Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Things Dogs Really REALLY Can’t Eat

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year to all our blog readers and to all their dogs who are read to!!! Raja here.  I’m doing the first blog of the year… our blog really IS all about me, so I’m starting 2011 off with the first post about safety.

I'm not eating this kalanchoe!

Dear Readers,

There is too much “unresearched heresay” about plant-related products dogs can and can’t eat. We can’t have poinsettias, as one example. Well, who wants to eat poinsettias? NOBODY who is even remotely sane wants to eat poinsettias. And they don’t make a dog sick in and of themselves, it is now discovered. BUT, think about this… how would anybody react to a bellyful of tough leaves? Even humans would be sick if they ate a pile of poinsettias. But they won’t. You can leave them alone with those plants and take your nap. And as for you, puppy, if you are a desperado who will chew on anything to get attention, I guess poinsettias, as well as electrical cords, slippers and area rugs are all out the door.  (If any of you animals ate a poinsettia over the holidays, please comment in and let us know how it went  so I can put poinsettias back on the list if need be.)

The list of things we REALLY can’t eat is a short one.

Grapes, Raisins, Grape Juice, Wine. Dogs should not eat grapes, but if one of us happens to eat one dusty raisin, I think it’s OK. Beware guests who leave half finished glasses of wine around. Most of us won’t touch it, but some of us (you know who you are out there) will.

Onions. Onions eaten in quantity can be extremely toxic and have long term effects. If we get a bite of stew that has onions in it, it’s probably OK. But we should avoid onions, and that includes onion powder in foods.

Xylitol. The humans like this plant-derived sweetener in chewing gum. It’s fine for them. Have you ever smelled a delicious minty-sweet odor coming from a lady’s purse and put your nose in and found a little rectangle wrapped in paper and sneaked away with it to chew it up? Well don’t do that again! Xylitol is dangerous.

Finally, here are two serious, systemic  plant toxins we might be exposed to, but only the weirdest dog would actually nibble them. (Yes, you out there with the crazy eyes- this is for you!)

Kalanchoe. Kalanchoe succulent plants are a huge genus of about 125 species.  The flowering varieties are often sold in supermarkets.  For the demented dogs who gobble anything, kalanchoe is severely dangerous. Vomiting is the least of the trouble, so owners of crazy dogs must not keep these plants around. (Since I eat nothing without being beseeched, we have many of these plants around. But I can be trusted. Can you?)

Oleander. Very pretty landscaping plant and very toxic. Only a lunatic would eat the stiff, tough leaves, but if one of us does, vomiting is the best possible outcome. Most people don’t keep oleander as a house plant, but in southern and perennially temperate latitudes around the world,  oleander is common in landscaping. Don’t get any ideas to grab attention by eating oleander, OK? Eat slippers and rugs instead.

It’s a short list pals. Stay healthy and don’t misbehave in the first days of the New Year when our somewhat dazed humans aren’t watching closely.


In 2011, we plan to share more adventures and tips and we will be introducing my Insight Exclusives- narrated journeys with Raja Cam.  See the world as I do.  You humans might be tempted to get down on all fours.

The Fleas of Fall 2010 and the Diatoms of Prehistory

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
travel dog books, Raja, fleas, pets

Millions of years ago, trillions and trillions of microscopic, hard-bodied organisms called diatoms floated about the earth.

Fleas do not die easily.  These little vampires malinger onto early winter, kept warm by their furry, tasty hosts.  Squirrels, deer, mice, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, rats (yes, alas), and your adorable pet- an itinerant piece of fantasy real estate with his clean fur and soft skin- fuel their need for shelter and food.
Sure, topical flea toxins and some oral flea repellents do work.  But, if your flea population has not reached epidemic proportions or if your pet is disinclined toward fleas generally, try the gentle, less toxic route first.
Millions of years ago, trillions and trillions of microscopic, hard-bodied organisms called diatoms floated about the earth.  Then they died.  Their skeletons drifted to bottom of the sea.  Eventually the ocean floor rose to become mountains, and, in the fullness of time, miners came and dug up tons and tons of these fossils because some smart person discovered they were good for something.  They kill fleas, they kill intestinal parasites and they kill slugs.
You can buy diatomaceous earth (a clean, fine pale powder) in pet shops everywhere.  It works by destroying the skin of the fleas (and ticks) and causing them to suffocate and die horribly. (If you are worried about the suffering of fleas, that’s very sweet.)  Follow the directions on the box and keep it out of your dog’s face as you apply.
There are no health hazards associated with pets and diatomaceous earth.
Detrimental effects are temporary.  Your dog’s coat will look dry, become slightly brittle and clump and matt until he looks like tumbleweed- neglected and uncared for, a show dog fallen on hard times.  (But, no, your house and furniture will not look dusty.  You use very little and it stays in the fur.)
Positive effects are significant.  Your dog will stop scratching, his skin will stop being inflamed and reddened, and he will relax and become playful and happy again.
Just to remind yourself your little beauty is still in there, give him a bath once a week in emollient shampoo along with a nice coiffure and nail treatment.  Then dust him up again until those fleas succumb to the cold as winter sets in.  Many thanks to the diatoms of prehistory, every single last one of them.
Longing for snow in coastal California…..  Happy travels to all wherever life leads you.

