Should I Have My Dog Heel for His Entire Walk?

 

When to Ask Your Dog to Heel — and When to Let Him Explore

While it’s important to allow your dog some freedom on his walks, it’s also important to impose some structure. Don’t allow walks to become a free-for-all where your dog jerks and tugs you along like a balloon on a string. For dogs who need extra guidance during walks, management tools like front clip harnesses and head halterscan help decrease pulling behavior and provide increased control in a gentle fashion.

No matter what walking tool you use, don’t let your dog drag you along behind him. It’s important that you teach him that only a loose leash, never a tight leash, earns forward movement.

While a loose leash allows your dog to make the most of his walks, it is crucial that he also learn to heel on command. A reliable heel makes it easier for you and your dog to navigate in smaller spaces, like the veterinarian’s waiting room, and it gives you more control over your dog in crowded or high-distraction areas.

Teaching your dog to heel also provides a measure of safety, both for him and for anyone you may encounter on your walks. Ask your dog to heel when you pass another person or dog or encounter a jogger, biker, skateboarder or stroller. Having your dog close to you in this situation allows you to manage interactions and move him away, particularly if he is uncertain, fearful or reactive.

In most cases, you can direct your dog from a loose leash walk into a heel in response to specific distractions or challenges, such as crossing the street or passing another walker. Once the distraction has passed, rewardyour dog by releasing him to walk on the loose leash again. Additionally, it’s possible to increase your dog’s natural desire to be near you during the loose leash walk by paying attention to and rewarding him when he naturally draws near or checks in with eye contact.

Walk your way to a better outing with your pup by doing what works for you both and interchangeably moving from the loose leash to heel as desired for practice or as needed for the situation. Happy tails and trails to you on your walking journeys together!

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

How to Protect Yourself From Dog Bites

How Common Are Dog Bites to People?

It sounds hard to believe, but dog bites comprise the second most common childhood injury requiring emergency-room care. This is because 60 percent of the 4.7 million people bitten each year are children, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In fact, about half of all children 12 and under have been bitten. This places dog bites ahead of playground accidents, which rank third according to the American Medical Association. (The most common cause of emergency room visits is injury occurring during baseball or softball games).

Other categories of people who are frequently attacked include elderly folk and delivery people, such as mail carriers. The image of a dog chasing the mailman is not a just a stereotype. Most attacks occur at the dog’s home or in a familiar place. The attacking dog usually belongs to the family or a friend of the family.

The increasing number of dog bites has led the CDC to label dog bites as “epidemic” (dog bites are addressed toward 2 percent of the U.S. population annually) Fortunately, most bites are not fatal. About 10 to 20 people die each year as a result of dog bites.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

There are many reasons why a dog may bite: fear, to protect territory, or to establish their dominance over the person being bitten. Some dog owners mistakenly teach their dogs that biting is an acceptable form of play behavior. Sadly, every year a number of newborn infants die because dogs seem to regard them as “prey.” Because dog bites occur for several different reasons, various aspects of responsible dog ownership – including proper socialization, supervision, humane training, neutering, and safe confinement – are necessary to prevent dogs from biting. To learn more about aggressive dogs, see Aggressive Dogs and Society.

If you’re bitten, it is very important to identify the dog that bites you. If you don’t know anything about the dog, you may have to be treated for rabies as a precaution. Also, you will want some action taken to prevent future attacks. Whether your doctor recommends rabies vaccination for you after you have been bitten will depend on how prevalent rabies is in your area (i.e. the circumstances).

Tips on How to Avoid Dog Bites

  • Never approach a strange dog, especially one who’s tied or confined behind a fence or in a car.
  • Don’t pet a dog without letting him see and sniff you first.
  • Never turn your back on a dog and run away. A dog’s natural instinct in this situation is to chase and catch you.
  • Don’t disturb a dog while it’s sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies.
  • Be cautious around strange dogs. Always assume that a dog sees you as an intruder or potential threat.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you – remain still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines that you’re not a threat.
  • If you encounter a potentially aggressive dog, never scream and run.
  • Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog. Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.
  • Be cautious around strange dogs and treat your own pet with respect. Because children are the most frequent victims of dog bites, parents and caregivers should:1. Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.2. Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.3. Teach young children, including toddlers, to be careful around pets.4. Teach children not to approach strange dogs and to ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting it.

What to Do if Attacked By a Dog

  • If the dog does attack, “feed” him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything that you can put between yourself and it.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Do not scream or roll around. The face is the most common area for attack, particularly the lips, nose, and cheeks.
  • Some people, such as mail carriers, carry protective devices, such as pepper spray, to ward off attacks. One deterrent product that does not physically harm the dog is called the “Dazer.” It produces ultrasound that can ward off a dog within a 20 foot radius.

