Archive for July 2011

The Last Kid on the Block—
Help your pet weather the storm

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

On hot summer days, a cool pet is a safe pet.

This summer is proving a season of extreme weather in Chicago. After a very snowy winter and a very cloudy spring, we recently experienced two “small” tornadoes and a severe thunderstorm with damaging winds, which wreaked havoc on our area’s very old electrical grid. Now we’re under an excessive heat warning—and let me tell you, it’s excessively hot.

We’re grateful everyone has managed to stay safe so far (knock wood), but days-long power outages and serious heat have tested our moxie. It’s tough enough to manage a family in times of crisis, or at least great discomfort. What about our pets?

Severe Weather
Tornado season isn’t over, nor is hurricane season, for that matter. Have you thought about an emergency plan for your pets? I know to herd my family into the basement if we’re under a tornado warning (unfortunately, the fish are more difficult). What if your pets are prone to hiding during a storm? What if you lose power and the filter and heater on your aquarium stop running?

One idea is to put your pets in their cages or carriers as soon as a tornado watch is issued.  Stick to the basement or a room where you’ll all be safe to ride out the storm. Calm your pets by talking to them and offering a favorite toy. Cover birds. Keep everyone away from windows.

As the storm approaches, try to keep pets indoors. If your dog needs to do his or her business, use a leash: storms can be scary! Your dog may be stressed, and could become disoriented and wander away from home. After a storm, a leash is important, too. Be wary of debris and downed power lines.

If you lose power—or worse—have an emergency kit already prepared for your animals:

  • Food: Consider keeping an extra bag of dry food on hand. If canned food is required, stock about a week’s worth and replace/use it every two months so you don’t end up with expired emergency grub. And don’t forget a manual can opener!
  • Water: Bottled water is a necessity for humans, but don’t forget your pets, too. A water dish will be helpful. A week’s supply is ideal.
  • Transport: Be sure you include a safe way to transport your pet: cages, carriers, kennels, leashes, etc. If you’re pressed for time, you can use pillowcases off your bed for cats.
  • Potty: If your pet resides in a cage or uses a litter box, you may want to set aside newspapers or a box of kitty litter (some lids can be used as a litter box).
  • Health and safety: Keep a copy of your pet’s vaccinations on hand, as well as any necessary medications (two-weeks’ worth for peace of mind). Consider keeping a first aid booklet on hand. Collars with ID tags are a must.
  • Fish and exotic pets: If you have fish, invest in a battery-powered air filter for your aquarium so your pets don’t suffer from lack of oxygen. If you have snakes or other temperature-sensitive animals, keep extension cords handy to plug in heat lamps when you have power (or go somewhere that does!).

Excessive Heat
I, for one, cannot handle heat and humidity, but I might make it look easy compared to a dog. Dogs can only sweat through their footpads and cool themselves by panting, making them susceptible to heat stress, injury or death.

When it’s hot, the best place for your pet is indoors in the AC. If that’s not possible, the second best place is in the shade with a constant supply of fresh, cool water. Animals’ ears and noses are especially prone to sunburn, and footpads can burn on hot surfaces.

The worst place for any animal is in a parked car, even if it’s only a minute (so don’t even think about it).

Be especially vigilant if your pet is elderly and/or overweight. Pets with flat faces, including pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke.

Signs of a serious heat-related condition include restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of appetite or coordination. You can lower a symptomatic dog’s body temperature by providing the dog with water, applying a cold towel to the dog’s head and chest or immersing the dog in tepid (not ice-cold) water. Then immediately call a veterinarian.

It figures that we’re under another severe thunderstorm watch. Please keep your fingers crossed that it misses us—and be sure you’re prepared for your next storm!

“The Last Kid on the Block” is a continuing series following the Knudsen family’s progress selecting and caring for their first pets. Andrea Knudsen lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two children.

Pet Care Tip – Choke Collar Training For Your Dog

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Choke ChainUsing choke collars (not the pinch collars) when used properly is a great way to train your dog how to properly behave on a walk. First and foremost, use the collar only on walks and for training. Second, the handler MUST remain calm at all times or you will get absolutely nowhere. If you are angry, upset, aggravated, etc., the dog will pick up on it and this will only feed into the animal’s anxiety, making training almost impossible.

