Tuesday, May 24, 2011

AKC Agility Trials, Fletcher, May 27-29

A heads-up from Carolina Mountain Dog:

Dog agility is a beloved sport by dogs, their handlers, and spectators. Now you have an opportunity to watch American Kennel Club agility trials, free of charge, from 8 AM to 3 PM each day on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, May 27, 28, and 29. Sponsored by the Blue Ridge Agility Club, the event will be held at the WNC Agricultural Center McGough Arena in Fletcher (across from the Asheville Regional Airport).

More than 400 dogs from throughout the Southeast will compete at various levels of difficulty, against each other on a timed basis. About 70 AKC registered breeds will compete in the trials.

Watch as dogs and their handlers navigate obstacle courses, everything from platforms to weave poles to tunnels. It's an experience you won't want to miss (but please leave your own dog at home).

For additional information about the trials and agility in general, visit the Blue Ridge Agility Club's website: http://blueridgeagility.com/

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hike of the Week...Bent Creek!

The sun is out and thelaurels are at their peak in Bent Creek, so GET OUT THERE this weekend! If you've never been, or you always find yourself on the same trail again and again, then I urge you to pick up a copy of Trail Running in Bent Creek by Trish Brown. I've been taking my dogs to Bent Creek for 15 years, and still found LOTS of new places to go when I discovered this book. It is very thorough, with each trail described in detail with respect to mileage, elevation gains and losses and landmarks. My favorite thing, though, are the CARRY CARDS...a deck of laminated cards, one hike per card, that you can slip into your pocket or down your sports bra so you are sure to make it back out of the woods safety. (Warning: the carry cards, though laminated, don't hold up particularly well to sweat, so watch where you stuff it. Just sayin'.) And just because it is called "Trail Running" does not mean that hikers, walkers and cyclists won't find some new gem they did not know existed. Visit ashevilletrailrunning.com to order a copy of the book or find a local retailer.

Bent Creek is a great place to take your dogs, but remember that the majority of people with dogs you encounter will have their dogs off leash. If that is a problem for you or your dog, stick to the trails in the Arboretum, where you will get a talkin' to if you let your pooch run free.

Also, FYI, we saw a pair of copperheads last weekend sunning themselves by a creek. They will be on the move this weekend if it gets as warm as they say. Admire from a distance.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A Last Word on Socialization

I posted earlier this week about ideas for socializing your puppy. Here is a link to Dr. Becker's site (one of my favorites) where she talks about WHY puppy socialization is so important. (HINT: poorly socialized puppies become poorly socialized dogs, and poor socialization is the number one reason dogs get euthanized.)

I forgot to mention, too, that even though your puppy needs to be socialized to other dogs, the jury is out as to when it is safe from a communicable disease point of view. Conservative vets (almost all of them) will tell you to wait until the puppy's full set of vaccines is complete. Others, the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior included, recognize that the window of opportunity for good socialization is small (first 16 weeks of life), as is the risk of catching something horrible, and that socialization should take precedence over pretty much EVERYTHING. Read The AVSAB paper HERE.

A happy medium might be to get your puppy into a puppy socialization group that meets regularly, is supervised, and where all the puppies have shown proof of vaccination. Talk you your trainer or puppy school to find out what they offer.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Start with a puppy, add a sombrero, finish with a confident dog.

or, Puppy Socialization 101...expose your puppy to EVERYTHING!

Rico came into my life when I lived in Seattle, and we had the good fortune of going to puppy school at the Montessori of puppy schools...Ahimsa Dog Training, owned by Grisha Stewart, an amazing trainer and a tireless advocate of clicker training. Although Rico often slept through class (he was only 8 weeks old when we started), I learned a lot and we still had fun. Part of each class was spent exposing the puppies to odd-ball things to teach them to accept new situations with grace and aplomb. We would all put on back packs and crazy hats like jester hats and sombreros with fringe; or carry umbrellas; or push baby carriages, carry umbrellas AND wear sombreros.

