Archive : March

10 Home Remedies for Fleas and Ticks That Actually Don’t Work

Keeping bloodsuckers like fleas and ticks off your pet is a major responsibility for pet parents, as these parasites can carry diseases that can hinder your fur baby’s health. And while flea and tick medications are the most effective preventative strategies you can use, some pet parents are likely tempted to try home remedies and alternative methods for tick and flea removal.

The problem is these flea and tick preventative methods don’t work. And on top of that, some can be harmful or create other health issues.

Here are 10 common home remedies for fleas and ticks that are not only ineffective but detrimental to your pet’s health.

1. Dish Detergent

Many people want to bathe their pet to get rid of fleas. While a cat or dog flea shampoo may do the trick, using dish soap for flea treatment is not effective enough.

Dog and cat skin has a different pH level than human skin, “and using dishwater detergent can actually be dry and irritating to their skin,” says Dr. Robert Lofton, veterinarian and assistant clinical professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Auburn University in Alabama. “And it’s not going to control the fleas,” he adds.

Even if the dish soap does help kill adult fleas, the tenacious parasites that are left behind are guaranteed to breed and repopulate your pet— and your home. Plus, bathing your pet in dish detergent does nothing to address the eggs and larvae.

“People forget that there are four stages to a flea—the egg, larva, pupa and adult. You need a medication that controls the entire life cycle,” says Dr. Lofton. “Even if what you use kills the adult fleas, that isn’t control.”

For puppies and kittens that are too young for flea medication, dish soap is safe to use to kill adult fleas. But alternative methods need to be used to control the flea population in the environment, or else they will be infested again the next day.

2. Garlic

Some home remedies for fleas suggest that garlic, especially mixed with brewer’s yeast, will repel fleas. The theory is that when a dog eats this combination of garlic and brewer’s yeast and sweats, the garlic scent will emit from a dog’s body, making him an unappealing feast for fleas.

This remedy often calls for putting a mixture of garlic and brewer’s yeast on your dog’s food. But veterinarians often warn against this potentially toxic treatment method.

“Garlic is not an effective flea or tick repellent on dogs or cats since they don’t sweat like humans,” says Dr. Mike Hutchinson, a veterinarian at Animal General of Cranberry Township in Pennsylvania.

In addition to not being an effective treatment method, garlic is toxic to cats and dogs if ingested. It’s best to keep garlic away from your pets.  

3. Apple Cider Vinegar

Just like with garlic, using vinegar to kill fleas is not recommended because it is unsafe and doesn’t work.

The smell and stickiness from spraying apple cider vinegar on your pet’s bedding—or directly on your pet—is enough to keep you away, but fleas and ticks aren’t as picky. Forcing your pet to drink vinegar will also do nothing to keep away fleas and ticks.

Apple cider vinegar, sometimes abbreviated as ACV, is having its moment in the spotlight as a cure-all. While there might be health benefits for people, dogs and cats are not like us, and apple cider vinegar is not safe for them to consume.

Remember: Because your pets lick themselves, anything that you spray on them or on their bedding will eventually be ingested.

4. Alcohol

Rubbing alcohol will kill fleas and ticks, but if you’re going to use alcohol, make sure to use it correctly. Experts recommend dropping fleas or ticks into a glass or jar filled with rubbing alcohol.

“Don’t pour alcohol on a tick that’s on your dog,” Dr. Lofton warns. “When the tick is attached to your dog, the alcohol will make the tick spit out its toxin,” he says.

Instead, put on gloves—to protect yourself from possible tick toxins—and remove the tick with tweezers. Grab the tick right where its mouthparts are attached to your dog’s skin and slowly pull straight back.

So, does alcohol kill fleas? Only if they are swimming in it. You have to pick them off one by one and drop them into a container filled with alcohol, which is not effective flea control.

Never pour or spray alcohol on your pet, as it can seriously harm them.

5. Cedar Oil

“Although cedar oil may repel some bugs, it can be very irritating to the skin surface. Again, I do not recommend this either,” Dr. Hutchinson says.

The oil can even cause irritation when it’s not applied directly to the skin. In fact, many dogs develop skin problems simply from sleeping on a bed that is stuffed with cedar shavings.

And skin problems aren’t the only concern. If enough cedar oil is ingested, say from a pet licking his skin after being treated, it can cause liver damage. Even breathing in small droplets of cedar oil may lead to lung problems.

The bottom line is that while cedar oil smells great and may keep a few (though certainly not all) parasites away, you should not use it on or around pets.

Other oil extracts such as tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil are also not recommended because the dose needed to repel fleas and ticks is very toxic to dogs and cats.

6. Salt

Using salt to kill fleas is dangerous and ineffective. The amount of salt required to kill flea eggs and larvae is toxic to your dog or cat if he licks it or gets it up his nose.

You would need a truckload of salt poured into every surface and crack in your house to know that all the flea eggs and larvae are dried up. At that point, you might as well move!

7. Boric Acid (Borax)

Boric acid is commonly found as the main ingredient in some flea powder products you can sprinkle onto your carpets. It’s created by combining borax with acid.

While it can possibly be effective as part of a multipronged flea-management strategy, boric acid alone can only kill the flea larvae (living in carpets or rugs) that are actively feeding. And flea larvae only make up about 35% of the flea population in your home.

Boric acid is not effective against adult fleas or ticks because they only feed on blood and they will not ingest the powder. It also won’t work against flea eggs (50% of fleas in the home) or flea pupae (10% of the flea population).

8. Baking Soda

Baking soda does not kill adult fleas and will do nothing to protect your pets.

It is excellent at absorbing smells and has been suggested by some online pet sites for use as a flea killer because it “may” dry out flea eggs and larvae. But there is no evidence that using baking soda to kill fleas is effective at all.

9. Coconut Oil

The easy answer to the question “does coconut oil kill fleas?” is a firm no.

