Thursday, May 28, 2015

Flying with your pet: Lessons from the road!

Small Boston terrier

This is Sinead's beautiful face today, after surviving her first plane trip. She made it here in one piece, for sure, but we both learned quite a few things about preparing for plane trips.

Here's what we discovered.

Taking the red-eye flight, as we did, comes with a few advantages. The cabin is dark, the dog is tired, and fellow fliers are few. All of that adds up to a very tired dog that tends to sleep through a fight just fine. That's the good news. The bad news is that Sinead is still super exhausted, and she's not looking her absolute best in photos. Her poor eyes are red, and she's a little less perky than she might be otherwise. If I was taking a pet to a photo shoot or something, this would be a big drawback.

I had also planned to use paper potty pads in the bathroom for her potty breaks. Dog respite areas in airports are great, but going into them means checking through security again, and there's rarely time for that on a standard flight. Unfortunately, as much as the manufacturers say that the pads are scent treated, Sinead would NOT use them. So she held her pee for hours. If I was to use pads, I'd need to train her to use them, and I'd probably need to start that training early.

Sinead was silent throughout the flight and in the concourse, which means I did a great job of training her to enjoy her kennel and to think of it at home. Yay, me! But we did have one sticky moment when the person ahead of us sat down. Dogs ride under the seat in front of you, and Sinead thought she had that seat to herself and she got a little territorial. I should have trained for that, too.

All in all, we had an excellent trip and we're both thrilled to be here for BlogPaws! Now we just need our hotel room to open up so we can get a nap in before the sessions start. Keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Ready for a trip to Nashville for Blog Paws!

cute Boston terrier

In just a few short hours, Sinead and I will hop on a plane headed for Nashville and the BlogPaws conference! We're both so excited.... Okay, maybe I'm the only one that's excited. Maybe Sinead will be, too, once she knows that there are treats involved.

If you'll be there, be sure to stop me and say hello! And watch this space for details about what we've learned at the conference. I'll be live blogging!

And, as always, be sure to visit the other blogs in this hop. Great stuff this week!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Sore, torn dog foot pads: How it happens and what you can do about it

pug torn toe

I snapped this photo of Liam about a week ago, when he was resting up after having a whale of a time at the Oregon Humane Society Pug Crawl (photos from that day right here, in case you missed them). At first glance, he just looks relaxed and peaceful. But look a little closer at the top foot pad in this photo.

Do you see it?
torn pug toe

The bottom edge of this foot pad is bleeding. It's a very small injury, granted, but it caused poor Liam huge problems.

On the Monday after the crawl (so about 24 hours after his Portland adventure), Liam started limping. I spent quite a bit of time looking for a thorn in his foot, and I contorted his leg all over the place in the search for sore muscles, but then I spotted this scabby pad.

Turns out, injuries like this aren't at all uncommon in the aftermath of an active day spent on pavement. I'll never be entirely sure what happened to Liam's paw, but it's likely that he either stepped on something sharp, or he stumbled and scraped that foot on something abrasive. He was able to ignore the pain in the heat of the moment, as he was probably much more interested in greeting other pugs and their people, but at home, the pain took over.

Scrapes like this respond well to antibiotic soaks. Four times per day, I made a foot bath of betadine and cool water, and I had Liam stand in that soak for 5-10 minutes. I dried his foot completely, and followed up with a spritz of liquid bandage.

As he was healing, Liam was banned from our daily walks. He wasn't happy about that at all, and three toys and two dog beds lost their lives to his frustration. But, I wanted that skin to heal up, and I thought that walking on yet more hot pavement wouldn't be a great idea. So the poor boy just had to stay home.

Within about a week, he was much better. And I'm thrilled to say that he's back to walking during the day (rather than tearing up his bed).

Prevention is the next step, and for Liam, that might involve booties. If his pads are sensitive, he might end up getting another scrape or scratch when we head to the Willamutt Strut later this summer. And, I'll need to be on alert during any outing to ensure that I'm not leading him onto paths covered with sharp debris. I'll also need to check his feet after every walk, and in the midst of long outings, so I can spot new injuries before they grow and cause him pain.

