Posts Categorised: Health

You’re probably well aware of the various health issues and hazards that can pose a risk to your dog. You might also have heard about the dangers of grass awns, but do you know why they’re dangerous?

Did you know that those idyllic fields of waving grain, as beautifully depicted in “America the Beautiful,” can pose a severe risk to your dog’s well-being? Yes, those innocent-looking plants hold the potential for grave health concerns.

Allow me to share a personal experience: Once, during our vacation, one of our dogs had a foxtail stuck in the corner of his eye. With no local vet clinics open, my resourceful mother got out her tweezers and had my brother hold our dog still. It took several minutes, but she grasped the foxtail deeply enough and pulled it out. Our little terrier was fine, if a bit put out over being so rudely man handled.

In this post we’ll learn about the dangers of grass awns and how you can safeguard your dog. Join us to learn about this hidden peril.


What are they?

Grass awns are the seed pods of tall grasses that grow throughout North America. Sounds harmless doesn’t it?

Don’t be fooled though. They can create serious health issues in dogs and other animals.

The problem is their bristle-like structure helps them stick to anything – such as your shoelaces or your dog’s fur. They can also get into your dog’s nose, eyes or other parts of his body. And backward-pointing bristles make them hard to pull out. Worse yet, when your dog moves those awns can inch forward because of the bristles. They can even penetrate the skin and migrate around inside your dog’s body causing inflammation and infection.

Grasses that produce awns include:

  • foxtails
  • cheatgrass
  • june grass
  • timothy hay
  • downy brome
  • needle grass
  • wild barley
  • spear grass
  • Canadian wild rye
  • foxtail barley
  • winter bentgrass / ticklegrass

Where and when are grass awns found?

Grasses, whether cultivated or wild, can have dangerous awns if they are unmowed and allowed to go to seed. Anywhere grass grows – in meadows, along trails or roads, and even in your yard – they pose a risk.

The grass itself is not dangerous. It’s the seed pod – or awn – that can cause health issues.

When grasses produce their awns can vary by location and weather. Generally they go to seed during dry and warm seasons. That might be for a short time at mid-summer for northern locations. Or it could be year-round in the warm south-western areas.


Grass awns, with their bristles, can become entangled in your dog’s coat when he runs through tall grass. Sometimes they’re tangled so completely that they can’t migrate. Although they can be hard to brush out, doing so can spare your dog pain and potential infection.

More likely the awns will move deeper into your dog’s coat due to their arrowhead shape and backward-pointing bristles. If they’re not removed they can pierce the skin and potentially migrate throughout his body.

If your dog hunts during the fall be sure to brush him thoroughly when you get home. Or run your fingers through his coat, feeling for awns or bumps which could be ticks.

Common places awns can lodge

The most common places these awns cause problems are between the toes, or in the eyes, ears, or nostrils. They’ve also pierced the gums or skin and have worked their way in through external genital organs.

Between Toes:

Grass awns can work their way between your dog’s toes, leading to irritation and possible infection. This is especially true for dogs with long or thick fur.


Grass awns can get trapped in a tear duct or behind the eyelid. This can cause redness, swelling, discharge, or even scratches on the cornea.


Because of the ear canal structure, grass awns can migrate deep within causing irritation, inflammation, and infections.


Dogs experience the world through their noses, but that puts them in danger of inhaling grass awns. Sneezing and rubbing their nose or face is a warning sign. Sometimes these awns migrate into the respiratory system causing serious health problems.

Under the Skin:

Another one of the dangers of grass awns it that they can penetrate the skin and travel through the body’s soft tissues.

Consequences of grass awn migration

After a day’s hunt or even just a romp in a field, grass awns can cause irritation and discomfort. If they’re not removed they can pierce the skin, introducing bacteria that can lead to an infection or abscess. An awn can migrate deeper into tissues and organs causing damage and potentially serious complications.

Sometimes the entrance wound heals and isn’t noticed. However, weeks or even months later your dog could develop odd symptoms. Your veterinarian might run tests without being able to pinpoint the cause of the symptoms all because of a migrating awn. Depending on its migration route it could damage your dog’s heart, lungs or even brain.


When caught early, brushing or using tweezers works fine. However, if the awn is in a sensitive place or has punctured the skin, it’s time to visit your veterinarian. In that case, your dog will probably need to be sedated and the area shaved to remove the awn.

If the awn migrated deep into your dog’s body, your vet may use ultrasound to locate it and surgery to remove it. Sometimes the awn isn’t seen, but rather the path it took.

Another sign to watch for is when your dog has an infection and does well initially on an antibiotic, but then the infection flares up again. This can happen if an awn isn’t removed. Tell your vet if your dog has been in tall grass.


Not all grasses produce awns, but it’s better to take precautions just in case.

Suggestions to minimize the dangers of grass awns include:

  • whenever possible, avoid fields with grass that have gone to seed during the summer and fall
  •  brush your dog immediately after running in an area that may contain grass awns
  •  use your fingers to feel through your dog’s coat including the chest, armpits, belly, and groin areas
  •  visually inspect eyes, ears, gums, and between the toes
  •  consider trimming your dog’s fur in places where awns are likely to collect
  •  consider outfitting your dog with boots and or goggles

Symptoms of an embedded grass awn include:

  •  non-healing wound
  •  areas of redness and swelling
  •  limping
  •  head shaking
  •  sneezing
  •  scratching ears or face
  •  discharge from eyes or nose


Grass awns, often known as foxtails or grass seeds, can cause lots of problems for your dog. Most of the problems happen in late summer and early fall just in time for hunting season.

You can avoid areas with tall grass, particularly when it’s gone to seed. If you have a dog with long hair, especially on their feet, you can keep them trimmed. You can check your dog every time they’ve been in tall grass. Pay particular attention to their feet, nose, eyes, ears, armpits and groin.

Although prevention takes more effort, checking your dog can minimize the dangers of grass awns. If you find or even suspect a grass awn foreign body, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. The quicker it is removed, the better the chance of a successful outcome.

An annual eye exam can help identify problems early, but it also helps breeders make good decisions about which dogs are suitable for breeding.

Some eye problems are due to injury, some are due to age and other problems may be genetic.  An eye specialist can determine the cause of a problem and provide treatment options, if necessary.

For many years the exam was known as CERF based on the Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Recently it’s changed to CAER (Companion Animal Eye Registry) which is affiliated with the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (“OFA”).


An annual eye exam should be included in every breeder’s health care plan because many eye problems are genetic and can affect puppies. Unfortunately many eye diseases have not been studied adequately due to time and funding shortages. In these cases the ophthalmologist relies on informed opinions and statistical information. Other disorders have a known genetic basis and testing can often be done by sending a cheek swab to a lab for analysis.

Puppies as young as 21 days can be examined. The exam should be repeated annually, at least through the dog’s breeding career.

Eye exams are also a good idea for dogs that won’t be used for breeding as problems are often easier to treat when they’re caught early.


These exams can only be done by a board-certified ophthalmologist.

Although your regular veterinarian has had some training in eyes and vision, unless she has had several years additional training and passed the American Board of Veterinary Ophthalmology certifying exam, she is not qualified to do these exams.

There are several ophthalmologists in the greater Denver area, a few around Fort Collins/Loveland and a couple in Colorado Springs. In surrounding states, there are none in WY, four in UT, three in NM, one in NE, and five in KS. Use the search function to find an ophthalmologist near you.

Each one sets their own price and currently they range from $45 to over $100. Another option is contacting a local dog club, particularly one that hosts dog shows. Occasionally they will also host a health clinic during the show. Many only offer eye exams, but others might offer cardiac testing, vaccinations, blood draws for heartworm and/or genetic testing. Often the testing is done at a reduced price. Because they’re popular, you need to sign up as soon as the testing is announced.


