Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Decline

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

Veterinar­ians sometimes use the acronym DISHA to evaluate evidence of dementia in a senior dog:

• Disorientation — Is your dog walking aimlessly about the house, staring at the walls, or even losing her balance and falling? The key here is that even when she’s in her normal, familiar environment, she gets disoriented, for example, she goes out her doggy door to the backyard, and then seems to forget how to get back in. There can also be a loss of spatial awareness.

• Interactions — Is your dog interacting differently with family members or other pets in the home? This can involve sudden or increasing irritability or even aggression in a dog who’s been friendly and social all her life. It can also take the form of withdrawal from family members and the features of daily life she was once very interested in, such as a knock at the door or the appearance of her leash, meaning she’s about to get a walk.

• Sleep — Is your dog no longer sleeping through the night, or is restless or wakes frequently? Like many older people, senior dogs can experience changes in sleep patterns or even a disruption in circadian rhythms. Your dog may begin pacing at night instead of falling into a deep slumber as he once did. Some dogs even reverse their schedules entirely, doing during the daytime what they used to do at night and vice versa.

• House soiling — Is your dog no longer alerting you when he needs to go out? Is he urinating or leaking urine indoors? When a dog seemingly “loses” his housetraining, there’s no clearer evidence that something’s amiss with either his health or his cognition.

• Activity level changes — Does your dog seem restless, agitated, or anxious? Does she have a decreased appetite? You may notice she’s no longer coming to the door to greet you or loses focus and no longer responds as she once did to familiar stimuli.

Some dogs seem to forget how to get the food or water out of their bowls or forget where the bowls are located. There can also be periods of restlessness, or repetitive behaviors such as pacing in circles, head bobbing or leg shaking.

Suggestions to Help Your Older Dog Stay Mentally Sharp

1. Offer lots of opportunities for exercise, socialization, and mental stimulation — Senior and even geriatric dogs still need daily exercise to maintain good health and physical conditioning.

While older dogs can’t exercise or compete with the same intensity as their younger counterparts, they still derive tremendous benefit from regular walks — especially gentle, unhurried sniffaris — and other age-appropriate physical activity on a daily basis. There are also a variety of strengthening exercises that can be of tremendous help to aging canine bodies.

No matter how old your dog is he still needs regular social interaction with other pets and/or people. Short periods of socialization and playtime in controlled situations are ideal. Food puzzle and treat release toys provide fun and a good mental workout, as does nose work and brief training sessions to refresh his memory or teach him a new skill.

2. Schedule regular senior wellness check-ups — I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits for pets no matter the age, but this becomes even more important for dogs getting up in years. Ask your functional medicine veterinarian to perform a blood test, including an A1c test to check your pet’s internal organ and metabolic health to make sure you’re identifying possible issues early on.

Alzheimer’s is also called Type 3 Diabetes because so many patients have insulin resistance and persistent hyperglycemia. Keeping your dog’s A1c low and steady means you’re controlling for this variable. If you notice A1c rising in your senior dog, it’s time to take action. Keeping abreast of your animal companion’s internal metabolic changes as she ages is the best way to catch any disease process early.

Over-vaccinating is something older animals do not need, so advocate for your older dog by refusing additional vaccines and insisting on titer tests instead. A titer is a blood test that measures protective immunity against disease. Chances are your dog is very well-protected.

3. Feed a nutritionally optimal, species-specific fresh food diet — A species-specific, nutritionally balanced diet that is rich in healthy fats, including omega-3 fatty acids such as krill oil and others such as MCT oil, is very important for cognitive health.

The best fuel for an aging dog is a variety of living, antioxidant-rich whole foods suitable for a carnivore. Eliminate all refined carbohydrates (which are just unnecessary sugar), as well as grains, potatoes and legumes.

Calculate how much starch your dog is eating and keep it under 20%. Replace those unnecessary carbs with extra high-quality protein and healthy fats. Eliminate extruded diets (kibble) to avoid the toxic byproducts of the manufacturing process that have been linked to neurodegenerative disease.

Processed dog foods are manufactured in a way that creates byproducts that can affect cognitive health, including heterocyclic amines, acrylamides and advanced glycation end products (AGEs).

Fresh, biologically appropriate foods provide the whole food nutrients your pet’s aging brain requires. The right diet will also support the microbiome, which has been linked to improved cognitive health in humans, and I’ve seen an improvement in dogs as well.

4. Provide beneficial supplements — In dogs with CCD and older pets in general, nutraceuticals can significantly improve memory, and the effects are long-lasting. Studies of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) such as coconut oil show they can significantly improve cognitive function in older dogs.

Supplementing with MCTs is a great way to offer an instant fuel source for your dog’s brain. I recommend 1/4 teaspoon of coconut oil for every 10 pounds of body weight, added daily to food. If you use MCT oil instead of coconut oil start slowly and use less, as loose stools aren’t uncommon when beginning this supplement.

I also recommend providing a source of methyl donors, such as SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine), which can assist in detoxification and reduce inflammation. Other supplements to consider are jellyfish extracts, glutathione and resveratrol, which is Japanese knotweed. Japanese knotweed has been proven to help reduce free radical damage and beta-amyloid deposits.

Lion’s mane mushroom has some impressive research tied to improved cognition and vinpocetine has been trialed on dogs with positive results. Phosphatidylserine and ubiquinol, which is the reduced form of CoQ10, feed your dog’s mitochondria and improve cellular energy.

When it comes to general senior health supplements, I typically recommend digestive enzymes and probiotics for all older pets. I also recommend an omega-3 fatty acid supplement such as sustainably sourced krill oil (my favorite, because it’s the cleanest) or algal DHA for pets who can’t tolerate seafood. Curcumin is another supplement that benefits the brain and body.

5. Minimize stress in all aspects of your dog’s life — Fortunately, there are many things you can do to minimize anxiety and stress in your older dog.

Senior and geriatric dogs, especially those with dementia, are often disoriented, so sticking to a consistent daily routine your pet can count on can help him stay oriented, which will in turn reduce his anxiety. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day, feed him at the same times, and go for walks on a set schedule.

Keeping him at a healthy weight and physically active will help control arthritis and degenerative joint disease as he ages. Acupuncture and chiropractic care, stretching, and hydrotherapy (exercising in water) can also provide enormous benefits in keeping dogs mobile in their later years.

Regular massage can help keep your senior dog’s muscles toned and reduce the slackening that comes with aging. Massaged muscles are looser, which makes it easier for him to move around comfortably. Massage also improves circulation and encourages lymphatic drainage.

It can ease the stiffness of arthritis, which helps him maintain his normal gait and active lifestyle. Massage also loosens the muscles around joints, which helps promote ease of movement.

If your dog is having some urine dribbling or incontinence as a result of his age (and not caused by an underlying condition that should be addressed), provide him with more frequent potty trips outside. You can also reintroduce him to a crate if he was crate trained initially. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for age-related incontinence.

If your dog has problems hearing or seeing, use odor cues like pet-friendly essential oils or pheromone products to help him find his way around. Also consider purchasing or building ramps if he’s having trouble getting into the car or up on the bed or a favorite chair, and if he’s slipping or unsure on bare floors, add some runners, yoga mats or area rugs.

For sleep problems, try increasing his daytime activity level. Let him sleep in your bedroom. Sleeping near you should help ease any anxiety that may be contributing to his nighttime restlessness. Melatonin supplementation can also be beneficial.

Guide him with clear cues and easy-to-follow instructions, and when you talk to him, keep your voice quiet, calm and loving.

Can Your Dog’s Kiss Make You Sick?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

In a survey of 2,089 U.S. pet owners, more than half (52%) said they’re just fine with their dog licking, or “kissing,” their face.1 Another survey revealed that 52% of dog owners smooch their dog more than their significant others, while 61% kiss their dogs on the mouth.2

So it’s clear that many people who share their lives with dogs also share their affection with them — an understandable concept, since many regard their pet as part of the family.

From your dog’s point of view, licking your face is likely a sign of affection. Mother dogs lick their pups from the moment they’re born in order to clean them and stimulate breathing. Puppies will also lick around their mother’s mouth, which may be an instinct carried over from their wolf ancestors, which lick the mouths of adult wolves to trigger regurgitation of partially digested food.3

It’s possible, too, that your dog likes the way your skin tastes or licks your mouth because it contains some leftover food — as is often the case with children. Most likely, though, it’s a friendly gesture your dog uses to show you he loves you.

In dog packs, subordinate members often lick the dominant members to promote pack harmony, and doing so releases endorphins that promote feelings of pleasure.4 Giving your face a lick is probably an extension of this.

Can Kissing Your Dog Make You Sick?

In the majority of cases, a quick kiss from your dog is harmless and will serve to further cement your bond together. It is possible, though, that it could also expose you to bacteria or viral diseases that could, theoretically, make you sick. You may have also seen occasional cases highlighted in the media where a lick from a dog turns catastrophic.5

In Germany in 2019, a 63-year-old man died after becoming infected with capnocytophaga canimorsus bacteria. The bacteria are common in the mouths of dogs and cats, and it’s believed he was exposed when his dog licked him.

Severe and fatal infections occur more often in people with compromised immune systems, but the man in this case was previously healthy. He experienced flu-like symptoms, which progressed into severe sepsis and purpura fulminans, a condition involving blood spots, bruising and discoloration of the skin that can progress to necrosis.

“Pet owners with banal, for instance flu-like, symptoms should urgently seek medical advice when symptoms are unusual,” the researchers wrote in a case report in the European Journal of Case Reports in Internal Medicine.6 This is especially true if you’ve been bitten by your pet, even if it’s just a small nip.

In a separate case in 2019, a woman in Ohio had her hands and legs amputated due to an infection with capnocytophaga canimorsus, which she contracted from her German shepherd licking an open cut.7 According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), capnocytophaga have been detected in up to 74% of dogs, and it is a normal part of their flora.8

Another case occurred in 2018, resulting in an otherwise healthy 48-year-old losing his hands and feet due to capnocytophaga canimorsus. While doctors aren’t sure where he contracted the bacteria, they hypothesized that it was due to a dog lick.

Still, Dr. Silvia Munoz-Price, an infectious disease physician who treated the man doesn’t believe there’s cause for alarm: “I have a dog. Many people have dogs, and most of us will never have problems with infections related to our pets.”9 It’s important to understand, however, that capnocytophaga canimorsus rarely pose a risk to humans.

“[I]n the wrong place, at the wrong time, in the wrong patient … it can lead to severe infections,” Dr. Stephen Cole, a lecturer in veterinary microbiology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, told CNN, “but very, very rarely.”10 “Every time your dog licks you,” he added, “you may come into contact with this bacterium, but the vast, vast, vast majority of times, that causes absolutely no problem.”11

 

