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FAMILY MATTERS: PET BLUES


Pet BluesAre your pets singing the blues now that the days are shorter and it’s dark much earlier?

Are you wondering what I’m talking about?

Studies show that pets can suffer from seasonal blues just like humans can. No one likes when the days are shorter and the darkness prevails.

For dogs and cats, which are more sensitive to light than humans, make sure to ramp up the light in your home by keeping drapes open and turning on indoor lighting. For reptiles, keep heat lamps and lights on more often and for longer hours.

For dogs and cats, rev up the playtime. Both species like tug of war and constant human engagement. Take advantage of it during winter months!

Reduce food intake for your pets. Dogs and cats aren’t usually as active in colder months. Therefore, they don’t need to eat as much and feel sluggish.

Exercise, exercise, exercise. Just as humans benefit from exposure to the outdoors, so do pets. Take them with you every time you go outside. 



FAMILY MATTERS: PETS AND HALLOWEEN


Pet CostumeIt’s almost time for Halloween, and it’s tempting to dress your pet up like a cute devil, hot dog, fairy or goodness knows what else.

Now, I’m not in the dress-your-pet-up category (but then again, my dogs chewed leather collars off of each other, so a Halloween costume wouldn’t stand a chance), but I will admit I’ve seen a cute devil Chihuahua or firefighter Dalmatian a time or two.

If you do choose to trick-or-treat with your pet this Halloween, keep a few things in mind.

First, your pet might not be a good candidate for dress-up. They might be the nervous type or the chewing type.

If indeed they do channel their inner costume diva, be sure to follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure the costume fits well and allows your pet to move around freely.
  • Avoid costumes with strings or small parts that can be chewed off and swallowed.
  • The costume should not restrict your pet’s vision, hearing or breathing in any way.
  • If you plan to take your pet trick-or-treating outside after dark, look for reflective safety stripes on the pet costume; add them yourself if the costume doesn’t come equipped with reflective stripes.
  • Always supervise your pet when he or she is wearing the costume so you can help your pet if there is a costume malfunction or the costume becomes hung up on anything.


Family Matters: Pets


This is not a sad story, so keep reading.

My best friend got a call today from her elderly mother who gently broke the news that her longtime friend and companion, her dog of 16 years, had passed away.

My friend was devastated, as you can imagine one would be losing the sweet dog you’d had for so long.

About an hour later, her cellphone rang again. It was her mother calling back.

“He’s alive! He’s alive!,” she screamed into the phone.

However, she had not only called my friend, but she had also called a stranger. When she was trying to dial, she called the wrong number. In her excitement, she left a message on some unsuspecting person’s voicemail. “He’s not dead! He’s alive! He got up and got a drink of water” was the message that a flustered stranger received. The stranger, who immediately called back to check on the welfare of, well, the dog, ended up getting a good laugh, as did my friend, her mom and a bunch of other people.

Moral to this story: Check for respiration, dial carefully and always love on your pets every day!



Family Matters: Pets


A few years ago, I got a box in the mail that was labeled “Living Contents. Open Immediately.” 

Intrigued (and thankful I was home at the time of delivery), I ripped into the box. 

Inside was the most wonderful gift!

My mom had sent my boys a “Grow-A-Frog” kit. Along with a clear plastic aquarium, a lid and special food, there was a baggie of two tiny tadpoles. 

The boys wanted to get started immediately, so we carefully rinsed the aquarium and set it up to be the tadpoles’ new home.

Over the next months, we watched the tadpoles develop into frogs. We saw them grow tiny legs, develop a distinct head, lose their “tails” and finally morph into two good-sized frogs!

We eventually found new homes for the frogs in a friend’s pond, but then we ordered new tadpoles and repeated the process.

The joy of the pet tadpoles came in the daily discovery and the renewed wonder in my boys’ eyes each day. It’s definitely one of the best gifts we’ve ever received.



Family Matters: Pets


Summertime poses a pet problem you might have not considered: water.

Yep, I said “water.”

I’m not talking about the kind you pour into their bowls from the tap, but the kind lurking in all other kinds of summer situations, particularly salt water and pool water.

