Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Is There A Link Between Grain Free & DCM?

Attention valued customers!

We have spoken with many customers, pet food companies, and nutrition experts over the recent weeks since the national news that the FDA is investigating a possible link between the feeding of grain free foods and Dilated CardioMyopathy (DCM) heart disease in dogs.

To help ease some of your concerns here is some more detailed information on this issue.

What is Dilated CardioMyopathy (DCM)?
DCM is a heart disease that has been genetically associated with certain large breed dogs. DCM is linked to a deficiency in the essential amino acid Taurine.

Why are Grain Free foods being linked to DCM?
Grain free diets often contain legumes like soy, potatoes, lentils, as well as certain beans and peas. Legumes are a nutrient dense source of carbohydrates and fiber and are a substitute for low quality grains and grain fragments. However, legumes also contain phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens can block the uptake and synthesis of Taurine, which is why it is being considered as the link to DCM.

What is Taurine and why does my dog need it?
Taurine plays a vital role in the maintenance of cardiac muscle as well as eye and skin health. Taurine is considered to be an essential amino acid. Essential amino acids cannot be synthesized naturally by humans or by our pets. Therefore, we must get all essential amino acids from what foods we eat.

Are all legumes bad?
Not all legumes contain the same amounts of essential amino acid blocking phytoestrogen. Soy is among the legumes with the highest levels of phytoestrogens. Potatoes, lentils, and peas contain fewer phytoestrogens by almost 10-fold.

How do I know if I’m feeding a Grain Free food that is high in legumes?
The first ingredient in a food should ALWAYS be a named animal protein, like Chicken or Chicken Meal, Beef, Lamb, Salmon, or Pork. Taurine is best metabolized when it comes from the amino acid profile of animal protein. Foods where a named animal protein is NOT the first ingredient are suspect. Foods that list soy high on the ingredients list should also be avoided.

My breed is susceptible to DCM. What should I feed?
You should avoid any food that contains soy or uses legumes as a first ingredient. You may want to consider feeding a raw diet or a kibble with a high meat inclusion.

Let Us Help!
Our knowledgeable team at Cherrybrook can answer any questions you have regarding pet food and is happy to help you make the best, nutritionally sound choices for your pet.

We are continuing to monitor and research this important topic and will provide updates as more details emerge from the FDA and our pet food partners.

Kindest regards, 
Claudia Loomis
Executive Vice President
& Customer Care Officer

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

One of the Least Savory Aspects of Pet Ownership That You May Not Know About

By Dr. Becker

There's a not-so-pleasant aspect of pet parenting that most of us are familiar with (and wish we weren't!) — the dreaded intestinal worm infestation. There are actually several types of worms that can wriggle their way into your dog's or cat's GI tract, including the hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm and whipworm.

How Do I Know If My Pet Has Worms?

The short answer: it can be challenging. Some intestinal worms can be seen with the naked eye; others can't. Dogs and cats with worm infestations may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea that may or may not be bloody
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss
  • Poor coat condition
However, sometimes the presence of intestinal worms causes no noticeable symptoms. The worms can also lay dormant in your pet's body for long stretches. The following is a short primer on four common types of intestinal worms.


Hookworms attach to the intestinal wall and suck the blood of the host. They're much more common in dogs than cats.
Hookworms are primarily transmitted fecal-orally to animals, meaning your dog or cat may eat contaminated feces or dirt, or he might walk through contaminated soil, then lick his paws and ingest the eggs. Puppies and kittens can acquire hookworm from an infected mother's milk.
A puppy or kitten who acquires hookworms can become lethargic, weak, malnourished and anemic. It isn't uncommon for young pets to die from a hookworm infestation.
Infected adult pets may show symptoms of poor appetite and weight loss. Chronic hookworm infestation is a common cause of illness in older dogs.
Humans can also acquire a hookworm infection, typically by picking up the eggs or larvae on the skin from soil contaminated by infected wild animal or pet poop. Hookworm larvae have the ability to penetrate human skin, and they aren't visible to the naked eye.
To prevent a hookworm infestation, it's important to get rid of any potentially infective feces from wild or stray animals around your property that might tempt your dog or cat. It's also a good idea to keep your pet away from the poop of other animals while you're walking outdoors or hiking.


Roundworms are large and spaghetti-like in appearance, and they can create a full-blown infestation in your pet before you even know they're there. By the time you see signs of roundworms in your dog's or cat's feces or vomit, he's overrun with them.

