Skip to Main Content Skip to Footer

General Pet Information

Advising Clients Who Feed Raw Diets to Pets
Food safety and nutritional integrity of raw meat or eggs are two important health issues that should concern veterinarians with clients who feed these items to the family pet. This article addresses food safety, because it is the more immediate health threat.

Microbial Contamination
Food is contaminated with microbes. Meat from healthy animals becomes contaminated at slaughter. Meat surfaces become infected with microorganisms associated with food poisoning during handling, packaging, processing, storage, and transportation. Approximately one third of the poultry sold for human consumption has tested positive for Salmonella. Disinfected grade A eggs that caused salmonellosis were determined to have been contaminated during ovulation; as a result, they were contaminated with the bacteria before formation of the shell. Although many procedures have been incorporated into food processing procedures for both the meat and poultry industries to reduce the level of contamination, bacteria persist: All products should be considered contaminated. Raw-meat diets have been used by such industries as zoos, mink farms, and dog racing facilities; the FDA presumes these users are aware of the risks.

Thus, we should be concerned about pet owners who feed raw diets to their pets. Such diets have been documented to contain pathogenic Yersinia enterocolitica 4/0:3, Salmonella species, and Escherichia coli 0157:H7. Commercial raw products, sold frozen or freeze-dried, carry no claim to be pathogen-free; in fact, recent work strongly suggests that they are contaminated. Twenty-one commercially available raw-meat diets (beef, lamb, chicken, and turkey) cultured over a 4-month period were all positive for E. coli, and 10 were positive for S. enterica. The FDA now has guidelines for companies selling such products to pet owners.

Because most pathogenic organisms are found on the surface of the meat, searing the surface would significantly reduce the potential bacterial load. An option for pet owners who do not want to feed thoroughly cooked meat is to feed whole (not ground) meat, braise the surface, and feed the meat rare instead.

Zoonotic Potential
Pets fed contaminated raw meat shed viable organisms in feces. Evidence validated this public health risk. Salmonella was isolated from 80% of the BARF (i.e., bones and raw food) diets sampled and from 30% of the stools from dogs consuming those diets. Greyhounds and sled dogs fed raw-meat diets have been documented to shed the same subspecies of Salmonella in their feces as found in their diets. Serovars of Campylobacter species isolated from the diarrhea of dogs was the same as that isolated from the poultry carcasses consumed by the dogs. Only 36% of healthy dogs and 17% of healthy cats harbor low levels of pathogenic salmonellae, which refutes the notion that most household pets are “naturally” infected with these species.

Individuals who clean the cat’s litter box or pick up their dog’s stool should consider the feces contaminated with viable pathogenic microbes. Extra precautions should be taken when persons or pets in the household have immune-suppressive diseases, such as human immunodeficiency virus infection, feline leukemia, or feline immunodeficiency virus infection; are undergoing chemotherapy; or are using anti-inflammatory medication. Extra caution should also be exerted in households with young children to prevent fecal-oral contamination.

Handling Raw Diets
Feeding infected raw diets increases the risk for infection of both human and animal household members. Humans can become infected with food-borne pathogens when handling contaminated meat and egg products. Household transmission of food-borne pathogenic organisms from dogs to humans has been documented.

Veterinarians are trained in zoonotic diseases and thus have a responsibility to inform owners who feed raw meat or eggs of these potential health dangers. Safe practices during handling of the food, feeding dish, and feces should be emphasized, and the need for good personal hygiene must be reinforced. Veterinarians who recommend feeding raw meat or eggs without giving full disclosure of the risks and precautions may face legal ramifications. Salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter infection in humans are notifiable diseases, and physicians are required to report cases to local health departments.

Dispelling the Myths
The morphologic and pathophysiologic characteristics of the gastrointestinal systems of dogs, cats, and humans are remarkably similar. Many who advocate feeding raw diets contend that dogs and cats have a more acid stomach and shorter gastrointestinal tracts than do humans, protecting them from pathogenic bacteria. However, there is no difference among these species in regard to gastric pH and no evidence to suggest the difference in length of the gastrointestinal tract is protective to dogs and cats. All three species manifest similar clinical signs after ingesting food contaminated with pathogens. The severity of these signs is related to the dose of microbes or toxin ingested as well as the condition of the host.

