Friday, September 30, 2011

Emergency Preparedness for Your Pets: Part 1

Do You Have a Plan?
With this year’s disasters reminding us of the uncertainty each day can bring it also bring to light the fact that many of us are unprepared for such disasters or even unexpected daily circumstances.  Living in Southern California you become familiar with not only the threat of earthquakes but also the yearly threat of wildfires.  And as we approach the dry season of fall we face the threat of a wildfire everyday.   
While natural disasters are the first emergency to come to mind, we forget to consider the smaller emergencies that can happen in day to day life that might keep us from our pet or force us from our homes temporarily.  Consider the following scenarios:  You work in Los Angeles and you get a call that your house in on fire; You are in Chicago and you get a call that your wife has gone into labor 3 weeks early; You are in a car accident and consequently stuck in the hospital for a week; A pipe broke and your house is flooded forcing you to evacuate until the damage is repaired.  
Each one of those scenarios can happen and the last thing you wanted to stress over is “Who is going to get my dog” or “who is going to watch my dog?”  Sadly, most people don’t even have an emergency preparedness plan for themselves, let alone for their animals.  But if you spend just a couple of hours one weekend coming up with an emergency plan for your family, it will save you stress and time in an emergency situation when every second counts.
5 Steps to Becoming Prepared
Step 1
Rescue Alert Sticker- These stickers are meant to go in the front window of your home so in case of an emergency someone else can be sure that all of your pets get out safely.  
The sticker should say:
·         The types of pets you have as well as how many you have of each pet
·         Your veterinarian’s name and phone number.

Jenn McDougall and her roommate in Corona always have a current Rescue Alert Sticker posted for their 3 dogs and 1 cat.  “Our pets are our babies, and we couldn’t imagine losing them because of our own negligence.  I feel like it would be our own fault if they weren’t evacuated in an emergency because how would a rescue team know they were in there otherwise?”
If you are able to evacuate your pets yourself, and you have time, try to remember to write “Evacuated” across your sticker so no one risks their life trying to save pets that are not in danger.

You can buy this sticker at most pet supply stores, ask your veterinarian if they have any, or order one for free from the ASPCA website.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Message Therapy for Dogs

From day spas to night clubs, dogs have every service they could ever need and more.  While massage therapy may sound like one of the services a dog doesn’t need, the opposite is actually true.  While a dog won’t benefit from a night at the doggy club or a day at the movies, they can and do actually benefit from therapeutic massage.   
10 Benefits to therapeutic massage for dogs

Calms the dog and relieves stress
Have you ever walked your dog by a neighbor dog that didn’t make a sound but watched you pass by?  Don’t be mistaken that a quiet dog doesn’t make a good guard dog when in fact the dog is probably very disciplined and well-balanced.  Dogs tend to bark and make more noise when they are restless, tense, hyperactive, or aggressive.  A regular massage helps relieve stress in anxious dogs and it calms hyperactive and aggressive dogs so they don’t overreact to noises, animals, or people (especially playing children). 
Eases aching muscles and diffuses pain
Athletic dogs and dogs with arthritis are no strangers to massage therapy.  Just like humans get relief for their aching muscles from massage, so do animals.  Massaging stimulates cells to release cytokines and then triggers the brain to release pain-killing endorphins.
Strengthens the immune system and improves circulation
A dog (or human for that matter) cannot properly fight any illness or maintain a strong immune system with high levels of stress.  As mentioned previously, massaging stimulates cells to release cytokines.  Cytokines are chemicals that affect a dog’s hormones, in this case, by bringing down the level of stress hormones.  Furthermore, massages stimulate blood circulation which increases the amount of fresh blood and oxygen to cells and tissue while flushing out toxins and waste, further strengthening the immune system. 
Aids in the healing of injuries and encourages longevity
The increased circulation a dog receives from a massage is equivalent to a relaxing half hour walk.   This means dogs that are injured or never taken for walks have the chance to receive the same benefits they would get from much needed exercise.  This increased circulation not only reduces the recovery time for soft tissue injuries, it also allows the muscles to return to their original working state, often showing no signs of a previous injury.  Massages also improve joint flexibility, muscle tone, and skin elasticity which all support longevity, especially in older dogs.  
Builds trust and a heighten awareness
A dog’s demeanor as an adult is strongly related to the quality and quantity of touch he received as a puppy.  Through regular positive touch you are giving your dog the confidence and security he may have been lacking and that helps build the bonds of trust between you.  Additionally, massages relax the dog in a way that allows him to be more focused and aware of his surroundings, helping him be more obedient and successful in training.  A regular massage also gives you a heightened state of awareness of your dog’s body and health.  You become aware of how your dog moves, feels, and reacts to your touch so if anything should be unusual (a lump or hot spot) you will notice it much sooner and may be able to prevent a bigger problem.
While it is recommended that you only use a certified pet massage therapist to aid in the healing of a wound or illness, there is no reason why you can’t give your dog a relaxing massage yourself.  It should not be a vigorous Swedish massage, but rather a gentle rub over your dog’s entire body for about 10 minutes. He may be reluctant to enjoy it at first but make it a regular routine and see what results you get.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Less-Adoptable-Pet week

