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Thursday, July 09, 2009

How to Tell if Your Dog Has an Illness

Many people consider their dogs part of the family. However, unlike other members of the family, dogs are incapable of communicating when they are feeling ill. Most dog owners are able to easily identify when their pet is acting strangely. However, it can be difficult to know when a trip to the veterinarian is in order. Luckily, there are a few obvious warning signs that you can look for to help determine when your dog might need a professional examination.

Like humans, dogs can act abnormally for a variety of different reasons. Sometimes, dogs can become temporarily lackadaisical due to fatigue or depression. In this case, some simple TLC can be a suitable cure. However, there are certain symptoms and behaviors that should be taken seriously. If your dog demonstrates any of the following symptoms, you should immediately take him or her to a veterinarian for a proper examination.

Physical Symptoms

The skin, ears, eyes, nose and mouth can tell you a lot about whether or not a dog is ill. If you notice redness, swelling, crust or discharge coming from either the eyes or the nose, your dog might be suffering from a viral or bacterial infection. In this case, a veterinarian might be able to prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection and provide drugs that can relieve uncomfortable symptoms.

The ears can also give hints to how your dog is feeling. If you notice drainage or foul odors emitting from the ears, you should be suspicious of a possible infection. Also, unusual twitching, scratching or shaking of the ears can point toward feelings of discomfort caused by a potential illness.

The skin and mouth should also be checked for strange, foul odors. The dog's tongue should be checked for dryness or strange coloring. Flaky, dry or red skin also represent warning signs as these could point to a potential fungal or parasitic infection.

Behavioral Symptoms

Most people have a good idea of how their dog normally behaves. If your dog is acting differently, it may just be a faze. However, if he is not eating or drinking water at the usual rates, this is generally a cause for alarm as this can be a sign of a variety of illnesses. Rapid weight loss, scratching, sleeplessness or sleeping too much are also indications that something might be affecting his or her health. Trembling, stumbling or falling should prompt immediate action as this could point to serious, advanced illness.

For many, their dog is more than just a pet. More than a few homes are full of photo albums peppered with images of the family canine. A lot of people consider their dogs an integral part of their family life and can't imagine life without them. By knowing what to look for, you can help keep your dog healthy and get him the proper attention he requires if he falls ill.

Copyright © 2009, Ian White

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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The Safest Breeds of Dog For Children

It's no secret that children love dogs. However, the feeling is not always reciprocated. Small children can often provoke dogs unintentionally, leading to potentially dangerous or even fatal altercations. Most of these tragedies could be avoided if parents took the time to learn about the potential dangers associated with certain breeds of dog. Although any breed of dog can be raised to be a loyal, loving pet, the fact is that some breeds are safer for children than others.

Although it is a fact that certain breeds can be more dangerous to children, the truth is that any dog can be a threat to a young child. The reason for this usually has more to do with the children than the dog. Young kids often annoy and harass dogs by pulling their tales or ears. Also, children are often unaware of boundaries and tend to do a poor job of discerning when a dog is becoming scared or angry.

That being said, there are certain breeds of dog that should be avoided if a child's safety is of specific concern. There are literally tens of thousands of breeds of dog, and it can be confusing to know which breeds represent the greatest threat to a child. One helpful rule in general is to avoid large, loud and hyper breeds like, Dalmatians, Boxers and Huskies. Although these dogs may not intend to harm your child, their large size, raw power and tendency toward excitability make them prone to crashing into things and potentially knocking children over. Breeds with aggressive temperaments, like Chows, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Pit Bulls should also be avoided. Although these dogs are often raised to be loyal, loving pets, they can be specifically dangerous to children because of their strong territorial instincts and deadly raw power. These breeds have amazingly powerful jaws and this biting power can make even a well-trained pet a significant danger to a child who doesn't respect boundaries.

So, if those breeds are generally the most dangerous around children, which ones are the safest? Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are good choices for people with children because they are generally intelligent and good-natured. Not only are these dogs usually quite docile, they are good at following instruction and are relatively easy to train. Boxers, Shih-Tzus, Pugs, Border Terriers, English Bulldogs, Norfolk Terriers, Beagles, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels are usually safe breeds for children because of their small non-threatening body sizes. These types of breeds are typically safe for children to play with; as an accidental or even intentional bite usually requires nothing but a band-aid or, at worst, a couple of stitches.

Although, some breeds of dog are a better fit for people with children, it is important to remember that no dog is 100 percent safe. Parents should always supervise young children when a dog is present. Even a good-natured, well-mannered dog can react aggressively when he or she feels threatened or confused. Many people are often shocked when their normally gentle dog erupts in an aggressive manner after being provoked by a small child. If you have children and are planning to adopt a puppy, you should definitely be selective when choosing a breed. However, there's more to the safety equation than just that. Teaching children how to behave around dogs combined with thorough supervision can help ensure that you and your family are able to avoid a potentially dangerous altercation.

Copyright © 2009, Ian White

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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

How to Handle a Dog That's Aggressive Over Food

Does your dog growl or snap at you or the other dogs at meal time? A dog that becomes aggressive over food can be a sign of a bigger problem. Dogs are social animals that interact with people and other animals based on a pack hierarchy. Generally, a dog will only show aggression towards an animal or person who’s perceived to be lower in the pack order than he is. When a dog becomes aggressive over food, it means that he feels entitled to it because of his higher place in the hierarchy. If that aggression is directed towards a human, it can be a particularly serious problem. How is a dog that’s aggressive with food best handled?

If a dog’s aggression over food is directed towards another dog in the family, the problem can be simpler to solve. The best solution is to separate the two dogs at meal time, preferably in separate rooms so they’re unable to see one another. It’s important to understand where each dog lies in the pack hierarchy so this can be reinforced at feeding time. If the dogs are fed together, the dominant dog should be given his bowl of food before the other dogs. In the wild, the dominant dog or wolf is expected to eat first, while the submissive dog waits for his turn. Reinforcing the pack order helps both dogs feel more comfortable and they’ll be less likely to become aggressive over food.

If a dog becomes aggressive over food with a human, the dog considers himself to be higher in the pack hierarchy and feels justified in demanding the food. A dog that’s aggressive with food may growl or snarl, but in some cases, could bite or attack. This is more likely to happen with a smaller, less threatening human such as a child. It’s obvious that this behavior needs to be stopped both for the safety of family members and to maintain peace in the household.

The only way to eliminate aggressive behavior with food is to clearly establish that the humans in the household are higher in the pack hierarchy. When feeding a dog with food aggression, show him that the food will be taken away at the first sign of bad behavior. Encourage him to sit and make him wait for a minute or two before setting his food bowl down to show him you control the food supply. If he growls or shows signs of aggression, quickly remove the food bowl. Once your dog sees that the food will be taken away when he shows aggression, the aggressive behavior should gradually stop. It’s important not to punish your dog as this can make the problem worse. Consistently show your dog that you control the food and treats. This should be reinforced by every member of the family.

Because a dog that’s aggressive over food can be a threat, particularly to small children, it may be best, especially with larger dogs, to seek the help of a dog trainer or dog behavior specialist. It’s important to take any sign of food aggression seriously, even an occasional growl. If the problem isn’t addressed quickly, the dog could rapidly become more aggressive. Keep in mind that problems with aggression can be caused by underlying medical problems, so have your dog checked out by a veterinarian if he suddenly becomes aggressive over food.

by, Dr. Kristie

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