Could My Dog Get Heartworms?

Big or small, all dogs are at risk for heartworms.

Just the word “heartworms” is enough to strike fear in most dog lovers. This serious and sometimes fatal disease affects dogs of any age or breed and has been found in all 50 states. While heartworm infection causes extensive and severe heart and lung damage in dogs, treatment success rates are high.  But why let your dog suffer at all? With effective preventative medicine, you can easily protect your four-legged friend from heartworm disease.

What are heartworms?

Heartworms, also known as Dirofilaria immitis, are parasites that live in the heart chambers and pulmonary arteries in dogs. They grow between 6 to 14 inches in length and cause heart and vital organ damage by blocking the flow of blood. An average heartworm infection consists of a dozen worms while severe infections can consist of 50 to 100 worms. (Ewwwwwww!)

How do dogs get them?

Heartworm infection is transmitted solely by mosquitoes. A female mosquito bites an infected animal and ingests tiny larvae found in the animal’s blood. Eight days to one month later, the mosquito then bites a healthy dog and deposits the larvae, which grow and travel throughout the dog’s body. It’s estimated that 27 million dogs in the U.S. are not protected from heartworm infection. Mosquitoes can also pass on heartworms from coyotes, foxes, wolves, domestic and wild cats and ferrets. It can take anywhere from several months to a year after the mosquito bite for symptoms to show up in your dog.

What are the symptoms of heartworm infection in dogs?

Coughing is the most frequent indicator of heartworms. Your dog may also experience shortness of breath and fatigue while exercising. Advanced symptoms include weight loss, breathing difficulty, fever and fluid in the abdomen. Keep in mind that each dog reacts differently to heartworms and symptoms will vary based on the duration and severity of the infection.

How do you prevent heartworms?

Luckily, preventative medicine, such as chewable pills which are administered monthly, are 100 percent effective against heartworms. Other options include topical treatments or injections given by your vet twice a year. Consult your vet for the best preventative for your dog and make sure to give your dog the medicine as directed. Some owners forget and leave their dogs unprotected against this deadly disease.

How are heartworms treated?

Your vet can determine if your dog has heartworms with a simple blood test. If your dog tests positive, there’s a 95 percent chance of recovery, although the treatment will be difficult for your dog. It consists of killing the worms, which then decompose, breakup and lodge in the capillaries of the lungs and obstruct blood flow. Treatment for severe cases can take as long as five months.

Heartworm Myths

Many dog and cat lovers have misinformation about heartworm infections. Here are some common misconceptions and the truth about this disease.

1. Cats can’t get heartworms. Felines can become infected with heartworms but the parasites affect them differently than dogs. While heartworms in dogs live in the heart and cause cardiovascular disease, heartworms in cats develop in the lungs causing respiratory disease.  Heartworm infection in cats is difficult to diagnose because it’s often mistaken for asthma or bronchitis.

2. My pets can’t get heartworms because they stay indoors. All cats and dogs require heartworm protection, even those considered indoor pets. All it takes is one mosquito bite for your dog or cat to become infected. If you allow your pets to sit or lie in front of open doors and windows or let them go out on a deck or patio, they’re at risk. Also, even if your dog or cat truly never goes out, mosquitoes can sneak inside your home.

3. Pets don’t need heartworm medication during the winter. Climate changes and urbanization have affected the environment and raised temperatures which increases the chances for heartworm infection all year. As a result, the American Heartworm Society and the Companion Animal Parasite Council recommend year-round, broad-spectrum heartworm prevention in all areas of the country.

4. My pet and I live in a region that doesn’t have heartworms. While areas with a higher mosquito population, such as Texas, Florida and Louisiana, will have higher incidences of heartworms, all 50 states have reported infections. As new cases continue to grow year after year, vets now recommend heartworm preventative treatment for pets across the United States.

5. Preventing heartworm infection is too expensive. Depending on the size of your dog, heartworm preventatives can cost as little as 10 cents a day.  You can buy a lifetime of heartworm preventatives for less than the cost of treating your dog for heartworm infection. You can also spare your beloved companion the difficult treatment needed to eradicate these parasites.


Why Does My Dog Lick Me?

Do you love dog smooches or do they gross you out? Dogs like to lick us on the face, hands, feet, arms, legs and wherever they can reach. While some dogs may only give a lick or three, other pups just don’t know when to quit. Excessive licking can be an annoyance for you and a turn-off for your non-dog friends. Luckily, it’s a behavior you can modify with lots of training and patience.

Why Dogs Lick Us

Many people see dog licks or kisses as signs of affection. While there is some truth to that idea, dogs also lick humans for other reasons.