Tomorrow kicks off the beginning of less-adoptable-pet week which is a week dedicated to those less desirable pets that are looking for a second chance.
When I first saw my dog, Romeo, he was lying in his kennel at the Corona Animal shelter.  He was a 2 year old black mutt with no known history and on his last chance.  He was lying there, like he had given up on life.  I reached in to stroke his paw and he gently licked my hand.  When they let him out to meet me he peed on everything in sight.  I was worried that peeing would be a problem and it might be the reason he was still waiting for adoption, but I took a chance on him anyway.  That was almost 12 years ago. 
Older dogs, dogs with deformities, and bigger dogs are all at the top of the undesirable dog list.  There is nothing wrong with these dogs, in fact, many of them are much more extraordinary and inspirational and any adorable puppy could be.   So why do we let our unconscious prejudice get in the way when adopting a pet?
The top reasons for a pet not to get adopted are…
Age- Age can be a deterrent for many people, but before you write off an older dog completely consider your lifestyle.  Puppies are a lot of work and you have no way of knowing what their temperament will be as an adult.  Older dogs are usually more mature with a calmer temperament and better trained. 
Stereotypes- Many stereotypes surround bully breed dogs like Pit bulls and Rottweilers.  While some bully breed dogs do not have a mean bone in their body others may just need a strong owner (a true pack leader).  Either way, these working breeds are eager to please their owner and are capable of being very well trained.    
Color- Surprisingly, dark-colored coats on pets are less preferable to light-colored coats.  Light coats may mean your dog requires sunscreen (especially when living in California), they get dirty faster, and they may indicate blindness or hearing loss in the pet.  There are no good arguments on either side which is you should pick a dog based on his personality and how he will fit your lifestyle.    
Disabled- Dogs with disabilities may require a little extra attention but you would be amazed at how quickly they adapt to new situations.  Dogs do not take the time to throw themselves a pity party and they don’t have the luxury of giving up on themselves.  They take the hand they are dealt and they make the best of it, accomplishing truly extraordinary feats.  They will enrich your life and inspire you every day.  
Preexisting Illness- A preexisting illness may go hand-in-hand with a disability, but regardless, they will take a little (or a lot of) extra care and education.  They aren’t always easy or fun to deal with but the experience is truly rewarding when that dog wags her cute little butt at you and licks your face to say ‘I love you’.
Shy- Shy dogs can take a lot of patience, but consider what they have gone through.  If you look past the timidity you may find a hidden gem and the perfect fit to your family.  
Big- A big dog means a big heart and lots of love to give.  A big dog can give you comfort and security without all the annoying yapping (and inferiority complex).   These often gentle giants are more than willing to let you pamper, pull, push, and play on them any time of day.  Even if you are petite, with the proper training you can handle any sized dog (without a leash) just by using commands.      
Solitary- Not all dogs get along with other pets or children.  Lucky for them, not all people do either.  A dog that needs to be the only dog in a household can make an excellent companion, inside and outside of the house.  If you don’t have any other pets or children, why not open your home to a great dog that happens to do better as an only dog?
Not Potty Trained-A dog that is not potty trained is a big problem for most people, especially when the dog is older.  But just because a dog is older and not potty trained doesn’t mean she can’t learn.  It only takes patience and persistence.   In the meantime, crate training will help save your carpet while the dog is unattended.    
Not all dogs are perfect but they become perfect though loving eyes.  Open your heart and your home to a less adoptable pet this week and see what joy they bring into your life.  