Do you have any dog foot pad tips you'd like to share with me? If so, I'd love to hear them. Share with me in the comments!

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 2015 BarkBox review: Spring is here, and it's full of flowers!

Liam the pug with a flower toy

The May 2015 BarkBox came this week, and both dogs were pretty thrilled. In fact, there's one thing in here that they're both more than a little obsessed with. That makes the whole box a hit!

Here's what we got, and what the pups think about each item.

P.L.A.Y. Butterfly 

In general, the dogs love toys that come from P.L.A.Y. They're always durable, so they can withstand rough-and-tumble games, and they tend to come with loud noisemakers. Anytime we get toys from this company, I expect them to be big hits.

This toy is a little lost in the shuffle at the moment, as the dogs are exclusively focused on another toy in the box. But, I like this butterfly because it's small and light. I expect the dogs to really enjoy it, once they realize it's there.

Butcher's Block Rib

This is the second rib we've seen packed in our BarkBox shipment, and while I'm sure it's delicious, I'm not comfortable giving it to my small dogs. They just don't have the jaw power to attack a big bone like this, and I can't figure out how to split it to make it a treat they can share.

But it's no matter. I donate these treats to the big dogs at the Willamette Humane Society. I've been told that these are just the sorts of tasty tidbits that can make a stay in a shelter a little easier and more comfortable. I'm happy to have treats I can use for that purpose.

Sojos Simply Lamb

These are tiny, dehydrated treats made of pure lamb. They're a big hit here, as they're easy to gobble. Liam likes to catch them right out of the air, while Sinead prefers to take her treats under the couch for a contemplative nibble. She only runs off with treats she finds particularly appealing, so her care with these treats speaks volumes.

Barkmade Flowers Bouquet

And here's the big hit in the Dion household.

Flower dog toy

This bouquet of flowers is absolutely adorable. Every flower has its own noisemaking capability, and the bundle of four is held together by a perfect Velcro-lined newspaper. I thought this was one of the cutest toys we've ever seen, but the dogs took no time to contemplate the beauty. Within minutes, they'd torn the paper part off, and since then, they've been running around the house with different flowers.

Sinead the Boston terrier chews on a toy

Adorable, right?

That's it for this month! As an aside, I don't get compensated for these reviews. I write them because I like the products inside the boxes, and I love to take snaps of the dogs when these shipments arrive. But, if you're at all interested in getting your own box, I can set you up with an offer and get a little something in return.

Use this link to order your own box. Do that, and I'll get one for free! Enjoy!

And if you missed last month's review, you can find it right here.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Shelter stories: Beauty the cat struggles to find a home

all black cat in animal shelter

Shelter cats with interesting markings are often first in line for adoptions. People seem to enjoy living with cats that have unusual features or interesting color combinations, so they naturally flock to cats that have an extra bit of fur pizazz.

Same goes for young cats. Very small kittens with teeny voices and tiny claws seem custom made for snuggling, and people seem willing to line up to take these guys home.

So I understand why Beauty might be the last to leave the adoption floor at Willamette Humane Society. After all, she's all black, so her looks aren't unique. And, she's 14, so her kitten days are long gone. That's two strikes against her.

But Beauty has so much going for her. I just wish adopters could see it.

For starters, Beauty has developed a deep sense of inner confidence at the shelter. When she arrived, she spent a great deal of time hiding from everyone and everything. Within about a week, she was out and about to greet people who came in to visit. That kind of quick adaptability will serve her well in a new home, as it shouldn't take her long to get adjusted to new surroundings.

Next, she's very appropriate with other cats. Beauty is living in an open suite with somewhere between 3 and 4 other cats, and some of her roommates haven't had great social skills. Beauty has been gentle and snuggly with the cats that seem to need the attention, and she delivers a smack down to those cats that are too aggressive. With great cat manners like that, she should fit into a multi-cat home with ease.

all black cat in animal shelter

Finally, she's not terribly demanding. She likes attention, but she also likes her space. She asks me to greet her and pet her, and then she heads back to her own bed for a nap. Personally, I love that independence in a cat. These are super low-maintenance creatures that are willing to entertain themselves, so you can do the things you need to do without a lot of interruption.

