Caring for your pet

Dudley, a cairn terrier, was my first dog as a grown-up.  A few days before his arrival, there was a flurry of activity—interviewing vets, pet-sitters, dog-trainers, creating his own spot, buying food, toys and leashes, etc.  At that time, I had a job that required a lot of travel–and I wanted to keep his routine as uninterrupted as possible– so I also interviewed house-sitters.

When I mentioned that to someone, she just scoffed and said, “You don’t have to do anything special.  Dogs just require affection, nothing more.”

A few years later, someone overheard me making an appointment for Dudley’s dental cleaning.  Once again, I heard the scoff–only this person actually tried to ridicule me by not only laughing and telling ME it was a waste of money but also laughing and telling anyone in the office who would listen…my reply to him was, well, I can’t repeat it here.

Bringing a pet (dog or cat) into your environment is just like bringing a baby home–only the pet permanently stays in that toddler phase.  (I used to compare my dog, Dudley, to a two-year old). There’s grooming, training, vet visits, medications, good quality food, toys–and that responsibility needs to be taken seriously. And circling back to dental care, that’s not an unnecessary expense; as with humans, the result of neglect can have serious consequences, from tooth decay,cavities and broken teeth to the millions of bacteria invading their hearts.

Many years later another dog, my Westie Baxter, develop a fast-growing cancer at the age of 16. His prognosis was terrible; he had eight weeks at most to live.My single-pointed focus was only to make his last days as comfortable as possible.  I constantly bought him acupuncture treatments so his pain could be diminished naturally.  Every Saturday he got either a reiki treatment (which he loved) or a massage.

By the last week of his life, even though he couldn’t play, he DID try to pick up his toys.

So here’s the point:  Pets aren’t just playthings, they require care.  Please think long and hard about if you’re willing or able to take on that responsibility before bringing one home.


Do Thunderstorms Send Your Dog Into a Panic?



One of my dogs, Dudley, a cairn terrier, used to get so panic-stricken whenever there was a thunderstorm that he used to pace, drool, salivate–and then eventually calm down just enough to go into a room that had no windows.

Like many dogs who are afraid of thunder, Dudley was afraid of ALL noises, whether they be honking cars or fireworks.  The July 4th holiday was always a nightmare; although I’d try to distract him with recreational bones and toys–and I’d always stay nearby–he’d become so anxious that he’d chew through anything, including one of my chairs!

My neighbor, Nemo, another cairn terrier, was once staying with me.  One day there was a threat of a storm and, although the thunder, lightening or rain hadn’t even started yet, he must have noticed the darkening sky and raced over to the foyer and stayed by the door.  He wouldn’t budge!

My Westie, Baxter, couldn’t have cared less about thunder.  In fact, if he could have spoken, I always imagined him saying something like, “yeah, whatever.”  Still, he loved his crate and saw it as his own room, a safe place–so I’d always put him in it just in case.

Do you have one of those dogs afraid of thunder?  If so, here are some things you may try, from the newsletter of Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, resident proactive and integrative  wellness veterinarian of You can learn holistic ways  of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to,  an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for  FREE to Mercola  Healthy Pet Newsletter

  • Make a “safe room.” This is a place your dog can escape to when a storm is approaching, and it should be available to her at all times – especially when you’re not home. The idea is to limit her exposure to as many aspects of thunderstorms as possible. The room would ideally have no windows, or covered windows so the storm can’t be seen. If necessary, sound-proofing wallboard can muffle the noise of a storm. Put a solid-sided crate in the room with the door left open, along with a bit of food, water, treats and toys.

As part of your dog’s therapy, get her used to the room before she needs it by associating it with fun activities, food treats and gentle, soothing massage. Some owners use a head collar to calm the dog and more easily put her into a relaxed down position.

As the storm approaches, turn on the lights in the safe room so lightening flashes won’t be extremely obvious, and turn on calming musici,ii.

  • Pheromone diffusers. Species-specific pheromones are chemical substances that can positively affect an animal’s emotional state and behavior. Dog-appeasing pheromone (DAP) is a synthetic form of a pheromone secreted by the mammary glands of nursing dogs. Studies have shown DAP diffusersiii are effective therapy for dogs with firework phobias and separation anxiety.
  • Behavior modification. One type of behavior modification for storm phobias is to engage your dog in a behavior that earns a reward. Ask your dog to perform a command he’s familiar with and reward him if he does. This technique distracts both of you – the dog from his fear of the storm, and you from the temptation to inadvertently reinforce your pet’s phobic behavior by petting and soothing him while he’s showing anxiety.

