Tag Archives: dog health

X-ray of a dog that swallowed a rib bone to illustrate pet choking

Prevent pet choking

June 22 is “Pet Choking Prevention” day. Which sounds like just about the most made-up, incredibly specific “holiday” ever. 

On the other hand, it’s worth a reminder to do  a spot-check to make sure that your dog is safe.

Collars can be dangerous

You’d think, as sellers of dog collars, that we’d advocate for dogs wearing collars all the time. Nope. Dogs should be naked in the house. The only exception might be if your dog is an extreme flight risk In that case, the collar they wear should have nothing dangling from it. If you’re adament that your dog wears I.D. at all times, it should be integral to the collar, either embroidered in or sliding on. 

There are just too many hazards you may not even think about to risk hanging tags. We’ve seen cases of tags being caught in floor vents the dog was lying on. 

The “naked” think holds for your fenced yard, too. Especially if you’re not out there with the dog, or if you have more than one. The most frightening story we heard was when a dog got another dog’s collar caught around its jaw when they were wrestling. It wasn’t a happy ending.

Toys can be hazards, too

We’ve all seen the warning tags on dog toys that say you should discard the toy when it becomes damaged. And always supervise your dog when playing with toys. There’s one more caution we’d add: make sure the toys, particularly solid rubber or plastic toys, have more than one opening. 

X-ray of a dog that swallowed a rib bone to illustrate pet choking
This is the actual x-ray of our friend’s French Bulldog who swallowed a beef rib bone – the straight white object in the middle.

It’s been a few years since we saw it, but there was a treat-dispensing toy that had only one hole. There were reports of quite a few dogs whose tongues were stuck in the toy and it had to be removed under anesthesia by a veterinarian. 

Chew toys and treats also fall in this category. We actually know someone whose French Bulldog swallowed an entire beef rib bone. Nobody knows how she managed to do it. Fortunately, an emergency surgery later, she was fine. And wanted more rib bones.

What will they get into next?

You wouldn’t think a snack bag would be dangerous, but apparently they are. We’ve seen stories about dogs grabbing potato chip bags, presumably to get the delicious greasy salt left behind, were trapped, and suffocated.

Aside from the beef rib story, we can’t vouch for the truth of any of these anecdotes. But, just in case, it doesn’t really take much time to tear open a chip bag completely before you throw it away. After decades, we still cut apart the six-pack can plastic holders so sea creatures don’t get trapped. And we live nowhere near the ocean. Better safe than sorry.

Pay attention

Being aware of the potential problems goes a long way toward preventing them. Take a good look at your dog’s toys, collars, and environment. It’s not a bad idea to actually get down on hands and knees for a quick survey.

It’s pretty much the same precaution you’d take to “baby proof” your house. Practically speaking, your dog doesn’t have any more common sense than an infant. It’s up to us to keep them safe. You can also teach your dog “Drop It!” – just in case.

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Picture of a brindle French Bulldog to illustrate dogs aren't in charge

Be ready for a dog emergency

We learned the hard way this week that you always have to be ready for a dog emergency. We spent New Year’s Eve in the waiting room at the veterinary ophthalmology clinic. Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog, needed emergency surgery to remove his right eye. We’ll spare you the details, but suffice it to say a fairly innocuous corneal ulcer went bad very fast. He’d been seeing his regular vet, who referred us to the specialist when it worsened over four days. And on the sixth day it ruptured. 

Picture of a brindle French Bulldog to illustrate Be Ready For A Dog Emergency

We were at home, relaxing after watching the Rose Bowl Parade. He was just lying on the couch, relaxing too. Then he shrieked in pain and life went into high gear. There were calls to the eye clinic emergency line (leave a message, call back, confirm, call back). One of the details flying by was the hideous expense of the worst possible outcome. Which happened. And had to be paid in full at the time of pick-up.

Don’t be scared. Prepare

We’re not telling you all this so you can feel sorry for Torque, or us. The reason for the post is so that you’re not caught unawares if and when an emergency happens with your dog. When your much-loved dog is in pain, chances are you’re not going to be thinking clearly. If you’ve thought about “what if” ahead of time, you’ll be able to act fast.

The first thing to do is gather the phone numbers and addresses of every place you might need. Call your regular vet if you don’t know their preferred emergency providers and get their list. Enter each and every one as a contact in your phone – including the address and phone number. In a state of panic, you may not remember the exact name of the hospitals, clinics or doctors. So we recommend you start each entry with “Vet – Emergency” or “Vet – Eye” or whatever will mean you can find it. 

Include the address so you can get instant directions as you run out the door. There’s never a time when having a smartphone is more valuable than in an emergency. 

If your not sure what constitutes an animal emergency, check out this list from the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Figure out the funding

If you’ve opted for pet medical insurance, that’s another call you may be required to make. Some require even emergency visits to be authorized prior to treatment. Be very familiar with your policy and provider’s requirements. If you don’t have pet insurance, it might be a good idea to look into it. Compare the options for coverage and pricing while you don’t particularly need it. Most will have a waiting period before coverage begins. Prior conditions may not be covered for a significant amount of time, if at all.

Another choice, if you don’t have pet insurance, is to set aside some amount for an emergency fund of your own. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use it and it will accrue to a nice healthy savings nest egg. Just be sure it’s readily accessible. Emergencies always seem to happen on weekends or holidays. 

