Pet Fire Safety

National Pet Fire Safety Day is quite a mouthful to say but the idea is quite simple. July 15th is designed for pet parents as a reminder to do a quick safety check around the house, making sure it is “pet proof” and updating your family’s fire evacuation plan to include your pets.

Pet proofing is often done when bringing home a kitten or puppy for the first time, but after months and years go by some of these simple safety tips escape us. Here are a few fire safety tips about those innocent household items we often forget about.

  • Candles

Burning a candle on the coffee table or bathroom counter can add a nice cozy feel to the room; however curious cats that get free range of the furniture can cause some serious problems. Not only can they get up there and push off the burning candle, their fur can easily catch fire.

Candles also cause damage when placed on an unsteady surface. If your cat or dog were to bump into it, could they knock the candle over?

  • Gas Stovetops

Whether it is your cat crawling around the kitchen countertops or your all too naughty husky mix who thinks anything on the counter is his, they are in the position to twist the stove knob. Gas stoves are dangerous for two reasons: if pushed hard and turned correctly by your pet, a flame will emerge. Secondly and most dangerously, if the knob gets turned just enough, carbon monoxide will leak.

  • Lamps

Free standing and table lamps while a beautiful alternative light source than an overhead light, should never be left on when your pets are home alone. Lamps have the ability to tip over, from the swish of an excited pup’s tail or the nuzzle of a cat who likes to rub his head on every surface. When you turn a lamp on and head out the door you are leaving open the possibility for your pet to knock over the lamp, causing the hot bulb to break and potentially cause a fire.

  • Electrical Cords

Cords strung behind the TV can look like a great chew toy for your teething pup or kitten. Make sure all cords are hidden and tucked away. Frayed cords can overheat, create electrical shock and catch fire.

After checking your home and doing some pet-proofing, take a second to discuss with your family your fire evacuation plan. How and where you get out of the house is what will save your life, but once you’re out the last thing you want to do is go back in for the cat or dog. Make sure you have a plan in place for your pets too. The ASPCA has a few great resources in disaster preparedness and the National Fire Prevention Association has tips on fire evacuation plans including a checklist printout for pets.

Using window or door decals identifying the type and number of pets you have is also an excellent safety precaution to ensure your pets make it out safely in the event of a fire. Join Nana’s Pet First Aid & CPR this week in honoring Pet Fire Safety Day by completing a home check and updating your pet’s emergency plan.

 

 

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New Canine Calming Drug

A new canine calming drug, Sileo, is about to hit the market and timing could not be better with Fourth of July celebrations about the begin. Fireworks displays are one of the biggest causes of pet stress, anxiety and lost pets. July 5th is often the busiest day of the year for animal shelters and rescue groups taking in lost pets.

Pet parents often flood into their vet’s office this week seeking out something, anything, that will help calm their dog during the fireworks. Fear and anxiety from noise often occurs more than just once a year. Thunderstorms are also a common cause for noise aversion and as many as 70 million dogs are affected by noise anxiety.

Signs of noise aversion can vary from mild to extreme and some pet parents do not even recognize their pets are affected. In a study done by the School of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Bristol and reported by Animal Wellness, half the pet parents interviewed recognized at least one behavioral sign associated with noise anxiety and fear, even though only one quarter of those pet parents actually classified their dogs as being fearful of noise.scared archer

Common signs of noise related anxiety include: hiding, chewing, panting, pacing, defecating indoors, drooling, seeking company of pet parent, trembling, and the most extreme-escaping. Dogs with an extreme anxiety will do anything they can to escape from the noise, which might mean jumping through a window or over a fence, both of which I have witnessed through my pet sitting business.

Without having anti-anxiety medications specifically for pets, cats and dogs are often prescribed human medications by their vets. By using medications intended for their human counterparts, pets can often suffer side effects for a few days after the initial medication was administered.

This is where Sileo comes in. Sileo is the first FDA approved treatment for canine noise aversion. It is administered at home by the pet parent. The medication is a gel that is applied to the gums, using a syringe and starts working within 30-60 minutes but wears off in two-three hours, which is often how long a thunderstorm or fireworks display will last.

Sileo “calms without sedating” according to their website and works by inhibiting norepinephrine, a chemical in the brain associated with the fear response. By restricting the flow of this chemical in the brain it helps dismiss the underlying fear of noise.

The medication was tested on about 180 dogs during New Year’s Eve in New  York ranging in age between 2-17. Over 75% of owners rated the drug effects as good or excellent and side effects were rare or minor.

