Monday, April 17, 2017

Sunscreen for Canines

Summer is right around the corner and soon it will be time to slather ourselves in sunscreen and hope for the best. Did you know that dogs are just as much at risk for sunburn as humans? Dogs at the highest risk for sunburn are light skinned dogs, dogs with short hair, with little to no hair and dogs that spend a lot of time in the water (or soaking up the sun rays). In addition, a dog's nose, ears and underside are the most at risk for getting sunburned. Like humans, genetics and diet play a role in the susceptibility to sunburn. Some dogs are just more sensitive to the damaging effects of the sun. A lot of caring dog owners will use sunscreen on their dogs, but they should never use commercial sunscreen made for humans. Human sunscreen has a whole list of ingredients that are toxic to canines, including zinc oxide. Dogs lick themselves all the time and end up ingesting the toxic components of the sunscreen. For a list of toxic elements, please visit this website--> click here.  

There are ways a dog owner can protect their furry friend through diet and natural oils, though! A diet with foods rich in Lycopene is our first measure of sun safety. Lycopene is a phytonutrient and antioxidant that occurs naturally in fruits and vegetables and can offer a small bit of natural sunscreen when ingested. We cannot soley rely on just Lycopene rich vegetables for sun protection because when ingested, only a small part of the lycopene is absorbed into the skin. A dog owner can increase the absorption by also pairing the fruit/vegetable with a good source of fat, such as: Coconut oil, fish oil, olive oil, hemp seed oil and Flax oil.

When adding fruits and vegetable to a dog's diet, the owner should always remember the proper proportions for a canine: 56% to 60% protein, 25% to 30% fat and 11% to 14% appropriate carbohydrates (fruits and vegetables) to ensure optimal health. In addition, the pits in fruits and vegetables (example: apricot and mangoes) should always be removed before feeding to your furry friend. Pits can cause intestinal obstructions that often end up either really costly or deadly. 

The second measure to sun safety is to select an oil that has a natural SPF in it and use it instead of commercial sunscreen. These oils are (and I've included the SPF number alongside):

  • Carrot Seed (30-38 SPF) which is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. It also has healing properties for skin issues. The only downside is that it has a slight orange tinge. Dog's with light hair may take on a carrot like hue from the oil dying the fur. 😋
  • Red Raspberry Seed Oil (30-50 SPF) has an excellent level of Vitamin E for dogs with dry, irritated and inflamed skin. 
Notice the range in SPF per oil? This is because mother nature is never exact and levels of SPF will vary depending upon the plant, where it is grown and when it is harvested. 
You can also add essential oils to the above oils to add healing benefits. But, you should never add citrus essential oils! These are phototoxic and will cause burns! Lavender Essential oil has healing properties as well as a natural SPF of 6%.  Always remember to dilute essential oils to a safe dog dilution (not human) and do not use on puppies less than 8 weeks old. In addition, make sure your oils are therapeutic grade! For more information on essential oil safety for canines, visit this link--> click here

Finally, I am providing you a recipe to make your own dog friendly sunscreen! All the oils listed will also have their approximate naturally occurring SPF next to the name.

1/4 cup coconut oil (2-8 SPF)
1/4 cup Shea butter (2-8 SPF)
1/8 cup Wheat Germ Oil (or hazelnut oil) (15 SPF)
2 TBS of beeswax
1 Tsp of Red Raspberry Seed Oil (30-50 SPF)
1 Tsp of Carrot seed oil (30-38 SPF)
6 drops of Lavender Essential Oil (Optional) (6%)

Directions: Melt all the oils, except the Lavender Essential Oil, together on low in a sauce pan. Be sure not to over heat and bring to a boil. Once everything is melted, pour into a mason jar and add the essential oil and gently stir with a non-metal spoon. Allow to cool to a hardened state. That's it! 

Additional links to get you started on your own research:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Training: "Leave it" in 5 Steps

"Leave it" is a training skill that could potentially save your dog's life. Before you start to train your dog on how to leave something on the ground, it's best that they have already mastered "sit" and leash walking. Below, I have outlined how to teach your dog how to "Leave It", but first I would like to explain how to go about teaching your dog this skill:

1. Only teach your dog a new skill for about 15 minutes a day in 5 minute sessions. "Leave it" is a good skill to practice during commercial breaks. 😏 If you go all hard core on the training and do more than 15 minutes a day in 5 minutes sessions, you risk over saturating your dog and stressing them out.... or they will just become plain ol' bored with the task and not listen to you.

