Boston Terrier in pink harness and leash, in front of owner's legsIt’s National Walk Your Dog Week! I know, I know, your dog is probably thinking “oh dear, not more walks!” What else have we had to amuse ourselves and stay active during these long months of Covid-19 besides 6 walks a day with our four legged friend? (I’m definitely not speaking from experience here…) An active dog is a healthier and more well-behaved dog, as we are all realizing after months of daily walks to get out of the house. But did you know there are different kinds of dog walks? Have you tried any of these listed below? If not, try some of them out on your next stroll around the block. Bonus – they are all socially distanced for your safety!

Why walk your dog?

There are 4 main reasons to walk your dog: exercise, elimination, stimulation, and training. Every one of your walks does not need to include all 4 reasons. It may actually be better for you and your pup to distinguish between longer exercise walks and shorter elimination walks at different times in your routine. Ideally, almost all of your walks would incorporate some training depending on what you and your pup need, but that does not have to be the sole focus (and shouldn’t be!) of all walks. Stimulation walks give your pup a time to interact with his/her world at large and learn about how he/she fits into the environment.

Before you start walking, make sure you have the proper equipment and get you and your dog some training if you need assistance with leash walking manners. Many dogs who pull do best in a harness, particularly a front clip or head harness. Trainers like Kate Perry caution against using a retractable leash. Retractable leashes can be dangerous for both your pet and surrounding pedestrians and can actually encourage your dog to pull.

Types of fun walks

  • Sniff Walks:

Dogs experience their world through their noses.  A dogs’s sense of smell is approximately 10,000 times better than that of humans! It’s therefore important for dogs to have time to stop and smell the roses or check their “pee-mail” while out on walks. Allowing your pup to sniff is an important way to improve your dog’s mental stimulation during walks. Instead of pulling your dog away from a fascinating smell, consider giving your pup some time to really get into the good sniffs. Reward any good behavior with a chance to sniff around for a few minutes. It’s a great way to bond with your dog while allowing him to wear his brain out. Let’s face it, what else do you have to do?

  • “Bark”-cour Walks:

Instead of walking along peacefully on the sidewalk, why not find your pup an obstacle course and test her “bark”-cour skills? Benches, steps, logs, rocks, curbs, or empty bike racks can be great opportunities for your pup to improve her balance and agility while providing mental stimulation and developing her confidence. Find a vacant playground or dog park with agility structures for a more intense version.

  • Training Walks:

This is a tried and true walk. While it may not be as intricate as the bark-cour or follow the leader walks, or as relaxed as a sniff walk, training walks are important to keep your dog’s skills and manners intact. You can chose to work on one aspect, like loose leash walking or dealing with distractions or other dogs, or work on several areas that you and your pup could improve upon. Training is a constant throughout your pet’s life to keep them safe and happy, so every now and then dust off your clicker and work your dog’s brain! Remember to bring high value treats and make training as fun and interesting for both of you as you can!

  • Follow the Leader:

Walking the same route can get boring for both you and your pup. Consider switching up your routes to give your dog new smells and sights. Or better yet, try following your dog for a walk or two! Sure you may spend 20 minutes sniffing the Magic Baguette Bush of ’18 and then zig zagging between all of the garbage cans, but your pup will love the freedom to explore and you can feel great knowing that you are giving them all the stimulation they could want.

  • Walk for a Cause:

Since March you’ve taken approximately 7,349 walks with your dog, right? Well, why not make all of those steps do some good? Apps like WoofTrax and ResQwalk are free and let you raise money for donations and resources for your favorite “people,” the four legged kind!

  • Walk in the Park:

We’ve been taking the same walks every day for the past few months. We see the same sights and our dogs have the same smells. If you have extra time every now and then, consider taking your pet to a state or regional park to explore new vistas in a safely socially distanced way. Bring along some special treats for training or toss them into the grass for your pup to “hunt” for even more stimulation (and a break for you if you’re tired!). There are many great parks in Minnesota to check out: here are a few from CBS and Sidewalk Dog.

Whether you’re taking a stroll around the block or hiking through the woods, make sure to do so safely. Be sure your dog always has proper identification just in case (collar tag and microchip), keep an eye on the temperature of the pavement under your pet’s feet, and bring plenty of water to keep you and your pup hydrated. If you regularly walk at night have both you and your pup don some reflective gear to be sure motorists can see you.

If you would love for your dog to enjoy more walks but you are unable to find the time to take them, that’s where we can help! Check out our dog walking services to see how we can improve your pet’s health and happiness, and your life!

It’s Happy Cat Month! Even though Happy Cat Month is winding down we can still chat about one of my favorite topics: how to keep your pet happy and therefore healthy. We often joke about our cats’ self sufficiency, but do they have what they need to live a happy and full life? Do you know the five pillars of feline enrichment?

Why does feline enrichment matter?

Cats maintain a behavioral instinct for survival that is not present with most other domesticated animals. Many behaviorists believe that is because cats still are not fully domesticated. Those of us who wake up at 2am because darling kitty is pouncing and chewing on our toes can attest to that! Cats are highly adaptable as a result of evolving as both a predator and prey animal. While this is wonderful for apartment living, we have to remember that because of that adaptability and semi-“wildness” our cats need plenty of stimulation to stay healthy.

gray tabby cat staring at camera while hiding in a boxBoredom for your cat can lead to destructive and disruptive behaviors, as well as stress. Cats who are bored will sometimes scratch inappropriately (your brand new sofa) or exhibit aggression or excessive vocalization. According to veterinarian Dr. Liz Bales, cats who are provided with an appropriate environment and plenty of enrichment are less prone to stress induced illness such as obesity, feline lower urinary tract disease, respiratory infections, aggression or other behavioral issues, and over-grooming or other compulsive conditions.

An “appropriate environment” consists of ways for your cat to express all of his or her catty behaviors and I don’t mean a major cattitude! Cat’s natural behaviors include scratching, chewing, stalking, climbing, eating, and elimination. In a study by veterinarians at Ohio State University, Meghan Herron and C.A. Tony Buffington developed a set of five systems to take into account in environmental enrichment: physical resource (space), nutrition, elimination, social, and behavior. These are similar to the five pillars of enrichment developed by expert cat behavior consultant Marci Koski, PhD.

5 Pillars of Feline Enrichment:

1. Provide multiple and separated key environmental resources.

These key resources include food, water, elimination areas, scratching areas, play areas, and rest/sleeping areas.

Most cats prefer to eat in a quiet, out of the way area that will not be disturbed. If you have multiple cats/pets be sure to place their food where they cannot see each other, which could result in increased tension between the “competing” pets. Finding a place that is above eye level, if your cat can safely reach it, can feel much safer to your finicky friend. Often cats, with their fastidious nature, prefer running water to still water that has been sitting in a bowl (regardless of how frequently you replace that water bowl). In this case, try buying a water fountain for your cat to enjoy fresh running water and encourage hydration.

Be sure that you have enough litter boxes in your home and that they are in a safe, quiet area. The rule of thumb is have a litter box for every cat plus one. This does not mean if you have 2 cats, you should line 3 litter boxes up next to each other. Your cats should have multiple locations for safe litter box use. This way all boxes cannot be blocked by another pet in the case of resource guarding or an argument. You should attempt to set up all of the boxes in locations that have options for entrance and exit so that they could not be blocked at all.

Scratching is an important part of a cat’s routine. It provides an opportunity for stretching and allows the removal of nail sheaths to maintain nail health. Scratching can also allow your cat to leave visual marks and scents for other animals to show rank, gender, or other pertinent details. Many cats like to scratch and stretch after a nap, so placing scratching posts and pads near favored napping spots for each cat can be beneficial.

Often you’ll find that your cats have differing play styles. Giving your cat a designated space for their preferred play/toys can prevent disruption, disagreements, and unwanted behaviors when it isn’t playtime.

2. Provide opportunity for play and predatory behavior.

Your cat has crinkly balls, strings, fuzzy mice, and wads of paper scattered around the house, but never plays with them. While providing multiple types of toys is wonderful, cats are rarely interested in things that don’t move (like with their water). Sure, they could bat at a fuzzy mouse with their paw, but how can that compare to a bunch of feathers whizzing through the air and under the sofa like a bird trying to escape! Movement and novelty are important for cats’ play because they so closely resemble hunting. Cats in the wild would need to hunt birds, mice, snakes, or bugs who all move, smell, and look differently. Providing interactive play for your cat is essential to keep him or her active and engaged. The paper bag you brought your groceries home in or the box that your groceries were delivered in could provide your cat with hours (or minutes) of new entertainment.

