Cold Weather Pet Protection

Cold weather pet protection becomes more important this time of year. Here in North Texas we got just a sprinkling of snow so far. But temps this weekend are forecasted to drop. And on Sunday into Monday, we’ll likely get snow. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.

Outside animals like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly. Housepets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION

Here in Texas, the weather stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. Now it’s the first weeks of February, and it’s the coldest part of the year. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.

It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes. The video below, from a past KXII-TV pet talk, still has good information with suggestions and cautions for prepping pets for the colder weather to come.

furry chow chow prone to hot spots

Thickly furred dogs like the Chow have more cold weather protection.

How do you get your dogs ready? Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.

Bravo has almost no fur, with just a thin harsh outer coat that offers little protection. Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation but also risks frostbite or worse if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes or so.

Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Many of the tips, below, work equally well for creating safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.

cold weather cat dangersCOLD WEATHER PET PRODUCTION FOR CATS

I wrote about keeping outdoor cats safe on this blog, and received lots of comments here and on Facebook. That discussion had more to do with choosing whether or not to allow cats out. But what if you have strays that refuse to come inside, or a feral colony you care for?

My colleague Louise Holton of Alley Cat Rescue shared some PAW-some tips with our Cat Writers Association group and gave me permission to also share it here. What are some other ways to help keep kitty safe? Many of these also apply to keeping outside dogs winterized and safe. Here’s Louise’s suggestions.

OUTDOOR PET SHELTERS

A feeding station will help to keep food and water dry and will help with freezing weather. Bedding should be straw or made of a synthetic fleece material such as that used to make horse saddle covers. Blankets, sheets and towels retain moisture and remain damp and should not be used during winter.
If you are unable to build a shelter, you can use any type of strong box or crate, or buy a dog “igloo” from your pet supply company. The styrofoam ice chests work great for cat shelters, with thick walls that provide some insulation.
Mylar insulation is made of polyester and aluminum that reflects radiant heat. It is used to keep houses cooler in summer and warmer in winter. This type of insulation is normally used in attics and is a perfect material to use to insulate outdoor cat shelters.

TIPS FOR WINTERIZING FERAL CAT COLONIES & COMMUNITY CATS

  • You should insulate the shelter with thick plastic or other material such as Mylar mentioned above to keep out wind and cold.
  • You could buy a dog house and modify it, blocking off part of the larger opening to make it smaller and therefore warmer inside for the cats.
  • Size should be approximately 3’ x 3 ’ and 2′ high.
  • Cats will cuddle together inside for warmth.
  • Build enough shelters so that around 6 cats can stay in each one.
  • Use straw for the bedding NOT HAY or blankets or towels.
  • It is safer to have 2 small openings for the cats to enter and be able to get away if danger presents itself. Put the openings on the side of the shelter that is protected from the wind. Two openings will give a chance at escape should a pesky raccoon for instance or any other animal try to enter the shelter.
  • Raise the shelter off the ground by placing it securely on bricks or on a wooden pallet. If left on the ground it will retain moisture and will rot.
  • Clean shelters each spring and autumn by replacing the bedding with fresh straw.

FIRST AID FOR FROSTBITE

This is an AUDIO FILE ONLY, an excerpt from my audiobook THE FIRST-AID COMPANION FOR DOGS AND CATS, forthcoming in early 2021. I figured folks could sure use the tips now–so feel free to share this with anyone who needs the help. The advice comes from veterinary emergency experts.

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION & PREPARATION

This is an older clip from my Pet Talk segment, but the information still applies. How do YOU keep your furry wonders safe in this BRRRRRRRRRRRR frigid weather? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Note: Upon occasion, affiliate links to books or other products may be included in posts, from which I earn a small amount with each purchase from the blog. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips & How to Brush Doggy Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

Do you brush dog teeth? February is National Pet Dental Health Month. But it’s never too late (or too soon) to get your pets’ pearly whites checked out by your veterinarian. Often the doctor has some great tips for keeping cat teeth clean and dog breath at bay, including how to brush doggy teeth.

Does the thought of brushing dog teeth make you cringe, roll your eyes, whimper, slink away–and feel guilty? You’re not alone. But once that puppy-sweet breath morphs into curl-your-eyebrows stench, it’s long past time to address that stink-icity.
Reach pups early to accept teeth brushing

Why Brushing Dog Teeth is Important

By the time dogs (and cats!) reach the age of three, 80 percent of them have some amount of dental disease. The issue is so serious that veterinary dentists created February National Pet Dental Health Month to raise awareness. But if it’s March–or any time of the year–your pets will benefit from toothy attention. After all, pets don’t brush their teeth, and they tend to gulp—not chew—their food. Just think what your teeth would look like in three years if you never brushed!

