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Understanding Dog Behavior

Dogs are smart. They can, and usually do, think rings around their owners. And they can do it because most owners have never learned how to think like a dog.

Understanding Non-Verbal Thinking
We all wonder now and then what our dog is thinking. "I'll bet Tippy's thinking, 'When is my dinner going to be ready?' " In all likelihood, Tippy isn't originating any thoughts about 'when dinner will be ready.' It is more likely Tippy is imagining (or 'imaging' in his mind) the words and movements you usually say and perform before getting his dinner; something like, "You want dinner, Tippy?" All that tail wagging and those pleading eyes are aimed at stimulating you to say it. But, an inability to originate thoughts in a spoken language does not make dogs unintelligent. Even people don't actively think in a spoken language unless they actively 'speak' it. For instance, during a short vacation to Japan, if you don't already speak the language, you'll probably pick up the meaning of a few words. After a few natives look at you in the morning and say "Ohio," you may eventually learn that they're not curious about where you're from, but are wishing you a "Good Morning." Still, you won't think in Japanese unless you live there a few months and actively speak it. Even a pet Akita will never learn to speak or think in the native lingo because their voice boxes, tongues and lips cannot formulate the sounds of Japanese ... or English, or French, etc, etc. The limit of our dog's language-learning is the meaning of the sounds of certain words. Luckily, dogs are quick to learn the sounds that are important to them. To illustrate this further; when most Tippys are asking for dinner they actually look from their owners toward the place where it is served, generally the kitchen.

Evidence of Imagery
Some very convincing research suggests that dogs think in sensory impressions; visual, sound and odor images, etc. They likely share our ability to form and experience in their minds certain images, odors and sounds.

Some Human Examples
Before going on with dogs, let us consider some facets of our own 'mind's eye,' Imagine we have a date to meet a loved one at a busy restaurant. We get there on time and sit at a table near the door. Fifteen minutes go by, but no friend arrives. We begin to wonder if they are coming at all. We start watching people approach the door. Pretty soon, people with similar features almost cause us to call out to them. The more concerned and anxious we become, the more apt we are to mistake strangers for our friend. When he or she finally arrives, the pleasure and relief we feel is often mixed with mild displeasure. We are ambivalent ... we have mixed emotions about meeting them in the future. Almost everyone has mental imagery. Often, just the thought of a loved one conjures up their image. This can apply to sounds, as well. Think about your favorite musical piece and your can often hear it in your 'mind's ear.' These are positive images. They are emotionally pleasant. At the other end of the scale, recalling a terrifying experience can not only create its images, but sometime even make us shudder. This is an example of negative, emotionally unpleasant images.

Back To Dogs
So it is with our dogs. When we are late getting home, or if they over-miss us because we spoil them with attention and petting every time they demand it, they very likely worry in images, too. They may well recall images of us and our activities, such as fluffing the pillows on the sofa, putting away record albums, handling magazines and books, putting on shoes just before leaving, sitting in a favorite armchair, etc. As a result of this, they often engage in activities which involve them with these images: Pillows wind up on the floor, albums or magazines are moved or chewed, a chair seat gets dug up, shoes are brought out of the closet. If they can't have us there, they try to interact with things that symbolize us. If dogs really do store up and recall images of us and life's other objects and experiences, it follows that we might use this to our mutual benefit. But since most owners do not understand how dogs think, this imagery is where the seeds of most behavior problems are sown. Dogs receive and recall conflicting images of owners and many important experiences.

The Puppy's Dilemma
Consider the new puppy whose owners come home at regular times and join in an ecstatically joyful greeting ceremony. This imagery is quickly ingrained, and the pup begins to anticipate the experience, just Konorski's dogs hallucinated about the flickering light and the food tray. However, as will happen in even the most well regulated household, one day the owner is late. The puppy begins experiencing the images of his tardy owners ...starts fretting, pacing. Well primed energies, ready for the greeting ceremony, demand an outlet as the adrenaline starts pumping. What's going on in its mind's eye or ear? It probably imagines hearing footsteps, perhaps even sees the door open... which doesn't happen. But it should. This introduces conflict between what it wants and expects and what is really happening. Conflict creates frustration. Frustration produces anxiety, which triggers an even greater adrenaline rush. The pup searches for something real to satisfy its desire to 'experience' the owner ...a magazine or book it saw the owner reading recently. It is rich with the owner's scent. If it cannot have the owner there, it can at least have their genuine odor or taste. So it sniffs, tastes, maybe even swallows parts of the article. Naturally, this does not fully substitute for the whole owner, so the puppy's social appetite is not really satisfied. Finally, here comes the owner. The puppy innocently launches into its joyous, semi-hysterical ritual. The owner starts to join in, but spies the pulverized magazine or book. What's this? Naturally, if not wisely, the owner angrily grabs the pup, drags it to the demolished object and scolds it, or slaps it's snout or rump, or both. The pet's single-track mind is riveted on the owner. It yips, rolls over, or struggles vainly to escape. Punishment concluded, the owner angrily picks up the remnants of the article and storms to the trash basket.

Psychic Trauma
The net result of this is a totally confused pup with a conflicting set of images of its owner. This sort of shock to the nervous system is called psychic trauma in both animals and humans. A conflict has been instilled between the positive image of the owner (happy Dr. Jekyll) and the negative (Mr. Homecoming Hyde). This creates frustration and anxiety about homecomings, growing in severity if the scenario is repeated a few times. It is interesting that in many cases, owners tell us that the pup was fine for a day or so after the first punishment. This may equate to the human experience of repression, in which memory of the traumatic experience is suppressed, creating a sort of 'backwards amnesia.' Even when this occurs, since the punishment was not associated with the act of chewing up something, the puppy seeks out another article, perhaps a shoe, and the cycle is repeated until the total relationship between owner and dog is tainted with emotional ambivalence. Mixed feelings are eating away at the positive qualities of their relationship. Negative emotional impressions may start to dominate it. At about this stage, many owners conclude that the punishment may not have been severe enough. That's why the correction was not permanent. So they intensify it. The relationship erodes further as weeks go by. Enough of this cascading negative effect and the owner is ready take drastic action. The dog, now hyper-sensitive to its owner's mood change, feels something is wrong. This often is reflected by new problems, such as submissive wetting when the owner comes home or approaches the dog at other times; off-schedule bowel movements or urination occur, etc. Many pets act insecure, currying more favor when the owner is home, and hence, missing the owner even more acutely when left alone. Frustration and anxiety build, while the isolation-related, tension-relieving behavior mounts. The unwitting owner, who originally may have thought the dog is'getting even' for being left alone, begins to consider it incorrigible.

This is when outside help is often sought. A book is purchased. The veterinarian, breeder, pet shop, a trainer or behaviorist may be consulted. If lucky, the owner gets advice that brings genuine insight into pet/owner relationships and dog behavior. But, more likely, they find traditional quick fixes and the dog winds up in a desensitization program; gets dosed with anxiety relieving drugs or barbiturates; is stuck in a cramped crate or cage all day, or banned to the yard or garage, or has its mouth stuffed with chewed debris and taped shut for hours. Since none of these approaches deal with the causes, the 'thinking dog' and the total relationship with its owners and the environment, success is rare. The majority of these formerly precious pets find themselves rejected ... relegated to the local pound for five to seven days, where the odds are 3-to-2 they'll suffer society's 'ultimate solution'. But things don't have to be so grim, if the owners learn some 'dog think.'

Applying Positive Imagery To Solve 'Separation Anxiety'
Dogs that misbehave when they are left alone are said to be suffering from separation anxiety. The term is a neat buzz-phrase; almost everybody uses it. It sounds professional. The trouble is, as a transplant from human psychiatry, it really doesn't convey much useful information. However, the term is here, so we'll use it in its broadest sense, which is; "a troubled feeling when left alone or apart from a certain person or persons." This allows us to recommend a remedial behavioral program that deals with the realities of the dog's total relationships. First, however, we must be sure that the dog's veterinarian has ruled out the many physical/medical causes for anxiety, such as thyrotoxicosis, hyperthyroidism, pre-diabetes, encephalitis, allergies, hyperkinesis, etc. etc.

