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Let's face it. Bad breath is bad breath, whether it is emanating from man or beast. While it can be hard to tell another human to reexamine their oral hygiene routine, you do have the power to improve the health, well-being, and reputation of your own doggo by doing just that. With expert advice, we have compiled answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about mitigating stinky dog breath, at-home canine oral hygiene routines, and visits to the doggie dentist. 1. Where does bad "dog breath" come from? "Persistent bad breath is always a sign of a health problem in dogs," says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, a member of the Pet Life Today advisory board. "The most common reason is an accumulation of plaque and tartar that, without appropriate treatment, leads to gingivitis (gum inflammation) and eventually the breakdown of the bones and other tissues that support teeth. Other reasons why a dog might have persistent bad breath include oral injuries and infections, foreign material lodged in the mouth, and oral cancer. Brushing won’t remove existing tartar, so it’s best to make an appointment with your veterinarian for an evaluation and possibly a professional cleaning before starting to brush an adult dog’s teeth." 2. Can a dog's breath be an indicator of some bad health problems? Yes. A dog's breath is an indicator of both oral hygiene and overall health. If you aren't sure whether you need to be worried or not, here is a quiz that may help. It includes pictures to help you assess your pet's dental hygiene and symptoms visually. 3. How often do I brush my dog's teeth? "It’s recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth as often as your own — twice daily is ideal," says Rob Jackson, CEO and co-founder of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. "However, if that seems unrealistic to you, aim for bi-weekly brushings." But you aren't alone in figuring this out. Nate Masterson is a pet health expert and natural pet product developer for Honeydew Products. He suggests discussing your pooch's tooth brushing routine with your vet because there are so many factors. However, he adds, "once there is a requirement to brush, an established routine of once or twice a week seems about right, but ask your doggy doctor. Many owners find the dog’s chops and teeth confusing, sometimes thinking something might be wrong when in fact things are completely normal." 4. What happens if I don’t look after my dog's dental hygiene? "We've all caught a whiff of kitty or doggy breath that knocks us over," says Ms. Darlene Hernandez-Geekie, RVT of Veterinary Angels Medical Center. "You hear vets say, 'brush their teeth' and some pet guardians do this, but many wait too long to get them a check-up. Pet breath is telling you more about their health than what they just ate. Periodontal disease in pets is common and left untreated can lead to many other expensive health issues." 5. How common is dental disease in dogs? Banfield Pet Hospitals estimates that 77 percent of dogs have dental disease. It is very common. 6. Are some dogs more at-risk than others? The AAHA advises that owners of puppies who will be smaller than 20–25 pounds at maturity "should be informed that the level of dental care and prevention for their pet is likely to be more involved than that of a larger dog. Brachycephalic breeds also tend to have more dental issues due to the rotation and crowding of teeth." Banfield Pet Hospitals found that the following breeds are at the highest risk for periodontal disease: Toy poodle Yorkshire terrier Maltese Pomeranian Shetland sheepdog Cavalier King Charles spaniel Papillion Standard poodle Dachshund Havanese 7. How long should I give brushing a chance before I make an appointment? "If your dog has a lot of dental tartar already on their teeth," warns Sara Ochoa, DVM, a veterinary consultant for doglab.com, "no amount of teeth brushing will get this off. They will need a dental cleaning just like what people get when they go to the dentist. This will be done by a veterinarian in the office. The dog will have to be lightly sedated for this procedure. No dog is going to lay down with their mouth open and allow their teeth to be cleaned." She suggests, "If your dog's breath does not improve after just a few brushings, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure that there is nothing else wrong." 8. How often should I take my dog for a dental checkup? The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends having your dog's teeth and gums checked at least once a year by your vet. 9. At what age should I start taking my dog to get dental cleanings? The AAHA recommends that dogs have a full dental cleaning, polishing and dental x-rays by age one for small to medium breed dogs and age two for larger breed dogs. 10. Is there an actual doggie dentist, or are the appointment and checkup just performed by a vet? "Most routine dental care is provided by veterinarians in general practice," says Dr. Coates, "but these doctors will refer complicated cases to specialists who are certified by the American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC)." All vets have a different level of experience when it comes to veterinary dentistry skills. It depends on where they attended school. An article in the Journal of Veterinary Medical Education explains that while some veterinary programs offer formal dental training and exposure to advanced dental procedures, this is not true across the board. More than half of veterinary colleges in North America, Canada, and the Caribbean, provide less than four hours of instruction in veterinary dentistry. That's why routine care, like a cleaning, can be handled by your regular vet, but special cases can be referred to a specialist. The following are common reasons why you might be referred to a specialist certified by the AVDC: Advanced imaging, intra-oral x-rays, or a CT scan, requiring anesthesia Advanced periodontal disease (gum disease) Difficult extractions Jaw fractures Multiple extractions Oral masses or tumors Orthodontic consultation Root canal therapy Severe trauma Stomatitis The AVDC provides a helpful locator tool to find certified specialists across North America, as well as in other countries. Even more advanced skillsets are available from AVDC certified vets with advanced training and experience in oral and maxillofacial surgery (OMSF). 11. What happens at a doggie dentist appointment? "The initial appointment may just be a consult to figure out what is needed to be done for your dog," advises Dr. Ochoa. "After that, your veterinarian should be able to explain what all will happen. Usually, for a full dental cleaning, your dog will be sedated, and their teeth will be cleaned just like people have every six months to one year. Most veterinarians also take dental x rays to make sure that there is no disease under the gum line. If there are any teeth that need to be extracted, your veterinarian will also do this." "The care provided during a doggie dentist appointment depends on the specifics of the case," shares Dr. Coates. "For example, some pets will need to have severely damaged teeth removed, but this won’t be necessary if their teeth and gums are in good condition." 