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Can All Dogs Swim? And Other Dog Swimming Tips Worth Knowing

Does your dog love the water? Many dogs will do anything they can to go for a swim, while many others will do everything in their power to stay dry. There’s no consensus among dogs about whether they like the water. Here’s a big question, however: can all dogs swim?

Understanding different breeds and their abilities to swim

There are a handful of dog breeds that have been selectively bred to be experts in the water. For instance, retrievers have been trained for generations to go into the water to grab birds for hunters, while dogs such as Irish Water Spaniels have developed waterproof coats so they can work in the fields. 

These breeds are generally believed to know how to swim the second they lay eyes on a body of water, and will usually be happy to do so since their physical structure is perfect for swimming. Other breeds often prefer not to swim, or simply don’t see the point. 

Some of the dogs that most love the water are:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Toller retrievers
  • Portugese water dogs
  • Irish water spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Newfoundlands
  • Irish setters

Regardless of whether your dog likes to swim or not, you should know that with a little preparation and training, all dogs are capable of swimming. This is especially good to know in the summertime, when dogs are at a higher risk of overheating and dehydration. If you can safely get your dog accustomed to being in the water, they’ll have a good option to keep cool in the warmer months. Swimming is also great exercise for dogs, and is a fun time for everyone involved. 

So for those of us with dogs who aren’t natural swimmers, how can we safely introduce them to swimming and get them more comfortable in the water?

How to teach your dog to swim

It can be a little difficult getting your dog into the water especially if they’re not accustomed to swimming, but once you do, you’ll both be experiencing the benefits in no time. So where to begin?

There are a number of avenues you can take when teaching your dog to swim, and choosing which one to use depends mainly on your dog’s breed. While some dogs, like the ones mentioned before, are natural-born swimmers, others are just not able to excel in the water due to their biology. Bulldogs and Dachshunds, for instance, often don’t have the physical build to keep themselves afloat, and will likely need extra help with a floatation device. 

Even if your dog is meant to be a capable swimmer, each pup is a little different, and yours may not be as keen on swimming as they’re ‘supposed’ to be. Whatever the case, it’s important that you understand your dog’s lineage and capabilities, set your expectations accordingly, and don’t be disappointed if your dog still prefers dry land over water.

Invest in a life jacket for your dog

When introducing a dog to the water for the first time, it’s vital that the dog finds swimming fun and not scary. You want to do everything you can to get your dog feeling confident in the water, and one great way to do that is to ensure they can’t sink. Life jackets for dogs come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of breeds and weights. Assuming their life jacket fits well, your dog will be able to focus on the mechanics of swimming, rather than struggling to stay afloat. 

Even if your dog is a capable swimmer, a life jacket is never a bad idea. Even the strongest swimmers can get tired, and if you’ve ever thrown a ball for certain breeds, you know that many dogs will over-exert themselves to the point of danger if they’re allowed to. A life jacket allows them to not work as hard while still staying afloat, which will keep them safe as well as feeling confident.

When choosing a life jacket, ensure it’s the right size, and that it can be adjusted to fit your dog perfectly. Bright or reflective material is also a plus, since they’ll help you spot your dog in the water more easily. You should also look for a life jacket with a sturdy handle on the back. This will allow you to pull your dog out of the water if they’re struggling, guide them as they learn to swim, or even simply keep hold of them on the beach. 

Make a plan for swimming lessons

Once you have all the equipment, it’s time to figure out your method for teaching your dog to swim. Every dog is different, so you’ll know better than anyone what you need to do to keep them feeling comfortable. With that said, a good idea for all dogs is to ensure that they’re the ones to enter the water. This can be achieved by throwing a floating toy into the water, or getting in yourself and encouraging them to come out to you. When a dog enters the water on their own terms, they’ll be less likely to become afraid. Start in the shallows, and don’t try to make your dog move deeper until they seem comfortable. 

Every time your dog comes out of the water while they’re learning, you should reward them with a treat, a toy, or affection. This will help them form a positive association with swimming, and encourage them to get in the water next time.

Give your dog a demonstration

If you know anyone with a dog who’s already a confident swimmer, consider arranging a time for your dog to watch them swim. With your dog in a life jacket, they’ll be able to follow the other dog around, observing their technique and having a great time while doing it. After a few playdates in the water, your dog may feel more confident about swimming on their own.

Keep water safety in mind

Beyond the risk of drowning, there are a handful of other potential hazards for your dog in the water. 

  • Cold water. Too much exposure could lead to hypothermia, which is dangerous. 
  • Swallowing too much water. This is possible while your dog swims and grabs toys. If your dog is regularly vomiting after swimming, they’re swallowing too much. To counteract this, try to keep swimming sessions to about ten minutes, and choose a water-toy that they can easily pick up without ingesting too much water in the process, such as a flat, floating disc.

Don’t push your dog too far

Despite our best efforts, some dogs never really take to swimming. Even with all the floatation devices, training, and safety measures, some dogs simply don’t like the water. If you’ve been trying to get them interested in swimming for some time and aren’t making any progress, it may be that your dog just doesn’t like to swim. If that’s the case, don’t feel the need to continuously push them. There are still ways you can help your dog enjoy the water and keep them cool in summer.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your dog to enjoy the water in the warmer months. With some time, care, and preparation, most dogs will gradually come to love swimming. If you have more questions about how to safely teach your dog to swim, or anything else pet-related, feel free to contact us today.

Senior Dog Care Part 3: Blood Testing & X-Rays

Looking after a senior dog comes with its fair share of challenges. From specialized diets, to lifestyle changes for dogs and humans alike, to dealing with various illnesses, caring for a senior dog isn’t always easy. However, we have a responsibility to our furry friends: looking after them and sticking by their side, through thick and thin. In this third part of our series on caring for senior dogs, we look at one important way to take proper care of your senior dog: staying up to date with routine testing with your veterinarian, namely, blood testing and x-rays.

What is Blood Testing?

A blood test for a senior dog allows your veterinarian to look for problems with your dog’s blood cells and enzyme levels of major organs to evaluate their function and health. Normally, blood testing for senior dogs consists of complete blood count, otherwise known as a CBC, which provides levels of various blood cells, and a blood serum test, which analyzes the presence and levels of certain chemicals in your dog’s blood. 

Reasons to Get Your Senior Dog’s Blood Tested

  • Dogs are good at masking illnesses. A blood test can help you identify health problems before they become more serious. 
  • The process of a CBC can provide a count of the different kinds of blood cells (white cells, red cells, and platelets) in your dog’s body. Since white blood cells and platelets help your dog to heal from illness and injury, it’s important to know whether there’s enough of them to protect your dog or if there are any changes. 
  • Blood tests for senior dogs can also ensure a healthy level of nutrients of all kinds in their bodies. These include:
    • Proteins
    • Glucose/sugars
    • Electrolytes
    • Cholesterol
    • Hormone levels
    • Digestive enzymes

In general, blood tests are a great tool to tell your veterinarian if your dog is in need of special attention. A change in the level of a certain protein indicates that something may be wrong with a certain organ or process, which is valuable information for their health.

Benefits of X-rays

Radiographs (x-rays) are a valuable tool for your veterinarian to keep up to date on the health of your dog. Although radiographs are a good tool for detecting when something’s wrong, that’s not the only time an x-ray is useful for a senior dog. Having a regular radiograph, even when nothing is wrong, provides valuable information for your veterinarian. These images can be used as reference for later imaging.

Reasons for Senior Dogs to Receive X-rays

  • A radiograph can (sometimes) help your veterinarian detect any obstructions in your dog’s digestive system, whether for foreign objects or some other type of blockage.
  • Radiographs can detect bladder stones even before they become serious problems.
  • X-rays can detect tumours.
  • Radiography can help detect heart or lung disease in your senior dog.
  • Like in humans, x-rays can detect fractures, dislocation, bone deformation, dysplasia, and other orthopedic issues in your senior dog. This can provide your veterinarian with insight on any bone or joint degeneration that comes along with a dog’s age.

X-rays and blood testing are two very important parts of looking after your dog. There are a multitude of problems and conditions that can be detected early on by these two methods of testing. It’s always best to catch health issues as early as possible, and this is particularly true for senior dogs.

