How to Get a Handle on Dog Shedding

I have two dogs that are both heavy shedders.  In the summer months, keeping the shedding in check can be quite the task.  Most dogs shed and often more heavily when the weather starts to get warmer.

My Siberian Husky, Jake, sheds a lot.  In the summer, he will “blow” his coat and hair is everywhere.  It seemed like no matter how much I brushed him or how much I vacuumed, there was still hair everywhere.  Then, I discovered the Furminator dog brush.  This brush is wonderful!  I am able get so much more loose hair off of him than I have with any other brush.


Grooming your dog can be a pleasant experience for both you and your dog.  Jake loves to be brushed with the Furminator.  It takes a lot less time and gets a lot more hair than with other brushes.  Huskys have an undercoat that sheds in the summer and the hair is soft and there is a lot of it.  Sometimes the hair will shed in patches around the dog’s body.  This brush is great at getting the loose undercoat out.


Be sure not to press to hard while brushing.  The Furminator has a great grip and the model I used was for a large dog and with an eject button.  There is a button on top that will push the hair off the end of the brush for easier clean up.  Love it!

Canine Nutrition

Canine nutrition is an important part of your dogs overall health and well-being.  Canines, like humans, are omnivores meaning they can get the nutrition they need from both meats and plants.

Dogs require six basic nutrients.  Water, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins.  The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides guidelines for commercial dog food.

I recommended that you buy the highest quality dog food you can afford.  Select a dog food that contains real ingredients that you recognize.  A low calorie food of about 350 calories per cup is advised.

My Husky had issues with loose stool.  The vet thought it could be a food sensitivity so I started my search to find him a better dog food.   When I started out,  I had no real clue about the differences between dog foods.  I thought they were all pretty much the same,  just paying for the brand name.  Now, I read the labels.  The dog food I had been feeding my Collie and Husky was not very high quality at all.  In fact it contained A LOT of corn ingredients.  Some dogs have a corn sensitivity or allergy to corn.  A low quality dog food can also affect your dogs coat, skin, and energy.   I was determined to find a quality dog food that contained quality ingredients but didn’t break the bank.  Below is a picture of the ingredients of the food I currently feed my dogs and also one of the food that I used to feed them.   The differences are quite surprising.  The food I feed them now contains no corn, wheat, or soy.  This is not the highest quality food on the market but for ingredients versus price, it was the best option for my family and it has really helped Jake’s stomach and they love it!

These are the ingredients in the dog food I currently feed my dogs
Ingredients in the Dog Food I Currently Feed My Dogs


These are the ingredients in the dog food I used to feed my dogs.
These are the ingredients in the dog food I used to feed my dogs.

Many times the culprit in a food allergy is the protein source.  Diagnosing a food allergy is usually done by feeding an elimination diet and introducing a novel protein to your dog.  A novel protein is one that your dog hasn’t eaten before and isn’t in your dog food currently.  Some examples of a novel protein are ostrich, beaver, quail, pheasant, rabbit, venison, bison, goat, duck, elk, alligator, and kangaroo.  Lamb used to be considered a novel protein but has been increasing added to many dog foods.  Please talk to your vet before beginning an elimination diet to be sure this is in your dog’s best interest.

Some experts are now recommending rotating your dog’s food.  Some research suggests that limiting your dog’s exposure to other foods can actually increase the risk of your dog developing a food allergy or sensitivity.  Let us know what you think by posting a comment below.

What Shouldn’t You Feed Your Dog?

So we’ve gone over what you should feed you dog but what foods should you avoid or could even be harmful?  I’ve compiled a list below of some foods to avoid and why they can be harmful to your dog.  Please keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive but rather some guidelines to follow.  Please talk to your vet about any questions or concerns you might have about what you should feed your dog.

1) Raw egg whites.  Raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin which combines with the vitamin biotin in the body and interferes with the vitamin’s absorption by the body.  Cooking egg whites deactives the avidin.

2) Xylitol.  Xylitol is a sweetener often found in sugar-free gums and candies.  Xylitol toxicity can occur with as few as three pieces of gum sweetened with xylitol and can be fatal to a 20 pound dog.

3) Avocados.  Avocados contain persin which can cause stomach upset in dogs but the larger threat for dogs is the potential for esophageal, stomach, or intestinal obstruction by the large avocado seed if swallowed.

4) Chocolate.  The darker the chocolate is the more dangerous.  Unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest concentration of the chemical methylxanthine theobromine which is toxic to dogs.