Why Dogs Respond to Their Names Better Than Cats

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM comments by Diane Weinmann
If you happen to have both a dog and a cat in the family, I’m sure you’re aware of the difference between them when you call them by name. If your canine companion isn’t focused on something more interesting (such as eating), chances are she’ll respond almost immediately when you call her because there could be food or a treat involved, a walk, a nice petting session or something equally delightful.
However, when you say your cat’s name, you probably get a distinctly different response or often, no response at all. Does my cat not recognize his name, you may wonder to yourself, or is he simply ignoring me?
Cats Prefer to Interact With Us on Their Own Terms
Not long ago, a team of university scientists in Tokyo decided to study cats’ ability to understand human voices similar to the way dogs, parrots, apes and dolphins are able to understand certain words. However, compared to those highly social species, “… cats are not so social,” observes lead study author Atsuko Saito, Ph.D., a psychologist at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “Cats interact with us when they want.1
Interestingly, learning more about simple social behaviors in cats such as name recognition may help researchers understand more about how humans became social. According to ScienceDaily:
“Both humans and cats have evolved through the process of self-domestication, where the population rewards certain traits that then become increasingly common in future generations.”2
Past research with cats has revealed they can read human gestures to find hidden food, recognize their human’s voice, and beg for food when someone looks at them and says their name.3 According to Saito, these three behaviors suggest cats may know their names.
“I think many cat owners feel that cats know their names,” Saito told ScienceNews magazine,4 but until now, there was no scientific evidence to back that up.
Cats Probably Know Their Names — Even If They Don’t Respond
The Japanese study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, involved 77 cats living in homes and cat cafes (typically tea or coffee shops where customers can interact with the many cats who live there), and four separate experiments conducted over a three-year period.5 The kitties were from 6 months to 17 years old, of both genders, mostly mixed breeds, mostly spayed or neutered, and all but one lived indoors only.
The researchers recorded their own voices and those of the cats’ owners saying five words — the first four were words that sounded similar to each cat’s name, and the fifth was the actual name. The team also evaluated whether the cats could tell the difference between their own names and those of other cats with whom they lived.
The behavior the researchers were looking for from the cats to indicate they knew their names was no response upon hearing the first four words, and head or ear movement (or rarely, moving their tails or bodies, or vocalizing) upon hearing their own names.
The researchers noted that the cats who had weak responses to similar-sounding words or the names of other cats they lived with were significantly more likely to show a strong response to their own names, even when spoken by someone other than their owner.
Cats living in homes were more likely than cafe cats to distinguish between their own names and the names of cohabitating cats, whereas cafe cats almost always reacted to their own names and those of other cats living there.
Since at cafes the cats’ names are often called together, the researchers theorize it may be more difficult for kitties to associate their own names with positive reinforcement in those environments. According to Saito, cats who didn’t respond to their names may still recognize them.
“Their lack of response may be caused by their low motivation level to interact with humans, or their feelings at the time of the experiment,” she said.6
Saito’s advice to cat parents who want to communicate more with their pets is to “… interact with your cat when she shows that she wants to interact with you.”

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Dogs Are Social; Cats Are Independent and Semi-Domesticated
Saito makes the point that unlike cats, dogs “… are literally born to respond to their names.” This is because humans have purposely bred dogs to be obedient and responsive in their interactions with us. Cats, on the other hand, are semi-domesticated. They’re about 20,000 years behind the domestication curve as compared to dogs.
Dogs have other advantages in this arena as well. They’re a social species, whereas felines are independent, preferring to spend much of their time alone. In addition, one of the first things dogs are taught is their name, and training and socializing dogs is easier because unlike most kitties, they’re motivated by treats and other types of rewards.
It wasn’t that long ago that most cats spent most or all of their time outside. Now that more and more feline family members are living indoors exclusively and spending their days and nights in close contact with humans, it’s possible their ability to interpret and respond to our verbal and physical cues will continue to develop. “Social evolution is an ongoing process,” says Saito, and cats are still evolving.
Take home message: When you call your feline family member by the name you so carefully chose for her and receive absolutely no response, make no mistake, she heard you and is simply choosing not to acknowledge you. But she’ll come around eventually, as she always does, on her terms, not yours!
It has been Diane’s experience, with the two cats that she has been blessed to own, that they do respond to their names and come when called. Now, is this because Diane is an animal communicator and was also calling to them in her head—probably, but you too can connect with your pets in your mind when you give them a command. Simply show them or visualize what you are asking them to do in your mind.

Defining Senior Age in Dogs

Reviewed and updated for accuracy on May 13, 2019 by Dr. Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, PhD as seen in PetMD

 

Our pets are family no matter their age. We love senior dogs just as much as when they were puppies, but some of us might be in denial when it comes to admitting that they’ve entered their senior years.

And it can also be confusing knowing exactly when you should call your pup a senior, especially when that range is different for different breeds and sizes of dogs.

Here’s a guide for determining when your dog is truly considered to be a senior and recognizing signs of health issues so you can adapt her care to fit her needs.

Is There a Set Range for a Senior Dog’s Age?

According to the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), the term “senior” can describe an aging pet, but the number of years a pet is considered to be “senior” varies.

Identifiers such as weight, breed and the state of their organs can also help determine if your pet has reached old age.

“Though many old guidelines talk about seven dog years being equal to one human year, the size of the dog really depends on the extent to which you can follow that rule,” says Dr. Heidi Lobprise, DVM, DAVDC, and spokesperson for the International Veterinary Senior Care Society.

For example, large dogs will typically age faster than smaller dogs. “For a dog between 20-40 pounds, these guidelines are more effective, but it’s not uncommon to see a geriatric Great Dane at age 7 or a Chihuahua in [his] 20s,” Dr. Lobprise says. 

In most cases, however, dogs can be considered senior between 5 and 10 years old.

“The terms ‘geriatric’ and ‘senior’ also differ,” Dr. Lobprise says. “While a dog may be considered senior, they’re likely still healthy or just beginning to experience signs of aging. Geriatric animals are at the older end of the aging spectrum and often experience more health-related issues.”

Signs of Aging for Senior Dogs

“There is a wide range of factors to help you recognize signs of aging in your pet—many of them similar to the signs of aging in people,” Dr. Lobprise says. Some of these factors may be more obvious, like an intolerance to exercise or limited mobility, while others are much more subtle.

Your pet’s behavior may also help indicate signs of aging. While cats don’t always show that something is wrong until their issues become more advanced, many dogs are more demonstrative and vocal with their discomfort.

Here are some things to keep an eye on:

Eating Patterns and Weight

You’ll want to monitor your dog’s eating patterns and body weight, as obesity can cause issues, including osteoarthritis and diabetes. A too-thin animal or dog that won’t eat could be having dental or stomach issues.

