DOGGY, COME HOME: TURNING LOST INTO FOUND

Millions of dogs go missing each year. Unfortunately, very few of them are ever reunited with their owners. Many of them become and remain strays. Others are taken to pounds or shelters, where they are all too often, euthanized. The luckier ones are saved by rescue organizations and ultimately placed in adoptive homes.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Lately, an increasing number of conscientious dog owners have begun to rely on a dual form of protection for their precious family pet. Included in this “protective package” are visible forms of identification – ID tags — and permanent ones — microchips.

Pet ID tags are small metallic or plastic tags personalized with your name, address, and phone number, and attached to your dog’s collar. These tags are as close as your nearest pet supply store or online vendor, and if your dog ever goes missing, will immediately identify you as the owner.

Microchipping is a simple and safe procedure. A veterinarian injects a microchip designed especially for animals — the size of a grain of rice — beneath the surface of your dog’s skin between the shoulder blades. Similar to a routine shot, it takes only a few seconds and most dogs don’t seem to even feel the implantation. Unlike ID tags, a microchip is permanent and, with no internal energy source, will last the life of your dog. Your dog must then be promptly registered with the microchip company (usually for a one-time fee), thus storing his unique, alpha-numeric code in the company’s database.

Whenever a lost dog appears at a shelter, humane society or veterinary clinic, he/she will automatically be scanned for a microchip. If there is one, the screen of the handheld scanner will display that dog’s specific code. A simple call to the recovery database using a toll free 800 number enables the code to be traced back to the dog’s owner. But in order for the system to work efficiently, all owners are cautioned to keep their contact information up-to-date.

The most complete microchips comply with International Standards Organization (ISO) Standards. These standards define the structure of the microchip’s information content and determine the protocol for scanner-microchip communication. They also include the assignment of a 15-digit numeric identification code to each microchip; 3 digits either for the code of the country in which the dog was implanted or for the manufacturer’s code; one digit for the dog’s category (optional), and the remaining 8 or 9 digits for that dog’s unique ID number.

As with anything else, however, problems can and do arise. Not all shelters, humane societies, and veterinary offices have scanners. Although rare, microchips can fail, and even universal scanners may not be able to detect every microchip. Accurate detection can also be hampered if dogs struggle too much while being scanned or if either long, matted hair or excess fat deposits cover the implantation site. And because there are an ever-increasing number of pet recovery services, there is, as yet, no single database that links one to the other.

Since no method of identification is perfect, the best way owners can protect their dogs is by keeping current ID tags on them, microchipping them, and never allowing them to roam free.

Cherry Eye in Dogs

The condition commonly called “cherry eye” occurs when a tear gland protrudes from your dog’s eye socket. Easily spotted, it appears as a pink or red mass bulging from the corner of the eye nearest your dog’s nose. It can affect either one or both eyes AND can be recurrent.

Located underneath the nictitating membrane (known as the third eyelid) which protects a dog’s eye from wind, dust and debris, this tear gland provides the cornea with essential lubrication. Once this gland has slipped or prolapsed, your dog’s eye loses most or all of its vital moisture, often resulting in keratocon junctivitis sicca or dry eye, which, if left untreated, can ultimately lead to blindness.

Although “cherry eye” is commonly associated with a congenital weakness of the gland’s attachment in the dog’s eye, it isn’t known if the condition is inherited and it can affect any and all breeds.

As a conscientious dog owner, then, pay attention to: any watery or thick discharge from your dog’s eye; a red or pink blob in the corner of his eye; redness in the lining of one of his eyelids, or persistent pawing at his eye.

If you witness any of the above, allow your vet to examine your dog’s third eyelid to determine precisely what the problem is. The diagnosis can even include scrolled or everted cartilage in the third eyelid, abnormal cells in the third eye, and a prolapse of fat in his eye.

With no preventative measures for “cherry eye” at this time, treatment is the only option. In milder cases, topical anti-inflammatory drugs will usually be prescribed, which are highly effective in reducing the swelling. Keeping your dog’s eyes well lubricated by using the highest quality eye drops may also help prevent a recurrence of the condition.

If corrective surgery is suggested, the tear gland can either be stitched back into place (this procedure is not 100% effective and a prolapse may reoccur) or the third eyelid removed completely, necessitating the use of eye drops every day from then on.

With more research needed into the causes, prevention and treatment of “cherry eye,” all caring dog owners can do is keep a watchful “eye” on their cherished canine companions and keep them safe.

MAKE MOVING EASIER FOR YOU AND YOUR DOG

Dogs, like humans, are creatures of habit. Once comfortable in their surroundings, they are unnerved by change. And trading a familiar home for an unfamiliar one can cause fearfulness and stress. Unless you, the conscientious dog guardian, plan ahead with all the precision of a successful military campaign. Logically, then, moving from one place to another should consist of three stages: preparing for the move; moving day itself; and settling into your new home.

PREPARING FOR THE MOVE

Purchase a large, comfortable carrier and give your dog sufficient time to adjust to being in it. Leave it on the floor with the door open and some treats inside. Keep replacing the treats after your dog has retrieved them.

Set out your cardboard, moving boxes a few days before you actually begin to pack so that your dog can get used to the sight and scent of them.  Maintain your dog’s regular routine for feeding, walking and playing, and quality together time.

If your dog becomes anxious as you start packing, place him/her in a quiet room with some toys and treats and keep the door closed. On the other hand, if yours is an especially nervous dog, boarding him/her in a professional kennel the day before and after the move may be the best solution — for all of you.

Make certain that your dog’s identification tags carry your new address and telephone number. But the best precaution — and the wisest investment you can make — is an updated microchip implant.

MOVING DAY ITSELF

Even before the movers take over the premises, tuck your dog safely away from the center of the storm by closing him/her in a bathroom, together with food, water, some toys and his/her bed.  To ensure that your dog doesn’t panic and try to escape if the door is opened, put a sign on the door stating that it must remain shut.Your dog should always travel with you, secure in the carrier, and not in the moving van.

SETTLING INTO YOUR NEW HOME

Put your dog in a room that will remain relatively quiet for awhile. Before opening the carrier, lay out your dog’s food, water bowl, toys and bed, and place some treats around the room.  Keep your dog in this one “safe” room for a few days, spending time together, soothing and cuddling, and sharing some low-key activities like reading, listening to music or watching TV.

Dog-proof your new home as soon as possible. Included in your “must do” list:  tuck drapery, blinds and electrical cords out of reach; ensure all windows and screens are secure; install child-proof latches on your cabinets – particularly those containing cleaning supplies; cover unused electrical outlets with special plastic caps, and keep all toilet seats down.

Begin gradually walking your dog through the rest of the place, one room at a time, constantly praising and reassuring him/her as you make the rounds. Over and over again.  Restore your dog’s former feeding, walking and playing routine so that, hopefully, it will seem that nothing has changed much at all.

Dogs may be creatures of habit, but they are highly adaptable as well. And so, whether familiar or unfamiliar, old or new, for them, there is still no place like home.

INTRODUCING YOUR NEW DOG TO YOUR OTHER PETS

Imagine handing out treats and name tags at the front door of your home for your new dog and your resident pets. Imagine happy munches and friendly woofs (and/or meows) as they blend and bond instantly and forever.

Then blink twice and remember that you are living in the world of reality and not in an ideal parallel universe. But armed with a set of realistic expectations, your reality may ultimately be just as ideal.

Introducing your new dog to the pets already in your home is a process. To succeed, you must start with a plan and a promise – to yourself — to be patient. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and in extreme cases, a few months).

To improve your chances of a happy blending of old and new, choose a dog as close as possible in temperament and activity level to the pets you already have. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit, and most dislike any disruptions in their daily lives and routines.

Some dogs are naturally more relaxed and more social than others. Some are more territorial and don’t enjoy sharing at all. Unhappy with the arrival of a newcomer, they may demonstrate their disapproval by fighting with the perceived “intruder” or by marking.

Allow your new dog to adjust to you and to his/her new surroundings by keeping him/her in a separate room with his/her bed, food, water and toys for several days. Spend as much quality, comforting time with your new arrival as possible.

Maintain your other pets’ regular routines – from feeding and pottying to exercising, playing and together times – to reassure them that nothing has changed.

Since smells are of utmost importance to animals, get them used to each other’s scent as soon as possible. One way is through that most reliable standby: food. Feed your resident pets and your new dog on either side of the door to his/her room, encouraging them to associate something pleasurable with one another’s smell.

Once this has been successfully accomplished, walk your new dog slowly through your home, room by room, allowing him/her to become familiar with its sights, sounds and smells. Keep your other pets behind the closed door of his/her room to allow your new dog a sense of safety and privacy, while promoting a further exchange of scents between them. Repeat this several times a day for a few days.

Next, use two doorstoppers to keep the door to your new dog’s room propped open just enough for all of the animals to see each other. Repeat this several times a day for a few days.

BUT remember! Every time you leave your home, leave your new dog in his/her room with the door closed.

Hopefully, when you’re ready to make the “formal” introductions, your patience and your animals’ pre-preparations will have paid off. And they will not only recognize, but also start to accept one another by what they see and smell.

Armed with the tastiest treats and most tempting toys, you can expect sniffing, approaching and walking away. Reward good behavior with praise and treats, but discourage bad behavior by promptly separating the offending parties and gently, but firmly correcting them.

Once again, patience is key. This too is a process, which may take time until the blending is successful, and your family is calmly and contentedly one.

If, however, certain problems persist, speak to your vet or consult a recommended animal behaviorist.

Protect Your Pet: Provide Proper Doggy Dental Care

Did you know that 80% of dogs over the age of 4 have some form of dental disease?

As with people, the main culprit is a build-up of plaque, which eventually hardens into tartar, leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and periodontal disease.

The result? A bacterial invasion of the gums and tissues supporting the teeth, damaging them and ultimately causing tooth loss. This bacteria can also invade the bloodstream, potentially damaging the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.

Did you know that, as responsible owners, you can lower your dog’s risks by following a program of conscientious oral care.

Before you start, have the vet examine your dog’s mouth for signs of hardened plaque and/or dental disease. If your dog suffers from either condition, once the dental disease is treated and/or the plaque professionally removed, your home care program can begin.

Ideally, you should begin caring for your dog’s teeth while he’s still a puppy. Brushing his teeth is the most effective way to control plaque by breaking it up before it hardens into tartar.

Choose only those toothbrushes, tooth pastes and oral gels designed especially for pets. For the more difficult ones, there are “rubber finger brushes.” If your dog refuses to accept any of these “tools,” use your own finger. It’s the act of brushing or rubbing which provides the most benefit.

Brush your dog’s teeth at the same time every day. Begin slowly, praising him often, stopping if he becomes agitated, then beginning again. Increase the amount of brushing time slowly, day by day.

If your dog absolutely refuses to have his teeth cleaned, add specially formulated antiseptic oral rinses (although they’re more effective when combined with cleaning) to his water.

Dogs love to chew, and this has the added benefit of helping to keep their teeth clean. There are dozens of specifically formulated oral care products for them, including dental chews, chew toys and treats.

There are also special dental diets shown to reduce plaque and/or tartar build up. They work by physically cleaning the teeth more efficiently than regular kibble (theirs is less likely to crumble upon chewing) or by the addition of chemicals to prevent the hardening of plaque into tartar.

Weekly inspections of your dog’s entire mouth can also help avoid both dental disease and costly and invasive medical procedures in the future. Ensure that your vet includes a thorough examination of your dog’s mouth, gums and teeth in each annual check up.

Be alert to such problems as bad breath, drooling, red or puffy, bleeding gums, yellow tartar crusted along the gum line, discolored, broken or missing teeth, bumps in the mouth, and changes in chewing or eating habits.

If you’ve been neglecting your dog’s dental health up to now, it is never too late to start.