September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.
Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.
Magic was always ready for a treat!
Pet Pain Matters, Too
I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.
Finally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain.
Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.
SIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS
The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:
Severe and dramatic behavior changes
What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.
PET PAIN BEHAVIORS
Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.
Hunched or prayer position
Glazed facial expression
Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
Licking the painful area
Usually won’t hide the painful body part
Appetite rarely affected
Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:
Poor or lack of grooming
Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/
Pain Varies from Pet to Pet
Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.
Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.
What Is Pain? The Technical Version…
How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.
Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.
Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.
How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain
But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.
Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.
There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.
Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!
Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.
Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.
Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?
Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.
CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.
What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?
We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.
Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!
It’s also the right thing to do.
Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?
I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).
But it’s never too late (or too soon) to get your pets’ pearly whites checked out by your veterinarian. Often the doctor has some great tips for keeping cat teeth clean and dog breath at bay, including how to brush doggy teeth.
Does the thought of brushing dog teeth make you cringe, roll your eyes, whimper, slink away–and feel guilty? You’re not alone. But once that puppy-sweet breath morphs into curl-your-eyebrows stench, it’s long past the time to address that stink-icity.
Why Brushing Dog Teeth is Important
By the time dogs (and cats!) reach the age of three, most of them have some amount of dental disease. Pets will benefit from toothy attention all year round. After all, pets don’t brush their teeth, and they tend to gulp—not chew—their food. Just think what your teeth would look like in three years if you never brushed!
Dr. Jan Bellows, a board-certified veterinary dentist, says your veterinarian can use a plant-based gel called Vetigel that stops the bleeding from pulled teeth within seconds. Veterinary dentists also may use professional sealants like Sanos Dental Sealant, that helps prevent plaque from attaching under your pet’s gums for up to 6 months.
You can reduce the number of veterinary dental treatments (and your guilt factor) with easy home care tips. Here are 6 no-guilt tips to freshen up your dog’s breath.
6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips
Dry food won’t “cure” dental disease, but it doesn’t stick to teeth as readily as wet foods. Crunching dry food can reduce dental problems by about 10 percent, though, so offering your dog “crunchies” after moist dinners can help. At my house, Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat love Greenies. You can get tiny fish-shaped Greenies treats for cats, and different treat-sizes Greenies for dogs. At Karma’s last exam, our veterinarian said his teeth looked like a one or two-year-old (he’s actually nearly nine!).
Many dogs relish healthy people foods like raw veggies or fruit, and chewing on these “detergent” foods can help scrub teeth clean. Offer dogs carrots or apple slices for healthy natural dental snacks. Make ’em big pieces, too, so he must gnaw off a piece rather than gulp it whole. Here are some safe people foods for pets.
Eating “detergent” foods like apples is good for dog teeth.
Most veterinary dentists dislike cow bones, pig hooves, and other hard chew objects that may break your puppy’s teeth. Sterilized bones designed for doggy dental care, though, may be just the ticket. Lately, Shadow-Pup has enjoyed these trachea “bone” dog treats, fully digestible and crunchy.
Puppies love to chew. Offer your dog a legal object that also has dental benefits, like the “dental toys” that contain a nubby surface designed to scrub the teeth. Please supervise, though. Too many of the so-called “indestructible” chew toys get eaten, and cause blockage problems.
A wide range of commercial dental chews (rawhide, ropes, treats) available for dogs may also prevent doggy breath. Some are infused with special enzymes that kill bacteria and help prevent plaque. Also, look for dental rinse products from your veterinarian. Ask your vet for a recommendation, as the professional products work best.
How To Brush Kitty or Doggy Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)
Adult dogs often object to tooth brushing. It’s best to start puppies with a dental hygiene program while they’re too little to argue. Brushing cat teeth also works best starting with kittens. Just turn it into a tasty game and your pet will BEG for the attention. Here’s how.
Mess With His Mouth. Over several weeks, get your dog used to having his mouth handled. You can get pups used to having something inserted into their mouth by flavoring your finger with low-salt chicken broth, or peanut butter (yum!).
Treat With Toothpaste. Offer doggy or kitty toothpaste as a treat. Special meat-flavored toothpaste is available that gives pets the incentive to open wide. Never use human toothpaste. Pets can’t spit so they end up swallowing the foam, and swallowed fluoride can be dangerous and damage your dog or cat’s internal organs. Dr. Bellows recommends the PetSmile brands, since they also have the VOHC seal of approval. These pet toothpastes come in London broil, rotisserie chicken, and cheese flavors!
Use Toy Props. Once they accept mouth handling and like the toothpaste, try propping the puppy’s mouth open with a favorite toy. Simply encourage him to bite on a chew object, and wrap your hand around his muzzle to hold it in place. That gives you access to his open mouth and also gives him something to do with his teeth. Use the same toy each time, so he identifies it with tooth attention–and getting a GREAT reward afterward. Practice doing this several times and praising him while giving toothpaste treats before you introduce a toothbrush.
Choose Pet Brushes. Special pet toothbrushes are smaller and may be designed to better fit the dog’s or cat’s mouth. A soft child’s toothbrush works well.
“Finger” The Teeth. Some puppies better accept your finger. Finger toothbrushes are available for brushing pet teeth, or simply wrap a damp cloth over your fingers and use that to scrub the outside of his teeth. Puppy tongues clean the inside surface of teeth so you won’t have to worry about poking too far inside the mouth.
Praise The Performance. Experts recommend you brush after every meal, but two to three times a week is good. Always be sure to praise and throw a happy puppy-kitty party afterwards so your pet finishes with a good taste over the experience—literally!
Keeping breath fresh goes beyond good dental hygiene, too. Pungent breath makes you avoid dog kisses and purring lap snuggles (awww, you hurt his feelings!). It also points to potentially painful, dangerous dental problems that can damage your dog’s and cat’s organs. Yes, it’s THAT important.
So…do you brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth? What about offering “dental-friendly” foods and treats? How do you keep your pooch and kitty kissable fresh? Do tell!
Cold weather pet protection becomes more in winter weather. Here in North Texas we’re bracing for temps to drop. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.
Outside animals, like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly from hypothermia or frostbite. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.
COLD WINTER WEATHER PET PROTECTION
Here in Texas, the weather often stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. But not this year–it’s the end of December, and it’s become the coldest part of the year. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.