If your pooch likes to play in the surf at the beach, keep a careful eye on him. Salt water can be toxic to pets. Sure, they’ll lap at the water, but they don’t know that excessive salt water intake can result in severe hypernatremia, or salt poisoning.

The first signs of hypernatremia include vomiting and diarrhea, but the condition can progress quickly to neurological impairment with physical incoordination, seizures, depression and, ultimately, brain swelling. It can be treated with IV fluids at the vet’s office.

To avoid the problem all together, designate a bottle (jug!) of fresh water for your dog to enjoy at the beach. Whenever you hydrate, make sure he hydrates, too.

The other danger comes from your backyard pool. Well, the chemicals to be exact. Algaecides and chlorine shock water treatment products are generally safe once these chemicals are diluted appropriately (i.e. in the pool water), but when undiluted, pool chemicals can quickly be fatal to your pet. Corrosive chemicals can result in severe ulcers in your pet’s mouth, esophagus and stomach, and they can ultimately cause holes in the GI tract. Always store your pool chemicals and cleaners in a locked closet that your pet cannot access.

Always have fresh water available at all times for your pet, too.



Family Matters: Pets and Ticks


My big dogs, Shiloh and Gretel, had thick, luxurious fur that I took care to keep clean and well-groomed, not to mention glossy and shiny by feeding them a great diet.

But, glossy, shiny, thick, luxurious coats also mean more places for ticks to hide during the spring and summer. I would brush Shiloh and Gretel pretty frequently, which helped, but there’s no substitute for carefully going through your pets’ coats during the summer to check for ticks, which can transfer diseases. Ticks will attach to your pet’s skin, but their fur can hide them.

There are several things you can do to help avoid ticks this summer.

First, use a spot treatment. The best ones are available from your veterinarian and are usually applied behind the neck or tail and repeated on a monthly basis.

Oral medications, also from your vet, are generally given once monthly and help kill fleas and ticks by making your pet’s skin and fur a hostile environment for unwanted pests.

Bathing your dog with a shampoo that contains medicated ingredients will generally kill ticks on contact. This method is usually inexpensive, but do it OUTSIDE. Enough said 

Tick dips, in which a chemical is diluted in water and your pet submerged, are effective, but best to leave in the hands of a professional.

Tick collars are another option, but pet owners report having the best success with these on small animals.

Tick and flea powders are available at most pet supply stores. These get into the areas needed, however, they’re often messy and leave residue on your hands after you pet your pooch. 

Finally, treat your house and lawn using an exterminator or keep your pets inside during warm months.



Family Matters: Pet Boarding


It was so hard when I’d go out of town on vacation for an extended period of time. I wanted someone to take care of my pets as I would, but I hated to ask someone to spend all that time.

So a pet boarding kennel is a great option, especially when you have one you know and can trust.

With vacation season arriving,  it’s important to have good care for your pets while you’re gone.

Here are a few things to look for in a potential boarding situation, according to the Humane Society of the United States:

·      Does the facility look and smell clean?
·      Is there sufficient ventilation and light? 
·      Is a comfortable temperature maintained? 
·      Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring? 
·      Are pets required to be current on their vaccinations, including the vaccine for canine kennel cough (Bordetella)? (Such a requirement helps protect your animal and others.)
·      Does each dog have his own adequately sized indoor-outdoor run or an indoor run and a schedule for exercise?
·      Are outdoor runs and exercise areas protected from wind, rain, and snow?
·      Are resting boards and bedding provided to allow dogs to rest off the concrete floor?
·      Are cats housed away from dogs?
·      Is there enough space for cats to move around comfortably?
·      Is there enough space between the litter box and food bowls?
·      How often are pets fed?
·      Can the owner bring a pet’s special food?
·      What veterinary services are available?
·      Are other services available such as grooming, training, bathing?
·      How are rates calculated?

If you’re satisfied the facility meets these requirements, by all means, book your pet into a pleasurable stay while you’re taking your own time off!



Family Matters: Hannibal the Hamster


When I was in second grade, I wanted a pet more than anything.

According to my parents, I’d had one, a dog, when I was…oh, two years old. Who remembers a dog from when they were two?

I mean, I had vague recollections of a dog named Flip, whom I somehow recount was party to me tumbling down the basement stairs as a toddler, but I wanted a pet I could…well, pet. And love on. And take care of.

I’m not sure how the whole hamster idea came into play.

I do remember a book, about a hamster, named Hannibal. So when I finally got a hamster who had a cool cage and awesome tunnels and a wheel and all that, I named him Hannibal.

One morning I woke up and Hannibal was not in his cage.

My mom gently broke the news that Hannibal had died overnight.

We buried him in a very formal ceremony in a shoe box lined with the white and pink rosebud flannel that matched my nightgown.

Who knew this breed of hamster hibernated during cold months?

Not me!

Not my parents!

I didn’t find this out until years later. (Nor did they, in their defense.)

I mourned that silly hamster for weeks. I didn’t want a new pet for years.

Point being, pets pass.

And as the saying goes, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”



Family Matters: Brushing Pet’s Teeth


I’ll never forget the first time I took our dog, Jill, to the vet and the doctor asked if I brushed her teeth.

Um. She’s a dog. A DOG.

Exactly, the vet responded, and dogs need their teeth brushed just like humans do.

Dogs don’t get cavities the way we do, but they do get plaque, tartar, and gingivitis — all of which can cause foul breath and tooth problems for your pooch.

To avoid the doggie dentist, you want to brush your dog’s teeth every day.

SAY WHAT? I have a hard enough time getting my two boys to brush their teeth TWICE a day, let alone factoring my dog into the equation. And with the dog, it’s not like I can send her into the bathroom and trust she’ll come out with pearly whites.

The vet assured me that if I brushed Jill’s teeth once a week, I’d be doing well.

But, how to trick my cunning canine into allowing me to brush her teeth? I was guessing a pink princess toothbrush was not going to provide the incentive Jill needed to open wide.

The vet gave me a pamphlet with these tips:

Choose a time when your dog is a little tired and less likely to want to play.

Train her to let you touch her mouth. This could take some time.

Flip up her lips.

Wet the edge of a clean washcloth so you can rub your dog’s gums and teeth; hold a corner of the wet portion of the washcloth with your index finger and use a gentle, circular motion.

When she is used to this, it’s time to get her accustomed to brushing.

Get a soft, silicone finger brush made for pets. Don’t try to use a human toothbrush and NEVER use human toothpaste. Check your pet aisle for toothpaste appropriate for pets.

Flip up your dog’s lips and gently rub the toothbrush and toothpaste against your dog’s teeth and gums for a few seconds.

Give your dog a treat, even if she allows you to work on her teeth for only a few seconds.

Repeat steps one through three the next day, gradually lengthening the amount of time spent brushing.

Hopefully this will help when Fido gives you one of her enthusiastic kisses AND will keep her healthy.



Family Matters: Jack


My first case of puppy love was for a cute boy named Jack.

He had big brown eyes, short, soft hair and big, floppy ears.

Jack was some kind of beagle mix who captured my heart with his sweet puppy breath and patient nature, even though I hadn’t even considered getting a dog.

Jack and his siblings were deserted on the property of a friend of mine, who brought a basket full of the puppies to preschool one day and let them mill about among the thrilled three-year-olds. Those kids manhandled those puppies all day in their enthusiastic, innocent way, and those puppies just played gently right back. My friend found homes for all those dogs that day, but a few days later, one puppy came back. The person who took him home turned around and tried to sell that sweet thing through a local classified ad.

I knew immediately I wanted to take him home. 

Jack was a great dog. He would lick my knees and never had accidents in the house.  Sadly, Jack died before his time, but for someone who never even wanted a dog, Jack was living proof that puppy love was alive and well. 

Show Your Love Doggie Treats
Ingredients: 
1/2 cup of peanut butter 
1/4 cup honey
1 Tbs olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F. Whisk together peanut butter, honey, oil and chicken broth. In a separate bowl, combine flours and oatmeal. Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients. Place dough on flour dusted surface. Roll or press dough out to about 1/4-inch thick. Use a small bone cookie cutter to cut out cookies. Roll out leftover scraps and cut out as many as possible. Put cut out cookies on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for 14 to 16 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

 

 



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