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Halloween Safety For Pets

5 tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe This Halloween

Keep candy out of reach of pets. Halloween candy can be extremely toxic to pets (especially chocolate and xylitol), but that won’t stop them from trying to find it all! Monitor candy bags and be sure they are up high and away from nosy pets. Signs that your dog may have eaten candy include vomiting, diarrhea, lack of coordination, and seizures. If your pet has gotten into the candy it is best to contact a veterinarian immediately.

 

Beware of costumes – both on your pet and on humans. Halloween is a weird holiday for our pets. They are not accustomed to seeing people with masks, hats, wigs, and all other types of interesting articles of clothing. It can be quite frightening for our pets, especially if this is their first Halloween. Be mindful of this and maybe let them quietly chew their bone in a comfortable area of the house rather than going out trick or treating with you. If you are going to dress your pet up for Halloween, introduce them slowly to the costume and monitor them with it on. Some pets may find it stressful to wear a costume, or may think it is a fun toy to rip apart. Be aware of lose fabric, tight fabric, or other parts of the costume that may pose a choking or strangling risk.

 

Do not leave your pets outside unattended around Halloween – especially black cats. It might sounds crazy, but there are all types of people out and about on Halloween. Even in recent years, there are increased reports of animal cruelty around Halloween or animal-involved pranks. Even without cruel intent, Halloween can be a dangerous time for our pets as the increased amount of foot traffic and exuberant kids in costumes can scare pets and make them flee.

 

Beware of jack-o-lanterns. Having an open flame around your pets can be dangerous. Some pets instinctively know to stay away from flames, but some may not get it right away. If you have a playful or goofy pet, they might just run right into it by accident. It’s also important to make sure your pet doesn’t eat the pumpkin! While pumpkin in small amounts is nutritious, large amounts of pumpkin could cause problems. Same goes with any other edible decorations you may have around – be sure your pet isn’t making a snack out of them!

 

Make sure your pet tags and microchips are up-to-date. As mentioned, Halloween can be a scary time for pets, causing them to run away and hide. Halloween can also be chaotic, with people coming to door over and over. A pet could slip out or get lost easily. Making sure their ID tags and microchip are up-to-date greatly improves the chances that you will be reunited with your fur-baby.

Fun Party Tricks

Three New Tricks to Teach Your Dog!

 

Jump Through Your Arms

The goal of this trick is to have your dog jump through your arms as you make a circle with them. To begin, sit facing a wall and lure your dog with a treat to step over your arm, as it is on the ground. Being by a wall will encourage your dog to go over your arm rather than around it. Alternatively, you can start training this behavior with a hula-hoop and then transition the dog to jumping through your arms after they already understand the behavior with the hula-hoop. Once your dog understands what behavior you are asking for, you can start using the cue “hoop” or “jump.” If you are training the behavior with your arms rather than a hula-hoop, start adding in the upper arm to complete the circle while asking your dog to jump over the bottom arm. For this part you can throw the treat to the side you want them to go to while giving the “hoop” cue or have someone help you lure the dog through your arms with the treat. Eventually start raising your arms above the ground so your dog will jump through them while you are standing and your arms are by your hips (or as high as your dog is willing to go).

 

Here are some videos on training this behavior:

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmKJl0mtERU

Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tbd5ZRq_8nY

 

Sit Pretty

The “sit pretty” behavior is when your dog lifts their front paws up, while still sitting on the ground. It is a big crowd pleaser, and is great for taking cute pictures. Start with having your dog sitting in front of you. Hold a treat at your dog’s nose, and slowly move it up above them. Look for any movement up with the front half of the body and reward any progress. To begin, your dog might jump up into a stand, just ignore it and try again. Wait for them to stretch slightly up towards the treat, or lift one or two paws slightly. Build into the behavior slowly. Once your dog understands the behavior you are looking for, pair the verbal cue with the behavior, then when your dog no longer needs the food lure, you can start building in the hand gesture.

 

Here is a video demonstrating how to train sit pretty.

 

Dance

This behavior is an easy transition after teaching your dog to sit pretty. To train dance, start with your dog sitting. Hold a yummy treat up to your dog’s nose and lure upwards into a sit pretty stance and then keep luring up until your dog is on their hind legs. It may take a few tries for your dog to understand what you are asking, so move the lure slowly and reward any small progress, like if they only slightly come up out of the sit pretty or attempt to stand up. Using a clicker for this behavior will help you capture the behavior easily and help your dog understand what they are being rewarded for. Once your dog understands that you are asking them to stand on their hind legs, you can ask them to hold it longer while raising their paws up, and add in the cue or hand signals.