Sleeping Patterns and Cognitive Health

Sleeping patterns and cognitive behavior are also things to look out for. A dog that isn’t aware of his surroundings or has difficulty recognizing people may be experiencing early canine dementia.

Drinking Patterns and Urination

“A less obvious but just as important sign of aging is how much your pet is drinking and urinating,” Dr. Lobprise says. How much your pet is or isn’t drinking can be indicative of many problems, from endocrine issues to kidney disease.

Urinary incontinence in female dogs may also be a sign of trouble. It’s challenging to watch for, especially in multi-pet households, but should be monitored if possible.

Monitoring your dog’s urination and defecation on walks can be a useful tool. Even if both are normal, you may notice your senior dog being slower or more resistant to posturing.

Lumps and Bumps

Being aware of your pet’s overall body condition may also help you spot any abnormalities, like cancer.

“We’re keeping animals healthier and healthier now, and as our pet population is graying, an eventual cause of death is cancer, especially in specific breeds,” Dr. Lobprise says. “We need to be aware of lumps and bumps.”

Many dogs develop lumps and bumps while they age. Not every lump will need to be tested or removed, but keeping track of them can avoid problems. Lumps that are new, growing or are different from the other ones on your pet can indicate a problem.

Recognizing Common Diseases for Senior Dogs

“A very common and preventable disease that is prevalent in senior pets is dental disease,” Dr. Lobprise says. “While it’s not always a serious disease to have, it is one worth paying attention to and can change your dog’s demeanor if treated early and effectively.”

You can spot periodontal disease by smelling your dog’s breath and regularly checking their teeth and gums for signs of bacterial infection, such as inflammation, reddened gums and tartar.

Left untreated, dental issues can impact a dog’s heart, kidneys and the rest of the body. If dental disease is causing discomfort, it may make your dog not want to eat, which can lead to all sorts of other problems; that is why your veterinarian recommends regular dental cleanings.

Kidney and liver disease can be an issue for both cats and dogs, as can heart valve disease. Endocrine issues, including those impacting the adrenal glands and thyroid, can also affect aging dogs.

Hypothyroidism can make older dogs feel lethargic and potentially gain weight.

Unfortunately, Dr. Lobprise says, it’s more common for multiple problems to compound each other in senior pets than in younger animals.

Your pet’s cognitive function is also a common issue; are they aware of their surroundings? Do they recognize their people? There are minor, natural declines in cognition as a part of the aging process, but as it advances, it can disrupt a pet’s quality of life.

Working With Your Veterinarian

Dr. Lobprise recommends getting senior animals checked by their vets at least twice a year, complete with blood work, urine analysis and a full body examination, in addition to yearly dental cleaning, if needed.

Unfortunately, however, the AAHA reports that only 14 percent of senior animals have regular health screenings as recommended by their vets. Having just an annual exam may [allow an issue to] progress into something worse that can impact the life span of your dog,” Dr. Lobprise says.

“Whether it’s kidney disease, heart disease or cancer, the earlier something is caught, the better,” Dr. Lobprise adds.

Talk to your veterinarian about what and how much your pet is eating, as different conditions will require different dietary needs to maintain a healthy weight. Some senior pets benefit from prescription dog food diets aimed to help treat specific diseases.

You should also take into consideration their lean muscle mass and body score. Your pet could be the same weight as always, but they may be retaining fluids and losing muscle as a result of some illness. To help keep track and recognize changes in your dog’s weight, you can take photos or keep a body score chart at home.

Depression and anxiety can also be issues with older pets, so you’ll want to discuss this and any other behavior-related issues with your veterinarian. Your vet can provide you with prescription pet medication to help ease anxiety and behavior modification training tools, but you’ll also want to make sure their lives at home are as comfortable as possible.

“When looking at the senior or geriatric pet, there will be some rough days,” Dr. Lobprise says.  

As a pet parent, you can help your pets thrive in their senior years by first admitting that they are indeed seniors, taking them twice a year to the vet for a checkup, and looking out for any issues that require your vet’s immediate attention.

By: Jessica Remitz

 

Going to Foster a Dog?

By Dr. Karen Becker DVM

 

Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to bring a foster dog into your home — or you’re seriously considering it. This is an altruistic act that will change the animal’s life forever, and is key to helping the approximately 3.3 million dogs that enter U.S. animal shelters annually.1

Not only is there simply not enough room to keep every dog in need of a permanent home in a community animal shelter, but such shelters are notoriously stressful places to be. As a result, dogs don’t show their true personalities, making it harder for them to get adopted.

It’s also common for animals to become sick in shelters, and the typical animal shelter environment, with its concrete floors, kennels and chaotic environment, is so traumatic for many dogs that it brings out behavioral issues, like fearfulness or excessive barking, that may keep them from getting adopted.

Imagine, then, that a dog that would otherwise end up cowering in a corner in a shelter kennel is able to instead spend his days waiting for his forever family while cozying up on a couch, in a home, with a temporary family to show him love and get him used to the routines of a household environment. Fosterers like you make that possible.

Getting Prepared for Your Foster

Once you fill out an application to foster a dog, be aware that your new foster could arrive sooner than you expect, so it’s a good idea to get prepared right away. While the animal shelter or rescue group that you’re fostering for will typically pay for veterinary care for the animal, you’ll need to supply basics, like food, shelter and other supplies.

Not knowing the personality of the animal you’ll be fostering, it’s also smart to prepare your home for your new guest much like you would do for a human toddler coming to visit: put away all items on the floor you don’t want investigated, keep electrical cords out of reach, and close off rooms you don’t want the foster pup to have access to.

Items to have on hand include food and water bowls (preferably non-plastic), a leash and harness, a pet bed, toys, food and treats. You’ll also need poop bags and a crate or pen. If your foster has had a negative experience with the crate, time in your home is a perfect opportunity to help them reframe this experience.

Next, decide where in your home you plan to keep these items, particularly where your foster dog will sleep, eat, go to the bathroom and spend time in his crate.

