April is Pet First Aid Month

Ready for an emergency?

The Red Cross has designated April as Pet First Aid Awareness Month.  What does that mean to all you pet owners out there?  It’s a great time to be sure you have a first aid kit ready and well-stocked in the event of major emergencies as well as the occasional cut or scrape accident.  In my house, I have a cabinet that is basically for everything “pet”.  It holds any current medications that one of my pets may be taking, flea and tick applications and a first aid basket that is kept stocked.  This way, if anything happens to one of my fur babies I know where to go to get the supplies I need.  It is important to have separate first aid supplies for your pets to prevent any cross-contamination.  I have to admit that I didn’t purposefully go out and gather these things for my dogs and cats.  I purchased them individually as needed and that really was not smart.  ”Be Prepared” as the Sweet Potato Queens would say!!  (That’s a whole other post entirely)  By having all these items in a handy location there is no panic on your part when your pet gets hurt.  You can quickly access anything you need to bandage a wound, rinse an eye or administer an aspirin or anti-histamine.  Keep in mind that just having the right medicine isn’t enough.  You should know how much of any one thing to use on your pet and what items are not interchangeable for dogs and cats, i.e. aspirin.   Check with your vet on medication dosages and make a note of it to keep in your kit.  You should also have the name and number for your veterinarian, an emergency 24 hour veterinarian and the ASPCA poison control number (on the list below).  The American Red Cross offers Pet First Aid training at many of their locations.  Google the information for a location close to you.

Being a good pet owner has a lot of responsibilities and a lot of rewards.  Do your best to ensure your home is a safe place for your pet from the start.  Be sure that electrical cords are tucked safely away from curious puppies and kittens.  There are products out there made for wrapping around electrical cords that contain citronella, a scent your pets will avoid.  String might be fun to play with, but if consumed by your pet can cause some serious internal damage.  And watch those table tops and counters!!  I have a “counter surfer” myself and I have to be very careful of what may be left behind after dinner. Basically, be cognizant of your surroundings at all times and think of your pet’s health.  They will thank you for it with lots of love and a lifetime of memories.

Finally, http://www.thedogfiles.com/2012/02/20/saving-your-pet-with-cpr-infographic/, links you to a tutorial on Pet CPR.  It could be a life-saver!

A typical first aid kit suitable for both dogs and cats should include:

  • An antiseptic ointment or solution
  • Hydrocortisone ointment or antihistamine spray for insect stings
  • Antihistamine tablets for systemic reaction to insect bites
  • Baby aspirin for injured muscles from a fall or stumble- FOR DOGS ONLY
  • Small stainless steel or plastic bowls for solutions to bathe wounds
  • Cotton balls, cotton buds and a roll of cotton padding
  • Sterile dressing pads
  • Liquid bandage for pets
  • Self-adhesive bandage
  • A small flashlight and fresh batteries to look inside a mouth
  • Latex gloves
  • Sharp tweezers
  • Small blunt scissors
  • Sterile eyewash (the human kind is suitable)
  • Eyedroppers
  • Syringe plunger to administer liquid medicine
  • Glucose powder to make a rehydrating fluid. Use one tablespoon of glucose and add a teaspoon of salt to a liter of water (1 and a quarter pints)
  • Keep an ice pack in the fridge marked accordingly for a pet emergency. (Keep a small towel in your kit to wrap it in for use.)
  • An Elizabethan or inflatable collar to prevent your pet from interfering with a dressing or bandage.
  • A gadget called a tick key to safely remove ticks without leaving any poisonous discharge behind
  • ASPCA Poison Unit (888) 426-4435

 

How I Got Here From There

Pet Relief

 

Once a long time ago, when I was a little girl, I imagined I would be a veterinarian.  Then my hormones started raging, I got a boyfriend and any thought of planning for the future seemed, well, LAME!!  Not that I was some kind of wild child, quite the contrary.  I made good grades, helped my Mom around the house and even learned how to cook.  Not bad for a 15 year old.  On my journey to becoming a professional pet sitter I traveled many roads.  I went to college to study psychology and social work. I worked hard and applied myself.   I was a member of 5 honor societies including Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude.  I really enjoyed college.  It was my time to blossom.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much I decided to continue my education and get my Masters in Social Work.  Sounds like a pretty altruistic path to venture down.  I did receive my Masters in Social Work and began working in the field as soon as I could land a job.  Surprise of surprises…..I wasn’t really cut out for this kind of work.  You see, I wanted to “fix” everyone and I wanted to do that as quickly as I could.  Not so good for those people who needed to find their own way.

