Things to Know about Ringworm in Dogs

Have you ever heard of ringworm before? Did you know that it is contagious to both dogs and cats? Although ringworm isn’t usually a painful or itchy condition, it can become a big problem if it’s left alone. Ringworm can also be pretty unsightly on your dog! If left untreated, it can spread over large parts of the body and cause other skin, hair, and nail problems.

We discuss below what ringworm really is, how to identify its symptoms, and what to do about it.

Ringworm Isn’t Really a Worm—it’s a Fungus

Ringworm is not in the same category as a hookworm, roundworm, or tapeworm. In fact, it is not a worm at all. This fungus, which affects the skin and leaves circular or semi-circular bald spots and rashes, is a fungal infection that gets its name from the ring-like, worm-like shape visible on raised and red skin rashes.

Ringworm is the common name for these fungal infections that affect the skin; its scientific name is “dermatophytosis”. The three common species causing skin problems in dogs and cats are Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, and Trichophyton metagrophytes. The disease can affect dogs, cats, and even humans. On humans, it causes a red circular or patchy rash to develop, and when it gets on the feet it is known as “athlete’s foot.” 

If your dog catches ringworm, please remember that this fungal infection can also infect people. You have to be careful to not catch it until your pup has received successful treatment and the problem has been resolved.

Symptoms of Ringworm

Bring your pooch to a dog hospital if you notice any of these symptoms of a ringworm infection. Even if you don’t see the characteristic circular rash, which may not be noticeable, these are reasons for a visit to your family vet:

  • Dry, brittle hair with hair follicles that break easily
  • Inflamed, red skin rash
  • Circular or patchy areas of hair loss (alopecia)
  • Scales that look like dandruff
  • Scabs or raised nodular lesions on the skin
  • Darkened skin (hyperpigmentation)
  • Reddened skin (erythema)
  • Inflamed folds of the skin around the claws, or bordering the nails
  • Itchiness (pruritus)

How Ringworm Gets Around

Ringworm is spread either through direct contact with an infected animal or from an object that has been contaminated such as towels, bedding, a comb or brush, food or water bowls, a couch, or carpets. The fungus spores can survive for many months, which means ringworm can be spread via hair that has been shed. It can also remain on surfaces or trapped in the fibres of carpets, drapes, and linens in your home if they’re not cleaned.

Dogs may often get the fungal infection from playing at the playground as some forms of the fungus can freely live in soil. Once the fungus ends up on the skin, even the slightest trauma to that part of the skin can expose the body to a ringworm infection. After this, the pet’s immune system may fight the fungus off, or it may turn in to a localized or more widespread skin infection, depending on many factors including the pet’s overall health, the species of fungus, part of the body affected, the pet’s age, and so on.

Sometimes a pet can be a ringworm carrier but they don’t have any visible symptoms. If your dog has been diagnosed with ringworm, it is a good idea to have your other pets checked by a veterinarian. You should also alert your fellow dog owners and dog-walking buddies that your dog has been infected and is being treated, and that they should watch for signs of ringworm in their own pets.

If your dog has been visiting other dogs or has been in a kennel or animal shelter, he or she should be watched carefully for problems like ringworm, fleas, ticks, and any other parasites that travel via infected skin or hair with which your pup has been in contact with. 

Good Treatments are Available

There are other more common conditions besides ringworm that can cause hair loss and rashes, so if you do notice symptoms of ringworm in your dog, take them to your family veterinarian. Do not self-diagnose this condition as it is never based on visual clues alone and diagnostic testing is always needed, not just to diagnose ringworm, but also to help find out the species of ringworm and decide what may be the best available treatment for that species. Bacterial skin infection (pyoderma), skin yeast infections, and allergies are some other more common problems that affect dogs and may look similar to ringworm to the untrained eye.

If your pet is diagnosed with ringworm, there are a variety of good treatments available. Your vet will help you choose the solution best suited for your dog depending on the severity of their ringworm problem.

These are the usual methods to treat ringworm:

  • Topical medication
  • Anti-fungal oral medication
  • Environmental decontamination

Your vet may also suggest that your dog’s hair be trimmed off in the more infected areas. Do not assume your dog is free of the infection once their symptoms are no longer visible. Continue to treat your pet until your veterinarian pronounces them cured.

Although it does not commonly affect dogs, ringworm is a troublesome problem that is best dealt with soon after you notice its symptoms. Remember the symptoms we discussed above and do pursue a vet consultation if any of the symptoms are noted, as it may be due to ringworm or another skin problem that needs to be dealt with promptly so your pooch can stay healthy and comfortable.

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Dog Dentistry 101: Dental Issues to Look for in your Dog

Dogs need dental care just like cats and humans! Caring for their teeth daily can help to prevent other oral health problems. In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, we go over how to watch for the signs and symptoms of dental issues as well as inform you about the dental diseases dogs can have that, if left untreated, may require a visit to a dog hospital.

Dental Diseases in Dogs

Tooth decay is very common among humans but is rare in dogs. The most common dental issues seen in dogs are fractured teeth and periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Although there are no outward signs or symptoms in the beginning of gum disease, once it has advanced it can cause your dog to experience chronic pain, eroded gums, and missing teeth. Periodontal disease is so common that over 80% of dogs over the age of three are known to have it. It is 5 times more often to happen in dogs than in humans.

There is Such a Thing as Bad Doggie Breath: Halitosis

Most people don’t think highly of their dog’s breath daily, but if your dog’s breath is worse than normal, it could be halitosis. Halitosis is caused by a build-up of foul-smelling bacteria in the mouth, lungs, or gut. If your dog has halitosis, it can mean that there could be something wrong in their gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys, or it just means they need better dog dental care. Either way, it’s always better to get your pup checked out by their veterinarian to be sure. Halitosis usually appears if the dog has gum disease, an infection, or tooth decay.

If you detect these smells in your dog’s breath, get them checked right away:

  • Unusually sweet or fruity: can indicate diabetes, especially if your dog is drinking and peeing more than normal.
  • Urine: a sign of kidney disease.
  • Unusual foul odor: a liver problem, especially if accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged eyes.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease in dogs is the inflammation or infection of the tissues or gums surrounding the tooth. It’s caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar, which causes periodontal pockets or receding gums around where the tooth is attached. If left untreated, the infection will make things worse for your dog. 

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

As we all know, mouths are full of thousands of bacteria which multiply on the surface of the tooth, forming an invisible layer which is the plaque (or biofilm). A dog’s tongue and chewing habits can remove some of the plaque.

However, the plaque can thicken, becoming mineralized and creating tartar if it’s allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface. The tartar builds up below and above the gum line which can lead to inflammation (gingivitis). Further plaque buildup can lead to periodontal disease. 

What Can Factor in the Development of Dental Diseases in Dogs?

  • Age and general health: dogs at any age can develop dental diseases, but the most commonly affected are adult and senior dogs.
  • Diet and chewing behavior: canned dog food rather than hard kibbles is not that good at keeping plaque from accumulating. Various toys or treats may also be contributing to some of the buildup.
  • Tooth alignment: while dogs with their teeth often crowded together (often in smaller breeds) are at greater risk of developing dental diseases, all dogs whether their teeth are straight or crooked are at risk. This is one reason why daily brushing is so important!
  • Home care: if you are not taking regular care of your dog’s teeth at home by brushing daily (if possible), this increases the risk of dental diseases as well as the amount of plaque and tartar buildup in their mouth. 

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Health Issues in Dogs

  • Problems with eating hard food
  • Red/swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • “Talking” or making noises when they eat or yawn
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Ropey saliva
  • Favouring one side of the mouth while chewing
  • Withdrawing from being touched
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Stomach or intestinal upsets
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss

You should take your pooch to a dog hospital at once if you see these signs and symptoms of dental problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums
  • Change in eating or chewing habits
  • Visible tartar on the gum line
  • Bumps or growths in their mouth
  • Pawing at their face or mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Missing, discoloured, broken, or misaligned teeth

Prevention

Dental diseases in dogs may be common but each one we’ve mentioned is preventable! Doing your best brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day is recommended. If for some reason you are unable to do so yourself, there are toys and treats that can help. It’s best to get help from your vet if your dog resists or refuses to have their teeth cleaned. When in doubt, ask your family veterinarian about dog dental care, report any teeth issues you may have noticed, and make it a point to have your pooch checked regularly. 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Signs of Hypothermia in Dogs and What to Do About It

’Tis the season of dropping temperatures! With or without snow, it’s possible for your dog to catch cold. Be sure he or she doesn’t get so cold that hypothermia develops! If you see any of these signs and symptoms, bring your dog to your local veterinarian for quick and effective treatment.

What is Hypothermia?

Hypothermia is the condition of having an abnormally low internal body temperature. For dogs, this means their temperature has dropped below the normal body temperature of 37.8˚C (100.1˚F) to 39.1C˚ (102.5˚F).

An abnormally low core temperature can lead to complications that are quite severe. Protect them as much as possible, and watch for symptoms that indicate they’ve been too cold for too long.

Signs and Symptoms of Hypothermia

When your dog is exposed to freezing temperatures for a prolonged period of time, the first worrisome symptom to note is shivering. His or her body shivers to create heat, which also signals that the blood vessels in the paws, nose, ears, and tail are constricting in order to send that heat to their most important organs like the heart and lungs.

Signs of your dog’s dropping body temperature are:

  • Their limbs are becoming very cold
  • Their breathing will be very rapid
  • Increased urination
  • Their hair is standing on end (the doggy version of goose bumps)
  • Shivering
  • They will become lethargic
  • Disorientation
  • Pale gums
  • Slow, shallow breathing

Quickly take your pup to a veterinarian or to an animal hospital for immediate medical help if you see the signs that are suggestive of hypothermia:

  • He or she is still very cold, but has stopped shivering
  • He or she is not only lethargic but also disoriented
  • Their rapid breathing has slowed and is now shallow
  • Their nose, ears, paws, and tail look pale
  • Their internal body temperature has fallen below 36.7˚ C (98˚ F)

Which Dogs Need Protection the Most?

