The Dangers of Dogs Playing with Balloons

Many years ago, I took a St. John’s Ambulance Infant CPR course.  The instructor spoke to us about the dangers of children choking on small pieces of food and small toys, but one of the things that stood out for me was the information about the dangers of balloons.  These concerns do not just apply to humans. The dangers of dogs playing with balloons are just as serious. 

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Balloons are bright and shiny.  They bounce and wiggle.  These are very enticing attributes to any doggo.  The urge to chase and bite are overwhelming.  But balloons burst and break into small pieces.  The repercussions of the popped balloon can be very dangerous to your dog’s health. The damage can be permanent or even fatal. Here are some dangers to consider when deciding whether or not to decorate with balloons when you have a dog:

Eye Damage or Blindness

When your dog bites a balloon or holds it in his mouth, it puts pressure on the rubber, causing it to expand to full capacity.  Eventually it bursts and the pieces fly around your dog’s face.  It snaps with enough force to cause a whipping reaction.  If a piece lands in your dog’s eye(s) or whips the eyeball as it flies by, the eye can be damaged.  If it strikes a specific part of the eye it can cause permanent blindness.

Intestinal Blockage
If a dog swallows a balloon, or even a piece of a balloon it can result in intestinal blockage which requires emergency surgery.

Another one of the dangers of dogs playing with balloons or finding a piece of broken balloon, is that they are likely to swallow it. The piece can make its way down to various levels of the intestinal tract.  Although sometimes it makes its way through (and out), it can also expand and block food from passing.  This intestinal obstruction will have to be surgically removed.  Symptoms of blockage include vomiting and diarrhea. Symptoms can take days or weeks to appear as the blockage can take this long to occur. 

I have witnessed this delayed blockage with one of my dog walking clients.  Although it was not a balloon that he swallowed, the progression of the blockage was similar. At some point he had swallowed a piece of corn cob and it was about 6 weeks before the symptoms developed. Emergency surgery was required.  The vet determined the time frame from ingestion to surgery based on the condition of the cob piece once it was removed.  Until the vomiting and diarrhea started, he was acting like his normal, fun loving puppy self.

Extreme Choking Hazzard

A small piece of a balloon can cause one of the most dangerous of choking hazards.  The balloon, or piece of balloon, can get caught in the throat, blocking the windpipe (trachea).  The dog cannot breathe in.  Should you see this happening and attempt the Heimlich Maneuver, it may not work.  

The Heimlich Maneuver uses the force of air pressure from the abdomen and lungs to push an item that is lodged in the throat out through the mouth.  When the object is a balloon, the forced air from the abdomen blows upward and instead of forcing the balloon out of the way, the rubber/latex expands, just as if you were blowing the balloon up.  There is no way for the air pressure to dislodge the balloon. In fact, this procedure can make it worse by moving the offending piece to a more dangerous position.

The length of time it takes to remove an obstructed object determines how much permanent damage is done.  The longer the body goes without oxygen, the worse the level of damage will be. 

When you have pets, it is wise to decorate without balloons.  Yes, they are bright and cheery and fun to play with, but is it worth your dog’s safety?

Alternative Decorating Ideas

There are a number of alternative ideas for decorating that are equally as bright and cheery that are safe for dogs and children.

  • Bubbles: Dogs love to chase the moving bubbles and they are fun to have floating around during a party. Bonus: They are very affordable.
  • Streamers:  Brightly colored paper streamers are very festive.  They can be placed higher up so that pets cannot get to them.  Bonus:  They are reusable.
  • Pinwheels: These brightly colored wheels move and spin for outdoor parties.  They provide the bright and shiny attributes of balloons and can be placed in a variety of out of reach places or bunched like a floral arrangement.  Bonus: You can make your own and they are reusable.
  • Paper Flowers or Pom Poms: Both are round and full. They come in any color and can be hung from the streamers, just like balloons.  Bonus:  Making your own can be a lot of fun and they are reusable.
  • Honeycomb Balls:  These carved paper balls look just like balloons and can be hung from streamers, in bunches or placed on sticks or straws to appear the same as balloons on a string.  Bonus:  Reusable and flatten for easy storage.
Summary

As you can see, there are many ways to decorate and a number of bonus reasons to choose any or all of the listed alternatives to balloons when decorating around pets or children.  The biggest bonus is that everyone will be much safer without the risk of suffocating on a balloon. Having said that, any item that a dog can rip up or shred has the potential to get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract.  It is important to keep all decorations out of reach.

One last note:

Even if you do not have a pet or children, your balloons can float off and land somewhere that does.  They can land in oceans and forests.  The fish, sea creatures and animals who live in these areas can be harmed without the option of veterinary surgery to help them. 

Please choose wisely.

