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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Changing training needs of older dogs

Dear Dogs Today
We enjoy reading Dogs Today in our household which includes two dogs - a Lurcher and a Border Collie. They have always had quite different training needs but now have a spectrum of geriatric special needs between them, too!
How can you adapt and if necessary re-train older dog as eyesight failure, deafness, senility and arthritis and changes in attention-span set in. It's taken us a while to adapt to how the communication between us the dogs has to change as their senses decline, and I'm sure other owners could also do with pointers and advice on how to adjust our behaviour to support them in their old age.
If we'd thought about it earlier and pre-empted their decline, we probably would have had more success training hand signals before their hearing went completely, for example!
Has anyone any hints?
Kat Joyce

Not tested on animals

Dear Dogs Today,
Do other caring dog owners give thought to the dogs they don't see? The ones living in labs having new dog foods tested on them?
Some companies subject dogs to a battery of cruel tests like deliberately over feeding to make dogs obese and diabetic and making puppies develop allergies so they can test non-allergen food on them.
At the end of these tests the dogs are then put to sleep so that autopsy's can be carried out.
I posted a question about this on a dog answers forum (yahoo answers) and was shocked at how little anyone cared. Most of these answers were from owners in the US though so how do UK owners feel about this? 
Do Dogs Today readers try to make ethical choices or do they only go for the cheapest, easiest food?
I am Vegan but even I can see that a raw diet is more ethical than one that tests on animals.
After all I wouldn't buy baby food that was tested on babies!
Kelly Basford

Hi Kelly
There are quite a number of UK pet food companies that are proud to say they don't test. Peta has a list and so do Uncaged.
I'm sure these lists aren't exhaustive and there are other small companies that don't know these lists even exist.
My impression is there are lots of caring pet owners and pet food manufacturers trying to do the best they can.
Best wishes
Beverley Cuddy, Editor Dogs Today


Can you turn back the hands of time?

It only seems a blink of the eye since my lovely Poppy was a pup, but there's no denying that she's getting old.
I'm usually a realist, I don't buy myself the really expensive face creams but I'd pay almost anything to try to keep Poppy young!
Has anyone tried anything that has genuinely put a spring back into their old dogs step?
Henrietta Newman, Kent

Hi Henrietta
When my old Sal started to show her age I tried everything - but that was a long time ago. A couple of things really stood out.
Vivitonin (prescription only) really was a miracle drug - but it's not cheap. When she died at 16 Sal had the coat and muscle condition of a very much younger dog. Vivitonin was developed as a heart drug originally but as it puts the spring back into the red blood cells it really does seem to liven up every bit of the dog. You can normally see if there's going to be an effect in a couple of weeks. I was once told that in Japan it was being used on humans as an Alzheimer preventative.
The other thing that really made a difference to Sal's quality of life was a supplement called Runaround (from I was carrying Sally up and down the stairs at work before I started using that, really amazing results. I know our readers who had a free trial of it at that time had great results, too
What have others tried? Any wonder stuff been discovered in the last decade?
Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Eye need...

Is there anything I can use to clean my dogs eyes? They're just a tiny bit gunky. I don't want to go running off to the vet for antibiotics drops - they're not bloodshot or anything.
Can I use Optrex?
Is there anything alternativey I can use?
I know not to take a risk with eyes but is there anything I can use to stop a slightly gunky eye turning into a really gunky one?
Elizabeth Green, Hants

He now hates to be alone

We've recently had a lot of upheaval and I really do fear that it's really upset my poor dog.
My husband narrowly missed being made redundant by accepting an overseas post. We have sold our house and moved into rented accommodation as we are now contemplating moving overseas if this new post works out.
As my husband is now away for several weeks at a time, I'm alone with our dog Jack a lot of the time and he has been a great comfort to me.
However, I now find that when I do have to leave him to go shopping he gets really distressed. After years of good behaviour he's started scratching doors and chewing the furniture, he's even started forgetting his housetraining.
Now we are in rented housing this change in behaviour is really difficult to cope with.
What can I do to get Jack used to being alone again?
Is there anything I can give him to make everything a bit less stressful as I suspect he's picking up my angst, too as he and I are increasingly in tune!
I've shed a few tears and he's been a great hairy shoulder to cry on!
I've started doing online shopping for my supermarket food - but there are some times when I really do need to go out and he can't come. It just breaks my heart to see him so upset.
Name and address supplied

What's the difference?

Is there any difference between alternative medicine and complementary medicine?
Are there any specific governing bodies?
Are there any practitioners of any 'alternatives' that aren't qualified vets? If so how does that work? I thought it was against the law for anyone other than a vet to treat dogs? I know for eg that GPs would get into trouble for treating a pet but a vet can technically treat people.
Are there any 'alternative' therapies that lay people can study and provide?
Jane Thomas, Reading

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

How to reduce stress and boost immunity

My two dogs are going into boarding kennels for the first time in a couple of weeks. Is there anything I can do to make it less traumatic for them? I've heard of a collar they can wear that gives off reassuring aromas but can't remember what it is called!
I've also heard that while the dogs have been vaccinated against kennel cough there are other strains that they won't be protected against. Is there any supplement I can give the dogs to just generally boost their immunity at what must be a very stressful time. Anything homoeopathic I can give them to get them through this and make me feel a but less guilty about not taking them on holiday with me!
Glenda Kennedy, Inverness

Irritable growl syndrome?

Hello Dogs Today,
I hope you can help. We are the owners of a 11 month male yellow Labrador puppy Harvey, who we absolutely adore.
He is from excellent working stock but just a much loved pet for my husband and I and two children (age nine and four).
In last couple of weeks we have noticed a change in his behaviour mostly towards other children who approach him nervously. He tends to growl when stroked, but does not do this with children who are confident with him.
This is making life a little difficult as he is a big part of the family and we want to be able to take him on days out and camping over the summer months, as well as having our children's friends in the house to visit.
We have spoken to the vet about this who (although he said he is not an expert in dog behaviour), there is no aggression in him, but he seems nervous and protective of the family. Harvey barked at the vet when he approached him, but when he took the lead Harvey trotted after him like a lamb.
It would be really appreciated if you had any tips or advice to ensure Harvey feels confident enough to not try and be 'top dog' with children when he feels he can, and to make meeting different people not a stressful experience for us!!
Many thanks
Tracey Perrin, Northampton

Tracey, this sounds the sort of problem that needs a behaviourist on-the-spot to work out what's going on before things get any worse. You can ask your vet to refer you after he's decided there's no physical explanation for the problems. This might be just a bad habit he's got into but the sooner you get an expert on the case the sooner you can start turning this situation around.
Anyone got any recommendations for good behaviourists in Tracey's area?

Monday, 28 June 2010

A gentle approach to cancer

I have been given some terrible news, my lovely Wolfhound cross has cancer in his front leg (osteosarcoma). Due to his size, amputation is out of the question.
I am loathe to give up completely and would like any advice about how to make the time we have left as high quality as possible, for as long as possible.
What alternative things can I do to fight this cancer and keep his pain to a minimum.
At the moment he is loving his food and you just wouldn't know he was in any pain. There's no limp, nothing. I know he's ill, but most people wouldn't have a clue.
Brenda Adams, Dorset

I am so sorry to hear your news. Sometimes it is worth rethinking a condition from the dog's perspective and I do feel so sad for dogs who a treated for cancer away from home with low chances of success. I do think quality of life has to be very high on our list and we need to ask about survival rates and the quality of life post surgery/treatment before we try to fight cancer at all costs.
Having said that, Fitzpatrick Referrals in Godalming are leading the world in their field and have done some amazing limb salvage on large animals that can't cope with amputation due to their size, but I'm unsure whether this would appropriate for this case. The dog I met with a false limb was an American Bulldog who had been diagnosed with cancer in a foot and the quality and quantity of life achieved by limb replacement was fantastic, but it certainly wasn't cheap (similar cost to hip replacement surgery) - his owner wasn't able to claim for the operation via his insurer.
As for fighting the cancer gently there are more and more things available. I would direct you to our CV247 blog for lots of information about that very gentle, non invasive treatment that more and more alternative vets are offering - you can use it at home, and there are no side effects. Many people are finding success from using this in combination with other alternatives and I'm sure other people will pitch in with more information on all the other alternatives that they have had success with.
Beverley Cuddy, Editor Dogs Today