Dogs who are most at risk for hypothermia are those:

  • Who are very young or very old
  • With low body fat
  • With very little or very thin fur
  • With hypothyroidism because the thyroid regulates body temperature
  • Who are not used to cold weather
  • Small breeds such as Chihuahuas who can lose heat more quickly because of their size

The usual causes of a dangerous drop in a dog’s core temperature are:

  • Exposure to cold temperatures for a prolonged period of time
  • Icy cold, wet fur and skin and paws
  • Cold water exposure for long durations

Here is What to do for Your Cold Dog

As long as your dog is not showing a serious drop in core temperature, you can treat the problem at home. Consider investing in a rectal thermometer so that you can take their temperature yourself and find out exactly how cold he or she is. (There’s nothing wrong with asking your vet for help with this part however, especially if this makes you both uncomfortable!)

Quickly warm blankets in the dryer, wrap them around your dog, and place him or her in a warm room. A hot water bottle or a hot pad warmed in the microwave can be wrapped and placed on your dog’s tummy. Make sure this heat pad is well-wrapped in a towel so that it doesn’t burn them by accident! Give your pup warm fluids to drink.

Do not put your pet into a warm bath! The sudden shift in temperature exposure could be too much for your dog to handle and only make the situation worse.

If you are concerned about your pup, bring them to a dog hospital right away. Have your veterinarian check for any long-term, negative effects from your dog’s hypothermia experience. The above methods we just described are good for starting the heating process on the way to your vet clinic.

Tips for Caring for Your Pet When the Weather is Cold

The best defense against hypothermia is a good offence, which means making sure your dog is not exposed to extreme cold for long periods of time.

  • If it is cold outside, walk your dog more frequently for shorter lengths of time.
  • Give your pooch a winter wardrobe! Outfit him or her in a protective jacket and even booties if they’re not used to the cold or is considered to be an “at-risk” dog (e.g., any small, skinny, sick, or old dog—especially if they’re arthritic—or a puppy, or any dog with a single layer of hair and no undercoat).
  • Keep your pooch out of water, even from melting snow puddles or regular rain puddles.
  • Even when inside of a car, your pet may freeze in the winter. The weather may be suitable for taking your dog on a brisk walk, but that same temperature can cause hypothermia to set in if he or she is sitting in a cold car. Make sure they’re kept warm!
  • If your pet is left alone in a cold house, their core temperature may drop enough that they start to shiver. Think of your pets when you lower the house temperature on workdays.
  • Don’t leave your dog tied up outside for extended periods when it is windy and cold.
  • When taking your dog for a walk, avoid ice salts, which can irritate the feet and paws of animals.
  • Little balls of ice may sometimes get caught between your dog’s toes. This not only hurt dogs, they can also cut into their feet. Remove any icy bits from their paws immediately if you discover this. It’s best to train your dog to accept wearing booties to prevent this cold weather hazard from occurring in the first place.
  • Make sure your dog always has good shelter and warmth whenever you must take them outside. If the weather becomes dire, keep your pup indoors at all times.
  • Antifreeze, which is used a lot in the winter for vehicles, is very poisonous to dogs. Make sure any containers you have around the house are well out of the reach from your dog’s tongue. Wipe up any antifreeze that spills. If your dog somehow manages even one lick of antifreeze, take them to your veterinarian right away!

Winter can be a dangerous season for pets. If you’re a dog owner, please exercise caution when you’re taking your beloved dog outside, and keep watch for the aforementioned signs and symptoms of hypothermia. Early-stage hypothermia can be treated quickly and easily at home, but your dog should be taken to a veterinarian or an animal hospital right away if they show any signs of later-stage hypothermia. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry by having them come in even if it’s early-stage.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Christmas Gift Ideas for Your Dog

Christmas is here again, and you’re ticking off each person on your shopping list. But wait—did you forget about Fido? Maybe you’re not sure what to give your dog for a Christmas present. Fortunately, we have a lot of gift ideas for dogs to offer you including lots of DIY (do it yourself) gift ideas.

Of course, when it comes to anything involving your dog, be wary of their overall health and safety. Whether it be a toy or treat, if you’re not sure about a certain gift, ask your veterinarian.

Idea 1: Fancy Store Bought Items

If you’re someone who considers your dog as your fur baby, then these ideas may be right up your alley. How about some doggie perfume? Yes, they have scents made especially for your dog at pet supply stores, but please do make sure to read the labels carefully and consult your vet if you’re concerned about allergies. Along with the scent theme, there are doggie candles as well. However, it may be best to avoid the candles altogether (that way there is less risk of fire accidents for you and Fido) and instead opt for vet-recommended sprays and scents to give to your anxious pooch.

