Health Benefits of Owning a Pet

If you have ever owned a pet, you already know how affectionate and full of life they can be. Not only do they bring much joy into our lives, but there have also been a number of studies that show the many health benefits, including improvements in physical, mental and emotional health, that owning pets can bring.

It has been suggested that having pets in the house, will increase the chances of children experiencing allergies, however, this is not the case. Many studies have suggested that children growing up in a home with a pet, will lessen their risk of allergies and asthma. Studies show that children exposed early on in their lives develop stronger immune systems overall.

Heart related studies have shown that pet owners display a decrease in blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can minimize the risk of a heart attack. Research also shows that individuals who have already experienced a heart attack, have better recovery rates if they own a dog or cat. It is thought that pets help reduce their owners’ overall stress levels.

Pet owners are less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. Studies have shown when playing with a dog or a cat, serotonin and dopamine levels are elevated, which helps to calm and relax.

Owning a pet can also help motivate people to exercise, helping to reduce obesity and maintain a healthy weight. Having a pet can increase social integration, by attending dog training classes, visiting the vet, walking in the park and around beaches, provides opportunities to meet and talk to other people. Studies have shown that people walking a dog have more positive encounters with others than those who walk alone, with the pet often providing a topic of conversation.

Not only do pets provide us with loyalty, companionship, love and affection, they also provide many positive physical and physiological benefits.

Fireworks and Pets

Nothing says it’s the holiday season like a beautiful display of fireworks, however a lot of pets can find fireworks extremely frightening resulting in thousands of pets demonstrating destructive behaviour, escaping from their properties and injuring themselves.

It is very important to ensure your pet is safe and secure when fireworks are anticipated, and ensure that some steps are undertaken to help reduce any negative experiences.  

Make sure that your pet is completely identifiable with a microchip, collar I.D tag, and most importantly that all contact details are up to date.

Try to keep your pets inside during fireworks. It might be a good idea to close any blinds or curtains and create a comfortable hiding place where your pets can feel safe. Having the TV or some music on may help to distract them and mask the noise outside.

Direct supervision is important to help prevent injury or escape. If possible, try and be home with your pets during firework events, as this will make them less anxious. If you are unable to be home, try and get a pet sitter or consider boarding to ensure they will be supervised.

Try and take your dog out for exercise before the fireworks, as a tired dog will less likely to be anxious during the night.

Avoid fussing over your pets excessively and try to engage them in normal activities. Make sure to reward them when they are calm with treats and their favourite toys.

Synthetic pheromone products such as diffusers or collars are worth trying. These products imitate the natural pheromones of their mothers, helping to give a sense of reassurance, reducing anxiety and stress.

Rescue Remedy Bach flowers can be beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety, along with using a diffuser with essential oils such as Lavender, Roman Chamomile, Ylang ylang, Neroli and/or sweet Marjoram.

Staying calm and providing a safe and relaxed environment during these festive seasons will lead to happier pets and owners and most importantly, a reduction of lost and injured pets this year.

Let’s all have a safe and Happy New Year!


Keeping your Pets Cool This Summer

As the temperature rises this Summer, it is important to consider how our pets are coping with the heat. Pets, like us, can suffer heatstroke too!

Ensure your pets are well hydrated by having fresh water available for them at all times. If you know that there is going to be a really hot day, make sure to place multiple water bowls out for them in the shade. Adding a few ice cubes into the water bowls or even freezing some treats can help to keep their body temperature down. Ceramic bowls will keep the water cooler longer than metal bowls.

It is ideal to consider bringing your pets inside on really hot days however, if this is not possible, always make sure to provide a shady area. If they cannot be in an air-conditioned area, consider having a fan where they spend most of their time. For pets outdoors during the day, sunscreen can help to prevent them from getting sunburnt.

If your dog or cat has long hair, grooming them regularly over Summer can help them stay cool. Supplying pets with paddling or clam shell pools filled with water can also be beneficial so they are able to hop in to cool down throughout the day.

Make sure to only exercise early in the morning or the late evening when it is cooler, and avoid walking on really hot days. A good test to see whether those little paws can take the hot pavement is to place your hand on the ground. If you can't hold it there comfortably for 10 seconds, then NO WALKIES. It is also important to never leave your pet enclosed in a car during Summer, as this can be extremely harmful or even fatal.

Be sure to seek veterinary attention as soon as possible if you suspect your pet is suffering from heatstroke, signs include, excessive panting, drooling, increased thirst, lethargy, high temperature, vomiting, diarrhoea and in extreme cases, seizure.

Ensure both you and your pets play it cool this Summer, and most of all, stay safe!


Separation Anxiety in Dogs

Separation anxiety in dogs is an extremely common problem worldwide, and a major cause of dogs given up for adoption or euthanized.

Separation anxiety can occur in any breed and of any age. There are many reasons separation anxiety may occur. Lack of exercise, boredom and the stress of dealing with the separation from their owners are major contributors. These problems lead to destructive behavior, continuous barking, and unusual behavior such as chasing their tail, trying to escape the house, aggression and/or eliminating in the house.

