Friday, July 10, 2015

Flee, Fleas!

Flee, Fleas!

Walk down any street and one is likely to see a dog busy scratching or chewing.  Fleas are most likely the culprit causing so much distress.  But, fleas cause more than distress.  Flea ridden puppies can actually become anemic!  Many dogs build up an allergy to the saliva and only one flea bite can send them in to frenzies of chewing often resulting in “hot spots” – raw patches of skin with secondary infections.  It is said that the itch can become so bad dogs have chewed holes in their legs and tails - and worse.

Traditionally people race to the pesticides (flea collars, spot-ons, shampoos, etc.) to give their dogs relief from the bothersome pests and, frankly, that is necessary,  but,   there are other actions to take also.  Please note that when you put a pesticide permeated collar on a dog and you stroke that dog you are being exposed to those pesticides!  .Let’s look at some additional actions you can take.

It may surprise some but the very first place to begin controlling parasites – not just fleas! – is with the immune system.  The healthier a dog (or cat!) is, the better the immune system, the more likely she can resist being attacked by these dreadful critters.  Diet plays a huge part here.

 Feed what your dog is meant to eat – fresh meat and RAW bones - other things, too, but grains or other forms of carbohydrates are NOT needed nor advised.    Totally avoid cheap commercial products which are most likely to contain colorings, sugar, chemical preservatives and most certainly no high quality sources of meat.*  It is said that these ingredients (colorings, chemical preservatives, etc.) contain toxins which are secreted, at least in part, through the hair follicles and can exacerbate skin problems including flea bite dermatitis.

The supplement I recommend above all others is omega 3s from salmon oil.   Salmon oil is full of essential fatty acids that promote healthy hair and skin.  A clove of fresh garlic added to your dog’s diet at least several times a week builds up the immune system and is also considered to be great for parasite control!    Garlic does a lot more, incidentally.  (Use caution with cats!  They are more susceptible to a form of anemia caused by damage to red blood cells associated with garlic and onions. Try brewer’s yeast instead.)

Groom your dog (and cat!) frequently.  Dead hair and mats give fleas a lovely home in which to hide and breed.  Dogs are at a serious disadvantage in their attempts to kill those critters buried deep in a mat.***  Daily grooming is probably ideal with long haired dogs but grooming at least every other day when dealing with any fleas is a must.  Get a flea comb and use it.  Flea combs are useful only for adult fleas, of course.  Give special attention to under the arms, groin area, and base of the tail.

Regular bathing if you build up lots of lather and leave it on for 10 minutes minimum will kill fleas – it smothers them.  First make a ring of lather around your dog’s neck so fleas do not all run to high ground.  Then progress so that the entire body of the dog is covered in lather of a high quality organic canine shampoo - no chemicals, please!   Flea-repelling shampoos will contain oils such as lavender, rosemary, tea tree, mint and citrus.

Since fleas and their various life forms do not spend all their time on dogs you must treat the environment.  Vacuum**anything that can be reached by your vacuum cleaner daily,  wash anything that can be laundered at least weekly and sprinkle cedar shavings, lavender seeds  or eucalyptus leaves in and around areas frequented by the dog.

Unprocessed diatomaceous earth (not the pool type) can be sprinkled in cracks, corners of floors and even on carpets to kill fleas.  Keep gardens free of flea breeding grounds:  accumulations of leaves, brush, cool shady areas – fleas do not like sun!

Keep in mind that when you resort to chemically based products  your dog AND you are exposed to these chemicals.  It may be a way to start to get control but please reread this article for the very best ways to have a flea free critter in your home.

*The protein count comes primarily from grains – dogs did not evolve to eat grains!  Cats MUST have meat for health!!!!

**Good use (maybe the best?) of a flea collar is to cut off a piece of it, place in the vacuum cleaner bag and toss bag and the whole shebang.

