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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Disaster Preparedness For Your Pet

You can never predict where and when a disaster will strike. From something as small as a house fire to as large as Hurricane Katrina, a little preparedness can make the difference between life and death. This also applies to your pets. As much as we care for our pets they are often overlooked when preparing ourselves for a disaster, and it only occurs to us at the last moment that we should have done more for our friends. The result is that many dogs and cats are left to fend for themselves, and those that survive the actual disaster, find it very difficult to live in a world where food and shelter are no longer provided for them.
FEMA - 15028 - Photograph by Jocelyn Augustino taken on 08-30-2005 in Louisiana
The first thing we should consider when developing a plan to get our pets through a disaster is their basic needs. I recommend making a "disaster kit" in a sturdy waterproof container and keep it readily available if you must leave unexpectedly with your pet in an emergency. This kit can be a life saver whether you are forced to evacuate or stranded around your home.

Make sure to include:
  • A pet first aid kit
  • Your pets vaccination and medical records, medications, vet contact information, microchip information, list of behavioral problems, and feeding instructions.
  • Current photos of your pet
  • Food and water bowls, litter boxes, etc.
  • Pet food and water for at least a few days (Make sure to rotate out the food every few months, so you don't end up with bad food when the emergency strikes)
  • Spare sturdy collars with rabies and identification tags
The second thing to consider when preparing your pet for a disaster, is where you can keep your pet. Everyone just assumes that they will take their pet with them in an evacuation, but without proper planning, you might be surprised when you get to your destination. Most shelters, including Red Cross, do not allow pets unless they are service animals. You must research where a shelter will be that does accept pets in your area. If you have time, make sure any hotel you go to allows pets, many will make an exception in an emergency but you have to ask in advance. It's always a good idea to have a fail safe back up plan, such as an out of state neighbor or friend that is familiar with your animals and could care for them, even for a few months if needed.

    When a catastrophic event happens, there is mass confusion afterwards. This applies to people and it also applies to our pets. Many people assume that your pet's instincts will help it cope when it's world gets turned upside down, but this is not the case. Expect your pet to act differently, whether it be depressed and lethargic or even aggressive. The best thing to do for your pet is to keep it confined in isolation from other pets in a sturdy carrier if possible. Pets that get along together normally may not be so friendly with each other in their frenzied state. There will be many dangers on the ground after a disaster such as chemicals, sharp objects, maybe even traffic where there usually isn't. Keeping your pet confined keeps them out of harms way.

    The following links have a wealth of information on preparing your pets for a disaster. Research and be aware of the situations you may encounter.

    A disaster is always unexpected and can change your life forever. But with a little planning, you can keep both you and your pet safe and happy.

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    Saturday, May 28, 2011

    Product Review - Ethical Pet Laser Pet Toy

    What is the most fun you could have with your pet for under $5.00? The Ethical Pet Laser Pet Toy is! I have never found a toy that can provide so many laughs, and hours of entertainment for you and your pet as a simple laser pointer.

    There's something about a little red dot that can instantly capture the attention of any four legged  animal you may have in your home. The erratic movement inspires your pet's instinct to hunt, and their inability to ever catch their "prey" provides the mental stimulation that our pets so desperately need.

    The Ethical Brand Pet Laser Toy comes with 5 interchangeable lenses so you can change the appearance of the dot. One of them is even a mouse for your cat to practice it's killer instincts around your home! The Ethical Pet Laser Toy comes with it's first set of batteries, so the fun can start as soon as you receive the product.

    If you're still not sold on a the most fun for your buck that you can find anywhere, here are some satisfied customers.

    This dog loves it so much he even asks for it by pressing a switch!

    So if you're on a budget and tired of buying toys for your pets that seem to just get destroyed within a few days, or you just want something new to entertain your pet, try the Ethical Pet Laser Toy. They are cheap, last forever, and will provide hours and hours of happiness for you and your pet!

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    Thursday, May 26, 2011

    Picture of the Week! Cute Puppy!

    Funny dog

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    Tuesday, May 24, 2011

    Feather Plucking

    You've noticed lately that your parrot has started losing feathers. At first it was just a few on the bottom of his cage, but now, he appears to be going bald! Not to worry, this is a fairly common issue with birds, particularly parrots.