Food Poisoning Frequency
Frequency of food poisoning in pets is difficult to determine. Veterinarians presented with a family pet for intermittent episodes of vomiting or diarrhea would treat the case symptomatically and are unlikely to send samples for bacterial culture and polymerase chain reaction identification. Hence, most if not all cases of food poisoning in the family pet are not reported because of a low level of suspicion and financial constraints.

Raw-meat advocates do not deny but downplay the potential health risks. No scientific evidence exists that a raw diet is superior to any dry or canned pet food. As a result, this practice is associated with health risks to pet and family with no demonstrable benefit.

Written: Rebecca L. Remillard, PhD,DVM,Diplomate ACVN, MSPCA Angell Animal medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
NAVC clinician’s brief – November 2005

This article was published in PVMA NEWS February edition and submitted by Heidi Houchen, DVM and they have allowed us to reprint this article on our web page. We thank them and hope you find this information helpful.

For The Love of Chocolate
Submitted by Neidi Houchen D.V.M.

At Dove Lewis, the incidence of chocolate toxicity seems to peak between the months of November and February. This may reflect increased chocolate availability during the holidays — or increased chocolate consumption during the Northwest’s rainy season-you be the judge! Regardless of the reason, chocolate is a favorite food of dogs as well as humans and its presence can tempt even the most discriminating of canine palates to indulge.

The most toxic component of chocolate is the methylxanthine, theobromine, a relative of caffeine and theophylline. Theo-bromine can exert a wide range of pharmocologic effects, most notably stimulation of the cardiac muscle and central nervous system. The acute lethal oral dosage of theobromine in dogs is 100 – 200 mg/kg and 80 – 150 mg/kg in cats. However, there is wide variation in individual sensitivity to methylxanthines. Toxic effects of theobromine can be seen as low as 20 mg/kg. In dogs, theobromine is readily absorbed from the gut and has a very long half-life (17.5 hours) in comparison with other species. Because of the rate of absorption exceeds the rate of elimination, the long half-life may be responsible for the chronic chocolate poisoning seen in the dog.

Clinical signs of chocolate toxicity can vary from mild to se-vere. Brain stimulation by theobromine can result in tachypnea, vomiting, restlessness, tremors and even seizures It also stimulates cardiac muscle which can result in tachycardia and arrhythmias. Like caffeine, theobromine can induce diuresis and excessive urine production is often seen with chocolate toxicosis. Death can occur from cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory failure. Because there is no specific antidote for chocolate toxicosis, treatment is symptomatic. It is important to pre-vent further absorption, hasten elimination and maintain basic life support. If the patient is comatose or convulsing, gastric lavage should be performed-otherwise vomiting should be induced as soon as possible.

Because the half-life of theobromine is long and because chocolate tends to stay in a solid or semiplastic state in the stomach, repeated doses of activated charcoal should be administered every 4 hours for up to 72 hours after ingestion. The EKG should be closely monitored and if indicated, VPC’s and tachycardia can be controlled with lidocaine, propranolol, or metoprolol. If the patient is seizuring, diazepam is the initial drug of choice followed by barbiturate therapy. Fluid therapy, close continuous monitoring of cardiac and neurologic status and supportive care are essential to a successful outcome.

This time of year at Dove Lewis we receive a large number of calls by pet owners whose dogs have ingested chocolate. The most frequently asked questions are “How much is too muchchocolate?” and “Should we vomit our pet or bring it in to be seen?”. These are questions that are not quickly or easily answered for a variety of reasons. Most importantly, animals vary widely in their sensitivity to chocolate – i.e., schnauzers are more susceptible than labs (a.k.a. “the garbage guts”). Also, the amount of theobromine ingested varies depending on the type of chocolate consumed. Unsweetened baking chocolate and cocoa powder contain 392 mg/ounce whereas milk chocolate contains 44 mg/ ounce. As a general rule, the toxic level of theobromine is considered to be 50 mg/lb. In addition to theobromine, chocolate often contains fat and sugar in varying amounts and this makes diabetic animals and animals with predisposition towards (or a history of) pancreatitis at greater risk for developing more severe problems from chocolate ingestion. Finally, it is important to consider the paper and/or foil component of individually wrapped chocolates as this may put an animal at risk for developing a foreign body.

