Going To The Vet With FitnFurry

Going to the vet can be a very frightening or stressful experience for your dog. Your furry friend may exhibit behaviors that they normally would not in the home setting. These behaviors can range anywhere from a usually timid dog becoming aggressive to a confident dog becoming frightened and scared. These are all behaviors that can be avoided with the proper training and simple exercises. For more on these training techniques and exercises please visit Dr. Kay’s web blog: http://speakingforspot.com/blog, where she gets tips from Jennifer Hack, a Chicago based professional dog trainer and behavior specialist.

FitnFurry’s Guide to Common Pet Allergies

Just like humans, dogs and cats have immune systems to protect them from foreign substances. But also like in humans, animals can have allergic reactions to these foreign substances. For example: your pet may react to certain pollens, dust, an ingredient in its food, household chemicals, grooming products, and insect bites. These reactions can have a range of different effects, including itchy, swollen skin, difficulty breathing, or a disruption of the digestive tract, such as: vomiting or diarrhea.

Pets that experience these types of allergic symptoms are often pretty miserable. Allergies are chronic and can cause life-long problems for pets and pet owners. The good news is that they can be managed with the proper diagnosis and monitoring.

The first step is to determine what it is that your pet is allergic to, so as to avoid your pets contact with that allergen. Pet allergies generally fall under one of four main categories:

Contact allergies occur when your pet’s skin comes in contact with a certain material or substance it’s allergic to. Animals with skin allergies most commonly will have reactions to many types of shampoos and flea collars. The skin at the point of contact will be irritated, it may itch, become swollen or discolored, give off a strong odor, and/or loss of hair due to constant biting/scratching. Contact allergies are generally not a hard problem to solve since they’re usually confined to a specific area of your pet’s body. You can experiment by removing different materials that your pet touches or discontinue the use of grooming products until you find the one that irritates its skin. Also, many groomers often offer hypoallergenic shampoos and gentle treatments for sensitive pets.

Food allergies and food intolerance are very separate issues and knowing which you are dealing with is the first step. A pet with an intolerance to a particular food type/brand will typically experience vomiting and/or diarrhea. Pets with a food allergy generally experience skin irritations, digestive disorders, respiratory issues, and/or infections of the ear canal. Most animals are not born with allergies to food; their immune systems develop an allergic response over time to some part of their diet. This problem can arise anytime in a pet’s life, but usually occurs between 2 and 6 years of age. Even pets that have been on the same diet for a long period of time can develop an allergy to that same food. Most often the pet is allergic to a specific ingredient in the food, which can be a challenge to solve. The most common food ingredients which pets are allergic to are: beef, chicken, fish, eggs, soy, wheat, corn, and/or milk.

Once you’ve determined your pet has an allergy, you can begin the process of elimination to isolate the specific ingredient causing the reaction. This can be a long process and requires strict monitoring of your pets diet, which means no treats, vitamins, leftovers/scraps, or even plants around the house. Allergic effects of food can stay in the pets system for 8 weeks or more, so you may have to keep your pet on a special diet for up to 12 weeks to see how he/she reacts, and you may have to do this several times with several different diets before you find the one that doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.

Inhalant allergies in pets are very similar to those we humans experience. Like us, animals can be allergic to the pollen and mold in the outside air (hay fever), and dust mites, mildew, and mold that can be found indoors. These types of allergens can cause severe itching of the ears, feet, groin, and armpits of the animal, but can also be spread across the entire body. Hairless, irritated “hot spots,” caused by excessive chewing and scratching of the affected skin can also occur. Most pets with allergies to airborne particles are usually allergic to more than one. You may also find that your pet’s allergies are seasonal, for example: he/she experiences itchiness only during high-pollen seasons, like humans with hay fever. In this case you can limit your pet’s outdoor activity time during theses seasons. There are many facilities that offer indoor play areas where your pet can stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter and at the same time avoid certain allergens. Now, if your pet is suffering from an indoor allergen, or an allergen that doesn’t vary by season, there’s very little you can do to isolate him/her from that specific allergen, though you may consider an air purifier to provide some relief in the home.

Flea allergies are probably the most common problem for pets, and they aren’t actually allergic to fleas themselves, but to the proteins found in their saliva when they bite. Affected pets can itch severely from a single bite for over 5 days. If you suspect your pet has fleas try frequent baths and/or administering prescription flea applications/pills. Many professional groomers will offer flea and/or tick treatments to assist you in the removal process. We recommend consulting your veterinarian once you’ve chosen a flea repellent, so as not to cause anymore harmful reactions. You will also want to treat your pet’s environment, including bedding, upholstered furniture, and carpet. Eliminating fleas can be a tedious process and may require several treatments for your pet and home. When treating the home, we recommend having alternate accommodations for your pets so that they are not exposed to the harsh chemicals found in home treatments.

