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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bad mouth or breath odor in pets should be taken seriously


Changes in a pet's behavior, appearance, weight and willingness to eat are very clear signs that something is up. But that's not the only thing that's an indicator. The way that they smell—and my focus here, the way that their mouth or breath smells—can be an equally important signal that there's a problem.

It's important to remember that aside from the occasional bout of halitosis or after eating something especially smelly, like tuna, what comes out of your pet's mouth shouldn't smell offensive. If the odor is foul or smells sweet, a visit with the vet for an exam is most definitely in order. 

The most common culprits

Periodontal disease is the most common source of stinky breath in pets—and it's preventable. Regular brushing at home is helpful. So is ensuring that pets have professional dental exams, cleanings and any treatment (performed under anesthesia) performed by a veterinarian or even a Board Certified Veterinary Dentist, is a protocol that you might hear referred to as Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). This can safely and effectively take care of dental issues, some of which unfortunately can lead to poor organ health.

Though not as common, something as simple as a foreign object stuck in the gum or in between teeth can harbor bacteria and cause a problem, leading to mouth odor. An injury to the mouth, or tissue around the mouth that's diseased can result in odorous breath as well, and that needs attention by a vet. 


Organ dysfunction and illnesses are a possibility 

Breath that smells like ammonia is a sign of compromised kidney (renal) function. One of the breakdown products that the kidneys typically work to filter into the urine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), instead builds up in mammals with kidney dysfunction. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of urea, then finds its way into saliva, which is how the smell is detected on the breath of pets with renal insufficiency. 

Sweet-smelling odors in the breath of pets is associated with diabetes mellitus. With diabetes, glucose can't be broken down efficiently so that it can be used to fuel the body, so ketone bodies are produced and build up in the blood. The body tries to expel excess ketones—which emit a fruity odor or that of nail-polish remover—through respiration, and thus, are detected in the breath. 

Gastrointestinal disease, though a lesser-seen culprit behind stinky breath in pets, can be a contributor.

Other causes can be behind your pet's mouth odor, but there's no question that it's a sign of something that needs addressing. The most sound advice that I can offer is to skip the products on the market designed to take care of problem and instead, make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian. 


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

Throwing shade on those without pets is a haughty endeavor

I don't pass judgment on those who decide to forgo a life intimately shared with pets day-to-day. It's not for everyone. Having pets demands a mindset and resources that one might not be able to tap in to now or ever. 

There's a level of commitment, understanding, patience, time and thinking ahead that must be summoned. And it compels resources outside of that: the financial means to support a pet, an ability to provide a stable home, reasonable access to options when decision-making needs to be employed. Also necessary is a willingness to set aside one's own needs so that an animal friend can be put first, both in the minutiae of daily life and when big things happen. Not everyone can handle this.

But still, people with pets persist in their judgments of people who choose to live life without them. So, I'm going to do my best here to shift the direction of the sun so that the proverbial shade is casted more thoughtfully.  

Consider that there might be more than meets the eye when it comes to a family of any composition that makes the decision to be pet-free. 

I say, 'Hats off!' to those who forgo the notion of sharing their lives with pets. They most often understand what an undertaking it is. They don't live under the pretense of 'I'll figure it out', knowing deep down that it's likely they won't, and put the companion animal or their familial relationships at a disadvantage. Yes, that's very much 'pro-pet'.



Yes, even though these people could provide a physically 'safe' place, the humans—for work or other commitments—would never be home nearly enough to provide adequate time or enrichment that is so very much needed for any companion animal's well-being, or maybe they really don't have the financial means. This, while their outwardly pet-loving counterparts who are all-too-willing to hit up others for a donation to provide the utmost tops in veterinary treatment because their own resources are stretched too thinly with their multiple-pet household; the more, the merrier! they're known to exclaim.

I often think of the folks who murmur to me in those familiarly hushed tones, 'I just couldn't do it again': the thought of facing the grief of the eventuality of losing a pet. Yes, including those, who are the product of a different generation or attitude and bear the emotional scars of pet loss when euthanasia, as we are aware, was handled with much less care and mindfulness than it typically is today. Perhaps someone has their hands full with supporting themselves and loved ones emotionally and the idea of being responsible for another living thing is not even close to being on the table. I find that sometimes, cultural norms can be behind the practice of not keeping pets.