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Is your dog a happy camper?

Do you remember when Labor Day weekend marked the end of summer vacation?  School started the following week so you had to make the most of your 3-day weekend.  Although things have changed and many schools now start in August, the passing of Labor Day weekend still gives that melancholy feeling of another summer gone.   But just because summer has ended doesn’t mean your time outdoors has to end.  With cooler and crisp weather, fall happens to be the best time of year for a quick getaway on a local camping trip.  And if your dog enjoys the outdoors too, why not bring him along?
Camping with your dog can be a bonding experience or an experience that makes you want to leave your dog in the wilderness.  Before you get to the point of taking off Buddy’s leash and letting him wander away from your campsite, learn what it takes from you and your dog to successfully carry out a camping trip.
5 Questions you should ask yourself before camping with your dog
1.       Is my dog easy-going and calm?
If your dog does not do well in the outdoors, on a leash, around strange places, or new people then he may not be cut out for an overnighter in the wilderness.  If he gets out of hand and won’t stop barking you will be asked to leave the campsite.  This kind of stress is unnecessary and unfair for you and your dog and will ruin any chance of a future camping trip.
2.       Can I handle my dog while camping?
You need to be in control of your dog and his behaviors at all times while outside of your home.  If you can’t physically or mentally control your dog and keep him from barking or attacking another living thing then you will have a problem.  An out of control dog can annoy the world’s biggest dog lover.  You need to be respectful of other campers, in your group and on the campgrounds.
      3.       Am I prepared to have my dog with me at all times?
There are no breaks from your dog while camping.  Everything you do you do with him.  Whether you tether him while you make breakfast or ask your camping buddy to watch him while you use the restroom, you need a plan as to where he will be if he isn’t with you. 
      4.        Do I know the campground rules about dogs?
If it’s a dog friendly campsite they will have rules as to where the dog is and is not allowed.  Some campgrounds require a dog to be on leash at all times and others require that leash to be no longer than 6 feet.  Some campgrounds do not allow dogs on the beach or in the picnic area or on certain hiking trails.  In Tahoe, dogs must be confined to a vehicle or tent from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.  And lastly, some campsites charge extra for dogs to stay.  Look up your campsite rules and be sure you know where Buddy can and cannot be while camping.
5.       Is my dog vaccinated for the great outdoors?
While we all think of bears and wildlife as a possible threat to our dogs we don’t consider the more likely threat of viruses and parasites that Buddy could pick up.  Be sure he is current on all of his vaccinations as well as a tick and flea medicine.  Ticks and fleas can jump onto your dog in a split second (whether he has had contact with anther animal or not) and if he is cuddling up with you at night you are at a greater risk as well.  You should carry a first-aid kit that has supplies (like tick tweezers) for humans and dogs incase anything should happen.

While answering these five questions will not completely prepare you for camping with your dog, they do give you insight as to whether camping is the right weekend getaway with your pup this fall.  For more information and a thorough guide to camping with a dog, check out There are hundreds of dog friendly campgrounds in California alone.  Each campground is unique and attracts visitors from around the world for various reasons.  Be sure to research your area before going so you know what to expect for you and your dog.  Here are a few choice areas to go camping in San Bernardino County:
Big Pine Flats (in Big Bear), 19 sites available on a first come, first served basis. Closed in Winter.
Serrano Campgrounds (in Big Bear), 132 sites with showers, close to big bear lake and the solar observatory. Closed in Winter.
San Bernardino National Forest has several trailheads and picnic areas along Highway 38 on the way to Big Bear
Joshua Tree National Park (starting in Twentynine Palms), 492 sites available most on a first come, first serve basis.   
Rainbow Basin Natural Area (in Barstow), 22 sites available at Owl Canyon Campground on a first come, first served basis.
Afton Canyon Natural Area (40 miles east of Barstow), 22 sites available on a first come, first served basis.
Mojave National Preserve (in Needles), 65 sites available on a first come, first served basis.
Moabi Regional Park (in Needles), 130 sites available on a first come, first served basis.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Remembering September 11th

Ten years have passed since one ordinary day became the day that changed the world, a nation, and so many individual lives.  Every year we struggle with the desire to forget that awful day and need to never forget those who were lost to it.  As they say, time heals all wounds.  And while we still may shed a tear, and we still bare a scar on our chest, we carry on; as a world, as a nation, and as individuals.

