Pet Advice: From Kennel Cough to Food

Dealing With Canine Senility
Gary Washington -

As a result of an improved health care system, more dogs are living longer than ever before. The result is a corresponding increase in geriatric-related problems. Many of the health problems you find in older dogs mimic, to a large extent, those of their human counterpart. Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome (CCDS), for example, is similar to Alzheimer’s disease. With an aging dog population, CCD can and does present a present and ongoing problem.


CCDS is a form of senility. It is hard to recognize the symptoms. Many owners believe them to be indicative of an aging dog. They do not perceive it as a specific health issue. In fact, signs of senility do seem to blend into many of the signs associated with the aging of your dog. Owners of senior dogs should look out for these indications.

• There is an obvious decrease in the amount and type of play.

• The dog is slow responding to commands.

• The sleeping patterns change drastically. Your dog may sleep when previously he or she was wide awake.

• The dog may undergo a major change in their interaction patterns with your family. Your pet might ignore you instead of greeting you. He or she may walk away from you and other family members. They may not initiate any type of interaction such as petting.

• The dog may stare in space, pace or wander aimlessly. Like humans with Alzheimer’s, your dog may not seem to know where he or she is going. The animal becomes easily disoriented.

• The animal experiences difficulties in bladder control. The dog may also demand to go out but fail to do anything.

To complicate further the problem of identification, these indicators do not occur immediately. Moreover, your pet may not display all of the signs. Your veterinarian may not even suspect or diagnose the syndrome. This professional can only do so with your help.

If you notice changes in your senior dog’s behavior, document them. Take your concerns up with the vet. Do so backed up by information. If your vet is to diagnose your dog with CCDS, he or she has to have all the data. This includes knowing what the problem is, when the problem first manifested and the specific pattern of the problem(s). You also have to provide the vet with information on any other specific health problems your dog has or has had.


Unfortunately, there is no known cure for CCDS. You can, however, treat it on several levels. The vet can give you drugs to help reduce physical problems. The common choice is L-selegiline. You can also use an integrative approach. This will combine diet, training and environmental aspects.

• Make sure your dog is eating a diet rich in antioxidants. This will help him or her maintain some mental acuity. It also slows down the progression of CCDS.

• Enrich your dog’s life. Stimulate them more. Challenge them daily with frequent if short walks. Praise them every time they do eliminate outdoors.

• Continue to train them. This will help their brain continue to function. Do not try elaborate new signals. Use and reinforce simple and familiar ones. Make sure they are clear.

• Be sure the outdoor and indoor environments are safe and sound. This means keeping gates and exits tightly secured. This will prevent the dog from wandering out of the yard, becoming lost and even more confused. Indoors, you may use baby gates or other forms to provide a sense of security.

• Keep the room and yard clear from all clutter. This will prevent your dog bumping into objects.

If you pay heed to the needs of your senior dog, you can help him or her live comfortably with CCDS.

Information written by Gary Washington of, look for new discounts on dog seat covers online.

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Don't Give That Dog A Bone!

In LA we love our dogs something fierce.

Just look at the lengths we go to make them comfortable (plush bedding, booties), fit (frequent excursions to the dog park, totes in slings once reserved for human babies) and happy (shampoo, conditioner, gourmet treats, and so on).

As such, we dog-lovers should also commit to memory the following list, in order to keep our little ones healthy. Pet expert Dr. Karen Halligan reminds us of the 20 things we should never feed them. Avacados, for example, can be harmful, and they grow rampantly all over the city. Chocolate, alchohol and tobacco may be treats for you -- but all can be very bad for fido.

Study up and hone your parenting skills. Then get back to pampering your pup as usual.


Excerpted from “Dr. Karen Halligan’s What Every Pet Owner Should Know: Prescriptions for Happy, Healthy Cats and Dogs”. Collins 2007

1. No Bones About It

Bones are very dangerous for animals. Every year thousands of animals end up in the emergency room from eating bones, usually given by their owners as a treat. The fact is that dogs are omnivores, not carnivores. Most dogs and cats can’t tolerate bones, since they can splinter or lodge in the intestinal tract with disastrous results, usually requiring surgery.

Bones can also get stuck in your pet’s mouth or throat, which is just as dangerous. Bones of all kinds are bad; this includes pork, chicken, and beef. So the next time you feel the urge to give your dog a bone, just make sure it’s a Milk-Bone™ or a Nylabone™. Your pet will love you for it.

2. Chocolate Can Be Lethal

A potential lethal dose of chocolate for a 16-pound animal is only two ounces of baker’s chocolate or 16 ounces of milk chocolate. Chocolate contains theobromine, which causes increased heart rate, central nervous system stimulation, and constriction of arteries in pets. Clinical symptoms range from vomiting, diarrhea, restlessness, and excitability to cardiac failure, seizures, and death. A serious reaction can occur as quickly as four to six hours after ingestion.

3. Alcohol Is Toxic to Pets

It doesn’t take much alcohol to intoxicate a pet. Animals will stagger and bump into things, hurting themselves; alcohol also causes them to urinate uncontrollably. In high doses, it will suppress the central nervous, respiratory, and cardiac systems, and can even lead to death. It’s best to just give your pet water.

4. Milk and Cheese Are Harmful for Adult Animals

Many pets are lactose-intolerant and develop diarrhea when drinking milk. Pets lack the enzyme that’s required to break down milk sugar, and this causes them to develop vomiting, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Even though your pets like it and were nursed as infants on their mother’s milk, refrain from giving them milk. Cheese, even in small amounts, is too high in fat and can lead to a life-threatening pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

5. Ham and Other Fatty Meats Are Very Dangerous

Like cheese, ham and other fatty meats are high in fat, which can lead to a life-threatening pancreatitis. In addition to being high in fat, these foods are very salty and can cause serious stomach upset if eaten by your cats or dogs. Furthermore, large breeds of dogs that eat salty food may drink too much water and develop a potentially fatal condition called bloat. The stomach fills up with gas and within several hours may twist on itself, causing the animal to die. So avoid giving ham and/or rich/salty meats to your pets.

6. Onions and Garlic Are Poisonous to Pets

Onions and garlic contain toxic ingredients that can damage pets’ red blood cells and cause fatal consequences. Pets may develop vomiting and diarrhea, which may progress to anemia, weakness, and labored breathing. Onions, either raw or cooked, are more dangerous; a cat or dog can be seriously harmed by only a small amount. Garlic is less toxic, as pets need to ingest large amounts to cause illness.

7. Caffeine Is Risky

Refrain from giving your pets coffee, as caffeine is unsafe for them. It contains methylated xanthine, like chocolate, that stimulates the central nervous and cardiac systems and, within several hours, causes vomiting, restlessness, heart palpitations, and even death. So make sure your pets stay away from that early morning brew.

8. Avoid Avocados

First, avocados are high in fat and can cause your pet stomach upset, vomiting, and even pancreatitis. Second, the pit, besides being toxic, can get lodged in your pet’s intestinal tract, leading to a severe blockage that may require surgery. Symptoms of toxicity include difficulty breathing, abdominal enlargement, and abnormal fluid accumulation in the chest and abdomen.

9. Tuna Is Treacherous

A cat’s heart muscle requires an amino acid called taurine to maintain normal strength and function. Canned tuna fish does not have this amino acid, and cats that eat too much tuna fish will develop heart problems. If you want to give your cats the taste of tuna that they love, just make sure it’s tuna fish for cats, which has the amino acid taurine added.

10. Just Say No to Raisins and Grapes

A recent study found that raisins and grapes can lead to gastrointestinal signs like vomiting and diarrhea to life-threatening kidney failure, which starts in about 24 hours after ingestion. Small dogs can also choke on grapes, so it’s best to make sure that you provide your pets with a well-balanced diet that’s formulated for their life stage.

11. Mad for Macadamia Nuts

These tasty nuts contain an unknown toxin that can seriously affect a pet’s digestive tract, nervous system, and skeletal muscles. Clinical signs include vomiting weakness, depression, diarrhea, panting, difficulty walking, and muscle tremors. Dogs have become violently ill from ingesting as few as six macadamia nuts.

12. Tobacco Is Taboo

Tobacco contains nicotine, which rapidly affects the digestive and nervous systems of pets. This may lead to salivation, vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, shallow breathing, rapid heartbeat, collapse, coma, and even death.

13. Liver Is Lethal

Eating large amounts of liver can cause vitamin A toxicity, which severely affects muscles and bones. Hypervitaminosis A causes severe changes including constipation, deformed bones, weight loss, anorexia, and neck, joint, or spine stiffness due to excessive bone growth on the elbows and spine.

14. Fat Can Be Fatal

A pet’s consumption of fat trimmings can cause pancreatitis, which leads to vomiting and diarrhea. Pets with pancreatitis are usually lethargic with severe stomach pain, and often become dehydrated. If left untreated, the condition can be fatal.

15. Potato Peels and Green-Looking Potatoes Are Indigestible

Potato peels contain oxalates, which adversely affect pets’ digestive, nervous, and urinary tract systems. Symptoms include lethargy, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and seizures.

16. Yeast Dough Is Hazardous

If ingested, yeast dough will expand in a pet’s stomach or intestines and produce large amounts of gas in the digestive system, causing severe pain and even rupture of the stomach or intestines. Secondly, as the dough ferments it produces alcohol, which can be toxic as well. Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal discomfort, lethargy, or depression.