Canine Coronavirus

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease and cannot be transmitted to humans. COVID-19 is a respiratory condition. To date there have been no documented cases of dog-to- human transmission.

We are all aware of the term Coronavirus, and there are many stories floating around about whether or not dogs can transmit coronavirus (Covid-19) to humans.  These stories are confusing and creating unnecessary fear.  The term Coronavirus is a large group of diseases that encompasses hundreds of different viruses of varying intensities, including the most recent strain COVID-19. Other familiar strains include SARS, MERS and even Canine Coronavirus.

I am not a veterinarian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.

This post may contain affiliate links.  Although we may make a small commission it is at no cost to you.  See “Disclosure and Legal Things” section for complete details.

A few months ago, I wrote a blog post called Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons.  When I was researching the post, I found a description of what illnesses can be found in dog feces and why you should be careful of what your dog is sniffing.  One of the things I learned was that coronavirus can be found in dog poop.  At the time, the term meant little to me, but in light of the recent pandemic, I was curious.

“COVID-19 cannot be transmitted between dogs and humans.”

Update April 5th, 2020:

There has been an incident of COVID -19 found in a Tiger at the Bronx Zoo, reportedly transmitted from a zoo worker to the animal. This indicates some possibility of transmission between humans and animals. If you are showing signs of COVID-19, or have been diagnosed positive for the virus, it is best to avoid contact with your pet. It’s best not to sleep with, cough or sneeze around, or touch your pet with your bare hands. If you are healthy and out walking your dog while practicing safe distancing, it would be best not to allow others to pet your dog. The likelihood that the virus will survive on a dog’s fur for any length of time is very slim, but better to be on the safe side.

I have read many articles, posts and even memes recently, stating that the World Health Organization has determined that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted by dogs.  This news was comforting on many levels.  Firstly, mass panic in some countries was causing people to abandon their pets (or worse) for fear of having them transmit the deadly virus.  This news update put minds at ease and saved the lives of many animals. Being a dog walker exposes me to many dogs in parks and on walks. Also, I am working with many animals whose family members may or may not be at risk. Admittedly, this news from the WHO brought me a small bit of comfort.

Still puzzled by the information I had previously found regarding coronavirus in dog poop, I decided that I needed to clarify all the confusing information.  I discovered that there is a Canine Coronavirus which is specific to dogs and cannot be transmitted to humans.

What is Canine Coronavirus?
A dog sniffing or ingesting infected poop can contract Canine Coronavirus.
A dog sniffing or ingesting infected poop can contract Canine Coronavirus.

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease that is transmitted from one dog to another through contact with fecal matter (poop).  A dog sniffing and/or ingesting infected poop can contract and spread the virus to other dogs.  It is not an airborne disease, but tends to spread in places where large groups of dogs gather.  It can be transmitted through direct contact with contaminated dogs as well as through sharing contaminated food dishes. In dog parks where many dogs poop, there are traces of fecal matter everywhere.  When your dog steps in it and then licks his paws, he is ingesting these traces.   

Symptoms of Canine Coronavirus:

Adult dogs may demonstrate a few minor symptoms or none at all when infected with the virus.  These only last a few days and include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Depression
  • Reduced food consumption
  • Rarely they will develop a fever

In puppies the disease can be significantly more serious. Because secondary infections can develop in respiratory system, the puppy can become septic if left untreated.  It is important that you take your puppy to the vet at the first sign of any unusual symptoms.  Antibiotics can be prescribed to clear up the respiratory and other secondary infections.

Incubation Period and Prevention of Canine Coronavirus?

A dog can carry the virus for up to 6 months from the time of contact.  Your dog can unknowingly transmit the virus during this period. As he may not show any signs of illness, it is imperative that you clean up after your pup. Always be aware of what he is exposed to while sniffing around on walks. You should refrain from allowing your dog to eat from group food bowls.  Many people who are trying to be generous will offer food bowls in dog parks. Group doggy daycare environments may leave a large bowl of kibble out for all dogs in their care.  These practices can cause the spread of Canine Coronavirus. 

Summary

Canine Coronavirus is an intestinal disease and cannot be transmitted to humans.  COVID-19 is a respiratory condition. To date there have been no documented cases of dog-to-human transmission.

As always, you should be aware of any change in your doggo’s behavior, sleep patterns, eating habits or changes in fecal matter; including frequency, consistency, color and odor.  Behavior, appetite and poop are the strongest indicators of your dog’s health. Any changes in these areas should be monitored, evaluated and assessed by a veterinarian as soon as symptoms develop.

Wash your paws and play Safe!

Sources

Preparing for a Road Trip with Your Dog

You should be prepared with anything you may need on your road trip, and you should prepare your dog for his road trip as well.

