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Dog Information

What is Normal?
Swimming Your Dog and Beach Tips

Senior Dogs
Avoiding Dog Bites

What Is Normal?

As dog owners, we can usually tell if something is wrong with our companions by the symptoms we observe. Vomiting and diarrhea are pretty obvious signals that the gastro-intestinal system is off. Other signs that something is wrong are coughing, watery or mucousy (gooey) eyes and nose are signals that something is wrong. Loss of appetite and listlessness or sudden behavioral changes are warning signs that something is not right with our companions.

As good dog owners, we need to be aware of normal and not so normal life signs so we can better know what our companions need. The following is a brief list that can help you measure your dog's vital signs. As always, if you have any questions, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Normal temperature in adult dogs is between 101-102.5 degrees. Should you want to take your dog's temperature using a rectal thermometer, it is fairly simple. Be sure the thermometer starts below 97 degrees and lubricate the tip with vaseline. You want to insert the thermometer into the dog's anus to a depth that is appropriate for the size of your dog. For small dogs, an inch is probably sufficient. For larger dogs, you may need to insert as much as half the thermometer. You will want your dog in a standing position, hold the end of the thermometer in your free hand and keep it inserted for about two to three minutes to get an accurate reading. For those of you that prefer a simpler method, you can get a thermometer that measures temperature from contact with the skin. If you use this method, hold the flat thermometer against your dogs abdomen where there is the least amount of hair until you get a steady reading.

A resting dog breathes about 10-30 times per minute. After excitement, heat, exercise or extreme stress the respiratory rate increases. While at rest, you can count respiration as the dog breathes through his nose by watching the chest move in a smooth, rhythmic motion. You should also count respiration after your dog exercises so you know what normal looks like. Changes in rate or style of respiration of your resting dog may indicate disease.

Normal heart beat rate for dogs ranges from 80-140 beats per minute. Small dogs and pups usually have a more rapid heart rate or pulse rate than larger dogs. A normal pulse is steady and firm. You can check your dogs pulse rate by placing your fingertips or palm against the dog's chest just behind the point of the elbow or you can place your middle and index fingers at the middle of the inside surface of the rear leg near the point where the leg meets the body. This is the area the femoral artery passes close to skin. Your dog's heart rate and pulse rate should be the same. To count the pulse, either count the beats for one minute or if you like math, count for 15 seconds and multiply by four.

Capillaries are the small blood vessels that carry blood to the skin. Capillary Refill Time (CRT) is the measure of capillary circulation. Normal CRT is one second or less. To check this, press one finger firmly against your dog's gums. When you lift the finger you will see a pale area which should refill with blood almost instantly with the gums returning to the normal color. Dogs in shock will have poor capillary refill time.

Without Ray vision, you won't be able to see what is going on inside your dog's digestive tract, but you can still monitor appearance to help you know what is normal for your dog. Know how your dog looks and sounds on a normal day. How wide is your dog behind the ribcage before and after eating. The abdomen should be soft to the touch and shouldn't have a hollow sound when tapped. It also should not have constant audible gurgling sounds. Dogs with a distended abdomen or with a hollow sound like a drum or with a very active gastric tract may be in distress with enteritis or bloat.

Urinary Tract:
Healthy dogs have urine that is clear yellow in color. The color will increase as the amount of water excreted decreases and the color will pale as the amount of water excreted increases. Cloudy or bloody urine is not normal and is cause for contacting your veterinarian. Normal urine volume ranges from 12-20 milliliters per pound per day. The average water consumption is 30 milliliters (a little more than one ounce) per pound per day. A sudden increase in water consumption or urine volume may be an indication of disease.

Puppies usually have 28 baby teeth, also called deciduous teeth. Puppies do not have molars and all baby teeth should be in place by six weeks. Adult dogs have an average of 42 permanent teeth which usually start to arrive at 4-5 months and are all in place by 6-7 months. Larger breed dogs tend to have teeth erupting more quickly than smaller breed dogs. Gums are pink and teeth are white in normal dogs. (Some dogs do have black gums and that is normal. Again, know your own dog.) There should be no swelling or bleeding of the gums once all the teeth are in. Be sure to brush your dog's teeth to reduce tartar buildup and keep a healthy mouth.

This should get you started on what is normal for your companion. For more detailed information, you can always talk to your veterinarian about basic health care.

Swimming Your Dog

Most dogs can swim, and love it. Dogs entering the water for the first time should be tested to be certain they are capable of swimming. Here are some tips for teaching your dog to swim:
  • Never throw your dog into the water.
  • Start in shallow water, and call your dog's name. You can also try to lure him in with a treat or toy -- but always keep your dog within reach.
  • Find a dog friend for your dog to swim with.  Let your dog play and follow his friend into the water.
  • If your dog starts to dog-paddle with only his front legs, lift his hindquarters and help him float. He should quickly catch on and will then keep his rear end up.
  • Swimming is a great form of exercise, but watch that your dog doesn't overdo. He will be using new muscles and may tire quickly.
  • Be careful of strong tides that are hazardous for even the strongest swimmers.
  • Never leave your dog unattended! You should always be in a position to get your dog out of the water.
Taking your dog to the beach is a great way to spend a beautiful summer day, just remember to take precautions and be a responsible dog owner.
  • Bring plenty of fresh water and shade for you dog.
  • Dogs can get sunburned, especially short haired dogs and pink skinned dogs with white or light hair. Limit your dogs exposure to the sun when it is the strongest, and apply a non-toxic sunscreen to his ears and nose 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Check with a lifeguard for daily water conditions. (In salt water locations dogs are easy targets for sea lice and jellyfish.)
  • If your dog isn't particularly fit, don't encourage him to run on the sand. Running on sand is strenuous exercise, and a dog that is out of shape can easily pull a muscle, tendon or ligament.
  • Do not let your dog drink too much water during his cool dip. There may be substances in the water that will make your dog sick. (In salt water locations, the salt will definitely make your dog sick.)
  • Chemicals, minerals and salt found in the water can damage your dog's coat. When you are ready to leave for the day, rinse your dog off with fresh water.
  • Not all beaches permit dogs. Check local ordinances before you begin your beach combing excursion.

Senior Scoop

It seems like only yesterday that your pup literally ran circles around you when you went for walks, with lots energy to spare. Now your dog has a hard time making it up the stairs, and the vision and hearing aren't as good as they once were either. Sometimes she gets confused, yet the veterinarian tells you there is nothing seriously wrong with her; she's just getting older. Dogs age, just as humans do -- only more quickly. If your pet seems to be slowing down, here are some things you can do to help.
  1. Watch your pet carefully, keeping track of where she is in the house. She may need assistance finding her way around.
  2. Watch with particular care as she climbs up or down the stairs, and help your pet if needed. If she is small and you are strong enough, you may need to carry her up and down the stairs.
  3. If you also have a younger dogs(s), walk the older animal separately from the youngsters so the older dog can go at a slower pace instead of struggling to keep up with the others.
  4. Make sure your dog is eating properly. A good super premium senior food is an excellent choice for the geriatric dog. Don't give her hard bones to chew on; she may not be able to handle them.
  5. Never let her roam loose outdoors. When she is outside the confines of your fenced yard she may easily become lost or become the target of a more aggressive animal.

Avoiding Dog Bites

Before giving tips on avoiding dog bites, lets consider some basics about dogs. First and foremost, dogs are animals. If we like they are anything other than that, it is unfair to them and puts undue pressure on them to act like something other than dogs. The number one question I get from people considering euthanasia or putting a dog up for adoption relates to biting.

Dog nips, bites and attacks in the United States are on the rise. The CDC estimates that over 5 million people are bitten by dogs every year. That is about 2% of the population in the United States. Of those, only about 16% seek medical attention. The majority of people bitten by dogs are children, but service people and the elderly are also high on the frequently bitten list.

American Family Insurance all ready has a policy in place that prohibits coverage to households with a wolf, wolf hybrid or pit bull. The ineligible dog list is ever expanding and will likely continue to do so. It is up to dog owners to train their dogs and help them become good canine citizens.

Here are some basic tips to reduce your risk of dog bites:
  • Don't leave babies or children unattended with dogs or puppies. 
  • Don't play aggressive games with dogs.
  • Don't disturb sleeping or eating dogs.
  • Don't bother a bitch caring for her puppies.
  • Don't tease dogs or make loud noises around them.
  • Don't stick your face into a dog's face.
  • Don't put your hand between two dogs.
  • Don't stare into a dog's eyes.
  • Don't make fast, jerky movements around a dog's head.
  • Don't approach a dog you don't know, especially if it is chained or tied up.
  • Don't chase dogs.
  • Don't move suddenly or make any direct contact with an unfamiliar dog. If a dog approaches you, don't run or scream but remain still. If the dog does knock you down, roll into a ball, protect your head and face, and don't move.
  • DO ask the owner's permission to pet a strange dog. Approach the dog slowly with your hand out flat and let him sniff you. Instead of petting the top of the dog's head, pet him underneath his chin. If he growls, back away.
For more information on dog bites, visit the AVMA web site, State Farm Insurance web site, the Insurance Information Institute web site or the CDC web site. (These links will take you away from www.OutlawChinooks.com.)

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