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dog park

Taking your dog to the dog park can be a great opportunity for socialization, exercise, and playtime in an open environment. There are many factors to consider when taking your dog to a dog park, especially in an off leash area. Dogs have very unique personalities and it is possible to encounter dogs that are more selective about playing with other dogs. It is important to remember that the other dogs may be unpredictable and not all dog owners thoroughly understand dog socialization and dog park etiquette. Always supervise your pet in a dog park environment, especially while they are playing with other dogs. For everyone’s safety, keep your dog on a leash until you are in a designated off leash area, and pay attention to separate areas for small dogs and large dogs.dogpark

A change in a dog’s behavior can happen very suddenly, and it is crucial to know the signs of distress or aggression in your dog and in other dogs in order to prevent issues. Positive play signs between dogs include bouncy gestures, open relaxed mouths, play-bow, and relaxed wagging tails. Some warning signs that a dog is not comfortable include ears pinned back, stiff or low wagging tail, hackles raised, anxiety/whining and the dog trying to get away from the situation. If you see a dog who looks extremely tense, is giving hard stares, showing teeth, snarling or raising lips, or trying to dominate another dog forcefully, these are all catalysts to a dog fight and should be stopped immediately. Dogs may also redirect their excitement or aggression so it important to not let your dog get overstimulated while playing. Dogs can become annoyed or uncomfortable at any time and that is why it is so important to watch them constantly and know what to look for.

Always follow the posted rules and regulations of the park, which help ensure the safety and well-being of pets and their owners. All pets should be fully vaccinated before entering a dog park, and puppies should not go to dog parks until they are at least 4 months old and fully vaccinated. If you see any dogs in the park showing signs of illness like coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea, you do not want your dog to play there. Children should not visit dog parks as some dogs are not good with children and they could easily be knocked over or injured by an excited dog. All dog owners should be watching their dogs at all times and should have their leash ready in case they need to leash their dog and remove them. Also, it is a good idea to bring your own waste bags to clean up after your dog, although some parks provide them. Leave the treats, toys and bones at home as these can cause unwanted issues between dogs.

Dog parks can be a lot of fun for your pets and are much safer if everyone follows posted rules and is aware of dog park etiquette. Some dogs may play with all the other dogs while some might enjoy sniffing around or sitting on the sidelines. Remember, if your dog seems very uncomfortable in a dog park situation it is best to remove them. Always pay attention to how your dog acts and do what makes them feel most comfortable.

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The following information is primarily for dog owners (as cats and other animals have different dietary needs), but knowing what is in the food versus what is not in it, is important across the board.

In recent years it has become easier and more likely for the average consumer to examine the ingredients list on your dog’s food bag to see what they are eating; but have you ever looked at what your pet is eating?  If we look at the front of a dog food bag, which is probably how most of us pick our foods you are likely to see bright colorful packaging with pictures of fresh meat, grains, produce, and happy, healthy dogs.  There may also be bold claims of ‘prime cuts’ or ‘meatier’; but how honest is the packaging and these claims?  Would you be surprised to learn that a package could show a beef stew but be made almost entirely of wheat or corn? dog eating

A very popular brand in a bright yellow bag states ‘Chicken Flavor’ and ‘Meatier Recipe’; but upon examination of the ingredient list, we find the first mention of chicken (listed as ‘chicken by-products’) to be the seventh item on the list. The primary ingredients of that particular food is corn, with ‘Meat and Bone Meal’ listed as well, but the kind of meat is not known.  Would you ever grab a package at the supermarket labeled ‘Meat’ for dinner? Hopefully not; so why feed that to your dog?  According to multiple sources, this can be slaughtered or euthanized animals not fit for human consumption, road kill, and expired meats along with the Styrofoam packaging.

Flavor (as the above food used) is a term that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) allows to be included on labeling,  but producers are only required to provide enough product to be detected in laboratory testing.  Formula requires at least 25% which can also be split with other ingredients (such as chicken and rice). With must contain at least 3% of the named ingredient.

Terms that have no AAFCO definition include Weight Management or Weight Control, Super-premium, gourmet, or holistic and are just buzzwords to get your attention on packaging.  If you are looking for organic foods, look for the USDA seal.

Dogs do not require a carbohydrate (starch) component in their food, but dry kibble does need a starch component to be made (it is part of a process where the starch melts and helps bind the kibble together called gelatinization).  The type of starch can vary and there are some types better than others such as sweet potatoes and whole grain rice as opposed to corn or brewer’s rice (which are fragments of milled rice containing fewer nutrients)dog food.

So what should you be looking for in a good quality dog food?  Overall, a basic rule of thumb is that the more named meat items in the first 5 ingredients, the better the food.  Foods listed without Meal listed behind them will always fall a little further down the list by weight after cooking (Turkey, Chicken, Beef, Lamb, Salmon, etc).  ‘Meals’ are animal products that have already been cooked down and may or may not include some bone (which increases the calcium content).

A slightly more accurate rule of thumb would suggest that you should consider all the ingredients before the first mention of FAT, as that is the last significant ‘weight’ added to the kibble, everything after is generally flavor, preservatives and added nutrients.

Try to avoid food coloring, artificial preservatives (like BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin), sugars, and sweeteners.  Additionally, consider your pet’s treats as well, many popular types contain many of the things that should be avoided.  Finally, do a little research on your own, sign up for email updates of recalled foods, consider what your pet is eating, and he will love you for it.

A few websites that may be of help:

*If you have been instructed by a veterinarian to use a specific food please seek their advice before switching food.

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Summer is here, and it can be extremely dangerous for pets. Spreading the word on the importance of keeping your animals safe from those harmful UV rays and heat can save lives! Just like humans, dogs and cat’s skin can be extremely sensitive to the sun. Those with a lighter, shorter coat (Labs, Pit bulls, Boxers, etc.), or even hairless coats are more susceptible to becoming sunburned, and may cause extreme discomfort to your pet.

During the hottest parts of the day, and when the sun is at its peak (typically between 11am and 4pm), is when the UV rays are the strongest. Any animal, whether it’s a farm animal or pet should always have shelter outside so they can remove themselves from the sun. Try to limit their outdoor time as this may also prevent heat stroke or heat summerexhaustion. If you leave your dog outside while you are away because they are destructive inside your house, try entertaining them inside with fun activities such as, bones, busy toys (slow treat feeders), safe chew toys and peanut butter Kongs, so they don’t even think of destroying anything.

If you are unable to keep your pet inside, consider putting pet friendly sunscreen on your pet. It is important to apply the sunscreen to the tips of their ears, the top of the nose and other areas that may be vulnerable to the sun (places with little, to no hair). Some areas that can easily get sunburned are the ears, nose, and their stomach. These areas often have little to no hair on them and are very susceptible to sun damage. Remember, try avoiding getting any sunscreen into their eyes – it burns! Some human sunscreens contain ingredients that may be toxic if you pet ingests the sunscreen. Please consult your veterinarian for recommendations on different types of sunscreen to apply to your pet’s skin and other ways to keep your pet safe from that sun. Don’t forget to have water available to your pets at all times!