Shared Blog Post – Behavioral Euthanasia: Making the Hard Decision

< Updated 05MAY22 >

Considering whether or not euthanasia is appropriate for a pet is never easy. However, it can be even more complicated when behavioral considerations are a primary factor in the process. Dr. Christine Calder, a veterinary behaviorist, recently addressed this topic in an article entitled Behavioral Euthanasia: Making the Hard Decision in the May 2022 edition of Downeast Dog News. If you face a decision of this nature, I encourage you to read the article, as Dr. Calder offers very sound advice and potential alternatives.


Pets & Automobiles – Helping Your Pet Enjoy the Car

< A version of this article was published in the January and February 2022 issues of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 30JAN22 >

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Cars, trucks, mini-vans, basically any automobile are often as much a part of our pets’ lives as they are ours. It’s how we brought them home the first time and transport them to all types of activities. We have all known someone who has a dog that the mere mention of “car ride” has the dog leaping in ecstasy. However, some dogs are or become terrified of riding in a moving vehicle. Some cats enjoy car rides, but many find the crate and car a predictor of getting sick or a trip to the vet.

Automobile Safety for Pets

We are responsible for the safety of our pets. Pets need to be secured in a vehicle when it is in motion for their safety and our own. A loose pet can become a distraction to the driver. A pet in the car’s front seat is unlikely to survive if the airbag discharges in an accident. An unsecured pet riding in a vehicle is more likely to become seriously injured. It also has great potential to hurt passengers if they become a fast-moving projectile due to a sudden stop. Even if a pet is uninjured in an accident, it is possible that they will be so terrified they will frantically try to escape, which itself can result in injury or death. Dogs have even been known to deter emergency personnel from rescuing injured people.

An article about car safety harnesses in the Whole Dog Journal, [Car Safety Harness Recommendation, updated 3/21/19], discusses a Boxer named Ruby riding in a car unrestrained when the vehicle was in an accident. Ruby survived but “…suffered a spinal cord injury and mild brain injury.” Ruby also required months of intensive rehab, costing over $9000.

One option for securing a pet in a vehicle is a hard-sided crate of the type used for air transport. The crate should be just big enough for your pet to stand up and lie down. A separate crate should be used for each pet. It would be best if you secure the crate to the vehicle chassis in a manner such that it cannot break loose in the event of an accident. An unsecured crate can become a dangerous projectile.

For a crate to effectively keep your pet safe and secure in your vehicle, your pet must be comfortable in their crate. Unfortunately, some pets find a crate stressful, in which case you will need to patiently help them learn that a crate is a safe and comfortable place. These two articles can help you through the process; Dogs – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety and Cats – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier –

A gate or barrier is another option for securing a pet in a vehicle. However, for these to provide the safety necessary in an accident, they must be attached to the vehicle chassis so they cannot break free. While a barrier might keep passengers safe, it is no guarantee the pet will survive the crash.

Many people confine their dogs to the backseat of their car with a special harness or seatbelt made especially for dogs. Unfortunately, many of these products may not protect your dog in a crash, giving you a false sense of security. Only three such harnesses have passed the rigorous crash test standards of the Center for Pet Safety (CPS) [] You can find a list of harnesses, carriers, and crates that are CPS Certified at

While a CPS Certified harness can be an excellent option, recognize that your dog may not automatically enjoy being harnessed in the car. A reward-based dog trainer can help you slowly acclimate your dog to wearing such a harness in the car. FMI – How to Select A Dog Trainer –

Does Your Pet Need to Go With You?

Most of us rarely take our cats for a ride because of most cats’ inherent dislike of travel. On the other hand, many of us love our dogs’ company, and the dog often loves the adventure of a ride. However, suppose you will need to leave your dog alone in the vehicle at any time. In that case, I encourage you to ask yourself if having the dog with you is necessary.

Unless the trip is specifically for the dog, a visit to daycare or the dog park, a hiking adventure appropriate for the dog, a trip to the veterinarian, or something else where the dog’s presence is required, I encourage you to consider leaving the dog at home. When we leave a dog alone in a vehicle, we need to worry about them; overheating, getting too cold, becoming anxious and frantically trying to escape, being stolen, or being teased by uncaring people. More than one person has told me how they caught a person taunting their dog when they left their dog alone in the car. After this, the dog behaved aggressively anytime anyone approached the vehicle. Another person told me they left their dog alone in the car for only a brief moment. However, it was enough time for the dog to bite a child when they stuck their little hand in through the open window. I love having Muppy with me, but if there is any chance I might need to leave her alone in the car, she stays home.

Aversion and Motion Sickness

A dog may suddenly refuse to get in the car for several reasons. The vehicle may have become a predictor of something unpleasant such as a trip to the veterinarian. Or perhaps the dog was in the car during a traumatic event such as a crash or a thunderstorm. If the dog was injured getting in or out of a vehicle, they might also become afraid of the car. Even having an angry conversation with someone over your phone while the dog is in the vehicle may cause an aversion to being in the car.

Nausea due to motion sickness is one of the biggest reasons dogs learn to dislike traveling. If the pet has little experience traveling, they may not be comfortable in motion, especially if confined in a crate or unable to see where they are going. Since you control the car’s movement, how you drive or where you drive may be a factor. A queasy tummy may not be related to movement but may be triggered by something the dog ate. However, since the sick feeling started in the car, the dog may associate feeling queasy with the vehicle and not what they ate. Medical conditions such as an inner-ear problem may also cause nausea. However, no matter the cause, anything that causes physical or emotional pain or discomfort is likely to be remembered and is unlikely to resolve on its own. I encourage you to speak to your veterinarian or a credentialed animal behavior consultant as soon as possible for the sake of your pet.

Two of my nine dogs went through periods of being uncomfortable in the car. When Tikken was a puppy, I started taking her on frequent short trips to acclimate her to travel. She was transported in a crate to keep her safe. These included a weekly trip to her vet for what I called a “happy visit,” where we walked in, I gave her a few treats, and then we left. One day I took her out of the crate when we got home, and I noticed she had drooled so profusely that her chest was soaked. The next time I tried to get her in the car, she sat down 20 feet away and refused to get any closer. The excessive drooling was a sign of nausea, and Tikken made it clear she did not want to get in the car again. I helped Tikken learn that the vehicle was safe by stopping all travel until I successfully desensitized and counter conditioned her to like the car. A couple of months later, we took a 10-hour trip without incident.

My second dog to have issues in the car is my current dog, Muppy. The day we drove home with her, for three-plus hours, was without incident. However, soon after, she would occasionally vomit in the car about one out of every ten car rides. Fortunately, Muppy never became hesitant about getting in the vehicle. Still, her obvious discomfort and the profuse amounts of vomit motivated me to get her feeling comfortable. I was able to do so with some anti-nausea products. However, due to the unpredictability of her getting sick, it took a couple of years to figure it out.

If your dog is experiencing excessive drooling, vomiting, or diarrhea, specific to being in a moving vehicle, make an appointment with your veterinarian so that they can rule out any medical causes and prescribe any necessary medications.

How to tell if your dog is uncomfortable in the car

  • Your dog is exhibiting signs of stress and discomfort in or around the vehicle ( FMI –
  • Your dog refuses to get in the car. Please understand making them get into the car will only make them more fearful of the car and you. It is not a solution.
  • Your dog is smacking or licking its lips or drooling excessively, indicating they may feel nauseous or anxious.
  • Your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea when in the car; both can be a sign of nausea or anxiety.

Things that may help alleviate nausea and anxiety

  • Limit trips to only those that are necessary until the issue is resolved.
  • Withhold food and treats at least 12-hours before necessary travel.
  • Practice very short trips in the vehicle; 30ft, 60ft, 100ft, increasing in small increments. You might want to consult with a credentialed pet behavior consultant to assist you with developing a desensitization protocol.
  • Treat nausea and, if necessary, anxiety.
    • Over the counter treatments (No Prescription Required)
      • Ginger helps relieve nausea. The easiest way to see if it helps your dog is to get some gingersnap cookies. Just make sure they contain real ginger and do not contain xylitol. Give a cookie about 30-minutes before travel.
      • CBD can relieve both anxiety and, in some cases, nausea. It is one of the things I use with Muppy. Just be careful as there is a wide range of CBD products, and not all of them are of equal quality. ( FMI – )
      • Adaptil – This is a pheromone that can help alleviate anxiety. It is available as a spray and a collar.
      • Lavender Essential Oil – Lavender can have a calmative effect. Still, just as with CBD, there are many Lavender products, and they are not all of the same grade and quality.
      • Bach Rescue Remedy – Rescue Remedy® is a combination flower remedy formula explicitly created for addressing stress in emergencies or crises. I have used it for over 20 years in a wide variety of applications. ( FMI – )
    • Homeopathic Remedies – While many homeopathic medications do not require a prescription, I recommend that you work with a Homeopathic Veterinarian if you are not knowledgeable in this area. Some remedies can be beneficial in treating nausea and motion sickness. One was very helpful with Muppy. Dr. Herman, who also writes a column for Down East Dogs News, is knowledgeable about using homeopathic remedies with pets.
    • Prescription medications – (Must be prescribed by a veterinarian). Only treating nausea may be enough, but symptoms of nausea may predict anxiety, so an anti-anxiety medication may also be in order. Common medications prescribed by veterinarians for these conditions include:
      • for nausea – Cerenia®, Antivert®, and Bonine®
      • for anxiety – Alprazolam (Xanax®), trazodone (Desyrel®)
      • Please do not use any prescription medication with your pet without first discussing it with your veterinarian.
    • Behavior Modification – A desensitization and counterconditioning protocol, such as I used with Tikken, may be helpful or even necessary to get the dog to tolerate or enjoy the car after a bad experience. A credentialed dog behavior consultant or Veterinary Behaviorist such as DEDN columnist Dr. Christine Calder can help. ( FMI – )

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Dogs – Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

Cats – Make Your Life Easier – Get Your Cat to Love Their Carrier

How to Choose A Dog Trainer

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?

How Hemp-Derived Phytocannabinoid Nutraceuticals May Help Your Pets

Bach Flower Remedies – Bach Rescue Remedy®

Do I Need a Dog Trainer or a “Behaviorist”?

Contact Information for Dr. Herman & Dr. Calder

Dr. Judy Herman
Animal Wellness Center
95 Northern Ave., Augusta ME

Dr. Christine Calder
Calder Veterinary Behavior Services

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). In addition, Don produces and co-hosts a podcast, The Woof Meow Show, available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog: The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©23JAN22, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Shared Blog Post – All About Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds – They’re NOT!

< Updated 16JAN22 >

< A short link for this page – >

Many people desperately want a dog in their life but have allergies. There are dog breeds advertised and promoted as being “hypoallergenic.” This would seem to imply that if you get one of these dogs, you will not have an allergic reaction. Sadly, the very suggestion that a dog is “hypoallergenic” is disingenuous. As noted in this recent blog post by Embark, “Being called hypoallergenic means the dog is less likely to cause someone to have an allergic reaction. However, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic.”

If you are searching for a “hypoallergenic” dog, I encourage you to read this blog post from Embark. It provides detailed, scientific information on dog allergies and which breeds may be less of a concern than others for a person that has dog allergies. However, the fact remains no dog will be 100% allergenic.

Embark – All About Hypoallergenic Dog Breeds

If you are thinking about buying a dog from someone telling you that the dog is “hypoallergenic,” I suggest you talk to other breeders, rescues, and pet professionals before making a financial commitment. At least, ask yourself, “What else have they told me about this dog that might not be true?” The following article from my blog may be helpful as you look for the right dog for you and your family.

Adopting A Pet – Finding the Right Dog for You and Your Family

Why Is it Suddenly So Difficult to See the Veterinarian? What Can I Do If My Pet Has a Healthcare Emergency?

< A version of this article was published in the NOV2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 01NOV21 >

< A short link for this page – >

Some of my clients have commented on the long lead times to get appointments with their veterinarian for several months. In addition, new clients that have just moved to the area have indicated that many local veterinarians are not accepting new patients at this time. There were also rumors of the Eastern Maine Emergency Veterinary Clinic (EMEVC) not being open some nights and turning patients away because they did not have enough staff to see everyone. So, on Sept. 27, When EMEVC announced that they would be closed on Mondays and Tuesdays until further notice, I started to ask my friends in the veterinary community what was going on. What I learned was alarming.

After talking with colleagues throughout Maine and the USA, I discovered a nationwide shortage of veterinarians, technicians, and assistants. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently addressed this topic in an article in the JAVMA News entitled “Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis?” While some have speculated that this was due to a massive increase in pet adoptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the data reported in JAVMA does not support this conclusion; “The number of pets adopted from shelters in 2020 was the lowest in five years, based on data from over 4,000 shelters across the country.”

The data does indicate …veterinarians saw fewer patients per hour and average productivity declined by almost 25% in 2020, compared with 2019.” The JAVMA News article suggests a significant drop in productivity directly resulting from necessary changes in how veterinary practices operated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As with other professions, the pandemic has increased stress levels and a loss of staff due to illness, a need to care for family members, or burnout.

The article in JAMA News suggests several things the veterinary profession can do to change this situation, but none will happen quickly. Additionally, society is still feeling the effects of COVID-19. With cases increasing again, it is quite possible things will worsen before they get better.

Those who share our lives with pets care deeply about their health, as does the entire veterinary and professional pet care community. I believe the best thing we can do as a like-minded community is to commit to working together to resolve this crisis. Too many people have used COVID to divide us as a society; it’s time for pet guardians to set an example for the rest of the world. Let’s show the world how to work together as a compassionate, caring team that is as concerned about the wellbeing of others as much as themselves. This is how we can start:

  • Be kind, patient, and helpful to others.
  • If you have not already done so, establish a relationship with a local veterinarian. Ask them what level of care they can provide if area emergency clinics are unavailable BEFORE you have an emergency.
  • Ensure you have contact information for all area emergency clinics readily available if the closest is closed.
  • Take a pet first aid class to better prepare to care for your pet in a crisis. An excellent course is offered online by the Pet Professional Guild. [ FMI – ]
  • Keep all of your pet’s veterinary records so that they are readily available if you need to see another veterinarian. Take those records with you if you travel with your pet.
  • Every time you see your veterinarian, they probably send you home with a report indicating when your pets will be due for their next vaccinations and exams. Don’t wait until the last minute to schedule those appointments. Also, keep that information readily available so that you can provide it to your daycare, boarding facility, dog trainer, and groomer without having to call your very busy veterinarian for another copy.
  • Keep your pets healthy. Make sure that they have adequate and appropriate physical exercise and mental enrichment. Feed them healthy food and do not let them become obese. Provide them with medications as prescribed and order prescription refills well in advance. Please, do not use aversive training tools [ shock, prong & choke collars] that can cause physical or emotional injury.
  • Before embarking on a non-regular activity with your pet, assess their health and age and review the risk of that activity. Is your pet up to it, and are you ready to do what’s necessary if your pet has a healthcare emergency?
  • Be kind, patient, and helpful to others.