The exams are screenings performed by board certified veterinary ophthalmologists to check for changes within the eye that indicate one or more eye diseases. The exams can be done at their office or sometimes at special clinics held at dog shows and other events.

You’ll start off by filling out a form with your information and your dog’s information including: registered name, registration number, date of birth, sex, breed/variety, permanent identification (via microchip or tattoo). An assistant will also use special eye drops to dilate the eyes. Expect dilation to last 6-8 hours. After about 15 minutes or so, you’ll meet with the ophthalmologist in a darkened room.

Note: Some breeds need to be examined before and after eye drops. They include:

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Dalmatian
  • Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dog
  • Miniature American Shepherd
  • Miniature/Toy Australian Shepherd

The exam often starts externally, looking for things such as injuries, eyelashes rubbing the cornea or growing where they shouldn’t be growing. The vet will use other equipment to magnify the interior of the eye looking for tiny anomalies in the lens, cornea and middle chamber of each eye. Then all parts of the retina are checked. Sometimes there are mirrors in the equipment that allow you to see exactly what the vet sees.

The exam generally only takes a few minutes, depending on how well your dog cooperates. Afterward you’ll get a copy of the exam form.



Although there are many eye diseases that can affect dogs, very few have been adequately studied. Such studies require large numbers of related animals, sometimes several generations of dogs, and often the diseases don’t manifest until the dogs are older.

Currently there are 10 diseases with evidence that they are inherited or cause a significant problem. Signs of these diseases require an automatic fail on the eye exam.

Other diseases are presumed to be genetic, but lack a peer-reviewed study showing the mode of inheritance. These will show on the form as a “breeder option.”



You can send the form with a small fee to OFA for certification. If your dog has passing results (including “breeder option”) you’ll get a certificate and the results will be posted on the OFA website. If the results weren’t passing, you can send those to OFA as well. There is no charge and no certificate. You can also choose whether to make those results public or not.

Certification needs to be repeated annually.

Super Bowl, March Madness and many exciting games are coming up. Do you put out snack foods and drinks so you don’t miss any of the action? If you do, I’d bet you unintentionally include some people foods dogs shouldn’t eat.

Although sometimes it seems like dogs can eat anything – yeah, even that – they really shouldn’t. Just ask your veterinarian what they’ve had to surgically remove – probably lots of socks, toys, rocks and more.

The problem is some people foods can make them sick or even die.

And unfortunately it’s not that uncommon. According to WebMD, there are “more than 232,000 pet poisoning” cases in the United States every year.


Dogs have different digestive systems and dietary needs than we do. So, although we might eat these foods regularly, they can be poisonous and even deadly for dogs.

  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks
  • Fruit pits
  • Garlic, Onion, Chives
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Raisins, grapes, currants
  • Xylitol

If you think your dog ingested one of these items, contact your veterinarian for advice. If that’s not possible, call:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center



The Pet Poison Helpline


There may be a fee for help from the above hotlines.


Depending on what your dog ate, symptoms may start quickly or may take a few days. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Excessive vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Bloody urine or stool
  • Inability to go to the bathroom
  • Lethargy
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Agitation
  • Obvious signs of pain
  • Seizures
  • Collapse

If your dog ate one of the potentially deadly foods or if you see any of the above symptoms, get him to your veterinarian quickly. The sooner treatment is started, the better the chance of a good outcome.



Some people think it’s harmless or maybe even funny if a pet gets drunk. What they fail to realize is their different metabolism, and often smaller size, makes dogs more susceptible to the effects.

Dogs seem to be more attracted to the sweeter drinks, such as eggnog, pina colada and daiquiri. However beer is also well liked.

Also be careful with foods that might contain alcohol, such as rum balls at Christmastime. And rotting or fermenting fruit, such as plums that fell from the tree, can cause similar symptoms.

Like people, dogs may be uncoordinated, may vomit or have diarrhea. At higher doses, dogs may have trouble breathing, tremors, heart arrhythmias, low blood pressure, coma and even death.


Yes, yummy chocolate is toxic to dogs. A substance in chocolate, called methylxanthines, contains both caffeine and theobromine. These are stimulants and can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, tremors, pancreatitis, irregular heart function, seizures and even death.

The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is for dogs, with baking chocolate having the highest levels of methylxanthines. Some chocolate products may also have other toxic ingredients, such as Xylitol or high amounts of caffeine.

Also be careful of foods that might contain chocolate – ice cream, cookies, cake and other sweets. And be aware on holidays, such as Valentines Day, Easter and Christmas, as chocolate is commonly given as gifts.

If your dog ingests any type of chocolate, even in small amounts, you need to call your veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms can take awhile to start – anywhere from a few hours to a day.

Coffee, Tea, Soda, Energy Drinks

Caffeine is the major culprit in these drinks. A small sip may not cause any harm, but ingesting a large amount can cause an increase in heart rate, abnormal heart rhythms and elevated blood pressure. Symptoms usually start within one to two hours after ingestion.

Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, tremors, seizures and even death.

Pets are more sensitive to caffeine than we are. Other potential ingredients in these drinks that can cause harm are Xylitol and high levels of sugar.

Coffee grounds (often used in gardens), coffee beans, instant granules, tea bags, loose-leaf tea are all more concentrated than a sip of a drink. If your dog ingests any of these, call your veterinarian right away.

Fruit Pits

Slices of fruit are generally fine for dogs, but don’t give them whole fruit because seeds and pits contain poisonous cyanide. This includes apples, apricots, cherries, plums, peaches and other fruit with pits.

One or two apple seeds are probably not harmful, especially if they’ve been swallowed and not chewed. But what dog can resist chewing? Chewing releases the cyanide which blocks red blood cells from transporting oxygen. It’s safer for your dog if you slice and remove the core before giving it to him.

Symptoms to watch for include vomiting, panting, bright red gums, difficulty breathing, shock, dilated pupils, irregular heart beat, increased heart rate, seizures, coma and even death.

Canned and preserved fruit often have high amounts of sugar, preservatives or artificial sweeteners which can cause an upset stomach. Dried fruit, such as prunes, can also cause digestion issues.


Garlic, Onion, Chives

It may be hard to believe, but plants from the Allium family – including onions, chives and garlic – are not safe for dogs to eat. They contain sulfoxides and disulfides which can damage red blood cells. Damaged red blood cells can’t carry oxygen around the body which leads to anemia.

Garlic contains higher levels of these compounds and is thus more toxic to dogs. A bite of garlic bread might not cause any problems, but raw bulbs of garlic are more concentrated and dangerous. One onion is enough to cause toxic effects. Green onions and chives are less concentrated, but can be dangerous if your dog consumes a large amount.

All parts of these plants – bulbs, leaves, juice and processed powders – are toxic to dogs.

These are also common ingredients in many prepared foods, such as pizza, spaghetti, soups, stews and various meaty dishes. Be careful with leftovers too.

Symptoms can include pale gums, weakness, excessive drooling, discolored urine, gastrointestinal irritation, vomiting, diarrhea, anemia and collapse. It may take awhile, so if you think your dog may have eaten some watch for symptoms for at least a few days.

Macadamia Nuts

According to the American Kennel Club, “These are some of the most poisonous foods for dogs.”

They are a common snack food and can be found in trail mixes and baked goods. It only takes a few nuts to cause severe poisoning. However why these nuts are so toxic to dogs is unknown.

Macadamia nuts can cause depression, weakness, vomiting, abdominal pain, tremors, high fever, lethargy and inability to walk (particularly with the hind legs) and increased heart rate. Symptoms usually appear within hours after ingestion and may last for 24 to 48 hours.

If there’s a chance your dog ingested some, call your veterinarian right away.

Raisins, Grapes, Currants

Although still surprising to some dog owners, raisins, grapes and currants are extremely toxic to dogs. They can cause severe liver damage and kidney failure. Some dogs have died after eating less than a handful of raisins.

