Archive for September, 2013

Lots of dog owners today like the idea of feeding their dogs grain free dog food. Grain free foods have plenty of benefits. They often have higher protein levels. They avoid some of the common grains that can cause allergies in some dogs. They often use carb sources that are less common so they are good for dogs with certain food sensitivities. But are they the best food for all dogs?

While many grain free foods are very good, they are not all superior foods. Some grain free dog foods can be just as much out of balance as foods with grain. If the calcium and phosphorus ratio is out of whack, for example, the food may be completely unsuitable for puppies. This happens frequently with grain free foods, especially foods that have very high protein percentages. AAFCO has formulated their nutritional charts for vitamins and minerals with popular (grain) foods in mind. These foods with grains contain phytates that absorb a lot of the vitamins and minerals in the food. That’s not necessarily true with grain free foods. They can have some ingredients that have phytates, but not the abundance that come from grains. As a consequence, dogs that eat grain free foods often get an overdose of vitamins and minerals. There’s nothing in the food to absorb them and prevent the dog from digesting them.

Some people also mistakenly believe that since a food is “grain free” that it is also carb free. This isn’t true. Vegetables generally contain plenty of carbohydrates. For instance, a dog food that is grain free can use sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate. Sweet potatoes are approximately 92-93 percent carbs. Dogs don’t need carbohydrates for nutrition but neither do people. Nevertheless, they perform important functions in the diet, providing a good source of vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

Many people like the idea that dogs are descended from wolves and believe that they need to eat a similar diet – a carnivore’s diet. But the truth is that dogs have been living with humans for over 15,000 years and eating what we feed them. The latest scientific research shows that dogs are perfectly capable of digesting the starches in grains – unlike wolves.

This is not to discourage anyone from feeding their dog a good grain free dog food. But when choosing a dog food for your dog, keep in mind that there are still many good dog foods that contain some grains. Here are some things to look for in a good dog food:

  • Choose a food that has several good animal proteins in the first few ingredients. Named proteins such as chicken, lamb meal, and fish are best. Avoid generics such as “animal meal.”
  • Avoid foods that have lots of grain and cereal. Small amounts are okay but foods that have white rice, brown rice, and rice bran add up to a lot of rice in your dog’s food. Corn is not necessarily bad unless there is too much of it. Foods with lots of different kinds of grains (cracked pearled barley, millet, oatmeal, etc.) also add up to a lot of carbs in the food, even if the grains sound appealing. Too much of anything is not good.
  • Look for good sources of animal fat. A named fat such as chicken fat is good. A vague fat such as “animal fat” is not good.
  • Avoid by-products and digest. These are less desirable parts of animals and you probably don’t want your dog to eat them.
  • Avoid artificial preservatives such as BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin. If you are in doubt whether a company uses ethoxyquin to preserve fish, call and ask.
  • Avoid artificial flavors, colors, and sweeteners. Your dog doesn’t need these ingredients.

Remember that there are lots of good dog foods available. You don’t necessarily have to feed your dog a grain free food for him to get good nutrition. Just read the ingredients and the rest of the label to see what’s in the food.

Many pet owners are afraid of over-vaccinating their dogs today. The truth is that in the past some dogs have been over-vaccinated. It was often easy to simply take your dog to the vet every year and get “the works.” Some vaccines come in combo vials so the vet or vet tech can give a dog one big shot of all the vaccines at once. However, not all dogs react well to this approach. Some dogs have bad reactions. Plus your dog doesn’t need to have every kind of vaccine every year. Many vaccines will protect your dog for several years or even throughout his lifetime.

How do you know which vaccines your dog needs?

You can talk to your veterinarian about vaccines and let him or her know that you don’t want your dog to be vaccinated for everything every year. Many vets are also aware of these issues and your vet should be willing to discuss the matter with you. In most states the only vaccination that is required is for rabies. The duration of the rabies vaccination is currently being researched but in many states a rabies shot is good for three years. However, different states have different state laws regarding how often a rabies vaccination has to be given to pets. In some states a rabies shot has to be given annually. Talk to your vet or a state health official such as someone with your state department of agriculture or state department of health to find out what the law requires in your state.

Other vaccines for dogs have different durations. Manufacturers have tested the vaccines before they are approved for use and they recommend how often the vaccines should be given. In reality, some dogs usually remain immune for longer periods but with other dogs the immunity can wear off earlier. If you wanted to know for sure if your dog was still immune to something like parvo or distemper instead of having your dog vaccinated again, you would need to have your vet perform a titre on your dog. This means testing your dog’s blood for an immune reaction to the disease to see if he can still mount an immune response. Then you would know if he needs to be re-vaccinated. Titring your dog is more expensive than getting a vaccination but some people like to do it instead of getting an unnecessary vaccination.

