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      Is Your Dog Ready To Travel When Disaster Strikes?

      Pet, Is Your Dog Ready To Travel When Disaster Strikes?

      This post was previously published by Kathryn Durno on 4Knines blog.

      Is Your Dog Ready to Travel When Disaster Strikes?

      It has been a crazy summer of devastating hurricanes, flooding, fires and other disasters. Is your dog prepared to weather the storm?

      Is Your Dog Ready to Travel When Disaster Strikes?


       

      We just spent a week on the road with our three dogs after being evacuated for Hurricane Irma. It was extremely stressful and full of anxiety for us and our dogs. I felt prepared and ready to keep my dogs as calm as possible under the circumstances. Sadly, as we crawled down the highway in bumper to bumper traffic, it became clear that many dog owners were just not prepared to travel in an emergency with their dog.

      There are a lot of logistics to consider when you take a road trip with your dog that involves long distance and overnight stays. Throw in a mandatory evacuation or other emergency and the stress that both you and your dog experience can go way up.

      Here are my best tips for having your dog travel ready (emergency or not):

      Keep a Bag Packed and Ready

      Is Your Dog Overweight?

      Is Your Dog Overweight?

      How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

      Is my dog fat? Nobody wants to admit it but over half of us have an overweight pet!

       
      Overweight dog

      The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) recently released their 2016 clinical survey survey where a whopping 59% of cats and 54% of dogs in the U.S. were classified as overweight (Body Condition Score of 4) or obese (BCS 5) by their veterinary healthcare professional. This equals an estimated 41.9 million dogs and 50.5 million cats that are too heavy. Not only are the shear numbers staggering but these numbers continue to rise each year. Yikes!

      Obesity in our pets is a serious issue. According to APOP, being overweight or obese is one of the primary causes of decreased life expectancy for our pets. Excess weight can also lead to other progressive diseases and conditions such as osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory diseases, kidney disease and many forms of cancer. If that is not bad enough, as owners, we then spend millions of dollars in avoidable medical costs. That is the bad news. The good news is that obesity is entirely preventable!

      Know the Facts, Accept them and Take Action

      What is your dog’s ideal weight?

      Often we do realize our dog is overweight but don’t think it is that big of a deal. What is a few pounds? It is not such a big deal for humans, but for dogs - carrying a few extra pounds can be a big difference.

      Think about it in terms of humans – a 5’4” woman with a Body Mass Index (BMI) in the 18 – 25 range will weigh 108 – 145 pounds. This same woman is considered overweight at a BMI between 28 – 31, which corresponds to 163 – 181 pounds. A BMI in excess of 34 on this same woman indicates obesity with her weighing 200 pounds.

      If we translate this into an overweight pet… the Yorkie with an ideal weight of 6 – 8 pounds is considered to be overweight at 9-10 lbs and obese at over 11 pounds! That means that a 12 pound Yorkie is carrying around the same weight as the obese 5’4” women weighing 218 pounds!! That is a LOT of extra weight to carry!
      This Pet to Human Weight Translator that will really open your eyes to the impact of just a few extra pound on your dog.

      Take a Good Look

      The veterinary community has a benchmark called the Body Conditioning Score (BCS) to assess a dog’s overall weight and body condition. It gives you a great visual and description of what any breed of dog should look like at a healthy weight (and what under or over weight looks like too!) What is your dog’s BCS?

      The ideal score is 5. Download it, print it, share it, pin it up on your refrigerator!

      It’s Not your Dog, It’s You

      I tell this story all the time. When we brought our overweight dog into the vet he asked us who feeds the dog… it was me. As I quickly began making excuses for what she needed and wanted etc, he cut me off and asked if she fixed her own food. Well… no she didn’t, it was me. He then said, “It’s not your dog, it’s you.” He went on to explain to us that if we didn’t get her back in shape and soon she wouldn’t have too many more birthdays.

      We got the message and made a change for our dog. No change in her food or wild exercise plan, just a gradual cut back to get her intake level back down to what it should have been to maintain a healthy weight. It didn’t happen overnight, but it happened. She was 3 at the time and went on to live to be a grand old girl of almost 16 with very few health problems in her long life. I’m convinced that we would have had a different outcome had we not gotten the excess weight off of her when we did.

