The summer is a popular time to move. Families move during the vacation time to allow kids to acclimate to new schools, and college graduates are moving to new jobs. I recently moved into a new apartment that, while only 20 minutes away, provided me with firsthand experience on moving a pet. Whether you have a cat, dog, reptile, bird or other animal, preparing for and handling the transition appropriately is important. Packing, travelling, and adjusting to a new place can be incredibly stressful for some pets, so here are a few tips to keep in mind.
Before the move, you will want to look into the area you are moving to. When looking at houses or apartments, ensure that your animals are allowed and check the regulations of the area (cats might have to be declawed, or dogs are only on certain trails). Drive or walk around the neighborhood to look for aggressive dogs or hazards, parks, and other places you might encounter on a walk. If you are moving a significant distance, search for a new veterinarian in the area, and arrange to have your records sent there ahead of time (you don’t want to have a sick dog on your second day there and not know where to go!). Know the laws of the state or county you are residing in. Some areas do not allow exotic pets, or have a permit process for them. Others will need you to license the dog within a certain timeframe, or do not allow unleashed animals outside. If you have a puppy or older dog that will need to use the bathroom more frequently, plan easy access to outdoors ahead of time. An apartment with only stairs where you reside on the 5th floor may not be a good option!
When you have chosen a new home, you will want to prepare your pet for the trip. Update their ID tags, microchip and other records with your new contact information. If your pet escapes or becomes lost, an outdated phone number or old address will slow your ability to become reunited. Bring moving boxes in early, rather than a day or two before you leave. Put your pet’s food, bed, and toys in a quiet room that you plan to pack up last, so they can keep their familiarity as long as possible. Pack things gradually, maintain your usual routine (even if you may not be working), and keep calm and happy. If you are very stressed about this transition, your pet will be too. If they aren’t used to being in a carrier or crate, set it up in your home, and put a favorite toy or treats inside. Let them spend time in it at their pace when they choose. Do not force them to go in, this will only increase their aversion to it. If they do not enjoy riding in the car or only do it rarely, take short trips around the block or to a nearby location. You can gradually increase the travel time, and make sure to reward them with praise and treats (make it fun for them)! If you will be moving by air, consider ground transportation for your pets. There are several companies (we like Royal Paws) that specialize in moving pets privately, and in the most comfortable way possible, rather than putting them in a crate in the cargo hold of a plane. This is often a less stressful scenario for both you and your pets!
On the day of the move, you will want to keep your pet in the enclosed familiar room. If using movers, keep the door shut with a sign on it, where they can be away from the commotion and noise. Pack this room and your animal only after all the furniture, boxes and everything else is moved into the vehicles. You don’t want your dog to get out or your cat to get stepped on! Feeding them a light breakfast may help prevent an upset stomach or other digestive issues due to stress. Putting a sheet over their carrier or crate for the first part of the drive may help calm them until they get used to the car. Never put your animal in the cargo areas of a truck or moving van! As with any travel, make sure you stop for ample potty breaks, water and food, and exercise. Keep them leashed, with identification, and travel with a copy of their records, as well as any meds or food that might be needed. Some pet owners find that putting a favorite and familiar toy in the crate helps their animal, others use the reward of a new toy or bone. When you arrive at the new residence, you will want to inspect your home before bringing your pet in. Look for hazards such as cleaning products (often in the toilet), pest control chemicals or traps, open or unfastened windows, electrical cords and more. When it is safe and secure, you may bring your pet into the home (inside the crate or carrier if possible). While you may be tempted to release your pet to explore all the parts of the new place, it is actually better to confine them to one room. Choose a quiet room that they can use as a “home base” for a few days. Set up their crate/carrier, food, water, toys, litter and other belongings in this room, and only allow them to explore that space. This can help prevent your pet from becoming overwhelmed with all the new space, and keeps them safe while you move in all your other furniture and boxes. If you have a dog, take them out for short walks or remain in the yard for the first few days. Introducing them to a new house is stressful enough, exploring a whole neighborhood could overwhelm them. As your pet explores their “home base” room, reward them with praise and treats. Spend time with them in this room doing low-key activities. When the animal has adjusted to this room, allow them to explore other parts of the house (but not all, keep some doors closed) at their leisure. I hid cat treats around my new apartment during this phase, and let her sniff them out – instant reward for exploring! It is good to supervise your pet for the first few times they do this, and when they are home alone to put them back in the home base room with a treat or toy. Establish a routine for your pet right away, including feeding time, walks, and play, even if you yourself have not settled into one yet. After your pet is comfortable, if you want to move their litter, food, or bed out of the home base, do it very gradually, moving only a few feet at a time. Another option is to set up a second location, and allow them to use both, and then remove the first location after a few weeks. The most important part of helping your pet transition to a new home is to remain positive and calm, and show them lots of love. If you are feeling unhappy or stressed, your pet will too. Often in the flurry of unpacking, starting a new job, and other tasks, your pet can be forgotten. Do not let this happen, as your pet will need more attention and care than usual to help them get used to the new place.
