The Healing Power Between Humans and Their Pets

Stuck in quarantine? Cabin fever? This bizarre era of quarantine has obviously changed life as we know it for the time being. One respite that many have, however, is a pet. Unusual circumstances have helped us to see, even more clearly, the healing power between humans and their pets.

In a time when we can’t see our human loved ones, our animal friends still provide us with connection, companionship, and unconditional love.

The connection between people and their animals is a strong one, and that’s because it’s a friendship that originated as long as 14,000 years ago. For millennia, we have had animals at our side, and it’s not hard to see why. Scientific study has shown the tangible benefit of having a pet, for children and adults alike. Here are five of the healing effects of having a pet.

1. Improved immune system

Although it might be a surprise, some animals—namely dogs—can actually boost your immune system. A 2004 study from Wilkes university found that subjects that pet a live dog had an increase of immunoglobulin (also known as antibodies)—an important component of the immune system. Subjects that pet a stuffed animal or sat on a couch did not see an increase of antibodies.

Although it might not be enough all on its own, the immune system boost provided by dogs can be a great help when trying to stay well. There are plenty of reasons to love your dog, and learning that it might be keeping you healthy is just another one to add to the list. 

2. Making friends and getting outside 

Getting outdoors and socializing has been proven to improve mental health, decrease stress, and promote healthy development in kids. Now more than ever, having a dog is the perfect excuse to get outside and do something. A simple evening stroll, a walk in the park, or a hike are all great ways to get away from home for a few moments, and will definitely keep your furry friend happy. 

Dogs or even well-behaved cats can also be a great way to meet other people. Strangers are more likely to initiate conversation when you have a dog, and it can be a nice icebreaker as well. Of course, make sure to stay six feet apart if you do wind up talking shop with any other dog owners. 

3. Therapy for pain, anxiety, and depression 

Animals provide us with a comfort that, for some, is a crucial part of our support system. Some animals are trained and actively work to help people complete tasks. These are known as service animals. For instance, a service dog may navigate a blind person, or sense a seizure in their partner. Mini horses have also been used as service animals, helping the blind, and people with Parkinson’s. In some cases, capuchin monkeys have been used as service animals as well, in order to help with grabbing things, opening doors, or even turning pages of a book. Dogs and cats are also sometimes used as emotional support animals, which aren’t formally trained, but can help provide comfort and companionship to people struggling with mental illness or injury.

Beyond these working animals, an animal simply living in our homes and being our friend provides us with countless mental health benefits. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or sad, petting a happy animal can be the perfect distraction. It helps to calm the mind, and is even thought to lower blood pressure! 

4. Higher self-esteem and confidence 

Having an animal in a child’s home as they grow up has been shown to improve self-esteem and confidence, and it’s not hard to see why. When a child has no one else to play with, animals step in as the perfect partner. Dogs can keep up with an energetic kid, and cats can entertain for hours. Not only that, but the unconditional love from an animal can be a great way for a kid to learn affection, and show more of it as they grow up.

5. Quarantine buddies

For those of us no longer working, it can be hard to feel motivated by anything during quarantine. Having animals in the home is not only some welcome company while in self-isolation, but also it can help provide us with a sense of purpose. There’s no time to lie in bed all day when your cat needs its dish refilled, or when the dog is hassling you for a walk. Our animals get us out there, and keep us involved with the world, no matter what.

Beyond being our best friends, pets have countless healing powers, helping us to stay healthy and happy, even in the most extraordinary circumstances. In order to keep things running smoothly, it’s important to make sure your pet is healthy as well. For more information on pets, their benefits to people, and how to keep them well, 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.

So You’re a New Pet Owner and Found a Vet…What’s Next?

If you’ve become a new pet owner, it’s now time to prepare for your very first vet visit. Your little pet will probably be nervous and you may be nervous too!

Whether you have a new puppy, a kitten, a little rabbit, or a new older pet, the worries and concerns—your pet’s and your own—are the same. How can you relieve your pet’s anxiety at being taken to these new surroundings, which will include strange animals who are also afraid, unfamiliar sounds and smells, and someone who is going to poke and prod them? What questions will you be asked? Are you doing the right things for your pet? What will the veterinarian actually do during the examination?

Don’t worry—with a little preparation, you can ease your mind and concerns for your pet. Reminding yourself that this first checkup is the key to ensuring your pet’s future health and happiness is a good start. Your veterinarian will use this visit to record all the signs of your pet’s health and wellness. These signs become the baseline against which future problems can be compared, and then quickly caught and treated if any problems are detected. The first visit allows you not only to hear what is expected in terms of vaccinations and the future care of your pet, but also to voice your own concerns and get professional advice on any issues that cause you unease as a new pet parent.

How to Prepare Yourself for Your Pet’s First Visit to the Vet

Phone the veterinarian’s office, make an appointment, and ask if you need to bring a stool sample or anything else to help your vet in the assessment of your pet’s health. Arrive early enough to fill out the registration form needed for new clients and pets, and bring any paperwork that pertains to your pet. 