 

Here is a video showing how to train this behavior.

Human-Dog Bond

Why We Love our Dogs So Much!

Humans and dogs began co-evolving about 40,000 years ago. There was a mutually beneficial relationship where hunter-gatherer societies that allowed wolves to scavenge off of them were better able to ward off predators and obtain resources. Meanwhile, wolves that were living closely to hunter-gatherer societies benefitted from easier access to food and protection. This relationship continued, where a population of wolves self-domesticated with human groups while hunter-gatherer societies eventually began to settle and cultivate the land. This mutually beneficial relationship continues today between dogs and humans, with both receiving benefits from living with the other one. We have also integrated dogs into many aspects of our society, such as search and rescue, police work, and service work for people with disabilities.

Dogs have unique social intelligence compared to other animals, including their wild counterparts and even apes. Dog social intelligence rivals that of 2-3 year old human children. Dogs are able to read our body language and follow our cues. If you point or look at an object, they are able to follow our gesture and understand what we are communicating. Recent evidence shows that dogs even understand what we are saying and how we are saying it. Not only do they recognize familiar words such as “walk” and “vet” but the tone we use when we say certain words matters to our dogs also. They are able to pick out neutral words and know when we aren’t directly speaking to them. Their brains even process words in similar ways as our own brains which is thought to be a result of such close evolution between humans and dogs over many, many years.

There is evidence suggesting that humans and dogs feel love for each other, similar to how we love our own children.  A study showed that when dogs and humans gaze at each other, they both experienced an increase in oxytocin, a hormone related to bonding. We experience oxytocin increases with our own human children, spouses, family members, and friends. When we feel intense love and protection for our dogs and refer to them as our “fur-babies,” it is not as crazy as you think! We actually do develop deep, biological connections with our dogs and luckily the feeling is mutual.

           

 

 

Dog Boredom

 

Your Dog may Also Have The Back to School Blues

Back to school blues are not just for kids, dogs can experience it too! Summer is an active time for families. Kids are home for the summer and the days are longer, so you may spend more time outside active with your dog walking, hiking, and swimming. Once fall comes, kids go back to school and have after-school activities while the days get longer and colder. If you have an older dog, they may be used to the transition between summer and fall and look forward to the extra quiet time to relax, but if you have a younger dog or a new dog that you brought home this summer, the sudden decrease in activity and company could lead to boredom. Dogs who are bored are more likely to develop problem behaviors, such as chewing inappropriate items in the house, counter surfing, breaking into the fridge and cabinets, excessive barking, and digging.

 

To prevent boredom in your dog, here are some tips:

  • Daycare! Dog daycare is a great way to keep your busy during the day. Of course, not all dogs enjoy coming to daycare every single day of the week so keep reading for more tips to try at home.
  • Dog Walker – Having someone come in the middle of the day to bring your dog for a walk can help break up the workday for your dog. You can likely find a qualified person to walk your dog for an hour for less than $15 per day. Finding a person who has dog experience means they will probably also train your dog during the walk and help work on any problem behaviors (positive-reinforcement training experience preferred!).
  • Dog TV and music – Silence all day can lead to dogs that are hyper-sensitive to noises outside the house and excessive barking. Turning on the TV or music during the day can help drown out outside noises and provide them some stimulation. Some music and TV streaming services even have programming designed for dogs! But nothing fancy is required to entertain your dog during the day. Studies have shown that classical music and talk radio are the most relaxing to dogs, so simply turn a radio to NPR and you’re done!
  • Toys – Keep the toys in your house fun and exciting! This can mean bringing in new exciting toys every so often (maybe even trying BarkBox!) or rotating your dog’s existing toys. Provide them 3-4 toys at a time and hide the rest in a closet. Every week or so, pull out 3-4 hidden toys and hide the old ones away. This helps keep toys interesting and fun, giving your dog something to play with during the day. Puzzle feeders or treat balls are also great for providing your dog stimulation while you’re gone. There are even interactive dogs toys that allow you to play with your pets from your smart phone while you are at work (check out this article from the Wall Street Journal for a list https://www.wsj.com/articles/gadgets-for-playing-with-your-pet-remotely-1455223286).
  • Last and not least, make time for them in the evenings! Sometimes we get so caught up in all of our activities and obligations that we forget to spend quality, interactive time with our pets. Spend time playing with them or training them. Be sure to walk them at least once a day or incorporate them into your daily runs or other fitness routines. Sign up for a dog training class even if they are already well trained. There are plenty of fun classes out there that go beyond basic training, and spending the extra time interacting with your dog will help physically and mentally stimulate them, as well as deepen the bond you share with them.

