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Preparing for Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey is expected to make landfall tomorrow and expected to cause life-threatening and devastating flooding near the coast due to heavy rainfall and storm surge.  Record flooding may occur and it is imperative that you and your pets are prepared.  Click here for updates and storm level status reports on Harvey.            

You should decide early whether to stay (shelter in place) or evacuate. If staying, you should stock up on provisions – including medications for family members and pets. If leaving, you should evacuate well out of the path of the storm and make sure that the shelter, hotel or person you plan to stay with will accept pets. As with family members, it is important to take a pet’s medications, special foods, toys and favorite bedding so that it will feel less stressed. Pets should always be wearing proper identification.

Here is a Pet Disaster Kit Checklist from the CDC for you to use.  You can also visit www.avma.org/disaster for additional resources. Below are some tips for keeping you and your pets safe and preparing for an emergency.

  • Bring pets indoors and confine them to a small, comfortable area
  • Check your evacuation route and identify/ plan shelter/ accommodation arrangements in advance.
  • Remove any objects around your home/pastures that may become airborne

If you evacuate:

  • Take all your pets and ensure they are safely contained and wearing identification
  • Take your emergency supplies with you (see checklist), including water

If you are not home:

  • Pre-plan for a neighbor or friend to pick up your disaster supplies and your pets. Your pets should be familiar with them. Include any emergency contact information and your veterinarian’s contact information.
  • Agree on a set place to meet when it is safe.

If you shelter in place:

  • Keep pets indoors, preferably in carriers, away from windows.
  • Make sure they are wearing current identification

Afterwards, and returning home:

  • Keep pets safely confined
  • Check all gates, fences and your home for damage. These damaged areas may allow pets to escape. Walk pets on a leash for the first few days afterwards to ensure their safety.

Pheromones for Pets

Did you know that relaxing scents can have a calming effect on our pets? While scents like lavender and eucalyptus create a soothing impact on humans, pheromones like Adaptil (dogs) and Feliway (cats) can calm our furry friends. 

As with people, stressful situations such as a new home, new visitor, travel, etc., can cause our pets to exhibit out-of-the-norm behaviors such as urinating in the house, excessive barking or meowing, and destructiveness. Our pets aren’t being bad; these behaviors are simply how our pets lets us know they’re not entirely cool with the current situation. 

Pheromones can help calm your pet while they adjust to new changes. Pheromones come in a variety of forms including sprays, plug-in diffusers, wipes, and collars.

For dogs, Adaptil can create a sense of security, safety, and reassurance. Adaptil is a synthetic form of the pheromone that female dogs emit after they give birth that makes their puppies feel safe and sound. This pheromone is recognizable throughout life by dogs of all ages.

For cats, Feliway is a synthetic form of a cat’s F3 facial pheromones which they rub on surfaces they deem to be safe. Studies have found that Feliway helps reduces 90% of spraying on vertical surfaces (i.e. walls, doors, etc.). It can also help with stress-induced scratching.

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Separation Anxiety

It’s not just our kids that experience back-to-school blues after summer vacation… did you know our pets could be affected, too?

Any big change in routine can cause separation anxiety in pets.  It’s estimated that 20% of the 80 million dogs in the country are actually affected by separation anxiety.  That number actually goes up with senior dogs – up to 29-50% are affected.

Watch for Behavior Changes in Three Key Areas

The first is improper urination or defecation in the house that’s not associated with puppy or kitten training. The second would be excessive barking or howling. The third that we often see is excessive chewing or destructive behavior at home

What can I do to ease my pet’s anxiety?

Set up a Rhythm. Once school starts, try to set up a routine.  If you can leave and return at the same time every day, that will help your pet adjust to the new rhythm they’re experiencing in your home.

Schedule Play Time. Set up designated play and engagement time with your pet each day.  “This is where appropriate treating can come into play.  We want to make sure that we reward the good behaviors we’re seeing and discourage the bad behaviors.  And that’s where a nice treat here or there, along with verbal, praise can go a long way.

Turn up the Music. To keep your pet engaged throughout the day, leave some music on when you leave the house.

Stimulate Your Pet With Puzzle Games. A great way to reduce anxiety during the day is to use puzzle feeders to keep your pet mentally stimulated.  Pour half of your pet’s recommended daily amount of food into the puzzle feeder each morning and then refill again in the evening.  Your pet will spend the day playing and keeping active.

Try a Game of Hide-And-Seek. Another option is to separate the daily amount of dry food into small bowls and hide them around the house, “Measure out the right amount that you want to feed every day and then divide out little portions of that into little quantities hidden around the house, says veterinary Dr. Zara Boland.  This game of hide-and-seek with the food is particularly helpful for cats as it causes prey-stimulating behavior that will keep them busy throughout the day.

Have To Leave Suddenly? If you don’t have time to prep a cognitive game for your pet before you leave the house, try a long lasting treat like the “Busy Bone” from Purina, to keep your dog stimulated.

Get Moving. Exercise can help reduce the anxiety of a new routine.  Take your dog for a walk or play an interactive game with your cat to get your pet moving.

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Good Dental Health

As pet owners, sometimes we forget that good dental health is just as important for our furry family members as it is for us. Good dental care prevents tooth decay, heart problems caused by mobile bacteria, liver infections, appetite issues, and bone infections, all of which are painful and very expensive to treat. By following an easy dental care regime, you can help your pet maintain good dental hygiene. 

Here are a few tips!

Chew time! Products like knucklebones and artificial bones can give your pets therapeutic chew time as well as get rid of tartar build up. Avoid hard bones from steaks, ham, etc. as they can fracture teeth. Look for products that are VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) approved. 

Brush away! Pet toothbrushes have come a long way. For better control, use a finger toothbrush that has soft rubber bristles at the tip. While some pets are awesome at slobbering, they aren’t so good at spitting. Be sure to choose pet toothpaste that’s safe for your pet to swallow. 

Visit the vet! As with people, pets require checkups to ensure dental good dental health. By keeping up with your regular checkups, you and your vet can keep tabs on your pet’s dental health. 

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Healthy Eating Habits for Pets

While your ‘fluffy’ pet may be more to love, obesity can cause long-term health issues for dogs and cats. Negative side effects of pet obesity include breathing difficulties, high blood pressure, liver disease, diabetes, decreased stamina, osteoarthritis, a lower immune system, and an increase the chances of developing cancerous tumors. Follow the tips below to help your pet maintain a healthy weight.

Visit your vet. Ask your vet to help you determine how many calories your pet needs per day. While most pet feed bags have a guide, they aren’t always accurate. There are several factors to take into consideration when counting calories. Is your pet fixed? How old are they? Are they super active? Each pet is different so it’s always a good idea to visit your vet before starting a diet.

Portion control. As with people, portions are important. Your pet may require only a third of what you’ve been feeding them and as we humans know, it adds up fast. Free feeding works for some pets, but if your pet goes through food fast scheduled feedings might be a better option. Use a measuring scoop to portion out your pet’s meals. 

Cuddles, not treats. Lots of us show affection to our pets by doling out tasty treats. But those calories add up, especially if your pet is a good boy or girl which we are sure they are. Give your pet an extra ear scratch or tummy rub to show affection instead of a treat. If you do give treats, choose low-calorie sugar-free options.

Get your walk on. If your pet is okay to go on walks, take them for daily strolls. Not only will this help them walk off the excess pounds, it will give them beneficial fresh air and help them socialize.

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