  1. Bring Necessary Information
  • Be ready with basic information about yourself: your name, address, phone numbers, and place of employment. This information ensures that your vet’s office can get in touch with you regarding test results and reminders about future appointments.
  • Be ready with basic information about your pet: name, sex, how and when you acquired your pet—store, shelter, farm, gift—any medication that accompanied your pet, any medical conditions that are already present, and vaccination status.
  • You will be asked about your pet’s lifestyle: indoor or outdoor housing; the usual diet and how often your pet is fed; forms of exercise.
  1. Bring a List of Questions

After the examination, ask your vet these questions if any of these points haven’t already been covered:

  • How do I take care of my pet’s teeth? What do I do if he/she won’t let me brush their teeth?
  • How and when should I cut my pet’s nails?
  • What is the best diet and what are the food brands you recommend?
  • When is the best time to have an ID microchip inserted and how much does it cost?
  • Are there particular risks for my pet’s breed that I should be prepared to notice if a problem occurs?
  • What vaccinations does my pet need? Are there optional vaccines?
  • What is the recommended flea and parasite treatment?
  • When is the best age for spaying/neutering my pet?

The answers to a lot of these questions can be found on our veterinary blog, but you can ask your veterinarian these questions in person too!

If you have only a small budget for pet care, be sure and mention this to your vet also so that costs can be taken into consideration when your vet recommends essential care. 

  1. Take Notes 
  • Have a pen and notebook to record information about what to do in an after-hours emergency.
  • Find out if your vet responds to e-mails or phone calls, or both, and record the contact numbers.

Prepare Your Pet for His/Her First Visit to the Vet

You can’t explain what is happening or why the visit is necessary, but your pet will take cues from your own reaction to the trip and the visit. Talk to your new pet in an encouraging, soothing tone of voice and bring along items of comfort such as treats or toys. Remember that your veterinarian will be used to meeting nervous pets and their nervous new owners.

  1. Use a Carrier or a Leash 

You will need a carrier for your kitty or bunny, and a leash for your pooch or a carrier if your dog is tiny. Have the carrier ready when you bring your new pet home, and keep it with the door open in the room where your pet will spend the most time. Always have toys or treats inside it to avoid a negative association with the kennel and encourage your pet to go into it now and then. Carry your pet around in the carrier occasionally so that the actual trip to the vet won’t be frightening to them.

  1. Bring a Comfy Blanket or Towel

On your trip to the vet, put a blanket or towel in the bottom of the carrier, and carry an extra one in case it becomes soiled. Drape another towel over the top of the carrier so your pet feels protected.

  1. Carry Small Treats

Don’t feed your pet a big meal before the visit, but you can carry a number of small, favourite treats to use as rewards during the outing.

What to Expect from a Thorough Physical Examination

Your veterinarian will give your pet a “nose to toes” examination. Your veterinarian will listen to your pet’s heart to make sure it sounds normal. Your pet’s body condition will be evaluated and specific nutritional recommendations will be made if your pet is over or underweight.

Depending on the reason your pet is coming in and the symptoms they are showing, the veterinarian may do a variety of different things. A cytology may be run if they have symptoms of an infection in the ears or on the skin. There are several different eye tests that could be performed if your pet is showing discomfort, swelling, or discharge. An oral examination may also be done if the vet notices bad breath, excessive drooling, or discomfort.

Examinations are tailored to manage your pet’s stress and anxiety of being in a veterinary office setting.

Your vet will discuss vaccinations and tell you which ones are needed and which are optional, and recommend preventative measures that can be taken to protect your pet from parasite and flea infestations. Don’t be afraid to ask your veterinarian anything about pet care, diet, behaviour, and training.

After this experience, your pet will probably be tired and sleepy, and you might be, too! Remember that your veterinarian is an ally in helping your new pet lead a long and healthy life with you. It’s all worth it!

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.

Signs Your Cat is in Pain & Needs Help

Cats are not exactly known for their openness! If you’ve ever had the painful lesson after surprising a cat with a belly rub, you can attest to this fact. Cats can be difficult to read at the best of times, and this is even more true when they’re sick or in pain.

Like you, we are always looking for ways to keep our furry friends safe, healthy, and happy. That’s why it’s so important to go over some of the signs of pain or illness in cats, so that you can identify when there’s a problem, and get them help as soon as possible.

Why All the Secrecy?

After thousands of years of evolution and natural selection, even the friendliest kitties have the instincts of a predator. One of the most important behaviours when it comes to staying alive in the wild is hiding weakness. After all, an animal won’t be so concerned about seeing a cat if it knows they don’t pose as much of a threat. By hiding their pain, cats kept predators at bay and continued to strike fear into the little hearts of rodents everywhere. Additionally, this behaviour would help a wild cat avoid being left behind by their group.

This behaviour makes perfect sense for cats in the wild, but you’d think that with food in the bowl and a nice sunny spot to relax, cats would feel more at ease showing their vulnerable side. However, old habits die hard. Domestic cats may feel that they’ll have to compete for food and water, or even worry that they’ll become a meal for other animals in the home. As much as we wish we could reassure our feline friends that we’ll love them no matter what, the best we can do is keep a careful eye for any of the behaviour listed below.

Symptoms of Cat Pain or Illness

While exact behaviour will differ from cat to cat, there are a few general signs to watch out for. Here are some of the most common symptoms of sickness or pain in cats:

Hiding or Withdrawal

As mentioned before, primal instinct can take over when a cat feels they’re endangered. Wild cats would find hiding spots to rest and recover, keeping them safe from predators and the elements in the meantime. This behaviour often carries over to domestic cats, who will sometimes withdraw from interaction with humans or animals.

Sick cats will prioritize themselves over things they would normally be interested in. This includes socializing with people or other animals, playing with toys, hunting, or any other activities that take a lot out of them. This will all be harder to tell with a cat that’s already more on the aloof side, so pay special attention to their favourite activities and whether your cat is keeping up with them.

