“Clip a Claw, Get a Cookie!”

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Let’s assume you didn’t know that most dogs prefer not to have their paws touched and need to be gently acclimated to paw handling from puppyhood. Or your dog entered your life as an adult who had never had his paws touched and freaks out if you even mention touching his paws.

Either way, you’ve got a dilemma: how to trim his claws and care for his paws when he prefers that you do neither. Enter my solution: “Clip a Claw, Get a Cookie!”

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Digging Up Good Information on the Healthiest Dog Diet: Part 2

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After reading a whole lot about the raw diet (see Part 1), and considering it for many years, it was actually visiting Darwin’s Natural Pet Products in Seattle that Read more

Digging up Good Information on the Healthiest Dog Diet: Part 1

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If you are a dog parent, chances are you already know what goes into poor quality dog food (if you aren’t up to date on this, a good place to start is Ann N. Martin’s industry-changing book, Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food). So we all try to do our best and buy good quality food. But what exactly constitutes ‘good quality food?’ Read more

Just How Hot Does it Get Inside Your Car?

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I hate Summer. Maybe because I was born in January? I hate feeling overheated all the time. I even hate summer clothes. And I hate the fact that summer means my dogs can’t come with me for rides in the car as often due to the baking hot sun.

The Too Hot for Spot car thermometer

When the temps hit 70 and above, taking your dog with you in the car can be risky at best, deadly at worst. If you haven’t encountered statistics on how dangerous it is to leave your dog in a parked car in the summer sun (or anytime of year when the temps are over 70 degrees), you must be truly tuned out. But even though most people know the risks, it can be tempting to leave your pup in the car “just for a second” while you run into a store. That’s when trouble can happen.

I recently discovered one of the truly most ingenious, life-saving and valuable products for pets ever created. It’s called Too Hot for Spot and it’s a simple, static cling thermometer that you can attach to a window inside your car. It measures the temp inside your car, and is visible from outside the car. That means that before you even get inside your car, you can see exactly how much the temperatures inside resemble an oven!  There are illustrations on the device that show you what is a safe temp range and what temperatures become very dangerous (both at the high end and the low end). AND…people walking by can see the temps, too. Talk about spreading awareness! Bravo and a huge thank you to the inventor of Too Hot for Spot. No car-driving, canine companion family should ever be without one.

A Healthy, Made in USA Chicken Treat, and Staying Aware of Pet Food Recalls

In today’s email from Daily Kibble, we were introduced to a company here in the US that makes, from start to finish, chicken jerky treats for dogs. Kona’s Chips were created by Kona’s mom after Kona became ill from chicken jerky treats that were made in China. If you take a look at most chicken jerky treats, you’ll see “Made in China” on the label. While some companies claim they monitor the manufacturing facility for quality, the fact remains that chicken jerky treats “Made in China” have been causing illness in dogs for the past couple of years.

How does one stay on top of pet food safety alerts and recalls? Thanks to Kona’s website, we discovered a trusted and complete source of recall information. The American Veterinary Medical Association maintains a page on their website of all recalls, and it appears to be kept up to date. Here’s the link. You can also follow them on Twitter.

And we look forward to receiving our sample order of Kona’s Chips, knowing they are safe and made from USDA inspected chicken.

Family Visits… and Emergency Vet Visits

Chocolate truffles

We all know that chocolate is deadly for dogs. And we do our best to keep it safely away from our pets. But during the holidays, when family and friends are visiting, it can be more difficult to make sure that the sweet stuff stays away from our pooches.

Family members were visiting this past week, and unbeknownst to us, left a small bag of rich, dark chocolate truffles (from Kakawa Chocolate House in Santa Fe) on a table in the living room. We were out for two hours, and returned to find remnants of a chewed paper bag and a little paper truffle cup on the floor—the truffles were long gone. Although we have three dogs, only the little one jumps up on that table. I raced from dog to dog, opening their muzzles and putting my nose inside their mouths, checking for the telltale smell of chocolate. But given how quickly the chocolate must have been consumed, it was hard to smell any on their breath.

We called the emergency veterinary hospital and rushed in with all three fur children. Our little dog was seen first, and the contents of her stomach revealed that she had, indeed, eaten most or all of the chocolate.  Her big brothers were grateful they didn’t have to have their stomachs pumped! After about an hour, she was given activated charcoal to help absorb any remaining caffeine and theobromine in her system.

