Archive | January, 2017

Pet Dental Health

Five Essentials to Pet Dental Health

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When asked to think about what constitutes a healthy pet, we tend to think about proper diet, exercise, and veterinary care. Dental health for our pets is not something we think about very often, but we should because dental health is the most common health issue our pets face. Many dogs and cats develop dental disease by the age of four, which is why we must start integrating dental care into their regular routine. The most common dental health issue is periodontal disease. This is an infection that develops between the teeth and gums. It causes teeth to loosen, and possibly fall out. If left untreated, it can spread to other parts of the body.

Five things are important for dental health:

  1. Species-appropriate diets are important for the dental health of our pets. Proper diet helps promote healthy bacteria in the mouth.
  2. Exercising the mouth. This may sound silly to us, but allowing your pet the proper outlet to chew can be crucial in maintaining good dental health. At TGDS, we sell a variety of chews that can help prevent tartar build up.
  3. Teeth Brushing. Yes, you can brush your pet’s teeth! They may not love it at first, but it is important to work to get them to accept it regularly. It is easy to train your pet to accept getting their teeth brushed, read our blog to learn how. You can also ask your TGDS groomer to brush your dog’s teeth when they come in for their hair cut!
  4. Dental Supplements. If your dog resists having their teeth brushed, or you just don’t have time to do it very regularly, supplements can help support dental health. At TGDS, we carry TropiClean and Sentry products, including foams, gels, and water additives.
  5. Regular Dental Check Ups. Last but not least, bring your pet for regular vet visits. This will help detect dental disease early on. You can also arrange dental cleanings with your vet.

 

Symptoms that may indicate your dog is developing dental disease include bad breath (worse then normal), increased salivation, loss of appetite, favoring a side of the mouth, increased plaque on the teeth, and red or bleeding gums.

 

Visit the AVMA event page for more information.

 

Brushing Your Pet’s Teeth

Steps to a Healthy Smile

Step 1: Purchase species-appropriate toothpaste and toothbrush. Human toothpaste can be toxic to pets and is not properly formulated for their saliva and bacteria. Many types of pet toothpastes are enzymatic, meaning there are special antibacterial properties designed to help fight bad breath and prevent plaque build up.  This also means you just have to get it on the teeth, and it will do a lot of the work for you. Pet toothpastes are safe when swallowed, unlike human toothpaste. Many are flavored with peanut butter or chicken, to help make the experience more enjoyable for your pet.

Step 2: Go slow! Start by letting your pet sniff and lick the toothbrush while you give them yummy treats. Next, put a little bit of toothpaste on the brush and let them sniff and lick it. Then, try brushing one tooth and give a treat. Continue this process of slowly building into the final act of full mouth brushing, where you can lightly scrub each tooth with the brush and toothpaste. Build over a couple days or weeks, if necessary. Your pet may never LOVE getting their teeth brushed, but we also don’t want them to dread it. It might help to make sure your dog is properly exercised beforehand so that they are more compliant.

Step 3: Once your pet is comfortable with getting their teeth brushed, set a schedule and stick to it! In an ideal world, you’d brush your pet’s teeth daily. If this does not work in your schedule, don’t worry. Set a routine that works for you, just make sure you do it at least once or twice a month. Setting a side a few minutes a couple times a month is way easier than spending thousands of dollars on dental care once dental disease kicks in.

Chewing

Why do Dogs Chew?

Chewing is an inherent behavior in dogs, passed on from their ancestors who would spend hours chewing on bones. Giving your dog appropriate chew toys is a great way to add behavioral enrichment to their life. Chewing can help keep their teeth and gums clean and healthy, provide mental stimulation, and relieve stress and anxiety. Many dogs are different in how they chew, preferring certain materials or flavors. Some dogs chew and swallow, while some dogs chew and spit out the pieces. Do some research into what your dog prefers so that you can be sure you are providing them with toys they will enjoy chewing on, while keeping them safe.

