Christmas food as a risk of acute pancreatitis in dogs and cocker spaniels / symptoms of pancreatitis / dog blog / pet blog / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / Natalia Ashton (C) English cocker spaniel puppy tips, advice, training, handstripping, grooming, diet, nutrition

Pancreatitis | The “Christmas illness” you need to know about

Do you know that the dogs are more likely to suffer from acute pancreatitis during the festive season than any other time? Especially if they are cocker spaniels, one of the breeds genetically predisposed to the disease. The risk is even higher in dogs diagnosed with hypothyroidism, Cushing’s or diabetes, taking certain prescription drugs and those suffering from obesity and excess weight.

Christmas is impossible without special dinners and treats, most of which are very rich and not particularly dog-friendly and can lead to pancreatitis.

The pancreas is a small organ that sits in the abdominal cavity. The main function of the pancreas is to produce insulin and control blood sugar. Dog pancreas also produce special digestive enzymes.

Acute pancreatitis or sudden inflammation of the pancreas can happen if a dog eats large quantities of fatty and greasy foods in a short period of time. These titbits can be a part of the Christmas dinner or even table scraps that dogs can find in a bin. The excessive intake of nutrients overstimulates the pancreas and leads to excessive enzyme production. The reaction causes severe inflammation, bleeding of the tissue and organic damage. Other parts of the body including kidneys, lungs and heart can suffer next.

The symptoms appear suddenly. The acute form of the pancreatitis can be fatal.

Even though I may sound like the one who kills the festive spirit of Christmas, I need you to remember the simple rule:

Regardless of the festivities your spaniel’s daily diet must remain unchanged, any form of treats – limited to a bare minimum, and any parts of the holiday meal – avoided completely.

The symptoms of pancreatitis can appear very suddenly and include…

… loss of appetite;

… diarrhoea;

… vomiting;

… hunched posture or “praying” position;

… dehydration;

… swollen and painful tummy;

… lethargy;

…fever.

If your dog develops any of these, take him to the vets immediately.

 

Photo credit: image by 奕茗 王 from Pixabay

Fred, chocolate and tan English cocker spaniel puppy posing in a wool scarf / Perfect cocker spaniel book and dog blog / cocker puppy tips, advice, how to hand-strip cocker spaniel, cocker spaniel diet, training, best foods (C) Natalia Ashton

Fred. In a scarf.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the boys. So today is all about Fred. In a scarf.

I believe this sort of diary post isn’t something of public interest, but I love this photo so much and I will never forget how we took it.

Initially, I wanted to photograph them together. But Fred, who has never worn any fashion gear before, really wanted a portrait. I wrapped him in my scarf thinking that the boy will protest or run away to play with it.

I was wrong. Fred was a pro! I think he actually felt proud sitting and posing for me. The camera clicked and clicked and clicked, but my beautiful spaniel stayed there motionless until I was happy with the shot.

He is fabulous. Just fabulous. And I love him to bits.

 

Photo credit: Fred photographed by me

 

How to protect and puppy proof christmas tree from dog / Perfect cocker spaniel pet blog / English cocker spaniel book, puppy advice, tips, cocker grooming, hand strip, diet, training tips, cocker spaniel puppies / (C) Natalia Ashton

Q & A | How to protect the Christmas tree from my cocker spaniel puppy?

This was one of the most popular questions I had to answer since the beginning of December, so I thought we need to have a proper conversation about puppy-proofing the Christmas tree.

Christmas trees and cocker spaniels can live in utter harmony most of the time. Admittedly, we never had to worry even though my boys have always been inquisitive about things. Thankfully, Christmas trees were never on their list of objects to explore. I guess they thought that it was just another piece of furniture that we chose to add to the house decor.

On the other hand, and after I was asked the question, there were things that I’ve always done on subconscious level or perhaps because I tried to perceive the tree from the dog’s point of view – and it helped me to avoid any disasters.

And this is why I made the list to document my actions in one place…

Put the tree in a room that your dog won’t be able to access if you have to leave him on his own. Putting a puppy playpen around the tree may stop some cockers, but many dogs will just force their way through any barriers because the prize is way too good to ignore!

Fake it! Choose an artificial tree over the real thing. Just think how tempting a fir tree would be for your pup who lives to sniff and chew! Boys may even mark it… because it’s exactly the same as the  “message boards” they use outside!

Additionally, fir needles contain oils that can irritate the mouth and digestive tract and cause drooling, vomiting and upset stomach. Your cocker cannot digest any needles he swallows, which can lead to additional digestive issues and even stomach punctures. If your dog walks over them, the needles (especially old and dry ones) can cause anything from a mild irritation from the prick to an injury.

Another thing to bear in mind when it comes to the real trees is the water – it can become stale, contain chemicals and oils from the tree and “special solutions” such as pesticides, preservatives and aspirin, which are toxic to dogs.

On the other hand, an artificial tree is not that fragrant even from the canine prespective and is relatively safe unless your pooch chooses to pull the entire arrangement down for the fun of it.