In general, when dealing with an animal that has eaten chocolate, try to determine the amount and type of chocolate ingested. Then determine the potential toxic dose of chocolate using toxic levels of theobromine @ 50 mg/ pound and that one ounce of chocolate is equivalent to 30 mg. For example, only 2 ounces of baking chocolate as compared with 17 ounces of milk chocolate are toxic to a 15 pound dog. However, if the milk chocolate was contained in truffles and the animal ingesting it was an elderly schnauzer, the theobromine may be the last of your worries! Most importantly-“If in doubt, vomit it out”.

Symptoms Include:

  • Tremors, seizures and shaking.
  • Vomiting, hyper-salivation.
  • Rapid heart rate.
  • Abdominal pain.

Slug bait contains a chemical called ‘metaldehyde,’ and dogs are attracted to the taste of the mixture. Ingestion of just 2 ounces by a 22 – pound dog will induce signs in one hour or less.

Many dogs die of Slug Bait Poisoning!

Try Non-chemical slug bait recommended by gardeners.

  1. Diatomaceous Earth: made from fossilized remains of one-celled algae. It feels like talcum powder but scratched and absorbs the wax layer on a bug’s surface, leaving it to die from dehydration.
  2. Fermenting Liquid: set out shallow container of yeast, water and spoiled yogurt or beer, bury the container flush with the soil surface. Slugs love the scent of the yeast.
  1. A quart of 3 % hydrogen peroxide
  2. A quarter cup of baking soda
  3. A teaspoon of liquid soap

Bathe pets in this solution and apply a tap-water rinse and the smell will instantly vanish.

Oregon’s first case of the emerging canine influenza was confirmed on Friday, September 30, by the veterinary virology laboratory at Cornell University in New York.

The sample was submitted by Dr. Zoe Tokar of Powell Blvd. Veterinary Clinic and was from a four-year-old spayed female who was presented to the Portland practitioner with a severe cough and a fever of 103.5 Fahrenheit. According to a notice sent to the OVMA office by Dr. Emilio DeBess, Oregon’s Public Health Veterinarian, the samples (oral swab and serum) were collected and sent to Cornell for testing. The serum titer was positive at 1:1024 and a PCR test was negative.

An article on the dog flu that ran in The Oregonian indicated the State of Oregon does not have the ability to test for the disease and that officials are waiting for the results on 12 other blood samples that were drawn from dogs at the Multnomah County Animal Shelter.

Dr. Edward Dubovi, director of the virology lab at Cornell, expects the lists of states with positive samples to grow, as the lab processes more tests. Positive cases have already been seen in Florida, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California, with Oregon just added to the expanding list.

Below is additional information on the Canine Influenza, which was forwarded to the OVMA office by Dr. DeBess.

Situation: University of Florida researchers report that outbreaks of canine influenza virus, which causes and acute respiratory infection, have been identified in dogs in shelters, humane societies, boarding facilities and veterinary clinics in Florida, predominantly in Broward, Dade, Palm Beach and Duval counties.

This highly contagious virus is a newly emerging respiratory pathogen in dogs and causes a clinical syndrome that mimics “kennel cough.” Canine influenza virus infections are frequently mistaken for infectious due to the Bordetella bronchiseptical Para influenza virus complex.

Clinical signs: Because this is a newly emerging pathogen, all dogs, regardless of breed or age, are susceptible to infection and have no naturally acquired or vaccine-induced immunity. Virtually 100 percent of exposed dogs become infected. Nearly 80 percent have clinical signs. There are two general clinical syndromes-the milder syndrome and a more severe pneumonia syndrome. The milder disease syndrome occurs in most dogs.

In the milder disease, the most common clinical sign is a cough that persists for 10-21 days despite therapy with antibiotics and cough suppressants. Most dogs have a soft, moist cough, while others have a dry cough similar to that induces by the Bordetella bronchiseptical/Para influenza virus infection. Many dogs have purulent nasal discharge and a low-grade fever. The nasal discharge likely represents a secondary bacterial infection that quickly resolves with treatment with a broad-spectrum, bacterial antibiotic.

Some dogs develop a more severe disease with clinical signs of pneumonia, such as a high fever (104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit) and increased respiratory rate and effort. Thoracic radiographs may show consolidation of lung lobes. Dogs with pneumonia often have a secondary bacterial infection and have responded best to a combination of broad-spectrum, bactericidal antibiotics and maintenance of hydration with intravenous fluid therapy.

Fatality rate: Fatal cases of pneumonia have been documented, but the fatality rate so far is low, at 1 percent to 5 percent.

Incubation/shedding period: The incubation period is two to five days after exposure before clinical signs appear. Infected dogs may shed the virus for 7 to 10 days from the initial day of clinical signs. Nearly 20% of infected dogs will not display clinical signs and become the silent shedders and spreaders of the infection.

Diagnosis: There is no rapid, real-time test for diagnosis of dogs with an acute influenza virus infection. Current diagnostic tests rely on detection of antibodies to canine influenza virus, which are detected as early as 7 days after onset of clinical signs. Paired acute and convalescent serum samples are necessary for diagnosis of recent infection. The convalescent sample is collected at least 2 weeks after the acute sample. There are many situations in which collection of an acute sample is not feasible. In this case, testing of a convalescent sample will indicate whether the dog was infected at some time in the past. Serology tests not only indicate if a dog was infected, but also serve to alert veterinarians that the virus is present in their community so they can take precautions with dogs presenting for “kennel cough.”

In addition to serology, the lungs and distal trachea from dogs that died of pneumonia can be tested for influenza virus by PCR analysis and virus culture.

Prevention: There in no vaccine for canine influenza virus at this time. This virus is spread by aerosolized respiratory secretions, contaminated inanimate objects and even by people moving back and forth between infected and uninfected dogs. This is an enveloped virus that is most likely killed by routine disinfectants, such as quaternary ammoniums and 10% bleach. Because the virus is highly contagious and all dogs are susceptible to infection, veterinary and, boarding facilities, shelters and pet stores should use isolations protocols for dogs that have a “kennel cough.”

What veterinarians can do: Veterinarians can submit serum samples for canine influenza antibody titers. Paired acute and convalescent samples are preferable for confirmation of infection, while single samples collected after seven day of clinical disease are also useful. In addition to determining infection, these samples will contribute toward virus surveillance in Florida and other states.

Veterinarians may also submit fresh (no formalin or freezing) lung and tracheal tissues from dogs that die from pneumonia. Canine influenza virus culture and PCR analysis will be preformed on these tissues. Virus recovered from these samples will greatly contribute toward development of vaccines and diagnostic tests.

Initially, Dr. Cynda Crawford was conduction ongoing tests for canine influenza. However, she presently is referring veterinarians to submit samples for testing to Dr. Dubovi.

According to Dr. Crawford, Dr. Dubovi is coordinating testing efforts with her and is the central point for canine flu. She said he is better equipped with trained personnel, expertise, supplies, and can handle a higher volume than can her research lab at the University of Florida’s College of Veterinary medicine.

The Web site for Cornell University’s veterinary laboratory is The site contains information regarding what samples to submit, how to submit, and pertinent charges. There is no limit on how many samples to send, except for associated costs. You and also contact the laboratory switchboard by calling (607)253-3900.

Copied from the OVMA Sept../Oct. 2005 issue

You should consider several factors before traveling by plane with your cat:

It is impossible to overemphasize the need to consult with the airline well in advance of your trip. This is essential if you hope to avoid last minute problems. Here are some basic tips for airline travel with your cat:

  1. Determine whether the airline has requirements for “acclimation.” In the event that you are unable to secure a direct flight, the pet carrier may be left outside the plane for a period of time. To avoid liability on their part, many airlines require a letter from your veterinarian stating that the pet is acclimated to a minimum or maximum temperature (must be given in precise degree, e.g., 20 F) for a defined period of time.
  2. Consult with the airline regarding baggage liability. In some cases, this can include your pet. If you are sending an economically valuable pet, you may need to consider additional liability insurance.
  3. Have your cat examined by your veterinarian in advance of the trip, especially if it has been more than a few months since the last checkup. This is especially important for geriatric cats. Travel by plane can pose a risk for cats with pre-existing medical problems, such as heart or kidney disease. Also, some short-faced breeds of cats (Persians, Exotic Shorthairs) do not travel well in some situations.
  4. Be sure that you have written proof of current vaccinations and, where required, a health certificate. These cannot be obtained “after the fact.” You must be able to present them on demand.
  5. You should also inquire about possible requirements to quarantine your cat should you be traveling outside the continental United States or to a foreign country.
  6. Take direct flights and try to avoid connections and layovers. Sometimes, this is easier to achieve if the trip is planned during the week. The well-being of your cat could be a source of concern if the baggage connection between flights should be missed.
  7. Some airlines will allow one pet in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. To find out whether there are limitations on the number of animals present in the cabin, you should advise the airline if you plan to travel with your cat in the cabin. Check on the cage dimensions so that there won’t be a problem stowing the carrier beneath the seat.
  8. Consider in advance all medications that you might need for your cat. These might include heartworm preventive (a new product for cats), flea preventive, and heart or kidney medications. Also, give thought to any special diets that your cat may need and whether they can be obtained at your destination.
  9. If there is any chance that your cat will be out of the carrier, give thought to an appropriate collar or harness and keep a leash with you. If possible, the collar should have a small pet identification tag. Order forms are available in most veterinary clinics.

At the time of your flight:

  1. Do not tranquilize the cat unless you have discussed this with your veterinarian. As a rule, cats don’t tolerate medicines well and giving over-the-counter or prescription pharmaceuticals can be dangerous.
  2. Make sure that the carrier has permanent identification, including your name, phone number, flight schedule, destination, and phone number at the point of destination.
  3. Feed the cat before you leave home. Water should be available at all times, including inside the carrier. If you have a geriatric cat with marginal kidney function, it is important that the cat not be deprived of water. Discuss this with your veterinarian. Try to secure a direct flight with no layovers. The cat should have fresh water after arrival.

Consider the following when purchasing a carrier for the airline flight:

  1. The cage should provide sufficient room for the cat to stand up and turn around easily, but not so large that it can be tossed about inside during turbulence. Remember size constraints if the carrier is to go on board.
  2. The walls of the carrier should be strong enough to prevent the sides from being crushed. Also, the flooring of the cage should not allow urine to leak through the bottom. An absorptive underpad (designed for bedridden people with bladder control problems) can be placed in the bottom. See your pharmacist for these.
  3. The cage should have sufficient openings for good ventilation.
  4. The cage must have sturdy handles for baggage personnel to use.
  5. The cage should have a water tray that is accessible from the outside so that water can be added, if needed.

Pet stores, breeders, and kennels usually sell cages that meet these requirements. Some airlines also sell cages that they prefer to use. Check with the airline to see if they have other requirements.

Try to familiarize your cat with the travel cage before you leave for your trip. Let your cat play inside with the door both open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your cat’s stress during the trip.

Some considerations for your point of destination include:

  1. Be sure that your hotel will allow cats. Many bookstores carry travel guidebooks with this type of information.
  2. Give thought to litter pan provisions and food bowls for the hotel room.
  3. Place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on your hotel door so that housekeeping will not inadvertently let the cat escape. Plan to have your room cleaned only when you are present.
  4. It is probably best to leave the cat in the carrier or inside the bathroom whenever you plan to leave the room.
  5. Should your cat get lost, contact the local animal control officer.

Advance planning is the key to a safe trip with your pet!

“Dog-On-It’ Lawn Problems Revisited
By Steve Thompson, DVM, DABVP

Dog urine and feces can often be a frustrating problem when considering the issue of lawn care. Small amount can produce a “green up” or fertilizer effect, whereas larger amounts often result in dead brown patches or lawn burn, which are frequently surrounded by a green outside ring. While most burn spots can recover the time and regrowth, they can be sufficiently severe to require reseeding or sodding. For homeowners who are also dog lovers, this can present a difficult challenge, especially when one family member prefers the dog and another prefers a well-manicured lawn. An understanding to the interaction between dogs and he lawn can keep the yard at peace, not in pieces.

Understanding the Causes
The Bigger Problem: Urine or Feces?

