Dog FAQs

How to I help my dog deal with separation anxiety?

Dogs are among the most social creatures on earth. They just love spending time with you, so when it comes time for you to go to work or leave the house for long periods of time, it can make your dog lonely and anxious.

    Here are a few tips to reduce separation anxiety:

  • Encourage independence by discouraging your dog from following you around the house constantly.
  • Keep departures and arrivals low-key.
  • Always give your dog a reward when you leave the house.
  • Give puppies and young dogs the opportunity to get accustomed to being left alone for short periods.

Do Dogs Get Stressed?

Most animals occasionally experience stress in one form or another, and dogs are no exception. Stress is the product either of a major change in the environment or a chronic lack of certainty on a daily basis. Since your dog lives with you, and your life will certainly not be completely free of upheaval, it is highly likely that he will experience stress sometime in his life. While occasional stress is not usually serious, excessive or prolonged stress weakens a dog’s immune system and has the potential to lead to serious health and behavior problems. By learning how to reduce stress and to treat it when it occurs, you do yourself and your dog a big favor.

How can you reduce stress?

Establish boundaries and a routine for your dog. He needs to know just where he fits into your family, his pack. Early and consistent obedience training convinces your dog that you are the leader and keeps him from experiencing the constant stress of trying to move up to a leadership role. From the day you bring him home, you should be establishing important boundaries in his life by teaching him appropriate behavior, letting him know firmly when he errs, and being in charge of his behavior, rather than leaving choices up to him. It’s important, too, that he knows he will get food, exercise and play as part of his regular schedule. Teaching your dog obedience and providing a stable routine produces a secure, confident dog that is more tolerant of stressful situations.

Despite the best training, stress will be unavoidable. Dogs are stressed by traveling, moving, being boarded in a kennel, competing in dog shows, meeting a new baby or pet who moves into the household-in short, anything that’s not part of the regularly scheduled program. Your dog has a number of ways to tell you he is stressed. He may bark excessively, lick himself until he’s raw, or even vomit. If you see a consistent, noticeable change in his behavior or health, stress could be the cause.

So how can you help your pet cope?

First, check your own stress level. Animals sense and react to stress in others. If you stay calm your dog will calm down as well. Next, try to eliminate the cause of the stress. If that is impossible-and it often is-introduce your dog to the change gradually and correct any inappropriate behavior. For example, when he meets a new family member, let him approach the person at his own rate. Correct him if he becomes overly excited or aggressive,

How Do I Housetrain My Dog?

Housetraining a dog or puppy is relatively simple provided you follow a few basic rules:

  • Make certain your pet is in good health before starting any training program. Adult dogs that are house soiling may have medical problems causing this behavior. Check with your veterinarian to rule out any physical ailments.
  • Make certain your pet is fed a quality diet. Good nutrition is critical to good training.
  • Be consistent. If you want your pet to consistently eliminate outdoors, you will need to follow a consistent feeding and walking schedule.
  • Use the proper tools. Not every dog owner needs the same tools, but most every dog owner will need some pet products to make housetraining possible. Visit your local retailer for a full supply of everything you need to housebreak your dog.
  • 90% of housebreaking involves praising your dog when he/she eliminates in the proper place. The key is to get the dog to eliminate in the correct area for at least two to four weeks, while at the same time preventing the dog from eliminating in inappropriate spots.

Have a consistent feeding schedule

To start off, feed your dog at set times and for specific lengths of time. In other words, if you feed your dog twice a day continue to do so, but make certain that both feedings take place at specific times. Additionally each meal should only take 10 to 20 minutes. If the dog hasn’t finished eating after 20 minutes, take the food up. The purpose of this is simple. If you control when the dog eats, it becomes much easier to predict when the dog will eliminate. This allows you a greater chance to praise the dog when he/she eliminates in the correct place.

Have a consistent walking schedule

When owners are home and awake, they should take their dog to the area they want the dog to eliminate in at least one time every 6-8 hours.

Why Does My Dog Dig?

Most behaviors of dogs are either the product of instinct, or a learned behavior. Digging behavior is no exception; it is an instinct. In addition, there are certain breeds, Terriers and Dachshunds, for instance, which were bred specifically for their ability to dig out game, such as badgers, foxes, and otters. They have an even greater digging instinct.

Dogs dig for a variety of reasons:

  • Dogs will often dig out of boredom. If you leave your dog out alone in the yard for any length of time, he may dig just for something to do. Play with him out there, or provide him with chew toys or interactive toys like a Kong or Pet Planet rubber toy with treats stuffed inside.
  • Digging is often used as a means of escape. Your dog may want to leave a fenced yard because there are so many more interesting things to do elsewhere.
  • If you have an intact (unspayed, or unneutered) dog, he or she may be digging to escape in order to mate with another dog. If you do not plan to breed your dog, a good way to prevent digging for this reason is to neuter him or spay her.
  • Since deeper layers of soil tend to be cooler, your dog may be digging to find relief from the heat. Always provide a cool, shady place for your dog to rest when he is outside.
  • Dogs are great savers. They will bury bones or other treats ‘for a rainy day’ when they may need them.
  • If you use bone or blood meal to fertilize your garden, the scent may be irresistible. A dog may dig and dig trying to find that nonexistent bone.
  • Any dog may dig to excavate a den. A female dog may dig in order to provide a nest for babies, whether she is pregnant or not.

The trick to stopping any pet’s unwanted behavior is understanding it and then manipulating it into a behavior of which we approve.

Why Is My Dog Having Accidents Inside The House?

If your dog is relieving herself inside the house, it’s probably because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • She is suffering from separation anxiety.
  • She has not been properly housetrained.
  • She is scent-marking her territory.
  • She is ill.

Isolating the cause of your pet’s unacceptable behavior will allow you to take action to prevent it. Below is a discussion of the most common reasons why dogs urinate in the house, and some suggested solutions.

Separation Anxiety
Most dogs simply can’t stand to be away from their owners. This stems from the basic fact that dogs are pack animals and can become seriously insecure when left alone. Feeling abandoned, they will bark, chew on furniture or eliminate in the house. This behavior is not their way of “”getting back”” at their owners, but rather an attempt to relieve their anxiety. (Have you noticed how excited your dog acts when you come home from work? This illustrates her relief that you haven’t deserted her after all!)

If separation anxiety is your dog’s reason for eliminating inside the house, you can correct this by teaching her that there will be times when she will have to be alone. The sooner you train your dog to accept your extended absences, the better for both of you.

If you have a puppy, you can prevent separation anxiety attacks by leaving her alone for a few minutes at a time. Gradually, over the course of two to four days, lengthen the time you’re away. Once she figures out that you do return at some point, she’ll be reassured and won’t feel the need to act out her frustrations and anxieties. You can use the same procedure to train an older dog.

Another way to help ease your dog’s separation anxiety is to leave a piece of your unlaundered clothing with her while you’re away. Your scent on the clothing will help calm and comfort her during your absence.

What’s The Easiest Way To Eliminate Dog Stains and Odors?

Promptness is the key to removing dog stains and odors effectively, especially in the case of dog urine, which not only stains but also leaves behind a potent, long-lasting odor. If you take care of the problem immediately, chances are the urine will leave no trace. Once dried, however, the stain and accompanying odor will become much more difficult to remove, and may require the services of a professional cleaner.

A variety of homemade solutions and commercial products are available to help you to remove or neutralize stains and odors left behind by urine, vomit, diarrhea or feces.

