THE GHOSTS OF ‘POSSUM RIDGE

 

The Moon rose at 9:48 tonight, a dirty-bright yellow, only 96% of her face shining, being several days past full. The light was filtered by thin, ragged clouds, making everything look a pale yellow. For the next couple of hours, the moonlight came sideways across the landscape, lighting it dimly and leaving deep shadows. It’s on nights like this that I can almost see Sampson up on ‘Possum Ridge…

bogue ghosts of possum ridgeThe western edge of our property here at Prairie Paradise has always been a good place to find opossums foraging for food around the many trees along the creek. During all those years that I walked Sampson the Golden late at night, he would often get excited as we crossed the creek and started uphill, in this area I call ‘Possum Ridge. He could smell the ‘possum trails, and if he was lucky, he would pick up the scent of one of those nasty-looking critters and engage in pursuit.

Sometimes Sampson would catch a ‘possum, snatching it off the ground and joyously flipping it in the air before throwing it on the ground. He would then stand in astonishment as the darn thing would seem to be dead. Unmoving, not resisting a bit, it was no longer fun to play with…I would lead him away, and when we’d return later, Sammie would frantically sniff around for his prize, only to find just a ghost of a smell of it, as the ‘possum had scampered away to safety.

Many nights, though, Big Sam would catch the scent of a ‘possum in the distance, and the chase would be on. Dragging me along, Sampson would close in on his prey, only to find that –hey, it’s not here!  “But I smell it…it’s so close…it’s gotta be here!!” I could hear him think. He’d look all around for the critter, finally raising his big Golden head to see — ‘POSSUM IN THE TREE!!

That would begin a dance that might last 40 minutes; longer if I didn’t eventually drag my Big Guy back into the house. Our glorious 80 pounds of Golden Retriever would stand on his two back legs and stretch as far as he could to get at the ‘possum. He would prance and dance and twirl around and stretch upwards and…bark. For someone who lived out a vow of silence most of the time, he would sure bark! That’s what mostly prompted me to get him away from there, as the neighbors are just 250 feet beyond the Ridge, and Sam’s basso profondo bark was an attention-getter. All the while, that nasty ‘possum would just sit up there, clinging to a limb, and glare at the both of us with disdainful annoyance. Man, those critters did NOT like being treed by Sam!

Eventually, I would convince Sampson that the fun was over, and it was time to go inside. We would come out the next day, and Sam would lead me over to check for his quarry, only to find the tree empty. I could feel Sampson thinking that the previous night had sure been fun. Those nights spent watching Sam dance beneath trees were the best of times.

Now, nine months after he died, I walk these moonlit woods, and in the dim light, I can see him out there. I’ve got different Dogs in tow now (or do they have me in tow?), and together we walk ‘Possum Ridge…but I can almost see another Dog under the trees. I seem to be looking through a mist in the corners of my eyes…this is the shadowy light I saw Sampson in so many times, in so many good times… I don’t want to leave. So long as I’m here, I can almost see Sam dance under those trees again. When I finally take our Dogs back inside, I feel like I’m leaving a piece of myself out here, out on ‘Possum Ridge. Perhaps it’s the piece of me that died with Sam.

If you should ever come and quietly walk around Prairie Paradise on a yellowy moonlit night, you might just catch sight of a man and his Dog up on ‘Possum Ridge….a man and Dog who are both one with the misty moonlight.  If you see them, please, say a little prayer that they will always be together.

By: Jim Merrick

What Is Canine Influenza Virus?

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There are many causes of kennel cough, both bacterial and viral. Canine influenza virus (CIV) is one of the viral causes of kennel cough. This highly contagious respiratory disease has affected thousands of dogs in the United States. Because CIV is a relatively new virus, most dogs have not been exposed to it before. Dogs of any age, breed, and vaccine status are susceptible to this infection.

