Stretches and Massage for your Fur-Baby

Simple tips for improving Circulation and Mobility:

Dogs need exercise and exercise creates strain on muscles, joints, tendons and ligaments.  For this post I wanted to focus on some simple ideas that anyone can use to help keep their dogs healthy.  Although larger dogs have more risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system (muscles and joints), smaller dogs, high energy dogs, those involved in canine (or other) sports regularly, and dogs that are getting older can really benefit from massage and stretches.  Of course Mini Schnauzers would benefit from this!!

Let’s start with Massage:

In just ten minutes a day, you can give your dog a “maintenance” massage. Use a flat palm to slowly touch all the parts of your dog’s body. Really focus on what you are feeling and pay attention to all the layers, from hair through skin, fat, muscle, and down to bone. However, there is more to these massages than just quality time together. After a few days, you will have a clear picture of what is normal for your dog’s body. In future sessions, you will be quick to notice any differences in surface temperature, sensitivity to touch, localized swelling or muscle tension, poor coat quality or tight skin. Left undetected, these things can lead to problems requiring medical care, medications, or even surgery. Knowing what feels normal for your dog can also help you provide better information for your veterinarian, trainer, or massage practitioner. This is one way that regular massage can add to the length and quality of your pet’s life. I found the following techniques described by Lola Michelin, founder of the Northwest School of Animal Massage to be very useful and in line with what I use with our own Caesar.  Hope they are useful to you too!

Calming the Nervous Dog

“this feels… relaxing…”

Massage therapists (and some Naturopathic Doctors!) use a stroke similar to petting to relax the nervous system. This can be used during an anxious response to thunder, lightning, Vet-visits, or any other upset for your dog.  Lightly rest the flat palm of your hand on top of your dog’s head or neck. Make long, sweeping passes along the length of the spine and down the tail. Repeat this several times slowly. You can gradually increase your pressure if your dog likes it. Do not press straight down on the lower part of the back. To finish, allow one hand to rest at the base of your pet’s head and the other hand to rest over the area of the pelvis (the high point over your dog’s hips). These two areas correspond to the part of the spinal cord that controls the rest and relaxation responses of the body (for example, sleep, digestion, and tissue repair). This technique is useful any time your dog is nervous or fearful, such as during nail trimming or vaccinations, or when he is hyperactive or restless.

Warm-Up Massage for Active Dogs

“I think we’re going to have some fun!”

Active dogs that compete, run, hike with their owners, or just play hard also deserve a good warm-up, and this may even prevent injury – I will often use massage before a major-hike-day with Caesar right after his morning stretches. Start with several minutes of petting strokes over your dog’s entire body. Briskly rub the large muscles (neck, shoulders, buttocks, and thighs) with the heel of your hand. Gently lift and squeeze the muscles. The technique is a lot like kneading bread dough. Wrap your fingers around each lower leg and squeeze gently. Relax your grip and move up the leg gradually, squeezing as you go. Finish with more petting over the entire body to stimulate the nerves.

 Relieving Joint Stiffness and Soreness

“Ahhh… that’s soothing…”

Recent exertion, aging, or inactivity can lead to soreness and stiffness in joints and muscles. To help, start by petting the area around the joint to warm the tissue. Then place your hand(s) over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area. You can use your breathing or count slowly to establish a rhythm as you press and release the muscles. The pumping motion moves fluids through the muscles and takes tension off the tendons surrounding the joint. Never use sudden or direct force over a bone. Finish with more petting over the area to soothe the nerves. Keep in mind that regular massage throughout the life of your pet may help prevent the stiffness and pain that contributes to arthritis. Readers should note that massage is not a substitute for veterinary care. Severe conditions require diagnosis and treatment by your veterinarian.

Now, Let’s Look at Stretches

Simple, Gentle Stretches You Can Complete in Minutes a Day

There are three areas of your dog’s body for which stretching is especially beneficial – the hips, the shoulders and the back.

The following stretches, done slowly and gently, are well tolerated by most dogs. However, if you don’t feel confident in your ability to do the stretches, consider asking your Vet or a small animal Chiropractor, Naturopathic Doctor, or Massage Therapist to demonstrate the stretches for you so you can do them at home.

Instructions for most of these stretches have your dog standing, but you can also do them with your dog lying on his/her side, or in the case of the chest stretch, on his/her back (which is the position that Caesar finds most comfortable for his stretches most of the time).  Some dogs are very uncomfortable in this position, so if yours is, don’t force the issue.

Needless to say, if your pet shows any sign of pain during stretching, discontinue the movement and have him/her seen by your Vet as soon as possible.

“this is good for my hips”

Stretching the hip flexors. The hip flexors are muscles that enable your dog to move his legs and hips while walking, trotting or running. To stretch the hip flexors, ask or get your dog to stand or lie down, and gently hold a back leg above the knee. Gently and slowly move the leg back straight out behind your dog’s body. When you reach a point of resistance, where further extension will require applying pressure, hold the leg in position for 10 to 30 seconds. Repeat this stretch 2 or 3 times with each back leg.

Benefits your dog will receive from this stretch include increased movement and flexibility in the hips and spine, improved conditioning of the lower back, hip and leg muscles, and a reduction in arthritis-related discomfort and pain.

Stretching the shoulder flexors. Shoulder flexors are muscles that allow fluid movement and proper use of your dog’s front legs. To stretch the shoulder flexors, with your dog standing or lying down, grasp a front leg above the elbow, place your other hand under the elbow to stabilize it, and gently move the leg forward. At the point of resistance, hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds and repeat 2 or 3 times for each front leg.

“this is good for my shoulders”

Not only does this stretch improve the integrity of shoulder structure, it also benefits the wrists and elbows, and increases your dog’s breathing capacity by loosening his/her chest muscles that are around the lungs.

Stretching the chest area. The muscles of your dog’s chest endure a great deal of strain. This is an abduction stretch, meaning a stretch away from center. With your dog on his back, grasp both front legs near the elbows (some say wrists but near the elbows is a sturdier location and will likely be more comfortable for your dog) and gently open them out to the side. Hold for several seconds, release and repeat.

Since your dog may expect a chest or tummy rub (he/she is on their back, after all), you can relax them further by giving him/her a gentle chest massage using light pressure and circular strokes.

“normally I hate lying on my back, but this is comfy…”

Stretching the back. This stretch requires the use of training treats. With your dog standing, and you on one side of him/her, move the treat slowly in the direction of his/her tail, encouraging your dog to follow it with his/her eyes – turning only his/her head. This will require him/her to bend their body into a C shape. Hold your dog (or ask him/her to stay) in this position for 10 to 30 seconds, then step to the other side and repeat the exercise. Do 2 or 3 stretches on each side.

“there’s a treat…”

“and another treat!”

After you’ve stretched your dog’s back, he/she will really enjoy a sacrum and back rub. The sacrum is the area in front of the base of the tail, between the hip bones. Using light pressure and circular movements massage the hard flat surface of the sacrum. Move your hands slowly up your dog’s spine and back using gentle massage strokes.

Regular sacrum and back rubs decrease anxiety, increase the flow of spinal fluid, enhance mobility in the hips and spine, and help bring your dog’s body into good balance.

I hope you and your dog(s) will find these tips helpful!  Do you think these ideas will take too much time in your day?  Then remember these words (for both you and your dog!):

“For fast-acting relief, try slowing down” ~ Lily Tomlin – hahaha!! funny but true too!

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

Caesar’s Dental Visit

Recently, we took Caesar to his Vet for his first full dental cleaning.  Many people wanted to know more about our experience, so here’s what happened.

We have been brushing Caesar’s teeth since he was a puppy – about once a week if possible, although some weeks have been missed.  We noticed a bit of plaque starting to build on his teeth last year and this year a bit more tartar accumulation.  This of course, was pointed out to us by our Vet who sees Caesar yearly for a full check-up including  blood work.  So this year, we figured we should take the Vet up on her late winter/spring discount on dental care.

We had learned from her last year that dogs need to be anesthetized during this process as most will not sit still for the cleaning – let alone the “very still” for the x-rays taken to determine the health of the teeth.  I re-checked with her to make sure that Caesar had had no ill-effects of anesthesia in the only other time he’s had it: his big-boy surgery!

No Breakfast and a Walk?

She reviewed her notes and determined that no challenges were encountered during or after his recovery from the anesthetic.  So we booked Caesar in.  He was to avoid all food after midnight so we gave him a late, extra meal at about 11:30pm, then surprised him with a no-breakfast morning for all of us and a walk to the Vet’s office.  Yes, he knew something was up.