Coconut oil has a lot of great uses. The polyunsaturated fatty acids in coconut oil can reduce inflammation and help support cognitive function in pets. However, coconut oil does nothing to repel fleas and ticks.

Coconut oil should never be applied to your pet’s skin unless recommended by your veterinarian for small areas of irritation or dryness (although other oils may be better).

Oil applied to your pet’s skin will only be effective at getting your floor and furniture greasy. The thin layer of coconut oil on their skin does not provide an effective barrier for these tenacious parasites.

10. Diatomaceous Earth

While diatomaceous earth can be used in the environment to kill adult fleas, do not apply it directly to your pet. It’s not effective for flea control when used in this manner, and it could potentially result in lung damage if inhaled. It can also cause GI upset if ingested by dogs or cats.

Only Use Vet-Approved Flea and Tick Treatment Methods

So, which flea and tick control is the best? While it may be tempting to try to treat fleas and ticks with home remedies, it’s important to only use options that are recommended by your veterinarian.

“An honest attempt by some well-meaning pet owners sometimes ends up causing some untoward side effects in their pets,” says Dr. Hutchinson. 

Flea and tick prevention now comes as a chewable tablet, topical solution or collar. For recommendations on effective flea and tick prevention, do your research and talk to your veterinarian.

Fleas can cause disease in your pet and your family. In addition to being itchy and uncomfortable, fleas transmit diseases. Keep your pet and family safe by using vet-approved prescription flea and tick treatment.

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What to Know About Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Veterinary prescription dog food is used to manage a variety of health conditions in dogs, but the concept behind it isn’t always clear. If your veterinarian recommends a hydrolyzed protein dog food, you’re probably wondering what, exactly, “hydrolyzed” means.

What Is Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food?

Hydrolyzed protein dog food is a food in which the proteins are chemically broken down into tiny pieces through a water-based process called hydrolysis. This essentially makes proteins “invisible” to a dog’s immune system.

Protein is a vital component to any diet. Your dog’s muscles, hormones and disease-fighting antibodies are all proteins. To make what their bodies need, dogs take proteins from food, break them down into building blocks called amino acids, and combine those amino acids into new proteins.

In some animals, dietary proteins can trigger an abnormal immune response. Hydrolysis uses water to chemically break proteins into pieces that are so small that the immune system no longer reacts to them.

Why Your Pet Might Need Dog Food With Hydrolyzed Protein

Veterinarians typically prescribe hydrolyzed protein dog foods to treat two conditions: food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease.

Dog Food Allergies

A dog’s gastrointestinal tract serves as a gatekeeper: It allows nutrients in while fighting off disease-causing microorganisms and keeping out anything else that is potentially harmful. But sometimes the body gets confused. Dog food allergies develop when the gut incorrectly starts identifying benign dietary proteins as a potential health risk and mounts an immune response against them.

Food-allergic dogs can develop a variety of symptoms, including:

Itchiness, which may involve the whole body or be limited to the feet, ears, and/or face

Hair loss

Skin lesions

Recurrent skin or ear infections

Digestive problems like vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive gassiness may or may not be present as well.

Food allergy symptoms often begin when dogs are young (less than 1 year old) but can become evident at any age. Dog food allergies may develop soon after starting a new dog food or after years of eating the same diet. Food allergies are diagnosed in all types of dogs, but some breeds appear to be genetically predisposed, including:

Labrador Retrievers

Cocker Spaniels

Golden Retrievers

German Shepherds



To diagnose dog food allergies, veterinarians typically recommend a food trial (usually lasting at least two months) during which dogs must eat only a hydrolyzed protein dog food or a diet made from a single-protein source that they have never been exposed to before. If the dog’s symptoms improve over this time and then reappear when they are fed their old food, a dog food allergy diagnosis can be made.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

The line between food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is sometimes blurry. It’s thought that, in some cases, food allergies can develop as a result of IBD or vice versa.

In any case, dogs with IBD have abnormal inflammation of their gastrointestinal tract. The inflammation may be widespread or localized, severe or mild, and these characteristics can change over time. This explains why dogs with IBD can have different symptoms that vary in their intensities. Signs of IBD can include:



Weight loss

Increased or decreased appetite


Noisy gut sounds

Increased gas production

Inflammatory bowel disease can develop at any age, but it’s usually diagnosed in middle-aged to older dogs. Some breeds, including Boxers and German Shepherds, appear to be at a higher genetic risk for IBD. Inflammatory bowel disease can only be definitively diagnosed with a biopsy of the affected tissues.

Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food Recommendations

Treatment for dog food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease centers on finding a diet that does not trigger symptoms. Immunosuppressive medications and other treatments may also be necessary in severe cases of IBD. Once a dog has been diagnosed, they will likely need to eat a special diet for the rest of their life.

Veterinary prescription hydrolyzed protein dog foods are an excellent choice for both food allergies and IBD. These diets are manufactured under the strictest quality control measures, which ensures that they aren’t contaminated by ingredients that are not included in the label. Eating triggering foods is a major reason that diagnostic food trials and treatment for food allergies and IBD fail.

Hill’s Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Hill’s dog foods that are hydrolyzed include: 

Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities dry dog food 

Hill’s Prescription Diet z/d Original Skin/Food Sensitivities canned dog food

Both of these hydrolyzed protein dog foods also contain high levels of essential fatty acids to promote skin health.

Royal Canin Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diets come in several hydrolyzed varieties, including: 

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult PS dry dog food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP canned dog food

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Hydrolyzed Protein Adult HP dry dog food (which can be fed to puppies)

Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Ultamino dry dog food (which contains proteins that have been broken down into the smallest pieces available in a dog food)

Purina Hydrolyzed Protein Dog Food

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets come in:

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA hydrolyzed vegetarian formula dry dog food (a hydrolyzed soy formula)

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets HA hydrolyzed chicken flavor dry dog food (based on hydrolyzed chicken)

Purina Pro Plan Veterinary Diets EL Elemental Canine Formula Dry Dog Food (which isn’t technically hydrolyzed, but it’s made with individual amino acids rather than protein pieces)

Your veterinarian can help you find the best hydrolyzed protein dog food that will keep your dog’s symptoms under control while still providing the balanced nutrition that’s essential to good health.

