Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Rainy day activities for dogs!

Hello everyone!
The beginning of this year (and late last year) have been very wet in my area (rain, not snow). This has led to days when it has been impossible to go outside for any length of time, which has led to a very unhappy Owen.
These are some of the things I do to keep Owen entertained on these wet days (though these would also totally work for cold/snowy days!).
1. KONG (or similar) toy or food puzzle toy. This one is obvious for many but fill one of these toys with dog food, dog treats, or other yummy food (Owen likes fruits and peanut butter the most in his KONG but also likes dog treats, canned dog food, etc. and in the puzzles, dry things work best). Tip: freeze a KONG before giving to your dog to make it last longer.

2. Give a chew toy. My personal favorite type of dog chew is the Himalayan chews. They are fairly long-lasting, safe, and most dogs love them. They will keep a dog busy for quite a long time and will keep them distracted from the fact that they can't go outside to play.

3. Play tug-of-war or fetch with toys. These are also obvious games to play, but can get a lot of energy out, which will lead to a calmer and happier dog on those nasty days.
4. Do a training session. Nothing like a rainy/cold/snowy day to learn a new trick or skill! This can be a great time to teach something fun like "shake"/"give paw", "roll over", "speak", "high five", "spin", etc. but you can also work on basic obedience skills too ("sit", "down", "stay"/"wait", "leave it", "come", etc.).
5. My ALL time favorite game to play with a dog on a rainy day (or ANY day really) is hide and seek! I know! It sounds crazy to play hide and seek with a dog but it is TOTALLY possible and can be a blast for both dog and person!
To teach this game, your dog MUST know how to reliably stay/wait on command while you are out of sight (if you are not there yet with your dog, work on that first by having a training session or two). Start easy by having your dog stay/wait in a sit or a down position. Then go "hide." Make it easy at first, just going out of the room or behind something in the room the dog is in. Call your dog (only once!) or use their "release" (Owen's is "Okay!") word (again, only once). Make sure you have treats and when your dog "finds" you (again, hide in an easy spot at first), praise and give treats to encourage the behavior. Once your dog is good at this, you can make it harder by going farther away and hiding behind/on top of/under things. Remember to always praise your dog verbally and with treats and have fun with this game! It is really fun to have your dog seek you out and it helps build a stronger bond with your dog!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year, New Goals!

Hello everyone and Happy New Year!

At this time, it seems everyone sets goals for the new year.

I think one that everyone with pets should set is to feed out pets better. If you're feeding a food that is not considered to be very good, or if you're already feeding a good food, we can ALL do better. Whether that means adding fresh, raw, canned, or switching to a better dry food, we should strive to do better for our pets.

In addition, we should all strive to get our pets into better shape (I also have a cat that needs this: Sunny). 

Here are some pictures of Owen, Smokey, and Sunny.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Update 12/31/2018

This update is long overdue. However, I have been very busy with veterinary school so there is that.
I do have some sad news that people who know me well already know but readers here may not. My guinea pig, Lilly, died last year on October 26th 2017 early in the morning after suffering what we believe was a stroke. Also, my bearded dragon died suddenly (the person that I got her from confirmed that hers also have died so maybe they were not super healthy genetically???) on November 16th 2018.
Now that the sad parts of the update are over, however, I can say that everything else is going well. Owen, Smokey and Sunny are all doing wonderful as is my leopard gecko Seze. My aquariums (30-gallon freshwater and 20-gallon saltwater) are doing well. I have a tank full of baby guppies that are probably close to half-grown.

