Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wanna Go Raw?

During my recent 5-day bout with food poisoning (from an unknown source), I was understandably suspecting my dog's raw chicken backs as the cause. My symptoms, which I won't go into detail about (!) absolutely matched the lists of salmonella enterocolitis symptoms I found on numerous websites, so I decided to do a little research into the chances of improper handling of Savage's raw food being the source. What I found is that the bacteria Salmonella can be present in any food, depending on the right conditions and unsanitary preparation. Because I'm generally careful about where and how I feed my dog, I'm inclined to think that this illness could have been caused by pretty much anything, but specifically (and probably) a certain pre-packaged "convenience" food I consumed the day before the onset.
In any case, I decided that this experience was a good opportunity to learn more about food poisoning in general, Salmonella in particular, and because of my immediate suspicions: the various myths about raw feeding that make pet owners wary. I gathered a few links containing some relevant, interesting information, so please visit the websites and judge for yourself.

Myths About Raw Feeding - check out the myth about raw feeding making dogs "bloodthirsty"! I have gotten this comment more times than I can count.
The Salmonella Myth (requires Abobe Acrobat Reader)
Raw Feeding FAQ -This one is very aggressive and anti-kibble, but also explains the many benefits of feeding raw, for those who have never considered it.
Medline Plus Encyclopedia food poisoning information, including steps to prevent infection.
The Raw Diet: Getting Started 101 - Last but not least, Eastwood Danes' recommendations for beginning the transition to raw.
There is a lot to learn on these sites, though the tone of some may make people who feed commercial dog food upset. I personally don't try to force my opinions on the raw diet onto other dog owners, but I respect people with enough of an open mind to explore different options than kibble.
Savvy was weaned on raw, and I've fed him raw for over 2 and a half years without any bacterial or digestive problems, and I am thrilled with his overall condition. Obviously Savage himself is quite enthusiastic about the raw diet (see the previous post)! I've recovered from my food poisoning episode, but it has made me more aware of the way I package, handle, and prepare both Savage's and my food. Which is a good thing.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Well, it's official. My great dane is fat. At his veterinarian visit yesterday I was absolutely shocked by the read-out on the scale: 180.5lbs!
While he is a true giant breed dog, he is overweight. I blame this on lack of regular exercise this winter, as well as not cutting back on his food during that time. Savage also has a way of convincing everyone around him that he's starving at all times, so he can get treats from anyone. Great danes are known to be susceptible to bone and joint problems even at a healthy weight, so any gain at all just adds to the risk of health problems. In addition, excess weight can lead to arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, hip dysplasia, etc.
Therefore, I need to get him back in shape as soon as possible. This means increasing his exercise and endurance, while at the same time reducing his calorie intake. Sounds simple, but I know it will be tough for me to commit to getting him out running, rain or shine, and for Randy to resist his sad, droopy puppy-dog eyes when he's eating his dinner.
Lately we have been doing more biking and walking, and I did put him on a diet, but I have to admit that I have to get more aggressive about this. His nickname is still "Fat Boy", after all. 180.5! It boggles the mind...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Tick Season

Tick season is here again in Northeastern Minnesota, and Savage has been doing his best to collect as many as possible. For as long as I can remember, ticks weren't seen here often, but in the past two years the dog tick population seems to have exploded, probably due to mild winter weather. Because of the scarcity of true deer ticks in our immediate area, Lyme's disease is not one of my main concerns, though the entire state's Lyme's infections hit record numbers last year. Just the experience of plucking a tick off of Savage or (heaven forbid!) finding one crawling on myself is enough to make me shudder.
We have around 13 species of ticks in Minnesota, but the most encountered ones are American Dog Ticks (or Wood Ticks), Brown Dog Ticks (or Kennel Ticks), and Deer Ticks (or Black-Legged Ticks). In any instance, I try not to examine them that carefully, but I'm positive that the ones that we are dealing with on an almost daily basis are American Dog Ticks. They are found in fields and underbrush, using carbon dioxide, scent, body heat, vibrations,etc. to locate a suitable host. They are known as "three-host ticks" because each stage of their lives: larva, nymph, and adult: uses a different host and their life cycle usually takes two years to complete. According to my research, American Dog Ticks are carriers of Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (a bacterial illness), and tuleremia (also known as "rabbit fever"), but apparently these diseases are very rare in Minnesota.
I have never treated Savage with any commercially available tick/flea preventative such as Frontline or K9 Advantix, or any sprays, dusts, or flea collars, because of the possible adverse reactions. The Evironmental Protection Agency oversees the sale of all pesticides in the United States and their website has a fact sheet on flea and tick control products if you would like more information.
I have always believed that a poison designed to kill a living organism, no matter how small, cannot be good for dogs, either. Therefore, Savage and I will be experimenting with natural tick prevention this summer. Last year I boiled lemon slices and fresh rosemary to spray on him to control black flies, and it seemed to work pretty well. I've read that apparently this is helpful for repelling ticks, also. The only problem we have with the lemon/rosemary mixture is that he wouldn't tolerate the spraying, so I had to rub it on him with my hands.
American Dog Ticks are considered generally active between April and June, so maybe we will be lucky and get through the next month without encountering too many of the disgusting little parasites.