Keep Backpacks and School Supplies Out of Reach

“On my back I carry all my treasures…..crayons, ruler, scissors too. And yes, a little Elmer’s glue…pencils, paper, and sometimes Mom adds a note and a chocolate bar…. Yup, on my back a pack.., I carry in it, all my treasures.” The “back to school” season presents specific risks for pets, so it is important to keep back packs and school supplies out of reach of our curious four-footed friends. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, many of common school supplies have the potential for GI upset or even a blockage.

PetMD compiled a list of the l0 most commonly used school supplies that present a potential choking hazard to pets:

  • Erasers
  • Glue sticks/bottled glue
  • Coins
  • Action figures/small toys, especially those with batteries
  • Small bouncy balls
  • Crayons
  • Markers
  • Pencils (even small splinters can get lodged in the mouth and esophagus)
  • Pens and especially pen caps
  • Paper clips

The biggest danger if your pet eats a school supply item is the possibility of an intestinal blockage that can prevent your dog from digesting his food. If it’s large enough, it can actually cause the intestine to burst, resulting in a serious bacterial infection known as sepsis. If you know or suspect he has ingested a foreign object, it’s important to see your veterinarian or emergency animal center.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) reported just this year that there are still school supplies on store shelves containing dangerous chemicals. Phthalates were banned in toys in the United States in 2008, but remain in some other items that fill children’s everyday lives, posing a threat not only to our dogs, but to our children. CHEJ sampled products including backpacks, binders, raincoats, and rain boots and found that many of them contained phthalates, chemicals that have been linked to birth defects, ADHD, asthma and other chronic health problems in children, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree that there are effects of phthalates, which are used to soften vinyl plastics, but the health effects of phthalate exposure are far from proven. Phthalates were banned from children’s toys and teething rings in 2009 because of their potential to leach out from plastic that’s chewed or sucked., but some experts say that theories about phthalate exposure from school supplies and rain gear don’t hold water.

Dr. Marcel Casavant, chief of pharmacology and toxicology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio asserts that “Presuming kids are not eating, sucking, licking or chewing on these products, I imagine the risk is pretty small.” However, dogs do eat, suck, lick and chew on just about anything, so keep the vinyl lunchboxes, backpacks and other supplies out of reach of curious pets.

A few general recommendations for safe school supplies….safe for both the two-legs and four-legs … offered by Branchbasics.com include:

  • Avoid PVC, phthalates, and vinyl school supplies. Avoid backpacks with the word PVC or “vinyl” on the label. Choose natural fiber or synthetic fibers such as nylon and polyester.
  • Avoid solvent based, alcohol based and fragranced markers, as dogs seem to be attracted to them. Choose water based, unscented markers with an “AP” label.
  • Avoid plastic lunch boxes and water bottles which may contain the hormone-disrupting chemical BPA. Dogs love to chew on plastic boxes and water bottles!
  • Avoid colored paper clips –they are coated with PVC plastic, and keep ALL paper clips out of paws’ reach.

We have resources today that allow us to make informed choices for our children and our pets. Consumer awareness may result in some minor changes in your buying habits, but it is worth it for the welfare of your family.

 

The Power of Preventative Care

Benjamin Franklin’s axiom that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is as true today as it was when he made the statement, and it certainly holds true when it comes to pet health. The cost of prevention is usually a fraction of the cost of treating a problem or disease once it has become more advanced.

Heartbreaking statistics confirm that millions of animals in the United States live without homes, and the only way to reduce pet overpopulation is through spaying and neutering. Homeless pets abound in every community, and although the number may vary from state to state, records show that the majority of animals that are euthanized in shelters are the offspring of accidental litters. Often the owners of a dog with puppies had intended to get the mother spayed, but just hadn’t gotten around to it, felt they couldn’t afford it, or “wanted to have just one litter”. PREVENTION of the birth of unwanted litters is the ONLY way to reduce the number of neglected animals. Millions of pet deaths each year are a needless tragedy, and PREVENTION— by spaying and neutering your pet, and encouraging others to do the same, you can be an important part of the solution to this tragic problem. Help raise awareness as to the importance of altering pets!

