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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Opinion

By now most of you have read the Unsafe Toy Alert e-mail that has been making the rounds on the internet. I've received copies from friends, it's been posted on the breed lists I subscribe to and it's shown up on a number of blogs. There are a few things about this particular warning and others like it that bother me.

If you've read my blogs you know that I love my dogs. I'm concerned for their health and safety. You also know that I buy stuffed toys at thrift stores for them to play with. When I first read the alert now circulating I was alarmed, but now that I've read it a dozen times, I have some concerns about the alert itself.

First, there are no specifics in the alert. Remember from high school writing classes, ask who, what, where and when? This alert addresses none of these. Who wrote the alert. Why on earth wouldn't you sign your e-mail if this was true? Who is this veterinarian you reference? Maybe my vet would like to contact him or her for more information on what to watch for, but you don't give a name or location. When did this happen? Was it last week or was it a few years ago? What was the toy exactly? You say a teddy bear. Was it a Beanie Baby or a big stuffed bear won at an amusement park or something in between? Who was the manufacturer. You say the vet contacted the manufacturer, so who was it? Why didn't this vet contact the appropriate agencies such as the Consumer Protection Agency or the FDA or anyone else about this safety threat?

I have trouble believing that the manufacturers of dog toys are being more careful than the manufacturers of childrens toys, especially since most of each type are manufactured in China. And what about the toys that are being marketed for children and pets?

I wouldn't want my toddlers playing with toys that have this very toxic filling, so should I now buy dog toys as baby gifts?

I have a lot of trouble believing these non-specific warnings that appear out of nowhere on the internet and spread like wildfire. I feel it's cowardly to put something like this out there to scare people with no specific information and no names attached. Whoever started this, if it's true, sign your name to it.

So what do we do now? I'm not taking the toys away from my dogs. Will I buy more in the future? Yes. I will watch them when they play with their toys, but then I always have. If and when someone comes up with specific answers to my questions, I'll reconsider, but till then I choose not to give in to this type of scare tactic.

The opinions expressed above are my own and I will take responsibility for them and sign my name to them.
Sue Wilcox-Hall
Springfield Missouri

Late Edition: You can read about this on Snopes site.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Scratch, scratch...

If it tastes good, spit it out. I think we've all heard someone grumble about that after his human doctor sent him home with a list of low-sodium, low-fat, low-sugar dietary suggestions. Or how 'bout my father inlaw's favorite, "Why not just eat cardboard?" for anything high in fiber?

We've been battling Sissy's digestive system since she was a puppy. High fiber was the first plan, but she made that complicated by deciding the stand-by of canned pumpkin wouldn't pass her lips, not plain, not stirred into her high-fiber kibble. Bake it in a human casserole or muffin, or mix it with yogurt and freeze it, sure, but not straight from the can.

Sissy's adventures in fixing her food issues are now tracked - along with her own thoughts on life - on her blog, because frankly, I needed a place to record what we were doing. Honestly, without help from Sue and Nichole, reading labels and trying to keep up with Sissy's list of restricted foods, I think Sissy and I would be calling cold, diced, boiled potatoes a snack. Poor Gretchen suffers with Sissy, because the she's a tiny dog and eats so little, plus it makes life easier to have them both on the same diet.
That photo, taken a couple of weeks ago, actually helps me accept that Sis isn't too thin. Thin, to be sure, but not too thin. I do need to weigh her and see how close we are to having those last two pounds gone (aren't they ALWAYS the hardest?). It also shows you her long back and short legs, which make the vet so interested in keeping Sissy as lean as possible.
I hope none of you have to deal with the severe food allergies we battle, but I know of two other dog-blog friends who have similar problems. Keep in mind that a chronically soft stool, the frequent scooting and/or icky scent that warns of anal glands that are too full, regular scratching, especially IN or around the ear, could be a sign of a food allergy. Be very aware if there is a food that seems to make your dog sick. Anything with corn or chicken MEAL or by-products, along with highly acidic foods (some fruits) wants to come back up rather than work its way out for Sissy. (And no, that isn't the whole list of her allergens.)
Please know that not all vets have a lot of background with food allergies. We are blessed to have found one locally who specializes in them, who is plugged into a network of other vets who also work a lot with food allergies. We are both blessed and grateful to have the knowledge and support we have, especially through our dog-blog friends. Sissy will forever hold Sue in high esteem, because Sue was a very strong advocate for the need to find a treat that was not the two-ingredient prescription kibble we feed. It only took one short, sweet conversation with our vet for her to agree and to begin to help me figure out how to find treats for Sis.
Hopefully, we're nearing the end of this phase of Sis's journey towards digestive health. If all goes well, in a few weeks we'll begin trying to determine which red meat(s) upset her system, so that the other(s) can return to her diet and give her a bit more variety.
Are you aware of any foods that don't seem to agree with your pet?

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Weighty Issue

Big or small, canine, feline or human, we all have weight issues.

Chan and I each have a dog who firmly believes we're trying to starve them for no reason. Chan's Sissy speaks about it on her blog, Don't Mess With My Tutu. My Samba is on high doses of steroids to combat an auto-immune disease and is constantly hungry. What do you do with a dog who is always so hungry that she'll resort to stealing food? How do you know if your dog is overweight? What's a good weight for a dog?

My Lucy was a Chihuahua/Pomeranian mix and when she came to live with us at eight weeks she was starving. The family she was born into wasn't interested in the puppies and didn't feed them enough and Lucy was in very poor condition. She never outgrew that mindset and throughout the rest of her life, she was convinced she was starving.

