Keeping Cats Safe and Happy During the Holidays

By Banfield Pet Hospital
 
Is your cat more of a wall flower than a party animal? With the holiday season just around the corner, it’s important to recognize that celebrations can bring with them the potential for stress.
 
During the holidays, houses are often filled with additional family members and friends. This can create a crowded, noisy atmosphere that can be overwhelming for your cat. You may want to give your cat its own quiet space to retreat to, complete with fresh water and a place to lounge.
 
Frightened cats might want to hide out under a piece of furniture, in their carrier or in a separate room away from the chaos. It’s also a good idea to make guests aware that your cat may not be open to visits from strangers. This will help keep your cat from having to fend off unwelcome advances from well-intentioned friends and family.
 
Cat escapes seem to rise during the time of year when there are many guests in the house. Remember to keep an eye on the entrances and exits of your home in order to keep your cat from escaping. Now would also be the time to make sure your cat has a properly fitting collar with ID tags.
 
Though it may not always be easy, do your best to keep your cat’s schedule intact. Cats can be very skeptical of change and even small shifts in a daily routine can cause anxiety.
 
In short, while you’re enjoying the holidays be sure to keep in mind the four-legged members of your household so everyone can have a happy season.

Introducing a New Dog to Your Resident Dog

By Ken Piening

The introduction of unfamiliar dogs to other dogs may be a perilous journey. This can be very stressful for the dogs and the owners. But to help alleviate this stress, we must understand why the introduction is difficult for our dogs Image

(Note: For the sake of this article your new dog coming into the home will be referred to as the “New Dog”. The resident dog will be referred to as the “Old Dog.”)

When the new dog enters the home, territorial instincts tell the old dog that he is to defend his home. These territorial feelings are the reason why dogs can not meet “the wrong way.” To understand the proper introduction, we must first realize that dogs live in a world of scent. Dogs rely on their keen sense of smell to introduce themselves to their surroundings. Therefore, training is based on their highly developed sense of smell. This is a difficult concept to grasp because humans depend on sight more than smell.

With this in mind, the home must be set up in a way that separates the two dogs so there is no visual contact. Visual contact creates posturing (a cold stare, growling and hackles raised). Dominant or submissive posturing immediately triggers a reaction in a the other dog and often leads to stress and tension between the two.

Introducing Two Dogs to Each Other in 4 Easy Steps

1. Place two cages in separate areas of the home (or use one cage and a laundry room). This is vital for a stress-free first meeting. Why? You use the cage as a training tool. The dogs, meanwhile, get a sense of comfort and security from the cage. It also important that the dogs do not make visual contact during this sensitive period. Instead of “meeting” each other visually, you will let them smell each other. This is done by placing a toy, tug, or even a blanket in their cages. These toys are called “scent articles”. Then as you swap these scent articles from one dog to the other, it will allow them to create a deeper bond. This form of communication is the only way they truly understand — communication through their nose!

2. Let the “new” dog roam around the house. This will allow him or her to get accustomed to a new home and group of humans (you). During this time, your “old” dog should be out of sight and harms way (under your control), because the newcomer will be exploring and leaving his scent on a territory that is still not his or her own.

The new dog should only be out of his cage for fifteen to twenty minutes, several times a day. This is plenty of time for him to check out his new environment and leave his own scent about the house. Then, when the new dog goes back in his cage, place the old dog’s scent articles with him.

3. Switch the dogs. Meaning, the new dog goes into the confined area and the old dog is allowed to play. The first time the old dog comes out, he will vigorously explore the scent left around the home by the new dog until he is satisfied the intruder has “escaped.” Your older dog might be overwhelmed and confused; this is when he needs your comfort. Allow him to sit on your lap or by your side as you read a magazine or a book, or perhaps while watching a rerun of Lassie (hey, the sound of another dog may serve him well). This quality time together is just what he needs during the scent discovery period.

To be truly effective, the old dog must be let out of the cage several times a day to understand the new smell — though it should only occur after the new dog has played and been put away. The more you do these short routines, the faster they will familiarize with each other.

 

So when do you know your older dog is ready for a close encounter? He or she will no longer furiously follow around the new dog’s scent around your home. This is a dog’s implicit way of saying, “Okay, I’m comfortable with that other dog now. When can we meet?”

 

4. The face-to-face meeting should not, for territorial reasons, occur on your property. A neighbor’s backyard, a ball park (when no other dogs or people might interfere), or any other enclosed area are far better places for the first meeting. And please do not think that leashes are sufficient enough to replace the security of an enclosed area; holding the leashes may in fact encite aggression in the dogs.

Instead, let the old dog run around the field (or other enclosed area), while the new dog is out of sight. Then switch and allow the new dog to play in the field while the old dog is out sight. Just like in your home, the dogs will detect a faimilar scent. Since the dogs have already been formally introduced via each other’s scent, they are ready to meet face to face. And because the area is confined and safe, they will not have a need or be able to run away. Instead the dogs will run over to greet each other, smell, posture … and will have no inclination to fight.

 

This stress-free and safe routine is the best way to introduce new dogs. In fact, it should easily work with trained or misbehaved dogs. You are allowing the dog’s natural instincts and primary sense (smell) be the teacher, which is both simple and effective.

A dog’s sense of smell is considered by many as its primary sense. Therefore, this training is based entirely upon the scent. This method will easily work with trained or misbehaved dogs. We are working hand in hand with the dog’s natural instincts. Allowing the dog’s instincts to teach the lesson will make learning simple yet efficient.

Is Your Pet Unemployed?

Dogs thrive on mental and physical stimulation. If your dog is obese, destructive, or just lies around the house, sleeping and showing no interest in toys or going out for a walk, he may be suffering from a lack of environmental stimulation. He may need something to motivate his senses.

As Don Gutknecht, our Director of training, always says, “Dogs are bred and meant to do a job.” Domesticating out pets has put them out of work, they no longer need to herd, hunt or forage, which are their instinctual behaviors.

Don offers a few ideas to help you put your pet back to work:

  • Hide his food dish under a bag and let him forage for his meal.
  • Put his regular meal in a food dispensing toy, like a Kong. This will provide both physical and mental stimulation.
  • Provide appropriate chew toys. Chewing is another instinctual behavior and it can help relieve stress.
  • Play a game of Hide & Seek with one of his favorite toys.
  • While spending time outdoors, drop a personal item of yours, and praise him enthusiastically when he finds it for you.
  • Teach him a new trick.
  • Take him to an obedience training class and then practice together what you’ve learned.

Dogs are social animals. They need motivation, stimulation, attention and love to keep them happy and healthy. If you need more help finding a job for your dog, stop in and see Don; he would be happy to help you put your pet back to work.

Top 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Pet (and You)

By Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

The start of a new year can signal a fresh start for pets needing a change in their routine. For example, with over 50 percent of pets in the U.S. classified as overweight, there’s no better time for owners to commit to a new diet and exercise regimen for their pets. Need more ideas? Here are ten resolutions to make this year your pet’s healthiest year yet!

#10 Measure Your Pet’s Food – Every Time!

ImageMany owners “eyeball” their pet’s daily intake and pour that into a bowl, usually resulting in overfeeding and weight gain. It’s important to use an 8-ounce measuring cup to ensure your pet isn’t taking in more calories than they need. The recommended feeding guidelines on the bag are good place to start to figure out how much food Fido (or Kitty) really needs. Older pets and those who have been neutered usually have lower energy needs than young, intact animals.

#9 Choose an Age-Appropriate Diet

ImageGrowing pets have very specific nutrient requirements to ensure their bodies grow healthy and strong. For example, some senior pets may have lower energy requirements, but have other medical issues like degenerative joint disease that may be helped with the appropriate diet. Choosing a diet specifically tailored to your pet’s life stage is a great way to keep them in optimal health.

#8 Try a New Activity with Your Pet

ImageFrom doga to hiking, skijoring to kayaking, it’s easier than ever for people to incorporate their pet into a new exercise routine. It’s a great way to bond, it’ll get you both out of the house, and both owner and pet will reap the rewards of a healthy physical activity. Meet-up groups are a great way to find like-minded pet owners to join you in your exercise, too!

#7 Incorporate (More) Playtime into Your Routine

ImageCats love the thrill of chasing a laser toy; just don’t tell them it’s exercise! Toys that trigger a cat’s predatory instinct are a great way to get them off the couch and engaged in a little aerobic activity. Experiment to see what really gets your cat going — in addition to lasers, catnip toys, crinkly balls, and climbable cat trees are perennial feline favorites. Even a cardboard box can become a cat cave that satisfies a cat’s desire for a hiding place.

#6 Make a Date with Your Vet

ImageYearly examinations by the veterinarian are a key component of good preventive care. Many medical conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, or obesity are common in aging pets and much easier to manage when detected in the early stages of the disease process. Veterinary visits are also the perfect time to ask for advice, update your pet’s food, or get an expert opinion on any behavioral issues that may be affecting your bonding with your pet.

#5 Groom Your Pet Daily

ImageBrushing your pet serves many purposes. It removes excess fur from the coat, reducing the amount you find on your clothes and furniture. It helps distribute oils from the skin to the fur, keeping the coat shiny and healthy. Lastly, daily grooming is a bonding activity that demonstrates to your pet how much you love them by taking care of them in a very soothing manner.

#4 Practice Good Oral Hygiene Habits with Your Pet

ImageDaily toothbrushing is the best way to keep tartar and plaque at bay — just be sure to use a toothpaste meant for dogs and cats. Water additives, dental diets, and treats designed to reduce tartar can also be a helpful tool in keeping teeth clean. And even with all of these tricks, regular cleanings by a licensed veterinarian are the best way to keep those pearly whites in tip top shape long into your pet’s senior years.

#3 Teach an Old Dog a New Trick

ImageStudies show that mental stimulation can help reduce cognitive deterioration in aging animals. In other words, keeping your senior pet’s brain active can actually make it healthier! Teaching your pet new tricks and practicing those they already know are a great way to keep those neurons firing. Puzzle feeders, which force a pet to think through a task in order to be rewarded with a treat, are also an excellent way to keep a pet’s mind engaged.

#2 Update Pet ID Info

ImageOver the course of a year, a lot can change — people move, get new phone numbers, and forget to update their pet’s tags. Often they only remember once the pet is lost. If any of your contact information has changed in 2013, don’t wait — update their tags and microchip information today! It’s the best way to ensure a lost pet makes their way safely home.

#1 Consider Fostering

ImageYou think you want a new pet, but you’re not 100 percent sure it’s right for you? Try fostering. Many animal shelters and rescues need loving homes to provide safe and temporary living arrangements for pets. It’s the perfect way to test the waters of pet ownership without the lifelong commitment, since you are simply hosting a pet while they wait for their forever home. Who knows? That home just might end up being yours.