fist and run your other hand over your knuckles. That’s what your dog’s ribs should feel like. There shouldn’t be a layer of fat preventing you from feeling the ridges of his ribs. And he should have a defined waist that you can see from above and from the side. You should be able to see where your dog’s chest stops and his stomach area begins. 

What To Feed Your Overweight Dog

Here are the most effective foods to help your dog lose weight.

Raw Diet
whole food, raw meat diet is the best option for your dog. You can buy pre-made frozen raw food. Most should be complete and balanced, and some will contain fruits and vegetables. Higher quality foods won’t have added synthetic vitamins and minerals. Instead, the nutritients come from the ingredients. 

Or you can follow recipes to prepare raw food meals yourself. Here are some tips to help your overweight dog …

  • Stick to lean meats including turkey, chicken and beef
  • Feed a balanced raw diet that includes muscle meat, organs and bones plus fruit, vegetables, eggs and fish. Otherwise, your dog will lack essential nutrients. 
  • Use fruits and vegetables from your dog’s meals to create healthy treats. You can freeze broccoli, green beans or carrots or small pieces of meat. 
  • Give raw meaty bones as treats or as an occasional meal replacement. Bones will keep your dog occupied for hours and satisfy his need for food. Give your dog knuckle bones, lamb femurs or pork or beef neck bones. They are healthier choices than commercial chews.
  • Include omega-3 fatty acids to balance the omega-6 fats found in most dog food
  • Include probiotics to balance the gut microbiome and help digestion and the immune system

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Low In Starch
Whether you feed your dog raw or home-cooked, leave out the starchy foods. Dogs have no nutritional requirement for starch to survive. A diet of protein and fat supplemented by some low-carb fruit and vegetables meets your dog’s energy needs. 

A low-carb or low-starch diet includes raw meat or gently cooked meals without any carbohydrates in starch or grain form. Avoid legumes as well. These add starch to the diet … and plant-based protein doesn’t nourish your dog like the animal protein he needs.  You can include low-carb vegetables (steamed or pureed for digestibility) like leafy greens (spinach, kale, dandelion greens), mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower or asparagus.

Freeze-Dried Raw Diet
Most freeze-dried diets have the same ingredients as pre-made raw frozen diets … muscle meat, organs and ground bones. Some will include fruits and vegetables. Like raw foods, the better options don’t have added synthetic vitamins and minerals. 

Freeze-dried dog foods aren’t heated during the manufacturing process. Frozen food goes into large machines that lower the atmospheric pressure around the food. This removes moisture from the food. So, freeze-dried dog food isn’t cooked at all. But it’s very low in moisture, which gives it a long shelf life and makes it easy to store and serve.

What Can I Do If My Dog Is Overweight?

Besides feeding your dog a raw, home-cooked or freeze-dried diet with minimal carbs, here are some other things you can do to help your overweight dog lose weight. 

1. Feed the Right Amount
The guideline for whole food, raw meat-based or home cooked diets is 2 to 3% of your dog’s ideal body weight at maturity. If your dog isn’t an active breed, feed on the low side; higher if he’s an active dog. If your dog is overweight, feed him based on what his healthy weight should be … not his actual weight. Start at 2% … then you can increase or decrease depending on whether he loses or gains weight.

If you do feed kibble, keep in mind that the recommended feeding amounts are usually too high. If your dog gains weight, cut back his portions. 

2. Reduce Feedings … or Food Portions
You may have to experiment with this for your overweight dog. Some dogs will lose weight with just one meal a day. This mimics what would happen in nature, when dogs would only eat when they found food. And it gives your dog’s digestive system a healthy break between meals. 

But you might need a different approach if your dog seems ravenously hungry all the time. Your dog might lose weight more easily if you split his daily food amounts into 2 or 3 feedings a day. If he doesn’t finish his food in 15 minutes, remove it for later. Don’t keep topping up the bowl. Of course, make sure your dog has water available all day.

3. Don’t Free Feed

Some dog owners free-feed. This is the practice of keeping the bowl full for your dog to eat at will. But you have no way of knowing how much he’s eating through the day, so it’s a bad idea for an overweight dog. 

4. Feed Nutritious Food
Feed more protein and veggies, with no simple carbs … and only healthy fats. Supplement your dog’s existing food with add-ins like veggies, fruit, eggs, sardines. You can include non-starchy veggies like broccoli, green beans, celery, or asparagus. Include low-sugar blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or cranberries. 

Is The Green Bean Diet Good For Dog Weight Loss?

This is a popular diet, but it’s not the best idea. Many vets recommend swapping a portion of your dog’s food for green beans. The problem is your dog is only getting limited nutrition from the beans, so you could be creating a nutrient deficiency. You can feed them as treats instead. 

5. Add Foods with Healthy Fiber
Fiber gives your dog a feeling of fullness without the calories. But that doesn’t mean you need to give him cellulose or other fillers found in processed dog foods. Instead, give him healthy fiber. There are 2 types and your dog can have both. 

Soluble fiber dissolves in water. It travels into the colon where fermentation by beneficial bacteria creates short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) that support your dog’s immune system. Soluble fiber can also help improve blood sugar levels to lower diabetes and obesity risk. Your dog can get soluble fiber from foods like fruit, mushrooms and seaweed. 

Insoluble fiber is fiber that doesn’t get digested as it travels through the digestive system. It attracts water to the stool and bulks up food to help it pass through the colon. Your dog can have insoluble fiber found in plants and vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and green beans. 

RELATED: Read about the best sources of fiber for dogs ..

6. Increase Daily Exercise
Dogs can be victims of their owners’ sedentary lifestyles. Depending on age and health, most dogs need 30 minutes to 2 hours of physical activity every day. Even a walk around the neighborhood to sniff out the surroundings engages and benefits your dog physically and mentally.

7. Keep Track Of Treats
Your dog can easily gain weight by eating too many treats. It’s great to use treats for training or to reward your dog “just because” … but keep track of the treats for an overweight dog. You may need to remove some food from his meals. And try to use healthy treats like freeze dried or dehydrated meats or veggies, instead of cookies or other starchy treats.

The Dangers Of Having An Overweight Dog

In 2018, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that 56% of dogs in the US were overweight or obese. Dog obesity is just as dangerous as obesity in humans. It reduces the lifespan and quality of life of your dog. 

Here are some health issues that affect overweight dogs. 