If your dog will wear them, you can get some adorable Christmas-themed sweaters, jackets, and booties. If the cold weather arrives early, the booties may especially come in handy!

Let’s say you’re a fitness buff, and you’d like your pooch to be one too. Consider investing in a doggie treadmill or another such piece of doggie-centric fitness equipment (so long as you have the room in your home and your budget, of course!). If you and your pup are outdoor enthusiasts, reflective gear and backpack pet first aid kits are great stocking stuffers!

Idea 2: Store Bought Basics

There are many different types of toys you can buy your dog in the store. Basics include food or treat dispensers, which makes them work for their treat, is mentally stimulating, and makes for good exercise. You can also find non-stuffed squeak toys, which are great for playing tug of war, but be wary when it comes to the squeaker (especially if your dog likes to tear things apart!).

Don’t forget the treats! There are a lot of special Christmas-themed dog treats you can purchase, Again, make sure you carefully read the ingredients and be sure they’re right for your dog, especially if they have food or even skin allergies.

Speaking of treats and food, you can get them a new food dish or dishes perhaps if their old ones are looking dingy and worn out. For on-the-go dogs, you can get them a doggie water bottle.

Is their leash or collar looking worn out too? Perhaps it’s time for new ones. You can also get personalized dog tags to attach to their new spiffy collar.

Maybe their dog bed or pillow is looking like it has seen better days? It could be time for a new one, and there are so many awesome pillows out there!

Idea 3: Endless DIY Projects 

The Internet offers endless amounts of DIY projects you can make for your dog. Pinterest has grown to be one such resource for crafting your own doggie stuff, such as:

  • Dog beds
  • Christmas tree ornaments
  • A toy box to store all their playthings
  • Treat jars
  • Baked goods (be sure to account for any possible allergies in your dog, and make sure the ingredients are dog-friendly!)
  • Personalized stockings and dog toys, using fabric and tennis balls to create an animal or perhaps braid some fleece for rope

That’s just to name a handful! 

Idea 4: Activities

If you have snow this Christmas, skijoring would be a fun activity for both you and your dog, provided you like skiing. Skijoring involves your dog pulling you by running ahead in the snow while you’re on cross-country skis. Be sure to stay on a trail or straight road to prevent accidents and injuries!

Maybe go out for the day at an indoor dog park if it’s too icky outside (providing you can get there). If there are no local parks nearby, perhaps pampering your pup at a doggy daycare would be fun, or sign them up for an indoor training course.

If it’s cold outside and they have everything they need as far as dog care goes, the best gift you can give your pooch is some much-needed cuddle time by the fire, or on the couch, or on your bed—wherever is comfy. Snuggling with your fur baby gives them attention, affection, and love, not to mention it will keep you both warm on a cold day.

Is it time for their winter trim? Treat them to a doggie spa day and go for the full package, nails included. If there is no spa nearby or they’re closed, consider taking Fido to your veterinarian—they can offer grooming and nail trimming too, as well as some cuddles!

If you know any other dogs in the neighborhood that get along with yours, set up a playdate with toys and treats. Maybe get together at the nearest dog park, and while the dogs play, you and the owners can get to know each other over a hot drink. 

You’ve heard of hide and seek for kids, right? Well, who says it’s just for them? Try hiding a treat or favorite toy of your dog’s and make them come find you. If you have kids, this is a great game for the whole family to play. Get the kids to throw the dog’s favorite toy or treat to get them away while you all go hide. 

If you have snow, and your dog likes it too, just playing about in the yard makes a great gift (being careful all the while, of course). Make doggie and human snow angels and just playing around in the snow is a great bonding experience.

Some of the best gifts aren’t bought at a store but come from the heart. Just spending time with your dog and making sure they are happy can be a great gift, especially if you’re low on funds for Christmas shopping.

When in Doubt, Ask for Help

Your dog’s safety and health are very important! During this time of the year, there can be many things that you might not be sure of, like treats and toys etc., and that’s okay. When in doubt, talk to your veterinarian or an expert about any dog-related items you’re not sure about. Asking for help makes sure you and your dog have a happy and healthy holiday season! 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

7 Fun Rainy Day Indoor Activities With Your Dog You’ll Both Enjoy

Sure, your dog needs to go outdoors for a daily walk or two, but sometimes you need to cut the dog walk short because of rainy or even stormy weather. Don’t worry about doing that, because there are a lot of fun rainy day indoor activities with your dog you can both enjoy!

Workouts and exercise for your dog should be done rain or shine. Today, we offer seven indoor games you can play together without overexerting them or yourself.

1. Tug-of-war

Toss a soft toy to your dog and ask them to fetch it. When he or she does, grab a part of the toy and start shaking it to get it out of their mouth. They will resist, of course, and eventually you can loosen your grasp and let them get away. Warn him or her not to touch your hand with their teeth if they’re too close, and you must stop the game if he or she does and try it again later. They will soon catch on to this important rule.

Take note that this game:

  • Will encourage them to be playful
  • Will be more fun for your dog when you allow them to win more than half of the time

Playing games like tug-of-war with your dog will, in fact, give them more confidence (especially if they’re shy) as well as a good workout!