In some cases, pet owners may become frustrated by not being able to determine exactly what is causing their pet’s allergic reaction. This is when you and your veterinarian should work together. Your veterinarian may be able to conduct blood work and/or intradermal (scratch) tests to better determine what it is that your pet is allergic to and then recommend possible treatments, or combination of treatments to alleviate your pet’s symptoms.

Treatment of your pet’s allergies will require a lot of patience and determination, but rest assured, with the time and effort, you can help your uncomfortable pet start to feel comfortable again!

FitnFurry is Wild about Doggie Daycare!

There is nothing that can take the place of quality time you spend with your furry companion, going for long walks, throwing the ball or running on the beach but we don’t always have the time they need .  Some might argue that if you don’t have the time you shouldn’t have a dog but I disagree.  It is possible to be a good, responsible pet owner even if you have to work and take care of a family. Luckily, there are  pet care facilities that offer services to help you keep your dog socialized and exercised and won’t break the bank!

Doggie daycare facilities are popping up all over the country. A good doggie daycare facility will  require an  interview where they will get proof of current vaccinations and make sure the dog is not aggressive towards other dogs. This is for the health and safety of all the dogs who participate.  It is normal for a dog to be a little shy at first, especially if it’s a new experience but once they get  used to it you can bet they will be excited to come and play with all their friends. You will be able to drop them off at your convenience and when you pick them up they will be happy and tired! There are indoor facilities that are great when it’s raining, snowing or just plain too hot outside for the dogs to be comfortable. They also lessen the chance for fox-tails, flees and ticks or other hazardous things they might get into.  It’s an extremely beneficial service to help you raise a social, well adjusted animal.

If you are interested in having your dog participate in doggie daycare take the time to research  a few different facilities in your area. Ask to have a tour and try to get to know the dog handlers a little bit to make sure it is a good fit. Once you find a place that works for you, bring them to play regularly and ask them to give you updates on how your dog is doing. Some doggie daycares even have live web-cams where you can watch your dog play from work or home. Take advantage of these places who are here to serve you and your pets and make life a little easier.

FitnFurry is Excited About a New Dog Sport!

There is a new, exciting, detection-style dog sport called Nose Work! It was developed by professional detection trainers in Southern California and is now sweeping the country. There are opportunities to enter competitions in scentwork after you learn it or you and your dog can just do it for fun! It develops their natural scenting abilities by using their desire to hunt and their love of toys, food and exercise. It is a great way for your dog to have fun, build confidence and burn lots of mental and physical energy.

The primary goal of this class is fun. Even if your dog has had little experience playing with toys, with several repetitions of this class they can be transformed. It will give them a good foundation in “find it games” and play in general. Anytime you participate in activities with your pet it helps to strengthen your bond and respect for each other as well.

All dogs work one at a time and will be crated when it’s not their turn. You will start by  setting up cardboard boxes in different arrangements, using the same one to hold the toy or food that you would like them to find. It’s a great class for dogs that need a lot of mental and physical stimulation, but may have a hard time in class with other dogs. They will have an opportunity to build confidence in new environments, and working around obstacles without the stress of interactions with other dogs.

There are  training classes in Nose Work popping up all over the nation. If you think you  might be interested you can check with your local pet care facility and see if they are offering it yet. You and your dog will love it!

FitnFurry says Enjoy The Holiday Season With Your Pets!

We think of  our pets as a part of the family so when the Holidays come around it’s great to be able to include them in the fun.  Keep in mind that during this busy time there are things we should share with our furry friends and things that are better off left to their humans.  Here are a few ideas to keep them safe and enjoy their company in the hustle and bustle of the season.

It’s the time of year for parties which means lots of food and drinks and people.  There are foods that are perfectly fine for humans but can be very dangerous for your pets.  To avoid any unwanted trips to the vet  stay away from rich foods which can cause pancreatitis or other illnesses.  If you are going to give them some turkey,  make sure you take off the skin and don’t give them any gravy or mashed potatoes.  Also, never give them sweets, chocolate or caffeine.  If you keep extra dog treats around for the Holidays they will be just as happy with those and you won’t have to worry about them getting sick.

