Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Take a Hike! Tips for Hitting the Trails with Your Dog

There’s nothing like a nice, long hike with your dog. Cooler fall days make for perfect hiking weather, meaning there is no better time than now to take to the trails. There are, however, some precautions that you should take in order to make sure you and your pup are safe. Here are some essential tips that you should follow whenever you bring your pooch hiking or on a long outdoor adventure.

Make sure that your dog is wearing an ID tag: If your pooch runs off, proper contact information is crucial. All ID tags should list the following things:
  • Pets name
  • Your cell phone number
  • Additional contact number 
  • Hometown: This way, if your dog is lost, anyone who finds them will know how far your dog is from home.
  • Medical issues and/or medicines: If they are lost and no one can contact you, this is vital information for whoever found them to know.
Make sure your dog is in good physical condition, and respect your dog’s limits: Start small and work up to bigger hikes..

Find a good, dog friendly trail: Some hiking trails aren’t dog friendly, including a good amount of trails in National Parks, so do your research before you go.

Hike during the cool parts of the day: Morning and late afternoon or evening are the coolest times of day. Your best bet is to get on the trail as early as possible so you aren’t walking during the midday heat. 

Pack plenty of water: Dogs don’t sweat, so they will need water to keep them hydrated throughout your hike. Stop frequently to give your dog water breaks and remember not to let your dog drink from ponds, lakes, streams or any natural bodies of water you may come across. These are breeding grounds for bacteria that could make your dog sick.

Bring a properly packed hiking kit: It’s always good to carry items that your dog may need while on a hike, including:
  • Treats: Always have rewards for your dog easily accessible. Whether you’re passing an aggressive dog, a person who doesn’t like dogs or another animal or stimuli in the woods, treats are an easy way to get your dog’s attention and distract them.
  • Water: So important, it’s worth mentioning twice! Make sure your pooch stays hydrated throughout the hike.
  • First Aid Kit: First aid kits aren't only for humans! Trails are full of sharp rocks and sticks that your dog may not be used to walking on.  A kit will help provide temporary care in case of emergency.
  • Air Horn: Should you get injured or need assistance on your hike, an air horn is always good to have on hand to get the attention of nearby hikers or rescue teams. There is also research that shows air horns may ward off curious bears, so especially for hiking in New Jersey, which has a high black bear population, carrying an airhorn is always a safe bet.
  • Cell Phone: Your phone is essential on a hike not only for safety, but for a lot of great apps with the ability to show you trail maps and track your hike. 
Ask permission before letting your dog approach anyone, humans or dogs: Not all people or dogs are friendly, so it is always better to be safe than sorry. Even if your dog loves everyone, it doesn’t mean that everyone will love your dog.

Make sure your dog isn’t eating plants along the trail: Keep an eye on your dog at all times! There are plants in the area that can be poisonous to pets if ingested. To prevent any issues, it’s best if your dog doesn’t eat anything found in the woods on your hike.

Prepare yourself for ticks and fleas, and check your dog after your walk: Make sure you thoroughly check your dog after every walk in order to make sure they are free of tick and fleas. If you do find them make sure you treat the problem right away.

Pick up after your dog! Just because you are in the woods doesn’t mean you don’t have to clean up after your dog. If your dog eliminates, pick it up. Leave a clean environment for future hikers and their pets; many dog diseases are spread through feces, so it’s best not to leave anything behind.

Following these simple tips can mean a safe fun hike for both you and your pooch. Remember to use your best judgment on the trail and to always pay close attention to what your dog is trying to tell you. Safe hiking!

Source: ASPCA & REI 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Caring for Your Senior Pet

After many years of loyalty, support and companionship, doesn't your dog deserve the best care you can give? With the right routine and some loving care, watching your canine companion grow older can be a rewarding experience.

Most veterinarians believe dogs are in their senior years when they reach the last third of their normal life expectancy. For instance, a large breed dog, such as a Great Dane that lives to be an average of nine years old, would be considered "senior" when they reached the age of six. Poodles that normally live to be 15 years old would be considered "senior" at 10 years old.

As your pet ages, you may first notice outward signs: white around the muzzle, less exuberance, hesitation trying to stand up after a nap or difficulty climbing into your vehicle. Then there are the internal signs we can't see, like a slowing metabolism, and changing nutritional requirements. Just as we give special attention to the needs of puppies, dogs heading into their senior years require unique attention to help comfort them and extend their precious time with us.

If you're lucky enough to share your home with an older pet, here are some tips we recommend for their care:

Exercise is still important. Although they can still have a grand old time romping and playing, you may need to adjust the frequency and intensity of the exercise your older pet engages in. Using those muscles regularly will help their mobility and possibly even stave off certain diseases. Shorter, more frequent walks or swims can help keep your dog in shape and their weight under control, and the continuation of current activities, whether it is a game of fetch or agility, should be continued until your dog exhibits any sign of discomfort.

If your canine friend has arthritis or is stiff and sore, a ramp will help them to get up and down from higher areas like vehicles or furniture.  This will make it much easier on their joints, and will allow them to maintain some of the adventure they enjoyed as a youngster.

Morris Animal Inn offers aqua massage for recreational purposes.  Some pet parents select the aqua massage to ease the aches and pains of arthritis and to sooth their dog's muscles.

Be gentle on those joints. To protect older elbows and haunches, provide your mature dog with a firm, orthopedic foam bed. There are "medical-grade" beds out there specifically designed by veterinarians that distribute weight evenly and reducing pressure on joints. They are also much easier to get out of in the morning!

Elevated food and water bowls can make eating and drinking more comfortable for arthritic pets, particularly if there is stiffness in the neck or back.

Take your vitamins. Dogs that have arthritis often benefit from drug-free nutritional supplements that contain ingredients such as Glucosamine HCl, Chondroitin Sulfate, and Vitamin C. Just be sure to consult your veterinarian, who can recommend the best supplements for your dog.

Good Nutrition and Hygiene.   Read the dog food label and choose a diet that is appropriate for your dog’s age and lifestyle.  Overfeeding your pet can lead to obesity which may cause additional health problems. Also, brushing your dog’s teeth may seem like a silly idea but it can help keep your dog’s mouth healthy. If you cannot brush, consider dental treats and toys that help keep the teeth clean.

Give lots of loving attention. As your pet ages, keep a close eye on their movements, behavior, and habits. Look for the signs, such as loss of appetite, excessive sleeping, irritability, changes in gait (walking patterns),  weakness, and incontinence. If your pet shows these signs, have them checked by your veterinarian. Be prepared to treat them with a little more love and care than ever before.

Schedule regular visits with your veterinarian. Your dog needs to be examined at least annually, even if they appear healthy, as many diseases are hidden and not apparent.  Remember it is much cheaper to prevent disease than it is to treat it! Ask for a body condition evaluation during each vet visit. Body condition is crucial to determining whether your senior dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal body weight. 

Source: PetMD, MSPCA

Monday, September 8, 2014

Autumn Safety Tips for Your Pets

Summer is surely coming to an end -- the kids are back to school and the days will slowly become shorter and cooler. The end of the sweltering heat isn’t always a bad thing! Autumn is a great time for some outdoor adventures with your pet; the air is crisp and there is nothing better than rolling in a pile of red and gold leaves together. Just like any other time of year, the start of the new season brings new risks for your pet.

Here are a few risks to be aware of in the upcoming season:

Back to School Supplies. Items in your kid’s pencil box like glue sticks, pencils and magic markers are considered “low toxicity” to pets, which means they're unlikely to cause serious problems unless they ingest large amounts! However, since gastrointestinal upset and blockages certainly are possible, be sure your children keep their school supplies out of paw's reach!

Rodenticides. As rodents seek shelter from the cooler temperatures by attempting to move indoors, the use of rodenticides increases in the fall. Rodenticides are highly toxic to pets—if ingested, the results could be fatal. If you must use these products, do so with extreme caution and put them in places inaccessible to your pets.

Mushrooms. Unfortunately, most of the highly toxic mushrooms are difficult to distinguish from the nontoxic ones, so it’s best to keep them away from all mushrooms. Be especially cautious of parasol-shaped mushrooms and all small brown mushrooms. Symptoms of mushroom poisoning can range from mild vomiting and diarrhea to severe digestive problems to complete liver failure.

Grumpy Snakes. Autumn is the season when snakes who are preparing for hibernation may be particularly “grumpy,” increasing the possibility of severe bites to those unlucky pups who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pet owners should know what kinds of venomous snakes may be in their environment—and where these snakes are most likely to be found—so they can keep pets out of those areas.

Engine Coolant. Many people choose fall as the time to change their car's engine coolant. Ethylene glycol-based coolants are highly toxic, so spills should be cleaned up immediately. Consider switching to propylene glycol-based coolants—though they aren't completely nontoxic, they are much less toxic than other engine coolants.

Bonfires. Fall is a great time to snuggle up around a bonfire. However, fire can be a great danger for your curious pets. Make sure that you close up your fireplaces, block off any fire pits, and keep your pet away from the spark zone.

Heating Devices. If you use an indoor electric heater in your home when it starts to get chilly, be sure that you turn it off each and every time you leave the house in order to keep your pet safe from any potential accidents or house fires.

Hunting. October is the peak season for hunting. Make sure both you and your pet are wearing proper bright colors to ward off any hunters in your area! If your pets are allowed to be outside unsupervised, make sure they are unable to wander into a hunting zone.

Source: ASPCA, PetAg, Agway