Chemotherapy for Dogs – Managing Dog Cancer Treatment


During nearly every consultation, there comes a time where pet owners must make the decision whether to pursue chemotherapy or not. While a small number of people arrive assured that they will treat their pets, more frequently owners arrive with an open mind to the available options, searching for all possible choices before moving forward.

On rare occasions, at the onset of an appointment, an owner will inform me they have no intention of ever pursuing chemotherapy. I’m marginally astonished when faced with such assuredness, given I’m a veterinary oncologist and treating cancer is what I do for a living. With time, I’ve come to appreciate such an owner’s motivation for simply seeking my advice without intention to follow it.

Somewhere in the middle lie owners who initially decline therapy, but later change their minds and elect treatment.

Personal Experience Influences Decision

Most animals with cancer are diagnosed at relatively asymptomatic stages of disease. Owners are typically shocked if I tell them their otherwise happy and healthy dog or cat might only be expected to live a few weeks or months following a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer such as lymphoma or high-grade mast cell disease. Convincing that owner to pursue treatment is a challenge, until the pet’s health declines and the owner feels urgency to move forward out of desperation.

More often, owners digest the information I present to them and reverse their initial decision to not treat after learning the facts about chemotherapy. Their prior misconceptions may stem from personal experience with chemotherapy, or from observations of close friends or family members. Even an owner’s primary veterinarian can discourage meeting with an oncologist by perpetuating myths about cancer care in animals.

Of all the misunderstandings related to chemotherapy preventing owners from pursuing treatment, the biggest hurdle I face is communication with owners who are certain chemotherapy is guaranteed to make their pet sick.

Dog Chemotherapy Side Effects and Quality of Life

The goal of veterinary oncology is to preserve quality of life for as long as possible while minimizing potential deleterious effects. Approximately 25% of all animals receiving chemotherapy will experience self-limiting side effects from chemotherapy. This generally entails mild gastrointestinal upset and/or lethargy that occurs during the first several days following treatment, and they only last for a day or so.

Adverse signs can usually be controlled using over the counter or prescription medications. Roughly 5% of chemotherapy patients will have severe side effects that require hospitalization. With appropriate management, the risk of these side effects causing the death is less than 1%.

If a patient experiences serious side effects, the prescribing oncologist will reduce future doses of chemotherapy to avoid similar complications in the future. Additionally, to help reduce the risk of complications in sick pets, every precaution is made to ensure they are strong enough to undergo treatmentprior to instituting therapy.

The quality of life for animals receiving chemotherapy is excellent.  Multiple studies indicate that the majority of owners are happy with their choice to pursue treatment for their companions and their outcomes and would elect to pursue treatment again if necessary.

Placing Your Trust in Medicine

For those owners who initially decline treatment, but then move ahead, experience tells me they would feel no different from those owners committed from the onset of diagnosis.

If you’re facing a diagnosis of cancer in your pet, you do not need to be absolutely positive you want to pursue treatment prior to speaking with an oncologist about your options. If you’re concerned chemotherapy will be “torture” for your animal, I can assure you this is untrue. No veterinary oncologist endures the rigors associated with their training and credentialing with the goal of imparting pain and suffering on their patients.

Veterinary oncologists are here to make your pet feel better from their disease and to know the appropriate and least impacting treatment for their situation. We’re not here to convince you to treat with chemotherapy. We’re here to provide the facts and allow you to consider what is most appropriate for your companion.

Even if it takes a little time for you to reach your decision, your oncologist will be there for you and your pet during your time of need.


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

Dog Psychology: 15 Things that Bug Dogs

There isn’t much out there that bugs a dog. But there are times when things can get under the skin of even the “coolest” dogs. Here are some of their top pet peeves in dogs … from the mouths of dogs themselves.

1. Leaving the toilet bowl lid down. Humans just don’t understand that the water is cold, fresh and always tastes better there. For the little dogs that have never been able to “reach” this delightful experience – you don’t know what you are missing.

