Male Dogs Marking Territory by Lifting Leg to Urinate

Male dogs marking territory by lifting their leg to urinate.

Why do male dogs lift their leg when they urinate? It’s a funny behavior if you think about it; most female dogs don’t do it, and not all male dogs do it either. After all, leg lifting isn’t necessary to perform the action of urination.
The answer has nothing to do with the act of urination or the elimination of waste. Lifting the leg while urinating actually has everything to do with the way that dogs communicate. It is a method by which dogs mark their territory and a way for them to mark areas with their scent. Not only is it totally normal behavior, it’s also an important part of how dogs “talk” to each other.
Dogs are pack animals, and their heritage as such suggests that they need to live within their territory. Doing so allows them access to necessary resources and makes it clear to other dogs that this area is taken, thereby avoiding unnecessary confrontations.
Another aspect of dog communication is their amazing sense of smell; they rely on this sensory information to understand their world. Dogs are reported to have anywhere from 40 to 100,000 times more sensing ability than humans. Some experts suggest that the sense of smell is so strong it consumes 30% of the canine brain function (as opposed to the estimated 5% devoted in the human brain).
Now, back to the issue of urine. Dog urine contains pheromones, microscopic odor molecules that communicate to other animals that a dog was there. The lifting of the leg allows the dog to “place their mark” closer to nose level, where it can be more prominent to other dogs. Many dogs urinate over another dog’s mark to communicate their presence, sort of like painting over graffiti.
Somewhere between 6 months and 1 year of age, most dogs will begin learning to “lift.” It is estimated that 60% of neutered dogs will stop leg lifting after the procedure. Occasionally, you may find an intact female dog who will also mark for the same reasons as male dogs, but this behavior can be most frequent during heat cycles because it helps signal their mating potential to receptive males. Females can also mark to send their own territorial signals. Nearly all intact female dogs that leg lift will stop after spaying, but some continue years after surgery.
 by: Dr. Debra Primovic – DVM


Dog Bites: 15 Tips for Dog Bite Prevention

The most recent study conducted by the Center For Disease and Control (CDC), says there were roughly 4.5 million dog bite victims in America per year. That is an alarming number, but luckily there are careful tips that can be implemented to change that statistic. Here are our 15 tips to help prevent dog bites.

#1 – Don’t Approach Strange Dogs

A loose dog may be scared, sick, injured or just not friendly. If you do not have experience with that type of dog, it is best to call your local rescue group and tell them where you spotted the dog, rather than trying to catch him yourself.

#2 – Ask Before Petting

Never pet someone else’s dog without asking first. And if they say no, respect their answer and leave it at that.

#3 – Even After You Ask, Use Judgement

If the owner tells you it’s fine, but the dog looks scared, nervous or is showing signs it does not want you to pet it, don’t.

Image source: Dr. Sophia Yin

#4 – Don’t Take Anything Away From a Dog

This a valuable lesson to teach children. Don’t try to take a toy, treat, food bowl, shoe, etc., from a dog. It can easily end in a bite. Instead, teach the dog to drop or just leave him alone until he has dropped it himself.

#5 – Don’t Leave Children Unsupervised With a Dog

It doesn’t matter how safe and trusted the dog is – things happen. The child might get too rough with the dog, or accidentally hurt him (stepping on a tail, for example) and the dog might bite.

#6 – Learn About Dog Body Language

There are over 86 million dogs in homes across America – you and your children are going to encounter them, even if you don’t have a dog yourself. Learning how to read dog body language can prevent a lot of bites. Dr. Sopia Yin’s poster is a great educational tool.

#7 – Never Pet a Dog on the Head

A lot of dogs don’t like this and it’s putting your hand in prime biting position.

#8 – Don’t Put Your Face Near the Dog’s Face

Like petting the head, kneeling or bending down right in the dog’s face can lead to a nasty bite. If you are going to get down near the dog, stay to the side and keep your face away from theirs. Remember, dog’s can jump and bite out of excitement, not just fear or aggression.

#9 – Don’t Stare into a Dog’s Eyes

Staring is a threat in the dog world – staring into some dog’s eyes can make them uncomfortable to the point where they will lunge and bite. It’s best to just not do it.

#10 – Train Your Dog

If you own a dog – he is your responsibility. Teaching him bite inhibition, sit to greet, and cue likes leave it and drop so that you can safely get items away from him will help prevent bites.

#11 – Let Sleeping Dogs Lie and Eating Dogs Eat

These are two situations that frequently result in bites – someone startles a dog awake and they bite out of instinct, or the dog is a resource guarder and bites when the person interrupts their eating. Children especially should be told not to bother a dog during these times.

#12 – Carry Spray Shield

Spray Shield is a humane way of stopping a loose dog or a dog that become aggressive and is coming toward you. It’s a handy thing to keep around the house to take on walks with you.

#13 – Don’t Hug a Dog

Most humans love hugs, but not all of them. Dogs are the same way – some dogs tolerate a hug, some don’t. It’s best to not hug a dog, which puts your face right by theirs and possibly in danger if they aren’t in the mood to be hugged.

#14 – If You Fall, Curl Up

This is good advice for adults and children. If you find yourself on the ground with an aggressive dog, curl up into a ball with your knees in your stomach and your fingers laced over your neck and ears. (

#15 – Let the Dog Approach You At Their Pace

This is the best thing you can do when greeting a new dog. Let him come to you, at this one pace. Don’t stick your fingers in front of his face for him to smell, he may bite them. Besides, the dog can smell you just fine without your hand in his face.

Heat Wave! Should You Shave a Dog?

Summer is in full swing, and temperatures are heating up nationwide. We know that as a responsible pet parent, you want to do everything you can to keep your best four-legged friends cool. So when you look at your Pomeranian, Golden Retriever or long-haired cat wearing a thick, fluffy coat, you might feel tempted to break out your grooming tools and give him a serious hair cut.

But hold those clippers! While you or I would hate to sport a fur coat in 100-degree weather, your pets’ fur coats are actually providing them with heat relief.

“A dog’s coat is kind of like insulation for your house,” explains Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital. “Insulation stops your home from getting too cold in winter, but it also keeps it from overheating in summer—and your dog’s coat does the same thing.”

Dogs’ coats have several layers, and these layers are essential to your dog’s comfort in the heat. Robbing your dog of this natural cooling system can lead to discomfort and overheating. And keeping your dog cool isn’t the only reason to leave his coat intact, Dr. Murray warns. Your dog’s coat prevents your pup from getting sunburn and helps protect her from skin cancer.

So what can you do? It is ok to give your long-haired dog a “summer cut”—trimming her long hair may make it more manageable. It is best to allow a professional groomer to perform the haircutting, and never shave down to the skin or try to cut the hair yourself with scissors.

If you prefer not to cut your dog’s hair, that’s fine. Dogs with thick coats naturally shed so that they have a lighter coat in the summer. Remember to brush your dog’s fur and bathe her frequently as clean, brushed fur allows for better air circulation.

Of course, pet parents should remember to provide a shady area when taking your pet outside, and to provide plenty of water during hot days—hydration is key!

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.
310 919 9372


Top 10 Uses of Coconut Oil for Dogs

  • The uses for virgin coconut oil are unending. It’s great on my toast, in my skillet, even as a coffee creamer substitute. But did you know that this easy-to-find, all-natural item is an inexpensive treatment for many dog issues?Here are the top 10 ways coconut oil can help dogs and cats:
    1. Antifungal: Applied topically, coconut oil can reduce and prevent pesky yeast infections, even in the ear, groin, or toe area. And no need to worry about it being ingested – just reapply!
    2. Boost Metabolism: Because of its high lauric acid content, coconut oil can boost metabolism and increase energy, resulting in a trimmer, healthier dog.
    3. Prevent chapping and treat cuts and skin infections: A little smear of coconut oil on your dog’s paw pads before a walk can reduce scrapes or minor cuts, and also speeds the healing of minor nicks, cuts and even sunburn.
    4. Aid Digestion: Dogs with sensitive tummies can take a bit of coconut oil with their meal to reduce indigestion.
    5. Prevent and kill parasites: Coconut oil can even kill giardia, one of the nastiest bugs affecting dogs and cats. It can also kill fleas when rubbed on problem areas and allowed to set in.
    6. Condition coat: Rub a dab of coconut oil between your palms then give your dog a good massage. The oil serves as a wonderful conditioner. (It’s the number one ingredient in some conditioner sprays.
    7. Boost immune system: The lauric acid makes coconut oil similar to mother’s milk, increasing immunity against bacterial and viral infections.
    8. Improve thyroid function: Taken internally, coconut oil can increase thyroid stability.
    9. Enhance flavor: Dogs usually love the flavor of coconut, so a little coconut oil stirred in your dog’s food can coax a picky eater to take that first bite.
    10. Reduce allergies and hot spots: Regular doses of coconut oil have been shown to reduce allergic reactions. Hot spots and yeast flare-ups can also be treated with coconut oil topically.
    Ready to get your dog started on the road to good health with delicious coconut oil? Feed your dog about 1 teaspoon of coconut oil per 10lbs of body weight each day.
    Build up the dosing starting with about 25% of the recommended dose and increase over the course of about a month. Coconut oil is one of the yummiest and cheapest ways to address a variety of issues your dogs may have.
  • 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.
    310 919 9372

Why Vegan Dog Food is Not Good for Dogs

Some of you may think this an odd subject for a post on a pet health website – or on any website, for that matter. Why would anyone want their pet to refrain from eating animal protein? But if the volume questions veterinarians and veterinary nutritionist receive on this issue is any guide, it’s not strange at all.
Questions on animal protein restriction for pets come mostly from concerned vegans and vegetarians looking to feed their pets along their same lines, but also from politically minded foodies and environmentalists looking for humane solutions to environmentally expensive animal protein for their pets.
All of which makes sense. After all, if you’re concerned enough to want to go vegan or vegetarian on political grounds, it stands to reason you might want the same for your pets. In fact, I respect that point of view. (Theoretically, anyhow.) Yet despite my warm regards for these politically sound intentions, I can’t get behind the drive to take pets vegan… or even vegetarian.
Every single time I’ve written about this issue in the past, I’ve bought myself reams of indignant e-mails rife with heartfelt testimonials detailing the extreme longevity of vegan cats (inexplicable in the absence of household predators) along with the various and sundry health benefits these diets conferred. And while I’ll heartily agree that dogs and cats can survive without animal protein, the question remains… for how long and how well?

So what’s my trouble with these diets?

Let’s tackle the obvious first:

Offering cats a vegan approach is about as biologically appropriate as feeding them granola bars. Okay, I may exaggerate a tad, but it’s not too far off. That’s because cats are obligate carnivores. Here’s how Cornell’s vet school describes this distinction:
“It means that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements. In their natural habitat, cats are hunters that consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimal amounts of carbohydrates.”
So feeding them otherwise – particularly because the nutrient content of meats is impossible to emulate in purely vegetable form – is tantamount to animal cruelty.
For dogs, our understanding is murkier: Studying their anatomy, physiology, and behavior undeniably tells us that they’re optimized for meat consumption. Meanwhile, knowing what domesticated lab-reared Beagles can digest tells us that dogs can digest and absorb vegetable protein better than their wild cousins can.
In fact, we even know of ten genes that appear to demonstrate our domesticated dogs’ 15,000 year-long adaptation to our starchier human diets.
That said, even the Beagle-bound commercial pet food nutritionists who champion the benefits of soy protein and corn gluten are nowhere near recommending animal protein-free diets for our dogs.
While most of these industrial veterinary nutritionists have concluded that dogs are solidly omnivorous, they will nonetheless allow an emphasis on the kinds of foods their dentition would indicate they’re built to consume. The cuspids they use for tearing and the molars they use for grinding, they conclude, are clearly built for a meat-based diet… with other stuff thrown in.
All of this is why you won’t find me pushing the dietary envelope with my canine patients, either. In fact, since Beagles are arguably the most digestively capable example of any organism (with the possible exception of flesh-eating bacteria), I think I’ll stick to what observing the natural world can teach us: Dogs and cats prefer meat for a good reason: they’re built to consume it. So why feed them otherwise? Are morality-based political reasons good enough? What if you’re religiously observant in ways that preclude meat consumption?
Hmmmm… here’s my answer: It is one thing to source kosher or halal foods for your pet. It’s quite another to expect our pets to subsist on a vegan diet because we have a personal or political issue with consuming animal proteins.
After all, if you’re politically and/or religiously motivated against feeding animal products, there’s no requirement that you keep a carnivorous pet. Indeed, if you must feed vegan or vegetarian, you can always raise a rabbit, get a goat, consider a horse, or adopt a guinea pig. (And I don’t say this lightly.)
Given that there are plenty of options for those who believe their religion and/or politics must extend to their pets, I believe there’s no need to inflict a biologically stressful condition on another species… simply because you desire its company.

Flea Control Product Poisoning


Flea and tick control products for cats come in a variety of forms: collars, powders, dips, sprays, and spot-on products, to name a few. Although there are several different types of active ingredients used for flea and tick control, the most common ingredient is pyrethrin, an insecticide that is used in pet products to repel fleas and other insects as well as to repel insects from food plants. A natural organic compound derived from the seed casings of the chrysanthemum flower, this highly effective insecticide attacks the nervous system of insects while remaining harmless to mammals, as long as the levels are very low.


Toxicity most commonly occurs as a result of improper use of flea and tick control products, particularly over-application or use of a product that was formulated for a different species. Cats are much more sensitive than dogs are to pyrethrins, and because the level of pyrethrins will be higher in a flea repellent that has been formulated for dogs, cats will commonly fall ill after being treated with a flea or tick product made for dogs.


The synthetic versions of pyrethrin, permethrin and other pyrethroids, have an even higher incidence of toxicity for cats when used improperly (the toxicity risks also increase for humans).  Users can distinguish other synthetic pyrethroids in insecticide products by looking for ingredients that end in “thrin” in the ingredient list.




  • Excessive drooling
  • Muscle tremors, staggering (ataxia)
  • Possibly seizures
  • An agitated or over excited state
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing or hyperthermia (less common)
  • Evidence that a pyrethrin or permethrin containing product was applied recently




Toxicity is caused by an overdose of topical (external) flea and tick control products containing pyrethrin, permethrin or other pyrethroids. It can also result from using pyrethrin containing flea products made for dogs, which are made with higher levels of pyrethrin — levels that are unsafe for cats. Toxicity can also occur as a result of ingestion, such as when a cat grooms itself or licks another animals (including dogs) that have been treated with a pyrethrin product.




If your cat is wearing a flea collar or other insect repelling device, remove it.

Call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680 immediately to determine if your cat has been poisoned.






Diagnosis is based on symptoms and history of recent exposure to pyrethrin-containing products.




Treatment will be given to control symptoms as needed. Most commonly, medications to control tremors and seizures, along with intravenous fluids to maintain hydration.  If symptoms are severe enough, your cat may need to remain hospitalized for a few days until symptoms subside.




Because pyrethrins are so effective at insect control, products that are formulated for insect control in and around the home, including gardens, can also be found in the cat’s environment.



There are usually no long-term effects from overdosing if the cat receives immediate treatment. If you used a pyrethrin containing flea and tick product that was formulated for cats and you are sure that it was applied properly, and your cat still showed signs of toxicity, do not use a product that uses pyrethrins. Talk to your veterinarian about a good alternative for your cat.




The most important way to prevent overdose is to read labels and follow the directions: how much, how often, and how to apply the product on the cat. If you cannot find this information on the label, do not use the product. Make sure the product is labeled for cats; you cannot substitute with flea and tick products made for dogs.


In addition, all flea products have a minimum age for use, kittens must reach a certain age before they can be treated with any kind of flea or tick product. Most products also have a minimum weight. The amount (or dose) of pyrethrin used in a formula often will vary according to a cat’s weight. Make sure that you are choosing the formula that best matches your cat’s age and weight. Also keep in mind that because cats groom each other, you will need to keep them separated after applying a flea or tick product until the product has dried.

Common synthetic pyrethroids: bifenthrin, permethrin, allethrin, tetramethrin, cyfluthrin, cyhalothrin, cypermethrin, deltamethrin.

Dog Snoring: Why?


In the most basic terms, the snoring sound itself occurs when there is some type of blockage in the upper respiratory tract. This blockage can be anywhere along the respiratory path from the nose to the trachea (the tube that takes air to the lungs). As air is forced through these passages, it moves unevenly past the blockage and creates the groaning, creaking noise we recognize as snoring.
There are several factors that can make your dog snore including abnormal confirmation and structure of the face, obesity, nasal congestion, infections, polyps, allergies, medications and sometimes even the sleeping position.
Take a look at these common causes for snoring and see if any sounds like something your dog might experience:
  • Flat Faces – Dog breeds with flat faces (brachycephalic breeds) or pushed-in noses often have several structural abnormalities that affect their noses and airways. Their cute squished up faces typically mean that the same number of body structures must fit into a much smaller space. The nasal cavity, already quite small in dogs, is even smaller in these dogs but must hold similar tissue and structures. Redundant skin folds (like the wrinkles in a Pug’s face) often result in blocked passages and snoring. Breeds which are commonly affected include Boxers, Pugs, Pekingese, Shih Tzus, Boston Terriers and Bulldogs. Some of these breeds require surgery to remove excess tissue and relieve the blockage.
  • Soft Palate Disorders – Soft palate disorders are usually congenital defects of the fleshy tissue at the back of the throat (soft palate and epiglottis) these normally separates the oral and nasal cavities. The most common disorders are a defect or “cleft” in the palate or an elongation of the palate. This overlapping causes an obstruction of the airway during breathing. The sound the pet makes (stridor) worsens during exercise. Treatment of an elongated soft palate is surgical. This condition is seen also in the brachycephalic breeds group.
  • Obesity – A chubby dog isn’t always a happy dog. A few extra pounds can cause a lot of extra pressure on a dog’s respiratory system and chest cavity. Excess weight can even result in brief interruptions in breathing during sleep, a condition commonly known as sleep apnea in humans. Thankfully, weight loss typically eliminates snoring in these cases.
  • Nasal Congestion – Just like humans, dogs are more likely to snore when their noses are clogged. Nasal congestion can result from allergies, nasal infections or even nasal tumors. Allergies can be caused by dust, house dust mites, mildew, mold, and smoke.
  • Medications – Some medications such as muscle relaxants or those used to treat pain can lower respiratory rate or even constrict air passages.
  • Weather – Dry air can cause nasal tissues to stick together, resulting in snoring from dogs who are typically silent sleepers. In some individuals, changes in altitude due to travel or even varying air pressure can increase snoring.
  • Sleep Positions – Some people tend to snore more when they sleep on their backs and less when they sleep on their sides. Dogs also can snore more or less based on their sleep positions. Dogs who sleep on their back and stomach typically place more pressure on their respiratory tracts, while those who sleep on their sides usually experience less.For the most part, snoring in dogs is not a problem as long as they are getting plenty of good sleep and they continue to breathe normally while awake. Snoring becomes a problem if it interrupts or prevents normal sleep patterns or causes difficulty breathing during exercise.If you are worried about your dog’s snoring or see a behavior change, nasal discharge, sneezing or a bloody nose, please see your veterinarian for an examination. Ensure that there is no medical reason for the symptoms.   by: Dr. Debra Primovic – DVM

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.
310 919 9372