Preventive Medicine for Pets: Why We Do What We Do

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we are all about providing pet owners with preventive medicine. So here’s what you need to know.

What is Preventive Medicine for Pets Exactly?

There are several different forms of preventive medicine that goes into our regular veterinary care services. Examples include vaccinations, blood testing, and flea and parasite control.

Basically you’re not bringing your pet in to see the veterinarian the minute they’re sick; you’re bringing them in to the vet office before such a stressful event can take place and cause you and your pet greater anxiety.

Why Do You Practice Preventive Veterinary Medicine?

Simple: we do what we do because we care about your pets. We all have pets at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, and we treat them like family—with love and respect. So, we always treat our pet patients and their families like they’re a part of our own family too.

We don’t want our pets to get sick, or be scared, or feel anxious—we know you don’t want that either. To avoid such stress in our lives, we make sure to follow up on scheduled appointment times and pay extra attention to the details of each pet’s case during an examination. In the event a specialist is needed, we’ll make the referral for you so your pet gets the best possible care they need.

Other benefits of preventive medicine for pets include, but are certainly not limited to, the following:

  • It’s less expensive. While there are surgical procedures that do fall under the category of preventive medicine, such as spaying and neutering, these procedures are far less costly than it would be if you only take care of your pet when they are sick and need more urgent care.
  • It’s less stressful. Going back to our previous point about reducing anxiety, by practicing preventive medicine through our routine check-ups and exams, we will be able to detect underlying conditions or address future concerns before they become an even bigger problem. For example, a bump on your pet’s skin could be a flea bite, or it can mean something else; either way, by bringing your pet in for an exam, you’re also bringing your family veterinarian’s attention to their case now as opposed to later when it may be too late to prevent secondary conditions from developing. Finding out that there is a problem now and addressing it sooner than later reduces future anxieties on you and your pet going forward!
  • It’s more considerate. From your pet’s perspective, they can only do so much to communicate to you whether they are happy and healthy or sick and in need of help. It’s tougher in some cases, especially for cats, since their natural reaction to pain is to hide it from potential predators. By practicing preventive solutions in your daily pet care routine, you are in turn contributing to the reduction of their fear and anxiety surrounding veterinary services. The less stressed out you feel about going to see the vet, the less stressed out your pet will be too.
  • It’s more beneficial to you and your pet’s well-being. Stress is the number one factor in causing harm to the body in both humans and animals. Once your pet is receiving preventive medicine and care, you will see a difference in their well-being tenfold. The alternative would be having to treat conditions left undiagnosed and untreated for too long…and that’s definitely not something we recommend you doing.

How Does It Work?

All you have to do to make preventive medicine for pets work is bring your pet in for their annual checkups and routine vaccinations and deworming. It’s that easy!

Ask any and all questions you have for your vet during checkups to ensure that your pet is getting the help they need. The more educated you become on how to best care for your pet, the greater the preventive solutions will be and the happier your pet will be for it. If you’d like to continue to learn more about pet care, our blog is a good start.

If you still have any questions regarding preventive medicine as a veterinary service, we are here for you. Contact us to learn more about our practice or if you’d like to book an appointment.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Creative Ideas to Keep Pets Out of Christmas Decorations

If you’ve ever raised a cat or dog, you probably know that the holidays tend to bring new levels of challenge when it comes to keeping your furry friend safe. With all the exciting decorations, delicious food, and new people coming and going, the holidays can be an overwhelming time for pets.

One of the most common causes for pet injuries around this time of the year involves some kind of holiday decoration, whether it’s a Christmas tree or a strand of lights. Avoid unplanned visits to the veterinarian this winter with these creative ideas to keep pets out of your Christmas decorations.

How to Pet-proof Your Decorations

There are a number of decorations in the home that can be hazards for your pets. Of course, every animal is different, and what might be completely safe for one could be a serious danger to another. However, here are a few common Christmas decorations to keep a watchful eye over:

  • Christmas trees are a cherished and classic holiday decoration. However, because of their height, and the fact that they’re normally loaded with enticing, dangling decorations, they’re also one of the most common causes for holiday pet accidents.
  • Christmas lights are beautiful, but pose a couple of safety risks to many pets. The light bulbs, being so colourful and exciting, might be a temptation for a bite-happy dog. Likewise, playful pets might bite right through the cord, risking electric shock or even a fire. Finally, animals of all kinds have been known to get tangled up in the strands of lights, which could lead to injury.
  • Garlands are often seen in the home around the holidays. Whether they’re artificial or real, these decorations can be hazardous to keep around mischievous pets. Your cat or dog might get tangled up in the garland, possibly injuring themselves in the process. Also, the needles on some garland’s might shed, especially if you’re using the same decoration year after year. If your pet ends up getting these needles in their mouth, they could be a choking hazard.
  • Candles are a great way to set the holiday mood. Unfortunately, many animals find them alluring for the same reasons as humans, and could end up burning themselves or even knocking the candle over and starting a fire. 
  • Wrapping paper can be a hazard as well. If your pet is prone to eating little bits of whatever they can find, be sure to properly dispose of even the smallest scraps of wrapping paper after the gifts have been opened.

These are just some of the more common holiday hazards that could wind up causing trouble for your pet. Keep your cherished decorations in good shape, and keep your pet safe by taking a few simple precautions.

Choose Decorations Wisely

There are a huge variety of decorations available for trees, and taking the time to choose the right ones will go a long way in ensuring a safe holiday for everyone.

  • Fragile hanging baubles and glass decorations can be risky temptations, particularly for dogs who like to try eating whatever they can get their paws on. 
  • Since these decorations are liable to shatter, we advise keeping them off the tree, or at the very least, ensuring they’re higher up so your dog can’t reach them. 
  • The same goes for cats, since many are enticed by dangling objects. If you have a particularly mischievous cat, we’d recommend avoiding any tempting decorations entirely, since they’re likely to try and climb the tree to get at whatever catches their eye.
  • We also advise against any food-based decorations, such as strings of popcorn. These are just another temptation to most animals, and could be the thing to send them after your Christmas tree.

Consider the Pros and Cons of Real Trees

A real Christmas tree is a beautiful and nostalgic piece of holiday decoration, but you should consider carefully if it’s the right choice for your pet. Needles from a real pine or spruce tree can be a hassle and a hazard. Not only will your pet likely track them all through the house, but also they could be choking hazards for smaller animals, or possibly even be mildly poisonous depending on the type of tree and any chemicals present on the needles. In general, an artificial Christmas tree is likely to be the safest option for your pet.

Make a Barrier Around the Tree to Protect it from Nosy Pets

If you can’t seem to shake your pet’s interest in your Christmas tree, consider blocking access to it in some way. You could use a baby gate or a moveable play-pen to enclose it, or even block the way with larger gifts if your pet is small enough. The more you do to keep your pet away from the tree in general, the less likely they are to run into trouble.

Use Sprays to Deter Pets from the Tree

Pet deterrent sprays are available at most pet supply stores, but if those don’t work, or you’d prefer to make something at home, you can try spraying it with a concoction of water and turmeric. We recommend consulting with our veterinarian first to find out the safest way to deter your pet without bringing risk to them or your family.

Keep Electrical Cords Safe and Secure

Electrical cords pose a major hazard to pets, particularly to dogs with a knack for biting on things they shouldn’t. If possible, route Christmas light cables and extension cords high up so your pet doesn’t have the chance to chew on them. If this isn’t possible, you could always securely tape the cords to the floor. Just make sure to keep an eye on your pet to ensure they don’t try to pull the tape off in order to get at the cable.

Ensure the Tree is Well Secured

If you’re going to put a Christmas tree in your home with your pet, you should ensure it’s as securely placed as possible. Even small animals can climb up the tree, push it, or get tangled up in the branches, causing it to topple over. Not only can this injure your pet, but also it could hurt a family member, or at the very least wreck the tree, the decorations, and other objects in the room. 

Avoid this by ensuring the tree is well-secured to its base. It’s even better to have an additional point of contact, ideally at the top of the tree that’s fastened to a wall, ceiling, or curtain rod, to ensure the tree can’t be knocked over—no matter what.

Secure Your Decorations to the Tree

Another great way to ensure your decorations stay on the tree is to securely fasten them when you place them. You can use twist ties, clips, string, or stiff wire to do this. It’s best (and easiest) to do this for every ornament as you’re hanging them, and it’ll go a long way in keeping your decorations out of the mouth of any curious pets.

In General, Choose Safe Decorations Around the House

We all have our favourite seasonal decorations, but it’s important to keep your pets in mind when choosing them. There are a few decorations that can be major hazards to your pets, and should either be placed with extreme care or avoided entirely. 

Candles are a common choice for holiday decor, but are quite risky to keep around pets. The flickering flame is likely to catch the interest of your pets, particularly if you have an especially curious cat in the house. No matter what kind of pet you have, be very careful with candles, as they may try and play with it, potentially burning themselves or even knocking the flame over and starting a fire. If you want to achieve the same look, consider battery-powered candles with no heat or open flame. 

As you can see, decorating a house for the holidays with a pet in the equation comes with a few extra considerations. However, with a little extra thought and preparation, you can keep your home looking festive and beautiful, just the way you like it, while ensuring your pet has a safe and comfortable holiday as well. 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

The Healing Power of Service Dogs for Our Veterans

For tens of thousands of years, humans and dogs have had a long-standing symbiotic relationship. They’ve helped us find food, protected us from predators, and provided much-needed companionship. So it’s clear that humans and dogs have an intertwined relationship. It can be difficult to discuss the history of one without discussing the other. This long history between us and our dogs carries on today, but not only when it comes to choosing a pet.

These days, fewer of us need to hunt to survive, or be protected as we spend the night in the wilderness. However, dogs are still helping us in an extremely important way: therapy and emotional support. Although any dog owner will tell you how helpful a dog is when they’re feeling down, there’s one group in particular that benefits from the inherent kindness and loyalty of a dog: our Canadian veterans.

A Brief History of Service Dogs

To understand the amazing impact service dogs can have on today’s veterans, we should take a look at the history of dogs helping humans out. Although we’ve co-existed with domesticated dogs for thousands of years, there’s evidence that they’ve been working in a service role for almost as long.

For instance, a piece of art discovered in Pompeii was discovered depicting a dog guiding a blind man. This depiction dates all the way back to 74 CE, during the rule of the Roman Empire. This is the first known example of a dog guiding a blind person. Other examples have been found from across the world, illustrating hundreds of years of dogs helping humans navigate their disability.

In 1780, the Paris hospital Les Quinze-Vingts began training dogs to guide blind people for the first time, formalizing the service role for the first time. From here, more and more dogs were specifically trained for this task until they became indispensable.

During the first World War, dogs played a crucial part in supporting troops on both the British and German sides. Whether it was delivering supplies or messages, leading medics to wounded troops, or keeping an eye out for enemy spies, dogs proved that they could support humans in more ways than previously thought. After the war ended, humans still made use of service dogs. Germany was the first nation to assign guide dogs to their veterans after World War I, pairing up around 4000 blind veterans with a faithful companion by 1927. 

That same year, an American dog trainer named Dorothy Harrison Eustis wrote an article about the German guide dogs in The Saturday Evening Post, an American magazine. By this point, Eustis had been working for a few years in Switzerland, training dogs for the police and military. After the article was published, she received a letter from one Morris Frank, a blind man in America who couldn’t believe what he’d heard about Germany’s guide dogs. He asked her to train him a dog, and to teach him how to train them himself, so that he could help the thousands of other blind Americans become self-sufficient. Eustis agreed, and trained a dog for Morris, who spent the rest of his life in the company of guide dogs (all of which were named Buddy). Eustis would go on to open an academy for training guide dogs in the United States, which inspired a movement across North America and Europe to do the same.

By this point, it was clear that dogs had a lot to offer when it came to helping people with disabilities. However, it’s only in the past fifty years that the modern training process has become the norm, allowing people from across the world to gain the advantage of working with a guide dog. What’s also changed in the past fifty years is our understanding of what a service dog can help with, particularly in regards to our veterans.

Of all the wounds that soldiers sustain when serving in active combat, few have been as poorly understood as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Because research on this mental illness is still in its infancy, we don’t know everything about helping veterans battle PTSD. However, research over the past few decades has suggested that service dogs have a crucial part to play in treating this mental illness. 

How Service Dogs Can Help Treat PTSD

In a study conducted by the US Department of Veteran Affairs, it was found that around 10% of veterans studied experienced depression, and another 10% struggled with anxiety. PTSD affects 11-20% of soldiers who saw combat, depending on which conflict they served in, and still more struggle with MST, or military sexual trauma. These mental illnesses can be extremely difficult to handle on one’s own, and are commonly linked to suicidal impulses, self-destructive behaviour, and difficulty with social adjustment.

Today, there are many organizations that train service dogs and connect them with veterans. Although these are also concerned with helping veterans after physical injuries, the growing knowledge of PTSD means mental health is becoming more of a priority for these organizations. Knowledge of other mental illnesses is growing in tandem with research on PTSD, allowing us to gain a better understanding of how to help people who have experienced trauma.

The National Institute of Health found in a study that interacting directly with an animal can monumentally improve a person’s socialization, as well as help stabilize a person’s mood. Furthermore, studies in the field of psychology have researched the effects of animals on people suffering from PTSD, and found that it can reduce symptoms by 80% simply through basic interactions. This is amazing news, but why does it happen?

Studies have shown that when we interact with an animal, our brains release oxytocin into our systems. This chemical is sometimes called the “love hormone,” or the “cuddle hormone,” as it’s often produced when we do either of those two things, helping us to bond and build trust. When our brain releases oxytocin, we feel happier, calmer, and more at ease. It helps to mentally ground us, and can soothe the symptoms of mental illness. The most amazing thing is that these results are easily replicable – as increased levels of dopamine and oxytocin can be seen after just twenty minutes of interacting with a service dog. 

For veterans struggling with high heart rates due to stress disorders, having a trusted and trained animal can actually be the difference between life and death, allowing the veteran to calm down and return to a more mentally grounded state. Similarly, studies have suggested that supplying veterans with a service animal can help them feel less alone, potentially reducing the disproportionately high rate of veteran suicide. 

All types of animals have been successfully used to treat patients struggling with previous trauma. From dogs and cats, to horses, and even iguanas, animals of all kinds have been shown to positively impact veterans dealing with trauma after returning home. Although the science is still in its early stages, initial results are so promising that the Department of Defense has invested $300 000 in research for animal-assisted veteran therapy. 

Guiding Our Veterans into the Future

It’s true that science can’t definitively say that there’s a link between service animals and recovery from PTSD or MST. However, subjectively, there’s a strong body of evidence to show that it can make all the difference for veterans trying to readjust to civilian life. As an example, The Wounded Warriors Project has been matching veterans with service dogs for almost twenty years, helping them in their battle against mental illness. 