2. Not sharing in the fruits of your labor. I don’t mean “fruit” actually. I mean that beautiful, 1 ½ -inch steak you cooked to such aromatic perfection. We’re all part of the pack, right? Why am I not getting my share?

3. Not understanding my behavior. Okay, so I like to greet strangers by leaping on them. I like to chase my tail by that lead crystal vase you call an heirloom. I’m not misbehaving; I’m a dog for crying out loud. It’s all good, and like shadow chasing, helps build eye-to-paw coordination.

4. Bathing. What is with the daily bath “thing” that humans do? And why do they inflict that obscenity upon me on occasion? Just when I think I am smelling fine, they bathe me. I really don’t understand. I’m only going to go out and roll in “something” again. They just don’t appreciate the effort it takes to get that perfect doggie odor.

5. Rushing me to potty. Don’t they know that there is a true art to finding the right spot? Just because they did not get up in time, they are running late, they want me to “Hurry up and potty.” Have a little respect. This is my chance to shine.

6. Being away. I love attention and being around people, noise and excitement. When you are away, at work, or running errands … this is time away from me. Don’t you know? It is ALL about me. Your life should revolve around me AND I can make you regret leaving me behind….

7. Nail trims. They are my nails – I spend lots of time growing them and here they come again touching my feet. I hate that!

8. Not letting me chase the squirrel. They torment me by placing a “glass wall” between me and lots of critters outside. How annoying. All I want to do is “play” with them. The other thing they do is restrain me with this thing called the leash. I want to run forward and I am pulled back. If they can’t keep up, they should just let me go. What is a dog to do?

9. Catnip. Now this is one peeve that really annoys me. I see the cat roll and play and even cry out in joy in response to catnip. I smell it, eat it, lick it and … nothing happens. Nothing. I don’t get it.

10. Not letting me at the mailman. This is so unfair. I wait all day for the mailman and finally he comes. The anticipation is great. Then, they hold me back. Tell me to be quiet. Very annoying. They don’t appreciate the fact that the mailman comes everyday and I single handedly scare him away. My bravery and courage are unappreciated.

11. When my owner is playing with the other dog or cat. This really hurts my feelings. Seeing MY owner play with someone else. It is all about me… They really don’t understand.

12. Won’t let me at the litter box. I think of it as an opportunity for a tootsie rollsnack. My owners get all grossed out, run around and then actually deny me access to what I desire the most. I am actually helping to clean up. What’s the problem?

13. Expecting me to be at their beck and call. For a treat – I have to do some little humiliating trick and pretend I like it. What about independence, freedom and respect?

14. Sharing the bed. I don’t understand why I have to sleep on the floor. Why can’t I have the bed and they sleep on the floor? I work hard all day and night. I protect my owners, guard the house and scare away invaders of my castle such as the mailman, cats, squirrels, and a multitude of other creatures. I should be pampered.

15. Rolling up the windows. I feel such joy from the little words, “wanna go bye bye.” This gives me thoughts of having the window down with cool wind blowing through my hair, looking just dynamite as other dogs stare from the curbs in envy and awe. And just when I am really getting into it – head out, ear flapping, they roll up the window. Then I am forced to stare at other dogs going by with their heads out the window. Mega bummer.

…and one more for good measure:

16. Cats. What really makes me angry is the agility and grace of cats. They have the gifted ability to jump up on things and escape under things with such ease. I really wish I could do that. When I try to do that, I inevitably break or knock something over.

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

Dog Licking: When to Worry



Dogs lick themselves, that’s a fact of life, but when does it get to be an issue? You may catch your pooch bathing daily to keep clean. This is an innate behavior in the animal kingdom. But there are times when licking can become excessive and can be a clinical sign of an underlying illness.

Allergies are the number one cause of excessive licking in dogs. Owners may note that their dog licks in between the toes (sometimes leading to staining of the fur due to enzymes in the saliva), they may lick and chew at their hind end and their inner thighs.

Environmental allergies are caused by dusts, danders, pollens, and other airborne particles which lead to build-up on the skin and fur of the dog and in turn cause itching. Allergies to flea bites and certain proteins in pet food can cause similar signs.

Cleaning your dog’s paws with doggie wipes or a warm washcloth after walks outside can help to decrease environmental allergens. Owners should seek veterinary attention for their dogs if the skin is changing color, if there are wounds, pimples, or crusts noted on the skin, if there is excessive scratching associated with the licking, and/or if fleas are seen.

Licking can also be a sign of nausea in some dogs. If your dog is licking abnormal places, such as the floors or the walls, or if your dog is licking his/her lips frequently, these can be a signs of gastrointestinal upset. Some dogs will also smack their lips or drool excessively when they feel nauseous.

If your dog is showing these signs and they last more than 24 hours, or if they are at all associated with vomiting, diarrhea, or lack of appetite, it is important to contact your veterinarian.

Addressing quality of life is the first step. There are shampoos that can help calm the itching as well as veterinary prescribed anti-histamines to keep your dog comfortable.

Your vet may also recommend some diagnostic tests, such as a fecal panel, blood testing, and/or x-rays, to rule out causes of belly upset. Your veterinarian can often prescribe or administer medications to help control and sometimes eliminate the nausea for your pet.

Dogs can also have behavioral causes of excessive licking, such as anxiety or a type of obsessive disorder where they over-groom themselves. Some studies have shown that the act of licking increases endorphins in the brain which calms the dog while it is licking. Loud noises, separation anxiety and/or change in environment can lead to this behavior.

It is important to intervene to lessen or stop this behavior before the dog licks off all of its fur (usually confined to one site on the body, such as a leg or the abdomen), which can lead to skin infection (hot spots) and acral lick granulomas (which are masses that occur secondary to chronic abrasion with the tongue and inflammation to the area). These infections and granulomas can be painful to the dog.

If there is trauma to the skin, your veterinarian will treat the skin infections and/or granulomas caused by the excessive licking and then determine if the licking is a medical disorder or something that can be alleviated with behavior training.

Diversion techniques can be instituted if your pet is over grooming. This entails close monitoring and side-tracking your dog when he starts to obsessively groom. Give him/her a favorite toy or treat to focus on, go for a walk, or even spend some quality time brushing your dog. This can help get his/her mind off of the compulsions.

If your veterinarian determines after examination (and possible diagnostic testing) that your dog is licking due to compulsive behavior or anxiety, there are some natural calming products that can be instituted. These include calming drops for the water, calming treats, pheromone collars, and thunder shirts. Very dilute apple cider vinegar can also be sprayed on the skin to deter licking but should be discussed with a veterinarian first to be sure it will not irritate the skin further. These natural products tend to have little to no side effects and are safest when starting a treatment plan.

Keeping a low stress environment for anxious dogs can be very helpful also; quiet, low lighting, and slow movements. Still, sometimes natural products are not enough to calm your dog and stop excessive licking. This is when a thorough discussion should be had with your veterinarian about behavior modification drugs such as Fluoxetine and Clomipramine. However, these medications can have side effects and are usually only given for chronic conditions. It is important to discuss all of the pros and cons with your veterinarian prior to starting your dog on these medications.

Quality of life is the most important thing when it comes to our pets. Excessive licking can cause that quality to decrease over time. If you think your dog is excessively licking, it is pertinent to discuss these signs with your veterinarian. Together you can determine if the signs are something to be concerned about, or if your pet is simply taking his/her daily bath.


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

How to Prevent Common Puppy Behavior Problems

While most new puppy owners are very good at supplying their pup with all the good things in life, such as petting, cuddling, kissing, and treats, many are often not so naturally inclined to provide the guidance and leadership that the young puppy needs.

