black and white cat holds toothbrush in paws

Important Information about Pet Dental Health

Did you know that 80% of dogs and 70% of cats will have some evidence of dental disease by the age of 3? We take care of our teeth, so we should take care of our pet’s teeth as well. Dental health is very important to our pet’s overall health!

We’ll learn about periodontal disease, look at some signs and symptoms of dental problems in your pet, ways to prevent problems in the first place, get a vet’s perspective, and hear about special issues relating to cats.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is the most common dental issue our pets deal with, and it is also preventable. Periodontal disease is an inflammation and infection of the gums, causing tooth decay and potential tooth loss. It begins when bacteria start to form plaque, that sticks to the teeth. Natural minerals in the mouth start to harden the plaque, turning it into a cement-like form of tartar, which firmly sticks to the teeth. At this point, periodontal disease can be stopped or slightly reversed, or it can continue to get more serious, like when the plaque and tartar spread under the gum line. The bacteria that are lying under the gum line then start destroying the tissue supporting and surrounding the tooth. These initial changes in the mouth start to change your pet’s immune system. Along with problems in the mouth, other organs in the body are directly at risk. Both the heart and kidneys are at risk for severe problems if a periodontal infection is not treated.

The disease comes in 4 stages:

  • Stage 1: mild build-up of tartar and slightly swollen and reddened gums. No bone loss.
  • Stage 2: build-up of tartar, swollen and reddened gums. X-rays will show 0-25% bone loss.
  • Stage 3: more swelling due to bone loss. Bone loss starts occurring due to plaque under the gum line. Sometimes the affected teeth can be saved, but most will need to be extracted to prevent further damage.
  • Stage 4: This is when symptoms become noticeable and a serious problem is at hand. Bad breath, visible bulge of the crown, tenderness, red gums, and decrease in appetite are all signs of stage 4 periodontal disease. There are pockets in the gums due to substantial bone loss.

Signs Your Dog May Have a Dental Issue

How are we supposed to know if our dog has periodontal disease or some other dental issue? When trying to diagnose a dental issue in our pets, look for these signs:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding or swollen gums
  • Discolored teeth and gums
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Ulcers/pus on gums or tongue
  • Trouble eating or chewing
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Change in behavior, as in acting timid or aggressive

Prevention Is Key

It’s best if we don’t have to treat dental disease, and instead, we can just prevent it, right? Well, here’s how:

  • Brushing-this should be part of your daily/weekly routine, according to vets. This is the best way to prevent build-up on the teeth between professional cleanings. Start by letting your doggy smell the toothbrush and toothpaste, and then gradually work your way up to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of his mouth, at least, every other day.
  • Dental toys and treats like Greenies that gently scrape teeth clean and remove excess calcium in the saliva that can be deposited in teeth are a good way to prevent tartar build-up.
  • **Bones and rawhides are good at scraping teeth clean as well
  • A diet low in sugars and carbohydrates will make a HUGE difference. Make sure you are buying a  good, quality food.
  • Water additives, sprays, and gels that are plaque retardant are available
  • Regular dental check-ups, cleanings and x-rays are important
  • Act quickly if you suspect there is a dental issue, and get your doggy right in to see the vet!

*Human toothpaste should be avoided for pets as they contain harmful chemicals that should not be swallowed.

Dental Checkups

Dr. Barden Greenfield, DVM, specializes in dentistry at Memphis Veterinary Specialists. He was adamant about the importance of regular dental checkups and x-rays, “The best way to prevent dental disease is to have a dental exam during the pet’s annual checkup. Make sure that your veterinarian is looking thoroughly. It is also important that your regular veterinarian knows what to look for during a dental exam.” In some cases, dental x-rays are going to be your number one tool in combating disease. According to Dr. Greenfield, x-rays can detect 40% more issues in cats and 30% more in dogs than an exam without x-rays.

Cat Dental Health

Dental disease is no different in cats than it is in dogs. It may be difficult to get cats to accept an at-home oral health routine, though! There are specific toothbrushes made just for cats, there are finger-brushes, gels, and water additives as we already talked about. Try different pet-toothpaste flavors, or try making your own at home. Also, try brushing your cat’s teeth around people he trusts in a calm environment!

To Summarize

Maintenance and early treatment of a problem will help prevent a big issue with a big vet bill in the future. **Ropes, raw bones, and rawhide chips will entertain your dog, all the while scraping plaque off his teeth. An average Stage 4 dental cleaning with extractions and pain management will cost well over $500. And your pet may need to have this procedure performed multiple times. Untreated dental infections can also lead to infections of major organs, like the heart and kidneys, and this can threaten your pet’s life. As humans, we do all that we can to make sure we take care of our own teeth. We need to do the same with our fur babies!

