By Linda Cole
Vestibular disease can strike dogs and cats suddenly. Your pet is fine one minute and the next, he’s struggling to stand and walk. One of my older cats developed vestibular disease years ago. At the time, I had no idea what it was. Understanding vestibular disease is important because the symptoms mirror those of a stroke as well as other medical conditions, and it can be misdiagnosed.
My cat, Patches, was sitting upright when she suddenly fell over on her side and couldn’t get up. Her eyes were moving rapidly back and forth and her head was shaking. It was a scary moment and I was convinced she’d just had a stroke. I called my vet and he decided she could wait until the office was open the next morning. By then she seemed better and had regained her balance. Come to find out, it was idiopathic vestibular disease and not a stroke as I had feared.
The vestibular system is how animals, including us, know which way is up or down, if we’re spinning around, standing, moving, sitting or lying down. In general, it’s responsible for maintaining our sense of balance and controls head and eye movements. Without getting too technical, the vestibular system is made up of nerves in the brain that continue into the inner ear. The vestibular apparatus is located next to the cochlea that’s found deep in the inner ear, and another one is located in the medulla (the lower area of the brain) which is found at the top of the spinal cord.
By Langley Cornwell
We’ve all laughed over the old excuse “the dog ate my homework,” but even a phrase as innocent as that might not be funny to someone whose dog has compulsive pica.
Pica is characterized by a desire to consume substances that are non-nutritive, and it can affect not only dogs but also cats, as Julia covered in her article Does Your Cat Eat Strange Things? In fact, people can suffer from pica, too.
The first dog I had as an adult—a rescued black lab—had pica and I didn’t know it. When she was 10 years old she got very sick. My regular vet and an emergency vet had no idea what was wrong and, surprisingly, multiple x-rays revealed nothing. I lived in a college town with a well-respected veterinary school, so my vet took my dog to the school for examination. After more fluid-bags and pills than I could count, with my sweet baby barely hanging on, my vet said the only thing he could do was exploratory surgery.
I still credit that vet with saving Sadie’s life. Apparently she had an extreme case of pica. He had a quart-sized bag full of treasures that he found in my dog’s intestinal tract, including seashells, twist ties, rocks and the finger of a garden glove. He said her system had probably done a good job of passing these things in the past, but what got her in trouble this time was a pinecone with a piece of twine wrapped around it. The piece of twine was long and prohibited the pinecone from passing through.
By Tamara McRill
While a big backyard can be wonderful for excising our dogs, a lot of pet owners just don’t have that luxury. That’s something I learned when we downsized from two lots of running space to a teeny tiny yard.
Luckily, I was able to find several solutions that worked for us, as well as some that would also work for any pet owner who has more pent-up dog energy than grass square footage.
1. Leash Up and Head Out
It might be an obvious solution, but taking your dog to a place where they can exercise certainly solves the problem. If you don’t have access to a dog park or are unable to walk your dog for long distances, then consider a friend’s yard. We make use of a neighbor’s fenced-in backyard on occasion, so my Wuppy can get in some of the free running he’s used to.
2. Hire Help
Sometimes time is an added problem, along with little yard space. If you ever run into a situation where you just get too busy to take your dog out to walk or play, then consider hiring a dog walker or taking them to a doggie daycare. That way, your dog gets all the exercise they need and deserve, and you don’t have to feel guilty about being so busy. Plus, you get to spend your spare time snuggling with your pet!
By Suzanne Alicie
The past year has opened my eyes to the joys (?) of living with an aging/elderly dog. Bear is almost 11, and she is showing her age.
As a fairly large dog, she is experiencing some arthritis and hip dysplasia symptoms. We’ve had to get her a thick comfy therapeutic bed, which she loves. The hard part is convincing her that she is too old and stiff to still go under our bed. It’s always been her favorite place. When she gets under there, I find myself having to pick up the bed enough for her to stand up and limp out.
