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Choosing a Pet Sitter or Boarding Facility

Dog walkerWe’re in the very early stages of planning an extended vacation…and our regular pet sitter will be on the trip with us! So we’re weighing our options and looking into pet sitters and boarding facilities. But how do you know if they’re reliable, responsible and that your pets will be well cared for?

It’s up to your personal preference whether you’d like a pet sitter or a boarding facility. There are many quality options out there for both venues. A sitter might be a better option if your pet is very uncomfortable outside their regular environments and they might agree to water your plants as well as your pets. Read More »

Getting Personal with Your Pet’s Vital Signs

Matias' Eye ExamIt’s a good practice to get in the habit of performing monthly quick checkups on your pets in the comfort of your own home. You never know when a lump or other malady might show itself. Getting a “baseline reading” of your pet’s body will help you to detect early on when they might be having issues and let you know when it is time to make an appointment with your veterinarian. This article focuses on determining your pet’s baseline vital signs so that you can determine when something is amiss.

Temperature: Body temperature is measured rectally in pets (yikes). I keep a spare digital thermometer for my dogs and use a healthy coat of Vaseline if I need to take their temperature. It can come in handy when you are trying to diagnose your sick pet. A dog’s temperature is usually between 100-102.5 degrees Fahrenheit. Any pet with a temperature under 99 or over 104 should see a vet immediately.

Heart Rate: It is best to get a good reading on heart rate when your pet is calm and relaxed, perhaps after a massage or good belly rub. Find the heartbeat on the left hand side of the ribcage, near where the elbow fits into the chest. Count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds then multiply this number by 4. This is your pet’s resting heart rate. Dog’s heartbeats will accelerate and decelerate with each breath. This is normal! Your pet’s normal heart rate will depend upon the size of your animal. Larger dogs have slower heart rates than lap dogs.

B0030P0006Respiratory Rate: While your pet is relaxed and calm, maybe even sleeping, it is a good time to determine your pet’s respiratory rate and normal breathing pattern. Avoid measuring this when your dog is panting.  Count the number of times your pet inhales for 1 minute. This is the respiratory rate. Also note if it requires your pet any extra effort to inhale or exhale. This function should be smooth and effortless. If your pet is having difficulties, contact a vet immediately.

Lil' GumsMucous membranes: Your pet’s mucous membranes (read: gums and eyelids) are important in diagnosing problems with oxygenation and blood flow. Normal gum color is pink, but some dogs have pigmented gums (Barret’s are black), and this makes determining if the color is normal difficult. You can  open the eye and gently lift the eyelid to get a good look at the coloring. Any membrane that is pale, white, blue or yellow should be investigated by a veterinarian. While you’re examining the mucous membranes, do a quick test for capillary refill time. This is also a good diagnostic tool to determine if blood and oxygen are flowing normally. Briefly apply pressure to the gums and release. The area should turn pale (where you applied pressure) but will rapidly return to the normal color. This refill time should be no longer than 3 seconds but should also not take less than 1 second.

Hydration: A properly hydrated pet should pass the ‘scruff test’ with flying colors. Gently grab your dog’s scruff (the loose skin on the back of the neck). Release it. The skin should immediately spring back into normal position. If there is a delay, your pet may be dehydrated.

Get into the habit of performing these tests on your pet every few months to keep tabs on their vital signs. I almost forgot the most important part: write down the results and keep them somewhere safe, where you will have access to them in an emergency situation. I use the Pet First Aid app to keep track of my pet’s information (I reviewed this app last year).

My Dog’s Top Things to be Thankful for This Thanksgiving

Nelly in snowIt’s coming to that time of year again when we all regroup, focus, and really think of the things that make our lives great. I know, we should all be thankful for these things every day, but sometimes in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we can forget to put things in perspective. At least once a day, I stop and look deep into the eyes of my best friend, my little scruffy dog, and I can’t help but think how lucky and thankful I am to have found her and made her mine. I think our pet’s really get it…they know what to be thankful fro every day and they show it in the joy that those things bring to them. This Thanksgiving I thought I’d share the things that I know she appreciates, because seeing the joy she conveys helps me to appreciate the little things that I often take for granted. So in no particular order, here’s the list:


My dog is fortunate to have an extended family that loves her as much as I do.  She can blend seamlessly into the households of my sister and of my parents, two homes away from homes. At either locale she is welcomed with open arms by the people there and has a unique relationship with each person in the family. She knows she is welcome at the farms, free to play with her extended doggie family while she visits, have a friendly game of chase with the poultry and barn cats, and of course she knows she’ll be offered various treats, just for presenting her adorable face. She typically knows our destination long before the half way point, and voices her excitement with lots of wags and an occasional high-pitched yip. Read More »

Porcupine Problems – How to Handle a Pet that has been Quilled

PorcupineDogs love to run, play and explore. Their rambunctious ramblings and curiousity may well be some of your favorite attributes about your pet. Personally, I love to watch my dogs off-leash in the countryside where they can run free, roll around and really live life to it’s fullest, even if it’s only for a few hours each week. While we love to let them roam and investigate new places and things, there is always the possibilty that they may run into something unfamiliar or even dangerous in the wild frontier.  A single encounter with today’s creature of topic can result in a face full of painful pricks. not to mention anguish (yours and your dogs) and the potential for a hefty vet bill.  Let’s talk a little about the prickly porcupine. Read More »

Rabbit Health: How a Misaligned Jaw Almost Killed my Pet Rabbit

Despite being partially blind, Matthew the rabbit is easily one of the liveliest pets in my house. His outgoing personality, penchant for mischief, and insistent foot stomps for attention are both endearing and frustrating. So, when boisterous Matthew huddled in the back of his cage one night and refused to eat or play, we knew something was wrong. When his head suddenly listed to one side and his muscles tensed minutes later, we were terrified that we were losing our little mischief-maker.

Fortunately, Matthew survived. Quick online research confirmed what we already thought; Matthew had suffered a stroke, though minor enough that he regained most of his muscle control. We scheduled a veterinarian appointment and monitored him carefully in the meantime. While he could nibble some of his pellets and try to chew with his right, the left side of his face seemed locked and stiff, and he could not move his lips enough to grasp hay or fully close his right eye.

We figured this was a result of the stroke only, but our veterinarian found a root cause that surprised us. After determining that Matthew’s lips still had circulation and feeling, he used a scope to view Matthew’s back teeth, which are tightly positioned back by the cheeks and almost impossible to examine otherwise.  After this check, our vet informed us that Matthew’s jaw was slightly misaligned, causing one of his back left teeth to wear improperly. This created a sharp, uncomfortable point that discouraged him from using that side correctly for a while. The area underneath this tooth became infected, and the infection’s swelling had likely triggered the stroke. While the movement of his left facial muscles would slowly return, the pain from the tooth and infection was discouraging him from using them. Matthew required a few weeks of antibiotics to overcome the infection, along with some rabbit-safe painkiller and anti-inflammatory to encourage proper use of the pointed tooth.

While the vet explained that sedating Matthew and physically filing the back tooth was an option, he did not recommend this after such a high health risk as a stroke. He explained that the location and of the tooth and current discomfort made filing without anesthesia impossible, and our safest bet for Matthew was to see if we could get him to use that side again himself. He also recommended purchasing rabbit-safe cardboard tubes to chew. Unlike normal wooden chews, these would be softer and help prevent making the sensitive area sore. If Matthew still could not wear his tooth enough to be comfortable, sedation and filing was still an option, but it would indicate that he would likely need it every couple of months. Placing a sensitive animal such as a rabbit under anesthesia so frequently is in itself risky, and he suggested we wait on that option unless it seemed necessary.

We left the vet’s office both fearful and optimistic, armed with information, medicine, and a powdered probiotic food to maintain Matthew’s digestive system after his time spent with inadequate eating. As his poor muscle control made using a water bottle difficult, we also boosted his fluid intake with feeding syringes. Providing dishes of water was a poor idea for Matthew; with his poor vision and compromised health, he merely kept his distance from the unfamiliar shape.

After a few days, slow improvements began to show. Matthew’s energy was returning, and he no longer sulked in the back of his cage. He began eating his pellets more regularly and could use his water bottle again, and we stopped the supplemented feed soon after he began his first clumsy bites of hay. He could fully blink his left eye, and movement returned to the left side of his face.

As of today, Matthew seems to be recovered and shows no difficulty grasping, chewing, or biting. While there is no way to correct his conformation, the medications assisted him enough to begin wearing the tooth more properly. I’ve seen many different health conditions in rabbits, but I never expected such an unusual cause as a poor jaw alignment jaw to potentially cause something as serious as a stroke. The vet suggested keeping a close watch for any changes in behavior, as infections as he had can be difficult to truly eliminate in rabbits and might eventually reoccur. For now, Matthew is himself again: stomping for attention, digging at the floor, and watching the activity around him with an alert curiosity.



Pet Compatibility – Helping to Ensure Successful Cohabitation Between Pets and People

Boxer & CatBringing a new pet into the family or combining households each coming with their own pets can pose some interesting problems. It’s important to consider the logistics of forming relationships between pets and between people and pets before rushing them into a situation that may be strenuous for all involved. There are some easy ways to minimize or even eliminate problems during these transitions if you are willing to take take the steps necessary.

Adopting a New Friend

Whether you may be looking into adopting your first pet or bringing a new one into the family, it’s important to meet lots of candidates before deciding on the one who will fit best in your family. While you may be attracted to a specific breed or look, it is ultimately a pet’s personality that will make integration a success.

Doggie kissIf you already have a dog or cat or have previous experience in living with one (or more), you probably already have an idea what you’re looking for in your next companion. You probably already know what works for you as far as pet behavior and personality and what animals may be the best fit for your situation. First time pet people may have more difficulty in making the right choice and getting past the first impression they may have from a photo or first glance. Pet seekers may think that they know what they want, but may fail to understand the tendancies and potential issues that may come along with specific types of pets, and it may be hard to muster patience and understanding to get through if you’re a first-timer. As a result return rates to shelters can be as high as 20 percent, failed connections and sad endings that may have been avoided with a little more time or planning.

The ASPCA has developed a simple and effective method for helping those ready for their next friend to find a good fit. Their Meet Your Match program begins with a personality assessment of each pet they bring in to determine each individual’s dominant traits and characteristics including friendliness, playfulness, energy level, ect. The animals are then categorized into one of nine color-coded personality types including laid-back “Couch Potatoes,” or “Go-Getter” types.  The personalities are not assigned on preconceived breed notions, but on the individual.  These classifications help you as a potential adopter, to meet cats or dogs with personalities who might suit you best. While you are not restricted to choose pets in your category, representatives encourage you to meet and interact with these pets first in hopes of creating a forever situation.

Be sure to consider how any current pets may feel or adapt to a new pet in the house as well.

Pulling Pets Together

Cats GroomingPerhaps you are adopting a second pet or maybe you’ve reached a point in your life where you will be combining households, whether through a new marriage, relationship or some other situation. Now both sides have to consider how your pet(s) will adjust to new surroundings or new entities that haven’t been in a shared space before. Some pets venture through these transitions with ease, while others can become stressed or exhibit undesireable “acting-out” behaviors you may not expect or appreciate. Take steps to ensure a smooth move and adjustment, but stay prepared for issues that may arise that could require extra attention, patience, time from the humans in the house.

One of the most important first steps is to let potential housemates meet and interact in a neutral location. This helps to seed relationships without as many complications with territoriality and/or possessiveness.  Dogs may be a little easier to socialize than other pets. Take the pups and the whole family to the dog park or a similar locale to meet and play, and do it several times so everybody gets to know each other. If you’re adopting, ask the shelter if you can bring your current pet(s) to meet the potential adoptee–many shelters will ask that you do othis anyway, and they often have dog runs or contained areas where the animals can interact before you bring the new pet home. Keep open communication about your pets, making sure (specifically with children) that you all know what pets like and don’t like. If your dog doesn’t like his ears touched, for example, be sure the new crew knows it to prevent any misunderstanding.

Once things seem kosher on neutral ground, give the new home a visit. It may help to remove familiar items like toys, bowls and treats from the area which may bring out some territoriality in established animals. Be watchful during these initial visits to deal with any problem behaviors. Dogs are pretty good at communicating and setting up a natural order.  After a few visits the pecking order should be established and the permanent move should be pretty smooth. Be consistant in training and attention to all pets involved so the natural order isn’t upset by jealousy or competition.

Cats and other pets may not be quite as easy. Try slow introductions and be sure to give them some space to avoid each other if they want to. Remember, even if you take all the precursory steps, matches aren’t always ensured and sometimes a relationsip may never form between pets (or pets and people for that matter). Just be prepared to accommodate if they choose not to like each other, possibly even dedicating seperate spaces where they can avoid each other.


Cats Grooming image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jessica Deily
Doggie Kiss image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mike Baird

Pedicures for Pups – The Importance of Paw Maintenance

Paw PartsLike the human foot, your dog’s paws are designed by nature to function to protect leg bones and joints from the impact of walking, running, and jumping.  The specialized calloused tissue of the pads form a protective barrier against hot and cold and help your dog to grip terrain as they explore. We’re fortunate to have a plethora of shoe styles to protect our feet, and the luxury of going for periodic foot pampering sessions and exams to ensure that our feet can do their job effectively. Did you know that there are lots of easy things you can do at home for your pet to keep his paws in prime condition too? Take a look below to learn some simple ways to keep your pet’s peds happy and healthy year round. Read More »

Kitty Cuisine – Choosing the Best Cat Food for Your Pet

Ocicat Eating WoodpeckerSometimes in looking at our sweet, lazy house cats we can forget that they are skilled predators under all that fluff. Before we embraced them as constant companions they were used for their prowess at ridding food stores of rodents that would otherwise decimate and contaminate the surplus. But while today’s domesticated felines may catch and consume the occasional bird or mouse, the majority of their diet and nutritional needs are in our hands. What foods offer the best nutrition for cats and how do you choose/supplement thier diet to ensure the best for your pet? Read More »

Choosing the Best Collar, Lead, or Harness for Your Dog

So you got a new puppy or adopted a new forever friend and now you’re in a mad dash to find the perfect accessories for your new pet. It seems like it should be an easy thing to do, but your choice may not be so cut-and-dry once you’re faced with a row of products to pick from. Lets talk a little about some of the popular products and maybe the decision making process will be a little easier for you.


There are lots of different collars on the market made of lots of different materials and designed to help you best handle your pet.  You can find collars constructed of nylon, rubber, vinyl, leather, recycled materials, natural fiber like hemp or bamboo, or metal; some are embellished with gems, ribbons or other decorations.  Typically, the material of the collar is choosen for durability and to appeal to you, the handler.  These materials are also used to provide the ultimate comfort to your pet. For the most part these materials are inert, but on rare occasions dogs with sensitive skin or skin allergies may develop skin irritations to some materials. If you notice frequent itching or irritation around your pet’s neck, you may need to consider a collar of a different style or material. A collar of any of these materials can have a long life…but your choice should be influenced by your dog’s personality and lifestyle. The most popular collars are basic, reliable woven (or leather) with either metal or plastic buckles. These collars are easy to adjust, easy to clean, and perfect for everyday wear. Rubber and rubber-coated “ultimate” collars share a similar design, but are resistant to water, odors and stains, great for swimmers or sporting dogs! Read More »

Choosing the Best Toys for Your Cat

Kitten PlayingVisit any pet store and you’ll be faced with hundeds of toys for cats and kittens. From simple fur mice to elaborate cat trees adorned with bobbers, danglers, catnip and carpet, these products are designed to satisfy the natural predatory and sensory desires every cat has. Cats are also curious and athletic by nature, and choosing toys to keep them stimulated and active can prevent problem behaviors and keep your pet happy and healthy, especially when they are confined in your home. Let’s get to know cat toys so you can pick the best variety for your favorite feline. Read More »

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