Northern Kentucky Pet Sitters

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Dog Health Care Articles and Items of General Interest

A person can learn a lot from a dog, even a loopy one like ours. Marley taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things--a walk in the woods, a fresh snowfall, a nap in a shaft of winter sunlight. And as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity. Mostly, he taught me about friendship and selflessness and, above all else, unwavering loyalty.
             --John Grogan, Marley and Me, 2005

Pet Sitter List of Recommended Readings . . . Raw Meat Diets for Cats and Dogs
Symptoms of Pain and Illness in Dogs
Canine Heart Disease: A Silent Killer
What Do Pet Laboratory Tests Reveal?
Dental Care: What to Include in a Complete Program
News, Articles, and Features from K9 Magazine
Animal and Pet Videos . . . The Reality of Puppy Mills (The HSUS)

Category: Canine

Raw Meat Diets for Cats and Dogs
By Karen Peak

In recent years, there has been a movement in the dog and cat world toward feeding raw meat diets. There are many diets out there with the most popular being BARF by Dr. Ian Billinghurst. But why the movement when there are so many brands of dog and cat food on the market? The most popular explanation I have found concerns what is going into processed pet food. Some brands of processed pet food are very low in "garbage" (excess additives, preservatives, and colors). Other foods are full of sugars, colors, unnecessary additives, and potentially dangerous preservatives. All processed foods need preserving but not all preservatives are great. This article is not about reading pet food labels; it is about the benefits and the risks of a raw meat diet.

One of the benefits with a raw meat diet is you know exactly what is going into the animal. However, a drawback is you also can end up with a malnourished pet! Good nutrition is far more than feeding your animal enough to keep it from getting too thin. Cats, for example, are far more carnivorous than dogs. The type of raw diet you would use for a cat would not give a dog what it needs. According to Give Your Dog a Bone by Dr. Billinghurst, a raw diet for a dog consists of 60% raw meaty bones. The other 40% is a variety of foods to balance: green vegetables, eggs, milk, and organ meats (liver, heart, kidneys, etc.).

Feeding a raw diet is far more than hitting your local grocery store and tossing hamburger or chicken your pet's way! Proper nutrition involves knowing what your pet needs to be healthiest in regards to protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, various vitamins and minerals, etc. Deficiencies in any of these categories can lead to serious problems down the road. For example, if a cat lacks taurine, he can end up with vision problems. Some breeds of dogs are prone to bladder stones and some stones may have a protein-related basis. Too much protein can be bad for these dogs. If you wish to properly feed a raw diet, you need to take the time to understand the intricacies of animal nutrition based on species. A good high-quality kibble takes care of the mystery of how much a dog or cat needs of what element.

If you can dedicate yourself to study and properly creating a balanced raw diet, this is a major concern out of the way. In March, 2001 an article in JAVMA (Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association) compared raw diets to commercially prepared diets. All the raw diets were not nutritionally complete. Though the study was small, it gives pause for thought. Can you ensure your dog or cat is getting a balanced diet?

What about bones? We get bombarded with reasons why not to give bones to pets. Yet many raw diets encourage the use of raw bones. Bones are very controversial. Baking and smoking bones changes their texture. However, even raw bones can break and snap. Raw bones can cause damage to the esophagus, stomach, and intestine. But bones help scrape build-up off teeth, and raw bones may not be as brittle as bones dried out in a baking/smoking process. It is argued that wild animals have been chewing bones without problems for thousands of years. However, there has been no research done into the death rate of wild canines or felines from bone complications.

A wild canine or feline with a bone impaction would die quickly and never be seen by humans. This is why we do not see wild canines or felines with bone impactions; they do not survive. Bones have VERY LITTLE nutritional value for animals. The bulk of the nutrition comes from what is on the bone. However, GROUND bone meal can be a good source of calcium and other elements. Please realize that raw bones do have risks like anything your pet can chew.

