Monthly Archives: January 2017

Help your dog with its cough using natural remedies


By Marilyn Miller

Dog with a bag of cold water on his head

Your best friend went to the bark park or doggie daycare and now he has a little cough. Of course, the first thing you’re going to do is call your vet and see if the dog needs to be seen or requires professional treatment.

But what happens when it’s a simple cough that will go away in its own good time? What if your dog’s coughing is keeping not only him awake, but you, and oh by the way, you have to go to work in the morning.

Here are some natural remedies you can try. Again, clear these with your vet before you try them.

A spoon of (preferably locally-sourced, raw, dark) honey can give both of you several hours of blessed relief. We know in humans honey not only calms a cough but gives some pain relief from the sore throat caused by coughing. Not too much, now. Too much will give your dog loose stool and nobody wants that. Try a teaspoon for a 40-pound dog, see how it goes.

Fresh pineapple contains an enzyme that reduces inflammation and swelling. Some dogs like to chew on the core of a pineapple, and some stores selling fresh cut pineapple will sell you the cores for pennies. The core is fibrous and will keep them occupied for a few minutes. Otherwise, a bite or two of fresh pineapple as a treat or with food. It has to be fresh pineapple, not frozen or canned, because processing destroys the enzyme. Again, too much will give the dog some loose stool, so start slowly.

What do you eat when you have a cough or cold? Chicken soup, of course. Put some chicken broth in your dog’s wet food, or even serve it in a bowl as a first course or snack. It’s soothing to the throat.

Keep the air in the house from being too dry. Especially in winter, the humidity level in our homes can seem lower than that of the Gobi Desert. This dryness will cause your dog’s (and your) mucus membranes to crack, causing discomfort and more coughing and possibly leading to more infection. If you don’t have a humidifier, try skipping the clothes dryer and hang your damp clothes up to dry, or put a tea kettle on the stove to barely simmer (watch the water level, don’t want a fire). Even setting cups or glasses of water around will help a little bit.

Similarly, steam may give your dog a lot of comfort. Run the shower with the bathroom door closed, and then let your dog sit in there for ten minutes or so.

If you smoke, please don’t smoke around your dog when it’s coughing. It’s an irritant.

Ask your vet if there is an over-the-counter cough syrup you can give the dog. Opinions on this seem to vary among vets and it’s not suitable for all dogs. Do not give a cough suppressant without your vet’s okay.

Coconut oil may have some anti-viral properties and is soothing. Most dogs will lick it right out of the spoon. Try a tablespoon for a 40-pound dog and see how it goes.

Take the collar off and replace it with a harness. You don’t want pressure on the throat.

An internet search will show there are a number of herbs that may be useful, but please talk to your vet before trying them. Some of them can make underlying heart, kidney, or liver disease much worse. Please don’t experiment.

Of course, if the dog doesn’t want to eat or drink or seems listless or worse yet, weak, get him to the vet pronto. Kennel cough can turn into pneumonia, and some types of cough aren’t viral at all, but are symptoms of other health problems. But in the normal course of things, this cough will pass and your dog will be back to his usual happy self.

What have you used to relieve a simple cough in your dog? Let us know in the comments section. Thank you!


Service dogs for children and adults with autism

By Marilyn Miller

Kai's mom watches as her autistic son leans against his new service dog, Tornado. (

Kai's mom watches as her autistic son leans against his new service dog, Tornado. (

Autism is a disorder — actually a large spectrum of slightly different disorders — for which there is no diagnostic test, no known cause, and no treatment or cure. People on the spectrum generally have difficulty in communication and social interactions, exhibit repetitive behaviors and obsessions, and are easily overwhelmed and even pained by the ordinary stimuli of daily life. They have difficulty interpreting other people’s tone of voice, body language, or facial expressions. Even small changes in daily routine, for example, a favorite shirt being unavailable for the time it takes to wash and dry it, can cause tremendous emotional reactions.

Caring for a child or adult who falls somewhere on the autism spectrum is a moment to moment challenge. Every person is different and there are so few givens. You love them to infinity and more, but the exhaustion and frustration are real. Fortunately, they are now training service dogs to help people living with autism.

