Category Archives: canine health

How to Help Dogs with Compulsive Pica

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.

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No Yard? 5 Ways to Still Exercise Your Dog

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!

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Adventures in Aging: Living with a Senior Dog

“Bear”

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.

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Top 10 Poison Dangers for Dogs

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.

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Can Animals Be Mentally Ill?

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.

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Can You Give Your Pet the Flu?

By Linda Cole

No one looks forward to the flu. The chills, aches and pains can send even the hardiest person to bed for a few days. We try to do what we can to avoid the flu, but when symptoms appear, we know people around us are at risk of catching what we have. It was thought at one time that pets in the home couldn’t be infected, but new research is raising a red flag that says it is possible to pass the flu bug to our pets.

So how do you know if you’re dealing with a cold or the flu? After all, they have common symptoms. Colds enter the body via the nose and primarily affect us above the neck with runny nose, sneezing, congestion and sore throat. Some people might have an achy feeling, with a low grade temperature. You know you’re coming down with a cold because symptoms develop over a period of a couple of days. The flu hits you like a brick. One minute you’re fine and the next you’re wrestling with muscle aches, chills, fever, fatigue and tightness in your chest, all of which are likely to send you to bed. Other symptoms can include a running nose or cough, but not as severe as with a cold.

The common belief for years was that our pets couldn’t catch the flu from their owner, but new research has challenged this with studies that show it is possible. When an infectious disease moves from animals to humans, it’s called zoonosis. Reverse zoonosis happens when humans infect animals. In 2009, the H1N1 flu virus, also known as the swine flu, had the first ever recorded case of a human transmitting the flu to her two cats. The woman recovered, but her cats died. Since then, 11 cats, one dog and a handful of ferrets have been infected with the flu after having contact with a sick human.

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