Sunday, September 19, 2010


Desperado and Helpful Buckeye got back home 2 days ago from our road trip.  This turned out to be one of the best trips we've ever taken, considering the outstanding weather, the diversity and appeal of the places we visited, the vast range of geology and geography we drove and walked through, and the new knowledge we gained about some of the history of the western states.  I'll include a few photos in the closing section.

Before beginning with this week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, I would like to again thank Holly for her contribution to last week's issue describing her experience with an allergy to cats.  Many of you sent e-mails saying that either you have gone through the same thing or that you were sympathetic to Holly's difficulties.

Our poll questions from 2 weeks ago provided some interesting results.  None of our respondents reported ever using an online pharmacy for pet medications.  Those of you with cats responded about 50/50 that your cat does/does not give you problems taking it to the veterinarian.  All of our respondents who have dogs said that their dogs DO sleep in bed with them.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

Since Helpful Buckeye just discussed poisonous snakes several weeks ago, it was interesting that all 6 states we visited are notorious for their populations of rattlesnakes.  Montana even had many obvious signs posted at Little Big Horn National Monument:

while a veterinary hospital in Rapid City, South Dakota advertised a seasonal special on rattlesnake vaccinations:

One more reminder:  You can easily send a message to Helpful Buckeye by e-mail to:   This is apparently easier for many of you to do, whether you're submitting comments or answering the poll, by all means keep doing so.


1) The American Kennel Club has announced the winners of their annual award that is given to 5 categories of canine heroes.  This award commemorates five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities in each of the following five categories: Exemplary Companion Dog, Search and Rescue, Law Enforcement, Therapy, and Service.  Read more about the 5 winners and see their pictures at:

2) Sure enough, while Helpful Buckeye was on the road, another pet product was recalled.  The Hartz Mountain Corp is voluntarily recalling one specific lot of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats for Dogs due to possible Salmonella contamination, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reports.

Hartz is recalling 74,700 8-oz bags of Hartz Naturals Real Beef Treats for Dogs, lot code BZ0969101E, UPC number 32700-11519, which were imported by Hartz from a Brazilian supplier, Bertin S.A., and which were distributed to a number of customers in the United States.



OK, at first glance, most of you are probably asking two questions: Why are we talking about gardens at the end of September?...and why is the discussion in the disease and ailment section?  The answer to the first question is that many people make evaluations of their yards and gardens during September, concerning how well or how poorly everything has done during the growing part of the that they can begin their planning for next spring.  Fall is a good time to be transplanting plants, getting rid of the poor-doers and adding some new plantings that might do better.  A little advance planning goes a long way toward making your yard and garden attractive, as well as safe and healthy for your pets. 

Sunset magazine, a publication devoted to the American western states, has presented a compilation of valuable and informative ideas for improvements to your yard and gardens that will appeal to you and your pets. 

How to landscape a dog-friendly garden

Get a dog and there goes the garden. That's what many homeowners conclude, but it doesn't have to be that way.  Dog owner Bud Stuckey and his wife, Maxine McClellan, have been breeding champion American cocker spaniels for 14 years. His home garden in Felton, California, provides a safe, comfortable environment for the dogs as well as an attractive space for plants and people.

The best way to accomplish both goals is to design your garden to meet your dog's needs, Stuckey advises. That way, Fido will be able to romp and race without injuring himself or trampling your flowers ― well, most of the time, anyway. Owning a dog also means giving up perfectionism and learning forgiveness, says Stuckey.

Step one in creating a "dogscape" is learning to think like a canine: If you were a dog, what would you want? Spaniels, terriers, retrievers ― each breed has a different personality, Stuckey says. "The better you can accommodate its particular traits, the happier your dog," he explains. "And the happier your dog, the better your chance of maintaining a garden you'll both enjoy."


Gentle hardscape: Smooth flagstones set in pebbles form a dry creek bed dogs can comfortably tread.

Comfy mulch: Small cedar chips are easy on paws yet large enough so they won't cling to silky coats.

Border control: Pieces of driftwood persuade dogs to stay away from planted areas.

Running track: A long, winding path provides dogs with plenty of exercise.

Sensible plants: Plants near paths should have soft foliage but be sturdy enough to stand canine rough-housing.

Marking post: A sculptural piece of driftwood gives Toby, a male cocker spaniel, a suitable spot to mark his territory.

Think like a canine

If you were a dog, what would you want? Spaniels, terriers, retrievers ― each breed has a different personality.  The better you can accommodate its particular traits, the happier your dog. And the happier your dog, the better your chance of maintaining a garden you'll both enjoy.

