Sunday, November 04, 2012


Whether it is from a cut, puncture, or post-surgical complications, the risk of infection in a dog is compounded by their lack of understanding about keeping wounds clean.  No matter how careful you are to treat injuries, there is always the risk of your dog developing an infection.

Here are some of the more common infection issues, and resources to find out how to best treat them.


MRSA stands for methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. MRSA strains can also be carried without illness but develop into serious infections if they enter the skin. Most staph infections can be treated with commonly used antibiotics but MRSA infections are resistant to an antibiotic called methicillin and many other antibiotics.  (source: Animals and MRSA site).

Animals and MRSA site is a really informative site all about MRSA, treatments, what to expect, etc.

A really geeky medical term laden explanation

Vet Info on how to diagnose and test for MRSA

Dogs and MRSA, what you should know

Video on MRSA

Staph Infections

Good overall information on Staph Infections from PetMD

Vet Info on Staph Infections

Good information on Staph and other skin issues on the AESCA site

Saturday, August 18, 2012

How To Take A Dog's Temperature

A lot of people don't know what a dog's temperature is.  A lot of people assume that it's the same as a human, but it's not.

A healthy dog at rest will have a normal temperature of between 100.5 and 102.5.

Taking a dog's temperature is pretty basic, but can be a bit tricky if your dog is uncooperative.  It is best to have two people take a dog's temperature:  One to hold the front part and keep the dog distracted and the other to take the temperature.

There is only one way to do it, and that's rectally.

You should always keep the following items on hand, because you never know when you may need to take your dog's temperature:

A lubricant (small container of Vaseline Petroleum Jelly)
A digital rectal thermometer

When choosing a thermometer, make sure that it is a RECTAL thermometer.  You want a quick read thermometer, but not one that reads too fast.  With technological advances, thermometers can read pretty fast, but you need one that takes into account that you are probably wrestling with a dog that doesn't want anything stuck up its butt, so take that into account.

You can buy rather inexpensive digital thermometers from your local drug store, such as the Nexcare Digital Flex.  Having a flexible thermometer is also to your advantage if you have a squirmy dog.

 We DO NOT recommend a regular old fashion glass thermometer!  

Glass thermometers not only take longer to register a temperature, but could break inside the dog's rectum causing all sorts of mayhem and freaking out, but also contain a tiny bit of mercury (in some cases) which only makes everything worse and more freaking out.

Once you have your dog thermometer and lubricant MARK THEM SO YOU KNOW THEY ARE FOR THE DOG!!!

We're pretty sure you don't want to stumble up to your medicine cabinet when you are sick and stuff a thermometer in your mouth only to discover... yep... mark them!

Now that you have the necessary items, simply dip the tip of the thermometer in the lubricant, have your friend hold or distract your dog, make sure the thermometer is ON, lift up the tail and gently insert into the rectum.

Don't shove or force it in, just gently glide it in.  You don't have to go all the way to the knuckle, just make sure the tip is in the rectum and wait for the beep of the thermometer.

Gently pull the thermometer out and read the temperature.

Taking your dog's temperature is vital if your dog is recovering from a surgical procedure to help you determine if there may be complications such as infection.  It will also keep you from totally freaking out if they aren't acting right, but even if the temperature is normal, please consult your vet anyway to rule out anything serious.  Having the ability to take your dog's temperature also helps your vet to determine how serious your dog's condition may be and whether a visit is needed the next day, or the next hour.

Please note that there are thermometers that read a dog's temperature from their inner ear.  We've taken a look at them and you really have to shove that thing deep into the ear canal to get an accurate reading.  Our biggest concern would be that most dogs like having something shoved in their ear even worse than having something shoved up their butt.  The danger would be a badly timed ear shake rupturing the ear drum or causing ear damage.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Assistance Harnesses Review

Whether you have a dog that is getting old, a "tripawd" from amputation, one that suffers from hip dysplasia, arthritis, spine issues, or balance issues, at some point you may be thinking of finding some way to help them get around and still enjoy life.

Not long ago, the only solution to most pet owners was the tried and true towel support method.  It was easy, cheap, and most everyone has a towel they can use to help support and provide mobility for their special needs dog.