Here’s How To Remove Dog Stains And Odors On A Variety Of Surfaces:

  • Carpets: If the stain is fresh, any good carpet shampoo will work well. First, be sure to remove any solid or semi-solid matter, such as vomit or feces. Clean the spot with the shampoo, and then soak it thoroughly with club soda. Allow it to stand for 10 minutes before blotting it up. If the stain has dried, or if the urine has soaked through to the floor, try using a cleaner with enzymes, which break down the odor-causing compounds. Be sure to follow the product’s instructions carefully to prevent damage to your carpet.
  • Concrete: Fresh stains are easy to remove from sealed concrete. Simply wipe the area with a damp paper towel, and clean it with a homemade solution of ammonia or vinegar, or with a commercial cleaning product. If the concrete is unsealed, and the urine or feces is allowed to stand, the stain will be much more difficult to remove, especially if urine has soaked into the surface. If this is the case, first neutralize the stain and odors using a commercial cleaning product-powder, mineral rock or enzyme-then seal the concrete. If the odor is still present, you may have to call a professional cleaning service.
  • Hardwood: Wipe off fresh stains, and then treat the wood with a proper wood treatment.

What Do I Do About My Aggressive Dog?

Even normal aggression should still be corrected. Dogs usually show the first signs of aggressive behavior when they go through puberty (around 6 to 14 months). Signs of aggression include barking at strangers, growling and guarding their food dish, mounting people’s legs and pushing adults and children aside when running by. Dogs may also challenge human commands at this time to try to establish the alpha position. Signs include ignoring commands, growling when physically removed from the couch or made to sit and staring down a human. This behavior is normal for an adolescent dog but must be corrected immediately to discourage further aggressive behavior.

Signs Of Major Aggression:

  • Excessive barking that won’t respond to command
  • Acting overly possessive of objects (toys, food dishes) by barking, growling and snapping
  • Attacking other animals and humans
  • Barking and chasing after other animals, humans or vehicles
  • Snarling and snapping when touched

Types Of Aggression:

  • Dominant-aggressive dogs look constantly alert. They stand high on their toes, perk their ears and keep their tails high and stiff. They may stare down humans and other animals and growl with their teeth exposed when approached. Males often lift their legs on furniture.
  • Defensive-aggressive dogs appear submissive with ears back, little or no eye contact and low body position. But they’re fear-biters and will bite if approached, cornered or ignored. Aggressive dogs can be extremely dangerous to humans and other animals if their behavior is not corrected. They’ll bite, bark, growl, fight with other animals, challenge your authority — and tragically, they may eventually attack a child or adult. A professional trainer should handle serious cases of aggression because a dog that is aggressive will not get better on his own. If your dog bites a person or injures or kills another dog, you may not have a choice — the case may end up in court.

Dogs Act Aggressively For Several Reasons:

  • They’re afraid, either innately afraid or they’ve been mistreated. Your dog will sometimes lash out if he’s forced to confront another dog or person that he’s afraid of. Basic obedience training — teaching him to “come,” “sit” and “stay” — will give your dog more confidence.
  • They’re overly protective of their territory.

How Can I Keep My Dog Off The Furniture?

By nature, your dog is a territorial animal and will claim many areas and objects in the house-including the furniture-unless you give him some guidance.

One of the basic requirements for dog discipline and training is for the trainer (you) to be consistent. If you often invite your dog to join you on the couch, but yell, “Get Down!” when guests come over, you will confuse your dog. He will have considered the furniture as part of his territory, and won’t be easily convinced otherwise.

When you have a new puppy, it’s a good idea to discourage him from jumping onto the furniture from day one. But if your old pet has already claimed rights to your couch, don’t be discouraged-it just takes a little patience to change his behavior.

Teach your dog that furniture is not part of his territory by correcting him when he’s in the act of jumping, or when he looks like he’s about to jump. A firm “No!” command while he’s jumping is the surest way to get your point across.

Another course of action is to train your dog to “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.” Give these commands as you sit on the furniture so your dog realizes his place is at your feet. You may even want to set up a small bed or pillow on the floor so he has his own place to rest.

Above all, be consistent and firm in your commands, and don’t allow your dog to ignore you. If he still jumps on the furniture, and refuses your command to “get down,” pick him up and place him on the floor while saying, “down.”

Why Does My Dog Bark Incessantly

The key to solving this problem is uncovering the cause of the barking.

Your dog is barking primarily for a number of — logical to him — reasons:

  1. It’s in his nature. Some breeds are genetically conditioned to bark when there is a movement or noise within their range: Nearly all terriers and many small dogs like Lhasa Aposos, Poodles and Schnauzers have this barking response hard-wired into their brains; training is the only solution for this type of offender.
  2. Hey, get off of my turf! Un-neutered males and guarding breed types need to protect their yard, their house, and even the air above against all “”intruders:”” Neutering may lessen the protective and territorial instincts, but training is also necessary. Another good idea is making sure the dog can’t see what’s happening along his “”property lines”” (for example, using a board fence instead of a chain-link); you can also try keeping him from “”patrolling”” high traffic areas like the front door or front porch.
  3. Ho, hum, what to do? Sporting, hound and herding breeds are workaholics bred to work all day, and if they find themselves in a situation where they do not get enough exercise (like a fifth-floor walk-up in Manhattan) they get bored and they start barking. Most of these dogs need two or more hours of vigorous activity each day. If you’re going to be gone for more than six hours, you need to engage this kind of dog in at least an hour of mentally engaging, physically demanding PT before you leave.
  4. What was that? What was that? Dogs that have been coddled or overprotected, like toy and miniature breed types, and dogs that have been shuffled from home to home or in and out of shelters may be fearful and neurotic, suffering from separation anxiety when you leave them on their own. Barking is one of their responses to this fear (chewing, house soiling and digging are others). The majority of these dogs can gain confidence and so lose this behavior through proper socialization and obedience work. Some stressed-out dogs also feel more comfortable in a covered kennel crate because there’s less “”space”” to fret over. This strategy may aggravate the problem in other dogs, however, so check with your vet or a professional dog trainer before shutting your pet in such a small space.

Is Companionship Important To My Dog?

Is Companionship Important To My Dog?

Companionship is vital to every dog, because dogs are extremely social animals who instinctively need to be with their pack at all times. Whenever you adopt a new dog, you and your family become his new “”pack.”” He’ll want to spend all of his time with you no matter what you’re doing — whether you’re cooking breakfast, watching TV, cleaning the car, driving to the market, hanging out with friends or even sleeping. Your dog simply needs to be with you! This is the trait that earned him the reputation of being “”Man’s Best Friend.””

Separation Anxiety

This intense need for companionship is evidenced by the fact that many dogs suffer from separation anxiety when left alone by their owners. They act out their anxiety by doing destructive things, like chewing up the furniture or eliminating inside the house. They panic, thinking the members of their pack have abandoned them. If your dog acts up while you’re away, don’t punish him. He isn’t trying to get back at you for leaving him alone; he simply hasn’t learned that there are times when you can’t take him with you.

The best way to prevent your dog from experiencing anxiety attacks while you’re out is to prepare him for extended periods of separation. Start by leaving him alone for just a few minutes. Gradually, over a week’s time, stretch your absences to a few hours. In time, he’ll understand that you always do come back for him, and that there’s absolutely nothing to fear.

Discipline

Knowing that dogs are afraid of being left alone or isolated, dog trainers use this fear as an effective training tool. You can also exploit this tendency to teach your dog what is and what is not acceptable behavior. If you put a misbehaving dog in his crate for a ten- to fifteen-minute “timeout,” you’ll impress upon him that his unacceptable behavior has caused him to be “banished from the pack”.

Should My Dog Socialize With Other Dogs?

Should My Dog Socialize With Other Dogs?

Dogs are pack animals by nature, but that doesn’t mean they are born with the social skills necessary to get along with other animals. Just like people, dogs must be properly socialized early in life to help them become well adjusted and well behaved. Starting from as young as six to eight weeks of age, when she is most open to new influences, give your dog the opportunity to interact with other dogs in the park, in obedience school or in the kennel.

Before you expose a young puppy to other dogs, check with your vet to make sure she has completed the necessary immunizations. You can institute your own socialization program, or you can take her to a puppy “kindergarten” or other socialization classes offered by trainers, breeders and sometimes the ASPCA or Humane Society. If you socialize your dog early, she’ll know how to behave when she’s around other dogs — both friends and strangers — in the future.

