Archive for January, 2012

Tips To Protect Your Dog During Cold Weather

Is Jack Frost Nipping At Your Dog’s Nose During The Winter? 

No surprise here, but winter can get mighty cold, making it much more comfortable to stay in the nice warm house. Our pets, however, may either spend their time outdoors exclusively or just like to go outdoors every once in a while. In freezing temperatures, even a little outdoor time can drastically affect the body. Just as we humans take precautions to keep our skin safe from the blustery cold (e.g., mittens, hats, boots), there are some precautions we can take to keep our pets safe too.  If at all possible keep your dogs indoors during the blistering months.


Pre-Winter Health Check

Before the onset of cold weather, take your pet for a veterinary examination. If there are any pre-existing health problems, now is the time to find them and treat them, since the stress of cold weather can worsen any pre-existing health problems.

Grooming is also an important part of well-being, even in winter. Fur that is heavy and matted with dirt and moisture cannot protect the underlying skin from extreme cold. As the body struggles to maintain a healthy temperature, the immune system can become more susceptible to illness. Also, check your pet’s ears and feet regularly, trimming the hair between the footpads so that ice cannot accumulate between the toes.


Food and Water

It’s fine to focus on keeping your pet lean during the warm months, and portioning food is an important part of weight maintenance, but when the weather turns cold, you need to help your pet put on a little insulation by giving him extra calories. High-quality, high-calorie foods are an essential part of staying healthy through the winter, along with plenty of fresh water. Animals should never have an empty water bowl, but do keep in mind that bowls kept outside should be checked regularly for freezing.

Another important consideration is the type of bowls you use. Stick with a good, heavy-duty plastic pet food bowl for cold temperatures. Do not use metal bowls because just like humans their tongue will stick to the bowl. Who wants that happening to their pet?


Bedding and Shelter

Your pet will need a safe, dry space that is insulated from the frigid winds of winter. In fact, in many states, animal protection laws require a shelter for protecting outdoor pets, underscoring the importance of this essential creature comfort. Shelter is not a luxury, it is necessary for winter survival. The shelter can be a dog house or a repurposed shed, or it can be a very basic structure in which your dog or cat is able to find protection from the elements. Whatever you choose, just make sure that the space is large enough for your pet to turn around inside and lie down comfortably. The structure should be raised up off the ground — perhaps on blocks or supports — and contain some dry and durable bedding material for added warmth. For instance, a thick layer of clean, dry straw makes excellent bedding material, since it is less likely to stay wet and an animal can adjust the straw to its own comfort.

If you do choose to use blankets, check them daily, as wet blankets will freeze and will not provide necessary warmth to your pet. Neither heat lamps nor heating pads are recommended. The electric cords may be chewed and damaged, which can lead to serious problems if water spills on them or if the animal continues to chew on the cords. In fact, electrocution due to chewed wires is a common and yet preventable accident.

Speaking of accidents, many people use salt on their driveways and surrounding sidewalks to melt away snow and ice. However, some of these salt mixtures are not only abrasive to the asphalt and concrete, they are dangerous for pets. They can irritate your dog and/or cat’s paws and, when ingested, are extremely toxic. Instead, use non-toxic, pet-friendly salt mixtures. Your pets and the environment will thank you.


Dressing Your Pet For Warmth

Dressing your dogs in a sweater is not only for fashion but for warmth. Try a basic sweater or even a coat to put on while your dog is spending time outdoors. Sock and boot are particularly good to protect their paw pads. Can you imagine stepping outdoor with no shoes? Your pet will be so thankful.

Daily Interactions With Your Pet

Last, but certainly not least, do not forget to check in on your pet several times a day to monitor her health and well-being. If you find that your pet is shivering, look for signs of frostbite on the ear tips, foot pads and tail. Also, be watchful for lethargy, which can occur after hypothermia has already had an effect on the body.

Both frostbite and hypothermia can quickly become fatal. In some cases, the animal may survive, but will lose the part of the body that suffered permanent tissue damage form the freezing (frostbite).

Finally, if you are a witness to an animal that is being kept out of doors, and it appears that the animal has not been provided with adequate shelter, bedding or food, report the address to your local humane society so the animal can be helped. Leaving an animal exposed to extreme cold (or heat, for that matter) is cruel. Reports can be made anonymously, so you should never be afraid to speak up against animal cruelty in your community.  PLEASE don’t hesitate to report!

What Goes Into A Balanced Diet For Your Dog

Just like with people, dogs also need balanced nutrition to maintain health and wellness. People rely on tools to understand their own nutritional needs, but there aren’t any similar tools for dogs.

A dog food should provide certain amounts of protein, carbohydrates, fats, oils, and vitamins and minerals, helping owners to apply that knowledge and better understand the dog food label.

It’s important to learn more about each nutrient and what to look for on the dog food label. You need to be advised to watch out for certain things that could pose problems.