It’s now the time of year when we come together to celebrate the heroes acts and the lives of all those who were lost.  Around the anniversary of September 11th we hear dozens of news articles and stories about widows and children coping with life after that fateful day.  Some of those articles focus on the more positive and inspirational traditions that have emerged to honor those lost, celebrating their life each year.

This got me thinking about the heroic dogs of 9/11.  What became of the search and rescue dogs that spent days and nights looking for people?  Our search and rescue teams could not have done it without these dogs, many of which were civilian volunteers not associated with an emergency response team.  Sadly, ten years is a long time in dog years.  So while children of 9/11 are becoming teenagers, the heroic dogs are becoming senior citizens.  One dog was actually cloned, many continued to work up into retirement, and while some are still enjoying retirement others have passed on.  The book Hero Dogs of September 11thwritten by Nona Kilgore Bauer, gives a touching look into the events and aftermath of that day, sharing inspiring pictures of recovery and stories of hope while paying tribute to the ‘unsung heroes of search and rescue’.
Many people celebrate the heroic and selfless acts of these dogs by carrying on the cause.  Search and Rescue dogs continue to be trained across the U.S., ready at a moment’s notice to help when needed.   And although more dogs are always needed for those programs, not all dogs are up for the challenge, and that’s ok too.  You can celebrate and remember in your own way.  Here are a few dog-friendly events going on in Southern California this weekend…
Saturday, September 10th,   8:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Cucamonga Guasti Regional Park, 800 North Archibald Ave., Ontario, Ca  909-387-7460
Admission free with park admission- $10 per vehicle and $1 per dog.
Sunday, September 11th , 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
North Beach at Del Mar (Dog Beach)
Admission Free to watch, $35 - $55 to enter competition

Sunday, September 11th , 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Pioneer park, 1000 W. Foster Blvd. Santa Maria, 805-260-3740
Admission Free.  $25 registration fee

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Microchips 101

Does the thought of microchipping your dog bother you or does it give you a sense of assurance?  Believe it or not, feelings on the subject are mixed.  So why not learn about microchips for yourself and make your own decision on what is best for your dog.

5 Things to know about Microchips

1.       What is a microchip and how long does it last?
A microchip is a tiny computer chip that has an identification number programmed into it.  The whole device is small enough to be injected under the skin through a hypodermic needle.  The microchip is enveloped in a thin layer of protein which anchors it in place for the rest of your pet’s life.  The microchip does not pass through the body, has no power supply to replace, or any moving parts that will wear down.  Microchips are expected to last for decades.

2.       Are microchips safe?
Microchips are safe in that they can be given at any age.  In fact, they can be given to puppies and kittens with their first series of vaccinations.   It is implanted through injection just like any other injection or vaccination and does not require anesthesia.  The injection creates only a slight discomfort but most pets don’t even react to it.  AVID describes their microchips as, “encapsulated in a specially formulated biocompatible material created specifically for this kind of application.” In other words, the microchip is in a shell designed to co-exist with a dog’s body so the microchip won’t cause an allergic reaction or be rejected (as long as it is injected properly).  Unfortunately, about 1 in every 1,000 does have a reaction to the foreign object and it usually results in the growth of a malignant tumor.  The tumor could be aggressive and show up after only a few weeks, or it could take ten years to develop.  It can be removed surgically, but there is no guarantee that another tumor won’t grow in its place.

3.       How do I know my pet will be returned if he is lost?
A microchip is only useful if a dog is found by someone who truly wants to find his original owner and knows how to go about it.  Many veterinarian offices and animal shelters now have microchip scanners, so as long as the contact information registered with the microchip is current then they will be able to contact you and return your dog.   If the microchip isn’t registered they might call the veterinary who injected the microchip and get current owner information that way (which is only helpful if you are the original owner or you know the original owner).