Why It’s Best to Remain Still During an Dog Attack?

Dogs attack for one of three basic reasons:

  • Dominance and territoriality – the will to control and protect resources
  • Through fear – for reasons of self-protection
  • Fear predatory reasons – when the so-called “prey drive” is activatedDominance aggression is usually directed toward the face or hands of a person when their face looms too close or their hands somehow threaten or interfere with the dog or its possessions. Standing motionless and looking away will often defuse this type of aggression.Fear aggression often takes the form of a “cheap shot” directed toward a person’s calf or thigh as they turn to exit the scene. Standing still can deactivate this type of aggression by halting the perceived challenge while simultaneously holding one’s ground.Predatory aggression is stimulated by motion and commotion, running away and by yelling. It is best to stand still and be quiet to defuse such attacks.In summary, if a dog is making an aggressive advance – stop running, remain motionless and silent, do not look into the dog’s eyes, and keep your hands to yourself. Or, in an extreme situation, drop to the ground, curl in a ball, and protect the nape of your neck with your hands.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Top 10 Cat Conditions: Cat Health

What’s Ailing Your Cat?

Cats may have nine lives, but you want to make sure kitty hangs on to all of them for as long as she can. No matter how much love and care you give your furry companion, things happen. But by knowing how to recognize the most common conditions affecting cats, you may just be able to save your pet’s life

10. Hyperthyroidism. The most likely cause of hyperthyroidism is a benign tumor on the thyroid gland, which will cause the gland to secrete too much of the hormone. Take your cat to the vet if it starts drinking and peeing a lot, shows aggressive and jittery behavior, suddenly seems hyperactive, vomits and/or loses weight while eating more than usual.

Treatment depends on other medical conditions but can range from using drugs to regulate the overactive gland, surgical removal of the gland, and even radioactive treatment to destroy the tumor and diseased thyroid tissue.

9. Upper Respiratory Virus. If your kitty is sneezing, sniffling, coughing, has runny eyes or nose, seems congested and has mouth and nose ulcers, chances are it has an upper respiratory virus. The two main forms of the virus are the feline herpesvirus and calicivirus. Once at the vet’s office, the cat may receive nose drops, eye ointments and antibacterial medication, especially if it has a secondary infection.

8. Ear Infection. Ear infections in cats have many causes. These might include mites, bacteria, fungi, diabetes, allergies and reactions to medication; some breeds are also more susceptible to ear infections than others. So it’s definitely a good idea to have your kitty checked if it’s showing symptoms such as ear discharge, head shaking, swollen ear flaps, stinky ears and ultra sensitivity to ears being touched. Treatment, of course, depends on the cause, but will include eardrops, ear cleaning, ear and oral medications and in severe cases, surgery.

7. Colitis/Constipation. Colitis is a fancy word for inflammation of the large intestine. While the most obvious sign of colitis is diarrhea, sometimes it will hurt the cat to poop. Thus, in trying to hold it in, the cat may develop constipation.

There are many causes of colitis, including bacteria, fungi, viruses, allergies and parasites, among other diseases. Signs include straining to poop, lack of appetite, dehydration and vomiting. Your vet will test for the underlying cause and treat it accordingly. This may include a more fiber-rich diet, de-worming, antibiotics, laxatives and/or fluids.

6. Diabetes. Like humans, cats suffer from diabetes, too, though this is usually seen in older, overweight cats. Symptoms include increased thirst and peeing, peeing outside the litter box, lethargy and depression.

While causes of feline diabetes are not really known, there is a link with diabetes and being overweight. Treatment, therefore, includes daily health monitoring, diet changes, exercise, and depending on the cat’s needs, either daily oral medications or injections.

5. Skin Allergies. Kitties, like you, are known to suffer from allergies, although their allergies show on the skin. If your cat scratches, or chews on its skin a lot, has a rash or loses hair in patches, a trip to the vet is a good idea.

Causes of skin allergies vary from reactions to food, fleas, pollens, mites, and even mold and mildew. Treatments may include allergy shots, diet changes, medication and antihistamines.

4. Intestinal Inflammation/Diarrhea. Diarrhea is a sure sign of an intestinal inflammation. It affects either the cat’s small or large intestine and may due to a variety of factors, including diet changes, eating contraband foodstuffs, allergies, bacteria overgrowth, worms and even kidney disease.

Symptoms include diarrhea, lack of appetite and vomiting. A visit to your vet will sort out the cause, and treatment may include hydration therapy, a bland diet, dietary changes and anti-diarrhea medications.

3. Renal Failure. This is a serious condition, which is common in older cats. While the underlying causes are not yet understood, recent research suggests a link with distemper vaccinations and long-term dry food diets. Make sure you request blood tests on your regular wellness checkups, since symptoms often don’t show up until 75 percent of the kidney tissue is damaged.

