Monday, March 18, 2019

#2 Parasites - Protozoal Parasites of the Digestive System.

This week, I continue the series on parasites with some information about intestinal protozoa parasites, coccidia and giardia. 

The two most common intestinal parasites in canines, besides intestinal worms, are coccidia and giardia.  Both of these organisms are protozoal and both can wreak havoc on the digestive system, especially of young puppies. 
Coccidia and giardia usually present with almost identical symptoms.  The beginning symptom is diarrhea, which usually will progress to a very watery stool and often will be bloody or blood streaked. Then you may begin to see some depression and fatigue, which are often the results of hypoglycemia and dehydration, brought about by the diarrhea.  Some pups with coccidia or giardia will refuse food and water and some won't....usually though, it's those affected with giardia that refuse food and water because giardia often causes severe abdominal cramping.

Giardia infection usually takes place as a result of a contaminated water source, however, both coccidia and giardia cysts can live in the soil for quite some time, so it is possible for puppies to pick up the cysts in the soil and ingest them that way. Both protozoa can be passed from other infected dogs in feces as well. 

Coccidia and giardia infect the host in similar ways.  Cysts are picked up from soil or passed in fecal matter from infected animals and any animal that comes into contact with the cysts can become infected by picking up the cysts on it's paws and ingesting them when it cleans itself. 
Once inside the host, giardia and coccidia begin to differentiate in how they act upon their hosts.  For an indepth look at how these two protozoal parasites behave inside the host, click on the links below.

Another area where these two protozoal organisms differ is how they are diagnosed.  There is a snap test available for giardia, which tests for the protien that the organisms use to encyst themselves.  Because of this, the snap test is not always reliable, as there will not be those protiens present in every stool.  The protozoa will encyst when changes in the digestive tract indicate that they are about to be expelled.  Once encysted, the protiens will dwindle and eventually there will be none left to create a positive test.  Fecal float testing can, at times, be used to diagnose giardia, but it has a very low success rate as the organism is very very difficult to see, even under a microscope.
Coccidia, on the other hand, is usually diagnosed with a fecal float test.  Still difficult to see, it is usually possible to find coccidia oocytes in the stool.  Alternatively, a blood test may help to diagnose coccidia. 

And these two parasites are also different in how they are treated.  Coccidia is treated with Albon or Ponazuril, and often an antibiotic to ensure that no secondary infections set in.  Giardia is treated with Panacur or Safeguard (a common wormer) and metronidazole, an antibiotic that not only helps to prevent secondary infections, but also appears to have some effect on the giardia organisms themselves. 

There was a controversial vaccine for giardia on the market at one time.  It was called Giardia Vax and was made by Fort Dodge.  The controversy surrounded the debate over whether or not this vaccine actually benefits the animal.  It did not prevent infection, and did not claim to.  The vaccine claimed to reduce clinical symptoms and the amount of time the animal will shed the cysts.  If the vaccine actually did this, it would be very beneficial to the animal because reduction of diarrhea would eliminate a whole host of problems associated with it, such as hypoglycemia and dehydration.  Also, reducing the amount of time the cysts are shed may also help to reduce the risks of other animals becoming infected.  However, research suggests that the vaccine has no effect on the presence of giardia in the stools of infected but asymptomatic dogs.  Further, the vaccine is now very difficult to find, so it appears as though it may have been taken off the market.   

In the end, there is no absolute cure for either of those parasites, unfortunately, except for the animal's body's own defenses.  Dogs naturally carry coccidia in their digestive systems, but what makes the animal sick is the overwhelming rapidity with which these protozoas reproduce. This happens in puppies becaue of immature immune systems.  Adult dogs rarely become ill from giardia or coccidia, but they may be carriers of the protozoa.  If given time and a little help with the medicines mentioned above though, most animals will be able to rid themselves of these organisms.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Parasites...The Worst Enemy of Man's Best Friend. Intestinal Worms

This week, I will begin a short series focusing on common parasites seen in our canine companions.  The first topic, which I will cover this week, is intestinal worms.  All dogs, no matter how well cared for, are susceptible to these parasites.  Intestinal worms can make our furry friends very ill if left untreated, but the good news is, they are easy to treat.  Here, I describe the most common types of worms and the best treatments for each.

We all hate them, and practically every dog gets them at least once in its life.  Parasitic worms of the digestive tract are no fun to deal with, that's for sure.  There are several types of parasitic worms, but the most common are, by far, roundworms, followed by tapeworms, hook worms and whip worms.  Most types, if treated properly, pose little real threat to your dog.  However, if left untreated, some dogs, especially puppies, can die from worm infestation blocking their intestinal flow.