Featured Image: iStock/nensuria

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Jennifer Coates, DVM


Dr. Jennifer Coates is an accomplished veterinarian, writer, editor, and consultant with years of experience in the fields of veterinary…

New Puppy Care: 12-18 Months

At 12 to 18 months, your puppy may still be in the adolescent stage. While their external growth may have slowed down or stopped, your puppy is still developing socially. During this time, your pup may still have the occasional accident and may ignore commands that are used regularly. Small breed dogs typically reach adulthood around 12 months of age. However, large  and giant breed dogs may not reach adulthood until around 2 years of age. While you may see the milestones listed below in dogs of all breeds, you may see them the most in larger dogs.


At between 12-18 months old, large breed dogs will still be growing and developing, while small breed dogs typically reach adulthood by 12 months. If you have a large or giant breed dog, it is possible that they may continue to grow and develop; growth plates at the end of long bones may still be open until l 20 months of age. This is important to keep in mind when it comes to the type and duration of activity. While new pup parents may be eager to share the world with them through hiking or running as soon as they are fully vaccinated, it is not advisable until the bones and joints are completely developed. This will reduce the chance of causing joint-related issues by doing too much, too soon.

Veterinarians and trainers may recommend activities where your pup can control the pace, such as fetch and exposure to obstacle courses. During this time, your pup’s veterinarian may give you the okay to start short periods of running or hiking. If you notice that your pup is severely lagging behind or panting excessively, it’s time to ease up.


Depending on when your dog was spayed or neutered, they may have already gone through puberty. If you have an unspayed female dog, it is not uncommon for the first few estrus cycles to be irregular. They may become moodier and more lethargic. If your pup is not neutered, they may display signs of marking and humping.

Some training may be necessary at this time, because dogs sometimes try to test the limits and boundaries you have established for them. It is important to continue to enforce training lessons and rules of the home if you do not want them to regress.

Behaviors that may be considered a red flag and may need more work include guarding of objects or food, selective hearing, and accidents in the home. Reach out to a reputable dog trainer in your area to quickly address these behaviors before they’re harder to break. discourage. Your veterinarian is a great resource to connect you with the right trainer, depending on your needs


During this period, it’s critical to transition your dog from puppy food to adult food. The standard recommendation for a diet transition is 7-14 days. However, food transitions can take more time, sometimes 3-4 weeks if needed. During a food transition, probiotics can help reduce the risk of GI upset, vomiting, and diarrhea. Ask your veterinarian for their advice.

While training and skills are reinforced, it is important to consider the calories that are present in their snacks. The more treats given, the more the diet may need to be adjusted to not overfeed your dog.

In adulthood, your dog’s energy requirements have changed because they are not growing as rapidly. Different breeds and cross-breeds come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but there are some basic landmarks you can observe in any dog. They should have an abdominal tuck, and an hourglass-like figure when you look directly down on them. You should be able to feel the last two ribs along their sides with very little pressure.  If your dog does not meet these criteria, it may be helpful to discuss weight management.


Training should be focused on continuing to reinforce the following commands:



Leave it




Recall commands

During this time, your pup may have a schedule of activities, such as day care, dog parks, hiking, camping, or running. If you worked with a trainer as your puppy has been growing, check in with them for additional reinforcement of commands. Your pup may be able to move on to more advanced techniques such as retrieving their leash, picking up dropped objects or mail, or even circuit training or a dance routine.

Around 14-18 months of age, especially in large breed dogs, there is another “fear period” where training should be enforced along with positive support. If your pup is still shy about coming to the vet, it may be helpful to see if it would be okay (and to find an ideal time) to help put your pup more at ease with the route to the veterinary clinic, being brought to the general area the clinic is located and being brought into the veterinary clinic. It may be helpful to grab some of their favorite treats and hang out in or outside the veterinary practice to help acclimate them.

Health Conditions

If your pup has not been vaccinated, they are susceptible to common diseases including kennel cough, distemper, and leptospirosis. It’s critical to vaccinate your pup early in life to ensure they are protected.

A pup who is not on heartworm or flea prevention medications is also susceptible to fleas, ticks, and heartworm-related disease, including intestinal parasites. Chat with your veterinarian to determine the right preventatives for your pet.


If your pup has received all their vaccines during their younger months, their time may be coming up again for revaccination. The time frame for distemper and rabies vaccine may depend on state law and when the booster vaccine was due.

Vaccines that are boosted yearly include influenza, leptospirosis, and Lyme. The vaccine typically boosted every 6 months is Bordetella.


Lindell E. Clinician’s Brief. Developmental Stages of Puppies. July 2020

Regina Humane Society Inc. Puppy Developmental Stages and Behavior.

Herron ME. Veterinary Information Network. The Basics of Puppy Behavior and Problem Prevention. 2011.

Malese P. Veterinary Information Network. Puppy Behavior Lab: Starting Puppies Off “On the Right Paw!” 2014

American Animal Hospital Association. 2022 AAHA Canine Vaccination Guidelines. 2022.

Fortney WD. Veterinary Information Network. The “Normal” Newborn Puppy and Kitten. 2010.

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Autumn Madden, DVM


I am from Washington, DC, and I wanted to be a veterinarian since watching my uncle on his farm at 8. I graduated from Tuskegee University…

Fatty Tissue Inflammation in Dogs

Steatitis in Dogs

Steatitis is characterized by inflammation of the fatty tissue. Nutrition is often involved in the pathology of this condition. Ingestion of large amounts of dietary unsaturated fats without sufficient antioxidant activity may result in peroxidation (where free radicals “steal” electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, resulting in cell damage) with subsequent fat necrosis (death of fat cells) and steatitis.