**Remember, always supervise your pet with any toys or chews**

-Written by Kelsey Miner

dog rests on concrete stairs

Effects of Heat Exhaustion in Dogs

 

By Katy Fogt, DVM

Summertime means vacation, sunshine, and beach trips, but it also means high temperatures. When the temperature begins to climb, heat exhaustion (or more commonly known as heat stroke) can be seen in dogs and humans alike and is a medical emergency. However, unlike humans, dogs lack the ability to sweat when they overheat. Our furry friends rely on other methods to cool down, such as: conduction via laying on a cool surface, convection (air blowing over their skin), and evaporation by panting. Heat stroke in dogs occurs when they can no longer get rid of that heat efficiently and their body becomes overwhelmed.

Normal body temperature in dogs ranges from 99.5-102.5°F; however, in dogs with moderate heat stroke, temperatures get as high as 104-106°F. Severe heat stroke is classified by temperatures over 106°F. High core temperatures experienced by dogs with heat stroke cause multiple organs to fail and ultimately death, if not treated. The side effects of heat stroke vary greatly — depending on how overheated the dog became, as well as, how long the dog has been overheated.

Risk factors

All animals can suffer from heat stroke; however, some cats and dogs are more at risk.   These risk factors include dogs and cats who are:

  • Very young or very old
  • Obese
  • Brachycephalic

These dogs include Bulldogs, Boxers, Pekingese, Shih Tzu, and other smashed nose breeds. Cat breeds include Persian, Himalayan, British Shorthair, and Scottish Fold.

  • Have existing medical conditions

Such as collapsing trachea, laryngeal paralysis, Myasthenia Gravis, and Addison’s

  • History of a previous heat illness
  • Thick or dark hair coats

Signs and Symptoms:

In most cases, animals will have some combination of:

  • Rapid panting and heart rate
  • Bright red gums and tongue
  • Poor pulses
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Weakness and depression
  • Dehydration
  • Hypovolemic shock

Hypovolemic shock occurs when there is a decrease in the dog’s total blood volume due to blood loss internally or externally. Signs of hypovolemic shock are pale gums, weakened but faster heart rate or pulse, and cold feet and ears.

  • Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

DIC is a disease that affects the ability of blood to clot. Initially small clots form throughout the body, which uses up all the clotting factors; resulting in the uncontrollable bleeding of the dog. Signs of DIC include nosebleeds, bruising, small red dots on the skin (hemorrhages).

  • Acute renal failure (ARF)

Acute renal failure is a sudden failure of the kidneys to remove toxins from the body. Signs of ARF include increased thirst and urination, lethargy, decreased appetite, and vomiting.

Long-term effects could include:

  • Permanent damage to the kidneys, heart, and liver
  • Residual neurological deficits

What should you do if you suspect a problem?

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heat stroke:

  1. Immediately remove him/her from the hot area
  2. Take your dogs temperature rectally with a thermometer
  3. Place your pet under a fan (you can also cover your dog with cool wet towels; however, giving your dog a bath in cool water is not recommended as it can prevent heat loss)
  4. If his/her temperature is 103°F or higher, your pet should see his/her veterinarian as soon as possible to evaluate for dehydration and other complications. DO NOT put your pet in a plastic crate in your car to get him or her to the vet. Airflow is critical at this point. Your veterinarian will lower your pet’s temperature, give intravenous fluids if dehydrated, and monitor for shock, kidney failure, clotting disorders, and other complications. In order to properly monitor the complications of heat stroke, your veterinarian may take a blood sample and urine sample.

Long-term Care

Some dogs may not have any long-term illness; however, dogs with severe heat stroke may require a special diet or medications because of permanent organ damage. Additionally, dogs that get heat stroke once are more likely to get heat stroke again; therefore, prevention is very important for pet parents.

Prevention

Because of the significant side effects associated with heat stroke in dogs and the poor prognosis, the best thing we can do as pet parents is prevent heat stroke from ever occurring in the first place.

There are many things you can do at home to prevent heath stroke including:

  • Keep your animal indoors if possible
  • Your pet should never be left in your car for any length of time
  • Provide cooling contraptions such as a wet towel for him or her to lie on.
  • Take walks in the morning or late evening
  • Provide cool treats (such as ice cubes)
  • Take your pet to swim in a pool or pond during the hot days
  • Provide your dogs with access to water at all times
  • Offer shaded areas when dogs are outside
  • Avoid areas where heat is reflected, such as asphalt or cemented areas

References:

1) Bosak, J.K. (2004). Heat Stroke in a Great Pyrenees dog. Can Vet J. (45). 513-515.

2) Flournoy, W.S.; Macintire, D.K.; Wohl, J.S. (2003). Heat stroke in Dogs: Clinical Signs, Treatment, Prognosis, and Prevention. Compendium, (25, 6). 422-431.

3) Brashear, M. (n.d.) Heat stroke in dogs. DoveLewis Emergency Animal Hospital, Portland, OR.