It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes.
Thickly furred dogs like the Chow have more cold weather protection.
How do you get your dogs ready? Slow, incremental exposure to cold weather. That helps build up the pet’s adaptive ability, including fur growth. And if your pet has little furry protection, provide a warm sweater or coat for insulation.
Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.
Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation. But his short fur risks frostbite or worse, if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes.
Magic adored snow!
COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION FOR CATS
Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Frostbite can damage ears and toes, and hypothermia can kill. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.
I wrote about keeping outdoor cats safe, and received lots of comments here and on Facebook. That discussion had more to do with choosing whether to allow cats outside. But what if you have strays that refuse to come inside, or a feral colony you care for?
My colleague Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue shared some PAW-some tips with our Cat Writers Association group and gave me permission to also share it here. What are some other ways to help keep kitty safe? Many of these also apply to keeping outside dogs winterized and safe. Here’s Louise’s suggestions.
Image Copr. Alley Cat Rescue; The lid of the storage bin forms the “ceiling” and the cat’s body warmth fills the small area to keep kitty protected.
OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS
A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. For Bedding you should use straw or a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.
If you cannot build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company (doors set off to the side protect from the wind). The styrofoam ice chests work great for cat shelters, with thick walls that provide some insulation. The ecoFlex Outdoor Feral Cat House (below) is another option.
Mylar insulation made of polyester and aluminum reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. it’s used in attics and is a perfect material to insulate outdoor cat shelters. You can also nest a smaller container (as above in the picture) in a larger one, and fill the spaces between with straw or even styrofoam peanuts.
9 TIPS FOR WINTERIZING FERAL CAT COLONIES & COMMUNITY CATS
You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
You could buy a doghouse and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2′ high.
Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth.
Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one.
Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.
It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon, for instance, or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground, it will retain moisture and will rot.
Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh straw.
FIRST AID FOR FROSTBITE
This is an AUDIO FILE ONLY, an excerpt from my audiobook THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, now available. I figured folks could sure use the tips now–so feel free to share this with anyone who needs the help. The advice comes from veterinary emergency experts.
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE:Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I recommend nothing unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!
We adore our aging dogs and cats but often lament the fact that dogs and cats don’t live as long as we do. Sometimes, we get a ghostly visit from a dearly departed pet. But what about the reverse—what if your pets live longer than you do? Cats often live into their late teens or early twenties. Are there legal protections you can take in planning for when your cats outlive you? We loved dogs and cats dearly while alive, and must also care for them when we’re gone with proper plans. And yes, it can happen totally out of the blue.
The unthinkable happens, even to animal professionals. Back in 2014, in the same week, our pet community felt rocked by the tragic and sudden deaths of two heroes, animal behaviorist Dr. Sophia Yin and Cat Writers Association president Dr. Lorie Huston. Dr. Yin left behind her beloved dog Jonesy, while my friend Lorie left six special needs rescue cats. CWA members networked to re-home Lorie’s cats. More recently, the Cat Writers’ Association again lost a beloved leader when president Paula Gregg passed away suddenly. She had time to make plans for her beloved Persian cats, Truffle and Brulee.
None of these wonderful pet lovers expected to have their pets outlive them. Do you have plans for your special pets? Here are tips for planning for when your pets outlive you.
What to Do If Your Cats or Dogs Outlive You
In the past, elderly readers have contacted me to ask about setting up care options for pets should they die before them. Although healthy and with every intention to stick around for the foreseeable future, people should prepare for the unexpected. But as we’ve seen, even younger people can have the worst happen.
Sadly, orphaned cats and dogs often end up in shelters. Cats get destroyed by the surviving family members, when nobody feels able or willing to care for the left-behind fur-kid. The adult dog or cat hasn’t a clue why she’s suddenly gone from a loving home and lap to a scary metal cage.
How to Prepare For Cats and Dogs After Your Death
What can caring owners do to prepare for the worst, if death, disability or age takes away a pet’s home? Will family and friends rally to find loving homes for all the orphaned animals?
Your family and friends, veterinarian contacts and church relationships may be eager and willing to offer a place for your pet should you die before them. Many of us share our lives (and pillows) with multiple cats or a few dogs. Do you have folks able or willing to take the whole furry crew? Maybe you have brother-dogs that would pine away if separated, or special needs cats that require extra medical care. Often, a simple promise among friends will be sufficient. Ideally, the animals already know and get along with the new owner—because missing you will be as tough for them as for your human family. If they don’t, make arrangements now to introduce them. While dogs may more easily take to strangers, cats typically take time to accept new people into their lives. You wouldn’t want to live with a stranger, and neither would your cats–so make sure they already know your friends or family.
In today’s changing world, though, good intentions and a promise made years before may go out the window should the person’s own situation change. For instance, maybe your friend has a new cat that won’t accept yours, or living arrangements/finances have changed. Maybe they’ve moved into a small apartment and can take one cat but not a large dog. For peace of mind, it’s best to make formal arrangements in your will and try to address every eventuality.
Legal Considerations Planning for When Your Pets Outlive You
Legal restrictions won’t allow a beloved pet to inherit from your estate because cats and dogs are themselves defined as property. But you certainly can set up trusts for the care of the pet, and name a specific person who will receive those funds so that they can take the critter into their care for the rest of its life. Once you find persons willing to take your cats and dogs, consult with an attorney about the proper paperwork necessary to make a legal and binding arrangement.
There also are “pet retirement homes” or “sanctuaries” that might take your pets. Organizations that give pets a home for life, though, have limited openings. A fee pays for the care that you set up in your will or other legal document.
Also ensure your neighbors know how many cats and dogs you have and how to contact emergency care givers. Carry a wallet “alert card” with this information and post “in case of emergency” notices on your doors or windows.
More Resources for Preparing for Your Pets’ Care
David Congalton and Charlotte Alexander wrote the book, “When Your Pet Outlives You.” It contains sample legal forms, names of pet law specialists, addresses of pet retirement homes and sanctuaries throughout the U.S., a report on all relevant state statutes, important court decisions affecting people and their pets, and precise details on how to set up a pet trust.
Once these emergency issues are in place, you’ll have peace of mind. That allows you to relax and enjoy making the most of the time you have with your special animal companions.
