As summer is upon us, our pets, especially dogs, are out more than usual with the good weather smiling down on us. We love to take our dogs outdoors, to the beach, anywhere outside. Yet, as the temperature soars, dog owners need to take extra care and caution for our pups. Below is a list to help remind us even of the basics during the summer months.
Don't leave dogs in hot cars or let them walk on hot asphalt, play too hard or get too much sun. Apply flea and tick repellents, and if you're in a mosquito-prone area, you should probably talk to your vet about heartworm prevention pills. Take dogs on walks early or late to avoid midday heat and provide enough drinking water (for you and your pup).
A dog's coat is like insulation, warding off cold in the winter and heat in the summer. Remember to trim, but don't give your dog a really short haircut or such a close shave that it takes away your pup’s protection. Dogs get sunburn and skin cancer, so never cut fur shorter than an inch. Dogs shed more in the summer, so make sure to brush your dog often to get rid of the extra fur along with fur that's matted from water play.
Most dogs and outdoor cats can find cool, shady spots to lie down, but some, especially animals that are overweight or can't tolerate heat, might benefit from cooling beds, mats or even vests. These mats get filled with water, which mixes with a high-tech gel to create a cool, waterbed-like cushion. Just make sure your dog doesn’t chew the cooling mat instead!
No food will keep your dog cooler, but food helps keep body temperature up, so dogs may not need to eat as much in the summer. If you take your dog on a trip, you might want to consider bringing food from home. A change in diet can cause diarrhea or your pup simply might not want to eat the different food.
If you decide to have a barbecue or picnic, make sure to keep your pets inside or watch to make sure that your dogs are not eating or drinking something that is bad for them, whether it's spilled alcohol or onion dip. Onions, garlic, grapes, raisins and chocolate are the most toxic foods for dogs. It might even benefit you to keep your dog on a leash while outdoors during a picnic or barbeque.
Trips with your dogs
If you decide to take your dog on a road trip, make sure that your dog is OK in the car. Take a short trip at first if your dog isn’t used to it as dogs can get car sick. This way you can see how your pup does in the car.
On boats, consider a doggie life vest. And watch your dog to protect him or her from gasoline and other toxic products. At the beach, provide drinking water so your dog does not drink salt water.
On planes, if your pet is small enough, keep your pup in the cabin with you. Call ahead because some airlines limit animals per flight. Be prepared to pay a fee and check on necessary paperwork.
If you're boarding your dog, remember that many kennels require proof of vaccines such as rabies and kennel cough. And, of course, get recommendations on the different boarding homes.
Your lawn or neighbor’ lawns
Some lawn products are toxic to dogs and cats. Weed killers and herbicides are the worst and some can cause cancer. Some fertilizers are also toxic. All a dog or cat has to do is walk on the lawn and lick its paws to be exposed. These include herbicides, plants (hydrangea, tulips, azaleas, insecticides, mushrooms, fertilizers and cocoa mulch.
It is fairly easy to recognize the symptoms overheating if you see it — excessive panting, difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, seizures, and elevated body temperatures. And, don’t think your dog will merely stop and take a break. Sometimes dogs keep running without even realizing that hey are overheated which is why you need to watch for the above signs.
Always carry water with you and sponge your dog with lukewarm water if you think your dog is overheating.
Home windows and car windows
Believe it or not, dogs and cats can escape and fall from apartment windows, roofs, balconies or fire escapes. And, of course, this can lead to an injury for your dog or cat. Use window screens, open windows from the top instead of the bottom, consider child-safety window guards.
Most dog owners know the basics and your dog will be fine in the summer months if you take the necessary precautions. Of course, we can’t watch our dogs all the time, but the above just reinforces the necessity to look out for our pups!
Some cats love to eat and aren’t picky at all about what food is put in front of them. And then there are other cats that are very finicky about what they eat and don’t like most food. Or maybe your cat has suddenly shown less interest in his food and barely touches it. If either is the case, there is probably a reason your cat suddenly has shown less interest and there are ways to get your feline friend to start eating again.
Schedule an appointment with your veterinarian
The first thing you should do if your cat has stopped eating for more than a day or so is to schedule and appointment with your veterinarian to make sure he or she is in good health. If your cat has always been a good eater and suddenly loses interest, this is something to be concerned about right away. If your cat has recently lost weight or is vomiting or has diarrhea, it’s time to make a visit to the veterinarian. Your vet can then determine if this change is a health issue and treat your kitty accordingly.
Your cat might be finicky because you are giving him or her too many treats
Once you have ruled out health issues, you might need to rethink your cat’s treats and dietary habits. If you feed your cat extra treats (or human food) during the day that can be tastier and more interesting than his or her normal food, you could get a finicky cat over time. And, some cats will simply hold out until they are given something that just tastes better than cat food.
Here is where you need to make some changes and stop reinforcing the bad behavior. Human foods and excessive treats only cause weight gain and don’t provide balanced nutrition for your kitty. Try switching to a well-balanced wet food that will fill your kitty up and not leave him or her craving treats. There are many healthy canned and dry food on the market. You can get a recommendation from your veterinarian or someone at your local pet store.
