Category Archives: Pets

Can Pets Get Cancer from Cigarette Smoke?



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.


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.


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.


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,  Westside Dog Nanny,             Certified Professional Pet Sitter,                            Certified by American Red Cross in Pet First Aid

We offer:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in Your Home, Doggie Day Care.
310 919 9372

6 Pet Health Myths You Need to Stop Believing


Warm noses, eating grass, and dangerous foods—none of them mean exactly what you think they mean. Misconceptions about your pet’s health abound and some of them can actually harm your furry one if you aren’t able to differentiate truth from myth.

Here are six common myths about dog health issues and cat health issues that you may have fallen for in the past.

Myth 1: A Warm Nose Means Your Dog is Sick

Warm nose equals a fever, right? Sorry, but no. In fact, it is absolutely a myth that a warm nose means your dog is sick, according to Dr. Shelby Neely, DVM, a Philadelphia-based veterinarian and the director of operations for the online vet service whiskerDocs.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint how this myth got started, Neely suspects it might have become a prevalent belief when canine distemper, a contagious viral infection, was more common. “Dogs that are sick with distemper may have a thickening of the nose, which may alter its temperature and moisture,” Neely explains.

So why is your dog’s nose warm sometimes and not others? It could be for many reasons—“from being overheated to genetics to normal fluctuations throughout the day,” Neely says.

If your suspect your dog might be sick, Neely says a much better diagnostic measure is to observe the way your dog is behaving, eating, drinking, urinating, and defecating. “In addition,” Neely adds, “nothing replaces an actual thermometer for assessing a dog’s temperature.”

Myth 2: A Few Table Scraps Will Not Hurt Your Dog’s Health

This is also a myth. In fact, human food can be quite dangerous for dogs. “Dogs are not humans and they have very specific diet requirements to keep them healthy, which are different from ours,” Neely explains.

Take, for example, things like garlic, onions, grapes, potato leaves, walnuts, and anything containing the artificial sweetener Xylitol—all seemingly innocent foods that could cause serious harm to your dog, according to Neely.

Other foods to worry about include cooked bones, as they can splinter and pierce the bowel, explains Dr. Judy Morgan, DVM. Dr. Morgan is certified in acupuncture and food therapy and is a member of the Veterinary Botanical Medicine Association.

In addition, many table foods are too high in salt, sugar, preservatives, and carbohydrates, according to Morgan. “So if you want to share some broccoli, feel free,” says Morgan. “But foods high in salt, sugar, and fat can be problematic for our pets.”

Why is that? Simply put, sugars cause the pancreas to release insulin, which is then used to convert the excess sugars into fat. The result: pet obesity.

“High fat diets and snacks cause the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes and can lead to pancreatitis, which can be life threatening,” Morgan adds.

Myth 3: Dogs Must Be Vaccinated Every Year

dog vaccine

While rabies vaccines are mandatory in most states, the rest of the vaccines are discretionary and should be given only to dogs that really need them.

To be clear, all puppies should receive a full core vaccination protocol to build immunity against a multitude of highly fatal diseases, says Dr. Rachel Barrack, DVM, owner of Animal Acupuncture and a licensed veterinarian certified in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology.  “These [core vaccinations] include canine adenovirus, canine distemper virus, canine parvovirus, and rabies,” Barrack explains.

Non-core vaccinations, on the other hand, may not be necessary for all dogs, depending on their lifestyle. “This also is true for older dogs, whose vaccination frequency recommendations depend on the individual lifestyle in question,” Barrack says. “It is important to take into account geographic location, exposure to other dogs, and underlying disease.”

A clear example: If dogs do not have contact with other dogs in day care or boarding, it makes no sense to vaccinate them for influenza and bordetella, explains Morgan. And the leptospirosis vaccination should only be given to dogs that have exposure to the disease, said Morgan. Leptospirosis is a bacterial infection spread through the urine of wildlife and rats.

Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that some vaccines likely create immunity for longer than one year, so they do not need to be administered annually. “Distemper and parvovirus vaccinations may give immunity to pets for 5 to 7 or more years,” Morgan says.

If you are unsure whether your pet needs to be revaccinated or not, Barrack recommends asking your veterinarian for a blood test run called a titer. “Titers can be taken from a blood sample to determine if the dog has enough antibodies to maintain immunity status or if booster vaccines are needed,” Barrack explains.

Depending on your pet’s titer, revaccination might not be immediately neccessary.

