Friday, June 27, 2014

Hack, hack, hack! Kennel cough hits my dog hard

Boston terrier selfie with human
While she spends most of her days taking selfies, lying around in the grass and otherwise doing boring dog things, Sinead the Boston terrier also has to go to the vet from time to time. Last week, she had to head in for a rabies shot.

My vet keeps the office clean and tidy, but obviously, it's a place that's full of pets that are feeling a little under the weather. While I can't prove it, I would bet that Sinead was sitting close to some critter with kennel cough, and she ended up with a nasty cough of her own in the day or two following that visit.

Sinead had the pretty traditional kennel cough symptoms you see on web articles like this one from the ASPCA. She hacked, hacked, hacked in the middle of the night and first thing in the morning, and sometimes, she coughed so hard that she brought up a nasty chunk of white goo. She ate normally, drank normally and had perfectly healthy bathroom habits. But I could tell she just didn't feel all that great.
Sinead the Boston terrier looking sad
Heartbreaking, right?
Predictably, her symptoms were only mildly concerning at the end of the week. I thought she swallowed wrong, or ran too hard or got too hot. In other words, I could find reasonable explanations for her symptoms. But on Saturday night, when all of the vet offices were closed, she erupted into full-blown misery.

So I babied her and kept her hydrated. We also spent a little time in the steamy bathroom, just to help soothe her cough. And she got a break from those terrible walks she hates.

Thankfully, by Monday, she was almost completely better. But just to be safe, I'm keeping her away from other dogs for now. This article suggests that she'll continue to shed the virus for weeks. I don't want her to pass this to anyone else. It's too late for Liam to be isolated, but he seems to have escaped the contagion without getting sick.

Small Boston terrier sitting nicely

I know we got lucky here, and that kennel cough can become much more serious with time. No need to remind me to watch her carefully for a recurrence, thank you very much. But I think I will start bringing some wipes with me for our next vet visit. Maybe by wiping her paws when we leave, or keeping her from touching the floor in the first place, I can keep this from happening to her again.

Also, the evidence suggests that vaccines aren't ideal for dogs like Sinead. See this article from the Whole Dogs Journal on the risks/benefits of vaccination in dogs who don't go to kennels.

Friday, June 20, 2014

5 ways to protect the health of an active pug

Liam the pug sitting on my foot

Pugs are the undisputed winners of sites like Pinterest, and often, the photos I see there show these silly dogs doing something pretty sedate, like wearing a costume or sitting on the couch like a human. Many photos show these little guys eating. (Check out my Pinterest page to see tons of these photos. I'm addicted!)

But, pugs can also be remarkably active, and if you don't give them an outlet for that energy, they can also be really annoying. Without the proper toys and treats, they tend to destroy their beds, dig holes, bark and otherwise make a real nuisance of themselves.

At the same time, these guys also don't breathe all that well, so it's hard to keep them as active as they need to be.

I can't say that I have all of the answers, but here are a few things that have worked for me.

1. Keep your pug trim. 

Pugs love to snack, and that means they can pack on the pounds in no time at all. Each added pound makes it harder for these guys to haul their bodies from place to place, and that means they tucker out on walks much faster than they should.

By keeping an eye on their weight, and doing strict portion control (including limiting treats), many of these weight problems can be avoided.

2. Take your pug with you, and watch what you wear. 

Pugs can overheat when the weather gets warm, so it's best to watch over the clothes you're planning to wear before you head out on a walk. If I feel like I can wander out on a walk wearing just a tank top and shorts, it's probably too hot for Liam. But, if I'm all bundled up, it's safer.

Pug and human selfie
We're both quite comfy.

3. Watch for pug heavy breathing. 

All dogs pant when they get a little too hot. But Liam (and most pugs) can take panting to a whole new level when they get overheated. They stick their tongues out really far, and they make horrible noises both when breathing in and breathing out.

I've seen more than one pug owner write these noises off as simple pug noises, but it can be really dangerous to let your dog struggle to breathe. The noises might seem silly or comical, but they really can be dangerous.
Liam the pug sitting by a tree
Getting a little hot after a long walk.

I watch Liam's tongue length, and when he gets that tongue way out there and I can't get him indoors in a hurry, I douse him with water. It's not something he loves, I'll admit, but it is a quick way to help him cool off just enough so I can get him to safety.

4. Pug practice makes pug perfect. 

Just as you wouldn't head out on an 8-mile run without doing some training first, pugs shouldn't be forced to go on long treks on a sporadic basis. They need to work up to long walks, so they can handle the activity without collapsing.

A daily walk can help your pug stay in good condition for almost any activity you might choose, but if the weather is too hot, a run around the yard when the sun goes down might do the trick.

And remember, if you have to keep your pug indoors for long periods of time due to the summer heat, don't celebrate the return of fall with a long hike. Build up slowly in order to stay safe.

Pug and Boston terrier resting in the sunshine
"Resting after exercise is awesome, too!"

Monday, June 16, 2014

Salem WillaMutt Strut was a hoot!

Pug in his bandanna

Saturday brought great weather for the Willamette Humane Society's fundraiser: the WillaMutt Strut!

We arrived a little after 9 in the morning, and the park was already hopping with dogs, kids, runners and walkers. Liam and Sinead had a great time walking around the perimeter and meeting a few happy people, and they even engaged in a rousing game of bitey face before the walk started. (Our local photographer got them on film, too, in this slide show.)

