Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Stink, Stank, Skunk

It was inevitable, it had to happen - an event to which I am no stranger. And as we begin to celebrate the glorious days of summer, I feel it is my duty to repeat some information I've shared before.

My husband and I are vacationing in beautiful Pagosa Springs, Colorado. If you have never been there, it is the ultimate destination for both man and beast if you are into the outdoors.

When we come to Pagosa, there is no question, our 3 Labs come with us. In fact, they should probably rename Pagosa to Doggy Heaven, Colorado. This time of year, temperatures are mild and the wind is breezy. There is little to no humidity and at 7500 feet above sea level the snows have already melted and the ground is dry. Public land abounds and dogs are welcome almost everywhere. The aspens are budding, wild flowers are blooming and the streams are flowing with snow melt from higher elevations. Evenings are cool and provide the perfect opportunity for you to snuggle with your special someone whether it be human, canine or both.

We are lucky enough to stay in a small house that backs up to the San Juan National Forest. Groomed trails right out the back door lead directly into the forest where it is easy to amble away the day. The dogs have a great time chasing sticks and scents and swimming in the cold mountain streams. Wildlife is abundant. Deer, squirrels, birds, raccoons, beavers and SKUNKS....

Late this afternoon, we stepped off the back porch and headed onto the trail. Up ahead I saw a small black and white pup that I pointed out to my husband. He didn't see it and felt quite sure that what I was seeing was really a pile of dirt. Well, piles of dirt don't move, but this black and white thing most certainly did. And I wasn't the only one who saw it. Susie Q, our yellow Lab, famous for her love of stuffed animals, was off like a silver bullet. She disappeared off to the right of the trail and then I heard a short bark....just one. She immediately returned to us. But Susie brought something along with her. A stink like none other. One that makes your eyes well with tears, your nose hairs burn and your face wrinkle in disgust. Susie had found herself one big, bad Colorado skunk.

We tried to carry on with our stroll but the stench was too much. Shortly, we turned and made our way back home. My husband and I like to think that we are professional de-skunkinators at this stage, having another yellow Lab who has been sprayed three times in our backyard in Austin. We knew exactly what must happen for us to be the big happy family we had started out as just 30 minutes before. I stayed outside with Susie under a tree while Daddy Mike hit the local grocery store to purchase hydrogen peroxide and baking soda. We needed dishwashing liquid too, but had that at the house already.

There are many solutions to get the skunk smell off a dog. There is a product called Skunk Off that lots of veterinarians sell and that you can find in pet stores and on the Internet. I've heard of a tomato juice concoction although I've personally never tried it. Limited research on the
Internet says that tomato juice does not work, nor does lemon or citrus, or "cover-ups" such as Febreeze or perfume. Check out this link for additional info: http://www.aaanimalcontrol.com/skunksmellremovalrid.htm

Below is a recipe that is tried and true. I used this very link to help me rid Miss Susie of her stink and get her to smelling like the Lab we love again - home remedy for de-skunking your dog. For me, this recipe is the most successful. This website is very informative as well, warning that the mixture breaks down almost immediately after mixing and is most effective when used as soon as possible. The website also recommends keeping these inexpensive and useful household items on hand for just such an event, but notes that mixing the ingredients together and storing them in a bottle or plastic tub is unsafe as pressure builds when the ingredients are mixed together and they will explode.

I hope you find this little tail, oops, I mean tale beneficial to you. While I can honestly say that I have never seen a skunk as big as the one I saw today, skunks are no strangers in Texas and you too may find that you and your beloved canine run up against one some day, though I hope for your sake, this never happens. Now you will be fully prepared to remedy this little calamity as cheaply and safely as possible and be free to wrap your arms around your faithful companion and shower them with all the love and attention they deserve in no time, even if they decide to pick a cute little skunk as their new best friend.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Beware of the Teddy Bear

Susie is the yellow Labrador that I adopted from Heart of Texas Lab Rescue. Nothing brings a smile to my face more quickly than when I come home from work, and Susie greets me at the door with her stuffed bunny in her mouth, her entire body wiggling from head to toe. Susie takes pretty good care of her stuffed animals. She has a Santa that's still around from Christmas and now her "Easter" bunny has joined the family. Sure they get dirty, or may get a left in the yard over night. Sometimes they get a little ragged around the edges, but I wash them on the "delicate" cycle in my was machine and throw them in the dryer and soon they are as good as new.

