View Full Version : New to the Board: Adjustment questions

10th October 2006, 07:22 PM
We just got our first Cavalier, a beautiful, 4 year-old girl named Sadie (formerly known as Scooter). She belonged to a breeder who put her up for adoption because she couldn't breed (never came into heat). While the breeder did seem to care about his dogs very much (he cried when we took her), her living conditions were not "ideal" in terms of cleanliness and pampering. She is very sweet, but we are in the midst of a health and beauty "extreme makeover". She has already been groomed and checked out by the vet (plus spoiled with some new toys and accesories). However, I did have some questions:

1. She is very docile and very sweet (not really generous with the puppy kisses, but climbed into our bed her first night). However, she also sleeps a lot. She does follow us from room to room, but usually just lies down once we she gets there. Is this normal? The breeder says she is just adjusting to being the only dog in the house...this is possible since we have only had her for 3 days. I love the fact that she's low maintenance, but I want to make sure there isn't a larger problem.

2. She has been scratching a lot (especially when outdooors) and has some thinning fur on her back legs. We took her to the vet to catch her up on her shots, and she seemed to think it was either fleas (fairly likely since the dog was from a house with 12 other dogs) or allergies. We started her on Frontline and we're going to wait and see. If it isn't flees, are we facing a really complicated situation with the allergies? Any tips to make her more comfortable?

3. The breeder said she was on hormones in the past to help her come into heat. She hasn't been on them for some time. However, could this effect her current dispostion?

4. Also, do you have any suggestions for improving the luster/thickness of her coat? She is on Purina One Puppy Chow, but I'm thinking of slowly changing her food to something better. Also, is it true that a tablespoon of olive oil twice a week (mixed in the food) will help her coat and skin?

I have seen her improve over the 3 days we have had her and I expect her to continue to improve as she adjusts. I just want to confirm that her skin irritation and lethargy aren't signs of a larger problem.

10th October 2006, 07:37 PM
Welcome to the board. icon_welcome

It's hard to give a medical opinion of course, but she sounds like she might have allergies or flea dermatitis.

I'd get her on a better quality food -- Purina One is OK, but not great for protein sources and also, scratching and hair loss may be due to food allergies, which are often grain related or because the food contains a common source of protein like chicken or beef. There are many great foods out there that are better quality, don't have grains, and would give an alternative protein source like duck, fish, lamb. I am sure some others will chime on on some good US foods (I am Irish-based). There are more serious health conditions associated with scratching, such as syringomyelia (read more at www.sm.cavaliertalk.com ) -- when you say she scratches more outdoors, is this on the lead, and does she air scratch (eg not make contact with her body?). If so you may be dealing with SM and every cavalier owner should at least be familiar with the possible symptoms, as with MVD -- the Health section of the Library has lots of info on both). But given her hair loss etc, I am guessing you are dealing with some sort of allergy and perhaps an overstressed breeding bitch who has had a bit of a hard time with this breeder (the hormone shots and so forth and the conditions you describe as being not great on the hygiene etc front).

Cavaliers are couch potatoes inside and do like to follow you around then poop out on a soft spot where they can keep an eye on you! But they also like good walks and play. If she is constantly lethargic, I'd start to look into possible reasons. If she enjoys walks, isn't showing signs of pain, etc, she is likely fine and will just need time to adapt to her new life as a pet rather than a breeding dog. Is she overweight? This will add to lethragy! And if she has spent her life as a breeding dog and kenneled or confined, she may not even be used to action and a normal dog life.

Hormone injections over and over would be draining on a dog, I think. We have some good, ehtical breeders here who follow all the nhealth protocols and who care very well for their dogs who might offer some insight on that front -- but seems to me that it would be hard on a dog if she was being injected every heat for example.

Be sure to get her spayed now as well as she is at higher risk for some cancers if she remains unspayed and just going through heats can be very draining on some bitches.

There's lots of info here -- check the Caring for Your Cavalier section (in the Cavalier Library) where you will find lots on feeding and so forth.

Many of us do give supplements -- many feel fish oils are good for coats for example but overall, a really good diet will do the most towards restoring your girl's coat and vitality. :)

10th October 2006, 08:38 PM
We just got our first Cavalier, a beautiful, 4 year-old girl named Sadie (formerly known as Scooter)....

Hi. you sound like a good parent, asking great questions and being very attentive to Sadie.

i'm wondering, if she's 4 years old, why is she being fed a puppy formula?
Knowledgeable people I respect recommend against feeding puppy formuas even for puppys, saying it's out of balance with their normal canine dietary needs, and can result is skeletal growth that's too fast, in proportion with other tissue. Here is a much recommended source on the subject of feeding cavaliers


Personally, i prefer to use dog food that uses human grade ingredients. In the past I had heard that Purina and other commercial supermarket shelf brand dog foods do not use human grade meat, instead using slaughterhouse rejects (unfit for human consumption due to disease and other reasons). I would think there could be things in the ingredients that could cause allergies or otherwise undermine immunity, such as antibiotics, as well as common allergenic foods like corn and wheat.

Good luck, you are on the right track doing your own research and trying to get perspectives and information. icon_welcome

10th October 2006, 10:30 PM
Thanks for the prompt responses and the tips. I think she is doing a little bit better. I'm going to try to ween her off of the Puppy Chow and onto something more whole/organic and add some olive oil or omega fatty acids to her diet. Her scratching is decreasing. I talked to our breeder and he said that she never had a problem with flees, but I'm still pretty sure she did. Also, he said that she was bathed less than a week ago, which when coupled with the fact that she was just bathed at the groomer means that her skin might be a little extra-rritated. I don't think the scratching is anything more serious, as mentioned above and her irritation seems to be concentrated on her hind quarters (when she scratches, she does make contact).

She is starting show a more sparkling personality and is a little more frisky. She followed me up two flights of stairs this morning (I don't think she ever used them in her other home, which was a ranch house!). She's definitely a couch potato, but is very alert and is beginning to initiate more interaction. I'm looking forward to seeing her personality reveal itself a little bit more every day. If she remains a couch potato (btw, she is not at all overweight...15 pounds...in fact she could stand to gain a pound or two), so be it....who am I to criticize? I just want her to be happy and give her the life she deserves (and was bred for)!

11th October 2006, 12:37 AM
Welcome to the boards!!

Some cavaliers will be more engaged than others, just like people. If she's used to having lots of playmates (and being able to play!), then she probably is experiencing some transition stuff. Willow, my mill rescue, is much more laid back than Cedar, who we had as a pup. Part of Willow's behavior is probably due to being in a cage a lot and not interacting with others as a puppy, but I think some of her behavior is also just part of her nature. (that whole nature vs nurture issue!!).

I'm sure Sadie will change a great deal in the next week or two, and then more over a period of months. It sounds like you're off to a great start though!

Where are the pictures??

11th October 2006, 01:11 AM
Good for you for taking in an older Cavalier. You get to bypass the potty training stage! Poor angel... it sounds like she's in a better environment now. Did you get any type of health certificate from the breeder? I'm definitely not an expert on this stuff (I just got my first Cav a few months ago), but by 4 years old she should definitely have been tested for certain conditions.

11th October 2006, 05:30 AM
To his credit, the breeder has been very responsive. I did receive a health guaraty, however it essentially will only pay for costs associated with any undisclosed health problems (up to the price we paid for her, which wasn't much) or allows us to return her. I'm not all that worried about the money (unless the allergy issues or an even more expensive problem starts to cost several thousand dollars per year) and it is hard to view returning the dog as an option (even if it is). I really think it is just fleas and her need to adjust to new surroundings.

She was on puppy chow because he fed all of his dogs at the same time and he said it was good for her when he was trying to bring her into heat. Such concerns are obviously a thing of the past now (we will have her spayed within the next few months) and I'm looking forward to getting her regulated. I should mention that several years ago we took in a 3 year old male Lhasa Apso who was a retired show dog. He was adorable to look at but terribly aloof (as the breed tends to be). Over the years he became a different dog...loving and playful while retaining his characteristic stubborn attitude....and he lived to the ripe old age of 17. I think Sadie will make progress a lot more quickly, as she is more open to receiving more attention than affection than she could ever hope for (which for a Cavalier, is a lot!).

11th October 2006, 07:11 AM
....She was on puppy chow because he fed all of his dogs at the same time and he said it was good for her when he was trying to bring her into heat..

Huh? Trying to 'bring her into heat'? After three years of not? Maybe one of you breeders can chime in here... but something sounds weird to me. Is that something you can influence positively (as opposed to stopping it, which I assume you could with medication)?