The biggest thing to address when treating a dog with separation anxiety is to teach them to enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate being left alone. You can achieve this through positive and enjoyable activities before leaving them alone.

Toys can be a great tool and distraction for dogs experiencing separation anxiety. Kong’s and other treat filled toys are great, along with dog bones that will ensure to keep them happy and entertained whilst you are away. Wearing them out before leaving the house can also be effective. Playing with them and/or taking them for a walk for 20-30 minutes in the morning may also help reduce their anxiety.

Keeping your pets relaxed before leaving the house is important, trying not to make a big fuss before departing or when arriving back home. It can be challenging for owners not to do this when you have such happy faces greet you at the door, but your overjoyed dog can be an indication of how anxiously they have been awaiting your return. When arriving home, it is best to wait until your pet settles down before acknowledging them, so as to not reinforce their needy behavior.

Anxiety in dogs can also be due to other causes, such as a medical issue. If there are any concerns, it is best to contact a veterinarian or behaviorist for further diagnosis and treatment options.

Preventing Dog Boredom

Sometimes life can get in the way and we become distracted by work, school, preparing dinner, attending social gatherings or organizing the kids. With all these things happening, we then come home and find that our pooches have dug holes in the backyard, ripped their beds to pieces and may even receive some unappreciative comments about how noisy they have been while we have not been home.

As frustrating as these scenarios can become, if you imagined being your dog for a minute, you begin to understand why they would be behaving this way, and the answer to this is boredom. There are ways that we can help our dogs keep entertained while we are out and about, which not only keeps our pets happy but also us, and of course our neighbors.

As we all know, our pooches are very food orientated, so anything involving treats will keep them both entertained and most of all, happy. A healthy, cheap and easy option would be raw meaty bones.  Most of the time these are quite time consuming for them and may even keep them busy for a couple of hours. Another food idea would be to use dry dog biscuits and scatter them around the back yard so they have to hunt for the biscuits.

There are many great dog toys on the market that help not only relieve their boredom, but stimulate the mind. Some of the most popular durable toys being the Kong and different types of treat balls.

Kong toys are quite popular as they are tough and durable, and can be filled with yummy treats that can keep your pooch entertained. There are also a Wobbling Treat Balls, which are round with weighted bottoms, so that every time they are touched they return back to the upright position, having the stuffed treats release as they play.

Everlasting Treat Balls are also highly durable and will even be a challenge for the toughest chewers. You can fill the ball with treats while it is covered with edible caps that they will have to chew through to get to the middle filling.

If your dog isn’t much of a chewer, soft plush toys can be useful, especially if they involve sounds such as a squeak, crinkle or crackle. Toys containing a plastic bottle are also becoming popular, as dogs tend to love the crinkling sound.

If you have only one dog they can become quite lonely by themselves all day, a friend to keep them company may also be beneficial to provide companionship and also provide a loving home for a second dog.

Why not organize a dog walker to spend a bit of time with your pooch?  Or even taking your dog to a doggy day care a couple of times a week? There are many dog-walking and doggy day care services around that can help keep your dog active, social and most of all, tire them out during the day.

As they say, a tired dog is a good dog!



Pets and Toxic Plants

In the midst of Spring there are many reasons to celebrate the arrival of the warmth, sunshine and beautiful blooming flowers, however, it is important to be aware of the hidden dangers to our pets that may also be blooming.

Plants, flowers and fruits can be a common temptation to our pets, often found around our homes, backyards and parks. Eating certain plants is one the most common ways that many pets ingest toxic substances. Symptoms range from vomiting, diarrhoea, acute renal failure, cardiac failure and intestinal obstruction.

Since there are very few effective treatments for toxic plant ingestion, a small mistake in the garden or home can be disastrous to your pet and family. Identifying these potential toxic plants can help prevent exposure to your pet and alert you to the early signs and symptoms if ingestion has occurred. Common symptoms of ingestion of toxic plants are vomiting, drooling and diarrhoea; others are mentioned below.

Common Toxic Plants:

-          Amaryllis- lack of appetite, tremors                              - Cylamen- heart rhythm disturbance

-          Angels Trumpet- disorientation, tremors                     - Daffodils- abnormal breathing, arrhythmia

-          Asparagus Fern- abdominal pain, skin irritation          - Ivy- abdominal pain, skin swelling/itching

-          Autumn Crocus- shock                                                - Kalanchoe- heart rhythm disturbance

-          Azalea- weakness, loss of coordination                       - Lilies- disinterest with food, depression

-          Baby’s breath- Lethargy, depression                           - Oleander- muscle tremors, hypothermia

-          Buttercup- weakness, tremors, seizures                      - Tomato plant- weakness, confusion

-          Chrysanthemum- depression                                       - Tulips- loss of appetite, convulsions

-          Cycads – stiffness, paralysis                                          - Yew- muscle tremors, abnormal breathing

If you suspect your pet has come into contact with any of these plants, it is advised that you contact your veterinarian immediately.

