Fireworks and fourth of July celebrations go hand in hand, but although we may oooh and aaah at the spectacular sights exploding in the sky, our dogs typically have a very different response – fear!
So, what can you do to reduce your pet’s fear, so the whole household can enjoy the fourth of July?
Never take your pet to a firework display.
Ensure your dog gets plenty of exercise earlier in the day before the display begins
There is a higher incidence of runaway dogs on the fourth of July. Find out when the firework display is likely to start and keep your dog inside during that time.
Close all windows and doors in your home so that noise levels from outside are reduced. If necessary also draw blinds or close drapes.
When the display is taking place, try to distract your dog with other sounds, such as the TV or by playing music.
Make sure that your dog has easy, unobstructed access to his safe area. This may be the crate or dog bed, so allow your dog to take himself there and allow him to stay there for the evening if that is where he feels most comfortable.
Keep calm yourself and do not appear to look hassled. Dogs often pick up on how their owner is feeling and if you are calm your dog is likely to feel calmer too.
Your veterinarian may be able to suggest a dog appeasing pheromone (DAP) or calming scent that you can use to reduce your dog’s anxiety.
The summer is finally here and with it comes the warmer weather that we’ve longed for during the icy winter months. We may be perfectly content with hot sunny days and balmy evenings, but do our four-legged companions share that view? Dogs typically do not enjoy the heat, so what can we do to make this time comfortable for them too? We’ve put together 9 tips to help your pooch not only survive but to enjoy the dog days of summer.
Hydration is vital
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water regularly throughout the day. This is something that you will do for your dog anyway, but make sure there is an even more plentiful supply of water available than usual.
Exercise your dog during the coolest part of the day
The coolest times tend to be either early morning or later at night. Make sure that your dog still gets exercise, but you may have to reduce the length and speed of the walks if the temperatures are too high. Take extra care if walking on sidewalks, as the temperature of the asphalt can burn a dog’s paws and the heat radiating off the asphalt or cement can be unbearable. Where possible stick to walking on grass, which will be much cooler for your dog and for you too.
Keep your house cool
If your dog is home alone while you are at work, don’t forget to set the air conditioner to run periodically throughout the day. For homes without an air conditioner, keep blinds and drapes closed and set ceiling fans to run counter-clockwise at a slightly higher speed than normal. Tiled floors can provide some cool relief so your dog may prefer to lie down on tile rather than in his usual favorite area in the house. If you don’t have tile, using a wet towel that he can lie on can give a similar effect.
Don’t leave your dog in the car
Temperatures inside a vehicle can soar in a matter of minutes. According to the SPCA, on a day when it is 85 degrees Fahrenheit outside, a car’s temperature can reach 102 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes and by 30 minutes can be at a sweltering 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave a dog in a car!
Don’t leave your dog outside for extended periods in the heat
When your dog goes out to the backyard, ensure there are shaded areas and that there is access to plenty of water. Dog houses can become very hot areas during warmer weather, so providing some umbrellas for shade is a better option to protect from sunburn and from heat. If you have the double whammy of high temperatures and high humidity, keep your dog inside as the humidity will stop the dog from being able to cool himself off sufficiently when he pants.
Provide dog-appropriate popsicles
Your dog can enjoy some cooling ice treats too. Chicken broth frozen into ice cubes goes down really well with some dogs. Even if you just add ice cubes made from water to the drinking bowl, your dog will appreciate it.
Keep your dog well groomed
For double-coated dogs, the top layer of hair can protect from heat and sunburn, while the hair underneath can act as the dog’s cooling system. Make sure to brush regularly as matted dog hair will interfere with this cooling process. Talk to a groomer about whether trimming your dog’s fur can help make your dog more comfortable – it doesn’t work for all breeds but may be appropriate for your dog’s breed.
Provide a splash zone
Not all dogs like to get wet, but if yours does, providing a little puppy wading pool in the backyard when you are there to supervise can be a fun way for him to cool off.
Pay closer attention to your dog during warmer weather and especially if your dog is very old or very young. If he is panting excessively and drooling more than usual, or if you notice that he is urinating less frequently or not at all, has a red tongue and red gums, and is vomiting blood or has black, tarry stools, these may be signs of heat stroke. Try to gradually reduce the dog’s temperature using cool (but not cold) water and contact your veterinarian immediately for further advice.
Do you have any tips on what helps your dog stay cool during hot weather? We’d love to hear about them.
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What do you do when Father’s Day is just around the corner and you’re stumped for a good, original gift idea? Here at Pet Barrier, we have a couple suggestions that give protection to three things that are dear to a dad’s heart – his kids, his dogs, and his car.
Did you know that the AAA has calculated that the average American driver spends around seven 40-hour working weeks behind the wheel of a car in a year? This means that passengers including our children and our dogs are spending more time in our vehicles than we may realize, so giving extra thought to making vehicles as comfortable as possible is a priority.
You may already have the best car seat for your child’s age, height, and weight, but there is one addition that you may not have thought about – a Travall® Guard. During a collision items that are unsecured in the trunk can be flung around the vehicle, putting passengers at risk of injury. This can occur during the smallest fender bender or even when braking hard. To shield vulnerable infants and young kids from these items, savvy parents are installing vehicle-specific barriers to keep kids protected and maximize valuable trunk space at the same time. Pet parents enjoy the ability to drive with fewer distractions while their favorite pooch is securely positioned to the rear of the vehicle.
Travall has been manufacturing the Travall® Guard for nearly thirty years. Its use has grown rapidly by Europeans who understand and embrace the benefits of using vehicle-specific barriers in their vehicles. Thankfully, the Travall® Guard is now available in America, so that we can provide that same level of protection for our most precious cargo.
The barrier offers a snug, precision fit, that can be installed without medication to your vehicle. Installation takes an average of 30 minutes and unlike traditional, permanently installed cargo barriers, the Travall® Guard can be removed in minutes for use at another time. To give you further peace of mind and confidence in your purchase, the Travall® Guard comes with a limited lifetime warranty. It’s the one essential piece of gear that children and dogs won’t outgrow.
Want an additional suggestion? Consider vehicle-specific rubber car mats to give full-coverage protection against dropped sippy cups and other spills. We hear Travall has an excellent range…
The weather’s starting to get warmer, you’re able to spend more time outside with your dog and all is good with the world. You’re in the backyard ready to enjoy an evening kicking back and then you hear that all-too-familiar high-pitched buzzing sound. Yes, they’re back – mosquitoes! For some people, mosquitoes are merely an irritation with bites leaving itchy welts on the skin, but many others fear the health issues that these tiny insects can bring in the form of malaria or the zika virus. Although many of us think about the effects of mosquitoes on humans, we sometimes overlook the harm they can do to pets in the form of heartworm.
Heartworm causes serious disease in dogs affecting the heart, the lungs, and the blood vessels of the dog and ultimately it results in death. Heartworm is a parasitic roundworm that is spread to a dog if he is bitten by a mosquito. It is the only way that dogs can get heartworm – it cannot be caught from another infected dog. When a dog is bitten by an infected mosquito, the larvae migrate from the bite site to the heart, lungs, and blood vessels and this takes approximately 6-7 months. During this 6-7 months, the larvae develop into adult heartworms. These adults then make their homes in these organs and blood vessels and start to reproduce. Adult heartworms can grow up to 12 inches long and can live for 7 years. A dog can have as many as 250 worms in his system. If a dog has been bitten by an infected mosquito, it is likely that there will no symptoms for 7 months.
Symptoms that your dog may have heartworm include the following:
Soft dry cough
This is from the heartworm multiplying in the lungs. The dog may cough more after exercise and may even faint. Exercise does not need to be strenuous for this to occur.
Your dog becomes very lethargic
If your once active dog is suddenly not wanting to be active and preferring to sleep or rest rather going for a walk. This may be a sign of heartworms.
Because your dog is so lethargic, even activities like eating can be too much effort. As a result, the dog may choose to rest in preference to eating. If a dog doesn’t eat normally, weight loss will likely result.
If your dog is experiencing difficulties in breathing, it may be due to heartworm. If the lungs have heartworms living there, it can make breathing difficult and fluid can build up in the lungs and surrounding blood vessels.
Protruding ribs and bulging chest
The dog may look this way because of weight loss and because of fluid on the lungs.
Your dog may appear to be asthmatic or even allergic. This is because of the build up of fluid and heartworm inhabiting the lungs.
When there are large numbers of heartworm it can cause a blockage in the heart resulting in the collapse and ultimately the death of the dog.
The last four symptoms occur when heartworms end up in other parts of the body other than the heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
As with many illnesses, the above symptoms can indicate other health issues, so vets have other ways of detecting heartworms. Blood tests are a good way to determine whether there are heartworms by checking the presence of certain proteins (antigens) in the blood produced by heartworms. The earliest this can be detected is at around 5 months after the dog has been bitten by the mosquito. X-rays, ECG, and echocardiography can also help to determine what is going on in the heart and lungs of the dog.
Treatment is achieved by initially stabilizing the dog’s condition prior to the actual treatment beginning. The veterinarian may start by giving the dog antibiotics (to eliminate the bacteria that the heartworm give out when they die), preventative treatments (to stop heartworm reaching adulthood by eliminating the larvae), and steroids (to stop inflammation). The actual treatment can then begin and may be in the form of a series of injections to eliminate adult heartworm from the dog. Your dog will need to be hospitalized for this process. Pre-treatment stabilization and treatment can take several months to achieve. Following this, the younger heartworm and larvae are eliminated. In certain situations, surgical removal may be required.
Following treatment, the dog will need to rest far more than usual. Physical exercise increases the rate at which the heartworm will cause damage to a dog’s heart or lungs. A very active dog with only a few heartworms can be more at risk than a very inactive dog with lots of heartworms. Your veterinarian will advise when exercise can be resumed and this will need to be introduced slowly and gradually. Six months after the treatment you will need to have your dog tested for heartworms again. This is because the veterinarian needs to check that all heartworms were eliminated during the treatment process. The longer the time that heartworms are present, the more damage they can do.
The best approach to managing heartworms is to prevent them in the first place. There are many products on the market that are designed to prevent a whole variety of problems ranging from heartworm to fleas in one single application. These can be provided in the form of a pill or spot treatments applied to the skin. These monthly treatments do not prevent heartworms but eliminate any larvae that have been acquired by the dog during that month.
It is always advisable to discuss heartworm concerns with your veterinarian. He or she can advise you on the best preventative measures to protect your dog from this parasite.
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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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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.
If you have helped your child through this experience, please share what was helpful for you and your family during this time.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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*.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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 problem behaviors for patients with dementia (less agitation, less verbal aggression, and more social behavior)
Improved self-esteem and self-acceptance
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Do the words “Spring Cleaning” make you roll your eyes and think of The Stepford Wives, bleach, and enormous rubber gloves? If the answer to this is yes, you’re not alone. Although it is common and often necessary to look at giving our homes an extra deep clean at this time of year, other aspects of our lives could potentially benefit from a good spring clean too. This 3-part series looks at a few facets of our lives where a little extra TLC could be worthwhile.
Part 1: Grooming Dogs
During the wetter and colder months, dogs tend to get more dirty, more frequently. If your pocketbook is still feeling a little light after the holiday season, making extra visits to the groomer may not be a practical option. To keep your dog healthy and smelling fresh, a more intensive session of at-home grooming may be the answer.
Don’t Give Brushing the Brush Off
Although a relatively simple task, the benefits of brushing shouldn’t be ignored. Brushing is excellent for your dog’s coat as it removes any dead hair and avoids mats. It also helps to distribute the natural oils within the coat, which keeps the coat healthy and looking good too. Most dogs are quite happy to be brushed, but the frequency and duration will depend on the dog’s breed – some will require extensive brushing as part of the daily routine while others will not need brushing as frequently or for as long. Check what is required for your breed, but also bear in mind that brushing is a fantastic way to bond with your dog, so you may want to brush him more frequently than the bare minimum requirement.
Unlike people, dogs do not need a daily bath. Experts recommend once a month (unless there is a medical condition), as more frequent bathing strips the coat of the natural oils necessary to keep it shiny and healthy. Never use shampoo or conditioners designed for humans. There are plenty of dog shampoos on the market that have been specifically formulated to avoid irritating your pet’s skin, to remove dirt but not the important oils from their coats, and to be easily rinsed from the fur.
After removing your dog’s collar, clean your dog’s ears with an ear cleanser before placing her in the bath, and then gently place cotton balls in her ears to keep them dry during the bathing process. Use warm water, checking the temperature on your own skin first and then thoroughly saturate the coat. Shampoo the dirtier areas first, working up to the head last, using your hands to massage the skin through the coat. Use a washcloth to remove dirt from the face. Rinse your dog’s head first and then work down the body, keeping water and shampoo away from the eyes and face where possible. When you rinse the shampoo from the coat, ensure that you rinse all of it out thoroughly to prevent itchy skin. Following up with a leave-in conditioner can be helpful so the coat is more manageable and so it doesn’t get dirty again too quickly. Comb out your dog’s fur while it is wet to prevent tangles – you may find that a detangling spray will help with that also.
Drying your dog after a bath can be a challenge, as some dogs (mine included) may enjoy the bathing process, but hate the feeling of being wet after a bath. One way is to take the natural drying approach, allowing the dog to shake the water from his coat and then letting the coat air dry. Impressively dogs can shake about 70% of the water from their fur in this way. If you don’t want that amount of water sprayed around your bathroom, towelling your dog dry is probably the way to go. For those that cannot even tolerate the towel-dry wet feeling, following up with a hair dryer is helpful. Not all dogs enjoy having a hair dryer blown at them, so if it is a new experience for your dog, introduce her gradually being sure to keep heat and air moving over the entire dog and not concentrated in one area as that could be uncomfortable or even burn skin. If your dog resists the hair dryer or is visibly fearful, just stick to the towel method.
Keeping Those Pearly Whites Clean
Ideally, brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of your daily routine. Use toothpaste specifically formulated for dogs – do not use human toothpaste as the fluoride is toxic to dogs. In the real world however, no matter how much we love our pets and want the best for their health, incorporating daily brushing of their teeth into our hectic schedules often doesn’t happen. There are other ways to keep your dog’s teeth clean and breath fresher. One way is to give your dog raw bones, which are excellent for a dog’s teeth, but never give chicken bones or other fragile bones that can splinter easily. Dental treats can be used as an alternative to regular treats. Be careful of weight gain in your pet if using these, as some are quite high in calories.
If your dog’s breath smells bad, there is plaque still building up around the gums, your dog has lumps or bumps in the mouth or bleeding gums, or you have other concerns with your dog’s oral health, you should turn to a veterinarian for assistance.
For some dogs, walking daily on a sidewalk is sufficient to keep nails at a decent length until a visit to the groomers is possible. For others, this just isn’t sufficient, but many dog owners are fearful of trimming their dog’s nails in case they do it incorrectly. If your dog has regularly had his nails clipped from a young age, he is probably quite comfortable with the procedure. Talk to your vet about the best way to trim the nails so that they remain at a manageable length in between groomer visits. Don’t forget the dewclaw, if your dog’s breed has them.
A buzz cut or bangs?
This is another area of dog care that many owners prefer to leave to the professionals, especially if your dog’s breed requires hand stripping. Again, depending on your dog’s breed, you may be able to tackle some trimming at home, so talk to your vet about how frequently your dog needs its fur trimmed and by how much. If you are feeling brave and decide to have a go, make sure clippers and scissors are sharp, choose a location without distractions and remember that many dogs will get restless quickly, so make it brief.
Lots of self-service dog wash stores have opened up across the United States over the last few years. These are more expensive than washing your dog in your own home, but are considerably cheaper than taking your dog to a groomer. Self-service dog washes give you the convenience and ease of using professional-grade grooming equipment to groom your pooch effectively – you can often grab a latte there too!
Wherever you choose to do it, grooming your pet is not only good for the dog’s health and hygiene but provides a great bonding process between owner and dog. Regular grooming enables the owner to be aware (more quickly) of any health changes that their pet is experiencing. So, Mom was right about spring cleaning, to not only keep your dog fresher and healthier, but hopefully by your side for that bit longer.
Why don’t you share any tips you have for making grooming a fun experience for you and your pooch?
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