Keeping Dogs Warm in the Cold

With the wind gusting, snow falling and thermometer plunging, conscientious dog owners are making certain that their precious pets remain snuggly safe and warm this winter.

Keep all dogs indoors, preferably in warm “go to” places away from drafts. To ensure their skin and coat are protected against the drier air – inside and out — brush them more often than usual. Pay special attention to both elderly and arthritic dogs, as their joints may stiffen in the cold, making their movements more awkward and painful.

If you have a wood-burning fireplace and light a fire, ensure that your dog is a safe distance from the heat, flames and flying embers. This reduces the risk of singed fur, hair, paws and tails. The same applies to space heaters, except that, in this case, a dog can knock over the heater itself, possibly causing a fire.

Weather permitting, the happiest, healthiest dogs are those being walked and exercised on a regular basis. But before going outside, dress your dog — particularly seniors and smaller breeds – in a heavy sweater or coat. The colder the temperature, the greater the protection and should include waterproof, padded parkas with hoods and dog booties.

Always keep your dog on a leash, whether you’re on a city street or a country road near a frozen pond or lake. There’s nothing more dangerous or frightening than a dog running loose in the snow, possibly losing all sense of direction, or falling through the ice into the water.

When it’s cold and snowy, many dogs will resist pottying outside. Ensure that they’re warmly, but comfortably dressed, and stand close to them, perhaps with an opened umbrella to shield them and keep them dry.

Dogs lose most of their body heat from the pads of their feet, their ears, and their respiratory tract. Monitor them closely for any signs of discomfort. If they begin to shiver or whine, appear anxious, slow down or stop moving altogether, it’s time to go back inside. Be on guard as well for two more serious conditions: frostbite and hypothermia.

Once indoors, dry your dog thoroughly, paying special attention to their paws and the pads of their feet. Licking at any salt and antifreeze coating their pads can make them sick, while the combination of ice and salt can cause their pads to crack and bleed.

Never leave your dog alone in a car for any length of time on a cold day. Cars are like giant refrigerators on wheels. The only safe place for your dog on a cold day is a warm home.

Holiday Hoopla and Doggy Health Hazards

With the holidays approaching, it’s time to think not only about celebrating, but also about dog safety.

To ensure that the season stays merry and bright, plan ahead and start early. Change the appearance of your home from everyday to holiday gradually, over a period of several weeks. This will allow your dog time to grow comfortable with everything from new or additional furniture and tabletop arrangements to wall and window decorations. To encourage your dog to view this as something positive, reinforce the sentiment by keeping him occupied with Kongs filled with cheese spread or peanut butter, or puzzle toys to puzzle over while you slowly transform the space around him. Maintain your dog’s normal feeding and walking schedules. Ensure that your dog’s “go to” place for security remains the same, unless you know from past experience that his doggy bed, crate or favorite blanket should be moved to a room far from the festivities.

Whether you’re hosting a single event or several, follow the same routine to minimize your dog’s potential uneasiness. Ask any unfamiliar guests and all of the children to calmly ignore your dog. Monitor your dog for any signs of anxiety or stress, and lead him to his “safe” place if necessary. On the other hand, if he appears relaxed and is eagerly going from guest to guest, provide them with some of his favorite treats so that they can keep him happily fed.

Be conscious of and careful about the greenery you bring into your home. The sap of the Poinsettia plant is considered mildly toxic, and can cause nausea or vomiting in your dog. Holly is considered moderately toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, whereas mistletoe is severely toxic and can cause everything from gastrointestinal disorders to cardiovascular problems. Christmas trees are considered mildly toxic. Their oils can irritate your dog’s mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling and/or vomiting, while their prickly needles are hazardous to your dog’s entire GI tract. Wherever possible, keep all plants beyond your dog’s reach, or else watch him carefully for signs of curiosity, interest, or the impulse to either lick or chew. To err on the side of caution, buy artificial plants instead.

Consider next the breakable ornaments and dangling tinsel, shiny ribbons, ropes of small lights and flickering candles. All eye-catching eye candy to curious canines – from noses and teeth to paws and tails.

Hang delicate ornaments higher on the tree and resist placing any in decorative bowls on low surfaces. Not only can dogs choke on them, but the sharp edges of any broken pieces can lacerate their mouths, throats and intestines. Drape tinsel higher on the tree as well, and keep ribbons on gifts underneath the tree to a minimum. If tinsel or ribbons are swallowed, they can twist and bunch inside a dog’s intestines, causing serious, sometimes

fatal, damage if not caught quickly enough.

Artificial snow is toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Lights, large and small, solid and flickering are another danger, not only because they are hot and breakable, but because of the electrical cords holding them together. If bitten, they can cause electrical shock if not properly grounded, and if frayed, they can cause severe lacerations to your dog’s tongue.
Place all lighted candles out of reach to reduce the risk of singed fur and pads, paws and tails, and lower the chance of them being tipped over, leaving burning wax everywhere or worse, starting a fire.

