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Does Wintertime Blues Effect Your Pet?

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.

It’s Hormonal

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.

Lighting

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.

Exercise

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.

New Activities

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

Sources:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/canine-corner/201301/do-dogs-have-winter-blues-or-suffer-sad

http://www.annarbor.com/pets/pets-dogs-cats-animals-sun-winter-light-sol-box-pawsitive-lighting/

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2012/12/prweb10253795.htm

Cold-Weather Safety for Pets

Cold-Weather Safety

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.”

Is Your Dog A Snow Dog?

Snow Dogs

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

Holiday Safety Tips

Keeping Your Pets Safe During the Holidays

By Lisa King

Dog & Cat Safety for Pets During The Holidays

Few cats can resist the temptation of shiny, dangling ornaments.

 

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.”

Can Your Dog Herd?

Can Your Dog Herd?

By Audrey Pavia

AKC Herding Dog Breeds

If your dog has what it takes, you could train him to compete in herding trials.

 

Ever notice your dog trying to round up the kids while they are playing in the backyard, or move the cats around the kitchen in an orderly manner? If so, your dog is exhibiting more than just weird behavior. Depending on his ancestry, he might be letting you know that he has a good dose of herding instinct in his blood.

Thanks to two organizations devoted to preserving dogs’ natural working instincts, you might be able to find out if your dog has what it takes to herd more than just kids and cats: he might be able to learn to herd livestock.
In the days when the majority of dog breeds were being developed, agriculture was the way most dog-owning families earned a living. Farmers and ranchers needed the help of their dogs to manage an assortment of livestock, from ducks to horses. As a result of this early breeding, a vast number of dogs still possess the herding instinct that was bred into them generations ago.

To see if your dog has the inborn ability to herd and has the potential for advanced training, have his herding instinct tested. Not only it is fun to watch your dog’s instincts really kick in the first time he’s asked to work sheep or ducks, but you might decide to train him for competition, which can be loads of fun.

Herding Dog Breeds

The American Kennel Club, which registers purebred dogs, has designated 51 breeds as having herding instincts. Any AKC-registered dog from one of these breeds is eligible to be AKC herding-instinct tested. These breeds include the Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherd, Bearded Collie, Belgian Tervuren, Bernese Mountain dog, Border Collie, Boxer, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Collie, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Old English Sheepdog, Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Rottweiler, Samoyed, Shetland Sheep dog and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier, among many others.

AKC Herding Test for Dog Breeds

At an AKC-sanctioned herding test, your dog will enter a pen with a tester and some livestock, usually sheep or ducks. The judge will let your dog interact with the livestock, gauging how he handles them. For a dog to pass a herding instinct test, he must show an interest in the livestock without being aggressive, and must show a propensity for driving and fetching the animals.

After your dog is tested, you’ll be given a card with the judge’s comments on your dog’s natural instincts. The card will indicate whether your dog passed or failed.

If your dog passes the test, you’ll receive a certificate from the American Kennel Club in the mail. You can then take your dog’s herding abilities even further by training him to work.

Registering A Herding Dog with the AKC

If your dog is not registered with the AKC, is not a breed considered eligible for herding testing with AKC or is a mixed breed, you can still have his herding instinct tested. The American Herding Breeds Association (AHBA) provides herding capability tests to all dogs, designed to determine whether a dog has the instinct to herd livestock. Dogs who have shown to have the needed instinct can go on to be trained for competitive AHBA events.

For more information on herding instinct testing and herding competitions, visit the AKC at www.akc.org or the AHBA at ahba-herding.org.


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.

 

Pet Safety During the Holidays – Keep Your Dog Safe on Thanksgiving

Keep Your Dog Safe at Thanksgiving

By following a few rules, you can prevent an emergency trip to the vet for your animals.

