Archive for February, 2011

Just like people, older dogs often develop arthritis, especially in the hip joints. One of the remedies which is often put forward by the health food industry is Glucosamine, usually in combination with Chondroitin Sulfate. These supplements have been around for at least ten years and people generally take it as a given that they do, in fact, assist in overcoming the effects of arthritis. But do they? If they do, are there any glucosamine side effects that you need to be aware of?

Believe it or not, there is actually no proof that Glucosamine supplements help arthritis. There are some indications, but these chemicals are a long way from being a silver bullet for arthritis. Some studies have been done on humans, and presumably they can be extended to dogs as well.

The bottom line question we all want an answer to is, does glucosamine actually benefit arthritis? So far, the answers are unclear. One interesting finding is that people who were experiencing mild pain due to arthritis didn’t seem to benefit from glucosamine, but more severe cases did improve. How much? About 20%. That means that those in pain still had pain, but one in five reported that the pain was less after taking glucosamine.

The good news about all this is there are really no glucosamine side effects to be wary of. It seems to be a very benign substance. Here is a list of the side effects and things to watch for with its use:

  • If you are allergic to shellfish you should consult your physician before using glucosamine products. Glucosamine is derived from shellfish.
  • If you are pregnant or lactating you should consult your physician before beginning to take glucosamine.
  • Glucosamine sulfate may increase the risk of developing insulin resistance and could decrease the metabolic actions of insulin. Although glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are biochemically classed as carbohydrates (sugars), the body is not able to break them down into glucose, so these compounds do not raise blood sugar by providing an additional source of glucose. However, many factors can affect insulin secretion and blood glucose levels in diabetic patients, and we recommend that individuals with diabetes check their blood glucose levels frequently when initiating glucosamine into their regimen.
  • High dosages of glucosamine may cause gastric problems, nausea , diarrhea, indigestion, and heartburn. Glucosamine should be taken with meals to help avoid these problems.

Final verdict is that glucosamine won’t make your dog’s arthritis vanish, but it won’t hurt him either, especially at the levels that are added to dog foods.

A figure from Robert Hooke's Micrographia, whi...

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Fleas and ticks are the two most common pests that aggravate your dog. Tick and flea treatment for dogs is vital to maintaining their health and your sanity.

Ticks are more of a problem for the dog than they are for the owner. Ticks carry some diseases, like lymes disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted fever, but an infestation of ticks can drain your dogs energy even if they don’t carry infections. This is due to the loss of the blood that the ticks consume. Over time, the stress on the dogs system can make him prone to other illnesses, simply because the immune system is suppressed.

If your dog spends any time romping around in bushes, you need to check him for ticks. People often assume that, because they don’t take their dogs into forested areas, they don’t have to worry about ticks. The unfortunate truth is that bushes in the backyard or the park can also conceal ticks, so don’t presume that your dog is safe because you never go to the country.

The best time to check for ticks is a day or two after possible exposure. When they aren’t feeding ticks are very small and almost impossible to see, so its unlikely that you’ll find them right away. Once they’ve been in place for a couple of days, though, they are really easy to see. They look like hanging warts or skin tags more than anything else. At that point they are nothing much more than sacks of blood with their head buried under your dog’s skin. That head is the problem. If you don’t take precautions the head can be left behind to cause infection when the tick is removed.

When I was a kid, ticks were removed by touching them on the ass with a lighted cigarette. As smoking went out of fashion, people started to use olive oil or vaseline to make the ticks back out. Things have changed again, so here’s the currently recommended way of dealing with ticks.

  • Use blunt curved tweezers or a thread.
  • Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with a steady, even pressure.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick because this may cause the mouth parts to detach and remain in the skin.
  • You should pull firmly enough to lift up the skin.
  • Hold this tension for 3 to 4 minutes and the tick will back out.
  • DO NOT squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain bacteria.
  • Immediately dispose of the tick. If you have any concerns, put the tick in a plastic bag and freeze it. If you get sick you can take the dead tick with you when you see your provider.
  • Immediately wash your hands and the affected area with soap and water.

This list is from How to Remove a Tick.

While ticks are mainly uncomfortable for dogs, fleas are just as aggravating to people. I’ve lived in a couple of houses that had flea infestations and it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Fleas are supposed to be species specific, but I can tell you that dog fleas will happily chow down on people too. Just knowing the fleas are there can lead to a bad case of phantom itches. Just thinking about it now is making me scratch. For some reason, fleas gravitate more toward women than men, and my girlfriend got to the point where she wouldn’t come near my house until the flea problem was dealt with.

The best way to deal with fleas is by prevention. Use some kind of one drop flea treatment like Advantage. There are cheaper brands on the market, but we’ve found that they don’t do the job as well as Advantage does. Once that stuff is on your dog, the fleas are history. The only drawback that I know of is that some animals are sensitive to the chemicals and can become ill. So, watch carefully to see what happens to your dog if you are using it for the first time.

Did you know that you can still get a flea infestation in your house even if your dog is flea free? During high flea season, fleas actually do a sort of migration and they can find their way into your house through open doors or cracks under the door. This sometimes happens to people who have no animals of their own and causes great consternation.

To understand ways of dealing with fleas you have to understand their life cycle. They don’t actually live on the host. They jump on, bite, hang out and pick their teeth, and then jump off again. The lay their eggs in carpets and cracks in the flooring. When the eggs hatch the young fleas survive by eating the feces of the adults. When they’re all grown up they start bouncing around looking for a blood meal.

What all that means, is that simply killing the adult fleas doesn’t really solve the problems, ‘cos there are a bunch of eggs about to hatch to start the cycle again.

If you have a really bad flea problem in your house the only way to knock it down is by using a fogger, or flea bomb. We can’t buy them in Canada, so people usually head south to pick them up. Be sure to follow all the instructions. These things are dangerous. That’s why they are restricted to professional exterminators in Canada.

Once you’ve knocked down the adult fleas its time to deal with the eggs and larvae. The biggest hot-spot where fleas lurk is in your carpets. Give them a good steam cleaning. After they’ve dried you have to hose them down with a good flea spray. I’m not going to recommend any particular brand. The one we use is called Infelsekt, and last time we bought it it cost $75 for the can. Raid has one. Adams Plus Inverted Carpet Spray, 16 oz is available from Amazon. It is also supposed to work on ticks.
The main thing to be sure of, no matter which brand you choose, is that it states clearly on the can that it kills eggs and larvae for up to six months. You have to be sure of that so that you don’t get a re-occurence of the infestation a month after you knock the current one down.

That’s what we’ve learned about tick and flea treatment for dogs. Especially where fleas are concerned, you have to be willing to spend the money you need to, then establish a set of routines for cleaning and de-fleaing your house on a regular basis in order to protect yourself and your pets.

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University of Victoria library, bikes, and rab...

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A few days ago I wrote a post about a recent sled dog cull that took place in Whistler. Since that time, the story has really taken off. The RCMP is conducting a criminal investigation and there’s talk of aProvincial Inquiry. All good stuff, so far.

As I mentioned in my last post, Outdoor Adventures is still in business, as is Howling Dogs of Whistler. The town of Whistler is considering revoking the business licenses of these companies to punish them for what happened. Sounds good, but is it?

Keep in mind that Howling Dogs had 256 dogs and killed 100 of them. Part of the reason for the horrible way it was done is because there is no method in place to adopt the dogs out and no way they could be absorbed into the rest of the dog sledding community. There are simply too many of them. So, what happens to the remaining dogs if the operations are shut down? They will almost certainly be killed. That isn’t what anybody wants but it seems inevitable.

This kind of unintended consequence is what gave rise to the saying about good intentions and the road to hell. If the point isn’t to protect the dogs what’s all the fuss about?

I’m not pretending that I know what should be done. It does seem evil not to punish the perpetrators in some way, but I don’t trust anyone to look out for the dogs’ interests, especially not the SPCA.

Let me tell you a little story. The University of BC had a big problem with feral rabbits. They were simply going to kill them at first, but there was a public uproar about it. So instead, 200 were live trapped and taken to the SPCA to be adopted out. The found someone who was willing to take the rabbits. This person made room for them on their property and built proper hutches to keep them in at considerable personal expense. When the time came for them to move to their new home, the SPCA presented the intended adopter with a bill for $1300. They charge a $65 adoption fee for rabbits, you see. The adopter was unwilling to pay, considering that he was already out of pocket for the building of the hutches. The SPCA stuck to their guns. Ultimately, the rabbits were destroyed.

That’s the kind of weird result you can get when you start trying to rescue, or punish. Let’s hope that there’s a Solomon-like figure somehow that can come up with some alternatives. Right now, it looks like the remaining dogs will be joining their brothers if people get too righteous.

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