Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back to School Tips For Your Pets

The hurried rush of back-to-school and shorter days means families are spending more time focused on school work and active schedules.  As a result, the change in routine can be confusing for pets. Instead of going for walks and playing in the yard, their companions suddenly head out the door without them.

Dogs especially are creatures of habit and it is important to establish clear rules and a set schedule.  With the help of North Shore Animal League of AmericaDr. Ernie Ward and Pure Life 4 Pets, we've provided the best tips to ensure your pups will be happy and well adjusted. 

Avoid Anxiety. Changes in routine can also lead to anxiety in many dogs. Following some of these tips may help alleviate the stress caused by the changes that happen when it’s time to go back to school.

Transition Time. About a week before the kids return to school, begin getting your dog used to their absence: 
  • Leave your dog inside early in the morning to simulate school time. You only need to leave them for thirty minutes or so. Let them know the long, lazy summer mornings are coming to an end! 
  • Start getting out the lunchboxes and other items your dog associates with leaving for school in the morning. The idea is to desensitize them to any anxiety-producing cues prior to school starting. 
Set a Routine and Responsibilities. Work with your children to set and follow a daily routine that works for your family’s lifestyle all year long. 
  • The schedule should include: 
  • Feeding 
  • Walks to one spot for bathroom business 
  • Walks around the neighborhood or at the park
  • Appropriate play at approximately the same time every day
Some routine ideas may include:
  • Exercise and play in the morning before the kids leave the house. 
  • Extra attention and play when they get home from school. 
  • Exercise and “family time” in the evening
Establishing a routine your pet can depend on will help them deal with the changes. This not only ensures your pets get the attention and love they deserve, but will also help your children learn how to be responsible and caring pet owners.

Turn on Some Tunes. During the summer the house is full of sounds!  When the kids go back to school many of these sounds will suddenly be cut off for the majority of the day.  Whenever your dog is left alone, the sound of human voices or music can be soothing. Try leaving slow (50 to 60 beats per minute) and relaxing music playing when the house is empty.

Enrich the at Home Environment. When your pets’ favorite play buddy heads back to school their day can suddenly feel very empty. Rotating a selection of toys helps your dog or cat feel at home when he’s alone. 
  • Leave interesting and interactive toys and food puzzles out during the day helps your pets stay occupied
  • Hide favorite pet treats around the house for your pet to discover while you are away. 
    • Rubber Kongs or hard hollow bones can be stuffed with a little peanut butter or cream cheese and can even be frozen for a long lasting treat! 
  • Save a special toy that your pet really loves and have your children take it out just before they are ready to go out. Put it away again once the children come home so it remains the "special toy.”
Doggy Daycare.  Consider letting your dog socialize and play at doggy daycare some days while the house is empty. This will allow your dog to expend some energy, while being in good care and the company of others.  If your dog does not enjoy playing with other dogs, doggy daycares like Morris Animal Inn offer private daycare where your dog can play his favorite games one-on-one with a staff member.

Quality Time. It is important to re-connect with your pet at the end of a busy week. With school back in session, your dog may not get as much time playing with your family as during the care-free days of summer. Remember that even though your pet wasn't at work or school all day, he still needs time to unwind. Consider activities like:
  • Long walks at the park, 
  • Lounging around on the couch
  • Daily walks, even as the days get shorter
  • A weekend picnic
  • A weekend hike
  • A visit to a restaurant or establishment that allows dogs
  • A special weeknight brushing 
Getting back into the school mentality is never easy for humans or dogs!  It is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency.  Considering the above tips will help all of your kids (the two and four legged ones) transition back into the school year smoothly.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Is Your Dog Vaccinated for Canine Influenza?

If you’ve ever called Morris Animal Inn, you’ve most likely heard, “your dog needs the Canine Influenza Vaccination!”  “Canine Influenza, what is that? My vet didn’t say my dog needed that vaccine!”

It’s true, most vets don’t require the vaccine among their patients, but here’s why we do. Your pet’s health and happiness is always our main concern.

The Canine Influenza is highly contagious and can be transmitted by infected dogs prior to their showing any symptoms. Typically, it is airborne, passed by dog to dog contact, or via people's hands or clothing. Signs closely resemble a common respiratory syndrome known as Canine Cough, and may include:
  • Nasal discharge
  •  High fever
  •  A soft gagging cough of 10-14 days.
80 to 90 percent of those exposed will contract the virus, even if they don’t show symptoms. Approximately 20 percent of the dogs may exhibit additional symptoms such as:
  •  Loss of appetite
  •  Lethargy
  •  And potentially Pneumonia
The dogs most at risk are dogs exposed to places where there are many animals like parks, dog parks, pet stores, dog shows, or kennels. The virus is similar to flu in people where it is the very young and the old that are most severely affected.

The biggest concern is that Canine Influenza is a new virus, and no dogs have immunities against it; the virus is only a decade old in dogs, and mothers don’t pass down antibodies to their pups.

The virus was first identified in racing greyhounds and appears to have been the cause of significant respiratory disease on canine tracks throughout the United States for the last several years. Scientists compared the virus’s DNA with other influenza viruses and the closest match was the H3N8 equine influenza virus, meaning the virus likely jumped from horses to canines at the racetracks.

In 2005, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified Canine Influenza as a “newly emerging pathogen in the dog population.”

The best way to treat the flu is to prevent severe symptoms with the specialized vaccination. We strive for nothing but the best for you and your pup; this is why we require the Canine Influenza vaccine. Your pet's health and happiness is our number one priority, and we will continue to be a leader in the pet care industry to give your pets the best possible care during their time at Morris Animal Inn. Your dog will thank you when he can continue to play while his friends in the neighborhood may be at home sick in bed!

Source: New Jersey Department of Health, The Times Tribune

Monday, August 11, 2014

8 Exercise Games for Indoor Cats

According to a recent survey conducted by Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of cats are overweight or obese.  While treats are to blame, so is inactivity. Beyond weight management, exercise can  help reduce and even eliminate aggressive or destructive behavior in cats as well, according to the ASPCA.

Of course, we know each cat has a unique personality, so you might have to be creative with your exercise efforts! Keep in mind, games that tap into a cat’s natural hunting instincts will provide them more satisfaction and success.

1. Fishing Pole Game
You can make your own fishing pole game pretty easily. Tie your cat's favorite toy to the end of a string and throw it down the hall or across the room. Slowly pull in your catch as they hunt their toy. You may also try tying the string to the end of the stick, and dangle it in front of your cat, allowing them to jump and swat at it.

2. Use a Cat Game App
Apps just for cats?  You bet. Download an app on your iPad for your cat and watch them play. You may want to use a screen protector just in case to prevent scratches on your electronics. This is both mentally stimulating and gives your feline friend a little bit of exercise too!

3. Play Fetch
Fetch is for dogs, right?  Most of the time yes, but this game will make your cat work for their food while they burn calories and get exercise. Throw a piece of your cat's food or a treat down the hall or across the room and see if they will chase after it. Repeat the process until one of you is too tired to continue.

4. Make a Box Fort
If your cat has a soft spot for boxes, she is not alone. There is something about boxes that cats love. If you have some extra boxes around, make a fort for your cat. If you're worried that your cat will just go in and take a nap instead of play, try lacing the fort with catnip, treats, or toys.

5. Go Outside
If you have an indoor only cat, try taking them outdoors. Of course, using a leash and harness is recommended! Especially if your cat has never been outdoors. If your cat is older and scared of the outdoors, don't force them to do something they don't want to. Outside can be a scary place for some cats! But, for other cats it can be a fun place to explore and take a walk. Many cats do enjoy going outside on a leash and harness.

6. Climbing Tree
Provide your cat with something to climb on, like a multi-level cat tree or tower. This will allow your cat to stretch, claw and work climbing muscles.  Exploring the vertical space allows your cat to use different muscles and feel on top of the world at the same time.

7. Hockey
Enclose a small area in your house that has hard surfaces and give your cat a ping pong ball.  Let the ball bounce around and make your cat swat at it.  The unpredictability of the ping pong ball or a similar object will allow your cat to improve agility techniques and work their muscles.

8. Laser Pointer
A laser pointer is cheap, easy, and fun. Many cats love playing with laser pointers. Turn it on, point it on your walls and floors for your cat, and watch them try to catch the ever elusive red dot. This is a very fun game for cats and they should get a good amount of exercise! *Please be cautious when using laser pointers.  Do not shine them in your kitty's eyes!*

When are you away, it is especially important that your cat keeps up with daily exercise routines.  Morris Animal Inn provides cats who lodge with us the chance to get some exercise with our teaser sessions which include games like mouse laser lights, peacock feathers, teaser toys, and more by our team of Cat Pamperers.  Cats may also enjoy our beautifully designed kitty playroom which gives your cat free roam with climbing and scratching posts, skylight for outside view, toys, catnip, and furniture.

If your cat doesn't take to any of these games at first, don't give up! Your continued efforts will allow you to continue to bond with your furry friend, creating potential for more play times!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Helping Your Dog With Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is one of the most common problems for dog owners.  Dogs who become anxious, upset, and even destructive when left alone may be suffering from separation anxiety.  There are many roots and causes, and as a result, guiding your dog to learn to be alone can be a difficult process for many dog owners.  A great amount of literature exists on this topic, and we've complied a summary from Angie’s List and the ASPCA  great in-depth articles to help guide dog owners through managing and preventing separation anxiety.

What are the signs of separation anxiety?
  • Urinating and defecating
  • Barking and howling
  • Whimpering and whining
  • Chewing
  • Digging
  • Destruction
  • Escaping
  • Pacing
  • Over-salivating, foaming at the mouth
There is a large spectrum of separation anxiety from mild to severe. When treating a dog with separation anxiety, the goal is to resolve the dog’s underlying anxiety by teaching him to enjoy, or at least tolerate, being left alone. While each dog and each situation varies, here are some general tips to help all dogs who are anxious when you leave.

Exercise. Try aerobic activity for 30 minutes or more before you leave.  This will give your dog less energy to expend, and less energy to worry with!

Discourage behavior.  Sometimes pet owners reinforce behaviors that increase separation anxiety without realizing it. For example, if you return home and your dog gets excessively excited and jumps on you, if you return the excitement, you are reinforcing their undesirable behavior.  After your dog has calmed down, give them a gentle and peaceful greeting.

Don’t make a big deal out of leaving. Do not say goodbye to your dog. The bigger deal you make about leaving, the harder it will be on the dog. By making a big deal out of leaving, you convey to your pet that your time apart is a big deal.

Counterconditioning. Most destructive behavior occurs within the first 30 minutes of you leaving home.  For dogs with separation anxiety, counterconditioning focuses on developing an association between being alone and good things, like delicious food or toys. To develop this kind of association, every time you leave the house, you can offer your dog a puzzle toy stuffed with food that will take him at least 20 to 30 minutes to finish.  Keep in mind, though, that this approach will only work for mild cases of separation anxiety because highly anxious dogs usually won’t eat when their guardians aren’t home.

Eliminate Departure Cues.  If your dog gets anxious when you pick up your keys or put on your shoes, help them disassociate these signs with your departure.  A few times a day, pick up your keys or shoes and watch television instead.  

Leave on the television or radio.  Background noise soothes the pet, and has been known to decrease anxiety. Don’t forget to leave it on a channel with a consistent volume, like a shopping channel, rather than one with loud commercials.

Take small steps. Start by leaving your dog for very short periods of times and build up from there. For example, ask a neighbor or friend to hold onto your dog for one minute, then go into your house. After a minute, go back outside where your dog can see you. Then, go inside for two minutes. Increase the time in small increments until your dog remains comfortable with you leaving for longer periods of time.

Be consistent. Once you decide on a method, stick with it. Alleviating anxiety requires consistency and it may take time to see a change in behavior. Switching methods because you’re not seeing results right away can confuse the dog.

Alternatives.  There are other alternatives to leaving your dog home alone. Try leaving your dog with family or friends, or even better, bring them to doggie daycare to socialize and play with other dogs to learn that separating  from you for a couple of hours
can be a fun experience!