Diagnosing and Treating Aggressive Behavior in Older Dogs

Diagnosing and Treating Aggressive Behavior in Older Dogs

Beautiful Senior Doggy (Photo: ASPCA.org)

Beautiful Senior Doggy (Photo: ASPCA.org)


In case you are not already aware, I have another weekly pet-health column inspired by the less serious topic of celebrity lifestyle. The portrayal of celebrities and their pets in the media sends a variety of messages — positive, negative, and in-between — to viewers on a worldwide basis. My veterinary spin on celebrities, pets, and health is called Pet-Lebrity News and is featured onpet360.com. Come visit me there, and if you are interested, please sign up for convenient e-mail delivery.

Well, I always enjoy the chance to have a dialogue with my readers and was very enthused to receive an e-mail from Christine after she read my article, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Kim Richards Attempts Training with New Dog. Christine sought guidance on her own dog Lucy’s behavior in the following message:

Hi, I am a Real Housewives fan and I read your article on Kim’s pit, Kingsley. I rescued a female pit about four years ago. At the time I got her she was over two years old. She is an extremely sweet dog, but severely unsocialized with humans and fearful of strangers. She loved whoever was in her family circle but was extremely scared of new people, especially teenaged boys.

Ironically, she does very well with other dogs, especially small dogs. I have fostered some small dogs and she did very well with them. I have done my best and she has done wonders in these years. However, she is still very cautious of strangers (aloof as you would call it). She never attacks strangers, actually shows interest in a lot of them, but shows signs of stress when meeting them at first.

The thing is, she is extremely good looking and cute, and so calm, and she has a very sweet temperament. People are drawn to her and because I have trained her so well. She doesn’t bark or act aggressively toward dogs and people in public, sits at my side, and is very affectionate to me; people assume she is extremely friendly and are drawn to her.

I always corrected her and put her on time outs, but she is a powerful dog and I don’t want anyone to get hurt. I learned that she needs time to calm down, so she will go to a designated area (like her bed) until she is calm and then is able to interact with guests. I don’t let strangers pet her, as in the beginning when I first got her she would show interest in strangers by sniffing them, but as soon as they went to pet her she would snap at them. I feel this is something she learned prior to coming to me: people will leave me alone if I snap. I felt this made her feel powerful, so simply she is allowed when I or the person who wants to say hi shows interest.

In the beginning I did muzzle her, but she didn’t remain calm and would pant with it on. When I didn’t muzzle her, she would remain calm and still. All of this is a whole lot better now, but I would like to know, from all of what I told you, what should be my next steps in her rehabilitation? I heard from numerous people that because of her age (she was over two when we got her) this will always be an issue, that she will always be weary of strangers, and simply since her aggression only comes when strangers try to pet her, don’t let strangers pet her. They have been right, I must admit.

Just a short story. My niece came to visit. As soon as she walked in the door Lucy’s hair went up on her back, her tail went between her legs, she lowered her head (a sign of submission), she sniffed my niece’s feet, began to wag her tail, and then brushed up against my niece. I told my niece “no touch” and “no eye contact.” After about a day or two, Lucy was best of friends with my niece. Because of her scruff being raised I have to be very cautious; however I do have difficulty determining when it’s appropriate for others to pet her or when to gauge stress levels.

What is your advice to help me with my pit, Lucy?

Thank you, Christine, for your question. Behavior issues can be challenging for all involved family members, as the familiar dynamic of interaction is altered by the undesirable conduct of the pet. My top recommendation in managing bad behaviors that an owner can’t sufficiently control is to bring a veterinarian into the scene to provide consultation from a medical perspective.

In general, if an animal is prone to bad behavior, owners must recognize the potential contributions of underlying health conditions. The history you provide will be paired with your veterinarian’s physical examination to establish a series of differential diagnoses.

Besides a physical exam, diagnostics may be needed to work out the potential reasons for a pet’s behavior problems. Useful diagnostics include blood/urine/fecal testing, radiographs (X-rays), ultrasound, MRI, CT, etc.

There are many conditions that can adversely affect the behavior of our canine and feline companions, some of which cannot be observed with an untrained eye, including those affecting the following body systems:

  • Endocrine — hyperthyroidism (more common in cats), hypothyroidism(more common in dogs), hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease), kidneyand liver disease, obesity, etc.
  • Urinary — urinary crystals, protein, infection, etc.
  • Immune — cancer (lymphoma, brain tumors, etc.), allergic diseases (seasonal and nonseasonal environment and food allergies affecting the digestive tract, skin, etc.), immune-mediated diseases (IMHA, IMTP, etc.), etc.
  • Musculoskeletal — arthritis, traumatic joint injury, fractures,intervertebral disc disease (IVDD), etc.
  • Oral Cavity — Periodontal disease (inflammation/infection of the teethand their associated structures), abnormally developed teeth, dental trauma, etc.
  • Reproductive — Sex-hormone related issues (intact male and female dogs,ovarian remnant syndrome, estrus cycle, etc.), pyometra, etc.
  • Other

Basically, any disease condition my patients face can correlate with one or multiple behavior changes. If your pet is cleared of the concern for health problems contributing to objectionable conduct, then a behavior problem can be appropriately diagnosed.