• Licking is a natural instinct. Dogs first experience licking as newborns when mothers use their tongues to stimulate and clean their babies. Your dog may lick because he wants to bond with you.

• Dogs learn about us through licking. Dogs gather information about us through scent receptors located in their nose and mouth. Through the sweat and sebum we release, they can tell if we are stressed, afraid or happy. Dogs tend to like licking feet since they contain the most sweat glands.

• Licking feels good. When a dog licks, endorphins are released that allow her to feel pleasure, comfort and safety.

• Dogs show respect by licking. Your dog is indicating that you are in charge and he is the submissive one. In other words, he knows where his kibble comes from!

Is it Safe for my Dog to Lick Me?

You’ve probably heard the old myth that a dog’s mouth is cleaner than a human’s. Well, that’s both true and not true. The kind of bacteria found in both dog and human mouths depends on what’s recently been there. Unlike humans, dogs will eat garbage, raw meat and even poo. They lick privates and sniff butts. But in terms of spreading disease, dog’s mouths are clean. That’s because the bacteria there is species specific; meaning dog germs won’t hurt humans and vice versa. The one exception is rabies, a damaging disease that can be passed from dogs to humans.

How to Get Your Dog to Stop Licking You

Since licking is an ingrained behavior, you’ll need to teach your pup that it’s not acceptable. You’ll need time, patience and consistency to change this habit. When the going gets tough, just remember that your dog wants to please you, so show him how.

• Tell your dog “no” and move away. The first step in the training is to let your dog know that licking you is not okay.

• Teach him a better way. If your dog seeks your attention by licking, reinforce simple commands such as sit, shake, down and roll over. Pile on the praise and reward him when he correctly follows these commands.

• Distract your dog from licking. Interrupt the behavior with a sharp sound or a toy that she can fetch.

• Apply something that taste bad to dogs to your skin. Curb the licking with hot sauce, lemon juice or something equally yucky.

• Pretend that the licking hurts you. Some dogs have responded well when their owners yell “Ouch!” whenever the dog licks them.

• Consider a time-limited “licking session.” Allow your dog to lick you as much as she wants during a set time. Teach her the word “lick” when she’s doing it and teach her to stop with the command “no lick.” Some dogs just need to get licking out of their systems and will be satisfied after the initial greeting.

Dawg Gone Good’s Top 3 Licking Distractions

True Chews Bully Sticks: Dogs love bully sticks and they taste better than humans. Stop the licking with one of these odor-free 100% natural chews.

Kong: Fill a Kong with peanut butter or liver treat and let your dog lick to his heart’s content.

Planet Dog Eats: Use these 100% natural treats to reward your dog and give her the attention she craves.

Help for the Ball Obsessed

Playing fetch with your dog is great exercise for you and him. Some dogs, however, become too enthusiastic and develop a ball obsession. They get so focused on the ball that nothing else matters. They constantly stare at the ball, bug the heck out of you to throw it or even sleep with a ball in their mouths. Many people find this incredible frustrating because their dog never seems to relax and just hang out. Working, herding and sporting dogs such as shepherds, collies, pinchers, labs, spaniels, huskies and boxers have been bred to perform jobs and fetching the ball is instinctual to them. Any breed of dog though can become ball fixated. Luckily, there are ways to train your dog to play with the ball without overdoing it.

Dangers of Ball Obssession

It’s important to determine if your dog loves chasing the ball or if she is really ball obsessed. A balanced dog can play with other toys, kids and dogs. An obsessed dog seems to go into a trance.  The body stiffens, eyes glaze over and the pupils become fixated. Instead of being fun, fetching the ball becomes a matter of life and death. Some other things to consider:

• Does your dog abandon everything to play fetch?

• Does your dog prefer fetch above all other things?

• Is your dog neurotic about the ball?

• Is you dog destructive and anxious without the ball?

The more you answer yes, the more likely it is that your dog truly has a ball fixation. While playing fetch with your dog outdoors is a great way to release pent up energy, true ball fixation can cause problems such as:

• Safety issues for your dog. He may be so focused that he runs into the street or other dangerous areas.

• Safety issues for others. Your dog may stop at nothing to go after the ball, knocking down people, kids and other dogs in the way.

• Heat exhaustion. Some dogs do not understand the need for a rest break and a drink of water.

• Not following you as the pack leader. You must establish rules and limitations during playtime so your dog will follow your command.

• Not socializing with other dogs. A ball-obsessed dog typically will not run or play with other dogs if a ball is in sight.