There are also decorations and plants that can be harmful to your pets this time of year.  You may already know that poinsettias are poisoness to pets but so are azaleas, philodendrun and cranberries.  They can also get sick from drinking Christmas tree water, especially  if you treat the water to preserve the tree.  You can try spraying the area with a citrus scent to keep them out of harms way.  Ornaments and lights  can also be tempting toys for your pet so it’s best to try to keep them out of reach if possible.  Also, If you wrap candy or chocolate as gifts do not put them under the tree or leave any baked goods on counter tops where they may be too tempting.

There are some great ways  to include your pets in the Holiday fun that are easy and inexpensive.  You can take them on nice walks to enjoy the festive lights and decorations in your neighborhood.  You can have fun dressing them in holiday sweaters and collars or get their picture with Santa!  You may even want to give them their own stocking  with some special dog treats or toys so they have something to keep them busy while you are eating and opening presents. 

This is the perfect time to get them spruced up at the groomers so you can show them off to friends and family when they come to visit.  You can even have the groomers dye their fur to look more festive for the season!

How ever you choose to celebrate the season don’t forget to include your pets and do what you can to keep them safe and healthy.  After all, they are a part of the family and absolutely love  any and all attention no matter what time of year.  Enjoy the holidays and stay safe!

FitnFurry Answers the Question “How Important is Training For My Dog?”

Training is the best way to keep your pet safe and establish a healthy relationship between you and your dog. There are so many factors involved with caring for a pet and if you start training at a young age you can save yourself a lot of worries in the future.  Training can make walking your dog more enjoyable, taking them to the dog park safer and  having people over to your house a lot less hectic.

Whenever you start basic obedience training the most important thing you can do is BE CONSISTENT  . Dogs are creatures of habit and any training you do must be re-enforced  regularly in order to stick. So this means you are being trained as much as your dog is.  It’s very hard to resist your cute, adorable, furry baby when he tries  to get up on the couch or bed with you or when he gnaws on your hands but habits like this could mean disaster as he/she gets older. Your dog is happiest when he knows what you want from him so when you train him it helps to strengthen your bond and gives him a way to make you proud.

When you walk a well-trained dog on a leash, YOU are in control at all times and not being dragged down the street. If  you come across another dog you do not have to worry about your dogs reaction. You can enjoy the fresh air together and get some healthy exercise without dreading a misbehaving dog.

When you take your dog anywhere off leash whether it be the beach, a dog park or even  your front yard, basic commands like come, stay or heel can save their life.  You don’t want your dog to chase things unexpectedly or take off in front of a car.

It can be a pleasure having people over to your house when your dogs are well behaved. They won’t jump all over company or try to get out of the house and take off when people are coming and going. Without the proper training some dogs become so territorial that they won’t even let anyone in your home without going crazy.The peace of mind of having a well- mannered pup makes entertaining much more enjoyable.

Having a dog is a long term commitment and a lot of responsibility. As cute and loving as they are, they can also be challenging and maddening, especially if they are not trained. When you take the time to create structure, teach commands  and give your dog boundaries it feeds their desire to please you. It makes them more relaxed when they know what you want from them.. so teach them. Give them positive re-enforcement when they do good and don’t tolerate bad behavior. This means you can’t be lazy and confuse them because sometimes they get away with it and sometimes they don’t. There are reputable trainers and pet facilities that can help you. Train your dog, they will love you for it and your life will be a lot easier in the long run.

You’re Going On Vacation but What About Me? Can I Go to FitnFurry?

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It’s the time of year when we are making plans to get out of town to celebrate with friends and family but what about our furry family members that can’t always come along for the ride?  The main thing to remember is that you have options.

If taking  your pets with you is not an option you can find a reputable in-home caregiver to come and feed and walk your  pets while you are away. Make sure they are bonded and insured and most of all make sure you feel comfortable with having someone come into your home and that your pets will get the care they need.

Another option is leaving your pet with a professional caregiver.  Boarding facilities can be a reliable choice when you are away.  Most places are reasonably priced and well equipped to give the necessary care your pet needs.  It is always a good idea  to check out a few different options  and find one that is the best fit for you and your pet.  Places are popping up all over the country that are not your standard “kennels”.  There are all inclusive pet resorts that can offer training and grooming while they are boarding so you can go on your vacation and when you pick up your furry friend they will be well mannered and looking great!

If you are home for the holidays you may still want to board your pets for a day or two or drop them off for some doggie daycare.  With the hustle and bustle of the season doggie playtimepeople may be coming and going more than usual which increases the chances of having a lost pet.  Also, there are many poisonous things for your pet to get into such as poinsettia plants, christmas tree water or turkey bones.  When our schedules get hectic our animals sometimes suffer so why not drop them off for some doggie playtime while you’re doing your shopping or entertaining.  Make the holidays fun for everyone including your furry family members!