The How To Guide for Dog Care

How to Care for a Dog Who Has Allergies

Canine allergies are a lot like human allergies - dogs can react to things in the air, in their food or on their skin. Learn to recognize canine allergy symptoms, and then provide your dog with needed relief.

1. Look for allergy symptoms in your dog. The most common signs of an allergy to inhalants or fleas are frequent itching, chewing and biting, especially on the tail, the stomach, and the insides of the hind legs, as well as licking and chewing the paws. Inhaled allergies can also result in sneezing, coughing and watery eyes. Vomiting and diarrhea are usually symptoms of food allergies. Hives and rashes can be symptoms of various types of allergies.
2. Consider the season: Inhaled allergies erupt in the spring and fall. Flea allergies are most prominent during the flea season. (Summer is flea season in most areas.)
3. Take your dog to a veterinarian if you observe any of the above symptoms, especially vomiting or diarrhea, as they could be caused by a more serious underlying medical condition.
4. If you suspect an allergy to food, realize that typical canine food allergens include corn, beef, dairy products, wheat and soybeans. Talk to your veterinarian about putting your dog on a special protein diet to determine which food your dog is reacting to. Follow the veterinarian’s guidelines to gradually introduce other foods into the diet until the allergen is found. Your veterinarian may also recommend food allergy tests to find the allergen.
5. If you suspect an allergy to inhalants, vacuum and dust frequently. Culprits include dust, mold spores, pollen grains, and household chemicals such as carpet cleaner and air fresheners. Treat your dog to a cool bath, and shampoo or rinse with aloe vera or oatmeal to help soothe the itchy skin. Your veterinarian may also recommend antihistamines or drugs to keep the itching at bay while the skin heals and the allergen is diminished.
6. Check your dog for fleas, as your dog could be suffering from fleabite dermatitis (an allergy to a flea’s saliva). Careful grooming and frequent examinations, not only for fleas but flea droppings, can help alleviate this allergy. Ask your vet about flea products such as sprays, shampoos, topicals and pills. Again, an oatmeal or aloe vera bath can help soothe the itching.
7. Consider the possibility of contact allergies. Some dogs are allergic to bedding (cedar wood chips and wool are two possible offenders), grass, or plastic food bowls. If your dog has acne on his chin and uses a plastic feeding bowl, consider switching to a steel, glass or ceramic feeding bowl.

It only takes one or two fleabites to set off a dog’s allergies to fleas.
Certain dog breeds are more prone to allergies than others. If buying a purebred dog, ask the owner whether the parents have allergies, since allergies are inherited.

Bring your dog to the veterinarian when the itching first manifests itself to avoid the possibility of secondary skin infections, which can be caused by excess chewing and scratching.
Never apply flea products to irritated or broken skin; the chemicals could further irritate and injure the skin.


How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Brushing is simple after you've had a few practice sessions. Try to do this every day to promote healthy teeth and gums.

1. Have a veterinarian check your pet's teeth before you start a tooth-brushing program. If your pet has gum disease or damaged teeth, the process will be painful and he will associate pain with tooth brushing.  He may even bite you.
2. Get your dog used to your looking into his mouth. After each time you do so, reward him with a treat or praise.
3. Buy a pet dental kit, including toothpaste (made for dogs and cats) and a toothbrush, at a pet store or from your vet. Follow the kit's instructions for use. Research alternatives, such as a finger toothbrush, if your pet refuses to let you brush his teeth with a toothbrush. Ask your veterinarian for suggestions.
4. Place your dog on a comfortable surface while brushing his teeth.
5. In general, try to use minimal restraint on your pet while brushing.
6. Brush your dog's teeth with a gentle, massaging motion.
7. Reward your dog with a tartar-control treat after the procedure.

Starting at age 3, bring your dog to the veterinarian for an annual teeth cleaning.
Try to brush as part of daily quality time with your pet. He will come to associate tooth brushing with affection and praise.


How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears is a simple procedure. Heed the following steps.

1. Use an ear wash formulated for ear cleaning.
2. Soak a cotton ball thoroughly in the ear wash. Squeeze out excess ear wash.
3. Place the cotton ball in your dog’s ear and gently rub up and down.
4. Allow your dog to shake off excess moisture. This is important for preventing ear infections.
5. Soak the tip of a cotton swab in the ear wash and run it along the nooks and crannies of your dog’s ears.
6. Avoid putting the swab down your dog’s ear canal; leave this type of cleaning to the veterinary medical staff.

If your dog has chronic ear infections, consult a veterinarian. Chronic ear infections could be a sign of allergies or other problems. If the ear canal looks abnormal, clean only the outside and consult a vet


How to Live With a Blind Dog

Dogs that are partially or completely blind need owners who can help them cope with their daily lives. With a few minor adjustments to your home, your dog will get around with confidence.

