Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Pawfessionals Dog Walkers and Pet Sitters: The Importance of Your Pet's Dental Hygiene

The Importance of Your Pet’s Dental Hygiene

Keeping your pet’s teeth clean is essential to its health. Gum disease is common among pets with bad dental hygiene and is indicated by bad breath, or halitosis. This is a result of the bacterial infection of the gums, called gingiva, and supporting tissues.

What causes gum disease is plaque that leads to dental tartar when plaque hardens and adheres to tooth enamel and then erodes the gingival tissue. The indications of gum disease are redness, soreness and swelling. The gums will separate from the teeth, creating pockets where the bacteria, plaque and tartar build up. This creates more damage, tooth and bone loss and the final result is Periodontitis (bacterial infection of the mouth).

The bacteria from this deterioration can enter the bloodstream and affect major body organs like the liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. So, before a professional dental cleaning, antibiotics are administered to prevent bacterial spread through the bloodstream.

Dental treats that are treated with enzymes help reduce the formation of tartar and calculus, but are not an alternative to brushing away bacterial causing agents.

So, the bottom line is you gotta’ brush your pet’s teeth. You might be thinking, “Bath time is challenging as it is! How in the world am I going to get my pet to sit still for a tooth brushing?”

You’ll be glad to know there are 4 easy steps to this process. Just like training your pet to do anything else, there is a way to ease him/her into a routine of tooth brushing.

Step 1: Start the training by placing a little cat or dog toothpaste on your finger and let your pet lick the paste from your hand, like a treat. With cats, wrap a sterilized gauze strip around your finger, dipped into the paste, or use a rubbery feline toothbrush with paste on it. Do this several days in a row and follow it up each day with a treat reward and praise.

Step 2: Place a little of the toothpaste on your pet’s teeth (canine teeth for dogs) to get it used to having it placed against their teeth and gums. Again, do this for several days and follow it with a treat and praise.

Step 3: Introduce the toothbrush that will be used for brushing. Place some toothpaste on it and let your pet lick it off to get him/her used to the toothbrush and the texture of the process. You will, again, do this for several days and follow up with a treat and praise.

Step 4: Gently hold your pet’s lips back and brush at a 45 degree angle to the gum line. Brush the outside of the teeth using a back and forth motion while talking to him/her in a soothing voice and praising as you go along. The first time you do this, only brush a few teeth and increase the number of teeth each time you brush.

If time is minimal in your schedule, you may substitute brushing with dental pads now and then, which kill bacteria on the surface of the teeth.

Ideally, a tooth cleaning every day is optimal. However, a few times per week will do. ALWAYS follow a brushing with a treat and praise.  

- Kassira McKee


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Pet Degu

Is it a hamster? Or a mouse? Or maybe even a gerbil?

Nope, it’s a Degu!

A cousin of the chinchilla, it is a Caviomorpha rodent from Chile that is herbivorous. They are also referred to as brush tail rats or trumpet tailed rats, but are not related to rats at all. The word degu, derived from its Latin name, Octodon degus, translates into ‘eight tooth taste graze’.

Fully grown, these furry creatures fit in the palm of a human. They are active during the day, have brown fur, and have orange teeth and a medium length tail. They also have five clawed toes on their forepaws and five on their hind feet. Their cute little ears are shaped to capture sound and to dissipate body heat. Their large, dark eyes are on the side of their head to improve range of vision.

The female Degu has a better sense of smell than the male and has four pairs of teats, three of which are on the side of the body in a line between the front and hind legs.

Degus are semifossorial, which means they live partly underground. They also prefer to live in groups. They adapt extremely well to new environments, especially if you provide them with a stable living area. Degus thrive better in large cages with bar spacing that is a maximum of 2 cm, or less than one inch, to keep them contained and safe. The cage should also have a solid metal base with a substrate of pine wood shavings, shredded paper or finely chopped straw. NO sawdust or toxic cedar wood chips please!

The cage should also have a nest box in it because Degus LOVE to burrow. Open terracotta plant pots bedded with shredded jay cloths or soft paper work great! Because they require constant stimulation, a solid wheel without spokes or a flying saucer wheel is essential for it to run on. Also important are apple, hazel, hawthorn, kiln-dried pine, pear or linden wood branches for them to climb and gnaw on. They also really enjoy bamboo cane, coconut shell and grapevine.

When out of its cage, plastic wheels and obstacle courses are great exercise for them and entertainment for both of you! They also LOVE cardboard tubes, parrot toys and ladders, jingle balls and marbles!

Degus love to groom and be groomed and they especially like human company, which makes them easy to handle. Their high level of intelligence makes them easy to train and interact with.

