Why Should You Have Your Dog Professionally Groomed?
Although many dog owners prefer to groom their dogs, having your dog professionally groomed will save you time and energy. It takes a lot of care and patience to groom a dog, especially a fluffy one, a puppy, or one with behavioral issues.
Be sure to clearly communicate your requests or concerns to your groomer, and your precious pooch will look great by the time he’s done.
When handling your dog, your groomer may also notice a concerning injury or lump that you may not have noticed. If you yourself have a condition such as back pain or arthritis, rest assured professional grooming will prevent you from having to do excessive lifting and handling of your dog.
Expressing anal glands, shampooing a muddy or skunked dog, and removing fleas and ticks are not the most pleasant things to take care of, but come with the price of owning a dog. A professional groomer knows how to take care of and clean all of these seemingly yucky things, and more.
How Often Should I Have My Dog Groomed?
Although it depends mostly on the breed, hair length, and type of coat, regular grooming should be done about once a month. For young puppies and dogs who have never been groomed, more frequent grooming or brushing at home should be done to get the dog used to being handled and to avoid grooming issues into adulthood. This is called desensitization and can be done for several other reasons.
Brushing your dog once a week or so will help with shedding and prevent any mats from forming in your dog’s coat. A buildup of mats can become painful for your dog. If your groomer can’t get them out, your dog might have to be completely shaved down.
To Shave Or Not To Shave?
There are two types of coats which dogs may have. These are single coats and double coats. Before deciding on whether you should shave your dog depends entirely on which type of coat they have.
A double coat consists of a smooth undercoat, and a tougher, coarser top coat. The reason for this is to insulate and control their temperature while repelling and protecting themselves from the elements. Having a double coat also protects your dog from getting dirty.
Generally speaking, a dog that has two coats will have fluffy, thick hair. If you look at an Akita, a wooly Siberian Husky or an Alaskan Malamute, Shiba Inu, or Shih Tzu, for example, you might be able to identify the dog as one that has a double coat. On the other hand, dog breeds with single coats have different kinds of fur. Some may be long-haired dogs, some short haired, but the one advantage single coated dogs have is that they shed less than double coated dogs.
Let’s say that some of you determine that your long haired dogs have double coats and that you still decide to shave them anyway. After all, what’s the harm in removing a bit of hair every now and then, and getting a haircut for your dog will do more good than harm, right?
Unfortunately, doing this will cause more problems than solving them. Shaving your long haired dog is not something you should regularly do, and there are a few reasons why you shouldn’t.
- Prone to allergies
- Irregular shedding
- Inefficient temperature regulation
- Permanent damage
- Harder coat and fur management
- It will be hotter for your dog during summer
- Higher risk for sickness
1. Prone to Allergies
Believe it or not, shaving your dog will not solve the problems that you have been having with your allergies. Yes, it is true that your dog will not have as much hair.
It is also true, however, that you are not even allergic to your dog’s hair.
When people are allergic to pets such as cats and dogs, they are not allergic to the hair. They are instead allergic to something called “dander,” which are dead skin cells that are collected in the undercoat of a dog.
So, shaving your dog will just make your allergies worse because you’ll be exposing yourself to more dander. Your dog’s double coat saves you from sneezing all the time.
2. Irregular Shedding
Shedding is completely natural with all animals that have fur. The reason for this is because hair has a life cycle too. They grow, then die.
For dogs, shedding can be all year-round or seasonal. Most dogs will shed during Spring or Fall, or when the temperature changes abruptly. Shaving your dog also won’t make your dog shed any less. This is because the rate at which hair sheds has nothing to do with how long that hair is.
The only thing that shaving will do is ensure that shorter pieces of hair fall off of your long-haired dogs. That is to say; you will have the same number of shed hairs lying around your home.
That hardly seems worth it.
3. Inefficient Temperature Regulation
There is a shared misconception that shaving a dog will help cool the animal off during the warmer months. This is not true in the case of dogs with double coats.
If you can believe it, these dogs have double coats so that they can keep cool during the summer and warm during winter. If you shave those coats off, you will disrupt the temperature regulation process.
Instead of shaving your dog’s coat, try to keep him fresh by having him inside your house or his shelter at all times. Giving your dog a cooling pad and providing cold, iced water is also a good idea.
4. Permanent Damage
You might not think that shaving a dog’s fur once can have lifelong effects on the dog, but you are wrong if you believe otherwise. If you shave your dog’s fur once, the fur might not ever grow back properly.
This means that your dog’s coat will be thinner and won’t look as good. To make matters worse, the top coat might not ever grow back. This is not something that you want for your pooch.
5. Hotter During Summer
This is admittedly counter-intuitive, so we understand why so many people might be confused by this fact. However, that does not make it any less true: Your double-coated dog will be hotter without the extra fur.This has everything to do with how your dog’s coats work together. Remember that both the topcoat and undercoat has important properties that keep your dog’s temperature at bay. Keeping that undercoat dry and clean is important.
Reasons To Shave A Dog’s Coat
If, however, you for some reason do decide to shave your dog, there are some precautions you should take. Things happen sometimes. Canines, much to our dismay, get sick sometimes. Their coats also mat on occasion. When these things happen, there might not be any good options.
- Better fleas and tick control
- Recommended for rescue dogs
- Recommended for outdoor dogs
1. Better Flea & Tick Control
Summertime is usually when fleas and ticks go out to party in your dog’s fur.
If you are not able to treat your dog using home remedies or medications, then it might be time to get rid of all of it. Doing this might put your dog at risk, but it’s better than being eaten alive by these parasites.
2. Rescue Dogs
A good excuse to shave a long haired dog is when you’ve just rescued them from the street or the shelter, and their hair is extremely matted. If this is the case, then you should ask a veterinarian if there is an alternative to completely shaving your rescued animal.
3. Outside Dogs
Dogs who spend most of their time outside are prone to fur matting due to the frequent changes in weather. It might be scorching hot in the afternoon, then rainy in the evening, which makes your outside dog’s fur damp. Wet fur is the perfect breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria and diseases
Is Your Dog Stressed Out?
Observing your dog’s body language is the easiest way to tell if they’re feeling anxious. Here are the most common signs to look for:
- Pacing or Restlessness
- Lip Licking or Drooling
- Sweaty Paws
- Tense Body or Hypervigilance
- Tucked Tail
- Raised Hackles
- Excessive Barking or Whining
- Shedding Hairs
- Uninterested in Playing or Eating
- Repetitive or Destructive Behaviors (Digging, Chewing, etc.)
- Hiding or Trying to Escape
- Shaking or Trembling
- Agitation or Aggressive Behaviors
- Urination, Vomiting or Diarrhea
That’s quite a list of symptoms ranging from very subtle to severe, but any behavior that’s not normal for your dog could mean they’re feeling stressed.