If you ask us, having a service animal is invaluable when it comes to navigating life after trauma. As we approach Remembrance Day in Canada, we’re reminded of the countless men and women who have made unbelievable sacrifices in the course of their duties. And while remembering these sacrifices is incredibly important, it’s equally important to provide support wherever possible. Whether a veteran is returning home with an observable physical injury, or an invisible mental illness, or both, service dogs can be instrumental in helping them overcome their challenges, and guiding them into a brighter future.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

What to Do If Your Dog Gets Stung

Warmer weather brings lots of new critters out and about. And while we love spending time in the sun with our furry friends, there’s still something to be on the lookout for: bees, wasps, and hornets. As you know, there’s little a dog loves more than chasing around after smaller creatures and sticking their nose where it might not belong. Sometimes this behaviour can wind up getting your dog in trouble, especially in the peak of the summer, when wasps, bees, and hornets are out in force.

Although a sting is one of the less serious injuries you and your dog need to worry about, there’s no doubt that they hurt, and lots of stings in the wrong place could even present a more serious injury. Knowing about the different types of stinging insects, as well as the best ways to treat those stings, can save your dog (and you) a lot of agony down the line.

Stinging insects to watch out for

There are a few insects that carry stingers and toxins – and there may be others specific to your area. However, in most places, you’re likely to run into the same three types of flying, stinging insects:

Bees

Bees are characterized by their fuzzy coat and larger abdomen. When a bee uses its stinger, it can be quite painful, but it will also kill the bee. Bee stingers are barbed, which means it becomes lodged in the skin, and can continue to channel toxins into the bloodstream until it’s removed. 

Although a bee sting is quite painful, it’s relatively rare to see a bee use its stinger. Since they can only use it once, bees will usually only sting if they feel threatened. If your dog sticks their nose into a flower patch that a bee happens to be pollinating, for instance, it may be intimidating enough for a bee to sting.

Wasps

Wasps are typically slimmer and sleeker than a bumble or honey bee, and fly through the air much quicker than their lumbering bee cousins. They have a smooth, hairless, almost shiny coat that is usually black and yellow (these wasps in particular are commonly known as yellowjackets). There are dozens of varieties of wasps all throughout the world, but their general description and behaviour is consistent across almost all of them.

Wasps are predators, and so tend to be more aggressive than bees, sometimes chasing after even the largest prey. If your dog winds up aggravating a wasp, or worse, disturbs a nest, there’s a good chance that the wasp will chase after the dog and go for a sting. This is because, unlike bees, a wasp is not killed by using their stinger, and can actually use it multiple times in a row. The upside of this is that wasp stingers normally do not lodge in the skin, as they’re not barbed.

Hornets

Hornets share a lot in common with wasps, with the major differences being in size and colour. Hornets are much larger, and can be identified by their hanging bodies as they fly around, and are usually marked with black and white rings, rather than black and yellow. Like a wasp, their stinger isn’t barbed, which means a hornet can deploy multiple painful stings in a row. Since hornets are even stronger predators than wasps thanks to their size, you may find them acting more aggressively, even towards a big dog.

Prevention tips for stings

The best way to get your dog relief from a sting is to prevent it completely. Of course, there’s no guarantee, especially when out in nature, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to improve your odds of a pain-free walk. For example, be aware of the types of locations your dog is likely to find stinging insects. In the daytime, flower patches or blooming bushes are likely to be full of pollinating bees, so try to keep your dog’s nose out of these areas.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to have an idea of where nests may be. While many bees, wasps, and hornets build hives in trees or other high areas, some wasps and yellowjackets actually build hives in the ground, usually with a small hole to access it. If you see your dog sniffing around a small hole in the dirt, proceed with caution, as they may be disturbing a hive.

Overall, the best method of preventing a sting on your dog is good training, and good on-leash control. It’s only natural for a dog to want to poke around and explore, but, sad as it may be, there are some spots that are best left un-sniffed. 

Treatment for a sting

If your dog does wind up getting stung, it’s important to understand the severity of the sting in order to make the best decision. Like we said, stings usually occur after a dog pokes their nose somewhere it might not belong, which means that the majority of stings seen on dogs are on their face. Obviously, this is a painful area for anyone to be stung, so learn about treatment now to save your dog some suffering down the line.

If your dog has only suffered one sting, you should be alright with minimal treatment. Remove the barb if needed, using your nails or a piece of rigid paper. Avoid using tweezers or pliers, as these can actually force more of the toxin into the skin. When the barb is out, it’s probably a good idea to head home. Once back, you can prepare one of a few simple home remedies to give your dog some relief. There are two treatments that are most effective when your dog has been stung by a wasp:

  • A weak solution of baking soda and water can be applied to the sting. The baking soda will help neutralize the toxin, and soothe the pain somewhat.
  • For swelling, you can place an ice pack or cold compress around the area, which will reduce the inflammation more quickly

It is also important to monitor for any immediate swelling of the face, eyes, ears, neck, lips, and excessive itchiness following the sting. This may indicate an anaphylactic reaction that needs urgent veterinary care.

All the while, you should be keeping a watchful eye on your dog. Like humans, some dogs are allergic to the toxin from stinging insects. This allergy can result in swelling and increased pain, but in more serious cases, it could actually be fatal. After a sting, keep an eye out for the following signs of allergic reaction:

  • Weakness or decreased energy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive swelling (that lasts more than 1-2 hours), especially if it’s not near the area of the sting

While a single sting is usually little more than an irritation, multiple stings can be very serious. If your dog has been stung more than once, especially on the face, tongue, or inside of the mouth, you should take your dog to a veterinarian right away. Even without an allergy, the concentration of toxins in a small area can lead to excessive inflammation, not to mention a lot of pain.

Treating your dog at Hastings Veterinary Hospital

Whether it’s a bee sting or a pulled muscle, a hornet’s attack or an upset stomach, Hastings Vet has the team, techniques, and experience to take expert care of your four-legged companion. We love animals, and this passion carries through every day at our clinic. If you have more questions about treating your dog’s wasp sting, prevention of stings, or anything else to do with your pet and their health, contact us today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Safety Tips to Go Camping With Your Dog

Getting into the great outdoors and spending a few nights there is a great way to get out of the house, disconnect from the stresses of day-to-day life, and appreciate the beauty of nature. When it comes to relaxing outside, there’s no better authority than our dogs. Bringing your dog on a camping trip can be a great experience, and can lead to powerful bonding moments between humans and their animals. However, there’s some preparation needed in order to keep you, your dog, and your fellow campers safe, comfortable, and happy. Read on for our top tips on safely going camping with your dog!

Phase 1: Preparation

If you’ve been on a camping trip before, you’re familiar with the sheer amount of preparation necessary for a successful adventure. There are so many little things that won’t seem so little if you get out there and realize you’ve forgotten it, so getting organized and prepared is a must. This is even more true when it comes to going camping with your dog. Before even looking at campsites, there are some steps you should check off your to-do list, such as:

Ensuring your dog’s shots are up to date

With massive tracts of wild land to explore, and countless things to smell, it’s quite likely your dog will wind up poking its nose where it doesn’t belong. That’s why ensuring they’re up to date at the vet is crucial. It’s very possible your dog will run into other dogs while camping, so it’s important that they’ve had the DHPP (Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus) vaccinations. These diseases are quite contagious, and can be harmful or even fatal to pets. Your dog should also be up to date on immunizations for other illnesses, such as rabies, bordetella, and leptospirosis. This will not only keep your dog safe, but eliminate the chance of other dogs being infected.

It’s also a good idea to get your dog on a preventative treatment for parasites, such as fleas, mosquitos that can transmit heartworm, and ticks. We recommend having your pet on this treatment year-round, but it’s especially important when taking an extended camping trip. Like humans, dogs can contract Lyme disease from a tick-bite, not to mention potentially bringing a few unwelcome pests home with them, so it’s a good idea to take all the preventative measures possible, for everyone’s comfort and safety.

Training

Ensuring your dog is well trained is an extremely important part of preparing for a camping trip with your canine companion. Even if your dog is fairly well-behaved at home, there’s no telling what will get into them once you’re out there. The unfamiliar environment, and wealth of strange new sights, sounds, and smells, can be downright overwhelming for even the most well-adjusted dogs. That’s why going over the doggy training basics can make such a huge difference in everyone’s enjoyment of your next trip.