Roundworms look a bit like spaghetti.  They are long and brownish or pinkish white in color.  Live roundworms can present in the stool before worming treatment is given.  And dogs will expel dead roundworms after treatment.  In some cases, puppies may be born with roundworm larva already in their digestive tracts, but they can also get them through nursing, which is why we worm at 2 weeks of age (the approximate time it takes for roundworm larva to mature.)  The most common symptom of roundworm infestation is the presentation of live roundworms in the stool.  But in some cases, roundworms can cause irritation in the bowel, which may lead to diarrhea.  Especially in puppies, a severe roundworm infestation can cause a distended abdomen (which looks like a constantly full belly) accompanied by weight loss (you may even be able to see the puppy's ribs!). 
Roundworms are usually treated with pyrantel pamoate, which is sold as Strongid T, Evict or variety of other names, including names that you can buy at our favorite place...Wal-Mart!!  However, fenbendazole (sold as Safeguard or Panacur) will also rid your dog of roundworms and can be used to treat other types of worms as well (more info on this product below, in the discussion of whipworms)  

Tapeworms can be a bit trickier.  They can present before worming treatment is given as tiny segments that resemble bits of rice.  Or, they can present as a long whitish worm that comes out as your dog potties and then sucks back up when he's finished.  Or, they may not present at all.  The symptoms are so few, and so few dogs get any of them, that you may not ever even know your dog is infected.  The symptoms can include "growling tummies" and diarrhea. 
Tape worms do attach to the intestinal wall, which is why they suck back up into the intestines after your dog potties.  Because of this, they can cause some irritation in the intestines, which may lead to a bit of blood in the feces.  Tapeworms are difficult to diagnose because they don't lay eggs inside their host, which is how most worms are detected in a fecal exam done by a vet.  But, tapeworms are transmitted by fleas, so if your dog has fleas, there's a good chance he also has tapeworms. 
Over the counter wormers will not have any affect on tapeworms.  Praziquantel or Droncit are the prefered wormers for tapeworms.  Dogs will not pass dead tapeworms after worming treatment because the wormers disolve the worm's outer covering so that the worm is digested by the dog's digestive tract. 

Hookworms are interesting creatures. The most common way for your dogs to get hookworms is by walking in an area where an infected animal has left feces.  Hookworm larva deposited into soil mature into free living organisms which can actually penetrate your dog's skin and infect the dog without the need for ingestion, which is required for most other worm infestation. 
Symptoms of hookworm infestation are diarrhea (especially black, tarry diarrhea), vomiting, loss of appetite, weakness and in puppies, poor growth. 
Dogs will not pass live hookworms prior to treatment, as the worms attach to the intestinal wall.  These worms are very tiny and cannot be seen without the use of a microscope, which is why you will also never see them even after treatment. Your vet can test for the presence of hookworm eggs in a fecal exam though.    
Hookworms are treated with pyrantel pamoate or fenbendazole (discussed below)

Whipworms are quite infectious, but the only way for your dog to get whipworms is to actually eat the egg.  Whip worms bury their entire heads into the large intestine of the dog and they are not contagious to cats.  Whipworms are also too tiny to see without a microscope, so you'll never see your dog pass them, even after treatment.  Like most other worms besides the tapeworm, diagnosis is made with a fecal flotation exam which detects whipworm eggs. 
Whipworms can be difficult to diagnose because they may not lay their eggs every day, so if you happen to take your dog to the vet for a fecal exam on a day that the worms aren't laying eggs, whipworm infestation can be easily overlooked.  However, there are usually some signs of whipworm infestation, including diarrhea, especially diarrhea that comes and goes (colitis), and weight loss.   
Whip worms are easy to treat using fenbendazole, marketed as Panacur. This really is the only wormer that will rid your dog of whipworms.

Now that you have a pretty good idea of the types of worms you may face with your dog and how to treat for them, you should be well equipped to keep your dog healthy and safe from these nasty parasites. The next topic in this series will cover other types of intestinal parasites. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

Fighting Fido's Fat - Keeping Your Chihuahua at a Healthy Weight

With the indulgence of the holidays behind us, I am reminded of a common problem that we see with small breed dogs, weight issues!  We are seeing more and more overweight dogs these days.  It seems to me that the majority of these dogs are small breeds, but that may just be my imagination.  I do know that being overweight is probably the worst condition that a Chihuahua can be in, and the same is true for many other breeds.  Extra weight can be very hard on a Chihuahua's heart and joints.  The added stress on the heart can cause congestive heart failure, or simply overwork the heart to the point where it cannot function properly.  And the added stress of extra weight on the joints makes overweight Chihuahuas much more likely to develop arthritis, patella luxation and other joint problems.  And, just as in people, an overweight Chihuahua is more likely to develop diabetes. 

