Most of us consider our dogs to be a part of our human family. We
introduce them as our 4-legged children, our babies or as our best
friends. Likewise, our dogs view their human housemates as their
family. The close relationships we build with our pets can greatly
enhance our lives and can even help improve our physical and mental
health. Unfortunately, we humans are not always the best at
returning the favor!
Pet owners often
make poor choices and decisions regarding their pet's care. Many
times we do not consider what is the right choice for the dog, but
instead make our decisions based on what is convenient for us or based
on what we would do for another human. Many of these poor
decisions are due to a tendency to project human characteristics and
emotions onto our pets.
As pet owners, we
must remember that our dogs are NOT little, furry humans!
Dogs must (to some extent) be treated as dogs. While pampering and
providing your dog with all the luxuries and the best of food and care
is fine, please keep in mind that your dog is not your own little "Mini
Me". The products and care you provide must be appropriate for a
DOG. Caring for your dog as if he was a small human can be
disastrous to his health and well-being, especially when dealing with
medications and in regard to feeding.
Dogs have a physiology unique to their species and this means that
certain human drugs are inappropriate for treating your dog.
While many human drugs are used on animals with excellent results, there
are many other human medications that can be fatal to animals, even in
small amounts. An example of an over-the-counter human
medication that you must never give to your dog is Acetaminophen (the
active ingredient in Tylenol). This drug is extremely toxic
to animals and often results in the death of the animal.
Many dog owners have had to watch in horror as their dog suffered and
died from a dose of this medication. So, remember, just
because a drug is considered safe for humans, even infants, that does
not mean it's safe for your dog.
Another important point to mention about the use of human medications is
that, even with human drugs that can safely be used on dogs, the correct
dose of a medication for a dog is not always a simple matter of
calculating the difference between the human and canine's weight.
Dogs will often need much less of a particular drug than a human.
Or they may need much more. This dosage variation is often true
with other medications as well, such as those that are made for other
animals - pigs, cows, horses, etc. An example of this is
worm medications. The cattle wormer Ivermectin is often used in
dogs, but the effective canine dose is MUCH smaller than that used for
cattle. On the other hand, dogs need a higher dose than
cattle or horses of a worming product called Safe-Guard. So
remember, if your dog has a problem and needs medication, it's vital
that you check with your veterinarian for the correct medication AND
dosage before you give your dog a drug from your own medicine cabinet,
or one that was originally formulated for another species of animal.
Keep in mind that
the above warning applies to the use of eye drops and ointments too,
especially those containing cortisone or other steroids. Many eye
products and treatments are routinely used for both human and veterinary
patients, but in cases involving damage to the eye surface, it's
critical that the correct product is used to treat the injury.
Products containing steroids can cause additional ulceration or even
perforation of the eye if used to treat certain types of eye injuries.
So please don't treat your dog's sore or injured eye without having the
dog examined by your veterinarian.
area of canine care that is often incorrectly addressed with human
products is skin and coat care. Many dog owners treat their dog's
skin and coat with products designed for humans. This practice can
seriously exacerbate existing skin problems and can even cause serious
skin issues in previously healthy dogs. Human shampoos and soaps
are inappropriate for canine use due to the physiological differences between
human and dog skin. Cockers, in particularly those with full show
coats (whether in full coat or clipped short), will benefit greatly from
good quality bathing products. This is due to the fact that their
skin is constantly supporting the growth of a tremendous amount of hair.
If the skin of these heavily coated dogs becomes irritated, overly dry
or if the dog should develop a skin infection, it can be difficult to
get the skin and coat back to a healthy balance.
hygiene has become a more common owner concern over the last several
years and this has lead to another area where owners sometimes use
inappropriate human products on dogs. Human toothpastes are
not designed for use on dogs and should be avoided by owners that are
brushing their dog's teeth. Many human toothpastes contain a
detergent base that should not be ingested and which could cause your
dog to have an upset stomach (unless you can train your dog to spit!).
Additionally, most human toothpastes have ingredients that cause the
product to foam-up. Many dogs are not comfortable with this
sensation and it causes them to lick and swallow even more of the
inappropriate product. To avoid these issues, owners should always
use a toothpaste specifically produced for pets. If you should run
out of your pet's toothpaste, don't worry about missing a day or two (or
even three or four!). The most important aspect of your dog's
dental care is the actual brushing. So even if you don't have any
pet toothpaste, just continue brushing with water and a soft brush.
This will still help eliminate plaque and tartar and is the best way to
care for your dog’s teeth and gums.
greatest risk to your dog's health is how and what you feed him.
This one area is where you can make the greatest difference in helping
your dog to live a long and healthy life. The bottom line here is
that you must feed your dog a quality, canine-appropriate diet AND you
must carefully monitor his food intake (type and quantity) to maintain
him in correct body condition. Proper management of your
dog's diet AND weight can add several YEARS to his life!
owners make the mistake of feeding their dog as if the dog is another
human family member. This is not appropriate as, again, dogs
are NOT humans! Dogs do not have the same dietary needs or
concerns as humans. Dogs are carnivores. They are cousins to
the wolf. They have dietary needs that CANNOT be meet with
processed sugars, carbohydrates and grains. Your dog needs a diet
that consists of appropriate, quality ingredients for a carnivore.
Additionally, just as it is not ideal for humans to ingest unnecessary
preservatives or chemical food additives, the diet you choose for your
dog should not be loaded with these ingredients. For further
information on feeding and caring for your Cocker Spaniel, please click
the following link to visit my
While I don't
necessarily feel that my dogs need a whole or partial beef, deer or
chicken carcass thrown to them two or three times a week, I do think
that a correctly balanced and nutritionally complete raw or natural diet
is preferable to many of the commercially manufactured dog foods that
are available. I don't personally have a problem with feeding a
dog an entirely raw or natural diet, AS LONG AS the owner has put forth
the effort to learn and correctly apply the knowledge necessary to
ensure the natural diet is appropriate for maintaining the health of
his/her dog. For those that are interested in feeding their
dog a natural diet, the following link can help provide you with
feeding and weight-maintenance issue that needs to be addressed, is a
tendency for owners to feed their dogs in ways that make the OWNER feel
better. This includes feeding a multitude of treats that "reward"
the owner with shows of attention and affection. Some owners
may also fall into a pattern of feeding their dog extra portions or
inappropriate foods as a substitute for their attention and/or as a way
to relieve feelings of guilt resulting from having to leave the dog at
home alone. For the health and well-being of your dog, it's
vitally important that you learn the proper type and amount of food
(including treats!) that is appropriate for your dog. Once you
have done this, it's then critical that FOR THE LIFE of your dog, you
consistently follow through with a proper feeding routine. (A
couple of items that all owners should know to avoid feeding their dog
are onions and chocolate. Feeding your dog onions can lead to anemia
and ingestion of certain types of chocolate can be fatal.)
Owners must also
learn to properly manage their dog's weight. If this means that
Fluffy doesn't get an after-dinner treat of leftover french fries or a
bowl of ice cream, then Fluffy will just have to learn to do without!
Or maybe Fluffy will need to learn to settle for a slice or two of a
carrot or a couple of green beans. Some veterinarians
estimate that as many as 30% of the dogs they examine are overweight.
This is an alarming statistic as obesity in your dog can cause a number
of serious health complications. These problems can include an
increased risk of surgical/anesthetic related complications, an
increased risk of diabetes (which can also predispose a dog to
infection, eye problems and a higher risk for surgical complications), a
shortened lifespan, acute pancreatitis, an increased risk of developing
certain types of cancer, an increased risk of skin disease, poor immune
function and reproductive and digestive problems.
On top of all of
the problems listed above, obesity also puts considerable stress on a
dog's internal organs, bones and joints. A fat dog is more
susceptible to injury when asked to participate in physical activity.
A fat dog will also have an increased risk of heart failure due to the
heart having to work harder to pump blood to extra tissues. A dog
that has hip dysplasia or that is prone to joint or bone problems
will be more severely affected if they are overweight. Excess
weight can also contribute to weakening of the cruciate ligaments which
stabilize the knee joint. Continued stress on these joints, even
after surgical repair, will continue to make them worse and will prevent
the joints from ever being normal.
If you hope to show
or hunt or your dog, or to participate in other performance events with
your dog, you must realize that your dog's performance and ability will
be negatively impacted if the dog is overweight. An overweight dog
cannot be competitive in hunting or agility competitions as its
breathing capacity would be diminished by extra fat putting pressure on
the lungs and making breathing difficult. Additionally, an
overweight dog's performance would be further compromised due to a heavy
dog having less heat tolerance than a thinner dog. While this
might not be a huge issue in the far North, a too-heavy dog in
warmer climates would be at risk for heat-related complications if asked
to participate in outdoor activities that require physical exertion.
There is no excuse
for an owner allowing their dog to become seriously obese. YOU are
in charge of your dog's feeding and health. You must take this
responsibility seriously and make a commitment to do what is right for
your dog. This does not mean doing what is most convenient or what
makes YOU feel better. NOR does it mean doing what makes your dog
feel better in the short-term. It DOES mean that you will do
whatever is necessary to keep your dog fit, trim and healthy. This
will include feeding an appropriate, nutritionally balanced diet,
limiting treats to healthy choices and appropriate amounts in relation
to the over-all diet, and ensuring your dog receives adequate and
appropriate exercise for it's health and physical condition. Please
remember, the fact that Fluffy has sad eyes or begs at the table is not
an excuse for engaging in behavior that could ultimately harm or kill
Your dog will not
hate you for cutting out his McDonald's Happy Meals and bacon and egg
breakfasts. He may be unhappy about the loss of all those extra
treats and fatty foods for a while, but he will get over it shortly if
you refuse to give in to his theatrical "I'm dying of starvation"
routine! Few dogs are able to carry a grudge for any sustained
amount of time, so stay strong and do what is best for the dog. I
promise, he will be much happier and healthier once he is a lean, mean,