It's the thing every pet parent dreads, FLEAS.
They can sneak into the house on your clothes, or they can hitch a ride on your dog. Either way, they're a pain to get rid of and their bites can itch for days.
I've posted about flea remedies and preventatives in the past, but they have been especially bad this summer so I thought a more in-depth and thorough post might be in order.
Lets start at the beginning...
Fleas are small, about the size of a pinhead, wingless bugs who use their legs to jump from host to host. They live externally on the skin creating havoc within the fur, and have mouths designed specifically for biting and sucking blood, similar to that of a mosquito.
After feeding, a female will generally lay around 20 eggs directly on the host. Many of the eggs will roll off landing on surfaces your pet frequents regularly, like bedding or other resting areas. Vacuuming and washing blankets and sheets will help to prevent the infestation of fleas, as well as other bugs.
Eggs hatch into larvae which feed off any organic material including dead bugs, feces and vegetable matter. Larvae then turn into pupae and then into adult fleas, though fleas can remain as larvae or pupae for several months often referred to as "overwinter," until optimal conditions for survival are present. This is one of the reason why riding your home of these pesky bugs can be so difficult.
Generally speaking, fleas can live for between one and one and a half years with optimal conditions. Sadly, this means females can lay about 5,000 eggs in their lifetime...that's from ONE female flea!
Above are good reference pictures for just how small fleas are.
Besides being obnoxious and cumbersome to deal with, flea bites can itch for days, sometimes even weeks! They can carry bacterial or viral infections, and even lead to hair loss from repetitive scratching or in extreme cases, anemia. It's also a real possibility that your dog has contracted Tapeworms if they've had fleas as fleas are known to be carriers. Dogs aren't the only ones in danger of getting fleas, either. If your fur baby happens to be a rabbit, ferret, chicken, or even a squirrel or a mouse, they too are perfect hosts for fleas, alongside cats and humans.
If you suspect your dog or cat might have fleas, grab a flash light and take a look at your pets underside, as well as the inner thighs, and base of the tail. This is where fleas like to hide out; especially if you've caught the infestation early.
Also, once we've parted the fur, look for flea dirt. It'll look like pepper flakes. If you find something you think might be flea dirt, use tweezers to remove the flakes and place them on a wet paper towel. If the flakes spread apart to form small blood pools, it's most definitely flea dirt as flea dirt is essentially flea poop and will consist of the blood the flea ate.
So now what? You're fur kid has fleas and you're panicked that your house is going to turn into flea central. Relax! There are several ways to treat them, both naturally and commercially.
My favorite, and most recommend flea remedy is food grade Diatomaceous Earth. It can be purchased online via Amazon or at your local hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot.
Diatomaceous Earth is a soft, crumbly, porous deposit formed from the fossil remains of diatoms. In other words, it's a white powder that kills any bug with an exoskeleton, including fleas! It's also natural and kills on contact so, there's virtually no waiting. Just sprinkle it on your pet, rub it in and wowza, dead fleas! You can even sprinkle it onto your carpets and furniture, then vacuum it up killing any fleas that may be chilling out waiting for the perfect snack to come their way.
***While Diatomaceous Earth is safe to use topically, you don't want you or your pet to breath it in as the edges are sharp and inhaling a copious amount could result in lung damage.***
Another awesome and immediate flea remedy is Dawn dish soap. Generic brand will not work, it must be original scent Dawn. Just run a nice warm bath for your pup, plop them into the tub and lather on the Dawn soap. Be sure to really work the Dawn down into the fur and onto the skin. Let sit for a few minutes, rinse, and watch the dead fleas be washed away!
It's also important to know that while fleas may look like they are dead, floating in the water, it actually takes roughly 24 hours for fleas to drown. If you simply empty the wash pan, without making sure all the pesky bugs are rinsed free, they can revive in a couple hours and come back to haunt you! No joke!
There are several over the counter, commercial shampoos geared towards flea removal, but from personal experience Dawn works just as well, if not better and is generally half the cost. it's also less likely your fur kid will have an adverse reaction to Dawn when compared to some other commercial flea shampoos.
