Animal Care, How To:

How to Move with Your Pet

How Cao feels about moving: worried and shed-y.

How Cao feels about moving: worried and shed-y.

Cao has been stress shedding profusely since she saw the first cardboard box come out. This is probably the most organized move I’ve ever done, and while it means that I’ll show up for vet school knowing exactly where my Veterinary Virology book, Carhartt bibs, and shampoo are, it also means that the stress of packing has just been spread out over a longer period for both me, and Cao.

Here are some ideas on how to minimize the stress of a move on your and your pets:

1) Start acclimating your pet to kennel travel.

Not everyone wants their pet to be kenneled while driving, but it add another arrow to your quiver of skills, both for moving, and in the case of an emergency. Begin the process well before your move by procuring an adequately-sized, hard sided kennel. The ASPCA has a great resource for how to crate train your dog over a weekend. Then, move the crate to the vehicle, and practice crating while on the move (but never leave your pet in a hot car). If you’ve got a kitty, it’s a good idea to harness train them as well.

2) Bring some easily accessible familiar items.

Your pet should have a designated space during the move – a bed, blanket, kennel, etc. Work with your pet to establish it as “their place” at home. A favorite toy can provide some security as well.

Smorgasbord (You're welcome, Nature's Variety).

Smorgasbord (You’re welcome, Nature’s Variety).

3) Now’s not the time to change foods.

Make sure you have enough of your pet’s current food to last for a week or two after arrival – or check with local pet supply stores to make sure it will be available there.

4) Enrich!

The day before the move, block out some time for you and your pet to get some exercise. A llllooooonnnngggg walk for you and your dog, or some laser/feather flinger time for your kitty. It’ll provide some normalcy, tucker them out a little and help them (and you!) relax. I’ve also increased Cao’s bone time. The day of the move, make sure their morning activities are as uninterrupted as possible.

5) Paperwork.

Request veterinary records for your animals from all vets you’ve seen. To cross interstate borders, your animal should have proof of current rabies vaccination. In case of emergency boarding, I recommend that dogs are currently vaccinated for Bordetella and canine distemper, and cats should be vaccinated for Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) and feline distemper. Keep the phone number of your current vet handy, and research veterinary options in your new hometown – it’s a good idea to establish a relationship with a vet before a crisis occurs.

6) Pet-proof your travel plans.

Make sure you’ve budgeted time for walks, confirmed that pets are welcome at any hotels along the way, and brought along a cat litter box, if necessary (Xerox box tops work great as a portable, disposable solution.)

Cao's suitcase.

Cao’s suitcase.

7) On sedation…

I think that most travel anxiety can be eliminated with a combination of careful acclimation and exercise, but if you and your vet decide that sedation is required, make sure that you do a test run with the drug at home before the move. You do not want to discover that your pet reacts poorly 150 miles from the nearest vet, or in the middle of the night at a hotel.

Now, to continue packing, while Cao sighs heavy-heartedly. T minus 44 hours! Got some additional advice for moving with pets, or other good resources? Leave it in the comments!

Animal Care

On animals, meat, and love…

I recently downloaded an episode of the NPR broadcast, This American Life, called Animal Sacrifice. The first act is hard to listen to, discussing the use of dogs in war, but the second act presents one of the more balanced stories about butchery and the choice to eat meat that I’ve heard.

Animal Care, How To:

How to Assemble a Canine First Aid Kit

Canine First Aid Kit

Earlier this week, some friends and I went camping in the Crazy Mountains. There was a 3:5 ratio of canines to humans (unusually low for our group of friend) – still, we managed to talk about our pets for around 75% of the time. One of the topics covered? Our need for canine first aid kit. I decided to reference the list that Dr. Gustafson and I had compiled a year ago when we considered creating our own for the clinic.

The list below should provide you with a starting point for putting together your own first aid kit.

I’d also recommend visiting with your veterinarian about how to use each of the items below at your next wellness visit.

1. A Thermometer
A healthy dog’s body temperature is between 100°F and 102.5°F ( 38°C to 39.2°C). Don’t forget, temperature is taken rectally!

2. Tweezers

3. Blunt-end Scissors
For trimming hair away from wounds, and cutting wraps.

4. Triple Antibiotic Ointment
The same stuff you use on yourself!

5. Sterile Saline Solution
For irrigating eyes and wounds. NOT contact solution or other eye drops.

6. Electrolyte Tablets (Canine Specific)

7. A 10cc Syringe
For irrigating wounds

8. Alcohol Wipes
For cleaning wounds. Steal ’em from your own first aid kit.

9. Hydrogen Peroxide
Make sure to store in a light-proof container. Hydrogen peroxide can  be used to induce vomiting, but this should only be performed with the direction of your veterinarian. Can also be used to clean wounds.