Dogs (and cats) share a lot of the same dental issues with humans. A veterinary dental visit involves anesthesia, ultrasonic scaling, polishing, and sometimes fluoride treatment or antibiotics, especially if teeth are pulled.

You can reduce the number of veterinary dental treatments (and your guilt factor) with easy home care tips. Here are 6 no-guilt tips to freshen up your dog’s breath.

Healthy treats for dog dental health

6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips

    • Dry food won’t “cure” dental disease, but it doesn’t stick to teeth as readily as wet foods. Crunching dry food can reduce dental problems by about 10 percent, though, so offering your dog “crunchies” after moist dinners can help.
    • Many dogs relish healthy people foods like raw veggies or fruit, and chewing on these “detergent” foods can help scrub teeth clean. Offer dogs carrots or apple slices for healthy natural dental snacks. Make ’em big pieces, too, so he must gnaw off a piece rather than gulp it whole. Here are some safe people foods for pets.

 

Dogs love apples & it's good for teeth.

Eating “detergent” foods like apples is good for dog teeth.

  • Special “dental diets” and treats available in grocery stores or dispensed from the veterinarian can help especially with dog breeds that seem more prone to dental issues like Yorkshire Terriers. Look for sodium hexametaphosphate (sodium HMP) listed in the food, which helps prevent plaque from attaching to teeth.
  • Most veterinary dentists dislike cow bones, pig hooves, and other hard chew objects that may break your puppy’s teeth. Sterilized bones designed for doggy dental care, though, may be just the ticket.
  • Puppies love to chew. Offer your dog a legal object that also has dental benefits, like the “dental toys” that contain a nubby surface designed to scrub the teeth.
  • A wide range of commercial dental chews (rawhide, ropes, treats) available for dogs may also prevent doggy breath. Some are infused with special enzymes that kill bacteria and help prevent plaque. Also, look for dental rinse products from your veterinarian.

How To Brush Doggy Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

Adult dogs often object to tooth brushing. It’s best to start puppies with a dental hygiene program while they’re too little to argue. Just turn it into a tasty game and your pooch will BEG for the attention. Here’s how.

  1. Mess With His Mouth. Over several weeks, get your dog used to having his mouth handled. You can get pups used to having something inserted into their mouth by flavoring your finger with low-salt chicken broth, or peanut butter (yum!).
  2. Treat With Toothpaste. Offer doggy toothpaste as a treat. Special meat-flavored toothpaste is available from pet product stores or your veterinarian that gives pups the incentive to open wide. Never use human toothpaste. Puppies can’t spit so they end up swallowing the foam, and swallowed fluoride can be dangerous and damage your puppy’s internal organs.
  3. Use Toy Props. Once they accept mouth handling and like the toothpaste, try propping the puppy’s mouth open with a favorite toy. Simply encourage him to bite on a chew object, and wrap your hand around his muzzle to hold it in place. That gives you access to his open mouth and also gives him something to do with his teeth. Use the same toy each time, so he identifies it with tooth attention–and getting a GREAT reward afterward. Practice doing this several times and praising him while giving toothpaste treats before you introduce a toothbrush.
  4. Choose Pet Brushes. Special pet toothbrushes are smaller and may be designed to better fit the dog’s mouth. A soft child’s toothbrush works well.
  5. “Finger” The Teeth. Some puppies better accept your finger. Finger toothbrushes are available for brushing pet teeth, or simply wrap a damp cloth over your fingers and use that to scrub the outside of his teeth. Puppy tongues clean the inside surface of teeth so you won’t have to worry about poking too far inside the mouth.
  6. Praise The Performance. Brushing after every meal is recommended, but two to three times a week is good. Always be sure to praise and throw a happy puppy party afterward so your puppy is left with a good taste over the experience—literally!

Keeping breath fresh goes beyond good dental hygiene, too. Pungent breath makes you avoid dog kisses and lap snuggles (awww, you hurt his feelings!). It also points to potentially painful, dangerous dental problems that can damage your dog’s organs. Yes, it’s THAT important.

So…do you brush your dog’s teeth? What about offering “dental-friendly” foods and treats? How do you keep your pooch kissable fresh? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pets Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Frig Fails & Dryer Danger! How to Keep Pets Safe From Appliances

Are your pets safe from appliances? Stoves and ovens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, garbage disposals and other appliances are convenient for us but can prove deadly to cats and dogs. While the photos in today’s blog make us smile, the “what if” makes me shiver, because I know they represent tragedy waiting to happen.