12. Why is dental sedation so common for dogs? According to Dr. Coates, "Dogs must be under general anesthesia during a dental cleaning to protect against oral injury and inhalation of the fluid and debris that is generated during the procedure. After the pet is anesthetized, the veterinarian or technician will rinse the mouth with an antiseptic and then remove plaque and tartar from all tooth surfaces—including under the gums—using specialized equipment. They then polish the teeth, rinse the mouth clean, and oftentimes apply fluoride and/or dental sealants to protect the teeth and slow the redevelopment of plaque and tartar." Jme Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo animal rescue points out that anesthesia-free dental care is available. "This means the dog is not put under anesthesia to have their teeth cleaned," Thomas explains. "This is great for maintenance but cannot address loose or infected teeth, so it can extend the time between surgical [dental appointments], but is not a replacement for them." Dr. Gary Richter, a veterinary health expert with Rover, points out that "Periodic non-anesthetic dental cleanings can be an excellent part of a larger preventative dental health plan as well." 13. Are there any risks involved with doggie dental care? Thomas shares a very personal warning for pet parents and guardians about a risk her pup encountered during a routine dental extraction appointment: Zelda was a happy and healthy toy fox terrier "with no health issues to speak of," explains Thomas, but she "needed some teeth extracted. She went into her dental [appointment] and came out burned on 50 percent of her body. These injuries subsequently killed her." "This is because they used a heating pad for heat support rather than the appropriate/dedicated tools available to veterinarians," explains Thomas. "While heating pads should not be used, many vets still use them because they are much cheaper than the appropriate, modern tools." During dental anesthesia, "heat support is important," says Thomas, because "animals' body temperatures must be maintained during surgery — but there are proper ways to do this and a heating pad should not be involved." The problem with heating pads and other similar items being used during a dog's dental surgery, she explains is that they maintain constant heat. The proper veterinary tools cool over time and don't "have the capacity to malfunction or increase their temperature, like a heating pad does," she explains. She clarifies that "heating pads may be used in the recovery process when an animal is no longer anesthetized and able to move away from the heat source. This is the key factor in whether a heating pad should even be considered — and why they should never be an option for surgery." "When bringing your animal in for a dental, or ANY surgery," Thomas advises, "ask them if they use heating pads for the surgery. It is your choice how you manage the answer, but if they say they use them during surgery, in my humble opinion, run away. If they say they use them as recovery when the animal is waking up, this is better, but the animal still needs to be monitored often because if they are struggling to wake up, they are in the same category as an anesthetized animal who may not be able to make a choice to move away if they are feeling too hot. This is where the heating pad maintaining a constant temperature or possibly increasing in temperature (if malfunctioning) causes concern over the items that cool over time." Click here to watch a PSA about what happened to Zelda. 14. How much does a routine dental appointment for a dog cost? A young, healthy dog's dental cleaning can cost $200 to $300, but that is just for a standard cleaning. Many other factors can increase the cost. 15. What role does pet insurance play? "Most insurance company's wellness plans will cover dental cleaning every year," advises Dr. Ochoa. This preventative care can help you save money in the long run. Dr. Coates advises that "Many pet insurance policies cover veterinarian-recommended dental care, but you have to read a policy’s fine print to determine what is and what is not included." Make sure you check it out with your provider so that you can be prepared for any out of pocket expenses. 16. How else can I keep my dog’s teeth clean? "In addition to brushing your dog’s teeth, there are many other ways to maintain his dental health," says Jackson. "Foods, treats, toys, chews, water additives, and oral sprays are all available to promote a healthy mouth. Greenies dental treats are a favorite among pet parents and dogs, and are VOHC certified. For hardcore chewers, Purina’s HeartyHide and PPVD rawhide treats fight tartar on teeth. If your pup has recurring problems, ask your vet about a prescription dog food specifically for dental health." 17. What foods are good for my dog's teeth? Eating and chewing certain foods is a good way to help keep dog's teeth healthy and strong. Barking Royalty suggests that several foods are best for your dog's teeth: bones, cranberries, wild strawberries, parsley, fennel. "Dental diets that are labeled with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal have scientific evidence supporting their ability to help keep pet teeth clean and their breath fresh," adds Dr. Coates. "Contrary to popular belief, feeding your dog regular dry food won’t help with dental hygiene."
Do you ever wish that your best friend had better breath? What about man's best friend? Tired of the same old stinky dog breath? As a pet owner, you know how important it is to take care of your dog's health. When was the last time that you brushed your teeth? Probably (hopefully!) at least once within the last 24 hours. What about your dog's teeth? Just because dogs are animals that came from the wild, doesn't mean that we shouldn't care for their teeth. Humans came from "the wild" too. Gum disease is huge and dentists and toothbrushes were made by us, for us. Gum disease in humans has been linked to lots of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. "Imagine the state of your mouth if you didn’t brush your teeth regularly," prompts Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today. It would be bad. Really bad. Your teeth and gums would probably hurt. Your mouth would taste bad. People around you would likely smell you coming before they saw you coming. Neglecting your oral hygiene would be gross. But what about neglecting your dog's hygiene? "Unfortunately," Coates says, "many dogs develop tartar, gingivitis, oral infections, tooth loss, and even diseases of distant organs like the kidneys, lungs, liver, and heart as a result of poor oral hygiene." Believe it or not, oral hygiene has a great impact on your dog's well-being, with its impact spreading much further than just teeth and breath. By the end of this article, you will understand the impact of caring for your dog's oral hygiene, how to do it, and how to make it easier in the future. Why is doggie dental hygiene so important? "Maintaining good dental health can add years to your pet's life," says Dr. Gary Richter, Rover’s resident veterinarian on The Dog People Panel. "Good dental care is essential to extend your pet's life span and assure a good quality of life. Just like you, pets need to receive daily dental care at home." What are the risks? "Poor dental health can lead to pain and infection in the mouth as well as having the potential for putting stress on other organs in the body like the kidneys and the heart," says Dr. Richter. "Chronic infection in the mouth can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream and damaging other organs." At home dental care for your dog can help avoid these risks. It can also help improve your pet's breath and, in the long run, it can help to save you money. Ben Team, senior content editor for K9 of Mine puts it this way, "It is very important to brush your pet’s teeth. Not only will it help keep your pooch’s breath a bit more bearable, but it’ll also help prevent tooth decay and expensive visits to the doggie dentist." "Besides, who wants 'death breath' that comes with dirty teeth?" adds Jme Thomas, executive director of the Motley Zoo animal rescue in Redmond, Washington. "It is critical you address really bad breath because chances are there could be a really bad tooth needing removal." You may think: Dogs are animals. Animals don't brush their teeth in the wild. Why should I have to brush my dog's teeth?" Think of it this way: Humans domesticated dogs. They hang out with us and we give them food and love in return. They don't eat the same things as their wild ancestors did. Their teeth are affected by the things they eat with refined sugars and acids. They also had a much shorter lifespan before we gave them food and shelter. They didn't need to worry about outliving their teeth. Our dogs do. When should I start brushing my dog's teeth? Oral hygiene is important, but knowing when to start can be confusing. "It is best to begin [brushing] when a puppy is between 8 and 12 weeks of age," says Dr. Richter, "however, it is never too late." Dr. Sara Ochoa, DVM, Veterinary Consultant for doglab.com agrees: "It is best to start your dog off brushing their teeth when they are puppies. You can teach an old dog to allow their teeth to be brushed, but it is much easier to train the young dog." No matter when you start, Dr. Coates advises that you should "Have your veterinarian examine your dog’s mouth before starting to brush teeth. If dental disease is already present, you’ll need to schedule a professional dental cleaning before toothbrushing will do much good." Takeaway: Whether you are caring for a new pup or an old dog, it's never too late to start. What supplies do I need