Celebrate Spring Humanely

Both humans and canines welcome the warmer weather that is just around the corner. Dogs have earthy ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring—they love to roll in the mud or the stinkiest stuff imaginable, and while warmer weather makes us all feel good, it brings increased risk of parasites to your pet, making it necessary to take steps to prevent and treat these parasites. An important part of your pet’s health care is protection from heartworm disease, a life-threatening illness that is spread by a mosquito bites. Spring brings a resurgence of these disease carrying insects, and it is much safer and easier to keep your animals on preventive medication than it is to treat the disease. A spring visit to your veterinarian should include a general wellness check, and testing for heartworm and intestinal parasites such as tapeworms, roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms, as well as protozoal parasites such as giardia, all of which can rob your dog of nutrition and can cause serious health problems. A little preventive care goes a long way toward keeping your pets healthy.

Another common symbol of spring is rabbits. Every year huge numbers of adorable baby rabbits, chicks, and ducklings go into new homes for Easter. They are already being showcased in pet stores and farm stores around the area. Most of these pets will be gifts for children– impulse purchases made with little thought given to the needs of the animals. No pet purchase is more likely to end tragically than one that’s based on nothing more than cuteness. Many of the chicks and ducklings die within a short time, killed by neglect, improper care or unintentional rough handling by children. Rabbits can make wonderful pets IF people are prepared to care for them properly, but, contrary to what is commonly believed, rabbits are not snuggly, cuddly animals, and are not well suited to life as a child’s pet. Like other pets bought on impulse, many rabbits end up turned loose or dumped as the novelty wears off. If you honestly cannot see beyond the cries of delight on the day your child and baby bunny meet, DO NOT take home a living creature. Buy a stuffed animal, one that can take abuse and neglect with no problem more serious than an occasional ripped seam or lost ear. In the short run, passing up a pet that will not hold your family’s interest is important to the animal you could have purchased. In the long run, teaching your child that animals are not to be bought on a whim and discarded just as lightly is important to the welfare of all animals, and making sure children grow up learning to care about other living things is important to the welfare of us all.

Most of us have packed on a few extra pounds during the winter, and it is likely that your dog has too. Canine-fitness trainer Gail Miller offers these tests to determine if your dog needs to lose weight:

  • Place your hands on your dog’s sides to feel his rib cage. If you have trouble finding ribs, then it is probably time to start exercising more and eating less.
  • Look at your dog from overhead. A dog at a healthy weight should have clear waist indentation between the rib cage and the hip bones.
  • A third test is to watch your dog walk away from you. Excess pounds will cause her to shift her weight back and forth, causing her skin to appear to roll from side to side.

Both human and canine bodies need exercise, and if you have been couch potatoes for several months, spring is the perfect time to start an exercise program with your dogs. Start slowly , and gradually increase your physical fitness. Grab the leash and head out to enjoy the warmer weather with your favorite pooch. HAPPY SPRING!


Rising Temps – A Risk to Your Dog

Sometimes what seems like fun for you and your dog can be hazardous to his health, and hot weather and outdoor activities can pose situational and environmental risks for him, ranging from poisoning and heatstroke.

  • Failure to provide adequate water is one of the most common mistakes that caregivers make. It is essential that your pets have fresh drinking water at ALL times throughout the day. Dehydration can lead to organ failure and even death.
  • Every summer, hundreds of reports document situations where an animal is at risk in a parked car. On a mild 73 degree day, the temperature inside a car can reach 120 degrees in minutes, and on a 90 degree day, the interior of a vehicle can reach 160 degrees. The majority of the cases reported involve a person who was “just running into the store for a minute,” and the dog is quickly in a life-threatening situation. If you have errands to run, LEAVE THE DOG AT HOME. If you see a dog in distress in a car, take down the car’s color, make, model, and license-plate number, have the owner paged inside the nearby stores, and call the authorities. If necessary, call again, and wait until the police arrive.
  • Don’t transport your dog in the bed of a pickup. This is always dangerous, but the heat brings added danger of burning the dog’s feet on the hot metal. (Hot pavement can also burn dogs’ paws, so be sure to walk your dog in the cooler time of day. Rest often, take plenty of water, and choose shady routes.)
  • Trim your dog’s fur, but leave an inch for protection against sunburn and insects. Dog friendly sunscreen should be used in areas where the hair is thin.
  • Be sensitive to older and overweight animals in hot weather. Snub-nosed dogs and those with heart or lung diseases should be kept in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible in hot weather.
  • Don’t allow your dogs in areas that have been recently sprayed with insecticides, pesticides or other chemicals. They can poison your pet.
  • If your dog swims, rinse her off with fresh water to get rid of sand and salt that can dry her skin or irritate her eyes. Don’t allow her to drink water from pools and ponds.
  • Insect sting and bites can spell trouble for pets. A sting around the mouth or throat can cause swelling enough to restrict the animal’s breathing, and some animals have allergic reactions to stings which can require immediate vet care.