How to switch your cat to a new food
To switch your cat to a new food, start by putting your cat's new food down for a half hour. If your kitty won't touch it during that time, pick it up, and give your cat a small amount of her usual food or something you know your cat likes. Pick it up when she stops eating, walk away, and don't leave any other food out where she can get it (no dry food left out during this process). Repeat this two or three times a day for a couple of days. Very often by the third day, your cat will be eating the new food.
If that doesn't work, try putting a very small amount of your cat’s favorite food on top of the new food. The cat will smell and taste the familiar food and a tiny bit of the new and will then make the association that the new stuff is also food. You can also try warming the food and adding tuna juice during this phase.
If your cat won’t eat the offered food, try again later. If he just won’t eat, and as long as he’s in good health, you can probably wait things out a day and usually hunger will take over. This will help encourage your cat’s appetite for his new cat food and after a short time, your kitty will learn that this food is the only food he will be getting every day.
Be patient and give your cat some time to adjust
Your cat might be smarter than you think and has stopped eating only to get extra attention from you. Try to stay out of the area where your cat eats and give him a quiet, safe place to eat alone, away from distractions or competition from other pets. Offer his food for a short period of time and then take it away. This will teach your cat to eat at certain regular times and will provide a comforting routine.
As always, be patient with your kitty. If you try all of the above, your cat should be eating his new food at regular meal times. Try praising your kitty and giving your cat lavish attention when he or she eats the right food at meal time. And, of course, always give your cat plenty of water to keep her or him hydrated.
If you have an older cat, like I do, you might start thinking about taking some extra steps to help ensure your cat a long and happy life. Sammy, my cat, is now sixteen, and luckily our cats can live a very long time. But, as they get older, just as in people, we need to take extra care of them and be more mindful of their daily routine. Below are some tips to help your senior cat live a long time.
Keep your cats active
As our cats get older and tend to sleep even more, we can sometimes forget to play with our older cats. However, it is certainly worth putting in the extra effort to get them up and active. Take out their favorite toy, put some catnip on it and toss it around. I’m sure you will get a reaction from that. And, not only is this a great time to bond with your kitty, you will keep your cat in better health and shape. It is also a good way to monitor if and when your cat does slow down, that there is a health or bone issue at stake or something is slowing him down.
Water is very important for older cats
As our senior cats tend to get illness that are related to dehydration, it is really important to keep your older cat hydrated. I know that my cat, Sammy, loves to drink water from the sink. Not ideal, but I want him to keep hydrated. It is really important to keep your older cats hydrated to keep the kidneys functioning properly. If your cat isn’t a water drinker, try to buy a fountain that pours out water and makes it more of a game for your kitty. If this doesn’t work, make sure that your older cat eats wet food as this will help hydration more than dry food.
Make sure to keep an eye on your cat’s dental health
As cats get older, they tend to have dental problems. As it is difficult to tell if your feline companion is in pain, make sure to schedule regular dental check ups with your vet. Your senior cat can have an abscessed tooth or other dental issues that you don’t even know exists. If your cat has problems with his or her teeth, he or she will eat less and our senior cats need to keep their weight up.
Make sure your senior cat is well groomed
We all love to have our cats’ fur nice and groomed. In a senior cat, the benefits are even greater and more important than simply keeping your cat’s fur clean. Senior cats sometimes have trouble cleaning themselves and usually end up with a lot more loose hair leaving them much more vulnerable to hairballs. Grooming your cat daily will help you learn your cat’s body to check him or her often to see if there are any bumps or lesions. And, of course, it will give you even more bonding time. Most cats love being brushed and treated like a queen or king.
Keep your senior cat warm
Many older cats tend to feel the cold more than a younger cat. Make sure to keep them warm by giving them a warm place to sleep with a blanket. A heating pad also works well for them and your cat will love it.
Make their life easier
As our cats age, they have difficulty climbing (sometimes) and even completing daily functions. You might look around your home and see what you can do to ease their life. Try putting a litter box with lower walls attached to make sure they can get in easily and make sure that the food and water bowls are easy to get to. Easy access helps them keep all their normal functions in check.
Try to keep their environment controlled
We all know how difficult change is for our cats. It might be best not to make any significant changes in your cat’s life, if possible. Even though I am always an advocate of adoption, if your cat is very old, it might not be a great time to add a kitten to his or her life. It could exhaust and or frighten your cat, especially if she’s or he has been your only cat. However, each cat is different and your cat might like another sibling; just make sure they meet first!
Think about switching to a senior cat food
Talk to your vet to see if your kitty would benefit from switching to a senior formula cat food. There are many different types of senior cat food that provides your cat with the right balance of protein, fat, calories, vitamins and minerals. Your vet, depending on your cat’s agility, might recommend some kind of bone supplement to keep your cat’s bones stronger.
I hope your cat lives a long, healthy life. If you follow the above, it should help make your senior cat’s life a little smoother and happier in the end. That’s the goal!
If you are like most cat owners, including myself, you find yourself sitting on the couch or pulling out some pants and they are filled with cat fur! Or you take out your sweater, and what do you find: more cat hair! While we love our feline friends, let’s be honest, the cat hair can sometimes be annoying. Of course, cat owners are always armed with rollers or some other way to get rid of hair, but sometimes excessive shedding can be a health issue.
Outdoor cats tend to lose more fur in the spring and keep more fur in the winter, while indoor cats usually shed all year round. However, if you see patches in your cat’s fur or notice that your cay’s hair loss is excessive, it is time to see your veterinarian to see if there is an underlying medical condition.
Medical conditions that can cause shedding
If your cat is shedding excessively, he or she could be suffering from a medical condition. As I mentioned above, you should schedule an appointment with your vet. Some of the conditions that cause excessive shedding are the following: allergy conditions, ringworm, fleas, a bacterial infection, poor diet, sunburn and/or a hormonal imbalance.
Once you have ruled out medical conditions, you can try the below to stop shedding
1. Make sure to feed your cat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is important for your cat for the obvious reasons, but it can also help your cat’s hair loss. If you are feeding your cat a healthy canned food with protein as the main ingredient and few preservatives or fillers, this helps keep your cat healthy and minimizes shedding. There are also vitamin supplements for cats that contain Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that can keep the fur smooth and knot-free.
2. Make sure to groom your cat regularly
Make sure to brush your cat’s fur on a regular basis. If you have a long- haired cat, a daily brush down is essential and will not only help with the shedding, but can give you some bonding time with your kitty. Use a fine bristled brush to remove knots then use a fine tooth comb to pull up the undercoat. At the beginning, you might have to brush your cat every day until the undercoat is thinned out. Don’t over brush your cat as it can damage your cat's coat, but you need a comb that will get to the undercoat without damaging the overcoat.
3. Bathe your cat or take him to the groomer
Bathing your cat regularly is really important to help reduce excess, loose hair, oils and makes your cat smell great. While it isn’t always easy to bathe your cat, it is important to do so. If your cat hates the water, you can take him to a groomer. There are also disposable pads on the market that are filled with oils or waterless cleaners which you can spray on your cat, massage in, and towel off.
If you follow all of the above, it should help reduce your cat’s shedding. You can also place towels or blankets on your furniture and your cat will usually gravitate towards those to lie down. That way, you can easily wash the towels and/or blankets and have less fur everywhere. And, of course, always keep your rollers handy!
One of the trickiest yet rewarding tasks for dog owners and their pups is to have the ability to walk your dog(s) off leash. Not all owners have the stomach or desire to do this as it can sometimes be dangerous for your dog depending on where you walk your dog, but it is a good training exercise. However, if your dog isn’t in full command on his leash, it is best to wait until you feel comfortable walking your dog on leash to try this.
As always with training your pup, have some healthy treats ready. The training steps below are to be done with your dog on his leash until the final step of removing the leash.
Teach your dog a “look at me” command.
Try to teach your dog a command that says “look at me”. This will teach your dog to look at your face and focus on you which is the key to keeping your dog’s focus when you walk your dog off-leash. Call your dog’s name and have the treat close enough so he or she can smell it. Say “look at me,” and bring the treat toward your eyes. The instant your dog looks up and focuses on your face, give him the treat.
Have your dog on your left side and get him to sit
Next, have your dog beside you on your left side and ask him to sit. If your dog sits, then hold your treat over your pup’s head while saying “sit.” Make sure to reward your dog the minute he sits down. The reason you are adding this step is that you are teaching your dog to be able to heel any time you stop moving (which will help later).
Next, walk forward a few steps and then ease to a stop and ask the dog to "sit" again as you come to a halt. Give your dog the treat when his hindquarters are firmly on the ground. Repeat the walk-and-stop process over time until your dog sits quickly without a command when you stop.
Make sure your dog walks by your side
Encourage your dog to walk close to your side. Talk to your dog in an upbeat voice and have the treat ready. Keep walking and then slow down to a stop, reward your pup with the treat when he sits, and praise him for remaining in position. Repeat this step again while incorporating turns into the routine until your dog keeps up with you and moves in step with you each time you say “heel.”
Take off the leash and combine all of the above
Now you can take the leash off and try the “look at me” command. Once your dog is focused on you, try the “heel” in a happy voice and walk ahead. If your dog slows down, say “heel” again and have your treat handy. Then, walk ahead until your dog maintains a steady pace in proper heel position (i.e. next to you and ready to stop if necessary). It is important to only reward your dog only when he or she maintains the correct position. If your dog follows the commands, keep on walking and then see how he or she does. However, always have your leash ready and with you in case you need it. Keep practicing until you and your dog are comfortable with his being off leash.
Some dogs will be able to walk off leash with training while others never take to it. Only you know your dog and what he or she is capable of doing. Good luck!