Monday, December 24, 2012

Questions: The Anxious Dog

We have a dog question today!  Here we go!

Our dog has really bad nightmares and sometimes goes to the bathroom in the middle of the night on the floor when she is really anxious. We got her a thunder shirt - it has really helped but she still has accidents occasionally. Any ideas? We are pretty sure she was abused before we got her- can be very anxious / skittish around new people & loud or sudden sounds.

Poor girl!  Anxiety can be bad for both people and pets.  While people get fidgety and sometimes cranky, pets may urinate, growl, shake, or do any number of things, and it's quite difficult to get to the root of the issue.

The first thing I want to know is what her evening routine is?  When does she eat and drink and when does she fall asleep?  Remember that what goes in must come out, so if she's drinking a lot of water right before bed, that may be contributing to her potty issues.  As far as potty problems go, you may also want to revisit house training 101 to make sure she knows how to ask you to go outside.  These two things combined should go far in helping with the nighttime accidents.

Now, let's address the anxiety.  There are many other products on the market that can help with anxiety.  Lavender-scented products are known to have a calming effect, and there are sprays you could use to spray her bedding.  You could also try playing soothing music at night, and there are even CDs specifically designed to help calm your pup and ease her worries.  Lastly, there are even drops you can put in her water or food to help take the edge off.  Personally, I've used Rescue Remedy, but there are plenty others that will work. 

In addition to all the products on the market, I have to ask about exercise.  I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Exercise is important!!  Are your dog's exercise needs being met?  Most dogs require a minimum of 30 minutes of structured exercise a day, but plenty need more.  Of my two dogs, Lollie can wear out in 30 minutes or less, but Cody will often require a run of 5 or more miles before he's tired.  He could go farther when he was younger, but at 5 1/2 years old he's starting to calm down.  When a dog does not receive the exercise she needs, she's likely to become more anxious or aggressive and display behaviors that we, as owners, do not like.  Make sure her exercise needs are being met, and don't forget that dogs need both physical AND mental exercise.

If you're really doing all the things above, and you still aren't seeing results, consult your vet.  It may benefit your dog to be put on some medication like Prozac or some other anti-anxiety med.  Also make sure that her issues are not health related as something as simple as a UTI can very much affect your dog.

Lastly, also look at your dog's diet.  While most dogs with food allergies display their allergies through skin issues, some dogs with mild allergies (maybe more of an intolerance) will display their allergies through behavior issues.  You can try switching your dog to a hypoallergenic diet.  This means no wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy (and possibly no chicken nor beef).  See if that makes a difference, but keep in mind it may take 6-8 weeks to see any sort of improvement.

Keep me updated on how things go!

Remember, if you'd like to have your questions answered, visit our Facebook page and leave a post on our wall.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Questions: Litterbox Issues

In our series of questions, we received a second cat-related question.

My 13+ year old male cat will no longer go in the litter box. I've had him checked at the vet, and no physical reason. Why does he torture me so?

Generally, when I hear about cats and litter box issues, the first thing I think is UTI or some other bladder issue.  Since you've had the vet look at him, though, let's assume that he's a physically healthy pet.

At 13, one thing that comes to mind is a simple case of senility.  Your cat may be suffering from the same thing countless elderly people suffer from.  He may, in fact, be forgetting where his litter box is, or it may be that he knows where it is, but his bladder isn't what it used to be, and he just can't make it.  Make life easier for him by providing another litter box, or by monitoring him a little closer.  Help to remind him where he's supposed to potty.

The next thing that comes to mind is that he's acting out.  Just like dogs, when cats don't have enough stimulation, they can act out in many different ways.  One common way is urination (particularly in male cats).   Make sure your cat gets lots of attention and lots of play throughout the day.  Make sure he's getting what he needs.

Lastly, make sure his litter box is extremely clean.  Most cats don't like to use a dirty litter box and will often choose your furniture or laundry if their litter box is not clean.  Make sure the litter is fairly fresh, all the clumps are scooped out, and the box is cleaned on a regular basis.

