Chill Out: Keeping Your Dog Cool in the Hot Summer Sun

August 30, 2008

 

Summer is typically a time of great family fun and activity. The
days are long and warm, the kids are on vacation, and the sun
worshipers are out in full force. Unfortunately, the season also
brings with it some very specific hazards – sunburn, heat
exhaustion
and heat stroke. Not only are these hazards a threat to
your human family, they can endanger the lives of your furry family
members as well. As temperatures soar, your dog will need a little
attention in order to ensure his safety.

Protecting Your Dog from a Nasty Sunburn

Many people don’t realize that dogs, just like humans, can be
burned by the sun. So what can you do to protect your pooch from
those burning rays? Just use the same common sense and know-how
that keeps you and your family from burning up in the sun. First,
keep your dog in the shade during those times when the sun’s rays
are most intense – approximately 10 am to 4 pm. Second, apply a
little sun block to your dog’s most exposed areas – the tip of each
ear and the nose. While your dog’s lip area is also vulnerable to
sunburn, the chance that your dog will ingest any sunscreen applied
there is too great. Instead of applying sunscreen to the lip area,
just keep a close eye on it and make sure that the area doesn’t get
too pink. Third, pay special attention to your dog if he has a
lighter colored fur. Just like their pale human counterparts, these
dogs are more vulnerable to the burning effects of the sun. If,
after a day out in the sun, any portion of your dog’s skin is
reddened or blistered, immediately seek a veterinarian’s opinion
and care.

Protecting Your Dog from Heat-Related Conditions

Just a few simple actions on your part can help protect your dog
from heat exhaustion and heat stroke. First, never leave your dog
in the car without the air conditioner running. Even a few minutes
in the sun can send the interior temperature of a car (with windows
open or closed) soaring to fatal temperatures. If you’re doing
errands and know that you’ll be in and out of the vehicle, your
safest option is to simply leave the dog at home. However, if you
really must leave your dog in the car for even the shortest period
of time, leave the air conditioner on.

Second, provide your dog with a shaded, well-ventilated resting
area that will remain shaded at all times, regardless of the sun’s
position. You may have to move the dog’s shade throughout the day
in order to achieve this. Of course, during the most excruciating
heat of the day, the ideal place for your dog is an air conditioned
structure.

Third, make sure that your dog has unhindered access to cool, clean
water. You’ll want to place the water in a shaded area so that it
does not heat up as a result of direct sunlight. Change the water
often, as stagnant water can harbor bacteria and insects that are
harmful to a dog’s digestive system. When traveling, make sure that
you have a water dish and fresh water (figure on one gallon per
day) on hand at all times. If your dog spends all day outside,
provide him with a small, shaded wading pool filled with water.
Your dog can cool himself off throughout the day by jumping in and
out of it. Make sure, however, that the pool is in the same,
consistently shaded area as the drinking water.

Fourth, avoid any situation that would force your dog to stand on a
sun-baked surface for any length of time. Such surfaces include
truck beds, sidewalks, streets and beach sand. The heat can not
only burn your dog’s skin, but can also prevent your dog from
efficiently expelling heat from his body. If you must walk your dog
in the heat of the day, walk him on a grassy area.

Recognizing and Treating Your Dog’s Heat Stroke

If your dog’s body temperature gets too high, he could develop heat
stroke
, or hyperthermia. In addition to a high body temperature
(over 105 – 110 degrees F), the signs that indicate potential heat
stroke are: an inordinate amount of panting, labored breathing,
bright red gums or eye membranes, pronounced fatigue, collapse,
unconsciousness and seizures. If your dog displays any of these
symptoms, get him out of the heat immediately and into the shade.
If possible, put your dog in a tub of cool water or bathe him with
a series of cool, wet towels. Do not use cold water or ice! Either
will cause your dog’s blood vessels to constrict and impede the
body from being able to release heat. Heat stroke should be treated
as an emergency; therefore, as soon as possible, seek a
veterinarian’s care.

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Your Child vs. Your Pet: How to Keep the Peace

August 25, 2008

 

How will my dog and my new baby get along? Will I have to get rid
of my loyal, furry companion in order to ensure the safety of my
child? These are the questions that plague many dog owners as they
anticipate the birth and homecoming of their first child. The good
news is that even though the process of introducing your dog to
your newest family addition is a careful and cautious one, it’s not
impossible. With some pre-planning on your part, you can train your
dog to get along with your child and can raise your child to
respect and love your dog as much as you do.