When looking through news articles and the Sileo website I was unable to obtain any information about what is in the medication and might add a word of caution to pet parents about putting more chemicals into their pets’ systems. However, depending on the severity of noise anxiety, the risk of medication might outweigh the risk of your pooch jumping out the window. If you are one of the pet parents with a scared and anxious dog over the 4th, you may consider talking to your vet about the risks of Sileo. I would be interested to know if anyone uses it and what your experience is.

 

 

 

 

 

Loose in the Neighborhood

I know I talk a lot about properly ID-ing pets and making sure the address and phone number are current on the tags and with the microchip company. In fact, I recently wrote a blog post about shelter pets and how many end up there because they are lost, stray and improperly ID’d. But one of my sitters this week encountered a loose dog and because the dog had tags on his collar that went directly to a working phone, she was able to return him safely…Bringing me to the story of Colt.

My sitter was caring for two sweet dogs in a beautiful neighborhood and they were out for their bedtime stroll. Often taking different walking routes, the sitter took them around a new cul-de-sac so the boys could get some new smells when a golden doodle, Colt, came running up to them. Luckily, Colt was friendly and not aggressive towards the smaller dogs the sitter was walking. It was also lucky that the two dogs in our care were social and no dog fight broke out. As a rule in my pet sitting business I do not allow sitters to let pets in our care socialize with anyone else’s pets. Never. I do not like risking the safety of the sitter or any pets. So when Colt decided he wanted to join them on their evening walk, this complicated the rule a bit.

The sitter, doing everything correctly, looked around for help, but nobody was around. Colt had come from somewhere but  where? The sitter was unsure and all she was concerned about was getting the two dogs back home safely, only then would she decide how to handle Colt. The sitter picked up the older, slower moving of the two dogs and quickened the pace. They were not far from the house but Colt was with them step for step, poor guy just really wanted to have a walk too! After putting the dogs safely in the house, the sitter turned to find Colt sitting right outside the open garage door, wagging his tail, tongue hanging out of his mouth.

The sitter grabbed an extra leash and walked over, letting Colt get a better sniff of her hand, she rubbed his ears, attached the leash and searched for his ID tags. Colt spent this time trying to  give kisses and become a lap dog. Eventually after Colt settled down, the sitter located a phone number.

She dialed, realizing the chances of someone answering their phone for a strange number was unlikely, but was quickly greeted by a distant woman’s voice. After identifying herself, the sitter explained the situation saying she believed to have found Colt. The lady was out of town, in-laws were staying at the house and Colt must have dug himself another hole under the fence. After a quick discussion of where in the neighborhood Cold lived, the sitter walked him back home. The in-laws answered the door with visible surprise to see Colt out of the backyard. After several very gracious thank-you’s were given, the sitter headed back to the two pups in her care with only a small twinge of sadness for having to leave such an adorable golden doodle!

There were several things that gave this incident a positive outcome but the most crucial being Colt’s ID tags, without which, Colt might have ended up at the vet  for a microchip scan, or at the Humane Society. The sitter was easily able to find and dial the phone number and was surprised when Colt’s mother answered. Often, calls get left unanswered when the phone number is unfamiliar. Luckily for us, Colt’s mom was not one of those people and answered right away.

ID tags only cost a couple dollars and can be bought at nearly any pet store. A few dollars is hardly a price to pay to ensure your pet is safe and can be returned easily if needed.

So now I will make another request: Stop what you are doing, which right now is reading my blog, and check your pet’s ID tags. Make sure the phone number and address are both current. If your pet is microchipped, call the company you have them registered with to make sure they have the correct phone number and address. You can also go online and create an online account with many microchip companies to enter a photo and your pet’s current description.

Taking a few moments to do this now will save you agonizing regret later, especially with all the danger the summer holds for pets. Upcoming 4th of July celebrations often frighten pets, who do anything, including jumping the fence, to try and get away from thunderous noises produced by local fireworks shows. Summer season also means hiking, boating and beach season, all activities that increase the risk of your dog getting loose. So please, check your pup’s information today so you do not have to worry tomorrow!

 

Volunteering

Over the weekend a group of my pet sitters and I went to Animal Care & Control to volunteer for a few hours. For several years now I have wanted to get a group of sitters together for volunteering but time always seemed to slip by quickly and the year ends before I have a chance to catch my breath. This year, however, we managed to take moment and I am so glad we did.