It's important not to wait until you actually see the worms to alert you to an infestation. If you suspect your dog or cat has been exposed, you should collect a stool sample and drop it by your veterinarian's office for analysis.
Pets typically acquire roundworms by eating infected feces. The infection can also be passed from a female to her unborn litter across the placenta. The pups or kittens develop their own infection while still in the uterus and are born positive for roundworm.
Puppies and kittens with roundworm often have potbellies and poor growth. If not treated quickly, a severe infestation can block the intestines and cause death. That's why I recommend checking fecal samples at 6, 8, 10 and 12 weeks of age.


Tapeworms are flat-shaped, with a head, neck and many body segments called proglottids. The head has suckers and hooks that allow the tapeworm to deeply embed into the walls of the small intestine. The worms can range from under an inch to several feet (yes, feet!) in length.
Tapeworm segments are often seen near the anus of an infected pet, and segments that have been recently passed out of the body may still be moving.
Your dog or cat can acquire a tapeworm infestation by eating part or all of an intermediate host (e.g., birds, fish, reptiles and rats) carrying tapeworm eggs, larvae or cysts. Fleas and lice also harbor tapeworm eggs.
The most common method of transmission is through ingestion of adult fleas, birds, rodents, rabbits or through scavenging.
Free-roaming pets with access to freshly killed wild or domestic animals are at increased risk of acquiring tapeworms, as are animals with heavy lice and/or flea infestations.
Pets with tapeworms often show no signs of discomfort. When symptoms do occur, they can include itchiness around the anus, licking of the anal and perianal area, butt scooting, weight loss without loss of appetite, increased appetite without weight gain, poor coat or skin condition, distended or painful abdomen, diarrhea, lethargy and irritability.
Rarely, a heavy infestation of adult tapeworms causes partial or complete intestinal blockage, which is a true medical emergency. These parasites can be difficult to diagnose, and sometimes the only noticeable symptom is what looks like grains of white rice (tapeworm segments) stuck to or crawling through the fur around a pet's rear end.


Whipworms are more common in dogs than cats, and pets can only be infected by ingesting whipworm eggs from soil or other substrates containing eggs. In the small intestine, larvae hatch from ingested eggs and burrow into the mucosal lining. From two to 10 days later, they move on to the cecum and grow into adult worms.
The eggs are not infectious when passed in feces. They need several weeks in soil to develop into infective larvae inside their shells. A dog or cat eats contaminated soil or objects in the soil and the cycle of infection begins.
Adult whipworms look like tiny pieces of thread, with one end enlarged. They are rarely seen in in feces. Many pets show no signs of illness with a whipworm infestation. Symptoms when they do occur can include bloody diarrhea, dehydration, weight loss, anemia and even death in severe cases.
Re-infection with whipworm from contaminated environments is a significant concern. The eggs are extremely resilient and resistant to most cleaning methods and even freezing temperatures. They can be dried out with strong agents like agricultural lime, but the preferred method is to replace contaminated soil with new soil or another substrate.
Regularly picking up poop from your yard and other areas your pet frequents will help reduce the risk of further contamination of soil.

Choose Targeted Treatment and Avoid Combination Dewormers

As with any illness in your dog or cat, the earlier an intestinal worm infestation is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. Many veterinarians include a stool check as part of the wellness exam. If yours doesn't, you can request it. It's important to note that tapeworms can be difficult to diagnose with routine stool sample tests, so be sure to keep an eye out for the appearance of "rice" either in your pet's poop or in the fur around his rear end.
It's very important that your veterinarian identifies the precise type of worm that has invaded your pet's intestinal tract. I recommend avoiding combination treatments that claim to kill and/or prevent a variety of worms and other internal parasites. They are typically prescribed for monthly use.
More is not better when it comes to drugs for your pet. If your dog or cat has whipworms, for example, treat the whipworms specifically, and only long enough to clear the infection. Some integrative veterinarians offer natural dewormers for certain kinds of intestinal worm infestations. I have tried them all and unfortunately, sometimes they work, and sometimes they don't.
For instance, food-grade diatomaceous earth kills tapeworm segments, but not the deeply embedded head, so you may think you've killed the entire worm, only to find out later that your pet is chronically infected, which can lead to chronic GI inflammation and dysbiosis.
It's fine to try natural deworming first, but making sure these resilient parasites are truly eliminated, regardless of what you use, is of utmost importance to avoid chronic, avoidable GI problems.

This pet-friendly article was brought to you by Dr. Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. For more pet care tips and to stay up to date with her latest recommendations, visit where you can also get your FREE Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets E-book today!

Friday, June 16, 2017

How To Clean & Remove Hair From Dog's Ears

When it comes to maintaining and cleaning dog's ears some breeds require a bit more effort than others. Generally dogs with "hair", as opposed to fur, require removal or "plucking" of hair from the ear canal prior to cleaning. "Plucking" ear hair in dog breeds like Poodles, Bichons, Lhasas, and Schnauzers is necessary because these breeds have hair that grows inside the ear. These ear hairs regularly need to be removed in order to provide for better ventilation of the ear canal, preventing wax buildup and ear infections.