2. In my steps, you will see "P/R". This means "Praise and Reward". Praise= a "good job" or "good boy/girl!" with lots of happy enthusiasm. Reward= a treat. Usually pea sized treats are sufficient for training sessions. If your dog does not respond to food treats, you may need to get creative on what reward to use.

3. Do not move onto the next step until your dog has mastered the previous step. Mastering a step may take a few days. These steps are not meant to be blasted through in one day!

And now.... the steps!

Once your dog has mastered step five, you can move on to practicing with real life objects: table scraps, cat boxes, dirty diapers... pretty much all the gross stuff dogs like to get into that they really shouldn't. Once the skill is learned by your dog, make sure to practice it weekly in order to maintain the training! Otherwise, you may have to start all over again. 😞

Monday, March 13, 2017

Top 10 Rules for Children Around Dogs

Cute picture of the child hugging the dog, huh? But, it is images like these that compel me to write a blog about teaching children rules for being around dogs. There are certain elements of respect that we would give humans that also should be given to dogs. If we follow these rules, accidental dog bites and injuries should be kept at bay:

  1. Do not hug a dog. Yes, humans like hugs, but dogs don't and dog's are not humans! Hugs make dogs nervous. Dogs can be trained to tolerate hugs, but it's not really their cup of tea and they would rather you stay out of their personal bubble. 
  2. No Running. Children must be trained not to run up to a dog. This could startle or scare the dog. In addition, children should not run in front of a dog even while playing with the dog. This could trigger the prey instinct in a dog and will often result in a child getting nipped in the butt or getting knocked down and bitten. 
  3. Don't touch body parts. Dogs should be pet from head to the base of the tail in a stroking motion with the palm of the hand. Children should not pull ears or tails. Or be messing around with the legs, paws, ect...
  4. Leave your dog alone while he/she is eating. Let's put it this way-- Would you like it if someone came up and placed their hand in your dinner plate? Probably not. Please, when a dog is eating, give him/her space to eat in peace.
  5. Do not steal a dog's toys. Instead, teach your dog "drop it" if you really need the toy. But, don't just grab it out from under them. It's rude!
  6. Leave your dog alone while he/she is sleeping. Same as with eating--Would your really want someone messing with you while you are taking your much beloved nap? Probably not.
  7. Loud noises hurt dog's ears. A dog's hearing is WAY more sensitive than a humans. For Parents: You know how frazzled you get when your kids are running and screaming through the house? Now imagine that you can hear 4 times the distance and higher frequencies. That is a dog's hearing. A frantic, loud household= an over stimulated dog.
  8. Do not tease your dog. They don't understand teasing and it's not funny to them. All it will do is build a level of distrust in your relationship.
  9. Crates are safe places. Please train your children that if Fido goes to his/her crate, it's alone time. This is an area that should be comforting and quiet for them. 
  10. Playtime has ended. Children should learn how to read their dog's language to know when playtime has ended. If Fido is walking away, they are done. On the flip side, Dog's should be trained to know when playtime has ended! 
I hope this helps! Please be consistent with these rules with your children. It will make your furry family member feel secure and safe knowing that "the pack" is being respectful of boundaries. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Seasonal Allergies in Dogs

