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Common Sense Care Tips Keep Pets Safe in Summer

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

Summertime brings fun in the sun, but it also signals potential dangers such as heatstroke, sunburn, insect stings and water hazards to dogs and cats. To ensure a safe, adventure-filled summer for your pet, we offer several ways to recognize, treat and prevent problems.

Heat and humidity affect pets, especially breeds with flat-faces — such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Persians — or pets with heavy coats. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heatstroke. Pets who are outside or enclosed in cars are most at risk of heatstroke.

Heed these signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:

Panting excessively
Fatigue
Dizziness
Nausea
Loss of consciousness

Treat early signs of heat exhaustion by pouring cool — not cold — water on the coat and working it into the hair. Loss of consciousness is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary care.

Practice prevention by keeping your pet cool. Leave at-risk pets in air-conditioned comfort during the day. If your pet stays outdoors in hot weather, provide plenty of cool, fresh water and a shady place to rest. Be aware of how the sun travels through your yard. A spot that looks shaded in the morning may be in full sun a few hours later. Schedule walks for cool mornings and evenings.

Most importantly, never leave your pet in a car during warm months. The inside of a car heats up to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Don’t be fooled by outside temperatures of 70 degrees. The temperature is a lot hotter inside a vehicle.

Apply sunscreen when your pet goes outdoors. Dogs and cats with thin or light-colored coats are susceptible to sunburn, and cats that get sunburned are more likely to develop skin cancer. Dogs who lie on their back outdoors can get painful sunburns on their bellies, but the areas most prone to sunburn are the nose, face, and ear tips.

Purchase pet sunscreen at pet supply stores, or apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen. Avoid getting it in your pet’s eyes.

Next threat: Pests like bees, wasps, fire ants and mosquitoes can put the “p” in pain for your pets. Reactions to insect bites and stings range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis — a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. If your pet is stung, seek veterinary help right away in the event of an allergic reaction.

Mosquito bites don’t provoke a skin reaction, but they can transmit potentially fatal heartworm disease. The best way to prevent heartworm disease is by giving a heartworm preventive pill orally once a month. While some flea-control medications repel mosquitoes, it’s important to remember that they don’t prevent heartworm disease if a mosquito does bite your pet.

Third summertime hazard – water. Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Problems occur when pets fall into pools or off boats and panic.

Teach your dog how to find the pool steps and climb out. Then put him into the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Repeat this until he is consistently able to get out of the pool on his own. If you have a boat, put the dog in the water next to the boat and then ‘rescue’ him. This way, he’ll be prepared if he falls off the boat unexpectedly.

Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. Another sound buy: life vests made for dogs. They come in various sizes to accommodate different breeds.

For those trips in the car, if your dog likes to ride with his head hanging out the car window, consider protecting his eyes with a pair of Doggles — strap-on eyewear that offers UV protection and impact-resistant lenses. Doggles can also be protective for dogs that ride on boats, catch balls or flying discs, or enjoy hiking in wooded areas.

Take the Palm Test

One way to ensure that the sidewalk is not too hot for your dog’s feet is to simply place your hand, palm side down, on the concrete. If it feels too hot to your touch, it will be too hot for your shoe-less canine. If you need to walk your dog in the hot sun, bring water and try to walk on cooler surfaces like grass.

Now you and your pets can enjoy a safe, fun and cool summer.

Hiking With Dogs

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

All the plans are set, the course laid out, safety gear purchased, and all preparations have been made. But what about your dog? This question is becoming increasingly popular as families decide to no longer leave their beloved canine companions at home but instead choose bring them along for the hike.

There is no more agreeable and easy-going hiking partner than a well-behaved and friendly dog. With the inclusion of a dog to the hiking pack, certain precautions and arrangements must first be made to ensure that everyone, including the dogs, have a pleasant time without worry of the rough terrain and possible disasters for both dog and owner.

Remember that you, your family, and your dog will not be the only ones on the hiking trails. Depending of the trail you decide to take, there could be several people or several hundred people with their families and other dogs (and possibly horses) traveling along the same path. This is not the place for an aggressive or poor-mannered dog.