May you have many more loving years with your special companions. Meanwhile, I’m making my own emergency arrangements — just in case — for my Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat, while my heart breaks for all the furry wonders left behind.
I’ve been blessed to share my life with two senior dogs, but only Magical-Dawg showed signs of dog senility, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Yes, both dogs and cats can suffer from a form of dementia, that some might described as a type of canine Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs aged 11 to 16 are most likely to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sort of the doggy version of Alzheimer’s Disease. CCD is a medical condition in which a starch-like waxy protein called beta amyloid collects in the brain and causes behavior changes. Here’s what you need to know and ways to slow down potential dog senility.
Magic’s canine senility signs reversed for a time with the right diet.
Signs of Dog Senility
Dogs cared for throughout their early years live longer than ever before. It’s not unusual for Toy-breed dogs to live into their mid-to-late teens and even big dogs today enjoy a decade or more of happy life with a loving owner. A longer life, though, can leave your dog befuddled when canine brains turn to mush.
Affected dogs become disoriented, wander, cry and pace, and can become lost in the house when out of your sight. Their behavior can change from confident to frightened, and the awake/sleep cycles may turn upside down. Dogs can forget house training, how to find the door or be unable to tell you when they need to “go.” And most heartbreaking of all, senile dogs lose interest in petting, ignore their beloved owners or furry friends, and might not recognize you.
Treating Dog Senility
While there’s no cure for CCD, the drug Anipryl (selegiline hydrochloride) is FDA-approved to treat cognitive dysfunction in dogs. According to veterinary researchers, about 1/3rd of treated dogs return to normal, another 1/3rd improve, and the final 1/3rd aren’t helped at all. There also are special diets designed to help turn back the clock on canine senility. Bright Mind dog food helped Magic a lot! Sadly, even improved dogs eventually revert and again develop senility signs.
A longer life is not necessarily a better life, especially if your dog no longer recognizes you. But there are ways to help your dog stay connected with the world and ward off signs of CCD, simply by exercising his brain.
Brain function studies in dogs proved that problem-solving activities kept them sharp, connected to the world around them, and even extended their lifespan. Just as with people, canine mental and physical stimulation drastically improves your dog’s cognitive function.
7 Tips To Keep Canine Brains Youthful
“Use it or lose it” applies to dogs just as it does to humans. Don’t delay. Keep dogs both mentally and physically spry from puppyhood on. That helps prevent or at least slow brain aging changes. Here are tips to keep King mentally spry into his old age.
Make Play A Daily Treat. Interactive games keep your dog engaged with you and reward him for responding. Toys don’t need to be expensive, either. Old socks become tug toys and used tennis balls work great for fetch. They’re even more attractive if old and they smell like the owner. Read more about how pets play.
Slim Pudgy Pooches. Overweight dogs have trouble exercising and avoid moving which can allow joints—and brains—to rust. Ask your vet for a slimming program that’s safe for your overweight canine. Fortunately, our current dog, Shadow-Pup hasn’t had a weight problem and continues to have a waist. I just wish that I had the same metabolism! Learn more tips for slimming pudgy pets here.
Adopt Another Pet. Proper introductions of a playful younger cat or dog can serve as a furry fountain of youth to an old-fogey dog. Even if he’s irked at the young whippersnapper, keeping Junior-Pet in line can keep your dog sharp. When we brought home Magical-Dawg, he helped keep Seren-kitty active. Yes—cats can also suffer from senility, and by the time Seren reached 21 years, she displayed signs of kitty dementia.
Practice Commands. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he can’t perform. Practice the pleasures that make King’s heart leap for joy—for obedience champions, put him through his paces. If he has trouble, adjust the Frisbee toss or vault heights. Make necessary accommodations so he can still succeed and feel like the champion he is.
Treats for Tricks. Teach the old dog new tricks using healthy treat rewards. Make treats smelly so he won’t have to strain old eyes to see.
Give A Challenge. Puzzle toys that dispense treats turn meals into fun games. For food fanatics, puzzle toys encourage activity and brain-teasing challenges that exercise problem-solving abilities.
But when a special dog reaches senior citizenship, we treasure our time together even more. My first GSD lived just over 13 years, and Magical-Dawg barely made it to eleven before we lost him. Keeping your dog mentally active helps keep dogs connected with life—and us. And that ensures their golden years sparkle.
How do you keep your older dog’s brain nimble? Are there special games or activities that you enjoy doing together? In one of my thrillers, a tracking dog still has the “nose” despite his age—and I based that on an interview with a tracking dog Bloodhound (profiled in the Aging Dog book) who continued to track even though he’d gone blind! Of course, you can find all the must-knows about old dog care in the book. But many tips are common sense–please share!
It’s flu season for people (on top of all the COVID crappiocca). But what about pets? Is dog flu a problem and do our pet dogs need flu shots? I first wrote about canine influenza in this post back in 2015 when dog flu hit the news. Has anything changed since then? In a word, yes.
People catch viruses from other people. During the past couple of years, with many activities suspended, we’ve stayed at home and our dogs also became home-bodies. But soon (please please please, paws crossed!) when the weather improves and we’re comfortable mingling, many of our dogs will accompany us on outings. Very young, very old, and immunocompromised dogs have the greatest risk for contracting any infectious illness.
Are Dogs At Risk for Canine Influenza?
Dogs don’t interact with bunches of other dogs every day, the way people expose themselves riding buses or during work and social events. Show dogs and other performance canine athletes, as well as those visiting dog parks, boarding facilities, or daycare risk more exposure by coming in contact with other dogs. Proper vaccinations help protect pets if exposed.
What about dog flu? Back in 2015, a localized outbreak in Chicago affected about a thousand dogs. Since that time, they have identified cases in almost every state. Unlike people, dog flu isn’t seasonal and can happen at any time. Organizations that track the canine influenza virus reported outbreaks in 8 states in late 2021, in northeast states, in California and Florida, and in Texas.
TWO DIFFERENT DOG FLU VIRUSES
Just as with people, there are different kinds of flu that affect dogs. Canine influenza A (H3N8) virus is closely related to a common flu virus found in horses for over 40 years. It’s thought that the virus mutated and became infectious to dogs, with first reported outbreak ten years ago in 2003 in Greyhounds. Today, they considered H3N8 a dog-specific canine flu.
