Baku the Dream Eater

Baku the Dream Eater
Baku (source: the noominarium)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How to Deal with Nuisance Barking

As we get into the warmer months, your canine friend will want to be outside, or at the very least, watching out of the windows at the world.  This is great, unless you have a dog that has an opinion about everything, and wants everyone to know what’s going on;  shouting at everything...leaves, dogs, cars, garbage, you get the point. If your dog has developed a habit of barking,  especially if he barks for a long time, or during odd hours, you could be dealing with a case of nuisance barking.

The first thing to do to help stop this behavior is to determine why your dog is barking.  Here are some common reasons:

Boredom can cause a dog to lash out vocally.  If your dog is alone a lot or confined to a crate or room while you’re away, they may become bored and restless,and they may start barking to try to get attention.  Dogs are pack animals, and don’t like to be alone, so barking can try to alert the rest of their pack.

Anxiety can cause barking to help alleviate the stress, because, in their minds, it will bring the pack closer to soothe the barker. It's a higher pitched barking, and can include howling or crying.

Alert barking is a little bit different than some of the more persistent barking that you’ll hear from dogs who are merely lonely.  Sharp, loud barks when someone such as a neighbor or the mailman is near the home are more for warning the pack that something is happening.  Of course, if you’re dealing with a nuisance barker, that warning might be aimed at things that you don’t need to worry about.  

Response barking is when your dog is replying to another dog in the neighborhood or apartment building.  My own dog used to bark at the dog downstairs, because she would bark at him. To them, that might have just been a conversation.  

Playfulness is another reason that dogs will bark.  Like children, they bark to get the other dog’s attention so that they can play, or bark during play.

These examples can be considered nuisance barking if it goes on for a long period of time or no one is around to stop it. It can be disruptive to home life and cause neighbors to file grievances with the township or home association.  This may affect the ability to own dogs in your neighborhood, and of course it certainly doesn’t make neighbors friendly!

So, how do you stop your dog from barking excessively?  
Training, training, training!  Obedience training can do wonders for how you can control what sounds your dog makes and when he makes them.  All dogs, no matter what age they are, can benefit from a training class, and this will instill manners and  make it easier for you to end up as the alpha dog in your pack!

Exercise is key as well.  A properly exercised dog is going to be happy and will have less reason to bark (well, except if your neighbor’s dogs are barking and yours is only answering them!)  Walking, running, playing fetch or frisbee or catch, even indoor games can be great exercise, both mentally and physically. After these activities your pup may just be too tired to bark!

Make sure that you are correcting your pet each and every time she barks.  A single command, in a serious and stern voice, should curb the barking as soon as it starts.   Don’t use the word “No!”  but something like “No bark!” or “Quiet!”  should work.  “No” is too broad of a term for the command you want, and may confuse your dog.  Using small treats to reward your dog will help, but make sure she’s quiet for a few seconds before rewarding her, that way she will understand exactly why she’s receiving the treat.  

When my dog was in his prime, he’d spend his days on our balcony in the sun, and I would tell him, “If you bark, you have to come inside.”   As soon as he’d start to bark, I’d give him the code word for being quiet, and I would bring him inside.   After a while doing this, anytime he’d bark, he would just come in right afterward, because he realized I’d be there to tell him to stop.  It was actually quite comical, because he’d come inside, looking very guilty, as if to say, “Sorry, mom, I barked again”....

If you are crating your pup during the night, or while you’re out of the house, and you worry that they might bark or whine all day, try leaving a TV or radio on while you’re gone.  This may help your dog by making him think you’re really there but in a different room.

Understanding why your dog is barking, and training them to stop will definitely curb any nuisance barking and ensure that your relationship with your neighbors and your pet stay positive.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Summer Health Risks for Your Pet

     Summer is fast approaching; time for fun in the sun with your best friend. Swimming, hiking, and going to the beach might be great times for humans, but your pets have new health risks when the weather gets warm. Make sure you follow these safety tips to keep your pet happy and healthy through the warmer months.

Parasite protection
     The warm weather wakes up insects and other critters, and they love to feed on your pet. Make sure your pet is consistently on flea and tick prevention, as well as heartworm medicine. Fleas and ticks carry diseases that can incapacitate or kill your pet, and mosquitoes carry heartworm, which is deadly as well. Visit your local veterinarian to pick up the best preventatives for your dog or cat.

Water, water, everywhere     Not all dogs love water, and most cats really don’t like it. If your dog is interested in playing in the water (pool, river, lake, etc) make sure you supervise your pets. It’s easy for a pet to be swept away by currents, or get too tired while swimming in deep water. Almost any pet supply stores sell life jackets for your pet, in case you find yourself bringing Fido on a boat or to the pool.

Heat Waves
     Some pets, especially dogs with short snouts (known as brachycephalic dogs) have a very low tolerance for heat, and can become incapacitated quickly due to heatstroke. When you have your pet outside, be sure to provide adequate shelter/shade and cool drinking water. Dogs don’t sweat through their skin like humans do, but dissipate heat through panting and sweating from the bottoms of their feet. Watch for signs of heatstroke such as excessive panting, dark red or tacky gums, inability to get up, dizziness. If you see these symptoms in your pet, get them to a veterinarian immediately. Also, short haired dogs can get sunburn, so limit your pet’s exposure to the sun to avoid it.

No Parking
     Everyone has read horrific stories of pets being left in cars in the summer, and dying of heatstroke, even if they’re only left in the car for a few minutes.. The temperature in your car rises very quickly when the air conditioning isn’t on, even if you park in the shade and leave windows partially open. If the outside temperature is higher than 70, your car can become a 115 degree furnace in less than a half hour! Honestly, the best choice is to leave your pet at home if you have to go out shopping.

Thunderstorm Safety
     Many dogs are afraid of thunder, lightning, and wind from summer thunderstorms. Dogs and cats who panic during storms can hurt themselves and even destroy their surroundings. Don’t leave your cat on a balcony during a thunderstorm, nor your dog in the yard. If they bolt, they can become lost or injured without even realizing it. Keep all pets inside when you hear the thunder or see lightning, and provide distraction if possible, to keep them occupied. You may also want to ask your veterinarian for a possible sedative if your pet is especially destructive or nervous. My own dog has always been afraid during thunderstorms, and I've found something called a “Thundershirt” ( which works very well to help alleviate his anxiety.

Killer Pests
     To make your lawn beautiful, you might be using chemicals that can be dangerous to your pets. Fertilizer, mulch, and weed killer can be fatal if eaten or swallowed by your pet. Read the labels on your gardening products, or talk your local garden store to find pet-friendly lawn and garden ingredients.
     Certain flowers, vegetables and other decorative plants can be poisonous for your dog or cat. With some help from your local garden store and your vet, you can create a wonderful garden for both you and your four legged friends.
Winston (owned by Melanie Graham)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Orthotics and Your Pet

One of the most fascinating parts of learning about veterinary medicine is watching the way research and development are allowing us to help our pets in ways we never had before. Today we're going to talk about orthotics.

The medical definition of orthotics, as taken from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, is a branch of mechanical and medical science that deals with the support and bracing of weak or ineffective joints or muscles. This means things like braces, supports, or anything to help a person use a weakened joint or muscle group.  Veterinarians are now using special orthotics to help dogs and cats move more efficiently and help reduce pain, which is wonderful if your family member is suffering from orthopedic problems or illnesses.

For example:  Your 7 year old Golden Retriever has torn her ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) during a play session with some other dogs.  You visit your vet, and after some xrays and a thorough examination, he diagnoses your dog with a partial or completely torn ACL.  

Surgery is usually the most common next step.  Estimate for surgery: $1500 to $3000 depending on the particular type of surgery needed, which is a lot of money to pay for surgery, unless you have pet insurance.  There is another choice: you could have your dog fitted for a special knee brace, to help strengthen the knee and prevent any further damage.  Along with physical therapy, the brace, which may cost only a few hundred dollars, can allow your dog to lead a normal life and play with her friends.

*picture taken from the OrthoPets Center for Veterinary Orthotics and Prosthetics,
Denver, Colorado, USA

With custom made orthotics for knees, elbows, ankles and writes, dogs who may be too old for surgery or too high-risk for anesthesia can benefit greatly and live longer, fuller lives. When used in conjunction with surgery, rehabilitation can be made smoother, and may even lessen the time your pet is in rehab. Dogs with partial paralysis due to a spinal injury or hereditary condition can be custom fitted for wheelchairs and slings to keep them active.  The number of pets who are humanely euthanized because of a poor prognosis or a diminished quality of life may be lessened with the development of orthotics.

Most pets can be custom fitted for the prostheses by your vet, and be ordered from a number of manufacturers around the US.  They’re usually made from tough plastic and fiberglass, and are made to be easy to clean and care for.   So if you have a pet who is having trouble moving around, and it’s affecting their quality of life, check out the amazing things that orthopedic veterinarians are making available for your dog or cat. Ask your vet and they will be able to steer you in the right direction, and help you fit your pet for the perfect prosthetic.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

What are Dewclaws and Why Would I Remove Them from My Dog?

