Thursday, December 31, 2009

Giving your dog a pill

Lots of dogs get pills – either daily health supplements like glucosomine or fish oil, or occasional antibiotics or other medications.

Some dogs will simply take a pill that’s mixed with their food, while others meticulously eat around it or spit it up. Others will eat a pill that’s ground up then sprinkled on their food. While this option is good for supplements, because some of the pill is wasted at the bottom of the bowl, it may not be a good option for medications where exact doses are needed.

To make the task easier, tastier and more fun for your dog, pill pockets do the trick. Commercially available pill pockets are available at most pet stores and cost about 25 cents each. A more economical, home-made option is to use a slice of wiener. No dog can resist the amazing aroma and taste of a pill stuffed wiener. Give it a try and watch your dog’s eyes light up!

Lastly, when you find out that your dog needs a pill, be thankful that you have a dog, rather than a cat. With dogs, there’s far less hissing, biting and scratching. Anyone who has ever had to give a cat a pill knows exactly what I mean :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Enjoying the festive season with your dog

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. It’s also the time of the year where your over-excited dog can get into some extra special trouble. Here are a few quick tips to add a layer of safety over your Christmas fun:

  • Avoid decorating with tinsel. When ingested, it can wrap around intestines and cause internal damage. If you notice any tinsel near your pet’s anus, take your pet to the vet. Do not pull it out, as the tearing action can do more damage.
  • Keep seasonal toxic plants like poinsettia, holly and mistletoe out of your dog’s reach so they can avoid getting into it and having digestive troubles.
  • Never feed your dog cooked turkey bones. They’re brittle, can splinter and cause internal damage.
  • Chocolate is extremely toxic. We recommend that you eat it up as quickly as possible so your dog has no chance of getting into it :)

If your dog has any after-hours medical emergencies, we’re really lucky because 24/7 veterinary care is now available in Regina at the 24-Hour Animal Hospital. Keep their number handy in case of emergency - it's 306.761.1449.

We wish you and your furry family a very safe and merry Christmas!

Louise, Dan, Daisy and Buddy

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Paying veterinary bills: an introduction to pet insurance

One of our customers has two beautiful, typically boingy golden retrievers. Last year, both needed surgery. One suffered from bloat and torsion, then six months later, the other needed surgery for an intestinal obstruction. Total bill $6,000. Ouch!

A lot of people expect to pay for food, licensing, vaccinations and other basic services, but are caught off guard by the high cost of emergency medical care. We hear similar stories all the time. Monitoring after a stroke and multiple seizures $1,800. Anterior cruciate ligament surgery $2,500. Dental cleaning and extractions $750. Metacam prescription for one year $720.

Conversely, instead of paying for effective, but costly medical procedures pets are often surrendered or euthanized - this is known as “economic euthanasia”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if a treatment decision would be about what’s best for the dog rather than what’s affordable at the moment? Planning ahead can give you peace-of-mind, save you money and, ultimately, may save your dog’s life.

One family we know, puts away $100 each month into their dogs’ savings account. This family’s previous dog had a lot of medical expenses during her golden years, so they’re planning ahead.

Some families can easily afford the bills and don’t worry too much. Both Money Sense Magazine (December/January 2011, page 11) and a Virginia veterinarian recommend that “If a bill of $10,000 or less would not place catastrophic strain on your family or if you are disciplined enough to regularly save for your pet’s future care, then pet insurance is probably not necessary.”

Other families choose pet insurance. Many pet insurance options are affordable when the pet is very young, but quite expensive for older dogs or multi-pet families, and typically excludes hereditary or pre-existing conditions. If you’re considering insurance, do some comparison shopping. Read the policy fine print to compare total costs, deductibles, co-pays and coverage limits, pre-existing problems and hereditary exclusions, and cancellation fees. Some policies also include third party property damage liability resulting from your pet’s actions. Watch out for policies that offer low policy caps as you may be left with a significant bill to pay. The Washington Office of the Insurance Commissioner publishes a list of questions to ask when pricing out pet insurance:

  • Can I choose my vet?
  • Is there a waiting period?
  • Do you cover routine wellness exams?
  • Do you cover neutering or spaying?
  • Does the plan include prescription drug coverage?
  • Do you cover claims annually or by incident?
  • If the coverage is by incident, is there a time limit?
  • Is there a dollar limit for vet office fees?
  • If my pet has a pre-existing or hereditary condition, will this plan cover it?
  • Does this plan cover chronic or recurring conditions?
  • How long do you take to pay claims?
  • Do you give discounts for insuring multiple pets?
  • Does this plan cover advertising costs and rewards if my pet is lost or stolen?
  • Does this plan make payouts if my pet is being treated and dies?