Helping Dogs Cope with Disaster: Like Travel Minus the Fun

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Why are travel and disaster similar?  In both circumstances, shifting timetables make for enormous irregularity in normal routines.  Yes, that’s one beauty of travel- a vacation from boring, quotidian patterns.  But, that’s one of the many horrors of disaster, nothing whatsoever can be taken for granted.  (By “disaster” we mean any physical, medical, emotional or financial trauma that negatively displaces normal life.)

Raja says, “I’ll choose travel, please.  As long as we’re having fun adventures, I don’t mind not doing anything the usual way.” 

Disaster, on the other paw, creates special dangers for people-centric pets who share the anguish and discomfort, but are the most powerless of all to create solutions.  Hardship takes a toll on canine health. 

Caring for dogs during disaster and hardship:

Maintain high quality food as much as possible and do not skip feedings.  Encourage eating.  Dogs drink more when worried because they hyperventilate.  Maintain clean, abundant water. 

Continue the schedule of regular meds and vitamins. 

Remember to check ears and paws and to clean eyes and teeth.  Don’t forget baths and comb-outs, if possible.  (Grooming your dog will make you feel better too.  Just try it.) 

Think ahead and hire reputable pet nannies to keep your pet’s anxiety as low as possible because anxiety is very bad for health. 

Remember to play. (Tugging on a stuffed animal makes everybody smile.) 

Now, let’s acknowledge the awesome power of dogs to mitigate against disastrous circumstances with their almost magical sense of optimism, patience and acceptance.  Dogs greet each new moment expecting positive outcomes. (How do they do it?)  Their ability to wait is legendary.  Dogs never ask why.  It’s not in their mental vocabulary. 

Finally, natural therapy dogs are almost supernatural.  Nothing makes a person feel better than a furry companion, nonjudgementally sharing every rut and bump on the journey back to the beautiful state of normal. 

Endless thanks to the LA County Fire Dept. EMTs and the LA County + USC Hospital Trauma Team Doctors and ICU Nurses.   Finer people do not exist.   

(Please scroll down and read about Raja’s Halloween Costume Contest and Prize.  The contest is still on!)

Dog Days, Wild Dogs, Safe Dog Travel

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

In the Northern Hemisphere, the period between early July and early September is the hottest time of the year.  The Romans said that it was hot because the big star, Sirius, glowing smack in the middle of the chest of the Big Dog (aka Canus Major) constellation, was beaming heat toward the earth.  They said that during the Dog Days the sea boiled and dogs got rabies.  Shortly after that, the Roman Empire fell.

None of that happens any more.  In modern times, the sea has stopped that nonsense. And the veterinary industry has pretty much stopped rabies cold in developed areas and relatively thriving economies where most of the extremely few rabies cases are caused by bats and wild carnivores.

So, in the US, Canada and Europe, we do not have to worry much about rabies any more- unless we encounter a salivating, snarling, fox with that “I ain’t scared of you” look in his rheumy eyes. 

Noel Coward’s line from his famous song of 1931 is, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.  To be fair, this flighty song makes much more sense than anything that Roman astrologers could patch together.  Rabid animals do illogical things, like run around in the heat, when they should be sleeping in the shade.  (Englishmen were also going to strange lengths to stand up to the tide in their colonial period, but that’s another topic.)

At any rate, what Raja and I are getting toward is that it’s summer and summer does not encourage rabies.  But during your summer travels, opportunities for adventure might entice you off the beaten path where you should be ready for adventures of all kinds. 