Think about the 4 C’s of play for cats: challenge, choice, change, and control. Cats should be physically and mentally stimulated with play. Find games that encourage problem solving like puzzle toys or trick/behavior training. Believe me, it’s possible! Just ask Charlie, a super smart tortie cat I visited for years. She learned how to high five and spent much of the visits smacking me (not always my hand!) to get treats and loving every minute of it. Provide your cats with a choice of toys/games to increase their confidence and engagement. Switch up toys often to prevent boredom. Behaviorists recommend that you change out your cat’s toys every 3-7 days. Providing multiple options or opportunities for toys, new scents or objects to explore, or training lets cats have some control over how they interact with their environment as well as the whether or not to do so. Cats require both that control and choice to fee secure and confident in you and in their home.

Because most of our cats either free feed throughout the day or are given a pre-portioned amount of food at a set time each day, they have lost the need to hunt for their food. Finding unique ways to feed your cat can spice up his or her meal time and provide cognitive and sensory stimulation. If your cat eats wet food try putting their soft food into an ice cube tray or muffin tin or smearing it inside of a mug (just make sure your cat can comfortably fit his/her head in the mug, some cats do not like such tight spaces so this is not for everyone). For cats who eat kibble, treat dispensers like these and food puzzle toys are an excellent way to dispense your cat’s kibble in a more interactive and stimulating way. There are even treat toys that are shaped like mice that you can hide from your cat to emulate stalking and chasing prey! If you don’t mind some extra cleaning, many of the available puzzle toys can be utilized for wet food as well as kibble. Be sure to start with an easier puzzle toy for your cat to ensure success and subsequent motivation.

3. Provide a safe place.

Orange cat napping on green blanketCats are particularly sensitive to disruptive environments: your dogs barking, your children playing, or your disco dancing while singing to “Mama Mia” at the top of your lungs (definitely not speaking from experience). You do not need to halt all of those activities, indeed it would be quite difficult to do so. But creating a micro-environment or “safe haven” for your cat(s) in separate places is essential for their well-being. Put together a comfortable, contained, preferably elevated location for your cat to retreat when the world becomes too much to handle. If you have a multi cat household then be sure to have more safe spaces than cats to not cause resource guarding or arguments. Consider utilizing vertical space. Cats often feel most secure at heights so providing cat trees, window perches, or shelves can allow your cat to rest, hide, and perch to survey their domain in comfort.

4. Provide positive, consistent, and predictable human-cat social interaction.

Cats are sociable creatures; even feral cats live in colonies. However, they do develop social relationships at a unique rate. They are sometimes slow to trust and providing consistent interaction on their terms can make it easier for your cat to come to enjoy your attentions. Abrupt, loud, and sporadic/spastic movements are particularly offensive to cats and will cause them to retreat to a safe location if possible, or lash out if retreat is not an option. Ensuring that your interactions and reactions are always calm and smooth will go a long way toward helping your cat understand you and how to interact. Always give your cat the option to end interactions and never force attention on your cat.

5. Provide an environment that respects the importance of a cat’s sense of smell.

Cats have over 200 million scent receptors (humans only have 5 million), which means they have an incredibly keen sense of smell. A cat’s sense of smell is the primary way in which he or she interacts with the world. Their vomeronasal gland allows cats to detect pheromones that are released both by other animals and humans. Because cats can smell so much better than us we may forget that the body lotion or glade diffuser or even the scented litter that we think makes the house smell fresh can be overwhelming to your cat. Essential oils can be especially harmful to your cat so be sure to diffuse them in areas that are well ventilated and away from your kitty.

cat hanging on his belly from broken window blinds saying "human I request your assistance

So there you have it: the importance of feline enrichment and the core ideas behind creating a safe, happy, and healthy life for your cat.

Are you a catvocate for your cat’s mental and physical health? If you weren’t before, are you now?

smiling golden retriever puppy sitting on a deckSeptember is National Pet Insurance Month. Many of us have homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, car insurance, and health insurance. But what about our pets? Could adding pet insurance for your furry friends be a worthwhile expense?

Pets are a popular part of the American family, with 67% of households owning at least one. The number of families who own pets, despite the potential economic hardship, is on the rise. In 1988, only 56% of households included a pet. Dogs, cats, aquarium fish, birds, reptiles, and other animals are now seen as valuable and integral family members who serve as companions, helpers, entertainers, and even protectors of the home.

With approximately 85 million households in the United States owning a pet, caring for these nonhuman family members has become a $99 billion a year industry, more than doubling since 2010. This statistic not only attests to their popularity, but also to the level of financial sacrifice many pet owners make to keep their pets healthy and happy.

The cost of veterinary care alone is expected to reach $30.2 billion this year. As veterinary care continues to incorporate many of the advanced diagnostic and surgical techniques that are commonplace in human healthcare, the cost of veterinary care will likely continue to rise. And with many pet owners facing economic strains due to the pandemic, a sudden pet health emergency, even if not grave, could have them facing the possibility of “economic euthanasia,” having to put their pets down because they lack the funds to cover sudden veterinary expenses.

What is pet insurance?

An increasingly popular option to prevent this type of situation is a pet insurance policy. Unlike human health insurance, which usually pays out directly to the medical provider, pet insurance works on a reimbursement basis. You must first pay the veterinarian for the procedure needed and then request reimbursement from the pet insurance company. The reinstatement amount is rarely 100% of the cost, although some of the more complete plans cover up to 90 percent of vet costs. The reimbursement process is usually simple, requiring only the vet’s invoice (and sometimes some treatment records) along with a completed claim form.

Like other types of insurance, pet insurance is essentially a package of many different types of coverage. Some packages cover only the bare essentials, while others are more comprehensive and include preventive care and rehabilitation. Dental coverage for pets is rare, but a few carriers are now offering it as an option in their pricier policies. However, nearly all pet insurance policies exclude preexisting conditions and specific conditions such as hip dysplasia. They also can include payout caps on particular procedures, on the yearly payout, or even on the total the policy will pay. Most pet insurers will reimburse you for care rendered by any licensed American vet, but some limit policyholders to certain veterinary clinics and networks.

All pet insurance plans have a deductible of one type or another. Most insurers give their customers a choice of deductibles; policies with lower deductibles cost more. Being able to adjust the deductible allows customers to pick a policy with a monthly payment that fits their budget.

Why consider it?

The cost of veterinary care is increasing due to improvements in technology and higher costs in training, equipment, and facilities. We all hope that our pets will never have an emergency, but the current estimate is that 1 out of every 3 pets will need emergency care every year. If your pet is that 1 pet who requires care, pet insurance can help defray those costs. This could be the difference between getting your pet help and being forced into a decision about “economic euthanasia.” If you have pet insurance and are not worried about a large expense, it may allow you to consider more treatment or diagnostic options. Pet insurance can also help cover the cost of boarding or pet sitting if you are hospitalized, a definite bonus during this pandemic. For more information and some examples of whether pet insurance could be worth it for your fury family member, check out this information from Washington Consumer’s Checkbook.

How to compare policies

There are a wide array of pet insurance policies available to pet parents these days. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are comparing companies to find the best fit for you and your pet:

  • Does the policy provide comprehensive coverage or accident-only coverage? Some companies will allow policy holders to add on wellness and routine care (things like spay/neuter, dental cleanings, vaccines, and flea/tick treatments) and a very few provide that coverage normally. Remember that most policies do not cover hereditary diseases or pre-existing conditions and often have a maximum age limit.
  • What is the total cost? You should compare the monthly price, options for premiums and deductibles, and potential limits on payments/payouts. The average monthly price of pet insurance is $47 for dogs and $29.50 for cats. Keep in mind that you always have to pay the veterinarian out of pocket and then you can be reimbursed.
  • What is in the fine print?
    • Does your policy require you to go to a specific in-network veterinarian or can you visit anyone?
    • Check for any exclusions involving species, breeds, or conditions that are not covered.
    • What is the waiting period for claims reimbursements and what is the reimbursement rate? Many companies will provide up to 90% reimbursement for claims.
    • Is there a payout cap and if so what is it? Is it an annual cap, a per-incident cap, or a lifetime cap?
    • Is the deductible a per-incident or annual rate? Per-year deductibles provide a better value for most pet owners.

Where can you get it?

