Poisons, fertilizers, and weed killers
When You Leave
Dog Day Care Providers
Pet Sitters and In-Home Care
Friends and Neighbors
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
Grooming and Bathing
Ears and Eyes
Inside Your Home No matter whether you are bringing a playful puppy home, or a mature dog, you have to make sure there are no hazards in your house and yard that could hurt your new addition to the family.
Puppies and Grown Up Dogs If this is your first experience with a puppy, or it has been a few years since you had a young dog, you need to recognize that a puppy comes with greater challenges than an older dog. For one thing, puppies love to chew; in fact, they have to chew things in order to develop their adult teeth. They aren't particular about what they chew, however—your favorite shoes, books left on the floor, children's toys, furniture legs, articles of clothing—almost anything they can sink their little teeth into is fair game. You need to be vigilant about what you leave lying around that they can access. This is not only so favorite possessions are not ruined, but because some things are not good for puppies to chew. Parts of toys that can break off when a puppy chews them can be a choking hazard or cause an abdominal obstruction if swallowed. So, the first step is to walk through your house and see what needs to be put away, or put up, out of the range of the pup.
This is not to say that older dogs can't cause similar problems. In their case, height is another consideration. A large dog or a dog with long legs can reach amazing heights when he stretches. You may find that anything left on tables, desks, or kitchen counters is in "play" for him. He may be anxious when you first bring him home, and this can bring on mischievous or even destructive behavior for a while until he gets acclimated and feels truly at home. Again, tour through the rooms of the house and see if there are things that should be put away, closets closed, etc.
Where Will Your Dog Stay? You also need to make decisions about what areas of your home are off limits to your dog, and where you want him to stay while you are gone at work during the day, or leave the house for other reasons. Dogs left alone for long periods of time can get bored and this can cause them to search for something to interest them or focus their attention on. Unfortunately, this might include chewing on an electrical cord, or tearing up the upholstery on a chair or couch, or ripping up a pillow. Chewing electrical cords can cause not only tragic shock or even death for your pet, but also could start a fire in your home. Many dogs never pay any attention to electrical cords, so you may not have anything to worry about. But if your dog does start to chew on one, an option is to spray the cord with a bitter agent such as bitter orange, designed to discourage chewing.
Many pet owners select a room of the house to confine the dog while they are away and make sure that room is truly pet-proofed. The kitchen can be ideal because it usually has a tile floor or other surface that can be easily cleaned if the dog has an "accident" while you are away, and the entrance to the kitchen can be easily closed off through the use of a baby gate or other type of removable gate. Remember, dogs are pack animals. They love having their own cozy den to stay in until you get home. If they have a comfortable bed, water and food, even a relatively small kitchen can be ideal.
Some dog owners prefer to confine their dog to a crate if they are away. If a young dog is brought up to be "crate trained", this can be a good solution, but an older dog that is suddenly confined to a small crate may become terrified by that experience.
There's another danger to consider whatever room you choose: drawers and cabinets. Dogs are clever and resourceful. They can learn to open almost any type of cabinet and drawer, partially out of curiosity and perhaps because they smell something interesting inside. Many people keep cleaning supplies or other toxic substances under the kitchen sink. Dogs can chew the tops off of plastic bottles, and they can break glass containers by knocking them over. Be absolutely certain you secure these cabinets with safety latches. The cabinets and drawers with food should also be secured. A number of things humans consume are very dangerous for pets; chocolate is an example. A dog that gets hold of a bag of chocolates will eat the bag, the chocolate and the tin foil wrapping—and possibly get very sick.
Not The Garage Even if you live in a mild climate, the garage is not a good place to leave your dog. There are too many things that could hurt him. Antifreeze, which may have dripped onto the garage floor, is one of the most dangerous substances; dogs are attracted to its sweet taste, and even a small amount is fatal if swallowed. Over time, other toxic substances may have been spilled on the garage floor, too. Dogs tend to sample things with their mouths, which can be a mistake that leads to tragedy.
