Facts About Pet Insurance You Probably Didn’t Know

About 180 million pets have cost their owners about $60 billion a year, an estimate released by the North American pet Health Insurance Association. This includes about $15 billion spent on veterinary care, which is the third highest in terms of pet health expenditure.

Most Americans certainly have practical knowledge of the high cost of vet care, which compares unfavorably with the costs associated with getting pet insurance policies for 1 million pets at a cost of $595 million, or an average of $595 per pet annually.

It might seem a lot to spend on your pet, but it might be well worth it. The first pet insurance health policy issued was in 1982 to television star Lassie, so it is quite a new option as far as insurance goes. However, by 2009 the number of policies issued per year has risen by an average of 13.2%, so there is clearly a demand for them.

For many pet owners, the trick is finding the pet insurance that will give them the most bang for their buck.  While there are some top contenders, the best one for a particular pet will really depend on specific situations and the most likely scenarios in which insurance would be a viable option. This article will deal with what you need to know about pet insurance.

Don’t think of it as health insurance for people

Just because your pet is eerily human in many respects and you consider him or her as part of your family, this doesn’t mean the insurance company will as well. For insurers, your pets are property, and an insurance policy for them will read much like property insurance. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as property insurance policies, and by extension pet health insurance policies, are much easier to understand than your own health insurance policy.

Additionally, the following conditions are typical in pet insurance policies:

  • You can choose any vet you like as long as the vet has a valid license. There is no such thing as in-network vets, so you can go to any vet without having to worry about paying out-of-pocket expenses.
  • You can choose to cover accidents and illnesses, only accidents, or extended conditions.
  • You pay just a monthly average premium of $14 for barebones (no pun intended) plans up to $98 for plans with the most coverage for dogs, and this is even lower for cats. The premiums can vary slightly depending on a few factors including the breed and age of your pet, you location, and any add-ons you choose for the policy.

If you are familiar with basic insurance terms, it can be relatively easy to understand your pet insurance policy. In most cases,  you pay a premium and you pay a deductible before coverage kicks in. The deductible is usually between $100 and $250 annually, meaning your insurance coverage kicks in when you exceed the deductible at any time during a calendar year.

In some cases, you might have a fixed out-of-pocket amount or co-pay, which with pet insurance means you have to pay a certain percentage of the total cost per service or visit, and the maximum for a co pay is 30%. For example, if your vet charges you $100, you pay $30 at most and the insurer pays $70.

What is a bit annoying about pet insurance is that you have to pay for the service first, and then file a claim with your insurer for reimbursement. Your vet will not do that for you, and some will even have signs telling you to pay them at the time of service. On the other hand, some vets will allow regular clients to “run a tab,” essentially, giving the pet owner time to collect from the insurance company before getting payment.

You can insure pets other than a dog or cat

While you can get insurance to cover the health of your pet bird or reptile, the choices are few. The biggest one is the Veterinarian Pet Insurance division of Nationwide, so there’s that. You might be able to find a couple more, but mostly they focus on dogs and cats, which represent 90% and 10% of policies issued.

You need to consider a few things

The first thing you need to consider is if your pet has a pre-existing condition. Chances are the pet insurance policy will not cover this. For instance, if your pet has frequent abdominal pains, the insurer might restrict coverage for any condition where abdominal pain is a symptom.  You should have a vet give your pet a complete physical checkup before getting insurance so you are aware of what might constitute as a pre-existing condition.

Make sure that you discuss the topic of pre-existing conditions and its effects on your coverage with your insurer before signing up. The medical records of your pet may include something you consider minor, but could have big consequences when filing a claim in the future.

The next thing you need to consider that insurers typically have a holding period before an insurance coverage kicks in. For instance, if you get insurance because you found out that your pet would need an expensive procedure soon, you will probably not be able to use it. There is typically a wait period of 14 days up to one year for illness, depending on the specific condition, and between 24 and 48 hours for injuries resulting from an accident. The wait period might be different for each state, however, so find out what applies in your location.

You should also find out the maximum payouts for a policy. Depending on the insurer, it might be the maximum for a specific illness, for the year, or over the policy’s lifetime. The payout conditions will have a big impact on the premiums and efficacy of the policy.

The last thing to consider is the insurer’s policies for increasing premium rates. Some increase due to inflation, age of the insured, or the medical condition of your pet.  Some insurers do not make it a practice to increase premiums for any circumstances when renewing a policy for a specific pet, but you cannot assume that. . However, some companies do not. Ask about rate increases before signing the policy.

You probably don’t need it

This whole article is about pet insurance, and that includes discussing reasons why you probably don’t need it because it is not cost-effective. In a study looking at the top three insurers handling 90% of pet insurance policies revealed that the cost of insuring a relatively healthy pet exceeds the actual costs of maintaining the health of that pet over 10 years.

Of course, the picture can change when you mix in some serious illnesses such as heart disease or cancer. In such cases, the premiums were much less than the medical costs. Here are also unforeseen circumstances such as accidents when insurance coverage will certainly come in handy.

However, that is not true if you are getting insurance for routine healthcare. The overall cost of wellness care is not enough to justify the outlay of taking out pet health insurance. You would be better off paying the vet yourself from the money you saved from not getting pet insurance.

The report also found that pet insurance for wellness care isn’t worth the cost. According to the report, it’s probably better to pay for routine vet care out of pocket.

Conclusion

The best way to think of pet insurance is the same way you consider your own health insurance. You hope you don’t need it, but you want to make sure you have it when you do. If you do choose to get insurance because you anticipate that serious medical care might be necessary, get highest deductible policy you can afford.

However, if your pet is relatively young and healthy, you might want to save the money you would have paid to an insurer into an emergency fund, just in case.

Tags: , ,

Dog Owner Insurance: What You Need to Know

It might seem like a bad time to think about insurance for your dog with COVID and everything else going on. However, you really should, especially if some people consider the breed as dangerous.

As a dog owner, you are responsible for what your dog does, including dog bite injuries. While you might think your dog wouldn’t hurt a fly, you could be wrong. If you are, that could open up a world of hurt for you and your pocket if your dog injures someone and you don’t have dog bite insurance. 

At the very least, you should be shopping around for a policy at an affordable rate. You would then be ready when things go back to normal and BEFORE you start walking your dog again.  Here is what you need to know.

The numbers

As of 2016, about two-thirds of households in the US have pets, and of those, 78 million are dogs.  That can be worrisome, as the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 4.5 million people are victims of dog bites every year, and about 20% (900,000) of those injuries require medical attention.

The problem is serious enough for insurance agencies to stand up and take notice. About 15,000 dog owners in the US filed claims against their home liability insurance for dog-related injuries in 2015, and this is actually the lowest number of files claimed every year since 2007!

Even then, claims made in 2015 have led to insurers paying out about $570 million at an average of $37,000 per claim, which was about 33% of all payouts made for that year.  Some reasons for these high payouts are high medical costs and bigger settlements given by juries to plaintiffs.

Dog breed bias

Some dog breeds have certain characteristics that make them more likely or less likely to injure people. As a result, most insurance companies will have dog breed bias when it comes to covering certain breeds of dogs. Some have restrictions, while some outright refuse or even cancel existing homeowner’s insurance coverage for people who own specific dog breeds.

In some cases, the insurer will require homeowners to agree to waive any liabilities of the insurer for any injuries resulting from dog bites. In others, they will raise the premiums when a dog they cover is involved in injuring someone.

Among the breeds that come under this bias are:

  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Pit Bull
  • Rottweiler
  • Siberian Husky
  • Wolf Hybrid
  • Canary

As a dog owner of one of these breeds, you might feel outraged by this bias, but it is nothing personal. Insurance companies make money by not paying out money for claims, so they have to weigh the risks of covering certain dogs. If a dog breed is large and/or aggressive, the risks of an injury claim are much higher.

Having a dog of the high-risk breed in your home is not going to result automatically in a denial or restriction of coverage. However, it would warrant more review.

The breed is not the only consideration. Some insurers also look at the training received, personality, vaccination, and history of the dog in question. The insurer will also consider dogs used in therapy or as a service animal.

Pushback

Despite the practical reasons stated by insurers behind dog breed bias, there has been some pushback on this. Some insurers disagree that refusing or restricting coverage based on breed alone is not a good determination of risk. Even a dog that bites occasionally does not mean it is dangerous as dogs typically do so when they are afraid.

The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals-Angell Animal Medical Center supports this with research, and criticizes insurers that subscribe to dog breed bias because it discriminates against owners that display responsibility by training and socializing their dogs properly. 

Dog breed bias has also resulted in people avoiding owning and adopting dogs of these “blacklisted” breeds because it might keep them from getting homeowners’ liability insurance.  This attitude also affects dogs of mixed breeds, as the determination could go against them if the dog appears to have qualities of a blacklisted breed.

Additionally, some breeds might simply be more popular than others are. This would skew the incidence of dog bites and lead to the false conclusion that some breeds are more likely to bite.  A more accurate prediction of risk is to consider the behavior of the dog owner and the training of the individual dog.  For example, dogs trained to be guard dogs, no matter the breed, are more likely to bite than dogs treated as part of a family.

Instead of penalizing owners for having certain dog breeds, insurers should motivate them to train and socialize their dogs properly. They also have the power to make dog owners more aware of their responsibilities towards their dogs and society as a whole, and thus reduce the incidence of bite claims and risk of payouts.

Insurers that will

Fortunately, some insurers in the US have a more inclusive policy when it comes to dog breeds. They will cover “blacklisted” dog breeds without equivocation.

  • USAA
  • State Farm
  • Nationwide
  • Fireman’s
  • Chubb
  • Amica

They will not refuse or restrict coverage solely on breed. However, they will look at the history for aggression and bites of a dog before deciding to grant homeowners liability coverage to the dog owner. They might ask for certification from your veterinarian or obedience schools or have someone visit your home to meet the dog before making a final determination.