How Could My Dog Catch Canine Influenza Virus?
CIV is easily transmitted between dogs through a combination of aerosols, droplets, and direct contact with respiratory secretions. The virus does not survive for a long time in the environment, so dogs usually get CIV when they are in close proximity to other infectious dogs.

Which Dogs Are Prone to Canine Influenza Virus? 
Any dog who interacts with large numbers of dogs is at increased risk for exposure. Pet owners should consult their veterinarian for information about the canine influenza vaccine.

What Are the General Signs of Canine Influenza Virus? 
While most dogs will show typical signs of kennel cough, but a small percentage of dogs will develop a more severe illness. Signs of canine influenza virus include:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Variable fever
  • Clear nasal discharge that progresses to thick, yellowish-green mucus
  • Rapid/difficult breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy

Can Dogs Die From Canine Influenza Virus?
If CIV is quickly diagnosed and treated, the fatality rate is quite low. Deaths are usually caused by secondary complications, such as pneumonia. It is important that dogs with CIV receive proper veterinary care.

How Is Canine Influenza Virus Diagnosed?
Veterinarians will typically conduct a thorough physical examination and run a series of tests to diagnose the illness.

How Is Canine Influenza Treated?
Because CIV is a virus similar to the flu in humans, there is no specific antiviral medication available. However, supportive care and appropriate treatment of secondary infections are important. Your veterinarian may advise the following to soothe your dog while the condition runs its course:

  • Good nutrition and supplements to raise immunity
  • A warm, quiet, and comfortable spot to rest
  • Medications to treat secondary bacterial infections
  • Intravenous fluids to maintain hydration
  • Workup and treatment for pneumonia

Be advised, while most dogs will fight the infection within 10 to 30 days, secondary infections require antibiotics and, in the case of pneumonia, sometimes even hospitalization.

What Should I Do if I Think My Dog Has Canine Influenza Virus? 
If you think your dog has canine influenza virus, immediately isolate him or her from all other dogs and call your veterinarian.

Can I Catch Canine Influenza From My Dog?
So far there has been no evidence to indicate that dogs can transmit CIV to humans.

How Can I Help Prevent My Dog From Spreading the Disease? 
Any dog infected with CIV should be kept isolated from other dogs for 10 to 14 days from the onset of signs. Dogs are most infectious before signs are apparent, and can continue shedding the virus for approximately 10 days. This means that by the time signs of the illness are seen, other dogs may have already been exposed.

Source: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/canine-influenza-viruscanine-flu

Easter Pet Poisons

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The veterinarians at Pet Poison Helpline receive hundreds of calls this time of year from pet owners and veterinarians concerning cats that have ingested Easter lilies.

“Unbeknownst to many pet owners, Easter lilies are highly toxic to cats,” said Ahna Brutlag, DVM, MS assistant director at Pet Poison Helpline. “All parts of the Easter lily plant are poisonous – the petals, the leaves, the stem and even the pollen. Cats that ingest as few as one or two leaves, or even a small amount of pollen while grooming their fur, can suffer severe kidney failure.”

In most situations, symptoms of poisoning will develop within six to 12 hours of exposure. Early signs include vomiting, loss of appetite, lethargy and dehydration. Symptoms worsen as kidney failure develops. Some cats will experience disorientation, staggering and seizures.

“There is no effective antidote to counteract lily poisoning, so the sooner you can get your cat to the veterinarian, the better his chances of survival will be,” said Brutlag. “If you see your cat licking or eating any part of an Easter lily, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately. If left untreated, his chances of survival are low.”

Treatment includes inducing vomiting, administering drugs like activated charcoal (to bind the poison in the stomach and intestines), intravenous fluid therapy to flush out the kidneys, and monitoring of kidney function through blood testing. The prognosis and the cost – both financially and physically – to the pet owner and cat, are best when treated immediately.