Titers measure the quantity of antibodies present in the bloodstream of a previously vaccinated dog, but the results do not necessarily parallel with immunity status. And antibodies are only one portion of a healthy immune response to a particular bacterial or viral disease. Titers are useful for identifying animals who are potentially at risk—that is, those with negative titers—but a positive titer doesn’t mean a pet is 100% protected.

“Titers are most commonly performed for distemper and parvovirus,” Morgan explains. “We recommend titers for all our patients and we recommend never giving vaccines if a dog is sick, has cancer or other chronic disease, or is being treated for an illness.”

If you would like to explore your options in titer testing for your pet in place of an annual vaccination, discuss your pet’s individual heath risks with your veterinarian.

Myth 4: It’s OK For Dog to Lick Their Wounds

Many pet owners actually believe that they should let their dogs lick their wounds to speed up healing. While there is evidence that some of the enzymes in saliva can aid in the healing process, there are other things lurking in the mouth that can do just the opposite.

According to Neely, while licking the wound can help remove dirt, there’s more harm than good that can come from allowing your dog to lick his wound.

“Dogs’ mouths, just like every living being, can have some nasty bacteria that could cause a wound to become infected,” says Neely.

In addition, while licking can keep an incision moist—therefore delaying healing, which can be good for a wound that needs to be allowed to continue to drain for a bit—Neely points out that it can also irritate the wound, making it worse. “[Licking] can even remove stitches that have been placed there by your veterinarian,” Neely says.

The best move? Prevent your pet from licking its wounds at all costs, even if it means making your dog wear the dreaded E-collar for a while.

Myth 5: Dogs Eat Grass to Make Themselves Vomit

sick dog, dog eating grass, why do dogs eat grass

The truth is that not all dogs eat grass, and those that do may do it for different reasons, according to Morgan. In fact, Morgan points out that a lot of dogs simply seem to enjoy eating grass, either because of the taste or because they’re attracted to some of the nutrients it contains. “Grass is high in potassium, chlorophyll, and digestive enzymes,” Morgan explains.

That said, some dogs will instinctively eat grass when they have an upset stomach, and while a sick dog does not know to eat grass with the intenion of vomiting, doing so often does result in vomiting. “Coarse, tough grasses are particularly effective at inducing vomiting,” Morgan says.

If your dog enjoys eating grass, Morgan recommends making sure there are no chemicals or pesticides sprayed where the dog has access.

“Unlike cats, dogs aren’t exclusively carnivores, so they like some roughage or plants in their diets,” Barrack says. “So if you notice your dog eating a lot of grass, you may want to include more vegetables as a source of roughage in their diet, or get a small tray of grass for your home.”

Myth 6: Only Old Dogs Get Kidney Disease

Although kidney disease is often seen in older pets, it can occur at any age. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers, Bull terriers, Doberman Pinschers, and others, are more likely to develop some type of kidney disease, but all dogs and cats are at risk.

If you suspect that your dog might be suffering from kidney disease—excessive drinking and urination are early signs—get your dog to your veterinarian right away.

A urinalysis should be performed to assess the kidney’s ability to concentrate urine, says Neely. This is done by measuring the urine specific gravity, which will be lower than normal in pets with kidney disease. “In addition, blood tests can be performed to assess kidney function, with the two most common being creatinine and BUN, or blood urea nitrogen.”

While kidney disease can be fatal if left untreated, early detection can easily change the outcome. “With early detection, treatment can be started, which can lead to pets living many years—even normal lifespans,” Neely says.


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

Processed Food vs. Whole Food for Pet Cancer Patients — What’s Better? Part 1

When a pet is diagnosed with cancer, a series of life-changing events occur. The pet is potentially faced with a treatment protocol involving surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or some combination of the three on a short or long-term basis. The owner is faced with the uncertainty of not knowing how long the beloved pet will live, in addition to the financial and time-management aspects of managing the pet cancer.

The process of getting a pet’s cancer treated involves many factors that come into play. As I work alongside veterinary oncologists providing chemotherapy or radiation to treat canine and feline cancers, I’ve observed that often the conversation about how to nutritionally support the body to best handle the prescribed treatment may not be part of the initial treatment conversation.

