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How to Keep Your Pets Healthy During Winter

With winter already arriving early, it’s important to remember to watch your pets during the next few months.  It is always better to be more on the overprotective side as you might not realize the impact the cold has on your dog or cat.  Some dogs do thrive and love the snow, but it’s always better for them to be outside for only a short time. 

Below are some tips to keep your pets healthy during the winter months:

Keep all pets indoors and warm

Don't leave your dogs or cats outdoors when the temperature drops, especially short haired or older dogs and all cats.  If you must let them out, make sure to watch them closely.  Dogs and cats are safer indoors, except when taken out for exercise. During walks, short-haired dogs may feel more comfortable wearing a sweater or doggy jacket to help warm them up. 

Be mindful that no matter what the temperature is, wind chill can threaten a pet's life. Pets are sensitive to severe cold and can get either frostbite and/or hypothermia when they are outdoors during extreme cold temperatures.  Further, their exposed skin or noses, ears, and paw pads can quickly freeze and suffer permanent damage.

Never leave your cat or dog inside your car

Never leave your dog or cat alone in a car during cold weather. A car can act as a refrigerator in the winter, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.  There is so much attention to pets being left in hot cars during the summer, but the cold car during winter can be just as dangerous.   Keep your pets at home.

Winter Tips For Pets

It’s cold out here!

 

Take precautions if your dog spends a lot of time outside

A dog or cat is happiest and healthiest when kept indoors. If for some reason your dog is outdoors much of the day, he or she must be protected by a dry, draft-free shelter that is large enough to allow the dog to sit and lie down comfortably, but small enough to hold in his/her body heat. The house or enclosure should be turned to face away from the wind, and the doorway should be covered with waterproof burlap or heavy plastic.  But, by all means, try to keep your pets indoors.

Wipe your pets’ paws after they have been outside

The salt and other chemicals used to melt snow and ice can irritate the pads of your pet's feet. Wipe all paws with a damp towel before your pet licks them and irritates his/her mouth.  Plus, you don’t want mud all over your floor!

Give your pets plenty of water

Pets who spend a lot of time outdoors need more food in the winter because keeping warm depletes energy. Routinely check your pet's water dish to make certain the water is fresh and unfrozen. Use plastic food and water bowls rather than metal; when the temperature is low, your pet's tongue can stick and freeze to metal.  And, as mentioned, make sure your dogs and cats don’t have plenty of food on hand.

Cats are attracted to warmth during the winter months

Warm engines in parked cars attract cats and some might even attempt to crawl up under the hood of a parked car! To avoid injuring any hidden animals, bang on your car's hood to scare them away before starting your engine.  Better safe than sorry.

Watch the Antifreeze

Antifreeze is a deadly poison but it has a taste that can attract pets. Wipe up all spills and store antifreeze (and all household chemicals) out of reach for your pets. There are some types of antifreeze that are less toxic, but still try to keep them away from your cats and dogs.

As mentioned earlier, the best way to keep your dog or cat safe and happy during the winter months is to have them spend more time indoors.  While both cats and dogs need exercise, make the walks short and brisk and keep them inside the rest of the time.  You will love spending time with your pet kids and they, in turn, won’t get frost bite or too chilled.

Keep your pets’ bed away from any drafts

Make sure your companion animal has a warm place to sleep, off the floor and away from all drafts. A cozy dog or cat bed with a warm blanket or pillow is perfect. 

If you are mindful of your cats and dogs during the winter, they will be healthier and safer, even if they feel a bit cooped up. 

 

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Why is Your Dog Scratching?

Dogs tend to scratch themselves for many reasons and sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly the cause.  Of course, the occasional scratch is natural and inherent in being a dog.  But, when your dog starts to itch one area, it seems to create a routine or pattern.  And, trying to determine the exact cause of the scratching or itching is sometimes difficult because it can be medical or just boredom.

Below are some tips to help determine why your dog is scratching.