  • Orthopedic disease
  • Ligament rupture
  • Tracheal collapse
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • Urinary issues
  • Heart disease
  • Joint issues
  • Pancreatitis
  • Heart and lung diseases
  • Cancer
  • Skin problems

What Causes Dogs To Be Overweight?

There are several physiological reasons for weight gain:

  • Aging – older dogs are less active and need less food, but owners continue to feed them the same amount from their younger days
  • Breed – some breeds are prone to gain weight
  • Neutering or spaying can lower your dog’s metabolism
  • Lack of exercise

But the prime reason for overweight dogs is … overfeeding. One person controls what goes into the food bowl and that’s you. So it’s your responsibility to prevent weight gain by managing what your dog eats. It’s all too easy to feed dogs too much because it makes owners happy to see their dogs happy … when they’re eating. 

But you can have a happy … and healthy dog … by feeding a diet with minimal carbs and starches and lots of fresh whole foods. And reward your dog with love, attention and exercise … not food.

Do My Cat’s Gums Look Normal? Here’s How to Tell

By PetWellbeing

When your cat yawns, you might get a brief glimpse at what’s going on in their mouth. After taking a peek, cat owners often ask themselves, “Are my cat’s gums normal?”

The eyes might be the window to the soul, but the gums are the window to your cat’s oral health. Cats are masters at hiding illness, so inspecting the gums is a good place to start—if they let you!

If your cat is okay with it, check their gums on a regular basis to detect potential health concerns.

Traits of healthy cat gums

Gums with the following characteristics indicate your kitty is in good health.

  • Pink color: Healthy cat gums are light pink in color. The ideal shade of pink is one that’s neither too bright nor too pale. Some cats, particularly black and orange ones, naturally have black or spotted gums. This is normal as long as the gums have been black their whole life. Double check with a vet to make sure black is a normal color for your cat’s gums.
  • Slippery and wet: When you run a finger along your cat’s gums, they should feel slippery and coated in saliva. This is a good indicator that your kitty is well hydrated.
  • Smooth texture: Healthy cat gums should feel smooth, not bumpy. Some cats develop black or brown spots that look like freckles as they get older. Pigmentation is a normal part of the aging process for some senior kitties so long as the gums still have a smooth texture.

Unhealthy gums and their diseases

Schedule a trip to the vet if you notice any of these abnormal characteristics.

  • Red or bright pink gums: Redness indicates the presence of gingivitis when it appears around teeth or along the gum line. Gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, in which case the entire gum line will look either red or bright pink. Gums that suddenly change to these colors could mean your cat is experiencing heat stroke. Heat stroke can quickly turn fatal and requires an immediate trip to the vet.
  • Gums growing over teeth: Pet parents should be concerned if their cat’s teeth look like they’re sinking below the gum line. This is a clear sign of a dental disease called tooth resorption. Tooth resorption occurs when a tooth slowly deteriorates and gets absorbed back into the jaw bone. It’s a long, painful process that most older cats experience at some point in their life.
  • Dry or tacky gums: Your cat’s gums shouldn’t feel sticky or dry to the touch. If that’s the case, your cat might be severely dehydrated. This symptom sometimes appears along with the redness associated with heat stroke. Encourage your kitty to drink lots of water right away. If the gum’s moisture doesn’t return to normal, you’ll need to visit an emergency clinic, where vets can rehydrate your cat.
  • Blue, purple or gray gums: All of these colors are cause for immediate concern. Gums that have paled into a blue, purple or gray hue indicate your cat isn’t getting enough oxygen. This could be due to pneumonia or a blockage in the wind pipe. Don’t wait a second longer—these colors require immediate medical attention!
  • White or pale pink gums: While blue indicates a lack of oxygen, white or pale pink gums mean your kitty has poor blood circulation. It’s possible their body isn’t producing enough red blood cells, but these colors could also be a warning sign for internal bleeding. Most cats who recently sustained an injury will exhibit white or pale pink gums. Check with your vet for a proper diagnosis.
  • Bumps, craters or lesions: A bumpy gum texture usually indicates that something’s wrong. Cats develop bumps or lesions on their gums for a variety of reasons. In some cases, the bumps are malignant tumors associated with oral cancer. This is especially true if the bumps are quite painful. Gums that are pockmarked with craters or open sores could mean your kitty has a bacterial infection caused by poor dental hygiene. No matter the cause, anything other than a smooth texture warrants a trip to the vet.

If your cat seems off, their gums are the first place to look. A change in color, texture or moisture can speak volumes about your kitty’s health. While unhealthy gums can indicate a problem, pet parents shouldn’t jump to conclusions about what their cats may or may not be experiencing. Abnormal gum characteristics are your cue to visit a vet clinic where the experts can accurately determine the proper next steps.

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

Urinary Incontinence In Dogs

by Jean Hofve DVM

Urinary incontinence in dogs, means your dog has the inability to retain urine in his bladder … in other words, bladder leaks.

The urinary system is quite elegant. Urine is produced by the kidneys and fed through the ureters to the bladder. A sphincter (circular muscle) keeps the passage to outside closed until it’s voluntarily opened during urination. At that point, urine flows through the urethra to whatever object your dog decides to gift with his or her scent.

When the sphincter doesn’t stay fully tightened, involuntary leakage occurs. If the bladder is too full, urine can overflow into the urethra and escape. This often happens while your dog is resting or sleeping, or when she gets up from lying down.

Dribbling urine can also be a behavior issue if it happens when your dog is frightened or being submissive.

Signs Of Incontinence In Dogs

I probably don’t need to tell you how you’ll know your dog is incontinent. It’s usually pretty obvious!

The most common sign of urinary incontinence in dogs is wet spots wherever your dog sleeps. 

You might also notice …

  • Dampness around the hindquarters and thighs
  • Dribbling urine as she walks
  • Irritated skin or redness from the dripping (urine is caustic and can burn)
  • Licking the vulva or penis more than usual
  • Dribbling urine when she is excited, frightened, submissive, or stressed

What Causes Incontinence In Dogs

There are many potential causes and contributors to incontinence, including:

What this adds up to is the need for adequate testing to pin down an accurate diagnosis.

