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.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Tips for Feeding Your Chihuahua a Nutritional Diet

All dogs have to eat. I know it, you know it....everyone knows it.  And nobody knows it better than dog food manufacturers.  There are TONS of manufacturers out there who produce hundreds, maybe thousands, of dog foods.  It can be very difficult to sort out the good ones from the bad ones.  The first thing you need to do is to learn how to read those dog food labels.  Instead of trying to explain that to you, I think this link would do the job much better.

The biggest thing to remember when reading labels is you don't want the first 1 or 2 ingredients to be, corn, corn products or any other grain products.  Your food should have a good meat base of some kind.  Also, watch out for by-products....many foods have them.  Dog food ingredients are listed the same as human food ingredients, in order of the amount used in the food.  So the first ingredient would be the ingredient that is used in the largest quantity.  Therefore, you definitely do not want a food that lists by-products in the top 10 ingredients. 

Next, you need to determine what your dog needs.  Remember, small breeds and large breeds have different needs.  Because we are familiar with the needs of the small breed dogs, we'll concentrate on that.  A small breed puppy needs only slightly more protein than fat in their diet.  Some dog food manufacturers understand this better than others.  Normally, we look for a food that has at least 26% protein and 16% fat...more of either would be better, and a smaller difference would be ideal.  When looking for a puppy food, it is usually best to stay away from goods made specifically for small breeds.  Food manufacturers correctly assume that small breeds need quick energy sources.  However, they normally use corn to supply that, and dogs simply do not digest corn.  So, it is best to get a regular puppy food rather than a small breed food.  Your puppy should remain on puppy food for the first year of it's life, but the same is true for small breed adult foods. It is usually best to just stay away from them.

As your puppy reaches one year of age, you'll want to research the foods for adult dogs.  Now you want to look for higher protein and lower fat, as small breeds have a tendency to become overweight.  In the end, you'll probably end up with a food similar in protein and fat content to the puppy food you fed, but if possible, seek a food that has at least 26% protein and less than 14% fat.  Be sure that you follow the feeding instructions on the package too.  Many dogs will eat till their food is gone, whether they really need to or not.  Overfeeding is a major cause of weight problems in dogs.  Generally speaking, small breeds should not eat more than 1 cup of food a day (and depending on their actual size, it may be much less than this.) 

Next, many dogs have allergies to some of the ingredients in food.  The most common allergies are to beef products and to wheat.  So, if your dog is on a food that contains one of these products and he/she is having digestive or skin/coat issues, the beef or wheat in his/her food may be the culprit. 

Ok, so now that you have a basic understanding of your dog's nutritional needs, we can discuss the actual food. 

First, let me stress that you should NOT feed canned or semi-moist food as your dog's exclusive diet.  Generally, these foods are very poor quality and have very few nutrients in them.  They are also terribly bad for your dog's teeth.  So, feed canned foods only if your vet says you need to for some reason.

Second,let us recommend that you stay completely away from store or generic brands.  These are the lowest quality foods on the market.

Next, we'd like to point out that most food manufacturers make numerous different kinds of foods...and they label some as "premium" and some not.  Generally speaking, the "non-premium" foods are those that can be found in grocery stores, or our favorite place, Wal-Mart, while the "premium foods" are found in pet supply stores only.  We have found very little difference among the non-premium foods.  And we've also found very little difference among the premium foods, with the exception of grain-free foods.  The difference between the two seems to be the amount of meal and corn they use, but to be honest, even that is not always different, all depending on the brand.  But there are a few exceptions.  There are "health foods" for dogs.  These foods are all natural, holistic and claim to offer a perfectly balanced diet for your dog.  Those brands include "Wellness", "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul", "Nutro Ultra", "Natural Balance", "Solid Gold", "Missing Link" and there are others, but those are just to name a few.  In the end, you should choose a food for your dog that provides for his nutritional requirements.  It matters little what brand or whether or not it's a premium food.  We know of at least two "non-premium" foods on the market that are just as good as many premium foods....the Iams line and the Purina One line.
Many people nowadays are taking to feeding their dogs raw foods.  There are many raw food providers, especially online.  While this seems ideal because of the fact that in nature a dog would eat an entirely raw diet, we do see some possible complication to it as well.  For instance, you must purchase food more often because you cannot purchase a large quantity, lest it should spoil.  And spoiling is another complication.  It's not uncommon for a pet owner to unknowingly feed their pet spoiled raw food which makes for a stout case of food poisoning and a very sick dog.  Believe it or not, it's not always easy to tell if raw food is spoiled or not.  It can be spoiled enough to cause food poisoning before it really develops any noticeable odor.  And feeding your dog a raw diet is also quite expensive.  Finally, when feeding a raw diet, it is essential to maintain a very strict cleaning regiment to prevent contamination and sickness for the humans in your home.  Dogs can digest salmonella without getting sick, but people cannot.  Since the basis of most raw diets is chicken, you must keep your dog's bowls and meal area very clean, using bleach products, to protect your family from getting sick.