To begin with, the dog adds structure to the day. It must be fed, watered, brushed, taken out to potty, and exercised at regular, dependable times every day, even on the inevitable more difficult days. This kind of structure is essential to the person, helping them feeling safe and centered. Moreover, the dog is a friend who never fails. It demands nothing. It gives everything. The dog is a good social icebreaker and also a reliable social protector.

Jonny and his girl Xena

Jonny and his girl Xena

Here are just some of the benefits that have been identified by research. People with autism benefit from having a service dog in the following ways and more:

  • The dog has an overall calming effect. The value of this cannot be over-emphasized. Being able to stay calm and centered can make the difference between having a decent day and having a string of exceptionally difficult days or even weeks until calm is found again.
  • The dog can be trained to find a person who is lost. (People with autism tend not to identify potentially dangerous situations correctly, and wander off readily.)
  • The dog can be trained to stay in one spot to prevent the person from wandering off.
  • If the person’s repetitive behavior can lead to self-harm, such as repeatedly striking him/herself in the head, the dog can be taught to interrupt these behaviors so that the person focuses on petting or otherwise interacting with the dog.
  • People with autism sleep longer and more soundly when they have a dog.
  • Because the dog needs verbal direction, the person’s speech and use of complete sentences improves.

People on the spectrum often have excellent memories and often are skilled in music, the arts, and math. They often have wizard computer skills from toddler age. They have much to contribute. And has they have for thousands of years, dogs are helping humans, asking no more in return than a place in the den and a friendly pat.

Here are some links to videos or Facebook pages so you can see the daily small miracles these dogs are performing.


  • Journal of Pediatric Nursing. 2014 Mar-Apr;29(2):114-23. doi: 10.1016/j.pedn.2013.09.005. Epub 2013 Oct 16.
  • Grandgeorge M, et al. (2012) Does Pet Arrival Trigger Prosocial Behaviors in Individuals with autism? PLoS ONE 7(8): e41739. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041739
  • O’Haire, M. E., et al. (2013). Social Behaviors Increase in Children with Autism in the Presence of Animals Compared to Toys. PLoS ONE, 8(2), e57010.
By Warrnambool City Council (Maremmas Tula and Eudy) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Dogs protect penguins on Middle Island, Victoria, Australia

By Marilyn Miller

Who doesn’t love penguins? The flippered, flightless seabirds are just so cute with their goofy little waddling walk and their love of being tickled by humans. Climate changes may be threatening the population, but on Middle Island, Victoria, Australia, the threat was different: foxes (introduced to the island by guess who — humans.) and humans. Foxes find penguins to be a fine dinner, and humans heedlessly crush the eggs and breeding grounds under their big booted feet.

In the early 2000s, foxes and tourism on Middle Island were eroding the numbers of Little Penguins, so named because they are the smallest penguin, running about two pounds. Local authorities worried about extinction, justifiably so, because by 2005, there were only ten Little Penguins left on the island. However, a local chicken farmer reported successfully using guard dogs of a specific breed, the Maremma, to keep the foxes from killing his chickens.

Authorities adopted a two-pronged action plan. They closed the island to tourism (you can now schedule a supervised tour) and they brought in the Maremmas.

Result: success. As of 2015, there were more than 500 Little Penguins on the island.

Maremma dogs, also known as Italian sheepdogs, are big (about 100 pounds) with a lot of dense, long, harsh hair covering a thick undercoat. They are intelligent, loyal, and moderately affectionate, but they are determined (that is to say, stubborn) and are not for the amateur dog lover. Exceptionally skillful training is required. They need a lot of exercise and a lot of space, and don’t do well in hot weather. This is a working dog.

The dogs on Middle Island work five days a week during the penguin’s breeding season, and the rest of the time are on-shore, cared for, exercised, trained, and loved. They provide educational opportunities for tourists as well.

Let’s hear it for the dogs, and for the human authorities who took a chance on an unusual idea and in so doing, saved a little bit of the world.

For more information look here!