Every month, our favorite 4th year veterinary student, Jennifer Sawyer, answers our community's Top 5 questions.
**Please note: Veterinary advice online is merely a starting point for information. Dogs, like humans, are complex in behaviors and temperaments, please seek further advice from your veterinarian.
1. I adopted a rescue with a very sensitive stomach. Every type of kibble that I’ve tried either gives her diarrhea or makes her throw up. What should I do? ~ Jillian and Maxine
I’m sorry to hear about your dog; sensitive stomachs can be very tricky to figure out! My best recommendation would be to call your veterinarian to rule out a medical condition, such as (but not limited to) pancreatitis, or speak with them about starting a prescription hypoallergenic diet.
Unfortunately, many medical conditions can be a cause of vomiting and diarrhea, so it is important to rule out underlying disease first.
If you’ve already ruled out an underlying health condition with your veterinarian then you should look into beginning a hypoallergenic or gastrointestinal diet.
These can be found at your veterinary clinic, or local pet store. If you’ve tried this, and still find that you are having difficulty, then you could explore a homemade cooked diet, but these can be challenging to balance.
It is important to reach out to your veterinarian or a boarded veterinary nutritionist to determine recipes that are complete and balanced for your pet, as feeding regular human food is not enough without the appropriate supplements.
Often times food intolerances are related to an allergy to the protein in the food, so I would look into altering your pet’s protein when you are looking into a different kibble.
So if your pet experiences diarrhea and vomiting on a chicken diet, try beef, or rabbit- essentially just try a different protein.
Some examples of prescriptions diets that may help your dog are:
- Hills I/D
- Royal Canin Gastrointestinal (low fat or regular fat)
- Royal Canin Hypoallergenic
- Royal Canin Hypoallergenic HP
- Royal Canin Sensitivity
- Rayne diets- these diets have novel proteins such as kangaroo or crocodile
A good resource for homemade cooked diets is Hilary’s blend, which is made by an animal nutrition expert. This company makes the necessary supplements for cooked homemade diets and has balanced recipes to follow.
Be sure to double check with your veterinarian prior to trying these diets to ensure you are choosing appropriate ones based on your pet's life stage and current condition.
2. My beagle pees whenever someone tries to pet her. Why does she do this and can I get her to stop? ~ Beth and Roxy
Sometimes when a dog gets excited, from being pet or greeted, they will dribble urine, which is referred to as submissive urination. This can occur when they’re excited, anxious, or even scared.
Inappropriate urination like this can also be caused by medical conditions such as a urinary tract infection, urinary incontinence or others. If you have ruled out a medical cause in your dog with your veterinarian then it is likely submissive urination.
If your dog is young, she may actually outgrow this response with time! If they aren’t young, or you’d like to try to curb this behaviour sooner rather than later then you can use some training tools.
When she meets new people, you can always take her outside to a place that is appropriate to pee in the meantime, but I understand that isn’t always an option and doesn’t necessarily resolve the problem!
When she meets new people try to distract her by training her to sit before she gets a pet.
To do this, be sure to reward her with a treat upon sitting, then let the person pet her. Giving her this task will distract her but will also decrease her excitement level which should help! Additionally, ask the people she is meeting to greet her calmly, this can help reduce her excitement, which will aid in reducing the likelihood of her urinating.
3. My friend recommended I give my dog CBD because he gets so scared during storms. Is CBD safe for dogs? ~ Bill and Donner
CBD oil is definitely becoming more popular with pet parents, but unfortunately it is absolutely not something that veterinarians recommend at this time. In fact, veterinary medical associations (our governing bodies) have released statements against the use of CBD oil in pets, at this time.
There may be a time in the future that it is proven to be safe, but right now there simply is not enough research and data regarding CBD use in dogs and cats.
I can understand that pet parents want to help their dogs as much as possible, but CBD oil is not regulated and the risk is unknown in dogs at this point so I would not use it.
If you’re looking for a safe alternative, I would recommend Zylkene. This is an over the counter product that can be purchased from your veterinarian and some websites. Another option is to use a Thundershirt, which is a garment that is specifically designed to reduce anxiety during storms. This can be used in combination with Zylkene as well!
If your pet experiences a high level of anxiety during storms then you may need a prescription anti-anxiolytic from your veterinarian. These medications are extremely safe, and the dose is adjustable so you and your veterinarian can find a dose that works well for your dog!
Porch Potty's Stress Support is also clinically proven to help relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.
4. My dog is a big chewer, but I keep hearing horror stories of dogs choking or getting things stuck in their intestines. What bones or toys are ok and which ones should I steer clear of? ~ Dan and Q
You’re right; toys and bones certainly can obstruct the gastrointestinal tract! Not only can bones and toys get stuck in the intestines but bones can also cause damage to your dog’s teeth.
It’s great that you are thinking ahead and looking to prevent this.
One way to make any chew toy safer, is by ensuring that when your pet is playing with it, you are there watching them!
That way you can take it away from them if they start breaking it apart.
Specific products that you should avoid, I would avoid antlers, hooves, hard plastic, rawhide and marrow bones. These are not particularly healthy for their stomach, can break their teeth, and like you mentioned- may obstruct their intestines. Marrow bones are also known for getting stuck on a dog’s bottom jaw as well.
Here’s what I think are safer options:
- Radio-Opaque Kong- this is a kong that is actually visible on x-rays, so if your pet does ingest it (hopefully not!) it is much easier to diagnose as it “lights” up on x-ray
- Durable Rubber Toys- little dog tires are sold at pet stores that are strong enough to withstand majority of chewers
- Rope Toys- most are tough enough to withstand chewers, but if your dog is particularly good at unravelling toys then perhaps a rope won’t be strong enough
- Whole Carrots- these are a great chew toy alternative to keep your dog busy, you can even freeze them to give them some extra strength, but definitely monitor your pet if they are the type to swallow food whole!
Remember, any chew toy has the potential to harm your pet, but as mentioned above, monitoring your pet while they’re chewing will give you an extra layer of safety!
5. We live in an apartment, and I don’t really take my Chihuahua out for walks because she’s scared of literally everything. Is she getting enough exercise? ~ Casey and Bella
I’m sorry to hear that your Chihuahua is so nervous! It is important for dog’s to get stimulation in both mental and physical form. But that being said, we don’t want her outside going for walks if she is completely terrified because that’s not enjoyable for her or you
I would refer to our dog walking article to learn more about whether or not she is getting enough exercise because her body condition, behaviour, breed and personality plays into that decision.
As a general rule, if you find that she is a bit stir-crazy, restless, displaying destructive behaviours or gaining weight- then there is a chance that she is not getting enough exercise.
If you’re looking to increase her exercise and stimulation you could try something other than walking, like:
- Underwater treadmill- this would be at a canine rehabilitation facility, don’t worry she doesn’t have to be in “physical rehabilitation” to use it! It can be used for exercise too!
- Regular treadmill- in your own house, but use with caution as I wouldn’t want her little toes to get stuck or for it to move too fast!
- Cavaleties- you can do these at home or at a physical rehab centre. It is essentially like setting up a little obstacle course for her, which is good for mental and physical stimulation!
- Fetch in your backyard or inside
- Snifferies (for mental stimulation)- these are places that are designed for your dog to sniff a bunch of interesting smells!
- Snuffle mats and puzzles (for mental stimulation)- you can put her food or treats in these to keep her mind busy by using her nose to find her treats/food