Key signs to be aware of to avoid being bitten by a dog

Inspector Clouseau: Does your dog bite?

Hotel clerk: No

Inspector Clouseau: [bending down to pet dog] Nice doggie

[Dog bites Clouseau on the hand]

Inspector Clouseau: I thought you said your dog did not bite!

Hotel clerk: That is not my dog

 

Inspector Clouseau dog bite sketch
The dog bite sketch from The Pink Panther Strikes Again

The above quote and image are taken from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again” (1976) and it is one of the funniest skits that Peter Sellars played in his role of Inspector Clouseau.  In real life, dog bites are no laughing matter.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites occurring in the United States every year.  Regrettably, in 2016 there were 41 dog bite-related fatalities in the US. Even dog lovers who have grown up with dogs and are used to being around dogs are not immune to being bitten.  So what can you do to protect yourself?

Signs that a dog is about to bite

Just as with people, you can tell a lot about a dog’s mood by the body language he is using.  Dogs can bite in 1/40th of a second, so knowing what to be aware of in the lead up to that can be helpful. There are 9 key signs to look for that can indicate when a dog may be about to bite.  Some of them are subtle and may easily be confused with other moods.

Low growling

A dog may growl for a whole range of reasons, and not all of these are a sign of bad things to come.  If you start to hear a quiet, low growling sound, this can indicate that it is time to be concerned that the dog is going to be aggressive. If he is also snapping at the same time you need to take action.

Showing front teeth

When a dog bares his teeth, this may be for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes it is because he is being submissive, but other times it is because he is being aggressive.  An aggressive “smile” is often accompanied by other behaviors as given below, so look out for a combination of all of these things.

dog showing teeth

Rigid body

If the dog’s body suddenly stiffens and the tail raises slightly, you are being given a warning sign.

Direct eye contact and whales eyes

Whale eyes

The above image shows a dog whaling his eyes.  If a dog is showing more of the whites of his eyes than usual by turning his head away but is still staring at the thing that he feels is threatening him, it is a clear signal that the dog is uncomfortable.

Shaking and drooling

A dog may start shaking from the adrenaline rush from the stressful situation.  The stress can also cause a dog to drool more than usual.

Wagging tail

Commonly thought of as a sign of happiness, this is not always the case. If the dog’s tail is raised higher than the normal wagging position and his body is perfectly still, you know there is a potential for a problem.

Canine body language

Licks lips, turns away, and averts gaze

Dogs will tend to lick their lips when they are nervous. A combination of all three of the above movements can indicate trouble ahead.

Raised fur

The hairs on the back of the dog suddenly become raised erect and the dog may even smell differently as odors from glands are released.

Dog with hackles raised and other signs

Whiskers twitch

Due to tension in the body and the face, a dog’s whiskers will begin to twitch.

If you observe any of the above 9 behaviors in a dog, remain motionless, do not run or scream, and avoid direct eye contact with the dog. Especially if you are encountering a large dog, it is easy to get knocked over by the dog. If you are knocked over, it is best to roll yourself into a ball covering your ears and neck with your hands and arms.  Continue to avoid making eye contact with the dog.

 

How to prevent yourself from being bitten by a dog

Once you recognize the signs that a dog is about to bite, what can you do to prevent provoking this behavior in the first place?  One initial suggestion is not to approach a dog that is unfamiliar to you. Secondly, you should not run away from a dog, or appear to be panicked.  If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog, do not move, run, or scream, and make sure you don’t make direct eye contact.  Thirdly, you should never disturb a dog if she is eating, sleeping, or when caring for puppies.  Fourthly, don’t pet a dog before she has had a chance to sniff and smell you.  Following this, you should never pat her on the head, instead just scratch her under the chin. Finally, it is never advisable to engage in rough, aggressive play with a dog.

Steps to take to prevent your dog biting others

We’ve considered what to do about being bitten by someone else’s dog, but how can you stop your own dog from being a threat to you and your family or to others.  Before choosing a dog for your family pet, try to do as much research as possible and ask a professional such as a vet or a dog trainer, so that you can find the breed that best meets your family’s needs.  In addition to looking at dog temperament and exercise requirements, you should also consider that certain breeds have much stronger bites than others.  Bite strength is measured in pound-force per square inch (PSI).  Examples of breeds with the strongest bite are the Kangal and the Doberman.

 

Kangal
Kangal

 

If you are considering adopting a rescue dog, you may not know much about the dog’s history or whether it has aggressive tendencies.  In this case, it is better to spend plenty of time with the dog before adopting him, to make sure the dog is a good fit for your home.  This is especially important if you have young children at home or if you have relatives or friends with young children regularly coming to your home.

When you decide on a dog, make sure you exercise your dog regularly to build bonds, reduce excess energy, and to keep your dog mentally stimulated.  Ensure that your puppy has proper socialization with exposure to as many different people and different situations as possible.  Train your dog so that he understands and responds to basic training commands.

It’s important to educate children on how to behave with dogs appropriately so that they are not bringing out aggression in the dog. Don’t play wrestling games or tug of war games with your dog and don’t allow children to play roughly with him either.

