Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wine and dogs! Great Pair!

Winning Dog Art for Wine Label Contest
Artist Nancy Schutt takes it with “Out of Reach”
“Out of Reach” by Nancy Schutt
Over the years, Mutt Lynch Winery has created wines with names such as “Unleashed Chardonnay” and “Merlot Over and Play Dead.” They consistently combine a love of dogs with a love of wines, and the results are often as charming as they are delicious.
They just announced the winner of their third annual wine label contest, which is “Out of Reach” by artist Nancy Schutt. There were many wonderful entries in this contest, which was co-sponsored by Mutt Lynch Winery and Dog Art Today. The theme of the contest was “Naughty.” The wine “Out of Reach” will be available in August 2011, and 10 percent of the profits from its sale will be donated to an animal shelter.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Dogs Eat Poop

Your Dog Was Born to Eat Poop!

Before dogs were domesticated they were scavengers, living off of whatever they could find. Dogs commonly fed on the waste of other animals (and other dogs) thousands of years ago. Poop eating may just be a remnant of dog history.
In certain situations, as with a newborn litter of puppies, eating poop is instinctual and completely normal. A mother with pups is wired to keep her den clean so as not to attract predators with scent cues. Thus, she quite often will clean up after her young by consuming their poop.
For households with multiple dogs there is often a pecking order of dominant and submissive roles. Submissive dogs will sometimes eat the stool of their dominant counterparts.

Dogs Are “A” Students

Dogs pick up things quickly and will often learn things that you don’t want them to. For instance, consider a dog that is punished for a housebreaking accident. If he is punished by having his nose rubbed in poop (which is absolutely not a good way to deal with the problem) he may try to “dispose of the evidence” the next time around.
If you clean up after your dog while he looks on, he may misunderstand your intent and try to copy your actions in some fashion by “picking up after himself”. Your dog might also see other dogs eating poop and learn the behavior from them.
For puppies, eating feces may simply be a learning experience. Puppies learn things by putting nearly everything that comes in front of them in their mouth. Most puppies will develop a distaste for poop in fairly short order. So, if your dog is a puppy, you can relax… chances are that they will change their behavior in due time. Just make sure you keep an eye on things and try to remove waste whenever possible so that your dog doesn’t develop bad habits.

Why You Should Take Your Poop Eating Dog to the Vet

If your dog eats poop, you should make sure it’s not because of a health issue. Some dogs will start eating poop when they aren’t absorbing enough nutrients, they have parasites, or they have issues with their pancreas. All coprophagic dogs should be examined by a veterinarian. Please read my other post on coprophagia and dog health.
Another, rather interesting phenomenon is when multiple dogs are in the same household and one gets sick, the healthy dog will sometimes eat the feces of the unhealthy dog. This may be an instinctual reaction to hide the weaker dog from “predators” much as a mother does with pups (see the section on instinct below).

Why Your Dog Sometimes Prefers Poop to Dog Food

A dog’s digestive system is dependent on a specific mix of enzymes to break down carbohydrates, proteins and fats. There is some evidence that suggests that dog digestive systems haven’t quite caught up to modern diets that include less animal protein and far more carbohydrates and plant proteins. Some veterinary nutritionists have suggested that dogs eat stool to replenish enzymes so that they are better prepared to digest their food.
There is also evidence that dogs that aren’t getting enough of certain nutrients will resort to eating poop. A lack of vitamin B is often said to be a cause of coprophagia.
Another common theory is that overfeeding a dog can lead to coprophagia. A dog that is overfed can’t absorb all of the nutrients in his food, and thus may try to “recycle” his nutrient rich waste.

Neglectful Parents

In many cases, a dog’s behavior can be linked directly to the owner’s behavior. Many dogs will eat stool simply for the attention that they get from their owner. Negative attention is still attention, and owners who scold their dogs for the behavior will quite often only reinforce it.
Dogs that are bored and lonely may play with and eat stool as a pastime. And, some dogs may resort to eating stool because they are not getting enough real food. If a dog’s living area is not kept clean, some dogs will resort to their own “housekeeping” efforts by eating stool.

