Woof Wednesday: West Nile & Puppy Parasite Prevention

I live just north of Dallas, Texas where the greatest number of West Nile cases are being reported. It’s scary–people have died. Horses at least have a preventative vaccine to help protect them. But what about dogs and cats?

Apparently while pets CAN contract the disease from mosquitoes and a few have been reported, symptoms typically are mild. But there’s no vaccination for pets, or for people. Some flea medications purport to help prevent or repel mosquitoes but it’s best to prevent buggy bites altogether. Petfinder.com has posted an excellent report on West Nile and pets here.

In fact, our dogs act like magnets for parasites. It’s not just fleas or those creepy-crawly ticks, either. If you have puppies (or kittens) there’s a good chance you’ll need to address roundworms, those spaghetti-like creatures passed in the potty deposite (urk!) because those can be a health risk to kids (double urk!). But the intestinal worms are just the tip of the buggy iceberg. Everything from ringworm (fungus) and mange mites that attack the skin, to protozoan parasites so tiny they’re hard to detect or even heartworms–also transmitted by mosquitoes–can affect dogs. Check out this Pet Peeves radio show with Dr. Wallace Graham for the latest on heartworms. I’ve compiled a roundup of more than a dozen articles covering everything you need to know about these most common puppy parasites here.   

What about your dogs? How do you protect them from buggy hitchhikers? Magical-Dawg gets a monthly preventive called Revolution that helps prevent the lion’s share of these parasites. My cat Seren-dipity came to us with a case of ringworm–minor, thank goodness, and it resolved quickly.

As for West Nile virus, are you protecting your horses? What about your human family members? I’m one of those folks mosquitoes loves–Mom always said I must have “sweet blood.” So I stay inside during prime mosquito feeding at dawn and twilight. How do you “bite back” at the mosquito menace? Please share!

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 FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay tuned for more news about my forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND!

Woof Wednesday: Food, Glorious Food & Worry-icity!

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“Num, num, num, num…”

PET FOOD RECALL–REDUX

Yes, it’s happened again and the culprit is salmonella. But it’s not home cooking folks or raw feeders, but commercial foods once again. BRAVO to Diamond Foods, the manufacturer/packager of a number of brands, that kicked off a VOLUNTARY RECALL as a precaution even though only small amounts of product actually was suspected to be a problem. Since that initial announcement, additional foods–dog, puppy, cat, kitten–and brands have been added to the recall list. Brands include:

  • Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
  • Country Value
  • Diamond
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Premium Edge
  • Professional
  • 4Health
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Apex Foods
  • Solid Gold

You can find links to the various products along with batch codes and dates to ensure your pets’ foods are still safe or should be returned in this recall blog.

PET FOOD SELECTION

How do you know a pet food is the best for your furry wonder? Every pet is different, of course, but there are ways to figure things out. Reading labels gets you part of the way there–but the labels are a legal document and serve to satisfy the regulators more than they do to inform the public. There are terms that have legal definitions but can be misinterpreted by pet owners (ain’t that the way legalese works?), and even some ways the labels can mislead (accidentally on purpose, LOL!) to get you to open up your wallet. After all, dogs don’t have thumbs or bank accounts so it’s up to us to choose wisely.

Here are a few links to further information about pet foods–much of this applies to cats, too:

What’s On Pet Food Labels?

Label “Myth-Information”

How Food Claims Are Verified

What IS That? Additives In Food

So what do you feed your furry wonder? What does your veterinarian recommend? Do you rely on other “expert” advice and if so, where do you get your information? Have you been affected by the pet food recall? How do you advise your pet-loving friends? Do tell!

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 FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Making Fleas Flee

It’s time for my annual flea rant. This year the terrific rain that made wildflowers resurrect in drought-parched North Texas also provides lush habitat for bugs. Magical-Dawg has been scratching like crazy, even though he’s on a flea preventive. There’s just too darn many bugs out there. The cat flea (also infests dogs) can cause allergies, anemia, and transmit tapeworms as well as the agent that causes cat scratch disease. And even though Seren-kitty doesn’t go outside, Magic generously shares any hitchhikers with her.

KEEP REFILLS A-COMING!

I’ve also had some frustration getting refills on Magic and Seren’s medications. It used to be that the monthly spot-on or oral heartworm medications could be picked up from my veterinary office. For convenience sake they’ve gone to an online website with a “store” that keeps track of the pets’ Rx which can be refilled with the click of a button. Only the past couple of times the pets have been ready for a refill, their meds either were “unavailable” or missing from the online store. Grrr!

So instead of a separate heartworm preventative along with a flea medication I finally broke down and purchased Revolution, a product formulated to take care of most all available parasites. Hopefully that will quell Magic’s itch–I do believe that the fleas build up resistance to certain treatments and it’s not a bad idea to rotate products when possible.

FLEA PRODUCT DANGERS!

Choose flea and tick products with care. Even those that ARE safe (when used according to directions) can cause problems if you fail to use good judgment. Age of the pet, health status, and species determines the type of product you should choose. Look at the label to make sure the flea or tick protection says it’s safe for your individual pets.

