Designing a Pooch Palace or Feline Fortress in a Small Space
If you’ve been thinking it’s time to give your four-legged family member his own dedicated living space, most vets will agree it’s a good idea. Not only is it fun, but it can help soothe your pet when he’s stressed or overstimulated. You don’t have to transform an entire spare room into your pooch or kitty’s favorite hangout (although that’s a trend growing in popularity, too)—you can get started with just a patch of underused space.
A Special Space is Smart
If your home has become a haven for claw marks or paw prints, a space of his own can minimize damage in the living areas. A pet room also helps confine shedding and dander, which is especially beneficial if you have guests frequently. This will minimize suffering for those with allergies and give your pet a safe place to hang out while you entertain.
Things to Consider
A converted laundry room with a large sink or tub is ideal, because it makes bath time easy. Natural lighting is important, so try to choose a room or area with a window. Make sure your pet’s outdoor view can easily be controlled with window treatments—this way, you can open up the blinds or shades when you want to give him some action, and close them when it’s nap time or when the barking gets to be too much.
Also consider his size. If he weighs more than 20 pounds, he may be more inclined to stay in an entire room devoted to him rather than a segmented area of the house that isn’t enclosed. And try to use a space you know he already likes.
Outfitting the Space
Include plenty of features that will attract your pet’s attention and keep him occupied. Cats love ledges that give them opportunities for climbing and cozy nooks for napping. Some pet owners even put an aquarium or television in the room, so their pets have something interesting to watch or listen to all day long. This can decrease their anxiety and make them feel less lonely.
For furniture, try placing a used piece near a window. You can find a cheap chair or couch at your local Goodwill. Or, put a comfortable pet bed on a rug, so your pet can lounge around. Just be sure whatever you choose is washable. For flooring, the perfect choice may be interlocking rubber tiles that are comfortable under all four feet. Add colorful cubbies or baskets around the space, and fill them with plenty of safe toys.
If you can go custom, consider installing counter-tops at the perfect height for brushing and grooming. Another option: food and water bowls built into the wall to reduce spills and messes.
Veterans With PTSD Finding New Purpose in Life With Service Dogs
Many soldiers who make it home from war bring the war home with them. Each day in the United States, 22 veterans take their own lives, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The debilitating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) lead many veterans into a lonely battle with themselves, facing flashbacks, nightmares, anxiety, hypersensitivity, anger, sleeplessness and depression.
This debilitating disorder affects 30 percent of post-9/11 veterans, the VA reports. And despite the alarming effects of PTSD, the American Psychological Association reports that more than two-thirds of these veterans never seek treatment. The negative stigma associated with mental illness makes soldiers hesitant to seek help for fear of appearing weak or vulnerable.
Nonprofit organizations like War Dogs Making It Home and Soldier’s Best Friend provide a cutting-edge approach to help these men and women. These organizations pair homeless dogs facing euthanasia with suffering soldiers seeking reasons to live in a beautiful, dual effort to save lives.
How Service Dogs Benefit Veterans
About 2.7 million healthy, adoptable pets are put down in this country each year, the Humane Society of the United States reports. Rather than waiting for a service dog to become available for home placement, the struggling veterans in these programs actively take part in the rescue and training of their dog. In most situations, the dogs are pre-trained to handle PTSD symptoms and know how to interrupt attacks of panic, stress and hyper-vigilance.
Weekly training continues once the vets are paired with their dogs. Oftentimes, these courses take place in a group setting among other soldiers dealing with PTSD, providing a safe and welcoming environment.
Why Service Dog Training Works
Unlike traditional service dog programs, organizations that pair shelter dogs with veterans are often offered at little to no cost, creating a financially approachable means of therapy. These programs offer an alternative to standard therapy and medication, and veterans tend to look at the process as a means of helping animals in need rather than seeking help for themselves—thus decreasing the fear of seeming week or vulnerable. Veterans feel a sense of accomplishment, knowing they’ve played an active role in saving a life.
How You Can Help
Spouses and family members are essential to a successful recovery. Follow these tips to increase the success of a service dog program.
- Get involved. Show your support by taking part in the training process. Help your spouse by staying up to date with the training methods being used. As an added incentive, military spouses often qualify for free tuition at Animal Behavior College.
- Keep your pet healthy. Your new service dog is not just a pet, it’s an integral part of your spouse’s healing process. Keep your new family member healthy by ensuring proper nutrition. Sites like Dog Food Advisor keep you up-to-date on food recalls, reviews and quality ratings.
- Make your home pet-friendly. Don’t let the added responsibility of a service animal infringe on your independence. Make this a positive experience for you, your pet and your soldier by adding a pet door for easy access to the outdoors. Electronic dog doors offered by PetSafe are equipped with self-opening technology activated through a smart-key attached to your pet’s collar. Keep unwanted critters out while giving your service dog the freedom to come and go independently.Another great resource for enjoyable pet products can be found here. You may also find that hiring a certified dog trainer can benefit the quality of your pet’s home life.Other Resources:
Train A Dog Save A Warrior (TADSAW)
Big Paws Canine Foundation
10 Dog Breed Myths
Revealing the truth behind these common misconceptions.
By Audrey Pavia
Urban legend isn’t limited only to stories about Bigfoot and Pop Rocks. A number of dog breeds have also fallen victim to rumors that have spread like wildfire through the years. Here’s a look at 10 myths about dog breeds and the truth behind the rumors.
It’s hard to know how this rumor started. It could be because of the Irish Setter’s puppyish, clown-like nature. Not serious and stoic like some sporting breeds, the Irish Setter likes to goof around. The truth is that Irish Setters are intelligent dogs bred to work closely with hunters out in the field.
Not surprisingly, people think that because Greyhounds are famous for their talents on the racetrack, they need a lot of exercise. The truth is that Greyhounds are actually couch potatoes who prefer to cuddle up on the sofa than run around digging up the backyard. Although they love long walks, Greyhounds actually make great house dogs.
Although Rottweilers were bred to be guard dogs, they are also very trainable and affectionate. They are not mean by nature, as some people believe, and like any dog, make wonderful companions if they are properly trained and socialized. Although a Rottweiler will give off a ferocious bark when protecting his territory, a well-socialized Rottweiler will greet strangers with a wagging tail once his owner lets him know guests are welcome.
Some people are under the impression that Pugs just want to lay around the house all day. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although by no means hyper, Pugs are active and happy members of the family, and are often underfoot, looking for the next adventure. Even though they aren’t bred for jogging alongside their human companions, they still enjoy running around the yard chasing a ball or another dog.
Pit Bulls suffer from very bad press, and one of the stories often repeated by those who don’t know better is that these dogs can lock on to a human or other dog during a fight. In truth, Pit Bulls have the same mechanics in their jaws as other dog breeds.
Although dogs such as Siberian Huskies, Chow Chows and American Eskimos might look uncomfortable in the summertime with their long coats, nature has provided them with fur that allows the heat to escape from their bodies when the weather is warm.
As a general rule, this is actually true: Smaller breeds tend to live longer than larger breeds. While a Saint Bernard might only make it to 7 years, a Chihuahua can live to be 14 or more.
Although Shelties might look like small Collies, they are actually a completely separate breed. The American Kennel Club recognizes the Sheltie and the Collie as two distinctly different dogs, both with inborn instincts to herd livestock.
Jack Russell Terriers are busy dogs with a lot of energy, but they aren’t hyperactive. While they do need lots of exercise, more than anything, Jack Russells need something to occupy their minds. Interactive toys and playtime with their human companions usually fit the bill.
As odd as this may sound, it’s actually true; Labs do have webs between their toes. This feature was bred into the Lab to help him swim, as the breed was originally created to retriever downed waterfowl. Labs can also use their tails as rudders when they are swimming.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.
It’s Pet Dental Health Month
Pet Bad breathe isn’t the only thing that improves with proper oral care.
By Lisa King
The condition of your dog’s teeth and gums affects not only whether his breath is stinky or not; poor dental health can influence his quality of life and even his life expectancy. Although cavities are relatively rare in dogs, they can suffer from plaque and tartar buildup, gingivitis and periodontal disease just like people. These in turn can cause painful gums, loose teeth and bone loss.
Periodontal disease can be very serious; bacteria and toxins from diseased gums can enter the dog’s blood stream and be carried to the organs. The brain, heart, liver and kidneys are the most likely organs to be affected. These toxins and bacteria can cause inflammation and infections in the organs, leading to permanent organ damage or even death.
It’s your responsibility as a dog owner to keep your pet healthy by caring for his teeth to prevent these painful and dangerous conditions. Ideally, this means brushing them every day.