There are obvious stress inducers for most dogs, like visiting the vet, groomer or staying at a kennel. Traveling or changes in routine can also create anxiety for our pups. Other common culprits are loud noises, thunderstorms, physical pain or trauma and staying home alone. Dogs are also affected by stressful events in our lives, like moving to a new home, divorce or new family members coming into the home (human or other pets).
Other events that can trigger anxiety might not be as obvious. Boredom, exuberant play sessions, over excitement, meeting new people or dogs and socializing puppies are a few examples of situations where you might not realize your dog could be feeling stressed. There’s no way to avoid all stressors but there are ways to limit excess anxiety for you and your dog. Here are ten easy ways you can work on it together!
10 Ways You and Your Dog Can De-Stress Together
Enjoy some downtime together by petting your dog or giving him a relaxing massage. You’ll soon notice that both of you are feeling much happier and less stressed. You could even try meditating with your dog or practicing mindfulness exercises. To better help your dog, check out Touch exercises or the helpful advice in Grow Young With Your Dog.
Physical exercise is very effective for releasing endorphins and reducing stress in both people and their pups. Whether you take a walk or head outside for an active game of fetch, moving together will make both of you feel healthier and happier. Exercise is especially helpful for dogs that suffer from separation anxiety and don’t forget about providing mental stimulation exercises and games for your dog too.
- Lower Your Voice
Whether you’re yelling at your dog or vocalizing frustrations about your day to someone else, take a break and practice some deep breathing exercises for a few moments to calm down. Yelling at your dog only creates confusion and breaks down trust. Rather than repeatedly saying “No!” to your pup while shaking your finger in his face, work on positive, productive and peaceful approaches to dealing with his frustrating behaviors.
- Work on Training
You can eliminate most of the frustration and stress from your dog’s unwanted behavior by working more on training so he understands your expectations and will demonstrate good manners. Also, be consistent about enforcing the rules of the house so your pup doesn’t get confused or stressed.
- Protect Your Pup
Step in and protect your dog in situations where he might feel uncomfortable or anxious. Many dogs get stressed when meeting strangers or energetic children. Others may feel anxious when forced to greet or interact with dogs they may not like. By preventing a negative interaction, you’ll both avoid unnecessary stress. If you’re socializing a puppy, work at a pace that’s comfortable for them so they don’t feel pressured.
- Take a Nap
Lie down next to your pooch and enjoy an afternoon snooze together. Just remember to let sleeping dogs lie while they’re dozing. It can be stressful on a dog to suddenly be jolted awake from a deep sleep.
- Reduce Household Stress
When you’re feeling overloaded or anxious, your dog may pick up on your stress. Whether they shy away from you or want to jump in your lap, take your dog’s reaction as a cue to practice some relaxation techniques. If there’s a lot going on in your household at the moment, make sure your dog has a safe place to retreat to and relax.
- Keep a Consistent Routine
As much as we sometimes like to break out of a rut, routines help keep us grounded and our pets especially feel more comfortable when they have a predictable routine. Major disruptions to a dog’s routine can be very stressful.
- Accept Your Dog
Don’t fight nature by expecting your pooch to act more like a person than a dog. Accept your pup and all of his canine qualities and you’ll be less stressed when he exhibits those typical dog behaviors like barking, chewing, digging, chasing cats or even being an opportunist around food. Work more on training and find desirable or creative outlets for unwanted behaviors.
- Provide Balance
Strive to create harmony through balance. Too much of anything, even good things, can cause stress. For example, overstimulating your dog with too much excitement can cause excess adrenaline and stress. Too much exercise or activity can be just as bad as too little exercise and can lead to obsessive behaviors. Make sure your pup has plenty of downtime and relaxation as well as fun and exercise.
How to tell if your dog is in pain:
Whether you have a young pup or your best friend is growing into their senior years, it’s important to know the signs to look for when your dog is in pain. After all, unless they’re yelping, whining or holding up a limb from acute pain, they can’t easily express how they feel and we often overlook the symptoms from the onset of chronic pain.
15 Signs of Pain
- Reluctance to walk on slippery surfaces
- Reluctance or refusal to go up and down stairs
- Becomes selective about what to jump up onto or down from
- Stands up using the front legs first
- Pronounced circling or taking time to lie down
- Running and jumping activities become more limited
- Places an abnormal amount of weight on the front legs
- Abnormal wear on toenails from scuffing
- Unwillingness to initiate play or other social interactions
- Aggression toward other animals where none existed before
- Aversion to being petted or brushed
- Disruption in sleep patterns
- Stiffness after resting
- Decreased appetite
- House soiling or reluctance to go outside
If you have a senior dog or if you’ve noticed any signs from the checklist that your dog is in pain, ask your vet what options are best for your pet.
Ways to improve your dogs skin:
There are many things that can affect your dog’s skin, which is one of the most sensitive parts of your dog. It is essential that you take exquisite care of your dog’s skin and coat.
Diet and Supplements for Skin Health
- Healthy skin and fur starts with the diet. A high-quality pet food full of protein and essential fatty acids will help you maintain optimum skin care. If a meat is not the first ingredient in your dog’s food and his skin is looking dry and red, try switching his food.
- With advice from the vet, you can add a vitamin supplement to your dog’s meal. A teaspoon of olive oil a day can increase your dog’s fur and skin health.
Grooming Is Vital
- Grooming has a lot to do with healthy skin. Brushing will stimulate your dog’s natural skin oil production and distribute it all over his coat, making it healthy and glossy. You should use a brush with rubber bristles or a grooming glove as not to irritate the skin. Brush your dog everyday for the best results.
Don’t Bathe Your Dog Too Often
- It is essential that you use dog shampoo and not human shampoo when bathing your dog. Our pH levels are different from their pH levels. Using a human shampoo can dry out your dog’s skin, so can bathing your dog too frequently. You should not wash your dog more than necessary. No more than once a month.
Pests Detrimental to Skin Health
- If your dog should become host to fleas, ticks, chiggers, mange, or the fungus ringworm take care of the problem immediately. Do not wait for further symptoms to develop if you have suspicions. Not only will this benefit your dog’s skin and health, it will benefit yours.
Allergies Cause Dog to Scratch and Bite Skin
- Many skin problems are caused by allergies. Common symptoms of dog allergies are scratching, licking, and hot spots. Check your dog for fleas or other pests. If there is no evidence of this, your dog may have an allergy.
Signs of a Skin Problem
The following are the most frequent symptoms:
- Hair loss
- Dry, itchy skin
- Red skin
- Discolored skin
- Greasy skin or coat
- Other Possibilities
If all of the above have been ruled out, then the skin problem could be caused by an underlying, more serious illness. Examples are:
- Cushing’s Syndrome
- Endocrine Abnormalities
Helpful tips for dogs with allergies:
It’s surprising how many dog owners think that excessive licking and scratching is normal for dogs, but more often than not, allergies are the cause of all that itching and discomfort.
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Has Allergies?
Allergies can start at any age with the classic symptoms of itching, scratching, licking, rubbing and rolling. Does your dog have any of the symptoms below?