If you don’t socialize your pup from the beginning, she may get into all sorts of trouble simply because she doesn’t know any better. You’ll likely find her starting fights with others, pulling on her leash, barking and growling at other animals or people or leaving the yard to chase another dog. Dogs that act this way are not malicious by nature, they are just reacting defensively or aggressively to situations where they are frightened or over stimulated. Getting your dog used to being around other dogs when she’s young will keep these kinds of incidents from occurring.

Here are some tips on how to introduce your family dog to another dog:

  • Choose a neutral location. Take the dogs to a park that neither is familiar with — this will prevent them both from feeling the need to protect what they consider their territory. Don’t try to handle both dogs yourself; have another friend or family member come along.
  • Use positive reinforcement. When the dogs are sniffing each other and getting acquainted, talk to them in a happy, friendly tone. This conditions them to expect a good time when they are in each other’s company. Never use a threatening voice.
  • Keep it short. Take the dogs for a walk, letting them come together briefly once in a while. Don’t let the dogs investigate each other for too long, or it could escalate into aggression.

Why Do Dogs Need Routine?

Dogs are social creatures. Their instincts are to run with a pack. At your house, that pack is your family. From the moment you bring your new dog home, she is working hard to figure out her place in her new home. By providing your dog with a daily routine and good training, you are providing her with a secure, stable environment-she doesn’t have to guess at what she should do next. She will be a secure, confident dog that will be more tolerant of stressful situations.

Routine also means being consistent, and consistency is essential to establishing you as the leader. Your dog needs to know that, if she is not allowed on the bed, she is never allowed on the bed. Any dog will begin to feel that she’s the top dog if she feels you are slipping in the consistency department.

The basis for teaching your dog is repetition. After a particular behavior or action, such as assuming the “”sit”” position to greet guests, is repeated many times, your puppy will have developed a habit-the guests come through the door and her behind hits the floor. Thus, routine plays a critical role in your dog’s ability to establish habits. The opposite is also true-by not providing an adequate routine you may be establishing unhealthy or bad habits in your dog, and you’ll certainly be confusing her. With a lot of work, you can teach an older dog new behavior, but it will take time and rigid consistency to extinguish her old, bad habits.

Maintaining a routine reaps other benefits, too. Namely, you’ll have fewer messes to clean up. From the day you first begin to train your puppy, you begin a schedule she will follow for many years to come. Her body will adjust to the routine and the natural rhythm of eating, sleeping, exercising and eliminating at set times, and she will stay on track and healthy. Without this, a dog becomes anxious, and she may even get sick. It is a good idea to make yourself available to your new puppy full-time during the first two weeks she is home.

How do I train my new puppy?

Socializing and puppy training are of the utmost importance as pupplyhood is the most critical time in our dog’s development. What you do and do not do right now will affect your dog’s behavior forever.

To train a dog most effectively, we need to understand how dogs learn. In the “doggy world” learning consists of trying out new behaviors and seeing what happens as a consequence of this behavior. If the behavior (action) is followed by a good consequence, the dog will repeat the behavior. For example, getting food might reward a dog that begs at the table. But if the behavior (beggingin) is followed by a negative consequence, such as no food being given, the dog will eventually stop the behavior. Effective training should work on the same principle. It should be a combination of information: what you want the dog to do; motivation: a reason for your dog to do it; and timing: when to reward a good action.

Crate training can be an efficient and effective way to house train a dog. Dogs do not like to soil their resting/sleeping quarters if given adequate opportunity to eliminate elsewhere. Temporarily confining your dog to a small area strongly inhibits the tendency to eliminate. If your dog does not eliminate while he is confined, then he will need to when he is released. Praise and reward him.

How Long Does It Take To Teach My Dog Tricks?

You can teach any dog — yes, even an old one — new tricks. To do so you must recognize that just like people, dogs learn at different speeds, and that some breeds of dogs are able to learn more quickly than other breeds. The keys to successful training are patience and repetition.

Here are some suggestions to speed up your dog’s learning:

  • Make training sessions fun. A popular philosophy with many dog trainers is that happy dogs are easier to teach. This may be true because dogs are such social animals — they love to run, jump, and play. Owners who incorporate “”fun”” into their training sessions find that their dogs learn faster and retain more. So, how do you make training fun? One sure way is by turning training into a game. After all, who said training has to be so serious?
  • Use rewards and other positive reinforcement. Toys, food and enthusiasm will encourage him to do the tricks you teach. Run around, jump and play with him when he does a trick right.
  • Don’t force the issue. Remember that dogs get mentally tired, too. Know when your dog has had enough for one training session. Common indications are: he’s yawning, his ears and tail are drooping or he’s just plain uninterested. When your lessons don’t seem to hit home anymore, call it a day. Both of you can rest and resume when your dog is ready to learn some more.

You may notice that your dog may seem to have mastered a trick, then forget it altogether the following day. Don’t get discouraged. Continue to work with him patiently and consistently, and your dog will soon be learning tricks faster than you expect.

Why Is My Dog Eating Grass And Dirt?

Strange but true: dogs eat grass. They probably do not intentionally eat dirt, although it may appear that way to you. Science really doesn’t have a definite explanation for this unusual grass-eating phenomenon. However, scientists do know a few things, including the facts that:

  • Some dogs eat and digest grass as part of their diet.
  • Dogs utilize grass as roughage.
  • Some dogs eat grass to relieve stomach acids.
  • Dogs will eat grass then vomit up a grass/stomach fluid mixture a short time later.

If your dog is eating grass and not vomiting, you should not worry as long as the grass is chemical-free and not growing near a road where automobile emissions accumulate. If your dog does vomit after eating grass, you need to start feeding meals more frequently throughout the day — this will lower stomach fluids.

Why Does My Dog Bury Bones?

Wild relatives of the dog often bury their food. They may have killed an animal that is too big to eat all at once, or may have killed several animals when they were very plentiful. Wolves and fox will bury this food to preserve it and hopefully to protect it from being found by another animal that would want to eat it. This is called ‘caching’ or ‘hoarding’ their food. Squirrels do the same thing.

Domestic dogs still carry this hoarding trait and will bury a bone or toy in the yard, or even under a blanket as a way of saving and protecting it. Our dogs seldom experience the extreme hunger that would encourage them to find it again, so often, these buried treasures are forgotten.

How do I stop my puppy from chewing?

Chewing is second nature to puppies and part of normal growth and development. When establishing an area for your new arrival in the home it should be kept clean and free of items considered hazardous or items you do not want chewed up. Provide your pet with several chewing toys and promote playtime with these while interacting with your pet. Slowly introduce other items into the environment that you do not want your pet to chew, like shoes, and use voice inflections to show displeasure when he or she selects these items rather than the toys with which to play. Reinforce good choices by praising. Over time your pet will crave this positive attention and avoid objects that lead to displeasure.

How do I stop my dog from jumping on people?

Jumping up on people and objects is also a behavior that can and should be modified.

When your pet exhibits this behavior:

Do’s: Gently and respectively place puppy’s feet back on the floor and reward him there. Be consistent. Get down to his level to give affection.

Don’ts: Do not allow the pup to jump up. Do not pet, talk, cuddle or reward him for jumping. Do not give in. Do not allow other people to let him jump on them. Do not give up.

How do I train my dog to be on a leash?

Using collars and leashes also requires some training during the first three months of your pet’s life. Keep the pet close to you through positive praise or treats. Do not allow your pet to pull you. This behavior must be corrected before you hit the streets for a walk. The correct approach is to keep the leash loose at all times, reversing the direction when the pet begins forging ahead. Do not allow the pet to dictate the direction. Use a quick tug to get his or her attention and then release to allow slack. Never drag your puppy; rather, encourage him or her to walk beside you.

What vaccinations Does My Dog Need?