Solving The Problem

There is plenty of coprophagia information on this website to get you started on getting rid of your dog’s habit. It usually takes a specific combination of dietary and behavioral changes and takes quite a bit of experimentation. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How To Make Your Own Dog Shampoo

Bathing your dog with a chemical-laden flea shampoo may get rid of fleas but may not be the healthiest option for your dog or your household. Pet shops now sell high-end organic flea shampoos infused with essential oils, but that might not be the best option for your pocketbook. However, you can combine affordability with health by mixing up your own organic flea shampoo, which will repel fleas while leaving your dog smelling fresh.

Step 1

Bring 2 cups of distilled water to a boil. If you have no distilled water, you can use filtered water, but the shampoo won't clean as well as if you use distilled water.

Step 2

Put 1 ½ tbsp. of dried soapwort root to the water. If the soapwort you are using is whole, chop it. This will help the soapwort release its cleansing compounds into the water.

Step 3

Turn down the heat to simmer and cover the pot. Let it simmer for 20 minutes, then take it off the stove and let it cool to room temperature, which should take about an hour.

Step 4

Pour the mixture through muslin and into a jar to remove the soapwort. Discard the soapwort and retain the liquid, which is your organic flea shampoo base.

Step 5

Select organic essential oils to add to the shampoo that have natural flea-fighting properties, such as cedar, citronella, citrus, eucalyptus, lavender, lemongrass, mint or rosemary essential oils. You can add a single type of essential oil to the shampoo or you can blend them. Either approach works well for flea control.

Step 6

Mix 20 drops of essential oils total into the flea shampoo base. Place the lid on the shampoo jar and shake it to combine the oil with the shampoo. Refrigerate it until you need it. It will last about two weeks in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Is your dog scared of storms?! Read on....

Thundershirt is an excellent treatment for most types of dog anxiety and fear issues. For many anxieties, we recommend just putting on a Thundershirt and observing the results (No training!). You very well may see significant improvement for noise, crate, travel, barking and others with absolutely no training. For more complicated anxiety cases, we recommend using Thundershirt as part of a behavior modification program.
One thing is for certain, for a very large percentage of dogs, Thundershirt’s gentle, constant pressure has a terrific calming effect. This has obvious benefits for most types of anxiety. But Thundershirt is also a very useful tool for managing excitability or hyperactivity with strangers, on the leash, or in a training environment. Thundershirt’s calming effect helps a dog to focus (or refocus) her energies in a more constructive direction, allowing training to be more effective.
If you are interested in getting a Thundershirt for your scared pup: contact us! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ever wonder what your dog's bark means???

  • Continuous and fast barking, at a medium pitch: Alert. Problems. Some is entering our territory.
  • Continuous and slow barking, at a low pitch: The intruder or danger is close. Prepared to defend itself.
  • Fast barking with pauses every 3 or 4: Warning of a problem approaching. Asking you to investigate.
  • Long and drawn-out barks at a high pitch, with pauses between each one: I'm alone and need company.
  • One or two short high pitched barks: The most normal greeting.
  • One bark normal pitch: Curious, alert.
  • Short back in a high pitch: Shows surprise. If it's repeated twice it means "Look at this!" If it's longer then it calling. Many dogs use this when they want to go out.  
  • Brief bark, at medium pitch: Happiness.
  • Faltering bark at medium pitch: Asking to play.
  • Howl or short bark at a high pitch: "Ouch!" Response to sudden pain.
  • Repeated howls and regular intervals: Suffering from extreme pain or something that scares them. 
  • High pitch or urgent barks that sound desperate, without apparent reason: It is a way some dogs use to let out steam.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Can dogs help cure depression?