It's that time of year again where everyone is walking around with tissues in their hands and pockets, eyes red and puffy, and in a Benadryl coma. ALLERGY SEASON. Humans are not the only ones to suffer. Dogs can too. Dog's exhibit seasonal allergies a little bit different than humans. Their symptoms are generally skin issues: allergic dermatitis.
  • Your dog will be ITCHY. Fido will be scratching excessively, biting and chewing on spots of the body and rubbing against surfaces. 
  • You may also notice that your dog's ears are chronically infected with rashes, yeast and bacteria. This will cause your dog to be constantly scratching the ears, head shaking and there will be hair loss around or on the ear. 
  • Hot spots: These are localized areas of the skin that become red, scabby and infected. 
  • Generalized redness: Puffy eyes, red oral tissue, red chin, red paws...
  • Allergies are an immune system response. Canine's with an already weak immune system may develop respiratory issues like sinusitis, bronchitis, ect...
 There are two types of allergies: food and environment. Food allergies tend to be a constant chronic condition until the diet is altered and the allergenic food is eliminated. Seasonal allergies are...well... seasonal. UNLESS you live in a climate that doesn't experience a hard freeze. Then, they can become a year-long issue. Dog's can also become extremely sensitized to the environmental culprit. What may have been a once a year issue, can gradually get worse each year until it is a year long problem. If you think your dog is suffering from seasonal allergies, it's best to visit your veterinarian and take measures to alleviate the symptoms:

Benadryl can be given to a dog to temporarily relieve allergies. I would consult your veterinarian about giving your dog benadryl and your dog's correct dosage. Like humans, it will make your dog drowsy and it's probably not best to give your dog on a consistent basis.

Itchy Skin Remedies:
  • Brush your dog everyday! When skin is itchy, inflammatory blood cells and chemical compounds such as histamine and prostaglandins accumulate in the affected area. Brushing your dog not only will feel good on those itchy areas, but also help clear out all the build up...kind of like raking the leaves out of your yard. 
  • Spray a 50/50 solution of Apple Cider Vinegar and Water onto the affected areas of your dogs skin. 
  • Lavender, Lemon and Peppermint Essential Oils mixed together in a shampoo or as a balm. These three oils mixed together have been praised for providing strong anti-histamine benefits. Peppermint is anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory, Lavender has antiseptic properties that can help keep rashes and hot spots from getting infected and Lemon also has antiseptic properties as well as being anti-inflammatory.  
  • Chamomile Tea can be chilled and sprayed onto itchy areas in order to skill yeast and bacteria as well as soothe the skin.
  • A spoonful of plain yogurt in your dog's diet will help balance the intestines and keep yeast infections at bay.
  • Break a Vitamin E capsule and rub the oil into irritating hot spots.
  • Feed your dog Coconut Oil or apply to skin. Coconut oil has so many benefits! I cannot list them all today, but you can read about them in this other post I wrote---> Right here 
  • Magnesium cream to alleviate hot spots or to dehydrate boils and abscesses. But, it should not be applied to an open wound. Instead, you would want to rub the cream around the wound. Giving your dog a "paw bath" of warm water and Epson Salt, which contains magnesium, after a long day of exercise to alleviate itchy paws and help stimulate blood flow to the skin. 

Monday, February 6, 2017

Stinging Nettle for Canines

I am really excited for this upcoming spring because I will be growing a weed in my garden! Not just any weed, but Stinging Nettles to be exact. I have been doing some extensive research on this plant and I think it will be beneficial not only to my dog, but also to my family and myself. Stinging nettle is famous in the herbal world as a natural anti-histamine as well as an anti-inflammatory. This means, it can not only help the seasonal allergies that run rampant in my family (two-legged and four-legged members), but it will also help my arthritis. But, that is not all.... Stinging Nettle is also considered to be one of those "super foods". It contains:

That is a lot of stuff.

For harvesting Stinging Nettle, it is recommended that you wear gloves, long pants and cut them with scissors, because of the stinging part (which is on the underside of the leaves). BUT, some people purposely sting themselves to help with joint pain. There are two phases of harvesting that should be noted:

Eating Fresh Nettle: You must harvest when the plants are still young. If you wait until they have matured and flowered, it's too late for fresh eating --> Mature plants contain cystoliths that can irritate the kidneys. To get rid of the "sting" in order to eat them fresh, you must steam, saute, freeze, can (like spinach) or boil them. You can use the left-over water from boiling and steaming as a tea to drink or as a rinse for your dog's fur. This rinse is very beneficial for alleviating itchy skin caused by rashes, flea bites, ect...

OK, I have a bunch of mature, flowery Nettles. Now what do I do? You can dry them! The process of drying the plant destroys the cystoliths. Now it will not wreak havoc on your kidneys. Gather up your nettles and dry them by tying a string around the bottom of a bunch and hang them upside down to dry. Once dry, you can use the dried leaves as tea by seeping 1 TBSP/ cup of boiled water. Again, this can be drank or used as a skin rinse. You can also add 1/2 tsp per lb of dog weight to your furry friend's food.