The main symptom is excessive thirst and peeing, but the cat may also show signs of drooling, jaw-clicking, and ammonia-scented breath. While it’s not curable, renal failure (when not severe) can be managed through diet, drugs and hydration therapy. Kidney transplants and dialysis can also be used.

2. Stomach Upsets (Gastritis). An inflammation of the cat’s stomach lining is simply referred to as gastritis. This condition may be mild or severe, but regardless of its type, make sure you bring your cat to visit the vet if it doesn’t show improvement in a day or two, or if the symptoms are severe.

Gastritis has many causes, from eating spoiled food to eating too fast to allergies or bacterial infections. If your cat is vomiting, belching, has a lack of appetite or bloodstained poop or diarrhea, a visit to the vet will help straighten things out. Treatments depend on the cause, but generally include medication, fluid therapy and even antibiotics.

1. Lower Urinary Tract Disease. Coming in at No. 1, lower urinary tract disease can turn very quickly into a life-threatening illness for your cat, especially if there’s a blockage caused by crystals, stones or plugs. When total blockage occurs, death can occur within 72 hours if left untreated.

Therefore, whisk your cat off to the vet or emergency center ASAP if you see any of the following signs: peeing outside of the litter box, straining, blood in urine, crying out while attempting to pee, not being able to pee, excessive licking of genitals, not eating or drinking, yowling while moving and lethargy. These signs will generally occur regardless if the urinary tract disease is due to stones, infection or urethral plugs. Treatment includes catheterizing to drain the bladder, medication to dissolve stones or blockages, and in recurring cases, surgery.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Diabetes in Pets

 Recognize the Pet Diabetes Epidemic

Top Ten Signs Your Pet Has Diabetes: Diabetes in Dogs, Diabetes in Cats

Recognize the Pet Diabetes Epidemic

November is nationally recognized as American Diabetes Month, a month focused on raising awareness about diabetes in people. Not as commonly known is that November is also recognized as Pet Diabetes Awareness Month. A growing epidemic amongst our pets, recognizing and spreading awareness about diabetes in dogs and cats is vital to helping pet owners spot and treat the disorder early.

#10 Increased Thirst

Drinking more water than usual, known as polydipsia, is an early warning sign of diabetes.

#9 Increased Urination

Urinating more frequently, producing more urine throughout the day, or having “accidents” in the house may mean your cat or dog has developed polyuria, another early warning sign of diabetes that goes hand in hand with polydipsia.

#8 Increased Hunger

If your cat or dog suddenly acts as if it is always starving, despite eating the usual amount (known as polyphagia), and maintains or loses weight despite increased food intake, this can be a sign of diabetes as well.

#7 Sudden Weight Loss

Though a diabetic pet may show signs of being hungrier than ever, sudden weight loss is a common occurrence because diabetes can cause an increased metabolism.

#6 Obesity

Obesity can actually cause diabetes to develop; therefore, if your pet is obese you should keep an eye on it to determine if it is developing any symptoms of diabetes.

#5 Weakness or Fatigue

Diabetes can cause wasting of back muscles or weakness in the back legs of cats. With dogs there may just be a general sense of lethargy, being less active, or sleeping more.

#4 Thinning or Dull Hair

Thinning, dry, or dull hair, particularly along the back. Thinning hair is generally a symptom of some illness, diabetes included, so it is best to visit your veterinarian to determine the cause.

#3 Cloudy Eyes

A common complication of diabetes in dogs is cataracts, or cloudy eyes. Cataracts can lead to blindness if not monitored.

#2 Depression

A later sign of diabetes in dogs and cats is ketoacidosis, metabolic acidosis caused by the breakdown of fat and proteins in the liver in response to insulin deficiency. Ketones in the body in high amounts are toxic, and this imbalance in the body of your pet can cause depression.

#1 Vomiting

Another side effect of ketoacidosis, if your pet’s diabetes has escalated to this point before it’s been recognized, is vomiting. Ketoacidosis is more commonly found in older pets and in females. Dachshunds and Miniature Poodles are also predisposed to it.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Home Remedies for Ear Infection in Dogs

 Home Care for a Dog with an Ear Infection

An ear infection, also known by the medical term Otitis Externa (which means inflammation of the outer ear), is a common condition that may affect more than 20% of all dogs. In fact, it is one of the top 10 reasons dogs go to their veterinarian.

Below are some common questions dog owners ask about ear infections. The focus of this article will be “what you can do at home”.

What Is an Ear Infection?

An ear infection is an infection of the ear canal. Most commonly it occurs in the outer ear but it can also extend to the inner ear.

What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

Several factors can predispose dogs to ear infections including long floppy ears, water or hair in the ears, allergies, trauma, tumors, foreign material in the ears, allergies, autoimmune disease and generalized skin diseases.

A common question pet owners ask is, “How can I treat an ear infection at home?”

Home Treatment for Dogs with Ear Infections

Specific treatments of ear infections are dependent on the underlying cause. Here is the general approach to treating ear infections:

  • Be able to hold your dog to evaluate the ear. If you notice blood or extreme redness and irritation, the best thing to do is to see your veterinarian. Many infections require prescription antibiotics.
  • If your dog is shaking his head and/or has ear discharge and you can not take your dog to your veterinarian (which is recommended), then you may try the following:
  • Administer only prescribed medications. Please check with your veterinarian before giving ANY medications to your dog. Do not put anything in your dog’s ear that was not made for the ear.
  • One issue with ear infections is that they can have different underlying causes. For example, ear infections can be caused by any of the following: ear mites, fungal organisms and/or bacteria. Many dogs with ear infections have allergies as a predisposing cause. To be most effective, the medications for each cause can be different.
  • If possible, clean the debris from the ear. Use a commercial ear cleaner, which you can get at your veterinarian’s office or at many pet stores. Here are some tips on how to clean your dog’s ear.
  • Restrain your dog. Start by wrapping your small dog in a large thick towel with just the head exposed. Or, if you have a larger dog, let someone help by holding your dog’s body and legs.- Clean the ear lobe. Using a cotton ball, paper towel or gauze sponges moistened with water. Gently rub the large pieces of dirt, wax and debris off the ear lobe. Repeat on the opposite ear.- Clean the cartilage of the ear. After most of the debris has been removed with the moistened cotton ball, use a cotton swab (Q-Tip®) moistened with water to gently remove the pieces of debris trapped within the cartilage of the ear. Be very careful not to place the swab down the ear canal. This will stimulate head shaking and can lead to ear trauma. It is safest to clean only the parts of the ear you can see. If there is significant wax just inside the ear canal, you can briefly place the tip of the Q-tip into the ear canal to remove the debris. However, and this is important, you should ALWAYS be able to see the cotton tip of the swab.

    – After cleaning the ears, it is a good idea to offer a treat. This will help make the next ear cleaning session a little smoother.

  • For deeper cleaning, you can use an ear-cleaning solution. To use, flush a small amount into your dog’s ear. About a teaspoon is adequate for most dogs. Gently massage the base of the ear. You should hear a swishing sound in most dogs. Then dry as directed above using a cotton ball or gauze sponges.
  • Many organisms that live in the ear prefer an alkaline environment. One inexpensive ear solution you can make at home is a 50% water and 50% white vinegar mix.
  • To prevent future ear infections, check your dog’s ears regularly. Dry your dog’s ears well after swimming by using cotton balls to gently absorb water in the visible out bits of the ear.

 

This is important! If the ear infection continues at any time, or if other symptoms are noted, call your veterinarian promptly. If your pet is not eating, acts lethargic, is vomiting or is having diarrhea, or if any other physical abnormalities begin, it is important to see your veterinarian. Your pet needs your help and the professional care your veterinarian can provide. If your pet is having the clinical signs mentioned above, expect your veterinarian to perform some diagnostic tests and make treatment recommendations. Recommendations will be dependent upon the severity and nature of the clinical signs.

When Is a Dog Ear Infection an Emergency?

An ear infection is an emergency when your dog is in pain, you cannot touch or look in your dog’s ear, the ear is red and swollen, and/or your dog has a head tilt. All ear infections should be examined and treated by a veterinarian.

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Heartworm Symptoms in Dogs

Heartworm in Dogs – What You Should Know

Heartworm disease is caused by a parasite that is becoming more common. While dogs and other members of the canine family (wolves, foxes, coyotes, etc.) are the primary hosts, other species can also be infected including members of the cat family, muskrats, raccoons, bears, ferrets, and sea lions. The parasite is carried from one host to another by mosquitoes.

Heartworm only exists in geographic areas with a supply of both primary hosts and mosquitoes. Although infection in humans has been reported, such cases are rare, and people can’t pass the parasite on. Doctors do not consider human infection a serious condition.

A dog who is a host or carrier of heartworms may be completely free of symptoms or may show signs of severe illness. The earliest sign is usually a cough. Further signs include tiring with exercise, collapsing spells, and an enlarged abdomen due to heart failure. Severely infested dogs can die from heartworm disease.

The Heartworm Life Cycle

1. The host dog has adult heartworms in the right side of the heart and the lung arteries.

2. Fertile female heartworms release first stage, microscopic larvae called microfilariae into the host dog’s blood.

3. A mosquito bites the host dog and ingests microfilariae.

4. In the mosquito, the microfilariae undergo two stages of development and become third-stage or infective larvae.

5. The mosquito bites another dog, injecting the infective larvae into the bite.

6. In the second dog, these larvae undergo two more developmental stages, called moults, and migrate to the right side of the heart and lung arteries where they mature to adults. Some microfilariae, or first stage larvae remain in the blood, making this dog a host. The entire life cycle takes from 7 to 9 months.