So, you are preparing to go on a road trip with your dog.  Maybe you are off to the cottage, maybe to another city, maybe camping.  You should be prepared with anything you may need, and you should prepare your dog for his trip as well.  Last year, my family and I went on a 10-day road trip with our dog across the east coast. We were camping in many places, and visited family for a couple of days along the way.  Our dog had a great time exploring, hiking and spending a lot of family time with us.  It can be a lot of fun for everyone of you are well prepared.

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Before you leave, here is a list of things you should pack for your pup:

Car Seat: 

Car seats for dogs are available in all sizes.  If your dog has his own space where he can see out the window, he won’t feel the need to move around.  He can have his toys close; he has a comfortable place to sleep, he can see everyone and he can enjoy the view from the car window.

Be sure to choose a seat that can be strapped in using your car’s seat belt to keep it from moving or falling.

Seat Belt: 

If you are not going to use a car seat, you can opt for a seat belt harness for your pup.  These offer safety and comfort.  The vest harness allows for evenly distributed restraint should you have to stop fast.  This can save your pup from injury.  Having the seat belt attached securely to the car’s seat belt clip offers a certain amount of mobility within the vehicle without causing a distraction.

Car Seat Cover: 

Your dog will be getting in and out of your vehicle for pee breaks and to stretch his legs.  There is a strong possibility that he will track dirt, mud or wet feet into the car.  If you cover your seats with a seat cover or “hammock” your leather or upholstery will be protected.  These also offer a bit of a barrier between the front and back seat, which provide a clear division between front and back. This makes the seating arrangements clear for your pup.

Blanket: 

Your dog is going to be away from home and may find his new surroundings frightening or stressful. Bringing his favorite blanket will offer something familiar to ease the discomfort.  The smells in the blanket will be those from your home and your will help to put your pup at ease.

Dog Bed: 

Having his own bed along for the ride will provide all the comforts of home.  If this is too much to carry along, try using the car seat once you arrive.  He will be very familiar with it by the time you arrive at your destination so it will be a comfortable sanctuary for him.

Toys: 

As with the blanket, familiar toys or stuffed animals will provide the familiarity of home.  A Kong or other small chew toy will keep your dog busy while driving long distances.  Once you arrive at your destination your dog may not understand all of the changes going on around him. These items will offer comfort in an otherwise confusing situation.

Medical Records: 

If you are crossing the border you will need your dog’s paperwork. In case of injury or illness while travelling a new vet will benefit from knowing your doggo’s medical history.

GPS Collar: 

When you are in a strange place, having a GPS collar will be a significant benefit should your dog become lost.  These collars are crucial when trying to find a lost dog.  They allow you to track your dog’s location on your cell phone for a quick and safe return. See: GPS Trackers for Dogs and Cats

Micro Chip:  

Having your dog micro chipped also increases the likelihood of having your dog returned should he become lost.  It is a quick procedure done in your vet’s office.  Your dog has a microchip inserted between his shoulder blades that contains pertinent information about you.  Should someone find your dog, this information will help a vet or shelter find you.

Collar with Tags:  

Make sure your dog is wearing his tags.  This is the first thing someone will look for if your pup is found.  Make sure your current cell phone number is on the tags as you will not be home to answer a landline.

Leash/Harness:  
You will need your dog’s leash and harness for pee breaks and hikes while on your road trip.

Your dog’s leash and harness will be needed for pee breaks while travelling.  You will also need it to go for walks or hikes while you are on vacation. 

Lead:  

If you are at the cottage or staying with friends, you may want to bring a lead so that you can let your dog out without worrying about him wandering off.  You should always watch him while he is out on the lead, but this gives him a little bit of freedom from the house and the leash.  The lead is longer and he can move about more freely.

Crate: 

If your dog is crate trained, you will want to bring a crate that folds flat.  You will need it at your destination, but the ability to lay in flat in the vehicle makes it easier to pack.

Bowls:

Bring along 2 unbreakable bowls.  These will be used when you take driving breaks, so you want to make sure they are not going to fall and break.  Something with a lid is even better, as you may want to offer your pup food or water while on the go (of course, this would be done by a passenger and not the driver.) If they can be stored with the contents in them, it saves a lot of fussing with water bottles and food bags.  You should make sure that the bowls are easily accessible so that nobody removes a seat belt. 

Treats:   

Bring some nutritious treats along.  If your pup becomes restless or needs to be coaxed back into the vehicle on one of the breaks, a treat will help.  You will want to have them for your vacation as well.  Your dog will be in an unfamiliar place and may require some refresher training with regards to social skills or recall.  The treats will be helpful.