The Program
Dogs that are unduly upset when left alone usually enjoy their owner's attention and petting whenever they ask for (or demand it) when the people are at home. To apply the imagery concept to this relationship, we could say the dog 'sees itself' as directing, or leading the owner. When it wants some petting, it nudges or otherwise stimulates the owner, and the owner complies. The dog wants out, whines at the door or at the owner, and the door gets opened. Mealtime approaches, dog whines and prances, and dinner gets served. When the owner goes from room to room, the dog is either ahead, leading them, or close behind. This is the reality of their relationship, at least in the dog's mind. But, when the owner leaves, against the dog's wishes, the pet is predictably upset, and problem behavior occurs. This can involve barking, chewing, pacing, self-mutilation, off-schedule bowel movements, urination around the house, etc. The leadership problem can be turned about by presenting a different reality to the dog; one in which the dog is pleasantly, but firmly and consistently told to perform some simple act, such as 'sit' whenever it attempts to gain attention or affection, or whenever the owner wants to give the dog some attention. All 'sits', or whatever command is used ('down' is a good one for highly bossy dogs) are praised happily as 3 to 5 seconds of petting is awarded; then the dog is cheerfully released with an "OK" or "Free." (Free is a good release because OK is too common a word.)
If a really bossy dog refuses to obey, and many do when they realize their relationship is being turned around, simply ignore the situation, turn away and go on about some other activity, ignoring the dog. Some dogs have refused to respond for as long as four days before coming to terms with a follower relationship. However long it takes, after a few days the dog's image of itself seems to evolve from one of giving direction to taking it with compliance prior to being petted, getting dinner, going out the door, getting on the couch, etc. In moving around the house, whenever the dog forges ahead, simply about-turn and go the other way. This must be repeated until the dog walks patiently behind or, better yet, doesn't even follow. It is also helpful, but not vital, to practice down-stays of increasing length during several evenings a week.

Images of Hyper-Emotionality
Most 'home alone' problem dogs get extremely emotional when their owners get home; some even get excitable when regular departure times approach. To supplant these emotionally over-stimulating images, sit quietly for about five minutes before leaving, in the area where the dog will be left. No eye contact or speaking is allowed. Then, get up and go without looking at or speaking to the pet.

At homecoming, enter quietly and ignore the dog until it quiets down completely. Then it is greeted happily, but briefly, away from the door of arrival. This subdued routine soon replaces the dog's highly emotional mental images of returns and departures with calmness and serenity.
Here's the tough part for most all dog owners: When coming home the place is a mess! Pillows have been chewed, or the chair is tattered again, or a pile of poop graces the doorway, or some other problem is evident. If we keep in mind that the dog has in the past suffered from conflicting images at homecoming, it is imperative that no emotion, or even attention, should be directed at the remnants of the problem; such as chewed up magazines, shoes, defecation, etc. Instead, after five minutes of ignoring the dog, it should be greeted away from the scene of the misbehavior, and then pleasantly taken outdoors or to another room and left alone while the mess is cleaned up. This avoids creating new (or reinforcing old) conflicting images of emotional reactions to, or interactions with, the debris, defecation, etc. I have always called this 'the secret clean-up'. It has worked wonders as part of programs ranging from digging in the yard to housetraining puppies. Just why it is such an effective adjunct to correction programs remains to be satisfactorily explained. In the meantime, we'll have to say that the lack of an image of the owner and the mess is more beneficial to correction than is the image.