4) Bruchim, Y.; Klement, E.; Saragusty, J.; Finkeilstein, E.; Kass, P.; Aroch, I. (2006). Heat Stroke in Dogs: A Retrospective Study of 54 Cases (1999-2004) and Analysis of Risk Factors for Death. J Vet Intern Med, (20). 38-46.

5) Bruchin, Y.; Loeb, E.; Saragusty, J.; Aroch, I. (2009). Pathological Findings in Dogs with Fatal Heat stroke. J Comp Path, (140). 97-104.

spaniel under a bed

Fear, Anxiety, Stress, and Phobias in Dogs

We all have encountered fear, anxiety, and stress in our lives. Our dogs are no different. Fear and anxiety and the stress they induce in our pets is often down-played and overlooked. Most of us fail to notice anxiousness in our own pets. Once we understand stress and can recognize the signs, we can work to identify the underlying cause, and take the appropriate steps to eliminating the stress in our dogs’ lives.

The terms fear, anxiety, stress, and phobias are often used interchangeably when referring to a dog’s behavior; however, they are very different. As responsible guardians for our dogs, we are obligated to understand these principles and the impact they have on our canine companions so we can do what is necessary to minimize stress in their lives.

 

  • Fear is an emotional response that occurs when an animal perceives something or someone as dangerous. Fear is a normal and beneficial behavior which helps us to adapt and survive.
  • Anxiety is the anticipation of future danger or a threat, whether it be real, imaginary, or unknown. Anxiety and fear both lead to stress and cause a similar physiologic stress response involving the release of neurotransmitters and stress hormones.
  • Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress is much more than just an emotional problem. It can cause many serious physical health issues and exacerbate other mental and physical problems.
  • Phobias are persistent fears of certain things or situations that are often extreme and out of proportion to the actual threat that they pose. Unfortunately, many dogs have phobias that are often not diagnosed or handled properly.

Most fears, phobias, and anxieties in dogs develop at the onset of social maturity, from 12 to 36 months of age. Often times owners who have a dog they adopted from a shelter, or don’t know the full history of, assume that fearful or anxious behaviors they have are because of past abuse and tend to ignore the problem. While in some instances this may be the case, there are also many dogs born with heritable predisposition to being fearful or anxious. Many dogs suffer from a pathologic fear or anxiety and perceive a threat even when none are present.

As dog owners, we need to do a better job of learning normal animal behavior and becoming aware of how are dogs are learning from positive and negative experiences. Ignoring these problems will not make them go away and only prolongs your dog’s suffering. When a dog cannot change its behavior in a way to help it better cope with fear and anxiety, or escape from the situation they perceive as dangerous, the prolonged negative effects cause the body to remain in a stressed state. This can have serious negative mental and health consequences.

Let’s talk a little bit more about fear, anxiety, stress, and phobias in dogs.

Fear

Fear is an emotional response that occurs when an animal PERCEIVES something or someone as dangerous and causes them to avoid situations and activities that may potentially be dangerous. It is very important to know that just because we may think a particular person, event, or object is nothing to be feared, that does not mean that your dog feels the same. A dog’s perception is their reality, and they will respond to what they perceive as a threat even if we do not see it as threatening. When a dog can’t get away from something they perceive as fearful, they may freeze up or become aggressive in a self-defense manner. This, in many cases, is a perfectly normal adaptive response. The context of the situation determines whether the fear response is normal, or abnormal and inappropriate. Most abnormal fear reactions are learned and can be unlearned with gradual exposure.

Anxiety

Anxiety is defined as the anticipation of future danger, whether it be real, imaginary, or unknown. Anxiety can result in similar physiologic responses similar to those associated with fear and has an effect on almost every body system. Some of the most common visible behaviors and signs are urinary or bowel eliminations/accidents, destructive behaviors, and excessive vocalization. Separation anxiety is the most common specific anxiety in companion dogs. When alone, the animal exhibits anxiety or excessive distress behaviors. Many dogs live in a constant state of anxiety, always wary of potential threats or always worrying that their owner will leave them at any minute. It is vital to your dog’s health to be aware of these issues and work towards improving them.

Stress

Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances. Stress affects dogs both emotionally and physiologically, just as it does in humans. Certain levels of stress are normal, beneficial, and even necessary for survival. The “good stress” allows us be alert, increase our sense of awareness, and use energy to help us learn new tasks and adapt. When a dog experiences fear or anxiety frequently, especially when they are unable to escape from the stressor, it is called distress. This “bad stress” can cause insomnia, euphoria, depression, mania, mood swings, irritability, suppression of the immune system, weight gain, and even psychotic behavior which further exacerbates the stress our dogs face. It is important to note that every animal is different in how they respond to stress and what their stress threshold level is. A large majority of behavior problems in dogs, especially conditions such as separation anxiety and aggression, are often the result of stress.

