7 Ways to Keep the Light in Your Blind Dog’s Life

Woofipedia recently ran , and some readers responded that one of the biggest age-related challenges is dealing with a dog who has gone blind. There are many reasons why dogs lose vision—infections, retinal detachment, accidents, genetic conditions, and disease. In the elderly, glaucoma and cataracts are among the most common causes.

Blindness is devastating for humans who prize their independence. Dogs, however, are lucky in that they are used to depending on others, us, for help. Even better, there are a lot of things you can do for your blind dog to make life easier all around:

#1—Don’t move the furniture.

If you were thinking of redecorating, now is not a good time to do it. Mary Jo Danika Furst, whose 10 1/2-year-old , Cooper, lost his eyesight to cataracts, wrote: “When Cooper’s cataracts first started, he was running into things and tripping over things that had always been there. Now that he’s adjusted, the only time he has any trouble is when something gets moved.” Keep the furniture, as well as food and water bowls, where they always have been.

#2—Draw a scent map.

Dogs rely more on their noses than their eyes to experience the world, so use that sense to aid navigation. , for example, produces markers made of essential oils and wax specifically for this purpose.

#3—Put bells on.

 recommends that you wear bells so your dog will have a clue, other than scent, of where you are. Bells work well with other animals in the house, as well.

#4—Give him a halo.

A new product, called the , places a bumper between the dog and any obstacles. It is billed as the “white cane for the blind dog.”

#5—Learn from others.

Many people and dogs have gone through what you are experiencing. Don’t go it alone. You can find help and advice through are support groups, such as blinddogs.com, as well as online resources and books, such as by Caroline D. Levin, R.N.

#6—Stay put.

Dogs who once loved being out and about may become happier homebodies. Furst says that before Cooper went blind, he was always up for car ride or visit. But now, she says, “the unfamiliarity of stores and other people’s houses, I feel, cause him as much anxiety as it does joy, so we still go on car rides but he stays home when we’re running to the store or friends’ and family’s houses.” If you must take your blind dog to a strange place, be extra vigilant and keep things as familiar as possible, by bringing along her bed, toys, and other reminders of home.

#7—Remember what’s important.

Vision is a key sense for humans, but it’s not the main event for dogs. Scent and hearing play bigger roles in how they experience the world, and that’s just considering the physical senses. Dogs are masters of empathy, so do your best to keep your spirits up, not matter how you feel about your dog’s blindness. Remember, they never have to look at your face to know what you’re feeling. As author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry so eloquently put it in The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” How perfect is it that the author chose to have those words delivered by a fox?

A Heads Up on Grooming

Make sure your dog’s keen senses are at their best by keeping up with daily maintenance. Here’s how:

Eyes

Next time Fido gives you his trademark look of love, check to be sure that his eyes are clean and healthy: They should be bright and clear, and the white of the eye should be pure white. You can help keep them that way by gently wiping away discharge in the corners with a cotton ball or soft washcloth moistened with warm water (do this whenever your giving your dog a bath or whenever you notice discharge). Be sure to check for redness or other signs of irritation, and take care not to rub the cotton ball directly over the eye.

Ears 

Your dog’s ears should be cleaned at least once a month, more often if your dog is prone to ear problems. Look inside to check for dirt, scratches, parasites, or discharge. Then give them a good sniff! There shouldn’t be any unpleasant odor. To clean, moisten a cotton ball with mineral oil and gently wipe out the ears, going no deeper than the first knuckle on your finger. Keep ears dry and clean, or your dog may face recurrent ear infections that are difficult to treat. Avoid using drying agents on a regular basis—if there’s no problem they can dry out the ear too much, and if the ear is oozing and gross, there’s a reason for it. Drying it up without treating the underlying cause leads to more ear problems.

Mouth

Just like people, dogs need their teeth brushed each day to avoid dental problems later in life. Buy a special dog toothpaste at any pet store and use treats to turn the daily chore into a fun bonding experience for you and your dog. .

Puppy Vaccinations : What are They All For?

Vaccines: Protection for Your Puppy

Going to the vet repeatedly over several months for , and then for boosters throughout the dog’s life, may seem like a bother, but the diseases from which vaccines shield our pets are truly dreadful, potentially deadly, and largely preventable.

Always discuss vaccine schedules with your vet, since not all dogs need every vaccination. But to let you know why vaccinations are important, here are descriptions of the diseases they will help your pet avoid.

Bordetella Bronchiseptica is a highly communicable bacterium that causes severe fits of coughing, whooping, vomiting, and, in rare cases, seizures and death. It is the primary cause of kennel cough. There are both injectable and nasal spray vaccines available.

Canine Distemper is a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal (GI), and nervous systems of dogs, wild canids, raccoons, skunks, and other animals. It causes discharges from the eyes and nose, fever, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, twitching, paralysis, and, often, death. There is no specific drug for the virus—the symptoms can be alleviated, giving the dog’s immune system a chance to fight it off.

Canine Hepatitis is a disease of the liver caused by a virus that is unrelated to the human form of hepatitis. Symptoms range from a slight fever and congestion of the mucous membranes to severe depression, vomiting, jaundice, stomach enlargement, and pain around the liver. Many dogs can overcome the mild form of the disease, but the severe form can kill. There is no cure, but doctors can treat the symptoms.

Canine Parainfluenza is one of several viruses that can contribute to kennel cough.

Coronavirus is a nasty virus that usually affects dogs’ gastrointestinal systems, though it can also cause respiratory infections. Signs include most GI symptoms, including loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Doctors can keep a dog hydrated, warm, and comfortable, and help alleviate nausea, but there is no drug that kills coronaviruses.

, also known as infectious tracheobronchitis, results from inflammation of the upper airways. It can be caused by bacterial, viral, or other infections (see bordetella and canine parainfluenza), and often involves multiple infections simultaneously. Usually the disease is mild and self-limiting, causing bouts of harsh, dry coughing, sometimes severe enough to spur retching and

gagging, along with a loss of appetite, but in rare cases it can kill. It is easily spread between dogs kept close together, which is why it passes quickly through kennels. Antibiotics are usually not necessary, except in severe, chronic cases. Cough suppressants can make a dog more comfortable.

Leptospirosis, unlike most diseases on this list, is caused by bacteria, and sometimes evinces no symptoms at all. When symptoms do appear, they can include fever, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, loss of appetite, severe weakness and depression, stiffness, muscle pain, or infertility. Antibiotics are effective, but the sooner they are given, the better.

Parvovirus attacks the gastrointestinal system and creates loss of appetite, vomiting, fever, and often severe, bloody diarrhea. Extreme dehydration can come on rapidly and kill a dog within 48 to 72 hours, so prompt veterinary attention is crucial. There is no cure, so keeping the dog hydrated and controlling the secondary symptoms can keep him going until his immune system beats the illness.

Rabies is a virus that invades the central nervous system, causing headache, anxiety, hallucinations, excessive drooling, fear of water, paralysis, and death. Treatment within hours of infection is essential, otherwise death is highly likely. Most states require rabies vaccination at set intervals (every one to five years). Check with your vet about local rabies vaccination laws.

5 Surprising Signs Your Pet Might Need to See a Vet

Our pets can't talk so it's difficult to know when they're feeling under the weather. If you're paying attention to your dog and watching for the more obvious signs of illness (not eating, not drinking, lethargy), you're already doing one thing right. But also watch for these five subtle signs of a possible medical issue:

He’s got bad breath: Nope, “doggie breath” isn’t normal. When dogs have bad breath, it’s because they have bacteria in their mouths. The bacteria results in the build-up of plaque, which can travel to the arteries, affecting the heart. Regular toothbrushing and cleanings by a veterinary dentist can keep those chompers pearly and white and your pet happy and healthy. If your dog is wilting leaves with his death breath, it might be time to take him to the vet for a check-up.

He’s acting out: Your perfectly housetrained angel is having accidents in the house. Or once gentle and tolerant, he’s now growling at the kids. A change in behavior can indicate that something isn’t right. Growling or shaking can indicate pain. And potty accidents could be a urinary tract infection or even a kidney issue. If your dog has always been well-behaved and something is off, don’t assume he’s being bad—he may be trying to tell you something in a way you’ll understand.

His coat has dandruff: Like in a human, a dog’s “hair” can say a lot about his overall health. A dry, dull, flaky coat could mean an issue with your pet’s diet or could be the sign of an underlying condition, like an underactive thyroid. Talk to your veterinarian if you notice a difference in your pet’s appearance.

He’s drinking a lot: Unless it’s an especially hot day or your pet’s been more active than usual, an increase in drinking could indicate a medical issue. Kidney problems, for instance, often cause excessive thirst as does hyperthyroidism and diabetes.

He’s just not himself: You, the owner, know your dog best. If you notice your pet is a little off—a little quieter than usual or perhaps his ears aren't as high, his tail isn't as wiggly—there may be something wrong. Dogs have a natural instinct to hide their pain from humans, going back to a time when they could be seen as prey by showing weakness. Trust your gut, and speak up if you notice something’s not quite right. 

Bathing Your Puppy: Wet and Wild

To Bathe or Not to Bathe

It was once believed that dogs should be bathed only when dirty, but that was back when shampoos for dogs were much harsher. If a gentle shampoo is used, a dog can be bathed weekly without drying out his coat.

can pose a challenge — if you neglected to show your pet at an early age that a bath can be enjoyable, even fun. The key is to slowly introduce your puppy to being wet and pampered. Treats and toys can be helpful additions to bath time. As your puppy grows into an adult, you’ll want to before bathing to remove dead hair and mats that will tangle when wet. Bathing Your Puppy: Wet and Wild

Gather everything you need for the bath—shampoo, towels, cotton balls to place in the ears so water won’t run into them—then get your pup. Place the dog in the tub (or wherever you are going to bathe him), and wet him to the skin with warm water. Lather with a gentle dog shampoo (never use shampoo made for people), then rinse thoroughly with warm water. It’s very important to rinse out every bit of soap. To help in combing out afterward, some people apply a small amount of conditioner, which is rinsed out as well. Squeeze as much water as you can out of the coat, then absorb more water with a towel. Brush your pup dry and use a blow dryer (made for dogs) set on a warm, gentle setting to speed the process. Hold the dryer at least a foot away from your pup so you don’t burn his skin. Keep him in a warm place until he is completely dry.

Bonus Tip:

The best way to remove salt, mud, tree sap, burrs, or paint from your dog’s coat is to apply vegetable or mineral oil to the affected area for 24 hours, then wash away with soap and water. If necessary, clip away the damaged hair. In addition to your dog’s coat, it’s also important to . Learn how in the video below.

Things Pet Owners Do That Drive Vets Crazy

From our friends at Vetstreet

It’s a tough subject to tackle. After all, veterinarians do plenty of annoying things, too. But this particular post is all about you—well, not you, but the annoying yous among you. Not that most of you deserve this, but some of you just might! So without any further hedging, let me launch into the most annoying things pet owners do.

1. Answer Their Cells

Need I say more? Is there anything more annoying and disrespectful than answering a phone call while your vet is delivering her state-of-your-pet’s-health address? OK, it might be worse if you dug out your phone to initiate a call midexam, but only by a smidge. They’re both just plain rude.

2. Bring Their Kids

I dearly love children (mine mostly, but yours can also be cool), but very young or badly behaved children are an unnecessary liability in a veterinary environment. It’s hard enough to keep pets safe — much less kids. So unless your children are old enough and/or chill enough to hang out in a vet setting, they should probably stay home.

One exception: If your pet has an emergency and you have no one to care for your kids, you are most definitely excused. We’ll understand. Call ahead and we may even assign an employee to keep tabs on them so you can concentrate on what’s wrong with your pet.

3. Let Their Dogs Run Amok

This is not the dog park. And, for the record, retractable leads should remain in the shortest, locked position for the duration of your visit. After watching an innocent human get taken down in the lobby by an overlong retractable line, I decided there should be a law against these in vet hospitals.

Also read: 

And learn: 

5 Hard Questions You Should Ask Your Vet

Provided by our friends at VetStreet

Making a plan to deal with a pet’s health care issues means making choices. And if you’ve got to make a choice, you may as well fully understand your options. To ensure you have all the facts, you can do your part by asking your veterinarian these five questions:

1. What will we do with this information?

As I mentioned, veterinarians are trained to find answers. We tend to believe that knowledge is power and that information by itself is valuable. (Often this is true, but sometimes it’s not.) As a result, we frequently recommend additional tests or diagnostic options.

If a test doesn’t change the course of treatment or the prognosis, is it still worth doing? For example, let’s say we have a patient with cancer. If there were a test or procedure that would let us know whether we could expect the pet to live for only a month or for six months more, but it would not affect how we treated the patient, would you agree to it? What if it was very expensive?