4.       How much does it cost to microchip a dog?
Microchip injection can cost anywhere from $25 - $40.  If you have an AVID microchip you would register your information with their global tracking system, PETrac.  To register for the first time or to update new owner information it costs $19.95 for 1 pet up to $50.00 for every 3 pets.  If you don’t have an AVID chip or would like another option, USA Microchip Database registers any and all microchips.  The cost is $21 (per pet) to register for the first time or to update new owner information.

5.       How do I re-register my newly adopted dog’s microchip?
Write down your dog’s microchip ID number on a piece of paper.  If it isn’t on any of the papers given to you by the previous owner you can take your dog to be scanned at a local veterinarian.  Next, call AVID’s PETrac toll free number 800-336-2843, tell them you would like to re-register your new dog.  Give them the microchip ID number and your mailing address.  Once you receive the paperwork in the mail, fill out a new registration form.  You will include a check for the appropriate amount ($19.95 for each pet or $50.00 for every 3 pets).  Make the check to AVID ID Systems, Inc.
The AVID office is right here in the Inland Empire, in Norco, so the paperwork should reach their office quickly.
Mail to: AVID ID Systems, Inc.
                3185 Hamner Ave.
                Norco, Ca 92860-1983

There is a bit of controversy surrounding microchips due to the tumors that affect .01% of pets injected with a microchip.  Some owners choose to get their dog tattooed instead or simply ensure that their dog’s tags are current.  Of course, nothing can protect your dog against thieves.  If he should be stolen he will not likely be returned to you regardless of any form of ID.  Microchips really only protect against dogs getting out of the yard and accidentally running away.  But they have to be found by either animal control or someone who truly wants to find the original owner and knows to check for all forms of ID.  Take all of these things into consideration before making your decision on whether a microchip is right for your dog.              

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Much Ado about Microchips

If your dog was lost or ran away would he be returned to you?  Of course, there are no guarantees in life but you could always help your odds by getting your dog microchipped.  Don’t like the idea? That could be because you don’t fully understand what a microchip is or how it works.  Or maybe you are against the idea of tagging your pet.   Well, if you never plan to microchip your dog, you may want to keep a close watch on him because if he is picked up by animal control he may come back to you with a microchip, whether you like it or not. 
“When Gabriela Dorame of Fullerton, Calif., got a German shepherd puppy named Bolto last year, she and her kids decided to have a microchip implanted in the dog with an identification number that makes it easy to reunite lost pets with owners.  It paid off a day later when the rambunctious puppy bolted through an open door. Animal control officers found the dog, scanned him and knew immediately where he belonged, Dorame said.”

Sound like a topic and story you have heard lately?  That’s probably because this story and talk about microchips have been in the news this summer due to a bill introduced by State Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance.  The bill would require all animal shelters to microchip every dog and cat adopted or claimed from an animal shelter.  According to the ASPCA, of dogs that end up in the animal shelter, only 15 - 20% are returned to their owners.  Most of those dogs were identified with tags, tattoos, or microchips.  According to Cities and Counties Annual Reports submitted to the California state controller, “California taxpayers pay about $300 million every year to impound 1 million dogs and cats, house them, and euthanize half of them.”  Lieu and other lawmakers believe this microchip law could save money by cutting costs at shelters and grossly increasing the return to owner percentage to 75%. 
Of course, California is not the only state making laws around pet microchips. Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn, signed a measure into law this month requiring shelters to scan for a microchip at least once within 24 hours of receiving a dog or cat.  The shelter must scan for a microchip again before an animal can be adopted, moved to another facility, or euthanized.  Workers are also required to do a physical inspection for tags, tattoos or any other identification that would help find the pet’s owners.  And while a few states like Illinois now require shelters to scan, no state has been able to require shelters to microchip.  Sharon Curtis Granskog, spokeswoman for the American Veterinary Medical Association says, “New York has introduced a bill every year, including this year, that would make microchipping dogs mandatory.” But every effort has failed so far.  Granskog says of the California bill, “If passed, the measure would be the first of its kind enacted in the U.S.” 
While microchips are very helpful in reuniting dogs with their owners they should not be mistaken for a GPS or tracking device.  Statistically, of the dogs that end up in the shelters with a microchip already, only 3 out of every 4 dogs have current owner information registered with their microchip.  In other words, you need to call the microchip company and register the microchip ID number under your name and address.  Otherwise, your dog’s microchip is useless.