Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Seven ways to carpe the summer diem.
Sure, you could sit around inside with your dog, sweating and complaining about the heat. But why do that when there are so many ways to take advantage of the season’s longer days and warmer weather?
Make your dog a warm-weather flop spot. Look for a shady area in your yard, dig a shallow pit sized to fit your pup, line it with a thin layer of concrete and before the concrete dries, poke holes in it for drainage. Once the concrete has set, fill the pit with playground sand, dampen it and let the fun begin.
Plan a toxin-free and dog-friendly landscape. No snail bait, no cocoa mulch, no lethal plants (check out the ASPCA site for a list of ones to avoid), no chemical fertilizers, no fungicides, no herbicides, no pesticides. Ideal landscaping/hardscaping material doesn’t get too hot, is easy on the paws and— in a perfect world—doesn’t track into the house on fuzzy feet; pea gravel and pavers fill the bill.
Have some good, wet fun—summer’s prime time for water play. A caveat, however: keep an eye on your dog for signs of hyponatremia, aka water intoxication, which can come on fast and is life-threatening. Bone up on the symptoms and make sure your dog takes breaks.
Experiment with a new way to cruise. Rent a dog-friendly camper trailer or houseboat and see the world from a whole new perspective. Some camper rental companies will handle delivery, setup and hauling away; do an online search for a company in your preferred vacation spot. For on-the-water accommodations, check out Houseboating.org.
Take in a drive-in. Remember the al fresco movie experience of yesteryear? Some communities revive this lovely summer tradition, and some even allow you to skip the car and loll on a blanket under the stars. Search for summer + drive-in and see what comes up in your area.
Sign up for summer school and learn new skills or master old ones. Training, agility, herding and freestyle are all on the agenda. Then, there are dog camps—the summer camps of your childhood, but way better. For maximum relaxation, match the activity type and level to your and your dog’s temperaments.
Mark your calendar with “dog days” concerts and sporting events. Special offerings tend to pop up this time of the year, perfect for enjoyment with the pooch.
We know we don’t have to tell you this, but while you’re having fun with the pup, keep safety in mind. Stay out of the sun during the warmest hours, have plenty of water available, dab sunscreen on both yourself and your dog (yes, there are sunscreens for dogs), take lots of well-shaded rest breaks and never, never, never leave your dog in the car. If you’re out walking, listen to what your dog’s telling you; let him rest if he wants to and don’t coax him to go faster. Finally, do your best to avoid areas with foxtails, those sticky, diabolical grass awns (seeds) that burrow into fur and skin and, once well in, don’t come out without surgery. If these wild grasses show up in your yard—which they’re prone to do—pull them out while they’re still green.
News: Shea Cox
“Sunny and 70” can mean “sunny and deadly”
We have been experiencing idyllic temperatures in Berkeley, Calif., these past couple of weeks—mostly sunny days and mid-70s bliss. Perfect weather for a fun-filled outing with our pets, right? For the most part, the answer is “yes” but these are the kind of days where we have to be extra cautious with our pets. At the veterinary hospital where I practice, I have had three dogs die from heat stoke in the past three weeks. These were not dogs left in unattended cars or as the result of negligent owners. They were really the result of not realizing that “sunny and 70” can mean “sunny and deadly.”
Two of the deaths were Bulldogs, one who played ball for a short 20 minutes outside and the other who went on his “normal daily walk.” The other loss was a Golden Retriever; the owner let him play at the park for an hour with the neighborhood kids, who always loved to spend time with him, such heartbreaking loss for everyone involved.
Many people are unaware of how dogs process heat and how easily they can succumb to heat stroke. Dogs cannot tolerate high temperatures as well as humans because they depend upon rapid breathing (panting) to exchange their warm body air for cooler environmental air. Therefore, when the air temperature is close to body temperature, cooling by rapid breathing is no longer an efficient process, and dogs can succumb to heat stroke in a relatively short time period.
Heatstroke can occur in many conditions that include:
Clinical signs of developing heat stroke:
Heat stroke is an emergency that requires immediate recognition and prompt treatment. A dog’s normal body temperature is 101.5 degrees plus or minus 1 degree Fahrenheit, and any time the body temperature is higher than 105 degrees, a truly life-threatening emergency exists. Initially the pet appears distressed, and will pant excessively and become restless. As the hyperthermia progresses, the pet may drool large amounts of saliva from the nose and/or mouth. The pet may become unsteady on his feet. You may notice the gums turning blue/purple or bright red, which is due to inadequate oxygen.
Severe hyperthermia is a disease that affects nearly every system in the body. Simply lowering the body temperature fails to address the potentially catastrophic events that often accompany this disorder. A pet suffering from hyperthermia should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible for appropriate care. There are many life-threatening after affects that happen to a pet’s body following an episode of heat stroke, and early treatment will give your pet the best chance for survival.
What to do:
What NOT to do:
What if I see a pet in distress?
California law now prohibits leaving pets unattended in a vehicle, but I still see this (“grrrrrr”) all of the time. If you do happen see a pet in distress, you can call the local animal control agency, police or 911 for assistance. Any peace officer, humane officer or animal control officer is authorized to take all steps necessary for the removal of an animal from a motor vehicle. I have also made a downloadable flyer for you to print and leave on car windshields if you notice a pet inside of a vehicle. I wanted to create way to educate others instead of just getting worried, upset and frustrated. I know it is just a small gesture, but if it can save one pet’s life, then I’ve done my job with it.
I hope this blog has offered both awareness and education and please feel free to leave questions or comments!
Wellness: Healthy Living
A Seasonal Heads-Up
Spring officially, well, springs forth in late March, but depending on where you live, it might show up earlier, or later. Either way, if you live with companion animals, it comes with a few cautions. Take note …
In the house. Thinking about dealing with a winter’s worth of dust and debris? Think smart about your cleaning products; many are irritating or even toxic for dogs. Invest in eco-friendly products, or make them yourself. (For a passel of cleaning tips as well as other ways to green up your paw print.)
In the driveway. Most often associated with winter, antifreeze poisonings happen in the spring as well. Whether from shade-tree mechanics, unidentified vehicle leaks or even the bases of portable basketball hoops, ethylene glycol–based antifreeze winds up in driveways and streets, where its sweet taste attracts dogs and cats. Even in tiny amounts, it’s been known to cause sudden kidney failure.
In the yard. Slug and snail baits combine an attractant, usually apple meal or some other sweet-smelling base, with an active chemical compound such as metaldehyde to poison whatever swallows the bait. Increased rodent activity also means increased use of rat poison, which is one of the deadliest things your dog can ingest. Keep all of them out of dogs’ reach.
If you’re planting (or replanting), check out the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic plants. A safe choice trumps a dangerous one, particularly if your dog likes to graze in your garden. Go to aspca.org and enter toxic plants in the search box.
Then there are fertilizers; even organic or natural varieties can be harmful. Blood and bone meal can cause vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatic inflammation. Grass and flower fertilizers can also contain toxic chemicals that may be deadly if ingested.
Out and about. If your dog spent a good chunk of the winter crashed on the couch or eating a few too many sweet potato chews, it’s a good idea to bound gradually into a spring exercise regime. Monitor your pet and start slow. (This is also applies to the human member of the team.)
If your outings take you to your local dog park or over hill and dale, keep an eye out for foxtails—wild grass awns that begin to sprout in abundance in the spring. They’re more obvious later on in the year when they dry out, but they’re also a problem at the green stage. Get Dr. Shea Cox’s take on the problem.
Photography tips that may lead to adoptions
One of the most important factors in successful animal adoptions is the first impression. In today’s world, people are often introduced to adoptable animals through photographs—online, on flyers, in newspaper ads. An eye-catching portrait and compelling bio can make a world of difference and be the first step in finding a forever home. Taking good photographs of shelter animals is an important way to volunteer your time and talents. Amateur or professional, the tenets of a good portrait remain basically the same—capture the subject’s personality in the most positive light. Here are some tips:
1. Be prepared. In every sense—do your homework on the task specifics, the facility, the staff who you’ll be interfacing with, and the animals you’ll be photographing. Allow at least 5–10 minutes with each dog, maybe more for cats. Be mindful of each subject, and their unique characteristics, some will be shy or fearful, others will be exuberant and want to explore. Be prepared for the commitment, short term and long term—it’s invaluable work.
2. Try to photograph dogs outside if possible. There are exceptions, if you are experienced shooting indoors and have the space and equipment to set up a studio and backdrop … then a controlled environment indoors can work well. But in most cases, moving outdoors in natural light, and away from the hubbub of the shelter offers many rewards—the more natural setting calms the animals, makes for a more picturesque setting, and natural light captures the warmest, best likeness. If it’s sunny and bright, shoot in the shade.
