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Where’s the Best Place for Your Elderly Dog to Stay When You're Away?

Wed, 03/15/2017 - 15:10

Image: Elderly golden retriever istockphoto 515672176 Any dog owner knows that leaving your best friend behind while you travel can be difficult — for both you and your dog. But when you’re trying to find the right place for an elderly dog, there are many additional factors to consider.

There are lots of potential challenges that can come with age: mobility problems, anxiety, loss of sight and hearing and other health problems. You’ll need to think carefully  — and be realistic —  about how he’s doing when making plans for him.

We talked with Dr. Grace Anne Mengel, who works in the primary care service at the University of Pennsylvania’s Ryan Veterinary Hospital, about what traveling owners should think about when considering care for an older dog.
Boarding at Traditional Kennels Senior dogs can stay in kennels, of course, but there are several things to contemplate before choosing to board your furry friend:
  • Potential for stress: “As they get older they do get more stressed about being in a kennel environment, and then you do worry about things like bloat, which can be life-threatening,” Dr. Mengel says. Think about whether your dog has been stressed from being in new or different environments or even just being away from you.

  • Vaccine policy: You should inquire about the facility’s vaccine requirements, and then talk to your vet to make sure your dog is up to date on all needed vaccines. Some might be required by the kennel, like rabies, while others might not be, like the flu  —  and that means your dog has the potential to be exposed to something against which she's not already vaccinated. Your vet can advise you as to whether you should consider a vaccine your dog hasn't already had. “Similar to people, it’s the younger and older who are going be more susceptible to infection than the middle-aged in general,” although the risk is still there for any age dog, she says.

  • Flooring: “Those arthritic dogs, if they’re laying around all the time, they’re going to get stiff and surface is a big deal,” Dr. Mengel says. She suggests asking whether the facility has “surfaces that are non-slip so that they don’t slide around on the floor when they’re trying to walk.”

  • Exercise needs: Ask about whether the kennel offers playgroups that are created based on age or temperament. Or, if your senior dog doesn't play with other pups, see what other opportunities she'll have for exercise. “An older dog may not want to play with all the young, bouncy dogs,” Dr. Mengel says. But she should still get a walk to stretch her legs or the chance to spend time outdoors.

  • Comforts from home: You can also check to see whether the facility will allow you to bring your dog’s own bed so she has something familiar and comfortable with her. If not, you might ask about what kind of bedding or soft surface will be available, particularly for dogs who are arthritic.

If you’re trying a new facility, it’s a good idea to do a short practice run, maybe leaving your dog there for a day or half a day if they offer day care, so she can get used to the place and people while you’re nearby and available to come pick her up if needed, Dr. Mengel says.
Staying With Family or Friends As your dog ages, you might think about asking a family member or friend to take care of her instead of bringing her to a boarding facility. “It’s really nice when you have other family members who the dog knows, because that can be really helpful when you travel, if the dog can either stay with them or they can stay with the dog,” Dr. Mengel says.

Of course, there’s no place like home. But if your pooch is familiar with your friend or family member’s home, and they’re OK with hosting her, that can be a good option, too, she says.
Hiring a Pet Sitter You can hire someone to stay at your home 24/7 while you’re gone or set it up so the pet sitter comes in multiple times a day to feed your dog, give her attention and get her outside.

Depending on the dog, you might want to try this option out on a short-term basis first to see how it goes — maybe for one night while you’re not far away. Take some time to get your dog used to this person, if it’s someone new to her.

Many areas have pet-sitting services, and you might think about asking your vet if there’s someone they recommend.

Medical Boarding If you can’t have someone care for your pet at home and she struggles with getting around on her own or has other medical issues, check with your vet to see if they offer on-site boarding — even if it's not something they advertise.

“If it really is a dog with mobility issues, some veterinary clinics will offer medical boarding for patients, whereas they don’t do normal boarding for healthy animals,” Dr. Mengel says. “I prefer it be someplace where somebody’s there overnight rather than leaving a dog overnight with no people there — same with boarding kennels.”

Not all facilities have staff that are trained to help assist dogs — especially large dogs — with standing or walking, but some medical boarding facilities have veterinary technicians who can help your dog with this.
Take Your Dog Along It’s not always realistic to take your pet with you or to avoid travel, but that’s the tactic some owners take. Just be sure you're keeping your dog's health and safety at the front of your mind, because if your dog has numerous medical issues, taking your pooch someplace far from the vet who knows her might not be the smartest move.

“I have one client who just takes her elderly dog with her wherever she goes, so if she goes on vacation she takes the elderly dog, because the dog gets stressed [otherwise],” Dr. Mengel says. 

She says you can also talk with your own vet about whether there are any medications that would help to reduce your dog’s stress.
Plan Ahead for Emergencies No matter who is caring for your senior pet, they should have the contact information for your regular vet as well as any veterinary specialists you see regularly. You may also want to have an emergency contact who knows what you want for your dog and can make a difficult decision if you can’t be reached — especially if you’re traveling overseas or someplace where it’s hard to get in touch with you.