Your dog could have fleas

Most dog owners know that this is the first place to look if your dog is scratching.   Check your dog’s hair and body for any fleas that you might find.  And, sometimes, it can be as simple as picking up a flea from another dog or when you are outside and it infests your home.  Give your dog a flea bath immediately and check with your vet for the best recommendation for fleas or flea bites if the initial bath doesn’t stop the itching.

Your dog can have dry skin

One common cause of scratching or itching is dry skin. If you live in a region with low humidity, it’s more likely that your dog will have dry skin, which is fairly easy to recognize. When you part your dog’s hair, you see flakes of dandruff in the undercoat, and the skin itself may be cracked and tough. The slightest stimulation of the skin even just your touching it can provoke your dog to scratch aggressively.

Dog Itchy Skin

Dry skin can be influenced not only by environmental factors, but also by diet. Commercial pet foods process out the good oils that contribute to healthy skin and a healthy coat. Dry pet food has a more dehydrating effect on skin and hair and also stimulate increased thirst, which only partially compensates for the drying nature of these diets.

If you have to feed your dog dry food, then try to add digestive enzymes to your dog’s meals. In fact, digestive enzymes are good to use with any type of food. Enzymes improve the release of nutrients and beneficial probiotic bacteria also assist in the digestive process.  Probiotics also help with allergies as they can in humans.   A healthy digestive system absorbs fluids more readily from the food your dog eats, which improves hydration and increases the moisture levels of the skin and fur.

Your dog can be scratching because he is allergic

Your dog can be scratching because he has itchy skin as a result of allergies. Allergies may make your dog’s skin dry, greasy, or slightly dry and oily, and is usually accompanied by frequent scratching, licking or chewing. There seems to be more cases of allergic dogs than in the past as many dogs have been subjected to poor breeding practices and the feeding of processed pet foods. 

Regardless of your dog’s age, many allergies can be controlled by improving the quality of your dog’s diet by giving them acidophilus cultures and high doses of fish oils; adding freshly milled flax seed; and, in some cases, giving them antihistamines. It can take up to three months for this regimen to take effect. The above also helps humans with allergies.

If you are feeding your dog food with coloring, it could contribute to allergies.

Remove your dog from all foods that contain food coloring, which can contribute to allergic reactions. Read the back of any products you buy for your dog's consumption and check for any food dyes. That includes treats as well their main meals. Avoid junk food snacks. It is OK to treat your dog to the occasional steak snack, salmon or cheese; sometimes even pistachios. Dogs may have allergic reactions to any protein commonly found in foods (lamb, beef, chicken, wheat, corn, soy, fish, milk...) and may need to be on a diet free of that specific allergen.  This requires testing by removing one specific ingredient at a time from your dog’s diet and seeing how he or she reacts.

Here are some other simple tips to help stop your dog from scratching:

  1. When you bathe your dog, try using plain water and a good, non-drying solvent. If you really need to use shampoo, try one that is moisturizing and follow up with a moisturizing conditioner.  Try to avoid blow dryers.  If you have your dog groomed, talk to the groomer about turning down the heat on the blow dryer (it’s usually set pretty high).    
  2. Feed your dogs a moist food: canned, cooked, homemade or raw.
  3. Add digestive enzymes to every meal as mentioned above.
  4. Provide fresh, filtered drinking water at all times.
  5. Add fresh oils and other supplements to meals such as flax seed oil (1/2 tsp. of oil/15 pounds twice daily) or freshly milled flax seeds (1.5 tsp./15 pounds twice daily).

Your dog is bored

If your veterinarian has ruled out any medical condition, it could be simply that your dog is bored.   If your dog is left alone for a long time or doesn’t get enough exercise, he or she might start scratching a specific area.  And, once he or she starts, it can become compulsive. Make sure that your dog is left a chew toy or raw hide bone to keep him busy.  And make sure that your pup gets plenty of exercise so he is so fatigued that he forgets about scratching.

 

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Why Do Cats Scratch Everything?

Our felines love to scratch anything and everything.  It is essential to their well-being and inherent in being a cat! Therefore, when a cat scratches your couch or bed or anything else for that matter, there is really no way to train them not to do it.  You just have to redirect their scratching to something more appropriate to scratch.

