Pet Safety Crusader

Animal Theatres
Animal Theatres

DENISE FLECK is an award-winning author & radio show host and animal care instructor who developed the curriculum for her Pet First-Aid & CPCR Classes after training with dozens of schools and organizations, practicing, attending seminars and practicing some more.
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Pet Safety

DAY #1 – Twelve Days of Pet Safety Tips

By Denise Fleck, The Pet Safety Crusader™

Veterinarians are the experts, but most of us are not lucky enough to have a Vet velcroed to our hip 24/7, and even if you live with 5 people in your house, odds are that when the dog stops breathing or cuts his paw…you will be home alone and it will be after veterinary hours. Therefore Pet Parents must know how to jump to the task to rescue Rover before professional medical help is available! In addition to knowing the life-saving skills of Pet First Aid and having the confidence to use them, anyone who spends time around pets must have a well-equipped tool kit (aka your Dog’s First Aid Kit) as precious time can be wasted looking for the right item once a pet has suffered sudden injury or illness. I always say that a kit is only as good as the human at the other end of the leash, meaning – if you use something up, replace it; if it expires, get another, and take special care of items that can go bad, especially if you keep your first aid kit in the car or other area subject to extreme temperature changes. Besides medications and creams, even the stickiness of various wraps and tapes can degrade due to heat, and Hydrogen Peroxide does not hold up if it gets warm, so be prepared to keep these items cool or change them out regularly.

In addition however to learning Pet First Aid & CPCR (yes, there is now a second “C” standing for “cerebral”) and having a Pet First Aid Kit, there are five specific things you can do to get on the path to becoming a better pet parent:

Animal TheatresDay 1 – Know the location of your nearest Animal Emergency Center.
Some locations are open 24/7 while others open at 6pm and close 8:00 the next morning to fill that gap of time when your Veterinarian is closed. Drive there before you need to, so that if you suddenly have an emergency, you aren’t wondering if it’s a right turn or a left turn or which side of the street help is on. Also find out what services are offered (anti-venin for snake bites, blood for transfusions, MRIs, etc.) and how payment is accepted. Doing your homework can alleviate stress when your pet needs you most.

Animal TheatresDay 2 -Keep up with annual veterinary visits.
Although you may not need to visit the Veterinarian annually for vaccinations (check into titer testing — blood testing that determines immunity to specific disease), it is still of prime importance that you allow those professional eyes, hands, ears, stethoscope, blood test and urinalysis confirm that your pet is okay. Determining a slight decrease in kidney function for instance, can allow for changes to the diet, an increase in exercise or other modifications at the earliest signs rather than waiting for symptoms to present themselves meaning a problem already exists. Think of your Veterinarian as your pet’s second best friend (you should be #1), and work as a team for the life of your dog.

Animal TheatresDay 3 – Do a weekly Head-to-Tail Check-up of your pet and pay attention to normal habits.
Really get to know your pet, his body and his habits. The better you know what is normal for Fido, the more quickly you can determine when something is not quite right signaling you to get him professional medical assistance. Start slowly getting him used to your touch (which also makes him a better patient at the groomer and the Vet) and learn the idiosyncrasies of his body. Know what is supposed to be there (yes, male dogs also have nipples, those aren’t ticks!) and what is not…lumps, bumps, foxtails & burrs, fleas & ticks for instance. Notice what your dog looks like when he sits and stands. Does he moan when he gets up off the floor or sit with a leg cocked to the side? Arthritis or hip dysplasia could be making life difficult. How often do you have to fill his water bowl and how often does he need to answer nature’s call? An increase or decrease in any of these activities could mean something in his body is changing and warrants a veterinary check-up.

Animal TheatresDay 4 – Read your pet’s food label.
Ingredients on the can and bag are listed in diminishing order meaning the first 3-5 items listed are the bulk of your pet’s diet. Make sure the first ingredient is a high quality protein — the name of the animal in the bag or in the can (ie: chicken, lamb, salmon, sardines, venison or turkey). The term “poultry” can mean less-desirable portions of various birds are included in the food and what in the heck is a “meat?” I personally have never seen one roaming on a range! Limit or refrain from grains altogether…wheat, corn and soy cause allergic reactions in many pets. Can’t pronounce it? Then your dog probably doesn’t need it as well as color and flavoring additives which can be carcinogenic.

