Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun

Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun
The Big Dogs Wait at The Door

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My name is Chloe and I'm the cutest Yorkshire Terrier who ever lived. I come to The Doggie Den to gain some perspective... on how lucky I am. I mean these dogs are not attractive. Not like me. I guess it was just fate.

It's Flea Season Again!!

Whether or not you actually see fleas on your dog, they may be there. Scratching, scabs and dark specs, or "flea dirt" on her skin can all be signs that she has become the unwitting host for a family of fleas. During their 6 to 12 month life span a pair of fleas can produce millions of offspring. Hardy offspring, at that: fleas have survived millions of years in a variety of environments, so wherever you live, check your dog!

Fleas can carry tapeworms too. If you notice small white rice-like things in your pet's feces or in the hair around her anus, she probably has tapeworms, which means she may also have fleas. In advanced cases, she may be lethargic and her lips and gums may turn pale. Take her to a vet immediately if she has any of these symptoms.

Battling flea infestation requires PATIENCE and PERSEVERANCE, so put on your armor and get to it! Because the presence of fleas indicates that your pup's coat also hides flea eggs, it will take at least three to four weeks to completely rid her and her environment of this pesky parasite. Different flea products work in different ways, having varying levels of effectiveness; and they kill different flea stages (eggs, larvae and/or adults). You'll need to use a product that has been proven to kill in all the stages, or use a combination of products at the same time to be effective.

Shampoos, powders, and sprays will usually kill the adult fleas on your pup. Using a flea comb regularly will help too. But more adults may be lurking in your home or yard, and eggs or larvae may be laying in wait as well. You'll need to rid your house of fleas by vacuuming and washing pup's bedding once a week, and using a disinfectant on washable surfaces; and an insecticide or insect growth regulator in cracks and crevices. Sometimes foggers are recommended every two to four weeks.

When using chemical products be very careful. You may be providing too much of a potentially toxic chemical if you use, say, a flea shampoo and a fogger that contain the same active ingredient. Always check with your veterinarian before beginning your war on fleas. To assist you with clearing your home of these parasites, you may want to hire a professional exterminator. Your vet may know someone who's experienced with flea infestations.

In recent years, flea control has made great advances. Today there are liquid products which you apply to pup's skin on the back of her neck (so she can't lick the chemical). These products, such as Frontline, K9Advantix, Programme and Advantage, let you treat your pet once a month. The medication enters the bloodstream through the skin and makes flea (and tick) bites toxic without harming your pet. Some of them also create an odor which is undetectable to us but repels fleas and ticks so they don't get into pup's coat in the first place. Be very careful to use these products as directed; some may be effective for dogs, but toxic to cats. Also, you need to wash your hands thoroughly after applying the medication, and make sure children don't touch the affected on your pet area until it dries.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Poisoned dog foods

There's been a ton of reaction to the pet food contamination that has been sickening and killing our furry friends, so I've resisted adding my two cents 'til now. But after the initial hullabaloo, the blogging, emailing, and press coverage have quieted down, and that's too bad. Because pets are getting ill and dying at the same or a greater rate than earlier in the crisis. Reporting is spotty, so it's hard to know just how many animals have been affected. But the early reporting was just the tip of the iceberg! Huge quantities of harmful substances have found their way into pet food ingredients. And 90% of the big commercial brands use the same suppliers!! That means that almost ALL of them bought from the Chinese supplier of wheat gluten whose inventory contained melamine.

We did a series of posts of what's in pet food and how to buy good pet food a year or so ago (please see our archives). That's because pet nutrition is something I get very excited about. Dogs are carnivores, and to a great extent, they can be omnivores. They basically need meat and fish, and can use grains and vegetables. So the ingredient list on a pet food package should start with meat or fish, NOT with grain or "water sufficient for processing"! The first ingredients on the list comprise 95% or so of the food. So there has to be high quality protein, at least for young dogs (older dogs can be healthy eating more grains and vegetables), right at the top of the list. Bone meal is acceptable protein if it's good quality product, meaning processed under sanitary conditions and relatively fresh. Discount dog foods buy up pallets of old bone meal that some distributor will move at a low price, so even if it appears on a supermarket brand label, don't buy the food. And don't buy a food whose first ingredient is a starch, like corn or corn meal. It's okay if corn appears as the 5th or 6th ingredient, but not before.