Why they are so toxic to dogs is still a mystery. As is why some dogs develop severe symptoms while other dogs can ingest some and seem fine.

According to Merck, “Most dogs with raisin or grape toxicosis develop vomiting and/or diarrhea within 6-12 hours after ingestion of grapes or raisins. Other signs include lethargy, anorexia, abdominal pain, weakness, dehydration, polydipsia, and tremors (shivering).”

More severe symptoms may be seen in 24-48 hours with severe kidney damage.

Raisins are found in many baked goods, such as fruit cakes, raisin bread, bagels, cakes and cookies. They’re also in cereals and trail mixes. Grapes are made into jellies and juice. If you grow grapes or currants make sure your dog doesn’t have access to that area.

Call your veterinarian immediately if you think your dog may have eaten anything containing raisins, grapes or currants.


White sugar is bad for you. So instead food processors are making sugar-free products using a substitute originally made from wood chips or straw. It’s called Xylitol and is an ingredient in many gums, breath mints, candies, desserts, toothpastes and mouthwashes. It’s also found in pet mouth wash and oral rinses!

Unfortunately it can be deadly for dogs.

Xylitol can cause a spike in insulin, leading to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels in dogs. If sugar levels drop too low, your dog could become hypoglycemic with potentially harmful side effects. A higher dose can be life-threatening within minutes.

According to the Pet Poison Helpline, “to achieve a potentially toxic dose, a 10 pound dog would only have to eat one piece of gum!”

Reports of dog poisoning cases involving Xylitol are increasing.

Symptoms may develop within minutes of ingesting Xylitol. Blood sugar drops, the dog could start vomiting and staggering. Collapse and seizures are also possible. Some dogs may not show signs for hours, perhaps because of ingesting a smaller amount.

Within a few days some dogs have developed liver failure. Some dogs have died.

The quicker the dog receives treatment, the better his chance of surviving. He will likely be made to vomit, receive fluids and frequent tests of his blood sugar levels and liver function. This is in-hospital care.




Potato chips, pretzels and salty snacks:
These products are often very salty which makes pets thirsty and in turn causes urination. Sometimes in the house.

Too much salt can be extremely toxic. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, depression, tremors, loss of coordination, abnormal fluid accumulation, increased body temperature. Higher doses can damage the kidneys and may lead to seizures, coma and death.

Soups and stews can also be high in salt. Driveway de-icers can also contain a high amount of salt.

If your dog has ingested a lot of salt and has any of the symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Can be dangerous if not chewed well. Salted peanuts can be dangerous if the dog eats many. See the issues with salt above.

A small bite of plain pizza or bread (no spices, garlic, onion, spicy processed meat) should be fine. However the dough is not nutritious and the tomato-based sauce and common toppings can cause health issues. Never give pieces containing garlic or onions.

Unsalted and unbuttered popcorn is fine in moderation, but make sure there aren’t any unpopped kernels that could be a choking hazard.

Don’t give these to dogs. Hard candies can be a choking hazard. Some candies may contain Xylitol which is toxic to dogs. Chocolate can be deadly.


When puppies are weaned, they no longer need milk. Some dogs can digest milk, but many dogs are lactose intolerant and shouldn’t be offered milk or any dairy product. Symptoms can include diarrhea, vomiting and/or gas, allergic reactions and even pancreatitis.

It’s generally fine in small amounts, except for dogs that are lactose intolerant. It’s also high in fat, so give it sparingly.

Ice cream:
This is a common treat, but some dogs are lactose intolerant. It also contains a lot of sugar and fat. Offer it sparingly, if at all. Also some flavors can be toxic, such as flavors containing chocolate and/or raisins.

If your dog can digest dairy products, plain yogurt is an acceptable snack. However as in ice cream, be aware that some flavors can be toxic to dogs.

Fatty Meats

Bacon grease:
Avoid giving your dog leftover fat and grease as too much can lead to stomach upsets or even pancreatitis. An inflamed pancreas is painful and may require hospitalization and IV fluids. Some breeds are prone to pancreatitis.

Gravies are often fatty and salty – either of which can irritate your dog’s stomach. They may also contain toxic ingredients such as garlic or onions. However you can make or buy a very lightly seasoned gravy for a finicky eater.

Poultry skin, Ham and other fatty cuts:
As with bacon grease, it’s better to throw these items out.


Some people believe dogs should not eat avocados. This is because the skin, pit and leaves contain a toxin called persin. However dogs and cats can eat it. But “other animals, particularly birds, will find avocado toxic.

Avocados do provide health benefits, but to be safe only give your dog small amounts and only the meat. Remove the skin, pit and any leaves. Dispose of those pieces in a way other animals can’t access them.

Also avoid giving your dog avocado products, such as guacamole, because they often contain ingredients – such as onion – that are harmful to dogs.

Chili peppers:
Don’t give these to dogs. Although they aren’t toxic to dogs, they can irritate their stomach and intestines. They can cause stomach cramping, bloating, vomiting, drooling and/or diarrhea.

Citrus fruits:
Don’t give these to dogs. Lemon, limes, oranges and grapefruits have toxic compounds in the skin and seeds and can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Cooked bones:
Don’t give these to dogs. Cooked bones can splinter and cause punctures in the stomach and/or intestines. They can also cause choking, digestive upsets and blockages.

Human vitamins and medications:
Do not give human medications to your animal unless directed by the vet.

Some medications meant for people may not work for dogs. They may cause adverse effects, including death.

White mushrooms from the grocery store should be okay to give your dog, but don’t let him eat any mushrooms growing wild. “Veterinarians recommend treating all wild mushrooms as potentially toxic and a veterinary emergency.”

Don’t give this to dogs. Nutmeg contains myristicin which can cause high blood pressure, increased heart rate, abdominal pain, hallucinations and seizures. If your dog does get into the nutmeg shaker or the pumpkin pie, contact your veterinarian for help.

Potatoes and Tomatoes:
Avoid giving your dog potatoes or tomatoes as both belong to the nightshade family of plants and can be toxic. A ripe tomato should be fine, but the rest of the plant and green tomatoes contain toxic solanine. A cooked potato should be fine, but a raw potato, particularly one that has sprouted or turned green is toxic. Leaves and stems are also toxic. Never give raw potato peelings.

If you grow either in your garden, make sure your dog can’t access them. Stems, leaves and green tomatoes contain higher amounts of solanine. Immature potatoes also contain higher amounts of solanine.

Symptoms of solanine poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and even seizures. Ingesting large quantities can cause a slowing of their heart rate, vision issue and possibly heart issues.

Leaves are toxic and ingestion could cause kidney failure. Symptoms include drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, trembling, bloody urine, lethargy, coma and even death. The leaves are bitter tasting so most dogs will avoid it. If you have rhubarb in your garden make sure your dog can’t access it.

Although it’s not a food, dogs have ingested cigarette butts, chewing tobacco and liquid nicotine. Symptoms include excessive drooling, tremors, excitement, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, constricted pupils, agitation, seizures, blue gums, coma and even death.

Yeast dough:
Yeast is what causes dough to rise. If a dog ingests the dough it may continue to rise and cause gas to accumulate in his digestive system. This can cause severe pain and possibly torsion or rupture of the stomach – a life-threatening emergency. Contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic.

Additionally the yeast and sugar in raw dough ferments and becomes a type of alcohol that can cause alcohol poisoning. Contact your veterinarian if your dog has a swollen belly, stomach pain or is trying to vomit.

The information in this article is not intended to diagnose or treat a health issue. Please contact your veterinarian if you have any questions about your dog’s health.

What Is CNM In Labradors?

Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) is an inherited congenital disorder that causes muscle dysfunction.


In a nutshell, CNM in Labradors causes muscle wasting which makes moving normally difficult. Some dogs have severe symptoms while other dogs are only mildly affected.

In the past, it’s been called generalized muscle weakness, polyneuropathy, muscular myopathy, muscular dystrophy, hereditary myopathy.

Breeds affected are Labrador Retrievers, plus doodles and other Lab mixes.

Here is a video of a Labrador suffering from acute CNM.

To develop a genetic test, researchers collected samples from 7,426 Labradors living in 18 countries. They found 80 dogs from various countries had two copies of the mutated gene. These dogs all showed muscle wasting symptoms. Of the 1,172 dogs that had one copy of the mutated gene, none showed symptoms which showed that CNM in Labradors is caused by a simple recessive gene.

Dogs with two normal genes are normal. Dogs with one normal gene appear normal, but could pass the mutated gene to their puppies. Dogs with two mutated gene are affected and will develop muscle wasting.

Currently researchers believe the mutated gene is the result of a single mutation. Also that the gene spread rapidly through the Labrador population because many people bred to a small group of popular sires about 60 years ago.

CNM also affects people. Locating the mutated gene in Labradors is helping scientists study the disorder in people.


Symptoms generally develop between two to five months of age and include gait abnormalities, generalized weakness, tiring easily and muscle wasting. CNM can affect both sexes and all three recognized colors.

Puppies seem normal at first, but as they grow they develop generalized muscle weakness and abnormal postures. Another sign is an odd “bunny hop” with the rear legs. Often they can’t exercise much and may collapse in colder weather.

Here is a video of another Lab having a particularly tough day although she’s determined to get her bumper.

Affected dogs will never develop normal muscles. You can see the difference most clearly in the chest and rear legs.

There is no cure. However some dogs, with their owner’s help, have learned how to overcome most symptoms. This dog is doing quite well.

According to his owners, “As a puppy, he couldn’t hold his head up, control his tongue, hold a tug toy, walk for more than a few feet without having to crawl, or climb stairs.”


CNM is caused by a recessive gene which means a dog can have one copy of the gene and appear normal. If that dog is bred to another dog that appears normal, but has the same recessive gene, some of the puppies may be affected with CNM.

CNM affected dogs should not be bred as all of their puppies will carry the gene. Because of the muscle dysfunction, it may be difficult for a male to breed naturally and even harder for a female to carry and whelp puppies.

Genetic testing is the best way to prevent producing a dog with CNM. Many laboratories offer the testing, but my favorite is DDC. They are available to answer questions, can help order the correct tests and are reasonably priced. They can also provide the swabs needed to collect DNA.

To collect your dog’s DNA, make sure he hasn’t eaten or had anything to drink for at least an hour. You may need to put a leash on your dog and/or have a helper handy to keep him still. The collection doesn’t hurt, but some dogs may object anyway.

Wash your hands and pull out one swab at a time. Lift your dog’s lip on the side of his muzzle and insert the swab between his lip and gums. Swirl several times and remove. Place the swab back in the plastic wrap. Repeat on the other side of his muzzle and then a third time on one side or the other.

Write your name, your dog’s name, breed and registration number on an envelope and place the swabs inside. Seal and place the envelope inside another envelope, seal, address and mail.

If you are collecting samples from more than one dog, be sure to keep their swabs separate and wash your hands between collections.

And, no, CNM is not the same as Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC), although both disorders are genetic. CNM is a muscle weakness whereas EIC is a neurologic dysfunction.

(Originally posted October 25, 2012 – Updated November 18, 2022)

To spay, or not to spay? That is the question.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of animal rights activists Or to take arms against a sea of troubles…
(With apologies to The Bard)

(Originally posted May 13, 2020 – Updated July 15, 2022)

Many people would have you believe the spay/neuter decision is easy. “Yes!” and “Right away!” they’ll say. “We have to prevent pet overpopulation and animal suffering!”

But it’s not that straight forward. Not every intact animal contributes to overpopulation. Nor is spaying and neutering without pain and suffering.



As a country, I think we’ve made great strides in controlling pet overpopulation. Are there still animals in need? Certainly. Is spay/neuter the answer in every case? No.

I believe our rescue organizations are desperately needed and deserve thanks from every pet owner. However there are still animals who wind up in shelters and never leave. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the piles of animals that had been “put to sleep.” It’s heart wrenching.

But spay/neuter and rescue programs have contributed greatly to a decrease in the number of animals in the shelters. In some cases the programs have worked so well the shelters now need to import strays for local people to adopt. USA Today ran a story that an organization in Puerto Rico had shipped over 14,000 strays to the US for adoption.

Spay and neutering campaigns have been so successful in much of the USA — especially the Northeast and Northwest — that shelters need to look elsewhere if they want dogs to offer for adoption.

We shouldn’t be importing pets – and potential diseases – just to keep rescue organizations in business. Canine brucellosis was almost eradicated in the United States, but rescue groups in Wisconsin recently had two dogs imported from South Korea test positive. This is a zoonotic disease which means it can spread to people as well as other dogs.

Several other imported dogs had rabies. At least one dog had been adopted by a family in Pennsylvania before they discovered he was infected. At that point, at least a dozen people may have been exposed.



Spaying and neutering has been good in some ways for society. But what about for the individual animal? There are many health consequences from these surgeries and plenty of misinformation.

“It’s a routine procedure.”
It may be routine for some animal hospitals, but it’s still surgery and, in the case of spaying, major surgery. There are risks from the surgery itself, from anesthesia, and from infection.

“It will reduce behavioral problems such as aggression and wandering.”
It may or it may not. Generally behavioral problems are better corrected through training.

“It can significantly prolong your pet’s life.”
Again, it may or it may not. There are several studies pointing to increased risk of various cancers and orthopedic issues due to spaying and neutering. There is also a study that showed female dogs lived longer if they were not spayed until at least six years of age.

“Spay/neuter can make your dog friendlier and less likely to bite.”
Surgery doesn’t generally affect a dog’s temperament, although there are studies that suggest spaying/neutering can actually lead to more aggression.

“Irresponsible breeding is the root cause of most vicious dog bites and attacks.”
Poor temperament can certainly be inherited, but many dog bites are due to a training issue – either a lack of training that allows a dog to assume an alpha position or training specifically designed to make a dog vicious.

“Spaying and neutering makes happier and healthier pets.”
A study found that “spayed female dogs tend to be more aggressive toward their owners and to strangers than intact females” and there wasn’t much evidence that neutering would stop aggressive behavior in male dogs. I don’t think that sounds happier.



Spaying is surgery to remove a female dog’s reproductive organs.

Before the surgery, the veterinarian should draw a blood sample to check the dog’s liver and kidney function because these organs break down and remove anesthesia after the surgery.

If all is well, a female dog is sedated and the belly shaved and cleaned. The veterinarian cuts into the dog’s belly and removes the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus. Then the incision is closed with sutures or glue and the dog is monitored as she recovers from anesthesia. Often she will remain at the hospital overnight.

After the dog goes home she will need to be kept quiet and prevented from licking or chewing on the incision.

Neutering is surgery to remove a male dog’s testicles.

As with female dogs, the veterinarian should draw blood to check for liver and kidney function.

Then the dog is sedated and cleaned before the veterinarian cuts into the scrotum. Each testicle is removed and the blood supply tied off, the incision is closed and the dog is monitored as he recovers. The dog should be kept quiet and prevented from licking or chewing on the incision.

Occasionally one or both testicles may be retained inside the body. In these cases the surgery is more involved and can be higher risk. These testicles are at risk of developing cancer so they should be removed or at least monitored via ultrasound.



  • Prevents pregnancy and its risks
  • Prevents females from coming in heat every 6-12 months
  • Reduces or eliminates the chance of some cancers
  • Reduces the risks of non-cancerous prostate disorders and perianal fistulas
  • May reduce leg-lifting / marking by males
  • May reduce the cost of licensing and/or HOA fees



  • Costs of the surgery
  • Risks of surgery, anesthesia and complications. Studies show about 20% of spay or neuter surgeries have at least one complication. Your dog may die due to the surgery. It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s pretty devastating when it happens to YOUR pet.
  • Increased risk of other deadly cancers
  • “Increased likelihood of hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumors, and canine cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture in neutered dogs.”



I think it should be up to you, based on complete and accurate information and the needs of you and your dog. I also believe you shouldn’t be pressured into a decision either way. Make an informed choice!

A big problem is that alleged health benefits are discussed, but rarely any evidence supporting that viewpoint. Also rarely discussed are the health risks of spaying and neutering.

Risks vs Benefits For Male Dogs

For males, the risks of prostate or testicular problems are fairly low and, if any do occur, the solution generally is to neuter. On the other hand, there are increased health risks due to neutering.

On the negative side, neutering male dogs

  • if done before 1 year of age, significantly INCREASES the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in medium/large and larger breeds with a poor prognosis.
  • Increases the risk of cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 1.6
  • Triples the risk of hypothyroidism
  • Increases the risk of progressive geriatric cognitive impairment
  • Triples the risk of obesity, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
  • Quadruples the small risk (<0.6%) of prostate cancer
  • Doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract cancers
  • Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
  • Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations.”

Overall it seems the negatives associated with neutering are higher than not neutering. The exception being a dog with retained testicles who should be neutered.

If you choose to neuter, you might reduce some of the negatives by waiting until the dog is mature – perhaps a year old for smaller breeds and two years old or more in large breeds.

Risks vs Benefits For Female Dogs

The decision for females is not so easy.

Uterian cancer, mammary tumors and pyometra can all be life-threatening. Pregnancy complications can also be deadly. Spaying can reduce, and in some cases nearly eliminate, these risks.

Also results can be different depending on WHEN they are spayed with early spaying having higher risks of various problems. A longevity study suggests females may live longer if they’re not spayed until they’re at least 4-6 years old. But each heat cycle increases the chance of pyometra and breast cancer.

On the negative side, spaying female dogs

  • If done before 1 year of age, significantly increases the risk of osteosarcoma (bone cancer); this is a common cancer in larger breeds with a poor prognosis
  • Increases the risk of splenic hemangiosarcoma by a factor of 2.2 and cardiac hemangiosarcoma by a factor of >5; this is a common cancer and major cause of death in some breeds
  • Triples the risk of hypothyroidism
  • Increases the risk of obesity by a factor of 1.6-2, a common health problem in dogs with many associated health problems
  • Causes urinary “spay incontinence” in 4-20% of female dogs
  • Increases the risk of persistent or recurring urinary tract infections by a factor of 3-4
  • Increases the risk of recessed vulva, vaginal dermatitis, and vaginitis, especially for female dogs spayed before puberty
  • Doubles the small risk (<1%) of urinary tract tumors
  • Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders
  • Increases the risk of adverse reactions to vaccinations.”

For a little more insight on spaying females, there is a study that concluded shorter lifespan was associated with spaying. They looked at Rottweilers that had an average lifespan of about 9-1/2 years compared with Rotties who lived to at least 13 years old.

Females tend to live longer than males, but it didn’t hold true for females that were spayed before 4 years old.

As they dug deeper, their results showed that how long females kept their ovaries affected how long they lived. If they were at least six years old before being spayed they were 4.6 times more likely to live an exceptionally long life. When they excluded all deaths due to cancer, they found “females that kept their ovaries the longest were 9 times more likely to reach exceptional longevity than females with shortest ovary exposure.”

If you don’t plan to breed your female, spaying would probably be the better choice, particularly if you delay the surgery until your dog is mature.

If you do have a breeding-quality female and plan to breed her, puppies nursing may provide some protection against the risks to unspayed females. Another option for unspayed females is postponing her heat cycles with a steroid, mibolerone.

Each time a female has a heat cycle her body produces increased levels of progesterone which is inflammatory to her uterus. Several heat cycles with this inflammation, particularly if she is not bred, can lead to endometritis, a uterine infection. Mibolerone can delay her heat cycle for up to two years, but must not be used before she’s cycled once naturally.

Once a female’s breeding career is over, spaying would be a good choice. Based on the Rottweiler study, waiting to spay until she is over six years old may help to extend her life.



With all the potential health issues caused by spaying and neutering, another option you might consider is hormone-sparing sterilization. These are more like a hysterectomy or vasectomy in people.

A female dog would have her uterus removed, but not her ovaries. She would still have heat cycles due to her hormones, but bleeding is eliminated. Ovarian and breast cancer are still possible, but the risk of ovarian cancer is small. Regularly rubbing her belly – particularly after she reaches middle age – can alert you to any suspicious lumps that could develop into cancer.

For males dogs, your veterinarian would sever the vas deferens – the tube that transports semen. There would still be a chance of testicular cancer or an enlarged prostate, generally later in his life. However these can usually be treated by neutering. In the meantime, he would have benefited by retaining his natural hormones until then.

The problem is that few veterinarians are trained in these procedures. Hopefully that will eventually change.

There are also some non-surgical options. Zeuterin (also labeled EsterilSol in some countries) is an injection that sterilizes male dogs. Unfortunately it’s not currently available from the manufacturer. Suprelorin is an implant for male dogs to prevent fertility. It takes about 2-3 weeks to reduce testosterone and 6 weeks to infertility. It lasts about 6-12 months. Unfortunately it is only available in a few countries, but not in the US or Canada.

Of course, another option is responsible pet ownership. In some countries, neutering is very uncommon or even outlawed. However it does take more effort, especially with an intact female.



Spaying / neutering can have profound effects on your dog’s health and longevity. Consider the pros and cons. Don’t let anyone push you into a decision. If you do decide to spay/neuter, wait at least until your dog is fully mature. This may be about one year old for small dogs and two years (or more) for large dogs.

Listed below are some websites with more information:

Gonadectomy – Rethinking Long-Held Beliefs

Long-Term Health Risks and Benefits Associated with Spay / Neuter in Dogs

Aggression toward Familiar People, Strangers, and Conspecifics in Gonadectomized and Intact Dogs.

Assisting Decision-Making on Age of Neutering for Mixed Breed Dogs of Five Weight Categories: Associated Joint Disorders and Cancers

Rottweiler study links ovaries with exceptional longevity

Determining the optimal age for gonadectomy of dogs and cats

Alternatives to traditional spay and neuter – evolving best practices in dog sterilization

Norway bans pet sterilization without a medical reason

HNPK in Labrador Retrievers

HNPK in Labrador Retrievers is a genetic disorder that results in the formation of crusty skin on the nose. This disorder can lead to discomfort and other complications. Although it’s not life-threatening, it can affect your dog’s quality of life.

This article will explore HNPK, its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.


What Is HNPK in Labrador Retrievers?

Hereditary nasal parakeratosis is quite a mouthful. Let’s break it down:

  • hereditary = transmitted genetically from parent to offspring
  • nasal = of, in, or relating to the nose
  • para = prefix denoting a departure from the normal
  • keratin = key structural material making up hair, nails, claws, and the outer layer of skin
  • …osis = often implies an abnormal or diseased condition

So HNPK is an inherited skin disorder affecting the nose and has been found only (so far) in Labrador Retrievers and Lab crosses such as doodles and dilutes.

To avoid producing it, at least one parent should be tested clear before breeding.


Affected dogs have dry, rough, brown, or grey crusts that develop on the surface and along the edges of the nose. It’s often described as a “dry, crusty nose.”

There may also be some bumps and/or a loss of pigment in the nose. Affected areas are also prone to bacterial infections that can become chronic. Dogs are otherwise healthy.

Although it’s not a fatal condition, affected dogs suffer discomfort and pain if symptoms are not treated. In extreme cases, the dog’s nose will crack which leads to inflammation and continuous irritation.