Are we in a veterinary workforce crisis?, JAVMAnews, Sept. 15, 2021 –

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG), where he serves on the Board of Directors and Steering Committee and chairs the Advocacy Committee and The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©[email protected], Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Tobacco Smoke, Vaping, Nicotine, and The Risk They Pose to Our Pets

< A version of this article was published in the April 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 24JUN21 >

< A short link for this page – >

Two nights before I started writing my April 2021 Words, Woofs, & Meows column for Downeast Dog News, my staff and I at Green Acres attended a training session called Tobacco Smoke and Animals-Understanding the Risks & Tips on How to Talk to Pet Owners About their Tobacco Use. This presentation was developed by the Maine CDC and presented for us by Public Health Educator/Tobacco specialists from Bangor Public Health. I knew I had to share what we learned in my next column, as this was important information.

You can listen to a podcast on this topic at this link.

One of the most important things you can do for your pet’s health is to make your home free of tobacco smoke, vapors, and nicotine. Tobacco, vaping, and nicotine products all pose a health risk to pets in your home.

Exposure to Smoke

When a tobacco product burns, it gives off smoke. Some of that smoke is inhaled and captured in the smoker’s lungs. The smoke exhaled by the smoker or that enters the air as the tobacco burns goes directly into the environment, becoming a threat to any living creature in that environment. That is called secondhand smoke, and it contains thousands of chemicals, 69 of which are known to cause cancer. Secondhand smoke occurs in any environment where smokers smoke.

A person’s exposure to secondhand smoke increases their risk of developing lung cancer or heart disease by as much as 30%. In addition, children are at a higher risk for these health issues; Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, acute respiratory infections, ear problems, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and severe asthma.

A dog that lives with a smoker will have significantly higher cotinine levels in its blood due to exposure to nicotine from secondhand smoke.1 Other studies have indicated that exposure to tobacco smoke increased cancer risk in the nasal cavities and sinuses of long-snouted dogs2. Cancer risk for those dogs increased the more the smoker smoked. Dogs with short and medium-length noses were twice as likely to develop lung cancer if they lived with a smoker.3 Cats sharing a home with a smoker are twice as likely to develop lymphoma, a type of cancer. After five or more years of exposure, that increases to 3 times more likely.4

If you’ve spent any time in the same environment with a smoker, you know that smoke lingers. It forms a residue on walls, floors, carpets, furniture, clothes, hair, skin, and other surfaces. It accumulates on toys that your child or pet may put in their mouth.  It will even cling to the coat of your pet. Blech!

This residue is classified as thirdhand smoke and contains toxins that your children can ingest when playing with their toys. In addition, pets may ingest thirdhand smoke from their toys or when licking their paws or their coat. Cats are especially susceptible due to their self-grooming. As they lick at their fur, they expose the toxins from the smoke to the mucous membranes in their mouth.

Exposure to tobacco smoke can cause the following health problems with your pets; breathing issues, cancer, diarrhea, heart disease, itchy skin, lung disease, salivation, and vomiting.

The only way to eliminate second and thirdhand smoke is to stop all smoking in your environment. However, even if you force everyone to smoke outside your home, the environmental tobacco levels in your home will still be five to seven times higher than in a house where everyone is a nonsmoker5.

If you have committed to having a smoke-free home or are ready to do so, I encourage you to take the Smoke-Free Homes Pledge at

Vaping and Exposure to E-Cigarette Vapors

E-Cigarettes, vape pens, and the various names used to describe them are “electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS).” These devices may look like real cigarettes, pens, and even USB flash drives.

An ENDS device uses an internal battery to heat a liquid, often called E-Juice or vape juice, to produce an aerosol inhaled by the user. This aerosol is also dispersed into the air others breathe when the user exhales and as a by-product of the ENDS device. This secondhand vape juice contains nicotine, ultrafine particles, volatile organic compounds, and artificial flavors. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens. Additionally, this aerosol may contain hazardous heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead.

According to the CDC, many of these products, like JUUL, contain higher nicotine levels in a different chemical form than other products. They use nicotine salts instead of free-base nicotine. This allows the nicotine to be inhaled more easily, with less irritation to the lungs, encouraging increased use of an already addictive product. A single pod may contain as much nicotine as a pack of 20 regular cigarettes.

Just as the flavors added to vape pods make them more attractive to children, they may have the same effect on our pets. If a pet ingests a vape pod, nicotine toxicity can occur within 15 to 30 minutes of exposure. Depending on where you live, that may not give you enough time to get to a veterinarian. If you suspect ingestion, seek veterinary care immediately. Please do not wait until you observe signs of toxicity, as it may be too late.

Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems are as unhealthy and can be as deadly as smoking tobacco. Thus, ENDS seems to be a fitting acronym for something with great potential to END life.


Nicotine is a natural component of the tobacco plant that acts as a stimulant and can reduce anxiety. However, it is incredibly addictive, and tiny amounts can be toxic. In addition, pets can ingest nicotine by consuming cigarettes and butts, chewing tobacco, cigars, vaping pods and refills, and smoking cessation products such as patches, gums, etc.

Signs of nicotine poisoning in pets include; drooling, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, unsteady gait, dilated pupils, agitation, nervousness, weakness, an abnormal heart rate, high blood pressure, panting, tremors, seizures, paralysis, respiratory arrest, and even death.  There is no antidote for nicotine poisoning, so immediate veterinary care is mandatory. Pets can and have died from nicotine poisoning.

How your dog will be affected by nicotine ingestion depends on what they have ingested and their size. Smaller dogs will be more susceptible. Items with the highest nicotine concentration are the most dangerous and include cigars, vaping pods, e-juice, and nicotine patches. These products should be secured where a child or pet can’t gain access to them.

The CDC states that 50 to 60mgs of nicotine is a deadly dose for an adult weighing 150 pounds. For pets, the toxic amount of nicotine is 0.5 to 1mg per pound of body weight. The lethal dose is 4mg per pound of body weight.

 Nicotine Content of Typical Products and Amount Lethal to a Pet

Nicotine Content in these items Average Amount of Nicotine/mg/g) Lethal Dose 10lb Pet, 40mg Lethal Dose 20lb Pet, 80mg Lethal Dose 60lb Pet, 240mg
Cigarette, one 7 to 30 1.3 to 5.7 cigarettes 2.67 to 11.43 cigarettes 8 to 34.3 cigarettes
Cigar, one 100 to 444 0.09 to 0.4 cigars 0.18 to 0.8 cigars 0.54 to 2.40 cigars
Chewing Tobacco 7 to 16  2.5 to 5.7 g 5 to 11.43 g 15 to 34.3g
Vape Pod 41.3 to 90 0.44 to 0.97 pods 0.89 to 1.94 pods 2.67 to 5.7 pods
Nicotine Patch 7 to 114 0.35 to 5.7 patches 0.7 to 11.43 patches 2.1 to 34.3 patches
Nicotine Gum,
1 pc
2 to 4 10 to 20 pcs 20 to 40 pcs 60 to 120 pcs

Think Beyond Your Home

Remember, your pet can be exposed to tobacco, vaping, and smoking cessation products outside of your home. These products can be found in vehicles, the home of family and friends, and places your pet spends time, such as a boarding or daycare facility, the groomer, the dog trainer, or even your veterinarian’s offices. In addition, the use of tobacco and vaping products at events where pets may be present should also be a concern. Look for signs like this one at businesses where your pet spends time.

Be aware that waste material from tobacco and vaping products can be equally toxic and are not always disposed of properly. Look for them in parks, dog parks, hiking trails, and even public streets where you walk your dog.

So How Do I Quit or Help Someone Else Quit?

Nicotine is an addictive drug. Sadly, tobacco and vaping companies are taking advantage of that fact to fill their coffers as your health and those around you are put at risk. Data indicates that 70% of tobacco users want to quit, and more than half attempt to stop yearly. Keep trying!