2. Find the Treats

Place some treats—like, say, chopped carrots—around the room while your dog watches you. Tell him to “Find the treats” and help him or her find them. When they are all found and eaten, throw your hands up and say, “That’s all,” or “All gone.” They will catch on soon, and after he or she has learned the signals, hide treats when he or she is not in the room. Call them into the room and give him the signal “Find the treats” to send them on the search, and signal the end of the game by hand gestures and the words “That’s all.” Your pup will love it!

3. Teach Your Dog the Names of their Toys

Name your dog’s toys when you are playing tug, or toss and fetch, or any game with their toys, and reinforce these names in their memory by saying them frequently. To help support their mastery of the names, you can combine this lesson with the next game, which is:

4. Find Your Toys

Drop a number of your pup’s toys in a big pile on the floor, and ask them to find the toys by name. For example say, “Fetch Blue Bear,” and if he or she brings you the right toy, give them a treat and lots of praise. If not, fetch Blue Bear yourself and show it to them. Then, go back and drop it on the pile and say again, “Fetch Blue Bear.” Repeat these steps until he or she picks up Blue Bear and gives it to you, then praise them and give them their treat.

Next, hide Blue Bear under the other toys while he watches you and again, say, “Fetch Blue Bear.” Help them learn to fetch the right toy and give it to you and don’t get sidetracked by a game of tug of war while you are in the middle of this game, which they may try a few times.

Eventually, when you start a new game, you can have your dog fetch a particular toy for it—the tug, or toss and fetch, or any other game—by asking for it by name so that he or she doesn’t forget the names. Since you should rotate their toys every once in a while so that he or she doesn’t become bored with them, they will learn a lot of names—which comes easier to some dogs than others. When he or she has mastered this game, they are ready for the next game, which is:

5. Put Your Toys Away

Your dog will love this game, and so will you! Help him or her learn what to do by telling them it’s time to put their toys in the toy box (or wherever you keep them). Then pick up a toy and say, “Pick up ducky” and then walk over to the toy box and say, “Drop ducky” and drop ducky into it. Your dog will be very interested. After doing this a few times, touch a toy on the floor saying, “Pick up (name)” and when he or she does, lead them to the toy box and say, “Drop (name).”

After they catch on, you will be able to point to a toy and command “Pick up (name)” followed by pointing to the toy box and saying, “Drop (name) in the toy box.” Don’t forget to have a little treat ready for them after they’ve dropped the toy in the toy box while they’re learning the game. Later, when your pup knows the game well enough and picks up and puts away all of their toys while you’re sitting back and watching them, give them a special treat. (We knew you’d like this game!

6. Hide and Seek

To play this game, your dog needs to understand the command “Stay.” If not, you need a helper who will hold your pet while you go into another room and hide. They can be released when you call to them. Keep calling if necessary until they find you, and then make a big fuss and praise him or her so that they understand you are playing a game with them.  Also, work on the command to “stay.” Aside from the fact that understanding this command allows the two of you to play hide and seek without help, it is one of the most useful commands your pup can learn.

7. Chasing Bubbles 

This is a great game to play when your dog needs some exercise and you aren’t feeling well. Use a child’s simple bubble solution and bubble maker and blow bubbles for your dog to chase while you are sitting in your easy chair or resting on your bed. After you’ve played this game with your pup once or twice—blowing bubbles and then chasing them and using your hand to break them—they’ll understand. Most dogs are fascinated by bubbles just like young children are! A bubble solution that is safe for a child is also safe for your dog.

Review Commands

As well as indoor games, you can spend some time on refresher lessons on obedience commands and any tricks you have taught your pup. In addition to “stay” and “no,” a useful command is “place,” which you can use to send them to their cushion or to their bed.  Treats are an excellent training tool, but check with your veterinarian regarding the types you can safely use while training your pooch if you want or need to provide them frequently.

As you can see you can have a great time with your pooch even on rainy days when you both need to stay inside from the miserable weather! These activities will help you both have fun and keep your dog active. Enjoy!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Ask an Expert: Abnormal Dog Nails

Q: My dog has been losing nails and some nails are bent out of shape. Why could his nails be abnormal?

A: Dogs that have an active lifestyle or dogs walked on pavement generally wear their nails short.

Nails that are prone to fall easily or appear abnormal in shape and size are signs of medical problems in dogs. The most common condition causing misshapen or broken nails is called Lupoid onychodystrophy. This condition may be due to multiple underlying causes and is easily treated using a combination of medication, dietary management, and supplements.

Other common causes for such symptoms include nail bed infections due to bacteria or fungus.

A Brief History of Social Behaviour in Dogs

Dogs love having companionship even more so than some humans probably do! In the wild, the canine families hunt in packs and have a hierarchy system. The same is true for companion dogs, even though their social behavior may not be as well studied as in the case of some of the more wild animals.

