Wellness: Healthy Living
June 20 2014
Ah, summer—a season for rambles, picnics and water fun. Longer days and warm weather inspire us to get ourselves and our dogs outside to soak up some sun (judiciously) and get some exercise.
Maintaining our dogs’ grooming routines is also important. It’s not all about looking good, though that’s certainly one motivator; it’s also about keeping a close eye on the condition of our dogs’ skin, ears and nails, solving small problems before they become big ones.
While some breeds require the services of a professional groomer, all dogs benefit from a good brushing, and you don’t have to be a pro to do that. A dog’s best friend is a tool appropriate for his coat type, one that strips out loose hair so air can circulate against his skin. Regular and thorough brushing also prevents mats, which are not only painful but also trap heat and moisture and can result in skin infections.
However, experts tell us to resist the urge to shave down our dogs, particularly those with double coats, who can be quite comfortable as long as those coats are well cared for. Whatever its length and composition, a dog’s coat provides built-in climate control as well as a first line of defense against sunburn, twigs and stickers, among other things.
This is also the time of year to be particularly vigilant about ticks and fleas. The former can carry disease and the latter can quickly set up housekeeping on your dog—and in your house—if not managed. Another reason to be conscientious about wielding the brush, rake or comb of your choice. While your dog may or may not agree, adding an extra bath or two is also a good summer strategy. Brush before and after, choose a shampoo that’s a good match for his skin and coat type (or make your own), lather once and rinse well.
Check your dog’s ears regularly, particularly if swimming is on his play list. Dogs whose ears fold over are prone to ear infections, which wet ears promote. Some groomers pluck hair from a dog’s ear canal, but vets advise against this, as the hair pores then secrete extra serum, providing another excellent medium for infection. After your dog takes a dip, wipe the inside earflap gently with a cotton ball; if your vet says it’s okay, you can also use drops that contain a drying agent. According to the Dog Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook, a drop of white vinegar will also help prevent “swimmer’s ear.”
And in the “of course” category, continue to brush your dog’s pearly whites and pay attention to his paws. Check between his toes for ticks, foxtails, brambles or other debris, and trim his nails.
None of this is rocket science, just good old-fashioned conscientiousness. And the payoff is so worth it: a dog who feels good and smells good, and far fewer fur-bunnies rolling across the floor and lurking under the couch!
For more on this subject, see the interview with groomer extraordinaire Robyn Michaels at thebark.com/groomed.
January 13 2014
Ever think you might want to consider a career move? One that would take you out of an office setting and, even better, reward you for spending time with many dogs in the great outdoors? Professional dog walking might just be your next calling. In this informative new book by Veronica Boutelle, author of two other dog-business books and co-creator of the Dog Walking Academy, you’ll find a wealth of information to help you get started.
There is a thorough examination of not only what it takes but also, what to expect if you decide to venture into this business. Chapters cover topics such as pack management (with a cautionary note that it is always best to keep it small), client intake, marketing and emergency planning. The author, who seems to have covered all the bases, also includes a helpful “to-do list” for legalities and liabilities.
December 17 2013
When it comes to gifts, many of us struggle to find something for loved ones who have everything. When the loved one is a dog, selecting presents is way easier—as far as dogs are concerned, there’s no such thing as enough of everything, especially things to eat and play with.
On the edible A List: antlers (so holiday-appropriate!), yak milk chews, dried fish skins or high-quality, nutritious treats (choose smaller-sized goodies to offset potential overindulgence). And don’t forget that treats are among the easiest things to make at home. There are lots of great dogcentric cookbooks, and the Bark website also has an eclectic collection of recipes (at thebark.com/recipes). If you have a dehydrator, put it to use by making jerky treats—we also happen to have an excellent recipe for chicken jerky sweet potato chews on our site; find it at thebark.com/jerky.
When it comes to toys, those that the two of you can play with together are reliable faves—especially tug toys, especially if you let the dog win occasionally. These are also easy to DIY, and give you an excellent way to finally use those old tube socks cluttering your sock drawer: tie a few knots in them and you have a toy with a scent only a dog can appreciate. Find more possibilities at thebark.com/diy. Or, for a two-fer, choose a Kong-like toy that can be stuffed with treats or more complex puzzle “enrichment” toys that entice your dog to find hidden rewards.
If you’re purchasing a toy, avoid those made from hard plastic (or packaged that way), and remove all tags, fabric hanger loops and plastic bits, especially from soft toys, before handing them to the canine giftee. It’s also a good idea to inspect the toy carefully and consider removing anything that a dog might be able to pull off and swallow (“eyes” or other nonessential elements, for example). If you’re sharing the holiday with friends or relatives, save everyone’s sanity by going the no-squeaker route.
Of less interest to dogs but very appealing to their people are accouterments such as new beds, warm sweaters and jackets, sturdy leashes, decorative collar tags, or other little luxuries. For a handy multitasker, check out dehydrators, which can be used to make delectables, like fruit chews, for everyone. Dogs won’t enjoy unwrapping this stuff quite as much, but their people will appreciate them.
Speaking of unwrapping … some dogs like to open their own gifts, so choose wrappings that are safe for them. Any kind of paper—even newspaper—lightly taped, works best. Ditch the ribbon or string, which can cause big problems if swallowed. If your dog’s an “unwrapper,” it’s probably best not to leave gifts on the floor around the tree unless a spot-on “leave it” cue is in place.
And, of course, there’s a No List: No surprise live animals (like a new dog friend); holidays are the worst time to introduce a new dog into a family. No China-made toys or treats (especially treats). No chocolate or other dicey-for-dogs ingredients; check the ASPCA’s poison control pages for details: aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control.
Now, what are you waiting for? Make a list, check it twice and reward both naughty and nice with a present that’s sure to be well received.
Wellness: Healthy Living
Some Compulsive Disorders Point to the Gut
September 4 2013
Canine compulsive disorders (CCDs) take many forms and are generally considered to be behavioral issues. However, recent studies suggest that at least two of them—“excessive licking of surfaces” (ELS) and “fly-biting syndrome,” in which a dog appears to stare at something and suddenly snaps at it—may be related to underlying health issues. Both studies were conducted by researchers associated with the University of Montréal Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
The first set out to investigate surface-licking behaviors to see if there was a medical component: “The objectives of our prospective clinical study were to characterize ELS behavior in dogs and to examine the extent to which it may be a sign of an underlying gastrointestinal (GI) pathology as opposed to a primarily behavioral concern.”
Researchers looked at 19 dogs, 16 of whom exhibited this behavior daily. This group was compared with a control group of 10 healthy (i.e., non-ELS) dogs. Complete medical and behavioral histories were collected for all dogs. The medical evaluation revealed that 14 of the 19 ELS dogs had GI abnormalities; treatment of the underlying GI disorder resulted in significant improvement in a majority of dogs in the ELS group.
The second study examined seven dogs with a history of daily fly-biting behavior. As the researchers noted, “Fly-biting dogs are generally referred to neurologists or behaviorists because the abnormalities are often interpreted as focal seizures or as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).”
As in the ELS study, these dogs were given complete medical examinations and were filmed to determine if the behavior was perhaps more prevalent after eating. The video analyses revealed a significant finding: all of the dogs demonstrated head-raising and neck extension, which can be an indicator of esophageal discomfort, prior to fly-biting.
All of the dogs in this study were found to have a GI abnormality, and one was also diagnosed with Chiari malformation (a brain/skull disorder). The dogs were treated for their medical conditions, and four had complete resolutions of the fly-biting behavior. The authors of this study concluded, “The data indicate that fly-biting may be caused by an underlying medical disorder, GI disease being the most common.”
As Marty Goldstein, DVM, observed in a post related to this research, “These studies don’t mean that primary obsessive/compulsive behavioral issues don’t exist, because they do … [But] if you have a pet with obsessive/compulsive disorders, don’t jump to psychoactive medications before exploring the use of food-allergy testing, changes in diet, and digestive enzymes and probiotics that can repair a damaged GI tract.”
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