Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Polite Puppies!

The first Polite Puppy class was this past Sunday at Happy Paws and I feel that it was a big success. There was an environment of controlled chaos as puppies leaped and twirled at the end of their leashes trying to play with each other. Once everyone settled down we started by discussing behavior modification (my favorite topic) and that for everything a dog wants in life they must sit and wait for you to offer it to them. We went over how to teach sit, stay and look at me, these are the essential commands that every dog should know. I also encouraged owners to practice restraining their puppies at home which will make the puppy's trip to the hospital much more enjoyable.

After covering behavior we moved on to my recommendations for how to keep your dog happy and healthy. I demonstrated the appropriate use of Gentle Leader Head Collars and the Gentle Leader Easy Walk Harness for those puppies that drag their owners around. One of my goals with this class is to banish Prong collars which cause me to wince every time I see one on a dog. In my opinion these horrible contraptions are cruel, painful and ineffective. Without appropriate training most dogs eventually get used to the sensation of metal spikes poking into their necks and continue to drag their owners down the street.

I touched on nutrition and the importance of feeding one's dog a high quality food appropriate for their dog's lifestyle. What owners need to be aware of is that many of the boutique brands of dog food are formulated to be "all life stage diets" which essentially means it is puppy food. Many people feed these high calorie diets to their couch potato dogs and are confused when they start to gain weight. We also discussed the pros and cons of raw diets and the health risks associated with themFinally I went over toys I like such as the Kong and how chewing on a tennis ball will ruin your dogs teeth. The puppies were definitely exhausted when they left and I hope the owners took away some helpful tips on keeping their new family members happy and healthy. The next Polite Puppy Class will be Sunday, May 23rd.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Running with your dog

The weather has been amazing lately and I have seen more and more people out jogging with their dogs. I understand that this seems to be a wonderful way to exercise and spend time with your dog. But before you decide to start jogging with your furry pal, please consider the following information.

The joints of large to medium-sized dogs do not finish developing until the animal is nearly two years old. Frequent pounding and excessive wear on immature joints can cause malformations leading to abnormal movement. Abnormal movement in a joint is what causes arthritis--which is something we like to avoid in our pets!

Even if your dog is fully-grown, running on pavement will still apply unhealthy force on the joints. Just as most of us would not go out for a jog barefoot, why should we expect our dogs to run without their own Nikes on? Joints only have so many miles in them before the cartilage starts wearing down and degenerative joint disease takes over, creating arthritis. When you make a habit of running long distances with your dog, this wear and tear occurs much earlier in life than it would normally, resulting in chronic pain for your pup.

Heat stroke is another concern. It is extremely easy for a dog to overheat, which can quickly become fatal, even with aggressive treatment. Dogs have only two ways to cool down: by panting and through their paw pads. Hot, humid weather makes panting more difficult for your dog, thus limiting heat loss. Warm pavement keeps your dog’s paws hot, so they are less able to perform their cooling function.

Still, the combination of splendid weather and an energetic canine can make it awfully tempting to hit the road running. If you absolutely can’t resist taking your dog for a jog, here are some tips for minimizing damage and keeping things as safe as possible for your pet:

• Wait until your dog’s joints are fully developed. This means two years or older in a larger breed dog.

• When you do start jogging together, keep the distances short and try to stay on grass or dirt paths to decrease the amount of force applied to the joints.

• Consider starting your dog on supplements to help protect her joints. I strongly recommend Dasuquin, a veterinary glucosamine and chondroitin supplement with avocado extract that has been clinically proven to maintain cartilage heath. Also the miraculous omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil capsules will help repair damaged tissue and decrease inflammation.

Finally, what is most important to your dog is that she spends time with you and gets mental stimulation as well as physical activity. This doesn’t have to be accomplished through running long distances to tire her out. Your dog would equally enjoy a walk around the neighborhood or hiking in the woods. You could also try teaching her obedience tricks or agility to further your bond.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Allergies affect your pets too!

Fox 5 was kind enough to have me on this morning to discuss allergies in pets which can be a frustrating problem for both pets and their owners. Dogs and cats are affected by the same allergens that plague humans. The difference is in how allergies are manifested in our pets. While we can see red, water eyes, sneezing and coughing more commonly skin issues are the problem.

Allergies in pets usually present as itchy skin, ears and feet that can quickly lead to infection. When the skin’s natural environment is disrupted by constant scratching this allows bacteria and/or yeast to proliferate causing a superficial infection. This infection itself can then cause itching making the problem even worse. If you see red, irritated skin, small bumps, crusts on the skin or hair loss this may indicate infection is present and a visit to the hospital is necessary.

If your pet is itching without an infection present, you can try giving an antihistamine such as Benedryl, Claritin or Chlor-trimeton. You should check with your veterinarian about how much to give as doing is much different in dogs and cats than humans. Also be sure not to but a product containing pseudoephedrine or any other additive as this can be very toxic to pets.

Omega-3 fatty acids can be extremely beneficial in treating skin issues. As I have said before I feel all pets should be on this supplement. Not only will the omega-3’s condition the skin but they also provide strong anti-inflammatory effects to help calm irritate, itchy skin. Read more about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids by clicking here.

Another allergy that is not such a big deal in humans but can be torture for pets is an allergy to fleas. Some dogs and cats are so sensitive that just one flea-bite can drive them crazy and the itching that follows can result in a serious skin infection. Thanks to the effectiveness of medications like Frontine and Advantage this is relative easy to prevent.

If your dog or cat is itchy you can try giving an omega-3 fatty acid or using a soothing shampoo, if the itching continues make an appointment to speak with your veterinarian about a treatment plan.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Fashion for Paws

Fashion for Paws was this past weekend and I am excited to report Sparkle was a star on the runway, dressed in a very chic red patent leather raincoat. Sparkle was all set to perform the runway twirl that we had been practicing but I chickened out at the last moment and skipped her impressive trick. The Italian Embassy was packed with animal lovers anxious to see everyone all dressed up and parading down the "dogwalk". In it's fourth year now the event superseded previous years by raising over $335,000 which will benefit the animals and programs of the Washington Humane Society.

I want to thank everyone who supported me as I was very proud to contribute $8,600 through my fundraising campaign. The raffle at Friendship raised $870 and would not have been possible without Hill's Science Diet, Happy Paws, Nutramax, Butler-Schein, PetMac and Friendship donating wonderful prizes. Especially heartwarming is how Izzie the dog's mom who won a six month supply of Science Diet food offered to give her prize to the shelter animals of WHS.
The event has become such a success that next year Fashion for Paws is planning on taking over a new, larger venue so even more WHS supporters can be a part of the excitement. Sparkle is already working on her runway walk and planning her outfit!