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.

Bunny Care Tips: Why you Shouldn’t Give Real Rabbits as Easter Gifts

Are you getting your home ready for Easter? If you’re scoping out ideas for Easter gifts, you may get excited about the thought of giving a live rabbit to your child. However, this may not be a good idea.

Giving a bunny as a gift on the day on which a magical gift-giving bunny is featured certainly has its appeal. However, control this impulse as a favour to both your children and to the rabbit that may be chosen as a pet. Instead, why not select from the many wonderful gifts available?

Real Life Bunnies Shouldn’t be Purchased Without Careful Thought

Bunnies are so charming and make such good companions, it is not surprising that they are the third most popular pets in Canada, right behind dogs and cats. It is also not surprising that they are the third most frequently abandoned pets.

Thousands of rabbits are taken to animal shelters right after Easter, the day on which these little creatures are so often given as gifts to children. Even worse, many are abandoned and left to fend for themselves—and that’s bad because these are animals of prey who have no idea how to survive in the wild. In many communities, dumping unwanted rabbits is illegal.

Here is Why a Live Bunny is Not a Good Easter Gift:

1. Rabbits live from 8 to 12 years, and owning one means making a long-term commitment.

2. Young children can’t be left alone with a rabbit because they don’t understand how fragile rabbits are and how easily they can be hurt. Rabbit bones can break and their limbs can become dislocated if these pets are dropped, held too tightly, or jerked around.

3. Rabbits are nervous creatures by nature. Too much noise, activity, and even other family pets can upset them so much that they can have heart attacks!  For the same reason, they need to be housed indoors instead of outdoors, because roaming animals outside can frighten them enough even when they are safe inside a cage.

4. Rabbits don’t like being picked up without warning, and they will scratch and hurt a child out of self-defense (especially those who attempt to lift the bunny incorrectly).

5. Rabbits not only need a cage, but they also need to be given space to exercise outside the cage.

6. Rabbits are social animals and need someone—an adult or an older child—to play with them, to litter box train them so they are not creating messes to be cleaned up each day, and to give them the daily, gentle companionship they crave.

7. Bunnies love to chew, and they will chew on almost anything. You need to rabbit-proof play areas for them so they don’t chew your furniture, electrical cords, or anything else that isn’t safe.

8. Rabbits are herbivores and don’t eat meat. Their special diet needs change as they age.

9. Like dogs and cats, rabbits need an annual checkup by a veterinarian and should be spayed or neutered when they mature. They are classified as exotic pets and must be taken to veterinarians who have taken special training to care for them.

Instead of Live Rabbits, Here are Some Great Easter Gift Ideas

Whatever your reasons to celebrate Easter and whether you have a lot or very little money to buy presents, there are plenty of other Easter gifts! You can find them in a great range of prices and at many stores as the holiday approaches.

1. General Gift Suggestions

  • You can’t go wrong with stuffed, cuddly little bunnies that come in all sizes, colours, and at every price.
  • Chocolate and candied bunnies and eggs—hollow or filled with a variety of yummy centers—are in grocery, candy, and corner stores. You can find candy and chocolate for diabetics as well as dairy-free, gluten-free, and Fair Trade candy.
  • ‘Tis the season for outdoor play! Treat your kids with skipping ropes, yo-yos, Frisbees, balls, or kites.
  • There are many suitable books for children of all ages to enjoy, such as:
    • Guess How Much I Love You – boxed with a cute, stuffed bunny for young children
    • The Berenstain Bears and the Easter Story
    • Meet the Easter Beagle – and it’s Snoopy, of course!
  • Silly putty eggs filled with slime that stretches and bounces.
  • A Lego Easter Egg Painting Set is fun for older kids.
  • Easter baskets filled with small Easter trinkets, toys, and goodies are always welcome. For children not allowed candy, substitute it with fresh or dried fruit.
  • Plastic eggs – you can buy these pre-filled with candy or empty for you to stuff with healthier food choices or with little toys.

2. Easter Experiences:

  • Kids love to colour and decorate eggs for Easter! Egg painting kits are inexpensive and available at most grocery stores. Even less expensive are your own cups filled with boiling hot water, 1 teaspoon of vinegar, and 10 drops of food colouring. Using a tablespoon, you can dunk hardboiled eggs into the coloured water and wait for 3 to 5 minutes. For further eggs decorating ideas, search the Internet or your local library.
  • Using Easter themed cookie cutters available from the dollar store, cut bunny, egg, and flower shapes from rolled out sugar or shortbread batter. Bake, cool, and have children decorate the cookies with colored icing, chopped nuts, and candied cherries.
  • Help children plant seeds or seedlings into pots for indoor windowsill gardening. Eventually they’ll get to see lots of colourful flowers sprouting!
  • Visit an animal or bird sanctuary as a family outing on Easter weekend.
  • Make an appointment to visit a local animal shelter, so that your children can visit the rabbits and hold one.
  • If there is a community-sponsored Easter egg hunt in your area, your children will be welcome to hunt for eggs. Make sure you get there on time! If you have a yard, you can have your own Easter egg hunt. (Don’t forget to keep a little map showing where they have been hidden!)

With so many wonderful gift choices available, you can easily stifle the urge to bestow a live bunny on a child at Easter. Happy Easter, everyone!

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 Does My Dog Smell Bad?

When you first realize your dog has a bad odor, it’s natural to maybe feel embarrassed and also worried! However, there are several causes for that bad smell, and you can do something about it besides frantically bathing your poor pooch over and over again.

The first step is to understand the many reasons dogs develop a bad odor, to note the source, and to recognize the symptoms your dog is exhibiting. Once you know the possible causes, and in certain cases received help from your dog’s veterinarian, you will be able to cure or control the smell.

Problems, Symptoms, and Treatments for Your Dog’s Bad Smell

1. Skin Issues. Skin problems can range from canine seborrhea (oily skin with dandruff), allergies, a hormone imbalance, a fungus, parasites, dermatitis, and scratches or bites that become infected, or moist skin folds that become a site for bacterial growth.

  • Symptoms – One of the first signs of skin issues is a bad skin odor that might be rancid, or musty, or stinky cheese smelling, followed by your dog’s excessive scratching and/or licking, a rash, flaking skin, or thinning hair.
  • Treatments – For any skin problems it’s best you consult with your dog’s veterinarian for a proper diagnosis. As there are so many possible causes of skin issues, the treatments can vary from one condition to another. This may include external and/or internal medication for infections and dermatitis, to treatments for parasites or a fungus, to a change in diet, or for problems related to hormone imbalances, and allergies. Skin folds, especially for bulldogs, pugs, or any dog with overlapping folds, need careful and regular cleaning to keep them clean and dry.  Your dog needs to be bathed often enough to keep the skin and hair and skin folds smelling sweet but not so often that there is not enough natural oil to prevent skin irritations. Your veterinarian can advise you on how much is too much or not enough.