    Cacatua moluccensis -feather plucked pet in Canada-8a
    Generally, when birds fall ill, they show very few signs of being sick. Of all pets, bird's are probably the least domesticated, and act almost exactly the way they do in the wild. Hiding illness serves them well, as predators don't know who to pick as the weakest member of the flock. What does this have to do with feather plucking? Well, we can rule out a major illness. If your bird is plucking out it's own feathers, there's little reason to suspect that it may be sick. That's good news!

    When your bird is plucking it's feathers, it's a sign that the bird is bored. Parrots are very intelligent and need to have large amounts of socialization and mental stimulation. They get this in the wild by being a part of a flock, and searching for food. In your home, in a cage, it's like being in solitary confinement for your bird. We use this same method as punishment for our criminals, we should understand the effect is similar on a bird.

    A cage is necessary for your parrot's safety around your home, so we must do our best to make it's cage a place of relaxation and fun. The first way to do this is lots of toys. I prefer tough indestructible toys that present the bird with a problem, like how to get the treats out. This exercises their mind and gives them a creative outlet.

    Tobias and his new toy by ♡Blackangelツ, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  â™¡Blackangelツ
     When people first hear this, their inclination is to fill the cage from top to bottom with as many toys as it can hold. I'm sure your bird would love this for a week or two, but it's not effective. Eventually, the bird will get used to it's toys and get bored again. I like to recommend having a supply of 7-10 different toys, and only put 2-3 in the cage at any time. Every week rotate out the toys, so no single toy stays in the cage for very long. By the time you put any specific toy back in the cage, it will be like new again!

    Every parrot owner also needs to allow their bird some time outside of their cage. Even if you own a parrot that cannot be handled, you should allow it some time out of its cage. They need to explore their surroundings and be in a new environment on a regular basis. I highly recommend making sure your birds wings are clipped to prevent it from flying, house's are generally not good places for aerial acrobatics. This time out of it's cage will do wonders for your bird, it helps the bird to not view it's cage as a prison, but rather just another room of the house.

    The third thing your feather plucking parrot needs is socialization. Most parrots live in large flocks in the wild, and they need to feel a part of a group to feel secure. If possible, the best thing you can do is directly interact with your bird. Play with it, talk to it, and hold it. When you're not directly interacting, the bird's cage should be in a high profile area of your home. They do best in a room where your family spends most of it's time. Even being in a cage, seeing the members of your house gives the bird something new to concentrate on all the time. It lets them know that their "flock" approves of them, and will be there for them.

    If you own a bird that is plucking it's feathers, its best to improve it's daily mental workout. By providing toys and socializing your bird, you can make both you and your parrot happy!
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    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Product Review - Feliway Cat Pheromone

    When we think of owning a cat, we think of a soft fur ball that likes to cuddle. This is what everyone wants when they bring home a kitten. Often though, we end up with a cat that hides all day. A cat that may be completely unsociable, constantly on edge and afraid of everything, even months after bringing it home. A cat with high anxiety can put a stress on a household, and even be dangerous if the cat bites or scratches out of fear. So what do you do to earn your cat's trust and make it comfortable around your home? They are difficult to train, and unlike dogs, they do not forgive easily if they were treated badly before they came to you. The solution, is Feliway.

    Feliway is a synthetic facial pheromone. Basically, a man made version of the scent cats emit from their cheeks and face. A cat's facial pheromone provides comfort and relaxation to a cat. Many cats rub their cheeks on you, the corners of walls, chairs, and even your carpet to spread their scent all over anywhere they consider safe. The Feliway diffuser allows you to fill a room, or even your whole home with this same scent, calming the cat naturally. I've always been skeptical of anything with pheromones that claims to "Really Work!", but I have seen this particular product in action. Feliway is amazing, and can relax an anxious cat enough, that it may come out of hiding and learn for itself what a safe home it has with you.

    The Feliway diffuser is easy to use, you just plug it into the wall. It looks just like the newer designer Glade Plugins, and works the same way. There is no odor, the pheromone is a chemical that can only be smelled by the cat, so you don't have to worry about anyone even knowing you use it.

    Feliway also works well for cats that scratch on furniture. A well adjusted cat will often scratch items around your home in an effort to spread this same chemical, and provide itself a relaxed environment. By introducing the Feliway Diffuser, you essentially do the work for the cat, and the scratching stops.