Create a shady retreat

Like humans, dogs enjoy basking in the sun. So by all means, give them a deck or a patch of lawn for sunbathing.  But remember that dogs can overheat easily, so it's even more important to provide them with cooling retreats.

Paths to run and patrol

Dogs need exercise; paths give them a designated space to do it as well as a venue to perform their perceived job ― to patrol your property line.  Readers suggested sacrificing a few feet along the fence for a perimeter path to simultaneously satisfy both needs. If your dogs have already created their own paths through the garden, don't try to redirect them. Instead, turn their well-worn routes into proper pathways.  A 3-foot-wide clearance is enough for most dogs. Plant a screen to hide this dog run if you like; pets seem to like having their own "secret garden."

Give them shelter

Dogs will happily share arbors, pergolas, and other shade structures with their owners. But most dogs seem to appreciate having a shelter of their own, such as a doghouse.

Keeping them safe

If you have a Houdini and need to keep your escape artist from tunneling under the fence, you may need to install an underground barrier made of rebar, chicken wire, or poured concrete.

Access to water

Let those lucky dogs access a cool, safe pond.

Dining area

A platform helps keep the area tidy and serves as a storage for the owner's garden clogs.

Lookout platform

If you plant landscaped areas densely, dogs will generally stay out. Still, most dog owners recommend additional precautions: Plant in raised beds or on mounds, and start with 1-gallon or larger plants. Put up temporary fencing around newly landscaped areas; when you remove it, add a rock border or low fencing as a reminder to stay out.  Plant romp-proof shrubs and perennials like ornamental grasses around the edge of the garden. Put brittle plants like salvias in the center, where they'll be protected.

Easy access

Consider letting your dog get to your backyard through a dog door.

Each of these listed items also comes with a descriptive photo...go to this web site to view the photos:

Sunset also provides a nice set of questions & answers for more help on your dog-friendly garden:
Q: Can you recommend a good book on the subject?

A: For a practical and thorough overview, check out Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs (Dogwise Publishing, 2004; $20; or 800/776-2665), by Cheryl S. Smith.

Q: What are foxtails, and why are they dangerous to dogs?

A: Foxtails are weed grasses commonly found growing wild in open spaces and in unkept gardens. The danger comes from their barbed awns or tips, which can work their way under the skin between a dog's paws and toes and cause infection. Even worse, the awns can migrate down the ear canal, causing severe pain and potential hearing loss, or can be inhaled into the nasal cavity and migrate to the lungs. At left is a close-up of a foxtail to help you identify it so you can keep it out of your garden.

Q: How can I keep my dog from digging in the garden?

A: Filling a hole with a dog's own feces will keep it from digging in that spot again, says veterinarian Darla Jochum of Jacksonville, Oregon. But it won't keep your pet from digging elsewhere.

Jochum suggests setting aside a place where this activity is allowed, such as a sandpit or sandbox. If you happen to own a Jack Russell or other terrier, this is especially advisable. They were bred to hunt burrowing animals. So trying to get them to stop digging altogether is not realistic, says Jochum.

Position the sandpit in a shaded area, away from sprinklers. Bury a few dog biscuits and toys when your pet is not around. Then bring your dog to the pit, do a little digging yourself to demonstrate, and encourage your pet to join you. Lots of praise and occasionally restocking the treats will keep your dog interested.

Q: Can you recommend a few sturdy plants that stand up to dogs?

A: Bud Stuckey, Sunset's test garden coordinator, has had good luck with the following plants in his own landscape: African boxwood, artemisia, canna, ginger, lilac, New Zealand flax, ornamental grasses, osmanthus, pines, strawberry tree, and Western sword fern.

Readers recommend: agapanthus, asters, butterfly bush, campanula, cistus, columbine, heuchera, honeysuckle, lavatera, liriope, mock orange (Philadelphus), pieris, spiraea, thrift, and violas.

Q: I've been told to avoid plants that attract bees. Does that mean I have to give up my favorite plant, lavender?

A: That depends on your dog. If you have a dog that likes to snap at and eat flying insects, planting lavender, rosemary, or other bee-magnets is not a good idea, says veterinarian Steven Randle of Pacifica Pet Hospital in Pacifica, California. Insect bites are almost inevitable, and while most dogs will develop nothing more than a swollen muzzle, others can experience anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction.

On the other hand, many readers wrote telling us how much their dogs enjoyed rubbing up against these plants. So obviously some dogs coexist with stinging insects without problems.