Rob and I allowed her to overeat and her weight blew up to 28 pounds. She looked like a long haired sausage and one morning when she was about five years old, Lucy couldn't get up. Her back couldn't handle all the extra weight and we were afraid she'd never walk again.

Dr B gave Lucy meds for her back, but he also put her on a strict diet and scolded us for letting her get into that situation. After all, we controlled the food, not Lucy. We stuck to the diet and Lucy lost half her body weight and for the rest of her life weighed about twelve pounds.

Two of my dogs, Lola and Noah have always seemed too thin to me. Every time I ask the vet, he tells me they're perfect. He says that dogs who are kept 25% under what is commonly considered normal weight have fewer joint problems, and tests on rats have shown that the thinner ones have less auto-immune disease. Even though the study used rats, he feels the same would apply to dogs.

Dr B has told me on many occasions not to go by the numbers on the scale. Feel the dog's ribs. A padding of 1/8" is perfect. 1/8" isn't very much padding. He'll allow up to 1/4", but over that he tells me to have them drop some weight.

I currently have only one dog that needs to lose weight. Sky is a lot like me. He loves to eat and he hates to exercise. His idea of a perfect day is to eat breakfast, grab his glow ball and stretch out on the window seat to snooze till dinner.

I've cut Sky's food by 1/2 cup and substituted green beans. Sky isn't crazy about green beans, but he's hungry and eats them. The beans make him feel full without adding a lot of calories. Morgan eats green beans every day with her dinner and her weight is perfect for the first time in her life. Samba is also eating green beans to make her feel more full. We buy them by the case.

Sky doesn't like to exercise. He doesn't run much. If we throw his ball, he'll lope down the hill after it, grab it and stroll back to us. Since he isn't putting a lot of effort into the program, we need to increase the repeats. To give him the exercise he needs, we have to throw the ball till our arm feels like it's going to fall off. He'll bring it back as often as we throw it.

On my other blog it seems like my dogs are always getting treats. It's not as frequent as it appears on the blog. We do have a party occasionally, but most days our afternoon treat is carrot or apple or melon. When I buy dog treats, I look for ones that are nutritious and low calorie. We buy four different types of dog food to meet the needs of different dogs. It's not one size fits all.

There may be medical reasons why your dog is overweight. Thyroid is a common one. Check with your vet, have a simple blood test done, discuss the results and ask for help in maintaining a healthy weight for your pet

The control is in your hands. Don't kill your best friends with kindness, you want them to be around as long as possible.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Let's See Those Pearly Whites

Last month was dental health month and we attended a seminar on canine dental care.

Now, I must admit I am not good about brushing my dog's teeth. Back when I had two dogs I brushed a couple times a week and when Bailey met a skunk last year, I brushed her teeth several times a day for a week or two till the odor was reduced. With ten of them, I seldom brush.

After our annual check ups last week, I'm going to get more serious about this tooth brushing stuff. None of my dogs had serious dental problems, but several had a specific area in the mouth where tartar was building up and could cause problems. Our vet recommended that I concentrate on those specific teeth if I don't feel I can do the entire mouth.

There are several types of toothbrushes available for pets. This variety has a double head so you can brush both sides of the tooth at the same time. My vet says it's only really necessary to brush the outside and the tongue will take care of the inside, but this brush is a good idea. Unfortunately, it takes some time and effort to get it positioned around the teeth so it works the way it's meant to. I've found when I do brush their teeth that I need to work fast. They don't want to stand there with their mouths open while I chat and work on each tooth till it's gleaming. They want me to get it over as fast as possible and their tongues are fighting me. I'm not skilled enough to use this particular toothbrush.

This is the type of toothbrush I used to use with Bentley and Lucy. It fits over the finger and I felt I had a lot more control over where I was brushing when I used it.

There is a problem with this type of toothbrush, too. When you brush a dog's teeth, they keep moving their tongues and trying to close their mouths. That can cause them to close their mouths on your finger while it's still inside the mouth. While these work pretty well for small, or older dogs, I don't think I'd want to try them on my current pack. I might sustain a painful injury.

Here are our new toothbrushes. The vet gave us these last week. They're childrens, soft bristle toothbrushes. The teeth I need to concentrate on are the big molars in the back, so the long handles should protect my fingers.

The next question is what kind of toothpaste to use. Toothpaste marketed for humans can cause stomach distress in dogs who tend to swallow a lot of it. There are toothpastes made just for dogs and cats flavored for their tastes. The toothpaste I'm using now is just called fresh flavor and my guys aren't crazy about it, but I've found other flavors they might prefer. The choices are beef, malt, poultry, seafood and vanilla-mint.

My immediate reaction was to buy vanilla-mint flavor, but then I remembered this is for my dogs. I love seafood, but it turns my stomach to think of popping out of bed in the morning and brushing my teeth with seafood toothpaste, but my dogs will probably love it. I've ordered a tube of seafood and a tube of vanilla-mint. We'll alternate and see which they prefer.

One day a week we apply this plaque prevention gel to their teeth. I gave up on this stuff a few years ago because it was so hard to apply. They provide a long cotton swab to apply it with, but the gel is the consistency of vasoline and it all stuck to the swab. I tried using my fingers but it wouldn't spread on the teeth and fell off in big globs.

Our vet has advised soaking the package in hot water for about five minutes to soften the gel, then with a finger apply a thin coat to the top and bottom teeth, then let the tongue action spread it around. It works. They don't mind it and now I'm not wasting so much of the stuff.

I don't guarantee that each of my dogs will have their teeth brushed every day. I know better than to promise that, but I will really try to do better than I have been. Do you have any tips or suggestions? How often do you brush the dog and cat teeth in your household? Anyone want to join me in trying to provide better dental care in 2010?

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