Moving can be exhausting, exciting and stressful, but we should do everything we can to minimize the effects on our pets. Some cats and other skittish pets can often refuse food or become ill due to the overwhelming nature and depression that can accompany this transition. By preparing early, ensuring comfortable transportation, and providing a safe and secure new home, pet owners can help ease the stress of a move on their animals. And a happy pet makes for a happy owner too!
For more information on ground transportation and Royal Paws pet travel, visit www.royalpaws.com
Sources: ASPCA, PetFinder, Royal Paws, PetCo, Atlas Van Lines
Celebrating our nation’s Independence Day can be fun for us humans, but is very stressful and dangerous for pets. Animal control services see an average of a 30% increase in shelters July 4th-6th, and thousands of pets are reported missing nationwide. Pets get lost while traveling, or run to escape stressful situations. While we enjoy a day off of work, cook-outs and fireworks, your animals associate the burning smells, noises, bangs and flashes as threats to their safety. Here are a few tips to keep your pet safe this Fourth of July.
- Make sure your pet is properly identified. If they did get lost, you want to ensure they can be returned. Make sure they have an ID tag with a phone number on them, and consider microchipping your pet in case their collar comes off. Keep a current photo and emergency contact info handy as well.
- Leave your pet at home. If you are traveling to a firework show or barbecue, it is best to keep your animal at home if possible. They will feel more comfortable and be safer there.
- Keep them inside, in a crate or other “safe place”. Many pets have a specified area that they sleep or have quiet time in. Cover crates and carriers with a blanket to block out noises and light, and give them a toy or treat to distract them.
- Avoid the noise and flashing lights. Close windows and blinds, turn on the tv or radio to cover the bangs and booms.
- Act normal and calm your pet. Running from window to window to watch fireworks will stress your pets, so go about your normal routine. Talk in a soothing voice and give them a massage and cuddles.
- Exercise your pet 2-3 hours ahead of time. This can make them more tired and less anxious during fireworks or other stressful situations.
- Consider other therapies. If your pet has shown significant stress and anxiety that you have been unable to combat, try other methods. The Thundershirt for dogs “hugs” them so they feel comforted during loud noises (they also have a cat version). Other animals respond to aromatherapy, and in extreme cases, medication. Talk to your veterinarian about what is right for your pet.
Remember that it isn’t only dogs that get scared and can be lost. Cats will hide, and trying to remove them from under a couch or hidden area will only increase their stress. Cover bird cages with extra blankets to drown out noise and light. Put extra bedding in rabbit and small animal hutches, and cover their area if possible.
If you cannot leave your pet at home, create a safe space for them while on vacation. Use the tips above to try and combat the stress, and keep them away from fireworks. Remember that human insect repellent (even citronella products) and sunscreen is not safe for animals unless specified. Keep them away from table scraps, trashes, glow sticks and jewelry, matches and lighters, and alcohol. NEVER light fireworks, sparklers, poppers or other products near your pet! They can easily be scared and run, get burned or cut, or even try to protect you from the firework. It is best to seclude them in a safe, quiet area away from all the action.