There are many companies out there that provide pet insurance. You may even be able to combine it with your home or auto insurance from places like Progressive or Nationwide. If you are more interested in companies that specialize in pet insurance, this list can help you get started:

  • Healthy Paws – Ranked #1 for customer satisfaction, no maximum payouts, and fast claims processing, does not raise rates as pets age
  • Embrace – Includes dental care and allows for shrinking deductibles
  • PetPlan – Can begin plan as early as 6 weeks of age, covers up to 90% of some claims
  • Trupanion – Offers one policy regardless of species, covers some hereditary diseases, and has no set limits, does not raise rates as pets age
  • ASPCA – Provides a discount for multiple pets and does not require in-network vet visits
  • PetFirst – Includes preventative care as well as accidents and emergencies
  • Pets Best – Good for elderly pets because does not have an age limit
  • FIGO – A newer company with easy online access and up to 100% coverage
  • Prudent Pet – Covers preventative and wellness care with low deductibles
  • Trusted Pals – Adjustable co-pays and deductibles without requiring in-network visits

Are there other options?

As an alternative to pet insurance, some veterinary clinics, like VCA and Banfield, are providing “care plans” to help owners defray some of the unexpected costs of veterinary care. Many of these care plans provide differing levels based on the age and type of animal, but most include annual exams, vaccinations, lab work or diagnostic testing, and non-emergency office visits.

While more and more pet owners today are looking into pet insurance, it comes down to your personal opinion. Can you afford pet insurance now? Will it likely save you money in the future? And will it provide you the peace of mind knowing that you have help if something drastic or expensive happens to your pet?

Contributing Author:
José A. Sánchez Fournier is a writer with ConsumersAdvocate.org. Previously, he spent 15 years as a journalist with El Nuevo Día, the largest daily newspaper in Puerto Rico.

black and white Border Collie sitting next to brown tabby cat, both looking happily at cameraThe month of August is also known as “Rawgust” for both people and pets. Have you wondered if all the hype about raw food for your four legged friend is real? Have you considered switching from commercial kibble to raw food for your pet? The practice of raw feeding is still highly debated in veterinary, behavioral, and nutritional circles. There are many anecdotes about how well a pet has done with a raw diet and there are just as many veterinarians who do not recommend it.

There’s no “perfect” pet food out there. We all have to decide for ourselves with the help of the experts (of which I am not one!) what is best for our four legged family members. But if you have been curious about the new raw feeding trend, then read on my friend!

What is raw food?

The concept of a raw food diet is based on the carnivorous nature of dogs and cats. We know that dogs are pretty good scavengers (especially when you have steak thawing on the counter) and cats are obligate carnivores, meaning meat is biologically essential to their survival. Therefore, many people have seen a reason to start feeding their pets closer to what their ancestors would have eaten in the wild, raw meats and plants. A raw food diet consists mainly of animal protein, including muscle meat, bones (either whole or ground), organs (such as liver or kidney), and raw egg or eggshell. In addition, raw diets should also include fruits and vegetables, some dairy (like yogurt), and supplements to balance the meal.

According to a US News article, a study on pet diets performed in Canada, the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom is showing a new trend. “New research found that only 13% of dog owners and about one-third of cat owners exclusively fed their pets conventional pet foods as their main meals all of the time. Nearly two-thirds of dogs and about half of cats were given homemade meals at least some of the time. And more than two-thirds of pooches and more than half of kitties sometimes got raw meals.”Fewer dogs and cats are being fed conventional, heat-processed foods,” said study author Dr. Sarah Dodd, a veterinarian and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Guelph Ontario Veterinary College in Canada. “There’s nothing wrong with feeding different food sources, providing that you can obtain assurance that the diet meets nutritional requirements,” states Dodd.”

What are the pros and cons?

Pros:

  • According to Pets-WebMD proponents of raw diets have seen benefits such as:
    • Shinier coats
    • Healthier skin
    • Cleaner and healthier teeth
    • Higher energy levels
    • Smaller stools
  • Raw food diets do not contain additives, sugars, or dyes that could lead to potential digestive issues or health problems.
  • If you feed a homemade raw diet you know exactly what is going into your pet’s diet. You can also adjust the amount of grain in your pet’s food. Many of us have heard about the Dilated Cardiomyopathy scare in dogs in relation to grain-free food. While I am not going to touch on that here, providing your pet with either a grain free or a whole grain inclusive diet can be easy with raw feeding. Whole grains are typically better for dogs nutritionally than highly processed grains such as corn meal, that have often lost many of their nutraceutical benefits.
  • Raw feeding can potentially reduce the risk of bloat, a very serious and often fatal condition most common in deep-chested, large dogs. One study showed that dogs were less prone to bloat when eating wet food and more prone to bloat when eating dry food.
  • Some pets who eat dry food tend to be dehydrated. Raw food has enough moisture to keep your pets hydrated and to reduce the strain on their liver and kidneys that dehydration can cause.

Cons:

  • Many veterinarians and conventional pet food experts cite the danger of raw food pathogens in both commercial and homemade raw food diets. This is a legitimate concern and there is always a risk of pathogenic contamination that is rarely present in processed canned or kibble foods. Although, all of us who feed our pets kibble know about pet food recalls as a result of contamination, so there is no completely “safe” pet food. (For more information about potential contaminants in pet foods, check out this blog post from the Holistic Pet Radio.)
  • Veterinarians are also concerned about the unbalanced nature of raw food. The raw food industry is fairly unregulated at this point, much like the pet food industry as a whole was when it was developing. There are no rules, requirements, or restrictions for any commercial raw food supplier. Veterinarians worry about that lack of regulation in providing complete and balanced nutrition for our pets. Feeding your dog a whole chicken or cutting up a steak for them is also definitely not a nutritionally complete meal. There are a lot of parts to a nutritionally balanced diet for cats and dogs and vets may justifiably worry, particularly with homemade foods, that the diet is not being prepared or balanced properly.
  • Raw feeding is unsuitable for some pets. Dogs with liver disease or kidney failure should not eat raw food due to the high protein content. Dogs with cancer or who are taking immunosuppressant drugs are more susceptible to bacteria and infection. Many experts caution against puppies under a year, especially large breed puppies, eating raw food. It is difficult and extremely important to balance the calcium and phosphorus in a raw diet. If they are not balanced properly the puppy could grow up with bone loss or bone deformities.
  • The final concern with a raw food diet is the potential for an animal to crack a tooth or receive an internal puncture from a bone in a raw meal. Bones can potentially lodge in airways or cause bowel perforations as well. This is a legitimate concern for pets frequently eating whole bones, however, raw bones are much softer than cooked or dehydrated bones and do not often splinter when eaten. Many raw feeders will grind the bones and add them to the pet’s food to get the benefits of bone meal without the dangers of a broken bone.
  • Not to mention that feeding your pet raw food is both time consuming and expensive!

How is commercial different from homemade?

According to Dr. Karen Becker, DVM, the biggest mistake that pet parents make when feeding raw to their pets is not understanding nutritional requirements for canines and felines. Many homemade diets and even some commercial raw diets can be nutritionally unbalanced, resulting in deficiencies in minerals or vitamins and ultimately causing problems for your pet. However, most commercial pet food diets are made to AAFCO standards and include all necessary nutrients for your pets. Pet parents making their pet’s diets at home must learn how to vary protein types, include fiber or roughage as well as fruits and vegetables, and add necessary vitamins, minerals, and supplements to keep their pets eating a balanced diet.

Another difference between commercial and homemade raw food diets is the protein processing. When you purchase meat from the store for your pet you can run the normal risk of having non-sterile meats in your home, just like when you do when you purchase chicken or hamburger for your dinner. There is always the chance of contamination or inclusion of pathogens in human-grade meat. However, many commercial raw diets are created using High-Pressure Pasteurization (HPP) to sterilize the food to reduce any possible pathogens. I’m not saying that process is perfect but it does carry a somewhat lower risk, than accidentally coating your kitchen counter in chicken necks.

Where can you get it?

Many commercial raw foods (either freeze dried or frozen) are available now at your local pet stores. Brands like Stella and Chewy’s, Nature’s Variety Instinct, and Primal are frequently sold in local or small chain pet supply stores like Chuck and Don’s, Bentley’s and Pet Valu.

Another option for purchasing raw food is a delivery service. Some raw food brands provide a delivery service right to your door. Companies like Darwin’s, Nature’s Logic, and Raw Bistro will deliver frozen raw meals nationwide. For a more comprehensive list of raw food providers look at Primal Pooch’s guide.

The third and final option for purchasing a raw diet instead of making it yourself is a local store. Those of us who live in the Twin Cities are lucky enough to have Woody’s Pet Food Deli, which provides nutritionally balanced and customized raw diets with a variety of proteins. Many of these stores are opening in urban areas and some in smaller rural areas as well. Check with your local pet food store to see if there are any near you.

What are veterinarians saying?

This is one of the most debated subjects in the pet world. (Although don’t even get a veterinarian started on immunizations!) Many conventional veterinarians are opposed to raw food diets. Lisa M Freeman, DVM, PhD, evaluated several raw diets and cautions owners against them due to a lack of science-based research. She states that several of the benefits raw feeders claim, such as shinier coat, are a result of a high-fat diet, which most raw diets are. A commercial high-fat diet would have the same results without the danger of being unbalanced. Freeman recommends a cooked homemade diet with proper supplements created by a veterinary nutritionist for those pet parents who do not want to feed their pets commercial foods.

On the other hand, veterinary clinics like Holistic Veterinary Healing in Maryland utilize pet food therapy on a daily basis and support the feeding of BARF (Biologically Appropriate Raw Food) to minimize digestive issues, behavioral issues, allergies, and skin/coat problems. Lisa Pierson, DVM, a well respected holistic veterinarian who focuses on feline care fully supports raw feeding for cats and has even developed specific recipes for pets with Irritable Bowel Disease, Chronic Kidney Disease, or Urinary Tract Infections.

Ultimately, there is no real consensus between the experts in the pet food industry on what is the best type of food to feed your pets. But most agree that varying your proteins and brands to provide a wider and more interesting range of food and doing your research before switching to a new trendy diet is important. Raw feeding is not for every pet and every owner. The vast majority of commercial pet foods, both kibble and canned, are made to be nutritionally balanced and abide by AAFCO standards. There’s nothing wrong with feeding your dog these diets, and in some cases, your vet may recommend a specific kibble diet. You can also supplement their diet with snacks like raw bones and fruits and veggies that pets can eat. They’re healthy and are also a great way to reward your furry family members for being awesome!

 

Disclaimer:

The contents of this post, such as text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this site (“Content”) are for informational purposes only. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding the medical condition of your pet. Never disregard professional advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website! If you think your pet has a medical emergency, call or visit your veterinarian or your local veterinary emergency hospital immediately. Reliance on any information appearing on this website is entirely at your own risk. If you have medical concerns or need advice, please seek out your closest veterinarian. 

Are you crafty? Do you tend to present your family and friends with homemade goodies or gifts? Why not do the same for your pet!? Here are some great ways to stay engaged during the quarantine and create something your pet will love. And now is the perfect time to do so, since July 21 is National Craft for Your Shelters Day! So maybe make a couple of extra projects to give away to the dogs and cats at your local animal shelter.

Cat Castles

Cats love to be in things whether you want them to or not: boxes, baskets, backpacks, cabinets, sinks, and so on. Why not create a special space just for your cat?

If your cat likes their own private space to nap or daydream (or plan world domination, whatever floats their boat), try creating this no sew cat teepee or this upcycled t-shirt tent.

Does your cat love to adventure? Maybe this Cardboard Airstream is just the thing! Your cat can go glamping whenever she wishes! If your cat isn’t a camper, come up with another fabulous cardboard habitat instead; like this man did. The sky is the limit!

Give them the best view

Cats are curious little climbers. We all know how frequently we find our cats on top of the fridge or hanging from the curtain rod. Check out these options to give your cats something safe to climb or to sit above it all and watch the world go by.

This cat tree gives your cat some cozy places to nap…using a real tree! You can even turn a shelving unit into a cat tree.

This cat condo combines a scratching post with beautiful baskets to nap in.

Check out this great way to recycle some old dresser drawers with this aerial kitty playground.

If your cat prefers to be close to the windows to watch the birds and squirrels outside, try this cat window bed for the perfect afternoon snooze.

Design a Scratching Pad

If your cat loves to scratch, creating your own scratching posts can help prevent damage to your furniture. Scratching posts can be simple or elaborate and made of various materials. Check out this adorable scratching cactus that would look great in any living room or match your scratching post to your home or apartment with a color-blocked scratching post! Alternatively, try this combo cat cushion and scratching post created from an Ikea hack.

If you’re more into wall art, try hanging a framed scratching pad in a place where your pet can create their own “art.” Refurbish an old frame by giving it a fresh coat of paint, then replace the art with a patterned door mat (coco coir works best) trimmed to fit the frame. You’ll need a deep-set frame and heavy-duty tape to secure the mat inside the frame. Once you’re finished, hang it with proper anchors and hardware so it will stay put during playtime.

If your cat prefers to rub his or her cheeks on the wall, try attaching a bristle brush to the wall, a doorway or your furniture about 12 inches from the floor. Use removable adhesive strips so you can reposition the brush later if needed.

Cozy Beds

Dog Bed and Cover:

If you like to sew, or even if you don’t, this DIY is for you! You can create a comfy dog bed of any size or create a removable washable cover for an existing bed.

Check out these instructions from HGTV.com to create an attractive cover for your pup’s bed.

If you’d rather make your own bed you can try this raised dog cot, like the ones pups use in shelters or for camping, but keep in mind you’ll need some tools for this one. You can also try this hammock, that’s a tool-free option for small dogs or cats. If that’s not your style, try this no-sew fleece dog bed that is simple and stylish. Using knots in the fleece and stuffing for the inside you can give your pup a cozy place to relax while you work from home.

Cat Bed:

Recycle one of your old sweaters to create this adorable and fashionable cat bed.

Toys Galore

Cat Wand

So many cats love to chase feathers and wiggly strings, so why not put both on the end of a stick and give them the best toy ever? These instructions from the DIY Network show you step by step how to create a leather and feather wand for your kitty’s next playtime. If you’d rather not use leather, try felt instead.

Kitty Play Gym

If your cat would rather play with wiggly strings on its own, try building it a play gym like this one with different kinds of strings to attack and play with. Better get out that camera though because you could get some great shots of you cat going crazy for this toy!

Catnip Toy

There are many options when it comes to creating a catnip toy for your cat. For one of the more durable designs check out this Christmas stocking toy or for a simple no sew design try this one.

Stuffed Toys

Feel free to recycle old stuffed animals for your pets to play with, just make sure the button eyes and noses aren’t swallowed! If you’d rather create your own stuffed toys try this denim design. You can reuse your old jeans at the same time you create a fun new toy! You can even stuff a tennis ball (bonus points if it’s squeaky) into an old sock and tie a knot at the end. Your pup will love to tug and chew on this fun toy! For your cats, cut up an old t-shirt to make these knotted toys. You can add a bit of catnip inside to really get your cat interested!

Snuffle Mat

Is your dog a sniffer? Does your cat love to “hunt” for their food? Try creating your own snuffle mat from a rubber sink mat and some fleece for hours (or at least minutes) of hunting fun for your pet. These step by step instructions from the Honest Kitchen show you just how to do it.

PVC Puzzle

Treat puzzle toys are another great way to work your pet’s brain during meal times. This treat toy is so much fun your dog might ask for it at every meal! To make it, use a PVC ratchet cutter or a hacksaw to trim a 12-inch length of PVC pipe, then drill holes through the exterior of the plastic. (Make sure the holes are wide enough for your pet’s kibbles.) Cap both ends of the pipe with a female adapter and a clean-out plug. The kibbles will fall through the holes – as soon as your dog learns to roll it along the ground.

Alternatively, stand cut up pieces of PVC pipe in a Tupperware or food bowl and drop treats or kibble down into them. Your pet will have to figure out how to take all of the pieces of PVC out if he or she wants to get to the tasty snacks at the bottom!

For some more cat-friendly puzzle toys without the PVC, check out these designs for at home treat puzzles.

Design an Agility Course

If you have space in your home or yard, try creating an agility course. PVC pipes make great weave poles or jumps. Try hula hoops or your child’s tent/tunnel to run through. Just make sure your pet is on stable surfaces (ie, carpeted floors or level ground outside) and is fully grown. Young puppies should not be attempting agility courses until their bodies are finished growing. But for puppies, try to create unique surfaces to walk on or step over (no jumping) or through to keep their minds active while wearing out their bodies.

Treats, Snacks, and More

Cat Garden

Most cats love catnip, but did you know you can grow it yourself? How about other plants that cats love? Check out how to create your own indoor cat garden for your kitty’s snacking pleasure here.

Muttloaf

Many people think meatloaf is the ultimate comfort food. Why not try out this recipe to make a healthy muttloaf full of healthy ingredients for your pup?

