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Family Matters: Holiday Hazards for Pets


Holiday PetsOne of the best gifts you can give your pet this howliday season is time, attention and love, but because you love them, you also want to keep them safe!

There are a lot of hazards during the howlidays, and you don’t want your beloved friend injured. Here are some tips from pet expert Steve Dale about keeping your pet safe, healthy and happy this time of year.

  1. LIMIT TABLE SCRAPS. When you have a dozen dinner guests and everyone from Aunt Ethel and Uncle Fred are all offering table scraps, it may be too much for a small dog or cat to handle. Even big pets are too often treated for everything from minor upset tummy to pancreatitis on Christmas Day.
  2. WATCH WHAT YOU LEAVE OUT FOR SANTA. When leaving Christmas chocolate cookies out for Santa, remember chocolate can make pets sick (and Santa doesn’t need the calories). Avocado is hazardous to birds (no guacamole for Polly). Pets can choke on chicken or turkey bones, which may also cause a gastrointestinal obstruction.
  3. CANDLES IN THE WIND. Candles may look nice, but they can easily be knocked over by playful kittens or curious cats. Aromatic candles may smell good to us and seem benign, but they may be very dangerous to pet birds (who have very sensitive respiratory systems).
  4. AVOID PRICKLY CHRISTMAS TREES. When choosing a tree, consider one with pet friendly needles such as white pine or Douglas fir. They’re not as likely to stick to pet’s paws.
  5. TIDY TREE NEEDLES. Puppies and kittens can munch on errant needles, and that may cause choking or upset stomach. Pet parrots (given the chance) may naturally perch on a branch of your Christmas tree, no harm done – great photo opp. However, if Polly begins chewing on real needles or those from an artificial tree, it may be life-threatening.
  6. NO CHEMICALS UNDER THE TREE. Don’t add chemical preservatives to prolong the life of your tree if pets have access to that solution. While the solutions to prolong tree life don’t seem to cause severe reactions, pets can get an upset tummy.
  7. HOUSE GUESTS. Some pets are social butterflies; others not so much. For some pets, the commotion caused by little children is simply not the peace and quiet they’re accustomed to. Those pets might be happier secluded in a room, door shut with Christmas carols playing in the background. Also, with that front door frequently opening and closing, some dogs get out and so do indoor cats. Be sure all pets are microchipped for identification (and registered with the microchip provider) and that they have a collar and an I.D. tag.
  8. HOLIDAY PLANTS MAY NOT BE SO FESTIVE. In truth, poinsettias are generally not the poisonous killer they’re made out to be, although too much may potentially cause upset stomach. Fresh holly and mistletoe are toxic, particularly the berries. Also, cats may be attracted to amaryllis lilies and red azaleas – all potentially dangerous.
  9. TINSEL AND RIBBON IN THE TUMMY. Cats and puppies love to play with tinsel and ribbons. If they ingest enough of this glittery stuff, it can create serious gastrointestinal obstruction and may be life-threatening.
  10. WHAT ARE TREES FOR? Ask any cat – Christmas trees are all about trying to climb them. Secure the tree so that if a cat takes a flying leap, the tree won’t topple over.
  11. ORNAMENTS AREN’T MADE FOR CATS. If you have cats, glass ornaments should be kept off the tree. Find a cat-proof place, such as behind a glass cabinet where they can be shown off. Cats tend to believe that shiny glass ornaments are, of course, meant to be batted at. Broken ornaments are a hazard to people and pets, and some may have lots of sentimental value. Also, tinsel hanging from a tree is an equivalent to an invitation for any cat to jump and grab.

PETS DESERVE PRESENTS, TOO. As the family gathers for opening presents, include all members of the family, even those with paws. This doesn’t mean you need to spend big bucks; simply take a dog’s toy away a few days before Christmas and open on the big day. Your dog won’t mind the “regifting” as long as you make a fuss. Cat toys can be as simple as a plastic bottle top, wine cork or used tissue box with catnip inside of it. Of course, the best thing you can do for your cat is to wrap the present in catnip-scented wrapping paper. The wrapping will be far more exciting than the gift.



Family Matters: Spoiling Your Pets


Dog treatsI am not one of those people who spoils their pets.

Of course, by not “spoiling” him, I mean I don’t let my 90-pound dog up on the furniture. (Well, except for the overstuffed arm chair that’s his and the couch after we’ve all gone to sleep at night.) He doesn’t have a sweater to keep him warmer during cold months (yet), and I don’t feed him scraps from the table (except when he steals eggplant parmesan).

However, he’s quite spoiled with love and attention, and he’ll be spoiled during the upcoming holidays, as your pet should be as well!

Spoil your pet by spending some extra time with him. The weather is cooler, so it’s a perfect time for long walks with your dog and playtime in the park or a big yard where he can run. You might want to slip a tennis ball in his stocking and teach him how to play fetch for some extra exercise incentive.

As for your kitty, some catnip toys to throw around the house would be a great gift.

For cats or dogs, you can spoil them during the holidays with these tasty treats! Just remember, treats aren’t a substitute for nutritious food, though!

Chicken Liver Treats

Ingredients:
1 lb cooked chicken livers, finely chopped
1 cup cornmeal
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 large eggs
1/4 cup chicken broth

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
Combine all the ingredients, making sure the chicken livers are well-coated. The dough should be stiff, but if it’s too dry, add a little more chicken broth.

Form the dough into pea- to marble-sized balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.

With the tip of a spoon, press a tiny indentation into the top of each ball.

With a spoon, carefully drip a few drops of chicken broth into each indentation.

Bake the treats for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms of the treats are golden-brown.

Remove from the oven, let cool thoroughly and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 141, Calories from Fat: 34, Fat: 4 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (1 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 244 mg, Sodium: 60 mg, Potassium: 152 mg, Carbohydrates: 14 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 12 g.



Family Matters: Pets


Family Matters | CatMy boys wanted a cat. Begged for a cat.

They told me they’d clean toilets for a year for a cat.

Well, I can’t have a cat; I’m allergic. I’m sticking with my big doggie.

However, one day while riding home with their bonus mom, they saw a small kitten trying to cross the busiest thoroughfare in town, dodging traffic and surely expending one of its nine lives. They pulled into the mall parking lot and rescued the kitten who was riddled with worms, had an eye infection and was clearly malnourished.

They dropped it off at the vet, hoping the vet could get it healthy.

The boys, plus their bonus brother, must have really worked on the parental units that night, begging to pick the small, white, fluffy kitten up from the vet the next day and bring it home with them because that’s exactly what happened.

The kitten, a Manx, has big blue eyes and a little nub of a tail distinctive to that breed.

Remember the promise about cleaning the toilets for a year? Well, apparently their dad didn’t extract that promise, but the boys DO have to clean the kitty’s litter box.

It’s not their favorite chore in the world, but cat litter is engineered to lock in moisture and odors. It’s easy to clean and clumps to be easily scoopable. Plus, the kitten is worth it.



Family Matters: Pets National Adoption Month


National Adoption MonthOctober is National Adopt a Dog Month, and my family recently hit the jackpot with a dog we adopted from the local SPCA.

Astro is a 2-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Redblood, Coonhound mix. He’s 85 pounds, stands as tall as my kitchen counter and has the most soulful eyes I’ve ever seen on a dog. He’s sweet, loving, docile and friendly. However, he howls when he’s out in the yard, and my boys and I are inside without him. He’s quite social that way.

We have had dogs in the past, and this summer we were ready to adopt a new one.

We started by watching the SPCA website. There are always great rescue groups, no-kill shelters and pet havens in most communities.

We watched the pictures, looking at all the cute puppies and marveling at all the varieties of dogs and cats that came through the shelter.

We knew we didn’t want a puppy; I’m just not home enough during the day to train a little one.

When we saw Astro’s picture (his name at the SPCA was “Red”), we knew he was the ONE.

I filled out an application through the SPCA, and a lovely woman came to our house to do a home visit. She looked for things like making sure I had a fenced-in backyard with enough room for an 85-pound dog, and she gave me all kinds of great information about taking care of Astro, getting his flea prevention and heartworm medications, and explaining to me that an adopted dog from the SPCA would be neutered and microchipped. The adoption fee, which is nominal, included all these services, and we knew he was up-to-date with shots and a checkup.

The next day, Astro came home. He’d been in a foster home while he waited for his fur-ever family, and his foster mom brought him right to our house with a baggie of his favorite treats and a yellow bandana tied around his neck.

The following Saturday when the SPCA had an open-adoption event, we took Astro to visit all the people who’d had a hand in getting him into our home.

I can honestly say he’s the best dog I’ve ever had, and adopting him was the best decision we’d made in a long time!



Family Matters: Pets and Storms


Pets and StormsWe recently adopted a beautiful dog, a two-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback, Redbone Coonhoud mix that we named Astro. He’s huge with long, lanky legs like a newborn colt. Weighing in at 85 pounds, we call him the “Big Red Love Machine.”

I found out this week, however, that when 85 pounds of dog become terrified during a thunderstorm, it’s not a pretty sight. To his credit, Astro found my closet, an interior space with no windows or exposure to the outside of the house. He lay inside, shaking like a brittle leaf in a gusty wind, until the storm passed. Even then, he wouldn’t venture outside to use the restroom until the very last drop of rain had seeped off the porch roof into the grass below.

Storm anxiety for pets is a very real phenomenon that can be trigged by lightning, thunder, rain and even changes in barometric pressure, experts say.

Calming, soothing and stroking your dog can help, but you can take a more proactive approach to storm anxiety.

Practice getting your dog to settle on command. Use a special “inside” leash on the dog and practice having your dog lie at your feet while praising the calm behavior.

You can also try distracting your pup by offering his favorite toy, playing fetch, petting it and giving him treats (as long as he remains calm and you don’t upset his stomach. One or two is plenty.)

Let him have a safe place during the storm. For Astro, it was my closet. A bathroom, pantry or under a bed will work, too. Let your pooch pick out the spot he likes, within reason, and let him stay there during the storm if he wants to.

Snug garments, like the trademarked ThunderShirt, can soothe a pet by giving them close, tight, comforting sensory input they need to feel secure in the uncertainty of a storm.

If you want, you can also play recordings of storms when it’s NOT storming to try to desensitize your pet to those noises, as well.



Family Matters: Lost Dog


Lost DogI’ve mentioned before that I lost my three dogs about two years ago. More accurately, my neighbor opened the fence gate and let them out. They were never to be seen or heard from again.

Now, there are so many pages on Facebook to help reconnect you with your lost pets. We have one managed locally that has had so much impact; it has helped pet owners in the United Kingdom find their lost dogs.

The fact of the matter is that when a pet gets out and is picked up by animal control, it goes to a city or county shelter, depending on where it’s found. The shelters are all overcrowded, through no fault of their own. If a pet isn’t claimed, it may or may not be adoptable, depending on the breed of dog and the shelter’s policies. Locally, shelters consider pit bulls, pit mixes, German shepherds, Rottweilers and their mixes to be “not adoptable.”

The vast majority of government-run shelters then euthanize those animals, plus the ones who are sick or have been in the shelter too long. So, check out Facebook. Look for pages for “lost and found pets” in your area and share those status updates. You’ll help reunite a pet and its owner, or you might find out you want to give a “furever” home.



Family Matters: Pets


Chicken JerkyRecently, two of my friends hosted a wedding.

For their dogs.

No, really, they did.

Their new boxer puppies were wed in a backyard ceremony complete with a water fountain, doggie guests and a lavish buffet of puppy chow.

The bride wore a white bow tied around her neck, which clearly she wasn’t fond of, and the groom donned a sharp new black collar.

After the short ceremony, the couple began their new life together in a custom dog run, complete with a log cabin doghouse. I think they’ll live happily ever after.

What do you get the couple that has everything?

I decided to make homemade dog treats.

These chicken jerky treats aren’t just for dogs, though; you could eat them yourself if you were so inclined.

I packaged them in a Mason jar closed tightly, and although Mr. and Mrs. Boxer did not send thank-you notes, I’m assured they were well-received.