      I tell this story because it is really a matter of having a clear understanding of our dog’s weight, how much we are actually feeding, and how to bring it back into a normal and appropriate range.

      I will preface this all with saying you should always consult with your vet before starting a weight loss program as there could be other things causing the issue. With that said, most of us are just over feeding our dogs, plain and simple.

      Where Is Your Dog Today?

      After you looked at the BCS chart and then your dog, what is your number? Is she ideal? Just a little over, maybe a 6? Way, way over at an 8 or 9? Weigh your dog, give her a BCS score and create your chart back to fitness.

      Crunch the Numbers

      The gold standard for determining how many calories your dog needs each day is a Metabolic Energy Requirement (MER) calculation. Use your dog’s current weight to determine how many calories she needs now to maintain her current weight. Then use the calculator to determine how many calories she will need each day to start losing weight, just a little at a time.

      You can now go about the business of making that first daily reduction. Start small and reduce your dog’s daily caloric intake gradually over time. Re-assess your dog every week to week and a half to see if you are ready to make another change.

      Next, calculate your dog’s new serving size based on his first k/cal goal and the number of k/cals in each cup of his food. This dog food calculator makes quick work of it! Reference the label or website for your dog’s food to get the k/cal per cup.

      Tips for Success:

      • Measure, Measure, Measure!!! 

      If your dog should be getting a cup at each meal and you just eyeball it, or give a heaping cup instead of a level cup you are most likely overfeeding your dog by 50% each day in just regular meals!!! Use a measuring cup or get a food scale and set up a system so that you can give your dog the correct portion at every meal.

      • Start Slowly

      Cut back a little each week until your dog gets to the desired weight and serving size. Weight loss isn’t going to happen in a week – make a plan and gradually cut back over time.

      • Chart Your Progress

      Track your dog’s weight and food intake. Make a plan for a gradual weight loss over an extended period of time. Celebrate your success!! Every few weeks take their serving size down a notch to get them closer to their ideal serving size and weight over time.

      • Make Regular Walking Exercise Part of Your Routine

      If your dog is overweight, exercise is difficult. If necessary, consult your vet and just get your dog moving a little bit at a time. The more weight they lose, the more they will feel like going for a spirited walk. When you walk your dog, set a brisk pace on the way “out” and then slow down, take time to sniff, etc on the way back. Gradually increase your frequency and distance. Both you and your dog will feel better!

      • Healthy Treat Choices

      I’m all about rewards and positive reinforcement for my dogs. If you buy packaged treats - know how many calories are in each one and how they fit into your dog’s daily calorie budget. Switch it up to low-calorie choices like little pieces of fruits or vegetables that your dog likes. Mine LOVE squash – summer or zucchini squash diced up in tiny pieces makes for a great reward. Be ready and keep a little zip lock of already chopped up low cal treats in your refrigerator.

      • Don’t Feed From the Bowl

      Using your dog’s regular food as a training reward is a common practice among those that train for canine competitive sports. Rather than setting a bowl of food down for your dog at each meal, you are asking your dog to “work” for their regular meal by doing sits, downs and other training exercises. It takes about 8 – 10 minutes per dog to do this – but it does give your pal a good mental and physical workout while eating their breakfast! Sits, Downs, and puppy pushups are all great core strengthening exercises for your dog. Change it up once in a while!

      It isn’t going to happen overnight, but these simple steps can help your dog get back to their ideal weight over time. All the medical conditions, pain and suffering and medical expenses caused by obesity can be prevented, but it is up to you.

      If you recognize that your dog is overweight, you are not alone… over 41 million of us have overweight dogs that we love with all of our hearts. Let’s take a step in the right direction today to get them back in shape.

      Are you in? I am.

      When the Canine Flu hits home

      When the Canine Flu hits home

      The unthinkable happened to me this spring...a severe outbreak of the canine flu virus (H3N2) and my dogs were right in the cross hairs.  I've written on the canine flu in the past, never thinking it would actually happen to me, but it did.