To keep your dog healthy, you need to ensure that she is vaccinated against common dog diseases. Your veterinarian will determine which vaccinations are necessary depending on variables such as breed, risk factors for acquiring disease, health status and geographical area.

Common Dog Vaccinations

Rabies: The law in your state will determine the frequency of rabies vaccinations that should start when your dog is a puppy and will require a booster every one to three years thereafter.

Mixed vaccination: Distemper, Canine Infectious Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus, Parainfluenza and Coronavirus are commonly administered as a combined vaccine called the DHLPPC.

Other common vaccines include: Bordetella (Kennel Cough) and Lyme’s Disease

The chart below shows common vaccinations with the ages for first shots and frequency of boosters.

Vaccination Against Age for First Dose Revaccination Booster
DHLPP-puppy series* 6 weeks no no
DHLPPC* – puppy series 8 weeks 12 weeks 16 weeks
DHLPPC* – adult series 12 – 36 months
Bordetella 12 weeks 16 weeks 6 – 12 months
Rabies 3 – 6 months 12 months 12 – 36 months

* Combined vaccine. For certain breeds of dogs your veterinarian may determine that additional boosters be given.

Other Issues

If you adopt a dog or puppy from a breeder, pet shop or other organization such as the ASPCA or Humane Society, ask about the vaccinations the dog has been given. If you are told she “has all her shots” ask for a copy of the documentation from the veterinarian who gave the shots. If the person selling you the dog can not produce such a document that specifically identifies your new pet and her vaccinations, you don’t have proof of vaccination. There is no way to test your new pet for previously administered vaccines. Ask your veterinarian for a recommendation on starting vaccinations.

If you adopt a mature dog and you have no vaccination or medical records, take him to your veterinarian for a heartworm test and booster shots.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Is Sick?

If you know how your pet normally looks and behaves, you’ll be the first to notice something out of the ordinary. If your dog is sick, she may display symptoms, change her behavior or both, depending on the malady. Not all problems are emergencies. For example, if your dog is losing small patches of fur on her head, she may have ringworm. That condition calls for a visit to the veterinary hospital, but it’s not urgent. Also remember that abnormal symptoms or behavioral changes can be caused by more than one illness or by a combination of illnesses or problems. Only your veterinarian will be able to make that determination reliably.

If the problem seems urgent, or if you have ANY questions at all, call your veterinarian, describe what’s going on and get his or her opinion on what it might be and what you should do.

  • Skin and Coat Problems: Look for increased hair shedding, excessive scratching or grooming, bald patches, bumps or swellings, and signs of parasites in the fur, such as black specks, fleas, or small white flecks clinging to hairs.
  • Eye Problems: Look for gummy eyes, inflamed eyelids, abnormal discharge, a visible third eyelid, noticeable vision problems or sensitivity to light, cloudy eyes, or red and swollen eyes.
  • Respiratory Problems: Look for labored breathing; frequent coughing, wheezing, or sneezing; or runny discharge from the eyes and nose.
  • Oral Problems: Watch for drooling, pawing at the mouth, red gums, bad breath, refusal to eat or difficulty eating.
  • Ear Problems: Keep an eye out for discharge, dark wax, swelling, and excessive ear scratching, head shaking or turning of the head to one side.
  • Digestive Tract Problems: Look for severe or persistent (more than 24 hours) vomiting or diarrhea; blood in feces, urine or vomit; chronic constipation; straining to urinate or pass

How Do I Know When I Need To Call A Veterinarian?

Even if you’ve read all the information contained at this web site, or perused any number of books on dog health, you will still need to call your veterinarian at the first sign of any illness in your dog. Catching an illness early increases the chances for a successful treatment.

Knowing When to Call

Call the veterinarian immediately whenever your dog is in pain, injured, bleeding, unconscious, unable to urinate or pass feces, or if she stares at her water bowl without drinking. If there is a noticeable change in your dog’s appearance or behavior, contact your veterinarian.

Your dog may need to go to the veterinarian’s office if she:

  • Drinks more water than usual at unusual time (not after a rigorous play session)
  • Urinates more frequently than is normal
  • Sleeps more than usual — is lethargic
  • Appears weak
  • Loses her appetite
  • Appears to be losing weight
  • Refuses to play or exercise
  • Cries when you touch her or pick her up
  • Exhibits obvious physical signs of illness (puncture wound, gash, etc.)

If you haven’t already done so, learn the procedure for calling your veterinarian’s office when you need to report any unusual symptoms in your dog.

Questions you should ask include:

  • “Who will answer my questions, the veterinarian or an assistant?” Assistants can give you information about common canine problems, or they may gather your information to relay to the veterinarian in case he or she is busy with another animal. This procedure is generally quick and efficient.
  • “What, if anything, does the veterinarian charge for such calls?” Most veterinarians do not charge a consultation fee, especially for regular clients. This is why it is important to establish a good working relationship with your vet.

How Can I Tell When My Dog Has Parasites?

Even if you take the best possible care of your dog, he is likely to become the unhappy host of a varied collection of parasites, both internal and external. By knowing what to look for, you can help eradicate most of those pests before they can harm your dog. In the Southeastern US, the Center’s for Disease Control estimates that approximately 52% of puppies have internal parasites.

External Parasites

Routinely check your dog’s skin for signs of parasites, flea dropping (specks of hard, black “”dirt””) and dandruff. Also check his coat for lice eggs glued to the hair. Frequent or persistent scratching may indicate that your dog has a parasite problem.

Parasites And Telltale Signs:

  • Cheyletiella Mites look like a really bad case of dandruff across the back, and severe infestations can result in scaling skin.
  • Demodex Mange Mites are common and usually harmless to dogs, but they can overpopulate in old or weakened dogs or in young puppies, causing secondary infections that appear as oozy pimples, pustules on the skin or patches of hair loss.
  • Fleas can be tracked down by the “”dirt”” they leave behind, even if you can’t spot the fleas themselves. If you see some of that hard, shiny stuff on your dog’s skin, scrape some off and place it on a damp paper towel or tissue. If the dirt “”bleeds”” — shows red or pinkish — then your dog most likely has fleas.
  • Harvest Mites may cause your dog to lick his feet frequently, and on examination you may find tiny, red larvae. They are common in the fall.
  • Lice are small brown creatures that can be seen moving on the skin. Although they are usually slightly paler than fleas, the way to tell them apart is by checking for the eggs, or nits, that lice will leave glued to your dog’s fur.
  • Sarcoptes Mange Mites are too small to be seen but leave behind scabs and crusts as they burrow into their host. They are most commonly found on the tips of the ears and on the elbows, and they cause intense itching and irritation. Your veterinarian will have to do a microscopic examination of the affected area to determine if they are present.
  • Ticks are easily diagnosed as they swell with blood and turn brownish-white.

Does My Dog Need To Be Groomed?

Grooming your dog regularly not only makes him look good but also helps prevent problems such as excessive shedding, skin ailments, hair mats, paw deformities from untrimmed nails, and ear and eye troubles.

By starting the grooming routine at an early age, you get your puppy accustomed to being handled and create an important physical bond. Even if you acquire an older dog, you can still establish good grooming habits. It takes patience and time, but your reward is a healthy, good-looking pet. A grooming routine includes:

  • Trimming, combing and brushing of fur: Your dog’s fur should be clean, glossy and not matted. How you brush your dog depends on his coat; a longhaired dog or one with a curly, woolly or silky coat requires the most attention.
  • Checking paws and trimming nails: You should check your dog’s paws regularly for dirt or debris, especially if he spends a lot of time outdoors. Clip his nails regularly to prevent problems with his paws and damage to floors and furniture.
  • Checking and cleaning ears: Inspect and clean your dog’s ears to fight ear infections, which are painful and can lead to permanent hearing loss.
  • Brushing teeth: Your dog needs regular dental care to prevent gum, tooth and bone disease and the bad breath that follows it. Your dog’s teeth should be brushed regularly and should be checked by a veterinarian once a year.
  • Checking and cleaning eyes for discharge: Your dog’s eyes should look clear and have no unusual drainage. Use a moistened cotton ball to remove discharge from around his eyes.
  • Bathing your dog: As a rule, most dogs only need to be bathed when they are obviously dirty — with “doggy-smelling,” oily skin — or on a veterinarian’s advice, to help control fleas and ticks. An exception is the curly-coated or longhaired dog, such as a Chow Chow, Poodle or Collie, which should be bathed every two months.