The bigger the variety of experience you can give your puppy, the better adjusted and more confident and happy he or she will be as an adult. Be creative, and remember to make sure things are safe and fun, and reward, reward reward for calm and confident behavior! Try to give your puppy 10-15 brand new experiences every day. Watch how fun it is for you, too. One day, you just might find yourself running outside in your PJs with your puppy in tow because there is a high-school marching band practicing in front of your house. Or maybe that's just me.

In addition to sombreros, here are some other ideas for you to get you started:

  • variety of staircases
  • boat
  • elevator
  • grooomer (just say hi and get treats)
  • garage door opening
  • washing machine
  • vacuum
  • leaf blower
  • hold under arm like a football
  • wipe cotton ball in ears
  • look in mouth
  • hold toenails
MOVING OBJECTS (no chasing, just looking)
  • skateboard
  • bicycle
  • children running
  • cat
  • children, children and more children
  • men
  • different ethnicities
  • elderly people
  • wheelchairs
  • strange gait
  • backpacks
  • walkers
  • large ball
  • small ball
  • plush toy
  • hard toy
EATING LOCATIONS (because you never know when you might travel with your pet)
  • back & front yard
  • car
  • under umbrella
  • bathtub
  • wobbly bowl
  • cardboard box
  • paper coffee cup
  • pie tin
  • Kong
  • metal grate
  • wooden bridge
  • grass/wet grass
  • gravel
Well, you get the idea. There are so many potentially scary things out there in this big world. Start early getting your puppy used to new things, and watch her grow into a well-adjusted, sombrero-loving sweetheart.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Obsessive Paw Licking...there IS something you can do.

Twice in the past week, clients have asked me for help with dogs who are obsessive paw lickers--did I have some kind of yucky-tasting spray to put on the paws or some dietary insight about the issue or anything at all to contribute to the conversation. I could sense their frustration. I do have yucky sprays, but spraying a dog's already inflamed and irritated paw did not seem appropriate. So I went to work to find out what would be appropriate for this not uncommon and terribly misunderstood problem. Here is a very condensed version of what I learned from the site pawlicking.com.


In a nutshell, stress, be it internal or external; allergies, parasites, environmental factors or psychological events.

A Vicious Cycle

  • It starts with a trigger (see below), followed by licking.
  • The symptoms are treated with steroids, cones, antibiotics, sprays, socks, etc.
  • These measures cause further stress (Have you seen a dog in a cone or elizabethan collar? Stressful AND demoralizing) and don't address the cause of the problem.
  • The dog continues to lick whenever possible, causing more damage to the skin and more incentive to keep licking.
  • And the cycle continues.
Paw-licking can be triggered by nutritional issues; pesticides in and around the home including flea medications (follow this link for more about Non-Toxic Flea Control); insects such as fleas or mites; and plants and grasses; and emotional stress.

What Helps?

Pawlicking.com goes into a lot of detail about how to help your dog--everything from having the vet help to identify the trigger, to using a special cream, to applying chamomile or sage tea to the affected area. There is good information about the psychological aspects of obsessive paw licking and how to address that with training, play, and mental stimulation.

I really encourage you to visit Pawlicking.com. The information is my post is just intended to get you thinking and to show you that this is a problem that won't be solved with cortisone shots. Once again, it's a complex problem that deserves a holistic approach, and that will strengthen the bond between you and your dog.

Good luck!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Natural Flea Control...say NO to toxins!

Why Chemical Pesticides Actually Bring More Fleas

Each flea season, pet owners begin to dip, spray, spot-treat, medicate, shampoo, powder, and collar their dogs and cats with potent pesticides in an effort to kill fleas. When new fleas appear, they trigger another round of flea-killing poisons. This continual toxic exposure pollutes the liver and wreaks havoc with the immune system, making the now weakened animal a bigger flea magnet than ever. Another negative result is that the fleas that do survive the chemical assault become insecticide-resistant “superfleas.”

