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Archive for January, 2011

Guarding Your Dog’s Feet in the Winter

Jan 31, 2011

photoWinter can be harsh on your dog’s paws, but there are easy ways to protect your canine buddy’s peds from the elements during this time of the year.

Trim the fur underneath

Slushy snow, which may contain grit and salt, has a tendency to stick to fur. Flattened snow, grit, and salt on the bottom of your dog’s paws will make walking and balancing on his feet more difficult.

You’ve probably had compacted snow on the bottom of your boots before and found it hard to keep from slipping. It’s similar for your dog. But if the fur between his toe pads is the same level as the pads, then less snow will cling to it.

Keep nails short

Untrimmed nails can cause your dog’s toes to spread when he walks. That extra space means snow and ice can accumulate between his toes and make walking painful. Try walking with cotton wool between your toes and you’ll know how it feels.

Long nails affect your pet’s weight distribution as well. With his weight on the back of his feet, he’ll have less traction, making him more prone to slipping and getting injured when walking on an icy path.

Wash those paws

Whenever you come home from walking outside, wash your pet’s paws in warm water to warm his feet up; dissolve any ice between his toes; and wash off any salt or de-icers – your dog might lick his paws and ingest these substances, which can cause diarrhea and vomiting.

Check the pads

De-icers, which are mostly made from rock salt, can cause your pooch’s pads to become dry and crack. Snow, grit, and de-icers can build up in these cracks, leading to infections, soreness, and blisters.

To prevent dryness and maintain suppleness, you can apply foot balm or Vaseline to the pads. Check your dog’s paws daily so you can spot any cracks, abrasions, or stuck grit and treat injuries as soon as possible.

Buy some booties

Consider getting your pooch some dog booties. They will not only protect his feet from salt, grit, and de-icers, but also help retain body heat. Your dog can quickly lose body heat through his paws when they come into contact with the cold ground, so booties can decrease the risk of hypothermia.

Since your dog doesn’t normally wear shoes, have him wear the booties in the house for short periods of time so he’ll get used to them. Praise him as he walks around in them.

Treat them like your own

Remember, your dog’s  paws get cold, sore, and blistered too! Treat them as you would your own so your pet will have happy feet during the wintertime.

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Treating and Preventing Canine Hypothermia

Jan 28, 2011

photoYour pooch can get hypothermia from taking a bath during the winter, especially if he is exposed to the cold before being dried. And while it is a treatable condition, it can cause permanent tissue damage if not dealt with promptly.

Canines that have difficulty maintaining their normal body temperature are more vulnerable to hypothermia, i.e.:

* Small dogs
* Short haired dogs
* Wet dogs
* Dogs that are sensitive to cold weather
* Dogs that stay outside for extended periods without access to dry and warm shelter

Treating hypothermia

To combat hypothermia, you need to get your dog warm so his core temperature can return to normal.

If you are out walking your pet and he is suffering from the cold, you have to prevent further body heat from escaping. If you have a small dog, you can simply pick him up and carry him home. If you have a larger breed, you should head back home as quickly as possible.

Once indoors, you can do the following:

* For mild hypothermia, i.e. your dog is shivering and his muscles appear stiff, take him to a warm room with a well insulated floor and wrap him in a dry and warm blanket. Keep him like this until his temperature gets back to normal – use a thermometer to determine this. If you don’t have a thermometer, wait until he stops shivering, has more movement in his body, and returns to his usual self.

* For moderately severe hypothermia, i.e. your pet’s body temperature is about 90-94 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need some rewarming tools such as hot water bottles, hairdryers, heat lamps, warm baths, heat pads, and warm towels. Don’t try to use water that is too hot – it can burn his skin. The water should be 103-105 degrees Fahrenheit, which are a few degrees above your dog’s normal body temperature.

Keep an eye out for any adverse reactions as your pooch warms up. You know how your fingers can start aching and tingling after you come in from the cold? Your dog will experience similar feelings and he might lash out due to confusion.

* Severe hypothermia should be treated immediately by your vet, who may perform stomach flushes, warm water enemas, and other internal warming procedures.

Preventing hypothermia

As the old saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Here are some ways to keep your dog from getting hypothermia:

* Don’t leave your pooch outside in the cold for a long time and provide access to a dry and warm shelter.
* If your dog gets wet while you are outside, the wind chill factor can make him colder much faster, so always bring a towel with you so you can dry him off when needed.
* Consider buying a coat and booties for your dog.
* If your pet is sensitive to cold weather, take him outside only when he has to go to the bathroom.

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Winterizing Your Exercising

Jan 26, 2011

photoHow do you keep your pooch fit during the winter when it’s too cold to go outside for a daily walk? There are lots of ways! A couple of these exercises require equipment, but most can be carried out with what you already have around your home.

If you have stairs, you can get your dog to run up and down the steps with you a few times. You’ll get a good workout, too. You can also teach your pet new tricks that involve a lot of physical activity and have him perform them again and again.

Games, such as fetch, can be turned into exercise. Playing fetch for half an hour each day will keep your dog in shape. You can play hide-and-seek as well. Hide somewhere in the house and call your pet’s name until he finds you. Or you can hide his toys and have him find them. At the beginning he might not understand what you want him to do, so show him the objects and act like you’re trying to locate them and he’ll do the same. This game might take more time but your dog will enjoy it.

If you have enough space in your home, you can set up an indoor obstacle course for your dog and keep it until the winter is over. Be creative in building the obstacle course. Use old tables, chairs, drawers, pails, and pillows. Make it fun and colorful by including toys, photos, and other items.

If you don’t mind spending on some exercise equipment, you can get a dog exercise ball and teach your pet to balance on it. Or you can buy a dog treadmill, but check first if it suits your dog’s personality. It can be expensive, too; prices range from $300 to $3000.

You don’t have to be confined to your home, though. You can take your dog to a pet daycare and tell them that you want your pooch to get at least half an hour of exercise. Or you can go to the mall and walk around there.

Should you decide to walk your dog outside, wear warm enough clothes. Consider dressing your dog, too. You can easily find coats, turtlenecks, sweaters, hoodies, jackets, and boots for canines online and in pet supply stores.

Remember, wintertime doesn’t mean that your dog’s fitness has to be put on the back burner!

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Tips for Choosing Your Dog’s Outfits

Jan 24, 2011

photoWhile dressing up your dog is a fun thing to do, you should always put your pet’s well-being first. As harmless as they look, certain outfits can pose potential dangers, so knowing what to avoid can help you select garments that are not only cute but safe and comfortable as well.

So what should you look for when picking out your dog’s outfits?

* Easy to put on and take off. Pick garments that you can put on and take off your pooch with ease. You do not want to have to twist and bend your dog for him to get into a piece of clothing. An ideal outfit is one that can slip over his head then be fastened around his body so you will not have to work his legs into leg holes. Also, if the outfit is too difficult to put on and take off, your dog may fight you when you try to get him to wear it.

* A secure yet comfortable fit. The outfit should be tight enough so it will not slip off or snag on something, and loose enough so your dog will be able to move around. The fit of the garment should be secure but allow for easy removal in case your pooch gets upset and wants out.

* Does not obstruct vision. For hoodies, hats, and the like, make sure that they do not block your dog’s eyes. Your pet may panic and even become aggressive if he cannot see anything. Moreover, there should be nothing covering his ears, nose, or mouth. Your dog should be able to see, hear, and breathe easily.

* Bathroom break friendly. Keep in mind that your dog will need to use the bathroom while he is in his outfit, which is why it is very important to have him wear a garment that will allow him to do so with ease and without making a mess. It would be too much trouble to take his outfit off every time he has to go, so clothes that end at the waist are your best bet.

If you put your pooch in comfortable outfits, then it is very likely that he will let you dress him up more often.

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HOW TO: Organize Your Dog’s Important Records

Jan 21, 2011

photoHave you ever had to travel with your dog but couldn’t find his medical documents? Do you often forget when his next vaccination is? Does anyone else know your pet as well as you do, if something were to happen to you? Keeping and managing records may not be a lot of fun, but it’s a must for dog owners.

A three-ring binder is the easiest way to organize all your pooch’s records. You will also need several plastic sheet protectors. Below are the pages to use to sort out your pet’s papers. Type them in a format that works for you, and have more than one copy of each page. Of course, you can make modifications or omit any pages that don’t apply to you. If you have multiple pets, you can place all their information in a single binder, but keep each one’s records separate.

Page 1: Divider

Write or type your dog’s call name in big, legible letters.

Page 2: Identification

List your dog’s registered name; call name; date of birth; sex; breed; alteration status (spayed or neutered); AKC, UKC, CKC, or other registration numbers; and breeder’s name, address, and phone number, or where you got your dog if not from a breeder.

Also include a comprehensive description of your dog and many clear photographs. Update the description and pictures as your pet grows up; a lot of breeds change considerably as they mature.

Place this page into a plastic sheet protector to preserve the photos.

Page 3: Registration Forms

Slip all documents related to your dog’s registration and ancestry into a sheet protector.

Page 4: Health Records

This page should contain all vet visits, whether routine or emergency. Highlight vaccination dates with a marker so they can be spotted easily. Also include your pet’s spay/neuter certificate, OFA and/or eye certifications, and any allergies (food, medication, fleas, or grass). List heat cycle dates for unspayed females.

Follow this page with a sheet protector which will hold all receipts from the vet.

Page 5: Training Records

Write down all classes that have been attended, including the location and instructor’s name and phone number.

It’s also a good idea to list the commands your pooch responds to. If someone else had to take care of your pet, it would be much easier for both of them if the person knew what words to use.

Page 6: Obedience Trial Records

Include trial dates, judges, judging comments, class entered, legs won, scores, and titles finished.

Page 7: Conformation Show Records

If your dog participates in breed shows, use this page to record show dates, judges, judging comments, points earned, and number of dogs competing.

Page 8: Miscellaneous Activities

List down details of any other activities your dog is involved in, such as Frisbee, Schutzhund, search and rescue, herding, carting, or lure coursing.

Page 9: Brood Bitch/Stud Dog Records

If you’re a breeder, keep track of all breedings even if there is no resulting litter. Include the dog’s sire and dam, dates and places of matings, dates litter whelped, dogs/bitches, litter registration numbers, OFA and/or eye certifications, and the new owners’ names and addresses. Photos of the puppies are never a bad idea.

Page 10: Address Book

This last page should contain the names and addresses of the people who know your dog. This information is very important should there be any question concerning your pet’s behavior. For example, if you need to rent an apartment or house, you can give this list to your potential landlord and explain that these people know your dog and will vouch for his good behavior.

The binder system is easy to use as long as you update it regularly. It’s also convenient to grab and take with you when your dog has to go to the vet or a boarding kennel. And in case of an emergency, all your dog’s records are readily available and you don’t have to rely on your memory.

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Get Your Dog’s Paperwork Organized Now!

Jan 19, 2011

photoIf you had to get your dog’s records right now, will you be able to find and retrieve them without any difficulty? While we all probably have a system for keeping track of family documents or stow them at the bank, many of us are not so organized when it comes to our dog’s information.

It’s a good idea to have all of your dog’s important records in one place so you can locate them with ease anytime when needed. So what documents are we talking about here? One significant item is your dog’s American Kennel Club registration if he is a pedigree. Your pet’s genealogy has historical value, just like your family ancestry. And should you lose the papers, you can still access the information as long as you have the registration number.

Other records that you might want or need to access quickly are:

* Medical history
* Licensing information
* Proof of ownership
* Breeding details
* Adoption papers including all prior history
* Insurance policy details
* Veterinarian contact information
* Emergency backup vet contact info

There are many reasons why you should keep your dog’s information organized. Some of these documents are required for international travel. If you relocate, it will be beneficial to be able to provide your new vet with your pet’s complete health and vaccination history. If you become ill or incapacitated, your dog’s records will prove helpful to the kind soul who takes care of your pooch for you.

You might also want to have a notebook where you can record information about your dog’s general well-being. List names of medications and details of dosage. Note any significant health issues or allergies. Enter upcoming appointments. Write down details of your dog’s rabies vaccination certificate and spay/neuter information. If he attends training classes, you can make notes to keep track of his progress.

If provisions have been made for your pooch in a will, write this down, too. Include a picture of him in the record for identification purposes.

Lastly, let your other family members know where your pet’s information is kept, as they might need to retrieve it and add data as well.

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Colds, Flu and Your Dog – Oh My!

Jan 17, 2011

photoTo find out if your pooch has a cold, you should note down any changes in his behavior or health, such as a lack of energy or a runny nose. Because the symptoms of a cold are similar to those of other diseases like canine distemper, parainfluenza, and pneumonia, describing them to your vet can help determine what your dog has.

So what should you watch out for? The primary symptoms of a cold are:

* Sneezing
* Runny nose
* Coughing
* Watery eyes
* Lack of appetite
* Lethargy
* Increased body temperature
* Nasal discharge, sometimes with blood or pus

Fungi, bacteria, and viruses cause rhinitis – inflammation or infection of the nose, in other words. These germs start as infections of the nasal passages, but can sometimes spread to other parts of the respiratory system, like the bronchi and trachea, causing more severe symptoms. Colds are very contagious and can be caught through the air or when canines come into contact with other infected animals.

A trip to the vet is not always necessary, but puppies, older dogs, and those with weaker immune systems may need to be checked by one to prevent any further complications. Generally, a cold can be treated at home. If symptoms persist for more than ten days or get worse, your vet may have to run some tests to figure out if they are caused by something else, such as a foreign body lodged in the nose or a respiratory infection.

Home treatment is an option for normally healthy dogs. You can take the following steps to help relieve the symptoms in your pet:

* Give your dog lots of water to prevent dehydration. If he is not drinking, you can administer water into his mouth using a syringe.
* Make sure your pooch gets plenty of rest.
* Use a vaporizer to keep nasal passages moist and ease breathing. Ten minutes in a steamed bathroom will also do.
* Ask your vet about over-the-counter cough medicine.
* Isolate your dog from other pets to stop the cold from spreading.
* Disinfect food and water bowls, play areas, and sleeping areas.

If there are no improvements or symptoms worsen, bring your dog to the vet as soon as possible. The medication your vet prescribes will depend on the cause of the cold. For instance, antibiotics will not combat colds caused by viral infections.

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January 14th – Happy National Dress Up Your Pet Day!

Jan 14, 2011

photoJanuary 14th is National Dress Up Your Pet Day! If your four-legged friend has an impeccable sense of style, then what better day to show it off than this one?

Here are some of the many fun things you and your pet can do to celebrate National Dress Up Your Pet Day.

* First of all, think about your dog’s personality. Is he a ball of energy or more laid back? Dress him up according to his characteristics. If your pet is outgoing and playful, try a loud tie, a clown costume, or even a tutu. If he’s calm and relaxed, how about a hoodie or a hip hop style outfit? Also, don’t forget the accessories! Attach faux jewels or pearls on your pet’s collar and leash.

* Wear matching outfits with your dog! This can be a little trickier, but if you know how to sew, you can make the garments yourself.

* Throw a party and invite all the pets from around the neighborhood. Don’t forget to serve all their favorite snacks and treats. An event like this can get a little messy, though, so it’s best to have it in the backyard or at a local park.

* Organize a pet dress up parade with your fellow pet owners. This is a great way for proud fur parents to display their “children”! It can be chilly in January, so make sure that all the animals are dressed warmly.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you dress your pet in an outfit that’s not only stylish, but also comfortable and warm enough for these cold winter months.

My personal experience with last year’s National Dress Up Your Pet Day was really fun! I had my French Bulldog wear a sweatshirt with bunny ears on the hood, and we went to a nearby park where there was a party with games and activities for the animals, which of course included a best costume contest.

I highly recommend taking lots of pictures as well as some videos so you can remember this day and how adorable your pet looks in his outfit!

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The Growing Pet Obesity Problem

Jan 12, 2011

photoObesity does not only affect humans. In North America, our pets are putting on the pounds and more and more animals are developing weight-related medical conditions that were virtually nonexistent 20 years ago. Our pets are getting osteoarthritis, diabetes, pancreatitis, anterior cruciate ligament injuries, and heart and respiratory disease.

Today, obesity is one of the fastest-growing health problems in our canine friends. A 2008 study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimated that 44% of American dogs, or roughly 33 million, were overweight or obese.

According to veterinarian Dr. Jody Kincaid, commercial food is one of the major causes of obesity. He does not recommend most commercial dog foods as these are corn-based, and dogs are not designed to eat corn.

“They digest it very poorly,” he says, “so what happens is much of the calories turn into fat, and yet the dog remains hungry because they are not getting the nutrient they need.”