Pet owners can work with a reputable trainer or pursue a consultation with aBoard Certified Veterinary Behaviorist. The veterinary behavior consultation is an involved and thorough process, but it truly helps teach owners to positively handle their pet’s undesirable behaviors and may even incorporate psychopharmaceuticals (behavior modifying medications) when appropriate.

In the case of Lucy’s behavior, it sounds as though you have figured out a system that works for her, to permit her to calm down and feel comfortable when meeting new people. Great job!

Yet, as Lucy is an adult dog who is on the cusp of being a senior (she should be around six years now if you got her four years ago at the suspected age of two), make sure your veterinarian is aware of her behavior, has explored her body for underlying health concerns, and has taken the steps to resolve all underlying disease.

– See more at: http://www.patrickmahaney.com/news/diagnosing-and-treating-aggressive-behavior-in-older-dogs/#sthash.z4F9PiKX.dpuf

Visitors and Pets, Be Prepared

Not just for the holidays, Dr. Patrick talks about the Obama’s experience with visitors around our pets.  There is a lesson to be learned here…we almost must remain vigilant with our pets every time a visitor is in the house.  Dr. Pat gives some great tips on how to prepare a pet for a visitor…

Sunny Obama (Photo: CelebrityPetNews.com)

Sunny Obama (Photo: CelebrityPetNews.com)

Sunny Obama Knocks Over Child at White House Holiday Party


Have you been keeping an eye on the holiday happenings at the White House this year? I sure have been, as my client Jane Lynch emceed the annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree. In addition to the first family, Jane got to share the stage with a variety of amazing musical talents, including The Avett Brothers, Joshua Bell, Mariah Carey, Renée Fleming, Forte, Aretha Franklin, Janelle Monáe (a funky favorite of mine), Prince Royce, Arturo Sandoval, Train, and Nolan Williams, Jr. and Voices of Inspiration.

Besides the national Christmas Tree Lighting, other festive events have been going on involving the entire Obama family, including their Portuguese Water Dogs Sunny and Bo. Michelle Obama recently hosted a special event to show her appreciation for military families by inviting them into the White House to see the holiday decorations. The First Dogs made personal appearances at the event and and also had their likenesses represented in the holiday decor. According to the New York Daily News, “two life-sized replicas of the Portuguese water dogs made of satin ribbons are one of the first things an expected 70,000 White House visitors will see this month. Dark chocolate miniatures of the first pets are also part of the annual gingerbread White House display. Another highlight is the towering Blue Room tree, dedicated to military families and trimmed with photos of their joyous homecomings. Mrs. Obama says she wants Americans to never forget the debt they owe service members and their families for the sacrifices they make in serving the country.”

I have the utmost respect for Mrs. Obama, as she always radiates such charm, intelligence, class, and now even the utmost sense of responsibility surrounding the management of her dogs. The New York Daily News article This New York Daily News article recounts the First Lady jumping to action to restrain Sunny during a moment of excitement involving a youthful holiday visitor.

First Dog Gets Excited

Allegedly, Sunny was intrigued by the presence of two-year-old Ashtyn Gardner of Mobile, AL, and excitedly scampered over to greet the young girl. Gardner reportedly lost her balance upon Sunny’s enthused greeting and tumbled to the floor. Mrs. Obama immediately took control of Sunny by grasping the leash and pulling her away from the discombobulated child. Fortunately, Gardner was not injured in the fall nor was she harmed by a scratch or bite from Sunny.

I must give the First Lady accolades for keeping both Bo and Sunny attached to their festive-looking red leashes instead of roaming free among the White House guests. Ultimately the situation appeared to end well, as Obama gave the seemingly unharmed Gardner a reassuring hug.

As I often preach, there are many occasions where pets and crowds don’t necessarily mix well. The excitement of the goings-on at festive gatherings can be stressful to pets and cause them to exhibit behavior changes to which they are often not otherwise prone. Vocalizing (whining, barking, etc.), aggression, escape attempts, pacing, cowering, destructive tendencies, inappropriate urination or defecation, or other behavior can all occur when a pet encounters circumstances causing stress.