Ultimately, you should be striving to do everything you can to make your dog’s later years as safe and comfortable as possible. Of course, this includes routine tests such as blood testing and radiography, but it also extends to monitoring their diet and exercise, making accommodations around the house, and simply spending time with them like you normally do. The more care you take in helping your dog, the more comfortable their senior years will be.

If you still have questions about routine testing and imaging for your senior dog, whether it’s blood testing, x-rays, or anything else, we’re happy to help with any answers you’re seeking. 

Did you miss parts 1 and 2? Click below to read them.

Part 1: General Care Tips

Part 2: Dental Care Tips

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

Creative Ideas to Keep Pets Out of Christmas Decorations

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

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

How to Pet-proof Your Decorations

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

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

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

Choose Decorations Wisely

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

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

Consider the Pros and Cons of Real Trees

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

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

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

Use Sprays to Deter Pets from the Tree

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

Keep Electrical Cords Safe and Secure

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

Ensure the Tree is Well Secured

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

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

Secure Your Decorations to the Tree

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

In General, Choose Safe Decorations Around the House

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

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

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

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

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.

5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Dangers for Dogs

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

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

1. Choose Safe Gifts and Healthy Treats for Dogs

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

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

2. Be Careful With Decorations

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

3. Avoid Holiday Food Dangers

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

4. Keep Certain Christmas Plants Out of Reach

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

5. Plan Pet-Safe Holiday Entertainment

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

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

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

8 Ways to Prepare Your Home for a New Dog’s Arrival

Are you planning on bringing home a new dog? Adopting a new pet is one of life’s greatest joys, but it can also be a challenging experience. Your pooch may be understandably nervous when meeting your family and while adjusting to a new home and surroundings. By carefully planning and following a few basic steps, you can ensure your new pet is safe, healthy, and happy, both when the big day arrives and for years to come.

1. Find Ideal Spots in Your Home

Your new dog will be excited or anxious coming to a new home, so expect a few accidents to occur, perhaps for a few days. Choose areas that are easy to clean for your new pet’s bed, water and food dishes, and playtime areas. Scatter newspapers around for a few days to make “accident cleanup” easier.

Use baby gates to close off areas where you don’t want your dog to go. That way you have a chance to teach your pooch which rooms you would like to keep off limits.

2. Check for Danger Zones and Products

Inspect the areas and closets where you keep shoes, dirty clothes, and any makeup or personal care products that could be within your dog’s reach. Put things up high, store them in drawers, or put them behind doors fastened with ties to make sure your pet doesn’t have access to them. Some dogs love to chew on personal items and are attracted to anything with an interesting smell.

If you have a fireplace, make sure it is blocked by a screen or a grate. You may need to make the room where the fireplace is located off limits to your new dog if they get too curious.

Keep all of your cleaning products, chemicals, tools, plastic bags, sharp objects, and matches out of reach or in cabinets/closets that can’t be opened by a curious pup.

Remove small objects from tables that can be reached by your pet. The last thing you want to find is a sick dog that decided to chew on or swallow them, or knock them off and break them!

Keep valuable objects such as expensive vases and table lamps, as well as frequently used items such as cell phones, iPads, and remote controls out of reach.

If you store food on low shelves or keep munchies out on tables, be sure to remove them. Keep in mind that many foods for humans are poisonous for dogs, such as grapes and chocolate. Use safety latches on low cupboards to make sure your pet can’t reach your food or any garbage cans.

Remove plants from the floor, or put them behind furniture so your dog is not tempted to chew on the leaves or flowers. A few house plants that are toxic to pets include lilies, azaleas, irises, sago palm, and daffodils.

3. Hide Electrical Cords and Wires

Bundle cords and wires together and hide them safely behind furniture where your dog can’t reach and chew on them. If you can’t hide dangerous wires and cords, tape them against walls or furniture.

Don’t charge your phone or iPad in outlets that are on or near the floor, and don’t leave plug-ins dangling from outlets where your pet can reach them.

4. Take Precautions for Older Dogs

If you’re looking to adopt an older dog, please be aware of any mobility problems they may have. You also need to be aware that bare floors can be difficult for them. Keep your new senior dog out of rooms with hard, slippery floors, such as the kitchen and bathrooms, and keep them comfortable with carpets or rugs that are secured and won’t slide. If all of your floors are hard, consider buying booties with secure, rubberized soles made specifically for a senior pet.