The Big Picture
So, there it is. Dogs think in images and we can mold and change their behavior in hundreds of ways if we will think as they do. For instance, on the negative side, a set up whereby a car screeches to a stop, horn blaring, just as a dog starts toward the street from the sidewalk, then praising its retreat, is a valuable exercise in negative imagery. However, it must be repeated until the dog avoids the street when cars are not present, as well. Teaching the 'panic' command to come needs the dog's name followed by a code word, a sound image that is exclusive to coming when it is absolutely necessary, and praise words or a vocal rhythm that is unique to that command, coupled with fast hand-clapping while taking a crouched position. These combined, positive images can create a dog that will dependably respond to your code word and come to your praise. It is especially important to teach this command when the dog is out of sight, as well.

HOW COULD YOU? By Jim Willis, 2001

When I was a puppy, I entertained you with my antics and made you laugh. You called me your child, and despite a number of chewed shoes and a couple of murdered throw pillows,  I became your best friend. Whenever I was "bad," you'd shake your finger at me and ask "How could  you?"-but then you'd relent and roll me over for a  belly rub. My housebreaking took a little longer than  expected, because you were terribly busy, but we  worked on that together. I remember those nights of  nuzzling you in bed and listening to your confidences and secret dreams, and I believed that  life could not be any more perfect. We went for long walks and runs in the park, car rides, stops for  ice cream (I only got the cone because "ice cream is bad for dogs" you said), and I took long naps in  the sun waiting for you to come home at the end of the day. Gradually, you began spending more time at work and on your career, and more time searching for a human mate. I waited for you patiently, comforted you through heartbreaks and disappointments, never chided you about bad  decisions, and romped with glee at your homecomings, and when you fell in love.  She, now your wife, is not a "dog person"-still I welcomed her into our home, tried to show her affection, and obeyed her. I was happy because you were happy. Then the human babies came along and I shared your excitement. I was fascinated by their pinkness, how they smelled, and I wanted to mother them, too. Only she and you worried that I might hurt them, and I  spent most of my time banished to another room, or to a dog crate. Oh, how I wanted to love them, but I became a "prisoner of love." As they began to grow, I became their friend. They clung to my fur and pulled themselves up on wobbly legs, poked fingers in my eyes, investigated my ears, and gave me kisses on my nose. I loved everything about them and their touch -- because your touch was now so infrequent-and I would've  defended them with my life if need be. I would sneak into their beds and listen to their worries and secret dreams, and together we waited for the sound of your car in the driveway. There had been a time, when others asked you if  you had a dog, that you produced a photo of me from your wallet and told them stories about me.  These past few years, you just answered "yes" and changed the subject. I had gone from being your dog" to "just a dog," and you resented every expenditure on my behalf. Now, you have a new career opportunity in another city, and you and they will be moving to an apartment that does not allow pets. You've made the right decision for your "family," but there was a time when I was your only family. I was excited about the car ride until we arrived at the animal shelter. It smelled of dogs and cats, of fear, of hopelessness. You filled out the paperwork and said "I know you will find a good home for her." They shrugged and gave you a pained look. They understand the realities facing a middle-aged dog, even one with "papers." You had to pry your son's  fingers loose from my collar, as he screamed "No, Daddy! Please don't let them take my dog!" And I  worried for him, and what lessons you had just taught  him about friendship and loyalty, about love and  responsibility, and about respect for all life. You gave me a good-bye pat on the head, avoided my eyes, and politely refused to take my collar and leash with you. You had a deadline to meet and now I have one, too. After you left, the two nice ladies said you probably knew about your upcoming move months ago and made no attempt to find me another good home. They shook their heads and asked "How could you?" They are as attentive to us here in the shelter as their busy schedules allow. They feed us, of course, but I lost my appetite days ago. At first, whenever anyone passed my pen, I rushed to the front, hoping it was you that you had changed  your mind-that this was all a bad dream... or I hoped it would at least be someone who cared, anyone who might save me. When I realized I could not compete with the frolicking for attention of  happy puppies, oblivious to their own fate, I retreated to a far corner and waited. I heard her footsteps as she came for me at the end of the day and I
padded along the aisle after her to a separate room. A blissfully quiet room. She placed me on the table and rubbed my ears, and told me not  to worry. My heart pounded in anticipation of what was to come, but there was also a sense of relief. The prisoner of love had run out of days. As is my nature, I was more concerned about her. The burden, which she bears, weighs heavily on her, and I know that, the same way I knew your every mood. She gently placed a tourniquet around my foreleg as a tear ran down her cheek. I licked her hand in the same way I used to comfort you so many years ago. She expertly slid the hypodermic needle into my vein. As I felt the sting and the liquid coursing through my body, I lay down sleepily, looked into her kind eyes and murmured "How could you?" Perhaps because she understood my dog-speak, she said "I'm so sorry." She hugged me, and hurriedly explained it was her job to make sure I went to a better place, where I wouldn't be ignored or abused or abandoned, or have to fend for myself-a place of love and light so very different from this earthly place. And with my last bit of energy, I tried to convey to her with a thump of my tail that my "How could you?" was not directed at her. It was directed at you, My Beloved Master, I was thinking of you. I will think of you and wait for you forever. May everyone in your life continue to show you so much loyalty. A Note from the Author: If "How Could You?" brought tears to your eyes as you read it, as it did to mine as I wrote it, it is because it is the
composite story of the millions of formerly "owned" pets who die each year in American & Canadian animal shelters. Anyone is welcome to distribute the essay for a noncommercial purpose, as long as it is properly attributed with the copyright notice. Please use it
to help educate, on your websites, in newsletters, on animal shelter and vet office bulletin boards. Tell the public that the decision to add a pet to the family is an important one for life, that animals deserve our love and sensible care, that finding another appropriate home for your animal is your responsibility and any local humane society or animal welfare league can offer you good advice, and that all life is precious. Please do your
part to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals

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Help the Dals!

Save The Dalmatians Of Southern California
PO Box 47031-432
Gardena,CA 90247
Who We Are
Save the Dalmatians of Southern California (SDSC) was founded in 1996 to provide resources for Dalmatian rescue in the wake of Disney's 1996 "101 Dalmatians" which set off massive overbreeding of Dalmatians by backyard breeders. Save the Dalmatians became incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 1998. SDSC is an all-volunteer organization that rescues Dalmatians from Southern California shelters to find them new homes, assists owners in rehoming their unwanted Dalmatians, promotes the spaying and neutering of pet Dalmatians and provides information to the public about the Dalmatian breed.


What Are Allergies, and How Do They Affect Dogs?
One of the most common conditions affecting dogs is allergy. In the allergic state, the dog's immune system "overreacts" to foreign substances (allergens or antigens) to which it is exposed. These overreactions are manifested in three ways. The most common is itching of the skin, either localized (one area) or generalized (all over the dog). Another manifestation involves the respiratory system and may result in coughing, sneezing, and/or wheezing. Sometimes, there may be an associated nasal or ocular (eye) discharge. The third manifestation involves the digestive system, resulting in vomiting or diarrhea.

Aren't There Several Types of Allergies?
There are five known types of allergies in the dog: contact, flea, food, bacterial, and inhalant. Each of these has some common expressions in dogs, and each has some unique features.

What Is Inhalant Allergy?
The most common type of allergy is the inhalant type, also known as atopy [AT-ta-pee]. Dogs may be allergic to all of the same inhaled allergens that affect humans. These include tree pollens (cedar, ash, oak, etc.), grass pollens (especially Bermuda), weed pollens (ragweed, etc.), molds, mildew, and the house dust mite. Many of these allergies occur seasonally, such as ragweed, cedar, and grass pollens. However, others are with us all the time, such as molds, mildew, and house dust mites. About 3/4 of atopic dogs first develop signs from spring to fall. Dogs with atopy may be genetically predisposed to the condition, and certain breeds, such as Schnauzers, Irish Setters, Boston Terriers, Scottish Terriers, West Highland White Terriers, Cairn Terriers and Wire-Haired Terriers, are more commonly affected than other breeds. Female dogs are more likely to be affected than males. Atopy usually first occurs at 1-3 years of age.

What Happens When a Dog Inhales Something to Which It Is Allergic?
When humans inhale allergens, we express the allergy as respiratory problems. These include coughing, sneezing, a runny nose, and watery eyes. The dog's reaction, however, usually produces severe, generalized itching. It will chew, lick, or scratch almost any area of the body, including the feet. Chewing and scratching produce hair loss and inflamed areas of the skin. Saliva will stain light colored hair, so dogs that lick excessively will have orange or reddish brown hair. This is often seen on the feet. Although most people think that itching is related to fleas, the most common cause of itching in the dog is inhalant allergy.

What Is Causing My Dog's Allergy?
That is not a question that can be answered easily. The itching produced by ragweed allergy is the same as that produced by oak pollen allergy. In other words, an individual animal or person can be allergic to many different things with the end result (itching) being the same. In some cases, allergy testing can make specific determinations, and sometimes an educated guess can be accurate if the itching corresponds with the blooming season of certain plants. However, it is not always necessary to know the specific allergen for treatment to be successful.

What Is Meant by 'Seasonal Allergy' and 'Year-Round Allergy'?
As the names imply, some dogs only have allergic reactions during specific periods of the year. Others will itch year round. A year round allergy occurs for two reasons. First, the allergen is present year round. This is the case for indoor dogs that are allergic to house dust mites, also known as "house dust." Second, the dog is allergic to so many things that at least one of those allergens is present at all times.

Can My Dog's Seasonal Allergy Become Year-Round?
Not only is that possible, it is almost expected. As the dog ages, it usually becomes allergic to more and more things. After several years of acquiring new allergies, it reaches the point that it is constantly exposed to something to which it is allergic.

How Is Inhalant Allergy Treated?
Treatment depends largely on the length of the dog's allergy season and involves five approaches:

1. Treatment with natural holistic therapies are often an effective means of controlling atopy. Omega fatty acids, gamma linoleic [lin-oh-LEE-ic] acid, vitamins A, E, and vitamin C in conjunction with natural anti-inflammatories such as quercetin [KWER-set-tin] and bioflavinoids frequently can control symptoms.

2. Shampoo therapy. Many dogs are helped considerably by frequent bathing with a hypoallergenic shampoo. It has been demonstrated that some allergens may be absorbed through the skin. Frequent bathing is thought to reduce the amount of antigen exposure through this route. In addition to removing surface antigen, bathing alone will provide some temporary relief from itching Some of the hypoallergenic shampoos incorporate fatty acids; these may be absorbed through the skin and offer a localized anti-inflammatory action. The role of the fatty acids in allergy treatment is an area of active research interest in veterinary medicine.

3. Hyposensitization. The fifth major form of allergy treatment is hyposensitization with specific antigen injections (or "allergy shots"). Once testing identifies the specific allergens, very small amounts of the antigen are injected weekly. The purpose of this therapy is to reprogram the body's immune system. It is hoped that as time passes, the immune system will become less reactive to the problem-causing allergens. If hyposensitization appears to help the dog, injections will continue for several years. For most dogs, a realistic goal is for the itching to be significantly reduced in severity; in some dogs, itching may completely resolve. This therapeutic approach is recommended for the middle-aged or older dog that has year round itching caused by inhalant allergy

Although hyposensitization is the ideal way to treat inhalant allergy, it does have some drawbacks and may not be the best choice in certain circumstances and for these reasons:

1. Cost. This is the most expensive form of treatment.

2. Age of Patient. Because many dogs develop additional allergies as they get older, young dogs may need to be retested 1-3 years later.

3. Success Rate.About 50 percent of dogs will have an excellent response, about 25 percent get partial to good response, and the remaining 25 percent get little or no response. The same statistics are true for people undergoing hyposensitization.

4. Food Allergies. Although tests for food allergy are available, the reliability of these tests is so low that it is not recommended at this time. A food trial remains the best diagnostic test for food allergy.

5. Time of Response. The time until apparent response may be 2-5 months, or longer.

6. Interference of Steroids. Dogs must not receive oral steroids for two weeks or injectable steroids for six weeks prior to testing; these drugs will interfere with the test results.