      Tristan with the canine flu

      Tristan not feeling so good with the canine flu :(

       

      All three of my dogs participate in canine sports, so they all regularly attend class, competition and travel events.  Nate, our youngest, is working on his show championship and we set out for the weekend for our first show in a while.  Since we live in Florida, all the shows this time of year are indoors and all the dogs crate up in a central grooming area.  I was staying in a hotel rather than the RV, so for the majority of each day Nate and I were at the show grounds either in the ring, walking around the grounds (when we could stand the heat)! or in the grooming area - which was very close quarters.

      We returned from the weekend on Sunday night and by Monday morning reports were surfacing on social media about dogs who had been at the shows in Perry, GA the weekend before were now starting to get sick...some extremely sick and that it was an outbreak of the canine flu.  I am an active member of my breed club and we all began nervously watching our dogs hoping that none of them would become ill over the next few days.  It was first thought that the incubation period was about 3 - 4 days from exposure.  As the week went on...everyone in my house was fine as were my friends' dogs who were at the competition with me. Although more and more dogs were reporting sick from the shows the Perry shows that were the week before.

      It was the Memorial Day weekend and we were traveling without the dogs, so when we left on Friday afternoon and everyone was good - I figured we were safe.  We came home just after dinner on Sunday and our pet sitter reported that Nate was slow to eat his dinner - which is very unusual for him.  She said he was great a lunch time, and that he ultimately ate his dinner, but just slowly. 

      We got home around 7 and he appeared fine, maybe just a little not feeling good, but otherwise fine.  We settled in for our evening routine and he was okay, just a little sluggish, but I thought he might just have an upset stomach and nothing to worry about.  At around 8:30 I sat down in the chair and he came up to be petted and I could tell he really didn't feel good at all.  His little eyes were closed and he made a little noise that let me know he was not feeling good at all.  I called the sitter again to see if she noticed anything he got into, anything he ate in the yard etc... and while I was talking to her on the phone he all of a sudden gave a deep cough and had yellow mucous coming out of his nose!

      I knew immediately what it was...and off to the Emergency Vet we went.  We had to wait in the parking lot and they sent a vet tech out to pick him up and carry him in.  It is so so contagious that they did not want him infecting other patients or the office.  It came up on him very quickly and quite severely.  He is a young and healthy boy, and after antibiotics, fluids, cough medicine and a very rough first night, he turned around and was just sick but not in critical condition for the next 10 days.  And then began the wait for Biddy and Tristan to get sick....and sure enough by Friday they were both coughing and both sick.

      Everyone is healthy now but it was a long couple of weeks with three sick dogs in the house.  I felt very fortunate that none of my dogs were critically ill as so many others were. 

       

      So it begs the question...do you vaccinate for the canine flu?  My thoughts?  It depends and talk to your vet.  I learned a lot, a lot, a lot about this virus over my extended time up close and personal with it. 

      I found the best resource to be the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital site on canine influenza.  They are at the forefront of the outbreak in both treatment and research.  They are also providing guidance to veterinarians on how to treat and handle the outbreak - so a trusted site. 

      To Vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

      The vaccine is probably not for everyone, but if your one of those people like I am that participates in canine sports - you should probably have that discussion with your vet.  If you board your dog a lot or he goes regularly to a doggie day care...you should also have that discussion with your vet to see if it is appropriate.  Typically, a healthy dog will become sick but just like a human, get better from a bout with the canine flu.  It is the very old, compromised, and very young that are at the greatest risk.  So your risk is not so much how will your young dog fair, but how will your senior dog that you brought it home to fair? 

      So...if you and your dog participate is some of these lifestyle activities:

      •  Dog Shows
      • Agility Events
      • Obedience/Rally events
      • Regular Boarding/day care

      It might be worth  your time to educate yourself on the virus, the transmission periods, how to prevent it through vaccination and how to prevent it through behaviors.  Happy Reading and stay healthy!!!

      (And yes..after we all recovered fully we got the first dose of the vaccine.  Next week we will get our booster and we will not be returning to competition until September!) 

      We are taking the summer off and training at home.  I have set some pretty specific goals for Biddy, Tristan and Nate...stay tuned for how we do at the end of the summer!