One thing that I know is that a rough exterior of, I'm just not as in to animals as you are often reveals itself. It's quick. It offers no opportunity for questions, and for cut-to-the-bone reasons. It's safe. It can be complicated. But an unfortunate, knee-jerk response from the other side is to take it at face value, and then some.

It's unfair to toss around judgments about people simply because they've made a life choice to be without pets, and worse yet, to rub it in. I've met people from all walks of life who really do love pets and would like it if their lives were different, but because of the barriers that they face or that they have the sense to impose upon themselves, they find themselves being unfairly begrudged or even shamed at least a little by those who make the decision to welcome a pet into the family. The snide comments, the social media posts, the transparent attitudes of 'Oh, they don't like pets!'

As an aside, I have to admit that find it unfortunate to be witness to the, "If they don't like dogs [or cats or whatever], I don't like them" idea. I'm very enthusiastic about traveling, but wouldn't it be silly to not like people who might not be as keen on it? Of course it would. 

There's no shame in having a pet-free lifestyle. The truth is, we often have no idea what's behind one's decision, and no matter the reasoning, all I can say is that it's good enough for me. And to be honest, I'm not concerned with that decision. So, let's stop and think before assuming or wisecracking. Those who don't have pets for whatever reason, or don't feel comfortable with them are equally as wonderful and thoughtful as those that do—and I find, sometimes more so. In that way, it doesn't seem too far fetched that pet guardians could learn a thing or two from their pet-free counterparts.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Friday, March 3, 2017

Increase your lost pet's chances of getting home safely with up-to-date microchip information and other easy tips

A few weeks ago, I had commented in a post that there was something that I'll do differently with the next animal members of my tribe— I'll invest in pet health insurance—but that's not the only thing. 

I'd have any pets in my future microchipped from the start.

Having had hospiced both members of my companion animal tribe within the last year and half, I'm mindfully taking my time before welcoming another. I have to say that when my pets joined the family, the first of which was nearly 20 years ago, things were different. These days, we have more tools and knowledge to advocate for pets, and to keep them happy and safe. And an easy part of that is microchipping

The fact is, pets can't speak for themselves if they're separated from their guardian, but a microchip can—and volumes so. The chip, as they are referred to, contains the registered owner's contact information. Though not tracking devices (like global positioning devices, or GPS), microchips do use radio-frequency identification (RFID) and once implanted, they last the pet's lifetime. The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is easy to implant (click here to see a demonstration) and for the pet, feels much like getting a vaccination. It's also affordable, less than $50. 

It seems important to note that: 

  • roughly 22 percent of dogs who enter animal shelters and are not microchipped end up back home with their families. That, compared to 52 percent who are microchipped.

  • just under 40 percent of microchipped cats that enter an animal shelter are reunited with their owners, while a staggering less-than-2 percent of cats that are without a chip make it home.

As someone who is out and about quite a bit with my work, I encounter a lot of dogs who are lost. I'm always pretty thrilled when I see that the pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag bearing the guardian's name, address and phone number, because it's easy to facilitate a reunion. But if they aren't wearing one, I hope that they're microchipped. When they're not—or if the contact information isn't valid, something I'll talk more about in a minute—that complicates things, as you can imagine. 

One of the things I always remind pet owners when I meet them for the first time and especially if they are new to the area, is to ensure that their contact info is up-to-date now that they've settled into their new digs. I'll get in touch with existing clients through the year—usually a couple of weeks before their booked service begins—and ask them to check that the information on the pet's chip is current. Doing so is easy and only takes a couple of minutes. By logging on to the registry of the company that a pet's chip is enrolled with and entering in the individual microchip number, one can verify that everything is up to date. If it isn't, that can be fixed that on the site, or by calling the company directly. Alternately, the chip number can be entered on the American Animal Hospital Association's Universal Microchip Lookup site (click here).