2. Ear Infections. Bacterial infections can be caused by a lack of ear cleanliness and too much wax, or because there is a lot of hair in and around your dog’s ears which keeps them from drying out easily—and your dog loves splashing in the water!

  • Symptoms – A light, yeasty odor usually means your dog’s ears need cleaning, but an ear infection is indicated by a really strong, unpleasant smell and your dog may also start shaking his head more so than usual.
  • Treatments – An ear infection can be quite painful, and is serious business. You need to take your pooch to the veterinarian right away so that the pain can be eased with medication and the problem cleared up.  

3. Bad Breath. Your dog’s bad breath should never be ignored. It may be caused by a dental problem, such as a build-up of heavy tartar, a dental infection, or periodontal (gum) disease. Any of these problems are not only painful, but can also they can lead to more serious mouth infections. Bad breath in dogs can also indicate gastrointestinal issues, liver or kidney problems, or diabetes.

  • Symptoms – As well as bad breath, a dog with dental or mouth problems may have red or bleeding gums. Teeth might become loose and dogs may shy away from having their heads touched.
  • Treatments – You should take your dog to the vet to see if the bad breath is coupled with dental or gum disease and, if so, your veterinarian can help solve the problem. If not, your veterinarian will test for other problems, which may require medication or other treatments.

4. Yeast Infection. An overgrowth of yeast is a fairly common problem for dogs and causes a pungent, musty smell that will remind you of moldy bread or cheese popcorn, and can result in ear problems, stinky paws, and smelly skin.

  • Symptoms – As well as the yeasty odor, itchy paws, itchy ears, and butt scooting—because of an itchy butt—are the usual symptoms of a yeast infection.
  • Treatments – Yeast are opportunistic infections that can occur on your pet’s paws, ears, or skin folds. A yeast infection usually indicates an underlying problem that creates inflammation of the skin, such as allergies. Your veterinarian can prescribe the best treatment, which usually involves either a topical or oral antifungal medication.

5. Gas Problems – A big increase in the normal amount of gas that your dog expels—flatulence—and an increase in burping and gurgling usually indicates an intestinal problem, which may be caused by various foods or from an inflammatory bowel disease.  

  • Symptoms – There are breeds of dogs with flat noses, such as bulldogs, pugs, and boxers, that are well-known for gas issues because the structure of their faces causes them to draw in a lot of air when they are eating, which leads to an excess of air in their digestive systems. However, if gas increases in frequency and intensity in any breed, there may be bowel issues to address.
  • Treatments – It is best to consult your veterinarian to see if pooch is suffering from an irritated bowel problem and to recommend the best diet for your dog’s breed.

6. Anal Gland Odors – Impacted anal glands, which are located on both sides of your dog’s rectum, cause an odor like rotting fish that won’t go away with bathing. These glands contain an oily secretion that is released during your dog’s bowel movements.

  • Symptoms – If the glands become infected or filed with thicker secretions than usual, they can’t be emptied fully, and are painful for your dog.  The extremely foul odor will be left on pooch’s bed and blankets and anywhere he or she sleeps or rests.
  • Treatments – Your veterinarian can empty these glands to bring relief to your dog and will suggest dietary changes to reduce sensitivities to foods causing the problem.

7. Urinary Tract Infections – Just as humans can develop urinary tract or bladder infections, dogs can too and they are just as painful for dogs as they are for us.

  • Symptoms – Your dog may smell like urine and may want to go outside more frequently, may drink more water than usual, and may show signs of straining or pain when urinating. In some cases there may be blood in the urine.
  • Treatments – Your veterinarian will check your dog for infections, kidney stones, and diabetes, and will prescribe the appropriate medication to deal with the pain and the problem.

8. Inadequate Grooming – If he or she isn’t bathed and brushed often enough, your pooch will carry the odor of everything smelly in which he or she has rolled, run through, and come in contact with. Rolling is a natural behavior and not one your dog has dreamed up to irritate you.

  • Symptoms – The odor will be unpleasant, such as the smell of feces, and changes from one day to the next, depending on where your dog has been.
  • Treatments – A good dog shampoo will remove these odors. Give your dog a daily brushing in between baths. Brushing removes dead skin, dirt, and smelly particles in your dog’s hair and on the skin. It’s also a great way to bond with your dog in general!

9. Wet Dog Smell – No matter how well-groomed your dog is, when wet, suddenly all kinds of unpleasant odors surface.

  • Symptoms – The dog smells fine until wet.
  • Treatments – No, the cure isn’t simply to towel-dry your pooch. A hair dryer or the warm sun will thoroughly dry the skin and hair, which is what is needed.

10. Other Terrible Odors – for example if a skunk sprays your dog, you will know by the horrible smell that’s like no other!

  • Treatments – A good shampoo will take care of most bad odors, but not skunk spray. Forget all the home remedies such as bathing stinky pooch in tomato juice, and head straight to the pet store for a shampoo designed to remove skunk odors. It should be used within 30 minutes for best results.

Don’t worry if your dog develops a bad odor. Look for other symptoms and try to identify the particular smell. There is always a reason for it and there is always a solution. Your veterinarian can help.

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.

Rabbit Food: The Best and Worst Foods to Feed a Bunny

If you’ve always thought that lettuce and carrots are enough to feed a bunny, you’d be wrong! Rabbit food must cater to their unique digestive system. Thankfully, it doesn’t require a lot of work to feed them. Keep these facts in mind and you’ll find it is easy to keep your rabbit healthy and happy with the right diet. Here is the lowdown on the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” foods for rabbits.

Bunnies Thrive on Good Rabbit Food

Bunnies love a good meal! The right combination of hay, vegetables, pellets, and treats will make pet bunnies very happy and healthy, control the growth of their teeth, and keep them satisfied. Remember, rabbits are herbivores, which means they should only be fed plants, never meat. Don’t forget that water is also an important item in a bunny’s diet. Easy access to water should always be available.

Hay

  • Fresh hay is the most important item in a bunny’s diet. A constant supply of Timothy grass hay or oat grass hay should be available. Alfalfa hay is fine for young bunnies, but is only safe in limited supply for adults because of its higher sugar content and calorie count.
  • Make sure the hay looks and smells fresh. It should not be kept so long that it turns brown, develops mold, and ceases to smell like grass.
  • Hay provides the fiber necessary to prevent diarrhea, obesity, and hairballs, and assists with digestion. It also helps wear down a bunny’s constantly growing teeth and keeps their incisors healthy.
  • Place hay in one end of the bunny’s litter box because bunnies like to munch on it when they are using the box.
  • It is cheaper to buy hay from a farm than at a pet store, but whatever you buy should be stored in a dry place where circulating air can keep it from becoming moldy.

Vegetables

  • Vegetables are the second most important part of bunny’s diet, and you can offer three different kinds in small quantities during each feeding.
  • Veggies should be fresh and free of pesticides, and should be washed thoroughly.
  • Green, leafy vegetables are good for bunnies. You can include arugula, basil, bok choy, broccoli leaves, carrot tops, celery, clover, collard greens, dandelion leaves, dill, endive, kale in small quantities, romaine and dark leaf lettuce, mint, mustard greens, parsley, and watercress.

Pellets

  • Pellets should not be a mainstay of a bunny’s diet, but they can be offered in addition to fresh hay and fresh vegetables.
  • The pellets must be high in fiber and low in protein and should not contain seeds, corn, or other foods high in calories.
  • Bunnies will eat pellets only if they are fresh, and the amount in their diets should be reduced as they age.
  • Pellets should be uniform in size, shape, and colour.

Treats

  • Treats should be healthy foods too, and only given in very small amounts, such as when training (e.g. teaching your bunny to use the litter box).
  • Good treats are small amounts of fruit such as strawberries, bananas, raspberries, pineapple pieces, apples without seeds, and melons. Veggie treats include a small amount of fresh carrot, pieces of green pepper, and Brussels sprouts.
  • Make sure the fruits and veggies are thoroughly washed before feeding.

Bad Foods for Rabbits That Can Cause Problems

Some foods are difficult for rabbits to digest or cause tooth or tummy problems, or add calories and cause weight gains but are of no nutritional value.

  • High-carbohydrate sugary foods like bread, pasta, crackers, cookies, cereal (like muesli), and potatoes are on the “bad food” list. They add calories and can cause digestive problems.
  • Iceberg lettuce and other light coloured lettuce adds no nutritional value to a bunny’s diet and it can even contain lactucarium, which can be harmful in large quantities to rabbits.
  • Silver beet (chard) causes colic and bloating, as well as cabbage, cauliflower, onion, and broccoli stems and tops.
  • Walnuts and peanut butter are hard to digest and can cause tummy aches.
  • Hamster food will add no nutritional value to your rabbit’s diet and neither will oatmeal.
  • Don’t offer uncut celery.

Stay Away From the Dangerous or Never, Ever Foods

The downright dangerous foods should be kept out of bunny’s reach and never, ever offered:

  • Both raw rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to bunnies.
  • Yogurt drops can lead to enterotoxemia, a bad bacteria growing in the intestines, which can be poisonous. These drops are not an appropriate “treat” for bunnies.
  • Chocolate is also not a treat and is as poisonous for bunnies as it is for dogs.
  • Common houseplants are usually poisonous and all of them should be kept out of your rabbit’s reach, just in case.

A Feeding Guide for Bunnies

1. Amount of Food for 6-pound Rabbit

  • Hay – Body–sized amount of 100% grass hay per day
  • Vegetables – Head-sized amount or 1-2 cups per day
  • Pellets – Small handful or ¼ cup (50 ml) per day
  • Fruit – Maximum 2 tbsp per day, preferably less often

2. Life Stage Suggestions Per day

  • At 12 weeks – alfalfa-based pellets and hay; veggies; teaspoon-sized piece of fruit
  • At 7 months-1 year – 50% grass hay; ½ cup pellets; +/- fruit treat; green veggies
  • At 1 to 5 years – 100% grass hay; 1-2 cups of veggies; 2 tbsp fruit or less; ¼ cup pellets

Encourage Natural Foraging and Chewing Behaviors

When you encourage your bunny’s natural foraging and chewing behaviors, it provides mental stimulation, occupies and entertains your little pet, promotes exercise, keeps teeth healthy, and is fun for both of you.

Aside from having unlimited access to hay and water, your bunny should be fed twice a day, preferably at times a rabbit would naturally like to graze and forage: morning and late afternoon or evening. Once you have established regular feeding times, try to stick to the schedule as rabbits like predictability and it reduces their stress levels.

Cardboard articles such as empty toilet tissue rolls or paper towel rolls or old phonebooks help keep bunnies occupied with chewing safe items. That way they will be less inclined to chew on your personal or household objects or unsafe things, which they will do if they can get their teeth on them.

Hang greens high on your bunny’s cage. This will force your pet to stand on his or her hind legs to reach them, which is good exercise.

Scatter greens or the daily ration of pellets around the cage or the room, and hide some food under boxes, or wrap it in brown paper, or tuck it inside a cardboard tube with shredded paper stuffed in the ends so that bunny has to hunt for some of his food.

Check at night to make sure bunny has enough hay in his cage to last until morning. You never know when the munchies will strike!

Bunnies thrive on good rabbit food that caters to their unique digestive systems. Remember the “good, the bad, and the never, ever” feeding rules and you will have a happy, healthy little bunny.

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.

Adopting a Pet Bunny? Learn Rabbit Care 101

Are you planning to adopt a pet bunny, or have become a new rabbit owner recently? If so, congratulations! Now is a great time to learn basic rabbit care 101. That way you can provide a healthy environment that will keep your new pet happy.

There are lots of reasons for choosing a bunny as a pet. The following information will help you be a good pet parent for your brand new family member.

Why a Rabbit Makes a Good Pet

If you want a charming pet who will show you love and affection and will fit into a small household without requiring the attention a puppy needs or the space a kitty wants, a rabbit can be the perfect pet for your household.

  • Rabbits are very, very quiet, which is a big bonus if you live in an apartment or a peaceful neighborhood. There will be no barking when something or someone passes by outside or when left alone, and there will be no whining at the door when you leave the house.
  • Like cats and dogs, rabbits form deep bonds with their owners, recognize them on sight and by voice, will come when called, and tend to follow their parents around.
  • Rabbits can be housed in small spaces and are low maintenance compared to dogs. They don’t have to be walked, they require little grooming, and they can be litter box trained quite easily.
  • Rabbits are very cute and cuddly and they can be taught tricks too, like jumping through hoops or running through mazes.
  • Unlike most small animals (e.g. hamsters or guinea pigs), rabbits usually live eight to ten years or more, especially if raised indoors.
  • You can select the perfect rabbit from more than 50 breeds in a variety of colours and with distinctive personalities.

Why a Rabbit May Not be the Right Pet for You

There are particular considerations to make when choosing a rabbit as a pet. You might not be in the best situation to welcome this little animal into your household if any of the following applies:

  • For people who live in very small homes and have no yard, it might be difficult to bunny-proof a house for the times when your little pet needs freedom to exercise by running around outside a cage or hutch for two or more hours each day.
  • If there are small children in the home, it won’t be a safe place for a fragile pet who needs to be picked up and held very carefully. Rabbits can be injured easily, especially when being handled by children too young to understand how delicate little bunnies can be.
  • Although you can easily find rabbits in shelters and they are not expensive to acquire, you need money to buy a suitable cage or hutch, litter, appropriate food, an annual checkup by a rabbit vet, and spaying or neutering surgery if it’s not already done.
  • It is important to ensure there is a qualified veterinarian in your area who knows how to treat a rabbit, especially if your bunny becomes sick or is injured.
  • Rabbits are social animals and you need to have time available to play with your bunny. If you move frequently or travel a lot, please understand that rabbits hate travelling and tend to be very nervous in new environments.

