How do You Keep A Dog's Heart Healthy?

Most all dog owners will swear their pup has a huge heart but of course they mean only metaphorically. This is hugely important because dogs can suffer an array of heart conditions. Generally described as affectionate and loving creatures, it is vital to take care of a dog’s heart to keep him/her healthy and happy.

Different heart problems that can affect canines include congestive heart failure (CHF), heart disease in dogs, and hypertension. These issues are a concern in aging dogs but can also develop at any time in a dog’s life. Although certain breeds are more likely to be affected, any breed of dog can develop a heart problem in their lifetime.

There are various ways of ensuring a healthy heart for your four-legged friend. However, before making any changes in your dog’s lifestyle or diet, it is fundamental that you consult with your vet. Take a look at these major factors that determine canine heart health and prepare to talk to a specialist if you’re worried about anything.

Diet

Nutrition is extremely important for your dog. A balanced diet is necessary to develop a healthy, strong heart and ensure a long life. Dogs with a poor diet will suffer the consequences.

Firstly, it is vital to purchase high-quality dog food that includes the right nutrients and minerals that are essential for the growth of a fit functional heart. Many low-cost options will not include the required vitamins for your dog to develop a strong heart muscle. It is better to invest in premium dog food from the beginning to save on possible consequences later on.

Do not overdo it with treats. If your dog is in training, use the specially designed training treats. These are small and do not take away from their normal eating regime.

Finally, if you think your dog could be overweight, they could be at a higher risk of developing a heart problem. It would be advantageous to speak to a vet about establishing a diet plan to reduce their size.

Lifestyle

Exercise is indispensable in your pet’s life. Dogs need daily activity that helps maintain a healthy weight and bodily functioning. Generally dogs love to take part in frequent cardio exercises, such as running, walking, hiking, swimming, and even agility training. These types of activities help your dog to maintain a healthy heart.

 

Additionally, it is vital that you schedule regular check-ups at the vet with your furry friend. Dogs age faster than humans and that includes their heart. This is why it is paramount to take your pet to the vet’s clinic at least twice a year. This way the vet can make sure that s/he is in optimum fitness.

Prevention and Care

It may seem odd to mention dental care when talking about heart health, but it is much more important than you might think. Dental infections and plaque can enter the bloodstream from the mouth and make their way to the heart, causing more debilitating illnesses. Actively check out your dog’s teeth and gums from time to time. Keep an eye out for anything unusual, such as bleeding, bad breath, or excess drooling.

Heartworm is a very serious disease spread through mosquito bites. It is very important to use vet-approved products to prevent infection because this disease can have dire consequences. Heartworm can lead to inflammation, restricted blood flow, pulmonary embolism, lung disease, and ultimately heart failure.

Watch Out for Symptoms

There are several symptoms that dog-owners should be aware of to look out for heart problems. There are some breeds that are predisposed to having heart disease and others who may be more likely to develop one type or another. It is important to research the breed of your pet to stay informed on any heart issues they might have.

The following is a list of common symptoms of heart problems in dogs:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Coughing
  • Swollen abdomen
  • Lack of appetite or ability to exercise

Early detection of heart problems is ideal, so it’s important to look out for these signs in your dog. If your dog is suffering from any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your vet straight away. In order to find out what is going on with your dog’s heart, the vet will run certain tests. These tests can include a physical exam to listen to the heart and lungs or an ultrasound or x-ray to physically see the heart muscle. They could also check their blood pressure check or do an EKG to discover any arrhythmias. Finally, they may do blood or urine analysis to find out what levels of chemicals are in their system that could be negatively affecting heart function.

How to Cure Dog Breath

Let's face it, no one like the smell of dog breath. Not even dogs. But knowing what causes bad breath in your dog will help you understand how to control it.

Canine Oral Hygiene

The most common causes of bad breath in dogs are bad oral hygiene and periodontal disease. As in humans, the build-up of plaque and tartar in a dog's mouth can lead to the development of the bacteria that can cause bad breath. If your dog doesn't chew on thins and you do not brush its teeth or have his teeth cleaned, then chances are the build-up of plaque is the culprit. Poor canine oral hygiene can lead to periodontal or gum disease, and too much plaque and tartar build-up can pull the gums away from teeth, exposing areas for bacteria to grow. This can harm your dog's gums and can lead to cavities, tooth decay, infection and tissue damage. It also leads to very bad dog breath.

Dog Diet

Some dogs are wonderful, well-behaved canines, but others have bad habits, and those bad habits can translate directly into bad breath. Dogs that regularly get into the garbage, or likes to eat dead animal remains will be more prone to developing bad breath. Dogs also like to eat cat poop, so if you also have cats in your home, then you might have a separate, systemic problem. Not only is this unhealthy, but it is also unhygienic. And, if cat poop weren't bad enough, some dogs eat their own poop or the poop of other dogs, a condition called coprophagia. This obviously will contribute to bad breath problems and can make your life very unpleasant.

Treating Bad Dog Breath

As important as it is to understand the underlying causes behind bad dog breath, what we really want to know is how to get rid of it. Curing bad dog breath depends on the cause, but luckily there are quite a few treatment options out there.

If plaque, tartar, and periodontal disease are behind your dog’s bad breath, then the best thing you can do is to take your dog to a veterinarian to get their teeth cleaned. Your veterinarian will run bloodwork to make sure your dog can handle anesthesia, and this appointment is also a great time to rule out any other potential causes for your dog’s bad breath. During the cleaning, your veterinarian may have to remove loose or damaged teeth, depending on the scope of the periodontal disease.

When it comes to unsupervised snacking, securing the trash and limiting your dog’s access to unpleasant outdoor finds, like roadkill, will resolve this issue. Placing the litter box outside of his reach is a simple solution that eliminates cat feces consumption, unless the cats are also pooping outside, and cleaning up directly after your dog can help prevent coprophagia.

Diabetes, kidney, and liver disease are all conditions that require treatment from a veterinarian. Once the underlying issue is resolved, your dog’s bad breath should go away, too.

 

Are Christmas Tree Needles Bad for Dogs?

Your Christmas Tree bring Joy During the Holidays, but it can also bring danger to your Dogs and other pets.  Apart from you, your dog may think that your Christmas tree is her friend during the holidays and cannot see the perils that tree can represent. Most dogs are instinctively drawn to its inviting smell, but beware; that natural curiosity can lead to the risk of serious injury or worse. Your dog's temperament and demeanor will play a role in how much mischief she might find herself in. Even the most well behaved canine will find it hard to resist the temptation of a Christmas tree and its trimmings. Short of 24/7 supervision, the next best line of defense to ensure her safety is to take precautions that could eliminate or at least minimize risk to your dog's health.

Christmas tree needles are not digestible, and if your dog tries to eat them, she'll likely get sick and vomit, and that is if you're lucky. They are mildly toxic, and if she does manage to ingest them, can cause damage to, obstruct or even puncture to her digestive tract. Oils from the fir tree can also irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach and cause her to vomit or drool excessively. Daily sweeping and vacuuming are the best ways to keep tree needles out of your dog's reach. Toddler gates are also a good way to keep your dog away.

Be extra careful with artificial trees as the small pieces are plastic and not organic. These small pieces of plastic can get lodged in her digestive tract and lead to illness, large veterinary bills and even death in extreme cases. You can spray an organic dog repellent on your tree to try and minimize the risks.

 

 

How to Manage Your Dog’s Health Care

Has the recession affected your spending habits? A new survey reveals that the economic doldrums have impacted many dog owners. “Dogs and cats are feeling the bite of the recession as pet owners put a leash on pet care expenses,” says Susan Spaulding, executive vice president and principal at The Pert Group, which conducted the survey with Brakke Consulting. “The recession has not only decreased what consumers spend on their own health, but also what they spend at the veterinarian.”

Dogs haven’t been hurt as much as cats, but there is still cause for concern. John Volk, a senior consultant at Brakke, shares the reasons why -- as well as promising news for dogs and their owners.

Fewer Dogs Are Going to the Veterinarian
On the downside, the Pet Owner Channel Use Study found that dogs are visiting their veterinarian 20 percent less than they did five years ago. Since the overall population of both dogs and humans has increased over that same period of time, the drop-off is significant.

Volk believes additional research is needed to fully understand why people are going to the vet less often, but he thinks the economy is a key reason. “Factor in the recession and the cost of veterinary care and you can see why owners could be postponing trips to the veterinarian,” says Volk.

Longtime dog owners realize that preventative care can help stave off health issues, ultimately saving pet owners money. All dogs should at least have an annual exam. Older pets should see the vet semiannually. The visits will include the basics, such as a full physical, a dental evaluation and a parasite check. Routine blood work and a stool analysis should also be included, especially for older dogs.

Boarding and Dog Day Care Spending Is Decreasing
With boarding and dog day care spending decreasing over the past five years, owners may be taking on more of this work themselves. They could also be recruiting friends and relatives to help watch their dogs. With new facilities offering high-tech and novel services, however, even cash-strapped dog owners might find them to be irresistible in the not-too-distant future.

Pet Insurance Spending Is Increasing
One very good outcome from the study is the finding that dog owners are now spending more on pet insurance. Insurance is another tool for combating the recession, allowing for regular veterinary visits and safeguarding against the cost for required special care, such as hospital stays and treatment for serious illnesses.

Volk says there is growing interest in health insurance for pets, so expect this business sector to continue to grow in the years to come.

Food Spending Remains the Same
Compared to a similar study conducted in 2007, the findings of this latest pet owner study show that dog food expenditures are basically the same. “There are more purchases of cat food, but actual expenses are higher for dog owners just because dogs are often bigger than cats and eat more,” says Volk.

The Way We Buy Pet Health Care Products Is Changing
The study found that more dog owners are turning to the Internet for their shopping needs. The reasons? Variety, sometimes-lower costs and convenience. Still, the trend is worrisome to Volk, who supports one-on-one interaction and expertise rather than online ads and in-store displays.

He and his colleagues are also concerned about the Fairness to Pet Owners Act. This legislation was introduced last year and referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health. Among other things, it would require veterinarians to write a prescription, whether or not they will dispense the product. The majority of survey respondents have already indicated that they would fill those prescriptions outside of their veterinary office, at least some of the time. How veterinarians would react to the change remains unknown.

Signs of Improvement
In the few months since the new Pet Owner Channel Use Study was conducted, there are “anecdotal reports that veterinarians are seeing increased volume,” says Volk. He quickly adds, however, that it is too soon to tell whether or not the recession and other problems of recent years are finally on the way out.

Nevertheless, at least one major pet health insurance company has “reported a good uptick in revenue for the first quarter of 2012.” That, food sales and other indicators provide hope that dog owners have learned to cope with financial challenges and are looking ahead to an even brighter future for themselves and their pets.

Can a Pain Management Center Help Your Dog?

From dealing with arthritic hips to recovering from a recent surgery, dogs nationwide are benefitting from new interest in animal pain management centers. These veterinary practices specializing in pain alleviation are now available to help you and your dog, no matter the situation, whether you have an elderly dog or one that suffers from a more chronic condition.

How the Process Starts
All veterinarians offer pain medications, but you might want a specialist in pain management. If so, and depending on where you live, you might wind up at places like the Animal Pain Management Center in Snyder, N.Y.; the Downing Center for Animal Pain Management in Windsor, Colo.; or at Mountain Ridge Animal Hospital & Pain Management Center in Lafayette, Colo.

Even if you are seeking a second opinion, your dog will likely have to undergo routine blood work and X-rays. “These allow us to see exactly what’s going on,” says Michele Beveridge, practice manager of Mountain Ridge. Dogs may try to hide their pain and illness. Conversely, some of their behaviors might be misinterpreted as pain. It’s therefore essential to find out the truth behind the symptoms. “We cannot just pass out medications,” says Beveridge. “If medications are prescribed, we also have to run routine blood tests, since each individual handles medications differently.”

Available Treatments
Once a diagnosis is made, one or more pain medications may be prescribed. Alternative treatments are also possible. These could be offered in addition to the prescribed meds. They may include one or more of the following:

  • Acupuncture Small-animal acupuncture care is becoming more common both nationally and internationally. Mark Bianchi, a holistic veterinarian at the White Oaks Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Okla., is certified to provide veterinarian acupuncture by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society. “As pets age, natural wear and tear on the joins can lead to pain and reduce a pet’s ability to move comfortably,” says Bianchi. “Pets that have sustained an accident injury may also suffer recurring pain, even after the injury has healed. Pet acupuncture is a natural way to relieve this pain by restoring balance to the nervous system and enhancing a pet’s natural endorphins for pain relief.”
  • Water Therapy “Dogs that are post-op, that are obese, have arthritis or other ailments may benefit from water therapy,” says Beveridge. Mountain Ridge offers a water treadmill where dogs can do cardiovascular exercise and limber up their joints, all while enjoying the buoyancy that water provides.
  • Laser Therapy Laser therapy involves a low-light laser that is run over areas of the dog’s body. Doctors now use this kind of therapy on humans too. “It can decrease inflammation, improve blood flow to target areas, and may decrease pain,” says Beveridge.
  • Stem Cell Therapy To treat pain and chronic conditions, some veterinarians now also use another carryover from human medicine: stem cell therapy. “It requires a surgical procedure,” says Beveridge. “Fat is removed from the animal’s stomach. Stem cells are harvested from the fat and are then later injected into trouble sites.” Rob Landry, veterinarian and owner of Mountain Ridge, has successfully treated both dogs and cats with stem cell therapy, she says.

Dogs Can Live a Pain-free Life
Thanks to new therapies and animal pain management specialists, your dog has a very good chance of living a long, healthy and pain-free life. If your dog suffers from a serious illness, sometimes discomfort can hurt the chances for healing. For example, many dog cancer patients suffer from appetite loss after chemotherapy. Bianchi believes acupuncture can help to both relieve pain following cancer treatments and prevent this loss of appetite that often happens. Your dog then has a better chance of eating as usual, keeping your pet’s strength up at a time when fortitude is needed.

Your dog’s behavior might even improve for the better. “Many times, a pet may act out or be aggressive toward other humans or animals because of pain,” says Bianchi. “By relieving the pain, a pet’s natural even temperament emerges, resolving the behavioral problems.”