1. Remove dangerous obstacles (such as toys or pulled-out chairs) in your dog’s normal walking path, especially if she has recently lost her vision.
2. Lay down tactile pathways for the dog in strategic places - for example, between her bed and the back door. Use carpet runners on wood or tile floors and rubber mats on carpeted areas.
3. Apply several drops of oil-based perfumes or fragrant oils to obstacles you want your dog to avoid - doorjambs, chairs, corners of coffee tables and walls.
4. Apply a new scent to any new piece of furniture that you add to your home.
5. Use high-contrast markings to help dogs with low vision avoid obstacles.  Use black electrical tape on white doorjambs or white masking tape on dark stairs.
6. Introduce your dog to her new environment on a leash.

Dogs may be afraid of rubber or plastic mats, so introduce them slowly (never forcefully) and offer food treats if appropriate for your dog’s health.  Practice with your dog on a leash if necessary. Reapply oil-based scents weekly, but once your dog has developed a mental map of the house and yard, you might not need them. Scent options include prepared air fresheners, body deodorants and furniture polish.
Have your dog’s eyes examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist. Certain forms of blindness can be corrected or improved through medication and/or surgery.

Be patient when working with blind dogs. Use praise lavishly. Punishment can cause blind dogs to become more depressed, anxious or aggressive.


How to Determine if Your Dog Needs Medical Care

Since your dog can’t talk, you’ll need to watch her carefully for signs of illness. Spotting the symptoms early not only reduces the suffering she endures but may also dramatically affect the outcome of her treatment, while reducing your veterinary bill.

1. Learn your dog's daily routine. Observe her activities such as her eating and drinking habits and her patterns of urination and defecation closely, so you can quickly detect variations from her normal behavior.
2. Learn to do simple things like monitoring her heart and respiratory rates and taking her temperature Normal temperature for a dog is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees F.
3. Watch for symptoms such as persistent vomiting, retching or gagging; diarrhea; or straining to defecate or urinate. These can signify serious medical problems. Call your veterinarian immediately.
4. Notice lethargy or weakness, a reluctance to eat or drink, or persistent coughing or sneezing, coupled with a change of behavior. These are sure signs that your dog needs medical attention.
5. Be aware that excessive drooling and shaking or generalized tremors, convulsions, seizures or labored respiration can indicate poisoning. Call your veterinarian immediately.
6. Try not to confuse normal behavioral changes and mood swings, which can be caused by alterations in your daily routine or variations in household activities, with true signs of illness.

Listlessness and refusal to eat or drink are usually the first symptoms of illness. Hot weather causes dogs to become inactive and eat less, but they will also drink more. Ask any children in your household if they think the dog is sick. They often see things that busy adults overlook.

Take action as soon as you notice a problem. Delays in calling your veterinarian will often result in prolonged treatment, increased stress on you and your dog, increased expense and possibly the loss of your pet.


How to Know What Kind of Worms Your Pet Has

While worms can make your pet sick and can pose a health hazard for your family, treating them is relatively simple once you’ve identified the culprit. The information below will assist you with that task and help you seek safe and effective treatment for your pet.

1. Collect a small, fresh fecal specimen and place it in a plastic bag or airtight container.
2. Take the specimen to your veterinarian and request an examination for intestinal parasites. You may also need to bring your pet in with you; call first to find out.
3. Get information about different types of worms from your family veterinarian. Parasite risk varies with the type of pet, the locale and whether the pet lives inside or outdoors.
4. Check the hair and skin around the anus, or the stool itself, for evidence of tapeworm segments, which are short (1/4 inch), flat and whitish-tan.  These are pieces of the tapeworm, and they move when first passed; when dry, they resemble grains of rice.
5. They contain tapeworm eggs, which will be ingested by flea larvae, rodents or birds to complete the tapeworm life cycle.
6. Suspect roundworms if you observe round, yellowish-white worms, 2 to 3 inches long and pointed on the ends, coiled in your pet’s stool or vomit.
7. Keep in mind that although roundworms are easy to see when passed, they usually are not passed, so in general, you will not see them - they will be diagnosed in the laboratory.
8. Understand that while roundworms are most common in puppies and kittens, they are found in pets of all ages and all types, including reptiles, birds and pocket pets.
9. Be aware that diagnosing hookworm, lungworm or whipworm requires microscopic examination of the pet’s stool, and diagnosis of heartworm requires a blood test.
10. Administer medication only as directed by your veterinarian. Medication developed to eliminate worms is specific for each type of worm and for each species of pet.

“Ringworm” is not really a worm but a dermatophyte or fungal infection on the skin and hair.
Dogs do not get pinworms; kids and horses do. When a dog scoots his butt on the floor, it is usually not an indication that he has worms, but generally signals a problem with his anal sacs. These are scent glands located near the anus, and this should prompt a call to your veterinarian. You may see fly larvae, or maggots, on stools in the yard or on old food. These are not the same as worms from your pet.

Some worms, like roundworm and hookworm, are transmissible from pets to people. All pets should be checked by a veterinarian at least once a year and given worm medication as directed to eliminate this potential health hazard.


