Archive for May, 2009

Spring Babies
May 30, 2009

Dear Liz:

My family and I were out for a walk and found a nest of baby rabbits.  We left them there but keep wondering if we did the right thing.  What should we have done?


Signed,

Peter Cottontail in Berlin

Dear Peter:

Every year around this time wildlife rehabilitators and nature centers are flooded with calls about “orphaned” baby animals that folks have found in their yards, in the woods, in the fields, etc.  And before the nature centers or rehabilitators can say “leave it alone”, these animals are brought to them, often very traumatized, by very well-meaning people.

When you find an animal or bird that you suspect has been left by its mother, take a DEEP breath and STEP AWAY FROM THE CRITTER!  Yep, you heard right.  The reality is that most of these “orphans” are not really orphaned at all.  Mom is just a heartbeat away (probably scared of you being so near her kids) and will return to help her offspring just as soon as you leave.  And by that I don’t just mean stepping away, I mean REALLY away.

If it’s a baby bird and you can locate the nest (and you’re SURE it’s the right one!) gently put baby bird back into the nest and leave the area.  If you can’t locate the nest, put baby in a bush, high enough up so that the local cat can’t easily get to it.  Baby bird will soon be chirping for its mom.

Baby deer are very common.  Momma Doe will leave them in what she thinks is a very secluded, safe spot.  Baby Deer is instructed to stay still in that spot, which they usually do unless something causes them to bolt (as in you coming too close!).  But Momma Doe will be back for her child.  She’s just off munching.  So leave Baby Deer alone.  Momma will be back.

Raccoons, squirrels and rabbits are actually out and about on their own at a very small size. Most times, they’re out and about when they’re only the size of an adult’s palm.  Parents still stay nearby, but the babies can fend for themselves at that age if needed.  Rabbits and squirrels are not really considered Rabies Vector Species (carriers of the Rabies virus) but raccoons are, so if you do see one you’re thinking is abandoned, it’s best to leave it there and call in for help (animal control, police department, nature center, etc).  If you DO need to move it or capture it, make SURE to wear GLOVES.  Do NOT touch baby raccoons (or gophers, or skunks, etc) with bare hands.   Rabies is a virus transmitted through saliva or body fluids and can be transmitted to you through something as small as a hangnail, so USE GLOVES.  And remember that these babies can die of shock so put them into a box with a towel over it to keep it quiet.

Opossums are about the same as raccoons but if you have to “rescue” this orphan, put it in a knit cap.  Opossums like that “pouch” feeling and find this very comforting.  They’ll also froth at the mouth and make weird noises – this is their way of telling you to go away.  They, too, are on their own at a very young age so if they’re out walking around, leave them alone.
Bears:  Ok, do I NEED to discuss this?

The point I’m trying to make is this:  Baby animals have existed for eons without our help.  They’ve been born, grown up and died without so much as a human voice having been heard.  I do understand that its human nature to want to help keep the baby from harm, but often times “rescuing” the baby causes MORE harm than good.
If you do find and animal that you TRULY believe is in dire danger, the best course of action is to back off and have someone call for help while you keep an eye on the baby (from a good, safe distance).  Most police departments have lists of wildlife rehabilitators who are in your area and who will come and help.
One more incentive:  per Connecticut General Statutes it is ILLEGAL to have or keep a wild animal in your possession unless you are a LICENSED wildlife rehabilitator.  Last time I checked, the fine for having a wild animal in your possession is ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS PER DAY, PER ANIMAL.
Nuff said?  Thought so!

Traveling With Fido
May 23, 2009

Dear Liz,

Any suggestions about researching furry friendly destinations?

    Signed,

    No Dogs Allowed

    Dear No Dogs:

    Well, summer travel is always a wonderful thing, with or without Fido along.  If you choose to take him with you, please plan ahead – WAY ahead – as some hotels, Inns and camp grounds do not allow pets.  Others might allow them, but will charge extra.

    If you’re a triple-A member, they used to provide books on hotels that are pet friendly.  Or you can go to the internet and look up hotels in the area of your destination.  Most will tell you if they’re pet friendly.  But again, make sure you actually talk with a person AT that hotel to confirm everything.

    If you plan on camping, make sure you know and obey the rules they have there for Fido or you could be facing the quick end to your vacation.  There is nothing worse (and I know first hand) than trying to sleep with an obnoxiously barking dog in the same camp ground.  If Fido’s not the quietist of pooches, best to think about leaving him at Camp Home.

    Make sure you bring a crate or kennel with you as there will be times when you will leave Fido in the hotel room (while you get breakfast downstairs?).  Make sure to bring something to keep him amused, too!

    What ever you decide, make sure of a few things before you go…

    • Keep identification ON Fido – Actually write your name and cell phone number (as your home number will do no good!) ON Fido’s collar.  That way, if he does get lost, your number will be readily available. Use a laundry marker.
    • Get vaccinations updated.  Rabies and Bordatella (kennel cough) are the most frequently needed, although making sure Lyme, etc., is updated is also a great idea.  Remember that most vaccinations take 30 days to become effective.
    • Keep water and food with you.  Bring your own water as a change in water from hotel to hotel or camp ground, etc., can bring about diarrhea.  And THAT’S no fun!!  Stress can bring about diarrhea, too, so be aware of that.  Check with your vet to see if they have any suggestions for anti-diarrheal meds you can pack.
    • Bring other medications. Things like car-sickness meds (check with your vet) are great to have along.  Even if Fido doesn’t get sick on short rides, you don’t want THAT to surprise you!
    • Keep extra leashes, etc., with you as Fido just may get bored and chew through one or two!  If you’re camping, bring a tie-out, too.
    • Bring any medical supplies for those “just in case” moments.  Gauze, tape, etc., like you’d bring for the kids.  Cause ya JUST never know what they’re going to get into!
    • I’d bring a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.  My vet has recommended it in case my guys get into something they’re not supposed to.  And make sure, when you arrive at your destination that you find out where the nearest veterinary hospital is.