Breeds Prone to Incontinence

Research shows that females are more prone to urinary incontinence in dogs than males. Two UK studies found that urinary incontinence affects 3% of females overall, but more than 15% in high risk breeds. These include …

  • Irish Setter
  • Doberman
  • Bearded Collie
  • Rough Collie
  • Dalmatian

Prevalence in males is less than 1%, with breeds affected including …

  • Bull Mastiff
  • Irish Red Setter
  • Fox terrier
  • Bulldog
  • Boxer

Spay/Neuter Increases Incontinence

Urinary incontinence in dogs is more likely in spayed females, especially if they’re spayed early.  One study of 492 female dogs concluded that …

“Neutering itself and early-age neutering (<6 months) are major risk factors for early-onset urinary incontinence.”

Another study found that size was a factor in spayed females developing USMI (urinary sphincter incompetence). For every month neuter was delayed in the dogs’ first year, the risk of USMI was reduced in dogs weighing over 25 kg. The risk did not change for dogs under 15 kg.

So, if you decide to spay your dog of 50 lbs or more, it’s best to defer the procedure as long as you can.

RELATED: Read about other risks of early spay/neuter.

How Vets Diagnose Incontinence

Your vet will do (at least) a thorough physical exam, standard blood tests and urinalysis.

If these tests don’t point to an answer, your vet may do more specialized blood tests, urine culture, radiographs, ultrasound, or other types of scans.

If leaks started when your dog was very young, and the vet suspects an anatomical abnormality like ectopic ureter (see below), she may do a dye “urography” that traces the course of the ureter.

You want to determine the cause of your dog’s incontinence so you can treat it appropriately.  For example …

  • An older spayed female dog is most likely to have estrogen-responsive incontinence from spaying. But you don’t want to waste time and money treating that when the real problem may be something else that requires very different therapies.
  • Ectopic ureters or other anatomical issues may be corrected with surgery.
  • Incontinent dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections. That’s because the presence of urine in the urethra can provide a route for bacteria to climb up to the bladder and set up housekeeping.
  • If the problem is a urinary tract infection or uroliths (stones), then resolving that problem may quickly take care of the incontinence.
  • The same applies to hormonal issues that can be treated appropriately.

PRO TIP

Before we get to the details, my #1 recommendation for any kind of bladder problem is protect your stuff! Managing a dog with incontinence, a UTI, or inappropriate urination for any reason is unpleasant and frustrating.

Waterproof dog beds and washable pee pads make clean-up easy and convenient. If your dog sleeps on the bed, at the very least get a waterproof mattress pad, and perhaps a flannel or comfy waterproof flat sheet to put over the covers. Temporary use of doggy diapers may also reduce the emotional toll on the human family.

Conventional Treatments For Incontinence

There are several conventional approaches to treating incontinence problems.

Phenylpropanolamine (Proin®, Propalin®)

This drug releases chemicals that strengthen the bladder sphincter muscles. It’s not a cure … so if your dog stops taking it, she’ll go back to leaking urine.

Side effects in the manufacturer’s clinical trials included …

  • Vomiting
  • High blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Proteinuria (protein in the urine)
  • Excessive thirst
  • Restlessness or difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lethargy

Some more serious side effects can occur, usually at higher dosages. These include cardiac issues, tremors and difficulty urinating.

At low doses the risk of side effects is minimal, so some holistic vets may use this drug along with other alternative therapies.

Estrogen (Estriol/Incurin, DES)

This synthetic estrogen drug is often used for females with spay incontinence.  It comes with quite a list of side effects. Studies show adverse effects like …

  • Vomiting
  • Swollen/itchy vulva
  • Lethargy
  • Aggression (leading to euthanasia in some cases)
  • Hyperpigmentation and lichenification of vulva (black skin spots and thickened skin)
  • Hair loss
  • Vaginal hemorrhage
  • Seizures

Those are quite unpleasant side effects. But this drug also has some even more serious risks. It may cause cancer and bone marrow toxicity. There are good non-pharmaceutical substitutes.

Surgery To Correct Anatomical Abnormalities

If your dog’s incontinence is caused by an anatomical abnormality, your vet may recommend surgery.

The most likely kind of abnormality is ectopic ureter. It’s fairly rare, with reported incidence of less than 0.1%.

The ureters transport urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Ectopic ureter means that one or both ureters by-pass the bladder and connect to the urethra, uterus or vagina. This can cause continual dripping of urine.

This problem is usually seen in 3 to 6 month old dogs, and females are 8 times more prone than males.

High risk breeds for this problem are …

  • Siberian Husky
  • Miniature and Toy Poodle
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Collie
  • Welsh Corgi
  • Wire-haired Fox Terrier
  • West Highland White Terrier

This condition may be corrected with surgery to redirect the ureter into the bladder.

A less invasive method is cystoscopic-guided laser ablation. It’s done under anesthesia and involves inserting a ureteral catheter into the ectopic ureter. A laser then “ablates” (removes) the wall of the ureter. This effectively moves the opening from the urethra to the bladder. One study showed a 47% success rate for this procedure.

PRO TIP

However you decide to treat your dog’s incontinence … adjust and increase your dog’s potty break time. This will help reduce the amount of urine in the bladder at any one time.  Make sure she goes out to pee before you leave for work or school, and right before bedtime.

Natural Treatments For Incontinence

These are some of my favorite alternative approaches for urinary incontinence In dogs.

Chiropractic, Acupuncture, And Osteopathy

These hands-on treatments are excellent choices that can be very successful in resolving incontinence. They’re especially effective if urinary incontinence in dogs is due to physical issues like spine misalignment, muscle spasms, or nerve injury or impairment.

Read how to find a practitioner under the “Find A Holistic Vet” section below. You may also be able to find a local veterinary rehab facility that offers these modalities.

Herbs And Nutraceuticals

These are some effective options, depending on the cause of your dog’s incontinence.