Dogs that have not been well trained and those that have aggression issues should be left at home for the protection of other hikers as well as themselves. Dogs that do not listen well to their owners can also find them in very dangerous situations as they may stray easily from the hiking trail or encounter things along the trail that should not be touched, such as poisonous plants and wild animals.

Dogs that do venture to the hiking trails should carry their own packs. Packs should hold provisions for at least one week should you ever become stranded or found off course. Since a dog can hold up to one-third its body weight, carrying their own packs is not a problem.

Ethics
How well-behaved will your dog be on the hiking trails and around other people and their dogs? In order to maintain a friendly environment and enjoy your hiking time, the following behaviors should be enforced:

Do not allow your pet to chase wildlife.
Leash your dog around water sources and in sensitive trail areas.
Do not allow your dog to stand in any sources of drinking water.
Be mindful of the rights of other hikers not to be bothered by even a friendly dog.
Bury your pet’s waste or deposit it in the nearest trash bin.
Take special measures at shelters. Leash your dog in the sheltered area, and ask permission of other hikers before allowing your dog in a shelter. Be prepared to “tent out” when a shelter is crowded, and on rainy days.
Do not let wet dogs loose in shelters as they tend to rub against other hikers and cause more muddy and slippery conditions within the shelter.
Clean up after your dog when leaving a shelter by sweeping up.
Do not allow the dog to beg or steal food from other hikers.
Verify that dogs are permitted on the trails you wish to hike. Many national and state parks do not allow dogs.

Health
Hiking is a very aerobic activity that should not be undertaken by those in poor health or those who cannot handle the rigorous conditions of a hike. This is equally important for dogs and because of this, the following should be considered prior to bringing Fido along for the hike:

All dogs should be wearing a collar with proper identification tags. Be sure to obtain a proper dog license and attach an ID tag to your dog’s collar.
Make sure your dog has updated vaccinations, nails trimmed and is in good health. Get a rabies tag and attach it to the collar.
Dogs under 15 months of age can easily sustain bone damage as they are in their growing phase, and long walks can permanently damage the bones or growth plates. Remember to keep walks short while they’re in this phase.
Long walks for older dogs with arthritis or other medical conditions that make it difficult for them to walk could also cause damage and pain, so consider this, too, before you take your dog out for a long hike.
Female dogs in heat could cause aggression issues in other dogs along hikes, and the owner could end up with an unwanted pregnancy. Those dogs that are spayed need the veterinarian approved resting and recuperation time prior to hiking.
Male dogs should be neutered prior to hiking and allowed time to rest and heal properly. Aggression and wandering are common traits in unaltered male dogs.
Fleas and ticks are abundant in the great outdoors, so be sure that your dogs are up-to-date on their preventive topical medications.
Pet first aid kits should be carried.
Feel confident that your dog listens to you and is well behaved.
To avoid sickness, do not feed your dog right before you exercise or hike. Feed them afterward when they are rested.
Bring lots of water and a bowl for Fido to drink from.
Bring food or treats, even if you plan on being gone for only a short period of time.
Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day to keep your dog from overheating.
Have a towel handy to clean your dog up or clean wounds that may occur during the hike.

Park Rules
Every national or state park will have different rules and regulations for their parks and those enjoying the hiking trails. These should be posted at the entrance to the park, but you should contact the park first to obtain a copy of the rules and regulations prior to setting off on your hike. Such rules are in place to keep you and your pets safe. Even with the rules in hand, dog owners should acquire the following:

Always keep your eye on your dog. Mischief can happen quickly.
Never leave your dog unattended.
Always fill in any holes your dog digs.
Always use a leash. (Each park has different regulations as to the length of the leash.)
Dog owners must obtain permits for their dogs (where necessary).
All dogs should be up to date on their vaccinations.
Always clean up after dogs.
Aggressive dogs are not allowed on any public hiking trails or open beach areas.

U.S. Parks
Now that you are armed with all this knowledge and are ready to hit the trails with your canine companion, where do you go? Lucky for us, there are many parks across the United States that allow dogs. To help you find them, here are a few “dog friendly” directory listings on hiking trails.

