Pumpkins, costumes, and scary skeletons - it's October! Here are some tips so that both you and your pets can enjoy the holiday in style.
Photo credit: Mike McCune www.flickr.com
Pumpkins are for more than pie
Did you know that pets can enjoy eating pumpkin right along with you? It is a healthy addition to food for many pets. Dogs, cats, parrots, many reptiles, rabbits, and small mammals can all benefit from pumpkin.
August 15 was National Check the Chip Day, so this month we're writing to remind you about the best way to increase your chances of finding your pet if he or she ever gets lost.
What is a microchip, anyway?
Do microchips work?
Yes! A study of stray animals at animal shelters showed that microchipped dogs were more than twice as likely to be returned to their owners as dogs without chips. Cats with microchips were 21 times as likely to be returned to their owners as cats without chips! But even so, more than half of microchipped dogs and cats were never reunited with their owners because the contact information in the database was missing or out of date.
Is your pet’s microchip information up to date? Use the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup to check and see which company your pet’s chip is registered with – then contact the company and make sure they have your correct contact information. http://www.petmicrochiplookup.org/
July 15 is National Pet Fire Safety Day. Every year, nearly 1000 home fires are started in the United States by a household pet. The most common cause is a dog or cat jumping up on a gas stove and turning the knob, igniting whatever is on the stove. One of our own clients suffered this tragedy a couple years ago when his basset hound jumped on the stove to get to a bag of kibble. The firefighters were able to resuscitate the basset, but another dog in the home died in the fire and the house was destroyed.
2. Protect the stove
Use the child-proofing knob covers or remove the knobs of gas stoves so that a pet can't accidentally turn the knob and start a fire. Also, make sure that there is nothing left on top of the stove that could burn should the burner accidentally light.
3. Beware of glass water bowls on wooden decks
It sounds crazy, but if the sunlight hits a wooden bowl in just the right way it can act like a magnifying glass, potentially setting fire to the wood underneath it. This also applies to any outdoor glass ornaments or mirrors that could focus the sun's rays. Use ceramic or stainless steel bowls instead.
When you're not home:
Keep young pets confined so they can't get into trouble and are easy to find in case of emergency.
Consider leaving pets in rooms close to the entrances/exits of the home so they're easy to rescue. Ideally, your pets should stay in a part of the home with 2 exits so that they are less likely to be trapped.
Since pets can't escape a burning home on their own, consider monitored smoke alarms so that a company can be alerted if the alarms go off, and the fire department dispatched even when you're not home.
Affix a pet window cling - firefighters must prioritize human lives, but they will usually save pets whenever possible. A window decal with a date and information about the number and type of pets can help rescue personnel be on the alert for your pet family.
Did you know that July 5 is the biggest intake day of the year for animal shelters? Every year the fireworks and celebrations scare dogs and cats and they lose their way. Here are some precautions to make sure your furry friends stay safe at home. All of these tips also apply to pets who are afraid of thunderstorms, too.
1. Keep them secure
All pets should be kept indoors during fireworks, whether they're being exposed to a large municipal show or the backyard noisemakers. It's too easy for a dog or cat to slip a collar, jump a fence, or simply run away when the air is exploding in noise all around them. A quiet basement or a back room away from windows is usually the best place. Provide indoor cats with hiding spots where they can feel safe, and warn children not to try to reach in and try to pet their pal if they've found a dark quiet spot. For outdoor cats, a doghouse or under-deck space usually provides some refuge. Playing music loudly can also decrease the stimulation from the outdoor bangs and pops.
Now is also a great time to double check your pet's microchip - your vet can scan the chip to make sure it works, and you can log in to the manufacturer's database to make sure your contact information is up to date.
3. Supplement for stress
Calming supplements and foods work best when given for several weeks to months, so start now. There can be some effect when given the day of, but the further ahead you start the less panic your pet will feel when the fireworks start. Clinically proven calming foods include Hill's C/D Stress for cats and I/D stress for dogs, and Royal Canin Calm for both cats and dogs.