Diet For Dogs With Cancer

Yet, the “you are what you eat” perspective especially applies to cancer patients. The treatments used to manage the disease, or the cancer itself, can affect a pet’s appetite and ability to digest food and absorb nutrients. This is why owners must be proactive in ensuring that the meals entering their pets’ mouths contain ingredients that are highly bioavailable (easily absorbed) so that the nutrients can be readily utilized to fight cancer’s effects, reduce inflammation, resolve infection, and manage other ailments.

My own dog, Cardiff, exclusively eats a whole-food based diet and treats (The Honest Kitchen, Lucky Dog Cuisine, and human foods), and has since he was a puppy. So, even though I took all measures to prevent him from consuming foods and treats that are known to have toxins or are known to be carcinogenic, his body had other ideas and he still developed cancer.

Yet, I generally see that my patients who eat whole-food diets throughout their lives have fewer health problems. Additionally, my patients undergoing chemotherapy, including Cardiff, typically tolerate chemotherapy better than those eating processed pet foods.

Here in part 1 of 2, I will be sharing my perspective on this topic.

What Are the Differences Between Processed and Whole Foods?

Commercially-available kibble and many canned pet diets undergo significant processing to achieve the final product and are thereby considered processed foods. Processed foods contain fractionated ingredients (a process that separates the components of whole foods into smaller parts), like meat and grain “meals and by-products,” which either don’t exist in nature or are radically changed from what nature created.

Conversely, whole foods appear identical or very similar to their natural form. Whole foods contain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, and proteins that all work best when consumed together. By breaking nutrients apart, the synergistic qualities of whole foods can be lost. Co-factors essential for digestion may be lacking and can lead to poor absorption of nutrients and digestive tract upset (inappetence, vomit, diarrhea, flatulence, etc.).

Synthetic vitamins may not be efficiently absorbed as compared to natural vitamins existing in whole foods due to improper binding with receptors inside the digestive tract (see visual examples in Good Food/Bad Food: A Little Book of Common Sense Nutrition). Additionally, the body may identify synthetic vitamins as foreign and eliminate them in a process that creates free radicals that are harmful to internal organs.

Natural, whole-food vitamins are generally better absorbed as a result of improved binding with digestive tract receptors, and are not eliminated in a manner that creates additional stress on the body like their synthetic counterparts.

Is Kibble Considered Whole Food?

No, kibble is not considered to be whole food. Even from a visual perspective, which is what drives many owners to feed particular types of food or treats to their pets, kibble doesn’t lend a natural appearance.

Kibble is produced through a moisture-depleting cooking process called extrusion, which requires the body’s gastric acid and pancreatic enzymes, or an external water source, to facilitate digestion. Extrusion also denatures proteins and deactivates enzymes that are essential to the digestive process.

After being high-heat cooked, kibble is sprayed with rendered fat to improve its taste and is also often artificially colored (caramel coloring, etc.).

Kibble is often associated with gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV or “bloat”) in dogs, and vomiting in cats.

Many types of kibble, and some canned foods and treats, have caramel color added to make them appear more like real meat. When it comes down to it, dogs and cats don’t care about the color of their food. The aroma and flavor, yes; the color is added to satisfy humans.

According to information I received while on a media tour at a major pet food brand that produces many types of kibble, studies showed that pet owners responded better to kibble that included caramel color to make it look meatier.

But caramel color has come under fire as a toxic food additive, as it contains 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE), a known animal carcinogen. Studies have found that long-term exposure to 4-methylimidazole (4-MIE) caused lung cancer in mice, so it’s been added to California’s list of Chemicals Known to the State to Cause Cancer or Reproductive Toxicity.

So, by choosing to feed a their pets a diet with ingredients that have been radically modified from nature’s version and added color to replicate real meat, owners may be unknowingly predisposing their beloved canine and feline companions to develop cancer. Considering most pets eat the same 4-MIE-containing foods for morning and evening meals on a daily basis, we’re continually showering their internal organs with a carcinogenic substance that could otherwise be avoided if whole food options were fed instead.

If you haven’t already done so, it’s time to move away from kibble to fresh, moist, whole foods.

Are Canned Foods Considered to Be Whole Foods?

Canned or moist food has water as the primary ingredient and often appears closer to a whole-food format. Some even have real pieces of meat, vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. Such options are better choices for pet owners seeking to feed a whole-food diet than canned foods that appear smooth and “pate-like” without discernible chunks of whole-food ingredients.