Water:   

Always carry bottled water.  Should you have car trouble, weather issues that cause delays or even find that the water where you are staying is a little sketchy, you will be glad you have some extra water.  If you are heading to the beach, always have fresh water available so that your dog does not consume salt water.  This can be fatal.  See Dogs and Salt Water.

Food:  

Bring enough food to last 3-4 days longer than you expect to be there.  You never know what can happen with weather, vehicle issues or any other any unexpected occurrence could prolong your stay.  Make sure you have a little extra to tide you over.

Poop Bags: 

Throw some extra poop bag rolls in his doggy bag.  It never hurts to have too many!

Jacket and Boots: 

Depending on the time of year, you may need a warm jacket and boots to protect your pup from the elements.  Even when it is warm out, you your doggo may require a raincoat.  If you are into hiking or long walks, it would be more comfortable for him to stay as dry as possible.

Towel: 

You never know what you will experience while on the road.  On any stop along the way the ground may be muddy or wet.  When you are vacationing, you may be walking in a multitude of situations.  Having a towel to wipe muddy paws before reentering the car or house/hotel will make things much more pleasant for everyone.

Shampoo: 

When you are out with you pup, you may run into a lot of messy situations.  You may be playing or swimming at the beach.  At the end of your day, when you return to your vacation home, your pup may need a bath.  Lake water, salt water, sand and mud should all be washed from your dog’s fur to avoid skin issues.  Should you be in a cottage environment, you may want to carry the ingredients needed for skunk smell removal.  You never know who/what you dog will come in contact with.  See: Best Skunk Smell Removal Recipe for Dogs

Bug Repellent:  

Just like humans, dogs can get bitten by mosquitoes and other bugs.  There are a number of repellents specific to dogs available.  There are also natural remedies to help repel bugs.  Be sure to check labels and ingredients before using anything on your dog.

Road trips can be a lot of fun with your pup.  Being prepared makes everything run smoothly.  Grab your doggy bag and enjoy your trip!

Exercising Your Dog’s Brain

Your dog needs physical exercise, it is vital that you keep his brain stimulated as well.

Just as your dog needs physical exercise, exercising your dog’s brain is important as well.  Dogs who are bored may become destructive.  They may even turn into couch potatoes.  Neither of these scenarios are good for your pup’s health.  Just like humans, they need to be active, both mentally and physically to remain healthy.  A good rule is to spend a total of about 2 hours daily interacting with your dog. It is also a good idea to change the activities so that it doesn’t become routine and boring. Something as simple as taking your dog on a different route for his daily walks.  A change in direction can offer stimulation in the form of new smells to process which will offer them new mental challenges. See: Let Your Dog Sniff

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Here are some other ideas to keep him thinking!

Training time:

You can spend some together time training.  While you are teaching your pup important skills, he is processing and storing information. 

Learn a new trick:

Teaching him a new trick can be fun for both of you.  Your dog will be challenged to do something new, and you benefit from the results of having your slippers brought to you when you come home!

Playing Ball:

You can bounce or roll a ball around indoors, or you can throw it outdoors.  Your doggo will enjoy the playtime and will get to chase and find the ball when it lands. This encourages sniffing and natural hunting skills.

Play Catch:

Playing catch will provide physical exercise while offering the opportunity to incorporate extreme concentration and timing to be able to judge the timing of the ball’s movement. 

Hide and Seek:

You can hide your dog’s toy or some treats and have him find them.  This also utilizes hunting skills and let’s your dog sniff it out!

Hiking:
Hiking with your dog provides physical and mental exercise.

If you are able to take your dog to a hiking trail, he will love investigating all of the new sites and smells.  The physical challenges are great for his body. Navigating the obstacles on a trail will also provide exercise for your dog’s brain. 

Play Fetch:

Fetch involves sniffing, finding, retrieving and returning.  This simple game offers deductive skills, recall skills and information processing as well as some physical exercise. Dog’s love it!

Kong Treat Toy:

Filling a Kong with a healthy treat or even kibble keeps your pup busy for quite a while.  He has to figure out how to get the treats from inside the Kong.  This forces him to focus and find ways to manipulate the toy so that he can be rewarded with a treat. This is something you can leave for your pup if you are away from home for a few hours.

One of the unique ways I spend time playing with my dog is playing with a laser pointer.  He just loves to chase that little red dot all over the living room.  He can do this for quite a while and is exhausted when we stop. The process he is using to foresee where the laser will go next is exercising his brain while the running and chasing offers physical benefits.

Do you and your dog have any unusual interaction games? Please let me know so that I can try them with my doggo!

Let Your Dog Sniff – Pros vs. Cons

The time that a dog spends sniffing and processing the information that he gathers provides a form of mental exercise.

A doggo’s sniffer is his strongest sense.  Scent is how he recognizes people and other animals. It is how he keeps himself mentally stimulated and it is how he finds his way home if he’s lost.  Sniffing can even tell him if his human is sick. A dog’s sense of smell is more that 40 times more powerful than a human’s, and this allows him to learn and retain details about everything around him. Letting your dog sniff has many benefits.

When a dog sniffs he is gathering and processing information, providing mental stimulation.

When you are walking your dog, it is tempting to rush him along when he tries to stop and sniff every single tree, bush, fence or lamppost. It may not always be possible to stop at every “good sniff”, but if you are able to, your dog will benefit greatly from your patience.

When a dog sniffs the right spot, he can learn about the animals or people that have preceded him.  The time that he spends processing the information that his nose has gathered provides a form of mental exercise.  It acts like a puzzle that the dog must put together and retain. Because dogs don’t have a lot of things to exercise their brains in the house, this is a vital part of his daily activity while they are out. This mental stimulation is one of the most significant benefits of letting your dog sniff.

If they are confronted with another dog, they can learn everything about that dog through a few moments of sniffing.  They can determine the gender of the other dog, where that dog has been, the humans or dogs that this new friend has met.  He can even determine the other dog’s emotional state.

What are the cons?

Having said all of this, there are a few things to be concerned about when your dog is out sniffing the neighborhood.  If your doggo finds poop that has been left behind by another dog, there can be some dangers lurking in that little pile.  Poop from a sick dog can contain worms and bacteria, including E. coli and Canine Coronavirus.

I remember my German Shepherd becoming ill. She was vomiting and had severe diarrhea.  When I took her to the vet, she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection (gastroenteritis) that was treatable with antibiotics.  When I asked where she would have contracted this, and the vet said it probably came from something she sniffed along a walk.  After that I was very cautious.  I am still very aware of what my own dog and all of my clients are getting their noses into. 

What have I learned?

Nothing is 100% safe, but the benefits that your pup will gain from those short sniff sessions far outweigh the possible negatives.  The likelihood of your dog getting sick is very slim, especially if you are vigilant about watching them. 

Pee Pad Training

Pee Pad Training is one of the most popular methods of house training your puppy.

Your new puppy is going to require a lot of training. The first thing on your list is going to be house training.  There is more than one way to go about it, but the two most popular are pee pad training and crate training.  If you choose pee pad, here are a few things to keep in mind to help with quick and successful learning.

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Setting Up Your Puppy’s Space

Keep your puppy in a limited, enclosed space and cover the floor with pee pads. This helps them associate pee/poop with the pad.  Eventually, if they are not in the enclosure, they will seek out the pad rather than use the floor or carpet.  The pad will be familiar territory for doing their business. 

Learning to Go Outside

When you take him out of the enclosure, be sure to put his leash on and take him directly outside.  The leash restricts his range and limits the number of distractions that might keep him from peeing. Take note of pee/poop habits.  Many dogs have a little routine than they do before they go.  Some will spin in circles; others will have a specific posture (i.e. tail position, hind quarters lowered) that they assume as they are looking for the perfect spot. Get to know your dog’s unique routine so that you recognize it later, when he tries to tell you he has to go out. Once he is done, come back in so he knows that outside is for peeing.  Once your pup is trained you can spend play time outside.  For now, it is just a big potty.

Indoor Play Time

While your pup is in the house, but out of the enclosure, keep a close eye on his every move.  Look for the routine that you have identified as “the potty dance”, and have the leash ready to go out when you see it happening or be ready to put him in the enclosure to let him use the pad.

Mistakes Will Happen

If an accident happens, do not scold.  Just take your puppy outside to show him that this is where he should have gone.  Many suggest taking the “evidence” with you so that he associates it with something that belongs outside.  This does not mean you should have him sniff it or rub his nose in it, just put it down in the area where he usually pees so that he makes a connection.

As Your Doggo Progresses

As your puppy’s ability to hold his bladder becomes stronger, you can leave him out of the enclosure for longer.  Once he is showing signs of seeking out the enclosure when he has to pee or poop, you can remove the enclosure and eventually reduce the number of pads being used until you no longer need them. 

Pee Pads for Everyday Use
Indoor Turf is an alternative to Pee Pads. It provides a more natural option and is more absorbent.

Some families, especially those who live in multi-story apartments or condos or work unusually long hours, may choose to keep the pads to use when they just can’t get out.  In this case, have a designated space for the pads as this will provide consistency.  You may also want to get a more durable pad or potentially choose to use an indoor turf as an alternative to be sure the adult pup’s urine volume will be absorbed without damaging your floor.

Whatever method you use, please be patient and consistent.  This will reduce the pressure and stress on your puppy and will increase your chances of success.

Happy training!


Stay Safe While Walking Your Dog

Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets.

