goldendoodle standing with front fee in a metal tub full of water, licking water off nose, playing in water tub, enjoying cooling offMemorial Day Weekend marks the beginning of summer for many people. Now that we are getting close to warmer weather, you need to consider how to entertain your pet during the “dog days of summer.” This week’s blog post will give you some great ideas for keeping your pet entertained and cool at the same time – with water! Keep reading to learn about some great water games to play with your pets. At the end we’ve listed a few awesome spots to take your pups for a wet and wild outing!

Swimming

Not all dogs enjoy swimming. Not all dogs even like water. While swimming and water play are great ways to wear your dog out without letting them overheat, do not force your pup into the water. Take some time this summer to teach them to enjoy water, whether it’s splashing or swimming but if they are resistant, find another way to entertain and wear your pup out that doesn’t add stress. Training your pup to be a swimmer doesn’t happen overnight. Like any new skill, swimming takes preparation and practice but can give lifelong benefits. Follow the tips below provided by Fear Free Pets to get your pup comfortable with being in or near the water.

  • Start on dry land. Use a kiddie pool filled with 1-2 inches of water and play with your pet around and near it. Once they are comfortable with the pool, toss the toys into it for your pup to go “bobbing for toys.” Allow them to hop in and out of the pool many times so they get used to splashing and being wet.
  • Head to a pool or lake. Put your dog on a leash and walk into a shallow section of the water with your pup. Walk in and out several times so they learn that they can get out of the water whenever they are not comfortable or feeling overwhelmed. Use lots of verbal praise and a positive voice to encourage confidence in your pup. You can provide treats as your pup continues to walk next to you into the water, or toss a toy slightly ahead of your pup if he/she enjoys retrieving.
  • Back your dog in. If your pup is nervous or if he/she has had a bad experience with water they may feel more comfortable backing into the water rather than going face first. In this case, start by teaching your dog how to back up on land before attempting it in the water. Always allow your dog to decide whether they’d like to participate or not.
  • Go deeper. Once a puppy or dog becomes comfortable with being wet and splashing in the kiddie pool and shallow section, it’s time to ease them into swimming. This stage requires constant supervision for all dogs! Always use a life jacket on your pup, especially on their first few attempts, both for safety and for their comfort. Calmly and slowly introduce your pet to deeper water and encourage them to begin to lift their feet up and paddle.
  • Provide support. Many dogs will lift their hind legs first while keeping their front legs planted, but will not paddle with the hind legs initially. Keep your hands under their belly for support and if they become scared at any point bring them back to land or shallower water where they can stand. Continue to encourage them to paddle with all four legs. If your dog only uses the front legs to paddle they will quickly become tired. Keep the first full-body swim lesson short so as not to overtire or overwhelm your pup.
  • Provide a role model. Other dogs who are confident swimmers may help you encourage your dog to spread his wings, or webbed feet as the case may be! If you don’t have another dog who likes to swim, try looking into group classes with an instructor.
  • End on a good note. When water training your dog, just like with all training, it’s important to end on a good note, with something that your pet does well, to build their confidence. Even if your pup only gets his feet wet that first attempt, end with one of their favorite tricks near the water and give them a big reward. Make water a good association!
  • Safety considerations: once your pup becomes a swimmer, be sure to follow these safety instructions to keep your pup safe.
    • Check local health department warnings about toxic algae or high levels of E.coli bacteria in lakes you may be visiting.
    • Make sure currents are not running too swiftly (especially during spring when there could be snow melt and runoff) in rivers or riptides too strong in oceans.
    • Keep an eye out for submerged hazards like boulders, stumps, or manmade obstructions.
    • Always carry a canine life jacket on your boat when you bring your dog out.
    • Never toss your dog over the side of the boat or pool, they could drown.

Water Games

Easy games

  • Bobbing for toys or ice cubes – dump some toys that float (or those that don’t) into the pool. If that doesn’t float your pup’s boat, try dumping some ice cubes or carrot sticks into the water and watch your pup chase them around, it’s a guaranteed belly laugh!
  • Ice bucket challenge – no this isn’t what you think! Take a small bucket and fill it about 1/2-2/3 full (you can add a small amount of low sodium chicken broth for flavor). Toss in treats, baby carrrots, cut up fruit, whatever your dog may like and freeze overnight. Then pop the giant ice cube out of the bucket and let your pup lick away to get to the tasty treats!
  • Pool fetch – for pups that enjoy swimming, toss bumpers or something that floats across the pool or into the lake so that they must swim out to get it
  • Raft rides – if you have a pool, consider buying your pup a raft (designed to withstand dog nails) to join you in relaxing on the water
  • Sprinkler play – set up your sprinkler and let your pup bounce and splash through it, or in the case of my pup, attack the water fiercely and soak her face. If you don’t have a sprinkler you can use a hose or even a larger water gun (just be sure not to spray your dog in the face)!
  • Boating – a day on the lake can involve your four legged friend, and be more fun as a result! Just make sure your dog is comfortable around water and that you have a canine life jacket in the boat. For more of a workout for you, try canoeing or kayaking with your pup!

More skill required

  • Keep away – requires 2 people, stand on either side of a pool or a certain distance in a lake and toss a toy between you so your pup must swim back and forth. Make sure your pup gets the toy frequently so he stays engaged and keep an eye on his energy level. You don’t want to overtire your pup in the water!
  • Catch me if you can – teach your pup a “catch me” or “get me” command and once they know it, use it in the water to get them to swim along behind you (you might be swimming or walking along the pool)
  • Toy diving – For pups that don’t mind submerging their faces, you may find a toy that will sink to the bottom for them to swim down and fetch. Be sure your pool/lake isn’t too deep and the pup can see where the toy goes. You don’t want them under for too long! (To teach this, begin in shallow water where you dog can just reach down to get the toy, then slowly work toward deeper water where your dog must actually dive)
  • Water hoops – there’s a land game where you teach your pup to jump through a hula hoop. If you already have that mastered try bringing the hoop into the water and hold it partially submerged for your pup to swim through or fully submerged for your pup to dive through! If your pup enjoys jumping into the water to fetch, you can incorporate a hoop into that exercise as well.

Water Sports

  • Dock diving – dogs chase a bumper (floating toy) that is thrown off a simulated dock, awards go to the dog who jumps the farthest
  • Surfing – make sure you are an experienced surfer and put a life jacket on your pup. Check out Tillman the surfing skateboarding bulldog for a good chuckle!
  • Paddle boarding – stand-up paddle boarding can be a blast with your pup, but make sure that you are an experienced paddle boarder and always put a life jacket on your pup

Regardless of what you and your pup choose to do, make sure your follow any rules and restrictions, bring plenty of fresh water (you don’t want them drinking lake or pool water!), and rinse them clean after swim time.

Pools, Lakes, and Beaches – oh my!

Check out the links below for some fantastic water fun for your pups in the Twin Cities and surrounding area this summer:

  • For the Love of Dogsa training facility in Mendota Heights that offers dock diving classes, open swim, and private swimming lessons
  • Woof Dah!a daycare and boarding facility in Burnsville with an outdoor splash pad and an indoor swimming pool
  • The Paw: a daycare and boarding facility in Mankato that offers private swim, open swim, and pool parties
  • Channel 4: has a list of the best places to let your pup swim in Minnesota
  • Sidewalk Dogthe ultimate site for fun things to do with your pup in the Twin Cities; check out their list of summer fun for great parks to let your dog swim

 

Note: There are some dogs that should not swim. Some toy breeds, Greyhounds, Pugs, Bulldogs, and Dachshunds are more likely to sink than float. If they do go near the water make sure they have a life vest on. Puppies under the age of 3 months and hairless dogs should not be submerged fully (they can splash around in shallows) because they cannot regulate their body temperature and are at risk for hypothermia.

We are all looking forward to that time when things get back to normal; when we return to work or school or a regular schedule. But what about our pets? They’ve been by your side 24 hours a day for the past several months and will struggle to adjust or readjust to the new normal. They won’t understand that this quarantine is temporary and you have to go back to working out of the house for 8 hours a day. They won’t understand the (to them) sudden change and lack of consistent contact. How do you help prepare your pet for that eventuality? And how do you help them cope with the adjustment when you do return to normal?

Labrador retriever standing next to a sitting golden doodle, looking out the window with their backs to the camera

What does Separation Anxiety look like?

There are many symptoms of separation anxiety. Some of your pets may already have some separation anxiety but if not, here are some of the symptoms to look for according to the ASPCA. Be sure to rule out medical problems for any of these behaviors with your veterinarian before treating your pet for separation anxiety.