to brush my dog's teeth? Once you have decided it's time to start taking care of Sparky's teeth, you need to think about a couple things: What are you going to do it with, and how you will actually do it? "Brushing your dog’s teeth is not much different than brushing your own," says Team. "You’ll simply need a canine toothbrush and a dog-safe toothpaste." He explains, "you don’t want to use a human toothpaste, as your dog will likely swallow a lot of it, which could upset his stomach." You can't just use any old toothbrush. "There are dog toothbrushes, which are different from human toothbrushes," explains Erin Scott, editor at Spark Paws. "They have longer handles, smaller brush heads, and softer bristles. There are also brushes that go over your finger to give you more control." Different toothbrushes will suit different dogs, depending on the pet's size, the shape of its jaw, and individual comfort preferences. Make sure you buy toothpaste for dogs. You heard me right. Toothpaste for dogs. "Human toothpaste is NOT for pets," warns Dr. Richter. "It can quickly cause an upset stomach." That is the last thing you want to happen when you are trying to acclimate your pup to this new hygienic routine. What makes dog toothpaste different? "Unlike human toothpaste, dog toothpastes are safe to swallow and come in a range of flavors from peanut butter to poultry," shares Rachel Bodine, the proud owner of a 14-year-old labrador. Thomas shares this perspective, "I personally prefer the pastes with parsley and mint over say, chicken or peanut butter, because I think the result is fresher smelling, but by all means go with what helps you accomplish the task. Your dog needs to like it first and foremost!" Best of all, using dog-specific toothpaste makes the job easier — for the brusher and the brush-ee. Dr. Richter points out: "You do not have to rinse the toothpaste from the teeth." It's safe for your dog to swallow and won't cause an upset tummy. How do I introduce teeth brushing to my dog? "At first, brushing a dog’s teeth can be mildly stressful and confusing for the animal," explains Rob Jackson, CEO and cofounder of Healthy Paws Pet Insurance. "But like anything, the more you do it, the quicker your pet will become comfortable with you cleaning their teeth." As Jackson said, getting Sparky ready for his close-up isn't necessarily going to be easy. For this step, we turn to Stephanie Mantilla, a positive reinforcement-based animal trainer at Curiosity Trained. She has worked 12 years as a zookeeper and has a certificate in Behavioral Husbandry from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. She shares this proven method to help get your doggo ready for his cleaning: "Most likely if your dog has never had their teeth brushed before, they aren't going to initially like you sticking your hands on their mouth. For starting out, it's great to start touching your dog's muzzle area gently without a toothbrush around. Give treats or positively praise your dog if they let you touch them without a negative reaction. To introduce the toothbrush, you should show it to your dog for a few days while giving treats and praising without trying to stick it into your dog's mouth. Once they are relaxed around the toothbrush, put a small dab of pet-safe toothpaste on the end and let your dog lick it off the brush without you shoving it into their mouth. After your dog is comfortable licking the toothpaste off the toothbrush, you can start slowing working your way towards touching the toothbrush to their teeth and gently brushing. Very small approximations are best to keep everything positive. This should be done daily or twice a day to build up their comfort. It's alright if initially, a training session lasts 20 seconds, as long as your dog is comfortable. Eventually, as their comfort level builds, you'll be able to brush more teeth and different parts of their mouth. Your dog's teeth should be brushed at least once a day even after the initial behavior is trained." Baby steps are key. Here are a few more expert perspectives on helping to ease the introduction of the whole concept of brushing with a toothbrush and toothpaste: Gauge comfort level — "Before you stick a strange object into your dog’s mouth, it’s best to gauge his level of comfort," says Jackson. "Start off by petting the muzzle and lips, allowing your dog to get used to the sensation of you handling the area. Work up to rubbing a towel or piece of cloth on the teeth, mimicking the brushing motion. Finally, give your pup a taste of doggy toothpaste! If your dog seems to accept both the simulated brushing and the toothpaste, it’s time to move on to the next step." Baby steps — "Gradually increase the amount of time you spend actually trying to brush teeth," says Dr. Coates, "until eventually, your dog will calmly sit still while you brush all of their teeth. Constant praise for good behavior and a treat afterwards certainly helps too."' Make it positive — "It is very important to make the brushing a positive experience for the dog, or it will be a constant struggle and source of stress for both the dog and owner," says Rachel Szumel, DVM, co-author of an online course on toothbrushing for pets. "In our course, we teach the owner to very carefully build up the brushing according to the dog's comfort level, and always pair the brushing with tasty snacks to create that positive association." How do I brush my dog's teeth? Once your dog is comfortable with the tools and the concept of brushing his teeth, it's time to get the process down. Dr. Gary Richter shares his four-step process to properly brushing your canine's canines: STEP 1— Gently pet and scratch the muzzle, slowly lifting the lip for about 30 seconds. Reward with a treat at the end of the session. STEP 2 — Repeat as above except gently run your finger over your pet's teeth for 20–30 seconds. Reward and praise again. STEP 3 — Place a small amount of toothpaste on the toothbrush and let your pet lick it (not actually brushing yet!) Most will really enjoy the taste, but if not, try a different flavor. STEP 4 — If all is going well, try actually brushing the teeth. Remember, the upper outer surfaces are the most important, brushing for 20–30 seconds on each side. The first time isn't going to be perfect. It's going to take time. Here are the takeaways on improving and perfecting your at-home dental care process with your pooch: Brush in circular motions Focus on canines and the outside surface of the teeth and the gumline Don't be too pushy Inside surfaces and lower teeth aren't a priority Make it fun, with positive reinforcement of your choosing What should I include in our dental care routine? "Aim to brush your dog’s teeth every day," says Dr. Coates. "A missed day here or there isn’t a problem, but anything less than every other day gives plaque a chance to harden into tartar that can only be removed with a professional dental cleaning." Brushing is an important aspect of your dog's preventative dental care, but it's not the only line of defense against dental diseases. In addition to brushing, there are other things you can do to help care for your dog's oral health, with additional oral health products. The AAHA points out that preventative oral health products work in three ways: Mechanical (abrasion) Nonmechanical (chemical) Combo/dual action If brushing is a no-go, what other things can we do to help our pup keep his teeth and gums healthy? "Brushing your dog’s teeth every day, or at least every other day, is by far the best way to prevent dental disease," says Dr. Coates. However, she adds, "If you simply cannot brush your dog’s teeth, alternative dental hygiene products like water additives, sprays, or chews that are labeled with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal will help keep your dog’s teeth cleaner than they would be otherwise." While in a perfect world, these additional oral health products should be used in addition to your normal brushing routine, as Dr. Coates said, they can be better than nothing, if you haven't achieved brushing nirvana quite yet. "The VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council)," explains Darlene Hernandez-Geekie, RVT, of Veterinary Angels Medical Center, "is an organization that provides an objective means of recognizing commercially available products that meet pre-set standards of effectiveness in controlling the accumulation of plaque and calculus in dogs and cats." Check out accepted VOHC products for more information. Dental toys