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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Prevention is better than cure

Hi Dogs Today

Is there anything I can give my dog throughout the year to keep her fit and healthy? I am a firm believer that prevention is better than cure, and I myself regularly take supplements which contain antioxidants and zinc, which I’m sure is one of the reasons I rarely suffer from colds etc.

Is there a canine equivalent of this? My dog is a two-year-old Labrador cross (rescue!) named Cara.


Annette Michaels, by email

Ray O'Mahony MVB MRCVS CVH, vet, advises...

Prevention is with doubt better than cure and antioxidants are as important for dogs, and all other animals, as they are for us. 
Antioxidants are the buzz word for health at the moment and every where we are reminded and encouraged to consume as many as we can.
The issue of antioxidant status in dogs is complicated by the fact that most commercial dog foods are completely lacking in these important dietary elements. Cooking at high temperatures destroys them and few of the raw diets available add sufficient quantities to make a difference. As a result chronic degenerative and inflammatory conditions such as liver disease, bronchitis, kidney and heart disease are very prevalent in our older dogs.
With these issues in mind we at Phytoforce  ( created Active 8. We carefully chose eight of the most antioxidant rich herbs available, including one herb for each body system to provide the most comprehensive whole body health tonic available to protect your dog from the wear and tear of life.
One of the commonly reported benefits of Active 8 is that dogs given the tonic often stop eating grass. This could suggest that dogs are actually eating grass for the antioxidants it contains, as they are aware in some way of this short fall in their diet.

Work placement in Leicestershire needed!

My name is Sophie, I'm 18 years old and I live in Leicestershire, close to Loughborough and Coalville. I have spent the past 2 years studying a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Animal Management at Brooksby Melton College. I have covered modules such as Animal Nursing, Nutrition, Dog Grooming, Animal Welfare, Animal Behaviour, Breeding and Genetics, Microbiology, Anatomy and Physiology. I am completing the course with the highest grade achievable, this is due to my
strong determination that this is all I want to do with my life and my hard work to ensure I never miss a lesson. I have experience mainly in Boarding Kennels, I have been working in them for around 4 years. I love the contact with all different kinds of dogs, I feel that one of the best parts of the job also involves dealing with the customers who are worried about leaving their dogs. I love settling the dogs in and then being able to tell the owners all the things that their dogs got up to whilst they were gone and sharing with the owners what a lovely dog they have. However, I would enjoy a placement elsewhere with Dogs or other animals as I have spent time at Brooksby College working with a wide variety of animals from exotic species, to farm stock. At this time I am looking for a placement where I could carry out a higher education apprenticeship or a job either full time or part time where I could study at home whilst working. At the moment I do not have my own transport but am able to travel either by public transport or by my parents, however, this could change very soon. I have excellent references and am hoping to either study a higher education general animal course, or a specific Dog psychology or grooming course. However, this would depend on the line of work I was in. I am eager to learn and very driven to be successful, I just need some help along the way. Thank you 

If you can offer Sophie a work placement can you email and we will forward them on to her

Friday, 20 April 2012

Nice to meet you?

Hi my name is Judy,

I have a pure breed Blue Roan, neutered Cocker Spaniel who is three years old soon.

During greeting a new dog, Elmo will sometimes greet then freak out/rumble and I lead him away; he wears a head halter.

He was pinned down by the throat when two years old by a female Boxer at dog training. There was no damage, and he has been bitten on the nose whilst greeting a new dog. We meet a number of nasty dogs which I steer him past.

Sometimes he growls at a male sheepdog and male Boxer as the owner keeps trying to push her Boxer to greet even though I told her no. Is this social aggression or defence?

He has mainly smaller friends and does get scared of bigger dogs.

Many thanks

Judy, by email

Karen Wild, behaviourist (, advises...

HI Judy

It can be hard to tell without seeing him for myself, but it might be that Elmo is anticipating a bad outcome and so although he is keen to say hello he may then fear some kind of reaction from the other dog and so begins to feel uncertain, hence the growling. I like to teach dogs that react in this way (particularly those that have had a bad experience) that saying hello is fine but only as long as the dog turns away and comes back to the owner immediately when the owner says so. The effect of this is that the dog feels a little more confident that their owner will step in calmly if things get out of hand. It also means the owner can get very good at anticipating early signs of stress from their dog, such as licking and yawning, and can take control of the situation with a predictably rewarding outcome. In other words, the owner is the one who is confident and in control rather than letting the dog deal with a potentially worrying situation.

We cannot always identify the specifics as to why our dogs may not like other dogs - it may be that he finds male dogs threatening or as you suggest, big dogs. Keep a detailed diary of the dogs he meets and begins to react to, and ones he gets along with, to help you identify this. If you can, ask their owners if the dogs are neutered, as this can have an influence too.

