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.

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?