and chews There are many toys and chews meant to support clean dog teeth. "[A]n appropriate sized raw bone can be one of the most effective means of pets keeping their own teeth clean," says Dr. Richter. How so? This is due to mechanical abrasion: "Chews like pigs’ ears and antlers are tough, which means your dog has to gnaw at them," explains Ewan McCowen, CEO of Kip & Twiggy's Ltd. "This gnawing action is extremely effective at removing plaque and tartar. And because most natural chews have very few calories, they also won’t add to your doggy’s waistline!" Some chew toys are beneficial to your dog's dental hygiene, and some can be harmful. Leigh Matthews, BA Hons, FdSc NT, is the Head of Research for LeafScore.com, a consumer resource for eco-friendly products. Matthews explains: "Many of the conventional chew toys marketed as dental chews can be harmful to dogs. Some are simply too hard and can crack teeth, others are too soft and can constitute a choking hazard. The biggest issue, though, is that many chews such as pigs' ears, rawhide, and so on, are coated or treated with chemicals to sterilize these or to impart flavor or color. Such chemicals include formaldehyde and bleach. These can cause digestive upset, tooth staining (and carpet stains!), bacterial growth, and may also be carcinogenic or affect reproductive health. Even fabric chew toys may have been treated with carcinogenic azo dyes, while other dental products may contain lead and other heavy metals in the paint as well as phthalates (plastic softeners) that are known endocrine disruptors. And, as the science shows, the mechanical action of chewing, coupled with warm moisture in a dog's mouth, increases the leaching of these chemicals from chew toys. The best bet for dental chew toys, then, is something such as undyed, unbleached, natural loofah, a hemp rope, or jute. Hemp is naturally antibacterial, so manufacturers (hopefully) won't be tempted to coat these toys in antimicrobials that can, ironically, be toxic to dogs. Another good option is an olive wood 'bone' treated with natural linseed oil only. This will mulch rather than splinter and can be a great way to keep a dog's teeth clean, especially if they won't abide having them brushed." No matter which dental toys you decide on, Hernandez-Geekie reminds pet owners that supervision is always recommended when your pet is given a chew toy. Sprays and water additives "There are also sprays and water additives that can be used for helping reduce plaque and freshen your dog's breath," says Thomas. Products like BreathVet and Teef are added to your dog's normal water bowl to help fight bacteria and protect teeth Not every dog is going to like it. "Some dogs ... will refuse to drink the water or fight their owners over the spray." Dental sprays "are really good products for mild dental disease," shares Dr. Ochoa. But severe dental disease, Ochoa advises, "is going to need a toothbrush or professional dental cleaning." "Be sure to read the ingredients and do research/ask your vet (especially) about the ingested ones, as naturally these need to be considered when it comes to your dog's overall health," says Thomas. Remember that these aren't food. "These products have no nutritional values and should not be given instead of food or treats," says Ochoa. "Dental chews are available everywhere — and at a low price, but they are not very effective," says Dr. Emily Stein, Ph.D., Founder of Teef. "It's adding calories, and possibly sugar which could make your pet need dental care more!" "Read those labels on chews and treats," advises Dr. Stein. "Watch out for carbohydrates. Stay away from potato or other starches, processed grains, and fruits, which can be quickly turned into things that drive dental disease in your dog's mouth." TL;DR Brush your dog's teeth. Dental health is important. There are special toothbrushes and toothpaste for dogs. There are lots of other products approved to help with your dog's breath and teeth, but brushing is number one. It might not be easy at first, but there are lots of resources out there, including this low-cost, step-by-step, online course. Brush your dog's teeth, please. Read doggie dental FAQs.
Many dog owners feel that they have underestimated the amount of work involved in adding a canine to the family. On top of feeding, grooming, and walking your dog, there is the added work of cleaning up after your pet, inside your own home. Merry Maids cleaning expert Melissa Witulski advises, "One to two furry pets will add about 25 percent more time needed for cleaning and there are homes which will double the amount of time. This can be even more if your pets are allowed in all rooms of your home." In a 2016 Survey, 18 percent of dog owners said that damage to furniture, carpets, and floors is a drawback of owning a pet, while 12 percent mentioned odors, 32 percent said shedding, and 26 percent said that cleaning up was a drawback overall. To help pet parents spend less time with the dreaded cleanup and more time enjoying the benefits of their four-legged family member, here is some advice from cleaning experts: Minimize damage to furniture, carpets, and floors What preventative measures can we take to protect and care for our furniture carpets, and floors? Cover your furniture To many Americans, furniture is a big investment and meant to last for many years. While it may not necessarily be an heirloom, you still want to keep it free of any damage, whether liquid, solid, or from claws and teeth. This may seem like a no-brainer, but furniture covers can save you tons of cleaning time, while protecting your furniture. Sarah Brunette, brand director of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company, suggests that you specifically "use washable covers to protect against animal hair and staining," while Witulski adds that putting a "pet cover or blanket over sofas, chairs and other furniture," also helps to avoid scratches, fabric pulls, and your dog's natural body oils from soaking into your upholstery. Try some dog socks If you are worried about your pet scratching or damaging your hardwood or laminate floors, consider some paw protectors for your pupper's feet. There are all different types available. These can also help pets that have trouble navigating hardwood floors, and some are even meant to keep your buddy safe from scorching summertime sidewalks. Re-treat your carpet "To avoid permanent stains," Brunette suggests, "a soil retardant applied to the carpet will help prevent future mishaps." Most new carpet already has protective soil retardant applied, but this can wear off in two to four years. This type of protectant is often oil, water, and dirt repellent. Having this re-applied can lengthen the life of your carpet, make vacuuming more efficient, and make cleaning future dog messes faster and easier. Get the wiggles out Does your dog really want to eat your couch? What about your shoes? Pet industry expert Dana Humphrey, aka The Pet Lady, says, "If your dog is chewing the couch, it's because he's not stimulated. He has too much energy and he's taking it out somewhere." She suggests more exercise and brain-stimulating activity for your dog. While we know that it can sometimes be hard for people to make time for outside play, walks, or games, perhaps the added benefit of more one-on-one attention and exercise time with your dog means less damage to your home and furniture. Pent-up puppy energy spent indoors alone, is often spent destructively. Minimize pet odors In addition to accidents, pet dander, and hair, odors are commonly caused by poor grooming, skin infections from bacteria, fleas and parasites, yeast infections in your dog or cat's ears or feet, and dental problems, which only start in the mouth, but get passed to your animal's coat when they groom themselves, and to your carpet, furniture, curtains, and linens around the house. Dogs' skin also has natural oils that are often transferred to your floor and furniture. Let's look at some ideas for minimizing doggy smells in your home. Use baking soda "The worst part about odor is it gets trapped in everything the pet lays on," says Brunette from Molly Maid. "Whether it’s their bed or a family couch, the smell lingers. An inexpensive, simple fix to this problem is baking soda. Sprinkle over the desired area and let sit for 15 minutes. Once the baking soda has soaked in, vacuum the area, and say goodbye to unwanted odor." Let the washing machine help Your washing machine can be your secret weapon for cleaning