Monday, May 10, 2010

Essentials: Shiba Health and Wellness

Experience has made me believe Shibas mature fast. Zuko had great bladder control early, had all his adult teeth by five months and was hiking a leg to pee at about four and a half months. We had him neutered at five months and both of his boys where there and fully dropped. Teething wasn't too bad for us. He loves bully sticks but scorned Nylabones. He also liked ropes and Kongs for chewing. Plastic water bottles are a favorite since they move and crunch and are noisy. Only once did he damage anything when he was a puppy - I had not put a big enough selection of chewies in his ex-pen and we came home to find he'd chewed the wood trim by the wall. Now he's just over 18 months old and he has the calm confidence of an older dog and was full size since last summer - people are always surprised how young he is when they ask his age. The only major physical change over the past 6 months has been the fading of the black on his muzzle and he seems to look more "wolfy" and less "teddy bear".

Cute and he knows it - at only 5 weeks!

Our biggest medical challenge was diarrhea. Cheese doesn't agree with him and he picked up giardia in daycare and this year with the rain and mud he has diarrhea again. As he has got older, the cheese doesn't trigger problems anymore, but he only gets it in small doses when we are doing training exercises.  We do feed him people food - I know some people will condemn us for this, but he gets small bits of carrots, apples and bananas, almonds and dried cranberries, fish, eggs and meat that doesn't have any sauce on it. On special days he might get a few pieces of mac and cheese if I'm in the mood to share. While he steals the occasional corn tortilla chip, we avoid corn and wheat in general in his food and treats. As a puppy, these ingredients seemed to contribute to his tummy problems and itchy skin and it is pretty easy to avoid them. By avoiding them most of the time, when he does stumble onto something with corn or wheat in it, he does just fine.

The only other medical challenge we have had are allergies. Besides the suspected food allergies (wheat and corn) he definitely has seasonal allergies. He had goopy eyes and was very sneezy his first winter with us. Then, late last summer, at about 9 months old, he scratched his muzzle so hard he had a bald spot. He was frequently chewing his legs and feet and scratching at his neck. We took him into our vet (who is awesome) and he said that time of year in SF was trouble for many, many dogs. This winter and spring, as the rains have fallen and things are blooming again, we've noticed he started getting sneezy and itchy starting around the February timeframe. We clean off his feet and legs when needed and if he's really struggling we slip him some Benedryl before bed. Overall though, it seems much better this year than it was last winter and the Benedryl is rarely needed. The goopy eyes are a thing of the past and he hasn't scratched enough to rub off his fur. So not sure if he is just acclimating to the San Francisco allergen system or "growing out" of his allergies like human children do sometimes.

About Benedryl: my aunt is a vet-tech and he suggested about 1/2 an adult Benedryl per 15 pounds of dog or 1mg per pound of doggy body weight. Since Zuko is about 27-28 pounds, she said he would be fine with a full pill, but suggested we test a half dose first and go up if needed. He's fine on a full pill, but does get sleepy. The antihistamine effects seem to carry over to the next day a bit also so we only use it at night. We use this very, very rarely but we have it as part of our doggie medical kit. We also buy the dye-free pills: why add one more element (hot pink dye) into an allergy situation?

He picked up some type of doggie flu/cold this spring: it could have been kennel cough though he's vaccinated. It only lasted a week and wasn't too severe.

Otherwise, he's a darn healthy dog. At 27 pounds he's not fat (at 28 pounds he's starting to push his limits) and he is solid and a bit bigger than the average size for a Shiba. His coat is good, his teeth are good and his energy is good (too good sometimes!). With the allergies more manageable this year, he's in full Shiba excellent form!

--- Posted by Zuko's parents, M.D.


  1. We had loopy poop problems for a while too. Along with allergies that came with goopy morning eyes and reverse sneezing. Kennel cough came when we first picked him up as well. Well to keep this short, we went through everything on your list from beginning to end of this post.

    *Sigh*... Puppies.

  2. @Ting: I could not figure out the goopy eye thing! It went on for months and finally he just outgrew it. His breeder said his parents didn't have allergies, so must have been something in SF. We joked that he was allergic to his brofurs, the cats. LOL. I miss the puppy stage in some ways ... in others, not-so-much. :-)

  3. It's funny - the goopy eyes just come and go with the seasons!