Halloween Safety Tips and Costume Ideas for Your Pet

First, two ways to keep your pet safe:

Keep your pet indoors on Halloween. It’s a prime time for injury and malice toward pets (particularly black cats), and they are much better off in the protection of your home unless they are on a leash by your side.

Use a leash. With all the activity on Halloween, your pet can become nervous and dart away. Keep him safe and secure with a comfortable leash and collar or harness.

And now, costumes!

Your pet is adorable in his costume, but if he doesn’t love it, we recommend leaving it at home and letting him enjoy the holiday ‘au naturel.’ He’ll be much happier and so will you! If your pet does tolerate a costume, there are lots of fun ideas to get him ready for the big day. We’ve found a few sites to help you choose the best costume. Just be sure to use lightweight materials, and remove any loose objects that he could choke on or become tangled in.

  1. If your pet doesn’t mind wearing a sweater, all you need is a white paint marker to make this quick and easy skeleton costume. Tip: use glow in the dark paint to make your pet more visible and safe!
  2. We love this watch dog costume!
  3. How about a no-sew iPhone costume? This is a child’s costume but could easily be transformed into a comfortable costume for your pet!
  4. And here’s a whole list of simple DIY costumes to choose from!

 

 

 

Dehydration & Pets

By Cate Burnette

 

When Texas summers get as hot as they normally do, all pet parents need to watch out for our dogs and cats becoming dehydrated from a lack of body water. Dehydration occurs when the total body water is less than normal and involves loss of both water and electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, chloride and potassium).

When there is not enough body water, fluid shifts out of the body cells to compensate, leaving the cells deficient in necessary water. This leads to dehydration. The severity of the dehydration is based on the magnitude of these body water shifts. Pets normally lose fluid through breathing, panting, urinating and defecating and those fluids must be restored regularly to maintain optimum health.

 

Causes and Symptoms of Dehydration

There are a number of ways your dog or cat can become dehydrated. Your pet may not be eating or drinking enough to take in appropriate amounts of water. Dehydration can cause the loss of appetite and, in a frustrating cycle, your animal loses even more body water when she won’t eat or drink. Illnesses that cause bouts of frequent vomiting or diarrhea and/or high fevers can result in your pet becoming dehydrated. Any dog or cat that is overheated may also be suffering from dehydration.

So what are some of the symptoms that you need to watch for?

There are basically 3 levels of clinical dehydration, with the final levels being the most serious.

Beginning Signs

  • Excessive panting and warm skin
  • Dry mouth, nose and gums
  • Visibly tired, less animated
  • Sunken eyes, lack of moisture

Intermediate Signs

  • Loss of skin elasticity – If a gentle pinch of shoulder or neck skin doesn’t immediately pop back into place, your pet is probably dehydrated. As the tissue under the skin loses moisture, the skin moves back more slowly. In extreme cases, the skin doesn’t pop back at all.
  • Delayed Capillary Refill Time (CRT) – Place your thumb or index finger firmly against your pet’s gums so that they whiten. Remove your finger and count how many seconds it takes for the gums to become pink. Any time longer than 2 seconds is a sign of dehydration and/or other illness.
  • Rectal temperature greater than 105º F

Final Signs

  • Your pet is wobbly and unsteady on her feet
  • You notice hind end weakness

 

How to Prevent Dehydration

Maintaining a constant body fluid level is as important in animals as it is in humans. The Humane Society of the United States issues these tips for keeping your pet hydrated in even the warmest weather.

  • Leave several bowls of water around the house so that your cats and dogs get enough to drink.
  • If you notice your pet hasn’t had a drink in a while, start by allowing her to have a few sips of water every few minutes. Overdrinking can easily lead to nausea and vomiting and losing even more fluids that she needs.
  • After strenuous exercise, monitor the amount of water your dog drinks and don’t allow overdrinking.
  • Take a collapsible bowl and plenty of cool water with you when you’re exercising or playing outside with your pet. Allow plenty of down time (especially on hot days) and find a place for shade so your pet can cool down.
  • If your dog or cat is outside for any length of time, ensure there are bowls of clean, cool water available for drinking.

