Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Costumes and Dogs

Pet owners love dressing up their dogs for Halloween. Only problem is, dogs don't always love wearing costumes. But there are some tricks you can use for those pets that don't think it's a treat to wear hats, boots, masks and coats for their owners' amusement.

If a dog is used to wearing clothes, costumes may not be a problem, said veterinarian Terry Marie Curtis, a clinical behaviorist for the Department of Small Animal Clinical Services at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine (

Dogs accustomed to wearing snug items designed to calm anxiety — like Thundershirts, Anxiety Wraps or Storm Defender Capes — should be able to adjust to other types of clothing, she said.

But every pet is different. "Many dogs hate things on their feet," she said. "This is true because it can alter how they perceive where they're walking."

Some dogs are used to booties, though, either because they live where the ground gets very hot or cold, or they are carried most of the time. "The smaller pocket pups are more likely to have 'dress up' in their experience because that's what mom has done since puppyhood," Curtis said.

For fussy dogs (and cats), try a starter costume consisting mostly of accessories, advised Reyna Jew, who buys dog and cat apparel, shampoo, travel products and carriers for PetSmart (

Try angel, fairy or bat wings, a pirate or witch hat. If that's still too much, there are bows that clip in the pet's hair, necklaces and decorative collars or bandannas made of Halloween-themed fabric.

Target offers 29 costume styles for dogs, including five rider styles (a stuffed character rides on the back of the pet) designed for larger dogs and 10 partial costumes for the pet that won't tolerate a full costume, said Kristy Welker of Target Communications in Minneapolis. Pet costumes are available online ( and in many of the stores.

Options include items that attach to collars, like flowers and even Saint Bernard-style rescue barrels, said Welker. These won't upset animals who don't like wearing clothes, but they'll look like costumes to human eyes.

Target also carries three styles of T-shirts and three styles of pajamas, including prisoners and skeletons.

Costumes that cover a pet's head or include eyeglasses or masks may be a challenge. You'll have to see what your dog will tolerate, but don't be surprised if a mask or hat is repeatedly shaken or pawed off.

The most popular costume at PetSmart is the bumblebee, followed by the pumpkin and dragon, Jew said. Bat wings, hot dogs and a sheriff are Target's best-sellers. Pajamas are popular because they are comfortable, Welker said. At, a raptor, bee and a dog-riding cowboy top the list.

Few places sell full costumes just for cats but dog accessories will work. PetSmart also has 12 collars and scarves designed for and modeled by cats online.

Some pet owners want to dress like their pets or want to dress their children and pets alike. It's easy to mix and match many pet costumes with people costumes from other stores, Jew said. For example, there are Superman and Batman dog costumes. An owner can easily get a Lois Lane or Robin costume, she said.

Target offers hot dog and banana costumes for both adults and pets, Welker said.

Pet costumes are made to go on easy, Jew said, and usually fasten with Velcro.

The best-selling size costume is medium, which usually fits a 30- to 40-pound dog. "The toy breeds are second up," Jew said.

One trend that's driving demand for pet costumes is the surging number of dress-up events for pets being staged by neighborhoods, cities, shelters, rescues, magazines, websites, pet stores, charitable organizations and other groups, including photo contests, pet parades and businesses inviting pets in costume to drop by, Jew said.

Keep pets safe

As the holiday approaches, pet owners should keep a few things in mind. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals warns that costumes should not limit an animal's "movement, hearing, sight or ability to breathe, bark, eat, drink or eliminate. And watch for choking hazards."

And, the ASPCA says, remember that chocolate is toxic for dogs, while the aluminum foil and cellophane in candy wrappers can cause serious problems for cats and dogs.

Dr. Justine Lee, associate director of veterinary services for the national Pet Poison Helpline in Minneapolis, said during Halloween week last year, calls about dogs that ingested chocolate increased by 209 percent over a typical week

All the activity and oddly dressed people coming and going may scare your pet, Curtis said. "I've worked with many dogs who are deathly afraid of cameras and the flash, so if their owners are doing a lot of picture taking around this time, then that could contribute to the overall fear, too," she said.

