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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Weight Loss Resolutions
Vet hospital encourages cats and dogs to lose weight in 2011

It’s that time of year when everyone is making their New Years resolutions, many related to losing weight. In recent years, obesity has been a problem among both humans and pets, which can lead to a myriad of health consequences, including a shorter life span.

To encourage pet weight loss resolutions, the Vinton Veterinary Hospital in Virginia is sponsoring a Biggest Loser competition for dogs and cats. The promotion runs from today through April.

The program is free and all participants must call and schedule a check-in. As a baseline, all pets will get on the scale, have a “before” photo taken, and get an individualized diet and exercise plan. All participating cats and dogs will return every two weeks to get weighed and chart progress. The pet that loses the most weight (by percentage) will win prizes including a year’s worth of Science Diet food, Frontline, and Heartguard.

If you don’t live near Vinton Veterinary Hospital, you can still evaluate your pet. Purina has a helpful chart on their web site to help determine if a dog is overweight. If you suspect your dog needs to lose a few pounds, consult your veterinarian for advice on how to get to a healthy weight.

Looking to shed pounds together? Check out my blog post from last year about running with your dog to start exercising.

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Toxic Holiday Plants
Watch out for dangerous mistletoe this December

For years I’ve avoided Poinsettia plants around the holidays because I’d always heard that they were highly toxic for animals. But according to Veterinary Medicine magazine, the toxicity of Poinsettias has been greatly exaggerated. 

Research estimates that the average animal would have to ingest 500 to 600 Poinsettia leaves to surpass toxic levels. The most common symptom is irritation to the mouth and stomach, which sometimes causes vomiting. 

I didn’t know until recently that two other common holiday plants are also considered toxic, one very highly. Holly is similar to Poinsettias and can cause vomiting and diarrhea. However, Mistletoe is the real holiday danger. Ingesting the plant can cause gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular collapse, dyspnea, bradycardia, erratic behavior, vomiting, diarrhea, and low blood pressure.

After learning of mistletoe’s toxicity, I will not be hanging any in the house. But I have started buying some Poinsettia plants. To be safe, I keep them high and out of reach of the pets. I also make sure that I periodically sweep up any fallen leaves. It’s always better to err on the side of caution to ensure everyone has a safe holiday season!

If you're wondering about the danger of any greenery around your house, visit the ASPCA web site to check their comprehensive list of toxic plants.

 

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Velcro Dogs
Picking up allergens a hazard

Usually when people talk about “Velcro dogs,” they mean the kind who are clingy and extremely emotionally attached to their guardians. That sort of Velcro dog makes sure you never feel alone, much less lonely, and keeps you from ever having to go any place, such as the bathroom, all by yourself.

  There’s another kind of Velcro dog, which is perhaps of greatest interest to people with allergies. These dogs are the ones who go frolicking through the fields and gardens bringing home seeds, pollen, dust and every other sort of allergen that can get attached to a dog’s fur.   I had a client with severe allergies to all sorts of plants as well as many other things. She got a poodle specifically because her research had revealed that this breed is less likely to aggravate allergies than many other breeds. And it was true—her dog did not seem to set off her allergies. Unfortunately, if her dog went outside, as dogs tend to do, he collected all sorts of debris in his coat that DID cause her allergies to flare up. She was the one who first referred to his coat as a sort of Velcro that attached to anything and everything that she was allergic to.   By keeping him groomed with a fairly short cut, by staying on top of the advice of her allergist, and by choosing carefully where her dog was allowed to run loose, she was able to enjoy both her dog AND the feeling of being able to breathe, but it was a situation that required a lot more management than she had originally been anticipating.   Has anyone else had this problem of allergies being triggered not directly by your dog, but by what got stuck in your dog’s coat?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Cutting Nails
Reducing the stress for you and your dog

There are few parts of dog guardianship that are less agreeable than cutting nails. In fact, the only task that I dislike more is picking up poop, and depending on the dog, clean-up duty may even be preferable to nail trimming.

  I worked for almost a year as a dog groomer, so I know a few tricks about getting nails trimmed no matter what. Whether it’s keeping a dog occupied with treats or a favorite chew toy, the promise of a walk immediately afterwards, calming holds to use with struggling dogs, or trimming one nail a day for three weeks and then starting over, it is possible to cut any dog’s nails. I even occasionally advise using a muzzle. It’s better to get it done quickly in order to minimize the stress for the dog or the chance of a bite to the human, and if a muzzle makes that happen, it may be the best option.   Of course, many people have dogs who patiently present each paw and sit like a statue while each nail is cut. For the rest of us, it’s worth trying out a variety of techniques to learn what works best for your dog.  

