An essential to your dog’s health is his/her regular annual checkup with the vet. Whether or not you choose to have your dog vaccinated* at this time, the annual chekup is also an excellent opportunity for a thorough physical examination to be carried out, and a time to discuss any minor problems or issues which you feel may be affecting your dog’s health or wellbeing. This is a time when your vet may pick up inherited diseases and the like (when your dog is young) so they can be treated early, or just kept an eye on. And as your dog gets older, the vet may find the early signs of more sinister illnesses.

I recently took my dogs for their annual checkup, and for the first time alarms were raised about matters of significant concern - it was thought that Kara might have early stages of lymphoma (cancer) - which, fortunately, tests then proved to be not the case. And Jet apparently has something akin to the early stages of cataracts in humans in her eyes, and according to the vet, Jet is likely to go progressively blind over the next several years. At least knowing this in advance gives me the opportunity to watch for any developing signs and, if and when necessary, adapt her outings and home environment to take into account any sight loss, and most importantly, it has made me realise that vitamin and mineral supplementation in dogs is actually a very wise idea.

Worming and “de-flea-ing” your dog are the commonest forms of health measures which you probably undertake yourself for your dog. Fleas infest almost every dog at some time. Sometimes a lot of the time. Dogs which socialise with other dogs outside the home tend to become infested the most often. Fleas can carry disease and parasites, including tapeworm.

But fleas are extremely irritating for your dog. They often cause intense itching, which in turn can cause your dog to damage his/her skin by vigorous scratching. Some dogs are allergic to flea bites. Even after the fleas have been doused with flea poison and killed, the cycle of itch, scratch, itch, scratch, can remain.

My Rottweiler has been terribly affected two or three times now by this self-perpetuating cycle caused by her allergy to flea bites. Most of the skin damage has been caused by Kara incessantly scratching and injuring herself.

A dog with an infestation of fleas is neither a healthy nor a happy dog. So at the first sign of a flea, it's important to treat your dog for this very common problem. And those pesky fleas don't always readily show themselves. So if your dog is scratching more than usual, the first thing to do is a thorough search through your dog's coat. If you sight even one flea, treat your dog immediately. Some people treat routinely just because it's flea season, and still others actually treat throughout the year. And of course, it goes without saying that if you have more than one animal, you must treat them all at the same time.

This way, you'll ensure that your dog is as healthy and happy as can be!

* There are natural alternatives to vaccinations, and signficant controversy as to whether vaccinations are necessary to desirable. For further information, subscribe to the Healthy Happy Dogs newsletter.

Mum, dad, can we get a puppy? Its a plea that may parents will know only too well. How do you go about adopting a dog to make suure that the dog is happy and there isn't too much upheaval in your home?

If you are thinking of adding a dog to your family, consider adopting your new best friend from an animal shelter or humane society. You'll not only get a good feeling from helping a homeless pet, you'll get an outstanding companion. The staff at these organizations carefully check the animals for sound health and good temperament. In addition, some shelter animals have had the benefit of training to develop good manners while they waited for a new home.

Through no fault of their own, a lot of great dogs wind up in animal shelters hoping for a second chance at happiness. People relinquish their pets to shelters when they are no longer able to care for them. Sometimes this is because the owner was unprepared for the responsibility that comes with caring for a dog. Often, however, caring owners struggling with life-changes or trying to cope with family tragedy realize their pet would be better off with someone else. They bring them to the shelter because they know the animal will be well cared for and placed in an excellent home.

You can find just about any age, size and breed of dog at an animal shelter. So, if you have your mind set on a puppy, a shelter is a good place to look. However, if you would like a more mature dog that is likely already housebroken, you'll also find these kinds of canines at the humane society or animal center.

Upon arrival, shelter staff carefully evaluate each animal for physical and behavioral soundness. They make note of quirks, and work with specialists to eliminate negative behaviors. Most shelters have adoption counselors who interview potential adopters to understand their needs and lifestyle.

This is nothing to worry about - the counselor just wants to make sure that so they can make the perfect match for dog and owner.

This is an opportunity for you to find out about the dogs at the shelter too. There are a number of questions you should ask the counselor.

* Why is the dog available?
* Does the dog have any behavior problems?
* How is the dog with other animals and children?
* Does the dog have any health problems?
* Is the dog spayed or neutered already?

You will find it easy to pick your new dog with this expert advice. In fact your only problem may be not taking all the dogs home with you!

