Baku the Dream Eater

Baku the Dream Eater
Baku (source: the noominarium)

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Welcome all! A Little Bit About Me...

Hi there!  Thanks so much for coming to my blog, and reading my (hopefully) helpful tips on how to keep your dog happy and healthy.  I'm eager to keep you coming back, so I wanted to take a moment to tell you a bit about myself and why I started doing this.  It'll probably take a few posts to really get to know me, but here's an introduction:

The word Noomi is a bit of a pet name for me, created by my partner.   When I struggled to start a new blog and have a catchy title, this popped into my head, and there it was :) 

I've been a veterinary technician since 2000, and I am, simply put, a dog person.  Put me in a room with a dog of any size or breed, and I guarantee that dog and I will be best friends in an hour :)     I have always wanted to have lots of dogs, and I've grown up with them.  I feel that they truly are (Wo)man's Best Friend.

I know there are a lot of other dog people out there, and I'd love to help spread the word to them about health and wellness issues that are important in keeping your family member happy for years to come.    

Animal health has come a long way, really in the past 20 years.   Information on the best pet food, whether or not vaccines are really needed every single year, and even the kinds of toys that are better suited to your dog, all are very important topics.  I hope to be able to show fellow dog lovers how to help with information on a TON of topics!  

And as for the handsome dapper guy at the top of my page, I'll be talking about him a lot, as he was the dog nearest to my heart.  His name was Baku, and he started out (with us) as a stray that we adopted back in 2004.  He swiftly became part of our "pack" as we called it, and taught both my partner and I how to love the small-yet-large kind of dog that he was.  Little dog syndrome, Napoleon complex, whatever you want to call it, he definitely had it.  But he was silly and fun, and energetic, easy to train, but hard to understand.  Also handsome, obviously!

However, this past year, as he approached his (estimated) 15th birthday, he started to get....well, old.  He went from the wise elder statesman to a cranky, grumpy old man.  His vision was fading, as was his hearing, and his bladder didn't work too well either.   While we can certainly handle those things (and diapering a dog isn't as difficult as it seems) , he also started to develop a condition called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, which is kind of like Alzheimer's disease for dogs. I'll address that in a future post, but it made my little man pretty unhappy.   

In March, my partner and I felt that Baku's quality of life was diminishing even though he ate and drank well, and did want attention and scratches.  He would become 'lost' in the house, and would cry when he ended up in a corner and couldn't get out.   He had the amazing talent of avoiding any assistance up or down stairs, and then trip up or down a number of stairs.  And he was just miserable most of the time.  It was painful to watch and we decided to let him go.  The hardest decision I ever made, and 5 months later, I still feel this huge hole in my life.   We have decided to wait for a year or so before we get another furry buddy.

So, to ease my own pain, as well as connect with other dog people, I started this blog.  It is in part due to Baku that I have this much love for other dogs, and it's because of his selflessness to his pack that I want to share it.

I hope you'll stay with me and follow me on my journey to learn and share as much about dogs as possible.  I have decided to post every Friday from now on, in order to give me some time as needed to create a post, while alternately working and doing all the other *stuff* I have to do.

That being said, If you have a topic you would like me to tackle, or a person or vet that you think needs a post, let me know!  I'm happy to take requests.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Worms....ick.


In the veterinary industry, we talk a lot about worms.  Roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, heartworms, and tapeworms.  Vets use both preventative medications as well as treatments to get rid of the worms; but one question always remains.   How did my dog get worms, and how do I keep them from making him sick?  Let’s talk about the most common ones. as well as some common causes and treatments.