Talking of the latter… Give your dog some time to get used to the tree. Put it up, make sure it’s sturdy and then leave the tree without any decorations for a couple of days. Do not attract your dog’s attention to the tree when installing it. Do not ask him to come and look at branches or sniff it. As soon as you begin to fuss over “the new thing”, it will become something enchanting for your cocker.

Inspect your artificial tree for loose needles and brittle brunches. Some materials can become fragile with age and if they fall off and get swallowed by your dog, the pieces of plastic or metal can be harmful.

Decorations need to be chosen wisely, especially if your cocker is still young. When my boys were puppies I made sure to avoid putting any bubbles onto the bottom brunches and always picked plastic, metal, paper, fabric and unbreakable “glass” decorations if they were within my boys’ reach. They never tried to steal them – it’s was my cautious paranoia that made me do it.

Some dogs do find baubles interesting: the toys move at the slightest draft, they are reflective and sparkling, the pup can often pick the changes in light when staring at them, and they look like his favourite balls… begging to be stolen and thrown around!

The only way you can decide how to avoid any potential disasters is to put a few baubles on the tree and observe your cocker carefully from nearby. If he shows too much attention, reconsider the decor. If his curiosity is mainly to do with the novelty of the object, use the “leave” word and make him forget about the tree decor completely by playing together or doing some training in the “tree vicinity”.

Also most definitely avoid tinsels unless your spaniel is completely oblivious and indifferent to the festivities. Tinsel can cause digestive blockages and injuries when swallowed, so it’s best not to use it.

Make sure that the tree lights are off if you cannot supervise your dog and the tree and there’s a slight chance that he may bite into the cable.

Last but not least are the edible decorations. Chocolate “baubles” and “stars” are toxic to dogs. Spicy cookies can cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and some may contain toxic raisins. Dried fruits may also upset digestion. And just imagine what any normal dog would do if you embellished the tree with any dog biscuits and treats… He is not going to just camp under the branches, that’s for sure.

 

For more useful tips on having the most wonderful peaceful Christmas with your cocker spaniel read my Dog friendly Christmas check list post.

 

Photo credit: image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Cooper and Fred english cocker spaniels / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, diet, puppy tips, cocker spaniel grooming, how to hand-strip cocker spaniel / (C) Natalia Ashton

Best Christmas presents for your cocker spaniel

If you have ever lived with a cocker, you know they are a very special kind of dogs. The pups do appreciate a touch of quality in everything they are surrounded with. And let’s admit, anything of a great quality is the sure way to put a smile on an often moody face of a cocker spaniel.

Today’s post is all about them! Our beautiful, wonderful, funny, adorable, irresistible, huggable and goofy little guys. And of course, the best gifts we could get for them this Christmas.

My guide is more of a curated boutique’y kind, but it’s only because these gifts are the best of the best – and it takes a lot of time, trial and error to discover them. Hope you’ll find something for your spaniel here.

There are hardly any cocker spaniels who would not appreciate a beautiful tennis ball – or any ball, but tennis ones are the ultimate. These balls from Barc London will please both the pooch and the human who, like me, think that a hint of a classic fluorescent yellow in the interior feels like a painful shot to the brain.

Choose among 5 beautiful shades or get the rainbow! Christmas only happens once a year.

Barc London dog tennis ball toy / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Toys are a special story in our house, too. We went through so many, especially during the teething times. Then I shut down my inner Scrooge and bought a “ducky” from Fluff & Tuff. It was a gift for Fred’s first birthday. Fred is now two and the toy, even through it’s been living an outdoorsy life, is still in one piece and looks very “fluff and tuff”, too. They aren’t cheap, but they really are the best and safest soft toys for your cocker whatever the age. Make a good cushion, too.

Fluff & Tuff indestructible soft plush dog toy / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Cockers love to sniff and exercise their brain, so they will appreciate a puzzle game from Nina Ottosson or a food dispensing toy.

Molly & Stitch tan leather Butter collar / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

New year – new collar! I’ve got these two because the tan colour should suit most coat colours. The “Butter” collar in cognac is from Austria-based Molly&Stitch and the “Gerard” is made in England for Maison le Lou.

Maison Le Lou Gerard Tan leather collar / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

If you are after a very special gift, give your cocker a new bed to relax after a good run. Our favourites are made by MiaCara and Hunter. Perfect for any dog without compromising on style.

Cooper relaxing in his MiaCara dog bed / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniel gift guide / Perfect cocker spaniel dog blog (c) Natalia Ashton

If you feel that your cocker may need something extra warm, give him a baby blanket made of natural wool or cotton. The natural fibres will adjust to the body temperature and be kind to the coat unlike any static polyester or fleece. I’ve got these Tartan Blanket & Co baby blankets when my boys were puppies and am currently admiring the striking one by Lillemor.

Pure wool puppy blanket / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Any pampered spaniel will love the natural spa and grooming products from Dug & Bitch, the Scottish company that pups and I adore. We’ve been using and talking about their wonderful whimsical things for years and I was glad to see that now any dog parent can truly indulge their pup by getting the Ultimate Gift Set box.