If you truly want to be prepared, call the emergency veterinary clinic you might use and ask them what it will cost just to walk in the door. These days just showing up can cost quite a bit. We understand it varies widely by location, but it can be hundreds of dollars, even without surgery or complicated procedures. The bill can easily run into thousands, quickly. 

Knowledge is power

Just taking these steps to be prepared will help. It’s a good thing to be able to concentrate on the important things – getting your dog where they need to be, seeing the professional most qualified to help you in an emergency. We hope you never, ever need to use your emergency preparations. But, as our mother used to say: “It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.”

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Picture of a black Brussels Griffon dog to illustrate mysterious dog virus

Worrying about the mysterious dog virus

Every day we see headlines about the “mysterious” dog virus that’s creeping its way around the country. We’ve noticed lower attendance in dog training classes. And a friend who owns a dog daycare and boarding facility tells us that business is half what it should be this time of year.

So how worried should you be? We’ve obviously been paying attention to what’s going on. Anything about dog health and wellness is always on our radar. This virus, so far, seems to have more bark than bite.

Pandemic phobia

Since the world was taken by surprise by the COVID 19 pandemic, there seems to be a “once bitten, twice shy” mentality. The least report of a new, or unfamiliar, respiratory virus gets a lot of attention very quickly. Even when the patients are dogs, not people.

Picture of a black Brussels Griffon dog to illustrate mysterious dog virus

The reports we’ve seen so far indicate that this virus is rather mild unless the affected dog is immune-compromised, either due to age (young or old) or illness. For people with dogs that fall into these categories, it’s probably a good idea to be overly cautious. If you have a vulnerable dog, maybe it’s not a good time to board them. Or take them walking in areas that many unfamiliar dogs use. 

Tango, Fran’s Brussels Griffon, is 14+ years old. Needless to say, after a rather difficult Autumn, he’s not leaving his own fenced yard for the duration. His health issues were stomach, not respiratory, but we’re not taking any chances.

Use common sense

For the rest of us and our dogs, normal common sense should apply. For us, that means bringing our own dog crates to training classes instead of using “public” ones at the facility. We don’t let our dogs drink out of the courtesy water bowls wherever we are. Bringing our own training treats is a must. We pay attention to what our dogs are sniffing on the ground. If someone was rude enough to leave their dog’s excrement, we make sure to keep our dogs clear of it. If we’re carrying extra poop bags, we may even pick it up and toss it in the trash. And wash our hands as soon as we get home.

Another good idea is to keep your dog’s vaccinations updated. If your dog hasn’t had the canine flu vaccine, talk to your vet and consider whether it might be worthwhile. If you do visit the veterinarian, think about keeping your dog in your car until they’re ready for you. The one place you can be sure sick dogs hang out is there.

If you go somewhere and pet unfamiliar dogs, wash your hands before you pet your own. We all had proper hand-washing procedures drummed into us. Use what you know. And your common sense. 

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Picture of an old dog carrying a toy toward a box

Adventures with an old dog

Every day can be an adventure when you have an old dog. Tango, Fran’s 14.5-year-old Brussels Griffon, has us on a bit of a roller coaster lately. 

It’s not that we mind cleaning up when he doesn’t quite make it outside. Or the loads of laundry on the days nothing stays down. The distressing part is that he’s not comfortable, can’t seem to get warm, and on some days, doesn’t want to play his special games

Making choices

Picture of an old dog carrying a toy toward a box

All this came on rather suddenly, so Fran’s working with his veterinarian to figure out how to make him happy and comfortable again. We’ve known the vet for many years, and when she took a look at him, asked Fran if they had to have “the talk.” It’s not the same talk parents have with their pre-teens. It’s the tough choices talk.

And we’re there. At Tango’s age and state of decay (arthritis, vision and hearing loss, etc.) we’re not going to subject him to invasive or painful diagnostic tests. If we did, and discovered something, we also wouldn’t subject him to invasive or painful treatment. So there would be no point.

Comfortable is the goal

So we’re treating the symptoms for now. Hoping our vet’s familiarity with Tango, knowledge, and experience, will keep Tango comfortable most days. As long as the good days outnumber the not-so-good ones, we’ll keep going.

Ironically, with Tango, the one diagnosis we thought was a sure bet, kidney disease/failure, isn’t. His kidney function is just dandy. It’s ironic because he’s been eating prescription kidney diet food most of his life. He had crystals when we was about two, so he’s been on a special diet ever since. He’ll be thrilled now that he can have whatever food he likes. He’s happy beyond belief to get unlimited Chicken Heart Treats. Even the vet says we don’t have to care about crystals any more.

Free to indulge

In a way, it’s going to be a good time with Tango, however long it is. When you don’t have to worry about long-term consequences, you can indulge him. He’ll get the extra squirt of whipped cream or spoon of ice cream. And we’ll turn up the heated throw an extra notch, just for Tango.

We’ve had dogs for lots of years and we’ve had all kinds of end-of-life experiences with them. People, especially first-time dog owners, will ask when you know it’s time. In our experience, your dog will let you know when they’re done. By the same token, they’ll also do their best to stay with you if that’s what you need. Dogs’ love for their people is unconditional throughout their lives.

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