Is a Leash Really Necessary?

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 17, 2014

Most municipalities have leash laws and while most dog owners obey the law, many people think they don’t need to. It may be because your dog is well-behaved and easily controlled – your dog would never bite anyone so why does it need to be on a leash, right?

While that may be true, leashing your dog is about much more than how safe other people are around him. It’s also about your dog’s safety and well-being.

In public places, you will encounter many kinds of people and some of them have great fear of dogs. Most dogs are naturally curious and friendly and will often approach people they aren’t familiar with in order to say hello. If your dog does this to someone with a fear of dogs, it can cause great distress and even cause that person to run without thinking into a dangerous situation. Your dog will also want to approach other dogs to say hello and those other dogs may not be friendly or safe. Remember – just because you have a friendly, well-behaved dog doesn’t mean everyone’s dog is friendly and well-behaved.

Even in your own neighborhood, though, where you know the people and animals, it’s important to restrain your dog for safety. Dogs don’t understand the danger of running into the road and they will do so to chase after another animal, a toy or if something frightens them. Most won’t stop to make sure a car isn’t coming. The only thing worse than being the person driving the car that hits and kills an animal is being that animal. As the owner, who probably loves the dog, you can avoid having to bury your previously happy, healthy pet by making sure he can’t run in front of a car.

There are fines for not obeying leash laws, often enforced sporadically and inconsistently. But a few dollars to the court is the least of the bad things that can happen. Think about that the next time you think about taking your dog outside unleashed.

So You Found a Stray. Now What?

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 10, 2014

It’s easy to think when you find a dog or cat wandering your neighborhood that it’s a stray – either because it always was or because someone decided he or she didn’t want a pet anymore and turned the animal out to the hard, scary streets. But even the most rough-looking animal might simply be lost and its family is looking for it.

It isn’t uncommon for a dog or cat to slip out unnoticed and find itself disoriented and frightened enough that it wanders away from its home and can’t find its way back. Owners should do what they can to make it easy on anyone who finds a lost pet to find where it belongs. This includes a registered microchip – many shelters hold clinics where you can get a chip for cheap or even free – and identifying tags. The tags should include contact information and you should make sure it’s legible at all times. Dogs have a tendency to sink their teeth into anything they can find and chew it to bits. Some of them have the dexterity to do this to something hanging around their necks.

Any veterinarian’s office of animal shelter has the equipment to scan for a microchip and contact the owner. Also, if the animal doesn’t have a tag with the owner’s contact information but has a tag with its veterinarian’s contact information, you can usually find an owner by calling the vet.

But if you are the finder and the owner hasn’t provided any easy way to identify the animal, there are still steps you can take to try to track the owner down. First, call local shelters to find out if someone has reported a missing pet and if not, leave the animal’s description and your contact information so the shelter can reach you if the owner makes contact.

Next, make use of the Internet. You can post about the animal on Facebook – your personal page works, but most areas also have Facebook pages dedicated to the area’s lost pets. Those looking and those finding can use the pages to locate each other. Craig’s List (www.craigslist.com) also has space for advertising lost and found animals. If you make use of Craig’s List, be careful to make sure if the owner finds you there that it really is the owner. Do not post a photo of the animal and hold back a specific descriptive detail that only someone who knows the animal would know. One example is if the animal had on a collar, ask the person to describe it or ask about a unique pattern on the animal’s coat. You can also ask for someone who contacts you to send a photo. Put up posters in the neighborhood if you wish.

And finally, while becoming a bit antiquated, local newspapers remain a good source. Most newspapers will put a free ad in their lost and found section – both in print and online – for found animals. Use the same precautions as you would on Craig’s List.

Once you’ve exhausted all of these methods and you still can’t find who the animal belongs to, it’s safe to assume it belongs to no one, even if it once did. Sadly, many people will turn an unwanted animal out without a second thought or because they cannot care for it anymore and think it’s better off on the street than in a shelter. At that point, you’re free to keep the animal or turn it over to a rescue.