Sitting Still 

Cats in pain will often move less, particularly if they’re experiencing arthritis or another condition making movement more painful. You’ll notice this if your cat is typically more active, but even their body language can tell you a lot. If they’re hunched up or in an unusual position, there’s a good chance they’re in some discomfort.

Hygiene 

Cats are naturally a bit obsessive over their hygiene. Not only is it a relaxing ritual, it helps to stimulate blood-flow, control body temperature, and keep wounds clean. Sick cats will often neglect to groom themselves, so keep an eye out. If their fur is matted and dirty, or if they’re beginning to pick up an odour, there may be something wrong. Additionally, sick cats may over-groom a single spot. This could be a symptom of stress, which often accompanies injury or illness. They could be trying to relieve an itch caused by a rash or other skin condition.

Unusual Noisiness 

Cats in pain may make an unusual amount of noise, or even noises that you haven’t heard before. Excessive meowing, crying, and other unusual vocalizations can all be cause for concern. However, these calls won’t always be a clear indicator of discomfort in your cat. Even excessive purring can be a warning sign that something’s wrong.

It’s important to bear in mind that in some cases, excessive vocalization isn’t always a cause for concern. Some breeds, such as Siamese cats, tend to be a bit noisier by default. Likewise, intact cats (cats that haven’t been spayed or neutered) may be louder during mating periods. Vocalizing in the litter box could be an indication of underlying urinary issues or constipation. However, if you’re in any doubt, it’s best to get a professional opinion on your noisy kitty.

Unusual Aggression 

It’s no secret that cats can be a bit…unpredictable, even at the best of times. One minute they’re rubbing against you like you’re best friends, and the next they’re in full on ‘psycho-kitty’ mode. This is pretty standard for many cats; however, atypical or extended aggression towards otherwise friendly environments can be a cause for concern. If your cat is being unusually destructive or violent, it may be confused, or aggravated by pain or illness.

‘Accidents’ 

By instinct, cats like doing their business in private, enclosed places, which is why litter boxes tend to be the go-to for a cat in need. If your cat normally uses their litter box, but then starts going wherever they please, there might be a problem. It’s possible that getting into the litter box has become too difficult for the cat, or perhaps it’s too far away from their current favourite spot.

What to Do If Your Cat is in Pain 

The best thing you can do for a cat that’s sick or in pain is to get help from the professionals. You know your cat better than anyone, which makes you the expert on knowing when something is out of the ordinary. If you notice unusual behaviour from your cat, it’s best to see a veterinarian and get to the bottom of what’s causing it. 

If you have other animals or small children in the house, do your best to keep rough-housing with your convalescing cat to a minimum. Giving them a peaceful environment will keep stress levels down and help them to heal faster. It will also help your cat trust people more, which is important for keeping an eye on their condition.

One thing to never do is administer any human-intended medication to your cat. Even a Tylenol can make them very sick, or possibly even kill them. Whether it’s painkillers or simply a supplement, you should always check with a veterinarian before giving your cat anything.

How Your Vet Can Help 

A veterinarian will help you to interpret the signals your cat is giving you, and determine what exactly is going on. From there, they’ll come up with a treatment plan to get your pet back in top shape. They may recommend medication, supplements or a new diet.

At Hastings Veterinary Hospital, we want to see your cat get back to normal as much as you do. Our dedicated staff offers professional animal care, with the end goal of making your pet feel safe, healthy, and at home. After all, a cat, or any pet, is another member of your family, and we treat them like a member of ours as well.

If you have any questions about pain, illness, or injuries in cats, 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.

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.

Indoors or Outdoors? Where to Raise Your Pet Rabbit

The Burnaby BC area has a mild climate with even temperatures that allow rabbits to live outside all year round. However, it is definitely better if you own a pet rabbit to raise them indoors. Although it is possible to keep your pet rabbit outside as long as you are mindful of the dangers, most pet experts agree that raising rabbits indoors is the safest and healthiest option.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Indoors

  1. Safe from Predators – Your rabbit will feel much more secure if he or she lives indoors because predators will be out of sight and out of mind, sound, and smell. Unless there is a danger from other pets—in which case, they must be kept away—indoor bunnies can thrive happily and have plenty of freedom even in a very small house or apartment.
  2. Loneliness is Less Likely – Rabbits make adorable family pets and are intelligent and inquisitive by nature. Loneliness can be a serious problem for these little animals, and a family member must to be able to play and interact with your pet rabbit daily, which is much more convenient if a bunny is housed indoors. If you have a busy life and you can’t manage regular playtime even for an indoor pet, you should acquire a second rabbit so they can keep each other company.
  3. Weather is Never a Problem – No matter how cold, wet, damp, or stormy it is outside, you and your pet rabbit will be comfy and cozy inside. Your mind will be at ease even if the weather suddenly and unexpectedly changes and you are not at home. You don’t have to worry about racing home to rescue your little rabbit from the nasty weather while he or she is in an outdoor hutch.
  4. Housing Arrangements Can be Flexible – Your pet needs a suitable caged home indoors that is big enough to stretch and move around in easily, including room for lots of hay, food, water, and chew toys. In addition, you need an area for your bunny to have lots of exercise. When you litter-train your pet, he or she can have a whole room or part of the house where it is safe and fun to roam around. It is a good idea to put your bunny in the cage when you are not at home and when you go to bed at night, so that you can relax, knowing your little pet is perfectly secure and happy.
  5. Health Problem Signs are More Obvious – If your rabbit lives indoors with you, it will be easy to notice if there are symptoms of a health problem developing. It’s more difficult to notice symptoms if your pet lives outside and you have less interaction with them.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Indoors 