  • Urinating or defecating: some pets will urinate or defecate in unwanted locations (in the house or outside of the litter box) when separated from their owners
  • Barking or howling: a pet with separation anxiety will often bark or howl persistently to indicate distress when they are left alone
  • Chewing, digging, or other destructive behaviors: typically if these behaviors are a result of separation anxiety they only occur when the pet is left alone, unlike general destructive behaviors of an untrained or young pet. These behaviors can often cause self-injury if the pet gets splinters from chewing furniture or ingests something they shouldn’t
  • Escaping: a pet who attempts to escape from an area in which he or she is confined when alone or separated from their owner is showing signs of separation anxiety. This is another behavior that can cause self-injury as the pet attempts to climb, dig, or push it’s way out of an enclosed space.
  • Pacing: pets who exhibit this behavior will move in circular or fixed patterns when their owner is not present
  • Coprophagia: in some cases dogs will defecate and then consume the stool they have expelled due to the stress of being alone

If your pet is showing any of the above symptoms, have them evaluated by your veterinarian. It may be helpful to video your pet as you prepare to depart from home and when left alone or separated from you. This can help your veterinarian make a plan for treatment.

How to prepare your pet?

The most important thing to do is start preparing your pet for the coming change now. According to Marjie Alonso, the executive director of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, we have to remember that our pets are individuals and just like us they are having differing reactions to this quarantine. Now is the time to start helping them adjust to the upcoming transition. Here are some tips from animal experts to help you help your pets:

  • Teach your pet independence and how to be alone comfortably.
    • Catch your pet being calm throughout the day, especially when the dog is ignoring you, and reward him or her with calm and pleasant attention.
    • Give your pet something delicious when you leave. Alonso states that “If you start stuffing that Kong with mashed potatoes and roast beef every time you walk out the door, the dog is going to be like, ‘Here’s your coat.’”
    • Provide separation with baby gates or doors for short periods of time, giving your pet a special treat or a puzzle toy, slowly allowing your pet to self-soothe and accept being alone.
  • If you are home all day, make sure you ignore your pet sometimes and do not give him or her constant attention or give in to constant demands.
    • You should not set attention and activity levels now that are difficult or impossible to maintain when you transition back to work, according to Mikel Delgado, a cat behavior researcher at the University of California-Davis.
    • He also states that owners should avoid working in places (like the sofa) that pets associate with cuddles or play.
  • Make sure your pet has alone time daily.
    • Alonso suggests that you make sure your pet has alone time. If you used to leave for work at a specific time go through your normal preparations (put on shoes, grab purse or briefcase and keys) and leave the house for a short period of time.
    • Dog trainer Tracy Krulik specializes in separation anxiety and agrees with Alonso. Take time away from your dog daily, even if it is to sit under a tree or take a work call from your car.
    • Laura Sharkey, a dog trainer in Arlington Virginia, reminds owners that if your dog was previously crated when you went to work, he or she should still have some alone time in their crates. Crate training can give your pet a safe space and can help your pup learn that being alone is ok and is even sometimes preferable.
  • Provide mental stimulation for your pet, both while they are alone and while you are home.
    • Sharkey tells owners to take breaks form work to run through obedience cues or teach new tricks or give meals in food puzzles. It’s important to give your pets mental stimulation so that they are better able to cope with their alone time.
    • Fear Free veterinarians and behaviorists suggest that owners meet their pet’s physical, social and exploratory needs every day with routine, scheduled activities including play, positive reinforcement training, leashed walks, or environmental enrichment.
  • Make sure your arrivals and departures are not a big deal. If you make a fuss over your pet when you come home or leave they may be more likely to believe it is something to stress over.
    • Dr. Katherine Houpt, professor emeritus of behavior medicine at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, gives owners the following advice: “When you are heading out for your first day back at work, it would be best to give them a brisk walk or a game of fetch before you leave. Before you leave be sure to leave a long-lasting treat such as a rawhide or a Kong toy with frozen melted cheese inside. When you come home don’t greet them until they are calm and not jumping on you or running in circles.”

What if your pet already has separation anxiety?

Pug sitting on a bed wrapped in a soft brown blanket with only his face showingHappily, many pets have been recently adopted during the quarantine. However some of those pets (as well as current pets) may currently experience separation anxiety, especially if they have been re-homed multiple times. If your pet already has separation anxiety, Steve Dale, a certified animal behavior consultant, suggests that owners take a proactive stance and utilize several tools at their disposal to help their pets both now and during the transition back to “normal.” Those tools include:

  • Pheromone products: Both dogs and cats can benefit from an external source of calming pheromones, like those provided by Feliway or Adaptil. Most pheromone treatments are either diffusers, much like the Glade Plugins you use around the house, sprays that you can put on blankets and bedding, or collars that use the pets’ body heat to stimulate the release of calming pheromones close to the pet’s nose.
  •  Probiotics: Dr. Karen Becker and other veterinarians and nutrition experts have completed studies that show that your pet’s digestive health can affect their psychological well-being and behavior. Probiotic supplements can help alleviate stress in your pets. Several companies, including Purina, have developed probiotics designed to help calm your pet and assist with stress management.
  • Nutraceuticals or supplements: Nutraceuticals are a combination of the words “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical.” According to Fear Free, nutraceuticals are food-derived substances that are claimed to have an effect on health. They are similar to and sometimes labeled as supplements. Products given the label nutraceutical are not regulated so be sure to do your research to figure out the safe and effective choices. Nutraceuticals and supplements can come in the form of chewable tablets, oils, or powders that promote various physical responses from pets. Calming nutraceuticals and supplements may help your pet with separation anxiety. Some experts suggest CBD products can also assist in reducing anxiety in pets.
  • Comfort vests: Vests like the ThunderShirt work by applying consistent gentle pressure, much like swaddling an infant, to your pet’s torso to help calm their anxieties, fears, or over-excitement. Research has shown that this type of pressure can cause the pet to release a calming hormone such as oxytocin or endorphins. Some pets (particularly cats) may need time to become accustomed to wearing a comfort vest so be sure to allow your pet to adapt to this at their own pace and encourage them to move normally.
  • Background noise: Some dogs seem to like having background noise to help drown out sounds that could be stressful or startling, like neighbor’s voices, garbage trucks, or construction work. Choose something soothing that will not have that type of noise, such as a nature or children’s channel on TV or turn the TV or radio to a station playing classical, light jazz, pop, or other pleasant music. Studies have shown classical music and even reggae can be calming for dogs.

What to do when you go back to work/school?

  • Continue the routine: As much as possible, maintain the routine you established during quarantine. Take a morning walk or have a morning playtime, get ready for work, then give your pup a frozen Kong or your cat a puzzle toy and head out.
  • Utilize the tools at your disposal: Don’t forget that you can use calming pheromones, supplements, or comfort vests to help your pet stay calm during this transition until they have adjusted to the new normal.
  • Don’t wait: If your pet is showing signs of developing or increasing anxiety contact your veterinarian. Left untreated, anxiety often worsens over time.
  • Get help: Pet sitters and dog walkers can help with this transition! Pet sitters can come give your cats some socialization and enrichment time to entertain them while you are at work. Sitters can also come play with or walk your dog to help them deal with any anxieties that have resulted from your return to work. Check out our services and rates to find one that fits your needs and let our sitters help you and your pet!

It’s that time of year again… allergy season. For millions that means itchy red eyes and runny nose and general discomfort.

Many of us get seasonal allergies, but did you know your pets can too? Do you know how to combat allergies in your pet? Here are some tips on how to prevent those dreadful itching, licking, chewing responses in your pet and make them feel their best!

Orange tabby cat sniffing small white and yellow flowers with sunlight streaming in windowWhat are pet allergies?

Itching, most frequently a result of allergies, is the most common cause of veterinary visits in the world. There are four common types of allergies in pets: fleas, food sensitivity, contact, and airborne (atopy). These allergies all lead to a increased (often excessive) release of histamine, an immune oriented chemical compound in the body that helps regulate inflammatory response, as an enhanced reaction in the pet’s body to fight the “invader” or in this case the allergen. Many veterinarians believe that allergies can result from genetic or inherited factors in which excessive histamine release causes redness, swelling, pain, and itch. The pet then often licks, chews, or scratches at the irritated body parts (often face, feet, ears, or tail/anal region) resulting in skin irritation, scabbing, hair loss, dandruff, hot spots, or hives. If allergies are not treated those symptoms can lead to secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the skin or ears, lesions or plaques, upper respiratory infections or even in some cases ulcers.

Common Symptoms of Allergies:

  • Excessive scratching, chewing, or biting, particularly around the head, feet, or tail
  • Excessive licking, particularly the paws or anus region
  • Sneezing
  • Inflamed or infected skin (most commonly around face and ears) or hives
  • Excessive shedding, hair loss, or dandruff
  • Consistent head shaking, red or very way ears, or kicking at ears, may indicate chronic ear infections
  • Respiratory issues
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Watery or itchy eyes
  • Scooting (can also indicate anal gland issues so ask your vet about that too)

1. Flea Allergies:

A flea allergy is caused by your pet’s reaction to a flea’s bite and saliva. Even one flea bite can cause an intense reaction for a sensitive pet. Often flea allergies result in constant scratching leading to hair loss and scabbing. For dogs, the main areas affected are often in the groin, along the tail and hind legs, and down the rump. Cats do not have a typical affected area and can show scabs anywhere on the body. Flea combs are often used to detect flea dirt on your pet’s skin. If your pet has been infested with fleas it is important to treat your home as well as all of your pets with flea treatment. Fleas can easily be transferred between pets so make sure that you have medicated all of your animals even if they do not show signs of a flea infestation so they do not continue be a vector for transmission. For home treatment 1800petmeds.com recommends Wondercide or Cedarcide as natural alternatives to the traditional chemicals for flea removal. Medications for fleas in pets include flea collars, topical applications, and chewable pills for your pet. Many pet owners keep their pets on year round flea and tick protection. Talk to your veterinarian to find out what will work best for you and your pet.

2. Food Sensitivities:

Food intolerances, more often called food sensitivities, result from a reaction to a protein, carbohydrate, additive, or preservative in your pet’s food. Your pet’s body believes that the ingredient is an invader rather than a necessary nutrient and initiates an allergic response. According to the American Kennel Club, true food allergies are rare and are associated with severe reactions including facial swelling, gastrointestinal distress, and anaphylaxis. Most dogs do not have a true food allergy, but may have a food sensitivity. With insensitivities you will likely see symptoms that include general itchiness leading to hair loss, skin irritation, or sores, but most particularly around the ears and paws. Your pet’s coat will likely become dull or greasy. You may also see chronic ear infections or digestive tract issues including diarrhea or vomiting. Typically cats show those symptoms more often than the others and may only have vomiting of food or hair. If your cat vomits frequently that is a sign of allergy or other illness and they should be taken to your veterinarian.

Food allergies can sometimes be diagnosed with a blood or skin allergy test after other possible causes of the pet’s symptoms (parasites, viruses, or the ingestion of a non-food item) are ruled out. Most often veterinarians will recommend a 6-12 week food trial in which various proteins and ingredients are removed from the diet to obtain a proper diagnosis. Cummings Veterinary Medical Center has more information about the success of food trials and food sensitivities in general. As a result many pets are switched to a novel and restricted protein diet, often venison, rabbit, or duck, and sometimes are placed on a grain-free diet to relieve symptoms and inflammation. Wellness, Wysong, Now, and Nature’s Variety are non-prescription foods that are often recommended for pets with food sensitivities. Make a plan with your veterinarian or veterinary nutritionist to determine what is right for your pet.

3. Contact Dermatitis:

Contact allergies, also referred to as contact dermatitis or allergic dermatitis, are caused by an interaction with a substance in your pet’s environment. Often materials such as grass, weeds, flowers, mulch, or even carpet fibers are the allergens affecting your pet, but topical shampoos, dips, or pesticides can cause allergic reactions for pets with sensitive skin as well. Veterinarians will frequently use exposure histories to determine a diagnosis and will suggest reducing your pet’s interaction with such substances. Symptoms can be relieved with topical or oral anti-inflammatory or antihistamine medications. Always speak with your veterinarian prior to medicating your pet.

4. Inhalant Allergies:

Atopic, or inhalant airborne, allergies are most commonly caused by molds, dust mites or dander, and ragweed or other plant pollens. Typically these allergies cause itching around the head and feet for dogs and the head and thighs for cats but either pet can show signs throughout the body. Pets with airborne allergies often have flareups during season changes or during certain seasons just like humans. Veterinarians use blood and skin allergy tests to diagnose atopic allergies and recommend removal of the offending substance as well as symptomatic anti-itch medications to combat these allergies. Some vets will recommend periodic shampoo therapy to remove any allergens from your pet’s coat, stronger anti-allergy medications or steroids, or allergy desensitization shots. Holistic alternatives include the Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique.

Acute Allergic Reactions:

This is not a “type” of allergy. Acute reactions can happen with any of the above types of allergies but most commonly are caused by bee stings and somewhat less commonly by vaccinations. An acute allergic reaction can result in hives or facial swelling, including swelling of the eyelids, ears, lips, or throat. This may look scary but is rarely fatal and can be treated by your veterinarian with antihistamines. Anaphylaxis can occur in acute allergic reactions, but is rare. This is why veterinarians recommend that you watch your pet closely following the administration of a new vaccine, drug, or food.

Home remedies:

For pets with mild symptoms of their allergies there may be supplements or natural treatments that you can attempt. Holistic veterinarians recommend tea tree oil and occasionally diluted yucca to relieve itching and moisturize the skin and coat.

For pets with dry or irritated skin as a result of allergies, bathing with a hypoallergenic or oatmeal based shampoo could help relieve some symptoms. Be sure to rinse well because shampoo left on the coat or skin can exacerbate their skin issues. Tell your veterinarian or groomer if you are bathing with these types of shampoos and how frequently you are utilizing them to provide a complete picture when dealing with allergies. Baking soda can also help relieve itchy and irritated skin. Create a paste by mixing 1 tablespoon of baking soda with a little bit of water and place it on the itchy or red areas on your pet. Leave the paste on for at least an hour to give it time to calm the irritated skin and then gently wash it off. You can also use aloe on irritated and red skin to relieve itch and redness, but make sure to use pure aloe (not the tub you buy from the grocery store with preservatives and additives) and watch your pet to make sure they do not lick it off.

DogsNaturally.com recommends trying bovine colostrum or mushrooms to reduce allergic symptoms. There is little evidence to support these recommendations currently, but the scientific community is always evolving and these may become commonplace treatments in the future. The website also suggests feeding your pets quercetin, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine and is found in apples and broccoli, as a concentrated powder.

Dr. Judy Morgan, a leader in holistic medicine and food therapy, recommends witch hazel which has soothing and drying effects, applying cool green or black tea bags to your pet’s skin to help, or using coconut oil to combat the secondary infections resulting from excessive licking/scratching/chewing.

The majority of evidence to support home remedies is anecdotal. There are many natural remedies to help relieve itchiness and the symptoms of allergies. Make sure you do your research and purchase any of the remedies from reputable businesses. When in doubt always ask your veterinarian

Medication:

According to the AKC “the best way to treat an allergy is avoidance of the cause and allergen” which may or may not always be possible. Treatment depends on the type of allergy your pet has. For example, if your pet has a flea allergy then the best treatment would be to kill the fleas, but if your pet has a food sensitivity then you should change your pet’s diet. In addition to attempting to remove (or remove your pet from) the allergen, your veterinarian may also recommend medication to help control the symptoms and prevent secondary reactions or infections.

Treatment with anti-inflammatory medications such as corticosteroids (like Prednisone or Kenalog), along with antihistamines (common antihistamines prescribed include Reactin, Benadryl, Zyrtec, Hydroxyzine HCL and Cyproheptadine), can quickly block symptoms of sudden flareups. The VCA (formerly Veterinary Centers of America) suggests that veterinarians recommend a fatty acid supplementation to the pet’s diet to help the steroids and antihistamines work more effectively. Veterinarians may also prescribe oral cyclosporine (brand name Atopica), which has fewer long term side effects than corticosteroids, or a JAK inhibitor like Apoquel for treating allergies. Topical sprays including tea tree oil for contact dermatitis are not as common but can reduce inflammation and itching to help skin lesions or sores heal.

Veterinarians may also recommend medicated or hypo-allergenic shampoo to remove any allergens from the pet’s skin and coat. Some of those shampoos also contain anti-inflammatory ingredients to help soothe symptoms.

For allergies that can be pinpointed to a specific origin with allergy testing, veterinarians can prescribe desensitization therapy. In this treatment, a very small amount of the allergen is injected into the pet weekly to reprogram or desensitize the immune system. This treatment is not always successful and can only be used if the specific antigen can be determined.

If you are concerned that your pet has allergies contact your veterinarian. Most likely your pet will need to have a full examination to rule out other causes of the symptoms. Speak to your veterinarian before giving your pet any medication for allergies. If a medication is recommended, ask questions about how it works and what potential short and long term side effects could occur. As with all medications, if an allergy medication is prescribed by your veterinarian be sure to follow the veterinarian’s dosage and administration instructions. Remember that most allergies cannot be “cured” but can be controlled and their symptoms can be lessened or eliminated through lifelong management.

orange tabby cat lying on the ground with one paw up by face, dozing in the sun

Written by: Jessica Brody from Our Best Friends (https://www.ourbestfriends.pet)

 

The day you picked up your new puppy or kitten, you knew that the two of you would be best friends for life. Now that your beloved pet is getting up in years, you might be wondering how you can make sure they’re healthy and happy, even if they’re not as playful as they used to be. These guidelines will help you give your aging pet the best life possible!

 

Keep Your Pet Comfortable

As dogs and cats get older, they might experience some joint stiffness. This is just a normal aspect of aging, but you can make them feel more comfortable by purchasing a cozy new bed. Your cat will love to have a soft, warm spot to sleep! Of course, there is a wide variety of cat beds on the market, including heated beds, cave-like models, and elevated beds, so do some research and consider what your cat will like best.

 

Exercise Them

Both dogs and cats can end up developing chronic medical conditions as they age, but many may be staved off through physical activity. This doesn’t mean that you two can no longer play and have fun — you want to make sure they still get some exercise! Like humans, pets need to stay active to keep their weight down and their heart and lungs strong. For dogs, let them have some free time in the backyard, play ball, or go for walks every day as part of your healthy lifestyle. Cats will enjoy jumping around on a cat tower and roaming through ledges and open spaces in your home.

 

Groom Them Regularly

All of that exercise may leave them hot, sweaty, and smelly! Maintain a regular grooming schedule to help prevent matted coats and bacterial infections on the skin. Be gentle, and consult with their veterinarian for suggestions on the best products for your pet based on breed and age.

 

Sneak In Medications 

If your pet is given a prescription, it’s likely that they will try to resist taking their meds the first time you go to administer their dosage. You’ll need to get creative with your methods! PetCareRX recommends using the “meatball trick” — wrap your pet’s pill in a small morsel of wet food and let your pet chow down. Ideally, they’ll swallow it without a hitch!

 

Look Ahead To Care Costs

If you have a pet, you should always maintain a small emergency fund in case you’re faced with a surprise expense. Pet insurance will also help you cover the costs of veterinary care, but according to Chewy, you cannot enroll your pet if they have a pre-existing condition. If you’re stuck with a bill you just can’t pay off right away, talk to the billing department at your vet’s office to possibly negotiate a payment plan.

 

Keep Your Bond Strong

As your pet gets older, you’ll probably want to go the extra mile to make them happy — and for some owners, that means extra treats and food at mealtimes. But older pets might have more sensitive digestive systems, so you don’t want your pet to indulge too often. Instead, simply try to spend more time with your pet. After all, all your pet really wants to do is spend their time with you! Spoil them with new toys, soft blankets, and all of the love you can give.

 

Consider How You’ll Say Goodbye

No pet owner wants to think about saying their final goodbyes, but if your pet is aging, it’s smart to consider your future plans. For instance, if you want the ability to say goodbye to your pet at home, discuss this with your vet well in advance so that you can talk about the logistics. It is much better to have this difficult conversation ahead of time so that you know what to expect. And if you have children, you will want to prepare them for the loss. For many kids, losing a pet is their first introduction to death. While you cannot soften the blow, you do not want to let it take them by surprise if you can help it.

When you have an aging pet, you’ll have to keep up with their changing needs. Owning a senior pet is definitely a big responsibility. Even though your pet can’t say the words, they definitely appreciate everything that you do for them.

Golden puppy in a metal tub full of soap suds, puppy has soap beard

After so many weeks of social distancing we all might be looking a little ragged. Maybe your hair is too long. Maybe you haven’t gotten that root touchup or the mani pedi you were planning on. Maybe you aren’t sure when you last shaved your legs. We are all going through it, achieving that perfect that quarantine cave person look. But your pets don’t need to!

Grooming salons and vet offices are closed or have reduced hours, but that doesn’t mean that your pet won’t require brushing, baths, nail trims, and hair cuts. Many of us pet owners rely on the professionals to keep our fur babies looking neat and clean. What do we do when we don’t have access to those professionals? How do we perform the routine maintenance that our pets need to stay healthy and comfortable?

Here are some home grooming tips to help keep your pet looking and feeling good:

1. Brushing:

Many pups don’t love grooming time. Some turn into the raging wiggle monster when the brush comes out. But regular brushing is necessary to keep your pet’s coat and skin healthy. It helps keep mats from growing and painfully pulling on skin. Brushing regularly keeps shedding to minimum because you are removing the dead hair that would otherwise end up on your clothes or couch. It brings the natural oils released in the skin through the coat, keeping it shiny and healthy. Brushing also gives you a chance to observe your pet for new lumps, bumps, or sores on their body. And believe it or not it, if introduced gently and slowly, brushing helps build your bond with your pet! Preventativevet.com has a good list of the appropriate brushes for your pet’s coat type and DogTime has some tips on how to brush your pup to be sure you are brushing down to the skin without hurting your pup, but if you have questions or want more information contact your local groomer for suggestions!

  • How often should I brush? Most short haired dogs need minimal grooming. According to DogTime.com many are fine with a brushing anywhere from 2 times per week to 2-3 times per month. For short haired double coated dogs (like Huskies) be prepared to groom more often during the 2-4 times per year that they “blow” their coat, or shed their undercoat to make room for the new undercoat. Long haired breeds need more consistent brushing. Dogs like Collies may only need a full brushing 2-4 times per week but Poodles, Doodles, and other high maintenance breeds need daily brushing.
  • How long should brushing sessions be? If your dog does not like to be brushed or is not used to it yet keep sessions short, 10-15 minutes, and then work your way up to longer sessions slowly. If you brush one leg or one ear or half of a side and you notice that your pooch is getting restless and uncomfortable call it quits for the day. Even if you get one leg per day and then the head and then body in future sessions, that means that in 6 days you’ve completely brushed your dog and it’s time to start back on that first leg! Be very careful to not do more than your pup can tolerate at any time. That’s when they start to dread the sight of the comb. Positive associations with the brush and brushing can take a while to establish, so be sure to go at their pace and provide lots of good treats and praise to build happy associations with brushing time.
  • How do I keep him/her from wiggling, leaving, biting, etc? Remember when you were little and your parent would brush your hair? They didn’t know where the knots were and brushing could be painful! The same goes for your pet. Brushing can be uncomfortable if they have knots, mats, or sensitive skin. In the beginning be ready to keep sessions short and include lots and lots of praise and treats. Make brushing a fun time with very high value treats that they only get when they are calm during brushing. I’ve had great success with licking mats to keep my pooches occupied as they got accustomed to grooming. Time your sessions correctly as well. Don’t expect to get a good brushing session in first thing in the morning when your pup is full of energy. Try to wear your dog out before a session so that they are more able to relax and stay quiet. Keep in mind that the more time you commit to associating brushing with happiness, calmness, and treats in your pet’s mind, the easier brushing will be for the remainder of their life. It’s never too late to teach old dogs new tricks! Check out this training video for some more tips:

Make sure you are setting up a consistent grooming routine. Regular maintenance brushing is important for all dogs and will help keep them healthier. Plus it will help you manage that quarantine time until you can get back to the groomer!

2. Baths:

Baths are recommended every 1-3 months for most dogs. However if your dog has skin issues or frequently spends time outdoors you may need to bathe more often. Before you bathe your dog make sure to give him or her a complete brushing to remove debris or matting. Mats that get wet get tighter and much more difficult to remove. Once your pet is ready and in the tub or sink, use a hose or a cup to completely wet your dog’s body. Never spray water directly in your dog’s ears, eyes, or nose. Gently massage the shampoo into your dog’s coat and then rinse completely. If you use conditioner, consider letting it sit on your dog’s coat for a couple of minutes before rinsing to get the full effect. Use only pet shampoos and conditioners. Do not use human shampoos as they can have ingredients that can irritate the dog’s skin. When washing your pet’s face use a small amount of water or drizzle from a cup to not get any in their eyes and nose. You can tip their head up to help prevent that. Or use a washcloth to negate the need for water all together! Make sure to dry your pet completely and give them lots of praise!

Golden retriever licking peanut butter off a blue lickimat suctioned to a white tile wall

For those pups who are squirmy or fussy, those licking mats can come in handy here too. You can freeze the peanut butter in the mat ahead of time so that it takes your pup longer to lick all of it out. There are even mats that suction to the tub wall for easier access for your pet! Or if you don’t have one of those you can smear the peanut butter directly on the tub wall, just make sure the wall is clean and dry first!

 

3. Trims:

Most of us don’t cut our own hair and we wouldn’t even consider cutting our pet’s hair! If you are maintaining a regular grooming schedule and your pet does not have any mats or tangles then you won’t need to do any major trimming. This is why completely brushing your long-haired dog or cat is so important. But as this quarantine drags on, you may notice that your pup has grown a little too shaggy in places or in a month when it finally warms up you notice your dog is panting a lot while outside on your walks. Many of our pets are going to be ready for their spring and summer clips soon. But as long as you are consistently brushing and your pet’s coat is in good shape, then you may be able to just shrug your shoulders and say “quarantine hair don’t care!”