How do I bathe and groom my dog?

Choose appropriate shampoo for your dog’s bath needs in one of three basic categories: Insecticidal, Medicated or Cleansing.

Here are the steps you should use when bathing your dog:

  • Thoroughly and gently brush out your pet’s coat to remove knots and tangles.
  • Saturate with lukewarm water to remove dirt and debris.
  • Dispense a small amount of shampoo into the palm of your hand and rub hands together to evenly distribute.
  • With a scrunching motion, work shampoo into coat, starting behind the head- avoiding suds in eyes and ears- back toward the tail.
  • Rinse with lukewarm water several times to remove all shampoo. (Any soap left on the dog will cause them to scratch, lick or bite.)
  • Towel dry and gently comb or brush coat. Wait until the next day to apply topical flea and tick control.

Dog bathing tips:

  • Introduce the concept during puppy years so it becomes routine for your dog.
  • Air temperature and water should be comfortable, never too hot or cold.
  • Use a basin, washtub or bathtub for a small to medium-size dog. You’ll probably wash large dogs outside.

Dog grooming tips:

  • Keep your dog’s nail clipped to the proper length (tips only). Excessively long nails can damage his feet, making walking and running painful.
  • Examine your dog’s foot-pads for cuts, punctures or foreign objects. Clean cuts with soap and water, and treat with an antiseptic.
  • Check your dogs ears every week. Some dogs have a tendency to grow excessive hair in their ear canals which can make them prone for ear infections. Check with your veterinarian to see if it is advisable to have this hair removed on a regular basis.
  • Clean your dogs ears anywhere from twice a month to twice a week with an ear cleaner solution for dogs. How frequently you do this is dependent on how quickly your pet accumulates wax in their ear canal.

How can I tell if my dog has fleas?

Besides excessive scratching, the most obvious sign of fleas, your pet may also exhibit symptoms such as irritability, nervousness and loss of energy.

Give your pet the “Flea Dirt” Test

  1. Have your pet sit or lie down on a white paper towel.
  2. Vigorously scruff up hair on the neck, stomach and rump just above the tail.
  3. Remove your pet and look for what appears to be black pepper.
  4. Dampen the paper towel. If the fleas dirt turns dark red, your pet probably has fleas

How Do I Prevent Fleas And Ticks?

Unfortunately, unless you live in a climate that does not have fleas, your pet is likely to acquire fleas at some point in its life. If you keep your pet inside, it will make them less prone to fleas but will not completely eliminate the problem. This, of course, is not an acceptable solution for most dogs and their owners because dogs love to romp outdoors. From that perspective, you can attack the flea and tick problem in two ways. First by controlling your dog’s environment and second, by using preventative measures on your dog himself.

Preventative Measures

If you keep your dog on his leash or in a fenced area when outside, you can greatly reduce his exposure to fleas and ticks. When he’s on his leash, keep your dog away from brushy areas and tall grass where fleas and ticks are waiting for their next host. Keep the fenced areas where you will allow him to run free of his leash well mowed. If you keep him away from areas where fleas and ticks are most likely to be found, you will greatly reduce the problem.

Preventative Measures On Your Dog

Regular grooming will help you detect the presence of fleas and ticks early, which is one of the keys to controlling them. In addition, numerous products are available commercially that can help the flea and tick problem, including:

  • Treated flea and tick collars
  • Sprays and powders for dogs
  • Flea and tick shampoos
  • Flea and tick dips
  • Monthly treatment applications. These are small vials of solution that are usually applied to the back of the neck and at the base of the tail.

These commercially available products have varying degrees of success. Permethrin based products are not recommended because they can be quite toxic to your pet. As with all products of this nature, you must be sure the product you use is made specifically for your dog. In addition, you must read and follow all directions precisely.

Does My Dog Need Dental Care?

Yes, dogs definitely need regular dental care to prevent gum, tooth and bone disease and the bad breath that results. Without good dental care, 80 percent of dogs show signs of oral disease by age three; in fact, oral disease is the No. 1 health problem diagnosed in dogs. Left untreated, chronic mouth infections are not only painful but also spread bacteria and toxins to the kidneys and other organs.

To prevent dental disease:

  • Clean your dog’s teeth once or twice a week, EVERY WEEK.
  • Do NOT use human toothpaste; it is too foamy and will upset your dog’s stomach. A simple salt-water solution works just fine, or you can get enzymatic canine toothpaste from the veterinarian.
  • With a soft children’s toothbrush, scrub the teeth and gums vigorously. Concentrate on the canines and upper back molars and the outer surface of the gums and teeth. The inner surface collects tartar much more slowly, so if your dog resists, remember it’s not a priority.

If your dog simply won’t let you introduce a toothbrush into his mouth, rub a gauze-covered finger across his teeth and gums, scrubbing gently in a circular motion.

While brushing is a very important component of dental care, there are now commerciatly available products that can be added to your pets drinking water. They effectively prevent microorganisms such as bacteria and yeasts from accumulating and also improve your pets breath. They should be used as part of your pets overall oral care program.

Why Does My Dog Have Bad Breath?

Bad breath is a sign of gum disease. To check for gum disease, open your dog’s mouth and look inside. If you see red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar at the gum line and pain or bleeding when you touch the gums, take your dog to the veterinarian to determine whether he needs to have his teeth cleaned.

Cleaning a dog’s teeth may seem unnecessary, but gum disease can cause other serious problems. A painful abscess can result from gum disease when bacteria and then pus accumulate near the root of the tooth. An abscess needs to be treated immediately, since it can spread into the sinus cavity. When that happens you will see pus appear just below your dog’s eye. The pain will cause your dog to stop eating, and eventually the bacteria will travel to other parts of his body and cause serious illness.

To prevent gum disease, clean your dog’s teeth every day using a sterile cloth and water and a paste made out of baking soda and water or a commercial pet toothpaste and toothbrush. Never use human toothpaste to clean your dog’s teeth; it can upset his stomach. If you are unsure about brushing your dog’s teeth, your veterinarian can show you the proper way.

Also, offer your dog dry dog food every day and rawhide or synthetic bones several times a week.

How Can I Tell If My Dog Ate Something Poisonous Or Toxic?

Dogs are usually happy to chow down almost anything that smells tasty without worrying whether it’s safe or toxic to eat. Unfortunately, some of the plants and many of the hundreds of different chemicals we fill our homes with are both enticing and poisonous to dogs.

The items in your medicine cabinet and the cleaning products in your cupboard can both be extremely harmful to your dog’s health. Most cleaning supplies are toxic to dogs, but often their danger is cloaked under an inviting scent. Household products harmful to your dog include soaps, detergents, kerosene, paints, paint thinners, alcoholic beverages and all drugs and medications, especially aspirin and acetaminophen.

Some “”people foods”” can be harmful to your dog. Some are downright dangerous to him, while other foods are best avoided because they can lead to obesity and a variety of health problems. Foods toxic to your dog include chocolate and onions. Never give him either food, and if he accidentally ingests a lot of either, take him to your vet immediately. Always keep garbage cans securely sealed to prevent your dog from getting into discarded food, which can contain bacteria that causes food poisoning in dogs.

Hazardous substances also lurk outdoors. One of the most common agents of poisoning in dogs is antifreeze, which has a sweet taste from ethylene glycol, and is so potent that just 6 milliliters of it — a fingertip’s worth — can kill a dog. Even tiny, undetectable amounts of antifreeze can cause kidney damage.

