Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does Your Dog Hate the 4th of July?

It's that time of year again. Fourth of July is just days away, and with that, all the fun, food and fireworks that come with it. But what if you have a dog that's afraid of fireworks or thunderstorms?(although rare in central Texas, the ocassional thunderstorm does tend to pop up during our hottest months).

While everyone makes plans for their favorite summertime holiday, you sit there dreading the day because you know your dog will suffer. He'll tremble and shake, cower and tail tuck, hide and general have the equivalent of a complete nervous breakdown. So, what do you do? Sit home and watch your dog while others celebrate. Or just leave him for the day and hope that your house is still standing when you arrive home. Neither sound like a fun way to spend a holiday.

Luckily, there are a few tips that can make the Fourth of July more tolerable for you and your pet. The Whole Dog Journal has written a helpful article in this month's issue to address just this problem. The following are some of their suggestions for making fireworks, thunderstorms and other noise phobias a little less stressful for your dog.

1) Consider staying home. Don't abandon your dog in his hour of need. Just having you physically present may be all your dog needs to feel more calm. Invite some people over to your house and move the party to your place.

2) Make a soundproof place for your dog where he'll feel safe. My dog has recently become scared of thunderstorms. Even though he doesn't hear so well at 13, the lightening and vibration is enough to upset him. So, I put him in a crate in my bathroom, close all the doors and blinds. Cover his crate with a towel, turn on a fan and play relaxing music. (For a great cd recommendation specifically recorded to relieve dog stress, click here.) Once he's in his crate he feels safe. He is insulated from the lightening and distracted by noises other than the thunder. He settles down immediately.

3) Comforting your dog is okay, if done the right way. If your dog wants to be near you or lie next you, by all means let them. You can even practice canine massage or other "touch" methods to calm your dog. Do not show your dog that you are stressed or use words that would reinforce your dog's stressful behavior, such as "good dog" or "it's okay".

4) Practice counter conditioning. Buy a CD with sound recordings of thunderstorms. Or make your own CD of the sounds of fireworks. Play these CDs at the lowest possible volume when you can be home and be close to your dog. (For examples of sound CDs, click here.) Give your dog high value treats or play indoor games with him to make things as fun as possible. Gradually increase the volume. Remain calm and focus on acting normal while playing with your dog and treating him. As time goes by, your dog will begin to get used to the noises and may become less reactionary.

5) Speak to your vet about medication. There are different medications that can be given to your dog to help alleviate his stress. Be careful to use only those meds that work immediately and don't need time to "build up" in your dog's system. Acepromazine is a very popular tranquilizer given to dogs, but it's effects can last for a long time. In addition, it belongs to a class of drugs called "dissociative anesthetics" and instead of relaxing the animal, the drug actually "scrambles perceptions" that in turn can create even more stress for your dog. Drugs such as Xanax, a popular anti-anxiety medication can calm your dog and does not have the negative side effects of tranquilizers such as acepromazine.

Pets with noise phobias can be upsetting. Watching your dog "stress out" can be equally as stressful for you. Obviously, you cannot verbally reason with your dog and make him understand that you aren't going to let anything bad happen to him. However, if you practice the recommendations listed above, you may be able to alleviate his stress level when these events occur thereby alleviating your stress as well allowing the both of you to live happier healthier lives.

*These tips were summarized from an article in the June 2011 issue of the Whole Dog Journal. You can find the article in it's entirety here. If you want more information on noise phobias in pets, consider reading Dr. Foster's & Smith's article in the Pet Education section of their website here.

Be sure to visit the HOTLR website for all the latest happenings, new recruits and adoptions. Check out our volunteer opportunities while you're there and see if anything sounds fun. We love our volunteers and welcome new ones all the time. Feel free to email us or call us with any questions or if you need more information!!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

HOT Dog - It's Summertime!!!

The dog days of summer have definitely arrived in central Texas and will be with us for some time to come. For that reason, there are some special precautions that we pet owners should take to make sure our pups stay healthy.