My Dog Has Fleas. Couldn't That Be Causing the Itching?
A dog with inhalant allergy will itch even if fleas are not present. However, if fleas are crawling around on your dog, the itching will increase. Although getting rid of all of your dog's fleas will not stop the itching, it will make it much easier to control the itching successfully.

My dog Has a Terrible Odor. Is That Related?
There are two possible causes of odor associated with inhalant allergy. These dogs are very prone to ear infections because the ear canal is an extension of the skin. When it becomes inflamed, it is easily infected. These dogs are also likely to have seborrhea. Sebum is the oily material normally produced in the skin. When a dog scratches, sebum production increases dramatically. This produces a musty odor. A bath will remove the odor, but it is gone for only a few hours. The key to controlling seborrhea is to stop the itching and scratching.

The Itching Did Not Stop as Expected. What Does That Mean?
Treating allergies holistically involves finding the proper balance between diet, supplements and natural antihistamines. Until this is established, the itching will continue, though usually at a reduced level. In addition, other food allergies, contact sensitivities, parasitic, and metabolic causes of itching will usually not subside completely until the underlying cause is identified and eliminated or modified.

What Is Meant by the Term 'Flea Allergy'?
In spite of common belief, a normal dog experiences only minor skin irritation in response to flea bites. Even in the presence of dozens of fleas, there will be very little itching. On the other hand, the flea allergic dog has a severe, itch-producing reaction to flea bites. This occurs because the dog develops an allergic response to the flea's saliva. When the dog is bitten, flea saliva is deposited in the skin. Just one bite causes intense itching.

What Does This Reaction Do to the Dog?
The dog's response to the intense itching is to chew, lick, or scratch. This causes hair loss and can lead to open sores or scabs on the skin, allowing a secondary bacterial infection to begin. The area most commonly involved is over the rump (just in front of the tail). This is probably because fleas find this part of the dog more desirable. Many flea allergic dogs also chew or lick the hair off of their legs.

What is the Proper Treatment?
The most important treatment for flea allergy is to get the pet away from all fleas. Therefore, strict flea control is the backbone of successful treatment. The most effective and safest form of flea control is proper daily use of a flea comb. This fine toothed comb will catch any critters crawling on your pet and stimulate the skin to produce natural oils at the same time. Unfortunately, complete flea control is not always possible for pets that live outdoors in warm and humid climates, where a new population of fleas can hatch out every 14-21 days. Some pets can be hyposensitized to the adverse effects of flea bites. Flea saliva extract (flea antigen) is injected into the pet in tiny amounts over a prolonged period of time. This is an attempt to reprogram the pet's immune system so it no longer over-reacts to flea bites. If successful, itching no longer occurs or is less intense when the pet is bitten. However, this approach is only successful about 50 percent-75 percent of the time.

What is Food Allergy?
A food allergy is a condition in which the body's immune system reacts adversely to an ingredient in a food such as the protein source, or a preservative.

What Foods Are Likely to Cause an Allergic Reaction?
Any food or food ingredient can cause an allergy. Examples are meats, corn, soy, wheat and dairy. However, protein, usually from the meat source of the food, is the most likely offender. Proteins commonly found in pet foods are derived from beef, chicken, lamb, and horsemeat. Pets are not likely to be born with food allergies. More commonly, they develop allergies to food products they have eaten for a long time. The allergy most frequently develops in response to the protein component of the food; for example, beef, pork, chicken, or turkey. Food allergy may produce any of the clinical signs previously discussed, including itching, digestive disorders, and respiratory distress. We recommend testing for food allergy when the clinical signs have been present for several months, when the pet has a poor response to therapy, or when a very young pet itches without other apparent causes of allergy. Testing is done with a special hypoallergenic diet, and bottled water. Because it takes at least 4 weeks for all other food products to get out of the system, the pet must eat the special diet exclusively for 4-8 weeks (or more). If positive response occurs, you will be instructed on how to proceed. If the diet is not fed exclusively, it will not be a meaningful test. We cannot overemphasize this. If any type of table food, treats or vitamins are given, these must be discontinued during the testing period. Because pets that are being tested for inhalant allergy generally itch year round, a food allergy dietary test can be performed while the inhalant test and antigen preparation are occurring.

