Category Archives: Miscellany

Does Your Dog Need a Vet? 10 Signs

how to tell if my dog needs to see a vet

It’s late in the evening. Your dog has vomited twice. You’re starting to wonder if you should go to bed or get dressed and get him to a vet.

It’s sometimes a tough call because emergency vet bills are high. Between office visit fees, x-rays, tests and medications, most of us can’t easily absorb an unexpected hit of $1,000 or more.

Yet even more than that, we don’t want to endanger our dogs’ life or prolong their suffering. We want to help them when they’re in pain or distress.

So how do you make the right decision?

Here are 10 signs that you should get your dog to the vet, especially if your dog is exhibiting other signs of distress or discomfort.

  1. Restlessness. Dogs who get enough exercise during the day usually lie down or nap in the evening. If your dog is pacing, or lying down and then getting up within a few minutes, it could be a sign of anxiety and pain. You know your dog’s routine. If she is restless and there’s no other cause that it could be attributed to (i.e., houseguests, fireworks, a new neighborhood dog barking outside), get to the vet.
  2. High temperature. It can be tricky to take a dog’s temperature, especially if he’s not feeling well. So when he’s feeling fine, take his temperature a couple of times to get him used to the procedure and to establish a baseline normal temp for him. For most dogs, it’s 101 to 102.5. When he’s exhibiting some of the other signs mentioned here, an accompanying high temperature — which can indicate a viral or bacterial infection — might clinch your decision to seek veterinary attention.
  3. Hesitation to jump or climb. If your dog, who normally jumps into the car or onto the bed readily, or climbs stairs with no problem, suddenly looks unsure or waits for help, he could have an internal or structural problem you can’t see.
  4. Changes in body posture. Bloat is a serious illness that can take the life of a dog within hours. Dogs experiencing bloat will have a distended stomach due to gas buildup (hence the name). They will also exhibit other signs of illness, such as restlessness and panting. Your dog might be reluctant to sit down, yet looks as if he wants to, or he’s lying or sleeping in an unusual posture. Maybe his mouth is open but he’s not panting, or he’s holding one or both ears at an awkward position. These are things that may indicate he needs a vet.
  5. Hiding. Dogs who are in pain often don’t want to be bothered. If your dog hides in an uncharacteristic way, see if a treat or toy that she would normally respond to can coax her out. If not, she may be in trouble.
  6. Unusual ways of getting your attention. Dog’s can’t tell us they’re in pain, so they just usually deal with it by withdrawing or trying to make themselves more comfortable. However, sometimes, they do seek us out, because they know we’re their source of safety and comfort. If your dog uncharacteristically pesters you for attention, and your attention doesn’t seem to satisfy her need, there may be something more serious she’s seeking help for.
  7. Disruption in elimination patterns. Frequency, volume and condition of urine and feces is a good indicator of health. Get to know your dog’s normal patterns so that if they change, you’ll see it early on. When changing your dog’s food, watch for new elimination patterns and don’t be surprised if there’s a little diarrhea the first day or two as his system adjusts to the new food. But after that, things should get back to normal. It’s harder for homeowners who let their dogs eliminate in the back yard, because we often don’t see the result of the dog’s visit to the yard. But daily cleanups will give you an indicator, and it’s important to know what’s normal for your dog.
  8. Vomiting or retching with other symptoms. It’s not unusual for dogs to vomit. Some individuals hardly ever vomit while others vomit more regularly. Sometimes it’s because they didn’t chew properly, but it can be his body rejecting a toxic substance or bacterial infection. If your dog vomits once or twice, but otherwise acts and eats normally, it’s probably not an emergency. But if she can’t seem to stop vomiting, becomes listless, has diarrhea, or refuses food, she needs a vet. Also, if she’s retching but not bringing up anything, she could be bloating or have an obstruction, which also require quick veterinary intervention.
  9. ways to tell if my dog needs a vetUnusual vocalizing. Dogs usually don’t cry when they’re in pain. They tend to isolate. But if your dog is whimpering, crying, or wheezing in a way that’s not normal, definitely get to a vet.
  10. Unusual panting. Dogs pant when they’re hot, but if your dog is panting when he’s inside and would normally be resting (i.e., evening), there may be a problem. Our collie seemed to pant all the time, even in the air conditioning. The groomer took his beautiful coat off for the summer to help him stay cool, but he still panted. After some tests by the vet, we learned he had leukemia. If your dog shows unusual panting, especially when combined with weakness or unusual thirst, get him to the vet.