This might sound like a tall order if your dog is not used to it. The trick is to get him accustomed to brushing. If he’s a puppy it will be easier, but an older dog can also be taught to tolerate tooth-brushing. Start by massaging the outside of his mouth for 30 seconds or so a couple of times a day. When he’s used to this, try massaging his teeth and gums. Let him lick a little doggie toothpaste off your finger.Never use human toothpaste.
When he will accept this type of touching calmly, get him a doggie toothbrush, either one that looks like a smaller human toothbrush or one that fits over your finger. Apply toothpaste and move the brush in small circular motions, lifting up his lip as you work around his mouth. If he gets impatient, you can skip cleaning the inside surface—most of the tartar buildup is on the outside of the teeth.
Another tool in your dental arsenal is the chew toy. Hard rubber, rawhide and rope chew toys help keep your dog’s teeth clean and his jaws strong, as well as relieving stress. You can also purchase dental treats that are designed to clean tartar off a dog’s teeth and dental rinses that you can put in your dog’s water. But as with people, there’s no substitute for regular brushing.
A well-balanced dry food is less likely to cause tartar buildup than wet food, and human food is worst of all when it comes to your dog’s dental health, so keep table-scrap treats to a minimum.
It is important that your veterinarian checks your dog’s teeth regularly. She will need to handle issues such as cysts under the tongue or tumors in the mouth. Between vet visits, be on the lookout for bad breath, increased drooling, loose teeth and swollen or inflamed gums (the tissue is red instead of pink). An apparent loss of appetite can be caused by painful teeth or gums. Any of these can indicate that your dog has a dental problem and should see the vet.
If you haven’t been taking care of your dog’s dental health or if he is simply an older dog, he might have developed tooth or gum disease. If so, it’s time for a professional deep cleaning. Your vet will need to anesthetize your dog so she can do a thorough job, including cleaning under the gum line. She will also X-ray your dog’s mouth to ensure the roots of his teeth are healthy. This procedure can cost hundreds of dollars, but it can make your dog pain-free and add years to his life.
The best approach to maintaining your dog’s dental health is prevention. Start as early as you can to brush his teeth and check the condition of his teeth and gums. Provide him with a good diet and plenty of chew toys and dental treats. Take him in for regular vet visits. A dog with a healthy mouth is a happier, healthier dog.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”
Living in an Electronic World
How to automate your home for pets.
By Stacy Mantle
There is no better evidence of our arrival in the golden age of computing than the introduction of electronics in the pet industry. Home automation is the name of the game in 2014 and it seems as though everyone is entering this field.
While I would never advocate spending less time with pets, those of you who must deal with long days at the office or a particularly bad rush hour will be relieved to know your pets are comfortable, fed and secure in the comfort of your home as they wait your arrival. Here is a look at a few of my favorite new electronic products available for pets and people.
Two of my favorites are the Samsung Pet Cam and the Motorola Scout 1500 Digital Wireless Video Pet Monitor. Both offer infrared monitoring for anytime viewingand can be used from your phone, computeror tablet. The Motorola Scout allows you to control the camera with nearly perfect 360® vision. The Samsung has slightly better night vision, but doesn’t allow you to move the camera around remotely. Both are excellent selections for any home monitoring. The apps are free and easy to download and use.
Automated Pet Feeders
You want to make sure your pets are fed at the proper time each day, but occasionally traffic or work makes that impossible. Your pets wont’ have to wait anymore; now you can control feeding time with your phone.
The Wireless Whiskers automatic feeder monitors the diets and feeding levels of up to eight pets. Each animal wears a small chip and the feeding doors automatically open or close, depending on the animal’s individual feeding requirements.
Automated Pet Doors
PetSafe is known for its excellent use of technology, and its automated pet doors are some of the best we’ve seen. This custom pet door essentially gives your pets the decision to come in or go out. Using RFID technology, the door reads the special chip on your pet’s collar and allows him to enter at will. This is especially valuable for dogs who “steal” food from other pets (or raid litterboxes). By installing an extra door flap in your cat’s room, you can offer full access to your cat while keeping your dog out of the room. The SmartKey™ can detect up to five programmed SmartKeys and operates in two locked or unlocked modes.
Remote Potty Training
Train ‘n Praise is another new product from PetSafe. Using a special treat dispenser and moisture-detecting “pee pad”,the automatic dispenser offers your pet a treat when it senses moisture on the pad—the moisture is trapped in the lowest layer. The remote training device protects your floors and rewards your dog for using the pad correctly.