Supplements Zylkene and Solliquin are both excellent at decreasing anxiety when given daily, and while you may see a change on day 1, they will reach peak effect in 6 weeks. They are based on the milk protein casein, which is one of the factors that promotes relaxation in newborns after nursing.
ProQuiet is a bit less potent than Zylkene and Solliquin, but it's meant to be given several hours before a trigger event instead of every day. It is full of l-tryptophan, the same amino acid that makes us calm after a turkey dinner.
4. Medicate if needed
There's no shame in needing a little more chemical help for our pets. We can't explain to them that the fireworks will be done shortly, and a safe calming medication prevents the wind-up of fear and adrenaline. Talk to your veterinarian about which medication is best for your pet - there are a number of options, and the treatment plan should be made with your pet's specific health status and fear response in mind. Medications used for situational anxiety include diazepam, alprazolam, lorazepam, and sileo. They must be prescribed by a veterinarian, so plan enough time to have your pet seen for an appointment if needed before getting the medication.
So with these strategies, we can help our pets have a calm, safe 4th of July - and maybe weather the summer thunderstorms a little more easily too.
Spring went by in the blink of an eye this year and it's HOT outside. Here are 3 tips to keep your 4-legged friends cool and comfortable - and out of the emergency room.
#1: NEVER - and I mean NEVER EVER - leave your pet in the car
I know you're only running into the store for 1 thing and it'll just take a minute, you promise. Or you just need to sign your kid out from school. But then there's a line at checkout or your kid has to say goodbye to her friend - and your dog has now collapsed in the back seat. Don't believe me? A quick google search finds hundreds of news stories of dogs (and children) killed in cars - including highly trained police K-9's and well-meaning owners who knew the danger, left the a/c running, but still lost their pets when it malfunctioned. Contrary to popular belief, cracking the windows has minimal effect on the temperature inside the car.
Heat stroke is real, and I don't want to treat it this summer. While in the best case we can revive our furry friend, most of the time their organs have shut down and we can't get them back. Too many dogs have died inside cars. Don't let yours join the list.
#2: Provide relief from the heat
Bring dogs and cats inside with you during the heat of the day. If you're enjoying that a/c, chances are your pet will enjoy laying on the vents. When outside, provide shade and plenty of cool water to drink. Many dogs won't drink once their water gets hot, so change the water frequently and use ice cubes to help keep it cool longer. Dogs out on tethers can get tangled and trapped out in the sun, so make sure they are supervised and have access to shade and greenery. Kiddie pools with water and even ice can be a fun backyard water activity for dogs as well as humans.
A note on grooming: unless you own a breed that is routinely shaved, resist the temptation to shave your dog for the summer. Brushing to remove matts and dead hair, including the undercoat in double-coated dogs, allows air to circulate under the guard hairs of the coat and actually keeps your pet cooler than being shaved. It also protects against sunburn. Dogs with sparse fur on their noses or ears can benefit from sunscreen. There are pet-specific products available, or pick a human one with broad spectrum (both UVA and UVB) that does NOT contain zinc. If your dog licks too much of the zinc sunscreen it can cause anemia.
#3: Plan your day around the weather
Snub-nosed dog owners, take heed. Bulldogs, pugs, and Boston terriers are especially susceptible to overheating because of their narrow airways, but any overweight or older pet is also at risk. Take your walks in the early morning or late evening, and avoid exercise in the heat of the day.
Think about the ground - remember the last time you walked barefoot on a hot sandy beach? Asphalt roads and concrete sidewalks can heat up under the summer sun and cause burns to your pup's unprotected feet. Plan for morning excursions before the temperatures get too high, or choose grassy paths that are less likely to be scorching hot.
With these 3 tips, you and your pets can enjoy a safe and active summer. Enjoy!
