How to help your dog’s allergies

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By Mary Beth Miller

Humans aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, scratchy allergies.

Just like us, our dogs develop allergy symptoms when their immune system begins red flagging every particle of pollen, dust. or mold. Although harmless in the environment, a small allergen can become a big problem if it is ingested, inhaled, or comes into contact with the skin.

If your dog is a seasonal or chronic allergy sufferer, it is of the utmost importance that you learn everything you can on how to help your dog’s allergies.

Keep an eye out for allergy symptoms

Dogs with allergies are pretty hard to ignore. The constant itching, scratching, and chewing are enough to make everyone in the house crazy. However, there are other allergy symptoms a dog can develop that you may not immediately pick up on.

In an attempt to rid the body of these “dangerous” substances, dogs can develop a variety of respiratory, digestive, and skin-related symptoms.

  •       Constant licking
  •       Swollen paws
  •       Hot spots
  •       Snoring (the result of an swollen throat)
  •       Diarrhea
  •       Vomiting
  •       Sneezing
  •       Itchy ears
  •       Ear infections
  •       Itchy back
  •       Itchy tail
  •       Watery eyes
  •       Scabbed, moist, red, and itchy skin
Identify the allergens

Canine allergies mirror that of human allergies, but you might not think of these common allergens as affecting your dog:

  •       Food substances (soy, wheat, corn, pork, chicken, beef)
  •       Plastic or rubber materials
  •       Flea and mite shampoos
  •       Fabric
  •       Cleaning products
  •       Perfumes
  •       Topical flea/tick preventatives
  •       Prescription drugs
  •       Cigarette smoke
  •       Feathers
  •       Dander
  •       Mold
  •       Weed, grass, or tree pollen
  •       Fleas
  •       Dust mites
Keep allergens out of your home & off your dog

Wherever a dog roams, environmental allergens are present. The pollen from the grass and flowers are carried in on your pet’s fur and paws. Not only does your dog bring these eye watering substances in your home, but you could be carrying them inside the home, too.  And don’t forget about fleas! Adult fleas and their eggs can easily be carried in on the bottom of your shoes or hitch a ride with your dog.

Here is a list of easy and effective tips to reduce environmental and pest allergies:

1. To prevent tracking in allergens, wipe your dog’s paws with a damp washcloth before entering the house; leave your own shoes outside or in a mudroom or garage.  

2. Give your dog a weekly bath and brush him daily to remove pollen from the fur.

3. Vacuum, dust. and sweep the home regularly to pick up any stragglers that you might have missed.

4. Wash your dog’s bedding and plush toys regularly with a gentle, hypoallergenic detergent.   

Pinpoint your dog’s allergies

If your dog is suffering from an allergy you just can’t put your finger on, you may want to consider an intradermal skin test. Performed by a veterinary dermatologist, an intradermal skin test or allergy test will help pinpoint the cause(s) of all that itchiness. 

The process of a skin test involves shaving a small patch of hair on the dog’s body to visibly see the skin’s reaction to various allergens after they are injected under the skin.

If your dog is indeed allergic to a substance, the injection site will swell, redden, and become itchy. The test is highly effective (if pricey) and allows the vet to isolate an allergen, planning a course of action.

If having a skin allergy test performed on your dog is a bit out of your price range, there are other at home tests you can do.

Monitoring your dog’s symptoms inside and outside the home is also an effective way to pinpoint an allergy, it will just take more time. If your dog tends to have more allergies inside the home than out, you may want to focus on dust mites, mold, or fleas as the culprits.

Don’t forget about food allergies! Food products such as soy, wheat, corn, pork, dairy, chicken, or beef are all common ingredients in dog food and treats. If you notice your dog has itchy skin combined with hair loss, vomiting, and diarrhea, you may want to take a look at that bowl of kibble. Talk to your veterinarian about a safe way to conduct a food allergy experiment with your dog.

Maintain flea treatments

It only takes one flea to turn your dog into an itchy mess. Flea allergy dermatitis, an overreaction to flea saliva, is very common in dogs, especially sighthounds. Hair loss on the back and tail base are sure signs your dog is allergic to fleas.

The best way to prevent flea allergies is to keep the tiny pests off Fido. Talk with your veterinarian to select the best flea preventative that works for you and your dog.

Allergies are everywhere and we aren’t the only ones who suffer from itchy, watery eyes, and dry, scratchy skin. A large number of our dogs seem to be cursed with overactive immune systems, too. Your dog’s allergies cannot be cured, but you can make allergy season more bearable for everyone!

