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Golden Retriever Rescue of Atlanta

Monthly Golden Health Question / Excessive Paw Licking

This month's "Golden Health" blog question comes from a GRRA supporter who wanted to know about how to combat their adopted Golden's excessive paw licking. Those of us with Goldens in our home unfortunately know this challenge well. Dr. Shepherd from North Roswell Vet Clinic is here to help us with suggestions.

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First off, how to tell a bored dog vs. a dog that has allergies is key. When a dog has an OCD problem, they usually only lick or groom the front paws and NOT the back. Sometimes, it's just one foot. When you notice they are chewing and licking all four paws, that is usually an allergy problem.

Normal foot or paw grooming is probably one to two times per day. If an OCD problem is in play, sometimes these guys --- if they are non-stop on the grooming --- need to be seen by a Vet because they can create a wet area that cannot dry out and can get infected and create a bacterial dermatitis (hot spot). Redness in-between the pads can also be a sign of allergies.

If this does seem to be a boredom or OCD problem issue with your adopted Golden, then finding something to occupy their time or giving them something to do is your best bet. Longer walks, more time in the dog park, something to chew on, etc. are different ways to combat this.

If it seems to be allergies, the best thing to do is to get them to the Vet (Goldens are sadly notorious for allergy issues). Most of their allergies are inhalation, but unlike humans who show inhalation allergies with watery eyes, sneezing, etc. they show it in their skin in itching and scratching and chewing.

Most allergies have a threshold and it takes some juggling to figure out how to get them below that threshold that allows them to be more comfortable where they are not itching, scratching, and chewing themselves.

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One thing that can help is changes in food. Selected protein diets are wonderful for this. Unfortunately, any selected protein diets that you can buy over the counter are not closely monitored. They are often made on the same assembly line as the regular foods. This is why the prescription brands are a much better way to go and those can only be purchased with a prescription from your Vet.

Food allergies for the dog come from the protein source not the grain source, so going "grain free" is a myth out there that many people fall for. Grain free does not help a food allergy problem.

Also, if it is a food allergy problem that foot licking is usually year round where as if it is an inhalation allergy, it tends to be more seasonal (spring and fall) and the foot chewing sometimes slows down in other seasons (even though there isn't much break in Georgia!).

Allergies are tough to combat and it is definitely a balancing act. The takeaway here is there is no cure --- there is only treatment.

Thanks for the helpful information, Dr. Shepherd! Do you have a "Golden Health" issue you are battling with your adopted Golden Retriever? Want to ask Dr. Shepherd from North Roswell Vet Clinic about a specific challenge you are currently facing? Please post your question here in the comments and we'll be glad to pass along for you. Happy Golden Health, everyone!

Monthly Golden Health Question / Ear Infections

Chronic ear infections and Golden Retrievers. Sounds pretty familiar, right? It seems like no matter what time of of year it is, your poor Golden is a never-ending cyclone of scratching and clawing at those adorable ears of theirs --- with no end in sight.

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No worries! Dr. Shepherd and his wonderful staff at North Roswell Vet Clinic are on-duty with our monthly "Golden Health" blog question to respond to our GRRA supporters who have asked about ear infections and what they could try to do to help their furry best friend.

If this is a year round problem, the number one thing we think of is a food allergy and a prescription limited ingredient diet may make a difference.

There are some of these that you can find "over the counter" but we cannot guarantee they are not manufactured with non-limited ingredient diets. Always look at those dog food labels! They truly tell the tale. Seeing exactly what the leading ingredient is listed as is key in a lot of these types of infection cases.

It is safe to give dogs Benadryl at 1mg per pound but it is usually not effective for a long period of time and can make them drowsy. For short bouts in spring / fall seasons, it might however do the trick.

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You can try routine ear cleaning, especially if they are a swimmer in the summer months, but cleaning changes the flora of the ear and we do not recommend for any "normal" ears. That might make things worse before they make things better unfortunately.

Daily cleaning only removes the debris. It does not help the dog if there is a yeast or bacterial infection involved. That's a situation that needs to be checked-out by your Vet.

Allergies in dogs is a chronic problem that we see. There are very safe drugs now available to the veterinary world that your Vet could prescribe that help relieve allergies other than having to chose steroid options. Your Golden will feel better in no time!

Thanks so much, Dr. Shepherd. Do you have any basic Golden Retriever health questions that you'd like to ask the helpful staff at North Roswell Vet Clinic? Please submit a "Golden Health" blog comment on this GRRA Facebook post and we'll be happy to pass them along. Have a great Golden Health Day, everyone!