Dug & Bitch natural organic grooming products for dogs and cocker spaniels / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

My boys have home-baked biscuits as a special treat, but if you want something ready to eat for your food-loving cocker or as a gift for one of his friends, Pooch&Mutt Christmas Dinner mini treats should hit the spot.

Pooch & Mutt christmas dinner dog treats / best christmas presents for english cocker spaniels gift guide / perfect cocker spaniel blog (C) Natalia Ashton

If you haven’t done so yet, don’t forget to check my Gift Guide for dog lovers that I shared earlier. Because you deserve a special treat, too.

And it’s worth to mention that this post has not been sponsored by any of the above mentioned companies and brands whatsoever.

Cooper, sable red cocker spaniel puppy 8 months old / best christmas presents for English cocker spaniels gift guide / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Photo credits: Cooper & Fred photographed by me, images c/o Barc London, Fluff & Tuff, Molly & Stitch, Maison Le Lou, Cooper photographed by me, The Tartan Blanket Co, Dug & Bitch by Fetch & Flash Photography, Pooch & Mutt,Cooper photographed by me

Dog paws in snow photo / Salt, grit, antifreeze poisoning and dangers in dogs in winter / signs of poisoning in dogs / Perfect cocker spaniel book and blog / cocker spaniel tips, advice, grooming, diet (C)

Two winter dangers that can be fatal for your dog

“The frost and sunlight! The winter day’s delightl!” Pushing once wrote (and I briefly translated, so no judgment for my rhyming skills, please!) in his “Eugene Onegin” poetry novel.

He was spot on. Winter is a beautiful season to embrace and enjoy. The dogs adore it, too. Mine cannot wait to get outside and do their version of snow angels, which basically involves rubbing their silly happy faces against the frosty grass – bottoms up, wiggling and wagging.

They think everything about winter is fun. But unfortunately there are two serious dangers neither pups nor many pup parents are aware of, so we need to talk about those today.

SALT & GRIT (also called de-icers) appear on our roads and paths at the first hint of arctic breeze. They can be easily spotted as most have a pink or terracotta-like tint. Both can be extremely dangerous for dogs and even cause a fatal outcome. Even though salt seems pretty harmless (we do eat it, don’t we?!) the combination of sodium, chloride and ferrocyanide can cause severe irritation, burning and cracked paws if the dog walks through the grit.

Licking the paws or de-iced surfaces can be life-threatening because the excess of sodium chloride is toxic to dogs leading to a condition called hypernatremia.

The symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea, lethargy, lack of coordination, excessive thirst, frequent urination, tremors, seizures and coma. The paws can look red, swollen, irritated, cracked and excessively dry.

Protect your spaniel by diligently washing and drying his paws after every walk (even if the path and roads you walk on seems grit-free); applying protective paw wax before each walk and, if the gritting is excessive in your area – considering dog booties; stopping your dog from licking his paws and any surfaces that may contain traces of grit.

But what if the path is still slippery? There are a few ways to stay safe:

… invest into non-slip boots;

… use a shovel to clear the path from the snow and thick ice;

… splash the path you use most frequently with a bucket or two of hot water – it’s enough to melt the ice and frost;

… use plain rough sand instead of grit and salts – it will give you the needed grip yet will be absolutely safe for your dog.

ANTIFREEZE is the other danger of winter. The solution contains ethylene glycol that tastes sweet to dogs and a small dose can lead to kidney failure and death. Even if you are incredibly careful when using it for your own car, the antifreeze residue can be often found on roads, parking spaces and snow and get onto your dog’s paws.

Dogs are one of the most susceptible species.

The symptoms of poisoning can appear within 30 minutes following ingestion and include nausea, vomiting, drunken behaviour, lack of coordination and knuckling, excessive thirst and urination, loss of consciousness, coma and death.

Protect your dog by storing antifreeze away from your pooch’s access; using it correctly and cleaning any residue on your car, hands and surfaces; washing your dog’s paws after each walk and, should you suspect anything odd, taking your spaniel to the vets immediately.

Have a safe and enjoyable winter! 

Photo credit: image by petronela from Pixabay

Perfect cocker spaniel book featured in Edition Dog magazine / dog and puppy tips, advice, cocker spaniel grooming, diet, health / dog blog (C) Natalia Ashton

Perfect cocker spaniel featured in Edition Dog magazine

I have tried to digest and get used to the sensation of seeing my book in magazines, but it’s still a pinch-me moment that feels surreal.

I feel proud for completing the mammoth task of writing and editing the book and sending it off into the big world for all to see. And then there is the other part of me that  feels happy yet overwhelmed by the retuning heart-aching reminder of the very reason for writing Perfect cocker spaniel.

So I’ll keep the news short.

Last week the book made it to the Edition Dog, the mag written by the dog experts for the dog lovers. Which makes it one of the ultimate destinations I could only dream of.

It looks beautiful. They’ve given me an entire page. And there is a photo of me and Oscar.

I did a happy little dance. And I did cry a little, too. It felt like an early Christmas present.

perfect-cocker-spaniel-book-review-edition-dog-magazine-1

 

Photo source: cover and page from the digital edition of the Edition Dog magazine, issue 14 2019