Thursday, April 19, 2018

How To Tell If Your Dog Is Depressed

Dogs can suffer from depression, just like humans. But, dogs do not speak human. They speak dog and sometimes it's hard for us humans to figure out what they are saying. Here are 10 signs that your dog might be depressed. Please keep in mind that just because your dog may be exhibiting one of these signs, it does not necessarily mean they are depressed. A lot of these signs could also mean they are injured or sick. Bottom line, it's best to know your dog's personal language. Pay attention to how they communicate on a day to day basis in order to understand when your dog is acting out of the ordinary.

  1. Change in Behavior: This is the most basic sign. Is your dog acting out of the ordinary? Have they lost interest in things that used to excite them? Example: Walks, favorite food, no longer greeting you at the door. The first thing to do is check out the environment. Have you had a new life change (new baby, a big move, ect..)? Sometimes, a dog will sense your own mood and act accordingly. It may be time to do your own self-reflection on whether you are in fact sad or stressed out. This could be causing your dog to feel the same way. Remember, that dogs are pack animals and if their leader is feeling sad or stressed, you canine will feel the same way. Though, they won't know why. They just know something is wrong with their leader. 
  2. Sleeping Pattern Changes: Usually a dog's sleeping patterns will fall in line with their human companion's. If you are noticing that you dog is particularly lethargic, they may be sad about something. BUT, they could also be sick or injured. Again, first check the environment for major changes. Next, take them to the vet to be reassured they are not sick. 
  3. Pacing: Pacing is a repetitive, back and forth frantic walk in a path. If you dog is pacing, it could mean a myriad of emotions: boredom, frustration, agitation or they could be excited about something fun that is about to happen! Pacing can also mean illness or injury. An injured or sick dog may pace because they cannot get in a comfortable resting position. They are basically trying to wear themselves out to rest. Again, know your dog's normal day to day routine and language and check the environment for any new change.
  4. Body Language: This is again assuming you know your dog's individual language. Some dogs are naturally timid and shy. Other dogs are more confident and boisterous. Some common body language signs that your dog is feeling sad are the eyes and the "passive stance". Generally, if a dog is avoiding eye contact, something is wrong. It does not necessarily mean that the eye contact has to be with you. It could mean that when you throw their favorite toy across the room, they refuse to look at it. Another common sign is a passive stance: walking or standing with their tail between their legs and head low. Sadness does not necessarily mean they are depressed. It could be just a temporary fleeting feeling they are feeling at that particular moment. 
  5. Eating Habits: Has your dog's eating habits changed? Like humans, a dog can suddenly start eating more or less when they are depressed. Ideally, your dog should have scheduled feeding times. This allows you better monitor their health and notice any eating changes. Keep in mind, they may just be bored with their food and it's time for a switch up. If your dog is more of a free range feeder, you will need to weigh them on a regular basis to make sure they are not gaining or losing weight too quickly.
  6. Aggression: This is more of a serious one. If your dog is showing signs of aggression, please take them to the vet to make sure they are not ill or injured. Period. 
  7. Excessive Licking: (especially the paws!) Some dogs will exhibit and obsessive compulsion to lick themselves when something is bothering them. You must first check to make sure that they are not injured, have a skin irritation or allergy. If not, it could be an emotional response. 
  8. Destructive Behavior: First, I must clarify. If you have a puppy, it's going to be destructive and it's your job to teach them boundaries. But, if you have a dog that was once calm and collective suddenly chewing up things, chances are something is wrong. They could be bored, mad, frustrated or depressed. First make sure that they are getting adequate mental and physical exercise. Next, check for major changes in the environment. It could be something as "silly" as a new smell in the house! If all of this has been addressed, you may need to seek a vet. 
  9. Excessive Shedding: When I say "excessive shedding", I'm not talking about the day to day shedding of your dog. Dog's shed. Period. What you will be looking for is thin, bald spots of hair missing on your dog. If this is happening, please take your dog to the vet. Chances are, it's a health issue. But, it could also be an emotional reaction. 
  10. Avoidance or Hiding: If your dog seems to be hiding in a corner or avoiding you or other family members, something is wrong. Again, it could be a major environmental change, it could be weather (like a thunderstorm) or it could be health related and need a vet's diagnosis.
Bottom line, the best way to tell if something is wrong with your dog is to pay attention to them everyday. Get to know your dog: What your dog likes, dislikes and how they communicate. If you do notice something is "out of the ordinary" with your dog, don't panic. First, assess the environment and try to decide if it is indeed emotional or if it's physical. Always consult your veterinarian, because even emotional issues may sometimes need a doctor's care. 💗

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Dog Toy Safety

Let's face it, dog toys are fun for you and your dog. But they are not only fun, they are kind of a necessity. Toys provide comfort and fight boredom in your dog. They can also be used in training to provide mental and physical stimulation to ward off undesirable behaviors in your beloved four-legged family member. When dogs are not provided toys in the household, they will often find other objects to use as toys. Often, the items they choose will be things that you do not want destroyed or big time safety risks.

There are many toys on the market and some of them are perfect for a canine. Other toys can be a waste of money or downright dangerous for your dog. So, how do you as a canine owner, wade through the endless rows of dog toys to find the perfect one for Fido? Let's start with safety:

Making Toys Safe:
  • Size is important. Make sure the toy cannot be easily swallowed or lodged in your dog's throat. When choosing a toy, you must take into account your dog's size and behavioral tendencies. 
  • Cut off any ribbon, strings or "googly eyes" that can be ripped off and ingested.
  • Supervise and inspect: Always keep an eye on what your dog is doing with the toy. Discard any toys that are starting to rip or break into pieces that can be ingested.
  • Squeaky toys! Some dogs absolutely LOVE squeaky toys. Often, the squeaker is placed right in the middle of a stuffed toy and your dog will want to destroy that squeaker. Hence, a destroyed stuffed toy. Please supervise your dog during squeaky toy play. If your dog conquers the squeaky toy, discard the remnants... including the infamous squeaker, which can be a choking hazard. 
  • Check labels. If the toy is designed to be a people toy, but your dog really wants to play with it, check to make sure it is safe for children 3-years and under. Also, stuffing should not be made out of nutshells or those little polystyrene beads (ughhh). Your dog should probably not ingest any sort of stuffing, but nutshells and polystyrene beads are the most dangerous.  
  • Stuffed animals must be small enough for your dog to carry, but large enough that your dog can shake it. 
  • Rawhides--You should consult your veterinarian about giving your dog rawhides. These can give your dog serious obstructions. If you give your dog a rawhide, PLEASE supervise and always choose the right size for your dog.There are lots of other (safer) options for your dog that provides the same sort of chewing stimulation. Here is a quick list of alternatives.
Awesome Toys For Canines
  • Rope toys with knotted ends make an awesome game of tug-o-war. Plus, dogs really like to do what I call the "shake-kill" maneuver on them. 
  • Kongs are an absolute favorite. You can fill them with frozen treats or just plain ol' treats and keep your dog busy for quite a while. Just make sure the Kong is the right size for your canine. 
  • Tennis Balls! They can be thrown, they bounce AND they get slobbery wet! It's a dog's dream toy. But again, frequently check for wear and tear.
  • Busy Boxes-- These are large rubber cubes with hiding places for treats and provide mental enrichment for you dog. 
  • DIY enrichment games. Click here for ideas!
  • Of course, you can always go local in Bozeman, MT. and buy West Paw toys. We love them at Bark City! They are an environmentally friendly business and they recycle some of their toys into new toys. You can find West Paw Toys in other states as well.
Above are just some suggestions on awesome dog toys. Bottom line is that you, as a doggy parent, must provide your dog with mental and physical stimulation in order to ward of bad behavior habits spurred out of frustration and pent up energy. Also, toys should not just be a "babysitter" for your dog. You need to make sure your are interacting with your dog on a consistent basis. Dogs are social animals and can become very depressed when socially deprived. We at Bark City are always trying to find new and innovative ways to keep our dogs enriched. For ideas, you can always check out our Facebook page to see what we have going on in the daycare.  Go out and PLAY!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners

Emergencies are a type of event that you don't know you are going to have until you are having it. Some emergencies require a brief absence from your home, other emergencies require permanent evacuation. Your four-legged companion is part of your family. If you have family evacuation plans in place for your two-legged family members, shouldn't you also have them for your four-legged?

It's always a good idea to have plans in place well before you actually have an emergency. Here are a few things you should think about while you a planning out your emergency protocol:
  • Rescue Alert Sticker: These are those little stickers on your front door that tell emergency workers how many pets you have, what they look like, their names and your veterinarian's phone number. You can get a FREE sticker here
  • Evacuation Plan: If you are not safe in your house, your pets aren't either! Please make sure you don't just leave them behind to fend for themselves. Develop a plan that also includes a way for your pets to evacuate.
  • Designated Caregiver: In the event that something happens to you, there should be a designated caregiver for your pet. This should be someone you trust that knows precisely the medical needs and diet of your pet. They should also know how to take care of the specific breed of your dog and temperament. Talk to this person about the logistics of what needs to be done way before there is an emergency. You many want to print out instructions to give to them for future reference. If there is an emergency, you will not have time to be explaining Fido's daily care. This person should have a key to your house in case something happens and you cannot be at your house to give your dog to them. 
  • Safe Haven: In addition to the evacuation plan, you need a place for your pets to stay while you are evacuated. Ideas: Friends or relatives, a boarding kennel, ask your local animal shelter if they have emergency shelter or foster care options and have a list of local hotels that accept pets. Again, have these places written down with contact numbers well ahead of an actual emergency. 
  • First Aid Kit: Click here to get the long list of things to include in your first aid kit! Have two First Aid kits prepared. One for home and one for the car.
  • Geographical Considerations: Think about the area in which you live and what kinds of things happen: Earthquakes? Tornadoes? Flooding? Then ask yourself the question: Do you have a safe place for your dog to go in the event of these natural disasters. Areas include: basements, laundry rooms, high shelving or roof areas for floods. In addition, if there is a long period of time in which you will have no water, do you have water stored for you and Fido? Do you have food for all-legged family members?
We never like to think about the "what ifs", but we also need to be well prepared just in case. It's a good idea to plan out these things in the present rather than just saying, "Oh, I'll do it next week". Because, we all know how that goes!  Having a plan in place greatly reduces the stress in the time of an actually emergency.