Staying Stress Free

If your canine or feline companion is prone to such behaviors, it’s vital to the pet’s well being and a more pleasant holiday experience to minimize any stressing triggers. If you plan to keep your pet at home, engage in an energy draining activity a few hours before the perceived stressful event. This may be a longer walk, a more vigorous hike, a few more throws of the ball, an extra 15 minutes of laser-pointer play, or another exercise of your choice. Otherwise, arrange for an overnight stay in a non-celebratory household or boarding facility. Additionally some veterinary recommended natural products or prescription medications can help relieve anxiety or induce a sedated state on an as-needed basis.

Mr. Peabody & Sherman Movie Opens March 7th. Enter to win a movie poster!


Mr.Peabody and Sherman, opening March 7

Mr.Peabody and Sherman, opening March 7

Mr. Peabody & Sherman a New Kind of Modern Family

Ariel Winter takes a break from playing brainy Alex Dunphy on TV’s “Modern Family,” to voice Penny Peterson, in DreamWorks Animation’s new animated feature, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman.”  The film has her and fellow actor, Max Charles, who voices Sherman, traveling back in time with the worlds smartest canine. The duo recently sat down for a quick Q&A session about the film and their characters.

For those who aren’t familiar with Mr. Peabody, the highly evolved and brilliant dog and his boy Sherman, they are characters that first appeared in the 1960s, when they were introduced as part of the cartoon series, “The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.” Not surprisingly, neither of the two young stars had seen the cartoon prior to being cast.

While Charles could look for inspiration in the classic cartoon for Sherman, Winter had a bigger challenge since Penny was not part of the original storyline. However, this didn’t seem to bother her,  “It was basically like they handed me a book and it was empty and I got to write the pages,” she explains. “I thought it was pretty cool that I got to create my own character.” Winter also joked that she brought her own real life sass to the role.

Penny’s assertive personality is what drives Sherman to defy orders and take Penny in Mr. Peabody’s WABAC (pronounced “Way-back”) time traveling machine. They  embark on   an  adventure throughout some of history’s most legendary events, like the Trojan War.  It also becomes  a journey of self-discovery.  Over the course of the story, Penny and Sherman grow up and learn important lessons in friendship and understanding.  At the same time, Mr. Peabody goes through the hard process of learning to let the parental reins go a little.

Winter believes Penny’s behavior and actions go deeper than just a desire to pick on Sherman. She explain, “Penny gets the most attention at school for being smartest in class, and when she gets threatened by Sherman a little bit because he comes in and kind of takes her place, she acts out, to take back what she feels is her’s. In the end Penny really realizes some things about herself and we see that she has a huge heart and she ends up caring for Sherman and Mr. Peabody.”

When asked about his favorite scene in the movie, Charles described a sequence where King Tut smashes into the windshield of the WABAC — a very appropriate response for a 10–year-old boy.

Adventure aside, the heart of the story lies in the relationships.  First we have the friendship that develops between Penny and Sherman.   Second, we see the challenges of the father and son relationship and the added complexities of a dog  being a parent to a boy. As humanized as Mr. Peabody is, at the end of the day, he still is a dog. Clearly the message is about acceptance, and not just canine love.  However, for those of us out there who love our dogs like part of the family, “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” is sure to hit a special chord in our hearts for the film’s depiction of  the love, loyalty and companionship we share with our four-legged best friends.

In addition to the voice talents of Max Charles and Ariel Winter, Mr. Peabody is voiced by Winter’s on screen, TV dad “Modern Family’s” Ty Burrell. Be sure to check out the film when it hits theaters nationwide March 7th 2014.


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Motorola Scout1 Wi-Fi Video PET Monitor Camera Review

What are your pets doing when you aren’t home?  Ahhh, the age old question pet owners have pondered for years can now be answered with the Motorola Scout 1.

Motorola Scout 1

Motorola Scout 1

Product Description:

This remote Motorola Scout1 Wi-Fi Video PET Monitor camera allows you to monitor your pets from anywhere. Catch live action, record video and take snapshots while controlling the camera with Remote Pan, Tilt and Digital Zoom. Home or away, Motorola’s SCOUT1 gives the comfort of keeping an eye on your pet convenient and fun.


