February 5, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Garden Danger for Canines: Common Plants that are Harmful to Dogs

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Unlike cats, dogs are not strict carnivores. They have a scavenging instinct which causes them to eat anything that would fulfill their nutritional needs. They also love exploring the world around them with their mouths. Unfortunately, this means that they end up eating things that aren’t good for them. Moldy garbage, rat poison, and even dark chocolate are all dangerous items that dogs will end up eating if given the chance. Outside in the garden too, there are plants that can pose serious danger to your pup.

In fact, there is a good chance that you are not aware of all the plants that can pose a threat to your canine. Just like humans, dogs can poison themselves by ingesting the wrong plant. The Cornell university’s animal science department suggests adding bran flakes to your dog’s food or switching the diet to a vegetable fiber rich one to deter his cravings for vegetarian food. As a pack leader, you need to know the common plants that can endanger your dog’s life. A lot of them are benign – tomato plant, for instance is likely to cause mild discomfort to your dog. They have been arranged according to their potential toxicity. The most toxic plants can cause a lot of damage, including coma and death. The mildly toxic plants should be avoided as well, but they do not cause severe symptoms. It’s best to avoid buying plants and flowers that are known to be toxic. Please note that this list does not list all the poisonous plants, but just the common ones. If you have a specific plant in your nursery or garden that you are concerned about, ask the local veterinarian.

Most toxic Toxic Mildly Toxic
Rhododendron/Azalea Aloe vera Baby’s breath
Cyclamen Begonia Gladiola
Castor bean Amaryllis Carnation
Milkweed Chrysanthemum Tomato plant
Sago palm Hosta
Oleander Daffodil
Yew Morning glory

What steps do you have to take if you suspect dog poisoning

If you notice your dog eat anything poisonous, or if he displays sudden symptoms like vomiting, seizures, heavy breathing, or tremors, contact the veterinarian or a poison control hotline at the earliest. Every toxin needs a different treatment. So don’t ever make the mistake of assuming that you know the next best step. Inducing vomiting is the proper treatment in some cases, but it can be more dangerous in other cases. So make sure to consult a professional.

The ASCPA hotline is available throughout the day for pet poisonings: (888) 426-4435. However, they charge a consultation fee of $65 to your credit card. The local emergency clinic or veterinarian will also be able to offer consultation. Post these numbers in a prominent place so that you can call them as soon as possible in the case of an emergency.


February 4, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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How to Protect Your Dog During Winter

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In many parts across the world, winters are quite extreme. The cold weather brings the risk of hypothermia, a precipitous drop in body temperature of your dog, along with it. While both humans and dogs are equally susceptible to the condition, dogs are affected more severely as they are smaller and have a higher normal body temperature. The normal body temperature of dogs is around 102oF. If it drops any lower than that, you should seek medical attention.

Causes of hypothermia

Exposure to cold is one of the most common causes of hypothermia. However, it can also affect dogs which are at normal room temperatures if they have a higher risk – very old and very young dogs, and any dog under anesthesia. Smaller breeds are also affected disproportionately as they lose body heat faster through their skin.

Hypothalamic diseases, like hyperthyroidism, can cause hypothermia as this part is responsible for regulating the body temperature. If your dog has been out in extreme weather for a long time, particularly if his/her skin or fur is wet or if they have been submerged in icy water, you should check for signs of hypothermia immediately. It can also be caused by shock, which can be diagnosed by checking the gums of the dog. If they are white or extremely pale and your dog is more lethargic than usual, seek immediate medical attention.

As mentioned above, dogs can get hypothermic if they have to undergo anesthetization for extended periods. However, veterinary anesthesiologists are trained to watch out for it and treat them if it happens. So, regular dog owners do not have to worry about it.