One of the best gifts you can give your dog is to educate yourself on canine nutrition. Canine bodies cannot safely metabolize all the same foods ours can, and while they may eat a small woodland creature (bones, gristle and fat) without issue, once bones are cooked, thy splinter and cooked fat turns to grease resulting pancreatitis for your dog.

Although many fruits and vegetables can be beneficial to animals, choose wisely: grapes and raisins can cause kidney failure, macadamia nuts can lead to paralysis, seeds from peaches and plums contain an arsenic-like substance and onions can break down red blood cells causing hemolytic anemia in pets, not to mention the caffeine-like substance known as theobromine found in chocolate. Know what must remain out of paws reach. Both the Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA post good lists of what can poison your pet. Even with the safe veggies though (green beans, carrots and spinach for example), realize that dogs have shorter intestinal tracts than we do, so food sits in the stomach longer but doesn’t have has much time to break down in the colon, especially the cellulose (plant fiber) inherent to vegetables. To help your dog get the most from his veggies, steam them lightly, chop very fine or puree for best absorbency. Learn and become an advocate for your pet when shopping or making his meals.

Animal TheatresDay 5 – Spend quality time together.
I whole-heartedly feel that the most important tip for becoming a better pet parent is this…spend good quality time daily with your dog. That’s why we have pets – to make them part of the family, so be sure to give your furry kid your undivided attention several times daily. When you go for a walk – pay attention to him! Don’t talk on your cell phone or be sending text messages. Be in the now and live in the moment like your dog does. Couple that with providing exercise, fresh air (it does a body good – canine or human) and continue his obedience training to keep him safe and you’ll be worthy of the unconditional love your best friend gives so selflessly!


Animal TheatresDAY 6 – ROUTINE
Stick to your pet’s normal routine — do NOT skip anything.
One of the best ways to maintain a healthy, well-behaved dog or cat during holiday chaos is by sticking to their normal routine and take a page out of that playbook for yourself! Don’t skip exercise and make sure meals are nutritious and on time for both you and your pets. Don’t forget vitamins, washing of bedding, scooping of litter. Holidays create added chores, but change can create anxiety in your pet coupled with the intense energy you are giving off at this time of year. Walk at your normal walk time, feed on schedule and don’t forget to play — it does a body good (human, canine or feline). Practicing a few agility moves or basic obedience keeps the mind sharp. Especially when company is coming to call,
schedule in quality time spent with your best friend BEFORE the doorbell rings. A tired pet is a good pet, and one who feels loved and special is a happier more well-adjusted one as well.

Giving pets as gifts is a super bad idea! People and families should choose the pet that is right for them, one who fits into their lifestyle and at a time they are able to give that new family member a forever home. Instead of giving a pet, see if your local rescue or shelter can make a gift certificate so that your friend or relative can choose the right pet at the right time. Give them a book so that they can prepare to
be an awesome pet parent, supplies their future pet will need, or even treat them to a Pet First Aid Class so they will be prepared to handle whatever that pet will throw their way, but let them choose their own furry forever family member! If YOU have decided to adopt a pet for yourself at this time of year, that is a wonderful thing! Remember though, puppies & kittens are like baby humans in that they need extra care and constant
watching. They have not learned any of life’s rules yet nor the methods for their own survival, so…refer to the previous 6 Holiday Pet Safety Tips on this site and those yet to come, but also… When choosing to adopt any pet during the holidays, you should consider whether you are willing to take a “time out” from the season. I’m not saying you can’t enjoy festivities because sharing them with your new best friend can be awesome, but…a new pet needs time to transition into his new life and can’t do so if you are dashing about, stressed or have a constant stream of company coming and going. It’s important for you to get off on the right paw and let your new cat or kitten/dog or puppy know that this is now their home too and that you are their special person and will always be there for them. Remember you need to train kitty where the litter box is and what NOT to get into to keep her safe. You may need to house-train your dog. This takes time and patience. Additionally, since the holidays are the time of
year people tend to spend large quantities of money, do you have enough funds to provide your new friend with a proper bed, scratching post, toys, food, initial veterinary visit, and emergency visit should the need arrive? If you’ve answered yes to all these basic pet parenting obligations and agree to the lifetime commitment, adopt as pets need homes for the holidays and shouldn’t have to wait in a shelter a moment longer than
necessary, but…waiting for their soul mate person is better than being adopted into a home and lifestyle that is not ready for them. When humans get too overwhelmed, pets feel our frustration and often get returned to shelters, so make sure you are ready, and that is the best time to adopt!