A newer strain caused the Chicago outbreak of dog flu. That was the first appearance of Influenza A H3N2 strain of the virus in North America; however, it was first detected in 2007 in dogs in South Korea.
It’s thought that this a “bird flu” adapted to affect dogs. Canine H3N2 virus has since appeared in China and Thailand where it also can spread to and from cats as well as dogs. However, studies indicate that neither virus transmits well to other companion animal species. Further, it is different from human seasonal H3N2 viruses. There have been no reports of dog-to-human transmission, and it is not considered contagious to people.
HOW DOGS CATCH FLU
Dog flu is highly contagious between dogs, in part because it’s so new and few dogs have immiunity. Up to 90% of dogs exposed to the virus get it–but 10-20% contract the virus but don’t show symptoms. However, about 1 out of every 5 infected dogs suffer severe illness and need hospitalization. Sadly, up to 8% of dogs die from complications of the illness.
The virus spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids—sneezing, coughing, sniffing, licking. That means dog-to-dog contact can spread the virus, or aerosol infection from a sneeze/cough. Dogs also catch dog flu from licking toys after contagious dog has mouthed them. Stress caused by travel, confinement or interaction with strange dogs increases your dog’s susceptibility.
SIGNS OF DOG FLU
Both strains of dog flu can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. Some dogs develop red or runny eyes, and in most cases, there’s a history of contact with other sick or “carrier” dogs.
MILD FORM: Dogs with mild symptoms may have a “wet” cough (resembling “kennel cough”) with nasal discharge. In mild cases, these signs last 10 to 30 days and usually go away on their own. Cough suppressants and/or antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection exists. According to Cornell, some infected dogs won’t show signs at all (some experts say probably 20% are asymptomatic). However, they are still contagious and can spread the disease.
SEVERE FORM: Symptoms may be more severe in cases caused by the H3N2 virus. Signs may be a high sudden fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by hemorrhagic pneumonia, coughing up blood and difficulty breathing. Illness can be complicated with bacterial pneumonia. Hospitalization with aggressive treatment with antibiotics, fluids are vital. Isolation to protect other dogs from contracting the disease is important.
DIAGNOSING CANINE INFLUENZA
Diagnosis starts with symptoms. If your dog has a cough, runny nose, and lethargy, ask your veterinarian for an exam. Further tests to confirm a diagnosis may include blood tests, or PCR of nasal secretions or lung tissue. Cornell has further information on current tests.
A vaccine (NOBIVAC® CANINE FLU BIVALENT) is available for protection against both known strains of dog flu. Many boarding and daycare facilities now require this preventive vaccine to protect your dog and others. Your veterinarian will advise you best whether dog flu affects your neck of the woods, and if vaccination is a good idea for your dog.
For more information about dog flu, refer to these links:
In the past I’ve blogged about cold weather dangers for pets and this past week North Texas has enjoyed some sunny, warm days. But in other parts of the country–yet another blizzard threatens.
Bizzard tips for pets help you prepare and keep cats and dogs safe during the worst weather. Thank you to the ASPCA for sending this important and insightful infographic designed to keep your dogs and cats safe!
For the love of doG, bring your outdoor pets INSIDE!
COLD WEATHER ISSUES FOR PETS
When cold weather descends, it impacts more than the shiver reflex. Last week the blog covered what constitutes old age in cats, and in fact our senior citizen dogs are most susceptible to cold temps.
Old dogs get less cold tolerant as they age, because they lose muscle and fat mass that insulates, increases their metabolism, and keeps them warm. Aging skin and fur also tends to get thinner. Little dogs have less body mass to generate natural heat, too, and often benefit from a doggy sweater especially when they must do outdoor bathroom duty.
Warm sweaters help keep lightly-furred dogs warm. You can find an assortment of sweaters at pet products stores (I wouldn’t recommend hats!). This Frisco cable knit sweater (for dogs OR for cats) comes in multiple sizes.
Pets stay warm by burning fuel—the food they eat. They need more calories to generate increased body warmth, too, especially if they’re outside pets and can’t rely on your warm lap. You can feed adult dogs a puppy food which increases the calories—or feed a “performance” diet. Just remember to switch back to a maintenance diet in the spring or you risk adding pounds and can end up with a fat Fido. When the temperature drops overnight, people pull on sweaters. Dogs don’t have the benefit of pulling something out of the closet to wear.
Shadow’s ready for cold weather! The Ruffwear Quinzee Jacket comes in four colors. Easy on with click-release side buckles, an elastic gusset for better sizing, and leash/harness opening in the back.
5 Blizzard Tips from the ASPCA to Save Your Pets Life!
Are your pets safe from appliances? Stoves and ovens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, garbage disposals and other appliances are convenient for us but can prove deadly to cats and dogs. While the photos in today’s blog make us smile, the “what if” makes me shiver, because I know they represent tragedy waiting to happen.
Bravo-Dawg does his best to “pre-wash” the dishes, like the puppy in the picture, below. But any small pet could potentially climb inside when you’re distracted. And that could be lethal.
FOOD & SMELL. Do you give your pets the chance at a “first rinse” before putting dirty dishes in the washer? (raising hand…GUILTY). Just licking off or pawing food-smeared utensils can cut tongues or paws. A tiny pup or kitty could crawl inside after yummies, and be seriously injured or die when the machine turns on.
HEIGHT. Do your cats countertop cruise? A couple of things draw the kitty to scale the heights. Available food, yummy smells, and a GREAT perch lookout.
WARMTH. Stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers draw cats, especially to the warmth. Yep, it can make for some LOL Funny Cat moments, but not if the cat or dog ends up with burned feet or worse.
HIDEY-HOLES. Pets seem drawn to small enclosed spaces for naps or ambushes. Paw-poking into holes is a cat rule, while dogs enjoy nosing into tight spots as well.
Sprout apparently hasn’t had enough coffee! Image Copr Kim Smith/Flickr Commons
Funny–NOT Funny! Keep Pets Safe From Appliances
When I edited one of the stories in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, it made me turn green–and we had to preface the story with the note that “it’s a happy ending!” or folks likely wouldn’t have wanted to read it. The cat in that story went head-first into the garbage disposal after fishy leavings and got his head stuck. They had to remove the entire sink and take it to the vet clinic for the cat to be sedated, oiled up, and extricated. Funny story when it’s a happy ending. I’ve caught Karma-Kat sticking his paw down into the garbage disposal, too, yikes!