The dog’s cousin, the wild wolf, stays together in family groups and they are also very social animals. They hunt large prey, because of their strong pack mentality, which also gives them the best chance of survival. This strategy requires that individuals within the group maintain peaceful social bonds with one another. This relies largely on non-confrontational communication and a high level of social self-awareness, with individual wolves having to coordinate, cooperate, and compromise with one another in order to stay alive and well.

While survival for the pet dog is not as tricky or fickle as it would be for a wild wolf, man’s best friend is likely hard-wired for the same level of social interaction and respect for their companions. It likely helps dogs remain social animals because they tend to live with another very social species the “dog-owner”. Socialization with other dogs as well as humans is a very strong factor in how healthy and sociable a puppy will be in the future. Going to puppy classes and interacting at the park with dogs having different personalities helps puppies learn to adapt to and be respectful of the personal space of others. Leash training helps them bond with their family while also allowing them to learn to respect the personal space of other humans. In my opinion, every dog should be socialized with humans and other pets alike.

As a dog ages, it is helpful for the individual to go for walks and playtime as this would help keep the brain fresh and the joints active. Next time your dog brings you the leash or signals intent to go for a walk, it doesn’t only signify potty time! It is him (or her) telling you that it is time to freshen up the mind and body alike while spending some quality time together.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

Emergency Tips to Use if Your Dog is Wounded on a Walk

When it comes to walking your dog, nothing is more panic-inducing than finding out your dog has been hurt by accident. If something happens to your dog, the very first thing you must do is to try not to panic and talk to them soothingly.

These simple emergency tips will help you reduce your pet’s anxiety in such situations and avoid further injury. Bring your pup to a veterinarian if you need their professional help.

Be Prepared for Accidents

No matter where you take your pooch for a walk, it’s best to be prepared for anything. Accidents can still happen even if you’re careful. Along with your water bottle, your “pooper scooper,” poop bags, and a collar and leash for your dog, here are some other useful items you should include on your dog-walking adventures:

  • Tweezers
  • Styptic powder or a pencil, or cornstarch
  • A small hand towel
  • A couple of non-adhesive absorbent dressings
  • A box of sterile absorbent gauze
  • A roll of first aid tape
  • A muzzle (only for extreme cases)
  • ID on you and your pet’s ID on their collar and/or placed on them as a microchip
  • A phone with your veterinary clinic’s phone number in your contacts list 

Call your vet immediately if an accident occurs and you do not feel comfortable treating the wound yourself. It is advised to take your pet to the vet to be checked out after any accident or serious incident (for example a bug bite).

What Can Happen and What You Can Do About It

In all cases—torn nail, skunk encounter, etc.—the first thing to do is to ensure your own safety as well as your pup’s. Stay calm, approach your pet slowly, and talk soothingly to them. Frightened, pain-stricken pets will usually try and bite anyone who touches them, including you, the pet parent. Talk gently to your pet and if he or she snaps when you reach out, you may try putting a cloth over their face or putting a muzzle on them, being careful not to hurt them in the process.

Situation – Torn Nail

Response – Remain calm. Examine your dog’s paw if you see the following signs of a torn nail: holding a paw in the air while on your walk, limping, visibly leaning on favored paws, constant paw licking, visible swelling, and resistance to your examining their injury. Some torn nails cause bleeding and these are very painful to your dog at the touch.

Wrap up the paw in a loose-fitting bandage or even a sock with Scotch tape. Styptic powder or cornstarch is okay to use on minor quick injury at the tip of the nail, but any nail injury should still be examined by a vet for signs of further injury. A loose bandage is acceptable for transport.

If the nail has been torn to the quick (the pink fleshy part inside of the nail), bring your pup to a veterinary clinic ASAP. Follow your vet’s at-home care instructions exactly to prevent infection.

Situation – Skunk Spray

Response – Keep your dog outside of the house so as to avoid the foul odor from going inside. Apply an over-the-counter smell neutralizer, or tomato juice, or vinegar diluted in water, or a mix of 1-quart 3% hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and 1 teaspoon dishwashing soap on to your dog as soon as possible (wear rubber gloves and don’t get these mixes in their eyes!).

Rinse out any of the aforementioned products and then bathe your dog in a dog-friendly shampoo (again, without getting it in their eyes). Wash your clothing if the smell rubbed off onto you with regular detergent and half a cup of baking soda.

If the spray got in your pup’s eyes and mouth directly, bring them to a veterinarian immediately as the skunk spray can cause nausea, vomiting, and irritated eyes.

Situation – Splinter

Response – Similarly to the torn nail, it’s best to remain calm and examine your pooch for signs such as favoring a paw, limping, etc. The tricky thing about splinters however is that bleeding is not an obvious sign, and some splinters are so tiny they can be tough to find.

Always use a calm, soothing voice as you examine your pup’s paw thoroughly. Gently clean their paw with warm, soapy water and a clean towel. Do not remove the splinter yourself, because if it breaks and a portion is left behind in the foot, it could cause infection and extend healing time. It’s best to bring them to your veterinarian so they can remove the splinter or recommend alternatives if it’s dug in too deep.