Be a watchdog for chained animals. If they do not have food, water, and shelter, try to talk to the animal’s caregivers. Without being judgmental, explain the dangers involved. If an animal is suffering, contact authorities immediately. You may be the dog’s only chance for survival. Get involved….it’s the right thing to do.

By following basic precautions, both you and your furbaby will enjoy the long, wonderful days of summer.

It’s Officially Spring

The calendar declares that spring has arrived, and although some of us question whether or not it’s really here, we are hopeful. It has been a record breaker winter in many parts of the country but with the worst behind us, we feel the urge to get moving. Most of us paid the price for the bitter cold winter. We gained a couple of extra pounds, but rationalized that is only natural to put on a little layer of fat, and now that decent weather is here, it is time for both two-legs and four-legs to get out there and shape up. If you’ve packed on some extra weight during the winter, there’s a good chance your dog has too, so if he seems a little too padded, it is important to start some safe slimming strategies now, before a pleasantly plump pooch turns into a sausage dog.

According to the Veterinary Medical Association, obesity is the fourth leading cause of death among canines, and dogs carrying too much weight means extra stress on the heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and other body organs, so overweight animals (and humans) are more likely to suffer from cardiac disease, respiratory problems, digestive disorders, and high blood pressure . Joints, ligaments, tendons, and bones suffer from excess wear and tear, so they endure arthritis, joint injuries, leg problems, and back ailments. Overheating, skin disease and reproductive problems are common complaints, and there is always a greater risk during anesthesia and surgery. An extra seven pounds on a dog that should weigh 35 pounds is equivalent to an extra 30 pounds on a human weighing 150.

Exercise needs be a part of both a human’s and a dog’s weight loss program, and a great way to shape up is to plan activities that combine a workout for both canine and human. Any weight loss program should include walking, but after a sedentary winter, start slowly and increase the frequency and intensity of exercise. Begin with just short walks around the block and then work toward a game of fetch, and maybe a walk through the woods or park, taking different routes to make the trip more enjoyable for both of you. Set aside time each day to exercise with your dog, so it becomes part of your routine, and not just something you do when you think of it or have the time.

Gradually work up to longer, more active sessions as your tolerance and your dog’s tolerance increases. Playing ball or hide and seek are options, and another great way to boost weight loss is to get involved with a canine sport such as agility which offers a variety of physical and mental activity, both for dog and caregiver.

You don’t have to shell out a lot of money to train your dog in agility. Backyard obstacle courses are a great way to provide exercise, build trust with your dog, and prevent boredom. Three common types of obstacles used in agility programs—jumps, tunnels, and weave poles, can be set up in your own yard. Jump obstacles can be built entirely out of inexpensive PVC pipes, and a flexible children’s play tunnel makes a great tunnel…they are usually lightweight, but also heavy enough so that they won’t move when your dog runs through them. . As for weave poles, avoid hard and immovable materials that could injure your dog if he misjudges the distance between poles. Orange traffic cones are bulkier than the weave poles used in agility competitions, but if you are just casually training your dog, they will work fine. Wherever you set up your agility course, ensure that there are no hidden dangers around the course, and that there is enough room for her to run around. As long as you put safety first, you can easily put together an obstacle course that is good for both of you.

Whatever weight loss program you choose, be consistent and persistent! With patience and a positive attitude, both you and your dog will have fun as the pounds drop away.