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  • Preparing Your Home & Family For A New Pet

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    In movies and on television, bringing home a new pet requires little more than a red bow and a bag of kibble. But in real life, choosing and preparing for a new pet means planning and at least a little research. After all, caring for an animal is a big commitment and you’ll want to do everything you can to set this new relationship up for success. From choosing a breed to pet-proofing your home, these tips will walk you through the process so you can focus on bonding, instead of stressing.

    Choose The Right Pet For You

    While dogs are a popular choice (with an estimated 78 million kept as pets in the U.S., according to the ASPCA) they aren’t the only choice and may not be the best option for you. When deciding the best animal for you and your family, consider:

    The Size Of Your Home And Yard – Do you have enough space to live comfortably with a large dog? Will you have to enclose your yard to keep your pet safe outdoors? If letting your pet out unattended is not an option, are you willing to walk your dog daily, sometimes in the rain or snow?

    The Activities You Plan To Enjoy With Your Pet – Your lifestyle and the activities you enjoy can help you determine what type of pet is right for you. If you’re planning on walking or running regularly with your new pet, you’ll want an active breed that can keep up. If you’re more of a couch potato, you might consider a cat, an aquarium of fish, or a less active breed of dog, like a pug. The American Kennel Club has a quiz that can match your lifestyle with an optimal breed.

    Allergies – Is anyone in your home allergic to specific animals? While an allergy may prompt you to look into alternative animals, like a fish or a lizard, your dreams of dog or cat companionship don’t have to be dashed. Of course, no dog or cat is 100% hypoallergenic, but there are breeds more easily tolerated by allergy sufferers. You can find complete lists of hypoallergenic cat and dog breeds online.

    Preparing For Your Pet

    Before bringing your new pet home, you’ll want to discuss who will be responsible for different aspects of its care. Older children may be trusted to walk a small to medium-sized dog, while everyone can share in feeding and grooming tasks.

    You’ll also want to purchase the supplies, food, and gear necessary for when your pet comes home. This includes food, bowls, toys, litter box, leash, cages, treats, and a bed. If you’re adopting a dog or a cat, check with the breeder or shelter to find out which brand of food your pet is already accustomed to. Keeping your pet’s kibble consistent can prevent digestive discomfort and ease a frightening transition.

    Choose a veterinarian before bringing your pet home and schedule a checkup within the first week or two after your pet’s arrival. You should also locate the nearest 24-hour emergency animal hospital and post their phone number where everyone in the house can find it.

    Pet-Proof Your Home

    Make sure that cords are secure and that any houseplants you have won’t be a health hazard to your new pet. With puppies, it’s also a good idea to store shoes, garbage bins, and laundry baskets out of harm’s way. If you have any pest or rodent traps or repellents, make sure those are also out of reach.

    Bringing Your New Pet Home

    Bring your new pet home at the beginning of the weekend or at the least, schedule it so you can devote a full day to helping your pet acclimate to its new surroundings. Use a crate or harness when transporting your animal, as a fearful or curious pet can quickly distract the driver or get underfoot, interfering with braking and accelerating. Upon entering your home, don’t bombard or overwhelm your new pet, especially rescue animals who may be nervous in new surroundings. Remind your children of the animal’s possible fears and encourage them to sit and talk calmly to your pet until he’s comfortable.

    Once you’ve let your new pet explore its new surroundings, introduce your pet to where you expect him to use the bathroom. Let your pet sniff around, do his business, and then offer praise for going where he’s supposed to.

    Bonding With Your New Pet

    During your pet’s first week home, balance all those snuggles and attention with plenty of space for your pet to explore, gain independence, and settle into a natural schedule. You should also use this time to identify any additional necessary pet-proofing. Dedicate time in your daily schedule for walking, running around the yard, and/or playing with toys. While there will certainly be accidents, messes, and a period of adjustment for you both, pet-proofing and preparation will go a long way toward heading off trouble before it begins, giving you more opportunity to bond with your new pet.

    Preparing For An Elderly Pet

    Your first days at home with a new-to-you elderly pet, or a pet from a shelter, should be kept as relaxing as possible. Prep your home to accommodate an older animal, and put off visitors and trips to the vet during the first week your pet comes home. If your new pet seems to sleep a lot during this time, there’s probably no need to worry. Many rescue animals come from noisy and stressful kennels and the peace and quiet of your home may give them a chance to finally get some shut-eye. If your elderly or shelter pet’s personality seems lackluster in the first few days, give it time. It’s normal for a newly adopted pet to “lay low” during the first week in a new home. Your animal’s personality will emerge more and more as he begins to feel comfortable.

    While no amount of preparation will potty-train a puppy or save every pair of shoes from chew-toy status, there are ways to ensure that the transition goes smoothly, for both you and your new pet. Remember to be patient and avoid overwhelming your new animal. It won’t be long before he’s walking around like he owns the place.

    *Written by Jessica Brody

  • 9 Things Humans Do That Stress Our Dogs Out

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    When we love our dogs like family, we sometimes forget that they don’t understand us quite like our human relatives. Sometimes we try to have full-on conversations with them or unknowingly send them body language signals that are interpreted differently in the animal kingdom. For these reasons, we’ve compiled a list of 9 common things that humans do that stress dogs out.

    If you’ve done any of these things, don’t worry–we all have! But by being more aware, we can try to communicate with our canines as clearly as possible. And lucky for us, there’s no limit to their forgiveness!

    1. Getting frustrated when your dog acts like…a dog!

    Dogs bark, dig, chew, sniff, and steal table scraps that are within snout’s reach. To them, it’s natural behavior! (Plus, they don’t understand the value of your favorite pair of shoes.) However, this doesn’t mean your dog should have free reign to do whatever he likes. Instead of punishing these behaviors, they need to be redirected–and this takes patience! Vet Street suggests alternatives such as giving chewers stuffed Kongs to gnaw on, or teaching barkers to learn to use their “inside voice”.