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Mushrooms Can Poison Dogs
Heavy rains in Arizona heighten danger

Veterinarian Julianne Miller, in an interview with Arizona Public Radio, says that she has seen three times as many cases of mushroom toxicity in dogs this summer compared with previous years. The reason for the increase is that Flagstaff, Ariz., has had the fourth wettest monsoon season ever, with nearly 10 inches of rain in just over two months. Fungi thrive in the wetness caused by heavy rains, and are doing so well that the forests even smell like mushrooms.

  Many wild mushrooms are dangerous for dogs. Liver damage and death are possible, although Miller has not seen either of these this summer. Presenting problems include vomiting, body tremors, twitching, drooling, wobbling, salivating, or even seizures. Dogs, like people, can also experience hallucinations after consuming some types of mushrooms.   The best way to prevent dogs from eating mushrooms is to limit their access to them. Removing all visible fungi from yards to prevent dogs from going after them is wise, because many dogs do not learn to avoid them even after an experience with toxic mushrooms. Avoid walks in heavily mushroom-infested areas and leash your dog in areas with them if your dog is the type to try them.   Has your dog ever suffered ill effects from consuming wild mushrooms?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Inadvertent Toxin, UPDATE
Human hormone treatments have a negative effect on pets

[Editor's Note, 7/30/10: The Food and Drug Administration has published a warning urging that children and pets not be exposed to Evamist, a hormone spray used to treat hot flashes in menopausal women.]

 

Most pet lovers are careful about keeping medicine bottles locked away in a cabinet, far from the reach of little ones. But this may not be enough to guard your pups against the effects of some topical medications.

According to the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), the popularity of human topical hormone treatments, often used for menopause, is having an unintended negative effect on pets. The hormone replacement treatments are available in a lotion, gel, or spray that is applied to the arms or legs. Apparently the hormone can be spread to pets simply through contact.

In recent years, veterinarians have started to see spayed dogs and young female puppies with swollen vulvas as if they are in heat, male dogs with enlarged mammary glands and abnormally small penises, and loss of fur in both sexes.

VIN reports that dogs will often go undiagnosed for months because veterinarians aren’t familiar with this problem. Human doctors are also unfamiliar with the situation and therefore do not know to warn people with pets. It’s important to create a greater awareness since the effects of these medications worsen over time and can lead to other serious conditions associated with high hormone levels. 

Before reading about this, it wouldn’t have even crossed my mind that any topical medications I use could be inadvertently spread to my pets. And apparently the FDA already knew this was a potential problem. The government organization has documented cases of children being accidently exposed to hormones through topical therapies. As a result, the FDA now requires two manufacturers of testosterone treatments to put warnings on their packaging. 

Whether you use hormone therapies or not, this is an important reminder that you can never be too careful when using medication.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Trash Parties
Does your dog get into the garbage?

My sister and brother-in-law had a dog named Kiwi whom I truly adored. A chocolate Newfoundland, she died three years ago and is still missed. Among Kiwi’s many wonderful qualities were intelligence, an easygoing nature, gentleness with my children and all kids and a willingness to endure the high frequency of grooming required to keep any proper Newfie looking and feeling her best.

  Was she perfect? Heavens no! But in her list of unfortunate traits, there was really only one that mattered—Kiwi LOVED trash. Combined with her intelligence and height, this passion made it very difficult to prevent her from getting into the garbage. My sister and her husband became resigned to the fact that they would regularly discover that Kiwi had thrown herself what they liked to call a “trash party.”   Now, you’re probably thinking, what about covered and secured trash bins? Cabinet locks? Hauling all trash outside immediately? Keeping trash too high for Kiwi to reach? These are all good ideas, and work on many dogs. But Kiwi was no amateur. With brains, dexterity and size all working to her advantage, Kiwi would not be deterred. She was highly motivated to get to any food. This was a dog who would work for lettuce or even pea pods, so she was pretty serious about getting to the good stuff.   Not all dogs get into the trash. Our dog Bugsy only ever got into the trash if something like a hunk of chicken was in there. He didn’t bother for anything else, and we had an uncovered trashcan that sat out in the kitchen. I tried telling my sister that Bugsy was so good because of the high level of training I gave him, but she wasn’t buying it, and you shouldn’t either. Not all dogs are trash fiends, and for those who are, it’s not a crime. Dogs are scavengers, and those persistent about scavenging are often resourceful, creative and would have a better chance surviving in the wild than dogs who ignore food sources. Of course, I worry that dogs who get into the trash will hurt themselves or choke on something, so it’s no laughing matter, but I don’t think it puts a dark blot on their character either.   Does your dog get into the trash? Have you found a way to stop this behavior, or have you learned to live with it?