The ASPCA also suggests keeping pets away from doors when greeting trick-or-treaters and recommends against candles to light up pumpkins.

For more tips, see

Thanks to The Seattle Times for this article!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Salmon Poisoning

The salmon are running in the streams again, and while this is a very amazing (and unique) event, it can be deadly for our furry little friends...

From King 5 News

A favorite Northwest seafood could be deadly to your dog .

SEATTLE - Daisy is eager to investigate the sounds and smells of the park. Just glancing at her, you wouldn't know Daisy's still recovering, but if you look closer, the signs of her struggle to live are visible.

"How loose she is, she lost a lot of weight,” said Amy Greger. “She did not eat at all for a week, very little water.”

There were multiple trips to the vet.

"They did ultrasound, x-ray, trying to figure out what it was, still nothing conclusive," said Amy.

Until a specialist asked one key question: Had Daisy eaten any fish?

"It was like three, three-and-a-half weeks before symptoms showed up. We had salmon for dinner,” said Wiktor Greger.

"I had a little piece of raw salmon on the plate and I thought oh, I'll just give it to her. She wolfed it down, was all happy and everything was fine."

The Gregers had never heard of salmon poisoning.

"Have quite a few friends who fish and no one knew anything,” said Wiktor.

Dr. Cherie Guidry of Helping Hands Vet Clinic says most people don't know not to feed dogs raw fish.

"If left untreated, 90 percent of the cases are fatal, the dogs will die within 2-3 weeks,” she said.

After weeks of antibiotics and de-worming treatments, it’s safe to say you won't find salmon in the Greger's kitchen, but you will find their survivor.

If your dog gets a hold of raw salmon get to the vet. And remember, sometimes the symptoms take weeks to show up and there are other dangerous fish.

There's a video if you want to watch!
King 5 Video

And some information from WSU

Salmon Poisoning Disease

This information is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always follow the instructions provided by your veterinarian.

Fishing can be wonderful recreation, but sharing the catch with your dog can be an act of kindness that kills.
Salmon Poisoning Disease is a potentially fatal condition seen in dogs that eat certain types of raw fish. Salmon (salmonid fish) and other anadromous fish (fish that swim upstream to breed) can be infected with a parasite called Nanophyetus salmincola. Overall, the parasite is relatively harmless. The danger occurs when the parasite itself is infected with a rickettsial organism called Neorickettsia helminthoeca. It’s this microorganism that causes salmon poisoning.

“Salmon poisoning occurs most commonly west of the Cascade mountain range,” says Dr. Bill Foreyt, a veterinary parasitologist at Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He adds, “Canids (dogs) are the only species susceptible to salmon poisoning. That’s why cats, raccoons and bears eat raw fish regularly with out consequence.”

Generally clinical signs appear within six days of a dog eating an infected fish.

Common symptoms of salmon poisoning include:

■lack of appetite
■swollen lymph nodes

If untreated, death usually occurs within fourteen days of eating the infected fish. Ninety percent of dogs showing symptoms die if they are not treated.

Thankfully, salmon poisoning is treatable if it’s caught in time. A key to its diagnosis is telling your veterinarian that your dog ate raw fish. If you have a dog that wanders, or raids trashcans and you are unsure of what it’s eaten; consider the possibility of salmon poisoning. Salmon poisoning can be diagnosed with a fecal sample or a needle sample of a swollen lymph node. Detecting the parasite’s eggs as they are shed in the feces confirms its presence. The rickettsial organism can be detected in a needle sample from a swollen lymph node. The combination of symptoms, and the presence of parasite eggs or the rickettsial organisms, are enough to justify treatment.

Given the severity of the condition, treatment is relatively simple. Your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic and a “wormer”. The antibiotic kills the rickettsial organisms that cause the illness, and the wormer kills the parasite. If the dog is dehydrated, intravenous fluid are given. Once treatment has been started, most dogs show dramatic improvement within two days.

Next time you are fishing or purchase raw salmon and you hear the familiar begging whine of your dog, ignore it. They may not understand it, but not sharing the fish is the best thing for them. This will save them from suffering salmon poisoning, and save you from a veterinary bill.

This Pet Health Topic was written by Sarah Hoggan, Washington State University, Class of 2001.
WSU Website

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dog Barking 101

Let’s face it – dogs bark. Some do for good reason and some do for apparently little or no reason and some do a little of both. Of course there are also certain breeds that are more prone to yapping than others. The problem is not always the barking but the need for them to be quiet at certain times or when asked.

Dogs bark for a variety of reasons. They may be giving a warning to another animal, sounding an alarm, playing or instigating play, joining in the excitement of the moment, demanding a reaction (even using it as a command), doing it on command, out of fear and the need to drive another animal or object away, and sometimes they bark just for the sake of barking. On occasion it can be a combination of any of these. With puppies it can be insecurity after leaving the pack.

We don’t necessarily want our dogs to stop barking though, especially when it is an alarm alerting us to danger, or perhaps warding off an intruder. But we do want them to stop when we ask them to, and we don’t want them to bark if there is no reason. Some will bark at the slightest noise, disturbance or movement. Often, although barking could be in the breed’s instinct, the owner has unknowingly reinforced the behavior. If we shout at the dog that is barking he may think we are joining in. If we tell him gently to be quiet or give him affection, he may mistakenly think we like it and sees this calm voice as praise for barking.

With all of these different forms of barking there are a variety of approaches we can take to ensure the barking is for the right reason and can be stopped when the reason is no longer there. Much of this will come from the confidence the owner shows to his dog in being able to handle different situations. To gain this confidence the owner has to get to know his dog and the situations that create the barking. With this understanding, an owner can demonstrate calm, confident leadership and take control in the right way. The dog responds because he can trust the leader has taken charge. From the very beginning of our dog/owner partnership, we should be building a foundation that allows such trust and confidence. Remember that a dog’s barking is one way he communicates to us, so we do not wish to stop it but we do wish to control it as required. Learning to read your dog’s signals and means of communicating is incredibly important to your overall relationship.

To stop barking we can do a variety of actions. One way is through closing his mouth. If you have a dog that will bark and ‘sport’ at people or other animals a head halter, such as a Gentle Leader that enables you to close his mouth and guide him into an acceptable behavior is a big advantage. Introduce the halter so your dog accepts it willingly and, when an unwanted bark happens, lift the leash so the dog’s mouth closes and he is guided into a sit. Now move again and change your direction creating attention to you as you move elsewhere. So, we stop the bark, we gain attention and we redirect to an acceptable behavior in one simple step. Another way to keep the mouth closed is to encourage your dog to bring a “present” to a guest or someone in your home, or to simply to encourage him to enjoy carrying objects. Dogs that enjoy retrieving will often pick up a toy and carry it around just to show their pleasure. Naturally they cannot bark when they are holding a toy. But be careful not to give the toy when barking is in progress or they could mistake the toy as a reward for barking.

Another approach that can work is to teach your dog to bark on command, or “speak,” and then command him to be quiet. If you use treats or even verbal praise – do wait a few seconds after he has finished barking before rewarding him. What you don’t want him to think is that he is being rewarded for barking when really he is being rewarded for being quiet. To get him to bark initially you can have someone ring your doorbell or you can encourage him to bark by “barking” yourself. Have him on a leash during the exercise so that you can distract and stop the barking with a light pop of the leash. To make the response even better teach your dog that he can bark at the doorbell but then must be quiet and go to a place near the door where he can watch who is at the door and allow them to come in. This can give a very effective security touch to a home. Dog barks, owners says “Quiet,” and he stops barking, showing he is under control. When the door is opened he is sat watching and waiting for anything that could be a threat. One word - “Speak” - has him barking again. So by teaching the commands – “Speak,” “Quiet,” and “Place,” – you have a dog that is both under control, yet ready to give a warning or even threaten if required.

With some dogs it does require an interrupter or distraction to take their mind off of the stimulus to bark. In other words, there has to be something that breaks the concentration on the barking. In some cases the intensity is too high for a verbal command to cut through the behavior. The interrupter in that case may be another noise, such as using a tool that emits a high frequency sound when the dog barks. This is not a pleasant sound to the dog and interrupts his barking. A beanbag, a piece of chain and even a can with pebbles or coins in it, can provide the interruption too. It works like this – the dog barks and this loud object lands on the floor in front of him. You act as though it came from “Heaven.” Now he thinks every time he barks for no reason or if he continues unnecessarily, something falls from the sky.

Barking does not always require a big interrupter, however. You can use everyday objects. If your dog barks near to you, slam the cupboard door or a drawer, so the noise distracts or startles him. Make nothing of this, and carry on as normal. This can work especially well when a dog barks simply to be let out of a crate. You don’t want to scare the dog, just quickly alter his state of mind and change the focus. He should not see you launch the object or make the noise. He has to think that the unwanted barking creates the occurrence. Practice this while you are watching TV, working in the kitchen or whatever you’re doing – the dog should not relate it to you but to the nuisance barking. An important part of this is that if you do drop or throw an object it should not hit the dog, but land at his feet. You should also leave it there for a while so he does not relate it to you. Remember though that you have to be able to understand and translate the different barks. One of his barks may be – I need to go to the bathroom. So learn to understand the tone of the bark or noise he makes.

Of course another less preferable way is to ignore the barking and wait for it to go away. In a crate or enclosed area this may work (particularly with a puppy who is learning to settle) but if the dog is outside or in a large area then the barking itself can be self-rewarding. In many instances there are multiple stimuli occurring which will encourage the barking. In my opinion, dogs should never be left outside unsupervised or unaccompanied. Go out with your dog and do not allow him to run the fence, race down the hedgerow chasing the cars, or barking at the person walking by. Show your control and confidence in handling these situations and be the leader of your pack. Have him on a leash or a long line so that you can reinforce your commands and maintain control without shouting or becoming agitated.

A puppy barking in his crate may stop if covered with a cloth sheet so he is not stimulated to bark by what he sees. With a cover over it, the crate also feels more like a den and hence more secure. Some pups will be quiet if allowed to sleep in their crate next to the owners’ bed, or with a belonging that smells of the owner or their siblings. When your pup is in the crate do get to know the sounds he makes and unless it is an emergency for the bathroom do not go and open the crate or let the pup out when he is barking. If you do he will learn to bark demanding to be let out and in this way tell you what to do. Sometimes a squirt bottle of water can be used to direct a spray at a pup that barks in the crate but I have seen dogs that enjoy this too and make a game out of it. Plus, it can make quite a mess.

And finally there are bark collars that automatically set off an interruptor when the dog wearing it barks. Some emit a noise, some a blast of air or citronella and some use an electric stimulation between two points on the collar that limit the feeling to that area. They can all work. My experience has been that the electronic one is the most successful and most important only the dog wearing it feels the interrupter. The citronella spray collar and the noise collar can be triggered if other dogs close by are barking. With any form of bark collar, however, I would recommend you seek expert advice before using one.

I mentioned the importance of your relationship and confidence not only in your own ability to handle situations but also your dog’s confidence in you. This comes through exercise, training, spending time together, setting limits and boundaries and showing appreciation for behaviors that are pleasing. Controlled walks, games such as retrieving, and learning to be patient by simply sitting or laying down by your side or relaxing in his crate will create a companion that sees no need to bark without a good reason. In this way you build a foundation of trust and confidence that lets your dog know when he can and should bark and also when he can be quiet.

Thanks to Cesar Milan for this article!