Sadly, not all funny stories end so well.
As far as I know, Audley’s adventure in the tumble dryer turned out fine. Image Copr. RaGeBe/Flickr
Cats And Dryers
My friend Mary McCauley sent me a message last week that broke my heart. This post is for Mary and her kitty friend, Boo:
“Amy, a few weeks ago our beautiful young cat had climbed into the dryer. My son turned it on. I heard a loud thumping and thought the washing machine was out of balance. I found Boo in the dryer. Blood was coming out of her mouth. She was convulsing. I ran up the stairs to get my keys, but she died in my arm. I tried rescue breathing and cardiac resuscitation with two fingers, but she was gone. I cried for two days. Please warn your readers about this danger. My son felt so guilty for a few weeks.”
Accidents happen, and our pets can get into trouble in the flick of a whisker. Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles and I have no doubt that Karma-Kat would do the same thing, given the opportunity. Even Bravo loves to dive into the pile of fresh-from-the-dryer clean clothes dumped onto my bed for folding. A ride inside the dryer could cause not only head and body injuries but also heatstroke.
Pets In Freezers? Oh no!
A day after I got Mary’s message, my husband called me into the kitchen to shoot this photo (below) of Karma-Kat. He’s a door dasher and often sprints into the pantry to gnaw through the dog food container–but the frig fail was new.
Karma is big enough, the chance of shutting him inside the frig is small–but it could happen. Left overnight in the refrigerator–or worse, inside the freezer!–could quickly result in hypothermia and death. I’m just hoping he doesn’t learn to open the frig himself. I know of one owner who resorted to a bungee cord around the frig to keep her cats out of the goodies.
Pet Proofing Appliances
So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Pet proofing your home is job one, especially when you have a clueless puppy or kitten. But it doesn’t stop when the cat or dog grows up. Pets are endlessly curious and always find new ways to get into trouble and push our buttons. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your pets safe around modern conveniences.
Baby gates keep pets away from danger zones. I lock the fur-kids out of the kitchen when cooking and clearing up, to prevent paw burns on stovetops or me spilling something hot on them when they wind around my feet.
Double-check washing machines and clothes dryers before hitting the “start” button. If your pet is inside, don’t pull them out immediately. Instead, BANG-BANG-BANG on the top to make a horrendous scary racket and watch them rocket out. Most pets won’t get near that scary thing ever again.
If you have hard-case pets, make a sign to stick on doors of appliances to remind kids, spouses, and guests to CHECK FOR CAT. That’ll be a fun conversation starter, too. 🙂
Invest in stovetop covers to protect kitty feet. One of the best ways to keep pets from cruising counters and stoves is to give them a cat tree that’s higher than the counters. Make the stovetop uncomfortable by spreading aluminum foil across the top, for instance.
Have you ever caught your dog or cat up close and personal with one of your appliances? How did you handle the situation, and prevent future problems? Do tell!
And please–if you love your cats and dogs as much as Mary loved Boo–share this warning far and wide and tell folks it’s in memory of a special Boo-kitty.
A vomiting dog or puppy vomiting can be very dangerous for your pet, and while we don’t like to talk about it, pet vomit is a fact of life. A dog throwing up bile–that yellow foamy stuff–often happens on an empty stomach. Dogs vomit more readily than almost all other animals. (The cats just started snickering . . . ) When we brought a new puppy into our house, we became even more alert to the issue.
Water Binging Vomit
Bravo-Dawg used to vomit due to high-energy play immediately after eating–or gulping down buckets of water. We learned to keep him calm for at least a half-hour after meals, and to interrupt his water-binging antics.
With tiny puppies, it’s even more important for them to get a health evaluation more quickly since they can get even sicker quicker than the bigger or adult dogs. Puppy vomiting is even more serious when accompanied by diarrhea. That can cause pet dehydration that kills. It’s important to understand why dogs vomit, and whether or not to treat puppy vomiting at home.
There are many reasons why your dog vomits, from innocuous to potentially deadly. Vomiting is the forcible expulsion of the stomach’s contents up the dog’s throat and out of the mouth. However, you should be aware that vomiting is different than regurgitation.
Regurgitation is a passive process without strong muscle contractions. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your pet eats his food, and the expelled material is undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the throat. Cats fed cold canned food may “whoops” it back up very quickly, or dogs that gulp and swallow too fast may regurgitate their food. Mom canids in the wild do this when they return from hunting, in order to feed their pups.
Occasional regurgitation isn’t a cause for concern unless it interferes with nutrition and what you feed your pet. Chronic regurgitation typically is seen in a young puppy. In these cases, regurgitation can cause slow growth and may be due to a physical problem like megaesophagus.
When the “vomit center” of the brain is stimulated, the puppy begins to salivate and swallow repeatedly. Your puppy may seek attention or look anxious. Then, the stomach and abdominal muscles forcibly and repeatedly contract, while at the same time the esophagus relaxes. The puppy extends her neck, opens her mouth and makes a strained gagging sound as the stomach empties.
Vomiting should never be considered normal. Most cases of adult dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to swallowed grass, eating inedible objects, spoiled or rich food (raiding the garbage, table scraps) or simply eating too much too fast. You can prevent puppies from eating the wrong thing with these puppy proofing tips. Dogs and puppies also may vomit from motion sickness during car rides.
Common Causes of Puppy Vomiting
The most common cause of vomiting in dogs is gluttony. Dogs that gorge their food tend to lose it just as quickly, particularly if they exercise shortly after finishing a meal. This type of vomiting isn’t particularly dangerous, but is annoying. And if they eat the wrong food, it can prove deadly.
Repeated vomiting, vomiting along with diarrhea, unproductive vomiting, vomiting not associated with eating, and/or the pooch acts like she feels bad before or after the event is a cause for alarm. Puppies with vomiting quickly develop dangerous dehydration. There are electrolyte replacement products to combat this, like Petralyte.
When Is Dog & Puppy Vomiting An Emergency?
Vomiting can be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine parvovirus, which can be prevented by proper vaccinations. In deep-chested breeds, unproductive vomiting may be a sign of bloat. Bloat (gastric dilatation and/or volvulus) happens with the stomach swells and potentially twists without emptying and can kill dogs very quickly–big deep-chested dogs (German Shepherds like my Magic and big dogs like Bravo-Dawg) are most prone.
If the vomit contains blood or fecal material, if it lasts longer than 24 hours, or if other signs such as diarrhea accompany the vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately. For some types of vomiting, home care may be all that’s needed.
Home Remedies for Dog & Puppy Vomiting
Vomiting that happens only once or twice isn’t a cause for concern as long as the puppy or dog acts normal before and after. But very young puppies and especially Toy-size breeds shouldn’t go without a meal for longer than about six to eight hours, though, so you’ll need vet help with tiny pups. These little guys also dehydrate very quickly which can complicate matters.
Vomiting may be a sign of serious illness, though. Anytime your pet vomits three or more times in a single day, or two or more days in a row, you should take her to the vet.
What about you? Have your puppies or dogs ever had a scary/dangerous bout of vomiting? Magic got REALLY sick one time with explosive diarrhea and vomiting and turns out he’d caught a “bug” from drinking pond water.
UPDATE: It’s February 2017, and we’re still fighting the sores. Every time I go on a trip, the stress prompts more licking and Magic’s rear paws get sore all over again. But we’ve stumbled onto something that really seems to help–and it’s a DUH! moment for me. The answer?
Magic will soon be 11 years old, and discomfort from creaky joints has gotten worse. So initially, until we could get something from the vet, I gave him low dose aspirin (per the veterinarian’s dosage in my pet First Aid book). And…he stopped licking, too! Scroll on down for the rest of the story . . .
When your pet is so itchy he licks sores onto his legs, what’s a caring pet owner to do? Image Copr. DepositPhotos.com/Quasarphoto
Magic has been miserable, chewing and scratching himself nearly 24/7 for the past two months. We attributed all the itch-icity to bug bites, although he’s on a monthly flea preventative.
Then we noticed he’d begun lick-lick-licking his left “wrist” until the fur wore off, and skin turned raw. Again, we figured he’d had a bug bite or other minor irritation that caused the problem. By keeping it clean and interrupting his licking, the spot healed and fur began to re-grow.
Thick sticky tears from weepy eyes that’s hard to clean away–hair loss around his eyes. The vet suspected “dry eye.” Yikes!
About the same time, his eyes began to water more than usual. This happened right after one of his games of “hose tag” so we figured he’d just had a bit of water irritation. But even as the front leg healed, he began licking the toes on a rear foot, again self-barbering away fur and leaving the area raw. On top of that, the front “wrist” area looked thickened like a large callus even with most fur back in place. The outside base of one ear became sore and itchy.
Now, after writing about many different doggy ailments over the years, I always fear the worst. Our first German Shepherd had such devastating skin disease that at one time, he became nearly bald with itchy sores all over his ears and body, and his skin turned black from saliva stains. He had to eat a homemade diet, be bathed twice a week, and take 14 pills of various kinds every day. He only returned to near-normal when we moved to Texas but was never fully healthy.
Magic’s left front “wrist” with saliva-stained thickened skin–but at least the fur has begun to return and it’s no longer raw.
Magic’s left rear paw–he licks the top of the toes, too, but fur has covered that portion up. The dark place is stained hairless tissue–it’s healed, but was bright red and raw.
Magic has always been extraordinarily healthy, so it came as a shock to see some of the same signs that our first dog had suffered. I suspected it could be a couple of things—lick sores are common in German Shepherds—but worried it might even be an autoimmune issue (way scary!). Guessing gets nothing done, and it takes a professional to figure things out. Last week, we took him to the veterinarian to find out what was going on, and how to keep him comfortable.
Now, Magic LOVES the vet—licks all over his face!—but he’s a big dog and won’t allow certain handling. While the veterinarian echoed some of my initial suspicions, a definitive diagnosis required tests in order to prescribe the right meds. So we agreed to leave him for sedation so a skin scrapping of the sores, an ear culture, and a tear test could be done.
The good news—it is NOT an autoimmune issue. Whew! More good news—Magic’s tear test was normal, so we’re not dealing with dry eye. While it’s not common, the vet suspected teary eyes were a result of allergies.
More good news—no ear flushing was needed, the inflammation was isolated to the external base of the front of the ear. Again, this was attributed to allergies (probably atopic dermatitis). While in the past, atopy has been defined as “inhalant” allergic dermatitis, today it’s considered more of a contact allergy with paw-pad exposure and absorption of allergens being a big influence. Wow…knowing that could have helped our first dog enormously!
On to the spots on Magic’s paw and leg—and yep, they were diagnosed as lick sores, technically called acral lick granulomas. The skin scraping indicated bacteria was present, too. There are LOTS of causes, from an initial irritation to stress, boredom, and even obsessive-compulsive issues.
WHAT IS ACRAL LICK GRANULOMA?
With acral lick granulomas, the dog incessantly licks a selected area, usually on a lower leg, which creates a raised, hairless ulcerative plaque—almost a callus that surrounds the never-healing sore. The constant licking makes the area itch and can cause secondary bacterial infection. This prompts further licking to relieve the itch, and a vicious cycle is created.
Any dog can be affected, but the condition most commonly affects males older than three years. The syndrome is often seen in large active-breed dogs that demand a lot of owner interaction, such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, Doberman Pinchers, Great Danes, and you guessed it—German Shepherds.
Treatment is difficult in many cases, and some dogs may never be completely cured. Infections may respond to antibiotics, and steroids may temporarily soothe itchiness.
Magic was given cephalexin antibiotic, Betagen topical spray for the sores, and low dose prednisolone to calm the whole body itch. The veterinarian says he’ll need to be on the antibiotic for at least two months (probably longer) until both lesions completely heal since often these are deep seated infections—and they could recur down the road. The steroid is low-dose and will be gradually reduced.
The night Magic came home he was still woozy from the sedation. But by the next day and just one round of medication, he already felt so much better! We’re now about five days into the treatment, and with the itchiness calmed, both leg sores have made great progress toward healing, and his eyes no longer water incessantly.