There are several other types of lilies that are toxic to cats as well. They are of the Lilium and Hemerocallis species and commonly referred to as Tiger lilies, Day lilies and Asiatic lilies. Popular in many gardens and yards, they can also result in severe acute kidney failure. These lilies are commonly found in florist bouquets, so it is imperative to check for poisonous flowers before bringing bouquets into the household. Other types of lilies – such as the Peace, Peruvian and Calla lilies – are usually not a problem for cats and may cause only minor drooling.

Thankfully, lily poisoning does not occur in dogs or people. However, if a large amount is ingested, it can result in mild gastrointestinal issues such as vomiting and diarrhea.

Other Dangers to Pets at Easter Time

Pet Poison Helpline also receives calls concerning pets that have ingested Easter grass and chocolate.

Usually green or yellow in color, Easter grass is the fake grass that often accompanies Easter baskets. When your cat or dog ingests something “stringy” like Easter grass, it can become anchored around the base of the tongue or stomach, rendering it unable to pass through the intestines. It can result in a linear foreign body and cause severe damage to the intestinal tract, often requiring expensive abdominal surgery.

Lastly, during the week of Easter, calls to Pet Poison Helpline concerning dogs that have been poisoned by chocolate increase by nearly 200 percent. While the occasional chocolate chip in one cookie may not be an issue, certain types of chocolate are very toxic to dogs. In general, the darker and more bitter the chocolate, the greater the danger. Baker’s chocolate and dark chocolate pose the biggest problem. The chemical toxicity is due to methylxanthines (a relative of caffeine) and results in vomiting, diarrhea, hyperactivity, an abnormal heart rhythm, seizures, and possibly death. Other sources include chewable chocolate flavored multi-vitamins, baked goods, or chocolate-covered espresso beans. If you suspect that your dog ate chocolate, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline immediately.

Spring is in the air and Easter is a wonderful holiday. Remember that your pets will be curious about new items you bring into your household like Easter lilies, Easter grass and chocolate. Keep them a safe distance away from your pets’ reach and enjoy the holiday and the season.

 

SOURCE: http://www.petpoisonhelpline.com/pet-owners/seasons/easter/

The Importance of Dental Cleaning for Pets

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Pets obviously can’t brush their own teeth, so it’s up to owners and veterinarians to clean their teeth for them. Just as with a human’s teeth, tartar can accumulate on a pet’s teeth over time, which can eventually progress into dental disease if left untreated. There are four stages of gum disease in pets, with the fourth being the most severe. At this stage, there is a risk for liver, heart, and kidney disease as a result of the bacteria associated with gum disease. More than 60% of all dogs and cats show signs of dental disease by 3 years of age, but with professional veterinary care and at-home care, this disease is completely preventable.

The team at Bogue Animal Hospital in Wichita wants to help prevent pet gum disease and the other health risks associated it. That’s why we recommend that you bring your dog or cat in for a wellness exam at least once a year. During these exams, we can determine if a dental cleaning or any other dental treatment is necessary. Our comprehensive services are intended to not only stop dental disease in its tracks, but to treat it as well.

Before Your Pet’s Dental Cleaning

For the safety of our patients, we perform all dental procedures at Bogue Animal Hospital under general anesthesia, which is preceded by a thorough dental exam and pre-anesthetic blood work. These tests allow us to ensure that your pet is healthy enough for anesthesia and the dental procedure. If the results don’t indicate any underlying disorders, we can schedule a separate appointment for the cleaning. We recommend pets not have any food or water after midnight on the night before your scheduled dental appointment.

During Your Pet’s Dental Cleaning

We begin each pet dental cleaning by administering the anesthesia while monitoring their vital functions. We rely on digital dental X-ray technology to view below the gum line and make note of any abnormalities. To remove the tartar and plaque buildup—above and below the gum line—we use hand and ultrasonic scalers. Then, we polish the teeth to remove any residual tartar.