A good place to start is making sure your dog is comfortable hanging out in an enclosed area, such as a playpen or a crate. Most campsites require all dogs to be on-leash, and this isn’t exactly easy when you need both hands to set up camp, make dinner, or roll a sleeping bag. You can also tether them with a long lead, but remember that this is no substitute for supervision, and that there’s still lots of trouble for them to get into.

If your dog is a big barker, consider whether bringing them camping is a good call or not. People get outside to enjoy the soothing sounds of nature, not to hear someone else’s dog barking at squirrels at all hours of the day. If you aren’t able to keep your dog’s voice down, they may be best left with a sitter for your trip.

A few other commands that your dog should have down pat before your trip include: Sit, stay, come, quiet, and drop it. Your pup needs to have a strong handle on these commands, or there’s no telling what kind of mischief they’ll get up to. With other campers, who may have dogs or children, not to mention the potentially sensitive flora and fauna in your area, it’s crucial that you can keep your dog under control at all times. 

Keeping track of your dog

With so much room to run and play, there’s always the possibility of a dog tearing off into the woods, and you spending the rest of your trip searching for them. Since they’ll have no idea how to get home, it’ll be up to you to track them down. Should this horrible experience of losing your dog happen to you, you’ll be glad you took the time to ensure your dog was properly identified on its collar, and that it has its microchip, so it can be identified if it turns up later. Although this might not help you track them down in the moment, (that’s what all that training was for!) it greatly improves the chances of the two of you being reunited.

Getting your dog used to roughing it

While we may be able to prepare ourselves, mentally and physically, for sleeping on the ground in a tent, our dogs may not yet be up to the task. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to sleeping outdoors, even if that means the two of you spending the night in a tent in the backyard. Even if you can’t make time to spend the night in a tent together beforehand, bringing your dog’s favourite treats, toys, blankets, and other objects will help your pup be more comfortable in the tent, and get excited about roughing it.

Do your research!

Depending on your destination, there are lots of things to be on the lookout for when camping with your dog. It’s important to read up on the area you’re planning to camp, and find out what kinds of plants and animals may cause problems for you and your dog. Parasites, as discussed before, are nearly everywhere, but can be much worse in some areas than others (think a marshland full of mosquitos). On top of that, predators like bears, cougars, coyotes, or snakes can pose a major threat. It’s not overly likely to run into these creatures, but it’s important to be aware of them, and plan accordingly. Additionally, look up if there are any dangerous plants your dog might run into, such as stinging nettles or poison ivy, or perhaps something more exotic. 

Other things that will be important to research are the campsite’s dog policy. Are well-behaved dogs allowed to roam off-leash, or must they remain tethered at all times? Most campsites will have information online about their dog policy, or have specific sites that are dog-friendly. If you can’t find the information you need, you can always give the site a call, or try a third party site such as Bring Fido, which can help you find a suitable destination.

The bottom line here, though, is to do extensive research, and learn everything you can about the area before visiting. 

What to bring

In a previous post, we discussed the best ways to prepare your dog for a hike, complete with a packing list. Many of the same principles apply to a camping trip, with a few added items that are a good idea to bring along. Here’s our list of essential supplies for camping with your dog:

  • Water and a collapsible bowl
    • No matter when or where you go camping, you can count on your dog getting thirsty. It’s important to bring enough water, or ideally, more than enough. Exactly how much depends on the size and breed of your dog, the temperature of the area, and the expected level of intensity of getting to the campsite, as well as any day trips or other activities you have planned. One thing is for certain, you don’t want to run out of water while camping with your dog, for your sake and theirs. As well, do your best to stop your dog from drinking from streams, ponds, and puddles, as this water may pass parasites or pathogens to your pup.
  • Food and treats
    • For day-to-day sustenance, or for when your dog needs a little pick-me-up (or a convincing bribe).
  • Poop bags! (And/or a spade)
    • Always make sure to clean up after your dog, either bagging it and properly disposing of it, or, if it’s not possible to pack it out, burying it at least a foot deep, a hundred feet or more from water access points, roadways, or civilization in general. 
  • Doggy first aid kit
    • On top of your normal first aid gear, we recommend adding some dog-safe antihistamines and antiseptics, as well as liquid bandages for paw pads. 
  • A cozy dog bed
    • While your dog might be attached to their cozy bed at home, it’s a good idea to get a second bed that’s designed for camping. These usually are thicker, and provide better insulation for your dog to keep them comfortable through the night. The more comfortable your dog is in the tent, the less likely you are to be woken up by a restless pup in the middle of the night.
  • A long leash
    • For campsites that only allow tethered dogs, look for a sturdy leash with a good length. You should be able to wrap it around a tree when needed, while still giving your dog a decent amount of room to roam. At the same time, it should be short enough to allow you to keep control of your dog at all times.
  • Doggy-dedicated towel
    • This will allow you to dry and clean them off before letting them into your tent, keeping whatever dirt, water, or unwelcome critters out of your sleeping area. We recommend bringing a towel that is just for your dog, because, well, who would want to share?
  • Dog-friendly sunscreen and bug spray
    • These specialty products may prove a little hard to find, but they’re essential for keeping your dog healthy and happy on your camping trip. Sunscreen made for dogs will protect them from harmful UV rays, while special bug spray will protect them from mosquitos, and therefore from heartworm. IMPORTANT: Never use DEET on your dog!
  • Your dog’s favourite toy(s)
    • A little something to remind them of home, and keep them out of trouble while you brew that first pot of coffee.
  • A reflective or illuminated collar
    • While not essential, having an LED light or reflective surface on your dog’s collar or jacket can be a big help in tracking them down should they leave your sight.

Phase 2: Arriving to the campsite

Although it’s tempting to get to work straight away on setting up camp, remember that this all might be a bit of a scary or overwhelming experience for your four-legged friend. Keep them calm by giving them a (leashed) tour of the place, and allow them to check everything out under your supervision. This will help put the dog at ease for the rest of the trip, as well as hopefully satisfy their curiosity, and stop them from running off at the first chance they get. You can also help make your pet more comfortable by setting up a relaxing, safe spot for them to hang out while you’re in the campsite. Someplace that’s shady and free of pests or hazards, and allows them to get a good lay of the land.

Phase 3: Enjoying the trip!

You’ve done your due diligence, prepared and planned accordingly, and you and your dog have finally arrived. What to do now? Well, the world is your oyster, but here are a few suggestions on activities to do while camping with your dog:

1. Fetch!

This one might seem a little obvious, but truthfully, camping is one of the best times to play fetch with your dog. Think about how excited your pet will be to be running wildly in a huge open area, not having to worry about other dogs or people. It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, and we certainly count a round of fetch in the grout outdoors among them.

2. Go for a hike

If your dog is up to the task, we recommend taking a hike while you’re camping! Lots of campsites have great day trips or even overnight hikes in the area, so have a look around in your research phase to see if any trails catch your eye. It can be a good challenge for your dog, and lots of fun for the both of you. 

3. Take a dip

If it’s mid-summer, and there’s a beautiful, undisturbed body of water nearby, we probably don’t even have to make this recommendation. And your dog certainly won’t need to be told twice! You may just find yourself wading out there after them.

4. Just take it all in!

Life as a dog is simple, but that simplicity is what we find so wonderful. Even just taking your pal on a little walk around the area, especially if your dog is a breed not predisposed to more challenging hikes, can be a great way to get them excited. After all, it’s only natural that your dog will want to smell, eat, or pee on just about everything, so you may as well join them on the trip, and make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.