Removing Ear Hair

The hair growing inside the vertical ear canal is dead and relatively easy to remove so "plucking" the hair is not painful. It is best to "pluck" before using ear cleaning solution. Just remember not to pinch the inside of the ear wall and to remove a little bit of hair at a time. Be careful not to insert Q-tips or tools beyond the end of the vertical ear canal. The ear drum sits at the end of the horizontal ear canal so it is protected and out of reach.

There are special tools to aid with removing hair from the ear canal.

How to "Pluck" Ear Hair:

1. Separate the hair that is outside the ear canal from the hair that's inside the ear canal.

2. Sprinkle ear powder inside the ear to coat the dead hair inside the vertical ear canal; this will absorb some of the waxy coating of the hair and make it easier to grab the hair.

3. Grab small sections of the dead hair between your fingers or with the hemostat and pull it out gently. Hair around the outside of the ear canal can be easily removed with your fingers. Hair growing into the vertical ear canal is best removed using a hemostat.

4. This is dead hair and should come out easily not causing any pain for the dog.

5. Continue to pluck the hair in small sections until the ear canal is clear of any hair.

6. Once hair is removed you can proceed to cleaning the ears.

Watch the video on how to pluck ears below.

Clean the Ears:

Breeds with fur, those who generally shed, include most short haired or double coated breeds. Shedding dogs do not usually require "plucking", so maintaining and cleaning the ear canal requires only a couple of steps.

When cleaning the ear you will need the following items:

• Cotton Balls

How to Clean the Ears:

1. Squirt a generous amount of ear cleaning solution into the dog's ear.

2. Massage the base of the ear from the outside, about where the vertical canal meets the horizontal canal, to distribute the cleaning solution in the ear canal to dissolve the wax. Give the solution a couple of minutes to work.

3. You can let the dog shake any excess ear cleaner out, if they are so inclined.

4. Use a cotton ball to help wipe and remove dissolved wax and be sure to wipe wax away from the inside folds in the ear.

Note! If you detect redness and/or odor when you begin "plucking" and cleaning this is a sign your dog may have an ear infection and you should consult your veterinarian.

By: Claudia Loomis

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Perilous to Your Pet's Wellbeing — Yet Widely Ignored by Their Humans

By Dr. Becker
Brushing your pet's teeth may not be high on your list of daily to-dos, but it takes only a few minutes and has the potential to drastically improve your pet's overall health. In fact, it's one of the most powerful ways to take a proactive role in keeping your pet healthy, and it also happens to be one of the simplest.
If this sounds incredulous to you, keep reading. Much to many pet owners' surprise, it's entirely possible to brush your pet's teeth — even your cat's — without a related wrestling match.
And while it's true that this hygiene step is best started when your pet is very young, it's possible to teach virtually any age pet to enjoy a daily brushing. Here's how.

How to Get Your Pet Used to the Idea of Brushing His Teeth

Ideally, start desensitizing your pet's mouth as soon as you bring your new baby bundle home. Young pets will be more receptive of you gently touching his mouth as a part of his daily routine.

If you start young, a daily brushing will be just another part of your pet's day (keep in mind that if your pet is in the midst of losing baby teeth, his mouth may be sore and you may need to take a break from brushing until his permanent teeth come in).

If you didn't start young, or you've adopted an older pet and want to start brushing, start slowly. Pick a time of day when the brushing will take place (such as right before bed) and stick with it. This will help establish a routine.
I recommend you incorporate face massage (and mouth desensitization) into regular massage/petting time. This will put your pet into a relaxed state of mind, rather than your pet being suspicious you're up to something by suddenly trying to manipulate her mouth.
After your pet is cool with having her head, ears and chin touched, move on to touch his muzzle, then his lips. Many pets really enjoy having their gums lightly massaged when they're relaxing. The key is not to force it, move at a pace that keeps your pet feeling comfortable and relaxed.
When you've mastered the gum massage, it's an easy transition to simply incorporate his teeth into the mix. Dipping your finger in bone broth is a trick that will make your pet much more receptive to you coming near his mouth.
DVM 360 offered another good trick that may make your pet actually look forward to teeth cleaning: dip a soft washcloth or piece of gauze into the broth and use it to gently rub your pet's teeth and massage his gums.1
The goal is to simply get your pet familiar with you rubbing his teeth and gums, and to learn that this isn't something to be afraid of.

