Archive for May, 2012

Is your garden safe for your pet?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

dog in a gardenIt’s that time of year again, when warmer temperatures and longer days beg us to spend more time in the fresh air and sunlight. If you happen to be a gardener, it’s probably also the time that you’re thinking about digging in the dirt and deciding what flowers and veggies you may want to plant. Although gardening can be a very relaxing and rewarding hobby, it can also be dangerous for our dogs and cats. Luckily, creating a pet-safe garden is not very difficult. As responsible pet owners, we just need to take a few precautions to ensure that our yards and gardens are safe for our animal friends.

Avoid Poisonous Plants

The most obvious way to create a pet-safe garden is to choose the right plants. Not all pet owners realize that a great many garden plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Popular varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, oleander, foxglove, lily of the valley, sago palm, tulip and daffodil all fall into this category. Pets that eat these poisonous plants can experience everything from an upset stomach and diarrhea, to seizures and liver failure. Be sure to  check the ASPCA’s comprehensive list of toxic plants before deciding which plants will make it into your garden.

While not toxic, it’s also a good idea to avoid trees, shrubs and plants that are likely to cause allergies. Many of the same plants that cause allergies in humans will affect your pet as well. Look for pollen-free plant species whenever possible. If you do select a plant with a high allergy potential, avoid planting it under windows that you’ll have open during the summer.  If you already have one of these trees or hedges in your yard, keep it heavily sheared so it will flower less.

Rethink Toxic Chemicals

Try to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers in your yard and garden. These pose a danger to dogs and cats because anything picked up on their paws could be licked off later. There are plenty of organic, earth-friendly products available as an alternative that are safe for both pets and humans. Ask your local gardening center for recommendations and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Insecticides are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t safe for our furry friends. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton and most forms of rat poisons. Again, a conversation at your gardening center may be able to provide you with some effective but natural alternatives.

Choose Your Mulch Carefully

Many gardeners use cocoa bean mulch—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. Its attractive odor and color make it a popular choice, but cocoa mulch can pose serious problems for your dog. Play it safe and use shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark instead. Also try to avoid mulch that has been treated with weed inhibitor or insect repellent.

Compost Piles and Worm Bins

These eco-friendly practices can be great for your garden, but be sure they’re not accessible to your pets. Dogs that view garbage and rotting food as a special treat may consider this a buffet, but it’s one that could make them sick.

Garden Tools

Just like toddler-proofing, be sure to keep all pruning shears, trimmers, tillers, rakes and other gardening tools picked up and stored safely out of reach of your pets.

Gardening is a great hobby, and with a little extra planning and effort, it’s not difficult to ensure that your hobby will be safe for your pet.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Nervous DogThis week, May 20-26, is National Dog Bite Prevention week, an event hosted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to help educate the public about the nearly 5 million dog bites that occur every year and how they can be prevented.

Did you know that according to the AVMA:

  • 4.7 million people in this country are bitten by dogs every year
  • children are by far the most common victims
  • 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites each year
  • children are far more likely to be severely injured; approximately 400,000 receive medical attention every year
  • most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs
  • senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims

The thing about dog bites is that many, if not most, are preventable. The AVMA has created a great public health bulletin with great tips and resources for people.

Because children are most at risk for bites you should never (ever, ever, ever!) leave a small child alone with a dog. Even if your dog is the world’s biggest softy, it’s never a good idea to leave him unattended with a child. Most dog bites happen while dogs and children are left alone together, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

It is always important to remember that any dog can bite; even the most friendly and well-trained – especially if they are injured or fearful. Proper training and socialization of puppies and dogs is crucial to avoiding dog bites.

Dog Body LanguageAccording to veterinary behaviorist Sophia Yin DVM MS, “The consensus among animal behavior professionals is that the major cause of dog bites to humans is related to failure of owners and dog bite victims to recognize when dogs are fearful and know how to approach and greet dogs appropriately.”

This is why it’s so important to learn to recognize a dog’s body language. Dogs who are growling or baring their teeth are obvious dangers, but dogs who are nervous or frightened are just as likely to bite, if not more. The chart to the right offers a quick view of what to look for, but here’s a great article from the ASPCA for a more in depth description of how to interpret a dog’s body language to better be able to identify dogs who may pose a biting risk.