Bringing your newly adopted dog home is exciting for you, but may be a little overwhelming for her. Keep her on a leash as you take her from room to room, giving her plenty of opportunity to sniff. You may want the first stop on your tour to be the backyard or wherever you want her to relieve herself. The excitement of a car ride and coming to a new place can give her the need to empty her bowels or bladder.

Dogs are creatures of habit, so the sooner you establish a firm routine, the more comfortable your new dog will become. Always feed her in the same spot and at about the same time each morning. You'll find she grows to anticipate "what comes next." For example, if you always feed her after you bring in the newspaper, you'll notice she becomes very excited when you open the door to step outside. Dogs catch on quickly.

Remember, though, the reason why many dogs are in animal shelters in the first place. If you don't have the commitment to look after the dog properly, think again.

Training A Dog

Training a dog can be enjoyable and rewarding. Whether conducted in a private setting or a classroom setting, it requires consistency, direction and firmness. In general, dogs are eager to please, but teaching them new skills takes time and energy.

It’s not necessary to have formal training to teach a dog behavioral skills. It is necessary, however, to be consistent, firm and loving, while making it fun. When dogs know what to expect from their masters, they’re much more likely to comply. Here are a few tips to make your training experience a rewarding one for both you and your pet.

First of all, it’s important to begin training as soon as you bring a dog into your home. Whether you have a puppy or an older dog, it’s important that it knows who’s in charge. As dogs are pack animals, they need to know their role in the hierarchy of the home. Once the dog can identify its master as the leader, it will be much easier to teach it necessary commands. Some dogs may always test their boundaries, but knowing they have a set role in the family gives them a measure of comfort.

Secondly, make it fun for the dog. Speaking in a soothing, encouraging voice, and lavishing praise on your pet when it follows direction helps reinforce the lesson learned. If a dog thinks sitting, staying or fetching is fun, it will be more likely to perform on command. When training a dog, it can be frustrating in the beginning if the dog doesn’t follow direction. If this happens, stop the training session. Dogs can sense stressful situations, and react accordingly. Lessons should be enjoyable for a dog. Practicing positive reinforcement goes much further than teaching a dog to fear its master. If it thinks it’s playing a game, it’s more interested in participating.

Next, be consistent. If you’re teaching a dog the “sit” command, and it’s rewarded whether it sits or not, it won’t learn the lesson. Follow through is critical during training. A dog must be able to identify consequences for its actions. If it carries out the command, it’s praised. If it doesn’t do what’s been asked, it isn’t. Sending mixed messages to the dog will make training that much more difficult.

Use the same hand signals and/or simple verbal commands for each lesson. If you’re teaching your dog to stay off the sofa, repeating the same word, such as “off,” each time is much more effective than using different words, like “down” and “go,” interchangeably. The dog needs simple, clear, consistent direction to best understand and carry out its duties.

Also, every member of the family must commit to taking part in training the dog. If one parent enforces the rules, and someone else in the home doesn’t, the dog will quickly figure out that it can get away with misbehaving, and all the work the trainer did can unravel.

Dogs can get bored with lengthy training sessions. Positive gains can be seen in just a few minutes per session. Focusing on one trick for too long can cause the dog to tune out entirely, while shorter sessions spread throughout the week can be effective and enforce lessons. As your dog learns tricks, add new ones. This way, their confidence grows when they can respond to commands they’re familiar with, but they can look forward to learning something new. They enjoy pleasing their masters, and can withdraw if they sense that they’re not doing so.

Formal obedience training is also an option, for owners who would like to reinforce lessons they’re teaching at home. Professional trainers have experience with a wide variety of different breeds and temperaments, and adjust their teaching methods accordingly. Also, group training is a great time to work on socializing your dog, or teaching it to be more comfortable around and tolerant of other dogs.

A common reason dogs are dropped off at shelters is because they’re not trained. Generally, it’s a simple matter of spending enough time with the dog, and consistently enforcing rules. Not only is it rewarding for the dog, it’s rewarding for the master as well. When a dog performs a newly-learned command for the first time, it’s cause for celebration. Not only is a well-behaved dog a joy to be around, but training a dog can create an unbreakable bond between dog and master.

Tips on Moving with Pets

If you’re a pet owner and are planning to move to a new home, remember that moving can be even more stressful for your animals than it is for you. But there are several things you can do to make it easier on your dog or cat.