Nearly anything in the home can be automated these days and as they become more advanced, so do pet products. A home’s ambient temperature can be controlled from your phone, energy consumption can be monitored, lights can be turned on and off, doors can be remotely locked or unlocked.
Security companies are now offering extra coverage for homes and special features for pets. Take some time to explore the many features available for even the oldest of homes. You’ll probably be surprised to learn what your smart phone is capable of doing!
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com
This article was written by Steven Appelbaum and featured in the Professional Pet Sitter – Winter Publication 2013-2014 – Published by NAPPS.
Choosing the Right Breed of Dog for Your Family
The topic of which breeds of dogs are the best breeds is always guaranteed
to stir up healthy debate. Why? Most people have breed preferences. As
a dog trainer for more than 30 years, I can say without reservation that
it is important to remember that each dog is an individual, regardless of
its breed. I have seen some breeds not normally considered suitable for
small children act as perfect pets and companions, while others that are
very commonly considered great choices for kids were absolutely not okay
around them. I do not say this to cause confusion, but to educate all readers
about the necessity of taking a few other precautions when bringing a dog
into a family with small children.
Whenever possible, you should observe the puppy’s mother and father. Are they friendly and sociable around kids? Granted, temperament is also influenced by environment, but at least some of a puppy’s disposition is inherited. This is why it pays to see how mom and dad interact as well.
As a huge proponent of rescues, I feel it is very possible that you can adopt
a wonderful dog that turns out to be a fabulous companion for your children. Getting a puppy at 8- to 10-weeks of age enables you to create the experiences that will shape his personality. Although puppy-hood can be trying, getting a young dog is the best way to ensure (as much as anyone can ensure behavior) that his personality develops into the child-loving, good-natured companion you desire.
Remember that a dog’s breed is not a guarantee of the dog’s behavior. Whether you get a puppy or an older dog, it is important to observe his or her behavior prior to adoption or purchase. Is the dog fearful or skittish? Is the dog comfortable being handled? Is he/she friendly without being insanely rambunctious? You are looking for a dog that is very comfortable around people, one that is not fazed by sudden movements or being touched or hugged.
Basically, you need a dog that will not react negatively to the types of behavior the average small child will engage in with his or her dog. Here is a very short list (by no means complete) of some excellent breeds for small children.
Labs are wonderful, friendly dogs. They are usually eager to please and
tolerant of the sort of handling little tykes so often dole out. They are sturdy too, which is important with small kids. You will need to train the dog so he or she learns to be gentle and not knock the kids over out of sheer joy and exuberance.
They are very similar to Labs, although in my experience sometimes a bit calmer. They do shed a bit more than Labs.
I will admit to being a bit biased on the topic of Bassets. I have “been owned” by them for the past few decades. That said, my preference is based on experience. Bassets are often islands of calm, which is nice when the kids are bouncing off the walls. They tolerate the roughest treatment with a shrug and tail wag. They are goofy, friendly, wonderful dogs. A downside is they sometimes have a pretty distinctive hound smell, which is not for everyone. Still, these are amazing kid-friendly dogs. One other thing: they can get bigger than a lot of people realize. Males can weigh 85-plus pounds, making them a handful.
Strange choice? Not really. These gentle giants are great kid dogs. They are calm, loving, and infinitely tolerant. The only things to understand about the breed are 1) They often don’t live very long, only 8 to 11 years, and 2) they shed—and drool. Plus, well, they are huge, which poses its own challenges. Still, if you are looking for a lot of dog that is great with kids, this can be a very wise choice.
This is a good pick for children or parents with allergies. Poodles are highly intelligent and friendly, have good temperaments, and are good with children. Standard poodles are sturdy dogs who can withstand a fair amount of rough kiddie treatment. I have always liked this breed and over the years have seen numerous families with these dogs.
You will notice I did not pick any smaller breeds — bichon frise, cocker spaniels, etc. In my experience, the average one- to four-year-old child is, by his or her very nature, too rough for smaller breeds. It is better to choose a larger dog that can deal with small children’s normal behavior than delude yourself into thinking you will be able to monitor their interaction and thus keep everyone safe. Remember there is risk for the dog as well as the child.
Again, remember that every dog is an individual and if you are introducing a dog into a home with children, you should do research before you choose the right dog for your family.
Eliminating Your Pet’s Wintertime Blues
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in dogs and cats, too.
