Posts Tagged ‘Dog Safety’

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!

The Follow-up Vet Visit: Must we follow through?

Monday, July 11th, 2011

Raja helps Dr. Holmberg of the Animal Eye Center of New Jersey see his eyes clearly.

Probably we do.  Unless, on the first time we took our pet to see the vet, it was discovered that nothing was wrong and we were just making things up. 

But seriously, here’s why the follow up is a necessary part of the healing process… 

The follow up visit is usually not as expensive as the initial visit and, if your vet prescribed meds, you will want to see if the vet considers the meds to be effective.  Limited results might indicate a change of meds is going to be best.  If an emerging condition was suspected, somebody other than yourself- i.e. somebody with medical training and the knowledge of alternate meds- has got to make the call. 

All medical conditions require a base line to determine change for the better or worse.  The initial visit was the base line for the condition, measured against the base line for total health.  The follow-up measures change against these numbers.  Of course you will be expected to weigh in. You should give your critique of how the prescribed treatment worked and request a possible adjustment in meds if you feel you need one.  (And, yes, it is reasonable to ask if a less expensive, but similar, medication is available.)  Nonetheless, your sense of wellness is external and somewhat subjective and- just admit it- always hopeful.  A blood test, for example, offers objectivity.   You can’t do the blood test (or you shouldn’t!) and you can’t interpret the results.

For those of us who have been sent to specialty vets for an in depth analysis of a condition, the follow up should be with the specialist, unless otherwise directly instructed.  Please make sure you request that a copy of the specialty doctor’s analysis be sent to your regular vet. 

But can’t we just Google to find out what’s wrong in many cases?  Yes and no.  Sure, we can Google.  Lots of good information is posted on line.  Without leaving our houses, visiting the library or taking a veterinary degree, we consumers can still find out a lot about pet health.  Isn’t that wonderful?  But lots of inaccurate information is posted on line too.  There is, to date, no consistent method of evaluating what gets posted.  A pet medical site with a professionally styled header and sidebar is no measure of the accuracy of the reportage.  We rely on the scruples and the biases of the poster.   

How about online pet forums- can information from these groups help us make medical decisions outside of the vet’s office?  Sure it can, but, please let’s not rely on a series of random comments from a variety of sources to substitute for a medical degree.  Shared forum information is very helpful, especially when learning how to tie a Shih Tzu top knot, but we need to think carefully about the sources of medical information. 

The follow up visit heads off potential future trouble, trouble which can be expensive at best and dangerous or threatening to your pet’s happiness at worst.  Furthermore, consistent attention to a troublesome condition reassures your pet that vet visits are benign and that his source of discomfort is being worried over by somebody other than himself.

For travel dogs… do ask your specialist if a similar specialist exists at your travel destination.   (You can also research this on your own and keep an address handy for just in case.)  In cases of highly specialized meds and travel, if possible, get a second prescription, or divide your prescription so you have a spare in case of loss during transit. 

Remember, after collecting accurate information specific to your pet, you are always the decision maker. 

One of these cooperative kittens could be yours!


PS: The cats of summer are upon us… if you live in or near New Jersey and want one of these four week old (as of June 11), adorable and charmingly purring kittens, please write:  

Raja says, cats will watch the home while you travel.  That’s what they do best.

Make Yourself a Serious Pet Medical Emergency Kit

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Blog Fan Cyndi Bender, owner of the famous Duffy McDuff, writes:

“I have recently returned from Wisconsin where we attended a Scottie Rally and parade. It was a 4 day road trip with a total of 6 dogs. Three dogs rode in the same vehicle with Duffy. For the most part they all got along with the exception of one female who would growl and attack the males if they simply looked at her. We were almost back home when this female and a male got into a fight for no reason. One of the dogs sustained minor wounds, more like scrapes than puncture wounds. Anyway blood was drawn and we pulled over to discover that we did not carry a first aid kit amongst us. It got me to thinking that if anyone is active with their dogs outside of their home they should carry a first aid kit. Have you covered this in the blog?”

Good idea Cyndi!  We did this once, but not as thoroughly.  Assisted by Three Rivers Veterinary Clinic in Madison , New Jersey, we recommend the following in every pet  travel medical kit:

4 oz. Eye and Skin Wash or saline solution

artificial tear gel for after eye wash

mild grease-cutting  dish washing liquid to wash animal after skin contamination (pesticides, etc.)

muzzle to protect against fear inspired biting

non perishable can of your pet’s favorite wet food

cold pack (breakable cold sports packs are best)

styptic pencil or styptic powder for small bleeds

thermometer with case

4″ x 4 yd. flexible, cohesive, stretchable  gauze wrap

alcohol prep pads

2″ x 2″ and 3″ x 3″ sterile pads

gauze pads

two 5″ x 9″ trauma pads fpr comperssion

1″ x 2 yard adhesive tape

3 ply towels

iodine solition

hydrocortisone cream

tripple antibiotic intment

cotton swabs and cotton balls

latex or vinyl gloves

1 pair scissors

4″ plastic forceps or tweezers

hand wipes

antiseptic wipes

hydrogen peroxide, 3 % to induce vomiting

turkey baster to administer the hydrogen peroxide

blanket that can douoble as a pet sling carrier

Yes, this is a lot of gear, and you don’t need all this if you plan to shop the glitzy stores or visit a well equipped friend, but, if you plan on travel where you are n your onw, nar or far, just imagine the uses you could find for all this in a pinch.  So many thanks to Cyndi and Duffy!