And think of all the other toxic things we typically store in our garage: paint and paint thinner, glue and other adhesives, pest control products. No, the garage is not the proper habitat for a dog.
In Your Yard Is the back yard an option? It can be, depending on the weather and other factors. All dogs suffer when it is too hot. Some are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke. If you are in a hot climate, make sure you have a shaded area or a porch where the dog can get out of the sun. It is vital they have a secure source of fresh water; by secure we mean he can't easily tip it over. Common sense is important when deciding whether it is safe to leave your dog outside: a short coated dog or a companion dog that is bred to spend his life indoors will not be able to tolerate being left outside in a cold climate.
Securing Your Yard It may not make sense to you that the same dog that is so happy to see you when you get home may want to find his way out of the back yard to freedom, but many dogs are lost each year because of this. Most dogs do not have a good sense of the dangers cars represent. Once outside your yard, they may just follow interesting scents and be so focused on those they aren't aware of approaching vehicles. They can also get frightened and run right into traffic. Many breeds are efficient diggers. They can tunnel under a wooden fence with ease. A back gate that is not latched properly can also give your dog an escape route. With smaller breeds, only a few inch gap between slats can be enough for them to squeeze through. Think of this in the positive way: your dog is not trying to escape from your house, he is perhaps trying to find you.
The first thing you need to do is check the perimeter of your yard for any gaps in the fence. One easy solution is to dig down six inches below ground and affix narrow gage wire fencing material to your existing fence. You can hold the fencing in place below ground by burying bricks, rocks or pavers. This will make it more difficult for your dog to tunnel under, and have the added benefit or making it harder for rodents or snakes to get into your yard. You may also want to padlock your gate. A strong dog may try to push open the gate, and some gates with loose latches can even be blown open by the wind. Keeping your fence in good repair is important. If the dog can find a loose or weak slat to chew through, he will.
Safety Inside The Yard Your beautiful back yard with the trees, flowers, grass and vegetable garden may seem like paradise to you, and your dog will certainly enjoy romping around back there, but there are safety considerations as well, and you will want to make sure your tender plants are protected from your dog.
Again, dogs love to dig. Some breeds, in fact, simply have to dig. For them, it is part of the joy of being alive. They don't care if what they are digging up is a prized flower garden, or the spinach crop you have been carefully tending since early spring. And a dog doesn't at all mind taking a short cut through the flower beds—trampling them as he goes. You may want to consider fencing off areas of your yard to protect your plants. This is particularly the case with frisky young pups. As your dog grows you will be able to train him to stay out the flower or vegetable garden, but to a puppy, it all looks like a playground.
Dangerous Plants Plants can be dangerous to dogs. Cactus, for example. A dog running past a cactus may injure an eye on the thorns, or species of cactus like cholla that drop segments to the ground can cause a painful wound to a dog's paws. Many other plants have spines or thorns as well. Transplant these types of plants to the front yard, or at least put a fence around them so your dog will not come in contact with the thorns.
Many people are not aware that ingesting certain common plants can be harmful to a dog, including vegetable stalks. Why would your dog want to eat the landscaping, you ask? Because it's there.
Berries, leaves, seeds, bark, twigs, foliage or in some cases the entire plant can be toxic. If your dog should ingest these, he may become ill with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, weakness, convulsions; the end result could be the death of your pet. Common plants such as oleander, azalea, hyacinth, mountain laurel and morning glory can all be extremely dangerous. Here's a surprise: the tomato plant can be toxic, too; after all, it is a member of the nightshade family. Some dogs love the sweet tomato fruit; be careful he does not get a hold of the plant itself.
Observing your dog in the backyard and training him not to go into certain areas can help, but you may need to install additional fencing to block access. If you are unsure whether a plant is toxic to animals, take it to your local nursery and ask them.