***When dogs successfully kill fleas they often ingest fleas and they will very likely ingest tape worm eggs!!!!  The presence of tape worms is indicated when one sees white rice like things around the anus.

C.A.B.C. Emeritus
707 923 3477

CANCER – How You Can Help

CANCER - How Can You Help?

Almost nothing is being done to stop the causes of cancer in dogs but there are things that you CAN do to lower the risks.  Dr. Larry Glickman, veterinarian and epidemiologist at Purdue University has no doubt that at least some of the cancer in our canine companions is a result of the pesticides and insecticides used in agriculture, household cleaners, paints, toys made of synthetic materials and additives in the food we feed them.  We know that many of these agents do cause cancer in people so it is only logical the same applies to our pets.

While the major studies are done for people a few studies have been done with animals.  In 1983 Glickman and his colleagues discovered that dogs exposed to asbestos were at risk of getting a rare form of cancer, mesothelioma.   It has also been clearly indicated that dogs whose owners smoke are at increased risk of nasal cancer.  He says that long nosed dogs are two times more likely to develop nasal cancer and the incidence of nasal cancer increases with the number of packs of cigarettes the household members smoke each day!  Short nosed dogs are more likely to develop lung cancer.

Dr. Glickman’s own research, as reported in 1989 in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, indicates female canines exposed to the pesticides in flea sprays and dips are at higher risk of developing bladder cancer than those not similarly exposed.  A study done in 2004 that focused on spot-on products such as FRONTLINE* and ADVANTAGE* are not similarly affected.  These products, while most definitely pesticides, are “minimally” absorbed into the bloodstream and therefore are not excreted via the bladder or possibly excreted in quite minimal quantities.  Research has linked 2-4-D with cancer.  This is marketed under names such as Ded-Weed, Lawn-Keep, Plantgard, and others.  The Chemical Industry Task Force found no such results in their studies (Imagine that!) but a 1994 study presented in the scientific journal Cancer, Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,  showed that dogs exposed to lawns treated with 2-4-D within seven days  of application were 50 times more likely to have high levels of the herbicide in their systems than dogs exposed after 7 days.  The highest levels were in dogs that walked on the lawns within two days of application!

In addition to the overall risk to our canines there are, sad to say, some breeds of dogs with incredibly high risks of getting cancer.  Scottish Terriers are at 18 times the risk of getting bladder cancer when exposed to lawns sprayed with herbicides when compared to mixed breeds.  And the lovely Golden Retriever breed, (not alone in this category!) is 60% more likely to die of cancer than the overall average of 20 to 30 % ,  says  Dr. Larry Glickman.

Diet also plays a huge part in cancer in canines.  It is commonly accepted that a female spayed at an early age is at a much lower risk of mammary cancer than an intact female but there is another factor at work here.  Diet!  One study indicated that dogs overweight at one year of age were 3 times as likely to develop mammary cancer – THREE TIMES!  Another study indicated that those females operated on for mammary cancer  and fed a diet with “protein greater than 27 percent on a dry matter basis”  were likely to live three years following the surgery while females fed a low fat diet and less than 23 percent protein survived less than 6 months.  Clearly the quality of the food we feed our dogs gains importance by the day.  The cheaper the food the more likely the ingredients have not been carefully screened and will have larger amounts of pesticides, often include chemical “flavoring”, colorings and other additives, and poor quality protein, to say the very least.

The “cheap” foods may not be so cheap after all if we compare the cost to the lives of our dogs.

While we cannot change the world we can avoid subjecting our dogs to pesticides and herbicides that WE opt to spray in our gardens and on our lawns.  We can avoid harmful pesticides that are used to bathe our dogs and are sprayed on them.  We can stop using harmful products to wash the floors in the house and to clean any surface the pets may come in contact with their feet or have to smell.  We can stop smoking or at the very least not smoke in the house where they spend so much time.  We can use organic products to a much greater extent than we do.  And, finally, we can feed them so much better than we do.

