Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of warmer weather. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble.
The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
Prevention: No dog should be given unsupervised access to a backyard pool or a neighborhood pond or creek. Swimming pools are best fenced-off for safety. And if that's not possible, they should be equipped with alarms that sound when the surface of the water is broken by a child or pet falling in. Escape tools like the Skamper-Ramp (skamper-ramp.com; 800-842-6543) are a good idea, but it's better to prevent pets from getting in unsupervised in the first place.
Prevention also includes teaching your pet what to do when he's in the pool. Dogs don't get the idea that the steps are on one side only, and they may tire and drown trying to crawl out the side. If your pet likes to swim, work with him in the pool to help him learn where the steps are, so he can get out easily.
Finally, obedience training is extremely important. Your dog should come when called, even when swimming, so you can call him back before he heads into deeper water or stronger currents. Emergency shortcut: Always carry extra retrieving toys. A dog who's heading out into a dangerous area after a ball or stick can often be lured back into shore with a second item thrown closer in. It's no substitute for training, but it could save your dog's life.
Preparedness: Before letting your dog swim in any natural surroundings, survey the area for safety. Rivers and oceans can change frequently, and an area that was safe for swimming one visit can be treacherous the next. Consider currents, tides, underwater hazards and even the condition of the water. In the late summer, algae scum on the top of standing water can be toxic, producing substances that can kill a pet who swallows the tainted water. When in doubt, no swimming. Better safe than sorry.
One of the best things you can do is to take courses in first-aid and CPR for your pets. Many local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and some veterinarians may also teach them in your community. A dog who's pulled out near death from drowning may be saved by your prompt actions -- if you know what to do.
If your dog isn't much of a swimmer, or is older or debilitated, get him a personal flotation device. These are especially great for family boating trips because most have sturdy handles for rescue when a pet goes overboard.
Awareness: Be aware of your dog's condition as he plays. Remember that even swimming dogs can get hot, so bring fresh water and offer it constantly. When your dog is tiring, be sure to call it a day. A tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog is in danger of drowning.
Be particularly careful of young and old dogs. Both can get themselves into more trouble than a healthy adult dog with lots of swimming experience. Young dogs can panic in the water, and old dogs may not realize they aren't as strong as they used to be. Keep them close to shore, and keep swimming sessions short.
Swimming is great exercise and great fun for all, and with these few simple precautions you can keep the cool times coming, with safety in mind. -- Gina Spadafori
Perfect pool play in a small way
Just as it seems that as many "baby" gates are purchased for pets as for children, the ubiquitous kiddie pool has thoroughly gone to the dogs.
The small pools made of hard plastic are perfect for dogs of all sizes, providing a tummy-cooling wallow for an overheated retriever or a safe way to wade for a swim-challenged pug. (Be sure to choose the hard-plastic variety; the inflatable kind doesn't hold up well to dog claws.)
Always supervise the pool's use to prevent any accidents.
Kept clean and stored in a covered spot for winter, a kiddie pool will last for many seasons. Just remember in the summer that standing water is a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and toxic algae, so rinse it clean after every use and refill it with fresh water every time.
Cats don't like
Q: I have four cats and four litter boxes. I keep tripping over them, and I'd like to reduce the number of litter boxes by two. Do you think that will be enough?
A: Actually, you not only need four litter boxes, you need to add one. To keep harmony in a multicat household, feline experts say you need one box for each cat, plus one extra. Cats are super-picky about their bathroom accommodations: They demand cleanliness and privacy, and they don't like having to wait in line. Having five boxes that are scooped daily means your cats are much less likely to think about going outside the box, so to speak.
Spread the wealth around the house to ensure privacy. Some cats will lie in wait and pounce on their housemates when they're in the middle of doing their business, but if boxes are placed in different areas on each floor of the house, they can't stake out all of them at once. Besides, to a cat, a bunch of litter boxes all lined up next to each other just equals one giant litter box, so there's no sense of each cat having his own private potty. Also, some cats like having one box for doing No. 1 and one for doing No. 2. Multiples give them a choice.
Another thing to consider is that your cats may have different preferences for the type of litter and the style of box they like. Having two or three uncovered boxes and a couple of hooded boxes, filled with a couple of different types of litter, gives them options.
House-soiling is the No. 1 reason cats are given up to shelters, but most cats will faithfully use their litter boxes if their people hold up their end of the bargain by keeping the boxes clean and placing them in quiet areas where the cat will feel safe and comfortable while using them. – Kim Campbell Thornton
Not all old dogs
need senior diet
-- Senior dog diets are popular, with 43 percent of Americans claiming they have fed their dogs age-oriented food. However, only one-third of that segment of pet owners have consulted with a veterinarian about which senior diet their aging pooches should eat. In a Tufts University poll, about 85 percent of people believe senior dogs need to eat differently than younger ones.
The needs of senior dogs varies greatly, with some requiring a greater percentage of protein in their food, and others requiring more carbohydrates. Not only do senior dogs' needs differ, but the variance in senior dog food is tremendous, particularly in protein and calorie counts, according to a study in The International Journal for Applied Research in Veterinary Medicine
-- French researchers say they have, for the first time, demonstrated an association between chronic pain and aggressive behavior in horses. Noting that 70 percent of human patients with chronic pain expressed feelings of anger, researchers at the University of Rennes say more than 75 percent of the horses they studied were angry and aggressive while suffering pain.
Of the 44 geldings and 15 mares aged 5 to 20 that were studied, 73 percent suffered from chronic pain in the croup, withers to mid-back, neck, and mid-back to croup regions. The severely affected horses demonstrated negative or aggressive behaviors such as looking at the experimenter with ears laid back, threats to bite by stretching the neck, or approaching the experimenter with ears laid back.
Severely affected horses were less likely to react positively, such as looking at or approaching the experimenter with upright ears, or sniffing, licking, nibbling and chewing.
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.