Getting Your Pet Used to a Baby

So, you’re expecting a baby. Congratulations! This is a time of
change, discovery and joy like no other. If you are a dog owner,
however, your happiness may be tempered by thoughts of your dog and
how your “fur baby” will react to all of these monumental changes.
Fear not! If you start preparing your dog for the baby’s arrival
well in advance of the baby’s due date, you should be able to
minimize any associated conflicts or problems.

If your dog currently has access to all rooms in the house, get him
used to not entering which ever room will serve as the nursery.
Keep that door closed so your dog will not consider it part of his
regular territory. Then, get the dog used to your being in the room
without him. Keep the nursery door closed while you’re assembling
baby furniture or decorating the room. This way, the dog will learn
that even though there is activity there, he is not a part of it.
Make sure, though, to pay a little extra attention to your dog once
you leave the nursery and return to his territory.

Has your dog been to obedience school? If not, now is a great time
for you both to go. Not only will it allow you to spend some
quality time together before the baby comes, it will give you the
tools necessary to control your dog’s behavior. It will also help
your dog get used to being in a room full of activity, other dogs
and (maybe) children. This aspect of obedience school is an
especially important one if your pre-baby household has been a
relatively quiet one.

Another way to get your dog used to some of the noises a baby
brings is to buy some tapes of babies crying. Start playing the
tapes at a very low volume until the dog seems not to notice the
sound anymore. Then, gradually increase the volume until it reaches
a realistic level (the process should take place over days and
weeks, not all in one day). When your baby cries at home, your dog
will be less startled.

When your baby finally comes home, keep the dog away from the
infant for the first few days. He should already be used to baby
noises, but get him used to the baby’s smell by putting one of the
baby’s blankets in his resting or sleeping area. When it’s time to
introduce your baby and dog to each other, keep the dog on a short
leash and reward him during the introductions. This will reinforce
the idea that the baby is a positive thing. Also, pay attention to
your dog while he and the baby are in the same room. This will help
your dog avoid seeing the baby as a threat or something that is
taking you away from him. No matter how well trained your dog is,
though, never leave the baby alone with him.

Take extra care as your child enters the crawling and walking
stage. Depending on the breed, your dog may be absolutely terrified
of this little crawling creature or he may view your child as prey.
Neither of these scenarios is permanent, though. Your dog just has
to get used to your baby moving itself around as opposed to being
carried around. Keep your dog next to you while the baby is
crawling or walking and reward him for being still (this is where
the obedience training comes in really handy!). Your dog will most
likely get used to your child’s new movements in no time at all.

Teaching Your Child How to Properly Interact with the Family Dog

As your child grows, it’s important to teach him or her how to
properly deal with and treat the family dog (or any dog, for that
matter). Teach your child from early on to “play nice” with the
dog. Teach him or her not to pull the dog’s fur, strike the dog or
startle the dog on purpose. Dogs are animals and their first
instincts, when faced with a threat, may lead them to bite or
growl.

Your child should also be taught not to chase a dog when it’s
running away from them or to bother it when it’s sleeping or
eating. Teaching your child that a dog is a living creature, not a
toy, will go a long way toward preventing some avoidable acts of
aggression.


Pet Insurance: Yes, It Really Exists

August 21, 2008

 

Although pet insurance has been available for approximately 20
years, many pet owners have never heard of it and are surprised
that such a thing would even exist. After all, insurance is for
people, right? Well, if you have ever had to empty your savings
account in order to pay for a pet’s surgery or if you have ever had
to put a beloved pet to sleep because you couldn’t afford medical
care, then you can absolutely testify to the usefulness and worth
of pet insurance.

As is the case with most other health-related expenses, the costs
associated with an average pet’s medical care – preventative,
emergency and catastrophic – are rising all the time. If you have
multiple pets, the cost of even the most basic care can be
financially crippling. When deciding whether or not to buy a health
insurance policy for your pet, you have to ask yourself a few
questions. Do you consider your pet to be a member of the family?
Would you be unable to pay for (potentially) thousands of dollars
in medical bills if your pet develops cancer or needs long-term
medical care? Would it absolutely break your family’s heart to have
to euthanize your pet because you didn’t plan ahead for potential
health crises? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions,
then you’ll want to seriously consider purchasing an insurance
policy for your pet.

What Kind of Pet Insurance Is Available?

Pet insurance is now available through a multitude of specialty
companies; and, just as with your average health insurance plan,
the higher the premium, the greater the range of benefits you and
your pet receive. The average plan costs anywhere from $20 – $40
per month and has either no annual benefit limit at all or a limit
of approximately $15,000 – $20,000. Many plans offer discounts for
coverage of multiple pets. Your deductible will be determined by
the plan you choose, but the average is approximately $100 per
year.