Remember, any of these signs could mean your dog needs to see the vet, but if your dog shows more than one sign, it’s even more likely that veterinary attention is needed. When in doubt, see the vet. It’s better to spend some money needlessly than to endanger your dog’s life because you’re unsure.


PuppyFlix: for the Dog Video Junkie

PuppyFlix_LogoI just can’t resist a photo or video of a cute dog or puppy. I mean really, who can? Well, now there’s PuppyFlix, the great new website with nothing but great dog videos. This is so great, I may have to start packing a lunch so I can look at these during my lunch hour.

The site was developed after receiving a lot of positive feedback from fans on the company’s first website, KittyFlix. Soon after the dog-friendly team decided that they had to make PuppyFlix, the site became very popular. Here’s what some of the site’s visitors are saying:

“I have now looked through almost every slide show on the site and am in love! What could be better than looking through hilarious and cute pictures of dogs all day, while learning a little something about them?”

“This is a great page! It’s nice to see pictures of dogs with different animals makes me laugh and smile…THANK YOU”

boudin2“‘I love KittyFlix and am sooo glad you made PuppyFlix!”

“Our goal is to build a community by educating, entertaining, and connecting fans through articles, videos and pictures,” says PuppyFlix’s John Logue, who invites our blog readers to send in their dog videos (which you can do here.)  When your JOB is cute and funny dog videos, how do you pick a favorite? We asked John, and here’s the link he sent. Check it out:

After each video plays, the site serves up three more videos you might like (YouTube-style). They also put them into categories such as “Sleepy,” “Grumpy,” “Clumsy,” and others, so you can find more like the ones you love. Once you start watching and laughing and saying “Awwwww” and re-tweeting, it could be a while before you come up for air.

My favorite? This one.

Note: do not go to PuppyFlix while you’re browing ground beef. Just saying.

Visit often, and get your daily dose of cute.


A History of Commercial Dog Food

dog food bowl

A couple of ago, I took my dog for a visit to the vet, and as part of our annual exam, the veterinary technician asked me what I fed him. I mentioned the main source of food and said that we supplement with about 20% table scraps.

She winced.

Later in the visit, she said that she would send me home with some information that would help us feed our dog “a healthier diet.”

It got me thinking about the history of domesticated dogs and what their owners feed them. Since the beginning, dogs have been fed table scraps, supplemented by what they hunted or scavenged on their own. So how did we move away from that to what most of us do today?


An early James Spratt factory

Let’s start at the beginning.

In 1860, the first processed dog food was introduced by James Spratt, of Cincinnati, Ohio who developed a biscuit made of wheat, beet root, vegetables and beef blood. His inspiration for this product came from watching stray dogs eat hardtack thrown away by sailors coming off ships in port at Liverpool. The name of this new product was Spratt’s Patent Meat Fibrine Dog Cakes. It began to sell well, and soon, other companies began to make baked dog products, too.

The depression in the 1930’s also prompted dog owners to look to grains and cereal product, rather than meat, as a less expensive method of feed their pets. Canned meat products were introduced in the 1940’s and in 1943, dehydrated dog food was introduced, with the instructions: “just add water.” The new dehydrated foods were more shelf-stable (they could be stored in warehouses, store shelves and homes for months). They were also lightweight, and therefore easier to ship and to carry home.