By Stacy Mantle
People aren’t the only ones susceptible to wintertime blues. “PDSA (The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) found that approximately 40 percent of dog owners saw a considerable downturn in their pet’s moods during the winter months,” reported Psychology Today.
Symptoms in pets typically manifest as behavioral changes such as inappropriate soiling, aggression, lethargy and separation anxiety.
Pets are just as likely to become depressed during winter as their people, according to Mary Lee Nitschke, professor of psychology at Linfield College in Oregon,
“If your healthy dog or cat becomes lethargic or loses interest in everyday activities, [he or she]may be suffering from a simple lack of stimulation,” Nitschke said.
Melatonin and serotonin are the two hormones responsible for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
“The pineal gland is light sensitive and melatonin is usually secreted at night in darkness—the production of melatonin is actually inhibited when light hits the retina,” said Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C.“So in response to low-light conditions found in the winter more melatonin would be produced.This causes tiredness in people, which means it could likely cause the same in dogs or cats.”
If you find your dog is begging for extra treats in winter, it could well be due to a lack of serotonin. As humans, we “self-medicate” with foods such as chocolate or sugar-based snacks, all of which release serotonin in our brains.
“In the brain, serotonin affects appetite, mood and sleep,” Coren said. “Low levels of serotonin are also known to have a distinct effect on the mood of people and animals.”
Sunlight is necessary for the production of serotonin, which is why we often seek out warmer locales for our vacations and why a dog or cat may be found napping in a single ray of sunlight.
Shorter days mean less light and that can create problems for pets.
“Give pets extra light during the winter months,” Nitschke said. “Light is intimately tied to the functioning of the pituitary and endocrine glands, and can stimulate the body to release hormones that have an uplifting effect on mood. Just a half hour a day on a sunny back porch or window perch may do the trick.”
Special lighting, including “full spectrum” and “daylight” bulbs, are also encouraged for people and pets. Sun rooms, which help to focus the sun’s rays, are also popular among those in colder climates. Max Marvin, owner of Pawsitive Lighting, has even developed a light box to help conquer those wintertime blues.
Perhaps the best solution to SAD is exercise.
“Even a walk around the block releases endorphins,” Nitschkesaid
While walking is excellent for those who can get outdoors, it’s difficult if you’re snow-bound. There are other solutions, including treadmills specifically designed for pets, like those from PetZen. And adding a K9FITVest with weights helps tire a dog out more quickly.
It’s important to keep your pet mentally and physically engaged during winter. Even if it’s just selecting a new smart toy to implement at feeding time or taking a new route during walks, doing so can help stimulate your pet’s brain and result in increased activity levels.
Specialized toys and equipment can help you and your pet ramp up on endorphins during the cold winter. Try integrating instability training to keep dogs focused, balanced and flexible. You can view an entire line of products devoted to this type of training at DogTread.com, and it’s perfect for athletic dogs, too.
Balancing Acts: Teaching your dog to balance on specially designed exercise equipment can help focus him on the task at hand.
Doga: Master the relaxing art of dog and cat yoga by stretching with your four-legged friends. Yoga is a great way to relax yourself and your pets. Try downward facing dog, pigeon poses or anything that looks doable. Be sure to avoid overexertion and never try any complex poses without guidance from a qualified Doga instructor.
Scavenger Hunts:For some breeds, nothing gets their minds off the weather as a good hunt. Try placing small treats and favorite toys in various areas of the house that might not have been explored as actively as before. Start off easy with one placed under the bed and then move into more complex searches. You might just find you have a future search-and-rescue or scent dog on your hands.
Teach them a New Trick: Dogs love to learn and the lull between hurricane walls is a great time to encourage them with a simple task; Teach (or re-teach) your dog to shake or fetch. While disasters are not an optimal time for animals to learn, a simple activity can help them relax by getting their minds off the danger at hand—and it will prove distracting for you as well. Start with something simple (such as“Sit”) and then move into the more complex tricks that only time and willingness can conquer.
Spa-Day: Master the art of relaxation even while it’s storming outside. Massage is known to release endorphins and increases beta-endorphins in plasma, which encourages healing. Try some simple relaxation massages by sitting next to your pet and gently massaging his paws, neck and shoulders.
About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of Pets Weekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at www.StacyMantle.com
Keep your pets warm, dry and healthy.
