Starting to feel like spring? Groom away those wintery coats with these tips!

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Monk and DogSpring is nearly upon us!!  For many of us in Canada it still means a month more snow, but for many parts of North America, we are well on our way!  Flowers are growing, bees are buzzing and FUR IS FLYING!

For us, spring time means shed time.  Our Labrador, Zoom, begin to molt out his downy fur from winter and we start to see more and more tumbleweeds of Zoom-fur blowing around signaling yet another sweeping!

Shedding is a totally natural and healthy part of a dogs life and while it can be an indicator for some underlying conditions is it happens chronically, seeing an upswing in the amount of fur your are cleaning up is totally normal! Keeping on top of it can be a real challenge, and for some of us, nearly impossible. This can especially become a problem when guests come to stay who are not necessarily “dog people” themselves and seem to have a knack for picking out outfits that not only attract the fur like flies to flypaper, but also for those guests with allergies. Here are a few easy steps that can be taken to minimize the impact for your family on a regular basis and also for those special guests:

  1. Daily Grooming: Brush your canine’s fur everyday. Especially true for those of us living in flea and tick country, make sure to groom it all: top to bottom, legs, belly, tail, neck, arm-pits, etc.  A rule of thumb for the mainstay tick-born diseases is that they require 24 hours of attachment time to transmit to the host (dog).  This will also help keep matts from occurring, and massage the skin to help remove dead skin and loose fur.  There are many products out there for general and specific breeds’ grooming needs. From rubber to metal, bristle to flea comb, there is something out there that will work for your purpose. I find certain combs and brushes work better for particular body regions (e.g. the rubber Kong brush works best for me around the head), so consider having a few different brushes on hand. Need help deciding? As part of our product review services, Canines By Design can help you pick out the right grooming tools and show you how to use them.

Pro-tip: Bring your brush to the park and do your grooming outside to avoid generating extra dander in your home’s ventilation system.

  1. For quick “tumbleweed” touchups, use an electrostaticlly charged broom (e.g. Swiffer) that will make your life oh-so-much easier when guests are arriving soon. Many options are re-useable and green as well (Save the Planet!) Electrostatic dusting cloths are also available.

Pro-tip: With a daily sweep, one static cloth can last over several days. Keep the in-use cloth on the broom wrapped in a plastic bag for easy use.

  1. For guests and family members with more serious allergy issues, I would recommend dusting and sanitizing surfaces (helps with saliva allergies), vacuuming of all chairs, couches, carpets, etc., washing any bedding and towels they will use, and also changing out the furnace filter if possible to one that offers HEPA-level filtration to decrease allergy-related particulates in the air. If you have a severe case, then renting a carpet cleaner for any bedroom carpets will be useful as well.

Pro-tip: After cleaning, keep the guestroom door closed before their arrival to avoid more hair buildup.

Part of being a proactive canine caregiver is keeping in tune with your canine’s hygiene. Regular veterinary checkups, teeth cleaning, and nail clipping are all very important aspects of care giving, but one aspect that can be neglected is regular dog bathgrooming, and dermal (a.k.a skin) inspections. Our skin is our largest organ and its function (e.g. maintaining a homeostatic balance within our bodies) is essential for life – and the same applies to our canines. Unusual and rapid onset of shedding can be an alarm bell for changes in health, or health-related issues. Stress, bacterial infections, contacts with toxins, pregnancy and even organ disease/failure can all cause rapid shedding. By being proactive caregivers, we will see these changes faster. By performing daily grooming rituals we can minimize any “surprises” hiding under our canines fur, ensuring their skin and coat remain healthy.   Dermatitis, hot spots, parasites, growths, cuts and scrapes hide under a fur coat, but can all easily be found and monitored with daily routine.

Being a canine caregiver is an active process. Balancing the needs of your canine with the demands of life can sometimes be challenging. Constantly having those furry tumbleweeds blowing around is annoying (to say the least), but your dog’s shedding shouldn’t be a deterrent or source of undue worry when welcoming allergic guests. Following the few suggestions above and taking the C.B.D. approach of “setting up for success” will help minimize both the hair and the stress, and finally nix your grandmother’s idea about knitting a sweater out of all the fur blowing around at tea time.

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March is Pet Poisoning Awareness Month – Do you know all the risks?