Poisons, Fertilizers, and Weed Killers It may seem obvious that you cannot set out things like rodent poison, ant bait, or other deadly substances in a yard where a dog will be, but nonetheless every year dogs are killed because of their owners' failure to observe this simple rule. This is a tragic shame. You also need to be careful about such things as fertilizers and weed killers. With some products, it is recommend that you wait several days after applying these substances before letting your dog back on the lawn. Check the warning labels on the product or go to the manufacturer's website for more information. If you have a pest control professional spray outside, or inside for that matter, ask him how long you should wait before letting your dog around the area that has been sprayed.
Just as you did inside, look around your yard for any other dangers. Keep charcoal stored out of reach of dogs. Make sure paint or other chemicals are kept up or in a secure storage shed. Get rid of mousetraps or similar items that could injure a curious pup's nose or paws.
If the worst still happens and you suspect your dog may have gotten into something toxic or poisonous, call your vet immediately. If it is the weekend or at night, there are 24 Hour Emergency Animal Clinics in most cities you can contact. Keep the phone number handy. Here are other options:
Animal Poison Control Center of the ASPCA 888-426-4435 (888-4ANI-HELP)
--24 hour veterinary diagnostic and treatment recommendations.
Animal Poison Hotline 888-232-8870
--staffed 24 hours a day by veterinarians and experts on toxicology and pharmacology
Remember, time is of the essence. Don't wait and hope your dog simply throws up whatever he ate or gets better. Call a veterinary professional for immediate help.
When You Leave Dog Day Care Providers No matter how much you love your dog, there are times you can't be with him. You may be working long hours at the office, you might have to go on an extended business trip, or perhaps the vacation you have planned isn't to a "dog friendly" destination. There are more and more options for pet owners to make sure their dog is well cared for—and has fun—when they can't be around.
Some dogs do not cope well with being left alone while their owner is working 12-hour days. All dogs need socialization and companionship, preferably with us but also with other dogs. High energy dogs in particular don't want to just sit around the house all day and snooze. Dogs that are bored can become destructive dogs, with unpleasant consequences for possessions in your house.
If your work schedule is demanding, you might consider dropping your dog off at a day care center. These facilities typically take care of dogs from early morning to early evening, generally from rush hour to rush hour, but in some cases they offer overnight boarding as well. Depending on the facility, they offer socialization with other dogs in a group setting, play periods outside and inside, treats, toys, grooming and other forms of attention. Good day care centers offer a range of activities for your dog; he doesn't just spend the day in a kennel. The advantage is that romping with other dogs all day can tire out the most energetic canine, and when you pick your buddy up after work and take him home, he will be contented to settle in for a quiet evening with you. The disadvantage of taking your dog to day care each morning is that the cost can be substantial over the course of a month, though some facilities give you a price break if you sign up for more than one day at a time. Fees of $12-$20 per day are typical.
Boarding Kennels These are facilities where your dog can stay overnight, but they may also provide day care, too.
Since pet lovers spend nearly $40 billion annually taking care of their pets, it's no surprise that boarding facilities are becoming more and more upscale. But just like hotel chains, the level of service the visitor receives and the quality of the facility vary widely.
Many boarding facilities are single owner-operated establishments, but increasingly there are companies with multiple locations, again much like hotel chains. Check out these web sites: http://www.bestfriendspetcare.com/
http://www.petemac.com Many veterinarians offer dog boarding, but because their focus is on providing care to dogs that are sick or injured, the facilities they offer may be simple and sparse, often just a cage type arrangement with a concrete floor. They also do not necessarily have the time give your dog the play time and attention he needs, and social interaction with other dogs will probably be minimal. The advantage to using your own vet is that your dog will be familiar with the facility and perhaps the staff members, so it will cut down on potential separation anxiety. And of course you don't have to worry about his receiving medical attention if he needs it.
