Pet Forum

Dog Allergies and How to Combat Them

Dogs, like humans, can have allergies when something in the environment, their food, or fleas attacks their bodies or immune system.  Even if the cause itself is not inherently dangerous, your dogs can potentially have an extreme reaction to the specific allergy.   And, usually, it will make your dog miserable! As with any allergy or irritation, the first place to start is with your veterinarian to determine the type of allergy your dog might have and how to treat it. 

If your dog has any of the below symptoms, he or she might have an allergy:

Itchy, red, moist or scabbed skin; excess scratching, itchy, runny eyes, itchy back or tail, sneezing, itchy ears, diarrhea, paw chewing, constant licking and/or swollen paws.

If your dog’s itchy, red or irritated skin persists beyond the initial treatment by a veterinarian, allergy testing, most often performed by a veterinary dermatologist or holistic veterinarian is usually recommended.


Relieving symptoms without addressing the source of the problem is a short term fix to what can become a lifelong health problem. And certain drugs used to stop the allergic cycle have significant, potentially very serious side effects, especially those for fleas.

If your dog is allergic to fleas, you can try natural treatments that are available

The best treatment for allergies caused by fleas is to start a flea control program for all of your dogs before the season starts. Remember, outdoor pets can carry fleas inside to indoor pets. See your veterinarian for advice about the best flea control products for your dog and the environment.  Ask your vet if an all-natural pest repellent like Natural Flea and Tick Defense during flea season would help cure the fleas.

If you know fleas are a problem for your dog, try combing your dog’s hair at least once daily, every day during pest season with a flea comb. Do this on a white towel or other light colored cloth so you can see what's coming off your dog as you comb.

Bathe your dog often.  A soothing bath will kill any fleas on your dog, help heal skin irritation, and make her feel more comfortable and less itchy. Also, clean animals aren't as attractive to fleas. Pick a non-grain (no oatmeal) herbal shampoo.  Discuss with your vet what prescription shampoos are best, as frequent bathing with the wrong product can dry out skin.

Your dog might have food allergies which can develop from routine feeding

If your dog has an allergy to something he's eating, it may show itself not only as digestive upset (gas, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.), but also as one or several of the symptoms listed above.

If you think your dog is sensitive to something in his or her diet, it could be that by eating the same food every day for months or years, there's a good chance your dog has developed an allergy to it. Your dog could be sensitive to the single source of protein she's been getting from your specific food. Or your dog could have becomes sensitive to certain ingredients in the food usually grains and other carbohydrates.

The only way to diagnose a food allergy is to feed your dog a prescription or hydrolyzed protein diet exclusively for 8 -12 weeks. This means no treats, table food or flavored medication and only the prescribed diet (which is hard but can be done)! The diet will be free of potential allergy-causing ingredients and will ideally have ingredients your dog has never been exposed to. Your dog will stay on this diet until his symptoms go away and then you can start to reintroduce old foods to see which ones might be causing the allergic reaction.

Your dog could also be allergic to irritants in your home or outside

Your dog can also be allergic to any of the different irritants in the environment. These can be outdoor allergens like grasses and pollens, as well as indoor irritants like mold, dust mites, cleaning chemicals and even fabrics like wool or cotton.  As a general rule, if your dog is allergic to something inside your home, he'll have year-round symptoms. If he's reacting is to something outdoors, it could very well be a seasonal problem.

Below are some recommendations to help:

Make sure your dog’s indoor air environment is clean and don't allow smoking around your pooch. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products. Consider investing in an air purifier to control dust mites.

Make sure your dog's drinking water is high quality and doesn't contain fluoride, heavy metals or other contaminants.

If you suspect something outdoors is irritating your dog, in between baths, do foot soaks. Chances are the allergen is coming inside on your pet's feet.  He or she can’t escape it and then it’s being spread around your home.

Try adding a fatty acid supplement might help relieve your dog’s itchy skin. There are also shampoos that may help prevent skin infection, which occurs commonly in dogs with allergies. Sprays containing oatmeal, aloe and other natural products are also available.

With time, effort and patience, you can pinpoint the source of your dogs’ allergies and then provide the correct treatment.

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What Does It Mean if Your Cat is Sneezing?

When our cats are sick, it can difficult to really understand what they are experiencing as they obviously can’t communicate with us!  When a cat sneezes, it can be equally confusing.  There are many reasons why a cat might sneeze.  If there isn’t any dischargefrom your cats’ eyes or nose and he or she is eating normally, then your kitty probably doesn’t have a cold.  However, if there is discharge from your cat’s ears or nose, then you kitty might have a cold or upper respiratory infection.