Cat scratching is normal

As I mentioned above, cat scratching is more normal than you may think. Scratching is not your cat’s attempt to sharpen his claws or simply a way to destroy your furniture or carpet.  Scratching does serve many inherent purposes for your cat. In addition to conditioning your cat’s claws, it’s a very effective way for the cat to stretch his or he back and shoulder muscles.

 

Cats Scratch Everything

I’m stretching out my muscles!

By scratching, cats can remove the worn and fraying outer layer of the nail and hone and sharpen the claws, keeping them in excellent shape and having them ready for self-defense or hunting. The clawing habit is innate, so you will still your cat always scratching on a daily basis.  As our cats age, their scratching needs tend to lessen and sometimes diminish altogether.

Cats scratch to mark their territory

Scratching is not just a way to shape their claws, it is done to mark their territory in the house. As they exercise their claws on the scratching post or pad, they are leaving their marks and scent on the post to draw their turf from other cats in the same area and signal them that this is their domain now. Even though your cats may not scratch your furniture any more, rest assured, there is no stopping when it comes to marking territory. By rubbing and pawing on the furniture, they are leaving their body scent emitted from the pheromone glands situated on the paws and their face. Marking with their scent will help them familiarize with the area next time they come around. Their scent tells them that they are within their own territory and assures safety of themselves.

Cats scratch to relieve stress

Scratching is also used as an emotional release or displacement behavior in your cat. When your cat is anxious, happy, excited or frustrated, he can release some of that built-up emotion by scratching. Think of the times you’ve seen your cat scratching on an object after a nap or when you’ve come home from work. You may even have noticed him scratching after an encounter with a companion cat. This emotional release through scratching is healthy for the cat.  Or when you come home at night, your cat is so excited they scratch away on their scratch pad as they release endorphins.

Find the correct scratching post or pad for your cat

Your kitty will not stop scratching and therefore you need to find a viable alternative that meets your cat’s needs.  Try to find a post or pad that has appealing texture, tall enough, stabile, and placed in a good location. In general, the most appealing texture for cats is sisal. The rough texture makes it easy for cats to dig their claws in and get an effective scratch. Carpet-covered posts are too soft and don’t meet the needs of most cats when they’re looking for a place to scratch.

Make sure the scratching post is high enough for your cat to stretch

The height of the scratching post should be tall enough so your cat can get a full stretch. If the post is too small, your cat will have to hunch down to use it and that doesn’t allow for a good back and neck stretch. Make sure the tall post is also very stable. A tall post needs a wide base in order to prevent it from toppling over the first time kitty leans against it.

Where should you put your cat post or scratch pad?

Even a great scratching post will just gather dust if you stick it in some far off location. When a cat needs to scratch he’ll look for the closest object that meets his needs. Keep the post where your cat likes to spend the most time.

If you have more than one cat, you’ll need more than one scratching post. Although you can’t don’t really ‘assign’  a post to a specific cat, if you place the posts in areas where the different cats tend to spend the most time, you may find they may just claim the posts on their own.

For cats who like to scratch horizontally, there are inexpensive cardboard scratching pads available at your local pet store.  My cats love to horizontally scratch.

Make your cat’s favorite piece of furniture an after-thought

If your cat has been scratching a specific piece of furniture, place the scratching post right next to it.   You can also cover a piece of furniture with a sheet or small textured rug off the side.  If the scratching is limited to one specific area, place a few strips of Sticky Paws on it. Sticky paws is a double-faced tape made specifically for this purpose. The product is available at your local pet product store. This way, when the cat comes over to scratch the furniture, he’ll see the area isn’t as appealing or is covered and will notice the much better option in the form of a top of the line scratching post. 

Cats love to scratch and won’t stop doing so.  If you give them a viable alternative and make sure it’s properly placed and fits your cat’s needs, the scratching should move to the right place!

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12 Tips to Control Those Annoying Cat Allergies!

 

If you are allergic to cats, it makes it no fun to be around or especially own our fun feline friends.  However, if your allergies are not severe, there are many things you can do or try without giving up on the entire feline pet family.   Or maybe you have minimal allergies to cats that only bother you infrequently. 

While many believe that cat hair it’s the culprit to our allergic reactions, this is not the case.  There is a protein that attaches itself to dried skin, called dander that flakes off and floats through the air when cats wash themselves.  Cat dander is more than just cat hair; dander is the skin cells, saliva, and other proteins that can cause your body to release histamine, an immune system protein that's ultimately to blame for your miserable symptoms.

Below are some tips to help you keep the allergies and dander away.

1.        Designate your bedroom as a cat-free zone.

As hard as this is for you and your cat (s), it’s best to have your bedroom and a cat-free zone.  Then you can start washing all the necessary items that might have dander in them.  Or if you can swing it financially, it’s best to replace them. Use plastic covers that are designed to prevent allergens from penetrating on your mattress and pillows. Allergen-proof covers are available from medical supply outlets. Don’t expect results overnight. Cat allergens are one-sixth the size of pollens, and it may take months to reduce them significantly.  Make sure to close your bedroom door when you are away for the day.

If you get your symptoms under control by all means invite them back, but give yourself a break while you are trying to abate your symptoms.

2.         Wash all bedding in 140-degree hot water at least twice monthly.

If you wash your bedding twice a month, this will eliminate both dust mite and cat allergen (because we know some of you will still let them sneak up on the bed every now and then). 

3.       Vacuum up cat allergen with a high grade HEPA vacuum cleaner twice weekly.

Vacuum walls, carpet, flooring, chairs, and furniture...everywhere. Use the hand tools on the vacuum. Cat allergen particles are very small and invasive so you really have to do a thorough job. Good hand tools on your vacuum cleaner are the answer here. Also, installing a central vacuum will help pick up the rest. 

Allergies in Cat

Allergic to me?!

4.       Use a vapor steam cleaner to clean your home.

In addition to vacuuming, vapor steam cleaners are now proven by research to be extremely helpful in killing off the cat proteins/dander, which are embedded in your carpets and upholstery. Steam cleaners provide a chemical-free way of cleaning and killing dust mites, bacteria, mold spores and cat allergen.  

5.       Wash your hands immediately after petting your cat and do not rub your eyes.

Rubbing your eyes can result in itchy eyes for hours. Use a strong anti-bacterial soap to avoid this problem.  Have anti-bacterial soap everywhere around your house.

6.       Bathe your cat

Some people bathe their cats to reduce the amount of dander that is released from their cat into the air, but research seems to be conflicting about its effectiveness. Allerpet, a well-known brand of liquid that reduces cat allergen in the air, can be applied to your cats' coat and is available from your local veterinarian. Alternatively, you can get a micro fiber cloth and just damp rub down the cats' coats to rid it of visible dander. The majority of cats would prefer this to the highly dreaded bath and it’s much more effective.

7.       Confine your cats to one area of the house.

I know this will be difficult for some people but this at least controls the cat allergens to a separate place where you can concentrate your air purifier and cleaning efforts.   Or at least, be vigilant in keeping your bedroom ‘cat free’.

8.         Wipe the dander away

There are available ‘wipes’ on the market that help remove saliva and dander from your cat’s hair and are less stressful for felines who prefer not to be rubbed in the tub.  This is an effective way to get rid of the dander right on their hair.

9.         Spray allergens away

Anti-allergen sprays are a convenient way to deactivate allergens, including those produced by pets. Allersearch ADS, made from plant-based, non-toxic substances, can be sprayed throughout the house to take the sting out of household dust by rendering allergens harmless.

10.       Clean your litter box often

Cat allergen and/or dander is found in urine and is left in the litter box when your cat makes a deposit. To help prevent allergic reactions to the litter box, use a brand of litter that is less dusty and have someone in the household who is not allergenic clean the box.  The Feline Pine litter is a great litter to help those with allergies.

11.       Get a test to see if you are even allergic to cats!

An allergy specialist can determine the exact source of your allergic reactions by a simple prick of the skin on your arm or back.  Who knows?  Your allergies might be caused by something completely different that is causing the allergy.

12.       Build up your immunity

Like any other allergy, if you build up your immunity to cat dander, you can develop a tolerance for it.  This can be done merely by doing all of the above and see how you react.  If keeping the house clean and dander free helps your allergies, you could also be building an immunity as it is impossible to have all the cat hair and/or dander disappear.  

 

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What Does It Mean When Your Dog Barks While Sleeping?

We love how our dogs are such loving and fun companions.  They are sometimes verbal with their barking and/or they can tell us what they are thinking by just looking at them or their non-verbal cues. They will whimper or stand by the door when they want to go on a walk or nudge you to feed them.  But, what about if our dogs growl, bark or twitch when they sleep.  Usually, if this is the case, we can assume our dogs are dreaming.

Dogs bark or whimper in their sleep because they are dreaming

The reason why dogs bark in their sleep is because they have dreams just like humans do. Dogs go through a dream stage of the sleep cycle every time they go to sleep. You can tell when your dog is slipping into this stage by watching their eyes. Dreaming occurs in a stage of sleep known as REM (which stands for rapid eye movement), just as is in humans.

During this stage, you will notice that your dog’s eyelids are twitching rapidly as his eyes move beneath them. It is during this stage of sleep that your dog is likely to bark or make other noises such as growling or whimpering.

Dog Barks While Sleeping

 

What do dogs dream about?

There is really no way of knowing what dogs dream about as they obviously can’t tell us.  You can probably assume that our dogs’ dreams are related to an activity that happened in the day.  Could be as simple as a nice walk or how much they enjoyed their bone.   However, when your dog is barking or growling, it usually means that he or she is reliving a memory that caused him to bark or growl in real life. Dreaming is an important way for dogs and humans to process their experiences and learn from them.

Don’t wake up your dog if he is barking in his sleep

Just because a dog is barking, you cannot be sure that he is having a bad dream; he could simply be excited about eating his favorite bone or missing his dog pal.  But, even if you think your dog is having a nightmare, waking him up in the middle of the dream could be even more frightening than letting the dream continue.  Being woken up in the middle of REM sleep can be very shocking and disorienting, which could cause your dog to snap at you, so it is best to leave him alone.

Dogs need their uninterrupted sleep

Dogs, just like humans, need all the rest they can get. Dogs’ bodies and brains are often very active during the day as they run around and take on new experiences. Getting enough sleep is vital to allow your pooch to recharge his batteries and stay physically and mentally healthy. 

If you wake your dog up in the middle of a sleep cycle, he will not get the maximum benefit from that sleep, and he made find it difficult to drift off again. It is better to leave him be until he wakes naturally. Just like you, your dog depends on his beauty sleep to recharge. A good amount of uninterrupted sleep is essential for his healthy mental activity. Also, consider that if your dog is having a bad dream, waking him up may startle him and potentially lead to a defensive reaction and he could bite you.

Make sure your dog is sleeping when he barks

Dogs who bark in their sleep can be a nuisance, but it is better to let them lie. If your dog’s dreaming is disturbing your sleep, try moving its bed into a room further away from your bedroom. Also, check that your dog is actually sleeping when he barks during the night. It might be that he is in fact awake and trying to attract your attention. He could be bored, restless, lonely, thirsty, or too hot or too cold.

Your dog could be barking during his sleep due to change in his environment

If you find that your dog is in fact not dreaming but lying awake at night calling for you, then make sure that your dog’s sleeping environment is comfortable and he has access to fresh drinking water.  Try out a new bed or room to see if that helps minimize the barking while sleeping. Did his environment change at all which is causing your dog to whimper or notice?  Did you stop your daily exercise routine?  Exercise is the most vital component in getting your dog to sleep well at night.

Barking while sleeping is normal doggy behavior. When you hear your pooch dreaming loudly, don’t panic and don’t wake him up. Dreamy barking doesn’t necessarily mean that he is unhappy. It could simply be that your dog is dreaming about playing a game or exploring a new park. Help your dog to sleep calmly by making sure he gets plenty of exercise and playtime during his waking hours.  He will sleep more soundly and then you will also.

 

You can read more articles on pet care and advice on petpav.com, our pet social network that is like Facebook for pets!

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