Yet, some canned foods appear to have chunks simulating meat but which are actually conglomerations of meat and/or meat and grain “meals and by-products” that appear different from real meat when examined in cross section (after cutting in into the piece). So, make sure to use a discerning eye when comparing canned food options to make sure your pet consistently eats canned diets that are whole-food based.

Unfortunately, many canned or moist foods are congealed or have a glistened appearance; this is due to stabilizing agents like guar gum, xanthan gum, or carrageenan.

Guar gum has its origins in ground guar beans and is a polysaccharide (complex carbohydrate). Let’s Take Back Your Health-Starting Now reports that guar gum actually has some health benefits, as rodent studies showed “reduced body weight and lower blood glucose, even with guar gum making up 15% of the diet.”

Yet, 15 percent of the diet is “over 100 times the FDA Acceptable Daily Intake” for humans and is something I don’t recommend you provide for your pets. Guar gum is linked to digestive tract upset, including soft stools and gas-related bloating.

Xanthan gum is also a polysaccharide—the product of fermentation by Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. Fortunately, xanthan gum hasn’t been correlated with cancer. However, xanthan gum is reputed to be indigestible and, as with Guar gum, animals with digestive tract sensitivities can experience vomiting or diarrhea after eating xanthan gum-infused diets.

Carrageenan is derived from red algae and is another polysaccharide. TheInternational Agency for Research on Cancer (IRAC) has reported “sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of degraded carrageenan in animals to regard it as posing a carcinogenic risk to humans.” Like Guar and Xanthan Gum it is also correlated with digestive tract upset.

If you were making home-prepared pet food, you would not add guar gum, xanthan gum, nor carageenan to make the food smooth and shiny. You’d just use basic, whole-food ingredients, perhaps slightly warm the food to release aroma, and then feed it to your pet.

Feeding fresh, moist, human-grade meals during times of illness and wellness is my recommendation.

Make sure to check back for Part 2 of this article where I delve further into whole food feeding for cancer patients.

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



New Rabies Guidelines Published

Do you think rabies has nothing to do with you and your dog or cat? You’re wrong. While the disease itself is now (thankfully) quite rare in people and pets in the United States, it is still extremely important.  Some facts about the rabies.

A new edition of the Compendium of Animal Rabies Prevention and Control has just been released and it contains some updated recommendations with regards to protocols to be followed when a pet bites a person or when a pet is bitten by a rabid or potentially rabid animal. To paraphrase:

Regardless of rabies vaccination status, a healthy dog or cat that bites a person should be confined and observed daily for symptoms consistent with rabies infection for 10 days from the time of the exposure.

Dogs and cats that have never been vaccinated and are exposed to a rabid animal should be euthanized immediately. If the owner is unwilling to have this done, the animal should receive a rabies vaccination and be placed in strict isolation for 4 months. Isolation in this context refers to confinement in an enclosure that precludes direct contact with people and other animals.

Dogs and cats that are overdue for a booster vaccination and without appropriate documentation of having received a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine at least once previously should be treated as an unvaccinated individual (see above). Alternatively, the dog or cat can undergo serologic monitoring for a response to rabies vaccination that indicates the animal has been previously vaccinated. If serology indicates no previous vaccination, the dog or cat should be treated as an unvaccinated individual (see above). If serology provides evidence for a previous rabies vaccination, the dog or cat can be treated as an overdue but previously vaccinated individual (see below).

Dogs and cats that are overdue for a booster vaccination and that have appropriate documentation of having received a USDA-licensed rabies vaccine at least once previously should receive a booster rabies vaccination and be kept under the owner’s control and observed for 45 days.

Dogs and cats that are current on rabies vaccination should receive a booster rabies vaccination and be kept under the owner’s control and observed for 45 days.

The Compendium holds a lot of sway, but it is not the definitive word on what happens to a dog or cat after biting a person or after exposure to a rabid animal. Those decisions are made and enforced at the state and local levels. A new website under development,, will provide owners and veterinarians with a lot of good information, like state-specific answers to the following “frequently asked questions” about rabies:

Which species are required to be vaccinated against rabies?

Who is legally authorized to administer a rabies vaccine?

What are the medical record requirements for rabies vaccination?

What are the age requirements for rabies vaccination?

Following the initial rabies dose, when is an animal legally immunized?

What are the state importation requirements for rabies vaccination?

Can a 3-year rabies vaccine be substituted for a 1-year vaccine?

“Overdue” for rabies vaccine booster…

Can a rabies antibody titer be used to establish “immunity?”

