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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Caring For Your Senior Dog’s Teeth – Importance of Dental Care

As my dog. Ashley, gets older I have begun more and more to research issues that commonly occur in senior dogs. Ashley,  my Australian Shepherd,  is now 10 years old. So, I've decided to start a series of posts on issues that focus on the health issues that are common to most dogs as they age.

Recently, I made a trip to the veterinarian because Ashley was having an issue with excessive licking and drooling. The behavior was very evident after she finished one of her raw hide chews. She would lick as if she had peanut butter on the roof of her mouth. I also noticed that she was licking her paws more and a few times I found a puddle of drool after  It wasn't difficult to conclude that there was something dental in nature going on. Fortunately, I left with some dental salve and directions for some extra brushing. This experience inspired me to look into dental issues more.

The majority of dog owners are well aware that their beloved dog’s teeth will eventually start to wear down as the aging process kicks in. Most owners don’t realize that good dental care can extend the life of your dog by up to two years. Given the average lifespan of canines, two extra years can be a nice chunk of time that you and your family with get to spend with your furry friend.  

Although dental problems can show up in younger dogs, generally it's the older ones that commonly have the most issues. So, what are signs that your pooch may have teeth issues that have to be taken care of? Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not supposed to have bad breath, and if they do, that is the number one indicator that all is not well with their teeth. Failure to remove tartar will make it turn into plaque, which hardens and cannot simply be brushed away. A simple inspection of the teeth will show whether or not your dog has tartar because it will show up as redness in the gum line and teeth discoloration.

A symptom of dental problems, at first, may not seem in any way related in a change in behavior. A lack of energy and a general malaise in your dog can be related to tooth pain. If you notice this in your dog and they show no other signs of sickness, then watch them when they eat; if they favor one side of their mouth over the other, gulps down their  food without chewing, drools excessively, or has a complete loss of appetite, then they may be suffering from dental problems. These are subtle signs and can easily be mistaken as a sign that your dog is slowing down with age.

Even with the proper care, such as regular brushing, giving your dog vet recommended dental bones, and regular vet trips, dental problems may still arise.  Surgery might become the only option available if the condition is very serious. Surgery can be a dangerous prospect for an older dog as there are definite risks when it comes to administering an anesthetic, but your vet will most likely do a series of x-rays and tests beforehand to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to be able to get through the surgery safely.

Sadly, you may be faced with a difficult decision when it comes to surgery. The risk of problems in giving an older dog an anesthetic is almost balanced out by the fact that dental issues in older dogs, when left untreated, can lead to more serious health problems. These issues can lead to serious problems with major organs like the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and can even do damage to the bladder. You know your dog best, and with assistance from your vet, you will be able to make the choice that you both believe will give your dog the best shot at having a happy outcome.

For more information on dogs, dog care behavior visit my website, Loving Family Pets, at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Do Dogs Dream?

When a sleeping dog suddenly yips loudly and her legs start moving as if running, it seems that she's dreaming. I've seen Ashley do this often, particularly after a busy day of chasing rabbits and playing.  I've often wondered, do dogs really dream? I did some research and here's what I found out.

Dogs do, in fact, dream. A dog's brain is really very similar to ours. Also, during sleep, the brain wave patterns of dogs are similar to those of people. A dog's brain goes through the same stages of electrical activity observed in humans, supporting the belief that dog's do dream. Researchers have  found that dogs, like humans, experience two stages of sleep. One sleep stage is NREM, or Non-Rapid Eye Movement sleep, during which you, and your dog, breathe deeply and demonstrate slow brain wave patterns. The second stage is called Rapid eye movement sleep, or REM. During this stage your dog demonstrates jerky eye movements, increased heart rate, and an increased pattern of brain waves. During this stage, humans, and dogs, dream.

There is also evidence that they dream of common dog activities. It makes sense, since much of what we humans dream about is connected to the experiences we have in our waking hours. As I watch Ashley sleep I can imagine that, in her dreams she is chasing a rabbit across the yard or a squirrel up a tree. Maybe she's playing with one of her dog friends. I guess I'll never know for sure but I do hope that her dreams are happy dreams.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Dog Greetings-How To Teach a Polite "Hello"

Nearly every dog gets excited when people come to visit, but some go completely overboard. They run around in circles, bark excessively, or jump as high as they can, leaving dusty little paw prints on your visitor jacket. Even people who love dogs don't enjoy being greeted with so much exuberance. Your visitor will appreciate even less the intrusion of inquisitive noses into embarrassing places.

Apart for walks and meal times, most dogs don't have a lot of high points in their days, so it's not surprising that hey get a little worked up when visitors drop by and liven things up. It's easy to train puppies to greet people with manners, but it's more difficult to teach older dogs to behave more soberly. Not only are they set in their ways but also there may be other reasons for their assertive hello.

In order to understand these dog greetings we need to understand a little about dog behavior. Among people, the most socially unacceptable kind of dog greeting is to have a cold nose pushed into the private place. But among dogs, this is simple the way they do things, and they can't figure out why people get so uncomfortable.  When a guest visits dogs have two things on their minds. First, they are excited about someone new entering the house. Secondly, they are also wondering how this new person will fit into the group, and they aren't quite sure how to respond.  So they display a whole variety of behaviors like jumping up, barking, and nudging in order to test how this new person is going to react to them.

In order to prevent the embarrassing nudge to your guest, quickly distract your dog as soon as you see her make a move. Use the "off" or "no" command and be consistent. An easy solution is to distract your dog as soon as people arrive. Never let One way to do this is to make her sit or lie down straight away. By going into traing mode, you will focus attention more on you than on the new arrivals. When she does what you tell her, give her a treat. Soon she will learn that acting calmly and following commands gets her something good to eat. It will reinforce a desired behavior when visitors arrive. Once your dog has calmed down and is sitting quietly you can let her satisfy her curiosity by sniffing your guests' hands.

When Ashley was young I had friends willing to help me with training stop by so that we could practice this. At first she would get so excited that following a "sit" command was just not working. So, I learned to put her on a leash before opening the door to guests. This gave me a little more control while we worked on the behavior. If she still had trouble I would stand on the leash so that she was forced to stay in the sitting position. I made sure that a reward was ready by keeping a jar of her favorite treats near the door.

Some dogs catch on quickly. Unfortunately, my Ashley took a little time. Remember to be patient. You want a guest visiting to be a positive experience for your dog. Greeting problems can be awkward because you can't deal with them in private-you can only work on it when someone is visiting. Although, at first, you will feel like you are paying more attention to your dog than your guest, over time you can have friends and guests visit without having to apologize for your dog's embarrassing "poke"hello.