Friday, 25 June 2010

Itching to try an alternative approach

I've noticed one of my dogs, Holly, seems to be scratching at the moment. It doesn't appear to be anything walking or jumping as it's just the one of my dogs with itchy skin.
I don't think it's the diet, which is already hypoallergenic.
Is there anything gentle I can try to calm things down? Her skin is a bit pink, but that could be with all the scratching. It has just started since the weather warmed up. She's a shaggy collie cross, would getting her clipped help? Am just loathe to go down the steroid route which my very conventional vet seems to resort to in the past whenever we've had unexplained itching.
Is there anything I can try that will gently ease this problem?
Diane Hawkins, Chester

Non-specific skin problems can be hard to get to the bottom of, but in most cases an improvement can be seen using herbal medicines.
I would highly recommend Dorwest's combination of two herbal medicines (Garlic and Fenugreek and Mixed Vegetable) which is licensed for the treatment of skin conditions and is extremely effective.
The tablets are available over the counter from vets, pet shops as well as direct from Dorwest.
Why not give our advice line a ring and they will run through diet and herbal medicines to suit your dog. Call 01308 897272
Roly Boughton, Dorwest Herbs

Not eating, but sleeping a lot

I have a 12 month old Cavalier who just will not eat and she sleeps a lot, the vet says there is nothing wrong with her and when she is running round on her walks I would agree. But I really am worried because she eats little and dog food she won't touch we have tried just about every food on the market. She like to eat what we eat if she gets chance but I am against this I have never had a problem with getting a dog to eat before and this is worrying me, I had my doubts when I brought her and she had to be spayed when she was still very young for health reason. She gives the impression she had to fight to get any food as a puppy and I wonder if her behaviour could be psychological.
I know she misses our old dog because when she sees a German Shepherd she automatically goes up to them as if it was our old boy. I can't afford to get another dog but wonder if this also could be the problem as she ate fairly well before we lost him. The strange thing is though she has not lost weight through not eating. Do any of your readers have any ideas.
Mrs Rose Tyrrell, Coventry

Monday, 21 June 2010

Slowing the sands of time

My sister lives in Spain, as I used to, and has a beautiful Giant Schnauzer,
sadly he is suffering with Leishmaniasis which is now becoming more and more common in Spain. For several weeks now I've been researching any possible leads that could slow down the process, I believe at the moment the vet my sister is using is loathe to give more antibiotics as it will increase kidney damage apparently, we've been advised to really try and keep his immune system as strong as possible, plenty of water to flush the kidneys etc.
Someone also advised me to use garlic and also sandalwood oil in low doses to act as an internal antiseptic, as it seems to be causing bladder problems
Hopefully we can keep the poor thing strong enough,
Any information gratefully received.
Many thanks, Mike Garrick

Friday, 18 June 2010

Alternatives for limps, lumps and bumps

I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of my new dog. It is not just a new dog it is my first ever dog!
I am very keen on human alternative therapies and was wondering if the doggie world is sympathetic to them, too?
For example, are there any vets in my part of the world that use homeopathy as well as conventional therapies? Do you need to go a separate practitioner if so? Where are they listed? Can you get some things online?
Are there any good handbooks/websites etc that would guide a novice like me around the alternative doggie world?
My new dog is actually a very old dog. I've taken on an elderly and quite arthritic and lumpy Retriever cross and I was wondering if there are any gentle remedies I can use to make her life a little easier?
She's had a stressful few months as her previous owner was very ill before she passed away, is there anything I can do to de-stress her generally? I'd love to do some sort of massage but I'm afraid with all her lumps and stiffness I may do more harm than good.
Helen Hays, St Ives

