Meet Dexter the Dog

Meet Dexter, The Dog Behind the Children’s Story Dexter the Dog and Friends

The Dog Behind Dexter the Dog and Friends

Meet Dexter the Dog
Dexter, the dog behind the story

Dexter entered my life when he was just five weeks old. This was the first time I met him and his littermates. I actually was choosing which puppy I was going to bring home, and Dexter was one of the many puppies running around. Dexter, however, knew right away that he was going to be mine.

Even at such a young age, he followed me around as I went from puppy to puppy, meeting and snuggling all of them. Toward the end of my puppy visit, I had Dexter and his brother in my lap. His brother eventually hopped to the floor, but Dexter didn’t budge. It was then that I realized Dexter was the one.

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Books about special needs dogs
Dexter knew

Seven weeks later, I went back to the breeder to pick up Dexter and, to my surprise, he was twice as big as his brothers and sisters! My little man was going to be a pretty large Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. More to love.

Dexter the Dog's History
The day I brought Dexter home.

For the first couple of years, Dexter and I did everything together. We were a registered therapy dog team, visited special needs classrooms and nursing homes, and provided demonstrations at pet events and large pet expos. We traveled together and had the time of our lives.

Book Children's Authors
Dexter the Dog and Tonya Wilhelm

Just before Dexter’s third birthday, I noticed a change in his behavior. One day, Dexter was beside himself, growling at his back end, spinning, and he was very distressed. I wasn’t sure what was happening and scheduled a neurological examination and MRI.

Dexter the Dog's background
Dexter’s MRI day

The MRI confirmed that Dexter had Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia. Chiari Malformation is a skull malformation. Syringomyelia is a neurological disease that progresses and varies in severity due to this skull malformation. Symptoms vary but may include head scratching, face rubbing, general discomfort, weakness in limbs, lip licking, seeking cool places, excessive body rubbing, nerve damage, stiffness in limbs, and the body forming into a C shape. There is no cure; there are only various treatments to aid in comfort and less painful episodes. His diagnosis was a big blow to my heart. Click to learn more about his current treatment.

Dexter the Dog and Friends
Dexter the Dog and Friends

Dexter’s first year after his diagnosis was a bit of a roller-coaster ride. Luckily, Dexter has an amazing team of veterinarians and, together, we found the correct medications, natural treatments, and food therapy to help control his symptoms.

Dexter the Dog's disease
Dexter’s at home physical therapy

I am thrilled to report that Dexter is now back to his silly self and antics. We love to travel, still do demos and reading programs. Dexter wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a good reminder that we all should live each day to the fullest and truly connect with our loved ones, including our pets.