Phobia

Phobias are persistent fears of certain things or situations that are often extreme and out of proportion to the actual threat that they pose. Phobias are quite common in dogs and can be directed at anything. One of the more common phobias in dogs is a fear of loud noises such as fireworks and thunderstorms. Dogs will often become very anxious in anticipation to exposure to these things or situations. Every dog is different; some may have very mild anxiety responses and some may panic severely and can even injure themselves or others as they attempt to escape from the stimulus. They often lose sight of everything other than getting away from the stimulus. Phobias often start out mild and increase in severity every time they are exposed to the fearful stimulus again.

Physiological Effects of Stress

When an animal is fearful or anxious, the body responds by going in to its “fight-or-flight” mode by activating the Sympathetic Autonomic Nervous System (SANS) and stimulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) to release stress hormones. When this “fight-or-flight” system is activated, neurotransmitters such as adrenaline and stress hormones such as cortisol are released. This essentially tells our body to shut down all functions that are not essential for fighting or flighting from the stressful stimulus. At the same time, they ramp up the body systems needed to protect ourselves from the threat. The overall response by the body is to increase the energy and oxygen directed towards muscles and movement, decreasing perception of pain, and increasing memory and sensory function.

Normally after a stressful incident, the “fight-or-flight” and stress systems will turn off and all the neurotransmitter and stress hormone levels should decrease to normal. It does not happen instantly and may take up to 24 hours to stabilize. However, with frequent and constant stress, the neurotransmitter and stress hormone levels may not have time to return to normal before another stimulus is encountered. This keeps these systems constantly active and keeps the levels of neurotransmitters and stress hormones elevated. This has a strong negative impact on the body and can lead to lethargy, high blood pressure, impact normal gastrointestinal tract function, weight gain, increased thirst and urination, cause hair loss, suppress the body’s immune system, and can lead to or worsen behavioral issues.

These emotional, stressful, and fearful situations systems activate the “primitive” part of the brain which is directed at survival and suppresses the “thinking” part of the brain. This is why people and dogs don’t make the best decisions and may respond inappropriately in an emotional, stressful, or fearful situation. Brains are built to remember these negative and stressful situations in order to help adapt and be prepared for them if they are encountered again in the future. It is very important to note that when dogs are stressed, memories that occur during this time are very strong and can have lasting impacts on their behavior. Therefore, it is very important to handle these situations properly and to not worsen the situation by punishing a dog for his response to a fearful or stressful situation.

Now, let’s move on to common causes of stress in dogs and how to identify them.

Common Stressors in Dogs

  • Excessive stimulation (too much play, doggie daycare, dog sports, etc.)- and the inability to escape or avoid stimulation
  • Insufficient stimulation/attention
  • Grief due to the loss of a companion (human or animal)
  • Arguments among family members and yelling
  • Too many dogs/animals in one space
  • Environmental changes (new home, schedule, people, animals, increased noise)
  • Punitive training (shock, choke and prong collars)-even yelling and telling “no” can cause fear, anxiety, and stress in some dogs
  • Combination training (rewards and punishment)
  • Inappropriate play partners
  • Insufficient social time/family time
  • Scary events and loud noises
  • Frustration
  • Uncertainty- Inability to predict the outcome of a situation
  • Excessive play that becomes borderline “obsessive/compulsive”
  • Not being taught to be okay with being left alone (separation anxiety)

Identifying Stress in Dogs

Dogs express themselves and communicate with body language, vocalizations and behavior. Most people recognize the obvious signs of stress in their pets such as avoidance behaviors, flattened ears, crouching, trembling, or panting. However, the more subtle signs are often overlooked. As pet owners, it is important to learn to read your dog’s body language for these signs to help them avoid experiencing unnecessary stress and, thus, a reduced quality of life. It is important to interpret your dog’s body language, vocalizations, and behavior as a whole.

Some key indicators of stress in dogs are listed below:

Eyes

  • Dilated pupils
  • Tightness around the eyes
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Staring
  • Wide eyed
  • Blinking, squinting
  • Whale eye- when the dog’s head is turned away from a stressor while keeping their eyes focused on it causing you to see the whites of their eyes
  • Furrowed eyebrows

Mouth

  • Yawning
  • Lip/nose licking
  • Lip curling
  • Panting
  • Excess salivation
  • “Smiling”/showing teeth
  • Teeth chattering
  • Cheek puffing
  • Wrinkled muzzle
  • Mouth closed tightly or pulled back
  • Mouth pursed forward
  • Mouthing

Ears

  • Pinned back/flattened
  • Upright and alert

Body

  • Tense
  • Freezing or walking slowly – little or no movement
  • Cowering- crouched low to the ground, tail hanging low with head down
  • Stretching
  • Excessive shedding
  • Urogenital licking/“check-out”- your dog may turn their head around and inspect and lick/groom their urogenital region
  • Urination/defecation
  • Low body posture, weight shifted back
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Sweaty paws
  • Tight brow
  • Shake off
  • Lifting one leg
  • Nails extended
  • Hair standing up
  • Turning away (C-shaped)