Since the majority of the medical expenses generated by a pet are
related to routine procedures, look for a plan that covers
vaccinations, neutering and spaying, annual check-ups and dental
care. You want your pet to be protected in case he develops a
serious illness or injury, but these lower-budget procedures can
also put a big dent in your bank account. Make sure you’re pet is
covered!

What Sort of Restrictions Are There?

You may be willing to pay for your pet’s health insurance, but that
doesn’t mean an insurance company will automatically cover him. If
your pet is over a certain age, he may be denied coverage. Even if
you find insurance for your pet, there are always certain coverage
limits and restrictions. Most policies won’t cover the treatment of
pre-existing conditions or genetic defects. Sometimes cancer is
also excluded from coverage (although many companies will add
cancer care to the coverage for an additional cost).

Be aware of any waiting periods that are written into your pet’s
policy. The waiting period will determine when your pet’s coverage
actually begins – waiting periods can last anywhere from two weeks
to six months. Once your plan takes effect, you may have to choose
a veterinarian from a list of approved providers.

What Are the Alternatives to Pet Insurance?

If your pet does not qualify for insurance or if you simply choose
not to buy a policy, there are a few money-saving options you can
try. One example is a pet health care discount program (i.e. Pet
Assure). When you join the program, you receive a discount (up to
25%) on your pet’s medical care as long as you patronize
participating veterinarians. Other benefits, such as prescription
discounts and access to product coupons, are also included in the
membership fee.

If your uninsured dog needs emergency medical care and you have no
funds available, ask your vet if their clinic offers any sort of
emergency funding. Sometimes veterinarians will set aside funds for
pets whose owners cannot afford care, especially if the treatment
does not involve long-term care and multiple visits. If there are
no such funds set aside, you may be able to finance the fees. A
final option (and definitely a long-shot) is the humane society or
non-profit pet support group that offers financial aid. You have to
apply for their limited funds and few applicants actually receive
enough money to pay the totality of their pet’s medical bills.
Insurance is really the only way to make sure that your pet can
receive costly medical care if he needs it.


Puppy 911: Recognizing symptoms of emergency

August 18, 2008

 

For many of us, when our dogs are ill, it is often quite difficult
to know whether or not their condition warrants a trip to the
emergency room.

In an emergency, the first thing you should know is where to take
your dog. Many veterinarians offer 24 hour emergency service.
Please make sure to ask your vet if this is a service offered by
their practice. If your vet does not offer this service, know where
your local veterinary emergency hospital is located.

So how do you know if you are experiencing an emergency? Most
veterinarians will tell you that if you feel the situation is
urgent to please call the closest emergency clinic and speak to a
veterinary staff member. They will assess the situation and in most
cases, have you bring your dog in to be examined. The following are
some common emergency situations and ideas for how to handle them.

Acute Abdominal Pain. If your dog is showing signs of abdominal
pain such as tenderness to the touch, standing with his back
arched, or refusing food, you should take him to the closest
emergency clinic immediately. Other signs of abdominal distress can
include vomiting, crying, shaking and difficulty breathing. These
may be signs of Gastric Torsion. This condition can come on
suddenly and in most cases affects large, deep chested dogs but any
dog can be affected. This condition must be treated as soon as
possible. There are other conditions associated with abdominal pain
such as constipation, kidney or liver disease, or even a common
stomach ache, but it is important to have tests done to rule out
anything serious.

Uncontrollable Bleeding or Bleeding from the Chest. If your dog
gets a cut, you should apply direct pressure with a clean dry
bandage to the wound. The bleeding should stop within ten minutes,
after which time, you should make an appointment to see your vet as
soon as possible. The vet can only give your dog stitches within a
small window of time. However, if the bleeding does not stop within
twenty minutes or the bleeding is from the chest, you should take
your dog to the emergency clinic immediately.

Broken Bones. If your dog has been in an accident where you suspect
broken bones, first call your regular vet to see if you can get an
appointment soon. If not, take your dog to the emergency clinic.
They will need to take x-rays to determine whether or not bones
have been broken.

Breathing Difficulties. If your dog is having breathing
difficulties, take them to the closest emergency hospital
immediately. There are many reasons why your dog could be having
breathing problems and many of them are serious.

Car Accidents. If your dog is hit by a car, it is important to take
him to the closest emergency clinic immediately. Even if he is
acting normal, he may have internal injuries that need to be taken
care of quickly. Wrap your dog in a blanket to help prevent shock,
and keep away from his mouth as many dogs that are in pain will
bite (even if they never have before).