  • Wild Yam extract has estrogenic and anti-spasmodic effects, but may require fairly high doses (100 mg per 25 lbs. body weight). It’s often included in herbal blends with Rehmannia, licorice, red clover, cranberry, and other herbs. Follow package directions for products intended for dogs. If using a human product, the dose is based on a 150 lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight.
  • Soy isoflavones are the best natural substitute for estrogen, but be sure you choose an organic product, since most soy in the U.S. is GMO (genetically engineered). Vetriscience Vetri-Bladder chews are a good choice; give 1 chew per 30 lbs. body weight once a day. The same dose applies to their canine Bladder Strength tablet, which also contains supportive herbs.
  • Estroven® contains Rheum raponiticum extract. he dose is based on a 150-lb person, so reduce the dose proportionally for your dog’s weight. It may work by itself or need to be combined with estrogenic herbs. Estrogenic herbs include soy, Mexican wild yam, black cohosh, dong quai, red clover.  It’s best to ask a holistic vet or herbalist for help using these herbs.
  • Herbs that are good for urinary tract infections (if that’s the cause of your dog’s leakage) include cranberrygingerturmericolive leaf, and uva ursi. Cranberry prevents E. coli bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall; olive leaf has antibiotic properties; uva ursi is antiseptic and anti-inflammatory; turmeric and ginger are great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herbs. They are available in a wide variety of combinations, usually with other natural antioxidants.
  • Anti-arthritic herbs, such as turmeric, ginger, Boswellia, yucca, and barberry, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Antioxidants work best in combination; many such products are available, but my favorite (which I take myself!) is Boswellia Complex by Standard Process. A small or medium size dog can take 1/2 tablet twice a day; for large and giant breeds, give a whole tablet twice a day. CBD also relieves pain and may be a good adjunct.
  • Chinese herbs are very useful; but it’s important to work with a veterinarian trained and experienced in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine. These herbs are powerful, and appropriate formulas must be individualized for your dog.
  • Glandular support. Here again, Standard Process shines. Symplex F is excellent as a replacement for hormones missing due to spaying. Symplex M is for neutered male dogs. Both products also support the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands. Both synergize well with Vasculin, which contains a multitude of herbs and vitamins that support healthy blood vessel and nerve function.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from a marine source have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Protein and collagen are both important for any muscle, including the bladder sphincter. The bladder itself is also a muscular organ. Protein is also a natural urinary acidifier. Bone broth and a higher protein diet may be helpful.

Homeopathy

A good homeopath can work virtual miracles. There are many remedies indicated for urinary incontinence in dogs, but it’s important to work with a qualified homeopathic veterinarian. The choice of remedy and potency must be highly individualized for not only incontinence, but also for the dog’s personality, environment, history, and many other factors. 

I have seen homeopathy restore bladder and bowel control in a dog who had been hit by a car, after months of unsuccessful medical management. Find a homeopath at The Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy (AVH).

RELATED: Homeopathy Basic For Dogs

The next two approaches are newer and less common, but worth exploring with your holistic vet. Studies show promising results with these therapies.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Research has found that injections of Clostridium botulinum toxin into the bladder wall (50-100 botulinum toxin units per animal in 10 injections) successfully prevented recurrence of incontinence in dogs for up to 5 months.

Electrical Stimulation

Researchers are currently experimenting with implants that provide electric stimulation to the nerves in dogs with a spinal cord injury. While it’s not likely to be coming to your local veterinary clinic, veterinary teaching hospitals may incorporate it in the not-too-distant future.

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Support Your Dog’s Overall Health

Finally, as with all chronic health problems, it’s important to keep your dog as healthy overall as you can.

Not all incontinent dogs can be completely cured. But with the right management and therapies, it can be well controlled … so you and your dog can enjoy a long, happy, and puddle-free life together.

What to Feed a Cat for Weight Gain

by Liz Bales DVM

When veterinarians talk about a cat’s weight, it’s usually focused on feline obesity.

While obesity is a prominent health issue among cats, many cats are also struggling with being underweight. And similar to losing weight, gaining weight gain can also be a tricky issue for cats. It’s not just about changing food portions.

First, you’ll need to find out why your cat is losing weight. Then you can determine a plan of action that includes a diet that will safely help your cat return to a healthy weight.

Create a Plan of Action for Your Cat

Once you and your veterinarian have a plan for treating the underlying disease, you can get to the hard work of weight gain. Your veterinarian will likely have specific suggestions for your cat based on their age and medical needs.

A diet that is customized to your cat’s specific medical condition is likely to result in the best outcome. Your vet will also identify your cat’s ideal weight, and can do regular weigh-ins to make sure that your plan is effective and that your cat does not exceed his/her ideal weight.

For sick cats, returning to a healthy weight is about more than just calories. Diets for specific conditions are customized to have the right macronutrients and micronutrients to provide weight gain while addressing the unique disease-related concerns.

What to Feed a Cat to Help Them Gain Weight

If your cat’s medical problem is under control—parasites are treated or painful teeth are pulled—correcting the calorie deficit may be the only treatment necessary.

Here’s what your veterinarian will look for in a healthy cat food for weight gain.

Find a Type of Food That Fits Your Cat’s Preferences

The most important first step is to find a food that your cat enjoys eating but that doesn’t cause stomach upset. You want a food that fits their dietary requirements but is also highly palatable so they will want to eat it.

It’s not unusual for a cat to have a strong preference for a specific flavor, type (canned/dry) or even texture of food. The same goes for a cat being repulsed by one or more of these factors.

Navigating your cat’s preferences is the first, and most important, step of getting your cat to eat well.

Make Sure the Food Fits Their Nutritional Needs

Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats need to get the essential nutrients for their health from animal products.

The natural prey for cats, such as small rodents, are estimated to contain around 55% protein, 45% fat and 1–2% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis.

Although the macronutrient breakdown of prey is only 1-2% carbohydrate, most cats can use up to 40% of their diet in the form of carbohydrates as a good source of energy.

In general, dry food contains more carbohydrates than wet food.

Cat Food Options for Weight Gain

Good quality kitten food is an excellent choice for weight gain in healthy cats. And most cats enjoy eating kitten food.

Royal Canin Feline Health nutrition dry cat food for young kittens is nutrient- and calorie-dense and tends to be highly palatable to most cats.

Your veterinarian can also prescribe high-calorie cat foods like Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Recovery RS canned cat food or Hill’s Prescription Diet a/d Urgent Care canned cat food.

These formulations are highly digestible and provide the extra calories your cat needs to gain weight.

Calculate How Much to Feed Your Cat

Once you have found a food that fits your cat’s needs and also gets them excited about mealtime, it’s time to work out the right portion sizes.

Math is our friend here. In general, for gradual and healthy weight gain, it’s best to assess your cat’s resting metabolic needs and then to feed this amount of calories plus 20% more.

Your vet can help you translate this into the correct amount of the food to feed.

Tips for Helping a Cat Gain Weight

Addressing the underlying health issues, selecting the right food and figuring out how much to feed are vital for success.