    2. Having inconsistent rules and boundaries

    Dogs thrive on consistency and routine, and take comfort in it. If your pup is allowed on the couch one week, then scolded for it the next, she will become stressed when she can’t anticipate your reaction to her behavior. She won’t understand if one night you decide to “let it slide” or you allow her to break the rules for a “special occasion.” When you create boundaries, stick to them!

    3. Expecting your dog to obey you just because he wants to make you happy

    While our dogs love seeing us happy, they’re still animals and opportunists (for instance, if they see an opportunity to snatch some leftover chicken off the counter, they will usually take it!). Some dogs do obey their owners simply to please them, but most of them perform for one simple reason: to receive their reward! Vet Street explains that inconsistent rewarding will most likely lead to inconsistent behavior. And you can’t be angry with your dog for not obeying if he can’t expect a treat in return.

    4. Using multiple verbal cues to indicate the same behavior

    This one can be a tough habit to break! Say your dog is barking at the mailman, so you say, “shh!” “stop!” and “quiet.” You’ve given her three different commands that are supposed mean the same thing: quit barking! Your dog gets confused so she continues to bark and eventually gets scolded–but she doesn’t know why! The best plan is to come up with specific words to apply to each trick or command, and to make sure everyone in your family is on the same page. If you use “down” for “lay down,” you may have to use something like “floor” to tell your pup to get off the bed! (Here is a great article on giving command cues.)

    5. Saying “it’s okay” when your dog thinks it’s not

    When our dogs are anxious, we want to comfort them. Often saying “it’s okay” in a soothing tone is our natural human response. But according to Healthy Pets (via Mercola), we’re training them to think the opposite. If we use the phrase in conjunction with doing something they don’t like–for instance, taking them to the vet or as we’re trying to clip their nails–they learn to associate the phrase with things that aren’t okay! If “it’s okay” means something bad is about to happen, that can really stress your dog out!

    6. Pointing or shaking a finger at her

    Healthy Pets explains that this gesture is a “universal stress inducer for dogs.” The article says that it is often accompanied with an angry gesture, a hovering stance, and a stern tone. Your pup may not remember when he did to deserve the “finger point,” but he will know that you’re upset with him, causing anxiety.

    7. Restraining or cornering a dog to give him affection

    There is debate whether dogs like hugs or not. The answer is simple: it depends on the dog. (And also the human–some dogs may only enjoy hugs from their trusted loved ones.) While humans know hugs to be a sign of affection, some dogs feel nervous or trapped when a human wraps their arms around them. Note that there is a difference between hugs and cuddling: a dog that doesn’t like hugs may still love to snuggle because he doesn’t feel restrained. The point is, we need to keep in mind that each dog has a different comfort threshold. They deserve to have their personal boundaries respected, too!

    8. Staring at a dog you don’t know

    First off, there is a difference between the loving gazes shared between a pup and her family members and a dog that’s being stared down by a stranger–we’re talking about the latter. If you meet a new dog, try to avoid eye contact and staring at him as he’s getting to know you. Some dogs will consider extended eye contact from a stranger to be a challenge, which will increase their stress response.

    9. Not giving him enough exercise

    Like humans, dogs get bored if they don’t have enough physical and mental stimulation in their lives. “Dogs that are unsatisfied and bored will often start destructive behaviors such as chewing and digging, which leads to unfair punishment and stress,” explains Katie Finlay for iHeartDogs. Remember, your dog can’t entertain himself by enjoying a Netflix binge or taking himself for a walk. He depends on you to stay fit, physically and mentally!

    Written by Karen Tietjen
    *Source courtesy of IHeartDogs.com

  • Preventing Aggression: 6 Tips For Socialized Puppies

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    With the new year approaching, there will be an abundance of cute new puppies. It is important to know the proper etiquette when it comes to socializing puppies. When thinking about aggressive dogs, one might first imagine a pit bull, rottweiler or german shepherd. But their bad reputations have come from a great deal of misinformation and hype being fed to the general public over the years.

    Many people might be surprised to learn that members of these particular breeds aren’t amongst the most aggressive. Smaller dogs can be just as mean or overbearing as larger ones, it depends on many factors, including training and socialization techniques.

    While any dog has the potential to be aggressive, according to their unique breed characteristics many canines can be unfriendly to unfamiliar dogs. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to socialize your pet, especially when they’re at their youngest.

    #1 – Start Young

    Just like human children, those formidable years from infancy through becoming a toddler, are crucial to their psychological and social development. For dogs, there are two stages thought to be the most important time to begin socialization techniques. The first comes at 3-5 weeks of age and the second at 6-12 weeks.

    Although the first time period is likely out of our control, it’s important for puppies to stay with their mother and other siblings during this important bonding and development stage. This is when these young dogs establish a “pecking order,” as the more dominant one steps up as a “leader of the pack” and the more submissive dogs will follow.

    #2 – Picking Your Puppy

    If you’re choosing a puppy and you’re able to see them with their litter-mates, you’ll likely be able to tell who is, in fact, the leader of the pack. If this will be your only dog, the strongest of the bunch be likely be more outgoing and playful. On the other hand, if you’re adding another dog to your family, you should look for one that is more on the submissive side. Conversely, many people prefer the runt of the litter and believe them to have the potential for the most personality.

    #3 – People Pleasing

    Puppies are naturally curious and are likely to warm up to just about anyone, but if they do shy away from a new person in your home, politely ask your guest to take a seat and ignore the animal completely. Trying to force an instant bond is not the route to take in this particular situation. Instead, give the dog some space and let them make the first move, on their own terms and time schedule … they’ll come around … literally.

    #4 – Other Dogs

    Your best bet for a good first encounter with another dog is with an older female, especially one who has given birth in the past. They’re much more likely to be accepting and affectionate with your youngster. When you do put another animal in the presence of your pup, begin by holding your dog and letting them view the newcomer from a distance at first.

    When they begin to interact, stay close, but only intervene if there’s trouble brewing. Dogs will naturally explore each other with plenty of sniffing and could begin to play. Again, only step in if there is aggressive growling or biting, but even a few little nips are safe.

    #5 – Other Animals

    If possible, try to introduce your puppy to many different breeds and types of other animals, especially cats. They’ll learn that other animals are their friends and not prey, which means they’ll be less likely to chase felines in the future. If you don’t have a cat, see if you can borrow one from a friend or family member who may have one that’s already dog-friendly.

