Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bloat: A Top Dog Health Threat

Pet Dog Health: The Danger Of Stomach Torsion

Author: David McMahon

It may be the worst thing that can happen to a dog owner: coming home and finding your "best friend" suddenly dead-when the dog had seemed completely healthy. Unfortunately that's exactly what happened to me one October afternoon, when I came home to find one of my German Shepherds dead on the floor. What could it be? A stroke? A heart attack? After getting over my complete state of shock-the dog was not "aged" and seemed completely healthy-I began digging for answers.

It turned out that the cause of death was an event called "stomach torsion" that comes about from "bloat". This is a serious issue in pet dog health, its the second leading cause of death for large dogs. But at the time, I didn't know very much about it.

Becoming educated on this issue could mean the difference between death and several extra years of life for your dog.

OK-so what is it? Let's try and describe it in laymen's terms. Bloat is basically a condition where a lot of gas or fluid gets trapped in the dogs stomach. This really isn't all that different from what might happen to you if you drank too much root beer on a full stomach, but in dogs, and in particular large dogs, this is a serious problem. This is because the stomach isn't as well set in the body cavity as ours is, a dogs stomach is kind of hanging loose if you will. When it becomes over-engorged with fluid or gas, it can twist around.

When it does, the result is a medical emergency. The blood supply to many vital organs gets cut off when this happens, and the dog goes into shock. Death will result if surgery is not performed. A symptom that this is happening is that the dog will be throwing up clear liquid or attempting to throw up.

One tragic aspect of this condition is that onset can happen rapidly, and so you may become aware of it when its too late. That's what happened in my case, my dog was fine when I left the house. I was gone for a few hours, and when I got back she was dead. Its a sad state of affairs but the progression from bloat to stomach torsion to death can happen in as little as an hour.

We can't be with our dogs 24 hours a day 7 days a week, but what we can do is take steps to reduce the risk of it happening. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Break up your dogs feedings. The less food a dog takes in when it eats the lower the risk. A dog that eats just once a day has a higher risk than a dog that has its meals split into two or three portions a day.
  • Watch out for dry food. Dogs that eat all dry food have a higher risk. Consider feeding canned food, or mixing dry and canned together. When you do this substitute a can of moist dog food for a cup of dry food. This helps because dry food tends to expand when liquified in the stomach adding stress to the stomach.
  • Feed using raised bowls. There is a bit of controversey about this one, but feeding using raised bowls may help reduce the risk. This is because some dogs gulp down air when they eat, and its believed by some that bowls raised off the floor cut down on the amount of air gulped in. This in turn cuts the risk of bloat happening. Raised pet bowls are available for sale on the internet.
  • Watch out for diarrhea. If a dog has chronic diarrhea, it may increase the risk. Make sure to get diarrhea treated.
  • Never exercise right after feeding. Let the dogs stomach "settle" for an hour or two before going out for exercise.
  • Avoid feeding immediately after exercise. After a long walk, a dog probably wants to drink lots of water. Doing that and then eating can be a fatal recipie.
  • Don't feed late at night.

Before this happens I had no idea what a serious problem this was in pet dog health. Interestingly, it often takes dogs in their prime: most victims are aged between 4 and 7 years of age. But dogs of any age can get it, and although males have a higher risk, female dogs die from it as well.

In the end we can't prevent every bad event from happening. But at least taking these steps will put your mind at rest since you'll know you were aware, and took responsible steps to control the risk.

More information on pet dog health: click here

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Dog Food Secrets

Do you ever wonder what's really in your dog food? I know I do, and that's why I've been checking out ingredients on dog food packaging for some time. When you do that you're probably not going to be too impressed in a lot of cases, and you may consider a home made dog food diet

When reading dog food labels, the order of the ingredients tells you how much of each item is in the food. This isn't an exact amount, but what it does tell you is relative amounts. For example, if the label reads like:

corn meal, chicken, rice

Then the dog food has more cornmeal in it than chicken, and more chicken in it than rice. 

So the first thing I look for is where animal protein figures on the list. The reason I do this is that dogs have descended from a long line of carnivores. Dogs were domesticated from wolves a long time ago. Wolves are meat eaters and so it makes sense that the best thing to do for your dog is give him what he naturally needs-meat. Sure he can get by on cornmeal, but that isn't necessarily  the best thing for his health. 

The second big item to note when it comes to analyzing dog food is that some meat items are listed as "by products". What on earth is a by-product? According to, chicken by-products are described as follows:

Definition: Chicken by-product meal consists of the ground, rendered, clean parts of the carcass of slaughtered chicken, such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs and intestines, exclusive of feathers, except in such amounts as might occur unavoidable in good processing practice.

Well, that's not exactly breast and thigh meat. Do you want your dog eating chicken feet as his main source of protein? Probably not. I don't either, so I prefer brands of dog food that have by-products lower down on the list of food items. 

Unfortunately if you're looking for bargain food you're going to be getting items like corn, corn meal, and by-products as the top ingredients. An example I like to use is comparing Purina Dog Chow to the more expensive line sold by the same company, Purina One. Dog Chow consists of lower quality ingredients like chicken by-products and corn meal. Purina One, on the other hand, has real meat in it. How do you know this? Its going to say "chicken" instead of "chicken by-products". I think this is better food for dogs.

Here's a secret tip: be careful changing your dog's diet. Dogs have sensitive digestive systems and changing your dogs diet abruptly can lead to problems like diarrhea. It could even lead to bloat, but I can't prove that. So start off by mixing in the new dog food a little bit at a time.

All of this begs the question-if you want your dog to eat real meat, why not just put her on a home made dog food diet? That's exactly what thousands of people are doing.

If you do a home made dog food diet, some items you might consider are cooked chicken, steak, pork, and a carbohydrate like rice. You're going to need to do some research to make sure that your dog is getting all the vitamins and minerals he needs, to maintain proper dog health supplements are going to be necessary on that kind of diet. Vegetables will also have to be included. 

I own a large number of dogs, so preparing home made meals is just not realistic for me. I barely have the time to make my own dinner. But if you only have one or two dogs, it might be something you should consider. But talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is getting all of the nutrients she needs. 

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bloody Diarrhea in Dogs

Every dog gets diarrhea from time to time, but in most cases it will disappear pretty quickly. But while most cases of diarrhea in dogs are not serious, there are a few occasions when diarrhea means more than just cleaning up the mess. Two things immediately come to mind: when your dog has diarrhea that lasts more than a couple of days, and second, if your dog has bloody diarrhea. In this article we're going to address the second issue. 

The first thing to note is that diarrhea really isn't a "condition" or disease all in itself. When a dog has loose stools that is a symptom that something else is wrong. For example, it could mean that your dog is passing his stools more rapidly than he should. If the diarrhea is bloody, then that tells us (obviously) that the dog has internal bleeding somewhere. 

Here's our first clue. Bloody diarrhea in dogs can come in two colors:

  • Black
  • Red
If the diarrhea is black, that means the blood has been in the stool longer, because the black blood isn't "fresh", so to speak. This indicates bleeding further up in the gastrointestinal tract. it might even be in the stomach, or it could be in the small intestine. This could happen if the dog had ulcerations in the stomach, for example.

If the blood is red, then there is bleeding in the large intestine closer to the exit or even bleeding in the rectum. 

If you have a puppy, bloody diarrhea especially red, bloody diarrhea is a serious concern. This is because bloody diarrhea is a sign of a parvo virus infection, a serious medical emergency in dogs that is often fatal for puppies. If your puppy has bloody diarrhea get her to a vet right away. 

Actually any case of bloody diarrhea in dogs should mean a trip to the vet. Besides parvo virus, the list of possible causes is very long. It may be that the dog has eaten something that led to ulceration somewhere. Or it could mean cancer if its chronic, although dogs don't get colon cancer as often as we do. Dogs are much more likely to get other types of cancer. However when dogs do get cancer of the GI tract, it tends to be aggressive. 

The bottom line: Get your pet to the vet at any sign of bloody diarrhea in dogs. 

BARF Dog Food

Recently I came across something called "BARF Dog Food". Well its not what you think-it really doesn't have anything to do with barf. The BARF diet is about bones and raw food. Makes sense, that's what dogs would eat naturally if given the choice.

Any-who, here is an article about doggie diets you might find helpful. 

What's Really Going into Doggie's Dish?

The AAFCO sets the standards for pet food safety and nutrition, and the testing done by the AAFCO is used to determine whether or not specific ingredients are acceptable as pet foods. But the AAFCO will rate both low and high quality ingredients as being nutritionally adequate, because there is a demand for pet food in all price ranges. So you need to learn how to read past the AAFCO approval statement on your dog food labels if you want to know what Buster is really consuming.

Reading a Dog Food Label

The label tells us many important facts and figures that may otherwise dissuade or persuade us from purchasing the food. In short, it is important to read the labels. To actually read that label, and not to just give it a cursory glance, we will have to first know a little something about what can be found there and what it means.

The first thing most of us notice on any label is the product name. The product name may also contain primary ingredient names such as “Beef Dog Chow”, or what kind of dog the food is intended for, such as “Puppies, Adult, Lactating”, etc.

If, in the product name, an ingredient is listed, say for example that “Beef Dog Chow”, that beef must be at least 95% of the total weight if there is no water required for processing, and at least 70% when water is included. So, for dry kibble, 95% of that weight needs to contain beef.

When the title contains “dinner, formula, nuggets,” and other similar words, the ingredient named must be at least 25% of the weight. So in a product named Lamb Dinner, 25% of the total weight for the product must be lamb.

But, if only ¼ of that entire product needs to consist of lamb, the lamb may not (and probably is not!) the main ingredient. Ingredients must be listed in a descending order of weight. So, even though the bag says Lamb Dinner, the lamb may be fourth in order.

Information on the BARF dog food diet: Click Here


    * Lamb Dinner Ingredients: Corn, meat and bone meal, wheat, lamb.

In that Lamb Dinner, the main ingredients are really the corn and meat and bone meal. Not desirable for a healthy meal.

On the other hand if the ingredients listed were

    * Premium Lamb Dinner Ingredients: Lamb, ground rice, ground yellow corn…

This presents a more desirable meal and one that your dog can actually consume and digest properly.

When it comes to the words “flavored” or “flavor” such as Lamb Flavored Nuggets, no exact percentage of the named ingredient, the lamb, needs to be present, but enough of that ingredient needs to present as to be detectable

Often times, the main ingredients will not be present in the title. In such a case, these foods often include items such as: ground yellow corn, meat byproducts, tallow, and other items that are not particularly digestible for your pet. The actual named ingredient will probably be down the list and make up only a very small part of the product.

Besides naming an ingredient with the product name, other phrases and adjectives are used.

Premium Dog Food, or X Premium and other like titles are making a justified boast, as these products complied with the nutritional standards for a complete and balanced dog food. This is definitely something to take into consideration when shopping.

Natural Dog Food means that there are no artificial colors, preservatives or flavors.

If a product has given the calorie content on the bag, “Premium Beef Dinner: now with lower calorie content,” this is done so voluntarily as a service to the consumer. Because the calorie content of pet foods does not have to be displayed in their labels, however, here's a formula to help you make sure Buster is not eating too much:

Multiply the carbohydrate by 4.2kcal (kilocalories) per gram, the protein by 5.65, and then the fat by 9.4 kcal per gram. If you need to convert the kilocalories to kilojoules (another unit of measurement for energy) simply multiply the total by 4.184. Of course, rounding to the nearest ten might be helpful, as long as you keep in mind that it’s an approximation erring on the low side.

Where's the Fat?

A good way to find the higher quality dog foods by reading the ingredient list is to search for that first source of fat. Everything that is listed before that fat source, and including it, is the main part of the food. Everything else is generally used for flavor, preservatives, vitamins, and minerals. 

For example:

    * Food A:Ground yellow corn, meat meal, chicken fat, ground wheat, chicken byproduct meal, dried beet pulp …

    * Food B:
      Turkey, chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, ground white rice, chicken fat, apples, carrots, sunflower oil…

The importance of finding the source of fat and where it is listed is so you can find ingredients that may or may not be harmful to your pet, such as beet pulp or corn gluten meal. 

Learning to read the labels on dog food is the single most important thing you can do if you intend to feed your pet a commercial diet. Buster may be the smartest dog who ever wore a collar, but he can’t read, and he needs to rely on you to keep him healthy.

If what's in that can or bag doesn't sound like something you'd want to eat, it's probably not something your dog would eat if there were an alternative. So take the time to learn the language of labels! 

Sharda Baker has published several dog ebook and audios, including the internet best selling "Complete Guide to Your Dog's Nutrition". She is the proponent of the BARF dog food diet.

Visit the link below now for more information.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Dogs Mast Cell Tumors

If you find that your dog is suddenly getting lumpy nodules on the legs, belly, nose, or mouth, your dog might have a mast cell tumor. This type of cancer is common among older dogs, and although just about any type of dog can get a mast cell tumor, they are typically seen in boxers and boston terriers.

On average, dogs get mast cell tumors at about 7-8 years of age. 

A dogs mast cell tumors can be loosely described as looking like a pencil eraser growing on or just below the surface of the skin. They can grow singly or in groups. Not all mast cell tumors are malignant, some 2/3 of them are actually benign, harmless growths. 

If a dogs mast cell tumor grows larger than an inch, it should be considered cancerous. But don't try to figure that out yourself, a visit to your veterinarian should be in order to find out. 

Mast cell tumors are typically treated with surgical removal. More in depth treatment may be necessary if the growth is cancerous and it has spread throughout the body. 

Cancer of Dogs

For any dog owner concerned with pet dog health cancer has to be at the top of the list of worries. In older dogs, cancer is a leading cause if not the leading cause of death. What's worse, is that cancer in dogs is as serious as cancer in people, often leading to expensive drawn out treatments that in the end buy a little time but don't stop the inevitable. 

Luckily, there is a silver lining in the clouds when it comes to cancer of dogs. First of all, you can greatly reduce the risk of your dog getting cancer by spaying or neutering your pet. So if you're not planning on breeding your dog, by having him or her "fixed" you are off to a great start. 

The first reason is that breast cancer is a major cause of cancer when it comes to female dogs, and the risk of contracting it is greatly reduced by having the dog "spayed". Breast cancer represents a very large proportion of all canine cancers, and according to some references it accounts for nearly 70% of all cancer among female dogs.

The earlier that the dog is spayed the better the protection. If the dog is spayed before her first heat, she gets a large reduction of risk. The more heats the dog goes through, the less the protective effect. However its  still there and any female dog can benefit from being spayed.

Among male dogs-you might have guessed it-testicular cancer and prostate cancer are two big killers. But get this: dogs are the only non-human species for which prostate cancer occurs in any large numbers. And while prostate cancer can be somewhat controlled in humans, its particularly aggressive in dogs.

Testicular cancer is also a problem, but obviously only in un-neutered pets. This is particularly so if the dog was born with undescended testicles. By neutering the dog, obviously the risk of testicular cancer is eliminated, and the risk of prostate cancer is reduced.

Dogs can get many other types of cancer. Lymphoma is fairly common, as are cancers of the nasal cavity. Dogs can even get lung cancer. The only way to deal with these is by having your dog checked up regularly at the vet.

One particular type of cancer to watch out for is skin cancer. This is something you can do yourself, by periodically checking over your dogs skin and taking her to the vet if you notice something unusual. Breeds like boxers are particularly susceptible to a type of skin cancer called mast cell tumors.

Cancer is scary, and if your favorite pet comes down with it that's going to be a stressful time. But before it happens, do some research and find out if there is anything you can do in order to reduce the risk. 

For more information on pet dog health: click here