I don’t think there’s a wrong answer to this question. I also don’t think veterinarians are wrong to recommend tests that provide more information without necessarily affecting treatment. Everyone approaches these situations a little differently, and veterinarians are in search of knowledge. That’s why asking, “What will we do with this information?” is important to help you as a pet owner make an empowered, informed decision.

2. What are the next steps?

Information is great, but understanding what you and your vet are going to do with the information is more important. There’s nothing wrong with asking your vet to explain, step by step, what the plan is. Asking for next steps is a great way to get peace of mind and a grip on how to move forward.

3.  Are there other options?

It is the job of a veterinarian to make recommendations about your pet’s health. Sometimes what a vet recommends is not feasible, affordable or ideal for your specific situation or perspective. That’s OK.

When your veterinarian makes a recommendation about treating your pet, it’s never wrong to ask what your other options are. The important thing you need to understand is the differences among options when your veterinarian lays them out for you.

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Mange: What You Need to Know

If you follow news about dogs, you know what an extreme case of mange looks like. It’s a common skin disease in dogs and puppies that are strays, neglected, or abused. These dogs appear to be beyond hope—hairless, with skin covered in sores or with thickened, hard, crusty patches. Such dogs are often described as having skin that appears to have turned to stone.

It’s a horrible, painful condition, but as you’ve seen in the many “miracle dog” stories in the news, even serious cases can be treated effectively.

Take , for example. One year ago, the then 4-month-old puppy was found at the side of the road in LaFollette, Tennessee, bald and covered with oozing sores and crusty skin, so frail that pieces of it would fall off when rescue workers from the touched her. Her eyelids had fused so she was blind, she could barely move, and many believed nothing could help her.

Yet one year later, after intensive treatment by veterinarians at the , Scarlet is a happy, healthy pet. Her body is now covered with a coat of light caramel-colored hair, and the only reminders of her ordeal are scars on her face and back. She’s a , and it’s now her job to cheer up hospital patients.

Scarlet’s case is an extreme one, but not all that unusual for mange patients. Mange is a terrible disease, and it can kill. But, as with Scarlet, there are treatments that can return even the most seriously infected animals to health.

What Is Mange?

Mange refers to skin diseases caused by mites. The term is derived from a French word mangeue, which translates into “to eat or itch.” Mange, caused by different kinds of mites, affects many kinds of animals, including humans.

In dogs, there are two major forms of mange, each caused by different mites:

  • Sarcoptic Mange (also known as scabies)
  • Demodectic Mange (also known as red mange or demodex)
Mange: What You Need to Know
Scabies mite. Photo: Joel Milla via Wikimedia Commons

Sarcoptic Mange

Also known as canine scabies, this disease is caused by a circular-shaped, eight-legged mite called the Sarcoptes scabiei. This form of mange is highly contagious. The can be transmitted from dog to dog and can pass from dogs to humans, although it doesn’t thrive on non-canine hosts. Female mites burrow into the skin to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch in about three weeks, and the young feed on the host’s skin.

Mange: What You Need to KnowSymptoms of Sarcoptic Mange

Symptoms will generally appear about 10-days-to-8-weeks after contact with a dog carrying scabies. Typically, the first signs of the infection will be on the margins of the ears, chest, elbows, hocks, and belly. Untreated, they can quickly spread. The most common symptoms of sarcoptic mange include:

  • Extreme itchiness
  • Redness and rash
  • Thick yellow crusts
  • Hair loss
  • Bacteria and yeast infections
  • Thickening of the skin (advanced cases)
  • Lymph node inflammation (advanced cases)
  • Emaciation (extreme cases)

How Is Sarcoptic Mange Diagnosed?

A veterinarian will take one or more skin scrapings and look under a microscope for the presence of eggs or mites. Sometimes, however, no mites appear in the skin samples although the symptoms strongly suggest an infestation.

Mange: What You Need to Know
Demodex canid. Photo: Joel Milla via Wikimedia Commons

Demodectic Mange

Demodectic mange, or demodex, is caused by a cigar-shaped mite, Demodex canis. The difference from sarcoptic mange is that these are a normal part of the skin flora, always present, and usually harmless. They are passed to from their mothers in the first few days after birth, but it is not contagious to humans. The mites take up residence deep in hair follicles and stay there, causing no trouble. A normal immune system keeps their numbers in check. But in a dog with a weakened immune system, they can grow out of control. Dogs at risk of demodectic mange include:

  • Puppies who inherit a weakness in their immune systems will be prone to a particularly serious form of demodex, known as juvenile onset.
  • Young healthy dogs may develop some patches of demodex, which sometimes go away on their own or with localized topical treatment.
  • Elderly, sick, neglected, or stray dogs with weakened immune systems often develop demodex. For example, cancer or can impair immune function and lead to this form of mange.

