Choosing the right dog for you

October 29, 2008

 

Getting a new dog is one of the greatest joys in the world. Make
this great time even better by knowing exactly what kind of dog
will complement your family’s lifestyle.

Before you get a dog, you will want to make sure to discuss with
your family who will have the primary responsibility of taking care
of and training the dog. You will want to find a good veterinarian
close by, and you will want to consider the cost of keeping a dog.
You will also want to make sure to have supplies such as bowls, a
bed, a crate, leash , collar, and toys prior to your new dog coming
home.

Also before you get your new dog, you will want to consider
different breeds and their compatibility to your lifestyle. Large
dogs are generally not for apartment dwellers or the elderly. Small
dogs are not for people who want to be active with their dogs.
Temperament is another thing to consider. You will also want to
decide if you want a puppy or an older dog. Certain breeds have
inherent health problems like eye problems or hip dysplasia, so you
will want to take all of that into consideration before choosing a
breed.

If you decide to get a purebred puppy, there are resources to help
you find a reputable breeder. Your local kennel club has access to
area breeders that specialize in certain breeds. If you are looking
for an older dog, this can also be a good resource as many breeders
may have adult dogs available as well. Your veterinarian can be a
great resource as well as oftentimes they have assisted area
breeders.

If you are planning on hunting with your dog, you may want to
consider one of the sporting breeds. The most popular of the
sporting group are the Labrador Retriever and the Golden Retriever.
Both are relatively easy to train and are good with children. You
will want to have a more active lifestyle and ideally a fenced in
yard if you are looking for a dog of this nature.

Many people prefer dogs from the AKC’s working group. Breeds that
belong to this group include the Rottweiler, the Siberian Husky,
the Akita, the Bullmastiff, and the Giant Schnauzer. Generally,
these dogs require an experienced owner who can firmly establish
leadership. Many of the dogs of the working group have thick
undercoats and shed a lot, so you will want to consider if this is
something you want to deal with. You also want to make sure you
choose a dog in this category from a reputable breeder as hip
dysplasia
is common in these breeds.

Toy dogs are very popular today as you see many celebrities toting
around their adorable little dogs. But don’t let the size fool you.
Oftentimes, these cute little dogs have big personalities. Dogs in
this group include the Pug, the Shih Tzu, the Pomeranian, and the
Maltese. These small dogs still require training and a fair amount
of exercise, but may be a better choice for apartment dwellers and
people with older children.

If you have a farm and work livestock, you may want to consider one
of the dogs in the herding group. These dogs include the Border
Collie
, the Australian Shepherd, the German Shepherd, and the
Shetland Sheepdog. The Border Collie is a very intelligent dog that
requires a lot of exercise, both physical and mental. If you want
to spend a lot of active time with a dog, you might choose a dog
like this.

You may be interested in considering a mixed breed dog. These dogs
can be wonderful family companions, as much so as purebred dogs.

Due to the large population of dogs, many people are interested in
adopting a dog. Talk to your local humane society or breed rescue
organization for assistance with adoption.

The most important thing to do when choosing a dog is to take your
time and get to know many different breeds of dog. Talk to pet
store personnel, groomers, breeders, and your veterinary staff for
assistance. Make sure to consider all aspects of dog care and you
can ensure a happy time for your new dog and family.

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What to expect when your dog is expecting

October 27, 2008

 

Are you getting ready for your dog to have puppies? Having a litter
of pups sounds like a lot of fun, but there is much work involved.
Here are some tips on how to get your dog and you ready for birth.

The first thing to know is that your dog will be pregnant on
average for 63 days. This is not very much time, so make sure you
are ready.

You will want to make sure that you are feeding your pregnant dog
appropriately. Your dog will need to eat more than usual and you
may want to transition to a growth type food or puppy food during
the pregnancy. You should do this by decreasing the amount of
regular food you give your dog each day while increasing the amount
of new food. It’s best if you do this over the course of about a
week to help prevent loose stool. Check with your veterinarian to
see what is appropriate for diet. Make sure to feed your dog a high
quality diet. You do not need to supplement the diet with vitamins
unless it is recommended by your veterinarian. Always follow their
recommendations. Your dog may experience symptoms similar to human
morning sickness around the third week of pregnancy. If this lasts
longer than one week, take your dog to the veterinarian to see if
there are any underlying problems.

You will want to continue regular walks with your dog during the
pregnancy. It is important to get some exercise, but if you have a
working dog or do sports with your dog, you will want to
discontinue these until after the puppies are weaned. However,
three weeks prior to delivery, you will want to isolate your
pregnant dog from all other dogs. This must continue until at the
very least, three weeks after the puppies are born. There are
infectious diseases carried by unvaccinated dogs that may not be
very harmful to adult dogs but can be fatal to puppies.

If your dog is due for vaccination during the pregnancy, hold off
on this until after the puppies are weaned. Vaccination during
pregnancy can be harmful to the fetuses. Ideally, you will want to
have your dog vaccinated just prior to breeding.

When getting ready to deliver, make sure to provide a comfortable
place for whelping and raising the puppies. It should be somewhere
where your dog can come and go, but the puppies are confined to.

When it is time to deliver, your dog’s body temperature will drop
slightly. You can monitor this with a rectal thermometer. Normal
canine temperature is between 100-102 degrees. When it drops below
100 degrees, you can usually expect labor in 24 hours. When your
dog starts to go into labor, she will become restless and may pant,
shiver, or vomit. This is normal. Make sure to provide fresh water
to her at all times. This stage of labor may last up to 12 hours.
When she begins to deliver the pups, they will be covered with a
thin membrane which must be cleared away. The mother should do this
herself, but should she neglect to do this, you will need to clear
it away or the pup will suffocate. You will need to tie the
umbilical cords in a knot and cut them above the knot. Pups will
come about one per hour with up to half an hour of straining in
between deliveries. It is not unusual for your dog to take a break
of a few hours during delivery.

You will need to call your veterinarian if your dog does not
deliver within one day of her temperature drop; she is straining to
deliver for more than an hour, takes more than a four hour break
between pups, seems to be in great pain, or has been pregnant for
more than 70 days. Some breeds require cesarean sections so make
sure to discuss this with your doctor prior to delivery. If you
feel that anything else unusual is occurring, contact your
veterinarian immediately.

It is always important to discuss all of your concerns and what to
expect with your veterinarian prior to delivery.


Keeping your dog warm during the winter months

October 22, 2008

For many dog owners, how to keep their dog warm during the cold
winter is a big concern. Luckily for them, there are many ways to
do this.

If your dog is small, has short hair, or is older, you may want to
consider purchasing a jacket to help keep him warm. In some
climates, it is appropriate to choose a sweater for the fall months
and a heavier jacket for the colder winter months. When choosing
outerwear for your dog choose something simple that is easy for you
to put on. You may need to acclimate your dog to wearing a coat as
some dogs do not like to be dressed up. To do this, simply put the
coat on for short periods each day making sure to give lots of good
treats. Your dog will learn to associate wearing his coat with
yummy treats making it much easier for you to dress him. Choose a
coat made from durable materials that are easy to care for. Just
because it’s cute doesn’t necessarily mean that it is appropriate.
Also, if snow is a concern, look for water resistant materials.
Make sure to know your dog’s measurements and follow the
manufacturer’s directions to ensure proper fit.

Dogs that walk a lot, work outside, or are older, may also need to
wear boots. Dog boots are available from many manufacturers and
help keep feet protected from ice, snow, and salt. As with coats,
make sure to follow the manufacturer’s directions to ensure proper
fit. If you choose not to purchase boots for your dog, make sure to
remove ice and snow from between his pads when he comes inside.
This will help keep him warm as well as help prevent dry, cracked,
irritated pads.

If your dog lives primarily outside, you will want to make sure you
get him a good quality shelter of some sort. Many pet supply stores
and online manufacturers make great quality dog houses in a variety
of styles for every budget. You will want one that will help keep
wind, rain, and snow away from your dog. You will want to make sure
that the opening to the dog house does not face the wind. You will
also want to make sure that you lay down straw or provide a bed or
several blankets to help protect your dog from the frozen ground.
Make sure to change the straw and/or bedding periodically. Blankets
and beds can get wet and straw, when wet, can get moldy. Moldy
straw can lead to upper respiratory and skin infections. Some
people like to provide heat to their outside dog houses. It is not
a good idea to do this with heating pads or space heaters with
electrical cords. Your dog can chew through these cords causing a
hazardous accident. If you choose to provide heat to your outdoor
dog, it is best to have this done professionally. Some pet stores
offer heated beds that contain a disc that can be heated in the
microwave or with hot water periodically.

During the winter, it is just as important to keep your dog
properly groomed as it is during the summer. Your dog’s coat
provides natural insulation against the elements. It is important
to keep your dog’s coat brushed and free of mats and burrs. The
hair between the foot pads needs to be trimmed up to help prevent
ice balls from forming. Regular grooming will help ensure proper
body temperature during the winter months.