Frozen Treats

Freezing some of your pet’s favorite treats is a great way to give them something fun to do in the summer while keeping them cool. Some pet owners like to freeze their pet’s bones while others try recipes like these, including PB and J and chicken soup for pups! Check out this video from Chewy on how to create the ultimate pupsicle:

Giant Ice Block

To make this fun summer toy, freeze some blueberries, carrots, or kibble (or all three!) into a bucket and then let your pup dig and gnaw through the ice to get to his tasty snacks. If your pet needs some encouragement you can add a bit of sodium free chicken broth to the water to make it even tastier! For an alternative option, freeze your pet’s favorite toys in the ice bucket and let them try to get them out. This treat gives your pet some physical and mental exertion and keeps them cool while they’re at it!

Paw Balm

Your dog walks on its paw pads every day, through all types of weather and terrain. Give your pup a spa treatment with this homemade soothing paw balm to help keep their pads in tip top shape.

Woodworking Projects

Elevated Food Bowls

Many dogs prefer to have their bowls right at head level, it actually helps them with digestion! If you enjoy woodworking, why not try to create your own elevated feeding station like this one or try this one with built in storage? To get extra creative, come up with an elevated feeding station for your cat and mount it on the wall where they can enjoy lording their fabulous self above you while feasting on the delicacies you provide.

Doggie Stairs

When your cat or dog gets older, it becomes harder for them to hop into your lap or onto the bed or sofa for a snooze. Try building some stairs to make it easier on your pet. There are many ways to build stairs for your elderly pet to climb, but the DIY Network has created this design that comes with below stairs storage for toys or blankets. Or try their design for an adjustable ramp for your pet to make it even easier for them to move around your house.

For Your Home

Leash Holder

Consider making a “Pet Station” near your door to hold your dog’s collar and leash. You can even add places for poop bags, some treats, and a jacket or two! Here’s a simple version of the leash holder for you to create. You can put your dog’s name or a cute saying above. If you are artsy, try painting your pet’s silhouette on the board and using the hook as their tail like this design does. If you want something with a little more pizzazz check out this treat station plus leash holder.

Treat or Toy Jars

Decorate an old jar with cute designs, paw prints, labels, or your pet’s name to turn a boring jar into a fancy pet jar to store your pup’s treats or kitty’s toys. If you want to get super creative, try making a jar like this one that looks like a fish tank!

Cat Magnets

If you’re a crazy cat lady (or guy!) and want to showcase your love for cats everywhere, these cat magnets are for you! Just spray-paint tiny, plastic cats in fun colors, then glue magnets onto the back (or bottom) of the figures for an instant dose of catittude. You can do the same for dogs too!

Organized Pet Closet

Is your pet’s stuff scattered around the house? Do you forget where their leash or the extra poop bags have been put? Try creating this all-in-one pet cabinet that includes a safe place to store food and treats, hooks for collars and leashes, a chalkboard for reminders and shopping lists, and space for all the extras your pet needs to live a happy cozy life.

Don’t forget about your pet’s grooming supplies. Organize your pup’s things in an efficient toiletries holder or silverware caddy to put into your pet closet so you don’t go searching for lost things (courtesy of your pup) again and again. Get creative and customize your design. And don’t forget to label it with your pup’s name!

 

So what are you waiting for? Go out there, get your craft on and make your pet something for them to enjoy!

As pet sitters we adore meeting new pets and always have a smile for a cleverly or uniquely named pet, whether it’s a turtle named Mario Andretti or a cat named Potato Chip. But some of us need a little extra help when it comes to puns. That’s where we come in!

Have you adopted a new pet during the quarantine? Are you wondering what to name him or her? Well, look no further! We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the most purr-fectly punny names. So if you’re ever in need, just re-fur to this list!

“Pup” Culture Puns

  • Andy Warhowl
  • Indiana Bones
  • Kanye Westie
  • Jude Paw
  • Mutt Damon or Cat Damon
  • Bark Wahlberg
  • Bark E. Bark
  • Benedict Cumberbark
  • Jon Bone Jovi
  • Sarah Jessica Barker
  • Woofie Goldberg
  • Catrick Swayze
  • Meowly Cyrus
  • Snarls Barkley
  • The Notorious D.O.G.
  • Winnie the Pooch
  • Bilbo Waggins
  • Mary Puppins
  • Kitty Pawpins
  • Sherlock Bones
  • Beowoof
  • Droolieus Caesar
  • Jimmy Chew
  • Vera Fang
  • The Great Catsby
  • JK Moewling
  • Purrnest Hemingway
  • Butch Catsidy
  • Santa Claws or Santa Paws
  • Cat Stevens
  • Paw McCartney
  • Cat Benatar
  • Cat Sajak
  • Demi Meower
  • Pawdry Hepburn
  • Puma Thurman
  • Orville Redenbarker
  • Kareem Abdul Ja-Bark
  • Tina Spay
  • Olivia Chewton John
  • Ellen Degeneruff
  • Lady Dogiva
  • Catalie Portman
  • Mr. Meowgi
  • Neil Catrick Harris

Historical People Puns:

  • Karl Barx
  • Rosa Barks
  • Woof Bader Ginsburg
  • Woof Blitzer
  • Winston Furchill
  • Salvador Dogi
  • Fuzz Aldrin
  • Bark Obama or Barack Obameow
  • Catpurnicus
  • Cleocatra
  • Oedipuss
  • Margaret Scratcher
  • Henry Hissinger
  • Paw Revere
  • William Shakespurr or Shakespaw
  • Sir Arthur Canine Doyle
  • Dogstoyevsky
  • Picatso
  • Anderson Pooper
  • Chairwoman/Chairman Miao
  • Fidel Catstro
  • Ghengis Khat
  • Alexander Hameowlton

Star Wars Puns (and a few Star Trek):

  • Arftoo D2
  • Chewbarka
  • Arf Vader
  • Arf Maul
  • Boba Fetch
  • Jabba the Mutt
  • Luke Skybarker or Skywhisker
  • Obi Wag Kenobi or Obi Paw Kenobi
  • Lando Catrissian
  • Emperor Meowpatine
  • Leonard Nemeow
  • William Catner
  • Captain Purrcard

Harry Potter Puns:

  • Dumbledog
  • Albus Puppledore
  • Salazar Snifferin
  • Helga Hufflepup
  • Rowena Ravenpaw
  • Godric Griffindog
  • Hairy Paw-ter
  • Ron Fleasly
  • JK Growling
  • JK Meowling

Try out your own puns

If none of those names pricked your fancy, try creating your own with some of these pet-associated words. I bet you’ll do claw-some!

  • Meow
  • Purr
  • Hiss
  • Woof
  • Arf
  • Bark
  • Kitten
  • Pup
  • Paw
  • Tail
  • Claw
  • Fur
  • Cat
  • Dog

We hope you enjoyed this purr-fect list of pet name puns! If you want to be even punnier, check out our blog about cat vocabulary here!

The Fourth of July is a fun and festive holiday with barbecues, family, friends, and fireworks. But there are several hazards to be aware of for your four legged friends and that last aspect, the fireworks, can be utterly terrifying for pets. The loud noises send many pets scurrying for the nearest hiding hole, whether that’s in your home or down the street. Check out our safety tips to learn how to avoid the perils and stress that can accompany the holiday so that everyone can have a safe, relaxing 4th of July.

Food Hazards

You probably already have a list of foods that are toxic for dogs, like chocolate, grapes, and avocado. But did you know that fatty foods can lead to pancreatitis and non-edible parts of foods (like bones, corncobs, peach pits, and watermelon rinds) can cause gastrointestinal obstructions? There are so many foods that can be problematic for dogs that it’s easier to just remember not to give your pups any human food! And remind your friends and family of the rule so that Grandma doesn’t accidentally hurt Fido by giving him corn. Ok, you can give him a small bite of your hot dog, I won’t tell…and it is a holiday!

Keep in mind that some dogs are not very wary of grills and grilling utensils as well. That amazing smell of grilling burgers and brats could encourage your pup to stick his nose on a hot grill, or even jump up and burn his feet. Make sure grilling utensil and skewers are out of reach for your pets so they aren’t tempted to start gnawing on a sharp stick flavored with lovely meat juice!

Environmental Hazards

Citronella candles and tiki torch oil are great to help keep the bugs away from your grill out, but can be hazardous to dogs if swallowed or if the fumes are inhaled. Keep your pets away from lit candles as well as any fires, sparklers, or glow sticks you have lit.

Remember to supervise your pets if you are celebrating near water, either a pool, lake, or river. Always know where your pet is and act as a lifeguard for them when they are in the water.

The Ever Dreaded Fireworks

Many of us love fireworks – the boom, the colors, the excitement – but our pets, not so much. Their superior sense of hearing and smell can turn those celebratory explosions into a scary event. Be sure to keep your pet away from anywhere fireworks might be lit. If you know your pet has a fear of fireworks, teach them some coping mechanisms and use calming supplements, music, or wraps to help your pet feel more comfortable.

Make sure that your pet is secured, both in your home and in your yard. Never leave your pet outside unattended during fireworks in case the noise startles them and they bolt. Keep your pet’s collar with ID tags on them just in case the worst happens and they take off. Be sure to microchip your pet so that you have a better chance of getting them back if they do escape. If you know your pet is afraid of fireworks, do their last potty break for the night before the noises start so that they can remain safe inside for the duration.

Calming Assistance

Ideally, you know that your pet is afraid of fireworks and loud noises and can work ahead of time to help desensitize your pet and teach them relaxation and coping techniques. But that process takes time and the 4th of July is almost here. So here are a few tips and products that you can use to assist in keeping your pet comfortable.

  • Set up a safe space for them. Create a “happy place” in advance of the fireworks where your pet can feel secure. Find a spot in your home that your pet already likes to relax that could buffer some of the sounds, like a walk-in closet or a bathroom without windows (yes, my dog loves to sleep in the shower…it is her safe space). Fill it with cozy bedding and blankets (those that smell like you may help keep your pet even calmer, like you’re there giving them a hug), favorite toys, and maybe a special treat or chew to distract them.
  • Don’t make a fuss over your stressed pet. When our pet is distressed, it is difficult for us to not comfort them, but excessive comforting can validate their fears or reward the pet’s behaviors. Give them a few pats, tell them its ok, but otherwise carry on as if nothing special or stressful is happening. They can take their cues from you and hopefully realize the world is not ending.
  • Drown out the sound. Try to leave calming music or a peaceful tv show on to help block the sound of the booms. Make sure your pet can hear it from their safe space but don’t make it too loud or the extra noise could bother your pet even more. Closing all of the windows and doors in your house may also help. The link below is a special pet speaker designed to help calm your pets.
    • Pet Tunes Canine – a speaker and playlist clinically proven to calm dogs, also available for cats
  • Give your pet a “hug.” You aren’t literally hugging your pet, but by putting a comforting wrap on your pet, like the Thundershirt, you are giving them compression comfort that could help ease their fears.
  • Consider calming supplements or pheromones. There are several natural supplements that are designed to reduce anxiety for pets. You may want to start them before the fireworks begin to allow the supplement time to work. Supplements like L-theanine, L-tryptophan, and Casein are naturally found supplements that produce calming hormones in your pet.
    • Pheromone collars, like the Adaptil Calm-on-the-go Collar, can provide a slow and consistent release of calming pheromones while in contact with your pet’s body heat.
    • Rescue Remedy is an essential oil based calming supplement that you can add to your pet’s water to help keep them calmer.
    • CBD treats and supplements are also becoming more popular with pet owners to aid in reducing their pet’s anxieties.

Use these tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable holiday for all two and four legged friends and family. Happy Fourth of July!

 

Many of us, particularly those of us in urban areas, love being able to take our pups to the dog park to play and romp to their heart’s content. Dog parks can be a great and safe way to get out some of your pet’s energy and let them learn to socialize with other pups. However, dog parks aren’t always the safest place for all dogs. Owners may not recognize or be able to fix unwanted or problem behaviors that could result in dangerous situations.

In order to keep yourself and your pet safe, there are some dog park etiquette rules that must be followed.

two dogs playing in a field, one dog with tongue hanging out and the other prancing

1. Know your pet.

Dogs are social creatures but not all dogs love all dogs. Dr. Susan Nelson, DVM, states that “a dog park is a great place for dogs to get some exercise and learn social skills…[but] if your buddy is aggressive or has issues that could make him hostile toward another dog playing with a ball or Frisbee, the dog park is not the place to teach him to make friends or share his toys.” Those issues should be addressed by a trainer first.

Dogs have different types of play styles. The Whole Dog Journal lists a few different types, including the social butterfly and the fetch-aholic. You should know how your pup likes to play to determine if a dog park is right for your dog. For example, is your dog a rough-and-tumble pup or does he or she enjoy the chase? Does your dog prefer a calmer one-on-one play style? Consider what your dog likes to do and watch for play that could stress out or scare your dog. If your dog does not play the way others in the park do (either too rough or too fearful) do not allow your dog to interfere in others’ play. An overstimulated rough-houser can cause an aggressive response from another dog or a fearful dog may become the target of a group of rough-housing dogs.

Above all, before you go to the dog park, for both the safety of your own pet and others in the park, be sure that your dog is consistently responsive to basic commands including “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” Here are a few ideas of when your pup should NOT go to the dog park:

  • If your puppy is under 4 months of age then it has not had all of its vaccinations and should not be exposed to other dogs
  • If your adult dog does not have a rabies vaccination you may not be allowed in the park; some parks allow for rabies titers but not many. Rabies vaccinations are required in the USA so your pup should have one anyway, especially if you have licensed him or her with your town.
  • If your female dog is in heat do not bring her to the dog park. You do not want to risk an accidental litter or cause a fight between male dogs vying for a female.
  • If your pup does not have consistent recall, you should not bring them to the park. If you cannot retain control over your pet (even if they are friendly) your dog can create stressful situations that could lead to aggression and you cannot remove them from a suddenly dangerous place.
  • If your dog shows any kind of aggression do not bring them to the park. Some dogs play well with little dogs but are afraid of or stressed by larger dogs or vice versa. Some dogs don’t like people in hats. Some dogs refuse to share toys or food. (While you should not bring toys or treats to the dog park, be aware that others will and your dog will need to cope with that.) Whatever your pup’s trigger(s) might be, if your dog can become threatening or aggressive, do not take them to a place that will cause unnecessary amounts of stress for them and those around them.

2. Know your park.

Pick the right dog park for your pup. Before entering the park, scan the inside and look for too many dogs, inattentive owners, too much dog waste left lying around, or aggressive or pushy dogs. If you see any of those, consider trying a different park or type of exercise. Ideally a good dog park will have:

  • A double-gated entry, preferably with multiple points of entry to separate dogs, sturdy fencing, and posted rules
  • Well-stocked poop bag dispenser(s) and trash cans for disposal
  • Large spaces for dogs to run and spread out and separate areas for large and small dogs
  • Dog-friendly water fountains, make sure it’s not just a bowl on the ground but there’s running water to refill dishes
  • A sheltered area for shade, either from large trees or manmade
  • Follow any posted rules, including those banning toys or food.
  • Consider dog parks that require a membership or entrance fee. Those are often better maintained with enforceable rules and more conscientious owners.

3. Go at an “off” time.

If your pup is just getting used to dog parks or if he or she tends to be shy, consider going when you know the dog park won’t be crowded. Your dog will appreciate the extra space and lower numbers of other dogs and you will be able to breathe easier knowing you haven’t submitted your pup to a stressful situation. If your dog is a ball-hog and they just need to bring their ball, consider going at an off time so there are fewer dogs to interfere in fetch.

Going at off times can also be great in the summer as a way to stay out of the heat of the day. Your dog can easily get overheated if you go to the park after work. Instead, try to go early in the morning, before 10am, or later at night, after 6pm, for playtime.

Remember, you can always leave early or not enter if the park is too crowded. It’s better to try something different than put your dog in a stressful and potentially scary situation.

4. Bring necessary supplies.

You should be aware that there’s always a chance your pup could get hurt or overheated at the dog park. Be prepared with necessary supplies either on hand or in your car. When you go to the park you should always have:

  • Your dog’s collar with ID tags on your dog at all times
  • A leash to remove or restrain your dog if necessary
  • Poop bags to clean up after your dog (some diseases can spread through feces so it is important to pick up after your pet)
  • Fresh water in case the park does not provide any
  • Your cell phone with your veterinarian’s phone number and the number for Animal Control programmed into it
  • Some form of animal deterrent for worst case scenarios. You don’t want to get in the middle of a dog fight but an air horn or animal deterrent spray can help break up a fight before too much damage is done.

5. Be vigilant.

It’s not necessary to stare continually at your pet, but it is important to be observant and know where your dog is at all times.  Here are a few ideas for what to be aware of in the park:

  • Keep an eye on your pup and the dogs in the area. Be watchful of the dogs playing with or near your pup, especially if they seem to be overly excited or aggressive. If your dog seems overwhelmed, call him or her back to you to create space from the stressful situation.
  • Don’t enter the park if there are any dogs hovering near the gate. Wait until they’ve wandered or been called away to enter with your pup. Entryways can be a source of contention with some dogs and it is easy to get bottlenecked if you aren’t careful.
  • If there isn’t a separate small dog area be careful with your pup playing with dogs of different sizes. If your dog is larger, make sure they aren’t overwhelming the smaller dog. If you have the smaller dog, make sure he or she isn’t intimidated by the larger dog. In a worst case situation, a dog is more able to survive an attack from a dog their size.

6. Know the difference between play and aggression.

Some dogs have a rougher style of play than others. It can be difficult for both you and your dog to know when another dog is playing or becoming aggressive, especially when they have different play styles. Here are a few ways to tell the difference between play and aggression.

  • A playful dog will bounce around another dog with a loosely wagging tail. He or she will have a relaxed posture and a relaxed or gently smiling face. The playful pup will often play bow to the other dog before continuing to bounce or initiate a chase.
  • An aggressive dog will have a stiff posture with either raised hackles or tightly closed mouth and a hyperfocused stare. Often the tail will be wagging but it will be a high and tight wag that signals stress. Staring, crouching, stalking, and charging are all undesirable behaviors. For some very good descriptions of potential issues with dogs at dog parks, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers has compiled a list here.
  • If one dog is being chased by or ganged up on by a group of dogs, even if it began as play, it is a potentially volatile situation. Remove your dog (either the chaser or chasee) from that environment to de-escalate the play.
  • If your dog or another dog begin to growl at each other, stay calm and call your dog to you. Move to another spot in the dog park (or leave if your dog is overwhelmed) to allow stress levels to decrease away from the situation. Do not attempt to drag your dog away by the collar because that could ratchet up the aggression levels in either dog and instigate a fight. Do not get between dogs in a fight; use the air horn or deterrent spray.

7. Know when to leave.

Have you ever seen an overtired toddler? Happy play can immediately turn to temper tantrums. A similar thing can happen with dogs, especially in a dog park environment. Instead of staying for hours, leave before your dog gets to that point. Even if your dog starts out playing well, if he or she becomes overexcited, threatening, or is misbehaving in any way, it’s time to take your pet home and try another day. Overstimulated dogs that are not removed from their environment can easily cause problems for themselves or other dogs. Know your dog’s temperament and moods and leave before your dog can reach a snapping point. It is foolish to assume that your dog, even if he or she is normally passive, will never attack another dog or person. “He’s never done that before!” is a common refrain and a preventable one.

If your dog doesn’t seem like a “dog park dog” it’s not the end of the world. Not all dogs do well in a dog park situation. There are many other ways to exercise and socialize your dog and generally enrich their lives. It’s better to find new ways to play than put your pet in a potentially hazardous situation.

Large longhaired brown tabby cat lying on a counter with his feet tucked under his body like a loaf of breadJune is National Adopt a Cat Month and let’s face it: We love to watch cats whether they’re being silly, adorable, regal, or cranky. Cats are the reason we need the internet. Cat videos on YouTube have been going viral for years and can be just the way to put a smile on your face. Even though many of us are fairly convinced cats are secretly plotting to take over the world, they’re more than happy to live with you and let you be their servant…I mean owner. But regardless of their world domination propensities, here are ten really good reasons to stop watching those cat videos long enough to go get a cat of your own. And who knows, maybe your cat can be the next YouTube sensation!

1. You can save more than one life by adopting a cat

Not only do you save the life of the kitty you adopted, but you can clear a space for more cats to be rescued and sheltered. Unfortunately, shelters have a limited capacity and many pets are euthanized before they are able to be re-homed due to lack of space or resources. According to the ASPCA over 3.2 million cats enter American pet shelters every year. Approximately 1.6 million of those cats are adopted. That means there are plenty who still need to be housed and cared for until they find their forever home!

Consider the adage “the more the merrier!” When adopting a cat, consider getting a bonded pair or two cats (provided you give them time to get comfortable with each other). You can save two lives and your kitty will always have a playmate or snuggle companion when you aren’t home.

Cat fact: Often older cats, special needs cats and kittens, or black cats are considered “unadoptable” and are the first to be euthanized. Consider adopting one of these kitties when you are looking for a new pet.

 

2. Adopting a cat is a sound financial choice.

When you adopt from a shelter, your new kitty has already been spayed or neutered, given necessary vaccinations, and microchipped. Some shelters will even include a bag of food, collar and id, or pet insurance in the adoption fee. This will help you save in the upfront costs of a new pet. When you purchase a cat from a breeder you must pay for these expenses on your own. Depending on the cat and what type of lifestyle you have, you may also save on any training or house/litter training expenses.

3. There are a wide variety of cats available and their personality is already known.

At most shelters you can find almost any type of cat: young or old, long haired or short haired, in all colors and sizes. If you have your heart set on a specific breed, like a Siamese or Persian, you can also check for breed rescue or cat-specific organizations. These manifold felines spend their days with volunteers, behaviorists, and trainers. Each cat’s needs and personality is studied carefully so that you know what kind of kitty you’ll get. You may want an active playful cat who will entertain you for hours or all you need is a couch potato to join your Netflix binges. Either way, the shelter personnel will be able to help you find your match.

Many pets wind up at shelters due to a change in family circumstances, such as a divorce or a move, rather than through any fault of their own. These pets are happy, healthy cats who are already house trained and accustomed to living with a family. No need to train them yourself, they come ready and happy to fit into your home!

Cat fact: Young cats and kittens can go through personality changes until they are fully grown. A snuggly kitten may not be a snuggly adult. If you want a specific activity level or personality, consider getting an adult cat. If they sit in your lap today, very likely they will be a lap cat for the rest of their lives. Since cats can live upwards of 18 years, you’ll still have plenty of time to love an adult cat.

 

4. Cats are good for your health, both mental and physical.

orange tabby snoozing on its back with one paw resting up by her faceAccording to a study performed by Deborah Wells, owning a cat (or any pet you adopt) can improve your sense of happiness and well-being and can help reduce the strain of stress, anxiety, depression, or loneliness. Cats can provide a quiet, soothing presence when we need it most, during times of strain or grief. Other studies have found that having a cat may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease or stroke. One such study in 2008 showed that having a cat can reduce your risk of heart attack by up to 40% by reducing stress and anxiety! We’ve also found that a cat’s purr can help lower your blood pressure, promote bone health, heal ligaments and muscles with minor injuries, and decrease dyspnea. A study by the Journal of Pediatrics published in the National Library of Medicine states that having a cat in the home with children can expose those children to allergens at a very young age, making them less likely to develop allergies or respiratory issues later.

5. Cats are the perfect apartment roommate.

If you live in a small space, like an apartment or condo or even a dorm room (if the school allows it), a cat can be the perfect companion. Most cats instinctively know to use the litter box and scratching posts. They are less likely to track mud through the house or tear up the garbage than dogs. Cats tend to be neat and tidy animals although many do shed so invest in a good vacuum! Cats, with the exception of some long haired cats, require less grooming than dogs. Most cats take care of their own bathing and brushing without any help!

Cats often don’t need as much playtime as dogs and will value their time lounging around the house or just being with you since they sleep up to 16-20 hours per day. They don’t require a lot of space and lengthy walks like dogs do. They can be fairly low maintenance, just make sure of give them plenty of toys and places to climb, like cat trees or window seats. Most cats are independent creatures and can frequently choose to keep to themselves. And when they do want to snuggle, they’re warm, fuzzy, and the perfect size for your lap. While cats are happy to be around their humans, they are able to stay home alone all day unlike dogs. Cats do not require as much constant care as dogs, making them a preferred pet of many busy professionals.

6. Cats are good for your home and the environment.

Mostly white calico cat sitting in a window reaching a paw out to a mouse standing on its back feet at the corner of the windowCats are good pest deterrents. They help keep control of any mice, rat, or bug populations. While some cats decide they’d rather befriend small animals, most are very good hunters. If it moves, they pounce! Many farms keep barn cats just for that purpose. The Working Cats program helps re-home otherwise “unadoptable” feral cats to work on farms and in businesses as pest control.

Cats also leave a smaller carbon footprint on the planet than dogs do. The biggest factor in a pet’s carbon footprint is the amount of food they eat, and since cats eat far less than dogs, they leave a smaller footprint. In this way they are better for the environment than dogs. Just don’t let your house cat outside to attack the local birds!

 

7. Cats are wonderful companions, particularly for the elderly or other pets.

Calmer cats, particularly those that are older, can make wonderful friends for older adults. Their easy care and peaceful dispositions can be a blessing and stave off loneliness. Cats can also keep other pets company during the day. If you have a cat or a cat-friendly dog you may want to consider getting a playmate or sidekick to enjoy. Just make sure to temperament test both pets and give them time to adjust to each other.

Cat fact: Often cats are more reserved and stressed about their shelter environment. They need routine and a safe environment to flourish. It’s easy to see your future best friend in those cute dogs ready to wag their tail and lick your hand. But consider taking the time to get to know some of the cats in the shelter. They can be just as loving as a dog and lower maintenance!

 

8. You’ll change a cat’s life forever.

Not only can you be proud that you’ve helped a pet in need and created space for more pets to be helped, but you’ll get a new best friend out of the deal. Cats may be selective with their affection, but once you’ve earned their trust, you’ll have a loyal friend fur-ever. The quote about rescuing a dog can be applied to cats as well: “Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever.” 

So are you ready to head out to the shelter to find your forever friend? According to Indiana University Media School, people who watch cat videos were “more energetic, felt more positive and had fewer negative emotions, such as anxiety, annoyance and sadness after watching cat videos online.” If that can happen while watching cats, what do you think would happen if you owned one? And if you are unable to, then head on over to YouTube to get your kitty fix and lower your stress levels!

No one wants to think about when disaster might strike, especially now with the current global crisis. We may not get hurricanes out here in Minnesota, but tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural or man-made disasters can surprise us. You may not have a disaster plan in place, but now is the time to start thinking about one. June is #PetPreparedness Month and in honor of that, this week’s blog post is about how to prepare a disaster kit for your pets and have a disaster plan ready. I hope you never have to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad it’s there.

Disaster Planning

It’s not easy or fun to think about worst case scenarios but having a disaster plan can make the difference in keeping your pet safe. Here are some things to think about when making your disaster plan:

  • Know your region’s native disasters:

    • Is your region prone to hurricanes or tornadoes? What about blizzards, wildfires, or earthquakes? Identifying the common natural disasters in your region can help you create a specific disaster plan for your pets and your family.
    • It’s also a good idea to become familiar with local evacuation routes.
  • Write out a pet evacuation plan:

    • Create a pet evacuation checklist that includes everything that you need to bring or have with you and everything that needs to be done to safely evacuate your pet
    • Have plans in place both for when you need to stay put and when you need to get away. If you are staying home know which rooms provide the safest haven (no windows, no flying debris). Remember, if it isn’t safe for you to stay, it isn’t safe for your pets.
    • Identify pet-friendly evacuation shelters in advance so you are ready if and when the time comes to quickly evacuate. If there are no pet-friendly shelters in your area, consider other options such as your vet’s office, local animal shelters, pet-friendly hotels (either in your location or on your evacuation route), local boarding facilities, or a trusted friend or relative’s house.
    • Include all necessary contact information for shelters, veterinary offices, boarding facilities, and hotels in the pet disaster kit.
    • Be sure to have multiple options outlined in your plan. This way you don’t waste time searching for a plan B if necessary.
    • Although your pets may be more comfortable together, keep in mind they may need to be housed separately due to space or supply constraints
    • If you are unable to keep your pet with you, have a plan in place with your veterinarian to help keep your pet as safe as possible in your absence.
    • In the case of sudden emergencies (such as a house fire), place a waterproof “Pets inside” sticker on entry points (front and back doors) listing how many pets are living in your home. Emergency responders will then know to keep an eye out for your pets.
  • Create a buddy system:

    • You will also need a plan if disaster hits while you are away from home. You should identify temporary housing for your pet. Prepare for this by asking a trusted neighbor, friend, or relative if they’re willing to check in on your pet. You can create a buddy system but agreeing to do the same for their pets.
    • Be sure to add their name to your contact list in your disaster kit. And make sure to tell your buddy where your pet disaster kit is located in your home.
    • Designate specific locations, both in your neighborhood and farther away, where you will meet in the case of an emergency.
    • You may also want to consider choosing “designated caregivers” who will take your pet in (or who live nearby and can go to your pet daily) both temporarily and permanently if something should happen to you.
  • Microchip your pet:

    • Make sure you keep the contact and address information up to date in a reliable recovery database. Include contact information for an emergency contact out of the area as well.
  • Practice evacuating:

    • Make sure to get your pet comfortable with their carrier or crate ahead of time. This way, being confined does not create additional stress and your pet will be less likely to attempt to escape their carrier.
    • Practice getting your pets into crates or the car with their kit. This way your pets will be more comfortable if you truly need to evacuate in an emergency.
    • Know where your pet may hide if he or she is stressed or scared. Have a plan for getting your pet out of their hiding space quickly and safely if necessary.
    • For emergencies in which you stay at home, practice gathering and containing all of your pets and yourself in the designated safe room.
  • Know who to contact:

    • For information on evacuation planning, contact your local emergency management office, animal shelter, or animal control to get advice and information.
    • The Humane Society can help with locating shelters near you that can take in pets.
    • Use the FEMA app or NOAA radio to keep track of developing events or situations.
    • Check out this website to see if your state has a pet disaster plan or law.
  • For tips on what to do with large animals and livestock click here.

    • Be sure to have an evacuation plan for large animals as well and include identification, vaccination/medical records, and contact information with each animal.
  • Watch this video from FEMA for more information:

Disaster Kit

It’s important to have a disaster kit prepared for your pets in case of emergency or evacuation. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) this is what you should include:

  • Documents:

    • Photocopies of vet records including rabies certificate, prescriptions for any medicines, medical history/summary, vaccinations, most recent heart worm test for dogs and FeLV/FIV for cats
    • Photocopies of registration, proof of ownership/adoption records
    • Microchip information
    • Your contact information, your veterinarian’s contact information, and addresses and phone numbers for emergency contacts and family/friends/location where you will be staying
    • Pet description (breed, sex, color, weight) and recent photos of pets, sometimes a selfie with your pet helps to prove ownership
    • Waterproof container for all of the documents
    • The CDC has a good document that contains much of this necessary information here: Boarding Document
  • Water, Food, Medications:

    • 2 week supply of food for each pet stored in waterproof containers
    • 2 week supply of water for each pet
    • 2 week supply of any medications if applicable
    • 1 month supply of flea & tick and heart worm prevention
    • No-spill food and water dishes
    • Manual can opener if applicable
    • Feeding instructions for each pet
    • Medication instructions for each pet
    • If your pet has anxiety, reactivity, or sensitivity be sure to include information on their typical behavior and triggers and how to interact safely with your pet
  • Other Supplies:

    • Collar with ID, leash, and harness
    • Toys
    • Waste bags or piddle pads
    • Litter and litter box for cats
    • Pet carrier with bedding, blankets, or towel (be sure to write your pet’s name, your name, and your contact information on each carrier)
    • Cleaning supplies for accidents (paper towels, plastic bags, disinfectant)
    • Pet life jacket
    • Pet paw protectors/boots
    • Grooming items/nail clippers
    • Basket muzzle if applicable (make sure your pet is accustomed to this ahead of time)
    • Pet first aid kit and first aid book. For information on what to include in a first aid kit click here.
    • Flashlight with extra batteries

Be sure to keep your Pet Emergency Kit up to date.

Whenever you get new annual vaccination records from your veterinarian, check the kit and add updated contact information, photos, and perishables (food and medications) if necessary. Write the date on your perishables to make sure you know when you last replaced them.

The Aftermath

Your pet’s behavior may change after a disaster or evacuation. They may become aggressive, defensive, or skittish. Be aware of their well being and environment in order to protect them from hazards and protect others from negative reactions.

  • Keep your pet under your control at all times.

    • Fences, gates, or barriers may have been damaged and will not contain your pet.
  • Disorientation is common.

    • Your pet may be disoriented, especially if the disaster has affected the scent markers they use to determine “home.”
  • Watch for hazards.

    • Be aware of nose and paw level hazards including chemical spills, debris, exposed wiring, or other substances that may not seem harmful to humans.
  • Prepare for an adjustment period.

    • Give your pet time to adjust to his or her new surroundings and environment while keeping a close eye on his/her behaviors. Keep them in a secure space until they readjust. Try to re-establish a normal schedule as quickly as possible.
  • If any problem behaviors persist, contact your veterinarian.