There are many chew toy options for dogs. There are “inedible” chews, such as Nylabone and Kong. Stuffing a Kong with treats that cannot immediately fall out encourages chewing and provides great mental stimulation as they try to figure out how to get the treat. Inedible chews are typically safe for dogs when unsupervised, but monitor your dog at first to be sure. Some dogs can make anything edible, and those dogs should not be left alone with inedible chews, as they may pose a choking risk. Edible chews, such as bully sticks and rawhides, are a great way to keep your dog busy and happy. We have a wide variety of edible chews at TGDS. Rawhides can be controversial, so be sure to talk to your vet about appropriate chews and their opinion on which are best. Dogs should be monitored with edible chews, and should be given a relaxing environment to chew leisurely. Dogs that have a tendency to resource guard may eat chews quickly in the presence of other dogs, and be more likely to choke on big pieces. Raw marrow bones can also be a great choice of chew toy. You can pick them at your local butcher, and they will keep your dog busy for hours or even weeks as they work to get the marrow out. The hollowed bones continue to make great chew toys for months afterwards, and can even then be stuffed with treats and peanut butter. The marrow can be rich for dogs who aren’t used to it, and may cause an upset stomach, so be careful when you first give a marrow bone.

Whenever you buy a chew for you dog, make sure it is the appropriate size to prevent choking risk. Each dog will be different in how they use chews. Some will calmly chew for hours, while some will try to eat the chew whole right away. Always supervise your dog the first time with any chew item, and consult your veterinarian if you have question or concerns.

 

Spaying and Neuturing Your Pet

The Importance about Spaying and Neutering

There are many benefits to spaying and neutering your pet. First and foremost, you won’t be contributing to the pet overpopulation problem. Animal breeding should be left to reputable breeders who are trained in temperament, health, and who can guarantee a home for all of their animals. Shelters throughout the country are overrun with healthy pets that need loveable homes. 2.4 million of them get euthanized every year because there aren’t enough homes for them all. Don’t contribute to this problem, spay and neuter!

There are health and behavioral benefits to spaying and neutering. Spaying your female pet reduces their risk of uterine infection and breast cancer. Females that come into heat attract male animals from miles away. Females will fight to escape the house and vocalize relentlessly. It can be difficult and messy living with an un-spayed female. It is also very costly to care for a litter of puppies or kittens, much more expensive than the cost of the spay surgery. Neutered males have a completely reduced risk of developing testicular cancer. Un-neutered males are more likely to run away, can become more aggressive, and develop inappropriate marking behavior.

Many vets suggest to spay or neuter your pet when they are six to nine months old, while some recommend waiting until your pet has stopped growing. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to discuss when would be best for your pet. There is no health benefit to allowing a heat cycle or a first litter for females, contrary to urban myth. Luckily, most animal shelters require their animals to be fixed before they are adopted, saving you the trouble of paying for the procedure yourself.

Here in Western Massachusetts, we are lucky enough to have the Dakin Spay and Neuter Clinic in downtown Springfield. They provide low cost spay and neuter to members of our community. They also work tirelessly to guarantee that all the animals adopted out at the shelter are fixed before they go home. Dakin often helps T.J. O’Connor as well. They run a great operation, so if you are interested in helping the pet overpopulation problem, consider making a donation to the Dakin Spay and Neuter Clinic. For more information about how they help our community, visit their website.

The Importance of Vitamin D

 Are you Getting Enough Vitamin D this Winter?

People tend to be much lazier during the wintertime, sleeping more, spending time inside, and having a hard time getting out of bed. It’s cold and dark, so why do anything but watch Netflix from the comfort of your home, right? Well, the tiredness you feel during the winter might be a symptom of Vitamin D deficiency. Even if we go outside, we are all bundled up so we aren’t getting as much sun exposure as we need. Severe deficiency in Vitamin D leads to weakness and bone pain. In children, it can lead to improper growth and deformities. There are some studies that suggest Vitamin D can help improve your mood, as well as reduce risk of cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis, such to name a few.