 

What can I do if I suspect my pet is dehydrated?

  • Give an electrolyte (such as Gatorade®) mixed with water if your pet is showing the early signs of dehydration. While water helps in replenishing a lot of nutrients, electrolytes can do the job more quickly.
  • Animals who have gone a long time without drinking water may have a hard time holding it down. Allow your dog or cat to lick ice. She’ll rehydrate herself as the ice melts.

 

  • If your pet refuses to drink for any extended period of time, see your veterinarian immediately!

 

Veterinary Treatment of Dehydration

The veterinary care for moderately and severely dehydrated pets revolves around the administration of supplemental fluids. Typically, fluids are given either subcutaneously (SQ) under the first layer of skin or intravenously (IV) through a vein. The latter requires hospitalization and the insertion of an intravenous catheter. Your vet can determine the amount of fluids to be given and the route of administration in the best interests of your pet.

 

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catebCate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

 

Cuts & Scrapes On Your Pet

By Cate Burnette

Minor Injuries You Can Care For At Home

When a pet sustains an injury, concerned pet parents often have a lot of the same questions as human parents, such as, “How bad is this, really? What should I do to treat this? Is this an injury requiring immediate professional medical care, or can it be dealt with at home?” That’s why it’s good to have a little understanding of what the difference is between a major and a minor injury in your furry companion.

What is the difference between a major trauma and a minor injury?

Major traumas include bite wounds, puncture wounds, burns, scalds, snake bites of any kind, deep lacerations and broken bones. These injuries should NEVER be treated at home and your pet needs to see your local veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately. A deep cut can get infected and require stitching and even small burns or scalds can send an animal into shock. Snake bites – both poisonous and non-poisonous – can cause pain and extreme inflammation and, of course, broken bones necessitate professional care to set and lessen pain.

Minor injuries are issues like torn nails, bruises, skin scrapes, insect bites or stings (without allergic reaction), and/or minor intestinal problems such as occasional constipation or diarrhea. You can treat most of these matters at home and contact your vet if you have any concerns.

Home Treatments for Minor Injuries

As concerned pet parents, you know that your veterinarian needs to be called for traumatic wounds, ongoing illnesses and sudden, acute disease symptoms. However, for any inconsequential injuries, there are treatments you can do at home with items from your medicine cabinet and kitchen to help your pet heal quickly and pain free.  

 