    #6 – Children

    Start with older children who know how to behave around dogs and work your way down to the younger brood. If you have children of your own, teach them how to behave around animals and be sure they understand they shouldn’t assume puppies want to play 24/7. Children should also know to let sleeping dogs lie and don’t bother them while they’re eating.

    In closing, after the ice has been broken, so to speak, especially during this formative time, introduce your puppy to as many different kinds of people, sights and sounds as humanly possible. This will make them more confident and less fearful in the long run.

    *Written by Amber Kingsley

  • Does Your Dog Have Anxiety?

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    The majority of dogs seemingly have little to worry about. With humans providing them with practically everything they need, it’s hard to imagine that dogs would have anything to cause them anxiety. We humans tend to think of anxiety as a human-only problem, the result of our daily stresses over matters such as our careers, our relationships, and our fears about the meaning of life. Believe it or not, it’s surprisingly common for dogs to feel anxious, too. Even though dogs may never have to worry about paying their bills, maintaining a marriage, or achieving complete satisfaction with their lives, they can experience nervousness that can affect their behavior.

    It’s important for dog owners to understand this, because anxiety can cause a number of problems for them and their dogs. A dog that has anxiety may have difficulty eating, damage the house when left alone, or pick fights with other dogs. Since no dog owner wants to deal with these types of behavioral issues, it’s vital for dog owners to understand the potential causes of anxiety in their dogs, how to prevent it, and what treatments exist.

    What Causes Anxiety in Dogs?

    Anxiety can be the result of a fear, a dog’s personality, or age-related conditions. For example, one of the most common sources of anxiety in dogs is the fear of unfamiliar or unpleasant locations, such as a new home, or the vet’s office. Separation anxiety is another extremely common trigger, as dogs often don’t know how to cope with being left alone for extended periods. Older dogs may experience cognitive disorders as they age, leaving them confused and forgetful. This makes them more prone to anxiety.

    How Can I Tell if My Dog Has Anxiety?

    Any sudden change in your dog’s behavior may be the result of anxiety. In general, though, there are some definitive warning signs that can indicate your dog may need some help. Some of these signs can be glaringly obvious, but others might not be noticeable right away. Here are some of the most common behavioral changes that may indicate your dog is experiencing anxiety:

    • Destructive behavior. A dog that is feeling anxious may lash out at its surroundings in an attempt to escape. Your dog may try to chew through a door or rip furniture apart.
    • Housebreaking issues. Even if a dog is housebroken, it may urinate or defecate inside the house if it is feeling anxious. This behavior typically is associated with separation anxiety.
    • Repetitive behavior. Pacing around the room, overgrooming the same body part, or other repeated behaviors could be signs that your dog is nervous about something, especially if the behavior doesn’t seem to have any apparent purpose.
    • Aggression. A dog that snarls and snaps at other dogs or even people may be experiencing some form of anxiety. Growling and barking are telltale signs of aggressive behavior.

    How Can I Prevent Anxiety in My Dog?

    Although dogs can have anxiety no matter what, there are some steps dog owners can take that can prevent anxiety and give their dogs the coping skills they need to deal with stress. These include:

    • Obedience training. Giving your dog a foundation of strong obedience training can help create a stronger bond between you and your dog. Ultimately, helping your dog feel more secure.
    • Socialization. When dogs are often exposed to people and animals that are new to them, it can help them feel more at ease when they encounter different people and new situations in the future.
    • Learning to read body language. Your dog’s body language often is the first sign that it is experiencing anxiety, so it’s important for dog owners to learn to read it. If your dog has a specific type of body language when it begins to feel nervous, such as tucking its tail between its legs, excessive panting or drooling, it may be easier to identify the situations that are causing stress.
    • Avoiding stress. It may be possible to simply avoid the situations that cause your dog to experience anxiety. For example, if you know that fireworks cause your dog to experience anxiety attacks, it might be best to keep it inside on the Fourth of July.

    A dog’s life is often pampered with many products to make pets happy and comfortable. Yet even with the most doting owner, a dog may still experience anxiety. That anxiety can lead to serious behavioral issues unless they are addressed, so it’s up to dog owners to identify anxiety in their dogs and help them overcome it.

    Written by Stephanie N. Blahut

    Stephanie is Director of Marketing for Figo Pet Insurance. Figo is committed to helping pets and their families enjoy their lives together by fusing innovative technology — the first-of-its-kind Figo Pet Cloud — and the industry’s best pet insurance plans. 

     

     

  • The Benefits of Adopting a Pet

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    This is it! There can only be one reason for you to be reading this and that is you want to adopt a pet! First off, lots of kudos to you for trying to read up before getting yourself a furry, scaly, or some other kind of fluffy companion! Want to know what the benefits of adopting a pet are? Then read on!

    Adopting a pet is a life changing decision and it is understandable that some people (including you!) may want to be truly sure before heading to the shelter, your friend’s house, or an animal rescue to meet your new best friend. Every person is different and the benefits of adopting a pet will not be the same for a child as compared to an adult. It is just the same as saying that adopting a goldfish is very different compared to say, adopting a horse.

    In the whirlwind world of pet adoption, some surprises may pleasantly sweep you off your feet so you have to be ready for that too. So yeah, what are the benefits of adopting a pet?

    We’ve interviewed hundreds of pet rescues and shelters all over America to get the best tidbits from the experts themselves and here they are, the benefits of adopting a pet in no particular order:

    YOU GET TO FEEL THE MAGIC OF THE MEET UP

    Have you ever experienced the magical feeling of being in-love? It is said that when you meet an animal for the first time and that animal has formed a connection with you, there is an explicable bond that forms and you just know, this animal is meant to be with you. The bond is also reported to be deeper when that animal is from a shelter or a rescue; maybe because you know that taking that animal as your pet means that you will be giving it a better live. Some describes the feeling as almost like falling in-love. Some describe it as some kind of paternal or maternal instinct that makes you want to take care of another creature and love it as your own.

    In the words of Star Paws Rescue Foundation’s Courtney Rheuban Ax, “There’s something about bringing home an animal for the first time, either from the shelter or the rescue, and watching them realize that they are home and spending the rest of their life happy and warm and loved and safe. The unconditional love you get back from that dog or cat is one of the greatest things you can experience.”

    But let’s not only focus on shelter or animal rescue pets here. Making room for another creature in your life is a gift in itself. Hope for Feral’s Ashleigh Kuhl sums the magic of the meet up as quoted, “Adopting a pet is the best gift you can give them. It is the gift of life. In return, they give you a lifetime of loyalty and love in their own unique way.”

    YOU GET TO BE THE RECIPIENT OF SOME TLC

    Lots of pet animals are very loving creatures, and we’re not just talking of the furry kind of fur kid. Nothing beats a wagging tail, a happy purr, some happy chirping, excited flapping, a swoosh of the tail, and some cuddling after a long day at work. Pet parents are reportedly healthier and are less stressed than people who don’t own pets so yes, pets are good for you, just as much as you are good for them too!

    In fact, the most loving pets are usually from shelters and shelters because they tend to be more appreciative of the love and care given to them. Keyria Lockheart, a volunteer at the Last Hope Cat Kingdom says that, “I have had many tell me they love shelter animals more than non-shelter because they seem to appreciate being out of the environment and into a loving home.” Surely, that’s a great motivation to adopt a pet, yes?

    YOU WILL SAVE A LIFE

    Let us inject a bit of unsavory honesty in this post – pet animals which do not end up in loving homes are destined for just one thing, a life of desolation in the streets or on their own and then ending in a lonely and slow death in some way or another. That’s very sad.

    Not many people can say that they helped changed another creature’s life but when you adopt a pet, you gift yourself with that opportunity. Esther Lyon from Wayward Paws says. “I think that the most useful information that potential adopters can know is that by adopting from a shelter or rescue group, you are giving a home to a cat/kitten that has never had one of their own.” We agree with her, but is it a one-sided affair?

    Pet owners often remark that one of the best benefits of adopting a pet is not just saving another creature’s life. You are actually enriching yours and in some cases, saving your own life. There are numerous studies which shows that having a pet has plenty of health benefits, and it’s not just physical too. Some people with mental conditions like anxiety disorder and PTSD and people with social awkwardness all benefit from having a pet. It’s better than conventional therapy!

    YOU WILL BE PHYSICALLY HEALTHIER

    Do you know that children who grew up in homes with pets suffer from less allergies? Yes! Growing up with pets can minimize the risk of developing allergies – and we are just getting started. Depending on what kind of pet you have, you are in for an array of benefits. For dog owners, they tend to become more physically active and thus, have lower risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. If they do happen to already have those conditions, having a pet like a dog can help them get more active and decrease their stress levels too. It’s not just dogs either. All kinds of pets will benefit you with their power to simply turn off your stress switch. It is like having your very own unlimited supply of antihypertensive and anti-stress tabs, for FREE!

    YOU GET TO HELP YOUR LOCAL SHELTER OR ANIMAL RESCUE

    All over the world, pet rescues and shelters are filled to the brim with pets who have no other place to go. We all know how life will usually end up for them if no one comes to make them a part of their family. Adopting a pet, no matter how small is a big help to the community.

    Just to give you a glimpse on what goes on inside a shelter or an animal rescue. Basset Rescue Across Texas’ Founder Anne Fifield says, “Opt to adopt. Yes, puppies are cute and cuddly. Who doesn’t love puppies? However, there are thousands of animals in rescues and shelters who need a home or they could be euthanized. Shelters get full and have to make room for the dozens more coming in every day. You would be saving a life by adopting. Rescues become full, too. If they don’t have an open place, they can’t bring more in. That means someone is going to lose their life”. Surely you don’t want that to happen right?

    YOU WILL HELP END PUPPY MILLS

    Let us just state that we have no problem with responsible breeders as the pets which ends up in shelters, streets, and animal rescues usually do not come from responsible pet breeders. Pets like that are often from puppy mills who do not care who the pet will end up with and do not care if the pets they are breeding are not from a sturdy or good line. Buying from a puppy mill or an unregistered breeder only means that more well-deserving pets end up not having a home and puppy mills will keep on mass producing living creatures who deserve to be treated better than just a product in an unregulated factory.

    YOU WILL GET A BETTER PET MATCH WHEN YOU ADOPT

    As can be glimpsed above, baby pets are cute and everyone loves them but the cuddly ball of fur you have now can become your worst nightmare if the pet turned out to be totally different from your expectations based on breed characteristics. It is why some people end up giving up the pet they got from an irresponsible breeder or puppy mill and why it is better to either adopt from a shelter or a rescue where the animal has been assessed for temperament and is more or less stable with how they are regarding mood and activity level. With just a little bit of getting to know each other, you’ll likely end up with a dear companion who would deeply appreciate you and won’t take you for granted.

    YOU WILL BE FRIENDLIER

    People who have pets come as friendlier and more approachable. If you’ve been to a park or just chanced to see some dog owners at the street, they tend to congregate and look like life-long friends, even if they have never met each other before. That’s because a common interest brings people together and everyone loves cute furkids!

    YOU WILL HAVE A BETTER LOVE-LIFE

    Lacking dates? You may want to adopt a pet too. Having a better love life is indeed one of the benefits of adopting a pet; however, you have to remember that getting a pet should be something you really want and not just a temporary thing to be a guy or girl magnet.

    Individuals who have pets are perceived as more family oriented, more responsible, and more caring – all sought-after characteristics when picking out a romantic interest. In fact, people often feel so strongly about pets that your ‘performance’ the first time you meet the pet of your romantic interest is among the top parameters he/she will gauge you with. That’s right, your reaction to his/her pet or to the idea of having a pet ranks right up there with meeting friends and family!!

    YOU WILL SAVE YOURSELF SOME SERIOUS MOOLAH

    Purchasing a pet can be very expensive, especially for certain animals and breeds. Adopting a pet from a friend who can no longer keep the pet, or adopting from a shelter or a rescue is way cheaper than buying one.

    Sure, shelters and rescues can charge a certain fee and review your eligibility before letting you take home an animal, but what is that compared to the cost of buying one? A fresh-from-the-breeders pet is usually a baby and hence, you will have to take care of immunizations, vet bills, training, and everything else the pet needs whereas adopting one from a shelter or rescue often means that the pet has undergone vet check-up, has been given immunizations if applicable, and is basically A-okay. You’ll often get free expert advice and help from staff who wants the pet to have a great life with you – how’s that for some serious good deal?

    San Diego Humane Society and SPCA’s Public Relations Program Manager Kelli Schry says, “There are many advantages to adopting a shelter animal. Adoption is a much more affordable option, and you know you’re getting an animal that has been assessed behaviorally and medically. Our staff knows the animals well, so we can be sure you’re set up for a successful relationship. At the San Diego Humane Society, your new pet is not your only new, lifelong friend! We are your resource for the entire lifespan of your pet, whether you need training advice, pet supplies, educational resources, we are here to support pet owners well beyond the point of adoption.”

    *Source Courtesy of HomeoAnimal

     

  • The Importance of Clipping Dogs’ Nails

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    Why keeping a dog’s nails short and sweet should be a top priority for all dog owners.

    Let’s get this out of the way first: Nobody, it seems, likes to “do” dog nails. Not you, not the dog, nor anyone else who may be called upon to take on nail-clipping for you (such as a technician at your local veterinary hospital or even a professional groomer). But for the health of your dog, it must be done, and should be done frequently enough to keep your dog’s nails short.

    This isn’t an article about how to make nail cutting a more pleasant experience for you and your dog; this magazine has run plenty of those (see list at right). Don’t be tempted to skip that step: You should read up on positive reinforcement and desensitization techniques before you even think about snipping; of course your dog should be comfortable with having his feet touched and manipulated before you attempt any type of nail trimming. If he is not – and especially if he shows signs of serious distress or aggression – consult a qualified dog behavior specialist to help you modify this behavior. Better safe than sorry.

    No, this article is what you’ll need to know before you have appropriately and positively introduced your dog to the nail-cutting experience. I hope to convince you to commit to a regular nail-maintenance program for your dog.

    Why Dogs Need Their Nails Trimmed

    When dogs spend a good deal of time outdoors, running on various hard surfaces,1 including concrete and blacktop, their nails are gradually worn down, and they have less of a need for formal nail-grooming sessions. But today, with many suburban and urban dogs increasingly confined indoors when their owners are at work, and running mostly on soft surfaces such as lawns when they are outdoors, this welcome friction is often absent in their daily lives.

    Long, unkempt nails not only look unattractive, but over time they can do serious damage to your dog (not to mention your floors). When nails are so long that they constantly touch the ground, they exert force back into the nail bed, creating pain for the dog (imagine wearing a too-tight shoe) and pressure on the toe joint. Long term, this can actually realign the joints of the foreleg and make the foot looked flattened and splayed.

    Again, this isn’t just an aesthetic problem, it’s a functional one: Compromising your dog’s weight distribution and natural alignment can leave her more susceptible to injuries, and make walking and running difficult and painful. This is especially important in older dogs, whose posture can be dramatically improved by cutting back neglected nails.

    In extreme cases, overgrown nails can curve and grow into the pad of the foot. But even if they are not that out of control, long nails can get torn or split, which is very painful and, depending on severity, may need to be treated by a veterinarian.

    And in the end, unattended nails create a vicious cycle: Because the extra-long nails make any contact with his paws painful for the dog, he avoids having them touched, which leads to unpleasant nail-cutting sessions, which makes both human and dog avoid them, which leads to longer intervals between trims, which leads to more pain.

    The Basics of Clipping Dog Nails

    So what’s the goal? What’s the “right” length? While some breeds (most notably the Doberman Pinscher) are often shown with nails so short they can barely be seen, the most commonly accepted rule of thumb is that when a dog is standing, the nails should not make contact with the ground. If you can hear your dog coming, her nails are too long.

    The nails of mammals are made of a tough protein called keratin. Technically, dogs have claws, not nails, though we’ll use the latter term in its colloquial sense for this article. (The distinction is that nails are flat and do not come to a point. And if your nail is thick enough and can bear weight, it’s called a hoof.)

    Dog’s nails differ from ours in that they consist of two layers. Like us, they have the unguis, a hard, outer covering in which the keratin fibers run perpendicular to the direction in which the nail grows. But unlike us, under their unguis, dogs have the subunguis, which is softer and flaky, with a grain that is parallel to the direction of growth. The faster growth of the unguis is what gives the dog’s nail its characteristic curl.

    In addition to one nail at the end of each of the four toes usually found on each foot, many dogs also have a fifth nail, called a dewclaw, on the inside of the leg, below the wrist. Some dogs are born with dewclaws in the front only; others are born with dewclaws on every leg. There’s a great deal of debate about whether these should be surgically removed; some breeders do this a few days after birth because they believe that the dewclaws are vestigial, and are likely to rip or tear if they are not removed. (Many shelters also do this surgery on dogs at the same time they do spay/neuter surgery.)

    Proponents of dewclaws argue that dewclaws are not vestigial, but indeed used to grip objects such as bones, and to provide important traction when a galloping dog needs to change direction. (Poke around Youtube and you can find videos of Sighthound lure coursing; they actually lay their entire forearms perpendicular to the ground when redirecting their momentum.) Even the floppy double-dewclaws of breeds like the Great Pyrenees are said to have some purpose (traction or a “snowshoe” effect in the snow).

    One thing is certain: If a dog has dewclaws, they need to be trimmed – perhaps even more often than nails that routinely touch the ground. Because the dewclaws rarely touch the ground and so aren’t worn down, they tend to be pointier than the other nails. But perhaps because dewclaws are so loosely attached to the forelimb, many dogs object to trimming them much less.

    The Canine Toenail Quick

    There’s a reason why the phrase “cut to the quick” means to deeply wound or distress: Running through the nail is a nerve and vein called the “quick.” Nicking or cutting this sensitive band of tissue is very painful for the dog – and messy for the owner, as blood often continues oozing from the cut nail for what seems like an eternity. (Keeping a stypic-powder product, such as Kwik-Stop, on hand can help promote clotting and shorten the misery. Or, in a pinch, try flour.)

    Shortening the nail without “quicking” the dog is easier said than done – unless your dog has white or light-colored nails, in which case, you’re in luck: The quick will be visible from the side, as a sort of pink-colored shadow within the nail. Avoid going near it. If you trim the nail with a clipper or scissors, trim a bit off the end of the nail, and notice the color at the end of the nail (in cross section). As soon as the center of the nail starts to appear pink, stop.

    You can’t see the quick in a black or dark-colored nail. With these nails, you have to be even more conservative about how much nail you trim off. After making each cut, look at the cross-section of the nail. If you see a black spot in the center – sort of like the center of a marrow bone – stop cutting. It’s likely your next slice will hit the quick.

    The longer a dog’s nails are allowed to grow, the longer the quick will become, to the point that taking even a very small bit of nail off the end “quicks” the dog. Then the goal becomes a matter of snipping or grinding the nails to get as close as possible to the quick, without actually cutting it. This is perhaps easiest to accomplish with a grinding tool (such as a Dremel), though it can be done with clippers, too, with practice. By grinding away the nail all around the quick – above it, below it, and on both sides – the quick has no support or protection, and within days it will begin to visibly recede, drawing back toward the toe.

    If a dog’s feet have been neglected for months (or, horrors, years) at a time, it might take months to shorten those nails to a healthy, pain-free length. But if you keep at this regularly, it should get easier for the dog to exercise. And the more he moves, the more his nails will come into contact with the ground in a way that will help wear the nails down and help the quicks to recede.

    Helpful Trimming Tools

    Nail clippers use blades to remove the tip of the nail. There are a couple of different styles to choose from, but no matter what type is used, their effectiveness is dependent on the blades being sharp and clean.

    Guillotine trimmers have a hole at the end, through which the dog’s nail is inserted; then, as the handles of the tool are squeezed together, an internal blade lops off the end of the nail in a fashion reminiscent of the execution device for which the trimmer is named.

    Some people find it easier to chop through thick nails with these clippers, but others find it difficult to thread each nail through the hole at precisely the right distance from the end of the nail, especially when the dog is wiggling or uncooperative. On the plus side, though, it’s fast and easy to replace the blade in guillotine-style clippers – in fact, most guillotine clippers are sold with replacement blades, which encourages an owner to swap out the blade as soon as the tool loses any effectiveness.

    Scissor- and plier-style trimmers are arguably easier to use, but need to be sharpened from time to time – and who knows how to do this, or where this service can be obtained these days? Many people find themselves discarding and replacing these tools as needed, instead.

    Grinders are relatively new to the world of canine manicures. So many owners discovered how easy it was to use that old hardware standby, the Dremel tool, that you’ll sometimes hear that brand name used as a verb, as in “I Dremel my dog’s nails.” Soon enough, pet-specific rotary grinders found their way to market – and now Dremel makes a pet-specific grinder, too.

    Regardless of the type of grinder you buy, make sure it is appropriate for your dog. Some cordless models might be perfectly adequate for a Papillon, but simply may not have enough oomph for trimming the thick, hard nails of a larger breed like a German Shepherd.

    Though Dremels and other grinders come with several different attachments, most owners opt for the sandpaper barrel. Change the sandpaper sleeve whenever you see it’s becoming worn.

    Be sure to acclimate your dog to the sound of the grinder, and then slowly introduce the tool, so that your dog is accustomed to the grinding sensation on his nails. Don’t keep the rotary tool stationery on one area of the nail, as the heat it generates can be painful for the dog.

    Be aware of dangling hair – both yours and your dog’s – and take care not to have it get entwined in the tool’s spinning drum. To protect your eyes, wear safety glasses. And because nail grinders can generate a good deal of nail dust, a disposable surgical face mask is a sensible idea as well.

    Nail Maintenance Routines are Crucial

    If this sounds like a lot of work, it is – at least initially, until you and your dog develop a nail-maintenance routine. And “maintenance” really is the name of the game; it’s far easier for you (and less painful for your dog) to maintain his short nails than to shorten nails that have gotten long, with the inevitable corresponding long quicks.

    If your dog’s nails have gotten too long, or you adopted a dog whose nails were too long, you need to really commit to frequent trimming to restore his foot health and comfort. Three to four days is probably the minimum amount of time that’s advisable between salon treatments that are intended to encourage the quicks to recede. Once a week is ideal if you want to gradually shorten your dog’s nails and eliminate all that clickety-clacking on your wood floors. And, depending on the rate at which your dog’s nails grow (and what sort of surface he exercises on) once or twice a month is a reasonable goal to maintain the nails at a healthy length.

    No matter what frequency you choose, make a commitment. Earmark a specific day of the week or month for your grooming sessions, and stick with it. You’ll have a better chance of remembering to do your dog’s nails on a regular basis if you get into a routine.

    It may also be helpful to dedicate a location in your home for doing your dog’s nails – somewhere comfortable for you and your dog and with a good light source. Make sure you have everything you need at hand before you begin: clippers, styptic powder and some tissue or a small clean towel or washcloth (in case you accidentally quick the dog), eyeglasses for you (if you need them to see well up close), and lots of small, high-value treats to keep the experience rewarding for your dog.

    It’s also smart to have a leash on your dog, even if he’s usually fine with having his nails clipped; many dogs will attempt to leave abruptly if they are “quicked.” And who could blame them? If you do make a mistake, don’t make a huge fuss. Feed your dog some treats, and proceed with more conservative clips.

    Source courtesy of Whole Dog Journal

  • 5 Ways to Keep Your Pet’s Teeth and Gums Healthy for Life

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    February is Dental Health Month, which means it’s time to lavish some attention on your pet’s teeth. It’s important to take proper care of canine and feline teeth, because if left untreated, plaque and tartar buildup can progress to painful periodontal disease. The bacteria from periodontal disease can spread to other organs and cause illnesses. More than 85 percent of cats and dogs over four years old are affected by periodontal disease — you don’t want your four-legged companion to become part of that alarming statistic.

    Here are five steps to help your pet’s teeth and gums remain healthy:

    1. Beware of Bad Breath
    If a musky scent is coming from Fluffy’s mouth, don’t ignore it. This could be a warning sign that she has periodontal disease or another oral disease such as stomatitis, a common feline condition that causes painful inflammation of the gums and mouth tissues.

    Other dental-health warning signs include bleeding gums, yellow or brown teeth, pawing at the mouth, and loose or missing teeth.

    2. Brush Your Pet’s Teeth
    While it might be difficult at first, with enough patience and plenty of yummy rewards, you can turn tooth brushing into a bonding experience with your dog or cat. It might take several weeks to train your four-legged friend to warm up to the toothbrush, so start by letting her smell the toothbrush and pet toothpaste, then gradually work your way to brushing for 30 seconds on each side of her mouth at least every other day. By the way, human toothpaste isn’t safe for pets, so be sure to use a product approved for your pet.

    If you’re scared your dog or cat will bite you, ask your veterinarian for alternative tartar-control options.

    3. Consider Dental Toys, Treats and Food
    While it’s not as effective as brushing your pet’s teeth, giving her treats, toys and food specifically designed to promote oral health will help her maintain healthy gums and teeth. Check for the Seal of Acceptance from the Veterinary Oral Health Council to make sure that whatever alternative you choose meets the standards for effective plaque and tartar control.

    4. Ask Your Vet for a Dental Exam
    Humans aren’t the only ones who need their chompers checked by a professional; your four-legged friend needs to have her teeth and gums checked by a veterinarian. During the dental exam, the vet will first take your pet’s medical history, then ask if you’ve noticed any dental health warning signs such as bad breath. Next, he’ll examine your pet, including checking the head and neck for any abnormalities. Finally, he’ll check out your pet’s teeth and gums for redness, bleeding and inflammation. He’ll also be on the lookout for tooth loss, cracked teeth, plaque and tartar, as well as potentially cancerous lumps and bumps.

    A cursory dental exam can usually be performed without sedation, unless your pet becomes aggressive or his teeth are very painful. For a complete dental evaluation, though, your pet will have to go under.

    5. Don’t Let Anesthesia Stop You From Getting a Dental Cleaning
    To thoroughly examine your pet’s teeth and gums, properly get rid of nasty plaque and tartar, and really clean your pet’s pearly whites, he’ll need to be anesthetized. Though sedating your dog or cat sounds scary, it’s not as bad as it sounds — in fact, the procedure has never been safer or more comfortable. Before your vet even begins anesthesia, he may recommend prescreening tests to help ensure that your pet is healthy enough for the procedure.

    When you think about it, the benefits of dental cleaning outweigh the possible risks of anesthesia. When Fluffy wakes up, her breath will smell better, and her teeth will be shinier and healthier. And as an extra bonus, maintaining healthy teeth and gums helps protect the body’s other organs, like the heart and kidneys, from the damaging effects of dental disease.

    *Source courtesy of Vet Street

  • Pet Obesity on the Rise for Sixth Straight Year

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    One of America’s most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight, and statistics show that pet owners should share that goal with their dogs and cats. Data from Nationwide, the nation’s first and largest provider of pet health insurance, reveals that pet obesity is on the rise for the sixth straight year. In 2015, Nationwide members filed 1.3 million pet insurance claims for conditions and diseases related to pet obesity, equaling a sum of more than $60 million in veterinary expenses. The boost in total obesity-related claims signifies a 23 percent growth over the last three years.

    Similar to their human counterparts, excessive body fat increases the risk of preventable health issues and may shorten the life expectancy of dogs and cats. Nationwide recently sorted through its database of more than 585,000 insured pets to determine the top 10 dog and cat obesity-related conditions. Below are the results:

    Most Common Dog Obesity-Related Conditions Most Common Cat Obesity-Related Conditions
    1.    Arthritis 1.     Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease
    2.   Bladder/Urinary Tract Disease 2.    Chronic Kidney Disease
    3.   Low Thyroid Hormone Production 3.    Diabetes
    4.   Liver Disease 4.    Asthma
    5.   Torn Knee Ligaments 5.    Liver Disease
    6.   Diabetes 6.    Arthritis
    7.   Diseased Disc in the Spine 7.    High Blood Pressure
    8.  Chronic Kidney Disease 8.   Heart Failure
    9.   Heart Failure 9.    Gall Bladder Disorder
    10.  Fatty Growth 10.   Immobility of Spine

    “Obesity can be detrimental to the livelihood of our pets,” said Carol McConnell, DVM, MBA, vice president and chief veterinary medical officer for Nationwide. “Pet owners need to be aware of the quality and amount of food or treats they give their furry family members. The New Year presents a perfect opportunity to create regular exercise routines for our pets and begin to effectively manage their eating habits to avoid excess weight gain. Scheduling routine wellness exams with your veterinarian is the most effective way to get started on monitoring your pet’s weight, particularly for cats.”

    In 2015, Nationwide received more than 49,000 pet insurance claims for arthritis in canines, the most common disease aggravated by excessive weight, which carried an average treatment fee of $295 per pet. With more than 5,000 pet insurance claims, bladder or urinary tract disease was the most common obesity-related condition in cats, which had an average claim amount of $442 per pet.

    Below are simple steps you can take to help regulate your pet’s weight:

    • Avoid feeding your pet table scraps.
    • Keep a consistent diet by monitoring the amount of food you give your pet.
    • Regulate the amount of treats you give your pet.
    • Establish a healthy and fun exercise schedule.

    *Consult your veterinarian to best determine your pet’s weight loss protocol.

    *Source courtesy of Pet Age

  • How to Put the Brakes on Pet Car Sickness

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    With summer travel right around the corner, many of us plan on hitting the road with our pooches for a little summer fun.  However, for some four-legged family members, road trips can mean upset tummies.