Moving on to Enzymatic Tooth Solutions and Brushes

Eventually, I recommend using an enzymatic tooth solution designed for pets. Enzymatic gels help to break down the plaque and tartar that accumulates on the surface of teeth. Put a dab on your finger and very briefly massage it into your pet's back molars.
Next, try a dab on a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger. Once your pet is comfortable with you rubbing gauze on his teeth and gums, you can move on to using a finger brush and finally onto a pet toothbrush.
In the video above, I demonstrate how to brush a cat's teeth. Older pets really do benefit from a daily brushing, but if your pet is younger even brushing several times a week will be beneficial.

'But Dogs and Cats Don't Brush Their Teeth in the Wild'

This is a common comment from pet owners wondering why it's necessary to brush their pet's teeth. It's true that in the wild animals don't have toothbrushes, but they also eat a wild, aka fresh, raw and species-appropriate, diet.
This will help to keep their teeth healthy, to some extent, as chewing the bones helps to scrape away tartar and plaque on their teeth.
The cartilage, ligaments and tendons in the raw meat also act as a natural dental floss. This is one of the benefits of such a diet, and why I recommend you also feed your pet a diet that's as fresh and species-appropriate as possible.
That being said, animals in the wild still develop problems with their teeth and your pet, even if he is fed the best diet possible, may as well.
Brachycephalic (short-nosed) and toy breeds are often predisposed to dental problems because their teeth don't have normal alignment, and in the case of tiny dogs, there's often a crowding problem.
Pets with chronic health conditions and many cats are also predisposed to tartar accumulation on their teeth, even when consuming a fresh, ancestral diet.
You can absolutely reduce the rate of tartar buildup by offering a raw-food diet and all-natural, high-quality dental chew bones or raw bones, but some dogs will still suffer from serious tartar build up and inflamed gums regardless of what you feed or they chew.
I have had patients eating a raw, bone-based diet their whole lives develop dental disease by 2 years of age because of genetics (weak, porous enamel). And some animals can't be offered bony foods or recreational bones due to other health issues.
Watch my two-part "Do's and Dont's" video about how to choose the right dental chew for your dogs below.
The common sense approach is to look at your pet's teeth regularly and assist them in removing any debris accumulating on their teeth the minute you notice it. It's estimated that by the age of 2, 80 percent of dogs and 70 percent of cats have some form of periodontal disease.2 These stats are much lower for fresh-fed animals, but unfortunately you can't assume that an awesome diet will eliminate all dental disease.
Regular brushing can help to keep your pet's teeth clean and minimize dental issues, along with keeping the need for professional dental cleaning (under anesthesia) to a minimum.

Why Your Pet's Oral Health Is so Important

As in humans, your pet's oral health is tied to his overall health. Inflamed gums and diseased teeth are painful to your pet, but in addition they are dangerous to his well-being.
The bacteria in your pet's mouth can easily enter his bloodstream, leading to systemic illness, including heart disease and diabetes, both of which are linked to gum disease. Further, as noted by Dr. René Carlson, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA):
"Untreated periodontal infections often lead to more serious health problems because of chronic pain and infection, and subsequent stress on the immune system … These untreated conditions can then lead to heart valve disease, kidney disease and even diabetes and cancer, not to mention the significant discomfort associated with dental infections."
Signs of periodontal disease or other oral health problems in pets include:
Bad breath
Difficulty chewing
Mouth sensitivity
Pawing at the mouth
Red or bleeding gums
Loose teeth or lost teeth
Loss of appetite
Depressed or irritable mood
Even with regular brushing, it's important to schedule regular oral exams with your vet and professional cleanings under anesthesia as required. If you notice any of the signs above, however, you should take your pet in to be evaluated as soon as possible.
Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.

Friday, July 8, 2016

How to Care for Your Dog’s Painful Inflamed Skin Sores…

Dr. Karen Becker discusses the causes, treatment and prevention of a common health problem in dogs – hot spots. 

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Hot spots are also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis or superficial pyoderma. Those tongue-twisters are just scientific labels for inflamed, infected skin.

How Hot Spots Develop

Hot spots are created when your dog’s natural bacteria overpopulates parts of his skin. When an infection arises from a dog’s own bacteria, there is almost always a root cause. Hot spots often occur in dogs with underperforming immune systems.
Hot spots can come on very quickly. You might leave your perfectly healthy pup one morning to go to work, and by the time you return home that evening, she’s completely preoccupied with an area of skin that is irritated, inflamed and oozing. Hot spots can be very painful for your dog and quite sensitive to the touch.
Any dog can develop hot spots, but they’re much more common in dogs with thick coats, dirty and/or moist skin, and dogs with allergies, including fleas.
Let’s say your dog jumps into a pond of dirty water on a hot, humid summer day, then gets out and lays in the grass under a tree for a nap.
This activity has created a dirty, damp, warm, very hospitable environment for your dog’s natural skin bacteria to overgrow. It’s a set-up for a potential full body allergic reaction, including multiple hot spots, on your pet’s skin.
If your canine companion develops a hot spot, you’ll need to do two things:
  • Treat the wound
  • Identify the underlying cause

