Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Prevent Hypothermia in Dogs

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Symptoms of hypothermia for dogs:

.Strong shivering and pale skin (roll back the fur to check for white or dull-gray skin tone)

. Unexpected listness and lethargy changing the pace of moving outside

Emergency treatment:

.Wrap your dog in warm blankets heated on the radiator or in the dryer.

.Apply a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel to the dog’s abdomen.

.Give warm fluids.

.Raise the body temp to above 100 degrees F (38.8 C) before removing the water bottle.

With my warm coat over fluffy fur, I'll stay well insulated for my hike.

Raja and I are trying to preach to the unconverted, not those of you who are knitting, shopping, designing up a storm to make sure your dogs are warm in winter.  You people don’t need to read further.   (Yarn is on sale now post Christmas.  Stock up.)


We are writing to the unconverted. May this post find you die hards out there.  We know who you are.  When we post listicles for Dogster, you are those fighting mad reactionaries who write in, “Dogs have fur, Stupid.”  or “That’s why they’re dogs not people.” when we  advocate weatherproofing your pup.  You should read and learn the above symptoms and treatment.

Let’s go back to our favorite ancient subject, wolves.  Yes, dogs evolved from wolves.  Wolves do not wear coats.  In the wilds, they hunt prey, drink from chilly, pristine streams, sleep in the snow and live an average of five years.  The cause of death probably is not lack of coats, but general wear and tear of living the life of a hunter/forager in all kinds of weather: cold, hot, hungry, thirty, tired, hurt, diseased… all discomforts you seek to protect your dog from.

Now let’s consider your dog.  Unless your dog is one of the dogs of snow-Malamute, Alaskan Sled Dog and similar breeds- and unless you yourself live outside  in a very cold climate and your dog was born right  there in your ice cave- your dog probably needs a coat or sweater when the temperature dips below 35.  If your domestic dog is as comfortable as you are with temperatures between 62-70F  inside, he won’t be comfortable for extended periods when the temperature is 40 degrees less.

So, for short outings around the property or to the corner and back, your dog will probably be happy without the ritual of coating up, but, for long walks in cold air, a coat helps your dog feel comfortable by insulating a warm layer near the skin in the fur.  Rather than making you look simpleminded,  a coat broadcasts that you know what you’re doing as a dog owner.

Temperatures across the mid to northern US have been highly changable. Some weeks have been an average of -10 degrees F and some weeks have averaged 45 degrees F.  Beware the effects of radical changes because extreme cold will be especially debilitating after a week of mild temps. If you are complaining about how cold it is, then your dog, too, probably needs outerware.

Don't end up like this snowman and his frozen doggy!

Raja says, “Travel safely and warmly, live long and happily.”  (Many of Raja’s outerwear, including his Folklore Cape-Coat, comes from Carolyn’s Originals.)


Beware a Long Leash When Walking Your Dog: A Sad, True Story

Friday, March 8th, 2013

A glow in the dark leash helps at twilight.

Up front we’re letting you know that this isn’t one of our cute posts; it’s an important post about dog safety. If you have an extendable and retractable leash, or if you use a long leash, please read.

I sometimes use a retractable leash for Raja and shorten it up when walking in high traffic areas. I prefer not to use any leash when hiking because Raja’s not a runner and I feel that there has got to be a place where dogs can trot free. He loves to lead the pack and I love to watch him do it. We had to change our behavior after learning more about the danger to curious dogs from East Coast copperheads and timber rattlesnakes and the always hungry cougar population of the West Coast hills. (The retractable leash is not for everybody and it does have its detractors.) The picture above is Raja’s newest leash his friend Buttercup gave him. It’s relatively long, but can be shortened up, and has flashing or steady green battery lights to make walking at dusk safer. If the passing cars can’t see us, at least they can see that glowing green line moving along.

But this post isn’t about hiking in the wild hilly badlands or streets at twilight…

A few days ago one of our friends was walking her three dogs through a parking lot. To tell the story short, a car backed over one of her pups, killing him and my friend had her arm and leg fractured as she dove to save him.

Our friend’s dogs were short, but all dogs are shorter than the height of a car’s trunk. When the lead dog pulled ahead behind the parked car, the driver, if he looked, didn’t see anybody directly behind, started the engine and, in the same motion, reversed smoothly.