Symptoms of Demodectic Mange

  • In localized cases, it shows up as patches of hair loss and red, scaling skin.
  • In generalized cases, the entire body may be covered with redness, infections, scaling, swelling, and crusts. Often the dog loses most, if not all, hair.

Diagnosis of Demodectic Mange

Your veterinarian will take a skin scraping and look for mites under a microscope.

Treatment of Mange In Dogs

Mange: What You Need to Know

 

Both scabies and demodex will require treatments to heal the skin and control the mites. Some people are tempted to treat the condition without expert guidance, but it’s prudent to see a veterinarian because even a mild case can grow quickly. Treatments for both forms of mange include several strategies:

  • Hair clipping
  • Dipping to cleanse and heal skin: Baths in medicated shampoos on a weekly basis will help heal and soften skin.
  • Mite eradication and control: Topical applications of compounds to kill the mites, such as selamectin and imidacloprid-moxidectin formulations, over a period of several weeks have been shown to be effective. Oral treatments are also sometimes used.

 

Sources: The Merck Veterinary Manual,

Dog Lovers: Check Out This Exercise Routine. Do You Think the Dog Likes It?

Allan Prince, a trainer at IX3 FItness of Boca Raton demonstrates another way to exercise with your dog besides just walking or jogging.

His rescue Pit Bull mix, Loki, seems to enjoy it! What would your dog think?

Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

What Is Kennel Cough?

Kennel Cough (also known as canine infectious tracheobronchitis) is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Dogs commonly contract kennel cough at places where large amounts of canines congregate, such as boarding and daycare facilities, dog parks, training groups, and dog shows. Dogs can spread it to one another through airborne droplets, direct contact (e.g., touching noses), or contaminated surfaces (including water/food bowls). It’s highly treatable in most dogs but can be more severe in puppies younger than six months of age and immunocompromised dogs.

What are the Symptoms of Kennel Cough?

If your dog is affected with kennel cough, you may notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  • a strong cough, often with a “honking” sound – this is the most obvious symptom
  • runny nose
  • sneezing
  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • low fever

Although kennel cough is easily treatable in healthy dogs, Kevin Fitzgerald, DVM, a columnist for , explains that it’s important to report a coughing symptom to your veterinarian because it could be a sign of a more serious .

“The canine distemper virus and virus both start off with symptoms nearly identical to kennel cough,” he said. Other conditions that can cause coughing include a , bronchitis, asthma, and even heart disease.

Kennel Cough in Dogs – Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

How Is Kennel Cough Treated?

Typically, mild cases of kennel cough are treated with a week or two of rest, but a veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to prevent a secondary infection and cough medication to ease the symptoms.

“Nebulizers and vaporizers utilizing inhaled antibiotics or bronchodilators have been reported to be beneficial but are usually not prescribed,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. Speak to your veterinarian for treatment recommendations. Also, it’s helpful for owners to  rather than a collar to walk a dog with kennel cough because irritation of the tracheal can aggravate the cough and possibly even cause damage to the trachea. If you have a household with multiple pets and one shows signs of a cough, chances are all dogs in the home have been exposed.

Can Kennel Cough Be Prevented?

is available for the bordetella bacterium, which is the most common agent to cause kennel cough. Dogs who are frequently boarded, visit doggie day care, compete in canine sports, or otherwise are exposed to large groups of dogs may benefit from the vaccine, and many training, boarding, and daycare facilities require proof of vaccination. The vaccine is available in oral, intranasal, and injectable forms, and depending on the form, it is usually initially given in two doses two to four weeks apart, followed by a booster every six months to a year.

Although most cases of kennel cough are caused by bordetella, some are caused by other agents, including the bacteria bordetella bronchiseptica, canine adenovirus type 2, canine parainfluenza virus, canine respiratory coronavirus, and mycoplasmas, so the vaccine may not prevent your dog from catching the disease.

If you notice your pet coughing or if you plan to introduce your dog to large groups of animals, speak with your veterinarian.

It’s helpful to have financial plan in should should your pet become ill or injured suddenly. Learn about and the .