- Ears– Scratching the ears, warm or red ears and recurring ear infections
- Paws – Licking, biting or chewing the paws and red stained fur
- Belly or Genitals – Excessive licking, hair loss and red stained skin
- Face – Rubbing the face and chin, red eyes, discharge from eyes or nose and sneezing
- Skin – Scratching of armpits, redness or hot spots, hair loss, red stained skin, thickened or greasy skin and unpleasant odor.
- Tail/Rear End – Biting, licking and butt scooting
- Digestive System – Gas, vomiting and diarrhea
*Secondary yeast or bacterial infections can also be present due to excessive scratching.
What’s Causing My Dog’s Allergic Reaction?
These are the four main types of allergies in dogs, with atopy and flea allergies being the most common.
- Atopy or Inhalant Allergy – These environmental allergens are inhaled through the nose. Common allergens are pollen, trees, grass, weeds, dust, dust mites, mold, dander, feathers and household inhalants (cigarette smoke, perfume, cleaners, etc.)
- Flea Allergy – Many dogs are allergic to fleas and it’s actually the flea saliva that causes the reaction.
- Food Allergy – Dogs can be allergic to certain foods or proteins in food. Some vets and nutritionists believe food allergies may be caused by feeding your dog the same food for months or years.
- Contact Allergy – These are allergies caused by direct contact with your dog’s skin. Common contact allergies are various drugs, cleaning or grooming products, fabrics, plastic and rubber.
It can be difficult to uncover the exact cause of a dog’s allergy, but here are a few clues that might help. Normally, if the digestive system is involved (gas, vomiting or diarrhea), look at food sources first. If your dog’s biting around his tail end, check for fleas first. If your dog only has symptoms during part of the year, it could be a type of seasonal pollen. For year-round itching and scratching, it’s probably something inside the house, like dust or dust mites. Your vet can help you narrow down the offending allergens through intradermal skin tests and other diagnostics.
For most dogs with allergies, the goal is to keep them under the threshold of scratching or licking excessively or feeling miserable. These tips may help manage your dog’s symptoms and keep him under the threshold.
12 Self-Help Tips for Dogs With Allergies
- Control Fleas
Since fleas are a common allergen for dogs, make sure to check your dog regularly with a flea comb to make sure they’re flea free and treat any infestation quickly if you find any of the nasty critters.
- Clean Your Dog’s Bedding
Vacuum your dog’s bedding or wash it in hot water with a natural detergent once a week to control dust and kill dust mites. Also, consider removing any stuffed toys or wash them weekly along with the bedding.
- Keep a Clean House
Vacuum regularly and try to eliminate as much dust as possible in household furnishings. If you’re considering ripping up your dust-filled carpet and installing hardwood floors, this is a great reason to forge ahead!
- Clear the Air
Contaminants in the air can cause allergy and respiratory problems for you and your dog. Hey, if you’re a smoker, here’s another good reason to quit. Choose HEPA or allergy-type furnace filters and be sure to change them on a regular basis. In the summer, run the air conditioner instead of opening windows on days when the pollen count is high.
- Use Natural Cleaning Products
Ditch those harsh chemical cleaners for natural versions, like vinegar or lemon-based products.
- Wipe Down Your Dog
You’ll want to limit the amount of time your dog’s outdoors when the pollen count is high or if the lawn has been freshly mowed. When your dog comes back inside, wipe down his coat and paws with a wet cloth to remove any allergens and to prevent them from being tracked around the house. You could also have your dog wear booties while outside.
- Give Regular Baths
Yep, your dog’s probably not going to like this one, but weekly, cool water baths with a soothing shampoo can help ease itching and heal your pup’s skin. Natural, anti-itch sprays or gels can also be very effective in soothing skin issues. I’ve heard both positive and negative opinions about using oatmeal-based products. Oatmeal is soothing but I’ve also heard it can contribute to yeast growth on the skin. Check with your vet for a recommendation that’s best for your dog.
- Toss the Plastic Bowls
Plastic has tiny cracks that can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Even if your dog doesn’t has issues with facial hot spots or rashes, it’s better to ditch the plastic versions for glass, stainless steel or ceramic bowls. No matter what type of bowls you use, be sure to wash them regularly.
- Try Epsom Salt Soaks
To soothe your dog’s paws, dissolve some Epsom Salt in warm water and soak his paws for 5-10 minutes. Just be sure not to let him drink the water.
- Evaluate Your Dog’s Diet
If you think your dog may be allergic to food, talk to your vet about starting an elimination diet to try to narrow down the source of the allergy. Also, many holistic vets and nutritionists believe a raw diet or at least a diet made from fresh, human grade food is key to successfully treating allergies, so it’s worth investigating that option as well.
- Supplement with Supplements
Talk to your vet about adding supplements such as Omega 3 fatty acids, biotin or probiotics to your dog’s diet to help boost his immune system.
- Use an Antihistamine
Most dogs get relief from an antihistamine like Benadryl or a natural antihistamine-like supplement like Quercetin. Check with your vet for a recommendation and the correct dosage.
Best Pet Deshedding Tools:
It’s on the sofa. It’s all over your favorite sweater. Tufts of it drift across the living room floor like tumbleweeds.
Face it. Our furry friends will shed. But fortunately, there’s an ever-growing array of deshedding tools to help us handle the hairy onslaught.
Pet Shedding 101
It’s normal for cats and dogs to shed. Joe Bartges, professor of medicine and nutrition at the University of Tennessee’s College of Veterinary Medicine, says, “Shedding is a natural process that allows for loss of older and often dead hair so that new hair can grow in.”
Bartges says some pets shed seasonally, “blowing” their winter coats when spring comes. Others, like indoor pets and short-haired pets, may shed all year. Making time to brush your pet can help you determine where the bulk of that hair ends up — in the trash or on you.
Even if you don’t mind finding a little fur on your favorite pants, grooming your cat or dog can offer both of you real benefits, including preventing painful knots and tangles, minimizing pet dander in the home, helping you catch signs of pet illness or parasites, and boosting the pet-person bond. All you need is a bit of time and the right tools.
You don’t need a suite of complicated brushes and combs to get a handle on pet shedding. As a matter of fact, “Professional groomers are using the same grooming tools as owners,” says Barbara Bird, a certified master groomer practicing in Arizona. A few of those deshedding tools include:
- Wide-toothed combs: Usually plastic or metal, with widely separated teeth.
- Slicker brushes: Often rectangular-headed, these brushes have fine metal tines.
- Blade-on-a-handle metal combs: Newer pet deshedding tools, such as the FurBuster or Furminator.
- Bristle brushes: The bristles of these familiar-looking brushes may be made of synthetic or natural bristles.
- Pin brushes: Often shaped like a bristle brush, but with metal (or sometimes wood) pins instead of bristles.
- Rubber brushes: These come in various shapes; each has rubber tines.
Which De-shedding Tool Should You Choose?
Most brushes and combs do essentially the same thing: They remove dead hair from your pet before it has a chance to fall out.
So which is right for your pet? That depends, because different coats respond best to different combs and brushes.