I'm not sure about other small breeds, but I know with Chihuahuas, the trouble is that some of them seem to have a natural tendency to become overweight.  This is partly caused by the fact that, in many cases, their owners treat them like babies instead of like dogs.  They are fed large amounts of table food, way too many treats and usually are not exercised enough.  I've found that in most cases, this is the cause of the extra weight.  But, I've seen a few cases where it wasn't the cause, so in some cases, it does seem to be a natural tendency. 

I am very much in support of spaying and neutering pets.  Unfortunately, altering a Chihuahua in such a way very often makes a weight problem worse, or causes a weight problem that wasn't there before.  My grandparents had a Chihuahua when I was growing up who had been altered at a very early age.  Normally, he would have been about a 5 pound dog, but just a few short years after he was neutered, he weighed 7 pounds.  That's almost half again his normal weight.  Look at it in terms of human weight.  If a 150 pound person were to gain over 1/3 again their own body weight, they would weigh 200+ pounds, which would be significantly overweight.  The same is true for Chihuahuas, even if it is on a smaller scale.  However, I'm not telling you not to have your Chihuahua spayed or neutered.  There are many health benefits to spaying and neutering your dogs.  I'm simply saying be smart about your dog's diet after the procedure. 

Determining if your dog is overweight is very simple. Put one hand on either side of his rib cage and gently feel his ribs.  Your dog is at a normal weight if you can count his ribs under a thin layer of fat, but his ribs are not visible.  If your dog's ribs are visible when you look at him, your dog is underweight.  If there is a very thick layer of fat covering the ribs or you cannot feel his ribs at all without really pushing down, your dog is overweight.  Another method to determine if your dog is at a healthy weight is to look down on his back from the top.  His ribcage should round out the front part of his torso, without the ribs being visible.  And his waist area should taper down past the ribcage into his hips, the bones of which also should not be visible.  If there is no distinction between rib cage and abdominal area, your dog is overweight.  If you can see the dog's ribs or hip bones, your dog is underweight. 

It is relatively easy to manage a weight problem in most Chihuahuas.  If you find that your dog is putting on unnecessary weight, my recommendation for your first step is to ensure that your dog is getting enough exercise.  Chihuahuas really don't need a great deal of exercise, but believe it or not, some don't even get the little that they do need.  Your Chihuahua should have a safe, fenced in area to run and play.  It's been our experience that many Chihuahuas love to run, and of course, it's wonderful exercise for them.  If your Chihuahua is allowed to run free, within the confines of a safe area, for 30 minutes a day, that should be sufficient exercise for him.

If the increased exercise is not helping the weight problem, the next step would be to cut back on and/or change your dog's treats.  You can get many treats, such as PupCorn, which can be purchased at Wal-Mart, which are low in calories and very tasty..or at least that's what our dogs seem to think.  Nutro Ultra also makes a lower calorie biscuit treat for dogs.  Remember, treats are treats...not food for your dog.  Your dog should not have more than 2-3 treats per day, and some vets say that's too many.  So, to help manage a weight problem, use treats sparingly and consider switching your dog to a lower calorie treat.  You may also consider switching to training treats.  These are very small, generally semi-moist treats that your dog will love.  These treats will allow you to praise your dog in a manner that he or she is used to, but each treat will be small, so the total daily calorie intake will drop dramatically. 

Another tip for managing a dog's weight problem lies in the food that you feed.  If your dog is gaining weight, stop and look at what you're feeding him.  For starters, if you've been giving him a lot of table food, put a stop to that immediately.  That puts weight on dogs quicker than anything.  And if your dog's primary diet is moist can or pouch food, you'll want to switch him to a dry food as it is lower in fat.  Moist foods are bad for your dog's teeth anyway.  Put your dog on a quality weight management food.  Purina One and Purina Pro Plan make excellent weight managemnet foods, as to many other brands.  Today, even most holistic food lines include a weight management food.  Other foods that will help with weight management are those that are made for dogs with allergies, such as Natural Balance.  You may also consider fresh foods, such as Fresh Pet.  These foods have no fillers in them, and are generally very balanced diets.  However, there are drawbacks.  They are very expensive, especially for large breeds, and they must stay refrigerated. 

Whatever it takes to manage your dog's weight problem, we assure you it will be worth it because it will make for a happier, healthier dog that you can enjoy!  

Monday, January 28, 2019

Immunizing Your Small Breed Dog.

I'm back after the holidays, and hope you all had a wonderful and restful holiday season.  This first blog post of the new years is about vaccinating your Chihuahua or other small breed dog. 

As immunizations go, we are in a time of what seems to be mass confusion.  For both children and puppies, the "experts" can't seem to make up their minds whether we're overimmunizing or underimmunizing.  That is because the very diseases that we immunize against are upredictable.  They are invisible, they change and mutate, they appear once in very minor form and then come back later strong and virulent and wreak havoc on their vitcims...and on the minds of those who treat the victims. 