You’d think these little creatures would require a special diet, but that’s not true. The only things to avoid altogether are sugar, molasses, honey syrup, glucose and fructose. Other than that, they do well eating dried mix or pellets from the pet store like guinea pig, chinchilla or Degu-specific food. AVOID chinchilla mix because it contains sugary, dried fruit! Also unsuitable are hamster or gerbil food mixes.

10 g, or 2 teaspoons, of hard food once a day is plenty of nourishment for a Degu, along with hay, which is the most important part of its diet. It helps it to maintain gut function and molar teeth wear. Meadow or Timothy hay are ideal, mixed with a little Alfalfa hay to make it tastier. Also, fresh vegetables like chopped, raw carrots, cabbage, peas and herbs such as mint, chives, oregano and basil, in small quantities once or twice a week, are perfect for the Degu diet. You can even add a rose petal to make the veggie mix more enticing.

Here are some basic rules to know before you make a Degu a part of your life:

Rule #1: They prefer living in groups, so strongly consider owning more than one

Rule #2: Unlike other rodents, you cannot pick a Degu up by its tail- it will tear off

Rule #3: Let the Degu simply sit in the palms of your hands – do not encircle them

Rule #4: Use recommended foods like puffed rice or wheat, flaked corn or peas, bread crumbs, cracker pieces or rolled oats as a reward during training

Rule #5: The way to a Degu’s heart is a tummy rub. To them, it’s worth YOUR weight in gold

Rule #6: Speak to a Degu in a soothing tone of voice, even when using voice commands

Rule #7: To protect their intestinal and kidney functions, never over-feed a Degu because they have small tummies.

Rule #8: Spend a lot of quality time with a Degu, as they love and need the socialization, even if they do have Degu roommates

– Kassira McKee

For more amazing information about Degus, click here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Cautions of Exposing Your Pet to Excessive Heat

Rain, sleet, snow or heat, when they gotta’ go, they gotta’ go. Walking our dogs in extreme weather conditions is unpleasant for us and our beloved canines. Still, it has to be done if your dog doesn’t do its business quickly or you don’t have an enclosed yard. There are many apartment, high-rise, townhouse and condo dwellers faced with this dilemma all the time.

Dogs and cats are homeotherms, which means they typically maintain a constant body temperature of 101 to 102 degrees. If their body temperature rises above 106 degrees, brain, tissue and organ swelling can occur as well as abnormal blood clotting, which can damage the kidneys, heart, lungs and the brain. This leads to the physical collapse of the animal, a coma, seizures and respiratory arrest.

Dogs and cats do not have the sweating capability that humans do so they release heat by coming into contact with things cooler than themselves like tile floors, cool water and cool air. When dogs pant, the evaporation dissipates heat from within their bodies, but prolonged panting without a cooling element will lead to dehydration.

As we enter into the warmer months, there are precautions to take when we are forced to take our furry friends outside in the heat so they can relieve themselves.

It is best to keep cats inside with a litter box for their convenience. Bring your outdoor cats in for the summer or at least provide them with a cooler shelter and plenty of water for them to drink.

Dogs are a different story all together and there are many things to consider to keep their temperature regulated to avoid heatstroke.

If you think the hot pavement burns your feet, imagine how it can affect your dog! Even though our dogs have thicker pads on their paws than we have on our feet, they can still get 3rd degree burns from prolonged contact with hot terrain.

Here are a few tips to help you ensure your pet is healthy and comfortable through the warmer months of the year. Keep in mind that the most ideal time of day to walk a dog is in the morning or late evening to avoid the hotter, midday temperatures.
  • Walk in the shade as much as possible if walking has to be done in the midday hours.
  • Walk in circles close to home so that you are never too far from the end of the walk.
  • Hydration is the key to avoid a heat stroke for you and your dog. Take a bottle or two of cold water for the both of you.
  • If attending an outdoor event together, make sure you take your dog to the watering areas frequently and try to stay in the shade as much as possible.
  • Avoid taking your dog along with you on your daily runs or long walks.
  • Never leave your pet in a parked car on a warm day.
  • Watch for various signs that your dog has reached his/her limit, such as excessive panting or drooling, tender paws, shaking, sluggishness,  and red, gray or purple tongue and gums.
  • Once back inside, lead your dog to water immediately and encourage him/her to lie down on a cool tile, wood or cement floor to regulate their body temperature.
  • Avoid play time or over-exertion until your dog has recovered from the heat.