Motorola Scout 1 camera

Motorola Scout 1 camera

Features: Wi-Fi video camera PC, MAC, Android, & iPhone/ iPad iOS compatible, video compression image snapshot, video recording, remote pan, tilt and zoom, two-way communication, infrared night vision, connect up to four cameras, music, voice communication, listening.
Includes: Wi-Fi Camera, User’s Guide, Quick Start Guide and Power Adapter
Dimensions: Camera: H 4.0″ x W 3.35″ x D 3.84″, Gross Weight: 0.44 lbs

It was a little tricky to get the connection with the app after you download the app.  Once we got that established, the picture was great and gave you the option to run high res or low res.   You can pick from a selection of music to play for your pet and you can talk to them!  You can also hear what is going on as well.    You can take pics from the app.  The video recording feature was not active as of the time we are writing this post.  The app said, “not active”.  Another cool feature is it tells you the temperature in the room so you can make sure your pets are comfy.

Philomena...being a dog, now we know what goes on.  This pic was taken at the high res. setting.

Philomena…being a dog, now we know what goes on. This pic was taken at the high res. setting.


Chachala's pic was taken at a low res setting.

Chachala’s pic was taken at a low res setting. She was spending quality time with her favorite toy.

You can find the Motorola Scout on line for a huge range of prices from $120-$299 on Ebay, Amazon or big box stores like Petco and Pet Smart.

A really cool product for all of us pet geeks that love gadgets and our pets!

Pets Teach Us So Much Radio 121, with Robbin and Joseph Everett

We have a busy show this week with 3 great guests scheduled!

Dr. Patrick Mahaney, talks pet health.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Author Diane Solomon talks about her book, JJ the American Street Dog and How He Came To Live At Our House.

Diane Rose Solomon

Diane Rose Solomon


JJ the American Street Dog

JJ the American Street Dog

Becky Guiles talk about Internet Marketing for you or your business.

Becky Guiles, Internet Marketing Expert

Becky Guiles, Internet Marketing Expert

Plus the usual MAYHEM AND FUN!!! Join us live Thursday, February 27 at 6:00PM EST on http://www.blogtalkradio.com/tppctv, listen on our site or download from ITUNES or STITCHER!



       By Diane Rose-Solomon

New Children’s Book About Animal Rescue Teaches Good Adoption Values 

LOS ANGELES – JJ the American Street Dog and How He Came to Live in Our House, winner of the Mom’s Choice Award, is the first book in a series by Diane Rose-Solomon. Children ages five to nine will identify with six-year-old Maya who has wanted a dog for as long as she can remember.  When her uncle finds a homeless puppy (JJ), Maya begs to keep him.  But her mom isn’t sure. In the end, Maya and her family learn that adopting a rescue pet is a win-win.  JJ gets a loving home, and Maya gets the dog she’s always wanted.

JJ The American Street Dog is an exciting and uplifting, beautifully illustrated story that teaches kids and adults about animal homelessness, basic animal care, spay and neuter (worded appropriately for children), pet adoption, and the unconditional love people get from their family pet. Children also can draw a parallel between themselves and animals when they feel excluded, and learn that everyone matters.

The timing of the book is perfect as Los Angeles recently voted to ban the sale of commercially bred pets in pet stores.  Other major cities plan to follow suit.

            “I hope all children read this book and help homeless animals…” Paula Fasseas, Founder and Chair of PAWS Chicago (Pets are Worth Saving).

“What a wonderful and heart warming story about a child’s first rescue pet…”

Dr. Jessica H. Waldman, VMD, CVA, CCRT California Animal Rehabilitation.

            A little love makes the world better for everyone.  JJ The American Street Dog is an inspirational children’s picture book from Diane Rose-Solomon and illustrator Rachel Cellinese as she presents a story of young Maya, who wants to take in a homeless dogfrom the street and names it JJ. Teaching a lesson about strays and helping prevent dog overpopulation, JJ The American Street Dog is a must for dog loving kids picture book collections., recommended.”  James A. CoxTheMidwest Book Review 



Humane Society University:


Global Animal:


Hard Cover $16.99:  32 illustrated pages: Trim: 8.5 x 8.5              

SOP3 Publishing: Available online at http://www.sop3publishing.com/ and Amazon

Meow Monday, Tuna Tuesday, CatLadyLand Cat-Toon, Cat Fight


We love Angie!

Angie Bailey is an award-winning writer, blogger, humorist, and professional member of the Cat Writers’ Association. She’s the author of whiskerslist: the kitty classifieds and Catladyland, which won the Best Humor Blog in the 2013 BlogPaws Nose-to-Nose Pet Blogging & Social Media Awards and Funniest Pet Blog in the 2011 Petties Awards. She is a regular columnist for Catster.com, the creator of Texts from Mittens, and half of the comedy web series production team of 82 South St. Productions, LLC.