Raja and I don’t want to discuss this one too much. We’re not talking about blame. We feel squeemish and heart broken, but we want to emphasize- even in a seemingly quiet parking lot, walking on a seemingly quiet sidewalk- please be aware that a nimbly handled car can back out or emerge quickly from a parking spot or a driveway. Now, a well loved reading therapy dog will be missed at a Miami public library after-school program. That little Shih Tzu led a valuable life. She did a lot of good in her world. She lived larger than her 10 inches high. She listened while stammering kids read to her. They learned and grew because of the furry therapist with all the patience in the world. My friend also won’t be getting out to volunteer again for a long time.

Please shorten up your leashes around cars, driveways and when traversing alleys and streets. It’s hard to pick up multiple dogs, but picking up a small dog in random traffic areas isn’t a bad idea either, if you are so moved.

Human Babies and Furry First Children: Creating Good Beginnings

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Remember what happens in Disney’s 1955 animation “Lady and the Tramp”? A sweet, little Victorian family has a gentle, pampered dog. Then they have a new baby. Lady the Spaniel is delighted about the baby, but the self-absorbed couple begins to ignore her. Aunt Sarah, who dislikes dogs, comes to watch baby and, eventually, Lady herself is on the street. Fortunately her walk on the wild side draws her to a real dog who lives by his wits. When push comes to shove, Tramp is a champ. He saves the baby from a rat, even though he almost ends up in the doggie gas chamber. The young father saves Tramp in the nick of time and finally, the reconciled Victorian household includes cute new baby, Lady, Tramp and the inevitable puppies. Nasty Aunt Sarah has been sent packing for fermenting trouble between people and their loyal pets. Disney’s mid century theme was timeless: an interspecies family can thrive.

In July 2012, I read “Prep Your Pet for Baby” in “Martha Stewart Living.” Our family was then expecting a new human baby. I wondered what Martha would have to say about the first meeting of interspecies family members. I was disappointed with the article on several significant points. “Martha Stewart Living” advises:

. Make a chart of needy behaviors your pet has developed and ignore them.
. Begin spending less and less time with your dog so you can reduce his playtime to two half hour sessions daily.
. Crate your dog while you play with the baby.

I think following these three points will guarantee a sad, disaffected dog that will dislike the baby and hold her responsible for his fall from grace.

I know what I’m barking about. When I had my two human babies, I had a Shih Tzu baby named Yang Kwei-fei. (OK, from her name, you can guess she was treated a if she was still in the Summer Palace.) When the human babies came along, we didn’t cage her, ignore her or fail to take care of her “needs.” Nobody growled or bit anybody. Everybody got along just fine. Kwei-fei didn’t learn to sulk or to resent anybody. The new babies learned that we are all born into a community where everybody is important.

Raja’s and my point here is that mistreating and alienating a gentle and good pet is asking for trouble when baby arrives. Just as dogs have integrated themselves into human lives, dogs can easily accept new family members. So, before any babies come on the scene, work with your dog to make sure he is gentle, sociable, trusting and calm. Make him feel he’s an important part of the family, a being who has status and respect. As baby approaches, don’t scare him into a panic attack by changing the best aspects of his daily life. Maintaining your pet’s social standing and sense of self worth means you can expect your canine family member to treat the new human with love, respect and gentleness because that’s all he knows in his own experience.

Raja wants to bark out his welcome to our new family member! He doesn’t mind having had to give up travel for a few months and he’s very excited not to be the smallest family member any more (for now). Plus, he can’t wait to help show the little one around the world!

Semi-Urban Wild Animals and Your Pet

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The United Staates leads the world in urban encounters with wildlife.  Which is wonderful- if we consider the global ecosystem.

Not one step further into the rough, puppy dog!

Here in New Jersey, Raja has foxes, raccoons, possums and even the occasional bear to deal with. Well, he doesn’t really deal with any of them if I can help it.  The worst problem is the foxes.  They run through his yard, scenting anything they like the looks of and the girl foxes are particularly thorough.  Raja finds the fox scent alluring, while I find it completely repellant. Completely. What he doesn’t know is that, although he is only a little smaller than the fox, he is completely docile and gentle and the fox is pure predator.  Raja sees the fox as an interesting dog friend.  The fox sees him as an enormous, tender snack.

In his California home, Raja has possums, raccoons and coyotes.  The coyote scent scares him and terrifies me.

In both locations, unbelievably, neighbors find the wildlife charming… until their cats don’t come home at night, that is.  Until they hear about a lost Chihuahua.

How do wild animals survive as suburban and urban sprawl encroach on their territories?  Very, very well, it seems.  Green belts in Northern and Central New Jersey cover enormous contiguous swaths of land all the way into upstate New York.  In California, the isolated hills of the mid state regions lead toward urban/suburban neighborhoods that dead end right at the feet of nature.