3. Connect with your subject. Talk sweetly and cheerfully with your subject while photographing. Exaggerate your high “happy” voice, make animal sounds, use squeaky toys and balls to focus their attention on you and the camera. Employ high value treats to get dogs to hold still and direct their gaze. Try to capture them looking into the lens, it’s perhaps the best way for the subject to connect with the viewer.
4. Compose the photograph. Look for an interesting visual background—a brick or wooden wall, plants or foliage, a corner structure. Simple, uncluttered backdrops work best. Avoid cages, fences or offices that reinforce the institutional setting. Do your best to fill the frame with your subject, make them the star.
5. Shoot at your subject’s level. Get down low so you are not shooting down at the dog. The results are more personal and intimate. This perspective also allows a more accurate documentation of the dog’s body type and size.
6. Do not use a flash. More often then not, a flash creates a harsh, unnatural light that is uncomplimentary. It can also frighten your subjects.
7. Edit your photos. Photo editing tools are invaluable. Simple tweaks in popular software or apps can make a mediocre photo good, and a good photo great. Adjust the exposure, lighten the darks, bring out the color and detail plus crop out unnecessary background elements. You don’t need to spend hours retouching photos, just a few simple moves and a couple of minutes will greatly improve your results.
Wellness: Healthy Living
Winter not only keeps us inside, it’s also a time of food-centric holiday celebrations. How can we share the fun with our dogs without packing pounds on them? When you want to get the facts, you go to the pros, and for an answer to this question, we checked in with Julie Churchill, DVM, PhD, ACVN and associate professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center. Her general advice is that we be mindful of our dogs’ daily caloric needs and their total intake. (More on this in a future issue.) Dr. Churchill also shared a few tips.
> Go for frequency, not volume, and choose either very small treats (pinkie fingernail-size) or ones that can be broken into small pieces.
> Look for tasty low-cal alternatives; if your dog likes likes raw fruit and veg —carrots, celery, green beans, cucumbers, apples, blueberries—keep a ready-to-eat supply on hand.
> Unsalted, unbuttered popcorn provides lots of bang for its caloric buck; there are only 20 calories in a popped cup, and a cup goes a long way, especially when scattered around for the dog to find.
We saved the really big question for last. How do we resist those soulful eyes as we eat our turkey sandwiches and our special holiday cookies? Dr. Churchill advises that if we’re going to cave, we should do it with the lowest-calorie treat. It’s also important to avoid reinforcing begging (do your best!) and to preserve our dog’s routine. Dr. Churchill’s final takeaway: Dogs choose joy, and the time we spend with our dogs means more to them than food. Carve out time to make some joyful memories.
Good Dog: Studies & Research
Seeing eye to eye
How better to spend a chilly winter afternoon than gazing into a pair of warm canine eyes? As it turns out, there’s a perfectly rational reason to do so, one that also suggests how dogs became our “truest companions.”
In a 2015 study reported in Science (“Oxytocin-gaze Positive Loop and the Coevolution of Human-Dog Bonds”), a team of Japanese researchers led by Miho Nagasawa studied the role oxytocin plays in the ancient relationship between people and dogs. Popularly called the “love” or “cuddle” hormone, oxytocin enhances the attachment between human mothers and infants; the longer the two gaze into one another’s eyes, the greater their levels of oxytocin. The practical effect of this feel-good neurological chemical is to stimulate contact. For mother and child, the shared gaze creates a seamless loop of affection and bonding.
Since both dogs and humans use gaze to communicate, the team hypothesized that this same loop might come into play between our two species. It could also help explain how dogs came to take their place in our lives—or, in science-speak, to suggest a reason for our unique “interspecies affiliation.”
The study’s results seem to confirm the hypothesis. In a series of experimental situations, dogs’ “gazing behavior” increased oxytocin levels in their owners, and when the owners gazed back, the dogs’ oxytocin levels went up as well. And, as with human mothers and infants, the amount of time owners talked to and touched their dogs also increased, thus deepening the bond between them.
So, the next time you find yourself engaged in a mutual-admiration session with your co-pilot, remember: it’s not just a pleasant way to pass the time, it’s also part of nature’s grand plan!
Wellness: Health Care
Periodontal disease, the most common disease occurring in dogs and cats, is defined as plaque-induced inflammatory pathology of any part of the tissues that hold the tooth in the mouth. >Plaque is a soft biofilm that contains bacteria and toxins. It accumulates on the surface of teeth within hours after dental cleaning; if it mineralizes, tartar (calculus) forms.
>Gingivitis is the reversible form of periodontal disease, affecting only gingiva (the gums). As inflammation continues, the gum detaches from the tooth, creating a pocket. Toxins from plaque bacteria and enzymes from inflammatory cells cause further destruction of periodontal tissues.
>Periodontitis is the more severe form of periodontal disease. It results in attachment loss, gingival recession and loss of alveolar bone, which loosen the tooth and put it at risk of falling out. In multi-rooted teeth, the furcation between two roots becomes exposed. Bacteria, toxins and inflammatory mediators may also be released into the bloodstream, allowing them to travel throughout the body and cause harm to important organ systems.
Your pet should generally have an annual oral examination performed by a veterinary health care professional. The amount of dental deposits (plaque and tartar) and the condition of the gingiva (color, texture, shape) will dictate the need for placing your pet under anesthesia to have dental scaling and periodontal therapy performed.
Although anesthesia will never be 100 percent risk-free, modern anesthetic and patient-evaluation techniques minimize the risks, and millions of dentistry and oral surgery procedures are safely performed each year.
(Anesthesia-free dentistry by untrained individuals is inappropriate for several reasons, including insufficient cleaning of inaccessible tooth surfaces, oral discomfort and serious pain.)
An effective home oral hygiene program consists of daily tooth brushing and use of various oral health care products (e.g., rinses/gels, chew toys, dental treats). When oral hygiene is less than optimal, plaque can mineralize within two to three days, forming tartar that resists being easily brushed off. All you need is a soft-bristled and appropriately sized toothbrush, veterinary toothpaste, some patience and one minute each day.
Certain toys and treats can be used in combination with daily tooth brushing, oral health care products, yearly dental check-ups, and dental cleaning and periodontal therapy. Toys and treats should not be too hard, as very hard materials can fracture teeth; rocks and large ice cubes should also be avoided. Tennis balls are popular toys for many dogs; however, they are very abrasive and will rapidly wear down the teeth.
News: Karen B. London
A common sense approach that should be more common
Of course, we all want solutions to our dogs’ behavior issues, but sometimes the best approach is to avoid the problem. There’s generally nothing to be gained by putting our dogs into situations that they cannot handle. In other words, sometimes preventing the problem in the first place is the way to go.
In some areas, we as dog guardians take this for granted. It’s not unusual to put a dog in a crate or in the back room if a toddler play group will be descending on the house. It’s even more common to use a leash when walking a dog on a busy road. Nobody thinks it makes sense to bet a dog’s life on his recall or his ability to refrain from chasing cars.
This seems like basic common sense to me, but there are a lot of barriers to this approach. Using prevention feels like a failure to many people. I wish this weren’t so. To me, a dog being hit by a car or injuring a young child represent failures. Keeping a dog on leash while walking on a busy road or letting a dog chill out in the crate with a stuffed Kong do not.
Halloween offers a very specific opportunity to protect your dog with a commitment to preventing trouble. However dear trick-or-treaters may be to many humans, few dogs feel the same way. Having a tree, a storm trooper or a fully functioning traffic light at your door may prompt you to say, “My, how clever,” but most dogs react in a more, “Ye gads, what is that thing?!” kind of way. Between the doorbell and the monsters (literally!) at the door, the night is far more trick-y than treat-y for most of our beloved canines. Many of them react with fear, excessive exuberance or even aggression.
Since this holiday happens only once a year, it’s hard to give dogs practice with the situations unique to it. It’s true that handling the horrors of Halloween can be step 100 in a program to teach dogs to be able to cope with anything, but most dogs are somewhere between step 20 and step 50. Jumping up too far in the process can be damaging to dogs and actually set them back. I do hate to sound defeatist, but unless your dog is experienced all the way up through step 99, I’m in favor of avoidance for so many dogs who struggle with this holiday.
Avoidance may mean staying in the back room with your dog while another member of the household answers the door and passes out candy. It may mean having your dog spend the evening visiting a friend who gets no visitors on Halloween. Another option is to put candy out on your porch with a note saying, “Take a piece of candy to save my shy dog from listening to the doorbell ring.” If you really want to go to extremes, you can turn your lights out, draw the shades, and pretend you’re not home. None of these options are ideal, but they all have the advantage of protecting your dog from getting overly excited or spooked this Halloween and exhibiting undesirable behavior as a result.
Life can be hard, and for many dogs, that is especially true on Halloween. Let’s not miss out on opportunities to make it easier when we can.
Wellness: Healthy Living
Online courses are all the rage. Here’s one from Udemy that caught our interest: Dog CPR, First Aid & Safety. Taught by Melanie Monteiro, author of The Safe Dog Handbook and a canine CPR and first-aid expert. Monteiro offers workshops and private consults in California and Oregon, and now, you can learn from her in the comfort of your own home. There are 36 lectures (three hours of video), covering pet CPR, canine Heimlich, how to stock a first-aid kit, how to take and read vital signs and more. Important techniques like how best to approach and capture an injured dog and restrain her for treatment, and how, why and when to use a muzzle (or not) are covered, using real dogs as subjects. Also included are tips on puppy-proofing your home as well as special pointers for dog walkers, sitters and pet-care providers. At only $60, it’s a great value. Learn more at udemy.com.
Good Dog: Activities & Sports
Water: some dogs love it, some don’t.
And some win prizes for jumping into it. Take, for example Tommy D’s Limoncello—Cello to her friends and family—of southern New Jersey. While she’s no fan of guns (something of a problem for a hunting dog), the four-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer took to dock diving like a duck to, well, water.
In November, she’ll be among the dogs representing the U.S. at the DockDogs World Championship in Dubuque, Iowa. (Her little brother, one-year-old Hooch, following fast in her footsteps, recently qualified for two of the world championship events.)
DockDogs is open to all breeds and all sizes six months old or older. The dogs compete in three categories: Big Air (go long!), Extreme Vertical (go high!) and Speed Retrieve (go fast!). The Iron Dog ranking goes to dogs—like Cello—who participate in all three.
How does a canine athlete get to this level of performance? We asked Cello’s person, Jenny Beadling, who, along with her husband, Brian, handles coaching, conditioning, training, transportation, housing, meal and dog-love duties.
Bark: How do you train Cello and Hooch?
Jenny Beadling: Most DockDogs events take place on the weekend, so Mondays are their rest days. We work with them Tuesday through Thursday; Fridays are more relaxed (walking or playing with toys). We do a variety of stretching, cardio, strength and stability training and exercises with the dogs. Also, we live in a log cabin on a lake, so we installed a 40-foot runway and an Extreme Vertical rig on our dock.
B: What’s a typical competition day look like?
JB: GSPs are on the “top 10” list for bloat, so on competition days, we wake up in the wee hours to feed them a very, very small amount of kibble. Throughout the day, they get small pieces of TurboPup bars for nutrition and sustained energy. A few hours after the completion, they get a full “regular” meal, a mixture of Orijen kibble; either salmon or coconut oil; Nupro supplement; and one of the following: ground bison, ground lamb, an egg or wild-caught salmon (all fresh-cooked, organic and humanely raised). We also make sure they get a warm-up and a cool-down before each jump of their competition, as well as stretching time.
B: How do you deal with weather-related issues?
JB: Keeping the dogs hydrated is really important. They drink bottled water, and if they’re not drinking enough, we give them watermelon throughout the day (a trick we learned from our agility instructor). When it’s warm, we shade their crates with reflective cloth and use crate fans, and when it’s cold, we dry them thoroughly and get them into their Trover coats, double-lined fleece coats made in England that have great wicking and thermal qualities.
B: How big a problem are injuries in this sport?
JB: Injuries are always a concern and something we worry about, but we’ve been fortunate; neither Cello nor Hooch has been injured so far. The most common thing we’ve seen in other dogs at competitions is called “cold tail” or “dead tail,” which some say is caused by overexertion.
B: What kind of proactive steps do you take to prevent injuries?
JB: We provide the dogs with appropriate high-quality nutrition and are diligent about their training, which helps them avoid “weekend warrior”-type of injuries. We also keep in close contact with our vet; she does the dogs’ joint and hip checks. It’s time-consuming, but well worth it to us.
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