But that’s just the starting point. Once you have that sorted, you will need to establish a feeding routine.

Here are a few tips for getting your cat to eat reliably and gain weight safely.

Feed Small, Frequent Meals

A cat’s stomach is only about the size of a ping-pong ball. So it’s normal that your cat won’t eat a lot all at once.

Whether your cat prefers wet food, dry food or both, try feeding one tablespoon of food every few hours.

These small, regular meals are better tolerated than large meals and can reduce the risk of vomiting after a meal.

Try Warming Up Your Cat’s Wet Food

Cats are stimulated to eat by the smell of their food. Warming up wet food can help make the food more aromatic and enticing to your cat.

To heat your cat’s food, put their food in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave it for a few seconds.

The optimal temperature for most cats is at, or near, their body temperature—38.5°C (101.5°F).

Offer the Right Snacks Between Meals

Healthy snacks between meals can aid in putting weight on your cat.

Try tempting your cat with a few high-protein, simple bites of freeze-dried chicken, like PureBites chicken breast freeze-dried raw cat treats, between each meal.

Decrease Your Cat’s Anxiety

A calm cat is a happy cat, and happy cats are more likely to have a good appetite.

Cats are solitary hunters and solitary eaters. That means that they prefer to eat their meals without being bothered.

When your cat has been unwell, it’s normal to want to hover over them. But your cat will likely eat better if you give them some space.

Talk to Your Vet About Appetite-Stimulating Medicine

There are a few medicines available from your veterinarian that can help stimulate your cat’s appetite.

An hour or so after talking the medicine, your cat will feel the urge to eat. You can even ask if your vet can get the medicine in a transdermal form (patch or gel for the skin or gums), so that you can avoid having to give a pill.

6 Appetite Stimulants for Dogs

By Sarah Wooten, DVM

A change in a dog’s eating habits, either up or down, is a clue that something is not right with your dog. When a dog refuses to eat out of the blue, he is telling you that he doesn’t feel well, either physically, mentally, or emotionally. There are many things that affect a dog’s appetite, such as dental disease, undiagnosed pain, stress and anxiety, upset stomach, infectious disease such as worms or influenza, or cognitive dysfunction.

In humans, we know that taste decreases with age, and humans on cancer treatment say that nothing tastes good. The same may be true for our canine companions. When your dog doesn’t eat, it is important to visit your veterinarian to figure out what isn’t right, and fix it. If it is going to take some time to resolve the underlying issue, then an appetite stimulant may be indicated to support your dog on the road to recovery.

When Can Appetite Stimulants Help My Dog?

Appetite stimulants are indicated when a dog refuses to eat long enough that it impacts his health, consistently does not consume enough calories to support a healthy weight, is on a medication (such as chemotherapy) that decreases appetite, is recovering from an illness and needs appetite support, or to help a dog eat a new diet. Dogs with kidney disease, for example, can have underactive appetites that lead to weight loss, or may not want to eat their therapeutic kidney diet. An appetite stimulant can help in this case to get the dog the nutritional support that he needs. There are several options that your veterinarian can suggest, including pharmaceutical, natural, and holistic options.

Ways to Stimulate Your Dog’s Appetite

Rotisserie Chicken

For a sick, debilitated, or geriatric dog who is picky about eating, one of the easiest (and cheapest) options to try is tempting him to eat rotisserie chicken. We all know how good rotisserie chicken smells in the grocery store when we walk by—and it smells even better to dogs. Even the pickiest eater will often gobble up his food if you doctor it up with a little white meat from a rotisserie chicken. Do not give dogs the bones or skin from a rotisserie chicken, and if they are instructed to eat a low-fat diet, only feed the white meat portions. Other easy strategies to try to increase appetite include hand-feeding and microwaving the food to warm it up.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture, while it cannot cure a condition, is known to reduce pain, inflammation, and nausea. Dogs with decreased appetites due to medical conditions such a diabetes, kidney or liver failure, inflammation of the pancreas, or hormonal conditions, such as Addison’s disease, are known to benefit and have an increase in appetite after acupuncture sessions.

Mirtazapine

When natural options stop working, it is time for pharmaceutical intervention. Mirtazapine is a common drug that is prescribed to dogs who have a decreased appetite due to other conditions that make them feel queasy, such as kidney disease or cancer, or medications such as chemotherapy. Mirtazapine acts on the central nervous system and increases serotonin levels, so it is important that it is not given to dogs who are on SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors).

Meclizine

Meclizine can help with appetite in some dogs. Meclizine is an antihistamine that is known to reduce nausea due to vertigo. If your dog is not eating due to nausea, there are several other medications available, such as maropitant, a common drug available through your local veterinarian.

Ghrelin Receptor Agonist

There is a new medication on the market for dogs that mimics the effect of ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes a dog or a person feel hungry. The medication binds to ghrelin receptors and signals the brain to cause the dog to feel hungry.

CBD Products

Finally, for those of you living in states where it is legal, CBD (cannabidiol) products manufactured for pets are exploding onto the veterinary scene. The benefits include reduction of pain and increase in appetite. It is important to note that CBD from hemp is not THC, and marijuana is toxic to pets. Ask your veterinarian for product recommendations.

It is important to note that these suggestions do not replace medical advice. If your dog is not eating and you have not seen your veterinarian, you should make an appointment to rule out serious underlying health issues that are causing your dog not to eat.

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

An old study from the 1970s identified 12 positions that 60 intact male and 53 intact female adult beagles used to pee:

  • Stand: Standing normally
  • Lean: The body is leaning forward and the hind legs are extended to the back.
  • Flex: The hind legs are partially flexed so the rear end is slightly lowered. The hind feet usually remain under the body (no straddle).
  • Squat: The hind legs are straddled and sharply bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is kept straight.
  • Handstand: Both hind feet are lifted off the ground. They may be unsupported or placed against a vertical surface.
  • Arch: The hind legs are usually spread and bent to bring the hind end close to the ground. The back is rounded, and the tail is lifted away from the ground.
  • Raise: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground but the leg is kept relatively low.
  • Elevate: One hind leg is bent and raised off the ground. The foot and leg is held high.
  • Lean-Raise: A combination of the Lean and Raise postures.
  • Flex-Raise: A combination of the Flex and Raise postures.
  • Squat-Raise: A combination of the Squat and Raise postures.
  • Arch-Raise: A combination of the Arch and Raise postures.