So I went back to what I had done for many, many years, waiting tables.  It had always proved to be rewarding both financially and personally.  I could develop a relationship with a patron or patrons within a few minutes and it served me well.  My ability to care for people probably came from my training in the social sciences.  My managers soon saw this as a huge asset, one to be used to their benefit.  Thus, I began a new journey in the arena of the Hospitality industry.  I moved with ease into management positions in boutique restaurants, large chain restaurants and finally private clubs.  All the while being promoted because of my aptitude with people.  I could engage the surliest of club members or the most out-of-control bride and have them working my program in no time.  Funny thing was, I wasn’t truly fulfilled.  I didn’t get up every morning and think, “Wow, I get to plan a $50,000 anniversary party!!”  I mean, it wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t  ME.  How do we find our ME?  What do we have to go through to understand what ME needs?

Enter my Mom.  My Mom had supported me financially and spiritually when I was going through graduate school.  She knew that I was just going through the motions with my career choices. She knew it was simply a means to an end.   Then my Mom happened to enlist the help of a pet sitter when she and my Dad went on a long vacation.  She had traveled with her dog before, but this was different.  She couldn’t bear the thought of boarding her dog. Taking her to some fancy, schmancy doggie resort where she would be in a kennel all day long with only scheduled walks and timed interactions.  So, she found someone who had made a career out of caring for people’s pets in their own homes.  Where the dog was most comfortable, where the dog’s daily routine would not be turned upside down and where she could sleep in her own bed at night.  My Mom was so taken with this woman’s care that she saved every note, every bit of information she could, even the cutsie placemat that was left behind under the water and food bowls that said, “I was treated like royalty while you were gone.”  She made a file and saved it for my next visit home.  When she presented it to me she simply said, ” I know this is what you should be doing.”  Moms, how do they do that?  Reach right down into your heart and know what is best for you?  And you know what?  She was right.

Of course, the new career didn’t magically materialize overnight.  It took a leap of faith, a really big leap of faith. And a good bit of hard work.  Anything worth having is worth working for, we all know that.  My husband and I moved  to my family’s hometown to help my sister care for my aging parents.  That was a big step and a little scary.  I started a business based on the training I received from a generous woman who had her own pet sitting business.  She learned the business the same way, from a woman who was passing it along to her.  That was pretty scary too.   Knowing that I had started this business before my Mom passed away gave me the strength to follow through on what she knew was best for me.  It has been one roller coaster of a ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  I love what I do and my clients love what I do.  Funny thing is it’s my ability to connect with these people and learn what it is they want for their pets that makes me successful.  It’s my training in social work and psychology that helps me establish and maintain these relationships.  Some might say I have wasted my education by not working in that field.  They are wrong.  I use those skills daily.

My childhood dream of being a veterinarian isn’t too far off from where I am right now.  I care for many pets, mostly cats and dogs. I do have a hamster, a bunny, a couple dozen doves and some chickens thrown in the mix.  Diversity is a good thing!!  I am responsible for their well-being when they are with me.  I have a diabetic Scottie that has a heart problem.  One day when I walked him out of his house, he started breathing hard.  I knew that was not right.  I called his Mom and she directed me to call his vet.  The vet saw him the next morning and we found that his sugar level was above 500.  That’s life threatening.  He could have lapsed into a coma if the problem had not been realized and treated quickly.  I have a Weimaraner I care for and while walking him, I noticed a large lump on his rear leg.  I notified his Dad and he went to see the vet soon afterwards. I was recently caring for three American Eskimo dogs, one of which is elderly and has some health issues. One day he decided not to eat his breakfast.  Fine, I thought.  I’ll just pick it up and give it to him for dinner tonight.  But at dinner time, he turned his nose up again.  I can tolerate missing one meal, but in an elder dog, two meals can be significant.  Looking in the fridge, I saw some beef broth and knew this would up the ante on the kibble in the bowl.  Sure enough, he ate heartily.  I got a text from his Mom thanking me for being creative in getting Buddy to eat.  What some pet owners don’t know is that as our dog or cat ages, the sharpness of the senses diminishes.  This not only means they lose hearing and sight, but their sense of smell can become compromised.  Dogs, like people, eats with their senses, if it doesn’t smell good, why eat it?  Adding a little flavor enhancement may be all it takes to be sure your dog is getting a healthy, balanced meal.   I look for any unusual behavior in my clients that is out of the ordinary so I can notify the owners.  It’s not that they are negligent, but my sole purpose is to ensure the welfare of these wonderful creatures.  In my efforts to learn what is best for each breed of dog or cat, I have happened upon a lot of knowledge that I wanted to share with my clients as well as anyone who owns a pet.  If a client has a behavioral problem with a dog, I want to help. I do research to find a solution.  I check several different sources to see what other professionals would do.  I take this information and spread the word to other clients and dog owners by having this website.  My Mom was right, pet sitting is what I should be doing.  And in doing it right, I have found that I can be a catalyst to pet owners in being proactive with their best friends care.

I trust you will find my website a source for helpful hints on pet care and recent findings in pet health management.  My affiliates offer many of the products and resources that I find will make caring for your pet less confusing and probably save you some money.

 

Water, water everywhere!

Fun Fountain for your Pet

I am one of those people who always has a bottle or glass of water in my hand. It is a habit I picked up from the hundreds of diet plans that I have dallied with over the years. We are all aware of the health benefits of drinking lots of water and I know it has made a difference in my overall well-being.  It is just as important for your dog or cat to have access to clean water. Water is necessary for a number of reasons: digestion of food, regulation of body temperature, cleansing the system of toxins and delivering that all important nutrient, oxygen, to various organs in the body.  I have found an equally important benefit of water for your pet – the dilution of nitrogen in the urine.  You may be wondering, ” Why is this lady concerned about the nitrogen in my pet’s urine?”  That’s a very valid question and when you have finished reading this post you will understand and want to thank me for this tidbit of information.  Seriously, it’s THAT important.

In pets, the percentage of nitrogen in the urine can result in various things.  For the purposes of this post I am looking at the effect the nitrogen has on urine odor and on it’s ability to damage, or “burn” grass.  Many pet owners who allow their dogs free access to  their yard have the problem of “burn” spots on the lawn.  What is occuring is the nitrogen in the urine is chemically “burning” the grass.   If the nitrogen were diluted,this would not happen.  Sounds so simple doesn’t it?  Well, it is just that, simple.  Case in point, I care for a very large American Bulldog named Rocco.  Rocco can be a little lazy when it comes to his potty habits and prefers to walk outside the door- tinkle and run back inside.  Not big on wandering around the lovely acreage that his Mom and Dad have for him.  Rocco’s parents love to entertain and it’s was a bit unsightly to have these spots so close to the house.  Couldn’t I just walk Rocco further out for him to do his business?  Certainly I could, but that wouldn’t fix the problem.  I had noticed that for a large dog, Rocco really didn’t drink a lot of water.  Since I check his bowl daily, I knew he needed to drink more.  I was sure that if I could get the Big Guy to drink more, we could be rid of those unsightly “burn” marks.  As I further observed Rocco and his drinking pattern, it was apparent that he did not like his water station.  He had one of those bowls with the big jug on top that would automatically refill the reservoir.  As it turned out, when Rocco went to get a drink, his big ol’ head would bump up against the jug and that startled him.  Therefore, he surmised if he didn’t drink, he wouldn’t get bumped.  Smart dog!!  I convinced his Mom and Dad to take the jug off the bowl and voila – Rocco was drinking more water and we didn’t have the “burned” lawn.  All problems should be so easy to resolve.

 

Now let’s look at cats.  Many is the cat owner who abhors the smell of cat urine, yet must tolerate it because kitty needs to use the litter box.  We buy the best litter, try all sorts of different boxes that promise to keep the odor away, use deodorizer to cover the smell and so on.  While I do know that a male cat will have a stronger odor than a female for the purpose of marking his territory, all cat urine has a distinct and strong smell due to the chemicals present.  As I learned from my experience with Rocco, I figured it would behoove me to test this theory with my cats.  Why can’t I increase their water intake and decrease the aroma they put out?  With cats, I also know that keeping them hydrated is essential to their health.  I keep several sources of water available to my cats both inside and outside.  Even though I live next to a large lake, I want my cats to have clean drinking water and by natural instinct, the cat wants clean water too.  In fact, cats prefer running water to still water.  There are many theories as well as urban legends about this behavior, but no one knows for sure. This attraction to running water may reflect an adaptive behavior from a wild past. Perhaps because running water has fewer contaminates, many wild animals prefer to drink from streams rather than ponds.  Ever notice how your kitty comes running whenever you turn on the kitchen or bath faucet?  Mine do it all the time.  A bit annoying until I understood why and was able to give them what they wanted, their own running water.   I invested in one of the watering systems shown above.  My cats LOVE this thing.  They are fascinated to watch the water come out of the spout, they drink by the side of the bowl, they drink right from the pouring spout, they just drink and drink!!  I am sold on this fountain.  And my litter boxes are a lot easier to be around.

In summation, I just want to express the importance of accessible, clean water for our pets.  Don’t just have one bowl set out, put them in different places in the house so they can grab a quick drink whenever they want to.  If you have a dog and a cat, be sure you have a separate water source for your kitty that is his alone.  Even if they do get along well, a cat should be able to quietly sip his water without fear that Fido will pull a surprise attack.  Dogs will do that you know, just sayin’.

The Rites of Spring….Death to the Fleas

At times they seem to be taking over the world. These bloodsucking pests not only are irritating to man and beast alike, but can also cause severe skin problems in both dogs and cats. Worse yet, as fleas become increasingly resistant to the synthetic chemicals science has produced for their control, pesticide manufacturers are making their products increasingly stronger — and more dangerous — in an attempt to keep pace with the parasites.

As a result of this unhealthy race, household pets are suffering twice: They’re chewed on by fleas, and they’re used as a battleground for the chemical warfare being waged by their well-meaning owners. Fortunately, there are effective nontoxic ways to do battle with fleas and win. But before we can attempt to control these pests without harming our pets, we must understand the tiny monsters’ life cycle and purpose in the natural scheme of things.

THE ENEMY: A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

The adult dog flea is a wingless insect equipped with a set of powerful hind legs that enable it to jump nine inches straight up or five feet sideways. Like vampires, adult fleas feed only on blood. But the most important thing to know and remember about the flea is that the majority of its life is spent away from the host animal. Fleas invade our pets only when they need a transfusion.  The female flea prefers to lay her eggs in dark and damp areas of the house.  This could mean the basement, or a closet or behind an appliance. She will usually lay 20 in a setting and up to 400 in a lifetime.   They hatch within a week and move to a cocoon stage then will be fully developed in 8 months. If you project these numbers a pair of fleas can infest your home with fleas in varying stages of life for about two years.  It should be apparent that treating the dog or cat is just the beginning.  Treatment of your home is extremely important.

CONTROLLING THE MENACE

The first step in flea control is to examine your dog or cat to determine the extent of infestation. In severe cases, you’ll actually be able to see adult fleas swarming all over the animal’s skin and hair.  If no fleas are visible on your pet but the animal is scratching and obviously infected, inspect carefully around the base of the tail. If you find small black particles embedded in the hair, you’re looking at flea feces. (If you find such particles but believe they’re something other than flea scat, just place a few of them on a damp paper towel. If they turn red, they’re flea feces — that’s blood residue you’re seeing.)  OK, so your dog or cat has fleas. Don’t rush off to the store to buy the strongest product you can find in the pet section. Many of today’s synthetic insecticides are powerful poisons that had their origin in the development of chemical warfare agents.

Ironically, while pesticide labels contain warnings of their hazards to humans, the application instructions tell you to soak a flea-infected dog or cat thoroughly! These chemicals, especially in liquid form, can be absorbed through the animal’s skin and taken up by the blood. For that reason, even in the midst of a flea invasion, it’s important not to let the urgency of your need to get rid of the pests override concern for the safety of your pets and household.

FORMULATING A BATTLE PLAN

Treatment of your home must begin with a thorough cleaning. Frequent vacuuming of the house, especially pet areas, is necessary to keep fleas at bay. Pay special attention to dark, damp places where fleas may have deposited their eggs. After vacuuming, the cleaner bag shouldn’t be left in the closet, since the flea eggs it contains can hatch and reinfect your house. Empty the bag and burn the contents, or seal the sweepings in a plastic trash bag and dispose of it properly.

Next, wash your pet’s bedding in hot water with a quarter cup of bleach and finish off any six-legged survivors by tumbling the wet bedding in a hot dryer.  A good natural product should be sprinkled over the bedding, on furniture and in carpet and then worked in with a broom. Unfortunately, in cases of severe flea infestation it may be necessary to “bomb” your house with a commercial insecticide to annihilate the adult fleas before a natural-insecticide program can be implemented effectively. If you find yourself faced with this necessity, take the time to search out a bomb that contains either pyrethrins (natural) or resmethrin (one of the less dangerous synthetics) as the active ingredient. These are the safest of the “bombers,” but, nonetheless, follow the directions on the container exactly. After this initial treatment, an ongoing natural flea-control program should preclude the necessity for further chemical “fogging” in your home.  Sentry carries a line of natural flea control products that include a powder for soft surfaces as well as a spray for windows, doorways or other accesses that fleas may have to your home.  They also make a spot -on product and flea powder for dogs and cats.

Controlling fleas on your pets requires endless attention; it’s never a onetime or occasional thing. Also, it’s important to keep in mind, and learn from, the fact that parasites do have a function in nature’s scheme of things, to weed out and finish off unhealthy members of the various host species.

Grooming to Control Fleas

Frequent grooming is essential to keep fleas away from your pet. Shampooing with a mild organic lotion soap will kill many fleas by drowning. Afterward, a lemon rinse will tone the cleansed skin, leaving a residual citrus odor that will help repel fleas for a while.

To make such a rinse, slice one whole lemon and drop the slices (peel and all) into a pint of very hot water. Allow the lemonwater to steep overnight, then remove the pulp by filtering or straining. Sponge the lemon rinse onto your pet’s skin and allow it to air-dry (don’t towel). This treatment is nontoxic and can be repeated daily until the skin condition improves.

There are several herbal sprays, shampoos and flea collars whose odors repel fleas. Citronella, rosemary, pennyroyal and wormwood, which are the most common ingredients in these natural treatments, can be found at health food stores and lawn-and-garden shops (or ask your veterinarian). If you’d like to go the budget route, simply purchase dried herbs and make your own flea repellents. All of these herbs are nontoxic and can be used daily. Sentry uses natural botanical extracts including peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, lemon grass oil and thyme oil in their “Natural Defense” line of flea control products. (Caution: Any time you use a flea repellent, natural or otherwise, be sure to put the treated pet outside for a few hours so that the fleas won’t reinfest your home as they abandon ship!)

A CLOVE A DAY KEEPS THE FLEAS AWAY

Many dogs and cats seem to benefit in the fight against fleas from the addition of garlic and brewer’s yeast to their diets. When these substances are metabolized, an odor (and flavor) that fleas find very unattractive develops in the skin. One to three fresh garlic cloves, pulverized and mixed with food, may be administered daily. (But keep in mind that garlic will have the same effect on your pet’s breath as it does on yours.)

The important flea-control ingredient in brewer’s yeast is thiamine (vitamin B). A level of one milligram (1 mg) of thiamine daily for each five pounds of your pet’s body weight is ideal. For an average-size cat, this would translate to one teaspoon of brewer’s yeast; for a large dog, you might administer one tablespoon of brewer’s yeast supplemented with a B-complex vitamin pill. Brewer’s yeast can also be dusted on externally as a flea powder. (If your pet licks some off, there’s no harm done.)

A third important flea-fighting dietary supplement is zinc. This mineral is essential for healthy skin, but is lacking in many pets’ diets. Use chelated (pronounced key-lated) zinc: 10 mg daily for cats and small dogs; 20 mg for larger canines. These dietary supplements will require close to a month to build up to flea-fighting levels in a pet’s skin. So start them in the spring before you find yourself in the midst of a severe flea invasion. Of course, nothing is likely to completely eliminate fleas forever. However, you can rest assured that your efforts to eliminate and control fleas naturally will be much appreciated by your pet. When it comes to the use of dangerous pesticides to control fleas, it’s good to know we can live without them.

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Feline Gingivitis or “Poor Sammy”

How ironic can this be that just weeks after posting about pet dental care, one of my kitties is diagnosed with gingivitis?   Sad but true.  Little Sammy came home one day from cavorting around in the woods.  His fur under his neck was all matted and sticky and after grooming him, he was drooling.  The drooling wasn’t so bad, however  the foul odor from his mouth could have knocked over a pro linebacker!!  I was really scared for my fuzzy little friend and decided he needed to see a vet.  I was absolutely sure there was some sort of decaying carcass in there. I was sure he had some mysterious and expensive infection.   My alarm was a bit of an over reaction, much to my husband’s chagrin.  He actually thought this post should be about waiting a few days before seeing the vet when a problem is found.  Men are so silly, that wouldn’t have helped little Sammy at all.  He needed a diagnosis and treatment.  So after spending a good bit of our hard-earned cash, we were armed and ready to battle the gingivitis.

First the obligatory antibiotic treatment.  I love how the vet says “Just tilt your cat’s head back and the jaw will drop right down.  Pop in the pill and your done!”  Not so fast, sister – and not so simple either.  Did you know there are articles written on how to pill a cat?  It’s that tricky.  So little Sammy and I sat down on the comfy bed.  I held his fuzzy little body close to mine in order to keep a close eye on his claws.  With my left hand behind his head, I used my thumb and index finger to apply pressure to the jaw as I tilted his head back.  Sure enough, the jaw dropped down…Cool!!  Now if I could just get him to sit still.  I popped the pill in the back of his throat, closed up the jaw and stroked his neck to encourage him to swallow.  Okay.  That step was done.  Now on to the preventive steps that we will continue for a long time – brushing his teeth.The video from my previous post made it look easy.  And  it is with dogs because they are easier to secure and less likely to slash you with razor sharp claws. Cats are a bit different. The video below will show you how to wrap your cat in a towel, thus disarming him of his lethal weapons – the claws. Before I safely tuck little Sammy in a towel, I wrap my dominant finger with gauze and put a small amount of kitty toothpaste on the gauze. Once secured, Sammy is ready for his dental hygiene routine. I gently lift the front lip and begin rubbing the teeth in a circular pattern. I then move to the back teeth. It is not necessary to clean the inside of the teeth – thank goodness!!  Cats really don’t like to have their mouths opened by anyone but themselves.   When I’m done, I give lots of praise and treats. I like to use the FELINE GREENIES GREEN 6 OZ. treats that are designed for dental health. It has taken several attempts to make this a smooth process and Sammy’s gingivitis is improving.  I trust you will find this post helpful.

A Purposeful Walk

Louie Enjoys a Flower on His Walk

As I sit outside on my deck, I am watching Spring appear. I think of the dogs I will see this week and the great walks we will take together. What is the purpose of these walks? How will I make each walk special for the dog? This is a new way of thinking for me. When I first started my pet sitting business, I naturally thought I would simply be walking dogs. That was it. Put on a leash and away we would go. What could be more basic? What could be further from the truth, was more like it! As dog owners, we know that we are given an opportunity to bond with our dogs when we take them for walks. In the dog world, it is commonplace for dogs in a pack to begin their day with a walk. It is in their nature to arise and set out to seek food or simply cover ground and establish their territory. When you walk your dog you tap into it’s natural instinct to walk with the pack leader wherever he goes. How incredible is that? So when I was leashing my dogs and starting out for a walk, my main goal was to cover ground. A nice long 20 or 30 minute walk was my intention. Little did I know, the dog would also have intentions of his own apart from mine. At first I would become a bit frustrated that the dog wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted him to. Why were they trying to stray from the path? Didn’t they know I had their best interests in mind?

It wasn’t until I began to research and understand different breeds that I came to appreciate the different purposes for walks within the canine family. Knowing that a hunting dog investigates his territory with his nose, helped me to understand that maybe he would spend more time in one place that I had expected. He may only venture a few blocks from home in order to get all the sensory stimulation he needs. Walking with a labrador mix breed, I found she wanted to cover as much ground as possible on her walks. She would walk briskly and with purpose; no nonsense, no wandering around from spot to spot. She had a purpose and when she was finished with her walk, she was a very happy puppy. I have a mix breed Australian Heeler who prefers to spend her first 20 minutes chasing a frisbee. Chasing the frisbee is her purpose, to fetch for me is what makes her happy. She will fetch and retrieve over and over again. When she is tired, we take care of other business and I’m done. I have an American Bulldog who is about the size of a small pony. I thought he would only want to saunter around the backyard and then nap in the sun. Wrong! He likes to play chase and hide and seek. He has a tremendous amount of energy and can go from a standstill to full gallop in seconds. Who am I to say what will make this dog happiest? I have learned to understand the breed first, then go about giving him what he needs when he gets a walk. Maybe I shouldn’t even call it “dog walking” but “dog exercising”. Because it’s about learning the characteristics of the breed and translating that in to a meaningful interaction. I want the dog to be challenged physically as well as mentally when I visit them. That way, when their owners come home, the dog is settled and happy and ready to greet them calmly.

 

What’s in YOUR Food Bowl?

  

This is yummy!

Clients often ask me what is the best food to give their dogs. I admit that I do a lot of research when I am choosing a kibble for my pets. I read the ingredients on the bags, I ask my vet and I check with other pet owners to see what works best for them. This can be a daunting task. Keep in mind that a dog’s nutritional needs change from puppyhood to adult to senior and the pet food industry has made accommodations for all these life stages. Just go to your local pet supply store and check out the aisles – it’s pretty amazing!

One of my clients recently asked me “What is animal digest?”; it was listed as an ingredient in his dog’s kibble. I did a little research and found it to be the by-product of meat processing. The actual description was something I would not put in writing because it was unnerving to say the least. After relaying this information, he sent me Purina’s definition:

“From the Nestle Purina PetCare Company: Animal digest is a flavor enhancer comprised of enzymatically treated livers (pork and chicken) and other internal organs(hearts and viscera). It may be used either as a liquid (lad) or dried (dad) to a powdered form. Once in this form ( liquid or dried ), it can easily be used as a part of the coating that is added to the outside of the kibbles of a pet food to increase palatability. “

Either way you look at it, you are feeding your dog waste products that even the manufacturer doesn’t see fit to put into the actual kibble. I find it hard to believe it is necessary to add this waste to my dog’s food bowl in an effort to make him eat. This is why it is so important to read labels and to understand what you are feeding your precious pet. On a recent visit to my local pet supply store, I was questioning the salesman about the numerous choices in dog kibble. I was surprised to find out that he and all the other salespeople were nutritionists. They were trained to understand and inform their clientele of the benefits of each of the dog food brands they carry. I found this to be invaluable when I was searching the store for just the right match for my dog. What an awesome service to provide your customers!

I know I will frequent PetCo whenever I have questions about the food I give my dogs.  Nothing is more important to me than giving them  the best and their trained nutritionists can guide me.  I also found out that PetCo has a bonus for those of us that rescue dogs,cats and other companion animals.  When you take your paperwork from the rescue organization; be it the local humane society, Pet Finder or one of the breed specific rescue groups, PetCo will give you a book of coupons to help minimize the cost of caring for an adopted dog.  I can get behind that kind of service.

Dirty Mouth?

Too bad we can’t teach our pets to brush their own teeth.  But with a few simple methods practiced over time, it can be as easy as brushing our own teeth.  The first step is to desensitize your dog or cat to having it’s teeth checked.  You can start this when they are young or even an older pet can learn this trick.  Keeping in mind that the tooth brushing only involves the front of the teeth, teach your pet that it’s okay for you to lift the lip and look at the teeth.  The next step would be to gently rub the teeth with your finger.  Again, do not open your pet’s mouth – they really don’t like that.  The final step is to use a toothpaste that is specifically designed for your dog or cat.  You would begin with a section of gauze wrapped around your dominant finger. Add a small dab of tasty toothpaste.  Lift the lip and begin rubbing the teeth in a circular motion, be sure to move to the back teeth.  After time,  you may want to use a pet  toothbrush or a small finger brush.  As with any grooming procedure, follow-up with lots of love and a yummy treat- preferably a dental chew.  A word of caution, if your pet’s gums bleed after this procedure you should consult your vet.

 

The Loss of a Pet

This will be a difficult post, but one that begs to be told.  I am fortunate to be in contact with many pets during my day because I am a pet sitter.  It is very rewarding work.  However, recently there seems to be an unusual number of my clients losing their best friends.  It started in June of last year when my own 15 year old lab mix died.  I count myself as fortunate because Sunshine died in her sleep, in her bed, in my living room.  She had been showing signs of coming to the end of her life.  Her appetite was waning, her energy was slowing down and she had difficulty maintaining control of her bladder.  After many days of this behavior, I just knew it was her time.  The night before she crossed the rainbow bridge, I laid on the floor with her.  I told her how much I loved her, how important she was and how she would be missed.  I also told her it was okay to go.  I cry thinking about it.

Not long after that, one of my clients called to tell me her chow mix, Cassie, had died.  This was a sudden death, preceded only by an increased lameness in an already bum knee.  My heart went out to her owners.  They, too, felt fortunate that Cassie did not suffer and that she was at home when she passed away.  Then it was my sister’s scottish terrier, Andrew.  He had somehow hurt his shoulder and what started as lameness turned into irreparable nerve damage that was too painful for the dog.  He had to be put down, euthanized.  Andrew had been one of my regular walks and he was such a joy.  I miss him still. My sister can’t bear to bury his ashes.   Too soon I received a text from Deliliah’s mom that she had to be euthanized.  Deliliah was a 13 year old doberman who had suffered with arthritis and was gradually becoming incontinent.  When I would walk Deliliah, it was like speed walking.  That dog could flat out move.  I delighted in our visits.  Now it has been only days since the last loss.  Her name was Brandy.  She was a whippet mix, maybe 8 years old.  I cared for her most recently just a week ago when her mom and dad went out of town.  My last visit was a Saturday morning and I was contacted the next day and told she had been put down.  I was stunned!  Brandy had been fine during the week I cared for her.  Full of energy, playing with the neighbor’s dogs and a hearty appetite to boot.  I left a note for her owners that she had lost her breakfast that morning and I thought she had simply eaten too fast.  Turns out there was a mass and, in the end, she suffered cardiac arrest.  I think Brandy was waiting until her mom and dad came home before she surrendered to her illness.

How do we handle this major loss?  What sense can we make of a dog that suddenly becomes ill, then is quickly out of our lives?  An older dog that is beginning to lose bodily functions deserves to leave us with dignity.  That is the responsibility of pet ownership.  Andrew and Deliliah had lived full lives and were loved beyond measure.  Euthanasia is not a decision to take lightly, but it is a decision we can make for our pets so they will not suffer.  Pets, such as Sunshine and Cassie, were taken by the natural cycles of life.  Those cycles will continue for all pet owners.

I said this would be a difficult post and it has been for me.  I mourn my Sunshine, I mourn the dogs I no longer will be able to share time with and I mourn the dogs I have lost in the past.  Hug your dog today.  Sit with him and just relax in their calmness.  Tell them you love them.

Best Practice for Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears

Regular ear cleaning can protect against infection.

Ear cleaning can be a very sensitive subject for both you and your pet.  I have often heard horror stories of pet owners chasing their beloved pets through the house with cleaning supplies in hand, or that same hand being destroyed by little kittie’s sharp claws all in the name of clean, pink ears.  The best practice is to start before there has to be a confrontation.  This requires an early and consistent pattern of handling your pet’s ears from the moment they come home.  This is behavior conditioning at it’s best.  I like to initiate this while my pet is sitting with me, maybe after a good long playtime.  As I am petting my bundle of joy,             I say ” Chelsea, ears?”  And then  I begin to handle her ears, flipping them up, looking inside, and carefully rubbing around the inside of the ear flap.  If I do this daily and frequently, Chelsea soon learns that when I say “Chelsea, ears?” she will get a nice ear rub.  When she is comfortable with this practice, I can then introduce a cotton ball and rub the inside of the ear.  My last step is to use a cleansing product like R-7 , this helps to remove earwax and deodorize the ears.  I have to stress that I use a cotton ball NEVER a cotton swab.  You just don’t know when your dog or cat may jerk it’s head and cause damage to the ear canal or ear drum.  You always want to practice safe ear cleaning.  The extra benefit is your smiling vet who will totally appreciate you having conditioned your dog to allow it’s ears to be handled.  I actually got a “thank you” from my vet when I told her about my practice.