In many cases, giving dogs stricken with lick sores more one-on-one time can help reduce boredom and stress. Since I work at home, Magic has attention pretty much all the time, but there has been quite a lot of stress over the past several months due to job changes. Dogs can react to an owner’s stress—so I need to work on handling my own angst-icity!
Dogs that are confined alone for long periods of time tend to have more problems. Some dogs respond favorably when another pet is adopted into the home. Magic has Karma—the jury is out on whether that’s helpful or added stress! The habit may be interrupted in some dogs through the use of veterinary prescribed drugs used in treating obsessive/compulsive disorders. All that, of course, is up to the veterinarian and based on the individual dog’s situation.
UPDATE 2-20-17: Magic no longer licks his front paws, and the back ones are ALMOST healed. The vet wants us to treat 2 weeks beyond resolution so paws crossed this takes care of the issue.
Have you ever had a dog that suffered with “lick sores?” How did you manage it? Were the lesions healed, and were there any relapses? What else should I watch for with Magical-Dawg?
Pomeranians may develop hairballs, too. Image Copr. RickieB20/Flickr
Dog Hairball Prevention, Not Just For Cats!
Hairballs are the bane of cat owners but hairballs can also affect dogs. Yes, dogs can get hairballs, too! How many of y’all have discovered Fluffy’s “gift” by walking barefoot late at night? That cigar-shaped slick nasty “squish” disgusts pet owners, and though it’s quite common for cats to urk up the occasional hairball–it is NOT normal. Dog hairballs happen, too.
This Friday is National Hairball Awareness Day, and Dr. Jane Brunt of the Catalyst Council offers some good advice. “The cat has developed a digestive tract that, when it is healthy and working correctly, can handle normal amounts of fur without problem. Even long haired cats should not develop more than one or two hairballs a year,” says Dr. Brunt. “There have been a lot of recent scientific studies about vomiting in cats and that it may be an indication of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, which can progress to cancer.”
Persians potentially have more coat to choke on…but even the shorthair beauties can develop hairballs. Image Copr. Amy Shojai, CABC
Why Pets Get Hairballs
Cats groom themselves, of course, by lick-lick-licking and subsequently swallowing some of the fur. When shedding takes place, there’s more fur to swallow. When it doesn’t make its way out the normal method and end up in the litter box, fur collects inside the cat and causes irritation and sometimes constipation and blockage. The lucky cats get rid of the mass (technically called a bezoar). It’s more than a nasty nuisance, so as Dr. Jane Brunt says, get your cat checked if your kitty’s “urking” more than normal.
This time of year, dogs also “blow coat” and end up shedding great wads of fuzz. Learn more about shedding here. With heavy coated dogs like German Shepherds, Pomeranians, Chows and others, you’ll likely notice drifts of fur or hunks tugged out by nibbling teeth, and sometimes hotspots develop. It must be itchy, too, because dogs amp up the self-grooming through scratching and nibbling. While big dogs don’t typically hark up hairballs, smaller pooches with thick coats—like Pomeranians—can develop hairballs. Your dog may sound like he has a hairball when he chokes and hacks. He may vomit them up or become constipated or even blocked.
So what can you do? With either dogs or cats, good grooming strips away the loose fur as it’s shed. That prevents it being swallowed, developing into painful mats, and helps keep your carpet (relatively) fur free. My fav grooming tool for both cats and dogs is the Furminator. Karma-Kat loves getting combed with this, and Shadow-Pup with his thicker coat can lose half his body mass with one session! (Not really, but it does look like that…)
We love it when our happy dogs wag-wag-wag with joy. Dogs talk with their tails, but too much wagging can result in dog tail injury. Tail talk expresses emotion and communicates so much, but what do you do when wags hurt? Labradors are notorious for dog tail injury. Here’s how to deal with tail wag trauma.
Dog Tail Injury: Why Tail Trauma Happens
That tail is one of the most expressive parts of the dog–or cat–body. It’s not unusual for a friendly flail to clear tabletops. But what can you do when the wagging wacks walls, and there’s trauma to twining tail tips? (say THAT fast five times!)
Big dogs like Labradors are so happy—and so large—that happy wagging bangs the tail tip bloody. Pet tails can also be shut in doors, stepped on, or otherwise hurt. Once dog tail injury happens, tails are very prone to re-injury and can stay sore and battered.
The condition isn’t a medical emergency but is painful for the dog or cat. It can also be messy when the injured tail splatters blood around the room. With chronic tail wag trauma, medical attention is needed to speed the healing, but home care also works well.
HOME FIRST AID FOR DOG TAIL INJURY
Benadryl has a sedative effect and is very safe. You can give one milligram for every pound the pet weighs to temporarily slow the wagging. That can help keep your dog tail injury from becoming worse, and give it a chance to heal.
Hair not only hides the wound, it also collects bacteria and holds blood like a paintbrush. When the tail is very furry, carefully clip away the hair with blunt scissors. Electric clippers are a safer choice for fur removal.
Usually infection isn’t a problem, but it’s still best to quickly clean up the tail. The simplest and most effective technique is to dip the tail in a pan of cold water for several minutes. That rinses off the wound, helps stop the bleeding and reduces inflammation. Then gently pat the tail dry with a clean cloth.
If the dog or cat won’t allow tail dipping, apply an ice cube to the area to numb the pain and reduce swelling. The damage prompts the body to release chemicals called histamines that cause swelling and inflammation. Inflammation can break down the cells and cause permanent damage. Ice stops the process. Once the injury is clean and dry, apply a thin film of antibacterial ointment like Neosporin to help prevent infection.
HOW TO BANDAGE A DOG TAIL INJURY
Bandage the tail to contain the bleeding (and protect your furniture), and pad the injury to keep your pet from re-injuring the sore spot. Learn more about pet first aid in the book, The First Aid Companion for Dogs Cats.
Cat’s tails are particularly difficult to bandage, but for dogs, pull a clean cotton tube sock over the end of the tail. It should be long enough to cover two-thirds of the length of the tail itself. Then wrap tape over the sock, beginning at the tip of the tail and working toward the body, in a diagonal crisscross pattern. Be sure to run the tape two inches beyond the cuff of the sock and directly onto the fur. Finally, run the tape back down from the body to the tail tip, again in a diagonal pattern, which makes it difficult for the dog to pull off. This bandage technique (and others) are illustrated and described in pet first aid books.