Beauty has been waiting for a home since March 13. She's at Willamette Humane Society in Salem, Oregon.  Do you know of anyone who might like to meet her? If so, please share her story.

Update: Beauty has been adopted!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: A Boston terrier at the Pug Crawl

Boston terrier smiles
Sunday's PugCrawl for the Oregon Humane Society was made to celebrate pugs (you can see a ton of photos from that day right here). But this little lady managed to infiltrate the fun, and she had a heck of a time!
Boston terrier beer
 After the parade, she even got to head to the Lucky Lab to celebrate her debut with some tasty treats from the swag bag.
Boston terrier travel
And on the trip home, she totally crashed out.

Quite a day for a little Boston terrier, right?

Thanks for stopping by, and don't forget to leave a comment!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

5 Tips for awesome black cat photos

Troy the black cat on his red couch

Black cats like Troy aren't always easy to photograph. In fact, they're notoriously hard to light and snap. That's why most photos of black cats end up looking like black cardboard cutouts with illuminated eyes. All of the depth and beauty goes right out of their ebony coats unless you take a little time to set up the shot just right.

I'm not a professional photographer, and I haven't invested in fancy equipment. In fact, about 95 percent of the photos I put on this blog come right from my Apple tablet, using only ambient light. But, I still manage to get snaps of Troy that have some contour and depth to them. If I can do it, you can, too!

Here are my five recommendations.

1. Try a dark-colored background. 

Putting Troy in front of a black background makes his fur fade away even more, while popping him in front of something bright like white highlights the shine without giving him any depth. He does best in front of backgrounds that are deeply colored but not quite black. This red couch works wonderfully well (which is why most of his shots are taken right here), but he also looks great in front of the blue walls of my writing studio.

With a little experimentation, you can find the right background. And with tight crops, your viewers might never realize that all of the snaps are in the same spot. Those tightly focused shots contain very little visible background.

2. Make sure the room is bright, but avoid direct sunlight. 

A bright background is the key to perfect black-cat shots, but the best light is indirect. I like to take shots in the very early morning or in the late afternoon. At both times, my ideal photo spots are in rooms that are bright, but there's no band of direct light on the spots in which I'm shooting.

In a pinch, you can cheat with overhead lighting. But, I find that using a bright source of direct light often results in photos with backgrounds that look unnatural when I correct for color. They're so well lit and so vibrant that brightening them for Troy's color means creating pockets of too-bright color. By steering clear of direct light, I avoid that problem altogether.

3. Take the shot from above or below (not head on). 

Taking a photo of a black cat head on contributes to the lack-of-depth problem. Straight-ahead photos give you only eyes peering out of very dark fur. By taking photos from a different angle, slightly above or slightly below, you're providing a bit more visual information, which can give the face a lot more depth. 
Troy the black cat poses for photos

4. Move around as you shoot. 

I can't tell you how many times I thought I had the shot set up perfectly, only to find that I was off by a degree or two when I sat down to upload my masterpiece images. In general, it's best to take way more photos than you think you'll ever need, so you can be sure to get a ton of photos you can actually use. 

And as a bonus, some of your added shots might make for nice additions to long blog posts (like this one!).

5. Don't be afraid to color-correct by hand.

Most Apple products come with an automatic color-correcting function. In theory, you can just tap that button and all of the colors will magically morph to their proper places. In reality, it rarely works with black cats. When I use that button on Troy shots, he comes out looking washed-out or just plain strange. Instead, I go old-school and use the sliders to get the colors I want. I fiddle and tweak until he looks deep and dark, and I don't pay much mind to the colors around him. When I can see his nose and eyes clearly, I know I'm done.

That's it! Here's to great photos of our pretty friends.

Monday, May 18, 2015

#PugCrawl 2015 photo recap!