As a veterinary student, I have been following the information about the dilated cardiomyopathy issue in dogs. I have been awaiting the study from U.C. Davis and, when it came out, I read it.
I do not think the problem is as widespread as some were suggesting initially. There appear to be a FEW brands that are potential problems (I am updating my dog food review page to reflect this), but some very widely used "grain-free" brands are not affected at all with cases of DCM, leading me to believe that there is not anything inherently wrong with "grain-free" foods, but that some foods are NOT using as much animal protein as they would have you believe (and instead are using lots of legumes which are low in sulfur-containing amino-acids that are the precursors to taurine).
I currently feed Owen a combination of foods. The ones I'm using right now are Wellness CORE Original, Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Adult Chicken and Brown Rice, and a variety of "wet" foods, which lately has mostly been FreshPet Select (Small Breed bites formula and Tender Chicken with Vegetables and Brown Rice rolled formula). I also give him "people food" including fruits (apples, blueberries, banana, etc.), vegetables (carrots, potato, butternut squash, etc.), meats (cooked ground turkey, cooked eggs, canned fish, cooked chicken) and small amounts of cheese (his favorite). I have done extensive research into incorporating "people food" into his diet and I feel that it is important to include fresh foods in his diet (if done carefully, it can be very healthy to do so). I do include meals that are completely homemade into his diet as well (in those, I use rice and/or oats and I also use some supplements in addition to the food types mentioned above).
However, I am not a nutritionist so don't treat my advice as a replacement for a consult with one.
Happy New Year!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Lilly heath and diet news

So those who've read my blog for a while know that I have a guinea pig named Lilly. You might also know that I had to take her to the vet back in May 2014 due to cataracts that she had suddenly developed. At that time, the vet did a blood glucose test (results are in the article from 2014 but the number was 137) and this was considered "normal" at that time. I've since read that the upper end of normal for guinea pigs is 125 and that they are not normally that high so this result is in question in my mind. In addition, I've questioned that result off and on since then due to her other symptoms that match certain types of diabetes so well such as excessive water drinking/polydipsia, and excessive urinating/polyuria, struggling to keep weight on, etc.
Recently however, she has had some "scary" events that have made me think diabetes is more likely than not (I cannot PROVE this yet because she has not been officially diagnosed and I am not yet a veterinarian, but I think it is likely) and have made me alter her diet.
About a month ago, I fed her some red bell pepper (she had not had it in quite a while and I figured she would like some since she has always loved it). About an hour later, she was sitting extremely still in her cage and breathing heavily and was clearly feeling bad. I watched her and made sure she was OK and once she got better (a few hours later), I just assumed it was a fluke. A few days later, I gave her a couple of grape tomatoes and she did the same thing. Now, after having tried a few things, I have discovered that this occurs any time I feed her a high-sugar fruit/veggie, but not when I give her lower sugar items like leafy greens. After some reading (I have access to veterinary journals through the university that I'm studying at), I feel that diabetes is likely her problem and am looking for a way to test her sugar levels at home to know for sure.
In the meantime, I've read up on diabetes in guinea pigs and have discovered that dietary changes are frequently successful (or at least partly successful) in managing this condition in guinea pigs and have implemented these changes in Lilly's diet. She no longer gets those higher sugar fruits/veggies and gets a limited amount of high quality (Oxbow) pellets along with grass hay. She can eat things like leafy greens and small amounts of some other veggies. Since these changes, she has not had any episodes like the scary ones I mentioned above and clearly feels much better! If and when I get test results for blood/urine glucose, I will post an update.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Scary Snakebite!

On the morning of September 9th, Owen was outside playing and came to the door wanting in after only having been out for maybe five minutes (which was odd). So I let him in. In about a minute or so (maybe less, but I don't know for sure), I noticed he had something on his muzzle/nose in a couple of spots so I tried to check it out to see what it was (he often gets into leaves and dirt so I figured he had just gotten something like that on him). He did NOT want me to mess with it (which was weird since I am usually able to do pretty "invasive" things such as brushing his teeth) and tried to nip at me. In addition, he didn't even want to eat his favorite treats. So I got someone to hold him down while I looked and quickly realized that it was blood on his face and that his face was starting to swell a bit (not bad at this point, and the other people in the house were unable to feel it at this point).
So after checking the yard for "critters" (which we didn't find), we decided to take him to our wonderful vet. It was at the vet that he started to feel somewhat worse and that the swelling in his face and lips got worse. After a quick examination, our vet said that he had obviously been bitten by a venomous snake and likely a copperhead. The reasons for this are that copperheads have somewhat less potent venom (his reaction was not too severe compared to what some snakebites cause) and they are more likely than cottonmouth/water moccasins where we live (which is dry). He said that most dogs do fine with just a steroid shot and about ten days of antibiotics to prevent secondary infection from the punctures. We were told to give him some diphenhydramine (Benadryl) in addition to the prescribed medications the next day and to watch him for signs of necrosis (unusual, but can occur) and other problems.
Owen felt pretty lousy for a few days but I'm happy to report that he has fully recovered and that the only remaining sign of the bite is a small bump where one of the fangs went.
There is not really any good way to prevent snakebites in dogs other than to make your yard less desirable to the snakes and to watch your dog carefully in other areas.
If your dog is bitten, take them to a vet ASAP.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Owen's Food

