During the summer, we often worry about our pets dehydrating. Exercising in the heat, out in the sun and water, we are conscious of their water intake and possible dehydration symptoms. But during the rest of the year, we may forget about the lingering danger of dehydration. The air is dry, the heat is running, and your pet may not be as thirsty. Older dogs or pets with health problems (especially if vomiting or have diarrhea!) may need more water than usual, yet have decreased thirst. In my recent attempts to get a dog to drink water, I did some research on the symptoms of dehydration, and what you can do to get fluids back into them. dehydrationblog2

Signs of dehydration can be vague, like sunken eyes and lethargy. There are a few tests you can do to check their hydration levels though. Pinch and lift slightly the skin on the back of their shoulders. If it doesn’t immediately return to normal, the skin has lost elasticity, and the pet is dehydration. You can also check their gums and mouth. Push slightly on the gum so it turns white. When you remove pressure, it should return to the normal color within less than two seconds. If the blood is not returning to the area as quickly, or their mouth is dry and sticky, the animal is dehydrated. When a pet is vomiting or has diarrhea repeatedly, you can also assume they are becoming dehydrated.

So what can you do? In some circumstances, veterinary attention is required. If there are other health problems, or the pet has been ill for a few days, IV fluids probably need to be given. But at home, there are several tricks you can use to get your pet to drink more water.

  1. Make sure there are several locations with fresh water in clean bowls. Remember that your pet’s nose is more sensitive than yours, and bacteria or dirt can build in water dishes within a few hours. Clean dishes every day and refresh water twice a day.
  2. Try ice cubes. If they don’t want to drink out of their dish, have them munch or lick ice cubes. Some pets prefer cold water, so you can add ice to their dish as well.
  3. Add water to their food. Whether they eat dry kibble or wet canned food, you can add a bit of water to it so they get more while eating a meal.
  4. Make the water more delicious. You can add a few tablespoons of unsalted chicken or beef broth to their water dish. The smell and taste will appeal to the animal, and can often replenish electrolytes as well.
  5. Soak a new toy in water. They will ingest the water as they chew on the toy. Some pet owners will also freeze toys or treats in ice, so the animal has to lick the water to get the treat.
  6. Change dishes. Some animals are picky about the material or shape of the dish they drink out of. You can try putting water in a human cup or bowl and leaving that out. Cats especially like to drink out of glasses or from running water out of a faucet.
  7. Consider electrolyte replacements The Gilroy Veterinary Hospital in California recommends 1 tablespoon of Pedialyte every hour for every 10 lbs the animal weighs. For example, if you have a 40 lb dog, you can give them 4 tbsp every hour. Consult your vet before giving electrolyte replacements, as this means they probably need IV fluids anyway.While many of these solutions are simple, they are often the difference between a sick, hospitalized pet, or a healthy, energetic one. You can monitor your pet’s fluid intake daily by refilling it at the same time every day, and keeping an eye on their fluid loss (urine output, bowl consistency, drooling, etc). Keeping your pet hydrated is key for every day, not just the hot ones!

While many of these solutions are simple, they are often the difference between a sick, hospitalized pet, or a healthy, energetic one. You can monitor your pet’s fluid intake daily by refilling it at the same time every day, and keeping an eye on their fluid loss (urine output, bowl consistency, drooling, etc). Keeping your pet hydrated is key for every day, not just the hot ones!

Sources: PetMD, Gilroy Veterinary Hospital,, dehydrationblog1

zoomiesblogpicDoes your dog ever get that crazed look in their eye and start racing around the house at top speed? There’s a name for that! And it isn’t the “zoomies” or “crazies” like we often call them. Veterinarians and animal behaviorists call these episodes “frenetic rapid action periods”, or FRAPs.

A FRAP is characterized by a burst of energy, which is usually brief and can include a mischievous or crazy glint in their eyes. Sometimes the FRAP will be preluded by a play bow, before the running starts. Often a dog will start this after a bath, or when outside, but they can happen anywhere, at any time. The “zoomies” are often common in puppies and young dogs but old dogs may still experience an episode, especially if influenced by an energetic puppy. FRAPs are completely normal, but can be a sign that your dog needs more exercise. If you find that your dog is having several episodes a day, make sure they are getting enough activity. You can redirect their energy through additional walks or playing fetch. Feeding them or giving treats in a food-stuffable toy is another way to keep them busy and active.

If your dog racing around your apartment isn’t conducive to your lifestyle (got fragile lamps? A small apartment?), you can take steps to minimize the amount of zooming happening. Do not chase your dog, as it can be counterproductive on them learning to “come” to their name. Never let your dog continue to race in dangerous areas like slippery floors or near a road. If they are cueing a FRAP by a play bow or “crazy eyes”, call them in a firm voice, and put them on a leash or in a crate for a few minutes. Then take them out for organized play and exercise. Do not reward FRAP behavior in areas that you don’t want your dog to race around; instead cue them with your own play bow during a time and place when they can.

As long as the “zoomies” aren’t putting the home or the dog in danger, just sit back and enjoy your pet’s behavior. Because you have to admit, watching the dog go into “turbo-maniac-mode” is pretty hilarious. Happy zooming!

Sources: How Stuff Works, Vet Street, Andrea Arden

vestibulardiseaseblogThe cute head tilt that your dog gives you; is it just confused, or the sign of a bigger problem? The vestibular vestibulardiseaseblog2system present in most mammals is responsible for maintaining balance. It has parts in the brain, middle ear, and inner ear, and tells us if we are moving, motionless, and what direction our body is moving in. Vestibular disease is a sudden, non-progressive disturbance in this balance, and is common in older dogs. While vestibular disease is not usually serious, it can mimic the signs of a stroke, so let’s learn the causes, signs, and what you can do for your pet.

The causes of vestibular disease can vary; basically any disruption in the brain or ear can affect your pet’s balance. Trauma or injury to the head or ears, an ear infection, or toxicity of drugs can disrupt the vestibular system. Brain tumors, cancer and hypothyroidism can also cause vestibular disease. When no underlying cause can be found, the disease is known to be idiopathic (meaning no present cause). Idiopathic vestibular disease is fairly common, especially if your pet is geriatric.

Signs of vestibular disease are mainly a loss of balance, head tilt, jerking eye movements (known as nystagmus), disorientation, and leaning or falling. Your pet may be dizzy, and as a result can be reluctant to stand or walk, may spin or circle, and may have a loss of appetite or vomiting. If you notice any of these signs in your cat or dog, take them to the vet. They will review the history and symptoms of your pet, and possibly do some x-rays or other imaging of the head or ears. Sometimes a blood or urine sample will be taken, or a hearing test administered. Based on the information the vet gathers, they can diagnose an underlying problem like an infection or tumor, or diagnosis it as idiopathic vestibular disease.

Treatment of vestibular disease depends on if there is another problem causing it. For example, ear infections can be treated with antibiotics, whereas cancerous tumors may require surgery or chemotherapy. The vet may give your pet intravenous fluids and nutrition if they are weak and have not been eating well. They can also prescribe meds for motion sickness, which will help your pet experience less dizziness and nausea. If an animal is very upset and anxious, they may also give them a mild sedative to help them rest. Idiopathic vestibular disease will resolve slowly over time, so managing the symptoms and giving your pet rest is all that is needed.

So your vet has determined the cause of your dog’s dizziness, and is being treated, but what can you do? What your pet needs most is time and rest, so manage YOUR stress, which can be perceived and transferred to your cat or dog. If you are acting anxious and upset, your pet will too. Create a quiet resting spot for your animal that is away from the flow of traffic. They may prefer a hard resting area on the floor over a bed, as the firm ground helps better orient them. You can use a rolled towel shaped like a “C” so they still have something to cradle them while resting. Provide good lighting through the house and other areas your pet may need to navigate. Try not to carry them. Their balance system needs to recover, and it can’t without practice. You can guide your dog with your hands along their sides (firm pressure, so they can stay balanced), or by looping a towel around them like a sling to prevent them from falling. If you must carry your pet, do so while placing their feet firmly on the floor, so the sensory receptors in the pads are being activated.