The current train of thought among veterinarians seems to be that we over-vaccinate our least our adult dogs.  Many believe that once a dog has completed his puppy series, he may well have immunity for life.  Others believe that while lifetime immunity may not be the case, yearly vaccinations are not necessary either...once every three years is what that school of thought recommends.  Some say we should not bother to immunize for this disease, or that disease, at all.  And in truth, there are some diseases, such as leptospirosis, that present so many different strains that it is impossible to immunize against them all.  And for "lepto", the vaccination won't prevent'll simply mean that if your dog contracts it, he may become a carrier of it, infecting other animals, and you may not ever even know it.  And then there are some clinical illnesses, such as kennel cough, that are almost always caused by more than one organism, and it is often difficult to determine which organisms are causing the problem, because there are several.  Most people think "bordetella" when they hear "kennel cough" and while bordetella is very often part of the cause, it is rarely the entire problem and in fact, possibly may not be present at all.  Fortunately, kennel cough is easy to treat and a rapid and complete recovery is almost always the outcome unless there are other factors present.  And then you have at least one vaccination, for a protozoal disease called giardia, that will not prevent infection, but claims to reduce clinical signs and the amount of time that the animal sheds the disease. And, in reality, the same is true for parvovirus.  Even a full series of shots and yearly boosters may not prevent your dog from getting parvo.  It will, however, decrease the chances of your dog contracting parvo, and it will also significantly improve your dog's chances of survival. 

In the end, the debate over whether and when to immunize stems from the necessity of it and relative safety of the vaccine itself.  The "big 5", which is what I call the 5 diseases that all combination vaccines immunize against are Parainfluenza (a possible contributing factor for kennel cough), Adenovirus Type II (which offers cross immunity against Hepatitis also), Distemper, and Parvovirus.  These vaccines are widely accepted as necessary and I, personally, agree.  All vets give them as part of their puppy shots and also as part of their yearly boosters.  I have never known the safety of these vaccines, in puppies, to be an issue.  Some combination vaccines also include a vaccine for Coronavirus.  This virus presents much like the Parvovirus and is often very difficult to diagnose, as there is no easy, in-house test that your vet can administer.  Usually, Coronavirus is not as deadly as parvo, but it can still make your dog very sick.  As with the "big 5" vaccines, I know of no safety issues, for puppies, with the Coronavirus vaccine.  The safety of the bordetella vaccine is, to my knowledge, not in question, nor is the safety of the giardia vaccine for use in puppies.  But, then we have the vaccine for leptospirosis.  This vaccine is frightening to me, as the owner of the smallest breed in the world.  At least one of the makers of this vaccine actually puts a warning on the label against vaccinating puppies and small dogs of any age with this vaccine at all.  My vet doesn't use the vaccine in the first 2 puppy shots, but they do in the last two in the series because of the age and relative size of the puppies.  But the "lepto" vaccine is known to cause some significant side effects, especially in small dogs.

When I say that I know of no safety issues in puppies, you must understand that what I mean is that the resulting immunity far outweighs the possible side effects of the vaccine.  Also notice that I said "in puppies."  This is because in adult dogs, the vaccines can actually have the opposite effect intended.  This means that the dog's antibodies that were produced as a result of the puppy series of vaccinations, which may actually "fight off" the vaccine, instead of allowing the vaccine to help the dog's body to produce more antibodies, thereby rendering the vaccine completely ineffective and exposing your dog to the possible side effects, with absolutely no benefit. 

Another consideration in vaccinating your puppy has to do with timing.  When pups are born, they nurse from their mothers, right?  During the first couple of days after birth, they are consuming colostrum, which is rich in antibodies for all of these diseases which the mother's body has produced.  Depending on how aggressive a nurser each individual puppy is, and also dependant somewhat upon order of birth, each puppy may get a different amount of colostrum, with means that each pup would  get a different amount of immunity from the mother.  But, as the pups get older, the immunity that they get from the mother's milk gradually wears off.  This is where it gets tricky.  In most cases, if you immunize too early, you could face a situation where the maternal immunity is present enough to fight off the vaccine, rendering it completely ineffective.  However, there may be a window where, while the maternal immunity kills off the vaccine, it's not strong enough to kill off an actual infection.  This is part of the reason why we do puppy shots in a series, to try and present the vaccine into the puppy's system at the correct time, so that the maternal immunity cannot fight it all off, but before the puppy is actually exposed to any infectious disease, because each pup will be different in this timing. 

Some say that there may be a solution to this problem.  It's called a "high titer vaccine."  What this means is that the vaccine contains more "antigens" (or infectious bodies) than the regular vaccine.  The point of this is to introduce enough antigens into the body to bind up all the maternal antibodies that are present and still leave some antigens left over to stimulate the puppy's body to produce antibodies of its own.  Theoretically, it sounds great.  In practice, I'm not sure how well it will work, and the higher concentration of antigens may also lead to more severe reactions to these vaccines. 