Basic Rabbit Care 101

1. The First Important Decisions

Once you have decided a rabbit will be a great pet for you or your family, choose your pet carefully, decide if your rabbit should be an indoor or outdoor pet, and if indoors, caged or allowed to roam at will or with restrictions.

Spend time with the bunnies you like best before making a final decision on which one to take home with you. Just like dogs and cats, some rabbits are very playful and outgoing, others are shy and more conservative. You should select one with a personality that suits you and your household the best.

Because rabbits are extremely social creatures, you should consider buying a pair of rabbits so that they can keep each other company. Handling your rabbit gently and often can help avoid aggression. As well as, spaying or neutering them.

If you have a yard and live in a very mild climate, you may consider housing your pet outdoors. However, domestic rabbits are not like wild rabbits and can’t survive in extreme hot or cold temperatures. Even if the climate is fine, the sight or sound of a wild animal nearby—even if your rabbit is caged and out of harm’s way—can cause so much stress to a little bunny.

If you plan to house your rabbit indoors—this is a preferred, healthier, and safer choice—you have to decide how much freedom your bunny can have. If it’s allowed to roam at will or is restricted to certain rooms when out of the cage (i.e. for most of, or part of, or a few hours of each day), you have to bunny-proof all areas in the home that your bunny can reach. Rabbits love to chew and will munch on anything like electrical cords, toxic cleaning products, and various plants. Keep your bunny safe by removing these hazards!

2. Purchase a Cage or Hutch and Other Necessities

A cage or hutch should be five times the length your rabbit will be when it’s fully grown and high enough for your bunny to stand up on its hind legs without bumping his or her head. The average size is about 12 square feet (1.1 square meters) plus another larger area or a room for exercise. If the bottom of the cage is made of wire, place layers of cardboard or other materials that will protect your bunny’s feet; they are not covered with pads like those of cats and dogs.

There must be room in the hutch for a litter box, which should contain organic litter (not kitty litter) made of paper, wood pulp, or citrus, plus a little hay for your bunny to snack on when they use the box. Boxes should be placed in the corners of a room; they prefer to use the litter box in these areas.

Make sure there is enough room for a sippy cup or a bowl of water in the cage. The water should be changed at least once a day. Include some items for your rabbit to chew on, such as blocks, rings, or balls of untreated willow wood, and cardboard paper towel rolls, or toilet paper rolls.

Have some of these items outside the cage as well to keep your bunny occupied when they’re roaming the house or exercise area. That way the edges of carpets or loose, enticing, chewable household objects are less attractive to your ever-munching pet. Bunnies also like to hide, so you can supply a little box with an opening that your pet can go inside and be alone.

3. Provide a Balanced Diet

Hay is the main diet staple for rabbits, and a body-sized amount of grass hay (e.g., timothy grass, orchard grass, oat hay, or brome) is the right amount. There should be a constant supply as it ensures protection of your bunny’s digestive system.

Fresh vegetables, primarily leafy and dark green ones (e.g. leaf lettuces, arugula, dandelion greens, and parsley) are best and you can supply a head-sized amount each day. Alfalfa-based pellets can be used as a supplement (not a substitute) to the leafy greens, and should be given only in small quantities, such as a small handful a day.

Fruits and treats are great when training your rabbit (to come when you call them, etc.) and just for fun, but use sparingly starting with a teaspoonful and only one at a time. Carrots, in spite of what you have seen in Bugs Bunny cartoons, fall into the category of treats, along with fresh blueberries, strawberries, pears, peaches, plums, papayas, and melons.

Avoid giving your rabbit iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, peas, potatoes, beets, onions, nuts, seeds, crackers, bread, and cereal. Don’t offer them candy, chocolate, or food for humans in general either.

4. Be Careful Lifting and Holding Your Rabbit

Avoid inflicting severe injuries on your new pet by remembering these “don’ts”: Don’t pick up a rabbit by the ears. Don’t carry one by the scruff of the neck without supporting the hind end. Don’t try to restrain rabbits on either slippery or hard surfaces or by pushing down on the animal.

A towel can be used to help restrain a rabbit safely. Remember to lift your bunny gently with the hind end always supported. For moving an aggressive rabbit, lift them by the scruff of the neck and support the rump while positioning the hind legs away from you to avoid being scratched or kicked.

For docile rabbits, lift them in the same fashion but hold the rabbit close to you and support the hind end with your elbow while placing your fingers under the front legs. Another lifting method for docile and shy rabbits is to place the head of your rabbit in the crook of your elbow, and support its weight and hind end with your arm while placing your other hand to hold or pet your rabbit over the back of the neck.

If a rabbit is the right pet for you and your household, following these simple rules in rabbit care 101 will supply you with the basic knowledge of how to care for these delightful, loving, little animals.

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.

Tips for Handling Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Does your dog usually cry and bark a lot when they’re home alone? Do you ever discover a mess when you come home after a long day of work—and no one was home except your dog? These are a few classic symptoms of what’s known as separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety in dogs is not a problem that can be taken lightly as the symptoms are so distressing to their owners, they can’t be ignored. It’s very upsetting to see your precious pet so unhappy! If you notice any separation anxiety symptoms, you must begin to treat the cause right away as this is not a problem that goes away on its own, and will become harder to deal with as time passes if left untreated.

It’s not surprising to most people that babies and children are afraid of the prospect of being left alone and they tend to show their fear when their parents prepare to leave the house or if they think their parents have already left, even though a familiar person is present to care for them. However, some people are often surprised that animals display this same unhappy reaction. It is important to understand that your pet is not being a “bad dog” when they misbehave in these situations; what they’re actually doing is acting out of fear of separation. Recognizing the problem is the first step in successfully treating it.

How to Recognize the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Many of the symptoms of separation anxiety are destructive and disturbing. If any of the following behaviours occur routinely when you prepare to leave your dog (say when you’re going to work) or are absent from home, you must seriously consider the possibility that your dog has separation anxiety:

1. Pacing, drooling, panting, and trembling. When your dog sees signs that you are preparing to leave the house by, say, taking your coat from the closet, packing up your briefcase, or putting on boots or a scarf, your pet may start pacing, drooling, panting, and trembling. What comes next is running back and forth between you and the door, standing in your way in front of the door and whining as you try to open it, and then barking as you exit.

2. Pacing when alone. Dogs often pace in circles or along the same pathway through the house over and over when they’re stressed and anxious. You may be able to witness this activity for yourself if your dog wakes from sleep, looks for you in vain, and doesn’t realize you are still at home.

3. Whining, barking, and howling. These are disturbing symptoms that are most disruptive in a neighbourhood or apartment building, and are most likely to trigger a lot of complaints from people who are hearing your dog express their unhappiness in this way. Some dogs can whine, bark, and howl all day or all night, resulting in a great deal of irritated and displeased neighbours!

4. Attempting to escape. Because they feel abandoned, dogs may often go to extreme lengths to escape their home or the backyard to search for their parents. They may spend hours chewing on windowsills and doorframes and may even chew on the furniture. If they are left tied up outside, they may dig up great swaths of lawn and chew on shrubs or any wooden furniture they can reach. Not only is this behaviour very destructive, but also your dog may receive scrapes and cuts and even break their teeth during these escape attempts, all resulting in a very stressful vet visit for everyone involved!

5. Urinating and Defecating. If nothing else gets your attention and punishes you for leaving your dog alone, urinating and defecating will certainly do it. If you come home to a mess that has to be cleaned up right away, you will realize you have to deal with the issue and can’t ignore it any longer. Scolding a dog and rubbing doggy’s face in the excrement won’t help. Your pet won’t care about the scolding or the smells—he or she will be happy you are home and paying attention at last, and will repeat this behavior because you’ve noticed.

6. Coprophagia. This is the word that describes the act of an animal eating its own feces. It is another symptom of separation anxiety and an example of how a dog expresses distress being left alone.

How to Relieve Your Dog’s Separation Anxiety

The varying causes of separation anxiety in dogs can stem from a change in parents or a beloved member of the household leaving home, neglect, premature adoption, heredity, lack of good training, a move to a new home, long separations because of work or vacations, or simply a big change in the usual environment.

If your dog is showing any of the signs of separation anxiety, it is time to begin counter-conditioning before the problem gets worse. You can try these various methods to make your dog understand that being alone is not scary and it is not acceptable to be disobedient:

1. Conceal signs that you are leaving. Put on your coat, but don’t leave for 10 or 15 minutes. Leave by a different door than usual. Give your dog a treat or a toy to distract attention from your departure.

 2. Exercise your dog before leaving. If you don’t have time to take pooch outside for a run before you leave, play some indoor games like hide and seek, or toss kibbles or some other treats in the air for your dog to jump and catch so that he or she is a bit tired and more interested in resting and eating than pursuing you.

3. Leave a treat and TV or music playing. Treats can help your dog associate your being absent with something nice. Music or background sounds or a TV left on, and some of your dirty laundry nearby, can also bring comfort.

4. Don’t leave your dog alone too long. If you are going to be away frequently for several hours a day, consider hiring a dog walker or a dog sitter for part of each day.

5. Gradually introduce a dog sitter for long absences. If you are going away on vacation or going to work full time, find a dog sitter or a doggy daycare to mind your dog for an hour or two a day. Gradually increase the amount of time before actually leaving for several hours a day or for several days. There are also dog hotel services you can use, or you might be able to take your dog to work or with you on vacation (see our post about pets at work before you do so however! You can also check out our traveling tips for those who want to take your dog on vacation).

6. When you come back, play it cool. Don’t greet your dog or say farewell with a lot of emotion. Be calm when you come and go.

7. Train your dog to be alone. Have your dog stay in one part of the house while you go to another for 10 seconds. Gradually increase the time to 30 minutes or so. Also, make sure you have a dog bed so that your pooch is used to sleeping without you and is not constantly by your side.

8. If all else fails, try medication. Ask your dog veterinarian about using calming medicine if your dog is still showing symptoms of severe separation anxiety, even after you have tried everything else.

Dog parents must watch for these signs of separation anxiety in their dogs. That way if there are any distressing symptoms and destructive behaviors that follow, the problem can be addressed and treated as soon as possible before it becomes chronic. Your veterinarian may suggest working with a trainer to assist in managing your dog’s anxiety. It is sometimes beneficial for your veterinarian and your trainer to work together.

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 Does My Cat Urinate Outside the Litter Box?”

Our veterinarians are often asked this question: “Why does my cat urinate outside the litter box?” This is an excellent question to ask us because there are several possible answers, and cat owners have taken the first step in finding the right one by consulting with us!

Generally, a cat will urinate outside the litter box because of an underlying medical issue or a behavioural problem. You cannot ignore this behaviour in the hope that it will go away by itself. If your cat is peeing all over the house, it’s frustrating for you as an owner because the odor is very strong, requires constant and thorough cleaning, and can damage the floors and baseboards in your home.

Cats are normally very attentive to being clean, so this unusual problem is a definite sign that something is wrong. Our veterinarians can rule out a possible medical issue and can treat your cat’s problem if one is discovered upon closer examination.

Medical Issues That Cause Cats to Pee Outside the Litter Box

There are a number of bladder and urinary tract problems in cats that a veterinarian can discover and treat successfully. Normally this will solve the dilemma of a cat urinating outside the litter box. Your cat’s vet will usually ask to examine a sample of your cat’s urine and conduct a physical check-up. During the check-up they will feel various parts of the cat’s body to see if there are lumps or bumps where there shouldn’t be, or if your cat reacts with pain when they’re touched somewhere.

These are some of the most common medical problems that cats experience in regards to peeing outside of their litter box:

  1. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI). Bacteria in the urine means there is an infection or inflammation in the urinary tract, and your veterinarian will prescribe an antibiotic. Your cat will probably need a follow-up examination to make sure the infection is completely gone.
  1. Bladder Stones. There may be stones in the bladder that can cause pain or blockage. If your veterinarian suspects stones, a radiograph will be used to determine how many and how large they are. Sometimes they can be dissolved with a special diet, but if the stones are large, surgery may be required and possibly an antibiotic, too.
  1. Crystalluria. Crystals will form in the urine if the pH (acidic level) of your cat’s urine is too high or too low, and crystals will irritate the urinary tract. Treatment usually means a special diet and possibly anti-inflammatory medication or antibiotics as well.
  1. Idiopathic Cystitis. This is the name for bladder inflammation when the cause is unknown and blood in the urine is detected. If there are no bacteria, no crystals, and no stones, the problem will be diagnosed as idiopathic cystitis.
  1. Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). This is the name for any urinary tract disease that has become chronic. Both FLUTD and idiopathic cystitis are treated with a special diet and sometimes additional supplements to strengthen the cat’s urinary tract.
  1. Other Medical Issues. If your cat is obviously trying to pee but can’t, or only a small amount of urine is expelled, immediately take your kitty to your family cat clinic. There could be an obstruction or blockage, which is a dangerous situation for your pet.

If no bladder or urinary tract problems are discovered, your pet may be experiencing pain or discomfort from some other parts of the body. More lab work is needed to check for serious problems such as diabetes or kidney disease and treatment should be started as soon as possible.

Behavioural Issues that Cause Cats to Pee Outside of the Litter Box

If medical problems have been ruled out, behavioural issues must be considered.