Causes of HNPK

HNPK is a hereditary condition, meaning it is passed down from parents to their puppies. It’s caused by a gene mutation that causes keratinization of the nose.

A puppy with two copies of the mutated gene will likely develop symptoms between six months to one year of age.

Diagnosis of HNPK

Your veterinarian will first perform a thorough physical examination, focusing on the condition of your dog’s nose.

If HNPK is suspected, a genetic test can confirm the diagnosis. Often this is just a swab inside your dog’s cheek to collect a DNA sample.

Cheek swabs

Owners can do the cheek swab themselves. The swabs are like Q-tips, except they are sterile and have a long wooden handle. Your veterinarian may give you some swabs, or you can order some when you order the test. You will need three swabs.

Make sure your dog has not had anything to eat or drink for at least an hour before you collect samples. Slide the swab between your dog’s cheek and gum, then twirl it approximately ten times. Return it to the plastic envelope and repeat with a clean swab. Take a sample from your dog’s other cheek with the third swab.

Put the plastic envelope with the three swabs into a paper envelope and seal it. Write your name plus your dog’s name and breed on the outside of the envelope. Then put that envelope into a larger envelope. I use a 5×7″ manila envelope. Address and mail to the laboratory. I like DDC because they’re relatively fast and inexpensive. I also like that I can call to ask questions and place my order.

Treatment and management of HNPK

Unfortunately, there is no cure for HNPK. Treatment can help your dog feel better and improve his quality of life. This can include:

  • Regular application of moisturizing creams or ointments to the nose
  • Antibiotics or anti-fungal medications if an infection is present
  • Using a plastic cone to prevent rubbing
  • Regular check-ups to monitor the condition

Preventing HNPK

It’s a genetic disorder that requires two copies of the mutated gene – one from the father and one from the mother. The only prevention is to avoid breeding two dogs that carry the mutated gene.

A puppy with one copy of the mutated gene will appear normal and won’t develop symptoms.

To be sure puppies won’t develop symptoms at least one parent must be clear of the mutated gene. One or both parents can be tested as detailed above. Another option is if one parent is “clear by parentage.” In this case both the mother and father of one of the parents must be tested clear.

A dog with no symptoms but DNA testing shows he is a carrier of HNPK should only be bred to a clear dog. None of these puppies will develop symptoms, but some may carry the mutated gene.

An affected dog can also be bred, but it should only be to a dog tested clear. In this case, all of the puppies will be carriers but not affected.

In conclusion, although HNPK can’t be cured, it can be managed with proper care and treatment. If you’re a Labrador Retriever owner, it’s important to be aware of this condition and check with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of HNPK in your dog.

“Dynamite uses only natural ingredients, made in the United States for better quality control. Throughout its history of making natural dog food, it has always looked at alternatives to animal by-products, antibiotics, chemical preservatives, fumigants, artificial coloring and other additives that have later caused dog allergies and other health problems.

“Its manufacturing processes are so stringently controlled that Dynamite has a separate mill to produce feed for herbivores, such as horses and poultry that are especially sensitive to contamination from meat needed by other species such as dogs and cats.”

I’m proud to be a Dynamite distributor for over 20 years!

I’ve had great results for both my animals and me. But because governmental regulations won’t allow us to make therapeutic claims, we can only tell you how we’ve used the products and share some stories from other people.

Covid-19 update:

According to the National Institutes of Health, “interest in dietary supplement ingredients that might enhance immune function and reduce inflammation to help prevent COVID-19 or manage its signs and symptoms remains high. Many of these ingredients have not been studied in people with COVID-19, but research suggests that they might improve immune function and help prevent or reduce symptoms of the common cold, influenza, and other respiratory tract infections.”

Although “…dietary supplements are not allowed to be marketed as a treatment, prevention, or cure for any disease” some studies suggest supplements may lower the risk of severe cases of Covid-19. These include vitamins C and D, zinc and Quercetin. Other studies also suggest magnesium, zinc and probiotics.

Some Dynamite products you may want to consider include:

  • DM Plus contains “highly absorbable forms of vitamins and minerals” plus a “proprietary blend of phytonutrients, amino acids, and enzymes to improve digestion, absorption, and utilization of all these nutrients. (Caution: This product contains iron. Be aware that accidental overdose of iron-containing products is a leading cause of fatal poisoning in children under 6.)”
  • TriMins for calcium, magnesium and potassium (DM Plus and TriMins “together provide 750% of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D. It is important to keep in mind that US RDA is based on the amount needed to remain alive. Most studies have shown that increased amounts are needed for immune benefits.)”
  • SOD “contains the building blocks for the class of antioxidants called superoxide dismutase” including zinc, copper, selenium and manganese.
  • Hiscorbadyne “provides a healthy dose of buffered vitamin C and a proprietary blend of herbs and antioxidants that specifically target immune system health.”
  • Solace – “Research indicates silver may boost antibiotic effectiveness. Dynamite Solace is made of pure colloidal silver.”

Here are some of the products I’ve used  and swear by:

If I could only have one of the Dynamite products it would be a toss up between Solace and DynaPro. We’ve used Solace (200 ppm colloidal silver) topically and internally, usually diluted with distilled water, but occasionally full strength. As an example, we used it combined with a homeopathic for cough when our dogs came in contact with kennel cough. They finished coughing within 24 hours, but a neighbor’s dogs continued coughing for two weeks.

I wouldn’t be without it! Anytime the dogs get stressed they get a couple of drops in their mouths or on their food. Weather changes, competition, breeding can all cause stress. By the way, we get the DynaPro for horses – same formula, bigger bottle, better price.

Miracle Clay
We’ve used Miracle Clay on all sorts of minor problems from bee stings, to bug bites, to rashes, to other swellings. We have wasps who give a nasty sting, but using a dab of activated Miracle Clay has stopped the stinging within seconds. It’s been called a “Healing Gift from Mother Earth.”

We’ve used it on sore muscles, blisters, and wounds. I even spray some on my face when I’ve been staring at the computer screen for too long.

We don’t use this product too often anymore, but it’s been helpful for stressful situations such as the first trailer ride or a farrier visit. My Labs are conditioned to gun fire from puppyhood so July 4th fireworks don’t bother them at all, but not so for some dogs. Relax has helped other dogs get through that stressful day and adding Tranquil can provide additional help. If your dog is stressed by fireworks, here’s a video that talks more about Dynamite’s Relax and Tranquil.

Tea Tree Oil
Cuts, scrapes and other booboos get topped with TTO. We’ve used it on us and the horses, but only when VERY diluted on the dogs.

Trace Minerals Concentrate
Whenever we need to stop minor bleeding, we use Trace Minerals Concentrate.

Wound Salve
We use Wound Salve on open wounds, usually with Solace and/or Tea Tree Oil.

We’ve had great results using Balm on bruises, old scar tissue and even dry heels (to get ready for sandal season). By the way, Balm is used on closed wounds, while Wound Salve can be used on open wounds.

Showdown for Dogs / Showdown Pro
We started our Dynamite journey using Showdown and noticed quite an improvement in our dogs’ health. Coats became thicker and, in the case of chocolate Labs, a darker color. We supplement breeding females with Showdown Pro, starting before breeding and continuing through weaning the puppies. The girls have maintained better condition and puppies get off to a great start.

Free & Easy for Dogs
Our older dogs get Free & Easy six days a week. One of our dogs was diagnosed with a partially torn ACL and the vet recommended immediate surgery. We chose instead to try conservative management (straight to rehab, skipping the surgery). It took awhile, but he went back to competing in hunt tests, obedience and rally trials thanks in part to Free & Easy and Izmine.

“Izmine™ is an unusually effective mineral food containing more than 70 naturally-occurring minerals, enzymes, electrolytes and bio-nutrients in a readily-assimilated form. Its natural acidity contributes to its high degree of assimilation.” It has helped my dog recover after an ACL tear and my mom’s arthritis in her hands and back – they both also took Free & Easy. Here’s a story about how Izmine was used to help dolphins who lived in chlorinated water and used to help a penguin that developed a large goiter.