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. MaryBeth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.

How much water should your dog be drinking?

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By Emily Bruer

It’s important for us to know what is and what isn’t normal for our pets. Things like water intake, appetite and energy levels can be indicative of your pet’s health and well-being. If your dog’s habits suddenly change it could be due to a medical condition or a change in his environment.

The answer to “how much water your dog should drink?” is far from a straightforward one. Each dog is unique in size and metabolism and each dog’s water intake will be different. The best way to know how much your dog should drink is simply by observing him.

It’s normal for dogs to drink after exercise, eating, and sleeping. They also will drink sporadically throughout the day, so get to know your dog’s habits when he is healthy.

Another great way to know if your dog is drinking enough water is by checking his urine. Stand near your dog when he is urinating; if there is a strong odor to the urine, or it seems to be a dark yellow or orange color, it could mean that your dog is dehydrated. Similarly, if the urine is pink or red it is an indication of blood in the urine and you should get your dog to the vet right away, as they could have an infection or stones in their bladder.

Another great way to test your dog’s hydration levels is by gently lifting the scruff (the skin on the back of your dog’s neck) until it is taut, and then letting it go. If it immediately falls back into place your dog is hydrated, but if it takes longer than a few seconds your dog could be dehydrated.

If you believe your dog is dehydrated, but he isn’t interested in drinking water, a trip to the vet is in order. When an animal is dehydrated for too long it can cause damage to the kidneys as well as other internal organs. Better safe than sorry when it comes to hydration and your dog’s health!

Water temperature – When offering your dog water one thing to keep in mind is the water’s temperature. While it is tempting to give your dog ice cold water, it’s actually much healthier to let your dog have water that is room temperature.

When a warm dog ingests ice cold water their body must then use valuable energy to warm up the water. If it doesn’t, it can cause your dog to have a tummy ache or even throw up.

Not too much –  Another common cause of vomiting in dogs is drinking too much water. If you have just brought your dog in from a hot day or from a bout of vigorous play, his first instinct will be to drink a lot of water.

Unfortunately, if they have access to an unlimited supply they will often drink too much and then proceed to puke it back up. It can also cause a condition called bloat. You can find the symptoms here.

To prevent too much water intake, offer your dog several small bowls of water every 10-15 minutes until they are cooled off and relaxed. Once they have calmed down, you can put their normal water bowl back down and let them have access to the unlimited supply.

Every dog is different when it comes to water intake and bathroom habits. Get to know your dog’s routine while he is young and healthy, so you can recognize potential problems as he ages. If you notice an abnormal change in your dog’s routine don’t put off calling your vet, as what could be a simple infection could quickly get worse without treatment.

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emily-bruer-pawedinEmily Bruer has been penning the adventures of her imagination since she was old enough to hold a pencil. Working at animal shelters for the last five years she learned an incredible amount about animal care and behavior. She is currently employed at a vet clinic where she continues her animal education. Emily’s love of animals is evident when you step into her home, which she shares with six dogs and six cats, all of whom were rescues.

How to prevent urinary tract infections in cats

Cat in Kitchen Sitting on Counter

By Mary Beth Miller

Did you know bladder infections are the number one reason cats visit the veterinarian?

In fact, feline urinary tract infections (FUTIs) affect over 3% of the feline population just in the U.S. alone, not including all the cases that are left untreated. Whether your cat has experienced bladder infections in the past or not, your cat is at a constant risk.

What is a feline urinary bladder infection? 

A urinary tract infection occurs when environmental bacteria enters the urinary system. Bacteria live and grow in warm, damp places, which explains why these bacteria thrive inside the hollow organ that is the bladder. Although commonly referred to as a bladder infection, the infection can take place inside any of the three parts that make up the urinary tract—the bladder, ureters, and urethra. Symptoms of a FUTI include:

  • polyuria (excessive urination)
  • pain during urination
  • fever
  • straining or inability to urinate
  • vocalization during urination
  • abdominal pain
  • bloody urine
  • increased water intake
Causes of cat bladder infections

A cat can develop an infection of the bladder for many reasons, including:

Improper hygiene – Cats often develop a urinary tract infection due to feces entering the reproductive organ. Close proximity between vagina and anus in female cats can cause fecal matter to enter the urinary system while defecating.

Decreased water intake – The process of urination allows the body to eliminate waste and toxic materials, but this process can only occur with the presence of water. The less water a feline drinks, the greater the chance of developing an infection.

Reproduction activities – Intact females often develop urinary tract infections because the breeding process moves bacteria into the body.

