Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving & A Turkey Warning!!

First, I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving! This is a day for Americans to give thanks, and a celebration of our harvests. Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday - it is not commercialized, and it is a time of celebration and fellowship to be spent with those you love and car about. Today I have spent a lot of time thinking about what I'm thankful for - my family, my friends, my loved ones, my animals and my sweet Milly, my opportunity to ride horses again, my health, my home, my job, my blog and blog followers, and my freedom of speech that enables this blog - there are too many things I am thankful for to list. 

I woke up early on this Thanksgiving to go to the Blessing of the Hounds at our local fox hunt. I was running a bit late, and missed the actual Blessing, though I did get to watch 40 horses and riders (a very small turnout) and many, many hounds run/gallop off into the woods as horns pressed against field masters' lips blared into the morning fog. It really is a sight. I actually used to partake in these fox hunts (don't worry, in my many years hunting we never once brought a fox to ground or killed a fox).

I spent my afternoon/early evening in fellowship with my family (minus one brother, his wife and their darling daughter) and my parent's dog Lucy. I left Milly in Arlington, VA this Thanksgiving to keep my significant other company (holidays are never a favorable time of year in his family, unfortunately) - she slept last night in the bed, and dined on a raw bison marrow bone this afternoon. This afternoon we had an amazing dinner prepared by my brother Teddy, and the whole family pitched in.

After stuffing our faces with Turkey and fully satisfying our appetites my dad suggested giving Lucy some Turkey, but I immediately said make sure no skin, no fat, and no turkey that has been seasoned, because it is rumored to be connected to holiday pancreatitis. 

So before you feed those left overs to your pooch make sure 1) there is no turkey skin 2) there is no fat 3) the turkey has not been seasoned, because you don't want your pooch to get pancreatitis. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Y'all! Let me know what you did today and what you're thankful for!!! :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Deciding It's Time to Switch Vets...

I like to think I've had great luck with vets. I've had some wonderful ones that were extremely thorough, kind, willing to answer my millions of questions, competent and affordable - these vets have come into my life for dogs, cats, iguanas and horses. Not only have I always had great vets, but I've also never felt any of my vets were pushing any unnecessary procedures on me.

That luck changed when I moved to the Washington, DC area. The first vet was horrible. Absolutely terrible. I then found another vet practice very near my house where I went for quite some time. At this vet they said I needed all sorts of unnecessary procedures, including putting Milly (a senior Golden) under for a teeth cleaning (and she has very mild tartar on one tooth)! Yes, tartar on only one tooth! Her teeth are pretty great for an 11 year old dog (I give credit to the weekly raw marrow bones she gets), and the vet wanted to put her under for a cleaning. I also wasn't sure about the way this vet was treating a mild urine crystal problem. I could not walk out of this vet without spending over $400 (even for just vaccines). I decided it was time for a second opinion and began asking around. I did a lot of research, and settled on a vet a little further from my home than the current one.

On Friday I took Milly and all of her records (vaccines, bloodwork, urinalysis, etc.) to Dr. Amy Poole at the Columbia Pike Animal Hospital. It was by far the best vet experience I have ever had. Dr. Poole sat with me and went over all of Milly's latest bloodwork (taken at our old vet), and explained what each results meant. Turns out some things they saw as problems (moderate urine crystals) were most likely caused by Milly not drinking much water. I had a gut feeling that was causing these crystals, and have been adding more water to her food at meals. Dr. Poole thought that was a great idea, and said we'll monitor these in the future, but this is not something that warrants complete bloodwork every 2-3 months like the last vet had said. Dr. Poole explained line by line what all of the results meant, and we noticed Milly's thyroid was a bit a low, and this is something we'll monitor in the future. We went ahead and did the vaccines Milly needed, after a long conversation about over vaccination and limited vaccines. The last vet had said Milly should be put under for a teeth cleaning, but Dr. Poole said her teeth looked great, and she would probably never need a cleaning in her life. She said if the weekly raw bones are working than I should keep feeding them. When it came to the physical exam she went over every inch of Milly's body and showed me where Milly is developing some mild arthritis (in her back), and explained the skeletal structure of the dog and why this is happening. I loved our visit! Dr. Poole drew diagrams for me, she explained everything, she answered all of my questions and was so welcoming and friendly.

Towards the end of our visit I said Milly might need her anal glands expressed, and Dr. Poole offered to show me how to do them myself! I was thrilled to learn, I know it's gross, and it smells terrible, but it will save me money, and it really isn't any worse than cleaning a horse's sheath (which I've done too many times to count).

It is a nice feeling to seek a second opinion, and find your gut was right. I am so happy with my decision to change vets. Not only are all of my questions now answered in total detail, but I also feel like I have a vet I can trust, and am no longer taking my dog to a clinic where I feel like they are doing unnecessary procedures to make money. I'm happy I followed my gut. I knew something was not right with the situation at our last vet, and I'm thrilled the second opinion verified my gut feeling.

I want to be an active dog owner and an active participant in my dog's life, and I feel with our new vet this is going to be so much easier.

On one final bonus, they happily price matched all medication (Frontline and Interceptor in Milly's case) with 1-800-PET-MEDS, though this is not an advertised service. Dr. Poole even told me I should ask for a price match!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday, November 16, 2009

Hot Spots: An Overview and At Home Treatment

When I first noticed a small scab on Milly’s neck I dismissed it as a little scab from a tick bite, but by the next day the area was bald, bright red, and oozing puss. I had heard about hot spots, but I’d never owned a dog that suffered from them, and I hastily made a vet appointment to treat this weird large wound. I soon learned this was indeed a hot spot, and the vet shaved the area, cleaned it, told me to switch from a collar to a harness until it healed, sent me home with a spray bottle of medicine to apply twice a day, and a bill of $175. That was the first and last time I went to a vet for a hot spot.

A Google Image of a hot spot

There are many at home remedies for hot spots, but I’ve found the best way is to treat it exactly like a vet would (clip area, clean area, medicate with an antiseptic spray, and keep area clean and dry until healed). You’ll want to invest in a good pair of electric clippers, and while you’re at it, you should go ahead and buy some clipper oil or spray to keep them clean and working well. You can find some great deals for used clippers on Craigslist if you’re looking to save money. You’ll also need a bottle of Listerine (the amber color/original kind, and generic works fine), Gold Bond Medicated Powder, a clean spray bottle, Betadine (you can find it in the first aid aisle at your local pharmacy, and generic is fine), and sterilized gauze pads.

At Home Treatment:

First, shave the area with your electric clippers – I do the closest shave possible. You need to remove the hair not only on the hot spot, but also around it. I usually shave a 2” diameter around the hot spot. To make sure you have shaved the area enough, press the unshaved hair down, and if it touches the hot spot you need to shave more. The idea is you want to keep the area completely hair free during treatment.

Second, mix Betadine and warm water in a small bowl and apply to area with sterilized gauze pads. You need to really get the area clean, not by scrubbing firmly, but by gently massaging the hot spot with a well saturated gauze pad. I usually need 3-4 gauze pads to clean the hot spot and shaved area around the hot spot.

Third, mix a solution of one part water one part Listerine in a spray bottle. I actually do a little more Listerine than water. Shake bottle and spray hot spot. I keep this solution pre-mixed and on hand in the spray bottle for when hot spots crop up. Listerine also doubles as a great product for cleaning ears (use the amber color kind only).

Last, after Listerine has dried, lightly dust the hot spot with Gold Bond Medicated Powder. You don’t want to pack the powder into it, because this prevents the hot spot from “being able to breath.” Just a light dusting of powder is sufficient.

Apply the Listerine solution and Gold Bond to the infected area 2-3 times daily until healed. Apart from when you are treating the area with the Listerine keep the area dry. If the hot spots are within 1-2 inches of your dog’s collar you’ll want to remove the collar until the hot spot heals. You can purchase a harness that sits lower than a collar for walks. If your dog licks or bites at the area you’ll need to use an Elizabethan Collar (the cone shaped collars). I do this entire process at the very first sign of a hot spot. If the hotspot does not improve in a week consult your veterinarian.

Things to know about hot spots:

Hot spots are areas of inflamed skin that develop extremely rapidly – Milly’s first hot spot went from a ball point pen sized scab to a two inch oozing mess in less than 24 hours. Hot spots are commonly found on the face, trunk, and limbs of dogs, but they can develop on other areas too. The inflamed skin/sight of the hot spot may be moist and red, and hair loss may occur.

Hot spots frequently develop as a result of skin irritation that leads to licking or scratching. When a dog works on an itchy site by licking, scratching or biting it this can cause the area to itch more. This starts a cycle of more licking, biting and scratching. Soon a hot spot will develop.

Long haired breeds such as Golden Retrievers and Chow Chows are most often the sufferers of hot spots. However, hot spots can occur in any breed of dog (or mixed breed).

Hot spots are painful for the dog and must be treated. Mild hot spots can be treated with my above recipe or with topical medications containing antibiotics, antiseptic and cortisone. If at home treatment does not work, or the hot spot develops into a larger hot spot veterinary intervention may be required. Very severe hot spots can be life threatening, so treatment is always necessary (whether at home or through your veterinarian).

The leading cause of skin irritation that leads to hot spots is fleas. Using a monthly flea and tick preventative can be very helpful in preventing hot spots. Allergies to food, environmental agents (like pollen); laundry detergents or shampoos also may contribute to the problem.

There are several other conditions including ringworm, mange, and acral lick dermatitis that may cause skin lesions that look like hot spots. If your dog suffers from skin problems a vet check up is always a good idea to rule out other culprits. Once you understand what a hot spot looks like you can try to treat them, often very successfully, at home.

Once a dog develops hot spots, they are much more prone to get them again. You’ll want to keep your dog dry, because hot spots thrive on moisture. I always thoroughly dry Milly after she gets wet with a towel and hair dryer, and this helps prevent hot spots. I also always rinse her after she does any swimming (even in the cleanest of lakes). Do not use any training aids, collars or harnesses that come into contact with a hot spot until it has healed. Regular grooming to remove any dead under coat can help prevent hot spots, remove debris from the coat, and gives you an opportunity to examine your dog closely, and is an opportunity to spot potential hot spots or fleas. Many dogs that suffer from hot spots are actually allergic to ingredients in their food. Corn is a major culprit for many hot spot sufferers, and switching to a corn free diet can really help. You might consider switching to a high quality food with limited ingredients, or even a completely grain free food. Supplementing with fish oil or an Omega 3 supplement like Welactin improves over all coat quality, and in my experience makes hot spots less frequent.

Please note I am not a veterinarian, and this is simply a remedy I and other dog owners have had success with.

Monday, November 9, 2009

$ave Pennies by Diluting Your Dog Shampoo

When it comes to bathing I never thought to dilute the shampoo or conditioner, especially because the directions on the type I most frequently use (Cowboy Magic) does not say to dilute, but I’ve recently learned this is the grooming secret most pet owners don’t know. Grooming salons dilute, breeders dilute, show handlers dilute – pretty much across the board shampoos and conditioners are diluted before being applied, even those that do not specify you should dilute are diluted by the professionals in the dog world. So why don’t pet owners know this? Well, first, not many basic books geared at your average pet owner discuss this. Second, have you ever taken a course on grooming? Probably not, but kudos if you have! Third, and probably the most obvious, you buy more products if you are using more of them.

I’ve started diluting 2-to-1 – two parts water for every one part shampoo. I’ve found it makes it much easier to evenly apply the shampoo or conditioner, and I can now get a nice thick lather all over. It is easier to rinse, because you are using less shampoo, and the shampoo is evenly dispersed. I like to keep my shampoo in an easy to dispense bottle, and a ketchup bottle is perfect! You can either buy the plastic kind seen at hot dog stands (that you fill yourself), or recycle an empty bottle around the house. I prefer the kind from hot dog stands, because it’s easier to squirt from. Simply fill the bottle with 1 part shampoo, and then two parts water, and shake before use. You’ll want to have a very gentle water stream as you fill the bottle to prevent lots of bubbles, and so you can actually fill the bottle with water. I’ve marked my ketchup bottle with lines so I know where to fill to with shampoo and water. I’ve found one bottle of diluted shampoo is 3-4 baths, and it is less than the amount of shampoo I was using on one bath before I began diluting.

Once I’ve applied my diluted shampoo mixture I like to use my hands to really massage the coat, but if you are bathing very frequently, you will want to massage a little less to make sure you aren’t over doing the bathing and damaging the coat.

Want to know another way companies are getting your pennies? One of the most expensive words ever created for consumers was “Repeat”. Ever read the instructions that say, Wash… Rinse… Repeat? If you are giving a good bath, and really massaging the coat and evenly applying the shampoo you won’t need to repeat. Rumor has it, this step was added to shampoo instructions decades ago when a shampoo company was trying to figure out how to improve profits without raising the price. This could be an old wives tail, but it makes sense. There really is no reason you would need to repeat a bath, but yet this instruction step remains on dog and human shampoos alike.

For detail work, or to keep your dog’s coat fresh between baths, you might be familiar with the no-rinse waterless sprays on the market. I dilute these A LOT. I put just a few capfuls of the product (yup, none of the ones I own say to dilute) in a spray bottle, and add water. Shake before using. I find when diluted the spray nozzle is less likely to become clogged, and the product works just as well diluted.

Want to save even more money? You could make a dog shampoo with products found around your house. I’ve never tried this recipe, but I’ve heard great things about it:

1 part Soft Soap (antibacterial handsoap, the clear kind, generic works fine)
1 part white vinegar
1 part water

Put all products in a bottle, and shake before use. The vinegar does a great job of cleaning the coat without damaging it and removing product build up, and the Soft Soap actually cleans and conditions.

Happy bathing!

Update: I also wanted to let everyone know that Rachel's families dogs have been found, and despite a small scrape on one's nose they are in great shape, and happy to be home!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Two Dogs Missing After Fatal Car Accident in Idaho:

My dear friend and fellow blogger (also a guest blogger on The Wet Nose), Rachel will be getting married this weekend, but she and her family have endured a horrific week. Here brother is in the hospital, and two of their dogs are missing after a fatal car accident in Eagle, Idaho. On Monday morning her brother, John, was in a serious car accident. He was okay, but it took 30 stitches and 10 staples to put his head back together, and he was released from the hospital that same day. The next day, Tuesday, John and his mom were driving and a car hit them head on, on the same road John had the accident on Monday. The other vehicle was apparently driving recklessly, Rachel's and John’s mom tried to swerve around the other vehicle, but it didn’t work. Luckily, both John and Mrs. Crosby were wearing their seat belts, and driving Rachel’s father’s big truck. While Mrs. Crosby walked away from the accident, John was not so lucky. He was pinned in the truck, and had to be cut out by the Jaws of Life. John and the two passengers from the other vehicle were all air lifted to the hospital.

John is going to be okay, but he broke his left tibia and fibula and his right foot was crushed. He also broke his back in two places. He underwent surgery to put a rod in his left leg and to realign the bones in his right foot, and the surgery went well, and he is recovering. However, he won't be able to watch his little sister walk down the aisle this weekend. The other vehicle involved had two passengers, neither was wearing a seat belt, the driver died, and the passenger remains in critical condition. My prayers are with all those involved in this terrible tragedy.

Three of the family’s dogs were in the truck during the accident, and all survived. Roo was found, but Cam and Otter took off running out of fear, and are yet to be found. A sighting of the dogs heading North (from the accident site), which is in the direction of Rachel’s parent’s house, has been reported. It is very likely Cam and Otter are trying to find their way home, her parent’s address does not appear on Google maps, but it is near Black Canyon Reservoir in Emmett.

Please pass on the info to anyone you know that lives in Idaho, or may be traveling through. The dogs are most likely frightened from the accident, but are friendly, and answer to the names Otter and Camo.



The accident took place in this area, and headed North from here is where the dogs were spotted:

View Larger Map

You can see photos of the accident and learn more by reading this news article: