Tag Archives: dog health

Dog Emergency – when to panic, when to relax

The first time we saw bloody footprints wherever Golly walked, we panicked. Clearly we had a dog emergency on our hands. It was before seven in the morning, so we raced to the emergency vet. A huge vet bill later, she was returned to us sporting a bandage with a little pink gauze heart. She’d torn a nail. She was fine.

The next time we saw bloody footprints from Golly, we washed her foot, slapped a bandage on, and waited for our regular vet’s office to open. Experience is a great teacher and we’d learned our lesson. Especially since Golly was impatient for her breakfast and unfazed by her new broken nail.

Use your common sense

Owning a dog is a lot like being the parent of a perpetual toddler. With your first, you worry all the time. Not only about what happens, but whether you’re getting it right. By the time your second, third, etc. come along, you’re an old hand and learn to relax more.

Common sense is the best reaction in most dog emergency situations. The first time your dog starts “reverse sneezing” and is gasping for air, your first instinct might be to race for help. The common sense resolution is to get your dog to open his/her mouth and breathe that way. Just blocking the dog’s nostrils usually gets them to open their mouth. A few deep breaths later, they’re back to normal, like nothing happened. Reverse sneezing is one of those “looks worse than it is” issues.

If your dog is bleeding from a cut or scrape, clean it and take a look. If the injury is one you wouldn’t see a doctor for, chances are your dog doesn’t need to, either. Treat it just like you would if it was yours. Same thing with stomach upsets. If it’s a one-time incident and your dog is acting normally, do the same kind of thing you’d do for yourself.

Keep a dog emergency kit 

That being said, you can’t use all the same first aid products on dogs that you do for yourself. Latex bandages just won’t work on fur. Get a storage bin and collect the first aid items you may need for dog emergency incidents. The best-equipped dog first aid kits would have:

  • Gloves 
  • Antiseptic Wipes
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (for either cleaning wounds or getting the dog to vomit)
  • Antibiotic spray or ointment
  • Burn Gel with Lidocaine
  • Eye Wash
  • Sterile Gauze Pads
  • Self-Adhering Bandage Wrap
  • Cotton Swabs
  • Instant Cold Pack
  • Towel
  • Oral Syringe
  • Digital Thermometer
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers
  • Flashlight
  • Muzzle
  • Canine 1st Aid Manual
Picture of a fawn French Bulldog with a bandaged foot to illustrate dog emergency

Before you use any product on your dog, make sure it’s safe for canines. On the advice of our veterinarian, we also keep Benadryl in our kit. Ever since our Boston Terrier Daemon decided eating a bee every spring was his job. The first time, we ran to the vet. After that? Gave him a Benadryl and kept an eye on him to make sure the swelling subsided.

It’s also a good idea to find a class or seminar about dog First Aid. Humane societies sometimes have them, or some dog clubs. In the picture, Teddy wasn’t thrilled about Hope practicing her bandaging technique at our dog training club’s seminar on dog First Aid.

Sometimes panic is right

There are times when a trip to emergency is called for. If you’re not sure what’s wrong, your dog is obviously in pain, having a seizure, has pale gums, unconscious, unable to walk, etc., get help immediately. It’s better to make an unnecessary trip than to risk your dog’s health. 

Like the time when we came home from work and Daemon shrieked in pain when we touched him. Off to the emergency vet, in the dark, in a blizzard. It turned out he had gas. He was fine. But in all honesty, if any of our dogs screamed in pain at a touch – we’d still run to the vet with a dog emergency.  

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Exercise keeps dogs young

We all want our dogs to live long, healthy lives. An initial finding from the Dog Aging Project suggests that exercise keeps dogs young – in both body and mind. Active dogs are less likely to succumb to Canine Cognitive Dysfunction, a canine version of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction in older dogs may include pacing, getting “lost” in familiar places, walking into walls or doors, or having trouble finding dropped treats. These symptoms are also common in older dogs with vision or hearing problems. So far, the project doesn’t yet know whether one causes the other, but they are related.

Exercise is key

What they did find is a convincing correlation between activity and CCD. Dogs who their owners described as “active” were almost six and a half times less likely to have Canine Cognitive Dysfunction. The odds of CCD increase with each year of aging, so keeping your dog moving in their “senior” years may be even more important than with younger dogs. 