Pet Dental Health is Important

Pet Dental Care

Smile Purrrty! (Photo:neartownvet.com)

Smile Purrrty! (Photo:neartownvet.com)

It’s that time of year -and I’m not referring to any special holiday, I’m talking about National Pet Dental Health Month. As pet owners, we have responsibilities we must fulfill to maintain a happy and healthy pet. What some of us may not realize, whether you’re a new pet owner or not, is how vital preventative care is, especially when it comes to Fido’s or Sadie’s ( the new name I’ve given to represent all kitty’s) mouth-this also pertains to ferrets.

Though cats and dogs are less prone to cavities than humans are, there is still a chance of other dental issues, some of which are more serious. According to VetMed, over 80% of cats, and 70% of dogs contract periodontal disease by the age of three. Periodontal disease, to sum it up shortly, is caused when plaque and tartar forms underneath the gum line. Included in this disease is gingivitis and periodontitis.  The problem? It affects the immune system of your four-legged friend and can lead to kidney disease, liver disease, and heart disease.

First things are first: You need to gain knowledge of the signs and symptoms of this disease.  PetMD supplied me with a great list of indicators to look out for in regards to your dog:

  • Problems picking up food
  • Bleeding or red gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Blood in the water bowl or on chew toys
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • “Talking” or making noises when a dog eats or yawns
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Bloody or ropey saliva
  • Not wanting the head touched (head shyness)
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth
  • Sneezing or nasal discharge (advanced gum disease in the upper teeth can destroy the bone between the nasal and oral cavity)

In regards to your cat, Veterinary Oral Health Council provided us with a similar list for cats:

  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding Gums
  • Loss of appetite
  • Drop food from mouth while eating
  • Teeth may fall out

A good pointer –cats are excellent at hiding pain, so although they may be feeling achy or uneasy, more than likely, you wouldn’t know it unless you’re conscious of these signs.

If you have a ferret, be aware too, as they’re prone to periodontal disease too. PetMD says symptoms include:

  • Bad Breath
  • Gums may bleed easily
  • Fractured teeth

So, what are some preventative measures we can take? As discussed in the Ways to Fight Bad Breath in Dogs and Cats article, most of the measures that need to be taken to prevent dental issues should be done at home:

Brush-they may not like it, but it’s a vital step when it comes to eliminating plague. A tip with this: if you can start them young, start there. It’s easier to get them accustomed to the habit when they’re babies. If not, start them slow, and provide them with a treat afterwards. The reward system will be a definite incentive in this case.

Gum Examination-the ASPCA recommends you check your pet’s gums once a week. Make sure they’re pink-not white, red, or swollen.

Teeth Cleanings-yes, teeth cleaning for pets. They’re imperative to assist with any plaque or tartar.  Anesthesia is usually involved, followed by a cleaning with dental scalars, a polishing, a rinse, and then finally a brushing with a finger tooth brush.

As always, when you go to your vet. for your little loved one’s annual checkup, they’ll be able to tell if there are any issues pertaining to the dental problems.

The ASPCA has an insurance program that incorporates preventative care. They’ve reimbursed $200,000 worth of dental cleanings, as well as $196.000 for other dental matters because they know how vital these matters are. You can further look into their insurance plan at ASPCA Pet Health Insurance.


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Pregnant Emily Blunt Sets Great Example for Human and Dog Fitness

Pregnant Emily Blunt Sets Great Example for Human and Dog Fitness

Families adding humans take note. (Photo: CelebrityPetNews.com)

Families adding humans take note. (Photo: CelebrityPetNews.com)


With the holiday season and the general tendency of Americans to overindulge on festive foods and beverages, there’s the unfortunate trend for weight gain around this time of year. The same thing goes for our pets, as the normal routines of daily physical activity may be replaced by traveling, shopping, and attending parties. Additionally, people often share their holiday foods with their pets (although I’m an advocate of doing so in reasonable amounts. See Can You Feed Your Pet Thanksgiving Foods?) or provide calorie-laden, pet treats.

Emily Blunt and Her Canine’s Workout

One celebrity who’s not just sitting back this holiday season is The Devil Wears Prada and Looper’s (one of my favorite flicks) Emily Blunt. A Daily Mail article features photographs of Blunt taking her dog, Finn, for a vigorous hike through Los Angeles’ Runyon Canon (a frequent fitness spot for my dog Cardiff and me).

I must give credit to Blunt for getting out and about to provide her pooch with activity, especially since she’s quite visibly pregnant. Blunt is setting a great example for the general public and pet owners, as she truly personifies how fitness can be pursued even when life’s challenges (pregnancy, schedules, holidays, etc.) get in the way.

A Growing Epidemic: Obesity

Many people don’t think that being overweight is a problem, there are a variety of potentially irreversible health problems associated with being overweight or obese.