Pet identification is a must as a preventive measure for the return, in case your dog is one of the millions that goes missing each year. Sometimes an ID tag and collar are not enough. Microchipping your pet is a means of permanent identification, and is an excellent way to increase your chances of being reunited with her in the event that you are separated.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, more than eighty percent of all dogs older than age 3 show signs of inadequate dental care: yellow and brown tarter build-up, inflamed gums, and bad breath. Periodontal disease starts as bacteria and plaque on teeth and progresses into a disease that can cause tooth decay, tooth loss, swollen gums, and even damage to the heart and other internal organs. Prevention is your dog’s best defense against dental problems, and since a dog cannot brush his own teeth, it is important to do it for him. If you’ve never brushed your dog’s teeth, you may need to have a professional cleaning, before starting a home regimen. Visit with your vet about proper procedure to use. Dental homecare for your dog means extra work, but the more you do, the healthier he will be….and the fewer professional cleanings he will need.

Core vaccinations can prevent diseases that are extremely common, and are often fatal or extremely difficult to treat effectively. Core vaccines include rabies, canine distemper, canine parvovirus, and canine adenovirus. Your veterinarian should make a risk assessment for non -core vaccinations such as leptospirosis, lyme disease, canine cough complex, and canine influenza , to determine what vaccinations should be added.

Taking precautionary measures diminishes the seriousness of disease or illness, and early diagnosis and treatment can slow common diseases in animals. Renal, periodontal, and osteoarthritis are just a few problems that preventative vet care can inhibit. Just because your dog looks healthy to you doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t see a vet regularly, and according to Veterinary News and Views, most veterinarians recommend a minimum of once a year physical exams which should cover vaccinations, parasites, breathing problems, nutrition, exercise, ears and eyes, coat and skin exam, and blood test which should include heartworm test.

Every aspect of your dog’s exam may prove revealing even if it seems unimportant at the time. Exams of the ears, eyes, and mouth are often very significant. Examination of his eyes may show infection, anemia, cataracts, high blood pressure, kidney problems, allergies, and sometimes even nutritional conditions. Regular ear cleaning will greatly lessen the likelihood of ear infections which are very painful. Complete exams will include vaccinations, fecal analysis, and heartworm testing. Key benefits of these exams include preventing disease, identifying potential problems and diseases in early stages, and provide the quality of life you wish to give your dog. Check ups allow your doctor to monitor your pet’s progressive health, and make recommendations regarding many different health related areas. It definitely takes far less effort and expense to prevent health problems than to cure them!

 

Kindness is ALWAYS in Fashion

This year has been a tough time, but lashing out, turning on our friends, hating others, or doing acts that are just plain mean are unacceptable, so let’s spread kindness….to two legged and four legged! We are blessed to live in the best country in the world! Americans will never agree on everything, or completely understand why some people have some points of view, but hateful and cruel acts are never productive, while kindness is always fashionable, and an act of kindness, no matter how small, is never wasted. From our economic crisis to our political chaos, the concept of making a difference can get lost in the enormity of it all, but the reality is that those who focus on reducing suffering and making individual communities better places to live are happier than those who spew discord and discontent. According to Steven Rowley, “Dogs can help to ground us and guide us to act in kindness rather than hatred. Dogs live in the present; dogs don’t hold grudges…. and dogs let go of all their anger daily, hourly, and never let it fester. They absolve and forgive with each passing minute. Every turn of a corner is the opportunity for a clean slate. Every bounce of a ball brings joy and the promise of a fresh chase. Perhaps if humans learned these lessons, lives would be enriched.” Dogs offer so much, asking so little in return, and by offering our time or money—or just sharing our love of animals—we can improve our world and make life better for both humans and animals. . We’ll feel better about ourselves too, and that’s a great deal.

Specific ways to get involved in the animal welfare cause include:

  • Promote spaying and neutering. Millions of adoptable dogs are euthanized every year, and by spaying and neutering your animals, you will make sure that you are not contributing to the already overpopulation problem.
  • Become involved in legislation to better the lives of our dogs. Help fight for the passage of strong anti-cruelty laws, and for the abolishment of puppy mills. Puppy mills need to be put out of business for good, and we need to complain enough and often until our message is taken seriously.
  • Schedule regular visits to your area shelter to socialize dogs to get them ready for adoption. Just by playing fetch and giving individual attention is a great way to help. Shelter dogs always appreciate a little walk!
  • If you can’t donate your time, you probably have plenty of useful supplies lying around. Contact your local shelter for specific needs. Blankets you may not need can still be used to keep pets warm and comfortable. Those squeaky toys, balls, and stuffed animals your kids no longer play with may provide entertainment for lonely dogs.
  • Volunteer your specialized skills or talents. If you have expertise in web design, grant writing, carpentry, or other areas, a shelter will certainly welcome your sharing it.
  • If you are planning a school, office or special occasion party, consider a dog drive. Each guest can bring pet food, toys, bedding, etc. to your party, all destined for the local shelter. In lieu of gift exchanges, consider donations in the name of your office or social group to your local animal welfare organization. Hold a community yard/bake sale and donate the proceeds to a shelter.
  • Companion animals play important roles in the loves of their caregivers, but sometimes the elderly or ill have trouble providing essential pet care. If you have a neighbor or friend in need, offer to assist by walking the dog, feeding him, driving him to the veterinarian, etc. These small acts of kindness will be appreciated.
  • You may not be able to end pet overpopulation or stop animal neglect, but every act of kindness will help reach those goals. Kindness always makes a difference—blessing the one who receives it, and blessing the giver. Everyone, human or canine, deserves to be treated with respect and kindness….period…no exceptions. Kindness is always fashionable and always appreciated

