Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Halloween: a few safety tips for your pet

My Dog's Scout Costume

With Halloween quickly approaching, I just wanted to highlight some safety tips for our pets:

Bring your pets indoors—even if your pet is used to being outdoors, bring your cats and dogs indoors. Unfortunately, animals can be the target of pranks and teasing during Halloween, especially black cats.

Keep your pet in a safe room —little children and energetic teenagers dressed up as goblins, pirates, scarecrows or the Grim Reaper may be a bit too much for our furry friends, especially if they are on the fearful side. Sometimes, it is best to have our pets in a safe room (covered crate, a gated-off area or a back bedroom) with a stuffed Kong or bully stick. With the door constantly opening and closing, we want to make sure our pets do not accidentally run out the door.  So, keeping them in a safe room will prevent accidental escapes.

Make sure your dog has an I.D. tag and is microchipped - during the holidays is when a lot of lost pets are turned into shelters.  Pets can accidentally run out of the door either because of fear or someone carelessly leaving the door open.  Microchipping has saved many pets lives and resulted in happy returns. 

Make sure your dog knows how to "wait" behind the door or keep your dog on a leash - If your dog is going to be loose in your home (I prefer using a safe room), make sure he/she understands the cue for “waiting” behind the door and can handle seeing people in costumes. Keep your dog on a leash to prevent darting out the door. If he/she shows any signs of stress, anxiety, or aggression, put your dog in a safe room.  Pet gates are another good option. 

Keep your pet at home—Although it is tempting to have your dog go trick or treating with the kids, with so many strange looking people out and about, it can scare your dog. Your dog may panic and get loose or react negatively and nip a costumed stranger trying to pet him/her.

Go on Candy Patrol—often the day after Halloween, I find candy and cellophane wrappers on my porch and front yard. Make sure you check your home and front yard for stray candy so that your pet does not accidentally swallow it. Raisins and chocolate can be toxic to dogs as well as the artificial sweetener, xylitol found in chewing gum and other sugarless candies.

Beware of Jack-O-Lanterns & Candles—sometimes our pets are a little clueless about fire. Happy dogs with big wagging tails or cats jumping on a table can knock over a candle.   Also young animals may be overly curious and burn themselves.  Keeping your dog in a safe room can prevent these mishaps.

Some dogs hate costumes—while cute, some dogs are not very tolerant of costumes and can get cranky and snappy. If your dog looks stressed, unhappy or uncomfortable, take it off.  Here is a primer on dog body language so that you can identify the more common canine stress signals.  

A bandana is as much as my dog can handle. A costume would put her in a very foul mood.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Mobility Aids for the Senior Dog

One of my akitas is about 15 years old which is extremely old for a large breed dog. I have noticed that he is more stiff than he used to be and has a harder time getting around.  So many articles are dedicated to puppies and younger dogs that I decided to devote this month's blog to addressing some of the needs of our senior pets.  With old age comes achy joints and other issues which can make our loyal friends' lives less comfortable. The first thing to do is to consult with a veterinarian to determine whether medication or other treatments are necessary help your dog with arthritis and other joint ailments.  Fortunately, there are also a number of products to assist your dog in getting around.

Lifts, Slings and Harnesses

Many large breed dogs have a harder time with mobility as they age.  Often the rear legs become weak and they have a harder time getting up from a seated or lying down position. Here are examples of a few products that give your dog a helping hand:

Help 'Em Up Harness

This harness has both a front and back portion with handles so you can lift both ends of your dog.  So for dogs that have very weak rear legs, it allows you to lift the rear end of the dog.  he construction is lightweight and minimizes the amount of material which is nice if your dog is wearing the harness for a few hours at a time.  I really liked the design of this harness and my dog tolerated the harness fairly well. I used the rear harness attachment when I needed to lift my dog into my SUV.  Given that my dog is very large and about 85 pounds, this is no easy feat.  The rear handle came in handy for these trips.  However, most of the time, I used just the front portion of the harness to just assist my dog with a little lift to help him get up from a lying down position.

Front section of the Help 'Em Up which is the portion
I used most of the time except for when I needed to lift my dog into the car. 

Ruffwear Web Master Harness

The company produces harnesses and foot gear mainly for outdoor activities but these harnesses can also be used for lifting the geriatric dog.  I tested out the Webmaster harness pictured above.  The harness provided enough support to allow me to lift my dog with little effort to get him back on his feet.  Although it has a little more material than the Help 'Em Up, this harness is still lightweight and my dog tolerating wearing it well. Ruffwear also makes a harness with a rear end support but I did not test this particular design. 

The Ruffwear Webmaster Harness - My dog tolerated this harness and it was
just enough support for light lifting to help him get off the ground.

Walkabout Harnesses

This is another company that designs harnesses and lifts for dogs.  I received a sample but it did not fit my dog so I am unable to provide any information on how well my dog tolerated this support harness.  It is more heavy duty in terms of the amount of neoprene used and there would be less ventilation compared to the other two harnesses above.

 K9 Caddy (Sling)

For those dogs that do not tolerate wearing harnesses or other contraptions, a sling is a short-term option to assist your dog with a quick lift.  There are many companies that make sling such as the Walkabout company above.  I was able to revew the K9 Caddie which is a padded sling that you can slip under your dog to lift a front or rear portion of the body or simply to support the body on a walk.

Minimizing Slip and Slides

Often older dogs have a hard time getting up or walking on slippery tile or wood floors.  There are a few ways to address the slip and slides.

Carpet Grips

I have wood floors and area rugs and dog beds can slide around when the dog tries to get up.  One way to keep rugs and beds in place is to use an inexpensive carpet grip underneath.


Dog Booties

Dog booties with non-skid soles are another option for dogs that can tolerate wearing boots.  Like any piece of equipment, some dogs require lots of positive reinforcement (usually treats) to acclimate to wearing them. Other older dogs may not tolerate wearing them. With my old guy, it was not an issue of whether he would let me put on a bootie but whether I could find one that would fit him.  My dog has freakishly large feet and finding shoes his size was very difficult.

My dog's freakishly large, furry feet.

Ruffwear Skyliner Boots

Ruffwear markets this boot as an everyday boot suitable for senior dogs. The construction is like a tennis shoe with a rugged sole. I was able to get the boot on my dog's feet but the fit was not quite right for his shape foot. 

Meshies by Barko Booties

Meshies is a lighter weight bootie sold by alldogboots.com. My dog fit into the XXL which normally fits Great Danes and Bernese Mtn Dogs.  The mesh material is lighter weight and the anti-slide sole is less heavy duty than Ruffwear which has treads.