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Dog and FlowersThe start of March brings with it a change in seasons for many of us in North America. Spring is starting (sorry Eastern Canada), and we are getting the itch to clean, prepare and plan the coming warm months. March is also Poison Prevention Month and it’s a good time to remind everyone that there are many items in our day-to-day lives that are capable of putting our canines at a serious health risk if ingested.

sick puppyWith that in mind, I want to list a few things that are regularly found inside our homes, as well as items found outside our homes, that could affect our dogs. The first step is being aware that poisonous items, which we need and use daily, exist in our environment. The second step is to set our canines up for success by ensuring their environment is a safe space, with said items being cleaned up and secured away from interested and snooping noses. Here is the most recent list of top pet toxins provided by the ASPCA.

To protect your pet, simply follow the same processes you would as if you were taking precautions for a child.

Pet-toxic items inside your house:

  1. Human medication

Generally dosed for much larger bodies, even a small amount of medication can be dangerous. Keep all containers, tubes, ointments, vitamins and cold medicines away in a secure location so that pets cannot access or chew them. Don’t forget to also include veterinary products and medications. Flea and tick medication is highly toxic, as is joint and pain medication and supplements if they are taken in the wrong dosages.

  1. Household plants

This includes lilies, mistletoe, holly, azaleas, etc. There is unfortunately quite a long list, as we tend to like plants with bright colours and cool designs, which in Nature usually indicate a level of toxicity as a warning to others. You can see that list courtesy of the ASPCA, here. For some. the leaves and plant can toxic, for others it is the fruit; and for others agai,n it can be the seeds, or a combo of all three. Be careful what plants you bring into your house and, if you do bring plants into your canine’s safe space, you MUST ensure they are safe!

  1. Toys with movable parts or stuffing

Easy examples include plastic eyes on a doll or squeakers in plushy toys, both of which can become lodged in a throat or intestine necessitating an expensive trip to the vet. Take the same precautions you would with a small child. Don’t leave them unintended and remember that no toy is truly indestructible!

  1. String, yarn, rubber bands, dental floss all can cause ugly intestinal blockages.
  2. Food Items

Some food products are straight-up toxic, while others can cause mechanical damage if eaten (cooked bones splinter and get caught in throat and intestine, for example). Gum has xylitol in it, which is very poisonous for dogs (a small dog can be in a lot of trouble just ingesting 1 or 2 pieces), chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can be deadly to dogs. The list is fairly extensive here as well. Think that is it? Well avocado, bread dough, ethanol (alcohol), grapes, hops, macadamia nuts, moldy foods, onions and garlic also make the list. Take a look at this link here again provided by the ASPCA for toxic foods commonly found around the house.

Pet-toxic items outside your house:

  1. Antifreeze (ethylene glycol)

It tastes sweet if ingested, making it very appealing for pets to sniff out and lap up. Unfortunately, this common product is used in the radiators of our vehicles to keep them cool, to keep plumbing from freezing over winter, and also used in our home’s air conditioner. It is possible to purchase antifreeze without ethylene glycol, and if this product simply became the norm in the industry, we wouldn’t have to contend with so many poisonings related to this product.

  1. Fertilizers/Pesticides

Used to keep plants growing, grass green, and to keep all those bugs at bay, any such products are fatal if accessed by pets.

  1. Traps and poisons

Used for rodent control, ant control, etc., these products can cause injury and can most certainly kill, as that is their intended purpose. Never leave poison baits in your canine’s environment.

  1. Cocoa Mulch

You can buy this mulch at garden stores, and because of the cocoa component, it has an appealing sweetness to it that can lure pets. It does, however, have the same active (read: toxic) ingredients as chocolate and can be just as dangerous if ingested.

Being a canine caregiver means ensuring that our canines lead happy, healthy and safe lives. Just as is the case for our human children, there are a lot of products in our environment that are toxic when not used for their intended purpose. It is critical that we are first made aware of what these products are, and secondly, take action to ensure that our canines are kept safe from them.

Happy Puppy

Accidents do happen. If you think your canine has ingested something they should not have, don’t wait or delay, take them immediately to a veterinarian and explain what you think they have gotten into. If you are able to bring the product with you, do so – as it will help the veterinarian understand what active ingredients are present and what course of action must be taken to address the problem.

Not sure if your canine has been poisoned? Some signs that can be seen after ingestion:

  1. Nausea and vomiting
  2. Mild to severe depression
  3. Wobbly, uncoordinated (drunken-appearing) gait or movement
  4. Twitching muscles
  5. Short, rapid movements of the eyeball
  6. Head tremors/ seizures
  7. Lack of appetite
  8. Salivation and drooling
  9. Swollen glands
  10. Decreased righting (standing up) ability
  11. Increased urination and increased thirst