Finally, the rabies vaccine has become quite an issue in some areas.  Most cities now require dogs to be registered, and the registration process includes a rabies vaccine.  However, there are some things that you should know about the rabies vaccine before giving it to a small breed puppy.  First, it is the strongest of the vaccines.  We are more likely to see a reaction to the rabies vaccine than to any other vaccine except the Lepto vaccine.  So, it is important not to give the rabies vaccine at the same time that other vaccines are given.  We also suggest that you wait as long as possible before giving the rabies vaccine.  The closer your puppy is to six months old, the better. 
Also, be aware that vaccine manufacturers are now producing a three-year rabies vaccine.  These are NOT recommended for small breed dogs of any age though.  The original vaccine is strong enough, and the three-year vaccine is that much stronger.  Like the other vaccinations, rabies is often a lifelong immunity, so there is no sense risking a reaction by giving that extra strength rabies shot.  It is best to stick with the one-year vaccine for small dogs. 

In the end, there is so much conflicting data regarding when, how, what and if to vaccinate that all we can really do is sort through it the best that we can, find a vet that we trust and follow his/her advise, and hope that we've done the best that we can for our animals. 

Here is a link that we have found very informative in regards to vaccines and their possible side effects.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Stockings May Not Be The Only Things Getting Stuffed by Those Cute Discounted Treats!

With the holidays upon us, this will probably be my final post until after the New Year, and it will be a short but important one. 

Yesterday, I went into one of my favorite pet supply stores (which will not be named).  As I browsed the isles, I noticed many new displays, most of which held colorful and adorable Christmas items for pets.  As do most pet owners, I gave in to temptation and selected a few items to put in my cart, and that is when I noticed something that really concerned me....gorgeous and appealing rawhide treats decorated in Christmas themes, with strips dyed green and red to appeal to the human buyers (because as we all know, dogs don't care what color it is.  They don't see color.  All they care about is the smell.)

I know that I have seen these things in holiday seasons past, so what really got me was how many seemed to be missing from the displays.  That must mean that they were purchased by unsuspecting dog owners.  Unfortunately, that probably means that our local veterinarians will see a spike of dogs needing surgery over the course of next several weeks, but I know that those poor dog owners don't see it coming. 

The reason is that they don't know that rawhide is actually completely indigestible for dogs.  Dogs can digest pig hide (though it takes some time), but they cannot digest cow hide.  So, the best we can hope for when giving our dogs these treats is that they will chew them into small enough pieces to be passed through the digestive system without causing a blockage.  However, power chewers are unlikely to take the time to chew it into small enough pieces, and are likely to swallow large chunks if they can get them soft enough to swallow.  Those large chunks, especially if there are several of them going through the system at the same time, can very easily cause blockages, which almost always ends in expensive surgery with an extensive recovery period. 

So, we all love to buy gifts for our dogs, and may even stuff a stocking for Fido, but please resist the temptation to purchase those cute little Christmas rawhide wreaths, bones and other shapes.  I don't even understand why they still make those things, because, at best, they are of no value to our dogs, and at worst, they can be very harmful. 

Happy Holidays, everyone.  We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, filled with family, friends and beautiful blessings.  Be sure to come back and join us in the New Year for more Chihuahua and general canine tips!  

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Don't Forget Fido During the Holidays!

First, I am sorry I have been M.I.A. for a couple of weeks.  With the holidays upon us, things have kicked into high gear for us, as they probably have for you as well.  That is, in fact, what inspired today's post.  As pet owners, we must be mindful of our furry family members during this busy time of year. 

With family and friends coming and going, all sorts of cooking happening and new scents available for dogs to sniff, shiny or sparkly Christmas trees and gifts sitting around and a host of other changes that happen in our daily routines during the holiday season, it is critical to remember the effects that the holidays may have on your canine family members.  We discussed appropriate holiday foods for dogs in the Thanksgiving week post, so we will skip that here.

But, it is important to remember a few others things during the holidays.  First, that shiny Christmas tree with sparkling lights may be irresistible to dogs (and cats).  It is not uncommon for family pets to knock Christmas trees over trying to get a better look at them.  If you have a chewer in your home, you may want to be especially mindful of this, because once the tree is on the ground, it is a prime candidate for chewing dogs.  Electrical cords can shock a dog when chewed through, and glass ornaments should be viewed as a sure trip to the vet when bitten and/or swallowed.

If you have a real tree, you may experience other problems if Fido knocks down the family Christmas tree.  Sap from evergreens can be toxic to dogs, and needles may cause tummy upset, vomiting or diarrhea if eaten. 