We left Caesar with his Vet with false confidence for our boy and acted nonchalantly not to notice his resistance to being pulled away from us – then rushed home.  I cried as I waited the grueling hours until we finally heard he was being taken in for the procedure (which would take 2-3 hours from start to coming out of anesthetic time) – thinking about him being scared and missing us… Then we rushed to the clinic again during this time to try to get a couple of pics of his first cleaning but couldn’t actually go see our baby (our Vet had warned us before that it’s not useful to have owners/parents watch the cleaning as it only stresses out the Vet themselves – but I thought she could just stop for one minute while I got pics…?)  Luckily, one of the staff agreed to take some pics for me and that was sufficient for us to wait out the rest of the time at home.

Here are the pictures the staff took for us… poor little guy… but clearly getting some careful attention.

Well let me tell you that my husband and I truly rejoiced when the office called again a few hours later to let us know that Caesar was out of the anesthetic state, and recovering nicely.  They were even so kind as to send this picture and message: “Hi Mom and Dad, I just wanted to let you know that I’m doing great after my dental procedure! I went out for a walk and I ate all of my food, it was delicious. I’m resting quietly in my comfy cage and I can’t wait to see you later! Love, Caesar xo”

Seven hours after we dropped him off, we were picking him up!! What a day!  But before we actually got to see our baby, our Vet (Dr. Sarah) went through everything she learned – she had taken x-rays before the procedure (as she had told us she would do to determine if any teeth needed extra attention or extraction) as well as before and after pictures of the teeth to show us Caesar’s work :)  What was amazing is that she had talked us through everything we could expect from this procedure and followed through with all that she had prepared us for!  We had signed papers for this procedure on the day of this visit which also describes that if anything is found on x-rays every effort is made to contact us to let us know before doing anything.  We could either check a box which required our consent to do anything – which would mean if she couldn’t reach us she would do nothing and we would need another anesthetic time (likely) to do any work that might be needed. OR we could check a box that allows the Vet to do whatever she finds needs work to avoid another anesthetic procedure.  We checked the first box as we had taken the day off for Caesar’s visit and knew that there would be no way that the Vet’s office would not be able to reach us!  Luckily, we also discovered that we brought Caesar in at what looks like perfect timing – yes, plaque and tartar needed to be removed, but there were no problems with the gum-line, no abscesses and no need for extractions!!!

I thought I’d share a few pics we got from our Vet’s office:

before

after

And yes, we got pictures and x-rays of every section of Caesar’s mouth!

healthy teeth

healthy teeth

So happy to see this!!

So that was our experience.  I am so impressed with the way that our Vet’s office handled everything for us on this nerve-wracking day for all of us.  Thank-you to North Oakville Animal Hospital for your fantastic care and service!

Below, I have shared some useful information that I found on the web through animal planet’s website – I don’t think I could have written the ideas any better!  I hope you find the tips useful because I sure believe they are!

Your Dog’s Dental Health

You put a lot of thought into keeping your dog healthy: quality food, routine checkups, plenty of fitness. But what about his teeth?

Oral hygiene is an often-overlooked but important factor in your dog’s overall health. If he has a toothache or sore gums, he’s dealing with pain and stress that you may not even know about. Left untreated, bacteria introduced by the problem can enter the bloodstream and affect his heart, kidneys or liver. Veterinarians report that an estimated 85 percent of dogs over age 4 are suffering from some form of periodontal disease, a painful oral condition that can lead to tooth loss and infection. The good news? All of these problems are preventable with regular dental cleanings and professional checkups.

Like regular grooming or the daily jaunt outside, dental care should be something your dog comes to expect each day. But it won’t happen overnight; most dogs take some time getting used to someone poking around in their mouth. Most owners need to warm up to the idea, too! Ideally, introduce dental care when your pooch is still a puppy. But don’t stress if you just realized that your adult dog’s teeth need some attention. Just take a slow, patient approach, and remember that lots of love and treats go a long way in winning him over.

Most experts agree that daily brushing is ideal, but if that’s unrealistic, aim for three to four times per week. And don’t be an overachiever: If your pup’s patience only lasts for you to brush half his teeth today and the other half tomorrow, that’s fine. Just remember which half you did each day!

Unfortunately, dogs can’t care for their teeth themselves, but they can help by gnawing on the right product. A good long chew can help scrape away plaque and dirt, and most dogs are happy to comply. Natural choices include rawhide (yes, there’s a lot of controversy about these being ingested and causing blockage – so we avoid them with Caesar) or a knucklebone. Knucklebones are apparently a softer bone that’s gentler on the teeth. Experts advise not to give harder items, such as hooves or bones from steak, rib or ham shank as these can fracture teeth – but I have heard from several people that their dogs have done well with these – always remember that each dog is unique and individual and you have to work with what you feel is best for your own while being aware also of potential dangers.

Some dogs won’t bite on these natural choices, but many do enjoy chewing artificial bones or chew toys. Try a variety to see what your dog likes. Always choose rubber or nylon toys with a rough or bumpy surface, large enough so that it won’t present a choking hazard. A chew toy should be somewhat flexible, not rock hard.

Dogs love to eat, and crunchy food and chew treats can help with your overall efforts. Look for the “VOHC-approved” stamp on any dental-cleansing product, which means they meet the tooth cleaning protocols established by the Veterinary Oral Health Council. While these items won’t replace the need to brush, they can help reduce unwanted buildup.

You probably don’t want to share your toothbrush, so once you’re ready to begin brushing, get her some supplies of her own:
–Doggie toothbrush: A human toothbrush works well; choose a soft one in a size to match her mouth. Canine toothbrushes are more angled and also come in a fingertip style, which slips over the end of your finger. Choose the kind you both like.
–Canine toothpaste: It’s unlikely your dog will learn to spit, so she needs a toothpaste that’s safe to swallow. That rules out human formulas, which contain abrasives and detergent that she shouldn’t ingest. Plus, she’ll prefer the poultry or seafood options of canine toothpaste.  Try to find one that has an ezymatic formula for better cleaning.
–Wipes or pads: When there’s no time for full brushing, wiping her teeth and her gum line will whisk away some bacteria and food. You can use a canine dental pad, available at most pet stores, or a simple gauze pad wrapped around your finger.

So you’ve gathered your supplies and you’re committed to forming good dental habits. Your next goal is convincing your dog.

Ready to start brushing? Don’t expect your dog to sit and open wide. He may think tooth brushing is right up there with having a bath. Depending on your dog’s age and background, it can take several days to several weeks to gain his cooperation. Don’t rush it.

First, spend some time handling his mouth. Turn your finger into a treat by dabbing something tasty on it — like peanut butter, meat baby food or nonfat yogurt. Let him lick at your finger, while you gently rub his teeth and gums. Reapply the tasty treat as needed, trying to move his lips aside to expose more of the teeth.

He’ll also need to be used to having you handle his muzzle. Gently place one hand under his lower jaw and the other on top, and rest your hands like that for a few seconds. Gradually work your way toward manipulating his mouth by parting his lips, then gently easing his jaw open.

Once he’s given everything the OK, choose a time of day that’s quiet and unhurried, then bring out the brushing gear.

To get started:
Let your dog sniff and lick the toothpaste and toothbrush.
Move your dog’s lips aside, then rub the visible teeth with either your finger or the toothbrush. A touch of toothpaste may spark his interest.
Gradually increase the number of teeth you brush, reapplying the toothpaste as needed. Remember to brush along the gum line. A circular motion works best.
Once that’s going well for a few days, try gently opening his jaw to brush the back teeth. Don’t worry if it’s too difficult to brush the inside of his teeth; with most breeds, periodontal disease is more common on the outside of teeth.

Conclude with a special reward — play, treat or affection — even if the process didn’t go well. You want your dog to form a positive association with brushing, so a happy ending this time may make him more agreeable next time.

You’ll need to take your pet to see the veterinary dentist at some point, so read on for ways to make that a smooth experience.

Whether it’s for a professional cleaning or because your dog was up all night with a toothache, make his trip to the dentist as comfortable as possible.

Start by researching which veterinary dentists are in your area. Unless it’s an emergency, ask your vet or other pet parents for their recommendations. If it’s convenient, make a dry run to let your dog say “hello” to the staff, sniff out the waiting room and sample a treat. This lets you both check out the place and helps your dog feel more agreeable about future visits.

When you set up your appointment, find out anything you’d like to know: if you’ll be able to stay with your pet, if they accept your veterinary insurance (if you have it) or any other questions on your mind. Be sure to ask if you need to follow any instructions before his visit. If he’s having a dental procedures — even a cleaning — he may be given an anesthetic, so proper preparation is important.

You may have dental anxiety, but your dog doesn’t have to know it. Your faithful companion has become a master at reading your emotions, so if you act nervous come appointment day, he’ll worry, too. Hop in the car and head to the office as you would any other fun outing. And tuck a reward in your pocket. If his teeth hurt, bring something soft like baby food or peanut butter.

During the appointment, don’t hesitate to ask questions and gather as much information as you need. If you’re uncertain about something, go home and do some research, or consider a second opinion.

Good dental care, both at home and from a professional, is a big part of keeping your dog healthy. With some patience and dedication, it can easily become a part of your lifestyle.

