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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
to stop the killing, and encourage all spay & neuter campaigns in order to prevent unwanted animals
For all adoptions, please contact
The Greyhound Connection has greyhounds available for adoption. Their web address is greyhoundconnection.org
visit ocnow.com/community/groups/needlenosecrew for more information on Greyhounds.
For more information on animal
adoptions please visit www.rescuedog.net and 1-800-Save-A-Pet.com
want to know how you can help animals?
peta.org projectwildlife.org and rescuedog.net for information on how to get started!
Help the Dals!
Save The Dalmatians Of Southern California
PO Box 47031-432
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
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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'?
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?
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.
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.
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.