A possible compromise is to enjoy the aromatic foliage of lavender but shear off the bee-attracting flowers.

Q: Are there emergency first-aid items I should have on hand for my dog?

A: Randle advises dog owners to keep a list of phone numbers for several backup veterinarians as well as the number for an emergency veterinary clinic. Having some Benadryl (Diphenhydramine HCl) around in case of a bee sting is also a good precaution (buy it in pill form, and contact your veterinarian for the correct dosage for your dog's weight). You'll still want to take your pet to a veterinarian quickly if the sting is severe, advises Randle, but Benadryl can buy you time.

Q: Products are available that change the pH of dog urine to prevent it from burning lawns. Do they really work, and do they have any side effects?

A: "From the reports I get, these products are not very effective," says Randle. "They are probably safe for most dogs, but I would avoid them completely if your dog has ever had a urinary-tract problem or if you have a breed that is predisposed to urinary stones, like the Dalmatian."

Instead, try watering the spot where the dog urinated to dilute the nitrogen, says Stuckey. This helps reduce the amount of yellowing. Letting your lawn grow 3 to 4 inches tall, as Stuckey does, also hides a few imperfections.

Q: Is it safe to use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides if you have dogs?

A: "There is no scientific evidence that chemical fertilizers/pesticides induce any form of cancer in dogs," says Randle. "However, veterinary oncology is a relatively new science, and we don't know the cause of the majority of cancers in animals. So if you don't feel safe using chemicals around your family, don't use them around your pets. I do see many more animals suffering from diseases caused by insects than I do from insecticides."

It is a wise precaution, however, to keep your dog off a recently sprayed lawn until the grass has thoroughly dried, usually 24 hours.

Q: Dogs seem to enjoy looking out through "windows" in fences or gates, but some people say that solid fences keep dogs from barking. Is that true?

A: "Due to the acute sense of smell and hearing in our canine companions, it makes little difference whether a fence or gate is solid or transparent," says Randle. "Dogs will still bark at what's on the other side of the barrier."

You should ensure, however, that slats or other separations in the fence are close enough together that your dog won't get its head stuck between them if provoked by another animal or human.

The final consideration of what plants you'd like to include in your garden is that you need to be aware of any potentially toxic reactions your dog will have to them.  Remember the first principle of toxicology, which is that “the dose makes the poison.”  In other words, the dog has to eat enough to be affected—and even so, many poisonous plants don’t kill, they just sicken.

How much is too much? The ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center (888 426-4435; $65) or the Pet Poison Helpline (800 213-6680; $35) can help you figure that out.

Finally, for Animal Poison Control (or your vet) to help, they have to know what exactly your dog ate. “A tall green plant with spiky leaves” isn’t a good answer. If you have pets or kids, know your plants (both indoors and outdoors) by both common and botanical names, which usually come on a tag with the plant. Keep that info where you can find it.

Lastly, the Humane Society of the United States weighs in on the topic of yard and gardens with their position statement: 

A Humane Backyard

What is a Humane Backyard? It’s a place for harmony between people, their pets, and the wild creatures who share outdoor spaces surrounding urban and suburban homes. When you embark on making your yard (or deck, or roof, or any outdoor space) a humane backyard, you are fostering beauty, pleasure and, not incidentally, understanding.

It’s ecologically sound

Maintaining a humane backyard uses no products or practices that harm animals to preserve a natural landscape and enhance the natural diversity of green space. The idea builds on an exciting national trend aimed at fostering ecologically sound communities.

Residents with humane backyards are generally rewarded with lower water usage and less maintenance. They enjoy a more natural relationship with their surroundings and inevitably gain a deeper appreciation of nature. Wildlife populations benefit from this wiser understanding of habitat and animal behavior. Tired old conflicts between wildlife and homeowners are reduced.

You might think of it this way: Every home is a nature preserve in waiting.

Any space can be a humane backyard

Whether you have a container garden on an apartment balcony, a townhouse with a sliver of ground, an average suburban yard, a sprawling corporate property, or a community park, you have the potential to make things better for wild animals, and of course, yourself.

A hanging flower on an inner-city balcony serves as a stopover for migrating hummingbirds.

A yard free of pesticides and herbicides becomes forage for insect-eating birds.

A corporate campus becomes an amazing refuge where diverse animals survive, and thrive.

Transform your community

The Humane Backyard begins with simple and practical steps. Landscapes are reshaped incrementally to attract songbirds and butterflies, to deter wildlife species with whom conflicts occur, and, above all, to humanely resolve conflicts when they do happen. Connect one humane backyard to many, and entire communities are transformed; the relationship between humans and animals revitalized.

