If you’re someone with seasonal allergies, you may be used to the influx of uncomfortable symptoms that arrive with the changing of the leaves in autumn and the sprouting of the grass in the spring. What you may not know is that it’s possible for your dog or cat to experience environmental allergies as well. Like us, pets’ allergies tend to flare up during the changing seasons. Below, Wellness veterinarian Dr. Al Townshend delves into this topic, answering some of the most common questions pet parents have about allergies in dogs and cats.
Q. Why can a pet’s allergies become worse in the fall or spring months? What environmental factors are at work during these times?
A. There are higher levels of environmental allergens in many parts of the country during the fall and spring months. In the fall, many common weeds such as Ragweed and Goldenrod are pollinating. Mold allergies can also arise in the fall as leaves and compost piles accumulate at the end of the growing season. In the spring, the majority of plants are producing pollen. Reactions to these allergens can be exacerbated by the dramatic shifts in temperature and moisture levels occurring during the changing seasons.
Q. What are some of the symptoms of seasonal allergies in dogs and cats?
A. The symptoms of seasonal allergies are very similar to those of food allergies and commonly include intense itching and scratching, hot spots, runny eyes and nose, sneezing and dry and flaky skin and coat.
Q. Is there a way to distinguish between environmental allergies and food allergies in pets?
A. It can take some experimenting to determine the main cause of your pet’s allergies. The big difference between the two types of allergies is that food allergies will occur for as long as a pet is on the food that she is allergic to, while environmental allergies are typically worse at certain points throughout the year.
To narrow down the type of allergy your pet has, keep a record of the pet’s symptoms. Make note of any symptom changes that coincide with changes in diet or season. If your pet’s food remains the same but her itchy skin only occurs in fall and spring, you’re likely dealing with an environmental allergy. If your record shows that your pet’s allergy symptoms are consistent year-round, we recommend working with your vet to try a different food (Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient formulas may help) or remove one potential environmental allergen. Although most environmental allergies are seasonal, some can occur year-round. Allergies to perfumes, feathers, cigarette smoke, flea & tick control products and even certain fabrics have been reported in pets. Whether testing for a food or environmental allergy, be sure to test one variable at a time and allow a few months for results as it can take that long for the immune-response to subside once the allergen is removed.
Q. What are some of the steps pet parents can take to remedy pets’ seasonal allergies?
A. If you determine that your pet has seasonal allergies, there are some steps you can take. Most seasonal allergens are difficult for dogs to completely avoid, as keeping them inside all the time is impractical. However, you can:
-Keep windows closed when environmental allergens are at their highest concentration
-Give your dog or cat regular baths with a mild cleanser which washes away allergens clinging to the coat
-Wipe paw pads down when your pet comes in from outside.
-Dispose of decaying leaves (in gutters, yard, etc.) promptly to reduce mold growth
-Change your car’s cabin air filter regularly
If your pet’s seasonal allergies are still significant after taking these steps, your pet may need medication to control the symptoms.
With a bit of observation and experimentation, you can get your pet’s allergies under control and help her feel more comfortable all year long.
Every Halloween, the streets are lined with frightening strangers – decaying mummies, wicked clowns and hungry zombies – arriving at your door every few minutes demanding a gift of food for their bags. This is what Halloween is like for your pet, and it can be terrifying! Add on to that a few holiday safety hazards and the stage has been set nicely for disaster. Keep your pet safe this October 31st with these tips:
Trick or Treat
Halloween candy is the bane of dentists everywhere, but also a regular presence on Halloween night in emergency veterinary clinics. Something that tastes so wonderful to us can be incredibly dangerous for our four-legged roommates.
- Chocolate – Halloween provides easy access to this deadly treat, especially when you have a fully-stocked bowl of those amazing chocolate-and-peanut-butter pumpkins. Chocolate is dangerous to both dogs and cats, and can be lethal, and the symptoms include diarrhea, quick breathing, high heart rate, vomiting and even seizures.
- All Other Candy - A good rule of thumb when it comes to all candy for your pet is this: don’t do it. Even non-chocolate candy is dangerous, as it may contain, xylitol, an artificial sweetener that can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar and seizures.
All Hallow’s Eve is also called the “Mischief Night,” and while many practice harmless pranking, sadly many beloved pets fall victim to those with less honorable intentions. Many animal shelters will not allow any black cat adoptions during the month of October, to deter any would-be cruelty inflictors. No matter how deplorable, it can be avoidable, so keep your pets inside on the days surrounding Halloween.