Besides the content, you need to know that the quality of the ingredients is acceptable. As I documented in my earlier series of posts, all of the supermarket brands are made in huge batches with the cheapest possible ingredients - for big conglomerates it's about a business model, not about pet nutrition. For heavens sakes, Walmart is quite outspoken about that. They tell us in their advertising that they're all about PRICE. They squeeze their suppliers to sell more and more cheaply to Walmart. Why in the world would you feed you best furry friend something you bought in Walmart??? The grains and vegetables in big chain supermarket brands are older and of poorer quality to start with than those in small batch foods. The fats and oils are more often than not rancid by-products of the food industry (like used fryer oil that sits around for months before being processed into pet food).

Remember, pet food ingredients are not protected the way human foods are. And gov't scrutiny of our food chain is woefully inadequate! Please, protect your pet. Notice that NO HEALTHY, SMALL BATCH PET FOOD HAS HAD PROBLEMS WITH CONTAMINANTS! Not a single one! So here are some good foods. Go to your local pet store and ask for: Canidae, Merrick, Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul, O&M, Bill Jack, Prairie, Red Barn, Pet Naturals of Vermont, Fromm, Diamond Naturals, Precise, or Premium Edge. There are others. Just make sure of two things:

1. The food must be made in small batches (manufactured and packaged by the company on the label and not subcontracted to a big pet food processor). The only preservatives that appear on the package should be natural ones like vitamin E (tocopherals). Chemical preservatives are only necessary if the food spends many months getting from the mixing process to your pet's dish. And they can cause nervous system stress and allergic reactions of which you may not even be aware.

2. The food must contain only human grade ingredients. Lesser ingredients contain bacteria and virii that are not acceptable... and they're not all neutralized by the potent preservatives that big companies use.

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Seasonal allergies

In spite of the cold, drizzly weather that has afflicted us in the Northeast, allergy season is settling in, so get ready for the sneezing, itching, and scratching. Not just you, your dog too! Dogs commonly experience seasonal allergies, usually through dermatitis. Instead of sneezing and getting itchy, watery eyes, most dogs have allergic reactions on their skin.

Symptoms of allergic dermatitis include excessive scratching, licking and chewing of paws. Some dogs do get watery eyes too. Excessive scratching can be harmful, in that areas of raw skin are vulnerable to infection and parasites. Dermatitis can be relieved by using a moisturizing shampoo that's made for allergic dogs; allergy itch relief sprays and creams can also be helpful. If the raw spots don't heal quickly be sure to consult your veterinarian.

In addition to common allergens like pollen, fleas are one of the leading causes of dermatitis in dogs. Make sure that your pup is up to date on his/her flea and tick protection. Collars are not much help - use a liquid medication that you apply once monthly to the dog's skin on the back of his/her neck. Frontline Plus, Advantage, and Program are good ones. Read the package to make sure the medication kills fleas, ticks, AND THEIR EGGS. If the latter are not killed they can drop off into your carpets or furniture causing an infestation in your home.

It's also a good idea to make sure your pet is getting proper nutrition to keep his/her coat and skin and immune system healthy enough to resist irritants. The use of vitamins and supplements can help maintain a healthy coat, but the first step is to feed a high quality food that's produced with human grade ingredients and manufactured in small batches. That means no supermarket foods!!! Companies like Iams and Eukanuba have been bought up by huge conglomerates and are no longer premium foods. Go to a health-oriented pet store (not a large chain like PetCo) and get a food that specifies human grade ingredients and lists Omega 3 and 6 among the first 8 ingredients. If you want a healthy pet you need to read labels carefully, just as you should for your human family!

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