  1. Litter Box Problems – Your cat may be unhappy with the litter box for one or more of the following reasons:
  • The box may be too dirty too often. Litter boxes should be scooped out once and sometimes twice a day depending on how many cats live in the home. The litter should be replaced and the box washed every month.
  • The box may be clean enough but not comfortable enough if the box is too small or too deep for your cat. You could try introducing a large plastic storage box (the kind used for storing items under the bed), especially if your cat is big and fluffy, or you can try a large disposable box that can be thrown out as the odor accumulates, such as once a month.
  • Your cat may be unhappy if the box is covered. Some cats feel cramped or uncomfortable inside a covered box. Take the cover off and see if that solves the problem.
  • Kitty may not like the litter—the odor or the feel. Try a new litter that’s unscented and easy to scoop out.
  • Several cats using the same litter box can create problems, especially if one of the cats is a bully and insists on hogging the box. Also, if a new kitten is introduced into the home and uses the same litter box, the risk of parasitic diseases such as tapeworms becomes more likely to spread to your healthy, older cat. Other times, some cats don’t like the odor of the urine or feces of other cats, or are too timid to use the box if another cat is in the way or has just finished using the box. The solution is to have more than one litter box, preferably in different locations. If you do have a new kitten, get them vaccinated and treated for worms and then provide them with a designated, separate litter box at home.
  • Cats prefer a quiet and private location and one that is away from where they eat. Placing the box behind a door or behind a screen is a good idea.
  1. Stress – If a cat is anxious, stressed, or particularly timid, especially if other animals live in the house, your kitty may prefer to choose a “safer” place to go, which is away from the other animals. Provide your stressed cat with a litter box in a different location. Make sure it is not beside noisy machinery like a clothes dryer.

If there are cats gathering outside the house regularly, your cat may pee near the door as a way of marking their territory. Move a litter box by the door until you can discourage the outdoor cats from coming around.

Cats are creatures of habit, which means they may react to any major change in the environment—new people, new pets, or frequent noisy visitors. Cats may begin to pee in different locations because the smell of their own urine makes them feel safer if there have been changes in the household. Make sure your cat has a safe place to go, high or hidden, with a couple of treats to help with adjustment. There is also medication available if your veterinarian thinks it is a good temporary solution.

  1. Aging, Disabled, and Ill Cats – As cats age they may develop arthritis, which can make it increasingly difficult for them to climb in and out of their litter box. A cat with an injury may incur a permanent disability and no longer be able to perform the usual jumping and running activities that are easy for healthy cats to do. Also, if your cat is recovering from an illness, it may be temporarily difficult for your kitty to use the litter box in its current area.

For an ill or injured cat, make it easier to access their litter box by moving it closer or providing a ramp until your cat is back to normal so that accidents don’t occur.

If your cat is arthritic or has a physical disability, provide one or two new litter boxes so that there is one on each floor with permanent ramps.

Remember that old urine smells can attract a cat back to an area where he or she once urinated. If your cat has peed outside the box for medical or behavioural reasons, solving the problem itself may not be enough. Make sure you thoroughly clean and scrub away all traces of urine in any location outside the litter box, or your cat may start to think some other spot is an acceptable alternative to use.

There are many possible answers to the question of why your cat has started peeing outside the litter box and it is one of the most frequent problems for cats, even those who have had spotless records at the cat clinic for many years. To find out what to do, schedule a check-up for your cat. Meanwhile, make sure you are providing them with a happy environment and a clean and easy-to-access litter box—or boxes—designed to make your cat feel comfortable and 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.

House Training & Crate Training Tips for Dogs

Bringing home a new puppy or an older dog means opening up a whole new world of love, excitement, and experiences! We hope these house and crate training tips for dogs will help make life easier for everyone in your home, including your new pet.

House Training Your Dog Requires Consistency and Encouragement

Puppies and older dogs are happiest when they know exactly what their owners require of them, which means it’s a good idea to plan out a schedule. By nature dogs tend to try very hard to please you, so they may soon enough catch on to the times you expect them to eat, play, sleep, and go outside to relieve themselves or go out for a walk. If you are careful to stick to the scheduled times, all while taking your dog’s age and size into consideration and using patience and rewards, you can teach your brand new member of the family what is expected of him or her in a few weeks or months.

When your dog is fully house trained, life will be happier and easier for everyone. In some cases though, the training process will usually take four to six months and occasionally up to a year before full training status can be accomplished.

When to Start House Training

For puppies you can start house training when they are between 12 and 16 weeks old. A general rule of thumb is that puppies can control their bladders for one hour for every month of age, which means three-month-old puppies should be able to hold in their urine for three hours. Smaller breeds have smaller bladders and can’t control them as long as bigger breeds can, however, so keep this in mind as well.

If you’ve adopted an adult dog or a senior, there’s a chance they may have learned bad habits from an earlier living situation before coming to your home. If this is the case, you may have to spend some time helping your new pet unlearn their bad habits by starting basic training all over again, just as if they were young puppies. Be prepared.

Space

Confine your puppy to a particular space and routine while house training.

  • A puppy (or an older pooch) should be kept in a large crate, or in a particular room where there is no carpet, or on a leash near you where you can keep an eye on your new family member. You can spread paper in one area (use several layers) of a room, but make sure your dog has space left to play, sleep, and eat in the room.
  • When taken outside, your dog should be on a leash and taken to the same spot for elimination each time.
  • As your dog learns that outside is where elimination is supposed to occur, you can give your best friend a little more freedom to move around in the house.

Times of the Day

Always take a puppy outside first thing in the morning and again 30 minutes later, and continue with 30-minute intervals all day.

  • When your new puppy grows up a little, you can extend their schedule to two-hour intervals.
  • Also, remember to take your pet outside after meals, after naps, after playtime, before being left alone, and at night just before bed.

Mealtimes

Offer food to your dog on a regular schedule, which may be three or four times a day when the puppy is really young and small, and remove any leftover food after mealtime.

  • Remove the water bowl about two hours before bedtime to lessen the chances that your pooch will need to go outside in the middle of the night—most dogs can sleep through the night. If you do have to take your dog outside, turn on very few lights, don’t talk, don’t play, and put him or her back to bed as soon as you return inside.
  • If dogs are fed at the same time each day, it is likely that they also need to eliminate at the same time each day, which can speed up the house training process.

Outdoor Trips

For any walks or trips outside, use a leash and take your puppy to the same spot each time if they need to eliminate. The scent will help remind your puppy of what is expected.

  • Use the same word or phrase each time the puppy is eliminating so that the word or words become a signal to them of what to do.
  • Give your dog praise and a reward as soon as their business is finished—not after you go back inside the house. That’s too long for dogs to wait to be able to associate the reward with the action. Also, be careful not to give rewards before they’ve finished or they may be so happy that they stop and don’t remember to finish until they are back inside.
  • During house training time, don’t take your dog for a walk until the job has been done in the regular spot. This will help reinforce the training.

In the Event of Accidents

Expect accidents to happen from time to time while house training your dog. Watch for the signs—barking, squatting, circling, or scratching at the door—that your dog needs to go outside.