Start your packing well ahead of time; it’s not only easier on you, but on your pets as well. During the time leading up to your move, try to keep your pets’ eating and exercise schedules as normal as possible. Give them the same amount of attention and affection as you always do.

Things to do before your move :

• Get copies of certificates, medical, and immunization records from your veterinarian.
• Purchase identification tags with your new address.
• If you’re planning to travel by air, schedule your flights early and try to book a direct flight – this will be much easier on your pet. You need to find out what the airline’s regulations are for transporting your pet. You will also need to find out what kind of crate will be necessary to contain your dog or cat.
• If you’re driving and the trip will take more than one day, be sure and check ahead and reserve motels that will accept pets.
• Contact the state to which you’re moving and find out the regulations regarding animals. Some states require an entry permit for pets.
• If your new home is nearby it’s a good idea to take your pets for a visit and let them become familiar with the neighborhood and the new sights and smells. This is especially true of dogs. Of course, keep the dog on a leash and the cat in a carrier.

When Moving Day Finally Arrives . . .

All the confusion is certain to upset your pet so the best solution is to have a friend or family member keep Fido or Fluffy while the loading is being done. If that isn’t an option, keep your pet in a small room, perhaps a bathroom, along with sufficient food, water (litter box for Fluffy) and some favorite toys. Attach a “Do Not Enter” sign on the door so the pet is secure and won’t be accidentally set free.

You’re on Your Way . . .

The packing and loading are all done and now it’s time to head for your new home. There are things you’ll want to make sure are packed for your pet. These include:

• The new identification tags.
• Medications and veterinarian records.
• Recent pictures of your pet in case it becomes lost.
• Litter box or scoop and plastic bags.
• Paper towels in case there are accidents.
• Leashes.
• Toys and treats.
• Food and water bowls.
• Can opener and cans that can be resealed.
• Regular food and water from the old house (enough for several days). Different water can upset an animal’s digestive tract so it’s a good idea to provide water from the old house for the first few days after moving. This would not be a good time to try a new brand of food either!

Your New Home ~ At Last . . .

When you finally arrive at your new home, let your pet explore with your supervision. Then place Fido or Fluffy in a small room with a crate or bed (and, of course a litter box for Fluffy) while the unloading and unpacking are taking place. Make sure to put some favorite toys in there and perhaps an old sweatshirt, or something that smells familiar.

It’s very important that you not let your pet outside alone without a lead or tie for the first few days. Cats usually require about a week but dogs adapt quicker. You don’t want your pet to wander away and get lost.

Your pet may be insecure and more prone to misbehaving during the first few days in a new environment. Try to be patient and not punish the initial misbehavior, instead, try to find ways to reduce stress. Extra TLC can go a long way toward making pets more comfortable. It’s also a good idea to follow the usual feeding and exercise schedule.

In closing, there are just a couple of things you should be aware of to keep the moving experience as trouble-free as possible:

• If you intend to fly, be aware that puppies and kittens less than 8 weeks old will not be transported.
• And finally, never move a sick animal ~ it could well make his condition worse and endanger his health.

Enjoy your new home


Your Pets Diet

Appetite is largely governed by energy intake and gut fill but can be significantly affected by individual animal tendencies and how tasty the food being offered is. Each animal has a maintenance requirement which is the energy necessary for all the resting bodily functions such as the beating of a heart and the constant action of nerve and muscle fibres. Above this is the requirement for voluntary activity such as running and playing.

Every animal has its own rate and efficiency of use for these activities which makes it impossible to create a reliable formula for food requirement. Dogs (and cats to a lesser extent) will eat excessively simply because the food tastes good, a phenomena which gave rise to pet food advertising with statements like "eight out of ten cats prefer it" and the counter advertisement by hills science diet which states below a large photograph of sweets and ice cream that "eight out of ten children may prefer it".

Types of food vary enormously but can be broken down into those which which are 'complete', or those which form only a part of a diet such as 'mixer' biscuits. Complete feeds provide all the necessary nutrients discussed below and do not require any additional food provision. Food may also be dry or moist. Traditional feeding was typically based on a canned moist food with mixer biscuits. Many of the earlier dry feeds were poorly balanced and particularly in cats, predisposed them to kidney failure and other problems.

Dry foods are now much improved and many reputable manufacturers provide dry or moist equivalents of the same food brand, the only difference being the moisture content. It is always very important when giving a dry diet to provide adequate fresh water as the requirement is not present in feed. Cystitis can be a problem even in the best balanced dry food if water intake is inadequate.

Dry or crunchy foods also have a significant benefit on cleaning a pets teeth and indeed specific diets such as Hills 'T/d' are available for this purpose.

Feeding Regime
The feeding regime is how much and how often our pets are fed. There is an established pattern to feed dogs and cats once daily, but there is little good reason to follow this and indeed twice daily feeding has many benefits. More regular salivation improves dental hygiene, smaller meals are easier to digest, and more frequent feeding reduces boredom and begging problems. Of significant importance in deep chested and large breed of dog is the prevention of gastric bloat and torsion which can be induced by large meals, particularly if followed by exercise. Gastric bloat and torsion is a life threatening emergency requiring immediate veterinary intervention.

Bones and chews
Vets will almost always advise that bones and often chews are avoided due to frequent problems when large fragments are swallowed. These can obstruct and even perforate the bowel. However, there are benefits with these, particularly to dental health, and some dogs can tolerate large bones very well. Chews such as Rasks, Royal Canin's Mini Oral Bar and CET chews are a much safer option.

Always consult your own veterinary surgeon before giving bones to a pet. Never give poultry bones, as these often produce sharp fragments when chewed.

All food has an energy value. Carbohydrates are essentially sugars and provide a rich source of energy. Simple sugars such as glucose and dextrose are readily available 'instant-energy'. Starches are readily digested into simple sugars and are derived from potatoes, rice, pasta and other common plant and cereal sources. Starches form a major constituent of many diets as they provide a ready energy source that is more sustained and filling than the simple sugars. Non- digestible carbohydrates form fibre and allow your pet to form a bulky faecal stool. Fibre is generally not broken down by simple stomached animals like dogs or cats, but allows digestion of the other nutrients and formation of a regular, firm, healthy stool. Insufficient dietary fibre can often result in diarrhoea and anal gland problems.

The requirement for carbohydrates is governed by the weight and activity of our pets. Active animals have a greater need, obese animals and often older animals have much less. Specific diets are formulated to meet these needs, such as Royal Canin's 'Obesity' and various geriatric diets. Animals with poor digestion can be helped by a higher fibre, slower digested diet such as Hills i/d. Diabetic animals also are unable to cope well with simple sugars and require a higher fibre food such as Royal Canin's Diabetic diet, or Hills r/d.

Protein provides animals with essential building blocks, the amino acids, which go to make up muscles but are present in almost all body tissues. Certain amino acids can be synthesised by the animal itself, others cannot and are termed 'essential amino acids'. These must be provided in the diet. Sources of protein are traditionally meat but alternatives are available and dogs can have a balanced meat-free diet. Cereals, chicken, fish and soya are common sources of protein.

The protein that our pets eat is largely digested in the bowel and absorbed as the constituent amino acids, which are then broken down and assimilated in the liver and other body tissues. The result is the correct balance of amino acids for the individuals needs, coupled with waste nitrogen products - many of which are excreted through the kidneys.

Kidney failure results in the nitrogen waste products failing to be excreted into the urine. Urea is measured in blood to evaluate kidney failure, which affects about 75% of older cats. These cats still have protein requirement to maintain tissue bulk, often high requirements, but it is essential that only the most readily utilized protein is provided through their diet. Diets such as hills k/d utilize specific ingredients to achieve the correctly balanced diet.

Growing dogs and active sporting dogs will also have greater requirement provided by life stage diets, available from many manufacturers.

It is essential that diets contain a small amount of fat. Fat provides a more concentrated but less available source of energy than the carbohydrates. This means that a high fat diet can increase obesity but a balanced diet containing fat will satisfy the appetite better than a low fat, high carbohydrate diet.

Essential fatty acids are so termed because like the fat soluble vitamins A, D, and E, they cannot be synthesised by the animal but are necessary for normal healthy skin, immune, hormone, and other body systems. Occasionally supplementation is necessary for dry skin conditions. Reputable products such as Efavet capsules and viacutan liquid have been specifically designed for use in dogs and cats. Evening Primrose oil has also been traditionally used as a supplement in many skin disorders If appetite is poor, flavour becomes important and it is fat that adds the flavour to many foods, especially meats. Warming food can also enhance flavour.

Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) is a disease where the pancreas fails to secrete the enzymes amylase and lipase essential to digest dietry fat. The result is greasy, soft, often white faeces. The disease is especially common in German Shepherd Dogs but can be present in other breeds too. Reducing the fat levels in the diet can help but usually it is necessary to supplement each meal with the deficient enzymes. Products such as Pancrex, Lypex, or Panzym Powder are available for this purpose.

Vitamins And Minerals
Vitamins are essential nutrients without which many normal body functions are impossible. They are either water or fat soluble and must be be present to meet RDA (recommended daily allowance) in any balanced diet. It is not necessary or advisable to supplement a complete diet with vitamins without the advice of your veterinary surgeon.

Minerals are the raw elements which are required in varying quantities and are termed 'macro' or 'micro' minerals, dependant on the quantity necessary for life.

Macro-minerals include calcium, necessary for development of teeth and bones and present in the body in large quantities. Balanced supplements are available for specific situations such as late pregnancy and suckling young. Supplying individual minerals is not recommended, as each one affects others and unnecessary supplementation may upset a fine natural balance.

Micro-minerals such as copper or selenium are only required in very small amounts and again the correct balance is essential for tissue health and development, as well as normal immune and other functions. Supplementation of micro-minerals is only usually recommended under veterinary supervision.

Vitamin and Mineral Supplements such as SA37 for growth and during lactation can be considered, especially in large breeds, but often it is better to use an appropriate complete life stage diet.

There are many causes of diarrhoea; from dietary excess, indiscretion, intolerance and allergies to parasites such as worms or protozoa and infections. Many can be controlled by dietary changes alone, for others specific treatments are necessary. Historically Kaolin has been used as a binding agent but this is not well accepted by most cats or dogs. Now modern treatments that are far more palatable such as Canikur tablets and Canikur granules for cats or smaller dogs are available. Pro-Kolin paste for dogs and cats can be very effective. During recovery from many operations ailments and digestive upsets pro-biotic can be given to help restore the natural bacterial or yeasts present within the digestive tract, Protexin provides a range of products suitable for cats, dogs, rabbits and horses.

While it is generally acceptable to withdraw food for 12-48 hours for pets with diarrhoea adequate provision of fresh clean water must always be available. Whenever diarrhoea persists beyond 1 or 2 days dehydration can be a very serious concern and a proper evaluation should be made by your veterinarian.

Older Animals
Geriatric pets have altered nutritional needs. Often the appetite is reduced and activity can be less but at the same time it is important to ensure adequate mineral vitamin and protein provision to maintain often wasting muscle mass. In many cases specific diets to suit certain geriatric diseases are of paramount importance, and advise in these cases should always be sought from your veterinarian. When animals are old (cats and dogs typically over eight years of age) it may be enough just to adopt a lifestyle diet from one of the established manufacturers such as Hills, Iams, Royal Canin/ Walthon ( RCW ) or Purina.

Special Prescription Diets
Special Prescription Diets are so called because they are generally only provided through a veterinary surgeon. Examples include:-

Kidney diets commonly given to cats with chronic renal failure. These diets contain minimal salt, fat and protein, and the most digestable proteins and carbohydrates. The idea is to minimise the waste products of digestion which create many of the clinical signs of disease, whilst maintaining tissue mass to prevent wasting. Most commercial diets are based on chicken and rice, examples include Hills k/d and Royal Canin Renal diet.

Dental diets aim to maximise chewing and salivation while scaping the surface of the teeth and penetrating the gaps between the teeth. The principal of the diet is to provide the right shape and consistency of biscuit with minimal sugars and deposit. Examples include Hills t/d

Diabetic diets must provide a slowly digested and absorbed carbohydrate source to maintain level blood glucose concentration. This is generally achieved by providing high fibre with low fat and simple sugar levels. Examples include Hills i/d and Royal Canin Diabetic diets.

Sensitivity diets are provided for dogs with food allergies or intolerances. Generally common allergens such as wheat glutens are avoided, there is a high fibre inclusion, and protein and carbohydrate are provided from novel sources. There is a great variety of products available from chicken and rice based foods such as Hills i/d to capelin and tapioca diets and Royal Canins Sensitivity control . Atopy, or allergic skin disease, can also be supported by the use of many of these diets when a veterinarian has diagnosed food allergic dermatitis.

Obesity diets are well provided to contain the minimal calories with the maximum gut-fill. There is usually a very high fibre content, and many have biscuits expanded with air and designed scientifically to swell in the stomach giving a 'full' feeling. Examples include Hills r/d and Royal Canin Obesity.