Now that we have chosen the appropriate harness and leash for our pups, we have made sure that their paws are protected from the elements and we have found the best winter and rain coats to be sure they are comfortable while outside walking or playing, it’s time to make sure we are prepared as well. We all do everything in our power to keep our doggos protected and safe while we are on our walks, but we don’t always think about ourselves. Remember, if we are not taking care of ourselves, we are not going to be able to properly care for our pets. If we slip and fall, suffer from heat stroke or get frost bite, we are not going to be of any value to them, and could actually put them in danger if we were to lose control of the leash. It’s important to stay safe while walking your dog.

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Last year was a particularly cold and snowy winter. This made for great adventures while walking with my clients. They loved to play and run in the white stuff, but the sidewalks and park paths were never free of ice. Sometimes it was black ice, or hidden below a layer of snow. This left me vulnerable to falling, which I did – several times! Some of these falls put not only me in jeopardy, but after the fact, I realized that the dog could have been as well.

“…she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her.”

One incident that was cause for concern was when I fell forward toward a driveway entrance. Fortunately, the Golden Retriever I was walking was on a long lead so he was well past the area where a car might drive. I did drop the lead when I hit the ground. Not only did I land in a very precarious position with regard to traffic, but if it had been a dog who was a runner, he might have bolted.

Coincidently, he was walking with his owner a few weeks later, when she fell on a patch of ice and hit her head on the ground. She was unconscious for several minutes and the dog stayed with her. Again, a dog who is a flight risk could have been long gone.

Why am I telling you these stories? To demonstrate the importance of safe walking practices. While all accidents are not 100% preventable, we should do our best to reduce the risk.

How to dress in winter:

If you are out in the colder months, check the weather before going out. Wearing appropriate jackets, hats, gloves and boots will help you to be comfortable. This will also allow you to enjoy your walk as well as focus on your dog’s needs.

If there is snow or ice, I would highly recommend spikes for the bottom of your boots. I have been using a pair this year and the stability while walking has kept me upright. They provide traction when you walk on slippery surfaces. Although they do not completely prevent falls, they have made a significant difference to the way I walk. In addition to preventing slips and falls, they have kept me from tensing up. This has helped to reduce sore muscles and back pain.

Always wear something bright colored and/or reflective. In the shorter days of winter, you will likely be walking at dawn, dusk or in complete darkness. Wearing reflective jackets or vests will ensure that you are visible when crossing streets or walking along roadsides. A reflective vest, leash or flashing collar will make sure your dog is visible as well.

The Best Hot Weather Clothing and Accessories:

Aside from wearing cool and comfortable attire when outside in summer, you should be sure to wear a hat. Keeping the hot sun from beating down on your head will prevent heat stroke. Heat stroke can cause dizziness and weakness which could result in passing out. Again, this leaves your dog unattended and vulnerable.

Wear proper walking shoes. Flip flops and sandals will not support your feet and ankles properly and could cause permanent damage. If you step on uneven terrain you can easily slip off a sandal or flip flop causing you to fall. You could also wind up spraining or breaking your ankle rendering you useless for doggy walks over the next several days or weeks.

Carrying and consuming water is as important for you as it is for your doggo, as maintaining hydration is another key factor in preventing heat stroke.

Wear sunblock. Though this will not prevent any sudden issues while on a walk, if you get a nasty sunburn, you are not going to want to walk tomorrow, and your pup will not get his proper exercise.

Rain Gear:

Many people ask me if I have my umbrella on rainy days. Truthfully, I try to avoid carrying an umbrella. Because I have one hand on the leash, I need the other free to pick up poop, clean burrs off of fur or remove mud or pine needles from paw pads. Carrying an umbrella can be a hindrance. I opt for a hooded cape or raincoat with a rain hat to keep me warm and dry. They usually come in bright colors, so they cover the visibility issue on foggy, misty, rainy days.

Be prepared:

Always carry a flashlight when walking on particularly cloudy days or in the dark. This not only makes you more visible, but it can protect you and your pup from coyotes or any other animals that may pose a threat. If your area is known to have a strong presence of a specific wild animal, learn all safety and protective measures to keep you and your pup safe from attacks.

When you are on an airplane, the flight attendant always tells you to use the mask first. If you are not safe, your partner or child isn’t either. It is the same with walking our pets. Make sure you are protected so that you can keep them as safe as possible.

GPS Trackers for Dogs and Cats

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If you have a pet who is deaf, a flight risk, new to you and your home or fearful. If you are travelling with your doggo or just driving around your home town, keeping a tracker on her will bring peace of mind.