The best way to get Vitamin D Is sun exposure on bare skin, which can be hard to come by in the winter. Some people hit the tanning booth throughout the winter to obtain Vitamin D. Indoor tanning booths come with their own risks, but about 10 minutes of direct skin exposure is usually sufficient to get the Vitamin D you need. There are Vitamin D lamps that you can purchase, such as the one produced by Sperti, which is FDA approved. You can also get Vitamin D through the foods you eat, such as fatty fishes and egg yolks. Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D to help people get the amount they need. Although, most foods do not have enough Vitamin D to meet the daily requirements humans need, so typically other methods are needed. Supplements are another option to ensure you are getting the Vitamin D you need to stay healthy this winter. If you are worried you may be Vitamin D deficient, it’s best to talk to your doctor. They can test if you are deficient and help recommend an appropriate course of action to get more Vitamin D.

Dry Skin

Tips on Healthy Skin for Dogs

Dry, itchy skin is a common winter ailment for us, and our dogs. Here are some ways to help keep you and your dog’s skin feeling great this winter.

 

 

 

 

Humans:

  • Stay hydrated – Sometimes in winter we forget to drink enough water. Monitor your water intake to help prevent dry skin.
  • Don’t scorch your skin in the shower – It is satisfying taking a nice hot shower in the winter, but it is terrible for your skin. Keep the water at a mild temperature.
  • Moisturize – Apply lotion or body oil within three minutes of getting out of the shower for maximum water retention, then reapply as needed (especially after washing hands or face).
  • Use products designed to help reduce skin irritation, such as hypoallergenic soaps or sensitive-skin deodorants. Products with harsh chemicals and strong scents can irritate your skin, making the dryness and itchiness worse.
  • Take fish oil or coconut oil daily. Omega-3s can help improve your skin, as well as heart health. Omega-3s can be found in fish, but also in walnuts and flax seeds if you are a vegetarian or just don’t like fish. You can also add coconut oil or olive oil to your diet for similar effects, or apply it on your skin directly as a moisturizer.
  • Buy a humidifier to keep the air in your house moist.
  • Wear gloves, especially if you have a job where you wash your hands a lot. Disposable gloves can help reduce hand washing while still keeping you clean. Wearing gloves out in the cold can help keep moisture on your hands and prevent skin cracking.

 

Dogs (some of these can be applied to cats as well!):

  • Include a moist food in your pet’s diet. This will help them intake more water, keeping them hydrated. You can also add water to your pet’s dry food to help with the hydrations as well.
  • Follow the same skin care rules for your dog: warm instead of hot water, natural, sensitive, or hypoallergenic products, and a moisturizing conditioner after shampooing.
  • If you have a short hair dog, buy them a coat for winter outings to prevent their skin from drying out when they are outside.
  • Add oils to their diet, same as with your own. Coconut oil, fish oil, and flax seed oils can all be safely used in pets, but you will want to check on proper amount and introduce slowly to check for allergies or prevent stomach upset. Olive oil can also be used on their skin and coat.

The Science Behind Training

Science Behind Positive Training

There are a lot of theories out there about dog training and it can be difficult to sort through them all to find the best method of training for your pets. Here at TGDS, we strongly believe in positive-reinforcement-based training methods. The theory behind positive training is that you reward your dog for the good behaviors they are doing and ignore the bad ones. Positive training is part of the learning method of operant conditioning, which associates rewards or punishments with certain behaviors. Operant conditioning was proposed and studied by a psychologist named B.F. Skinner as an alternative to classical conditioning, which also teaches through association, but ignores individuality. Both theories are used in modern dog training, but operant conditioning, especially positive reinforcement, tends to provide the animal a choice rather than forcing the animal. Now this does not mean the animal runs rampant while trainers chase after them with treats waiting for them to behave. Typically, trainers start with classical conditioning, laying down a foundation that associates a marker (like a clicker) with behaviors such as sit, down and stay. The more the dog learns that it gets rewarded for those behaviors, the more they offer them. They stop offering behaviors they don’t get rewarded for, like barking for attention and jumping.