Some dogs, especially those kept outside, will require extra food
during the winter months. It is important to discuss these
nutritional needs with your veterinarian or pet professional. If
your dog is kept outside, it is also very important to make sure
that he has access to clean, fresh water at all times. Snow and ice
are not appropriate for hydration. Be careful to make sure that his
water has not frozen over.

There are many things you can do to ensure that your dog stays warm
and safe during the winter months. If you have further questions
about how to do this, please ask your veterinary staff or pet
professionals.


How to handle your puppy’s teething troubles

October 17, 2008

When most people bring home their cute new puppies, the furthest
thing from their minds is the stressful time of teething. Just as
with babies teething, puppies will want to chew on everything they
can get their mouth on. This can lead to total destruction of your
belongings, but there are tried and true ways to help prevent this
from happening, and help you and your pup get through the teething
period with ease.

Many people bring home their new pup and leave them out to romp
around the house when they’re not home. Inevitably, this leads to
chewing on shoes, books, socks, the couch, and any number of other
things. The best way to prevent destructive chewing is to crate
train your dog. To do this, you will need a crate that is just big
enough for your dog to turn around in. Make the crate a safe and
happy place for your dog. Provide him with stimulating toys while
he is in the crate. Crate training your dog will not only prevent
destructive chewing, but will also aid in potty training and create
a positive and safe environment for your dog to be when you’re not
around. Some people think that keeping a dog in a crate when
they’re not around is cruel. This is not the case at all. Dogs by
nature like small, darkened places and tend to feel very safe in
crates. Almost all dog trainers today believe that crate training
is a necessary and positive part of your puppy’s development. If
your dog is crated while you are not home, they will not have the
opportunity to chew on your belongings and other harmful things
such as power cords.

The next most important thing to teach your dog when he is teething
is which toys are his and what is off limits. Purchase good things
to chew on such as Kong toys or Bully Sticks. Kongs are made of
tough rubber and can be filled with goodies such as peanut butter
or cheese. They are excellent chew toys and wonderful for the
teething period. Bully Sticks are 100% natural and 100% digestible
dog chews that are low in fat and great for your dog to chew on.
Other chew toys that could be used are Nylabones which are made out
of solid hard plastic and have bumps on them to soothe teething
gums or other toys made of hard rubber or plastic. Reinforce which
toy is for your dog by giving him his chew toy and saying something
like, “Here is your toy, good boy!” If your dog chooses something
that he is not to chew on, take it away and replace it with one of
his chew toys repeating, “This is your toy, good boy!” With
persistence, he will learn what is his to chew on and what he is
not to chew on.

Another important thing to train your dog during the teething
period is bite inhibition. In packs of dogs, the mother or other
dogs would teach this to the pups, but in a home situation, it is
up to you. Teething puppies will put their mouths on you and you
must teach them at an early age that this is not acceptable. Just
as mentioned above, every time they exhibit mouthing behavior, you
must redirect them to an acceptable chew toy. Another important
factor in bite inhibition and limiting mouthing behavior is proper
socialization. It is very important in this stage to take your dog
to a puppy class or puppy play group. Many good trainers offer
these services. When allowed to play with other pups, your dog will
learn what is acceptable play behavior. The other dogs will help
your dog to learn that biting is not appropriate. You must also
socialize your dog to many different kinds of people and
situations. This will help your dog to not be afraid of new things
and will significantly lower the potential for biting.

By following the above advice as well as the advice of your
veterinarian, you can rest assured that the teething period will be
a positive learning period for you and your puppy.


Basic Care and Maintenance for your pup’s pearly whites

October 13, 2008

 

Many people do not realize the importance of caring for their dog’s
teeth. As dogs age, the need for dental care increases. The best
way to ensure proper dental health for your dog is to start while
they are very young.

Many dogs do not like their mouths touched. It is important for you
as a dog owner to desensitize them to being handled like this at a
very young age. The veterinarian is always going to need to examine
your dog’s mouth and you do not want to have problems with this.
The best way for you to get your dog used to having his mouth
touched is to begin touching it when you first get your pup. Make
sure to touch the lips, open the mouth, and touch the teeth in a
calm and relaxing way for about five minutes each day until your
pup is used to being handled in this way. Make this a regular part
of your interaction with your dog so he remains calm when you are
doing any kind of preventive dental care.

Most veterinarians recommend brushing your dog’s teeth daily. Many
manufacturers make special toothpaste and brushes for dogs. You do
not ever want to use human toothpaste on dogs as it may be harmful
to them. To get your dog used to having his teeth brushed, you may
want to start by putting a dab of dog toothpaste on a cotton ball
and rubbing it over his teeth. Toothpaste for dogs is usually quite
tasty to them, so he shouldn’t mind this. You can then try a finger
brush, available at your veterinarian’s office or pet supply store.
Eventually, especially for larger breeds, you will want to graduate
to a regular dog toothbrush. Regular brushing will help prevent the
buildup of calculus and debris on your dog’s teeth.

Another way to help prevent calculus and buildup on your dog’s
teeth is by using rawhide chews specially formulated for dental
care. Many companies manufacture these chews. One of the best
available is by C.E.T. Most veterinarians carry C.E.T. dental
health products. C.E.T. chews are formulated with an enzyme that
helps keep plaque from forming and prevents the buildup of
bacteria. Also, the natural abrasion of rawhide chews helps keep
teeth healthy. C.E.T. also makes a chew that contains chlorhexadine
which has antimicrobial properties.

Some companies also make special dental health food, which may be
recommended to you by your veterinarian to help prevent dental
problems.

Even with proper preventive measures, most dogs will eventually
need a dental cleaning from your veterinarian. If your veterinarian
recommends a dental cleaning, it is important that you follow
through. If your dog develops dental disease, harmful bacteria can
pass through into the bloodstream causing potentially serious
problems such as kidney infections and infections involving the
heart valves.

A dental cleaning performed by your veterinarian is much like a
human dental cleaning, however your dog will need to be sedated.
The anesthesia is light and with today’s technology is extremely
safe. Many veterinarians have anesthesia monitoring systems just
like those used in human medicine. A thorough exam will be
performed to determine if any teeth need to be pulled or repaired.
Some veterinarians will do x-rays of the teeth to find any cracks
or diseased teeth. After this, a trained member of the veterinary
staff will perform a dental cleaning. First, they will scale the
teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gum line. This will
be done with both hand instruments and ultrasonic scaling
equipment. After this, the teeth will be polished, which will make
them smooth and help prevent plaque from adhering to them. Most
veterinarians will also do a fluoride treatment. This is to help
strengthen the enamel and prevent plaque from forming. If any teeth
are diseased or broken, your veterinarian may pull them. Some
veterinarians who specialize in dental care will perform root
canals
and other intensive dental work. Most veterinarians will put
your dog on a treatment of antibiotics to help prevent bacterial
infection
.

It is very important to take good care of your dog’s teeth to keep
them healthy and to prevent infections. Always follow your
veterinarian’s advice and if you have further questions, consult
your veterinary staff or pet professional.


FLEAS! What They Are and How to Get Rid of Them

October 8, 2008

 

All dog owners are familiar with the problems caused by pesky
fleas. Fleas are very small wingless insects, brownish red in
color, and have sharp mouths by which they obtain blood from their
canine hosts. Flea bites usually cause your dog to scratch at
affected areas and some dogs are more sensitive than others and can
have allergic reactions to flea bites. In general, fleas do not
transmit diseases from dogs to humans, but the potential for this
exists and they can and do bite humans as well as dogs and cats.
Fleas and flea larvae live in warm climates and will live until the
ground freezes in cooler climates. They can live on in your home
well past this time also.

If you suspect that your dog has fleas, you should take him to your
veterinarian. Your veterinary staff member will first use a flea
comb on your dog. Flea combs are wide tooth combs and “flea dirt”
or dried blood flea excrement is what they are looking for. If this
is found, your veterinarian will recommend treatment. Most
veterinarians recommend preventive treatment for fleas as it is
much easier to prevent them than to treat them.

For those of you that wish to treat your dog for fleas without
commercial products, there are a few recommendations. One way is to
comb your dog with a flea comb regularly. You can put some
petroleum jelly on the comb to help fleas stick to the comb. Other
people recommend using rubbing alcohol to slow down the fleas so
they are easier to catch. Garlic and Brewers Yeast added as
supplements to your dog’s food are recommended by those who prefer
the natural approach to treating fleas, however, the benefits of
these treatments have yet to be proven.

There are several over the counter flea treatments available at
your local pet store. However, many of these contain pyrethrins,
which are natural insecticides derived from the chrysanthemum
plant. In the past, this kind of treatment of fleas was the only
one available to veterinarians. If you choose to use a product
containing pyrethrins, you should be aware of the potential side
effects. There is a potential threat of toxicity when using a
product containing pyrethrins, not just to your dog, but to other
animals in the house and humans as well. Make sure you follow the
label usage directions and if you have any questions about using
these products, consult your veterinarian.

Today, there are much safer products available. Most of these
products are only available through your veterinarian. One of the
most popular treatments for fleas is Frontline Plus by Merial. It
is topically applied to the skin of your dog on the back of the
neck. According to Merial, Frontline Plus kills 98-100% of adult
fleas within 24 hour and will also kill eggs and larvae to prevent
fleas from recurring. Frontline Plus is waterproof for up to 30
days and is safe to use on puppies as young as 8 weeks of age.

Another popular flea treatment is Sentinel by Novartis. Sentinel is
a monthly pill that also prevents heartworms. Sentinel kills adult
fleas, eggs, and larvae. Novartis also makes the flea control
products Program
and Capstar. Program is a flavored tablet that is
given monthly, and while it does not kill adult fleas, it does
interrupt the flea life cycle by preventing the development of flea
eggs. Program is safe to use in dogs and puppies four weeks of age
and older. Capstar is a pill that is given to kill adult fleas. It
can be given as often as once per day. According to Novartis,
Capstar will begin killing adult fleas within 30 minutes. One pill
should kill all adult fleas. Capstar is safe for dogs and puppies
four weeks of age and older.

Remember that it is much easier to prevent fleas than to treat them
once your dog has them. As with all medications, follow the advice
of your veterinarian. If you need more information about fleas and
flea prevention, contact a member of your veterinary staff or pet
professional.


Animal Assisted Therapy: Can it help you?

October 3, 2008

 

The term “animal assisted therapy” is to be distinguished from the
more familiar practice of “animal assisted activities”, which
refers generally to pet visitation at hospitals and residential
care facilities.

Animal Assisted Therapy is part of a formal and carefully designed
treatment program with specific and measurable objectives that
matches one animal to one patient. Under the guidance of a trained
medical professional, patients with severe mental and/or physical
disabilities are encouraged to interact with a “therapy dog” under
the supervision of a trained dog handler. The patient’s interaction
with the dog is increased gradually. Initially, the patient may
merely observe the dog or touch it. As the patient becomes more
responsive and confident, activities may include brushing,
attaching collars and even walking the dog. Progress records are
maintained as milestones are met and exceeded.

Studies have shown that therapy pets motivate people to participate
in therapeutic interactions. Dogs are not judgmental, they don’t
hassle or pressure their partner and they have endless patience.
Further, simply because they are animals and require care, the
patient grooming them or walking them is made to feel useful.

The benefits and expectations of animal assisted activities, or pet
visits, vary according to the needs and conditions of the patients
being visited. Pet visits are less formal; they do not follow a
particular treatment plan or schedule and they are not usually set
up on a one pet to one patient scenario. Pet visits are common to
hospitals, assisted living homes and nursing homes. They are often
nothing more than a way to entertain people or to change their
routine and brighten their day. On the other hand, when visited by
a pet, some people who have basically shut themselves off from
human interaction will begin to work their way back to reality.
Apparently, the pet stirs emotions in them that have been lying
dormant. Examples have been given where patients who have not
spoken a word in over a year will begin to talk to the visiting
dog.

Now that pet therapy has become a proven and documented reality,
institutions are beginning to capitalize on this phenomenon with
the “resident pet.” This term refers to a cat or a dog that becomes
a permanent resident of a particular facility and is usually given
free run of the place. Each resident benefits from a proprietary
interest in the animal and looks forward to assisting in its care.
In some cases, a full course of therapy has been designed around
the care and feeding of a resident pet. The residents meet to
discuss what must be done and develop their own charts and
schedules to accommodate the pet’s needs. However, staff must be
constantly on the alert to avoid problems of jealousy and feuds
over the pet’s affections.

The attributes and characteristics that comprise a good visiting
dog or therapy dog have more to do with temperament than training.
Not to say that the dog will not need training in basic obedience,
but that is normally sufficient except in extraordinary situations.
Patients and residents react to the dogs in a variety of ways. Some
are effusive, some impulsive and others are shy. Therefore, the
dogs must be ready for anything. It surely wouldn’t do for a dog to
lunge away or growl if a patient makes a loud noise or reaches for
them abruptly. When selecting a dog for these purposes, you would
not necessarily want an animal that is high strung or one that is
too laid back to get up and socialize.

Numerous studies have documented the benefits of pet therapy. Pets
have been used in treating AIDS patients, cancer patients, the
elderly and the mentally ill. One study determined that petting a
dog can lower blood pressure and another found that pets can reduce
stress related illnesses. A study at City Hospital in New York
noted that heart patients who owned pets lived longer than those
without pets. Owning a pet was found to be more significant to long
term survival than the presence of even a spouse or friends.

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.