Where do you live? Next time you are asked, imagine this answer: Where? I live in the city; I share in the wild.

Create a Sanctuary

Enjoy the company of your wild neighbors in your humane backyard. Every day, more and more wildlife habitat is lost to the spread of development. But you can help wild animals in urban and suburban areas by offering them sanctuary in your own backyard (or front yard, roof-top garden, or deck), no matter how small. Learn how your green space can become part of an Urban Wildlife Sanctuary Program:

Granted, the HSUS approach is a little more philosophical and diverse that that of Sunset magazine; however, it's easy to see how the two philosophies can be blended and still achieve the same common goal.


Since there is a mention of the world's smallest dog a little later in this issue, Helpful Buckeye thought it would be appropriate to discuss some of the nutritional needs of the really little dog breeds.

8 Small Dog Nutrition and Feeding Tips

You adore your little dog, but are you taking care of his or her special nutrition needs?  It isn't just about feeding your dog the proper serving size (though that is critical), it is also about taking into account a variety of factors that determine a pet's metabolism requirements, including age, activity level and reproductive status. To help guide you, Paw Nation spoke with animal nutritionist Susan Lauten, Ph.D., of Pet Nutrition Consulting, and Liz Palika, author of "The Ultimate Pet Food Guide," about how to ensure that our tiny friends live long, well-fed lives.

1. Use food manufacturer's guidelines as the starting point for determining proper portion size.

Unlike humans, there is no specific recommended daily calorie allowance for dogs. So begin with what is on the package and then modify to keep your pooch at the right weight. (See more on this below.) If you want to create a special diet for your dog -- whether by mixing types of store-bought foods or preparing meals from scratch -- consult a professional to make sure you are meeting your animal's nutrition and portion needs.

2. Adjust food amounts depending on whether you have a lazy lap dog or an active dog.

As with humans, healthy eating is all about calories in versus calories out. "Calculated caloric intake can vary up to 30 percent based on a dog's activity level and breed. What they recommend for active terriers is 30 to 40 percent higher than active dogs in general. Terriers, like the Jack Russell, are zooming around. But small pets that are carried around everywhere don't require as many calories," explains Lauten. Most bigger dogs are inactive in comparison.

3. Give fixed (neutered) dogs less food than their all-natural kin.

"Spaying or neutering can cut calorie needs by up to 30 percent," says Lauten. "The loss of sex hormones causes a reduction in activity, a reduction in muscle mass and a loss of instinctual drive to reproduce."

4. Choose food designed for smaller breeds if your dog is picky.

The number-one difference in commercial pet foods made for small dogs is the size of the kibble, says Lauten. "A big dog food piece is like a boulder to smaller dogs." The second difference is the scent level of small-breed dog food. "Short-snouted dogs seem to have a reduced ability to smell. As a result, a lot of small dogs are pickier than big dogs." Dog-food companies try to accommodate for this by enhancing the aroma of their product, explains Lauten, citing a recent study that ties selective dog breeding to changes in olfactory abilities.

5. Understand the serious health risks of improper feeding.

Weight issues are frequently seen in small breed dogs "because of human portion distortion," says Lauten. While most people in a household are likely to feed treats -- in excess -- to their pets, keeping this kind of unbalanced feeding to a minimum is crucial for preventing malnutrition in small pups. "It's hard for people to appreciate the amount that itty, bitty dogs should even eat. The best advice I can give is to say, 'If I weigh 20 times what my chihuahua weighs, he should eat one-twentieth of what I eat.'"
Pet obesity and malnutrition can contribute to specific health problems, says Lauten. These include osteoporosis, respiratory issues, heat sensitivity, diabetes, arthritis, pancreatitis (which can cause vomiting and stomach pain and is related to eating too much fat) and weight-related surgery risk.

6. Offer the right size treat to your pooch.

If you want to indulge your pet once in a while, that's OK, says Lauren, but be sure to seek out smaller treats to suit your small dog.

7. Take the long view when feeding your dog.

Since dogs weighing less than 30 pounds have been shown to have the longest lifespans, owners should think about nutrition for the long haul, says Lauten. "As your dog continues to age, a diet change may become necessary. Increases or decreases in body weight may signal the need for a more digestible food; constipation may require an increase in dietary fiber. Your veterinarian should be able to guide you properly."