An upper respiratory infection in a cat is more like the flu in humans because it can be very difficult to cure without medical help, especially in kittens, senior cats and/or those with chronic health problems.   And, of course, any kitten, no matter how active, should be seen by a veterinarian at the first sign of a cold. However, if your cat refuses to eat or move, you should bring your cat to a veterinarian immediately.

Below are the symptoms to look out for in your kitty that might signal a respiratory infection:

Sneezing, especially occurring as a series of sneezing over the course of a few hours, or frequently over several days; discharge from the eyes or nose; this may be watery, bloody, or thick and colored clear, yellow or green; coughing or excessive swallowing (if there is drainage into the back of the mouth and throat); lethargic; loss of appetite; fever, dehydration or a raised eyelid.



How to treat a cold or upper respiratory infection

Use a vaporizer:  By using a vaporizer, it can help produce warm moist air that will help drain your cats’ nasal passages and sinuses. To treat the bacterial component of the cold, your cat will require antibiotics.

Keep your cat away from any draft:  It's important to keep your pet warm and comfortable while he or she isn’t feeling well. It's true that a cat mainly relies on his fur to keep him warm, but cold drafts provide added stress to his body, and stress can keep the immune system from functioning as it should. If necessary, move your cat's bedding to a warmer location in the house.

Keep the mucus away:  Wipe away secretions with a warm, moist paper towel and discard.  Keep the eyes and nose free of discharge using cotton moistened with warm water to remove the discharge.

Make sure your kitty drinks plenty of water: Although your cat may feel less like drinking while he's ill, it's important to keep up his fluid intake to prevent dehydration. Make sure your cat has fresh water available and feed him more moist food at this time if you normally feed you kitty dry food. Cats really take in more moisture from their food than by drinking.  

Try to get your cat to eat:  You can also try to warm up canned food or give your cat a meat flavored baby food to encourage your cat to eat.  Try adding warm chicken broth to dry food or whatever it takes to get your cat to eat.

If your cat doesn’t eat at all, he or she might need to be fed intravenously

If your cat is not eating or is dehydrated, your cat will be hospitalized and put on intravenous fluids until he is eating on his own. B vitamins and appetite stimulants may also be used to help his appetite to return. If neither of these methods help with your cat's appetite, he may need to be force fed for a while.

If the symptoms resolve only to return a few weeks later, chances are your cat does not have a cold and further blood tests will need to be taken.

If your cat’s cold is due to a herpes virus infection, he may have occasional recurrences of the symptoms. As with people, you cannot get rid of a herpes virus; all you can do is treat the symptoms when they appear.  This is why it is important to keep up with your cats’ boosters and FIV virus shots when they are kittens.

Preventing an upper respiratory infection             

Although there is no way to completely prevent a cat from getting a cold or infection, you can help boost his immune system so he is better able to fight off cold by keeping your cat’s living space clean.  Make sure to wash your cat's food bowl and water dish daily.  By keeping your cat properly vaccinated and limiting his or her exposure to the outside also helps.  Indoor cats tend to be healthier.


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The Dachshund – Loyal, Playful and Long!

Who doesn’t recognize the adorable dachshund with its’ low-slung body that has been affectionately known as the weiner dog. The dachshund is confident and a born hunter. The dachshund has an energetic, pleasant expression. Dachshunds have three different coat varieties: the smooth is short and shining, imparting some protection against the elements; the longhair is sleek, sometimes slightly wavy, providing somewhat more protection; the wire has tight, thick and hard hair with a finer undercoat, providing maximal protection.

The Dachshund is an adventurous dog

The dachshund is bold, curious and always up for adventure.  He or she likes to hunt and dig, tracking by scent and going to ground after a game. It is independent but will join in its family's activities whenever given a chance.  They are good with children in its own family, but some may snap at strange, new children. Most are reserved with strangers. Some bark. The longhaired variety may be quieter and less terrier-like; the wires may be more outgoing. Some miniatures are more prone to be timid.


Dachshunds are also very playful and lively

The Dachshund's playful nature comes out around your home. He or she loves to be close to you and partner with you in tasks like tying your shoes. Because of his intelligence, he often has his own ideas about what the rules are when it comes to playtime-and those rules may not be the same as yours or even other breeds of dogs. Dachshunds are known for being lively and enjoy chasing other small animals, birds, and toys.

Those little Dachshunds have a big, loud bark

Dachshunds’ lungs are large for a dog this size and they have a barrel-like chest. Because of these physical attributes, Dachshunds have a loud, deep bark that sounds as though it comes from a much larger dog. And they do like to bark, which is something you might consider if you have neighbors who could be annoyed rather than amused by the antics of your brave little Dachshund.  But, they are trainable so you can help teach them to stop barking.

Dachshunds are a great choice if you live in an apartment

Dachshunds are a good choice for pet owners who live in an apartment and don't have a backyard. They are popular for owners who live in the city because of their small size and ease of care. They generally are active indoors and also enjoy going on walks. Just be careful not to let them get too fat or allow them to injure their backs by jumping off furniture. Also, be sure to support their backs when you are holding them. Because of their long backs, they are susceptible to slipped or ruptured (herniated) disks in their backs, which can result in partial or full paralysis.

Dachshunds will often bond closely with a single person. They may even become jealous of their owner's attention and can, if not properly trained and socialized, become snappy. 

Dachshunds like other dogs should be socialized and crate trained

Dachshunds can be stubborn and difficult to housebreak. Crate-training is recommended.

Dachshunds can be mischievous. Be patient, firm, and consistent when training them.  This little dog needs an owner who understands how to be his pack leader or he will take over the house, and begin to try and tell the owner what to do. If the dog is allowed to take over, many behavior problems will arise, such as, but not limited to, guarding furniture, separation anxiety, guarding food, toys or other objects, snapping, biting and obsessive barking.

They were bred to not only hunt but kill their prey; in your household, their choice prey most likely will be your Dachshund's toys and he will effectively hunt them one after the other.  Leave lots of toys out for them!

Dachshunds should be walked daily

These are active dogs with surprising stamina; they need to be walked daily. They will also enjoy sessions of play in the park or other safe, open areas. Be careful, however, when pedestrians are about because Dachshunds are more likely to be stepped on than more visible dogs. They should be discouraged from jumping, as they are prone to spinal damage.

When properly trained, Dachshunds can be severely loyal, fun pets who are as happy with toys or just sitting right next to you watching television.  Their ease with apartment living makes them especially helpful for those who don’t have a yard.


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When is It Time to Say Goodbye to Our Beloved Pet

There is nothing harder than watching our pets get older and start to really show the signs of old age.  It is extremely difficult when our fur kids start to lose some of their normal functions, slow down, or suffer from amnesia, deafness or a variety of different ailments.  It is natural for our pets to finally leave us to cross the Rainbow Bridge, but what is extremely heartbreaking is when we have to make the decision for them.

The following are some ways to indicate that it might be time to say goodbye.

Every pet, illness and situation is different

There is no single rule that can be followed for when it is time to help your best friend cross the rainbow bridge. Getting input from your veterinarian on the specific medical conditions that your loved one may face is vital for doing what is best for your pet. You may also benefit from having a caring friend who is not as emotionally involved in the situation as you to help you gain perspective and really see what is happening with your pet. 

When Is It Time


Sometimes, pain medicine will help and can often give your pet a new lease on life. And, of course, there are those animals that are happy to limp around the house for years on a bad leg unaware that they have a problem.  But when your animal can no longer enjoy life because of pain, it's probably time to let them go.

If your pet is in pain or suffering, you will want to help stop their suffering

You know your dog or cat well enough to know that he or she is unhappy or suffering. Usually, the light goes out of his or her eyes, he doesn’t run around, curls up in a ball and sleeps the day away. Favorite toys and treats are left untouched and sometimes they will be irritable. 

Cats tend to want to be on their own, won’t face you or will hide to mask their suffering. They might not want to be stroked anymore, will usually stop eating and there is no joy in their faces. 

You can exhaust all the options before making your decision

You owe it to yourself and your pet to exhaust all the options (if your pet isn't suffering terribly). Try not be lured by claims of miracle cures. If surgery or medication isn't the answer, try acupuncture or massage.  There are holistic remedies that might help and if you have a good veterinarian, he or she will be honest with you about the likelihood of your pet being cured or at least having more time with you.

Remember that pets live in the moment and all they know is how they feel today. By considering their perspective, we can see the world more clearly through their eyes. And their eyes are what matter.

If the bad days outweigh the good days, there is no longer a quality of life

Try to measure their quality of life to determine how good or bad your pet’s life is at this moment. Trying to assess this can be difficult, but there are some ways you can try and evaluate it. Assess the days when your pet is feeling good as well as the days when he or she is not feeling well can be helpful.  If the bad days outweigh the good, then your pet is suffering in his or her own way.  

This tough decision can be suddenly very clear to you one day

Sometimes it’s clear that it’s time to let your friend go and you just know.  If your pet doesn’t eat or can’t control when or where he poops and pees, this is indicative of his organs shutting down. Maybe all he can do is lie there or lost mobility in his legs.   When your pets’ legs go out and he or she can’t move, that’s not a good quality of life and it’s up to you to help them end their suffering. It’s a bleak outlook, but it makes the decision easier.

It really is unfortunate that our pets can’t grow old with us and live as long as we do.  They bring so much joy to our lives and unconditional love.  And it is so hard to say goodbye, but make sure to do what is right for them and know they will be in our hearts forever.


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5 Cool Bonuses of Feeding a Raw Food Diet

By Kimberly Gauthier, Keep the Tail Wagging

Have you heard of raw feeding for pets?  The idea is to feed our pets a diet of fresh food and zero preservatives.  Like me, many people are drawn to the raw food diet after giving up on traditional treatments to combat allergies, digestive issues, or other health issues with their pet.

Rodrigo’s Story

Rodrigo is a border collie, blue heeler mix we adopted (along with his sister) in 2010.  From the start, Rodrigo had digestive issues.  I thought we were feeding him a quality food.  I was told to shop in the “high end” pet food aisle for the quality brands.  I guess I was in the wrong aisle.

Two years and four dog food brands later, I was ready to try raw feeding with our dogs.  Rodrigo had a terrible skin rash, protein and environmental allergies, chronic ear infections, joint issues, and digestive issues.  He was three years old, and I wanted him to enjoy being a dog.

pets eating raw

I transitioned our dogs to raw dog food by Darwin’s Natural Pets during the spring of 2013.  Immediately we saw improvements.  Today, more than two years later, I make our dogs food every weekend, occasionally supplementing with pre-made raw when I can get a good deal.  95% of Rodrigo’s health issues have vanished, and I add supplements to his diet for joint and digestive health.

Benefits of Raw Feeding

The list of benefits that come with feeding a dog a raw food diet is long.

    • Healthy skin and shiny coat
    • Improved digestion
    • Improved joint health
    • Improved immune system health (allergy relief)
    • Clean, white teeth; fresher breath
    • More energy
    • Healthier weight
    • Smaller, less smelly poop
    • Fewer veterinarian visits

I have witnessed all of these improvements in our adult dogs.  When we brought our puppies home two years ago, we immediately started them on raw dog food.  Today, I feed raw to four dogs.

5 Cool Bonuses of Feeding Raw Dog Food

The benefits are old news.  If you’ve done any research on the raw food diet for dogs, you would have stumbled on the above list in multiple places.  There are a few things that I didn’t expect when I transitioned to raw…

1.  I take such pride and comfort in knowing what our dogs are eating.  The more I learned about the pet food industry, preservatives used in pet food, and questionable sources for the proteins – the more afraid I became.  Today, I know exactly what our dogs eat and where it comes from, and it’s a great feeling.  If our dogs have digestive trouble or a rash (which is rare), I can fix it immediately and naturally.

2.  Our veterinarians are on our side!  At first, they weren’t too keen on us feeding our dogs a raw food diet, but when our dogs were examined, both vets were on board, because our dogs are gorgeous and healthy. 

3.  There is a HUGE raw feeding community there to support us.  Like every community, there are some pushy people out there, but for the most part, raw feeders want to help others feed their dogs better.  I’ve learned a lot from my fellow raw feeders.

4.  Raw feeding is inexpensive!  I used to think I couldn’t afford to feed raw dog food, and if I was still buying pre-made, I wouldn’t be able to afford the diet.  I was introduced to a local raw food co-op and was able to slice my monthly budget IN HALF!

5.  Lots of variety.  Although I fall in love with things and eat them daily for months, for the most part, I don’t want the same meal every morning and every evening.  I don’t think our dogs want this either.  Feeding raw allows me to alternate their meals and offers a lot of variety that I couldn’t do on a dry food diet.   In the past two weeks, our dogs have had turkey, venison, elk, and rabbit.

Raw feeding is one of many healthy choices for dogs.  Becoming a raw feeder doesn’t mean that I’m better or smarter than other dog lovers; it simply means that I made a choice that I believe is right for our dogs.  If you want to learn more about raw feeding, take your time and do your homework.  There are plenty of books, e-books, and communities that will provide you with a lot of information.  Do not allow anyone to push you into raw feeding until you’re ready and don’t allow yourself to be made to feel bad should you decide that raw feeding isn’t appropriate for you and your dog.

About the Author:  Kimberly Gauthier is the blogger behind Keep the Tail Wagging, a blog about raw feeding, dog supplements, and raising littermates.  Kimberly and her boyfriend are raising two sets of littermates in the Pacific Northwest where they enjoy a property with plenty of room to run and explore.  Kimberly finished her first e-book on raw feeding called Raw Feeding from A to Z.  Rodrigo, Sydney, Scout and Zoey are all herding mix dogs, including Blue Heeler, Border Collie, Catahoula, Australian Shepherd, and Labrador (a lover, not a herder).


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