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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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 1, Grooming

 

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.

dog-in-bath

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.

brushing-a-dogs-coat

Splish, Splash

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.

dog-in-bath

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.

dog-shaking-water-out-of-coat

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.

brushing-dogs-teeth

A mani-pedi

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.

nail-trim-guide

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.

under-the-dryer

 

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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Why Distracted Driving is Driving me to Distraction

“You can never have too many…” have been the words to start many quotes over the decades, from a variety of people ranging from authors to actors.  Most of these quotes are completed with words such as “friends,” “shoes,” or “books.” At Pet Barrier, I say, “You can never have too many reminders about distracted driving.”  Regular blog followers may remember a couple of posts on distracted driving in 2016 and you may be asking why, with all the subjects that I could be writing about, I am covering the topic of distracted driving yet again.  The answer is simple and sobering. Distracted driving is now considered to be at epidemic levels in the US.1

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US traffic accident fatalities rose by 7.2% in 2015, which is the largest increase in the last 50 years. Early estimates by the NHTSA for the first 9 months of 2016 indicate that fatalities have increased by a further 8%.  After having experienced many years of decline in fatality rates during the early 2000s, this trend toward an increase in fatalities is worrying.

 

distracted-driver

What exactly is distracted driving?

Many people consider themselves to be cautious, considerate, safe drivers and sometimes don’t realize that things that they do in addition to driving can be fatal. Causes of distractions on the road are numerous, ranging from events occurring outside the vehicle, restless pets or children or adult passengers within the vehicle, eating, drinking, shaving, applying makeup, smoking, adjusting controls on the stereo, downloading music, dealing with hand-held devices, and last but by no means least, using cell phones for phone calls and texting.

According to EndDD,there are three types of distraction:

  1. Manual distractions – your hands are taken away from the steering wheel to perform a task. An example is reaching for a soda
  2. Visual distractions – your eyes are taken off the road. They give the example of when you spill the soda and look down at your clothes to see the outcome
  3. Cognitive distractions – your mind wanders away from the task at hand. They finish the example with you thinking about how to get your clothes cleaned.

In Washington State alone, 30% of fatal road accidents in 2016 were caused by distracted driving. Taking your eye off the road for even 2 seconds can result in an accident. If you talk on a cell phone while driving, your risk of an accident quadruples.  If you text while driving, your risk of an accident is increased by eight times.  According to Alexis Myers of the Associated Press,14 states currently ban hand-held cell phone use while driving in a car. 46 states prohibit texting messaging for all drivers.  Research by AAAsuggests that even when drivers put down the phone or the navigation device, the driver is still not fully engaged with the task of driving as the driver’s mind still remains distracted. An article by Bart Jansen in USA Today indicated that millennials are the age group most likely to engage in risky practices behind the wheel.Although the millennial statistics were the highest, other age groups did not fare well either. This suggests that greater education and awareness across the entire population of driving age would be advantageous.  

How can you avoid driving distractions?

There will always be incidents that arise when we are driving that are totally unexpected and cannot be planned for ahead of the journey.  But for many of the distracted driving scenarios, a little bit of planning ahead by trying to manage these distractions before setting out on the road can help to avoid some of these distractions entirely.

Turn cell phones off or switch to silent, before starting your journey

No phone call, social media update, or text message is more important than a person’s life. Don’t talk, or (even worse) text, on the phone while driving.  If you absolutely need to make a call or send a text message during your journey, pull over and make the call or send the text when your vehicle is stationary. As for selfies, nobody wants to see a selfie of you driving, they’d far rather see you in person and more importantly alive.

Take care of personal hygiene before getting in the car

This may seem like an obvious thing to say, but we’ve all seen drivers shaving on their commute, or applying mascara.  It is far better to take care of your personal hygiene before setting out on a journey.  If you can’t do that then wait until you get to your destination to apply your makeup or remove your stubble.

woman-putting-on-make-up-while-driving

Secure pets correctly

Ensure that pets are securely placed to the rear of your vehicle.  Using a vehicle-specific pet barrier is an excellent choice and if you have multiple pets, having a trunk divider added to this mix can prevent them from becoming rambunctious during a journey.  Other options are to harness your pet in one of the rear seats, in a similar way to using a seat belt. There are a wide variety of products on the market to ensure your pet is positioned in the most appropriate area of the vehicle so that the driver is not suddenly surprised by a furry friend wanting a hug.  Check out what can work best for your vehicle and for your pet.

 travall-dg-04

Set your GPS system before starting the journey

This also applies if your GPS system is on your cell phone. Ensure that the device is located in an area where you can see both the device and the road easily and clearly and ensure it can be operated hands free.

Eat and drink before or after your journey, not during it

Your car will remain cleaner, your clothes will be cleaner,  and more importantly you will not be distracted from the road.

eating-while-driving

 

Take care of your kid’s needs before starting the journey

Ensure that children are comfortable and securely buckled in a car seat that is appropriate for their current age, height, and weight.  Make sure that they have their toys, pacifiers, sippy cup or whatever else they need within their easy reach, so they are able to get to items, leaving the driver free to deal with the important task of driving.  If a toy or any other item gets dropped on the floor, leave it there until you can get to a safe place to pull over. Don’t try to reach behind your seat to return it to the child while you are driving.

child-ready-for-a-journey

 

 

The following You Tube video was put together by The Try Guysas they considered the effects of distracted driving.  They were certainly surprised by the results.

The Try Guys Try Distracted Driving

 

Don’t become complacent about driving.  Every trip, take the time to plan ahead and when you are driving ensure that your mind is on the road and not on the other things going on in your life.  Multitasking behind the wheel is simply asking for trouble. Retweet, share on Facebook, reblog, or do whatever you can to get the message out to friends, family, and strangers, so that everyone, no matter what age, is educated about and fully understands the risks of distracted driving.  Let’s all work to make American roads safer for 2017 and beyond.

Do you have any tips that have helped avoid distractions when you’ve been traveling with pets, kids or other passengers?  We’d love to hear about them.

Please drive mindfully every trip – every life is worth it!

References

  1. Darrow B. http://fortune.com/2016/09/14/distracted-driving-epidemic/ September 14, 2016
  2. http://www.enddd.org/the-facts-about-distracted-driving/
  3. Myers A. Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide in Wash. Associated          Press. Feb 12, 2017 – 10:12 AM
  4. https://www.aaafoundation.org/distracted-driving
  5. Jansen B. Millennial drivers are highway hazards, survey shows. USA Today. Feb 15, 2017.
  6. The Try Guys https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2atx1Jh6YP0

 

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