Therapy dogs in nursing homes

The Volpino Italiano needs a medium Plexidor dog doorA nursing home is a place for a person who needs more care around the clock than can be reasonably given at home, but who doesn’t need to be in a hospital. Many nursing homes strive for a home-like environment. Some allow residents to bring their pets, but this isn’t always possible, and many nursing homes around the USA have opened their doors to therapy dogs who come visit on a regular basis.

Dogs have an instinctive way of knowing when they are needed, and a visit from a dog can calm and soothe someone, or lift the spirits of a person who is sad and lonely. The dogs provide a physical touch and many love the feeling of soft fur. They also bring warmth, joy, and a patient ear that will always listen.

Some believe only a certain breed can become a therapy dog, or that they are raised for this purpose as puppies. Therapy dogs come in all breeds and sizes, and many are rescue dogs.

If you’re interested in doing therapy work with your dog, start by training some basic obedience, and bring your dog to many different environments so he or she gets used to noises and people. Then, find a therapy-dog organization in your area. Many states have animal-assisted therapy organizations that offer training programs.

To become a certified therapy dog, a trainer will evaluate you and your dog and suggest courses to take. Then, you’re ready to volunteer. Many organizations will help you find volunteer opportunities. Here is a list that can help you get started.

Bringing dogs to work can reduce stress levels

dog with phone
Dogs in the work place can help reduce stress

Sandra Barker is a professor of psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth’s School of Medicine, and she has been involved in several studies researching dogs in the workplace. The results may not come as big surprises to dog lovers, but are interesting nonetheless.

A study was made in 2012 at a large manufacturing company. The study included 76 employees, and having just three dogs present on any given day reduced the stress level by 11 percent during the day.

Employees with their dogs left at home, however, had an increase in stress level of 71 percent. As the day progresses, dog owners clearly worry about their furry friends!

Having a dog present in the workplace can work as a buffer against stress – things still happen, but humans react less to stress factors with pets around.

Nationally, around 2 percent of dog owners take their pets to work, and this adds up to around one million dogs in workplaces around the country.

Poop police coming to Carmel?

No one likes to step in dog poop, and there are many reasons to pick it up. Dog poop is the number three cause of water pollution, the water treatment systems aren’t designed to filter dog waste, and it can spread diseases and viruses, to name a few. Many dog owners are still bad at picking it up.

Carmel has a new million dollar dog park, and if dog waste becomes a problem, they’re considering hiring a poop police. The company PooPrints specializes in DNA analysis of dog waste and currently has contracts with apartment complexes and condos in 45 US states, Canada, and the UK.

If the system is put in place, dogs with passes for the dog park would be subject to a gentle DNA swipe from their mouth, and if anything is left behind on the ground, the owner could get a notice and a bill in the mail.

Several apartment complexes currently use the system with great success; the threat of public shaming has been enough to make residents pick up after their dogs.

Sunshine story: stolen dog returns home

Blue with her rescuers on her way home – image from Galveston Daily News

In May last year, Ms Navarro’s two dogs Maggie and Blue were stolen from her back yard in Galveston Texas. Blue was just a few weeks old at the time, and after searching for months Ms Navarro thought she’d never see either dog again.

Maggie still hasn’t been found, but Blue turned up at a shelter in Indiana a few days ago, and the shelter tracked down Ms Navarro from Blue’s microchip.

The joy of Blue being found was soon clouded by an everyday problem; Ms Navarro didn’t have the funds to travel over a thousand miles to go get her dog.

Fortunately, dozens of people offered to help. It didn’t take long before retired deputy Ricky Mitchell set off for Indiana together with his brother and one more retired Sheriff’s office employee. The three drove all the way, and posted photos of state signs they passed along the way.

The men drove through the night to get Blue home as quickly as possible.

You can read more about this story in the Galveston County Daily News – the paper has a series of articles about Blue and her journey home.

What size dog door should I get?

Pet sizes – and pet door sizes – can seem confusing, because it’s relative to a person’s frame of reference. If a person is used to Rottweilers, a Beagle looks like a small dog. To a person used to teacup Yorkshire terriers, the Beagle is pretty big.

To make this more confusing, the right size pet door often looks small compared to the pet. Dogs tend to duck their heads and lift their feet when they go through, so the opening doesn’t have to be as tall as the pet. If you have larger and smaller pets together, the PlexiDor opens so easily that a smaller pet can generally use a larger pet door.