Tips for Breaking Ball Obsession

Your dog loves boundaries and rules. When playing fetch, it’s up to you to set boundaries of what is acceptable behavior.

1. Learn to recognize when your dog is going into an obsessive state. Look for the physical signs of dog obsession in your pooch and correct her in the early stage before the obsession takes over.

2. Take your dog on a walk before playing ball. This will help expend any pent-up energy and allow him to play in a less frenzied state.

3. Get your dog calm before throwing the ball. Ask him to sit and make eye contact with you. Reward him by throwing the ball. Use a calm, assertive energy and avoid getting him worked up by saying things such as ,”You want it? You want it? Go get it!!!!!!!”

4. Allow your dog to play with a ball at home without playing fetch. Being near the ball will desensitize him and help bring down the level of obsession.

5. Teach the “all gone” command. Put the ball away and out of sight and say, “All gone.” Then ignore your dog when she asks for the ball. Be consistent and always follow through on this command.

6. Buy a ball chucker. You’ll be able to throw the ball three times further than by hand and give your dog more exercise in a shorter time. Another big plus? No more bending over to pick up a slobbery ball!

7. Alternate toys. If your dog is fixated on a certain ball, mix it up. Between throws, try a frisbie or different type of ball. Keeping the energy up will help stop him from obsessing on one object.

Dawg Gone Good’s Best Fetch Toys

Planet Dog Bamboo                    K-9 Vibram Disk                       JW Toys Duck Dummy


Is Agility Training Right for Your Dog?

Do you have a pooch potato? One way to get your dog out and exercising is to try agility training. In this fun-filled activity, you direct your dog through an obstacle course and his performance is scored for speed and accuracy. Dogs learn to follow commands from afar and jump and weave through special equipment such as hoops, tunnels and teeter totters. Many dog lovers participate in agility just for fun but if you discover your dog is an agility athlete, you can participate in timed trials for competitions.

Best Breeds for Agility Training

Dogs between the ages of 9 months and 8 years do best in agility training. All breeds may participate but dogs descended from a working breed with medium builds tend to be better suited to the training. The best breeds include cattle dogs, shepherds, sheepdogs, poodles, pinschers, terriers, schnauzers, retrievers, collies and spaniels. Dogs with short noses such as bulldogs, boxers and pugs; giant breeds such as great danes or mastiffs, and dogs with short legs, such as dachshunds, may have difficulty with this type of training.

Personality Traits Needed for Agility Training

To have fun with agility, your dog needs to be interested in participating. Dogs successful in agility training have these characteristics:

• Motivation. Dogs willing to work for toys, food or praise can be successfully trained in agility.

• Focus. The dog needs to follow the owner’s directions without getting easily distracted.

• Self-confidence. The dog should be able to work away from the owner and handle change.

• High energy. Dogs that get bored easily or get into trouble at home often excel in agility.

• Athletic ability. Dogs in good overall health with good stamina make the best agility performers.

Benefits of Agility Training

Agility training provides an outlet for your dog’s natural instincts and abilities. Benefits include:

• Keeping your dog active and healthy through exercise

• Reinforcing obedience training and improving communication

• Developing flexibility, speed and accuracy

• Providing mental stimulation to combat boredom

•  Building trust and confidence

In addition to these great benefits for your dog, agility training can also help you stay in shape, burn fat, build muscle, stay alert, bond with your dog and have fun.

Agility Classes in Albuquerque

Interested in trying agility training? Check out these resources to get started. *

Acoma Training Center (, 505-266-6436) offers beginning agility, agility drill and special agility classes.

Albuqerque Kanine College (, 505-275-6623) holds puppy, beginning and advanced agility classes.

Animal Humane New Mexico (, 505-255-5523) teaches agility fun classes in a light-hearted setting.

Sandia Obedience Club (, 505-888-4221) offers agility classes and sponsors AKC trials in obedience, agility, tracking and rally.

* Dawg Gone Good does not endorse these businesses. Listings offered for reader convenience only.

2012 Checklist for Dogs (and Cats)

What plans do you have for you and your puppy in 2012? Does your dog need to get out more or have more cuddle time with you? The beginning of new year gives us a great chance to resolve to be the best pet parents we can be. Check out our 2012 checklist below for ideas on keeping your dogs and cats happy and healthy this year.

1. Is it time for a check-up? A yearly visit with your vet provides the best preventive care and allows you to address any health problems before they advance. Your vet will also check your pet’s weight and make sure he’s up-to-date on his vaccinations.