Animal TheatresDAY #8 – LIFE-GIVING WATER
Water does a body good — canine, feline or human, and like the planet Earth, all 3 species are 3/4 water, so well need a fresh supply daily. Dehydration — the lack of water in the body — is a serious condition that if left untreated can result in painful urinary stones, crystals & blockages, organ failure and death, so veterinary attention is a must!
Water helps all the systems of the body function and remove toxins. Dehydration can occur when your
pet isn’t drinking enough water, has been over-exposed to heat or is experiencing vomiting, diarrhea or a
fever. Along with water loss, dehydration involves the loss of electrolytes – minerals like sodium,
potassium, and chloride. Signs of dehydration include:
* Loss of elasticity in skin (Turgor Test – gently pulling up on skin at back of pet’s neck and seeing if it springs back in place within 1-2 seconds)
* Dry or sticky gums (feel carefully with your finger)
* Sunken eyes
* Slow CRT (Capillary Refill Time – the time it takes for color to return to your pet’s gums once you
have pressed gently on gums and then removed your finger — it should be 2 seconds or less; look for
pink in the lower eyelid of pets with dark gums)
* Lethargy
* Too much or too little urination
If you don’t know how to look for these signs, you need to bone-up on your pet parenting skills. Don’t
wish you HAD known what to do or what signs to look for — it can make this difference between life
and death for your best friend!
If you notice these signs in your pet, get to your veterinarian or Pet ER at once! Fluids will be
administered subcutaneously (under the skin) or intravenously to most effectively re-hydrate him and
get him on the road to recovery.
What you can do BEFOREHAND, however is pay attention to your pet during this chaotic season and
always, making sure he stays well-hydrated to avert a problem. The cooler weather lessens the desire of
most creatures to tank up on this life-giving liquid, so here are some ways to encourage good water
Cats are notoriously bad drinkers to begin with. Many felines, however, are attracted to the sound or
movement of running water. Fountains are available, but realize they need to be taken apart regularly
and cleaned meticulously to prevent bacteria build-up. Running water in your sink will entice may send
your cat running to it, so when you pass by, let a little flow, and see if you can get her to drink several
times daily. Other pet owners have found that by placing water bowls throughout the house, finicky cats
are more likely to drink. They are also choosy about their bowls, some even prefer lapping out of mugs,
can you believe? Try different sized ceramic and stainless-steel types. If you find your cat will drink best
from something that looks like what you also drink out of, you’ll have to set some boundaries, so she
doesn’t start sipping your morning joe. Adding a little tuna juice into their water might do the trick (Pour
straight from the can or add 3 cups water to a can of tuna, pressing it well. Let sit for about 15 minutes
and then strain and you can freeze the meat-less water into ice cube trays to safe for later). One other
thought is to feed wet food (aka canned) as it comes with much-needed water already added. Kibble
alone does not a healthy feline make.
For our other four-legged family members, our dogs…again, feeding wet food is a great start. The size and shape of the bowl may be a deal breaker (don’t you too have a favorite glass or cup?), so give a few a try (some deeper, some shallow, but stick to stainless or ceramic — never plastic which leeches chemicals into the water and can cause mouth sores). Every single day, wash that water bowl with warm, soapy water and rinse well. You wouldn’t after all, pour coffee into the unwashed mug you drank from yesterday, would you? Try adding a little cut-up fruit to their water (something they like obviously – blueberries, cranberries, apple slices) and they’ll get some water as they bob for the fruit. Adding a tiny bit of tuna juice, non-sodium chicken broth or other tasty liquid might also entice your dog to drink. Remember, canines can smell a spoonful of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool of water, so it doesn’t take much for yours to know something tasty is mixed in there. With the heat cranked up in our homes, the cooler weather outside (possibly meaning less exercise and exertion so less desire to drink) and even vomiting or diarrhea brought on by holiday stress, make sure your pets are getting all the life-giving liquid that their bodies need, and…remember his health is a priority even when you are busy decking the halls. Pay attention, notice your dog or cat’s bathroom habits and how full those bowls are remaining or draining.