Going camping with your dog can be an incredibly fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the great outdoors with your best friend, and more often than not, taking a trip with them will lead to powerful bonding moments that neither of you will soon forget. With proper preparation, training, and understanding of how to look after your pet in the wild, anyone can experience the joys of camping with their dog.

For questions about getting your dog camp or hike-ready, or anything else around your animals and their needs, don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

How to Safely Do a Trail with Your Dog

If social distancing has been giving you cabin fever, you might be looking for safe ways to get out of the house. Going for a hike, or even a camping trip, can be a great way to get active outdoors, while keeping yourself safe. And, since your dog has probably gotten used to having you around all day, it’s only right to bring them along for the adventure!

Hiking and camping with a dog can be lots of fun, and a great bonding experience between an animal and their human. Before suiting the two of you up, though, it’s important to know exactly how to keep your furry friend safe when doing a trail.

Planning ahead and being prepared is extremely important when doing a trail with your dog, especially in more challenging trails, or unfamiliar terrain. However, beyond preparation for the basic necessities, there are some questions you need to ask yourself about your dog to ensure they’re up to the task.

Can my dog go hiking?

Something that’s important to recognize is that not all dogs are able to hike or walk more challenging trails. Understanding the condition and ability of your dog, and being realistic about their capability, will go a long way in keeping them safe. Some questions to ask yourself before taking your dog hiking:

  • Does your dog have any known health issues? This is one of the first questions to ask. If you want to go hiking with your furry friend, it’s important that they don’t have any existing health conditions. They also will need to be able to withstand temperature changes.
  • Is your dog very old or young? They may lack the strength and stamina to keep up for the whole hike. Additionally, their immune systems may make them more vulnerable in nature.
  • How will your dog behave on the trail? Some dogs can become very erratic or excited in nature, and may disobey commands. This is especially true for scent hounds, or any dog with a high prey drive. It might be possible to train your dog out of these habits, but there’s still always the risk of them tearing off into the brush after an especially enticing squirrel.
  • Has a vet recently cleared your dog for hiking? In addition to giving a check up on your dog’s general health, a vet can tell you about other ways to prepare for a hike. There are a number of preventative measures you can take to keep your pet safe, depending on the length, remoteness, and duration of your next hike. There are preemptive treatments available for pathogens your dog may pick up from drinking water, as well as for parasites, such as ticks. Your vet will be able to tell you which ones will be most suitable, depending on your destination.
  • Genetically speaking, is your dog a good hiker? Short-muzzled dogs, otherwise known as brachycephalic dogs, are generally not the greatest hikers. Although they may be all over a shorter walk, pugs, most bulldog breeds, and boxers should be left at home for more challenging trails. These breeds are particularly prone to heat stroke and fatigue, so use caution when bringing them along. 

Finding a dog-friendly trail

Are there dog-friendly trails in your area? Although it’s important to ensure that hikes are ‘dog-friendly,’ in that your pet is allowed there, you should also consider if the terrain will be suitable for your dog. Here a few things to consider when choosing your next hike: 

  • Is the terrain suitable for a dog’s feet? While there are steps you can take to protect your dog’s feet (more on that later), it’s best to just pick a trail with terrain that won’t be treacherous or painful for your dog. Avoid trails that are jagged or icy, or surfaces that will become excessively hot in the sun.
  • What will the temperatures be like? Although most dogs can withstand colder temperatures than us, they don’t usually do so well in extreme heat. If you’re looking at a more extended hike (especially a multi-day trip), try to either go at a cooler time of year, or pick a route with more shade.
  • What are the trail rules for dogs? While some trails allow well-behaved dogs to roam freely, others require them to stay leashed at all times, and some others don’t allow dogs at all. It’s important to do your research ahead of time, so you’re not surprised by upset hikers, or worse, a hefty fine. 

For even more suggestions on where to walk, be sure to check out our previous blog post on dog-friendly trails and parks! There are also even more tips on camping with your dog and even tips on keeping your pooch’s toes safe on sidewalks for you to check out!

Preparing your dog for a trail

You’ve gone over the checklist, and your dog is shaping up to be a great hiking buddy. However, there’s still work to do in order to keep you and your pet safe on the trails. Here are some of the best ways to prepare your dog for longer trails: 

1. Work your way up!

Properly preparing your dog for a hike is extremely important, no matter what level of challenge you’re expecting to face. One of the best ways to get your dog ready, especially for a more difficult hike, is to simply work your way up to it. Before taking your pal on a week-long backcountry excursion, start with a shorter, local trail. This is a good way to help with your dog’s general fitness, and it’ll also toughen up their paws for next time.

Not only will working your way up prepare your dog physically, it’ll help them adjust mentally to longer trails. Like humans, dogs need to learn their capabilities, and it’s a good idea to give them a chance to figure out how to manage their stamina while the stakes are still low.

You can also learn some valuable information by doing these trial trails. How does your dog react to wildlife, other hikers, or other dogs when hiking? How do they behave when they’re tired and need a break? These, and other logistical questions, can often be answered by doing a few preparatory trails before the main event.

2. Learn trail etiquette, and teach it to your dog 

If you’re bringing your dog on a hike, it’s important they don’t pose a nuisance, or a hazard, to those you’ll be sharing the trail with. If the route requires leashes, or if your dog might jump up at others, make sure to use a short lead. We recommend six feet or less, to minimize issues with tangling. If your dog is trained and unleashed, make sure they’re always within your sight, and that they can hear you.

Additionally, make sure you’re as courteous to other hikers as you can be. Keep your dog out of other people’s way, and teach them to heel at your command. Be sure to let other dog-owners know if yours is friendly, and find out ahead of time if the animals should be kept separate. This is important to do anywhere you bring your dog, but is especially important on trails, where medical help can be much further away.

3. Come prepared! 

You’ll need to come prepared with some supplies to ensure the safety and comfort of you and your dog when tackling a trail. Always be sure to pack lots of food and water, as well as any medication your dog may need. Be sure you’re stocked up on dog poop bags, or if you’re staying overnight, bring a shovel to bury the business (at least eight inches deep and 200 feet from any water source, trail, or campsite).

4. Protect the environment

While the great outdoors can be an amazing, exciting experience for a dog, it’s important to keep control of them. This is not just for their safety, but also to protect the environment around you. Areas of dense brush, as well as waterways, can sometimes be sensitive, and may be harmed or destroyed by rambunctious dogs. Not to mention, some plants are poisonous, and some animals bite back, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

As a side note, make sure you leave no trace when taking your dog on the trails. Nobody likes to see a bag of dog poop carelessly flung off the trail, so if you packed it in, be sure to pack it out.

Looking after your dog on the trail

Once you’re out there, you want to keep an eye on your dog, and stay aware of their condition. Be aware of hydration status of your dog. When dogs pant as a means to cool down, they also lose a lot of moisture during the process. If you’ve been walking for fifteen minutes, and your mouth is getting a bit dry, consider how your fur-covered friend feels! Likewise, just as you probably eat more when doing an extended hike, you should pack more food for your dog than they’d normally eat. Here’s a full list of the essentials to bring to safely do a trail with your dog:

  • Water and a collapsible bowl
    • Look up recommendations based on your dog’s breed for how much to bring, but it’s always better to have too much than not enough.
  • Dry food
    • A dry food that’s high in protein and fat will be the best way to keep their energy levels up, and the weight down. Plan to pack about fifty percent more than their normal portion.
  • First aid kit
    • This should include bandages, gauze, antiseptic (make sure it’s pet friendly), a liquid bandage for paw pads, topical antibiotics, tweezers or pliers, styptic pencils, and some kind of antihistamine in case of bee stings or snake bites.
  • Poop bags/shovel
  • A dog collar with their name, license number, your contact information, etc.
  • Heat stroke prevention
    • This can be ice or cold packs, or simply a bandanna that can be wet and placed on the dog’s neck or thigh to keep them cool.
  • Short leash
  • Doggy backpack
    • These can be found online, or in some pet supplies stores. Make sure it’s an appropriate size for your breed, and that it’s packed evenly.
  • A paw salve
    • Most important on longer hikes, this can be a good way to take care of your dog’s paw pads in case of cracks or splits.

