Thursday, August 29, 2013

Taking the Stress out of Vet Visits

Just as we may sometimes be nervous about visiting the doctor, your pet may feel a little apprehensive about a visit to the vet’s office. In choosing a vet that you are comfortable with, you can feel confident in your pet’s comfort, too. When it comes time to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian, there are additional steps you can take to help make the experience a positive one right from the start.

The first step to an easy vet visit is to make your pet comfortable before going anywhere near the office. Animal Planet’s Pets 101 blog suggests developing a calm pre-vet routine, which includes regular at-home check ups to get them used to being handled, practice trips in the car or carrier and plenty of love and affection.

The journey itself can be stressful especially for cats, who often see the car as an unpredictable and unfamiliar place. Try taking them out for short drives around the block, and work your way up to longer trips or even an unscheduled visit to your vet just to say hello to some staff. As the anxiety of uncertainty lessens, so will your cat’s overall concern for car trips.

For dogs, the car trip may be a piece of cake… that is until you pull into the vet’s parking lot. So why not make the vet a place where your dog can have some fun? Pet Trainer Victoria Stilwell of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog suggests that you spend some time playing with your pet upon arrival, perhaps outside the building, so they can come to associate the vet’s office as a place where fun things happen, too!

Once you’ve entered the lobby, you and your pet might encounter other pets and their waiting humans. It’s important first for you to remain calm, as your pet will feed off your emotions. Although it is impossible to predict who or what you will encounter in a waiting area, you can request to schedule an appointment at your vet’s least busy times to help minimize exposure. While you’re waiting, talk to your pet in a calm voice to help keep them relaxed and focused on you. For a dog, you might also consider bringing a small towel or yoga mat from home for them to sit on, so they have their own familiar-smelling space in which to wait.

Remember, most vets will take the time to break the ice a bit with your pet once the visit begins. A few minutes of casual interaction will make your pet more at ease, as will the continued presence of a towel or toy that they are familiar with. Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for additional recommendations if you feel concerned for your cat or dog’s comfort. Preparation and open communication can lead to a healthy, happy relationship between you, your vet, and your pet.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August is Senior Pets Month - Caring for your Aging Pet

There’s just something about a puppy. That “new puppy smell”, their cute miniature features and their high energy can leave us swooning. But whether you start with a puppy or adopt an older pet, there comes a time for all pet owners when it becomes important to learn how best to care for a senior pet.

Blogpaws, a pet-focused social media company, has declared August as Senior Pet Month in honor of our oldest furry friends. They offer tips for helping your pet age into their golden years, and ideas for how best to care for them once they get there.

The first step to helping your pet have a graceful and healthy transition into old age is to know any health issues that could arise. Research your pet’s breed to know what to prepare for, as everything from joints and muscles to skin, fur and teeth can age differently from pet to pet.

One of the most important ways you can protect your pet as they age is to keep them healthy and fit. Feeding your pet an appropriate diet is a must for a dog or cat of any age. The type and amount of food you give them should be influenced by their size, breed and activity level. Talk with your vet about your pet’s specific needs, and be sure to read the labels on bags of pet food to know exactly what you are feeding your pet. Protein is an important element in your aging pet’s diet, as it supports muscle mass.

A healthy diet plus regular exercise can help ward off obesity, which is crucial to your pet’s long-term health. Extra weight can put more pressure on aging joints and muscles, a strain that can be prevented by keeping your pet active as they age. If your pet starts to become less active, you may want to reconsider the amount and type of food that they eat on a daily basis.

Any changes in your pet’s behavior or diet should always be discussed with your vet. Regular veterinary visits as your pet ages can help to prevent potential illness and weakness, keeping your pet happy and healthy into their senior years. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

How Does Your Pet Say “I Love You”?

On our blog “If They Could Talk,” part of our goal is to help interpret what your dogs and cats are trying to tell you. When it comes to affection, however, your pet is already speaking to you in a language anyone can easily understand. By learning to read your pet’s signals, you can always tell just how much they love you!

Licking: There’s a reason we call our pet’s licks “kisses.” As the blog Miniature Paws explains, though there are lots of reasons that dogs lick; one of the reasons is to show that they love you. This type of licking, which often occurs while you are greeting your pet, can easily be compared to human kissing as it has an affectionate meaning behind it.

Upright Tail Wagging: A swish of a dog’s tail is often the first thing people notice when their dog is happy. The Daily Puppy warns that not all tail wagging means your dog is pleased; a low swing of the tail can often indicate uncertainty or fear. If your dog’s tail is wagging quickly and in an upright position, however, you can be sure that they are happy to see you.

Barking and Jumping: Just like humans, excited pets are prone to jumping around and making a lot of noise. Barking, leaping at you, and even nipping are ways that your pooch expresses their affection and excitement to see you. This indicates that your pet sees you as a friend, and is how they would play with other dogs. There is a fine line between affectionate and dominant behavior when it comes to barking and jumping, however, so make sure you only encourage it when your dog is calm and obedient. For tips on controlling barking, read our recent post on recognizing why your dog barks.

Rolling Over: A dog that offers you their belly for a good scratch is completely comfortable around you. Displaying this kind of security is a sign from your dog that they are happy to be with you!

Trying to get your attention: Dogs and cats do this by pressing against you and calling out to you. You know the way they act: a cat will weave between your legs; a dog will press its head into your lap. These pets love you and want to be with you. They will often follow you around, not wanting to let you out of their sight for even a moment!

Smiling! We are often surprised to find our pets with an expression on their face that looks a lot like a human grin. It turns out this twitch of the face might be an intentional smile. Miniature Paws references a McGill University neuroscientist named Jeffrey Mogil, who said that animals feel many of the same emotions as we do and use the muscles in their face to show it. If you think your dog or cat looks like they’re smiling at you, you might be right to assume they are shooting you a smirk. It means that your pet is happy, filled with love and ready for a perfect photo!

What other things does YOUR dog or cat do to show you their love?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Thunder Phobias – How to Calm a Nervous Pet

Wondering when the next summer thunderstorm is going to hit? For many pet owners, you can just look to your dog for the answer. Our pets can sense the drop in barometric pressure that accompanies a storm. Unfortunately, for many pets this is just the beginning of a deadly fear of thunder.

Between the pressure, noise and vibrations, as your pet sees it, there are plenty of things to be afraid of when it comes to thunderstorms. Whether your pet cowers in the bathroom or shivers, cries and won’t leave your side, there are ways you can help comfort them before and during Mother Nature’s next electrical storm.

I’m Safe, You’re Safe. One of the most important parts of comforting your pet during a storm is assuring them of their safety. Your pet trusts you. If you are relaxed and comfortable during a thunder storm, they will pick up on your emotions. Dog Trainer and Blogger Patricia McConnell assures on her blog, The Other End of the Leash, that rewarding your dog with treats and praise while they are nervous does not reinforce fear. Fear is an emotion, not a behavior, she says, and therefore cannot be reinforced. Just as humans want to be comforted when feeling negative emotions, your pup will appreciate the attention.

Counter Classical Conditioning. Beyond reassurance, you can take steps to prevent your dog’s fear by training away thunder phobia. Also on her blog, McConnell explains the step-by-step process of teaching your dog to associate the thing they fear, thunder, with something they love, like treats or a toy. Start by playing a recording of thunder sounds very quietly, and follow it with treats or playtime. By gradually linking food or play with increasingly loud “thunder”, you can condition your pet to associate the negative noise with a positive reward. When a real storm rolls around, begin positive reinforcement with the first distant rumble of thunder. This takes practice, but has an ultimately high success rate of helping remove thunder phobia.

Thundershirts. As a kid, who didn’t crawl under their blankets in bed to hide from the “monsters in the closet”? There’s something to be said for the cozy security of being wrapped in warmth and blankets, which is where Thundershirts come in for dogs. A Thundershirt is a fitted garment for pets that is designed to press on certain pressure points to help increase security and relaxation. We have personally tested the Thundershirt here at Morris Animal Inn and found that the garment does help calm nervous pets! Stop by our lobby to try one on your dog. 

From creating a “Safe House” to administering sound therapy, there are many other methods for increasing your pet’s security during thunderstorms. Some people have even seen an improvement after running a dryer-sheet over their pet’s fur to reduce static electricity! Try out a few different methods to see what works best for your pet. For serious cases or pets that show no improvement, you can also speak with your veterinarian for further suggestions.

What have YOU tried to treat thunder phobia with your pet?

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Life's a Beach! Dog Safety at the Shore

The month of August is known for many things: back to school shopping, National Dog Day and just one last trip to the beach before summer ends. Bringing your dog along can be tempting, as there are numerous New Jersey beaches that allow pets to enjoy the sand and surf with their humans. Just like you need to prepare for a beach trip by packing your swimsuit, sunscreen and cooler, there are steps you should take to get ready for a day of paws in the sand.

Most important in preparing for a doggie beach trip is packing all the essentials. For your dog to stay safe and cool, bring a beach umbrella, towels or blankets and lots of water! Basking in the sun might be good for your tan, but it can take its toll on your pup. There is always a risk of overheating, but being proactive and knowing the signs can help keep everyone safe.

Make sure you station yourself near a shady spot (or set up your umbrella) so your pet can escape the sun. As discussed on Animal Planet’s Dog Guide Blog, sand can be scorching on your pet’s paws. Lay out a towel or blanket for them to relax on, and encourage them to at least get their feet wet in the surf. Just as the hot sand hurts less on your feet after a dip in the water, your pet’s paws will be much less sensitive after a romp in the waves.

Discourage your dog from drinking the salty ocean water, as it will do nothing to help with hydration. Have plenty of clean water ready for your pet to drink throughout the day, even after a swim when they seem cooled off. Be extra careful with short-muzzled breeds like English bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers and pugs; they tend to overheat faster than many other dogs with longer snouts.

In addition to keeping your dog hydrated, you also need to protect their skin! That’s right, your pup can get sunburn, too. Sunscreen made specifically for dogs is an easy find during the summer months, and should be applied to your dog’s ears, nose, inside of their back legs and anywhere other sensitive areas that will receive direct sunlight, especially on shorter-haired breeds.

Unsure if you want to bring your dog along to the beach? The number one thing to consider is your pet’s recall skills. Dog-friendly beaches are large, open areas that will more than likely be filled with distractions. For safe off-leash fun, your dog should be well-trained in coming back to you when you call. If your dog is prone to run after another dog, person or even a seagull, consider doing some more training practice before taking your dog to such a stimulating environment. Always have plenty of treats on hand to reward your dog for a recall well done!

If your beach plans don’t involve your dog, Morris Animal Inn is happy to provide your pet with their own summer getaway or “staycation” while you take your trip to the shore. Call us at 973-539-0377 to book your pup for daycare filled with pool and group play fun so you both can have your own “vacation” day!