Animal TheatresDAY #9 – GIFTS & WRAPPINGS
As packages are placed under the tree, kindly ask anyone dropping one off if it is “edible” — something
that might intrigue your pet if placed on the floor. Anything with a scent (even undetectable by you) can
tempt your dog or cat to do a little pre-Christmas unwrapping. Bird seed and a feeder, scented candles,
pet treats, fruit cake and candies can set your fur child up for disaster if left at ground level. Even if the
gift inside is deemed “uninteresting” to your cat or dog, take note if candy canes, evergreens & berries
or any food item may be tied into the bow. Ribbons, bows, yarn and tinsel can cause choking as well as intestinal blockages if consumed. Strands of tinsel can wrap around your pet’s tongue while the other end is swallowed. If peristaltic actions (muscle contractions) continue to pull the strand and you’ll need to be at the Animal ER immediately. Boxes and paper bags are generally safe play toys for your furry friends but be extra carefully in checking these items BEFORE you toss them out as small kits and pups could be hanging out in one! Fluffy or Fido can certainly join in the fun of unwrapping their own gifts with your supervision. Before wrapping though, remove tags and snip off nylon whiskers from stuffed toys (which could scratch your
pet’s eyes while he’s chewing on it. By size-appropriate gifts and don’t believe there is such a thing as an indestructible toy – out there somewhere is a pet who can destroy LOL Remove buttons or anything your pet could swallow from gifts before he gets to it, and just know your pet…don’t purchase toys with squeakers if your dog will have the gift ripped open in seconds!

During this action-packed time of year, people, decorations, tempting foods and human medicines
(which get some humans through the season) are in abundance, so be double-dog sure you keep dangers
out of paws reach, but know how to react and where to go should the worst happen. Veterinarians are
the experts, but most of us are not lucky enough to have one velcroed to our hip 24/7. Even if you live in
a house with 10 humans, the cat is going to choke and the dog will cut his paw when you are home alone
and AFTER veterinary hours, so you know what to do (pet first aid – more about that tomorrow)
BEFORE you can get to veterinary help! But also…you can’t fail your furry family member by not knowing where your nearest ANIMAL EMERGENCY CENTER is! Don’t just save the phone number in your phone – drive there and learn the
closest route from home! When you need to dash to the Animal ER during an emergency, you have to be on autopilot and not worrying if it’s a right or left turn, where the door is, etc. Your concern needs to be spent on staying calm, for your pet’s sake, and tending to his needs. Find out now what services your Animal ER offers and how they accept payment, so that there are no surprises. Make sure your pet insurance is up-to-date, that you have an emergency credit card or other way to help you pet get the care he needs. Also make sure you have a PET EMERGENCY CARD in your wallet next to your Driver’s License of ID. There are companies out there you can sign up with, but even making a simple card like the one below can make a difference for your loyal dog or cat. If you are in an accident, First Responders need to know that you have animals at home that need tending to. Can you imagine pets left alone, unfed, dogs not let out while you are receiving hospital care?! Just make sure you check with your potential human caregivers ahead of time and that they are on board. Caregivers should not be strangers to your pets but rather someone who knows them. A professional pet sitter, such as one obtained through Pet Sitters International, is PAWSome as professionals participate in on-going trainings and are qualified and capable of to providing the best care possible for your fur kid! Finally, a PET ALERT STICKER placed near your front door or window lets First Responders know there are pets home alone in the event you aren’t allowed back in your home due to an emergency. Learn
more about Disaster Preparedness and get a plan in place. Heeding these tips now just make the
difference between life and death for your precious dog or cat.