You can do something big or you can do something small, but whatever you do in kindness is better than doing nothing at all.

FOSTER! ADOPT! RESCUE! ADVOCATE!

Why do dogs eat weird things?

Most dogs like to snuffle and dig in the dirt, and eating a few bites of dirt or even poop is probably not a problem, but if your dog continually eats weird things, he may be suffering from an issue identified as “pica” , and your first stop should be to the vet. Medical causes include many scary possibilities, but if you’ve been to the vet and your dog gets a clean bill of health and she’s still trying to swallow rocks, tennis balls, and your underwear, you need to consider possible reasons why.

Lonely dogs who don’t get enough physical or mental exercise may become lethargic, or they may look for things to do. Many dogs find it relaxing to chew, and if they have nothing appropriate to chew on, they may eat whatever is around, edible or not. Boredom, frustration, and anxiety are major causes for this problem, and you need to be sure she’s getting plenty of exercise and play time, as well as reward-based training to tire her active brain, help her relax, and lower her stress level.

Never punish your dog if he likes to eat his poop… as gross as that is, it is usually not harmful. Pick up after him immediately in order to remove the temptation. Ingesting feces from another animal can expose him to a number of different parasites, so it is important to keep him on parasite preventative, and have his stool checked regularly. Swallowing things like rocks, chalk, fabric, sand, string and plastic can lead to gastric upset, vomiting, diarrhea, and even worse—intestinal obstructions. The best way to prevent your dog from ingesting inappropriate things is to keep them out of reach, and make sure he has plenty of exercise and activity. It is sometimes helpful to spray reachable non-safe – items with a non toxic spray such as citrus, cinnamon, or eucalyptus in order to remove temptation.

For the past eleven years, Veterinary Practice News has recorded some of the strangest and craziest surgeries required because of pica. This documentation of pica cases is meant to serve as an educational tool for both veterinarians and caregivers. They stress the importance of getting your dog to the vet right away if you suspect he has ingested a foreign body. The longer you wait, the more damage is possible, the harder it can be to retrieve the item, and the more expensive the vet bill will probably be.

In 2016 recorded surgeries included:

  • Recovery of 23 baby pacifiers (mostly intact) one peach pit, multiple pieces of white plastic, and a black foam nipple. Strangely enough, the lab’s caregivers had no babies in their house, so they concluded that the dog had collected the pacifiers over multiple visits to a relative’s house.
  • Abdominal radiographs of Riley, a young boxer, showed a full stomach, and surgery revealed 75 small coffee creamer cups in the stomach. With the popularity of individual coffee brewing systems, this may become more and more of a problem. Keep the capsules, whether new or used, out of reach.
  • Corn cobs are not digestible, and are dangerous, and corn cobs with the skewer attached are certainly worse. At a family cookout, Spencer stole a corn cob with attached skewer right off grandma’s plate. Before anyone could react, he swallowed the whole thing, which required surgical removal.
  • A 48 pound, 9 year old mixed-breed dog who had a history of occasionally getting into the trash became ill, and the caregivers elected exploratory surgery. A 35 inch segment of a 60 inch plastic tape measure was removed.
  • Radiographs of a female boxer revealed a large object in the stomach, and the surgeon removed not one, but two, rubber yellow duck bath toys. Because the plastic showed no chew marks, the patient had apparently swallowed them whole.
  • A dog caregiver who kept his spare change in a Planters Peanut can came home to find the can on the floor, the plastic lid chewed up, and change scattered on the floor. Their 8 month old dog acted sluggish and was vomiting. When the owner found a couple of coins in his stool, they took him to the vet. 80 pennies, 14, nickels, l0 dimes and 5 quarters were removed.

The simplest (but not easy) way to prevent pica is to keep your yard and house picked up. Clean up feces daily from the yard. If your dog likes to eat socks, don’t leave socks lying around. Be aware of what items tempt your dog. Provide positive attention, adequate exercise, training, and play. Tired, socially tended dogs spend less time expressing oral energy than their wired, lonely counterparts do. Be alert for symptoms that suggest your dog has swallowed something that may form an indigestible mass that might block the intestines. When symptoms such as pain, lack of bowel movements, abdominal distention or bloat are present, immediate medical evaluation is needed, so it is important to do all you can to prevent serious problems and keep your dog’s digestive system free of foreign objects.

 

A Magnificent, Genuine Mutt

Dogs fall into one of two groups: mixed breeds and purebreds. Some people believe that purchasing a purebred means purchasing a guarantee of temperament and health, but the only thing that “official papers” from a purebred dog registry organization certifies is that the reported lineage and identity of the dog is recorded, and the fact is that many puppy mill dogs are registry certified. If you are looking for a loyal four-footed companion, it will not matter whether you choose a purebred or a mixed breed dog. Your health maintenance and training will modify the future of any dog, whether purebred or genuine mutt. In fact, there are advantages to getting mixed breeds that you may not even realize. A mixed breed will have the benefits of different breeds , and will be less prone to genetic imperfections common to some purebred dogs, and a mixed breed may have a less extreme temperament than some purebreds. With consistent, loving training, almost any kind of a dog will grow into a uniquely brilliant magnificent friend.

A GENUINE MUTT (with selections from Jim Willis)

Dudley wasn’t sure how many weeks he’d been in the animal shelter, but it seemed forever. Each day was the same as the one before, and he spent most of his time sitting on the palette in his pen. He heard some of the dogs barking a greeting to the old bloodhound Humphrey, mascot of the shelter, as he made morning rounds. Humphrey paused in front of Dudley’s pen , making Dudley uncomfortable. He hung his head a little lower, and avoided Humphrey’s stare.

“You, boy…look alive!” Humphrey ordered….”It’s opening time and the people will be coming.”

“Alive? Alive for what. Nobody wants me. “

“Harrumph!” grunted Humphrey. “Why you’re a fine specimen of a …well, anyone can see that you’re obviously a…um…”

“A mutt,” sighed Dudley. “Nobody wants us.”

“Just a mutt!” Humphrey sputtered. “Why there’s nothing better than a mutt. Mutts are healthy, intelligent and brave. Mutts are some of the most cherished members of the canine community, but it takes more than Mutt Status to get into the right home. Do you do any tricks?”

Dudley looked down again. “Not really. I can have a conniption fit…at least that’s what my former owner called it.”

Humphrey tried hard to not look at the concrete and wire that made up his world, where lace curtains and a comfortable couch used to be before his former owner had died. “You need to put your best paw forward, show your best qualities. You are brave, aren’t you? And honest and sincere? Now I hear some humans headed this way… Just remember that you are a uniquely brilliant , magnificent mutt…..chin up, chest out, show ‘em what you’ve got” and with that Humphrey went on down the hall.

The human couple seemed kindhearted, quietly discussing the various dogs as they walked down the aisle. They paused in front of Dudley’s pen to read the ID card. “Huh, he is rather cute, but he appears to be a mutt.”

Dudley’s ears pricked up for an instant…they were talking about him. “Yes!” he barked. “I am a magnificent mutt, and I’m intelligent and loyal and brave.” Dudley barked again, standing up to get their attention. I am uniquely brilliant and can jump, and chase my tail, and roll over, and dance on my hind legs, and….” he toppled over from the effort.

“What was that?” the man asked

“I believe that’s what my grandmother would have called a ‘conniption fit,” the woman laughed. “Isn’t he precious?”

“I think we’ve got ourselves a genuine mutt,” the man answered with a smile.

Dudley beamed with joy as his new humans filled out necessary paperwork, and danced as he went with them to the parking lot. Humphrey watched as the humans picked up the little dog, and gently loaded him into their car. He turned, trying to ignore his aching joints, and walked back down the bleak kennel aisle, pausing just long enough to wipe at his eyes with a paw, thankful that he had helped save another magnificent, genuine mutt.

 

The Dog Days Will be Over!