It's amazing to me to think about all the money I've spent over the years on toys for my dogs. It adds up pretty quickly. Even the stuffed animals can be pricey. Sometimes I wonder if getting them at a garage sale or local Goodwill might save me a few dollars.

However, think all stuffed toys are created equal? Better think again. Recently, an article appeared in the Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue newsletter cautioning pet owners about buying stuffed toys that are not specifically made for pets. The article tells how a child's stuffed teddy bear was given to a dog as a toy. The toy contained some materials that are not found in stuffed animals made for pets - specifically, a flame retardant gel and chemicals used to control mites. According to the article, the dog who ingested these toxins was not able to be saved.

To avoid a scary situation with your pet like that described above, follow these simple safety tips to ensure safe play:

  • Give you pet only toys specifically designed for pets
  • Ask your veterinarian for recommendations for safe toys for your pet
  • Purchase your toys from reputable pet stores or Internet sites that will accept returns for damaged toys or those that don't perform to specifications. Read the labels on all the toys you purchase to ensure the toys are made safely and are toxic free to your pet.
  • Use toys recommended that are appropriate for your pet's size
  • Always supervise your pets when they play with their toys
  • Throw away toys that break or have missing parts. In the case of stuffed animals, if the stuffing is coming out, repair the toy or throw it away. Watch for the "squeakers" in stuffed animals. Lots of dogs think it's a fun game to dig the squeaker out of the stuffed animal.
  • Should you become concerned that your pet has ingested a broken piece or part of a toy, call your veterinarian.
Should your pet destroy a "indestructible" toy that was played with by your pet as the directions recommend, return the toy to the store where you purchased it. Most reputable pet stores will take the item back and return your money.

For more information and recommendations on safe toys for your dog check out the Humane Society's article by clicking here.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Snake Safety 101

Walking the dogs yesterday morning, I couldn't help but notice a couple of squished baby snakes on the road. And where there are baby snakes, bigger snakes must be close by as well. Warmer sunny weather brings some of central Texas's more unwanted guests to the forefront such as mosquitoes, fleas, ticks and snakes. We can easily protect our pets against mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks, but snakes are another matter altogether.

Central Texas is home to the rattlesnake, the coral snake, copperhead, cottonmouth water moccasin. These snakes can be deadly to your dog. Treatment is expensive, supportive, and not guaranteed plus timing is critical in improving the chances of a positive outcome. How can you make sure that your next hike through the Texas hill country doesn't become a nightmare?

How about enrolling your pet in a Snake Avoidance Clinic? As luck would have it, one is just around the corner. On May 22, 2010 Austin Canine Central will host a class in snake avoidance training. For over 20 years, instructor Harlen Winter of Winter Kennels has been teaching dogs around the Austin area how to avoid snakes. According to the Winter Kennel website, Winter suggests that even after a dog has been bitten by a snake, the dog does not normally connect the painful event to the snake. This is because the real pain from a snake bite comes much later than when the bite itself occurs.

However, Winter has devised a technique that uses real snakes that have had their venom permanently removed "to connect a snake with pain definitively in the dog’s mind". Training doesn't end when class finishes either. Winter offers "refresher" courses to students of his previous classes free twice yearly or you can enroll in a private refresher course for $40 per dog. Click here to view class flyer.

Details for the Snake Avoidance Clinic are below:

Cost: $70

Date: May 22, 2010

Time: 12:00pm - 3:00pm

Location: Austin Canine Central

Address: 5402 Middle Fiskville Road
Austin, TX 78751

Phone: (512) 458-8800

So don't delay. Sign up today and teach your dog to steer clear of these slithering, creepy and deadly varmints!!!