  • Bumps, Bruises, Twists, and Sprains – Tenderness, swelling, limping and mild to moderate pain can indicate a bruise, sprain or strain of limbs and paws. Keep your pet quiet and restrict exercise by crating if necessary. If the signs continue for more than 2 or 3 days, contact your veterinarian.
  • Torn Toenails – Dogs and cats can slice up their nails in a variety of ways – everything from a too-close nail trim that nicks the quick, to running outdoors over sharp rocks. When the bleeding doesn’t stop, dip the hurt nail into a tiny amount of styptic powder, typically found on the shaving aisle found in most commercial pharmacies. If you don’t have styptic powder available, corn starch or regular baking flour will also curtail the bleeding.
  • Cuts and Scrapes – Please Note: If the injury site is swollen, bruised or bleeds excessively, you must assume your pet has sustained a bone break or sprain and you should allow your veterinarian to provide treatment and pain meds immediately. For minor cuts and scrapes with no other signs, clean the site of dirt with a cloth or towel and a non-stinging antiseptic diluted in warm water. Apply a cold compress (you can use a bag of frozen veggies) and keep it in place for a few minutes to alleviate any inflammation and pain. Place a dab of 3-in-one antibiotic ointment on the cut and bandage lightly to keep your pet from licking the area. Contact your vet for further advice and additional treatment.
  • Bug Bites or Bee Stings – Bug bites or stings typically occur around the face and head of a dog or cat. Once you notice the area, apply a cold pack to the bite to reduce swelling and itching. Look for a stinger. If one is still in the skin, use a credit card or other flat, rigid object (NOT tweezers) to scrape it out. Take your pet to the veterinarian immediately if you notice any swelling in the head or neck area that can affect breathing or if you find a stinger in the tongue or the roof of the mouth.
  • Swallowed Objects – In many cases, if your dog swallows an inappropriate object, you can take a wait-and-see approach to watch if the item passes without any trouble. However, swallowing sharp objects, such as needles or pieces of glass, extremely large objects, or any type of long item, such as string, pantyhose, or fishing line, is very dangerous because a serious bowel constriction or obstruction can result. Additionally, cats often swallow tinsel, fishing line or thread that can become wrapped around the tongue. In those cases, or if your pet shows signs of consistent vomiting, has a distended or painful abdomen, or is not having bowel movements, contact your veterinarian for immediate emergency treatment.
  • Constipation, Diarrhea, Hairballs, and Other Minor Digestive Issues – Most pets, at one time or another, experience digestive upsets that last for a few days and disappear. If these upsets are not related to other major health issues, then a dose of canned pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling) can do the trick. Veterinarians recommend giving 1 teaspoon per every 10 pounds of body weight either as a treat or in the normal diet one or two times a day until the issue resolves. Pumpkin is rich in a soluble plant fiber that eases the pains of both constipation and diarrhea.

 

 

If the symptoms of any injury or trauma are excessive – or continue for more than 1 or 2 days – contact your veterinarian for treatment. Remember, if your pet is sick or injured, it’s important to protect yourself and anyone else who may be caring for or handling her, so using a muzzle on dogs or a pillowcase on cats may be necessary. Even the most docile and gentle of pets can bite in response to pain or fear.

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Cate Burnette is a semi-retired registered veterinary technician with clinical experience in small and large animal medicine. With 30-plus years of journalism experience, she went back to school after 9/11 to work with her first love: animals. The pet parent of four cats, three dogs and one ex-racehorse, Cate is a certified rescue volunteer with the American Humane Association’s Red Star Emergency Services and served with the group in New Orleans doing animal search and rescue after Hurricane Katrina. She is also a horse safety and horse management expert, and has volunteered with US Pony Clubs as a district commissioner and horse management judge.

Enjoying 4th of July with your Precious Pets

Summertime is a wonderful time of year when we can celebrate with family and friends, frolicking in the sprinklers, enjoying barbecue and picnic foods and relishing the holidays that fall during the warmth of the season.  One of the most popular holidays is the 4th of July, but this can be a scary and dangerous time for our pets.

The Pet Amber Alert blog reports that national statistics show an increase of shelter use and missing pets between the days of July 4-6th.  When the neighborhood is outdoors enjoying the fun and loud fireworks, pets indoors can become overwhelmed, and the likelihood of them running away and becoming lost is greater.

Fireworks and food can be fun for humans, but not necessarily for pets.  Here are just a few things you can do to keep your pet safe during this Independence Day:

Serve Goodness. Although it’s tempting to offer your pet a special barbecue nugget, the safest thing for their sensitive systems is to keep pets on their regular diets during the holiday season. You can find more out about people food that can be harmful to pets by checking out a handy publication by the ASPCA.

Dim the Flame. Matches and fireworks can be scary, and dangerous to your pets.  Any exposure to fireworks has the potential for an injury involving burns and trauma for your pet. Also, fireworks are made with substances that are toxic to pets, not to mention that loud noises can cause pets to run off seeking the solace of a quiet space. Keep your pet indoors while the fireworks are outside.

The 4th of July can be great fun for everyone including your pets.  With a bit of preparation and caution, you and your pets can enjoy a fun-filled Independence Day.   