Liam the pug has a huge smile during Pug Crawl

We had absolutely gorgeous weather for yesterday's Pug Crawl, and that's a good thing, too, as this is a benefit for the Oregon Humane Society. The better the weather, the more people who are willing to pay an entrance fee to see the pugs in action!

I took a ton of photos, and hubby took some of the parade, so I've got a lot to show you. And, be sure to check back on Wednesday. I held out a particularly good snap for my Wordless Wednesday shot. You'll have to some see! But meanwhile, here are some photos to get you going.
Sinead the Boston terrier and the writer at Pug Crawl
Sinead shows off her ballroom dancing costume.
(Yup! I dressed them up!)
Liam the pug got hot at the Pug Crawl
Liam resting in the shade before the parade. It got a little hot out there!
Pug Jenny pushing a stroller filled with pugs
The traditional Pug Crawl kickoff entry: Jenny pushing her stroller.
Pug dressed like a dragon boat with pug passengers
Pug dragon boats! (Notice all the pug passengers.)
Pugs dressed like cotton candy
Pug concession stand (they're cotton candy).
Pug carrying stick in the Parade of Pugs
This guy found a stick at the start of the parade and carried it along.
Pug dressed like a race car driver
Pug race-car driver.
Pug and Boston terrier in Parade of Pugs as ballroom dancers
My ballroom dancers.
Surfing pugs in parade of pugs at Pug Crawl 2015
Surfing pugs!
So much fun! And if you can't get enough snaps from this event, check out this link. You'll see many more.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Wake up, sleepy dogs! It's time for #PugCrawl!

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier look tired

Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier spend most weekends looking like this. These dogs follow me around from room to room as I finish various household chores, and then they crash in their beds and rest up for the next day. But this weekend will be a whole lot different.

Why? Because we're heading to #PugCrawl!

On Sunday, more than 100 pugs will head to the Portland Brewing Company Taproom. This is no typical pug meetup, however, as most of these pugs will be in costume. Every year, there's a theme to the costumes, and I'm consistently impressed with the creativity of some of my fellow pug lovers. (See some examples of those costumes here and here.) I'm convinced that some people start working on their outfits the year prior, and most of these little pugs are really good-natured about their outfits. There's a little bit of unhappiness from one or two little ones, but I've seen pugs in full-blown wigs and body suits, taking it all in stride. It's quite a thing.

Particularly well-dressed pugs are encouraged to participate in a parade, and that's a ton of fun to watch. These little dogs are born performers, and they'll strut like crazy in front of cheering spectators. The parade alone is worth the price of admission.

But there are also vendors to check out, delicious beers to drink and adoptable pugs to meet and enjoy. Really, there's something for everyone.

Liam, Sinead and I will be there. But unfortunately, we won't be in costume this year. The theme for this year's crawl is sports, and we're not really the sporting types over here. Try as I might to come up with a great costume, I drew a blank. So we'll be there to cheer on the other pugs, and I'll be sure to take a ton of pictures for next week's blog. Be sure to check back and see what all went down!

And if you're heading to the crawl, be sure to stop by and say hello! I'll be the one with the super-small Boston. Should be easy to pick me out in the sea of pugs, right?

Hope to see you!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dry food and cat dental care: Don't rely on the scrubbing power of cat kibble!

Jasper the cat eating his dry food

About 2 years ago, I wrote up a few notes about ongoing dental problems in a few of my cats. In it, I went through a little laundry list of things I felt I'd done right, in terms of keeping my cats protected from dental disease. And hidden in that laundry list was an error a clever reader pointed out to me in the comments.

I mentioned that, by feeding the cats a few kibble-based meals, I was helping to scrub tartar off of their pearlies. That's something that's been touted for years. I've had more than one veterinarian say something like this to me at one point or another.

But here's the thing. It's not a statement that's backed up by science.

And I think I should have known better.

As this very clever medical blogger points out, when cats vomit after a meal, they bring up solid chunks. These cats don't chew most of their food. If they did, they'd bring up a fluid-filled mess. Instead, they use their teeth like little shovels to stuff that food down their throats, so they bring up solid kibble chunks.