What constitutes rabies “exposure” in a pet?

What are the consequences of rabies “exposure” in a pet?

What are the consequence for a pet that bites a human?

Can a veterinarian exempt rabies vaccination requirements?

At what age can rabies vaccination be discontinued?

Is rabies vaccination of hybrid species recognized or allowed?

Dr. Jennifer Coates

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

Naturally Lower Pet Shedding

How to decrease your pet’s shedding, and help your own hair grow.

All pets shed – even the nearly hairless breeds such as Mexican Hairless dogs do so.

Dog shedding usually occurs in between seasons. They shed during spring to let go of old hairs as new ones push their way through. They also shed in late autumn to get rid of their lighter undercoat in exchange for a heavy and dense undercoat for the winter season.
Many cat and dogs also shed when they are emotionally stressed or frightened.
We cannot stop our pets from shedding; however, we can do several things to keep stray hair to a minimum. As well, if your dog or cats sheds excessively, it may be an indication that his skin is not as healthy as it should be.
So what can you do?
Here’s ONE thing you likely haven’t heard about..
What blackstrap molasses can do for your pets and yourself
Good for hair – One serving (two tablespoons) of blackstrap contains approximately 14 percent of our RDI of copper, an important trace mineral whose peptides help rebuild the skin structure that supports healthy hair. Consequently, long-term consumption of blackstrap has been linked to improved hair quality, hair regrowth in men and even a restoration of your hair’s original color!

Decrease in Dog and Cat Shedding- Dose it at 1 teaspoon/10lbs daily. If your pet’s hair is healthy, then it’s less likely to fall out prematurely. If your dog or cat is deficient in some to the nutrients required for healthy hair coat, then molasses can help with B vitamins, copper, iron, antioxidants.Safe sweetener for diabetics – Unlike refined sugar, blackstrap molasses has a moderate glycemic load of 55. This makes it a good sugar substitute for diabetics and individuals who are seeking to avoid blood sugar spikes. Moreover, one serving of blackstrap contains no fat and only 32 calories, making it suitable for a weight loss diet.

Laxative qualities – Blackstrap is a natural stool softener that can improve the regularity and quality of your bowel movements.

Rich in iron – Two tablespoons of blackstrap contain 13.2 percent of our RDI of iron, which our bodies need to carry oxygen to our blood cells. People who are anemic (including pregnant women) will greatly benefit from consuming 1-2 tablespoons of blackstrap molasses per day.

High in calcium and magnesium – Blackstrap molasses contains a mineral profile that has been optimized by nature for superior absorption. For example, two tablespoons of blackstrap contains 11.7 percent of our RDI of calcium and 7.3 percent of our RDI of magnesium. This calcium-magnesium ratio is ideal, since our bodies need large quantities of magnesium to help absorb similarly large quantities of calcium. Both of these minerals aid the growth and development of bones, making blackstrap a good safeguard against osteoporosis and other bone diseases.

Additional mineral content – Two tablespoons of blackstrap molasses also contains 18 percent of our RDI of manganese (which helps produce energy from proteins and carbohydrates), 9.7 percent of our RDI of potassium (which plays an important role in nerve transmission and muscle contraction), 5 percent of our RDI of vitamin B6 (which aids brain and skin development) and 3.4 percent of our RDI of selenium, an important antioxidant.

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 Pet Insurance Really Worth It?

In their latest study, Consumer Reports concluded that pet owners with mostly healthy dogs or cats will not receive back in reimbursements what they pay in premiums. But, pet owners with dogs or cats that have major illnesses or chronic diseases that result in large or frequent claims are more likely to benefit from pet insurance. Is a study really needed to figure that out?

It is true that most pet owners who purchase pet insurance will not receive back in benefits what they pay in premiums. Pet insurance companies have to take in (premiums) more than they pay out (reimbursements). Otherwise, they couldn’t stay in business. But, this is true with virtually every other type of insurance you buy.

Then why buy pet insurance? You purchase pet insurance for the unexpected major or chronic problems that you would have trouble paying for out-of-pocket, like a fracture that requires surgery, gastrointestinal foreign body, Cushings disease, diabetes or arthritis. I often tell pet owners that pet insurance isn’t for the $150 urinary tract infection, but for the $3500 fracture repair, etc.