The researchers found that females squatted most of the time but that the squat-raise was also quite popular. Females used most of the other positions too, albeit on a limited basis. Male dogs, on the other hand, had a more restricted repertoire. All of them demonstrated the elevate posture and some used the raised position, but the squat-raise and lean-raise only occurred rarely and the other positions weren’t noted at all. Keep in mind, however, that all the male dogs in this study were mature and intact.

 

What Does a Dog’s Peeing Position Mean?

 

Now that all the positions that a dog is likely to take to urinate have been identified, the question “Why?” has to be asked. What does it mean when a dog picks a particular posture at a particular time?

It’s important to remember that urination serves two purposes for dogs—elimination and marking. Both male and female dogs scent mark, but the behavior is more pervasive in males. Dogs who are marking preferentially urinate on vertical surfaces. If they urinate high up on that surface, the urine can flow downward covering a greater area, which leaves a stronger message to anyone who subsequently passes by. Peeing up high may even make a dog seem bigger than he actually is. This is probably why the elevate posture is so popular among males.

Interestingly, leg-raising is a behavior that only develops in male dogs as they mature. The authors of the study on beagles note that the lean posture, which deposits urine directly on the ground, “is typically used by male puppies and juveniles.”

But what about females? That’s where the handstand posture comes in. There’s no better way for a female dog to urinate at least as high as and maybe even higher than a similarly sized male can.

Research supports this hypothesis in female dogs. A paper published in 2004 looked at the urinary behaviors of six spayed and six intact female Jack Russell Terriers while they were being walked close to and further away from their “home area.” The scientists found that when away from their home area, these dogs were more likely to urinate frequently and aim their urine at objects in comparison to when they were walked close to home. The authors concluded “urination in female dogs does not function solely in elimination, but that it also has a significant role in scent marking…”

So, when dogs take a position that results in their urine hitting an object above the ground’s surface, chances are they are doing so to maximize the value of the scent they are leaving behind.

It’s important to note how many peeing positions are perfectly normal for both male and female dogs. Which ones they use depends on many factors including the dog’s location, age, sex, and possibly their reproductive status. The only time to be concerned is when a dog that usually pees in one position switches to another. This could be a sign of pain or another medical problem that needs to be addressed.

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

By Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT as seen in PetMD

When you have an upset stomach, you probably reach for ginger ale or crackers to settle your tummy. But what should you do when your dog’s stomach is out of sorts?

Here’s some information about the causes and symptoms of upset stomach in dogs and tips for how to make your pup feel better with natural remedies.

Common Causes of Upset Stomach in Dogs

There are many reasons your dog may have an upset stomach, though there’s one common cause: they ate something they shouldn’t have, says Kathy Backus, DVM, at Holistic Veterinary Services in Kaysville, Utah.

“Dogs are curious like kids; they’re always putting things in their mouth,” she says. “Vomiting and diarrhea are signs that a dog’s body is trying to expel something that shouldn’t be in their system. In a healthy dog, it’s a protective mechanism of the body that’s totally normal.”

These are a few (of many) things that can trigger an upset stomach in dogs:

  • Ingesting something that they shouldn’t
  • Bacterial imbalances within the digestive tract
  • Chronic conditions such as food sensitivities

Symptoms of Upset Stomach in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. If your dog is nauseous, you may also see him eat grass to soothe his stomach or try to induce vomiting, says Jody Bearman, DVM at Anshen Veterinary Acupuncture, Madison, Wisconsin.

Watch for other signs of upset stomach in dogs, such as:

  • Decreased appetite or loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Drinking less water
  • Seeming depressed
  • Looking uncomfortable and stretching more often (like they are attempting a downward dog)
  • Gulping to combat reflux
  • Licking their lips, the air, or objects

When to Call Your Vet

Monitor your pup’s symptoms. If your dog is consistently uncomfortable, or if the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian.

Watch for these signs:

  • Increasing discomfort
  • Vomiting or having an episode of diarrhea more than twice
  • Blood in their vomit or stool
  • Toy or other foreign object in their vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

These can all be signs of something more serious, including pancreatitisstomach bloating, a severe allergic reaction, or internal parasites.

If you realize that your dog has eaten something he shouldn’t have—a plant, food, toy, or chemical—you should seek immediate veterinary care.

If your primary veterinarian is unavailable, call your local emergency veterinary hospital. They will be able to advise whether your pet needs to be seen or whether you can continue to monitor him at home.

You can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435 for a fee. They can also determine a poison’s level of toxicity and recommended care for your dog.

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

It is crucial to consult with your veterinarian before administering any home remedies to soothe your pup’s tummy troubles. If your veterinarian recommends at-home monitoring, these are a few ideas you can ask them about trying while you are at home with your dog.

Fasting

When your dog’s stomach is trying to get rid of something, it can be helpful to stop putting more things in their stomach for 12-24 hours, Dr. Backus says. “If the gastrointestinal (GI) system is having a tough time, you don’t want it to digest things.”

Fasting may seem simple enough, but it’s important to speak with your veterinarian first because some dogs (particularly small breeds or those with prior health conditions) cannot tolerate fasting as well as others.

If your veterinarian does recommend fasting, ask whether they would like you to start a bland diet (and what they recommend) after the fasting period is complete.

Ice Cubes

When your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea, you want them to stay hydrated, but giving him too much water may make his stomach even more upset, Dr. Backus says.

Monitoring your dog’s water intake and discouraging gulping is important. Offer your dog ice chips to help encourage drinking.

If your dog can keep down small quantities of water or ice chips, you can gradually increase the amount and how often you are offering the water and ice.

Canned Pumpkin

When fighting indigestion and upset stomach in dogs, 100% canned pumpkin is a favorite of many holistic veterinarians.

“It has a low glycemic index, so it slowly absorbs, which helps with upset stomach and digestion,” Dr. Bearman says.

Make sure to get 100% canned pumpkin, not pumpkin pie mix, as you don’t want to feed your dog spices and other ingredients, she says. Check that there are no ingredients listed other than pumpkin (such as sugar or sugar substitutes).

According to Dr. Bearman, smaller dogs (approximately 5 pounds) can be fed one-half teaspoon of canned pumpkin, while larger dogs (approximately 75 pounds) can be fed 1 tablespoon.

Is Upset Stomach in Dogs a Sign of Food Allergies?