How to Trim a Dog’s Nails

Your dog's nails should just touch the ground when she walks. If her nails are
clicking on the floor or getting snagged in the carpet, it's time for a pedicure.

1. Use trimmers designed for pets. Ask your veterinarian or a groomer for advice about what types of nail trimmers are best for your dog and how to use them properly.
2. Make sure the clippers are sharp.
3. Start at the tip of the nail and snip a little at a time. When you can see a little bit of moisture, stop clipping.
4. Avoid cutting into the quick, which contains nerves and blood vessels. It is painful and will bleed easily. On white nails, the quick is the pink section.
5. Be extra careful when cutting dark nails, because the quick is difficult to see.
6. If the tip of the nail begins to bleed, apply pressure using styptic powder or a substitute such as baby powder or cotton.
7. Avoid wiping the blood clot off the tip of the nail once the bleeding has stopped.
8. Remember to trim the dewclaw nail, on the inside of the leg. Since it doesn't touch the ground, it wears down less rapidly than the others.
9. Trim nails once or twice a month. The quick will lengthen if you don’t trim the nail regularly, and long nails can cause traction problems or become ingrown.

If you have not cut your dog's nails since she was a puppy or you're uncomfortable with the task, ask your veterinarian or groomer to demonstrate proper nail trimming or to do it for you. Give your dog a treat after trimming her nails.

Never attempt to trim your dog's nails with clippers designed for use on humans.


How to Know When to Wash Your Dog

Bathing your dog regularly is an important part of responsible pet ownership.  A clean dog is a happy dog - and one who’s likely to receive more love and attention. Plus, regular baths may help prevent skin disease, saving you money on veterinary bills.

1. Examine your dog daily to determine if he’s dirty, has signs of skin disease or has parasites such as fleas or ticks. You should not find mats, sores, tenderness or bad odors.
2. Wash your dog immediately if he’s had any contact with toxic chemicals, oils, sprays or other irritating materials.
3. Note that if none of these problems are present, a frequent bath is not necessarily ideal for most dogs. To frequent of bathing can dry out their skin. Talk to your veterinarian regarding the optimal frequency.
4. Explore your dog’s entire body and comb him prior to starting the bath, removing mats and foreign bodies from his coat while checking for lumps, bumps and wounds.
5. Consult your veterinarian about which shampoo is best for which breed, as variations in coats and predisposition to skin disease will determine what’s optimal. As a general rule, you’ll want a mild cleansing shampoo designed for dogs, without harsh chemicals, perfumes or parasite control agents.
6. Rinse your dog thoroughly after allowing the shampoo to remain in contact with the skin for 5 to 10 minutes.
7. Dry him with a towel or hair dryer (set to warm or cool - not hot) to complete this bonding time with your dog.
8. Take your dog to a professional groomer regularly if you’re unable to bathe him yourself at home. Or use do-it-yourself doggy wash parlors, which may save you some money.

Bathe your dog to get him clean, not to control external parasites. If parasites are present, use products designed for parasite control, as recommended by your veterinarian. Quality shampoos developed for dogs can be used daily without drying the hair coat or skin.
Bathing your dog when he is a puppy will make a bath as routine as going for a walk.

Finding evidence of skin disease - such as rashes, open sores, hair loss, or excessive scratching and biting - indicates the need for a trip to the veterinarian right away. Signs of irritation or discomfort after bathing indicate that your dog is sensitive or allergic to the shampoo. Rinse him thoroughly in cool water and seek medical attention. Always read the label completely before using any shampoo on a puppy.


How to Move a Dog to a New Home

Don't let man's best friend get lost in the shuffle of a move. Relocating your dog to a new home can be a smooth transition for everyone involved if you follow these simple steps.

When You Move   Steps:
1. Feed your dog five to six hours before traveling. Give her water two hours before traveling. Medicate the dog if she becomes overexcited while traveling.
2. Bring food and water along. Make frequent stops to walk your dog and let her drink.
3. Keep your dog confined when you get to the new home. A dog can easily escape during the moving process. Let your dog out once all doors and windows are closed, and allow her to become familiar with the house.
4. Use your dog's familiar bowls, bedding and toys. Put them in a location similar to where they used to be.
5. Accompany your dog outside until she's familiar with the area.
6. Try to stick to your dog's regular schedule in the first days after the move.
7. Locate a vet in your area. Make an appointment and take your dog's records in.

Talk to your vet before the move to arrange for medication to calm your dog.

Before the Move   Steps:
1. Obtain a copy of your dog's veterinary records to give to the vet in the new area.
2. Call the state veterinarian in the capital of the state you're moving to. Find out if you need to provide any paperwork to bring your dog into the state.
3. Call the town or village hall in the new locale. Ask about licensing requirements.
4. Make arrangements for your dog to travel with you in a car or by air. Dogs normally aren't permitted on trains or buses.

Get a health certificate from your vet. Some states require that this be presented at the border before entering the state, even if you're just passing through.

If your dog will travel by air, purchase a kennel for her to travel in.