In the study, Consumer Reports compared premiums with reimbursements, from puppyhood until Roxy was ten years old. But many of the chronic and costly diseases that pets get occur during their senior years. Remember, if your pet lives long enough, it is inevitable that he or she will develop one or more chronic diseases that can usually be managed successfully with either surgery or medication — sometimes over several years. Cumulatively, this can sometimes add up to a significant expense.

Trupanion was the only newer company that they included in the study, and they reimbursed the most when compared to the other three companies. I think it would have been interesting to see how all of the newer companies would have fared in the study.

Consumer Report’s overall recommendation is that pet owners should open a savings account to pay for their pet’s healthcare expenses instead of buying a pet insurance policy. People who have lost sight of the primary purpose of pet insurance usually make this recommendation. I addressed this in a previous blog post.

Is the decision to purchase pet insurance always just a matter of dollars and cents? I think not, because many pet owners who purchase pet insurance realize that it’s possible they won’t ever be reimbursed the amount they pay in premiums. They do it for the peace of mind – knowing that they will be able to treat their beloved pet just in case something unexpected and costly does occur.

If we could just get Consumer Reports to use their crystal ball to forecast for pet owners who may be interested in purchasing pet insurance whether their pet will be mostly healthy or not — now that would be really helpful!                                  Dr. Doug Kenney

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


Understanding Dog Behavior; Understanding Cat Behavior

  • Is a wagging tail always the sign of a friendly dog? If your cat rolls on her back, does she really want you to rub her tummy? If your dog is“smiling” does that mean he is happy? As a veterinary behaviorist, I have to tell you, the answers to these questions might surprise you.  Here are some issues with understanding dog behavior and understanding cat behavior.

    There are some common behaviors that our dogs and cats exhibit that many people often misinterpret. Let’s review some canine and feline body language in order to help you determine what your pet is really trying to tell you.

    Weigh the Wag

    For example, tail wagging is not necessarily a sign of friendliness. In dogs, a wagging tail is an indication that the dog is willing to interact, but that interaction can be either aggressive or friendly. In order to determine what the dog is “saying,” you need to look at the rest of the dog’s body posture to figure out if he is approachable or not. Are the dog’s ears pinned back and flat against the head, sort of like a seal’s? Is his body and/or head lowered? Is he avoiding direct eye contact? Is he holding his body still or is he perhaps leaning away from you? These are all signs that the dog is uncomfortable and wants to avoid further interactions. Also keep in mind that a dog may not always choose to leave your vicinity in order to avoid a confrontation. Just as some people might just turn away from someone to avoid a conversation rather than move all the way across the room, a dog might try to stand, turn his head or hold his body away from you if he is uncomfortable. On the other hand, if the dog is being friendly, you might observe that he comes over to you and presents his side or hindquarters to be petted or scratched. He may nudge your hand for attention or press his body up against you. Or, when you look at the dog or speak to it, he may move closer to you for more attention and not bark or growl as he approaches.

    In cats, a “wagging” tail is definitely a sign of agitation. Cats don’t really wag their tails like dogs do. When relaxed, they tend to hold their tails quietly with minimal movement in comparison to a dog. So if a cat is moving her tail back and forth quickly two or three times in a motion I describe more as “whipping,” this might indicate agitation. It means something has caused the cat to be aroused, and it is best to give her some space and not interact with her until she has calmed down.


    Just because a cat is lying on his back doesn’t mean he’s giving you an invitation to give him a belly rub.

    Tummy Troubles

    Another behavior that we as humans often misread is when an animal rolls over onto its back. This is not always a sign that he or she wants a tummy rub. When a dog lies on his back, he is showing a sign of utter submission and appeasement in the dog world. People have chosen to interpret it as a sign the dog wants abelly rub. Many dogs may simply like attention, will take it any way they can get it and have learned to love their belly rubs. Other dogs, however, may feel really threatened by someone leaning over them while they are showing their most ultimate form of appeasement. Submissive behavior is deferential behavior used to tell the other dog that he wants to avoid conflict or a confrontation and that he needs space. When a dog rolls over onto his back, I typically ask him to sit up first before I give him attention to avoid this potential problem. Some people are really surprised when they try to pet a dog’s belly and he growls or snaps. While some dogs have been conditioned to receive attention in this manner and maybe even have learned to like it, always keep in mind that in the natural order of things, this is actually a signal saying, “give me space” or “do not hurt me.”