Good Dental Health makes Everyone Happy!

I do hope this information has been useful to you!

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

Sounds Fishy

my fish oil and my coconut oil!!

my fish oil and my coconut oil!!

Is Your Dog Getting the Benefit of His/Her Omega-3 Supplement?

So many people have learned about the benefits of Omega-3 supplements and are now adding this to their dog’s diet. This is great! As many of you know, these oils provide benefits for skin, hair, mental health, prevention of heart disease, and numerous other areas in both human, and pet health.
BUT is there a difference in fish oil supplements? Yes there is. And I’m not referring to cost alone. How can you know whether you are using a supplement which is beneficial to your dog? I thought in this article I would help you understand some details about omega-3 oils.

Understanding Omega-3:

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty layers of cold-water fish and shellfish, plant and nut oils, English walnuts, flaxseed, algae oils, and fortified foods. You can also get omega-3s as supplements. Food and supplement sources of these fatty acids differ in the forms and amounts they contain.

There are the two main types of omega-3 fatty acids:

• Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These are plentiful in fish and shellfish. Algae often provides only DHA. EPA is a powerful anti-inflammatory, helps decrease triglycerides, and helps the body break down fats in the liver; DHA is wonderful for brain health, cognitive function, helps prevent atherosclerosis (fatty accumulation in arteries) and also anti-inflammatory – both work well together with slightly different functions – their combined effects have positive benefits for the whole body

• Short-chain omega-3 fatty acids are ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). These are found in plants, such as flax, hemp, pumpkin seed and walnuts. Although beneficial, ALA omega-3 fatty acids have less potent health benefits than EPA and DHA. You’d have to eat a lot to gain the same benefits as you do from fish. ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA in the body, but it is estimated that only about 5% of ALA is converted to EPA and about 0.5% (one-half of one percent) is converted to DHA.

Choosing the Best Omega-3 Supplement:

With so many omega-3 and fish oil supplements and fortified foods, making the right choice can be tricky. These guidelines can help.

Avoid products that don’t list the source of their omega-3s. Does the package list the source of omega-3 fatty acids? If not, chances are it’s ALA (sometimes from plain old canola or soybean oil).

Don’t fall for fortified foods. Many dog foods and treats claim to be high in omega-3 fatty acids, but often, the real amount of omega-3 is miniscule.

Make sure you read the label carefully: You need to see how many capsules/teaspoons of your Omega-3 supplement give the total amount listed (in fine print you might see: 500mg per serving size and one serving size might be 3 capsules or 2 tablespoons!) – so read carefully!

Try to choose supplements that are mercury-free, pharmaceutical (human) grade and molecularly distilled. Make sure the supplement contains both DHA and EPA. They may be hard to find, but supplements with higher concentrations of EPA are better. I have found these to be the best choices for the health of humans or their pets.

MOST IMPORTANT: Look for the total amount of EPA and DHA on the label. The bottle may say 1,000 milligrams of fish oil, but it’s the amount of omega-3 that matters. Read the small print. It may show only 300 mg of EPA and DHA (sometimes listed as “omega-3 fatty acids”), which means the average schnauzer would need about 2 capsules for good benefit. But this might be too much overall fatty acids going into your schnauzer as we know they do have challenges with breaking down fats!! The rest of the capsule may have other sources of omega-3 but if it’s a higher ALA content, the liver will be working hard to convert to EPA and DHA further taxing digestion, or… could be another filler altogether. Either way, the benefits of the EPA and DHA may be drastically reduced for your dog with such supplements. Remember that although the products that have higher EPA and DHA may be more expensive, you will be using a fraction of the amount you would have needed from other companies for therapeutic dosing in your dog. Your supplements will last longer, your dog will be healthier, and you will know that you are helping, rather than taxing his/her digestive system.

• Remember that liquids are always better digested: They are easier to break down than capsules but if you’re using capsules, you can squeeze out the oil onto your dog’s food for easier digestion.
Any fish oil supplements can cause stomach upset and cause belching, especially when your dog first starts having them. To reduce these side effects, make sure they are given with food. You may also want to start with a low dose and gradually increase it, or divide the dose among your fur-baby’s meals through the day. If digestion is already a concern (noticed through labwork or changes in bowel movements, be sure to add this supplement slowly). Eating fish regularly will often be handled well by most dogs even with some digestive health concerns, so some dogs will do better to start with this regular addition rather than supplements. Also remember that if your dog is on any blood-thinning medications, you should consult your Vet for recommendations on dosing as fish oils can also thin blood which can increase bleeding risks.

What About Coconut Oil?

Coconut Oil is predominantly composed of saturated fatty acids (about 94%), with a good percentage (above 62%) of Medium Chain Fatty Acids among them.

These saturated fats are the best things that coconut oil has to offer. These saturated fats in coconut oil are actually medium-chain fatty acids like capric acid, caprylic acid, caproic acid, and lauric acid, which can do wonders for your dog(s). They increase the rate of metabolism in the body, thereby aiding in weight loss, they increase the level of good cholesterol (high density lipoproteins) and lower the level of bad cholesterol (low density lipoproteins). They are also great sources of energy. Also contained in coconut oil is a good amount of Vitamin E which can keep your dog’s hair & skin healthy, along with several other benefits in the body. I love to cook Caesar’s treats in coconut oil, but I also believe that the fish oils (omega-3’s) have the most long-lasting research behind them for health benefits, so those are my chosen “therapeutic” oils for Caesar (of course he is getting the benefit of both).

What About Cod Liver Oil?

If you haven’t heard, you probably will come across this soon. Cod Liver Oil has recently received a lot of renewed-excitement in health journals, and even local magazines. For Schnauzer fur-babies, I do not believe this is the wisest addition even though it is a “fish oil.”

The reason for this is that cod liver oil is relatively high in Vitamin A content. Too much Vitamin A (especially delivered through supplementation rather than natural food choices) can be very hard on the liver – and any dogs who have liver challenges already or simply high cholesterol, elevated liver enzymes noted from blood work or a hereditary difficulty in digesting fats (like schnauzers) should avoid things that will add any strain on the liver. Interesting to know is that supplement companies can add or decrease the vitamin content in cod liver oil supplements and may not even need to label this… I do feel safer avoiding these for Caesar.

And there you have it. A little bit of information about good oils for our fur-babies.

I hope this information is useful to you and I wish you and your fur babies good health and happiness always!

Kindly,
Dr. Menen

Diabetes in Dogs

Feeling Healthy Feels Great!

Many dog breeds are prone/predisposed to certain health conditions.  Diabetes is one that many breeds can acquire (including miniature schnauzers) so I thought I’d write a bit about this condition for anyone working with a currently diabetic dog or trying to prevent diabetes in their dog.

Here’s what we know:

Diabetes Mellitus is a group of conditions in which there is a deficiency of the hormone insulin or an insensitivity to it. Insulin is produced in the islet cells of the pancreas and is normally responsible for controlling blood concentrations of the body’s main fuel, glucose. In normal animals, insulin does this by preventing glucose production by the liver and ensuring that excess glucose derived from food which is not needed for energy is put into body stores.

In a diabetic animal there is insufficient insulin to switch off glucose production by the liver or to efficiently store excess glucose derived from energy giving foods. This means that the blood concentration of glucose rises and eventually exceeds a level beyond which the kidneys let glucose leak into the urine. This loss of glucose in urine takes water with it by a process called osmosis and causes larger volumes of urine to be produced than normal. The excessive loss of water in urine is compensated for by thirstiness and increased water consumption. The principal clinical signs of an animal with diabetes mellitus are therefore polyuria (excessive urination) and polydipsia (excessive water consumption). In addition, diabetic animals tend to lose weight because they breakdown stores of fat and protein (muscle) to make glucose and ketones (an alternative fuel) in the liver. Other clinical signs diabetics may include: cataracts, polyphagia (increased appetite), exercise intolerance and recurrent infections.

Diabetes mellitus in dogs usually occurs between 5 and 12 years of age.  It is quite uncommon to see it in dogs/pets under 3 years old.  Considerably more female pets develop the disease than males and certain breeds such as schnauzers seem predisposed to the condition.

In general, diabetes creates a process where your dog can’t process carbohydrates properly or maintain stable blood sugar levels.  Your dog’s food contains carbohydrates and sugars.  When he eats food, his pancreas is supposed to produce the hormone insulin which turns the carbohydrates and sugar into energy.  But if his/her pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, the sugar builds up in his blood to dangerously high levels.

Causes:

In some forms of diabetes, your dog’s immune system (through autoimmune disease) is attacking itself, destroying the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas so that not enough insulin can be produced.  In other forms of diabetes, insulin is produced but your dog’s body tissues don’t process it properly.  Another type of diabetes is usually secondary to other illnesses such as “Cushing’s disease” or to the chronic use of drugs such as steroids.

Diabetes typically occurs in overweight dogs of 6-9 years of age; however, more and more often it is occurring in younger dogs as well (and purebred dogs are often the victims of defective immune systems because of their breeding…).

From all that I have read, I also notice that diabetes in dogs is also exacerbated by feeding artificial, grain-heavy diets.

The classic signs of diabetes are:

  • polyuria (PU) – excessive urination
  • polydipsia (PD) – excessive thirst
  • Polyphagia – excessive appetite or eating
  • weight loss
  • lethargy

As the disease progresses, the signs include anorexia (loss of appetite), depression, and vomiting.
Dogs are often diagnosed with diabetes because the owner notices the dog has suddenly gone blind. This is due to the rapid cataract development that often occurs in diabetic dogs.

How is Diabetes Diagnosed and Treated?

Diagnosis is based on physical signs, clinical exam and lab tests. Blood and urine tests will reveal persistently high levels of glucose.  As with diabetes in humans, there is no cure and the goal is to stabilize your dog’s blood sugar levels.  With mild diabetes, a careful diet and regular exercise to reduce any obesity may be enough to control it

schnauzer loves bacon

This is not Caesar, but feeding our dogs just what they love or request regularly, can contribute to diabetes. Please use “tough-love” to keep your dog healthy.

I would not want to feed Caesar an artificial prescription diet.  I would feed (as I currently do), homemade foods – best for diabetes are small, high-carbohydrate, medium-fibre meals – and I would increase the meals to 4 times a day rather than 3 — they would just have to be smaller meals.

More serious cases of diabetes also require insulin injections.  The dosage can be tricky to regulate at first, but the needle is very small so the injection is nearly painless.  You would need to learn how to draw a tiny sample of your dog’s blood on a regular basis and measure his glucose levels on a glucometer.  With this daily treatment, the prognosis is good, and most diabetic dogs can live a normal lifespan.

For prevention of this disease, daily exercise, good nutrition and weight loss if your dog is overweight is best.

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” – Benjamin Franklin

The recipes I make for Caesar are good for keeping him healthy (in my opinion) but if I noticed his blood sugar rising, I might avoid the carrots and/or apple.

Here is a simple recipe that I came across in many sites that has been used successfully for many different breeds of diabetic dogs:

Quick Rice Dinner

1/4 cup brown rice
1/2 cup beef or chicken broth
1/2 cup cooked beef or chicken

Cook rice and add rest of the ingredients. Mix together and serve (I serve Caesar 1/2 cup of food 3 times a day).         (For this recipe I would add 1/2 cup of green beans or broccoli to this for some veggie content – and probably double or triple the amounts so I can freeze extra)!

Disclaimer:

Please note: The information on this site is general, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from your veterinarian. Questions concerning your pet’s health should be directed to your pet’s health care provider. 

 

Separation Anxiety

One of the greatest joys of dog ownership is the tight bond we experience and encourage with our dogs. However, if your dog becomes too reliant or dependent on you, dog separation anxiety can occur when you and your dog are apart.

Happy Caesar

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape.

Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his/her pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they may be indications that the dog has separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors.

Some dogs suffering from separMommy?ation anxiety become agitated when their guardians prepare to leave. Others seem anxious or depressed prior to their guardian’s departure or when their guardians aren’t present. Some try to prevent their guardians from leaving. Usually, right after a guardian leaves a dog with separation anxiety, the dog will begin barking and displaying other distress behaviors within a short time after being left alone-often within minutes. When the guardian returns home, the dog acts as though it’s been years since he/she has seen their mom or dad!

When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him/her to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. This is accomplished by setting things up so that the dog experiences the situation that provokes their anxiety, namely being alone, without experiencing fear or anxiety.

Separation anxiety in dogs is an enormous problem for around 10% of all puppies and older dogs. Somewhat ironically, problems related to separation anxiety are the major cause for dogs ending up in animal shelters. I wish I could say canine separation anxiety is an easy fixed, but in many cases it is a very difficult problem to overcome. However, some simple training ideas can help.

Let’s First Identify the Common Behavioral Signs of Separation Anxiety:

Urinating and Defecating: Some dogs urinate or defecate when left alone or separated from their guardians. If a dog urinates or defecates in the presence of his/her guardian, the house soiling probably isn’t caused by separation anxiety.

Barking and Howling: A dog who has separation anxiety might bark or howl when left alone or when separated from their guardian. This kind of barking or howling is persistent and doesn’t seem to be triggered by anything except being left alone. Tough one to identify for new schnauzer-parents since barking is so much a part of our dogs – but over time, we all learn what the different barks of our own dogs are all about.

Chewing, Digging and Destruction: Some dogs with separation anxiety chew on objects, door frames or window sills, dig at doors and doorways, or destroy household objects when left alone or separated from their guardians (remember that destructive chewing can also occur in basic puppy-teething times, so the key difference is that this is happening when left alone only). These behaviors can result in self-injury, such as broken teeth, cut and scraped paws, and damaged nails. If a dog’s chewing, digging and destruction are caused by separation anxiety, they don’t usually occur in their guardian’s presence.

Other possible signs:

Licking, Chewing, Panic Attacks (panting, drooling, fearful face), Digging, Self Mutilation, Escaping, Diarrhea, Loss Of Appetite, Excessive Salivation, Vomiting, Jumping Through Windows, Crying

Why Separation Anxiety Might Occur:

Change of Guardian or Family: Being abandoned, surrendered to a shelter or given to a new guardian or family may be associated with separation anxiety.

Change in Schedule: An abrupt change in schedule in terms of when or how long a dog is left alone can trigger the development of separation anxiety. For example, if a dog’s guardian works from home and spends all day with his/her dog but then gets a new job that requires them to leave their dog alone for six or more hours at a time, the dog might develop separation anxiety because of that change.

Change in Residence: Moving to a new residence can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Change in Household Membership: The sudden absence of a resident family member, either due to death or moving away, can trigger the development of separation anxiety.

Prevention

I always believe that preventing an unwanted sign/symptom is better than treating an actual problem. 

Here are some basic habits to make sure you are doing to help your dog before any signs of separation anxiety (and especially if you have a new puppy/dog in your home):

1. Ensure that your dog feels safe and comfortable when you are away from them. Provide plenty of fresh water and clean, warm bedding for your dog. 

2. Be sure to give your dog plenty of exercise when you are around. On leash walks, a run at the park, and some obedience training will all ensure your dog is happy and stimulated. Importantly it can also mean your dog will rest while you are out, instead of tearing up anything in your home. 

3. Provide some appealing dog toys to help occupy their time. Kongs stuffed with frozen treats are a favorite for many dogs — Caesar has an array of kongs and toys that we leave around our main floor for him to find and explore – I will post pics of my regular practice with him soon. But here is one picture of his kongs that I prepare daily before we leave for the day.some kongs

4. Leave your dog a blanket or piece of clothing that has your scent on it – an old sock works well, just tied in a tight knot is often good. This may comfort a distressed dog – make sure it is something you don’t mind being torn up though (just in case).

5. If you’re going to be away for many hours, try hiding some of his/her normal meal in a kong – remembering that this counts as part of his/her total food intake for the day.

6. If you often have the radio on when at home, leave it on while you are away. This can be soothing and comforting in mild cases of separation anxiety in dogs.

7. Leave your dog in a safe and secure crate or room. This has a two fold effect, it provides a comfortable “den like” area where your dog will feel comfortable, and it means your dog won’t be able to act out many of the problem behaviors listed above. Be sure that your dog is completely happy in this area before you go and leave him/her for any length of time. I’ve never crated Caesar for separation anxiety treatment purposes, but many dog trainers and owners recommend this training technique. Crating your dog is not recommended for extended periods day in and day out. As a puppy, we did leave Caesar’s open crate with comfy bedding and toys in his blocked-off section for him and he enjoyed the coziness of his crate (which we called his “den”)!

8. Give your dog some obedience training. Teach and practice some basic obedience training commands like sit, down and stay. When you establish yourself as the trusted leader, your dog will respect your right to come and go as you please.

These last two tips are the toughest ones, but I believe they are the 2 most important tips that used since early training days with Caesar:

9. Don’t let your dog become too “clingy” and dependent on you every second you are together. Little by little teach your dog to be on his/her own when you are home. Put him/her in a crate, outside, or just in the next room. Prove to your dog that it’s not a bad thing to be separated from you, give your dog their favorite treat in another room and leave them there for a while. When he/she is quiet and calm go and give them  some praise, make it clear you are happy with them. You can also practice your down-stay obedience training command for this purpose.

10. Pay little or no attention to your dog when preparing to leave the house. Calmly and casually slip out the door with no fuss. Same thing when you arrive home, just go about your business for a few minutes, with no major reaction (other than calm verbal greeting if you must). When your dog is calm, you can initiate some contact with them. You don’t want your dog to believe that their behavior (barking, whining etc.) has contributed to bringing you back home. Don’t inadvertently reward your dog’s behavior by giving a big over the top greeting every time you arrive home and don’t give those apologetic “poor baby” comments or sorry looks to your dog as you’re leaving.  Dogs can sense our energy and will start feeling just as sad as they perceive you are feeling with the separation.