Steatitis in dogs can also occur secondary to infection, inflammatory disorders, vasculopathy (disease of the blood vessels), cancer, injury, and immune-mediated disease. Some cases are idiopathic (cause is unknown). This is an uncommon disorder in dogs, and has become less prevalent with the addition of antioxidants to standard commercial pet food. It is most often reported in dogs with concurrent diseases, such as liver or pancreatic cancer. It is also more likely to be found in older dogs. Steatitis can be found in any part of the body as a lump under the skin. It may be mistaken as a tumor, making it important to have the lump examined and biopsied as soon as possible.

Symptoms and Types

Lump in the subcutaneous tissue (fatty tissue)Decreased appetiteLethargyReluctance to move, jump, playPain with handling or with abdominal palpationFever


Vitamin E deficiencyDecreased antioxidant capacity with subsequent free-radical peroxidation of lipidsHomemade diet with large fish base or pig’s brainLarge amounts of dietary unsaturated fatty acidsPancreatitis or pancreatic cancerInfection (viral, fungal, bacterial)Immune-mediated, cancerTrauma, pressure, cold, foreign materialRadiation therapyIdiopathic (unknown cause)


You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, onset of symptoms, and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. The history you provide may give your veterinarian clues as to what underlying conditions are causing the outward symptoms.

To determine the exact cause of your dog’s symptoms, your veterinarian will start with a physical examination of the affected area. A full physical workup will include a complete blood profile, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis. To determine the full makeup of the inflamed mass of tissue, your veterinarian will also need to do a fine-needle aspiration, taking a sample of the tissue and fluid in order to conduct a cell examination and a fungal/bacterial culture.


This is a painful condition, so attention will be given to your dog’s comfort level and steps will be taken to encourage the appetite. Concurrent disorders will also be treated.


Dietary changes are typically recommended. Removing all fish products from the diet and focusing on a nutritionally complete, balanced, commercially-prepared food diet is one of the first steps. Your dog may require tube feeding for a while until its condition has sufficiently improved. Your doctor may also prescribe Vitamin E and possibly corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Surgical treatment may involve draining the lump, or full removal of the lump. Antibiotics will be prescribed if the lump is found to be infected, or to prevent infection after treatment.

To avoid further complications that can result from licking and biting at a healing wound, your veterinarian may advise you to keep an Elizabethan collar on your dog until the wound has fully healed.


Feed a commercial diet that is balanced to meet all of your dog’s dietary needs.

Living and Management

It may require weeks to months for resolution of this condition, but the prognosis is good once the primary cause of the steatitis has been treated and an appropriate diet is established.

What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food? Is It Better Than Dehydrated Dog Food?

There are so many dog foods available today that it’s hard to keep up with all the new trends. As pet parents, we want the best for our furry friends, especially when it comes to nutrition.

Finding the best dog food for your pet can be a daunting experience; however, with the help of your veterinarian, you can come to a decision on the best food option.

You might have heard about freeze-dried dog food or even dehydrated dog food, but what’s the difference between them? Are they better than wet or dry food?

Here’s what you need to know about freeze-dried dog food and dehydrated dog food so you can be better informed in making your decision.

What Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food?

Freeze-dried dog food is food product that undergoes a process where it is dehydrated under a low temperature in order to maintain quality and increase the shelf life of the product.1

In the process of freeze-drying, the product is frozen, the is pressure lowered, and the ice is removed by a process called sublimation (the process where a substance such as ice goes from the state of solid to a gas, essentially skipping the state of a liquid).1

Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food as Good as Raw Dog Food?

The question of whether freeze-dried dog food is as good as raw dog food is based upon your own preference when it comes to preparation and cost.

Freeze-dried dog food is a part of a line of raw, meat-based foods that have ingredients from food animals that are not cooked.2 The only difference between freeze-dried dog food and raw dog food is that freeze-dried dog food has undergone a process to remove most of the moisture in the product.3 Nevertheless, in the freeze-drying process, nutrients are maintained.1 In addition, the appearance of the product is maintained and some bacteria may be killed.3

In terms of cost, the extra step of processing the food product through freeze-drying may make it more expensive than raw dog food diets.3

H3 Is Freeze-Dried Dog Food Safe?

Freeze-drying dog food may reduce some bacteria; however, some bacteria survive the process.3

Check the website of the dog food that you are considering to determine the processes used in creating their freeze-dried dog food. You can also search for any previous recalls that they may have had with their foods.

Dogs should not be given raw food if they are immune-suppressed or have severe illnesses.3 Additionally, if a household has members that have young children (under 5 years), elders, immune-compromised persons, persons planning pregnancy, or persons that are pregnant, freeze-dried dog food can be a concern for health safety.3

Proper hand washing and prevention of cross contamination are important for those who prefer a raw diet for their pet.3

What Is Dehydrated Dog Food?

Dehydrated dog food undergoes a process where the moisture is removed by evaporation to increase shelf-life.4 Both processes of dehydration and freeze-drying increase shelf-life; however, freeze-drying involves dehydrating a product under a lower temperature.1

Is Dehydrated the Same as Air-Dried Dog Food?

Dehydrated dog food is the same as air-dried dog food.4

Essentially, air-drying is a method of dehydrating or removing much of the moisture in the food. In dehydrated dog food, moisture is removed slowly by low heat.3 It is unknown if the quality of nutrients are highly affected by the dehydration process.3

Just like the freeze-drying process, dehydration may reduce some bacteria; however, some bacteria survive the process.3

Do You Have to Add Water to Dehydrated Dog Food?

The addition of water to dehydrated dog food will depend on the instructions provided by the manufacturer. Following the instructions on the feeding directions is important in order to prepare the food correctly.

Which Is Better: Freeze-Dried, Dehydrated, Canned, or Wet Dog Food?