    Queasiness in the car is not just a human problem. Dogs and puppies do sometimes experience motion sickness on car rides.  Unfortunately, car sickness can make any kind of pet travel a distressing ordeal for both dogs and their families.

    Car sickness doesn’t have to be a serious or lasting problem for your pet. With the right treatment, it can be mitigated, or even stopped altogether.

    There are several causes of car sickness in dogs and puppies. The most common include:

    • Immature ears. In puppies, the ear structures that regulate balance aren’t fully developed, which can cause them to be extra sensitive to motion sickness. Many dogs will outgrow car sickness as they age.
    • Stress. If traveling in the car has only led to unpleasant experiences for your dog – to vet exams, for example — he may literally be worried sick about the journey.
    • Self-conditioning. If your dog experienced nausea on his first car rides as a puppy, he may associate car rides with illness, and expect to get sick in the car.

    Car sickness doesn’t look like you might expect it to in dogs, and you might not even realize that this is the challenge you’re dealing with. Here are some symptoms to look out for:

    • Inactivity/lethargy
    • Restlessness
    • Excessive/repetitive yawning
    • Whining/crying
    • Hyper-salivation (drooling)
    • Vomiting

    If your dog is suffering from car sickness, symptoms will typically disappear within a few minutes after the car comes to a stop.

    Fortunately, there are a number of different methods available to help prevent and/or treat canine car sickness.

    1.  Increase His Comfort Level
    • Turn your dog so that he faces forward. Motion sickness is related to the brain’s ability to process movement. The less blurring movement he sees out the window, the better he might feel.
    • Keep your dog as close to the front seat as possible (but not in the front seat). The farther back in the car you go, the more you sense motion.
    • Opening the windows a crack. This brings in fresh air, which is soothing, and helps reduce air pressure.
    • Avoid feeding your dog for a few hours before a car trip.
    • Transport him in a travel crate. A crate will limit his view to the outside, and will help to keep any sickness he may have confined to a small space.
    • Keep the temperature low. Heat, humidity and stuffiness can exacerbate car sickness.
    • Distract him. Toys, soothing music, or just hearing you speak may help calm and distract a high-strung dog.
    • Take frequent breaks. Getting out for fresh air or to stretch your legs can help him feel better periodically.
    • Exercise before your car ride.
    1.  Reconditioning  For dogs who have negative associations with riding in cars, reconditioning could be the answer. Reconditioning does take time and patience, but it really can help relax your dog.
    • Drive in a different vehicle.  Your dog might associate a specific vehicle with unpleasant memories.
    • Take short car trips to places your dog enjoys. This will replace negative associations with positive ones.
    • Gradually acclimate your dog to the car. Start by sitting with your dog in the car while the engine is off each day for a few days.  When he seems comfortable, let it idle. Once he is used to that, drive slowly around the block. Gradually progress to longer and longer trips until your dog seems comfortable driving anywhere.
    • Offer your dog treats, or offer him a special toy that’s just for car rides. This will make the car a fun and rewarding place to be.
    1.  Medication While motion sickness can be helped in natural ways for some dogs, there are cases in which medications is the only option. There are both over-the-counter and prescription medications available, including:
    • Anti-nausea drugs: reduce nausea and vomiting.
    • Antihistamines: lessen motion sickness, reduce drooling, and calm nerves.
    • Phenothiazine: reduces vomiting and helps sedate the dog.

    Caution: Always discuss any medications you plan to give your pet with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog is healthy enough to take them, will be given the correct dosage, and won’t suffer any adverse effects.

    1.  Holistic Approach  Holistic treatments are another way to go for dog parents. They really can be effective, and are worth trying.  Some common holistic choices include:
    • Ginger. Ginger is used to treat nausea. Try giving your dog ginger snap cookies or ginger pills at least 30 minutes before travel.
    • Peppermint, chamomile and horehound naturally help calm the stomach and nerves of your dog. These are available in pills and teas.
    • Massage can help sooth and relax your pet before you travel.

    As with other medications, always discuss any holistic remedies you plan to give your pet with your vet to ensure that it’s appropriate and the dosage is correct.

    In short, with some patience, training, or the right medications or holistic treatments, you and your dog will be able to ride safely and happily together anywhere you need to go!

    *Source courtesy of TripsWithPets.com

    About TripsWithPets.com
    TripsWithPets.com is the premier online pet friendly travel guide — providing online reservations at over 30,000 pet friendly hotels & accommodations across the U.S. and Canada. When planning a trip, pet parents go to TripsWithPets.com for detailed, up-to-date information on hotel pet policies and pet amenities. TripsWithPets.com also features airline & car rental pet policies, pet friendly activities, a user-friendly search-by-route option, as well as pet travel gear.

  • The Keys to a Healthy Pet

    You’re a proactive pet parent. You want to ensure that your pet is living the highest quality of life possible. You’ve already taken the first step by becoming a fan of Oxbow and feeding your pet the most nutritious and delicious hay and food pellets available on the market! Give yourself a high five! No, we mean it. Give yourself a high five.

    All set?

    Now we can get down to business. Nutrition doesn’t stop with hay and pellets. Supporting your pet’s health and well-being can be a daunting task, but we know that you’re up for the challenge. Here are just a few things that you can do to help your pet become their healthiest, happiest selves.

    1. Offer a balanced diet based on your species.

    2. Just like a cat or dog, small herbivores also need yearly checkups with an exotic-savvy vet! Vets can stop asymptomatic issues from becoming problematic and will check your pet’s weight and temperature to ensure that there aren’t any issues. There’s nothing better than a clean bill of health!

    3. Supplements are a great way to support your pet. Oxbow offers a fantastic line of Natural Science Supplements to support your pet’s immune system, joints, digestive system, skin and coat, and more. Click here to view our full line of hay-based, high-fiber supplements containing essential herbs and vitamins to help support your pet’s overall health.

    4. Enrichment and play time are vital to your pet’s wellbeing! Make sure to play and engage your pet every day. Let them out of their cage in a secure area where they are safe and free to explore. Click here for great tips on how to pet-proof your home from the American Humane Society!

    *Source courtesy of Oxbow Animal Health