After a few festivities, including an impressive Liam performance of a few tricks, we did a beautiful 5k walk across the river and back again, accompanied by a number of pretty happy dogs. I got to chat with the owner of a WHS alumni member, and Liam got to do some cavorting with distant pug relatives. Even Sinead enjoyed herself, although she did get a little crabby with some nosy Newfoundland puppies late in the morning. Not very sportsmanlike of her, I must say.

Sinead the Boston terrier in the sunshine
"I am not sorry!"

We fully plan to attend next year, and I hope that you'll do the same. But if you missed the event this year, don't worry. You can still make a contribution to Willamette Humane and support the animals there. Just click here to find out more about the charitable giving options they have open to you.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Natural, effective flea and tick repellant: A cat and dog product review

Jasper the cat on his deck outside

I'm not a big fan of using commercial flea and tick preventives on my cats, especially since Eamon had such a serious reaction to a topical ointment not too long ago. On the other hand, I know that cats being eaten alive by fleas can be remarkably uncomfortable, and each little bite could put them at risk for developing worms.

PetNaturals of Vermont has a product made just for cat owners like me, and the company sent me a sample to try out on my cats. I'm happy to say that they liked it, and it seems to work pretty well.

This product, which is called simply "Flea + Tick" contains natural ingredients, including:
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Cinnamon oil
  • Sesame oil 
  • Castor oil 
It's designed for topical use, and a few little squirts is often enough to coat an entire cat. Not surprisingly, my cats weren't thrilled with the idea of being sprayed with a liquid (most cats hate that), but I gave both Jasper and Beorn tasty treats after the sprays, so they tolerated the treatments.

After putting that spray on, both of these cats smelled simply wonderful, too, as though they'd been in some kind of exotic bakery or something. They didn't mind the smell, which was nice, and the oils did seem to make their coats look glossy and healthy. Most importantly, however, I didn't see these guys jump after fleas in the hours after I applied that oil.

I haven't combed my cats for fleas, so I can't say with certainty that they don't have a rider lying in wait here or there. But I have been applying this product faithfully, and I'm still not seeing any fleas jumping around. I like the idea that I could use a non-toxic product on these cats that could protect them from invaders.

Outdoor cats sleeping in the sun

Also, as the weather heats up, I would think that these cats would be more amenable to a spray, especially if I put that spray in the refrigerator. A cool, refreshing spray on a warm day might be just the ticket for a hot cat, and the contents might also help to condition the coat and keep the kitty looking great. That seems like a good benefit, too.

If you'd like to try this product for yourself, the manufacturer is providing a free bottle to the first 100 people who fill out the form found here (Update: Sorry! The promo is over). People who miss out on that particular offer can still get coupons if they fill that form out, too.

So this was a review opportunity for me, and I got samples for my time. But, I like this product and I encourage my readers to try it. Beorn and Jasper sure did!

Disclaimer: I was sent samples as compensation for an honest review. I alone am responsible for this content, and no money changed hands. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I believe provide real value. This disclosure comes in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stranger danger! Dealing with dogs who bark at the door

Sinead the Boston terrier at the door

Overall, Sinead the Boston terrier is a very quiet dog. She doesn't bark in order to head out into the yard, she never lets out a peep while she's in her crate, and I have yet to hear her make a sound while we're in the car. If she's dissatisfied with me or something I'm doing, she might let out a sigh. But that's about as vocal as she gets in correcting me and dealing with my habits.

However, she can turn into a barking machine when she either hears or sees another person approaching the property. Apparently, she's not alone in this, as a study from California suggests that 88.4 percent of dogs who bark excessively when their humans are home do so in response to a new sort of stimulus, such as a person walking by.

It would be easy enough for me to ignore this behavior. After all, Sinead weighs less than 8 pounds, so her barks are far from deafening. She's not even all that threatening to people who are walking by. But, barking like is is a very serious problem. In fact, this blogger suggests that excessive barking is the third most common reason cited when people abandon their dogs. The yipping just tends to get under the skin, and sometimes, people feel as though they have no choice but to remove the dog from the home altogether.

Now, I am not intending to give up my dog due to her barking. But, I would like to make her stop, so I did a little research on the subject. Here's what I found out.

The ASPCA suggests that some dogs bark like this because they're friendly. In short, these dogs bark because they see someone outside that they'd like to meet and hang out with. Unfortunately, Sinead doesn't fit into this category. She has a wide-legged stance when she barks, and often, her hair is standing up. This isn't a friendly thing.

So she's probably barking because she wants people to get off of her lawn. Tackling that means taking one of two steps. I could:
  1. Block her sight line, so she can't see people walking by. 
  2. Train her to come to me for a treat instead of barking when she sees people. 
Option 1 is easiest. By keeping the front door closed, or adding some sort of film to the screen, I could keep her from seeing out. But, Option 2 might allow her to continue to do what she seems to think is her job (alerting me to stranger danger) without all of the noise. Plus, I know that she loves treats.

So the plan is that I'll redirect her barking with the word "Quiet!" When she does stop barking, she'll get a yummy treat. As she improves, I'll start ringing the doorbell and otherwise upping the challenges until she can stay silent despite overwhelming reasons to bark. I'm hoping this will cure the yapping for good.

Liam the pug is not barking
"I'm not barking. Can I have the treat?"
Liam might be a good ally in this, too, as he rarely barks when he either hears or sees people near the house. If he gets treats long before she does, she might learn that barking means missing out on something good. I'm a big believer in using the other dog to help the first, and I think that might be my secret weapon here.

Does your dog bark at the door, and if so, how have you handled it? I'd love to hear your suggestions.