I'm a runner and one thing I find particularly difficult in the summer time is to keep up with my running. I have to get up really early to be able to complete even a short run. Even in the early mornings, the humidity can be exhausting and physically challenging. Things are no different for your dog. Walking/running with our dogs is one of the most rewarding parts of a human-Labrador relationship. It's perfect time to bond with our dogs and it's healthy for both of us. These simple tips should keep you and your pup logging the miles on even the hottest days.

1)Go early, go late. Pretty self explanatory. Try not to time your walks during the hottest part of the day. Get up early, watch the sun rise. Obviously, evening hours are good times for walks as well. If you go after sunset, make sure you and your pup are properly "lit up" with flashing collars or beacons that you can attach to your clothing so you are visible to passersby.

2)Bring along some water. There are many types of special water bottles designed especially for dogs that allow you to give your pup a drink along the way. Of course sharing your own water and providing you pet with a drink via a collapsible water bowl is also perfectly fine. The collapsible water bowls are lightweight and easy to carry or tuck away when you are finished using them.

3) Consider hiking in an area with water available for swimming. Lady Bird Lake, Red Bud Isle, and Lake Travis are all wonderful places for stroll with your pet. Not only is water plentiful for a frisky frolic, but shade trees are readily available too in areas with water. Be careful of allowing your pet to drink from stagnant streams or puddles of water. Your pup can pick up diseases such as leptospirosis or giardia from contaminated water. Your vet can tell if you a leptospirosis vaccine is a good idea for your dog. Always bring a fresh supply of water along with you to share with your pup.

4) Hose 'em down, Scotty!!! If a fresh water source in not readily available during your stroll, consider hosing your dog off prior to and after your walk to help their bodies stay cool. Luckily, you have chosen a Labrador retriever for your best friend. They shouldn't mind a little shower as long as you don't turn the hose on them full blast or squirt them right in the face. So, water your dog before you head out!!!

5) Don't leave your dog in the car. Certainly by now we've all heard the tragic stories of children who have died when left in a hot car. Once again, the same goes for your dog. A recent study showed that on a 100 degree day, temps inside a car reached a whopping 117 degrees. Even when temps were a milder 82 degrees outside, temperature readings inside a car still reached 109 degrees.

6) If it is all possible, keep your dog inside during the hottest parts of the day. Even with plenty of water and some shade, dogs can still suffer serious health issues if left outside all day. If your dog needs a break during the day, consider installing a doggie door or asking a friend or neighbor to stop by and let them out.

7) Age matters. If you have a very young or a senior Labrador you have to be even more careful. Keep in mind that their bodies have a tougher time regulating body temperature and are particularly susceptible to the heat. If your dog is panting heavily, head is lowered, tail tucked and has slowed his pace, chances are he may be suffering from heat exhaustion. Immediately stop your exercise, get your pet to a cool, shady spot, offer him water and submerge his body in lukewarm bath water, use a hose or allow him to swim. Get him into air conditioning and allow him to rest. Dogs can suffer heatstroke and the consequences can be lethal.

8) Go shopping!! Now more than ever there are special products on the market to help protect your dog from the effects of hot weather. Some of my favorite items to help keep your pup cool this summer include the following:

Doggles - Doggles will definitely keep your pup "hip" this summer. Made of a soft padded and flexible frame, Doggles offer adjustable chin and head straps and 100% UV protection. Think your pup won't wear them? Think again, you have a Lab. Check out the picture above and the pup on the Doggles Official website!!!

Doggy Cooling Vest - Ruffwear offers a doggy cooling vest that you fill with water. The vest's unique design allows the exchange of heat from your dog's body with the cooling effects of water that is carried inside the vest. The Swamp Cooler will definitely help your dog "weather" even the hottest days!!

Doggy Sunscreen - Even dogs need to be protected from the sun. Especially our lighter pigmented "Dudley" Labs. Check out this product that will protect your dog from sunburn.

We live in central Texas, and although our summers are hot, there are way too many fun things to do to stay inside all summer. Follow the tips above, and you and your dog will have a healthy and active summer filled with tons of fun!!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

HOTLR Gives Four Paws Up to the Schmitt Family

Volunteering as a foster parent for HOTLR can be such a rewarding experience. If you love Labs, fostering is both easy and almost selfish. What could be more fun than to meet many happy, hopeful Labradors throughout the year, take care of them in your own home and see them safely into their forever homes?