Some interesting facts

  • Insurance companies in Michigan and Pennsylvania cannot legally exercise dog breed bias or “breed profiling” when writing homeowners policies.  Other states do not have these legal restrictions.
  • Some cities , counties, and states have a “one bite” statute that protect dog owners from liability for injuries resulting from a dog bite if it was the first time it happened. This implies that the dog owner had no knowledge of the potential of their dog for dangerous behavior.
  • 36 states have a statutory strict liability for dog-related injuries and attacks, which means the dog owner is liable to the victims.
  • Standard homeowners’ policies cover spouses and dependents under 21 years of age, but will not be able to file a claim if they are the victims of an attack. They also cover unpaid dog sitters and dog walkers if the dog bites them while in their care. 

Conclusion

When buying dog owner insurance, you might come against dog breed bias or high premiums or both. In any case, it is important to shop around before finally deciding on the best coverage you can get in your state.  You should ask many questions, including purchasing any riders for dog bite liability in case your existing insurance company does not cover certain dog breeds. If all else fails,  call your state insurance commissioner’s office for help.

Tags: , , ,

Keeping Your Pets Healthy During COVID

Is walking your dog still an option during the coronavirus lockdown?

Certainly it is, provided you are in good health. Exercise is actually recommended as a way to keep you less vulnerable to infection, and doing it outdoors is as good a way as any. If you have a large backyard or outdoor areas empty of other people, you will not even have to worry about picking up the bug!

The scientific community is still out on the precise transmission of coronavirus across species, but consensus is that the only way you can get the disease is from another person. However, while you most probably cannot get the virus from your pet, research shows that your pet might be able to get it from you or other pets. To be on the safe side, avoid any contact with other people when with your pet.

Keep in mind the new normal: social distancing, avoidance of areas with lots of people, wearing of facemasks when in public places, and thorough washing of hands (and your pet’s paws) when you get home. If that sounds like a lot of work, you might want to look at other options for keeping your pets healthy during COVID than walking them outside your home.

Treasure Hunt

Pets love a challenge as much as people, and the prospect of something tasty at the end of one just makes it more interesting. Hide treats around the house for your pets to find, and make them work for it by making them hard to reach. Suspend them from string, or make a DIY puzzle to hide them in. We recommend this last one if your pet has some type of disability.

Another option is to play hide-and-seek with your pet. Get creative with your hiding places and try to stifle your giggles to keep your pet guessing.

Cat tip: Get your lazy cat going with a laser pointer. They might turn their nose up at treats, but they CANNOT resist chasing that little red dot on the wall and floor!

Tricks and Treats

Treats are good for more than hunting trips, though. You can use them to get your pets to jump through hoops for you, literally. Teach your dog or cat tricks to while away the hours. This keeps you both active as well as entertained.

Teaching them tricks also makes them more disciplined and more likely to pay attention when you call them. That itself is a neat trick if you have a cat!

Note that you will need some type of clicker to teach your pet new tricks. If you don’t have one, you can easily make your own clicker.

A-maze-ing race

Creating a maze can challenge your pets physically and mentally. Use boxes, water bottles, cans, small furniture, and string to make a path for your pets to navigate, and place treats along the way to spice up the experience. Reward them with a tickle and cuddle when they complete the maze. Make sure to upload the video to share with other pet owners and inspire them to do the same.

The Great Chase

You might not be able to do this with a cat, but dogs love to play fetch. If you are lucky enough to have a large backyard, toss a ball or stick outside. If you don’t have a backyard or the weather is keeping you indoors, use the hallway or stairs to challenge your dog.

Another option is to have your dog chase you, or you chase your dog.  In either case, it should keep you well exercised.

The Dog Park Challenge

If you live in an area that has a large dog park, you might be able to take your pets out for an airing as long as you are careful. Try to keep your time in there to 15 minutes and avoid contact with other pets and their owners. Definitely avoid catching or throwing anyone else’s frisbee or ball!

The best way to limit contact is to go at odd hours when most people are not around. You should also avoid touching smooth surfaces such as railings and benches as experts believe the virus tends to stay longer on them.

Keep your pet outside the home until you have had a chance to wipe him or her coat and paws thoroughly. Wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you get inside.

Conclusion

Pets, particularly dogs, need regular activity and exercise to stay healthy. Just because COVID is around doesn’t mean they can get it. Use these tips to keep you and your pet moving during these uncertain times. You might find that it makes the bond between you even stronger.

Tags:

Grooming Tips for Dogs with Special Needs

One of the most important things you can do for your dog is regular grooming. This ensures good hygiene and appearance of your dog, although most of them do not appreciate it as they should!

Grooming is even more important for dogs with special needs, such as elderly or disabled dogs. They have a harder time doing any self-grooming to make them feel more comfortable. The extra attention also does wonders for their sense of wellbeing. Here are some grooming tips for dogs with special needs you can follow.

Hearing Impaired

Dogs rely heavily on their hearing as well as smell in their daily lives. Losing their hearing can make it extra hard for them to deal effectively with humans. Hearing impaired or deaf dogs tend to be more anxious than those with normal hearing, so you have to take extra care when dealing with and grooming them.

For one thing, you have to be conscious about signaling your presence to them by sight or touch to avoid startling them. You can avoid getting a nasty bite or scare by making sure they can see you before you lay a hand on them.

Give clear signals about what you are planning to do, such as showing them the hose with running water before starting their bath, or letting them smell the brush before you start grooming them.  You can also use touch to signal the part of the dog’s body you intend to work on, such as running your hand down the side of the body or legs and the neck, before you actually start.

You should also keep talking to them while grooming them.  A hearing impairment might make it difficult for dogs to hear you, but they can still feel the reassuring vibrations of your voice if you are close enough.

Take your time when grooming your deaf dog. Going slow and being sensitive to their body language can go a long way towards making the experience a safe and satisfying one for you and your hearing impaired buddy.

Vision Impaired

Dogs with vision impairment can typically navigate a familiar environment without much trouble if they have their smell and hearing intact. However, you should ensure their safety while grooming by having someone always at their side to keep them from getting into trouble, especially if they are in a strange place. If you are grooming your dog at home, it might be a good idea to do so on the floor to be on the safe side.

It does help to keep your hand on your blind or visually impaired dog at all times during grooming, especially if it is their first time to go under the clipper. Let them smell and hear the clipper a few moments before applying it to their body to keep from startling or scaring them.

Keep up a steady flow of soothing talk to keep your dog reassured and calm. Again, going slowly can help keep the experience stress-free.

Motion Impaired

Some dogs might have a problem with standing because of pain or lack of mobility. This could be due to age, joint pain, or physiological damage. In these instances, the dog will probably be most comfortable lying down during the grooming process. If that is the case with your dog, you will have to work around the situation.

Professional groomers handle this by working first on the accessible areas of the dog. They then use a harness to lift the dog and get at the hard areas such as the rear legs and undersides. You can do the same thing for your dog. If you have dog wheelchair, you might be able to use it in lieu of a harness.

If the dog signals distress or displeasure on being touched in certain areas, you have to act accordingly. It might be because the area is painful, or the dog just does not want it touched. Avoid these areas as much as possible, and have a quick and light touch if you do need to do some work on them. 

General Tips

  • Grooming is more about hygiene than appearance. Keeping the hair short and orderly and the nails clipped can prevent many health issues from developing, especially for mobility challenged dogs.
  • All dogs respond better if they are in a familiar place, but especially dogs with special needs. Try to do any grooming at home to avoid making elderly and disabled dogs anxious. Find a mobile grooming service that will make  home visits. The extra cost is well worth it.
  • You must make a point of brushing long-haired dogs regularly to avoid matting, which can make your dog’s life miserable.
  • Removing matted hair without the proper equipment can be a horrendous experience for your dog. Hire a professional groomer to do this as they have the equipment as well as experience to do it painlessly.
  • You can more easily detect physical problems if your dog gets regular grooming. These include lumps, growths, lesions on the skin, and parasitic infestations. A professional dog groomer can probably detect them more easily than you can, so make a point of having a regular schedule with one for your dog with special needs.

Weird Things Dogs Do and Why

Dogs are great companions, and many are so intelligent, you almost think of them as human. However, some things dogs do almost universally often seem weird to us, probably because we do mistake them for humans. The thing is, they are not humans, so there is usually a reason for the things they do that we do not typically understand. Here are some of those weird things dogs do and why.

Belly Scratch = Kick Wheels

You might have had hours of entertainment scratching your dog’s belly and watching the back legs go crazy, and think it is a shared enjoyment. However, while your dog might enjoy the attention and touch of your fingers, the kick wheeling is not actually a sign of enjoyment. Much like how our knees jerk when someone hits your knee at just the right spot, the kick wheeling is a reflex.  Your tickling or scratching is interpreted as an irritation, and sets off the nerve endings on your dog’s skin to do something to get rid of that. Hence, the kick wheeling, which is an involuntary movement signifying the start of a scratch without the follow-through.

It might not be as comfortable as we think for the dog, so you might want to think about moving to another, less sensitive spot than the belly to show your affection. If your dog does present the belly, however, you could interpret that as a good spot for them, too.

Tail Biting

Another source of amusement for many dog owners is watching them chase and catch their tails with their teeth. Some people interpret it as a sign of foolishness, hence the term “chasing their own tails” for people rushing around while accomplishing nothing at all. For dogs, however, the tail chase serves an important purpose: getting rid of an itch. It could be a minor irritation, or it could be a parasite. In either case, you should check the tail for any signs. It can get so bad that the dog could actually do some serious self-harm. If you cannot figure out what’s wrong, consult your vet.

If the dog chases its tail but does not bite it, then the reasons might be less alarming. This could be a sign of boredom, especially when it is a puppy. A bit more concerning is that it is a sign of obsessive-compulsive disorder, which might be due to stress or genetics. If the behavior is excessive or results in self-harm, consult a vet.

Post-bath Madness

Many dogs invariably act crazy right after a bath, seemingly intent on undoing any cleaning you managed to do. They will streak around the house or backyard and roll around the carpet, dead leaves or even mud. While this is exasperating for dog owners, the possible reasons actually make a lot of sense.

One is the smell of shampoo, which many dogs find annoying. They will streak around trying to outrun it. Another is the instinct to be camouflaged. Rolling around in the mud or the dirt is not a massive fluff you to their owners, but a desire to make themselves less easy to spot.

Conclusion

Dogs are not humans, although they may display more intelligence than many people around you. Nevertheless, they are animals, and they do some things that might not make much sense to people. It makes sense to the dogs, however, and it is important for your dog’s wellbeing to be aware of the reasons behind the weird things they do.

For a comprehensive dive into what our dogs are trying to tell us with their crazy antics, check this article out from our friends at Fluentwoof.

Do Disabled Pets Need a Disability Specialist Vet?

Choosing the right veterinarian for dogs with no disability or special needs is hard enough. Finding a vet that specializes in treating disabled pets is probably going to be even harder. The question is whether it is necessary in the first place.

Generally, it isn’t. All licensed veterinarians are trained to deal with different types of disabilities. However, some vets do go through additional training and/or have more experience in caring for disabled pets. If you feel more confidence in bringing you disabled pet to a specialist, then do so by all means.

The important thing is finding the right vet for your pet.  How do we find the right one? Your pet might give you a lead on this based on how it relates to a particular vet. If this is not happening, you will have to do a little reconnaissance. Here are some things to look for when looking for the right veterinarian for your pet.

Access

Like with most things, location is very important, particularly for health services. You should check all vet offices near your location before going further out because sometimes time is of the essence.

You also need to assess how easy or hard it is to reach them when you have important questions that need immediate answers, and how they are quickly they respond to emergencies.

Most veterinarians will require you to bring your pet for a visit if you have concerns or questions about their health. Bringing a disabled pet to the clinic can usually be a major operation that takes a great deal of time and effort compared to other pets.

You want a vet that does telephone consultations, especially for situations where they can make a proper assessment without the need to see their patient. Having a veterinarian that trusts you as much as you trust them who is willing to call in prescriptions for your dog over the phone will be great for you and your disabled pet.

Having a veterinarian that you can easily call is great, but having one that does house calls is even better. Although not common, there are veterinarians that regularly do house calls. It is easier to find such veterinarians in rural areas where they also take care of farm animals. However, you might be able to find one in suburban or even metropolitan areas as well. Their services may cost a bit more than the usual but the convenience of having them visit you and your pet could be worth it.

Staff

Believe it or not, the staff of your veterinarian is almost as important as the veterinarian. Staff members are your first line of communication to the vet, and do the initial gathering of information about your pet. Well-trained staff will know how to do this properly so the vet will have all the pertinent information when you go in. This will help the vet give your pet the best care possible.

Additionally, the staff meets and greets new patients, so they need to be friendly and accommodating to put you and your pet at ease. Nothing is more comforting to a nervous pet than staff with a clear understanding of how to treat patients. It is also important that the staff remember you and your pet by name on subsequent visits, because this shows that they care and take their jobs seriously.

Adaptability

Most veterinarians deal with patients with varying issues and needs. What is important to look for is one that has the capacity to understand your pet and your situation and be able to adapt to it. Because your pet has a disability, this means there are certain activities that might be more difficult for you and your pet to perform compared to non-disabled counterparts. The need is not for special treatment, but better understanding of the differences in the situation.

Reputation

It is always a good idea to do your research on your vet to get the information you need to make a better choice. A referral is always a good place to start. If you have friends who also have disabled pets, find out where they go for medical service and get their feedback. You can also check online for reviews and discussions about vets in your area.

When trying out a new veterinary clinic, keep an open mind. Observe how they treat other visitors to the clinic, especially how they relate to the patients.

Do not be afraid to ask questions about the clinic and the veterinarian’s practice. Examples of good questions to ask are:

  • How long has the clinic been in operation?
  • Do they have other disabled pet patients? How many?
  • Is it okay to call the clinic/veterinarian for any questions?
  • Does the veterinarian do house calls?

The most important thing to observe is how the veterinarian relates to your pet and vice versa. If you see your pet responding very positively to your veterinarian then you’ve probably found the right one.

Tags: , , ,

How to Help a Stray Dog

We’ve talked previously about why it’s a good idea to adopt rescue dogs. What if you happen to chance upon a dog that needs to be rescued? What should you do if you find a stray dog?

Picture this scenario:  You are driving along somewhere and you see a dog all alone and looking very sad and lonely. From the looks of it, the dog is either lost or abandoned. You’d like to help, but you are not entirely sure if that is a good idea or what you should do. Here are some important tips on what you should do to help a stray dog.

Safety First

Always remember that the first rule is to ensure your own safety, that of other people around you, and the dog. Using the example above where you are driving, do not just stop in the middle of the road to check the dog. Park your car in a safe area and check out the dog at a safe distance. Remember that this is a strange dog that might react aggressively if you come too close or make any sudden movement.

The same is true if you are walking your own dog and you find the possible stray. Keep yourself and your dog at a safe distance while you check out the situation.

Make Sure the Dog is a Stray

The next thing you should do is to find out if the dog is actually a stray, and not just a pooch with a taste for adventure. Look around for people nearby who might be the owners or who might who the owners are. If you see a collar, it might just be lost.

On the other hand, if the dog is dirty, weak, sick, or wounded, there is a very big chance that the dog is a bona fide stray, and probably an abandoned one.

Call for Help

Do not attempt to approach the stray yourself. That could be bad for you and the dog. The best thing you can do is to contact the authorities for help. If you have contact information for a local animal rescue or shelter, call them first. If you do not have that information, try calling the local animal control agency or the police instead.

Make sure you give whomever you call the important details about the dog’s condition and your location so they can find your easily and come prepared for the situation.

Keep the Stray at Bay

If you are fairly certain it is harmless, you can try to approach it to keep it from running away while waiting for the authorities to get there. Do it slowly to avoid scaring the dog into bolting, or worse, coming at you. Make sure the dog sees you coming, and maintain a calm manner.

If the dog seems friendly, extend a closed fist so it can smell you. Do not make sudden movements, and talk to it in a low voice to keep it calm. Give the dog some treats if you have any to help in ease the tension.

If you can get close enough, you can try to restrain the dog with a leash or piece of cloth tied around its neck. Secure it enough so that the dog can no longer slip away, but not make sure it is not too tight.

It is probably a bad idea to put the dog into your car, especially if there are other people in the car. You never know how a dog will react to strangers and a strange environment, and travelling with it could be dangerous for you.

If you feel the dog is becoming aggressive, stop and do not try to make any attempts of securing it directly. You can try restraining the dog by creating a barrier around it so that it cannot run away, but wait for the authorities to take care of the situation.

Let the Professionals Take Over

Curb your soft heart and resist the urge to simply take care of the dog yourself. This may be a good idea in some cases, but it is usually better to let the professionals handle the actual rescuing so they can check the dog thoroughly for medical and other problems.

You can keep tabs on the dog if you want, and if it has no owner, you can try to adopt the dog by going through the proper channels. This ensures such a move is in your best interest as well as that of the dog.

It Helps to be Prepared

It is a good idea to be prepared in case you do find a stray dog. Include the contact information of the animal control agency, the police, as well as any animal shelter and rescue organization in your area in your phone book. Keep a dog collar and leash, a water bottle, dry animal treats, and a warm blanket in your car.

Tags: ,

Taking Care of Your Dog’s Teeth

We put a lot of thought and effort in keeping our furry friends safe and healthy. We take them to the vet regularly, feed them healthy food, walk them every day, we even take them to the park for fun exercise. But what about taking care of their teeth?

We all do things routinely to take care of our own teeth, such as brushing, flossing, and going to the dentist regularly.  Yet many of us don’t bother to give our dog’s teeth and gums the same kind of attention.

Probably most of us believe that oral hygiene for dogs isn’t really necessary. Many believe that dog’s teeth maintain themselves. This might have been true for dogs in the wild whose diets do not include the processed stuff we give our dogs. If you do not take your dog’s dental care seriously you will regret it.

Dogs can get toothaches and sore gums like humans, and we might not be even aware of it. What is worse is if a dog does have dental problems, and does not get treatment, it could lead to bigger and more serious health issues.

The most common dental disease dogs get are periodontal or gum related. For instance, untreated tooth decay or gum disease can provide bacteria a way to get into the bloodstream, which in turn can cause heart, kidney, or liver problems. It can also lead to infection and tooth loss. Losing teeth is probably one of the worse things that can happen to dogs as it can affect their overall health.

The good news is that with the right information and proper care, such occurrences are preventable.

So, what do we and our dogs need to do to take good care of their teeth? It’s actually mostly the same as the regimen of people that take good care of our teeth with a few variations.

Brushing Teeth

For regular cleaning, let’s start with choosing the right toothbrush. You can use a tooth brush for people. if you do, choose a soft bristle one and make sure it is small enough to fit comfortably into your dog’s mouth.

However, it is best to get a toothbrush designed for dogs. They typically come with angled handles or finger slip-ons that make it easier to use on dogs.

The ones with angled handles work more or less the same as human toothbrushes. The finger slip-ons are a little different. They slip over your finger and rub their teeth with it, much like baby toothbrushes. Any of these will work, so choose the one you are most comfortable using.

Next, choose the toothpaste. Do not use toothpaste for people on your dogs. Human tooth paste includes ingredients that may be harmful to dogs when swallowed. In fact, in large quantities they might be harmful to humans as well, except we don’t swallow. If you can teach your dog to spit it out like we do, you can probably use human toothpaste safely. Since this is unlikely, better to choose toothpaste specially formulated for dogs, which is safe for them to swallow. 

Now we get to the fun part: getting your dog used to regular toothbrushing. It is different for each dog. Some take to it right from the start. There are even dogs that get a kick out of it and look forward to every toothbrushing moment. Others are not so adventurous. They will resist and get anxious, making the process stressful for both dog and human. If this is the case for your dog, here are some tips on how to make it pleasant and easy for both you and your dog:

  • If you can, start them young. It’s easier to teach puppies.
  • If your dog is already older by the time you start, do not lose hope. It will just take some effort, but it is not impossible.
  • Before you begin, make sure you have a positive and relaxed attitude. Your furry buddy can pick up on your attitude, so if you will anxious or stressed, they will be, too.
  • Go slow and easy. They do not have to adapt to it on the first try. The goal is to make the toothbrushing experience a fun and good one for your dogs. When you achieve this, brushing becomes a treat for both you and your dog.
  • Get them acquainted with the toothbrush and toothpaste. Let your dog sniff and touch them. Let them have a taste of the toothpaste.
  • Don’t take too long, especially during the first few times. It isn’t important to actually finish brushing your dog’s teeth. It is more important to get them feeling relaxed and at ease during the process. As soon as they seem agitated or anxious, stop. You might get further in the next session.
  • Although it is ideal to brush their teeth once daily, you should start with regular brushing every other day, or even three times a week.
  • If a daily brushing is still a hassle even after doing it for a long time, don’t stress over it. If once or twice a week is the best you can do, that is fine. Just make sure you do it regularly and on a schedule.

Now that you know how to get started with brushing their teeth, this is how you do it:

  • Start with the outer portion of their teeth using soft strokes.
  • When they seem more relaxed, brush the inner portions of their teeth as well.
  • Brush along the line of the gums in a circular motion. Do not put too much pressure on the teeth and gums during brushing.

It also helps to give them positive reinforcement after each brushing session, whether successful or not. Giving your dog a hug, a pat on the head, or a treat after each toothbrushing session will make them associate the process with good vibes. This will make it easier for you during the next session.

Regular Dental Checkups

Like us, our dogs should also go to the dog dentist for regular checkups. Find out if your vet is qualified to do this. If not, ask your vet, friends and relatives with dogs for recommendations for a good dog dentist.

Like tooth brushing, going for a checkup can be a nerve-racking experience for your dog. It is a good idea to get them accustomed to the activity by making a test visit before the actual checkup. This will also give you the chance to check out the place.

Taking these simple steps can make oral hygiene fun and easy for our canine companions. This can go a long way in giving them healthier, longer, and happier lives.

Tags: , ,

Causes of Dog Aggression

Dog aggression is a frightening experience, and very dangerous for both dogs and people because it can happen as if out of the blue. A very friendly dog can suddenly act aggressively, growling, snapping, and lunging at other dogs and people. At its worst, dogs may attack and cause injury or even death to other dogs and people, including their owners.

In many cases of dog aggression, owners do not know why it happened. Dog owners are usually unaware of the signs of aggression until it is too late. Knowing the potential causes of aggression can help owners see the signs and deal with the aggression before it escalates. Preventing this type of dangerous behavior is far better than dealing with the consequences.

Dog aggression may be due to the following reasons.

Illness or Injury

Pain is a common cause of aggression in dogs. It is not surprising, as people in pain frequently become irritable and aggressive as well. If your dog suddenly shows signs of aggression, it may be due to pain caused by some type of disease, illness, or injury.

Check your dog carefully for injuries. If your dog appears unusually sluggish, quiet, or inactive, starts limping, or stops moving completely, the dog may be sick or have internal injuries. If you cannot figure out the problem, bring your dog immediately to your veterinarian. Do not give your dog any kind of medication, such as pain relievers, unless prescribed by your veterinarian. Giving medication without knowing what is wrong could cause more harm than good.

Fear

A dog constantly in fear can become aggressive. Like most animals, dogs may go through freeze, flight, or fight mode when confronted by a dangerous situation.

When dogs sense danger, they will try to escape and get away. If escape is not an option, fear sets in and they will either freeze or fight. In most cases dogs will confront the situation by becoming aggressive, like a rat caught in a trap. It will resort to physical violence to escape the cause of its fear or the source of perceived danger.

Physically abused dogs almost certainly become aggressive because of this fight response to fear. This is very common with rescue dogs many of which are victims of abuse. If you have a rescue dog or if you are not aware of your dog’s history before you got them and they act aggressive, this is most likely due to fear from past abuse.

The best way to get around this situation is to reassure the dog that there is nothing to fear. Be gentle and patient with them. If they show signs of aggression in certain situations, stop immediately and remove them from the environment. Introduce them back to the same situation slowly and with care. It may also be best to consult with a dog trainer that specializes in abused dogs.

Territory

Territorial behavior is instinctive for some dogs. Also known as resource guarding, this happens when dogs become very possessive of certain objects or areas of their environment such as food, toys, sleeping area, or their owner. When a person goes near a dog that is eating, playing with a toy, or resting on its bed and the dog displays aggression, it is probably due to this territorial instinct.

The best way to avoid this situation is to respect the dog’s space when engaging in these activities. Punishing or scolding the dog for this will only confuse it.  The dog may even take it as a challenge and make the aggression worse. It will not always be easy to understand exactly what the dog is feeling territorial about, but over time it will become apparent.