Puppies and vaccinations

Puppies should always be vaccinated. If the mother of the puppies is up to date on her vaccinations she will pass along some temporary immunity to them when they are born but this immunity begins to wear off when they are five or six weeks old. The exact age their immunity wears off can vary from one puppy to another in the litter. This is why one puppy might get sick with a disease and others don’t. But by the time the puppies are eight or nine weeks old, all of their immunity will be gone. If they are exposed to diseases, they will get sick at this time. That’s why it’s important to begin giving puppies their vaccinations when they are six or seven weeks old (approximately). The puppies should continue to get their shots approximately every 10 days or two weeks until they are 12 to 14 weeks old. This will cover them from the time they are immune until they are fully covered by the vaccinations. After this time, when they are between four and six months, most puppies get their rabies shot.

Finally, a year later, puppies should have a booster shot for their vaccinations. After this, they will be on the same schedule as other adult dogs.


Vaccines for puppies will include some things that adult dogs won’t need later, such as coronavirus. Puppy vaccinations include these core vaccines:

  • Canine distemper
  • Parvovirus
  • Hepatitis
  • Rabies

There are also some non-core vaccines that your vet may recommend, depending on where you live:

  • Measles
  • Canine Adnovirus 2 (CAV 2)
  • Parainfluenza
  • Bordetella
  • Leptospirosis
  • Coronavirus
  • Lyme

Most core vaccines can be given to adult dogs every three years but, again, you should talk to your veterinarian for more advice.

Don’t forget that you also need to take your dog to the vet to have him tested for heartworm annually. Your dog should have a good physical every year, too. Dogs over the age of six or seven will also benefit from having some annual bloodwork for senior dogs so your vet can keep an eye on any health problems that might develop as your dog ages.

Dog Training Tips

Lots of people get a puppy or dog and they have good intentions about training their dog. They buy books or DVDs. They watch dog training shows on TV. They might even start a dog training class. But for one reason or another, they don’t finish teaching their dog the basics of obedience training. This happens with lots of people, so if you stalled with training your dog, don’t feel bad. Here are some tips that might get you started again.

Keep training times short. Dogs learn best if you train them for a couple of 10 minute periods twice a day. Like people, dogs tend to lose interest during marathon training sessions. You can accomplish more with a couple of short, focused sessions each day.

Keep training fun. For most dogs, the more you make training like play, the better they will learn. Use an upbeat, cheerful tone of voice. Be energetic and positive. Act like you’re having fun and your dog is more likely to have fun.

Dogs respond well to praise and rewards. There are several different approaches to training but most dogs respond well to praise and reward. You don’t have to be the bad guy when you train your dog. Instead, praise your dog for getting things right. Reward him with petting and/or a treat or by playing with his favorite toy. This approach also encourages a positive attitude toward learning.

Be consistent. If you tell your dog to stay off the sofa six days a week, you will only confuse him if you allow him to get up on the sofa on the seventh day. It’s also confusing to your dog when you tell him to stay off the sofa and your spouse tells him it’s okay to get up. Dogs are perfectly willing to obey but they need to have consistent rules in the home. If your dog is not obeying, make sure you’re not sending mixed signals.

Train regularly. Your dog will learn and remember best if you train every day. Even though you only spend a few minutes training each day, it is important that you work with your dog every day. Keep working at it.

Don’t train when you’re angry or upset. Your dog can always sense your mood. If you’re angry or upset, your dog will know it and training won’t go well. This is especially true if you are upset with your dog. Leave the training until you are in a better mood. Never take your anger out on your dog.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Just about any dog can be trained. You can start training a puppy when he’s about 8 weeks old. Start with easy things like teaching him to Sit and Come, as well as house training. But if you have an adolescent dog or an older dog, there’s no reason why you can’t train these dogs, too. Age is no barrier to learning. You can teach an old dog new tricks. On the other hand, if you have a dog with a specific behavior problem, you might need to contact a dog trainer or an animal behavior consultant. They have the training needed to work with dogs with behavior problems.

Training your dog is an ongoing process. Dogs learn obedience, rules in the home, and socialization. Like people, they continue to learn throughout their lives. It’s never too late for them to learn. So, if you need a jump start with training your dog, try these tips and maybe they will get you started again. Good luck!

