Dog Health

Dog Health

How To Give Your Dog a Massage

Dim the lights, put on some relaxing spa music, light the peanut butter scented candles… you’re on the right path to give your dog a wonderful relaxing and rejuvenating massage! Just like the scent of your candles would be different to appeal to your pooch, so should your massage technique. Dogs are often very stoic creatures, and especially if it is their beloved owner, they will not react or let you know if you are massaging too hard. This is just one tip I learned from a certified professional canine massage therapist who is helping my senior dog feel as good as she possibly can in her golden years. We’ve had wonderful success with acupuncture helping her arthritis and other issues, but after one really amazing squirrel chase resulted in serious injury (of my dog, the squirrel is fine of course), we needed something more. Part of that “more” is massage. While I can’t safely teach you how to give your dog an injury rehabbing massage in a single blog article, what I can do is explain how to give a simple, gentle, and safe massage to a non-injured pet. Gentle massage can have wonderful benefits for both physically for the dog being massaged, and when done by a caring owner or foster parent, can be an enjoyable way of strengthening the bond between human and canine. Note: This is a gentle massage technique for healthy, non-injured dogs to promote bonding and relieve stress. This should only be done on a dog you know well.
  1. Pick a time of day when your pet is most relaxed. For some pets this is after their morning walk, during a mid-day snooze, or at the end of the day before bed.
  2. Ask them to lie down in a comfortable, quiet place. If they don’t want to lie down, sitting or standing is fine too, though lying down is best.
  3. Start petting them in their favorite spot to be pet. Most dogs prefer their chest, neck, or back. The petting should be slow and soothing, so each stroke of the pet ise a full second. You can count in your head to get the hang of it, saying “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi.”  Count to ten.
  4. The strength or pressure of your stroke should be the same gentleness you use for regular petting – NOT the strong pressure used in a human massage. You can do more harm than good with too much pressure.
  5. Move to their second favorite spot, then their third. As they relax, you can try the petting massage on other spots too, like their ears, between their eyes (with your finger tips), their thighs, the sides of their chest.
  6. You can cycle through all the spots they enjoyed as long as you both are enjoying it! You can also alternate the petting strokes with small circles using the tips of your fingers.
If your dog wants to move away or shows any other sign of not enjoying the massage petting at any time, you of course should let him or her move away and stop. You can try again another day. Most pets enjoy this kind of “petting massage,” but some don’t, so be respectful of your pet’s desires. For those that enjoy it, but not for long, you can build up the length of your massage sessions slowly. The goal is a relaxed and happy pet! To get the full benefits of massage, such as increased circulation, decreased muscle pain, enhanced flexibility, and improved autoimmune response, have your dog massaged by a certified canine massage therapist, or have on safely teach you the proper technique on your dog. You can ask your vet for a recommendation to a certified doggie masseuse near you.