Thanks to innovations on fabrics, straps, clasps, and a customer base that wanted a better solution to help their best friends move around and enjoy life, companies are now creating harnesses and support solutions that make it easier, more convenient, and more comfortable for dogs to enjoy their lives despite their disabilities.

But which harness is best and better yet, which harness is best for your dog?

Out of necessity, I will be reviewing two harnesses produced by Ruffwear Performance Dog Gear.  Although manufactured more toward allowing active dogs to participate in their owners' outdoor recreation and sport, these harnesses have proven to be beneficial in providing support and mobility to special needs dogs as well.

In my case, I needed a reliable, safe, and comfortable way to help my 11 year old Siberian Husky, Sam, navigate up and down stairs.  Sam is a medical mess.  Born with deformed hips, the right hip floats away from the socket in a natural Femoral Head Ostectomy (FHO).  At 9 months of age, Sam underwent a Total Hip Replacement (THR) of the left hip.  At 6 years of age, Sam ruptured the T13/L1 disc in his spine and underwent surgery to repair it.  At 8 years of age, Sam completely tore his left ACL.  I also need to mention that Sam is also lopsided, one side didn't grow as much as the other side.  Sam is a very expensive dog and well worth it.

Because of his past medical issues, Sam isn't able to jump up on the bed, is a little "loose" in the back end (imagine an 18 wheel truck turning the wheel very fast on ice) and his back end isn't as strong as it should be.  We live in a split level house, so going down the stairs for Sam means pretty much flinging himself down and bunny hopping along the way and hoping for the best.  Because of some missteps, Sam doesn't like going down the stairs... or up for that matter.

Sam in 2007 after his spine surgery
In the past, we used our walking belts to loop under him for support while he was recovering from his various and sundry surgeries.  This was a fantastic solution because the walking belt had a secure snap that made it easy to get it around him, was easier to hold than two ends of a towel, and are machine washable for those times when he would let the pee fly before we could get the belt out of the way.  You can find out more information on the walking belts we used here.

Although fantastic as a support when walking around the house or yard, it wouldn't provide the support or security of helping him go down the stairs.  One false step for either of us would be a disaster.

So, I turned to the Tripawds Website to see what they recommended.  This great group of people provide information, advice, and assistance to owners of animals who have undergone amputation and are ALWAYS a good, reputable, informative, and very friendly source of solutions.  I highly recommend them.

Tripawds has a few mobility devices listed, and I ordered the Ruffwear Web Master harness from them, and later the Ruffwear Double Back harness, which I purchased from Zappos, but is also available from Tripawds.

Ruff Wear Web Master Harness

Used by avalanche rescue teams, the harness is very lightweight and deceptively small looking.  One of the key features is that it is so secure, dogs can't back out of the harness and the manufacturer site even touts its secure design made especially for "Houdini dogs", which is the typical description of Siberian Huskies.

Even though I had measured Sam according to the sizing instructions on Tripawds, the harness didn't seem to fit right, there wasn't enough strap to go around his chest area.  I was slightly frustrated and e-mailed Tripawds to let them know that the harness didn't fit.  Apparently this is a common issues, because Rene from Tripawds quickly e-mailed me back with additional clarification on the straps.

Yeah, duh... I had mistakenly thought that the strap that was tucked into the padding was suppose to stay that way.

You simply pull the strap with folded flap (designed to keep it from coming out of the clip) through the padding and there is PLENTY of strap to go around him now.

Plenty of strap to adjust
There are 5 points on this harness to adjust to make comfortable.  Make sure you adjust the nicely padded breastplate to fit on the breastplate.  If not properly adjusted, your dog won't be able to lower its head without getting strangled.

Putting it on is pretty easy, just lift the right front leg, head through the neck part and strap them in (see the demonstration video provided by Tripawds).

Securing the body supports is as easy as a click with the secure and padded clips.

The extended harness pad helps keep that wayward fur from getting snagged in the snap
Here is Sam proudly wearing his Ruffwear Web Master harness.

yes, I know I need to wash and repaint my walls :)
My biggest concern about the harness was that for dogs with limited rear leg mobility, would the handle be far enough back to give them the back end support they needed.  I would definitely say that for paralyzed dogs, or dogs with extreme rear limb mobility, this would not be a harness for you.  The Get a Grip harness may be more what your dog needs.

The Web Master will allow you to help your dog up from a laying or sitting position with ease.  It has also proven very handy helping Sam go up and down the stairs at a more controlled speed safely.  The handle is very comfortable and sturdy and allows you to securely guide your dog down the stairs slowly and safely.

One thing about Sam that may or may not apply to your dog is that he refuses to eat, drink or poop while it's on.  I'm not sure if he doesn't like the pressure of the chest plate when he leans down to eat or take a drink, or if lowering his head causes uncomfortable pressure on his back.  He also has a rather unique method for pooping that requires him to actually balance on one front leg, and I think the underbelly straps either throw his balance off, or once again causes pressure on his spine.

Regardless, it is very fast easy to put on and take off, so generally I'll put it on him when he needs to go downstairs to go out, and take it off before he goes out the back door, then put it back on him when it's time to go back upstairs, then take it off again.

The first time he went down the stairs wearing it, he was pretty scared, and I felt bad for literally dragging him over the top of the stairs.  He also wasn't quite sure how to walk down the stairs with me helping.  Be prepared to be patient and train your pup with plenty of positive reinforcement and praise until they get use to it.  After only a few times going up and down the stairs with my help, he now actually waits at the top of the stairs for me to put the harness on, and the same thing going back up.

The harness has a d-ring at the top to attach a leash or dog seat belt strap to it, making it perfect for using on rides, walks or hikes, and as I stated before, the harnesses construction won't allow them to back out of the harness.  I have a specialty seatbelt system that I will need to see if this is functional with, but will work out a solution for that if not.

I give this harness two very big thumbs up for its design, construction, and ease of use.  Very simplistic, and yet very functional and helpful.

Ruffwear DoubleBack Harness

Because of my concerns about the Web Master not being far back enough to help dogs with limited rear leg mobility, I also purchased the Ruffwear DoubleBack Harness, which seemed to have some additional rear functionality that the Web Master harness did not.

DoubleBack Harness with back leg straps stored

This harness is made specifically for climbing and mountaineering with your dog.  Unlike the Web Master, the DoubleBack harness has a larger belly support strap, metal buckles instead of plastic snaps, and a back leg support system that folds and stores in a pouch at the back of the harness.

DoubleBack Harness with back leg straps out
Like the Web Master, it is pretty light and has a 5-point adjustment.  Unlike the Web Master all of the buckles are made of metal and it has a bit more padding.

Metal buckles instead of plastic snaps
It was a little more difficult getting Sam's front right leg through the leg strap because of the larger one piece underbelly strap.  It flopped and twisted around a bit and was a bit of a hassle dealing with it while trying to lift the neck strap over his head, but once on, the harness was very well fitting.

With enough treat bribery, Sam stood still and wagged his tail while I threaded the ends through the buckles and tightened them.  Not as easy or as quick as the snaps, but since this harness' function is to rappel down mountains with your dog connected to you, I can see where having secure buckles would be a bonus.

Sam wearing the DoubleBack with rear leg supports draped over his back
Sam seemed just at ease wearing this harness as he did the Web Master, so it is apparently comfortable for him.  You will notice that the general design is the exact same as the Web Master except for the more secure buckles and metal.  The handle is also a bit more padded on the DoubleBack.

Once again, the harness is designed for rappelling, so the back-end support is made for dogs without back end issues, and also where my love affair with the DoubleBack ended in its current design.

The back leg harness is designed to loop under the dog's legs.  I didn't EVEN try that on Sam, let alone try to lift up.  I can only imagine what possible damage I could do lifting him up with pressure on his hip sockets, especially with a stainless steel hip on one side and floating hip on the other.