Herbal Tonic
Twice a year we give our dogs Herbal Tonic to avoid having to use harsh chemical wormers. To be safe, we also test for heartworm. For tips on how to use Herbal Tonic (and some supporting products), check out Parasite Control: Balance vs. Eradication by Judy Sinner.

We keep Hiscorbadyne on hand for times when the dogs get stressed or need an extra boost to their immune systems such as during a recent outbreak of kennel cough.

Dyna Shield
Love summer, but hate the bugs? Me too. Mosquitos, biting flies and those awful ticks when we’re running the dogs in the fields. Ugh. I’ve tried all sorts of products to keep bugs at bay, not only because they’re annoying, but also because they transmit diseases. Can’t say I’ve ever liked the stickiness and horrible smell – especially so for my dogs when they need a good sense of smell to find some of their birds. Then I tried Dyna Shield – “a natural horse spray containing a blend of natural, proven, botanical oils that can be applied directly to your horse with peace of mind.” It’s a concentrate that can be diluted at various levels to be used on horses, dogs and people. It does have a smell, but more herbal than chemical. And it works well for my animals and me. Learn more about the harmful effects of chemical sprays.

For show dogs, we’ve found DynaCoat has helped put on that extra bit of coat. We also gave it to a dog that generally had a rather sparse coat and within a few weeks she developed a nice plush coat and even grew hair along her belly and inner thighs where she never had hair before.

Super Premium Dog Food
I’ve tried several premium brands of dog food and this one has given us great results. It’s made with fresh, hand-trimmed USDA chicken, plus fish meal and salmon oil with only minimal processing to help preserve the natural goodness of the ingredients. NO corn or wheat. 24% protein, 16% fat. It comes in 8-pound and 40-pound bags.

DM Plus
Yep, I take my vitamins too! Why take chances? I certainly don’t have the time to eat as well as I should, and I know with Dynamite I’m doing something good for the only body I will ever have.

As part of the Dynamite basic program, we take Tri-Mins for the additional minerals. Some people have asked why Tri-Mins is separate from DM Plus. It’s because we each have different needs for the minerals in Tri-Mins (calcium, potassium, magnesium) and this allows you to adjust the amounts as needed.

I started the Dynamite program by taking Elixir mixed with water every day for 60 days. Now I take it whenever I feel a bout of heartburn coming on which, thankfully, isn’t very often.

Free & Easy for Humans
I recently had to start taking Free & Easy for my joints. A hand injury left one finger rather stiff, particularly in the mornings. Now I’m much more limber.

Natural Trace Mineral Salt
Instead of using the dead iodized salt commonly sold in grocery stores, we use the Natural Trace Mineral Salt. The only downside is that you have to tap your salt shaker occasionally to make it flow freely.

PMS (Premium Magnesium Supplement)
I’ve been told emergency room doctors often give magnesium to heart attack victims. Another source told me that most women are deficient in magnesium and it’s involved in enzyme and hormonal actions to help lower blood pressure. With all that in mind, I take a couple PMS every day.

Worried about packing on the pounds during the holidays?

I lost 30 pounds in two months on this protocol and overall found it to be pretty easy.

Horse products
Although my horses are leased out to a family with several children, they also get Dynamite products. I like the Dynamite Plus for the additional coenzymes and herbs to help calm and balance the gut pH. (Regular Dynamite would be a good choice for a horse in competition.) We also offer the Free Choice Minerals so each horse can eat as much or as little as they need. When we were breeding horses we also used Breeder Pac. And, of course, they also get DynaPro and occasionally Herbal Tonic.

Here are some results and stories from other people:

DM Plus, TriMins, Free & Easy and PMS
For years my mother would tell me every day that she needed to lay down because her back hurt. Her doctors had her taking calcium pills for osteoporosis plus 800 mg Tylenol whenever she had pain. But it wasn’t until she came to live with me that I found out about the variety of medications she was taking. The years of taking inorganic calcium had given her bone spurs and the daily Tylenol was causing other problems. So we weaned her off the medications that were contraindicated, provided her with better food choices and started DM Plus, TriMins, Free & Easy and PMS and the difference was almost immediate. In the almost 4 years she lived with me, I can only remember one time she had to lay down because her back hurt.

Free & Easy for People
As an aircraft mechanic, my husband misused his hands every day. That’s on top of a bad habit of popping his knuckles. He tried soaking his hands in warm water every morning to make it easier to open and close his hands. I gave him a bottle of Free & Easy, but didn’t think he’d take them. When he did, I realized just how much he hurt. He never said anything though. That is, until a few days after he ran out and had to resort to bathing his hands in warm water again. He actually asked for more F&E!

Free & Easy for Dogs
Story in a nutshell: Have an Australian Cattle Dog who will be 11 years old this August. He injured himself, caught his rear paw when running onto the deck early on. He favored it on and off for quite some time. Got tired of meds from vet when he seemed to be favoring it from time to time. He actually got to a point, at one time, that he couldn’t go up the stairs. So, looked for a more holistic approach. Researched the internet and found a site with testimonials on Free and Easy. Then researched the best price to buy which was from you. At the time I began using Free and Easy also switched him to an organic, high quality dog food to which I add a spoon of pureed celery to each meal, as celery contains alot of water content which aids the joints in arthritic situations. The vet not convinced about this, but I find the results to be good. And the rest is history. Don’t know if it is one item or combination of all, but he has not been on meds for this condition for years now.
R Witalec

Well it worked, back to back Winners Bitch (had not earned any points for the previous two years).
Sandy Nixon

The dog’s coats are what people comment on the most. They look like they have just been bathed they are so shiny. Their gums have a nice color as well.
Captain Tim Bradbeer
Beach and Bay Charters

Bow is doing great. Still a ball of energy at 8 years and no signs of slowing down.
Robin Thorne

14 year old Billy’s Healthy Senior Lifestyle

Scooby Recovers from Sinus Tumor

Free and Easy Gives New Spark to 11-Year-Old Dog

Bernese Mountain Dog, Deuce, Makes a Showy Change in 2 Months

Weight Loss – 180 & Dynalite

Trace Minerals Vs. Pocket Knife Wound

The Concepts of Free Choice Minerals

These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, prevent or mitigate any disease. But you can always contact us if you have any questions. You can also get more information by clicking the button below.

Ticks are tiny, blood-sucking parasites that can cause serious health problems in dogs. They live in tall grass, brushy and wooded areas where they can latch onto pets and feed on their blood.

Tick-borne diseases are a growing concern for dog owners as these illnesses can be hard to diagnose and treat.



Ticks are related to spiders and mites. They feed on the blood of mammals, birds, and reptiles and can spread diseases to people and animals.

There are several species of ticks that can vary in size from 1mm (about the size of a pencil tip) to 6mm. When feeding, sometimes for days, they will get larger as they gorge on blood. They can be green, brown, black, or white, depending on the type and age of the tick.

Some of the most common ticks that can affect dogs in the United States include the American dog tick, lone star tick, brown dog tick. and black-legged tick.

If you find a tick crawling on you or your dog, scoop it into a small jar filled with rubbing alcohol. Don’t squish a tick because that could spread any disease it might be carrying. Not every tick is infected, but it’s better to treat them like they are.

“This is a tick that was fully engorged on a dog and fell off. It was put in a ziplock bag and we waited to see what happened to show you all. It’s been in the bag for 2 weeks with no air flow and started to lay eggs about 5 days ago, continuing to do so even still today. Imagine not knowing this was on your animal and it fell off in your house. You’d have 1000’s of baby ticks. GROSS! Please make sure your animals are currently being treated with flea and tick prevention. We know how prevalent they are in our area.”