Now, let's consider the bacteria in raw meat. Canine and feline digestive tracts are not the same as ours. Supposedly, a healthy dog or cat should be able to handle the bacteria in meat better than humans can. However, there has been concern raised regarding bacteria. First, humans: We must practice safe meat handling and cleaning up after our pets eat. The bacteria in raw meat can be fatal to a human who is young, elderly, or has a weakened immune system. Some cats and dogs on raw diets have persistent diarrhea--this is not normal. Chronic diarrhea can lead to dehydration and other problems. Also it can be a sign that the animal is not handling the bacteria well. The bacteria can be fatal in a pet with a weakened immune system or who is already sick. Dr. Lisa Newman, a doctor of Naturopathy with a Ph.D. in holistic nutrition, has seen an increase of irritable bowel syndrome, digestive problems, and immuno-related weaknesses in animals fed a raw diet on a daily basis. 

Are raw diets a fad or are they here to stay? I think they are here to stay. Honestly this scares me. Please understand I am not fully opposed to the diets. I feel for some animals they can be beneficial. What worries me is the lack of education and knowledge the general person feeding a raw diet has. Good quality processed foods contain everything a dog or cat needs to be healthy and little in the way of additives or unnecessary preservatives. Are raw diets safer than a high-quality processed kibble? Maybe they are or maybe not. Should the average person try to make their raw diets? No. It takes time, dedication, lots of research, and fully understanding the pros and cons.

Karen Peak has been training and working with dogs in various capacities since 1982. Along with her husband, she shares her home with two young children, four dogs, six cats, and various other critters. Karen's future goals include obtaining her CPDT certification (when her children are older and she has the time to travel). In 2000, Mrs. Peak opened West Wind Dog Training and followed soon after with The Safe Kids/Safe Dogs Project. The Peak family resides in Virginia. This article was reprinted with the author's permission.

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Symptoms of Pain and Illness in Dogs
By Jennifer Bryant
This article appears on the Web site.

Dog owners who recognize the early signs and symptoms of illness or pain in their dogs can help relieve their loved ones' suffering, and they may also save themselves an expensive trip to the veterinarian. Not only is it important to recognize these signs early to relieve pain and suffering, but it is more effective to treat an illness when it is detected at an early stage.

The dog owner should keep an accurate and detailed account of their dog's symptoms to help the veterinarian correctly diagnose and effectively treat the animal's illness or condition. Most canine illnesses are detected by closely examining a combination of various signs and symptoms.

Temperature, Respiratory Rate, and Heart Rate
A newborn puppy will have a temperature of 94-97º Fahrenheit which will eventually reach the normal adult body temperature of 101.5º F at the age of four weeks old. Use caution when trying to take your dog's or puppy's temperature as the thermometer can easily be broken off in the canine's rectum. Also, any form of excitement can cause the temperature to rise by 2-3º F when the dog is actually in normal health. If your dog's temperature reaches 105º F or above, or it falls to 96º F or below, take him or her to the emergency veterinary clinic immediately!

An adult dog will have a respiratory rate of 15-20 breaths per minute (depending on such variables as size and weight) and a heart rate of 80-120 beats per minute. You can feel your dog's heartbeat by placing your hand on his/her lower ribcage just behind the elbow. Do not be alarmed if the heartbeat seems irregular compared to a human's heartbeat; it is irregular in many dogs. Have your veterinarian check it out and get used to how it feels when it is normal.

Behavior Changes
Any behavior changes that are not associated with a change in the household atmosphere, such as jealousy over a new pet or child, may be an indication of an illness. Signs of behavioral changes may include:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • sleepiness
  • trembling
  • falling or stumbling 

If your dog shows any of these signs, he or she needs to be kept under close watch for a few hours or even a few days until positive signs develop or he or she has returned to normal. Do not try to exercise the dog or put the animal in any situation that may cause stress. Most veterinarians will want you to keep track of when the symptoms first appeared, whether they are getting better or worse, and whether the symptoms are intermittent, continuous, or increasing in frequency.