I have to admit #10 was (is) the hardest for me to do… but I always force myself to create a light, casual atmosphere before we leave and when we return home.  I had read so much about separation anxiety in dogs before we even got Caesar that I was determined to try to prevent this in our baby.  Many times I’ve cried on the drive in or back from work with my own worry of how Caesar is doing, but each time, I am pleased to see he is just fine.

Here’s the catch: Caesar is now excited when we leave… (what?!) – yes, he gives us his excited bark — the “you should go now” bark because he’s so excited to see what I’ve left him and what he’ll find during our absence (food/treats of course!).  And when we come home, he’s usually stretched out on the couch, casually getting up, and yawning as he reaches us… then the “I need to got potty” barks start :)  Why is this a catch?  Because we all love that excited greeting when our dogs meet us at the door – with their happy faces and wagging tails.  And this is not what we normally get with Caesar.  But we do get a happy baby that is comfortable when we’re away from him and even happier when we’re back — and who we believe will not be very likely to struggle with our absence for the day.  We know how happy he is when we’re together but preventing the excess enthusiasm upon our return comforts us in knowing he is not heart-broken without us for the day (although I must admit that I still miss him like crazy every minute I’m not with him!). We need to remember that a calm greeting at the door is just as loving as an excited greeting – but probably much healthier in the long term.

I believe that the happiness of seeing our dogs super-excited to see us pales if/when we understand there is super-sadness in our absence.  And separation anxiety might develop years after having your dog — it may not be present from the first year you have your dog, but may gradually develop over time (often years).  As I said earlier, I always think that prevention of such a possible state is always preferable to un-training a worrisome behavior.

What to do if your dog is already showing signs of separation anxiety:

I came across a 4-step plan that has helped several dogs overcome separation anxiety that I believe would be quite useful to most.  Of course, patience and love will help you get the best results. 

Step 1: Slowly teach your dog that he/she doesn’t always need to be close to you. First you need to ignore attention seeking behavior (jumping up, barking etc.) and then do work with some solid practice of down-stays. Little by little you can extend the time and distance you spent apart, until your dog is happy to be on his own (not right beside you) for up to 30 minutes. Beyond this, you do need to still spent lots of fun time together.

Step 2: The next step is to get your dog used to being in one room as you go to another. Again, do start off with very small periods apart (just step outside the same room) and gradually lengthen the time and distance over a couple of weeks.  If you try this, make sure that you don’t just leave your dog inside a room to get all worked up and stressed. The trick is to start out leaving your dog for a few seconds (use stay command), then going out and reuniting before he/she shows any signs of separation anxiety. Give your dog a treat or dog toy to keep his/her mind off missing you from the room. And only initiate contact with your dog when he/she is calm and quiet.

Step 3: The next step is to eliminate the distress caused by you getting ready to leave the house. You can write a list of all the triggers that starts your dog’s anxiety. Then you need to set about desensitizing them to these triggers. You can put your shoes on, and not go anywhere. Put your coat on, then sit down to read the paper. Pick up your car keys and just carry them around with you, jingling them as you go about your business. After a while (anywhere from 1-5 weeks likely) – your dog will not pay attention to these behaviors that used to be triggers.

Step 4: When your dog is completely calm in situations that would have unsettled them in the past, leave the house. At first you can just step outside, shut the door and came back inside within 20 seconds – before your dog can make a sound. Again this needs to be a slow process, similar to step 2. Then extend the time outside the front door and then graduate to starting the car, then driving around the block before coming back inside.

You can provide a tasty treat to your dog on your way out the door, something that he/she can work on for a while. This is Caesar’s favorite part of our departure – we get him to “go to bed” on his dog bed near the kitchen, and hand him a kong before heading out the door. Remember that when you return home, don’t make a huge fuss. Come inside, get changed, pour yourself a nice hot coffee, then greet your calm dog.  When you feel confident that your dog is comfortable in your absence, you can greet your dog earlier! :)

Relaxed and Content Caesar

This 4-step program can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  If unsuccessful with your dog, it may be time to work with calming natural remedies (like Rescue Remedy – a Bach Flower treatment that helps to calm anxiety for humans and animals in many situations), herbal remedies, or vet-prescribed medications.  Remember that none of these choices is really treating the root of the problem, but can often give good relief from distress symptoms.

I hope this information has been helpful.

Remember: “Love is when the other person’s (or dog’s, in this case) happiness is more important than your own.” – H. Jackson Brown Jr

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Kindly,

Dr. Menen

The Schnauzer Bark

DSC_0410So I have to write about the unmistakable schnauzer bark.  Wait, most dogs bark but schnauzer-lovers will generally recognize (and often love) the particular bark of a mini-schnauzer.  As I mentioned some time ago in this blog, I did not relate the term “good watchdog” to a barking dog when we first got Caesar.  In fact, I couldn’t understand why there was such a ruckus of barks we could hear in our breeder’s home when we asked to see the parents/adult dogs in the house.  Now when we had spoken with our original trainer about Caesar’s barks and asked him why our dog barks so much more than others, he simply said “because he’s a SCHNAUZER!”  Got it.  It’s a breed characteristic that is truly seen in many schnauzers.

What fascinates me is that like a parent who knows the reason for each of her child’s different cries, body language and mannerisms, my husband and I have also figured out the differences in Caesar’s barks!  Here is a short list of qualitatively different barks that we hear in different situations with our Caesar:

1.  the  EXCITED/PLAY WITH ME bark: my favourite – this comes when Caesar knows that he is close to being served his meal or going to have some play time

2. extension to the excited bark=I KNOW YOU bark: — very similar-sounding to #1 above but will extend for several minutes (or longer) until the person or dog that Caesar is excited about recognizing is near enough to smell/examine and until he has been given what he believes is the full attention he deserves.

3. the I CAN’T GET IT bark: will happen if Caesar loses a toy he is playing with under a couch or other unreachable area – this is usually only a single bark, but it’s often like a pleading cry which can be repeated if necessary if assistance is still required

4, the I DID IT bark: often after performing a task or trick – will often consist of an “aroooooo” kind of extended bark :)  I luv this one too!

5. the KEEP WALKING bark: this is reserved for any human or animal passing Caesar’s field of vision from (especially) our front window or one who is walking too close to Caesar or to us – note – this could easily change into the dangerous #6 below…

6. the RUN FOR YOUR LIFE/BLOOD CURDLING/DEVIL DOG bark: this is an ominous one… how could our little cutie have such an incredibly threatening bark that makes the hairs even on our own arms stand?  Where we wonder if he’ll suddenly turn on us with the same horrific sound…which has thankfully not happened.  This bark happens when he’s surprised/taken unaware or has somehow felt that he needs to get in protective-mode for his himself or his parents…  It can happen if someone tries to lift him uncomfortably (even though he will generally do a gentle-grumble with lifting of any sort), it can happen if someone comes towards him/us suddenly, or if he’s keeping someone off our property that he is really distrustful of.  But sheesh!!  It’s the one bark that  completely dumbfounds us (I’m sure we have a moment of jaw-dropping disbelief as we register the sound)… we shake our heads in disbelief as we try to control the psychotic sounds coming from our baby which will disappear as if they’ve never happened when the offender is out of range and then… once we know that this bark has passed and we are alone and “safe” once more, we… yes… wait for it…  we generally burst out laughing.  I believe these barks have happened only once (maybe twice?) a year at most and so they are always  a surprise to all… but it just goes to show you… don’t mess with a schnauzer!!!

You might be surprised to know that Caesar does not bark when we come home from work together.  He may bark variations of the EXCITED/I KNOW YOU  bark above if only one of us has just returned from being out, but rarely when both of us come back together — I guess he knows that all is good :)  Within a minute though, he will start his EXCITED bark as he knows he’s generally fed soon after we come home!

These are a few of the barks that come to mind right now as I write these notes.  If I discover I’ve missed a new or a unique one, I shall add it to the list in the future.  If you have noticed any unique barks from your dog(s) – schnauzers or not – do let me know — I’d love to “hear” (read) about them!  Only dog-lovers will truly appreciate these unique differences in barks, I believe (though most pet-owners do learn about the nuances of their pets actions).  If you’re not noticing how different barks mean different things in your home, do take some time to put some meaning to the messages your dog is trying to send you — I guarantee this will only build your bond with your own fur-babies :)

Remember: “To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.”      — Tony Robbins

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

Oatmeal, Flax and Blueberry Cookies

Caesar's stash of cookies including a couple of broken bones...!

Caesar’s stash of cookies including a couple of broken bones…!