Call it training, if you will, it is an essential component of raising a well-mannered and well-behaved dog. Sure, there are times when you can let the youngster have free reign; times when the two of you can cavort around in blissful silliness and indulgence. That’s half the fun of owning a new puppy, right? But the other side of the coin of happiness is setting limits of acceptable behavior so that the new puppy does not spiral out of control. Good puppies turn into good dogs, and puppies and dogs need us to be their leaders as well as their friends. Dogs need strong leaders.

Typical puppy problems include unacceptable behaviors such as destructive chewing, biting, or nipping, jumping up, and excessive barking. How should the hapless owner deal with such problems? The answer to this problem is universally applicable to all the behaviors described and, though simple, seems to be a hard one for some owners to grasp. It is that you should reward behaviors that you find acceptable or pleasing and ignore or redirect behaviors that you find unacceptable or annoying.

Destructive Chewing

First of all, understand that chewing is a normal behavior for young pups and may become quite intense around teething time in the 5 to 9 month age group. As such, it is extremely important for new puppy owners to provide their new pup something to chew upon.

A plethora of chew toys is available in most pet stores and these should be brought home and freely distributed for your dog’s chewing pleasure. If your puppy starts to chew on an unacceptable item, such as a chair leg or electric cord, issue a curt command, such as Out! and physically redirect it onto an acceptable item to chew (one of its chew toys).

It is appropriate to render certain items unavailable or aversive but the main thrust of your training is to teach the pup what is acceptable for it to chew. An inappropriate response to finding your pup engaged in destructive chewing and, unfortunately, one still recommended by some trainers, is to physically punish the dog for chewing what it should not.

Punishment teaches a dog nothing except how to avoid punishment. If you punish a dog for destructive chewing, it will simply chew it when you’re not around. It will learn that you are the source of punishment and will avoid punishment by avoiding chewing in front of you. Hardly an ideal solution.

Biting and Nipping

This is the problem that (excuse the pun) should be nipped in the bud. While it is okay to allow a young pup to mouth and nip fingers and hands, there comes a time when it must be taught bite inhibition. This is usually taught at around 4 or 5 months of age. The moment the puppy’s needle sharp teeth start to cause you, the owner, any discomfort or pain, immediately explain Ouch!, and withdraw your hand. That’s the end of the game and the end of the entertainment.

The puppy will soon learn that humans are soft and ouchy and only minimal pressure is necessary if they wish to discourage an unwanted intervention. The big mistake that owners make is writing off all puppy nipping as “normal puppy behavior” and failing to take any steps to curtail it until it is too late. If a young puppy is too aloof to play by mouthing encourage it to do so that you might teach it bite inhibition. It will pay off in the long run.

Another cardinal mistake owners make is to scream and flail when their new puppy nips too hard. This conveys to the puppy that you can be like a huge squeaky toy, the most entertaining thing in an otherwise dull life; so it may nip you simply for the pleasure of witnessing your response.

Another inappropriate way of dealing with nipping is by physical punishment (e.g. by slapping or hitting the pup) because this will ruin your relationship with it and may inflict damage. And, yes, there is such a thing as the shaken puppy syndrome.

Jumping Puppy

Here’s another all-too-common puppy behavior problem that is often dealt with inappropriately by owners. The first thing they fail to appreciate is that dogs only jump up because they are rewarded in some way by so doing. It may not be the owners themselves but their guests who lean down and pet the pup, giving it their attention in response to being jumped upon. This will ensure that jumping up continues.

If an owner wants an adult dog that will not jump up on them or their visitors, they should simply instruct all who meet the pup to “turn into a tree” or “turn to stone” or to simply walk away. If jumping up is not rewarded it will not be propagated.

If a dog is already jumping up because it has been rewarded for doing so and attention is suddenly withdrawn, the behavior will get worse for a few days before it gets better. This exacerbation is referred to as an extinction burst. Many owners don’t know this and so they give up too soon. It may take days or weeks for the behavior to fully extinguish.

