For pet owners and their four-legged friends, interacting with other dogs provides great opportunities for exercise and socialization.
Whether it's playing at the dog park, hiking through the woods, strolling around town or making new friends at doggy daycare, these activities can improve your dog's mental and physical well-being. They can also put your dog at risk for exposure to health threats.
AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION...
"We all love getting out of the house with our furry friends but it's important to remember that serious danger lurks in the grass, community water bowl, or - if you travel with your dog - in another city," advises Julia Szabo, pet lifestyle expert. "With the right knowledge, advice from your trusted veterinarian, and some simple preventive measures, it's easy to keep your outdoorsy dog happy and healthy year-round."
WHAT PET OWNERS NEED TO KNOW TO PROTECT THEIR DOGS
- Ensure your dog's vaccinations are up to date.
- Always discuss your pet's lifestyle with your veterinarian to identify potential health risks and preventive measures.
- Remember to mention travel if your dog goes on the road with you, as other areas of the country may represent different health threats than what you face at home.
- Keep your pet away from wild animals, as they often carry disease, and don't allow your dog to drink from unclean water sources given that certain diseases can be spread there.
- Check regularly for ticks, which will help reduce the risk of disease transmission. Lyme disease, for example, can impact your pet's health, as well as your own.
- Fleas don't just live on your pet; they also live in your home. Vacuuming thoroughly can reduce the number of flea larvae and eggs in the home environment and help reduce flea infestations. After vacuuming, seal the vacuum bag in a garbage bag and discard it in an outdoor trash container.
"Fleas and ticks are year-round hazards in many areas of the country, so it's critical to talk to your veterinarian about choosing the right product to protect your pets from these parasites and keep them out of homes," recommends Szabo. "BRAVECTO® (fluralaner) is the only oral chew to deliver flea and tick protection to dogs for up to 12 full weeks. Bravecto kills fleas, prevents flea infestations, and kills ticks (black-legged tick, American dog tick, and brown dog tick) for 12 weeks. It also kills lone star ticks for 8 weeks.
CANINE INFLUENZA: AN INCREASING HEALTH THREAT
You can get the flu but did you know your dog can as well? It's called canine influenza (CIV) – or dog flu – and cases of it have been popping up all over the country. In fact, canine influenza has impacted dogs in more than half the country – just since March 2015 – and new cases are being diagnosed every week.
There are two strains of canine influenza present in the dog population – H3N8 and H3N2, the latter is an Asian strain of CIV and is brand new in the United States. Because CIV is so contagious, infection can spread quickly among social dogs.
Vaccinating for both strains of CIV and minimizing exposure to potential risk factors are critical to protecting your pet.
KNOW YOUR DOG'S RISK. DOES YOUR DOG:
- Play at dog parks?
- Visit doggie day care?
- Board or stay at a pet hotel?
- Visit a groomer?
- Attend dog shows or other social events with dogs?
- Greet other dogs during walks?
"I've seen the devastating impact of CIV first hand - both on a dog's health and the emotional toll it takes on owners," said veterinarian Natalie Marks, DVM, and co-owner of the Blum Animal Hospital in Chicago. "When CIV H3N2 broke in our area, we were seeing upwards of 15 cases a day at times and were scrambling to stop the spread of this very contagious disease. Now we know what we are dealing with and are able to protect at-risk dogs through vaccination and other measures. I strongly recommend that pet owners with dogs that are social and regularly commingle with other dogs speak to their veterinarian now about what is right for their pet and to fully understand what puts a dog at risk for CIV."
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, talk with your veterinarian to determine whether CIV vaccination is appropriate for your dog.
It's important to keep your dog active when winter sets in. Exercise keeps dogs alert and healthy and strengthens the bond they have with us. So before it gets really chilly, consider adapting your dog's exercise regimen.
Not all dogs are cut out to be athletes, but if yours loves to run and jump, play catch and retrieve, winter should be no impediment. Just as in other seasons, you can jog, hike, rollerblade, throw a Frisbee, practice obedience and work on agility skills in winter as long as roads, parks and pathways remain free of snow and ice.
Keep in mind that when it's cold, your dog has to use energy to keep warm as well as to perform. Since you know your dog better than anyone else, gauge when he gets tired or overexerts himself and bring him inside for a treat.
PLAYING IN THE SNOW
If you live somewhere it snows, there are several ways to give a dog a workout. Dogs who like to chase and retrieve have fun playing find-it in the snow. Bring a ball or a plastic toy out with you, keep her in the stay position until you hurl it and yell, "Find it!"
Try strapping on a pair of snowshoes, leash your dog, and enjoy a walk in a park or along a trail.