Don’t wish you HAD learned Pet First Aid was one of the first quotes I received from a student after
taking my Pet First Aid Class and it works! As with anything in life, don’t wait until tragedy strikes
before you learn animal life-saving skills, and brush up on them regularly, cause…”if you don’t use it,
you lose it!” Knowing what to do BEFORE you get to veterinary care (lowing body temperature, controlling
bleeding, alleviating choking, inducing vomiting in the case of poisoning or actually administering
rescue breathing and CPR) can really make a difference in recovery and survival of your dog or cat.
When you commit to bringing a four-legged family member into your heart and your home, it is your
responsibility to make sure you can provide everything that dog or cat needs for his or her lifetime.
Rule Number One…stay calm! Pets are very perceptive to our vibes and will act accordingly. Restrain your pet by shooing her into a bathroom so that she can’t hide under the bed and control her kitty claws by swaddling her in a towel. Have a properly fitting muzzle available cause if you are bitten, it becomes a human first aid incident and your pet won’t get the prompt care. Over 50% of cat bites result in humans needing professional medical care as opposed to only 5% of dog bites. If your pet swallows a food item that she should not have (any non-caustic poison that doesn’t burn the esophagus), after contacting your Veterinarian, Pet Poison Control (888) 426-4435 or Pet Poison Helpline (855) 764- 7661, induce vomiting by administering 1 Tablespoon 3% Hydrogen Peroxide diluted with 1 Tablespoon water for every 15 lbs. you pet weighs through an eye dropper or needless syringe onto the back of her tongue. If this doesn’t cause emesis (vomiting) within 30 seconds to 5 minutes, seek immediate veterinary care. For bleeding, apply direct pressure with a clean gauze pad until bleeding stops. You can elevate the limb on a folded towel to assist and if bleeding is on a leg, press on the appropriate pressure point (major artery inside the specific limb — femoral or brachial). For upset tummies, 1 teaspoon of Mylanta for a 10-15 lbs. pet (not Pepto as it contains too much salicylic acid for pets) and letting the stomach rest by withholding food but making sure she drinks water, should alleviate simple digestive upsets, but if blood is present in vomit or diarrhea or if these are symptoms of an illness or obstruction, seek immediate veterinary care.Feeding 1/2 teaspoon daily of pure pumpkin puree (buy canned or rehydrate dry) often aids with fur
balls, and 1-3 Tablespoons (depending on canine size) can help with diarrhea, constipation and even expressing those anal glands, but…the best holiday gift you can give yourself and your pet is the gift of learning or brushing up on your pet first aid skills!

Today is Christmas, and whether you and your family celebrate, it’s a super GRRRReat day (just like
the other 364 days of the year are) to show your furry family members how much you love them!
Making them part of the family is why we adopt in the first place, so take a time out EVERY
DAY….drop your purse, briefcase, or backpack when you come home and get on the floor and play;
make time for a walk WITHOUT your cell phone so that you tune in to your dog; let your cat curl in
your lap and give her your undivided attention. Paying attention is one of the best ways to make sure
you pets stay safe – by noticing them and keeping their environment safe. Zoonotic diseases cross the species barrier, meaning we can get from or give to our pets. Rabies, ringworm, giardia for instance. Well, a new word has been coined in the last few years…ZOOEYIA (ZOO-ey-ah). It describes the health benefits pets provide us – not diseases but good things, the opposite
of Zoonoses! The word comes from the Greek roots “zoion” for animal and “hygeia” for the Greek Goddess of health. Science is proving that making a pet part of your family can decrease the risk of developing colds and asthma by developing stronger immune systems. Pets lower our stress, and also, our blood pressure, but other health benefits have also been recently identified…
• Pets get us moving. Humans of all ages with dogs in the family exercise more than those who do not share their lives with a pet as the dog’s need for walks gets us up and going too.
• Pets lower the impact of chronic disease. Studies have shown cats decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease in their owners. Having a pet in the life of a cancer patient has been shows to provide comfort and support during treatment, which can decrease stress and releases endorphins.
• Pets help us kick the habit. Research has shown that knowing secondhand smoke can harm out pets has motivated some smokers to quit!
• Pets make us more social. Loneliness and isolation can occur in our increasingly urbanized lifestyles, especially among the elderly. Having a pet gets us out meeting people (dogs can be babe magnets), taking part in activities with other pet parents, going to parks,
hiking and just staying in touch with the world. For all the smiles our dogs and cats give us, make sure you take time — GOOD QUALITY TIME– to let them know every day what an important part of your life they are. By spending time with your best
friend and tuning in to him or her, you can make safety a priority and help your pets live a longer, happier, healthier life with you!
Be sure to check back for my NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR PET PARENTS coming soon!