The weights in the list below are guidelines. If your pet is right on the spot you might need to measure him or her and compare with the opening size. Or, contact our customer service. They are experienced and happy to help.

PlexiDor size small

This pet door is small, and has a single pane design. The opening is 6.5 x 7 1/4 inches. It is suitable for cats up to 24 pounds and dogs up to 9 pounds. Common breeds are chihuahuas, papillons, yorkshire terriers, and pomeranians.

PlexiDor small

PlexiDor size medium

This dog door is intended for dogs up to 40 pounds. The opening is 9 x 12 inches, and common breeds are corgis, dachshunds, beagles, pekingese, cocker spaniels, shelties, and many terriers.

plexDior medium

PlexiDor size large

The large PlexiDor dog door has an opening of 11 3/4 x 16 inches, and it is intended for dogs up to 100 pounds. Common breeds are Labradors, Collies, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Golden Retrievers.

PlexiDor large

PlexiDor size extra large

The extra large PlexiDor dog door has an opening of 16 x 23 3/4 inches and is intended for dogs up to 220 pounds. Larger dogs might be able to use it, depending on their build. Common breeds are Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Old English Sheepdogs, and Irish Wolfhounds.

PlexiDor extra large

More sizing help and information

You can download an overview of sizes – with opening sizes and needed cut holes – with examples of dog breeds and installation heights here.

And naturally, if you need help, contact customer service.

Gluten free dog treats

There are many recipes for dog treats around the Internet, and most of them contain some form of wheat, even if it’s whole wheat. Here are some wheat – and gluten – free carob cookies you can make for your four-footed friend.

Carob is a chocolate substitute often used for dogs, because it lacks both the substances toxic to pets and caffeine. It is naturally sweet and looks a little like chocolate, but has a unique flavor and texture.

There are also carob chips. If you’ve seen doggie cookies that look like chocolate chip cookies they’re made with carob.

What you need:
  • 1 cup of white rice flour
  • 1/2 cup of carob powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup of water
What to do:

An English Mastiff requires an extra large PlexiDor dog doorPreheat the oven to 350 degrees F, so it gets properly warm while you mix all the ingredients in a large bowl. The order doesn’t matter, you can just pour them together and mix away. It’s supposed to become a smooth dough.

If the dough becomes very dry, add a little more water. When you bake the dough out, it helps to sprinkle the baking surface with rice flour or carob powder. Use the latter if you don’t want white sprinkles on the cookies.

Roll out the dough until it’s about a quarter of an inch thick and cut cookies with a cookie cutter. Or, cut it into squares. Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake for ten to fifteen minutes. Let the cookies cool and store them in the fridge.

Seattle dog takes the bus

A vast majority of humans have become urbanized, and it’s happening to the dogs too. Eclipse for instance, is a two year old black lab in Seattle who has learned to take the bus to the dog park – on her own.

Image from cctv.com

It all started when Eclipse’s owner was too slow for her liking and she decided to get on the bus by herself. She got off at the dog park where her human caught up with her. Since then, she’s been doing it every time he’s too slow. He calls her a bus riding, side-walk walking urbanized dog.

One bus stop is right by their home and the other right by the dog park. The bus drivers and regular passengers all know her. She just needs to sit by a window so she can see when it’s time to get off.

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AKC recognizes four more breeds

The American Kennel Club – AKC – sent out a press release just before New Years telling that it recognizes four new dog breeds. This brings the number of breeds able to participate in AKC events up to 184.

The new breeds are the Bergamasco, Boerboel, Cirneco dell’Etna, and the Spanish Water Dog. AKC adds new breeds when they fill the club’s standards, which include a breed club and a minimum number of individuals in the country.

The Bergamasco is a sheep dog from Italy with a history that goes back around 7,000 years. As most sheep dogs, these are highly intelligent and love to work.

The Boerboel is a hardy farm dog from South Africa. This breed is known for being intelligent, protective, and willing to please their family. Through history these dogs have been used for everything from babysitting to protecting against predators.

The Cirneco dell’Etna is an Italian hunting dog known for its resistance to heat and tough conditions. In the past, it was often used for hunting together with a ferret.

The Spanish Water Dog is another lively and hard working herding dog. This versatile breed herds, hunts, and helps fishermen.

Funny misprint on sheriff’s offices rug

Dog lovers trust in their dogs for almost everything, but this faith in pooches is rarely expressed in official environments. At least until a sheriff’s office in Pinellas County in Florida got a misprinted rug for their lobby. 

The rug was supposed to say, “In God we trust” – this is the official motto for Florida. Instead, it said, “In Dog we trust.” It is an understandable typo and many would agree with the statement, but it’s still not what the office intended to say.

The rug has been replaced and will be sold for charity. Several dog lovers have already asked to buy it.

Sunshine story: hero cat saves infant

The Russian winter is harsh and unforgiving, and the chance of an unprotected infant surviving the cold must be close to zero. That is, if it weren’t for cats. 

Masha the cat became a hero recently when she found an abandoned baby in a box. The child had been left with a package of diapers and some baby food. He was well dressed, but alone in the cold.

Masha jumped into the box to keep the baby warm, and meowed for help. She is a communal cat, cared for by the local residents, and known for being friendly and quiet. Her loud outbursts now did not go unnoticed; help finally arrived in the shape of neighbor Irina Lavrova who thought Masha must have been hurt. Imagine her surprise when she found the cat in a box with a baby.

The boy is around two months old and was taken straight to a hospital. Thanks to Masha he will come out of this adventure unscathed – authorities believe she spent hours with him in the box. Masha is now reaping the rewards of being a good cat – she is considered a hero and is getting all her favorite foods.

 

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Be careful with antifreeze

At this time a year pet owners need to watch out for antifreeze spills. Antifreeze for cars is based on ethylene glycol, which is quite toxic and leads to many pet deaths every year. If a pet laps it up and isn’t treated immediately, severe damage to kidneys and nervous system will follow.

In the past all antifreeze solutions had a sweet smell and taste, nowadays some manufacturers have changed the formula to make them less appealing to pets, and some manufacturers make “pet safe” antifreeze. Using the pet safe products helps – they are less toxic than traditional products, but can still be dangerous.

If you see a puddle on the ground when you’re walking your dog, don’t let your pet drink from it or walk through it. If it gets on the paws, odds are the pet will lick it off later to clean itself.

Keep this type of product off the ground and out of reach for pets. If there’s a spill, clean it immediately and rinse the area with lots of water.

If you think your pet has ingested antifreeze – even a small amount – call your veterinarian or the closest pet ER at once.

Subtle signs of illness in cats

Cats are masters at disguising any illness. This seems counterproductive to us – we can only help the cat if we know something is wrong – but to the cat, showing illness equals showing weakness. 

The sooner a problem is detected the better and faster it can be treated, and it is important for cat owners to keep an eye for any subtle changes in behavior. And, if your cat suddenly starts acting “weird” it’s time for a trip to the vet.

Here are some of the most common – but subtle – signs of illness in cats:

Unexplained weight loss or gain

Since you see your cat every day it can be hard to notice weight loss or weight gain. It’s a good idea to weigh your cat once a month, or take monthly photos to compare.

Many cats are finicky eaters, and it can be difficult to keep track of consumption of food and water. Measuring the cat’s food helps. You also want to keep an eye on how your furry friend eats – if your cat has always been neat and suddenly starts eating in a messy fashion there might be a problem with their teeth.

Changes in behavior with others

If your cat has enjoyed playing with other cats regularly and starts avoiding them, something is most likely wrong. It can be a health problem, or stress. The other way around can also be true – if your cat has always been private and a loner and suddenly starts seeking attention, something might be wrong.

If your cat suddenly slows down from being energetic, or drastically increases activity, it’s a good idea to visit the vet. Sudden increases in activity in older cat can be a result of a thyroid problem.

Altered habits

If your cat suddenly changes their sleeping pattern or grooming habits, it’s time to see the vet. Also watch for a change in the cat’s voice and smell. Be particularly alert for foul breath.

Kittens

Three common cat care mistakes

Everyone wants the best for their pets, but since we’re different species it can be difficult to figure out what the best really is. Here are three common cat care mistakes.

1. Never punish or frighten your cat

Cats are sensitive, and they’re definitely not human. Yelling at cats, hitting them, or scaring them does not work to change behavior. It will just leave your cat thinking you’re a horrible thing that should be avoided. Scared cats are stressed, and can lead to illness in the long run.

Shape your cat’s behavior with praise and treats. Cats like calm and predictable environments where they can be relaxed and happy while enjoying their calm and predictable humans.

2. Don’t use products made for humans, dogs, or horses on your cat

Cats have specific needs, and they’re sensitive to many things we don’t give a second thought. Only use products labeled for cats, and read the label carefully. Products created for adult cats might not be safe for kittens.