Finally, spaying or neutering dogs helps to reduce aggression and is highly recommended if you are not a dog breeder.

 

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The 20 worst foods for your dog to consume

 

As with much dietary advice, there is often confusion and sometimes conflicting advice about what is and what isn’t good for us to consume.  Food for dogs also falls into this zone as people are often unsure what foods are suitable for dogs and what foods aren’t.

Veterinarians advise that it is better to give dogs only food and treats designed for dogs.  In real life, many dog owners give their pets scraps from the table or use human food as a treat. So how can we be sure that what we are giving our dogs is not doing more harm than good?  In an attempt to make things a little clearer for dog owners, the following is our guide showing what NOT to feed your dog and the reasons why.

Avocado

avocado

A superfood for humans, but not for our canine friends.  Avocados contain a substance called persin, which causes vomiting and diarrhea in dogs.

Alcohol

Not just restricted to beverages, this also includes food that contains alcohol.  Never give alcohol to a dog as this can cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, central nervous system depression, difficulty breathing, tremors, abnormal blood acidity, coma, and even death.

Hops

This is an ingredient used in beermaking and just like the alcohol itself, is toxic for dogs, causing panting, an increased heart rate, fever, seizures, and can result in death.

Happy Farmer

Onions and garlic

Not only do these vegetables cause gastrointestinal upset, they can also damage red blood cells in dogs. This can be fatal.  It should be noted that garlic in very small doses could be OK for dogs, but larger quantities are dangerous. Because of this, it is recommended to steer clear of garlic.

Coffee, tea, caffeine, and chocolate

All of the above items contain methylxanthines, specifically caffeine in coffee and theobromine in chocolate.  These cause vomiting, diarrhea, panting, excessive thirst, arrhythmia, seizures, and can also result in death.  Even though these products have different levels of methylxanthines, it is best to avoid any kind of chocolate and caffeine entirely.

dog-eyeing-chocolate-cake

Grapes and raisins

Grapes and raisins cause kidney failure.  Experts do not entirely understand why this is the case, but it is simply advised that dogs do not consume these fruits because of that potential outcome.

grapes

Milk and dairy products

Dogs do not produce large quantities of the lactase enzyme, so are unable to break down the lactose in dairy products.  Although small amounts of dairy products can be tolerated, larger quantities are likely to result in gastrointestinal upset.

Nuts

Macadamia nuts are particularly problematic. Although excellent for humans, these nuts cause weakness, tremors, vomiting, and hyperthermia. Not all nuts are bad for dogs, but the high fat content can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs and can ultimately lead to pancreatitis.

macademia-nuts

Bones

Although this may sound like a good idea, stick to raw bones. Never ever give chicken bones, as these are too fragile for your dog. Cooked bones can splinter and cause a choking hazard for dogs.

Fat trimmings

Feeding your dog with these can result in pancreatitis in dogs, so should be avoided.

Liver

Liver contains a lot of vitamin A, which although good for humans can adversely affect a dog’s muscles and bones.

Citrus

Although it is ok to eat small amounts of the actual fruit, other parts are toxic to animals.  Keep peel, leaves, and stems away from dogs as the oils can affect the central nervous system.

orange-peel

Corn on the cob

Although dogs can tolerate some vegetables, corn on the cob is not well digested in a dog’s stomach. If your dog eats a large amount of the cob itself, look for signs of gastrointestinal upset or constipation as there may be an intestinal blockage.

Persimmons, peaches, and plums

The seeds of all these fruits can lead to gastrointestinal obstruction. The pit of a peach is particularly dangerous to a dog’s health as it degrades to hydrogen cyanide when metabolized.

peach

Coconut and coconut oil

Small amounts of the flesh may be eaten, but this can sometimes result in vomiting and diarrhea. Never give your dog coconut with the shell still on, as this can result in choking or even abdominal obstruction.

Raw meat and fish

Consuming raw fish on a regular basis can actually lead to a vitamin B deficiency in dogs. This may shows as a loss of appetite initially, followed by seizures, and possibly death.

Salt

Just as with humans, consuming large amounts of salt leads to excessive thirst in dogs.  It can also result in sodium ion poisoning, so salty snacks should be avoided.

Yeast dough

Raw dough can continue to rise inside the dog, causing bloating and intestinal discomfort.  It can sometimes result in a twisted stomach, which is a life-threatening condition.

dog-looking-at-raw-dough

Mushrooms

If they are store bought mushrooms, chances are that your dog will not have an allergic reaction.  Do not attempt to give your dog wild mushrooms as there is a higher potential that these may be toxic.

Xylitol

Used as a sweetener in many different applications including gum and candy, xylitol can cause insulin release, which leads to liver failure. The increase in insulin leads to hypoglycemia. Initial signs of toxicosis include vomiting, lethargy, and loss of coordination. These symptoms can progress to seizures. Elevated liver enzymes and liver failure can be seen within a few days. Avoid this product entirely.

gum

What to do if your dog consumes these items

If your dog consumes any of the above foods, but currently shows no symptoms, call your local poison control center straight away for advice. The ASPCA poison control number is (888) 426-4435 and there may be a fee applied for a consultation. For all other cases take your pet immediately to an animal emergency hospital or your local veterinarian.

