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Help! My dog was bitten by a snake!

So you and your beloved pooch are out for some fresh air and sunshine, trotting along a trail in the great outdoors. The dog is a few paces ahead (of course), and is busy smelling everything in sight.

Suddenly you hear a yelp of pain and surprise. You run to catch up with your pet and see the tail of a snake slithering into the brush. What should you do?

If you’re anything like me, the first thing you’ll do is start freaking out and shouting, thinking that your dog is about to die a painful death. Well hold on there, tiger. Settle down.

The fact is, most snakes in the U.S. are not poisonous. There are only four varieties, including rattlesnakes, cottonmouth moccasins, copperheads and coral snakes, that are venomous and pose an immediate threat to the dog. There are three ways to tell if the dog is in danger:

  • Identify the snake—if you’re not a herpetologist (that’s a snake expert) you might need some help here. Catch and kill it if possible so you can bring it to the vet’s office for identification. If not, you should at least be prepared with a good description of it. Does it have identifying colors or patterns? A large, arrow-like shape to the head? Elliptical pupils (like a cat’s) or round ones?
  • Check out the bite—poisonous snakes, which have fangs, will leave two prominent puncture marks, just like a vampire in a horror movie. The skin will react quickly with swelling, redness, and intense pain. Non-poisonous snakes have even rows of teeth and may leave a pattern that resembles a horseshoe.
  • Watch the dog—they may exhibit symptoms such as panting, drooling and weakness. They might become extremely restless. Later, the dog could have other symptoms such as diarrhea, or they might collapse. Sometimes they will have seizures.

If you believe your pet has been bitten by a poisonous snake, try to keep them calm. Frantic movement or exercise will rush the poison through the dog’s system. Call your veterinarian immediately, they may be able to talk you through procedures for drawing out some of the venom and applying a tourniquet. Get your pet to a facility where they can get medical treatment ASAP.

Even if your dog was bitten by a common garden snake, you’ll want to have them treated; without the right antibiotics and treatment, the bite wound can become infected, so even non-venomous bites can be dangerous.

How to introduce your dog to your new baby

Introduce Your New Baby to Your Dog

Introduce Your New Baby to Your Dog

My wife and I know a young couple, I’ll call them “John” and “Marsha.” John called me up the other day, very excited to tell me that Marsha was pregnant. They were going to be first-time parents! Parents of a human baby, I mean. Their first child, Kody, is a three-year-old Siberian Husky. They’ve raised her from a puppy, and she’s still as fun-loving and frisky as ever.

“Congratulations, that’s great!” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied, “We’re totally stoked. But I’m really going to miss Kody.”

I was surprised. “Why? Did something happen to her?”

“No,” he sighed, “but Marsha’s worried that Kody might hurt the new baby. Plus she doesn’t want the baby exposed to all the germs.”

I can definitely understand Marsha’s fears – my wife and I had been in the same boat when we were expecting our first baby. We had tons of questions, scared to death that if we did something wrong, we would damage our new baby in some way. But it horrified me that they thought they had to get rid of their beloved dog.

Yes, it’s true that there are some illnesses (called zoonotic illnesses) that can be passed from pets to people and vice-versa, but the truth is, your kid is more likely to catch a sickness from exposure to people than from pets. And with the right kind of preparation, your dog will probably accept your family’s new addition.

How to introduce your dog to your new baby? For John, and anyone else in his shoes, here’s an important checklist, based on my experience and the research I did when we were getting ready for our first baby:

  • Training is the most important thing. Work with a professional trainer. You’ll find the basic commands, like “heel,” “sit,” “down,” “stay” and “come,” valuable in everyday situations with your baby. Manners, such as not jumping or nipping, will be the key to a happy household.
  • Make sure your pet is well socialized with other dogs and with children, too. If possible, introduce them to your friends’ babies.
  • Desensitize your dog to the kind of touching a toddler is likely to do, including tugging at the dog’s ears and tail.
  • Get your dog used to the sights, sounds and smells that will soon invade your home. Put a baby doll in the crib and pretend it’s the real thing. Apply any lotions or baby powder you’re planning to use and put a real diaper on the doll. Play a tape of a baby crying.
  • If you’re planning on keeping the dog out of the baby’s room, get a mesh gate to close off the doorway – that way, your dog can still see what’s going on.
  • As soon as possible after the new baby is born, bring a blanket home with the baby’s scent on it, and let your dog become familiar with the smell.
  • When the new baby comes home, make sure to give your pet some attention and a treat to let them know you still love them and that they haven’t been replaced.

I just want John and Marsha to know that there is hope. In our case, after our dog got used to the idea of the new baby, he became very protective and loving, sometimes acting like the baby’s third parent. And once the baby started eating in a high chair, messily slopping much of his food onto the floor, the two became friends for life.

Got a pet health insurance story? Win!

Has your pet insurance policy saved you from putting a much-loved cat or dog to sleep? Or kept you from going thousands of dollars into debt to save a life? If so, you’ve probably told the story to your family, friends, neighbors, and anyone else who would listen.

Well now, that story could win you a $500 prize!

NAPHIATo celebrate National Pet Health Insurance Month, the North American Pet Health Insurance Association, or NAPHIA, invites you to tell them how pet health insurance has helped you when your pet was in need of medical care.

The submitted stories will be used in NAPHIA’s mission of educating pet owners about the values and benefits of pet health insurance. NAPHIA board members will review the submissions and choose one contest winner, who will receive $500.

Here are the contest details, as published on the organization’s website:

  • The story must discuss pet insurance in action.
  • A digital photo of the pet must also be submitted.
  • All submissions must be received by September 30, 2009 at 11:59 PM EST.
  • All submissions must be submitted digitally, sent via email to lhickton@naphia.org.
  • Winner will be notified by October 14, 2009.
  • By submitting a story and photo, you grant NAPHIA permission to publish your story and photo on their website and for other promotional purposes.
  • The decision of the judges is final.

The group is also looking for stories about great veterinarians, and will award an educational grant to the winning veteran’s practice!

Thinking about buying a puppy from a pet store? Think twice.

Before you buy a pet, you should know that many pet shops do not provide proper veterinary care to animals and often sell sick and injured animals.

I can’t tell you how many pet owners have told me about bad experiences with pet store puppies and kittens. The problem generally stems from the fact that these animals are a commodity, raised for money rather than love. Many come from puppy mills, where they endure inhumane, unhealthy conditions and receive little or no human interaction.

A friend of mine tells me she bought a beautiful Samoyed puppy and quickly discovered that the dog had a long list of fears and emotional problems. “She was afraid of human voice or the wind blowing her fur. She was so afraid of human touch she would fall to the floor and release her bladder and bowels if I touched her!”

My friend’s Samoyed was also found to have serious heart problems including a pansystolic murmur. Inborn health problems like these are often genetic and could be directly caused by inbreeding, a common practice at puppy mills. Worst of all, they can severely shorten the pet’s life span.

I’m not saying all pet stores are bad – of course there may be caring pet stores that sell dogs and cats. And, obviously, not all breeders run money-hungry puppy mills. But according to the information I’ve read, a reputable breeder probably wouldn’t sell their dogs to pet stores.

Also, you should consider the fact that each dog or cat bought at a store means one less adoption home for a shelter animal. Since U.S. animal shelters host up to 12 million homeless animals per year, they need all the caring, loving homes they can get.

If you decide to buy instead of adopting a pet, my advice is to go directly to a reputable breeder. Find out as much as you can about the breeder and their practices – a responsible breeder will be proud to tell you about their methods and take you on a tour of their facilities.

And to be safe, have the animal checked by a veterinarian before the transaction is final. This often-overlooked step could save you thousands of dollars and plenty of heartache down the road.

How to stop my dog from barking?

Is your dog like mine? He loves to bark; he barks whenever someone delivers a package, when my neighbor mows his lawn, when utility workers arrive, when maintenance crews are working outside. He also loves to have long, barky conversations with other dogs in the neighborhood.

A certain amount of barking is healthy and acceptable, but too much is a problem. So how can I get my dog to stop barking so much?

First, understand that dogs bark to communicate. It’s their native language, so asking them to completely stop barking would be like asking you to stop talking forever.

Dogs might bark to let you know they need to go out or come in, or that they are hungry. They might be warning you about an approaching stranger. But they’ll also bark when they are bored or lonely, releasing pent up energy. And this kind of problem barking can become a bad habit.

The best way to stop a dog from barking is to figure out the reason he is barking and deal with the cause.

Is your dog socially isolated for long periods? Remember that dogs, whose ancestors were pack animals, need plenty of social time with you and your family, who they consider to be their “pack.” A dog who is left alone all day is likely to take up barking as a hobby because no one is there to control him.

Are they just bored? Do they have too much energy? Make sure they have fun things to keep them occupied, like a digging pit or special chew toys. A daily walk can do wonders for burning off extra energy and frustration.

Or they might be scared of something outside, or frustrated because a cat or squirrel is taunting them from the other side of the glass. In these cases, you may need to close the blinds or move the dog to another part of the house. Or consider installing a dog door for easy outdoor access.

For other dogs, the problem is separation anxiety – they may bark for extended periods after you leave the house. They might also become very destructive when left home alone. If your dog has serious separation anxiety issues, consider talking to an animal behaviorist.

Once you’ve removed the causes that make your dog bark, you’ll need to break the barking habit they have developed. It will take time and consistent application of training methods. Here are a few tactics to consider:

  • Consistency is key: Always reprimand inappropriate barking with the same method, and always use the same command, whether that command is “no bark,” “stop barking,” or “hush.”
  • Keep a soda can filled with pennies or marbles. When the dog barks inappropriately, shake the can loudly and command, “stop barking.”
  • Some owners have had good luck with a spray bottle filled with water to squirt the dog in the face before giving the “no bark” command.
  • Some companies sell a shock collar, designed to give a light pulse of electricity each time the dog barks, but I wouldn’t recommend them. Instead, you might consider a no-bark collar that uses citronella oil, emitting a spray every time the dog barks. It’s not harmful, but is unpleasant enough to offer a strong negative reinforcement.
  • For positive reinforcement, hold up a treat when you give the “stop barking” command. Most dogs instantly stop because they can’t sniff and lick the treat while barking. After a few seconds of no barking, let the dog have the treat.
  • Some trainers recommend teaching your dog to bark on command; this will help him learn how to be quieted on command as well.
  • Remember that hitting a barking dog will not solve the problem. It will actually increase a dog’s anxiety and fear, which can lead to more barking.
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