Only you can decide if you’re going to stop smoking or vaping. If you choose to quit tobacco, vaping, or both, the state of Maine has resources ready to assist you. I encourage you to check them out at MaineQuitLink.com When you quit, you know that the rest of your family, including your pets, will benefit.

When trying to help others to quit, make it about the smoke, not the smoker. Please share information about the danger of smoke with other members of your family without shaming them. Often, protecting the health of others can be a great motivator. If they’re not ready to quit, suggest they stop smoking indoors. Lastly, recognize that talking about the dangers of tobacco use is not a one-time event. Be prepared to bring it up again, but no shaming or nagging. You can find many informative fact sheets and infographics at the MaineHealth Center for Tobacco Independence website –


Cited References

1Bertone-Johnson ER, Procter-Gray E, Gollenberg AL, et al. Environmental tobacco smoke and canine urinary cotinine level. Environ Res. 2008;106(3):361-4. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

2Reif JS, Bruns C, Lower KS. Cancer of the Nasal Cavity and Paranasal Sinuses and Exposure to Environmental Tobacco Smoke in Pet Dogs. Am J Epidemiol 1998; 147:488–92. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

3Reif JS, Dunn K, Ogilvie GK et al. Passive smoking and canine lung cancer risk. Am J Epidemiol 1992 Feb 1;135(3):234-9. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

4Environmental Tobacco Smoke and Risk of Malignant Lymphoma in Pet Cats; Am J Epidemiol 2002; 156:268–73. Bertone ER, Snyder LA, Moore AS.

5Matt GE, Quintana PJE, Hovell MF et al.  Households contaminated by environmental tobacco smoke: sources of infant exposures. Tob Control 2004;13:29-3. Available at: Accessed Nov 11, 2012.

Other Resources

Smoking, Vaping, Nicotine & Pets

Resources to Help You Quit Smoking or Vaping

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©10-Mar-21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Pet Nutrition – Pet Food Myths & Facts – No. 1, MYTH – Only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food

< This is an expanded version of my column, which was first published in the MARCH 2021 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 28MAR21 >

< A short link for this page – >


Long before becoming pet care professionals, my wife and I learned that what we feed our pets matters. Unfortunately, as we pursued our education in pet nutrition, we quickly discovered there are many myths, a polite word for lies, about pet nutrition. Secondly, and more alarming, we found that the pet food industry lacks transparency. Sadly, some of these myths have become more prevalent in the last few years. This article is the first in a series where I will expose the myths and reveal pet food facts as I understand them. You may find some of what I write alarming as I shine a light on the dark side of the pet food industry.

MYTHOnly a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food

The myth that only a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist is qualified to formulate pet food took flight in July of 2018. It was a response to a press release issued by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announcing an investigation into alleged links between certain dog foods and canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). This story was covered by every major news network, perpetuating other unfounded statements that became part of pet food mythology. Within a week, many experts on animal nutrition were challenging the FDA conclusions. However, it was not until November of 2020 that the FDA concluded they were wrong and that no link between DCM and grain-free foods exists.  [ FMI – ]

FACT There is no legal or logical requirement that one must have a veterinary degree to formulate pet food.

The law requires that all pet foods sold in the USA meet requirements established by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). Individuals with advanced degrees in animal nutrition are equally or more knowledgeable about nutrition than any veterinarian. These individuals have been formulating pet food that meets AAFCO requirements for years.

FACT Today, almost all pet food diets are formulated exclusively by computer software specifically designed to create balanced pet food formulas based on current science as established by the Natural Research Council (NRC) and AAFCO regulations. One does not need a veterinary degree or a doctorate in animal nutrition to use these programs.

You might want to consider a software program called Pet Diet Designer that has been designed to be used by people like you and me. FMI

FACT Formulating a pet food requires knowledge, but it is far from being “rocket science.” By educating yourself, you can make better decisions about the pet food you buy and, if you choose to, can make safe and healthy food for your pets yourself.

Please understand, making food for your dog is not as simple as buying ingredients and putting them in a bowl. You need to understand your dog’s nutritional needs and what ingredients provide your dog with what they need to grow and thrive. Once you know that, you can source fresh, wholesome ingredients and prepare a meal for your pet far healthier than most processed commercial foods simply because you provide them with fresh food. My wife prepared food for our dog Gus for many months, but as I have said, it does take knowledge and time.

Learning About Pet Nutrition

I learned what I know about pet nutrition from reading books and articles and attending numerous seminars and workshops on the subject. Because I find the topic fascinating and want the best for my pets, I continually seek knowledge on feeding them for optimal health. For those of you that want to learn more, these are my favorite books on the topic.

  • Canine and Feline Nutrition – A Resource for Companion Animal Professionals, by Linda Case, MS, Leighann Daristotle, DVM, Michael Hayek, Ph.D. & Melody Foess Raasch, DVM
    • This book was written for pet care professionals but is an excellent resource for those that want to know as much as possible. The lead author, Linda Case, has worked in the pet food industry. She has also been a frequent guest on The Woof Meow Show, helping us understand the DCM/Grain-Free fiasco.
  • Dog Food Logic – Making Smart Decisions For Your Dog In An Age Of Too Many Choices, by Linda Case, MS
    • Also written by Linda Case, this book is a perfect choice for dog parents that want to learn the fundamentals.
  • Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats, by Richard H. Pitcairn, DVM, Ph.D.
    • This is an excellent book for those who want to take a natural approach to their pets’ healthcare, including recipes for homemade diets. It is the book my wife used when cooking for our dog Gus.
  • Natural Nutrition for Dogs and Cats – The Ultimate Diet, by Kymythy Schultze,
    • This is my favorite book for those that want to prepare meals for their pets, rather than empty a package into a bowl, It’s filled with great advice and is simple to follow. Kymythy has another book specific to feline nutrition, Natural Nutrition for Cats: The Path to Purr-fect Health, which is also excellent. She has also been a guest on my radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show.
  • Ruined by Excess, Perfected by Lack, by Richard Patton, Ph.D.
    • Patton takes a complicated, technical and vital subject, animal nutrition, and translates it into common sense. He has worked in the pet food industry and as a consultant around the world. If you are looking for a nutritional approach to addressing your pet’s food allergies and intolerance’s, digestive difficulties, obesity, and chronic diseases such as kidney disease or diabetes, read this book. I found this book so valuable that; I gave copies to the Green Acres staff and several local veterinarians in our community. Dr. Patton has been a guest on The Woof Meow Show and has presented pet nutrition seminars at Green Acres. A video of that presentation is available on this blog.
  • See Spot Live Longer, by Steve Brown & Beth Taylor
    • Steve is the inventor of Charlee Bear dog treats and Steve’s Real Food for Pets, the first widely distributed frozen raw diets for both cats and dogs. Like Paula and I, Steve became interested in pet nutrition to help his pets live longer. He has been a guest on The Woof Meow Show. This is an excellent book for those who want to learn how what you feed can extend your pet’s life.
  • The Truth About Pet Foods, Randy Wysong, DVM
    • We discovered this book in our first couple of years at Green Acres. It was written by a veterinarian who also owns a pet food company. One of the things that impressed me most about Dr. Wysong and his book is that he believes that if you want to provide optimal nutrition for your pet, you should make their food from fresh ingredients. The book also exposes many of the myths started by the pet food industry. The book can be downloaded for free as a PDF at –
  • Unlocking the Canine Ancestral Diet, by Steve Brown
    • Steve Brown’s second book focuses on what a dog was designed to eat, and it’s not kibble. Steve also provides some excellent tips on how you can improve your dog’s diet by adding some fresh, whole food to their kibble.