You can also try a sport popular from Minnesota to Norway called skijoring, much like cross-country skiing boosted with the help of dog power. According to The Midwest Skijorers Club, "The skier is attached to their dog with a belt and towline. The skier skis and issues voice commands while the dog pulls wearing a sled dog/skijor harness." If your dog has short hair, add a coat or sweater to help keep her warm. Skijoring is best suited for larger, highly active dogs.
When the cold wind blows, your dog still needs to stay active to remain healthy. Fortunately, there are many things you can do inside a house or apartment to stimulate your dog's sense of play in winter.
To avoid damage, get a foam ball and toss it around. When your dog chases and brings it back, you've got a new activity with your playmate. If you have a staircase in the house, throwing the ball to the top and having your dog repeatedly pursue it and bring it back equals a good workout.
Instead of setting up hurdles and weave polls as you would outdoors, use pillows and chairs to create obstacles for your dog to navigate as you coach her over them.
ARRANGE A PLAY DATE:
Does your dog have a pal he likes at the park? Consider setting up a play date for the two of them; just be sure to dog-proof the house and store away breakables in case they get rambunctious.
GET A DOGGY TREADMILL:
If your dog is seriously overweight, having a doggie treadmill in the house can help him slim down - if he stays on it.
BEGIN PET THERAPY:
Does your dog have the temperament to calm children in hospitals and bring a smile to the elderly in assisted living quarters? If so, contact your local humane shelter to find a local chapter of a therapy dog organization.
By keeping your dog stimulated and energized all winter, she will be in top shape as your active companion when the weather warms.
There are a variety of sports you can play with your dog to keep them fit and sharp year round. Nosework, rally, obedience and drill teams can also help you bond with your furry friend.
This flu season, ask your veterinarian if your dog needs a flu shot.
Yes, dogs can get the flu just like people. But unlike human flu, dog flu can strike any time of year. Your dog may be at greater risk for getting the flu if he or she goes to a:
- Boarding facility
- Doggie daycare
- Group training
- Dog park
IS DOG FLU THE SAME AS HUMAN FLU?
No. Dog flu is caused by a different virus than human flu, but it's flu nonetheless. Dog flu is highly contagious and has rapidly spread across the United States over the past few years. And because dog flu is relatively new, most dogs have no natural immunity to the virus that causes it. All newly exposed dogs will become infected.1 Dog flu cannot be passed to humans or vice versa.
HOW IS DOG FLU SPREAD?
Dog flu is easily spread by sneezing, coughing, or coming in contact with the virus left behind by infected dogs on clothing, food bowls, bedding, etc.
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY DOG HAS THE FLU?
The first signs of dog flu are familiar to anyone who has come down with the human variety: cough, runny nose, fever, and loss of energy or appetite. But coughing caused by dog flu can continue for weeks and develop into a more serious condition, such as pneumonia.2 While most dogs recover, severe cases of flu can be fatal.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MY DOG AGAINST THE FLU?
Fortunately there is a vaccine that can protect dogs. Appropriate vaccination for flu is important because one infected dog is all it takes to spark an outbreak. A dog can be infected and spread the virus to other dogs before signs of illness appear.3 That's why more doggie daycare facilities and kennels are now requiring vaccination for flu as well as Bordetella and parainfluenza (also known as canine cough or kennel cough).
Be sure to plan ahead. Your dog will need a booster shot 2 to 4 weeks after getting the initial flu vaccination.
Autumn Is Tick, Tick, Ticking Closer
Fall is on the horizon and dog owners who live anywhere but in the middle of the concrete jungle are probably concerned they might have a dog tick problem. Ticks—deer ticks, dog ticks, and other varieties—can spread disease to both you and your pet. But what are the other animal health concerns you need to worry about in the fall? Here are some important things to consider when thinking about fall pet safety:
- Ticks: Although tick nymphs peak in the spring months, the number of adult deer ticks is higher in the fall than it is during any other part of the year. Deer ticks are the ticks that are responsible for spreading Lyme disease—which can be just as much of a danger for you as it is for your pet. If you're worried you might have a tick problem, there are several things you can do to help. A tick and flea preventative will help keep the bugs away, but if you don't choose to use them, consider paying more attention to your lawn care. Ticks prefer to live in long grass, so giving your lawn a good manicure, and keeping your pets confined, can help keep your tick problem under control.
- Temperature: Fall is a tough time for pet care because the temperature is so variable. Depending on where you live, you may need to worry about anything from heatstroke to frostbite. In particular, you'll always want to make certain that your dog or cat has enough water. Just because the weather has gotten cooler doesn't mean that your pet doesn't still need a lot to drink.