A word of caution: Stinging Nettles is haemostatic. This means it stops bleeding. If your dog (or human) has blood thinning or thickening problems, it's best to talk to your veterinarian (or doctor) before eating Stinging Nettles. In addition, do not feed your dog (or human) stinging nettles if suffering from a bacterial infection, being treated for diabetes, high-blood pressure or on NSAIDS.

For more information on Stinging Nettles, please visit these websites:

Monday, January 23, 2017

Essential Oil Safety For Pets

The other day, my neighbor came over with a catalog and a basket of essential oils. The aroma in my house soon turned into a wondrous rainbow of smells and it honestly helped the cold congestion everyone in my house had been feeling for the last week.

While the aromas lingered in my household, it got me thinking about essential oils for pets. EO's have been around for a long time and lately their popularity is becoming mainstream. We all want something a little more natural.... a simpler way of doing things in our life. And let's face it, we all wonder sometimes if we really need all those tests our vet is pinning onto our bill (I still don't have the answer to that.) We love our pets. They are part of our family and we want the very best for them... Which is a happy, HEALTHY life. But are EO's safe for pets?

I immediately started researching the topic and was surprised by results. For dogs and horses, there is a wide array of articles on how to use essential oils for treatment of ailment after ailment. But for cats, the research was very limited and caught me by surprise. Cats have a very unique physiology and essential oils may not be a good idea. Cats lack a proper detoxification process called hepatic glucuronidation. In layman's terms, it means they cannot fully metabolize the essential oil. The EO's slowly build up in their system causing toxicity problems. Liver damage is a slow process, it often takes a while for something to be noticed. If you would like the full scientific explanation, feel free to read this article by The Lavender Cat. The article also gives you some helpful hints if you use essential oils on yourself and have kitty family members. (example: A cat's liver takes approx. 48 hours to detox. If you diffuse essential oils in your house, try to only do it once every 48 hours and have an "escape" route for your cat... aka another room.) There are some essential oils that are deemed "low risk" for cats and some are "high risk". My advice would be to research any essential oil that you are going to diffuse into your house and weigh the cost/risk.

Ok... now for dogs. Dogs have had a lot more success with essential oils. But before you rub your dog down in lavender oil, there are some things you should know first:

  • Always use therapeutic grade essential oils. These will be more pricey, but are purer. There will be no "additives" that may make your pup sick. Price usually indicates quality!
  • Your essential oil should not be oily or leave a greasy residue. 
  • Packing should include the common name and Latin binomial, country of origin, method of distillation, lot #, amount of oil in the bottle, company info and how the plant was grown. 
  • RESEARCH and make sure you check credentials! Basically, does this person know what he/she is talking about? Some essential oils should never be used on dogs, some are controversial and some are commonly used. Do your research!
  • When you first try an essential oil on your dog, let them smell it first with the cap still on the bottle (unopened). If your dog gets all excited and happy, try a little bit and watch for any adverse reactions. If your dog is acting like the smell is the most putrid thing in the world, it may not be a good idea to diffuse it around them.
  • Always dilute the oils before using topically or before inhalation. (see below for a handy dilution image) Remember, a dog's nose is WAY more sensitive than a human's!
  • Do not use EO's on large breed dogs under 8 weeks or small breeds under 10 weeks.
  • Gradually introduce oils. One at a time! If you give your dog five oils at once and they develop an allergic reaction, you won't know which one it was.
  • Most issues that dogs have can be addressed with inhalation of a diluted essential oil. Putting it on them topically should be used sparingly. 
  • Only use essential oil as needed. Essential oils should not be used as a "preventative". 
  • Do NOT add essential oils to food or water. 
The handy dilution image:

It should be noted that a "Carrier Oil" is a basic oil like Olive oil, Coconut oil, Almond oil, ect...

 And here is another image that shows you what Essential oils are deemed safe to use. I got this image from one of my favorite essential oil safety sites: I highly recommend this site if you are in to essential oils for your dog or yourself!