Dexter the Dog therapy visits
My fun-loving boy

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April 15, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare1 SharesGoogle Ad Above Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Potty Training Congratulations on welcoming a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into your life! They’re such charming and affectionate dogs, full of warmth and love. As a fellow Cavalier mom and positive dog trainer, I’m thrilled to share my experience on the best way to potty train a Cavalier puppy. Let’s jump right in to how to successfully housebreak your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. I love puppies! And Cavalier puppies are just some of the cutest little things ever! There’s nothing quite like their sweet kisses, puppy breath, and zest for life! But it’s not all puppy kisses; we also must potty train our Cavaliers. Nobody likes an untrained dog. One common question I get from Cavalier followers is how to best potty train their puppy. I’ve seen plenty of discussions about potty accidents in Cavalier King Charles Spaniel groups, and I’m here to share some potty training tips with you. First things first. Let’s start by being realistic. Contrary to what some may suggest, potty training a puppy in a matter of days is not realistic. It’s important to realize that puppies, just like human babies, need time to learn and gain control over their bladders. So, if you’re expecting your Cavalier to hold it for hours after just a few days of training, you are setting your pup and yourself up for failure.   My own Cavalier, Dexter, wasn’t fully potty trained in a mere five days, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I prioritized consistent management and frequent potty breaks, which ultimately led to just a couple of accidents in the house. The key is to prevent accidents by being proactive, not reactive. What’s the best way to potty train your Cavalier puppy?  It all comes down to three essential things: supervision, frequent potty breaks, and confinement when you can’t actively watch them. The goal is to reduce the chances of accidents happening indoors. When it comes to supervision, it’s eyeballs on! This means keeping a watchful eye on your puppy at all times, ensuring that you’re there to rush them outside if it looks like they are about ready to go. You can use things like baby gates, leashes, shut doors, or X-pens so that you can keep your eyes on them at all times.  Don’t forget to subscribe to @RaisingYourPetsNaturally for more! How Often Should You Take Your Puppy Potty? As for how often to take your puppy potty, it really depends on their age and activity level. Active puppies may need to go out every 15–30 minutes, while older dogs can typically hold it for longer periods. The key is to stay ahead of the game and take your puppy out whenever you notice a change in their behavior or activity. A change in behavior or activity signals that it’s time for a bathroom break. For example, if your puppy just had a bout of puppy zoomies, out to potty we go. Did your puppy wake up from a nap? Out to potty we go. By not waiting for your puppy to ask to go out or have an accident, you are well on your way to a potty-trained dog. When it comes to crate training, make sure the crate is just the right size to discourage accidents. The crate should be large enough for your pup to stand and lie down comfortably, but not so large that they can use one corner as a bathroom. Whether you have a fenced yard or not, leash your puppy. This gives you the opportunity to reward your puppy for going potty outside. You will be right there to praise your puppy, give him a snack, and tell him just how smart he is. It also leads to my next potty training tip: teaching your Cavalier to potty on cue!   Teaching your Cavalier to potty on cue is a must in my book. Imagine being able to take your dog outside just before the rainstorm and ask him to pee and poo, and he does! This useful behavior isn’t just fantastic for potty training your dog; it’s incredibly convenient in daily life. The keys to teaching your Cavalier to eliminate on cue are good management, timing, and your reward. By associating a word for peeing with a separate word for defecating, you can start to teach your puppy to do either when requested. Subscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun Teaching Your Cavalier to Potty on Cue Here’s how to get started: Begin the training process in the morning, when your pup wakes up. Arm yourself with some delicious treats, leash up your Cavalier, and head outside to his favorite potty spot. Stay close and pay attention to your puppy. Stay about 6’, so it’s not just a sniffing fest; the goal is to get him to eliminate before a big walk, play, or sniff. Pay close attention to your Cavalier’s body language. Watch for subtle cues like sniffing, circling, or squatting, which indicate he’s about to eliminate. As soon as you see a sign, use your potty cue, such as “Go potty,” and wait patiently. When your pup starts to do his business, praise quietly, and after he’s finished, give him big praise and rewards. You want to make sure you don’t interrupt the potty process by rewarding too soon. If your dog typically follows up with a poop, repeat the process with your poop cue, like “Go poop-poop,” and reward him once he’s finished. After your Cavalier has finished his business, it’s time for the next reward: fun! Whether it’s a walk, playtime in the yard, or simply enjoying the fresh air, make sure to give your pup some extra time to enjoy himself before heading back indoors. This helps reinforce the idea that going potty leads to enjoyable activities. Repeat this routine each time you take your Cavalier outside, even if you’re planning on going for a walk. By always pairing potty time with rewards, you’ll motivate your pup to go more quickly. As your Cavalier starts to make the connection between potty on cue and familiar surroundings, gradually introduce the cue in different environments, such as the park or during walks. This helps your dog understand the cue in any situation, ensuring they respond reliably wherever you are. With patience, consistency, and plenty of positive reinforcement, you can teach your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to potty on cue, making potty training easier. Subscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun on YouTube! Bell Training Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy  While some love doggie doorbell training or puppy pads, I prefer to focus on methods that teach puppies to potty outside, not inside or on “things.”  I find these methods tend to confuse puppies. Potty pads or litter boxes are teaching the puppy to potty on things that happen to be indoors. This could be a potty pad, but it also could end up being your favorite blanket.  As far as bell training goes, I’m not a fan of encouraging demanding behavior in dogs. Teaching them to ring bells to go outside may inadvertently lead to them using this to not only tell us they need to potty, but also that they may want to go outside to chase squirrels.  I believe in keeping potty training simple and straightforward, focusing on reinforcing the desired behavior of outdoor elimination. By keeping things simple and staying consistent, we can focus on potty training without having to rely on pee pads or bells. In the end, potty training your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is all about patience, consistency, and a whole lot of love. By following these tips and staying diligent,  you’ll set your new puppy up for success.   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       Google Ad Below [...]Read more...
May 14, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare1 SharesHot Weather Tips for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels People often think of summer as a good time to get out and about with our Cavaliers. As a dog-friendly travel blogger, I’m often pitched ideas and stories about taking Dexter to X outdoors, even in July or August. But, the reality is, that’s usually just too darn hot for my now 14.5 year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Dexter. He’s always run a bit hot, but now, as a senior and with MVD, the summer heat is just not ideal for him. But, it’s not just Dexter. Summer heat can pose health issues such as sunburn and heatstroke. Today, I’m going to jump into some ideas on how to keep your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cool and active during the summer or warm months. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Heat Stroke Heatstroke is a serious concern for all dog families, particularly for breeds like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which can be more susceptible due to their flat-faced (brachycephalic) nature. Any dog, any breed, and any age can develop heat stroke, even on cool days! The VetCompassTM conducted a study in 2016 regarding the risk factors for heat-related illness (HRI): Breeds with the highest incidence of HRI included the Chow Chow, Bulldog, French Bulldog, Dogue de Bordeaux, Greyhound, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Pug, and the Golden Retriever. Dogs at or above the mean adult body weight for their breed/sex showed an increased risk of HRI compared to dogs below the mean body weight. Dogs over 12 years old had the greatest odds of HRI compared to dogs under 2 years old. Signs of Heatstroke in a Cavalier Recognizing the signs of heatstroke and taking preventive measures are crucial to keeping your dog safe. Signs such as excessive panting, drooling, rapid pulse, and restlessness indicate your Cavalier may be overheating. If you notice these symptoms, act quickly by providing cool (not cold) water and applying damp towels to areas with good blood flow, such as the head, armpits, and groin. Then take your Cavalier to the vet to prevent things from getting worse. How Food Affects Your Cavalier’s Ability to Tolerate Heat Just like for us, our pet’s food does more than just provide them with calories. Food has a big impact on their overall health, affecting everything from their longevity to their behavior and how they handle hot and cold temperatures. According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), everything in life has a balance of energy and heat, represented by Yin and Yang. Yin embodies the cool, and yang is the hot. This includes our pets, food, and environment; they all have specific energetics. Dexter tends to run a little more yang (hot). Therefore, when I’m creating his meals, I aim to have the foods I provide either be energetically cooling or neutral. I avoid energetically warm or hot foods and proteins. For example, common foods that are warming or hot include goat, lamb, venison, chicken, and pheasant. Whereas, cooling proteins include rabbit, duck, beaver, cold water fish, and muskrat. Applying this feeding concept to our Cavaliers, we can tailor their diets to help regulate their internal temperature. During the warmer months, opting for cooling foods can help maintain balance and comfort for your Cavalier. Summer Fun for You and Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Despite the summer heat, Dexter and I still enjoy our summer adventures. They just need to be modified according to the weather. The first thing I do is check the weather, so I’m not out and about with Dexter and surprised! Walking or strolling Dexter in the morning is by far cooler than in the evening. I know people suggest evening walks, but, honestly, the heat from the pavement and the atmosphere seem hotter to me than in the morning. Your location may be different. Try walking on grassy areas instead of pavement. Shady parks beat the noon sun. Breezy days while wading in the water are another fun way to help your Cavalier stay cool. However, if it’s still sunny or warm, cool water on their feet and a breeze are unlikely to cut it. We do a lot of indoor adventures during the summer months. Pet stores, dog friendly stores and attractions are our go-tos. I also do a lot of indoor training sessions and enrichment activities to help keep Dexter engaged. The bottom line is that I don’t want to risk Dexter’s health. And I can say from experience, it’s not a good feeling. Back in 2018, I’m pretty sure Dexter almost had a heat stroke! We were in Florida in the spring, doing touristy things. I thought I was being careful, bringing Dexter inside