Having current contact info is also important for a pet's identification tags. If the ID tags need updating or are worn, it's time to create some new ones. One might even consider a snazzy new collar that has a telephone number directly on it. Don't forget the power of images: with smartphone cameras, it's easy to capture photos of pets and because they are digital, they can be updated often. I take a lot of photos of my charges from different angles, and in varying situations, paying close attention to any unique markings.

For dogs under my care (especially if their humans are traveling abroad or are on a cruise), I attach a tag embossed with my name and contact information to their collar. If a dog gets separated from me outdoors, it will be easy for a human to contact me immediately once they are found, and I can verify that they belong with me. 


If you live in Michigan and have lost a pet, use the power of the internet and social media. Create a post on For the Love of Louie--Michigan Lost Pet Lookers' Facebook page and contact your local shelter or humane society (Humane Society of Huron Valley has a lost/found page) to submit a report.

There are plenty of easy measures to ensure that pets makes it home safe and sound if they are lost, but as always, it starts with their guardians.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.




Thursday, February 23, 2017

New product may enhance your efforts in using positive reinforcement training with your cat


I'm always on the lookout for interesting ideas to help create a better life for companion animals. 

While I was in a local pet store picking up a couple of things this week, I stumbled on one new product—Inaba Ciao Churu treat paste—and I think it would be a terrific tool to accentuate your efforts in training your cat using positive reinforcement. 

Also, I touch on another possible use for this product, which is available locally at stores like Huron Pet Supply and Dexter Mill (where, as I understand, it got the stamp of approval from the mill cat, Leo!) as well as why you might want to seek out free samples found in better pet stores.




Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Second pet food company issues recall over potential pentobarbital contamination

On the heels of a nationwide recall of dog food by one company over concerns of pentobarbital contamination, yet another has issued one for the same reason. On February 14, a recall of a single lot of canned dog food product manufactured by Against The Grain was listed on the Food and Drug Administration's website. 

The product, Against the Grain Pulled Beef with Gravy Dinner for Dogs, was manufactured in 2015, and sold in 12 oz. cans. The packaging bears a lot number of 2415E01ATB12, and the second half of the UPC code is 80001—the latter of which can be found on the back of the product label. The food was distributed to independent retail outlets in two states, Washington and Maryland, and has an expiration date of December 2019.  

No other pet foods in the Against The Grain product lines are thought to be affected, and no illnesses or deaths have been reported at this time. 

If ingested by pets, pentobarbital can cause dizziness, drowsiness, loss of balance, nausea, excitement and in some cases, death

The company is urging consumers to return any can of food with the lot number listed above to their point of purchase. Customers may contact the company with any inquires at 1-800-288-6796  between 11:00AM – 4:00PM (CST), Monday-Friday. Click here for the company's statement. 


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Evanger's launches voluntary recall of one pet food product due to potential pentobarbital contamination

Illinois-based Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company is voluntarily recalling specific lots of one of its products as it may be contaminated with pentobarbital. 

If ingested by pets, pentobarbital can cause dizziness, drowsiness, loss of balance, nausea and in some cases, excitement. Death can result in some cases. Evanger’s indicated on their website that a few weeks ago, 5 dogs had taken ill after consuming the product matching one of the lot numbers. 

Though the substance was found in only one lot of Hunk of Beef Au Jus (12 ounce cans), the company made the decision to recall additional lots of the product—5 in all—that were produced the same week. Evanger’s uses suppliers that are USDA approved. A few weeks ago, after learning of the illness of the 5 pets and subsequent death of one of them, an investigation was launched by the pet food company. It was first thought that a toxin or bacteria might be the culprit, but on January 29, they learned the cause. But how pentobarbital, a barbiturate, made its way into the manufacturer’s supply was something that Evanger’s wanted to know.  

Quoting from a statement about the matter on the company’s website (which you can read in its entirety by clicking here):


Something like this seemed impossible.  We were unaware of the problem of pentobarbital in the pet food industry because it is most pervasive in dry foods that source most of their ingredients from rendering plants, unlike Evanger’s, which mainly manufactures canned foods that would not have any rendered materials in its supply chain.  All of our raw materials are sourced from USDA-inspected facilities, and many of them are suppliers with whom we have had long-standing relationships.