By Lisa King

Keep Your Dog Safe on Thanksgiving

Pet Safety During the Holidays

During the holidays, especially on Thanksgiving, which is food-focused, keep in mind that although canines and humans area both omnivores, their digestions and dietary requirements are very different. Those roasted pearl onions you love can make your dog anemic. Your favorite chocolate cream pie will make her very sick. And cooked poultry bones can splinter and cause abdominal perforations.

Canines do have something in common with sharks, however. Most dogs will eat pretty much anything. My sister has found everything from wine corks to rubber bands to Legos in her Chesapeake Bay Retriever’s poop. When the dog ate a bunch of grapes and half an onion left on the counter, the vet had to induce vomiting. If your dog is a land shark like this, you must be extra vigilant at Thanksgiving if you want to avoid spending the day at the emergency vet clinic. Here are some tips to keep her safe:

  • Make sure your kitchen garbage container has a tight-filling lid. There are plenty of tempting morsels being thrown away this time of year—yummy stuff like turkey bones and skin that your dog would love to get at.
  • Carefully dispose of all the plastic bags, clips,and ties that the turkey came in; they smell of meat and are very appealing to dogs.
  • Don’t put appetizers on low coffee tables. A dining table, counter or something of similar height should be safe, unless you own a large dog. In any case, don’t leave food unattended.
  • Exercise and feed your dog on her normal schedule. Take a long walk before guests arrive so she’s tired out and not too active.
  • Buy her a new and interesting toy—perhaps one you can fill with treats—to keep her happy while you eat your Thanksgiving feast.
  • When guests are coming and going, be sure your dog can’t run out the door.
  • Put her bed in a quiet room where she can retreat if the party gets to be too much for her.
  • Ask your guests not to feed your dog human food, no matter how adorable she is when she begs. Provide safe treats that guests can give her.
  • Put leftovers away in the fridge promptly. If you’re in a postprandial stupor, you might not pay attention to what your dog is scavenging off the table.
  • Keep decorations out of your dog’s reach. Wreaths, bunting, scented candles, decorative gourds and small pumpkins are all tempting to a curious dog.
  • Many types of flowers are poisonous to dogs. Keep arrangements well out of reach.

Here are some holiday no-nos that are either toxic, too fatty or otherwise dangerous to your dog:

  • Xylitol or other artificial sweeteners
  • Chocolate
  • Onions, garlic, shallots, or other members of the allium family
  • Butter, turkey skin, or other fats
  • Raw turkey
  • Cooked poultry bones
  • Uncooked bread dough
  • Raw fish
  • Raw eggs
  • Foods with lots of herbs
  • Gravy
  • Corn on the cob
  • Marshmallows
  • Grapes and raisins
  • All alcoholic beverages
  • Coffee, tea or anything else with caffeine in it

Your dog can have a few treats on the big day. It’s OK for her to have small amounts of these foods:

  • Turkey meat
  • Plain mashed white potatoes
  • Plain sweet potatoes
  • Plain green beans
  • Plain carrots
  • Plain loose corn
  • Cranberry sauce (if it’s not too sweet)
  • Pumpkin pie (hold the whipped cream)

If you want to give her a bit of turkey, put a few pieces of well-cooked skinless, boneless white meat on top of her regular food.Do the same with small amounts of the other allowed foods. Whatever you do, don’t feed her from the table. That will encourage her to beg at dinner every night.


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.”

Wintertime Indoor Fun for Dogs

Wintertime Indoor Fun

Entertainment options abound for dogs—and their owners.

By Stacy Mantle

Indoor fun for dogs - Dog Treadmill

Winter is nearly upon us and for many that means making adjustments in order to keep our pets safe and warm during the colder winter months. Here are several indoor activities that can help keep cabin fever at bay.

Teach Dogs New Tricks

Winter is a great time to hone your training skills. Not only does training provide mental stimulation for your pets, it helps cement the bond with your dog and gives you both something to focus on besides going outside. If you’ve thought about implementing clicker training, this is a great time to start.