Trying all these things may help, but you will also want to make sure you remove the odor from all of his accidents, so he's no longer encouraged to use those same locations.  There are a lot of pet odor removing products on the market, but for simple issues, try using a 50/50 water/vinegar solution.  It helps remove odor, and the vinegar acts as a simple deterrent.

Good luck!

Remember, if you have a question you'd like answered, feel free to visit our Facebook page and post a question.

Questions: The Cat and the Tie

Recently, I asked people on my Facebook page what questions they might have about their dogs or cats.  So many people have simple questions, but they don't know who to ask.  I will attempt to answer those questions here.  The first question is:

Why does my cat insist upon wearing my favorite tie?

Well, I have a question for you.  Why are you tying ties on your cat? 

OK, all humor aside, your cat probably loves your favorite tie simply because it smells like you.  Combine that with the wonderfully-soft fabric most ties are made of and the light-weight, easy-to-carry aspect, and you have the perfect cat snuggler.  Personally, my cat prefers my socks.  Note, he'll only carry around my socks...not my husband's nor any others.  Once he has a sock, he meows quite loudly, rolls around on it, and holds it between his paws.  He loves me!

Really, the best way to solve this issue is to put your tie in a place where your cat can't find it or can't get to it.  What can I say?  That's the real reason closets have doors!

You can also do a lot to help by making sure your cat stays well-stimulated.  Cats are super smart, and they need a lot to keep their minds active.  Make sure your cat is getting enough exercise (both mentally and physically), and give your cat an alternative toy to smell with (something with catnip is great).

I hope that helps!

If you have a question about any of the pets in your life, feel free to check out my Facebook page, and post away.  I will answer here the questions here and re-post to Facebook.  Thanks! 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Morning Walk

At least once a week, Cody and I go for a long morning run.  We often do more, but sometimes Cody is just too tired, so I leave him at home.  Anyway, this morning, like every other week, we headed out for our run.  The plan was 7.5 miles (a 12k in honor of 12-12-12).  Usually, Cody and I drive into the city and meet up with a friend, but this time we were on our own, so we left from the house and ran 2.5 miles to a local park, ran through the park, and then ran home.  One thing that I found a bit shocking was how many dogs were off-leash once we entered the park.

Now, I'm the first person to condone having dogs off leash.  I think dogs need the opportunity to act like dogs.  They need to have the chance to run and sniff and pee on bushes, and I'll admit I had Cody off leash and out of a heel for a portion of the run through the park.  What I don't condone is having ZERO control over your dog.  If your dog cannot allow another dog and jogger to pass without chasing it, don't allow it off leash.  If your dog won't come when called, no matter what the circumstance, don't allow it off leash.  If your dog has ANY sort of aggressive tendencies towards people or other dogs, DON'T ALLOW IT OFF LEASH!!

The reason I'm so upset about this issue this morning is because this is not the first time this has happened.  Just last Saturday I had to stop 3 times in that park because a dog was charging up to me while its owner hollered for it to come back.  I was lucky that all the dogs were friendly, and the owners were lucky that I'm not scared of dogs at all (in fact I kind of enjoy having them run around me), but most people aren't like me. 

Too many people are scared of dogs.  Too many people have dogs that aren't dog friendly.  Too many people are just annoyed at having to stop mid-run because they're being chased by an overly friendly dog!  It's not fair that dog owners think it's OK to let their dogs do whatever they want just because they're dogs are friendly.

What if Cody weren't dog friendly?  What if the multiple dogs that approached us today had sent him over the edge?  Would Cody be held liable for attacking a dog, or would the dog that approached uninvited be at fault?

Anyway, I'll say it again.  If you can't control your dog, please don't let him off leash.  That said, if you want to learn some great off-leash control, give me a call.  I'm more than happy to help.  Cody did wonderfully this morning, and he kept his focus on me even when he was approached by multiple dogs.  I'm very proud of my boy, and I'm glad that he's able to handle such big distractions.  I just worry about other people and other dogs who might not handle such big distractions so well.  Please keep that in mind the next time you take your dog(s) out.  Thanks!

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holiday Season

Well, it's official.  The holiday season is upon us.  This of course means that our homes are filled with decorations, food, and family.  In other words, it's a really fun time that's filled with some dangerous things for your pets.  So, in an effort to help keep your pets safe (and your vet bill low), let's go over some safety techniques.

Poisonous Plants 
There's really a lot of controversy surrounding poinsettias.  Some say they're poisonous.  Some say they're not.  The truth is, the sap of the plant is poisonous, but it's not nearly has deadly as some might have you believe.  The sap can cause skin irritation and it may induce vomiting and diarrhea in small children and in pets.  Of course, this means that you don't want your dog or cat to eat a whole plant, but you also shouldn't panic if a small piece is ingested.  Still, though, it may be best if this was a plant your pets didn't have access to.

Holly leaves are not actually poisonous, but the berries are.  Yes, those beautiful red berries that just look so festive are quite poisonous and can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.  Keep this plant away from your pet, or else you may spend your holidays in the vet's office.

Ah, that lovely parasite that induces young lovers to kiss.  Honestly, mistletoe is one of my favorite Christmas traditions (I'm an old romantic), but it's quite poisonous.  Just like holly, it's the berries that are dangerous, and boy are they!  If ingested, they can cause excessive salivating, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive urination, heavy breathing and a fast heart rate.  

Tree Hazards
Ah, the lights!  Lights are so pretty, and they tend to make any house or tree beautiful.  Unfortunately, there are plenty of hazards associated with them and your pet.  Forgetting about all the usual fears (lights shorting out, tree catching fire, etc), there's also the fear of having a pet chew on the lights.  Anyone who has a basic knowledge of how electricity works will know that  chewing on an electric cable is not a good idea, and pets that do so may end up with a bit of a singed mouth.

Obviously, water in and of itself is not dangerous.  However, some people put preservatives in their water to keep the tree pretty longer, and that is dangerous.  If your pets are anything like my pets, they view the water at the base of the tree as a brand new water bowl, and it's way more exciting than any other water bowl in the house.  So, in my family, preservatives stay out of the water.

There are plenty of Christmas decorations that will look like a lot of fun to your pet, but which are actually quite problematic.  The first of these is tinsel.  While it makes your tree look fabulous, it can be quite a problem if ingested.  These long bits of string can knot up in your pet's intestines and cause some serious blockages.  Even if they do end up passing, they can be quite uncomfortable in the process.  In addition to tinsel, one must pay close attention to the glass ball ornaments on a tree.  These ornaments can look like fun toys, but they break easily, and that can cause problems.  Some dogs will try to eat these balls, and that's going to cause issues with the digestive tract (i.e. surgery will be needed).  At the very least, they're quite likely to knock them off the tree with their tails, causing them to shatter on the floor and become a cutting hazard to both pet feet and human feet alike.

-The Tree Itself
Yes, the tree can be it's own hazard.  Falling pine needles can be dangerous if ingested as they could possibly pierce the intestines, or the tree could fall.  Cat owners should be particularly careful, because many cats like to climb the Christmas tree, and this could cause it to fall on them.  Of course, dogs are innocent either, and an interesting-looking ornament could entice them to jump on the tree.  Oh, and for dog owners, there's also the little issue of providing that indoor potty.  No, this is not necessarily a danger to your dog, but it's certainly a danger to you.  Make sure your dog doesn't see your beautiful tree as his/her new spot to tinkle!

So what can I do?
Well, you really have three options.

1) Keep everything that's unsafe away from your pets.  Hide the tree in a closed room, close off the plants, hang the mistletoe high.  If your pet does not have access to things that can hurt him, then he cannot get hurt.

2) Keep everything fake.  Fake mistletoe, fake holly, and a fake tree help to ensure your pet's safety.  Your pet can't eat anything harmful, there's no water to worry about, and the lights on a fake tree are much less dangerous than those on a real one  (e.g. no chords).