To prevent access to the Christmas tree, consider putting it in an area that is not readily accessible by your family pets.  Other options include putting a fence (usually an exercise pen or something similar) around the tree or putting a baby gate up in the entrance to the room when you are not able to closely supervise your dog. 

For those shiny, enticing gifts that are under the tree the dangers are lessened.  Generally, wrapping paper and cardboard don't pose too much of a threat if chewed or eaten.  However, if your dog eats copious amounts of cardboard, it can clog the intestinal tract and require surgery to resolve.  That would have to be some kind of chewer to cause that result though, especially if your dogs are little,  but I assume that you would still prefer your dog not chew up the gifts.  If you have a chewer, you will want to protect those gifts in the same manner as you protect the tree!  Fencing the tree area or setting the gifts up on a table next to the tree might be good options for protecting those gifts. 

Finally, be mindful of the effects of added traffic in your home during the holidays.  Many dogs will be fine having numerous people in and out of your home, but for others, the added traffic may be a source of stress.  You will want to learn to identify the signs that your dog is stressed by the increased traffic in your home.  The most common signs are excessive yawning when interacting with your or your guests, disappearing and hiding in a remote corner of the house and sometimes even acting with more aggression (barking or growling) than usual.  If you see these signs, you need to act immediately to alleviate your dog's stress. 

I generally advise people to crate train their puppies from the very beginning, and this exact scenario is the reason why.  If your dog is crate trained, then he recognizes his crate as a safe space, and you can simply crate him during high traffic events in your home.  If he is not crate trained though, then to alleviate traffic-related stress, get your dog's favorite toy or treat and guide him to a quiet room of the house where your guests will not go.  Generally, your bedroom is a good place for your dog to wait out the event.  If he seems put off by the noise of the event, then turning on the television or radio on low volume or a white noise machine (if you have one) should help to alleviate that stress as well. 

Just remember, our pets experience the holidays right along with us, but it is not always fun and games for them.  For some pets, the holidays are a source of stress that can ultimately impact their health.  So, please be mindful of that and keep an eye on those furry family members.  If you see signs of distress, please help them.  They are counting on you!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Thanksgiving Feast for You, but Not So Much for Fido

Happy Thanksgiving!  We are very busy this time of year, as are you, more than likely.  So, this week's post is relatively short and sweet.  It discusses the dos and don'ts of Thanksgiving dinner for dogs.

First, DO share your turkey day meal with your pet.  During the holidays, we often want to celebrate with our favorite fur critters, and we can do that as long as we are mindful of the things that are toxic to dogs. So, here is a short list of Thanksgiving foods and a few notes on the safety of them for your furry friends.

Yes, you can feed your dog turkey..but DON'T feed him the skin.  Usually, turkey (and other poultry) skin stores all the butter/oil and seasonings used on the turkey, so it can be quite rich...much too rich for your dog.  However, even if you didn't season your turkey at all, the skin is still a no-no for dogs.  It is very fatty, and can cause pancreatitis!  So, peel the skin from the meat and feed your dog a little bit of turkey meat, and you will be his favorite person!

In general, anything made with a lot of seasoning is something that you DON'T feed to your dog.  Seasonings can cause diarrhea, bowel irritation, stomach upset and vomiting.  So, a little bit of mashed potatoes may be fine for your dog, but if your dressing/stuffing is heavy on seasonings, as most are, it is probably best not to give it to your dog.

Next, beware of onions.  DON'T feed your dog anything with lots of onions in it.  They can be toxic to dogs in the right quantity.  So, it is probably best not to feed Fido that green bean casserole with all those yummy fried onions on the top (does anyone still make that?).  However, assuming that they are not highly seasoned, DO feed your dog plain green beans, roasted carrots or even unseasoned/unsweetened yams or sweet potatoes.  Those vegetables are perfectly acceptable for dogs.

Similarly, beware of fruits.  DON'T feed grapes and raisins, which are common fruits used in holiday foods, as they can be toxic to dogs.  However, apples, pumpkin (plain pumpkin, NOT pumpkin pie filling), pears and many other fruits are perfectly acceptable, so DO feed those.

Finally, be very careful about feeding sweets.  DON'T feed pumpkin or sweet potato sweets that contain nutmeg.  Nutmeg can cause neurological problems in dogs.  Also, be very aware of the amount of sugar you are giving your dog.  Sugar is not a part of a dog's natural diet and many dogs are very sensitive to it.  And of course, any kind of chocolate is a no-no for dogs.  Chocolate is toxic and can be fatal in the right quantities.  So, it might be best to refrain from giving your dog a taste of your holiday sweets altogether!

Thank you for supporting our blog.  I hope everyone enjoys your holiday tomorrow.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Treating Toby: Tips for Feeding Healthy Treats to Reward Your Chihuahua Without Causing Weight Gain!