Puzzle Toys for Pups

Puzzle toys are a fantastic way to keep a dog’s mind engaged, which tires them out more quickly. These types of toys also encourage sedentary dogs to become more active, even when left alone. Interactive toys range from squirrel trees to puzzle boxes, and the rewards can vary from plush toys to pet treats (be sure to use a low-cal treat). There is really a toy for every activity level, so do a search—you might be surprised by what you find.

Make Feeding Time Fun

Make feeding time more interesting with an interactive pet feeder. These feeders engage pets’ primal instincts by allowing them to “hunt” for their food. Interactive feeders, such as those available from Nina Ottoson or Aikiou, keep dogs interested during mealtime while decreasing their eating rate—something that is physically and emotional important.

Treadmills for Pets

You may not think of your dog as the “running” type, but she may just surprise you. Winter provides a great opportunity for implementing interval training into your dog’s workout. Dog Tread carries a wide selection of treadmills designed especially for pets. If you’re in an area where rain and snow prevail, this is probably the system for you. To step up the power level, try adding a K9 FIT Vest™, which comes with various sized weights that you add or decrease as your dog gets in shape. 

Building up Balance for the Pet’s Body & Mind

The best way to tire out your dog is to engage her mentally and physically. Balance balls can do the trick.Sometimes referred to thera-balls, exercise balls, fitness balls, gymnastics balls or Swiss balls;these are a great tool for working on balance, core strengthening and endurance. If you have an agility dog, this is going to be an especially valuable activity for your pet. Best of all; it can all be done indoors (under proper supervision, of course). Dog Tread carries a wonderful line of balance toys for pets, as does Fit Paws USA, and there are other companies that offer innovative balance equipment for pets. 

Experiment in the Kitchen

If you’re as bored as your dog during the cold and dark winter months, consider experimenting with some new recipes. There are many great ways to integrate leftover holiday food (such as pumpkin puree or turkey) into recipes that are healthy and easy to make.

Scavenger Hunts for Dogs

Scavenger hunts can be entertaining for you and your human kids, as well as your pets. This is very easy game to set up. Simply put your dog outside or in another room while you “hide” the treats around the house. Start out with easy hides (such as in the corner of a room), then move into the “high value” hides (under a box or the couch). Be careful you don’t inadvertently enforce bad habits while playing. Hide treats and toys only in areas where your dog is allowed.

Doga (Dog Yoga)

There is nothing more relaxing in winter than a morning yoga session. You can integrate your dog into this healthy routine by simply encouraging her to participate. Practice simple stretches together and when your pet lies down for a rest, use the time to interact with her—it will help make your own morning yoga that much more valuable as petting animals has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease stress.

Grooming the Pet

A grooming session can do wonders for your pet when the cold, dry air of winter is taking its toll on her skin. Consider purchasing some pet-friendly Bath Salts from DERMagic for a gentle exfoliating scrub that will remove dandruff and help loosen dry skin, preparing it for an invigorating shampoo. This is not only great for your pets, but will help keep you warm and relaxed during the cold winter days.


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

Providing Quality Care for Your Senior Dog

Happy, Healthy and Old

Providing quality care for your senior dog is easier than you think.

By Audrey Pavia

Caring for Senior Dogs - Old Dogs need extra love

Nothing illustrates the quick passage of time more than watching your dog grow old. One day he’s a tiny puppy and before you know it, he’s a senior dog.

You want to keep your canine companion around for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to give him the special care senior dogs need. Giving him special consideration can help him stay with you as long as nature will allow.

Vet Care for Senior Dogs

Start by taking your senior dog to the vet for a wellness exam. Small- to medium-sized dogs over the age of 6 years should make yearly visits to the vet for a physical. Larger dogs should start at age 4.

The veterinarian will give your dog a thorough exam, looking into his mouth and eyes, checking his skin and coat, and palpating his abdomen, kidney and other organs. The vet will also perform a blood test that will show whether your dog’s body is functioning properly. This entire exam is important because it might provide early clues to any illness that could be developing. Early detection is the key when it comes to treating older dogs.