Diagnosis of Canine Heartworm Disease

Heartworm disease is usually diagnosed by detecting microfilariae in a sample of the dog’s blood or by detecting antigens associated with heartworm in the dog’s serum.

Treatment of Canine Heartworm Disease

Dogs who test positive for heartworm are first treated with injections to kill the adult worms. At a later date, additional medication is required to eliminate the microfilariae. Check with your veterinarian about different types of treatments available.

Prevention

Medication to prevent heartworm is available. It is safe for dogs who test free of the disease. Young puppies can be given the medication without having a blood test, but dogs six months or older must be tested first. Testing is very important, as five to 10 percent of infested dogs will have serious or even fatal reactions if they are given preventative medication. Different types of heartworm medication can be given on a daily or monthly schedule. Ask your veterinarian which type is best for your dog. When used properly this medication is nearly 100 percent effective in preventing heartworm disease.

  • A dog who is a host or carrier of heartworms may be completely free of symptoms or may show signs of severe illness.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

What You Need To Know About Parvovirus in Dogs

 Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that can affect all dogs, but unvaccinated dogs and puppies younger than four months old are the most at risk.

In fact it is now 99% a disease of young, unvaccinated dogs – not seen in dogs older than 1 year of age.

The virus affects dogs’ gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments, or people.

The virus can also contaminate kennel surfaces, food and water bowls, collars and leashes, and the hands and clothing of people who handle infected dogs.It is resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying, and can survive in the environment for long periods of time.

Even trace amounts of feces from an infected dog may harbor the virus and infect other dogs that come into the infected environment.

The virus is readily transmitted from place to place on the hair or feet of dogs or via contaminated cages, shoes, or other objects.

History of Parvovirus in Dogs

A variant of the Feline Distemper Virus 1st showed up in dogs in 1978.

In 1978, no dog had any sort of immunity against this virus.

There was no resistance and the epidemic that resulted was disastrous.

To make matters worse, a second mutation creating CPV-2a had occurred by 1979, and it seemed to be even more aggressive.

Vaccine was at a premium and many veterinarians had to make do with feline distemper vaccine as it was the closest related vaccine available while the manufacturers struggled to supply the nation with true parvo vaccines.

Signs of parvovirus

Some of the signs of parvovirus include lethargy; loss of appetite; abdominal pain and bloating; fever or low body temperature (hypothermia); vomiting; and severe, often bloody, diarrhea. Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

If your puppy or dog shows any of these signs, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.

Most deaths from parvovirus occur within 48 to 72 hours following the onset of clinical signs.

Diagnosis and treatment

Parvovirus infection is often suspected based on the dog’s history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. Fecal testing can confirm the diagnosis.

No specific drug is available that will kill the virus in infected dogs, and treatment is intended to support the dog’s body systems until the dog’s immune system can fight off the viral infection.

Treatment should be started immediately and consists primarily of intensive care efforts to combat dehydration by replacing electrolyte, protein and fluid losses, controlling vomiting and diarrhea, and preventing secondary infections.

Sick dogs should be kept warm and receive good nursing care. When a dog develops parvo, treatment can be very expensive, and the dog may die despite aggressive treatment.

Early recognition and aggressive treatment are very important in successful outcomes. With proper treatment, survival rates can approach 90%.

Prevention

This is 1 of only 2 dog vaccines I advise. ( Parvovirus and Distemper)

Parvoviral infection has become a disease almost exclusively of puppies and adolescent dogs.

Parvovirus vaccine is effective, and now only 2 doses at 8 and then 12 weeks are needed to confer immunity to your pup

After 1 year of age, your dog will have adequate immunity, and in my opinion will not need another Parvovirus vaccine.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

The Dangers of Second Hand Smoke

THE DANGERS OF SECOND HAND SMOKE FOR PETS

You must have been living on a desert island for the last few decades if you are not aware of the danger that smoking poses both to smokers and to the people who come in contact with second hand smoke. Less well known, however, is the effect that a smoke filled home can have on pet health.

First some definitions. Second hand smoke is smoke that is exhaled or otherwise escapes into the air and can then be inhaled by non-smokers, including pets. Third hand smoke is the residue from smoke that remains on skin, fur, clothing, furniture, etc. even after the air has cleared. Both second and third hand smoke can be referred to using the term “environmental tobacco smoke,” or ETS.

Now let’s take a look at the scientific studies that reveal a link between environmental tobacco smoke and serious diseases in cats and dogs.