  1. Other Pets Can Be a Problem – Other pets in your family may pose a danger to your bunny. If you have, say, a hunting or herding breed of dog such as a Yorkshire Terrier, you will have to make special arrangements to keep them separated and the solution can’t be to keep your bunny locked in a cage all the time. That would be unkind.
  2. Furniture May Entice a Bunny to Chew and Dig – Rabbits love to chew, dig, and burrow and it is important for owners to provide the opportunity for their little pets to enjoy these activities without causing harm. You must rabbit-proof your home with the same care that you baby-proof one.
  • Secure electric cords out of reach, protect the legs and undersides of furniture, and provide lots of chew toys: blocks of wood, commercial rabbit toys, paper towel tubes, and towels or old shirts that can be used for tunneling.
  • Tape boxes together with openings through which rabbits can squeeze, or plush cat tunnels, wicker baskets, or sisal mats that can be chewed and torn apart, and provide a variety of items to keep your bunny busy and happy. Block off areas that are unsafe for your pet to go or where there are items that could be damaged by chewing.

The Pros for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Outside Was Once a Rabbit’s Natural Habitat – Today, a rabbit can survive even if the outdoors is not the natural habitat of domestic rabbits. They can adapt to living outside as long as a good home is provided and the owner keeps a close eye on the situation. Because your pet needs an exercise area that is three times the size of a hutch, it is usually easier to find a good location like this outside.
  2. Bunny has the Freedom to Chew and Dig – Most outdoor items won’t be harmed by a chewing, digging rabbit who can engage in these activities to his or her heart’s content. You must secure the area, of course, and take precautions to keep your rabbit from tunneling under a fence and escaping. If you are careful, your bunny will enjoy the freedom of living outside, especially if another rabbit is there for companionship.

The Cons for Raising Rabbits Outside

  1. Times Have Changed – Domestic rabbits, unlike the wild rabbits people remember from the olden days, don’t thrive as well or for as long if housed outside, nor are they equipped to survive on their own. If kept outside, a bunny now needs a very secure enclosure, which includes a hutch where your pet can hide if feeling threatened and can be protected from the elements when the weather changes.
  2. Predator Safety Concerns – Rabbits are prey to animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, hawks, and eagles. Even if he or she is safely tucked away in a hutch, a rabbit can be so frightened at the sight, sound, or smell of a nearby enemy, he or she can suffer a heart attack.
  3. Loneliness is More Likely – Loneliness can be a serious problem for rabbits as they are social animals. If a family member can’t play and interact with your little pet daily, which is probably less convenient if he or she is housed outside, your bunny will become very unhappy fast.
  4. Weather Can be a Serious Problem – Rabbits do not handle extreme temperatures or stormy weather at all well, and accommodations that adapt to all weather conditions may be difficult to find, build, or arrange.
  5. Vegetation Must be Constantly Monitored for Safety – Rabbits will munch on just about anything, and you have to keep a close eye on what is growing in your bunny’s play area. See to it that all toxic plants that may start growing in the yard are quickly removed. Make sure you know and can identify all the plants that must be ruthlessly dug up before your bunny finds them first.

How Do You Make Your Decision?

You may have heard the argument that rabbits can be raised outside because they have lived outside in hutches for many generations, and wild rabbits still safely live outside today. However, that is not a realistic assessment of the situation because:

  1. Wild Rabbits are a Different Species Than Domestic – Domestic rabbits are not the same animals as wild rabbits. Wild rabbits are smaller, they grow thicker coats, have bigger feet, can run faster, and are better equipped to deal with and hide from their natural enemies. If domestic rabbits become lost outdoors, they cannot survive for long because they don’t have the instincts and traits that allow them to live in the wild.
  2. Rabbits Used to be Kept Outdoors Only Briefly – Outdoor rabbits were generally kept in hutches and raised as food for only a matter of months. Domestic rabbits are kept as pets for many years.

This is why, overall, raising a rabbit indoors is the best choice you can make for your pet rabbit. However, if you don’t have a suitable area indoors, and you have the space and the inclination to take all the special precautions that are required to raise a rabbit outside, it can be done—but you must be very, very careful.

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 Useful New Year’s Resolutions for Pet Owners in 2020

A new year approaches, and it’s a very special one: 2020. It’s not only the end of another year; it’s the beginning of an entirely new decade. Because of this, many are opting in to make New Year’s resolutions more so than ever.

Just as many of us make resolutions for ourselves at the start of every year, we should also make and keep resolutions for our pets for the same reasons. Consider what we are trying to achieve for ourselves by making resolutions: we want to improve our health, happiness, safety, comfort, and to feel good about ourselves. Why not keep these goals in mind when making resolutions for your pets? Here are five New Year’s resolutions for pet owners that you can put to good use for 2020.