Finally, some manufactures are offering an alternative to both raw diets and kibble.  These cooked "meat" diets, which is what I call them, include some types of meat as well as vegetables.  They may come in the form of a roll or loose, prepackaged food.  They do carry one risk that is similar to that for raw diets...they must be kept cold and if they get too warm, they may spoil.  Also, as with canned food, these soft diets are not particularly good for your dog's teeth, so they should not be the exclusive diet.  One important role of hard kibble is its ability to help keep your dog's teeth clean. 

When choosing a food, just keep in mind these few things and you will make the best decision for your dog.
1. Do NOT feed canned food unless there is some reason to do so.
2. Dogs don't digest corn, so there should be as little as possible in their diet.
3. Other types of grains, such as wheat and barley, serve as quick energy sources for small breed dogs, so they are acceptable as long as your dog is not allergic to them, but they should not be the main ingredient.
4. It is generally best to choose a premium food, but grain-free is not necessary for small breeds.  Corn-free would be ideal for any dog though.  The notable exceptions are Iams and Purina One.
5.  A raw diet is great if you are able to manage the risk associated with it.  Otherwise, it is best to choose another form of food for your dog.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Do Chihuahuas Like Kids? Absolutely...IF! Tips for Socializing Your Chihuahua with Children.

One of the most common questions that I hear from people interested in Chihuahuas as a breed is "Are they good with kids?" 

My answer is most definitely yes....IF!  That "if" represents a few things.  First of all, your Chihuahua must be properly socialized.  This begins with the breeder, but does not stop after you bring your puppy home.  In fact, socialization is an ongoing process throughout most of your dog's life.  This includes the all-important aspect of socializing your puppy with children.  If you take your puppy home and he never sees a child, it is likely that your Chihuahua may grow to dislike children.  Our suggestion to continued socialization of your dog....take him with you every where you possibly can. Take him on outings in the park where there will be children around. 

While it is important to introduce your puppy to children, if your puppy is unsure about children, there is a word of caution associated with the process in order to prevent bad experiences for both your puppy and the children involved.  Be careful about how you allow children to approach your Chihuahua (hopefully the child's parents will be keeping an eye on their child too.)  If your dog seems afraid of the child, do not pick your dog up and cuddle him...this will reinforce his idea that there is something to be afraid of.  Instead, talk to the child in a calming voice (this will calm both the child and your Chihuahua) and be friendly with the child.  This will give your dog the idea that the child is ok. If possible, have the child sit down on the ground near your puppy to make the child appear smaller to the puppy and to reduce unanticipated movements that could startle your puppy.  

Don't allow the child to approach  your dog though until your dog takes an interest in the child, usually by sniffing in the child's direction or possibly moving in the child's direction a little bit. Once your dog has taken an interest, allow the child to reach for or approach the puppy gently while you continue to talk to the child in a friendly tone, but do not allow him to touch your Chihuahua until he is comfortable with the child's proximity.  

Once the dog seems comfortable with the child being near, allow the child to offer your Chihuahua his hand to sniff.  Always allow your puppy to sniff first, before ever trying to touch! If your dog is alright with that, allow the child to put his hand on your Chihuahua's head, and once your dog demonstrates that he is alright with that, the child should be able to pet your Chihuahua after that with no problems. 