Sales of dry processed dog foods picked up considerably after World War II. Mill operators, grain dealers and meat packing plants were finding that the pet food industry would pay for waste products that would otherwise be discarded. Meat products and grain products were cooked together for many hours or days to kill bacteria and disease. The final mix was then formed into pellets — just like those fed to horses, goats, rabbits and other animals. These dog pellets were easily bagged for convenience.

Dry dog food was sold in either baked biscuit form or pellet form. Around this time, the Purina company developed a new t

echnique called “extrusion”. The extrusion process consisted of combining and cooking the ingredients together in a liquid form, and then mechanically pushing them through the extruder, which expands the piece of dog food and then it is baked again. These dog food pieces were much larger and lighter than  pellets, and they became popular with consumers who wanted to get more for their money.

1960 Cans pet food for sale

A grocery store canned dog food display in the 1960s.

By the late 1960s, most dog owners enjoyed the convenience of feeding canned or dry dog foods. And the veterinary industry began promoting the idea that protein diets were incomplete, and needed to be supplemented with additional vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Dog food companies began positioning their foods as “complete.” Other innovations followed, such as kibble that makes its own “gravy,” making the kibble into various shapes, and using dyes to vary the kibble’s color for a more natural appearance.

The next advance in commercial dog food was specialty diets, formulated for specific diseases or disorders in pets. Dr Mark Morris DVM, founder of Hill’s Pet Products (Science Diet) was the first in the field to develop this idea. The Purina Company quickly followed, along with several other companies. Only veterinarians offered these prescription products at first. Today, there are dozens of specialty diets available, including diets for specific breeds. For example, one of the most popular brands available, Purina’s Pro Plan Dog Food, includes varieties for sensitive stomach or sensitive skin, weight management, and formulas for puppies or senior dogs. 

Today’s dog foods follow trends in human dietary fashion. More and more people are feeding their dogs a raw diet designed to mimic the dog’s natural diet without human intervention (the original Paleo diet). New dog food companies have arisen to offer frozen raw patties that are convenient to feed (but still include fruits, vegetables and nutrients said to “fortify” plain meat in the dog’s diet). Others advertise ingredients that are Certified Organic, locally sourced, “human grade,”or hypoallergenic.

carrotsindogsmouthThere are hundreds of dog food companies and brands to choose from. The pet food industry has become a consumer products industry, as evidenced by the top five pet food brands globally: Mars, Inc., Nestle, Colgate-Palmolive, Procter & Gamble and Del Monte. At the other end of the spectrum are small, local companies like Muenster Milling. This third-generation family business — which even grows its own wheat and corn — only sells its food in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Cooking at home and even customized diets are on the rise. With customized diets, individual portions of food tailored to your dog’s preferences, age, breed, health needs and lifestyle are delivered to your door. For obese dogs, food that’s low-carb, low-fat, and pre-portioned are available. The bottom line is this: you are qualified to determine a healthy diet for your dog. Find out what he or she needs, and feed that. You do not need a veterinarian to help you decide what’s best for your dog to eat. Options are out there. No one cares for your dog as much as you do, and you are the only one whose opinion is motivated only by your dog’s best interests.

Special thanks to B-Naturals, The Bark Magazine,, and


Posted by on June 7, 2013 in Miscellany


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Why the “Dog Days” of Summer?

The dog days of summer are the hottest days of the season.

They are named after Sirius, the Dog Star, one of the stars in the constellation Canis Major.

During this time of year, the Dog Star gets very close to the sun. Long ago, people thought that was the reason it got so hot.

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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Miscellany


Do You Protect Your Dog?

A dog training video recently reminded me that my dog sees me as his pack leader. And as such, my job is to provide for him and protect him. I provide for him by feeding him, taking him for walks, getting him to the vet, etc. But — in his eyes — do I protect him?

A dog on a leash is at a disadvantage against an aggressive dog.

When small children run up to us wanting to pat him, so I just hang on to the end of the leash and let them rush him or do I ask them to stand still and let him approach them?

When stray dogs approach, do I put my dog at a disadvantage by keeping him on a tight leash or do I try to keep the dog away?

Do I keep my dog tethered on a leash at the dog park or do I take the leash off and let him move around freely?

When we’re on a walk, do I carry a spray bottle, stick, or other means of fending off dogs who threaten my dog?

Our dogs DO look to us for protection, and I think as modern dog owners, we forget that sometimes. I’m going to be more mindful of ways to protect my dog. Not to be an overprotective pet parent, and not to keep my dog from being a dog, but to provide protection when he needs it.


Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Dog Etiquette, Miscellany


Gnawin’ Forever Treat Toy Product Review

It’s really hard to keep active dogs occupied for any length of time. But we have to, don’t we? Active dogs of any size can’t just sleep all day. So we give them rawhide and toys designed to keep their attention and prevent boredom-induced vices such as chewing other stuff.

The Gnawin’ Forever treat toy is a new toy from an old company, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition. It’s the first interactive long-lasting dog treat of its kind because the treat that is placed in the toy cannot be crunched up with the back teeth. The dog can lick, spin and nibble with the front teeth, but unless the dog gets the toy apart, she can’t chow down.

The Gnawin’ Forever includes a barbell-shaped toy with round ends and a “spool” through the middle, joining them. A hard cylindrical treat is slipped over the spool and the toy is locked together.

Our test sample included a bacon flavored treat. Although my do did not show any interest in it, a friend of mine tested it on her two energetic mid- to large-sized dogs and told me over and over again that, “they loved it!” Her dogs – especially one of them – are aggressive chewers, and very hard on their toys.  They both wanted to play with it when they first got it, and my friend had to make them take turns. The edible part for her lasted “an hour or two,” and then the dogs chewed the toy. They got the toy apart and were chewing on the middle spool within 24 hours, so my friend threw that part away. But a week later, the dogs are still playing with the red ends. The toy was a total hit with those dogs.

I would recommend this toy for all but the toughest chewers. And even if you have an aggressive chewer, you can still let him use this toy if you supervise, and take it away before the toy part is destroyed. That way, you can get additional treats to put on it and use it over and over again. It doesn’t stain carpets. The refill treats are made from food-grade ingredients (no plastics) and are easy on the digestive system.

The toy comes with a treat, and then you can purchase two-pack treat refills. It appears to come in one size, which is about five inches wide and seven inches long (great for even the biggest dogs). PetFoodDirect, which may be a partner or subsidiary of Ainsworth, has a dedicated page/department for Gnawin’ Forever toys and refill treats. The toy with treat is $26.98 and the refill two-pack is $9.99. Their page says, “A PetFoodDirect Exclusive,” but I see it’s also available at, (although they may not actually stock the toy; they may be affiliates of PetFoodDirect).

You can get a $5 off discount at


Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Miscellany


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My Dog is a Democrat!

Keep voting democrat, baby! Life is good!


I don’t know who originally wrote this, but it’s too funny not to include it here.

  • My dog sleeps about 20 hours a day.
  • His food is prepared for him. He can eat whenever he wants, 24/7/365.
  • His meals, home, health care, and transportation are provided at no cost to him by people who go out and work every day.
  • He visits the doctor once a year for his checkup, and again during the year if any medical needs arise. For this, he pays nothing and nothing is required of him.
  • The Federal government regulates the quality of his food, his medical care, his home, and any boarding facilities he may use. The Federal government enforces those regulations on everyone from whom he takes sustenance, shelter or recreation, and taxes those people to finance the research that result in the regulations.
  • He lives in a nice neighborhood in a house that is much larger than he needs. He is not required to be responsible for any upkeep on the house.
  • If he makes a mess, someone else cleans it up.

I was just thinking about all this, and suddenly it hit me like a brick in the head,  “Holy cow! My dog’s a Democrat!”

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Posted by on December 30, 2011 in Miscellany