When her hip locks up on her, I sit in the floor and massage her leg while she whimpers. This is a very emotional thing for me, because I can’t stand when she cries. Fortunately this is not a daily thing, and if I can keep her from going under the bed or jumping around and acting like a much younger dog, then she doesn’t hurt too much. So far we’ve been pretty lucky that Bear hasn’t developed more health problems like the ones Ruthie Bently discussed in Common Health Issues for Older Dogs.
With her old age, Bear has begun to be quite moody. If you’ve read some of my other posts about Bear you know that she is not a very social dog. She loves her family and is tolerant of our guests, but lately she makes it clear that she doesn’t like people visiting. When someone comes to the door she has always barked until we let them in. Once she saw us let them in and she was able to sniff them she’d be quiet and go lay down somewhere. These days when anyone comes over she barks and barks. They go into another room and she quiets down until she hears one of them laugh or talk and she barks some more. It’s almost like she forgets someone is here until she hears their voice, then she has to warn them that it’s her house.
By Langley Cornwell
It’s that time again. Spring is upon us, and my neighbors are fertilizing their lawns and spraying all kinds of insecticides to kill bugs. It always makes me nervous when they’re poisoning up their adjacent yard; I’m sure some of the toxic chemicals migrate over into our space. To educate myself, I consulted the Pet Poison Helpline and saw that they have an updated list of potential poisons in our homes and yards.
The Pet Poison Helpline is a valuable resource for pet people. They log every call they get, and each year they examine their records to determine what type of poisons garnered the most calls. So even though we’ve written other articles here on the CANIDAE RPO blog about the plants, foods or chemicals that can be hazardous to your pet, as a responsible pet owner it’s good to stay updated on the subject. With that in mind, here are the most common dangers for dogs, listed in order of the frequency of calls into the helpline. Interestingly, the list starts with food items because food accounted for the highest number of poisoning calls.
1. Foods, especially xylitol, chocolate and grapes/raisins
Xylitol is getting a lot of attention lately because of claims that tout its health benefits, including reducing the risk of tooth decay. Many sugarless gums and candies now contain xylitol, and this sweetener is dangerous to dogs. Even a small amount ingested by your pup can result in a potentially fatal drop in blood sugar or even liver failure.
Most of us know that chocolate is toxic to dogs. The chemical in chocolate that makes it dangerous for dogs is theobromine, which is a relative of caffeine. The darker, bitter chocolates are the most dangerous. The fact that raisins and grapes are toxic foods for dogs isn’t as widely known. Be cautious; if a dog eats raisins or grapes it can result in kidney failure.
By Langley Cornwell
We enrolled our new dog in a group training class and the experience has been eye-opening. The class is filled with all kinds of dogs and all kinds of people. Some dogs catch on to the commands immediately, while others take a long time to learn what’s expected of them. One gal is having a hard time with her dog. She told the trainer that her dog acts crazy at home too, and she’s sure her dog is mentally ill. The comment stimulated a class discussion about whether animals can actually be mentally ill.
According to the University of Melbourne’s research department, the answer is yes. Dr. Gabrielle Carter, a faculty member of the University’s Veterinary Science department, specializes in animal behavior. Not only is Dr. Carter an expert in her field but, because this is a relatively new area of study, she is an advocate and is working hard to increase awareness of mental illness in pets.
Dr. Carter explains that even though there are tremendous dissimilarities in different mammals, their biological systems, brains and nervous systems share similarities. She reasons that if humans are known to have mental illness based in altered brain function, then it is sensible to expect the same holds true for other animals.
Mental illness in different animals manifests in different ways. For example, dogs may suffer from noise phobias, separation anxiety and aggression. Cats may compulsively over-groom themselves and spray inappropriately.
Through behavioral therapies and in this case, medication, Dr. Carter recently helped a dog that had inexplicably developed a fear of her own backyard. The dog wouldn’t go into the yard she had once loved. If she was forced into the yard, she would desperately try to escape. The dog’s mental issues got worse; she became acutely fearful of anything unfamiliar, developed generalized anxiety issues and extreme noise phobias. It got to the point where the dog spent most of her time cowering in her owner’s bedroom.