 

Separation Anxiety in Pets

Separation Anxiety is a Common Problems for Dog Owners

 

Sudden changes in a dog’s life can trigger separation anxiety, such as a change in owners, change in owner’s schedule, moving to a different place, or changes in people living in the house. Separation anxiety can be common in adopted dogs, especially rescued greyhounds or research dogs, but can occur in any dog. Dogs with separation anxiety will exhibit some symptoms while their owners are preparing to leave the house, but most of the symptoms occur when the owner is gone. Many people think that their dog acting out because the dog is mad at them, when it is actually an anxiety issue.

The symptoms of separation anxiety include:

  • Chewing inappropriate items
  • House destruction
  • Excessive barking and whining
  • Going potty in the house when otherwise house-trained
  • Panting
  • Drooling
  • Pacing

If your dog is exhibiting these symptoms, it is necessary to identify that separation anxiety is the cause. Medical conditions, boredom, and improper potty training are examples of other issues that can cause these behaviors. Setting up a video camera to see what your dog is doing while you are gone can help you figure out the problem. Consulting with your veterinarian or a dog trainer could also be beneficial to rule out other problems.

If your dog has separation anxiety, there are ways you can address it but depending on the severity of the anxiety you may want to consult a trainer or behaviorist. To address separation anxiety, you want to teach your dog that you leaving is exciting and that you will come back for them. Start by pretending to leave the house while throwing them yummy treats. Next, give them a Kong filled with treats and peanut butter and leave for 10-30 minutes. Gradually increase the amount of time you leave while continuing to give them their favorite treats to Giving lavish hugs and kisses before leaving or being extra excited when you come home only adds to the anxiety. Instead, casually leave the house while your dog is distracted with something they love, and then ignore your dog when you come home until they are calm. This will help show them that you leaving and entering the house is no big deal.

If you anticipate a sudden change in your schedule or your life, such as moving to a new house, a change in your work schedule, or someone new moving in, be proactive in helping your dog adjust to the change. Getting your dog used to attending dog daycare or a boarding facility is another good solution while you work to address their anxiety because your dog will get plenty of stimulation and attention while you are away. Hiring a dog walker or pet sitter can be a good way to give your dog consistency and give them something to look forward to other than you coming back home.  

As always, don’t be afraid to consult the staff at TGDS if you are concerned about your dog’s behavior and need recommendations.

Senior Pet Health

How to Manage Your Senior Pet’s Health

Most pets are considered to be senior when they reach 7 years of age, and can live to be 10-13 years old for dogs, or 13-17 years old for cats. These estimates vary with every pet depending on a variety of factors, including breed. With advancing veterinary care and more advanced research into proper pet care, it is not uncommon for our companion animals to live beyond these estimated time spans. Because of this, it is important that pet parents know the best ways to manage their aging pets. Primary areas of concern for senior pets are health and disease management, nutrition, physical exercise, mental stimulation, and end of life decisions.

Health and Disease Management

The most important way to care for your senior pet is to bring them to the veterinarian regularly. This will ensure you catch any diseases, pains, or other health concerns early enough to treat or prevent suffering. When we live with an animal, we can sometimes oversee little changes that indicate something is wrong, so regular visits to the veterinarian can help you keep on top of these changes. We want our pets to be their best selves all the way until the end, and having a good relationship with your vet with help make that happen.

Nutrition

Senior pets have different nutritional needs than younger pets. Often, they require fewer calories due to a slower metabolism and overall decrease in activity. To prevent weight gain in older pets, it is advised to switch them to a senior diet. Many brands of pet food offer senior varieties that are lower in fat and higher in fiber. Being overweight can cause a number of health problems as they age and affect mobility, so be sure to keep your pet at a healthy weight throughout their whole life. It is much harder to get weight off of a senior pet than a young one with a lot of energy!

On the other end of the spectrum, some older pets lose their appetite and can become too thin. There are a number of ways you can encourage them to eat, such as buying food with smaller kibble so it is easier to chew and swallow, or adding broth, wet food, or other yummy items to their kibble to make it more appealing and softer to eat. You could also talk to your veterinarian about homemade diet recipes that your pet won’t be able to resist. Many veterinarians recommend feeding senior pets 3-4 smaller meals throughout the day, as big meals can be harder on their digestion systems.