So I felt like making some oatmeal cookies for my husband and myself (I very rarely have such a craving but I do know he has a sweet tooth!).  Halfway through making a basic cookie for us, I decided we should use ingredients that would also be healthy and therapeutic for Caesar.  Caesar really came out ahead with his stash — but we’re hoping people don’t notice us eating the occasional “dog biscuit” ourselves!!  Hope your dog will enjoy these as much as ours does!  Note: sugar can be replaced with honey or molasses for even healthier benefits! Enjoy!!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce

1 cup brown sugar

1 large egg

our little plate of cookies

our little plate of cookies

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup whole flax seed

1/4 cup ground flax

1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (without shell and unsalted)

1/4  cup frozen wild blueberries (can use fresh if available)

Combine all ingredients with 1/3 cup water, roll out dough and cut into desired cookie shapes.  Place on greased cookie tray and bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 12-15 minutes until cookies look golden brown.  Caesar loves these!!! And ok, we do too…!!

Store in paper bags in fridge for 2 -3 weeks (if they last that long!!)

Happy Caesar!!

Happy Caesar!!

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

Bladder Stones – Part 2

Struvite Stonesstruvite stones

Struvite crystals only form when the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of urine is over 7 — if you’ve read about oxalate stones you will understand what a narrow range we have to try to keep our dog’s urine within for best health!  Pharmacies and health food stores sell urine dip sticks that check for this.  The strips can also check for blood in the urine, bacteria, glucose (sugar), specific gravity (concentration of urine).  The urine tested should be the taken first in the morning before any ingestion of food and checked within 5 minutes of collection.  Only a few drops of clean urine are required — you can try the suggestions for urine collection I have mentioned in my post about oxalate stones or you could tape a dipstick to a wooden stick and dangle it below your dog as he/she urinates.  This is the trickiest part since your dog will be unsure what you’re trying to do and is not likely used to you standing so close as he/she urinates!  But keep trying!!  :)

Struvite bladder and kidney stones are also called triple phosphate stones, infectious stones and urease stones.  They are made of magnesium, ammonium and phosphate.  These stones are most common in Miniature Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Beagles, and Dachshunds.  These stones occur when your dog develops a chronic urinary tract infection – or “cystitis” with certain bacteria that have the effect of making the urine less acidic.  These bacteria have the ability to convert urine into ammonia because of a certain enzyme that they contain called “urease.” The most common bacteria that do this are Staphylococcus, Proteus and Klebsiella bacteria.  Ammonia in the urine changes its odor.  Ammonia is also toxic to bladder cells and causes the urine pH to shift detrimentally toward stone formation.  Once the stone formation process begins, the bacteria live within the stone itself where they are protected from the dog’s natural defenses and the effects of antibiotics.  These stones are rough (as in above picture) causing abrasion of the lining of the bladder and leading to discomfort as well as blood in the urine.  They can grow quite large and the size alone might limit the amount of urine the bladder can hold causing a frequent or continuous need to urinate.

The troublesome bacteria normally reside in the bowel where they cause no problems but when they move up the urethra and into the bladder, the body has few ways to control them.  Because the urethra of females is much shorter than males, this condition is often seen in female dogs.  Constipation can also predispose the body (humans or dogs!) to cystitis as the bacteria working on fecal matter in the colon can become more numerous and spread to other areas in the body.

Many dogs with bladder stones show very few symptoms.  A Veterinarian can often discover these stones through palpation of the abdomen of dogs during a routine physical exam.  But most owners will notice an increased frequency and straining from their dogs or an abnormally pink/red urine.  Some dogs will itch and/or scoot along their bottoms.  Occasionally, dog owners will find small pea-sized stones on their carpet.

To determine if the stones are struvite, they must be analyzed by a lab, although the pH of the urine of the dog will be a strong indicator of the type of stone.  Bladder and kidney stones are porous and bacteria living inside them are very safe from antibiotics.  Of critical importance in treating struvite stones is an antibiotic sensitivity test of the bacteria found in the dog’s urine.  This is the only way that the proper antibiotic and dose of the antibiotic can be chosen for the dog.  The best suggested plan of treatment that I’ve come across is to give the antibiotic for at least one month — and best to see that x-rays show no remaining stones.  Some even suggest that antibiotics should be given for one month after x-rays show no remaining stones to help prevent a new occurrence anytime soon.

In some cystitis cases, a “broad spectrum antibiotic” may be prescribed for an extended amount of time but although this will protect against many different bacteria in the short term, the long-term resistance to many bacteria is significantly reduced for the pet (as in humans!).  So if your dog has had their first struvite stone, please do not jump on the use of broad-spectrum antibiotics to prevent the time/effort/cost of determining which antibiotic would be best suited to your dog’s needs at the time.  The broad-spectrum antibiotic would best be saved as a “back-up” treatment for recurrent cystitis situations.

Other factors that can increase a dog’s susceptibility to struvite stones include:

Not drinking enough water:  The specific gravity or dilution of your dog’s first-morning urine should be 1.018 or lower.  Some urine dip sticks test specific gravity but they are not very accurate.  Better is a tool called a refractometer — which looks and sounds complicated, but is not.  Urine specific gravity is stable so the urine can be kept cool and tested when it is convenient.  A less accurate but somewhat useful way is to just look at the colour of your dog’s urine.  The less intense the yellow colour, the better!

Urine too alkaline:  Remembering that struvite crystals only form when the pH of the urine is over 7 (alkaline).  Check your dog’s urine with a dipstick every so often — maybe once a month or once every few months if you are getting good readings.  Remember to test first-of-the-morning urination and test pH within 5 minutes of collection.  You can tape a urinary dipstick to a wooden stick and dangle in below the dog as he/she urinates.  A less accurate but also somewhat accurate measure can be taken on litmus paper which is available in many craft stores.  Diets very high in grain and vegetables produces alkaline urine which allows the formation of struvite stones — this is when a commercially prepared diet may be more useful.  If possible, feed the canned form of the diet instead of the dry since most dogs rarely drink enough water after eating dry kibble and the canned foods will contain more moisture/water content.  But make sure you take time to brush your dog’s teeth regularly in these cases as canned foods are linked with more dental concerns.

Occasionally, bacterial infections in dogs are due to an anatomical defect in the dog causing urine pooling in the kidneys, ureters or bladder where bacteria can live.  Sometimes these are genetically inherited defects or caused by prior surgery such as spaying.  A contrast-dye x-ray study would detect such defects but such a study would not likely be performed unless standard treatments fail.

The average age when dogs develop struvite bladder stones is about 2 to 3 years.  So what can you do to help prevent these?   Try these ideas:

1. Increase fibre in your dog’s diet through things like raspberries, brown rice, green leafy vegetables, apples, pears, carrots, broccoli, beans, legumes and flax seeds.raspberries

2. As with prevention of any bladder stones, increase your dog’s water intake!  Either keep his/her food moist (home-made foods contain more moisture than dried kibble), or encourage your dog to drink from his/her water dish regularly.  Always have a fresh water dish available for your dog to drink from through the day (even if no one is home) and have several dishes available if you have more than one dog.

Soccer/Football Caesar3. Exercise your dog daily!  Exercise seems to help prevent cystitis.  Female dogs that are overweight also have an increased risk of cystitis because the vaginal area remains damp between voiding which allows bacteria to survive for longer.  (note that dogs that are spayed too early will often have infantile vaginas that will make them more susceptible to cystitis).  So make sure your dog has regular exercise daily to help prevent weight as well as bladder concerns!  Think about a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous moderate exercise per day but aim for one-hour of moderate exercise per day — this will be good for both the pup and human!

4.  Nutrition:

Specialty Diets: are formulated to maintain proper urine pH.  With time, these diets are often sufficient to dissolve struvite crystals.  If one brand doesn’t work, try another since each dog handles foods differently and a different brand of food might be more useful for your dog than the one that worked for your friend’s dog’s bladder stones.  Some of these diets are not recommended for indefinite use because they are so low in mineral content.  Some have been reformulated to help prevent oxalate crystals as well.  Despite labels warning against long-term use of these diets, in some cases there is little choice but to continue with long term feeding to save a pet’s life.  Since some of these diets are very high in fat, Miniature Schnauzer owners especially (and several other breed owners) need to be particularly sensitive to this information since prolonged intake of high fat can lead to pancreatitis which is a predisposition for this breed (see pancreatitis post I wrote earlier).

Proteins do acidify urine — safe choices include  turkey, chicken, beef and rabbit — note that shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, scallops) are contraindicated and thus, NOT safe for the prevention of stones.  Removing grains from the diet seems to help prevent infections.

Adding cranberries (fresh or frozen) to your dog’s diet can aid in acidifying the urine.  Adding Vitamin C to your dog’s diet can be very useful for preventing cystitis to begin with, so this can be a useful option, but too much vitamin C in the diet has been linked in the production of oxalate stones!  So find out the best dose for your dog through a qualified Holistic (if possible) Veterinarian.