Picture of a small black dog walking to illustrate Exercise keeps dogs young.
Tango has to do his own walking!

With a teen-aged dog ourselves, we know it can be challenging to get your older dog up and moving. Tango, Fran’s 13-year-old Brussels Griffon can’t do a flight of stairs anymore, but he can still jump up on the couch. Some days it’s hard to wake him from his naps. And when he does get up, we can see him working out the kinks as he moves.

When you have a little old dog, it’s tempting to just pick him up and do the walking for him. Take him where you want him to go, and get there so much faster. But resisting the temptation is important. The more we make our old dogs move, the longer they’ll be able to move.

We still make the old guy do his exercises every day. He’s not crazy about his Perch Work, but the treats he gets make it worth his while.

Small dog age slower

We love all dogs, but only small dogs have shared our lives. Partly that’s because we have a small home. But it’s also because the smaller the dog, the longer the lifespan. The thought of losing a dog in just six or seven years is heartbreaking, but that’s the average for some of the giant breeds. 

Logically, chances of dogs developing dementia go up with each successive year of age. As the study progresses, we’ll be interested in seeing if there’s any difference in the occurrence of CCD between large and small dogs. 

We’ve been following the progress of the Dog Aging Project for a while now. The study’s goal, with participation from the public, is hoping to shed light on the causes of aging in both dogs and people. The project is still looking for participants, if you’re interested. They say: “We welcome all dogs—young and old, mixed breed and purebred, healthy and those with chronic illness.” The plan is to collect information about the dogs over the course of ten or more years.

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Is Ice Safe For Dogs?

With record summer heat, we’re all looking for ways to cool off, including our dogs. But is ice safe for dogs? Recently we’ve seen lots of posts on social media claiming that giving dogs ice is a bad idea, and can even prove fatal. We just had to find out more. Especially since dogs playing “hockey” with ice cubes is a favorite game around here!

Like always, it depends

Photo of a furry brown dog licking on an ice cube to illustrate Is Ice Safe For Dogs

It turns out that the answer as to whether it’s dangerous to give dogs ice is a tiny bit ambiguous. 

It’s absolutely fine if your dog is a little warm and you give them some ice chips to cool off a bit. Or let them chase a cube around the floor. Or munch on a frozen carrot or doggy ice pop. It’s even absolutely okay to stuff their treat-dispensing toys (yogurt with mix-ins is a local favorite) and freeze them for the dogs to enjoy.

When ice is a no-no

The problem with ice happens when dogs are possibly suffering from heat stroke.

It doesn’t take long for heat stroke to become a danger. In as little as half an hour, dogs can succumb. And it’s more likely in humid weather. If you see your dog breathing rapidly and/or panting heavily, it’s time to start thinking about getting him/her someplace cooler. 

Symptoms of heat stroke in dogs can progress to drooling, dry mucous membranes, skin hot to the touch, bright red gums and tongue. And it gets worse from there, including signs of shock; white or blue gums, rapid heart rate, hyperventilating, tremors, incontinence, and collapse. No one wants their dog suffering from heat stroke. 

What to do

An episode of heat stroke is when ice can be dangerous. Getting the dog cooler is vital, but it turns out that an ice bath is the worst way to do it. The sudden change can send the dog’s system into shock. 

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from heat stroke, get the dog to a cooler spot, sponge him or her down with room temperature or tepid water, and use a fan for evaporative cooling. 

Just really hot

To avoid heat stroke entirely, limit time in the heat for your dogs. Remember that dogs don’t sweat, except for the minimal amount through the pads of their feet. Instead, they rely on panting to cool themselves, but it can only do so much.

When you must go out, consider a cooling coat for your dog. Our favorite, least-fuss option is the K9 Kool Coat. In this weather, our dogs don’t leave home without it.

Long-coated dogs, short-faced dogs (like French Bulldogs, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers), and obese dogs are most prone to get in trouble on steamy days. Try to limit outside trips to short potty walks. Exercise your dog with toys and training games inside. This heat wave could be just the excuse you need to start our 2-Minute Training Games with your dog. Keep in mind that a short training session is just as tiring for dogs as 20 minutes or more of fetch or walking! Using your brain can be exhausting – remember test days at school?

Ice is fine

Or you can always join your dog in a game of ice-cube hockey. Around here, the people always lose this game. The other side tends to run off and munch on the “puck.”

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Picker-upper’s guide to dog poop

You know you’re among dog people when the conversation turns to poop. No one gets disgusted and walks away. And everyone has something to say about it. 

Dog poop. We all deal with it on a daily basis, so we may as well talk about it. Especially since, more than likely, at some point in the next couple of weeks the dog will eat something he shouldn’t and there will be either massive quantities of it, or none at all.

No matter how careful you are, if you have company, someone won’t be able to resist those puppy-dog eyes and share a tidbit. Or many someones, considering how cute your dog is. And even the best-trained dog won’t be able to resist an offered goodie. The best strategy is to be prepared for whatever indiscretion may occur.

Everybody does it

Regardless of what you feed your dog, and we understand that friendships are won and lost over the topic of dog food, at some point your dog is going to get some kind of tummy upset and you’ll be left with the consequences. Speaking of which – for the inevitable “stepped in it” situation, we keep an old vegetable brush outside near our back door just to deal with “poop vs. shoe” consequences. It works like a charm, even on athletic shoes. Next time you’re in the local dollar store, pick up a couple extra. You won’t be sorry.

Primer on poop

cartoon image to illustrate all dogs poop

We’ve learned there are 4 “C” of poop – Consistency, Color, Contents, and Coating (thank you PetMD). There are variations on normal, depending on the individual dog and what he/she may be eating. If you know that a certain combination of these “C’s” is normal for your dog, there’s probably no reason to be concerned if your dog’s poop lies outside the “ideals” for each trait.


None of us goes around feeling our dog’s poop on purpose. But as responsible citizens, we all know what it feels like through the barrier of a plastic bag. Ideally, dog poop should “give” when pressed, much like Play Doh. Experts say it shouldn’t be hard and chalky (although some of my friends who feed the BARF diet would disagree), nor should it be formless and puddle-like. An occasional puddle or two indicates a dietary “oopsy” and if it persists, requires a visit to the vet.


When we first heard the “Tootsie Roll” analogy, we couldn’t eat a former favorite candy for months.“Good” poop is brown. Other colors may indicate something going on in the dog’s system. Black can be a sign of bleeding, as can red, depending on where the irritation is in the dog’s system. Other indicators of something amiss can be gray or yellow. We’ve been known to panic when there’s pink in the pooper-scooper, until we remember our dogs ate something with beets the previous day. The AKC has published a “Color Wheel of Poop” you can check.


If you see something you can identify – it’s not a good thing. Unless it’s corn. Corn never changes.

But seriously, we’ve all dissected an occasional poop when something in the house is missing – whether it be a child’s toy, a sock, a piece of jewelry or coins. If you see something that looks like rice – that could be worms and requires professional attention. 


If there’s something around your dog’s poop, it’s probably mucus and can mean a couple of things. Your dog could have a cold and be a mucus machine, just like us. Or it could be another indicator of a tummy upset. If you see streaks of blood, or your dog is straining to poop, it could mean he’s constipated. Again, if it persists more than a poop or two – go see your veterinarian.

Be prepared

We can cope with occasional poop problems with items from our pantry. We know our veterinarian always recommends not feeding for a day if your dog has loose poop. We’ve never been able to do that. Those puppy-dog eyes get us every time. So our staples include:

  • Canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Just a spoonful or two with a small portion of regular food has tightened things up promptly.
  • Saltine crackers. We actually don’t know why it works, but it can. We think it dates back to when we were kids and had tummy upsets – it’s what our mother gave us.
  • Pepto Bismol. Ask your vet before administering. And be aware that it will turn your pup’s poop black.
  • Rice. An oldie but a goodie for that “bland diet” veterinarians talk about. Make it with chicken or beef broth instead of water to make it more palatable for your dog. 

Nothing but the poop

Keep in mind that any problems that persist more than a day or two merit a professional consultation. If your dog is in distress – don’t wait at all. Dogs are quick and there’s lots of new plant growth this time of year. It’s better to be safe than sorry!

We have addressed this topic before, but it’s been several years and, unfortunately, we needed to look up the information. A refresher never hurts.

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