In between regular exams, pay close attention to your dog’s behavior. If he stops eating, develops diarrhea that doesn’t pass in a day, is breathing rapidly, acts lethargic or behaves in anyway out of the ordinary, take him to the vet immediately. A host of ailments, ranging from parasites to kidney failure, can take a serious toll on an older dog if you don’t act quickly. Fast intervention is essential with senior dogs, who can succumb quickly to an illness they might have been able to fight off when they were younger.

Quality Food For Dogs

Older dogs sometimes need special diets to help them get the most out of their meals. Consult with your veterinarian to find out what you should be feeding your dog. Also consider giving him a joint supplement containing glucosamine, chondroitin and MSM, since older dogs are prone to arthritis. Other nutriceuticals, such as fish oil and kidney or liver support supplements, might also be in order, depending on the results of your dog’s veterinary exam.

Provide the Pet Good Shelter

Most dogs spend a lot of time outside, sometimes in bad weather. Because of his advancing age, your older dog may have trouble staying warm in the winter and cool in the summer while he’s outdoors. In uncomfortable weather, bring your dog inside to spare him extreme cold or heat.

Physical Help for Older Dogs

Older dogs often have stiff, aching joints and weaker muscles. Give your dog a thick, soft bed to sleep in. Consider raising his food and water dishes up off the ground so he doesn’t have to bend his neck as far to reach them. If your dog is having trouble jumping up into your car or on your bed, lift him, or buy or make him a ramp.

Extra Attention

Just because your dog is old doesn’t mean he doesn’t need stimulation. Take him for walks, or give him a light job to do around the yard (like fetching sticks for you or finding slugs in the garden). If he’s a playful dog, throw a tennis ball to him for a few minutes each day. Not only will the activity help him stay physically fit, it will do wonders for his attitude. It will also help foster the bond between you, which is crucially important to his state of mind as he ages. A happy dog will want to stick around longer.


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.

Save a Life: Adopt a Shelter Dog

Save a Life: Adopt a Shelter Dog

Nothing says love like giving a pet a forever home.

By Lisa King

Tips for Adopt A Shelter Dog Month. Save a life, adopt a shelter dog.

Adopting a dog from a shelter is one of the best things you can do to save pets from euthanasia and enrich your life. Dogs usually end up in shelters through no fault of their own. Foreclosure or other financial hardship, a death in the family, a divorce, a move or any sort of life change can cause perfectly wonderful pets to be put in shelters.

Before you visit your local shelter, decide on the type of dog your family wants. Do you live in an apartment or do you have a big yard? Are you athletic or sedentary? Do you have children? How old are they? Do you already have other pets?

Adopting a puppy is problematic. They are unquestionably very cute and appealing, but it requires a tremendous amount of work to train them correctly and keep them out of trouble. It’s a lot like dealing with a toddler. In addition, you only have a vague idea of how big the puppy will get or what his adult temperament will be, especially if he is a mutt. Adopting an adult dog means most of the tough training has already been done; they are usually housebroken and know how to walk on a leash, they won’t get any bigger and their temperament is readily apparent.

Once you’ve decided on the type of dog you are looking for—large or small, docile or frisky, cuddly or independent—stick with your decision. If need be, take a hard-nosed friend with you to prevent your choosing that affectionate, adorable Saint Bernard mix instead of the lapdog you planned to adopt.

If this is your first dog and you’re not sure how to evaluate dog behavior, ask a knowledgeable dog person to come with you. If you don’t have any dog-savvy friends, hire a qualified animal behavior expert to accompany you to the shelter.

Keep in mind that behavioral problems are magnified in shelters. The dogs are frightened, they don’t get enough sleep and they are often unnerved by overwhelming smells and noises. Spend time alone with your potential dog. Most shelters let you visit with a dog in an area away from the kennels. Often, you can walk the dog around the shelter to see how he reacts to the leash. Look for a dog who is eager for your attention and responds positively to you.