By Lisa King
Right now much of the East Coast and Midwest is suffering record cold. We’re all familiar with the dangers this kind of weather poses for people, but pets are even more vulnerable. A simple rule to follow in extreme cold is to keep your pets inside with you as much as possible. Here are some tips to keep dogs and cats safe.
- Cats should be kept inside all the time, but especially in very cold weather. They tend to seek shelter when it’s cold, and can crawl into dumpsters or other spaces and become trapped. They can also suffer frostbite or hypothermia, become lost or freeze to death.
- Your dog’s susceptibility to the cold depends on many factors, including age, health, length of coat, breed and weight. If you have a healthy Alaskan Malamute or Siberian Husky, he will love an occasional frolic in the snow. Small, thin or shorthaired dogs feel the cold much more acutely and should wear dry doggie coats or sweaters and possibly booties when venturing outside. These sorts of dogs should go out only to relieve themselves when temperatures fall below zero. Very young or very old pets and pets with chronic illnesses cannot regulate their body temperatures as well as healthy adult dogs. Hypothermia and frostbite on feet, ears or tailcan affect any pet.
- When you do take your dog outside in the cold, stay with him. On walks, keep him on leash at all times. Dogs can lose their way in the snow because scents they depend on to find their way home are muffled. Make sure your dog has a current ID tag on his collar and has been microchipped. Don’t let your dog walk on frozen water, such as a pond or lake. If he falls through the ice he might die of hypothermia.If he gets wet, use a blow dryer or towel to dry him.
- If your dog must stay outside for any length of time, provide plenty of unfrozen fresh water. A heated water dish comes in handy. Also provide a sturdy shelter with soft bedding, such as straw. Make sure the floor is raised off the ground and that the door faces away from the wind. A door flap will help him retain heat.
- If your dog begins shivering or whining, or otherwise appears to be in distress, get him inside immediately and warm him up.If symptoms persist, contact your veterinarian.
- If you plug in a space heater or light a fire, don’t leave pets near them unattended. Use screens in front of all fireplaces.
- Antifreeze is very toxic to pets and de-icing salts and other chemicals can get on your dog’s feet and cause irritation. Clean his feet after he comes in from a walk.
- Cold weather is just as dangerous as hot weather to a dog left in a car. A parked car can turn into an icebox after too long in freezing temperatures.
- If you park your car outside, check under the hood and make plenty of noise before starting it to make sure no feral or other outdoor cats have sought out the warmth of the engine.
- Never shave a long-haired dog or cat in cold weather. It may be easier to groom a shaved Persian cat, but she needs her fur to keep warm. Brush your long-haired pet’s coat regularly to prevent mats. If your dog has longish hair between his paw pads, trim it to reduce snow and ice buildup.
- Make sure all your pets have warm, draft-free places to sleep. Pet supply stores carry heated mats and beds that your dog or cat will appreciate when temperatures are low. Arthritis is aggravated by the cold, so a warm, soft bed can help an arthritic pet stay comfortable.
As the arctic blast that is slamming most of the U.S. recedes and temperatures rise to a more typical winter range, you and your dog can spend more time outside enjoying the snowy landscape. But please leave Kitty indoors.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”
How to keep your canines happy during wintertime romps.
By Audrey Pavia
Snow has been plentiful so far this winter, which is good news for dogs who romp in the white stuff. Not only is playing in the snow fun for dogs, but it also helps get rid of excess energy.
Before you bring your dog outside to run in the snow, take some precautions. Snow and cold weather can be hazardous to your dog’s health if you’re not careful.Frostbite is a distinct danger for most dogs’ ears, and snow and ice can cause plenty of discomfort on bare paws. It can also reduce traction, causing your dog to slip and fall.
The best ways to protect your dog during snowy weather include the following:
• Keep nails clipped. The shorter your dog’s nails, the less likely he’ll be to slip on the snow and have ice buildup in his paws. You should have your dog’s nails clipped regularly anyway to help him maintain healthy paws. If his nails are overgrown, cut or grind them yourself, or have it done by your groomer or veterinarian.
• Trim paw hair. If your dog grows a lot of hair between the pads of his paws, take a pair of scissors and cut the hair so it’s even with his pads. This will help attract less snow and ice to his foot. Be careful not to cut your dog’s pads as you are trimming. Make sure your dog is comfortable having his feet handled before you attempt this. If your dog struggles, ask your groomer or veterinarian for assistance.