  • The 3 F’s: Even if you don’t decide to turn your spare bedroom or garage into a full grooming station, you may need to trim your pup’s 3 F’s as groomers call it: face, feet, and fanny.
    • Face: If your dog has hair hanging in his eyes so much that he can’t catch the frisbee you throw to him, maybe it’s time to get those scissors out to trim those long eyebrows. If you do so just make sure that you take your time and ask for help if your dog keeps moving his head. Make sure to keep your scissors parallel to his face so you don’t accidentally poke him.
    • Feet: It is important to keep your pup’s paws trimmed. Mats can easily occur between the toes or the pads and can be very uncomfortable for your dog. This may require some practice and training if your pet is uncomfortable with having his feet touched. To trim the paws use small, rounded tip scissors. Never cut downward in between the toes or pads, always keep your scissors parallel to your dog’s skin and be careful that you don’t have a fold of skin held between the scissors. (If you have clippers most groomers suggest using those because they are much safer than scissors.) Hold your dog’s paw securely and gently spread their toes. Clip the hair in between the pads until the paw hair is level with the dog’s pads. Don’t forget to trim the hair between the toes as well. TopDogTips.com has some good information and pictures for trimming feet.
    • Fanny: Also called a sanitary trim, this is unlikely to be as important for your pet as trimming the face and feet. Groomers will shave the dog’s belly and rear end to keep that area more sanitary. If you have a long-haired dog and notice them getting dirty back there contact your veterinarian or groomer. Unless you have prior experience, do not trim your pet’s sanitary area as you can do serious damage. And never trim that area with scissors! It’s much safer to use grooming wipes or baby wipes to clean up your pooch until you can get back to your regularly scheduled grooming appointments.
    • Just remember, hair grows back! Your pet would much rather be comfortable than beautiful. Be sure to be very careful and gentle when using scissors or clippers on your pet.
  • When not to clip your dog: Many people think that like humans, if you trim or shave your pup they’ll be cooler. That could be the case with some dogs. My doodles love to be trimmed short in the summertime. However, it is essential to know that you should never clip or shave a double coated dog. According to Five Points Animal Hospital double coated breeds have 2 layers to their coat: the fleecy undercoat and the longer guard hairs on the outside. In the cold temperatures those guard hairs protect the undercoat and keep the ice and snow out while the undercoat keeps the dog warm. However in the summer the dog sheds that undercoat and the guard hairs then protect against sunburn. Without the undercoat the air can circulate against the dog’s skin to keep them cooler. Double coated breeds include (but are not limited to) Huskies and Malamutes, Newfoundlands, Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs, and Australian Shepherds.

The most important thing to remember is to take your time. If you get 5 minutes of brushing on your dog who used to run when you pulled the brush out of the drawer or if your pup hops easily into the tub for a bath, this is a win! It doesn’t have to be perfection now, but working to maintain your pet’s coat, skin, and nails will keep them happy and healthy. This may seem like a lot to deal with while you are in quarantine, but your pet will thank you! Even a little bit every day will create positive associations for your pet, improve their ability to interact calmly with basic care tasks, and not only make your pet care easier but improve your bond with your pet at the same time!

And don’t forget to think about your local small businesses. Many grooming salons or home-based groomers are struggling during this time. Help their businesses with a review, a kind comment, or a reassurance that after this is over you and your overly hairy pup will be back to see them! Maybe even consider sending a tip to help tide them over or pay for a “virtual groom” with coat care and grooming tips for you to take care of so that your pet’s coat stays manageable until the professionals can get back to the job. Support local, be kind to one another, and we will come out the other side of this. Some of us may be a little extra fluffy, but we got this.

Small furry Shih Tzu walking along sidewalk carrying a scrub brush in it's mouth

 

After so many weeks of social distancing we all might be looking a little ragged. Maybe your hair is too long. Maybe you haven’t gotten that root touchup or the mani pedi you were planning on. Maybe you aren’t sure when you last shaved your legs. We are all going through it, achieving that perfect quarantine cave person look. But your pets don’t need to!

Grooming salons and vet offices are closed or have reduced hours, but that doesn’t mean that your pet won’t require brushing, baths, nail trims, and hair cuts. Many of us pet owners rely on the professionals to keep our fur babies looking neat and clean. What do we do when we don’t have access to those professionals? How do we perform the routine maintenance that our pets need to stay healthy and comfortable?

Here are some home grooming tips to help keep your pet looking and feeling good:

1. Nails:

Nail trims often equal stress, for both pets and their owners. Many owners haven’t learned how to properly clip their pet’s nails and are worried about cutting too short and damaging their pets. It can be an intimidating prospect! But even if you only get a small amount of nail trimmed, your dog will be better off. If nails are allowed to grow too long they can be painful to dogs and cats and cause joint and structural damage. It may take time to get your pet accustomed to the clippers. Use lots of treats and positive reinforcement to first get your pet used to the location where you will do the trimming (make sure its a calm quiet area with a non-slip mat for them to stabilize on), the clippers themselves, the clippers touching your pet, and finally a nail trim. There are plenty of YouTube videos and step by step instructions for clipping your pet’s nails. You may even ask your veterinarian or groomer if they have any resources for you to follow. Here are a few good videos to get you started: (The second video is a bit long but has some great information and explanations)

  • Types of Nail Clippers: There are 2 types of clippers people can use: scissors and guillotine. Chose the type that you and your pet are most comfortable with, you may need to try both to see which you prefer. Be sure to get the correct size as well. It can be dangerous to clip a kitten’s nails with dog scissors because they are too large and unwieldy on tiny nails. If your pet really doesn’t like the clippers you can also try a nail Dremel, which grinds their nails down. You may need to take time to get them accustomed to the noise and feel of the grinder and you still need to be careful not to trim too short or you will hit the quick.
  • What is the quick? The quick is the blood vessel in the nail and if you cut too close your pup could start to bleed, and nails bleed a lot! If that happens don’t panic. Use styptic powder (or cornstarch if you don’t have the powder) to stop the bleeding. Press the powder firmly on the nail that has been cut. Try to keep your pup still and make sure to stay calm and reward your pup for being calm.
  • Scratch Boards and Pads: Cats love their scratching pads! Many are made out of cardboard, sisal, twine, or tough fabric/carpetting. Cats use the scratching pads to both sharpen their claws and to leave scent traces. So if your cat uses their scratching pad frequently keep an eye on his/her claws because they may need a little trim more often. However, for dogs you can do the opposite! If trimming is just too stressful for your pup you can make your own scratching board that your dog can “dig” to file his/her nails! It may take a little while to train your pup to use it but it can be fun, stimulating, and much easier than a battle with the clippers! Check out this DIY Nail Board for your pooch.
  • How often should you trim? According to the ASPCA many dogs require weekly trimming, but pups who tend to walk frequently on sidewalks and paved roads can usually go longer between trimmings. You should trim your dog’s nails when they begin to touch the ground and you can hear them clicking as the pup walks, or if you notice them snagging on the ground or carpet. Cats should have their nails trimmed every 1-2 weeks or if you notice them getting snagged on carpets or blankets.
  • Paw Pads: Don’t forget your pup’s paw pads too. Their pads provide cushion for their joints as well as protection from weather and from rough ground. They can get chapped, dry, or burned just like our skin. Make sure you keep the hair between their pads trimmed and free of debris and dirt to prevent matting. Use a special paw moisturizer (do not use human moisturizer) like Musher’s Secret or Wild Saint Paw Therapy to keep pads healthy.

2. Ears:

Ear care are another task that your pet often does not want you to do but is essential for their health. Ear infections can be caused by debris or water caught in the ear canal and can be very uncomfortable for your pet. If an infection is left untreated it can cause hearing loss and loss of balance.

  • How to clean your dog’s ears: Training your dog to accept ear cleanings can also take a lot of time. Get your pet used to having their ears handled and then slowly acclimated them to the cotton balls and the smell of the cleaner, always using plenty of positive reinforcement. Once your pet is comfortable, gently fold their ear back over their head so the inner ear is exposed. Using a cotton ball with cleaning solution on it gently wipe dirt and earwax that you see on the underside of the ear flap and then very carefully clean the ear canal with the tip of your finger surrounded by the cotton ball or gauze. Watch this video for a good demonstration:

  • How often should you clean them? Depending on the type of ear your dog has, the amount of hair in the ear, or if they produce large amounts of wax, you may need to clean your pups ears every 2-4 weeks. Don’t clean too frequently and be sure not to clean too deeply, inserting anything (especially Q-tips) into the ear canal can cause damage or infection!

If your dog is prone to ear infections your veterinarian might recommend an ear drying solution. Usually containing witch hazel, these solutions can help any remaining water evaporate from the ear canal.

If your dog is a frequent swimmer or gets bathed often you may need to clean their ears more frequently. You can also put a cotton ball in their ear prior to a swim or a bath to help reduce the amount of water that gets trapped in the ear. Be sure to dry the ear thoroughly after a bath or swim.

3. Teeth:

We’ve all heard it. The veterinarian walks into the exam room and starts looking at your pet. She asks “do you brush Fido or Fluffy’s teeth?” And you hem and haw and say, “when I remember” or “she really hates it.” And it’s true. Many pets don’t like having you stick a foreign object into their face and rub it on their mouth. But keeping their mouth and teeth clean is essential for the overall health of your pet.