At-Home Pet Dental Care

Having your pet’s professionally teeth cleaned and examined is only part of keeping your dog’s or cat’s mouth healthy. It’s also important to maintain your pet’s oral health from home between visits to Bogue Animal Hospital. Our team can give you brushing tips and recommendations on the best at-home pet dental products to help prevent tartar buildup. By establishing a home dental regimen with a pet toothbrush and pet toothpaste, you can help lower or even eliminate the risk for gum disease.

If it’s been a while since your pet’s had a wellness exam, or you think it’s time for a pet dental cleaning, schedule an appointment at Bogue Animal Hospital today by calling 316-722-1085.

5 Tips for Traveling with a Pet

Tips for Traveling with a Pet

Planning a trip somewhere with your pet to escape the cold this winter? Traveling with a pet can be fun, but it can also be stressful if you’re not prepared. As pet owners ourselves, the team at Bogue Animal Hospital wants your pet to be safe and happy during your trip, just as much as you do. That’s why we’ve provided the following tips for traveling with a pet. Whether you’ll be driving or flying to your destination, consider these tips so you both can have a safe, relaxing journey.

 

Choose Your Pet Carrier Wisely

If your pet will be traveling in a carrier, make sure you choose one that’s comfortable and spacious. Keep in mind that all airlines have dimension limits for pet carriers in the cabin, so if you’ll be taking your furry friend as your carryon, make sure the carrier does not exceed these limits. Although there are soft-sided and hard-shell carriers available, for air travel, a soft-sided one is best if your pet will be in the cabin, since it allows for more flexibility under the seat.

 

Make Sure Your Pet Has ID

Whether in the form of a microchip or ID tag—or both—your dog or cat should have sufficient identification, in case they become separated from you. Make sure the microchip and ID tag have your current address and contact information as well. Having a recent photo handy in your phone is also a great idea.

 

Make Sure Your Pet’s Vaccinations Are Updated

There’s no way to plan for what your pet may encounter at your final destination. They might come in contact with another animal, parasites, or something else that could harm them. That’s why it’s so important for your pet to be current on their vaccinations. Some airlines even require proof of vaccinations (in the form of a health certificate) before allowing your pet on their plane. This is usually the case for international travel. Check your airline for their policy before booking your flight to avoid any surprises. If your pet’s vaccinations aren’t updated, or if a health certificate is required, schedule an appointment at Bogue Animal Hospital.

 

Know the Fees

Most airlines charge an additional fee to fly with a pet, which is usually around $100 each way. You can find this information on your airline’s website or by calling them. Most airlines require that you book your pet’s flight when you book your own, so keep this in mind as you do your planning. Ask about the cancellation policy, too, in case you decide not to take your pet along at the last minute.

 

Expect the Unexpected

From acts of God to accidents, anything can happen during your trip that can put your four-legged friend in danger. Always pack an emergency kit that includes basic first aid items when you travel with your pet. It’s also a great idea to get familiar with the emergency veterinarians near your destination. If necessary, you can use your smartphone’s location setting and do a search for “Emergency Vet Near Me.”

And of course, if you determine that traveling with your pet is NOT the best decision, for whatever reason, Bogue Animal Hospital offers boarding services for dogs and cats. If you have questions about these travel tips or would like to book a boarding stay, give us a call at 316-722-1085.

Springtime Pet Safety Tips

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Spring has sprung, and with the change of season, our thoughts inevitably turn to spring cleaning and much-needed home improvement projects. But the new balmy weather can prove not-so-sunny for curious pets—or their unwitting parents. Before you embark on seasonal chores or outdoor revelry, take inventory of potential springtime hazards for your delicate, furry friend. To help you out, our ASPCA experts have come up with a few seasonal tips that will help prevent mishaps or misfortunes.

 

Screen Yourself Many pet parents welcome the breezy days of spring by opening their windows. Unfortunately, they also unknowingly put their pets at risk—especially cats, who are apt to jump or fall through unscreened windows. Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.