I’ve known people who have done this in Mexico and Central America where dogs are often left tied up outdoors for days at a time, often without fresh water or food. In places like that where there is no Animal Control to call, I can understand animal lovers feeling compelled to take matters into their own hands. In fact, when I was living on Roatan, some friends started a wild animal shelter to care for exotic animals like jaguars that were kept as pets when they were small, and then either confiscated by police or citizens who saw them tied up and mistreated. It was incomprehensible that people were stupid enough to think they could handle a wild animal after it grew out of it’s cuddly kitten stage.

Legally Speaking – No

In the United States the law considers pets to be property, so stealing them is a felony, and in some states, punishable by up to 4 years in prison. So, for that reason alone, trying to be a hero and rescue a mistreated animal is taking a big risk. In this age of smartphones pretty much everything we do has a pretty good chance of being documented on someone’s camera. Instead of being the one caught on tape, set up your own surveillance and catch the bad pet owners in the act. Report them to Animal Control, and you’ll have some evidence to back up your story.

If you are concerned that an animal is starving or dehydrated, try to give it food and water because depending on the area where you live, and how busy Animal Control is, it may take some time for them to arrive on the scene.

Animals rescued from neglect and abuse are taken to an animal shelter or humane society where their injuries will be treated, and their overall health assessed. They will be evaluated to see if they can be adopted or if it makes more sense to put them in foster care until they are rehabilitated enough for adoption. In severe cases, the animal may have to be euthanized.

Life Or Death

In a situation that you believe to be life or death for an animal, and you feel compelled to do something about it, start dialing as you take action. Call 911, report that you are making a citizen’s arrest to stop a violent attack on an animal. They will keep you on the line and talk you through it. Make sure that you are safe, because if you have to step onto someone’s property you are at great risk, especially in states where the castle doctrine doesn’t require people to retreat into their homes. People who think nothing of hurting an animal will likely not hesitate to hurt you when they feel threatened. Another safety issue to consider is that animals who have been abused are often terrified of people and can be dangerous as a result. The dog may attack out of fear because they don’t know or trust you, or anyone for that matter.

Whether you report an issue to get involved in the rescue, you have to be prepared and willing to testify in court as to what you witnessed otherwise there’s no point in getting involved at all.

Emily Grant is a reviewer of animal products and volunteer at the ASPCA who often writes about animal welfare with the goal of educating pet owners.

Recently I was walking to the farmer’s market pulling my toddler in a red wagon. A big black SUV slowed and stopped beside me. I was feeling a little nervous until the window slid down and a woman with a very concerned look on her face warned me that she had just seen a big pit bull heading my way with no owner in sight. I thanked her for letting me know, and paused as I considered my options. I have known people with incredibly well trained and obedient pit bulls. However, I know that all dogs are unpredictable, so the ones that can easily kill me or my child if they decide to for whatever reason, make me very nervous. Just as I was deciding to turn around and take a detour I saw it. My skin prickled as all my hair stood on end. It was like seeing a mountain lion, I had the sense that I was completely helpless. I turned around and headed in the opposite direction, turned the next corner and never saw it again.

I suppose I am guilty of being programmed by the media to feel like anytime I see a pit bull I may be attacked. It’s the same programming that makes us feel like shark attacks are common and we are likely to be attacked if we get our feet wet at the beach. To be honest though, I wasn’t afraid of much of anything before I had a child. Now I am constantly on alert to make sure I can protect her. Since children are statistically the primary victims of dog attacks, my concern is valid. Another scary statistic is that in the first third of 2013 there were 13 people killed by dogs in the USA, 12 of those were by pit bulls. So, statistically it is still much more dangerous to drive my car to the grocery store, but avoiding random rogue pit bulls still seems like a no-brainer.

Whose Safety Is More Important?

Because certain breeds of dog have been shown to pose an unacceptable level of risk to human beings, and especially children, I have to wonder why it is so controversial to have breed specific laws. There are facebook pages and website dedicated to protecting pit bull owners, and their dogs from these laws. People who love their pit bulls all say the same thing; their dogs are good dogs, cuddly, gentle. I believe them. I will also believe them when, after their dog hurts someone, they say that they can’t believe it happened. The reason it is so unexpected is that most dogs are put down after they brutally attack someone so it’s not like a specific dog is allowed to develop a pattern of mauling people. It happens unexpectedly.