Most of us associate the phrase, “Dog days” to our summer days so devastatingly hot that even dogs just lie around, panting, but originally the phrase had nothing to do with dogs, or even with the lazy days of summer. Instead, “Dog days” refer to the dog star, Sirius, and its position in the heavens. Ancient Greeks thought of the constellation Canis Major as a dog chasing Lepus, the hare. The star Sirius is the dog’s nose, and the Greeks called it the “dog star.” Both the Romans and Greeks referred to the day when Sirius appeared to rise just before the sun, in late July, believing that this began a period that could bring fever, or some catastrophe. The phrase was translated from Latin to English about 500 years ago, and since then has taken on various new meanings. Actually the dog days don’t always correspond with the heat, and depending on a person’s latitude, the astronomical dog days can come at different days, and it’s original meaning has been lost, but the phrase has lived on.

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac , ancient Egyptians used the star as a “watchdog” announcing the season of the Nile’s flooding, and the connection with hot, sultry weather was made for all time: “Dog Days bright and clear indicate a happy year. But when accompanied by rain, we hope for better times in vain.” was recorded in 1883 by Henry Dunwoody. The expression has made its way through the years, even popping up in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: “The cold within him froze his old features…. He carried his own low temperature always about him; he iced his office in the dog days, and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.”

“The Bar Sinister” by Richard Harding Davis, is a wonderful story of a plucky bull terrier told by himself. A street dog, he explains, “but when the hot days come, I think they might remember that those are the dog days, and leave a little water outside in a trough, like they do for the horses.” This is a good read which you can find in its entirety on the web. The l955 movie, It’s a Dog’s Life, was based on “The Bar Sinister.”

Tuck Everlasting is an American children’s novel by Natalie Babbitt, and is often listed as a classic of modern children’s literature. The Prologue is the author’s opportunity to introduce her readers to her main theme—the circle of life. She begins the story in the dog days of summer, and likens the time to the top of a Ferris wheel, if the wheel were the year, and at this time of year, people, according to Babbitt, are often led to do things they are sure to be sorry for later. Tuck Everlasting has twice been adapted to film and a musical. The first was released in 1981, and the second by Disney in 2002. It was also adapted into a musical and began previews on Broadway in March, 2016, at the Broadhurst Theater, but the production closed in May of 2016.

Surveys often indicate that the phrase refers to a conspicuous laziness of domesticated dogs, which is a myth…dogs lie around on hot “dog days’ because they are in danger of overheating.

In recent years, the term has also been used in reference to the American Stock Markets. Typically summer is slow on the stock market, and poorly performing stocks are often known as “dogs.”

These are days soaked in humidity and the nights are stifled by the heat, making us wish for the crisp, refreshing days of autumn, but rather than focus on the negative aspects of “dog days, why not take some actions to make them happy days for the dogs? Your dog, your neighborhood dogs, the lonely dog down the street, and frightened shelter dogs would all enjoy a little extra attention. Become a socializer for a neglected dog…just half an hour interaction can make life better for an animal.

Dog days offer great opportunities to kick back with a glass of iced tea, (and your favorite pooch) , and watch a movie….or two…or three about dogs. Several classic dog movies include Lassie, one of the most popular dogs in film and TV history, Turner and Hooch in which a slobbery dog helps a fastidious cop solve a crime, and The Wizard of Oz, where Toto was Dorothy’s faithful companion as she faced numerous perils. On Google, you can find a list of the top 25 dog movies that feature spectacular canines you will love.. The dog days will soon be over; the dog days will soon be done, so ENJOY!

The Fourth: Whoosh, Bang. Boom!

Shel Silverstein wrote one of my very favorite books, The Giving Tree. If you are unfamiliar with the book, please put it on your reading list – a very short, thoughtful expose’ of life. Silverstein also wrote “The Fourth of July: Oh, crash! My bash! It’s bang! The Zang! Fourth Whoosh! Of Baroom! July Whew” enthusiastically portraying the Fourth of July from a human’s point of view. However, from a dog’s perspective, his poem “Mr. Grumpledump’s Song” probably more aptly describes how a dog feels about this celebration:

“Everything’s wrong. Day is too long. Sunshine’s too hot. Wind is too strong! Kids are too noisy! Folks are too happy, singin’ their songs. Why can’t they see it? Everything’s wrong.”

The Fourth of July is an exciting, fun holiday for humans, but unfortunately it holds a plethora of dangers to our four-legged pets, and can be a dangerous and frightening time for them. In addition to the risks of injuries and burns, many pets are fearful of the excitement and noise associated with the day. They may act irrationally and panic, and when in distress, pets can run incredibly long distances, lose their sense of direction, and end up far from home. According to Mypet.com, more dogs go missing on the 4th of July than on any other day of the year because of fireworks. The loud noises are scary and confusing, and even painful to some animals. NEVER leave pets outside, even in a fenced yard, and especially not on a chain. In their fear, pets that normally wouldn’t leave the yard may escape and be lost or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or death. Thoughtless, “fun-loving” humans have been known to deliberately toss firecrackers at dogs, and even allowing your pets near fireworks can lead to serious burns, even after the fuse has burned out, and unused fireworks pose a danger to curious pets who like to chew.