Don’t forget to dog-proof the garage or shed for any chemical products you store there. Make sure the lids of all chemical products are tightly closed. Put gasoline and turpentine in a locked cabinet or a storeroom. Slug bait, for some reason, is almost irresistible to dogs. They will sniff out the bait and gobble it up with disastrous results. Rodent poison is also highly toxic to your dog, as are pesticides and weed-killers sprayed on the lawn.

What Chemicals Are Dangerous To Your Dog?

Dogs can easily be poisoned by ingesting any of a number of toxic chemicals in your home. Chemical poisoning most commonly occurs when dogs:

  • Drink a tainted substance
  • Clean a toxic substance from their fur
  • Eat a poisoned pest

Most of us fill our homes with hundreds of different chemicals, many of which can cause a violent reaction in your dog. The products listed below are examples of some of the most common offenders.

The Worst Offenders: Petroleum Products, Acids, and Alkalis (caustics)

Caustic chemicals are the most dangerous substances to your dog. Caustic chemicals burn your dog’s mouth and throat. Do NOT induce vomiting, which can cause even further damage.

  • Kerosene
  • Gasoline
  • Lighter fluid
  • Drain cleaner
  • Lime
  • Floor, shoe and furniture polish
  • Toilet bowl cleaner
  • Paint thinner
  • Paint remover
  • Wax
  • Oven cleaner
  • Wood preservatives (creosote)
  • Dishwasher soap
  • Lye
  • Battery acid “” Phenol based substances (disinfectants, fungicides, photographic developers)
  • Solvents
  • Chlorine Bleach
  • Etching solutions
  • Ammonia

Symptoms Of Poisoning From Caustic Chemicals Include:

  • Ulcerated or inflamed tongue
  • Grayish yellow burns on lips, mouth or tongue
  • Bloody vomit
  • Shock
  • Abdominal pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Iinability to eat because of sore mouth
  • Bad smell emanating from mouth because of dying tissue
  • Excessive salivation

Other Toxic Chemicals:

  • Bleach
  • Detergents
  • Dyes
  • Pesticides
  • Aerosol sprays
  • Herbicides
  • Phosphorus (non safety kitchen matches) “” Glues “” Acetone “” Naphthalene (mothballs)
  • Boric Acid (shaving lotion)
  • Carbon tetrachloride (fire extinguisher, liquid) “” Borax compound (fire extinguisher, powder)
  • Deodorants
  • Fabric softener
  • Pine oil

Symptoms Of Poisoning From These Chemicals Include:

  • Vomiting
  • Panting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Drooling
  • Trembling limbs and trouble walking
  • Convulsions
  • Yelping “”
  • Appetite
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression

How Much Exercise Does My Dog Need?

Dogs should get at least half an hour, four times per week of walking, running, playing fetch, and any other games you can think up. That said, daily exercise is still best for keeping your dog happy, healthy and well behaved.

Many dogs that display behavior problems such as digging and chewing probably aren’t getting enough exercise. They may be trying to burn off their excess energy or acting out of frustration because they’re bored or anxious waiting for you to return. If you can’t get home in time to take your dog for a walk, consider hiring a pet sitter or a neighborhood teenager to exercise your pet.

Some breeds of dogs naturally need more activity than others. That’s why it’s important to choose a breed carefully depending on where you live. A Border Collie or German Shepherd might thrive in the country where they have room to run, but a Pomeranian or Toy Poodle might do better with apartment living.

Dogs need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies, which is why training is so beneficial for you and your pet. Not only are you teaching her how to behave, but she’s probably getting tired from all that concentrating. When you’re done with your training session, you’ll likely find that your dog is ready for a long nap.

How Long Can I Leave My Dog Alone?

f you isolate your dog for an extended time, she may suffer emotional stress and/or develop behavioral problems. Leaving your dog alone for long periods of time can create two kinds of problems. The first is the physical discomfort and emotional distress dogs experience when they have to relieve themselves but know they are not supposed to, plus the added stress of having an “accident” and knowing they might be punished for it. The second derives from the dog’s need to socialize with people or other dogs.

It is best to introduce a young puppy into your home during your vacation time or when someone can be with her for her first couple of weeks at home. Puppies need to relieve themselves every two or three hours, or more often, until they develop proper muscle control. If you have to leave a young dog alone all day, be sure to provide her with water and a small area covered with newspapers for elimination. Do not lock her in a cage without access to these basic necessities. It is appropriate to restrict her to a small area portion of the house, such as the kitchen.

Coming home at lunchtime or hiring a dog sitter to let your puppy out during the day are good ideas. This prevents messes in the house and gives your puppy a chance to socialize — an important part of her learning and growth. Experts recommend spending several hours a day with your puppy and introducing her to other people when she is between 7 and 12 weeks old. At that age, she is developing the capacity to understand and adjust to new situations. She also needs to learn to play with and obey humans so she won’t be skittish as she grows up. Leaving her alone for extended periods will hamper this socialization process.

You can leave older dogs alone for longer periods than puppies but you should try not to be gone for more than eight hours. Your dog needs a routine: to know exactly when she’ll be fed and when she’ll be let out. If you fail to establish a schedule and stick with it, she will revert.

How Do I Make My Dog Child Proof?

Proper socialization is key to kid-proofing your dog. You should introduce your puppy to children as soon as possible so she’ll learn that a child’s boisterous behavior is not a threat. Otherwise, your dog could be frightened by a child’s yelling and running and lash out defensively.

If you don’t have children or have adopted a dog that’s been around adults all its life, you’ll need to approach the socialization process even slower. Take your dog for a walk in a park where she can see and hear children playing. This will help her get used to the sight, sound, and smell of kids, but she may still be frightened if a child approaches her. If this happens, hold your small dog in your arms or squat beside your larger dog as you instruct the child to pet the animal gently. Talk soothingly to the dog and encourage the child to do the same. This should help your pet learn not to be afraid of close encounters with children.

Just as you teach your dog how to socialize with children, you need to teach children how to act around your dog. Explain to the child that he needs to be kind to and gentle with the animal.

Try the following tips to encourage your dog and children to get along enjoyably:

  • Involve your child in the training and care of the dog. Teach him to give commands like “sit” or “down,” to assist with feeding, and to help with letting the dog out.
  • Do not allow your children or others to tease the dog physically or verbally.
  • Do not let a small child pick up or carry a puppy-children don’t have the strength to do it properly.
  • Do not allow your child or other children to play with the dog without adult supervision.
  • Do not allow children to scream or fight with each other around the dog. They may perceive such activity as something they need to protect “their” children from.
  • Never leave an infant or a toddler alone with your dog

Why Do I Need To Dog Proof My House?

There are many reasons why you might want to dog-proof your house, but the biggest is the danger to your pet that can lurk just about everywhere. Your dog likes to chew things, and she usually also swallows them. So many things in your house are hazardous to your pet that you need to protect her against them. She certainly will not protect herself; dogs, with their love of games, food and things to chew on, are not the most cautious of creatures. The following are some of the hazards your dog may suffer from if your house is not dog proofed:

  • Poisoning by chemicals
  • Burns
  • Suffocation
  • Choking on small objects
  • Food poisoning
  • Heavy metal poisoning
  • Drowning
  • Electrocution
  • Being lost

What Name Should I Pick For My Dog?

Choosing a name for a new dog or puppy is an important decision. The name will be used to relate to the dog for the rest of his or her life. Take some time in choosing a name, and keep the following suggestions in mind.

Avoid names that sound like commands

When choosing a name for your new pet, choose one that does not sound like a common command. Pets rely on ‘sounds like’ rather than ‘means’ when they try to understand what we are communicating to them. As a result, names like ‘Kit,’ ‘Rum,’ ‘Fay,’ ‘Steel,’ or ‘Joe’ can end up sounding like ‘sit,’ ‘come,’ ‘stay,’ ‘heel,’ or ‘no!’ Your dog will not know which way to turn when you call.