1. Ensure Your Pet is Eating a Nutritious, Appropriate Diet

Humans receive nutrition from milk and then graduate to solid foods with an emphasis on particular nutritional needs at various ages, and for control of health problems, too. As we age, our activity decreases and the amount of food we eat must decrease as well. Diets and nutrition for pets follow these similar patterns. Resolve to be careful about your pet’s nutritional needs and make sure you stay on track:

  • Keep yourself informed about the best diet for your pet, and be prepared to alter it as your pet grows older.
  • As pets age, they are often prone to diseases of old age, just as humans are. Your veterinarian can help you choose the best diet for your elderly cat, dog, or bunny.
  • Diets can help control arthritis by easing joint pain and increasing joint function.
  • Obesity is dangerous for any pet and can lead to arthritis, diabetes, liver disease, and heart problems. The cure for obesity is diet and exercise, just as it is for humans. Your pet will not willingly cut down on his or her food intake, and won’t willingly exercise either. It’s up to you to see that these problems are controlled and better still if you anticipate the patterns that lead to obesity.
  • Avoid being led astray by myths spread by people or companies that can profit from our eagerness to give our pets whatever they need to lead long and healthy lives. If you are urged to buy, say, high protein food for your pet, check with your veterinarian first before you commit to your decision. Don’t make radical changes to your pet’s diet without professional advice.

2. Follow Age-Appropriate Health Guidelines

Pets need their owners to see that their basic health care needs are met, and these must be adjusted as pets go through different stages and as they age. Are your pet’s vaccinations up to date? Have you arranged for an annual checkup in the last 12 months? Resolve to take care of the most important concerns as soon as possible:

  • Annual checkups are the key to good health and the welfare of your pet. Your veterinarian will provide a full comprehensive exam and may opt for adding some additional testing to screen for problems such as altered cell counts, liver problems, hormonal changes, kidney disease, diabetes, and many more; the physical exam includes checking for lumps, swelling and signs of pain, breathing difficulties, tooth decay, and problems associated with your pet’s age and breed.
  • Our furry companions of all ages need to receive vaccinations and booster vaccinations to protect them against diseases. Your veterinarian is the best source the most current vaccination recommendations for the life stage and life style of your companion.
  • Your pet is also counting on you to see that flea control and parasite protection is made available so that terrible suffering isn’t the trigger for you to remember, “Oh, right, I should have prevented that.” See to it that your pet is protected from an insect or parasite infestation before it happens, this maintains a good quality of life for them.
  • There are desirable ages at which your pet should be spayed or neutered in order to live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Spayed females are spared from heat periods and are protected from uterine and mammary cancer; neutered males are spared the urge to fight, roam, mark territory, and are protected from the risk of prostate and testicular cancers. Ask your veterinarian about these procedures and when they should occur if they haven’t already.

3. Improve Safety Conditions for Your Pet

Find a veterinarian trained to care for your particular pet: dog, cat, or an exotic pet like a rabbit. Introduce yourself and your pet soon after you have adopted him or her. Pick a safety resolution from the following list that you haven’t already implemented and adopt it as soon as possible to ensure your pet’s safety.

  • Start keeping phone numbers handy not only for your veterinarian, but also for an emergency animal clinic or hospital, and names and numbers for after-hours emergency help. Make sure these phone numbers are keyed into your cell phone, and addresses and routes handy if you are in a tearing hurry to locate urgent help.
  • Assemble a pet first-aid kit for your home and a smaller version of the kit to take on pet outings, walks, hikes, or vacations. It should include a list of serious symptoms so that you will know how quickly you have to respond to some mishap.
  • Make sure your pet has a collar with a nametag that includes your name and phone numbers, so that you can be contacted if your pet becomes lost or is injured. This is especially important for outdoor pets. An ID microchip that can be inserted painlessly by your veterinarian is a really good idea. Pet hospitals and shelters routinely check for ID chips now and the chip carries a number that identifies your pet with all the pertinent information about the owner’s name and contact numbers.
  • Invest in a pet carrier and introduce it gradually. A good idea is leaving the carrier open in a common space such as a living room so your pet can roam freely in and around it. This can make) taking a trip to a hospital or a visit to a friend’s home less traumatic.
  • Do a regular check of your pet’s environment, inside and outside at home and in the yard, and keep an eye out for dangers in pet parks, or any place your pet is likely to wander. Make sure poisons, toxic chemicals, cleaning supplies, electrical implements, batteries, and unsuitable foods and plants stay out of reach.

4. Engage in Regular Grooming to Make Pets Happier

We humans feel better when we pamper ourselves with luxuriously soaking in the bathtub, a visit to a steam room, a pedicure and manicure, regular brushing and washing of our hair, and taking good care of our skin. Pets are happier, too, when owners fuss over their needs, and take time to brush, stroke them and keep them well groomed. Make pet grooming a habit:

  • If you are nervous about any necessary procedure for keeping your pet well-groomed, take your pet to an animal groomer for baths or nail clipping. Make sure you supply the means for your pet to keep teeth clean with chew toys if your pet doesn’t want you to brush his or her teeth or if you don’t feel comfortable about it. Eventually a dental cleaning under anesthetic may be needed if brushing is not allowed by your pet.
  • Purchase a good brush and comb and make time to keep your pet’s hair or coat brushed and combed daily or as often as you can. Pets love having their owners brush their coats and massage their skin.

5. Make Time to Love Your Pets!

Pets need to feel loved just as we humans feel happier when we know we are loved. Everyone responds well to caring relationships. Make sure your pets know they are loved by taking time to play with them, and/or walk them, talk to them, massage them, groom them, and show you enjoy their companionship. Pets can become very attached to their owners and respond to them with love and attention, too. Make time for playtime.

Most of these resolutions are easy to implement. Put together a list and post it where you will have a daily reminder of your New Year’s pet resolutions. It will make 2020 a good year for you and your pets!

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.

How to Choose a Name for Your Newly Adopted Pet

Have you been considering adopting a new cat, dog, or bunny recently? Or have you decided to adopt a new pet?