Excessive shivering followed by lethargy is the first sign of hypothermia. Frostbite on ears, paws or tail can be another sign. You will see a pale bluish or gray discoloration, that will cause your dog to experience pain if you touch it. The areas that are affected can swell up and develop ulcers or blisters. If the case of frostbite is extreme, the skin will turn black and die. Theses are the successive stages:

  • Shivering, weakness and lack of alertness.
  • Low blood pressure, muscle stiffness, stupor, and slow breathing.
  • Dilated and fixed pupils, inaudible heartbeat, breathing difficulties, and coma.

How to treat it

If the body temperature is below 98oF, take your pet to the emergency care. Otherwise, you can raise the body temperature through the following methods:

  • Warm a thick blanket on a radiator and wrap your dog in it.
  • Wrap a towel around a hot water bottle and place it against the stomach. Ensure that you do not use an unwrapped bottle, as it
  • might burn your dog.
  • If he is conscious, make him drink warm fluids.

Make sure that your dog stays still as excessive movement can lead to loss of body heat. If there is a slight drop in temperature during rewarming, do not be alarmed. It is a sign of the colder blood that is closer to the surface mingling with the warmer blood inside the body, and should stabilize soon.

To avoid such situations altogether, take frequent and shorter walks with your pet and get protective jackets and boots, especially if it is not bred for the cold. Pay more caution if your dog is hypoglycemic. Do your part as the pack leader to protect your pup.


February 3, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Early Signs of Cancer in Your Dog

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There are a number of early cancer signs in your cats and dogs. Some of them are vague, like diarrhea and vomiting, and others are obvious, such as big lumps on the body that are easily seen and felt. Cancer is more prevalent in older cats and dogs, but it is important to remember that even young cats and dogs can develop tumors.

  1. Lumps and bumps/ skin lesions – As mentioned above, bumps or lumps in the head, body or legs could be a potential cancer or tumor. Hard lumps attached to underlying tissues have a greater probability of being cancerous. Small skin lesions too could be a sign of cancer.
  2. Enlarged lymph nodes – Lymph nodes are small oval shaped organs that are found throughout the body. If you notice a swelling on either side of the jaw, in the armpits, on the rear legs behind the knee or in the groin area, chances are that they are swollen lymph nodes. Lymphosarcoma is one of the most common cancers found in young cats and dogs.
  3. Abdominal distension – Abdominal distension could indicate many things, but it is a sign of cancerous growth on the abdominal organs in older dogs. Sneezing, coughing, diarrhea, and vomiting are common indicators of minor infections, stomach upset and allergies, but they can sometimes be a symptom of cancer as well. Coughing with blood could be a sign of cancerous growth in the chest or throat. Sneezing blood could be a sign of cancer in the nose.
  4. Bulging eye – Bulging of an eye could indicate glaucoma caused by eye cancer, which is fairly common in cats and dogs.
  5. Late onset seizures – Seizures in a senior dog with no prior history of occurrence could be an indication of brain tumor.
  6. Mammary tumors/testicular irregularities – If your pet has not been neutered or spayed, they are more prone to some forms of cancer. Female dogs stand an increased risk of developing mammary tumors. They are also more prone to developing cancer of the ovaries or the uterus. Male dogs that have not been castrated can fall prey to testicular cancer. If a male dog has unevenly sized testicles, with one of them larger than the other, he is a prime suspect for testicular cancer.
  7. Unexplained weight loss – Last but bot the least, weight loss without accompanying illness can be a sign of cancer. If your pet is happy, drinking and eating, but is losing weight, you need to get it checked.

All of the aforementioned signs could signal cancer but they could also indicate much simpler problems. If you observe a problematic sign, call the vet and schedule an exam. Do not wait till the situation gets out of hand.


February 2, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Why Do Dogs Shiver, Shake and Tremble?

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All dog owners have seen their pooch shake off water after a walk in the rain or a bath. But what about instances of shaking, shivering or trembling when your dog is not wet? A shake, tremble, or shiver can mean many things – some bad and some good. Let us break it down

Positive or happy shivers and shakes

  • Drying off – Your dog tends to shake off excess water after getting wet. It is a reflex action that prevents hypothermia. Over time, dogs and other furry animals have perfected their abilities to such an extent that they can shake off almost 70 percent of the water.
  • Excitement – A lot of pet owners have observed their dog shiver or tremble while playing fetch or offering affection. It is a completely healthy sign and it is just their way of lowering excess energy.
  • Intelligence – A lot of pet owners offer affection and love when their dog is shivering or shaking. Some of the dogs take this as their cue and start to tremble or shiver whenever they want your attention.