But this isn’t the end of the care necessary for chocolate consumption. We learned that the toxic effects of chocolate remain in a dog’s system for four days. The caffeine and theobromine affect three systems: the nervous system, where they can cause tremors, seizure, and death; the cardiac system, where they can cause lethally fast heart rates; and the digestive system, where they can cause vomiting and diarrhea. For the next four days, we had to watch little Lucia closely for a fast heart beat or tremors, and limit her activity to rest and outside only for potty.

While all chocolate is deadly, the heart of what makes it so is the caffeine and theobromine. Both are stimulants, diuretics and are especially potent in dogs. There are three variables that veterinarians use to determine the degree of danger: the darkness of the chocolate (the darker the chocolate, the worse it is for dogs), how recently the chocolate was eaten (the sooner it can be purged from their stomach, the better), and the size of the dog (the smaller the dog, the more potent the effects).

If your dog ever consumes chocolate, contact your emergency veterinarian as soon as possible. They’ll review the situation with you and help determine if your dog needs to be seen. Had we not taken action as quickly as we did, our little dog could have died. Makes us wonder if it’s even worth it to have chocolate in the house at all…

Fish Oil A Day Keeps the Veterinarian Away

ChoCho says, "Deelish!"

Okay, well, not really. Your dog still needs regular visits to her veterinarian! But the benefits of adding fish oil —especially salmon oil— to your dog’s daily diet are too numerous to ignore.

I first heard about the benefits of fish oil from Dr. Andrew Weil. If you don’t already know him, he’s pretty much the father of Integrative Medicine in the United States. As a young, Harvard-trained MD, his travels lead him to realize that a holistic approach to medicine yielded better results. Hence, the birth of integrative medicine, a healing-oriented medicine that not only looks at the whole person (mind, body, spirit) but also looks at all therapies (Western, Eastern, modern, traditional) to find the appropriate course of action. Dr. Weil’s famous books include “Spontaneous Healing,” “8 Weeks to Optimum Health,” and one of my favorite cookbooks, “The Healthy Kitchen.”

To sum up, fish oil has been found to help (dogs, cats, and people) with conditions such as kidney disease, arthritis, and high cholesterol, as well as skin and allergy conditions (due to its anti-inflammatory properties). Here’s a detailed blog post from Dr. Weil about all the benefits of fish oil for dogs.

At a visit to an orthopedic veterinarian a few years ago, the doctor told me how new studies were showing great results for its use in dogs with arthritis (again, due to anti-inflammatory properties). To get really detailed, I found this recent explanation (also from Dr. Weil’s website) on exactly how it works.
(Our bodies convert the DHA in fish oil to something called “resolvin D2,” which is a proven factor in blocking inflammation).

So for all these reasons, fish oil can be a great supplement to add to your dog’s diet every day. Are my dogs’ beautiful coats the result of fish oil? I would bet that they are, to a great extent. And everything we can do to stave off the wearing down of bone and cartilage is well worth it.

There are plenty of great sources for fish oil supplements for dogs, and you can certainly use human fish oil supplements for them, too (just make sure you are giving them the appropriate amount—check with your veterinarian). We (and our dogs) love Alaskan Bear Treats Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil. It comes in a pump bottle which makes it easy to dispense the right amount. The only downer is when you get towards the bottom of the bottle and the pump no longer reaches the oil. Then, it’s time to open the bottle and pour out the correct measured amount (I use a teaspoon). If they would only make that tube a little longer!

Thankfully, dogs don’t seem to have the same issue we do with many fish oil products– ie. the taste repeating on you throughout the day (yuck!). And it doesn’t give them fishy breath. But it sure seems to pass the taste test with them!

A Happy Tail That Isn’t So Happy

As I write this, I’m being lavished with kisses from a sweet Pittie boy named Kenya. I’m babysitting him while his Dog Mom, my friend Robin, is out of town. Like most Pit Bulls, he is a lovable and voracious kisser, and an exuberant, happy, friendly dog. As a matter of fact, I’ve nicknamed him “Wigglybum” for obvious reasons.

Kenya (aka Wigglybum) giving a sweet smile.

Unfortunately, his tail suffers for all that joy. His tail wags so forcefully when he’s happy and excited that it gets painfully injured around the house. His tail is a strong one, and not covered in a thick, protective fur coat. So as it slams against kitchen cabinets, table legs and even walls, it gets injured.

Robin recently took him to the vet who diagnosed the problem as “Happy Tail Syndrome.” The worst case scenario is a tail amputation, but in most cases, thankfully, that’s not necessary. The tail must be cared for and protected to allow it to heal. I found a great discussion of exactly how to wrap and care for the injured tail at a Greyhound Pets forum. And prevention is always a good idea, too.