  • Roundworms.  Roundworms (ascarids) can be transmitted either by the mother dog through birthing or nursing, or from dirt and grounds contaminated by animal feces. These critters can really make your puppy very sick with diarrhea, and for small dogs and puppies it can be deadly.   Antibiotics and dewormers will cure these in just a few doses.
  • Hookworms.  Hookworms are parasitic nematodes with toothy jaws that drink the blood of their host.  Puppies can be infected from their mother during birth, and adult dogs through feces or contaminated soil  This worm causes weakness, malnutrition, and dehydration.  Puppies are treated and cured with one or two doses of an oral dewormer.
  • Whipworms.   Whipworms (trichuris vulpis) is usually transmitted from ingesting infested items, such as dirt or minute particles of feces.  While whipworms in adult dogs can cause some illness, usually diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and vomiting, puppies can become seriously ill with even a small infestation, due to their smaller size and weaker immune system.  Because whipworms are ingested, keeping puppy kennels clean, and not allowing puppies to eat dirt/grass/rocks outside is key to preventing an infestation.  This parasite is treated with a broad spectrum dewormer but can take multiple doses because of its hardiness.  
  • Heartworms. Heartworms in dogs are not transmitted through infected matter or during the birthing process, but come from a simple mosquito bite.  One bite from an infected mosquito can release heartworm larvae into the pet’s bloodstream, where they grow and head for the heart. There they grow, essentially crowding the heart and causing decreased blood flow and diminished heart function.  This is more common in states where mosquitoes live all year round and have no cold weather to keep their spawning in check.  While heartworms can be deadly, they’re the easiest to prevent with a monthly supplement.  Heartworm disease is treatable, but treatment can be costly and dangerous to the dog.
  • Tapeworms.  Tapeworms are transmitted through the ingestion of fleas.  If your pet has fleas, or ingests a flea while grooming, he can contract tapeworms.  These are the only parasites that can be visible to the naked eye, and when they are shed in the dog’s feces, they look like small grains of rice.   Tapeworms are preventable with a monthly flea prevention, and can be treated with a single dose of dewormer.


Even the most insidious of the worms we’ve discussed can be preventable with the proper medication.  Oral medications such as Heartgard and Interceptor will prevent heartworms, hookworms, roundworms, and whipworms.   Topical medications like Frontline or Advantix will help prevent fleas as well as tick borne diseases, which I’ll cover in a future post.  All puppies are routinely dewormed as they grow to help get rid of any worms that might have traveled out of mom with them, before they are placed on the monthly preventative.

If you think your dog has worms, make sure you speak with your vet.  They will usually suggest checking a fecal sample to see if any of these critters show up under the microscope.  Then they’ll be able to advise on the proper cure for whatever might be lurking.

Friday, June 23, 2017

5 iPhone Apps for Dog Lovers

See?  I told you Apple connoisseurs I wouldn't forget you!   Here are some really cool apps to use to help you and your dog stay healthy and still have fun this summer.
(again, no compensation was given to me for the promotion of these apps, I just thought they'd be helpful.  Credit is given when it's provided)



iKibble Free by LlamaFace (FREE) 
     Ever wonder "Can my dog eat this?"  I know I have, and sometimes it's not that easy!  This app gives you a list of things your dog can/can't and shouldn't eat large quantities of.  You can use it to save favorites of things your dog eats regularly (my dog was a lover of deer poop....can you say "ewww"?)  There's also a cool feature that can share your findings with family or friends so that they can use this for their own pet.


Pet Diary by TML Surface (FREE)
This app gives you places to put appointments for your dog's vaccination, vet exams, puppy play dates, and allows you to add cute pictures and diary entries to records the times when your kiddo does something funny (or not so funny!) Honestly, that part would sell me, my dog was always doing something funny or dumb.

     
Blu- my doggie tester.  Owned by my friend Caroline

Wag! by Wag Lab, Inc (FREE)
    This app was recommended by a friend of mine who frequently has to hire dog walkers.  You can vet walkers based on ratings from other people, and you can make sure they're taking your pup on the correct amount of walks and the duration.  It also has a report card for the walker to fill out so the owner knows how well behaved the pup has been :) 


Banfield Wellness Tracker by Banfield (FREE)
     This app can schedule appointments for your pet through Banfield, making planning vaccine appointments, as well as visits for your pets that might have a chronic condition quicker. It will also use your phone's GPS to find the closest Banfield. Makes things much more convenient when you know exactly when your pet(s) need their shots or their medication.