People in Costumes
If you live in a kid-friendly neighborhood, you better stock up and leave the porch light on, because they are coming for you. While it’s fun for us to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over the creative costumes America’s youth is donning this year, it’s 100% terrifying for your pets. “Who are these strangers at the door? Why do they keep knocking on the door? Why do you open the door, and then why do they yell? I’m pretty sure I just saw a zombie.” While we can’t really explain this October holiday with our pets, we can take certain steps to make sure they’re as comfortable with the situation as they can be.
- Pick a room far away from the front door and designate it the pet room for the evening. Turn on low music or a television in the room so sudden knocking or doorbell-ringing isn’t quite so jarring. Buy yourself some time with a few jerky treats and chew toys.
- If pets can’t be confined to one part of the house, at least make sure they have no access to the front door. With so many constant openings and closings of the door, all to reveal strangers in costume, it’s easy for Fluffy to slip out into the night for tricks of her own.
Your Pets in Costumes
Be sensitive to your buddy. While many pet costumes are hilarious and adorable, it’s important to make sure that your dog or cat is okay with wearing whatever you have chosen. I’m not saying that he’s going to choose whether he wants to be Lady Gaga or a hotdog, but he can let you know quickly if the costume doesn’t fit. You wouldn’t want to wear an uncomfortable costume all night, so don’t put your pet in something tight, restrictive, irritating, itchy or painful.
The one costume your pet should not go without this Halloween is an identifying tag, engraved with your phone number. Many pets go missing on Halloween, so make it easier for rescuers to reach you when they find your dog.
Pumpkin is a delicious fruit can be a nice addition to your pet’s diet. However, Halloween presents its own set of dangers when it comes to the cheerful orange decoration.
- Too Much of a Good Thing – Pumpkin in small quantities can act as a natural regularity booster, but too much can quickly up that power to laxative and even intestinal blockage. Make sure any decorative pumpkins are not within easy access to dogs and cats, who may just decide they’re going to eat the whole pumpkin before you even realize it’s happening. Similarly, another fall decoration, corn, can also cause gastrointestinal problems, so keep it out of reach as well.
- Jack-O-Lantern – You certainly want the neighborhood to enjoy all the hard work you put into your jack-o-lantern, but don’t forget that the unusual glow from the candle can attract more than trick-or-treaters. Keep pets away from any items that have a flame, including pumpkins and decorative candles.
Halloween can be scary for your pet, or it can be like any other day with careful planning and consideration for your pet. Remember your first concern is your pet’s health and safety, and if that can be accomplished while dressing your dog as the Toto to your Dorothy, your Halloween will be one to remember.
Q. We have a 14-month-old Black Lab mix (we think part Coon Hound). He barks quite a lot for no apparent reason–not all day, but a lot. Any suggestions?
A. Every dog will bark to some degree. Some hound breeds bark more than others. Excessive barking can be annoying and should be controlled.
The first step is to determine what has caused the dog to bark and then work to reduce the dog’s urge to bark. Many things can trigger a barking episode, such as protection of territory, fear, alarm, boredom, playfulness and seeking attention. It often takes a good deal of time to solve a barking issue so don’t give up. Shouting can encourage barking so speak calmly. Try saying “quiet” in a soft manner and when the dog responds, reward him with praise and maybe a treat. Wellness Pure Rewards Jerky Treats make a good training treat as they’re small and can be broken into smaller pieces if needed. There are training classes offered by many retail pet stores that can also help with resolving your issue so seek help if you need to.
With 80 million cats in the U.S., it’s clear Americans have a love affair with the cat. Maybe it’s their cattitude that makes us want more of them, or maybe it’s because they can be more independent than dogs and are still sweet, furry companions.
Here are 10 things we love about cats:
1- They’re cute – Big eyes, pointed ears, expressive faces. Silly antics. They bring a smile to your face.
2- They’re soft and cuddly – When they present their soft bellies for petting, what’s not to like?
3- They purr – Isn’t it nice when everyone is happy?
4- They love us back – When they cuddle up with us, even head butt us gently; we know they’re saying, “I love you”.
5- They’re independent – Cats operate on their own agenda. You can’t fault them for that and you can’t expect them to follow yours. They require respect and that’s ok.
6- They make good foot warmers– If they have long fur, it may cover your feet and even if not, their body warmth can keep us warm. Who needs slippers when you have a cat?
7- They’re entertaining – Why do cats choose the most improbable places to curl up? The smallest box, the sliver of a shelf…how many times does it bring a smile to your face?
8- They don’t expect walks at dawn…actually, they don’t expect walks at all, though opening and closing the door for them will help you get in some exercise.
9- They don’t bark at the mailman – They’re mostly quiet. We like quiet.
10- Cat pictures – From the dawn of photography, humans have taken and shared pictures of our cats. Now we have the internet to share even more cat pictures.
Big or small, short-haired or long, cats have a colorful history. They’ve been royalty – wait, I think they still are – and they’ve been associated with superstitious beliefs. Through it all, they’re our companions.
What’s your favorite thing about cats?
Every Dog Has His Day (Or Week)
You can’t have too many opportunities to celebrate those who love us unconditionally. It’s even better when there’s a special day—or week—given especially for that occasion.
National Dog Week is the last week of September. According to one source, it was founded in 1928 by Captain William Lewis Judy to promote responsible dog ownership.
We like to think of it as another opportunity to celebrate and share the love of dogs.
Puppy kisses, happy greetings and lots of tail waggin’ fun bring smiles to our faces throughout the year. Plus, the weather is getting cooler and that makes it a perfect opportunity to get outside with your favorite furry canine.
Here are three ideas for celebrating National Dog Week:
Hold a Dog Party
Don’t have a good yard for several doggies to play? Enlist a friend who does. Invite 3-5 dogs (and their humans) over for a play date. The humans can take turns throwing balls and Frisbees and the dogs can catch them. Many dogs also love a great game of chase. They can run in circles chasing one another for at least 10 minutes.
Don’t have dogs who play chase or catch Frisbees? That’s ok. They’ll still enjoy the social opportunity. If you work long hours away from home, your pets may not get enough companionship. Just make sure the invitees all get along and enjoy one another. Then, everyone can leave happy and tired.
Get Involved in Doggie Events
Lots of animal shelters hold fundraisers throughout the year to support their mission of saving animals. They always need volunteers and can be a great way to help dozens of dogs without adopting more than your house can hold.
You could even organize a “Mutt Strutt” to benefit the shelter or for veterinarians to help families in need. Many veterinarians keep a special fund to help pet-loving families who find themselves in a financial crisis when it comes to caring for their pet.
Enjoy a Day at the Beach
After Labor Day, many beaches become pet friendly again.
Enjoy a romp in the sand and surf. Make clean up easy on yourself by stopping by a “doggie wash” on the way out.They’ll feel happy after a good outing. They’ll be over the moon after a great outing and a good bath.
Is the beach too far? Take a hike in the woods or at a nearby State Park.
Whatever you choose to do, your best friend will enjoy being with you. How will you celebrate National Dog Week?
As the summer slowly winds down and those back to school ads start popping up, it can leave not only the kids dreading another year of homework and tests. Your pup can also feel the effects of having their partners in crime leave for school after three months of running around outside, going on family vacations and being the center of attention. To prevent separation anxiety in your furriest friend, here some tips to help adjust to another school year.
- A few weeks before the start of the school year, start your mornings the same as you would when school begins. Start feeding and walking the dog around the time when your children will be leaving for school. By reworking the dog’s feeding and walking schedules ahead of school can help ease the overall adjustment period.
- To help your pup adjust to long periods of time being alone, first try leaving for short amount of times. Over time, extend the times away from the home helping the dog adjust to being by themselves for a period of time.
- With more time on their paws, dogs and cats will need to find ways to entertain themselves. You may find your pet meowing, barking or pacing more often. Deter this behavior by providing new toys or pet day care to ensure your pets are receiving enough attention each day. Try natural treats like Wellness CORE Superfood Protein Bars for dogs, which contain antioxidant-rich foods like blueberries, kale and sweet potatoes, or Wellness Kittles with cranberries for cats for an extra delicious treat.
- If you notice your pet is continuing to howl, pace or meow do not punish them. While frustrating, punishing these behaviors can make the situation worse. Be patient and if you see your pet is still not adjusting to your children’s new schedule talk to your veterinarian.
- Fall means back to school and that means more school supplies. Keep school supplies like scissors, pens, pencils and markers out of reach from your pets. If ingested they can be poisonous and cause for an emergency ER visit.
- Inevitability with school starting and seasons changing, your pup will be spending more time indoors. Prepare the areas your dog will be in with chew toys and treats to keep them entertained and out of potential trouble. Try the Wellness® Petite Treats, a bite sized crunchy treat that is sure to satisfy any palate as well promote healthy, shiny coats.
- When the family is home, make sure to show your pup extra attention and playtime.
By Dr. Cindy Bressler
Dr. Cindy Bressler is a Veterinarian providing services to New York City and Hamptons based clients on a house call basis. Dr. Bressler is on the Board of many animal related charities, including Last Chance Animal Rescue, Gimme Shelter and NYCLASS. She works on many benefit committees to raise money and awareness about Animal Rescue. She lectures on the topic of veterinary medicine at universities, schools and businesses.
Your pet is a member of your family, and when it comes to his health care, it’s important to look for the best. Whether you’ve just moved to a new place or you’re looking to up the quality of your current animal care, there’s much to consider in your pet’s new doc. Keep in mind that this person should not only have a caring touch, but also be fully capable of handling any emergency situation that could arise. The hardest time to select a vet is when the need is urgent, so take the opportunity to scout around for the best choice now. Give yourself the peace of mind that no matter what happens with your buddy, you have a great veterinarian on call.
License and Accreditation: You certainly wouldn’t visit an unlicensed doctor for your own healthcare, and your pet deserves the same. A professional license to practice in your state is required, and although a membership with the American Animal Hospital Association is not mandatory, it offers a step up in knowing your pet is in good hands. Additional training and certifications should be noted, particularly if your pet has specific health concerns that require specialized knowledge. Check your state’s requirements and don’t hesitate to ask for proof of certifications; responsible vets will have these clearly posted in their clinics.
Referrals: The best form of guidance can be found in the referrals of others. What do current (or former) patients have to say about the care they were provided at the veterinarian you are researching? Good and bad experiences should be noted, specifically those that made all the difference in the satisfaction of the client. How reasonable are the charges? How thorough are the examinations? Was the vet friendly, approachable, easy to talk to? These are all questions you should ask of those who have had their fur babies treated at the vet you are considering.
Connection with the Community: Pay attention to the vet’s connection within the community, something that can be very telling determining the kind of person this vet is with animal care. Does the veterinary clinic provide discounted services to rescued dogs, or discounted fees for spaying or neutering a new pet? A caring vet will reach out to the community as an advocate for proper animal care, serving as an example of how to treat our constant companions with respect and kindness.
Personal Touch: Busy veterinarians can struggle with allotting the proper time for each pet, and it’s not always easy to spend as much time as they would truly like to with your pet. However, a good vet will not lost the personal touch with your pet, regardless of how busy the day is or how many patients are waiting to be seen. Your pet is important, and you should never feel as though your visit is being rushed or that your concerns are being ignored. Sometimes an extra few minutes just to pet your dog or give him a special treat can make all the difference in both your pet’s experience at the vet, and yours!
Diet and Exercise Knowledge: A great way to keep your pet from visiting the vet for more than an annual visit is to provide the right food and treats along with an exercise program, and a good vet recognizes these natural life and health boosters. Responsible vets are knowledgeable about the right program for your pet, and they advocate for proper diet and exercise.
Continued Education: The medical profession is constantly changing, with new and exciting updates in healthcare happening every day. The same is true for veterinary medicine, and a worthy veterinarian will consistently update his knowledge with new techniques and treatments. Many veterinarians receive regular training to keep skills fresh and learn about new options for animal care, and your vet should do the same.
Office Maintenance: Hospitals and doctor offices are kept sanitized and sterilized for a reason, and veterinary clinics should be no exception. Ask for a tour of a vet before signing your pet onto the registry; a worthy clinic should have no problem showing you everything from the kennels to the surgery, and everything should be clean and orderly.
Staffing Requirements: When your pet is being seen at an animal hospital, he comes into contact with many other members of the staff, and each of these individuals should be properly trained and certified. It’s okay to ask the vet about his staffing requirements, what is required of each position, and who would be involved in the care and keeping of your best friend.
Office Hours and Location: Ideally, your vet is located close enough to be reached in an absolute emergency fairly quickly, and the office hours the vet keeps is critical as well. While many vets do not provide 24-hour service, they should at least provide the contact information for those who do. Routine treatments and annual visits need not be handled urgently, but when every second counts, you want a veterinarian who is on call and ready to handle any emergency.
The Most Important Vote: Trust your pet’s instincts when it comes to choosing a vet. It is, after all, his doctor, and it should be someone that he trusts, even during times of sickness or injury. Of course your pet doesn’t get the same excited feeling pulling in to the vet as he would the dog park, but there should be some level of “hey, I know these guys!” that puts your dog at ease. Your vet and his or her staff should always try to make the experience as pleasant and comfortable for your pet as they can.
Take a few extra steps and check references, do your research and make sure a vet is the right choice for you and your pet. A little extra time spent in the decision can make all the difference in the health and happiness of your best friend.
Q. I have a 12 year old Bijon who has developed bladder stones and is now on a special food. We would love to give him treats, but have been unable to find any that would not harm him. Can you make any suggestions?
There are many types of bladder stones and all are different and need to be addressed individually. The two most common stones are Struvite (magnesium ammonium phosphate) and calcium oxalate. Struvite is usually caused by infection and so using the proper antibiotic at the correct dosage for a sufficient time is essential. I would suggest working closely with your veterinarian to find a proper treat that won’t negatively affect the action of the diet.
The treat should encourage acidity so I would suspect a predominately meat treat would work. The Wellness Small Breed Petite Treats Crunchy Mini-Bites are a meat-based treat that may work. Again, it’s best to verify that your veterinarian feels comfortable with this option.
There’s really nothing better than a dog. A true friend and companion, a trickster, a playmate, and often the life of the party, what would our lives be without our four-legged friends? The famous humorist Will Rogers once said, “If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” Dogs live to love us, so here’s a few ways to return that love and show your best friend how much they mean to you.
Hanging Out with Your Buddy – Every day you have your routine, and it undoubtedly includes time spent away from home – at work, running errands or just living your life. But don’t forget that you have a buddy at home whose whole life revolves around you. Of course you can’t be with your dog all day, but it’s important to make time to hang out with your dog every day.
- Walks and Runs: Every dog breed needs daily exercise, but do a little research on your pooch and make sure he is getting enough physical fitness every day. You’re not only assuring your dog’s health, but you’re showing him that he’s important enough to show off. And remember that it’s his time to enjoy the outdoors, so be patient when he stops to smell the flowers.
- Dog-friendly Outings: Pet-friendly activities are popping up all over, so take a little time to research dog-friendly spots in your neighborhood and town. Many outdoor restaurants and more shops than ever are not only allowing you, but inviting you to bring your dog along for the fun. Call ahead to make sure, or check out Bring Fido, a great online search tool that highlights the best in dog-friendly spots, complete with user reviews and pictures.
- At Home: Long day at work or just feeling like keeping it local? Don’t forget that even if you’ve had a busy day, your dog has been busy waiting for you to come home, so don’t forget to give him some attention. Throw a favorite toy, play a game of hide and seek, or set up a doggy treat hunt in your home.
Taking Care – You watch what you eat, have good hygiene and have regular checkups with your doctor, so why wouldn’t you want the same for your dog? One of the best ways to love your dog? Making responsible choices when it comes to their everyday health.
- Food: Your dog’s diet can determine not only the longevity of his life, but also the quality. Dogs don’t judge their food in calories or health benefits, so it’s up to you to make good choices with what to put in his bowl. Read the bag, check the ingredients, do your homework, because don’t you want to have your best friend around as long as you can? You want a food that has real meat, fruits and vegetables; not fillers, and the artificial flavors or colors have to go. Choose a diet suitable for your dog’s breed and stage of life; Wellness Pet Food makes it easy to make the right choice for your dog.
- Grooming: Can you imagine what your hair would look like if you didn’t brush it for months and you only got a haircut every couple of years? Or what if you never trimmed your fingernails or brushed your teeth? If you wouldn’t neglect your own hygiene, why would you neglect your dogs? Not only does poor grooming cause your pet discomfort, but some factors, like not regular teeth-brushing, can pose serious risks to his health.
- Vet Care: Regular veterinary care for your dog is part of being a responsible owner, and this includes two exams a year at the minimum. Stay up to date on vaccinations (most importantly for distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies) and visit the vet if your buddy is injured or shows lingering signs of sickness.
The Special Treatment - Hopefully you have lots of opportunities to show your dog a special reward; he didn’t chase the mailman at lunch, or you left your brand new shoes out all night and not a chew mark to be seen, or maybe it’s your dog’s birthday. Whatever the reason for celebration, here are some ways to give your buddy the special treatment.
- Dog Massage: Sure, that can sound a little strange at first, but dogs, especially dogs with more than a few years under their collars, can reap the benefits of a good massage. Massage can be calming in times of anxiety, relieve joint stiffness in arthritic dogs, or even provide a warm-up for athletic dogs before play. This article in Modern Dog Magazine has some great tips on how to give the right kind of massage for your dog’s health.
- Treats: Treats are often the go-to choice for rewarding your dog, but if you truly love your pooch, you will only give treats with the right ingredients and offer these kind of tasty rewards in moderation. Choose the right dog treats, tailored to your buddy’s diet and health needs, and save treats for times of excellent behavior, not to be given as a ‘guilt treat’ for when you have to leave the house.