- Wide-toothed combs are a main choice for cats. A widely-spaced comb will remove more hair gently than a fine-toothed comb. Fine-toothed and blade-on-a-handle combs can both require more pressure to use than many cats are able to tolerate.
- A slicker brush’s fine metal bristles are best used on long-haired, dense-coated dogs. Some groomers recommend using a small slicker brush for toes, legs, face, and tail and a larger brush for the rest of the body. Slicker brushes are also helpful at removing tangles in the coat of cats or dogs.
- Blade-on-a-handle metal combs are ideal for plush- or medium-coated dogs because they have very, very narrow teeth that seek out the fine, soft, fuzzy undercoat and leave the overcoat alone. Steer clear of this type of brush if your pet’s top coat is long as it’s hard to get that blade to do a good job.
- Bristle brushes are very versatile and make a good, basic brush for both cats and dogs of all coat types.
- Pin brushes are often used on medium- and long-haired dogs and are a good choice to help release tangles.
- Rubber brushes are good for short-haired dogs and help loosen hair and dirt while also stimulating circulation. Depending on your pet’s coat and its tendency to tangle, you may want more than one deshedding tool. A must-have coat-taming trio includes a blade-on-a-handle comb, a slicker brush, and a coarse-to-medium metal comb. If these suggestions mean you’ve been using the wrong brush for your pet’s coat type all this time, that’s OK. As long as you and your furry friend are both happy with the results, don’t worry too much about which de-shedding tool is recommended for which species or coat type. In the end, successful grooming boils down to what works for you.
4 Quick Tips for Good Grooming
- Brush regularly. Regular brushing is one of the best ways to manage pet shedding. So schedule a little time to keep up on your pet’s grooming.
- Short-haired cats and dogs benefit from weekly brushings, while most medium- or long-haired dogs may need grooming several times a week. All long-haired cats and some long-haired dogs, like Yorkshire terriers or Afghan hounds, do well with daily brushing.
- Stop brushing when you can no longer pinch out a tuft of hair.
- Avoid brush burn! Your precious pooch and feline friend need gentle care. Don’t press the bristles of any brush hard against your pet’s tender skin or tug at knots or tangles. When grooming, be aware of — and stay away from — warts, moles, whiskers, and any lumps or bumps your pet may have.
- Think about bathing your dog. Washing your pup can be a helpful prelude to a serious grooming session, helping to soften the coat and offering maximum release of hair. Most experts don’t recommend bathing your pooch too often (you risk drying out your dog’s skin) or bathing your cat at all unless kitty is extra dirty — think grease, grime, fleas, or something sticky.
- Calm the coat. For grooming sessions without a bath — for cats and dogs — try a coat spray that reduces static cling and softens the coat, many leave-in conditioners will do the trick. “Just mist lightly and stroke in the misted area. The more you mist and stroke the more the overcoat hairs let go so that the fuzzy undercoat slips out,” Bird says.
When to Worry About Shedding
- Although shedding is perfectly normal for cats and dogs, excessive shedding or shedding to the point of bald spots may point to a more serious problem, such as skin parasites, hypothyroidism, excessive grooming, cancer, or nutritional issues.
- Dogs and cats that exhibit these problems should be examined by a veterinarian.
Treating Ear Infections on Dogs:
Ear infections are one of the most common problems vets see in their offices. Yep, we’ve been down that road with Moose after a trip to the beach. It begins with the ear scratching, then the frequent flapping noise when he shakes his head, and of course, there’s the yucky smell emanating from his ears. So many dogs suffer with these symptoms, but what causes ear infections in dogs?
What Causes Ear Infections?
Most infections are caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast inside the ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears or excess hair in their ears are especially prone to infections because their ears tend to be dark and moist with very little air flow. Ear mites or foreign objects (like foxtails or grass seeds) inside the ear can also cause an infection. Dogs with allergies or hypothyroidism often have chronic ear infections.
Symptoms Your Dog May Have an Ear Infection
Your pup will usually let you know if there’s an issue with their ears. They’ll frequently scratch their ears and you may notice an unusual odor or their ears might feel warm to the touch. Head shaking or a tilted head are other signs that you should take a closer look. Healthy ears look fairly clean inside, but a yellow, brown or bloody discharge or redness and swelling inside the ears or on the ear flaps signal a problem. Dogs with an advanced infection may have crusts or scabs inside their ears from scratching and the outer ear might be thickened or have a leathery appearance. They may even walk in circles, have balance issues or experience some hearing loss.
Since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, here are some tips that might prevent a painful infection and save you some time and money at the vet’s office.
Tips for Preventing Ear Infections
- Do a quick check of your dog’s ears each week to look for signs of infection. You can often prevent a full-blown infection if you catch it early.
- Unless your vet recommends regular flushing of your dog’s ears, leave them alone if they look clean and healthy.
- Place a cotton ball in each of your dog’s ears before giving them a bath to avoid getting excess water in their ear canals.
- Dry your pup’s ears thoroughly after baths or swimming. If your dog swims often, ask your vet to recommend a drying agent solution to use after swimming.
- If your dog has excess hair in their ears, have a groomer show you how to remove or trim the excess hair for better air circulation.
- If your dog’s ears are dirty, use a cotton ball moistened with an ear cleaning solution, such as Epi-Otic to gently wipe away dirt or wax from the outer ear. Even though a dog’s L-shaped ear canal makes it unlikely that you’ll damage an ear drum while using cotton swabs, they should be avoided because they tend to push debris further down inside the ear.
- If your dog suffers from chronic ear infections, talk to your vet or a holistic vet about environmental and dietary changes that might be beneficial. I don’t know of any studies on this, but many dog owners claim to have eliminated allergy and ear infection issues after switching their dogs to a raw diet.
When Your Dog Gets Sprayed by A Skunk:
You know that feeling you sometimes get late at night after a busy day when you’re too tired to get up off the couch to even go to bed? When you finally decide to get up, you let the dog outside one last time before heading off to get a good night’s sleep—yep, that’s probably when it’s going to happen!
Skunk spray smells different (and SO much worse) than the occasional skunk road kill you pass when driving.It’s not a good time to make a 30 minute trip to the store for supplies to handle the situation.You will have a vile, odorous entity that lingers and moves about your house for an unknown period of time after your dog is clean (kind of a skunk spirit of sorts.)
After trying numerous different de-skunking shampoos, I’ve found the Natures Miracle skunk odor remover to hands down- works the best. Just make sure to apply it when your dog is completely dry, it will work much better that way.
If you don’t happen to have some handy, there is an easy DIY de-skunking shampoo you can make at home.
Here’s what you’ll need if this happens to your dog:
1 quart Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
¼ cup Baking Soda
1-2 teaspoons Dish Soap
First, make sure to call your vet if your dog was bitten or injured by the skunk. If there are no injuries, you’ll want to act quickly while your dog is still wet. If the spray dries on the dog’s fur, the odor is much harder to remove and can last for months. If at all possible, do the following steps outside to avoid getting any skunk oil inside your home. If you must bring your dog inside, head directly to the tub or shower.