Medical ailments – Medical problems such as cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) often result in secondary bladder infections.

Stress – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and causes the bladder pH level to become imbalanced, which allows bacteria and yeast to form within the bladder.

How to prevent a feline urinary tract infection

There are several ways to help prevent FUTIs.

Clean your cat’s litter box daily – The less fecal and urinary matter your cat is exposed to, the lesser chance they have of contaminating themselves with bacteria.

Provide an appropriate number of litter boxes in the household – The general rule for litter boxes is having a box for each cat, plus one extra. Cats tend to assign themselves a litter box that they use regularly. A litter box for each cat can also make it easier for you, the owner, to identify health problems. For example, if one litter box is fuller than the other, you can assume that cat is using it more often and should be monitored.

Provide clean, fresh water every day and wash the water bowl – The probability of a cat developing problems within the bladder is increased when he or she is not drinking enough water.  A cat is more likely to drink water when it is clean and fresh.

Decrease stress in the home – Stress triggers hormone levels in the body to rise and can cause imbalances in your cat’s bladder pH levels, which in turn can cause recurring infections.

Closely monitor for higher risk factors – Cats over the age of 10 and those allowed to reproduce are at higher risk for developing bladder infections.

To help prevent future infections, your vet may prescribe D-Mannose, a non-metabolizing sugar to which bacteria attaches for subsequent excretion in the urine. D-Mannose is not a drug, but is highly effective in cats with recurrent bladder infections.

If your cat has had a bladder infection in the past, or is showing any of the above symptoms, always consult your veterinarian. Only an animal medical professional can diagnose your cat’s condition and make an appropriate treatment plan.

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals.

 

10 common yard items that can be dangerous for pets

 

dog garden flowers

By Rebecca Paciorek

Spring is finally here, and the weather is getting better every day! You’ve planted flowers to make your yard look nice, you’ve built a swing set for the kids and a fence for the dog, and you’re thrilled to have that cute new shed to store things in. But have you taken a good look around to suss out the possible dangers to your furry friends?

Every year many animals are injured because of hidden yard dangers. Of considerable importance are various plants that may be beautiful to look at, but can be very toxic when ingested.

Lilies – Not all lilies are toxic, but the more dangerous ones are the “true” lilies, including the Tiger, Day, Asiatic, Easter, and Japanese Show lilies. While toxic to dogs, they are HIGHLY toxic to cats. Just a couple petals can be very dangerous, so keep an eye on those Easter gifts, inside or outside of the home.

Hydrangeas – Hydrangeas can cause serious gastrointestinal issues when ingested (the leaves and flowers contain the highest concentrations of toxins). Symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, and diarrhea.

Daffodils – The flowers and leaves are toxic, but the bulbs are particularly dangerous; they can cause vomiting, extreme salivation, diarrhea, convulsions, low blood pressure, tremors, and cardiac arrhythmias.

Oleanders – Oleanders can cause colic, diarrhea, drooling, vomiting, tremors, seizures, respiratory distress, and cardiac failure. Oleanders are dangerous to multiple species (cats, dogs, horses, cattle, and humans) so it’s best to keep all of your animals far away.

Azaleas – In addition to the usual gastrointestinal symptoms, azaleas may cause confusion, lack of coordination, or even paralysis.

For a more comprehensive list of plants that can be dangerous for your pets, click here. 

Other common yard items that can pose a danger to pets include:

Fertilizers – If you have pets, it’s best to avoid fertilizing your lawn if at all possible. If you must fertilize, keep them inside while any sprays are being put down so that they don’t get anything on their paws to lick later.

Swing sets – Wooden play sets produced prior to 2003 may be constructed of arsenic-treated wood, which is toxic to both people and animals. You will want to keep all swing sets in good repair to prevent splintering. The splinters can be dangerous should your pet swallow or step on them. Also, wooden play sets are vey attractive to bees and wasps; ask your local exterminator for tips on keeping stinging insects at bay.

Ticks and mosquitoes – Mosquitoes can carry heartworm and the West Nile virus; they like to breed in still water, such as decorative ponds or other areas of stagnant or standing water in your yard (think rain barrels or clogged gutters).

Ticks are typically found around tree-filled areas, but they can be anywhere. In addition to Lyme disease, ticks can also carry ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (among other things). To see what kind of ticks are prevalent in your area, check out the Tick Activity Map on the Tick Encounter Resource Center website.