5) Grapes and raisins.  They contain an unknown toxin that can cause kidney failure in dogs.  Even a few grapes or raisins are enough to cause significant kidney damage.

6) Macadamia nuts.  Can cause vomiting, tremors, and depression.  In some cases, a handful of the nuts have been known to cause temporary weakness in a dog’s hind legs.

7) Onions.  Can irritate the stomach and can cause severe amenia.

If you think your dog may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, you can contact ASPCA Animal Poison Control at 1-888-426-4435.  There is a fee associated with this call of $65.  The Pet Poison Helpline is also available by calling 1-855-764-7661.  This service charges $49 per incidence.

Dog Food Recalls

Recently there have been recalls on dog food due to contamination.  One of the largest in recent history was the Melamine Pet Food Recall of 2007.  It was discovered that some of the vegetable proteins imported from China used in the production of some dog foods were contaminated with melamine.

For a current list of pet foods that are being recalled please visit click here.

Your Dog’s Nose

"Dogs nose". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -
“Dogs nose”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

A dog’s nose is much more sensitive than a humans, by far.  In fact their sense of smell is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times more sensitive than our own.  They can differentiate some odors to the degree of parts per trillion.  How is it that they can smell so much better than we can?  One reason is they have approximately 300 million olfactory receptors in their nose compared to about the 6 million humans have.  Dogs also have a secondary olfactory system called the vomeronasal organ or Jacobson’s organ.  This organ is specifically designed to detect pheromones emitted by the opposite sex, a capability that our own human noses do not possess.

Since a dog’s nose is so extremely sensitive, this trait has helped humans in many invaluable and lifesaving ways.  Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is trained to provide a service or do work for a person with a disability.  A diabetes-smelling service dog can be trained to detect drops in blood sugar levels and will alert people to a potential medical crisis.  Check out the link below from a story in the Washington Post about Jedi, the diabetes-sniffing dog, who saved the life of a 7-year-old whose blood sugar dropped dangerously low.

Other canine careers include police dogs that can help sniff out drugs or explosives, search and rescue dogs that help find missing people in disaster areas, and dogs that smell cancer in people.  Truly man’s best friend!


How to Pick the Right Dog

There are many factors involved in choosing the right dog. I recommend starting with a list of the characteristics you are looking for in a dog like size, gender, temperament, etc. and also a list of your needs such as lifestyle (do you live in an apartment or do you have an open yard for your dog to run in?)

There are some factors to consider:
Temperament – Are you looking for a dog that is energetic or laid back? Maybe you want a family dog or maybe a lapdog is more your speed.  Do you want a dog that needs a lot of attention or one that can be left alone during the day?  Temperament testing can be done to help determine how the dog will react in certain situations.  One organization that provides temperament testing is the American Temperament Testing Society, Inc.

Grooming – Dogs have coats of many different types. Some dogs shed all year round, some shed in clumps for a few weeks, and others hardly shed at all.  Some breeds required more extensive maintenance than others.  Some dogs are even considered hypo-allergenic.  Statistics show that up to 10% of the U.S. population is allergic to dogs. Hypo-allergenic dogs have a non-shedding coat which produces less dander.

Size – Take a look at your living situation. Do you live in an apartment with little opportunity for your dog to run around? Or maybe you have a large yard for your dog to run in. Do you have enough space to meet your dog’s needs? A larger dog requires more food and space than a smaller dog does.

Training: Do you have sufficient time to housebreak your dog if it is a puppy? Is training your dog to sit, stay, and shake important to you? Some of the more easily trained breeds include:
Border Collie
German Shepherd
Golden Retriever
Labrador Retriever

There are some helpful links to help you decide which dog is right for you.

How to Get Rid of Fleas For Good!

Puppy ScratchingIt’s that time of year again.  The weather is getting warmer, spring is in the air, and flea season is about in full swing.  No one wants fleas but by time you see one, chances are you are in the midst of an infestation.  Before you know what happened, your dog is scratching and the fleas are biting.   Fleas are remarkably resilient and it takes a good plan to eliminate them once and for all.  The first step in getting rid of a flea infestation is understanding the flea life cycle.

Flea life cycle

If your dog has ever had fleas then you know how hard they are get rid of.  When the fleas are in their egg, larvae, and pupae stages, almost all traditional flea treatments like powders and shampoos will not work for the long haul.  These products might kill a majority of the adult fleas but probably not the other life cycles.  This is because of the incredibly resistant shell that protects the flea as it matures.  Even if you kill all of the adult fleas, if there are fleas in other life stages remaining either on your dog or in the environment, then they almost certainly will be back.

