Budget-Friendly Tips for Keeping Pets Healthy During Cold Weather by guest blogger Brandon Butler

The weather is cooling, and although most four-legged creatures enjoy a break from summer’s heat just as much as us two-legged creatures do, fall and winter can also pose certain dangers to our furry friends. Not all animals are equally equipped for cool temperatures, and your pet might need a little extra help to stay healthy and comfortable.

While a great fitting jacket or cozy pjs can be a great start on cold weather comfort, there is often more to it than that. With that in mind, Certified Animal Behavior Consultant Susan Bulanda presents some tips for giving them what they need without breaking the bank:

Stock Up on Basics

One important step towards keeping your furry friends safe in the cooler season is to stock up on basic supplies like food and any medications your pet needs. If you wind up stuck in inclimate weather, having a stockpile set aside can keep your pet happy and your stress levels low. Moreover, buying in bulk might cost more up front, but it can save you money in the long run.

Look for discounts online like a Chewy promo code to build a budget-friendly pet supply stockpile. Keep extra food somewhere cool and dry so it stays fresh for your pal. If your pet takes any medications, talk to your vet about getting extra before the cold season hits.

Stay On Top of Grooming

Many animals go through a cool-season shed. This allows them to grow out their thick winter coats. Although this is a vital tool for keeping them warm and cozy, it can be tough on them without proper grooming. Long-hair pets in particular can develop mats and hairballs, both of which are uncomfortable and have the potential to cause serious problems.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Some animals will need professional grooming once a season to remove blown-out coats. Look for affordable groomers in your area to find a good fit for your budget. If your buddy gets anxious at the groomers, try a natural relaxation technique like massage or essential oils to help them calm down for their big salon day.

Dress Your Pet for the Weather

Dogs in sweaters aren’t just extremely adorable – they’re also well-prepped for harsh temps. If your dog isn’t a cool-weather breed, it’s important to make sure they’re properly dressed for cold weather when you take them out for walks. This means doggy jackets and well-fitting boots. The dog-lovers over at Cuteness remind us that dogs can easily get frostbite on their paws if they’re not properly protected – after all, you wouldn’t want to walk barefoot in the snow, would you?

If you have a very young or senior pet, it’s especially important to get them something cozy when it’s cold. According to Dogster, these animals don’t have the ability to regulate body temperature their counterparts have, so their body temperature can drop dangerously in chilly conditions. If you have the skills, a great way to save money on pet clothes is to DIY your own designs. There are a ton of knitting, crocheting, and sewing patterns out there for the interested crafter.

If you want to give your pet a little extra coziness this winter, an indoor dog house may do just the trick. Just make sure you read up on the different available products to ensure you’re getting one suited to your dog’s size and temperament. The last thing you want is to spend money on something your pet will destroy in a matter of days.

Get a Checkup

Finally, consider scheduling your pet’s yearly check up for the start of fall. This will give you the chance to make sure they’re in good shape for the winter, as well as an opportunity to ask your vet if there are any other steps you can take to keep them healthy over the cooler months. Regular checkups keep your pet (and your wallet) safe by catching issues before they’re too serious, and more expensive to treat.

Keeping your furry friend healthy during winter is just one way to show them how much you love them. Think ahead before the weather gets rough so you have a plan for any possibility. You and your pet deserve to have a wonderful winter together!

COVID in dogs and cats

A study in the Veterinary Record, has reported a few cases of dogs and cats contracting the SARS-CoV-2 variant in England. In these cases, the pets caught the variant from their owners who had shown symptoms several weeks before the pets became ill. Heart problems were manifested in the pets who contracted the variant.

While this is not widespread and actually rare, it is a good idea for pet owners to be aware of the possibility since COVID-19 is so widespread. At this point the research does not indicate that people can catch the variant from pets.

Help for pets with dementia

I have had dogs who suffered from cognitive decline or dementia in their old age. Often these dogs are put down because they can no longer function properly. I wish this product had been available years ago.