Effective communication between dogs and their human companions is the hallmark of a good relationship. And teaching basic commands are a must. Dogs try so hard to understand what we are saying to them, so why make learning confusing for them, especially when it comes time to teach these important commands? Avoid ‘sound-alike’ names and you will take one step towards effective communication with your pet.

Avoid names that sound like other names

Just as your dog’s name should not sound like a command, it also should not be similar to the names of other household members (human or animal!). This would result in confusion for your dog, and the dog’s namesake.

Keep the name short

Other things to consider are the length of the name. In general, shorter names with one or two syllables will be easier for your pet to recognize than longer names. ?

Try to use “”hard”” consonants and vowels

Hard consonants, such as ‘k,’ ‘d,’ and ‘t’ are easier to hear and distinguish than soft consonants such as ‘f,’ ‘s,’ or ‘m.’ The same is true for vowels. Thus, names such as Katy, Deedee, and Tike are ones that a dog will often recognize and respond to faster than Fern, Shana, or Merl.

Choose a name he or she can grow into

Is my dog too overweight to be healthy?

Over 30+% of all dogs seen by veterinarians are overweight. Dog food companies have gotten too good at providing diets that taste great to dogs — causing most dogs to overeat. An obese dog will be subject to a variety of potential health problems — including fatigue, reduced fertility and assorted heart conditions that can reduce his life span. If your dog is 15% over average weight then he is too fat. If you do not know your dog’s appropriate weight, consult your veterinarian.

If your dog is overweight, you need to check to make sure that you are feeding the proper amount of food. If you are overfeeding, slowly reduce the volume of food to your dog’s proper intake level, but be certain that the food that you are providing will satisfy his nutritional requirements.

From there, you may need to go onto a reducing diet to lower your pet’s weight.

In general, a good goal would be to have your pet lose 0.5-2.0% of its body weight per week. For instance, a 50-pound dog should lose 1/4 to 1 pound per week. A weight loss of 2% or more per week can cause more harm than good.

To discourage obesity in the future, remove the food bowl one hour after serving to prevent your pet from overeating. Encourage your dog to get exercise by playing with him two or more times a day.

If you think you are doing everything correctly, and your dog is still obese, your veterinarian may need to evaluate your pet for possible medical causes — such as low metabolic rate, hypothyroidism or diabetes.

Is There Really A Difference Between Premium Dog Food And The Cheaper Brands?

The choice between standard and premium varieties of dog food is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are significant differences that you should take into consideration. Quality control is one of them. Premium and super-premium foods tend to maintain more consistency in the type and nutrient content of the ingredients used.

    As a general rule, bargain foods are:

  • Designed to supply healthy dogs with the essential nutritional requirements.
  • Manufactured with more fillers and preservatives to ensure longer shelf life.
  • The least expensive food alternative.
    Premium foods are:

  • Energy-rich with a higher protein and fat content, so dogs eat less to get the same nutritional delivery.
  • Enhanced with highly palatable food additives to be more enjoyable.
  • Low bulk and highly digestible, which results in less post-digestive waste.
  • More expensive than bargain commercial dog food.

Whatever your ultimate choice in dog food, check to be sure that the label states that the food is guaranteed to meet the particular life stage of your pet. An adult food will not give a puppy enough energy for proper growth, for example, while a puppy food will quickly make an adult dog obese. The label should also tell you how those guarantees are tested, whether in feeding trials using standards set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, or by meeting AAFCO nutrient concentration recommendations. For best results, buy only veterinarian-recommended food for your dog. And always consult your own veterinarian about special diets or special nutritional requirements that may be needed if your dog has particular medical conditions.

What are the nutritional differences between dry, semi-moist and canned dog foods?

The biggest nutritional difference is, as the name suggests, water content. Canned foods can be up to 70% water, whereas the moisture content of dry food is usually only about 10%. Semi-moist food falls in the middle, with about 33% water content. But, there are other differences as well:

    Dry Foods Are:

  • Composed of cereal, vegetable protein, bone and meat meal.
  • Healthy for the teeth and gums.
  • Moderately inexpensive.
    Semi-Moist Foods Are:

  • Able to provide higher protein content than canned food.
  • Often composed of vegetable protein and meat by-products.
  • Best in combination with dry food, or used as snack or treat.
  • Slightly more expensive than dry foods, without necessarily meeting your dog’s nutritional requirements.
    Canned Foods Are:

  • Composed of meats, meat by-products, vegetables and grains.
  • Highly palatable.
  • Unable to remove plaque and tarter from the teeth and gums, which requires more frequent dental maintenance.
  • Most expensive.

So long as you feed your dog a veterinarian approved commercial dog food designed to meet the nutritional needs of your dog at his current life stage, you don’t need to worry too much about providing a wide variety of foods. At least not for nutritional reasons!

To keep your dog from becoming bored with his food, you can feed two parts dry food to one part canned or semi-moist foods per meal, or two meals of dry food and one meal of canned food daily. Experiment with different flavors of food if you like, but as a general rule, once you hit on a mix (brand) your dog likes, stay with it to avoid the development of feeding problems. Never be tempted to add variety to your dog’s diet by feeding him table scraps, as this will decrease his appetite for the dog food that makes up his primary source of nutrition. Feeding table scraps may also contribute to certain medical diseases namely Pancreatitis.

Further nutritional information will vary from brand to brand. When picking a dog food, be sure it is veterinarian and/or AAFCO (The American Association of Feed Control Officials) approved — this will assure you of proper quality.

Should I Supplement My Dog’s Diet?

Pets, like people, are individuals. As such, they have unique nutritional needs, requiring different levels of vitamins, minerals, fats, protein, fiber, and other nutrients. Even the highest quality pet foods, while providing the majority of nutrients pets need, cannot fulfill the unique nutritional requirements of every individual pet. In fact, no single food will be the right food for every pet at every life stage. Puppies/kittens, pregnant pets, lactating pets, older pets, hard-working pets, and pets with medical conditions all have different nutritional requirements. Supplements can help fulfill these requirements.

Regardless of what kind of food you feed your pet, you may need to add a supplement to ensure your pet has the right levels of nutrients for optimal health. Before giving your pet a supplement, carefully consider the food you are currently feeding, or the food you plan to feed. Also, pay close attention to your pet’s health, your pet’s age/life stage, and any life events (such as pregnancy) that may require a boost/change in nutrition. As always, consult your veterinarian if you have questions about supplements, and whether they’d be appropriate and beneficial for your unique pet. Be sure to monitor your pet for health changes after supplementing, and contact your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns.

How Much Variety Does My Dog Need In His Diet?

So long as you feed your dog a veterinarian approved commercial dog food designed to meet the nutritional needs of your dog at his current life stage, you don’t need to worry too much about providing a wide variety of foods. At least not for nutritional reasons!

To keep your dog from becoming bored with his food, you can feed two parts dry food to one part canned or semi-moist foods per meal, or two meals of dry food and one meal of canned food daily. Experiment with different flavors of food, if you like, but as a general rule, once you hit on a mix (brand) that your dog likes, stay with it to avoid the development of feeding problems.

Never be tempted to add variety to your dog’s diet by feeding him table scraps, as this will decrease his appetite for the dog food that makes up his primary source of nutrition.

Should I Feed My Dog Table Scraps?

Your vet says it and so does every book on caring for your dog: Don’t feed your dog table scraps. The dog food you regularly feed your pet should meet nearly all of his dietary needs.

But the fact is, it’s almost impossible to refuse your dog a treat from the table now and then. As long as you offer table scraps in moderation, and avoid giving your dog certain foods altogether, the occasional treat of “”people food”” can actually enhance your dog’s health. As a rule, never allow table scraps to make up more than 10% of his diet. Feeding table scraps may contribute to certain medical diseases namely Pancreatitis.