A few tips to keep your dog safe and happy when those fireworks start lighting up the sky:

  •  Take your dog for a walk early in the day, before the festivities, and be sure to keep her on leash, because some people do set off fireworks before it gets dark.
  • Do NOT take your pet to fireworks displays even if you plan to stay in your car with him. The explosions that are loud to human ears are much louder to a dog, whose hearing is more sensitive than humans….certainly do not leave your dog unattended in a vehicle. Partially opened car windows do not provide sufficient air for your dog, and if he becomes frightened, he would likely become destructive
  • Plan ahead to keep your pet indoors in a quiet, sheltered spot. Keep the curtains closed, and leave the radio or television (or both) on to keep him company while you are enjoying the celebration. We have found a CD that is super for calming dogs….I have shelves filled with tapes and books on “how to cure behavior problems,” and most of them are what I consider “snake oil”, but once in a while I discover a real winner. I observed that some specific lullaby music, played to the rhythm of an actual human heartbeat, is being used in many hospitals, especially for newborns and preemies, which actually has a calming effect on the babies, and it is also effective with dogs. If you have a nervous or easily frightened dog, I recommend you go to www.caninelullabies.com , or call Terry toll free at 1-800-537-7748 for information on this CD that is effective not only for fireworks, but for other inappropriate behavior
  • A commercial product, the thundershirt, has been used with great success to calm anxious dogs. It was created by behavioral experts using a concept similar to swaddling an infant. The thundershirt is great in many stressful situations, and info on them can be found at thundershirt.com or on Amazon.
  • If you have neighbors or friends who normally keep their dog outdoors, please visit with them about the dangers involved. Perhaps they have not even thought about the distress that fireworks can cause the animals.
  • Make sure your pets are wearing complete updated ID…just in case. If someone finds your animal, the first thing to look for will be an ID tag. If he is taken to a shelter or pound, he will be scanned for a microchip.

Exercise caution, common sense, and compassion and keep your dogs away from the whooshes, barrooms, and bangs, while you enjoy a safe, festive Happy Fourth!

 

Song of Summer

Crickets begin their magical tune.. ladybugs jig for the joy of June…

Dragonflies dance as they dart by… their whirring wings sing a lullaby…

Bumblebees buzz a melody sweet… caterpillars tap their many feet…

The dog’s happy heart beats like a drummer…as June brings on the songs of summer.

 

Crickets, ladybugs, dragonflies, bumblebees, caterpillars, and happy dogs are all songs of summer, but naturally nothing can be all good….there are always some unpleasant things to balance out the awesomeness…with the songs also come some summer hazards for your four-footed friends.

Probably the most harmful aspect about summer is the rising temperatures, which means that pets may struggle to stay hydrated and avoid heat exhaustion. Do NOT leave your pet outside in the heat, without adequate shade and fresh water…provide a cool place indoors during extremely hot weather, and NEVER leave him in the car….not even for “a couple minutes while you run in to a store.” NEVER, EVER! To avoid heat stroke, exercise your dog in the cooler parts of the day and for short periods of time.

Skin issues related to allergens, bugs, and plants seem to escalate in warm weather. For many pets, the change in temperature, moisture, and air pressure can cause their skin to become dry, itchy, and inflamed, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms that accompany skin irritations or infections. Watch for any abnormal chewing, biting, or scratching and licking their paws or other parts of their body. If you see an irritated area, or see bald spots, it is likely that there is some kind of skin problem, and you may need to seek advice from your vet.

For some reason, raisin and grape related emergencies are more likely to occur in the summer, and these fruits are extremely toxic to dogs (and cats), so keep them out of reach to your pets. Be aware that there are many things that have grapes in them that you might not even think about, like fruit salads, smoothies, dips, trail mixes, cereals, cookies, snack bars, and many other desserts. Just because you don’t have a box of raisins or a cluster of grapes doesn’t mean that you are safe.

In addition to the usual flea and tick protection that your pet needs, there are many other creepy crawlies willing and able to sting or bite your pet. Studies show that pets are twice as likely to be a victim of a sting or bug bite in the summer, and while they are usually just uncomfortable and relatively harmless, sometimes they require an emergency trip to the vet for needed treatment. Symptoms to watch for are difficulty breathing, nausea, disorientation, lethargy, or other kind of unusual behavior.

