healthcare

Is Your Pet Ready for Cold Weather?

Last month, we focused on tackling your dog’s back to school blues.  Now, for many pet owners across the country, we have another change to contend with: the cold weather. We’ve compiled a quick guide to help you prepare for the chilly days ahead.  Whether it is your dog’s first winter or his tenth, we recommend taking the following steps to ensure a happy and healthy season.

dog in snowThe first step is especially key for new pet owners – know your breed.  A number of breeds are particularly well-suited to cold weather, including Huskies, Chow Chows, Saint Bernards, Akitas, German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers.  These dogs have thick coats that protect them from the cold, and they are often just as content running around outside in January as they are in July.

Other breeds with short hair, like Chihuahuas, Greyhounds and Whippets, or no hair at all, like Chinese Cresteds, are more susceptible to the cold weather.  Sweaters and coats, if they tolerate them, will help keep these breeds warm during winter walks.

The next step is protect your dog’s paws.  A dog’s paws are very sensitive to the salt used in walkways and roads during the winter.  Dogster reports that “prolonged contact with de-icers can lead to chemical burns on paws.”  Salt is also harmful if ingested, which may happen if you dog licks her paws after a walk. Furthermore, dogs can also slip on the ice and injure themselves just like their owners!

Cloth dog booties are a great way to protect your dog’s paws and prevent slipping, yet not all dogs will tolerate them.  In that case, another option is a paw wax like Musher’s Secret. Applied to the paw pads before each walk, the wax will protect against the harmful salt.  You may also want to keep a bowl of warm water by the door to wash your dog’s paws and your own shoes before stepping back inside after a walk.

For dog owners who use an “in-ground” fence system, such as a DogWatch® Hidden Fence, the next step to prepare for cold weather is a winter fence checkup.  For example, it is important to make sure driveway and walkway cuts are sealed and that no wire is exposed that might be damaged by snow plows or shovels.  Also, if you have had a fall yard clean-up or aeration, check your transmitter to make sure the wire has not been accidentally cut.  If you have questions about your DogWatch system, check the videos in the Customer Service section of the website or contact your local DogWatch Dealer.   Also, if you do not have a hidden fence but are looking to install one soon, think about scheduling an appointment in the fall, before the ground freezes.

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How to Avoid or Get Rid of Fleas on Your Pet

Fleas.  Even saying the word makes us itch.  These tiny creatures can make your pet miserable, and in turn make you miserable.  Plus, once they latched on to your pet and made a home in your house, they are very hard to get rid of.  Bottom line, fleas are a pain.

DogWatch Hidden Fences want to help you avoid this pain by providing the following tips to avoid or get rid of fleas on your pet and in your home.  Early fall is the peak of flea season, so we encourage you to follow our three easy steps right away!

dog scratchingPREVENT

Getting rid of fleas on your pet and in your house can be a long, challenging and expensive process – so why not avoid them all together?  There are several widely-available flea prevention products that you can use monthly to protect your pet from fleas.

The most popular prevention product, Frontline, is available for cats and dogs, and can be found at your vet or your local pet superstore.  It is a gel that is applied in between the pet’s shoulder blades, so that the pet won’t lick it off.  The product then seeps into the pet’s oil glands under his skin, and is distributed throughout his hair.  This creates an inhospitable environment for fleas, and causes them to literally “flee” the pet and stay away for a full month.  Frontline also works on ticks – so you get twice the power!

K9 Advantix (for dogs only) and Advantage (for dogs and cats) are two other, similar flea prevention products that perform largely the same function using a different chemicals.  (A side-by-side-by-side comparison can be found here.)  As always, talk to your vet about what is best for your animals.

A couple of things to note about these products: 1) they are approved for cats and dogs as young as 8 weeks, and 2) it is recommended that you do not bathe the pet within two days before or two days after the product is applied, to ensure that the chemical is properly distributed.

CLEAN

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Munchers by Andrew Vargas via Flickr

Good and Bad People Food for Dogs

You’ve seen the face.  You know, the one that only appears when you’re standing at the kitchen counter preparing a meal, or eating at the dinner table, or just having a snack on the couch.  The look says, “Can I have some?  Please?  I’ve been good today.  Just a little piece, please?”

Pet owners have strong opinions about people food for dogs.  Some forbid it, while others treat it as the dog’s regular, hard-earned dessert.  A third group keeps treats out of the kitchen and dining area to discourage begging, but occasionally uses people food for treats and training.

No matter what group you fall into, it is important to know what foods are harmful for dogs, and which foods are healthy additions to their diet.  (In moderation, of course.)  DogTails’ new food series, Dog Treats, tackles this issue today.  Check out our list, and keep an eye out at home, as food-loving dogs often find both equally appetizing.