Fear is high, but risk is minimal

VSSF Admin - Monday, November 03, 2014



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Pets Like to Dress Up, Too

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 27, 2014













Keep Pet Safety in Mind this Halloween

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 20, 2014
Halloween can be both fun and frightening for humans, but it carries its own set of dangers for your pets.

The obvious for dogs is the abundance of chocolate that will be in your house – whether it’s the candy your children bring home from trick-or-treating or the candy you buy to hand out at your front door. Make sure to keep the human treats as far out of your dog’s reach as possible and keep an eye out for stray pieces that might fall on the floor.

Another possible digestive system danger is the glow sticks children carry so that passing cars can see them. A dog may find a dropped one and chew it and that can cause poisoning.

If you give out candy, there will be a lot of knocks on the door and strangers dressed oddly – often in masks – stopping by. Even if you aren’t handing it out, there will be increased traffic and noise outside that cats and dogs will hear and respond to. This can be confusing to both cats and dogs, though cats are most likely to find a hiding spot far from the action. Dogs, however, no matter how afraid they are, like to be near their people.

With the door constantly opening and closing, there is also the danger that your pet can slip out unnoticed. Be sure to know where they are at all times and watch for a furry little body streaking by when you open the door.

If you like to dress your pet up for the holiday, make sure there aren’t any parts of the costume that could become lodged in a throat. And make sure the costume fits correctly and is comfortable. Don’t force a costume on an animal that clearly doesn’t want to wear one and behaves in a distressed manner.

Finally, Halloween – including the weeks leading up to it – presents a particular danger to black cats. Many shelters refuse to adopt them out at this time of year for this exact reason and if your black cat is caught outside by the wrong people, it could prove fatal. We like to think that everyone shares our love of animals, but there are some people in the world who don’t and they will harm them if given the chance. If your black cat normally spends time outdoors, consider keeping her inside this time of year. A little annoyance for Kitty is worth it to keep him safe.

Diagnosing and Treating Food Allergies Can be Tricky Business

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 13, 2014
Something common in dogs is having an allergy or intolerance to their food. Some breeds are more susceptible to it than others, but they all can be born with or develop and allergy.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Head shaking.
  • Skin issues – hair loss or constant itching.
  • Chronic, recurring ear infections.
  • Three or more bowel movements a day.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
One of the most common culprits is grain, which is in most commercial dog foods. The best way to determine which ingredient is affecting your dog is to do an elimination diet. This means giving your dog only his food each day and no treats until you’ve identified the allergen. Also avoid giving parasite treatments or medicines that aren’t absolutely necessary during this time. Expect to continue the elimination diet for 12 full weeks.

If your dog exhibits any of the food allergy symptoms, make sure to get him to a vet before trying the elimination diet. It’s never a good idea to try to diagnose your pet’s condition without professional assistance, as symptoms can indicate any number of possible conditions, some more serious than others. Don’t lose valuable time assuming an allergy, in case that isn’t the problem.

If you and your vet determine it’s an allergy, work with your vet to figure out what diet your dog needs to be on. Some people will feed a commercial food that doesn’t include the allergen, while others turn to making their own dog food. If you choose to do so, make sure your dog is getting all the nutrients he needs or you’ll end up with even worse problems than what you started with.


Bringing a New Friend Home: How to make it Work with the Old Ones

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 06, 2014

Common belief is that dogs and cats are mortal enemies. But this isn’t really true. Yes, some dogs and cats don’t get along with each other and often dogs are a bit too exuberant for the more skittish cats in their lives. But with a little care, you can have both species living mostly peacefully in your home, either as best friends or simply tolerating each other’s presence.

The most important thing to remember is they need to establish their own boundaries in their own way. Allow them to be able to retreat to separate corners – especially Kitty – without your interference. Don’t crowd them or force them together. A dog may be more than excited to make a new friend, but a cat needs more time.

To help ease the transition and introductory period, consider a barrier like a baby gate that your dog can’t leap over. This will allow your cat to check the dog out up close without risking more contact than your cat is comfortable with.