A saner approach to flea control is to get rid of fleas from your animal and your home without poisons, while building your pet’s natural resistance to fleas with supplements and a good diet. Occasionally, a spot treatment may be necessary to deal with an infestation, but other, health-building methods should be put into play at the same time to reduce reliance on this more hazardous chemical route. (Please read “What About Spot Treatments?” at bottom of post).

Diet alone plays a surprisingly large part in flea-proofing your pet, so don’t overlook the importance of feeding a high quality all-natural food, and adding some immune-building raw foods to your pet’s diet. Natural flea control takes consistent effort over time, but it’s ultimately far more successful than the pesticidal alternatives.

Use a Flea Comb to Test for Fleas
Not every itchy animal has fleas! Many pets that start scratching in warm weather have seasonally triggered allergies that can be helped with special allergy foods, digestive enzymes, and other supplements (see our handout and blog post on what to do about an itchy dog). To check for the presence of fleas, comb around the groin area and base of the tail. A flea comb has very finely spaced teeth to capture live fleas and the tiny egg sacs that cling to your pet’s hair. Even if you don’t see any fleas, you may find flea dirt- black specks of digested blood that fleas excrete on your pet. Flea dirt indicates the presence of fleas, and leaves a red trail as it dissolves in a glass of water.

Step 1: Healthy from the Inside – Supplements for Flea Resistance
The long term solution to fleas is to make your pet an unappealing host. Flea resistance starts from within, in the inner workings of the immune system. Like other parasites, fleas are Nature’s scavengers, attacking the weakest and most vulnerable, thinning out the herd to preserve the food supply for the healthy. Because of their weaker immune systems, the old, the young, and the sick are a flea’s primary targets, and certain biological “markers” draw them. Low vitality and poor immune function attracts fleas, and a strong, vital life force repels them.

Your pet’s first line of defense is healthy skin. The natural oils in supple, unbroken skin make it harder for fleas to bite, and skin oils can plug up fleas’ breathing holes. Dry, flaky or broken skin is a flea’s delight. Whatever improves skin condition will help flea proof your animal. This is where supplements come in.

The most important nutrients for flea resistance and good skin condition are nutritional sulfur, essential fatty acids, and digestive enzymes. Dietary sulfur, a building block of many amino acids, is an internal flea repellent and a biological marker for good health. In sufficient quantity, sulfur imparts a scent to the skin that keeps fleas away. BodyGuard is a supplement created with flea repellency in mind that contains easily absorbed nutritional sulfur. And it dramatically improves the health and appearance of the skin and coat.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) bathe the skin cells in conditioning fats. In addition to promoting stronger, more resilient skin, they reduce flaking, shedding, skin inflammation due to flea allergies and improve immune system function. We recommend Naturvet Salmon Oil or Plato Wild Salmon Oil. BodyGuard itself contains lecithin, a good source of fatty acids, and does not require an additional EFA supplement. You may also want to include flax oil for variety.

Because they greatly enhance the utilization of all nutrients, digestive enzymes improve the effectiveness of any nutritional flea remedy, helping it to work faster and more completely. Enzymes are a must for serious fleabite allergies! Naturvet Digestive Enzymes and Dr. Goodpet’s Feline or Canine Enzymes are both excellent brands that provide an abundance of proteases to help break down food to make it more bioavailable..

Results of this supplementation program will be visible in two to six weeks, depending on your pet’s age, health, and size. Using these supplements year round will improve overall health and prevent fleas from gaining a toehold at the beginning of each new flea season.

Homeopathic Relief

If your pet is already suffering from flea bite allergies, consider adding a homeopathic remedy such as Dr. Goodpet’s Flea Relief to his or her daily regime until symptoms subside. The homeopathic system is based on a concept called the Law of Similars in which remedies containing minute amounts of natural substances stimulate the body's own defenses against specific symptoms and imbalances. These substances, if they were given in large doses to healthy individuals or animals, would produce those same symptoms. Homeopathy provides the needed information to stimulate the body's vital forces to do the work of healing, repair and maintenance in a more efficient way.