I would not recommend using the back leg straps for dogs with dysplasia, or had hip replacement for fear that it would pop the ball out of the socket.   I would like to have seen a strap that went under the dog's belly toward the rear, and had even contemplated whether I could simply loop one of the straps underneath.  The problem with that is that the padding on that strap wasn't sufficient, the strap too thin, and that when lifted, the balance would be off to one side or the other.

Another issue is that when the leg straps are folded back into their zippered compartment on the rear, it creates a pretty large bulge that presses down on Sam's back.

He was perfectly comfortable and fine wearing it with the rear leg straps out, but when I folded the straps into the compartment, he showed visible discomfort because of the pressure on his back.

In my real world scenario of putting the harness on him to help him down the stairs, taking it off so he could do his business, then putting it back on again to help him upstairs, the buckles would mean taking much longer to get him in the harness and out of the harness, then back in and out of the harness.  Taking that much time to get Sam out to pee is too long, since he has some flow control issues when he REALLY needs to go out.  I'm guessing that before I got him all strapped in, he would have peed all over and not have to go out anymore.

So, overall, it is a fabulously designed harness for dogs that go rappelling and mountaineering with their owners, but not so fabulously designed for dogs with rear leg issues. 


I would highly recommend the Ruffwear Web Master harness for dogs with mobility issues, whether front or back end.  While not a full back-end support system, if your dog has hip or back leg issues and just needs support getting up, walking, or going up/down the stairs, this harness provides them with enough support to get around with your help.  Could also be used with a back support strap if needed, but handling two straps may be a bit problematic going down the stairs.

I also recommend purchasing your harness from the Tripawds gang to help support their great cause, and they won't laugh at you when you can't figure out how the straps work.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


In my neck of the woods, its flea season once again!  Not only that, but I have a friend that just moved into a house with acreage that just found out the previous owners had feral everything on the acreage and their dogs are now being overwhelmed by ravenous fleas.

Because most of the United States had such a mild winter, there is little doubt that the flea population (and ticks) will be of epic proportions.  Cold winters will usually kill off a lot of the dormant fleas and ticks, but when the winters don't cooperate, we have to be extra vigilant to make sure our pets are safe from these annoying little... beasts.

The biggest thing that people have to get over is that their dogs have fleas.  I don't care if your dog lives in a hermetically sealed bubble, odds are its picked up fleas from somewhere, or you have carried them into your house.  Its nature, they're parasites, they'll hitch a ride on anything to get a meal, so don't be defensive if your vet asks if you have fleas because they'll just whip out a flea comb and show you that you do, especially if your dog is allergic to them.  Denying a possible flea allergy only prolongs a diagnosis, and puts your dog in danger of receiving treatment that may harm rather than help.

Another concept that you have to get out of your head is that fleas live on dogs... they don't.  Let me repeat that:  FLEAS DON'T LIVE ON DOGS.  You can bathe your dog until its fur falls off and still have fleas because fleas only jump on its 4-legged meal plate to eat, then jump off.  If you find 1 flea on your dog, that means there's 99 fleas in your environment (environment = house or yard).  Only 1% of fleas will be on your dog at any one time, that means the more fleas you find on your dog, the gazillion more are living happy lives in your house and yard.

Fleas lay about a gazillion eggs a day in your carpet, couch, bed, yard.  Every 10 days those eggs hatch and those fleas start laying eggs, so unless you get a handle on treating the environment really quick, you will be swarmed by fleas in no time.  Believe me, I've been there and done it.

So, how do you get rid of them?  There's a zillion ways to do it, but it all depends on how you want to do it.

Flea and tick preventative is readily available from your vet.  I will say that most stuff you can buy in grocery stores or pet stores is dubious and has a reputation for being not very pet friendly.  Flea collars are worthless, don't waste your money.  I'll let you Google flea collar poisonings (both pets and family members), and there are still claims about a certain grocery store available pet flea preventative product's toxicity (I just don't feel like getting sued, so I'm not naming it).  Just avoid them.

Get your flea and tick preventative from your vet.  Yes, I know is expensive, but the stuff that you get from the cut-rate places are dubious at best.  The reason they are cheaper is because they get them from countries that really don't give a rat's behind about copyrights, ingredients, or the safety of your pet... they are knock-offs at best, and criminal at worst.  They may look exactly the same as the product your vet sells, but I can assure you they aren't.