    If you've got a scared and anxious cat that you would like to socialize with your family, or a well adjusted cat that just wants to relax, then this is the product for you. It's safe, economical, and effective. Feliway Diffusers will help to make both cat owners, and their kitty's happier!

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    Thursday, May 19, 2011

    Picture of the Week! Cute Kitties!

     Rene and Aubie from Panama City, Florida, acting like drying dishes on the towel. (Reader Submission)

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Nervous Scratching and Biting

    Everywhere you turn there is a product to keep your dog from itching. We all know from experience how frustrating it can be to have an itch you can't scratch, and we feel helpless when our puppy is biting or scratching itself. In some instances the dog can bite at itself so intensely as to cause an open wound around the base of the tail or its hind legs. There's hype about flea treatments, skin sprays, and the newest avenue is all about food allergies. True, all these things can contribute to a dog scratching or biting itself uncontrollably, but the most common cause is a lack of exercise or mental stimulation.
    cruose by orphanjones, on Flickr
    Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by  orphanjones

    All modern domestic dogs can trace their lineage back to the wolf, and this is important to know as we begin to understand and decipher some of their behaviors. A wolf's life is not an easy one. They must travel several miles a day to find food, and they must use their intelligence to catch that food and find shelter. Wolves have evolved to accomplish these goals. They have tremendous amounts of energy, and their ability to be insightful and solve problems is almost unparallelled in the animal kingdom. Its hard to picture your cute puppy bringing down an elk with those puppy eyes and hanging tongue, but his body and mind are designed to do just that. Those same attributes that help a wolf to survive in the wild, have been passed on through the generations to the dog sitting in your living room. These qualities are half the reason we love our dogs so much!

    Like the wolf, your dog needs exercise, and lots of it. A dog's body stores energy for when it is most needed, like catching and tracking food. Your dog does not have that outlet. Fido merely has to walk across the room to it's food bowl and gorge itself. This sounds like a pretty good life for a dog, and it is. But, it's need to travel and run are still there. When your dog cannot satiate this urge, it will start to bite and scratch at itself, unaware that a little exercise would make it feel better. Without your help, this urge literally becomes an itch your dog can't scratch. The urge is so strong, that it clouds their mind, and even basic obedience can go out the window. A dog should be walked at least once a day, some breeds require more. There are always exceptions but, generally the larger the dog, the more exercise it needs. Sporting and hunting dogs do better with two walks a day.

    One of the things we love most about our dog is it's ability to learn. They seem so smart and intuitive at times, you wonder if there's not an actual person under all that fur. Your dog's ancestors, needed this ability to become creative and work as a pack to catch food and find shelter. Your dog doesn't have to worry about any of these things, but it's smart mind is still there. Your puppy's brain is designed to run at full throttle, but in your home, it's got no where to go. Not much changes within your home on a day to day basis, and your dog has no problems to figure out! The joys of being domesticated! You must give your dog something to keep its mind entertained. Walking can help tremendously, but sometimes they need a little more. Many toys are designed with this in mind, some more complex then others. It's important to keep a healthy selection of toys for your dog to play with, and provide him with something new from time to time. Another great way to exercise your dog's mind is with training. Even basic obedience training can stretch your dog's brain and give him some relief. Without mental stimulation, your dog can frequently destroy things in your home, or even turn that anxiety on itself in the form of biting and scratching, anything to relieve the boredom.

    Many dogs scratch for many reasons. It's important when trying to decide how to give your pet some relief, that we don't forget the most basic and obvious causes.  No flea treatment, itch cream, or food can stop your dog from itching if a few of it's most basic needs are not met. So walk your dog! Test your dog mentally! It will make you and your pet happier!

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    Sunday, May 15, 2011

    Picture of the Week! Funny Felines!

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    Saturday, May 14, 2011

    Product Review - Gentle Leader Head Collars

    Walking your dog is an essential job of any dog owner. Dog's need their exercise on a daily basis, but many people can't or won't walk their dog because their dog seems uncontrollable. An uncontrollable dog can not only be an irritation, it can be dangerous. It is important that your dog be in your control when walking, otherwise we would have no use for a dog leash.

    One of my favorite dog training tools is the Gentle Leader Head Collar. I've used it myself on many dogs, and for me it is the only option to stop a dog from pulling when walking on a leash. The Gentle Leader is safe and easy to use. It's a safer alternative to a choke or pinch collar, and it's more effective.