I would suggest that he is simply worried about bigger dogs and probably needs to simply go for a walk with a bigger dog - not nose-to-nose greeting which can be overwhelming. Just a simple, old-fashioned walk, so that both dogs can gradually get to know one another without any confrontation or pressure. Choose a calm larger dog that you know is unlikely to react and take your time. It may be that on the first few walks the dogs don't even get to sniff one another, but that is find. We need to make sure all the dogs, particularly yours, learn that bigger dogs are not a threat and that staying relaxed means a lot of enjoyment. A qualified, kind methods trainer or behaviourist can help you build up to greetings of a more 'head-on' nature, to represent the realities of everyday meetings!


Saturday, 14 April 2012

What's the best harness?

My Beardie Oscar has a very sensitive throat, even a very light pressure on the collar seems to make him cough like he has kennel cough - which he did have a few years ago. I'd like to use a body harness - but is this even feasible with such a very, very hairy dog?
What's likely to be the best one to try and what measurements do I need to do to find the right size?
Thank you!
Beverley Cuddy
Editor, Dogs Today

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Gut feeling


Have you any advice on what particular brand of probiotic might be best for our dog?


David and Jeannette Court, by email

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Is there a food with all the nasty bits left out?

I have just read the ingredients of my dog's food and I have spent a hair-raising 30 minutes on the Internet googling all the weird things that are in her current diet!
Can anyone point out a food that doesn't have loads of preservatives, colourings, grains or chemical additives? What’s the choice out there? Surely someone is doing something that leaves all that nasty stuff out without me having to cook for my dog myself?
Dawn Morley, Wales

Can you go organic?

I prefer to buy organic food for my family whenever possible. I’m about to get a gorgeous rescue dog and I’d love to be able to buy an organic diet for her. What - if anything - is available? I’ve had a quick look in our small local pet shop but couldn’t see anything! Can you give me some names to look out for?
Nigel Barlow, London

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Food allergy advice

We are trying to find what the most common food allergies are among the dog population, and your solutions.

Do you find your dog suffers from one particular ingredient, or many? What are his ‘symptoms’? How have you coped? Have you simply changed to a different type of food, or have you completely changed his diet?

From, Dogs Today

Every dog to his taste

I have a German Shepherd bitch who is eight months old and is fed 200 grams of Arden Grange in two feeds. She eats her own poo, has had a lick of horse poo, and we think eating other dogs poo when out at night. I have tried pineapple juice, fresh pineapple, grated courgette, and chilli on poo but nothing works.

Any advice would be helpful. Also she licks everybody's arms, feet, and face, and even the side of the bath when we get a bath, and because of this poo eating habit we don't want her to lick us. I have had Border Collies and Jack Russells, have been a puppy walker, have done some rescue work and worked in kennels, and I have never had this problem before. Can anybody help solve this problem? I have had her checked at vet and the vet says to carry on with whatever I'm doing as she is perfect weight etc.

Shirley Holmes, by email

Jenny Prevel, D for Dog, says...

There are a number of potential reasons why a dog might eat faeces.

Firstly it is important to realise that coprophagia (eating faeces) is actually quite common. Horse or rabbit dropping would usually be preferred but dog poo will suffice if no other faeces are available.

Nutritional deficiency is commonly believed to be a reason for poo eating, so it is important to rule this out first. However, a dog fed on a good quality complete dog food should already be getting all the nutrients they require. If you are feeding a low quality food then try selecting a better quality brand.

Another possible clinical cause of coprophagia could be a digestion problem. In other words, you are feeding the correct nutrients but your dog is not able to digest what it needs.

Poor digestion due to fast eating may in turn result in poor nutrient absorption. Instinctively the dog may then try to reprocess it by eating up his nutrient rich poop. Specially designed dog food bowls are available that stop the dog from making a clean sweep of their food. It moderates the dog's eating pace. We recommend the Eat Better Dog Bowl

One particular nutrient often thought to lead to poo eating is a lack of vitamin B. Supplementing your dog’s diet with Vitamin B could therefore help, but please note that this should not be required if your dog is already fed a good quality complete food. However, if supplementation is required, try conditioning tablets from the pet shop or brewers’ yeast from the health food shop.

Other reasons for eating faeces are behavioural based. Your dog may simply do it because it is an instinct or is even a pleasurable activity. In this case, your disapproval will have little effect since the pleasure gained from eating the poop probably outweighs any displeasure from an unhappy owner.

It is worth mentioning that variety is the spice of life. Don’t discount the fact that a scavenging dog may simply be bored with his usual diet, making them more likely to seek out more novel food sources. Therefore, introducing some new food sources to their diet could help. Try adding small amounts of raw meat, raw offal, fish, egg yolk, green leafy vegetables, or brown rice.