Idiopathic vestibular disease is usually most severe within the first 24-48 hours, and will start to improve after 72 hours. It may resolve completely within a week, with occasional reoccurrences of a slight wobble from time to time. Often vestibular disease looks much worse than it is, but a trip to the vet is always necessary, to determine whether the pet has a larger health problem.

Sources: Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Vestibular Disorders Association,,,

beachblog1Summertime is here, and that means trips to the beach! We love soaking up sun and waves here in West Michigan, and so do our dogs. But are you the jerk at the dog beach? Here are a few reminders as you bring your pet with you to enjoy the lake.

-Know the rules. Make sure you know the beach you are attending is dog-friendly, and what the leash rules and other restrictions are before you arrive. Just because you have the beach to yourselves doesn’t mean you can break leash laws.

-Pay attention to your pet! If you are attending a beach with your dog, then your priority is the dog. Keep eyes on them at all times to avoid wandering, fights, and any other bad situation. Make sure they get enough clean water, shade, and aren’t overheating.

-Make sure your pup has basic training. They need to be able to obey basic commands before you can take them into a new environment. If your dog doesn’t always come immediately when called, then they should not be off-leash at a beach.

-PICK UP THE POOP. This is a big one. Leaving fecal material on the beach is a hazard to other dogs, people, and the local ecosystem. Bring extra bags in case you run out, or someone else needs one.

-Don’t bring your own food. Trying to watch a dog and prepare your own meal may not be the best idea on a beach. If you’re cooking a hot dog, you’re not watching your real dog. Human food can also get left out and make other visiting pups sick.

-Anything on the ground is fair game. You can’t leave your umbrella and towel on the ground then get mad it got peed on. Save your big beach set-up for the days with just the people.

-Do bring supplies for your dog. This includes your own water (clean bottled water, not the lake!) and bowl, toys, poop bags, treats, a first aid kit, towel, and life vest (if swimming). Using a community water bowl or toys is a risk for fights and getting your dog sick. You want to make sure you have all your own items to keep your pet safe and healthy, not relying on someone else’s supplies.

Your dog has completely different needs than you do when enjoying the sun and sand, so you must be prepared for this, and make sure your pet is ready for a beach trip. Not paying attention to your animal, not cleaning up after them, or breaking local rules can cause dog beaches to be closed, and we already have so few as it is.


Looking for a good spot in West Michigan? Here’s a few dog-friendly beaches:

-Kruse Park, Muskegon. The northern end of the park has a dog beach. The area is clearly marked, so be sure to stay in the dog area to avoid being ticketed. Dogs must be leashed on the shore, but can be off-leash in the water.

-Grand Haven City Beach, Grand Haven. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach South of the swim buoys Memorial Day through Labor Day (to the left of the Bill-Mar Restaurant if looking from the road). Dogs must be kept on a six-foot leash. After Labor Day through Memorial Day, dogs are allowed on any part of the Grand Haven City Beach.

-Nordhouse Dunes, Manistee. Dogs must be on a leash here at all times, but are welcome to explore trails, dunes, and the shoreline.

-Grand Mere State Park, Stevensville. Dogs must be on a leash at all times, but are permitted to explore the lakeshore, dunes, and trails.

To find out if the area you are visiting is dog-friendly, check with your state park or city ordinances. Never assume that leashed dogs are welcome; always find the rules.

For more information on dogs and other water-related safety concerns (like ingesting sand or algae) see our other blog:

For info on how to create a pet first-aid kit:

Sources:, DNA Info, The Animal Behavior College,, and