 

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Too Much of a Good Thing
Water intoxication strikes active dogs in the summer

During the summer months, a big concern is placed on preventing dogs from overheating. I’ve been doing a lot of running with my pups lately, so I’ve been very careful about keeping them hydrated. 

When I ran the race earlier this month, I made sure that we took plenty of water breaks. I even used a flavored canine sports drink to encourage Nemo to drink liquids. Having previously suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration myself, I’m careful to not let anything happen to my dogs.

So you can imagine my shock when I recently learned that excessive amounts of water can actually be deadly. When too much water is consumed in a short period of time (especially if the dog isn’t urinating or throwing up any of the water), the balance of electrolytes in the body is disrupted, which can cause a disturbance in brain function. Water intoxication can lead to brain damage, heart failure, and death.

Fortunately water poisoning isn’t common, but it’s important to be aware of the danger. The most frequent cases involve swimming dogs that ingest too much water or exercising or playing dogs that drink too many fluids. 

Symptoms include lethargy, nausea, a bloated appearance, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, lack of coordination, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Symptoms can progress quickly to difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures.

Because water intoxication can progress so quickly, time is critical. If your dog exhibits these symptoms, get to a vet immediately to run blood work. A low level of electrolytes will confirm the condition. Treatment includes fluids, to put electrolytes back in the system, and sometimes a diuretic.

 

News: Editors
“Blowing” Off Mosquitoes
Fans can provide relief from summer stingers

No one likes mosquitoes. And since only one bite from an infected one can spread heartworm in our dogs, we have to be doubly aware of how to prevent being bitten by them. The New York Times had an interesting piece that looked at the effectiveness of using wind—in the form of a fan—to deter flying pests from landing on you or on your dog. What makes the fan an effective deterrent is that it “dilutes and disperses” carbon dioxide that we, and our dogs, exhale. CO2 is the major chemical that attracts mosquitoes! Entomologists at Michigan State University who studied this link concluded “fan-generated wind should be pursued as a practical means of protecting humans or pets from mosquitoes in the backyard setting.”

News: Guest Posts
Urban Wanderers
Rescued strays inspire art and hopefully donations

An indomitable stray named Chill is among many cats and dogs providing inspiration for dozens of works of art—paintings, photographs, sculptures and drawings—in an exhibition entitled Urban Wanderers, which opens at the Saint Louis University Museum of Art next Friday, July 16.

  Chill was a neglected, abused street dog until she was rescued by Randy Grim of Stray Rescue of St. Louis, a no-kill organization dedicated to rescuing stray animals in need of medical attention and place them in loving, adoptive homes.   “Man can be downright evil and cruel at times. One such person felt it necessary to disfigure, crush and mutilate parts of Chill’s body and cut off one foot,” Grim writes in his story about the decision to rescue her. “No longer could she run or play with her pack. Her mutilated body made it impossible for her to scavenge for food or keep up with her horde of dogs that provided a sense of security and being. For the past month, we wondered where she was but now we know, she was unable to move. She was dying.”   They rushed her broken, flea-infested, anemic and infected body to an emergency vet where she has seen many months of intensive care. She is now healing—physically and emotionally—at home with Grim until she is ready to move to a wonderful full-time home. Read her complete story here and here.   The Urban Wanderers exhibition opens with a reception on Friday, July 16, at 6 p.m. Stray Rescue supporter and actress Loretta Swit will attend the reception and several of her paintings will be displayed. In addition, rescued dogs and cats will use their paws, tails and noses to create works for the show.   All these creations, as well as select pieces by Swit, will be available for purchase through a silent auction to benefit Stray Rescue of St. Louis. The exhibition is free-of-charge, open to the public and runs through August 29.   In related news, the lack of shelter space that, in part, contributed to Grim’s need to triage strays, including Chill, is improving. Soon, Stray Rescue St. Louis will open the doors of a new Animal Companion Center, with 69 kennel runs. Initially, dogs will be transferred to this facility from the city pound in Gasconade, which is in a crisis. Additional, runs will be added in a second phase at the new shelter.

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