Of course, it can be challenging as well. Putting your heart out there over and over for a new pup and all the while knowing that you are only his temporary family can make parting with your foster heartbreaking. Sometimes you may have a difficult pup that doesn't quite fit into your family dynamic. Maybe the dog has no house manners, or maybe he requires a lot of attention that you aren't able to give, maybe you are uncomfortable fostering a sick or injured dog. The good news is that just as each dog has the perfect forever family, we are fortunate that most of our rescue dogs also find the perfect foster family.

Such is the case with HOTLR's sweet boy Haden. Haden came to HOTLR in late January. As with a lot of our rescue's Haden was heartworm positive. Heartworm treatment takes approximately 8 weeks. Because of this, we knew that Haden would be around awhile. Enter the Schmitt family who became Haden's foster family.

Many of you may have heard of HOTLR's Haden (click on this link & scroll down to view his bio). The condition that caused him to have emergency surgery is one that is fairly common in large breed dogs. Bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus) is the second leading killer in dogs after cancer. Bloat (gastric dilatation) occurs when the stomach becomes full of air and puts pressure on the diaphragm and other organs. Due to the amount of pressure in the stomach, the air cannot find an adequate way to escape. Normally burping relieves the air and pressure, but for some reason, dogs experiencing bloat cannot burp. As the pressure continues to build with no escape of air, the stomach can become twisted (volvulus) and cut off blood supply to the heart and vital organs making up the digestive process. If the stomach does not become untwisted and the pressure released, the lack of oxygen to the organs can result in the death of critical tissues of the stomach. When this happens, the dog has very little time for a corrective procedure. This is an extremely serious condition and can kill a dog within several hours if veterinary care and emergency surgery are not performed immediately. This is the scenario that happened to Haden not once, but twice in one week.

There are many situations that can cause bloat. Overeating or eating too rapidly, playing or exercising hard one hour before or within two hours after eating a meal, or ingesting large quantities of water immediately following a meal. Labradors are traditionally considered deep-chested dogs are more susceptible to bloat than smaller dogs. Other breeds that have a predilection to bloat are Great Danes, Saint Bernards and Weimaraners. Unfortunately, bloat can sometimes occur for no reason at all and may also occur in any breed, no matter the size.

Symptoms of bloat include, salivation, obvious signs of discomfort such as pacing, groaning or stretching. The dog may heave again and again, however is unable to vomit. Abdominal swelling and pain will also occur along with rapid shallow breathing. Once the belly twists, the animal will develop symptoms of shock including pale mucous membranes, weak pulses and eventual collapse.

Treatment includes IV fluids and attempts at relieving the pressure in the stomach via a tube passed through mouth and esophagus into the stomach or by inserting a large needle into the stomach. Once pressure is relieved, xrays will be taken to determine whether the stomach has twisted. If the stomach has twisted, abdominal surgery will be performed to assess the damage to the organs and to reposition the stomach. Because animals that experience bloat once are susceptible to developing the condition again, the stomach will also be "tacked" in such a way that will not allow the stomach to twist again, should another episode occur.

Unfortunately, for Haden although his stomach was tacked the first time, the tacking did not hold which allowed him to develop the condition again. If it weren't for the quick action on the part of Haden's foster parents Heather and Chris Schmitt, Haden most likely would not have survived either episode.

So, while volunteering as a foster parent 99% of the time results in a low stress friendship with a deserving rescue, sometimes unforeseen problems can occur. The foster packets and CDs that we provide to all foster parents and adopters have a wealth of information that has been carefully selected to alert our families of potential problems such as Haden's. If you haven't had the opportunity to look at your CD recently, bust it out and review it again. We all love the HOTLR dogs and know that they are special, but it's good to remember that even the most special dogs can develop serious problems while under even the best of care - just like any other dog. Although these situations are rare, it's good to be prepared.

HOTLR would like to take a moment to thank Heather and Chris Schmitt and their quick thinking that has saved Haden's life, not once but twice.... We are so grateful to our foster parents and all the volunteers for making our work such a success. Without you, we could not do the work we love to do and save as many Labrador lives.