So, you have your pet microchipped, why would you need GPS trackers for dogs and cats? A microchip is perfect if your pet has been found and the good Samaritan who found her does his due diligence and takes her to a vet or shelter to have the chip scanned. In a perfect world, this would be enough. Unfortunately, not all pets are lost in an area where a human is likely to find them and not all humans are willing to go through the process of picking up a stray animal and going through the process. Some will even keep the found pet for themselves. These scenarios call for a tracker so that you can go to your pet, rather than hoping she will be returned to you.

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What should I look for in a tracker?

Many tracking devices offer similar functions that are key to bringing your doggo home. The three most important features that I have come across are battery life, range of coverage and that it be waterproof. It is the combination of these three features that provides the highest chance of a successful reunion.

Battery Life and Charging:

The battery life should be no less than a couple of days. You will need to have enough time to get to your pet once she is located. If she accidentally becomes stuck in a vehicle and transported to a different city, you need time to reach her. If she is lost in the woods, you may need time to hike to her location. You will need a battery that provides you with ample time to do so.

A minimal charging time is important as it ensures that she will not be without her tracker for too long. You can charge it while you are all inside and be sure that she is wearing the collar before anyone opens the door to head out to enjoy your day. If you are driving it is best to keep the tracker on in case of an accident. Often, an accident situation results in a dog bolting from the scene because she is afraid or, even worse, injured. Having the tracker on her will help you to get to her and care for her as soon as possible.

Range of Coverage:

Having a tracker that has a limited tracking range limits your chances of bringing your pet home. There are several trackers out there that have many wonderful features, but can only be used within a limited number of kilometers/miles. This is great if she doesn’t get far, but as in the scenario where she gets stuck in a vehicle and driven down the highway, this could render the tracker useless. There are some that only provide coverage within a specific country. This seems like plenty of range, but if you are travelling or live close to a border, your dog could travel across the border and you would lose the ability to track her beyond a certain point.

Waterproof:

Dogs swim, dogs roll in mud puddles, dogs run in the rain. A tracker that will withstand being wet will ensure that you can maintain a solid connection between your app and your pet regardless of where she goes. until you are able to catch up with her and bring her home safely. It also provides the opportunity to take your pet to the beach without having to remove the tracking device, putting your pet at risk of running around unmonitored.

Many believe that their pup will never run far from them. Although this may seem like the case, circumstances come into play that can cause your pet to become lost. A frightening noise could cause her to hide. She may chase a squirrel until she doesn’t recognize her surroundings. Some run into situations, like sleeping in the bed of a truck that suddenly begins to move. Others may swim out too far from shore. Any of these can take them far from home. Wearing a tracker on will help you pinpoint her exact location so that you can get to her sooner.

These may sound like unlikely scenarios, but they do happen more often than we think.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry. If your pet is deaf, a flight risk, new to you and your home or fearful, you should consider a tracker. When travelling or just driving around your neighborhood, keeping a tracker on your pup will bring peace of mind.

Microchipping Your Pets

It is a small chip that is similar in size to a grain of rice. It is programmed with a number that is assigned to your pet along with the phone number of the company that issued the chip. Should your pet be found outside, the vet can wave a scanner over the location of the chip and the phone number and pet number appear on the scanning device.

You never think it will happen to you. You open the door and your pet bolts out before you have a chance to stop him. As I walk through the various neighborhoods with my Doggos, I see so many lost animal signs on posts, fences, mail boxes – anywhere a desperate pet parent thinks there is a chance that someone might have seen their dog or cat. Animal shelters and vets continuously receive calls from frantic and desperate people who have lost their pets. They see animals daily who have been found and brought to them in hopes that someone will be reunited with their beloved family pet. There are times when these methods work, but all too often, they are not enough and the animal has to be re-homed, or worse. Microchipping your pets will help to identify them should they be found.

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My dog has tags on his collar

For years, the best method of attempting to make sure your pet would be returned has been a tag on his collar. The tag provided the pet’s name and your phone number. If your pet was found, hopefully the person would be honest enough to call and return him, or at least bring him to an animal care worker to have them contact you. This has been somewhat effective, but there are circumstances where this fails. As we have discussed in my post Collar vs. Harness, using a collar all the time can be unsafe unless you are using a break-away style. This means that if your dog bolts from the home, he may not be wearing a collar or the collar may come off if he gets hooked on something while running around outside. This is where the microchip could be the best alternative.

What is a Microchip?

It is a small chip that is similar in size to a grain of rice. It is programmed with a number that is assigned to your pet along with the phone number of the company that issued the chip. When your pet is found, a veterinarian can wave a scanner over the location of the chip. The phone number and pet number appear on the scanning device. The vet then calls the phone number and provides them with your pet’s ID number found in the chip. The number is run through a database and your contact information is provided. The vet can then contact you and tell you where to come and pick up your fur baby.

How is the Microchip Inserted?

The microchip comes in a large syringe (needle) that the vet inserts between your pet’s shoulder blades. There is some fatty tissue in that area that allows it to sit comfortably, and your pet will not feel it once it has been placed. It is made of a material that allows it to attach itself to the tissues, keeping it firmly in place.

Does it hurt?

Because the need is larger than a normal needle, the initial injection does hurt more than a vaccination. Some vets will freeze the area before insertion, but many do it without it. The process is extremely quick and your pet’s reaction is very brief, indicating that the pain is minimal. There may be a trace amount of bleeding at the site and a small scab is possible.

As always, discuss this and every other medical process with your vet. Pet care is a very personal decision and the best practice for your pet may not be the same as it is for someone else’s. You are already doing your research by reading about microchipping. Make a list of any questions or concerns before you see the vet and have them answered before you proceed. If you are comfortable with the answers you can make your decision with confidence.

Pet Proofing Your Home at Christmas

We all want that perfect Christmas, filled with decorations, food, friends, family and, of course, fur babies. To make it perfect, it is important to pet proof your home. You may be surprised at the number of potential hazards lurking among all of those beautiful, cozy and yummy items traditionally found throughout the season.

We all want that perfect Christmas, filled with decorations, food, friends, family and, of course, fur babies. To make it perfect, it is important to pet proof your home. You may be surprised at the number of potential hazards lurking among all of those beautiful, cozy and yummy items traditionally found throughout the season.

Decorations

When you are setting up the tree, keep in mind the kinds of decorations you are using. Glass trinkets, edible baubles, shimmering tinsel and strings of lights can be dangerous when your pets decide to play. Pups and kitties are curious at any age. Placing a tree full of shiny objects in the living room, will certainly pique the interest of most animals.

Glass trinkets and lights can fall and break, leaving your pet’s paws vulnerable to painful cuts. It’s best to place the unbreakable ones where the animals can reach, and the more delicate ones closer to the top. I usually tie these ones on a little tighter, either by using string or by winding the wire hooks around the branch to help support them should the tree be climbed or shaken by a wagging tail.

There are many decorations made of chocolate or candy, that can cause serios harm. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs and many candies contain Xylitol, which is also highly toxic.

Tinsel glistening as the light bounces off of it looks like great fun to jump up and play with for a kitty. Unfortunately, if it is ingested by dogs or cats, it can get caught in the intestines, resulting in a blockage that could require surgery. I gave up the tinsel many years ago when my kitten got it wrapped around her neck. The more she tried to get out of it the tighter it seemed to get. I had to use scissors to remove it. I’m just grateful I was home to help her.

The Christmas Tree

The tree should be on a wide sturdy base and, if possible, stabilized with fishing line attached to something solid like a a bannister. I had one friend that put a hanging plant hook in the ceiling and attached the fishing line to it. He simply hung a plant there the rest of the year. This is not a solution for everyone, but I thought it was a very creative way to protect his pets from having a tree fall on them.

Another concern would be a putting up a real tree. The tree itself is safe, but the sap that comes off of it can cause stomach upset. The needles can damage eyes should your pet get too close. If your dog swallows the needles it may cause him to vomit. Pine needles stuck in little paws can be uncomfortable, so it is important to keep the area swept.

Setting up an artificial tree is generally safer for pets, but it still requires that you be cautious. Puppies and kittens are chewers and could ingest things that could be health hazards.

Traditional Plants

Holly (the plant and the berries) and Mistletoe are notoriously found in homes over the holidays. These two plants are highly poisonous to both dogs and cats. Keep them up high and out of reach. If your pet swallows either of these plants, seek veterinary help immediately.

A few more things to look out for or avoid

Artificial snow (canned, spray on) contains chemicals that are poisonous to dogs and cats. If your pet licks it off of the tree, a decoration or a paw that has stepped in it, there could be serious complications. It may be best to just avoid this one altogether.

Ribbons, if swallowed, can cause intestinal blockage.

Candles. Wagging tails and climbing cats can get burned if the candles are accessible. Should the lit candles to be knocked down, there could be significant damage to your home and put your entire family in danger. Placing candles out of reach and opting for wide based or enclosed holders can reduce the risk. Always put candles out when you leave the room.

And finally, food.

There are many foods and treats left sitting out when you are entertaining over the holiday season. Guests who may not be pet savvy may unknowingly set a plate down with a turkey bone remaining on it or leave an alcoholic beverage in an accessible place. Be aware of what your guests are doing. Make sure no one is feeding the animals table scraps or treats that may be harmful. Many people are not aware of foods that should not be ingested by animals. Their good intentions may have not-so-good results.

Christmas is a time for fun and celebration for the entire family. By taking the time to pet-proof your season, you will ensure that this holiday season will be perfect!