Another type of behavior modification involves trying to get your dog busy with a more pleasant activity than storm watching. Play a game with him or give him a recreational bone to gnaw on. Be aware that if your pet’s response to storms is intense, you may not be able to engage him in another activity early in his treatment program.

  • Desensitization. This therapy involves using a CD with reproduced storm soundsiv to attempt to desensitize your pet. It’s best to do this during times of the year when actual storms are few and far between.

Unfortunately, desensitization isn’t always as effective with storm phobias as it is with other types of anxiety disorders. That’s because it’s difficult to mimic all the various triggers that set off a fear response in a storm-phobic pet – in particular changes in barometric pressure, static electricity, and whatever scents dogs notice with an impending change in the weather. In addition, desensitization has to be done in each room of the house, because a new coping skill your dog learns in the living room will be forgotten in the kitchen. These problems make desensitization more of a challenge in treating storm phobias.

  • Storm jackets. There are a number of different brands of storm jackets to choose from these days, and they have proved very helpful for some dogs with thunderstorm phobias. Storm jackets are designed to be snug-fitting to mimic the sensation of being swaddled, a feeling that is comforting to dogs. You might also consider a calming capv.
  • TTouch and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). TTouchvi is a specific massage technique that can be helpful for anxious pets. EFTvii is a tapping technique that can be used to deal with a wide variety of emotional and physical problems.
  • Natural supplements and remedies. Talk to your holistic vet about homeopathic, TCM and other natural remedies that may help relieve your dog’s stress. These should be used in conjunction with behavior modification. A few I like are the nutraceuticals l-tryptophan, valerian, GABA, homeopathic Aconitum and the TCM formulas that Calm the Shen.

A U.K. study evaluated a treatment program that used two self-help, CD-based desensitization and counter-conditioning programs, plus DAP diffusers, plus a “safe haven” for dogs with fireworks phobia. The severity of the dogs’ phobias was significantly improved, as was their generalized fear.

If nothing you attempt seems to help your storm-phobic dog, don’t despair. Talk to your vet about a temporary course of drug therapy (usually with anti-anxiety meds or anti-depressants) in conjunction with behavior modification and some of the other recommendations outlined above.


Tracheal Collapse in Dogs is More Common than You Might Think


One day I came home from work to find my cairn terrier, Dudley, coughing and gagging. Everytime he’d open his mouth to bark, a cough came out. When I rushed him to the vet, I was told that, although the trachea had not yet collapsed, it was very bruised. I was asked if Dudley was a leash-puller. Yes! I was advised to immediately remove his collar and use a harness.

Fast forward to several years later. I had just gotten my Westie, Baxter, and went to the breeder to pick him up. I brought a harness with me. When I put it on him, the breeder (who was very involved in the show-dog world) said (no exaggeration), “I want you to know I don’t approve of that because of what it does to the fur.”

Since my single-pointed focus was to attend to Baxter’s health and wellbeing–I couldn’t have cared less about him being a show dog–I said, “And I want YOU to know that I don’t care what you think–this is no longer your dog.”

I relayed the conversation to Baxter’s doctor the next day who told me I was absolutely right in insisting on the use of a harness rather than a collar. I was also told by two friends that very same week that they had experienced collapsed tracheas in their dogs (one was also a cairn.)

Please be sure to either listen to this video or read the transcript from Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, a veterinary expert.

Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

Transcript follows:

By Dr. Becker

Tracheal collapse is a chronic, progressive disease involving the windpipe, or trachea.

The trachea is somewhat like a vacuum cleaner hose that contains small rings, in this case cartilage that keeps the airways open.

The rings are C-shaped, with the open part of the “C” facing upward.

Running along the top opening of the C-rings is a band of tissue called the dorsal membrane.

How the Trachea Collapses

In certain dogs, the rings of cartilage are either not formed correctly at birth, or they weaken and begin to change from a C-shape to more of a U-shape.

As the dorsal membrane stretches, the cartilage rings get progressively flatter until eventually the trachea just collapses, leaving the dog trying to pull air through what is essentially a closed straw.

Tracheal collapse can be congenital, which means it’s present from birth, or it can be acquired. When the condition is congenital, it appears to be a result of a deficiency in certain components of the cartilage rings, like calcium, chondroitin, glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans.

Acquired tracheal collapse is often caused by chronic respiratory disease, Cushing’s disease and heart disease. Collapse of the trachea in the neck occurs when the dog breathes in. Collapse of the trachea in the chest occurs when the dog breathes out. The collapse can involve the bronchi that feed air to the lungs, which results in serious airway obstruction in the dog.


Tracheal collapse is most common in small breed dogs like the Chihuahua, Lhasa apso, Maltese, Pomeranian, pug, Shih Tzu, toy poodle and the Yorkie.

One of the first signs of tracheal collapse can be a sudden attack of dry coughing that sounds a little bit like a goose honk. It progresses from the goose honk sound to a more consistent cough and often occurs when there’s pressure placed on the dog’s trachea. This can happen when the dog is picked up or if the collar is pulled.

As the disease progresses, the dog can develop exercise intolerance, obvious respiratory distress, and gagging while eating or drinking.

Some dogs with tracheal collapse can turn blue when they are excited or stressed. Certainly, secondary heart disease can result from the consistent straining to breathe.

Some dogs have both laryngeal paralysis and tracheal collapse. These dogs usually make a wheezing sound when they breathe in.

Diagnosis of Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse can sometimes be seen on a regular X-ray as a narrowing of the tracheal lumen, or opening.

Fluoroscopy, which is a moving X-ray, allows the vet to visualize the dog’s trachea as he breathes in and out.

An endoscopy allows a view of the inside of trachea with a tiny camera. It really provides the best way of viewing the inside of the airway. During this time, the veterinarian can also take samples of the trachea for culture and sensitivity tests or additional analysis.

Sometimes an echocardiogram is recommended to evaluate heart function.

Any disease of the upper or lower airway can be mistaken for tracheal collapse, including a foreign object in the airway, laryngeal paralysis, an elongated soft palate, infection of the trachea, lungs, or heart failure, as well as tumors or polyps. So it’s pretty important that you get a definitive diagnosis and not just a guess.

Treatment Options

Conventional medical management of mild to moderate cases of tracheal collapse involve the use of cough suppressants, antispasmodics, bronchodilators, and sedatives to help reduce coughing spasms and the associated anxiety.

It’s important to break the coughing cycle, because coughing irritates the airway and leads to more coughing.

If infection is present, of course, that has to be addressed as well. And certainly if the dog is overweight, it’s really important that he lose weight.

I also recommend you evaluate your dog’s environment. It should be smoke-free and free of other environmental pollutants.

Any dog with a collapsing trachea should be walked using a harness only. I absolutely do not recommend anything around the neck, as reducing all pressure at the throat is really important for these dogs.

Medical management works for about 70 percent of dogs with the mild form of this condition. Holistic veterinarians usually recommend cartilage builders to help maintain the integrity of the tracheal cartilage.

These supplements can include glucosamine, chondroitin, MSM, eggshell membrane, and CMO, which is also called cetyl myristoleate. Sometimes, chiropractic and acupuncture have also been demonstrated to reduce the intensity of the duration of coughing episodes.

In more severe cases or for dogs who don’t respond to medical management, sometimes surgery is recommended. If the collapse is happening in the neck or the thoracic inlet, plastic rings are placed surgically around the inside of the trachea.

If the collapse is deeper in the chest, often a stent is placed in the trachea. A stent is basically like a tiny spring that holds the trachea open.

Repair of a tracheal collapse is a very specialized surgical procedure. Don’t let your veterinarian tell you that it’s no big thing. These particular procedures have significant potential for complications. They should only be performed by a veterinary surgeon that has really extensive knowledge and a well-equipped hospital with a staff able to help your dog recover from this significant procedure in an appropriate manner.


Irene Ross, CHHC, AADP is a certified nutrition and wellness coach for the two-legged. She works with people to help them instantly double their energy so they avoid that mid-morning or afternoon slump, get more done in less time and balance their lives.

Author of the forthcoming book, 25 Ways to Fire Up Your Day:  Increase Energy, Get More Done in Less Time, Balance Your Life, she writes a free, twice-monthly newsletter called “Power Wellness.”  You may subscribe by entering your e-mail address in the “join my mailing list” box on the home page of her website: and you’ll automatically receive a copy of her e-book, Sugar’s Sour Story.

Five Ways To Keep Your Pet Happy and Safe in Summer

PART 2 in a blog series on Summer Safety for Pets

Memorial Day, the unofficial start of summer, is just around the corner, and we’re entering what’s probably the most dangerous season for your pet.

We recently went into detail about heat stroke and dogs–because it’s a very real, very serious emergency that can even be fatal.