Canines have a thick undercoat of fur as well as an outer layer. In warmer months, they shed their undercoat, which they use for insulating because it isn’t needed. The outer coat remains as a thermal regulator to slow down the process of heat absorption.

Many owners have their dog’s fur shaved or cut extra short for hot weather, which is not advisable. Animals need their fur to protect them from sunburn and insect bites and to avoid over-heating.

Although you may continue to run or jog in the heat for exercise, do not take your dog with you. The activity has their metabolism generate internal heat, which blocks their ability to discharge external heat, leading to excessive panting and dehydration.

There are specific dog breeds that are intolerant of excessive heat. Breeds with “pushed in” snouts are at the top of the list, as well as those with cold-weather coats.

Because of its bulk and breathing system, the French Bull Dog cannot regulate its temperature efficiently. Once overheated, a heatstroke can occur, causing death. Short walks are a must in warm weather.

All other Bulldog breeds, Pugs, Boxers, Boston terriers, as well as Himalayan and Persian cats cannot efficiently pant to cool themselves when overheated.

Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Malamutes, Akitas and chow chows are cold weather breeds that are also intolerant of excessive temperatures.

The bulk of obese or overweight dogs interferes with thermoregulation, which means they cannot radiate heat away from their body sufficiently enough to cool down.

So when you’re outside with your pet in hot weather and your pet begins to pant heavily, take it into cooler temperatures, hose it down in the back yard or run tepid water all over its body, especially the head, neck, chest and groin, to start the cooling process. You can also wrap it in cool, wet towels, but you’ll need to replace them when they warm up from the heat the animal is releasing.

– Kassira McKee

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bella the Gorgeous Goldendoodle

This is Bella, a 6 week old Goldendoodle and a client of The Pawfessionals Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters.

This cross breed of Golden Retriever and Poodle started in America and Australia in the 1990s to develop guide dogs for visually impaired people with allergies. Now, the Goldendoodle, also called Groodle, is categorized as a Hybrid breed and is bred to be a wonderful family dog, especially for those with allergies, as the Poodle coat is highly hypoallergenic. Though some of these cross breeds are not completely shed-free, most of them are low to non-shedding. Goldendoodles also make great bird dogs. 

The double characteristic of this breed makes it intelligent, highly trainability, and affectionate with humans and other pets. Because of these traits, Goldendoodles have been utilized as guide, therapy, search and rescue dogs since 2005.  

This breed typically develops extremely strong bonds with their owners, and children, and is calm with a level temperament. However, they need regular exercise and attention from their owners. They are prone to separation anxiety so it is a good idea to crate them when left alone to avoid destructive behavior. They also possess aggressive traits, so they need proper socialization from puppyhood to avoid fearfulness. 

As popular as this breed has become, the Goldendoodle is not recognized as a breed by the AKC, UKC or the CKC, although some kennel clubs allow the breed in agility and performance events. 

Both Golden Retrievers and Poodles tend to be quite healthy, although they are both susceptible to hip dysplasia, inherited eye disorders and ear infections from swimming. Poodles also tend to develop a bleeding disorder called Von Willebrands disease (vWD).

Goldendoodles range from small to large sized dogs and have wavy to curly coats, two to three inches long. The coat variety can be black, copper, white, cream, gray, gold, apricot or red and it requires frequent brushing. These dogs also require less bathing than most because their natural, moisturizing oils are necessary to keep their skin conditioned.

Their ears need to be checked weekly for redness and odor to detect a possible infection by wiping them with a pH-balanced ear cleaner on a cotton ball. Do NOT use a swab stick or insert anything into the ears.

With a life span of 10 to 15 years, the Goldendoodle is considered to be a “Designer Dog”, which is a late 20th Century term, because of their particular combination of such desirable characteristics.

Other examples of Designer Dogs are the Cockapoo, Labradoodle, Buggs (Boston Terrier/Pug), Pomapoo (Pomeranian/Toy Poodle), Pomsky (Pomeranian/Husky), Yorkiepoo, Myorkie (Maltese/Yorkshire Terrier), Maltepoo (Maltese/Yorkie) and the Chorkie (Chihuahua/Yorkshire Terrier).

– Kassira McKee

For more information on the Goldendoodle, click here:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Importance of Pets to Seniors

We love the company of our pets and can’t imagine being without them. Imagine how a Senior Citizen feels when the time comes to relocate to an assisted living facility. The prospect of losing the companionship of a pet can be traumatizing, especially if the Senior is single or widowed. It also adds another loss to their list and creates added anguish when worrying about the animal if it is taken away. 

The other side of this situation is the trauma to the pet. Yes, as owners get older, their standard of pet care often diminishes, which can affect the pet. Still, that doesn’t negate the emotional results of a pet/owner separation.

Studies show that a Senior’s regular contact with an animal is highly beneficial. The relationship lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduces depression, boredom and feelings of hopelessness and gives the owner a sense of purpose in caring for another living thing. Plus, health improves, which lowers medical needs, and adds more physical activity to a Senior’s life. 

According to Michelle Cobey, spokesperson for the Delta Society, a Bellevue Washington volunteer organization, “Many homes allow pets on the premises. But sometimes it can be difficult to manage without help from the staff or volunteer case workers.”

There may also be complications if the animal is not well socialized. 

There are great alternatives to this dilemma. Firstly, the Senior’s family can bring the pet to visit the facility on a regular basis. Also, volunteer organizations such as the Delta Society’s Pets On Wheels can bring in therapy dogs to visit. 

Here’s an even better idea: if the Senior can keep the pet in a facility, a local dog walking and pet sitting service can visit daily to help take care of the pet! 

Darren Burleson, co-owner of The Pawfessionals Dog Walkers & Pet Sitters in Dallas, has several assisted living clients that he visits regularly to clean up after cats and to walk dogs for Seniors. He experiences the incredible bond Seniors and pets have and how important it is to try to maintain the relationship.

“The interaction and bond a pet has with their Senior owner is heartwarming and I get to see first-hand how healthy and beneficial it is for both the owner and the pet to have this relationship,” says Darren. “I love my pets and couldn’t imagine being separated from them. I can only imagine how my Senior clients would feel if that separation occurred.”

So, with proper support and assistance, elderly loved ones can continue the special bond they have with their pet and receive the love, motivation and happiness they deserve. 

– Kassira McKee

Friday, May 15, 2015

"Can I Have a Quokka as a Pet?"

We’ve seen posts lately featuring selfies with humans and quokkas, those little furry balls of joy that look like a cross between a prairie dog and a teddy bear. But what in the heck is a quokka?

The quokka, which rhymes with wokka, is a short-tailed wallaby with a short face and round ears at the top of the head. They are macropod (big-footed) marsupials about the size of a domestic cat, weighing between 5 ½ to 10 pounds. They typically give birth to litters of one, which they raise to adulthood

The word wallaby is a clue that they are native to the Western Australian islands. Nocturnal, with the ability to climb small trees and shrubs, quokkas are also herbivorous, meaning they feed on plant life.

Before you get any ideas about having one as a pet, you must know that they are classified as a “vulnerable” species and live in a restricted range on the Mainland of Australia as well as Rottnest and Bald Islands. Its main predators are foxes and cats and the islands are free of those. However, on the Mainland, not only has their population been diminished as a result of natural predators, their numbers have dramatically declined due to logging, agricultural development and the clearance of swamp lands.

Also, as sweet and happy as they look, they can do some damage with the sharp claws on their big feet and their sharp teeth.  They are afraid of nothing and no-one and are ready to battle it out if humans get too close.  Quokkas are also as mischievous as monkeys. They reportedly raid campsites and homes and show up at cafes and restaurants for nightly snacks.

So, quokka loving friends, you’ll have to admire these adorable creatures from afar.

Oh, and good luck with those selfies!

– Kasirra McKee

For more information about Quokkas, click here.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Bruce the Bouncing Boxer

This is Bruce, a Boxer puppy and a client of The Pawfessionals in Dallas. Bruce is around four months old and is already house trained, due to the diligent attention of his owners, Deanna and Phillip, with the help of his Pawfessionals Dog Walker.Bruce, like most Boxers, is eager to be trained and really enjoys it. In fact, Boxers, a cross breed of a now extinct, small Mastiff breed, called the Brabant Bullenbeisser, and the Old English Bulldog, have great love for, and are quite faithful to, their masters.Although some claim that the name “Boxer” came from the breed’s tendency to play by standing on its hind legs and boxing with its front paws, the truth is the name came from one of its original cross breeds, the Bullenbeisser, nicknamed “Boxi”.First bred in Germany in 1894 as a guard dog, the Boxer is temperamentally suited for obedience and agility and protector of the family home.The American Kennel Club registered the first Boxer champion in 1915 and the breed was used in World War I as a messenger dog, pack-carrier, and attack and guard dog.Bruce, like most Boxers, loves to run, jump and bounce and gets very excited after he’s done his business outside because he knows it pleases his owners.
Boxers also make great search and rescue dogs and are excellent Therapy dogs.Because of their playfulness and natural desire to protect, Boxers make great family dogs as they are wonderful with children. For more information about Boxers, click here.

– Kassira Mckee