- Halloween: Halloween time can be fun time for both you and your pets, but you'll also want to plan ahead and take some safety precautions. Chocolate, which is found so plentifully at Halloween, can be extremely toxic for both your dogs and your cats. Also, candies containing xylitol are among the harmful foods you should keep away from your pet. Pet Halloween costumes can be cute, but you'll want to be certain that they don't have small parts which pose a choking hazard or impair your pets' breathing or hearing. If you have a black cat, plan to keep it indoors around Halloween time. People have been known to play some nasty tricks on "witch's cats" around the holiday, and you'll want to keep your kitty safe.
- Grooming: Finally, fall is a good time to remember that keeping your pet's coat in good shape isn't just a matter of vanity; it's also a matter of health. Some good dog grooming tips include regularly brushing your pet to avoid matting and always making certain your pet is completely dry after a bath. These and other tips can help your pet avoid "hot spots" and other skin irritations that can contribute to poor health.
- Quick Tip: If you have a long-haired dog or cat, it's important to brush them regularly to avoid serious matting, which can cause your furry friend real discomfort and negatively affect their health. If you cannot commit to regular coat care, then talk to your veterinarian or groomer about whether or not it might be a good idea to keep Fluffy shaved. He won't be fluffy anymore but it could improve both his temperament and his well-being.
Grooming is an important part of caring for your pet and keeping him or her healthy. Both cats and dogs need regular brushing, and animals with longer hair (e.g., , poodles, Yorkshire terriers) require frequent trips to a professional groomer. Fur that becomes matted can cause serious health issues for your pet. Dirt and oils can accumulate under mats and cause painful skin infections, and the mats themselves can be painful as they pull and stretch the skin underneath. Severe matting can even affect your pet’s ability to see, walk and eat normally.
Long- and medium-haired pets generally require daily brushing. Short-haired pets should usually be brushed once or twice per week. The frequency of professional grooming and haircuts varies depending on your dog’s breed. Consult your groomer or veterinarian for a recommendation.
All dogs also require regular bathing to keep their skin and hair coat clean and healthy. The frequency of bathing depends on your dog’s lifestyle, breed and coat type. Ask your veterinarian to recommend the best bathing regimen for your dog. Also, always use a shampoo specifically formulated for dogs. Many human shampoos can be too harsh for your dog’s skin. If your dog has itchy, red, dry, flaky or oily skin, you should consult your veterinarian.
Since cats groom themselves, they generally do not need to be bathed, unless they have fleas or a medical condition that warrants it. Before bathing your cat, always consult your veterinarian.
Pets also require regular nail trims. For dogs and cats, long nails can become painful and interfere with their ability to walk. Keeping nails short also helps you protect your floors and furniture from being scratched and your clothes from being snagged. Here's what you need to know to groom your pet's nails.
Before you clip
- Get your pet used to having his paws handled. This is more easily done if you start when the dog is still a puppy, but with patience you can also train most older dogs.
- Begin by speaking softly as you massage each paw, gently separating the toes.
- Your pet may instinctively pull away. If this happens, repeat whatever it was your dog didn't like, but do it more slowly and gently until he begins to accept it.
- When you think your pet is ready, cut one or two nails.
- Have a treat ready for positive reinforcement.
- For dogs that are nervous or resistant to handling, try having someone assist you with holding your dog still and gently petting and reassuring him.
- Dogs that are unruly or that try to bite should be taken to a groomer or veterinarian for nail trimming in order to prevent injury to both you and the dog.
Before you clip
- Most cats do not like to be restrained so it is best to accustom them to being handled while they are still kittens. But if you have adopted an adult cat don’t despair!
- Try the “less is best” approach first when it comes to restraint. Try clipping your cat’s nails while he is napping or snuggling on your lap. Be sure to pet him and reassure him after each nail.
- Give treats for positive reinforcement
- If possible, have a friend or family member hold and pet your cat while you are trimming his nails.
- If necessary, wrap you kitty in a towel to prevent him from scratching you during nail trimming.
- Cats that are unruly or that try to bite should be taken to a groomer or veterinarian for nail trimming in order to prevent injury to both you and the cat.
HOW TO CLIP NAILS FOR DOGS AND CATS
- Use an appropriate pet nail trimmer. These are available at any pet supply store and come in a variety of styles and sizes for both dogs and cats. If you are unsure which one to use, ask your veterinarian or groomer for a recommendation.
- Hold the paw in your hand and locate the pinkish part of the nail. This is a blood vessel, often called the “quick,” and should be avoided. The nail should be clipped slightly above this area.
- If you cannot see the pinkish part, just clip the very tip of the nail.
- Always have a clotting agent on hand in case you accidently cut below the quick and cause bleeding. This is usually in the form of a powder is available at any pet supply store.
- Most pets should have their nails trimmed every 2 to 3 weeks. Some dogs that are frequently walked on paved areas will continuously wear down their nails and may need less frequent trimming.
- If you are unsure about the process, consult your veterinarian or groomer.