Garages and sheds – Though it’s handy to have a shed or garage in your backyard, there are many things typically stored there that could prove dangerous to your pets, such as fertilizers and insecticides. Fluids that contain ethylene glycol (which has a sweet taste) are also very dangerous; these include antifreeze, windshield de-icing agents, motor oils, hydraulic brake fluid, photo developing solutions, paints, solvents, etc. Ethylene glycol poisoning can be fatal unless treated immediately.

Fences – While it’s great to have a fence for your pet, if it is not in good shape it can prove dangerous. If Fido sees a squirrel on the other side, he may try to squeeze through a small hole or slide underneath. This behavior can lead to injury from metal fence parts that are sticking out. Walk the perimeter of your fence from time to to keep an eye out for any holes and or other dangers.  If you have a wooden fence, periodically inspect the slats and crosspieces for stinging insects.

What to do in an emergency

If you notice symptoms like lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, etc., the first thing to do is consult your vet. They will most likely ask you about your yard and home and potential dangers your pet may have encountered. If you know what your pet has ingested, or have a range of potential culprits, bring the plants or containers to the vet if possible so they can develop the most effective treatment plan.

Resources

 

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rebecca-paciorek-pawedinRebecca Paciorek is an avid animal lover, particularly dogs, and loves volunteering for animal shelter events. Her degree is in Communications from Miami University and she specializes in digital media. Rebecca, her husband and their son are “foster failures” of a shelter dog named Lucy. Lucy needs a friend but Rebecca is hesitant because she’s not sure she can spoil another dog quite as much.

 

 

What is the link between white dogs and deafness?

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By Mary Beth Miller

Did you know that dogs with predominantly white coats can be prone to deafness? Approximately 85 different dog breeds have been reported to carry the trait that causes congenital deafness.

Deafness is defined as a loss of hearing caused by a delivery interruption of sound to the brain. When sound waves reach the eardrum, it vibrates like a big gong, causing the middle ear bones (or “ossicles”) to vibrate as well. These vibrations reach the fluid-filled, spiral-shaped cochlea of the inner ear, creating waves.

All this commotion causes a pressure change and forces the cochlea’s hair cells to move. These hair cells are connected to the auditory (hearing) nerves, which sparks a nerve impulse down the auditory pathway that connects to the brain. (For more detailed info on the structure of the ear, click here.)

What does a white coat have to do with hearing loss? The ability to hear is made possible by a special layer of cells within the inner ear. This specialized layer of cells, and the cells that determine hair color, come from the same stem cell source. Without this stem cell, the dog’s body won’t be able to make this specialized layer of hearing cells and will likely be white in coloration.

Dogs that carry the piebald gene are often affected by deafness. Piebaldism results from the absence of melanocytes, the cells that create the pigment melanin. These melanocytes are the part a dog’s DNA that determines coloration, such as brown or black hair, or blue or brown eyes. (Blue eyes are not a true eye color, but rather result from the lack of color-producing pigment within the iris.) When a dog is born without melanocytes, a predominantly white coat (and often blue eyes) is the result. Breeds commonly affected by the piebald gene include Bull Terriers, Boxers, English Setters, and Dalmatians.

Congenital deafness is also linked to the merle gene, which causes a dog to have a merle (or dapple) coat and blue eyes.  Breeds commonly affected by the merle gene include Old English Sheepdogs, dapple Dachshunds, Welsh Corgis, and Border Collies.

The only way to effectively test a dog’s hearing is through a Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) test, which evaluates the components of the external ear canal, middle/inner ear cavities, cranial nerve, and selected areas of the brainstem. Electrodes are attached to the skull to measure the electrical activity within the brain, a series of clicks are passed through headphones placed over or in the dog’s ears, and the responses recorded. If there is a hearing deficit, the BAER response is absent (flat line) or reduced in amplitude. BAER tests can determine whether a dog is deaf in one (unilateral deafness) or both ears (bilateral deafness). Note: tests performed on puppies younger than six weeks of age can produce false positive results.

If you suspect that your dog is deaf (regardless of coat and eye color), talk to your veterinarian about performing a BAER test and the appropriate steps and training to help your dog live a happy, normal life.

Learn more about dog genetics and coat markings here. 

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mary-beth-miller-pawedinMary Beth Miller is a registered veterinary technician from southeast Iowa. She works in a large/small animal veterinary clinic and also volunteers at the local Humane Society, Emergency Animal Care Center, as well as the Iowa Parrot Rescue. Her passion lies in helping save the lives of animals. Mary Beth has three dogs, a Siberian husky named Rocky and two rescue dogs named Sambita and Nina.