Golden Health Topic - Dog Allergies

Is your Golden Retriever an obsessive licker? Do you frequently catch him scratching or biting at his own feet or coat? It can often be hard to know whether it’s allergies or related to another possible health issue.

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Just like humans, Goldens can overreact to harmless allergens in the air. If not treated, however, excessive biting and itching of the skin can quickly become the result. Dog allergy season tends to coincide with human allergy season, too. But it's hard sometimes to decipher what the root cause could actually be.

A common type of allergy in dogs is atopy. Atopy refers to environmental allergies ---- a dog’s body releases excess histamine when exposed to higher concentrations of pollen in the air which unfortunately prompts these chronic symptoms.

The most common signs of atopic allergies in dogs are:

Itching / Scratching / Biting / Chewing / Redness inside paw pads and rashes on the body

The itching will likely start seasonally which initially is how you can distinguish between atopy and other types of allergies. But because allergies are often progressive, it’s likely your Golden will eventually become itchy year-round.

If not addressed, secondary bacteria build-up issues due to chronic allergies can also find a home in your Golden's ears and eyes which warrants additional treatment from your Vet.

You can initially help your allergic dog try to fight these awful irritants at home in a few ways ----

Wipe off your dog’s paws to remove allergens after walks ---- Pet grooming wipes are a quick way to remove dander and allergens when a full bath isn’t possible.

Try a hypo-allergenic shampoo ---- You can buy most any related anti-itch shampoo over-the-counter at your local pet or drug store. Look for soothing ingredients like aloe, almond, or coconut butter.

Try a special prescription shampoo from your Vet ---- Medicated, anti-allergy options are also available at your Vet and can help control large areas of inflammation on the skin.

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If the chronic skin itching / biting does not stop or you see the rash or redness areas continue to grow under your Golden's coat, please see your Vet immediately for additional advice for "next steps" in treatment.

Your Vet can also assist you with ruling out other allergy possibilities such as fleas, certain ingredients in foods, or direct contact with specific plants or chemicals in your own backyard.

No one wants to see their furry best friend suffer with itchy skin. If you are diligent with recognizing the possible symptoms early, you can find the right combination of what will work to help your Golden feel healthier and itch-free ---- not to mention A LOT happier.

Do you have a Golden Retriever that has battled chronic allergies and/or skin issues in the past? Any advice or home remedy treatments that have worked wonders for your dog? Please share them with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Here's to Golden Health, everyone!

Protecting Golden Paws in Summer

Many owners like taking their Golden Retrievers on walks to enjoy the warm summer weather with them. But unfortunately many forget about one important detail ---- hot pavement can and will burn a dog's paws. It can be tempting to take your Golden everywhere you go, but it can cause serious harm to your dog as well if you are not careful.

Remember that if asphalt and cement can get hot enough to cook an egg during the summer ---- or if it feels way too hot for you to leave your hands comfortably on the ground for at least 5 seconds ---- it can result in nasty burns on your dog's paw pads. This is especially true if you have a new puppy with tender young paws.

What can be done to protect your dog's paws? Here are some tips to keep your Golden from getting burned during the summer months.

Walk Your Dog When It's Cool ---- This is probably an obvious tip but one that folks sometimes don't consider enough. It's a great idea to take your dog out on daily walks, but be mindful of when and where you walk him. The best time to walk your dog is in the morning or late evening, when the pavement is cool. Avoid walking your dog in the afternoon when the sun is high in the sky or early evening because the pavement will still be very hot.

Toughen Your Dog's Paws ---- When it is time to walk your dog, it can actually be a good idea to stick to the pavement during the cool times of the day. While the pavement is cool, it won't burn your dog's paws, and it will also help to toughen them up. This will help to prevent any potential burns that could come later on.

Stay On The Grass ---- If you end up taking your dog out during the warmer times of the day, be sure to stay on the grass and stick to shady areas. Stay away from sidewalks or any paved areas to avoid burning. A shady park can be a great place to take your dog on a warm afternoon.

Moisturize Your Dog's Paws ---- Consider moisturizing your dog's feet daily to help prevent injuries like cuts, cracking, or peeling of the paws. Minor injuries like this can make your dog's paws more susceptible to burns and other serious problems. Moisturizing paw pad creams can work wonders.

Use Paw Wax ---- Paw wax can easily be smeared onto your dog's paw pads to protect them from harmful surfaces. Paw wax is designed to protect your dog's feet from hot surfaces and potentially harmful chemicals like road salts. It's a great solution for anytime your dog needs some extra paw protection.

Try Dog Shoes ---- Dog shoes are one of the best ways to protect your dog's paws from heat and potential injuries if your dog will wear them. Be aware that not all dogs can get used to dog shoes and some might have a hard time walking in them. There will definitely be an adjustment period for your dog with dog shoes. If you can get your dog used to using them, nothing else offers better protection.

Consider Disposable Dog Booties ---- Disposable dog booties are a great short-term fix for the summer heat. Dog booties can provide good protection from the heat and are a great temporary solution if you need to take your dog out on a hot day and your dog is willing to wear them.

Be sure to check your dog's paw pads daily for any signs of damage and wash his paws frequently. If you do happen to see a problem or if your dog is acting strangely on his feet, be sure to have him taken to the vet immediately to check for possible injury.

It's been a particularly hot summer this year, so please continue to be mindful when taking your four-legged best friends out for that daily walk.

Do you have any home remedy ideas that you've used in the past for hurt or sensitive paws? Anything you've done for your Golden Retriever that has helped him "get back on his feet"? Please share your stories with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Here's to Golden Health, everyone!

Golden exercising for golden results

All dogs need exercise to live a fit, healthy, and fulfilling life. No matter the breed, no matter how large or small, no matter their age ---- they all need exercise. However, some breeds do need more than others. So the question begs ---- How much exercise does your Golden Retriever need to be healthy and happy?

As the name suggests, the Golden Retriever is a sporting breed originally bred to retrieve fallen game for 19th century hunters in the Scottish Highlands. Retrieving in the mountainous terrain with its wooded landscapes and pot-holed ponds was very physically demanding work back then. The hunters needed a very special dog that could travel far distances as well as swim in large lakes and streams for the better part of a day.

And with the Golden Retriever, that is exactly what they got.

Although the Golden Retriever as a family pet obviously isn’t required to perform such hard work, the breed inherently still has the genetics tailored for those specific roles. They have a body and mind made for physical activity and if they aren’t given sufficient exercise then, unfortunately, they often tend to not be very happy dogs.

Golden Retrievers crave physical activity. And if they don’t get enough of it, they store up so much unused energy that their minds become bored to the point that they simply have to find a release. They can tend to become very destructive with fits of chewing, digging, and running around your home or garden destroying everything in their path.

Some will even try to escape their backyards at any given opportunity if they are too full of pent-up energy to be able to concentrate and behave themselves. A lot of people who complain that their Golden is "out of control" simply might not be exercising them enough.

Golden Retrievers are sadly prone to obesity as well. Usually, this is a combination of their owners doing two things: Giving in too often to those expertly-crafted begging routines as well as keeping Fido stuck at home and not taking him out enough. Your dog will still have that voracious appetite ---- but now all of that food will just turn into fat and lead to poor health and weight issues.

It’s simple math that if calories going in are greater than the calories burnt, then weight will be gained. If a Golden receives lots of treats and table scraps and exercises very little, the pounds are going to pile on and fast. Excess weight leads to a variety of problems such as heart disease, increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and damage to their hip and elbow joints.

Here is the general rule ---- If you have an adolescent or adult Golden Retriever who is literally bouncing off the walls, chewing all your belongings, or is simply too hard to train, there is a very high possibility you aren’t exercising them enough. Or if your Golden is piling on the pounds even though you’re feeding them according to the instructions with their food and not giving them lots of extra treats, then it’s highly likely you aren’t exercising them enough.

But if your Golden looks strong and athletic, is able to relax, pays attention to you, and will respond to proven commands they’ve been trained to follow ---- it’s a fairly safe bet that they are receiving enough exercise.

Golden Retrievers as a breed are a high energy sporting dog and require exercise. A lack of it can lead to a variety of health problems, hyperactivity, and behavioral issues. So, for a healthy and happy dog ---- and owner ---- exercise your Golden just as much as they need and deserve to. This will in turn help everyone stay active and happy together as a family.

Do you have any exercise tips or stories about your Golden Retriever that have helped with their overall wellness and health? Any positive changes you've seen from an uptick in physical activity that has made your Golden a much calmer and happier dog? Please share them with us at GRRA. We'd love to hear from you. Here's to Golden Health, everyone!

Pet Poison Prevention

Poisonings are one of the most common at-home pet accidents for dogs. Unbeknownst to many Golden Retriever owners, lurking around the home are many substances toxic to their own dogs. Almost any room or backyard can contain some seemingly innocuous poison, so it's important to appropriately "pet proof" your Golden's home for their safety and overall heath.

Below is a list of items that all Golden Retriever owners should be aware of as being dangerous to your beloved furry family member.

Sugar-Free Candy and Gum

These snacks contain xylitol --- a sugar substitute lethal to dogs in doses as small as two pieces of gum. Xylitol is 100 times more toxic than chocolate according to VCA Animal Hospitals. Other products like chewable vitamins, mouthwash, and toothpaste may also include xylitol. Be sure to store these items in your medicine cabinet and add a childproof lock for good measure. Like with many other substances, dogs are affected differently than humans. While xylitol may have a mild laxative effect initially in humans, in dogs it lowers blood sugar to unsafe levels and can also cause liver damage. Hypoglycemia appears within 10 to 60 minutes of ingesting xylitol and the severity of effects can be deadly.

Grapes and Raisins

While the exact toxin has yet to be identified, Vets are clear that grapes and raisins can be poisonous to dogs. Symptoms in this particular case depend on how much was ingested, but kidney failure is a top concern here. Pay close attention to your Golden Retriever's urine output and frequency of urination as well --- both indicators of current kidney health. Once the toxins are absorbed into a Golden's bloodstream, the only course of treatment is to flush them out immediately.


Human Prescription Medications

According to recent statistics, over 50% of Americans are now taking at least one prescription medication. With this, a sad result has been a rise in at-home dog poisonings. The National Pet Poison Hotline reports that half of its calls involve an over-the-counter or prescription medication for humans. Golden Retrievers can easily chew through bottles to access pills or liquids in addition to opening cabinets and drawers unprotected by child locks. Antidepressants can overstimulate a dog's nervous system causing seizures, sedation, shaking, and elevated heart rate. Human medications used to treat ADD/ADHD have similar effects when ingested by dogs --- especially those containing amphetamines. Treatments for human heart conditions including ACE inhibitors and Beta blockers may lead to dangerous drops in blood pressure if consumed by your Golden. Take small steps to reduce your dog's risk of prescription medication poisoning by keeping all pills in secure containers rather than plastic baggies which can easily be torn or chewed up. If you use a weekly pill sorter, avoid leaving it on your bedside table or bathroom counter where it's accessible to curious paws.

Spring Flower Bulbs

Winter weather can erode the topsoil in flower beds exposing bulbs planted from the previous year. Golden Retrievers also love to dig them up --- although old bulbs unfortunately prove to be a not-so-tasty snack that could result in nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Hyacinth and daffodil bulbs have an outer coating of crystals that can irritate your Golden's mouth causing excessive drooling. If certain bulbs are eaten whole or in large amounts, irregular heartbeat and breathing can arise in your dog. If this situation occurs, visit your nearest emergency vet for treatment and care instructions. To avoid this scenario in the future, never leave your Golden outdoors unsupervised. Also, consider investing in a separate dog run area or fence to protect both your spring plants and your furry family member.

Bread Dough

The yeast in raw bread dough will continue to rise in a dog's stomach if eaten causing dangerous bloating. If there's a baker in your household, bread dough poisoning is a seemingly randomm but very real threat. Many homemade baked goods contain yeast --- a fungus responsible for the "rising" process. A rising loaf is typically left out on the counter of your kitchen which could easily be reached by curious paws. If your Golden Retriever ingests your loaf-to-be, it can continue to rise inside of the stomach. The most urgent issue here is one of space. An inflating loaf of dough quickly brings a dog's stomach to full capacity. Excessive bloating can increase a risk of stomach twisting and possible rupture --- especially in large dog breeds like Goldens.


Zinc is present in many metal U.S. currencies as well as other small objects like screws. If your Golden Retriever chomps on some spare change --- especially pennies --- zinc poisoning can result. Entering the bloodstream through the stomach, zinc destroys red blood cells and can damage the liver, heart, and kidneys. Without removal, coins can also cause intestinal obstruction in Goldens. Look for unusual symptoms like yellowed or pale gums and discolored urine which are indicators of liver and kidney damage. A penny quickly becomes very expensive requiring emergency treatment to remove endoscopically as well as fluids to support damaged kidneys. Zinc is a very corrosive metal and medications are often needed post-poisoning to "coat" and protect the dog's stomach.


As a general rule, dogs should avoid ingesting nuts. Peanuts are the one exception although their high fat and fiber content can still cause gastrointestinal upset. Other kinds of nuts including almonds, cashews, and pistachios are not necessarily toxic but may lead to pancreatitis as part of an unhealthy high-fat diet. Walnuts, hickory nuts, and pecans may be too large for a Golden Retriever's digestive system and potentially create intestinal blockages. If your backyard has nut trees, keep your Golden away from the falling pieces if at all possible.

If you suspect your Golden Retriever has ingested any type of toxin, call your local emergency vet clinic or a pet poison hotline immediately. A professional animal care provider will guide you through any necessary at-home treatments and help you determine if your dog requires additional medical care.

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