Now it’s time to attack these parasites with the big guns.  The key is timing.  All of the steps must be done sequentially in order to assure victory.  All of the steps must be done in a 2-day time period.

First, give your dog a bath.  Don’t use a flea shampoo.  In my experience, they are ineffective and bad for your dog’s coat and skin.  I use a mixture of dish soap and vinegar for this bath.  The goal here is to kill as many adult fleas as we can.  Adult fleas drown in water easily.  They are crafty little creatures and when they sense water they immediately start moving toward your dog’s head in order to try and stay out of the water.  Start the bath around your dog’s neck to try and keep as many fleas from getting to his head as possible.

After the bath, it’s time to administer Capstar.  Capstar (nitenpyram) is an orally administered medication that kills virtually all adult fleas on your dog and begins working within 30 minutes.  Capstar is administered by weight so make sure you know now much your dog weighs.  Do not give Capstar to a dog under 2 pounds or under 4 weeks of age.  I normally tuck the pill in a piece of bread and my dogs chomp it up like it’s the best thing ever …. easy peasy!

The next day, after your dog’s coat is completely dry, it’s time to apply a topical flea treatment.  The two most popular options are Frontline Plus and K9 Advantix II.  These two treatments use different ingredients but both contain an Insect Growth Regulator (IGR).  Using a product that contains an IGR is absolutely critical for complete flea eradication because any eggs that would hatch are exposed to this compound which prevents the flea from maturing into a reproductive adult.

Frontline Plus uses two different ingredients.  The first is fipronil which kills adult fleas and the second is (S)-methoprene which attacks flea eggs and larvae.  The product is stored in your dog’s oil glands to provide protection for 30 days.  Frontline Plus is administered by weight and is sold in four different sizes for dogs 0-22 pounds, 23-44 pounds, 45-88 pounds, and 89-132 pounds.

K9 Advantix II uses imidacloprid, permethrin, and pyriproxyfen together to repel and kill insects.  K9 Advantix II also has the added benefit of repelling and killing mosquitoes as well as repelling biting flies.  K9 Advantix II is administered by weight and is sold in four different sizes for dogs 0-10 pounds, 11-20 pounds, 21-55 pounds, and 56 pounds and over.  K9 Advantix II is not for use on cats.

Make sure you read the product instructions and follow them carefully.  The medication must reach your dog’s skin to be effective.  If your dog is particularly wiggly, you may need help to apply the product; one person to hold the dog and one to apply the product.

About 5% of all fleas are on your dog with the remaining 95% in the environment.  While in the larvae stage, fleas seek out dark areas like cracks and crevices in search of food.  So get out your vacuum and vacuum EVERYWHERE!  Concentrate your efforts along floorboards and cracks and cervices making sure to get behind and under furniture.  Ideally, use a bagged vacuum and dispose of the bag immediately after use.  Beware that the vibrations from your vacuum can cause any eggs that didn’t get vacuumed up to hatch.  If possible, use an insect spray on the carpeted areas immediately after vacuuming and then repeat the vacuuming process again in 3 to 7 days.  Depending on the level of infestation, you may need to repeat this process a few times.  If you can, keep all animals and people out of the area.


Now it’s all about prevention to keep the fleas away for good.  Both Frontline Plus and K9 Advantix II are effective for 30 days and then they must be reapplied, especially in the warmer months.  Fleas don’t actually die in the winter.  Their numbers may be fewer and it may even look like they are gone but most likely they aren’t.  Conditions must be optimal for a flea egg to hatch which include temperatures of about 65-80 degrees Fahrenheit and humidity of about 75-85 percent and the presence of a host animal.  Fleas can actually sense the carbon dioxide exhaled from your dog and vibrations which can trigger them to hatch.  Fleas can stay in the pupae stage for over a year waiting for the conditions to be just right.

Congratulations! You got rid of your dog’s fleas …. for good!

Welcome to Tails from the Ruff!

We at Tails from the Ruff are so glad you are here!  This blog was started to discuss all things dog, from topics like food and nutrition to issues like animal abuse and rescues.  We LOVE dogs, all dogs!  Dogs are our best friends and some of the most loyal and hardworking animals on the planet.  We strive to celebrate their differences and learn from the experiences of others.