    Good Treats

  • Vegetables: Some dog nutritionists recommend that you occasionally add vegetables to your dog’s diet. Veggies good for your dog include carrots, broccoli, cooked squash, zucchini and potatoes.
  • Fruits: Peeled apples, seedless grapes, melons and berries are good fresh fruits to give your dog. Grains: Rice and plain pasta make healthy dog snacks.
  • Meats/Dairy: Your dog’s inner carnivore will adore you for sharing bites of leans meats such as fat trimmed steak, chicken, fish or boiled hamburger meat all of which are good for him in small amounts. (Consider using these meaty treats as a training tool to motivate your dog to learn basic commands.) Plain yogurt is another healthy treat he’ll enjoy.
    Bad Treats
    Certain people foods can be harmful to your dog. Some are downright dangerous to him, while other foods are best avoided because they can lead to obesity and a variety of health problems.

  • Toxic Foods: Never give your dog chocolate or onions. If he accidentally ingests a lot of either, take him to your vet immediately.
  • Sweets: Dogs have a highly developed sweet tooth. But treats of candy, pie or ice cream can cause cavities in dogs, as well as obesity.
  • Fatty/Greasy Foods: In addition to most sweets, some varieties of meats are too fatty to give to your dog. Avoid feeding him duck, pork, veal or venison. And don’t offer him any fried foods.
  • Small Bones: Never offer fish, chicken or turkey bones to your pet. He might choke on small, soft bones, or suffer throat damage from brittle bones.
  • Uncooked or Undercooked Meats: Bacteria in raw fish and chicken, and in raw bones, can make your dog sick. Never feed him scraps from the garbage; the food may have spoiled.

Are There Foods I Shouldn’t Feed My Dog Or Allow Her To Eat?

Yes, there are a number of foods you should not feed your dog, all of them dangerous for various reasons.

Unhealthful And Dangerous Foods

These foods may be toxic, cause allergies or digestive problems, or simply lack nutritional value:

  • Chocolate can cause death or serious health problems.
  • Liver, if more than three servings per week are fed, can lead to vitamin A toxicity.
  • Onions can cause oxidative damage to the red blood cells (Heinz body hemolytic anemia), which can lead to serious illness or death.
  • Bones can splinter and lodge in the throat, stomach or intestines, causing severe illness or death.
  • Raw meat and poultry may harbor dangerous bacteria.
  • Cooked pork contains fat globules that are larger than those of other meats. This fat can clog small blood vessels and cause serious illness or death.
  • Raw eggs often harbor dangerous bacteria, and the whites deplete essential nutrients required for good health.
  • Tuna contains oils that can cause inflammation of the fatty tissues leading to long-term impairment of health.
  • Raw fish contains an enzyme that can deprive your dog of essential nutrients required for good health.
  • Cured meats contain nitrates and toxic preservatives that your dog can’t digest properly.
  • Spicy or greasy foods may cause indigestion.
  • Vegetarian or other special diets may lack essential nutrients required for health.

Plants That Cause Harm

Many varieties of ornamental and garden plants can cause serious health hazards ranging from mild discomfort to death. There are many plants that can be potentially toxic especially if ingested in large amounts. If you feel you pet has eaten something toxic you may need to contact Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 or your regular veterinarian.

Extremely Toxic Plants

These plants can cause death or permanent harm, sometimes when eaten in only small amounts:

  • Castor bean
  • Cherry
  • Easter lily
  • Jimsonweed
  • Mushrooms growing wild
  • Oleander
  • Poison hemlock and water hemlock
  • Rosary Pea
  • Yew

Why Has My Dog Suddenly Started Drinking A Lot Of Water?

Apart from the obvious things, such as exertion or exposure to salt or excess heat, excessive drinking can be one of the first symptoms of a variety of medical problems including diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, pyometra, urinary tract disorders and even poisoning. But before you jump to any conclusions you must first check to see if there are any other changes:

  • Did you change foods? Canned food contains more water than semi-moist or dry, so if your dog is eating drier foods, he will have to drink more to make up for the change.
  • Did you cut off another water source — such as, unfortunately, the toilet — so that your dog now only gets water from its bowl?

If no changes have been made, then there is a problem — one you cannot treat. You need to see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How Much Water Should My Dog Drink?

There are many different factors that affect the needed water intake of a cat, dog, puppy or kitten – so many in fact that it is always wise to provide access to water at all times, so that the animal can regulate its consumption as needed. There are 2 general rules of thumb. One says that for maintenance water consumption (normal daily activity at room temperature), your dog should consume 1 ounce of water per 1 lb. of body weight. The other is that an animal needs to consume 2.5 times the amount of water, as its daily intake of food. If an animal eats 2 lbs. of dry food, he should consume 5 lbs. of water. (There are 8 lbs. in a gallon.)

If he eats 4 oz. of dry food, he should drink 10 ounces of water (1 1/4 cup). If your pet seems to be drinking more than usual for no apparent reason, have your pet checked by your veterinarian. Increased water consumption is a major symptom of several severe diseases. Factors such as high heat and exercise or lactation can increase the needed amount two or three times above normal.

Most animals consume more than their daily requirement. A little extra water consumption never hurts, but too little can be catastrophic. Animals that eat canned foods get most of their moisture from the food and may drink much less than an animal on dry food.

What Can I Do To Get My Sick Dog To Eat?

There are many diseases that cause a pet to not want to eat that need to be addressed first. Until you know the cause of why your pet is not eating, you should not force feed it. If your pet is acting sick in any way and stops eating, you need to consult your veterinarian immediately.

Coaxing Techniques

Whether your dog is stressed or is suffering from a medical condition, you cannot let him go hungry for an extended period of time. You will need to coax him to eat. Here are some strategies you can employ:

  • Moisten dry food with a bit of warm water or gravy to make it more palatable.
  • Hand feed your dog, and talk to him as he eats. Stimulate his appetite by stroking his head and neck.
  • Let your dog lick a bit of food off your finger or off his paw.
  • Use an eyedropper (plastic, not glass) to put liquid food a drop at a time in his mouth.
  • Use a tongue depressor, with a few drops of food on the tip, to feed your dog.
  • Put a drop of food on his nose for him to lick off. Do that a few times, and then try to put a drop of food in his mouth

Syringe Feeding

If coaxing technique strategies fail, rather than risk your dog dying from malnutrition, you will have to consider syringe feeding as a last resort. This means you will be literally force-feeding your dog by pumping food paste down his throat with a syringe. This will be tricky so consult your vet for sound advice. Just to give you an idea, here’s how syringe feeding is done:

  • Use a syringe that has a barrel marked accurately, in milliliters (1/1000 of a liter), for volume. Start by force-feeding your dog a very small amount of food, like 1 ml, and try that for several times. If your dog takes that, then you can scale up the volume of food to 2 ml – 5 ml, depending on the dog.

Should I Use Any Special Precautions When Storing Vitamins And Supplements?

Yes, you need to take precautions when storing vitamins and supplements. These items are often expensive and you will want to maintain their shelf life. As with any medication, they should be kept safely tucked away, out of reach of curious children — or even curious dogs!

Heat, humidity and sunlight are the primary factors which reduce the life of vitamins and supplements. They should be stored in a cool, dry, dark place. Keep all caps and seals tight — the tightest airlock offers the longest life. Shelf life will vary from product to product, so be sure you check all vitamins and supplements for this date. Dispose of any outdated products.

You also need to keep them in a safe place — to assure the safety of children and your pets. You should choose locking cabinets or consider adding an eye-hook latch to an existing cabinet, and store these items in cabinets located at eye level or higher. While these products are not as dangerous as medicines, they should be handled with the same precautions.

Labels will be informative about handling and storage. They should give detailed information about storage, shelf life, and dosage. If you have any questions you should contact the manufacturer, the number should be clearly marked on packaging.