Situation – Bug Bites or Stings

Response – identify the bug in question as treatment for the bite or sting will vary.

If it’s a flea, keep your dog outside upon discovery to avoid them from infesting your home! You can prevent fleas before going out by applying a topical solution regularly; your vet can do so at your clinic or you can apply them at home, but follow your vet’s instructions exactly.

If it’s a tick, do not remove it yourself if it’s latched onto your pooch. Bring them to a vet immediately.

If it’s a wasp or bee sting, remove the sting if it’s attached to your pup with a piece of flat cardboard or even the flat part of your debit or credit card. Do not use tweezers as it may squeeze the stinger and add more venom to the wound.

If it’s a spider bite, don’t treat it at home. Bring your dog to a veterinarian and be sure to identify what kind of spider bit your dog.

In all cases of bug bites, gently apply a mix of baking soda and water to relieve the pain. You can also use an ice pack or ice cube wrapped in a towel and apply to the stung or bitten area if it’s swelling or swollen. An oatmeal bath is recommended if there are multiple bites or stings.

If the bite or sting leads to infection or immediate allergic reaction, or in the case of ticks, bring your pup to a veterinarian ASAP.

In Case of Major Injuries

Major injuries such as road accidents, bites from other animals, broken bones, heatstroke—all of these situations are possible. If in the event they do happen, your dog will require immediate veterinary assistance. This is why we recommended microchips, ID, and having your veterinary clinic’s number on speed dial—in case emergencies such as these take place.

First aid classes are available if you’re interested in learning more about emergency tips for dogs and wounds, from minor ones like what we just described to major ones, and how to determine serious versus DIY situations.

In any case, you can be prepared with a few essential items in case your dog is wounded on a walk and you have to improvise with emergency treatment on the spot. Stay calm and help your dog stay calm. Always contact your veterinarian if you need assistance with your pup’s emergency.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

5 Dog Food Myths that Need to be Busted, Pronto

Have you ever given your dog food that you think may be safe for them, only to find out it isn’t? Contrary to popular belief, not everything you feed dogs is good for them, and some things you think are terrible for them may not actually be so. These five dog food myths are common enough, but they need to be busted, pronto, for the sake of keeping your pooch happy, healthy, and safe. 

Beware the Common Myths

“Myths” in this case are exactly what the word implies: untrue stories founded on misconceptions about dogs, their food, and the ways in which various ingredients can affect them.

We love our pets and want to feed them food that will help them grow and live long and happy lives, but there are a lot of conflicting stories about what constitutes a good diet for dogs. Here are the most common issues.

Myth #1 – It’s Okay for Dogs to Free-Feed During the Day

“Free-feeding” is the term used for leaving your dog’s food out during the day for them to casually graze on, rather than giving them food on a schedule. This may seem convenient and easy if you have to leave for work for the day or go to school, but it may not be as convenient to your dog’s overall health.

A dog that free-feeds their food is more than likely to become overweight, leading to all sorts of long-term problems. It also can end up being unsanitary—especially if you tend to feed your dog outside. Unwanted critters such as rodents, bugs, and even stray cats or dogs may smell your pup’s food and come to your home to eat it.

It’s best to feed your dog with the portioned amount they need and on a schedule. A vet can recommend you a schedule and the portions needed based on your pup’s current lifestyle, breed, size, and exercise routine.

Myth #2 – Chocolate is Okay to Give to Dogs

This one’s a very harmful myth and one that should not be believed for a second! Chocolate is actually one of the worst things you can give to a dog. Chocolate contains the ingredients xylitol and theobromine, which are harmless to humans but highly toxic to dogs. Whether it’s around Easter, Halloween, or any other major holiday involving chocolate, always keep it out of their reach.

If at any point you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, bring them to a veterinarian—even if obvious symptoms haven’t shown up.

Myth #3 – Bones are Okay for Dogs

Yes, dogs love to chew on bones, but it depends on both the bone and your dog. Here’s the general rule: cooked bones, whether they’re from pork, chicken, beef, or other animals, are more dangerous than raw ones because cooking makes them brittle and more likely to break or shred.

Yes, you can buy raw marrowbones from butchers and pet stores and they will be safer, but bones carry no guarantees and might break, even if they’re not too small or not too big and are cooked or raw. More importantly, they can cause your enthusiastic bone-crunching pet to break a tooth or, worst-case scenario, cause a gastrointestinal blockage that would require immediate veterinary attention.

Bones may not harm your pup, but why take a chance? Give him or her something else to chew, such as carrots or chew toys.

Myth #4 – Grains are Bad for Dogs

Actually, grains such as wheat, corn, soy, barley, and rice are not harmful to dogs. They are harmful, however, if your dog has a diagnosed wheat allergy or a food allergy that is triggered by grains. If your dog is not intolerant to wheat, however, then it’s perfectly fine to give your dog food containing other grains. They should not be the only part of your dog’s diet—it’s best that they’re combined with protein, such as chicken.