Owen had been on Blue Wilderness (different flavors occasionally but USUALLY the chicken one) for a while (I switched him off Taste of the Wild after he was no longer a puppy because his digestion was inconsistent while on it) and did well on it for the most part. However, over the past few months, he has not really wanted to eat it consistently and we've been having to add either water to the kibble or "toppers" to entice him to eat it (and even then, sometimes he wouldn't). Owen is not usually a super picky dog so I feel like some ingredient is simply not agreeing with him in the Blue Wilderness (on some days while on that food, he would not eat for so long that he threw up from not eating and there were times he would throw up food as well). So, about a month ago I requested samples from several companies for him to try. The companies I requested samples from were: Canidae, Wild Calling, and Zignature. After letting him try all those foods, these are the results...

Canidae Grain-Free Pure Elements: Owen LOVED this food and would choose it over everything else offered. I like the simple ingredient list (only 10 ingredients plus vitamins and minerals).
Canidae All Life Stages: Owen liked this food pretty well and chose it over the Blue Wilderness.
Wild Calling Rocky Mountain Medley foods: I tried him on each variety but I didn't notice a difference in what he preferred. He liked these foods quite a lot but not as well as the Canidae.
Zignature Zssentials: I was hoping he would like this food but he did not like it at all and would leave it behind every time. The ingredients are good and some dogs may love it, but Owen did not.

I didn't immediately order a food (none of these foods are available locally for me) after letting him try the different types but about a week ago, I decided (after another morning/early afternoon of him refusing to eat his Blue Wilderness and getting sick from not eating) to order the Canidae Grain-Free Pure Elements. I'm so glad I did because now he eats his food happily (he never wagged his tail when eating his previous food but now he does) and it seems to agree with his system as well.

So, while all these foods that he has tried are good quality foods, not all foods will agree with all dogs and what works for you may not work for me. My cats have been on Blue Wilderness for several years now and are healthy and love their food so I still like the food brand (just not for Owen).

Monday, June 20, 2016

Puzzle Toys for Dogs!

As you all know, Owen is a very smart, very energetic dog so we have to keep him busy (see my "agility" post for more on keeping a dog busy with activities). About 6 months ago, on a rainy day, I got him his first puzzle toy/brain game. I brought it home and let him try it out and it didn't take him long to figure out how to get the treats! The first one I got him has drawers that he has to slide out to get the treats (blue and green "bone-shaped" one in the picture of the toys, below).

Since that time, I have gotten him/made him several other puzzles/brain games (all pictured below). These toys are GREAT if you have a dog that needs something to do (and what dog doesn't?) to keep him/her busy. They can be bought at most pet stores. They CAN be expensive, but they don't have to be! Most of Owen's were bought when they were on sale and were less than $5/each! You can also make a simple puzzle with a cupcake tin (or, for small dogs, an ice cube tray) and some tennis balls (pictured).
 I frequently feed Owen his meals in these toys instead of his bowl because these make him work for his food and also slow him down (he eats SUPER fast!). Other types of "puzzle" for dogs include the "Kong" type toys, feeder balls, etc. (Owen has several of these too but these are easier and are more suited for treats than full meals).
If you want to keep your dog busy and stimulated mentally, get a puzzle toy for him/her and watch him/her solve it!