Follow these 10 simple steps!
- Don’t hose your dog down with water right away which can spread the oily substance over your dog’s coat.
- Put on those rubber gloves (and some old clothes you don’t mind throwing away.)
- If you can see the skunk spray on your dog’s coat, use paper towels to remove the excess oil, being careful not to spread it around.
- Gently rinse you dog’s eyes with saline solution if he’s been sprayed in the eyes.
- In an open container, mix hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Never mix or shake these ingredients in a covered container as they produce a chemical reaction when combined.
- Massage the solution into the areas of fur that got sprayed. Use the solution on a old washcloth if you need to apply it to your dog’s face (avoid his eyes, nose and mouth).
- Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.
- Repeat with additional batches of the mixture if necessary, until the dog no longer smells.
- Finish up with an overall shampooing using your normal dog shampoo, rinse and dry him off.
- Discard any remaining mixture. Do not cover it or store it for later use.
Eye stains, what causes them and how to help prevent them:
What causes tear stains under a dog’s eyes?
Excessive tearing can occur as a result of irritation to your dog’s eyes or because your dog’s tears are not draining properly.
Just as your eye waters if a speck of dust blows into it, dogs’ eyes will make tears when irritated to flush away anything harmful. When the eyes are continually irritated, this can lead to chronic tearing that produces stains. Conditions that might irritate the eye include dog eye infections, glaucoma, and eyelash or eyelid problems.
In a normal dog eye, there are small holes that drain tears away from the eye and down the throat. A variety of dog eye problems can affect this drainage, causing excessively watery eyes. These conditions include:
- Shallow eye sockets. If the eye sockets aren’t big or deep enough, tears can spill out onto the fur around the eyes.
- Eyelids that are turned inward. If the eyelids roll in toward the eyeball, the drainage holes for tears (called puncta) may become blocked.
- Hair growth around the eye. If hair grows too close to the eye, it can wick tears away from the eye and onto the face.
- Blocked tear drainage holes (puncta). Previous dog eye infections or eye damage can cause scar tissue to form that blocks some of the drainage passages for tears.
Which types or breeds of dogs are more susceptible to dog eye discharge and tear stains?
Regardless of breed, white dogs are more likely to have visible tear staining on their faces, because the pigments in their tears can easily dye light-colored fur. Also, dogs with long hair on their faces may be more prone to excessive tearing.
Short-nosed dog breeds, such as Shih-tzu, Pekingese, Maltese, and pug, are prone to excessive tearing because they often have shallow eye sockets or hair growth in skin folds around the eyes that cause problems. Also, cocker spaniels and poodles are more likely than other breeds to have blocked tear ducts.
Can the dog eye problems that cause tear stains be treated?
It depends on the condition leading to excessive tearing. There is no way to stop dog eye discharge because of shallow eye sockets, so the goal in this situation is to minimize skin irritation and coat discoloration.
If your dog’s tear stains are developing because his eyes are always irritated, eliminating the source of irritation will help. This might include keeping hair near the eyes trimmed very short and treating infection or glaucoma, if present.
There are surgical options for certain eyelid or eyelash problems that can restore normal tear drainage and eliminate overflow onto the face.
What can I do to get rid of my dog’s tear stains?
Although those reddish-brown stains can be stubborn, there are certain remedies that may minimize their appearance. These include:
Antibiotics . Antibiotics such as tetracycline are sometimes used to address tear staining, as they reduce or eliminate the likelihood that tear stains will form. There are concerns about the use of antibiotics for this purpose on an ongoing basis, however, because it could lead to the development of drug-resistant bacteria, which would be far more dangerous to your pup than a few unsightly stains.
If your dog develops a YEAST INFECTION aside her nose as the result of the fur under her eyes being chronically wet with tears, because you’re not cleaning her face and keeping her fur trimmed, that’s a medical condition easily treated with proper grooming and upkeep. BROWN staining from yucky yeast infection secondary to poor grooming maintenance, and RED staining from porphyrins, are two different problems, which is why oral supplements aimed at reducing porphyrin production will not work in all dogs. Now that’s cleared up, why do some dogs make more porphyrin than others? That’s the $64,000 question right there. The answer, of course, is not a yeast problem but rather a bacterial problem. Which bacteria, exactly, contribute to excessive porphyrin production? We don’t know for sure.
HERE’S MY BOTTOM LINE – HOW TO TREAT TEAR STAINS:
STEP 1: Meticulously maintain your dog’s clean face. Wipe face with a damp cloth twice a day to remove excessive tears and keep regular appointments with the groomer. STEP 2: Throw away your plastic food bowls. Use stainless steel, porcelain or glass. Plastic food bowls often develop tiny cracks that harbor bacteria and cause facial irritation. STEP 3: Consider a mild boric acid containing solution as found in some contact lens cleaners, or use liquid vitamin C, on a cotton ball, to wipe the dog’s face and lighten the tear stains that have already formed. Acids like boric and citric (Vit C) presumably oxidize the porphyrin iron compounds and lighten them, whereas sunlight makes the stains darker. STEP 4: If porphyria remains despite your best grooming efforts, consider a NON-Tylosin containing oral supplement like the ones listed above. STEP 5: If your tap water happens to be high in mineral content or iron, consider giving the dog bottled water, or use a filter to create cleaner water. STEP 6: If you insist on using antibiotics, under veterinary supervision, drugs like doxycycline, metronidazole and enrofloxacin have all been used with some success. BONUS? – STEP 7: Tums or Apple Cider Vinegar? – I have found no evidence that adding a tiny amount of antacid or vinegar to your dog’s giant tub of stomach acid will have any effect at all on the pH of their tears, so I’m calling BS on this one. BONUS – STEP 8: Does a higher quality diet reduce porphyrin production in some dogs? Certainly. Veterinarians always recommend feeding your dog the highest quality balanced diet you can afford. Some folks swear by homemade or raw diets, others are concerned about nutrient balance issues with homemade diets, most veterinarians prefer you feed a well-studied commercial diet of some kind, from a major manufacturer. No clear right or wrong here, do what works for you and your family. I DO NOT RECOMMEND you use OTC Tylosin, Terramycin (oft misspelled Teramyacin), makeup remover, milk of magnesia, yogurt, hydrogen peroxide, gold bond, corn syrup, or any other voodoo concoction to remove tear stains, as obviously putting ANY of these things INSIDE the eye is likely to make your dog really unhappy.
Flea and Tick Prevention for Dogs & Cats:
Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort and serious illness in pets and even people.
Fleas and ticks are easily prevented from bothering your pet through the use of safe, easy to administer, effective products.
Parasite prevention also may require treating your home and yard and keeping pets out of areas where fleas and/or ticks are likely to lurk.
Flea or tick control products meant for dogs should never be used on cats and vice versa.
What Are Fleas and Ticks?
Fleas and ticks are external parasites that can cause extreme discomfort for your pet and can also cause serious diseases.
Fleas are insects that are ubiquitous in the environment – meaning they can be found almost everywhere. There are more than 2000 species of fleas, but the common cat flea (Ctenocephalides felis) is the one that most commonly afflicts dogs and cats.
A disease of concern that can be caused by fleas is flea allergy dermatitis (FAD), which is a severe allergic reaction to flea bites. Some pets are so allergic that even a single bite can cause a reaction. FAD makes pets miserable. In severe cases, it can cause severe itching and inflammation that, if left untreated, can lead to excessive scratching and chewing that can damage the skin. Secondary bacterial or fungal infections can develop as a result.
Fleas can also play a role in transmitting parasites, such as tapeworms, and bacterial diseases, such as cat scratch fever (bartonellosis), to humans.
Finally, in very severe infestations, particularly in old, ill, or young animals, fleas can remove so much blood through feeding that they can weaken the animal.
Fleas are prevalent throughout the United States. They prefer warm, humid conditions, so infestations are typically worst during mid to late summer and early fall. In some parts of the country, they can be a significant problem year round. Even during the cooler months, fleas can survive very well indoors once an infestation has been established.
Ticks are not insects, but they are closely related to spiders, scorpions, and mites. There are approximately 80 tick species found in the United States, but only a handful of them are of real concern to pets and people. Some of these include the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), the deer tick (Ixodes scapularis), and the American dog tick (Dermacentor variabilis). The brown dog tick is the only species that can complete its entire lifecycle on a dog and can infest homes and kennels.
Tick bites can be painful and irritating, but the real concern with ticks is the number of serious diseases they can transmit, such as Lyme disease, babesiosis, anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. These diseases can cause significant illness and even death in both pets and people.
Ticks are found in virtually every region of the United States. They are most prevalent in the early spring and late fall, although some species are well adapted to temperature extremes and can be found any time of year. In general, however, they prefer dark, moist, brushy places in which to lay their eggs.
How Do I Know If My Pet Has Fleas and/or Ticks?
Larger tick species can typically be seen or felt in the hair coat, especially once they are engorged after feeding. Deer ticks, on the other hand, are very tiny—about the size of the head of a pin in some stages—and can be harder to see.
Repetitive scratching is a telltale sign that your pet may have fleas. Adult fleas can be identified on the pet, but fleas in other stages of their life cycle (eggs, larvae, and pupae) can be harder to find. Adult fleas are tiny and can be hard to see, but flea combs can be used to remove fleas as well as flea dirt. Flea dirt is essentially flea feces, which is digested blood. To check your pet for fleas, run a flea comb through your pet’s fur and dump any hair and debris onto a white paper towel. Dampen it slightly with water. Any small, dark specks that stain the towel red are a clear indication your pet has fleas. Finally, excessive grooming is also a sign of a potential flea problem. Infested cats will groom themselves repeatedly in an effort to remove fleas.
How Do I Prevent Fleas?
There are many safe, effective, and easy to administer flea control products. These products are typically administered orally in tablet (or liquid) form or topically by applying the medication as a fluid directly to the animal’s skin—generally between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck. Some flea control products are only active against adult fleas, whereas other products can also target other stages of the flea life cycle, such as eggs and larvae. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend more than one product in order to most effectively kill fleas and break the flea life cycle.
Once an infestation is established, fleas can be very difficult to get rid of. You may need to treat your pet repeatedly. In addition, fleas must be completely removed from the affected pet’s environment. Therefore, all other animals in the house must also be treated with flea control products, and the house and yard may need to be treated as well.
Vacuuming rugs, throwing out old pet bedding, and laundering other items may also be recommended by your veterinarian to help remove fleas from your pet’s environment.
How Do I Prevent Ticks?
There are many safe, effective, and easy to administer tick control products. Many of the major flea control products also have formulations that will help prevent ticks. These products are typically administered topically by applying the medication as a fluid directly to the animal’s skin—generally between the shoulder blades or at the back of the neck.
Prevention also includes keeping pets out of “tick habitats,” such as heavily wooded areas or tall grass. As much as possible, create tick-free zones in your yard by keeping grass mown short and bushes cut back. Ticks like moist areas, so remove leaf litter from around your house. If necessary, you may need to treat your backyard with a pesticide to reduce the number of ticks.
Finally, make a habit of performing a “tick check” on your pet at least once a day, especially if he or she has any access to wooded or grassy areas where ticks may lurk. If you find a tick, grasp it with a pair of tweezers as close down to the mouthparts as you can reach. Exert a gentle, steady pressure until the tick lets go. There are also tick removal tools that are very easy to use. Never remove a tick with your bare fingers. Avoid using lighter fluid, matches, or other products that may irritate the skin or cause other injuries to your pet. When in doubt, ask your veterinary care team for assistance removing the tick.
Never use flea control products intended for dogs on cats. Some medications can be highly toxic to cats. Only use products on the species for which they are intended and follow all label instructions.
Like people, pets need vaccines. And pet vaccinations, like those for humans, may sometimes require a booster to keep them effective. The best way to stay on schedule with vaccinations for your dog or cat is to follow the recommendations of a veterinarian you trust.
Chances are your vet’s suggestions will break down into two categories: core pet vaccines and non-core vaccines. Core pet vaccinations are those recommended for every pet, while non-core vaccines may be advised based on your pet’s lifestyle. For example, your vet may suggest certain non-core vaccinations if your cat or dog is outdoors only or boarded often.
Many vaccines can be given to pets as young as 6 weeks old, so talk to your vet about setting up the best vaccination schedule for your cat or dog, kitten or puppy.
Vaccination Schedule for Dogs: Core and Non-core Vaccines
Initial Puppy Vaccination (at or under 16 weeks)
Initial Adult Dog Vaccination (over 16 weeks)
Can be administered in one dose, as early as 3 months of age. States regulate the age at which it is first administered.
Annual boosters are required.
Core dog vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal to dogs, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.
Can be administered as one dose, as early as 3 months of age. States regulate the age at which it is first administered.
A second vaccination is recommended after 1 year, then boosters every 3 years.
Core dog vaccine.
At least 3 doses, given between 6 and 16 weeks of age
2 doses, given 3-4 weeks apart
Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing their initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.
Core dog vaccine caused by an airborne virus, distemper is a severe disease that, among other problems, may cause permanent brain damage.
At least 3 doses, given between 6 and 16 weeks of age
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing the initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.
Core dog vaccine. Canine “parvo” is contagious, and can cause severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea. Parvo is usually fatal if untreated.
Adenovirus, type 1 (CAV-1, canine hepatitis)
At least 3 doses, between 6 and 16 weeks of age
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing the initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often.
Core dog vaccine. Spread via infected urine and feces; canine hepatitis can lead to severe liver damage, and death.
Adenovirus, type 2 (CAV-2 (kennel cough) At least 3 doses, between 6 and 16 weeks of age 2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart Puppies need a booster 1 year after completing the initial series, then all dogs need a booster every 3 years or more often. Core dog vaccine. Spread via Spread via coughs and sneezes.
Administered at 6-8 weeks of age, then every 3-4 weeks until 12-14 weeks old
A booster may be necessary after 1 year, depending on manufacturer recommendations; revaccination every 3 years is considered protective.
Non-core dog vaccine. Parainfluenza infection (not the same as canine influenza) results in cough, fever. It may be associated with Bordetella infection.
Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough )
Depends on the vaccine type; 2 doses are usually needed for protection.
1 dose of the intranasal or oral product, or 2 doses of the injected product
Annual or 6-month boosters may be recommended for dogs in high-risk environments.
Non-core dog vaccine. Not usually a serious condition, although it can be dangerous in young puppies. It is usually seen after activities like boarding or showing.
1 dose, administered as early as 9 weeks, with a second dose 2-4 weeks later
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
May be needed annually, prior to the start of tick season
Non-core dog vaccine. Generally recommended only for dogs with a high risk for exposure to Lyme disease-carrying ticks.
Last dose at 12 weeks
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
At least once yearly for dogs in high-risk areas
Non-core dog vaccine. Vaccination is generally restricted to established risk areas. Exposure to rodents and standing water can lead to a leptospirosis infection.
First dose as early as 6-8 weeks; second dose 2-4 weeks later
2 doses, 2-4 weeks apart
Non-core dog vaccine.
Similar to Bordetella.
Initial Kitten Vaccination (at or under 16 weeks)
Initial Adult Cat Vaccination (over 16 weeks)
Single dose as early as 8 weeks of age, depending on the product. Revaccinate 1 year later.
2 doses, 12 months apart
Required annually or every 3 years, depending on vaccine used. State regulations may determine the frequency and type of booster required.
Core cat vaccine. Rabies is 100% fatal to cats, with no treatment available. Prevention is key.
Feline Distemper (Panleukopenia)
As early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age.
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
1 dose is given a year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.
Core cat vaccine. Feline distemper is a severe contagious disease that most commonly strikes kittens and can cause death.
As early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
1 dose is given a year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.
Core cat vaccine. Feline herpesvirus causes feline viral rhinotracheitis (FVR), a very contagious upper respiratory condition.
As early as 6 weeks, then every 3-4 weeks until 16 weeks of age
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
1 dose is given a year after the last dose of the initial series, then every 3 years.
Core cat vaccine. A very contagious upper respiratory condition that can cause joint pain, oral ulcerations, fever, and anorexia.
Feline Leukemia Virus (FeLV)
As early as 8 weeks, then 3-4 weeks later
2 doses, 3-4 weeks apart
Every 2 years for cats at low risk; every year for those at higher risk
Non-core cat vaccine.
Should test FeLV negative first. Transmitted via cat-to-cat contact. Can cause cancer, immunosuppressant
As early as 4 weeks
2 doses,1 year apart
Non-core cat vaccine.
A contagious upper respiratory condition.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU WAIT TO GROOM A RECENTLY VACCINATED PET?
Most groomers will not accept a dog or cat whose shot was administered 24-48 hours before their grooming. Animals may be extra lethargic or have a reaction to the vaccination. It is better to let 48 hours go by so that the pet parents are sure their fur baby responded well to his or her vaccinations.
WHAT ARE THE LEGAL ADMITTED PROOF OF VACCINATION RECORDS?
It is important to note that NO STATE accepts the honor system as proof of vaccination. So, what is acceptable proof that Fluffy has been to the vet and is current on all vaccination requirements? Nearly all states have the same level of expectation that the groomer will maintain proof (for at least one year) of current vaccination against rabies from owners of the animals that they are servicing. Proof must come in the form of a copy a medical record, invoice, veterinarian statement, rabies certificate, or receipt either provided by the owner or emailed or faxed from the veterinarian. Further, groomers must maintain on file a veterinarian’s letter verifying the status of any dog unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons. Sworn statements from the owner that the dog has been vaccinated (including the name and contact information of the veterinarian who gave the vaccines) are also permitted, but seem like a more cumbersome way to record the information. Please note that a rabies tag on a pet collar is not acceptable proof of vaccination.
Brushing Your Dog & Cats Teeth:
80% of dogs and 70% of cats over 3 years old have some form of periodontal (dental) disease. Dental disease causes bad breath (halitosis) and pain, it is also a source of infection and can make your pet seriously ill.
Dental disease is preventable in the vast majority of cases and in most cases, easy to achieve at home. There are many different methods to keep your pet’s “pearly white” teeth and these should be started while they are puppies and kittens.
For adult cats and dogs with existing dental disease, a dental treatment with a scale and polish under general anaesthetic is often necessary to get their mouth back into top condition. This will allow us to start prevention with a clean mouth which needs to be continued at home to hopefully prevent, or slow down dental disease developing again in the future.
Maintaining Oral Hygiene
- Appropriate Food
There is scientific research supporting the use of food as an easy means of helping keep your pets teeth clean. The Royal Canin Dental biscuit’s (or kibble) size, shape and texture produce a mechanical brushing effect on teeth, helping to remove plaque and tartar when chewed. It also helps to reduce tartar through the inclusion of a specific nutrient that effectively reduces plaque deposits.
- Plaque Off / Dentafresh
These products have been shown to work in two different ways: by decreasing overall bacterial loads in your pets mouth, thus aiding with smelly breath, and also softening plaque on the tooth surface. If the plaque is softer, it can be brushed away more easily by appropriate diet, brushing, or chews.
- Bones and Chews
Products such as Greenies and Dentabones encourage your pets to chew, which helps rub plaque off, and also spread protective saliva around teeth.
Feeding fresh raw bones and other animal products can greatly aid the hygiene of the mouth. Not every dog or cat can have bones and there are some individuals that have medical conditions or gut sensitivities that prohibit their use within the diet. Un-cut bones are best to reduce the risk of dental fractures, and the size must be larger than their head to avoid swallowing large portions.
Please speak with your veterinary health care professional if you are wanting to discuss your pet’s individual needs.
- Brushing your pet’s teeth
Plaque will start to accumulate 12 hours after a scale and polish or brushing, therefore it is no surprise that cats and dogs will benefit from having their teeth brushed.
Brushing is the ‘gold standard’ method of keeping your pets teeth clean. We brush our teeth multiple times a day – your pets teeth need to be brushed daily too.
There are many dental tooth brush varieties on the market, along with different designs and dental pastes. Many pet dental kits come with a microfiber finger cloth with which to start, toothpaste and a double headed toothbrush, specifically designed for your pets mouth. Finger brushes can also be used.
It is important to note that cats and dogs cannot use fluoride (human) toothpastes and a specific pet dental paste needs to be selected.
Our pets need to be trained to tolerate having their teeth brushed from a young age. Starting as a puppy or kitten is ideal, and gradually developing a system is important.
Some steps to guide you are below.