Walk for a Dog by Woof Trax (FREE)
     Yep, I doubled this one because I really like what it's doing and I know this can help so many pups in shelters. When you sign up, it’ll find any rescue groups or humane societies in your area, and long as they're participating, you can choose which one you’d like to raise money for. The money comes from sponsors and donations (some from ads) and the amount of walking you track helps give that money to your chosen shelter. It sounds pretty easy; all you have to do is take your phone with you to walk the dog, and track your walking. Even though I don't have a dog at this time, I track my walking for Lulu’s Rescue in Point Pleasant, PA.

Friday, June 9, 2017

5 Android Apps for Dog Lovers

Hi and thanks for coming to my blog today!

Today I want to go over some helpful smartphone apps for you and your pup.  These apps can help you keep your dog healthy, and can offer assistance in an emergency.  The reason it took this long for the post is that I had SO many possible choices for today’s subject and it took me a few extra days to choose which ones to highlight.   

Disclaimer:  I am not being paid to support any apps and I credit the person or company that has created the app. Like most people, I’m wary about downloading any app that asks for a lot of permissions, so I’ve used that same attitude with this list.  As with anything on the internet, choose your apps wisely .. In my next blog post I’ll include my picks for you iPhone users, never fear!

Petcoach by Petco.  FREE to download (requires permission to obtain information via internet connection):
This app is very helpful in my opinion. Petco has a staff of licensed veterinarians on call, so if you have a question about your pet, whether it’s for a chronic condition, or an acute issue like an injury, you can get an answer very quickly.   You can also look at their comprehensive FAQ for many questions you might have.   Even though I don’t have a dog right now, I have downloaded this app because I think it’s a great thing to take with you!  

Pet First Aid created by the Red Cross. FREE to download (requires permission to access contact info, wifi, and information via internet connection):
Just as with people, dogs will occasionally need emergency vet care.  This app gives you access to an information database of warning signs to help you assess your pet’s condition in an emergency. For example, there is a step by step explanation on how to treat a pet if he's bleeding.  The most informative thing I found was the list of signs of heatstroke, which is a great tool to have for the summer!    


Pet Planner by DBSOFT2000. FREE to download but contains ads (no special permissions):
This app is essentially a ‘day planner’ for your dogs.  You can add all of your pets to the calendar, and set reminders for exams, vaccines, medication, or recheck vet visits for any chronic issues.  It also has reminders for when your dog food might be running low.  This feature is great for a busy dog parent; because there is nothing worse than finally coming home after a long day and realizing your pup has no food! You can add custom photos of your pets to the calendar so that you know at a glance which pet needs what and when.


Walk for a Dog by WoofTrax.  FREE to download but contains ads (requires permission to track location):
This is a rather new app, and I really love it. When you sign up, it’ll find any rescue groups or humane societies in your area, and you can choose which one you’d like to raise money for. As you walk your dog, you can track your progress, and the money raised for your chosen organization is based on how far you walk. The money that goes to the shelters is raised by donations from sponsors and the ads. It sounds pretty easy; all I have to do is take my phone with me to walk the dog, and track my walking I walk for Lulu’s Rescue in Point Pleasant, PA.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to Deal with Nuisance Barking


As we get into the warmer months, your canine friend will want to be outside, or at the very least, watching out of the windows at the world.  This is great, unless you have a dog that has an opinion about everything, and wants everyone to know what’s going on;  shouting at everything...leaves, dogs, cars, garbage, you get the point. If your dog has developed a habit of barking,  especially if he barks for a long time, or during odd hours, you could be dealing with a case of nuisance barking.

The first thing to do to help stop this behavior is to determine why your dog is barking.  Here are some common reasons:

Boredom can cause a dog to lash out vocally.  If your dog is alone a lot or confined to a crate or room while you’re away, they may become bored and restless,and they may start barking to try to get attention.  Dogs are pack animals, and don’t like to be alone, so barking can try to alert the rest of their pack.

Anxiety can cause barking to help alleviate the stress, because, in their minds, it will bring the pack closer to soothe the barker. It's a higher pitched barking, and can include howling or crying.