Some pet parents and veterinarians may report seeing an improvement in coat, skin, and behavior, and a decrease in medical conditions and odor in dogs eating raw meat diets. However, scientific assessment has not been done to evaluate these possible benefits.2

Whether you decide to feed freeze-dried, dehydrated, canned, or dry dog food depends on:3

Pet safety

Family safety

Whether the diet is balanced and complete

Practicality for you to feed consistently


Every animal, household, and pet parent is different. What is appropriate for one dog may not be appropriate for the next. Consult with your primary veterinarian or board-certified veterinary nutritionist to determine what will be best for you and your pet.

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Freeze-drying. (2020, November 27). Retrieved from, L. M., Chandler, M. L., Hamper, B. A., & Weeth, L. P. (2013). Current knowledge about the risks and benefits of raw meat–based diets for dogs and cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 243(11), 1549-1558. doi:10.2460/javma.243.11.1549Stogdale L. (2019). One veterinarian’s experience with owners who are feeding raw meat to their pets. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne60(6), 655–658.Food drying. (2020, September 02). Retrieved from

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Kristie McLaughlin, DVM, MPH, CPH


Dr. Kristie McLaughlin is a native Floridian whose passion for animals began as a child on her grandparents’ farm in Jamaica. She has…

Maternal Behavior Problems in Female Dogs

Mismothering in Female Dogs

Maternal behavioral problems are classified as either excessive maternal behavior in the absence of newborn pups or the lack of maternal behavior when dealing with the mother’s own young. (Other types of maternal behavior problem also exist, but they are still poorly defined.)

Though no genetic component has yet been attributed to these behavioral problems,the fact that Jack Russell terriers seem to be predisposed to the behavior indicate the possibility of a genetic component.

Symptoms and Types

Inadequate Maternal Behavior 

Abandons her own newborn pups (most common after caesarean section) Does not allow her offspring to nurse Insufficient cleaning of the young Inadequate retrieval of the young Failure to stimulate elimination Attacking and/or killing some or all of the newborn, especially if it has a different odor or appearance If disturbed by people or other animals, may redirect her aggression to her young

Excessive Maternal Behavior 

Un-bred mother may attempt to nurse unfamiliar pups Guarding of inanimate objects such as stuffed animals An increase in the size of mammary glands


The lack of maternal behavior shown by mothers with newborn pups, especially after caesarean section, has been attributed to gradual decrease in oxytocin, which is important during the sensitive period of acceptance of dam’s own neonates. Conversely, when there is an absence of newborns, excessive maternal behavior is due to the increased progesterone levels resulting from estrus in un-bred bitches, followed by an immediate and sharp decline in the progesterone levels.



You will need to give a thorough history of your dog’s health, including the onset and nature of the symptoms, to the veterinarian. He or she will then perform a complete physical examination as well as a biochemistry profile, urinalysis, and complete blood count — though the results are usually normal unless a disease is present.


Medical treatment may be required in some females, but proper care and management typically help in resolving such behavioral problems. Spaying should be delayed for at least four months after estrus to avoid abnormal behavior. That being said, spaying has been suggested to help in preventing future excessive maternal behavior.

Living and Management


In case of lack of maternal behavior the bitch should be fed freely to encourage lactation and meet her energy demands. Nursing females should also be placed in quiet, comfortable, and dark area, where she will not be disturbed by other people and animals. If the bitch is seen biting her neonates, she may require a muzzle or may need to be removed from the room. If aggression persists, the separation can be done for several weeks until aggression subsides.

Conversely, in case of excessive maternal behavior, the bitch should be separated from the stolen puppies and their actual mother. Moreover, the mothered objects like stuffed animals should be removed from the environment of the bitch. In these females, food intake should be restricted for few days to prevent lactation.

Many experts recommend against breeding bitches with a history of maternal behavioral problems, as these problems are shown in subsequent pregnancies.

Sprains and Strains in Dogs

What Are Sprains and Strains in Dogs?

The dog’s body, like the human body, has a musculoskeletal system that has muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, joints, and bones. All of these structures can be injured while running, jumping, or playing, or even by taking a bad step in the backyard. Sometimes these injuries are mild and self-limiting, resolving on their own after some rest. Other times, they are more serious and require veterinary help.

The terms “sprain” and “strain” are often used interchangeably. They are called soft tissue injuries because they are orthopedic injuries that do not affect any bones.

Technically, a sprain is a stretch or tear in a ligament, and a strain is an injury to the muscle itself or the tendon. Ligaments are bands of strong connective tissue that connect two bones together, while tendons are bands of connective tissue that connect muscles to bones.

When soft tissue injuries occur, there is usually immediate pain. Dogs will often limp or favor the injured leg. This lameness may be accompanied by heat or swelling of the painful leg. Spraining your ankle is an example of a soft tissue injury. None of the bones in the ankle are broken, but it is still painful and hard to walk on that foot.

Types of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

Iliopsoas muscle strain: injury to the muscle in the hip

Supraspinatus tendinopathy: injury to the tendon in the shoulder

Bicipital tendinopathy: injury to the tendon in the arm

Achilles tendon injury/avulsion (rupture): injury to the tendon in the heel

Carpal hyperextension: injury to the ligaments in the wrist

Cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) injury: injury to ligament in the knee

Symptoms of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

If your dog has a soft tissue injury, they may show the following signs:

Lameness (not putting full weight on a leg)

Difficulty getting up from sitting or slow to sit down from standing

Decreased activity

Heat at the injury site


Trouble jumping or avoiding stairs

Decreased playing


Vocalizing (whining, acting like they’re in pain)

Causes of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

Sprains and strains are injuries that occur any time there is minor trauma. Sprains are usually the result of twisting a joint the wrong way so that the ligament is pulled, stretched, or torn.

Strains are often caused by overuse, or too much force on the tendon or muscle. This can occur with intense physical activity, like agility tests, running, jumping, or roughhousing with other dogs. Suddenly taking off to chase a squirrel or wrestling with another dog at the dog park can result in a soft tissue injury. Sometimes just going down the stairs and skipping a step or jumping off the bed awkwardly can lead to injury as well.