the stores, indoor attractions, and a covered train tour, but he really wasn’t doing well. He started showing signs of heatstroke. We rushed him to the hotel and cooled him down. I was lucky. And I’m not sure what I would have done if I wasn’t so lucky. Hot Weather Tips for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Grooming & Trimming: Regularly groom your Cavalier to remove loose fur and prevent overheating. I do give Dexter a puppy cut by trimming his belly, legs, and tail. I started this because of his CM/SM, but it also helps lighten his load and keeps him cooler. Travel Comfort: Ensure your Cavalier’s comfort during travel with a well-ventilated crate or car harness, and schedule frequent breaks for water and shade. I also use a cooling mat and fan blowing on Dexter. Sunscreen: Dog friendly sunscreen on your Cavalier’s nose helps protect him from harmful UV rays. Cooling Products: Invest in cooling accessories like a cooling vest, bandana, or mat to provide relief from the heat during outdoor adventures. Avoid the Hottest Part of the Day: Schedule outdoor activities during cooler times, such as early morning or late evening. Mind the Pavement: Hot asphalt can burn your Cavalier’s paw pads. Stick to grassy or shaded areas for walks. Hydration: Always have fresh water available, and encourage your Cavalier to drink frequently to stay hydrated. I put bone broth cubes in Dexter’s water bottle to encourage him to drink. If not, he will ignore the water. Indoor Play or Outings: On exceptionally hot days, opt for indoor activities like interactive games or training sessions to keep your Cavalier entertained while staying cool. Cooling Foods: Opt for cooling or neutral proteins in your Cavalier’s diet. Remain vigilant, provide ample shade and hydration, and monitor your Cavalier for signs of overheating. Keep your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s well-being in mind, and use these practical tips to make sure you and your Cavalier have a safe and enjoyable summer.   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!     Google Ad Below [...]Read more...
April 28, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare1 SharesAre Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Good for Therapy Dog Work? Today, I want to chat about a topic that is close to my heart: therapy dogs! Have you ever wondered if your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would make a good therapy dog? It’s a common question and one that has a few caveats. First, it’s not all about the dog! I know, I know, it’s always all about Dexter, but with visiting therapy dogs, it’s about teamwork. But what is a visiting therapy dog team, and what do they do? A therapy pet team is a person and their pet (sometimes cats, bunnies, etc.) who share their companionship and comfort with those in need, visiting places like hospitals, schools, and nursing homes. These teams engage in either Animal-Assisted Activities (AAA) or Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT). AAA therapy dog teams engage in sessions without the presence of a medical professional or specific treatment goals, aiming simply to bring joy and comfort. Whereas AAT therapy dog teams work with healthcare providers in goal-oriented sessions aimed at addressing specific issues, with progress carefully measured and tracked throughout the process. Being a good therapy dog team isn’t just about your Cavalier; it’s also about you. Both you and your CKCS are visiting as a team. You both must have the skills and knowledge required to visit people in a wide range of settings. Let’s discuss what humans should be bringing to a Cavalier therapy dog team. As a therapy dog handler, it’s important to be comfortable when interacting with both people and your dog. You’ll need to be able to guide your Cavalier through different situations, encouraging them and keeping them safe and happy. Understanding your dog is key to becoming a therapy dog handler. You’ve got to be able to recognize the tiniest changes in behavior and body language, and quickly respond. And at the same time, you will be multitasking by staying engaged with individuals. It’s a balancing act, for sure, especially as you start out your journey as a therapy dog team. Now, what personality should your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have in order to make a good therapy dog? When it comes to a well-suited therapy dog, you can look at a few key traits. A good therapy dog should be reliable, predictable, and able to follow your cues with ease. That’s not to say they have to be robots and never get flustered, but as a general rule, you want a dog that is solid in their temperament. Your dog should be friendly with strangers, as your visits will be with strangers. At the same time, they should be poised, not jump on people, and be able to walk nicely on a leash around distractions, including food. It’s not just about loving new people; it’s also about having manners in new and unfamiliar environments. Getting Started Training Your Cavalier to Become a Visiting Therapy Dog It’s important that your Cavalier have basic obedience and manners. Walking on a loose leash in crowded places, around dogs, and on slick floors is a must. Leaving food or dropped pills on the ground is incredibly important for your dog’s safety. If your Cavalier knows tricks, that can be a great icebreaker and is also helpful when someone wants to look at your dog but not pet them. Dexter and I were a visiting therapy dog team for many years, and tricks and activities were by far his favorite visits! If your dog needs a refresher, enroll in a positive dog training class. Subscribe to our @CavalierTipsandFun YouTube channel for more! After your Cavalier has mastered his basic obedience skills in a variety of environments, look for a therapy dog training prep class. This may be a weekend class or one that spans 4–8 weeks. When I taught my therapy dog prep class, each week we covered a new topic to prepare the handlers and dogs for the actual work involved and the test. My students by far enjoyed skit night, where my volunteers and I role-played different scenarios, the teams interacted, and we discussed what was good and how they could improve