When you bring home your newly adopted pet, the first order of business is to start considering names for your family’s newest member. This can be both a fun but also a serious task that you shouldn’t rush into. You’ll want a name that is suitable and that you love, and you’ll need to share that name with your friends and veterinarian too.

You can think about the name while you help your pet adjust to their new home and new owner(s). Your new pet will be happy just to be reassured that he or she is safe and loved. If you’re truly stumped on picking a name, however, don’t worry. Here are some tips on how to choose the best name for your newly adopted pet.

General Rules for Naming a Pet

Since you will be using your pet’s name a lot, both at home and while at your new pet’s veterinarian’s office, you should choose a name that gives you pleasure to use.

Do:

  • Keep the name short, or at least, use a shortened version of a name if there are more than two syllables. For example, you might want to call your kitten “Queen Victoria,” but consider teaching your kitten to respond to “Queen” or “Queenie” or “Vicky” or “Tori,” all of which are easier for you to call and for her to identify.
  • Choose a name that will still be appropriate when your pet is older. “Baby Boo” is fine for your little, fluffy bunny, but not suitable for your big rabbit.
  • If naming a dog, choose a name that begins with a hard consonant—such as “D,” “K,” “T,” and “S” rather than a vowel. These are easier for dogs to hear and identify with. However, vowels are great for the ending of the name, such as “Bailey,” “Shilo,” “Karla,” or “Goldie.”

Don’t:

  • Don’t choose a name that rhymes with “No,” such as “Joe” or “Beau,” which may be confused with the command “No.” Also, avoid names like “Shae,” or “Fletch” for dogs if you plan to teach them to “stay” and “fetch.”
  • Don’t let young children be in charge of naming a pet, because there is no telling what they may choose. You don’t want to have to have to call, “Here Poopy Pants,” when you take your dog to the dog park. Limit children to selecting a name from two or three you have already chosen.
  • Don’t choose names that could be offensive or embarrassing, such as those that can be interpreted as racial, cultural, or religious slurs or insults, or that have a curse word in them.
  • Don’t choose one of the more popular names for your pet unless you really love it. You may find it confusing when you take your dog to the veterinarian’s office or the dog park and someone calls “Bella,” “Lucy,” “Max,” or “Buddy,” which are very common names for dogs today.
  • Don’t name your pet after a friend or relative unless you have asked first. Some people might consider it an honour while others may not like it at all.
  • Don’t use a name that can be associated with something unpleasant like calling a dog that will grow very big by the name of “Killer.” It won’t be reassuring to a frightened child if your big dog is getting up close and personal and you call out, “Don’t worry—Killer won’t hurt you!”

Names Can Describe a Pet’s Appearance or Breed

If you like the idea of using an animal’s appearance for a name, a grey bunny, kitten, or puppy could be called “Lady Grey,” or “Shadow”; a white animal named “Polar,” or “Pearl”; a black animal called “Ebony,” or “Sooty”; and let’s not forget “Rusty” or “Red,” not to mention “Spot.”

A particular breed of dog or cat may suggest a name, like using a German name such as “Gustav” for your German Shepherd or “Sammy” for your Siamese cat.

Names Can Reflect The Pet Owner’s Interest

If you are a movie buff, consider naming your pet after a favorite movie star or a movie character. Star Wars has certainly inspired a lot of pet names over the years, and so has Harry Potter.

If music is your interest, it can be reflected by naming your pet after composers, singers, and band members. You could consider musical terms as well, like “Riff”.

The art world opens up other names such as Pollock, Dali, Degas, and Monet, which are interesting names for pets; and literature lovers can choose from their favourite authors’ names.

Real or Fictional Characters or Animals Can Inspire Names

  • Famous wizards can inspire families to name adopted pets after them, such as Merlin, Gandalf, and Glinda.
  • Famous animals can inspire great pet names: for dogs there is Lassie, Blue, or Dino. For cats, there is Garfield, Felix, or Sylvester. For bunnies, there is Peter Rabbit, Roger Rabbit, or Bugs Bunny.
  • Search the Internet for ideas and you can find 100 popular names for cats, dogs, bunnies, and all sorts of pets, and the most popular names for particular breeds, colors, and personality traits, too.

How to Teach Your Pet His or Her New Name

Once you have settled on a name, it is time to teach your pet to respond to it. These tips can help:

  • Always smile when you say your pet’s name so that his or her association with the word is something that makes you happy. Hearing the word—his or her name—will begin to make your pet happy and more responsive.
  • Carry treats with you for a few days, and when you call out your pet’s name and get his or her attention, smile, praise your pet, and hand out a treat.
  • When a pet hears his or her name and comes to the owner and receives a treat, it means the pet has learned the sound of the name. Pets indicate they know their name when they come when called, or when they turn their head and look at the speaker when they hear their name spoken.
  • If you feel you must change an older animal’s name and the pet has had it for a long time, choose a rhyming word, such as “Bella” to “Stella,” or “Al” to “Pal.” If you want a name that doesn’t rhyme with the old one, use the old name—for instance—“Pete” with the new name “Toby” together, and call your pet by the double name “Pete-Toby.” After a few days, start dropping the “Pete” part of the name. Go back and forth between “Pete-Toby” and “Toby,” and then just drop the “Pete” altogether when your pet responds to “Toby” alone.

Once you’ve decided on a name for your newly adopted pet, let your family vet know! That way you can both go over your new pet’s needs during their first appointment, create a new file, and maybe even develop a new friendship or two along the way!