Keeping your dog in top shape

Hiking with your dog is a great way for the two of you to get out of the house, get active, and enjoy the natural beauty of the great outdoors. Although there’s lot of preparation that goes into it, the reward of experiencing trails, hiking, and camping with a dog is something special, and more than worth the hassle.

If you have more questions about keeping your dog safe on a trail, want to get them evaluated for hiking, or anything else related to keeping your furry friend in top shape, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Hastings Veterinary Hospital today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Valentine’s Day Safety Tips For Dogs

Be sure to check out, and take to heart, these Valentine’s Day safety tips for dogs. After all, what creature loves you more than your dog? (Probably none!) Although your feelings may be mutual, you may not realize there are expressions of love that are great for humans but can actually harm your beloved pooch. We want to alert you to the dangers that lurk around this day’s festivities so that you can make an environment free of potential hazards for your furry friend. Some of these tips can be applied to other holidays too!

Keep Chocolate and Chocolate Desserts Out of Reach

You may love chocolate in all its forms and be thrilled to receive a box of chocolates from your sweetheart. You may also plan a celebration dinner for a loved one or for your family that includes a yummy chocolate dessert. However, make sure you dog can’t possibly reach any of these sweet delights. Your pet would probably love to eat chocolate and other tasty treats like you, but unfortunately chocolate is toxic for dogs, especially dark chocolate. Here’s why:

  • Chocolate contains high levels of cocoa, caffeine, and theobromine (a dangerous food item for dogs).
  • The smaller the dog and the darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is. Theobromine will build up in a dog’s system because a pooch can’t metabolize it, and it can reach a toxic level that affects their nervous system and heart muscles.
  • 1/2 ounce or 15 grams of gourmet or baker’s chocolate will cause toxic effects in a mid-sized dog. It only takes 2 ounces or 50 grams to be fatal to an average-sized one.

 

With that in mind, here’s what you can do:

 

  • When cooking with chocolate or cocoa, keep it out of reach of your pooch and put it away as soon as you have finished using it.
  • If you receive a Valentine’s gift of chocolates, eat what you want and then put the gift in a cupboard with a door that your dog can’t open or on a shelf he or she can’t possibly reach.

If your small dog nips a chocolate candy before you can whisk away the danger, expect to see a range of symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Sugar-Free Candy & Desserts Are Not Get-Out-of-Trouble-Free Gifts for Pets

The problem with sugar-free candy and dessert is that they aren’t free of danger for your dog. Many of the familiar little candy-shaped hearts, gummies, and jellybeans we share on this holiday contain the sugar substitute xylitol, which is a polyalcohol compound that is highly toxic to dogs, as well as to cats and bunnies.

It’s best to keep all sweet treats and desserts away from pets. Stay on guard.

Toxic Plants and Thorny Flowers are a No-No

Any flower with thorns like roses —are dangerous to dogs for obvious reasons. The thorns can cause a painful gash in the skin. Don’t assume your curious dog will never get close enough to be hurt by thorns or that he or she won’t try and eat a thorny flower. Are they beautiful and colourful and have a great odour? Assume your dog will be attracted enough to get nice and close to them.

Ordinary lilies won’t cause much more than a tummy upset for a dog but the striped Barbados lily is poisonous, and so are begonias, the California ivy, and aloe, among other plants. The advice to dog owners is, if plants or flowers come your way on Valentine’s Day, make sure to put them out of your dog’s reach.

Get Rid of Shiny Packages and Wrappings

You aren’t the only one who loves beautifully wrapped gifts with ribbons; your dog appreciates them, too. In fact, it is a good idea to quickly put away any cellophane, shiny wrap, and ribbons before your dog decides to start chewing on them. Gift wrappings and ribbons that are swallowed can cause intestinal blockages even if they aren’t made out of materials that make them unsafe for your pet to ingest.

Any candy wrap is particularly dangerous because the candy flavour remains on the wrap, and your pet, especially if he or she is still a puppy, may decide the wrapping is the next best thing to wolfing down the candy itself.

Here are a Few More Potential Valentine’s Day Hazards

  • Candles – Your dog isn’t likely to mistake a candle for food (a young puppy might), even one that gives off the enticing odour of vanilla; however, candles and pets don’t mix well. There is always the danger of a curious pet or a happy one with a long wagging tail to come to grief with candles. Don’t leave them burning in a room without adult supervision or they may be knocked over by a curious animal.
  • Alcohol – Your dog may very likely drink alcohol left in glasses or spilled on surfaces. Be sure and clear away containers that hold any alcohol and clean up spills right away.
  • Sparkly Gifts – Yes, your pooch may love that sparkly necklace or ring as much as you do, and may decide to scoff it up if it is in reach. Your dog may even eat two or three of these sparkly items. Don’t take a chance; keep all such items out of reach too.

Watch for Signs Your Pooch Has Ingested Something Dangerous 

If you suspect your dog has eaten something that isn’t intended for dogs, do your best to track down the possible suspects so that you can report what it is to your veterinarian or to an emergency vet. Also, try and figure out how much of it you think he or she has consumed. These are the signs:

  • Vomiting and diarrhea
  • Excessive panting
  • Shakes and chills
  • Seizures
  • Laboured breathing
  • Coma
  • Weakness and confusion
  • Difficulty standing or lack of coordination

You don’t want to spend your Valentine’s Day or evening in an animal hospital, or sitting up with an unwell dog. Stay alert to the dangers to which your pet may be exposed and incorporate safety measures into your celebrations. You can show your dog lots of love during this holiday with nothing more than your time and companionship.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Dangers for Dogs

Happy holidays! Don’t forget to include your dog in the festivities. That being said, it is important to review your plans for the holidays and make sure seasonal dangers for pets can be prevented in your home.

To start, keep your pooch well protected and make sure that everyone in your home is on board with monitoring dog treats, gifts, and activities to make sure they are safe for dogs and to help keep the environment risk-free for your best friend.

1. Choose Safe Gifts and Healthy Treats for Dogs

When filling a holiday stocking for your pet, choose safe chew toys and healthy doggie treats that are easy to digest.

It’s easy to buy safe gifts for your dog as there are lots of choices such as comfy doggie beds, soft blankets, great brushes, decorative and colourful pet collars and leashes (including those that are reflective or light up with night safety LED lighting), and the ever-popular plush toys, squeaky toys, and balls for fetch-and-carry games. If your dog has a habit of eating plush toys, maybe this won’t be a good option for them. We have a whole blog post dedicated to finding that perfect safe toy or treat for your pooch if you’re interested!)

