Archive for January, 2009

Winter Itches!
January 30, 2009

It happens every winter. Once the windows are closed and the heat is turned on, it’s like someone flips a switch and everyone’s got dry, itchy skin. You, me, Fido and Kitty!

At first you might think that your pet just has a case of the fleas (and it might very well be so take a close look!). He scratches more than usual, bites or licks more than usual. There may even be what are called “hot spots” that develop, which are basically sores caused from constant licking. Well the culprit might be that wood stove, that gas heat or just that dry inside air.

Dogs and cats get dry skin, just like people do! So if you’ve ruled out flea issues, try these few tips and see if things improve.

Bathe less! Bathing your dog too often can wash away natural oils that help protect the skin against drying out. So if you don’t absolutely need to wash Fido, don’t. If you do, see if your groomer has an oatmeal shampoo or one specifically targeted for dry skin.

If you do bathe, make sure to use DOG shampoo as people shampoo can be very harsh. And many times, you might just use too much and not get it all after rinsing. Dilute any shampoo you have – It will still work as well but won’t leave as thick a coating to have to wash off. Rinse VERY well. Sometimes improper rinsing (or not rinsing enough) can leave a residue on the skin which will actually make it itch more! Remember to rinse armpits and groin areas especially well – these are areas where excess shampoo tends to stay and it’s harder to wash out under there!

BRUSH your dog. Get a softer brush for daily use for shorter haired cats and dogs. Those metal brushes can be very brutal on the skin of both dogs and cats. It can actually tear the skin so be very careful. And a brush is better than a comb as the oils in the coat can be distributed better. This will stimulate the skin and the oil from the coat will help soothe irritations.

For longer haired dogs and cats, use a trick a friend of mine taught me. Get some people (or pet) conditioner. Put it in a spray bottle, dilute with at least half water. When you comb out the coat, spritz the dog or cat (you may need to put the spray on your hands and rub the cat down instead of freaking it out with a spray bottle!). This will not only help with keeping tangles down, but it will also condition the hair and create less of a static type issue.

Ad oil to the food! Ok, this might sound like a bad idea, but adding a bit extra oil to their food does help. I’m not talking about adding a HUGE amount – just a bit!

Lastly, don’t forget nails. Specifically Fido’s nails. Just like yours and mine, a dog’s nails get very brittle in the winter and will split, crack and peel. Unfortunately, a dog’s nails will split up the middle, causing extreme pain. So keep them short. If you can hear a dog’s nails clicking along the floor, they’re too long. Not only will keeping them shorter help them from splitting, but it will also help Fido from getting arthritic conditions in his knees, hips, elbows and shoulders! Long nails make dogs unable to walk squarely on their pads and will throw off their gate, causing pain through these joints.

If all else fails, obviously go see your veterinarian. Let your veterinarian know all the things you have done in an attempt to alleviate your pet’s dry skin and itching. There are certain medical conditions that will cause this reaction and only your veterinarian can tell for sure if one exists.

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Manners Matter!
January 24, 2009

If there’s one thing I dislike just as much as kids with no manners, it’s dogs with no manners! Manners MATTER! So this week I thought I’d help out with a few, very simple ways to get your dog to mind his or her manners…I’ve picked out a few so we’ll go over them one at a time…

First, though, we need to clarify a few things. Dogs are pack animals. You and your family are their leaders. They are at the BOTTOM of the pack and you, as humans, are at the top.

Second, dogs see us leaders as things to be pleased. We, as higher-ups, are in charge of them, so they will do anything to please us.

These two thoughts are good and pertinent IF we’ve established our leadership roles. If we, as owners, have not, it needs to be done!!

Who’s the Leader? When I come down stairs or go in or out a door, I want to be first!

I am the leader of this group. I am the Alpha and as such, get to go first. So… When ever you go out or in the door, YOU go first. This actually establishes dominance with your pooch. It shows Fido who’s boss – If YOU get to go in or out first, YOU must be in charge! Same applies for stairs. There is nothing worse than holding a basket of laundry, etc., and trying to fight with the dog about who goes down the stairs first. Practice this every time you go in or out, up or down. Enlist the help of a leash or other family member and hold that dog. Only when you say “ok” should the dog be allowed to continue.

Wait a Second! The one, perhaps MOST important command you can teach your dog is to WAIT. This will help under SO many circumstances! I make my dogs “wait” for food until I put it down. Nothing worse than battling with a dog over the food bowl before it hits the ground. Start this practice and you’ll be able to get Fido to wait so you can go out the door first, wait so you can put the bowl down without issue, wait so you can do just about anything! It’s a great command!!!

Off vs Down: Ok, get OFF the furniture, and LAY DOWN. Don’t confuse Fido with one command for two requests. Get OFF Aunt Sophie… LAY DOWN in your bed… And while we’re on the subject of “off” the furniture…… Dogs feel that if they’re allowed on the furniture, they MUST be top dog. They’re not… NEVER allow a dog on the furniture unless YOU INVITE him. If Fido growls when you try to get him or her off the furniture, Fido thinks Fido’s top dog – above you. It’s time to keep Fido OFF the furniture! Put a leash on Fido. If Fido gets on the furniture WITHOUT your permission, take the LEASH and pull him off – don’t’ reach for his collar as you might end up with a hand full of teeth instead! If you’re on the couch and want Fido there, invite him. But ONLY do this after you’ve established that YOU’RE the boss…

Eat First! Going back to that chain of command thing,… In a pack (in the wild), the Alpha dog (or wolf, if you will) always eats first. When he’s (or she’s) done, THEN the rest of the pack, according to position, can eat. So, while it’s tempting to feed Fido and then sit down, make sure YOU eat first and THEN Fido eats. If Fido can see you eating (and doesn’t drool all over your shoes!), he’ll recognize further that you and the rest of the family are the Alphas and he or she is a subordinate. And make sure Fido doesn’t get fed while you eat! This puts him or her on YOUR level and he or she is NOT! After everyone at the table is done, THEN it’s ok to feed Fido.

So that’s a few of the ways you can get your dog to have better manners. They’re very basic and don’t require hours of training – Just when the situation arises! It will take a bit, but Fido will catch on.

The most important thing to remember is that YOU’RE the boss…. Not Fido. YOU need to be able to be first. Once Fido learns this simple rule, obedience training will go great!

Vaccines – Needed or Not?
January 17, 2009

Every time I bring one of my pets to the vet, I wonder how much it’s going to be THIS time. I mean, veterinary costs are HUGE! Vaccinations, testing for this, testing for that, preventing this thing, preventing that…. Is it really NECESSARY? Especially with the economy the way it is…. Do I REALLY need ALL those things? Can I make vet bills one of the things I can cut back on?

Well, let’s look at vaccinations first. The Rabies vaccination is a requirement for all dogs and cats in the state of Connecticut. It’s a law so it has to be done. Period. Last time I checked, failure to vaccinate your pet for Rabies is a $121.00 fine (why 121 and not 120? I don’t even have a clue!).

For dogs, Distemper, Adenovirus, Leptospirosis and Parvo Virus are usually combined into one vaccination. Some vets say annual is necessary; some say every three years is good, once the pet has reached adulthood, although Leptospirosis is recommended for an annual vaccination. For cats, Panleukopenia, Calcivirus and Herpesvirus are given.

Now, there are other vaccinations as well – Bordatella for both dogs and cats is a vaccination kennels require if the pet is going to be boarded for any period of time. This one is pretty much optional if you’re not going to board your pet, take it to daycare or expose it to other pets that might be carrying it. (Bordatella vaccination fights Kennel Cough – an upper respiratory illness – much like the cold in people).

Lyme vaccination for dogs is recommended but not required. And I know there is a lot of controversy out there with this one, so having a chat with your veterinarian is a great idea here.

For cats, the Feline Leukemia vaccination is a vaccination that is, most times, optional. Because Leukemia is spread from cat to cat, if your cat is an indoor only cat, you might not need this one. Again, it’s a discussion you should have with your veterinarian to determine the risks involved.

Heartworm testing, AIDS testing, Leukemia testing….. All of these tests can determine the health of your pet and whether your pet is likely to infect another pet. A pet infested with heartworms is a VERY sick pet. It’s well worth it to NOT skimp on this one! Your vet can tell you which ones are necessary and which are optional. A Feline Leukemia or AIDS positive cat should never be allowed contact with a cat that is negative for these diseases.

There is also testing available to see if your pet has developed proper levels of antibodies against a particular disease. This can determine the frequency of vaccination necessity.

So the long and short of it is that there are some vaccinations that can save your pet’s life, while others are optional. Only you and your veterinarian can determine which ones are which and how often your pet needs them.

Picking a Peck of Precious Puppies
January 9, 2009

Say THAT three times fast! So, you’ve decided to get a pup. You’ve found a litter of puppies that match the breeds you’re interested in. You’re head is spinning because everyone is telling you what puppy never to pick, what puppy to always pick, what puppy does this, what puppy does that…. You get the idea!

Well, I’m going to offer some sound advice. PICK THE PUPPY YOU LIKE! Sound simple? Let’s break it down…

A litter of puppies can be broken down, personality wise, into three basic categories – Strong, Weak, and Neutral. The puppy you pick should depend on what you expect from the dog!

Puppies with strong personalities are the ones who push the others aside to get to you, to food, to Mom or what ever – they’re the first ones out of the gate. They can be referred to as “Alpha” by many. These are the “working” dogs – Whether it is working as in search and rescue or working as in agility champions, these are the go-getters. These will challenge you with their intelligence and drive. If you’re not ready for this, pass.

Puppies with weak personalities are not recommended for families with children under five years old. These pups are the wimps of the bunch. They get pushed around and are easily antagonized. They can scare easily when there are children running around, making quick moves and loud noises. These puppies CAN be brought up to be neutral puppies, though, when taken away from the strong willed ones who often are the ones bullying them. These pups are generally the ones in the background with that deer in the headlight look! They’d be best with older kids but as far as activity goes, they’re fine with just about any level. They do great with other dogs, too (hint, hint!) as the other dogs tend to help them out of their shells.

Puppies that are neutral are the ones just hanging around. They’re the middle children! They’re comfortable in their own skins and with their own level in the pack. This is the all around, good natured pup you hear tell about. BUT… Don’t let their neutral-ness fool you! They can be as mischievous as the next group! These are the pups that generally do well at soccer games, etc., where a lot of activity doesn’t bother them. They do great with other dogs as well.

Now, to throw a wrench into the mix… Once you take the alpha (or strong willed) puppies out of the mix, the neutrals can become alpha! Understand, if you will, that dogs operate in packs. It’s a dog’s (or puppy’s) job to climb the ladder of success until they become the alpha. In each litter there are one or two Alphas. So how do you know which is which? Ask the owner of the litter which one is the Alpha. They should know!

Now, male or female? Depends on the breed. Males tend to be a bit more laid back than females. Not a firm rule, though. But two females get along LESS WELL than two males. (Bad grammar, I know!)… Two males (unless it’s a husky type) generally get along better. Best bet? If you have a dog already, bring it with you and let THAT dog pick out its new best friend. Truly, your established dog should be the one to pick out the new best friend – After all, THEY are going to be spending most of their time together so THEY’D better like each other!

Oh, and remember one more thing. A puppy is a cute, fluffy puppy for about 5 months. It then becomes an awkward teenager for a while and then an adult. The point? It’s only a cute pile of fluff for a short time – It spends much more time being an adult – So pick according to what the dog WILL be, vs what the puppy is now (looks wise, I mean).

Still confused? Hey…I tried!

Happy New Year!
January 2, 2009

Well it’s here! 2009! A chance to start aaaaaallll over again! New Year’s resolutions to make and break and re-make!

So what about it? Gonna get fit this year? Great! How about Fido and Kitty? THEY could probably use to lose a bit, too, if they’re like the average dog or cat in America. Yessiree, we do feed our critters well – maybe a bit TOO well! That thing that hangs under the cat and swings back and forth when it runs? That’s a fat layer that’s sagging down. Don’t see Fido’s muscular build any more? Hmmmmmm….

Then here we go with some tips for getting our PETS back in shape. And the benefit of doing this (well, with Fido anyway) is that WE will get back into better shape, too!

If your kitty has a paunch hanging, or if Kitty is just getting chubby ALLLL over, try cutting back the food! It’s as simple as that. Not sure where it started but folks believe that cats need to graze all day and they leave the food out. Well, it’s not true. Maybe when cats were more active (like farm cats) they needed to graze but gotta tell ya, house cats (even those that go outside) don’t need this type of feeding. So cut back! Hey – you’re away during the day, working, so you won’t hear the complaints if there are any (and I’m sure there will be). Once Kitty gets used to the change in food, and his / her weight starts to come down, you’ll see a more youthful, HEALTHY kitty!

Want to try exercising Kitty? Get a fishing rod and a cat toy – even a balled up piece of tin foil will work. “Cast” the line, so to speak, with the toy on the end of the fishing line. Kitty will appreciate “hunting” for the toy. The chase is often better than the catch! And Kitty will get much needed exercise while you trigger primal instinctive hunting traits that keep her mind as well as her body occupied.

One last thing about cats – they DO get bored, so keeping them stimulated mentally is a great way to entertain both of you!

Ok, on to Fido. One of my dogs was a bit overweight a few years back. I had the treadmill upstairs and I can remember that the dog took a keen interest in the movement of the belt. So when I got off, I put him ON! He thoroughly enjoyed trotting along and we thoroughly enjoyed watching him! Now I’m not saying a treadmill is good for EVERY dog, but it worked for mine!

Lacking a treadmill, the simple solution is to take Fido for a walk. But there are a few things that are very important to remember.

First and foremost, KEEP FIDO ON A LEASH! There is nothing more devastating than having the family dog run out into the road and get killed by a snowplow. The trucks can not stop that fast. Even just having a dog dart out from behind a snow bank is enough to cause a car to swerve, causing an accident (and guess who, by the way, would have to end up paying for any damages caused by their dog’s causing an accident? YOU).

Keep an eye out for frostbite. Dogs’ ears and tail are particularly susceptible to this issue but it can happen anywhere. Look for skin that’s reddish, white or grey. Gently warm that skin with a warm, moist towel. Change the towels frequently to keep the warmth. Be careful they’re not TOO hot or you’ll injure the area further. Contact your veterinarian as quickly as possible as they’ll probably want to check the degree of frostbite.

Antifreeze is a big issue as well so don’t let Fido lick at ANY puddles. Remember that even one teaspoon of antifreeze can kill an average sized dog.

If Fido appears to be stressed during your walk, you’ll want to bring him / her home asap. Remember that while you wouldn’t run a marathon your first time out, neither should Fido!

At the end of the walk, check Fido’s feet for any ice or snow and make sure to carefully remove this. Check for any cuts as well and treat them accordingly. As salt is used on the roadways, you want to make sure to wash Fido’s feet as well – but be sure to dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes, to avoid an athlete’s feet kind of issue.

For treats, give Fido some carrot sticks (my dogs LOVE them!), pepper slices, etc., and, as always, consult your veterinarian before starting ANY exercise plan!

Your veterinarian is your best resource for your pet and he / she can tell you the best way to help Kitty and Fido be all that they can be!

So Happy New Year and keep up the good work!!! I expect to see fit and trim dogs and cats out there!!! (Ya, right!)….