Raja and I are not worried about your dog.  If you’re still reading this, you really love your dog.  We’re worried about you.  When traveling in India, Puerto Rico, the South of Italy, Africa, and Central and South America, you might encounter homeless dogs that are very friendly.  Usually these dogs are pretty tame because they only survive by being gentle and appealing to charitable humans.

Raja and I meet them often; Raja is like a wild dog magnet.  And while we almost always advocate mingling with the locals, these locals are not to be mingled with.  They have not had their rabies shots (although some Puerto Rican charities do vaccinate stray dogs).  So, although they may be gentle, they may not be well.  So scoop your dog up and move on yourself quickly, rather than allow this cultural opportunity. 

Safer is better- always.  (If you want to help, keep your hands to yourself and donate to a local animal charity.  All developing countries have kind souls who care about the homeless beasts.)

Hot Dog! Summertime Fun in the Sun

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Don’t know what you have going in your communities in summer, but by the end of this summer Raja will have been to a bike race, a strawberry festival, numerous little league and softball games, various yard sales, a 4 H fair, a harvest festival at the peach farm, and had scores of hikes.  That’s about average for a normal community. 

The good thing about outside summer events is that dogs are usually welcome, but the bad thing is the possibility for heat exhaustion where shade and cool down are not provided.  Dogs that are overweight, have heart and lung trouble, or are subject to seizures should stay out of the heat.  Excursions in the early morning or after sundown are best for them.  Brachycephalic dogs (dogs with very wide heads and short noses) should also be wary of heat.  

Raja is a brachycephalic Shih Tzu (along with the Pug, American Bull Dog, Pekingese and many others); we’re very careful about having heat reducing methods ready in advance.  Here is a list of heat reducers that help us travel in  the humidity of summer and the relentless sun of the desert.  You could say nobody needs to be warned about heat for dogs any more, but last weekend Raja and I had to tell some  mindless people that their frantic Bichon was near heat stroke, so I think we need to keep the topic rolling.  And if you readers have any more suggestions, please just post them in using the comments section.  I will moderate all on-topic comments in daily. 

  1. Never fail to carry water which can be used as a drink or a cooling splash down the neck and back.  (Raja likes the Evian water mister for his nose, but it’s just not that eco friendly, is it?)
  2. A frozen water bottle (3/4 full) can be slid into a sock and used as a pillow for a dog resting in the heat under a shady tree.  You can even hold your dog’s paws against the sides of the bottle for short periods for a quick chill-thrill.
  3. Similarly, that frozen bottle can be set on its side in a travel bag, airline transport bag or other front or side carried doggie carrier to create a personal air conditioner when out and about.  (If you use the frozen bottle to transport a pet to the airport in his in-cabin carrier, remember to remove it on the plane.  Most airplane floors are chilly and the bottle could make your pet miserable in flight.)
  4. Re-chillable, flexible cooler ice blankets (available at most camping equipment stores and sites) can be carried to a picnic in the cooler and then can be double purposed as a relaxing mat for your dog throughout the day.  (Raja’s friend Demon Flash Bandit the Siberian Husky shared this suggestion.)
  5. Similarly, these mats, if they are made of individual cells, can be trimmed to fit inside a travel bag to be set under the bottom pad as a constantly cool (but never cold) bottom for shopping dogs who are being transported about town. 
  6. Battery operated fans are great for wicking away heat for resting dogs that are relaxing in the shade.  (Thanks to teacup agility champions Chloe and Cara for this tip.)
  7. Shops that sell clothes for construction and line workers often sell inexpensive neck bandannas filled with water-absorbing polymer crystals.  Buy two.  Small dogs can wear them on hot days wrapped just behind the withers and tied behind the front legs.  You can put yours around your neck.  I like it when Raja’s and mine match.
  8. The water soakable, heat wicking vests you can buy on dog product sites work so well to keep the core cool, but remember to refresh the vests often with fresh water.  Raja loves his in Sedona in summer.  For agility dogs during trials, consult your vet about using the cooling vests.  Raja’s vet’s office (Three Rivers Holistic Veterinary Services in Madison, New Jersey) says wearing these vests on seething summer days out and about, hiking and playing is safe and beneficial.  (Be careful to get the right size.  The water increases their weight and you wouldn’t want a 4 pound Chihuahua in a 10 pound vest.  Slows them down terribly.) 

OK, everybody, pack your chill gear and get going!