2. Should your dog be on a diet? Overweight dogs (and cats) have become more common and can lead to serious health risks. You may have indulged your dog with goodies over the holidays. Now is the time stop the table scraps and extra treats. Your dog depends on you to provide a healthy diet. Make sure she’s getting high-quality, well-balanced food.

3. Does your dog’s breath smell? Dogs have plaque and tartar on their teeth just like we do. Without the proper dental care, they can  develop gum problems such as gingivitis and periodontal disease. Check your dog’s teeth and gums regularly and try some of the doggie oral care products on the market such as sprays, toothbrushes and freshening chews.

4. Is your dog getting enough exercise? To be happy and healthy, dogs need daily aerobic exercise. Take your best friend for a walk or jog, spend time at the doggie park or just throw a ball in the back yard. Your dog will love you for it!

5.  Does your dog wear I.D. tags? Thousands of dogs go missing each year and cannot be returned to their homes because they don’t have proper I.D. tags. When getting your dog an I.D. tag, make sure you provide enough information—phone number, cell number, address—so that you can be contacted if your dog is found. Sounds obvious, but many dog tags have missing or outdated information. If your dog is micro-chipped, keep your contact information updated with the chip company.

6. Is it time for a proper grooming? Start the year off right by brushing your dog or bring him to a professional groomer for a clip and nail trim. He’ll feel happy, healthy and loved. You’ll appreciate the soft, mat-free clean coat and disappearance of the “doggie” smell.

Dawg Gone Good Recommends:

The Orbee-Tuff Sport Football will keep your dog running. It’s made in the USA, recyclable, non-toxic and rinses clean.

The Skid Stop Slow Feed Bowl has large interior indentations designed to prevent digestive issues by keeping your dog from scarfing her food. Pair it with one of our healthy pet foods: Taste of the Wild, SoJo, Go! or Now!

Maintain your dog and cat’s oral health with Tropiclean Water Additive. A few drops a day will promote healthy gumss and eliminate bad breath for up to 12 hours.

Easily take off or attach your dog’s I.D. tags with the Removable Pet I.D. Holder. Clips to any collar or harness.

Pamper your pooch with Dawg Gone Good’s Grooming Services. We offer cage-free, eco-friendly fluff and puffs designed to leave your dog looking, feeling  and smelling great.

Give Thanks for Dogs!

Happy Thanksgiving! We have so much to be grateful for in life including our wonderful dogs. Yes, they’re loyal, funny and lovable. But dogs help us in so many ways. On this holiday, let’s not forget to thank our dogs for:

Lowering our cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Bringing down our blood pressure and reducing stress.

Increasing our survival after heart attacks.  The odds for surviving following a heart attack is 1 in 87. If you have a dog, your survival rate jumps to 1 in 15.

Increasing our physical activity.

Comforting us in times of illness and death.

Calming us and reducing anxiety.

Lifting our mood and loneliness.

Providing us with a routine and something to care for.

• Helping us meet new friends.

• Providing us with non-judgmental, unconditional love.

Give your dog a hug from us and enjoy your day!


Cold Weather Tips for Dogs

Did you know that more dogs are lost during the winter than any other season? According to the ASPCA, dogs can lose their scent on ice or snow and can’t find their way home, especially in a snowstorm. As winter nears, make sure your dog has the proper I.D. tags and follow these tips to keep your furry one safe this season.

1. Keep your dog warm when going outdoors. A longer coat provides more warmth so never shave your dog down to the skin in the winter. When bathing your pooch during cold weather, completely dry him before he goes outside. Short-haired breeds may appreciate a high-collared, long coat or sweater during cold temperatures.

2. Don’t leave your dog in the car during cold weather. Cars hold in the cold like a refrigerator and can freeze your dog to death.

3. If your dog is outside a lot, increase his food, especially protein, to keep his fur in good shape.

4. Wipe off your dog’s feet, legs and  stomach after he’s been out in ice, snow or sleet. This will protect him from ingesting antifreeze, salt or other chemicals when he licks his paws. Encrusted ice or snow can also make his paw pads bleed.

5. Clean up any any spilled antifreeze. It is poisonous to both dogs and cats and only a few licks can be toxic. Consider replacing  ethylene glycol antifreeze with a less toxic antifreeze made from propylene glycol.

6. Give your dog a warm place to sleep.  A warm bed, blanket or pillow that’s off the floor and away from drafts will keep your pup cozy during the winter.

7. Protect cold-sensitive dogs. Some fur friends can’t tolerate cold temperatures due to age, illness or breed. Keep them indoors and only let them out for potty breaks. Puppies don’t handle low temperatures as easily as adults and may resist potty training. You might need to paper train your puppy if the temperature is too low.