more than clothes. "Area rugs, blankets, and machine washable draperies and linens can be easily deodorized in the washer," advises Jack White, Vice President of Technical Services at RainbowInternational, a Neighborly company that provides cleaning and home restoration services. "Start by adding a 1-lb box of baking soda to your regular laundry detergent. Once the wash cycle is complete, air-dry your items in the sun, when possible, to eliminate any lingering odors. If you can still smell pet odors, rewash with an enzymatic cleaner." Deodorize hard surfaces "Essential oils offer an environmentally safe and effective way of deodorizing surfaces in your home," says White. "Simply fill a spray bottle with water, adding 10 drops of essential oil. Then, use the solution to spray and wipe-down any hard surfaces in your home." However, he warns, "As pets are more sensitive to essential oils than humans, never use them undiluted, and never allow animals to ingest the oils." According to White, "Popular essential oils for combating pet odors include lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree." Replace air filters and purifiers If you are still experiencing unwanted pet smells in your home, consider replacing your air filter or investing in an air purifier. Air purifiers can be an added defense against pet odors; however, you need to get the right kind for your home. According to HomeAirGuides, "Most air purifiers come with a standard HEPA filter which is good at removing pet dander that is around your home. While this HEPA filter is good for reducing allergies, it won’t take the odor away. For an air purifier to be genuinely effective at removing cat and dog smells, it must include an Activated Carbon Filter." If you want to try a less expensive solution, AirPurifiersAmerica suggests replacing your home's HVAC air filters more frequently. One-inch filters should be replaced about every two to three months, and three to five-inch ones last up to one year. There are even special filters for pet owners that you can try, which include carbon filtering for pet odors. Carbon HVAC filters use activated charcoal to trap smells. Minimize shedding cleanup It's not news. Most dogs shed. Normal shedding happens twice a year, in large amounts, but some breeds have more hair and shed more. Some individual dogs even shed more than others of the same breed. The biggest culprits include Akitas, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows, Corgis, German Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, Newfoundlands, and Siberian Huskies. These guys naturally shed a lot, getting rid of thick winter coats that come off in the springtime. However, just like humans, dogs hair follicles have a natural growth rate, and hairs can rub off or fall off individually throughout the year. Let's take a look at some ways to minimize the time pet parents need to spend actively cleaning up fluff from their indoor environment. Designate a bedtime space "A designated sleeping area for pets will contain hair mostly to one area," advises Brunette. Witulski adds, "Keep your pet’s bedding clean and fresh, and you’ll help cut down on the number of stray hairs elsewhere. Vacuum the bed often, even those that are washable." Whether that be a kennel, doggie bed, blanket nest, or dog house, cleaning one very concentrated space of Fido's left-behind dander and hair/fur makes a difference. Protect a favorite spot Dean Davies, Cleaning Supervisor at Fantastic Services suggests that "you can cover the furniture or at least the parts where your pet likes to sleep/lay the most. Cleaning the hair this way is much easier because you can simply throw the blanket in the washer, rather than having to pick it up from the sofa." Regular grooming "Regularly brushing and grooming your pet is a great way to minimize loose hair on furniture and floors," advises Witulski. "Use a drop cloth or plastic bag under your pet to catch the stray fur while brushing, so hair does not end up on the floor." Then, depending on your drop cloth, you can fold up the hair and deposit in the trash, clean it in the wash, or use a vacuum attachment to suck it all up. Regularly bathing your dog helps to reduce shedding, in addition to being good for Fido's health, says Dr. Marty Becker, DVM. He adds, "Bathing loosens and removes fur that’s ready to be shed. A bath tool like the Kong ZoomGroom really helps loosen and remove fur in the tub as well." When it comes to grooming your dog, it's not one or the other. Both brushing and bathing are necessary. In between regular baths, you should still be regularly brushing your pup. If your dog is one of the big shedder's mentioned above, Becker suggests using a special grooming tool like the Furminator, to make the process easier. Hack your washer Do you love your pet, but feel paranoid that you constantly have pet hair on your clothes. Are you going through lint rollers like crazy? Are you worried that the pet hair you carry on your clothes makes you look unprofessional at work? Minimize the time you take worrying about pet hair on your clean clothes by using products like the FurZapper when you do laundry. This product is a sticky/tacky disc that you add to your washer and dryer. Made of medical-grade silicone, it is non-toxic, hypoallergenic, fragrance-free, and reusable. Michael Sweigart, President of FurZapper says, "[Y]ou throw this into your washer and your dryer and as its tumbling and cycling through the wash and the dryer, it's actually plucking the hair off the clothes and washing it down the drain or putting it in the lint trap." It's not for one-time use. Sweigart says that it can be used 200–300 times or more. The upper limit of how many times one can be used isn't even known yet. It doesn't even have to be washed. It can just be thrown back in with the next washing machine load. Upgrade your vacuum A vacuum cleaner can be a pet owner's best tool when it comes to not only quickly handling excessive shedding around your home, but also sucking up odor-causing dander. If you can invest in a big change, there are always central vacuum systems (which would take a major home upgrade), and robot vacuums that will do the work for you (with options varying in price from $200 to $1,000). Ben Team from K9 of Mine shares this take: "A robot-style vacuum cleaner can be helpful for keeping the dog hair off your carpets, but some dogs may become frightened of them or even try to attack them, so caution is warranted." He also notes, "Dog hair can be a bit more difficult to vacuum up than typical household dust and debris. So, if you go with a traditional vacuum cleaner, it is important to select one that is powerful enough to pick up doghair." All vacuums are NOT created equal. As Team mentioned, you may benefit from a vacuum that is designed with cleaning pet hair in mind. While there are several ways of measuring a vacuum's suction power pet owners should consider whether their vacuum's suction is optimized for cleaning up after a constantly shedding dog. Evaluating a vacuum's suction power and its ability to do the best job possible of cleaning up after your pet, can be a little confusing for those of us that didn't exactly ace physics class. (If you want to learn more about evaluating vacuum cleaner suction, check out this in-depth video from Vacuum Facts.) That's why it is really helpful when trusted product reviews are available for people in your situation. Hence the popular google: best vacuum for pet hair, which gets searched about 19,000 times per month in the United States, according to Ahrefs. It seems like consumers are less than satisfied with their current vacuum's suction power and looking to upgrade. Minimize pet cleanup As the phrase goes: work smarter, not harder. In this case, we went looking for strategies, tools, and products that can help to reduce or eliminate regular cleanup needs. Here's what the experts said: Try a puppy placemat Is the area around your pet's food bowl constantly messy? Do you find that you have to sweep or mop up Fido's dining space after every meal? While you can certainly purchase purpose-made products to help keep your pet's bowl area tidy, Witulski shares this suggestion: "Place a mat underneath food and water bowls to catch any overflow as well as to keep bowls stationary when your pet is eating." This will help to reduce the frequency of cleanup as well as the time and energy needed, because you can just remove and clean the mat, rather than sweeping or mopping the floor. Clean paws