Deciding on a name is a fun and important task, and one you should take your time with. Make sure the name you pick is easy to say and it’s easy for your new family member to identify with, and that you and your family really love it. After all, you’ll be using the name often for many years, and your new pet will love to hear it!

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, When, & How Should My Cat’s Nails Be Trimmed?

Cat nail trimming is something we’re very frequently asked about at our clinic, and for good reason! Cat’s nails are retractable, meaning they’re kept hidden until the cat needs to use them. These nails can grow back fast sometimes! Almost every cat needs to have their nails trimmed regularly; others, not so much for a few reasons.

Regardless, it’s a good idea to prepare your cat for nail trimming by using certain strategies in your cat’s regular grooming routine. For you, the cat parent, you will need to learn how to trim their nails safely. Here is what you need to know.

Why Do Some Cats Not Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

Trimming or not is generally dependent on your cat’s lifestyle.

Outdoor Cats – If your cat is an outdoor cat, it may be a bad idea to trim his or her nails because they are needed for important tasks:

  • Climbing – Cats need to climb to navigate their territory and also to escape danger when pursued by other animals.
  • Scratching – Cats nails are always growing, and scratching is an instinctive act that keeps the nails trim and sharp.
  • Marking Territory – Cats have scent glands in their paws, and will scratch as well as urinate to help them mark their territory outdoors and keep other strange animals away.

Indoor Cats – If your cat is an indoor cat, you may need to trim your cat’s nails more frequently:

  • If your cat has a scratching post and likes to use it, his or her nails may need only occasional trimming when young, especially if his or her nails grow very slowly.
  • If you regularly take your indoor cat outside for walks on a leash, he or she may have opportunities to scratch and wear down his or her nails and reduce the amount of trimming needed.

Why Do Almost All Cats Need to Have Their Nails Trimmed?

  1. An indoor cat may not be very interested in using a scratching post and so their nails may grow too fast and too long to be curbed by the post.
  2. As an outdoor cat ages, he or she may become so much less active that the nails grow out. This increases the risk of their nails growing into a curve that drives into their footpads, and in turn causes your cat pain, mobility problems, or even infections.
  3. Both indoor and outdoor cats need to have their nails trimmed because their nails can be snagged and caught in soft surfaces, or the cat may lose their ability to retract their claws altogether.
  4. Arthritic cats, indoors or out, usually don’t exercise enough to keep their nails short via scratching.

How Often Should My Cat’s Nails be Trimmed?

  • For indoor cats, nail trimming in general should be done every ten days to two weeks.
  • A senior indoor or outdoor cat will often develop thick, brittle nails that need to be trimmed more often than when they’re a kitten. Stay alert.
  • Declawing cats was made illegal in BC in 2018 by the B.C. College of Veterinarians. It is now understood that declawing means that the ends of the toes are amputated during the surgery, which has been stated as “ethically problematic and not an appropriate means of dealing with feline behaviour issues”. So now if you live in BC you must learn to trim your kitty’s nails properly, or either pay a groomer or visit your cat’s veterinarian to perform this task.
  • An outdoor cat may become more of an indoor cat when he or she is old and arthritic, so regular nail trimming will become a necessity.
  • Usually it is only the front paws nails that need to be trimmed, but if you notice that the back paw nails are digging into you when your cat jumps up into your lap, you should trim those nails as well.

Here is the Nail Trimming Process

  1. First Things First
  • Most cats don’t like to have their nails trimmed and some will absolutely not tolerate it. If your cat won’t even allow you to hold his or her paws, you may have to rely on a pet groomer or your cat’s vet to trim your pet’s nails.
  • If you take a slow and easy approach, you can succeed in time, especially if you have treats ready, and your cat may associate the nail clipping routine with yummy treats.
  • Don’t attempt to clip your cat’s nails if your pet is upset or if you are upset.
  1. Organize Your Supplies:
  • Towel – You can gently wrap your cat loosely in a towel if you are afraid he or she might suddenly bolt off your lap and scratch you.
  • Sharp cat nail clippers – There are a variety of good nail clippers for cats. Some of them are designed to make sure you don’t clip too close to the vein that runs into the thick part of the claw.
  • Styptic Powder – If you have clippers that aren’t designed to protect the vein and you accidently cut into it, you can apply a small amount of powder to stop the bleeding.
  1. Rehearsals are Important
  • Even an outdoor cat should become used to the idea that you can hold and massage his or her paws and extend the nails when your cat is seated on your lap. It’s easier for a young cat to become used to a routine rather than introduce it when your cat is older and it becomes a necessity.
  • For several days prior to the first nail trimming, hold your cat in your lap facing away from any windows and away from you in a quiet room. Gently massage your cat’s neck and then the front legs and paws. Talk quietly to your little pet as you do this. Gently press on the footpad to extend a nail, then quickly release it, and give your cat a treat. Do this every day on a different toe. Note the pink part of the nail, called the quick—this is the extra sensitive part of their nail consisting of nerves and blood vessels.
  1. Do the Deed!
  • When you and kitty are used to this routine, pick a time when your cat is sleepy and relaxed after eating, and prepare to clip only one or two nails—no more. Do everything the same as usual, only this time, cut the tip off one of the nails. If everything goes well, cut the tip off one more nail and give your kitty a treat.
  • Proceed until you have clipped all of the front paw nails over a period of five days or so, and your cat will soon adjust, especially to the regular treats! You will then be able to trim all the nails on the front and back paws at one sitting.