10. Sterile Gauze Pads

11. 4″ Cotton Roll

12. 2″ & 4″ Vetwrap
Any self-adhesive works. Be sure not to wrap too tight, and to remove immediately if swelling occurs on either side of the wrap.

13. First Aid for the Active Dog, by Sid Gustafson, DVM

14. The numbers of your veterinarian, the nearest emergency vet, as well as a list of any medications that your dog takes.

In addition to the items above, talk with your veterinarian about including:

13. 81mg Enteric-coated Aspirin
Or another fever-reducer/NSAID more appropriate for your dog.

For a great article about assessing the seriousness of your dogs condition, check out Examining Your Dog: Determining the Seriousness of Injury and Illness, an article by Dr. Gustafson.

Any additions or experiences compiling your own canine first aid kit? Share in the comments!


BarkBox Giveaway Winner

Thanks to Julie and Dumpling, the winners of the BarkBox giveaway! Cao’s own BarkBox awaits us when we return from our trip.

We are in Missoula, Montana this weekend, which has to be one of the most dog friendly cities, complete with a riverfront dog park. While breakfasting, we ran in to this pair, Chris and Schuck, riding in style. Lucky dog!


Pet Projects

Monthly Pet Project

February was National Pet Dental Health Month. I can totally see why. How many of you have spent a lonely Valentine’s Day with only your beloved Haustier by your side, sobbing, allowing them to lick the tears from your cheeks, only to discover that they have HORRID breath? Oh, no one? I’d love to know the reasoning behind choosing the month of February, or really even designating an arbitrary month for dental health (what is March? Mold? December? Poison awareness?)

Regardless of the fact that it is no longer February, I’ve got a monthly pet project for you for the month of June:

Look inside your pet’s mouth. Wait, what? He wont let you because you’ve never tried? Or maybe he lets you and you see stalactites? Either way, now is a good time to get your pet used to having it’s mouth examined. Oral issues often go unnoticed for too long due to our unwillingness to push past our pet’s initial displeasure at having their mouths pried open. It’s always a good idea to start when your pet is fully enriched – maybe a half an hour after a nice, long walk and meal, while they’re resting. The first time, don’t explore too much, just make sure you take a look at their incisors, canines, and carnassial teeth.

Here’s a photo of Cao’s mouth. I’ve identified two of the main problem teeth: the canine and the carnassial. As you can see, Cao has some greying on the back side of her canine – this is common, especially in older dogs. Her carnassial tooth is mostly clean (from chewing the random deer femur she scavenges). If you want to see the other end of the spectrum, search “canine (or feline) dental disease”. There should be no yellow buildup, and no inflamed pink area around the gum border.

Once you’ve taken a look, there’s a follow up to this month’s Pet Project: Take care of your pets’ teeth. However you can/will do it. Almost all veterinarians recommend brushing, but it’s hard to find people who comply enough to make a difference. Below are some ideas for alternatives. I have seen some horrifying dental disease that has been incredibly expensive to correct, but also, many gastrointestinal problems that we see are partially caused by dental disease. We’ve also seen a rash of oral cancers caused by chronic gingivitis and irritation from plaque build up.

For dogs we recommend chewing lots of raw marrow bones. You have to introduce them slowly to minimize risk of GI upset, but once your dog is acclimated, they should probably be chewing 1-2 new raw bones per week. Yes, you will spend money on bones, but sedated dentistries in our area (Montana – relatively cheap) start in the several hundreds. Make sure that you supervise your dog while chewing, and remove the bones when they begin to break into shards. Stay tuned for a forthcoming master class in bones.

You can also do facial dental massage from the outside on both your cat and dog. Just rub your pet’s cheeks firmly against their teeth, especially their molars. Most pets seem to enjoy this, it can help you pair bond with your pet, and it gets them acclimated to having their face handled intensively. Make sure you start when they are already relaxed, and you’ll have a willing recipient.

If you do end up going for professional dental care, look for a veterinarian who is willing to at least attempt to clean the teeth without sedation. You can make cleaning without sedation a more likely option by examining your pet’s mouth often and in many locations, e.g. the car, out on a walk. Just doing it at home won’t work. Also, make sure that when you take your pet in, you give your vet a fighting chance. That means a 1-2 hour walk before the appointment for most dogs, and at home acclimation to the carrier for a cat as well as a calming massage.

If your pet can have it’s teeth cleaned without sedation, have it done every time you visit the vet. If you are comfortable, you can also get a scaler and do it at home when your animal is fully relaxed. I recommend a massage beforehand.

Feel free to share pictures of your pet’s teeth in the comments below if you’re able to get one – that’s advanced level pet mouth handling!