An upset stomach every once in a while can be normal in a dog, but if it happens often, it could signal that something is wrong in their GI tract, says Randy Aronson, DVM, of P.A.W.S. Veterinary Center in Tucson, Arizona.

If digestive upset is a frequent occurrence for your dog, discuss the possibility of a food allergy with your veterinarian. When food allergies are diagnosed in dogs, it is often an allergy to a protein source, which is why a more “novel” protein (one that your dog has never eaten) may be recommended.

There are many options on the market, but examples may include beef, buffalo, venison, or lamb.

How to Help Prevent Upset Stomach in Dogs

To help your dog maintain a healthy gut, consider giving them a prebiotic and probiotic, Dr. Aronson says. There are both prebiotics and probiotics that are made specifically for dogs, some of which are available over the counter. Be sure to ask your veterinarian if they have a particular brand recommendation.

Always talk to your veterinarian first to find out the best course of action.

 

Dog Anxiety Help: How to Calm Down an Anxious Dog

by Megan Petroff, DVM (Clinical Behavior Resident) as seen in PetMD

 

For people, anxiety can feel overwhelming and debilitating at times. If you have a dog that struggles with fear, anxiety, or stress, it’s important to be supportive and patient.

Calming a frequently anxious dog is possible, but it may require collaboration between you and your veterinarian, or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.

If you have a nervous dog, here’s some insight you can use to identify the signs and triggers, and steps you can take to help calm your dog’s anxiety and improve their quality of life.

Recognize the Signs of Dog Anxiety

“Dogs use body language to communicate how they are feeling,” says Ashley Atkinson, CPDT-KA and behavior consultant at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary.

For example, if your dog seems uneasy or is fixated on licking, they could be communicating nervousness, stress, or fear. There are many subtle signs of dog anxiety.

According to Dr. Susan Konecny, RN, DVM, medical director of Best Friends Animal Society, some clinical signs include:

  • Pacing
  • Trembling
  • Shaking
  • Hypervigilance
  • Lip licking
  • Frequent yawning
  • Decreased appetite

She also says that some physiological effects of anxiety can include:

  • Increased salivation or drooling
  • Dilated pupils
  • Increased heart rate and panting
  • Skin lesions from self-trauma
  • Over-grooming

Talk With Your Veterinarian About Your Dog’s Anxiety

Once you learn how to detect when your dog is anxious, you can begin to identify the triggers that are causing the anxiety. Write down the signs that you see and describe the situations and circumstances when your dog showed these signs. Then schedule an appointment with your vet so they can rule out underlying medical issues,and help you get the right treatment for your dog.

Anytime a behavior change is noted in a pet, medical problems in other areas of the body could be at play. Your veterinarian can perform diagnostic tests to confirm that your pet is otherwise healthy.

In all cases, it’s best to seek the help of your veterinarian to make sure you are doing everything you can for your dog. When no other cause is found, your veterinarian can prescribe anxiety medication if needed, and/or recommend a veterinary behaviorist.

Board-Certified Veterinary Behaviorists

If your veterinarian thinks it’s necessary, they may refer you to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist to help your dog.

These veterinarians are specialists who have done a residency for three or more years in clinical behavior medicine, and passed a board-certification exam. Board-certified veterinary behaviorists are experts in treating fear, anxiety, and aggression in pets.

The American College of Veterinary Behaviorists has a directory on their website with the current board-certified veterinary behaviorists near you.

Tips for Calming Your Dog’s Anxiety

Your veterinarian can help create a plan for relieving your dog’s anxiety, and it may include the following steps. Some are simple actions you can try at home, and others require your veterinarian’s oversight.

Remove Triggers That Cause Your Dog’s Anxiety

If you’ve already gone to your veterinarian to rule out other illnesses, and they’ve helped identify possible stressors, then it may be as simple as removing those stressors and seeing if your dog’s anxiety lessens.

For example, if your dog is afraid of other dogs or people, you can skip the dog park. Alternatively, you can take your dog for walks when fewer people will be outside, play in a fenced yard if you have one, and play games inside the home.

Try Dog Appeasing Pheromones

Dog appeasing pheromones are synthetic pheromones similar to the calming pheromones that female dogs give off while nursing puppies.

These pheromones can help reduce anxiety in some dogs and are available in a few different forms. There are collars, sprays, and diffusers, so you can choose the best option for your dog.

Exercise With Your Dog

Exercise can help with our own anxiety, and research studies have shown that greater levels of exercise in dogs are associated with lower levels of aggression, fear, and separation anxiety.1

Create a Sanctuary Space

Some dogs get so anxious in certain situations that no amount of calming, praising, or rewarding will give them relief. “When this is the case, they need a quiet space with no stimulation where they can turn off all the input and simply unwind,” says Dr. Konecny.

This can help in many situations, such as if they are nervous:

Drowning out ambient sounds with white noise may also help them relax in their sanctuary room.

Ask Your Veterinarian About Anti-Anxiety Medications

If your dog is truly struggling with anxiety, you can talk to your veterinarian about whether anti-anxiety medications would be beneficial.

Some pet owners worry about using these medications:

  • Will it make their dog sleepy all the time?
  • Will it change their personality?
  • Will these types of medications shorten their dog’s lifespan?

When treated with the proper medications, your pet should exhibit less anxiety, seem happier, and still have the same personality. If your veterinarian isn’t sure what to prescribe, a board-certified veterinary behaviorist can help you find the best medication for your dog to help them thrive.

Try Behavior Modification

Sometimes, additional modalities are needed to treat behavior problems in pets. Behavior modification can help you change the emotional response your dog has to offending situations or triggers.

Through this cognitive therapy, your dog can learn to become less afraid of stressors and more calm. In some cases, behavior modification can help a dog to the point where they will no longer need to be on medications.

This is something a veterinary behaviorist can help you with as well.

Be Supportive

Learning and avoiding what causes your dog stress, ruling out possible underlying illnesses, and seeking professional help will all improve the quality of life for your anxious dog.

Scientific evidence has shown that stress has negative effects on health in people, and this is true in dogs as well. A 2010 study of 721 dogs concluded that, “The stress of living with a fear or anxiety disorder can have negative effects on health and lifespan in the domestic dog.”2 For this reason it’s important to be proactive to help your dog with their anxieties.