 

Buckle Up! While every pet parent knows dogs love to feel the wind on their furry faces, allowing them to ride in the bed of pick-up trucks or stick their heads out of moving-car windows is dangerous. Flying debris and insects can cause inner ear or eye injuries and lung infections, and abrupt stops or turns can cause major injury, or worse! Pets in cars should always be secured in a crate or wearing a seatbelt harness designed especially for them.

 

Spring Cleaning Spring cleaning is a time-honored tradition in many households, but be sure to keep all cleaners and chemicals out of your pets’ way! Almost all commercially sold cleaning products contain chemicals that are harmful to pets. The key to using them safely is to read and follow label directions for proper use and storage.

 

Home Improvement 101 Products such as paints, mineral spirits and solvents can be toxic to your pets and cause severe irritation or chemical burns. Carefully read all labels to see if the product is safe to use around your furry friends. Also, be cautious of physical hazards, including nails, staples, insulation, blades and power tools. It may be wise to confine your dog or cat to a designated pet-friendly room during home improvement projects.

 

Let Your Garden Grow—With Care Pet parents, take care—fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides keep our plants and lawns healthy and green, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption and can be fatal if your pet ingests them. Always store these poisonous products in out-of-the-way places and follow label instructions carefully. Check out our full list of garden care tips.

 

Poisonous Plants Time to let your garden grow! But beware, many popular springtime plants—including Easter lilies, rhododendron and azaleas—are highly toxic to pets and can easily prove fatal if eaten. Check out our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your home and garden.

 

Ah-Ah-Achoo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets can be allergic to foods, dust, plants and pollens. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can cause minor sniffling and sneezing as well as life-threatening anaphylactic shock. If you suspect your pet has a springtime allergy, please visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. ·

 

Pesky Little Critters April showers bring May flowers—and an onslaught of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication, as well as a flea and tick control program. Ask your doctor to recommend a plan designed specifically for your pet. · Out and About Warmer weather means more trips to the park, longer walks and more chances for your pet to wander off! Make sure your dog or cat has a microchip for identification and wears a tag imprinted with your home address, cell phone and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke!) collars, please.

 

Source: https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/springtime-safety-tips

Christmas Pet Safety

“My pet would never eat food off the table!”
“My pet would never knock over the Christmas tree!”
“My pet would never bite someone!”

We all know our pets pretty well, but what we don’t always realize is that stress can make anybody do crazy things! When you have holiday guests or flashing Christmas lights or loud holiday music—or all of the above—at your house all at once, your pet may get stressed and frustrated, causing them to act out in unexpected ways. Most pet accidents are met with the statement, “He’s never done anything like that before!”
We recommend always making sure that your pet has a safe place to sit and relax during your holidays parties. Just like some people, pets need to get away from the action and de-stress, but most of the time they don’t know how to ask for their space.
If your pet is comfortable in their crate, we recommend moving it into a quiet room and letting them spend some time resting during your holiday get-togethers. Your pet will be happier, and by extension, you and your guests will be happier! And holidays disasters will be prevented.  

A unique dog food to help pets keep a healthy weight


Most often, choosing the right food and ensuring appropriate caloric expenditure through exercise plays a very important role in helping dogs reach their proper weight. However, pet owners often don’t comply with a weight loss recommendation because they don’t want to feel like they’re depriving their pets. As evidenced by the current pet obesity rates, behavior change for the pet owner is also difficult even when it is in the best interest of their pet’s general health and well-being.

Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution is weight loss and maintenance nutrition that is clinically proven to naturally work with each dog’s unique metabolic response activating the body’s natural ability to burn excess body fat and affect calorie utilization. The breakthrough nutrition is clinically proven to safely provide 28% body fat loss in only 2 months because it works to control hunger, helping to keep pets feeling full and satisfied between meals. The product is also clinically proven to avoid weight regain following a weight loss program.