Physical Exercise

One factor that can determine the health and longevity of a pet is how much daily exercise they get. Exercise helps keep muscles, joints, and bones active and healthy, but also helps prevent other health issues, such as heart disease, and improves mental health. You should provide daily exercise for your pet at any age, but it is especially important with senior pets to keep them moving. Your senior pet may not be able to exercise the way they used to but it is important to keep them doing the things they love at a pace they can handle. For your daily walks, your dog may not be able to go as far or as fast as they could. They may even be a little reluctant to get up and out, but it is important to take the time and patience needed to get them their daily exercise. Be prepared to let them sniff more or take breaks as needed, and adjust your route as needed. Swimming is a great form of exercise for senior dogs (and maybe some brave cats…).

Senior pets usually are less playful than their younger selves, but they can definitely have their bursts of energy and you should take advantage of that whenever they offer it to you! The play may not be as vigorous as it once was, and that is ok. If you throw a ball with your dog, or play with the laser pointer with your cat, be mindful that they have aches and pains and keep the play milder to prevent injuries. Senior dogs will definitely rest more, especially after a busy day or a particularly fun bought of exercise. Use this time to give them extra snuggles and pets!

To read more information about mental health and end of life decisions for our senior pets, visit our blog articles!

Senior Pet Proof Your House

Tips to Make Getting Around a Little Easier for Your Senior Pet

Senior pets can have a harder time getting around, so here are a few ways you can help make it a little easier.

  • Provide comfortable beds in frequently used locations. Thicker beds or heated beds will feel good on your pet’s aching body.
  • Put throw rugs in areas where they frequently walk or stand, especially if you have hard wood floors or other smooth flooring. Older animals can have a hard time getting around on smooth floors. This might prevent them from being as active or could put them at risk of injury if they are slipping around. Keep in mind places where your pet might be jumping down onto the floor, like jumping off of the couch, bed, or cat tree. Also think about the stairs, and providing them a throw rug at the bottom of the stairs or any landings along the way down.
  • Make sure commonly used paths are free of clutter to prevent tripping and injuries. Try to keeps important items in a consistent location, such as food, water, beds, toys, litter boxes, and even tables and chairs. This will help your pet as their vision gets worse. Also, be aware of sharp edges around the house and add some cushioning to hard objects that your pet might frequently bump into.
  • Remove any cords or strings from pet reach. Aging pets cannot see as well or may be suffering from dementia, so getting caught in dangling strings or cords can put them at risk of strangulation.
  • Provide ramps or stairs up to beds, couches, or cars as needed. Older pets will have a harder time jumping up or off high surfaces, and doing so may increase their risk of injury. Steep stairs might also give your pet a problem as they age, so providing ramps can be a good alternative. Many pet supply stores sell different types of stairs and ramps. Building them could be a fun DIY project, also.
  • If you have an aging cat, provide them a litter box on every level of the house. Moving up and down levels to use the bathroom might become difficult for them. Providing easy accessible litter boxes can help prevent accidents out of the box.

Every pet is different and will have different needs as they age. To find other ways to make your pet more safe and comfortable as they age, monitor them. Watch them move around the house and figure out what areas or activities are giving them the most trouble, and find a way to fix it.

Mental Stimulation for Senior Pets

Mental Health is Just as Important 

 Mental health is just as important as physical health, and is especially important for senior pets. Senior pets often are not able to do all of the activities that they used to be able to do, and as a result can suffer from boredom and depression, but mental stimulation can be just as tiring to an animal as physical exercise. There are plenty of ways to keep your senior dog busy, from training to nose work to problem solving games! Remember that older animals may be a little stubborn at first, so when first introducing a new game or training a new behavior, go slow at first until they understand what you are asking.

Training

You may have heard the old saying “you can’t teach old dogs new tricks” but it is not true! You can absolutely teach old dogs new tricks. The best part about training an older animal is that you can train just for fun. They probably already know all the basic commands, such as sit and stay, so you can focus on more fun behaviors like paw, spin, or bow. There is an endless list of behaviors to train on the Internet, so get out your clicker and some treats and get to work! Combine mental and physical stimulation by using training to create a sequence of behaviors for your dog to do to stretch their body different ways, like doggy yoga! Remember, cats can be trained too!

Nose work

Even while their sight and hearing begin to fade, many pets maintain an excellent sense of smell making nose work an excellent option for mental stimulation. Here are some examples:

  • Throw their kibble on the floor or in the yard to encourage them to use their nose to find all the pieces.
  • Hide yummy treats around the house and let them sniff the treats out.
  • Put a little dab of a scent on a toy and ask them to find it in a hidden location, or just put different scents around the house for them to explore.
  • Allow them to follow scents and to sniff to their heart’s desire on their daily walks.

Problem Solving Games

To help keep your pet’s mind sharp, incorporate some games into their daily lives. The possibilities are endless so here are just a few examples of games to play with your pets, or ways to get them to problem solve:

  • Put some kibble and treats in a puzzle feeder for them to work out. A puzzle feeder can be as simple as putting a few treats in an empty water bottle and having them figure out how to get the kibble out.
  • Put a treat under a cup and scramble it around with other cups so your pet has to guess which cup holds the treat.
  • Assign names to your dog’s toys and ask for them each by name. You could also teach your dog to put the toys away into a bin by name, if you’re really ambitious! (Some cats may be able to do this!)
  • Play hide and go seek with your pet. Ask them to sit and stay, then go hide and call them to you.

Deciding When it’s Time

End of Life Decisions

One of the hardest parts about owning a senior pet is knowing when it is time to let them go. Because we see them everyday, it can be hard for pet parents to recognize when their pet is suffering, and some pet parents may even be in denial. When our pets are younger we may set certain guidelines of when we will euthanize, such as when they start going to the bathroom in the house, or when they can’t walk as well, but then when we get to that stage we may want to hold on a little longer. This is one of the many reasons it is important to have a close relationship with your veterinarian so that you can work together to decide when it is best to consider euthanasia. Veterinarians will be able to give you a more objective opinion about your pet’s quality of life, and help you see if your pet is suffering. You could also have a close friend or family member agree to tell you when they think it is time.

The following quality of life scale is used by many veterinarians to help pet owners monitor their pets as they age. Your veterinarian might even have his or her own scale or may be able to recommend a local hospice veterinarian to help you make the decision. We all struggle with this decision with our own pets and it is a hard decision to make, so do not be afraid to ask for help from others.

 

 

Sunburn Relief for You and Your Pooch

good dog spotIf you enjoy fun in the sun, you probably know the pain of a sunburn. Here are some natural products that can offer relief from the pain. Don’t forget the canines, either! If you have a short-haired dog, they can get sunburned too. 

(* means canine-friendly).

  1. Aloe vera*: All sun-worshippers should know this one. If you are prone to sunburns (or fire), your home should have an aloe plant. Pluck a leaf and peel it open. Some people will refrigerate the leaves before application for added relief. You can also mix it with vitamin E.
  2. Milk or Yogurt: This one may surprise you but many swear by it. Applying milk or yogurt to your skin will help instantly cool it. No need to worry about calories here, so go for regular rather than low-or-fat-free. (Bonus: 4oz plain yogurt, 1oz of aloe vera gel and 15 drops of lavender oil is even more effective). Topically, you can try these remedies on your dog, but dogs can have sensitivities to dairy products (and let’s face it: they WILL try to eat it). Some non-sweetened yogurt is OK for dogs so if you are going to try this remedy on Fido, go with the yogurt. 
  3. Coconut Oil is successful at soothing the burn and the associated itch, while also moisturizing the area. This will help reduce peeling and scarring.
  4. Lavender*: Adding lavender essential oil to cool water, and then spraying it over your burn will provide immediate relief. Like coconut oil, it will help reduce scarring. For extra relief, add aloe vera into this mixture. (Bonus: lavender essential oil used on dogs can help reduce anxiety. The quality of the essential oil is important though, so get natural, therapeutic-grade oils, especially if you have cats in the house).
  5. Rose Water*: Misting yourself with chilled rose water will provide great relief, make you feel royal and make you smell wonderful. Win, win, win. Be sure to get authentic rose water, rather than synthetic.
  6. Cucumber*: Cucumber is the vegetable of the summer. It is refreshing to eat, to add to water (with lemon), and also helps sooth sunburns. The best way to do this is to first blend the cucumber, then apply it directly to your skin. Some people will shred it instead. This is also great for burned eyelids.
  7. Chamomile Tea: Applying cooled tea or tea bags (after steeping) to the skin can help with inflammation and sting from sunburns. Using the tea bags can be especially useful if you burned your eyelids. For easy application, dip a sponge in the tea, then use the sponge to spread over the burn.
  8. White Vinegar: Chill and spray, voilà! White vinegar contains similar healing properties to aspirin, making it effective at relieving sunburn symptoms. It’s also a great household cleaner! Diluted white vinegar might be OK to apply to your dog’s skin, but they shouldn’t ingest too much of it. They also might be really offended by the smell.