Don’t give up. The solution may not be quick or easy, but with dedication and the right professional assistance, you can help your dog be happier and healthier.

Citations

  1. Lofgren, Sarah E., et al. “Management and Personality in Labrador Retriever Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 156, 2014, pp. 44-53.
  2. Dreschel, Nancy A. “The Effects of Fear and Anxiety on Health and Lifespan in Pet Dogs.” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, vol. 125, no. 3-4, 2010, pp. 157-162.

 

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

7 Signs of Tummy Troubles in Your Pet

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Just like us, dogs can get the occasional upset stomach that makes them feel lousy. And since they can’t talk to us, often the first we know of a dog’s discomfort is when he suddenly starts vomiting. When it happens in your car, while you’re driving, it’s especially stressful for both you and your woozy furry friend.

Symptoms of Nausea in Dogs

The most common signs of upset stomach in dogs are diarrhea and vomiting. Many dogs will also eat grass given the opportunity, to either quell their nausea or induce vomiting. Other signs of an upset stomach include:1

Decrease in or loss of appetite Appearing depressed
Fatigue Gulping to combat reflux
Drinking less water Licking their lips, the air, or objects
Looking uncomfortable and stretching a lot

If your dog tends to suffer with sporadic bouts of nausea and vomiting, the first thing you should do, if you haven’t already, is make an appointment with your veterinarian. There are many disorders that have vomiting as a symptom, so it’s important to rule those out before assuming your dog’s nausea is the result of motion sickness or another relatively harmless cause.

As long as he receives a clean bill of health from your vet and your dog is bright, alert and responsive (and otherwise acting normal) your vet will probably suggest some at-home remedies to help resolve the gastrointestinal (GI) upset. Here are my favorites:

6 Natural Remedies for An Upset Stomach

1.Bone broth fast — When the GI tract is irritated or inflamed, allowing the stomach and colon to rest is a wise idea. The body can’t digest, process or assimilate food while simultaneously attempting to heal and resolve inflammation. Skipping one or both of your dog’s daily meals and replacing regular food with bone broth can provide the much-needed GI tract rest needed to quickly recover from the incident.

2.Bland diet with slippery elm — When vomiting or diarrhea is noted, resting the GI tract allows the body time to heal a bit. When it’s time to introduce food again, a bland diet is wise. My favorite is canned or steamed pumpkin and cooked turkey (click here for directions).

Adding slippery elm (“nature’s Pepto-Bismol”) helps soothe irritated bowels and can be easily mixed into a bland diet, using ½ teaspoon for every 10 pounds of body weight.

3.Activated charcoal — If your dog has diarrhea, activated charcoal (active carbon, the carbon residue derived from vegetable material) can offer at-home help. The adsorptive ability of this natural substance is a function of its massive surface area. Activated charcoal is not absorbed by the body — it stays in the GI tract binding aggravating substances and irritants, excreting them in feces.

The only time it’s not safe to use activated charcoal is when a dog is constipated or may have consumed caustic materials (in which case you should be at the veterinary ER anyway). Recommended dose is 1mg/kg twice daily of coconut charcoal for intermittent episodes of diarrhea.

4.Homeopathic remedies — By far the most popular homeopathic remedy for nausea caused by motion sickness is cocculus (Indian cockles). It can be given right before you put your dog in the car. Other remedies that are often very beneficial, depending on her particular symptoms, include Nux Vomica, Carbo Veg, China, Arsenicum Album, Argentum, and Ipecac.

When giving homeopathic remedies, try not to touch the pellets with your fingers. Instead, shake 3 of the large pellets or a ½ capful of the smaller granular pellets into the cap and try to pop them into your pet’s mouth (they taste sweet, so most dogs don’t mind). Alternatively, you can dissolve the pellets in pure water and give orally. Make sure to give remedies away from food.

5.Herbs — Catnip is a very effective herb for calming a pet with an upset stomach. I recommend using a glycerine tincture, about 12 to 20 drops for every 20 pounds of body weight. You can also combine fennel with catnip to treat your dog’s nausea.

Other herbs that help with indigestion and nausea include peppermint, chamomile, fennel, and one of my personal favorites, ginger. I recommend using fresh ground ginger or the dry herb, in the following amounts mixed into a delicious meatball or in canned pumpkin:

  • Dogs under 10 pounds — 1/8 teaspoon
  • Medium-size dogs — ¼ teaspoon
  • Large dogs — ½ teaspoon
  • Giant breeds — ¾ to 1 teaspoon

Give the ginger 1 to 3 times a day as needed, mixed into bone broth or a bland diet. If you’re using it to help with motion sickness, be sure to give it to your dog at least an hour prior to travel. Alternatively, you can add ¼ cup ginger tea per 20 pounds to food daily as needed.

6.Kefir — Some pet parents swear by the benefits of kefir to soothe their dog’s indigestion. Kefir is a fermented milk beverage that contains beneficial probiotics. Although regular, pasteurized cow’s milk can be irritating to pets’ gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, fermented milk is different.

It’s easy to convert raw milk to kefir yourself. All you need is one-half packet of kefir starter granules in a quart of raw milk (preferably organic and if possible, unpasteurized), which you leave at room temperature overnight.

You can offer the kefir once an hour over the course of 3 hours after your pet stops vomiting. Give 1 to 2 teaspoons to small dogs, 1 to 2 tablespoons for medium-sized dogs, and 2 to 4 tablespoons for large dogs. Going forward, you can add 1 to 3 teaspoons of this super probiotic to your pet’s food once or twice a day for overall improved GI defenses.

What if My Dog’s Upset Stomach Doesn’t Resolve?

It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s symptoms, and if her tummy issue doesn’t improve throughout the day or the signs worsen at any point, call your veterinarian. Be alert for:

  • Ongoing or increasing discomfort
  • More than two episodes of vomiting or diarrhea
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • A toy or other foreign object in vomit or stool
  • Weakness or collapse

Any of these can be a sign that something more serious is going on, including bloat, pancreatitis, a foreign body, a severe allergic reaction or internal parasites. If at any point your pet exhibits additional symptoms or a worsening of symptoms, it’s important to seek medical care immediately.

If you know or suspect your dog has ingested something she shouldn’t have (e.g., a toxin of some kind or a foreign object), or if the problem is bloat, it’s important to seek immediate emergency veterinary care and not wait.

In the case of a potential poisoning, you can also call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control hotline at 888-426-4435.