It is advisable that you visit the facility before making the decision to board your dog. Ask to see the area where your dog will sleep. Your senses will tell you if this is a place you want your dog friend to stay. Is it clean? How does it smell? How noisy is it? Does it look to be overcrowded with constant barking?
Other considerations are the size of the kennel where your dog will sleep. Find out policies such as how often your dog will be fed, how often he will be given fresh water, how often will he have an opportunity for potty breaks or other exercise outside the confines of the kennel space. Find out how large the exercise area is. Look for signs that the staff cleans up frequently after the dogs. You need to observe and interact with the staff, to see if these are individuals who genuinely love caring for dogs, or they are people who are just there because they needed a job.
You should find out if the facility is accredited with the American Boarding Kennels Association, and whether it is licensed or bonded. And make sure the facility has a relationship with a veterinarian. They may ask you to sign a form allowing that vet to treat your pet rather than having to call the vet you normally use. An important consideration is whether the facility is staffed 24 hours a day. If you wouldn't leave your dog all alone at home overnight, you don't want him to have to endure that at a boarding kennel that will probably feel strange to him anyway.
Cost is also a consideration. Many facilities have a base fee, but lots of add-on amenities that taken in total can run into a lot of money. These are extra services such as individualized play time with a staff member, extra walks, extra treats, etc. It's best to find out these costs up-front rather than returning to a nasty surprise when they give you the invoice upon your return.
Boarding facilities are becoming so elaborate that in some cases they rival human resort spas: the question is whether you will be having as much fun on your vacation as your dog is. Televisions, swimming pools, massage, ice cream treats, nature walks, and being read to at bedtime are all part of the services offered these days at upscale boarding facilities.
All these amenities may sound wonderful, but your primary considerations when choosing any facility are: will your dog be safe, comfortable and well-cared for.
Pet Sitters and In-Home Care Pet sitters can be professionals licensed and bonded to perform this kind of service, or you might choose a trusted friend or neighbor for the job. There are several factors to consider before deciding whether to have your dog stay at home while you are away, under the care of a pet sitter, or whether to place your dog in a boarding facility. Your dog's personality and temperament are a consideration. Some dogs simply do not do well in a setting with other dogs. They have a territorial instinct that takes over, and they can become either nervous or aggressive. If your dog is older or infirm, it may be wise to let him sleep in his own bed in familiar surroundings.
With a pet sitter, you are giving someone access to your home. Think about whether you are comfortable doing this. The level of service that professional pet sitters provide varies from just visiting your dog a few times a day, making sure he has food and water and an opportunity to go outside, all the way to someone who stays at your home 24/7. Some pet sitters act as house sitters as well; they will bring in the mail, make sure plants are watered, or other routine chores that may need to be done. You need to make sure there is an understanding about the level of service you expect, and the cost. The prospective pet sitter should visit your home and meet your dog prior to your leaving. Observe how your dog and the pet sitter interact. This may sound obvious, but a pet sitter has to love dogs to be able to do a good job taking care of yours. They need to be friendly with one another, and your dog needs to spend enough time with the pet sitter to make sure he remembers who the pet sitter is when he or she comes into your home after you leave.
Several organizations provide accreditation to pet sitters, including Pet Sitters International and the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. Besides finding out if they are accredited, you should also ask the pet sitter for a few references. If your first experience with the pet sitter goes well, you will have the peace of mind of having someone reliable to call on the next time your travel.
Friends and Neighbors The second alternative is to have pet sitter you already know, a friend or neighbor. High school or college age people often do pet sitting to earn some extra income. But you may find that even retirees are interested in doing this. It may take you some time to find the right person for the job, so start well in advance of when you are leaving on your trip. With the non-professional pet sitter it is difficult to obtain references, so the in-person interview is key. Again, let the pet sitter and your dog interact, and see how friendly the pet sitter is to your dog. Ask him or her how much experience she has caring for dogs. You also need to know the person's daily schedule. If their lives are filled with university classes, work and social engagements, you may end up paying someone to barely be there at all.
