Category Archives: canidae

Megaesophagus in Dogs

bailey chairBy Langley Cornwell

There was an adorable photo circulating on social media that featured a dog sitting in a high-chair eating a meal. The image was endearing but it piqued my curiosity. Were the dog’s owners anthropomorphizing their pup? Was the customized high-chair an attempt at being cute, or did the chair serve a purpose? I had to find out.

It turns out the dog has a condition called Megaesophagus, also referred to as ME or Mega E. Dogs with this condition must eat in an upright position, almost like he’s begging, hence the high-chair image.

Megaesophagus can affect dogs, cats, and humans, and occurs when the muscles of the esophagus lose tone and becomes inflated to the point where the animal or person can’t get food to go down their throat and into their stomach. As a result, the food just sits in the esophagus tube until it is regurgitated.

Megaesophagus can be a congenital defect or acquired as an adult. Any dog breed can develop this condition, but some are more susceptible than others. Dachshunds, Shar Pei, Miniature Schnauzers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Newfoundlands and Great Danes seem to be at a higher risk.

Symptoms of Megaesophagus

Regurgitation is the primary symptom of Megaesophagus, and the easiest to detect, obviously. Another symptom that is fairly easy to notice is weight loss. If your dog suddenly begins losing weight and you don’t know why, pay close attention to his eating habits. Because the dog’s food is not making it into his stomach, the food is not digested so none of the nutrients are assimilated. As such, your pet’s weight loss is likely combined with malnourishment.

Bailey chairs 3Aspiration pneumonia is a common complication of Megaesophagus, and it’s the most serious. Because your dog’s food sits in his esophagus, it can migrate into his lungs and cause pneumonia.

Care and Treatments

At this time, there are no medical cures for Megaesophagus. The answer to a long and relatively normal life and a good quality of life is lifestyle management.

The main consideration is what and how your dog will eat. You must find a nutritious and healthy dog food that works for your dog, like CANIDAE Pure Elements. Feed him small, frequent meals instead of one large daily meal.

High-chairs made for this condition are called Bailey Chairs, and they work because gravity helps pull the dog food through the dog’s esophagus and into his stomach.

Dog owners Joe and Donna Koch designed the first high-chair for Megaesophagus-inflicted dogs. They named it the Bailey Chair after their dog, who had Megaesophagus. These days, there are a wide variety of Bailey Chairs available. There is even a DIY kit available for you industrious types.

There are other options for feeding a dog with Megaesophagus. Some people Bailey chair 2pad a small wastepaper basket and turn it into a comfortable seat for their dog to eat from.

It will take some experimentation to figure out what works best for you and your dog. Whatever you settle on, it’s important to keep your dog in the upright position for at least 10 minutes after every meal so gravity has time to do its thing.

Megaesophagus Support Groups

A quick Megaesophagus search on Facebook delivered five active results. There is a general page dedicated to the condition and there are two support groups; Canine Megaesophagus Support Group (3200 members), Feline Megaesophagus and Upright Canine Brigade, Megaesophagus Awareness and Support (599 members). There is also a great website, Canine Megaesophagus Info, which offers a wealth of ME information in addition to support and awareness.

Members of these support groups share beautiful testimonials along with tips and tricks for establishing a thriving routine with a Megaesophagus dog. From what I’ve learned, a few adjustments in your lifestyle will allow your dog to have a long, happy, healthy life.

Photos courtesy of Susan Sanchez /Bailey Chairs 4 Dogs

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How Did You Pick Your Pet’s Name?

jabbersBy Linda Cole

Picking a name for a pet is a ritual all pet owners go through. Sometimes a name is chosen based on the pet’s personality, or a name suddenly pops into your mind. Famous people, pop culture, cartoon characters and sports figures often have an influence in picking a name. Ultimately, it’s a personal preference when it comes to the psychology behind picking a name for a pet.

One of my cats, Jabbers, got his name because as a kitten he was constantly talking to me. He has lived up to his name and continues to jabber for his CANIDAE cat treats, or when he feels a need to correct one of the dogs and also whenever I call his name. We’ve had some interesting conversations over the years. I just wish I knew what he was really saying to me.

I was curious about how my neighbors and friends picked their pet’s name, so I asked some of them to share their story. Here are a few:

pet names wolfy“Our dog, Wolfy, is a toy Yorkshire Terrier. He has extremely large ears for a Yorkie, so when I sent his picture as a little three month old pup to my boyfriend, he came back with the name Wolf because of ‘my what big ears you have.’ Not named for viciousness, just for big ears. We also have a 17 year old tabby cat. When we first got him, we were told he was a girl, but a week later discovered he was a boy. We named him Carrot because he was very orange.” – Kali Armstrong and Buck Lia

“We named a kitten we rescued from a dumpster Minnie because she was very tiny when we found her. She was only 5 weeks old. We also like Minnie Mouse and Minnie Riperton. She was like both of them rolled into one with her personality, so we thought it was very fitting.” – April Paul

“I found my cat in a garbage bin looking for food. I remembered my last cat and how harsh consonants grab her attention. All of a sudden while looking at her, Kiya popped into my head.” – Shan-Lyn

pet names milou and sherlock“Our dogs are Milou, a Shilo Shepherd, and Sherlock, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. We seem to name all of our animals after literary characters. Milou comes from the French Tintin comic books. We also have a black and white cat named Watson, and a black cat named Hobbs, who (naturally) had a brother named Calvin.” – Sandra Caldwell

“Mickey got his name because his tiny kitten meow was more of a squeak, like a mouse. I chose the name Rocky for my other boy because although he was in bad shape when I rescued him, I could just tell he had a fighting spirit. I decided to name my other rescue kitty Annabelle because she was essentially an orphan, like Little Orphan Annie from the comics.” – Julia Williams

“We named one of our dogs Big Al because we are huge Alabama football fans and the team mascot is an elephant called Big Al. Our Big Al is a three year old rescue dog, a mixed breed from the bully breed family. He was in pretty bad shape when we got him. He had heart worms, a collapsed trachea and other things, but now he’s as fit as can be.” – Langley Cornwell

“Gunner and Eva are three year old German Shepherd siblings. The first time we saw Gunner, half of his body was in the food bag. When he would come out of his crate it was like a shotgun blast – especially during feeding time – so that’s how he bepet names Gunner and Evacame Gunner. For my other dog Eva, I was looking at a picture of Eva Longoria and I thought they had the same big brown eyes. Eva is so beautiful, but she’s very feminine and I just thought she needed an older name like from the 1940s. It’s sweet, it’s beautiful and has pizazz. We also have three rescued cats. Lucky was found by my son in a junkyard. She was really lucky he found her. Now she sleeps all day, and eats, and is very particular (she only likes to drink bottled water). Max got his name from Mad Max and the Thunderdome, because when he was a kitten his favorite thing to do was to run across the room and throw himself against the wall, and then lie down. He’s crazy! Roy is named after a character in the TV series Arrow. The character is sort of an underling who messes with the main character, so Roy got his name because he likes to mess with Mad Max.” – Michelle Allen

What’s your story? How did you pick your pet’s name?

Photos by Linda Cole
Top to bottom: Jabbers, Wolfy; Milou & Sherlock; Gunner & Eva

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The Benefits of Anxiety Shirts for Dogs

By Laurie Darroch

Known as anxiety shirts or the name brand variety the ThunderShirt, this simple piece of attire has a very unique function that is both clever and surprising.

I had never seen one of these shirts used until I stayed with a friend who has a somewhat nervous dog that often reacted to too much noise and excitement. I was a doubter. I didn’t see how simply putting a ThunderShirt on a dog could make any difference or help her with her stress, but I was wrong. It did help, and I saw the results within minutes. She actually seems to enjoy wearing it, too.