The biggest part of being prepared for a foster animal is knowing that your time with your pup will vary, and you’ll be working together to develop a relationship during this time, as well as care for a dog that may come with physical and behavioral challenges that need to be positively and appropriately addressed.

According to Second Chance Rescue, based in New York, the average time a dog spends in foster care is two weeks, but some dogs get adopted in a couple of days, while others may spend a month or more in foster care.2 In addition to caring for the dog in your home, some rescue organizations will ask their foster volunteers to bring the animal to adoption events to increase their chances of being adopted.

Making Your Foster Feel at Home

As soon as you bring your foster pup home, show him where to use the potty and where he can find a safe place to rest. This will help the dog feel less anxious, as he’s just been through a number of sudden, unpleasant experiences. You’ll want to do your best to keep his first hours and days in your home as calm as possible to help him feel at ease.

According to Karen B. London, Ph.D., who co-authored the book, “Love Has No Age Limit: Welcoming an Adopted Dog into Your Home,” “For introductions, that means having him meet every person in your household one at a time in a calm way with no pressure and perhaps some treats or toys if he likes them. He should also meet other dogs, cats and any other species in your household one at a time, with a break between each introduction.”3

During this time of transition, London also advises keeping the dog on a leash when you take him outside, even if you have a fenced yard. A stressed-out dog may run away and be difficult to convince to come inside when you call him, and he may also appreciate having you nearby when he’s outside.

Helping your foster dog feel safe, secure and loved is the primary goal of foster care. While you may want to engage in some brief positive training sessions, the goal right now isn’t to teach him obedience but rather trust and acceptance.

“He may know a lot or he may not even know his name or how to sit when asked. Perhaps he is too overwhelmed to learn much right now. Keep training relaxed and low-key. Consider it a fun way to interact with him rather than a way for him to learn any particular skills,” London says, suggesting that you want your foster dog to associate you with love and attention more than anything else.4

Fostered Animals Are More Likely to Get Adopted

Fostering a dog is rewarding for those who want to make a difference in a dog’s life without making the full-time commitment to adopting. And it’s a proven fact that fostering makes an immense difference to animals, helping dogs to get adopted into permanent homes.

In a comparison of 30 dogs put into foster care and 30 dogs that stayed in a shelter for one week or more, those given foster care had significant improvements in behavior and wellbeing. Specifically, dogs in foster care were rated as being more playful, happier, friendlier and confident than the shelter dogs, as well as showing less signs of insecurity, anxiousness, barking and repetitive behaviors.5

Not only will your love help your foster find a home faster, but it will open up space in shelters and rescues so more animals can get the help they need. It’s a win-win scenario for everyone involved — and sometimes foster parents even end up falling for their foster and becoming their permanent home.

The possibility of “foster failure” is just one more part of the job to be aware of, but when it happens, it’s still a winning scenario for everyone.

 

 

3 Remedies for Upset Stomach in Dogs

Katherine Smith, DVM, CVA, CVSMT

 

 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 pancreatitis, stomach 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.

Got Dog? They go back to the Ice Age!!!!

Stunning Evidence Suggests Dogs Lived During the Ice Age

by Dr. Karen Becker

 

 

While it’s known that dogs descended from wolves to become humans’ best friends, when — and exactly how — this occurred remains a great mystery and highly debated topic. Genetic data confirms that dogs are descendants of Eurasion grey wolves, and early humans and wolves were known to share resources and territories dating back hundreds of thousands of years.

Skeletal changes suggestive of dog domestication have been discovered dating back to the Aurignacian period some 43,000 to 26,000 years ago, and by 16,000 to 12,000 BP (before present), domestic dogs were known to exist in Western Europe, Asia and North America, with purposeful burials of dogs also occurring at this time.

Still, researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science, “The beginning of this domestication process … remains a point of debate, with purported originations ranging from 15,000 to over 40,000 BP.”1

Understanding when this process occurred isn’t only a matter of satisfying curiosity — animal domestication signals a shift in humans’ relationship with nature and changes in human cognition and behavior. Uncovering when this first occurred will help researchers to also understand early Homo sapiens.

Researchers from the University of Arkansas may be one step closer to figuring out the mystery, after an analysis of Paleolithic-era teeth showed evidence of two groups of canids — “one dog-like and the other wolf-like”2 — existing at that time.

Dental Differences Suggest Dogs Emerged During Ice Age

The study involved fossils from a 28,500-year-old site known as Predmostí in the Czech Republic. A dental microwear texture analysis was performed on the ancient teeth, which identified distinctive microwear patterns on the differing canids. The dog-like canids, which the researchers called “protodogs,” had larger wear scars that suggest they ate more hard, brittle foods such as bones.

The wolf-like canids, on the other hand, had smaller scars, which could indicate they ate more flesh-based food, such as mammoth flesh. Peter Ungar, distinguished professor of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, explained in a news release:

“Our primary goal was to test whether these two morphotypes expressed notable differences in behavior, based on wear patterns … Dental microwear is a behavioral signal that can appear generations before morphological changes are established in a population, and it shows great promise in using the archaeological record to distinguish protodogs from wolves.”3

While the fossil site is believed to contain fossils from wolf-like and dog-like canids, the dental differences provide supporting evidence that the animals had distinct diets. The wolf-like canids likely feasted on flesh caught by hunting while the dog-like canids may have eaten more bones and other food scraps that came from a human settlement.

“Dental microwear is a behavioral signal that may appear generations before morphological changes are established in a population. It shows promise for distinguishing protodogs from wolves in the Pleistocene and domesticated dogs from wolves elsewhere in the archaeological record,” researchers wrote in the Journal of Archaeological Science.4

Paleolithic Dog Skulls Revealed

In 2012, researchers analyzing skull material from the same fossil site in the Czech Republic came to the conclusion that both dog and wolf skulls exist there.5

Three complete skulls were identified as belonging to ancient dogs, which were characterized by short skulls and snouts and wide palates and braincases compared to wolves. The ancient dogs had skulls shaped similar to that of a modern-day Siberian husky, but larger in size and heavier.