Why does this myth exist?

Why would anyone tell you, “Never purchase pet food from a company that does not have a board-certified veterinary nutritionist on staff?  It could be due to a lack of knowledge. Perhaps they are unaware that for tens of thousands of years’ canines have been successfully eating and thriving without human assistance. Or maybe they don’t know that before the introduction of commercial pet food, people fed their pets without aid from any type of veterinarian. Sadly, it could also be for more nefarious reasons. The pet food industry, like all businesses, is about profit. There is nothing inherently wrong with profit; it’s what allows all of us to earn a living. However, pet care is a multi-billion-dollar business becoming less competitive every year as megalithic corporations swallow up small companies. By definition, a corporation’s first duty is to its shareholders, NOT you or your pets.

As of 2018, only six companies account for 89.3% of the pet food market and 103 pet food brands.  Two companies now control 71% of all pet food sales in the US and are also purchasing veterinary clinics. [FMI – ]. These same companies also employ many of the 96 Veterinary Nutritionists in the world. It doesn’t take a genius to see that insisting their employees formulate pet food could further increase their control of the pet food and veterinary business. Is that what you want as a pet owner? Less control and fewer choices, which will undoubtedly lead to higher prices? It’s not what I want, and in fact, it scares me. I hope it scares you too and that you choose to look out for your pets and your best interests.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

FDA Concludes, “…there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet.”

Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do? – 7JUL19

Shared Articles – More on the FDA, DCM, and Pet Food – 10JUL19 


Shared Articles – Do the Vets Behind the FDA Investigation Have A Conflict of Interest? –

What I Feed My Dog and Why I Feed What I Do

Things I Wish I Had Known… The Importance of What I Feed My Pets – – WWM-MAR2019 –

Pet Nutrition: Some Myths and Facts – Part 1 – My story with Gus – Maine Dog Magazine – Winter 2017

The Science and Dogma of Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton with link to 1-hour video

Shared News Story – An Exposé on Prescription Diets from WJLA ABC7 News

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

What We Feed Our Pets and Why, with – Don Hanson, Kate Dutra, and Linda Case  –

Is Feeding A Grain-Free Food to Our Dogs Dangerous?, with Linda Case, MS –

Pet’s in the News–No. 4 Pet Food, DCM and The FDA

DCM, the FDA, and Dog Food-the Science and the Hype with Canine Nutritionist Linda Case

Pet Nutrition with Dr. Richard Patton

Pet Fooled – A Look Inside A Questionable Industry with Kohl Harrington

Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©28MAR21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Pet Nutrition – FDA Concludes “…there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet.”

< A version of this article was published in the December 2020 issue of Downeast Dog News>

< Updated 11FEB21 >

< A short link for this page – >

In July of 2018, grain-free pet foods and a disorder called DCM (Dilated Cardiomyopathy) in dogs were all over the news for many weeks. A small group of veterinarians and the FDA held a press conference announcing a surge in reported cases of DCM. They attributed the increase due to grain-free pet foods. Yet, at the same time, one of the veterinarians involved seemed also to implicate dog food made with exotic proteins by “boutique pet food companies.” The media circus continued for months, causing panic among pet parents and the pet food industry.

When this all started, animal nutritionists I trust were saying the FDA’s conclusions did not add up. There was no evidence to implicate grain-free foods, exotic proteins, or specific types of pet food companies. They indicated that DCM is a very complicated disorder with many factors. It turns out, the people I trusted were correct as now the FDA is saying the same thing.

At the end of September, Kansas State University held a scientific forum to discuss DCM and pet food. Information presented at the meeting is just now circulating in the media. I’m still digesting the reports and will write more in the future, but here is the good news from the FDA.

The agency concluded that there is nothing inherently unsafe about a grain-free diet.”

Evidence shows that the absence of grains in a dog’s diet is not linked to the development of DCM, as the presence of grains in a dog’s diet does not prevent against DCM. We hope this brings clarity to pet lovers and gives them the confidence and trust to select the best diet for their dogs. “

Additionally, there is no evidence to implicate “exotic proteins” or “boutique pet food companies” as contributing to DCM.  Suppose you were previously feeding dog food without grain or one with exotic proteins or dog food made by a small, family-owned pet food company. In that case, you can feel safe feeding it again.

If you have a dog with DCM or are concerned about DCM, here is the bad news. “The results show that DCM is a multifactorial issue with potential variables including, but not limited to, breed, age, weight, gastrointestinal disease, atopy, infection, and more.” In other words, as many animal nutritionists were saying as early as July 2018, the FDA was off on a wild goose chase. Sadly, much more research needs to be done to help dogs with DCM, and based on what I’ve been reading, much of the research in the past two years may have been a waste of time. I hope I am wrong, as losing a pet to DCM is something no one wants.

Tragically, there is worse news for all of us.  At the September conference, it was stated, “Nevertheless, these observations must be subject to rigorous scientific investigation before conclusions are made.” Which is exactly what did NOT happen before the press conference in July 2018. The FDA should know better and realize they need to do some serious work on their reputation.

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

Shared Article – Researchers Find No Definitive Link Between DCM and Grain-Free Diets –

 FDA Update on Heart Disease in Dogs & What Should You Do? – 7JUL19  –

Shared Articles – More on the FDA, DCM, and Pet Food – 10JUL19  –

Shared Articles – Do the Vets Behind the FDA Investigation Have A Conflict of Interest?31JUL19

Pet Nutrition – Grain-Free Foods and FDA Reports of Increased Heart Disease in Dogs – 23JUL18

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show
( )

Podcast – DCM, the FDA, and Dog Food-the Science and the Hype with Canine Nutritionist Linda Case

Podcast – Pet’s in the News–No. 4 Pet Food, DCM and The FDA



Green Acres Pet Nutrition Resources Page
( )

GAKS Philosophy on Pet Nutrition

Pet Foods We Offer At Green Acres Kennel Shop

Pet Nutrition – Which Companies Are Behind Your Pet’s Food?  –

Other Resources

Pet Product News – June 17, 2020 – Researchers Find No Definitive Link Between DCM and Grain-Free Diets

Journal of ANIMAL SCIENCE June 15th, 2020 – Review of canine dilated cardiomyopathy in the wake of diet-associated concerns


Don Hanson is the co-owner of the Green Acres Kennel Shop ( ) in Bangor, Maine, where he has been helping people with their pets since 1995. He is also the founder of, an online educational resource for people with dogs and cats. Don is a Bach Foundation Registered Animal Practitioner (BFRAP), Certified Dog Behavior Consultant (CDBC), Associate Certified Cat Behavior Consultant (ACCBC), and a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA). He is a member of the Pet Professional Guild (PPG). Don is committed to PPG’s Guiding Principles and the Pain-Free, Force-Free, and Fear-Free training, management, and care of all pets. He serves on the PPG Steering Committee and Advocacy Committee and is the Chair of The Shock-Free Coalition ( ). Don produces and co-hosts a weekly radio show and podcast, The Woof Meow Show, that airs on Z62 Retro Radio WZON (AM620) and WKIT 103.3-HD3 and is streamed at every Saturday at 9 AM. Podcasts of the show are available at, the Apple Podcast app, and Don’s blog:  The opinions in this post are those of Don Hanson.

©11FEB21, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Podcast – Preparing for the Holidays; Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Years

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

< Updated 18OCT20 >

< A short link for this page – >

The last three months of the year are often your favorite or least favorite time of year. It is a time filled with holidays, more guests in our home than usual, frantic activity, hectic schedules, and yes, stress, and not the good kind but unpleasant distress. All of these things can affect our pets every bit as much as they affect us. In this show, Kate and Don will be discussing ways you can make this time of year less stressful for both your and your pets. We’ll address Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

You can listen to The Woof Meow Show on Z62 Retro Radio, AM620, and WKIT HD3 at 9 AM on Saturday. If you are not near a radio, listen on your computer at or your smartphone or tablet with the free WZON 620 AM app. A podcast of the show is typically posted immediately after the show. You can download this show and others at, at Don’s blog and the Apple podcast app.

< Click to Listen to Podcast >

Contact Info

Don Hanson & Kate Dutra
Green Acres Kennel Shop & The Woof Meow Show
Bangor, ME
(207) 945-6841

Recommended Resources

Articles on Don’s Blog
(  )

 Halloween Tips for Pets and Their People –

Preparing Your Pets for the Holidays

 Other Resources

Mighty Dog Graphics Halloween Posters

©18OCT20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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COVID-19, Working from Home, & Pets

< Updated 22MAR20 >

< A short link for this page – >

There has been a wide variety of information circulating online and in the media about COVID-19 and pets. I have reviewed material from scientific and veterinary resources, as well as the general media, and have summarized it here. Please remember that we are learning more about COVID-19 every day, and so some of what you read may change.

At the top of many people’s list of questions is can COVID-19 be transmitted from humans to pets and vice versa. There has been news reported out of Hong Kong by the mass media about the possibility of two dogs testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.  Two sources that I trust believe that there is no proven risk of direct transmission of COVID-19 between people and pets at this time.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads from humans to humans. There is no research to support human to animal spread at this time. – Science Magazine AAAS, March 12, 2020 –

Currently there is limited evidence that companion animals can be infected with SARS-Cov-2 and no evidence that pet dogs or cats can be a source of infection to other animals or to humans resulting in COVID-19. This is a rapidly evolving situation and information will be updated as it becomes available. – WSAVA, March 20, 2020 –

Science and the WSAVA offer some excellent advice about how we interact with our pets during this pandemic.

  • If you are infected with COVID-19 or are awaiting test results, limit contact with your pets. Wash your hands, and don’t let them lick you on the face. The CDC recommends you avoid petting, snuggling, being kissed or licked, and sharing food with your pet.
  • It is best to quarantine your pets away from anyone infected in your home
  • Be prepared, in the event you become sick or are quarantined, or worse yet, end up in the hospital. Make sure you have enough food on hand for your pet and that you have someone lined up to care for them if you are unable to do so. Whomever you chose to care for your pet in such an eventuality, make sure they have a plan as well in case they become ill.

Is COVID-19 the same as the coronavirus that infects dogs and cats? –  Several types of coronaviruses affect different species, including humans, dogs, cats, and more. Neither the canine nor the feline coronaviruses infect humans.

Can our pets carry COVID-19 even though they are not infected? – The COVID-19 virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 24 hours in a laboratory environment. It may be possible for a pet to carry the COVID-19 virus on their body, leash, or collar. For this reason, it is recommended that no one with the virus handles your pets. A helpful article on this topic comes from Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and can be read at

Can my dog and I still go for walks? – Yes, providing you maintain social distancing and maintain a 6-foot distance from others and use hand sanitizer after all interactions with others.

Help! – Because the whole family is staying home all day with the dog right now, things are getting a little crazy. – If you and your family are not used to being together 24/7, and it’s not typical for your pets(s), things may be stressful for more than one of you. Dr. Zazie Todd recommends; Stick to your routine, Let pets have safe spaces, Supervise pets and children closely (if you cannot supervise, separate), Make more time for play, keep the dog on a short leash when off property, Engage your pets and keep them busy with puzzle toys, and Do some training. ( ). One thing that Dr. Todd did not mention is ensuring some alone time for your dog. If we are required to stay home for any length of time, your dog could get used to you being there 24/7 and may need some adjustment time when everyone disappears. My article on Alone Training Can be found at

Stay well!

©22MAR20, Donald J. Hanson, All Rights Reserved
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Helping Your Dog Thrive – Brambell’s Five Freedoms

< A version of this article was first published in 2018 as a five-part series in the January, February, March, April and May 2018 issues of Downeast Dog News >

< Updated 1FEB20 >

< A short link to this page – >

< Click to download or print a PDF file containing all 5 columns in this series >

We have a responsibility to make our dog’s life the best life possible. Your dog’s quality of life is directly under your control.

In this post I will be discussing Brambell’s Five Freedoms and how you can use them to help your dog have a long, fun-filled life. I will examine the role of nutrition, basic husbandry, veterinary care, training, behavior, and the management of your dog, as they all play a role in the quality of its life.

  • Brambell’s Five Freedoms originated in the United Kingdom in December of 1965. The Brambell Commission published its report over 50 years ago, yet it is still a very applicable standard for evaluating the holistic health of any animal kept by people, including dogs.

The Five Freedoms are Freedom from Hunger and Thirst, Freedom from Discomfort, Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.

Fundamental to being able to assess an animal’s welfare is having a thorough knowledge of a species’ husbandry requirements, behavior, and how they communicate and express emotions. I invite you to consider some of the questions that I will pose in these columns and to contemplate how you would address them within Brambell’s Five Freedoms as you care for your dog.

Freedom from Hunger, Thirst, and Malnutrition

At first read, this sounds relatively simple; provide your dog with food and water, and you have met their needs. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Does the type of food we feed our dog matter? The dog has the digestive system of a carnivore; an animal meant to thrive on meat- animal protein and fat. When you feed your dog kibble or dry dog food, they are consuming food that is predominantly made up of carbohydrates. This highly processed “far from fresh food” is composed of 40% or more carbohydrates. The dog does not need carbohydrates in their diet. That is why you will not find the percent of carbohydrates listed in the Guaranteed Analysis panel on a bag of dog food. Kibble or dry dog food was not created to provide optimum nutrition for our dogs but to provide convenience for us and a long shelf life and higher profits for pet food manufacturers. Dogs can survive on kibble, but my question is: can they thrive on such an unnatural diet?

Can we say, in good conscience, that our dog is free from hunger, thirst, and malnutrition if we are feeding them a sub-optimal diet? Feeding a dog food that will provide them with the best nutrition possible is not inexpensive, at least when compared to grocery store kibble. However, when we start to factor in reduced veterinary bills with an improved diet, we may be further ahead when we feed the best food we can afford.

Is it better to have one pet and to feed her the best diet you can afford, or is it better to have multiple pets for social interaction? It is a question my wife and asked ourselves and is a reason we have downsized from a maximum of five dogs to one dog. We want to do the best we can for Muppy and having a single dog allows for more resources, both time and financial, to be focused on her.

What about pets on prescription diets? In some cases, a veterinarian may recommend a prescription diet for your dog that you can only get from a veterinarian. These specialized foods are available in a kibble or wet (canned) formula. Prescription diets are typically presented as being necessary to treat a specific disease or health issue. They are often much more expensive than a basic kibble, but because they are kibble, they will still be high in carbohydrates. Veterinarians who take a holistic approach to nutrition will seldom recommend kibble-based prescription diets preferring to suggest a diet consisting of fresh, whole food. Again, it comes down to choosing between optimal nutrition or our convenience? Which takes precedence?

What about pet obesity? Studies indicate that 50% of the pets in the U.S. are clinically obese. Obesity is typically due to overfeeding, an improper diet, and lack of exercise. Just as with humans, obesity will affect a dog’s health and welfare. It can tax your dog’s skeletal system and can even change behavior. How much of the obesity problem with our dogs is related to our feeding them diets high in carbohydrates, something they do not need?

Does the source of water you use matter? If you do not choose to drink water from your tap, should your dog? Should they at least be given a choice?

Next month we will examine more of Brambell’s Five Freedoms; Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease, Freedom to Express Normal Behavior, and Freedom from Fear and Distress.

Freedom from Discomfort


  1. an inconvenience, distress, or mild pain
  2. something that disturbs or deprives of ease
  3. to make uncomfortable or uneasy

– Collins English Dictionary

Many things in our dog’s life may cause pain or anxiety. This may vary in individual dogs depending on their genetics, temperament, anatomy, size, age, and other variables.

  • Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is anxious and afraid? – Dogs often indicate stress by various changes in their body language, often called calming or displacement signals. Signs such as looking away, yawning, and tongue flicks will typically occur before signals such as growling or snapping. If you wish to keep your dog comfortable, you first need to know how they indicate their discomfort. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are comfortable. Most people have not been taught how dogs communicate, yet it is one of the most important things they need to know. ( FMI )
  • Is your dog’s environment free from things that may cause anxiety, stress, and pain? This will vary with the individual dog. Common causes of anxiety can include children, adults, other animals, objects, loud noises, having their picture taken, having their nails trimmed, being hugged, wearing a costume, and many more. One of the easiest ways to avoid these issues is to spend time thoughtfully socializing and habituating your puppy to novel stimuli during their critical socialization period which occurs between 8 and 16 weeks of age. (FMI ) If your dog was older than 16 weeks of age when they joined your family it is very likely that they were not adequately or appropriately socialized. Remedial socialization is possible with an older dog, but it is even more essential that you plan such sessions carefully and that you proceed slowly. In this case, consulting with a professional fear-free, force-free, pain-free trainer is highly recommended. ( FMI – )
  • Have you trained your dog? When a dog joins a family, many expect them to automatically fit in, even though dogs and humans are two very different species with different cultural norms. We must teach our dogs how to live in our world, and that can best be accomplished through reward-based training. Failing to train our dog is almost sure to cause discomfort for both them and us. ( FMI – )
  • Are you committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? If you are using an aversive (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish) to train or manage your dog, you are making your dog uncomfortable. The very definition of an aversive is to cause discomfort, possibly up to the point of causing physical or emotional pain. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI – )
  • Does your dog have shelter from the elements, especially extremes of temperature, wind, and precipitation? This one seems straightforward, yet every year dogs are left out in dangerous weather and freeze to death.
  • Does your dog have a quiet, comfortable place where they can rest undisturbed and where they will feel safe? Dogs, like people, need downtime and a place where they will feel secure and safe so that they can get adequate rest. People and especially kids need to respect the adage “Let sleeping dogs lie.”
  • If you have multiple pets, does each pet have adequate resources? Many people have multiple pets. Do the pets get along and enjoy each other, or is there frequent conflict? Are there sufficient resources (food, space, and attention) for all of the pets? If your dog feels they do not have what they need to survive, or if they feel threatened or intimidated by another pet in your home, they are not free of discomfort.
  • Do you maintain your dog’s physical condition, so they do not experience discomfort? – Fifty percent of the dogs in the US are clinically obese. Just as with people, obesity often causes pain and discomfort. Many dogs with long coats require weekly grooming by us to prevent their coats from becoming tangled and matted and uncomfortable.

Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease

In many ways Freedom from Pain, Injury or Disease is directly related to the previous topic Freedom from Discomfort as pain, injury and disease are often the cause of extreme discomfort.

Regular and as-needed veterinary care goes a long way toward meeting this freedom, but breeding also plays a huge role, as well as how we respond when a dog is injured or ill. Mental disease needs to be considered along with the physical illness.

  • Are you familiar with how your dog expresses discomfort so that you recognize when your dog is in pain? –Dogs can be very stoic about hiding their pain. Signs of pain may include agitation, anti-social and aggressive behavior, changes in eating, drinking, and bathroom habits, non-typical vocalization, excessive self-grooming, panting and non-typical breathing patterns, trembling, difficulty moving, changes in posture, restlessness, and anxiety. It is essential to have a thorough understanding of the many subtle signals our dogs use to indicate that they are under stress or anxious. Just because a dog is not reacting does not mean they are free of pain. ( FMI )
  • Is your dog a working dog or do they compete in dog sports? Dogs that are more physically active have a higher probability of injury than the average pet. Appropriate physical training, just like that for an athlete may be beneficial. Also, if the dog is injured having adequate time off from work and sports to recover can be critical. Depending on the injury, retirement from the activity may be the best decision. Working and competing can negatively affect mental health just as much as it can cause physical problems.
  • Are your dog’s pain and injury being adequately addressed? Sadly, I remember a time when dogs were not given pain medication because it was believed they did not need it. However, today we also need to ask ourselves are painkillers enough? Physical therapy, chiropractic adjustments, and acupuncture can be very helpful in alleviating pain in people as well as pets and should be considered.
  • Does your dog see their veterinarian for regular wellness exams? – Dogs are subject to chronic diseases such as anxiety, arthritis, cognitive dysfunction, diabetes, kidney disease, obesity, periodontal disease and more. Early diagnosis and treatment of disease help prevent pain and discomfort. Every dog should see their veterinarian at least once a year for a wellness exam, and as they age this may need to be more frequent. Behavior and mental health should be discussed at every exam.
  • Is your dog obese? Just as with humans, fifty percent or more of the dogs in the US are overweight. A dog that is obese is more subject to injury, pain, and disease. If your dog is a little chubby or profoundly corpulent, please see your veterinarian and learn how you can address this issue. Your dog will thank you.
  • What is our responsibility when breeding pets? Some dogs, because of their breed standard, are intentionally bred for physical characteristics that often affect their ability to breathe, to move, and even to give birth naturally. How does this benefit the pet? Would it not be more appropriate to breed to eliminate these exaggerated physical deformities that affect soundness and health? Would it not better for dogs if people looking for a pet avoided these breeds?
  • Are you doing all that you can to prevent and avoid genetic disorders? Most purebred dogs are susceptible to one or more genetic disorders. Are breeders doing everything that should be done to eliminate these diseases and create healthier pets? When a person is considering what breed to get, should they avoid breeds prone to genetic disorders?
  • Are you as concerned about your dog’s mental and emotional health as you are about their physical health? Animals can experience mental disease and disorders (anxieties, phobias, dementia, ) just like humans. How do we reconcile that the treatments of behavioral issues are often not considered as necessary as physical disorders? Is it appropriate to breed a dog for behavioral traits that might be regarded as an asset for a dog who works or competes, but might negatively affect that dog’s ability to thrive as a companion dog?
  • Do you use tools and methods for training, management and the care of your dog that are designed to work by causing pain and discomfort? – Aversives (shock collar, choke collar, prong collar, leash corrections, etc. ) are used to physically or emotionally punish a dog. Dogs that are trained in this manner are unlikely to be happy and have a much greater probability of becoming aggressive. ( FMI – )

Freedom to Express Normal Behavior

When discussing what constitutes normal behavior, I mean behavior for the dog as a species, not what we as a human believe should be “normal” behavior for our dog. As much as we might want to, we cannot dictate what is normal or abnormal for a species.

In our classes, I ask students to list what behaviors they dislike in their dog. The list almost always includes: barking, begging, chasing, chewing, not coming when called  digging, eating “yuck,” getting on furniture or in the trash, growling, guarding things, humping, jumping on people, not listening, play biting, pulling on the leash, rolling in “yuck,” sniffing butts, stealing, being stubborn, and going to the bathroom inside. After reviewing the list, students learn almost everything they have listed is normal behavior for a dog.