Many cats don’t need their nails trimmed, but if yours does, learn how to do the job safely. If it will help, make massaging the toes and extending a nail part of their regular grooming and care. If you know you must trim your cat’s nails, rehearse with your pet until you are both comfortable before attempting the job. Expect to trim your cat’s nails every 10 days or so as part of your cat’s regular grooming routine. If all else fails, ask your cat’s groomer or your veterinarian to do the job for you.

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 Do I Socialize My Dog & When Should I Start?

When we say socialize your dog, we mean teaching your puppy to mingle with humans and other animals. Socializing your dog will help them adjust to their surroundings via exposing your pet to different people and pets, as well as to a good variety of situations, sounds, environments, and objects.

Socializing your dog should begin as soon as possible, as it will teach dogs to become used to normal daily events and to react positively to their environments.

Socialization Includes Huge Benefits for Dogs

When he or she is properly socialized, your dog will adjust to changes in the surrounding environment without becoming disturbed by what is seen, heard, and encountered, resulting in good manners and happiness.

  • Your dog will not be fearful of new people, pets, places, and experiences.
  • Socialization will shape your dog into a good companion who is well-domesticated and well-behaved for life.
  • The possibility of your dog developing separation anxiety is greatly reduced.
  • If your dog must leave you for some reason, he or she will have an easier time adjusting to a new caregiver and home.

Dog Training Should Start Early for Best Results

  • It is best to start socialization in the first four months of your dog’s life. Puppies are very impressionable and will try hard to please their pet parents.
  • Dog training will have to continue throughout your pet’s life, although it should begin right away—the sooner, the better. At different stages of development and whenever introducing new experiences, you will have to teach your dog new social skills, for example not to chew on your shoes and not to snap at children.
  • If your dog begins to jump up on you or on guests as a greeting, move in close to reduce the jumping distance and firmly and loudly say, “No jumping.” Instruct your guests not to speak or make eye contact until your pooch has become calm. Give treats and praise when that happens. You can read more dog jumping prevention tips here.
  • If your dog chews or bites, firmly and loudly say, “no,” and stop the activity, or remove the object being chewed (or remove the dog from the area).
  • Avoid visiting dog parks until your pooch has had all of their required vaccinations. You don’t want your puppy to play with dogs that may be unhealthy. Create other safe opportunities for your dog to meet and mingle with other dogs.
  • Don’t believe the phrase “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Actually, you can! Even if your dog was not with you during those early, most teachable months and years, you can still help your older dog form new, positive associations with what may have been frightening experiences in the past. Slowly introduce your dog to new sights, sounds, smells, and people, and offer treats and praise to help your pooch overcome unpleasant associations.

There are Serious Risks for Dogs Not Properly Socialized

These are the characteristics of adult dogs who have not been properly socialized:

  • Fear of many situations such as playful children, or riding in a car
  • Aggression towards strangers and other animals
  • Anxiety when hearing unusual sounds or having new experiences
  • Antisocial behaviour including not being able to interact comfortably with new people or animals in general
  • Separation anxiety in some cases

It is a risk to pets if behavioural issues result from insufficient socialization, meaning your dog will be less safe if they’re always afraid of strangers or if they’re constantly unfriendly to other animals. Socialization in dogs can reduce these risks in the following ways:

  • If your dog becomes lost, your pooch will not be afraid of or run from people who try to rescue and care for your pet until you can be located.
  • Your dog will not be hostile towards all dogs who approach him or her, and therefore will be less willing to fight more aggressive dogs.

Use These Steps to Successfully Socialize Your Dog

  • Daily walks are important. Don’t forget to bring poop bags and clean up after your dog when walking or in any public area. Take your pooch on a short leash for walks using different routes. This will help them encounter different sights and sounds and become used to traffic, animals, and people, both young and old. Don’t forget that most humans, other than babies, are bigger than your dog.
  • Start slowly with only a few new experiences and a few new human and animal encounters each week. Gradually move to bigger crowds and more public experiences.
  • Over time, make sure your pup gets used to having his or her body handled and that they react well to affectionate pats and ear and tail fondling. Don’t push these actions too fast and watch your dog for signs of nervousness such as heavy panting, yawning, tucking their tail between their legs, and straining on the leash.
  • Your dog should become used to bodies of water—large and small—and puddles, beaches, parks, woods, and urban areas.
  • Introduce the sights and sounds of bicycles, strollers, baby buggies, skateboards, trucks, buses, and cars, as well as Frisbees, footballs, and other toys.
  • Make sure your pet becomes used to walking on different surfaces, such as grass, tile, cement, carpet, and hardwood.
  • When your pet encounters some new sight or sound—a police siren, a raccoon, a pigeon—be calm, have treats ready and lots of praise: “Good dog,” “Good boy,” “Good girl.” Remember, dogs can interpret your emotional state and if you are nervous or fearful, your dog will react the same way.
  • Once your pet has had their required vaccinations, you are ready for the dog park where your puppy will meet new friends. Use caution and don’t expect your little dog (if they are little) to enjoy meeting a huge one unless you are by his or her side. After your dog has made a new friend and behaved well, be sure and give your dog a treat and praise.
  • When your dog is trained to come when you call and you are confident about it, you can take your pet to an off-leash park to meet new friends on his or her own under your supervision.
  • Dog training classes are great for busy people who want specific instructions on training and whose schedules are limited. These classes also provide socialization opportunities with the other puppies and dogs.

Socialization, i.e. teaching your dog how to behave in various situations and environments with people and animals, will shape your dog into a happy, well-adjusted, and well-mannered companion who is obedient and confident. What could be better?

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.