There are also flea shampoos and sprays that you can buy, but consult your vet especially about the sprays and ESPECIALLY if your pet is on medication.  You don't want to introduce anything to their system if it may react with medications, or if your pet as a weakened immune system, kidney or liver issues.  Remember, even if it says "organic" or "natural" pyrethrin is made from chrysanthemum, which is a plant... but long term use can allow the toxins to build up and that's not good.

There are chemical sprays that are approved for indoor and outdoor treatment of the environment.  Once again, follow the label instructions exactly so that you are using it correctly and lower the risk of contaminating or poisoning your dog.  Its my experience that the yard sprays will pretty much kill every insect in your yard whether you want it to or not, so if you are really attached to a yard insect... kiss it goodbye.

Another spray I've found that works really good and is safe for pets is from Wondercide The Evolv products work great, smell pretty good (although the cedar was a bit too strong for me) and kills fleas naturally.  You can use it straight on the pet, or in the carpet, fabrics.  They also have a yard spray, which I purchased, but then it got too cold to use it, so when I use it, I'll let you know how well that works.  Evolv can be purchased on Amazon as well as from Wondercide.

That pretty much covers how to use poison to kill fleas, but you may be asking yourself if there is a way to do it without creating a toxic dump in your house and yard... yes there is!

Once again, flea and tick preventative for your dog (such as Frontline, etc.) and treating your environment with regular household or natural products that affect the life cycle of fleas.

Even though this could be considered a toxic product, I've had great success with Raid Flea Carpet and Room Spray, and its safe to spray pet bedding and carpet with it (read the directions).  This isn't a bug bomb, its a carpet fog that you can spray on carpet, furniture, dog beds, human beds, etc.  It actually smells pretty good too, which is an added bonus.  Spray it on your carpet, between your mattresses, under beds, under couch cushions, everywhere a flea can and will hide.  Not only does it kill the adult fleas, but it destroys the flea eggs so they can't hatch.  Its easy to use, and typically every 10 days while you are treating a flea infestation, you simply go through the house and spray everything before going to bed, that way it has a chance to dry before anyone has a chance to walk around or sit in it.  Its a very light fog, so its not like everything is drenched, but like most products they advise you to allow it to dry before walking on it.

Borax!  Yep, the olde 20 mule team borax will help get rid of fleas by drying out the shells of the eggs.  Its not a quick solution, but it does help control the emergence of new fleas into the environment.  Simply sprinkle it into your carpets and rake it deep into the fibers.  When you vacuum, simple sprinkle more and rake again.

Vacuum a LOT.  Its possible to suck up as many of the little monsters as possible by vacuuming your carpets, beds, bedding, between the couch cushions, etc. as much as possible.  The important thing to remember is if you have a vacuum that uses bags, take the bag outside and spray it down with flea spray, but it into a garbage bag and tie it tight and put it into a garbage container with a lid.  If you have a bagless vacuum, dump the canister contents into a garbage bag and take it outside, spray it, put it in garbage container with a lid.  The fleas will just jump out out the bag, or out of your trash in your house and all of that vacuuming was for nothing.

For outside, use Diatomaceous Earth (also known as DE).  Get FOOD GRADE DE!!!! (The link is only to show you a resource for food grade DE and is not meant to compel you to buy it from that seller).

Sprinkle it around the yard and do the happy dance.  You can even feed it to your dog (consult your vet first).



Most people treat once or twice and when they either don't get immediate results, or they seem to get rid of the pests for a week, then they come back they declare the treatments were a failure.  You have to make sure that you keep treating until every single egg is dead.  If you stop treating and some eggs remain viable, you will end up having the same problem in a week or two.  For really nasty infestations, treat for 2 months.

So, in a nutshell:  treating the environment is more important than treating your dog... but you have to treat all factors in order to win the war on fleas.  Treat for a month or two to ensure you have eradicated all eggs and pests.  Work with your vet to ensure your method of treatment will not have an adverse affect on your pet especially if they have medical conditions or suppressed immune systems.