Noted Veterinary Surgeon Dr. Theresa Fossum Adds CogniCaps, a cognitive function supplement, to her Popular Line of Natural Animal Supplements

Noted veterinary surgeon Dr. Theresa Fossum DVM, MS, Ph.D., Diplomate ACVS, and author of the most referenced book on its topic, Small Animal Surgery, has added a new product to her popular line of natural animal supplements Dr. Fossum’s Pet CareCogniCaps, to support healthy brain function in aging dogs.

Dr. Curtis Dewey, a veterinary neurologist with extensive knowledge of the brain concerns aging dogs often experience, collaborated on the development of CogniCaps with Dr. Fossum. The supplement, a combination of eastern and western modalities, was created in an easy to administer capsule format and contains a proprietary blend including our own BioCog formula (registration pending) plus vitamin E, zinc, naturally occurring phytochemicals such as curcumin, oral S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), and phosphatidylserine, a membrane phospholipid. In addition, the supplement contains a number of herbs from Traditional Chinese Medicine that have been shown to support cognitive function.

According to Dr. Dewey, the estimated prevalence of cognitive concerns in older dogs generally varies between 14% and 35% of the pet dog population; however, these numbers are likely an underestimation. As with people, cognitive decline in dogs can increase dramatically with age; as many as half of all dogs 11-12 years old are likely experiencing age-related decline, and nearly 70% of dogs over the age of 15 are affected. Importantly, dogs may show evidence of brain changes as early as 4-6 years of age.

Even mild or moderate changes in cognitive ability can make living with affected pets difficult. Dogs may become disoriented and frequently become “stuck” in a corner of a room, they may urinate or defecate in the house because they may be temporarily confused about where the appropriate place to go is. They may seem stressed, they may bark at inappropriate sounds or objects, and they may become less interactive with their owners. Affected dogs often develop sleep disturbances (they are active and may vocalize at night, but they sleep during the day). In a word, these pets show signs of senility.  

Dogs affected with changes in cognitive ability typically respond well to intervention, especially if instituted early in the process. Precautionary measures such as dietary changes and environmental enrichment can both help, and slow the progression of cognitive decline due to aging. This suggests that simple changes including health supplements as provided in CogniCaps may be generally advisable in pet dogs as they approach middle age.

Because there are so many individual health supplements for cognitive decline, veterinarians and their clients are often faced with the prospect of recommending multiple separate supplements to produce a positive response. It is also common practice to separate the recommendation into the categories of western and eastern medicine. Again, this conceptualization leads to the necessity of multiple supplements-both western (conventional) and eastern (non-conventional, holistic, etc.). Although pet owners often will administer multiple supplements to their senior dogs, it can be challenging. Also, it is unlikely that the average pet owner will administer multiple supplements to a well seeming middle-aged dog. CogniCaps is a truly integrative health supplement, combining a mixture of both western and eastern ingredients in one small capsule, allowing for ease of use for pet guardians to support keeping dogs’ minds sharp as they age.

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For more information on CogniCaps, please see https://drfossums.com/product/cognicaps-cognitive-function-supplement/. For information on Dr. Fossum’s full line of natural pet wellness products please see https://drfossums.com.

Parrots as pets

Many people have parrots and parakeets of all varieties as pets. However, if you go to a bird rescue organization, you will see many, even hundreds of birds that were given up for adoption. Some of the birds will constantly squawk, or pluck out their feathers, some to the point where they have no feathers left. Some pace or sway back and forth or bite their cages. These birds are suffering from mental illness which was brought on by an unstimulating environment. It is similar to keeping a person in solitary confinement. The research by Dr. Georgia Mason, director of U of G’s Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare has determined that the more intelligent parrots and other highly intelligent mammals, need an enriched environment to maintain mental health.

Sweet Pea

If a person wishes to have a parrot for a pet, be sure to research which bird will fit into your lifestyle. Some birds do not require as much stimulation as others. Also realize that birds are flock animals that need companionship. If a potential parrot owner plans to have a solitary bird, be prepared to meet the bird’s needs. Not doing so can cause the bird to become mentally ill and the owner will be forced to give the bird up for adoption or to a bird rescue organization.

If you have a bird and are having difficulty with it, or you are not sure which bird to get, please contact the parrot division of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants at iaabc.org.