Obesity is a growing epidemic afflicting both pets and people. Greater than 50% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). That’s at least 89 million cats and dogs that are more prone to musculoskeletal problems (osteoarthritis, traumatic joint injury, etc.), hormonal imbalance, heart and lung disease, dermatologic abnormalities, cancer, skin problems, and more.

The tendency for traumatic joint injuries was evaluated through a market study performed byFlexcin, which reports, “New parents represent the fastest-growing demographic inquiring about dog-joint health issues relating to pet obesity. Flexcin analyzed demographic data from its team of customer advisor specialists to determine the largest percentage of pet obesity-related inquiries. In a six-month analysis from June through December in 2010, new parents represented roughly a third (32.3 percent) of all dog-joint health inquiries tied to overweight pets (up from 25.7 percent in 2008). Elderly pet owners came in second at 28.5 percent.”

Why is this the case? It comes down to the calories being consumed exceeding daily requirements, combined with reduced activity. The Flexcin study also determined:

-78.4 percent of new parents said their dog was able to freely eat food that dropped from the baby’s high-chair.

-67.7 percent said they paid less attention to their dog’s food portions.

-64.6 percent said they had less time for dog walks or didn’t feel comfortable bringing the dog during baby stroller walks.

Do Things Change Once a Baby Arrives?

In my veterinary practice, I’ve definitely observed the trend of pets, especially dogs, putting on weight when living in households where a new baby or young child needing frequent attention is incorporated into the family fold.

In such cases, it’s important to still prioritize the health of our animal companions by making time for daily activity and employing strict calorie restrictions. If the unpredictable tendencies of your newborn prevents you from having time to get your pooch out for daily exercise, hire a dog walker to do so. Additionally, if your canine is prone to consuming more calories from the baby’s high-chair, make sure to cut back on his daily portions of regular food (I suggest by 25-33%).

Not every pregnant woman may be physically well enough to take her dog for a walk or hike like Blunt. So, doing less-intense activities while expecting is understandable. Yet, both women and men should learn from Blunt’s example of staying active despite physical challenges. The emotional roadblocks (too busy, too tired, etc.) humans are prone to placing in the way of exercising or partaking in mindfulness activities (meditation, etc.) don’t need to control our lives as we sometimes let them.

Have a healthy start to embarking upon life-long and quality-of-life improving activities in 2014. Hopefully, Cardiff and I will get to meet Blunt and Finn on Runyon Canyon’s trail sometime soon.

Upscale Pet Friendly Hotels – Updated for 2014!

Upscale Pet Friendly Hotels – Updated for 2014!

Oooooh! Fancy Schmancy!  (Photo:chrocodiles-classical.blogspot.com)

Oooooh! Fancy Schmancy! (Photo:chrocodiles-classical.blogspot.com)


From luxurious bedding to white-glove service, a stay at an elegant hotel or resort can make the difference between a good vacation and a great vacation. Sadly, those who travel with pets might find those deluxe accommodation options limited. Not every world-class hotel chain has a pet friendly policy – and those that do might place restrictions and additional fees to your rate during your stay.

Updated for 2014, we have collected the most current pet policies for some of the most popular and upscale hotel chains to help you get the most out of your vacations:

In 2006, Starwood Hotel and Resorts – the parent company that runs and operates the St. Regis, Westin, Sheraton, Le Meridien, and W Hotels – announced their Starwood Love That Dog program. As part of this initiative, Starwood invested heavily in wooing pet lovers to their hotels and resorts with a bevy of amenities focusing on those that travel with their pets.  Plush and comfy dog beds, food and water bowls, temporary I.D. tags, toys and treats are just some of the perks you and your dogs will find at a Starwood Hotel.

“We intend to become the most dog-friendly hotel company in the land, and not just allow dogs to stay, but actually pamper and spoil them,” said Barry Sternlicht, Starwood’s Chairman and CEO.

Now, that doesn’t mean there are not restrictions and possible additional fees at Starwood hotels. According to an update in 2013, Starwood Hotels and Resorts “does not have a standard policy regarding pets for our hotels or brands. Each hotel determines the policy depending on its ability to properly welcome and care for our furry friend”.  For example, the St. Regis and Le Meridien Hotels do not have a standard policy regarding pets, while Sheraton Hotels welcome dogs with a weight limit of 80 pounds. Westin Hotels limits dogs to just 40 pounds.

The Ritz Carlton’s pet policies vary from location to location, though generally they do allow pets. Weight restrictions on dogs usually settle between 10 and 40 pounds, so those vacationing with larger dogs may not be able to lap in the luxury of The Ritz. Also, consider that many Ritz Carlton locations place an additional fee to those visiting with pets. As an example, The Ritz’s pet friendly hotel in Philadelphia adds a $150 non-refundable fee and allows only dogs under 30 pounds.

For those that travel with their cats, Loews Hotels might be the best option for you and your feline friends. Many hotels, even those that claim to be pet friendly, limit this policy to just dogs, leaving cat-lovers out in cold. Loews policy addresses this by providing menus, bedding, catnip and even scratching posts at some locations. Of course, dogs get the pampered treatment as well with treats, food bowls and ‘Gourmet room service menus for cats and dogs, prepared by our award-winning Master Chefs’.

As of this post, Loews puts no restrictions on their pet policy, other than the standard requirement that the pets be “well-behaved.” Add to that the huge selection of pet amenities available, and Loews seems to have recognized the need for upscale pet-friendly hotels.

Still, it is always wise and our recommendation to call the specific location to obtain that hotel’s individual pet policy. By calling in advance of your booking you can avoid the hassle and headache of unexpected policy changes and limitations so that you and your pets can truly enjoy your stay.

Amy Burkert runs the award-winning pet travel website, GoPetFriendly.com, which makes it easy to plan a trip with your entire family. Her blog, Take Paws, is an encyclopedia of pet travel tips, pet friendly destination advice, and stories of the adventures she and her husband share as they travel full-time in their Winnebago with their dogs, Ty and Buster.

Diet and Dogs with Cancer

Diet and Dogs with Cancer


Eat this, not that. (Photo: PatrickMahaney.com)

Eat this, not that. (Photo: PatrickMahaney.com)

My fellow veterinarian and veterinary oncologist, Dr. Susan Ettinger, is a leader in animal cancer-treatment field. We are both featured on Tracie Hotchner’s Radio Pet Lady Network and Susan co-hosts The Pet Cancer Vet. Susan also writes the Dog Cancer Blog and recently posted Diet and Dogs with Cancer, which I find to be such an important article for my readers that I’m sharing it here as a guest blog:

My thoughts have evolved on diet, pets and cancer.

We’ve known for a long time that some cancers may result in potentially significant weight loss. The impact on the dog depends on tumor type, location, and whether it has spread. Cancer patients are known to have significant changes in metabolism of carbohydrate, proteins, and/or fat.

Just cancer itself and/or its treatment can also contribute to weight loss, especially if there is nausea and decreased appetite: The dog takes in fewer calories than its body requires, so the dog loses weight.

In some patients, there is a syndrome is known as cancer cachexia. These dogs have progressive weight loss, in the face of adequate calories and nutritional intake.

In either case, decreased body condition can eventually lead to decline in quality of life and overall survival.

So it is no surprise how important nutrition is in dogs with cancer. The goals of nutritional management in cancer patients are to provide adequate nutrients to aid in recovery, decrease the negative energy balance brought on by cancer cells, and continue to maintain appropriate body mass.

This will ultimately aid in improving their quality of life, possibly increasing the effectiveness of cancer treatment and survival times.

These nutrition goals are not new. For years I’ve included a Nutrition & Cancer information sheet with the handouts I provide at an initial oncology appointment in my practice.

But, after co-authoring the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and recently attending the AHVMA(American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association) meeting this summer, I decided the handout needed a good update. My thoughts on nutrition have evolved, for cancer patients and all pets. We will get to that soon.

First, a common question I get from readers and in the exam room at consultation:

“Dr. Sue, did my pet’s food cause the cancer?”

In my opinion, it is not fair to blame commercial diets alone for cancer. Cancer is not caused by one thing. Causes include genetics, environmental factors, and toxins. It’s a complicated, multi-step process to turn a normal cell into a malignant cancerous one.

But there are some potentially damaging by-products in dog food.

  • Processing and high heat can alter the food value.
  • Other issues include antibiotic residues, mycotoxins, storage mites.
  • Some ingredients in some diets come from poor quality food supplies with depleted resources.
  • Some chemical preservatives put in foods may have toxicity, such as ethoxyquin, BHA, BHT.
  • Many dog foods have excessive carbohydrates (see below) including corn, soy, beet pulp which may include genetically-modified organisms (GMO) foods.
  • Genetically-modified crops are exposed to increased levels of pesticides.

Sounds pretty bad, right? All these things are not found in every bag or can of dog food, but it is worth looking into the ingredients and where they come from.

And there is an important advantage of commercial diets prepared by a reputable manufacturer: These diets are tested in feeding trials and pass AAFCO standards, so you know they meet the nutritional requirements for adult dogs.

Should I prepare my dog’s food?

Some people choose to prepare a homemade diet. The goal is wholesome unprocessed foods. The benefits/claims include: increased vigor, improved hair coat, decreased allergies, less inflammation, less stool and odor, and weight control.

But you cannot just cook meat for your dog and call it a day. These diets need to be balanced to account for important vitamins and mineral requirements, so your dog doesn’t develop significant deficiencies.

I suggest a reputable source for the recipe. Dr. Dressler has a cancer diet in the The Dog Cancer Survival Guide, and many of my clients use it and are very pleased. If you are interested in cooking, you can try this one. Pay close attention to the vitamin supplementation recommendations.

Also consider consulting with a veterinary nutritionist to assist in creating a balanced food for your dog – especially important if your dog has other medical issues. Check outACVN.com to find a nutritionist. Another helpful site to help you is Petdiets.com.

In my opinion, a homemade diet can be a lot of work. As a working mom, getting a homemade diet to the kitchen table for my family on a daily basis is a challenge in itself. I do not home cook for my pets, and I’ll provide alternatives later in this post.

What’s the deal with cancer diets? No carbs, right?

Since cancer cells use glucose (carbs) as an energy source, there is a lot of worry with feeding carbs to cancer patients. The idea behind a cancer diet is low carb, and high in quality proteins and fats. While there is little scientific data specifically showing feeding such a diet helps treat the dog cancer, as long as the diet is balanced, I think there is no harm, in my opinion.

Remember: carbs are not all inherently bad, and some sources contain many valuable vitamins and minerals. Instead of generalizing “all carbs are bad,” I think we should be more critical of the carbs source such as GMO (see above).

For me, the grain-free diets are less important than the source of the grains.

But I don’t think you need to eliminate all carbs.

Although fruits and veggies are carbs, they also provide naturally occurring phytochemicals, flavonoids, and vitamins. Such dietary agents are called chemopreventative because they have potentially cancer-fighting properties that promote cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells – they help get rid of deranged cancer cells.

Epidemiologic studies in people show protective effects of diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and diets low in fruits and veggies have been associated with cancer risk.

I’m often asked about carrots since they have more carbs that some other veggies. In a 2005 study of Scottish Terriers with bladder cancer called transitional cell carcinoma (TCC), those that got veggies three times a week or more had a decreased risk of cancer, and carrots were the most common vegetable given. In this particular study, Scotties that ate more green leafy vegetables and yellow-orange vegetables had a decreased risk of TCC. (I toss carrots to my Matilda regularly, along with other veggies.)

When one of my patients gets diarrhea – whether due to the cancer, chemo, or medications (like antibiotics), I recommend boiled chicken and rice. A few days of rice is unlikely to make a significant impact on the cancer, but will definitely impact the diarrhea – in a good way. Everything in moderation, as I tell my kids.

I barely have time to cook for myself/my human family. What else can I do?

There is good news here, because newer commercial options are often minimally processed. For example, dehydrated foods use low heat for the drying process and avoid high heat issues. Usually you just add water (perfect for me!). There are complete dehydrated options that include meat, and there are options where you can add your own meat to the mix of veggies. (Both kinds have the needed vitamins, minerals, amino acids, phytonutrients and antioxidants).

One brand to try: The Honest Kitchen. It’s complete and balanced – just add water, made in USA, 100% non-GMO fruits and veggies, 100% organic seeds and grains, and no artificial additives or preservatives.

Note from the Dog Cancer Vet Team: This is the most universally-loved dog food here at Dog Cancer Vet. Dogs seem to love the taste, and we love the ingredients. Here’s a link to the “quality dog foods” section of our Amazon store at Dog Cancer Shop. Be sure to check out the many other flavor combinations!

I don’t want to completely change the current diet. Anything else I can do?

Even if you feed a processed conventional diet, you can do some simple things to improve your pet’s diet, even if it’s only a few times per week. You can supplement with additional fatty acids and key nutrients. And mix in some “people food”! Think:

  • lean ground meat, poultry
  • plain yogurt, eggs, cottage cheese, ground almonds
  • veggies such as carrots, leafy greens (kale), yams (remember no onions)
  • fruits such as blueberries, melon, mango, peach, dried cranberries (remember no grapes, no raisins)
  • Also NO chocolate, NO macadamia nuts

Take it slow!

Of utmost importance when changing diets is to do it gradually (typically over 7 to 14 days) in order to avoid complications like loose stools or refusal of the new diet.

The most common source of tummy upset is a sudden change of some kind. If you mix the new food in gradually to your regular food, and increase it over time, your dog will get a chance to get used to the taste and the way it impacts his or her gut. So take it slow!

Your Dog Is Completely Unique

And finally, it is important to remember that every patient is an individual. One diet may be appropriate for one patient, but not another – especially if the pet is dealing with multiple diseases. Your own veterinarian is the best person to help you create a diet that suits your dog’s individual needs.