If your pets are very young – especially less than a year old – the transition will likely be easier than if they’re adults with established routines. Puppies and kittens that grow up together will be faster friends than dogs and cats. This doesn’t mean that adult animals can’t or won’t be best friends, but that may never happen.

With time, your pets will learn to live with each other on their own terms. This may mean your cat avoids her canine brother or sister at all times, but all that matters is that everyone is happy with the arrangement.

Dogs Don’t Like it When…

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 29, 2014

It seems our canine friends just love everything. A dog in a bad mood, a dog that isn’t excited about the most mundane moments is practically unheard of outside of an abuse situation. But there are a few things that make dogs not-so-happy.

Remember that direct eye contact is a sign of aggression in the wild. Domestic dogs have retained this trait and you might not like the reaction if you stare too long. More important than not doing this with your own dog is not even thinking about doing it to a dog you don’t know.

Dogs can sense human emotion – by smell, body language, even tone of voice. If you’re upset, your dog will feel uneasy as well. They’re sensitive and it’s best to try to keep your bad mood to yourself as much as possible to save your dog’s nerves.

It isn’t unusual to see someone walking a dog and refusing to allow that dog to “stop and smell the roses.” Of course, “roses” is more like other dogs’ hind areas, some strange scent left in the grass or on the sidewalk or any number of other things in their small worlds. They also like to say hello to the people they pass, though dog owners must pay attention to other humans’ body language to make sure that hello is welcome. Unless you’re pressed for time, have some patience and let Fido explore the world around him while you both get some exercise.

On the flip side, if your dog isn’t interested in saying hello to a particular person, don’t force it. There’s probably a good reason your dog doesn’t like someone, especially if you have a dog that’s usually friendly.

Does Your Dog Have the Back-to-School Blues?

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 22, 2014
Summer vacation isn’t just play time for your kids. Having children home for months at a time, playing with Fido every day, can lead to depression for your pup when the kids are no longer around all day.

Studies have proven that dogs get the blues when they go suddenly from constant attention to facing long days without that interaction and without the children’s presence. If your dog is particularly sensitive, he might express his sadness in ways unfriendly to you or your home. Separation anxiety can cause dogs to act out, destroying your property in the process.

So what can you do if you have a dog that doesn’t adjust well to this kind of change?

One way is to slowly introduce the new situation, weaning doggie from the constant presence and attention over several weeks before the first day of school. And once school starts, make sure your dog has a safe place to stay – a crate or an enclosed area in your home. Finally, you and your children should make saying goodbye a pleasant experience, giving your dog lots of attention and a little play time before bounding out the door for the day.

Make sure your dog is getting plenty of exercise, and don’t make a big production of coming home. This will keep your dog from feeling like you really have been gone forever and not simply for a few hours.
If nothing else works, try to either come home at lunchtime, hire a dog walker for midday or invest in some doggie daycare.

When Kitty Can’t “Go”

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 15, 2014

Just like people, our pets can develop gastrointestinal ailments, including both diarrhea and constipation. In cats, constipation is most common in middle-aged and older male cats.

One main cause is that their anal muscles become weak over time and it’s difficult for them to “go.” If you notice your cat is using his litter box less than usual and there are no other physical signs of illness, you can try a few home remedies before having to see a vet.

First, make sure your cat has plenty of water available and that he’s drinking regularly. Offering wet food, if your cat is normally on a dry-food diet, can also help relieve any dehydration and get things moving along again. You can also try feeding Kitty canned pumpkin or wheat bran. A mild laxative, with your veterinarian’s guidance and approval, can also be helpful. You want to limit use of laxatives, however, as they can cause damage if overused.

Another cause is hairballs, which can dry out stools. More concerning causes of chronic constipation are a lazy colon, spinal deformities (common in tailless cats like the manx) and nerve damage.

If your cat has chronic constipation or your home remedies are ineffective, take your cat to the vet. Inability to expel stools can lead to toxicity and even death and it’s important to treat quickly and correctly.

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