Here are five ways to keep your pet happy and safe in summer:

  • Water.  Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs are good swimmers. Make sure you introduce your dog gradually to the water–especially if you have a pool or if there’s a nearby pond or canal– so you can make a thorough determination as to his ability–and then keep him safe if you find he can’t swim.  Make sure your dog has a flotation device if you go out on a boat. In addition, water can be a home to parasites, toxins and chemicals.  Stagnant puddles of water can also be breeding-grounds for things like mosquitos and ticks.
  • Parties and other celebrations.  The excitement can sometimes over-stimulate an animal; doors and windows can be accidentally left open; people food, garbage and decorations can be left for them to get into–and animals can often be terrified by the sound of fireworks.

The answer to this is to keep pets a safe distance from the celebration: Make sure there’s a special room, or area, where your pet can safely stay to get away from it all.  Include any special items, such as blankets, toys, water, a few grains of dried kibble, maybe an article of your clothing.

My Westie, Baxter, was crate-trained as a puppy, but he loved his crate so much I never had the heart to get rid of it.  I always kept it with the door ajar so he could go in and out as he pleased. Baxter saw the crate as his  room, a place of his own where he could get away from it all.  Once I had a house full of guests so he just let himself into the crate—and shut the door with his nose.  “Did he just do what I think he did?” asked one of my guests.  He’d also go in whenever there were noises like thunder, construction or traffic that would disturb him.

  • More heat dangers. Cats, especially, like to lounge near sunny windows.  All pets like balconies, terraces, porches, decks and even, sometimes, fire escapes.   Make sure they’re safe and secure so your pet can’t fall.

And don’t forget about sunburn! Cats mostly stay indoors, but dogs like to romp outside–and their skin can peel and blister.  Just like humans, repeated exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Pets with light, or short, hair tend to be the most vulnerable, as are dogs with short legs; they’re close to the ground so their tummies can get burned from the reflected sunlight. Use a sunscreen specially formulated for dogs; ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.

  • Poisons.  During the summer, people tend to their gardens and lawns;  find out what chemicals are poisonous and keep them away from pets.  Some flowers and plants can also be poisonous to animals.  Do your research; talk to the people at your garden center; read labels; get recommendations from your veterinarian.
  • Pests.  A neighbor’s dog was diagnosed with Lyme Disease last summer.  As she put it, “There was one tick with the disease and it bit my dog.”  I once had a cairn terrier who was severely allergic–to just about everything!  We took a brief walk through a park one day and walked on the concrete pathway–not on the grass or by the trees or shrubs.  The next day he bit all the hair off his tail.  I rushed him to the vet who told me he had been bitten by a flea–and had an allergic reaction!  So make sure you talk to your vet about proper (and safe) pest control.

How To Recognize Heat Stroke in a Dog



Summer can be the most dangerous season for your pet. While cats are affected by the heat, they mostly stay inside; dogs, on the other hand, love to romp outside. They don’t sweat the way humans do, so their body temperature is regulated mostly through respiration–panting. If a dog’s respiratory tract cannot remove heat quickly enough, heat stroke can occur.

Heatstroke is an emergency and should be treated immediately.

Following are some situations that can cause heat stroke and dehydration in your pet:
■ Being left in a car in hot weather
■  Exercising strenuously in hot, humid weather
■  Being a flat, short headed breed, such as Bulldog, Pug, or Pekingese
■  Suffering from a heart or lung disease that interferes with efficient breathing
■  Being muzzled while put under a hair dryer
■  Suffering from a high fever
■  Being confined on concrete or asphalt surfaces
■  Being confined without shade and fresh water in hot weather
■  Having a history of heat stroke

Symptoms include:
■  Excessive panting
■  Hyperventilation
■  Increased salivation
■  Dry gums that become pale, grayish and tacky
■  Rapid or erratic pulse
■  Weakness
■  Confusion
■  Inattention
■  Vomiting; diarrhea; and possible rectal bleeding

If you think your dog has heatstroke, get him into the shade immediately. Take the dog’s temperature; a normal, resting temperature for a dog is between 100-102 degrees. Cool off his body with cool, not cold water; use running water, such as a hose. Don’t submerge the dog in a pool or tub–it can cause shock, cardiac arrest and bloating. Whatever you do, don’t try to give him any of those human, electrolyte drinks but, rather, stick with plain, fresh water.

Once his temperature starts to drop, take him to the veterinarian immediately.