Three other skulls could not be identified, with researchers suggesting they could be from hybrids or captive wolves. Further, they noted that the skull and canine remains were modified by humans, which suggests a relationship existed between humans and large canids at the time.

For instance, one of the dogs had a mammoth bone in his mouth, which was believed to have been placed there after death. “The mammoth bone in the dog’s mouth could signify “that the dog was ‘fed’ to accompany the soul of the dead (animal) on its journey,” according to lead study author Mietje Germonpré.

Their conclusions, however, particularly the supposed presence of two distinct canid populations at the fossil site, were met with debate. The featured study, with its detailed dental analysis, adds further support that ancient dogs may have existed alongside wolves during the Ice Age. The researchers even made suggestions as to their respective diets:

“Isotope analysis suggests wolves and humans focused on mammoth, while dogs and lions focused on reindeer and other prey. Protodogs fed scraps would have been better able to break and consume the bones of reindeer and smaller prey compared to mammoths, and this may help explain the signal.

Alternatively, protodogs may have opportunistically scavenged off felid kills, as felids typically leave more flesh as well as marrow containing bones than do canids or hyaenids.”6

Still, even with this combined evidence, it’s possible that the two canid groups were actually different wolf populations that had developed different dietary behaviors due to increased competition or environmental changes. Further research will be necessary before the ongoing debate will be ended revealing when dogs were first domesticated.

As for why domestication occurred, it’s believed that wolves may have become integrated into human society because canids fulfilled important functions in the daily life of Paleolithic people, helping them with hunting and other work, offering protection and, just as they do today, providing a source of faithful companionship.

 

Lyme Disease in Dogs: Symptoms and Treatment

Reviewed and updated on April 14, 2020 by Rania Gollakner, DVM as seen in PetMD

Lyme disease in dogs is one of the most common tick-transmitted diseases in the world, but it only causes symptoms in 5-10% of affected dogs. So some dogs may have it, but never show symptoms.

Transmission of Lyme disease has been reported in dogs throughout the United States and Europe, but it’s most prevalent in the upper Midwestern states, the Atlantic seaboard and the Pacific coastal states.

However, the disease is spreading and becoming more common throughout the United States. Here’s some info about the causes and prevention of Lyme disease, as well as the symptoms you should look for and treatment options.

Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Dogs

Here are some common and less common symptoms and complications of Lyme disease in dogs.

Most Common Symptoms

When infection leads to Lyme disease in dogs, the dominant symptoms are:

  • Recurrent lameness due to inflammation of the joints
  • Fever1
  • General feeling of malaise

Many dogs who develop Lyme disease have periodic lameness because their joints are inflamed. Sometimes the lameness lasts for only 3-4 days but recurs days to weeks later, either in the same leg or other legs.

This is known as “shifting-leg lameness.” One or more joints may be swollen, warm, and painful.

Other Symptoms

In some cases, Lyme disease can also cause:  

  • Depression
  • Enlarged lymph nodes1
  • Lack of appetite
  • Stiff walk with an arched back
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Difficulty breathing

Kidney Damage Caused by Lyme Disease

More serious complications, although uncommon, include:

  • Damage to the kidneys
  • Rarely, heart or nervous system disease (although this is not well documented)1,2

Lyme disease sometimes leads to glomerulonephritis—the inflammation and accompanying dysfunction of the kidney’s glomeruli (a blood filter).

Eventually, kidney failure may set in as the dog begins to exhibit signs such as vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, weight loss, increased urination and thirst, and abnormal fluid buildups that can appear as swollen limbs.

How Lyme Disease Is Transmitted

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete (bacteria) of the Borrelia burgdorferi species. 

Borrelia burgdorferi is transmitted by slow-feeding, hard-shelled deer ticks (Ixodes spp.).

Infection typically occurs after the Borrelia-carrying tick has been attached to the dog for approximately 241 – 48 hours.

Diagnosing Lyme Disease in Dogs

You will need to provide a thorough history of your dog’s health to give your veterinarian clues as to which organs are being affected.

Clinical diagnosis of Lyme disease is usually confirmed with a positive blood test for Lyme along with the clinical signs associated with Lyme disease.

It’s important to note that tests can take 4-6 weeks to show up as positive after exposure, which is why veterinarians will use a combination of diagnostics to diagnose your dog: 

  • Blood chemistry tests
  • Complete blood cell count
  • Urinalysis
  • Fecal examination
  • X-rays and tests specific to diagnosing Lyme disease (e.g., serology)
  • Fluid from the affected joints may also be drawn for analysis

Arthritis Caused by Lyme Disease

There are many causes for arthritis, and your veterinarian will focus on differentiating arthritis initiated by Lyme disease from other inflammatory arthritic disorders, such as trauma and degenerative joint disease.

Immune-mediated diseases will also be considered as a possible cause of the symptoms. X-rays of the painful joints will allow your doctor to examine the bones for abnormalities.

Treating Dog Lyme Disease

If the diagnosis is Lyme disease, your dog will be treated as an outpatient unless their condition is unstable (e.g., severe kidney disease). Doxycycline is the most common antibiotic that is prescribed for Lyme disease, but other antibiotics are also effective.  

Treatment usually takes at least 4 weeks, and longer courses may be necessary in some cases. Your veterinarian may also prescribe an anti-inflammatory if your dog is especially uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, antibiotic treatment does not always completely eliminate the infection from Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Symptoms may resolve but then return at a later date, and the development of kidney disease in the future is always a concern.

Administering the antibiotics properly to your dog reduces the likelihood of chronic consequences.

Improvement in sudden (acute) inflammation of the joints caused by Borrelia should be seen after 3-5 days of antibiotic treatment. If there is no improvement within 3-5 days, your veterinarian will want to reevaluate your dog.