Important Nutrients

Carbohydrates are important sources of energy that help maintain blood sugar levels and keep your dog feeling full. Carbs also provide some essential minerals and vitamins, as well as fiber to promote proper digestion. You will find any carbohydrates listed in the ingredients list on the back of the bag.

Proteins are essential for building strong muscles for growth and maintenance. Another important part of a healthy, balanced dog diet comes from fats and oils. These ingredients keep the body working properly, provide energy and make food taste better. On your food’s ingredient list, you will be looking for high-quality sources of protein and fat.

Dogs require certain vitamins and minerals in their diet to stay healthy. These ingredients are usually added to dog foods as concentrated powders. Common fruits, vegetables, whole grains and meats are the initial source of vitamins and minerals, and this is why fruits and vegetables are included as ingredients in dog foods.

Finally, keeping a bowl of fresh, clean water! This is to remind dog owners that dogs also need plenty of water daily to stay hydrated for optimal wellness, which is what we want our dogs to have for life.


Put it all Together

Now that you know about the importance of certain ingredients in a balanced dog food and what to look for on the package, use the information to make an informed decision about which dog food to purchase for your dog. A healthy diet will have good-quality ingredients in the proper balance to provide the best possible nutrition for your dog.


Why Walking Your Dog Is Great Exercise

Having trouble sticking to an exercise program?  Unlike your workout partner, who may skip going to the gym with you because of their busy schedule, bad weather or being lazy, your dog will never give you an excuse to not go for a walk. Dogs are loyal, hardworking, energetic & enthusiastic & the best trainer a person could have.

Statistics show that 16% of Americans ages 15 and older exercised at all on an average day! Your canine personal trainer can help you stick with a daily exercise routine.

Plan for success. It’s easy to forget about healthy walking plans, so set the stage for a successful program:

  • Establish a walking schedule; plan to walk 30 minutes total each day. This might include a 10-minute neighborhood walk in the morning and a 20-minute romp at the dog park after work. Or maybe three 10-minute walks or one 30-minute walk fit in better with your day.
  • If dog walking is “scheduled” into each day, you’ll feel more responsible for sticking with your program. Plus, your dog will also get used to the routine and remind you when “it’s time!”
  • Track your progress.
  • Post a calendar on the refrigerator and add a sticker for each 10 minutes of walking you do each day. This will reinforce your good behavior and make you pause before opening the door to grab a calorie-laden snack!

So, grab a leash, whistle up the pup, and go for a walk—today and every day! Dog walking is a great way to jumpstart a healthy lifestyle program.

Forget watching tv or “having” to go to the gym. Twenty-twelve is the year to let your dog make your resolutions for you! After all, your pup’s life-long endeavor is to be your loving pet and loyal companion – the least you can do this year is bring an extra wag or two to his world. Besides, his resolutions will have you both feeling great, and the best part is, diet, weights, spin classes or aerobics aren’t necessary.

1. I resolve to take quality walks.

Chances are, your dog never says no to a walk, even if it’s the same old stroll up the block and back. But know that your dog craves new scents and sounds as much as you enjoy new scenery. So mix up your weekday walks with new routes, unfamiliar trails, and explore new neighborhoods and parks on the weekends. Better yet, research dog-friendly parks in your area and venture somewhere new once a month.

2. I resolve to give less hugs, play more tug.

Maybe you’ve noticed that squirmy, help-let-me-out wriggle your dog does during what you consider to be a loving embrace. Unlike us humans, dogs don’t feel all reassured and gooey inside after a nice long hug. In fact, most likely they feel trapped – it’s just a canine thing. A hearty round of tug however, played appropriately, can be a huge stress reliever and a nice bit of exercise as well. Note: If you intend to make tug a permanent activity in your game, make sure your dog knows the commands: drop it & off.

3. I resolve to regularly introduce “new” toys into the mix.

Remember to swap toys so your dog has something new to chase, chew on or tug.

4. I resolve to throw a party.

We’re not (necessarily) talking about a fancy birthday party or holidays – though those are fun too. A playdate with a couple of his favorite people – or at least people who adore him – will do. Play a few of his favorite games simply ask invitees to practice a couple basic commands with him. It’s a chance for your dog to get praised, treated & rewarded by someone else – great for socialization and a real boost to his confidence.

5. I resolve to bond outside the home.

Obedience Classes may just be the perfect combination of mental stimulation & physical activity and most important, building a relationship between you and your best friend. Dogs and humans both have a blast! You’ll brush up on your training techniques and your dog gets a refresher course in good behavior. If your dog likes a challenge try an Agility Class.

6. I resolve to keep my dog physically fit.

And truly, this is the only one that requires any willpower.  We know that pleading puppy eyes are hard to resist but when you sneak in table scraps remember it’s so much better to give your pet an organic/natural treat.  Remember your pet depends on you to ensure that it’s  healthy, mobile, and comfortable for a long, long time.

A pocket of treats and a fun game will make a happy dog!

Wishing everyone a Healthy & Happy New Year 2012!

XOXO & Woofs,                                                                                                                                                                                                  Christine & Myko