Three unexpected things you need to know to keep your dog healthy

maltese in arms

By Betsy Lane, MA, Education and FetchFind Academy Instructor

We all know the basics of dog care – good food, exercise, regular vet checkups, and sound safety & training practices. But did you know about these three things that can have a big impact your dog’s health?

Getting to the bottom of anal glands

Let’s just get this one out of the way: Anal glands are two little sacs that sit just inside a dog’s anus. They’re filled with super stinky stuff that contains pheromones, and when your dog passes a (firm) stool, some of this material gets squeezed out with the poo. A generation or two ago, dog owners were encouraged to empty these sacs (express the glands by squeezing them) on a routine basis; this was often done by a groomer, vet, or vet tech—or even by brave owners themselves! Like most vets today, Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, advises against fixing what isn’t broken: “If your pets don’t have anal gland problems right now, tell your vets and groomers to please leave them alone. Do not automatically express your pet’s anal glands.”  How do you know when something’s wrong? The most common signs are the dog biting at his or her bottom and/or scooting along the floor on his or her behind. If you see either of these behaviors, it’s time to call your vet.

Poisons! So much more than just chocolate.

Most dog owners know to keep their pups away from chocolate, but in fact coffee and caffeine are also toxic to dogs, because all three contain methylxanthines, which can cause everything from panting and excessive thirst to abnormal heart rhythm and even death. The poison experts at the ASPCA have compiled a list of more than 15 common food items that are toxic to dogs,  including xylitol (a sweetener hidden in everything from breath mints to peanut butter), avocado, citrus, macadamia nuts, and cheese (yes, cheese!). And while we’re on the subject, please put this number in your phone: ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number: (888) 426-4435.

Mats: Much more than an eyesore.

We’ve probably all seen the “before and after” videos of miserable-looking dogs covered in matted fur–and the amazing transformation that comes after the dog receives some grooming TLC! Even in mild cases, we know matted fur doesn’t look good–but it doesn’t feel good, either, and can pose very real health risks to dogs. Dr. Julie Horton, DVM, says, “matted hair can lead to severe medical problems for pets,” including skin irritations, lesions, and even maggots! As if that’s not bad enough, mats collect debris, feces, and urine, trapping it next to a dog’s sensitive skin. Mats are a painful, unhealthy, expensive road nobody wants to travel—and they can be avoided with proper coat care. Get started by asking groomer about the best tools for your dog’s at-home maintenance, then augment that routine with regular appointments with an experienced professional groomer (every 4 to 6 weeks is a good rule of thumb). PetSmart® Grooming Salons take reservations online, have 1000s of locations, often have coupons, and always have a Look Great Guarantee!

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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.