Continuous Convulsions. If your dog has a minor seizure or two, it
is a serious problem and you should call your veterinarian at once.
However, if your dog has a series of convulsions that last for more
than a few minutes, you should place a blanket over your dog, keep
away from his mouth and get him to the nearest emergency clinic
immediately. There are several reasons why your dog could be having
convulsions including epilepsy, metabolic problems, brain tumors,
and poisoning and fits of seizures are considered to be life
threatening in many cases.

In any serious situation, if you feel that your dog should be seen
by a veterinarian, call his office to see how soon you can get in.
Many veterinarians have technicians available to assess situations
and answer questions to help you determine the seriousness of your
dog’s condition. If your regular veterinarian is not available or
if you feel that it is an emergency, the best thing to do, if at
all possible, is to call the emergency clinic and tell them what is
going on and that you are on the way. This helps the staff prepare
for your situation in advance so the veterinary team is ready to
work on your dog when you get there. If you have further questions
on what kinds of conditions are emergency situations, please ask
your veterinarian.


“This isn’t the Hilton, Ma’am!” Tips to prepare your dog for a boarding kennel

August 13, 2008

 

It’s time to head to Las Vegas for your long awaited week of
vacation. But, what do you do with THE DOG? Some people are unable
to face the prospects of boarding Fido and therefore, they stay
home. Others either impose on their friends or hire “pet sitters
to come into their homes. And finally, a vast number of people
choose to board their pets in kennels.

Before committing your dog to a particular kennel, you should visit
the facility for a personal inspection. Does it appear to be clean,
does it smell clean, is it well lit and ventilated? How is the
temperature? Are the cages and runs of adequate size? A phone call
to the American Boarding Kennels Association (719-667-1600) will
determine if the kennel under consideration meets accepted
standards and is accredited.

After you’ve made your final kennel selection, it’s time to prepare
your dog for its visit. First and foremost, make sure your dog’s
vaccinations are up to date. A kennel will reject your dog if his
rabies vaccination isn’t current. Furthermore, even though you’ve
selected a sparklingly clean boarding facility, your dog is subject
to any number of communicable illnesses always present in a
boarding population. A current shot record is good insurance
against some of these diseases.

If at all possible, you should consider stopping by the kennel with
your dog for a brief visit. He can meet the staff and become
somewhat familiar with the surroundings. An overnight stay will do
wonders to prepare the dog for his longer visit.

Always provide as much information as possible to the kennel staff.
Obviously they will need to know about any medications they’ll have
to administer, food allergies, whether or not the dog socializes
well with other animals and what, if any, particular fears or
phobias he might have. If you happen to be boarding more than one
dog, you might want to request that they be housed in the same pen
or allowed to exercise at the same time in the same run.

If Fido requires a special diet, the kennel may request that you
provide them with a supply of his food. This will usually depend on
the extent of the dog’s special requirements and will be settled in
advance of the dog’s visit. Make sure the kennel has the name and
phone number of your veterinarian and a phone number where they can
reach you in case of an emergency.

Most dogs will benefit from bringing familiar items with them. A
special toy, their blanket, or even one of your slippers will
comfort them and stave off feelings of being abandoned. By all
means, don’t wash the item; familiar smells are half the battle, so
don’t destroy them.

When packing and preparing for your trip, try to go about it as
calmly and casually as possible. Hectic packing and rushing about
will alert Rover that something is amiss and by the time you’re
ready to transport him to the kennel, he’ll already be under
stress. Gather his kennel items and have them in the car prior to
loading Rover.

When dropping him off at the kennel, try to remain as nonchalant
and as calm as possible. Don’t be overly affectionate or do
anything that might cause Rover to attach too much significance to
his plight. The objective is to minimize, rather than exaggerate.
Keep it low key – no long goodbyes, no tears and no emotion. After
handing Rover’s lead to a kennel staffer, allow the staffer to
distract the dog and quietly slip out.

If you’re a frequent traveler, Rover will get used to being boarded
and in most cases will look forward to the experience, especially
if he gets an opportunity to mix with other dogs at the kennel.
He’ll get to know the staff and look forward to seeing them.

Once both dog and owner get used to the idea of boarding and become
completely comfortable with the experience, being separated will
become much less stressful. While away, the owner will be at peace,
confident that his faithful friend is safe and being well cared
for. And, Rover will be able to lay back and enjoy his vacation as
well.