Canine hookworms resistant to treatments

            Hookworms are a common problem in dogs. These worms have a hooklike mouth that attaches to the dog’s intestinal tract. There are serious consequences if a dog in highly infested. Currently the most prevalent breed to have hookworms are Greyhounds. The conditions that they are raised and raced in is conductive to the spread of hookworms.

            Because of the widespread adoption of racing greyhounds’ hookworms are spreading to other dogs as well. A dog does not have to ingest the worms to become infected. The larvae live in the soil and can burrow through the dog’s skin and paws. Also, a female can pass the worm to their puppies through their milk. Hookworms also can infect people.

            What is upsetting is that veterinarian researchers have found high levels of hookworms in dogs that were treated. It is important that dogs are retested after a treatment to ensure that all of the worms have been killed.

            The most upsetting thing about hookworms is that they are becoming resistant to the three medications used to deworm a dog. The researchers are concerned that only the drug resistant hookworms will be left and will spread. Right now, the only deworming medication that is successful in killing the resistant hookworms is emodepside. However, that medication is only approved for cats.

            What a dog owner can do is avoid dog parks, where hookworms can live. Have your dog tested for worms frequently, especially if it is an adopted Greyhound, and make sure if your dog has hookworms, retest after treatment.

Juvenile epilepsy in Parsons Russell Terriers

When epileptic seizures caused the death in some Parsons Russell Terriers at six to twelve weeks of age, researchers delved into the cause. These puppies’ seizures were so severe that they died and medication would not help them. The researchers at the University of Helsinki found a gene disorder similar to the cause of Alzheimer’s in humans.

Riley, PRT

They developed a test that can determine if a dog carries this recessive gene. Because the gene is recessive, both the sire and dam must carry it to produce the defect in dogs. Therefore, it is essential that breeders of PRT’s have their dogs tested before they breed.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have the most harmful genetics

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been a breed for over 1000 years. However, during that time there were “bottlenecks” in the breeding of these dogs where only a small number of dogs were bred.

Researchers studied eight different breeds and found that the Cav had the greatest number of disease-causing genes than any of the other breeds studied. They are especially prone to heart disease.

picabay photo

Note: The study only sampled a limited number of dogs of each breed studied. While this is a good indicator, I would have liked to see a larger number of dogs tested from a wider geographical area. However, breeders who sincerely love their breed, what ever it is, can improve the breed by selective breeding for the right reasons. Too many people breed indiscriminately and do not test their dogs for genetic defects. As a canine behavior consultant, I have seen the results of this for my entire career.

Does my dog have separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a genetic issue. This means that owners do not cause it, however, they can bring it out in a dog and intensify it. Research has shown that dogs that are noise shy, such as a fear of thunderstorms tend to also have separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is a panic attack and is very similar to a panic attack in people. It is not fun to have and if it happens often enough, such as when a dog is left alone frequently, can cause the dog’s quality of life to degrade. Imagine being afraid for eight to ten hours, five or more days a week. It is also important to understand that separation anxiety is very stressful, and a dog’s health is affected the same as a person from constant stress. Therefore, separation anxiety not only destroys a dog’s mental health, but can also harm their long-term physical health as well.

Riley – Parsons Russell Terrier

Before you determine that your dog has separation anxiety, you must rule out medical issues that can cause the same symptoms. This will require a thorough examination by your veterinarian. The examination should check for the following:

CBC, Chemical profile, thyroid profile, urinalysis and fecal exam, dental health, GI distress, diabetes, renal failure, colitis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

After you have ruled out any medical reasons for your dog’s behavior you can then examine the behaviors.

Before you label your dog as having separation anxiety, you must determine if your dog is simply behaving as a normal dog. Puppies, chew and destroy things. Is your dog completely housebroken? Is something teasing your dog outside of your home, making him bark? Is your dog marking? Did you change his food or give him a treat that made him unable to wait to eliminate?