Nutritionists and veterinarians at Hill’s developed this next generation formula with client compliance in mind. A complete portfolio of dry food, canned food, and treats are offered with the Metabolic portfolio. These products work together to ensure safe and healthy weight loss and easy weight maintenance without making big changes or depriving the pet. Because the formula works with each pet’s unique metabolism, it reduces the need for clients to precisely measure the food to safely achieve weight loss success.

In veterinarian conducted clinical trials with 351 client-owned pets, 88% of their patients lost weight within two months at home, and 86% of dog owners claimed they would recommend Metabolic to their friends with overweight dogs.

For further information visit www.hillspet.com and receive a $7 off coupon on your first purchase of Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution.


Adult Cats in Shelters: Give Them Hope


If you have ever been to an animal shelter, you have probably seen a sad sight: dozens of adult cats desperate for homes, most of which have little chance of getting out.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that every year, about 5 to 7 million pets enter the animal shelter system, of which more than half are cats. Unfortunately, approximately 70% of those cats are euthanized simply because no one wants them, and most shelters don’t have the funds to board them for more than a few weeks. Why aren’t these cats getting homes?

Supply vs. demand
Even though more animals are being spayed or neutered, 75% of animals coming into the shelter are still intact. One unspayed cat can produce many litters of kittens over the years, and those litters produce their own litters. The supply of cats is simply too large.

Michael Moyer, VMD, AAHA president, Rosenthal director and adjunct associate professor of Shelter Animal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “There are more [cats] heading into shelters than there are people going to shelters to adopt, or than are being displayed off-site from shelters to get adopted.”

The rate of intake of adult cats at shelters is significantly higher than the rate of adoption, and in spring, when the “kitten season” begins, the margin increases alarmingly. When given the opportunity to adopt a cute little kitten, people tend to ignore the older cats.

The American Humane Association has dubbed June “Adopt a Cat Month”—June has the lowest rate of adoption from shelters, therefore the highest rate of euthanasia. Kittens usually go fast, but unfortunately, the majority of shelter cats are over 5 years old. Some are “boring” looking, like tabbies or black cats, and others are part of a bonded pair, which means they would be miserable without their friend. Some have easily remedied medical conditions, while others aren’t well socialized. These cats stand no chance against the puppies, kittens and dogs in the shelters.

Location, location, location
According to the Humane Society of the United States, 33% of Americans have at least one cat. Of that number, only 21% were adopted from animal shelters. The rest came from a hodgepodge of sources: friends, family, coworkers, wandering strays or unplanned litters of kittens. Because people are getting cats from these other sources, they don’t turn to the shelter for adoption.

Part of the problem has to do with the shelters themselves. Because of city noise regulations, most shelters are located in industrial or other “undesirable” neighborhoods. People often don’t even know there’s a shelter in their area. “Most shelters are not in highly desirable foot-traffic neighborhoods,” Moyer says. Also, cities frequently lack the funds to modernize shelters, so walking through them can be dismal.

Decreasing odds
Numbers aren’t the only reason for low shelter adoptions. The shelter environment, specifically the cage, can dramatically decrease a cat’s odds of being adopted. The shelter is a loud, scary place, and with no consistent or regular exercise, cats can become depressed and fearful.

Cats need about 9 square feet to be comfortable, but shelter kennels are smaller than that. The animals need vertical space for jumping and horizontal space for play and sleep. When they are forced to live in cages, they have some serious adjusting to do. It may take up to 5 weeks for a cat to feel comfortable in a new environment, but most shelters aren’t able to keep them that long.

Illona Rodan, DVM, DABVP and founder of the Cat Care Clinic in Madison, Wis., says, “Cats are fearful in unfamiliar environments, and fearful cats tend to hide or flee. If caged, they will most likely hide in the back of the cage, as far away as possible in an attempt to protect themselves. To potential adopters, these cats appear unfriendly and undesirable.”