2. Be Careful With Decorations

  • If you want to have a decorated tree in your home, make sure it is securely fixed so that it can’t be knocked over by your energetic pooch. As well as using a sturdy container or stand, consider fastening it with fishing line to a curtain rod, the ceiling, or a doorframe; just make sure your pet doesn’t get tangled in it.
  • If your tree is a natural one sitting in a container of water, remember that the water, too, can be hazardous for your dog if there is any aspirin, sugar, or other additives in it. Try to find a stand with water that can be covered so only the tree can drink the water and not your dog.
  • Make sure all stringed lights and electrical cords are out of sight and out of reach so that your dog is not tempted to chew on them. See that everything is unplugged at night or whenever you leave the house.
  • Don’t use homemade decorations made of food products like salt dough or popcorn, and keep fragile decorations out of reach as broken pieces can be toxic to pets if swallowed and they can also cause internal and external injuries. The most suitable and safe decorations are those made of wood or fabric and fastened to the tree with string rather than wire hooks.
  • Candles should be kept up high on shelves where curious dogs can’t reach them. There should never be lit candles in a room if no responsible person is there to watch over them. Fortunately, there are artificial candles that flicker and crackle like real ones and can safely replace them.
  • Batteries and gadgets holding batteries must be kept away from your dog in case your pooch decides to chew on them. If you see a battery-operated gift, remote control, or a gadget with a battery missing, start a search for it right away. If you can’t find the battery, you must assume your dog has swallowed it and should take your dog to the veterinarian for help right away.
  • Keep potpourris out of reach, especially if liquid, as these usually contain essential oils and detergents that can burn your dog’s mouths, skin, and eyes.

3. Avoid Holiday Food Dangers

  • Dogs love sweets and are particularly drawn to the scent and taste of chocolate, which contains the compound theobromine. This ingredient is poisonous to them. The darker the chocolate, the more dangerous it is, and chocolate of any kind is more dangerous for small dogs than large dogs. For example, consuming 400 grams of any chocolate can be fatal for average sized dogs as they don’t have the enzyme needed to digest and metabolize it.
  • All sweets are dangerous for dogs and so are candy wrappers and plastic lollypop sticks, which can cause choking and create an intestinal blockage if ingested. Candy and desserts intended for dieters may contain the artificial sweetener xylitol that can be poisonous to dogs and cause liver failure, watch out for the “no sugar added labels”. Keep all candy and sweets out of “paw reach.”
  • Don’t allow your pet to consume any alcohol and make sure your guests don’t decide it would be fun to see how your pet reacts with alcohol in his or her system. Yes, there are people who will actually offer alcohol to pets. Place unattended beverages where your pet can’t reach them.
  • Make sure everyone, including guests, are aware that your pet can’t be fed any table scraps or leftover snacks, and make sure these are safely discarded when people have finished eating. Many foods that are safe for human are hard for dogs to digest, can cause intestinal problems such as bloating, gas, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can be poisonous to them. Rather than read a list to your guests of what your pet mustn’t be fed, request that no table scraps or snacks be offered or dropped invitingly on the floor. As an alternative you can give your guests appropriate treats to offer during dinner time if needed.
  • Don’t leave leftover food around to tempt your dog. Clear your tables and counters, see that your garbage can has a tight fitting lid, and take out the trash to make sure your dog can’t get into it.
  • Watch for symptoms of food poisoning—vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, and poor coordination—and take your dog to the veterinarian for help immediately if you see these warning signs in your pet.

4. Keep Certain Christmas Plants Out of Reach

  • Mistletoe and holly with its bright red berries are dangerous to pets if ingested, and can cause vomiting, diarrhea and heart arrhythmia. Poinsettias and Christmas cactus are not nearly as dangerous, but they should still be presented and used with caution since they can still cause drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • Other holiday plants you should avoid having around are amaryllis, calla and peace lilies, balsam, pine, and cedar, which can also cause digestive problems for dogs.
  • Substitute artificial plants made of silk or plastic if you want to add the “plant touch” to your holiday decorating plans.

5. Plan Pet-Safe Holiday Entertainment

  • Arrange a holiday safe zone where your pooch can always retreat so that you don’t have a stressed-out pet. Set up a room where your dog can hide from the noise of loud people and loud music when you are entertaining. Leave food, water, some favourite toys, and a comforting mat, blanket, or bed in which he or she can snuggle.
  • Explain the dangers of human food and beverages for dogs to all guests and make sure visiting children understand and are aware of the dangers, too.
  • If your dog is inclined to make a dash for the door whenever it is opened, install a baby gate to make sure your pet can safely greet guests from behind it.

By working together with everyone in your home, you can prevent holiday dangers for your dog when you choose gifts and treats for your pooch and keep pet safety in mind when choosing decorations, plants, and food. Be careful about leftover food on tables and counters and the disposal of it. When everything is in place for the holidays, look around and see if anything presents a possible danger to your dog, or if your pooch could come to harm in any of the rooms accessible to him or her. You don’t want a trip to the veterinarian to be on your list of holiday events!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Weird Things Dogs Eat and Why They Eat Them

We love our pet dogs, but sometimes they eat some pretty weird things! As dog owners it’s natural to worry about the health and safety of our pets, especially if we see gross, disgusting items disappearing into their mouths and then being swallowed before we can stop it from happening.

Will that horrible stuff make our doggies sick? We can’t help but worry, worry, worry! However, many of the non-food items dogs choose to eat are neither dangerous nor worrisome. There are others, however, that do require our immediate attention and even a trip to the veterinarian. If your dog consumes something large that can’t pass through the intestines in 10 to 24 hours, a blockage may be occurring which can be life-threatening.

Non-Food Items Dogs Consume

Did you know there are actually terms for why this may happen? In fact, there are two major names to describe the behaviour of dogs eating weird things:

  1. Pica – Pica is the general term for non-nutritive items that dogs may eat. These can range from sand, grass, dirt, paper, chalk, rocks, socks (yes, they may actually swallow socks!), and plastic, as well as toxic items. Eating some peculiar things can be a signal that your dog has a health problem you should be aware of, such as nutritional deficiencies in his or her diet or an electrolyte imbalance. Of course, some of the things we’ve listed here are definitely dangerous items for your pet to eat.
  1. Coprophagia – This is a particular form of pica that most people find altogether revolting, and it is the consumption of feces. However, there are usually good reasons for dogs to engage in this behaviour, which is the most common form of pica.
  • Mother dogs lick their puppies’ bottoms to keep them clean and to encourage them to urinate and defecate. In other words, mothers become used to the taste and smell of poop, and it continues to be a familiar food item for them. Coprophagia is normal behaviour for female dogs.
  • This is unlikely but dogs may often eat feces to keep their kennels or living spaces clean.
  • Sometimes the nutritional needs of dogs are not being met and they eat feces in an effort to improve their diets. Cat feces in particular is high in protein because the diet of cats, unlike that of dogs, usually features a lot of meat. Dogs, therefore, may consider cat poop a gourmet food item! However, eating the feces of other animals is not safe. Make sure your veterinarian knows about this behaviour. 

There are Several Reasons for Pica to Develop in Dogs

Aside from the reasons for coprophagia, there are endless questionable items that dogs ingest for a variety of reasons:

  1. Attention-Seeking – Your dog may simply be seeking attention because he or she feels neglected. If this is the case, unwanted behavior like eating weird items can be overcome by paying more attention to, and playing more frequently with, your pet.
  2. Stress – Anxiety and stress can cause your dog to develop compulsive behavioural patterns, one of which can be pica. Dogs often become anxious when changes occur in the household: a new person comes to live in the house, or a familiar person moves out; a new pet is introduced into the family; or you move to another residence. In time, the problem will disappear.
  3. Curiosity – Dogs are as curious as humans are! Puppies are especially prone to investigating and sampling new delights—or horrors—and will probably grow out of their tendency to try eating everything in sight by six months or so. If not, be on the lookout for reasons other than curiosity and experimentation.
  4. Health Needs – In the off chance your dog has health issues that need to be addressed, pica should never be ignored. You should consult your veterinarian if your older pooch tries to eat the same type of item again and again or shows a craving for feces. An examination can rule out a nutritional need or an electrolyte imbalance.