A dog can have various levels of separation anxiety. Like any fear or anxiety, it gets worse the longer the dog has it. Older dogs tend not to respond to treatment as well as younger dogs. Therefore, the behavior associated with separation anxiety will not just “go away” or get better with time. It will get worse until it could reach a level were the dog harms himself.

The symptoms are:

Pacing, drooling, vocalization, destructive behavior and inappropriate elimination of urine and feces, usually randomly throughout the house. Often the feces will have mucus in them and do not appear the same as normal stools.

If you determine that your dog does suffer from separation anxiety, it is best to contact a certified canine behavior consultant because the treatment can vary widely and should be tailored to your living arrangements and the dog’s needs. In some cases, medication may be necessary and, in that case, you would need to consult with a veterinarian behaviorist who understands which medications are best and how to administer the medications and how to wean your dog off of them. A non-veterinarian behavior consultant who understands the medications can work with your veterinarian.

The question that I am often asked is how can a person determine if a puppy is prone to separation anxiety. There is no hard and fast rule, but typically if a young puppy cannot be crated, it is often a good indication that the puppy is prone to separation anxiety.

Remember, the sooner you address the problem the better the chance you will be able to get it under control. All behaviors are learned very quickly. An example is a dog who becomes frightened of thunderstorms and as he experiences more storms, he learns that as the barometric pressure changes, a storm is coming and starts to shake before the storm arrives. He will even act as if a storm is coming when the pressure changes and no storm comes.

The breeds that are most likely to have separation anxiety are:

            Labrador Retriever

            Border Collie

            Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

            Jack Russell Terrier

            German Shepherd

            Australian Shepherd

            Bichon Frise

            Vizsla

To find a qualified behavior consultant go to www.iaabc.org

Cats, the new source for genetic research

Scientists use dogs and other animals to learn about genetically related diseases and illnesses that are common to animals and humans. By developing a cure for an animal disease, they often have breakthroughs for curing similar human diseases. One species that has been overlooked in this process is the common domestic cat.

Leslie says Lyons, of the Department of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at the University of Missouri has explored this option. According to Lyons, cats can be an important asset in understanding the genetic “dark matter” that makes up 95% of DNA. Lyons has found that cats have genetic diseases that are related to the dysfunction of their genetic dark matter.

Lyons feels that cats could pay a role in developing precision medicine for genetic diseases. This could allow scientists and medical personnel to fix the actual gene and what the gene does instead of treating the symptoms.  

Deafness in Rottweilers

Researchers from the University of Helsinki and the Folkhalsan Research Center have located the variant in the LOXHD1 gene that causes deafness in Rottweilers. This type of deafness starts in puppyhood and progresses until the puppy is a few months old. The gene plays a key role in the function of the cilia of the cochlear sensory cells. Both humans and mice suffer from the same type of deafness.

The researchers also found deafness in mixed breed dogs that were part Rottweiler. The availability to test for the defect will help breeders avoid spreading this inherited deafness. Since this is a recessive issue, it will only occur in puppies if both the dam and sire have the gene.

Eradicating the defect will take the cooperation of all Rottie breeders. Those dogs that are mixed bred should not be used for breeding.

Author’s Note: It can be difficult to determine if a puppy can hear or not. Realize that dogs can feel sound, so it is important to carefully observe your puppy to determine if he is deaf. Especially if the puppy reacts to sound before he becomes totally deaf. To help dog owners determine if their puppy is deaf watch for a few signs. First, note if the puppy/dog only responds when he sees you. Do not assume if your puppy does not obey that he is being stubborn. Try clapping your hands behind the puppy when he cannot see you. If he does not react in any way, he may be deaf. A deaf dog will bark but usually only if he sees something. Watch to see if your dog looks at you or watches you more than usual. Remember that a deaf dog will rely on his other senses to navigate his world. You can successfully train a deaf dog but when they are in an unconfined area, they must be on a leash. A deaf dog is just as tempted to chase things, wander and stray as any other dog. Find a dog trainer that has experience training a deaf dog for help. If you suspect that your puppy is deaf, make an appointment with a veterinarian neurologist to have your dog tested so that you will know for sure if your dog is deaf or not. But most important, understand that a deaf dog can have a very safe and happy life.