 

Thoughtful Living In Harmony With Our Pets

National Animal Safety and Protection Month
National Pet Wellness Month

October is National Animal Safety and Protection Month – 30 days dedicated to promoting the safe handling and care of domestic and non-domestic animals. Because animals play such important roles in human existence, it is necessary that all animals be treated kindly with the respect and care they deserve.

October has also been designated National Pet Wellness Month by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in an effort to help educate pet parents on the importance of wellness exams, spaying/neutering, disease prevention and pet insurance. Some advice from the AVMA for keeping your pets happy and healthy year round includes:

  • Annual Exams – Make sure your pets see a veterinarian yearly to check for any new or chronic health issues and receive adequate treatment. Vaccination protocols and the program best suited for your pet can be re-examined at this time.
  • Spay/Neuter – Sterilizing your pet not only helps to curb pet overpopulation, spaying and neuter prevents such diseases as pyometra (a painful uterine infection) and mammary, testicular, and prostate cancers. Young animals can safely have the procedure as early as 8 to 12 weeks of age depending on your veterinarian and the size of the animal (most vets wait until your pet weighs at least 2 pounds).
  • Weight Management – According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, in this country veterinarians classify approximately 53 percent of adult dogs and 58 percent of cats as overweight or obese. Regular exercise and attention to diet and meal times can prevent your pet from becoming fat. Our recent blog, “Is My Pet Too Fat?,” can provide you with some of the “hows” and “whys” regarding pet obesity and some tips on helping your furry companion remain slim, trim and healthy.
  • Balanced, Nutritional Diet – Whether you feed your pet a commercial diet or make your pet food in your own kitchen, your animals need a complete, well-balanced meal plan with all the necessary nutrients to remain healthy and disease-free. Read labels, follow dietary restrictions, and do your research to ensure that your feeding plan meets all of your pet’s requirements.
  • Dental Care – Your veterinarian should evaluate your pet’s teeth during any regular health examination for dental tartar and plaque, broken and loose teeth, and periodontal disease. Daily brushing – if allowed – and veterinary dental cleanings when necessary can prevent the dental disease that, if left unchecked, can lead to cardiac and renal problems or nutritional issues if your pet can’t chew or adequately digest food.
  • Senior Pets – As your animals age, their dietary and exercise requirements change. Kidneys lose some ability to concentrate urine, so the animal drinks more water and produces more urine. Hearing and eyesight may begin to fail and cardiac issues may arise. Senior bones and joints may become painful with osteoarthritis. Feeding the correct foods and regular veterinary checkups can help your senior pets remain active well into their dotage.

There are other ways you can care for the animals in your home and in your community.

Use safety restraints when traveling with your pets. If your cat or dog feels more comfortable riding in a crate when driving in the car, then placing the kennel where your pet can comfortably see you may be just the ticket to keep him or her relaxed and stress-free on the trip. A dog that likes to feel the wind on his face and watch the traffic go by will probably be best wearing a harness that attaches to the seat belt buckles. This type of safety harness allows your dog to move around a bit, but will hold him in the seat in case of emergency stop or a traffic accident. For more tips on how to safely travel with your pet, you can read our blog at “Healthy Summer Travel with Your Pet.”

Microchip your pets in case they get lost or stolen. This particular piece of advice is probably self-explanatory. Once your vet injects an identifying microchip under the skin of your furry companion, the chances of him or her making it back to your home greatly increase should the pet become lost or stolen. To understand how microchips work and why they can literally save your pet’s life, check out our blog at “Lost or Found: Why Microchipping Your Pet Makes Good Sense.”

Teach young children about animal care, including how NOT to handle pets. Young children are drawn to their animal companions, but, unless they are taught the “dos” and “don’ts” of pet handling, they can get into circumstances where someone can get hurt.

The Do’s – Teach your children to properly feed, walk, and groom your pets under your strict supervision. Rough tugging at a leash, rubbing the brush too hard against hair mats or sensitive skin, taking away a food dish before the animal is finished eating are all situations that leave both a helpless pet and your child vulnerable to the whims and personalities of both human and animal.