And we feed them.  A garbage buffet is fairly carelessly set out once a week.  Fruit and berry trees, as well as compost, attract small animals that larger animals eat.  Even badly cleaned grills lure with the deliciously rancid scent of animal fat.  Docile, protected wildlife like deer, wild turkeys and songbirds attract non-docile, but similarly protected, carnivores.  Urban golf courses grow tender grass that grows enormous, tasty gophers in spite of the pesticides.

I’m not advocating eradicating wild animals.  Except for the smelly foxes and hungry coyotes, I like having wild creatures around.  In theory, I even like the foxes.  On a good day.  But we all have to be sensible, especially as winter makes every wild thing hungrier.  And bolder.  And more confident to reclaim yards as cooler weather keeps people inside more. (Yes, even in California where some people think 60 degrees is awfully cold.)

In winter, put on your coat and go out with your dog in the yard.  If you stand behind a glass door and watch, you cannot beat a fox to the prey.  If you chase a coyote down the sidewalk at night, you will run out of steam far before the coyote tires, and he will not drop the Chihuahua to lighten his load.   Keep an eye out for movement at the edge of darkness at night and do not allow your dog to wander more than a foot away from you.

Especially in New Jersey and New York where Hurricaine Sandy has uprooted trees and taken down brush, if at all possible, reassert order in wooded property.  Chaos and neglect make for new neighbors.

We can all live together if we pet owners are vigilant and protective at the edge of nature.

Winter Disaster Prep for Pets

Thursday, November 8th, 2012

Staying warm on a really chilly day inside.

Hurricane Sandy wasn’t the best at Raja’s house, but it was disastrous in other parts of New Jersey and New York.  Since climate change is a reality and since we can anticipate future challenges, Raja and I want to bark about home prep for pets in power outage cold weather conditions.
So… Let’s all do a little cold prep for our pets:
. Sweaters: Every small, thin or older dog needs a couple of fluffy, lofty sweaters.  As we know for ourselves, fluffy sweaters trap air and are warmer.  Put the sweater on in the house and keep it on until the pet doesn’t need it.  (You might be thinking, “But he has fur to keep him warm.”  Sure he does, but you have hair and yet wear a hat when it’s cold, right?  And, I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog, you have no problem with canine winter apparel.)
. Fur Care: Do not leave a single sweater on for days at a time.  Sweater fiber mats fur, reducing loft and reducing the natural warming properties of fur when neglected.  Daily remove the sweater, comb and brush your pet’s fur gently and put on a different sweater.  Keep alternating so one sweater doesn’t wear fur too much in the same places.
. Socks:  No, we’re not being funny.  Dogs lose heat through their paws on freezing floors. Little dog socks with slip free patches help, if your pet is compliant.
. Hats:  Without a hat, Raja’s nose was icy cold.  With a hat, his nose was appropriately cool. That’s all.
. Calories:  A recent NYT article discussed the extra five pounds apartment grounded New Yorkers gained in the past two weeks.   Dog physiology is different.  When dogs worry, they do not binge eat.  They mope.  If you have a dog who is inclined to be thin, increase calories.  Bulk supports warmth and chilling promotes weight loss.
. Exercise: Keep your dog’s spirits up and keep the blood pumping by playing in the house.  Well, do what you can.  When we exercise we feel happy and we warm up.  You will too.
. Feet: While you can’t wash your dog when you have no hot water or power for a blow dryer, you can keep his feet clean.  Wet feet make a cold dog colder; matted fur makes for less effective drying; dirt is unhealthy.  Using a damp cloth and a dry towel, you can  maintain those fluffy paws.
How did Raja do during the days of cold and no power?
Having fun in my fierce Yeti costume in the sunny snow!

Travel Dog Health Watch: Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis

Tuesday, December 6th, 2011

In your vet's loving care is where you want to be when you're feeling bad.

As most dog travelers know, tummy troubles go with the territory of travel, but as we have previously blogged, careful management of local foods and water along with added probiotics can pretty much prevent tummy trouble on the road.  Especially for dogs who enjoy the nomadic life. 

Hemorrhagic GastroEnteritis (HGE), however, is serious tummy trouble and it can strike dogs on their home turf without warning.  While all dogs can and do get HGE, small dogs between the ages of 2 and 4 are the prime targets and, as we know, small dogs dehydrate fast. 

Symptoms of HGE are fairly horrible: sudden onslaught of bloody diarrhea and, sometimes, vomiting.  Dehydration can happen quickly and shock quickly follows. 