The Pampered Pet: Tell “tail” signs that your dog is spoiled

August 8, 2008

 

Huddled under my umbrella the other day, I was dodging raindrops
and puddles as I walked the three blocks from the parking garage to
my office. As I was passing an apartment building, I saw an elderly
woman standing near the entrance holding an umbrella over her
little white poodle dog. Unfortunately, the umbrella wasn’t large
enough to cover both her and the dog, so she was getting soaked.
Unable to withhold comment, I said, “Do you think he’ll melt if he
gets wet?” She responded, “Well, he’s sweet enough to melt, but the
truth is that if I don’t hold the umbrella for him he gets angry
and pouts and won’t eat his lunch.” And, by dinner time he’s an
absolute bear! Welcome to the world of the pampered pet.

Although man’s best friend has always been his dog, the degree to
which man has rewarded that friendship has quite possibly gotten
out of hand. Evidence to support that statement can be found in the
food we give our pets, the “attire” we put on their backs, the
jewelry with which we adorn them, the amenities we provide in their
surroundings and the provisions we make for their temporary care
when we absolutely have to leave them behind. If necessary, we send
“Rover” to counseling sessions with dog psychologists, provide
outrageously expensive dental care, clip/wash/curl their hair and
make sure their nails are done so as not to embarrass them in front
of their friends.

How many of us have spent a restless night because “Missy”, our pug
faced Pekinese, can’t seem to get comfortable in our bed or “Bull”,
our six ounce Chihuahua, growls and snaps at us when we roll over
on him. Yes, for those of you that are disbelievers, many people do
share their beds with their doggies. In fact, I’ve heard of many
cases where couples sleep apart rather than crowd the dog. Have you
ever tried to argue with a sleepy Doberman Pincher? Forget about
it!

A thriving and lucrative industry has grown up around the pampered
pet
. Pet owners spend multi-millions each year on their little
four-legged friends. Occasionally the news media will offer a blurb
about the pet owner who spent hundreds, even thousands of dollars
on a diamond studded dog collar for “Fluffy.” However, this
phenomenon is actually rather commonplace. Pick up the “Yellow
Pages” in any city and you’ll find scads of pet salons that offer
expensive pet jewelry and accessories. And just because you’ve gone
to the expense of buying that ruby red sweater, with matching
rubies, for “Fifi”, don’t think your obligation have been
fulfilled. If “Fifi” can’t have a gold rimmed feeding bowl, like
her friends have, she’ll no doubt have to double up on her
counseling sessions. The expense of this could easily exceed the
cost of the bowl.

Now let’s get down to diet – what can we feed “Prince”, the proud
Rottweiler? To be honest, Prince isn’t all that fond of dry dog
food
. He’ll eat some of it, but only if mixed with some of that
delicious lamb gravy he likes. And, just like most of us, he
prefers light fare in the mornings; perhaps a few scrambled eggs
and just a slice or two of bacon. Careful not to overfeed though;
he likes his lunch of broiled liver at precisely 12 noon. No need
to make a big fuss about dinner though, he’ll usually eat some (or
most) of whatever it is that you’re having.

This scenario might involve a slight stretch, but it is certainly
not too far fetched. We worry more about what our pets will eat, or
if they’re “off their feed”, than we worry about what our kids eat.
I wonder how it is we know that our kids will eat when they get
hungry, but we can’t accept that this truism might apply to our
dogs too. We feel compelled to continue to offer our dogs a full
menu from which to select and if all else fails, it’s time to
schedule a trip to the Vet.

Speaking of Veterinarians – most of them now offer direct deposit
so your entire paycheck can be directed right into their accounts.
Veterinary expenses have gone through the roof and there’s no end
to the elaborate medical procedures now being provided routinely. A
friend who bellyached for months about the cost of dental
appliances (braces) for his kid willingly shelled out $2500 to fix
his dog’s overbite because “Tiger” appeared to be in discomfort
when chewing on his rawhide bone.

Now that we’ve clearly established that we spoil our dogs, let’s
offer a word or two in our own defense. Dogs love us without
reservation. Scold them, treat then meanly, tease them, leave them
for long periods of time or forget to feed them and they’ll still
love you and want nothing more than to be near you. Throughout
history, dogs have given their lives for their masters. “Police”
dogs will face an armed attacker to protect their handler and
“Seeing Eye” dogs will risk death or injury to steer their Charge
away from a speeding car. A dog’s love for its master is pure and
unquestioning. In my opinion, they deserve all the pampering they
can get.

Pets make us feel good. They comfort us, allow us to be ourselves
and give those of us that need it, a reason for living.