As appetizing as holiday fare is for people, it can prove agonizing, even lethal for pets. The most notorious offenders are:
Grapes: Although the precise substance which causes the toxicity in grapes is unknown (some dogs can eat grapes without incident, while others can eat one and become seriously ill), keep them away from your dog.
Onions and garlic: The sulfoxides and disulfides in both destroy red blood cells and can cause serious blood problems, including anemia.

Ham: High in salt and fat, it can lead to stomach upsets and, over time, pancreatitis.

Macademia nuts: Within 12 hours of ingesting them, dogs can experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting and hyperthermia (increased body temperature), lasting between 12 and 48 hours. If your dog is exhibiting any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
Bones: Whether rib roasts or lamb chops, turkey, chicken or duck, they all have bones. Thick ones and thin ones. Brittle, fragmented and splintered ones. Whatever the size, shape or texture, they all spell the same thing: danger. From throat scratches to stomach perforations to bowel obstructions. To safeguard against these painful possibilities, all leftovers, particularly bones, should be carefully wrapped and promptly disposed of.

Fat trimmings: They cause upset stomachs, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Alcohol: It’s traditional to celebrate the holidays with more alcohol than usual – in cooking and in drinks such as eggnog and fruit punch. For safety’s sake, keep these temptations (including partially eaten plates of food and half-empty glasses) out of reach of your dog to avoid intoxication and alcohol poisoning.

Chocolates: Although chocolate has long been taboo for dogs, most chocolates are wrapped in foil for the holidays. Now, not only can your dog get sick from eating the chocolate, the wrappers themselves can get stuck in his throat or cause problems as they work their way through his digestive tract.

Christmas pudding, cake and mince pie: Filled with potentially toxic raisins, currants, and sultanas, they are also made with fat and suet, and laced with alcohol — from scotch and brandy to sugary liqueurs.

And so, with some strategic planning beforehand, you and your doggy dearest can be assured of spending the happiest and safest of holidays together.

Dogs and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

As the days grow darker and shorter, and the thermometer plummets, so does the mood of millions of people living in the Northern Hemisphere. But humans are not the only ones affected by what scientists refer to as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. Our dogs – even the happiest, most active and energetic ones — can suffer the same dramatic downturn in mood.

 In some veterinary studies, one third of the dog owners surveyed reported a steep plunge in their dogs’ otherwise happy and balanced personalities during the winter. According to them, nearly half of their dogs were less active, while half of them slept longer and were more difficult to rouse in the morning.

 The British veterinary organization PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) recently listed some of the symptoms displayed by dogs suffering from SAD. They include aggressive behavior or soiling inappropriately, clawing at the furniture, either demanding more attention or appearing withdrawn, frequent barking, lethargy, less interest in going for walks or playing either with people, other dogs or toys, and reduced appetite accompanied by weight loss.

According to scientists, the reason for these behavioral changes in both humans and dogs appears to stem from the effect that light has on two significant hormones. The first is melatonin, produced in the pineal gland. The second is serotonin, produced in the brain.

Melatonin, often referred to as the “hormone of darkness”, plays a vital role in regulating the sleep cycle. The pineal gland is light sensitive, and because melatonin is usually secreted at night, the less light there is – as in the shorter, darker days of winter — the greater the production of melatonin. Key among its many, negative effects: lethargy, loss of appetite and sleepiness.

Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel good” substance in the brain also affects mood, appetite and sleep – but in an entirely different way. In this case, it’s sunlight that’s needed for the production of serotonin.

There are ways, however, to combat the effects of daylight’s diminishing hours on your dog’s mood before the full onset of winter. Start by ensuring that his regular exercise regime is maintained, and that his diet is well balanced. If your dog is already showing signs of lethargy or withdrawal, talk constantly and comfortingly to him and play games — such as hiding his favorite toys or tug-o-war — to keep him active and engaged. Studies show that dogs left alone most of the day are those who suffer the most. To rectify this, spend more time with your dog, hire a dog walker, or place him in doggy daycare.

Since the absence of bright light seems to be the major cause of SAD, the other solutions involve raising your dog’s direct exposure to as much light as possible. Place his bed close to a window or glass door. Change the schedule of his walks so that he is outside during the brightest portion of the day, and keep the lights on inside, particularly on the dullest days.

Ultimately, though, it’s the composition of the light that matters most. The more closely it resembles natural daylight, the more therapeutic it is. Just as there are specially designed “light boxes” for people with SAD, there are now similar light boxes for dogs. Owners opting for less expensive solutions need simply replace old, tungsten light bulbs with new, compact white fluorescent ones, labeled either “full spectrum” or “daylight.” Turn these lights on for at least an hour each day, then play with your dog to ensure his eyes are fully open and both retinas clearly exposed to the incoming light.

Hopefully, following all or some of these suggestions will spare both you and your cherished doggy companion an unnecessary case of the winter blues.

 

A Carefree Canine Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a festive time, filled with feasting, family, and friends. But it’s also a time of potential distress for our canine companions. Any sudden change in a dog’s comfortable surroundings – a calm home now filled with new scents, sounds and strangers — can send even the most balanced dog barking for cover.

 To reduce your furry friend’s stress level (and YOURS), maintain his regular feeding, playing, and walking schedule. Ensure that his familiar “go to” place remains the same and keep all but the most social dogs in a separate room. If, by chance, your dog darts out the door when your guests arrive, make certain that he has either been micro-chipped or is wearing a collar with up-to-date tags for proper identification and a swift return to your waiting arms.

 As tantalizing as Thanksgiving food is for people, some can prove painful, even fatal for dogs. The most notorious offenders are:

 Chocolate: All chocolate, especially semi-sweet, dark and baking chocolate contain the toxic, caffeine-like ingredient theobromine. Candy containing the artificial sweetener xylitol, is also dangerous. If you suspect that your dog has eaten something toxic, promptly call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435.

 Turkey stuffing: It often contains onions and garlic, raisins and spices – all of them toxic to dogs. The sulfoxides and disulfides in onions and garlic destroy the red blood cells and can cause serious blood problems, including anemia. The effects of ingesting raisins and/or spices usually occur within 24 hours and include lack of appetite, lethargy, weakness, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and decreased urination.

 Cooked turkey bones and gristle: Turkey bones splinter easily and can get caught in your dog’s throat or esophagus. They can also cause intestinal blockages or perforations leading to infection, while turkey gristle presents a clear and present choking hazard. To safeguard against these painful possibilities, all leftovers should be carefully wrapped and promptly disposed of.

 Alcohol: To avoid intoxication and alcohol poisoning, keep all full glasses and half-filled glasses of wine or spirits out of reach of your dog’s curious nose and playful paws.

And yet, there’s no harm in providing your doggy with his own Thanksgiving feast, one that includes a few small, boneless pieces of cooked turkey, a taste of mashed potato or even a lick of pumpkin pie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOG BITING: FOREWARNED IS FOREARMED

Dogs may nip or bite for a variety of reasons. The following are the most common:

DOMINANCE AGGRESSION
When these dogs bite, their likeliest targets are the ones nearest to them: members of their own human families. The expression “Let sleeping dogs lie” is never more true than in the case of an owner stepping over a dog napping in an inconvenient place or brushing one off a chair, couch or bed. Push down too strongly on a dog’s rump to reinforce the “sit” command or attempt to stare down a dog who seems oddly unsettled, and a warning bark may all too quickly be followed by a bite.

FEAR AGGRESSION
This response is usually directed toward strangers. Much like people, dogs are, by nature, fearful of unfamiliar and potentially threatening situations. In old cartoons and movies, it was always the postman who was at the receiving end of a bite. But, in reality, it can be anyone. Anyone the dog doesn’t know, anyone innocently “invading” a dog’s space, or anyone who seems particularly menacing. If a series of cautionary barks doesn’t fend off this perceived danger, a lunge and a bite may result.

REDIRECTED AGGRESSION
Well-intentioned, but ill-advised attempts to break up a dogfight often cause the referee in question to be bitten. When two angry dogs are squaring off against each other, baiting, barking and air snapping, and a hand reaches in to seize a collar or a coat, either dog may suddenly whip round and lash out with his mouth at the “intruder.”

PAIN-INDUCED AGGRESSION
Even the sweetest and gentlest dog can — if the pain is severe enough — bite the hand that’s trying to help. Whether a novice owner, an experienced trainer, or a seasoned vet. Every dog has his own particular threshold and tolerance for pain. Cross it with a normally soothing touch or a tender pat of reassurance, and that nursing hand will need a doctor.

PERSISTENT HARASSMENT
This category is reserved for people who either don’t respect a dog’s boundaries or don’t understand that every dog has his limits. Thoughtless behaviors, inconsiderate overtures, constant pestering, poking or prodding – and the perpetrator will be punished with a bite.

PROTECTION OF “PROPERTY”
Dogs chosen by families either for personal protection or for the protection of their property may find themselves the unwitting target of their dogs’ over-zealous guarding. Trained to defend everything of value – from the family house and car to the family itself – from outside threats, some dogs will even “protect” one family member from another by biting the one they considers a threat.

Children between the ages of 5 and 9 are at greatest risk for dog bites. To minimize these  risks, they should be taught to:

Report a strange dog wandering through their yard or neighborhood to an adult.

Never approach a strange dog.

Never approach an eating or sleeping dog, or a mother caring for her pups.

Never look directly into a dog’s eyes.

Stand as still as a statue if approached by a strange dog.

Never scream at or run from a strange dog.

Roll into a ball and not move if knocked down by a strange dog.

Never play with a dog unless in the company of an adult.

To help reduce the incidences of dog biting:

All responsible dog owners must learn about and understand fully the complexities of canine behavior.

All responsible dog owners must obedience train and socialize their dogs – the sooner, the younger, the better.

All responsible dog owners must teach their children to respect ALL dogs, starting with the ones in their own homes.

It’s said that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. In the case of dog biting, however, a little knowledge is less dangerous than no knowledge at all.