Myth #5 – Pork is Bad for Dogs

This is only slightly true. Uncooked or raw pork is most definitely bad for dogs—but once it’s cooked thoroughly (minus any rubs or spices), it’s actually as harmless as cooked chicken, beef, or any other meats. Just be sure to trim any additional fat off of the piece of pork you want to feed your dog, and portions must be appropriate for their size. While straight-up pork from loins, chops, etc. is fine, what’s not fine is ham or bacon—both are made of pork, but they are processed and contain higher fat and salt content as well as ingredients that could harm your dog.

The best way to feed your dog is by keeping their needs in mind while choosing dog food, which means their diet will change over time. After all, what is suitable for a puppy (up to one year) differs for an adult dog (one to seven years or so) and a senior dog (seven and up). You may have to alter their diet if he or she develops health problems such as diabetes, obesity, or food allergies.

Your veterinarian will guide you through the mysteries of finding the best dog food for your pup, and can help debunk any other myths you may encounter—and there is bound to be others!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

6 Tips on Caring for Your Dog on Summer Camping Trips

Summer is in full swing now, and you know what that means: it’s time to go camping! If grabbing your tent and venturing out into BC’s beautiful wilderness is high on your must-do list this summer, then you know how much fun dogs will have while they’re with you in the great outdoors.

That being said, caring for your dog while camping is just as important as it is at home. They are perhaps even more prone to accidents while in the outdoors and playing. They’re put at higher risk if somehow there’s an emergency and not a single veterinarian office is in sight.

Summer should be enjoyed by both you and your pooch! Whether you’re going out in an RV or packing along a tent, these tips will ensure you will enjoy your camping trip while caring for your dog this summer.

Tip 1: Do Your Homework

Not every campground in Vancouver or BC accepts dogs, and not every beach is dog-friendly. Many areas are inaccessible to dogs in order to protect the natural wildlife.

You can avoid unwittingly destroying BC’s natural beauty, avoid receiving a penalty fee, and avoid the humiliation of being asked to leave the campground by doing a quick Google search. You can also try contacting the campground owner directly if you’re not sure. Be aware that there may be regulations for dogs even in the more dog-friendly areas, which again are in place for a good reason (for example, preserving the wildlife).

Tip: 2: Pack Properly

Don’t forget your dog in your camping trip’s packing itinerary! As well as food, water, and their food and water bowls, you should try and bring dog-friendly and environmentally-friendly shampoo or dry shampoo or wipes to help wash off the dirt and debris they may roll around in (after all, that’s all there is out in the forest!). Bring along their favourite toys as well as a Frisbee for hours of fun for both of you!

Tip 3: Pest Prevention

Just like anywhere in the city, pests like fleas, mites, and especially ticks can find their way onto your pooch in the wilderness. We highly recommend you come to your veterinarian to receive and apply any oral or topical solutions for pests before you go anywhere on your travels. The best treatment for ticks is prevention!

In the event you find a tick on your pooch, or see any signs and symptoms of an infected bite in your dog, come immediately to the nearest dog hospital for treatment!

Tip 4: Train, Train, and then Train More

Behavioural problems are a biggie for dogs this time of year, as they won’t understand that there are rules of conduct for dogs outside of home for a reason. Teach your pooch the basic commands—“Come”, “Sit”, and “Stay” should always be followed by their name. Keep a sharp eye out for hazards while on your trip, such as broken glass on trails or campfire embers getting too close for comfort. Also be sure they don’t jump onto random passersby if they’re dirty or have been swimming.

Tip 5: Know Your Wild Plants

One of the common dangers of dogs in the wilderness is the plant wildlife, as there are several toxic plants to beware of in BC. These plants are dangerous to both you and your dog, so keep an eye out for them:

  • Poison ivy
  • Holly
  • Thistles
  • Bloodroot
  • Giant hogweed
  • Water hemlock
  • American nightshade
  • Scotch broom
  • Spurge laurel
  • Tansy ragwort

Some of these plants are not only toxic to dogs but also to humans, and can cause some severe allergies!

Tip 6: Breeds

It’s unfortunately true that not all breeds of dogs make for great camping trip companions. There are breeds, specifically the snub-nosed variety of bulldogs and pugs, who are going to require extra attention and care while you’re camping. Why? Because the way their snouts are formed makes it tougher for them to cool off, and they may have more difficulty in breathing and panting.

You need to make sure you’re both hiking and camping in areas that are very shady, if your favourite pooch is a pug or bulldog. Always, always provide them with water and put their bedding in a shaded area so they can cool off or rest.

Keep dogs with dark or black-coloured coats cool and in shaded areas. Keep hairless, short-coated, and light-coloured or white-coated dogs protected from excessive sunlight, as they have less protection from prolonged exposure to the sun.

Basically, any safety tips that apply to you such as protection from the sun and from toxic plants or other dangers will apply to your dog too. By using common sense, you can easily prevent further harm to both of you and above all, have fun on your camping trip! Bon voyage!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.