Lawn Chemicals and Canines

By Heather Mishefske, Owner, emBARK 

Lawn chemicals.  To some, these words conjur up images of lush green lawns to lust over.  To many of us reading those words conjur up images of sick pets and children.

We all know that lawn chemicals can cause more harm than good to both our environment AND our pets.  One breed in particular has been studied more than many looking at the damage that lawn chemicals can have.  Scottish Terriers are 16 times more likely to develop transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder, and research is suggesting that the exposure to herbicides and insecticides is having a dramatic influence on this increase.1

How and why do these chemicals affect our dogs?  As we all know, our dogs are all inherent hunters.  Some of them hunt ants on the sidewalk, while others track moles under the earth in our yards.  The routes in which these chemicals enter a dog’s body are ingestion, inhalation, and transdermal exposures.  Our dogs walk through our neighbors’ lawns, and come home to sit on the couch and lick their paws.  They are intent on smelling where that rabbit hopped off to, and inhale deeply.  And, as many of this magazine’s readers most likely are not using herbicides on their lawns, it is well known that these chemicals can travel in the wind over 50 feet into your lawn.  Wind speed is a warning on the application guidelines for herbicides, but this may be unknown to many who apply them.

Keep your dogs safe this spring/summer by avoiding lawns that have been treated and by being overly cautious about wiping off noses, paws, toes, and tails that have possibly been exposed with a damp towel.


Lawn chemicals, particularly, ones containing 2,4-D, have been linked to at least two types of canine cancers. Studies found that lawn chemicals travel to neighboring yards and inside homes, and chemicals have been found in the urine of dogs whose owners did not spray their lawns.2

Dogs are flame-retardant reservoirs. Brominated flame retardants, often known as PBDEs, are among the top chemicals threatening your health. And these long-persisting chemicals are inside most American dogs, too. Hiding out in pet bedding dust and even food, it’s no surprise dog samples contained 19 different PBDE flame retardants. One type was detected at levels 17 times higher than concentrations typically seen in people.3

Plastic toys are poisoning your pet.  Phthalates are industrial chemicals found in everything from dog shampoos, scented candles and air fresheners to certain plastics. Phthalates aren’t only used to synthetic scents stick around longer, but they help turn rigid plastic into more flexible forms, too. (Many plastic dog toys contain phthalates, unfortunately.)3


Sources: 1. Glickman, Lawrence VMD, DrPH; Raghavan, Malathi DVM PhD; Knapp, Deborah DVM, MS, DACVI; Bonney, Patty; Dawson, Marcia DVM. “Herbicide Exposure and the Risk of Transitional Carcinonoma of the Urinary Bladder in Scottish Terriers.”  In Journal of the Veterinary Medical Association. April 15,2004 Volume 224 Number 8, page 1290 – 1297; 2.; 3.

An Alternative Look at Chronic Kidney Disease

By Margaret Meier Jones, Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley

With improved nutrition, health styles, and better management of “traditional” veterinary diseases, the average lifetime of our beloved pets is increasing in years. This means more wonderful memories with our pets, but it also means an increase in geriatric conditions such as heart and kidney disease. Traditional management of these conditions typically involves a prescription diet, fluid therapy, and medications, leaving pet owners wondering if there isn’t something more that can be done. Alternative therapies, such Chinese medicine and nutritional supplementation, might just be the answer!

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) means that the kidneys are not working as well as they once were to remove the waste products of metabolism circulating in the blood. According to Pet Health Network, 1 in 3 cats and 1 in 10 dogs will be diagnosed with CKD. Unfortunately, much of the kidney function (estimates of 65 to 75 percent) has been lost by the time there are changes to “normal” kidney blood values. Some signs of CKD include increased thirst, increased frequency and volume of urination, weight loss, poor appetite, and decreased energy. As the condition advances you may notice your pet’s breath may become acrid as toxins build up in the blood stream. Blood and urine tests are used to diagnose kidney disease, and you should see your veterinarian to have them performed on your pet if you’re noticing any of these symptoms. If your doctor confirms your suspicions of CKD to be true, that’s when alternative therapies really should be considered to augment traditional treatments.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the kidneys are the most yin organ of the body, whereas the heart is the most yang. Together, they are considered the oil lamp of life with the kidneys storing the oil needed to sustain the flame provided by the heart. And, just like any oil lantern, if you run out of oil, the flame flickers and goes out. Chinese herbs, acupuncture point prescriptions, and Food Energetics work in synergy to add more oil, so to speak, to the kidneys, keeping the flame of life going strong.