Dogs experiencing pain will likely indicate they are suffering by giving you clues as to where the area of discomfort is. For example, a dog that has abdominal pain will continually glance toward the belly, bite or lick the area, and will not want to leave his/her bed. The dog may stand hunched over or take the prayer position (that is, when he or she gets down on his or her forelegs with the hind legs still standing) because of the pain in the abdomen area.

Dogs cannot tell you that they are hurting or cry real tears but they may vocalize their pain in a different way. A dog that is hurt suddenly (such as being stepped on) will cry out or wimper in pain. This also happens when an external injury or internal injury (with an organ) is touched. Whining or vocalization that is unprovoked may be caused by an internal injury as well. Some breeds of dogs, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier, have a higher pain threshold and need to be watched more closely for signs of pain. Breeds with high pain tolerance are more likely to endure the pain without vocalization.

Another clue to pain is a change in temperament. A dog that is in pain may show signs of aggression. Please take note of this before concluding that a dog has become vicious. Let your veterinarian know so that the correct treatment can be administered. Also, females in general (and even humans!) have days when they are just in a bad mood for no obvious reason. Record the days and number of times that these mood swings occur as well as any events that might have triggered them.

There are other signs that your dog may be sick. They include the following:

  •  Ears: discharge, debris, odor, scratching, crusted tips, twitching, or shaking
  •  Eyes: redness, swelling, or discharge
  •  Nose: runny, thickened or colored discharge, crusty
  •  Coughing, sneezing, vomiting, or gagging
  •  Shortness of breath, irregular breathing, or prolonged/heavy panting
  •  Evidence of parasites in the dog's stool, strange color of or blood in the stool, or lack of a bowel movement  (constipation) 
  •  Loss of appetite or not drinking as much water as he or she normally would
  •  Weight loss
  •  Strange color of urine, small amount of urine, straining, dribbling, or not going as frequently as normal
  •  Bad odor coming from mouth, ears, or skin
  •  Hair loss, wounds, tumors, dander, or change of the skin's color
  •  Biting the skin, parasites, scratching or licking the skin frequently    

This article was written to educate you about the signs and symptoms of probable pain or sickness in your dog. If any of these symptoms occur over a prolonged period of time, seek the help of a veterinarian. I hope this article will stress the importance of keeping a watchful eye on your dog's health patterns and keeping an accurate, detailed health record for your veterinarian's convenience.

Jennifer Bryant is a lifelong lover of dogs. She loves and breeds American Pit Bull Terriers in her North Georgia home while raising her two young children. Jennifer's love of dogs has inspired her to create the Bryant's Red Devils Web site for herself (as well as for other dog breeders) to advertise their occasional litters of puppies and to educate the public with dog breed information and useful articles.

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Canine Heart Disease: A Silent Killer
By Susan McCullough
This article was published in The Dog Daily.

Young lady and canine friendOn a percentage basis, more dogs than people suffer from heart disease. According to Novartis Animal Health, a Switzerland-based healthcare company, 25 percent of dogs over the age of seven have the most extreme form of heart disease--heart failure. By contrast, the National Institutes of Health estimates that only 6.4 percent of men and 2.5 percent of women between the ages of 65 and 74 suffered from the same condition between 1998 and 2002 (the most recent period for which such data is available).

While both dogs and people can get heart disease, the reasons they acquire these conditions differ. "With human beings, it's a matter of lifestyle--putting on weight, not eating properly and not exercising," explains Dr. Deborah Fine, assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Veterinary Medicine. "With dogs, what we see is mostly caused by genetics or breed susceptibility."

Common Canine Heart Diseases and Their Symptoms
The two most prevalent canine heart diseases--dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) and mitral valve disease--are believed to be at least partially hereditary.

DCM and mitral valve disease cripple the heart in different ways. DCM causes a swelling of one of the heart's lower chambers, which are called ventricles. The left ventricle is affected more often than the right. "The ventricle changes from a football shape to a basketball shape," explains Dr. Fine. "This weakens the ability of the heart to pump blood. The heart becomes large and flabby and beats weakly."