THE EFFECTS OF TOBACCO SMOKE ON CATS

A study published in 2002 demonstrated a greatly increased risk of malignant lymphoma (also called lymphoma or lymphosarcoma) in cats with exposure to ETS. The relative risk for malignant lymphoma in cats with any household ETS exposure was almost 2 ½ times higher than that seen in cats who lived in smoke-free households.

For cats with five or more years of ETS exposure, the relative risk climbed to 3.2. In other words, these poor cats were more than three times as likely to develop lymphoma as were cats who lived in a home where no one smoked.

 

This study and others also strongly suggest a link between oral cancers in cats and third hand smoke. It is thought that cats groom the toxins contained in tobacco smoke out of their fur, which damages tissues in their mouths. This eventually leads to oral cancer.

THE EFFECTS OF TOBACCO SMOKE ON DOGS

Dogs can become seriously ill after long term exposure to second and third hand smoke as well. Two studies, one published in 1992 and the other in 1998, determined that cancer of the respiratory tract was more common in dogs who were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke. Interestingly, the type of cancer the dogs got was influenced by the shape of their heads.

The risk of nasal cancer increased by 250% when dogs with long noses (picture a Collie) were exposed to tobacco smoke. On the other hand, dogs with short or medium noses tended to develop lung cancer under similar conditions.

When you think about it, these findings aren’t all that surprising. The extensive nasal passages of long-nosed dogs are good at filtering out the toxins contained in cigarette smoke, which protects the lungs to the detriment of the nose. These same toxins pass right through the relatively shorter noses of other dogs and then become lodged in and damage the lungs.

Many other studies underline the damage that tobacco smoke does to the lining of the respiratory tract and a possible link to non-cancerous diseases such as chronic bronchitis and asthma.

DO ALTERNATIVES HELP?

By now you might be thinking, “I’ll just smoke outside.” While direct research into the effect that outdoor smoking has on pet health hasn’t been performed, we can look at a 2004 study on infants and draw some conclusions. It found that smoking outside of the home helps but does not eliminate smoke exposure to babies. The infants of parents who smoked outdoors but not inside were still exposed to 5-7 times as much environmental tobacco smoke in comparison to the infants of nonsmokers. Similar results could be expected for pets.

And what about vaping? Again, no direct research into the health effects of second and third hand vaping solution on pet health has been done, but according to the American Lung Association:

In 2009, the FDA conducted lab tests and found detectable levels of toxic cancer-causing chemicals, including an ingredient used in antifreeze, in two leading brands of e-cigarettes and 18 various cartridges. A 2014 study found that e-cigarettes with a higher voltage level have higher amounts of formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

It’s hard to imagine that inhaling substances like these or licking them off their fur could be completely risk free for pets.

CONCLUSIONS

Looking at the science brings us to the inevitable conclusion that second and third hand smoke exposure is very dangerous for pets. If you must smoke, do so outside or switch to vaping, but know that you are still likely putting your pets’ health at some degree of risk… to say nothing of what you are doing to yourself.

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

Chemotherapy for Dogs

Your dog has cancer” might be the four scariest words a pet parent can hear. After you get that diagnosis, chances are you scarcely hear your vet lay out the treatment options, which likely include chemotherapy. Understanding exactly what this treatment is and how it works, however, will ensure that you make the best decision for your dog. Learn more about what chemotherapy for dogs is, how much it may cost, and what the process will be like for your pet, below.

What is Chemotherapy and Why Would My Dog Need It?

Chemotherapy is a term given to a group of drugs that have the ability to kill cancer cells in dogs. The specific medication or combination will depend on the type of cancer your dog has, as well as his overall health. Your vet will monitor the chemotherapy treatment to ensure that it is working well with minimal side effects. If not, he or she might try another drug or change the dosage and frequency.

Chemotherapy is often prescribed for one of the most common cancers in dogs, lymphoma, as well as for some other malignancies.

“Chemotherapy is recommended for cancers that either have already spread to other areas of the body (metastasized) or are known to have a high potential for metastasis,” said Dr. Lisa Barber, assistant professor of oncology and chemotherapy at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Joanne Intile, staff oncologist at the East End Veterinary Emergency and Specialty Center in Riverhead, N.Y., said that the use of chemotherapy depends on the type of cancer and other factors. “The ultimate recommendation depends on whether it is a single tumor on the skin, whether we can do surgery, if it is more widespread or the dog isn’t a good candidate for surgery,” she said.

If surgery is advised, the doctor will remove the cancerous tumor. The tissue containing the cancerous cells will be sent to a laboratory where a pathologist (a veterinary specialist) will examine the cells under a microscope. The pathologist will look at the edges of the cancerous tissue to determine if they are likely to regrow in that location and will grade the cancer on its likelihood for metastasizing. Cancers considered “high grade,” that is, those that have the likelihood to metastasize, often are treated with chemotherapy, Barber said.