Ah treats...they're wonderful things!  They can be used by us humans to make our doggies do just about anything.  The manufacturers make some of them smell good enough that we consider tasting them ourselves sometimes.  Oh and many of them come in resealable packages or tubs with lids so they don't become stale.  Indeed, dog treats are a most helpful and convenient invention.  BUT.......they must be used in moderation for most dogs.  Many treats are very high in calories and can very often put unnecessary weight on your dog.  We see too many overweight Chihuahuas (and other small breeds) whose owners are having no luck getting the weight off and they ask us why?  Our first question is...what do you feed your dog?  Very often, the owner will tell us that when it comes to treats, they are small and the owner considers them to be insignificant, so they will give them 10, 12 or more a day.  That's WAY too many treats for any dog, especially a small breed. 

Small breed dogs are more prone to become overweight than larger breeds are anyway, and adding those extra calories with unnecessary treats does not help that.  Your dog should not receive more than 4 to 5 treats a day, and treating should be reserved for training, or perhaps just to give your dog something special during the course of his day.  If your dog does not have a tendency to become overweight, you're probably alright to continue with whatever treats you prefer to give him, although there are healthier alternatives.  But if your dog has a weight problem, we have some recommendations for treats which are tasty and much healthier for your beloved pet. 

The first one is our favorite, and you can buy it at our favorite place...that's right, PupCorn.  They are little doggie shaped, popcorn looking treats.  They are very low in calories, which makes them less likely to put weight on your dog, and dogs LOVE the taste.  Our dogs adore them! 

However, if your dog enjoys the soft, meaty treats, we have several recommendations for that as well.  Sniffers treats, which you can buy at PetSmart and other pet supply places and online, are very small, training size treats, and dogs really enjoy them.  In fact, many manufacturers make tiny meaty treats now.  Bil-Jac, Blue, Science Diet and many others are beginning to understand the weight issues that our dogs face and the necessity for pet owners to treat their dogs without sacrificing their health. Bil-Jac makes a tiny liver treat and a variety of other small meaty treats that you can purchase at most pet supply places, and our dogs love them.  For a more holistic type of treat, Blue also makes a line of tiny meaty training treats that dogs respond to very well.  The Train Me treat line (from pet supply places) which are training size, meaty treats are excellent too.  Basically, for the meaty treats, the smaller the better, as these are often the ones that do the most damage to a dog's waistline! 

Biscuit treats can also put weight on your dog.  It is rarely necessary to give a dog, especially a small breed, a large biscuit treat.  TreatCo (which can be purchased at has a line of small biscuit treats.  These treats are so small that actually the small size that they sell is a training size, bone shaped biscuit.  The medium size biscuits will also make a good size treat, even for overweight dogs.  Old Mother Hubbard also has a line of very small biscuit treats that are all natural.  Charlie Bear is another good biscuit type small training treat. 

Another wonderful treat for dogs is yogurt treats.  These tend to be somewhat lower in calories, but pack an enticing flavor that most dogs cannot resist.  Pooch Passions and Vitrakraft both have a line of these that are a decent size treat, but for the overweight dog, only one of these per day!  Other manufacturers are beginning to make smaller versions, but we have yet to try any of those.  All of the above mentioned treats can be found at either or

Then there is a variety of "health foods" for dogs, including treats.  The dog food company, Nutro, makes a line of foods and treats called Ultra which are supposed to be a healthy alternative to regular treats.  We can't speak for them though as we have not tried them.  Also, there is a line called Wellness, and one called One Earth Natural Dog Biscuits, which you can find at  All of these are supposed to be all natural and wholistic to promote your dog's health. 

Finally, perhaps the best treat that you can give your dog is whole, fresh fruits and veggies.  Many dogs LOVE apples, carrots, cucumbers, bananas and other types of fresh fruits and veggies.  Even a tiny bit of raw chicken or turkey makes an excellent treat now and then.  Just remember, make sure that fruits and veggies are fresh (never canned or frozen, unless frozen with no sugar added), and thoroughly washed to remove pesticides.  Also, make sure that when feeding raw meat, you clean up after your dog with bleach to prevent salmonella poisoning in the humans in your home. 

Whatever the treat you choose for your dog, we recommend that you do not discount the effect that the treats can have on your dog's weight.  You'd be surprised how quickly overweight dogs can drop those pounds when their treats are cut back and/or changed.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Chihuahuas and Cold Weather. Remember, They are NOT Winter Dogs!

In general, most dogs don't mix too well with cold weather.  There are, of course, a few exceptions....some dogs who enjoy cold climates, but on average, dogs don't like the cold, especially Chihuahuas.  Chihuahuas are very much warm weather dogs, and very much dislike the cold.