    In cats, this is even more true. When a cat rolls over to show you her abdomen, it is a sign that she feels really comfortable with you. It is not, however, an invitation to rub her belly. Many people are surprised when they try to do so and the kitty grabs their hands and bites them or kicks out at their hands with their back legs. Like a dog, a cat who rolls over on her side is often indicating comfort and deference (a submissive behavior). She is indicating that she is not aggressive and is trying to appease you or another cat. Despite how we may like to interpret the behavior, however, it is important to keep in mind, especially with cats, that she does not necessarily want you to follow up with physical contact!


    We usually recognize a dog as smiling when he’s panting with his mouth open and has a relaxed expression on his face.

    Smile vs. Snarl

    What is a smile in a dog? For many people, it is a dog panting with an open mouth and a relaxed expression on his face. For other people, it is when a dog approaches them and shows them their teeth prior to receiving attention or getting a treat. In these situations, the dog’s lips are pulled back toward the rear of the jaw exposing some of their pearly white incisors and canines. This is different from a snarl, in which the lips are lifted up vertically and the nose becomes wrinkled to show you the canines. This is usually accompanied by a stiff facial expression and body postures. What some people consider to be a smile, however, is not necessarily an indication of a happy dog. In the first described scenario, that might be the case. But dogs express their emotions in different manners compared to humans and it’s best to be very cautious. Keep in mind, we are the only species known to bare our teeth in order to show happiness. In other animal societies, baring teeth is a sign of threat!


    Dogs usually raise their hackles when they are wary or cautious, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to attack.

    Hair-Raising Experiences

    Hackles being raised in a dog (veterinarians call this “piloerection”) is not always an indication that the dog is about to attack another dog. Dogs often raise their hackles when they are being wary and cautious but not always before they attack. A dog may approach another dog slowly with his hackles raised, then greet the other dog with a play bow! When a cat has his tail “puffed” out, that is a sign of high arousal as well. It also does not always mean the cat is about to attack. The puffed tail can occur due to the sight of another cat or animal or upon hearing a certain sound. My cats, for example, have exhibited “piloerection” when they see stray cats on our deck or hear strange noises coming from my husband’s laptop. However, in both species, I would recommend monitoring the animals carefully and limiting interactions with them until they have calmed down. If a dog or cat is in a state of high emotional arousal, give him or her space to relax to avoid setting off an undesirable reaction.

    I hope these comments have been useful and given you some helpful insight into your pet’s behaviors. Knowing what your pet’s behavior really means can only help build a stronger relationship between you and your four-footed companion — and that is the goal of every veterinary behaviorist.

    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

4 All-Natural Pet Safe Cleaning Products That Are Safe for Pets

4 All-Natural DIY Cleaning Products That Are Safe for Pets


With so many ‘natural’ and ‘green’ products coming to market, do you ever wonder how the old-school chemical cleaning solutions impact our pets?  We need pet safe cleaning products.

We use a strong tub and tile cleanser in our shower and on our bathroom counters.  We use bleach on the kitchen counters and in the sink.  We use a floor cleanser to keep our hardwoods looking nicely.  And we use a fabric freshener on our furniture.  But none of the products we use could be called ‘natural’ or ‘green.’

Many pet owners are becoming more conscious of our pet’s environment and want to use products that are effective and safe to be used around animals.  Making your cleaning solutions at home will also safe you money.  Here are some DIY pet safe cleaning products.

Dry Pet Shampoo

Author McCollonough Ceili learned this easy tip from her veterinarian.  She mixes baking soda and baby powder (optional, for scent) to use as a dry shampoo on her dog and cat. She lightly covers her pets, rubs it into the undercoat, and then brushes it out.  She enjoys this trick, because she doesn’t have to get her pets wet.

Neutralizing Skunk Spray

We live in a rural area and skunks appear at dusk helping us earn a PHD in quickly neutralizing the skunk odor after one of our dogs has been sprayed.

We use 1 quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and 1 tablespoon of liquid soap; 3 ingredients available at any grocery store.  We mix these ingredients in a bucket and wash our dogs several times, avoiding the eyes, mouth and nose.  With each wash, you can tell that the skunk smell is fading.

Toilet Bowl Cleaners

Author Elisabeth Morrissey lives with cats who drink out of the toilet bowl, which inspired her to use an orange drink (e.g. Tang) to keep her toilets clean.  Elisabeth pours a quarter cup in the bowl, swishes it around, and lets it sit for an hour.  The citric acid help remove hard water stains and her cats avoid citrus, and the toilet, once they catch a whiff of the orange scent.