    A dog does not wear a Gentle Leader like a normal collar around it's neck. The Gentle Leader wears around the snout and the back of the head, these are often referred to as "head collars".

    Gentle Leader Quick Release Head Collar, Medium, Royal Blue
    The use of a Gentle Leader differs from a traditional choke or pinch collar. Where a choke collar is intended to hurt or restrict the breathing of a dog, the Gentle Leader uses the dog's own momentum to stop it from pulling in a safe way. When a dog pulls on a leash attached to a Gentle Leader, the dog's mouth is pulled close, and it's head is pulled down, by the dog's own force. This essentially forces the dog to run itself into the ground, though I've never seen one pull this hard. Dog's tend to get the idea quickly.

    Besides the safety advantage of the Gentle Leader, this collar is also extremely easy to use. Large dogs can still pull an unwilling person while wearing a choke or pinch collar, if the dog can stand the pain. With a Gentle Leader, any size dog is completely unable to pull, no matter how strong the person holding the leash is. I have seen small children able to control dog's twice their size in a matter of seconds after attaching the Gentle Leader.

    The Gentle Leader brand also comes in small, medium, and large with an instructional DVD, that shows how to properly attach the head collar, and training tips for walking your dog.

    If you find yourself unable to take your dog for walks because you always feel like the dog is in control, then try a Gentle Leader. It will put the control back in your hands, and make you AND your pet happier!

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    Tuesday, May 10, 2011

    How to Evaluate a Shelter Dog

    There are millions of dogs in animal rescues and animal shelters all over the world. This is a great option for someone looking to add a new member to their family. It is my personal opinion that this is one of the best ways to acquire a new dog. That being said, many dogs in shelters have behavioral issues that may not fit into your lifestyle. It's important to make sure a new dog is a good match with it's new family, to ensure the puppy does not get returned. How do you tell what behavioral issues a dog may have with only a few minutes to interact? Here are some clues.

    Dog at shelter

    Does the dog guard resources? While playing with the dog, pay attention to how it reacts to you touching it's food bowl or toys. If it bares teeth, emits a low growl, or acts anxious this can be a sign of resource guarding. While it may seem innocent at first, this can lead to aggression problems if you have other animals or children at home that may try to play with anything the dog considers it's own. This is an issue that can be fixed with some extensive training and time, but don't expect it to go away overnight.

    Another issue that may not be discovered until several days or weeks into owning a new shelter dog is separation anxiety. A dog with separation anxiety is not for the faint of heart! Dogs with this condition do not handle being by themselves very well. Even in a crate they can damage your home or hurt themselves. So how do you tell? In a shelter, if it generally appears clean and well managed, has the dog used it's cage as a bathroom? Are there small wounds on it's face and paws from trying to escape? If it comes from a rescue where it is allowed to be with other dogs, see if you can get the dog alone, and gauge it's reaction. It should not be whining, drooling, or generally anxious. A dog with separation anxiety must go to a home that can provide the dog with companionship all day every day. This can be a home with more dogs, or even a family that has opposite schedules so there is someone home with the dog all the time. In severe cases of separation anxiety, the dog cannot be left alone for even a few minutes.

    Is the dog "hand shy"? Watch the dog's reaction when you reach to pet it's head, or even raise your hand to your own head. If the dog becomes nervous or shy's away from you, this could be a sign that the dog was beaten in the past. It is sad, but it's something you should be aware of. Dogs that have been severely beaten tend to be nervous and scared of sudden movements. This should be a sign that the dog may become scared enough to become aggressive. A behavior like this is fairly simple to fix, but it takes a long time to earn your dog's trust. You should always be cognizant of your dog's past, and realize that in a new home or new situations in the future, it may lash out from fear.

    Dogs from shelters, rescues, or humane societies can be some of the best pets. But it's important to know of behavioral issues, before you adopt. Most dogs in shelters are put there by owners who couldn't deal with these issues, and it's important you don't make the same mistake. If you're aware of what you are getting into, it makes a happier life for both you and your pet!

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    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Picture of the Week! Mother's Day!

    It's Sunday and Mother's Day!