You can make these in a food dehydrator or right in your oven.

Chicken Jerky

Ingredients:
11/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders, sliced into strips about 1/4 to 1/8-inch thick
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 Tbsp salt
dog-friendly seasonings, such as parsley, rosemary and sage

Directions:
Rinse off chicken breast strips and remove any fat. Slice the chicken with the grain. Next, coat the chicken slices with your dog-friendly seasonings.

Place the chicken breast strips in an even layer across the entire tray, leaving an equal amount of space between pieces and making sure that they do not touch each other. This is so air can flow between them while they are drying out, which helps dehydrate them.

Once the strips are all set out, place the trays in the food dehydrator, turn it on and set the temperature for 140° F. It will probably take between 3 and 12 hours for the chicken to fully dry, depending on how thick you cut your slices and the exact temperature of your food dehydrator. Check the strips once every hour after the first hour. To do that, simply open up the tray and take one slice out; cut it open with a sharp knife and examine the inside. You should see no moisture at all, and if it is properly dried, the chicken will have the same color throughout. If it is not finished, put it back in for another hour. Once it gets close, start checking once every half hour.

In an oven, bake the chicken strips at 200° F for approximately 2 hours.

Once your chicken jerky is done, store it in sealed containers; zip-locking bags work great for this. Write the date you made it on them. You can also store the finished product in the refrigerator for an even longer shelf life.

View this recipe to print or add items to My Shopping List.



Family Matters: Runaway Pets


DogsA little over a year ago, my three dogs ran away.

I say “ran away,” but in reality, the next door neighbor let them out of her gate.

You see, they’d dug under our adjoining fence a few times, twice that I knew of, actually. I’d get home from work and it would be dark. I’d walk along the fence line trying to make sure the holes were filled.  Apparently, I wasn’t always successful.

I understand it’s irresponsible and annoying to let your pets dig out, but honest to goodness, I was trying my best. Two of my dogs were still puppies and were seriously high-energy. I wish the neighbors would have called me instead of just opening the gate. I never found any of them.

So, 18 months have passed and today a friend posts on Facebook that her friend is looking for a new home for my ideal dog, a 3-year-old German shepherd.

The holes in my yard are now filled. This isn’t a puppy. My kids are older and better equipped to help me take care of her. She’s mainly an indoor dog, but I can’t decide. It was horrible to lose my dogs. Even though they were diggers, I took good care of them.

Owning a pet is a huge responsibility. There’s also a huge reward with having a loving, loyal pet.  However, I still can’t decide whether or not to venture back into the world of pet ownership after having failed before.

Decisions. Decisions.

 



Family Matters: Pets


Washing the DogMy friend lives in a beautiful home in the country where her four big Labrador retrievers have plenty of space to run and roam.

They take full advantage of it, coming home sweaty and more than a little stinky most times. But there’s nothing worse than when they encounter a certain black and white adversary on their adventures.

This happened not too long ago, and all four dogs came home “skunked,” that is, sprayed by their furry foe as it tried to protect itself.

Luckily, she knew exactly what to do.

She kept the dogs outside while she prepped the anti-skunk wash.

Then she mixed together:

  • 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 1 tsp liquid dishwashing soap

Of course, she had to make four times this much.

Wearing rubber gloves, she washed the dogs with this solution, being careful not to get it into the dogs’ eyes. She rubbed it in, but don’t let it sit too long as it can bleach their coat. Then she rinsed each dog with the garden hose (luckily it was warm outside).

After that, she shampooed the dogs with regular shampoo and left them outside in the sun to dry completely. By that night, they were ready to come back into the house, stench-free.



Family Matters: Homemade Flea Spray


Flea SprayI loved having dogs but did not love the fact that we constantly battle flea control down here in the South.

Veterinarians will tell you plenty of ways to get rid of fleas, but there’s a natural remedy as well.

Mix equal parts white vinegar and water together in a spray bottle, and apply the mixture directly to your pet’s coat. Finish by rubbing it in well with your hands, and your pet is largely protected from those nasty fleas.
Fleas hate the smell and taste of vinegar, and they do their best to avoid it.



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