Food Energetics is the inherent energy in the food, and one of the most powerful resources at our fingertips for helping our pets’ bodies work better. Food truly is medicine, and the Chinese have designated everything we eat to be either Cold, Cooling, Neutral, Warming, or Hot. Processed prescription diets for CKD have science to prove they help, but they really are just the beginning. The more processed any food is, the more its original nutritional make-up is changed. Processing adds heat to food in Chinese terms, and too much heat in our diet can cause dis-ease.

Whole food supplementation, from companies such as Standard Process, help replace micronutrients lost in processing. I strongly recommend either Canine or Feline Renal Support whenever I diagnose CKD in my patients. Other nutricuticals, including products like Epikitin and Azodyl, can help bind the toxins normally excreted by the kidneys, aiding in their elimination by alternative routes such as the GI tract. Homeopathic remedies may also provide additional options to ensure that each day with your beloved pet is the best it can be!

Chiropractic for Pets

by Dr. Alyse Hall, CVSMT, Owner of Happy Tails Chiropractic

Chiropractic has been the #1 form of natural healthcare for the last 100 years or so. Last year alone, 33 million people sought chiropractic care and reported a 97 percent satisfaction rate. At Stucky Chiropractic, we recently celebrated our 57th year taking care of the Chippewa Valley, the young, the elderly, and every age in between. What you may not know is that humans are not the only ones who benefit from chiropractic care. Your family pets do too! Animal chiropractic has only been accepted in the traditional veterinary community, though, for the last fifteen years or so. Animal chiropractic helps to reduce subluxations (misalignments within the spine and extremities) to help improve the function of your pet’s immune and nervous systems.

Animal chiropractic is not meant to replace traditional veterinary care. Animal chiropractic offers non-surgical, drug-free options for helping bone, disc, and soft-tissue disorders related to improper spinal biomechanical movement for animals of all sizes. It is not an alternative treatment, but rather an integrative method that when used in conjunction with good traditional veterinary care, may provide many more years of healthy living for your pet.

Symptoms that can be present in your pet companion when a subluxation exists can range from mild to severe. Generally, if there is pain or discomfort, you’ll notice a change in your pet’s behavior, gait pattern, or performance. For instance, a dog in pain or discomfort will often pant more than normal. Your pet may also pace or yelp, sit or stand abnormally and/or in an awkward position, and he/she might even show signs of incoordination. These are just some subtle signs you may see in your pet that point to dysfunctions within the nervous system. Subluxations can cause other problems as well, including stiffness, lameness, difficulty going up and down stairs, difficulty jumping onto the couch or bed, difficulty chewing or swallowing, muscle atrophy, changes in gait like “sidewinding,” stumbling, weakness, urinary incontinence, constipation, etc.

When you take your pet for a chiropractic adjustment, the first thing the doctor will do is get a history on your pet, including information about their lifestyle and overall health status. The chiropractor will also want to see any prior x-rays take on your pet and will want to consult with your primary veterinarian. A chiropractic exam includes a neurological assessment, an evaluation of stance and gait, motion, and static palpation. Each abnormality in spinal alignment and extremities noted during the exam will be corrected through spinal manipulations, which are also known as adjustments. The American Veterinary Chiropractic Association defines an adjustment as “a short lever, high velocity controlled thrust by a hand or instrument that is directed at specific articulations to correct vertebral subluxations.”

Most animals respond well to adjustments and are generally instinctively aware of the problem in their body before the owner even notices. Chiropractic is not limited to an injured or sick pet. Healthy and athletic animals are ideal candidates for chiropractic care as well. Chiropractic may enhance the quality of your pet’s (large or small) life, ensuring many more active and healthy years for them and your family.

What’s Your Pet’s Fitness Paw-proportionality?

By Margaret Meier Jones, DVM, CVSMT, Animal Wellness Center of Buffalo Valley

Each year I make a few New Year’s resolutions, and perhaps like many of you, the one that usually tops the list is to get outside and get moving more. I resolve to grab Quinn’s leash and hit the pavement “running,” and as an eighteen-month-old border collie, he’s eager and able to join me on my task. In a study published in June 2017 in the journal BMC Public Health, dog owners on average walked 22 minutes more per day compared to people who didn’t own a dog. That’s great news for us humans, but is it equally good news for our four-legged best friends?

In general, whether we are two or four legged, we have to “move it or lose it,” and exercise is one of the best ways to keep our muscles, joints, and even brains healthy. However, with our canine companions, we have to take several things into consideration to ensure we are helping them put their best paw forward. Breed, age, weight, haircoat, past injury, and overall body conditioning has to be taken into account when we consider how much to exercise with our pets. Other considerations, such as the elements, also play a roll. For example, what’s the temperature outside? January in Wisconsin typically means sub-zero temperatures and wind-chills, so even if your dog is bred for Nordic climates, a coat and protective footwear is a must when going outside for any considerable period of time. Animals are susceptible to frostbite and other injury from the elements, so if you need an extra layer to be comfortable, so do they.

Maybe I’m a math geek, but have you ever considered the proportional difference between your stride length and that of your dog’s? If you take the average human’s in-seam of 30 inches and compare that to a dog who’s inside leg measurement may only be 10 inches, that’s a three-fold difference in strides! Add a few extra holiday pounds that resulted from Santa Paw’s stocking stuffer treat binge, and Fido may have to work much harder than you realize just to keep up with you on that walk. It’s best for us, and our dogs, if we gradually work into a more vigorous exercise regime, adding distance and speed as our cardiovascular conditioning improves. As you walk with your dog, paying attention to the effort and rate of their breathing can be a great indicator as to how hard their bodies are actually working on that walk.
Have you been noticing that your dog is lagging behind, breathing harder than before, or even demanding a rest by lying down on your walks? Are you hearing them shuffle across the floor, and you’re just attributing it to getting older? Happily, I can assure you that may not be the case! You’re beloved walking companion may be experiencing the slowdown of his nervous system that occurs when vertebral subluxation complexes (VSCs) accumulate, and regular chiropractic care may get you both back out fulfilling that exercise resolution!

Will Work for Food

By Heather Mishefske

Giving your dog a way to work for their food can improve its behavior this holiday season.

Dogs are natural hunters and scavengers. We humans are not good at catering to our dog’s hunting prowess due to safety concerns. We do not allow them to chase squirrels, indulge in road kill, stalk squirrels, or hunt the songbirds at our feeders. These are all activities that they would LOVE to indulge in, but due to the potential for parasites, hunts gone wrong, and safety, we deter them from doing so. And rightly so!

There are safer ways to allow our dogs to bring out their huntress side without the risks. The world of canine enrichment has exploded in the past several years. There are many gadgets, games, and toys that recreate a game that allows your pooch to engage its inner hunter. Our dogs have it pretty easy. We buy baked kibble in perfect little nuggets and deliver them to our dogs in raised feeding stations. While some of us make our dogs “work” for their food, by requiring a skill before their food or treat is presented, eating the food out of their bowl is a very easy task. So, let’s use their food to fill a puzzle or interactive toy and make them REALLY work for it! And use their most highly developed organ, their incredible NOSE! By making your dog work for its food, we utilize some brain power on those days when scheduling or Wisconsin weather makes it tough to get outside for exercise. And why not feed them out of a food puzzle or toy–they have to eat anyway, right? Food puzzles and enrichment toys provide an outlet for dogs to scavenge, root, uncover, and find their food. By doing this, we give our dogs a job, help alleviate boredom, assist with confidence building, and provide a chance for them to do some serious problem solving. Many toys or puzzles are made so that the dog must tip them to get the kibble out, move parts of a puzzle, turn the toy a certain way, or uncover sections to access the food. Once your dog understands how to access the food, he or she becomes a problem solver of all puzzles that you will present them. And there are SO many options out there to explore.

An excellent place to add enrichment toys into your dog’s life are the holidays. The unpredictable days, the added stress of unfamiliar guests, the lack of routine, travel, late nights, and possible lack of physical exercise often lead to increased anxiety in our canine companions. Giving them a simple task like “find your own food” can help. Doing this uses their most developed organ, their nose. Make feeding time into a job.

Some of our faves here at emBARK are:

  • StarMark Bob-A-Lot
  • Starmark Treat Dispensing Ball
  • Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Mazee
  • Planet Dog Orbee Tuff Snoop
  • Omega Tricky Treat Ball
  • Pet Safe Tug-A-Jug OR Magic Mushroom
  • Any of the Trixie puzzles
  • Any of the Nina Ottenson puzzles
  • Kongs (the original stuffable food toy!)
  • Kong Gyro
  • Snuffle Mats – find them on Etsy or make your own!

The main rule of enrichment toys is that they are meant to be used under our supervision. Many are made of plastic or resin, creating parts that could easily be chewed off. If you pup attempts to chew the toy, simply help a bit by moving it until they understand that motion of the toy is the way that food is delivered. Once your dog understands that they have control of the food delivery, he or she will begin to enjoy the game. Dogs who eat too quickly also benefit from these food puzzles, as treats/food is delivered slowly.

For most dogs, their biggest enriching activity is learning new tricks, skills, and going to new outdoor environments to use their nose. Using food puzzle toys can quickly become something that they look forward to. Add some interactive enrichment toys to your dog’s holiday gift list—it will benefit both of you!

Heather Mishefske is a certified professional dog trainer and the owner of emBARK, LLC. She has been involved in the dog scene in the Chippewa Valley since the age of ten, and professionally since 1998. emBARK offers training classes, dog daycare, dog grooming, canine massage, and workshops. To check out the Midwest’s Hippest Hang Out for Hounds, check out