17. Moldy, Spoiled Food Really Is Rotten

Dogs and cats get food poisoning, like humans, and actually die from eating moldy or spoiled food, which can contain multiple toxins causing vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, shaking, and seizures. Garbage gut is definitely dangerous, so don’t feed anything you wouldn’t eat to your pets.

18. Rhubarb and Tomato Leaves/Stems Are Hard to Stomach

These plants contain oxalates, which adversely affect multiple systems including the digestive, nervous, and urinary tract systems. Pets will experience vomiting, diarrhea, labored breathing, abdominal cramps, weakness, convulsions, muscle twitching, and seizures from ingesting these.

19. Hold the Mushrooms

Mushroom toxicity can be fatal if certain species of mushrooms are ingested. These can contain toxins that may affect multiple systems in your pet’s body leading to shock and eventually death. Clinical signs include abdominal pain, seizures, hallucinations, depression, vomiting, and diarrhea.

20. Plums, Peaches, and Pears are Perilous — as well as Apricot Pits and Apple Cores

The pits and cores of these delicious fruits contain cyanogenic glycosides, which, when eaten by cats or dogs, may result in cyanide poisoning. Signs of toxicity include salivation, apprehension, dilated pupils, difficulty breathing, dizziness, collapse, coma, seizures, hyperventilation, and shock.

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Pet Advice: Kennel Cough Advice for your Pets

Many dog owners assume that their canine friends can only be affected by Kennel Cough if they have recently been boarded in kennels. This is not correct. Although it is true that dogs are more vulnerable when grouped together in large numbers, they can actually catch Kennel Cough whenever they come into contact with another infected dog, such as when out walking.

Kennel Cough is a respiratory disease often caused by several different bacteria and viruses working together - the most common of which is called Bordetella bronchiseptica.

It is a highly contagious disease that spreads through airborne particles. In severe cases life-threatening complications can develop, such as pneumonia. Old and young dogs, and those with existing health problems, are the most vulnerable.

Signs of Kennel Cough can include a dry cough, wretching, gagging, lethargy and lack of appetite.

Senior Veterinary Surgeon

, Sean Wensley, says: “The best way to prevent infection is through vaccination. If your dog is going to come in to close contact with other dogs, for example at boarding kennels, or you think your dog might be at risk of contracting Kennel Cough, then you should discuss vaccinations with your vet.”

Infected dogs should be kept isolated because the disease is usually highly contagious and can spread rapidly to other dogs.

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A Pet ... Tarantula?

Dear Heloise: My husband wants to buy our son a TARANTULA, but I'm not sure if our son is responsible enough to take care of one. How long do tarantulas live in captivity, and how do you take care of them? Thanks! -- Creeped-Out in Canada

Spiders sure aren't everyone's cup of tea, are they? But many people love them. The first thing you should do is get a book about care and keeping of tarantulas. Our research here at Heloise Central turned up a few tarantula tips, but keep in mind that there are more than 850 species of tarantulas:

- Tarantulas can be very delicate; use care when handling, because dropping them even from a short distance can cause injury or death.

- Some species are "low-maintenance," according to the American Tarantula Society, while others require "almost constant attention."

- Female tarantulas can live more than 25 years, so a female requires a long-term commitment. Males don't live as long, and die within a few months of mating.

- Tarantulas need a water dish and to be fed two or three times per week. Store-bought LIVE crickets are fine, but variety throughout the year is best.

- Tarantulas prefer temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit, but direct sunlight or bright lights are not good.

- Tarantulas molt their exoskeleton in order to "grow a size," and they do this by lying belly-up on the bottom of their enclosure. Don't think your pet is dead if you see this pose!

The long and short of it is that tarantulas are exotic pets and should be treated with respect and caution. -- Heloise


Dear Readers: Charles and Fran York of Benton, Maine, sent a photo of their adorable black-and-white 8-month-old Shih Tzu, Harvick, sitting on a chair on top of a chair pad (his favorite spot), waiting for his "dad" to come home from work.

To see Harvick, visit -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: May I suggest a traveling hint? My wife and I had our cell-phone numbers engraved on a pet's identification tag, which can be bought at any major pet store nationwide. The placing of the cell-phone numbers ensures that we can be located immediately anywhere nationwide, and that is important to us. -- Frank O., The Villages, Fla.


Dear Heloise: I buy dog food in the large bags and dump them into a large, plastic trash can with a tightfitting lid, which I keep in the garage. I keep a large popcorn tin on my cabinet with dog food in it. When it gets low, I refill it from the can in the garage. Since the popcorn is most often sold at holidays, I have several motifs, and I can rotate them. I keep cheap measuring cups (from the dollar store) in it to measure out the food. -- Pat Ingram, via e-mail

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