Always leave the pet sitter with complete contact information about where you will be on every stage of your trip, and of course leave the contact information for your local vet. It's also a good idea to introduce the pet sitter to your next door neighbors, so they don't wonder who the strange person coming in and out of your house is.
The pet sitter may prefer to have your dog stay at their house. If you go that route, you need to take the dog over there several times to get him acclimated. You might even try letting him have an overnight outing there before you leave, just to see how everything goes. It is difficult to predict how an individual dog will react to a change in location. Many dogs love their set daily routine so much that a change can be upsetting.
With a little effort on your part, you can make certain your dog is well cared for in your absence. This peace of mind can make your trip more enjoyable; you won't have any nagging feelings of doubt about what is happening to your canine buddy.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy How long your dog lives, and how healthy he will be over the course of his life depend on what breed he is, the quality of medical care he gets, nutrition, genetics—and you. You, the dog owner can do many things to make sure dog is as healthy as he can be. It is up to you to make sure he gets proper medical care. This includes scheduled vaccinations and wellness check-ups. Because dogs age faster than we do, they need more frequent check-ups. You may avoid the doctor for years at a time, but your dog can't. Diseases that are diagnosed early can be more easily cured.
Dental Care Regular dental care is important for maintaining your dog's health. Many veterinarians recommend you brush your dog's teeth daily, or at least a few times each week, beginning when your puppy has his adult teeth in, which is usually between 6 and 8 months of age. Use a special toothpaste and toothbrush designed for dogs; the toothpaste has a flavor such as meat or poultry that the dog loves, and it is all right if he swallows it. Other steps you can take include asking your vet to recommend chew toys and treats that help clean your dog's teeth.
It is important to maintain regular brushing because tartar can build up quickly on dog's teeth, and this can lead to periodontal disease (inflammation of the gums). As this disease advances, it can cause receding gums and eventually loss of teeth in the infected area. If tartar builds up on your dog's teeth faster than you can deal with it thorough brushing, your dentist may recommend that you bring him in for a teeth cleaning. This is done under anesthetic.
Dogs sometimes injure or fracture their teeth. They can develop pulpitis, which is damage to the soft tissue, or pulp, inside a tooth. This can be treated through doing a root canal or extracting the tooth. Treatment is essential: we all know how painful tooth problems can be. Larger dogs seem to have more problem with damaged teeth. You should be aware of what your dog plays with or chews. Discourage him from chewing wood, hard bones or other things that could injure his teeth. If you notice a discoloration on one of your dog's teeth, take him in to see the vet: it could be the onset of pulpitis. Other signs of dental problems include bad breath and loss of appetite.
Grooming You may associate grooming more with physical appearance than good health, but regular grooming is essential to keeping your dog's coat healthy, and making certain he is free of external parasites.
How often you brush your dog's coat depends on the breed; some dogs only need to be brushed once a week. Consult a breed specific guide to determine what's best. A dog's skin has natural oils that keep it healthy. By brushing him, you help even out the oils, and combing through or removing matted hair helps you find sores or parasites that may require treatment. Removing dead hair and dander (dead skin), which he would have shed somewhere in your home, can help relieve you and your family of allergy problems. The ritual of brushing allows you to bond more closely with your dog; he may come to love the attention. Also, this is your opportunity to examine his skin for any problems that may require treatment—these include infections, allergies and injuries. If you find lumps or bumps in his skin you need to let your vet know about it. Dogs can get cancerous tumors just like humans do; early detection is key to effective treatment.