in that situation. It was a hoot and very eye-opening for the upcoming teams. When you and your Cavalier are ready to take your therapy dog evaluation, you will need to find an evaluator to assess whether you are ready for therapy work. But there is more than one therapy dog organization out there. Choosing the right organization is crucial. Some facilities have specific requirements, like only accepting teams evaluated by certain organizations. So, if you have your sights set on a specific organization, reach out to them first. If your dog is on a raw food diet or you provide your dog with titers vs. yearly vaccinations, not all therapy dog organizations accept that, but some do. Speaking of organizations, there are plenty out there, each with its own unique criteria. Some of the most common ones include Alliance of Therapy Dogs, Pet Partners, Love on a Leash, and Therapy Dogs International. Be sure to check out their specific requirements before making your decision. Subscribe to @DextertheDogandFriends for kid-friendly content! During the evaluation, the evaluator will test your skills to ensure you’re ready to handle various situations with confidence. Once you’ve got the green light from your evaluator, send in your paperwork and fees. While you are waiting for your official badge, it’s a good time to start reaching out to facilities you’re interested in visiting. It’s best to meet with the director, take a tour, and get a feel for the environment without your dog. When you are ready to visit with your Cavalier, keep those initial visits short and sweet. It’s all about easing them into the new surroundings and ensuring they feel comfortable and confident in their role as a therapy dog. And remember, if you don’t think therapy work is in the cards for your Cavalier, that’s perfectly fine. There are plenty of other enjoyable activities you and your Cavalier can explore together. But if therapy work is the journey you’ve chosen, then I wish you both the best of luck on this rewarding adventure.   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       Google Ad Below [...]Read more...
May 29, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare1 SharesNatural Diet for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dexter’s Food Journey with Raw and Homemade Food Dexter, my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was a raw-fed puppy. However, because I wasn’t sure how to do it properly, and I was unaware that there were premade raw foods on the market, I fed him kibble with food toppers. After learning about how to balance a fresh dog food diet, I started to home cook for him when he was around two. Then, when he was about four, I transitioned him to a DIY raw diet. Through this journey with Dexter, I’ve learned about creating a nutritious and tailored diet that meets his unique needs. Now, I’m excited to pass along my tips and thoughts on feeding your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Let’s dive in! Natural diet for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels If you’re anything like me, you’re always on the lookout for the best pet products, natural dog grooming supplies, and the healthiest dog food brands for your Cavalier. One of the most important aspects of your Cavalier’s well-being is their diet. Dogs are natural carnivores, made to thrive on a diet of fresh meat. This means a species-appropriate diet is key to their health and vitality. Understanding Species-Appropriate Nutrition Let’s think about our dogs’ ancestors for a moment. They thrived on a diet of raw meat, bones, and organs. Today, we can recreate this natural diet with a raw food approach, using fresh, high-quality ingredients that focus on what dogs are meant to eat. For your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in a nutshell, this means focusing on a diet that’s about 90 percent meat, bone, and organ, with the remaining 10 percent coming from fruits and vegetables. This balance provides the essential nutrients and fiber they need to stay healthy. Personally, I feel if you aren’t able to go raw, this diet can also be cooked. You just would need to provide the calcium from the bones in another form, since dogs cannot eat cooked bones. Don’t forget to subscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun for more! The Problem with Processed Dry Kibble Now, dry kibble. It’s processed at high temperatures, which takes away almost all the moisture and nutrients from the ingredients. Often, kibble is made with low-quality ingredients and fillers that don’t give your dog the nutrients they need. The lack of moisture in kibble can also lead to chronic dehydration, affecting everything from kidney function to skin and coat health. Plus, since kibble is made to last a long time, the ingredients can go rancid quicker than you might think, making it even less nutritious for your pup. The Importance of Moisture in Your Dog’s Diet Moisture is a crucial part of your dog’s diet. In the wild, dogs get most of their hydration from the food they eat. Fresh, raw diets naturally provide the moisture that kibble just can’t. This is essential for your dog’s digestion, kidney health, and overall well-being. By feeding them fresh, high-quality meat and vegetables, you’re making sure they stay hydrated naturally, without having to depend solely on drinking water. Finding the Best Diet for Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel When it comes to our Cavaliers, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Every dog is unique, with their own health needs, behaviors, and lifestyle. Personally, I’m a big advocate for variety. This could be in the form of different proteins, suppliers or even a nice pre-made raw or mix. I steer clear of dry pet food altogether unless I’m using freeze dried food for dog training treats. For me, a balanced DIY raw diet for Dexter is the way to go. It’s fresh, it’s healthy, and I can tailor and tweak it to Dexter’s needs. Why a Raw Food Diet is Ideal for Most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels A raw food diet is as close to a natural diet as you can get for your Cavalier. It includes raw meat, bones, and organs, providing essential vitamins and minerals often lost in commercial dog foods. This diet can improve your Cavalier’s skin and coat health, immune system, and help maintain a healthy weight. As I mentioned earlier, I think adding an approximately 10 percent mix of fruits and vegetables is a great way to add a nutritional boost to the bowl. By avoiding the fillers and artificial additives found in many commercial foods, we ensure our dogs get the best nutrition possible. Homemade Raw or Cooked Food: Personalized Nutrition for Your Cavalier One of the best ways to ensure your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is eating the healthiest diet is to make their food at home. This way, you control the quality of the ingredients and can tailor the meals to your dog’s specific needs. Homemade meals are especially beneficial if your Cavalier is a picky eater or has food allergies. Just remember to balance their diet properly to include all necessary nutrients. Whether your dog has allergies, digestion issues, or any other specific needs, you can tweak their diet to meet their needs. Feeding Your Cavalier a Grain-Free Diet You might have heard that grain-free foods are bad for Cavaliers because they were thought to have caused Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). In 2019, the FDA released a list of grain-free pet foods that had people swearing that grain-free dog food was bad. But, guess what? It’s really not the case. In fact, in 2022 the FDA announced on their website there wasn’t a solid link between grain-free diets and DCM. Feeding your dog grain-free can actually be a good choice for your Cavalier. But things get tricky if you are looking at a purchased grain-free alternative, particularly a dry kibble. When you’re reading the ingredient panel of a dog food (yes, read those labels), watch out for ones loaded with peas, lentils, legumes, seeds, and/or potatoes. Even if the front of the bag screams “meat-first,” it might sneak in a bunch of carbs and starches that aren’t ideal. According to experts, such as Dr. Karen Becker, it’s not about cutting out grains—it’s about making sure our pets aren’t eating too many starchy fillers. So, bottom line? Go back to that 90 percent meat recommendation. Feeding Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Puppy When it comes to feeding your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy, it’s essential to consider their unique nutritional needs as they grow. If you’re not quite sure about the specifics of puppy nutrition, it’s perfectly okay to rely on trusted commercial brands known for their expertise in creating a balanced diet for puppies. A commercial raw puppy food will include the essential proteins, fats, and calcium your puppy needs to develop strong bones. The key is to ensure whatever you choose is well-rounded and provides all the nutrients your Cavalier puppy requires during the puppy life stage. Maintaining a Healthy Weight Keeping your Cavalier at his ideal weight is super important. Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about good looks, but their health. Extra weight can contribute to health issues like joint problems and heart disease. The breed standard says they should weigh between thirteen and eighteen pounds. But, Cavaliers can vary a lot in size. Take Dexter, for instance. He’s a bit of a big guy, weighing his ideal weight at a healthy twenty-nine pounds. So, how do you know if your Cavalier is at the right weight? It’s all about getting your hands on your dog. Run your fingers lightly over their ribcage; you should be able to feel their ribs without pressing too hard. If they’re too prominent, they might be on the thin side. But if you can’t feel them at all, or if their waistline has disappeared, they might be carrying a few extra pounds. Just keep an eye on their overall body shape, and remember, every Cavalier is unique! How Often to Feed Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Consistency is key when it comes to feeding your Cavalier. Establishing a regular feeding schedule helps regulate their metabolism and digestion. Typically, feeding your Cavalier twice a day, in the morning and evening, works well. For puppies, more frequent meals might be necessary to meet their higher energy demands. I actually feed Dexter three times a day, mainly due to the fact that he gets so much food, I prefer to space it out. Adding Supplements and Vitamins Even with a well-balanced diet, supplements can play an essential role in your Cavalier’s health. Omega-3 fatty acids can enhance skin and coat health, probiotics can aid digestion, and joint supplements can support mobility. Always consult your Cavalier’s vet before adding new supplements to ensure they’re necessary and safe. When possible, opt for real food supplements vs. synthetic. Food Allergies in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels If your Cavalier has allergies, a limited-ingredient fresh diet can be incredibly beneficial. Before jumping brands, I would suggest going through a pet food elimination diet to identify triggers. Once you know what your Cavalier is allergic to, you can create a personalized diet just for him. You can read more about how and why a pet food elimination diet is helpful on my other blog, right here. Safe Fruits and Vegetables to Feed Your Cavalier Things like carrots, broccoli, and kale can be great sources of extra nutrients and fiber. And don’t forget the powerhouse of antioxidants fruits like blueberries, strawberries, pomegranates, and apples can provide. For best digestion, blitz them up! Introduce all new foods slowly and keep an eye on what works for your dog. Transitioning to a Raw Food Diet Transitioning your Cavalier to a raw food diet should be done gradually to avoid digestive upsets. Start by introducing small amounts of raw food while slowly decreasing their current food. A 75 percent and 25 percent switch usually works well. Over a week or two, increase the raw portion until it completely replaces their old diet. Choosing the Best Raw Food Brands Selecting high-quality raw food brands for your Cavalier ensures they get balanced and nutritious meals. Personally, I look for brands that offer meats that are antibiotic and hormone free. Ideally, any fruits and vegetables will be organic. Opt