Cathy T
11th October 2006, 03:54 PM
Sadie sounds wonderful and sounds like a great fit to your household. Both of mine are lazy little boogers. Until they are ready to play and then they want to play RIGHT NOW!!! I can work on the computer for 5 hours without them moving. They plop on the couch and the dog bed while I'm working. Then they come to me and want some attention. After that they are ready for another snooze. Sounds like she is just settling in and getting comfortable. Let us know how she changes for the next couple of weeks...bet you'll see a lot of changes. She sounds wonderful.

11th October 2006, 07:56 PM
Sadie is scratching a lot less and has had a very good day. She is cheerful and waits by the back door for us when she hears the car pull up.

She has been licking her paws, but not biting them (kind of like a cat)...which I think is normal, right? My only hesitation is that her fur is a little bit thinner on some parts of her paws, but I imagine that could be from a number of things and will probably improve as we change her diet and surroundings. She doesn't look to be at all uncomfortable. I'm probably just being a neurotic dad.

One other question, though. Sometimes she yelps (about 25% of the time) when we pick her up. I asked the breeder about this and he said that she did it with him too. He wasn't sure why. It is usually one quick yelp and that's it. I don't know whether it is from some sort of physical pain or whether she just gets scared. She is very limber otherwise (able to launch herself onto a 3 foot hight bed). Is this something to be concerned about?

We have been leaving her in the kitchen while we were out, but she has proven to us that she can be trusted to have more freedom to move about the house. We will still keep the bathroom doors closed (just to be safe), but she has shown no signs of any kind of destructive behavior and she has not had a single "accident".

11th October 2006, 10:41 PM
If you're concerned about the scratching, licking, etc, I'd take her to a vet. It's too easy to notice things and then seek reassurance on a board, and go, oh, they said it's ok.... and not bother.

On the other hand, if her skin has been itchy, then that could be the reason for the licking, so maybe give her another week to settle? As for the yelping, Cavaliers have a very low discomfort threshold. How are you picking her up? If you are accidentally jabbing her under her arms, or pulling hair as you lift, or if she just isn't accustomed to being picked up- any or all of those things are innocent and could elicit a yelp. When my eldest, Holly, was a pup, she had been very poorly socialised, and at first (quite apart from usual puppy fragility) she would yelp quite frequently when being picked up. She hardly ever does it now, and often only when it's my fault for catching her too-luxurious fur on something :oops:

12th October 2006, 02:37 PM
Licking paws can be a sign of an allergy, which you've already suspected and are on the path to adjusting her diet. It's another sign to mention to your vet. Changing her food to one that does not have corn might help as that is a common problem ingredient, though some dogs have lots of allergies (like humans!).

The yelping, Like Lisa_T says, can be caused by how you pick her up. Are you picking her up like a baby under her front "arms"?? That will surely get a yelp from Cedar. If that's how you pick her up, try putting one hand under her chest and the other under her rear/tail when you lift her (think of how show dogs are lifted onto the a table).

If you are not lifting the dog like a baby, it could have other reasons behind it. But that can be discussed later...

12th October 2006, 02:50 PM
The yelping only happens when she is picked up like a baby. That said, we have been making a conscious effort to pick her up by scooping her up by her mid section while supporting her back...no yelps at all this way. So, I guess that is one less thing to worry about!

It's interesting, the licking and the scratching only happen within the first 5 minutes after she comes in from the back yard (which she only visits about 3 times a day). Other than that, no scratching whatsoever! We don't use any chemicals on are lawn, so I'm thinking she might just be grooming herself. Again, I'm worrying less and less. I think she's going to have a long, healthy life with us.

Her personality is remarkable! I'm partial because she's obsessed with me now! Last night she curled up under my armpit and in the fold of me knee for several hours on the couch! She's very sweet and is becoming very well adjusted to her new home.

A new advernture comes next week when she will visit our beach house for the first time. I'm not planning to take her to the beach itself (sand fleas, etc.), but I think she'll love the fresh air and sitting on a big front porch watching the world go by! She has never been on a leash before (and it would be nice to be able to take her for some walks), so we're going to do some practice exercises this week.

I really want to post some pictures, but I don't know how to store them on a public directory. I tried to post a link to my snapfish online photo account, but it wouldn't accept. Any tips? (I'm glad to ask a technology question and not a health question for once!).

12th October 2006, 03:01 PM
Try this link for posting pictures. It is pretty straight forward.

Can't wait to see your pics! :flwr:


12th October 2006, 03:04 PM
here's info on posting pics:


I'll be glad to see pictures of Sadie!!

Happy to hear the yelping is from the baby-pick up. That's easy enough to fix!

A lot of dogs on the board love going to the beach. I'm in KS so I cant vouch for my dogs--they have never seen a body of water larger than a bathtub!--but lots of board members have posted pictures of their dogs having the time of their lives covered in sand and jumping/swimming in the water. Of course, then you have a dirty dog .... :lol:

Cathy T
12th October 2006, 03:18 PM
Sadie sounds lovely and it sounds like she's really settling in well. My first thought when you described her yelping was "baby pick up"...neither of mine can be picked up this way. I scoop under their backsides and pick them up that way. Because Shelby is smaller people tend to try to pick her up that way. Before they get the chance I tell them how to pick her up. No one would attempt to pick Jake up like that...he's too big!!

16th October 2006, 03:21 PM
Just wanted to give some more updates now that Sadie's been with us for a week.

She's really bonded with us. She was a little quiet at first, then kind of clingy, but now she seems very comfortable with us. No more crying when we leave, but she seems increasingly happy to see us return. On the whole, she seems to be a lot more energetic (I was initially concerned by her lethargy, which must have been part of the mental adjustment to a new family).

As for the health issues, things seem to be ok. There's still a fair bit of scratching going on, but it doesn't seem to be so much caused by pain as grooming. She scratches when she comes back in from outside off and on for about 5 minutes and sometimes when she first works up in the morning. No air scratching and no scratching when she's walking around.

Unfortunately, she has been licking (with some gnawing) at her rear back paw, which kind of concerns me. We have given her frontline and are starting to change her food, which may help with fleas and allergies. I'm going to take her to the vet for a second opinion (same office, different doctor) to see what might be causing the scratching and biting. I will mention my concerns about SM (the scratching has me a little worried), however, I really want to believe it's something else...especially because she doesn't do the "hop/scratch" when walking and will stop scratching when we say gently "Sadie, stop"...her scratching doesn't seem manic. Is there anything else I should ask?

Also, she still doesn't smell fantastic...not bad, but she has a definite doggy odor. This issue is pretty low on the list, but something I want to correct once the scratching subsides. Is there anything that is hypo-alergenic and mild enough not to cause her any irritation that can take care of this problem?

molly+charlies mum
16th October 2006, 06:44 PM
sadie is lovely and she has gone to a lovely home,molly my tri has hair missing from her lower back and she has dry flakey skin ,she is 3 and also sleeps alot and when people pick her up funny she will cry out to ,i hope sadie settles down well and starts to have lots of fun with you, look forward to seeing some pictures :)

Cathy Moon
17th October 2006, 12:01 AM
Sadie is adorable, and she sounds like a delightful little girl!

You might want to think about getting her some doggy steps to use for climbing up and down from the bed, which you say is 3 ft high. That is very high for a cavalier to be jumping, and will take its toll on her back, neck, shoulders and elbows! We have a thread or two about doggy stairs/steps in the Shop-a-holics forum, with some low cost alternatives for steps.

Also, as I skimmed through the posts, I don't think I saw this mentioned - but some excellent US dog foods are California Natural, Innova, Innova Evo, Royal Canin, and Wellness. I feed my crew Innova Evo.

Also, I just want to second what someone else mentioned about giving her fish oil; not only is this good for her coat, but it is also good for her joints. :flwr:

17th October 2006, 02:54 AM
Thanks for the idea on the doggy steps. However, we're trying to minimize her time on our bed. Our plan is to at least get her to sleep at the foot of the bed, instead of between us.

We've alredy begun to mix in the Innova with her regular food. How much fish oil should she be on?

She's doing really well...her progress has been remarkable.

17th October 2006, 03:04 AM
I have dealt with rescues who have probably never had a proper bath. You can use a rinse that is 25-50% pure white vinegar (rest is water)as a rinse after properly rinsing all soap out of her hair. Leave the vinegar on for up to 10 minutes and rinse with clear water. This seems to take the doggie or worse smell off.

I have been to breeders with A LOT more than 12 dogs that take wonderful care of their animals. I have seen people neglect 1 single dog.

Cathy Moon
17th October 2006, 04:21 AM
I have been giving my cavs DVM 3V Caps for small and medium breeds - one per day - 670mg/capsule. I was giving Chocky 2 per day for dry skin.

I recently ran out, and the vet didn't have it on hand, so we bought fish oil 1000 mg softgels at the drugstore. I'm thinking you could give her one of these per day, but split the oil between 2 meals.