Vocalization

Dogs may indicate that they are stressed by vocalizing. Some of the more common stress related vocalizations are:

  • Barking: growling, howling, whining, screaming
  • Hissing: Low pitch = threatening / High pitch = fear/stress

Behavior

Signs of a dog that is stressed include:

  • Restlessness, inability to relax
  • Poor sleeping habits
  • Excessive sleeping, often due to exhaustion
  • Jumpy/High-strung
  • Irritable
  • Destructive
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Loss of appetite
  • Obsessive-compulsive behaviors
  • Inability to focus, appearing distracted
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased urination and defecation
  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Biting, nipping, snapping
  • Clinging to owner
  • Hiding
  • Pacing
  • Running off, Jumping and startling easy at slight changes—hyperalert state
  • Sniffing
  • Taking treats harder than usual, being pickier with treats, or not taking treats at all even if hungry
  • Trembling
  • Turning away (C-shape) or turning head
  • Will not settle down and rest, or will for a moment but back up and moving again

Steps to Reducing Stress in Dogs

There are many approaches to eliminating stress in dogs. In order to reduce our dogs’ stress we first need to understand it and identify the underlying cause in each situation so we can take the appropriate steps to correct this.

The first and simplest way of helping reduce stress in your dog is safety and avoidance of the situation or environment which stresses them out. This will not fix the underlying problem, but it will temporarily alleviate it and not further subject them to the stress. If the specific situations that dogs become stressed in is something they cannot avoid completely, such as separation anxiety or a hatred towards the local mailman, you may need to work with a qualified behavior consultant to help get your dog over this fear. While there are thousands of books, articles, and TV shows directed at correcting behavioral issues, you need to be very cautious with these. Most owners find themselves unsuccessful trying to resolve these problems on their own and often make them worse by trying to follow bad advice. In addition, dog training classes are rarely recommended for dogs with anxiety or aggression issues as it puts them in an environment where they will be constantly stressed and unable to learn and adapt. This is known as flooding and sensitizing. Research tells us that using aversive and punishment training methods can cause and worsen anxiety and fear in dogs. Every dog and every situation is different, and thus require different plans to try and correct these problems.

A behavior consultation with a certified behavior consultant will help you identify your dog’s stressors (triggers) and develop a personalized treatment plan. The behaviorist will almost always recommend a behavior modification protocol, specifically tailored to your dog’s situation. Additionally there may be recommended changes in diets, treatment with products such as pheromones, and medical managements through the use of certain drugs prescribed by your veterinarian. If your behavior consultant is not a veterinarian, it is strongly recommended to have your behavior consultant and veterinarian work together to help correct these issues. Some veterinarians have a special interest in behavior and are members of the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior. You can find nearby veterinarians that are AVSAB members by visiting their website: http://avsabonline.org. In addition, some veterinarians pursue years of advanced training to become a board-certified veterinary behavior specialists through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. To locate a veterinary behaviorist near you, please visit the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists website: http://www.dacvb.org/.

Treatment plans for fear, anxiety, and stress in dogs involve:

  • Avoiding known triggers and negative stimuli- PREVENTION IS KEY
  • Cue-Response-Reward-teaches predictability and structure to interactions with humans and reduces stress and anxiety by making sure anxious behaviors are not rewarded
  • Teaching new coping skills-hand targeting, eye contact on cue, and how to relax on a mat are techniques that can help to redirect and refocus. These also make hand and eye contact less scary.
  • Social and Environment Enrichment– food dispensing and puzzle toys-reduces stress and gives the dog more control over their environment. One-on-one human play and training time is important as well for social enrichment. Sometimes another animal (dogs, horses, cats, cows, etc.) can provide social enrichment.
  • Desensitization/counter-conditioning– the only way to change fear is by eliciting a new positive emotional response and gradually reintroducing triggers in a controlled environment. Counter condition is a way of training an animal to elicit a behavior or response that is counter to, or opposite of, the unwanted behavior or response to a particular stimulus. Desensitization is the process of slowly exposing your dog to a stimulus without causing the unwanted response. By introducing them to the stimulus or trigger very slowly, many dogs begin to realize it is not something to be feared and do not elicit the undesired behavior. These methods are not simply training the dog to accept the trigger or stimulus, as this type of training does not change the emotional response. These methods help the dog realize there is no need to be fearful of the stimulus so that they are no longer fearful of it. Remember fear is irrational and cannot be reinforced, therefore desensitizing/counter-conditioning will not make fear worse unless you go too fast at the gradual reintroduction of the trigger. For example, a dog that is fearful of the car and car rides can be gradually counter conditioned and desensitized to not be fearful of it. You can slowly bring the dog closer to the car each time and reward them for not acting in the undesirable manner. As they are successful, they can slowly be moved closer to the vehicle until they are getting into the car, and eventually riding in the car in a calm and quiet manner while still being rewarded for accomplishing their goal. It is important to watch for the signs of stress listed above and work to keep in a calm emotional state when working.
  • Medications– medications are not a cure for behavioral problems, they must be used with behavior modification but can be very helpful by decreasing overall anxiety and fear levels and increasing learning and behavioral modification potential
  • Tools– in addition, there are many tools on the market designed to help your canine companion with their behavior conditions. The ThunderShirt uses pressure in a manner similar to being hugged to help reduce anxiety and trigger relaxation. There are a variety of supplements and treats available that use natural ingredients to help support proper nervous system function and help keep your dog calm and relaxed. Other options include caps that can be used to reduce visual stimulations, and DAP sprays that emit drug-free, natural vapor signals to your dog that the area is friendly and safe by mimicking a dogs natural pheromones.