Friday, 11 June 2010

Looking deeply into eyes

I am totally confused as to what is and isn't a significant eye problem and how often dogs eyes need to be tested.
I have been considering a litter and initial enquiries revealed that only the mum of the litter had been eye tested. When I asked why the sire hadn't been checked, the breeder said that even if he did have cataracts they wouldn't significantly effect the dogs' vision so not everyone bothers to test. She said that plenty of us humans have poor sight and we still have kids. which I guess is true, but we don't see many dogs wearing spectacles.
I've since asked to see the mum's eye test and I noticed it was done several years ago.
Do eye tests need to be done annually or are there ones which show the dog is clear for life?
It really is so difficult to find out what I should be insisting on as when I talk to breeders that don't test they seem so plausible.
I've looked on the breed listing on the KC accredited breeder scheme and they ask for hips and eye testing for Belgian Shepherds, but it doesn't tell me whether these are annual or lifetime tests for eyes. Or indeed what is a good hip score.
Do the KC check that all the accredited breeders are doing all the tests, that dogs have passed and that the tests are all up to date? Or do I need to double check?
How can I find out more?
It says elsewhere on the KC site that the eye problem in the breed I am interested in is hereditary cataracts but I can't see any more information as to when the dogs need to be tested, how often and how significant a problem HC would be for a sufferer and what age it would start.
Are eyes really not much of a problem in Belgian Shepherd Dogs, am I worrying too much?
The more I look, the more complicated this subject seems to get!
Name and address witheld

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Sensitive subject!

I have an extremely fussy dog with a very delicate digestive system, is there an alternative out there to expensive veterinary diets?
My vet only sells one brand and the answer to almost every question seems to be to switch to that one! I've looked at the ingredients and I have to say there doesn't appear to be anything significantly different!
What else can I try?
Gayle Peters, London

Also posted on our feeding blog

This is such a common question for us at Arden Grange! We are sorry to hear that your dog requires a veterinary prescription diet. These specialist diets are formulated to help manage nutritionally responsive disease. Whether a regular commercial complete food would be a suitable alternative depends largely on the diagnosis. In some cases regular food (even very highly digestible brands such as Arden Grange) may not be appropriate. For example, dogs with renal dysfunction require a food which is low in phosphorous; dogs with liver disease may require a restricted fat and low copper diet. Regular dog food is designed for canines with a "normal" requirement for these nutrients, and all of the others which are necessary to support their health and wellbeing.
However, for some dogs, Arden Grange can offer a nutritious and economical diet which may be suitable in place of a prescription food. A prime example is in cases of skin disease and digestive problems caused or exacerbated by food allergies and intolerances; particularly reactions to the more common dietary allergens which are wheat, beef, soya and dairy products. We have also supplied food to many dogs with inflammatory bowel disease, epilepsy, behavioural issues and many other problems. In such cases we always assess each dog individually. It is vital to keep in contact with your vet and discuss whether he or she feels Arden Grange could be viable, and we will then pass on full details of our suggested diet's ingredients and nutritional analysis so that your vet can make the final decision.
When your dog suffers from digestive problems, you should always follow the advice of your vet. There are numerous possible causes and the nutritional management and treatment will vary. Most dogs with diarrhoea do tend to benefit from a low fat diet as this helps to prevent further residue from accumulating in the large bowel, but a dog with pancreatic problems would require long term fat restriction, whilst a dog with a bacterial infection can usually be weaning back to a normal food following recovery. The Arden Grange Sensitive Ocean White Fish and Potato is designed especially for dogs with sensitive skins and stomachs and can often be used in place of more expensive prescription hypoallergenic diets, but again, its suitability for your own dog really does depend on his medical status. If you are able to get back to us with more details about his condition as well as his age, breed and activity level we will be able to assess him properly and give some more in depth advice. There is a questionnaire on our website where you can enter this information:-
Dogs with digestive problems are often fussy through no fault of their own. Our canine friends have inherited an innate ability from their wild dog ancestors that can mean certain foods are refused if they are likely to make a problem worse. Also, imagine how you feel if you have stomach ache, indigestion or feel sick - a large meal is the last thing you'd want. If your dog is recovering from recent tummy upset, small frequent meals of home cooked chicken/white fish and rice/potato is bland and usually well accepted and well digested. Once his problems have been diagnosed and treated accordingly, his longer term dietary management can be planned and a gradual change back to a regular diet undertaken in many instances. Arden Grange is often ideal due to its super-premium quality, high digestibility and lack of artificial additives.
For truly fussy dogs, we do have a fact sheet available on request which contains all manner of hints and tips to get your dog back into the habit of clearing his bowl.
We hope that your dog is making a good recovery!
Ness Bird RVN, Nutrition Adviser,

An ill wind

Can anyone help me with this problem?
Blake is an eight-year old Lab x Golden Retriever and has just had to have major surgery to release a build up of gas in his stomach and intestines. This is the second time this has happened, the first being two years ago.
He has two meals a day of Chappie Complete as recommended by my vet and is not allowed to exercise before or after meals. He is a fit and active dog, weighing 32kgs and has no other health problems.
Can you suggest what might be causing this?
Is there anything I can do to prevent it happening again?
Is surgery the only option? In the latest operation the gas was removed with a stomach tube, did he need to be opened up for this procedure?
I would be grateful for any advice.
Helen Lane, by email

(Also posted on our feeding blog)

Hi Helen,
My James (StaffiexLurcher) is prone to bloat so I understand your feelings of frustration and worry.
The technical name for bloat is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) and usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and sometimes food in the stomach. As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus and at the duodenum.This twisting traps air, food, and water in the stomach  while the bloated stomach itself obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. 

There are lots of reasons for the onset of bloat which may include some or all of the following:

1. Eating Habits: Eating too quickly, drinking too quickly, eating foods high in fat,eating dry food, eating gas producing foods such as those containing soya or brewer's yeast products - may all contribute.
2. Exercise: Even moderate exercise one hour before or two hours after a meal may trigger an episode.
3. Build/Physiology: Deep chested breeds, older dogs and male dogs are all prone to bloat more than others.
4. Stress: Anxiety, nerves or a change in circumstance can also be contributing factors.
5. Heredity: Unfortunately, some dogs regardless of breed are just more susceptible to bloat than others, especially those that have close relatives who also suffer from the same problem. If you haven't done so already, it would be a good idea to have Blake checked for Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI), which occurs when the part of the pancreas that produces digestive enzymes no longer functions properly. Although it's not a very common aliment, it would be worth exploring the possibility with your vet.
Managing bloat usually involves incorporating lots of small changes to diet and daily routine. One of which is moving from dry food to tinned or perhaps consider feeding Blake a Natural Diet.  As your vet has recommend Chappie, let me just say that in my experience, Chappie has suited dogs with all manner of digestive complaints, so if your vet is happy with the move from dry to tinned  I would go down that route first. Although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with dry kibble, it can swell in the stomach and is never normally advised for dog's prone to bloat.
Feeding Blake from a raised bowl may slow him down, but the jury is still out as to weather or not it will have an effect in preventing bloat. I work with several vets who feel that feeding from a raised bowl actually does more harm than good, but I also work with some who highly recommend them.  Regardless of your decision, it's a good idea to split Blake's current two meals a day into three with that third being offered in a puzzle toy such as a Kong or similar.  This will help to slow him down, as well as engage his mind.  If you do switch to tins, try not to mash his food up in his bowl but leave it in largish chunks so that he needs to chew his food before swallowing. The very act of chewing triggers the production of digestion enzymes which in turn will help him digest his food properly.
Thinking outside the box, you may wish to look into Canine Massage Therapy if you feel stress may be playing a part in Blake's condition.  My James has a bi-weekly session in order to help manage his back problem, but I've also found that since starting the regime he is much more relaxed and we haven't had any major issues with his digestion. If you do decide to give Massage Therapy a try, make sure you find someone who is properly qualified and is happy to work with your vet (ie provide professional reports etc).
If all of the above do not address Blake's issue, then you may need to consider surgery. Laparoscopic assisted gastropexy is an operation that fixes the stomach to the body wall permanently in order to prevent the twisting of the stomach. However, since no operation should be considered lightly, a full and frank discussion of the pros and cons for Blake should be had with your vet.

Claire Goyer

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Feeding frenzy

My Springer is such a gannet. Food rules Betty's life, yet it's gone in seconds. I feed dry food and I've tried stuffing her Kongs with her dinner but she's so incredibly speedy at kibble removal that I need something more challenging to make the highlight of her day last a little bit longer! Any suggestions?
Mandy Michelmore, Camberley

We've just heard about a new addition to the Kong range that seems to be made with Betty in mind! The Wobbler. Here's a video of a Pug playing with one so you'll get an idea of scale, and what is so different about this toy as in the above photo it looks much like a normal Kong. Only just launched this month. Can't wait to try it out (hint hint!) You Tube is full of people testing this toy. Have included another for your amusement!

Beverley Cuddy, Editor

Friday, 4 June 2010

Cool ideas for summer!