*Use caution with ANY such elements introduced into your dog’s life.  Always seek less invasive ways to solve problems.  At this time - 2015 - there are many reports that various spot-on flea/tick treatments are no longer as effective.  Resistance appears to be a clear issue.

C.A.B.C. Emeritus

Sunday, June 21, 2015

They're ALL Tricks!

Why is it that when I teach someone to train their dog to high five, play bow, spin, back or whatever, the person is smiling, those watching are smiling and the DOG is smiling but when I suggest that now we are going to teach “Down!” the whole scene changes?

Those dog owners who have been taught “the old way” – choke chains, yanking and jerking, etc. – have the really worst time with teaching their dogs manners. I see the shoulders straighten. The voice gets rather low. Often it gets downright threatening! And – we are truly down to business. This is not brain surgery, folks! It is not necessary, and in fact it is contraindicated, to put on the mask of the so-called alpha dog (or bitch, should you prefer that) to be absolutely certain that your dog gets the picture that he is going to learn to “Down!”

Whatever you are teaching a dog can and, in my opinion, should be fun for both of you. In the past the down position was taught with force – no fun in that routine, I can assure you. The idea was that the dog should do it because he was told to do so and lack of compliance on his part indicated an “alpha dog” and that got lots of people really up tight.

To be sure, a down position is often viewed as a position of submission and a very timid dog or one with issues at the other end of the scale could feel trapped. A dog with no escape route is a dog that can be pushed over the edge and inflict a bite. Now – let’s change this picture. Instead of forcing a dog to down – it doesn’t matter if we think we are dealing with “alpha” or any other category you choose to name – let’s work it out so that WE get the down and the dog simply goes along with the idea. The dog gets rewarded. I get the down I seek and we are all happy. Neat!

About that “alpha” thing. New concepts are surfacing all the time and they are oh so interesting. For example: When I began training it was a commonly recommended training procedure to “do an alpha roll” which meant to get a dog on its back, wait for it to submit and then release it. The theory behind this highly recommended procedure was that wolves do that to inferiors in the pack hierarchy and therefore we must do it. The practice of same did get people bitten. So much for that idea. Of course – it was the dog’s fault so – the dog suffered the fall out.

Well – guess what? Ongoing studies now say that a wolf leader gets that roll over behavior by way of an offering by the insubordinate! The leader doesn’t make it happen by way of force! Hey, Boss, just tryin’ to get along in this world. Yup – that’s your bone alright. ¡Buen provecho!

Of course that makes sense in that constant battles in a pack would use valuable energy that could compromise pack survival because there might well be a lack of energy to hunt well. Incidentally, it appears to be very, very clear that alphas do not get into struggles for position – their position is clear. The ones who do the battling are those in the middle ground apparently struggling for a notch up. Don’t be a middleman! Latest info about wolf packs indicate they are really just families! Mom, Dad and the kids - often from two or even three litters. Eventually the now adults move on to create new "packs". Keep in mind - our dogs no longer do that!

Our dogs are so genetically close to wolves that given a fair chance of physical match-ups (think Chihuahua/wolf?) pups would result from the mating. Many behaviors are clearly similar but our dogs are separated in many ways also and we must view both sides of the coin, at least as I see things. For example: We could not produce a litter of wolf pups, choose to keep one for ourselves and turn it into an animal that parallels (in any way!) a pup of a domesticated breed – ANY breed!

As for that teaching down? I recall seeing a woman teaching a tiger to down on cue. She was outside the tiger's training venue and, yup, she got it done. No choke chain, no pressure, just positive reinforcement. After all? We do not really teach dogs (or tigers!) to lie down - that behavior comes ready made. We simply want to put it on cue, right?

With that in mind – remain open about how dogs learn, how best to teach them – and whatever you do teach remember - It is just a trick. And – it can be such fun

Charlotte Peltz

CABC, IAABC, emeritus

707 923 3477