for whole foods vs synthetics when possible. But, it will be a balancing act based on what’s available to you and your budget. As I mentioned earlier, shoot for approximately 90 percent meat, bone, and organ. A few raw brand choices to consider include BJ’s Raw, Raw Paws Pet Food, Raw Wild, We Feed Raw, Primal, Vital Essentials, Smallbatch, Raw Bistro and Steve’s Real Food. A Healthy Diet Can Improve the Immune System, Skin, and Coat Health By providing your Cavalier with a balanced raw or homemade diet you’re not just filling their bowl, you’re nurturing their well-being from the inside out. Fresh diets, whether raw or homemade, are rich in unprocessed ingredients, offering a higher concentration of vital nutrients compared to heavily processed kibble. Fresh foods do not have the fillers and additives found in kibble, making them easier for dogs to digest and absorb. Because of this, fresh food promotes better immune function, healthier skin, and a shinier coat, making them the ideal choice for your Cavalier. By focusing on a fresh, natural diet tailored to your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s specific needs, you’re setting them up for a long, healthy, and happy life. Remember, my goal is to offer guidance and support to help you navigate the journey of pet nutrition, without any judgment. Let’s work together to ensure the best possible care for you and your Cavalier!   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!     Google Ad Below [...]Read more...
April 21, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 SharesSubscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun for more! Subscribe to @RaisingYourPetsNaturally for more!   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       [...]Read more...
April 21, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 Shares  Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       [...]Read more...
April 21, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 SharesSubscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun for more! Don’t forget to subscribe to @RaisingYourPetsNaturally for more!   Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       [...]Read more...
April 21, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 SharesSubscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun! Don’t forget to subscribe to @RaisingYourPetsNaturally for more content! Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       [...]Read more...
April 21, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 SharesSubscribe to @CavalierTipsandFun for more content! Don’t forget to subscribe to @RaisingYourPetsNaturally for more! Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!       [...]Read more...
June 8, 2024TweetSharePinShareShare0 SharesWe have Google ads and do not endorse any breeders you may see pop up. I actually block them when I see them. Treatment options for Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia My best friend, Dexter the Dog, was diagnosed with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia in 2012, just before his third birthday. This diagnosis hit me hard. Over the past twelve years, I’ve shared a lot about Dexter’s diagnosis, care, and treatments on my Raising Your Pets Naturally blog and YouTube channel. Since I recently started this blog dedicated to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I thought it would be a good time to write an update on Dexter’s care and what I’ve learned. I am also happy to say that at almost fifteen, Dexter is doing amazingly well! I hope you find this article on Chiari malformation and syringomyelia in dogs helpful. Please share this information to help others dealing with this heartbreaking diagnosis learn about the many helpful and natural treatments for dogs with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. What is Chiari Malformation (CM) and Syringomyelia (SM) Chiari malformation commonly affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, Brussels Griffons, Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese, Pomeranians, Toy Poodles, and Shih Tzus. In dogs with CM, the skull is too small to hold their brain properly. This overcrowding forces parts of the brain, specifically the cerebellum and medulla, out of their normal positions. The cerebellum controls movement and balance, while the medulla is connected to breathing and heart rate. When these brain parts are pushed out of place, they obstruct the normal flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Cerebrospinal fluid is in the brain and spinal cord and acts as a natural cushion, protecting the brain. When the flow of CSF is blocked, it can lead to a buildup of pressure and result in serious neurological issues and can form syringomyelia (SM), a condition where fluid-filled cavities form within the spinal cord. In Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chiari malformation is a congenital issue, meaning they are born with it. Dr. Clare Rusbridge established a breeding protocol to help reduce CM/SM in puppies. Following the breeding protocol is crucial for reducing the risk of Chiari malformation (CM) and syringomyelia (SM) in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. If both parents have CM/SM, puppies are 92 percent likely to be affected, while the risk drops to 77 percent if only one parent is affected. If both parents are clear of CM/SM, there is a 70 percent chance their puppies will be clear, rising to 87 percent if the grandparents are also clear. Potential Cavalier families should seek breeders who perform this testing to ensure healthier puppies. The only way to diagnose Chiari malformation and syringomyelia definitively is through an MRI scan. Recognizing Chiari malformation is vital for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel families because early detection and treatment can greatly improve the quality of life for dogs with this condition. If you notice symptoms like uncoordinated movements, sensitivity around the head and neck, or any other unusual behaviors, it’s important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Symptoms of Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia in Dogs Symptoms of CM and SM