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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.

 

 



Family Matters: Keeping your pet warm in the winter


The weather outside can be frightful, but your pet still needs to go outside to potty.

Or, if your dogs are like mine, they spend the majority of their time during the day while I’m at work outside playing (and digging…).

It’s essential your outdoor – or indoor – pet stays warm in the winter. For animals that are spending time outside, whether just during the day or all the time, they need shelter that protects them from wind, rain and snow. A place that is small and well insulated, for the pet’s own body heat to keep the temperature up. You can even use hay and blankets to keep shelters or doghouses nice and cozy. For inside pets, soft, warm places to snooze are a must, especially if you have tile, stone or wood floors instead of carpeting. Older pets, especially, will snuggle into thick beds with egg-crate-type padding. Older pets are extremely susceptible to cold, so think about a warm sweater or wrap for your older pet as well.

Don’t forget about food and water. With freezing temperatures, water bowls freeze as well. Make sure your pet has a fresh supply of non-frozen water to drink during the day. Some retailers even offer heated bowls to help keep your pet hydrated.

In the coldest of colds, use caution when starting your car if you are a cat owner. Cats notoriously creep into car engines to stay warm.

If your pet goes out to potty, you might want to consider pet shoes or booties to keep his paws protected from snow and ice. Just be sure to ask him to wipe his feet before he comes back inside.

Finally, if at all possible, bring your pets inside as often as you can!



Family Matters: Puppy Points


When my older son, Curt, was in first grade, he played soccer for the first time.
Let’s just say it didn’t go so well. He didn’t want to practice; he didn’t want to go to games; it was all very overwhelming for him.

But in our family, when you make a commitment to do something you try your best to stick it out.  We decided to offer Curt the chance to earn something he wanted most of all – a little puppy he could pick up. We had a bigger dog, Jill, but she was rambunctious and high-energy and Curt couldn’t corral her at that stage in life. He wanted a small-breed dog he could carry with him.

So he began to earn “puppy points.” He could earn up to two points per practice and game, not if he played well, but if he tried hard and gave it 100 percent. He had to earn a certain number of points over the course of the season to get his puppy.

Low and behold, Curt earned his puppy points and he picked out Tickles, a Morkie (Maltese-Yorkie mix) from a litter we’d found locally.

Tickles went everywhere with Curt. Curt would just scoop up that fluffy little puppy and tote him around like a toy. Fully grown, Tickles is now only about 12 pounds. But the vet told me recently that you really have to be careful about the weight on small dogs. Dogs can pack on the holiday pounds too, you know.
But here are some tips to keep your pooch fit and trim so they can lead a healthy, happy and long life:

• Don’t feed them table scraps and people food. They don’t need it and it’s not really a treat – it’s just fattening.
• Pay attention to the serving size on your dog’s bag of food. You don’t need to give a small dog an entire big bowl of food every day.
• Keep your pet active – take them on a walk every day or provide a green space for running.
• It’s OK to leave your pet outside during the day in mild weather. They tend to get more exercise outside.
• Give them a chew toy instead of a treat as a reward for good behavior.
• Send your children outside to play with the dog. Both get good exercise that way.
And don’t forget the love – a well-loved and cared for dog is the most happy and healthy.



Family Matters: Holiday Preparation for Your Pet


When the holidays arrive, many of our houses get a complete makeover inside. From decorations and candy to firewood and candles, the cold outside gives us the perfect opportunity to make it warm and cozy inside. 

But don’t assume your indoor pets are going to accept the seasonal décor without being a little adventurous, especially those curious little cats we like to pet in our laps. Unfortunately, there are many dangers for your kitty cat that come with the holidays, and it’s just a good idea to make sure you have created a safe holiday home. 

Don’t give chocolate to your cat. Chocolate contains theobromine, which is deadly to cats. It’s best to stick to the special cat treats (not people food) your pet has been used to eating all year. 

Watch out for the food prep areas. If your cat likes to climb on the countertops, make sure you don’t leave any food unattended, especially bones. Poultry bones break apart easily, which can cause serious internal injury, not to mention upset stomachs. 

Keep the holiday spirits out of kitty’s reach. It sounds funny to mention a cat ingesting alcohol, but it’s very serious. Alcohol makes felines very sick and weak, often causing respiratory failure.

Decorate with cat-friendly plants and floral decorations. Many popular holiday plants are poisonous to cats. Lilies can cause kidney failure in cats, and mistletoe and holly berries also can be toxic. Poinsettias are considered to be very low in toxicity, but they could cause mild vomiting or nausea if ingested. Safe alternatives can include silk or plastic artificial flowers. 

Cat-proof your tree and the water in the tree stand. Just like toddlers, the Christmas tree seems like a great new thing to climb, and you kind of need to follow the same rules as if you had a small child around. Be sure your tree is secure, place ornaments out of paw’s reach, and, if possible use non-breakable ornaments. Also, watch out for stagnant tree water, which can cause all kinds of illnesses. It’s just a good idea to keep the tree stand covered.

No tinsel. Yes, cats are known to be curious about tinsel, and often try to eat it. Those that do can suffer serious intestinal problems that require surgery. 

Keep kitty safe during parties. If you’re hosting a holiday gathering, place your cat in a separate room during the festivities. Cats tend to get stressed when their routines are interrupted, and this way you don’t have to worry either.

A dry, warm cat is a happy cat. Cats shouldn’t be taken outside after a bath unless they are absolutely, positively, 100 percent dry. And make sure you cat has a warm place to sleep. Their usual place may be colder than usual, so it’s time to check for drafts.

 Kitty-proof the fireplace. If you have a fireplace or wood stove, always use a protective barrier or screen to keep your cat from getting burned by his curiosity.

Use safe antifreeze. Antifreeze smells and tastes good to cats, but ethylene glycol-based antifreeze is a lethal poison for animals. Even just a few licks can be deadly. While no antifreeze is safe for ingestion, a propylene glycol-based antifreeze generally is much less toxic. Be sure to keep the product stored in a clearly marked, sealed container in a place where pets don’t have access, and clean up any antifreeze spills immediately.



Family Matters: Cool Weather Treats are for the Birds


The house I grew up in – and the one I have lived in for the past eight years – have walls across the backs that are floor-to-ceiling windows, opening up lovely views to the backyard. In fact, my most recent house was built to “copy” the window wall of my childhood home.  

The kitchen table sits just in front of one of the windows, and of course, I have all kinds of bird feeders and bird baths to be able to enjoy the playful sounds and actions of hummingbirds, robins, sparrows and even a squirrel or two. There were many a mornings as a child that the sound of “Bob White” was my alarm clock. Now, the woodpecker alarm clock…I could have lived without. 

Bird watching may sound like it would be boring, but it’s actually quite interesting for young kids as well as adults once you get going. You might want to invest in a bird book and a decent pair of binoculars too, just to enjoy the scene in a bit more detail – or to identify a rare sighting. 

I had an indigo bunting visit one morning and wasn’t sure what it was until I could see closely through my binoculars and ask my father what it was I was seeing. The indigo bunting is now my favorite bird, I do believe. 

Offer the birds of your yard a variety of seeds, and you will have a variety of visitors – all throughout the year.  During the cooler months (and few cold days we have!), birds need extra fat to help them survive.  Try this easy peanut butter bird seed ball recipe with your kids or grandkids and you’ll enjoy your backyard all year long! 

Cool Weather Bird Treats 

Ingredients:
2 Tbs vegetable oil
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup crushed eggshells
1 cup vegetable shortening
Cornmeal as needed to hold mixture together

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except cornmeal in a bowl. Add enough cornmeal to be able to form into small balls. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze overnight. When ready to feed the birds, hang balls on a garden stake or on bird feeder. 



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