Mitral valve disease attacks the valves that serve as doorways between the heart's upper chambers, which are called atria, and the ventricles. The valves deteriorate to the point that they don't close completely. This failure to close allows some blood in the ventricle to flow back to the atrium instead of out from the heart to the rest of the body the way it's supposed to do. Consequently, the heart must work harder than normal to pump enough blood to meet the dog's needs.

With either condition, a dog may not show outward symptoms for years. Eventually, though, the dog shows signs that all is not well. Those signs can include:

  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Coughing, especially during exercise or excitement
  • Gasping for breath
  • Fainting or collapsing
  • Gradual abdominal swelling

Although these signs can signify the onset of heart failure, they also mimic other conditions. For example, if the left side of the heart fails, fluid backs up into the lungs, but other conditions can do that too. That's why a dog with these symptoms needs a thorough examination with appropriate testing. "You need a chest X-ray to confirm left-side heart failure," says Dr. Fine. "Fluid in the lungs could also be pneumonia, bronchitis or a fibrosis of the lungs."

At-Risk Breeds
Due to inherited genes and as a consequence of breeding, DCM usually affects large or giant breeds, especially:

  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Great Danes
  • German Shepherds
  • Irish Wolfhounds
  • Mastiffs

Mitral valve disease, again due to genetics and breeding, affects a disproportionate number of small breeds, including:

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels
  • Chihuahuas
  • Miniature Poodles
  • Toy Poodles
  • Maltese
  • Bichon Frises
  • Beagles
  • West Highland White Terriers

Both diseases generally strike dogs in mid-life or later, except for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which can show signs of mitral valve disease at just 2 years of age.

Helping Your Dog
If your dog is one of the more susceptible breeds, expert monitoring from an early age is a good idea. For example, some experts believe that every Doberman Pinscher over the age of one year should receive an annual electrocardiogram because DCM is especially prevalent in that breed. Similarly, other experts recommend that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels receive yearly screenings for mitral valve disease. Such monitoring won't prevent either condition, but it can lead to earlier, more aggressive treatment that can improve a dog's quality of life, and may even lengthen it. "With heart disease, it's not just about living longer, it's about living better," says Dr. Fine.

You can help your dog live better too. In addition to aggressive monitoring for early detection, good home care can keep a dog comfortable longer. If heart failure hasn't occurred, "Keep your dog active, maintain a healthy diet and a healthy weight," suggests Dr. Fine. "Excess weight makes the heart work harder."

Treatment Options
Once a dog has been diagnosed with heart failure, treatment focuses on controlling symptoms and the condition's progression. A veterinarian may start treatment by prescribing a diuretic to reduce the dog's fluid level and an ACE inhibitor, which levels blood pressure, to help the diuretic work better. A dog with right-side heart failure may also undergo abdominocentisis, a procedure in which the veterinarian inserts a needle into the abdomen to withdraw excess fluid. A dog with DCM may be prescribed medications to help the heart contract more normally.

Because these conditions aren't curable, owners may question whether treatment is worthwhile. Dr. Fine responds, "I always encourage people to try therapy (treatment) because the medications can help their dogs return to their old selves. Give it a few weeks--the vast majority of dogs do much better."

Susan McCullough is the author of Housetraining for Dummies, Senior Dogs for Dummies and Beagles for Dummies. This article was reprinted with permission from Studio One Networks. © 2008 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

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Primate Sanctuary - Born Free USA

What Do Pet Laboratory Tests Reveal?
This pet health article is courtesy of (which is no longer available).

As a responsible dog owner, you should take your dog to the veterinarian at least once a year. This is a good precautionary measure to keep your pet healthy for years and to guard against disease. A yearly physical examination will consist of evaluating your dog's general attitude and appearance. The eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and skin will be fully examined. The vet will also check the musculoskeletal, respiratory, nervous, digestive, genitourinary, and circulatory systems.

Serum Chemistry Profile
Sometimes called a "chem scan," the Serum Chemistry Profile is an extensive battery of tests that provides a broad database of vital information to evaluate your dog's general health. These tests confirm the results of the physical examination and will provide early warning signs of unsuspected problems. Have your dog fast for at least 12 hours before this test to ensure the greatest accuracy.

A urinalysis examines your dog's urine. This test will reveal the health of the genitourinary system. In addition, urinalysis results may also reflect a variety of disease processes that involve other organs of the body.

Fecal Analysis
Parasites can be detected through fecal analysis. Also, this test is a sound one for detecting the presence of undigested food particles, an indicator that the dog's system is unable to break down and digest food the way it should.

Complete Blood Count
The Complete Blood Count, or CBC, is a very routine profile of tests used to describe both the quality and the quantity of cells in your dog's blood.

Normal Blood Test Results
As you make the yearly physical exam and blood chemistry tests a routine part of your dog's health care, they will provide valuable information for the future. The tests help establish normal baseline levels for your dog. If there is any deviation from those levels, your vet can easily initiate the necessary therapeutic regimen.

"Normal" levels are determined by the laboratory. These values vary depending on what laboratory equipment is used. Norms are established by analyzing the blood of a certain number of dogs, and then the average is used as a benchmark for current tests. This is why it is important to stay with one clinic for as long as you can, preferably for your dog's entire lifetime.

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Dental Care: What to Include in a Complete Program
Veterinary Services Department, Drs. Foster & Smith, Inc.
By Dr. Holly Nash, DVM, MS

Our dogs are living longer now than in the past. Today, we have better preventive medicine (e.g., vaccinations and heartworm preventives) and better ways to diagnose and treat many diseases. Now we are seeing more animals whose most severe medical problems are dental problems. To prevent oral disease, which is the number one health problem diagnosed in pets, it is essential to provide our pets with good dental care, both professionally and at home.

Dental disease in dogs

Plaque on the teeth of a dogPlaque: Dogs rarely get cavities, but are much more prone to gum disease and excess tartar build-up on the teeth. Food particles and bacteria collect along the gumline forming plaque. Routine home care can remove this plaque.

Tartar: If plaque is not removed, minerals in the saliva combine with the plaque and form tartar (or calculus) which adheres strongly to the teeth. Plaque starts to mineralize 3-5 days after it forms. The tartar is irritating to the gums and causes an inflammation called gingivitis. This can be seen as reddening of the gums adjacent to the teeth. It also causes bad breath. At this point it is necessary to remove the tartar with special instruments called scalers, and then polish the teeth.

Periodontal Disease: If the tartar is not removed, it builds up under the gums. It separates the gums from the teeth to form "pockets" and encourages even more bacterial growth. At this point the damage is irreversible, and called "periodontal" disease. It can be very painful and can lead to loose teeth, abscesses, and bone loss or infection. As bacterial growth continues to increase, the bacteria may enter the bloodstream. This can cause infection of the heart valves (endocarditis), liver, and kidneys. If treated by your veterinarian with special instruments and procedures, periodontal disease can be slowed or stopped.

What is included in a good dental care program?

A good dental care program includes:

  • Regular visits to your veterinarian, which include an oral exam
  • Veterinary dental cleaning as advised
  • Daily home dental care

Oral Exams by Your Veterinarian: A thorough dental exam can identify potential problems such as plaque and tartar build-up, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and fractured or abscessed teeth. During an oral exam your veterinarian will:

  • Examine the animal's face and head for asymmetry, swelling, or discharges.

  • Examine the outside surfaces of teeth and gums, and the "bite."

  • Open the mouth to examine the inner surfaces of the teeth and gums and the tongue, palates, oral mucosa, tonsils, and ventral tongue area.

  • Palpate and assess the size, shape, and consistency of the salivary glands and the lymph nodes in the neck.

Polishing the teethDental Cleaning by Your Veterinarian: To prevent dental disease, your dog needs routine dental care at home. But to perform good home care, you need to start with clean teeth. Brushing will remove plaque but not tartar. So if your dog's teeth have tartar, it is necessary for your veterinarian to remove it and polish the teeth. This professional veterinary dental cleaning is often called a prophylaxis or "prophy." A routine dental cleaning consists of:

  • Anesthetizing your dog.

