Ticks and Fleas

Ticks and fleas thrive in warm environments with plentiful grasslands, so it’s not surprising that they enjoy the Sacramento region.

Ticks are problematic for both dogs and humans. In dogs, ticks can cause infections, anemia and affect the kidneys and liver. People are at risk because infected dogs can spread tick-born diseases such as Lyme Disease.

Ticks are active from spring through the fall. They are common in warm climates and in wooded areas such as parks and the American River Parkway. If your dog has a tick it should be removed as quickly as possible, being careful to get the entire body, including the biting head. Ideally, your veterinarian should still check your dog to make sure no disease has been transmitted by the tick.

The best way to deal with ticks is to take preventative measures. Make your front and back yards as unattractive to ticks as possible. Keep the lawn mowed, remove tall weeds and keep the garbage covered. Your veterinarian can also prescribe a topical medication
That kills most ticks and the eggs they leave behind.

Fleas are most commonly found on a dog’s head, abdomen or base of the tail. Flea bites can cause severe itching and hair loss from dermatitis. They can also cause anemia, especially in puppies.

When confronted with fleas it is essential that all your pets – including cats – be treated. Your house should also be cleaned thoroughly to prevent a recurrence – especially areas where your dog sleeps. (Washing your dog’s bedding on a weekly basis will also help.) Your yards should also be treated with an appropriate insecticide.

Finally, as when dealing with ticks, your veterinarian can recommend a topical treatment or shampoo to kill the fleas and their larvae.

What Not to Feed Your Dog

Just about every veterinarian will tell you that the healthiest diet for your dog is to feed him only foods formulated specifically for canines. But if you do slip your pet a table scrap occasionally (or he helps himself when you’re not looking) there are a few foods that can have serious consequences if ingested and should be avoided.

Chocolate and coffee: Both have substances called methxylanthines which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting or excessive thirst. In extreme cases, they can cause hyperactivity, tremors or seizures.

Alcohol: Dogs cannot tolerate alcoholic beverages or foods with alcohol. The content can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, depression, difficulty breathing or tremors.

Avocado: The leaves, skin, seeds and meat of avocados contain Persin, which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Grapes and raisins: Although the cause is not completely understood, grapes and raisins have been known to cause kidney failure. Dogs with certain previous health problems are especially susceptible.

Macadamia nuts: Although the symptoms usually last only 12-48 hours, these nuts can cause weakness, vomiting, depression, tremors or hyperthermia.

Xlyitol: Used as an artificial sweetener in many products (gum, cookies, toothpaste), xlyitol can cause vomiting and lethargy and eventually lead to live failure.

Yeast dough: When yeast dough rises it can cause a build-up of gas in your dog’s digestive system. Not only is it painful, it could ultimately cause the stomach or intestines to rupture.

Aging Dogs

As dogs enter their “senior” years, their behavior – and needs – change. For most dogs those changes usually begin to occur between the ages of 7 and 10. Large breeds tend to age faster, while smaller breeds show the signs of aging later in life.

Many of the changes are predictable and apparent. Their muzzles may turn gray, their coats become thinner and they tend to sleep more. Other changes, however, are more subtle. They may gradually suffer some hearing loss. They’re a little slower to get up and may not be able to play fetch as long. And their digestive systems may reject the amount or type of foods they used to devour.

If you are vigilant and attuned to the changes, there are things you can do to make your dog’s senior years as comfortable as possible.

As dogs age their metabolism slows and the digestive tract becomes more sensitive. Switching to food with less fat – but the same amount of protein – will help avoid intestinal problems. More frequent feedings, with lesser amounts, may also help.

Senior dogs are more sensitive to temperature extremes. During the summer you’ll need to monitor their activities so they don’t become dehydrated. During the winter, be extra careful to keep them warm. And during periods of extreme conditions, keep them indoors whenever possible.

The stiffness evident in many older dogs is often the result of arthritis. Dietary supplements can be beneficial is reducing the symptoms. Glucosamine, for example, can improve your dog’s joint health and omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the inflammation caused by arthritis.

While many symptoms a senior dog displays are typical of aging, others could be a sign of a more serious condition. Lumps, dramatic weight changes and unusual aggression could be signs of trouble and should be checked by your veterinarian. In fact, one of the best things you can do for a senior dog is make sure he sees a veterinarian on a regular basis.