At this time of year, it's important to remember your dogs when you're trying to keep warm.  A no brainer....if temperatures are approaching freezing, your dog should not be left outside.  At the very least, he should have access to shelter out of the elements, preferably with a blanket or something to curl up with, where he can more efficiently use his own body heat to keep warm.  Ideally, he should be indoors in a heated environment.  If your dog is in a structure which does not have central heat, be careful using space heaters.  Please be sure that you keep them on a non-combustible surface, such as cement, and that you keep them away from any fabric, paper, etc., to prevent fires.  Also, be careful that your dog cannot come into contact with the heaters, as they can be very badly burned should they brush against them. 

Cold weather can have many effects on your dog's health.  As with humans, exposure to cold temperatures, especially for prolonged periods of time, degrades the immune system and opens your dog up to illness.  Cold weather also stiffens joints, leaving your dog more likely to develop arthritis.  It slows the digestive process and reduces your dog's energy level, which leads to weight gain.  Tiny paws can freeze very quickly, resulting in frostbite that may not end well for your or your dog.  Taking your dog out side for a short time to get some exercise is fine....necessary in fact.  But please don't leave him out.  Let him exercise and then bring him back inside to keep warm. 

Note: Chihuahuas and other small breeds should NEVER be left outside for longer than a few minutes during the winter months.  They are much more susceptible to the cold than larger dogs are, and excessive shivering, coupled with exposure to the elements, can make tiny dogs sick very quickly.  These small dogs need a heated environment.  Simply keeping them out of the elements is not enough for them.  Please be sure that you house your small dogs inside your home during the winter!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Do's and Don't of Doggo Dental Hygiene

Dental health is just as important in canines as it is in humans, but we know it's much more difficult to maintain.  If your dog has been socialized by the breeder properly, and trained to the highest standard, he may actually stand there with his mouth open and allow you to brush his teeth.  However, we doubt very much that the majority of dogs out there will allow this...and not because of socialization or training, but because dogs don't brush their own teeth, so it's a very foreign concept for them.  If your dog will tolerate it, daily brushing is ideal. but dogs do employ a method for cleaning their teeth own, which is where we, as their humans who love them, come in. 

Dogs keep their teeth clean by chewing on things.  None of us want them chewing on our belongings though, so we must provide them with something to chew on which will help keep their teeth and mouth healthy.  Our recommendation, first and foremost, are rope toys.  They act as flossers for a dog's teeth, and are wonderful teeth cleaners.  They are usually inexpensive and easy to clean...just throw them in the washing machine.

There are several other types of toys on the market which are designed to help keep a dog's teeth clean.  Nylabone Super Tough Durables Chews are designed to actually brush the dog's teeth as he chews.  And Nylabone and numerous other manufacturers have a host of dental chews in a variety of shapes.  They each have little bumps on them which help to clean plaque off of teeth during chewing.  Nylabone also has a line of toys called Rhino.  They come in different shapes, but each has a rope attached to it.  One is a ball with grooves that have little bristles inside, which would brush the teeth during chewing.  And, also from Nylabone, the Double Action Dental Chew, which offers both a nylon and softer rubber mint flavored chewing option (which helps to freshen breath), both which offer plaque removal.  Kong has a dental toy as well. It's a grooved rubber toy with a rope on each end.  The grooves scrape plaque off the teeth as the dog chews. 

There are also a variety of edible chews on the market that are supposed to help clean teeth.  These have improved immensely over the years, and do help with teeth cleaning.  However, they should be used with caution.  Any edible treat adds to your dog's daily calorie intake, so using these as daily teeth cleaning treats may be problematic, especially for dogs that are prone to weight issues.  For those dogs, these chews are better left as ocassional treats. 

If you are among the lucky ones whose dog will tolerate brushing, there are a variety of brushes and cleaning pastes on the market.  I prefer the finger brushes, as they are much easier to control, but if you prefer a plastic brush, make sure you use one designed for a dog.  The shape can make a difference in how clean it leaves your dog's teeth.  When it comes to choosing a paste, keep in mind that many dogs do not care for the flavor of mint.  Vanilla, peanut butter or even meat flavored pastes may be a better option.

Also keep in mind that you only need to brush the outside of your dog's teeth.  The inside of the teeth are kept clean by the dog's tongue, so no need to stress your dog out with the highly intrusive brushing inside his mouth. 

Of course, a dental cleaning by your vet is a good idea too.  However, we do have some concerns about this with small breed dogs.  Any time a dog has his teeth cleaned, he must be put under general anesthesia.  Most times, it's not a great idea to put a small breed dog under like can create many complications. This is especially true for really tiny dogs. That's not to say that you shouldn't have your small breed's teeth cleaned.  We just recommend that you don't do it any more often than necessary.