If an older dog has trouble using the stairs without help, use baby gates to block them off, or invest in pet stairs, or a ramp. You may need a ramp to help an older dog climb into your car too. Raised feeders and heated beds are also great for senior dogs.

5. Purchase Food to Welcome Home Your New Pet

Purchase dog food, preferably a type appropriate for your dog’s age and veterinarian approved. Have a box of treats on hand; they are useful when training a dog, and some treats can even help keep your dog’s teeth clean.

Find out what your pet has been eating before introducing the food you want to provide. If there is a particular food to which your new dog is accustomed to, it is wise to keep offering it while introducing new foods. Gradually increase the amounts of the new food over a few days or weeks.

Make sure you are familiar with your pet’s normal eating schedule. You can adjust it over time to work with your own schedule and the feeding routine recommended by your veterinarian.

6. Purchase Items for Both Indoor and Outdoor Living

Have a collar and an ID tag purchased for the trip home when you go to collect your new dog.

A leash is essential no matter where you may live. You will occasionally have to take your pet with you in and out of a vehicle and having your dog on a leash and trained to heel will be a lifesaver in busy areas.

Have a comfy bed for your new pet, which should be chosen according to the dog’s size.

Be sure to invest in a pet carrier or crate because you may need one for travelling time to time. Be sure it’s a regulation carrier because homemade carriers are not as secure.

Purchase separate bowls for food and water each, keeping your dog’s size in mind. Metal bowls are easier to clean and a mat to place under them is a good idea as some dogs are pretty messy eaters! It is very nice to have a portable water-bottle-and-dish-combination, as well, for walking and hiking.

Have a brush and comb on hand, as well as shampoo, a toothbrush, and toothpaste specially made for dogs—toothpaste made for humans isn’t safe. The earlier pets are introduced to these care products, the faster they adjust to them and the healthier they will be.

You will certainly want to have a few toys for your new dog. Get toys your dog can safely chew on and are fun to play with for you as well!

7. Equip Your Home with Special Cleaning Items

You need to have appropriate cleaning products when you have a dog in the house, including an odor neutralizer. Whether you plan to allow your dog up on the furniture or not, he or she may decide to climb up on the bed or sofa and leave behind their own scent. It is a good idea to assume an accident might happen as well, so make sure your home is equipped with stain removers and repellants as well as paper towels.

Purchase a “pooper scooper” and plastic bags to take with you on walks or hikes. That way you can pick up your dog’s waste and dispose of it properly.

8. Post Lists as Reminders for Everyone

Talk to your veterinarian and set up an appointment before you collect your new dog, especially if there will be no veterinarian inspection first (normally there is a checkup at pet shelters before animals are released to new owners).

Post your veterinarian’s phone number and other emergency numbers—animal poison control, after-hours emergency care, etc.—in a place where everyone in the family as well as dog sitters or dog walkers can find them easily. Program these essential numbers into your phone, too.

Post “training words” as reminders to yourself, as well as for your family and visitors. For example, “down” is the usual word to use for dogs when you want them to stop jumping up on people, and “off” is the usual one to use when you want them to get off furniture. It is easy to see how dogs can receive conflicting messages if the word “off” is sometimes used in reference to jumping on people and “down” is used to instruct them to get down from furniture. It takes longer to train an animal if different instruction or “training words” are used.

Stay one step ahead of your new pet at all times, and remember to do a quick scan of areas to make sure nothing unsafe or hazardous has been left lying around. Also make sure that drawers and doors are securely closed when you leave a room.

With a little effort, you can have your home prepared for your new dog’s safety, well-being, and happiness. You can develop the habit of keeping it that way, which will ensure your happiness and peace of mind, too!

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 Plan a Safe Trip with Your Dog this Summer

Are you planning on bringing your dog with you on your travels this summer? If so, you will need to make preparations ahead of time. Careful planning for your pet’s safety and care will ensure you both have a fun-filled trip each time you and your best friend head out!