The language behind positive-reinforcement training can be confusing. There are four important parts of operant conditioning to define: positive means to add something to the environment; negative means to take something away; reinforcement means to increase the frequency of a behavior; punishment means to decrease the frequency of a behavior. 

Now that you understand the meaning behind the language, we will break down how these things play into training. 

  • Positive reinforcement is adding something to the environment to increase the frequency of a behavior. For example, giving a yummy treat every time your dog sits.
  • Negative reinforcement is removing something to increase the frequency of a behavior. For example, some trainers train recall by turning on a shock collar and continuing to shock the dog until it returns to the trainer. The dog is rewarded by the shock being turned off.
  • Positive punishment is adding something to the environment to decrease the frequency of a behavior. This is a common method for some dog trainers. For example, yanking on a prong or choke collar when your dog is pulling on the leash. 
  • Negative punishment is removing something to decrease the frequency of a behavior. For example, sending your child to bed without dinner for talking back to you. 

That was complicated, we know. The language can be hard to get a grasp on, but the most important thing you need to know about positive training that it is great for strengthening the bond with your pet, increasing confidence and getting a well-behaved pet. Read our blog post about the benefits of positive training to learn more.

 

Training Benefits

Benefits of Positive Training

Training is one of the most important things you can do with your dog to ensure a harmonious relationship. Many behaviors that come naturally to dogs are inappropriate in a human-centric world, such as jumping, pulling, and begging. Many issues that arise with dog ownership stem from miscommunication or inconsistent communication between owner and dog. One of the reasons APDT launched National Train Your Dog Month was to address the reason why so many dogs end up in shelters every year, and to give dog owners the tools they need to prevent this from happening.

There are many ways to train your dog, along with lots of conflicting information. At TGDS, we strongly believe positive-reinforcement based methods are the only way to train. With a scientific backing, it has been proven to work on many species of animals, not just dogs. Positive training focuses on rewarding the behaviors you want and ignoring the ones you do not want. Evolution has shown that animals will only expend energy on behaviors that work for them. Therefore, the more your dog gets rewarded for a behavior, the more they will perform that behavior. Behaviors that are ignored will become ‘extinct.’ 

 

There are other benefits of using this training method. Here are some of them:

·         Dogs trained with positive-based methods tend to learn new behaviors faster. Think about it: when you are learning something new, is it more helpful for someone to tell you what you are doing right or to tell you what you are doing wrong? They are also performing the behavior on their own rather than being physically manipulated. This makes the learning process more permanent.

·         Positive-based training methods teach impulse control and problem solving skills. One of the major tenets of positive training is that animals should only participate if they want to, rather than being forced to. So when you ask your dog to sit, they have the choice to sit or not. If they don’t sit, they simply don’t get rewarded. But if they want that treat, they have to figure out what it is you want and perform that behavior.

·         Reward-based training creates a tremendous bond between you and your dog. They learn to trust and respect you as a leader, forming positive associations with you and with training! Punishment-based training breaks down that bond, causing the dog to see you as irrational and unpredictable, and work for you out of fear. This causes stress and anxiety that could lead to behavioral issues.

·         Builds a confident, well-balanced dog. They know what to expect from you and how to communicate. Being rewarded for behaviors, rather than punished, makes the dog feel safe to be themselves. This leads to less anxiety in new situations, and helps prevent reactivity and aggression.

·         You are happier and calmer as well! These training methods are pretty stress-free for both you and your dog. Understanding the science behind positive training sets you and your dog up for success because these methods work. The actual act of training is less stressful as well because it’s based on you being POSITIVE! This will improve your mood and make training fun. Punishment-based methods have the owner yelling, yanking, and pulling at their dogs which causes frustration and tension.