Eating poo seems revolting to us but many wild animals eat faeces, especially at times when food sources are scarce. The dog’s instinct is that of a scavenger. Faecal matter can contain many nutrients and be a surprisingly good source of protein. A dog that eats faeces may therefore just be seeing poop as another food source – waste not want not. Clinical reasons aside, it is often thought that this is the most common reason why a dog eats faeces. The dog will start by recycling their own poo and generalise to eating any poop they come across.

Assuming that clinical reasons for the coprophagia have been ruled out and assuming the issue is therefore a behavioural one, how can we stop our dog from eating poo?

Many people simply muzzle their dog during walkies. This will only work if you muzzle your dog each and every time it is likely to encounter poo, unless you are lucky and the use of the muzzle breaks the habit. That aside, the use of a muzzle doesn’t actually teach your dog not to eat poo, nor does it address any underlying medical problems or behavioural issues. Having said this, it can be a relatively simple solution to a difficult problem. If you do decide to use a muzzle then pick a light weight basket design that allows your dog to pant and breathe normally.

If your dog gobbles up his own poo or the poo of other dogs in the household, some suggest feeding small amounts of pineapple in with their usual meal. This can apparently put them off eating the end product. Courgette is also said to make stools taste unpleasant. I see you have already tried this without success.

Another solution for a dog who eats their own poo is simply to clean it up as soon as they have toileted. You can hope to break the habit but it may take some time. Also, if you clean up poop quickly you risk the poop becoming an item of perceived value to your dog, which is the opposite of what you wish to achieve. Instead, call your dog in for a treat after they have toileted, close the door and with your dog inside go out afterwards to pick up the poo.

A more long term solution is to train your dog not to eat faeces. If you make a big fuss when your dog eats poop and try to stop your dog mid-scoff, your dog is likely to simply attempt to be quicker next time. Your dog may even think you are in competition and trying to reach the poop first because you desire to have it. The eating of poo has then become a significant event and could easily escalate into a habit. Distraction and reward is therefore preferable. Teaching the leave command can help. Start with something of low value before you graduate to using the leave command on something as rewarding as poo eating.

As already mentioned, the eating of poo can be very rewarding to your dog. Therefore any alternative you offer must be more rewarding than the poop. The aim is to make it more rewarding for your dog not to eat poo than to eat it. Provide something your dog will prefer such as slices of hot dog sausage or something else that they really enjoy.

Owners are right to be concerned about the health issues connected with their dog eating poo, but surprisingly not as much as you would think. Probably the biggest concern is if your dog eats the faeces of other dogs and especially if they have a penchant for poo that is not fresh. In such cases, roundworm is a particular health concern. It is therefore important to worm your dog regularly. This will lessen the risk of infection with parasitic eggs.

A dog’s guts have a powerful immune response to bacteria. The modern dog’s diet can be so sterile that they may even seek out bacteria in order to address the balance and keep their immune system working effectively. So, having mentioned health concerns, it is important to point out that your dog will not suffer many ill effects as a result of eating poop, at least not in the way that humans would.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Treats with no wheat

Can anyone recommend good quality treats that have no cereals in them?

I have an inkling that my JRT is allergic to wheat so I'm trying an elimination diet but can't find any cereal-free treats in my local pet shops (even the fish treats I looked at had cereal in them!).

Anon, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

When I am supervising a patient on an elimination diet, the question of treats always crops up. Best advice is to avoid complicating the issue. Sticking to the elimination diet can be hard enough without then trying to find a suitable treat which does not inadvertently add in different foods, so I always advise using the elimination diet as a treat as well. If you are using a manufactured kibble, then simply give a nugget of that when you want to give your dog a treat, as it is the receiving of the treat which your dog is expecting, not necessarily what the treat actually is. If you are home-cooking an elimination diet, then a piece of that food can be given as a treat.

If you have any concerns, please ask your vet for advice. You have not mentioned what has made you think your JRT has a wheat allergy, so do be careful with pursuing an elimination diet in case there is a different health problem present.

Help for PFK

Dear all,

Our beautiful English Springer Spaniel, Domino, has been diagnosed with the rare condition phosphofructokinase deficiency and the advice is to avoid too much exercise and stress. I wonder if any of the readers of Dogs Today have any experience about how to manage day to day life with a dog with this problem?

Many thanks,

Rhona Light
, by email

Alison Logan, vet, advises...

PFK deficiency is a so-called glycogen storage disorder - inherited as an autosomal recessive trait -which affects the ability of red blood cells and muscle cells to respond to activity. You have been told to avoid over-exercise and stress because clinical signs tend to become apparent after exercise, or after a long period of barking or panting when stressed. The classic sign is dark urine; other signs include jaundice, anaemia, fever and poor appetite. There may also be poor exercise tolerance, muscle cramping and a refusal to work, particularly in working and active individuals.