As always, if in doubt about what is best for your dog’s health and welfare, consult with your veterinarian.

 

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Helping your child deal with the death of your dog

 

As much as we hate to think of it, every life eventually ends and there comes a time when every pet owner has to face the death of his or her pet. The average lifespan of a dog is 10 – 13 years. Even if you have one of the breeds that can live to around 17 years such as a Chihuahua, health issues or accidents can occur along the way that can mean your dog’s life is brought to an end earlier than that typical of the breed.  This can be devastating to pet owners and can be particularly hard for children to deal with. As a parent, you want to help your child learn how to tackle what life brings whether happy or sad and helping them to cope with the death of a pet fits into this category. So, this somewhat sombre post considers how you can make things easier for your child during the saddest of times.

Child walking dog

 

What to say to your child when a pet dies

Your child may see the family dog as not only a family member but also a best friend.  The pet is often a source of comfort when your child is upset, so how can you help your child through this time when that source of comfort is now the source of their biggest grief?  A lot of how you will approach this depends not only on the age of your child but also on the level of maturity.

If your pet died as a result of illness, don’t avoid talking with your child about this.  Explain that the dog was very sick and that the veterinarians tried everything possible to help him.  Telling your child that the dog dying was the kindest outcome, because if the dog lived he or she would be in too much pain can make it more bearable. Don’t confuse younger kids by using phrases such as “put to sleep,” as this can send mixed messages and children should view sleeping as a good thing, not something with scary consequences.

If your dog has died because of an accident, that can be more of a shock for everyone as it is an entirely unexpected event. Be truthful about what has happened, explaining events in a calm way, but keep it simple and don’t go into elaborate detail.

Although the death of a pet is difficult, it is a way for children to learn about how to cope with loss later in life.  It is important for them to learn that they can work their way through grief.

 

Why is dealing with a dog’s death so intense? 

When your dog dies, your entire daily routine is affected.  It is not always as easy to have the grieving time normally afforded to those who lose a human family member. For many people, who view dogs as their children, it is the same feeling as losing a family member.  Children sometimes view their dogs as they would a sibling, so it can be similar to losing a brother or sister for them.

As with any loss, the grieving process may mean going through a whole series of emotions at different times, ranging from sadness at the loss itself, guilt for not being a better pet owner, and anger that nothing could be done to save the pet. Let children know that it is perfectly OK to feel all these emotions and that they are not alone with that because other family members are feeling the same way too.

Sad child being comforted

Moving on

Having a small memorial ceremony to remember your pet can be helpful. Some families like to put together a memory book so that they can look through it together and remember the good times. Explain that you’ll always have happy memories of your pet and talk about some of those good times together.

Child hugging dog

 

If you have helped your child through this experience, please share what was helpful for you and your family during this time.

Dog's live are too short

 

 

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The No-panic Guide to Tackling Fleas and Ticks on Your Dog

If you are a pet owner, you will already know that treating your dog for fleas and ticks is a year-round issue.  However, there are certain times of the year when the flea and tick population increases and that can mean far more cases of tick-borne diseases in people and animals.

 

How do we know if there will be lots of ticks this year?

There have been many reports throughout the media already this year to indicate that this is likely to be one of the most problematic years for fleas and ticks in the US. Scientists know which years will be worse for Lyme disease than others simply by recording the number of mice throughout the country. Mice transmit Lyme disease very efficiently and ticks thrive on mice, with approximately 50 to 100 ticks covering a mouse’s face.1  In 2016 there was a plague of mice in the US and because of this, scientists know that 2017 will see higher numbers of ticks than in other years.

When temperatures during the winter are mild and spring arrives early, fleas and ticks thrive.

 

Tick
Tick

 

Why do you need to protect your dog from fleas and ticks?

Dog fleas survive by biting the host (the dog), which initially causes itching and redness on the dog’s skin. Some dogs can become severely anemic because of the blood loss caused by a flea infestation.  Others develop a hypersensitivity to the saliva from fleas, which may make dogs scratch more intensely and may lead to hair loss and abrasions, which ultimately can lead to infections.

Fleas are also intermediate hosts for tapeworms, so there is a likelihood of dogs ingesting tapeworms too.  Fleas also carry other diseases such as the plague, typhus, and myxomatosis.

 

flea
Flea

 

Ticks also spread disease.  If your dog gets bitten by a tick it can cause a wide range of health issues.  The most commonly known is Lyme disease, which causes swelling at the joints and can result in lameness. Rocky mountain spotted fever is another illness, which causes fever and lameness plus other symptoms.   Babesiosis can also occur.  Ticks can also cause your pet to become anemic and certain species of female ticks can cause paralysis in dogs.

 

How do you protect your dog?

Use a flea and tick control product on your pet and ensure that you apply the treatment as directed by the manufacturer.  Consistency is important, as skipping a treatment can mean months trying to get back on top of the problem.

In your yard, prevent ticks from thriving by keeping lawns mowed, ensuring that there aren’t big piles of leaves and keeping trees and hedging trimmed.  Try to keep fleas at a minimum by deterring wildlife from entering your yard, as they bring plenty of fleas with them.

Protecting your dog from ticks is not particularly easy.  Ticks can attach themselves to your pet when you are out walking your dog without you realizing.  Try to keep your pet away from areas where there is a particularly high tick infestation – your veterinarian may be aware of locations in your area that are best avoided.

dog in grass

What to do if your dog gets bitten by a tick

Ticks often become attached around the head, ears, neck, and feet of your pet, but they can show up in other areas too.  Always check your dog thoroughly following a walk.  If you find a tick on your dog, don’t just pull the tick off as it can leave parts of the tick behind, which will cause further problems.

There are products that you can buy at pet stores or veterinarian offices that allow you to lift the tick safely off your dog’s skin.

Alternatively, you can remove a tick simply using tweezers. The Humane Society recommends the following approach.  Using clean tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the dog’s skin as possible and pull it out of the skin in one straight, steady motion.Always wear gloves to ensure that you don’t get bitten by the tick too.

If you have questions or concerns about the best way to keep ticks and fleas at bay or how to treat your pet for problems associated with these bugs, speak to your local veterinarian.  Your veterinarian can advise you based on your location, the breed and size of your dog, and based on any other health conditions that your dog may have.

References

  1. http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/03/06/518219485/forbidding-forecast-for-lyme-disease-in-the-northeast?utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=20170306
  2. http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/dogs/tips/getting_ticks_off_dog.html?referrer=https://www.google.co.uk/

 

 

Five dog-specific apps to Help you Live Better

Today, there are mobile apps for almost every conceivable topic or need and because so many people now own smartphones and tablets, mobile app usage has seen huge growth worldwide.  It is estimated that by 2020, mobile apps will generate a staggering $189 billion worldwide.1 

There are some really interesting apps that have been developed specifically for dog owners.  We’ve taken a look at five free apps (all available for Android and iOS), which could potentially assist dog owners with many aspects of dog care.

Dog Vacay

Despite the boom in dog-friendly hotel options across the nation, there are times when you need to travel but just can’t take your favorite companion with you.  Although there are excellent kennels available in the US, some people prefer their dogs to have a more personalized pet-sitting service and this led to the development of the DogVacay app.

Dog Vacay allows you to connect with dog sitters in your area who offer services ranging from dog walking, to taking your dog to vet appointments, or caring for your dog in your home or theirs when you are out of town.

With a 24/7 customer support service and daily photo or video updates, you can travel or use the daycare option knowing that your dog is in good hands.

dog-vacay
Pet First Aid

Just like people, pets get sick and have accidents too.  Although many of us are familiar with the correct first aid procedures when dealing with people, we’re not necessarily as confident when required to be first responders in pet emergencies. The Pet First Aid app developed by the American Red Cross remedies that situation, allowing you to check symptoms and watch videos on how best to respond to common emergency situations.

You can learn about early warning signs, learn first aid steps, and take quizzes on pet health and safety. For more serious conditions, the app will also tell you the location of the nearest emergency animal hospital or veterinarian’s office.

A great app to use in emergencies and a great resource to help you provide emergency care for your pet until you can get to a veterinarian.

pet-first-aid

BarkCam

If you’re a dog owner, you will know that no matter how adorable your dog’s appearance, trying to capture “that look” in a photo can be extremely difficult.  This is where BarkCam comes in.  Using a variety of different sounds to get your dog’s attention, the sounds are linked to the camera’s shutter button, so you trigger sound and take the photo at the same time.

When you’ve got your favorite picture, you can edit to your heart’s content using filters, stickers or even text.  You can share pictures on the platform itself or share it on either Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

bark-cam

Whistle

This app requires a phone for you and a Whistle GPS collar for your dog, which then allows you to track not only your dog’s location but also his heart rate.  Designed to help avoid dog’s getting lost, it also allows you to create custom activity goals for your dog, based on breed, size, and age and can be modified depending on which family member is walking the dog at that particular time.

It is important to keep in mind that because this app has nationwide GPS coverage in the US, there is potential to run down your phone battery much faster on longer walks.

Although this app is free, the required collar costs around $50*.

 

whistle-device
Whistle GPS dog collar

 

 

MapMyDogWalk

There are plenty of apps on the market for runners and walkers and this app is quite similar, but designed specifically for those who walk dogs. The app gives you information on the best dog walking routes in your area and if you use one of these or add one of your own, the app allows you to track progress made and allows you to save this data to compare against future walks. Information on dog parks, waste-bag dispensers, dog-friendly areas and water fountains are all given in this dog-friendly app.
Once again, it is important to note that continually using GPS, does dramatically drain battery power.

map-my-dog-walk

 

We have only taken a look at 5 free apps, but there are far more on the market for dog owners to use. Why not look for one that would make your lifestyle easier?  As businesses are increasingly being encouraged to develop apps, it is possible that in the not too distant future we will see an even greater number of dog-friendly apps, which will likely become more interactive and more personalized to meet user need.

Do you currently use any apps on your cell phone or tablet that make your dog care duties more manageable or is there an app that you would love to see available for dog owners? Let us know which apps make your life with your dog better.

*Price correct at time of article posting.

References

  1. https://www.statista.com/topics/1002/mobile-app-usage/

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Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 2

Part 2: Dogs

dog-diving-into-ocean

People often automatically assume that just because many dogs love water and love swimming that all dogs love it and can swim instinctively.  This is not necessarily the case and when it comes to dogs and swimming, there are actually three distinct groups.

Group 1: Those that inherently know how to swim

Examples in this category are Labrador retrievers, who typically love water and once they are in it’s often pretty difficult to get them back out.

swimming-dog-2

Group 2: Those that can be taught

If your dog is a breed that could swim and could enjoy swimming you can encourage him by beginning in shallow, calm water.  If he responds well to that and likes to chase tennis balls or floating toys, you could try tempting him with the toys.

Group 3: Those that need to stay away from pools or other bodies of water at all costs

Dogs that fall into this category are typically those with large heavy chests relative to their hindquarters, short legs, and short muzzles. Examples of this are English bulldogs, pugs, French bulldogs, corgis and basset hounds.  Some of these breeds have very low body fat too, making them far more susceptible to hypothermia in colder waters. If you own a dog with these physical characteristics it would definitely be advisable to keep him or her away from bodies of water or be equipped with a life vest if you cannot avoid this.

swimming-dog

Teaching your dog to swim

Start off slowly by introducing your dog to shallow water.  It is often advisable to put a life vest on the dog and/or a leash.  If your dog responds well to this, gradually move to deeper water so that he needs to do some paddling. Support your dog underneath the belly area to encourage him to use all 4 legs to swim.  Just as with teaching children to swim, it is advisable to keep swim sessions with your dog fairly short, but done regularly.

dog-in-the-water-on-a-leash

It is important to keep in mind that many dogs just simply don’t enjoy swimming. Even breeds that were bred for swimming (such as Labrador retrievers) don’t always enjoy it.  Some may be able to swim but are actually scared of the water.  Fear can increase fatigue, so always monitor whether your dog is showing signs of being fearful.

Never let your dog swim in areas where the water is too cold or where there are currents.  Don’t let your dog get overly tired while swimming. This is particularly important if you have a puppy or a senior dog. Do bear in mind that dogs can get disoriented when swimming, so keep a close eye on your dog’s location in the water.

There are lots of different options available for life vests.  These should be used when your dog goes on a boat, or if he is included in activities such as river floats or paddle boarding.

dog-wearing-life-jacket-2

After all the fun of the water, do remember to give your dog a shower or bath to rinse any residual chlorine or salts from his coat. Cleanse ears with an appropriate product and ensure that they are gently but thoroughly dried to prevent ear infections. Provide fresh water for drinking after swimming.

Is your dog a natural swimmer or afraid of the water?  What tips worked best for you?

 

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Taking the plunge with dogs and kids: Part 1

Many families like to vacation near beaches, rivers or lakes and all of these have one thing in common – water!  When there are large bodies of water present, we should always think of the safety of our children and our dogs.  This two-part series looks at how to keep dogs and kids safe so that everyone can have a fun and safe time on vacation or on weekend trips.

family-in-pool-on-vacation

Part 1: Kids

Ideally, swimming is an activity that should be introduced when children are still infants.  Many pools and community programs offer instructor-led “Mommy and Me” swim sessions that allow the babies to get used to being in the water and are great for Moms and babies to bond further.

mom-with-baby-swimming-2

It is preferable to then progress to swimming lessons with a trained swimming instructor who can show your child the correct techniques from the beginning – it is a lot more difficult to unlearn bad habits and techniques.  This type of swimming instruction is usually available on a group or an individual basis.  Group sessions tend to be less expensive, but as there are more children involved there tends to be less actual swimming time.  If your budget won’t stretch to professional lessons, you may want to consider teaching them to swim yourself. This does not always work, as learning to swim can be a frustrating process and sometimes kids will take instruction better from a swimming instructor than from a parent. It is also problematic if you have multiple children. If you are keen to give it a go and will be working with just one child, here are some ideas to make parent-child swimming instruction successful.

Make it a regular date

In order for parent-child swimming instruction to work, kids need to swim regularly and preferably once a week.  Make a point of assigning this time in your calendar once a week and sticking to it, except when your child is sick.

child-learning-to-swim

Keep it short and keep it varied

Swimming is a very tiring activity and as much as we want our kids to sleep well at night, having prolonged swimming sessions when they are learning to swim can be counterproductive.  It’s far better to keep it short (15 – 20 minutes for very young and new swimmers) and to keep lesson activities varied.

Make it fun

Making the swimming lessons fun with games and other activities is crucial to keeping children engaged and in building their confidence in the water.  For very young kids, use games involving nursery rhymes and plastic toys.  As they get older, continue to use those techniques, but also introduce games such as “red light, green light,” (where children kick like crazy on green, slow down on amber, and stop on red) to help improve specific swimming techniques. As they get slightly older, drop the nursery rhymes and include the use of more games, varying the games from session to session.

Kids of all ages will learn better if there is variety in the lesson.  If they get to use kickboards, pool noodles, and other flotation devices once in a while this will be beneficial.  Using these items helps to improve stroke technique, keeps them interested, and will leave them wanting to come back for more.  Not all community pools will allow their use, so check on that before taking yours along.

boy-swimming-with-kick-board

 

Make swimming enjoyable

Building up confidence in the water is vital so that kids are not afraid of the water and want to swim. As your little swimmer progresses in ability and confidence, you may want to think about enrolling in swimming clubs where a range of swimming and social opportunities will be offered.

Set rules

Make sure that your children know how to stay safe near a swimming pool.  They must always ask for permission to go in a pool and must have adult supervision during this time.  Rules such as not running by a pool are really important to follow. Use life vests or floaties for young kids when they are not actually practicing their swimming strokes, but do not rely on the floaties for safety. For young kids and those who are not strong swimmers, life vests should be worn for activities such as river floating or when in lake water.  If swimming in the ocean, be conscious of the tide and possible currents.  Where possible try to swim in a lifeguard supervised zone.

river-float-with-kid

 

Even when your child has become a good swimmer, it is possible to get into difficulties in the water.  Always ensure that children are supervised to minimize risk and ensure that you are all able to enjoy a fun and safe vacation.

Learning to swim is not a luxury, it is a necessity! Being able to swim is such an important skill to have.  Swimming provides fantastic exercise for able-bodied children and those with physical challenges and is an activity that can be continued throughout their lives.

Some of my happiest and most memorable times have taken place around water with my children. What experiences have you had? We’d love to hear about them.

 

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Why we Want US Healthcare to go to the Dogs

Have you ever had to spend any time in the hospital as a patient?  If you have, it is likely that you may have experienced periods of feeling low, anxious, stressed, and frustrated as a result of your illness or injury and because of being away from family, friends, and your home. If any of this sounds like your hospital experience, you were not alone, as it is not uncommon for hospitalized patients to experience a downturn in mental wellbeing, sometimes with physiological changes too.

In order to counteract some of these multi-factor stressors that hospitalized patients experience, many hospitals have introduced a variety of therapeutic programs.  One program that you are increasingly likely to see on that list is animal-assisted therapy sometimes simply called pet therapy.

Why is animal-assisted therapy being used?

The idea of animal-assisted therapy is not new.  For many years, it was considered to be a “nice” thing for hospital patients to experience, but thanks to increasing amounts of research into the topic by clinicians, there has been proven to be a wider range of benefits.

boy-with-pet-therapy-dog

What are the benefits of animal-assisted therapy to patients?

An article by Cole, Gawlinski, Steers, and Kotlerman1 in the American Journal of Critical Care showed that when patients had only a 12-minute visit from a pet, there was an improvement in heart and lung function and a significant lowering of blood pressure, a reduction in the release of harmful hormones, and a decrease in anxiety.  The study was conducted with hospitalized heart failure patients. It indicated that there was far more benefit shown in those patients that received a visit from a pet than in those patients who were only visited by a human volunteer or those who were left alone.

Specifically, the benefits to patients of animal-assisted therapy include:

Mental health benefits

  • Reduced depression
  • Reduced problem behaviors for patients with dementia (less agitation, less verbal aggression, and more social behavior)
  • Reduced fatigue
  • Reduced tension
  • Reduced confusion
  • Improved self-esteem and self-acceptance
  • Increased socialization
  • Reduced boredom

Physical health benefits

  • Lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure when exposed to stress
  • Reduced serum epinephrine concentrations
  • Lower pain perception
  • Endorphins (oxytocin) released giving a calming effect
  • Reduced need for medication

man-petting-dog-in-hospital

What are the dangers for patients?

If patients are allergic to pets, animal-assisted therapy cannot be used. Guidelines from the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA) indicate that only dogs should be used, not cats. Cats cannot be trained in the same way as dogs, with more likelihood of scratches and bites from cats.  Additionally, people are more likely to be allergic to cats than to dogs.

There has been a lot of research done on the benefit of having dogs in the hospital, but not much research on the spread of bacteria from having dogs in the hospital rooms. The SHEA developed new guidelines for how hospitals can approach having pets visiting with patients at the hospital. Dogs used for pet therapy purposes and their handlers need to undergo specific training and be evaluated prior to having hospital access and ideally should be certified by a pet training organization. The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists the organizations through which it accepts dogs to have received their certification and to be given the official title of AKC Therapy Dog.

A study done in a Canadian hospital tested dogs’ paws and fur prior to hospital entry and then again after visiting patients.  Of the 26 dogs studied, one picked up C Difficile on his paws during the visit and one had MRSA on his fur and on the handler’s hands following the visit.2 This highlights that although sanitizing pets is difficult, there is a definite need for thorough handwashing by anyone visiting patients prior to visiting and following the visit. When visiting with multiple patients, handwashing between visits is essential.

Hospitals have very distinct protocols in place to ensure that the transmission of infection is kept at a minimum. The animals have to be clean, vaccinated, trained, and have a good temperament before being allowed into the hospital in the first place.  In some cases, such as patients in isolation units or patients in the intensive care unit, pet therapy can only take place with extra measures in place, but in certain situations it is unsuitable.

lady-receiving-pet-therapy

Examples of successful animal-assisted therapy?

There are two types of patient-pet interactions: animal-assisted therapy and animal-assisted activity. Animal-assisted therapy is specifically directed toward patients with cancer, heart disease, or mental health concerns and needs to have a credentialed staff member involved in the process.  Animal-assisted activities have a wider scope and are typically used to provide comfort and enjoyment focusing on mental health benefits rather than trying to achieve specific physiological outcomes such as reduced blood pressure, etc. This latter form of activity is typically staffed by volunteer handlers.

Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center in New York City is an example of a hospital where canines have successfully been introduced in the Caring Canines program.

 

memorial-sloane-kettering-caring-canines
President of Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center with Caring Canines employees

 

There are many programs of a similar type being introduced across the nation as the full benefits are increasingly being understood.  Dogs are not only being used in surgical and treatment settings but are being used for physical therapy and rehabilitation. Tasks such as brushing a dog can make for more interesting arm strengthening exercises for patients than just doing weight training.3  Dogs can also be used to encourage walking and other rehabilitative exercises.

More and more research is being done on the subject of pet therapy to ascertain the relative merits.  Here at Pet Barrier, we think the answer is simple.  If having a therapy or activity session with a dog can at the bare minimum brighten a patient’s day during difficult times, pet therapy is absolutely worth it. It has been clinically proven that animal-assisted therapy achieves far more than that, with benefits to patients’ mental and physical health being achieved across all age groups, from children through to seniors.  Animal-assisted therapy and activity should be available at all healthcare facilities across the nation. Is US healthcare going to the dogs? We welcome it!

We’d love to hear about your experiences with pet therapy – please share if you are able.

References

1.       Gole, Gawlinski, Steers, Kotlerman. Animal-Assisted Therapy in Patients Hospitalized With Heart Failure. Am J Crit Care. November 2007 vol. 16 no. 6 575-585

2. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/therapy-dogs-and-hospital-infections/?_r=0 Tara Parker-Pope May 11, 2009

3. Haggard, A. (1985). A patient’s best friend. American Journal of Nursing. 85(12), 1374-1376

 

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 3, Lifestyle

 

Part 3: Your lifestyle

 

When you are a busy adult, whether because of work commitments, child care, caring for senior family members, pet care,  or perhaps all of the aforementioned, it is often easy to make the mistake of putting yourself last.  Admittedly in this 3-part series, I am posting this last, which shows I’m as guilty of thinking along these lines as anybody.  Whenever I’ve put my needs first, I’ve always felt a little bit guilty, but recent events at my veterinarian’s office made me rethink what I had previously thought of as selfish actions on my part.

motherjuggling

I was attending an appointment with my dog when another dog’s owner experienced a heart attack in the waiting room. Fortunately, the outcome of a long and convoluted story was that the dog’s owner recovered well and the dog received care during the recuperation period.  It left me with the realization that in order to ensure someone else’s welfare, we need to ensure our own welfare. Ultimately, if we don’t take proper care of ourselves, we become unable to care for others. Isn’t it, therefore, a wise investment to make time for yourself this spring by reviewing your lifestyle and maybe giving it an overhaul if it is falling short?

 

 

Rethink your workout habits

You work out to stay fit and healthy, but if your routine hasn’t really changed in many years, maybe it could do with a refresh to keep you interested and challenged.  If you enjoy working out with your dog, activities like canine parcours or doga could be of interest to you.  If you love walking with your dog, but are thinking about progressing to running, maybe alternating jogging with walking with your pup may be a good way to ease both of you into the sport.

yoga

Improve your diet

We’re not talking about dangerous diets or detox programs, but simply evaluating what you eat and seeing how you can boost your nutritional intake can be beneficial.  An easy way to start is with a food diary, in which you write down what and how much you have eaten for every meal for a couple of weeks (or longer if you prefer).  You will probably be surprised by the results.  If you find your diet is particularly low in vegetables, that is an easy fix.  Additionally, if you notice that there is a lot of repetition in your meals, you can add more variety to give a broader range of nutrients and more interest for your palate. In the last couple years particularly, many  TV chefs, TV doctors, and celebrity fitness trainers have been focusing on increasing nutritional value in meals to try to help people reduce weight, prevent disease, and ultimately add years to their lives. Their suggested recipes are often simple to fix, absolutely delicious, and many are available free online – it’s worth googling.

superfood-salad

Take more time for yourself

No matter what hobbies you have and how you prefer to take time for yourself, make certain that you build some of this time into your week. Make a list of the things that you really want to do for yourself and the things that help you relax. Then look at what you actually do on a daily basis and determine what tasks can be eliminated or even outsourced.  If you spend all your spare time catching up on household duties, maybe some of those tasks can be shared with a spouse, leaving you some time to attend a language lesson, catch up on a good book, or whatever you want to do that’s just for you.

Nurture your friendships

Friends getting together

Friendships are vital, whether we have busy lives or not. Try to stay in touch with friends on a weekly basis, even if just by phone, and try to get together as often as possible. Friendships help us to feel connected, boost happiness levels, reduce stress, and may even help in preventing early onset dementia.

best-friends

 

Your Mom was right,  spring cleaning is an important addition to every person’s calendar, but not just for keeping your house spiffy. Take time for yourself, it’s not selfish, it’s essential!

 

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Why Mom was Right About Spring Cleaning: Part 2, Valeting

Part 2: Valeting your vehicle

Used daily and often multiple times a day in most households, your vehicle is one of the most frequently utilized items but often falls low on the list of cleaning priorities. Although car art using dirty vehicles has seen some recent popularity via social media postings, I don’t know of any driver who wouldn’t want to be able to see clearly through the windshield when they drive. The vast majority would also want to keep their vehicle’s paintwork protected from dirt and grime. If your vehicle’s interior is starting to show the wear and tear of being used as a dining room, a sports locker, and general storage unit, a bit of a deep clean treatment may be in order. An article in a British newspaperstated that a car steering wheel has 9 times more germs on it than a public toilet seat. I don’t know about you, but just that snippet of information made me desperate to get cleaning my car.

 

car-art

When frigid temperatures are starting to thaw, Spring makes the perfect time to give your car a deep clean, inside and out. Having your car detailed by a professional can be expensive, but there are many things that you can do yourself to give your vehicle a thorough refresh.

Outside

When tackling your vehicle’s exterior, clean wheels and tires first, using appropriate cleaning products.

Salt is helpful for improving driving conditions on winter roads, but wreaks havoc with paintwork so should be washed off as soon as possible. Grab a sponge, a bucket of soapy water (preferably using a car wash solution that doesn’t strip out protective coatings), and wash your vehicle by hand. When you’ve rinsed everything down, and before the car dries, use a squeegee to remove excess water to avoid unsightly spotting on the paintwork. If possible wash your car weekly but if exposed to bird droppings or sap, try to rinse this off before it dries as it can affect your paintwork.

When dry, follow up with two coats of wax to protect the paintwork from stains and minor scratches.  Wax wears off, so it is best to reapply every season

Check headlights for any rock chips, scratches or a hazy finish to the plastic.

kids-washing-car

It may be a struggle to get kids interested in doing some household chores, but many love to wash a car.  Get them involved so you can bond during the fun of the car wash.

Inside

During colder months, your vehicle’s interior can sometimes get dirtier than other times of the year with mud, rain, and snow being tracked in on people’s shoes and boots and pet’s paws.    Cleaning the interior can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but the following tips may help make it a little easier to tackle. First, clear out garbage that may have accumulated and then remove car mats and trunk liners. Get out the vacuum cleaner to tackle dust, dirt, pet hair, and debris, using a brush vacuum tool around vents. Spot clean stains on the carpet with an appropriate carpet cleaner.

Cleaning the inside of the glass in windows is really important, so use an anti-glare glass cleaner where possible and avoid ammonia-based products.

The dash, seats, handles, doors and headliner of the car all deserve your attention too.  Products are available that can kill bacteria and neutralize odors within the vehicle.  It can be worthwhile investing in these, to get a super fresh feel to your interior. An old toothbrush can be a handy cleaning tool to get into the nooks and crannies of vinyl and the seams on seats.

cleaning-the-inside-of-car

If you hate taking a long time to clean your vehicle’s interior, there are a few things that can be done to make it speedier.

  • If you regularly transport a lot of passengers including pets and kids you may want to consider installing vehicle-specific rubber car mats and trunk mat liners, which make cleaning a snap. Travall offers a good range with a pleasant vanilla fragrance. The unique lipped design helps prevent spills from reaching the carpet, saving your carpet and reducing your car cleaning time.
  • Just as you might keep a box of baking soda in your refrigerator to eliminate odors, you can take a similar approach with keeping car odors at bay.  Just make sure the baking soda is in a non-breakable container that is securely anchored in a safe position.
  • Adding a plastic garbage can to the car is helpful to keep future rides neater and tidier.plastic-trash-can-in-car

Cleaning the car can be fun and a great activity to get kids involved in. Why not take the time to give your vehicle a bit of extra attention?  Mom was right about spring cleaning – you’re sure to notice an improvement in your ride experience.

 

dog-washing-car

Do you have any tips that help keep your vehicle looking and smelling good?  We’d love to hear about them!

Reference

  1. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1379830/How-clean-car-Steering-wheels-times-germs-public-toilet-seat.html  May 2011

 

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