If you're concerned about your Chihuahua biting the child, you will definitely want to have the basic obedience commands in place (such as sit, stay, no, down, and so forth) before you attempt this, as it will give you much more control over what your dog will do.   

If you have children in your home, it's important to understand that it's just as necessary to train the child how to behave around the Chihuahua as it is to train the Chihuahua how to behave around the child.  If you allow your child to abuse your Chihuahua by pulling ears or tail, using the Chihuahua as a pillow (although some Chi's love this...some don't), or worse, using the Chihuahua as a football, you should hardly be surprised if your Chihuahua comes to hate your child. Chihuahuas will protect themselves if they feel the need too.  Teach your child to be calm when the Chihuahua is around.  Teach him how to handle your Chihuahua properly and you shouldn't have any problems with your Chihuahua and your child getting along.  Chihuahuas often attach very strongly to children and act as their protectors. 

So, in short, yes, Chihuahuas can be wonderful with children if they are properly trained and socialized.  Most Chihuahuas love children very much, and children love Chihuahuas.  Start off on the right foot with your child and your Chihuahua and before you know it, they'll have a bond that may make even you a little envious!

Monday, October 8, 2018

To Clothe or Not to Clothe? That is the question. Can my Chihuahua wear those adorable doggies dresses I see in the store?

"Can I put clothes on my Chihuahua?" 
The answer to the question varies as much as Chihuahuas themselves do.  Chihuahuas, as with most other dogs, really don't need to wear clothes most of the time.  There are some breeds, such as the hairless Chinese Crested, that do well with clothing due to lack of their own "clothing".  And, many Chihuahuas do well with clothing too, especially in particularly cold times or places, as Chihuahuas are very much "warm weather" dogs.  They really don't care for the cold, and so many welcome a warming sweater or jacket when the temps plummet.  

But then, there are some that.....well, let's just say...don't so much welcome it.  There are a variety of ways that your Chi may tell you that he does not, indeed, like the extra layers that you have added to his body.  He may run around the house like a mad dog, bumping into walls and furniture, screeching and howling the entire way, until either you catch him, or he finally manages to get most of the offensive material off and dragging behind him. 

Or, he may stand stone still, too afraid or too uncomfortable to move, glaring at you or looking unbelievably pitiful,and stay that way until you pity him enough to take the horrible mess off of him.  And then, there are those that will calmly, rationally, RIP the offensive garment off of themselves and hide it under a cushion or bed to ensure, at least in their minds, that you will never find it again, and therefore, certainly could not ever attempt to cover them with it again. 

Remember though, while these antics of the tortured Chihuahua may be amusing, your Chi is trying to tell you something.  I think that if he could actually tell you what he's thinking, it may sound something like this "Please, beloved human, do not put an extra cover on me again, because I do not need it and I do not like it.  If you insist on covering my beautiful fur with those horrid garments again, I will be forced to hate you forever." 

Seriously though, whether or not you can dress your Chihuahua depends entirely upon the Chihuahua.  If your Chi needs clothing for any reason, because he is cold or anything else, he will gladly and happily wear the clothing that you put on him as long as it does not hurt or bother him with rubbing, choking or constricting his movement. If he is not wearing the clothing....if he insists that it must come off....please take it off.  Don't assume that he'll get used to it.  Some may get used to it, though they will likely never enjoy wearing it, but many never get used to it and it's not only a bother to them, but an expense to you to keep replacing what they destroy trying to get it off.  In addition, unhappy dogs can hurt themselves trying to get out of the offending clothing, and that is definitely not going to make you happy either. 

*A side note....please be careful what clothing you choose to put on your Chihuahua.  You'll want to be sure that you do not put too much pressure on the neck and trachea.  Also, you won't want to constrict the movement of his legs, and I think it's also a good idea not to put anything on him that will bend his ears down, as this can damage the cartiledge and his ability to stand his ears up as they should be. Basically, the clothing that you choose should allow your Chi to move and act the way he normally does or it is not appropriate for him.*  

Monday, October 1, 2018

Finding Fido: Tips for Effective Pet Identification.

