You know when you see blogs that start, "Oh my gosh, it's been however so many weeks since my last blog and I'm sorry!"? Well, it's been however so many weeks since our last blog, and i'm not sorry at all!
Well, We've been a bit busy, you see..
That's right - Happy Home Dog Boarding just got a whole lot happier! Earlier this year we welcomed Sam to the club, and he's fantastic.
Of course, the best way to bring a baby into a house full of dogs is something we thought long and hard about, as we wanted to not only make sure Sam was happy and safe, but also that our resident dogs, Sprocket and Indiana, would be comfortable, stress-free and welcoming.
Talking about dog vaccinations to colleagues and online forums has revealed two important things to us:
1) Nobody agrees on everything
2) It’s a hot topic!
So we’re writing this blog, and any comments here or on our FB page, as a safe space where we can all discuss what we personally do to vaccinate our dogs - if at all - so we can really start to understand what’s important, what’s optional and what experts are saying about them.
Standard Vaccination Procedures
Up until 2017, we always vaccinated our resident dog Sprocket each year. Like many other dogs, as a puppy Sprocket got a full round of the necessary vaccinations. Yearly afterwards this was topped up by the annual booster vaccination.
Every 3 years after that, the full round of puppy vaccinations were given to him again. It’s only recently we began to think about all the chemicals getting pumped into our wee dug, and found out that more puppy vaccinations shouldn't be required as the puppy vaccs should set them up for life.
Your dog is unlikely to require these additional chemicals injected into their systems which ironically may do more harm than good.
Titer Testing for Dogs
This year, however, we took him for titer (pronounced "tighter") testing at our local lovely vets who we just can’t recommend highly enough, ICR Vets in Loanhead.
Titer testing is a way to check that the puppy vaccs worked first time, and if they are still working it means your dog does not require a full vaccination again.
Your vet will take a blood sample from your dog and then send it to the lab to test that the immunity/resistance levels given via the puppy vaccs remain high. When your vet calls you with the results, which will be a number between 1 and 6 with 6 being the highest immunisation level, 0 the lowest. You can at that point discuss if your dog's immune system requires the full vaccinations again.
Sprocket, aged 8, was recently titer tested for the first time. His immunity is still very high, our vet was happy that he did not require the full round of vaccs again. Going forward we agreed to titer test again in three years to check if his immunity levels have remained strong.
The yearly booster vaccination is to protect your dog against Lepto, or Leptospirosis, and this is where you should start paying attention because Lepto is a zoonotic disease, meaning you can get it too. It’s a type of bacteria from animals’ urine, and can survive in streams and rivers meaning if your dog is a swimmer, like ours, it’s possible it could catch the infection.
In short if, like our dogs, yours enjoys playing in the water this is a very important vaccination to get. Although Sprocket did not require his full vaccinations again we did get his Lepto 2 booster, and we will continue with this annually because he’s a water baby.
It is important to be aware of the dangers with the Lepto 4 booster, which has been reported to cause more harm than good. Our dogs have only ever received Lepto 2, and our vets do not use Lepto 4. Always check with your vet which Lepto vaccination they use prior to your dog being vaccinated.
If your vet is unsupportive of titer testing, find a vet who is! We have experienced negativity with a vet practice before and would never wish that on anyone. Always follow your instincts, and remember that this is private healthcare for which you pay a premium and your dog deserves the best. You always have the right to disagree and walk away to get a second opinion.
If your dog is insured, always check your insurance policy before you begin a new vaccination regime. If you are unsure about anything, it is best to call them to confirm.
Overall the majority of cover is not affected unless your dog was to become ill with one of the diseases which the booster protects against.
But remember, if your dog's immunity remains high due to already receiving the vaccs as a puppy, you are not leaving them vulnerable, you are merely not adding further chemicals to your dog's system where they are not required.
Kennel Cough Vaccination
Kennel cough is a common and contagious condition found in dogs. It is as life threatening to dogs as the common cold is to humans, which is to say it is dangerous only in very extreme conditions. Outbreaks tend to happen when many dogs are kept together in enclosed spaces, like kennels. You can see where the name came from.
The kennel cough vaccination (a scoosh up the nose) only protects against two strains and ironically can be accused of helping to spread those two strains due to inappropriate vaccination of dogs.
Many owners don’t realise that kennel cough vaccinated dogs are themselves contagious for several weeks afterwards by sneezing out doses of the virus everywhere they go, including on walks, when socialising with other dogs and when boarding either in kennels or home boarding.
Yup, that's right. Your newly kennel cough-vaccinated dog is actually spreading the disease for two weeks afterwards to all the other dogs he meets.
This is why we now insist that dogs who have been kennel cough vaccinated must not board with us until at least two weeks afterwards, for the safety of all our other boarders and our resident dogs. For this reason, we do not insist on dogs receiving the kennel cough vaccine before they come to board with us.
Kennel cough can only be fatal to the very young, very old or ill. Fit and healthy dogs do not require vaccinating as they have incredibly strong immune systems. If you decide your healthy dog should have it, you may in fact be adding to the endemic because the more healthy dogs who receive it, the further the virus will be spread via these dogs.
As mentioned, the Kennel Cough vaccine only claims to protect against two strains and this illness, like all viruses, continue to mutate and multiply into many different strains - we feel that the vaccine (when given to fit and healthy dogs) is really doing more harm than good.
Appropriate vaccinating is the future!
If you are concerned about dog vaccinations, take it up with your vet. They should have the time to listen and respond to your concerns, and we’d love it if you could pass on your advice to us so we can share with everyone.
Whatever you decide to do, it's important you are doing it fully armed with information, and not just following a crowd. We'd love to hear your thoughts, either below or on our Facebook page, on dog vaccinations.
We care about the wellbeing of every dog that comes through the Happy Home Dog Boarding door. Each one has their own unique personality and traits, just like we do.
The interesting thing we've noticed from doing boarding is how much a dog's personality and behaviour is linked to their diet. The dogs that are fed on a high-sugar diet, or who get a lot of human food, tend to be somewhat more energetic and bonkers than those on a more balanced diet.
But whilst we can choose whether to have broccoli and carrots for dinner, or gobble down a dirty McDonalds burger instead, your dog gets what they are given, so if you feed them a high energy food for breakfast and dinner, don't be surprised if he runs around your home breaking stuff - you put that energy in them.
It's therefore up to us as responsible owners, to ensure that our dogs get a nutritious, healthy and balanced diet, which goes hand in hand with regular exercise to ensure you have a healthy and balanced happy dog.
Okay, so far, so common sense. Why blog about it?
We’re not saying you should avidly mark up every last calorie pooch eats and add it to a spreadsheet, because that’s clearly not practical.
What we're saying is that it's worth paying close attention to the ingredients of your chosen dog food because the things they tell you on the TV and on the packaging aren't always on the up-and-up.
There are many flashy adverts on TV for dog food. Some have talking dogs, or dogs that dance or drive delivery vans. There was even one which used high pitched noises to make it more appealing to your dog at home, although apparently it didn't work anyway. The adverts always make it look like the perfect, healthy meal for your pup. The voiceovers often say it's tasty, balanced, nutritious.
Is dog food as healthy as TV adverts portray?
Although they might have fancy TV adverts, dog food on the whole may not quite be as good for dogs as you think - regardless if the have "premium" "pedigree" or "royal" in their name. Feeding your dog the right food, and avoiding the bad stuff, can add years to their life by keeping them healthier.
With so many types of food on the market, it's going to be impossible to study and compare the ingredients of all of them. I mean, take a look at some dog food the next time you're near a packet. What's Propylene Glycol? Or Mannanoligosaccharides? Other than winning you a game of scrabble, these words are meaningless to non-experts, so here at HHDB we like to turn to All About Dog Food for nutritional advice.
This website details all the ingredients of dog food, and gives them scores out of 5. Remember that advert I mentioned about using high pitched noises? It was for Bakers Meaty Meals, described as "Full of soft meaty chunks with all the goodness your dog needs". A quick trip to All About Dog Food reveals a rather impressive score.
0.1 / 5.
That's right, it's not a typo. 0.1.
Perhaps it gained this score because it isn't poison, but it doesn't seem to have much else going for it. And Bakers isn't alone - Pedigree Chum is also sitting at the bottom too. These aren't good foods for your dog. And is it a coincidence that Bakers is ultimately owned by Nestle, while Pedigree Chum and Royal Canin by Mars? These two Confectionery sweetie giants have never been seen as the purveyors of a healthy diet, have they?
It's not just food to watch out for
There is a massive worldwide market for dog treats. In 2014, 78.1% of US dog-owning households bought treats for their pups. It's still a growing market, which means the public are, on the whole, uneducated about the nitty gritty of the ingredients, and take at face value the TV adverts as the manufacturers clamber for our cash.
I'm now going to say a dirty word.
We don't have any time for Dentastix here at HHDB. Let me tell you a story for why.
A few years ago, we bought these for Sprocket, as we thought they would help keep his teeth clean, and would be a good chance for him to relax and have a healthy chew. We were wrong on all counts.
Sprocket, being a greedy dog, wolfed most of it down without chewing. He was really ill - out of sorts, and you can always tell when your own dog isn't quite right.
So we rushed him to the vet just to check just how serious this was. We've since changed vets because these ones were incompetent and told us he must have swallowed a tennis ball (have you seen the size of Sprocket?!) but that's a story for another time. Suffice to say we never gave Sprocket another Dentastix, and not just because of his wolfing it down.
But perhaps this is a problem with the dog - dogs who don't wolf their food down should be okay to eat them, right?
Nope. We've done some research and found this fantastic graphic, which the creators at Pooch & Mutt have kindly allowed us to reproduce here:
Just take a moment to read it. Click on the image to make it bigger. Would you feed your dog this now, knowing what's in it? They contain known skin irritants; chemicals that can cause irreversible blood cell damage and even possible cancer causing chemicals.
Sticking the prefix 'Denta-' onto your product and showing a smiling dog seems to be all they need to do to convince us that this is a healthy treat. The worst part is that it's perceived as an every day snack, which over time likely does more harm than good to your dog's teeth, irony!
We need to start fighting back and understanding what's in this food, because these aren't treats we're giving out to our best friends, but potential killers.
Oh and don't worry - Sprocket fully recovered!
What are our other feeding options?
Firstly it is crucial to remember that treats should always be counted towards your dog's daily food allowance.
One of the simplest and cheapest options is home made treats. We've touched on this before, including a delicious liver cake recipe (always in moderation) or even simple frozen banana treats for the summer and to help with puppy teething,
Stuffed frozen Kongs are fantastic for keeping dogs busy, particularly if they are chewers. This awesome blog from Just Dogs shop in Stockbridge, 'Why Kong is King' covers stuffing potential.
In fact you don't need to do anything to have a nice treat - buy a raw carrot or cucumber and give it to your dog. They might not take it immediately, but with a bit of enthusiasm and slicing it thin to begin with and they should start to love it!
Alternatively there are loads of healthy, natural treats you can buy reasonably inexpensively. As many regulars here at Happy Home Dog Boarding will know, we're a fan of the pizzle.
What is a pizzle? Well - men, look away now.
It's the dried out remains of a bull's penis. Yum! The dogs go mad for it. We're also a fan of lamb's scalps and fish skins, which entertain our boarders for a long time. We buy ours online and you can too from the ever reliable Howl Emporium.
Do your vets recommend your dog food?
Let’s be clear about this from the outset. We are not telling you to ignore your vet. We are not telling you that your vet doesn’t know what is best for your dog. And we are most definitely not advising you to not go to the vet if you think there is something wrong with your dog.
For the record, we are exceptionally happy with our vets – ICR Vets in Loanhead. There are very few people we trust the health of our dogs to, but they are top of the list.
What we are doing is looking at some freely-available evidence that suggests some dog food companies hold an influence over the choices vets make when it comes to food.
As one article put it, vets still have to make money, and if recommending one type of food over another gets them their summer holiday to Barbados, then guess what they will do?
There's nothing illegal about it, and all dog food has over 50 pieces of legislation governing their manufacture so it's safe. But try not to be blindly obedient in these situations. Ask questions, read ingredients, make up your own mind.
Here are some articles on the subject you may enjoy:
We would love to hear anyone who has experienced such advice from their vets, and also anyone who disagrees with the above articles.
Finally, to finish off, let's touch upon raw feeding. We have always fed our dogs kibble, so raw feeding was new to us before we started boarding. What we've seen through experience are well balanced dogs who enjoy their food.
Here's some more information on raw feeding:
Raw feeding is a massive - and controversial topic - so we'll keep it for a future blog post. And it'll be a good 'un!
And that's our thoughts on the matter! Do you think it matters what we feed our dogs? Do you think we're giving the big named brands a hard time? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.
Coooo-ee tiger, it is hot! When a heatwave hits - like it is doing as I write this blog - it's taps aff, head to the beach and soak up those rays. We always take our dogs when we can, but there are times when we have to make do with what we have at home.
So if you are at home on a scorching day, here are 5 easy, cheap and effective ways you can ensure doggo stays nice and cool.
1. Pea Water
Please don't skip ahead here, as I"m afraid there may be the danger of misunderstanding what I mean by pea water.
Frozen peas can be a good way to cool your dog's drinking water down, whilst also supplying them with a nice healthy treat! (Dogs with kidney problems shouldn't be fed peas - check with your vet first if in doubt).
Just pour a few frozen peas into the bowl and voila, instant chilled pea water. The peas do tend to sink, but are still perfectly edible (by your dog - don't be disgusting. Put them in their dinnerbowl).
There's also no problem with putting ice in your dog's water. There was, some time ago, a big hooha about this, with many claiming it can make your dog ill. It has been proven time and time and time andtime again that there's no danger in giving your dogs icy water, but as ever they should be monitored to make sure they aren't over-drinking or drinking too quickly.
2. Wet Towels
3. Paddling Pool
We bought a cheap as chips paddling pool like this one recently, although you might have one in the attic or shed, used once then forgotten about!
We got so we could fill it with balls and throw in dog food to give them an activity whilst eating - it slows them down, and adds a bit of fun!
However with the sun out, it converts to its original usage as a pool quite easily. We filled it up to its recommended level and encouraged the dogs in by throwing kibble on the water. This went down very well! What dog doesn't love a splish splash with added food?
The good thing about getting a cheap one is that if pooch has a particularly shard claw and bursts it, you're not too badly out of pocket.
4. Hose Pipe Fun
5. Frozen Banana Yoghurt Natural Treats
This is one our pups love.
Slice up a banana in the posh chef-y way, that is, at a slight angle to get oval-shaped slices, and not just straight down into circles.
Pop them onto a tray lined with baking parchment and stick in the freezer for a couple of hours. They'll come out solid and you can feed them to your dog like this. However, for a delicious twist, pop some natural yoghurt on top to make the pups feel like they are at a Tapas bar.
Remember the basics for keeping your dog cool. Overheating and sunstroke are very real dangers and can quickly kill a dog:
Don't leave your dog in the car in this heat, even for a minute, and even if your windows are down. If there's no breeze, the car will soon turn into an oven.
Keep a cool breeze running through your home if possible. Open windows at opposite sides of your building to ensure airflow.
Stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day, and always have water available for you and your dogs on your walks.
Don't cover your dog crates with anything heavy - in fact, as you can see from the pic, crates make great doorstops to let the air through when not in use! This is especially handy if you don't have a stairgate in the house, and want to leave your doors open for a breeze.
And if all else fails, a dog laying by the back door is surely a happy dog!
You all have probably seen that meme on Facebook of an old looking dog in a flat cap, reminiscing aboutwhen he was a pup he had one toy, and it was a stick.
Throwing a stick for your dog is one of those iconic images that movies and TV shows are filled with. But it's not as harmless a pastime as you may think, and as many dog owners have found out to their horror it can be one of the most dangerous things to do with your dog pal.
Time and time again we are warned of the risks of throwing sticks. Apart from chewing and swallowing sharp splinters, the risks include a stick landing and poking up from the ground like a spear. A running dog can easily impale their body or throat on it, especially if the ground is wet and slippy, leading to horrific and life threatening injuries.
The danger is so real that the Kennel Club have banned images of dogs holding sticks in their mouths in their annual Dog Photographer of the Year competition, and say on their website: "We believe in happy and healthy dogs. Dogs playing or chewing on sticks may cause serious injury so we only want to see dogs playing with dog toys that are considered safe by vets and Kennel Club Accreditation Scheme dog trainers and instructors."
"I've thrown sticks for 35 yrs without a problem."
Look, here's Ben Fogle disagreeing with us and most of the vet world:
Even if, like Ben Fogle, you have thrown sticks for your dogs all your life, you should still stop now. Just because nothing bad has happened, doesn't mean nothing will - is that a risk you are really willing to take with your dog?
Oh Ben Fogle. What a diddy.
The dangers of your dog impaling themselves on a stick is real and documented and if your stomach can take it, a quick Google will show some of the terrible damage a simple piece of oak can cause.
It's a manageable, recognised risk, so let's look at alternatives.
Rubber Balls and Launchers
Our go-to outdoors toy has always been the rubber ball. We use the smaller foamy balls rather than tennis balls because Sprocket and Indie have teeny totsy mouths and can't manage a big tennis ball. We tended to use ball launchers like this Chuckit one, but it got to the stage where Barky McBarkerston wouldn't let us walk in peace so it has been quietly retired to the cupboard, coming out only on special occasions.
The K-9 Kannon
We invested in a Hyperpet K-9 Kannon Mini bought from the excellent Harry's Treats in Portobello. It's a small gun that shoots out a ball using the science of a humungous elastic band, as demonstrated by the handsome young man of a model in the image.
It can fair blast the ball some distance, and would save a heck of a lot of shoulder-aching from using a launcher. You can also shout "Get to the choppa" in a terrible Austrian accent and people will accept you for it. The only problem for us is that Sprocket is afraid of the Kannon, so it has had limited usage recently.
Sprocket is afraid of many things which pop, so this came as little surprise to us. However, the Kannon is very useful for when we have high-energy boarders staying with us (we just have to distract Sprocket with something else!)
We just bought one of these the other day to give it a try as a safer alternative to sticks. It's called a Kong Wubba and is described by its own blurb as a "...fun, interactive toss and tug toy" which is one of the rudest descriptions of a dog toy I've come across, but I guess not everyone has the mind of a teenager.
The idea is that it is tough and durable, with a tennis ball and a smaller, squeaky ball covered in a hard nylon cloth that should hold up to a good game of fetch or tug-o-war.
So far so good - in that it's seen some action between two energetic dogs and has come home in one piece. i'll update the blog when we have used it a bit more, and see how durable it really is.
There are loads of alternatives to sticks, of course, and we haven't tried most of them. Have you?
From rubber fetch sticks to throw, to knotted ropes for tug-o-war, all the way to the top of the range i-Fetch ball launcher for the more laid-back dog owner amongst us, there is surely an affordable option that would allow everyone to move away from the pointy sticks and danger of a nasty and avoidable stabbing of your dog.
Let us have your recommendation for alternatives to sticks below. And if we've learned one thing from this blog, it's clearly don't listen to Ben Fogle.
When I first mentioned to people that Cheryl and I were going on a first aid course for dogs there was, it is fair to say, some mirth. Would I be giving them the kiss of life? CPR? Bandaging them up?
Well actually, yeah!
Dog owners know that they quickly become part of your family, and if something bad were to happen to them, you would be devastated. Now, imagine learning afterwards that you could have helped saved their life if you had spent a few hours learning basic first aid, just as you would do for humans.
Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it?
Rhodes 2 Safety
We chose to go with Rhodes 2 Safety for our course, led by the informative Kerry Rhodes with able assistance from her Rhodesian Ridgebacks Axl and Chi, two stunners who often stole the show with their cheeky antics!
Rhodes 2 Safety are exceptionally well regarded, and in recognition of their work to bring life saving tips to dog owners were named UK's Best Canine First Aid Training Company in the Business Excellence Awards of 2017.
By chance, our session was being filmed for an upcoming TV show on the best dogs in the UK from Ricochet TV. Now being on TV is no strange thing to Cheryl and I, and you can see us in a variety of shows including a whole half-second in the background crowd of an old RIver Cottage episode during the credits. I had my shorts on and Cheryl had on her hat and I don't wish to blow my own trumpet, but we pretty much made the entire show watchable through being so damn sexy. I'd add a photo but we'd probably break the internet.
"Dammit Jim, I'm a dog boarder, not a doctor!"
It was made clear at the course that only a vet can diagnose and treat an animal. What this first aid allows us to do, however, is get the dog into such a condition where we can get him to the vet for emergency treatment.
So, for example, if a dog starts to choke, the first aid gives us the knowledge and confidence to deal with this immediate problem and give us time to get him to a vet. There are very few times where a choking dog will survive a car journey to the vets without immediate on-site care.
The Course Content
A range of likely scenarios were covered, including choking, bandaging a wound, blood loss and safe removal of ticks - we even bought a shiny new tick remover which looks ferocious!
A particularly good tip which I feel obligated to share for the health of dogs and vets everywhere was muzzle training.
The idea of muzzles can seem somewhat cruel and restrictive, but only if they are used in a poor way and instead of training your dog correctly. Often, when a dog is taken to the vets in pain, their initial reaction is to strike out and bite. It is therefore safer for everyone involved if the dog is muzzled, but if this is a new experience to your dog - and in addition to the trauma and pain they are going through - it is one more thing to worry about.
The solution? Muzzle training. Slowly acclimatise your dog to a muzzle, using positive reinforcement and high-value treats to show them it is a good thing. If you would like to find out more, I'd highly recommend your first stop being the Rhodes 2 Safety blog on muzzle acceptance, which takes you through the steps with video.
Is Canine First Aid Worth It?
We had a great time at the class and met loads of like-minded dog lovers. Having the knowledge is a comfort, and has increased our confidence of dealing with dog emergencies, which puts our mind at ease and, hopefully, those of our customers. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
Also, we got to bandage each other and pretend to be Power Rangers at a 1980s disco. How is that not most excellent?