In a time when everyone resorts to capsules to relieve their pain, a new form of treatment is growing in popularity. Across the world, dogs are being used to help people cope with mental and physical hindrances. Therapy dogs are a subcategory of service dogs; they undergo extensive training and can help people cope with mild to major disabilities. In addition to the trained dog, everyday puppies and adult dogs are used to help treat depression. Caring for a dog promotes a sense of responsibility and provides companionship for those who need it most. So how exactly can a dog be used as a treatment for depression?

Dogs are utilized in two main ways to help with depression. The first way dogs can help are when they are trained for that purpose. Therapy service dogs are highly trained, but they do not always belong to the person suffering from a disability. Instead, a handler takes the dog to different facilities to spend time with many patients. Dogs that belong to the patients live and act as everyday household pets, except they are taught additional tasks such as retrieving medication. In the case of depression, the dog is trained to respond to the different moods of the patient. For instance, if the owner is sad or in tears, the dog knows to cuddle, lick away the tears, bring tissue, and initiate a game or other form of play. If the owner is stuck in a mood of apathy, the dog resorts to physical stimulation by trying to get the owner to pet or play. Depression is not the only psychiatric problem in which dogs can help people cope. Dogs are trained to help treat social phobia, post traumatic stress, schizophrenia, and obsessive compulsive disorder among other things.

The second way a dog can be used to treat depression is very simple; depression can be treated starting with adopting a dog. Since dogs are lifelong companions and require a certain amount of responsibility, adopting a dog is sometimes recommended for people suffering from depression. Although these dogs will not be trained to respond to certain moods (though many claim that they naturally respond to the owner’s emotions), they do have a calming and spirit-lifting effect. The treatment process starts from the time you bring the dog home. Taking care of the dog gives a person suffering from depression something to do; the person finds responsibility in taking care of an animal rather than focusing on the gloomy things. The dog acts as a companion, since depression can be spurred by loneliness. The owner has someone to talk to, share feelings, and play with. Since the dog is a typical dog, it begs for attention and exercise. Exercise has also been found to help people cope with depression. In essence, taking care of a pooch provides the owner with something to fill the time and a friend with which to spend time. If you’ve ever watched a puppy in action, you also know how funny they can be. Laughing is almost necessary in lifting one’s spirits.

Dogs are not only used to treat serious problems; even someone looking for a little company can benefit from the companionship of a pet. If you feel that a dog can lift your spirits, visit your local animal shelter and consider rescuing a puppy. If you decide to adopt a pet, remember that you must take care of the pet and provide him with love and care. He needs a comfy place to sleep, food at every meal, and daily exercise. It’s not always easy to train and care for an animal, but it is completely worth it!

Although dogs have not been cited with curing depression, they have been praised for helping people cope with the disorder. They visit nursing homes and psychiatric wards and give the patients a chance to interact, cuddle, and play. They live in peoples’ homes and help keep the owners on track. Dogs are still a responsibility, so anyone who wishes to adopt one must be willing to provide the pooch with love, care, and a safe home. Just having a companion to laugh with can make a huge difference on your mood.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Doggy Allergies-they are legit!

Food Allergies 101

Nothing to sneeze at: food allergies in dogs.