Highly athletic dogs are more prone to muscle strains, like iliopsoas muscle strain, as they engage in more high-impact activity. Accidentally going splay-legged when running can also lead to strain on this muscle-tendon junction.

The cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in the dog acts like the ACL in the human knee and is a common site for sprains in dogs. Large-breed dogs more commonly are affected by tears in their CCL.  Dogs with CCL injury often have a more steep angle in their knee joint between the bone and the ligament, and that puts more force on the ligament than in dogs who do not carry this trait in their genes.

Cruciate ligament tears can occur secondary to physical activity—from sudden twisting, like stepping in a hole or jumping while turning.

How Veterinarians Diagnose Sprains and Strains in Dogs

If a sprain or strain is suspected in your dog, the veterinarian will start by doing a full physical exam. They will watch how your dog moves and may put your dog’s joints through range-of-motion tests to figure out if there are any restrictions in movement. They will feel each joint in the affected limb and look for heat, swelling, and signs of discomfort. If a torn CCL is suspected, they will likely check for something called cranial drawer, which is an abnormal sliding motion in the knee joint that is not present when the ligament is intact. 

Once the veterinarian has determined which part of the leg is the source of the pain, they may recommend x-rays. These can help to rule out underlying fractures or other orthopedic disease like hip or elbow dysplasia, arthritis, bone cancer, or infection. X-rays can also help the doctor determine how much secondary damage has occurred in the joint following a soft tissue injury. After a CCL tear, the knee joint may develop bone spurs as the body produces new bone to stabilize the joint.

Occasionally, advanced diagnostics like ultrasonography, CT, or MRI are recommended, especially in athletic dogs that compete in agility or other canine sports. If these tests are recommended, your veterinarian may refer you to an orthopedic specialist.

Treatment of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

Many sprains and strains can be treated simply with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as Rimadyl, Metacam, or Galliprant.

If rest is recommended, it is important to keep your dog’s activity level as low as possible. Leash walk only when taking them outside to eliminate. No running, jumping, or playing is allowed when your dog is under a strict rest order. Avoid letting them jump up on furniture or go up and down stairs, as these activities put force on the joints. Utilize the kennel as much as possible to keep them well-rested.

If your veterinarian prescribes your dog an anti-inflammatory medication, be sure to follow the label instructions. If you notice any side effects such as diarrhea, vomiting, or loss of appetite, stop the medication and contact your veterinarian right away. Do not give any over-the-counter human NSAID medications, as dogs are more sensitive to this class of drugs and may have serious, even life-threatening reactions to inappropriate doses of these medications.

Cold pack therapy may be recommended in some soft tissue injuries if your dog will cooperate. To accomplish this, you can use a bag of frozen vegetables and hold it over the affected region of your dog’s leg for 5-10 minutes to provide relief. Sometimes physical therapy may be recommended following a period of rest. Your veterinarian is the best person to determine a physical therapy plan if needed.

Surgery for Sprains or Strains in Dogs

Some sprains, like CCL tears, may require surgery for treatment. There are many approaches to successfully treating a CCL tear, and options vary depending on the dog. Large-breed dogs, those weighing at least 50 pounds, often require TPLO surgery, where a metal plate is placed on the bone following some surgical cuts that change the angle of the joint and decrease the forces acting on the cruciate ligament. This surgery is done by an orthopedic surgeon and often requires a referral to a specialty hospital.

Smaller-breed dogs may benefit from a surgery called a lateral suture. Many private practitioners offer this surgery. It involves surgically entering the joint and running a sterile implant into the joint that acts like a false ligament to replace the ligament that was torn.

Some dogs are too old or have underlying health conditions that rule out anesthesia. These patients may benefit from specialty braces that work to stabilize the joint while the body produces scar tissue to increase comfort over time.

Other Treatments for Sprains and Strains in Dogs

In canine sports medicine, extracorporeal shock wave therapy may be pursued to break down tendinous scar tissue. Some dogs may also benefit from cold laser therapy aimed at decreasing inflammation (swelling) and pain. Joint health supplements, like Dasuquin, may help to slow cartilage breakdown following an injury to protect the joints.

Some veterinarians recommend Adequan injections after an injury, to maintain joint health. Adequan provides the building blocks of joint fluid to help lubricate the joints. While vets cannot undo underlying arthritis that may result from injury to joints, this medication can slow further cartilage breakdown and lubricate those joints so that there is less grinding and more comfort when the dog is walking, running, or playing.

Recovery and Management of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

For many soft tissue injuries, recovery involves 2-4 weeks of strict rest before your dog is back to normal comfort and mobility. After surgery such as for a torn CCL, recovery may be longer, about 8-12 weeks.

While your dog is healing, it’s important to limit their activity. While pain and anti-inflammatory medications are important to restore comfort and limit scar tissue formation, they do block pain, and many dogs will immediately try to go back to normal activity. Pet parents must work hard to prevent their dogs from overdoing it while recovering from a sprain or strain.

Use the leash for all outdoor time to keep them from suddenly bolting after a squirrel or running the fence line to bark at another dog. Use the kennel as much as possible if you have another dog they like to wrestle with in the home, keep your injured dog in another room while you are not home. If you are struggling to keep your dog’s activity level down during the recovery period, talk to your veterinarian about getting a sedative like trazodone to help create down time during healing.

Prevention of Sprains and Strains in Dogs

While some sprains and strains are unavoidable because of underlying genetic predispositions, you can work to keep your dog safe by limiting their access to common sources of injury. Avoid letting them run on uneven or unfamiliar ground.

Pay attention to your dog’s effort level during exercise and play. Most dogs will self-limit themselves and rest when they have had enough. However, sometimes they will ignore exhaustion when they are having a good time at a dog park or on another adventure. If your dog seems totally exhausted—they can’t seem to stop panting or are straining to move—consider changing the pace. Take your dog for a slow walk and seek a change of scenery to bring their heart rate back down and allow them time to reconnect with their body to avoid overdoing it.