Some puppy owners, in desperation, turn to the wrong type of dog trainer for advice on how to correct the jumping problem. Owners are taught to knee the dog in the chest, cup it under the chin, or stand on its back paws as a way of eliminating the behavior. These physical punishments are rude and wrong and, while they might produce the goods on occasion, are uncalled for and compromise your relationship with your dog. A more acceptable technique is to hold the pup by both paws and remove them from your person but do not let go until it is clear the dog is keen to be released. This is a form of negative reinforcement and the pup will increase the frequency with which it greets you with four feet on the floor in order to avoid a negative consequence of you holding onto its paws.

While an owner may ignore or negatively reinforce jumping up behavior, there is one other component of training this behavior that is frequently overlooked. That is, rewarding the behavior that you want. You should always reward your pup with praise, petting, and your attention, for greeting you with four feet on the floor. And reward it for getting four feet back on the floor after a bout of jumping. Timely reward is important if non-jumping behavior is to be maintained.

The bottom line: ignore the behavior you don’t want (jumping) and reward the behavior you do want (four feet on the floor). It’s as simple as that. If you want to add a word cue or command, the one to use is Off! Do not tell a dog that is jumping on you Down! as this is a different behavior and the utterance of this word on this occasion will simply confuse the dog. Using a non-specific word, like no, or the wrong word, like down, are common mistakes that owners make when trying to retrain a jumping dog.

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

Is Natural Pet Food A Better Choice?

 The pet food market abounds with choices for dogs and cats alike. Pet foods come in a variety of flavors, and many have special formulas to prevent joint problems, hairballs, and bad breath. Some can even help your pet lose weight.  Here’s the skinny on natural pet food.

With many pet owners changing their own diets to include more natural and organic foods, natural pet foods are on the rise as well.

What does “natural” mean? In the most common use of the word, a “natural” food contains no artificial colors, flavorings or other additives. “Natural” is sometimes confused with “organic,” which often refers to food that is grown without pesticides or herbicides. Many major brands of pet food contain colors, flavorings, binders or preservatives that are synthetic rather than derived from natural sources.

Artificial colors or flavorings are often less expensive than natural ones, and may have a stronger color or flavor. Binders and preservatives make food easier to produce, ship and store. These substances are added to inexpensive food that is easy to ship and store to ensure a pleasant appearance and a flavor that is attractive to pets. Natural pet foods do not use synthetic ingredients. They use plant-derived colorings and natural preservatives like vitamin C.

Some pet owners and veterinarians alike have become concerned that artificial ingredients might have detrimental health effects. To that point, more people are switching to natural pet food formulas or those with fewer artificial ingredients. Natural pet food can now be purchased in most pet supply stores. Kibble can be ordered online in bulk, and many veterinarians now stock all-natural foods. For those who prefer a home-cooked meal, recipes are available that provide a nutritionally balanced meal for dogs or cats using human-grade food that you prepare yourself. These diets range from combining cooked vegetables and meats to feeding an entirely raw meat diet. Many books and websites are devoted to the benefits of an all-natural diet, whether prepackaged or prepared at home.

What should you consider before switching your pet to a natural pet food diet? First, bear in mind that “natural” does not necessarily imply that it is appropriate for your pet. Remember that “natural” only signifies that there are no artificial ingredients; the term has no official meaning according to the FDA.

It is important to ensure that the food you have chosen still has the proper balance of protein and other ingredients for your pet’s needs, and does not contain any ingredients that your pet might be allergic to. Not sure how to read dog food labels? Check out our article on the subject here. If your pet has specific health concerns that require a special diet, you should consult your veterinarian before switching foods.

Natural food is slightly different from other types of pet food in a few ways. The natural preservatives might not be as effective as synthetic ones, meaning that you might need to buy smaller bags more often to avoid food going bad in storage.