One of the dangers of putting your dog on a specialty diet which helps reduce struvite stones is that the size of the stones reduce so much that they pass into and block the urethra — so one must always be on the lookout for a sudden inability to urinate.  Ironically, diets that help prevent/treat struvite stones by making the urine more acidic can lead to the other type of stones commonly found in dogs with an overly-acidic urine (oxalate stones) — ah, pH strips are wonderful for helping you keep your dog’s urine in a healthy range whenever possible.  Especially important to monitor pH regularly if your dog has had a history of bladder stones of any kind.asparagus

I have to tell you that Traditional Chinese Medicine would encourage the use of barley for kidney health as well as celery andasparagus.  If my baby had stones, I would certainly want to increase his intake of these ingredients.  Since he’s good right now, I believe I will add even more of these helpful ingredients into his home cooked meals to encourage prevention!  I hope this has encouraged you to do something new/different and helpful for your dog(s) too!

Remember: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
— Benjamin Franklin

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

 

Bladder Stones – Part 1

bladder with and without stones in dogs

Miniature Schnauzers are one of the dog breeds that has an increased susceptibility to the development of bladder stones.  Other dog breeds with an increased risk include:  Miniature Poodles, Bichon Frise, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriors.  Notice that these are smaller dogs and they are more likely to produce oxalate stones, but they are also gaining popularity so vets are seeing these more often in practice which could make it look like they are more susceptible.  Larger dogs may have a genetic advantage, or may actually be more likely to have more exercise outdoors with more opportunities to urinate which also helps decrease the development of bladder stones.  Either way, if you have a dog (and especially a miniature schnauzer), this blog entry should be good information for you.

Understanding Bladder Stones and Development:

Caesar’s learning how to examine urine!! haha!!

Bladder stones are a fairly common occurrence in domestic animals such as dogs and cats.  For simplicity, we can think of urinary crystals as minerals, and a concentration of these minerals into a mass becomes a bladder stone.  The stones form in the urinary bladder and can vary in size and number secondary to infection, dietary influence and genetics.

These stones can become so numerous that they can fill the bladder in some cases, resulting in the need for surgical removal. There is also a chance that they can cause blockage, particularly in male dogs, which is very dangerous and requires immediate veterinary attention. – See more at: http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/bladder-stones-crystals/#sthash.Z6E4E7Iv.kusstr0J.dpuf

Stones can form in any part of the urinary tract in dogs but unlike in humans, kidney stones are less common and do not often cause significant disease although they can contribute to infected kidneys and chronic renal (kidney) failure.  Types of bladder stones include struvite, calcium oxalate, urate, cystine, calcium phosphate and silicate.  Since struvite and calcium oxalate stones are by far the most common, that is what I will elaborate about here.

Is this an Emergency?

It can be.  Remember that dogs always need to be able to urinate.  If the tubes from the kidney to the bladder or from the bladder to the urethra are blocked by a stone, your dog’s health will deteriorate rapidly.  Remember that dogs rely on urination to regulate their body’s water and electrolyte balance.  The ability to urinate is critical to maintaining their proper blood acidity and in eliminating the waste products of metabolism.  The biggest crisis occurs in male dogs that have a bladder stone enter the ureter that gets stuck — if you have ever heard of a man going through the pain of passing a stone through their urinary tract, you might already know that this is often described by men as an excruciating experience.

For a dog, if this blockage lasts more than even just a day, one of their electrolytes (potassium) that is normally excreted through urine can reach dangerously high levels which then effects the heart rhythm and function.  Obstructed dogs will become depressed, weak, and they often experience nausea and vomit.  If partially or fully obstructed dogs are left untreated, the abnormally high pressure of urine behind the obstruction can rapidly destroy their kidney function.

So prevention is always the best medicine!!

Symptoms in Your Dog with Possible Bladder Stones:

Symptoms of dogs with bladder crystals or stones include straining to urinate, dribbling urine, urinating only drops or small amounts at a time, depression, vomiting, or blood in the urine.  A check-up for these symptoms is strongly recommended and should include a palpation of your dogs bladder, urinalysis and a lab culture of the urine.  Urinalysis will determine if there are red blood cells and/or white blood cells in the urine and the culture will determine what kind of infection (if any) is present for the right medication to be recommended.  The lab culture is very important since if the wrong antibiotic is given, an infection will continue to harm your dog.  If crystals are seen in the urine or stones are suspected from palpation and/or an x-ray of the bladder, this will also determine the best treatment choices.

As one of the readers of this blog mentioned in a question to me earlier, statistics seem to show that calcium oxalate stones are most common in male dogs and struvite stones are most common in female dogs.  I believe that both male and female dogs are very sensitive to dietary and lifestyle factors that will produce various stones, so it’s good to work with prevention of either in either your male or female dog.  These 2 types of stones account for approximately 80-90% of the bladder stones found in dogs, so it’s a good idea to know what to watch for.

calcium oxalate stonesOxalate Stones:

These stones only form in urine that is acidic (pH is less than 7).  Dogs love meat and meat is acidic.  Ideally, you will want to keep your dog’s urine between 6.6 and 7 (best range varies slightly between veterinarians but oxalate stone problems seem to be associated with dog urine pH that is less than 6.5).  Too basic urine (pH more than 7) has its own challenges.  Urine pH is a test that you can easily perform at home using urine dipsticks or colour-indicator strips of paper that you can find in health food stores and/or pharmacies.  Urine pH varies during the day.  The best sample to check is from the first fresh urination in the morning before he/she eats anything.  After your dog has eaten breakfast, their urine pH will begin to rise from his/her nighttime levels. Now “catching” the urine is the challenge!  If you wear a plastic/disposable glove, you can just try to aim your dipstick or paper in the stream of your dog’s urine to “catch” a sample and stay clean while doing this!  If you need to bring a sample to your Vet for analysis, this was an interesting suggestion I read from a Vet’s site: the urine sample should be free of contamination, refrigerated or chilled and brought to the Vet as quickly as possible.  A foam cup, taped to a broomstick helps in collection.  You do not need much — a tablespoon full will do.  You can also attempt to get your dog to pee on a layer of Saran Wrap and transfer what you can to a cup.  Cover the sample with a (new) piece of saran wrap held in place with a rubber band or ask your Vet for a urine collection vial/cup prior to collection. If you are monitoring your own dog’s pH, you may not be successful in keeping his/her pH within the ideal range, but it seems that dilute urine is better than concentrated urine for health!!! This means that it is more important to keep your dog’s urine dilute than to raise his/her pH.   

Things You Can Do for Prevention or Bladder Stone Management:

1. Increase Water Intake!!

Increased water consumption leads to dilute urine! From what is known about calcium oxalate, it is very unlikely to crystallize into discrete, urinary tract stones when a dog’s urine is dilute – even if oxalates are present at the time. There are several ways to increase your dog’s water intake including feeding him/her only home-cooked diets as they are higher in water content, or using only frozen or canned foods.  Increasing salt in a dog’s diet will encourage drinking fluid (though I’m not sure that this is an ideal choice) and in some cases, diuretic medications may be prescribed which encourage frequent urination and likely, increased thirst (again, not my first choice, but necessary in some cases).

Do not attempt to increase your dog’s water intake by pouring water on dry dog food in hot weather or when the food will stand for more than an hour.  Bacterial growth in the mixture can cause digestive upsets.  The same can happen if you leave opened canned food at room temperature for long periods.

Dogs also need easy access to fresh and clean water throughout the day and multi-dog families should have multiple bowls available.  Since the most important thing you can do to prevent urinary stones from developing or recurring in your dog is to keep him/her well hydrated and to ensure their urine is as dilute as possible, this should be monitored as well.  The dilution of urine is monitored through something called “specific gravity.”  The lower the specific gravity, the more dilute the urine sample is.  Aim to keep your dog’s specific gravity below 1.025.  Urine dipstick strips can help determine specific gravity, but a device called a refractometer is quite specific to accurate readings of specific gravity.  Although I have not used this device, I understand that it is not a difficult tool to use and I would especially recommend getting one for anyone who has a dog with a history of oxalate stones.

2. Frequent Opportunities to Urinate

Dogs that are free to urinate when they wish appear to be less susceptible to oxalate stones than dogs that need to wait for their owners to return from long hours away from home.  This is not possible for many dog owners, but fewer urinations have been found to be associated with greater risk for oxalate stone production.

3. Frequent Feeding

The acidity (pH) of your dog’s urine fluctuates through the day.  it is usually lowest through the night and slowly rises after his/her morning meal.  Thus, having many chances to munch during the day should give your dog a less acidic urine which would be less conducive to oxalate stone formation.  Give your dog his/her last meal shortly before you go to bed.  Just make sure the total amount that you feed your dog does not increase since weight gain has it’s own health issues/concerns associated.