Weight management can be very helpful in reducing injury risk. Overweight dogs that jump off  furniture or suddenly have rare bouts of high activity put more strain and force on their joints from the excessive weight, leading to breakdown and injury. Dogs at a healthy weight with regular exercise are much less likely to experience soft tissue injury. “Weekend warriors” is a good description not just for humans, but also for dogs that are relatively sedentary throughout the week, then go for long treks or extended periods of exercise on the weekend. These dogs are more susceptible to injury because their muscles and joints are not conditioned for regular, intense exercise.

Sprains and Strains in Dogs FAQs

Can my dog’s sprain heal on its own?

Sprains can often heal on their own with rest and time. As long as your dog is eating and drinking normally and has normal energy and otherwise acting like themselves, rest may be all they need. However, if your dog is not improving a little bit each day, or does not return to complete normal mobility in 10-14 days, it is important that they be checked by a veterinarian. Depending on the severity of the sprain, the injury may require more than just rest.

Can a dog walk on a sprained leg?

Yes, but it is best that activity be kept to a minimum when a dog is suffering from a sprain. Leash-walk only when your pet needs to go outdoors. Avoid letting them engage in any play activities that involve running, jumping, or rough housing. Utilize the kennel as much as possible during the rest period.

Featured Image: Alija

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Melissa Boldan, DVM


Dr. Melissa Boldan graduated from the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine in 2012. She initially practiced mixed animal…

English Toy Spaniel

The English Toy Spaniel is a compact toy dog with of a short-nosed, domed head, a merry, affectionate demeanor and a silky coat. Also called the King Charles Spaniel, they differ from the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in their expression: the King Charles’s mouth turns down, while the Cavalier appears — like its namesake painting — to be laughing.

Physical Characteristics

The expression and head of the breed are the English Toy’s hallmark. It has shiny dark eyes, a well-padded face and a domed head, all of which create an appealing and soft expression.

The English Toy Spaniel, with a square-proportioned and compact body, is abundantly covered with a flowing, silky coat. This coat is either slightly wavy or straight. It has long tufts of hair on its feet and heavy fringing on its body.

Personality and Temperament

The English Toy Spaniel is a calm, quiet, gentle, and friendly but attentive lapdog. It shows utmost dedication to its family and is reserved towards strangers. Additionally, some English Toy Spaniels have been known to display a stubborn side.


Even though the English Toy Spaniel is not very active, it enjoys a fun indoor or outdoor game or a good on-leash walk. Hot weather does not suit it and, by nature, it cannot live outdoors, away from the comfort of its family. It has a long coat that requires combing twice a week.


The English Toy Spaniel, which has an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years, is susceptible to major health conditions like patellar luxation, and minor issues like early tooth loss, and “lazy tongue,” a condition which causes the tongue to protrude from the mouth. A veterinarian may recommend regular knee tests for the dog.

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), hydrocephalus, and fused toes are also seen in some English Toy Spaniels, as well as a soft spot in the dog’s skull due to an incomplete fontanel closure. Some English Toy Spaniels react adversely to anesthesia.

History and Background

The early histories of the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are said to be identical. In fact, both breeds initially began as one single breed, a result of interbreeding between Oriental toy dogs and small spaniels. There is also evidence that indicates Mary I, Queen of Scotland in the mid-16th century, carried the first toy spaniels with her from France to Scotland.

Sometimes referred to as the comforter spaniel, this breed gained a great deal of popularity among the wealthy, where they functioned as lap- and foot-warmers and pleasant companions.

During the rule of King Charles II, in the 17th Century, the dogs reached the zenith of their popularity. As the king adored the dogs, the breed became known as the King Charles Spaniel.

All these early dogs featured black and tan coats, but other colors were introduced later when the first Duke of Marlborough developed the red and white Blenheims. Crosses made with Chinese Cocker Spaniels also resulted in the red and white coats.

These spaniels were favorites among woodcock hunters. However, most breeders preferred a showy lapdog to a hunting dog. In the following centuries, a concerted effort was made to develop a smaller King Charles Spaniel with a flatter nose and rounder head.

This breed In the United States, the English Toy Spaniel is displayed as two strains: the Prince Charles variety and the King Charles variety. These fun-loving and aristocratic lapdogs are sometimes known as “Charlies” and “E.T.s.”

Can Dogs Feel Embarrassed?

By LisaBeth Weber

The varied emotions of our four-legged friends are apparent, whether it’s their unconditional love, their curious nature, their sympathy when they recognize distress, or less pleasant examples, like anxiety and aggression. Dogs have even been known to behave altruistically — putting themselves in danger to help others.

We’ve seen their wary reactions when they know they’ve misbehaved, and experienced their happiness each time we return home, whether it’s after 10 minutes or 10 hours. The answer to the question of whether dogs experience embarrassment may seem clear to some, but the truth of it is more elusive.

The consensus among animal behaviorists is that embarrassment is most likely too complex an emotion for dogs to possess. However, in the long-term, the research into complex thought and emotions in companion animals is still in its infancy.

Dogs and Emotions: Not That Simple

Molly Sumridge, a certified dog behavior consultant and trainer, and founder of Kindred Companions in Frenchtown, NJ, believes more science and research is needed, but that the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

“I don’t think we’re there yet, scientifically or behaviorally,” says Sumridge. “Too often, broad assumptions are made about complex emotions, when it’s really not that simple.”

Sumridge feels that labeling an emotion without verification can complicate owner/dog relationships more than help them. “Trying to discern what is embarrassment versus fear, discomfort, or anxiety is extremely hard. These are complex emotions and all we can go on is a cause and effect relationship between the environment and the dog’s behavior,” Sumridge said.

Dr. Terri Bright, director of behavior services in the Behavior Department at MSPCA/Angell in Boston, MA, agrees. “For a dog to feel embarrassment, they would need to possess an overall sense of social norms and morals, which they don’t have the same way humans do,” says Bright. 