Fleas can actually kill, pass disease, and cause skin conditions.  They are not to be treated lightly and must be addressed quickly to stop infestation.

Links to Flea related stuff:

Marvistavet resource

Pet WebMD resources

Flea contact dermatitis

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Orthopedic Issues

Dyslplasia is most often a genetic defect passed on from the parents or from somewhere along the dog's lineage.

Dysplasia can be very debilitating, and in the past was a death sentence to the dog that had it. Now, thanks to medical breakthroughs, hip replacement or other surgeries can be performed to provide the dog with pain-free movement, but those surgeries do come with a hefty price and a long recovery time.

Some common myths about dysplasia:

dysplasia is caused by arthritis.

FALSE: dysplasia often causes arthritis

It will go away or get better on its own.

FALSE: it will only get worse if not treated.

Dysplasia is a death sentence.

FALSE: it can be treated successfully through surgery.

Dysplasia only happens in the hips.

FALSE, elbows and other joints can by dysplasic.


Using Carts to help dogs with leg, hip, spine issues heal:



Elbow Dysplasia


Hip Dysplasia

Knee Injury


Musculoskeletal System

Pain Management and Rehab

Patellar Luxation

Swimming Puppy Syndrome

Total Hip Replacement



Wobbler Syndrome

Home rehabilitation instructions
Pretty good page that allows you to download free rehabilitation guide for certain orthopedic procedures

Support Groups

Wobblers Syndrom Support Group

TPO Support Group

Hip Dysplasia Support Group


Basal Cell Tumors and Basal Cell Carcinomas

Benign, Nonvirus-associated Papillomatous Lesions

Bladder Cancer

Brain Tumors



Mammary Carcinoma

Mast Cell Tumors

Melanoma (skin cancer)


Perianal Adenomas

Skin Cancer

Squamous Cell Carcinomas

Support Groups

Eye Disorders

Issues with the eye can be as simple as a scratch on the cornea, or an underlying symptom of another disease. For instance, cataracts can be a sign of old age, but in younger dogs it could signal the onset of diabetes. There is also some speculation that Cushings disease may cause SARDS. Make sure that you not just treat the symptoms, but get to the bottom of what may be causing the issue.

As with other issues, if you have a specialist available to you after your vet's initial diagnosis, its best to get the opinion of a vet that specializes in that issue. Like most general practitioners, they see the more common problems and may not know the special tests or treatments available for eye issues. What could look like one thing to a general practitioner, may mean a totally different diagnosis and treatment to a specialist.

We also recommend teaching hospitals as an excellent resource. Its a common misconception that students treat the animals seen at teaching hospitals and that IS NOT THE CASE. In most cases, you'll be seen by top specialists at a lower cost than by seeing a specialist that has established their own practice. You will also have access to the state of the art facilities and diagnostic equipment found at teaching hospitals. Another benefit is that students will get to learn from your pet and go on to help others with the knowledge they've gained from your experience.

Blind Dogs Support Group


Cherry Eye

Chronic Immune Mediated Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (CIKS)

Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus)

Corneal Dystrophy

Corneal Ulcers


Dry Eye (Karatoconunctivitis sicca)




Horner’s Syndrome

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS)

Lens Luxation


Progressive Retinal Atropy (PRA)

Retinal Dysplasia

Runny Eyes

Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration syndrome (SARDs)

SARDS Support Group

Ulcerative Corneal Disease

Uveitis - Inflammation of the Eye

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Blogs With Gimpy Dogs

A lot of times people want to read about other people's experiences with a disability and also to see that other disabled dogs can live quite happily with that disability.

There are tricks and tips on these blogs to help others with their experiences, and so we've decided to include a listing of blogs that people may want to go read for themselves.

Sometimes the blogs are people starting out with a disabled dog, and your experience may help them as well.

Below is a listing of Blogs with Gimpy Dogs.  If you have a blog that you want listed, by all means, please either contact us (upper right hand side) or leave a comment with your blog URL and we'll list it here!

Blu on Wheels - dachshund with a recent back injury

My Dog Sam - Another wheelie pup's adventures