I don't want to speak too soon, but it's been hot now for at least 48 hours - so I guess this is summer!
Time to share your ideas for keeping your dog cool.
One cheap and cheerful idea is DIY doggie lolly ices! Frozen Kongs!
Be as inventive as you like with the fillings, try chicken stock. Make a savoury canine smoothy with some cocktail sausages or liver cake and yoghurt and then freeze it in a Kong - not forgetting to plug the bottom hole with something like a bung of cheese!
Go on - share your cool Kong recipe's or other tips for keeping your dog cool and content this summer!
Beverley Cuddy, Editor, Dogs Today

Jenny Prevel, from D for Dog, says...
Great replies. I want to say though that you don’t have to order from America to get a Soothsoft Canine Cooler. We sell them at D for Dog The Canine Cooler incorporates Memory Foam comfort, molds to pressure points and is vet recommended. You activate it once and it does not need refrigeration (unless you need to be extra, extra cool). Simply fill it with ordinary tap water.
As already mentioned, a great idea for a fun and cool summer treat for your dog is ice cubes. Or why not stuff a Kong and freeze it for a lasting summer treat.
I wanted to mention some other summer tips to make sure your dog doesn’t suffer in the heat. As always, make sure that your dog has a fresh bowl of water always available to them. They will drink more in the hot weather so you will need to check and re-fill it on a more regular basis.
Be aware of the signs of dehydration. Given a regular supply of water to drink, your dog should not dehydrate. However, if you think your dog might be dehydrated, do this simple check. When the skin along the back is picked up into a fold, it should spring back into place. In dehydration, the skin stays up in a ridge. Another sign is dryness of the mouth. Late signs of dehydration are sunken eyes and circulatory collapse. If your dog is dehydrated, do not let them gulp down excessive amounts of water at once as they are likely to bring it back up. Give your dog an electrolyte mixed in water, which will be more effective than plain water at replenishing the body. To hydrate slowly, give your dog ice to lick rather than letting them take large gulps of water.
In the hot summer months it makes sense to walk your dog during the cooler part of the day. Always take water and a bowl with you on walks and offer it to your dog regularly throughout the walk. If you dog is a big fan of fetch or running around, try to play less active games.
If you take your dog out in the car then bear in mind that it is hotter in the back than it is for you up in the front. If you will need to leave your dog in the car then don’t take them with you. Never leave your dog in the car on even a warm day. The temperature inside the car might not seem excessive when you first stop but the temperature inside a stationary car can rapidly increase to double the outside temperature - phew. This can happen very quickly, within six to ten minutes. Leaving the window open a few inches, parking in the shade, or leaving a bowl of water in the car is NOT adequate. A dog left in a car on a hot or even warm day can suffer heat stress and ultimately fatal heat stroke within just 10 minutes.
See our Parked Cars Cook Dogs campaign for more information about dehydration, heatstroke and what to do if a dog is left in a parked car.
Similarly, never leave your dog in the conservatory when you go out. The same applies to greenhouses and any area that is likely to heat up in the summer sun. Always make sure that your dog has access to a shady area, whether it is indoors or out.
Learn to recognise the signs of heatstroke (see link above) and stop heatstroke in its tracks in the early stages by cooling your dog down immediately. But remember that prevention is better than cure. Don’t put your dog in situations where heatstroke is likely to occur. Keeping your dog cool and comfortable throughout the summer must be a priority.
That’s not to say your dog can’t enjoy some sunshine. Most dogs love to sit in the sun but don't let them bake themselves. Apart from heat stroke and dehydration, sun burn is another issue to consider. If necessary, restrict access to sunny areas and provide plenty of accessible shady places for them to relax. Pets with light or white coats or exposed skin can get sun burnt. Use a sun block on exposed areas and on the tips of ears, forehead and nose or any area you feel could burn.
Imagine wearing a fur coat all summer. Consider getting your dog clipped short for the summer months so that they are more comfortable. If a short cut is not the answer then make sure your dog's coat is regularly groomed to remove any tangles, avoid matting of the coat and remove dead hair.
Feeling a bit hot and bothered? We can all feel a bit grumpy and agitated in the heat. Do remember that your dog is likely to feel this way too. Some dogs can be as irritable and bad-tempered as some humans when made uncomfortable by heat. Take this into account when you interact with your dog. Even the most docile dog can get hot and bothered. Let your dog be and don’t allow children to poke or tease them, not that they should ever be allowed to do so anyway. Allow your dog some time away from all the excitement and activity that summer and the school holidays can bring.
Not to sound all rules and gloom, it is summer after all so have some fun. On a hot day, water fun is often a welcome distraction and also a great way to cool down. Try your dog with the hose pipe for some fun and games. Take care with this. If your dog is anxious about the hose pipe then don’t force the issue. An alternative is a paddling pool. A hard plastic pool will suffer claws better than an inflatable. Bob some toys or treats in the water to gently coax your dog in. Once dogs get the hang of water they soon learn that is it fun and that it helps them to cool down.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Prey, tell us more about wolves!