By Elizabeth Pask and Laura Scott

Is your dog itching and scratching? Does she have frequent ear infections or poor coat quality? You could be contributing to your dog’s distress without knowing it if she’s allergic to what you’re feeding her. Food allergies are a rising concern with dog owners and it seems like more and more dogs are suffering from them.
But what exactly is a food allergy?
Food allergies are different from food intolerance. Food intolerance is the result of poor digestion, such as lactose intolerance. People and dogs with lactose intolerance are either missing or have low levels of the milk digesting enzyme lactase.
Food allergies are the over-response of your dog’s immune system to an invading protein. In the case of a food allergy, this protein is contained in your dog’s food. Proteins are present in most of the foods your dog eats. While most people recognize that meats are a source of proteins, there are also proteins present in grains and vegetables. Any one of these proteins has the potential to cause a food allergy.
Your dog’s gastrointestinal system (mouth, stomach, intestines) protects her from potential allergens each day. Approximately 70 percent of the body’s entire immune system is centered in the gastrointestinal tract. When your dog eats a meal, the food is first digested in the stomach. The large pieces of food are broken down into smaller pieces by stomach acid and then enzymes and stomach acid work together to break the complex protein structures down into smaller structures. The partially digested food then moves into the small intestine. The food is further digested until the proteins are broken down into their smallest parts, amino acids, which can then be absorbed into the body through special cells called enterocytes. Enterocytes act as both a welcoming hostess to amino acids that they like and want, and as bouncers (door guards) for amino acids they don’t like. When a whole protein is absorbed in the intestines instead of being broken down first, the immune system reacts and your dog shows symptoms of a food allergy.
When the System Works
The intestinal tract’s ability to prevent the absorption of whole protein is dependant on the health and integrity of the mucosal barrier. It is the proverbial guardian of the body at the gastrointestinal gate. The mucosal barrier (lining of the gut) is comprised of both structural components and immune system components. The structural components physically prevent the absorption of large proteins. The immune system component is responsible for recognizing potentially harmful contents of the gastrointestinal tract. The health and integrity of the gastrointestinal tract is dependant on the normal structure and function of the enterocytes, effective protein digestion, and the presence of the dog’s immune cells (called IgA cells) in the gastrointestinal tract.
The Gut and Immune System Together 
Prevent Food Allergies
IgA cells are a type of immune cell secreted in the intestine. Some of the IgA will float freely in the contents of the intestine while other IgA attaches to the wall of the intestine to prevent whole protein from coming in contact with the enterocytes. Just like volleyball players they bounce whole proteins back into the contents of the intestine for more digestion. The more effective protein digestion in the stomach and intestine is, the smaller the proteins are when they come in contact with the IgA. Small proteins and single amino acids do not get bound to the IgA and are allowed to pass by the IgA and be absorbed into the body as nutrients.