Symptoms That Should Alarm Owners

If your pooch presents these symptoms and you aren’t sure what was eaten, take your dog to the veterinarian immediately:

  1. Vomiting and diarrhea
  2. Pain and tenderness in the abdomen
  3. Constipation and straining to defecate
  4. Severe disinterest in food
  5. A lack of energy
  6. Snapping or growling when picked up

Worry if Your Dog Consumes These Items

  1. Batteries – Batteries or any small item containing batteries must be kept out of reach of your pet because battery acid is very corrosive. If you find a remote control or any battery-operated gadget on the floor and the battery has been punctured, take your dog to the veterinarian. If the battery has disappeared altogether, you have to assume it has been swallowed and your dog needs immediate medical attention.
  2. Pills or Medication – Pills or any other medication for humans or animals are always a worry, and most are highly toxic for pets.
  3. Plastic Objects – Items made of plastic are often attractive to dogs, and if swallowed, can become a blockage. Broken plastic pieces can cut your dog’s mouth or puncture their insides.
  4. Fabric – Socks, string, underwear, or any item made of fabric can stretch out in the abdomen and then bunch up and cause a blockage.
  5. Toxic Items – Toxic items include any cleaners or home care items that are poisonous or corrosive, both for humans and animals.
  6. Some Food Items Intended for Humans – Make sure you know what food for humans is safe for your pet and keep every other type of food out of reach. Such items as chocolate, alcohol, coffee, artificial sweeteners, nuts, avocadoes, onions, raisins, and grapes must always be kept away from dogs. A more in-depth list of foods you shouldn’t feed your dog can be found in our previous blog post.

Don’t Worry If Your Dog Consumes These Weird Items

  1. Flies and Moths – these can be fun for dogs to catch and eating them won’t hurt your pet
  2. Ice Cubes – are fine and can even help dogs keep cool on a hot day, just be careful they don’t swallow them whole.
  3. Dust Balls – these are a strange choice, but not a problem and your dog may be interested in the salty taste or the interesting texture
  4. Grass – this is fine unless it is an ongoing pastime, which usually signals a nutritional need, the presence of worms, a need for fibre, or a need to improve digestion

What You Can Do About Pica

If your dog routinely eats weird things, make sure your veterinarian knows what they are to rule out medical reasons for your pet’s behaviour. Once these medical reasons are ruled out, the next step would be implementing specific types of training to avoid this.

  • Keep toxic and poisonous items away from your dog. Put them up high, in closets, and behind doors that your pet can’t push open.
  • Pick things up from the floor, hang them up, put them away, and make sure there is nothing around that your pet can eat or chew on without your noticing. If you catch your dog in the act of eating things like dust balls, do not yell at or scold your pooch. Instead, simply pick up the item and remove it from their sight, or dispose of it.
  • If your pet eats the feces of animals outdoors, make sure your veterinarian knows so that a parasite test can be performed on your dog.
  • If you can’t stop your dog from eating sticks and stones, garbage, and anything within reach, you may have to use a muzzle when your dog is taken outside, but this should only be used as a last resort.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Why You Should Never Feed Your Dog from the Dinner Table

Why must you resist your sweet dog’s pleading eyes as he or she begs for food at the dinner table? No matter how cute your pooch looks, it is important that you stay strong and resist the temptation. It’s not safe to feed table scraps to your furry friend and doing so can lead to a variety of health problems. It can also promote bad behaviours not only from your dog, but from people too.

Problems Stem from Feeding Your Dog Table Scraps

It is hard to resist feeding table scraps from the dinner table to your pooch, but the problems that can result put your pet’s health and life at risk. Consider the behavioural, social, and physical problems that you will be encouraging by this practice.

Behavioral and Social Problems

Behavior and social issues can result from providing food anywhere but in your dog’s own bowl and will introduce bad habits to your dog and also to you. 

  • Begging works – Are you training your pet or is your pooch training you? Your dog will learn very quickly that pleading eyes, sitting and staring at you, nudging, jumping up, running around, whining, crying, or barking will result in table scraps being offered by permissive human hands. Other times, food will drop from the table or during meal preparation or cleanup, and will be left for him or her to scoop up. Can’t anyone find the broom? It is so easy to let a doggie clean the floor, and it teaches your pet to hang around at meals and snack times.
  • Constant meal disruptions – Once your dog knows that begging works, you will never again enjoy any peace when you are eating at the table, snacking anywhere, or whenever you are cooking.
  • Difficulty re-training – If you accept begging behaviour at any point, it will be hard to reverse the practice. Not only will you be subjected to ongoing begging, but also all your guests will be, too!
  • Refusing dog food – Your dog may learn to enjoy food for humans more than food for dogs and you could eventually have trouble getting your pooch to eat anything but food for humans. Picky eaters aren’t fun to have around, especially if you are about to enjoy a meal that is unsafe or toxic for your little pet. Try explaining that to your pooch.
  • Guest problems – Guests may think your pet’s begging practices are so cute that they begin to slip food to your dog without your noticing and could inadvertently feed him or her something that is toxic and dangerous or simply food that causes a tummy ache or diarrhea. You and your dog will be left to deal with the consequences.
  • Stealing food – Your dog may believe that because any table scraps and food dropped can be eaten, any food put on or left on the table, counters, or anywhere else is fair game. Your pet will simply take and eat whatever can be reached. Do you know exactly how far your dog can reach, standing on his or her hind legs with paws outstretched? Watch out!

Health Problems

Dinner table feeding can cause a variety of health problems and they don’t take long to develop. 

  • Dietary issues – Your dog could learn to love food for humans so much he or she could become dependant on it and refuse to eat dog food. Now you have to worry about feeding your dog a balanced diet from miscellaneous table scraps. Dog food suppliers make sure they are offering balanced diets for pets, but you would have to figure it all out for yourself. Does that sound like fun?
  • Food intake calculations – If you allow a moderate amount of feeding from the dinner table, you have to factor in the amount of calories and food content that your dog is receiving and reduce the amount of dog food your pet receives.
  • Weight problems – Remember, a dog will eat almost anything you put in front of him or her. If you miscalculate the amount of food your dog receives at the table and the amount of dog food you supply, your dog could become overweight. If your dog puts on undesirable extra pounds for his or her size, age, and breed, these kinds of problems could develop:
    • Bone, joint, ligament problems, and mobility issues
    • Heart disease and breathing problems
    • Reduced liver function
    • A shortened life

Danger, Danger!

If you decide to feed your dog table scraps knowing the dangers, set yourself and your family a few basic rules and stick to them. Make a list of what is permitted, what is undesirable, and what is forbidden, and see that your family and friends are on board. Offer only moderate amounts of food and make sure you adjust the servings of dog food and treats your pet receives accordingly.

Permitted: Offer only healthy food items such as cereals; steamed or cooked potatoes; rice; cooked eggs; cheese; peanut butter; cooked, chopped beef, chicken, or turkey (no bones!); some fruits like bananas, berries, and seedless watermelon; and vegetables, chopped, cooked, and unseasoned.

Undesirable: Do not offer junk food such as potato chips, fries, pizza, cake, cookies, or fried or oily foods. 

Forbidden: Forbidden foods are those toxic to dogs, and include avocados, onions—and any food prepared with them—many common seasonings such as garlic and chives, alcohol of any kind, coffee, tea, energy drinks, chocolate and candy, bones, grapes, raisins, nuts, the pits of peaches and plums, and foods that contain artificial sweeteners, such as xylitol—usually junk foods and beverages.

Keep forbidden foods out of the reach of your pet. If your dog suddenly begins severe vomiting or diarrhea, or shows signs of coordination problems, lethargy, depression, shortness of breath, tremors, or seizures, do a quick investigation around your home to see if you can identify a food or beverage culprit. Call your dog’s veterinarian for advice or take your dog to an emergency hospital.

In general, you should not feed your dog from the dinner table or offer food designed for humans because many foods can be unsafe or poisonous to animals, and can cause a variety of health problems, as well as lead to bad behaviours. Keep your best friend safe!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.