• Try dog boots. If your dog still has trouble with ice and snow building up in his paw pads, consider rubber or nylon dog boots. These will protect his feet while he walks through snow. If possible, take your dog with you to the pet store when you buy the boots so you can try them on to make sure they fit. It will also give you a chance to see if your dog will actually wear them. Some dogs won’t tolerate boots and will pull them off. Expect your dog to walk funny the first time he wears them. In time, he should get used to the feeling of having something on his feet.
•Dress him warmly. If you have a shorthaired dog, a toy breed with not much hair, an older dog, a young puppy or a dog with health issues, consider dressing him in a sweater or coat before you take him out to play in the snow. If your dog plays rough-and-tumble in the white stuff, check the garment periodically to make sure it’s not soaking wet.
• Give breaks.To avoid frostbite, give your dog plenty of breaks when he’s out in the snow. Have him come inside to warm up for a bit before you let him go back out to play. Keep an eye on the tips of his ears, since these are most sensitive to developing a problem. If your dog’s skin begins to turn pale and feel cold to the touch, get him indoors right away. If the skin becomes red and swollen after it warms up, take your dog to a veterinarian right away for treatment of frostbite.
About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visitwww.audreypavia.com
Holiday Safety Tips
Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holidays
By Lisa King
In my last column, I outlined how to keep your dog safe at Thanksgiving. The concerns at this American holiday are mostly about food, but Christmas offers a whole new set of dangers for dogs and cats. When making decorating decisions this season, keep your pets’ safety in mind. Here are some guidelines to follow.
A lot of your precautions will depend on the personalities of your pets.
- How well-trained is your dog?
- Is he food-motivated?
- Is your cat a jumper and climber?
- Is she likely to try to climb the tree and knock off ornaments?
In any case, place your Christmas tree in a corner to reduce its accessibility to pets. Secure it to the ceiling or a high curtain rod with string or fishing line so your pets can’t knock it over. Move furniture away from the tree so cats can’t use themas launching pads to jump on the tree. If possible, put the tree in a room with a door so you can shut pets out when you leave the house. You can also put a folding gate around the tree to keep dogs away from it— of course; your cat will just scoff at this barrier.
When trimming the tree, leave a foot or two at the bottom of the tree undecorated. Don’t use edible ornaments; chocolate, candy canes, and popcorn and cranberry garlands can be tempting to dogs especially. Hold the tinsel—if swallowed, it can cause serious intestinal problems. Fake snow and flocking are toxic to pets as well. Use mostly unbreakable ornaments if you can. Sparkly, glittery ornaments are very appealing to cats. Don’t leave ornament hooks where pets can swallow them. Clean up any broken ornaments promptly.
Why Candles May Not Be Safe for Cats
Never put real candles on a tree. In fact, be careful where you put any candles. Don’t put them where a cat can knock them over. Don’t leave pets unattended in a room with lit candles; when you leave the room, blow them out. Make sure your fireplace has a sturdy screen that keeps pets from getting too close.
Keep the area around the tree vacuumed. Both real and fake pine needles can perforate intestines. Use a large, sturdy tree stand and cover it up, since the water inside contains pine resin and possibly flame retardant and other chemicals.
If your cat tries to climb the tree, put foil around the bottom of it and wrap some foil around the base of the tree. Cats dislike walking on foil.
Many other holiday plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Mistletoe; holly; amaryllis, narcissus, and other plants that grow from bulbs; and to a lesser extent, poinsettia, are all on the verboten list. Keep these plants out of your dog’s reach. If you have a cat, keeping things out of reach is more problematic, so perhaps you should forego buying these plants all together.
Pet Safety When Wrapping Gifts
When you wrap packages, shut your pets out of the room. If a dog or cat swallows a ribbon, your vet might have to remove it surgically. Pets can also run into trouble around bits of wrapping paper, Styrofoam and sharp scissors. Put the presents under the tree at the last moment so your pets aren’t tempted to explore them. Empty cardboard boxes, however, make fine playthings for cats.
After you’ve opened presents, clean up all paper and ribbons right away. Small gifts like toys and jewelry that a pet might swallow should be put away quickly, too.
If you have guests over, make sure purses and coats are in a room inaccessible to pets. Dogs have been known to root around in purses and take out vials of medicine.
The best way to ensure a safe holiday for all involved is to think ahead of time about your pets’ safety and take appropriate precautions. A new Christmas toy or two can also provide a distraction and a reward for good behavior.
About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea.”