At a Glance

Some of the breeds most prone to food allergies include: Boxer, Cocker Spaniel, Springer Spaniel, Collie, Dalmatian, German Shepherd, Lhasa Apso, Miniature Schnauzer, Retriever, Shar Pei, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, Dachshund, and West Highland White Terrier
Most common food allergens include: beef, dairy, and wheat.
Least common food allergensare fish and rabbit.
General signs and symptoms of allergies include: dry itchy skin, excessive scratching or licking, bald patches, a high frequency of hot spots, ear infections, skin infections, diarrhea, and vomiting.
When the System Fails
Malnutrition can affect enterocyte structure and function. A poorly functioning or damaged enterocyte can let whole proteins into the body. Once a whole protein has managed to breach all of the gut’s defenses, gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) takes over. GALT can prevent the body’s natural immune response to a foreign protein. Most of the time this is what happens, but in the case of food allergies, GALT does not prevent the immune response and an allergic response (immune hypersensitivity) is formed.
Unfortunately, every time the food is eaten, this over-response of the immune response becomes greater. So continuing to consume the diet that caused the allergic response results in a greater and greater response every time. After this hypersensitivity is formed, each time the dog eats the food, mast cells in the body’s immune system release hertamine. If this hertamine release is large enough, it may manifest as diarrhea, itchy skin, chronic skin infections etc.
Isolating the Problem
The first thing you need to do is work with your veterinarian to make sure that your dog’s symptoms truly indicate a food allergy. If that’s the case, your vet will likely recommend that you try an elimination diet— feeding a food that has a different protein (meat) source and a different carbohydrate (grain) source than what your dog has had before. Common anti-allergy foods (novel protein sources) include kangaroo and oatmeal or venison and potato. This prevents the immune response from continuing to be triggered.
Your vet may also suggest that you try a hypoallergenic diet. These foods are made with hydrolyzed proteins. That means that the proteins are already broken down into pieces that are small enough that IgA won’t bind to them and they won’t trigger an immune response.
Lamb and rice foods used to be considered “hypoallergenic” when most commercial dog foods were made with chicken or beef and corn or wheat. Since most dogs had never had lamb or rice before, it was a good option for dogs that experienced allergies while eating a regular food. Now, however, many dogs are showing allergies to lamb and rice diets. This is to be expected since an allergy can develop to any diet. If your dog is allergic to lamb and rice you may need to find a food with different ingredients such as fish and oatmeal, or venison and sweet potato.
While your dog is on any special diet, it’s very important that she doesn’t get any other food such as cookies, treats, rawhides, people foods, etc. Since you don’t know yet exactly what she is allergic to, you don’t want to give her something other than her food and trigger the allergic reaction. Once you’ve got her on a food that she is not reacting to, you can start to reintroduce other foods. If your dog reacts, you’ll know exactly which food (or foods) causes the problem.
Preventing Food Allergies
Is there anything we, as owners, can do to avoid food allergies from developing? This is one of the toughest questions in dog nutrition today. While we still don’t really know how to prevent allergies entirely, there are things you can do that may help your dog fight off numerous allergies.
Promote a healthy mucosal barrier. This can be done by ensuring that our dogs, and especially puppies, have adequate nutrition and health care.
Watch out for gastroenteritis. There have been some theories that early gastroenteritis or severe gastroenteritis, especially in puppies or young dogs, can result in an adult dog that is more likely to develop food allergies. Preventing gastroenteritis, in theory, is easy— just don’t let your dog eat anything but dog food and treats. In actuality, this is much harder to deal with. Dogs eat a variety of things, some that are not harmful—grass, dirt, bark, wild berries (i.e., raspberries, strawberries), sometimes a little cow or horse dung—and some that are not good for them (rotten garbage or dead animals). It can be very hard to police what goes in your dog’s mouth.
If you suspect that your dog has gotten into garbage or eaten something that may cause tummy upset, it may be best to feed your dog a low-protein diet (boiled white rice or potato) until the suspected tummy upset passes or you consult your vet. In general, if diarrhea lasts more than 72 hours without signs of getting better or if the diarrhea seems especially severe or malodorous, you should consult your vet. In these cases, do not attempt to treat the dog yourself with over-the-counter medications because diarrhea is the body getting rid of bad things in the gut. To give something that stops the diarrhea can result in keeping the bad things in the gut and causing a serious illness.
Promote effective protein digestion. In general, your dog should have no problem digesting protein. If you are feeding a homemade cooked or raw diet, grinding or blending your protein source in a food processor can be helpful in improving protein digestion. In kibble-fed dogs, the protein is already ground before it is kibbled so there is no need to grind it.
Choose a dog food with exclusive protein sources. A food that only has one or two protein sources can be helpful in giving you more choices later on should your dog develop an allergy. For example, if you use a food with five protein sources (i.e., turkey, chicken, duck, salmon, and tuna) and your dog develops an allergy to it, you now have to find a food that doesn’t contain any of these protein sources. This can be challenging. Conversely, if you feed a diet with chicken as its sole protein source and your dog develops an allergy to it, you can easily find a diet that doesn’t contain chicken.
Preventing food allergies may be impossible in dogs that are prone to developing food allergies. Some breeds are becoming noted for food allergies (see sidebar p.82). As a result, it is possible that a propensity for developing food allergies may be genetic, in which case, we should avoid breeding dogs that have food allergies.
Don’t Give Up
Dealing with a dog with food allergies can be challenging and disheartening. Proper diagnosis of food allergies can make it easier and understanding why food allergies start can help us prevent future allergies from starting. On a personal note, my Labrador has had food allergies all his 12.5 years. It has been a long road and often a difficult one. It is so much easier to find novel protein sources now than it was 12 years ago. If you have a dog with allergies, take heart, it will get better.