Step 2: Remove Fleas From Your Pet Without Poisons
Using a chemical pesticide directly on your pet, whether a spot treatment, spray or dip, is never completely safe. Chemical flea collars are especially dangerous, radiating nerve poisons that pass into your system as well as your pet’s. Topical products contain central nervous system toxins that can be absorbed through the skin and ingested when animals lick themselves. Even if a toxic product is used occasionally for its “quick kill” results, switching to safer natural means as soon as fleas are under control is the wisest course. Sick, weak, or very young animals should
never be treated with pesticides. Fortunately, Mother Nature has provided some natural substances that can eliminate fleas safely. Our favorite methods and substances are discussed below.

Fleacombing, Spraying, Powdering, and Shampooing

removes live fleas crawling on your pet, along with any flea dirt and eggs. Shampooing drowns fleas, and washes away the skin flakes that attract more fleas. Shampoo with a non-drying shampoo to protect the beneficial oils building up on the skin. If your pet’s skin is very damaged, dilute the shampoo with an equal amount of healing aloe vera liquid or gel from a health food store.

The best herbal means of getting rid of fleas on your pets are products containing various insect-repelling essential oils: neem, cedar, orange, citronella, pennyroyal, eucalyptus and lavender. Neem oil, from the bark of a tree in India, both kills and repels fleas and ticks. Neem oil is the active ingredients in Ark Naturals Neem Protect Shampoo and Spray. Other good shampoos include Dirty & Harry’s Protect Shampoo with citronella oil and Tropiclean Neem Flea & Tick Shampoo. Some animals, especially cats, can be sensitive to the more pungent oils or higher concentrations of them, so apply carefully, especially around the head. Drooling or excess salivation is a common indication that the mixture is too strong. You can try diluting with water to reduce the pungency.

Step 3: Treat Your Indoor Environment
If you see fleas crawling on your animal, you can be sure that there are more hidden somewhere in your home. Adult fleas lay eggs on their host which eventually drop off to hatch in the places where your pet walks or lies down. The carpeting and furniture become the “nursery” where baby fleas develop into adults before hopping back on to feed. If you can eliminate the eggs and larvae, the adults will soon disappear as well. Even when using a pesticidal spot treatment (which can have a suppressing effect on the immune system), it’s still important to use some type of premise control for new fleas carried in from outside.

Borate crystals are our environmental treatment of choice due to their safety, ease of use, and effectiveness. For many households, this is all the flea control needed if used early in the season. The fine borate powder is sprinkled into carpeting, flooring and upholstery where it is virtually undetectable. There it kills larvae and eggs by a mechanical process of abrasion and dehydration. Unlike conventional poisons, fleas cannot become immune to the effects. One treatment is guaranteed to kill fleas for an entire year. Dr. Goodpet’s Inside Flea Relief are borate crystals that are not toxic to people, pets or plants. After applying, allow two to three weeks for fleas to disappear. Treat your yard and outside areas with Dr. Goodpet’s Outside Flea Relief, also known as diatomaceous earth, a non toxic powder containing the fossilized remains of microscopic shells.

What About Spot Treatments?
We don’t recommend any of the monthly spot treatments as a permanent solution to fleas because they contribute to the toxic load the body must eliminate in order to remain healthy. But during an infestation, even the most careful pet guardians may occasionally resort to their use. If you use one, limit it to one application to get the flea population down to zero, and then launch a non-toxic program of improved diet, flea supplements and indoor environmental controls.

Cautions: Never use a spot treatment on a sick animal, or use in combination with other chemical pesticides, such as a dip or a spray. Discontinue use if you notice lethargy, foaming at the mouth, or skin irritation and hair loss at the application site. Cats have more side effects than dogs, and some cats such as Persians and Himalayans, should not be treated at all. On any animal, whether dog or cat, you can try a partial dose and wait a day or two to gauge the effect before using the entire tube.