Show your children how to lovingly and gently pet your dog or cat while the animal is relaxed and willing. Play activities can be bonding time between your child and your pet as long as both animal and kid are having fun and neither is feeling threatened by the other. This hassle-free recreation can only occur when both children and animals receive the proper training and parents set the appropriate behavioral boundaries.

The Don’ts – Don’t allow children to do any of the following to your pets:

  • pull on tails or ears.
  • take food or toys away from a pet without your permission and/or supervision.
  • sit on your pet.
  • pick up a pet who appears uncomfortable or unwilling to participate.
  • reach out to touch an unfamiliar dog or cat without asking permission from the owner.
  • stare or lean into the face of a strange animal.
  • wake your pet out of a dead sleep.
  • play with your pet’s eyes, mouth, teeth or feet.
  • hit, kick, or otherwise punish your animal.

Just as you teach your children to appreciate the space and personalities of their human friends, so you must show your children how to respect the needs and quirks of their furry companions.

Volunteer at a local rescue and/or foster shelter animals. Spending a few hours a month at a local rescue can be a way of caring for animals as well as giving back to your community. By fostering shelter dogs or cats prior to adoption into their forever homes, you can help unwanted pets learn how to live in a family and a house and make them more attractive and adoptable than those animals who spend their time waiting in a kennel. Our blog at “6 Great Ways to Celebrate National Dog Day on August 26th” gives you more wonderful ideas on how to care for pets in your community.

Use non-animal tested products in your home and on your body. Did you know that in the US animals are still routinely used in laboratory and manufacturing facilities to test cosmetics, medicines, personal hygiene products and home-cleaning chemicals?

According to the National Anti-Vivisection Society, rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs are the most commonly used animals in product testing, although beagles, cats and pigs are also exploited by manufacturers. The NAVS states that, “The tests attempt to determine the potential harm a substance can do to a living creature when ingested or inhaled, or otherwise comes into contact with the body. They include eye and skin irritancy tests, as well as tests which determine the internal effects of a substance.”

These tests often cause extensive and painful damage to the animals’ eyes, nose, mouth, ears, and skin. For example, the Draize test for eye irritancy allows for various concentrations of chemicals and products to be applied directly into the animals’ eyes, which causes intense pain, burning and blindness. In the Draize test for skin irritancy, skin is abraded by firmly pressing adhesive tape onto the animal’s body and repeatedly stripping it off until several layers of skin have been removed after which harsh chemicals are painted on to the raw flesh.

So what can consumers do?

Do your research and purchase only those cosmetics and household products not tested on animals. More and more companies – particularly those listed as “organic” or “vegan” – no longer purchase animals to use in their labs. This Humane Society International infographic can point you in the right direction on what to look out for and how to begin using animal-free products.

National Animal Safety and Prevention Month is a wonderful opportunity to remind people of the importance of animals in our everyday lives. Though it’s only one month out of the year, these health, safety and welfare practices can be observed all year round. With better care for humans and animals, we can all lead happier and healthier lives.

7 Pet Health and Safety Tips for Fall

Fall is here and to celebrate the change of season, we’ve gathered a few quick pet health and safety tips that will allow the whole family to enjoy this beautiful time of year with peace of mind.

Pumpkin – Did you know mixing a couple of teaspoons canned pumpkin into your dog’s food can be good for his health? The soluble fiber in pumpkin can help with digestive issues.  Plus, antioxidants and essential fatty acids in pumpkin seeds promote healthy skin, fur and urinary health. Also, nutrients found in pumpkins, such as beta-carotene and iron, might lower your pet’s risk of developing cancer.

Shedding – As the weather gets cooler, pets will begin shedding their summer coat to allow room for their winter coat. This may mean pet hair on your couch, your clothes, and everywhere in between. Make some time to brush your pet weekly, if not daily, depending much and how often your pet sheds.  Brushing your pet will allow you to catch most of the unwanted hair before it ends up where you don’t want it. Read more