Treating Hot Spots

Hair removal. To treat the wound, the first thing you need to do is remove the hair on, in and around the affected area.
You may not want to do that, because, for example, you show your dog in the ring.
But if you don’t remove the hair, it will become trapped in the wound by the pus and you’ll have a much harder time healing the hot spot. In fact, hair in and around the affected area can create a perfect environment for the wound to get bigger and the infection to get worse.
I recommend you shave the area of the hot spot, and then mark the edges of the lesion with a Sharpie type pen so you can tell if the infection is expanding.
If the infection appears to be spreading, you know you’re not treating it effectively at home and you should get your pup to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Some hot spots can result in fever and serious underlying skin problems, so if you see the wound growing rather than improving after a couple of days, it’s time to seek veterinary care.
Disinfecting the wound. Once you’ve shaved the area and identified the margins, clip the hair back until you see healthy skin. Then you can begin gently disinfecting the wound with a solution that will remove bacteria.
I recommend using povidone-iodine, which is often sold by the brand name Betadine. It’s an organic iodine with has no side effects and does a good job controlling most skin bacteria. You can buy povidone-iodine at most pharmacies and some health food stores.
Dilute the solution with purified water until it’s the color of iced tea. Apply it to the wound using a soft wash cloth or gauze.
In the beginning – at least days one and two of the disinfecting routine – while there’s a lot of oozing from the wound, you’ll want to repeat the disinfecting procedure as often as necessary to keep the area clean, dry and pus free.
Your goal in managing your pup’s hot spot is to keep the area clean and dry at all times, so the first couple days you might need to disinfect the wound as often as every two hours.
Depending on the severity of the infection and the amount of pus the wound is producing, disinfecting two times a day should be an absolute minimum. Remember – a consistently clean and dry wound is critical to healing the infection.
Applying a topical solution. After you clean the wound you can apply a topical solution like colloidal silver, or raw aloe, or a thin layer of manuka honey, which is a raw honey made from the tea tree plant. You can also use a cool chamomile tea bag against the wound to provide a soothing effect.
Don’t use anything with stinging or astringent properties on an open, raw wound. Solutions like vinegar or tea tree oil, while anti-microbial, are really painful when applied to an open, raw wound, so I don’t recommend you use those types of aggressive solutions when you are treating an infected hot spot.
Repeat the disinfecting procedure and application of a light, natural topical soothing gel afterwards until the wound shrinks in size, the infection clears and your pet is no longer bothered by the hot spot.
Keeping your dog away from the wound. Insuring your pet leaves the hot spot alone is critical to healing. You’ll probably need to put an E collar on her (one of those lamp shade shaped collars that are so annoying to pets) to prevent her from licking and biting the affected skin.
If your pup continues to re-traumatize the wound, the infection won’t clear up and the hot spot will get bigger.
As an alternative to the E collar, you might be able to manage the wound by applying a light wrap or putting a t-shirt on your pet, as long as you are sure she is leaving the wound alone.

Finding the Root Cause of Your Pet’s Hot Spot

The second step in managing hot spots is to identify why they happen.
Allergic sensitivity. Allergies, both food and environmental, can cause hot spots. If you notice that each time your dog eats a bit of your wheat bread crust she gets a hot spot, there’s a very good chance she has a grain-based allergy. If that’s the case, you’ll want to evaluate the content of the food you feed your pet and make adjustments as necessary.
Environmental allergies can also cause hot spots.
Ragweed, grasses, pollens and molds are typical allergens, but it can also be polluted water or even toxic air that causes a secondary hot spot on your pet. You’ll need to evaluate not only your dog’s diet, but also her environment to search for sources of allergens that could be causing hot spots.

Besides food and environmental allergies, flea allergy dermatitis is also a major reason why animals get hot spots.
You might not even be able to see the fleas, but if your dog is sensitive, the bite of just one flea can cause a raging hot spot. Check your pet with a flea comb for fleas and flea dirt regularly.
Underlying painful conditions. If your dog has a painful spot on his body and he starts digging and chewing at the area, he can create a hot spot. For example, if you have an older dog that has never suffered from hot spots but suddenly starts bothering the skin over a hip joint, it could be a response to underlying pain.
If your pet has neuralgia or perhaps sciatica -- which is an irritated, tingling nerve pain similar to how your foot feels as it wakes up after falling asleep -- you might notice him chewing on an ankle or a toe.
This can bring on a secondary infection that your veterinarian may label a hot spot. In this case there’s no underlying allergic condition, but rather an underlying muscle, nerve or bone problem.
Emotional or mental causes. Sometimes there are underlying mental or emotional causes for your dog’s hot spots, such as obsessive compulsive disorder, separation anxiety, or even boredom.
These behavioral issues can cause licking and chewing which creates hot spots.
Behavioral causes of hot spots are unfortunately the hardest to successfully treat. If your pet is obsessive about licking certain parts of his body and it leads to open wounds, the problem can be very difficult to fix long term, even using behavior modification techniques.
Hopefully I’ve helped you today to identify the root cause of your dog’s hot spots, along with an effective plan for wound treatment.