HGE is not the kind of stomach trouble that can be treated with canned pumpkin.  Your dog needs IV fluids with potassium and subcutaneous antibiotics NOW.  This is not an illness where you can watch and wait. Do not mop up the rug, but wrap your dog in a soft, warm towel and take her to the vet, or after hours, to the emergency vet service. 

Who knows what causes HGE!  A strange new food, anxiety, a bacterium, a virus, a parasite are causes that have been investigated, but thus far the cause of HGE is undetermined.  Your vet will diagnose HGE because of the symptoms as well as through the blood test that will reveal a high packed cell volume (PCV) of hemoglobin. 

Ask your vet to look for Coccidia, a parasite that causes the same symptoms and request a titer with the blood test to see about Parvo Virus (that has been cropping up in New Jersey and New York shelters), just to be safe.  (A titer is a test that measures the amount of antibodies in the blood.  High concentrations of antibodies to a certain virus mean your dog is usually immune.) 

Holiday times, like travel times, cause both good and bad stress for pets.  Both happiness and anxiety can affect the tummy similarly. 

Raja and I wish you Happiness and Health and Love and Peace this Holiday Season and Always!

The Tapetum Lucidum: why dog’s eyes shine in the dark?

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

My, what big eyes you have!

Have you ever been spooked by glowing eyes at the edge of the lawn at night?  “My, what big eyes that cat has.  Hmmm, maybe it’s a fox, hmmm, maybe it’s a coyote, perhaps a wolf?  I’d better go in now…”

The glowing eyes of animals at night are caused by a light enhancing layer of cells behind or near the retina called the tapetum lucidum (meaning “bright tapestry” in Latin) that reflects light back through the retina.  By augmenting light, the tapetum lucidum make it easier for animals to see at night.  Both predators and prey have them, so the balance is fairly equal.

Except humans… humans don’t have a tapetum lucidum.  And, just think, humans are the most dangerous predators of all!  But I digress…

Your pet, unless it’s a chimpanzee, probably has a tapetum lucidum in each eye, which also explains why his or her eyes are so creepy in most flash photographs.  You’ll have to learn some advanced photo techniques to fix that.  Again, I digress; what we want to bark about is some dogs and some cats  do not have the tapetum lucidum.

A somewhat common, mild, congenital defect some dogs can have is to be atapetal… meaning they do not have a tapetum lucidum.  The condition is not dangerous in any way and dogs born atapetal see just fine, even in the dark, just as you do.  (We assume you are not sending your dog out to hunt at night.)  Your dog’s eyes will still get that eerie glow when you take his pictures for some reason, but you will not be able to see him standing in the driveway as you drive home at night by locating his shining eyes. So be careful.

What is important for dog owners to know about this topic is that, when examined through an ophthalmoscope, atapetal eyes have different looking retinas.  An inexperienced or precipitous vet might tell you that your dog has cataracts since the view of the retinas is obscure.  Before accepting such a diagnosis, please see a veterinary eye specialist.  Cataracts require various kinds of medical intervention, but congenitally atapetal eyes see just fine and should cause no worries.

Siamese Cats are always born atapetal… which might explain why they prefer to be house cats rather than midnight stalkers.

The Hound of the Baskervilles from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story of the same name had awesome tapeta lucida.

“A hound it was, an enormous coal-black hound, but not such a hound as mortal eyes have ever seen. Fire burst from its open mouth, its eyes glowed with a smouldering glare, its muzzle and hackles and dewlap were outlined in flickering flame. Never in the delirious dream of a disordered brain could anything more savage, more appalling, more hellish ….”   If you see anything like that in the driveway at night, stay in the car.

When Small Dogs Fly: Snacks Before Flights

Monday, January 31st, 2011

It’s a fact of canine physiology:  Small dogs can become hypoglycemic and often do best with several small meals, rather than one or two large ones.  But what about that recommendation that dogs should have no food or water within three hours of flight time?  Those austerity rules might be OK for a commuter hop, but transcontinental flights and ocean crossings are another matter!  Hey, you try going without a meal for those flight durations.  Bet you’ll be hypoglycemic too.

Hypoglycemia can make humans cranky, but for those canine travelers among us who weigh under 15 lbs, hypoglycemia can bring on trembling and seizures.  Preventing canine hypoglycemia on flights is essential for safe, happy trips.

Raja and I are advocating a little, non-bulky, non-fibrous snack before a flight for small dogs.  And the most portable snack we have discovered is a jar of mooshed baby food turkey, beef or chicken.  It’s a pure protein, smoothed with a little corn starch.  While a diet of this sort is not recommended as a daily snack, it sure goes down easily and stays quiet in the intestine on flights.  Plus, your fellow traveler can snooze in his carrier with a little something to give him energy and keep his tummy from rumbling.