As a parent, it only makes sense to me to regulate the ownership of dangerous dogs. In areas where the pit bull population has been lowered there has been a reduction in the number of attacks. Over 600 cities in the US have adopted breed specific laws to address the danger of pit bulls. These laws include mandatory sterilization of pit bulls, liability insurance for owners, and strict rules on containment. Not only have these communities seen a drop in maulings, they also see a significant drop in pit bull euthanizations. Some places have gone as far as to ban pit bulls which means that breeding them is illegal, as is bringing new ones into the area.

Danielle Nottingham is a veterinary techinician and pet blogger who writes about anything from strange and wacky animal trivia to reviewing excellent dog training products.

This year, when you’re thinking about Halloween fun and ways to include your dog, how about having a Halloween-themed party just for him and your friends with dogs? Parties for dogs are lots of fun. They give your dog a chance to have a play date with his friends and you can have a good time with your friends. And it’s lots of fun to decorate with the doggy Halloween theme.

If you would like to have a Halloween party for your dog and his friends, here are some ideas you can use.

Send invitations in advance. You can use invitations for human Halloween parties but make sure it’s clear that the party is for dogs. Or, you can look online for doggy invitations. Or you can even make your own invitations. Some people are very creative and tuck paper invitations inside a Pupperoni stick, for example, to hand deliver them.

Keep guest numbers manageable. You won’t want to invite more dogs and guests than you can manage in your home and yard. Dogs can be very rambunctious when they get together in a group so keep the numbers low. If it rains, you will need to have all the dogs inside your house at the same time, too.

Plan for a daytime party. Daytime parties are usually easier to plan and they allow the dogs to play in your backyard. This also allows your guests to attend human Halloween parties in the evening.

Decorate with a Halloween theme. You can use many of the usual Halloween decorations – with a twist. Use rawhide bones in a fake cemetery in your backyard. Carve dogs and dog faces on pumpkins. Use hollowed out pumpkins for water bowls in the yard. (Be sure to supply multiple water bowls so dogs have lots of places to drink.)

Halloween treats. You can find lots of Halloween-themed treats for dogs online or you can bake your own Halloween-themed cupcakes and cakes for dogs. There are plenty of good dog treat and snack recipes online. Decorate in Halloween colors of black and orange. Be sure to use some black cats for fun.

Party favors. Give out fun party favors to your doggy guests such as doggy treats and snacks and toys from the dollar store.

Party activities. Fun activities for a doggy Halloween party can include bobbing for frozen hot dogs and for apples, a photo booth so owners and their dogs can get their pictures made (or a photographer snapping pics), and a costume parade,  But mostly at these events, the dogs have a great time playing together.

Keep things under control. Keep dogs leashed unless they already know each other and play together well. Be sure to provide treats and snacks in different sizes to accommodate dogs of different sizes. Don’t let the dogs raid the treat bowls or they will likely wolf all the treats down at one time. Keep an eye on all food items.

Doggy Halloween parties are loads of fun for people and for dogs. Really, parties for dogs in conjunction with just about any holiday can be fun. It just takes a little creativity and planning. The humans have just as much fun as the dogs. So, find a costume for your dog, get some treats and snacks, and send out some invitations to your doggy friends. You and your dog will have a scary good time!

Professional dog walking has been around for over fifty years and the first known dog walking service was the Jim Buck School for Dogs which was started in New York City back in the early 1960’s. At the time, Buck and more than two dozen of his assistants walked more than 150 dogs a day.

Back then it seemed like a novelty, but now, it’s fairly common to see professional dog walkers out and about. Sometimes they walk only one dog at a time and sometimes they can be seen walking as many as 10 dogs at a time. And whether you’re new to owning a dog or have been a long-time owner, you may be wondering if hiring someone else to do the dog walking is right for you and for your pet.

Your best bet would be to ask around to see if your friends or coworkers have used dog walking services in the past. But if you happen to be friends with cat lovers, don’t fret, here are a few reasons why hiring a dog walking service can be a big help to both you and your furry friend.

  • You may be someone who works full-time and are out of your house or apartment most of the day. If you are, it would be in your best interest to hire someone to do the dog walking for you. Doing so would prevent any accidents that could occur while you are out and it would allow your dog to be on a regular relief schedule. It would also provide some exercise time for your pet and being out of the house or apartment also helps with their socialization skills.
  • If you like to go away on vacation but you don’t want to pay for a boarding at a kennel or want your dog to stay with a bunch of other pets, you can opt to have someone come to your house daily. Dog walking services are a great option when you don’t want to use a kennel.
  • Sometimes you may be physically unable to take your dog for a walk yourself. Hiring someone else to do the dog walking while you recuperate could be a help to both you and your pet. It keeps them active and gives you some relief.
  • If you live in an urban area and are unable to allow your dog to roam free in a fenced in backyard like your suburban compatriots, contacting a dog walking service would definitely be for you.
  • Having someone to walk your dog regularly when you can’t is beneficial to the dog’s health and well-being. Sometimes when a dog isn’t walked regularly, they develop bad habits and wouldn’t it be nice to not come home to find your favorite shoes acting like a chew toy?