One of the easiest ways to create behavior problems in any animal is to deny them the opportunity to express normal behaviors. Caged animals in a zoo that pace back and forth are exhibiting stereotypical behavior caused by stress because they are not able to do what they would normally do. So even though we find some of our dog’s typical behaviors undesirable, we need to find ways to allow them to express these behaviors so as not to compromise their mental and emotional wellbeing.

Some questions you can ask yourself to assess if you are adequately meeting your dog’s behavioral needs are listed below.

  • Do your dogs have an adequate and safe space in which to run, explore and express normal behaviors? Do you provide your dog with an opportunity to do so on a regular basis? Dogs like and need to sniff and explore. You can do this in your yard, home or on a walk. When you take your dog for a walk do you allow them adequate time to sniff, or do you expect your dog to heel by your side during the entire walk? Walking the dog is very overrated as physical stimulation but can be great for mental stimulation if you allow time for exploration and sniffing.
  • Is the environment in which your dog lives suitably enriched so that it stimulates your dogs mind? Mental stimulation is one of the things people often neglect, yet is very easy to provide. Instead of always feeding your dog in a bowl, feed them in a Kong or several Kong toys that you hide throughout your home. Having to search to find their food and then work to get it out of a Kong is great mental stimulation. Walking a different route every day also provides for mental stimulation as do training sessions.
  • Does your dog receive sufficient interaction with family members to establish a bond and to provide ongoing emotional enrichment? Most of us get a dog to be a companion. It is vital that we provide companionship to the dog and not just expect them to be there for us when we want company from them. Like any relationship, both dog and person need to contribute to that partnership. Are you always there for your dog when you come home from a disaster of a day? Some would argue that dog’s offer “unconditional love,” and therefore our role in the relationship does not matter. Really? The idea that a dog offers “unconditional love” is a beautiful myth but believing it is our greatest disservice to dogs because it sets them up to fail and allows us to presume that they will always be okay with whatever we do. Dog’s want and need more from us than our love when it is convenient for us to offer it. Take time to cuddle, to play, and whatever else you and your dog enjoy doing together.
  • Does your dog have canine friends? No matter how wonderful our bond is with our dog, from their perspective, we will never be another dog. Having appropriate doggie friends is just as important for our dog’s social life as having human friends is important to us. However, it is essential to make sure that your dog’s friends are well-matched so that they do enjoy one another’s company. Dogs do not automatically like all other dogs.
  • Do you allow your dog to decline to participate in events they find stressful? Dogs will often tell us with their body language, their normal way of communicating when they are uncomfortable. Are you able to read your dog and when you see these signs do you respect them? Just because we want our dog to be a therapy dog and they can pass the test, is it okay to use them in that role if they do not enjoy it? ( FMI )

Freedom from Fear and Distress

I will be readdressing some of the same topics from part 2 of this series, Freedom from Discomfort, as fear and distress are an extension of discomfort, especially when considering our dog’s emotional state.

I genuinely believe that no psychologically healthy human would ever intentionally cause their pet fear or distress. However, a lack of knowledge — or incorrect information about animal behavior often is a cause of fear and distress in dogs.

Experiencing fear and distress is normal for any living thing throughout its life. However, since one fearful event can be traumatic enough to create a permanent and debilitating disability, it is essential we understand fear and distress and that we do everything possible to minimize its effect on our dog.

  • Can you readily tell when your dog is fearful or stressed?  Dogs typically do one of four things when afraid. 1) They flee and run away as fast as they can from whatever it is that has scared them. 2) They fight by barking, growling, lunging at, and attacking whatever has threatened them. 3) They freeze in place, not moving a muscle, and not making eye contact with what they fear. 4) They fidget about, displaying normal behaviors (sniffing, scratching, etc.) in an abnormal context while ignoring the threat. These four are the most extreme reactions, but well before your dog exhibits any of those behaviors they will give you subtle signs of their emotional distress. It is essential that you know and understand these signs so that you can intervene early.  Unfortunately, when many dog parents see their dog freezing or fidgeting about they say “Oh, he’s fine” not understanding that the dog is in fact distressed. ( FMI ).
  • Have you and your family committed to NEVER using aversives to manage or train your dog? By definition, an aversive is anything that causes your pet fear or distress, so if you use these tools or methods, you are NOT ensuring your dog is free from fear or distress. Commonly used aversives include but are not limited to shock collars, choke collars, prong collars, leash corrections, or anything where the intent is to physically or emotionally punish the dog as part of training or management. Dogs subjected to aversives are likely to develop behavioral problems and have a much higher probability of becoming aggressive. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) notes that the use of aversives is a significant reason for behavioral problems in pets and that they should NEVER be used. ( FMI – )
  • Was your puppy well socialized? Early socialization and habituation is key to freedom from fear and distress, as is ongoing socialization and enrichment throughout a dog’s life. Inadequate socialization or inappropriate socialization is a frequent reason for a dog to be fearful in certain situations. Remedial socialization is possible, but you should work with a reward-based, fear-free trainer so that you do not make things worse. (FMI   ) ( FMI – )
  • Do you actively look out for your dog’s best interests so that you can protect them from people that do NOT understand canine body language? Most people do not realize that not all dogs want to interact with people nor do those people comprehend the subtle signs that a dog gives that says “please leave me alone.” Most dogs do not want to bite, but only do so when they feel they have no other option.  As our dog’s caregiver, we have a responsibility to look out for our dog’s welfare which means intervening when others do not respect our dogs right not to interact. Additionally, we need to understand that sometimes the best thing we can do for our dog is to leave them at home. Not all dogs enjoy walking in the animal shelters annual fundraiser.
  • Do you understand the necessity of providing both physical and mental stimulation for your dog while not letting either go to extremes?  A lack of adequate physical and mental stimulation can cause a pet to be distressed. However, too much stimulation and exercise can also be even more detrimental, creating a state of chronic stress. Playing fetch or going to the dog park every day can become addictive, causing chemical changes in the brain which can contribute to distress and other behavior problems.
  • Do you understand that while the dog is a social species, they may not like every dog they encounter, even ones that you may want to add to your family? While the domestic dog is considered to be a social animal, some are more social than others. Dogs do not automatically like on another. If we force a dog to live with another pet that they are afraid of, we are causing fear and distress.

Recommended Resources


Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs-Farm Animal Welfare Committee-Five Freedoms:

Press Statement”. Farm Animal Welfare Council. 1979-12-05:

Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms, D. Hanson, APDT Chronicle of the Dog, Fall 2014

Articles on Don’s Blog ( )

Animal Welfare – Assessing Pets’ Welfare Using Brambell’s Five Freedoms

Pet Nutrition – What Should I Feed My Pet?

How Can I Tell When My Dog Is Anxious or Fearful?

Puppy Socialization and Habituation

How to choose a dog trainer

What is Dog Training?

Dog Training – Reward Based Training versus Aversives

Is Your Dog Your Best Friend or a Family Member?, If Yes, Then Please Join Me and Take the Pledge

The Unintended Consequences of Shock Collars

What’s Shocking about Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training

Canine Behavior – Understanding, Identifying and Coping with Canine Stress

Signs of Anxiety and Fear from Dr. Marty Becker

Preventing separation anxiety – Teaching your dog to cope with being alone

Crate Habituation to Reduce Anxiety

Your Pet’s Behavioral Health Is As Important As Their Physical Well-Being

Podcasts from The Woof Meow Show ( )

What do you feed your pets?

Pet Behavior, Vets & The AAHA Canine and Feline Behavior Management Guidelines – Dr. Dave Cloutier – Veazie Veterinary Clinic

Canine Behavior: Myths and Facts

Separation Anxiety with Dr. David Cloutier from Veazie Veterinary Clinic

What’s Shocking About Shock – What Science Tells Us About the Use of Shock in Dog Training


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