DogFriendly.com – http://www.dogfriendly.com/server/travel/guides/park/park.shtml
Hike with Your Dog – http://www.hikewithyourdog.com
Pet Friendly Travel – http://www.petfriendlytravel.com/?page=state_parks

Hiking Resources
There are also many offline resources that can help you become more knowledgeable about hiking with your dog. Some of these resources include books, such as:

A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog by Charlene G. Labelle
First Aid for Dogs: What to do When Emergencies Happen by Bruce Fogle
Ruffing It: The Complete Guide to Camping With Dogs by Mardi Richmond
The Canine Hiker’s Bible by Doug Gelbert
The Pet Travel and Fun Authority of Best-of-State Places to Play, Stay & Have Fun Along the Way: 35,000+ Accommodations, Pet Sitters, Kennels, Dog Parks … Tons-of-Pet Fun & More Guide! 12th Edition by M. E. Nelson

Hiking with your dog should be a fun experience that allows for not only exercise, but also the gift of bonding between owners and their dogs. By following not only the rules of the national or state park, but also by acting in an ethical manner that respects nature and others who are enjoying the hiking trails, your hike will be a positive and memorable experience. There is nothing better than fresh air, lush greenery surrounding you, and a furry hiking companion by your side each step of the way.

References:
Copeland, D. (2005). Backpacking Doggy Style: Basics for Hiking with Dogs.

Hiking with Dogs. (2007). Appalachian Trail Conservatory.

Callie’s Healthy Vacation

Posted on: August 2nd, 2007 by

By: Arden Moore

Indoor cats – guaranteed to be free of risks from illness and injury, right? Wrong. For 12 years, I have jokingly regarded my calico cat, Callie, as a “cheap date.” The reason? For a dozen years, all I’ve need to spend on her was routine needs – food, treats, bedding, toys and annual veterinary exams. She was the poster cat for feline health.

She has spent her life indoors since I adopted her as a tiny kitten found running the streets of Miami. She goes outside to my fenced backyard, supervised by me, and she strolls back into the house when I say, “Callie, inside.”

For the past few years, however, her belly has grown and I nicknamed her “Calorie.” I knew she wasn’t to blame for the added weight. She wasn’t raiding the refrigerator at night while I was asleep or pilfering food from the dogs’ bowls. The blame belonged to me because I wasn’t paying attention to her food portions.

But a couple months ago, I noticed that Callie was slimming down. It’s natural to take credit for this fit feline look, but I knew unexplained weight loss often signals a silent health condition.

My veterinarian confirmed my thoughts: Callie was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, a silent disease that strikes middle-aged and senior cats. It is caused by a benign tumor in one or both of a cat’s thyroid glands, which in turn, causes an overproduction of thyroid hormones. Unchecked, it can trigger hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (a disease that causes a thickening of the heart) and damage the kidneys and eyes.

The best option for curing this condition is a pricey radioactive iodine injection. The total cost for this procedure, necessary tests, medications and hospitalization tops $1,400. Ouch. But this is one feline disease that has a real cure.

Callie is definitely worth this investment, and she recently returned from a week’s stay at a veterinary imaging center. During that week, I received daily updates on her recovery and was able to “tune in” and see her through a Web cam accessible on my computer.

It turns out that only one of her thyroids was affected by this disease and now she is happy being back at home. She is displaying renewed kitten-like energy and purrs longer and louder.

That hefty veterinary bill reminded me of the importance of getting pet insurance. At the time, I only had policies covering my two dogs. Callie’s pricey “vacation” convinced me to obtain insurance for my cat, Murphy, age 7. Due to Callie’s senior status and the hyperthyroidism diagnosis, the only insurance available for her would cover in case of an accident – not an illness.

Please learn from my experience and obtain insurance policies on your cats. As I’ve learned, even indoor cats are not insulated from disease.

Meet Cleo: My $500 Free Dog

Posted on: July 18th, 2007 by

By: Arden Moore

It is never easy to admit that you have a bias. But when you do and can work on overcoming it, the results can be amazing.

I guess that is why a tiny mixed breed dog came into my life about a year ago. For years, I declared that I was more comfortable around dogs medium size and larger. I used to joke that I never wanted a dog smaller than my cats.

Then Cleo showed up. She arrived in the backyard of my elderly neighbor, Flo, at night. Flo’s dog, Buddy, a vocal mini-Schnauzer, sounded the bark-bark-bark alert that something was shaking and whimpering on the back porch. Flo saw this small, frightened dog and was not certain how Buddy would react if she brought in this dog, so she called me.

My dog, Chipper, a 60-pound Golden retriever/Husky mix, is a former shelter mascot who is used to dogs and cats of all sizes and attitudes. She, like my two cats, Callie and Murphy, also know what it is like to be without a home and then to be rescued. My three pets welcomed Cleo without a growl or a hiss.

Cleo weighed barely 10 pounds when she arrived. Her coat was matted and dry and her teeth were nearly brown. I could feel and see her ribs. She sported a collar that was too tight bearing her name and a phone number from an area two counties away. I tried calling the number, but it was disconnected. I also left word with that county’s animal shelter as well as those in my area. I posted signs. I alerted neighbors.

No calls. Something told me that this little dog either ran away or was dumped. What was certain was that she was in dire need of good nutrition, a bath and a complete physical exam by my veterinarian. Within a month, I had spent $500 plus to provide her with the necessary vaccination, dental cleaning, food, grooming, bedding, leash, collar, cool toys – and most importantly, pet insurance.

Cleo has taught me that little dogs sport big hearts. She now weighs 12 pounds and her once too-skinny body is toned and muscular. She easily trots next to Chipper on our daily 40-minute walks and cuddles with my cats during afternoon naps. She races to greet me when I come home and is learning tricks to earn healthy treats.

Like many of you, I didn’t plan on adopting a second dog. It just happened. But something told me that she deserved a second chance in a caring home. On June 27, we celebrated the one-year anniversary of her arrival into Flo’s backyard and my home. For Cleo, June 27 marked a new beginning — and for me, it marked the end of a bias toward dogs smaller than cats.

Fighting To Cure Canine Cancer

Posted on: July 11th, 2007 by

By: Dr. Jack Stephens

Recently Pets Best joined the Morris Animal Foundation’s campaign to find a cure for cancer in dogs. Pets Best made a multi-year $1 million pledge to the Morris Animal Foundation for their quest to fund research that could find a cure for cancer. This effort by the Morris Animal Foundation is notable even for non-pet owners, because finding a cure for dogs will be a shortcut to finding a cure for human cancer. I will speak to their efforts and progress in future communications, as well as in our newsletters.

As you may know from previous blogs, my wife and I love our dogs. They are truly family members. The following photo was taken in our car as we drove to Colorado to be acknowledged by Morris Animal Foundation for our pledge. Four of our little guys went with us on the three-day, 1,600-mile round trip from Idaho through the middle of beautiful Colorado.

The return trip was not as leisurely, and we drove eleven hours straight through in order for me to be back at the office on Monday. Torrey, Skeeter and Cooper are seasoned travelers both by car and air, and Pepper, our new addition, fit right in. They had two beds, a pillow and, of course, our laps from which to choose their round-robin siestas for the long drive. Torrey, however, seldom relinquished my lap during the trip.

One night we had to drive an extra sixty miles in order to find a hotel that accepted pets. But I must say, both my wife and I marvel at how much more relaxing a long road trip is with our pets than in the days when our human children were young. Two years ago we took a 4,000-mile trip with six of our dogs and thoroughly enjoyed the entire time! Each night was a chore, with the kennels and taking turns to “do their business,” but they enjoyed the experience and all the new smells and places to pee. Dogs simply accept their circumstances and do not have any great expectations, other than the simple pleasure of our company and some attention.

Finding a cure for canine cancer is special to me, not only because of my own prior cancer, but because I lost a special pet to its devastating affects. Treatments are much better now, but costly and cost-prohibitive for many pet families. As a resource, we will be sharing with you in the near future how you can find the best treatment options and expected outcomes for all the many types of cancer.

I will also be sharing with you the many other things that Morris Animal Foundation does for animals and how you can help also. They are truly working in many diverse ways to help animals throughout the world.