Bathing Dogs certainly don't need baths as often as people do, but a once-a-month trip to the tub can be good both for the health of your dog's skin, and for your own allergies and housekeeping. Human shampoos and conditioners should not be used on dogs; this could bring about an allergic reaction. There are dozens of brands of specially formulated dog shampoos, with different fragrances, textures and even medicated varieties for dogs with skin problems. Pet stores sell attachments to shower heads that make it easier to rinse your dog. Make sure you use water at a comfortable temperature, not too hot, not too cold, and thoroughly dry your dog, so he doesn't become chilled after leaving the warm bathroom. Toweling him down may not be sufficient; you may need to use the blow dryer.
Dogs vary in their willingness to be bathed. Some have trouble keeping their footing in a porcelain tub. You can install a rubber mat to solve this problem. Don't let shampoo get in his eyes, or water get in his ears.
You may find that both you and your dog benefit from letting a professional groomer handle some of these chores. Perhaps you have a large dog and a small bathtub, and getting your dog in and out of the tub is too difficult. Some dog's coats are difficult or time consuming to take care of. Taking your dog to a professional groomer, who has the right tools and knows how to make each breed look its best, can be a good option. But, a dog owner is still responsible for regular brushing.
There is no shortage of groomers to choose from. Pet superstores like Petco have in-house groomers. There are small "beauty shop" type groomers, even mobile groomers that come to your home. Find one that has passed a certification program, which means they have advanced training and have had their work performance evaluated by the certifying organization, such as National Dog Groomers Association. Check out their facility for cleanliness, and the attitude of the staff. How do they treat the dogs under their care? Remember, your dog may be with them half a day or so. You want to make sure he is taken good care of. You might seek out a referral regarding a groomer from dog owners you meet at the dog park.
Ears and Eyes Ear care is an important aspect of keeping your dog healthy. Some breeds with long ears that hang down, such as the always popular cocker spaniel, are prone to ear infections because the dark, moist environment inside their ear canals is perfect for breeding bacteria. Chronic ear infections put a burden on your dog's immune system, so it's best to keep after the problem before it gets worse. All breeds develop ear wax that needs to be cleaned out. Ear cleaning solution is readily available at any pet store. Clean out your dog's ears with a cotton ball or cloth soaked in the solution; never use cotton-tipped swab (like we use) because it is possible to injure his ear with those. A dog that shakes his ears frequently is an obvious sign of a problem. But you need to check the ears anyway and look for signs of redness, swelling, discharge or odor.
And let's not forget your dog's eyes. A dog's eyes can get irritated from dry mucus, and foreign matter like hair and pollen. There are over-the-counter eye wash products you can use to flush these out. Also, wipe the crust that sometimes appear on his skin near the tear ducts. If you notice a recurring discharge in his eyes, let your vet take a look at it; this could be a sign of infection rather than simple irritation.
Nail Trimming You can tell when your dog's nails are too long—when he jumps up on you, he can scratch you! Long nails can also wreak havoc on wood floor and furniture. Neglecting nail trimming can cause health issues as well. Long nails can break just like ours do; this can be painful for a dog. Extremely overgrown nails can even make it difficult for your dog to walk. Nail trimming works best if done regularly and frequently, every two to four weeks or so. That way, you only have to clip off a tiny bit of nail, reducing the chances of nicking the vein in the nail, called the quick. Should that happen—and it does from time to time—bleeding can be stopped with a bit of styptic powder.
Many dogs balk at the idea of nail trimming. It makes them uncomfortable and when they squirm and fight it, chances increase that you may clip too close to the vein. You need to be extra reassuring when you first begin trimming his nails, to keep him as calm as possible. You will find over time that your dog will get used to having his nails clipped and will become much more cooperative.
Helpful Websites on Grooming and Health and Grooming www.dogparlor.com Grooming information from professional dog groomers
www.groomers.com Ask professional groomers questions
www.findagroomer.com Directory of groomers in the United States
www.animalhealthchannel.com Videos and information on pet health
www.healthypet.com Dog health, care and training info from the American
Animal Hospital Association
www.thepetcenter.com Pet health information site
Keeping your dog healthy and safe means you'll have your canine companion around for a number of years.