4. Periodic Blood Work

It is always important to check standard blood chemistry panels at your Vet’s office from time to time.  This is especially true when oxalate stones remain in your dog’s kidneys or when there was any prior elevation of “BUN” (blood urea nitrogen) or creatinine levels (both measure kidney function).  There are some dogs that develop oxalate stones because their blood calcium levels are abnormally high (hypercalcemia) and some of these dogs have underlying hyperthyroid concerns.

5. Radiographs (X-Rays)

Periodic x-rays are useful for detecting new stones that may form and in determining the size, growth and position of stones that have not been removed.  When stones are discovered early, it may be possible to remove them from the bladder through a process called “urohydropropultion” or to extract them in what’s called a retrieval basket through the urethra or a small abdominal and bladder incision.

Medications for Oxalate Stones:

Veterinarians have traditionally given potassium citrate solutions to dogs with oxalate stones. The thought is that when the citrate passes to the dog’s urine, it will tie up the urinary calcium which would make it unavailable for calcium oxalate formation.  It is also hoped that the citrate will keep the urine less acidic.  Studies show conflicting results about the usefulness of this treatment.  We do know that to have a continuous effect, postassium citrate would have to be given many times during the day; or it might be best to give the whole daily dose at bedtime since night time conditions are the most conducive to stone formation.

Hydrochlorothiazide is often used to make a dog thirstier and to urinate more, but I wouldn’t recommend this diuretic choice unless significant dietary changes and increased fluid intake measures have failed.  If your dog is on a thiazide diuretic like hydrochlorothiazide, please monitor their electrolytes regularly (an imbalance can be created which can lead to what could have been an avoidable emergency).

DIET MATTERS!!

Special diets will not likely dissolve calcium oxalate stones that have already formed.  But dogs that have had an episode of calcium oxalate bladder or kidney stones do have special needs.  They shout NOT be fed dry dog food again and they should NOT eat a diet that contains plant products that are high in oxalates.

Many foods can be purchased from your Vet that have been designed (theoretically) to reduce the formation of calcium oxalate tones.  They are formulated to provide as little dietary oxalate as possible, provide no more than the necessary amount of calcium and they attempt to keep your dog’s urine pH and specific gravity in acceptable ranges.  You still need (or should) monitor through urinalysis if these foods are producing the desired results for your dog.  If they are not, I would suggest you think of making meals for your dog yourself.  Mini Schnauzers are not big dogs, so you don’t need to make a lot of food (although I make larger batches and freeze containers for use through the week), and I have to say that if you have a bigger dog (schnauzer or other) I would still encourage making your own dog food for the health benefits for your furry family member… but that is a whole different discussion.  This is the only way that you can truly know what is going into your dog.  I am of the opinion that a dog’s diet should be based on meat (although I do know of some friends that have significantly improved their dog’s health through using purely vegetarian diets).  If your dog has a risk for an oxalate stone, use moderate amounts of low-oxalate vegetables, and do add supplements such as vitamins and minerals (but ask a holistic practitioner for amounts that would be best for your dog).  There is contradictory information about benefits of protein restriction for the prevention of calcium oxalate stones.

Low amounts of calcium in your dog’s diet will increase their chances of forming calcium oxalate stones. They can benefit from some calcium in the diet to bind oxalate in the intestines. This helps reduce the amount of oxalate being absorbed by the body, so stones are less likely to form.  Calcium-rich foods (low fat cottage cheese for example) or the supplementation with calcium-citrate may be helpful. Oxalate is an end product of Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) metabolism. Large doses of Vitamin C may increase the amount of oxalate in your dog’s urine, increasing the risk of oxalate stone formation. Small amounts found in foods or some supplementation should not be a concern.

Foods to avoid/restrict if your dog has a history of oxalate stones: high-oxalate foods include beets, spinach, rhubarb, swiss chard, strawberries, nuts (almonds, peanuts and their butters are quite high in oxalates) , organ meats (like liver – because much of the oxalate formed in the body is produced in the liver), wheat bran, buckwheat, miso, tahini, and all dry beans (fresh, canned, or cooked), excluding lima and green beans (which are safe).

Do not feed your dog products that contain soy or yellow corn or ingredients that are derived from soy or corn.  Soybean and corn-derived products have the potential to be very high in oxalates. Many pet foods – both dry and canned are full of yellow corn products and corn gluten isolates to boost the label’s protein content.  Besides being potentially high in oxalates, corn glutens have the potential to also increase the acidity of your pet’s urine.

Safe foods: these would be the low-oxalate foods such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, endive,  water chestnuts, peas, coconut, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, asparagus, lima beans, canned pumpkin, apples, apple sauce, bananas, lemon juice, melons, nectarine, pear, papaya, oat bran, white rice, wild rice, red meat, chicken and turkey.

The internet has many resources of food lists of high and low oxalate foods so my lists above are a general idea of safe/unsafe foods.  For the lists you might find on the internet remember that suggestions might differ from one site to another and most lists are for humans (so do think carefully if the “safe” foods/low-oxalate foods are really safe for your dog).

Also note that boiling high-oxalate foods and then discarding the water used to cook them greatly reduces the amount of absorbable oxalate in vegetables and grains :)

Every day do something that will inch you closer to a better tomorrow.
–Doug Firebaugh

Kindly,

Dr. Menen

For the simplest explanation, crystals are minerals and stones are composed of several crystals that can come in many shapes and sizes. These stones can become so numerous that they can fill the bladder in some cases, resulting in the need for surgical removal. There is also a chance that they can cause blockage, particularly in male dogs, which is very dangerous and requires immediate veterinary attention. – See more at: http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/bladder-stones-crystals/#sthash.Z6E4E7Iv.kusstr0J.dpuf
For the simplest explanation, crystals are minerals and stones are composed of several crystals that can come in many shapes and sizes. These stones can become so numerous that they can fill the bladder in some cases, resulting in the need for surgical removal. There is also a chance that they can cause blockage, particularly in male dogs, which is very dangerous and requires immediate veterinary attention. – See more at: http://www.b-naturals.com/newsletter/bladder-stones-crystals/#sthash.Z6E4E7Iv.kusstr0J.dpuf

Cookies

COOKIES

Here are a couple of recipes that can be used as homemade cookie treats — let me know if you try them (or if your dog does!) ;)

so worth it!!

so worth it!!

Cinnamon Bites

2 cups (500 mL) whole wheat flour
1 tsp. (5 mL) baking powder
1/4 tsp. (2 mL) salt
1/2 cup (125 mL) water or milk
1/4 cup (60 mL) canola oil (what original recipe called for — can substitute other oils if desired)
1 large egg
2 Tbsp. (30 mL) honey
1 tsp. (5 mL) cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In a small bowl stir together water, oil and egg. Add to the dry ingredients and stir just until you have a soft dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll or pat the dough into a rectangle that measures roughly 8×14-inch. Drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon. Starting from a long edge, roll up jelly-role style and pinch the edge to seal. Using a sharp serrated knife, slice half an inch thick and place slices cut side down on a cookie sheet that has been sprayed with nonstick spray.

Bake for about 15 minutes, until springy to the touch. Wait until they have cooled completely before you spread them with cream cheese.

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits. Store extra in a tightly covered container of freeze. If they are frosted, store the container in the fridge.

Note — I have also used this recipe combining the cinnamon and honey into the mixture directly and using my cookie cutters to make the desired shapes (as in picture) — I believe he liked these just as much as the rolled cookies!

Homemade Flax Seed Dog Biscuit Recipe

(note: I have not tried making these yet, but came across this recipe some time ago and think it would be a very good one — though I might try substituting with other types of flour to avoid too much wheat… I’ll let you know how things work out when I try this)

Ingredients:

  • 12 oz (340g) whole wheat flourYummy!
  • 12oz (340g) bread flour
  • 2 oz (55g) wheat germ
  • 1 t (5g) sea salt (I might still cut this amount in half too…)
  • 2T (30g) brown sugar
  • 3-4T Flax Seed
  • 3 eggs
  • 1c (240ml) vegetable oil
  • 3oz (85g) powdered dry milk (I’d use low fat)
  • 1c (240ml) water

Directions:

  1. Combine wheat flour, bread flour, wheat germ, salt, and brown sugar, and flax seed in mixing bowl. Stir in eggs and vegetable oil.
  2. Dissolve dry milk in water then incorporate the mixture.
  3. Mix to form a very firm dough that is smooth and workable. Adjust by adding a little extra flour or water as required.
  4. Cover the dough and set aside to relax for 15-20 min.
  5. Roll the dough out to 1/2″ (1.2cm) thick. Cut out biscuits using a bone-shaped cutter 3″x1.5″ (7.5×3.7cm). Place the biscuits on sheet pans lined with baking paper.
  6. Bake at 375°F (190°C) for approx. 40 minutes or until biscuits are brown and, more importantly, rock-hard. Let biscuits cool, then store in a covered container five to six feet off the floor :D. Use as needed to reward your four-legged friends.

Enjoy!  And hope your dogs will too!!

Dr. Menen

Enjoy!!  And let me know if you try these recipes!