Dr. Kincaid suggests raw meat and gluten-free food. He says raw is better because meat contains enzymes and minerals that are destroyed when cooked.

A lot of dogs become overweight due to improper diet and lack of exercise.

According to Dr. Jean Hofve, a holistic veterinarian and published author, an animal is the right weight if you can feel the ribs when you touch his sides. “The skin should slip easily, and there shouldn’t be a big wad of skin between the fur and the ribs.”

In addition, your canine friend should have a waist. He shouldn’t look like wrapped candy –  skinny on both ends and round in the middle.

A lot of pets’ eating habits become irregular when it’s the holiday season, as owners tend to feed their dogs table scraps during this time of the year.

Dr. Hofve cautions against fatty foods. While you can let your pooch have turkey and ham in moderation as a treat, she advises pet owners not to overfeed their animals during the holidays.

“Chicken skin, turkey skin and the fat off ham is very dangerous for dogs. Based on what they are eating, if they get an extra dose of fat, they can develop pancreatitis, which is incredibly painful and could be fatal.”

It is every dog owner’s job to keep dangerous foods such as onions, chocolate, grapes, and raisins away from their pets. Also, don’t give your pooch outdated foods, or those that have been in the fridge for a while.

“If it’s relatively healthy for you and me, it will be relatively healthy for your pet in most cases. If it’s not good enough for us to eat, don’t give it to your pet,” Dr. Hofve says.

Canines are not designed to live on the same food every day. According to Dr. Kincaid, “When you give them the same dog food all the time, their body gets really accustomed to that, and their digestive system loses its ability to take on new foods without too much trauma.”

And this is why there can be trouble during the holidays. Dogs can get sick easily when they suddenly get a bunch of turkey fat, for example, so Dr. Kincaid recommends giving scraps in small quantities.

Like humans, dogs also need proper diet and sufficient exercise to live a long and healthy life.

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Preparing Your Dog for Your Baby

Jan 10, 2011

photoI first became interested in infant safety around dogs after I took a prenatal class in preparation for the birth of my first child. Someone had asked the nurse teaching the class what precautions should be taken when the expectant parent was also a dog owner. The nurse suggested introducing a baby doll into the household and using it to simulate daily interaction with an infant, which would involve carrying, cuddling, dressing, bathing, etc. According to her, this could help prevent future anxiety or jealousy from the dog.

I’ve read about this idea on several websites and in books and articles. While it might make sense to a layperson, children’s toys, including baby dolls, are made from the same materials as many dog toys. And after over two decades of working with thousands of canines, I can assure you that your dog will not be fooled into believing that a baby doll is a real baby.

Another misconception is that bringing home an infant’s hospital blanket will introduce the dog to its scent and therefore make it easier for the dog to accept the baby when it arrives. I’m not sure where this piece of advice originally came from, but it certainly did not come from a professional. The idea that a whiff of a blanket will ease the change is just as silly as the notion that a glance at an ultrasound image will prepare an expectant mother for her labor experience and her new life as a mother.

Fortunately, there are much better ways to help your dog make the transition from being an “only child”.

Dog-owning expectant parents should keep in mind that over the last few decades, many of the breeding protocols that lead to a physically and mentally balanced dog have become rarer and rarer. In addition, a lot of today’s trainers mistakenly believe and therefore tell their clients that even the slightest punishment will worsen a dog’s behavior.

Poor breeding and training practices result in canine characteristics that can impact the equilibrium of the household. However, some of these situations can be resolved by turning to a more realistic training model.

Dog owners can evaluate where and why their pet might need their help, then either through their own efforts or along with a professional’s come up with a strategy that balances their dog’s needs with their baby’s safety. Based on the numerous assessments I’ve done for expectant parents, I’ve found that every household can benefit by learning more about how their dog sees the world and makes connections that result in happiness and anxiety.

Sometimes, all the owners had to do was learn how to teach their dog baby-friendly obedience commands such as “stay on your mat” or a proper heel and recall, which they can use to exercise and de-stress their pet once the baby has come home. In other situations, we discovered that because of circumstances beyond the owners’ control, the dog had some yellow or red flag characteristics. In some cases these were resolvable, and in others they were not.

Unfortunately, there is very little practical advice in prenatal education for dog-owning expectant parents. It is up to the couple, then, to do what they can to prepare their dog for the upcoming changes in their household.

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