“Since dogs can’t tell us how they feel, we infer their emotions by watching their body language,” she continued. “Some dogs inherit and/or learn ‘appeasement’ signals, such as yawning and head-turning, which may be described by humans as being embarrassed.”

The Dog Guilt Trip

In assessing whether or not dogs can feel embarrassment, there seems to be a lot of crossover between shame and guilt among both experts and pet owners. With humans, shame and guilt are based on a moral compass, while embarrassment is based on a social compass. Through the lens of the animal behaviorist community, these three emotions fall into the pool of complex behaviors that are not easily defined in dogs.

Ask a cross section of pet owners, however, and the response might be very different. In unofficial surveying, many owners believe their dogs definitely feel embarrassed, while others don’t believe that at all. Some see it more as a feeling of guilt in the dog, as they describe a multitude of guilt inducing scenarios, like one owner’s sad tale of their dog eating money to the tune of almost $500.00.

Anthropomorphi… What?

So, are dogs really showing embarrassment or is it our human interpretation that perceives it that way? A word not often heard outside of the science and behavioral fields is anthropomorphizing; that is, the act of applying human characteristics to non-humans, like putting a Halloween costume on your dog and then saying how much they love (or hate) it. The dog probably doesn’t have feelings about it one way or the other, but imagining they do is part of our human expectation. Sumridge says that “many times, when owners and experts are asked to describe embarrassment in dogs, they say, ‘you know it when you see it’. In reality that ‘knowledge’ is usually a gut feeling based on our reaction of humanistic behaviors being expressed by the dog.”

You need only look to the advent of social media and “dog shaming,” where people post pictures on Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and other sites, of their dogs wearing signs around their necks describing their bad behavior. The dog has no idea of its shame; however, the display is simply for the benefit of the human response.

“Dogs are just as complicated in their feelings and emotions as humans are,” said Sumridge. “However, we are not at the point to definitely say what our pets are feeling.”

Bright reflects a similar attitude, saying that “people are invested with the idea that dogs are just like them, and they give human attributes to dogs all the time. It’s most likely that dogs described as being embarrassed by their owners are dogs that are actually a little nervous or afraid because the people around them are behaving in a way that makes them feel uncomfortable.” 

“We complicate our relationships with our pets when trying to label behaviors,” Sumridge explained. “We can better understand our dogs by observing them without assumption and appreciate that they have their own way of communicating with us. If we think we are observing embarrassment, we should think about how we can better support our animals so they don’t have to experience the stress, discomfort, or anxiety that they may be feeling.” 

The Science of Canine Cognition

Certified dog behavior consultant Maria DeLeon from Mercer County, NJ, sees the big picture. “I don’t believe we can say either way, but I do not think dogs feel embarrassment,” she said. “We’re only now getting into canine cognition as a science and I think that is why people are hesitant to interpret an emotion such as embarrassment. There’s not a lot of research so far.”

DeLeon believes that a science-based approach is the best way to understand dogs’ behavior. “Since no one can read a dog’s mind, it is essential for us to keep an open mind,” she said, adding that there is still much to be discovered in the field of canine cognition.

“My hope is that as the science grows, so will our industry, because that’s the most efficient way to help dogs and their handlers,” said DeLeon.

Read More

Do Animals Have Emotions?

Destructive Behavior in Dogs

American Eskimo Dog or Eskimo Spitz

Also known as the “Eskie” and Eskimo Spitz, the American Eskimo Dog is a medium-sized, compact, and muscular dog breed descended from European Spitz-type dogs. The Eskie, with its majestic white double coat, loves the outdoors and is perfect for someone who is looking for a dog to play and jog with in colder climates.

Physical Characteristics

The American Eskimo Dog has a slightly long body and a compact build, very much resembling the Nordic Spitz type. Its gait is both agile and bold; its expression, meanwhile, is very alert and keen. The Eskie’s double coat, which is white or biscuit cream, stands off the body, is water resistant, and insulates the dog against the cold. The dog’s small and thick ears also protect it from the cold.

Personality and Temperament

Just like its Spitz ancestors, the Eskie is determined and independent. It is actually one of the most well-behaved, fun, and obedient Spitz breeds. American Eskimo Dogs, however, can be mistrustful of strangers and may not be a preferable choice for homes with pets, other dogs, or small children, though supervision and training may help discipline the Eskie.


All American Eskimo Dogs love cold weather. However, because they create close attachments to their human family, they should be allowed to live indoors. The Eskimo Spitz’s double coat must be combed and brushed twice a week, more during its shedding periods. The Eskie is also very energetic and requires a vigorous workout daily, although the duration of the workout is determined by the dog’s size. For example, a larger Eskie requires a long walk or brisk jog, while short walks or a fun outdoor game are sufficient forms of exercise for smaller Eskies.


The American Eskimo breed, with an average lifespan of about 12 to 14 years, is susceptible to minor ailments like patellar luxation, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Eskies are also known to contract diabetes occasionally. To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run hip, knee, blood, and eye exams on the dog.

History and Background

The American Eskimo Dog (or Eskimo Spitz) is almost certainly descended from various European Spitzes, including the white German Spitz, the white Keeshond, the white Pomeranian, and the Volpino Italiano (or white Italian Spitz).

Originally referred to as the American Spitz, the breed was first used as a circus performer, traveling throughout the United States and entertaining the audience with tricks. The American Spitz was especially apt at this line of work because of its sparkling white coat, quickness, agility, innate intelligence, and its proficiency at training. As the news of the traveling dog with its bag of tricks grew, its popularity did also. Often, spectators would buy young American Spitz pups from the circus.

In 1917, the “American Spitz” became known as the “American Eskimo Dog.” Although the reasoning for this is uncertain, it is probably to pay homage to the native Eskimo people who developed the large, Nordic dogs associated with the Eskie.

The American Eskimo Dog Club of America was formed in 1985. And after transferring their registered dogs to the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1993, the AKC recognized the American Eskimo Dog breed in 1995 and placed the breed in the Non-Sporting Group.