Confinement

There are some cases when we need to confine dogs temporarily for safety reasons. Confinement may take the form of a traveling cage, a harness, leash, or a fenced area. Dogs not used to confinement may feel anxious or frustrated when in these situations, and these feelings may manifest as aggression. On the other hand, this may also likely occur when the dog is always in a confined situation, as its frustration from the lack of freedom can build up.

In the former case, it is important to reassure your dog about the temporariness of the confinement. You could do a couple of test runs before the day so they know what to expect. In the latter case, the best way to mitigate aggressive behavior is not to confine your dogs as much as possible. Let them have enough room to run around and burn off excess energy. They are more likely to behave better during confinement if they know they can have some freedom on a regular basis.

Conclusion

The best way to deal with aggressive behavior in your dog is to find out the cause for it. If you are at a loss, you need to consult with a veterinarian or a dog behavior professional. Misinterpreting the cause of your dog’s aggression may lead you to take action that could just make things worse for you, your dog, and those around you.

Tags:

The Dog Harness Versus Dog Collar Showdown

Most dog owners give their dogs a collar as a matter of course. There is nothing wrong with that if it is simply to provide them with a means of ownership and identification, AKA dog tags. However, if they use it as a means of control, which is its actual purpose, then that might pose a problem.

It has long been observed that dog harnesses have much more going for it compared to collars as a way of establishing control over dogs. Despite that, most people still continue to use collars for this purpose. To set the record straight, here is the harness versus collar showdown.

The Truth About Collars

Collars are physiologically a bad idea. The neck of most creatures is a slender and relatively delicate part of the anatomy, so using it as a means of restraint is effective, but unsustainable. It is effective because it is restrictive and often painful. It is unsustainable because it can lead to serious injury or even death.

Imagine having a collar around your neck, and someone pulling on it with any significant force. Even if the collar is not so tight that you find it difficult to breathe (which happens all too often with dogs), the pressure and discomfort is considerable. It will force you to follow whoever has you in hand, but you will feel lousy for a significant amount of time. Some might say it is not as bad as being led by the nose, but that is an entirely different article right there.

It is basically the same with dogs. Over time, this type of physical trauma will lead to chronic physical and psychological problems. It may cause injuries to the nerves and blood flow in the neck and spine, and drive the dog to aggressive behavior.

We are just talking about regular, run-of-the-mill collars here. It goes without saying that cruel inventions such as spike (or prong) and choke collars are incompatible with responsible pet ownership.

Body Harnesses Rule

Fortunately, more people are seeing the benefits of body harnesses, making it much more popular of late. It is primarily an instrument of restraint and collar like the collar, but the differences are myriad.

Ziggy wearing the Rambler Front Range Harness by Best Friend Mobility

For one thing, the placement makes much more sense. As you can probably guess, the harness goes around the body or torso of the dog, rather than the neck. For another, the design is less likely to harm the dog. It takes into account the physiology of the dog. It spreads the pressure along a broad area to prevent local injuries, and typically come with pads at contact points to make it more comfortable for the dogs.

An added advantage of harnesses over collars is it can serve other functions. Harnesses may be fitted with pouches and straps to hold items for the owners and dogs, such as food, water bottles, tools, and anything small and light enough for the dog to carry. They may also feature reflective straps or LED lights, which is handy when walking the dog at night and making them easy to find and follow in the dark. 

Harnesses undoubtedly rule when it comes to controlling and restraining your dog. In fact, it is so effective and safe that human parents use child harnesses, which have the same general design to keep their fleet-footed toddlers in check outside the home.

That said, harnesses come in many configurations. The design of each one is specific for different uses, so be sure to choose the right one for your dog and purpose. Here are two general categories to get you started.

Vest Harness

A widely popular harness in recent years, webbing harnesses are sturdy and robust, designed after the harnesses used for horses. Dog webbing harnesses are usually thick nylon webbing with sturdy plastic snap-on buckles to keep everything it in place.

Most harnesses of this type also have built-in slots or straps for added functionality. For example, a thick strap of webbing located on the center serves as a handle. This is particularly useful if you have a handicapped dog as it gives you a way to lift your dog bodily without causing injury to yourself or the dog. Other features include built-in slots and straps compatible for use with standard car seatbelts.

Nylon Strap Harness

The nylon strap harness is the simplest type of dog harnesses. The basic design is the same one used for child harnesses, and there is some debate on which was based on what. At any rate, this category of harnesses may very well be the first of its kind to come out into the market.

However, just because the design is old does not mean it is out of date. They continue to work very well, probably because manufacturers have gone through many iterations over the years, and they have pretty much perfected the design.

Generally, nylon strap harnesses go with the dog’s body shape and movements. When the dog strains against the restraint or makes an unguarded movement that may injure it, the harness puts pressure on certain parts of the body that it will make it stop. This trains the dog to follow the lead of the owner instead of the other way around.  

With all these benefits of harnesses for you and your dog, choosing them over collars is definitely a smart choice. Leave the collars on your dogs for identification, but use the harness for control.

Tags: ,