    Happy Mother's Day to our two legged and four legged mom's out there!

    cute pictures of puppies with captions
    Funny Animals

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    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    Product Review - Kong Dog Toys

    Dogs will chew, always. They do it to relieve boredom and reduce stress. It is the eternal struggle of every dog owner to find something their puppy can chew, and not destroy. Everyone wants a dog toy that can be chewed, and survive to be chewed another day. The Kong company has done just that. I have not ever seen a dog toy that can withstand the abuse the standard Kong rubber chew toy just shrugs off and says "Is that all you got?"

    It is made of a durable hard rubber that is soft enough it won't damage a dog's mouth, but tough enough that a few puncture holes won't damage it's integrity. Many toys have an air filled pouch of them, to provide some sort of resistance and push back from the toy. Those sorts of toys are easily punctured, and immediately lose their appeal. Not the Kong, it has an open cavity that provides that same unique resistance, yet there is no air filled bladder to puncture.

    Another really nice feature of the Kong, is the open cavity. The size of the cavity allows the dog to be able to get it's tongue in, but not it's teeth. This is an excellent device to provide mental stimulation. Dogs crave a challenge, and by putting treats or,  my personal favorite, peanut butter in the Kong's hole, the dog must work to get the tasty tidbits out. This literally can provide hours of fun and mental work for any dog.

    Kong has also provided a selection of tasty treats to put in it's Kong toys. These pastes work just like peanut butter, except they have different flavors. They even have one for bad breath! Search for Kong Stuff N Easy.

    I give the Kong line of toys and treats a big two thumbs up and 5 stars! Many companies will make similar items, but they never seem to hold up as well as the original. Kong toys are always reasonably priced as well. Often times you can pay double the price that you would for a Kong, for a toy that will only last a day at best.

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    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    The Goldfish Dilemma

    One of the biggest mythologies I've ever encountered in the pet industry, is not about dogs or cats, but fish, specifically goldfish. It seems almost everyone over the age of 18 has, at some point in their life, had a pet goldfish that they kept in a goldfish bowl. It's almost a rite of passage, teaching a child responsibility, to have a goldfish as a first pet. Every year at the fair, they have games where the winner gets to take a home a goldfish, and it seems like everyone wins! If you walk into your local pet store, there are thousands of small goldfish for just a few cents, and small ornate "goldfish" bowls complete with pearls and a small castle. But, did you know, that a goldfish cannot survive in a bowl?!

    It has always amazed me that this myth has survived over generations, when I'm sure without a whole lot of luck, few if any of these fish have survived past a few days. Here's the reason. All fish kept in a enclosed system like a bowl or a tank, depend on a delicate balance of bacteria to keep the water free of ammonia, which the fish excretes almost constantly in its urine. Within 2 to 3 days, even in a larger tank, the water becomes cloudy as the waste builds up. In a larger tank, the fish can survive riding out this increase in poison, while the bacteria has time to grow and start cleaning up the mess. In a small bowl, there is just not enough water to dilute these toxins, and they almost certainly become fatal.

    Before the critics jump down my back, with claims of having kept their fish in a bowl successfully when they were a child, let me ask a question. Is your fish still alive? I've heard of reports of goldfish living as long as 40-60 years, maybe even longer. They are not a disposable animal that is only designed to live a few months (Another myth I've been told). To successfully keep a small goldfish, at least a 10 gallon tank with a filter system is required. Even then, the setup will probably only last you a year, before the fish outgrows it. This is what that small little goldfish should look like after one year!

    This is not to say that a fishbowl cannot be an enjoyable part of growing up. There are a few fish that actually do quite well in an unheated fish bowl. The first of these are the zebra danios, and the new genetically engineered "Glofish". These fish are hardy and so small that a few of them do not create enough waste to overpower the bacteria in a small 1-2 gallon bowl.

    The other is a Betta, or Siamese fighting fish. Although these are solitary fish, they hail from the rice patties of Asia, and have evolved to survive in small amounts of unclean water. To the Betta, a fish bowl seems like an impressive piece of real estate. Most people prefer these because of their brilliant colors and size.

    The reason the carnival games use goldfish as a reward is because they are cheap and brightly colored. The goldfish you win are usually sold as "feeder fish" for other larger predatory fish, and can be as cheap as 10 cents a piece. Just cheap enough that a carnival can afford to give them away. Even though the prospect of having their first pet can be almost too alluring to a child, every animal should be researched before purchasing or winning it. Impulsive pet ownership can lead to fatal results for the animal.

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