Bravo-Dawg does his best to “pre-wash” the dishes, like the puppy in the picture, below. But any small pet could potentially climb inside when you’re distracted. And that could be lethal.

dog in dishwasher

Anything your puppy can reach is potential for problems! Image © Lisa Calvert/Flickr

4 REASONS PETS LOVE APPLIANCES

  1. FOOD & SMELL. Do you give your pets the chance at a “first rinse” before putting dirty dishes in the washer? (raising hand…GUILTY). Just licking off or pawing food-smeared utensils can cut tongues or paws. A tiny pup or kitty could crawl inside after yummies, and be seriously injured or die when the machine turns on.
  2. HEIGHT. Do your cats countertop cruise? A couple of things draw the kitty to scale the heights. Available food, yummy smells, and a GREAT perch lookout.
  3. WARMTH. Stoves, ovens, and clothes dryers draw cats, especially to the warmth. Yep, it can make for some LOL Funny Cat moments, but not if the cat or dog ends up with burned feet or worse.
  4. HIDEY-HOLES. Pets seem drawn to small enclosed spaces for naps or ambushes. Paw-poking into holes is a cat rule, while dogs enjoy nosing into tight spots as well.
cat on stove

Sprout apparently hasn’t had enough coffee! Image Copr Kim Smith/Flickr Commons

Funny–NOT Funny! Keep Pets Safe From Appliances

When I edited one of the stories in Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover’s Soul, it made me turn green–and we had to preface the story with the note that “it’s a happy ending!” or folks likely wouldn’t have wanted to read it. The cat in that story went head-first into the garbage disposal after fishy leavings and got his head stuck. They had to remove the entire sink and take it to the vet clinic for the cat to be sedated, oiled up, and extricated. Funny story when it’s a happy ending. I’ve caught Karma-Kat sticking his paw down into the garbage disposal, too, yikes!

Sadly, not all funny stories end so well.

cat in dryer

As far as I know, Audley’s adventure in the tumble dryer turned out fine. Image Copr. RaGeBe/Flickr

Cats And Dryers

My friend Mary McCauley sent me a message last week that broke my heart. This post is for Mary and her kitty friend, Boo:

“Amy, a few weeks ago our beautiful young cat had climbed into the dryer. My son turned it on. I heard a loud thumping and thought the washing machine was out of balance. I found Boo in the dryer. Blood was coming out of her mouth. She was convulsing. I ran up the stairs to get my keys, but she died in my arm. I tried rescue breathing and cardiac resuscitation with two fingers, but she was gone. I cried for two days. Please warn your readers about this danger. My son felt so guilty for a few weeks.”

Accidents happen, and our pets can get into trouble in the flick of a whisker. Cats are furry heat-seeking missiles and I have no doubt that Karma-Kat would do the same thing, given the opportunity. Even Bravo loves to dive into the pile of fresh-from-the-dryer clean clothes dumped onto my bed for folding. A ride inside the dryer could cause not only head and body injuries but also heatstroke.
cat in refrigerator

Pets In Freezers? Oh no!

A day after I got Mary’s message, my husband called me into the kitchen to shoot this photo (below) of Karma-Kat. He’s a door dasher and often sprints into the pantry to gnaw through the dog food container–but the frig fail was new.

Karma is big enough, the chance of shutting him inside the frig is small–but it could happen. Left overnight in the refrigerator–or worse, inside the freezer!–could quickly result in hypothermia and death. I’m just hoping he doesn’t learn to open the frig himself. I know of one owner who resorted to a bungee cord around the frig to keep her cats out of the goodies.

Pet Proofing Appliances

So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Pet proofing your home is job one, especially when you have a clueless puppy or kitten. But it doesn’t stop when the cat or dog grows up. Pets are endlessly curious and always find new ways to get into trouble and push our buttons. Here are a few suggestions for keeping your pets safe around modern conveniences.

  1. Baby gates keep pets away from danger zones. I lock the fur-kids out of the kitchen when cooking and clearing up, to prevent paw burns on stovetops or me spilling something hot on them when they wind around my feet.
  2. Double-check washing machines and clothes dryers before hitting the “start” button. If your pet is inside, don’t pull them out immediately. Instead, BANG-BANG-BANG on the top to make a horrendous scary racket and watch them rocket out. Most pets won’t get near that scary thing ever again.
  3. If you have hard-case pets, make a sign to stick on doors of appliances to remind kids, spouses, and guests to CHECK FOR CAT. That’ll be a fun conversation starter, too. 🙂
  4. Invest in stovetop covers to protect kitty feet. One of the best ways to keep pets from cruising counters and stoves is to give them a cat tree that’s higher than the counters. Make the stovetop uncomfortable by spreading aluminum foil across the top, for instance.

