Confusing And Troubling: Your Dog’s Diet And Dcm

Travelling With Your Cat and Dog

Vaccinating your Cats and Dogs

Your Dog’s Vaccinations

Why Dogs Make the Best Pets

Cats had their chance in the January issue, so it seems only fair to hear from the dogs. Why do dogs make the best pets? Read on…

Is a dog’s mouth cleaner than a human’s?

Hmmm… seems that it depends. If your dog just finished digging…

Chew On This

Chewing is an instinctual, normal behaviour for both wild and domesticated dogs.

Ticks Can’t Jump or Fly!

Western Black Legged Tick

Western Black Legged Tick

They also don’t drop down from trees. However, they can attach themselves to our dogs (and to us as well!) and they do feed on blood, swelling up in the process, all of which is pretty gross and just a bit creepy. But taking a few precautions and dealing with any ticks that do show up will keep them under control. Although ticks would be happy with feline blood, they don’t often have much success as the cat’s grooming usually takes care of them.

The main species of tick in our area is the Western black-legged tick, and it is mainly active in January-February, and again from May through July. They hang around on low level vegetation in warm grassy or brushy areas but don’t do well in wooded areas with lots of bigger trees.

The ticks will crawl out to the ends of the branches or grasses with some of their eight legs hanging on and others waving in the air waiting to grab on to a warm-blooded creature that brushes against them. They are usually found on the head or front of a dog, but they can be anywhere. Once in place, they bite surprisingly securely into the skin, adding a biological “glue” to help hold them in place, and start drawing up blood, becoming gray and about the size of a pea over the next 48 hours or so. Ticks use the blood protein for egg development. After filling up, the tick will drop off, which is the time they may leave some bacteria behind. Note that ticks don’t actually burrow under the skin.

The chances of you or your dog contracting a tick borne bacterial disease are very small, but it’s worth having some knowledge of both Lyme Disease and Anaplasma. Both conditions produce similar symptoms: lethargy, lameness, stiffness, loss of appetite, fever, enlarged lymph nodes. Both conditions can be serious but do respond well to antibiotics. Early detection and diagnosis is a must, so be aware.

Western Black Legged Tick

Western Black Legged Tick

If you find a tick on your pet, don’t use poorly advised and generally ineffective folk remedies like gasoline or lit matches. Ticks are most safely and effectively removed by a slow and gentle pull without twisting, using tweezers or specialized tick removers. This will normally remove the tick with the mouth parts attached. Examine the tick to ensure you got it all and inspect the site on your dog for pieces left behind. The wound should then be treated with an antiseptic. It’s a good idea to keep the tick in a sealed container in the fridge or freezer for a while in case your dog develops any problems. Most often, the site heals quickly.

Take your dog to the beach, an open field, or the forest during tick season. Avoid brushy areas such as power lines or south facing slopes. Check your dog over frequently and groom regularly. Promptly and completely remove any tick you find. Pay attention to the skin where a tick was removed and be aware of and vigilant about your dog’s general health. Do all this, and while ticks will always be gross and unwanted, chances are they won’t cause any significant problems.

Dog Food Allergies

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is an over-reaction of the immune system to something in the food, usually a protein. During digestion, the various components of the food are broken down, and the dog’s immune system mistakenly sees some part of the food as a threat, and an abnormally strong defensive response occurs. Over time, this response can become more aggressive and symptoms can get worse.

It’s important to distinguish a food allergy from a food intolerance, which does not involve the dog’s immune system. Intolerances are more likely to cause a gastrointestinal response, such as poor quality stool or gurgling sounds from the digestive system.

What are the symptoms of a food allergy?

Food allergies in dogs are most often expressed through the skin as itching. This may involve the entire body or be focused on a specific area, such as the ears or feet. Chronic or periodic infections of the ears or skin are common. Reactions are often located on the face, on the belly, between the toes, or under the front legs. Excessive or constant itching and biting of the affected area is common, and in severe cases, the dog is clearly in distress.

How do food allergies develop?

The latest research suggests that food allergies develop because of a condition called dysbiosis, commonly known as “leaky gut”. This can be defined as an imbalance of bacteria in the digestive system, with insufficient “friendly” bacteria and too many “bad” bacteria. With this imbalance, the intestinal lining is inflamed and weakened, and is unable to prevent undigested food particles or potentially toxic organisms from passing directly into the bloodstream. The immune system sees these as invaders and triggers a hypersensitive response. Once a particular food is classified as a threat by the immune system, it remains “on alert” and can respond in the same way for the rest of the dog’s life.

Antibiotics are most often the cause of the initial imbalance of the bacteria in the dog’s digestive system. Other drugs including vaccines, corticosteroids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) can contribute. Highly processed diets containing a large amount of grains and food additives are also implicated.

There is thought that feeding a puppy one source of protein, say chicken, through to maturity and then forever abandoning that protein, may be a way to avoid food allergy reactions later in life. If the puppy experienced leaky gut and developed an allergic response to chicken, but never to another protein, then avoiding chicken for the rest of the dog’s life would reduce the chances of a problem.

What can you do to treat food allergies?

Curing the allergy is usually not a possibility, so you are left with dealing with the symptoms and avoiding the source of the allergic reaction. Immune suppressing drugs can be very effective in relieving itch, but their long-term side effects are severe. Topical treatments such as ointments, creams, or sprays are seldom very useful. Determining what food your dog is allergic to, and avoiding it in the future, is the preferable course of action, although it’s not always easy. Switching to a protein source that the dog has never had before, and strictly restricting the diet for a period of 8 to 10 weeks, seeing the symptoms clear up, and then reintroducing the suspect food can provide valuable information. Repeated food trials using single source proteins and simple diets are often necessary, and the guidance of someone with experience is recommended.

What is the best food for dogs with allergies?

There really is no such thing, as food allergies are a very individual thing, and what works for one dog will not necessarily work for another. But taking the time to do food trials with proteins that your dog has not previously been exposed to could go a long way towards helping your allergic dog. And we are always here to help!