  • Taking radiographs (x-rays) to assess the health of all of the teeth and bones of the mouth.

  • Flushing the mouth with a solution to kill the bacteria.

  • Cleaning the teeth with handheld and ultrasonic scalers. All calculus is removed from above and below the gumline. This is extremely important and can only be done if the animal is under anesthesia.

  • Using a disclosing solution to show any areas of remaining calculus which are then removed.

  • Polishing the teeth to remove microscopic scratches.

  • Inspecting each tooth and the gum around it for any signs of disease.

  • Flushing the mouth, again, with an antibacterial solution.

  • Optionally, applying a dental agent to retard plaque build up.

  • Recording any abnormalities or additional procedures on a dental chart.

  • Determining the best follow-up and home dental care program for your dog.

Daily Home Oral Care: Home oral care includes routine examinations of your dog's mouth and brushing her teeth.

Home oral exam: As you care for your dog's mouth, look for warning signs of gum disease such as bad breath, red and swollen gums, a yellow-brown crust of tartar around the gumline, and pain or bleeding when you touch the gums or mouth. You should also watch for discolored, fractured, or missing teeth. Any bumps or masses within the mouth should also be checked by your veterinarian.How long would you go without brushing your teeth?

Daily brushing: Regular brushing of your dog's teeth is a very important preventive for oral and other diseases. A step-by-step procedure for providing this care is found in our article Brushing Your Dog's Teeth.

Mechanical removal of plaque: Studies show that hard kibbles are slightly better than canned food at keeping plaque from accumulating on the teeth. There are veterinary dentist-approved foods and treats on the market that have shown that dogs eating these foods have less plaque and tartar build-up.

Canine products that have received the Veterinary Oral Health's Council seal of acceptance are as follows:

  • Bright Bites and Checkup Chews for Dogs - all sizes
  • Canine Greenies® - all sizes
  • Canine Greenies® Lite - all sizes
  • Canine Greenies® Senior - all sizes
  • Del Monte Tartar Check® Dog Biscuit: Small & Large sizes
  • Friskies Cheweez Beefhide Treats for Dogs
  • Eukanuba Adult Maintenance Diet for Dogs
  • Hartz Flavor Infused Oral Chews - Large Dogs and Small Dogs Sizes
  • Healthymouth antiplaque water additive
  • (Hill's) Prescription Diet Canine t/d: Original & Small Bites
  • Iams Chunk Dental Defense Diet for Dogs
  • Purina Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health brand Canine Formula
  • Purina Veterinary Diets DH Dental Health brand Small Bites Canine Formula
  • Purina Veterinary Diets Dental Chews brand Canine Treats
  • Science Diet Oral Care Diet for Dogs
  • Tartar Shield Soft Rawhide Chews for Dogs
  • Vetradent Dog Chews marketed as 'Bluechews' and 'dc Dental Chews'
  • Vetradent Dog Chews - Small Size marketed as Baby Bluechews and dc Tiny Toy Dental Chews

Mechanical removal of plaque can also be accomplished by using toys such as Plaque Attacker dental toys, rope toys, or rawhide chips. Do not use toys that are abrasive and can wear down the teeth. If your dog is an aggressive chewer and likes to bite down, trying to crack the toy, you probably should not let the dog chew on that toy. For especially aggressive chewers, look for toys they cannot get their mouths around. Rawhide or other chews that soften as the dog chews are another option.

What is ahead in the future?

Veterinary dentistry is becoming more common and more sophisticated. Pets can have the same procedures as people: root canals, crowns, and even braces. Some veterinarians specialize in dentistry and are board-certified. New products are continually becoming available to help veterinarians and owners provide the best possible oral care for pets. February of each year is designated as Pet Dental Health Month as a way to remind owners of the importance of proper dental care. Make sure good dental care is part of your pet's present and future!

© 2008 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc. This article was reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from ( Visit our online store at Call to receive a free pet supply catalog: 1-800-323-4208.

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News, Articles, and Features from K9 Magazine