Backyard barbeques often include good old corn on the cob, and if a pet somehow ingests corn cob material, it can cause serious health problems. Corn cobs can also be found in back yards in farming areas…the squirrels carry ears of corn into the yard, and leave the cobs. Dogs seem to like to chew on corn cobs, and they are extremely dangerous because they are completely indigestible. Sometimes the cob will pass through and be pooped out, but if a piece of corn cob gets lodged in the intestine, stomach, or colon, there may be a bowel obstruction that will need vet treatment. It is important that you dispose of all corn cobs in a covered garbage can that your pet cannot get into. Resist sharing picnic or barbeque leftovers, because pets do not have the necessary enzymes to digest many of the high fat foods that are associated with these festivities. Charcoal and lighter fluid used to barbeque also pose a threat, as ingesting ash or charcoal can result in serious stomach irritation.

Water is often a major part of summer family activities, and pets can drown in lakes and pools just like people. Be on the lookout for stagnant pools of water, especially those with blue-green algae, which are very dangerous. Don’t allow your pet near stagnant water or algae, and make sure he doesn’t drink from these water sources.

With a few extra precautions, summertime will be filled with the songs of summer… and you will have a safe and happy pet.

 

Reward Your Dog With Healthy Treats

Hopefully last week’s Paw Prints article on healthy (and unhealthy) pet foods was useful to pet caregivers as they navigate the maze of confusing marketing info. Several of our readers expressed an interest in some factual info about what to look for, and what to avoid, when buying treats for their dogs. Dogs love treats, and what better way to show love to your dog than by giving him treats, but it is important to choose HEALTHY treats, and to not over-treat your dog, which adds calories to his diet and puts him at risk of becoming overweight. Treats often add a substantial amount of calories to your dog’s otherwise healthy diet, and many treats are filled with artificial ingredients, fillers, and other additives that are not good for your dog. They usually provide your dog with few health benefits and are typically high in “empty calories.” Veterinarian Tami Pierce stresses that treats and snacks should make up only 10 percent of a dog’s daily diet. People often give their dog two, three, or four treats at a time without even considering the calories involved. The result is obesity.”

My favorite treat is carrots. A raw baby carrot makes a great on-the-go dog treat. Or cook them or freeze them. Carrots are healthful, delicious, inexpensive, non-messy, low calorie, and safe. Lots of dogs like sweet, crispy apple slices. Just remove the core and seeds. Pumpkin is a super treat (Plain pumpkin…not canned pie mix). Just drop small spoonfuls on a tray and freeze. Put into a plastic baggie and take out as needed. Left over bits of chicken can also be saved in the freezer, and low fat broth can be frozen in an ice cube tray, and stored in a plastic bag. Some dogs like green beans, and sweet potatoes, and I have yet to meet a dog who didn’t simply love a small tidbit of cheese. (Do not feed grapes, raisins, onions, chocolate, or anything with caffeine or alcohol because of potential toxicity.)

If you buy commercial treats, don’t be swayed by powerful marketing techniques used by the industry. Most dog treats contain high amounts of sugar, and are ripe with preservatives, allergens, artificial colors, carcinogenic additives, and more. Even the popular Milk Bones contain BHA and some varieties are loaded with sugar. Snausages contain corn syrup and BHA and also contain polypropylene glycerol as a moistening agent derived from a highly toxic compound used in automotive antifreeze. Snausages , Pup-peroni, and Beggin’ Strips all contain artificial coloring, and are also all made in China—yet another reason to be wary, given the historic danger of Chinese produced dog treats. (Be aware of where the treats are sourced also, because just because a package says treats are made in the U.S., doesn’t necessarily mean that the ingredients are not sourced from elsewhere). Don’t feed jerky or rawhide, imported or domestic, to your dog…just ask your vet how many emergency visits have been necessary because of these treats!

I have yet to meet a dog yet who hasn’t liked Beggin’ Strips, but they are preserved with carcinogenic BHA, and they contain both sugar and artificial food coloring. Does your dog need to be eating sugar? Absolutely not! Do they like it? They LOVE it and will gobble up this cheap, addictive filler that is just as bad for your dog as it is for you. We offer you a simple, easy- to- make recipe for homemade Beggin’ Strips:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Combine in a medium sized bowl, using your hands to blend everything well:

  • 3 cooked slices of bacon, cooked and finely chopped
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • ¼ cup chicken broth
  • 1 egg

Roll out dough to about ¼ inch thick. Use a knife to cut the dough into 1 inch wide strips, 4-6 inches in length. (You can use your fingers to ripple the dough if you want it to look like a piece of bacon) Place the strips on an oiled cookie sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes. BONE appetite!

Another VERY SIMPLE treat is Sweet Potato Chews: Preheat your oven to 250 degrees, and slice a sweet potato into thin slices. You don’t need to peel the potato, just scrub it well. Place slices on oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 3 hours. Baking time will determine the hardness of the chew.

We all love to see the excitement and anticipation on our dog’s face when we offer a treat, but it is important to realize that many commercially-available treats are not good for them. Choose wisely to keep your companion healthy as well as happy!

Have We Been Brainwashed by Dog Food Companies?

The US pet food market had a value of almost 25 BILLION dollars in 2016, and according to a market research report from the petfoodindustry.com, it is anticipated to grow to 30 billion dollars by 2022. There is no doubt that knowing what to feed your dog may be one of the most confusing areas of pet care, but what you feed your dog can positively or negatively affect your dog’s health. With literally hundreds of different foods to choose from, navigating the maze of canine nutrition can be overwhelming, and Sandra Milner for AcrMax claims that the American public is being brainwashed by almost 300 manufacturers of pet food. companies.

“Sure, Cheerios has all kinds of vitamins and supplements and healthy things in it, but would anyone in their right mind think that eating dry Cheerios for every single meal for the rest of their lives is a healthy diet? Certainly not, yet somehow the big pet food companies have spent millions of dollars to convince the masses that their kibble is what you should feed your pet, despite the fact that you would be horrified at what really goes into those dry kibbles. By- products and 4D meat (meat from dead, downed, diseased and dying animals, declared unfit for humans) go into the rendering plants for dog food. And don’t be fooled, even the expensive pet foods come from major pet-food companies that buy their base stuff from rendering plants. You can do an internet search under ”rendering plant” or “undercover research of rendering plants.” With the alarming rise in rates of all kinds of pet diseases, it is obvious that many of these highly advertised foods are not the wonderfully healthy diet they would like you to believe they are. Buyer Beware! Here are some facts to consider:

  • The FDA requires that pet foods contain no harmful substances, but does NOT directly regulate the pet food industry.
  • Most commercial pet foods are made with less than human quality ingredients. Many foods contain “by-products” and ingredients that are not considered high quality.
  • Many pet foods have been sitting around for a long time before they are purchased. Check dates before purchasing. Research has indicated that many pet foods bought in stores have been sitting around for as long as 18 months!
  • Dogs and cats have the genetic potential to live 20 to 25 years, but we can rob years from their lives with poor quality food.

How do you determine the best food for your dog? First of all, do not believe the slick advertising with which you are bombarded. The green nuggets in most kibbles are NOT green vegetables. They are most likely nuggets that are dyed green….same with other colored kibble. Read the ingredient panel on your dog food bag or can, remembering that primary ingredients are listed first. A whole meat source should be listed as one of the main ingredients ….not meal or “by-products”. Whole, unprocessed grains, vegetables and other foods have the best chance of surviving the food making process with its nutrients reasonable intact. High quality dry foods should not contain generic fats as “animal fat” which can be anything from recycled grease from restaurants to a mystery mix of various fats. What do you think is in “animal digest” or “animal by-products?” Preservatives are necessary to ensure an adequate shelf life, but avoid those that use artificial preservatives like HHA, BHT, propylene glycol, and the quinoline based antioxidant , ethoxyquin….Look for foods preserved with mixed topopherols, forms of vitamin E.

Nutrition and quality are not guaranteed by price or elaborate advertising . Don’t be brainwashed by slick slogans or fancy terminology…… “Premium”, “natural”, and “gourmet” are simply marketing terms that are not regulated and are basically meaningless. While there is certainly no single answer as to the best food for an individual dog, by doing a little research, you can positively impact your dog’s health and well-being. If you are overwhelmed with confusing nutrition information (and misinformation), or have any concerns about the food you are feeding your dog, go to an independent website, www.dogfoodadvisor.com where you will find unbiased ranking for all of the major dog foods. Click on BRAND and they will rate any specific food, or you can review all brands A to Z. You may be surprised to learn that many popular, HIGHLY ADVERTISED foods such as Beneful, Iams, Kibbles and Bits, Pedigree, Purina Dog Chow, and Science Diet all rank low. When you discover how different foods rank, you may conclude that you have been brainwashed, and that it’s time to switch foods. Choices abound and it is up to you to make healthy choices for the well being of your dog.