I won't go so far as to say that cats don't chew ANY of their food. If I listen closely to Maggie, Lucy and Eamon as they eat, I can hear them crushing at least a few morsels between their teeth. But clearly, if I'm relying on food to pull of all of their tooth problems, I'm relying on an inexpert tool at best. (Want more proof? Read this.)

Beorn the cat eating dry cat food

So am I planning to eliminate dry cat food from my household? I'm not. Even though kibble may not clean teeth, it is the only food that some of my picky cats will eat.

Consider Troy, the toothless wonder. I spent a great deal of frustrating time (for him and for me) attempting to convert him to wet food of any sort. I started that work as soon as I brought him home, kicked it into high gear after his dental and then gave up a few weeks later. He absolutely will not eat food that does not crunch. Even softening his hard food forces him into anorexia. He likes to feel the crunch of food between his teeth.

Same goes for Lucy. If I provide her with wet food, she will either bury it or walk away from it. Dry food she eats happily, but she will not eat wet food.

So I keep it on hand for my pickies, and I provide it for a few meals for everyone else. And I do what I can to keep their teeth clean. Those cats that allow handling get a daily tooth brushing, and everyone gets fresh water and regular veterinary care. But I'll need to drop the idea that the kibble helps their teeth. It just doesn't.

Thanks to the reader for pointing this out to me! I love comments.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Cat on a sunny windowsill, thinking deep thoughts

Eamon the cat on the windowsill

On Sunday morning, I caught Eamon in a remarkably contemplative mood on the windowsill, tucked between the indoor fern and the outdoor grape arbor. I just love the contrast between the two plants, and his thoughtful expression. I took quite a few photos before he got annoyed with me and flounced away.

Eamon the cat on the windowsill
Eamon the cat sees birds outside
Eamon the cat looking at the camera

Which one do you like best? Leave me a note in the comments and let me know.

And do visit some of the other blogs in this blog hop. There's some great stuff this week!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Grinder tools: Perfect for dog toenail trims (especially for docile pugs)!

Liam the pug getting his toenails ground

Liam has incredibly long toenails, and I struggle to keep them clipped short. That's a problem, as I've mentioned, as many people who see his photos on my blog write in to tell me that I'm falling down on the job as an at-home groomer.

I've used clippers on Liam's toes for years (and I wrote about that here), but I've been trying something new, and I really like it. Here's what happened.

A few years ago, when I was going through the great clipping debate with Sinead (who will NOT let me cut her toenails), I bought a grinding tool to help with the job.

The theory is that dogs don't like traditional clipper tools because they pinch the nail before the cut. That pinching can make a dogs feel uncomfortable, and they'll pull right before the cut. That's the sort of thing that leads to injuries, and once a dog has been injured with clippers, it's hard to get that dog to trust clippers ever again.

Grinding tools, on the other hand, are made to just wear away the nail with no real pinching. There's vibration, but that seems to be something dogs will tolerate.

I tried it on Sinead, and she absolutely would NOT let me use it. So the tool got stuffed in a drawer. But a few weeks ago, I found it and wondered how Liam would feel about it.

Liam the pug getting his nails done

Clearly, he's not totally in love with this whole thing. He looks quite unhappy, in fact. But, he doesn't wriggle or struggle or move as much as he does when he sees the clippers. And midway through a treatment, he seems to grow resigned to the whole thing. He just sort of sits back and waits for me to get it over already. So I'll consider that a win.

Grinding tools come with some precautions. For example, the little metal rotor that the grinding object sits on is spinning at a very fast pace. Long dog foot hair could get caught on that moving part, so dogs with long hair pads on their feet might need a trim before the grinding begins.

Also, the tool can grow a little warm to the touch. That means you need to work quickly and swap toes on a regular basis. By moving from toe to toe, friction heat doesn't build up and it doesn't become uncomfortable for the dog.