Sure, controlling fleas the non-toxic way is not as easy or convenient as doing it with highly potent toxins. But, ultimately, both your pet and your family are all the healthier for not having to process and store more toxins. And I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at how effective these natural methods are and how much healthier overall your dog or cat will be. Try it! And let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


In a nutshell, there are three main reasons your pet will benefit from adding canned food to his or her dry kibble:

  • Higher levels of animal protein than dry food
  • Retains more nutritional value than dry food
  • Contains moisture vital to your pet’s health

Proper Nutrition is the Foundation of Health
What we feed our dogs and cats each day is the most important decision we can make concerning their health and well-being. With the proper nutritional building blocks, the body can make its own repairs when a health problem arises. Canned foods are a good choice for both dogs and cats. Unlike dry foods, canned foods have higher meat content, contain little or no grain, and are cooked more gently than dry foods. Look for canned foods without by-products or grain fillers.

Higher Levels of Animal Protein are Ideal for Cats and Dogs

  • “Cats need meat – if they don’t get it they won’t be healthy. There is no such thing as too much protein for a cat.” Dr. Obando DVM
  • As carnivores, dogs and cats have higher protein and fat requirements than humans that are best fulfilled by flesh foods – meat, poultry, fish and eggs. They do not thrive on plant proteins from wheat, corn, or soy, which supply an incomplete spectrum of amino acids.
  • Although grain is less bioavailable than animal proteins, it is used in pet foods because it’s less expensive than meat..
  • Once the moisture is removed, canned food actually has more protein than dry.

Canned Foods Retain More Nutritional Value than Dry Foods

  • “Canned foods retain their nutritional value better than dry foods. The amount of protein and fat in a food before and after it is canned are virtually unchanged. Neither does the canning process affect most vitamins.” Whole Dog Journal 12/04
  • The canning process eliminates the need for preservatives. Refrigerate contents after opening and use within a few days.

Moisture is Important for Pets (Especially Cats)

  • Like fresh foods, canned foods have a high moisture content, 78% versus 10% for dry food.
  • “Water is an extremely important nutrient with respect to overall health. It is very important for a cat to ingest water with its food, as the cat does not have a very strong thirst drive. This leads to low-level, chronic dehydration when dry food makes up the bulk of the diet. Canned food more closely approximates the natural diet of a carnivore.” Dr. Pierson, DVM
  • Originally desert animals, cats are inefficient drinkers, designed by nature to derive moisture from their juicy prey.
  • A diet consisting of 50% or more canned food can help prevent life-threatening health issues such as renal (kidney) failure, diabetes, and FUS/FLUTD.

Helpful With Weight Loss

  • Carbohydrates are the main cause of obesity in dogs and cats. Because canned food is much lower in carbs than dry food, it can help an animal lose weight.
  • The high moisture content helps animals feel full faster, and more protein keeps them satisfied longer.

Canned Food and Dental Health

  • Because it has fewer carbohydrates, canned food is less likely to contribute to dental decay.
  • “Carnivores that eat dry food grind it in a way that ends up between their teeth. There it ferments into sugar and acid thereby causing dental problems.” Dr. Greco DVM

Easier to Digest

  • Because the grain in dry food is harder for the body to process, canned food is particularly helpful for puppies, kittens and elderly or recovering animals.
  • More complete digestion results in less doggy waste and less stool and odor in the litter box.

How to introduce:
Introduce canned food slowly, a little at a time, mixed in with or alongside the regular food. Remember to cut back regular food as canned is added.

Tips on switching to canned

  • Take away all food the night before and introduce new food to a hungry pet.
  • For cats, add tuna water.
  • Add the new food a teaspoon at a time to the old food.
  • Warm up the food by adding a splash of warm water.
  • A teaspoon of canned pumpkin can be helpful when transitioning foods.