  • If your puppy starts to eliminate in the house, interrupt the act by quickly and firmly saying, “Outside”—without yelling or threatening them—and immediately take your dog outside to finish. Never be upset or angry at them, and don’t ever rub your puppy’s nose in the spot or they may become scared to eliminate in your presence. When you go back inside, clean it up.
  • If you discover an area in the house that has been soiled, it’s too late to do anything but clean it up and make sure there is no lingering odor that may encourage further accidents. Again, never ever force your dog to smell the spot as punishment or yell at them after the fact; not only is this unnecessary but your dog won’t understand why you’re angry, they’ll only understand that you are angry. This, in turn, can cause a dog to distrust and dislike you as their owner. Always be gentle when house training, even if an accident occurs.

How to Make Crate Training a Happy Experience

Crates are great for keeping your dog safe and confined when they’re young and before being house trained. Crates are also useful when transporting your dog in the car or anywhere a dog isn’t free to run. Buy a crate big enough to allow your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down in.

The main rule when crate training is to make sure the crate is associated with happy experiences and is viewed as a “safe, comfortable place” by your dog. Take your time and don’t expect miracles overnight.

6 Steps for Crate Training:

  1. Place the crate, door open, in the room with your pup, and put a toy and blanket inside. After your dog is used to having it in the room, place a treat inside and wait for puppy to go inside and explore. You may have to wait a few days.
  1. Put the dinner bowl near the crate and after a few days, put it inside. If your puppy enters freely and is comfortable, gradually move the food bowl to the back of the crate; if not so comfortable, put it right inside the door and move it back over a longer number of days.
  1. After a few days, close the door while puppy is eating and open it as soon as the meal is finished. Start leaving your dog inside for a minute or two after the meal is finished and then longer, but open the door immediately if there is any indication of unhappiness or unease. It means you should leave puppy inside for shorter intervals. Start over.
  1. If your puppy starts to cry or whine, don’t open the door until the whining stops or that becomes the way your dog trains you! You mustn’t let that happen. Pet your dog and offer a treat. Open the door while your dog is eating the treat.
  1. As before, gradually increase the time your dog is left inside when you are home and in the room, and then leave the room for a few minutes and then for longer periods. In time, you can coax your puppy inside with a treat and a command like, “crate time,” and leave him or her there for a few hours.
  1. If you want to crate train your puppy at night, keep the crate inside or near your bedroom so your pet doesn’t feel alone and abandoned. Over a period of weeks, you can move the crate further and further away until it is in the location you prefer.

House training and crate training are important responsibilities of dog owners. It is always best for you and your pet to work with a certified dog trainer. When you have accomplished these tasks and your dog is house trained and crate trained, you can rest easy knowing you have a very happy and well-adjusted dog!

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 Safety Tips for Walking Your Dog in the Winter

Dogs love to go for walks no matter what the weather is like! Thanks to our awesome climate in the Vancouver and Burnaby areas, the weather is usually mild enough that you can go outside and walk and play with your dog even in the winter. It sure can get cold though! This drop in temperature presents some safety concerns for dog owners, which is why we are offering you five important safety tips to help you deal with the challenges of walking your dog in the winter.

Remember that the benefit of taking your dog for regular walks during cold weather usually outweighs the risks, but you must pay attention to how your dog is reacting. In general, the colder the weather is, the shorter the walk should be. Check the weather forecast and the wind-chill factor online before you go out.

1. Learn to Deal with Cold Weather Risks

You must watch out for signs that your dog is too cold for comfort. If he or she seems to be having fun but then starts to whine, repeatedly lifts or licks their paws, or begins to shiver, it’s time to head back home. Some breeds, especially bigger dogs with thick coats, are much more tolerant of the cold. Even so, they shouldn’t be walked for too long or left outside for a long period of time.

Keep a close eye on your senior dog and expect the winter weather to aggravate their arthritis and stiffness. Older dogs need to be exercised, but the length of your walks should decrease as your dog ages. Talk to your veterinarian about supplements to help with their arthritis.

Frostbite is no joke and dogs are at a greater risk of this when the cold winter months settle in. If you see signs that the skin on your dog’s ears, nose, paws, or tail have become cold, pale, and hard, you have to worry about frostbite if the walk is prolonged. Take your dog home and apply warm—not hot—cloths to the areas and wrap your little friend in a warm blanket. Don’t allow biting, scratching, or chewing of the affected areas as they can become infected.

Pay particular attention to your pet’s paws. Keep the hair between your dog’s toes clipped so that ice doesn’t accumulate in small, hard balls that make walking painful. After a walk, always wipe your dog’s paws with a warm, wet cloth to remove salt and other chemicals that have been used to treat roads and sidewalks, and dry them carefully. Apply a dog-safe moisturizer—not one for humans—to keep your dog’s paw pads from drying out and cracking.

Consider buying protective clothing for your dog—a sweater or coat—especially if your dog is small with short hair. Your dog is not as fashion conscious as you are and will certainly appreciate a cozy sweater’s warmth when the temperature drops. Have more than one coat or sweater available so you will be able to alternate and give them time to dry out between walks. A wet sweater will make a dog much colder than dry fur or hair.

2. Keep Your Dog from Eating Harmful Substances

Although you must always be on the alert for your dog’s inclination to eat almost anything interesting and edible found outside, winter brings particular substance dangers with it. The chemicals in products used to melt ice as well as road salt and antifreeze are very toxic and can contaminate other items dropped on the road and sidewalks that may smell and look appealing to your pet. Make sure your dog is not allowed to eat anything found outside. The best way to do so is to make sure your pet is fed before leaving the house, and to carry a few treats with you.

As well as food items that may entice your pet to take a bite, make sure unlimited amounts of snow are not consumed. Bring some water—you can purchase a pet water bottle that has an attached dish—and offer it to your pet from time to time so that eating the snow isn’t too appealing. You never know what chemicals may be in snow.

3. Watch Out for Ice Hazards

This is the time of year that boots or booties become practical footwear for dogs. Not only will they keep your dog’s paws reasonably dry and warm and protect them from toxic substances, but also they can keep your dog from slipping on the icy road or sidewalk.

4. Avoid Problems with Metal

We all know about the obvious problem with metal in the winter, and young humans aren’t the only ones tempted to lick them. Like humans, dogs might lick a metal object and pull the skin right off their tongues in an effort to break free. Try and imagine that pain.

There is another danger in winter from metal posts, plates, sewer covers, electrical boxes, etc., and it is the risk of electrical shock. Melting ice and snow and faulty wiring can create an electrical hazard, which means you and your dog should steer clear of metal, and is another good reason for keeping your dog on a short leash when walking in the winter.

5. Be Aware of Dangers That Lurk in the Dark

It is safer to walk your dog in daylight than in the dark, but with winter’s shorter days and longer nights, you may not have that choice. Be sure to wear clothing with reflectors to catch the light from headlights in order to reduce the danger from traffic. Your dog’s collar should also be reflective and you can attach LED lights to the leash. Remember that it takes vehicles longer to stop in snow or on icy streets, so you should give drivers as much warning as possible that you and your dog are sharing the roadway.