Unfortunately, there are over 4.5 million dog bites that require medical treatment in the United States each year, and most of the victims are children. Here are a few simple strategies that can help prevent your child or your dog from adding to the statistics.
Young children should never be left unattended with a dog, even a loved family pet. When my daughter was 9 months old she hit our dog on the nose 3 times before I could stop her. 3 times! After the third time Maggie snarled and snapped the air in my daughter's direction and my daughter immediately started crying. If I had not been present to see what happened I would have blamed my dog for what was actually a very restrained response on her part.
Winter temperatures, snow, and ice can pose hazards for our pets. But with a few easy steps you can keep your furry, feathered, or scaley friends safe and comfortable and still get out and enjoy the great outdoors.
1. Dress them up
Small and older dogs will probably want to spend less time outside in the cold weather, so let their behavior guide you on your excursions and return indoors if you see shivering or lifting up their feet. Short-coated animals may appreciate a coat when going outside to play or eliminate. Fleece is a good material that holds warmth and dries quickly, and wool stays warm even when wet. If your dog picks up his feet a lot when outside, try booties. Booties will protect their feet from salt, ice, and snow. Avoid shaving your long-haired pet during the colder months of the year. Instead, let their fur grow to allow them to stay warm in a natural way.
2. Wash Those Pads
During the winter, sidewalks, parking lots, and the streets are often covered in road salt and other chemicals to melt snow. These can irritate the skin of the paws, or cause nausea and mouth sores if licked off. Fur can trap icicles between the toes as well. Wash and dry or wipe off paws with a wet washcloth once you come back inside. You can apply petroleum jelly to your pet’s pawpads if they become dry or cracked.
3. Provide shelter
A snug house with straw, heated beds, and heated water bowls provide shelter from the elements to outdoor animals, whether cat, dog, rabbit, or chicken. Check any electric components daily to make sure they're functioning and decrease risk of electrical fire. Outdoor pets may need some extra food to maintain their weight since they're burning more calories to keep warm. Lastly, winter is a good time to evaluate your reptile's habitat - make sure humidity and temperature labels are appropriate for the species and your pet's winter needs. Hibernating or brumating creatures should have their weight checked regularly to make sure their metabolism has slowed correctly.
4. Avoid Antifreeze
Antifreeze has a sweet taste and is very tempting to dogs and cats - but extremely poisonous. It causes kidney failure and death if not treated quickly. Keep pets away from stored antifreeze and avoid any contact with leaked antifreeze until the area is properly cleaned. If you think your pet may have been exposed to antifreeze, seek veterinary care immediately. Signs of antifreeze poisoning include: drunken behavior, wobbling or falling over, lethargy, vomiting, change to urination (too much and then later too little), diarrhea, and depression.
5. Check those cars
Outdoor cats can find their way under the hood of a parked car to seek warmth and shelter. Banging on your hood before you start your car can wake up any sleeping cats and gives them the chance to make a quick exit. Be just as cautious about leaving your pet unattended in the car in the cold weather as in the heat - heat stroke gets all the publicity, but a cold car can cause hypothermia in a small or short-coated pet.
6. Keep up the exercise
Just because it's cold outside doesn't mean you can't have fun! Take walks in wooded areas that are more sheltered from the wind. Play indoor games with your pets, teach them new tricks, find agility or flyball classes, or invite friends with pets over for a playdate. All these will give you and your pet some much needed mental stimulation and can help stave off those winter blues.
By doing what you can to keep your animals warm, protect their feet, and avoid toxins, you can make sure winter is just as enjoyable for your pets as it is for you.
Oh no! You just got home and your dog or cat has diarrhea. Don't panic - follow these 3 steps to get some relief after you clean up the mess.
1. Take a good look at your pet and around the house.
Think about anything new or different that Fuzzy might have eaten in the past 24 hours. If you gave a new treat or opened a new bag of food, go to step 2.
See anything potentially toxic or poisonous? Call Poison Control asap and follow their recommendations for care.
If your dog or cat is bright and happy besides having diarrhea, proceed to step 2.