Ideal companions
With litters of cute kittens prancing around, who would want to adopt an older cat? Smart people! With adult cats, what you see is usually what you get. You may have to look a little harder, past the fearfulness, but, as Rodan says, “Adopting an adult cat allows one to know the personality you are getting.”

Older cats, especially in pairs, are also great for seniors and people who don’t want a huge time commitment. “Kittens require a lot of time and energy, and are usually more costly to care for than an adult cat,” says Rodan. Adults are more well-adjusted to life, and pairs keep each other company.

But more than anything else, adult cats are grateful. “Adult cats that find their way into homes can be the most loving pets of all—perhaps they know how lucky they are to have found a loving and caring home,” Rodan says.

How you can help
If you are thinking of adopting a cat, visit your local shelter first. Sure, your coworker might need a new home for her cat, or your neighbor might have a litter in the back yard, but those cats are “safe,” meaning they aren’t in immediate risk of being euthanized.

You can also spread the word in your community that adult cats in shelters need homes, too, and encourage people to visit their shelter first, either to adopt or to volunteer. “More adoptions is what shelters need, by whatever means can be found within that particular community,” says Moyer. “There is a role for vets, for shelters and for the community to step in and make a better outcome possible for cats.”

And, you can help with prevention. In the words of Bob Barker, “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.” And encourage others to do the same.

Originally published by Healthy Pet.

Dog Parks: What You Should Know Before You Go

Dog parks can be great for dogs and their owners. But before opening the gate, talk with your veterinary team to make sure a dog park is right for you and your dog.

“Dog parks often provide a suitable site to exercise and socialize dogs,” said John Tait, DVM at Blair Animal Hospital, an AAHA-accredited clinic in Canada. However, pet owners should make sure that parks are not overcrowded, that they are cleaned regularly, and that they are enclosed with material that dogs cannot destroy.

“Dogs are social animals,” Tait added, but “you want to make sure the [dogs] are not being territorial or showing signs of aggression toward each other.”

Jennafer Elias-Reed takes her dogs to dog parks around the United States. “They’re so much fun. It’s great seeing a whole herd of dogs playing,” she said. “For people with mellow dogs, it’s wonderful seeing them play with no conflict.”

Christine Holter, DVM, of Animal Hospital of Diamond Heights, an AAHA-accredited clinic in California, likes the socialization (interaction with other dogs) that parks offer, but she warns pet owners about risks, including exposure to viruses.

Ask your veterinarian how old your puppy should be before he/she goes to a dog park. The timing of vaccines — for diseases like parvovirus — is a particularly important issue. To be on the safe side, Holter suggests waiting six months before taking puppies to dog parks.

Certain breeds, like Pit bulls, chihuahuas, and rottweilers, seem to be more susceptible to parvo, though any puppy can get it, she added. “The older they are the more competent their immune system is and the better their ability to fight off the virus naturally,” she explained.

Dangerous situations can also arise at dog parks, Holter said. She encourages pet owners to watch the dogs carefully and try to get them back on leashes if they can do so safely when they sense a fight is about to occur.

“Often if they’re being aggressive, verbal commands won’t work because they’re too distracted,” she explained.

To minimize the risk of aggression, professionals emphasize training, which starts with puppy obedience classes, as well as recognizing a dog’s limitations.

“If [pet owners] know that their dog doesn’t deal well with other dogs, they need to think about keeping their dog on leash or possibly not even taking the dog to a dog park,” said Ryan Holter, co-owner of the Animal Hospital of Diamond Heights.

If you decide to explore the world of dog parks, check the Internet for places in your area. For example, www.dogpark.com has a list of dog parks in the United States and Canada with information on locations, amenities, and hours.

Also ask your veterinarian for recommendations, and visit the park solo first. If it seems clean, owners are vigilant about picking up after dogs, and there are clearly-posted rules and regulations, go have fun with your canine companion.

  

This article originally appeared in PetsMatter Volume 2 Issue 5, published by the American Animal Hospital Association. Copyright © 2009 AAHA. Find out more.