I've been hearing about how the 'the prey diet' is the best diet. And I've heard the counter argument of 'why should we feed dogs this way as wolves usually die really young and basically needs be able to run pretty fast and long to catch their dinner'. I'd even heard it said that 'wolves' teeth are usually terrible, too - so much for the raw meaty bone diet!' The argument goes, 'we want a long dog's life, without prey drive and without the need to reproduce, so our couch potato dogs' lifestyle is more suited to lower protein and carbs.'
But what do captive wolves eat if they don't have to catch their own dinner or fight for survival? And how long do they live in the wild compared to captivity? What is the normal cause of death in the wild? And do they really have such poor teeth?
Kevin Dorling, Edinburgh

Also posted on the Feeding blog.

Dear Kevin
Thank you for your post regarding wolves’ diets. I have worked with captive wolves and world class wolf experts for 10 years and I can definitely say that wolves do not die due to their diet. Wolves have the same number of teeth as dogs; the only difference is that theirs are much bigger. They also have a higher bite power which is around 1500 pounds per square inch, roughly twice that of a Pitbull Terriers. Wild wolves teeth, if they live long enough, can get worn down and they do some times suffer from spiral and slab fractures but this happen as a result of bringing their prey down not the eating of prey or the lack of nutrition in their diet. Think of wolves as lean athletes, they eat only what they need to survive and are feast or famine feeders i.e. will eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one sitting and then nothing at all for days. Captive wolves' teeth are general really clean. In 10 years I’ve never seen one of the wolves I work have with dental issues.
A colleague of mine Josip Kusak who works with wild wolves in Croatia wrote a paper on dental issues in 2007 called ‘Prevalence of Dental Pathology in Wolves in Croatia’. This provided some credible data regarding dental issues with wild wolves. 34 skulls were examined for dental changes. The skulls originated from wolves which had died due to various reasons in Croatia between 1997 and 2006. Age of examined animals ranged from seven months to eight and half years. Only three skulls had changes to teeth or the alveolar bone (the sockets of the teeth in the jaw bone). Periodontitis, with changes in the alveolar bone, was determined on the alveolus of the lower fourth premolar in two individuals and on the alveolus of the mandibular first molar in one specimen. Complicated crown-root fractures were found in two individuals. All caries lesions (tooth decay) were found on premolars and molars, (except on one incisor), Caries were also found on the upper jaw in one animal and on the lower jaw of another animal, while a third animal had decay in both jaws. None of the animals died because of dental issues and of all the skulls examined the pathological changes belonged to females older than two years. Out of all the skulls studied 8.9% had dental changes. Dental disease is rare in wild canids and evidence shows that they seem to cope by changing sides for chewing. Fractures of teeth also seem to be rare but not unheard of. Possibly lesser fractures where the tooth crown is lost but the pulp is not exposed would be quite common.
Captive wolf diet will mimic the wild. We feed deer, rabbit, beef, chicken carcases, fish, sheep stomach, (called paunch) and any other meat we are donated. It’s all raw with the bone and fur. Their digestive system is very robust and can cope with eating carrion. They also eat fruit, nuts and berries both in the wild and in captivity. Ungulate faeces is consumed for its nutritional value; wolves stomachs are naturally very acidic so digesting plant material is difficult but if its been through the prey species stomach first then the wolves can utilise the vitamins and minerals.
It is true that in the wild wolves do not live long; on average only six to seven years but the cause of death is normally disease, malnutrition i.e. lack of food, parasites, man, other wolves or even their prey causing injury whist they hunt. In captivity they live very long lives and it’s not unheard of for wolves of 14 year plus. The oldest wolf I have heard of was 20 years old.
So to sum up wolves both captive and wild who eat raw meat and bones have very good teeth. Problems come from not the eating of raw food but the actual bringing down of the prey which can exert immense pressures on the dentition of wolves.