This pet-friendly article was brought to you by Dr. Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. For more pet care tips and to stay up to date with her latest recommendations, visit where you can also get your FREE Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets E-book today!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

5 Ways Your Pet Could Start Your House on Fire

By Dr. Becker

July 15 is “National Pet Fire Safety Day,” a day devoted to helping reduce the estimated 500,000 pets impacted by home fires every year. Most pet owners (88 percent) consider their pets family members,1 which means they should definitely be included in your fire escape plan.
You don’t have a fire escape plan, you say? Make today the day you create one – it could literally save your life, and that of your pets.

A Pet-Friendly Fire Escape Plan

If fire is spreading rapidly through your home, you could have as little as two minutes to get out safely. This is where your previous fire safety drills will be life-saving, as you won’t have to think about what to do in the middle of a crisis, you’ll already have your plan in place.
Start by identifying two ways out of each room (such as a window and a door), and establish a meeting location outside where all family members should gather. The best way to protect your pets in the event you have to evacuate is to bring them with you. Keep a collar on your dog, and leashes and cat carriers in an easy-to-access spot near an exit point so you can grab them on your way out.
Pets will probably panic at the smell of smoke and sight of fire, so secure dogs on a leash and put your cat in a carrier if at all possible. Otherwise they may bolt once you get outdoors. Having a few “kennel slip leads” (those thin nylon leashes with a metal ring on the end that you double back through the nylon rope to create an easy-on, easy off collar and leash, in one) are invaluable in emergency situations.
You probably already know your pet’s favorite hiding spots, but if you don’t, make it a point to locate them now. If a fire starts, your pet will likely make a bee-line for her ‘safe’ spot as soon as she hears the alarm, so check there first.
If you have birds or other caged animals, decide ahead of time who will be in charge of taking them to your outdoor meeting spot – assuming you can safely do so, of course.
It might not always be possible for you to find or reach your pet before you evacuate. In this case, leave an outside door open and call your pet’s name. Hopefully he will hear your voice and make his way out to you. Be persistent and loud … and don’t give up. It may take time for your pet to work up the courage to come to your voice.

What if a Fire Starts When You’re Not Home?

Pets can’t let themselves out if a fire starts, which is why a bit of pre-planning can be life-saving if a fire starts when you’re away from home. You may even want to consider using a monitored smoke detection service, so firefighters can be called at the first sign of smoke (even if you’re not home).
When you’ll be leaving your pets home alone it’s a good idea to secure them in rooms near entrances. You can do this using your dog’s crate or with the use of gates to close off a certain room, for instance.
This will be more challenging with cats, but if your home allows you to close off a front room or section of the house to contain your cats while you’re away, it will be easier for firefighters to locate them in an emergency.
Another simple life-saving trick? Affix a pet alert window cling to a front window, in an easy-to-spot location. This decal includes the number of pets in your home so rescuers know who to look for when they enter your home. Firefighters are trained to look for these stickers, so be sure to keep it up to date if you add another pet to your family.

Pets Start 1,000 House Fires a Year

According to the National Fire Protection Association, pets cause more than 1,000 house fires every year,2 so aside from knowing how to keep your pets safe if a fire starts, it’s essential to pet-proof your home against potential fire hazards.
Pets accidentally start fires more often than you might think. The American Kennel Club (AKC) reported one such story of Chris and Kay Wardlow of Oklahoma:3
“Their curious dog Lucy was home alone and spied a cake on the stove top. As Lucy tried to get a taste, her paw accidentally hit the stove knob and turned on the gas burner that was under the cake pan.
Within minutes, the house was filled with smoke, triggering the Wardlow’s … monitored smoke detector. Firefighters were called to the scene, the house was saved and Lucy was rescued.”
To help prevent your pet from starting a fire, be sure to use these tips from the AKC:4
  • Extinguish open flames: Don’t leave pets unattended around any open flame – candles, cooking appliances, your fireplace, etc. And, of course, be sure to thoroughly extinguish open flames if you’re leaving your home.
  • Remove stove knobs: A stove or cook top is the most common piece of equipment involved when pets start fires. Removing the knobs (or protecting them with child- and pet-proof covers) when you leave home is the simplest way to protect against this.
  • Choose flameless candles: Candles are another common trigger of pet-caused fires, especially if you have cats (who can easily knock over a candle with their tail). A flameless candle gives you the ambience you’re after without an actual flame.
  • Avoid using glass water bowls on a wooden deck: If it’s hot outside, the sun‘s rays can heat up the bowl enough to actually ignite a wooden deck. A stainless steel or ceramic bowl for your pet’s drinking water won’t cause this problem.
  • Pet proof your home: Other potential fire hazards include electrical wires and power cords, which should be secured out of your pet’s reach.

Does Your Local Fire Department Have Pet Oxygen Masks?

Smoke inhalation is a major cause of death from house fires (for pets and people alike), which is why having access to oxygen can significantly increase your pet’s chances of survival after being rescued from a burning home. Fortunately, oxygen masks designed especially for pets are available and becoming more widespread at fire departments across the United States.
In the short video above, first responders in Texas demonstrate use of a pet oxygen mask, which can be lifesaving. They can be used both on conscious pets who are suffering from smoke inhalation and pets who have lost consciousness and need to be resuscitated.
How can you find out if your local fire department carries pet oxygen masks? The best way is to give them a call and ask. If they don’t and you’re interested in getting involved, ask them if they’re interested in carrying such kits and, if so, how many they would need and in what sizes.
Wag'N O2 Fur Life5 offers oxygen kits for pets that cost $75 each, with three different size masks that can be used on dogs, cats, ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds and more.
You can purchase kits for your local fire department that does not have the budget for the masks or has been unable to find a local sponsor to attain one. Alternatively, you can join a fellowship program online and receive donations from others to help provide the kits.
Either way, donating pet oxygen mask kits to your local fire and/or EMS department is an outstanding way for pet lovers to give back to their communities.

This pet-friendly article was brought to you by Dr. Karen Becker, Mercola Healthy Pets resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. For more pet care tips and to stay up to date with her latest recommendations, visit where you can also get your FREE Homemade Treats for Healthy Pets E-book today!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Must-Know Tips to Keep Your Pet's Ears Healthy

By: Dr. Karen Becker
Dr. Becker's Comments:
Taking care of your pet’s ears is easier than you might think. A few simple steps will help you prevent otitis externa, which is simply the medical term for inflammation of the outer ear.

There are two reasons for your pet’s ear canal problems: chronic inflammation and infection. Inflammation, if left untreated, often leads to infection.

How can you tell if your dog or cat has ear inflammation or infection?

If your pet has hot, red, swollen or itchy ears without a lot of discharge, he most likely has inflammation, whereas if those symptoms are present with significant discharge, he probably has an infection.


There are three main reasons for ear inflammation:
  1. Allergies
  2. Moisture
  3. Wax
The most common reason for inflammation is allergies. Allergic responses to foods or agents in the environment cause inflammation throughout your pet’s body—eye/nose/throat inflammation, skin inflammation, bowel inflammation--just about any body system can be affected, including ears.
Allergies are quite common in dogs and cats. If your pet has ear inflammation, it could be he’s allergic to something in his environment or his food. Dogs with this condition will sometimes run their heads along furniture trying to relieve these miserable symptoms, scratch their ears incessantly, or shake their heads more frequently If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms you should examine his ears for the telltale signs of redness and swelling.
The second reason for inflammation in your pet’s ear is moisture, also known as “swimmer’s ear.” This often occurs in the summer when dogs enjoy being outside, playing in lakes, ponds and pools where they get water in their ear canals. If your pet enjoys being in water, this additional source of moisture, in combination with his warm body temperature provides the perfect environment for inflammation and/or infection to develop, unless you take steps to dry out his ear canals.
Even dogs that don’t swim, but live in high humidity areas, are susceptible to these ear conditions, just from the ambient moisture in the air. Other less obvious sources of moisture in your dog’s ears are playing in the rain or snow.
Similarly, when dogs go to the groomer, they are susceptible to getting water in their ears at bath time. This is another common cause of ear inflammation.
The most important thing to remember in preventing ear moisture issues is to keep your pet’s ears dry, clean and free of debris. In fact, the third major reason for ear problems is the buildup of wax.
Wax is normal in mammalian ears, but dogs and cats have varying amounts of it, just as humans do. Some dogs need their ears cleaned of wax daily. Others never have a buildup. Certain breeds produce more wax than others, such as Labradors and retrievers who are, by nature, swimmers.
If you have one of these breeds, you should get your pet accustomed to having his ears cleaned early on--from the time he is a puppy. Some breeds, such as bulldogs, cocker spaniels and poodles, can also produce an abundance of wax that needs attention daily.
It is important to determine how often your pet needs his ears cleaned so you can prevent this waxy buildup, which could lead to inflammation or infection. The only way to know is through observation.

