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.

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.