Vacuuming and washing linens is going to play a HUGE role in eliminating and controlling a flea infestation. Even if the soap and water during the washing cycle doesn't kill fleas or their eggs, the high heat from the dryer is sure to do the job. Fleas are heat sensitive, and will not be able to withstand temperatures within the dryer.
As mentioned before, be sure to regularly vacuum where your dog sleeps and or rests, especially if these are materials that cannot be washed. It's important to remember to empty the vacuum bag or cartridge after each cleaning as you don't want any fleas crawling back into your home!
Fleas and many other outdoor bugs, including mosquito, have an aversion to the smell of citrus. There's an easy spray you can whip up in your kitchen using lemons, water and a pan!
What you will need:
4-6 whole lemons
1 1/4 cup water
Slice the lemons into halves and place them into the pan with 1 1/4 water.
Bring the water with lemons, to a boil and let sit for 5 to 6 minutes.
Turn the burner off and cover the pot, letting the lemons steep overnight.
This will allow all the juices and oils from the lemons to saturate the water.
Place one or two lemon halves into the spray bottle along with some of the water.
BAM! Flea Spray. Easy peasy!
Lightly spray directly onto your pups fur. Fleas, gnats, mosquito's, etc. will steer clear of your now lemony fresh pooch.
And of course there are your more traditional treatments and preventatives like topical liquids you apply monthly, or oral medications that protect against both internal parasites, as well as fleas and ticks.
So relax! Even though it's no walk in the park, fleas are treatable and your home will return to the nice calm, itch free oasis that you love it to be!
It's not a pleasant topic, but it's an important one and one that all dog owners should be aware of and on the look out for; WORMS!
When my brother moved to Pittsburgh for school he felt a bit lonely in his apartment so he adopted Nikki, a Beagle/Chihuahua mix and Katrina survivor. She spent several months bumming it around Pittsburgh with my brother, sleeping in hubcaps when we was at the garage with his buddies and peeing on his pillow when he stayed out too late. Eventually she made her way back to my parents house where she ended up bunking permanently. I'll never forget that first night.
My friends and family have often referred to me as the "dog whisperer" so it was no surprise that Nikki choose my bed to sleep in that first night. No biggy, not like I didn't welcome the furry snuggles. Little did I know I would get a lot more than just some snuggles.
"Bri, it's time to get up."
Mom opens the shades and I hear a small, but audible gasp.
"Bri, go in the shower right now. Don't touch your hair or look in the mirror, just get in the shower and make sure you wash your hair really, really well."
"Mom, what are you talking about?"
"Just go, Bri. Into the shower, now!"
I stumbled my way to the bathroom and closed the door, reached for the shower and then pass a glance into the mirror.
"What the hell?! What's in my hair? It looks like rice..."
I didn't know at the time, but what was in my hair were tapeworms. Nikki had been given a dewormer at some point before coming to my parents house and the little buggers vacated her rump and crawled out to die on my pillow and in my hair!
*Insert gagging noises*
Now, for the different types of worms
Tapeworms are one of the most common worms to be found hiding out inside your dogs intestinal tract. Tapeworm larva or eggs can be ingested by your dog when they snack on the carcass of deceased animals or rodents. Tapeworms can also be contracted by ingesting fleas or flea eggs. Chances are, if your dog has had fleas, they likely have Tapeworms.
Tapeworms are composed of up to 90 segments (see the picture at the beginning of this article for a better visual) and the last segment is what breaks off and can be seen in stool or hanging around the underside of the tail. They can grow to be 4 to 6 inches long and require a prescription from your veterinarian to kill off a infestation, over the counter dewormers will not work on tapeworms.
Roundworm are small worms that most puppies and kittens are born with. The worms are introduced in moms uterus, but they can also be transferred through moms milk. They can grow up to 5 inches in length and take root in the intestines. Eggs or larva are present in stool so if fecal matter is consumed by another animal, they too will contract Roundworm.
Female Roundworm can produce as many as 200,000 eggs per day! Roundworm eggs are protected by a hard outer shell making it possible for them to survive for years in soil.
Roundworm will need to be treated by a veterinary as the over the counter dewormers will only kill adults, not eggs. If left untreated Roundworm can cause death as blockages can form.