Introduce your pet to teeth brushing
Cats and small dogs may feel more comfortable if they can sit on their owners lap while having their teeth brushed.
Begin slowly, initial sessions should be brief, a minute or two and well rewarded.
Get your pet used to the toothbrush by dipping it in tuna juice, chicken or beef stock or just use water.
Next try offering the toothbrush with the paste, without brushing. Allow your pet to taste the paste.
When your pet is comfortable with the brush try brushing one or two strokes on a few teeth. Slowly increase the amount of brushing as your pet becomes more comfortable.
Start at the front of the mouth. Pets are often more accepting of this.
Using a toothbrush
The toothbrush bristles should be placed at the gum margin where the teeth and gums meet at a 45 degree angle. The movement should be in an oval pattern. Be sure to gently force the bristle ends into the area around the base of the tooth as well as into the space between the teeth.
Veterinary dental treatments
In the majority of pet’s lives, there comes a time when their teeth may require veterinary treatment over and above their regular examinations. A dental treatment involves a general anaesthetic and a full dental examination, including charting and scaling, both ultrasonically and by hand, and then finishing with a polish. A very similar procedure used by your own dentist. For more information specific to your pet, we encourage you to make an appointment with one of our trained Veterinary Nurses for a complimentary dental check.
Anal Glands 101:
What Are Anal Glands?
Anal glands (more appropriately called anal sacs, because they are not truly glandular in structure) are small paired pockets located between the internal and external anal sphincter muscles, one on each side of the anus at the 4 and 8 o’clock position. These small pouches, lined with oil glands and sweat glands, continually produce an oily semi-liquid substance that is stored within the sac. The sac empties through a short and narrow duct to the surface near the inside edge of the anus. The secreted substance is a semi-oily, brownish fluid that has a pungent, fishy (foul-smelling) odor.
Why Are Anal Glands “There”?
The truth is…no one really knows! There are a number of theories why dogs and cats have anal glands and what possible use they may have. One theory states that anal gland contents, when excreted with the passing stool, act as a powerful territorial scent marker to show ownership of an area (akin to a “No Trespassing” sign). Another theory states that the anal sac material lubricates hard stool, which makes passage easier. Yet, another theory states that the material acts as a communication tool, with the odor being your Pet’s identifier (or name) to other pets offering information about their health and wellbeing. However, in the long run, they serve little to no practical purpose and are often the cause of great distress to many a dog.
How Do Anal Glands Cause Problems?
For unknown reasons some dogs’ (and, very rarely, cats’) anal glands produce a rather thick, semi-solid material which is much more prone to overfilling (impacting) the gland due to the glands’ inability to pass this semi-solid material through the narrow duct to the outside.
Some dogs produce a very thick or dry material from the anal sac lining which makes passage of the material through the narrow ducts impossible.
Hypersecretion (overproduction) of fluid from the anal sac lining can often lead to subsequent impaction.
Some dogs and cats may be born with very narrow channels that lead from the glands to the edge of the anus, thereby obstructing the flow of anal gland fluid.
In many of these cases the gland will become swollen and inflamed causing discomfort and pain, leading to infection (abscess formation), and eventually may even rupture and break through to the skin surface.
Antibiotics are indicated in abscessed anal gland disease, usually responding after a 2-3 week period of therapy. The abscessed anal gland may need surgery to provide drainage and removal of the damaged and infected gland as well as the surrounding tissue.
Anal gland problems don’t seem to be related to age or sex. They are more common in dogs than in cats and are much more likely to occur in small breed dogs than in large breed dogs. (However, any breed can be affected by anal gland difficulties).
Acquired damage to the duct can occur when prior perianal infections have been present, or from trauma from prior surgery for an anal gland abscess, as well as allergies. Many Pets suffer from allergies (indoor, outdoor, food) which may contribute to anal gland problems.
Other predisposing factors include;
chronically soft stools
recent bouts of diarrhea
poor anal muscle tone
What are the signs that my Pet has anal gland issues?
Dogs with anal gland issues typically have some combination of the following symptoms:
- scooting (dragging their bottoms along the ground)
- excessively licking the affected area
- intermittently releasing the contents of the anal glands at inappropriate times
- red skin around the anus
- a visible protrusion on one or both side(s) of the anus
- bleeding or the drainage of pus from around the anus. *
- *If you see blood or pus around your dog’s anus or if your dog seems very uncomfortable, do not attempt to express their anal glands at home! Make an appointment with your Veterinarian ASAP!!
- Cats with anal gland issues typically will demonstrate straining or discomfort while trying to defecate (poop) or defecating outside their litter box.
What Can I Do To Fix The Problem?
It’s estimated that anal gland disorders affects 12% of all dogs.
If left untreated, anal gland impactions, infections and abscesses can be a reoccurring nuisance for your Pet, so you need to be proactive about getting an evaluation by your Veterinarian if your Pet displays any discomfort in the tail or anal region.
Some animal health practitioners believe feeding your Pet a diet rich in fiber aids in emptying the anal glands. You have probably heard, read, or received information from the web that certain foods with certain amounts of fiber can promote a stool size that will regularly empty the anal glands. The thought is, that the pressure of the firm stool against the colon wall near the anus may help to express the anal glands contents naturally. There is no scientific data to support this belief. The anatomy around the anus is so diverse and the force of stool exiting the anus so low that the idea of a universal food type and fiber content will solve the problem is misguided. Also, dogs that have a history of an existing problem such as infection or obstructed ducts, probably won’t respond to dietary changes. Modifying your Pet’s diet with more or less fiber will yield inconsistent benefits.
Expression…the Ultimate Solution
Manual expression remains the Standard of Care in the treatment of impacted, swollen, uncomfortable anal glands.n most cases, an anal gland problem is not an emergency. However, if ignored, the condition can quickly get worse and become increasingly difficult to treat. The goals of treating anal gland problems are to relieve the dog’s discomfort and pain, unplug and empty impacted sacs, reduce inflammation, eliminate associated infections, and heal abscessed areas.The first and most urgent treatment for a dog with impacted anal glands is to manually – and very gently – express the contents of the sacs.So, can you express your Pet’s anal glands at home? The answer is; YES!Expressing anal glands at home is not for the squeamish, but it is a good option for intrepid owners of dogs that regularly find themselves in need of the procedure.If you have any questions, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the procedure on one of your dog’s glands and then try it yourself on the other gland while he or she looks on.Some Pets never need their anal glands expressed; some need it weekly. Others fall in ranges from needing it weeks to months apart. What is important is finding the regular interval that meets your Pet’s needs.You need to know which interval is right for your Pet because anal gland health is as important as other grooming health needs, and even vaccination health.Remember; If you see blood or pus around your dog’s anus or if your dog seems very uncomfortable, do not attempt to express their anal glands at home! Make an appointment with your Veterinarian ASAP!!In severe cases, the anal sacs can be removed surgically by a procedure called an “anal sacculectomy.” Be sure to discuss the pros and cons of surgery with your Veterinarian if chronic problems lead you in that direction.