When approaching a dog, children (and adults) should use the acronym “WAIT” to remind themselves of proper doggie etiquette:

  • W – Wait to see if the dog looks friendly. If the dog looks afraid or angry, STOP and walk away slowly.
  • A – Ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. If the owner says no or there is no owner present, STOP and walk away slowly.
  • I – Invite the dog to come to you to sniff you. Put your hand to your side with your fingers curled in. Stand slightly sideways and dip your head down so you are not looking directly at the dog. If the dog does not come over to sniff you, STOP and do not touch him.
  • T – Touch the dog gently, petting him along his back while staying away from his head and tail.

Being respectful of a dog’s personal space is the bottom line. The more you invade that space, the more uncomfortable the dog will become and the more likely he is to bite. If we all follow these tips maybe we can stay a little safer around our best friends.

Keep Your Furry Friend’s Tail Wagging with Homemade Treats!

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Dog staring at treatsIt’s no secret – dogs and cats love treats! Many of the popular treats that you buy at the store are very high in fat and calories and low in nutrition though. So what’s a great way to treat your fur-baby while still being sure that the treats their eating are as nutritious as they are delicious? Make them yourself!

Making your own pet treats is fun and easy, and you can feel good about giving them to your pet. (Although you should still feed them sparingly — treats are a sometimes food, not an always food). Here are some simple recipes for pet treats that will keep your furry friend’s tail wagging.

Peanut Butter Molasses Dog Treats

  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup reduced fat milk
  • 1 cup peanut butter (unsalted & sugar-free)
  • 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses

Instructions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Whisk the flour, oats, and baking powder together in a medium bowl
  3. Gradually stir in the milk, peanut butter, and molasses
  4. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until a soft dough forms
  5. Roll out to 1/2″ thickness and cut with a cookie cutter
  6. Bake for 20 minutes
  7. Cool completely before feeding to your pooch.

These biscuits bake up nice and hard and will last for 2 weeks in a dog treat jar and up to 4-5 weeks in the refrigerator.

Cat licking lipsSo that’s all well and good for Fido, but what about our feline friends? You can make yummy treats for them, too!

Yummy Tuna Treats

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup nonfat powdered milk
  • 1/2 can tuna fish
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil or cod liver oil
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease cookie sheet
  2. In a large bowl mash the tuna into smaller pieces
  3. Add flour and milk to the tuna and mix well
  4. Add water and oil and mix some more
  5. Beat the egg in a separate dish until the egg is foamy and then add to the mix
  6. Mix everything well — the dough will be really sticky
  7. Using your fingers shape the dough into small balls, about the size of a marble and put them on the cookie sheet
  8. Bake for 20 minutes
  9. Let treats cool completely before feeding to your cat
  10. Store treats in an air tight container in the refrigerator

Bon Appetit!

If you have any questions about your pet’s nutrition, feel free to contact us. We’ll be happy to discuss it with you.

It’s National Pet Week: Let’s Celebrate!

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

petsThis week is National Pet Week in the US: a whole week to celebrate our furry, feathered, and scaly friends! The goals of National Pet Week are to promote responsible pet ownership, celebrate the human-animal bond, and promote public awareness of veterinary medicine.

Responsible pet ownership is a term that we hear often, but it may not always be clear what it entails. The AVMA has outlined 6 things that you can do to be a responsible pet owner:

  1. Commit
    • Avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet.
    • Select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle. If selecting a dog, make sure the breed is suited to your lifestyle.
    • Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
    • Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s).
    • Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.
    • Properly socialize and train your pet.
  2. Invest
    • Recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.
    • Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries.
    • Budget for potential emergencies.
  3. Obey
    • Clean up after your pet.
    • Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control.
    • Don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral.
  4. Identify
    • Make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags, microchips, or tattoos) and keep its registration up-to-date.
  5. Limit
    • Don’t contribute to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem: limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding.
  6. Prepare
    • Prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.
    • Make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet.
    • Recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian.