Increase Your Dog’s Daily Dose of Exercise with These Simple Tips

exercise dogAs a pet parent, your dog’s health is your responsibility. And an integral part of keeping your pooch healthy is providing him or her with sufficient exercise. We all know walking has the best benefits for overall health in humans, but what about for our canine companions?

It just so happens your dog’s primal need is to walk! Just as horses need to run and squirrels need to climb, dogs need to walk; it’s in their DNA. Sure, letting Rover run around the backyard can be good exercise, it is no substitute for taking him for a walk. Activities like time in the yard, visiting the dog park and playing catch in the house don’t offer the same mental stimulation your dog gets by investigating every sight, sound and smell when you take him for a walk. As you and your dog walk, he’s gathering information about how his territory has changed since the last time he was there, and taking him to new locations generates a sensory excitement like no other.

So how can you find time in your busy day to give Rover the walking wonderfulness he so craves and deserves? It’s simple ~ find a way to include him in your plans!

In the mood for some window shopping? While you obviously can’t bring Rover with you when you visit the mall, you can take him along for some window shopping in your favorite downtown area or outdoor shopping plaza. As long as he’s well-behaved and securely leashed, you should have no objections from shop owners, fellow shoppers or authority figures as Rover stays by your side as you take in the window views.

Need to chat with your neighbor? Rather than pick up the phone and call your neighbor two streets over to ask if she wants to join you for dinner, throw a leash on Rover so the two of you can walk over to ask in person. It may not equate to a long walk, but a short walk is better than nothing!

Heading to your parent’s house for a family get together? Even if their home isn’t within walking distance from your home, you can still drive and get some stroll time in by parking at a nearby restaurant or store and walking the rest of the way.

Need to pick up a few things from your local grocery store? Enlist a family member or friend to join you and Rover on a walk to the store, where your people partner can take care of Rover while you’re inside picking up what you need.

Is a trip to the hardware store on your weekend to-do list? Take Rover along for the ride, then leash him up and bring him inside. Many hardware stores allow dogs (ever notice the woman at Lowe’s pushing her puffy Pomeranian around in the cart?), so take advantage and bring Rover with you on your next visit (check with the store first, of course!). Either before or after your shopping spree, walk him around the grounds for some extra exercise and mental stimulation.

Craving some ice cream? Most ice cream shops have outdoor seating and welcome dogs. Some will even give Rover a complementary doggy sundae! If you live within walking distance of an ice cream shop, take Rover over for a special treat; if not, drive most of the way and park within a mile or so, then walk the remainder of the way.

Whatever your daily plans, chances are there’s one way or another to include your precious pooch in a way that will allow for some extra activity. Not only will an impromptu walk in undiscovered territory be a thrill for your pooch’s senses, but it will also enhance your already strong bond.

With Cats, a Bite Isn’t Always Just a Bite ~ Find Out What Your Cat’s Nip Means!

CatYour fluffy feline may be the sweetest cat around, but that doesn’t mean a nip here or a bite there might occur. While the action may seem unprovoked to you, it makes complete sense to your cat. Some kitty custodians lovingly refer to their cat’s nip as a “love bite,” while others take it as a form of aggression. Well, both are correct. Here’s how you can determine what your cat’s chomp means and how to curb it.

Play Aggression

 Remember when your kitty playfully nibbled at your toes and you thought to yourself “Oh, that’s the cutest thing ever!”? What may have been cute when Fluffy was just a tiny fur ball, likely isn’t so cute now. Cats stalk, chase, grab, leap and ambush random objects in the name of fun, and to catch vermin. Your bare toes wiggling around may look like something tasty to your cat, resulting in him pouncing and taking a bite.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy from pricking her teeth into your little piggies? Well, the obvious option is to wear socks! But another solution is to use playtime as a learning experience in how to be careful and gentle. Start by inviting your feline friend to a mellow game of play “fighting.” Consistently praise her while she remains gentle, and gradually increase the intensity of the game. As soon as you see Fluffy getting overly excited or exposing her teeth or claws, tone down the play session or quickly freeze and “play dead.” This technique should result in a calmer kitty. If not, and Fluffy proceeds to pounce, abruptly scream “OUCH,” and walk away, ignoring Fluffy. Unexpectedly ending a play session sends a very powerful message. After a few repetitions of this scenario, your cat will recognize that her own aggressive behavior equals the end of an enjoyable play session.

Petting-Induced Aggression

Remember last week when you were sitting on the sofa, watching your favorite TV show with Fluffy in your lap as you gently caressed her from head to tail? And remember when, out of nowhere, she bit your finger and ran? Animal behaviorists theorize that too much physical contact may irritate a cat if she has a low threshold for stimulation.

Watch for warning signs of an impending bite that include a quick turn of the head toward your hand, flattening or rotating of the ears, twitching of the tail, restlessness and dilated pupils. If you notice any of these warnings, stop caressing your kitty and place her gently on the floor. Or, if you realize your cat often becomes over-stimulated at the five minute mark of petting, then stop after three minutes. Be aware of her behavior and you’ll likely be able to foil an attack.

Redirected Aggression

Remember when Fluffy became irritated when she spotted another cat on your patio, and she took out her irritation on you in the form of a bite? That was the result of her perceived inability to defend her territory. Since she couldn’t reach the trigger of her anger (the cat on the patio), she lashed out at you because you were in close proximity.

To keep from being bitten in situations like this one, simply steer clear of your agitated cat. Walk away and give her time to calm down.

There are many solutions for curbing your kitty’s biting behavior, but the most important step to any solution is to be realistic and patient. Don’t push your cat beyond her limits and then get frustrated because she isn’t catching on as quickly as you’d like. As with most things in life, patience is a virtue!

Are Animal Bones Safe for Fido?

animal bones“Like a dog with a bone.” How many times have you heard that saying? Dogs and bones – the two seem to go hand-in-hand, with pet parents giving their canine companions bones for entertainment, to prevent bad breath, to help clean their teeth, and for sheer enjoyment. But are animal bones safe for Fido, or do they cause irreparable damage?

Dental Health. One of the surefire ways to ensure your pet is happy and healthy is to maintain his good dental health. Do you treat Fido with the occasional animal bone in an effort to keep his teeth and gums healthy and clean? Well, you may be doing more damage than good. It’s not uncommon for a pooch to suffer from a fractured tooth when chowing down on a bone. Think about it – a bone that is strong enough to hold the weight of a large cow is pretty tough… which means those very persistent chewers can easily break a tooth or two before the bone gives way.

Besides the risk of possible tooth fracturing, aren’t animal bones good for cleaning a dog’s teeth? Not really! You see, for an object to successfully clean teeth, it needs to scrub the teeth enough to clean off tartar, but not so much that it damages the gums or the protective enamel coating on the teeth. When your dog chews a bone, you’ll notice he tends to use his rear teeth to chew and break the bone, meaning the bone never does what is needed to prevent periodontal disease.

Digestive System Issues. When Fido manages to break the bone apart and swallow the pieces, what damage could it do? The fragments can cause digestive ailments such as esophageal blockages, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, bowel obstruction and/or perforation, and constipation.

  • Esophageal Blockages. When a dog tries to swallow a bone fragment that is a bit too big, it can get stuck in his esophagus, resulting in difficulty breathing and even vomiting, which can be life-threatening and typically requires emergency surgery.
  • Pancreatitis. As Fido chews on an animal bone, fat that is attached to the bone and within the marrow is ingested as well. An increased fat intake can result in pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas – which can be extremely painful and will likely require hospitalization.
  • Gastroenteritis. Once a large piece of bone makes its way to the stomach, it can cause irritation and/or ulcers, which results in vomiting. In most cases, stomach acids will dissolve the bone fragment within a few days, but in the interim Fido can experience abdominal pain, dehydration, lethargy and other symptoms that go hand-in-hand with excessive vomiting.
  • Bowel Obstruction / Constipation / Perforation. On its way through the intestinal tract, bone fragments can obstruct or irritate the colon, resulting in constipation. In severe cases, the colon can be perforated, causing loose/bloody stool.

Bacteria. One last thing to consider before you give your dog an animal bone – does Fido have a tendency to chew for a while then save the bone for later? Once the bone reaches room temperature it is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can result in a plethora of digestive ailments.

While you may be inclined to pick up an animal bone as a treat for your four-legged friend, think twice before you do. There are many other options available for Fido’s chewing pleasure that are much safer and sure to be appreciated!

Enhancing Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life

Senior

Have you noticed your aging pet’s personality changing? Is Gus becoming grouchy, or has Cutie Pie been more cantankerous? As our cuddly companions age, we have a tendency to tolerate the various changes in their behavior and physical aptitude, conceding to them as inevitable factors of aging, rather than challenge these changes.

Your pet feels the effects of aging, just as we do. Wear and tear on her body takes its toll, making arthritis and muscle degeneration common in our senior canine companions and feline friends. The discomfort that comes along with these ailments can turn Rover from his usual affectionate, gentle self to more of a grumpy loner. And, to make matters worse, the discomfort will likely impede your pet’s desire to move, which will spark further degradation of the muscles, which will reduce bone and joint support. It’s a vicious circle of events!

Accept the Change?

Should we, as loving pet parents, simply sit back and accept these unwelcome changes in our fur friends? NO! The physical and psychological symptoms experienced by pets as they age can come to a halt, and maybe even reverse, with weight control and regular exercise. Here are a few tips that should help Fluffy and Fido feel better in no time:

  • Keep your senior pet dry and warm at all times. Extreme temperature changes and even dampness can cause your pet’s arthritis to flare-up, just as it can humans. Heating pads and warm water soaks can help relax muscles and increases blood flow, which can help alleviate arthritic pain.
  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight, as added weight adds undue stress to your pet’s joints. Most major pet food companies offer “senior” brands that are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and contain added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which brand will be most beneficial to your furry family member.
  • Become a pet masseuse. Massaging your pet will move fluids through his muscles and remove tension from the tendons that surround the joints. One area at a time, rub around the joints to warm the underlying tissue. Next, place your hands over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area, establishing a rhythm as you press and release. Once you complete a full-body massage, end the experience with soft caressing to soothe your pet’s nerves. Regular massages for your pet may help prevent and/or alleviate the stiffness and pain that accompanies arthritis.
  • Invest in an orthopedic pet bed, which provide extra cushioned support and reduce stress on pressure points.

Sadly, there is no cure for the inevitable aging process, but there are effective practices that can make it less stressful on your pet. Your four-legged friend has blessed you with the best years of his life. Do all you can to ensure his senior years are comfortable and pleasant.