Preventing Lyme Disease in Dogs

If possible, keep your dog away from tick-infested environments where Lyme disease is common.

Check your dog’s coat and skin daily to make sure you find any ticks hiding on your pet, and remove ticks by hand.

The most effective way to prevent Lyme disease and protect pets from other tick-borne diseases is to use flea and tick prevention.

Your veterinarian can prescribe a variety of prescription flea and tick options, including collars, topical solutions, and tablets and chews that kill and repel ticks. These products should be used under a veterinarian’s supervision and according to the label’s directions.

If you live in an area where ticks are abundant, Lyme vaccines are available. However, not all dogs are a good candidate for the vaccine. Talk to your veterinarian to see if the Lyme vaccination is right for your dog.

References:

1.        Lyme Disease. Companion Animal Parasite Council. https://capcvet.org/guidelines/lyme-disease/.

2.        Littman MP, Gerber B, Goldstein RE, Anna M, Michael L, George RL. ACVIM consensus update on Lyme borreliosis in dogs and cats. J Vet Intern Med. 2018;(January):887-903. doi:10.1111/jvim.15085

 

Estrogen’s Effect on Tumors You Really Can Help Control

 

 

By Dr. Karen Becker

It’s generally accepted as fact that female dogs spayed at a young age have a reduced risk of developing mammary tumors — the equivalent of breast cancer in humans.

However, it’s certainly worth noting that the results of a 2012 study — a systematic review conducted by veterinary researchers in the U.K. — did not validate the theory that early spaying protects female dogs from mammary neoplasia.1

Unfortunately, this study, and the questions it raises, has received very little attention, but does highlight what emerging research is now discovering: canine mammary tumors have hormone interplays potentially as complex as human mammary cancers.

New Study Raises Questions About Spaying and Mammary Cancer

Since spaying involves the removal of the ovaries, it also removes most of the body’s ability to produce estrogen. For this reason, estrogen is widely assumed to play a role in the development of canine mammary tumors. But a new study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine suggests the effects of estrogen on cancer risk in dogs aren’t as clear-cut as originally thought.2

Interestingly, the study found that while spaying reduces dogs’ risk of developing mammary cancer, it may increase the risk of more aggressive cancers. In addition, the researchers discovered that in spayed dogs with mammary tumors, higher serum estrogen levels were actually protective in terms of delayed metastasis and improved survival times.

“Dogs that remain intact and have their ovaries develop many more mammary tumors than dogs that were spayed, so removing that source of estrogen does have a protective effect,” says Karin U. Sorenmo, a veterinary oncologist at Penn Vet and senior author on the study, in a Penn Today news release.

“Estrogen does seem to drive mammary cancer development. But what it does for progression to metastasis — that I think is more complicated.”3

Estrogen May Play Opposing Roles in Cancer

For the study, the Penn Vet research team evaluated 159 dogs with mammary cancer, 130 who were spayed for purposes of the study, and 29 who were left intact. The researchers removed the dogs’ tumors and gathered data on serum estrogen levels, tumor type, disease grade and stage, time to metastasis, and survival time.

They discovered that despite the link between estrogen and an elevated risk of developing mammary tumors, higher estrogen levels seemed to also help prevent some of the most dangerous aspects of the cancer. From the Penn Today news release:

“Unexpectedly, when dogs were spayed at the same time their tumors were removed, those with estrogen receptor-positive tumors that had higher serum estrogen took longer to develop metastatic disease and survived longer than dogs with lower estrogen levels, confirming that these tumors depended on estrogen for progression.”

Sorenmo’s theory is that in these instances, the effect of estrogen may be nuanced. “It drives the cancer, but it also seems to control or modulate it, reining it in,” she says, because most of the dogs with high estrogen levels had lower-grade and estrogen receptor-positive tumors, which made them susceptible to hormonal deprivation by spaying.

The researchers noted that the protective effect of estrogen was also pronounced in dogs with estrogen-receptor negative mammary tumors. These are higher risk cancers, and high estrogen levels were associated with delayed metastasis, or the absence of metastasis.

Additionally, after mammary tumor surgery, dogs with low estrogen levels had a significantly increased risk for other aggressive, fatal tumors that were not mammary related, such as hemangiosarcoma.

As Sorenmo notes, some of the findings in women with breast cancer are also contradictory. For example, while higher serum estrogen levels in survivors of breast cancer are linked to higher recurrence rates, many breast cancers develop immediately following menopause, when estrogen levels plummet. So, it’s possible estrogen plays a more complex role in human cancer risk as well.

“I think this study opens some really complicated questions,” Sorenmo says. “If we start dissecting exactly what estrogen is doing, what genes or immune cells it’s interacting with, maybe we could harness the power of estrogen to be more clever in our treatment strategies.”

 

Metabolization of Estrogen Is Key in Preventing Certain Cancers

In order to address why dogs develop mammary tumors, we must identify why their immune systems failed and allowed cancer cells to proliferate. It’s also critical to evaluate the estrogen-mimicking chemical load in their environment.

Even animals no longer producing their own estrogen after being spayed or neutered can be exposed to overwhelming amounts of xenoestrogens (estrogen mimicking chemicals) in the environment. I’ve seen many patients over the years with wildly unbalanced endocrine systems, including male dogs with estrogen levels higher than what is normal for intact females.

When I find mammary tumors in a dog, I immediately measure the sex hormone levels. If estrogen is elevated in desexed animals, after removing the tumors I institute a protocol including DIM (diindolymethane) and high-lignan flax hulls, which may help to naturally reduce estrogen levels.4

DIM and flax hulls (not flaxseeds or flaxseed oil) have been shown to promote beneficial estrogen metabolism in both males and females. The body’s ability to effectively metabolize estrogen is an important component in the prevention of certain cancers, in particular breast cancer.5

Dietary adjustments, including the elimination of all estrogenic foods (e.g., soy and yams) and highly processed foods created via the extrusion process (kibble) is important because the manufacture of kibble creates carcinogenic byproducts.