It's a dog lover's worst nightmare.  Your pet gets out of your yard and the next thing you know, he's missing...completely and totally gone.  You search and search the area, put up posters and call animal control to see if he's been picked up, but nothing pans out and your dog is still missing. 
Nobody likes the above situation, so hopefully this entry will help you avoid it.  There are a few good options for pet identification that will help to get your pet back home should he/she come up missing.  All vets, animal control agencies and rescue groups recommend some form of pet identification, but it's hard to know what is the most effective means of identifying your pet.  Below are three possible options for you.

The basic ID tag- these metal or plastic tags hang from the collar and are engraved with the owner's information.  These are very cost effective, usually costing less than $10 each, and they can be the fastest and most effective way of having your pet returned home.  However, these tags do have a down side.  If your pet is lost, he may find himself in unusual sutiations, such as squeezing under fences or through brush.  It is not uncommon for a dog to be found without the collar and tag that his owner said he was wearing when he went missing.  Collars can come off...and tags can come off of collars.  So while this may be the easiest method of pet ID to use and to change if your information changes, it's not always the most reliable. 

Tattoos- This method of pet ID involves actually making your owner information part of the pet by tattooing it directly onto his skin.  Normally, you would simply tattoo your phone number onto an area of your dog's skin which is the least fur covered.  This is a relatively good method of helping you find your dog, as long as he eventually ends up in a vet's office, animal control shelter or rescue.  But the average citizen may not think to look for a tattoo.  Another down side to this method is..what happens if your phone number changes?  You really have no option but to remove or change the tatoo, which is not only uncomfortable for your dog, but can be costly for you as well.  Finally, another down side to this method is that tattooing is not particularly comfortable during and immediately after the procedure.  Many vets can do the tattoos or can refer you to someone who can, but tattooing is done on dogs under anesthesia and then must heal afterwards. So, while this form of ID may be the most permanent, that may not be a good thing. 

Microchipping- This method of pet ID involves injecting a tiny microchip (about the size of a grain of rice) underneath your dog's skin in the same manner used in giving a vaccine.  The skin forms a small pocket around the microchip to keep it in place.  This chip emmits a signal that can be read by special readers which most vet's offices and animal rescues have.  The reading reveals a registration number.  The chips are registered with the company who makes them and the registration numbers emmited by the chips are linked to your contact information so the company helps to find you and reunite you and your pet.  Microchips are permanent, though they can move around after implantation.  It is relatively easy to change your contact information.  Simply contact the company and update your info.  So, microchips are a pretty good form of ID for your pet. 
There are some down sides to these chips though.  There are a few companies that make them and they make them so that their readers are the only ones that can read their chips, so a reader from one company cannot read chips from another company.  They do make universal readers now, but they are pricey.  The best vet's offices, animal shelters and rescues have access to all the readers or have universal readers so that no matter what chip your dog may have implanted, they'll be able to read it.  Next, reading the chip is done by scanning the dog's body with the reader to see if there is any signal coming from a chip anywhere.  Most chips to provide tags that can be affixed to your dog's collar indicating that a microchip is in place, but without that tag, anyone who finds your lost dog must actually take him/her somewhere to be scanned for a chip, and sometimes, people may not think to do that.  Also, your pet must eventually end up in the hands of a vet, animal control shelter or rescue because the average peson does not have, not ever will have, a reader.  Readers are expensive and not practical for the average person, even the average pet owner, to purchase. Finally, if your dog has beens stolen (it is happening more and more with purebred dogs, unfortunately), even a microchip will not help find him.  They are not GPS locators.  They are simply chips that provide information if scanned.  
For more information on one brand of microchips, click the link below.

All of these methods of pet ID have advantages and disadvantages.  One may be a better choice for you than for someone else.  Small town pets can often do just fine with an ID tag, while larger city pets may do better with the microchip. These methods can also be combined, if you feel the need to be safe about it.  No matter which method you choose, the bottom line is that you increase your chances of finding your lost pet if you use at least one of these methods of pet ID.