When doing comparison shopping, check out the Pet Insurance Review. This web site helps pet owners shop for pet insurance by getting customer reviews so you can see how satisfied or dissatisfied others are with their existing policies. And finally, to help you on your way, here’s a list of Canadian pet insurance providers: HBC, PC Financial (President’s Choice), Pet Care, Pet Plan, PetSecure, PurinaCare and Vetinsurance. (A USA list is available at

Choosing how to finance your pet’s medical issues is a very personal decision. If you choose insurance, please do your homework to make sure you’re 100 percent certain about what you’re getting in exchange for what you’re paying.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Our tough Saskatchewan winters are awesome for your dog’s health

Photo: Rocky at play

As you’re shivering your way through this nasty -30° C cold snap, you probably didn’t think about the good that it’s doing for your dog.

In addition to taking your breath away, this frigid weather kills nasty bugs that thrive in warmer climates. We don’t have much of a problem with fleas, and thankfully viruses like H3N8 Canine Influenza that crop up in warmer climates tend to be non-issues here in Canada.

If you take your dog traveling with you to warmer climates, talk with your vet about extra precautions you should take that may include additional vaccinations. If you’re staying home through the winter, grab a blanket and smile as you snuggle your healthy, happy dog.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The scoop on poop: dealing with doggie diarrhoea

We got a call last week from a customer who wanted to send their two large dogs out for the weekend. It all sounded great until we asked the customer about medications and he mentioned that both dogs were being treated for Giardia. Stop right there – Giardia, otherwise known as Beaver Fever, is a zoonotic disease – meaning it’s one of many contagious diseases between people and animals. Needless to say, because of the risks, the dogs are not coming to our kennel.

If your dog has occasional diarrhoea, let them skip a meal, then for their first meal, serve cooked white rice – if you’d like, you can add a little chicken broth or cooked ground beef or turkey to it. If the stools return to normal, return to your normal feeding routine – if not, try the rice option another time.

However, if the diarrhoea persists or is recurring, take your dog along with a stool sample to your vet to find out if it’s something more serious. If it’s Giardia, vets typically treat it with a round of medication and recommend that your dog be isolated from other dogs. After the treatment, your vet will likely do one or more follow-up stool samples to check if it’s cleared.

Ways to minimize risks of you or your pet catching or transmitting Giardia or other zoononic diseases include:

  • Keep hands clean. Properly wash your hands after contacting animals – use soap and water, scrub for at least 20 seconds, then rinse well. When soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers.
  • Don’t let dogs drink from standing water such as puddles, ponds or lakes, or “community” sources that other dogs have access to.
  • Don’t let your dog lick you – especially around your nose and mouth areas. Avoid contacting your pet’s mouth, nose and feet. Dogs can pick up disease on their foot pads, then if you shake a paw, those diseases can transfer to you. Keep your hands away from your mouth, nose or face including not letting your children pick their noses, suck their thumbs or chew their finger nails.
  • Scoop poop immediately. Don’t let your dog sniff other dog’s poop. Use gloves when poop scooping, and wash hands immediately after handling it.
  • If your dog has diarrhoea, don’t let other dogs come into contact. Until it’s cleared, avoid dog parks, training classes or kennels. If your dog has had Giardia, disclose that fact and ensure that it’s clear before returning to these places.
  • Give your dog minimal contact with the floor and exterior grounds areas around animal shelters and veterinary clinics. If you volunteer at a shelter, keep your footwear, dog crates and vehicles clean between your shelter visits and your home.
  • If you’re sick, reduce contact with your pet and cough into your sleeve rather than your hands. If you’re immunosuppressed, ask your vet about using “killed vaccines” rather than “modified live vaccines” for your pet.
  • Don’t pet stray or unknown animals. If you go to petting zoos, don’t eat or drink, or take items like baby bottles or soothers, and wash your hands and shoes immediately after.
  • Focus on hygiene. Trim the hair around your dog’s anus and genital area, and keep them clean so micro-organisms aren’t carried around. Keep your dog’s bedding areas clean and dry.

If you’re interested in this topic, two excellent sources of additional information are the Worms and Germs Blog and a back-dated Animal Sheltering Magazine article.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Living with dogs and kids

I’ve always loved animals. That’s my first dog King. He was my protector and my friend. I was always the kid who asked for cats and dogs – anything furry would do. For a while, my parents said “no” to pets, then I started keeping baby field mice in our porch. That's how I got Kitty and my dog Chuckie.

If you watch movies – especially Disney movies – dogs and kids always get along. In real life, it’s not always that way. Dogs are not people – every one of them has a bite threshold. For some, it’s short, for others, it’s long, but any dog can bite.

