Vet-Approved Tips to Help Keep Pets Safe this Summer
(Family Features) Extreme temperatures and booming sounds can have big impacts on pets.
With record-breaking heat across much of the nation, the experts at Freshpet are helping pet parents with these tips to help keep their pets healthy and safe this summer.
Heat stroke can occur quickly in dogs. Without the ability to sweat the same way humans do, it’s important for pet parents to understand ways to cool their pets down when temperatures rise and how to avoid common mistakes to keep their pets safe.
“Just because we can manage the heat and humidity, doesn’t mean our pets can,” said Dr. Aziza Glass, Freshpet’s expert veterinarian. “Our pets are vulnerable to temperatures over 80 F. However, there are things we can do to keep our pets safe and protected from heat-related injuries and some may come as a surprise.”
- Limit time outdoors: While outdoor activities are typically recommended for pets, their inability to sweat the same way humans do can cause them to heat up quickly. Limit walks to early morning or after the sun sets and stay indoors as much as possible the rest of the day.
- Fill their water bowls: Just like humans, clean water is essential for helping pets manage the heat. Cool water can help cool down your pet’s body temperature. Moisture-rich fresh food like options from Freshpet – made with 100% farm-raised chicken, beef or fish and all-natural fruits and veggies – can also help with hydration.
- Avoid shaving your pet: While summer cuts for long-haired dogs are OK, shaving your pet can expose his or her skin to harmful sun damage and cause overheating more quickly.
Glass recommends pet parents educate themselves on how to recognize heat stroke. Heavy panting, drooling, high body temperature, increased heart rate and fatigue are some signs of heat stroke in dogs.
“If you believe your dog is having a heat stroke, bring him or her indoors immediately to help cool down,” she said. “A common mistake is putting the pet in a cold ice bath. That can actually shock the system and cause quick changes in blood pressure. Instead, soak a towel in room temperature water and wipe your dog down to start the cooling process. Afterwards, proceed immediately to your primary care veterinarian or closest emergency center.”
Booming sounds and crackling fireworks can send some pets into sensory overdrive. According to Glass, with an elevated ability to interpret sound frequencies audibly and physically, dogs’ sensitivities to loud noises means some celebrations can make for particularly anxious events. While some dogs hide under beds or jump fences to flee the sounds, there are ways to help make fireworks less stressful for canine companions.
- Create a calm environment: Be aware if you or your neighbors plan to launch fireworks. If so, create a space to help your dog deal with the noise. A sound machine, lavender oil on his or her collar and blankets can help.
- Remain indoors: Avoid taking your dog outside if you’re planning to view fireworks or set off your own. A dog’s first reaction may be to flee from the noise and search for a safe spot, placing him or her in more danger.
- Stay close: Pets feel less anxious when they feel safe. Make sure you or someone they feel safe with is by their side until the fireworks are over, offering comfort, treats and affection throughout the event.
For more summer safety tips for pets, visit Freshpet.com.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images
Keep Pets Safe All Summer Long
4 tips to overcome warm weather hazards
(Family Features) Summer means extra time outdoors. Sunny months provide a perfect opportunity for bonding with pets, but higher temperatures, seasonal plants and pests and additional travel can pose higher risks for complications.
To help keep dogs, cats and other pets safe during summer adventures, consider these tips from the experts at VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across North America that cared for more than 4.5 million pets last year.
Beat the Heat
Dogs and cats cannot control their body temperature by sweating as humans do. They have a small number of sweat glands located in their footpads and primarily regulate their temperature by panting. Vigorous exercise, leaving a pet in a vehicle with poor ventilation – even if the windows are down – or being left outside without shade and water on hot days can lead to heatstroke, or hyperthermia.
Increased humidity combined with warmer temperatures intensifies the risk of heat stroke, especially during the first few warm days as pets transition to outdoor activity. If your pet exhibits any symptoms of heatstroke – elevated breathing rates, dry or sticky gums, lethargy, disorientation, abnormal gum color, bruised gums or seizures – pour cool water over your pet’s head, stomach and feet or apply cool, wet cloths, ensure continuous airflow and see a veterinarian immediately.
Keep Ticks at Bay
As pets spend more time outdoors in the summer, they’re often exposed to pests like ticks. Ticks can transmit serious diseases to both dogs and cats. According to the Companion Animal Parasite Council, as many as 1 in 20 dogs tested positive for tick-borne diseases in 2021. Ticks climb onto pets from blades of grass or fall from overhanging trees and foliage. If a tick finds its way onto your pet, use tweezers or disposable gloves to grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible then pull straight out with steady, even pressure until the tick releases.
If you find a tick, carefully inspect all areas of skin, including behind the ears and between the toes, for additional ticks. After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area with soap and water and wash your hands. Save the tick in a resealable plastic bag to show your veterinarian and take note of the time and place the bite occurred and any other details that may aid your veterinarian should an illness occur. Follow your veterinarian’s advice about tick preventative measures, and make sure the product is safe to be used for your pet’s size. Never use dog flea and tick products on cats.
If you plan to travel with your pet, pack the necessities for your animal. Your pet’s luggage should include food, water bowls, treats, a leash and collar, toys, medications and printed copies of medical records, including vaccination history. Check with your veterinarian to determine if a health certificate is needed for travel. Also ensure your pet is comfortable with his or her crate or carrier before flying or embarking on a long road trip.
Knowing where to take your pet in case of an emergency while away from home is also essential. Look up emergency veterinary clinics near your destination before departing or ask if your vet offers virtual care options. For example, through the myVCA app, you can access 24/7 live chat with licensed veterinary professionals.
Many of the same allergens that affect humans impact pets. Atopy, also known as inhalant allergy, is a common cause of skin problems in dogs and cats. Affected animals often have a history of chronic or recurrent itching and tend to have a history of repeated skin or ear infections. Itchy pets tend to scratch themselves, lick their feet and rub on furniture or carpet. Atopy can also cause cats to groom excessively and develop bald or crusty spots on their skin.
Some allergies may also affect the respiratory or digestive systems or the eyes. If your pet is displaying signs of allergies, your veterinarian can recommend appropriate testing and treatment to reduce symptoms.
Visit vcahospitals.com to find more ways to keep pets safe throughout the summer and book an appointment.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
VCA Animal Hospitals
Keeping Pets Safe in the Garden
(Family Features) If you have pets that enjoy spending time outdoors, it’s important to make sure your yard is a safe place for them to be.
Consider these hazards that can negatively impact the well-being of your furry friends.
Poisonous Plants – Some common plants can be dangerous for animals, causing anything from mild oral irritations and upset stomachs to cardiovascular damage and even death. For example, these are some of the toxic plants the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has identified as harmful for either cats or dogs:
- Aloe – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, anorexia and depression
- Azalea – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, hypersalivation, weakness, coma, cardiovascular collapse and death
- Burning bush – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and weakness, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities with large doses
- Caladium – can cause burning and irritation of the mouth, tongue and lips, excessive drooling, vomiting and difficulty swallowing
- Daylilies – can cause kidney failure in cats
- Hibiscus – can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and anorexia
Mulch and Compost – The decomposing elements that make compost good can be bad for pets, according to the National Garden Society. Keep compost in a secure container or fenced off area so pets can’t get to it. Cocoa mulch can be a particular problem for dogs. A byproduct of chocolate production, cocoa mulch can cause digestive problems and even seizures in dogs. Shredded pine or cedar mulch is a safer choice.
Fertilizer and Insecticides – The chemicals used to get rid of pests or make your lawn lush can be toxic to pets. Some of the most dangerous pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poison, according to the ASPCA. Follow all instructions carefully, and store pesticides and fertilizers in a secure area out of the reach of animals.
Fleas and Ticks – In addition to using appropriate flea and tick prevention methods such as collars and sprays, make sure your yard isn’t a welcoming environment for these pests. Keep the lawn trimmed and remove brush and detritus, where fleas and ticks often lurk. Fleas can cause hair loss, scabs, excessive scratching, tapeworms and anemia. Ticks can do all of that, plus bring you and your family in contact with diseases like Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.
Find more tips for keeping pets safe in your yard at eLivingtoday.com.
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5 Ways to Celebrate Your Dog
(Family Features) The past 14 dog years (two human years) have been tough on nearly everyone but the unwavering support of essential companions – dogs – has helped make it a little bit easier.
Pet parents owe a lot to their furry friends for always being there and helping them get through the hard times – whether they’re putting smiles on faces by jumping on the couch for snuggles or wandering through virtual meetings. For these essential supporters, the PEDIGREE® brand and its Essential Support Dogs program offer these tips to help celebrate and show thanks for your companion. To learn more and get involved, visit EssentialSupportDogs.com.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Spend Quality Time Outdoors
Warmer temperatures provide the perfect opportunity for outdoor activities with furry friends. Try hiking in new places to give your dog a different experience than the usual walk around the block. New sights and smells can also be an enrichment activity and healthy exercise for your pup.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Buy a Special Treat
Everyone deserves to treat themselves, and pets are no exception. Check local restaurants with patios for a special dog-friendly meal or snack. At home, stock up on their favorite snacks and remember to show them love with extra petting, scratches and snuggles for always being by your side.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Socialize at the Dog Park
Take a trip to a local dog park and give them time to play with others. Getting the chance to socialize with other dogs and play in new areas off-leash can show them you care and provide fun playtime.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
Go Shopping for a New Toy
Take the guesswork out of purchasing your dog’s favorite new toy by bringing them along to a pet-friendly store. Many stores allow pets to walk the aisles with you and you can purchase the toy that grabs your dog’s interest right then and there.
Photo courtesy of minidoodlebentley
Show Your Support for Dogs in Need
The PEDIGREE® brand’s Essential Support Dogs program celebrates all dogs as essential supporters and provides assistance for dogs in need across the country. You can aid pups in need while recognizing your own beloved companion with a dog tag that supports PEDIGREE Foundation’s shelter and rescue partners, which are working to help dogs in need and end pet homelessness.
5 Healthy Habits to Help Reduce Stress
(Family Features) Between work, family obligations and a constantly changing world, people in the United States are stressed. In fact, U.S. workers are among the most stressed in the world, according to a State of the Global Workplace study. While some stress is unavoidable and can be good for you, constant or chronic stress can have real consequences for your mental and physical health.
Chronic stress can increase your lifetime risk of heart disease and stroke. It can also lead to unhealthy habits like overeating, physical inactivity and smoking while also increasing risk factors, including high blood pressure, depression and anxiety. However, a scientific statement from the American Heart Association shows reducing stress and cultivating a positive mindset can improve health and well-being.
To help people understand the connection between stress and physical health, the American Heart Association offers these science-backed insights to help reduce chronic stress.
Exercise is one of the easiest ways to keep your body healthy and release stress. Physical activity is linked to lower risk of diseases, stronger bones and muscles, improved mental health and cognitive function and lower risk of depression. It can also help increase energy and improve quality of sleep. The American Heart Association recommends adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, 75 minutes of vigorous activity or a combination.
Incorporate meditation and mindfulness practices into your day to give yourself a few minutes to create some distance from daily stress. Some studies show meditation can reduce blood pressure, improve sleep, support the immune system and increase your ability to process information.
A positive mindset can improve overall health. Studies show a positive mindset can help you live longer, and happy individuals tend to sleep better, exercise more, eat better and not smoke. Practice positive self-talk to help you stay calm. Instead of saying, “everything is going wrong,” re-frame the situation and remind yourself “I can handle this if I take it one step at a time.”
Gratitude – or thankfulness – is a powerful tool that can reduce levels of depression and anxiety and improve sleep. Start by simply writing down three things you’re grateful for each day.
Find a Furry Friend
Having a pet may help you get more fit; lower stress, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; and boost overall happiness and well-being. When you see, touch, hear or talk to companion animals, you may feel a sense of goodwill, joy, nurturing and happiness. At the same time, stress hormones are suppressed. Dog ownership is also associated with a lower risk of depression, according to research published by the American Heart Association.
Find more stress-management tips at Heart.org/stress.
Understanding stress is an important step in managing and reducing it. Consider these things to know about stress and how it could affect your life:
- Today, 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. report being worried or depressed.
- Higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol are linked to increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular events like heart disease and stroke.
- The top sources of stress are money, work, family responsibilities and health concerns.
- Work-related stress is associated with a 40% increased risk of cardiovascular disease like heart attack and stroke.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
American Heart Association
4 Tips to Make Adopting a Dog a Paws-itive Experience
(Family Features) Adding a dog to the family can be exciting, but it comes with responsibility, too. When you involve the entire family and plan ahead, you can be better prepared to provide a loving home and enjoy all the unconditional love only a four-legged best friend can give.
From preparing your home to researching the best dog for your family and completing the adoption process, these tips and insights from the PEDIGREE® brand’s “Ultimate Guide to Dog Adoption” can help you prepare for what to expect:
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
1. Prepare Your Home for Adoption
In order to make the transition as smooth as possible, prep your home and make sure you have all the necessary items for your furry friend’s arrival. You’ll need supplies like a crate or kennel, food and water bowls, collar, leash, grooming supplies and toys. It’s also a good idea to stock up on puppy pads and cleaning supplies for inevitable accidents when you’re potty training.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
2. Search for Your Ideal Dog
When you start your search, you’ll likely discover a wealth of choices and options. Think about your lifestyle and the type of breed, mix or size dog that best suits your family. Some breeds require more exercise than others, so you’ll need a fenced yard or enough time for regular walks. Also think about grooming and maintenance; longer-haired dogs require more regular, hands-on care. If you’re overwhelmed by all the options, try using a breed selector tool to help narrow down the choices.
3. Encourage Kids to Get Involved
Childhood pets can create sacred memories in later years, and having your kids take an active role in helping choose the family dog can make the experience even more special. Kids aren’t always able to communicate what they envision, but they can often show you in a drawing.
Now, thanks to AI technology and machine learning, you can have fun with the process of finding a dog and use a tool like the PEDIGREE brand’s Rescue Doodles to match your child’s drawing with a similar looking, adoptable dog nearby, powered by Adopt-a-Pet.com. To match a doodle with an adoptable pup, parents take a snap of their child’s masterpiece and text it to the dedicated number to guide them to an available dog nearby. Text ‘Doodle’ to 717-670-6675 or visit rescuedoodles.com to learn more.
Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock
4. Begin the Shelter Adoption Process
To find “your dog,” keep an open mind. It’s important to find the right dog for you – one that fits your lifestyle, family dynamic and home. Be prepared to visit and meet potential matches as many times as it takes. Bring a notepad and pen so you can write down pertinent information and important questions you want to ask, including any information the shelter can provide about the dog’s history, health, training and behavior. Once you find the right dog to join your family, be prepared for some paperwork. Adoption questionnaires help shelters ensure dogs are going to loving, responsible families that are willing to provide forever homes.
COVID-19 and Its Impact on Veterinary Care
5 tips to ensure the best care for your pet
(Family Features) The COVID-19 pandemic has placed historic pressures on the veterinary field and pet owners across the country.
These challenges impact patients, especially at a provider like VCA Animal Hospitals, which has more than 1,000 locations across the United States and Canada that care for more than 4 million pets each year. Consider these tips to help navigate this new reality and ensure your pet has access to the care needed to stay healthy.
Establish a relationship with a veterinarian. Establishing a relationship with a veterinary hospital means your pet will have a team to help that is familiar with his or her medical history and can identify concerns early to improve chances of a positive outcome. Just like your own health, don’t wait until something goes wrong to visit your pet’s veterinarian.
Book appointments in advance and outside peak hours. The best appointments to book early include annual and semi-annual wellness check-ups, vaccinations, dental cleanings and elective surgeries. If you’re unsure which appointments to schedule, ask your veterinarian. Booking your pet’s next recommended exam while you’re checking out from your last one is an easy way to find an appointment time that works best for you.
Have a financial plan. Veterinary care for unexpected events and emergencies can often be costly, just like human health care. Owners should consider the total cost of caring for a pet and create an emergency fund to use should something happen to your pet. Obtaining pet insurance or enrolling in a wellness plan are other strategies that can help lighten the financial load.
Know where to go for emergency care. It’s important to know where you can take your pet in case of an emergency. Know where several veterinary emergency hospitals are in your area just in case your pet’s primary care doctor is unable to see you. You can also ask if your veterinary hospital offers tele-triage or other virtual care options. For example, through the myVCA app, you can access 24/7 live chat with licensed veterinary professionals to help answer questions and offer advice.
Be patient. Veterinary medicine is undergoing a surge in demand. Remember that caring for pets is not just a career, but a passion for veterinarian professionals. They are working to ensure you and your pets receive world-class medicine and hometown care you expect and deserve, even with the increased patient load.
Find more information at vcahospitals.com.
Photo courtesy of VCA Animal Hospitals
VCA Animal Hospitals
EASE THE WAY
Soft beds, ramps and gentle exercise will keep old dogs more comfortable
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori Universal Uclick
Regular, gentle exercise is key to health and happiness for senior dogs.
Don’t let your older dog sit around: As your dog ages, build him up to regular, moderate exertion and wean him off the intense, leaping games of fetch or the pavement-pounding miles of running you may have enjoyed together in his younger days. Break it up: Instead of taking one long walk a day, take two shorter ones. And look for the opportunity to add low-key “brain games” using food puzzles or nose-work that functions as hide-and-seek for your pet.
Be sure the lowered intensity and duration of activity doesn’t turn into weight gain. Extra weight puts more pressure on your dog’s joints, and clogs up the efficient engine of his internal systems. If anything, keep your dog on the lean side of normal.
More tips for senior dogs include:
• Stop slipping and sliding: A common problem among senior dogs is increasing unsteadiness on their feet. There are lots of possible contributing factors, including arthritis, hip dysplasia, nonspecific aches and pains, and the association of one unfortunate slip with more to come. If the problem is one small slippery area, such as a tiled entryway, firmly attach a throw rug with double-sided tape. If a whole room or a hallway is an issue, head to the toy store for interlocking foam play mats. These mats, designed for toddlers, can be configured in any shape or direction you need, and they’ll provide a soft, non-slippery surface for your elderly dog’s paws. You can rearrange them or take them up at any time.
• It’s all about the bed: Many senior dogs sleep 16 hours a day or more. With all that time spent snoozing, it’s not surprising that the most important place to many dogs is the bed. Choose beds that are well-padded and warm. If your dog has arthritis, double up the beds up or add egg crate or memory foam padding for extra cushioning. And add more beds: Offering a variety of beds throughout your home will give your dog ways to catch his naps while staying close to you. Finally, mix up the fabrics: You may find your dog’s favorite kind of bed covering changes depending on the weather and his mood.
• Flavorful food: If your senior dog is healthy and trim but seems to be losing his appetite, try a little extra flavoring for his food. A few little jars of strained-meat baby food (look for no- or low-salt varieties, and skip labels with onion and garlic) in the pantry will give you lots of healthy options to “kick it up” for your pup. A small spoonful of baby food will add new flavor and texture to your dog’s old food. To really amp it up, try putting the dog food in the microwave for a few seconds. Warming dog food releases its aromas and makes it more pungent. For a dog with sensory loss, the smell of his food warming in the microwave can be just the ticket to increase his appetite and his enjoyment of the meal. You can also make chicken or beef broth without salt, garlic or onions, and add warm to meals.
• Ramp it up or give him a lift: Many companies make stairs and ramps to help dogs get to their usual, favorite places, including in the car or on the couch. These are often lightweight, well-designed and collapsible, or attractive enough (in the case of stair steps) to leave as a permanent part of the decor. And while it’s certainly possible to use old towels as slings to help old dogs up and down stairs, you’ll find a wide variety of slings with easy-grip handles that make the lifting easier for you — since after a dog’s lifetime, you may be no spring chicken, either.
It doesn’t take much to make your older dog’s life more comfortable, and knowing that you have will make you happier as well.
TIME TO PLAY, Keep your indoor cat healthy, happy with toys and games
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
When we think of pets who need exercise and playtime, cats do not automatically spring to mind, but they should.
Our domestic cats don’t need to hunt for a living, but they still have those natural instincts to chase, climb and hide. Toys, games and other forms of entertainment enrich your cat’s life and burn calories, keeping him happy and healthy. And kitty playtime takes only two or three minutes several times each day. Here are some of our favorite ways to keep cats active, both physically and mentally.
• Get a move on! Cats are attracted by motion. Even the laziest of cats gets excited by the bouncing beam of a flashlight or laser pointer. Following the fast, erratic motion enhances a cat’s ability to think and move quickly. To give your cat a real workout, direct the light beam up and down stairs or walls, encouraging the cat to run and jump. Be careful not to shine a laser pointer in your cat’s eyes. Chasing a pingpong ball down the hall will also get your cat moving. Some cats will even bring it back to you.
• Gone fishin’. Other toys that arouse a cat’s desire to chase are fishing-pole toys, which have flexible handles attached to lines with furry or feathery lures at the end. Dangle it over your cat’s head or drag it in front of him and watch him become a silent stalker: ears forward, rear twitching, then pouncing on his prey, rolling and kicking to “kill” it. His amazing flips and spins in pursuit of the lure will keep your kitten — and you — entertained for hours, or at least until your cat is ready for another nap. Just remember to put it away when you’re not around to supervise: You don’t want your cat swallowing the string and developing a dangerous intestinal obstruction.
• Live-action entertainment. A peaceful way to give your cat a taste of the hunt is to set a bird feeder just outside the window. The birds stay safely outdoors and get a meal out of the deal, while your cat’s life is made more interesting on his side of the window. This is a great way to encourage your cat to do a little jumping — onto the windowsill — and to appeal to his birder nature.
• Kitty brain candy. The rapid movements of birds, meerkats, aquarium fish and other prey animals are like crack for cats. Feed your cat’s hunger for prey in a nonviolent way by turning on a nature show or popping in a DVD made especially for cats. Make sure your TV is securely placed so it won’t fall over if your cat decides to leap at the screen in a vain attempt to score a meal.
•Will play for food. The pet stores have a variety of food puzzles — toys you put food into for your cat to work out. If you can’t find a food puzzle your cat likes, try a homemade version. Put dry food inside an empty paper towel roll, and let your cat figure out how to get at it. Or get a Wiffle ball and insert pieces of kibble. They’ll fall out when your cat bats the ball around.
• Hide and seek. Put an empty paper sack or a cardboard box with a little packing paper inside it on the floor and let your cat explore. He’ll love the dark interiors and crinkly noises. Boxes are extra fun when you have two cats, providing the perfect way to play hide-and-seek.
Use your imagination to keep your cat busy. So many cats these days are indoors, which is good for them, the neighbors and the wildlife. But when you close the door on your cat, you need to make the indoors more interesting. Fortunately, doing so strengthens the bond between you and your pet.
WEEKEND WARRIOR SYNDROME
Condition pets gradually when starting a new exercise program
If you are anything like us, one of your top New Year’s resolutions is always to get (or stay) in shape. Most of us vow to eat less and exercise more, especially when we wake up on New Year’s Day and realize the results of holiday excesses.
When you commit to an exercise routine, don’t leave your pet behind. Our dogs (and cats) need exercise as much as or maybe even more than we do, since they have fewer opportunities to get out and do things.
Walking or running with a dog or taking up a dog sport such as agility is a great way for both of you to burn calories, but be sure you start slow and work up to long distances or greater speeds. Like people, dogs are prone to weekend warrior syndrome — the aches, pains and injuries that come from being inactive and then overdoing exercise.
The optimal amount of exercise for dogs in terms of frequency, intensity and duration isn’t known, but factors to consider when planning an exercise program for them include their size, build, fitness level, manners (do they behave nicely in public or do they need an activity that doesn’t bring them in contact with other people or dogs?), and past and current orthopedic health. Taking these things into account can help to determine the best form of exercise for them and minimize the risk of orthopedic injuries.
Whether you and your dog will be walking around the block or taking up a new sport, here are our best tips for getting conditioned and avoiding injury.
• Talk to your veterinarian about your plans. He or she can advise you about whether your dog is ready for certain activities. For instance, large or giant breeds shouldn’t run on hard surfaces until their growth plates close, usually at 10 to 24 months.
• Choose an activity that’s appropriate for your dog. Denis Marcellin-Little, professor of orthopedic surgery at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, says the best way to “break” a greyhound is to engage him in jumping sports. Likewise, it’s not a good idea to jog with a French bulldog (even if you could get him to consider the idea in the first place).
• Preventing injury is critical. Know the types of injuries commonly seen in your dog’s breed or body type. Cranial cruciate ligament ruptures are common in couch-potato Labrador retrievers. Herding and agility dogs tend to suffer ligament damage because they change direction frequently. Flat-coated retrievers can be prone to patellar luxation. German shepherds can have spinal problems. Search www.pubmed.org for medical problems affecting specific breeds.
• Balance is a key factor in conditioning. Your dog (and you) should be able to adjust as needed to changes in direction or ground surfaces. Changing direction, both ways, as you jog or run is a good way to improve balance. So is walking over cavaletti rails (a series of obstacles set at certain heights or distances) or on a trampoline if you have access to one. If you teach your dog tricks or movements such as spinning or figure eights, he should learn to perform them in both directions.
• Rest is critical. Downtime limits fatigue and prevents injuries from overuse. The body needs rest to repair tissues and replace energy.
• What about your cat? Give him 10 to 15 minutes of activity a day in three- to five-minute sessions. It’s as easy as tossing a small tennis ball down the hall for him to chase, encouraging him to climb his cat tree by placing his food on the top level, or dangling a feather toy to encourage him to jump up or bat at it.
We wish you and your pets a happy, healthy new year.
LONGER, BETTER LIVES?
Scientists seek answers to the canine aging process and lifespan
By Kim Campbell Thornton
How long do dogs live? I think we can all agree that it’s not nearly long enough. Canine lifespans vary from as short as 6 to 8 years for certain giant breeds to an astounding 20-plus years for some tiny dogs. Owners of small and medium-size dogs can generally expect their companions to live 10 to 15 years.
Diet, good care and genetics all play a role in the length of a dog’s life, but two researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle are hoping to learn more about how dogs age, as well as whether the aging process can be delayed and the lifespan lengthened. The Dog Aging Project (DAP), headed by Daniel Promislow, Ph.D., and Matt Kaeberlein, Ph.D., plans to track 10,000 dogs in homes around the United States to get a sense of how genetic and environmental factors affect aging in dogs.
As dogs — and humans and other animals — age, organs and tissues break down, increasing the risk of age-related diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s disease and more. Age is a greater risk factor for these diseases than diet, weight and exercise.
“The big picture behind what we’re trying to do is to understand the aging process so we can delay the onset and progression of all these diseases,” Dr. Kaeberlein says. “It’s sort of a fundamental shift from the traditional medical approach, which is to wait until dogs — or people — are sick, and then try to treat the disease.”
The dogs in this observational study will include many different breeds in different environments: short-lived dogs, long-lived dogs, dogs in wealthy households and dogs in more modest households. The researchers will look at not just how long the dogs live, but also at how environmental factors affect them as they age.
Included in the DAP will be a smaller study, with up to 36 pet dogs in the Seattle area. It will look at whether a drug called Rapamycin — used to prevent organ transplant rejection in humans — can slow aging, extend canine lifespans and improve quality of life. The drug has been shown to increase lifespan in many different organisms, Dr. Kaeberlein says, as well as improve cognitive, cardiac and immune function in animals such as mice.
“There’s been accumulating evidence over the past several years that not only do they live longer, but that the aging process itself is slowed down,” he says.
Of the 46 dogs whose owners have expressed interest in enrolling them in the Rapamycin study, only 26 dogs so far have met the criteria to be included: at least 6 years old, weighing at least 40 pounds and with no pre-existing conditions. Among them are golden retrievers, a greyhound, Labrador retrievers, German shepherds and mixed breeds.
In both studies, dogs are good subjects because their shorter lifespan allows scientists to see results in a decade or less.
“If we had a large enough sample size, we could know in three years — certainly in five years — the extent to which Rapamycin improved healthy aging in dogs,” Dr. Promislow says. “And for a longitudinal study of age, where we want to follow dogs throughout life and understand the genetic or environmental factors that affect aging and disease in dogs, you can do that in a decade. That’s not possible in that timeframe in people.”
The eventual results could have implications for humans, but the dog-loving scientists say their research is about more than that.
“We’re both determined to find ways to improve the quality of life for dogs,” Dr. Kaeberlein says. “This is not just about finding something that will help people. It might be good for dogs and their owners.”
Photo credit: John Benavente
The Benefits of Dogs in the Workplace
(Family Features) As many pet parents return to the office in the new year, they are looking for ways to continue spending time with their furry friends during the workday. In fact, 72% of pet owners said being able to bring pets to work is important, according to an online survey conducted on behalf of the CESAR® brand. As part of its mission to make the world (including office spaces) dog friendly, the brand uncovered some benefits of bringing pets to work, including boosting happiness and relieving stress. Learn more at BetterCitiesForPets.com/PetsWorkAtWork.
We’ve gathered answers for 6 common holiday situations faced by pet lovers
By Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
It’s that time of year again. People are wondering “Should I tip my dog’s groomer?”, “What should I get for my pet-loving friends?” and “Is it OK to take cookies to my vet?” You have questions; we have answers.
What’s a great gift for my pet sitter, dog groomer or dog walker? It’s hard to go wrong with cash stashed inside a cute pet-themed card, signed with your pet’s name (and yours). Consider giving the cost of one session or visit. A gift certificate for a manicure or a gift card to a favorite coffee shop may also be welcome.
Should I get my veterinarian a gift? It’s definitely not required, but many pet owners enjoy sharing holiday goodies with their pets’ other best friends.
“Our amazing clients give us all kinds of goodies, from cookies to candies to fully catered lunch to pizza to gift cards for the staff,” says Gershon L. Alaluf, DVM, at Canyon Animal Hospital in Laguna Beach, California. “We are always very thankful and very happy to receive every gift given, and every last morsel is ingested.”
My dog pooped on my parents’ carpet. What should I do? Oops! We hope you brought a good enzymatic cleanser and some cleanup towels with you. Clean it up as best you can, and offer to have the carpet professionally cleaned. It’s a small price to pay for family amity.
What’s a good gift for pet-loving friends and family? Find out what kinds of bedding and other products they already use or how their pet likes to play. For instance, if the dog is a tough chewer or loves fetching balls, take those preferences into account. Dr. Becker’s QT loves squeaky toys, and Mikkel’s pug, Willy, is a connoisseur of small, soft, fuzzy toys without stuffing. The Thornton dogs favor treats above all else.
“A personalized item is thoughtful, too,” Mikkel adds, “such as a bed, collar or bowl, or breed-specific items like calendars, cards or stationery.”
Do the person and dog participate in a sport? A supply of dog treats or a new treat bag will be appreciated. For the pet and pet lover who have everything, make a donation to a pet charity in their name. A couple of our favorites are World Vets (worldvets.org) and The Grey Muzzle Organization (greymuzzle.org).
Is it OK to bring my pet to the family holiday gathering? Always ask first, and respect the response, even if it’s negative. Not everyone loves pets as much as we do, and some people suffer from allergies or animal-related phobias. If you must bring your pet, plan to stay in a hotel, and consider your pet a good excuse to go take a walk or have some down time to yourself.
Should I get my family a pet for Christmas? There used to be a sentiment that it was a bad idea to get pets during the holidays, but if done right, it can be a joyful experience. Studies show that pets given as gifts are just as likely to stay in homes and are just as well loved as animals acquired at other times or in other ways.
“Any time someone is considering bringing an animal into a home, they should be mindful of the commitment and give thought to what type of pet will be best for the family and lifestyle,” says Kristi Littrell, adoption manager for Best Friends Animal Society.
If you have time off during the holidays, that can be a good opportunity to spend time with and start training a new pet. If that’s not an option, present your family with a gift card or certificate from your local animal shelter, rescue group or a reputable breeder. Then you can all go choose your pet together when the time is right.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMarty Becker or Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker.