Winter Weather Tips

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If you live in Southern Indiana or North Central Kentucky, the National Weather Service is calling for some significant snowfall accumulations over night and into tomorrow morning. As you make preparations for your family, don’t forget about your four-legged companions. As a companion animal guardian, here are a few tips to help you survive the winter storm.

1. Make a Dug Out

No, this is not a baseball reference. Simply, select an area of your yard and dig out the snow so your dogs will have a place to eliminate without having to plop through deep snow.

2. Bring Pets Inside

If your dogs or cats usually spend time outdoors, bring them inside. Although they have fur, dogs and cats are susceptible to winter weather injuries such as frost bite and hypothermia. If it’s not possible to bring them into the house, prepare a shelter for them in your garage away from the elements where they can warm up.

CAUTION: If you plan to keep your pets in the garage, make sure your vehicles haven’t leaked any antifreeze. Antifreeze is ethylene glycol, a sweet smelling and tasting liquid that attract companion animals. It is also poisonous to pets in small doses.

3. Feed them Well and Keep them Watered

To keep warm, dogs and cats burn extra calories and may require additional food portions to maintain their energy and to aid in thermoregulation. Also keep plenty of water on hand so your companion animals do not get dehydrated.

4. Avoid Long Walks

If you plan to walk your dog in the snow, make sure it’s not very far. Also avoid walking your dog on surfaces that have been treated with rock salt as this can cause cracked paws, a condition where the skin on the foot pads cracks and begins to bleed.

5. Tap Your Hood

The engine block of your car is a warm enclosed area that provides shelter to outside cats. Before starting your car in the morning, pound on the hood of your car to startle any animals that may have sought shelter under your hood.

Do you have any winter weather tips to add? Share them in the comments section below.

The Financial Burden of Pets

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Image Source: http://miniaturepaws.com/dogs-can-cost-a-lot-of-money/

How much money does it cost you annually to care for your pets?

I remember having a pet Guinea Pig when I was right out of high school. They are very easy to care for but I needed wisdom. So I read a book about Guinea Pigs and applied my learning.

When you have a Guinea Pig, there are certain provisions you must make for them.

First, they need shelter. This is easily achieved by purchasing an aquarium, wire cage, or a large plastic bin. Guinea Pigs require a minimum of 2 square feet per animal.

Next, they need bedding. I preferred the recycled newspaper bedding. Though pine or cedar has a pleasant aroma, oils from wood chips can irritate small animals.

They also need food and water. As far as nutrition goes, a guinea pig is at risk of scurvy, so it’s important to provide vitamin C supplements as well as vitamin C-rich fruits & vegetables. Fresh fruits & veggies are preferable over pellets; however, it is still good to feed pellets. Another food item you might offer a Guinea Pig is Timothy hay.

Fortunately, Guinea Pigs seldom require veterinary care.

Overall, there is a significant cost associated with caring for a pet. We may not see it or even feel it because you can’t put a price tag on love.

While Guinea Pigs are different from dogs and cats, I shared all that to illustrate that pet ownership is more than just buying a pet. There is a cost involved that I think some people overlook.

According to the 2013-2014 American Pet Products Association (APPA) National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 millions homes. APPA estimates that pet expenses were about $58.51 billion in 2014, up 5% from 2013.

Pet owners spent approximately $22.62 billion on food, $13.72 billion on supplies and over-the-counter medicine, $15.25 billion on veterinary care, $2.19 billion on live animal purchases, and $4.73 billion on services in 2014.

The cost of acquiring a pet pales in comparison to the actual cost of caring for a pet.

So before you think about adding a pet to your household, think about whether you can cover the added expenses of pet ownership.

Luke 14:28 (NLT) says, “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?”

Kennel Cough Vaccine – Helpful or Harmful?

By Jason Michael Smith
November 10, 2014

I recently came across an article about vaccinating dogs for kennel cough. The author explained that kennel cough vaccines could actually be responsible for spreading the disease. While many readers agreed with the thoughts expressed in her blog, there were a few comments that disagreed with her saying that her science was wrong, the article was poorly written, and she should remove or rewrite the page.I found the article fascinating and wanted to dig a little bit deeper on the subject so I consulted a number of journals, web sites, and books to clarify the thoughts of the article.Allow me to establish one thing. Ten years ago, I served as a veterinary technician in the U.S. Army. The Army taught me a specific protocol for vaccinating dogs. Chances are, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) developed the protocol we used. The AAHA recently changed the protocol in 2011, so it is likely that what I was doing in practice a decade ago is much different from what veterinarians are doing today.

It is also evident to me that veterinary medicine is an ever-changing practice. While I have knowledge in some areas, the fact that I no longer practice under a licensed veterinarian suggests to me that I am no longer an expert in the field. This is why I turn to outside materials and consult with veterinary technicians every chance I get. I want to be a resource for my customers and to achieve that, I must stay up to date on the field of veterinary medicine.

In her blog post Three Critical Problems With the Kennel Cough Vaccine (and what you should do about them), author Dana Scott listed these problems:

  1. The vaccine doesn’t work that well.
  2. The vaccine is not safe.
  3. Somebody did some bad math.

Dr. Jean Dodds recommends administering the intranasal form of the kennel cough vaccine whenever it is required by a grooming or boarding facility. She writes, “However, none of these vaccines is fully effective and may not be needed at all.” (Dodds, 2014, para. 11)

The vaccine is not effective, according to Dr. Karen Becker, because kennel cough is caused by a myriad of infectious agents. She explained in her video what kennel cough is, what causes it, and why she believes the kennel cough vaccine is ineffective for preventing this illness.

Essentially, kennel cough is a self-limiting illness similar to the common cold in humans. Unfortunately, because it can be caused by the bacteria Bordetella bronchiseptica as well as the parainfluenza virus and numerous other agents, a single vaccine for kennel cough does little to prevent dogs from contracting the illness. This agrees with Scott’s research that states, “There are at least forty agents that cause bordetella…But only a couple of these agents are contained in the vaccine.” (Scott, n.d., para. 15).

According to Dr. Peter Dobias, administering a kennel cough vaccine to a healthy dog often resulted in the patient’s return visit “a few days later with actual symptoms of the disease” (Dobias, n.d., para. 9).
This suggests that a bordetella vaccine can actually cause the illness in otherwise healthy dogs.

And even if the vaccine itself doesn’t cause kennel cough in dogs, your dog can still become infected even after vaccination according to Dr. Becker.

All of these sources suppport Scott’s initial problem with the kennel cough vaccine. It simply does not work well.

The safety of the vaccine is questionable, however, research suggests that the intranasal form of the vaccine is the safest option if a facility requires you to get a kennel cough vaccination for your dog. Whitcomb (2011) quotes Dr. Ronald Shulz, professor and chair of the Department of Pathobiological Sciences at the University of Wisonsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine:

“Vaccines are, in general, fairly safe…But they are something you don’t want to use if you don’t need to.”

So the question now becomes, When is it appropriate to vaccinate a dog with a kennel cough vaccine? If you ask this question to any holistic veterinarian, chances are you will get the same answer: never. However, there are circumstances, as Dr. Becker explains, when she is “forced” to administer the vaccine because a boarding facility or groomer “will not accept the owner’s written waiver to ‘hold the facility harmless'” (Dodds, 2014, para. 12).

Dr. Becker explained, “Kennels, doggie day cares, and groomers, and some veterinarians require that dogs be vaccinated for kennel cough. They demand this to remove liability from themselves.” (Becker, 2012)

This is where it gets interesting. Scott described how the kennel cough vaccine can cause the illness. She stated, “Dogs that are vaccinated for kennel cough will shed that disease for up to 7 weeks and parainfluenza for a week” (Scott, n.d., para. 27). This means dogs that are vaccinated only to be boarded, could potentially infect other dogs in the boarding facility. And since the literature supports the argument that dogs can become infected even after vaccination, the probability is very high that we are causing kennel cough in our dogs more than the natural cause.

To support the argument that dogs shed the disease, I came across an interesting article. Rath, Register, et. al. (2008), presented a case study in Clinical Infectious Diseases where a human infant had contracted kennel cough. According to the article, the 6-week old African American infant presented with rapid breathing, low oxygen, and apnea to a hospital ER. A few days before his admission, the family dog received an attenuated intranasal kennel cough vaccine. The infant was treated and discharged. When his cultures came back, he was positive for kennel cough. The patient was not available for follow up. However, the article described how he had been in and out of the hospital five times by 8 months of age, each time for kennel cough. When the second hospital treated him, they treated for whooping cough (caused by Bordetella pertussis). When another culture came back, they discovered the boy had actually contracted kennel cough. The article explained that the infant was immunocompetent, up-to-date on all shots, and otherwise healthy when the initial infection occurred.

Some veterinarians consider risk factors when it comes to recommending vaccinations. Dr. Michael Paul is one veterinarian who advocates for vaccinating dogs and cats with “non-core” vaccines when the individual animal has a high risk of exposure to a particular disease. Under this premise, any dog that is exposed to a communal population of dogs (such as what you would find at a veterinary clinic, groomer, boarding facility, or doggie day care) would fall into the high risk category for kennel cough. Paul (2012) asserts, “By asking a few questions, it is likely that virtually all dogs and cats should receive at least one so-called noncore vaccine every year.”

This is actually a promising position, since he is quoted saying at least once per year. In some areas, boarding facilities, doggie day cares, groomers, and veterinarians require the kennel cough vaccine to be administered twice per year, usually in 6-month intervals.

Here are a couple of interesting factoids from Scheiddeger (2014) from DVM360

  • Kennel cough remains a significant threat despite the availability of effective vaccines; the disease affected almost 2 percent of dogs seen in 2013.
  • Kennel cough was most often diagnosed in Kentucky, Utah and Florida.

Conclusions

It appears that the kennel cough vaccine is not an effective tool for mitigating disease in dogs. Instead, the vaccine causes illness and exposes other mammals (including humans) to B. bronchiseptica. While it would be wise to administer vaccines to animals with a higher risk of infection, it appears that a kennel cough vaccine would not work in this instance. Avoiding the kennel cough vaccine altogether would be the best choice but could leave pet owners with the burden of finding alternate care providers who do not require the vaccine or who will accept a signed waiver in lieu of the vaccine.

References

Father and Son Walking Dog

PURfect Pet Sitting

A week ago, I finished up one of my biggest pet sitting jobs since reintroducing the service to my area five months ago.

The pet owner contacted me on a Sunday morning via my Facebook page. She was in a pinch and needed someone to watch her dog, cat, and two fish for several days while her family went on vacation. Luckily, the morning she contacted me, I was about to post an offer on Facebook that fit her needs.

We arranged a meet and greet appointment for the next day. I brought my pet sitting form attached to a clipboard and a clicky pen in hand. She greeted me warmly at the front door and we began a tour of the house, while I jotted down notes about her pets while she spoke.

I continued my interview by asking questions to clarify her specific requirements. This job would require three half-hour visits a day, with a 20-minute dog walk once a day, and litter box cleaning daily. Both the dog and cat were to be fed once a day but the two fish would be fed twice a day.

I gathered her pets’ vaccination and medical history (something every pet sitter should ask. I learned in a pet first aid class offered by the American Red Cross that vaccination history is important. Recent vaccinations could sometimes cause problems in pets. In the event of a veterinary emergency, the vet would want to know the vaccination history as well.)

I left that day feeling prepared to start the pet sitting job just a few days later.

My first visit was in the afternoon and would include the 20-minute walk. Rosa and I started off at a light run and after a short distance, she was ready to walk. We walked the same path every day.

On my third walk with Rosa, we encountered a young toy poodle. The poodle was chasing an SUV down the street. Rosa went on alert. I called the poodle over to me, tapping my heel and making a kissing sound. The poodle cautiously approached us. When she was within reach, I took hold of her black leash speckled in white paw prints and walked her and Rosa back to my customer’s home. As I left that afternoon, I put the dog in my Jeep and we drove the neighborhood to check if anyone was out looking for a dog. We didn’t find anyone so the dog came home with me that afternoon.

I posted a picture on Facebook and within a few hours, the dog’s owner contacted me by phone and I was able to return the dog to its home.

On the evening visit of my second day, I finally met the cat Abe. He was on the counter when I came back inside with Rosa. He was skittish at first but came over to sniff me. I barely pet him when he went back to the island counter top. He amused himself by rolling around the counter top and knocking to the ground anything in his ways. The markers didn’t stand a chance. It was at that moment I understood why I found stuff lying on the floor in various places.

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For two nights in a row, the weather turned to storms. It was clear until the time I had to leave. Then, the thunderstorms rolled in with radiant lightning and growling thunder. That night, Rosa looked at me anxiously. “Please don’t leave me,” Rosa said. But I didn’t hear it. I didn’t even see it at first.

I guided her into the living room and directed her to sit down. She did. As soon as she was calm, I turned and exited the home and drove home. On the way home, it was then I realized she had wanted me to stay with her because I saw what she could sense was coming. The storm.

That night I prayed for God’s protection over the home and the animals and the next morning when I arrived, everything was okay.

As my job ended, I left a gift for the pet owners. On my interview, the owner advised me that her cat could only eat one type of food. Unfortunately, that food came in a small bag and was expensive. I decided to order a sample bag of Life’s Abundance Premium Health Food for Cats. I left the bag on the counter with a note:

“Here’s a trial bag of cat food. It may or may not work for your cat. If it does, great, contact me when you need to order more. If it doesn’t, you can always donate the rest to the animal shelter.”

I wanted to help and I knew I could through a less expensive food that supplied quality nutrition and greater value.

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Tails Wag for Dog Park Opening

A week ago, Elizabethtown Mayor Edna Berger and Parks & Recreation Director Seth Breitner welcomed pet owners and their companions to enjoy the new Freeman Lake Dog Park. The grand opening took place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, October 4 and there was a great turn out.

Josiah and I went to get a good look at the park. The City of Elizabethtown has done a fine job in preparing the dog park. Mayor Berger expressed how the late Mayor Tim Walker had desired to open a dog park for Elizabethtown. Her reaction at that time was, “Isn’t the whole world a dog park?” After Mayor Walker passed, the city began to conduct more research on dog parks. Mayor Berger said she had visited some of the dog parks in Louisville to get some ideas for bringing the Mayor Walker’s vision to pass.

There are two enclosures at the dog park, one for small dogs weighing less than 30 pounds, anJosiah with Snoopyd one for large dogs. I recall seeing a St. Bernard in attendance during the grand opening.

The Hardin County Animal Shelter and Friends of the Hardin County Animal Shelter (FOHCAS) were on site with adoptable dogs from the shelter. Even Snoopy was there.

I even had a chance to meet Director Breitner to congratulate him on a job well done. As we talked, I mentioned how I would be interested in organizing a 5K race to draw awareness to the Elizabethtown Nature Park and Freeman Lake Dog Park. Breitner put me in touch with Elizabethtown Events Coordinator Sarah Vaughn. We talked on the phone the other day and we have come up with some great ideas for a 5k run in the springtime. Now it is time to start planning.

As my family drove away from the dog park that Saturday, I watched as a border collie frolicked with delight off-leash inside the large dog enclosure. My wife remarked how the dogs must be saying, “Freedom!” She was also amazed at how the dogs interacted so freely with one another once their owners unleashed them inside the enclosure. This new addition to Elizabethtown will surely delight dogs and the owners for years to come.

If you’ve visited the Elizabethtown Dog Park, please share your thoughts about it.

Josiah playing ball with Chip.

Pet Sitting for Chip

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of pet sitting Chip. Chip is a lab/corgi mix. His owner approached me one night at church to find out my rates. Because of sticker shock, she was hesitant to use my services at first. While I took my Royal Rangers class outside that evening, I realized I misquoted her. You see, her husband is a chaplain in the Army, so they would qualify for a military discount. After church that night, I informed her of the discount. However, she had changed her mind during service to use me so she could be a blessing to my family. It was truly an honor.

A couple of days later, I went over to Chip’s house to meet the owners to ask questions regarding his routine. Their desire was to keep Chip outside during the day while they were gone. They assured me that Chip loved being outdoors; however, one of the daughters told me that they had installed a second gate because Chip could jump the fence.

You might remember my story about Jumper, the blue-heeler who I rescued from being euthanized at the shelter. Jumper, who we later named Blaine, had a knack for climbing over the kennel gates. Keep in mind the gates were about six feet high. Once, when I was feeding the animals, Blaine managed to knock the kennel gate off its hinges! All of this came flooding back to mind when they asked me to keep Chip in the backyard. I decided against it for a few reasons:

First, even though there were two gates, they were both about three to four feet tall. If Chip really wanted to get out, there would be nothing to stop him from climbing the gates. Second, while the owners did have a lead that I could tie him out on, I didn’t feel comfortable with this either. One of my waste removal customers chose to stop service for a few months after Christmas. Their dogs had been outside and managed to be tangled together. Unfortunately, one of the dogs was strangled to death. Therefore, I did not feel comfortable leaving Chip unattended on a tie-out.

So, for the duration of my pet sitting job, I visited the house two times a day. I arrived early each morning, to walk Chip for 20 minutes. After our walk, I spent time with him petting him and tossing a ball for him to retrieve. Then, in the evenings, I’d return and let him outside. My son Josiah came with me and threw the ball for Chip. Josiah had a blast spending time with Chip.

One thing I have noticed when I pet sit other people’s pets is that the dogs often stop eating the first few days. I’m not sure why this happens, but I consider it normal. As I reflect on why it could happen, I think about how a dog might interpret the absence of his pack. According to Cesar Millan, the most unnatural thing humans ask a dog to do is to be alone. In the wild, dogs and wolves roam together as a pack. I suppose the absence of the pack leaders interrupts the routines of the dogs and causes them to stop eating. It is also possible that dogs stop eating because they don’t know when they will next go outside. This is one reason why I interview my customers about their pets’ routines. I might not be able to replicate the routine exactly, but I can offer their animals some stability through repeat visits to the house.

Usually, after the first two days, dogs and cats will start eating their food. This makes sense, too, because a dog or cat will not starve itself to death. I think often, we as humans freak out when our pets stop eating. We think there must be something wrong. When I was a vet tech, I often related fasting to illness. When an animal is not feeling well, it must not want to eat much like the way we humans stop eating when we don’t feel well. Some research suggests that dogs and cats can go for days without food, so it is not at all surprising that during the absence of the owners that pets would ease up on eating. Of course, they probably eat less also because their activity level declines when their humans go away. This is one reason why I offer to walk dogs while the owners are away.

I had a great time pet sitting for Chip. Josiah still asks me when we will next go back to see him. I told him tonight that we would have to talk to the owners to see if we can stop by for a visit sometime soon.