 And last but not least, I will provide you with some useful links:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Canine Dental Care

Periodontal disease can lead to a number of health issues. Yes, it will cause tooth/gum infections and tooth loss which is painful for your dog. But, the mouth is the entrance to your body and when it is not healthy, it leads to other health problems such as kidney, heart and liver damage. 80% of dogs by the age of three have some sort of dental disease: gingivitis, halitosis, tumors, cysts and periodontal disease.

Symptoms of Periodontal Disease:
  • Red and Swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Excess drooling
  • Tartar build-up
  • Tooth Loss
Prevention Includes:
  • Weekly lip and gum examinations
  • Dental vet check-ups
  • Dental chews
  • ....And...Yes.... Bi-weekly teethbrushing! 
Brushing our Canine's teeth is something most of us disregard as important, but can play a key role in preventing health problems. It can be a simple process once your furry friend gets used to it (It's easiest to start the habit when they are puppies). You should never use human toothpaste, because it contains Fluoride and/or artificial sweeteners that can be toxic to your dog. Lucky for you, I have included some simple dog toothpaste recipes that you can make at home! They are simple to make. You just grab your ingredients, throw them in a food processor and blend away! Once it's made, store it in an airtight container in your fridge.

 To brush your dog's teeth, use a soft bristle toothbrush. Scoop a small amount of paste onto the brush and move gently over your dog's teeth in small circular motions. Pay attention to the back teeth where most tartar and food build-up hides out. After brushing, use water on the toothbrush or a clean washcloth to rinse your dog's mouth. Provide fresh water for your dog to drink afterward.

And that's it! Remember that a small amount of time once every week (or two weeks) can do wonders for your best friend's health.

Monday, January 2, 2017

7 New Year's Resolutions for Dog Owners

Happy New Year! 2017 is sure to be the year of leading a healthy, balanced lifestyle, so why not start with your dog? The little steps you take starting today, will surely help in giving your dog a happy and healthy life. With all celebration, I have created 7 New Year's Resolutions for you:

  1. Stay consistent on all the medical stuff: This means making sure your dog is taking a monthly heartworm medication, getting a flea/tick preventative, up to date on their vaccinations and yearly veterinarian check ups. It is also a good idea to do an overall body scan of your dog monthly to check for any unusual lumps or bumps. 
  2. Brush those teeth: Like human's, a dog's mouth is the gateway to health. Dental problems can lead to a myriad of life-threatening infections. Online, there are recommendations ranging from brushing your dog's teeth everyday, to three times a week, to once a week. If you don't brush your dog's teeth, I think a good place to start is...well... just starting! You can also invest in dog toys specifically designed for cleaning teeth. But, these should not be a substitution for actual teeth brushing. IMPORTANT NOTE: DO NOT USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE ON DOGS. A LOT OF HUMAN TOOTHPASTES ARE TOXIC TO DOGS. 
  3. Learn 1st Aid for canines and pack a 1st Aid kit: This is especially important if you travel with your dog. But, let's face it, accidents happen at home as well. For more information, please check out this link. -----> click here
  4. Exercise together...daily: I like to think of daily dog exercise as a daily meditation. Sometimes, it seems like a daunting task. But all in all, it is good for you to take time out from the daily grind and bond with your furry companion. It reduces stress in you and your dog. Which in turn, helps build healthy, sustaining daily behaviors. It's also a good idea to shake it up a bit. Yes, having a daily routine is good. But it can also lead to boredom and mental fatigue. Try going for some hikes or enrichment games. Use some creativity!
  5.  Measure your dog's food: Obesity can also lead to a myriad of health problems. Investing in a quality dog food, measuring out the right amount and exercise will help give your dog a long, healthy life. 
  6. Update your info and microchip: If you have changed addresses, remember to update your dog's medical records. It's also a good idea to get your dog microchipped, because.... well.... collars fall off. Keep that microchip information up to date as well. 
  7. Be a good neighbor: Pick up after your dog on those walks, and start working on those bad habits like fence running, leash pulling and excessive barking at everything. 
With all that said, remember that change does not happen overnight. And nobody (human or dog) is perfect. Be kind to yourself and make small changes over a long period of time.  For more resolutions, check out the list from 2016!