Alert barking is a little bit different than some of the more persistent barking that you’ll hear from dogs who are merely lonely.  Sharp, loud barks when someone such as a neighbor or the mailman is near the home are more for warning the pack that something is happening.  Of course, if you’re dealing with a nuisance barker, that warning might be aimed at things that you don’t need to worry about.  

Response barking is when your dog is replying to another dog in the neighborhood or apartment building.  My own dog used to bark at the dog downstairs, because she would bark at him. To them, that might have just been a conversation.  

Playfulness is another reason that dogs will bark.  Like children, they bark to get the other dog’s attention so that they can play, or bark during play.

These examples can be considered nuisance barking if it goes on for a long period of time or no one is around to stop it. It can be disruptive to home life and cause neighbors to file grievances with the township or home association.  This may affect the ability to own dogs in your neighborhood, and of course it certainly doesn’t make neighbors friendly!

So, how do you stop your dog from barking excessively?  
Training, training, training!  Obedience training can do wonders for how you can control what sounds your dog makes and when he makes them.  All dogs, no matter what age they are, can benefit from a training class, and this will instill manners and  make it easier for you to end up as the alpha dog in your pack!

Exercise is key as well.  A properly exercised dog is going to be happy and will have less reason to bark (well, except if your neighbor’s dogs are barking and yours is only answering them!)  Walking, running, playing fetch or frisbee or catch, even indoor games can be great exercise, both mentally and physically. After these activities your pup may just be too tired to bark!

Make sure that you are correcting your pet each and every time she barks.  A single command, in a serious and stern voice, should curb the barking as soon as it starts.   Don’t use the word “No!”  but something like “No bark!” or “Quiet!”  should work.  “No” is too broad of a term for the command you want, and may confuse your dog.  Using small treats to reward your dog will help, but make sure she’s quiet for a few seconds before rewarding her, that way she will understand exactly why she’s receiving the treat.  

When my dog was in his prime, he’d spend his days on our balcony in the sun, and I would tell him, “If you bark, you have to come inside.”   As soon as he’d start to bark, I’d give him the code word for being quiet, and I would bring him inside.   After a while doing this, anytime he’d bark, he would just come in right afterward, because he realized I’d be there to tell him to stop.  It was actually quite comical, because he’d come inside, looking very guilty, as if to say, “Sorry, mom, I barked again”....

If you are crating your pup during the night, or while you’re out of the house, and you worry that they might bark or whine all day, try leaving a TV or radio on while you’re gone.  This may help your dog by making him think you’re really there but in a different room.

Understanding why your dog is barking, and training them to stop will definitely curb any nuisance barking and ensure that your relationship with your neighbors and your pet stay positive.



Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Health Risks for Your Pet


     Summer is fast approaching; time for fun in the sun with your best friend. Swimming, hiking, and going to the beach might be great times for humans, but your pets have new health risks when the weather gets warm. Make sure you follow these safety tips to keep your pet happy and healthy through the warmer months.


Parasite protection
     The warm weather wakes up insects and other critters, and they love to feed on your pet. Make sure your pet is consistently on flea and tick prevention, as well as heartworm medicine. Fleas and ticks carry diseases that can incapacitate or kill your pet, and mosquitoes carry heartworm, which is deadly as well. Visit your local veterinarian to pick up the best preventatives for your dog or cat.


Water, water, everywhere     Not all dogs love water, and most cats really don’t like it. If your dog is interested in playing in the water (pool, river, lake, etc) make sure you supervise your pets. It’s easy for a pet to be swept away by currents, or get too tired while swimming in deep water. Almost any pet supply stores sell life jackets for your pet, in case you find yourself bringing Fido on a boat or to the pool.

Heat Waves
     Some pets, especially dogs with short snouts (known as brachycephalic dogs) have a very low tolerance for heat, and can become incapacitated quickly due to heatstroke. When you have your pet outside, be sure to provide adequate shelter/shade and cool drinking water. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do, but dissipate heat through panting and sweating from the bottoms of their feet. Watch for signs of heatstroke such as excessive panting, dark red or tacky gums, inability to get up, dizziness. If you see these symptoms in your pet, get them to a veterinarian immediately. Also, short haired dogs can get sunburn, so limit your pet’s exposure to the sun to avoid it.

No Parking
     Everyone has read horrific stories of pets being left in cars in the summer, and dying of heatstroke, even if they’re only left in the car for a few minutes.. The temperature in your car rises very quickly when the air conditioning isn’t on, even if you park in the shade and leave windows partially open. If the outside temperature is higher than 70, your car can become a 115 degree furnace in less than a half hour! Honestly, the best choice is to leave your pet at home if you have to go out shopping.

Thunderstorm Safety
     Many dogs are afraid of thunder, lightning, and wind from summer thunderstorms. Dogs and cats who panic during storms can hurt themselves and even destroy their surroundings. Don’t leave your cat on a balcony during a thunderstorm, nor your dog in the yard. If they bolt, they can become lost or injured without even realizing it. Keep all pets inside when you hear the thunder or see lightning, and provide distraction if possible, to keep them occupied. You may also want to ask your veterinarian for a possible sedative if your pet is especially destructive or nervous. My own dog has always been afraid during thunderstorms, and I've found something called a “Thundershirt” (www.thundershirt.com) which works very well to help alleviate his anxiety.

Killer Pests
     To make your lawn beautiful, you might be using chemicals that can be dangerous to your pets. Fertilizer, mulch, and weed killer can be fatal if eaten or swallowed by your pet. Read the labels on your gardening products, or talk your local garden store to find pet-friendly lawn and garden ingredients.
     Certain flowers, vegetables and other decorative plants can be poisonous for your dog or cat. With some help from your local garden store and your vet, you can create a wonderful garden for both you and your four legged friends.
Winston (owned by Melanie Graham)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Orthotics and Your Pet

One of the most fascinating parts of learning about veterinary medicine is watching the way research and development are allowing us to help our pets in ways we never had before. Today we're going to talk about orthotics.

The medical definition of orthotics, as taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the support and bracing of weak or ineffective joints or muscles. This means things like braces, supports, or anything to help a person use a weakened joint or muscle group.  Veterinarians are now using special orthotics to help dogs and cats move more efficiently and help reduce pain, which is wonderful if your family member is suffering from orthopedic problems or illnesses.

For example:  Your 7 year old Golden Retriever has torn her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) during a play session with some other dogs.  You visit your vet, and after some xrays and a thorough examination, he diagnoses your dog with a partial or completely torn ACL.  

Surgery is usually the most common next step.  Estimate for surgery: $1500 to $3000 depending on the particular type of surgery needed, which is a lot of money to pay for surgery, unless you have pet insurance.  There is another choice: you could have your dog fitted for a special knee brace, to help strengthen the knee and prevent any further damage.  Along with physical therapy, the brace, which may cost only a few hundred dollars, can allow your dog to lead a normal life and play with her friends.

*picture taken from the OrthoPets Center for Veterinary Orthotics and Prosthetics,
Denver, Colorado, USA

With custom made orthotics for knees, elbows, ankles and writes, dogs who may be too old for surgery or too high-risk for anesthesia can benefit greatly and live longer, fuller lives. When used in conjunction with surgery, rehabilitation can be made smoother, and may even lessen the time your pet is in rehab. Dogs with partial paralysis due to a spinal injury or hereditary condition can be custom fitted for wheelchairs and slings to keep them active.  The number of pets who are humanely euthanized because of a poor prognosis or a diminished quality of life may be lessened with the development of orthotics.

Most pets can be custom fitted for the prostheses by your vet, and be ordered from a number of manufacturers around the US.  They’re usually made from tough plastic and fiberglass, and are made to be easy to clean and care for.   So if you have a pet who is having trouble moving around, and it’s affecting their quality of life, check out the amazing things that orthopedic veterinarians are making available for your dog or cat. Ask your vet and they will be able to steer you in the right direction, and help you fit your pet for the perfect prosthetic.