In our investigation, we spoke with many suppliers to learn how it could even be possible that an animal that had been euthanized could ever possibly end up in the animal food stream.  What we learned was that pentobarbital is very highly controlled, and that, if an animal is euthanized, it is done so by a veterinarian.  Once this process has been done, there is absolutely no regulation that requires the certified Vet to place any kind of marker on the animal indicating that it has been euthanized and guaranteeing that product from euthanized animals cannot enter the food chain. This is a simple task, and goes a very long way to ensure safety in many areas.



The following lot numbers are included in the recall: 1816E03HB, 1816E04HB, 1816E06HB, 1816E07HB, and 1816E13HB. The cans also bear a expiration date of June 2020 and a barcode, 20109, which is found on the back of the product label. Manufactured the week of June 6 – June 13, 2016, the pet food was distributed to retailers and sold online in the following states: Washington, California, Minnesota, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.

The company is asking consumers to return any unused product to the point of purchase for a full refund, and to call 847-537-0102 between 10:00 AM-5:00 PM (CST), Mon-Fri with any questions. 

Click here to read the company statement on the Food and Drug Administration’s website.


Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.



Thursday, February 2, 2017

Staying focused on your dog -- not your smartphone -- and using the right equipment on walks can help avert tragedy

I run up against a lot of carelessness in my day-to-day adventures with dogs. That has nothing to do with the dogs themselves, mind you. It’s always the humans: the unnecessary distractions on the biped’s part (usually because of mobile phones, and more on that in a minute), people who insist on interacting with my charges, dogs off-leash, the ‘my dog is friendly!’ folks and most of all, the guardians that insist on using retractable leashes. Yes, that last one, oh, so annoying. And dangerous.


I’ve written about retractables in the past; while they seem like the perfect solution when walking a dog, the dangers are numerous and aren’t limited to the dog.


Admittedly, I use them in some situations, but they are extremely rare. When my dog, Bruiser had been diagnosed with cancer, his sleep and potty schedule was off kilter. I found a retractable (one with an LED flashlight attached!) quite useful so that he could have some autonomy to go potty at any hour of the day/night, while I could remain sleepily barefoot on the deck. I work with a lot of families whose pets are in hospice, and I recommend a retractable for this reason to help make their lives a little more manageable. Retractables are often used when a pet is recovering from TPLO or other surgery and need to be kept from exceeding their prescribed activity level while in their yard, while still indulging their need to walk around unencumbered.


I’m no stranger to expressing exasperation with many pet products, and this week has been no exception, I’m afraid.


Browsing Facebook, I noticed that there’s a new “leash” slated to hit the market. Not only is it retractable, so it can give your dog more physical space (in theory, a great idea), but it aims to help address some vexing issues, one of which the fact that humans are too distracted by their mobile phones to pay attention to their dog while they’re in a public place. No, seriously -- that’s what the company’s founder said in a video, seen by clicking here. I'll assert how horrified I was with the seemingly comedic lightness of the caricatured scenarios with dogs (off camera) making an abrupt and unwanted approach with another dog, getting hit by a car and 'scaring' a child. None of these situations are funny.


“Bad things can happen in the blink of an eye, and let’s face it: with smartphones, the distractions can be ridiculous.”


You don’t say!

(All of this is disappointing, as I am otherwise an ardent fan of the company's flagship product.)


I have more mindful solutions -- things I employ on a daily basis -- that can save you a few dollars and more importantly, a tragedy.


  • Use some self-control and turn your mobile phone off when you’re out and about your dog and pay attention to them.


  • Skip the retractable and opt for a 25-foot + dog lead. These trusty products don’t get enough press nor praise. You can keep the lead gathered up securely as you need (yes, you’ll need your full attention on things and both hands free) or allow your pet to roam more freely while still being safely tethered to you.

You’ll thank me one day, but in the meantime, your dog will stay safe and happy and likewise, everyone else will, too. Watch a long lead in action below.




Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.