8. Monitor changes in your pet's weight weekly.

Both Lauten and Palika recommend doing weekly body checks, feeling around the rib cage and waist line to make sure your dog isn't gaining or losing weight. "If my dogs are getting too much padding over the ribs and are losing waist [definition], I cut down on their serving sizes and bump up the exercise," says Palika. "If the dog is getting too thin, I move up the serving size. Looking at the dog from above, the dog should have an hourglass shape with an indentation before the hips. The ribs should be able to be felt with a slight padding of meat over them."

This information from:


1) As part of their article on dog-friendly gardens, Sunset has also included a section offering: Creative Doghouse Design, Eco-Friendly Pet Accessories, and Fido Chic.  To read more about each of these offerings, go to:

2) Even though this item is technically not a product for your pets, it is definitely a product of interest to ALL dog owners.  Remember Michael Vick and his fighting dogs?

The wait is officially over: The Lost Dogs: Michael Vick’s Dogs and Their Tale of Rescue and Redemption by Jim Gorant, an in-depth look behind the scenes of the Michael Vick case and “where are they now” account of the dogs rescued from his property, hit bookshelves nationwide on September 16. The Lost Dogs can be purchased at your local bookstore and through online retailers including (Tip: If you purchase the book on using this link, the ASPCA will receive a small donation at no extra cost to you!)

Find it at:

Naturally, the ASPCA is excited about this book because of its firsthand involvement in the investigation—and from one of their press releases, "...but having gotten our hands on an early copy, we’re very happy to report that it is a terrific, compelling read for anyone interested in animal welfare, canine behavior, the evolution of animal protection laws or our country’s criminal justice system."

For the rest of this review, go to:


1) As advertised, the "World's Smallest Dog Met The World's Tallest Dog" recently in NYC as guests of the Guinness World Records folks.  If you haven't yet read the details about the differences between these two dogs, do so right now at:

Each one would be a challenge, don't you think?

2) Think your pet has what it takes to be a star? Find out for sure with PetSmart's newest contest.  Read about the details at:

Remember, you have until October 27th to enter.

3) Since we've already talked about Pit Bulls, there is a 97-year old woman in Michigan who feels she owes her life to her cat, Tiger, for its heroic attempt to distract some attacking Pit Bulls.  Read this news account of the incident and be sure to watch the short video, featuring Tiger:

4) Several weeks ago, Helpful Buckeye informed you of a new pet boarding facility beside Disney World that is described as pretty "snazzy."  Well, this facility in Fort Worth, TX will be claiming the title of the most exclusive and expensive pet resort in the USA.  Yep, for just $65-200 per night, you can have your dog or cat be pampered in ways you hadn't thought possible.  Read more at:

5) From:  
comes this story:  "Ah, the unfortunate sphynx cat. Left with nothing to cover its pink, muscular body, this hairless feline doesn't know the tactile joy of a full coat of fur. That's okay for some cats, but this kitty, on the other hand, isn't satisfied.  He just wants to know what it feels like to have hair, y'know? Ain't nobody gonna keep him from getting the whole taste of it -- the texture, the touch, the smell... Even if it belongs on the head of a middle-aged dude standing nearby."

Go to the web site for a funny video of this Sphynx cat checking out the man's hair.

6) OK, we've saved the most unusual story for last.  It's common knowledge that any city is going to have a problem with dog feces being dropped everywhere and not being properly picked up and disposed of.  If this device in Cambridge, Massachusetts proves to be feasible, you might see one near you in the future.  Yes, dog "poop" is deposited into this device at a dog park in Cambridge and it proceeds to fuel the device to actually light a street lamp!  See for yourself at:

The Ohio State Buckeyes easily handled the #12 Hurricanes of Miami last week to further solidify their #2 standing in the national rankings.  A much easier opponent, Ohio University, was defeated this week as the Buckeyes go through their final preparation for what looks like a pretty tough Big 10 schedule.

The Pittsburgh Steelers surprised a lot of fans last week by defeating the Falcons.  The Steelers had been underdogs due to the uncertain QB situation.  This Sunday, the Steelers went to Nashville and upset the Titans, again on the strength of the defense.  They've only allowed 20 points over 2 games.  We lost our #3 QB during the game today and had to have our #4 QB finish the game.  It's hard enough to win games in the NFL, let alone with a fourth-string QB.


It was sure nice to get back on my bike and start working on the miles again.  I didn't take my bike on our road trip because I knew we'd get plenty of exercise walking and hiking at our various destinations.  Earlier, I promised a few photos of our road, here we go...1 photo from each state:

Monument Valley, Arizona 

Church Rock, Utah

Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota

Devil's Tower, Wyoming

Little Big Horn National Monument, Montana

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~



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