  • How often should I brush? Ideally you can brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth daily, but that’s sometimes difficult to manage. Aim to brush your pet’s teeth 2-3 times per week for good dental hygiene. Only use pet toothpaste, never human toothpaste. You also only need to clean the outside of the teeth and gums but make sure to get all the way to the back of their mouth on each side.
  • How can I teach my pet to accept tooth brushing? This will take some time and practice for both of you. You can start by gently rubbing your finger along his/her teeth and gums and providing tasty treats as a reward. You can also show the toothbrush or finger brush to your pet and give them treats so they associate good things with the toothbrush. Once they are comfortable with your finger then graduate slowly to the toothbrush. If they balk at this try holding the toothbrush near their face with one hand and rubbing your finger on their gums at the same time so they can start to get comfortable with being approached by the brush. Don’t push too quickly; take your time with each step so you don’t stress out or scare your pet.
  • But she eats Greenies, isn’t that enough? While some dental treats do help, they are not a replacement for brushing. The abrasive action of brushing is what helps fight plaque. If you do use treats be sure that they are the correct size for your pet and try to find treats with cleaning enzymes to be more effective.
  • Alternatives to brushing: Like I said above, nothing is as good as brushing, but if brushing is too stressful for you or your pet or if you cannot brush frequently enough try supplementing with these options from Fear Free Pets:
    • If the toothbrush is scary for your pet, but she will allow you to open her mouth, try using dental wipes that contain mild abrasives like bicarbonate of soda. You can also use a spray or a gel on your finger or a gauze pad but make sure they say safe for cats because not all of the dental sprays are.
    • There are additives to put in your pet’s water but make sure to only put it in a bowl. The additives cannot be used in fountains. You should be replacing the water and additives daily to make sure it stays fresh.
    • For your kitty, try dipping a Q-tip in tuna water and rubbing that on her teeth. The abrasive action will help remove plaque and the tuna flavor may help her enjoy the task!
    • For dogs there are specific dental toys that your pup can chew. Most are bones or similar shapes with rubber ridges that help to scrape plaque and food debris. Some have a place to put toothpaste so that your dog can “brush” his own teeth! Other people and pets prefer rope toys. Rope provides a “flossing” ability for your pet. Make sure the rope toy is in good shape and always supervise your pet with them. Once the rope toy gets ragged, make sure you take it away before your pup ends up getting strings stuck in his teeth.
Check out The Bucket Game, developed by Chirag Patel (an internationally renowned trainer and behaviorist) to help create positive associations with grooming tasks for your pup!

The most important thing to remember is to take your time. If you get your pup to tolerate one ear cleaned, if you can brush your pet’s teeth with your finger, or if you can get two nails on your cat clipped shorter, this is a win! It doesn’t have to be perfection now, but working to maintain your pet’s coat, skin, and nails will keep them happy and healthy. This may seem like a lot to deal with while you are in quarantine, but your pet will thank you! Even a little bit every day will create positive associations for your pet, improve their ability to interact calmly with basic care tasks, and not only make your pet care easier but improve your bond with your pet at the same time!

Now is the time to strengthen your bond with your pets and help them stimulate their minds and exercise their bodies. Let them live their best lives and you can live vicariously through your pet. Go ahead, we won’t judge!

Social distancing has forced us all to slow down and remain more isolated. How many of you are just waiting for the day when you can resume your normal routine? Most people aren’t enjoying the current quarantine, but our pets are loving this time with you! two cats playing, cat toys, cat enrichment gamesThey are happy to have you home to play and snuggle with all day. They enjoy “contributing” to your video meetings, bringing you every toy they own, and showing you the best windows from which to watch the world go by. They are loving all of the one on one time with you. But you are growing sick of the same old squeaky toys and slimy tug ropes. You don’t want to sit next to your pet and stare out the window together at a squirrel. What to do?

Here are some top tips for enriching your pet’s life during quarantine:

1. Make mealtime fun!

Your pup or kitty might live for mealtimes, but giving them the same food in the same bowl day after day leaves a lot of room for new opportunities. Try giving your pet their dinner in a puzzle toy or treat dispenser so they have to work for their food. There are plenty of great puzzle toys out there but many of our clients love the Nina Ottosson puzzles or West Paw treat dispensers. To increase the difficulty let them go on a scent hunt around the house or in the backyard. Your pet has to search out his/her kibble under the dresser, behind the sofa, or on the corner of the stairs. To switch it up, try putting pieces of their kibble in cardboard boxes and move them around so they have to sniff out the correct box like the ASPCA does for scent enrichment.

Veterinarians contributing to PetMD suggest that hunting is a great way for your feline friend to satisfy their natural instincts while staying active to keep extra weight off. You can use cat treat toys or puzzles to get their minds engaged with their meal. For the low cost version, try cutting some holes in a shoebox and tossing their treats or kibble in there.

2. What’s that smell?

Speaking of scent enrichment, it’s a great way to entertain your pet (and you)! Modern Dog Magazine has a lot of good ideas for scent games and scent training with your pup, but you can also play with your kitty if she’s willing. Your cat may be more interested in “hunting” her scents, for a reward of course. But if your pup likes to use her sniffer then some of these games, like “Pick the Hand,” “Shell Game,” or “Scent Trails” with a favorite ball will go over very well with your four legged friend.

3. Brain Games

Let’s face it. Your pet is never going to be Albert Einstein. But dogs and cats need mental stimulation as much as physical exertion to stay fit and healthy. There are plenty of brain games to offer to your pet to see which sparks their interest. For cats, toys that encourage their predatory instincts to stalk, chase, and bite are very rewarding. But try to add in an additional piece of problem solving to the play by utilizing vertical space for stalking and incorporating puzzle toys or remote control mice.

Dogs enjoy a wide variety of games, so try out these or come up with your own! Fear Free Pets suggests setting up an indoor obstacle course for your pet to take on. Set up boards to walk across, ladders (closed and on the floor) to step over, boxes to sit on or crawl through, yoga mats to lie on, and much more. You can also try hide and seek! Let your dog search for his/her favorite thing – you! Have your dog sit and stay (or have a family member hold him/her) and then go into another room to hide. The better your dog gets the more creative you can get with the hiding spot, but don’t make it too hard at the beginning. When you’ve hidden call your release word and wait for your pup to find you. Make sure you give plenty of praise when they do!

4. Tricks

Many of our pets can “shake” and maybe “roll over” on command. We’ve all heard of those basic tricks. But now that you have plenty of time at home how about spicing up your trick routine? Trick training is a great way to stimulate your dog’s brain while strengthening your bond. Be sure to train in increments of 10-15 minutes at a time and break more intricate tricks down into smaller parts to learn. If your pup only knows “shake” don’t expect him to immediately understand a complete trick routine. Stick with easier tricks initially until you both can work up to the more difficult tricks. Dogster.com has some great recommendations for fun tricks of varying difficulties. Why not teach your dog to “spin” or “high five?” For those more advanced tricksters try “make a wish” or “bow.” Domorewithyourdog.com has some great trick training ideas and even offers some free Facebook classes to help with learning how to trick train.

Cats can be trained too, but make sure you are using positive reinforcement! Many cats respond well to clicker training and targeting. Samantha Martin, the director of Amazing Acro-Cats, has clicker trained all of her rescue cats to perform tricks. You can try to teach your kitty “high five,” “go to bed,” or “come.”

Don’t forget to also brush up on your pet’s obedience and social skills. When you can go back out into the world, having solid obedience skills and critical thinking abilities in social settings can make spending time with your friends and family easier and more relaxing for both you and your pet. Being able walk on a loose leash, sit and stay, interact politely with other humans or dogs, and relax on a patio are all great skills for your pup to have in the larger world. The American Kennel Club and PetMD have some good tips on obedience training or contact a local trainer for ideas on how to begin or brush up on obedience training during quarantine.

5. Treats

Got bored kids as well as bored pets? Now is a great time to get your kids involved in caring for your pets. They may be able to help with some of the training or the games of hide and seek if they’re old enough, but what to do after that? There are plenty of DIY pet toys and homemade treats that you and your family can create to the everlasting joy of your pet (or at least until they’ve eaten or destroyed it)! Fear Free Pets offers some designs for creating a catnip toy out of a sock or a dangly toy they can bat at or chase. Dr. Marty Becker suggests adding feathers to a string for a “real” bird feel or cutting holes in a box to play “whack-a-mole” with a hot dog (if your pup is on a diet try a carrot instead of a hot dog).