The shelter staff is a great resource for learning about the temperament and energy level of each dog. Also ask about the dog’s history, how he interacts with people and other dogs and if he has any health issues. At a good shelter, the staff will ask you as many questions as you ask them to ensure you are a good match for the dog you want.

Bring all family members to meet the dog you are thinking of adopting. That includes dogs you already own. If you have cats, ask the shelter staff how the dog gets along with them. Most shelters test dogs for compatibility with cats before adopting them out.

If you don’t find Mr. Right on your first visit to the shelter, don’t worry. Sadly, new dogs arrive every day. Check the Internet for new arrivals in your area (Petfinder.com is a good resource, as is BestFriends.org) or return to the shelter periodically.

Don’t buy supplies until you have chosen your dog. Size matters when it comes to food and water bowls, collars and leashes, toys and beds. Also, purchase the same food the dog has been eating in the shelter; you can transition him to a higher-quality food once he gets used to his new home.

Choose a veterinarian before you bring your dog home. Take him in as soon as possible for a checkup. Your dog will most likely be neutered or spayed and be up to date on his shots.

If you’re still unsure of what type of dog you want, volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter. You can even foster a dog to see if he is compatible with your family before making the commitment to adopt him. Chances are, once you bring a dog into your home, you and your family will fall in love with him—forever.


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.”

Safe Halloween for Your Dog

A Safe and Sound Halloween

Tips for a Safe Halloween for your dog

With these precautions, your dog can have a howling good time.

By Audrey Pavia

Halloween is a fun time for kids and grown-ups alike, but it can be scary and even dangerous for pets. You can keep your dog safe this year—and even enjoy his participation—by following some precautions.

Trick-or-treaters can be a real hoot, but all that door-knocking and bell ringing can drive your dog crazy. To prevent your dog from barking all night and stressing out over the strangely clad visitors, consider keeping him in a back room of your house or apartment. Leave a radio or TV on to help block out the noise, and give him something to chew on to divert his attention. If your dog is particularly high-strung, consider administering a dose of a natural calming product to help ease his anxiety. (Rescue Remedy is one such product, available in health food  and pet stores.)

If you won’t be home on Halloween, keep your dog inside the house or locked in a garage while you are away. Dogs can become frightened by all the activity on the street and can escape from a yard. They also need to be protected from pranksters, who might gain access to them from a gate. Turn the lights off in your house so trick-or-treaters will avoid your home in your absence.

If you plan to take your dog trick-or-treating with the family (a good idea only if your pooch is friendly to strangers, well-behaved and not easily stressed), be sure to fit him with a secure collar and ID tag. Keep him on leash at all times for his safety and the safety of others. If he will be wearing a costume, make sure he’s not upset about wearing it and that it’s comfortable. Watch out for strings, straps and any other part of the costume that might restrict your dog’s movement or sight, or wrap tightly around his neck. Keep an eye on your dog while he’s wearing his costume to make sure it doesn’t affect his ability to move. Some dogs will even chew on their costumes and swallow it in pieces, so watch for this dangerous activity as well.

Halloween decorations can also pose a safety hazard for your dog. Keep an eye on your pet to make sure he doesn’t chew on decorations (especially strings of lights) or knock over lit candles. Some dogs have a hankering for pumpkin, so make sure your jack-o-lantern is out of reach. While it won’t seriously hurt your dog to eat an entire pumpkin, it will mostly likely give him digestive upset.

Candy gathered during Halloween can be dangerous to your dog, too, if he gets into it. In large amounts, chocolate can even be fatal. Theobromine, a chemical found in chocolate, can cause serious damage to a dog’s heart. The fat and sugar also present in chocolate can cause pancreatitis if consumed in large quantities. Xylitol, a natural sweetener that is becoming popular in candy, is also highly toxic to dogs. It is often found in gum and some hard candies. For this reason, it’s wise to keep all Halloween candy well out of your dog’s reach. Be sure to remind your children to keep candy up high up in their rooms where your dog can’t reach it.

With the right amount of precautions, your dog will stay safe and sound on Halloween.


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.