Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Digital dogs: finding reliable, accurate and useful information online

Your dog will be healthier and happier if you learn more about dogs.
Hugo, Wombat, Lisa, Abbey and Willie run and play.

The internet is an awesome resource for dog owners – between web sites, Facebook, Twitter and blogs, you can find anything and everything dog-ish. That's the good part. However, because anyone can post their stuff, the difficult part is separating good advice from bad. Here are my favourite go-to sources.

If you're starting with a fresh slate – thinking about getting a new puppy, check out Dr. Ian Dunbar's two free e-books. They're THE BEST! To set your new dog up for success, read both Before you get your puppy
and After you get your puppy.

Once you've done your homework and are ready to choose your new puppy, check out the
Regina Humane Society, Bright Eyes Dog Rescue and Petfinder. You'll find dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages and breeds – guaranteed there's one out there matching your needs.

If you're having “trouble” with your dog, this one is for you. Sue Ailsby is a local trainer who is known internationally for her effective positive training methods. Her new book is just coming out. A lot of her content is available at her web site. The section I particularly like is an intervention for a “bad dog”. I say it that way because I don't believe there are bad dogs – only dogs who don't yet know what their humans expect of them.

Got a canine medical question, check out the Merck Veterinary Manual. If you're interested in some animal medical world controversy, PetMD is a unique blogging site with posts written by veterinarians. And when you see anything by Dr. Sophie Yin it's going to be good.

Twitter is awesome. I follow some really neat people and stay on top of the breaking canine trends. It's just a little tougher to separate out the good from the bad.

Do you have a favourite online resource? Let us know about it. It might become one of our new favourites too.

Monday, March 14, 2011

My dog never gets out – right! Help your pets find their way home.

Three days. That's the amount of time your lost dog has before he or she is legally someone else's property. Bet you didn't know that. The provincial Animal Protection Act and City of Regina by-laws are very clear about ownership. While it seems a little harsh, it makes sure that animals are cared for rather than homeless.

Time and time again animal shelters hear the same story, “I didn't get a license because my dog or cat never gets out.” All it takes is once, and you've got a problem. That's why identification is so important – it's your pets best chance of finding their way back home. In Regina it also increases the number of days that your pet is your property from three to 10. There are lots of identification options with lots of pros and cons, so it's best for your pets to wear a bunch:

  • Tattoos - anyone can see that they're dealing with an owned dog. However, over time, they become difficult to read. And, if you've got a “used” dog who has already been tattooed, contact the veterinary clinic who did the original tattoo so they can update their files with your contact information.
  • Microchips are very permanent. However, they must be read using a scanner so they're not accessible for Joe Public to easily check. As well, some times the chip travels from the insertion point to other parts of the body, so they can be missed even by those who regularly use the scanners.
  • City licenses – typically connect your dog with the their most current owner contact information. However, they can fall off, so it's important to make sure they're tightly hooked to the collar. As a side benefit, they often they include a “get out of jail free card” saving you lots of money if your pet gets out and turns up a shelter.
  • Store-bought ID tags that contain name and contact numbers are great for people who live in areas without licensing bylaws like me. They're easy to read by anyone.
  • ID collars – because your dog's name and your phone number are embroidered onto the collar, they're easy to read. (Using a sharpie marker on a plain collar works too.) However, the collars themselves can fall off especially if your dog looses weight, or if it's loose.
  • Rabies tags – because this vaccine is highly controlled, this extra tag can lead your dog back home.
You can be proactive by keeping a file on each pet that contains all of their information - identification markings, health records, photographs, etc. A more high-tech option is to register your pets in advance on PetLynx. They connect lost and found dogs to owners, animal shelters, municipal animal services, and others. By creating a profile for each of your pets in advance, should they ever become lost, you won't waste time searching for their vital information and photos, you can simply change their status to lost and be connected to matching found dogs. They offer a free seven day trial, and have different upgrade packages.

If you lose your pet, be proactive – quickly! Because animals roam, it's important to contact your local and surrounding area humane societies and municipalities. By having your pets wear lots of identification, checking in with municipalities, and doing your own lost dog posting, you're more likely to help your pet come back home.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The $1,600 Dieffenbachia plant: helping your pet avoid poisonous plants

Blossom is a very, very lucky girl. One day while home alone, she decided to graze on some leafy greens. Unfortunately, her choice was the toxic Diefenbachia plant. After work, her mom noticed a drooling, wheezing, non-responsive dog with blue hazing over her eyes (she said she looked like a fish does before it dies!), so she rushed Blossom off to her veterinarian. $1,600 later, Blossom was fine, and plant simply had a good pruning.

The toxic Diefenbachia plant before Blossom ate it

When dogs eat this type of plant, their esophagus swells and they suffocate to death. Unfortunately, the German shepherd and black lab, who were at the same clinic earlier ate only two leaves from similar plants. Both died.

When you live with pets and plants, toxicity should be top of mind because lots of house and garden plants are toxic to pets. I love dogs, and plants. As a University of Saskatchewan Prairie Horticulture Certificate program graduate, my tip for you is that when you live with pets and bring plants into your life, be cautious.

Here's what being cautious looks like. I live on an acreage and can always use more plants. Last summer, a friend offered me some perennial Solomon's seal plants. Right away, I accepted. My next move was to figure out this plant. I Googled it to find out its Latin name, which is Polygonatum, and quickly discovered that it's toxic to dogs, which made my planting location really easy – I would bring it in, but keep in a dog-free area of my yard.

Because many plants are location-specific - eg. what we grow in Saskatchewan is different than what is grown in California - there's no one “go-to” source for information about plant/pet toxicity. Most plants have at least two names, and more than likely many names. For example, Saskatchewanians are very proud of our saskatoon berry, which is just one of its “common names”. However, the “Latin name” for this plant is Amelanchier alifolia, and other common names for exactly the same plant are serviceberry, sarvice berry, Juneberry and shadebush. After doing the research, I wouldn't let my dogs eat Saskatoons or chew on the bush. According to the Government of Canada “The shrub has an hydrogen cyanide (HCN) potential high enough to kill cattle and mule deer. Mule deer that ingested 1 kg of fresh weight per day were poisoned and died within 24 h of the appearance of clinical signs”.

Know and research the common and Latin names of plants your dog has access to - this goes for both indoor house plants and outdoor petscaping. When it doubt, err on the side of caution.Here are some additional resources to help you out:

Government of Canada

Pet Poison Helpline

ASPCA Poison Control Centre