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Pets Like to Dress Up, Too

VSSF Admin - Monday, October 27, 2014

 

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/popular-pet-halloween-costumes#slide-3

 

http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/halloween-ideas/popular-pet-halloween-costumes#slide-3

 

http://www.bayanimalhospital.com/halloween-and-your-pets.pml

 

http://www.extremehalloween.com/pet.htm

 

http://scoopempire.com/awesome-animal-halloween-costumes/

 

http://www.people.com/people/package/gallery/0,,20058392_20152851_20352610,00.html

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.

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

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 08, 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.

Canine Labor Matters

VSSF Admin - Monday, September 01, 2014
They don’t belong to unions. They don’t demand equal pay for equal work. They never complain and they are more often than not tireless in their efforts. All they ask is a pat on the head and a biscuit every once in a while. They are the working dogs that are all around us, often forgotten but always there.

Dogs’ versatility and heightened senses make them ideal for many jobs that humans can’t do. Some are fun, some dangerous and others sad. All are important.

Just like cats, dogs work as service and therapy animals. If you have a dog with an especially sweet temperament, you can have your dog certified as a therapy dog and then you can volunteer to take him or her into hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities for visits. Note that therapy dogs are not service dogs and are not allowed into public places that forbid animals from entering. Service dogs work as seeing-eye dogs for the blind, companions for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and help paraplegics and quadriplegics live independently. These dogs can always accompany their owners into any building or situation and are not subject to “no dogs allowed” rules.

Dogs also serve to sniff out both survivors and cadavers in tragedies involving collapsed structures with people inside. Many of these dogs helped search after the Sept. 11, 2001, tragedies and one could find scattered around New York City afterward statues commemorating their service.

You can find dogs working in police K-9 units, helping catch fleeing criminals and sniffing out suspected drugs at traffic stops. They go into war zones with our military, where they can sniff a bomb and alert their handlers before detonation, saving thousands of lives.

Dogs also play a role for hunters, sniffing out prey or retrieving a kill. Others, like cats, serve on farms. Shepherd breeds guard herd animals like sheep, making sure they don’t stray too far, protecting them from predators and rounding them up and pushing them back to the safety of a more enclosed pasture or barn.

The fact is, without our working dogs, life would be a lot more dangerous and difficult for humans. The above examples are only a few of the many things our dogs do for us.

Cats Have Jobs, Too

VSSF Admin - Monday, August 25, 2014

Labor Day is next week, a day celebrating the human worker in the United States. But many other species have “jobs” that are often just as important. This week and next, we will discuss first cats and then dogs that spend their days serving society.

You can find the most common “working cat” on any farm. They are especially useful on farms that produces food, but almost any place with a barn will have a few cats around. These cats help keep the rodent population in check, thus protecting the farmer’s livelihood: the food he sells. But they are just as important on farms where animals live to keep the feed safe from both little chewing mouths and deposited waste.

There are programs in several states that work to place rescued feral cats as barn cats on local farms, an alternative to putting them down due to their unfriendliness and the difficulty in adopting them out to other kinds of homes. If you’re in need of such a cat, check to see if there is a program in your area. In such cases, the program expects the adopter to ensure the cats have proper food, water and medical care.

Even the pampered cats people keep as pets in their homes are “working,” even if you don’t realize it. If you live in the “country” and haven’t seen rats or mice in your basement or found evidence of them in your kitchen, thank your cat. If every spider you find in your house is already dead, thank your cat. And, finally – particularly in the Southeast and more specifically in Florida – if you never see a living palmetto bug, thank your cat. Even cats that don’t need to hunt still enjoy it as an instinctual part of their personalities and they will go after anything smaller than they are that moves.

But cats’ work skills don’t end with their hunting abilities. Some cats receive training as service animals for a variety of conditions. Some cats can predict when their owners are about to suffer a seizure. The cat’s timely alert allows the owner to get to a safe place or take medication that stops seizures. They also serve to calm people suffering with anxiety, depression or other mental illnesses. Still others visit hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities to bring joy to patients and residents.

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