As always, too, it's vital to watch the approach of the quick. The little pink part of a dog toenail is the part that bleeds, and it will bleed if you grind away too much toe tissue. So I try to do the work in front of a bright light source, like a sunny window or a desk lamp, just so I can make sure I don't cause harm.

Sinead the Boston terrier on the deck

I'd love to say that this girl has learned her lesson and will let me grind away at her nails, too. But so far, I've had no such luck. She watches Liam's toe trimmings very carefully, and she inspects his toes when we're done with the work. Sometimes, she even lets me grind one or two of her back toes. But that's as far as we can go. For her, groomers are still the preferred toenail cutters.

If you've used a grinder tool (like a Dremel) on your dog's toenails, I'd love to hear your comments. Did it work? Do you love it? Hit me up in the comments.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Your indoor cats absolutely, positively need more bird feeders!

Maggie the cat looks out the window

There's a reason this cat bed is the most popular sleeping spot in the house. Can you see it? Maybe a closeup will help. How's this?

Tiny squirrel eating a nut on a tree

Yup, that's a squirrel you're seeing, and he has two different feeders to work with. One holds corn and peanuts, and the other holds suet.

I feed the squirrels and the birds in my yard, in part, because I am concerned about habitat destruction and reduced food sources due to global warming. I know there are tons of bird species out there that are tottering on the brink of extinction because they don't have the food sources or the sheltering spaces they need in order to stay alive.

So I set out bird food, and I set out squirrel food, too, as it keeps those little rodent guys away from my bird feeders.

I love to watch all of those critters at work, and my indoor cats seem to love it, too. Especially this guy.
Troy the cat watching birds

Sometime during his long life, Troy was given access to the great outdoors. In fact, he was found outside as a stray right before I met him in the shelter. He's a little desperate to get back outside, and he tries to encourage me to let him back out there. He paces in front of the door, and he sometimes stretches his long body out on the screen, just hoping he'll spot a way to get outside.

But he can't go out there. For one thing, he's a very old cat that's a little frail. I'm not at all certain that it's safe for him to be outside. For another, I'm hosting two semi-feral cats that live outside, and I know they don't want an interloper. And finally, Troy has been declawed, so he has no weaponry for outdoor living. Besides, I don't want cats to live outside. It's just safer all around if they stay in with me.

Troy doesn't really agree. But birdfeeders help.

When cats sit in the windows, watching the birds, they're feeling a touch of hunt thrill. And with a little clever maneuvering, I can make sure that the indoor cats get entertainment without putting the birds at risk from the outdoor cats. You can see some of those tips here.

So if you have indoor cats, you simply must get some bird feeders, pronto. You'll be helping the birds, and helping your cats at the same time.

Friday, May 8, 2015

This Mother's Day, remember that a dog is #NotAProduct

Liam the pug with his mom sign

Sunday is the day to celebrate the moms in our lives. And chances are, there are tons of moms out there that would love a little human recognition. They don't want flowers or cookies or candy. They're not hoping to head to brunch. They'd just like to get out into the sunshine, like Liam, and head home with a happy family.

The week before Mother's Day is set aside to remember all of the mom dogs that spend their lives making "products" for families hoping for puppies. Yup, it's all about puppy mill awareness.

Liam the pug is ready for mother's day

This is a topic close to my heart, as I have two purebred dogs. It's 100% possible that there are dogs just like them in mills right now, and it's also 100% possible that there are people out there hoping to buy dogs just like them.

So on this Mother's Day, I urge you to check out this webpage. It's full of statistics about where pups in pet stores really come from, and it's loaded with other options you can tap into if you'd like to bring home a new pup.

If you're not in the market for a new little one, you can still do your part by sharing this page and/or writing your own posts about the topic. Every little thing we do as a community to help those forgotten momma dogs helps.

Liam the pug on the grass

Thanks, in advance for joining the #NotAProduct movement. And happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there, both human and canine, from Liam and our pack!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Sleepy cats on pain medications: A Gabapentin bonus?

Eamon the cat sleeping on the carpet

Two times per day, Eamon the cat gets a dose of a human anti-epileptic drug called Gabapentin. The medication is meant to help control the pain that shoots through his elbows and hips due to his arthritis. But it also seems to have an unintended side effect: Drowsiness.

An hour or two after each dose, Eamon seems to drift into a dream-like state. He's conscious and he's responsive, but he's often pretty darn close to being asleep. He stays like that for hours, too, until it's time for his next medication dose.

Older cats like Eamon rest a lot anyway (but not ALL of the time, and that's something I've discussed before), so this isn't really a new behavior. But, since his episodes of serious sleepage seem to come so close to his medication doses, I'm more than a little convinced that the drugs are playing a part. (And the web backs me up on this.)

Eamon the cat stretched out

Frankly, I think this is an added bonus hidden in Gabapentin. Eamon's sore joints get even more sore when he's done a lot of running and playing (particularly when he's wrestling with the dog). In the aftermath of a very active day, he tends to limp. Sometimes, he even cries after a particularly busy day.

Using Gabapentin keeps him quieter. He is still present, and he's still as cuddly as ever, but he's not bouncing off the walls or running at top speed. In other words, he's doing what he should to protect his joints. And that's a great thing.

Are you using this medication with your cats? I'd love to know. Hit me up in the comments.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Liam the pug among the rhododendrons

Liam the pug yawning by his flowers

This rhododendron near my studio was nearly killed last year with a lace-bug infestation (you can read more about that here). I didn't notice the critters until very late in the season, when I flipped over the leaves and saw the sticky residue the bugs leave behind (yuk!). Thankfully, the eradication program I put in place last year seems to be working, and this plant is blooming beautifully this spring.

It's a perfect spot for a Liam photo shoot.

Liam the pug sitting among the flowers
Serious looking pose here.
Liam the pug looks worried as he sits next to a garden statue
He's a little afraid of this garden statue.
Yawning pug
Bored now!
Thanks for stopping by, and remember to leave me a note!

And do visit some of the other pet blogs in this hop. There's some good stuff this week!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Big vaccine reactions in very small dogs: It's common (and scary, too!)

Sinead the Boston terrier recovering from a vaccine

In about three weeks, Sinead the Boston terrier will be hopping on a plane bound for Nashville, for the big BlogPaws conference (I'm so excited!). Since she'll be exposed to a lot of new things, and a lot of new stresses, on her trip, I've been working with my veterinarian on her vaccine protections. And on Friday, we ran into a bit of a problem.

Sinead was due for her standard distemper/adenovirus booster, and since she was heading to a space in which there would be plenty of other dogs, we thought it best to provide her with a bordatella vaccine.

Typically, it's best to provide vaccines one at a time (my sources say), as that's the best way to avoid very serious reactions. But, since one vaccine was given via injection and the other by mouth, I thought I'd be safe to give them both at once.

Sinead didn't think so.

Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping under a blanket

She spent much of Friday curled up on the couch with the shivers, a lot like a person with the flu. And she'd cry when she was touched anywhere on her legs. It took her almost 48 hours to get back to normal.

Sinead is very small, and vaccines aren't scaled by weight. That means she gets at much vaccine in her small body as does a huge great dane. So it's not surprising that she'd struggle with vaccines. But it does mean that I'll need to chat with my veterinarian before she gets a flu shot in a few weeks.

Sometimes, veterinarians recommend providing a reactive dog with Benadryl before the shot, just to tame down vaccine reactions. And sometimes, they recommend waiting in the office after the shot, just to make sure nothing terrible happens. I'll need to check before I go, just to make sure I have my plans all set.

Meanwhile, Sinead seems restored to good health. I'm relieved!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Just how serious is a cat heart murmur? Should you treat it?

Beorn the cat sitting outside

Last week, I was cruising through Beorn's medical records, and I noticed two pretty spectacular things. One, he's a year older than I thought (he's 15 already!). Two, his heart murmur seems to be worsening.

Beorn has lived with a Grade III heart murmur for many years (in fact, I wrote about that murmur back in 2013). But, during his last exam, the doctor noticed that the murmur was now in the Grade IV range.

This probably escaped my attention due to the plethora of other things that went wrong with Beorn during that particular time period. He'd been in a fight and was dealing with an abscess, and we'd discovered during routine blood work that his kidneys were failing. There was so much information to process, and a lot of it was negative, so the heart murmur update seemed like something we could gloss over.

That's not the traditional pet owner decision. Typically, heart stuff slides to the top of any owner's worry list, and that's reasonable. Heart disease is associated with all sorts of nasty stuff, including weakness, collapse and early death. It's also something that can be managed with medications, weight control and routine cardiac care.

But in senior cats like Beorn, who are dealing with other problems that are terminal, heart issues just don't seem overtly important. I'm not someone willing to take a senior cat in kidney failure to a cardiologist for a sedated heart workup. His kidneys aren't strong enough to clear the sedative out of his body, so the test itself could be fatal. And the stress of riding in a car for an hour or more to reach a local veterinary cardiologist could be tough on his heart, too.

So for now, I'll continue to monitor him at home and ensure that his weight stays well within normal limits. I won't try packing on the pounds, as that's tough on his wee ticker. But I will make sure he has warm spots on cold days and cool spots on warm days, so his heart won't have quite so much work to do.

Is that the right course of action for all cats with heart murmurs? Of course not. As this article makes clear, there's a lot that doctors can do to help cats with heart murmurs. And prompt attention to heart problems tends to make healing more likely. But for those of us with cats in hospice-type situations, handling a heart issue isn't at the top of the to-do list. It's not right for the family or the cat.

Are you living with a cat with heart disease? Shoot me a note in the comments section. I'd love to hear your stories.

Friday, May 1, 2015

4 key ways to keep your pets safe on social media sites like Pinterest

Sinead the Boston terrier and her computer

When I open up Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest, my screen is flooded with wee pet faces. I love it. Social media sites give we pet lovers an opportunity to share our critter cuteness with the world. I feel like I have pets in almost every corner of the world, simply because I see the same smiling, furry faces almost every day.

While we all love it when people share their pets with us, being a little too free and easy with your pets can come with some risks. That's especially true if your pet is somehow valuable or collectable. Giving away too much could mean losing your pet to a criminal or a vigilante.

Here are 4 easy steps to make sure that doesn't happen to you.

1. Watch out for collars and tags. 

Most pets wear identification around the clock. (That's something I've discussed before.) A dog's tags contain all sorts of vital information, including bits of data that make theft a snap. Before you post any photos on social sites, use your photo blurring tools to black out any information that could send a criminal to your house. That means addresses, your full name and phone numbers should all get the blurring treatment.

2. Scan photos for license plate numbers.

Do you pose your dog for shots when you're out and about? Chances are, if you do, that some of your photos contain your car and your license plate number. A sleuth with a little time to kill can use that number to figure out who you are and where you live. And visiting your dog could be an easy next step. Blur that data out of your photos, or better yet, crop it out altogether.

3. Stay away from the mail. 

When Fido shreds your mail, you're in for a perfect dog-shaming photo. But that snap also makes finding your house really, really easy. Whenever you're posing your dog with any kind of mail (and that includes magazines on the coffee table), your address should be blurred.

4. Refrain from controversial photos.

Most of the time, pet photos that people post are harmless. Often, they look a lot like this.

Liam the pug sleeping on his bed

These are just sleepy pet photos, with nothing too worrisome involved. But there are some photos that show pets doing things they shouldn't do. I've seen photos of pets jumping on kids, and there are tons of photos of dogs running loose in areas that look ever-so-slightly dangerous. Some photos also show dogs looking upset, guilty or nervous (particularly photos in the "dog shaming" category).

To you, as the pet owner, these probably seem totally fine. But to an outsider, they can be inflammatory. If the photo shows up somewhere like Pinterest, it's hard to get the context behind the photo. And some people get upset enough that they'll want to take action -- like removing your dog from your home.

The best way to stay safe is to keep the photos safe. If you notice even a touch of controversy, remove the photo.

That's it for my tips! Did I miss any? Let me know in the comments section.