Raja gets his snack before leaving for the airport.  I carry another in my travel bag to give him in emergency should the plane be horribly detained or upon landing after a long flight.  You don’t need to give your dog all of the jar; just consider his weight and eating habits and let good sense guide you.  Make sure you read the label and read that there are no onions or raisins in the ingredients.

A little imagination, compassion and prevention make for happy travels for your small dog.

Travel Bags for Small Pets: Choose Wisely

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Tim and Raja

For small pets who travel, a comfortable and familiar travel bag becomes a den, a nest, a refuge and a home away from home.  For a pet like Raja who flies frequently and goes to many appointments as a spokes-dog and pup reporter, down time is everything.  If your small pet has a peripatetic lifestyle, please invest in a ventilated, padded, reinforced, safety engineered travel bag where he feels happy and safe and can nap between photo ops, customs checks, meetings and sightseeing.  Wash the liner frequently and change the travel toy often.

When I got Raja I decided that, whatever he was inclined to do, he would love to travel since I could not bear to leave him behind.  Raja’s favorite traveling bags are made by the Sherpa Pet Group.  He owns both the Tote About Town and the Airline Bag.  Here he is with CEO Tim Ford.  Raja got to meet Tim recently and, to a dog like Raja who needs to be comfortable during his airplane trips, Tim is a celebrity.

We never plug product for profit. There are no kickbacks or freebies.  It’s not what this blog is about.  (We say this for the benefit of new readers.)  There is nothing up our sleeves.  Our bag post is travel advice, accompanied by our back story.

BUT, if you are traveling with your pet, on planes, trains, subways, busses or boats, do check out the Sherpa Pet products… they’re beautifully made, comfortable to carry, well priced, durable and stylish.  Most importantly, they are comfortable for pets who ride in them.   A traveling pet is not a trinket but a companion, and a well crafted bag respects and protects your furry friend.

I’ll leave you to google my brand, or find your own- your choice.  Frequent travelers know that the joy of travel is enhanced by a cheerful furry companion, and furry companions know that the joy of travel is enhanced by a familiar, cozy, safe den (with a mesh panel, a fluffy pad and sturdy shoulder strap).

Raja and I are going to be on the airways again this week.  I can’t put his bag out tonight or he’ll insist in sleeping in it by the front door.  Hope your traveling pet has the same happy attitude.

Food Allergies: Chicken Dinner Makes your Dog Itch

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Why, why, why so many food allergic dogs now as never before???  Either the whole world is going to hell in a handcart, or our sensitivities to our pets’ needs are more compassionate in the age of the dog-child and we notice and treat discomfort readily.  (There’s only one choice, right?)

Raja and I are optimists too and we believe that food variety is one key to a comfortable dog.  Making sure that your pet eats different and diverse meats, vegetables and grains helps mitigate against sensitization to any one repetitive food.

So, how can a dog that has been eating chicken stew for years suddenly become allergic?

When a sensitive dog (we’ll try to explain this later) eats an allergy producing food, his immune system produces antibodies against the food and, usually, there is no immediately visible reaction, such as a rash or an itch.  This initial process is called sensitization.  As the dog continues to eat the food, his immune system continues to produce more and more antibodies.  Antibodies in the system stimulate the body to produce histamine.  Histamine causes the allergic reactions.  The proteins in beef, lamb, chicken, turkey, fish of all sorts, eggs, milk, soy, corn, wheat, rice and legumes are all potential triggers.  Most food allergies appear within 2-12 years.  That’s a huge window, isn’t it?

A “sensitive dog” is a dog that is prone to allergies.  How will you know you have a sensitive dog?  You probably won’t. Maybe you will never discover it if nothing triggers his immune reaction.

Trying to prevent dog sensitization, one of the best ways to avoid the build up of histamine in the system is to offer a varied diet from the start, while ensuring that the nutritional values stay consistent and high.  So, change up your dog’s dinners.  Alternate many different lean meats, vegetables (no onions) and grains and help your little gourmet to avoid food allergies.  It’s not that hard.  Just imagine yourself as your dog, and realize you wouldn’t want to eat the same kibble every day for years either.

For travel dogs, this means sampling local fare that fits the food criteria: lean meat, no onions, varied vegetables and a little starch to thicken.  And not too many spices.  Every cuisine in the world, with the possible exception of the traditional winter food of the Inuit of the Arctic, has something that will work.  When traveling, look for simple, fresh, non-spicy, non-oniony.