You can also use a 50/50 vinegar and water solution to clean toilet bowls.

Shower and Bathroom Cleaner

Derek Christian, owner of a professional cleaning service, shared this DIY shower and bathroom cleaner recipe.  Fill a bottle with 1 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide, a teaspoon of liquid soap (optional), and water.

Hydrogen peroxide serves as a powerful germ-killing agent, but it breaks down quickly, leaving behind water and oxygen, making it safe to use around pets.

Vinegar is also effective in cleaning windows and mirrors.  And we use 50-percent vinegar and 50-percent water mixture to clean the counters after preparing our dogs’ raw meals.  The smell may be strong, but it evaporates quickly, leaving behind little to no scent.

Make sure to take the time to do your homework on ingredients to confirm that they actually are safe for pets. Our dogs and cats constantly soak up their environment through their noses, mouths and paw pad, and it is important to realize the impact our cleaning products have on pets.                          by Kimberly Gauthier

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

Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

Most of us realize that today’s date of September 11 has special significance. It’s the date when our entire world changed in 2001, when terrorists intruded on our normal lives, causing chaos, destruction, and a massive loss of life. Naturally, those who lost loved ones in the attacks grieved the most, but there’s no doubt that the entire nation grieved that day and for a long time afterward.

The loss of a pet is an entirely different proposition. But I thought, in light of the grief surrounding September 11, it is a good time to also talk about the grief that pet owners experience at the loss of a pet.

Grief is a natural response to the loss of a loved one. Since most of us love and cherish our pets, it’s natural to grieve when we lose that pet. The process is the same, regardless of the reason for the loss. There are various stages of grief and we go through those stages when we lose a four-legged friend just as we do when we lose a two-legged friend or family member.

The stages vary depending on the source but often include the following:

  1. Denial and isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These stages are not absolute and each person may experience them differently and/or may slide back and forth between the various stages.

One of the things that grieving pet owners often have to deal with is the reaction of those around them to their grief. People who are not necessarily pet lovers may not understand the grief is real. This very rarely happens when the lost loved one is a human but is not uncommon when the bereaved has lost a pet. There may be that sense of “It’s just a pet” that you’ll receive from some people. It helps to surround yourself with those who do understand the bond we have with our pets. These people are more likely to be understanding and sympathetic. They are more likely to be able and willing to comfort you when needed and help you through the hard times.

Grief takes time to work through. Everyone is different. Where one person may reach the stage of acceptance within a relatively short period of time, another may take much longer, or may never actually reach that stage. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve. You need to do what is right for you. One thing you should not do though is feel guilty or ashamed about grieving. It’s a natural process and something we all go through at one time or another. It’s important to allow yourself to grieve.

Make sure you look out for yourself and your own health while you grieve. Grief is a draining process, both physically and emotionally. Be sure you’re eating right, getting plenty of sleep, and exercising as appropriate. Otherwise, you’ll only end up making yourself sick and your grief worse.

Pets grieve for each other also, just like we do. If you have other pets at home, you may notice a change in their behavior as they work through their grief. When my cat Ebony became ill, I started noticing urine spots on the bed. I just assumed it was Ebony until he left us and the urine spots continued. I realized at that point it was Lilly, who was perfectly healthy otherwise, who was leaving the spots. She was obviously trying to find a way to work through her own grief and the stress associated with it. When cats become stressed, inappropriate urination is often one of their responses. Understanding this, I simply gave her some time. About a week following Ebony’s loss, the behavior stopped completely and she returned to religiously using the litter box.

If your remaining pet is grieving, don’t punish him for any abnormal or unusual behaviors. After all, you wouldn’t want to be punished for your grief. You pet shouldn’t have to deal with that either. Do provide a little extra attention and support. Your pet will appreciate it.

I hope none of you have to go through the grieving process associated with losing a pet. Still, death is a part of life and, because our pets typically have shorter life spans than we do, the loss of that pet eventually is something that accompanies pet ownership. Very seldom do our beloved pets outlive us.

Dr. Lorie Huston

We offer pet services such as:  Pet Sitting,  In-Home Dog Boarding, Dog Walking, Overnights in your home, Doggie Day Care.
Diana Ruth Davidson, Chief Pet Officer and Managing Nanny, Westside Dog Nanny
310 919 9372