Waunakee Veterinary Clinic Facebook post


Ticks spread disease by first feeding on an affected animal (or person) and later feeding on another animal (or person). When feeding, they insert their mouthparts into the host and drink the blood. Meanwhile, the tick’s saliva enters the host, potentially spreading disease.

They can transmit several diseases to dogs, some of which can be life-threatening. The most common are:

Lyme disease:

Bacteria carried by black-legged ticks cause this disease. Symptoms include fever, joint pain, headache, fatigue, and loss of appetite. In some cases, Lyme disease can cause kidney damage, heart problems, and neurological issues. Lime disease is in the upper midwestern, northeastern, and mid-Atlantic states and also on the west coast. There is a vaccine for Lyme.

Signs and symptoms: The first symptom is often a circular rash at the bite site that slowly grows to about two inches in diameter. It’s rarely itchy or painful. Other symptoms include fever, chills, and fatigue. Over time there may be additional rash sites and nerve damage that causes weakness and numbness.

Ehrlichiosis and Anaplasmosis:

Bacteria, carried by an infected tick, cause these infections. Lone star ticks carry ehrlichiosis, black-legged ticks carry anaplasmosis. Symptoms are similar and include fever, headache, chills, fatigue, loss of appetite, and joint pain. In severe cases, ehrlichiosis can cause anemia and bleeding disorders, and anaplasmosis can cause respiratory distress and neurological issues. Ehrlichiosis is in the southeastern and south-central states. Anaplasmosis is in the upper Midwest and northeastern states.

Signs and symptoms: fever, chills, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever:

RMSF is a bacterial disease spread by an infected tick. Early symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, stomach pain, and loss of appetite. RMSF is most common in North Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and along the US-Mexico border, but it does occur in every state.

Signs and symptoms: rash, fever, fatigue, swelling around the eyes and hands, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea. Later there may be necrosis, trouble breathing, brain swelling, and coma.

If you think your dog may have a tick-borne disease, check with your veterinarian immediately.

Life Stages

Each row shows an adult female, adult male, nymph, and larva of a species.

Top row: American dog tick

Middle row: Black legged tick

Bottom row: Lone star tick

Image courtesy Cornell University


Take preventive measures to protect your dog.

Avoid Tick-Infested Areas:

Ticks are found in tall grass and wooded areas. To reduce your dog’s risk of tick bites, avoid taking them to places where ticks are known to be present.

Keep Your Yard Clean:

To reduce your dog’s risk of tick bites, keep your yard clean and well-maintained. Mow your lawn regularly and remove any leaf litter or debris that may provide a hiding place for ticks.

Use Tick Preventatives:

Several tick preventatives are available for dogs, including sprays, collars, tablets, and chews. These products kill ticks before they can attach to your dog’s skin. Talk to your veterinarian about the best tick preventative for your dog.

Consider vaccinations:

There are vaccines for some tick-borne diseases, such as Lyme disease. Talk to your veterinarian about vaccinations recommended for your dog.

Check Your Dog For Ticks:

After spending time outdoors, thoroughly check your dog for ticks. Start by running your hands all over your dog. If you feel a bump, spread his fur to see if it’s a tick. Be sure to check all the nooks and crannies – in and around his ears, eyelids, facial wrinkles, under collars, “armpits”, groin area, and between his toes. Sometimes they’ll even feed on your dog’s gums. Another option is using a special tick comb to pull off ticks.

You can see a special comb used in this video.

If you find a tick, remove it using tweezers or a tick remover:

  • Protect your skin with latex gloves.
  • Using tweezers, pinch the tick close to your dog’s skin and pull away from the skin in a steady motion. Don’t twist or squeeze the tick because the head could break off.
  • If you use a tick remover, slide it along your dog’s skin until you catch it in the notch. Pull away in a steady motion.
  • Place the tick(s) in a small jar and cover it with rubbing alcohol. Ask your veterinarian if you need to bring it in for identification.
  • Wipe a cotton ball soaked in antiseptic over the bite area.
  • Then keep looking because there may be more.

Check Yourself For Ticks:

Ticks can also latch on to people, so check yourself for ticks after spending time outdoors. You probably won’t feel them on your skin or even when they bite and start feeding because they inject an anesthetic. If you find a tick, remove it immediately using tweezers or a tick remover detailed above.

If you live in, or are visiting, an area with lots of ticks, check your dog and yourself daily.


Tick-borne diseases are a threat to your dog’s health. Taking preventative measures can reduce the risk of tick bites and tick-borne diseases.

Talk to your veterinarian about which tick preventatives are best for your dog.

Header image courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As pet owners, we always want to give our dogs the best possible care. We take them on long walks, feed them nutritious meals, and make sure they get plenty of exercise. However, sometimes even our best efforts can’t protect them from hidden dangers. One such danger that’s becoming more common is blue-green algae, which produces toxins that are deadly to dogs.


What is Blue-Green algae?

They are a type of bacteria found in various bodies of water, such as ponds, lakes, rivers, and even saltwater. It’s found throughout the world, generally when the weather is warm and sunny (or has been recently).

Usually blue-green in color, it can form dense mats, called blooms, on the water’s surface, ranging in size from small patches to covering entire lakes. Or it can look shiny, oily, or like paint floating on the water.

Even short-term exposure can cause acute illnesses in people and dogs. Playing in contaminated water can cause hay fever-like symptoms, skin rashes, and respiratory and digestive distress. Drinking water contaminated with a high concentration of blue-green algae could cause liver and kidney damage. Symptoms often begin within hours.


The dangers of blue-green algae for dogs

Dogs are generally more at risk, as they like to play and swim in the water and even drink it. Symptoms can appear within minutes of exposure, and can include:

  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness
  • difficulty breathing
  • seizures
  • death

If you suspect that your dog has been exposed to blue-green algae, it’s important to act quickly. Immediately speak with your vet and describe the symptoms your dog is exhibiting. If possible, bring a sample of the water with you to the vet to help with diagnosis and treatment.

Identifying blue-green algae

Although it can sometimes be difficult to identify, tell-tale signs include:

  • water that looks like pea soup, green paint, or blue-green scum
  • foam or bubbles on the surface of the water
  • clumps or mats on the water or along the shoreline
  • a musty or earthy smell

If you suspect that there may be blue-green algae present in a body of water, keep your dog away from the water.

Test kits are available that can be done on-site, with results in about 15 minutes. Be sure to use waterproof gloves when collecting a sample. Nitrile exam gloves are readily available online or at a local pharmacy.

Protect your dog from exposure.

The best way to protect your dog from blue-green algae is to prevent exposure in the first place. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Check for local advisories.

Many states have websites that post advisories about blue-green algae outbreaks in local bodies of water. Check out these advisories before heading out with your dog.

Keep your dog on a leash.

If you’re not sure about the safety of a body of water, keep your dog on a leash and away from the water. This can help prevent him from drinking potentially contaminated water.

Avoid stagnant water.

Blue-green algae thrive in stagnant water, so it’s best to avoid ponds or lakes that don’t have a lot of circulation.

Be vigilant.

Watch your dog closely for any symptoms when they are swimming or playing in the water. If you see any of the symptoms listed above, contact your veterinarian immediately.

Click for a Test Kit available on Amazon

Quick Reminder

Blue-green algae often grows in ponds and lakes when the weather has been warm and sunny. The toxins it produces can be deadly to dogs.

Check for clumps of blue-green algae in the water or along the shoreline. Sometimes it will look shiny, oily, or like paint floating on the water. If you’re not sure, keep your dog out of the water.

Test kits are available and only take about 15 minutes for results.

If your dog goes in or drinks any water that you suspect has blue-green algae, contact your veterinarian immediately for advice.

Be aware of the health risks and take precautions to reduce your dog’s exposure to contaminated water. Keep your dog safe and healthy so they can enjoy the outdoors.

Header image courtesy California Waterboards –

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