Take a moment to look at your dog’s paws: do they have four toes or five?  Is one of them a bit higher up on the foot, almost like a human thumb?   That is what's known as a dewclaw. They are considered to be vestiges of toes that our dog’s ancestors were born with and used to keep balance in rough terrain, as well as to help grip things such as bones or large items during feeding.  We’ve all seen our dogs “holding” bones or toys while they tore them apart and the dewclaw can help with this. 

Nowadays, dogs don’t really use these toes as often, so some breeds have genetically bred them out gradually. Some breeds of dog have them on the front, and some have them on front and back, although the ones on the back occur a lot less often, and are usually breed specific; Great Pyrenees, for example, have double dewclaws on their back feet.

Some dogs have dewclaws that are attached, just like the rest of their toes, but there are times when a dog's dewclaws don’t develop correctly, and they “dangle”, less like a toe, but more like a piece of skin with a toenail on it.  When this happens, it can get in the way and cause the pet to be caught on carpet or fabric.  This can result in the tearing the dewclaw, which means a quick trip to the vet and unnecessary pain and possible infection for the pet. If your dog has these dewclaws, your vet may recommend having the entire toe removed. Since they usually don’t reach the ground, they’re not functional, and having them removed won’t handicap your dog in any way, and the surgery is not terribly invasive.  

There are breeders who will have dewclaws removed on a litter of their puppies when they’re just a few days old, which seems awful but actually is a very easy procedure and results in a dog who grows up with no loose dewclaws, so no possibility of future problems.

My dog has dewclaws on his front feet only, but his are fully attached and function as extra toes.  He uses them to grab onto things and they function very well for him.  They also reach the ground (because he has very long feet) so he uses them and wears the nail down normally.  If your pet has dewclaws that are not being removed, please make certain that you are trimming them regularly, as they’re probably not reaching the ground and won’t wear down like the rest of his nails.  Failure to keep these claws short can result in overgrown nails which can twist and embed themselves into their paws, which can cause infection and pain.

If your dog is lucky enough to have no dewclaws, then you’ve avoided any of the problems I’ve mentioned above, and your pet probably wouldn’t be worse for wear in not having them. Doggy feet are pretty awesome; my pup Baku, as a mix of breeds unknown, had a very varied size. His front feet were quite large, sort of like Dachshund's are, and his back feet were teeny tiny! I wondered sometimes how he was "put together" but thought his feet were pretty cool :).

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Tips for Outdoor Eating with Your Dog

The weather is warming and the outdoor cafes are opening their doors and setting up their patios.  You’d love to stop at one of them and grab some lunch, but you’ve got your dog on a leash with you.  How can you successfully enjoy your meal without starting a food fight or knocking over a waiter?  Here are some tips to having a great meal outside while letting your dog enjoy the ambiance of a patio table. *Don’t forget to call ahead to the restaurant to make sure they’re pet-friendly*.

What to bring:  
A pet first aid kit:  If you don’t already carry one, it’s a great thing to make up and keep with you.  This will solve any minor issues, like an accidental burn or minor scrapes.  

Your pet’s identification:  Make sure your dog license is up to date and you carry a copy of your pet’s vaccine history, just in case the restaurant requires pets to be properly vaccinated.  A rabies tag and proof of a microchip number is important as well, just in case the unthinkable happens and your dog gets loose.

Snacks/water for your dog:  They shouldn’t be eating restaurant food, unless the menu includes doggy-friendly items (some do!)  Know if your pet is allergic to anything beforehand, and bring some munchies for them in case they can’t eat what you’re eating.  Also, remember to bring a bowl for the pet, or ask for a plastic bowl or cup.  Dogs are not allowed to eat or drink out of restaurant tableware unless it’s disposable.

Doggy pick up bags:  It’s best to walk your dog before sitting down, so he doesn’t pick a very inconvenient time or place to relieve himself.

What to remember:
Your pet needs to be safely leashed at all times.  Retractable leashes aren’t always the best idea, choose a sturdy leash with a secure fastener.  If you need to tie your pet’s leash down, tie it to your chair, NOT the table.  If your dog is large enough to move the table, you might end up wearing your lunch!
Your dog should be well-behaved.  Important commands such as “sit” and “stay” are imperative to good doggie manners at the outdoor cafe.  Don’t allow your dog to socialize with other diners or pets, unless it’s welcomed. If you have a pet who may not be amenable to strangers or small children, it’s best to leave them home.  Remember, a dog in a restaurant is bound to attract people, and not everyone will ask first before petting your dog.  
Keep your pet out of the path of the servers by commanding your dog to sit or lay down near your table.  It’ll prevent any accidents or injuries to the wait staff.  If you can secure a table away from the main pathways, this will help keep your dog and everyone else safe.  
Check the area around your table before sitting down.  Make sure any loose food/garbage items are picked up, and ask any women nearby to close their purses if necessary.  It’s better to keep the temptation away than deal with any consequences later.

These tips should help turn your outdoor dining experience into a fun, satisfying outing!


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Picky Eaters - How to Teach Your Pet to Eat Properly

Most pets are voracious eaters, devouring every morsel of food in their bowls as soon as they hit the floor.  They couldn’t care less about what kind of food you fed them.  Table scraps, grocery store brand food, canned or dry, it makes no difference.  If you have a pet like this, consider yourself very lucky, as your life can become easier.

There are some pets who, no matter what kind of research you do about the best possible food, or the tastiest meals, will stick their noses up at most everything you put down.  Having a dog or cat who is picky about what they eat can tie you up in knots, causing you to read every label, wasting money on foods they won’t eat, or inadvertently training your pet to rely on kitchen scraps for their sustenance.  This can lead to an overweight, unhealthy pet who has trained you to feed them what they want and not what is best for them.  Here are some tips to re-train your pet to eat what is given to them, and not hold out for something else.

No Table Food
It’s definitely tempting to feed your pet off of your own plate, especially when you can’t help but notice their big sad eyes staring at you while you eat.  Table scraps can not only be unhealthy for your pet, but may teach them to think that it's normal to eat what you eat when you eat it.  Most high grade dog and cat foods contain the correct mix of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and you’d be surprised at the variety of foods out there  There has to be something for everyone.
If you have trained your pet to accept treats at table, begin to train them to stay in a certain area of the house, preferably away from your dinner table.  This way the begging carries no weight.  Cats may need to be closed in a room while you’re eating.  Giving treats at other times is fine, but the pet needs to learn that family meal time does not include them.

Be consistent
As with any training for your pet, consistency is key.  If you slip up and feed Fido off of your plate, training could be delayed, because you’re not holding up to your end of the deal.  Do everything the same all of the time.  This goes for family members and visitors, if you have people over for meals.  

Do your homework
A little research into what may be best for your pet and the family dynamic can prevent picky eaters later.  For example, cats are hunters, and in the wild, will eat several small meals per day than one big meal; for this reason, splitting their daily food into smaller meals is best.  Dogs, on the other hand, can eat one large meal per day.  If you see your pet eating a certain flavor of food more voraciously than others, stick with what works.  Canned foods and dry foods can be mixed, as many pets prefer foods with gravy or juices, just make sure they are not gaining too much weight (dry food tends to have fewer calories.)  
Pet owners should also research what goes into the food that they feed their pets.  Many store bought foods are loaded with fillers, such as corn, beet pulp, and cellulose; while these things can make your pet feel full, they do not add any nutrition.  Ask your vet for the best brands and ingredients for your pet.

Your pet will learn what he or she likes as you are learning what is best, so that any episodes of pickiness can be researched to ensure that a medical condition, such as dental disease or gastrointestinal woes, isn’t what is causing your pet to refuse food.   

Are raw diets really better for your pet?

Hi again! It's your friendly neighborhood pet blogger with an interesting look into a very new trend on how to feed your family pet.

When we think about pet food, most of us think about dry kibble in a bag or a can of wet food that we can open and dump into our pet’s bowl every day.  For the majority of pet owners, that is enough, whether we’re using prescription food given to us by our veterinarian, organic food we order over the internet, or the kibble that is readily available in grocery stores, pet stores, and feed stores everywhere you look.   For some people who want to have a more direct hand in exactly what our pets eat, raw diets are becoming more popular across America.

What exactly is a raw diet?  The common idea of a perfect raw diet for dogs and cats is comprised of vegetables, fruits, meat (both regular “muscle” meat and organ meat), bones, eggs, and some dairy (usually plain yogurt)...all raw, in different combinations depending on your pet’s individual needs.

This trend toward “evolutionary diets” in dogs started in 1993, when  Australian veterinarian Ian Billinghurst created what he called the BARF diet, which stands for Bone and Raw Food, or Biologically Appropriate Raw Food.  He started with the idea that dogs would be healthier if they ate the same way their evolutionary ancestors did (raw meat, bones, and vegetation), and supported this idea with the thought that grain-based commercial foods were creating health issues with dogs such as allergies, cancers, gastrointestinal diseases, and overall obesity.

This idea has spread over the past few decades, and now raw BARF diets are being created by veterinarians and animal experts all around the world.  Dr. Billinghurst has a website where you can order freeze dried or frozen patties made of his particular blend of raw ingredients, and he ships all over the world.  Other websites and stores sell different brands of raw food, and recipes can be found in as many places as you can look for pet food A lot of people went 'raw' after the melamine tainted pet food that was recalled in 2007.

So the question remains:  Is that kind of diet better for your dog?  And could you do this for your cat too?  Dog diets vary widely from cat diets, as dogs can be omnivorous (can eat equal amounts of vegetable matter and meat) and cats are strictly carnivorous, and can’t survive on a vegetarian diet.   How do you know what’s best?

The possible benefits of a raw diet are: shinier, healthier coat, stronger bones, smaller stools, more energy, and cleaner teeth.  Who wouldn’t want that for their pets, you say?  Absolutely, sign me up!

However, there are mistakes that people make when deciding to feed raw to their pets.  You have to be very careful that you are allowing for proper nutrients and amino acids.  For example, if you feed your pet primarily raw chicken, they may be lacking in nutrients gained by eating organ meat, or other forms of protein.  Forgetting a calcium portion, like yogurt, can cause bone deficiencies.  Adding specific vitamins is crucial to avoid weakening the pet’s immune system, organ function, muscle tone and density, or sight.  

Many raw diets can be quite expensive, as well.  Some require a bit of preparation, and aren’t as easy to feed as the standard "throw-a-cup-of-food-in-a-bowl" routine so many of us are used to.  And while raw diets are touted as being just as healthy for pets as they age, this diet may be lacking in the kinds of supplemental vitamins they’ll need as they enter their senior years.  One more often reported problem with raw diets is the fear of a pet becoming injured while swallowing a bone splinter or piece of sinew from their raw formula.

As with any change to your pet's diet, if you do your research and, MOST importantly, speak with your vet before introducing your pets to any drastic change in diet, you may find that feeding your pets the BARF diet (really, it’s just fun to say!) is the best thing you could do for them.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Training Your New Dog- The Basics

     Congratulations! You’ve got a new canine companion! Whether you’ve rescued a scruffy stray with unknown parentage, or purchased a pup from a reputable breeder, you’ll need to know how to help your new family member become the best friend he can be.
     Lots of people can, and will, give you advice about what to feed your dog, what toys to get, which vet to go to, even what health insurance to buy, but each owner must decide on their own way of training their dog. While studies have shown that you can teach an old dog new tricks, not every dog breed or any age dog will learn the same way. Do some research to find out how your dog breed scores in intelligence and trainability. This will definitely save you some time and frustration later!

     One of the biggest challenges for anyone in training a dog is consistency. With a family of four, you could potentially have four completely separate ways to teach a dog to come when called, which is just going to be confusing for the dog and you. Decide on what words will be used to begin a command, what actions or hand motions may be used to help and to do the command correctly, and what reactions the dog will receive when giving the desired outcome. Saying “Good Boy!” when the dog sits is a great positive reinforcement, but if Mom says it excitedly, and Dad merely mumbles it, your pup is going to receive mixed messages, and may not react the same way when given the same command.

     Choose a time of the day when training will occur, and stick to it. Don’t tire the dog out by giving him commands all day long; dogs will start to tune out key words if they’re repeated over and over ad nauseum, especially if the word is something like their name, or the word “NO”. A good training time frame is 5-10 minutes at a time. Dogs’ attention spans can be rather short, and running them down with repetitive commands will not give you a well-behaved dog, just a weary one.

     Start with really small, tasty treats that any size dog can eat in one bite; this will maintain your pet’s concentration on the trick, not the task of eating a large snack. Small bites of hot dogs or tiny pieces of cheese are great rewards, and your pet won’t be at risk to gain unnecessary weight. Give the treat at the same point of the trick each time, and only give the reward when he does exactly what you want. Finally, praise, praise, praise. A happy voice and smiling face will keep your dog doing tricks and sticking close to you on walks in the park long after the treats have been eaten.

     These tips will help ensure that your dog learns the proper manners, and maybe a few fun tricks along the way!