Never give a cat aspirin or tylenol, or flea-control products made for dogs. Also keep an eye on how your cat behaves around plants – many plants and flowers are toxic to cats. If your cat shows a tendency to chew plants, provide some safe cat grass.

3. Don’t overfeed your cat

Obesity is a huge problem for pets in the USA, and overfeeding leads to a wide variety of problems from diabetes to arthritis. If your cat is overweight, make sure that you measure the cat food, only feed cat food, and say no to begging. Keeping your cat’s weight in check can add years to his or her life span.

It is also important to know that dogs can eat cat food, but cats should not eat dog food. Cats have very specific nutrient needs that can only be satisfied through eating meat – they lack the ability to create some nutrients.

eating cat

Why do cats meow at humans?

Black catCats in the wild have a wide range of vocal expressions; they hiss, growl, spit, and scream. The regular “meow” a cat gives a human is different, and some cat experts believe the sound developed partly to communicate with people. We associate it with the cry of an infant, and meowing gives results.

Cats are good at varying their meows, and the cat owner learns to distinguish a meow saying “I want to go outside” from a content cuddle meow. Cats can vary the frequency, pitch, volume, tone, and length of their meows, and no two cats sound exactly the same.

If your cat starts meowing obsessively or exhibits other sudden changes in behavior, you need to take him or her to a vet, just to be on the safe side. Other than that, enjoy learning the language of your cat. It’s possible to learn to communicate well with them, and knowing what your furry friend wants opens a new dimension to your relation.

Dog food allergies

Allergies are fairly common both amongst humans and dogs, and just like a human, a dog can develop an allergy at any age. The most common dog allergy is against flea bites, and the second most common is inhaling allergens such as pollen or molds. Dog food allergies come in on a close third place.

In order to develop a food allergy, a dog must be exposed to the same food ingredient for a couple of years or more. Most dogs are between two and six years old when food allergies are first noticed.

What causes food allergy?

An allergy is caused by the immune system responding to something it believes is foreign. It is a defense mechanism that would normally protect the body, but instead causes an over-reaction to harmless substances met in everyday life.

When it comes to dogs and food the immune system most often reacts to a protein, and the most common triggers are beef, milk and other dairy products, chicken, eggs, soy, corn, and wheat.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

Symptoms of food allergy include excessive scratching and itchy skin. A dog with a food allergy can scratch until they lose all hair in an area, and the skin is often red and irritated. This is particularly common on the ears, groin, and belly. Some dogs with food allergies lick or chew on their paws, get repeated ear infections, and/or rashes. Stomach problems are also often connected to food allergies.

How do you treat a food allergy?

To treat a food allergy, the dog needs to stay away from eating the problematic ingredient. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find the problematic ingredient. The idea is to eliminate potential causes of the problem through feeding the dog something completely different from what he or she has eaten in the past. The new food – and nothing but the new food – has to be fed for two to three months to give enough time for the method to work. This means no treats or tastes of human foods, which can be frustrating for both dog and human.

Once the dog is symptom free, one ingredient can be added back at a time to see if the immune system reacts.

 

 

Bake apple pupcakes

Many dogs like fruity tastes. These apple treats are easy to make – very much like cupcakes but in a dog friendly format – and odds are your pooch will love them.

What you need:

  • Muffin pan or cups
  • 2 and 3/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/8 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened dried apple chips
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

What to do:

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Mix water, applesauce, honey, egg, and vanilla in a large bowl. It works well to mix with a wooden spoon. Add the other ingredients and stir until everything is well blended.

Distribute the mix into greased muffin pans and bake for around an hour. It can take up to an hour and fifteen minutes before they’re done.

You can store the pupcakes in an airtight container in the freezer for up to  6 months.

Sunshine story: Penny the Vizsla is home after 2400 mile road trip!

Penny is a 7 month old Vizsla who just came home after the adventure of a life time. She got lost in Royal City late December, and while her owners did everything to find her – including creating a Facebook page dedicated to finding her and bringing her home – Penny was on a road trip.

A kind truck driver saw her and picked her up, and she tagged along with him all the way to Pittsburgh, Pa. When his job was done he took Penny to an animal clinic where they scanned her microchip and were able to contact their owners.

Of course, Penny’s adventures weren’t over, because by now she was far from home. The puppy’s luck held and Alaska Airlines flew her home for free.

Make sure your pets have identification, and that your name, address, and phone number are updated. Even the most well behaved pet can get distracted by something. It only takes a couple of seconds for them to dash down the road in pursuit of a bird, squirrel, or something else.

Sunshine story: dog saves owner’s life

A few days ago, Darky, a labrador and collie mix, became a hero. Darky was on a walk with his owner Arthur McGarvey along the fields near their home when Mr. McGarvey collapsed. Darky didn’t lose any time – he ran to the road, barking and prompting drivers to come investigate.

Darky’s strange behavior made motorists pull over, and the persons who stopped quickly spotted the man on the ground. Without Darky no one would have seen Mr. McGarvey, but now the passers by could call for help, and keep him warm until paramedics arrived.

Doctors say Darky’s quick response, getting help in the minutes immediately following the stroke, might have saved Arthur’s life and definitely boosted his chances to make a full recovery. The quicker help and necessary medications are given after a stroke, the better the chances of recovery.

Most people who suffer a stroke have less evident symptoms than Mr. McGarvey. If you think that you or someone close to you has a stroke, call 911 immediately. Also, check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared – this is important for correct treatment. Common signs include:

  • Face drooping. Ask the person to smile and see if the smile is uneven.
  • Numbness or weakness of a leg, arm, or face. Ask the person to raise both arms and observe if one arm drifts downward.
  • Speech difficulty. Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence.
  • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one of both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, loss of balance, loss of coordination, or dizziness.
  • Sudden and severe headache without known cause

 

Image of Darkey with family from mirror.co.uk

 

Why do people look like their dogs?

Most Afghan Hounds do well with a Large PlexiDor Dog DoorNo matter how much we like dogs, most of us don’t want to look like a dog. There are exceptions, of course, but the vast majority of humans want to look like a human. Still, everyone has seen someone with an uncanny likeness to their dog. Many dog owners even see something of their dog in their own face in the mirror.

It would be easy to dismiss this as one of those things that aren’t real, but when shown a photo lineup of random people and random dogs, test subjects are able to match owners and pets.

It would be easy to dismiss that with people seeking out pets that have something in common with themselves. Maybe men would be more likely to have large dogs and women more likely to have toy breeds, or maybe women with long hair would be more likely to have dogs with long hair and floppy ears?

The ability to match strangers with their pets remain even when these types of characteristics are ruled out.

A Japanese scientist recently set out to solve the mystery. In prior tests he has proven that test subjects can match photos of owners and their dogs by looking at their faces – and see that arbitrarily coupled dogs and people were fake pairs. This time, 502 students were presented with 40 human faces and 40 dog faces.

When shown the entire faces, 80 percent could pick the real life pairs. The interesting thing is that when shown only eyes of humans and dogs, 74 percent could still pick out real life pairs. The scientists ran the test again, and in a second group of test subjects 76 percent could pick out the pairs just looking at the eyes.

Thus far, no one knows how this works, but there is something in the eyes of humans and dogs that can show to complete strangers that they belong together.

Read more here.

New laws for animal protection

With the new year comes some new laws and statutes for animal protection. Some are practical, others sound a bit goofy but are clearly needed.

It might seem self evident that getting close enough to lions, tigers, and other big cats to take a selfie is a bad idea. Self-portraits with this type of animals have still become more and more popular online, and starting February 2015 it will be illegal to pose for this type of photo in New York. The new rule specifically prohibits contact between members of the public and big cats at animal shows.

New York is one of over 20 states with a ban on private citizens owning exotic animals, but all over the country it is believed that more exotic pets live in American homes than in American zoos. Seven states have no requirement of a license or permit to keep exotic animals. In these states you might need a license to own a dog, but you can buy a lion without thinking twice about it.

Naturally, many who own exotic pets are responsible and give the pets great care, others are less careful. There is no firm definition of the term exotic pet – in some states it refers to any wildlife kept in a human household, or to a pet that’s more unusual than a dog or cat.

In 2015, New York also makes it illegal to tattoo and pierce pets. This law allegedly came about a after a woman attempted to sell gothic kittens with piercings, and a man tattooed his dog. The only exception is markings done by a veterinarian for a medial reason or identifications.

On the other side of the USA, California takes a stand for farm animals. A new law requires that egg-laying hens, breeding sows, and veal calves have enough space to move around. It is no longer allowed to keep them in cramped cages. California also has a law that extends the space requirements for egg-laying hens for out of state suppliers.