Besides DIY toys, there are lots of recipes for homemade treats like the Marvelous Mutt Meatball, “Love My Puppy” peanut butter treats, Biscuit the Dog’s PB Banana treats, and more. For those non-bakers, freezing a Kong with peanut butter, plain yogurt, or pumpkin is a great treat for your pup. Add some kibble, banana, or blueberries for an interesting twist. Try the Paw-psicle from Animal Humane Society for your kitties. Mix hot water and tuna fish together and pour into a kitty sized container (like an ice tray or something smaller) and freeze.

6. Calling All Pet Models

Photographer Peter Scott Barta has some great suggestions for getting epic pet shots that could get you found as America’s Next Top Pet Model (it’s not a thing, but shouldn’t it be?). Try using a squeaky toy to get that focused look directly at your camera. For some fun you can put peanut butter on the roof of your pup’s mouth. Time for #tongueouttuesday! The Canine Journal also suggests getting down to their level when taking photos or photographing your pet with other family members, four legged, two legged, or stuffed. Some people have entertained themselves and their followers by dressing up their pets, but make sure your pet is having fun too! Don’t be shy about using those tasty bribes when trying out new costumes for your furry friend. If video is more your style, try fun shots with the slo-mo function on your phone or camera. Blowing bubbles at your pet or playing peekaboo can get some very funny shots!

7. Create a Zen Space

After all of that fun your pet may be wiped out. Consider creating a space just for him/her to relax in. The Animal Humane Society recommends finding an out of the way space in your home like under the stairs or in an unused corner to place a comfy bed, some blankets, and a few soft and hard toys for your pet to interact with. Dr Kayla Whitfield reminds readers that it is important for cats to have vertical space, especially when there are young kids or other pets in the house. Set up cat trees or cat shelves so they can hide above eye level in safety and comfort. Those cat trees and shelves can double as a play space for when they’re feeling feisty, but make sure if you have elderly cats that you give them easy access to those elevated places. Even cardboard boxes and cat gates to block off certain “cat only” areas can help your kitty feel more comfortable in their space and give them a special retreat. If your pet would rather relax close to you, think about putting a dog bed next to your desk (or wherever your home office might be) or dragging an extra chair close to you for your cat to feel like she can stay close while having her own space.

Check out what cutie pie Dundie the Doodle and his family have up their sleeve to combat their quarantine blues.

Now is a perfect time for this post because April is National Canine Fitness Month. Just be sure to keep an eye on how many treats you’re feeding your pet and take it out of their total calories for the day so they don’t gain weight with all this fun. So go ahead. Get your pup (or your kitty) started on a fun new routine to help them stay sane and in shape! What are you waiting for?

April is Pet First Aid Awareness Month!

puppy with first aid kit, pet first aid, pet health

We are living in some crazy times right now. You have to plan for disaster in your job, your rent or mortgage, and potentially your family. But have you planned for taking care of your pets? Your pets are family and should be a part of that planning!

At this time many veterinarians are unable to perform routine care for your pets. Now is a great time to familiarize yourself with basic first aid and safety for your pet! You may still need to get your fur baby to a professional but you can manage minor injuries, assess and stabilize, and provide some routine care yourself.

How can you prepare?

According to the American Animal Hospital Association, 25 percent more pets would survive if one pet first aid technique had been applied prior to getting emergency vet care. Many pet owners do not know what constitutes an emergency or what to do in an actual emergency to help stabilize their pets. Here’s how you can change that:

  1. Attend a pet first aid and CPR class! There are many courses out there, both online and in-person, to teach pet owners basic first aid and CPR. The Red Cross and Pet Tech have well known programs. Links to both courses are at the bottom of this post.
  2. Always keep a pet first aid kit nearby! Every pet owner should have a first aid kit at home. If you often take your pets camping, hiking, or hunting you may also want to have a first aid kit in your car. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the ASPCA have good checklists for what should be included. Make sure you check your first aid kit at least once per year to switch out any medications or supplies that have expired. Set a reminder to do so in April during Pet First Aid Awareness!
  3. Pet proof your home, especially your kitchen. Make sure you know what foods your pet should not eat and keep them out of reach from your furry friend. Remove hazardous objects from your pet’s environment, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies tend to examine their world with their mouths and you do not want to have to rush your pup to the vet because he ate a sock or your child’s action figure.

What should you do?

  1. Know your vet and your pet. Regardless of whether you’ve just moved to the area or lived there your whole life, make sure that you (and consequently your pets) have a relationship with a local veterinary clinic. It is important for you to know where your vet is, how to contact them, and that they know your pet and his/her history. It is also important that you know your pet’s “normal” so that you can tell when something is wrong. Make sure you take a resting heart rate, respiration, and temperature so that you have a baseline. Know your pet’s typically eating and eliminating schedule so that you can tell when something is off.
  2. Check the scene and the pet. If you did not witness what happened make sure you look for any potential hazards to you or the pet or clues to what your pet ate or interacted with. Once it is safe to do so, observe your pet’s body, posture, and breathing to inform the vet of their status. If applicable check for a heart rate or pulse, temperature, and level of consciousness and perform necessary CPR or first aid to stabilize your pet. Watch your pet for signs of distress and fear and respect their body language.
  3. In the case of an actual emergency, always call your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic or poison control immediately. Relay the necessary information to your veterinarian clearly. If you have taken any first aid steps be sure to tell your vet. Prepare your pet for transport and ensure they are stabilized and safely supported during your trip to the vet. Be prepared for your pet to go into shock if it is a severe injury. Have a blanket or two to wrap around your pet to help maintain body temperature.
  4. Stay calm. Your pet can and will pick up on your stress which could exacerbate their emergency. Keep your voice and movements quiet and steady and do your best to stay in control. This is a scary event but if you can retain a sense of calm then you are already helping your pet.

Common household injuries

  • Abrasions/Hot spots: scrapes to your pet’s skin can be shallow and heal easily or larger and more serious. Hot spots are created by excessive licking or scratching in a certain area and can also vary in severity. Carefully clip the hair around the area so you can see and work on the wound. Wash the wound with warm water or a saline solution first to remove dirt, debris, or clumps of hair. Apply triple antibiotic ointment and try to keep your pet from licking/chewing on the area. You can put a clean sock or a clean gauze pad on the area to prevent licking. If the wound is large, deep, or doesn’t begin to heal in 3-4 days contact your veterinarian.

  • Allergies/Allergic reactions: The most common causes of allergic reactions are insect bites or stings or skin allergies. If your pet has been stung, make sure the stinger isn’t still present (it would usually be small and black). Do not pick it out as that can release toxins. Use a hard surface like your nail or a credit card to scrape it off. You can apply a cold compress or ice pack to reduce any swelling. You may be able to administer an antihistamine diphenhydramine (Benadryl) but only with approval from your veterinarian. Be sure that the product only contains diphenhydramine as other allergy medicines can contain toxic ingredients and only give the dose recommended by your veterinarian.
  • Diarrhea: We’ve all experienced this with our pets at one point or another. Diarrhea can be caused by many things, both serious and not. If your pet’s diarrhea continues for more than 24 hours, your pet is very old or young, or if there is blood in the diarrhea they should be checked out by a veterinarian. Take away any potential culprit (new food, new treat, new toy) that could be the cause. Put your pet on a bland high-fiber low-fat diet, such as boiled meat with cooked white rice in a 1 part meat to 3 part grain ratio, for 2-3 days before slowly reintroducing the normal diet. As long as there is no vomiting you can give your pet as much water as they’d like but make sure they do not gulp down too much at a time. You can add an electrolyte solution to their water to help replace lost nutrients. Ask your doctor about medications such as Kaolin/pectin or Pepto Bismol.
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can occur anytime but is most common during the summer months if your pet does not get enough water or has too much heat exposure. Dehydration can be serious and should always be discussed with your veterinarian. Chances are your vet will want to examine your pet to determine how severe it is. If your pet is not vomiting you can give him/her an electrolyte replacement drink like Pedialyte. If you suspect heat exhaustion/exposure, try to keep your pet cool and place cold damp clothes around your pet’s neck and on the pads of the feet.
  • Nails/Pad wounds:If your pet gets a broken nail or if you clip a toenail too short apply styptic powder (or cornstarch) to the area. You can also apply direct pressure to the nail with clean gauze or cloth for 5 minutes to stop bleeding. If you successfully stop the bleeding wait 1 day (to ensure you do not disturb the clot) and then soak the paw in warm water and a saline solution to help healing. Monitor the site for infection, swelling, worsening of pain or continued bleeding. If your pet presents any of those signs take him/her to the veterinarian. For pad wounds be sure to remove any foreign objects and wash the area with a saline solution. Dry and bandage the foot. Pads have many blood vessels so all pad wounds will likely bleed a lot and will require at least a call to your veterinarian.

  • Urinary accidents: I’m not talking about your puppy having an accident during potty training (unless they are frequent and excessive). Accidents from dogs who have been potty trained or frequent urination could indicate a urinary tract infection or a weak bladder. Contact your veterinarian to determine the cause and prescribe medication. If your pet is straining to urinate or crying when urinating, if you see blood in the urine, or if your pet is frequently squatting to urinate with only nothing or small drops present take your pet to the vet immediately as this could be a life threatening urinary blockage!
  • Vomiting: Many of us pet owners have had to clean up vomit at one point or another. While it is not normal, most of the time vomiting is a temporary condition and your pet will be fine. Withhold food and water for 8-12 hours (do not do this for young, old, or otherwise ill animals). If vomiting has stopped while not eating or drinking you can offer small quantities of ice chips every few hours as long as vomiting doesn’t recur. Slowly reintroduce water and an electrolyte replacement to prevent dehydration. If vomiting still doesn’t occur add a bland diet in small increments over the next 12 hours. Then slowly reintroduce a larger amount of food and decreased frequency over 48 hours before transitioning your pet back to their normal diet. If vomiting continues after you have withheld food for more than 12-24 hours contact your veterinarian immediately.

Always wash your hands and wear non latex disposable gloves when coming into contact with your pet’s wound or bodily fluids.

Don’t forget about your pocket pets.

Many people in the world also own pocket pets, including guinea pigs, mice, gerbils, hamsters, or rats. When it comes to first aid for these little friends, make sure you know what is normal. If you know what their normal respiration and heart rate are, how much they should weigh, and what is the ideal body temperature, then you can more easily see any abnormalities as they arise. However, although they may be easy to diagnose, pocket pets are often difficult to treat so it is always a good idea to contact your veterinarian. According to Denise Fleck, The Pet Safety Crusader, often unless there is an external physical injury the first sign of any issue is a lack of eating or pooping. Keep your pet warm and supported with a warm towel wrap and contact your veterinarian. Make sure you bring a stool sample to your appointment to test for parasites or other causes. Visible external injuries, such as a limp leg, weakness or paralysis, head tilt, visible bleeding, or  inflammation, also require a trip to a species specific vet. For small cuts and scrapes apply pressure with a clean gauze pad. Once bleeding has stopped wash the area with betadine or hydrogen peroxide and dab on some triple antibiotic ointment.

If you are ever unsure or worried, please contact your veterinarian immediately!

For ASPCA’s poison control hotline click here or call 888-426-4435.

If you’d like more details check out

  • The Red Cross Pet First Aid courses
  • Pet Tech’s Pet First Aid class
  • The Pet Safety Crusader’s courses

May 10, 2020 Update:

We are still under a Shelter in Place order, but as the state prepares to resume operations we would like to remind everyone that we are still open. We are continuing to follow CDC and WHO guidelines for safe interactions both for pets and humans. Those precautions are listed below but please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or concerns. We request that if you or someone you have come into contact with has symptoms of, a diagnosis of, or a high risk of contracting COVID-19 please let us know so that we can adjust accordingly. As we slowly begin to resume normal activities we must continue to take care or ourselves and each other.

We are open!

Kitten in doorway looking at person with head tilted

The health and wellbeing of your pets continues to be our top priority. As news of COVID-19 develops we are monitoring the situation closely. At this time our business remains open and we will continue to provide top notch pet care services. We are still here to help, but if you do have any changes in your plans, we are waiving all cancellation fees for changes due to COVID-19. Currently we are providing services to those essential employees who must remain working during this crisis, including healthcare workers, law enforcement, and any others deemed necessary, as well as anyone who is unable to personally care for their pet. For those of you who are unable to get or stay home, we are here for you and your pets! For those of you who can stay home, please do so and stay healthy.

 

The CDC and WHO still maintain that dogs, cats, and other small pets are not considered at risk for contracting the virus. However, we are taking extra precautions to ensure the health and safety of our staff and human clients. In order to do so we request that you notify us if you or anyone you are in contact with is ill or has shown symptoms of the virus.

 

Our sitters are washing their hands frequently, utilizing gloves or their own supplies as necessary, and maintaining the required 6 feet of social distancing when interacting with clients. We are requesting that all clients who are home during their pet sits or dog walks attempt to maintain that distance as well.

Our small business has been built over the years in great part due to our wonderful community. Thank you for all that you have done to help us grow and survive. We are all in this together and we will get through this.

For any questions or concerns please don’t hesitate to contact us. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We look forward to continuing to care for your pets when schedules normalize.

 

Dog in woods getting walking - benefits of dog walking

If you’re not walking your dog regularly, there’s a chance you could shorten its life by a year or more. Did you know that according to dog trainer Veronica Stilwell, a recent survey states that only half of dog owners walk their dog at least once per day?

Do you question the benefits of dog-walking?

  • You may think that it doesn’t really matter because your dog doesn’t seem to enjoy walking, especially when it’s not 70 degrees and sunny outside.
  • You might think it’s more trouble than it’s worth.
  • You might think putting them in the backyard provides enough exercise.

Here are 6 Scientific reasons why walking your dog has been proven important to their health and wellbeing.

1. According PetBacker.com 93% of dog-owners said that walking their dog help their dog feel less stressed.

The other day after a long walk with both of my pups I stopped to grab some lunch. My younger dog, who normally worries constantly when out in public, settled right down under the table on the restaurant’s patio and peacefully watched the world pass her by. She did not fuss when other dogs, strollers, or bicycles went past. She was relaxed and content to remain lying down near me. The physical exertion of the walk helped her to decrease her stress levels.

2. BetterHealth.com states that pups who do not get exercised can quickly become obese, which can ultimately lead to cardiovascular and liver disease, osteoarthritis, and insulin resistance.

Several of our clients have noticed that their dogs have lost weight on a regular walking schedule. One client with an older Labrador retriever who needed to lose 10 pounds even got a compliment from her veterinarian about the dog’s weight loss. The pup was also able to move more easily even in his old age, due both to the weight loss and to the improved joint mobility from more consistent activity.

3. Consistent walks can also improve digestive and urinary health according to VCA Hospitals.

Dogs love their schedules and routines. Often dogs prefer to “go” on a schedule and providing your pet with the opportunity to relieve itself consistently can help prevent constipation since walking promotes digestion. Bladder retention can also lead to urinary tract infections so allowing your dog to regularly empty it’s bladder will keep him/her both happy and healthy.

4. The Animal Foundation notes lack of exercise and walking can affect dogs’ mental health as well. If your pet is not given the opportunity to explore new sights and smells he or she can become bored, and as any puppy owner knows, boredom leads to destruction. Lack of exercise and interaction can also lead to fear or stress.

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with two young dogs as a pet sitter. Both boys were highly intelligent but were destroying their homes, furniture, and owner’s possessions. Once we got them both on regular walks they settled down immensely. Now, they get their physical and mental stimulation from sniffing along for an hour outside rather than chewing up the drywall or eating every dvd out of the cabinet!

Walks can also help teach your dogs how to adapt to its environment more effectively. Many dogs hate the cold, the heat, the rain or the snow (or all of the above!). Adding the positive association of walks and sniffing and special bonding time to these often upsetting weather conditions can recondition your pooch to appreciate rather than fear the weather. Be sure to keep your pup safe during extreme conditions, go at their pace and don’t force them, and bring lots of treats to help them adjust! YourDogAdvisor.com has some great tips for getting your pup excited about walking in the rain!

5. According to Positively.com consistent walks with your dog can strengthen your bond and decrease their loneliness.

Sitting home all day can get pretty lonely for your pup. Not only can walking with you (or a dog walker!) help to alleviate some of that loneliness, walking can help to build trust with your pet and improve their behavioral development. Our pet sitters have commented that walking dogs, particularly shy ones, is one of the best ways to get them to interact directly and form positive associations with the sitter. Not only does walking help build your pet’s trust in you, but it helps build their confidence in interacting with the world around them.

6. PetMD notes that dog walking can boost emotional health and mitigate unwanted behaviors.

Ever have one of those dogs that sits in front of you staring soulfully into your eyes and then promptly smacks you with her paw and lets out an ear piercing bark? I have and it’s not a joyful occasion. Constant attention seeking through unwanted behaviors like pawing, jumping, whining, and barking is annoying to us and harmful to your dog’s ability to interact with society. Regular walks help your pup get out excess energy and allow your pet to spend time with you in a positive manner.

This last one is for all of the cat owners out there:

Bonus 7. Regular walks can also provide physical and mental health advantages for your cat says Jackson Galaxy.

Many people think that leash-training a cat is insane. However there are many cats that benefit from outdoor access in a controlled manner. Cats who have been leash trained are more easily able to maintain a normal weight and have an interesting outlet to relieve their stress and stave off boredom, as well as improve their bond with you. After a walk, cats can come home relaxed and more able to handle changes in their daily routine. But please be sure that your cat wants to go outside and take a walk. After all, this is all about improving their health, not increasing their stress!

 

So if you were skeptical of the benefits of dog-walking before this post – you no longer have an excuse! Get out there and enjoy the world with your four-legged best friend!