3) Train your pet.  Teach your cats to stay off the tree or away from the plants.  Train your dog to ignore the distractions on the tree.  If your dog's in a down-stay, she won't be eating the ornaments.

Honestly, my family does a combination of everything.  Our tree is kept in the family room which just happens to have a door to close it off.  When we're not home, the tree is closed off from the rest of house.  When we are home, we are able to monitor what the animals are doing, so we're able to open the room (and relax and watch TV in there).  We also have a few fake plants (like mistletoe).  Fake berries are not nearly as harmful as poisonous real berries.  Our tree, however, will always be real.  Lastly, we monitor the animals.  Cody and Lollie are now old enough where tree ornaments are exciting toys, but when Cody was younger, we really had to keep an eye on him.  We paid constant attention to him around the tree, and we had to teach him that eating ornaments was not the best idea.  Yes, we've lost a couple ornaments due to an over-exuberant tail, but the vacuum was able to take care of that right away.  Oh, and we had a vacuum on hand just in case! :)

Well, that covers most of the big points.  I hope you all have a lovely and fun holiday season!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Training With Your Dog

In case you didn't know, I'm training for my first marathon.  I'm running to raise money for Henrico Humane Society.  To learn more about it, visit here.

Anyway, I'm training with Cody.  Now, due to heat throughout the summer, Cody has had to skip some of the longer runs, but he has run 7+ miles with me, and this is quite an accomplishment.  Seven miles isn't easy for anyone, but when you're also in daycare 5 days a week, 7 miles could be dangerous.  So, in case you're interested in running with your dog, I'm providing some tips for training with your dog.

1) Ease into it.   You didn't go from 0 miles to 20 miles overnight, and neither should your dog.  If your dog is new to running, start with just walking him.  Build up to running short distances and gradually increase distance and pace.  I was lucky.  Cody started training with me when I was first attempting a 5k.  I could barely run a mile, and that was at a slow pace.  Cody trained the entire time, and he even ran my first 5k race with me.  When I decided to start working towards a 10k, Cody trained with me for that as well.  He's basically been with me the whole way.  I'm a little farther ahead of him now, but I know he could easily catch up.

2) Hydrate- You know how, on a long run, it's important for you to hydrate before, during, and after?  Guess what.  The same is true for your dog!  Since dogs are built a little differently than people, and shouldn't take on a whole lot of water while running, hydration before is really key.  I actually heard a really great trick the other day to help your dog stock up on electrolytes AND water.  A few hours before your run, have your dog drink a bit of chicken broth (not too much as this will upset his tummy).  Chicken broth is salty, so this will encourage your dog to drink a little more water.  Slow down his water intake about an hour before your run, so he doesn't end up with intestinal issues.  During your run, you can let him have some water, but not full bowls.  That could cause him to get sick.

3) Fuel- Yep, food is important too.  I will sometimes bring a small snack for Cody (i.e. give him a few bites of what I'm having), but his daily nutrition is important too.  Cody is on a fairly high protein diet, with few fillers, and he gets lots of food.  He'll eat anywhere between 2 and 8 cups of  food a day with lots of snacks in between.

4) Crosstrain- It is important for your dog to strengthen other parts of his body as well.  If your dog plays well with others, day care can help with that, but there are quite a few other useful activities as well.  Cody loves swimming and he practices some mild agility from time to time.  Swimming, of course, is a great work out for him, and agility helps with focus, strength, and balance.

5) Rest- Some dogs can run 20 miles and feel like it was just a warm up.  Other dogs run 2 and feel like they're about to die.  If your dog needs a rest, let him rest.  Occasionally give him a day off.  Yesterday, Cody and I ran 3 miles together and then Cody came to the daycare with me.  This morning, Cody wanted to sleep in, so he got the morning off, while I ran 7 miles.  He was simply too tired to go for any sort of run.