Dogs tolerate certain types of pesticides better than cats. Products containing permethrin or phenothrin labeled for dogs can kill your cat. Kittens and puppies must be old enough to tolerate the treatment (the label will say the best age). And using more than one product at a time on your pet can add up and poison him when one alone might be fine.

NATURAL FLEA PREVENTION

The safest and most “natural” flea control technique involves using a flea-comb. Frequent vacuuming of the carpet removes up to 90 percent of flea eggs and 50 percent of larvae, and gets rid of incidental ticks, too. Don’t neglect washing pet beds, carriers, blankets, and throw rugs as well as any sofa cushions or other favorite dog and cat resting places.

For outdoor habitats, cut the grass short to allow sunlight to shoo away the bugs. Remember all those wildflowers and waist-high grass in the pictures on Monday Mention blog? Yesterday the fields were mowed, and that should cut down not only the pollen count but reduce parasite habitat. Keeping your pets from problem areas and treating the bug habitats helps reduce the pest population. Nematodes—worms that eat immature fleas—are available from lawn and garden supply outlets.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”944″ caption=”Can you see the flea in the picture? Yes, it’s there! Ewww!” .

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FLEA BIOLOGY BITES

The adult flea you find crawling through Fluffy and King’s fur represents only the tip of the buggy iceberg. Adult fleas don’t hop on and off your pet. They stay there unless involuntarily dislodged, but they represent only five percent of the total flea population. The remaining 95 percent composed of flea eggs, larvae, and pupae lurk in the environment poised to belly up to the furry banquet.

Fleas can lay 20 to 40 eggs per day, and ten female fleas can create almost a quarter of a million different life stages in a month. Newly emerged flea larvae can survive two weeks without a blood meal, and pre-emerged (pupae/cocoon stage) can survive six months without feeding.

Flea products may address the egg, larvae and adult stages, but no insecticide can kill the cocoon stage. You must wait until it hatches to kill it. It takes fourteen to twenty-one days for the lifecycle to be complete.

Consult with your veterinarian to decide how best to protect your furry family in the bug wars. Some products only are available by prescription. If you choose an over-the-counter product, look at the label and follow product instructions to ensure the health and safety of your pets. You can learn more about fleas and appropriate products in this article, and learn more about ticks here.

How to you keep your dogs itch free and safe from parasites? Do you use “natural” methods along with preventatives? What tips can you offer to others dealing with these nasty vampires? Please share.

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 FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Dog Food Info & How To Stop Gassy Dogs

2 pups eating

I’ve spent the past couple of weeks writing about pet food to help pet parents best choose what to put in the bowl. It’s up to owners to do research into what fits your furry wonder’s age and lifestyle. Do you know how many calories dogs need, for instance? The newest article answers questions about calories in dog food.

So I’ve provided a primer on how to read pet food labels. Bet you’ll learn some surprising things about what the label can tell you–and what it doesn’t say.

Do you know how they test the food? Animal testing, you betcha–and Magical-Dawg wants to come back as a food taste tester in their food trials. Read all about the testing here.

Pet food manufacturers can be creative when it comes to following the letter of the law and describing what’s in the food, too. Do you know what constitutes a GOOD food additive? Are there bad ones? Why would they even be in the food? Well, many of them are there not for the dog, but to get those of us with pocket books and thumbs to open the wallet and buy the food. Learn about pet food additives here.

Dogs aren’t the best decision makers, even if they had their own wallets. Heck, there’s a reason that at my house all the toilet lids stay CLOSED, and the waste baskets are set on countertops. Magical-Dawg eats just about anything. That, of course, can lead to (ahem) potent results. In fact, today’s Ask Amy video addresses that very issue.

How do you choose food for your dogs? Have they ever had aromatic emissions of the stinky kind? How did you handle that? Do tell!

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 FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!

Woof Wednesday: Cute Babies, Apple Pie & Hug Your Dog

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I had another post set to go today. But then I took an ethical stand (say it ain’t so!) and wrote what appears to be an incredibly unpopular post on my puppies.About.com site. 

Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

You see, I took issue with a big-name pet food company that should know better. The Purina Beneful promotion titled “hug your dog day” encouraged folks to take pictures of themselves hugging their dogs and post them.

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no.

WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS

There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.

Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!

“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…” 

Good. In this case I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”

DEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG

A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:

  • Mating/Dominance displays
  • Prey capture
  • Fights/play fighting

So when your dog “hugs” you what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment, and I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that was an expression of affection.

How do dogs actually show love? Here are 12 common ways.

Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg makes allowances when I don’t understand what he’s trying to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.

FORCING HUGS–IS IT FAIR?

I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance –or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because as a kid you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.

As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot–and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?

BUT–MY DOG LOVES HUGS!

Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?

Magical-dog loves close contact. He often pushes his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezes his face under my arm. Is he asking for a hug? I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.

How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!

My post seems to have hissed off a large number of folks who remain convinced their dogs love hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness in a dog bite trial where a child was severely injured by a dog she adored–and the dog adored her as well. Read about that in this blog post.

If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent–I’m fine with that.

Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!

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 FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with excerpts from the forthcoming THRILLER, LOST & FOUND, and pet book give-aways!