Raja and I are going on the road in a couple of days to the Canine Performance Events National Championships in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.  We’ll link up with former blog- featured canine athletes, Chloe (Maltipoo), Skamp (mini Aussie), Cara, CT, and Cy (Shih Tzu) and be there on site to film and record how this awesomechallenge of champions goes!  Until then, everybody please root for our athletes!

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.

Things Dogs Really REALLY Can’t Eat

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Happy New Year to all our blog readers and to all their dogs who are read to!!! Raja here.  I’m doing the first blog of the year… our blog really IS all about me, so I’m starting 2011 off with the first post about safety.

I'm not eating this kalanchoe!

Dear Readers,

There is too much “unresearched heresay” about plant-related products dogs can and can’t eat. We can’t have poinsettias, as one example. Well, who wants to eat poinsettias? NOBODY who is even remotely sane wants to eat poinsettias. And they don’t make a dog sick in and of themselves, it is now discovered. BUT, think about this… how would anybody react to a bellyful of tough leaves? Even humans would be sick if they ate a pile of poinsettias. But they won’t. You can leave them alone with those plants and take your nap. And as for you, puppy, if you are a desperado who will chew on anything to get attention, I guess poinsettias, as well as electrical cords, slippers and area rugs are all out the door.  (If any of you animals ate a poinsettia over the holidays, please comment in and let us know how it went  so I can put poinsettias back on the list if need be.)

The list of things we REALLY can’t eat is a short one.

Grapes, Raisins, Grape Juice, Wine. Dogs should not eat grapes, but if one of us happens to eat one dusty raisin, I think it’s OK. Beware guests who leave half finished glasses of wine around. Most of us won’t touch it, but some of us (you know who you are out there) will.

Onions. Onions eaten in quantity can be extremely toxic and have long term effects. If we get a bite of stew that has onions in it, it’s probably OK. But we should avoid onions, and that includes onion powder in foods.

Xylitol. The humans like this plant-derived sweetener in chewing gum. It’s fine for them. Have you ever smelled a delicious minty-sweet odor coming from a lady’s purse and put your nose in and found a little rectangle wrapped in paper and sneaked away with it to chew it up? Well don’t do that again! Xylitol is dangerous.

Finally, here are two serious, systemic  plant toxins we might be exposed to, but only the weirdest dog would actually nibble them. (Yes, you out there with the crazy eyes- this is for you!)

Kalanchoe. Kalanchoe succulent plants are a huge genus of about 125 species.  The flowering varieties are often sold in supermarkets.  For the demented dogs who gobble anything, kalanchoe is severely dangerous. Vomiting is the least of the trouble, so owners of crazy dogs must not keep these plants around. (Since I eat nothing without being beseeched, we have many of these plants around. But I can be trusted. Can you?)

Oleander. Very pretty landscaping plant and very toxic. Only a lunatic would eat the stiff, tough leaves, but if one of us does, vomiting is the best possible outcome. Most people don’t keep oleander as a house plant, but in southern and perennially temperate latitudes around the world,  oleander is common in landscaping. Don’t get any ideas to grab attention by eating oleander, OK? Eat slippers and rugs instead.

It’s a short list pals. Stay healthy and don’t misbehave in the first days of the New Year when our somewhat dazed humans aren’t watching closely.


In 2011, we plan to share more adventures and tips and we will be introducing my Insight Exclusives- narrated journeys with Raja Cam.  See the world as I do.  You humans might be tempted to get down on all fours.

Dog Days, Wild Dogs, Safe Dog Travel

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

In the Northern Hemisphere, the period between early July and early September is the hottest time of the year.  The Romans said that it was hot because the big star, Sirius, glowing smack in the middle of the chest of the Big Dog (aka Canus Major) constellation, was beaming heat toward the earth.  They said that during the Dog Days the sea boiled and dogs got rabies.  Shortly after that, the Roman Empire fell.

None of that happens any more.  In modern times, the sea has stopped that nonsense. And the veterinary industry has pretty much stopped rabies cold in developed areas and relatively thriving economies where most of the extremely few rabies cases are caused by bats and wild carnivores.

So, in the US, Canada and Europe, we do not have to worry much about rabies any more- unless we encounter a salivating, snarling, fox with that “I ain’t scared of you” look in his rheumy eyes. 

Noel Coward’s line from his famous song of 1931 is, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”.  To be fair, this flighty song makes much more sense than anything that Roman astrologers could patch together.  Rabid animals do illogical things, like run around in the heat, when they should be sleeping in the shade.  (Englishmen were also going to strange lengths to stand up to the tide in their colonial period, but that’s another topic.)

At any rate, what Raja and I are getting toward is that it’s summer and summer does not encourage rabies.  But during your summer travels, opportunities for adventure might entice you off the beaten path where you should be ready for adventures of all kinds. 

Raja and I are not worried about your dog.  If you’re still reading this, you really love your dog.  We’re worried about you.  When traveling in India, Puerto Rico, the South of Italy, Africa, and Central and South America, you might encounter homeless dogs that are very friendly.  Usually these dogs are pretty tame because they only survive by being gentle and appealing to charitable humans.

Raja and I meet them often; Raja is like a wild dog magnet.  And while we almost always advocate mingling with the locals, these locals are not to be mingled with.  They have not had their rabies shots (although some Puerto Rican charities do vaccinate stray dogs).  So, although they may be gentle, they may not be well.  So scoop your dog up and move on yourself quickly, rather than allow this cultural opportunity. 

Safer is better- always.  (If you want to help, keep your hands to yourself and donate to a local animal charity.  All developing countries have kind souls who care about the homeless beasts.)