While we love the Fourth of July and all it includes, it is the busiest time of year for shelters and animal control. Let’s try to keep the numbers down this year, by taking steps to keep our pets safe and comfortable.
For more info on the Thundershirt: www.thundershirt.com
For more info on microchips and your pet: http://www.akcreunite.org/petowner/microchipping/
Sources: American Kennel Club, PetMD, Pet Amber Alert, Hartz, AKC Reunite, ThunderWorks
As the warmer weather comes out and the flowers are in bloom, we also have little friends that come out of hiding as well: the bees. Just like with humans, bee, wasp, and hornet stings can be painful and possibly dangerous to your pets. Dogs and cats are often more likely to be stung because of their playful nature and instinct to chase moving things. So how should you treat your pet if they have been stung?
The first thing to do if your pet has suffered a bee, wasp or hornet sting is to remain calm. Your dog or cat will only become more agitated and nervous if you yell or panic. If possible, identify the insect (bees are fuzzy, wasp and hornets are smooth and skinnier). If you can easily spot the stinger (honey bees leave them behind, other insects may or may not), you can remove it with the side of a credit card or fingernail using a scraping motion. Do not squeeze or use tweezers, as this can increase the amount of venom going into your dog or cat. Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the affected site, and you can use an ice pack to reduce swelling and pain. Sometimes cortisone cream can be used to reduce itching and irritation, and antihistamines like Benadryl can be given as well. Check with your veterinarian before administering any medications. If your pet starts showing signs of a hypersensitive or allergic reaction, they will need immediate medical attention. These symptoms include severe swelling, excessive scratching, redness or swelling of eyes, licking and chewing, drooling, vomiting or diarrhea, hives, difficulty breathing, collapse, or seizure. If your pet has never been stung before, waiting for a severe reaction may be losing precious time, and you may want to seek veterinary advice regardless of symptoms. Unlike honey bees, bumblebees, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times each. If you pet has had multiple stings, seek medical attention immediately, as symptoms can be delayed. For those pets that have shown previous severe reactions to insect stings, an Epi Pen may be appropriate. This is an emergency injection of epinephrine (form of adrenaline) to prevent anaphylactic shock for severe allergic reactions. If your vet has prescribed an Epi Pen for your pet’s use, be sure to carry it when outside, on walks, when traveling, and any other time your pet could possibly be near insects.
The best way to keep your dogs and cats safe from bee, wasp, and hornet stings is to prevent them from happening. Avoid flower beds, as well as the nests and eaves of houses. Some bugs also build hives and nests in the ground, so watch where your pet is digging and nosing around. Clean up picnics and barbeques promptly, and keep any equipment (like grills or coolers) clean at all times, so food residue and trash don’t attract bees. Take it easy on fragrances and perfumes, as bees are attracted to flowery and sweet scents. Monitor your property in spring and summer for wasps, bees, and hornets, and considering treating any problem areas. Bugs can often sneak in the tiniest cracks and find their way in open windows, so make sure your house sealed correctly and has properly fitted screens. It is also a good idea to talk to your veterinarian ahead of time about what antihistamines (like Benadryl) may be appropriate for your pet. Ensure proper dose amounts, and have a stash on hand just in case. Keep the local animal hospital and your vet’s number stored in a cell phone or on hand, so prompt treatment is easier.
By taking steps to prevent bee stings, knowing what drugs and treatments you can give, and educating yourself on signs and symptoms of severe reactions, you can decrease the risks of health problems to your pet. The bees and bugs around us pollinate flowers and plants, create honey, and are needed for our ecosystem. Their stingers however, are unwanted and can be dangerous. Keep yourself and your pets safe from their butts! ;)
Sources: Cesar’s Way, VetStreet, pets.webmd.com, PetMeds
For those fortunate to live in the beautiful state of Michigan like I do, we know summer means lake time. Whether it is going fishing, a trip to the beach, or an outing on a boat, the Great Lakes (and all the smaller inland lakes) provide a water wonderland for all of us to enjoy. Those of you near the coast or freshwater lakes probably also love to enjoy water fun during the summer. We may do things to keep ourselves safe, but we also need to remember to keep our pets safe while out on the water or at a beach. Some things seem obvious and are simple to remember, but others are dangers you would never expect.
The first thing, and I can’t stress this enough, is always supervise your dog. No matter where they are, or how well they might be trained, you need to keep an eye on your pet. There are too many unknown hazards that could hurt them. Make sure you bring their leash and collar/harness, even if they won’t be restrained while playing. Get a pet life-jacket for your animal, make sure it fits properly, and train your pet to wear it while boating. Like humans, even the strongest swimmer can get a leg cramp or suffer from heat exhaustion. It is also important to make sure your dog still has proper ID on them. Many pet owners remove their dog’s collar and tags while playing in the water or on a boat. If lost, this dog may not be able to return home (microchipping helps this issue, but is not foolproof). Just like you wouldn’t leave home without your ID, your pet shouldn’t either.
Keeping your dog cool and hydrated is also a forgotten aspect of water fun. Just because they are swimming does not mean that they are cool and have water to drink. Heat is increased as it reflects or is magnified by the water surface, and all the running and playing further dehydrate your pet. Make sure they have plenty of fresh, clean water, and that you offer them a drink and shade every 15-20 minutes. Discourage your pets from drinking out of a lake, pool, or other water source, as it may contain sand, chemicals, bacteria, or salt (I discuss a few of these hazards more below). Bring your own water and a bowl that your pet is used to drinking out of. Make sure you rinse and towel-dry your pet after they play in the water, to remove any chemicals or materials that may have been on their skin or fur.
There are a few things in the waters that can harm your dog, even if they aren’t drinking it. The first, which may be common sense to some, is salt. While us Midwest folks are fortunate enough to have the Great Lakes (we love freshwater), salt water can be harmful to both humans and animals. Ingesting the salt increases dehydration, by drawing water into the intestines. It can cause immediate vomiting and diarrhea, and lead to larger problems if your animal does not get clean freshwater. Even dogs who may not drink the seawater can ingest it off of toys or licking their own fur. Be sure to bring your own water source for them to drink and be rinsed off. Freshwater lakes still provide their own set of hazards, and one of the most dangerous is blue-green algae. Blue-green algae is also known as cyanobacteria, and it can be seen floating on top of water, in nutrient-rich areas. It often is blown into shore and sits in thick “blooms” in shallow water. While some of the algae can be harmless, some has toxins (microcystins and anatoxins) that can kill your pet. There is no way to know which algae patches are safe, so keep your dog away at all costs. Swimming, drinking, or walking in blue-green algae can expose your pet to these toxins, which cause liver damage and failure, or neurological problems such as paralysis and seizures. Symptoms of algae poisoning vary, but can include vomiting, diarrhea, blood in stool, black tarry stool, jaundice, disorientation, seizures, or even a coma. There is no antidote to these toxins, but your vet can treat them with an aggressive care plan, including oxygen, anti-seizure medications, and fluids. If you suspect your pet has blue-green algae poisoning, call a poison hotline and seek immediate veterinary attention. With prompt and aggressive medical care, your pet can recover. Note: you can contact the Pet Poison Helpline anytime at 1-800-213-6680 (a good number to save). The last “hidden danger” of water fun is sand. This is a hazard that even surprised me! Dogs can accidently ingest sand by drinking the lake water, fetching toys in the sand, and licking their paws and fur. This is very dangerous, as sand settles so quickly and can be quite heavy. Often an animal’s digestive system will become blocked, causing food to back up, which can lead to organ rupture or block blood flow. It can be hard to know if your animal has ingested sand, but symptoms can include loss of appetite, struggle/lack of defecation, vomiting, and severe bloating. See your vet immediately if you think your dog may have eaten sand. Like the contact with salt water, you can prevent some sand ingestion by bringing your own water source, and rinsing your dog off after playing.
We love our water fun in the summer, and our pets do too! By taking steps to keep them safe, cool, and hydrated, you can help your dog enjoy a trip to the lake or beach as much as you are. Happy swimming everyone!
Sources: Pet Poison Helpline, ASPCA, VetInfo.com, Herald Tribune