If you’re bringing a new baby into your life, you can prepare your dog for baby’s arrival in a lot of ways - read up about the topic, get into a post-baby routine before the baby arrives, tug at the dog as a child would, and scent the dog’s toys with almond oil to distinguish them from baby toys. Groups like Dogs and Storks have lots of useful information and tips.

And it’s also important to teach your children how to behave around dogs. While your own dog may be fabulous with kids, it’s best that they know what to do around strange dogs.

If you’re worried that your dog will hurt your young child, it may be in everyone’s best interests to find another home for your dog. Living in fear is not an option. Our own dog Buddy came to live with us because of that kind of situation, and its turned out to be the best thing for that family, our family, and for our Buddy.

If you’re interested in this topic, here are some additional resources:

Canine IQ test

Regarding Rover Podcast

Wall Street Journal article

DogGoneSafe Bite prevention rules

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Learning about pet first aid

Last weekend I taught the Walks N Wags Pet First Aid class to a group of dog lovers – pet sitters, kennel operators/breeders, a dog sledder (who has 60 dogs of her own), a pet retailer, dog trainers, and a bunch of folks who simply love their pets.

Taking this class is a great way to learn about preventing health problems, and to stay calm and have confidence when dealing with illness and injury. A lot of people access pet first aid information, but there’s nothing quite like concentrating, practicing and talking about it for 10 hours to really understand it and feel comfortable in an emergency.

The next Regina class is February 20 and 21, 2010. To register, call the Regina Humane Society at 543-6363 ext 221. If you’re in BC, Alberta, Ontario and New York, check out a complete list of dates.

You can also check out more photos from the class.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reducing your dog’s environmental paw print

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

- Gandhi

Lots of people are getting onto the environmental bandwagon by reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering, but often don’t think about making environmentally friendly choices for their pets. There are lots of little things that you can do to make a big difference.

When getting a new pet, start the reuse cycle by adopting a shelter or rescue dog.

Buy quality, bulk, minimally packaged food and treats – or make your own using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. In addition to being healthier overall, quality food creates less poo. Recycle pet food cans and plastic packaging.

Speaking of poo, clean up after your dog, using biodegradable bags, and rather than sending your poo to the landfill, set up a backyard compost station.

Support local vendors who produce earth-friendly food and toys. But don’t get green-washed - ask questions to find out how many kilometres their product travels to reach you to move between manufacturer, warehouse, retailer and you. Often there’s a lot of back-tracking, so the product is far less environmentally friendly than you may have thought it to be.

Select long-lasting toys. My dog Daisy goes through stuffed toys way too quickly – but a Kong stuffed with peanut butter or frozen kibble lasts.

Use earth-friendly shampoos and grooming products.

Use natural and safe parasite treatments instead of toxic chemicals. Natural isn’t always safe, so make sure that you understand what you’re putting on your dog. Before you treat with anything, if you don’t understand it, ask your vet about it.

Choose collars, leashes and clothing made with environmentally friendly fabrics like hemp.

Use towels and blankets as bedding from second-hand stores. Get creative by transforming those towels and blankets into artistic, original, hand-made dog beds.

Take long walks. It’s a great way to bond with your dog, while avoiding more environmentally un-friendly entertainment choices. While you’re out, bring a filled and lidded-water bowl so you don’t need to purchase environmentally unfriendly, bottled water.

When packing your dog’s bags when going on vacation, rather than using plastic baggies for their toys, treats and food, use reusable, washable packaging.

When you buy and do anything, rethink it to discover more earth-friendly options.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Bond with your dog using positive training methods

Our first Golden Retriever Gryphon came to live with us in the eighties. We were young. We didn’t know what to do for him. We enrolled him in puppy kindergarten and thoroughly loved the experience. In addition to great early socialization Gryphon learned the basics of sit, stay, come and heel. We liked it so much that we signed up for the next class. What an eye-opener. The instructor told us to stick a dumbbell into his mouth, then pinch his ear until he held the weight. We couldn’t do it. We left and never went back. We couldn’t believe that good dog training included pain.

Years later with Daisy and Buddy we discovered agility. We had fun learning clicker training, playing games and exercising their minds. Then the new instructor yelled at Daisy until she cowered and hid in her crate. Agility was supposed to be a fun, bonding experience, and Daisy obviously wasn’t having fun. We left.

Today, I attended an incredibly wonderful workshop with Sue Ailsby. Working with dogs and llamas, Sue has experience with just about every competition possible. She’s wonderful. She believes that balanced dogs do things because they want to please you – and when you’re pleased, their world is full of good things. Her fundamentals are teach them to learn, reward their good behaviour, and ignore everything else. Within five minutes and without a word being spoken or negative correction applied, we watched Stitches (Sue’s companion show, sport, and service dog) figure out how to weave under a chair, then sit proudly on it.