The goal of chemotherapy in animals is different than for humans, which is why treatment is less aggressive. With pets, the primary goal of chemotherapy is to provide your cat or dog with the best quality of life for as long as possible.

“We hope for a cure,” Intile said. “But we don’t see a lot of cures because we don’t treat them as aggressively. Their quality of life is most important. Unlike human oncology, it’s quality-of-life [treatment], not life-at-all-costs [treatment].”

How Much Does Chemotherapy for Dogs Cost?

As with any medical treatment, chemotherapy cost can vary widely depending on the frequency and duration of the treatment, the drug(s) used, the medical facility and geographic location.

“At Tufts, a standard chemotherapy protocol for lymphoma is likely to cost $3,500 to $4,500. At other clinics, the cost can be $10,000 or higher,” Barber said. A commonly referenced standard treatment for this type of cancer is the Madison Wisconsin Protocol, which combines three drugs over a 25-week period of time. If you believe this could be the right method of treatment for your dog, speak with your veterinarian to get more details about this type of chemotherapy.

A least expensive option would be an approximately $30 charge per injection, Intile said, with costs rising into the thousands for more comprehensive treatments that require a duration of many months and/or more frequent injections. When describing treatment plans to pet parents, “we never say ‘this is the only way to do it,’” she said. “We always come up with options based on their budget, lifestyle and how often they can come in.”

Barber and Intile said that pet insurance should cover some of the costs of chemotherapy, but it depends on the company and the policy. “For some dogs that are particularly prone to cancer, insurance companies may require a specific cancer rider,” Barber said.

A rider provides an insurance policy holder with additional coverage for a specific illness or situation. Insurance companies typically offer these policy options at an additional cost, which can vary widely.

What Can I Expect During My Dog’s Chemotherapy Treatment?

How chemotherapy is administered depends on the drug given. Intile said most treatments are administered by injection and last just a few seconds (similarly to a vaccination) to a few minutes. Some intravenous drug infusions can take all day but are rarer, she said. Other chemotherapy treatments are given orally, in the office or at home.

Intile allows an hour for a chemotherapy treatment appointment, which includes time for paperwork, bloodwork, an exam and follow-up instructions. These appointments are similar to a typical vet visit, she said, and are designed to minimize stress for both dog and pet parent.

What Are the Side Effects of Chemotherapy in Dogs?

Side effects for dogs are milder and generally last for a shorter period of time than for humans receiving chemotherapy because dogs are given less-aggressive treatment, Intile said. In fact, 75 to 80 percent of dogs have no side effects, she said. When present, typical side effects include loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

Less than five percent will suffer those effects more severely and will need to be brought into the vet to receive fluids, she said. “There may be little windows of time to restrict activity, maybe days three to five (after treatment). But we don’t want you to put your dog in a bubble. Our goal is for your pet to have a totally normal lifestyle,” she said.

If symptoms do not resolve in a day or two, call your veterinarian.

What causes side effects is the indiscriminate nature of chemotherapy drugs, which kill both normal and abnormal cells in an “innocent bystander” effect, Barber said. Such indiscriminate destruction can affect your dog’s bone marrow, which produces blood cells. “The most common problem that we see is low white blood cell counts. The white blood cells are the first line of defense against infection,” and a low white blood cell count can put dogs at risk for infections, she said.

Unlike people, dogs typically do not go bald from chemotherapy, although they might lose their whiskers, Intile said. Breeds that have hair that grows constantly, such as Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Portuguese Water Dogs, can lose some hair, which might grow back in a different color, she said.

How Often Will My Dog Need Chemotherapy?

Frequency of treatments will depend on the type of cancer, the dog’s overall health, the specific drug and family wishes. Most treatments are given in intervals ranging from once a week to once every three weeks, Barber said. That frequency can last a couple of months, followed by every four to six weeks.

The duration of the treatment is also dependent on the type of cancer and can last from a few months to a few years.

“For lymphoma, most standard chemotherapy protocols last between 16 and 24 weeks. However, unless the client wishes to stop, this often is not the end of treatment. Once the initial protocol is completed and the animal is in complete remission (no cancer detected), we give the animals a rest from treatment and wait until we see that the cancer is back. We then start chemotherapy again,” Barber said.

For other types of chemotherapy, particularly when a malignant tumor has been removed and prevention or delay of a reappearance is the goal, a typical course of chemotherapy lasts about three months, she said.

Is it Safe to be Exposed to my Dog’s Chemotherapy Drugs?