There are more toxic plants that have not been mentioned in this article. If you want to find out more information, you can go to the ASPCA, Cornell University or the Pet Poison Helpline websites, where there is a database of plants listed, including photos and detailed descriptions of the effects of toxic plants on animals. You can also contact your local veterinary practice to see if they have a list on hand that they can provide to you.

Whether you are shopping for bulbs, flowers or seeds this season or want to display some plants within your home, make sure to check that they are safe for your pet first.

Toxic foods for Dogs

We all love to feed our dog’s our snacks or share a bit of our meals every now and again, especially when they are sitting there drooling with desperation. But do we really know the foods that may be possibly toxic to them?

Chocolate is something that most of us love, but it can be extremely fatal to dogs. Cocoa contained in chocolate contains a chemical called theobromide, which affects the heart, kidneys, lungs and nervous system. Sometimes symptoms do not present for several hours after consumption, but eventually may show signs of labored breathing, fever, increased heart rate, staggering, vomiting, diarrhea and possible seizures. If you suspect your dog has consumed chocolate or cocoa, veterinary attention should be sought immediately.

Caffeine, including coffee, tea, energy drinks and soft drinks can all cause damage to the heart, kidneys, lungs and nervous system. Some of the first signs of toxicity may be restlessness, hyperactivity and vomiting. They can also get increased heart rate, muscle tremors, staggering gait and convulsions.

Xylitol is one of the most common ingredients found in human foods such as sugar free biscuits, lollies and gum. When this is ingested in small amounts, it can lower blood sugar, cause seizures, liver failure and possible death. Symptoms can appear within 30 minutes of ingestion and veterinary attention is immediately required.

Avocado contains a substance called persin that can cause possible toxic effects, some of the early signs being vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. Not only is the avocado fruit toxic but also the leaves, seed and bark, so if growing avocados at home it is best to keep the dog away from the plant.

Onions and garlic- in any form such as raw, cooked, dry or powdered contain thiosulphates, which are toxic and destroy red blood cells that can lead to anemia. Some symptoms can be weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, rapid heart rate and pale gums. Urgent veterinary treatment is required if presented with these symptoms.

Grapes, raisins and sultanas are also poisonous, and just a small amount can make a dog ill and can cause kidney failure. Signs may be reduced urination, appetite and water intake, abdominal pain, weakness, vomiting and diarrhea, which generally appear within 24 hours after consumption.

Macadamia nuts or foods containing these can make a dog ill, symptoms being muscle tremors, weakness, staggering, joint and muscle pain and swelling within 24 hours after consumption.

Fruit pits and seeds- Apple seeds, cherry, peach, plum and apricot pits contain the toxin cyanide. Symptoms of poisoning include vomiting, panting, rapid heart rate and coma. Not only is the cyanide a toxin, but obstruction may also be of concern from consuming the pits and seeds.

Tomatoes, potatoes and rhubarb contain oxylates that can affect the nervous, urinary and nervous system. Green tomatoes, tomato leaves and plants, green potatoes and potato skins are the most toxic- triggering tremors, seizures and increased heart rate.

It is important to contact a veterinarian if there are any concerns about your dog ingesting these foods, or if experiencing any abnormal symptoms. It is best to avoid exposing your dog to these foods to prevent any chances of possible toxicity. Instead, purchase some healthy dog treats from a local pet store or supermarket to ensure the safety and health of your pet.



Pets and Fleas

The winter days have recently passed and now springtime is here. Not only are we pleased for this warmer weather, but so are the blood sucking parasites living on our pets.

Fleas, as we know are common external parasites that live on our pets skin and feed off their blood. They are about the size of a sesame seed and can be quite difficult to find, especially when dealing with animals that have darker fur. Generally you will tend to find these parasites in warmer areas of your pet such as the armpits, belly, around the groin and rump area or where hair tends to be thicker such as around the chest.

Normally our pets will show signs of fleas through scratching more than usual, licking and/or biting areas on their body. You may also notice flea dirt (faeces) in their fur, which looks like dark/black specks, a little bit like pepper or dirt in appearance.

Some preventative measures can be taken to reduce our pets’ exposure to flea infestations. Keeping them and their environment clean is very important. Making sure to wash their bedding regularly and bathing them with soapy water helps to kill fleas and can help to remove flea eggs and larvae from the coat.

Brushing their coat and using tools such as flea combs may also help to remove fleas. Ensure you have a bowl of soapy water close at hand when doing this, so you can drown the fleas that are caught in the comb.

There are also a range of monthly flea treatments available that can be purchased over the counter from pet shops and veterinary clinics that kill adult fleas, development of flea eggs, larvae and pupae.

Paying close attention to our pet’s behavior, conducting regular routine checks of their skin and ensuring both them and their environment remain clean can help to prevent a flea infestation, keeping our pets, and us, happy and bite free!