6) Stretch- Dogs need to stretch out, just like people do.  The internet is very useful for finding different stretches for your dog, but I also encourage people to look into Doga.  It's quite useful and relaxing.  You may also want to look into other sorts of care for your dog as well, such as massage, chiropractic care, or acupuncture.  Your dog can have aches and pains just like you do.  He just can't tell you how or where it hurts.

As always, consult a licensed veterinarian before attempting any sort of exercise / diet with your dog.  If, however, you take care of your dog's needs, you'll end up with a terrific running companion.

Dogs Will Be Dogs

Yesterday I had a conversation with a trainer about dog behavior.  The topic of dog corrections came up, and she said that she does not allow her dog to correct another dog because she does not want her dog to think that the behavior involved in a correction is appropriate.  This is something I've heard a lot from trainers over the years.  Here are some of the arguments:

- Never wrestle with your dog.  This will teach him to play rough and to fight.

- Never tug with your dog.  This will teach him to not return things to you.

- Never allow your dog to correct another dog.  This will teach him that inappropriate behavior such as growling, barking, or showing teeth is OK at any time.

The first question I must ask you is this: Would you ever tell a young boy or girl that it is never appropriate to wrestle, play tug of war, or acknowledge his/her displeasure with something?  I certainly hope not, or else I would have missed out on a world of fun as a child.

As a young girl, I learned that when I was in my play clothes, I could wrestle with other kids, I could climb trees, I could play tug, and I most certainly could say when I wasn't happy with something.  However, I was also taught that there were times when playing was inappropriate.  There were times when I was at school or church and I had to sit still.  There were times when I could display my displeasure and Mom and Dad would tell me I was acting inappropriately (and occasionally punish me if I continued to display my displeasure).  I learned what was appropriate and when it was appropriate, and I believe it is important to teach our dogs the same.

As a puppy, Cody had very bad manners.  He nipped, he chewed, he growled, he stole toys.  He was a puppy, though, so I knew he'd grow out of it.  In the mean time, I worked on teaching him manners.  I taught him to play, but when things got too rough for me I taught him how to stop.  I taught him that chewing on his toys or on bones was fine, but that chewing on furniture was bad.  I taught him that growling at one thing or another was fine, but there would be trouble if he ever laid teeth on or growled at me (when he was not playing).  I worked hard to let him know what was appropriate and what was not, and I was rewarded with a dog who can play rough but who knows when to quit too.

The next argument I usually hear in this is, "Well, he's fine with you, but what if he was with a young child or an elderly person?  How would he do then?"  I used to wonder about that myself.  I've always played rough with my dogs, but not all children like that.  Would Cody be OK? 

Cody was only 9 months old the first time I saw him around young children.  We were at the local children's theatre (where Hans works), and there was a semi-large group of children ranging in age from 3 years old to 10 years old.  I watched carefully as the children started to play with Cody.  They made all the same movements that I would make when playing rough with Cody, but Cody was different with them.  He was obviously happy, and he was playing "rough," but it wasn't his usual level of rough.  He very much held back for the kids.  He ran around them instead of jumping on them.  He gave them kisses instead of grabbing at their sleeves.  I knew then that Cody was smarter than what most people would give him credit for.

Similar things like that have happened over the years, both with elderly and young, and it's made me realize just how smart dogs are.  They are capable of discerning between situations.  They are capable of making choices and making the right one.  Yes, there are some dogs that take a little longer to learn than others.  There are some dogs that you wouldn't want to rile up as much because they just haven't learned how to calm down.  However, with a little love and attention and a lot of time, any dog can learn how to play rough, or tug, or even correct another dog without taking things too far.  I think it's important to teach them how to make the right choices rather than not allowing them to make decisions at all.  It helps their minds grow, and it helps our bonds with them flourish.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Mayor is a Meower

Well, here's some interesting news.  In Talkeetna, AK, a cat has been the mayor for 15 years!  Apparently Mayor Stubbs was elected as write-in after the citizens of the town were dissatisfied with the human candidates.  He's been honorary mayor ever since.

Stubbs' position is really just a figure-head role since the town is considered a historical district, but the mayor takes his role very seriously.  The townspeople say he makes a great mayor stating that he "hasn't raised taxes, there's no sales tax, and he doesn't interfere with business." 

Mayor Stubbs has also been great at helping the tourist economy boom.  With over 10,000 fans on Facebook, Mayor Stubbs attracts about 30-40 people a day to the small town just to see him.  In his old age, though, Stubbs is avoiding some of the limelight, and is instead opting for long, afternoon naps.

All this makes me wonder, though, does Sarah Palin have some competition for most famous Alaskan politician?

Mayor Stubbs
Photo Courtesy of Facebook

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Choosing a Kennel

Things are exciting in this part of the world.  With the opening of a kennel has come a lot of hard work.  Add on to that training for a marathon (more on that later) and basic life, and one is bound to get exhausted.  Still, though, it's all worth it.

As Hans, Shannon, and I have been scrubbing walls, mopping floors, and painting non-stop, I got to thinking: What should people look for when choosing a dog kennel / day care?  I know what sorts of things I notice, but some people seem to overlook these things.  Sometimes a friendly staff is all it takes to win someone over, but they're missing the bigger picture.  So, here are some handy hints.

There should not be one.  Ideally, unless you're coming during cleaning time, you shouldn't smell cleaner, and you shouldn't smell a lot of dogs or cats.  If you smell cleaner, you're really just smelling an effort to cover up dirt.  If you smell dogs then you can tell there hasn't been much cleaning.  If you smell urine or feces (assuming someone did not just have an accident in the lobby), run.  Run as far and as fast as you can.

Obviously, a dog-care facility should appear clean.  There should not be standing water on the floors or dirt on the walls.  Look for dust and dog hair.  Of course, also take note of the general color scheme of a facility.  Some companies may choose darker colors to avoid having dirt be seen.  Other companies choose bright and cheery colors.  Dirt will be seen easier on these colors, so if the place still seems clean you know you've got a winner.

Dog to Person Ratio
How many employees are there watching the dogs?  Is it a 2:1 ratio, a 10:1 ratio, or a 50:1 ratio?  Ideally, you'll have somewhere between 5-10:1.  Of course, the smaller the ratio, the better.  This one is harder to find out, though.  Companies have been known to lie about their numbers.  My mom once called a doggy day care and asked how many dogs they generally have there a day.  She was told 15-20.  In reality they had anywhere between 35-70 on any given day.  Of course, you can sometimes get away with having more dogs and fewer people if the dogs are in smaller groups or the screening process is strict.  However, if it looks like there are more than 20 dogs there, then there probably are more than 20 dogs there. 

Hidden Areas
Due to insurance reasons, most kennels cannot let the general public into areas where dogs are loose.  However, they CAN let you into areas where dogs are put up.  When you tour a facility, you should be allowed to see every part of the building (except the break room or office).  If you're not allowed to see where dogs sleep / play / are groomed / etc. then something is being hidden.  Run.  Do not walk.  Run away.

Your Dog
At some point, you may find a facility that you would like to leave your dog at.  Once this happens, take some time to watch your dog's reactions when he returns to the building each day.  Is he excited?  Happy?  Pulling you towards the door?  Or, his he trying to hide in the car and hugging close to your leg?  Dogs should be happy to go into their daycare.  Of course, sometimes daycare just isn't for some dogs.  Make sure you know your dog's personality before testing out a place.  Also, pay attention to how he feels after some time at a daycare.  Is he getting sick more often than normal?  Is he getting random infections?  This could be a sign of a cleanliness issue at the facility.  Do keep in mind, though, that, just like day care for kids, your dog may catch a few more colds than he used to.  Also, if your dog is playing all day, he may come home a little dirty.  It's not unusual, and it won't hurt him.

My best recommendation for finding a kennel is to ask around.  Ask your friends, ask your vet, ask your trainer, ask the lady in the park walking her dog.  Check reviews online.  Look at websites.  No one can say which kennel might be best for you, but it never hurts to go into your search with an arsenal of knowledge.

Happy hunting!