You have not said how old Domino is, but the ESS is such an exuberant and willingly active breed that it must be very hard for both you and him to try to adopt a more calm and less active lifestyle.

I think it would be worth trying a DAP collar which may help him to chill out. Do remember that other dogs can be attracted to a dog wearing one of these collars so you might have to remove it when he is mixing with canine friends.

As a side issue, it occurred to me that you will have to watch his weight now that he cannot exercise as much. Weaning him to a lower energy food would be a wise move.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Hair of the dog


We (my family) are thinking about getting a dog but my daughter is allergic to some animal fur. We took on a friend's two elderly rabbits when they moved abroad and she couldn't go near them for long. We were able to limit her exposure a bit as the rabbits stayed in a run in the garden during the day, but had to bring them in at night because we get a lot of foxes, and also I was worried about the temperature at night.

I've heard Poodle crosses are hypoallergenic, and my daughter doesn't seem to be affected by my sister's Cockapoo. I've heard its something to do with dander but I'm not really sure what this is. Do you have any information on this?

Kind regards,

Deborah Webster, by email

Dr Susan Aldridge, Allergy Cosmos, says...

Hi Deborah,

It doesn’t sound very nice, but dander is actually the name given to microscopic skin flakes shed by animals. It’s a bit like dandruff flakes really, only much smaller at around 2-3 microns in size.

But what people are allergic to are certain proteins found in their urine, sweat, and saliva, which can adhere to the skin, and in the case of dogs the two main dog allergens are Can f1 and Can f2 which are found in their saliva. I know - it’s not getting much nicer!

The dander particles, complete with these allergens, stick to an animal's fur or feathers and that is how they are shed and dispersed around your home. So strictly speaking it is not the dander itself, or the animal's fur, which is the allergen, it is the invisible protein particles, which are widely distributed in the air.

Sadly the most full-proof way of avoiding pet dander is not to have a pet at all… but that’s much less fun! Instead, there are various measures you can take to cut down on pet allergen exposure, from controlling the animal's access to certain rooms to using air filters to trap dander particles.

My top tips would be:
- Do not let your pet roam the house at will. Dogs shed allergen-containing dander wherever they go and it persists for months, both in the air and on the surfaces it sticks to. At the very least, never allow a pet to enter the bedroom of the allergic person.
- If your dog is to be allowed controlled access to the house, the kitchen, with its lack of soft furnishings, is a good choice – but do take care not to let your pet come into contact with food.
- It is also worth reducing dander spread by washing your pet regularly with an anti-allergenic pet shampoo. This has been shown to reduce allergen load by more than 85 per cent. So be gentle, make it fun, and have a treat ready at the end.
- Be sure to wash your hands after touching your pet. Cuddling your dog is part of the fun of ownership, and it’s therapeutic for both of you. But always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
- Try to avoid touching your face after handling a pet if you are allergic.
- Be sure to vacuum regularly with a vacuum that contains a HEPA standard air filter and is leakage free. Daily damp dusting is also helpful.

And finally, to answer your question as to whether hypoallergenic dogs really do exist, the dog genome does not, as far as we know, vary so much between species that some have lower allergen levels than others. So all dog species produce the same amount of allergen in their secretions. Any differences probably relate to the length of the dog's coat and how much hair it sheds, or maybe how much it sweats. There are around 60 breeds of dog that are said to be 'hypoallergenic', of which the Cockapoo is one - generally, as you might expect, they are those which are hairless or have short coats and therefore do not shed as much. Examples include various breeds of terrier and the US President Obama's dog (Bo, ‘The First Dog’), which is a Portuguese Water Dog, because one of his own daughters is also allergic.

For more information please do check out our website:

I wish you all the best in your search for a new best friend.

In a pickle


Like lots of people, I'm trying to save the pennies at the moment in any way I can. I'm vegetarian, but my husband and two children do eat meat. I was thinking of taking my dog (Fred, a Smooth Collie) off canned food and feeding him the same food my family eats. Would this be okay for him?

My family all eat organic food and this is something I'm keen to feed Fred. Does he need to have much meat? He's currently on a well-known brand of canned dog food but I'm not sure how much meat is in it anyway and how much is cereals. I've heard of veggie dogs but I'm not sure how good this is for them as I always thought they were carnivores. Can I feed him a mainly veg diet? I do not want to compromise Fred's health. How many vegetables are safe to give them, and are there any I should avoid?

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Annette Robertson, by email

Monday, 2 April 2012



Please could you tell me if bee/wasp stings are poisonous to dogs?

My Springer keeps chasing them round the garden and trying to eat them! I do tell her to leave them alone and she does, but if she does manage to catch one and it stings her, should I call the vet straight away? And is there anything I can keep in my first aid kit for her?


Suzanne Ball, by email