Kitties are not immune from wax buildup. You should regularly check your cat’s ears for inflammation, as well as wax buildup. Some cats have dry ear canals that never need cleaning, and others should be cleaned regularly.

Outer Ear Infection

There are two types of organisms that infect the outer, or external ear: bacteria and fungi.
The primary fungal culprit is yeast. Yeast are opportunistic pathogens, meaning they are present on the bodies of humans, dogs and cats all the time. It is only when the animal’s health is out of check that the yeast overgrows, causing an infection. So, if the immune system is functioning properly, yeast is not ordinarily a problem.
If your dog is having chronic yeast infections, he probably has an overly warm, moist ear environment that you need to remedy. If you have been keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry and he still has chronic yeast infections, or an infection that just won’t go away, you need to look for an underlying immunological reason this is happening.
He could have an endocrine (glandular) problem, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, or even some sort of immunosuppressive problem.
The most common cause of ear problems in dogs is bacterial infections. Veterinarians classify bacteria into 2 groups: pathogenic and nonpathogenic.
  1. Pathogenic bacteria are not normal inhabitants of your pet’s body. They are bacteria your dog could catch from, say, contaminated pond water. That is, they are not normally present on the animal. The dog goes splashing through a pond, water splashes into his ear, and then an infection results.
  2. Nonpathogenic bacteria are the dog’s normal bacteria (typically staph species) that start to take over the ear canal, growing out of control. Dogs have a normal, healthy layer of good bacteria all over their bodies, which prevent pathogenic bacteria from taking hold, just as you and I are covered with normally helpful bacteria that can cause an infection if our immune system becomes compromised.
How do you know which type of bacterial infection your pet has?
You don’t. The only way to find out is with an ear culture.
An ear culture is a lab test where your veterinarian swabs your pet’s ear and sends the sample in to a lab, which actually determines what organism is growing in there and what medication will treat it.
If your pet has a one-time ear infection and your vet treats it with a medication without culturing, and it gets better, that is fine. But if it comes back, or if the infection becomes chronic, then you really need to insist on an ear culture.
It is very important to finish the medication, even if your pet seems better. Failing to finish the full medication regimen can lead to regrowth of resistant organisms, a much more serious problem.
Any time your pet is being treated for an infection, it is important to properly clean the ears and remove all sticky debris so the medication can reach the infected tissue. Ointment that builds up in the ear canal is nothing more than warm, sticky “goo” for the infection to grow in.

Ear Cleaning 101

I am not a big fan of using alcohol to clean the ears because it can cause burning and irritation to already inflamed tissues. However, there are many easy to obtain preparations that are appropriate.
My favorite cleaning agents are:
  • Witch hazel
  • Organic apple cider vinegar and purified water, mixed equal parts
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Green tea infusion (using tea that has been cooled, of course)
  • Tea tree oil greatly diluted in purified water (but NOT for kitties)
You can use a cotton swab to clean the outside ear area, but never use them inside the ear canal. Use cotton balls instead, since they cannot be inserted too far into the ear. Cotton swabs can damage to your pets eardrums, whereas cotton balls don’t.
If you’ve never cleaned your pets ears before, ask your vet for a quick “how to” lesson next time you’re in for a visit. If your pet has recurrent infections or significant inflammation (if the ears are very painful when touched) it’s important your vet examines the canal before you begin a cleaning regimen. Some dogs may have ruptured ear drums, and special cleaners and medications are required for these pets.
The best way to clean the ear canal is to saturate the cotton ball with your cleaning solution and repeatedly swab out the inside of the ear, until you see no residue on the cotton ball. This may take one swipe or dozens—it completely depends on how much buildup is present in your pet’s ears. You might need to do this daily, weekly, monthly, or maybe even never, if you’re lucky.
Alternately, you can use a small squirt bottle to flush the animal’s ear, then use a cotton ball to wick out the solution. The problem with this method is, usually it causes the animal to shake his head, flinging the solution all over you, your clothing and your bathroom wall. So make sure you are not attempting this while dressed in your favorite duds.
As you can see, taking care of your pet’s ears isn’t as difficult as you might have thought! Just a few simple steps to keep his ears clean and dry will go far in preventing many of the outer ear conditions that most commonly afflict our precious companions.
Dr. Becker is the resident proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian of You can learn holistic ways of preventing illness in your pets by subscribing to, an online resource for animal lovers. For more pet care tips, subscribe for FREE to Mercola Healthy Pet Newsletter.