Summary

Stress makes us feel miserable; it makes our dogs feel the same way. The effects of fear and anxiety are serious and distressing for the animals that experience them. As dog owners, we owe it to our best friends to become better at recognizing signs of fear, anxiety, and stress and do more to decrease their fear when possible. In addition we must work to help prevent fear in new pets by understanding the principles behind it and avoiding actions and situations that predispose our dogs to stress. Dogs that show a pathologic level of fear or anxiety need to be recognized and treated to prevent them from a reduced quality of life and the long list of medical problems that occur secondary to prolonged stress. They do not deserve to suffer simply because we are not adept at recognizing their suffering and the signs of stress. It’s time to take action and work to improve the lives of our four-legged companions.

Do you want to learn more?

ThunderShirt Works for Annie’s Anxiety: A Product Review

10 Ways Your Dog is Telling You He’s Stressed

How Changes in Our Routine Affect Our Dogs

Tell us about your experiences with stressed or fearful pets in the comments section below. Ask your questions here or you can, email bark@hollywoodfeed.com. The experts at Hollywood Feed are always happy to help!

References:

  • Herron, Meghan E., Frances S. Shofer, and Ilana R. Reisner. “Survey of the use and outcome of confrontational and non-confrontational training methods in client-owned dogs showing undesired behaviors.”Applied Animal Behaviour Science 1 (2009): 47-54.)
  • O’Heare, James.Canine Neuropsychology: A Primer on the Canine Nervous System, Stress, Emotion and Stress Reduction. Ottawa: DogPsych, 2005. Print.
  • Overall, Karen L.Clinical Behavioral Medicine for Small Animals. St. Louis: Mosby, 1997. Print.
  • Pfaffenberger CJ, Scott JP. The relationship between delayed socialization and trainability in guide dogs. J Genet Psychol 1959, 95: 145-155.
  • Radosta, Lisa, DVM, DACVB. “Canine Fear-Related Aggression Toward Humans.” Clinician’s Brief, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.
  • Scholz, Martina, and Clarissa Von. Reinhardt.Stress in Dogs. Wenatchee, WA: Dogwise Pub., 2007. Print.
itchy dog biting leg, thinning hair

What are Food Allergies and How Do I Stop Them?

When our pets have food allergies, it can be very frustrating for pet parents and for our dogs and cats. We don’t want our pets to lose hair, itch, and develop hot spots from excessive licking, and neither do they. But, where to start? There are so many foods on the market, so many ingredients to consider, and there are always conflicting opinions. There is also a lot of confusing information and marketing about what we should be feeding to our dogs and cats. I’m going to break down food allergies and solutions for you right here!

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an inflammatory response to food, grass, dust, pollen, flea bites, etc. that causes an allergic reaction, or symptoms, that drive humans and pets crazy. Common allergic reactions are expressed through inflammation of the skin, which leads to itching, redness and hair loss.

An allergic threshold is the point at which we start to physically manifest symptoms. When allergens stay below that threshold, our body manages them well and symptoms are not expressed. Take a look at this chart:

The actual numbers on the chart are arbitrary and appear only to give scale. The yellow line would be the point at which these dogs begin to experience symptoms from the allergens listed in each column. As we can see, depending on how allergic our dogs are to each allergen, we can reduce the occurrences of allergic reactions by simply reducing the amount of contact our pets have with them. It is not necessary, or probable, to completely eliminate most allergens.

In addition, the more natural antihistamines, digestive enzymes and anti-inflammatories we introduce to our pets, the higher their allergic threshold will go and the less likely they’ll be to have symptoms manifest.

It is also important to remember that hypo-allergenic does not mean non-allergenic. Instead, hypo-allergenic means less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Advertisers love this word, so we should make sure we know the definition!

Questions To Consider When I Think My Pet Has an Allergy:

Have I tried an elimination diet with my pet to determine potential allergens?
To what ingredients do I suspect my pet is allergic?
What are the symptoms my pet experiences?

What is an Elimination Diet and Why is it Necessary?

An elimination diet is used to determine food ingredients which our pets can tolerate and isolate ingredients which we should avoid.

The most important thing to consider when feeding an elimination diet is that we must avoid ALL ingredients which are not part of that temporary diet. An elimination diet can take 12 weeks or even longer, but the results are very trustworthy and the cost is minimal compared to other less effective methods of determining allergens.

Before We Begin an Elimination Diet:

  • We need to isolate the primary ingredients in our pet’s food down to 2: one meat and one carbohydrate.
  • The selected protein and carbohydrate sources should be something which we can be relatively certain is not causing the problem.
  • I prefer to select protein sources with which our pet has had minimal contact. Some options include: pork, bison, turkey, duck and kangaroo.
  • Some great carbohydrate source options include: sweet potatoes, lentils, tapioca and garbanzo beans.
  • Other ingredients in the food should either be a healthy fat source, such as: fish oil, coconut oil or olive oil; or a simple vitamin or mineral supplement which should contain little to no allergic potential

Let’s Begin:

  • Now the diet we have carefully chosen should be fed as the sole diet for our pet. This includes any dog treats or table scraps we feed our dogs or cats. Absolutely nothing else!
  • We should observe our pets for an increase or decrease in symptoms. If symptoms begin to improve, then our pets should remain on that diet for up to 12 weeks or until the symptoms have completely subsided. If symptoms begin to worsen, it’s time to abandon one of the two primary ingredients and replace it with a different novel source.
  • It’s important that we only replace one ingredient at a time and then make note of the dates, ingredients, and any noticeable changes or benefits in our pet’s response.
  • We should continue to rotate through ingredients until we find a combination that drastically decreases or completely eliminates any symptoms.
  • At this point, we can start adding one ingredient at a time to your pet’s diet, in the form of treats or other similar pet food formulas, all the while taking note of your pet’s responses to each ingredient.
  • This is how we figure out, one by one, which ingredients our pets can tolerate.

Tell Me More about Ingredients

A true food allergy is caused by a protein. Almost all food items contain some form of protein, but many food items have a much higher percentage of protein than other food items. For example, a dog can be allergic to carrots. This is because their body recognizes the proteins found in carrots as a threat and will try to eliminate it from the body. This is why blood and skin tests done at veterinary offices will often return positive allergic responses for foods such as carrots, flax, potatoes or other produce. The problem with this classification of allergic reactions is that they typically fall well below the allergic threshold we discussed earlier, and probably do not need to be eliminated from our pets’ diets. When we are deciding on food for our dog or cat who is displaying allergy symptoms, we should avoid all foods containing beef, wheat, chicken and soy. These are the most common food allergens. Wheat and soy, while being grains and not meat, still contain a high percentage of high allergen proteins.

To replace those very common pet food ingredients, we should instead look for the novel ingredients we spoke about earlier: rabbit, duck, pheasant, kangaroo, and bison, all of which are commonly available in pet food. Again, good novel carbohydrate sources include sweet potato, tapioca, garbanzo beans, and lentils.

*Remember that any consumed food items can potentially trigger a reaction, not just our pets’ primary diet. We should be sure not to feed our allergic pets table scraps or treats which contain any of the most common allergens. Especially while we are doing an elimination diet to determine the source of our pets’ allergy. Most of the treats sold in grocery stores contain wheat, soy, beef or all three. Additionally, something as simple as the crust from a slice of white bread can set off a dog with severe allergies.*

What Are Some Brands to Consider?


Hollywood Feed carries many diets great for pets with allergies and for trying an elimination diet in all of our stores. The brands below have novel ingredients as well as high levels of natural antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. A few of my favorites are: Answers Pet Food, Orijen, Acana, Fromm, Holistic Select, and Natural Balance, which all have hypo-allergenic formulas. Also, the most common food allergens such as beef, wheat and soy are absent from the majority of the formulas and brands that we carry.

What Else Should I Know?

Finally, I should point out that food isn’t the only thing that can cause an allergic reaction, it’s simply the easiest to manage. Grass is another very common allergen, but because there’s virtually no way to escape it, we should minimize exposure. But we also need to be realistic about dogs being dogs. By eliminating as many other allergens from our pets’ lives as possible, we can most likely bring them under the allergic threshold to a point of comfort.

For an outline on skin/allergy disorders as well as some of the best nutrition available, watch and read: Dermatology and Our Pets, Cats, Dogs and DermatologyI Have an Itch that Needs Scratching and Solve 90% of Pet Health Problems through Answers Raw Nutrition .

4 fluffy small dogs on leashes get a walk

National Walk Your Dog Week

-by Jane Langlois

October 1st through 7th is National Walk Your Dog Week.  Colleen Paige, Celebrity Pet Lifestyle Expert and Animal Behaviorist, created this event in 2010 to help promote the health of both people and their dogs.  Some pet parents make the mistake of assuming that if a dog has access to a yard, he or she is getting plenty of exercise. But your dog doesn’t run laps by himself in your yard, or do much of anything besides waiting for you to come outside or let him back in. It’s the interaction with you that counts!  Walking your pooch for just 30 minutes each day improves you and your pup’s cardiovascular health and increases endorphins. Not only will walking your pooch keep both of you physically fit, but it also wards off high cholesterol and high blood pressure. At the end of the walk, you and your pooch will feel healthy, refreshed, and confidant.


There is a huge side benefit to walking daily with your pup.  It’s a great way to help him or her get rid of excess energy and reduce anxiety.  In the old days, dogs had a job and worked alongside their people.  They were bred for a particular purpose, like hunting, herding livestock or providing protection.  Today, our dogs no longer have to earn their keep, and, instead, have to adjust to our more sedentary lifestyles. They get their food poured in a bowl and are often confined, alone and inactive, most of the day. This lack of purpose leaves dogs no outlet for their naturally active tendencies, physical and mental, and it contributes to the development of behavior problems.  Studies have shown that many dogs in shelters and on the streets are there mainly due to a lack of exercise, which resulted in serious behavior issues such as aggression, destruction, and separation anxiety issues.  Dogs can be like young children. If you don’t give them something constructive to do with their energy, they’ll find something to do on their own, and you may not like it!

Going on a walk with your dog will give you a chance to sneak in some useful training lessons.  Walking together will strengthen your bond, leading to a strong, trusting relationship.  Your pup will be easier to manage and you’ll both feel more at ease with each other.  While you’re on your walk, your dog will become familiar with all the sights and sounds of the neighborhood by meeting people, dogs, and other creatures. Switch up your walking route every once in a while so your pooch can have different encounters leading to less nervousness in the future. Doggie parents love talking to other doggie parents, so walking your canine gives you an opportunity to meet new people too! Plus, your neighbors or new friends will be more likely to recognize your four-legged friend in case he or she ever gets lost.

October is a beautiful time of year to get outside and enjoy the weather.  So take the challenge this week and walk your dog for 7 days.  When you do something every day, you begin to build it into your schedule as a priority.  It’s a wonderful feeling knowing that something as simple as a walk, can bring so much happiness to your four-legged friend and so many health benefits to you both!

family cuddles small dog

Holistic Pet Day

-by Jane Langlois

People put a lot of emphasis lately on eating organic, taking care of our bodies and being healthy.  Did you know there’s a day dedicated to doing that for our pets, too?  Saturday, August 30th is Holistic Pet Day. Holistic is the term for treating the entire being, not just the parts. Holistic is treating the mind, body and spirit with a healthy living style that incorporates nutrition, exercise, and body care into our daily lives.  The goal of this special day is to highlight the importance of “whole pet health” instead of singular systems or problems. Holistic Pet Day is a chance to help improve our pets’ quality of life by strengthening each of the following:

 

Diet – Nutrition is one of the most important aspects of holistic pet care. A diet of natural and organic food has numerous health benefits such as boosting our pets’ immune systems, which is an easy way to prevent diseases and other health problems. Our pets’ digestive systems aren’t meant to deal with many of the preservatives and chemicals found in cheap pet food. Good quality, natural pet food also helps our pets fight allergies, intestinal problems, obesity, diabetes and other food-related diseases.  High quality natural nutrition will not “fix” everything, but it is a critical part of a holistic approach to pet health care and often has a profound positive effect on the way a pet feels. If your pet is suffering from a chronic ailment, speak to your veterinarian about this approach to nutrition as one treatment option.  While pets do experience very real diseases that require conventional medicine, the course of many chronic diseases can be changed by excellent natural nutritional choices.

Water – This is the most important nutrient for long, healthy life. Our pets need plenty of fresh water that isn’t potentially contaminated with fluoride, chlorine and other chemicals. We can help to keep our pets’ water safe by using filtered water, never reusing plastic water bottles to fill their water bowls, and using stainless steel bowls instead of plastic.

Exercise – The same way that our bodies need regular exercise, so do our pets’ bodies. Our pets thrive in the fresh air, sunshine, and being able to run freely. Frequent walks and exercise can help to keep our pets physically fit, aid weight loss, lower cholesterol levels, decrease diabetes risk, lessen the risk of heart disease, help with anxiety and help fight certain cancers. Exercise also helps dogs behave, too.  You know the saying,  “a tired dog is a good dog”.


Mental Stimulation – While keeping our pets physically active is important, so is keeping them mentally stimulated. There are all sorts of different and fun ways to get our pets’ brain cells firing. Some dog toys are specifically designed to challenge a dog to solve a puzzle for a treat. Hide treats in different areas of your home and have your dog or cat search them out using its sense of smell. Try taking an alternative route when going for a walk. Your dog will love the new smells, sounds and sights!

The overall goal of Holistic Pet Day is to help improve your pet’s quality of life. It’s a wonderful opportunity to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy in all aspects of its life. Remember to follow the tips you learned on Holistic Pet Day everyday for a long-lasting and happy relationship with your pet.