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.”

6 Ways to Keep Your Dog Healthy in 2012

With the turn of every year, countless people resolve to improve their health by losing weight, exercising and more. The vast majority breaks those promises and ends up feeling disappointed. So rather than subject yourself to another year of self-defeat, why not resolve to improve the health of your dog instead? Below are a handful of both timely and timeless ideas to choose from.

1. Assess your choice of dog food. As your dog ages, its nutritional needs will change. “Aging brings with it physiological changes. Some are obvious, others are not,” says Dr. Amy Dicke, a technical services veterinarian for Iams. “Skin and hair coat changes may be obvious, while lean muscle mass loss and digestive or immune system failure may be less evident or hidden.” The science behind today’s dog food has gotten specific enough that there are different blends for almost any situation. Talk to your vet about whether your dog is due for a change.

2. Upgrade your dog’s ID tag. The classic bone-shaped metal collar charm may help your dog get returned if it wanders away, but technology allows for so much more. Dr. Patricia Joyce of New York City Veterinary Specialists says, if possible, to use a GPS tracker that allows you to find your dog wherever it is. Another option is a QR code tag, like those offered by PetQRTag.com. The tags are the same size as a regular ID tag but are not as constrained by space. They point a person to a Web page that can hold as much information as you’d like to give, from contact info to special medical issues your dog has. As your dog ages and your contact information changes, the tag never needs to be replaced.

3. Hop on the social media bandwagon. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can help you diagnose and work through potential health problems. A standout is PetPop.com, where pet owners create profiles and link up. In the PetPop Healthy section, a panel of veterinary experts fields questions from site members and provides advice.

4. Train your puppy. What do socialization skills have to do with health? “Euthanasia for behavior problems is still a leading cause of death for dogs in the U.S.,” says Lisa Mullinax, a dog trainer for 4Paws University Inc. in Sacramento, Calif. “More people are beginning to realize proper socialization prior to the age of 14 weeks is an important step in preventing behavior problems, but few truly understand how to do so safely and positively.” She also stresses the importance of training a dog to always come when called -- a great accident-prevention skill.

5. Don’t ignore dental health. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, periodontal disease is the most diagnosed problem in dogs. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “Dental disease is one of the most preventable conditions in veterinary medicine,” says Dr. Katy Johnson Nelson, a veterinarian in Arlington, Va., who is also a member of the Iams Wellness Council. Schedule an appointment with your dog’s doctor for a teeth cleaning, and brush on your own as well.

6. Get pet health insurance. Sometimes even the best prevention can’t stop disease or an accident, and veterinary bills can add up quickly. It can put pet owners in the most difficult of positions: You either set yourself up for extreme financial hardship, or consent to putting your dog down. Health insurance allows an alternative. Thanks to more modest monthly premium payments, decisions to undergo costly procedures are easier to make.

So this New Year’s, let yourself off the hook and make a resolution for your dog. Whether you opt for the tried-and-true or the timely and trendy, following through with just a few of these tips can make a world of difference.

New Health Trend: Dog Fitness Centers

Aromatherapy, massage, acupressure and fitness swimming sound like the services offered at an exclusive spa. All that’s missing at Rocky’s Retreat in Orlando, Fla., is human clientele.

At their new dog health and fitness center, Sherri Cappabianca and co-owner Toby Gass offer dogs an array of gentle, noninvasive services that they consider to be far from frivolous indulgences. “It’s absolutely integral to their health,” says Cappabianca, who has more than 1,000 hours of training in canine aqua therapy, small-animal massage, small-animal acupressure, canine behavior and related fields.

Increasingly, dog owners understand that their pets need regular exercise and preventative efforts to maintain good health. They’re finding that the sorts of therapies we humans enjoy, such as aromatherapy and massage, also serve their dogs well.

Does Your Dog Need a Fitness Center?
Clients come to Rocky’s Retreat for myriad reasons, says Cappabianca. For example, swimming may help rehabilitate your dog after an injury. Obese dogs, dogs that need gentle exercise, high-energy dogs in need of a release, dogs that experience stress (such as service dogs) and dogs with behavioral issues can benefit as well, says Cappabianca. Aromatherapy can be soothing for anxious dogs, while massage can work well for senior dogs, among others.

It can also simply be practical for you as a dog owner to use a dog fitness center, says Dr. Craig Woods, a Prescott, Ariz., veterinarian who did his graduate work on muscle biochemistry during exercise. “Dog fitness centers can be an excellent way for dog owners to provide their pet’s exercise requirements,” says Woods.

What to Expect From a Dog Fitness Center
Rocky’s Retreat is designed to be a soothing sanctuary, with a welcoming lobby, a spacious room for doggie day care, a pair of treatment rooms, an indoor pool and a large backyard. When it comes to swimming, “one of us is in the pool at all times, with our hands on the dog at all times,” says Cappabianca. “If a dog is paralyzed or partially paralyzed, we exercise those limbs. With high-energy dogs, we control their speed with resistance. We start at the far end of the pool and have them swim toward their owner.”

Clients might schedule a massage every couple of weeks or a swim once a week. At Rocky’s Retreat, prices range from $90 for an hour swim, to $85 for aromatherapy, to $60 for a massage/acupressure treatment. The center also offers specials, memberships and therapy packages.

Because dog fitness centers generally aren’t regulated, it’s up to you to do your research and make sure the center you use follows certain standards. Consider these factors before you use a facility:

  • Training and credentials Technicians should have experience and training in the services they are offering. They’ll often list their training and affiliations on the fitness center website, as Cappabianca does.
  • The ability to handle veterinary emergencies “It is also important that the pet exercise center have qualified staff that has some experience in veterinary care,” says Woods. “Always ask a pet exercise center what their staff qualifications are, and make sure they have a veterinarian who can attend to emergencies or situations that might arise.” The center might not have a veterinarian on staff, but it should have an affiliation with a veterinarian who can be called upon when needed.
  • A range of programs The center should be able to tailor programs for a dog’s age, breed, weight range and other considerations, says Woods.
  • A quality facility Cappabianca has seen supposed canine aqua facilities simply run out of someone’s backyard pool. The facility should be clean, welcoming and designed with your dog in mind. Evaluate how your dog will get into and out of the pool, and make sure the surface surrounding the pool is nonslip. The area should be secure to prevent canine escapes, notes Cappabianca. Understand how pool sanitation is maintained. “Ours is ozone-based, so there’s less chlorine than there is in drinking water,” she notes. The facility should maintain liability insurance.

As with any aspect of your dog’s health, you should consult with your veterinarian before your dog engages in a new fitness routine.