Have you ever caught your dog or cat up close and personal with one of your appliances? How did you handle the situation, and prevent future problems? Do tell!

And please–if you love your cats and dogs as much as Mary loved Boo–share this warning far and wide and tell folks it’s in memory of a special Boo-kitty.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers.   Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE

Why Dogs Vomit: How to Treat Puppy Vomiting At Home

Dog and puppy vomiting can be very dangerous for your pet, and while we don’t like to talk about it, pet vomit is a fact of life. Dogs tend to vomit more readily than almost all other animals. (The cats just started snickering . . . ) When we brought a new puppy into our house, we became even more alert to the issue.

Water Binging Vomit

Bravo-Dawg used to vomit due to high-energy play immediately after eating–or gulping down buckets of water. We learned to keep him calm for at least a half-hour after meals, and to interrupt his water-binging antics.

With tiny puppies, it’s even more important for them to get a health evaluation more quickly since they can get even sicker quicker than the bigger or adult dogs. Puppy vomiting is even more serious when accompanied by diarrhea. It’s important to understand why dogs vomit, and whether or not to treat puppy vomiting at home.
puppy vomiting

Puppy Vomiting

There are many reasons why your dog vomits, from innocuous to potentially deadly. Vomiting is the forcible expulsion of the stomach’s contents up the dog’s throat and out of the mouth. However, you should be aware that vomiting is different than regurgitation.

Dog Regurgitation

Regurgitation is a passive process without strong muscle contractions. Regurgitation can occur minutes to hours after your pet eats his food, and the expelled material is undigested and may even be tube-shaped like the throat. Cats fed cold canned food may “whoops” it back up very quickly, or dogs that gulp and swallow too fast may regurgitate their food. Mom canids in the wild do this when they return from hunting, in order to feed their pups.

Occasional regurgitation isn’t a cause for concern unless it interferes with nutrition and what you feed your pet. Chronic regurgitation typically is seen in a young puppy. In these cases, regurgitation can cause slow growth and may be due to a physical problem like megaesophagus.

In cases of poisoning or swallowing dangerous objects, you may need to induce vomiting. Learning how to make puppies vomit can save his life.

Dog & Puppy Vomiting: Why They Do It

When the “vomit center” of the brain is stimulated, the puppy begins to salivate and swallow repeatedly. Your puppy may seek attention or look anxious. Then, the stomach and abdominal muscles forcibly and repeatedly contract, while at the same time the esophagus relaxes. The puppy extends her neck, opens her mouth and makes a strained gagging sound as the stomach empties.

Vomiting should never be considered normal. Most cases of adult dog vomiting result from gastric irritation due to swallowed grass, eating inedible objects, spoiled or rich food (raiding the garbage, table scraps) or simply eating too much too fast. You can prevent puppies from eating the wrong thing with these puppy proofing tips. Dogs and puppies also may vomit from motion sickness during car rides.

Common Causes of Puppy Vomiting

The most common cause of vomiting in dogs is gluttony. Dogs that gorge their food tend to lose it just as quickly, particularly if they exercise shortly after finishing a meal. This type of vomiting isn’t particularly dangerous, but is annoying. And if they eat the wrong food, it can prove deadly.

Repeated vomiting, vomiting along with diarrhea, unproductive vomiting, vomiting not associated with eating, and/or the pooch acts like she feels bad before or after the event is a cause for alarm.

When Is Dog & Puppy Vomiting An Emergency?

Vomiting can be a sign of canine distemper virus or canine parvovirus, which can be prevented by proper vaccinations. In deep-chested breeds, unproductive vomiting may be a sign of bloat. Bloat (gastric dilatation and/or volvulus) happens with the stomach swells and potentially twists without emptying and can kill dogs very quickly–big deep-chested dogs (German Shepherds like Bravo-Dawg) are most prone.

If the vomit contains blood or fecal material, if it lasts longer than 24 hours, or if other signs such as diarrhea accompany the vomiting, contact your veterinarian immediately. For some types of vomiting, home care may be all that’s needed.

Home Remedies for Dog & Puppy Vomiting

Vomiting that happens only once or twice isn’t a cause for concern as long as the puppy or dog acts normal before and after. But very young puppies and especially Toy-size breeds shouldn’t go without a meal for longer than about six to eight hours, though, so you’ll need vet help with tiny pups. These little guys also dehydrate very quickly which can complicate matters.

Vomiting may be a sign of serious illness, though. Anytime your pet vomits three or more times in a single day, or two or more days in a row, you should take her to the vet.

What about you? Have your puppies or dogs ever had a scary/dangerous bout of vomiting? Magic got REALLY sick one time with explosive diarrhea and vomiting and turns out he’d caught a “bug” from drinking pond water.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!