The fundamental problem with the presence of urine or feces on the lawn is related to the concentration and nitrogen content of these waste products. As a waste product in animals, urine primarily removes excess nitrogen from the body via the kidneys. Nitrogen waste products are the result of protein breakdown through normal bodily processes. Carnivores, including cat and dogs, has a substantial protein requirement, and urine volume and production vary according to a pet’s size and metabolism. Urine is a bigger problem for lawns that feces because it is applied in concentration as a liquid fertilizer, whereas feces slowly release the waste products over time. Because stools are usually solid, owners have the option of frequently removing the waste themselves or hiring a commercial pooper-scooper business. If feces are removed frequently, there is less time for the nitrogen by-products to dissolve and therefore less damage than can occur from urine.

Considering Human Health Concerns

Removal of feces also reduces bad odors, fly breeding, and human health concerns related to the transmission for some diseases from dogs to humans, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, roundworms (visceral larval migrans), and hookworms (cutaneous larval migrans ore creeping eruption). As all veterinarians know, children are primarily at risk because they are likely to wash their hands after playing in areas where dogs may have defecated. The canine roundworm Toxocara canis is of particular concern because the eggs passed in canine stools are resistant to disinfectants and weather extremes for many years. Although uncommon after being ingested by a child, then worm can migrate through the body and cause problems related to vision, breathing, or neurologic disorders. This is the primary reason many communities enacted pooper-scooper laws and why canine and feline feces should not become part of composting.

The Worst Culprit: Dogs or Cats?

Dogs are a greater concern that cats to the lawn-conscious pet owner because of the smaller volume of feline urine and cat’s elimination behaviors. Cats generally mark bushes ore trees as sent posts or bury their wastes in a garden rather that eliminating on the lawn, as a dog typically prefers. Young dogs of both sexes frequently squat to urinate. Leg lifting is often learned by male dogs around 1 year of age – castration or neutering does not seem to affect nature’s timetable for this behavior. Although most male dogs hike their leg and mark, a few males do continue to squat when urinating, which is more typical of female dogs. Female dogs may also mark, although less commonly than male dogs.

Once dogs begin urine marking the often find many sent posts, resulting in numerous, small-volume urination rather that large-volume puddles. Grass can handles small-volume nitrogen bursts easier that fertilizer overload. Unfortunately, the young bush, scrub, vine, or tree sprout that becomes a marking post may die because of nitrogen (fertilizer) overload from repeated marking.

Addressing Some Primary Concerns

When addressing urine damage to lawns, the primary concern is minimizing the amount of urine being added to the lawn during a given time. Female dogs, being less likely to urine mark and more likely to squat are the primary culprits of lawn damage because they urinate anywhere are usually all at once. This results in single nitrogen dump confined to a small patch of grass. The brown spot that results often has a green ring around the outside. The nitrogen overload at the center causes the burn, bus as the urine is diluted toward the periphery, is has a fertilizer effect. These characteristic brown spot, green-ring pattern has been called “female dog spot disease” by some horticulturists. As might be expected, lawns are most susceptible to nitrogen burns when a maximum amount of standard fertilizers are applied to the lawn, especially in homes with a comprehensive lawn care program. Homeowners making the extra effort to maintain a green lawn may become discouraged by the degree of damage caused by neighbors or their own dog.

Speculation on the actual cause of lawn burn has resulted in numerous theories on what else in the urine may be contributing to the damage. A.Wayne Allard, DVM, a Colorado veterinarian, examined numerous variations in dog urine and its effects on several common lawn grasses. His results supported the fact that urine concentration and volume of urine (nitrogen content) had the most deleterious effects on lawns. The pH of urine did not have a variable effect, nor did common additives designed to alter urine pH.

Of the four grasses tested, Festuca spvar Kentucky (fescue) and Lolim perrene (fine-bladed rye) were the most resistant to urine effects. In fact, urine routinely produced a fertilizer effect on these grasses at diluted concentrations. Poa pretensis (Kentucky bluegrass) and Cynodon sp var fairway (Bermuda grass) were very sensitive to urine concentration and severe burns, persisting longer that 30 days after initial exposure to even 4 oz of dilute urine. Even on the most urine-resistant grass that was tested (fescue), urine concentration was a larger problem than urine volume. Concentrated urine with volumes of as little as 30cc (1 oz) caused lawn burn, even on fescue grasses.

Avoiding Problem Areas

Obviously, fences can be used to prevent neighboring dogs from eliminating on the lawn. Advising dog owners about leash laws, where applicable, can also restrict damage to areas near sidewalks, on trees and lawns, and on median right of ways.

Unfortunately, no commercial repellants are universally effective in protecting lawns, although a variety of home remedies have been tried. Hot and bitter products are most likely to have taste or odor-adversive properties to dogs. Most repellants function better as taste repellants that touch or odor repellants. Some odor repellants may actually encourage a dog to overmark the strange odor with their urine. Some of the better commercial repellants, such as Garbage Protectors and Ro-Pel, have these limitations as well. A motion-activated sprinkle designed to keep cats and rabbits out of gardens may be beneficial, such as the Scarecrow marketed by the Canadian firm ConTech. In addition, the sprinkler may be advantageous in small yards or along corners of front yards, where damage is most likely to occur. The presence of numerous squirrels, stray animals, or children in the neighborhood, however, may result in high water bill is they continuously trigger the device.

Although is can be time consuming, walking the dog in a park or field away from the home is a simple remedy. The time can also be beneficial because exercise has physical and emotional benefits for both dogs and their owners. Homeowners should therefore be encouraged to choose an appropriate destination rather than create problem lawns for neighbors.

Another option is to litter box train a dog, as breed size and residential space permit, but a more feasible approach is to train the pet to eliminate in a designated area of the yard. This area could be landscaped specifically to handle the dog’s urine of feces. It would need a substrate-like pea gravel or mulch that the dog finds acceptable and may even include a marking post, such as a large boulder, bird bath, lawn ornament, or even faux hydrant. Collecting the dog’s urine in a cup and using it in this area for several days can provide some odor-attractant value that draws the dog to the area. Feces can also be collected and transported to the new, designated area. Consistency is important for at least 2 to 3 weeks to establish a routine, trained behavior. Several months may be necessary in some cases.

It is important that the dog not be allowed to eliminate anywhere except the designated place during the training process. This can be accomplished by taking the dog out on a leash to the designated spot and rewarding it with a food treat when it eliminated in the appropriate area. It is often easier to train a young puppy that an adult dog to a particular area, but such behavior modification is never impossible in a dog of any age. Many dog owners also find it helpful to train their dog to obey a verbal elimination command. A dog can also be trained to eliminate on a verbal signal by simply saying the word immediately before it eliminates and rewarding it with a food treat after it finishes. Common commands include “potty”, “piddle”, “do your business”, and “hurry up.” Using a command also makes it quicker to accomplish the task during inclement weather.

Dietary Modification

Many dietary modifications to control nitrogen content in the urine have been tried for dogs, often-based on home remedies or anecdotal experience. A veterinarian should always be consulted before an owner makes any dietary modifications, whether they include additions or subtractions from the standard nutrient guidelines. As stated earlier, the pH of urine has little or no effect on urine damage to lawns.

The addition of acidifying agents, including such nutritional supplements as DL-methionine (methio-form), ascorbic acid (vitamin C), or fruit juices, has no benefit and may predispose a dog to developing an increased incidence of certain bladder stones. Likewise, alkalinizing agents, including baking soda and potassium citrate (UrocitK), can predispose a dog to other types of bladder stones or infections. These dietary supplements can be harmful and have limited to no known benefits to the lawn. Thus, they are not recommended.

When owners have reported successes, they often can be attributed to increasing the dog’s liquid consumption, which dilutes the urine concentration. However safer ways to accomplish more dilute urine include feeding canned food, moistening dry food with water before feeding, and adding salt or garlic to the regular food.

One home remedy, tomato juice, likely has it primary benefit through both increased salt and water intake. While salt can make a dog drink more and thereby dilute the urine, increasing salt intake can also cause problems in dogs with existing kidney or heart conditions. With high doses of salt, even healthy dogs can develop hyernatremia. Therefore, owners should not alter their dog’s diet without consulting with their veterinarian.

Crossroads Veterinary Hospital