    Traveling with Fido can be a great experience.  I know that when ever I go away, I always wonder if my crew is ok.  I do have someone actually live at my house when I travel but it’s just not the same!

    Human Chew Toy
    May 16, 2009

    Dear Liz,

    My husband and I recently adopted a shelter dog. He’s generally sweet, but he bites! The history we received gave no indication of problems. We plan to start a family soon, but want to make sure our dog is broken of this habit ahead of time. How should we handle?

    Signed,
    Human Chew Toy

    Dear Chewie:

    Well, I think I’d have to know more about the situations under which he bites. Basically, dogs bite for several reasons – fear, breed type, aggression, because they’ve been allowed to and dominance.
    Fear biting is understood easily. If your dog feels its life is in eminent danger, he’s going to bite to protect himself.

    If your dog’s breed is of a herding type, it is their nature to ‘herd’ by nipping.

    Aggressive biting is not excusable. It may or may not come right after a growl or at least some warning. This is a nasty dog and I’m not thinking it would have been adopted out from any pound or shelter that wants to keep their liability insurance at a reasonable price. I have to say that I will not adopt out a dog that has shown serious aggression issues.

    Dogs sometimes bite because they’ve been allowed to do so from puppy-hood. Having a cute, playful puppy nibble on your hands is often excused. What happens, though, is that the little puppy grows up and the owners forget to tell the pup that it is no longer ok to puppy chew / nip. The puppy is now an adult and the biting, once acceptable, is just a habit.

    Dominance is biting to be assertive and to gain status on the chain of command. It can start from just “testing the waters” to all-out biting. This is the dog who sits on the furniture first, who goes out the door first, and who generally takes over as the leader of the family. Not good.
    I’m thinking that you should keep a log as to when he bites and what immediately preceded the event. This will help you understand a little bit and it will help the trainer as well to get a better picture. Note if there are any warning signs, such as growls or stiffened stances. Also note what YOUR response was – Did you yell NO and turn your back (a good response)?

    I’d say for sure that this dog needs to be brought into training asap. Taking over the dominance role yourselves is also a good start to showing your dog who is in control and who is not. See if some of these steps help to shake things up a bit in his world.

    Eat first – the leader of the pack always does. And make sure he knows you’re eating first. He should be fed after you have eaten and cleared the table and no table scraps.

    Go through the doorway first. Make him sit and stay while you go through and only allow him to go through AFTER you’ve cleared it. Remember, leaders go first, subordinates go last.

    Keep a leash on him while he’s in the house. If he goes to sit up on the furniture (a pinnacle place in the dog world), pull the leash and him off. Then you sit on the furniture to show him that YOU are boss. He’s to stay OFF the furniture until his place in the pack is established. Keeping a leash on him at all times also allows you to grab the leash (instead of him, directly) and get him away from a situation you don’t like.

    Too many pounds are filled with dogs that have been let run the house. Then, when the dog is about 2 years old, the owner throws his or her hands in the air and gives up because the dog is “awful”. I’d say that 95% of the dogs in pounds are there because of behavioral issues and that 95% of those can be corrected with proper training.
    Remember that your dog is looking to you for boundaries and guidance. Getting this dog into training with a behaviorist (my preference for dogs with issues) asap will help you take back your territory (your house, your hands!). Don’t be surprised if there’s a struggle that goes on, though, as most will test you out to see if you’ll give in and give him back his “power”.

    I wish you the best and hope you’ll let me know how things progress.

    Toe Nails
    May 9, 2009

    Hi Liz, I recently took your advice and had my dogs nails clipped after hearing them as she walked across the hardwood floors. I brought her home and it still happened.

    What next?

    Signed, Noisy Paws

    Dear Noisy Paws. Well, I first have to wonder if the quick on your dog’s nails has grown out, making short nails a tough thing to have. One of my dogs has very long quicks, which is the part of the nail that carries the blood supply, so every time we trim his nails back, we can only go so far.

    The result is that his nails tend to click on the floor very quickly after having them trimmed. We’ve tried to “train” the quicks back by trimming the nails back a bit more each time but it hasn’t worked that well yet! Ask your groomer to clip the nails “show length” if possible. This is actually a shorter clip and may work for you.

    If you do them yourself, though, watch out for nicking that quick – it does bleed! Use styptic powder or even baby powder on the toenail to stop the bleeding. Keep pressure on it until it stops. Also, walking your dog on pavement actually helps naturally file them back a bit. Dogs that tend to stay indoors and only run on grass don’t get the advantage of that pavement pedicure.

    It does take a while to see results, but it’s worth it. Keeping dogs’ nails short is a task that can be a real pain, but clipping them every 4 weeks or sooner if you see they’re growing out faster, will help Fido maintain a healthy length. So take her out for a healthy “pavement pedicure” and see if that helps. It will make BOTH of you feel good! Thank you for your efforts! I commend your wanting to keep her as healthy as possible.