Change bandages at least every three days, or oftener if it gets wet or dirty. Apply Neosporin to the area with each bandage change. If the veterinarian recommends you leave the tail uncovered, apply the ointment two to four times a day since dogs and cats tend to lick it off. Some pets may need a prescription tranquilizer to calm tail movement until it can heal. Antibiotics may also be needed. Check with your vet to be sure any medication doesn’t cause diarrhea or other issues.
A collar restraint also can keep him from chewing, licking or pulling at the bandage or tail injury. Or smear Vicks Vapor Rub on the bandage—the menthol odor repels most pets and keeps tongue and teeth at bay.
Some injuries require that the damaged tail tip amputated. If that happens, fur tends to grow over the end and hides the loss. Your pet will never miss the, er, missing link.
Make some changes in the pet’s environment to avoid a repeat of the tail trauma. Bigger dogs need larger areas where they can swing their tails without banging walls, or clearing off the coffee table.
Has your dog (or cat) ever suffered a tail injury? How did it happen? What treatment was required? Do tell!
Nope, you’re not high on puppy Prozac. The cover of the book has changed! In fact, this is version number seven, and it’s by far the most striking and mysterious, while offering a taste of what to expect. Like it? I love it! While many folks (me included) thought the first cover worked extremely well, the powers-that-be decided to go another direction.
Isn’t that a great cover quote from D.P. Lyle? I just received another terrific advance quote from the awesome Dr. Marty Becker. Read about ’em on the LOST AND FOUND page.
NAME THAT PET CONTEST RESULTS
Thank you to everyone for your participation in the “Name That Dog” and “Name That Cat” contests to help me find the perfect choices for some of the furry characters in the book LOST AND FOUND.
More than 85 terrific cat and dog names were suggested. I narrowed the choices to about a dozen each, set up polls for you to vote, and we had over 800 votes result.
I’d say pet people are passionate about pet names! Without further delay, here are the results.
DOG HEROES NAMED
Caren Gittleman suggested the winning dog name Dakota because it means “trusted friend” and is also the name of her lovely Sheltie (who helps her co-write Dakota’s Den Blog).
In the book LOST AND FOUND, the main character September mourns the loss of her heart-dog (we’ve all been there right?) who died trying to save her husband. Therefore, her long lost canine partner DAKOTA is mentioned throughout the book.
Raelyn Barclay offered several dog name suggestions including Bruno, which won the second hero dog spot. Congratulations!
When September’s nephew becomes lost in the blizzard, she enlists the aid of a still active senior citizen tracking dog to find the boy. BRUNO is the star in that chapter, and demonstrates that old dogs still have the stuff of heroes.
CAT HEROES NAMED
Patricia suggested the winning cat name Macy. This name garnered more than a hundred individual votes from readers, wow! Macy is the name of Patricia’s seven-year-old yellow tabby, and named after a character in the Bold and the Beautiful television show.
September’s sable and white Maine coon cat is mentioned throughout the book, including cat-training scenes that demonstrate just how smart cats truly are! Macy literally “nails” the villain at just the right moment to help save the day.
Karyl Cunningham has been one of my most faithful blog followers (~waving at Karyl) so I’m delighted readers chose one of her name selections as the second cat hero character–Simba is the second cat name winner. Simba is the name of Karyl’s slightly chubby, arthritic senior citizen kitty.
As in all good thrillers, tragic victims often kick off the story. The first is a lovely woman in the wrong place at the wrong time, and she leaves behind a beloved rescue kitty–Simba, slightly chubby aging kitty with a bit of arthritis who finds a forever home with the victim’s daughter.
In addition to having their pets’ names spotlighted in the book, and their own contribution noted in the acknowledgements, these four winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Thank you again to everyone who suggested names and voted. The response demonstrates to me why I love pets–and writing about them so much–because never mind the age or breed or attitude. In our heart of hearts, true pet lovers know that EVERY dog and cat has a hero inside them.
LOST AND FOUND is scheduled for release September 20 in Amazon Kindle (and other Ebook formats), with print versions available about a week later. I will of course post to my blog (here) as well as Facebook, but will also send out an email newsletter notification–if I have your email.
In fact, what the hey. Send me an email to amy @ shojai.com with LOST AND FOUND in the subject line between now and the release date, and I’ll add you to the drawing for a free copy of the book. Don’t be shy, you can share this with other thriller/pet lovers.
Now go pet your hero dogs and cats for me. Oh, and stay tuned–the regular WOOF WEDNESDAY blog will go out later today with more puppy-licious info. 🙂
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!
Yes, the day has come. I am delighted at the outpouring of interest in naming dogs who appear in my forthcoming thriller LOST AND FOUND. There were 29 total suggestions for canine character names. Some were wonderful names but the same as one of my human characters (now THAT would be confusing!), and others seemed too similar to other suggestions. I ended up choosing four or five of my favorites from your suggestions and then drawing the remainder out of a fish bowl. Two canine characters, both “hero dogs,” will be named based on your votes. (Watch for Feline Friday for the kitty poll picks!).
The winner’s names and why they chose their selection will also be included in the book, and winners will receive an advance copy of the book.
Just who ARE these canine heroes?
A dark sable German shepherd dog, trained for search and rescue, and protection (Schutzhund) was devoted to the main character, September. He died protecting her husband, and she still deeply mourns his loss. He is the “ideal” dog she compares all other canines to.
A senior citizen German shepherd comes out of retirement to track down the September’s missing nephew Steven. He ends up defending his trainer as well as giving September a chance to escape.
Does your dog’s name embody the essence of these doggy characters? Love, devotion, fearlessness, great heart? Looks don’t matter, neither does breed or age or even sex–everyone knows that all dogs have the heart and soul and devotion of heroes, so make your choice and follow your heart!
The poll below allows you to choose THREE (3) of your favorites. You can come back and vote again as many times as you’d like–and I hope you’ll encourage family and friends to champion your cause and also vote.
DEADLINE MONDAY AUGUST 30TH!
I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly PUPPY CARE must knows, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Don’t forget to vote for your NAME THAT DOG/CAT character choice in the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!