Feeding a fresh, ketogenic, high-fat, no-carb (starch-free), nutritionally balanced and species-appropriate diet is also part of the protocol, along with beneficial immune-support supplements.

Thankfully there are a growing number of integrative veterinary oncologists popping up around the globe who can work with veterinary surgeons and local integrative veterinarians to customize treatment plans to achieve maximum benefits with the fewest possible side effects.

Sources of Xenoestrogens

In my opinion, exposure to xenoestrogens — chemicals that mimic the hormone estrogen —plays a significant role in elevated estrogen levels in dogs. Examples of xenoestrogens include:

Atrazine (weed killer) Heptachlor (restricted insecticide)
4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (found in sunscreen lotions) Lindane, hexachlorocyclohexane (restricted insecticide)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) (food preservative) Methoxychlor (banned insecticide in U.S.)
Bisphenol A (used to make plastics) Nonylphenol and derivatives (laboratory detergents; pesticides)
Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDT) Pentachlorophenol (restricted biocide in U.S.; wood preservative)
Dieldrin (banned insecticide) Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
DDT (banned insecticide in the U.S. but not other countries) Parabens (lotions)
Endosulfan (banned insecticide in U.S.) Phthalates (used to make plastics)
Erythrosine (FD&C Red No. 3) DEHP (found in PVC)
Ethinylestradiol (oral contraceptive) Propyl gallate (used to preserve oils and fats)

The problem with this list is that these chemicals often aren’t plainly labeled as such in many products found around the house. For instance, plug-ins, car fresheners, scented candles, room sprays and gel air fresheners are loaded with chemicals on this list, but manufacturers aren’t required to list them on product labels.

Endocrine disrupters, which damage your dog’s hormonal axis, including estrogen balance, are also found on many fabrics treated with flame-retardant chemicals (dog beds, carpets, couches, draperies).

Another endocrine disruptor is BPA, which is found in the lining of canned dog food containers and plastic food and water bowls, not to mention cleaning supplies that instruct you to call poison control if ingested. Always remember that any product used in your house has the potential to end up inside your pet.

It’s also important to keep in mind that pesticides and chemicals banned in the U.S. still show up on and in products imported from other countries.

12 Ways to Reduce Your Pet’s Exposure to Xenoestrogens

To reduce your dog’s exposure to these estrogen-mimicking compounds, and thereby potentially lower the risk of mammary cancer:

  1. Use stainless steel, glass, or ceramic food and water bowls
  2. Avoid plastic storage containers for pet food or water
  3. Don’t microwave pet food in plastic containers
  4. Don’t use nonstick cookware if you cook food for your pet
  5. Avoid using cling wrap that contains DEHA
  6. Avoid pet foods containing soy, the preservatives BHA and BHT, and the food dye FD&C Red No. #3
  7. Use natural pest control around your home and yard
  8. Use alternatives to chemical flea/tick repellents
  9. Use all-natural, nontoxic cleaning supplies inside your home
  10. Buy organic dog beds
  11. Remove fluoride and chlorine from drinking water
  12. Don’t buy canned food unless it’s labeled BPA-free

 

 

Can your Dog smell Fear?

As seen in PetMD By: Dr. Sarah Wooten

Have you ever noticed that when you are feeling fearful, your dog becomes more attentive and clingy?

Have you also noticed that your dog may behave differently around people who like dogs versus people who are afraid of dogs?

Dogs have an incredible sense of smell, but can they smell fear? And if so, how?

Is It True That Dogs Can Smell Fear?

The science is in, and the answer is a resounding YES—dogs can smell fear. Dogs have olfactory superpowers that can detect a human’s emotional state by the scent that a human emits. That’s right—you can’t hide fear from dogs. They’ve got your number!

Until recently, the idea that dogs can smell fear was only a theory, but a study called “Interspecies transmission of emotional information via chemosignals: from humans to dogs” actually proves that dogs (or at least Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers) can smell human emotions and respond accordingly.

When a person gets scared, their sweat glands will start secreting moisture, especially in the armpits. This sweat contains chemical signals that dogs can pick up on.

Can Dogs Smell the Difference Between Fear and Happiness?

Researchers correctly postulated that dogs would respond differently to human odors that were emitted under different emotional states—namely, fear and happiness.

In the study, dogs were exposed to three stimuli—their owner, a stranger (the control) and an odor dispenser. Dogs were assigned to different odor conditions randomly.

They collected odors from humans in three different emotional states: fearful, happy and neutral (no sweat). The odors were collected from the armpits of random male donors who were not otherwise involved in the experiment procedures.

The dogs were then observed for responses, including behaviors directed at the three targets, stress behaviors and heart rate. Researchers found that when the dogs were exposed to “happy odors,” they interacted more with the stranger and had lower heart rates.

In contrast, when the dogs were exposed to the “fear odor,” they displayed more stress behaviors and had higher heart rates associated with the fight, flight or freeze response—a  bodily response of the autonomic nervous system that is essential for adaptation and survival.

The dogs also sought more reassurance from their owners and interacted with the stranger less than the dogs that were exposed to the “happy odor.”

Researchers concluded that chemosignals—odors that we emit in response to our emotional state—communicate across species to dogs. So, if we are scared, they can smell it and get scared, too.

What Your Dog’s Senses Can Tell You About Your Own Emotions

Dogs can help us recognize our own emotional states. Many people who have chronic anxiety may not even be aware that they are walking around in fight, flight or freeze mode.

A dog that’s in tune with how you exhibit stress or fear can help signal the onset of these emotions and help you better work through feelings of anxiety.

It’s also important to acknowledge that dogs can feed off of your energy. So, try to temper your mindset throughout tense situations—say, like at your next vet visit—to help keep your pet more at ease.

Your mental health and that of your pet are both important. If you take note of how your dog is behaving, you might learn more about your own mood and mental state than expected.