When daylight is fading or approaching, keep to the sidewalks as much as possible. Remember that dogs become cold quickly if snow touches their unprotected bellies, so you should avoid deep snow as much as possible. Frost and, on rare occasions, deep snow can sometimes conceal sharp objects as well.

Burnaby Dog Parks for Wintry Walks

Naturally if it’s snowing out too hard or the temperature is too low, it’s best if you and your dog both stay inside. However, if the weather is mild as usual, consider taking your dog out to one of the following dog parks in Burnaby BC and the surrounding areas. These dog parks listed below are open year round:

  • David Gray Park enclosure
  • Confederation Park’s off-leash trail
  • Burnaby Heights Park’s off-leash area
  • Warner Loat Park
  • Burnaby Lake Regional Park
  • Malvern Park
  • Robert Burnaby Park
  • Taylor Park

Using these five safety tips for walking your dog in the winter will help you keep your pooch healthy, happy, and safe when the cold weather sets in. Happy walking!

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.

Great Gift Ideas for Pet Owners and Their Pets

Are you looking for some gift ideas for your furry friends? We have some great suggestions to help take the stress out of making decisions in time for the upcoming holiday season!

We all know how much you and your friends love their precious pets, and we know that they usually treat their pooches and kitties with tenderness and affection. If you are a pet owner, you know exactly what I mean!

If you are currently choosing a gift for your own or someone else’s pet, there is a wide range of choices to fit any wallet. If you are looking for a gift for a pet owner, there is an equally wide selection. Gifts are available from pet stores and online, too.

Both Cats and Dogs Will Love These Gifts

If they knew how to write, we’re sure pets would add many of these items to their wish lists:

1. Treats – What pet doesn’t love a yummy treat? That’s right, they all do!

  • Choose from a variety of cat treats or dog treats that are both delicious and nutritious. They are great to use as rewards when training pets (e.g. training them to come when their name is called) and for comforting them when they are in stressful situations (e.g. after meeting new people and animals).
  • An alternative treat idea is a water fountain that both cats and dogs will enjoy and can even use together. Fountains can help a pet stay hydrated and most cats and dogs are attracted to the sound of running water. Pet fountains are usually made of stainless steal or porcelain and are easy to clean when necessary, but any fountain with a low brim that sits on the floor will do.

2. Toys – There are many cat toys and dog toys available that will keep pets amused and active all by themselves, and other toys that will also keep their owners active and amused when they’re playing with them!

  • Both dogs and cats love to chase balls. Even though the game is different for each kitty and pooch, try to find the right type and size of ball and plan on everyone having a good time. Some balls make interesting noises and flash sparking lights to entertain your cat, and others are perfect for tossing through the air for a dog to chase and retrieve. Choose one for your pooch that lights up at night for a fun evening game!
  • Toy choices that will make every pet happy are the chew toys. These can help keep a dog’s teeth healthy, and they’ll keep cats from chewing on electrical cords and wires or other dangerous items.

3. Comfort Gifts – Pamper pets with a cozy bed, or provide an aid for senior pets to make their life easier.

  • Every pet loves to have a bed that is just right for them even if they’re allowed to sleep on their owner’s bed now and then. There are memory foam beds for pets that live with arthritis, and there are thermal cushioned mats for senior pets that use an insulated layer to keep a pet warm using body heat rather than an electrical connection.
  • Pet stairs or pet ramps are a good choice for senior pets with arthritis since they may be no longer able to jump up onto the bed or the couch, or that allow dogs to get up into cars when travelling.
  • Brushing your pet’s coat not only feels good to them, but also it keeps pet hair and fur from building up on every surface in the home. Select a good brush for a pet and everybody wins!

More Gifts to Pamper a Pooch

  • What dog doesn’t love to play with a Frisbee? Even a senior dog will probably not be able to resist trying to catch a spinning Frisbee in the air or on the ground, and running back to their owner with it, chewed and covered with slobber. Good times!
  • Who wants to play tug of war? Dogs do, that’s who! Buy a good tug-of-war rope and you’ll make a dog and their owner very happy.
  • When it’s time to go out for a walk, dogs will appreciate having their paws warm and dry when the weather isn’t. Try finding them water resistant socks or shoes and you’ll make both them and their owner’s walks even better!

More Purr-fect Gifts for Kitty

  • Do cats love chasing wands, wand teasers, and bird feather teasers? Oh, yes, they do! These toys are not only fun for kitties, but also they provide good exercise. Cats will stretch up on their toes or jump up into the air to catch their “prey” whenever you offer them one of these!
  • Cats love to scratch, and scratching posts are welcome gifts for cats and their owners. Add a little catnip to really encourage kitty to scratch the post rather than the furniture.
  • Wind-up toys are always fun! They come in a great variety of small, tempting, “animal-looking” prey to excite and lead kitty on a merry chase.

Gifts That Please Pet Owners

There are a multitude of awesome gifts for pet owners that let them show the world that they love their pets, make playing with their pets easier, and help keep them safe.

  • Pet tote bags with illustrations of cats or dogs are welcome gifts. Owners can carry pet essentials (e.g., food, water, toys) on walks, travels, or visits to friends.
  • Pet owners need a crate for both cats and dogs for long-term travel, and are needed for cats even on short car trips.
  • A litter scoop is an inexpensive gift for a cat owner, and poop bags or a poop bag carrier is an ideal, inexpensive gift for a dog owner.
  • An attractive throw to protect a pet’s favourite sleeping spot on a sofa or comfy chair can make a pet owner very happy!
  • There are a lot of pet gates that will keep a dog (not a cat) out of a room or rooms. Some of them come with a hinged door and some with useful auto-close features that are useful when your hands are full.
  • Dogs love being taken for walks no matter what time of day! For late eveningwear, check out leashes with a light-up LED light or those made from glow-in-the-dark material.
  • A tennis ball holder for playing catch with a dog makes the fun easier on the owner, who may get tired before their dog does.
  • Placemats to put under pet food and water dishes, making cleanup for owners easier, and they aren’t too expensive.
  • Personalize gifts with their pet’s name and a pet owner will be over the moon! You can arrange for pet names to be embroidered on blankets, T-shirts, Christmas stockings, engraved on jewelry, stamped on dog or cat collars, placemats, etc.
  • Pet-themed bins for toys, jars for treats, collars for cats or dogs, owner T-shirts, welcome mats, socks, coffee mugs, phone cases, key chains, coasters—you name it, there will be a cat or dog theme for almost any gift item at a very wide range of prices.
  • Books on pet care, how to interpret a pet’s form of communication, subscriptions to magazines aimed at dog and cat owners, or a book full of humorous dog and cat stories will take care of gifts for pet owners who like to read.

We hope our suggestions help you find the perfect gifts for pet owners and their pets in time for the upcoming holiday season. Look for these items in your local pet store or online. Whatever gift you get them, we know your friends and their pets will love them. Have fun!

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