Dog walking service prices from state to state and as with other businesses, you should investigate and make sure you find a reputable company but in the end, it may be worth the investment if it makes life a little easier for you and your pet. Click here to learn more.

Featured images:
  • License: Image author owned

Stacey Gotsulias writes on a variety of topics, from sports to pets.

Keep Your Dog Safe This Fall

Now that autumn is upon us, it’s important to think about some of the risks associated with the changing season and how to keep our dogs safe. If you have a dog then you know that there are always ways for dogs to injure themselves. Here’s how to keep your dog safe.

Antifreeze. One of the biggest dangers to dogs in the fall is antifreeze (ethylene glycol). Many people will change their antifreeze at this time of year, leaving spills in the driveway or bottles of antifreeze sitting in their garage. Antifreeze is very toxic to dogs but it has a sweet taste so it attracts dogs (and even children). Just five teaspoons can kill a small dog. It acts very quickly and leads to kidney failure and death in four to eight hours. A newer antifreeze product using propylene glycol is considered to be safer and less toxic. Remember to store all antifreeze in its original container, out of reach of pets and children. Keep the empty container so, if your dog does consume some, you can tell the vet what he drank. If you think your dog consumed antifreeze, call your vet immediately.

Rodenticides. This time of year many mice and other rodents are looking for a place to spend the winter inside your house. People are buying rodenticides (rat poison) to kill them. Unfortunately, these poisons can also kill your dog. Even if your dog just eats one of the mice, the rodenticide can still get in his system. These poisons cause severe bleeding, kidney failure, and even death. There are no safe rodenticides. Dogs will eat these products if they find them. If you use them in your home, put them somewhere so your pet can’t get to them and put them where children can’t reach them either.

Rodenticides that kill the rodents hoping to winter in your house will also kill
your pet. They cause severe bleeding, kidney failure, and death. There are no safe
rodenticides. Whether out of hunger, boredom, or curiosity, pets will consume these
products. If rodenticides are used in your home, put them in places inaccessible to pets and
children. Make sure you keep a record of the product used in case of ingestion. If your dog does eat one of these poisons, call your vet immediately.

Chocolate. Chocolate is a favorite treat year-round, but it shows up especially at Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. You can’t have a holiday without chocolate! Of course, chocolate can be toxic to dogs. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. It takes more chocolate to affect a large dog, but small dogs can be affected by just one ounce of baking chocolate or eight ounce of milk chocolate. The first signs of chocolate poisoning are upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. Later signs are restlessness and becoming uncoordinated. The dog will finally have heart failure and respiratory failure. Chocolate poisoning needs emergency veterinary treatment.

Thanksgiving. Vets report that they see an uptick in acute pancreatitis cases in dogs following Thanksgiving and other major holidays. This is because people tend to overfeed their dogs on these holidays. This is especially true when people pile on the human food for dogs that aren’t used to eating turkey and dressing. Likewise, vets see emergencies involving cooked turkey bones that break and pierce holes in the digestive track, or get stuck. Bloat is also seen at these times. So, go easy on the holiday meals for your dog. No cooked bones. Raw bones are fine. They are more pliable and won’t usually harm your dog’s digestive tract. But cooked bones are brittle and will break.

Decorations. The fall of the year typically sees the start of the decorations going up in the home. Whether it’s Halloween or Christmas, many people start putting out decorations on their tables and other places. And some of these decorations will be tempting to your dog. Take care and try not to put out things that would be toxic to your dog if he chewed on them. Lots of dogs have sampled potpourri without any harm but you don’t want your dog to devour your Christmas garland or other decorations.

Cold weather. As the days get shorter we’ll also be headed for cold weather. Remember that indoor pets are not usually acclimated to cold weather temps so they shouldn’t stay outside for long periods. If your dogs stay outside, they can do well as long as they have shelter from the wind and rain and have good bedding to insulate them from the cold ground. Avoid any electrical heating devices that could harm your dog if they were frayed and got wet. If your dog lives outside he will need extra calories in cold weather for body heat, and access to water that is not frozen.

It’s hard to believe that winter weather will be here soon but summer is winding down and it’s time to start planning ahead. Follow these tips and keep your dog safe this autumn.