Category Archives: Helpful Hints for Dogs

Is My Dog Too Hot?

Taffy, my sister Karen’s 14 year-old cocker spaniel, panted with rapid shallow breaths.  Something was wrong with the old dog.  Taffy refused to go outside or eat treats although she drank a bit of fresh water. Karen thought Taffy was suffering from the heat since it was a very warm day in northern California.  But it had been this hot before and Taffy hadn’t had any problems.

Karen placed Taffy in an air-conditioned room and closed the door.  But after a half hour, Taffy still panted and seemed restless, so Karen called her daughter, a vet tech.  She also thought Taffy was just hot.  My sister kept Taffy in the air-conditioned room for a few hours and eventually the dog fell asleep and woke up feeling fine.  Karen took Taffy to the vet the next day.  The vet did a thorough work up and pronounced the dog in good health.

It probably was the heat.

How to cool your hot dog

  • Get a 20-inch box fan and put it on the floor in the kitchen or someplace where there is a tile floor. My dogs love to lie in front of it to keep cool.  Karen said she hadn’t thought about a fan.
  • Buy a cool bed—a waterbed for your dog. It works by taking the heat out of their body and
    Dog on a cool bed

    Chipper on his cool bed in front of a fan.

    transferring it to the water. The cool bed doesn’t work well when it is in the sun or after it warms.  I usually store it in the basement to keep it cool until needed. I also use several cool beds when driving long distances in a cramped car.  Even with the air conditioning on, the dogs get hot in the car and the cool bed makes them more comfortable.

    • Try a cool vest on your dog. I have used one with the cool bed when I had to leave my dog in the car (always in the shade) for a short period when it was warm.
  • Get your dog wet with the hose or even a
    Dog in kiddie pool

    Cassie in her kiddie pool.

    bath. My springer loved her plastic kiddie pool. Just change the water several times a day since they often drink out of it.  We called it her walk in water dish.

  • Give your dog plenty of fresh, cool water. Change their water more often in hot weather since it gets nasty from their slobber.
  • Leave the air conditioning on if possible, or allow them access to the basement or an area with cool tile, like the kitchen or bathroom.
  • Consider shaving your dog. I have found that shaving my spaniels makes a huge difference in their tolerance of the heat. It also removes mats and makes it easier to find fleas and ticks.

The GingerLead Dog Sling – A must have for dog owners

When I saw the GingerLead displayed at the recent BlogPaws conference, I knew I had to have one. The GingerLead is a padded sling to support the rear end for all sizes of dogs.

You might think, “My dog doesn’t have any problem with his back legs.  Why would I need this? “

You just never know.

When I read Marley and Me by John Grogan, I mentally screamed, “Why don’t you use a sling,” when the big old lab had great trouble getting  out of the snow and up the stairs into the house.  Marley suffered from severe arthritis in his hips and was also too heavy for John to carry.

Dog using GingerLead

Chipper using the GingerLead.

I’ve had too much experience with dogs with rear-end difficulties, so I can’t stand it when someone doesn’t use a simple product to help a dog, but instead watches them suffer.

Twelve years ago, Kaylee, my springer spaniel, developed osteosarcoma in one of her back legs and had it amputated.  She was fine walking on three legs for months, but then became wobbly and eventually needed a wheelchair.  I used a sling often to take her out for potty breaks.  The sling was very useful, but awkward with its straps and handles, but I managed to use it for over a year.

Three years later my next springer, Cassie, developed coonhound paralysis, which is a temporary condition starting with her rear end and rapidly progressing to all of her limbs. She stayed at the vet for five days before they released her to me – still paralyzed.  I found Kaylee’s old sling and used a harness and short leash so I could support both her front and her rear – like a puppeteer.  I held the two handles of the sling in one hand and the leash in the other, while supporting her 42 pounds.  Luckily, she only needed this for two days before she recovered enough to walk on her own.

Then eight years later, Cassie developed a brain tumor, which caused her to lose her balance and curve her body to the left.  I hoped I still had the sling since I had leant it to a neighbor when her German Shepherd became wobbly from hip dysplasia.  Luckily, I found it and once again had to manage all the handles to hold the sling and leash.

So for me – the GingerLead is a must have piece of equipment.

Problems with a regular sling

  1. Two handles and several long straps made it awkward to use.
  2. It doesn’t hook to the collar or harness, so a leash is needed to support the dog’s front.
  3. The sling often bunched up under their belly, making it uncomfortable.

Benefits of the GingerLead


GingerLead sling

  • The GingerLead consists of padded, durable nylon with a corduroy lining. This gives it more support so it doesn’t bunch up.
  • The handles fold together into a padded Velcro closure – so no struggling to hold multiple handles.
  • It’s adjustable based on the size of the dog and owner.
  • This part is the best—it comes with a leash to hook onto the dog’s collar or harness! Everything fits into one hand!

I tried it on Chipper, my old cocker spaniel, who doesn’t currently have any problems walking, and it fit him quite well.  I hope I won’t need this for him, but I’ll keep it in my dog supply drawer just in case.

I received the GingerLead shown on Chipper for a product review.

Dogs, Herbicides, and Weeds, Oh My!

The weeds, the dandelions─yuck.  Should I spray an herbicide?  But what about my dogs?  How can I do this safely?   So I usually put it off until the weeds get the better of me and I just have to spray them and try to keep my dogs off of the lawn for a day, or at least try.  Most herbicides state, ‘safe’ for pets after it has dried. But are they? Here is what my research uncovered:

  • Increased risk of bladder cancer.
    • Certain breeds have a higher risk for bladder cancer. These include West Highland white terriers, Scottish terriers, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles and wire hair fox terriers.
  • Routes of exposure include ingestion , inhalation, and transdermal exposure
    • Ingestion can include licking their paws, not just eating the chemical directly or munching on grass.
  • Pets can transfer the chemicals to people, since they track them inside the house on their paws. So the floors, carpets, furniture, and your clothing could also contain small amounts of herbicide.
  • Some herbicides are detectable for at least 48 hours after application, and sometimes longer. Those tested included 2,4-D, MCPP, and dicamba.
    • The chemicals can stay on the lawn a longer time if the weeds are brown, dying back, or if too much chemical is used.
  • Wind conditions are important when spraying chemicals. A neighbor may spray their lawn and some of the chemical will drift into your yard.

What can we do?  Well there are two paths.  One, is to learn how to use chemicals safely, and the other is to use something toxic to the weeds, but not to our pets.  A third path is to mow tall weeds, but that doesn’t control weeds in the lawn.


Buffy rolling around on the grass.

Buffy rolling around on the grass.

  • Spray the back yard one week and the front yard another time to allow a safe area for your dog.
  • Wash your dog’s paws after using the treated area, even if the chemical is dry, or applied a few days ago.
    • My rule of thumb is to treat the lawn as contaminated until a good rainfall washes it into the soil and the grass is dry. Only then allow them free reign of the yard.
  • Roundup can still cause vomiting, although considered safe once the chemical has dried.
  • Store chemicals away from where pets can reach them, and in heavy duty containers.


Unlike some of the herbicides listed above, which kill broad leaf plants and do not harm the grass, many of the materials listed below are non-selective and can kill grass along with weeds.  So do spot treatments.

  • Corn gluten meal is a natural herbicide. Corn gluten meal is more costly than corn meal, but corn meal also seems to reduce weeds. It acts as a pre-emergent herbicide that prevents seeds from germinating.  It does not kill mature plants.
  • Boiling water applied directly to the target plants.
    • If planting a new bed, try using boiling water to kill all the weeds, then mix corn meal into the soil to prevent weed seeds from germinating. This works well if you’re installing plant plugs and not using seeds.
  • Hand pulling. We do this for dandelions and creeping Charlie, and although initially it’s a big investment in time, in future years the amount decreases substantially.
  • Try citrus oil, cinnamon bark and clove oil applied directly to the weeds.
  • Use soil barriers to prevent weeds from growing. I’ve tried this around shrubs, and it works well.
  • Salt, but do not use a lot on flower beds or vegetable gardens since the salt stays in the soil and can be toxic for the desirable plants. Make a salt solution and spray it on driveway and patio cracks.
  • Vinegar draws the water out of the leaves, killing the leaves, but it may not kill the roots. Don’t use a concentration higher than a 5% solution.
    • A solution of vinegar and salt is also effective to kill weeds.
  • You can mix this with equal parts of chili pepper to deter animals.  Pour the solid sugar on the weeds.

I have not tried all of these techniques,  and I was surprised at the variety of methods.  Personally I use hand pulling as much as possible, and herbicide only with weeds that are too numerous and small to pull.

The main thing is to think about your pets and to plan your methods accordingly.  When I do succumb to using an herbicide, I try to apply it late in the day and about two days before a rain event.  For herbicides to be effective, the weeds have to be actively growing, so they need some sunlight before rain washes the chemicals off the plant.

If you suspect your pet has ingested a herbicide, contact your veterinarian, emergency vet, or a poison control center.

For more information check out these websites:

Yuck, what’s in my dog’s mouth!

I yanked hard at Chipper’s leash as he grabbed a mouthful of something. “Drop it,” I commanded as he tried to swallow the big solid piece. Grabbing his collar, I put my gloved hand into his mouth and pulled it out–something sausage-like, dark brown and smelly. You guessed it a poopsicle—a frozen dog turd.

According to a 2012 study performed by B.L. Hart, A.A. Tran, and M.J. Bain stool-eaters were more likely to come from multi-dog households , be greedy eaters, have been spayed or neutered, and prefer fresh stools from other dogs. . This description fits both Buffy and Chipper, who I rescued from my mom when she passed away. She didn’t walk them and had a small backyard, so they were bored and confined—a perfect environment to develop this disgusting habit. I occasionally saw one of them pick up a turd “fresh out of the oven.”

There is a scientific term for this, Coprophagia, and I know it’s not supposed to be bad for the dogs; it’s just so disgusting. I’ve never had a dog do this until I acquired these cocker spaniels. I’ve been somewhat successful at keeping them from eating each other’s by keeping a clean yard, walking them and picking it up, and yelling at them when I see them even sniff each other’s poop. But walking them in the neighborhood is another story, where they can gobble down things in the dark before I have a clue.

I have looked at products in the pet stores to prevent stool eating, but since they mostly eat other dog’s stools, it didn’t seem like it would help. Hart’s paper also mentioned the very low success rate of these products.

Why do dogs eat poop?

Hart states it comes from ancestral canines as a way to protect the pack from intestinal parasites dropped in the den area. As a dog owner for over fifty years, I disagree. My dogs will eat anything that remotely smells like food, and well, digested food smells, so why not? This article mentions that dogs often like hard, well-formed stools and not diarrhea, and poopsicles (I had thought my husband made up the term!)

There can be medical reasons that your dog starts eating stools, such as:

  • Parasites
  • Lack of nutrients in the diet, or malabsorption issues
  • Diseases or drugs (like steroids) that cause an increase in appetite

Some dogs may start to eat poop due to anxiety, such as:

  • Being left in a small confined area for long periods of time.
  • Anxiety from being punished, especially due to housetraining.
  • Association with real food if they are fed close to where they eliminate (such as if they are kept in a cage for long periods.

How to reduce poop eating?

  • I find the best way is to pick up their poop as soon as they defecate in the yard, or during walks. This way they don’t have a chance to eat it.
  • Develop good ‘drop it’, ‘leave it’, and ‘come’ commands. Buffy and Chipper know what these mean, but often choose to ignore me. My last dog, Cassie, who did a lot more obedience training, was much better at leaving it, than these two cockers.
  • Vitamins may help, especially vitamin B.
  • Enzyme supplements that contain papain may help.
  • Taste-aversion products, but the above article mentions that their success rate is low.

I have not tried any of the supplements, with my best method being a clean yard and training.