Isn't a Lamb-Based Pet Food Supposed to Be Hypoallergenic?
No, although many people think it is.

How Does a Parasite Cause Ringworm?
Ringworm is a fungal skin disease known medically as dermatophytosis [der-mat-toh-fight-OH-sis]. The fungus lives on the skin surface in dead skin cells. As the fungus grows, it often spreads outward in a circular pattern; hence, the name ringworm.
Fungi can be found in soil and on animals and people. Your pet may acquire a fungal infection from any of these sources and may pass the infection along to other animals or people. Fungal infections first appear as one or more small areas of hair loss that may be reddened or inflamed. As infection progresses, crusts form on the area of hair loss, the patches increase in number and size, and large portions of skin may become involved. Local or total-body clipping may be necessary in long-haired animals. Cultures are often necessary to diagnose the disease and monitor the progress of treatment. Medications used in treatment include herbs and homeopathy. The type of medication used often depends on the severity of disease.

How Prevalent Is Itchiness Due to Mites (Mange)?
Demodicosis [dee-moh-dik-OH-sis], caused by a microscopic mite, is widespread among some breeds, and is sometimes serious. Demodectic mites are found in small numbers in the hair follicles of normal pets. In pets with demodicosis, however, these mites proliferate, and large numbers inhabit the skin and hair follicles. Pets may acquire mites from their mother 2-3 days after birth. Demodicosis may involve only 1 or 2 small areas of skin (localized mange) or large areas of the body (generalized mange). Juvenile-onset demodicosis occurs in pets 3-12 months old, and the short-haired breeds are most commonly affected. Adult-onset demodicosis generally occurs in pets more than 5 years old, and is often associated with internal disease or cancer. Some pets are genetically predisposed to the generalized form, and breeding these pets is not recommended. Demodicosis also occurs as a chronic foot infection in mature pets. Localized demodicosis is the mildest form. Usually only a few areas of hair loss on the head or front legs occur. Most pets with the localized form recovery completely.

Can Serious Cases of Demodicosis Be Treated Successfully?
Generalized demodicosis is serious and often difficult to treat. Large areas of the body may be affected, and often the affected areas are also infected by bacteria. In these cases, the skin is red, crusty and warm, and has many pustules. It may bleed easily and has a strong, rancid odor. While most of these cases are curable, some can only be controlled, and periodic retreatment is necessary. Periodic rechecks and skin scrapings to test for active mites are necessary. With the generalized form, bacterial cultures from the skin may be needed to determine the most effective antibiotic.

Are There Any Other Mites That Cause Mange?
Sarcoptes [sar-COP-tees], or sarcoptic mange, is another skin disease caused by a parasitic mite. It is highly contagious and produces intense itching, reddening of the skin, thinning of the hair and development of crusts and scabs. Bacterial skin infections commonly occur in the inflamed, irritated skin. Sarcoptic mites burrow directly into the skin, where they deposit eggs that hatch in 3-10 days. The larvae burrow up to the skin surface to feed and molt into a nymph stage. The nymphs travel about the skin surface to feed. They molt into adults, which then mate and deposit more eggs in the skin. The entire life cycle is complete within 3 weeks. Sarcoptic mites prefer skin with little hair, so they are most numerous on the ears, elbows, abdomen and hocks. As the disease spreads, hair is lost and eventually the mites occupy large areas of skin. Sarcoptic mites may also infest people in close contact with infested pets. Once a diagnosis of sarcoptes is made, other pets should not be allowed to contact your pet or its bedding until recovery is complete. These mites can infest cats and people. Though the mites do not survive off the host animal for more than a few days, you should thoroughly clean their environment, harnesses, collars and grooming tools.

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