Training can be a positive bonding experience for you and your dog. To learn about Sue’s BOOK of TRAINING LEVELS, visit her web site at When you research your local training options, look for instructors who use positive methods such as clickers, treats and affection, and avoid those who use corrections, choke chains and aggression to dominate their dogs.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs: Small doses for small animals

Book Review

In this book, author Don Hamilton, DVM, discusses his transformation from conventional to homeopathic veterinarian. Early in his 20-year practice, he grew increasingly frustrated when dealing with chronic disease, such as ear and skin infections, that would not respond to conventional treatment.

Dr. Hamilton provides his thoughts around the “limitation of conventional medicine”, the theory of health and disease, specific condition treatments, an in-depth discussion about vaccination, and finally, individual medicines (remedies). The forward is written by renowned homeopathic veterinarian Dr. Richard Pitcairn whose endorsement lends credibility.

Reading this book is not a substitute for veterinary care. It should be used to help inform so you can better communicate with your veterinarian. While some people claim to practice homeopathy on animals, it’s important to choose a licensed/regulated veterinarian who understands animal physiology and medicine. To locate a homeopathic veterinarian, visit the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy web site at

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Feeding dogs bones: the great debate

Williston runs on bones. This little beagle regularly chows down on bones and is pretty happy about life. Now if you want to start a great debate, ask a room full of dog people, including veterinarians, about feeding bones. Controversy ensues, and no one agrees.

Proponents of feeding bones talk about the benefits:

  • Healthy teeth – chewing bones scrapes plaque from teeth, keeping gums healthy, which keeps breath fresh and eliminates unhealthy and expensive dental cleanings. (Unhealthy because dogs need to be sedated for most dental procedures.)
  • Exercise – eating bones is a full body experience for a dog – they get right into it, holding the bone down with their paws and tugging at it through their back and shoulders with their jaws
  • An outlet for chewing – particularly for young dogs who are teething, most will chose to nosh down on a raw bone instead of your favourite piece of furniture
  • Nutritious – provides calcium and other nutrients
  • Entertainment value– chewing bones is an endurance activity where dogs spend hours at it making their days happily pass by

Opponents talk about the risks of feeding bones:

  • Serious health problems – choking or gastrointestinal obstruction (GI) occur when bone splinters or chunks break off and lodge in the dog’s throat restricting breathing, or somewhere in the dog’s intestines causing life-threatening circulatory problems
  • Bacteria – ingesting bones brings salmonella and parasites into your home that can infect your dog and family
  • Cracked or broken teeth – vigorous bone chewing can break pieces of teeth causing pain and expense
  • Digestive problems – dogs vomit or get diarrhoea from eating bones
  • Obesity – dogs eat too much, then get fat
  • Aggression – by eating raw bones, dogs become aggressive

I'd love to find some science-based information on this heavily debated topic.

In my opinion RAW bones – never cooked or smoked - are good for some, but not all dogs for the reasons stated above. Cooked bones are much more likely to splinter and cause harm and should never be served.

Most dog toys and treats are not government regulated, so many of the negatives that can happen with bones, can happen with other pet-store supplied goods. Really, how healthy is that pig’s ear you just fed your dog?

Bones can cause serious health problems, and so can lots of other things. We know of dogs that have eaten rocks, bath towels, Power Rangers and baby soothers that have gotten lodged in their intestines. All of these needed veterinary care and in some cases painful and expensive and surgery – and in one case, death. There are risks, and those risks are present every day when you live with a dog.

If your dog gets digestive problems, cut back on the amount of bone you’re serving – it’s likely the rich marrow that’s causing the problem.

Obese dogs are given too many calories. Those calories can come from food, treats or bones. It’s up to humans to provide suitable serving sizes.

Aggression and food aggression in particular is not caused by bones. All dogs should be trained to give items, including food and bones, to their people.

If you want to serve bones as part of your dog’s diet:

  • Buy raw bones with meat attached. If you’re unsure, go to a specialty pet store and they can guide you in the right direction. Keep the marrow, and remove large chunks of fat. The serving size should be appropriate to your dog’s size.
  • To minimize bacteria issues, feed bones, and all meals for that matter, in a place away from people– eg. outside or on a washable mat. In the book Not Fit for a Dog, Veterinarian Michael Fox recommends scalding raw bones to reduce the risk.
  • When giving bones or other foods or toys, supervise your dog so you know they’re ingesting properly and not choking.

Do your own research and make choices that are right for you and your dog. If you love heated, controversial debates, next time you’re out with dog people, bring the topic up.

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