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Canine Health Controversies; Stress

In this section, we'll look at some issues where there is some (or a lot of) disagreement. These are: Vaccines, Parasite Control, and Diet. Our overall advice: (1) be as well-informed as possible; (2) trust your vet.

Vaccination: talk to your vet about vaccines, and make sure you understand the requirements of the facilities that you visit. For instance, some accept titers in lieu of vaccines; others don't. There is as much discussion going on about animal vaccination as about children! Try to sort out what is best for your dog while meeting the standards of your national registry and/or local facilities.

Not all disease topics are as hotly argued as vaccinations--but some are just as important.  Be sure to watch for zoonoses (diseases that can be transferred from people to dogs / dogs to people. Hospitals have protocols to prevent transmission; follow these to the letter and adapt as needed to other settings. In addition to the obvious (rabies), others include C Diff, MRSA, and many more. If you see an isolation sign in a facility, do not go there.

Parasites: fleas and ticks are not just a nuisance but a health risk because of the diseases they may carry. Again, many facilities specify what you can or must do in this area. Internal parasites are another possible concern.

Where's the controversy? Many people object to topical parasite prevention and/or oral medications, preferring "natural" solutions. Make sure you are in compliance with your facility's requirements; "must be on a flea preventative regime" may not mean the same thing in one place as in another.

Moving on: immediately below is our third controversial health topic, Diet, followed by one that involves less controversy but just as much need to know: Stress and the Canine.



Feeding: this is an extremely controversial issue. Our view: the best food for your dog is what keeps him healthy. Again, trust your vet and not an internet guru! You might need to adapt the diet depending on where you visit. Some hospitals, for instance, do not allow raw-fed therapy dogs.

Poisons and Harmful Subtances: Here we are moving away from controversy, although there is still some disagreement on what is or is not harmful.

Toxins may be found in many house plants, landscape plants (notably the sago palm), and staples of the human diet (chocolate, alcohol). A recent problem concerns xylitol, an artificial sweetener that is highly toxic to dogs and is found in many unexpected products like chewing gum, toothpaste, and peanut butter. 

The most useful guide that we have found is from the American Veterinary Medical Association, and you can download their pamphlet here: .

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A health issue often overlooked by newer handlers is canine stress. Every major registry has a list of stressors and one of stress symptoms. The most common that you will see are yawning, licking the lips, looking away (disengaging), or lying down unexpectedly. Watch your dog’s body language in general for droopiness or, worse, tension.

A little-recognized sign of stress is sweating: since dogs can sweat only through the bottom of the paws, you will see this occasionally in the form of sweaty footprints. Sometimes this will be the only sign that the dog is stressing. In short: learn how your dog shows stress, and honor his needs by not working him too long or in too stressful an environment.

What stresses one dog may not stress another. Some dogs can’t handle being around terminal patients, for instance, while others may have difficulty with individuals showing unusual behavior (e.g., some developmentally challenged adults). Again, learn what your dog can handle and don’t ask him to go where he is uncomfortable.

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