The drugs remain active in your dog’s waste for the first few days after treatment, so pet parents are advised to be cautious and to wear gloves when cleaning up after their pet. Intile said her practice provides pet owners with chemo-proof gloves to wear if administering oral drugs and advises them to always wash their hands after administering the drugs and cleaning up, even if wearing gloves.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and those with weakened immune systems, such as the elderly, should be particularly careful around their pet’s waste, she said. However, you do not have to worry about your other pets sharing water bowls, food dishes or utensils with your sick dog, she added.

When storing chemotherapy drugs in your fridge, be sure to keep them in a container within a container away from your own medications. If you do accidentally ingest any of your dog’s medication, call your doctor, not your vet, who by law cannot dispense medical advice to people.

Are There Alternative Treatments for Dogs with Cancer?

Adding to your vet’s cancer arsenal of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy is another option: immunotherapy. This is a type of vaccine that is used to stimulate your dog’s own immune system to attack the cancer. “Right now the main focus for that is in dogs with melanoma (and osteo sarcoma),” Intile said.

Some of the larger veterinary university research hospitals are also using bone marrow transplants to treat some cancers, Intile said. To be sure you and your pet have access to the latest treatments and possible clinical trials, consider bringing your dog to a facility that specializes in veterinary oncology.

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372

People Food Bad for Dogs

Why Dogs Should NOT Eat ‘People Food’

“Love hurts,” or, in the case of feeding your dog “table food,” love can kill, slowly. We all want to show our pets how much we love them and help them to feel more a part of the family. So we slip them a little treat off our plate—but only on holidays… and then when they are really well behaved during a party, and soon we find ourselves feeding Fido daily off our own plate.

While the food you are sharing with your dog may not technically be considered harmful to its health, it is slowly causing adverse side effects— physically, behaviorally, and socially.

Behavior:

Believe it or not, our pets have us trained pretty well. We pet them when they nudge us, take them out when they bark, and give them treats when they whine. When we start to feed our pets from our plate, counter, anywhere not in their own food bowl, or food that is anything other than their normal dog food, we start to introduce bad habits that can be difficult to break.

Dogs will begin to beg for food while we eat, cook, or snack. This can occur at all times, especially when they see YOU holding or eating food. They will whine, sit and stare, jump up, run around, anything to get your attention in hopes of getting you to drop a yummy morsel of food. At some point, you may even share food with them just to get them to stop these annoying behaviors. This will actually reinforce their bad behavior.

Dogs, like children, will realize that if they do X (whine, cry, beg), human will do Y (feed me, drop food, etc.). Breaking this behavior can be extremely difficult and time consuming; it is best to never start it in the first place.

Health problems:

Not only are we setting up our pets to behave badly, we are introducing the possibility of eating toxic foods, as well as an increase in daily calories.

Generally, the dogs I see at the veterinary office, or the dogs I pet-sit for, that eat only dog food tend to have better body condition scores and are at a more appropriate weight for their size, age, and/or breed. Dogs that are kept at an optimum weight are less likely to have joint, bone, ligament, or mobility issues, and are less likely to develop heart disease, breathing issues, decreased liver function, and many other health problems. Just like humans, maintaining a healthy weight helps ensure a dog’s overall health and longevity.

Dogs that are not fed people food are less likely to eat toxic foods. While I do not have any scientific evidence, I base this on the more than a decade of veterinary expertise and first-hand experience.

For example, I know a couple with a dog that begged at the table morning, noon, and night. They thought it was cute and loved seeing all the “tricks” their dog would do just for a little scrap of food. One evening they were hosting a party and the guests thought that it was adorable to watch the pup spin and hop and beg everyone for treats—that is, until the owners found out their guests were giving grapes to their dog as a treat! Grapes are highly toxic and their toxicity in a dog can be unpredictable. Fortunately, they were able to get the dog immediate treatment and there was a happy ending.

Picky eaters:

Share too many of your delicious foods and your dog may become a picky eater and not want to eat their own food, especially if they know there may be something better on the menu if they hold out long enough. I have seen this happen more times than I can count; owners calling the vet office because Fido won’t eat his food, but he will eat chicken, beef, eggs, or anything else they offer from the menu.

After a comprehensive physical exam, the doctor will not find any medical reason why Fido won’t eat his kibble and will suggest a trip to the behaviorist. Generally if the vet can discover the dog’s eating habits, or the owners confess they feed Fido from their own plates, the answer is all too clear: Fido has decided he wants the “good food” and not his generic kibble.

Again, this behavior can be difficult to break and can even cause adverse physical side effects if the dog does not eat for long periods of time or is not receiving the appropriate nutrition.

Overall, while it is not horrible if your dog eats the occasional “people food,” to avoid future problems, it’s best to keep Fido strictly on dog food.

 

Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.

Diana@WestsideDogNanny.com
310 919 9372