The Most Important Preparations for a Safe Trip

Whether you are planning to travel by road or by air, make sure you have taken care of these essentials: 

  1. Visit the Veterinarian – ’Tis the summer season and time to schedule a checkup with the veterinarian if your dog hasn’t had one in a while. You will be able to make sure that all vaccinations are up to date, and find out if any booster shots are needed because of your travel destinations. Naturally you should make sure you have the latest and best tick and flea protection in place as well.
  1. Have the Appropriate Crate, Carrier, or Leash – If you are travelling by plane, you need a crate for your dog. If you are travelling by car, have some kind of restraint so that your pet isn’t loose in the car.
  • Plane – If you insist on traveling with your dog by plane, you must make sure the country you want to travel to will accept your dog. Not all breeds are legal in certain locations! You should also make sure your dog’s crate is approved by the airline with which you will be traveling. The crate itself must be big enough for your dog to stand, sit, and turn around in, and it must be lined with bedding, such as shredded paper, to absorb moisture. Check with your airline to make sure you have the correct crate design as well as all the travel papers, health certificates, and vaccines needed if necessary.
  • Car or Other Vehicle – It is not illegal, but it is recommended that your dog not be allowed to roam at will inside a vehicle because it can be very dangerous for both of you. In any accident, an unsecured dog can be injured, and even a small dog becomes a life-threatening projectile for humans. Dogs should also not be allowed to ride with their heads out of windows, and because they may decide to hop out of a window, even if the car is speeding down a highway.

A dog crate or carrier or short leash should be purchased well before your trip and a few test drives taken. That way, your dog is not horrified by the restraint, especially if he or she is used to riding around unrestrained.

  1. Dogs Need ID – Proper identification is essential for traveling pets. Make sure your dog has an ID collar. However, collars can become undone and lost, so a good backup plan is to have an ID microchip inserted under their ear flap. All animal hospitals and shelters will check their files for ID chips in the event a lost or injured animal is brought to them. Bring along a photo of your dog as well.
  1. Plan for Dog-Friendly Routes and Accommodations
  • Plane – If you are traveling by plane, direct routes are best and decrease the chances of you and your pet traveling on different planes to different destinations!
  • Car – Keep your pet in mind when planning your route so that the trip is not too long, there is an opportunity for little breaks, and your dog will be welcome when you stop for the night and when you reach your destination. There are websites devoted to finding dog-friendly hotels, motels, and beaches.
  1. Pack for Your Pet

Make sure you have your dog’s leash and collar, enough food and water, dishes, poop bags, toys—including some for the trip—a towel, a bed or blankets, medical records, a cleaner for accidents, and any medication your dog requires.

  • Treat Bag – Make up a little bag of dog treats to take on your trip.
  • Dog Medical Kit – Smartphone owners can find a free app for phones with medical advice, and you can buy a first aid kit for pets or make your own. At the very least, program the numbers of animal hospitals and an animal poison control center into your phone, or take a list of important numbers.

Traveling Tips for a Safe Journey

Whether you’re both taking a trip by car or plane, you need to keep your dog as safe as possible by planning ahead.

In the Car: 

  1. Don’t leave your dog alone in the car. Heat stroke is a common preventable danger in the summer and most likely to occur if you leave your dog alone in the car and are delayed on your return. It can also happen if you are with your dog in the car and exposed to sunlight for a long time. Be sure and check on his or her comfort now and then. 
  1. Use the leash when leaving the car. The taste of freedom after traveling in the car can cause even a well-behaved dog to run, perhaps across a busy road or street. Attach your dog’s leash before opening any doors. 
  1. Take sensible breaks. Stop for 15 or 20 minutes every three or four hours to enable your dog to have a little exercise and a pee break when needed. 
  1. Place crates, carriers, or leashed dogs in the back seat. You may like to have your best friend up front beside you, but it is a distraction for you and is not as safe for your dog. 
  1. Use an Organizing Bag in the Car – Keep all your dog’s supplies in a carrier bag so that you can quickly find everything you need for your pet without delay.

In the Plane: 

  1. Food. Tape a little bag outside your dog’s crate with a bit of dried food or treats so he or she can be fed if there is a delay in the trip.
  1. Don’t lock the door. Close the crate door tightly, but don’t lock it in case airport personnel need to take your dog out in an emergency.
  1. Delays. If there are serious delays, request firmly that someone check on your dog’s safety and comfort.

Summer is a great time to travel with your dog! With a little preparation, you can ensure a fun-filled and safe trip for you and your four-legged best friend.

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.