in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other breeds can vary. About a year before Dexter’s diagnosis, he began showing some random and unusual behaviors. And they didn’t happen all the time. Fixating at dust particles in the sunlight. Fidgeting and biting at his rear end. His vet initially thought it was anal glands, but they really weren’t that full, and he continued to do it. Acting strangely around flying insects. Whenever a fly was around, he would get strange and start spinning around and growling at his back end. Then, he had a downright scary episode, where he just was going crazy over his back end, growling, at it, spinning, and I could not gain his attention. I then decided to hit record the next time it happened. After recording the next episode and consulting Dr. Lynette Cole at The Ohio State University, three veterinary neurologists suspected Chiari malformation and syringomyelia. I then made an appointment at the OSU neurology department for an MRI and spinal tap. CM and SM were confirmed. Dexter’s episode is below. Don’t forget to subscribe to our @RaisingYourPetsNaturally YouTube channel for more. Other common symptoms of CM/SM in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can include: Air scratching, especially on walks or when excited. Head scratching or rubbing. Air snapping or licking. Random yelps of pain. Sensitivity to touch and being picked up. Hind end weakness. Head or body wobbles, stumbling, or squinting. Head pressing. Seeking darkness or solitude. Inactivity or depression. Restlessness. Diagnosing Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia The only definitive way to diagnose CM/SM is with an MRI. If a dog shows common symptoms and belongs to a breed prone to this disease, like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, a vet might start treatment without MRI confirmation. For me, knowing exactly what Dexter had was key. Along with an MRI, Dexter also had a spinal tap to ensure we had all the facts. Treatment Options for Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia Surgery for Chiari Malformation in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Surgery is performed with the goal of restoring the natural flow of spinal fluid. This involves decompressing the affected area, removing bone fragments, and sometimes adding a shunt. However, the results can differ greatly from one dog to another. Despite surgical intervention, many dogs still require medication to manage their pain effectively. Medications for Chiari Malformation in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels The disease is progressive and varies in severity. Treatment prioritizes comfort and alleviates pain. Dr. Clare Rusbridge provides the gold standard in the medication treatment protocol. It’s essential to monitor organ functions regularly when administering long-term medications. Natural Treatments for Syringomyelia in Dogs There are many natural treatments to help support a dog with CM/SM. Here are some that have worked for Dexter: Acupuncture: Restores the normal flow of energy through specific pathways. Cold Laser Therapy: Reduces inflammation, relieves pain, repairs tissue damage, and increases blood circulation. PEMF ( Pulsed Electromagnetic Field) Therapy: Reduces inflammation, relieves pain, promotes tissue and cell repair. Food Therapy: A diet of home-cooked or raw dog food helps reduce inflammation. Ingredients like sardines, shiitake mushrooms, and green-lipped mussels can help. Conscious Proprioception Exercises: Dexter wore Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips to stimulate awareness of his feet. I also regularly work with him on footwork exercises to help him be more aware of his feet. Canine Hydrotherapy: Water treadmill therapy strengthens Dexter’s body with low joint impact. Core Strength Exercises: Dexter’s rehabilitation focuses on boosting his core and back end strength, crucial for enhancing balance and stability. Through a variety of exercises using different equipment, we target his abdominal, back, and hind leg muscles, ensuring he can confidently navigate any challenges. Living with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with Chiari Malformation Living with a dog diagnosed with Chiari Malformation and syringomyelia can be challenging. Dexter’s first year after diagnosis was the most challenging. Trying to figure out what worked best for him, what kinds of activities or weather would trigger breakthrough pain, and how best to manage it. His life changed, but, luckily, with a great team of professionals, I was and am able to provide Dexter with a great quality of life that is still full of adventures and enrichment. Comfort Measures To help keep Dexter as comfortable, happy, and pain-free as possible, I’ve incorporated a range of products. Dog Harness: Avoid collars that can be painful due to the disease’s nature. Dog Strollers: Great for giving Dexter a break while still being part of adventures. Cooling Mats and Warming Blankets: Depending on Dexter’s temperature needs. I will say, now Dexter is on a cooling mat almost 100 percent of his downtime. He rarely seeks heat. Snuggle Jackets: Some dogs find comfort in them, while others might not. In the beginning, Dexter wore one almost all the time. But, I think, after we finally found our groove with his care, they were no longer necessary. Natural Calming Aids: Calming CDs and natural calming sprays help Dexter on rough days. Support for Dogs with Chiari Malformation and Syringomyelia Let’s unite in this journey. Dexter’s courage living with Chiari malformation and syringomyelia serves as a light of hope for us all. You aren’t in this alone. Seek the help of a good veterinarian team, join a support group, including ours! Together, we can provide hope and guidance to others on similar paths. Go Team Dexter! Your comments and questions are always welcome below. Join our vibrant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel community on Facebook, support our dedication to pet wellness on Patreon, and stay updated with our weekly newsletter for invaluable tips and insights into raising happy, healthy pets. Together, let’s make a difference in our dogs’ lives!     Google Ad Below [...]Read more...