What Is Leptospirosis?

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What Is LeptospirosisIf you’re like me, you may have heard of Leptospirosis and the vaccination for the disease, but don’t fully understand what it is and how it can affect your dog. After learning that the disease is increasing in the United States and Canada, I wanted to know more about it. I didn’t realize how serious the disease is and how vital it is to get early treatment if your dog becomes infected. It’s important to know how it’s transmitted and what symptoms you should look for to protect yourself and your dog. So, what is Leptospirosis?

What exactly is it?

Leptospirosis (aka Lepto or field fever) is a serious infectious disease caused by the Leptospira bacteria that can affect animals as well as people. The disease is spread by the urine of infected animals (most often rats, pigs, raccoons, skunks, opossums and cattle). It’s most common in areas with warm, moist climates such as marshy regions or areas with stagnant water and abundant wildlife. Infections occur most often in the fall when the ground is wet. If untreated, the disease can cause liver and kidney failure in dogs.

How can my dog get it?

The bacteria is found in soil and water. When infected animals urinate on soil or near water sources, your dog could contract the disease by drinking from the water source or through a cut or scrape on the skin when walking on infected soil. It can also be passed to your dog from a bite from an infected animal.

Is my dog at high-risk of getting the disease?

If your dog spends a lot of time in water or drinks from puddles or stagnant water sources, she could be at increased risk for the disease. Hunting dogs, farm dogs and dogs that live near wooded areas can also be at increased risk. There is also a risk for dogs that spend time in kennels that haven’t been properly sanitized. Even if your dog never leaves your yard, she still could be at risk if an infected animal urinates in the yard since the bacteria can survive up to six months in some soils.

How would I know if my dog has the disease?

Some infected animals don’t display any signs of the disease and recover without antibiotics, but others can develop life threatening symptoms which require immediate treatment. The disease takes 4-12 days to reveal itself and usually the first sign owners notice is their dog has general malaise or is lethargic. Other symptoms include fever, shivering, loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, yellow jaundiced eyes, reluctance to move, increased thirst, changes in urination, dehydration, runny nose, dark red speckled gums, coughing or difficulty breathing.

What should I do if I notice any symptoms?

See your veterinarian immediately. It’s imperative that the disease be treated early in order for your dog to have the best chance of recovery. Your vet will perform blood and urine tests along with clinical observations to determine if your dog has Lepto and prescribe the best course of treatment.

How is it treated?

If Lepto is caught early, it responds well to antibiotics. It’s important to note that even after treatment, your dog can become a carrier and shed bacteria in their urine for several months.

How can I prevent my dog from getting it?

Reduce your dog’s exposure to possible sources of contaminated water, eliminate any rodent problems and don’t feed or otherwise attract wild animals to your property. Consult with your veterinarian about the availability and benefit of an annual vaccination, especially if you have a dog that is at increased risk for the disease.

Can I catch it from my dog?

Although people usually contract Lepto from recreational water activities, it is zoonotic and can be transmitted to you from your dog. People as well as animals can suffer serious medical issues from Lepto, such as liver and kidney damage. Even though the risk is low that you may catch Lepto from your dog, always wear gloves if you come in contact with your dog’s urine and wash your hands after handling an infected pet. Make sure your dog doesn’t urinate in areas with standing water or where other people or animals could contract the disease.

I’m glad to now know more about this disease and what symptoms to look for. I’m also going to be more careful when I’m out hiking with Haley and we come across a stream or pool of water. She’s never had a Lepto vaccine, but it’s certainly worth discussing it with the vet during her next appointment.

Have you had any experience with this disease or the vaccination?

10 Halloween Dog Tips

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Halloween Dog TipsThat’s right, it’s that time of the year again when your dog wonders why things are suddenly being strapped to his back and head followed by lots of hysterical laughter from his humans. Plenty of dogs are good sports and even like getting dressed up in costumes and strutting around, but others can get a little overwhelmed by it all. These ten Halloween dog tips will keep your dog happy and safe so he can enjoy the scarefest as much as you do.

1. Safe Spot
If your dog gets stressed by ringing doorbells, squealing kids and costumed figures, find a quiet room in your house where he can relax away from it all for a couple of hours. Turning on a radio or TV can help drown out the ghoulish commotion.
2. Ding Dong!
Doorbells send most dogs into a frenzy and having a doorbell ring every few minutes may get rather unnerving for easily stressed or territorial dogs. Sitting outside and handing out candy or disconnecting the doorbell is a good way to keep you dog more relaxed on Beggar’s Night.
3. Devilish Displays
There are always a few candy collecting little devils that get mischievous this time of the year, so it’s best not to make your dog part of your Halloween display to prevent him from getting poked or teased.
4. Door Duty
Manning the door with your pup beside you can get pretty crazy when the hordes come calling. Even if your dog behaves well around kids and costumes, some kids are afraid of dogs. Make sure your dog is secure and he’s wearing his ID tag. A baby gate at the front door is an easy way to manage the chaos and keep your dog a safe distance away from the action.
5. Little Monsters
Some dogs get freaked out when they see masks and strange costumes and could become protective or aggressive. Us humans understand that behind every zombie mask is a nice kid but your dog only sees scary ghosts and goblins arriving at the front door.
6. Twisted Treats
Make sure your dog doesn’t raid the candy bowl when you’re taking a mini-break between visitors. Kids are pretty good about picking up any dropped loot, but check the porch and yard afterwards to make sure no candy (especially chocolate, raisins, candy containing xylitol) or wrappers are left behind.
7. Wicked Costumes
Although most dogs are happiest wearing just their birthday suits, if you decide to dress up your pooch, choose a costume that’s comfortable and doesn’t cover his face or confine his movement. If your dog doesn’t care for costumes, keep it simple with a colorful bandana or dog-safe paint. Make sure their costume doesn’t have small parts that could be chewed and swallowed.
8. Lights, Candles, Action
Tidy up your Halloween display and decorations to keep it safe for both your pup and the kids. Use flameless candles instead of lighted candles and safely secure wiring and light strings.
9. Lurking About
Heading out to mingle among the trick or treaters with your costumed dog can be fun, but keep in mind that some kids may be afraid of dogs. Keep a safe distance and make sure your dog doesn’t become overloaded by all the activity. Add a clip-on LED dog light to his collar to make sure he’s visible after dark.
10. Enjoy Yourself
As you’re keeping an eye on your dog to make he’s safe and comfortable, take time to embrace your inner child. Appreciate the kids in their creative costumes, reminisce about how exciting this night was when you were child, and go ahead and grab one or two of those candy bars from the bowl before they’re all gone. Happy Halloween!

Do you have any good Halloween dog tips or simple dog costumes ideas? Share them with us!

Getting Your Dog’s Attention

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Getting Your Dog's Attention

Photo by Aleksey Gnilenkov / CC BY 2.0

Have you ever been frustrated over getting your dog’s attention? Maybe you were calling your dog to come in from outside or trying to teach her a new command and it felt like she was deliberately ignoring you. You’re not alone. One of the most common problems dog owners complain about is that their dogs won’t listen to them.

It’s not that your dog is intentionally ignoring you, it’s just that you’re competing with all the interesting sights, sounds and smells in her world and she hasn’t yet learned how interesting you can be. The solution is to show her the benefits she’ll receive when she pays attention to you.
Begin with this easy training exercise.

Getting You Dog’s Attention

Start in a small space such as a hallway with a treat your dog really likes. Show her that you have the treat in your hand, then drop it on the floor behind you. She’ll immediately try to get to the treat and your job is to quietly block her from it. Block her from going around you or through your legs, just make sure she doesn’t wiggle by you and get the treat. After several unsuccessful attempts, she’ll get frustrated and look at you. When she makes eye contact, immediately give her the treat and praise her.

Pretty simple, huh? This concept teaches your dog that good things happen when she looks at you or pays attention to you. Once she understands this basic exercise, expand on the concept by trying some of the exercises below.

  • Make your dog sit and look at you before getting a treat.
  • Block your dog from getting a toy she wants until she sits and looks at you.
  • Make your dog sit and look at you before getting her dinner.
  • Block your dog from going outside when you open the door until she sits and looks at you.

These are just a few ways you can use this technique with your dog as you go through your daily routine. Anytime your dog wants something (food, a treat, a toy, to go outside, to play), it’s an opportunity to train your dog to pay attention to you. Quietly blocking and patiently waiting for eye contact before rewarding your dog with something she wants is a very effective way to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. It also makes training much easier, teaches your dog to look to you for direction and teaches her to ask for permission for things.

What are some other ways you have used this technique or other exercises to get your dog’s attention?

When Your Dog Gets Sprayed by a Skunk

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Dog sprayed by skunk

Photo by OakleyOriginals / CC BY 2.0

You know that feeling you sometimes get late at night after a busy day when you’re too tired to get up off the couch to even go to bed? When you finally decide to get up, you let the dog outside one last time before heading off to get a good night’s sleep—yep, that’s probably when it’s going to happen!

It’s something most dogs owners think about but figure will never happen, right? I found out Saturday night that when your dog gets sprayed by a skunk, it’s worse than what you imagine.
I made these three discoveries:

  • Skunk spray smells different (and SO much worse) than the occasional skunk road kill you pass when driving.
  • It’s not a good time to make a 30 minute trip to the store for supplies to handle the situation.
  • You will have a vile, odorous entity that lingers and moves about your house for an unknown period of time after your dog is clean (kind of a skunk spirit of sorts.)

I had previously taken some notes about what to do when dog meets skunk, so after frantically searching my hard drive for the information, I was relieved to realize we had all the necessary supplies on hand.

Here’s what you’ll need if this happens to your dog

1 quart Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
¼ cup Baking Soda
1-2 teaspoons Dish Soap
Rubber Gloves
Paper Towels
Old Towels
Saline Solution

First, make sure to call your vet if your dog was bitten or injured by the skunk. If there are no injuries, you’ll want to act quickly while your dog is still wet. If the spray dries on the dog’s fur, the odor is much harder to remove and can last for months. If at all possible, do the following steps outside to avoid getting any skunk oil inside your home. If you must bring your dog inside, head directly to the tub or shower.

Follow these 10 simple steps!

  1. Don’t hose your dog down with water right away which can spread the oily substance over your dog’s coat.
  2. Put on those rubber gloves (and some old clothes you don’t mind throwing away.)
  3. If you can see the skunk spray on your dog’s coat, use paper towels to remove the excess oil, being careful not to spread it around.
  4. Gently rinse you dog’s eyes with saline solution if he’s been sprayed in the eyes.
  5. In an open container, mix hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap. Never mix or shake these ingredients in a covered container as they produce a chemical reaction when combined.
  6. Massage the solution into the areas of fur that got sprayed. Use the solution on a old washcloth if you need to apply it to your dog’s face (avoid his eyes, nose and mouth).
  7. Let the mixture sit for 5 minutes, then rinse.
  8. Repeat with additional batches of the mixture if necessary, until the dog no longer smells.
  9. Finish up with an overall shampooing using your normal dog shampoo, rinse and dry him off.
  10. Discard any remaining mixture. Do not cover it or store it for later use.

Several commercial products are available for removing skunk oil from your pet, but this mixture did an amazing job and most people already have hydrogen peroxide, baking soda and dish soap on hand. Since skunk attacks usually happen at night and you need to react quickly when they happen, I plan on restocking and keeping an extra amount of these supplies at home. I seriously hope it never happens again, but I would hate to have to make a late night run to the store while my dog is miserably waiting outside with skunk spray drying on her coat.

Luckily, Haley didn’t get sprayed directly in the eyes and she didn’t seem nearly as stressed about the whole event as we were. As a matter of fact, after she was finished with her one hour de-skunking process, she ran to the window, sniffed the air, then looked at me as if to say “I think there’s an animal out in the yard!” Gee, I was hoping she had learned a little something about skunks!

Now we’re just left with the remnants of what happens when a skunk sprays just outside your house and all your windows are open. Even though the dog is clean, the entire house has been given multiple smell tests, room sprays have been dispensed and scented candles still burn, there are still weird pockets of skunk aroma that tend to form in different areas of the house, then dissipate, then form again somewhere else.

It wasn’t the most fun I’ve had staying up until 3:00 on a Sunday morning, but it turned out well in the end and hopefully all will be back to normal soon as this funky skunk spirit decides to leave us for good!

Have you ever had to deal with a dog that got sprayed by a skunk? What worked for you?

Foods You Should Never Feed Your Dog

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Dog begging for cookies

Photo by Gabriela Pinto / CC BY 2.0


Whether you feed your dog a high-quality dry food or have jumped on the raw (or BARF) diet bandwagon, occasionally your dog is probably going to get some people food. Most of us know not to give our dogs chocolate or alcohol, but there are many other foods you should never feed your dog. The foods listed below can pose health risks for your dog and while some foods may only cause mild digestive issues, others can cause severe reactions that could require medical treatment.

Harmful Foods for Dogs

Alcohol – Effects the liver and brain, can cause coma or death
Apple Seeds – Seeds contain cyanide
Avocado – Contains persin, can cause digestive issues
Bones – Can cause choking, bones can splinter and create obstructions or lacerations
Cat Food – Contains excess protein and fat
Chocolate – Causes digestive, heart and nervous system issues (especially dark chocolate)
Corn Cobs – Cob pieces can become lodged in the intestine creating a blockage
Fat Trimmings – Excess fat can cause pancreatitis
Grapes/Raisins – Contains an unknown toxin that can damage the kidneys
Macadamia Nuts – Contains an unknown toxin that can damage various organs
Milk/Dairy Products – Lactose can cause digestive issues and trigger food allergies
Mushrooms – Some mushrooms can be toxic to dogs
Onions/Garlic – Can damage red blood cells and cause anemia
Peaches/Plums – Pits contain cyanide and can cause intestinal obstructions
Persimmons – Seeds can cause intestinal inflammation and obstructions
Raw Eggs – Risk of salmonella and enzyme interferes with absorption of Vitamin B
Raw Fish – Raw salmon and trout could contain a bacteria infected parasite deadly for dogs
Salt – Large quantity can cause electrolyte imbalance or sodium poisoning
Sugary Foods – Large quantity can lead to obesity, dental problems and diabetes
Yeast Dough – Raw dough can expand and rupture the stomach or intestines
Xylitol – Artificial sweetener found in many products, can cause liver failure

I occasionally hear dog owners say their dogs can eat chocolate or other foods from the list above without having any problems, but keep in mind, you may not notice specific symptoms with your dog even though they could be suffering an adverse reaction.

Always be careful when sharing leftovers with your dog. Analyze the ingredients to make sure they are safe and are contributing to a healthy, balanced diet. Never give moldy or spoiled food to your dog and make sure discarded food is safe from dogs that enjoy raiding the kitchen trashcan when you’re not looking. And speaking from experience, safely store food away from counter-surfing dogs. (Haley once ate an entire plate of dark chocolate brownies from the countertop, yikes!)

Let me know if I’ve missed any foods that should be on the list and please consult with your veterinarian if you’re worried about something your dog may have eaten or if you have any questions about how to feed your dog a healthy, balanced diet.