Trembling and shivering to watch out for

  • Cold – Dogs tend to shake when the temperature drops for the same reason that humans do – they’re cold. While this is not a situation to cause much worry, it will turn into a problem if your pup is out in freezing conditions for an extended period of time.
  • Pain or sickness – Dogs often shiver or shake if they are suffering from a sickness or in pain – just like we do when we have a fever or cold. Illnesses associated with trembling include kidney disease, distemper, Addison’s disease, generalized tremor syndrome, nausea, seizures, poisoning, and inflammatory brain diseases. Contact the vet if you think your dog is in pain or is sick.
  • Stress – Dogs tend to stress out and become anxious too. There are many reasons that could lead to this: beeping alarms, car rides, trips to the doctor, fireworks and so on. Worse yet, your dog can develop different stressors over a period based on negative experiences. When they are faced with the stressors, they tend to shake or tremble, and some dogs even engage in misbehavior, like chewing on furniture.
  • Old age – As your dog grows older, you will notice that he/she tends to develop tremors in his legs. While age-induced tremors are normal up to a certain point, do not ever make the mistake of assuming that things are proceeding normally. Shaking can also be a sign of joint pain and discomfort. Talk to the vet and see if there are any therapies or treatments to alleviate the deterioration or pain that your dog is going through. Make sure to adjust their exercise routines according to their age.

February 1, 2016
by Lynn Merton

Should You Allow your Dog to Sleep on Your Bed?

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A majority of Americans spend their nights in bed cuddling up to their dog. A recent survey found that over 40 percent of dog owners allow their dogs to sleep with them at night. Dogs offer companionship if you are in a bad relationship or single. They provide warmth and evoke a feeling of security, especially for kids who are afraid of the dark. They also provide safety from potential intruders. And most of all, sleeping together reinforces the bond you have with your pet. But is it a good idea to have your dog sleep next to you?

The pros and cons of sharing the bed with your dog

A lot of veterinarians and dog trainers discourage the habit as it shows submission. Some doctors say that sharing the bed with your dog will create dominance issues and give your dog the impression that you are not the leader of the pack. However, other experts say that such concerns are blown out of proportion, hastening to add that it would create a problem only if the dog already has dominance issues with the owner.

Hygiene is another major concern. Although rare, a number of infections – from cat-scratch disease to chagas disease – can spread from animals to humans. Fleas and other potential messes are also a problem if your dog has not been house-trained properly. However, this distress can be minimized with regular visits to the vet. The risk is minuscule as long as the owners keep the dog current on worm and flea preventatives.

Rule of thumb for sharing the bed

Aside from hygiene and dominance concerns, there are other factors you may want to consider before letting your dog sleep with you. Your dog might take too much space, snore or smell bad. If your dog can stay on the floor when you are in bed for at least ten minutes, you can go ahead and invite the dog up on your terms. During those ten minutes, your dog should be able to remain patient without nudging, pawing, or pushing. You do not want to find yourself being pushed off your bed in the middle of the night. That makes it your dog’s bed and not yours.

When your dog belongs to the floor

If your dog cannot abide by the aforementioned rules, it is time to get him used to sleeping on the floor. This is not an easy process. If your dog is used to sleeping on the bed, it would be difficult to wean him off the habit all of a sudden. You can start by placing a bed for your dog on top of your bed and encourage him to sleep in it for a few days. You can then try moving it to the floor. However, if he jumps back up, say ‘no’ and put him gently back on the floor. This might take a few tries, and if still doesn’t work, keep him in a crate to contain him. Give him a bone or toys to keep him occupied. Although this adjustment can take a lot of work, it will pay off in the long run.