1My team and I were deciding on where to volunteer, there are so many choices, among them The Charlotte Humane Society and Animal Care & Control and ultimately my sitters chose Animal Care & Control and I was thrilled. Animal Control often gets a bad wrap but after spending the day with their team, I can confidently say, they are one of the biggest pet advocates in the city.

Their intake levels have been down, which is excellent, and they have invested a lot of time into pet enrichment, education, vaccines and spay/neuter services for the community. I could not be prouder of the work they are doing for the animals in our county. We learned quite a bit about their animal intake process and discovered that they care for more than just cats and dogs. They take in bunnies, birds, horses and they even once cared for a monkey, who they found a home for in a sanctuary in California.7

Our morning of volunteering consisted of cleaning food bowls and kitty crates, filling Kongs and treat containers and, of course, playing with and loving on cats and dogs!

As our time was nearing an end, I knew the reality of our fun morning would be coming. We were about to pack up and ship out, leaving behind these adorable, loving pets. Pets who need a home. Pets who need a caring family and someone who will adore them the way they adore us. Someone to count on, to have fun with, to bond with.

Talking with one of the volunteer dog walkers, she said the hardest part of volunteering 4was leaving, “I would sit in my car and cry in the parking lot for ten minutes after I left. I just felt so bad, how could you not?” Eventually she was able to turn her sad frustration into a positive experience. She has made it her mission to bring as much joy to the dogs she walks during the time she has with them. And what more could you ask for in a volunteer?

It took a lot of self restraint not to leave with two kitties and a little chihuahua myself and one of my sitters nearly walked away with another husky. What made leaving easier for us was seeing the lobby full of people there to adopt. A few people even brought their current pets along in hopes of finding a four-legged child brother or sister. It was fantastic to see. 6

Adopting a dog can be scary at first, you never know where they have been or how they have been treated. But there is nothing more rewarding than being able to give a second life to these pets. I cannot vouch for every city’s Animal Control program, but the one we spent the day with has a dog trainer who works with the dogs that come in. The trainer assesses their personalities and works on basic training and socialization so these pups are ready for their new homes.

The sitters and I left Animal Care & Control Saturday morning with a new mission- sign up 5to become regular, long-term volunteers.  We want to continue to help give back to the community in the best way we know how, by loving on and caring for pets in whatever capacity we can.

I really encourage anyone looking to volunteer to look into your local Animal Control program, I think you might be surprised at how much they do in your community. I also strongly encourage anyone looking to add a pet into your home to consider adoption.
The majority of pets in shelters and rescues are lost and abandoned pets that are never reclaimed.

These pets touched my heart and encouraged me and my staff to get started on a monthly volunteer basis and help with education about shelter pets. I hope you will let these pets touch your heart too!

 

Pet ID Tags

Why do so many pets end up in shelters? Whether it is the local Humane Society, Animal Control or in one of the many local animal rescue organizations?

Just under 80 million households in the United States own a pet and around 30 million of those households own more than one pet- that’s a lot of four legged family members!

However, between 6-8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year. That’s a lot of four legged family members that go missing. And despite the common misconception, animal shelters are comprised of more strays and missing pets than pets turned in by the owners. Strays enter shelters at a rate two times higher than those consciously turned over and on average at least 50% of shelter populations are cats.

How are so many lost pets, ending up in shelters each year and what can be done about it? Well, as I found out, the answer is really quite simple- ID tags. Nearly all pets that enter shelters as strays do so because they do not have proper identification. This really makes sense when you look at the amount of cats in shelters.

I see this happen often: cat parents who keep their cats indoors at all times do not feel a need for collars with tags. And trust me, I get it, I do not want to listen to that incessant jingling and ringing of tags all day and especially all night. But it only takes one second for your cat to get curious or spooked and slip out the door while you’re unloading groceries or bringing in that heavy package.

Don’t worry cat parents, you are not alone, dog parents go through this same line of reasoning too. I know because I am one of them. Not all of my kitties have collars on and while my dog’s collar has ID tags, I never leave it on my dog when inside.

Getting your pet microchipped is important for those, like me, who do not always leave a collar on their pet. But making sure to keep the microchip updated is just as important as getting it done in the first place. There is a lot to keep track of when moving and updating your pet’s microchip address is not always on the top of your list. Getting a new phone and having to alert your contacts with your new number- do not forget your pet’s microchip company! If your pet ever gets loose and found by a good samaritan, you do not want to miss that call because your pet’s microchip lead to a dead phone number. The good news is that the majority of microchip companies have a 24 hour hotline to call for updating information.

So take a quick moment right now to make sure your pet’s information is current!