Natural formulas are often considered premium foods and sometimes cost more than non-premium brands. Finally, older pets that have been fed solely processed food with large amounts of artificial ingredients might be reluctant to try their dinner after the switch. As with any changes in diet, it pays to research the best options and monitor your pet for digestive problems or other issues. Although feeding a natural diet is best done with research and care, it can be a positive change for you and your pet.

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

Flea Control for Cats and Flea Bite Allergies


Flea Bite Hypersensitivity in Cats


Flea bite hypersensitivity or flea allergic dermatitis is very common in cats. In fact, it is the most common skin disease to be diagnosed in pets. Flea allergies usually develop when cats are young (less than one and up to five years of age), but can begin at any age. Flea saliva is actually believed to be the cause for the allergy or sensitivity.

The flea life cycle includes the adult flea, egg, larva and pupa. Adult fleas do bite, but cannot survive long if they are not on an animal. Once the adult flea lays its eggs on the host cat it will fall off, leaving the eggs to mutate through the rest of their life cycles. The rest of the flea’s life cycle then occurs on the host cat, and the generational cycle continues and grows until the flea population has been eradicated entirely.

Symptoms and Types

Flea bite hypersensitivity or flea allergic dermatitis usually causes severe itching, a condition that is medically referred to as pruritis. Since as few as one or two flea bites a week can cause pruritis, symptoms will often persist even after some form of flea control has been applied. Most cats will have symptoms that worsen with age, but symptoms are also often episodic. Cats especially will sometimes suffer from a related conditon called neurodermatoses, a behavioral problem that comes about as the result of anxiety related flea bite hypersensitivity.

Most owners will first notice frequent and severe itching and scratching, hair loss, and scabs on their cat’s skin. Many times the hind end is affected more than the front of the body or the head, however, cats that are suffering from an allergy to fleas can have lesions anywhere on the body. Moreover, fleas or flea dirt may or may not be readily visible.


Using a flea comb to inspect your cat, fleas or flea dirt may be seen more easily. Skin tests for mites or bacterial skin diseases may also be recommended if the fleas cannot be seen. Sometimes the best diagnostic method is just to treat for fleas.


Flea control and prevention is essential for cats with flea bite hypersensitivity. There are numerous options on the market for killing the adult fleas for a period of time, but all should be repeated (as indicated) for continuous flea control. Treatments often are applied as spot-on treatments, which are topical treatments that are applied to a small unreachable area, usually at the top back of the neck where the cat is unable to lick it off. In some cases, oral products may be more useful and practical. Flea shampoos can also be beneficial for young animals or for an acute flea infestation, but continuous management with one of the long-term products is essential.

Flea control for outdoor pets is virtually impossible, although the current flea control products that are available may be sufficient for short term treatment, as long as your house does not become infested. There are many pet products that treat for fleas during their immature stages of life (i.e., eggs). However, if the house or yard has become infested, environmental treatment will be necessary. Fleas may actually bite humans in the house if flea medications cause them to leave their animal host to search for another host.

Cats that are allergic to fleas may require steroids or antihistamines to combat their sensitivity to the bites. Likewise, if a secondary bacterial infection develops as the result of open lesions, antibiotics may be prescribed. Follow-up exams are often necessary for determining how treatments are progressing.

Living and Management

The most important factor in managing a cat with fleas is the application of regular treatment doses on a timely basis. Because it takes only one or two bites for a flea allergic animal to start itching, you will have the best results when you are consistent with flea control products. Other factors, like frequent bathing, and whether you have chosen to use spot-on or other topical products, will determine how long to wait between product applications.

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

Dangers of Secondhand Smoke on Your Pets

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 malignantlymphoma (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.


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.
310 919 9372

The Dangers of Lawn Chemicals: Are Lawn Pesticides Killing Your Pet?


Pesticides accounted for more than 32 percent of lawn and garden supply sales in 2014. As Americans strive for the perfect green lawn, they are using a wide array of chemicals to achieve their goals. Unfortunately, this has a detrimental effect on the environment and the animals who live in it.

But “animals” are not limited to wildlife. In fact, many pets are susceptible to falling ill as a result of exposure to lawn chemicals. Pet owners also happen to carry many pesticide chemicals with them, on clothes and shoes, as a result of regular exposure. Research has revealed that after pesticides are applied outdoors on lawns, they often make their way indoors and onto surfaces.

How much exposure do cats and dogs experience when they are close to the ground on a regular basis?

A study published in July 2013 looked at urine samples of dogs from 25 households to determine whether chemicals entered their systems after they were applied to lawns. Chemicals were detected in the urine of dogs from 19 of the 25 households examined following pesticide application. However, it’s worth noting that pets from 14 of the 25 households had chemicals in their urine prior to application.

“Lawn chemicals can vary widely in their safe use around pets,” said Dr. Tina Wismer, medical director of the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “Some items, such as fertilizers, may only cause mild stomach upset, while others, such as insecticides, can be deadly.”

Wismer goes on to state that insecticides and snail bait tend to be the most poisonous to pets. Luckily, safer alternatives, such as pyrethrins, have been developed as of late.

“There has been a greater awareness [from insecticide developers] that people have pets, and the labeling reflects that,” Wismer continued. “The products used today are much safer around pets than the ones we used 20 years ago.”

Some experts believe that it isn’t just insecticides that pose the biggest threat—herbicides and fertilizers can be just as dangerous. Disolfuton, for example, is a pesticide commonly used to protect roses. It’s extremely toxic to animals, causing everything from diarrhea to seizures.

“With more pressure from pet owners, the large lawn care companies may be looking for ways to accommodate safety concerns,” said Dr. Avi Adulami of the Smiling Pets Veterinary Clinic in Florida.

However, the key to improving safety may not just lie in the hands of fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers. There is plenty that pet owners can do to maintain their lush, green lawns while keeping their furry friends safe.

“Most lawns need very few supplemental chemicals beyond nutrients applied in fertilizer products,” said Dr. Frank Rossi of Cornell University’s School of Integrative Plant Science.

“When fertilizing your lawn, be sure to water the product off the leaves after application. Then, it is safe for pets to enter.”

The dryness of pesticides on plants after application may also play a role in how they impact animals that come into contact with them.

“Pesticide use is different if it’s allowed to stay on foliage,” Rossi continued. “This is only an issue with some weed control products that have to dry on the leaves. Most other lawn pesticides are watered in like fertilizer and once watered in will not pose a risk to pets. If a product must dry on the leaf, avoid the area with pets until it has dried.”

Rossi goes on to state that as pesticide and insecticide manufacturers move to make these chemicals safer for humans, they are inevitably becoming safer for animals, too.

Of course, it helps for pet owners to be savvy about what they buy for their lawns. Warning labels on lawn care items may list specific hazards to animals, as well as precautionary statements. All of these warnings should be taken into consideration before using a product throughout a yard.

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

Dog Teeth Cleaning – With a Toothbrush

 How to Brush Your Dog's Teeth

Dental disease (especially periodontal disease) is the most common disease in our canine companions. It is also one of the most preventable and treatable diseases. Fortunately, we can reduce or even prevent dental disease by feeding a crunchy diet, appropriate chew treats and toys and daily tooth brushing. The following are steps to guide you on how to brush your dog’s teeth:

  • The first step is to start with a clean, healthy mouth. Good dental hygiene should start with a young pet with healthy new teeth and gums, or after your pet has had a professional dental cleaning.
  • You will need a soft-bristled tooth brush and veterinary toothpaste. Human toothpastes and baking soda may cause problems. Furthermore, veterinary toothpastes have flavors that are appealing to dogs. Anything other than a bristled tooth brush will not get below the gum line, which is the most important area to brush.
  • There are several important facts about our pets’ mouths that tell us when, where and how to brush. Periodontal disease usually affects the upper, back teeth first and worst. Plaque builds up on the tooth surface daily, especially just under the gum line. It takes less than 36 hours for this plaque to become mineralized and harden into “tartar” (calculus) that cannot be removed with a brush. Because of this progression, brushing should be done daily, with a brush to remove the plaque from under the gum line.
  • Pick a time of day that will become a convenient part of your pet’s daily routine. Just before a walk or before a daily treat can help your pet actually look forward to brushing time. Take a few days to let both of you get use to the process. Follow with praise and a walk or treat each time.
  • Start by offering your dog a taste of the veterinary toothpaste. The next time, let him taste the toothpaste, then run your finger along the gums of the upper teeth. Repeat the process with the tooth brush. Get the bristles of the brush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line. Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines. It should take you less than 30 seconds to brush your pet’s teeth. Do not try to brush the entire mouth at first. If all that your pet lets you brush is the outside of the upper teeth, you are still addressing the most important area of periodontal disease – prevention. If your pet eventually allows you to brush most of his teeth, so much the better.
  • Even with the best tooth brushing, some dogs may still need an occasional professional cleaning, just like humans. By brushing your pet’s teeth daily and curtailing the amount of periodontal disease, you may reduce the frequency and involvement of dental cleanings and provide your pet with a healthier, sweeter smile.

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

Overview of Dog Bad Breath – Halitosis

 Halitosis (Bad Breath) in Dogs


Halitosis, or bad breath, is an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s mouth. It’s more than just “doggie breath” in that it is offensive.

There are several products on the market to help you deal with dog bad breath including dog toothbrush and paste, dog treats that can help minimize tartar or freshen dog breath as welll as doggie breath drops. It is first important to understand and treat any underlying diseases that may be causing the foul odor.

Usually halitosis has oral causes, although sometimes it can be caused by other disease processes. Possible causes of dog bad breath in dogs include:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue that surrounds the tooth)
  • Abscessed tooth or teeth
  • Bone or hair stuck in mouth
  • Oral ulceration
  • Foreign bodies in the mouth (such as plant material or grass awns)
  • Oral neoplasia (tumors of the mouth)
  • Lung diseases, such as lung cancer
  • Severe kidney disease

What to Watch For

  • Oral discharge
  • Oral pain
  • Bloody oral discharge
  • Drooling
  • Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
  • Difficulty eating
  • Depression

Diagnosis of  Dog  Halitosis

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the underlying cause of the bad breath and help guide subsequent treatment recommendations. In dogs, some tests may include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination
  • A complete oral exam, which may require a brief anesthetic
  • Periodontal probing (a blunt probe that is used to check the gum/tooth interface) to identify gum and periodontal diseases
  • Full-mouth radiographs (X-rays) with a dental machine


Treatment of Halitosis in Dogs

Optimal therapy of any serious or persistent medical condition depends on establishing the correct diagnosis. There are numerous potential causes of halitosis and before any treatment can be recommended, it is important to identify the underlying cause. Initial therapy should be aimed at the underlying cause. This treatment may include:


  • Removal of foreign object if present
  • Treatment of any oral tumors as needed
  • Periodontal therapy and root planing (cleaning/scraping the teeth under the gums)


Home Care

Home care recommendations will depend on the underlying cause of the problem. Some steps that you can take to help eliminate your dog’s bad breath include:


  • Brushing your dog’s teeth daily. Tooth brushes/finger brushes and special toothpastes are available from your veterinarian.
  • Spraying 0.12 percent chlorhexidine (prescribed by your veterinarian) into your dog’s mouth once a day for seven to fourteen days.
  • Following dietary considerations recommended by your veterinarian. Special diets that may be beneficial include Hill’s Prescription Diet T/D® or Eukanuba Restricted-Calorie Rewards®.
  • Evaluation by your veterinarian if the bad breath persists.

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