Here are some suggestions for help in preventing those happy tails from getting injured:

1. Tone down the excitement. Most dogs tend to get most excited in certain predictable situations: when you arrive, when they are about to head out for a walk, etc. When I arrive at Kenya’s house, I’ve learned to be very quiet and low key. This results in him being more subdued. This is especially important because his front door opens in to a hallway with walls on both sides—ouch! By essentially ignoring him until we get to the living room, which is a wider space with soft cushiony furniture, his tail wags a little less (and is less in danger of getting hurt).

Same thing when we go for a walk. By doing a few laps around the living room before we head out, that initial burst of energy and excitement can dissipate, allowing for a calmer exit and even a calmer mood on our walks!

When you tone down your comings and goings, not only will you be helping to prevent tail injuries, but you’ll also be helping to prevent separation anxiety and teaching your dog calmer manners for when you and your guests arrive. It’s a win-win situation.

2. If you’re in an enclosed area, and your pup is excitedly wagging, you can always use a “Sit” to help him calm down, too. Tails can still wag when dogs are sitting, but it’s less likely they will injure themselves while the tail is only brushing against the floor.

3. Good nutrition can always help. While not all dogs have thick furry tails, by feeding a healthy diet with adequate essential fatty acids (more about salmon oil in my next post), you’ll be doing all you can to encourage healthy skin and coat. And better healing when injuries do occur.

Happy Tails!

Brake-Fast Pet Dish May Help Reduce the Risk of Bloat

Meet Whiskey. A sweet, smart, loving and happy-go-lucky dog. He was about six months old when we adopted him, and we were swept up by his joyful energy.

Whiskey dog standing on rock

Young Whiskey, happy to be on a walk in the mountains

Unfortunately, he was swept up by his joy of eating. We watched in amazement as he devoured his food in seconds. “This can’t be good,” we agreed. Our elderly Chow, Audrey, has Bloated more times than we or our vets can believe. Unfortunately, we’ve become amateur experts on the deadly condition known as “Bloat” (aka Gastric Torsion or Gastric Dilation).

Simply put, Bloat is a painful and potentially life-threatening condition in which the stomach twists and does not empty but continues to digest, releasing gas in the process, which cannot escape. The dog’s stomach increases in size, bloating like a basketball, filling with air. If veterinary help is not sought immediately, the dog will die (and quite painfully).

While the causes of Bloat are still unknown, the advice we received from our veterinarians to try to prevent this disorder included not exercising right before or after meals, feeding two or more small meals throughout the day, rather than one large meal, adding a bit of liquid to a dry kibble diet, and discouraging the dog from eating too quickly. While the genetic factors that make a dog prone to a greater risk of Bloat are out of our control, at least we can make dietary modifications to help lower the risk.

Now, as we watched Whiskey inhale his food, we knew we had to do something. Nothing that I tried seemed to work. I fed him by hand, but this only seemed to make him more ravenous and eager to get to the food I was too-slowly doling out. He was already on a twice-a-day feeding schedule, and I always mix some healthy canned food in with his healthy dry.

I tried putting a tennis ball into his bowl, but this just made a mess, didn’t slow him down, and didn’t seem very sanitary.

On the verge of giving up, I happened to visit a pet boutique in Santa Fe. There on display, I saw the Brake-Fast bowl. It had the unusual shape of a plastic bowl with three plastic humps in the middle. “Speed bumps!” I told my husband. I figured it was worth a try, and brought it home, eager to see what Whiskey thought.

Whiskey eating from his Brake-Fast bowl

Whiskey eating more slowly from his Brake-Fast bowl

That night, the food went into the bowl, I placed it down in front of Whiskey, and watched in amazement as he ate his dinner. No wolfing occurred. Instead, he carefully ate all around the bowl, managing to get every drop, in about four times the amount of time it took him prior to the Brake-Fast bowl. It was incredible! Those ‘speed bumps’ really slowed him down.

We were thrilled, and Whiskey seemed very happy with the process (and his new dinnerware).

To anyone who has experienced the anguish of a pet with bloat, you can appreciate the importance of doing anything you can to try to prevent it. The Brake-Fast bowl is great design that truly slows your dog’s eating rate.

At DogParent, we highly recommend the Brake-Fast bowl. It comes in three sizes, depending on the size of your dog. And you can read more about Bloat here.