It is important to make sure that the choke collar fits the dog, so be sure if you’re able, to take the dog into the pet store to size him correctly and make sure that he has the right collar. Drop the chain through one of the loops on the choke chain, and make sure that the loop is large enough to go over your dog’s head. Next, you want to be sure that you have put it on correctly. With you looking down at the back of the dog’s head, make sure that the collar forms a ‘p’ as it loops around the dog’s neck. ‘P’ for puppy. This way the collar will tighten and loosen as needed, where the opposite way will have it locking when it tightens.

Before starting your walk, practice within your yard, keeping the collar up high on the dog’s neck. The underneath should be up under the chin, not down low on the front of the throat. Next, make sure that when you leave the house, you are the first out the door and first into the door. The dog is never to walk ahead of you always next to you, and never in front of you. A leader leads, does not follow and if your dog is leading, then naturally, it will see itself as the top dog.

As you walk, stay calm…relaxed…don’t tense up. Using short jerks on the leash to get your dog’s attention, (not hard enough to cause harm) to get him to walk where you want. When you stop, he stops…when you walk, he walks. As he becomes more accustomed to the way of things, expand your area and take him further. Again…the keys here are a properly fitting choke collar…the collar being put on correctly…and the handler remaining calm. You don’t have to yell, holler, scream or shout to train your dog. In fact…you should keep your commands to one word. And never use the animal’s name in a derogatory or disciplining manner. You want his name to be a good thing, not represent punishment or anger.

Ready to try out a choke collar? We have various sizes here:
View choke collars

Contact us if you need assistance choosing the correct size for your dog.

The Last Kid on the Block—
Moving on up—to a larger tank

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Our neon tetras and platys soon will be swimming in a new home.

Our fish have taken me much further into the throes of pet ownership than I could have expected—one minute we have a 10-gallon tank with four fish, the next minute I’m researching pet insurance. I find it interesting that animals do just fine without it in their natural habitat; it takes us humans to make raising pets complicated. It figures!

After a few uneventful months, life with our fish is getting interesting again. Not that our fish have become boring—we’ve just gotten into a groove. The same boy who requested an aquarium for Christmas has now requested an upgrade for his birthday, which was last week.

Apparently he’s serious, so his dad and I gifted him an IOU for a new 30-gallon tank. We saw several that caught our eye at the pet store last time we purchased new fish, so purchasing a tank seemed straightforward. Until, that is, I attempted to prepare for the upgrade.

The process of establishing our first tank—working our way through the nitrogen cycle—was a painful one, and resulted in the loss of three of our four fish. Maybe some folks could consider them a commodity, but my son felt their loss. I’d rather not repeat that experience, especially now that our fishy family is up to 11.

Our plan is to set up the new tank in another room, which allows us more time and flexibility in stabilizing a new, more voluminous habitat. From what I’ve read, a larger tank will be a bit easier to cycle because a small group of fish simply has a smaller bioload in three-times the water. We also can capitalize on the good bacteria in our old tank by moving some of the substrate and decorations into the new tank. I may even use the old filter on the new tank for 24 hours or so before we add fish.

I’ve read conflicting opinions regarding whether using water from the old tank will help establish bacteria colonies in the new tank, primarily because the bacteria are most concentrated in the filter and on the tanks surfaces (including decorations and substrate). But I’m still considering it—anything to help!

Then there’s the question of the best type of filter and heater. I’m hoping my local pet store can guide me, depending on the tank we choose.

And then there’s the tank itself. I forget that the weight of a 30-gallon tank is considerable, and we’d prefer not to relegate our fish to the basement. So there’s a matter of placing the new tank somewhere we’re sure our floor can support it safely. The aforementioned new spot for the tank is in a small room in the front of our house. Because we’re not looking at a truly huge tank (think more than 55 gallons), I’m not too worried. But I’m still going to look at our basement ceiling to be sure we’re placing the tank perpendicular to our floor joists, and that the span of the joists is relatively short. Because our home is newer, I can look at the blueprints and verify which walls are load-bearing—hoping the wall I have in mind is included. From a home decor point of view, I’d had my eye on a tank with a swirling iron stand. Weight is distributed better with a flat base, so I’ll take that into consideration, too.

When we finally make our way to our pet store, we’ll have lots of questions to thrust at the experts—not including the addition of new fish! But the excitement is palpable in our household. I think we’re ready to take this next step in pet ownership!

“The Last Kid on the Block” is a continuing series following the Knudsen family’s progress selecting and caring for their first pets. Andrea Knudsen lives in suburban Chicago with her husband and two children.