The following articles were authored by jackcola

What To Do If You Think Your Dog Has Fleas

Fleas are a problem for dogs and their owners alike.  These tiny insects will live on the body of your dog, sucking the animal’s blood and laying eggs.  The bites and presence of fleas will cause the dog to itch and if the dog happens to be allergic to fleas (the allergy is technically to the insects’ saliva) it can experience extreme itching, loss of fur in some places, inflammation, and infections.  Regardless of whether the dog has an allergy to flea saliva, infestations must be dealt with or they will go on and on and the fleas will also infest your home, other pets, and can even live on humans.  In short; you can be directly and adversely affected by an uncontrolled flea infestation.

Detecting Fleas

If you suspect that your dog has fleas because it’s been scratching more than usual, there are ways to check for their presence.  Fleas are very small (about an eighth of an inch long), but visible to the naked eye, and brownish in color.  Because they prefer dark places they will try to hide beneath the dog’s fur, under the collar, or on the underbelly.  Their fecal material can also be seen on the dog’s coat and looks like multiple black flecks or specks – almost like pepper.  If fleas or their droppings are found it is time to treat your dog to get rid of them.

Treating Your Dog for Fleas

While flea collars, powders, and sprays may help to prevent infestations to some extent, they will not help if the dog is already infested.  When fleas are infesting a dog the female lays eggs at a rate of about thirty per day.  These eggs fall off the dog and into the carpet, soil, or wherever the dog may be.  In these areas they hatch and pupate, eventually growing into adult fleas which can then re-infest the dog.  In order to halt the cycle all the fleas on the dog and in the environment must be killed or the life cycle must be interrupted.

There are several flea treatments available for dogs, but one of the best is an oral medication that will not kill adult fleas, but does kill the eggs and larva.  This interrupts the flea life cycle and prevents them from coming back, as long as the dog is not continually exposed to new fleas.  If that is happening, the source must be cleaned of fleas whether it is the carpet, the environment, or other dogs with which your pet associates.

Fleas can be a real nuisance for dogs and their owners, but catching them and treating the dog quickly is the key to eliminating the infestation and preventing the insects’ return.

Can You Teach Old Dogs New Tricks?

Whoever said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, must not have owned a dog.  If dogs are anything, they are extremely intelligent and can learn many new things given the chance to show you.  When training your dog, keep in mind that yelling, hitting, cursing or punishment is uncalled for, as dogs will retreat backwards the more they are yelled at.  Besides, you wouldn’t treat a child like that and dogs are essentially just little children with tails and four legs!

The first thing to learn when training your dog to do anything new is to never change your verbal expression, tone or volume.  If you say, “come here, boy” then do not change to “Fido, come here”.  By doing this, your dog will become confused and it will cause unneeded frustration for both of you.

A couple of tips to take into consideration when training your dog is to reward him with treats for good behavior, however be sure to also give a lot of praise and patting to ensure he does not rely totally on the treats when being good.  You may also think about enrolling your dog in an obedience class.  Even if training is going good at home, this will give him extra practice with interaction between other animals and people.

When training your dog don’t cram everything into one day and expect him to remember it.  Dogs have short attention spans and will quickly become bored, so try to keep training time down to short sessions throughout the day.  Here are a few of the easier and more popular commands to teach Fido.

  • Come- Use a toy or treat to encourage him to come towards you.  Say “Fido, come.”  As he makes his way towards you, praise him.  Once he is in front of you, hold onto his collar for 30 seconds and then let go.
  • Sit- Press gently down on his backside and say “sit.”  You can also hold a treat above his head.  When a dog is forced to look upward, he will automatically sit on his hind legs.  Just as he bends to a sitting position, say “Fido, sit.”  Remember to praise and reward.
  • Down- Get your dog into a sitting position.  Slowly guide his legs straight down in front of him until he is flat.  As you are doing this, repeat “Fido, down.”  Keep him in this position for 30 seconds and then praise and treat.
  • Stay- Have Fido sit.  As you slowly take a couple steps backward, say “Fido, stay.”  Hold your hand out as you do this, palm facing him.  If he moves from position, tell him “no” and return him to the starting point.  If he stays, praise and treat.  Don’t forget to find a ‘release command’ like “ok”, or done.”  This will tell him it is okay to move.

By using persistence, consistency and patience when training your dog, you will almost effortlessly be able to teach new commands and tricks.  The ‘trick’ for you is to always praise and treat.  Start with these easy commands and before long you will have him doing somersaults!

Are The Toys For Your Puppy Safe?

Dog owners love to think of their dogs as children.  “That’s my baby,” they’ll say when referring to their dogs.  They’ll refer to themselves as “Mommy” or “Daddy” when talking to their dogs as well.  And, of course, they buy their dogs toys to play with.  Choosing the right dog toys can be tricky.  People like to get cute, squeaky toys for their dogs or give them stuffed animals to chew on and carry around (the stuffed toy becomes the dog’s “baby” quite often – “Get your baby, checkers!  Checkers, where’s your baby?”) because they think it’s “adorable.”  Dog toys don’t need to be “cute.”  They need to be practical, fun for the dog, durable, and safe.

Avoid Non-Toy “Toys”

For as lovable, loyal, friendly, and playful as they are, dogs are not the brightest creatures.  They are naturally attracted to things that can cause them the most harm.  It’s important to start early with your dog, providing save toys to chew and play with while teaching the animal to avoid household items it may wish to use as toys.  Dogs love to chew on pantyhose, for example, but these could easily be partially ingested, choking the dog.  Some dogs will chew on power cords, risking a harmful (or fatal) electric shock.  Teach your dog early on what things are for chewing and playing and what things are off limits.

The Best, Safest Dog Toys

The size of a toy is an important consideration.  Kongs, balls, and other typical toys must be small enough that the dog can chew them and carry them, but not so small that they can become lodged in the dog’s mouth or throat.

Durability is a factor, especially for a dog that loves to chew.  A toy that will break apart easily can become a hazard as the small, sharp parts can be swallowed, caught in the throat, or cut the mouth and gums.  Again, a hard rubber Kong (easily one of the best dog toys ever conceived) is an excellent choice.

Softer toys, like the popular “squeak” toys made of thin plastic and full of air are good for dogs that are a bit gentler.  They’re unlikely to chew through such items and are usually attracted by the squeaking sound.

Tennis balls are great for some dogs, but poor choices for others.  This is a question of size ratios.  If the dog is too small to fit a tennis ball all the way in its mouth, then it can be an excellent toy that the dog will love but costs very little.  If the ball can fit all the way in the dog’s maw, however, it becomes a choking hazard.

Does Your Dog Have Hip Dysplasia?

A fairly common degenerative disease in dogs, canine hip dysplasia, is often misunderstood.  Many mistakenly think that the ailment is a form of arthritis, but that is simply not the case.  Often, dogs that suffer from hip dysplasia will develop arthritis, but this condition is a result of hip dysplasia and not the disease itself.  The condition is most common in mid to large size dogs that grow rapidly and can be a source of severe pain and limited mobility for the animal.  Even when detected early, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia; it must be treated with medication to reduce the amount of pain that the dog suffers or be corrected as much as possible with surgery.

What is Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is essentially an abnormal formation of the hip joint.  This formation causes looseness in the joint that causes an array of problems for the dog.  The most common results of hip dysplasia include pain and lack of mobility.  Dogs that are severely affected can not move their hindquarters at all.  There are many degrees of dysplasia; they range from only the slightest abnormalities in the connection of the joint to complete dislocation of the femur from the hip socket.

What Causes Hip Dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is primarily caused by genetics.  If one or both parent animals carry a genetic trait for hip dysplasia, it will be passed on to their offspring.  Genetic conditions and their likelihood of being passed on are measured in terms of “heritability factoring.”  Something that is determined completely by genetics, like eye color or gender, is considered to have a heritability factor of 1, indicating that the condition is 100% genetic.  A condition that has absolutely nothing to do with genetics, like a sprained ankle, has a heritability factor of 0.  Scientists have determined that hip dysplasia carries a heritability factor between .25 and .85, meaning that there is a 25% to 85% chance that the condition is genetic in origin.  While injuries to a young pup – incurred before or after birth – can cause the condition, almost all hip dysplasia is passed on genetically.

How is Hip Dysplasia Treated?

As stated earlier, there is no “cure” for hip dysplasia.  Medication can be given to control the pain and reduce inflammation of the joint, but the only way to treat the condition on any permanent basis is through surgery.  The best way to combat hip dysplasia is through selective breeding.  If the either of the potential parent animals show traits of hip dysplasia, they should not be bred and should be spayed or neutered to ensure they do not pass on the trait.  All breeding dogs should be X-Rayed at a young age to check for signs of the condition.  Many times a dog that appears perfectly healthy and has no signs of the condition can actually have hip dysplasia.

Caring for Puppies

The raising of puppies can be an exhilarating and rewarding experience.  It can also be an experience wrought with frustration if some guidelines aren’t adhered to or if certain aspects of the duty are overlooked.  There are a number of things that you can do for the puppies and their mother to help make their first days, weeks, and months together healthy and happy ones.

 

The mother dog will spend the first few days after giving birth with her new puppies.  It is important to check on the mother and the pups to ensure that the puppies are being kept warm enough and are being well fed and to make sure that Mommy is producing enough milk and is comfortable.

 

If the mother leaves the puppies it will be very important to monitor their temperature closely.  It is imperative that the pups be kept warm and their area should be kept at a temperature of ninety degrees Fahrenheit for the first four days of their young lives.  The temperature can be decreased gradually after that.  Remember that a large litter will still need to be kept warm, but that the puppies’ body heat will help keep them warm as they huddle together.

 

The mother will be very protective of her pups and may display signs of anxiety when people come around the puppies.  Some dogs will move the puppies from place to place in an effort to hide them from predators.  This is instinctive behavior.  Keeping the mother and her pups in an enclosed box may curb this problem as the darkness will ease the mother’s mind and make her feel that she’s found an ideal location for protecting her babies.

 

During the puppies’ first month there should be little need for the owner to do much of anything for them.  They will be cared for exclusively by the mother during this time.  The owner’s role should be one of monitoring the pups’ progress and growth rate.  The puppies should double their weight in about a week.  By two weeks of age the pups will be alert and attempting to stand on their own.  By the time they’re a month old the pups should all be able to walk, play, and run around.  Now the fun starts!

 

By about four and a half weeks, the puppies should be eating solid food.  One way to train them in doing so is to start feeding them a mixture of canned or dry dog food mixed with a little water or milt to soften it.  The pups will lap this up like they are drinking, but will be taking food in at the same time.  Day by day the amount of liquid being used should be reduced until eventually the pups are eating the canned or dry food on its own.

 

One activity that a new mother will engage in will sometimes alarm dog owners.  In an effort to teach her pups how to urinate and defecate, mother may lick the pups’ hindquarters.  This stimulus will make them “go.”  The mother will often eat the pup’s excrement.  She does this to both keep the pups’ area clean and eliminate the scent of her pups’ droppings that could alert predators in the wild.  The pups will sometimes mimic this behavior and eat each other’s excrement for a short time.  Most puppies will cease this behavior by the time they are weaned.