Top 5 Ways to Stop Pet Itching

When my vet recently told me that the number one reason people bring pets to her veterinary hospital is because of itching and related skin issues, I wasn’t surprised. In Southern California especially, the dry desert air combined with watered tropical landscaping and natural flora and fauna are a mecca for allergens and itch-causing critters. Dogs especially seem to be prone to scratching fits, but cats are not immune. In the decades I’ve worked and volunteered for large shelters and rescues, I hear the same common complaints time and time again. Dogs scratching ‘hot spot’ sores on their paws, cats itching keeping their owners awake at night, puppies chewing up their tails, red irritated skin and fur falling out every where! So what are the top 5 causes of canines and felines itching and scratching? How can you stop your pet’s discomfort? Ask your vet about our top 5 ways to stop a pet from itching. They are… 1. Fleas. Fleas are the number one reason dogs and cats scratch and itch. If your pet is sensitive to fleas, even one flea can cause a frantic dance. Imagine how you’d feel if there was a bug crawling in your hair and biting you. Even if your pet is on flea control, sometimes it takes multiple methods of both environmental cleanup (daily vacuuming, bed and carpet disinfecting) and products for your pet to fully get the flea problem under control on an ongoing basis. 2. Food allergy. Just like humans, some pets can have or develop (even after a long time of being fine with it) allergies to certain things they eat. Sometimes simply switching to a different flavor of pet food or treats and eliminating the old ones can stop a pet that is itching. After your vet has ruled out fleas, they may have you do a “food trial” where you temporarily feed a strict limited-ingredient diet for 8 weeks.  Then it can be trial and error process of introducing other foods slowly one at a time until your pet starts itching again. Voila! You’ve identified the tipping point trigger to avoid. 3. Dry skin. Especially when its cold and dry outside, and heated inside, pets can get dry, flaky, itchy skin. Even if you don’t notice flaking, ask your vet if a topical or dietary Omega 3 supplement for pets can help your pet if they have dry skin itchiness. 4. Environment. Pollen, dust, yard sprays, cleaning products, laundry detergent, shampoo, grass, plants… all of these and more can come in contact with your pet’s fur, paws, and skin and be a potential irritant. Figuring out which one or combination is causing your pet to itch can be quite a puzzle. Try one piece at a time. Give your pet a “bath” using just water, thoroughly rinsing their fur all the way down to their skin. Wash their bed and anything else washable (sheets, cushion covers, rugs) in hot water without any detergent. If they go outside, before they come back inside, wipe their paws and legs down with one or more damp papertowels, using long strokes as if you were erasing a blackboard… for dogs you can even dunk their feet in a tray or bucket of warm water to give a quick rinse before coming inside. 5. Stress. Any big life change can cause stress and anxiety in a pet’s life. They may not show it in other ways, but itching due to stress or anxiety is quite common. Ways to reduce a pet stress include: 1) De-stressing any humans the pet comes in contact with, since pets are stress sponges; 2) Establishing a rock-solid routine of feeding, playing, and sleeping at the same times every day; 3) Engaging your pet in more daily exercise they enjoy, be it chasing a laser toy around the living room, or going on a long hike together; 4) Giving them a safety zone hideout. For dogs this can be a crate where they can den up with a favorite chew toy and know they will be safe and undisturbed, for cats it might be a tall cat tree with a big top shelf or hidey-hole, or a nest in the bottom of a rarely used closet. Your vet plays a key role in helping you figure out if one or more of the above causes and cures is the best treatment protocol for your and your pet. If your pet is suffering, they can suggest medications that can mask the symptoms to give your pet immediate relief while you figure out a permanent solution to your pet’s itching.

Why Does My Dog Have Eye Stains?

Does your dog get stains under his or her eyes? This can mean that something is preventing your pup’s tears from the normal function of emptying into the nose and down the throat. Often this causes tears to just sit on the fur under the eyes, keeping that area wet. Since fur holds onto moisture and might even breed bacteria, this can result in that dark-colored staining you sometimes see on a dog’s face. Certain breeds seem to be more prone to this, and if your pooch’s coat is white it’s likely even more prominent. There is the aesthetic component to eye stains which may or may not bother you, but it could also be a symptom of a more serious issue that needs addressing. Many products out there offer to help with eye staining, but it’s recommended that you first talk to your veterinarian to diagnose and treat it. By making sure you address the problem that could be behind it, you can make decisions that are best for your dog!

Why Outside Only Is Not Best For Dogs

We’ve all seen it before. We drive by that house every day on our way to work, or maybe it’s a home in our own neighborhood. Unfortunately there are still many people who keep their dogs solely outside. Dogs who are outdoors all the time are often extremely lonely and bored. Their lack of mental (and often physical) stimulation often results in bad habits such as digging, chewing or incessant barking. Worse case scenario, the lack of socialization can cause outdoor only dogs to become aggressive with other animals or people. Dogs are pack animals and are meant to be with their pack, their people, their family. Even still, people have many reasons for keeping their dogs outside, but all of those explanations do have solutions. If you see a backyard-banished dog and are able to educate the owner, let them know there are ways to bring Fido into the home. Coming inside or having both indoor and outdoor access is such a better life for a dog, but it’s the people who really gain the most. Unconditional love, companionship, a silly furry face to make you smile as you walk in the door. If you’re looking to adopt a puppy or dog and plan on keeping him outside, please reconsider. Pets who live among their pack and are truly integrated in the home are the happiest, healthiest, and most well-balanced. The bonding that occurs inside the home makes it all worthwhile!
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