“While it’s hard to discuss that, if it is really an older dog who already has preexisting health conditions, it’s good if there are people who you trust who can be in the loop because, God forbid a decision needs to be made while you’re away, they know your wishes,” Dr. Mengel says. “You don’t want people to have to be frantically making phone calls” if your dog is suffering.

In the end, it all comes down to trusting your gut... and maybe also your vet and emergency contacts.

“It is very much an individual dog scenario, and that’s where it’s good if people are in tune to their dog and kind of use their instinct a little bit as to what would make the dog most comfortable,” Dr. Mengel says.

And, of course, if you have any doubt or questions, talk to your vet.

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JFK Airport's $65 Million Animal Terminal Is Now Open

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 07:31
Image: The ARK at JFK opens The first phase of an elaborate animal terminal called The ARK officially opened at JFK International Airport in New York on Monday. The $65 million, 178,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility was set to include a pet resort and bone-shaped dog pool as well as resting stalls for horses and livestock departing from the airport. It also features an aviary quarantine with isolation rooms where birds can have an overnight rest stop before traveling through the U.S. The Ark will be fully operational by the summer, and will also include a veterinary clinic and pet grooming and boarding.

Categories: Pet Info

Is Your Pet Safe When Riding in the Car? Tips to Help Ensure the Answer Is Yes

Mon, 01/30/2017 - 15:15
Image: Dog crated in car alamy CREJJ7 335.jpg You put your dog or cat in a crate, car seat or harness when he rides in the car. Seems like the right thing to do, doesn’t it?

You might be surprised and dismayed to learn, however, that pet carrier safety isn’t regulated by any organization or government agency. Crash tests involving many different types of restraint devices end with anchor straps failing, connection hardware deforming, crate doors breaking open, crate bodies becoming crushed, and canine and feline crash test dummies (not live animals) going airborne.

Pets who become projectiles can injure car passengers or even go through the windshield, resulting in injuries ranging from bruises and contusions to broken bones and paralysis — or even death.
Keep Pets Safe on the Road
Let's start with a basic truth: Everyone is safer when pets are confined or restrained. “Too many times, people are taking pets to the vet or picking up kids at school, and they get distracted by the pet’s movement or vocalization,” Dr. Marty Becker says. “They take their eyes off the road to check on them, turn and baby-talk them, or try and touch them in an effort to comfort them.” For this and other reasons, it is important to always secure your pets when they are riding in the car.

But the wrong crate or harness — or one that is used incorrectly — can be almost as dangerous as doing nothing. Veterinarian Elizabeth Colleran says that in some crash test videos she has watched, the figures of crash test dogs or cats hit the side of the carrier with a significant amount of force, sometimes enough to break through the carrier. In these cases, the carrier ends up fracturing as the dummy animal flies out.

This is a hazard in real life, too. Lindsey Wolko’s dog, Maggie, was seriously injured in 2004 while wearing a car harness for pets. That led Wolko to investigate pet restraint manufacturing practices. In 2011, she founded the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety (CPS) to establish crash test standards for pet carriers and restraints, and certify those that made the grade.

While having your pet in a carrier is an important first step, securing it properly is also important, as this can help prevent the carrier — and your pet — from being tossed around in the event of a crash. Specifically, don’t hold a carrier in place with the seat belt unless it is specifically made to be used with a seat belt. While the seat belt might seem like the safest way to hold a carrier in place, Wolko says it can crush a carrier in the event of a collision. Instead, tie carriers down with strength-rated anchor strapping.

Make Pets Comfortable in the CarBefore you secure your pet in the back of your SUV and take off driving, though, you want to spend some time acclimating your pet to the crate or harness. “It’s something they need to get used to,” Dr. Colleran says. She trained her own cats to love their carriers by placing them at the foot of two high-value cat trees and leaving the doors open. “It’s got nice bedding in it, and they nap in there,” she says. “When I close the door to the carrier, their heart rate doesn’t go up, their respiratory rate doesn’t go up, their pupils don’t get dilated. They just look at me like ‘OK, now what?’”

Instead of setting off on a full-day road trip, Wolko suggests pet owners take animals for brief drives for the first week or so to help them become accustomed to a harness or carrier. “You do a five-minute trip for a couple of days, and then a 10-minute trip, and you just progressively make it longer,” she says. “Take them around turns, so [your pets] can get a feel for where they’re going to go as you turn the vehicle.” And to help pets stay relaxed, Dr. Becker recommends covering the crate or carrier with a light towel or sheet to reduce visual stimuli and enhancing the ride with a spritz of calming pheromones and the sound of pet-friendly music.

Finally, place pets in separate carriers. It may save space to put two animals in the same carrier, but they can be injured if they’re thrown against each other or if one slams another into the side of the carrier.
Choose CPS-Certified ProductsThe organization has developed crash test standards for pet transportation products, conducts its own tests and substantiates manufacturer claims. It accepts no funds from manufacturers.

Products that earn certification can be expensive, because of the cost of materials, development and manufacture. They tend to be built to last and can often give your pet — and sometimes future pets — a lifetime of use. Even if you can’t afford a certified carrier or harness, your pet tends to be safer if he’s contained. So are you. “Containment and restraint devices can help prevent accidents by minimizing driver distraction,” dog trainer Mikkel Becker says.

Properly restraining your pet may also help prevent high veterinary bills. The cost of repairing broken bones or providing veterinary rehab can soar to thousands of dollars. “If you are in a crash, having a product that you can count on is huge peace of mind,” Wolko says. “They are expensive, but I know what happened with my Maggie, and my vet bills far outweighed the cost of a good-quality harness for her.”

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We Asked, You Answered: What Should You Do With Pets During Holiday Travel?

Thu, 12/01/2016 - 15:21
Image: cat with holiday background ThinkstockPhotos-498300526 For some folks, the holiday season is synonymous with travel. And if you're a pet owner, holiday travel often involves a bit more planning than packing up some pajamas and a toothbrush — it means deciding what to do with your pet!

We know that Vetstreet's readers and Facebook fans are full of helpful advice for pet owners, so we asked them: "What advice would you offer pet owners who are bringing their cat or dog with them while staying with friends or family over the holidays?"
Consider Leaving Them at HomeAs much as we love having our animals with us, many people simply recommended that you don't bring them along.

And that's a fair response. Staying home with a pet sitter can be the ideal option for many animals, especially those who are anxious or uncomfortable in new situations. And we know plenty of pooches who positively love being boarded — it can be like going to summer camp. If that's the case for your pet and a pet sitter or boarding is an option, we'd be inclined to agree that leaving your pet with a sitter or at a boarding facility might be the best choice.

However, sometimes that's not possible — or perhaps the friends or family you're visiting are as excited to see your pet as they are to see you! In those cases, here are a few more words of wisdom to help you with your holiday travel plans.
Be Sure to AskCheck, confirm and then maybe even ask again to ensure your hosts (and anyone else staying in the home) are happy that your pets are coming to stay.

"First off, make sure the host and hostess are OK with that; second, make sure other guests are OK and are not allergic; third, make sure your pet behaves and does not cause damage or disturbance or inconvenience," says Vetstreet Facebook fan Mandana Navidi, who adds, "Pets are like kids... just because you love your own and find them cute it doesn't mean the sentiment is shared by others!" 
Follow Your Host's Rules — and Add a Few of Your OwnEven if your hosts are thrilled to have you and your menagerie visiting, that might not mean they want your 70-pound Golden Retriever to sleep in their bed with them — not to mention the fact that it might be better for your pet to have an area he can consider "home." Several people expressed the importance of keeping pets out of private rooms and providing them with a space that's all their own.

 "...[A] dedicated room is essential for the pet/s. Not just for the sake of other guests but, most importantly IMO, to prevent your furry friends from getting too stressed out," says fan Nicky Butler. "A lot of people forget how much more acute cats' and dogs' senses are in terms of smells and sounds. A new environment and lots of people — especially high-energy children — is a recipe for sensory overload and extreme stress. Do them a favor and make sure they have a sanctuary they can feel safe and calm in. If possible, bring their blankets and a couple of toys from home; anything that has their [own scent] and their home scent on it."

It probably goes without saying, but other items you'll want to make sure to bring include food, bowls (including a water bowl), a litterbox complete with litter (and a scoop with bags!) for cats and poop bags for dogs. Basically, you should not expect your hosts to provide for your pet unless this has already been offered — be as self-sufficient as possible!

Another Facebook poster, Hiawatha Hiking Arizona, warns of the dangers of a cat or dog running loose in an unfamiliar home with other people around. "Even well-meaning relatives can inadvertently let your pet escape. And that can be bad at home, but in a strange place it can be a tragedy." So make sure you discuss your concerns in advance with your host and have local numbers on your pet's ID collar. 

Speaking of safety, exercise caution beginning with the commute. "Never, ever open your car door unless your pet is in a secure carrier or secured in some way," says fan Shari Rose.
A Few More Ideas to ConsiderOur readers are smart, but it's worth noting that we've covered this topic a time or two as well. Road trips with cats require slightly different planning (and gear) than hitting the road with your dog. And there are some great products on the market specifically designed to help make car travel with your pet as safe as possible.

If you're going to a home with children and you have a dog who's mostly been around adults, we have tips for prepping for that visit, too. And a few of these tricks for a successful stay in a hotel with your canine companion might also come in handy for your holiday travels to visit friends and family.

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