How They Work

If you’ve ever noticed the contentment and security your dog gets cuddling against you or being close to you, you will have a sense of what an anxiety shirt does for your dog. When a dog is scared, they need to feel secure, safe and connected to help them deal with what is troubling them. Emotion and fear can overwhelm a dog that is under duress.

An anxiety shirt wraps the dog in a pressured jacket that surrounds their body and gives them what is basically a constant hug to keep them calm and reassure them.  The shirt not only helps with the various causes of stress, it provides an alternate method of helping your dog when she needs it.
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Are You Missing Teachable Moments with Your Dog?

By Linda Cole

It’s always easier to see what someone does wrong and miss what they do right. The same is true when it comes to dogs. We train canines so they can learn how we expect them to behave, but so often we miss teachable moments that can reinforce and enhance what we want our dogs to learn. Sometimes distractions can cause you to miss when your dog is being good and pay attention when you suddenly notice he’s doing something that’s unacceptable.

Most dogs want to please their owner, but it’s not always easy for them to understand what we want because we have a tendency to send conflicting messages. Our body language doesn’t always match the words we use when communicating with our furry friends, and many dog owners aren’t as fluent as they could be in the “language” that dogs use. Understanding how to tell what a dog may be thinking helps prevent unnecessary confrontations between humans and dogs. So often, we miss opportunities to teach because we don’t notice obvious and subtle signs our dogs give us.

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How Do You Know if Your Vet is a Keeper?

By Julia Williams

Of all the things we can do to help our pets live long and happy lives, finding a great veterinarian is definitely near the top of the list. Because we rely on their expertise for basic pet care as well as emergencies, it’s vital to find a vet that both you and your pet are comfortable with, and one that you’re confident will help you make the best decisions for your pet. It can be a challenge, though – just as it can be to find the right doctor for your own healthcare needs. There are many factors that determine whether your pet’s vet is a keeper. Here are some:

Bedside Manner

The way your vet interacts and communicates with you is an important aspect of the relationship. Visits to the vet are often stressful because we are worried about our pet’s health. A good vet will be compassionate and will try to make you feel at ease. They also need to have excellent communication skills, and be able to clearly explain treatment options, test results, medications, at-home procedures and other things relating to your pet’s care. Your vet should also have a good bedside manner with your pet; you should feel as though they really care about your pet.

Willing to Explain

A vet who rushes through the exam as though their primary concern is adhering to a predetermined time limit for the visit, regardless of what might ail your pet, is definitely NOT a keeper. You may be ushered out before you feel your concerns were really heard or before you have a thorough understanding of your pet’s health or care. If any veterinarian makes you feel that way, walk out and never go back.

A good vet takes the time to give you all the information you need to make an informed decision about different treatment options. They explain what the risks or side effects are, what a particular procedure entails and what they feel is the best course of action for your situation.

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If Your Dog had One Wish, What Would it Be?

By Langley Cornwell

Pet memes and videos that use anthropomorphism as a comedic vehicle always strike my funny bone. In fact, I recently wrote an article on the Best Pet Memes on the Internet and every meme I cited ascribed human thoughts and attitudes to animals.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anthropomorphism as the attribution of human characteristics or behaviors to that which is not human. As a logophile (lover of words), I was interested to learn that the origins of the word anthropomorphism are derived from the Greek word anthropos – which means human – and morphe – which means form. That makes perfect sense.

Without getting too far off the subject, here’s an interesting little fact. Since the 1600s, scholars have believed that our human tendency to anthropomorphize, while deep-rooted and innate, impedes our true understanding of the world. But if it makes us laugh, hey, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

So I thought it would be fun to ask my friends and family to anthropomorphize right along with me by answering this question: If your dog had one wish, what would it be? The answers were varied but can easily be grouped into a few categories.

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