Call the vet right away if:
2. Don't feed.
This GI tract is on overdrive right now and any new food is going to shoot straight through. Hold off food for 12-24 hours to give those guts a chance to rest. Make sure to keep water available at all times.
3. Reintroduce bland food.
Once 12-24 hours have gone by offer a small amount (1/4 of the normal food volume) of lean protein (cooked chicken, cooked ground beef with the fat drained off, scrambled eggs) and an easily digestible starch (canned pumpkin, cooked sweet potato, cooked rice). A spoonful of plain yogurt on top can add in some probiotics. If that doesn't trigger any diarrhea, offer a larger volume of food 6-12 hours later and then continue to feed twice daily. Once the stool firms up, gradually mix your bland food with the original diet and slowly transition your pet back to their regular diet. Note - this diet is not complete and balanced, so should be used short term only. There are several complete and balanced diets like Hill's I/D formula for dogs and cats with GI problems that are safe for long term use.
When to seek veterinary help:
What about human medications?
Some websites recommend giving PeptoBismol or Immodium to dogs with diarrhea. These can be safe to use in certain dogs (not for cats!), but always call your vet first. PeptoBismol contains an ingredient that can cause GI bleeding and turns the stool black, which then masks the bleeding. Immodium can be helpful at slowing down the diarrhea, but dogs with diarrhea from a toxin should not take it because it causes the toxin to stay longer in the body and potentially do more harm. Also, it is not safe to give immodium with certain other medications, so call your vet first.
Probiotics are safe to use in both dogs and cats with diarrhea. Proviable and FortiFlora are made for dogs and cats, and are extensively tested and researched. Equine Probios gel is a good source of probiotics for pet rabbits.
Some cases of diarrhea can be mild and managed at home with these steps. For severe watery diarrhea or diarrhea that persists, seek veterinary care for the most rapid relief for your pet.
How much food should you give your pet? Here's a hint: it's a lot less than what's printed on the bag!
First thing to do: use your eyes and hands to find out your dog or cat's body condition score. Use the picture below to compare your pet's body shape.
Now, is your pet underweight, ideal, or overweight? We'll be happy to assess for you if you're unsure. While highly athletic pets can be healthy at underweight, very thin pets are ill and need to be checked out as soon as possible. All overweight and obese pets need to be helped to lose the excess weight - you will lengthen their life by as much as 2 years for a large dog and decrease painful arthritis.
Your next step is to grab a measuring cup. Find out how much food you are currently giving in a day, and then find the calories/cup on the label. Some foods contain around 300 cal/cup, but others can be as high as 600! Next add in all the treats and snacks your pet receives. It can take some work to find out how many calories are in each treat, but the manufacturer can tell you if you call them (and if they can't, you probably shouldn't be feeding it to your pet). For example, a small milkbone has 20 calories, and a large one has 125.
Your individual pet may need more or less depending on activity level, but here's a rough guideline to calorie needs:
Approximate Daily Caloric Needs for Indoor Pets
Treats should total no more than 10% of your pet's daily calories. The secret to success is portion control - choose the tiny size milkbones (7 calories), or break larger treats into tiny portions. Green beans and baby carrots (3 calories) make great treat alternatives.
If your pet is overweight, a good starting point is to decrease the amount of food and treats by 25%, and then reassess in 2 weeks. For example, if you currently feed 1 cup of food per day, you would go to 3/4 cup per day. You can add green beans and carrots as healthy fiber if your dog seems hungry.
For weight loss, your pet will need to consume fewer calories than he or she is using. Increased exercise in combination with decreased food and treats will be the most effective. The best tool for cats are food-dispensing toys. Portion the day's kibble into several toys and let your cat chase them around the house. Meals will take longer so your cat will be more satisfied, and he will be exercising while he eats. No more food bowl required!
If you have more questions about what and how much to feed, give us a call. We can talk about your specific pet's needs and come up with a plan together.