Whipworms are most commonly found in adult dogs and resemble a piece of thread with a single engorged end. They are seldom seen in stool samples and for that reason can be hard to diagnose. They thrive in the cecum or first compartment of the large intestine and shed few eggs making diagnosis even more difficult.
Whipworms are most commonly ingested through contaminated food, water or soil, but can also be found in the flesh of dead animals or feces. Whipworm larva can live for months or even years in the right environment.
Dogs who have contracted Whipworms are likely to have chronic weight loss issues and often present with bowel movements covered in mucus, especially the end of a fecal deposit. They can also present with symptoms of dehydration or anemia, but can be asymptomatic as well. Treatment is often administered based on circumstantial evidence and consist of medication to kill both adult worms and larva.
Hookworm larvae hatch from eggs and can remain active for weeks or months given the right conditions. They are very small parasites with fang like teeth who take up residency in the small intestine and suck blood.
Puppies most commonly contract Hookworm from their mothers during feeding, but adult dogs contract the parasite through inadvertently swallowing larvae when sniffing contaminated feces or soil or when grooming their feet after having walked through polluted ground. Hookworm can also be contracted through the consumption of contaminated water.
Symptoms of Hookworm infestation are; diarrhea, weight loss, anemia, weakness or lack of stamina. The lining of the nostrils, ears and lips could also be pale in color and if larvae have enter the lungs a cough could be present. Stool samples from Hookworm infested dogs are often dark and tarry, or the dog may present with symptoms of constipation.
If not diagnosed and treated accordingly, Hookworms can be fatal, especially in puppies or dogs with compromised immune systems such as the elderly.
Unfortunately, if your dog goes outside (I certainly hope they do!) or has contact with other animals, there isn't a 100% fool proof way to prevent worms, but there are a few things you can do to decrease the likelihood of an infestation.
1. Picking up moon pies regularly is super important. Worms like the moist, dark environment not to mention an abundance of poop in the yard can be smelly and pose other health risks to your dog.
2. Wash your dogs blankets and other bedding regularly. Washing will remove debris and help to prevent fleas or other parasites/pest from nesting or breeding in or on your dogs bed or blankets.
3. Steer clear of moon pies left by other animals while walking your dog. Dogs like to walk with their noses to the ground, taking in the sights and smells of other furry critters that came before them. Sadly, this means they are often smelling the feces and urine of other animals, other animals that may have a worm infestation.
4. Keep your dog up-to-date on flea treatment and Heartworm preventative (if you are not familiar with Heartworms please read my previous blog post here). Depending on which Heartworm preventative you are using, many of them also protect against certain intestinal parasites, as well.
5. Have your dogs fecal sample checked frequently and talk with your veterinary about the best ways to keep your dog, based on yours and their lifestyles, free from worms.
Please keep in mind, the above (4) worm types are not the only types of worms a dog can contract. There are several others such as Lungworm and Heartworms, these are just the most common.
So remember, if a family member brings home a new fur kid and that fur kid decides to sleep with you, don't be surprised if you wake up with rice on your pillow!
Some may call me cheap, others frugal and some may think of me as thrifty. I am always looking for ways to save a dime or pinch a penny. The spender in this dynamic duo is most certainly my husband. I’ll stress and second guess a $20 purchase where he’ll leave home to run an errand in a Grand Cherokee and come home in a sky blue Mustang (true story).
Having (4) dogs and (3) cats could be a constant drain on income. Vet care, food (especially when you have fur kids with food sensitivities and special needs), toys, etc. can all lead to thousands of dollars a year spent keeping your fur kids happy and healthy. Thankfully, through my experience with rescue and my constant need to research and find ways to save I have stumbled upon a few really neat and handy ways to reuse and re-purpose household supplies into dog toys, clothes and edible treats!
Read on for cute and fun ways to keep your bank accounts full and your fur kids happy!
Water Bottle Sock Toy
Water bottle dog toys are all the rage now. Dogs love the noise and can spend hours driving you crazy with constant crinkling and popping. Not only is it stimulating for their knoggins but the fabric can help to clean their pearly whites! Problem is, they can be upwards of $15 in the store! Craziness!
What you will need:
*An empty water bottle - be sure to remove the lid
*An old sock (the thicker the better)
*Some ribbon or thread.
You can find cheap socks, the thread and scissors at your local Dollar Store or Dollar General!
What you'll need to do to:
Place the empty water bottle into the sock. Center it half way between the end of the sock and the opening. Use the thread and scissors to tie off the ends, it should look like a wrapped gift. If you want, you can even cut the edges to make them more frilly. Now you won't feel so bad if Fido spend 15 minutes ripping it apart. It took mere seconds to make and didn't break the bank!
Easy Peasy Doggy Sweater!
For those furkids who aren't so gung-ho with the cooler temps or snow this is a great post for an easy sweater using an old hooman sweater!
click HERE for the link courtesy of resweater.blogspot.com!
T-Shirt Tug/Toss Toy
Two of your pups favorite toys rolled into one. Find the quick and easy directions HERE courtesy of www.sheknows.com!
Old Sweater into a Dog Bed!
You will need:
*Needle and thread
*Bed pillow or couch pillow depending on the size of your sweater and dog/cat
*Polyfill or other stuffing like old fabric scraps (cut an old t-shirt into strips)
How to make the bed
1. Stuff sleeves and shoulder/collar area of sweatshirt (you might need to put in a few stitches(doesn't have to be pretty) to create a "pocket" in the body of the shirt.
2. Insert pillow through bottom of shirt.
3. Stitch sleeve ends together.
4. use an old sock neck to stitch the two sleeve ends together
Homemade, Non-Toxic Chicken Jerky
There have been a lot of recalls on not only dog food but dog treats as well. Making your own treats is one way to ensure your dogs are getting healthy and non-toxic treats!
Here's is the link to these delicious and easy Chicken Jerky strips.
Braided Rope Toys
These are super easy to make and believe it or not they are really durable!
What you will need:
*Old t-shirt or jeans (jeans hold up a bit longer & are a little more durable) You can also use old fleece from a ripped blanket or left over fabric.
*The ability to braid and tie knots!
How to make the rope toy:
Cut the t-shirt or jeans into long strips. Place (3) strips together and tie a basic knot close to the top.
You can either hold the group between your knees and braid towards you or I have been known to use my kitchen drawers to hold the group while I braid. Once you've reached the end tie another basic knot. For thicker braids use more than just (1) strip of fabric per braiding strand. You can tie two braided toys together to make a 4 way tug or leave them as single strips.
I know many of you probably have your own ideas and tricks for inexpensive toys and treats for your fur kids, I'd love to hear/see them!
Milo had been sick for a few days, throwing up, but acting fine otherwise. He’s always had an insatiable appetite so the fact that he wanted to eat everything and anything wasn’t a red flag…he is a lab after all and they are known for eating the strangest of things.
I had just let him out and watched him go #2 (all pet parents watch or at least inspect their fur kids’ moon pies (or at least they should) to make sure things are going well, no worms other parasites, etc.). I was SHOCKED! Flabbergasted. What I was finding in the yard wasn’t throw up at all! It was stool…with whole, undigested kibbles. He wasn’t digesting his food.
Milo is the only dog in our home purchased from a breeder, my husband’s first dog and he insisted on a “purchase” rather than an “adoption.” I agreed but made it clear this was the ONLY time we would EVER purchase a dog… knowing what I know now, I know he ended up in our home for a reason. If he hadn’t, he’d be dead.
From the time Milo was a wittle, itty, bitty pup he has always had issues. Ear infections, yeast infections, issues keeping or maintain weight and the most concerning, seizures. They didn’t start until he was about a year old and in the beginning they were infrequent and undiagnosed. He’d have one every 6 months and he always recovered quickly. He had several, expensive blood panels to check his organs, blood cell counts, etc. and they always came back normal.
On several occasions it was suggested that we start him on epileptic meds, I refused. If he had been having them more frequently and his recovery time was longer with lasting effects I would have considered it but, that wasn’t the case.
Epileptic meds, while helpful to treat and prevent seizures, they are also very potent and can be very damaging to the body long term. They can drastically shorten a dog’s lifespan and would require constant monitoring via routine blood work every 3 to 6 months, depending. I wasn’t ready to go that route.
Over time the seizures did progress in seriousness and frequency but my gut still told me not to start him on epileptic meds. He had already been to several vets with no diagnosis other than Epilepsy (which in my opinion is diagnosed far too frequently without having exhausted all other possibilities) It was going to be up to me to figure this thing out.
I spent DAYS researching online. Reading every article, ever post having to do with seizures and dogs. We tried different foods, several different Chinese Herbs (with the guidance and supervision of a practicing veterinary) we even tried acupuncture and Reiki. Nothing changed and Milo looked like a Holocaust survivor.
On that faithful afternoon witnessing the waterfall of kibbles come out of his doupa, I knew I had my answer. Milo had EPI, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. It was exceedingly rare and 90% of the time was found in purebred German Shepherds. Milo would need a very, very expensive blood panel that would be sent to Texas for analysis. Most dogs who have this disorder die from starvation as it is not easily diagnosed and is not something most vets look for.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency is the body’s inability to produce digestive enzymes for the breakdown of proteins, starches and fats in a dog’s body. Without these enzymes what’s eaten passes through the digestive system undigested and exists whole; no nutritional benefit is gained. Without treatment starvation occurs and death is imminent.
I contacted the holistic vet and filled the doctor in on my conclusion. He was doubtful of the accuracy of my diagnosis but agreed to fill a script for the enzymes I was requesting. They were not stocked by any veterinary office either locally or within an hour’s drive. I turned to the internet. The only place I could find them was in Idaho and I ordered a bottle and had them overnighted.
The next hurdle was going to be identifying and obtaining the correct enzymes. It's trial and error process but thankfully we were successful on the first attempt. Though he still eats puppy food he has not had another seizure since starting the enzymes and he is now at a healthy weight. It's been nearly a year.
I could not be more thankful that I stuck with my gut and did not start him on Epileptic meds.
This whole experience just reinforces my belief that as a pet owner you have be diligent in doing your own research and making sure the treatment is what YOU think is best for your dog. Just because a professional tells you what they thinks is the best course of treatment does not mean you should ignore your opinion or gut reactions. You know your pet better than they do.
PS- the $400 blood panel came back positive, I was 100% correct in my diagnosis.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we’ve been pretty lucky to escape the white, fluffy stuff that normally covers our driveways and lawns by this point in the season. We’ve seen a few flakes here and there but nothing that has made any lasting impressions. Sooner or later the fluff is going to come and when it does your pup will appreciate a little extra TLC after spending time outdoors.
The picturesque scenery of a freshly snow covered field may make us want to strap on our snow boots and start a snowball fight but to your fur kid’s feet and fur coat it can be a nightmare. Dry-split pads, matted fur and brittle nails can be a painful reminder of winter’s brutal touch.
Seniors, puppies and dogs with arthritis are the most susceptible to the brutal squeeze of freezing temperatures and below zero wind chills. Dogs with thin or fine fur, such as pitties, are also more likely to suffer the effects of colder temperatures. Hypothermia and frostbite are two medical conditions every pet parent should be leery of during the winter months. They can set in quickly and pose great risk to your fur kid.
Below are some tips and tricks to keep your pooch happy, healthy and leaving paw print trails in freshly fallen snow!
Jack had magical beans in Jack and the Bean Stalk, Cinderella had magical glass slippers and even the evil queen had a magical mirror and apples to poison Snow in Snowhite and the Seven Dwarfs. We may not have fairy dust or spell breaking kisses but we do have magic…Coconut Oil!
Coconut oil is 90% saturated fat (good fat) and composed of mostly medium chain Triglycerides or MCT’s. The MCT’s found in Coconut oil have anti-fungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties among hundreds of other health benefits for you AND your dog! Not to mention MCT's are quickly metabolized and provide an immediate source of fuel and energy! Bonus!
Dogs are carnivorous animals and require a high intake of Saturated fat to remain happy and healthy. Coconut oil is a fantastic way to ensure your dog is getting the Saturated fat he or she requires while maintaining a beautiful and healthy coat. This is just ONE of the many extrodinary properties of Coconut Oil.
Here is a list highlighting some of the most *magical* benefits of adding Coconut oil to your pooches diet.
When ever you introduce a new supplement into your dogs diet or even when just changing foods, it's important to do it slowly and over time. The recommended dose for Coconut oil is 1 teaspoon per 10lbs or 1 tablespoon per 30lbs. In other words, a 60lb dog should received 2 tablespoons daily where as a 20lb dog should only receive a teaspoon and a half. To ease any chance of causing an upset tummy or loose stool start with 1/4 a teaspoon and work your way up to the correct dosage over several days. If loose stool occurs, follow the same dosage as described above with pure pumpkin. Pumpkin will ease stomach issues and help to bind your pooches poops.
You want to make sure you are getting the purest form. I purchase my Coconut oil from my local grocery store, Wegmans, from the all natural section but you may certainly purchase online from places such as Amazon.
Any questions or comments, send me a message!
One of the most commonly asked questions by dog owners is what harness is best for their dog. Through my years of experience in the rescue world I have learned there is a true divide between what harnesses actually do and what owners want them to do.
There are several different types if harnesses, some that clip in front, some in the back, some with both and others without clips at all. Each harness has a different function and are meant to be used for a specific type of dog based on their leash skills.
In order for both hooman and fur kid to enjoy a leisurely walk, whether it be down the beach or through the neighborhood, you have to make sure you have the right equipment; Happy dog, happy owner.
Why a harness and not just a collar?
Collars are great for identification purposes and may even be suitable for a dog who’s mastered walking on a leash like a canine Olympian but 9 times out of 10 Fido needs something a bit gentler on his neck.
Collars alone do not provide any control and can place tremendous strain and pressure on the neck and throat. They can cause permit, irreversible damage. Not to mention, if your dog pulls strong enough to snap the collar you’ve just lost their form of identification should they take off.
So, what are your options?
There are 3 main types of harness all with very different applications.
The first is the most common and readily available: Back-Clip Harness – Leash clips to a loop on the dogs back.
Back-Clip harnesses are perfect for little dogs whose throats are especially fragile and are easily damaged. They are easy to put on and dogs generally adjust to walking on one of these harnesses pretty easily. However, they do little to discourage pulling and should not be used for training purposes. They are meant for calmer, already leash trained pups who can walk without pulling.
Back-clip harnesses also make it a bit more difficult for the lead to get caught under the dogs front legs as it keeps the leash back and drawn upwards.
The second option, a little less popular but still readily available, is the Front-Clip Harness - Leash clips to a ring center in the middle of the dogs chest.
Front Clip Harnesses are great for dogs who need a little TLC on leash etiquette. They clip in the front under the dogs chin in the center of the chest.
These harnesses give the owner more control over the direction the dog is walking and nicks pulling in the doopa. A dog that pulls will end up facing the wrong direction. These harnesses are also good for dogs who maybe dog reactive as the clip in the front allows the dog walker to easily redirect the dogs attention by turning them in the opposite direction of the object(s) causing a reaction.
Sadly, because they do clip in the front and the leash tends to sag a bit they tend to get more easily tangled in your fur buddies feet.
The third most common type of harness is the Tightening Harness - generally clips in the front, just like the Front Clip harness but this harness tightens slowly when a dog pulls.
These types of harnesses are the most used for training purposes.
But its important to be leery of where the harness tightens and the amount of pressure imposed on that part of the body. You do not want to cause pain or injury.
There are several different variations of this harness, even full body harnesses that tighten in different places depending on the direction and level of tugging.
You can also find harness that are a variation of the options described above...
Some of my favorite summer evening are cool, wet and loud! I always enjoy a good thunder-bumper specifically under the cover of night when the strikes of lightening are especially vibrant.
I can’t say that our newest addition, Little Dude, is as ecstatic or excited as me when Mother Nature has a fit and lights up the sky. Let just say, if he had opposable thumbs, he wouldn’t be caught driving to the lake shore to watch the clouds roll in. Nor would he take part in “storm chasing.”
While Little Dude doesn’t enjoy the rumbling of storms he’s pretty easy to calm and keep relaxed, lift up the covers and turn on the AC or TV and he’s good to go. I know this is not the case for many other fur kids so I thought maybe I would provide some tips and tricks to help bring calmness and relief to your furry friends during our next summer storm.
Stay calm and enjoy the next summer thunderstorm!
With over 10 years of experience through ownership and rescue work, I hope to share my knowledge and insight to happier, healthier fur kids. Have a question, feel free to ask!