The Good

Yogurt is a cool, tasty treat most dogs love.  Stick to plain, unsweetened yogurt, as the flavored varieties often include too much sugar or artificial sweeteners – both of which are not good for dogs.  Some experts even cite plain yogurt as a source of healthy bacteria that helps dogs regulate their digestive systems.  Like humans, certain dogs will have a negative reaction to dairy, so keep the serving size small, especially when it is first introduced.

Sweet Potatoes are healthy vegetables that are often used as ingredients in pet foods.  You can serve them cooked or slice and dehydrate them to make yummy chewy treats.  Modern Dog magazine highlights this food as a great source of fiber and select vitamins.  Similarly, squash and pumpkin are also healthy veggie treats for dogs.

On the carnivore’s side, Lean Meats are a great source of protein for dogs.  When feeding dogs fresh lean meats like chicken, beef and pork, you will want to make sure that: 1) the meat is well-cooked, 2) the fat has been trimmed, and 3) there are no seasonings.  Certain herbs and spices (see below) are hazardous to your dog’s health and should be avoided.

Chicken Broth can help make your dog’s dry food more palatable.  If you’re going with the store-bought variety, make sure you pick up the low-sodium option.  Regular canned broth contains too much salt for dogs, and could cause excessive thirst or an even more serious reaction.

We recommend giving people food to dogs only in moderation, and always paying careful attention to the dog’s behavior and health when introducing a new treat.  If you have any questions at all regarding appropriate food choices, contact your veterinarian.

The Bad

On the flip side, we have foods that dogs should avoid eating.  Grapes can harm a dog’s kidneys, and should be avoided, along with raisins and wine.

Chocolate is a well-known toxin for dogs.  Chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine, which can negatively affect a dog’s heart and nervous system.  Baking chocolate contains the highest level of these compounds, and as a result it is the most dangerous to dogs if consumed.

Alcohol is also extremely dangerous for dogs.  It can cause symptoms ranging from nausea to difficulty breathing to coma.

As mentioned above, certain herbs and spices should also be avoided.  These include garlic, chives, onions and mustard seeds.

Finally, candy is also off-limits.  These products often contain excess sugar and in some cases, harmful artificial sweeteners like Xylitol.  So remember, with Halloween just around the corner, steer your dog away from the candy baskets!

For a complete list of toxic foods, visit the ASPCA or the Humane Society of the United States websites.

We invite you to share your dog-friendly recipes here, or on our Facebook page.

Photo by Andrew Vargas via Flickr. Photo is cropped.

Pet Insurance: The Other Healthcare Debate

Dog HealthcareIn May, DogTails explored the growing problem of canine cancer, reporting that 1 in 3 dog deaths are a result of the disease.  In a good sign for the future, veterinarians and researchers are making great strides to treat cancer and other illnesses that affect pets.  Yet with these high-tech treatments comes a higher price tag.

In light of the current recession and the rising cost of veterinary care, many pet owners are forced to make incredibly difficult decisions regarding treatment of their beloved pets.  While these treatment decisions will never be stress-free, pet health insurance may help ease the burden in many cases.

In this post, we will help you navigate the world of pet insurance.  We’ll focus on the decision to purchase, and for those owners who want to learn more about the options, we’ll discuss how to evaluate prices and plans.

What Is Pet Insurance, and Does My Dog Need It?

Pet insurance, like our health insurance, helps defray the costs of future medical bills.  Pet owners pay monthly, quarterly or annual payments to the insurance provider, who then covers a certain percentage of medical expenses incurred by the pet.

While many veterinarians recommend purchasing pet insurance, it is far from a requirement.  In fact, only 850,000 out of the 72 million dogs and 82 million cats kept as pets in the US were covered by insurance as of 2007.

With so few insured pets, you may be thinking, “do I really need pet insurance?”  In order to answer this question, you need think about the visit to the vet all pet owners dread.  Your dog is sick, but could survive if the vet performs an expensive medical procedure.  Do you pay for the treatment, no matter the price?

It is in gut-wrenching situations like this that pet insurance may prove important.  If you have insurance, you may be reimbursed for a significant percentage of the cost of the treatment (hundreds or even thousands of dollars).  In other words, you may be able to avoid the heart-breaking decision to put down a beloved pet that could have been saved.

Of course, the situation is not as simple as “buy insurance, save your pet.”  You need to think hard about how much you are able to put aside for pet healthcare.  Insurance is not cheap: it can cost from $300 to over $1,000 a year depending on the plan, not including deductibles owners will have to meet before being reimbursed.  And insurance does not cover all conditions, and never covers preexisting ones.  So, if you are seeking insurance for a pet with a documented medical condition, insurance will not cover any expenses related to that condition.

To decide whether or not pet insurance is right for you, you need to think realistically about what you would spend on a life-saving procedure for your pet.  If your number is very high, or if you can’t come up with a number at all, then pet insurance may be a good investment.  If you are more conservative in your estimate, then insurance may not be cost-effective for you.

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