Toni Shelbourne
Education Officer and Senior Wolf Handler
UK Wolf Conservation Trust

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Holistic kidney advice needed

I don't know if you can help. I just need some advice. I have about four years back issues of Dogs today magazines and I'm sure you have covered this before, so if you could point me at the right issue that would be good. If not I will go through them all! It won't be a hardship!
My beautiful boy Bosley dog has had a problem with incontinence that has got worse lately. For a while he has been treated with propanol syrup which worked at first.
He became that way when he was 14 and had to have an MRI scan.
We think they may have pumped too much fluid through him while he was under and it broke him a little bit (The vet sort of confirmed this).
For the last few months he's got worse. It's like a leaking tap and happens when he is asleep mostly. He sleeps a lot these days as he is nearly 16.
He has been in the vets today for an ultrasound and more blood tests.
The blood tests have shown up possible kidney disease but not definite as the results were not strong enough as it is not advanced enough.
But all the symptoms now point to that too.
Urine samples show it's very diluted indicating that the kidneys are not doing their job.
The ultrasound showed that his kidneys were shrinking too.
His back legs have started dragging a bit and we think it is connected.
He is also very stiff and his front legs give him trouble sometimes.
He has been on loxicom for that but after today the vet says that he can't have that as it's not good for kidney problems. He now has 2 tramadol to take a day (I will be googling those tomorrow).
So basically what I am asking is if anyone knows of any holistic remedies that we can give him to help his kidneys?
Our vet has put him on another Hills prescription food, and while I do trust our vets I would like to know if there is anything else I could do to help him.
He's so happy most of the time, still has lots of puppy moments and our life revolves around him.
I know he's old and I have to face the inevitable but we just want to help him as much as we can.

Sue Bridle
Further to this, have you heard of a product called Tripsy that is available in the US? It is herbal and it treats kidney failure. I just wondered if you knew anyone who has had experience of it? There are lots of good reviews but you never know if to trust them!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Can a dog be taught how to play?

Our dog can’t play! I have recently taken on a second male Shih Tzu, Frodo. He is a dear little chap, very affectionate, very sociable and absolutely adores my husband & me and our existing dog. Frodo had no idea how to walk on a lead, climb stairs or enjoy a cuddle on the sofa when we got him little over a month ago so has been on a very steep learning curve. One thing we have made no progress with is that Frodo has no idea how to play; in fact if he does pick up a toy while running or chasing with the other dog he then creeps away and flinches so I would assume he has been actively discouraged from playing in the past. We have tried ignoring him to see if he will play when he feels unobserved and we have tried very quietly praising him when he does show interest but every time he flinches as if expecting to be told off. Frodo clearly has playful instincts and the only thing he will do is to throw his bed around. I’ve tried giving him a toy to indicate it’s ok for him to have it but he puts it down and moves away as if chastised. Our other boy is very playful and spends hours with his toys and Frodo will join in the running around but doesn’t seem to know why. We would love any advice or tips your readers might have to help us help Frodo to learn to play.
Claire Gosney

First time breeder needs help!

I've been asked to recommend a good book to help guide a first time breeder through the process of mating, birth and rearing the litter.
Before you ask, they're booked in for the relevant health tests for Miniature Schnauzers and they have some people who want the pups. Owner is also prepared and able to keep any pups should there not be enough suitable homes.
So if you want to be well bred how can you be well read?
Is there an really practical UK book on breeding?
Any other tips? I've not bred a litter for decades. When we did we used a pig lamp and my dad made a wooden whelping box with pig rails. What do other people use who don't have a master carpenter in the family!
We were also very hands on during the birth. Cutting chords etc and moving pups into a separate box with a covered hot water bottle as we had massive litters and there was always another pup on the way. What's the current school of thought - who lets their bitches DIY? And I seem to remember the vet used to come to give an injection to make sure there wasn't another pup or a placenta stuck - but I guess these days everyone can have scans so knows how many pups to expect?
Any other advances in breeding you can pass on?
Beverley Cuddy
Editor- Dogs Today