upon re-entry "Backyards where pets roam free are great, until they bring the whole yard inside with them," says Brunette. Consider how humans treat the issue: Did you grow up in a no-shoe home, where shoes were always removed at the front door? If you didn't, you probably have visited the homes of people that did this or you may have adopted this policy to keep your light colored carpets as pristine as possible. Stopping your pet from tracking in mud and debris would eliminate tons of floor cleanup later. But a dog doesn't have shoes to take off. Brunette suggests, "Keep a towel near the door to wipe the pet’s paws when they come in to prevent a mud-splattered carpet. For a more thorough cleaning, dip each paw in warm soapy water and towel dry." Witulski agrees, with the additional tool of pet-safe wet wipes to your pet parent toolbelt. She advises to "give your pet a full inspection each time they come into the house. It may be time-consuming, but you’ll save money and energy on cleaning in the long run." This is a great preventative measure. Spend less time looking for elusive number ones If you have a hard time making sure that you locate and clean the right pee spot, "it may be worth investing in a black light to help locate where your pet has had an accident," suggests Witulski. Diana Rodriguez-Zaba, President of ServiceMasterbyZaba.com, a Chicago-based carpet cleaning company agrees. She advises that you "Use a black light to reveal pet stained areas in your carpet that you might not otherwise be able to see. This technique pinpoints spots that need special carpet cleaning treatment." Not to mention the time saved from going from spot to spot, sniffing for the problem, and the big shock when you find the pee spot, but accidentally smell it too close. Clean up messes right the first time "To banish poo and pee smell from a carpet is a harsh task," says Harriet Jones, a former cleaner and current cleaning and maintenance supervisor for UK-based Go Cleaners London. "And if I have to conclude, many pet owners struggle to cope with pets' potty problems." She continues, "The real question here is why does puppy release itself on the same exact spot each time? The answer is simple: your pet is drawn to the potent smell in the fabric, left behind by the previous potty issue treatment." "Working as a cleaning expert may be far from vet science," she says, "however, owing to my practice here is what I’ve learned: In order to prevent future accidents, urine and poo stains should be treated in a proper way. If you want to get rid of those, regular detergents are futile." So, what products or methods should be used to eliminate all number ones and number twos effectively, the first time? Jones helps us out by sharing effective DIY carpet cleaning methods. "For all hands-on enthusiasts," she says, "here is a list of tried and tested DIY remedies to get rid of pet urine and poo smell of a carpet: Tackle those ASAP. If you let it sit for a while, poo and pee get deeper info textile fibers and possibly pass the padding underneath, making the stain harder to be removed — not to mention the potent stench taking over the house. If the spot is still wet, go ahead and blot the area as much as you can using clean rags. Next, sprinkle it liberally with baking soda. The white powder naturally neutralizes any funky odors. Let the soda sit for a couple of hours and then spray it with distilled vinegar (the mild acid offsets the ammonia smell of urine). The bubbling process will loosen dirt and urine smell from the carpet’s fibers. For old stains, you can use 4 tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide and a few drops of mild dish soap. Mix both components in a bowl. Gently rub the mixture into the soiled area of the carpet. Blot it quickly before the blend eventually causes carpeting discoloration. A word of caution here: Move fast and use white rags since colored ones can transfer dye to your carpet." If you want to get a pet-safe carpet cleaner, says Jones, "I would also recommend using a store-bought enzymatic cleaner: as substances produced by living organisms, enzymatic cleaning products break down biological substances such as urine and feces, without causing harmful effects on pets." This type of cleaner helps to minimize that confusion that causes pets to keep dropping off packages in the same spot. Why? DoodyCalls helps us understand: Dog pee and poo contain lots of protein. Some types of bacteria love to eat this protein and when they digest it, it can be stinky. So, you need to eliminate the protein. Enzymatic cleaners contain live microorganisms that do just that: eliminate the protein, which eliminates the bacteria, and the smell that attracts your dog to that same spot of carpet. The bottom line While all pet owners surveyed weren't too happy with the drawbacks of pet ownership, dog lovers might get a kick out of knowing that despite these downsides, dog owners are about twice as likely as cat owners to say they’re very happy. Perhaps cleaning up after your best friend isn't as bad as it sounds, considering the benefits we get from dog ownership. We hope that these ideas from our network of cleaning experts will help to decrease the time you spend cleaning up after your dog and increase the precious time that you can spend enjoying its company.
Growing up as a pet novice, I gleaned certain facts about dogs from babysitters, classmates, and television. I got the basics down: Dogs sometimes pee on the carpet, but people just "clean" it up and forget about the gross stuff in their carpet (at my babysitter's house). Dogs sometimes sniff you in uncomfortable ways (friend's house). Dogs can't eat chocolate (Gilmore Girls, and every nineties sitcom in the world). You may not be able to control where dogs take care of their business. And you probably can't control where and when they get all up in your business. But you definitely can and should control their contact with chocolate. With Halloween on the horizon, it's the perfect time to review some pet safety tips for this favorite human treat and other common dangers. We got advice from experts about the top hazards, how to keep your house safe for canines, and what to do if something bad happens this Halloween. What foods are hazardous to dogs? Dr. Gary Richter is a veterinary health expert with Rover.com. He shares three categories of health threats: Unsafe in any quantity Bubble gum, and other foods containing xylitol Dark chocolate (smaller dogs) Raisins Unsafe in larger quantities — more than 10 grams Almond Joy Reese’s M&Ms Snickers Kit kat Twix Tootsie rolls Dark chocolate (medium to large dogs) Butterfinger Milky Way Not a health threat in a small quantity — less than 10 grams Candy Corn Skittles Sour candy Lemon heads Starburst Smarties Blow pops Jolly ranchers Richter adds that the artificial sweetener xylitol, raisins, and dark chocolate are the top three worst treats for your dog to eat. While anything containing milk chocolate is bad, a small dog eating a large quantity can be especially bad. "Also," Richter says, "the sugar, fat, etc can lead to GI upset." Additionally, "With all of the non-chocolate sugary stuff, there is a potential for GI upset, but not much else." Let's explore a little more about these hazardous foods. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener "Pet owners should also keep treats containing the sugar substitute xylitol away from their pets," advises Dr. Sarah Nold, staff veterinarian at Trupanian, a pet insurance company. "Xylitol causes very low blood sugar that can result in weakness, collapse, and seizures." Grapes and raisins Dr. Rachel Barrack is a licensed veterinarian with additional certifications in both veterinary acupuncture and Chinese herbology. She warns that if a dog gets into a bag of grapes or raisins, "the situation can turn dire, and these items can cause kidney failure in dogs." She also adds that the candy Raisinettes should be included in this warning. Chocolate "Chocolate toxicity is a real danger to dogs," says Dr. Barrack. But why? "Chocolate contains methylxanthines (such as caffeine and theobromine)," she explains. "Dogs are much more sensitive to these than people are. Methylxanthines are found in all chocolates to varying degrees. White chocolate contains less than milk chocolate, while milk contains less than dark or semi-sweet chocolate. Thus dark and semi-sweet chocolate have the greatest probability of being harmful to your dog." Dr. Nold warns that "chocolate is more dangerous for a smaller dog because they don’t have to ingest as much as a larger dog to cause toxicity." "Signs of chocolate toxicity may include gastrointestinal upset such as vomiting and/or diarrhea, increased heart and respiratory rates, increased temperature, decreased blood pressure, muscle rigidity, and even seizures, cardiac failure, and coma," adds Dr. Barrack. Other Halloween and holiday foods to avoid "Chocolate isn’t the only type of candy that poses a danger to dogs around Halloween," says Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today. "Anything new or unusual can lead to vomiting or diarrhea, and foods with a high fat content may lead to pancreatitis, a potentially fatal disease. Never leave any sort of potentially dangerous food out where your dog can access it." Here are a few of the other dangers to be aware of: Pumpkin (raw) "Keep pumpkin and halloween decorations out of your pet’s reach," suggests Dr. Barrack. "Consumption can cause gastrointestinal upset and even intestinal obstruction." Rich holiday foods "Halloween and Thanksgiving are often a time to indulge in rich, fattening foods, but it is best not to share these with your pets and instead keep them on their usual diets," shares Dr. Barrack. "These rich foods can result in pancreatitis, a painful inflammation of the pancreas that is manifested by vomiting and diarrhea." Dr. Nold adds, "High-sugar candies can also drive digestive upset in dogs, even if they do not contain chocolate." Meat bones "While dogs might enjoy a nice big bone to chew on, cooked meat bones can actually splinter and cause blockage or lacerations in the gastrointestinal tract, says Dr. Barrack. Candy wrappers Food packaging can also be a danger to your four-legged friends. "Dogs that eat candy packaging, wrappers, lollipop sticks, etc. are also at risk for developing a gastrointestinal blockage that may require surgery to correct," says Dr. Coates. A costly mistake When your dog ingests one of the substances above, it can cause a lot of pain. It can also cost a lot in veterinary bills. Dr. Nold shares, "In severe cases, Trupanion has paid claims for toxicity treatment in the $7,000 to $8,000 range. However, the average costs of common Halloween toxicity claims pet owners could experience are $500 (chocolate), $650 (raisin), and $725 (xylitol)." “If you think your dog or cat has ingested Halloween candy, immediately contact your veterinarian.” cautions Dr. Nold. How to keep your pet safe In my house, I like to refer to the time between Halloween and New Years as "Candy Season." Here are a few suggestions to help people keep their doggos safe this week and throughout the sweet season. 1. Keep candy high "Prevent your dog from chowing down on chocolate by keeping your child’s Halloween candy up high. Do not go through the candy on the floor so that you won’t accidentally leave any behind. My Pomeranian once got into my mother-in-law’s chocolate bar that was kept in her purse on the floor. It made her very sick and we had to take her to the vet. If you have a larger dog, put the candy on the kitchen counter so that they won’t be able to reach it." — Becky Beach, Furbaby Momma Expert and Blogger, MomBeach.com "Keep all candy — especially chocolate (it's toxic to dogs!) — far from your dogs reach. That means, never leave your trick-or-treat bag on the floor, coffee table, or on any low surface. Be careful when dumping candy out of your pumpkin bag — don't let any stray pieces fly on to the floor for your pup to gobble." — Candy Pilar Godoy, blogger at boogiethepug.com. 2. Upgrade your trash cans "Replace all your open top and swing lid trash cans for ones that have foot pedals! This prevents your pup from getting into the trash and potentially getting ahold of something toxic, like Halloween candy. Personally, my lab loves sticking her nose into the trash in hopes of finessing a meal. Having a trash bin with a foot pedal prohibits her from getting ahold of potentially toxic foods. This is also great if you have dogs that like ripping apart napkins and paper towels." — Jacob Dayan, CEO and cofounder of Finance Pal, Community Tax, and owner of four dogs 3. Educate your family "Make sure your kids understand the danger of the dog eating their Halloween candy and ensure they put it somewhere the dog can’t get it," — Amy Tokic, Editor-In-Chief of PetGuide.com, and a proud dog mom to an adorable Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross named Oscar. 4. Air-tight containers "Use an air tight container for candy. Mango may be small, but he is notorious for jumping on the furniture. Having an open bowl of candy sitting on the side table or counter is not going to stop him from attempting to grab a piece. Candy of all type can be dangerous, even lethal for dogs but chocolate is especially dangerous. To make sure he doesn't get into the candy, I put it in a container with flip-down side clips or an air-lock lid. This way I know he'll be safe even if I leave the room." — Tracey, Payless Power 5. Offer alternative treats to lessen excitement Giving your dog health holiday treats can help to lessen the urge to demolish every piece of candy he sees. Leasa Moltke from Solid Gold Pet suggests some pumpkin treats: "Pumpkin is a great source of soluble fiber which helps support proper digestion for your pup. Solid Gold’s Turkey Bone Broth with Pumpkin and Ginger is a great festive meal topper/treat for dogs of all life stages. Or you can add regular canned pumpkin purée to any kibble (make sure there are no additives)." This form of pumpkin is okay because the amount is controlled its pureed to avoid any ingestion of the shell, stem, or stringy pulp. Another option is Old Mother Hubbard® Creepy Crunchers dog biscuits. They are festive, tasty and safe for treating this Halloween. These spooktastic mini skeleton bone-shaped biscuits are made with premium, all-natural ingredients like peanut butter, oatmeal, cane molasses, apples, and then are slowly baked in the oven to preserve the natural flavors and add an extra crunch. Available in the brand’s delicious P-Nuttier flavor, these Creepy Crunchers will have pups performing tricks for treats. They’re available online at Chewy.com and in stores and online at Target. 6. Be extra cautious "If you’re a pet parent, you probably already keep your chocolate stash out of reach of your pup. However, the holiday season tends to involve more chocolate treats around the house than usual, so you may need to be doubly cautious this time of year!" — Renaldo Webb, founder of PetPlate.com What should you do if your dog ingests one of the bad foods? "That bowlful of candy is for trick-or-treaters, not for Scruffy and Fluffy," says Dr. Carol Osborne, DVM, from Chagrin Falls Veterinary Center & Pet Clinic. "Chocolate in all forms can be very dangerous for dogs and cats. Tinfoil and cellophane candy wrappers can also be hazardous if swallowed. If you suspect your pet has ingested a potentially dangerous substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426-4435."
60.2 million. That's the number of U.S. households that own a dog — and those aren't just single-dog households, because there are almost 90 million pet dogs included in the survey data. It's safe to say that dogs are a priority to many families. But how many of those households are prioritizing their fur baby's health, both in body and mind? Well, it turns out that we could be doing better. "The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that over 50 percent of dogs are obese or overweight," says Erin Clifford, J.D., a certified holistic health coach, and pet writer. With that in mind, she emphasizes, "It is up to us, as the doggy parents, to keep our pups happy and healthy." If happy and healthy is the goal, we can do more. We asked pet experts for advice on helping our pets to achieve this goal. Check out what they said. Understanding healthy weight "One of the most important things you can do to keep your dog healthy is to keep its weight at a healthy level," says Jenny Smith, a dog owner and founder of the travel blog, MoveToNewZealand. How do you know if your dog is at a healthy weight? "Feel your pet's chest and do the rib check," suggests Dr. Antje Joslin, veterinarian, on behalf of Dogtopia. "If you have to search through fat layers, then your dog is overweight." On the flip side, Dr. Joslin says, "If your pet's ribs, spine, and hips are visible, that is a key indicator that your dog is underweight." If you aren't sure, Dr. Joslin says to "Consult a veterinarian on what your dog’s ideal weight should be, and like any human on a strict diet, count the calories. Treats included." Diet, exercise, and health While your dog's exercise level and health share correlation, they are not the same thing; neither does adequate exercise mean that your dog is healthy. Fitness is multifaceted and includes activity, nutrition, and many other factors. ZoomRoom CEO Mark Van Wye says, "The relationship between diet and exercise is just as important for pups as it is for people." Diet and exercise work together. They both are contributing factors to your pup's health. Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, who serves on the advisory board for Pet Life Today, says, "Obesity is one of the most common health problems in dogs, and has been associated with a whole host of diseases including some types of cancer, congestive heart failure, Cushing’s disease, skin disorders, and musculoskeletal problems like osteoarthritis, cruciate ligament ruptures, and intervertebral disk disease." If you want to make sure your dog's diet is adequate, where do we start? "Feed your dog a high quality, nutritionally complete and balanced dog food that is life-stage appropriate," says Dr. Coates, "but don't feed too much." "The first step to keeping a dog at a healthy weight is to feed it an appropriate amount for its size," says Smith. "The guidelines on the dog's food bag can help determine this, but it is important to keep in mind that individual dogs' caloric needs may vary. Some dogs are less active than others and need less food. Certain breeds may not need as much food as others. Consult your veterinarian if you are unsure how much to feed your dog. For dogs with a larger appetite, some dog food brands have 'weight control' or 'weight management' varieties. These kinds of dog food allow the dog to eat more volume without consuming excess calories." Activity recommendations All dogs need exercise, says well-known celebrity dog trainer Joel Silverman. If All Dogs Go to Heaven, it's no wonder that they share even more universal truths. However, Silverman says that how much exercise a dogs need varies. "The amount of exercise is dictated by the breed or breeds your dog has in him. A great example is if your dog is a St. Bernard, and your friend has a Border Collie, the amount of exercise that each of the dogs is going require can be very different." Veterinarian, Dr. Gary Richter, writing for Rover.com agrees. "When it comes to exercise," he says, "it very much depends on the breed, age, and health of the dog. Unless the dog has a medical condition, getting out for at least 30–45 minutes per day is recommended." He shares another example of different breeds with different needs, "a dog like a Jack Russell Terrier might need to run for hours whereas a Shih Tzu may be content with 30 minutes. Barring medical issues, many dogs will let their owners know how much exercise they want/ need." Along those lines, Dr. Coates advises, "Tailor your dog’s activities to their age, size, breed, health, and personality. A slow leash walk may be right for one individual while a trip to the dog park could be a better option for another, but never force your dog to do something that is too stressful (mentally or physically) or that they just don’t enjoy." Exercise for behavior and health Activity is beneficial for a dog's body and mind, observes Smith, "If you don't have a yard for your dog to run around in, you should take it on frequent walks and visit dog parks if you have them nearby." "Frequent exercise is important, not only because it keeps dogs in good physical shape, but also because it provides mental stimulation," says Smith. "Dogs who do not get enough exercise can develop behavioral issues. For example, dogs that tend to destroy things around the house can often benefit from being played with more. They destroy things because they have a lot of energy, and not having an outlet for that energy makes them stressed." Certified trainer and K9 of Mine contributor Kayla Fratt agrees. "As the saying goes, 'a tired dog is a well-behaved dog'," she says. "But exercise isn’t just important for ensuring your dog stays on his best behavior — it is also important for his long-term health. This means, minimally, going on several walks per day. In fact, there are a number of fun games you can play with your dog during walks." Along with games, toys can be helpful too. Smith suggests to pet owners: "Try to find toys that your dog likes to play with. Frisbees, tennis balls, and rope toys are common favorites among dogs everywhere." Value mental activity "While a daily walk is important," says ZoomRoom CEO Mark Van Wye, "dogs can also gain benefits from agility courses, a long game of tug, and mentally stimulating games, like puzzle toys." "Never underestimate the importance of mental activities for your dog too," adds Clifford. "You can play hide and seek with your doggy, where you hide treats or his or her favorite toy. You can also buy interactive toys, such as the Nina Ottosson, where you place treats in compartments and your pup has to find them by moving one block after another in different circles. You may also increase the degree of difficulty by locking the blocks with bone-shaped pegs, which are placed in the hollows all around the up-side of the game. They also make plush hide-and-seek toys, like the Outward Hound Hide A Squirrel Puzzle. Here, you stuff the squeaky squirrels in the plush tree trunk and watch as your dog sniffs them out." Overcoming complications What if you aren't able to go outside or you don't have the time to tend to your dog's fitness? We have some suggestions for you: "In the winter, if you live in a frigid climate, find activities to do around your house, such as making a doggy obstacle course with couches, pillows, and blankets," suggests Clifford. "You can also run your dog up and down the stairs or hall, depending on his or her size. Playing fetch also works well in a basement or long hallway. Further, playing in the snow with your pup in the backyard can be great for exercise and a lot of fun too." She adds, "Above all, just make sure you’re keeping your dog active all year-round." If you are too busy, especially during the workweek, there are options to make sure that your dog gets the exercise and stimulation that he craves. "For busy pet owners looking for ways to keep pets healthy and happy, securing professional pet-sitting or dog-walking services can offer a pet exercise solution," advises Meghann Evans from Pet Sitters International. "Many professional pet-sitting businesses offer daily dog-walking services, and some even offer other services to help keep dogs active such as hiking or swimming." However, not just anyone will do. How do you entrust your best friend to the care of another? "Before hiring a pet sitter," Evans cautions, "pet owners should do their due diligence to ensure they are hiring a true pet-care professional to care for their pets. Not everyone who lists their services online is a qualified pet-care provider. A professional pet sitter will have the training and credentials needed to provide your pet with the very best activities and care. PSI advises pet owners to schedule an initial consultation with a potential pet sitter prior to booking services and offers a free Pet Sitter Interview Checklist and pet sitter search on its website." Another alternative to a petsitter is taking your pupper to doggy daycare like Dogtopia, which even includes a spa facility or Zoom Room, a national indoor dog gym and training facility. A warning: Don't over-exercise growing dogs "One thing to be cautious of is over-exercising young dogs," says Dr. Richter. "Pet owners must use caution when exercising young, growing dogs. Over-exercising can lead to joint damage and long term problems such as early onset of arthritis. I would recommend dog owners refrain from going jogging with growing dogs or even taking long hikes with them. The dog will do their best to keep up but it may be at their expense. Taking them for walks or going to the dog park is fine. It's the long hikes or runs that can get them into trouble. This is good advice for dogs up to at least 1 year of age (Up to 1 1/2 years for giant breed dogs.).
"Moisture plays a vital role in your dog's health," says Krystn Janisse, from Homes Alive Pets. "In the wild, dogs would get most of their moisture from their diet. If you are feeding a dry kibble or dehydrated food, then you should consider finding other ways to encourage more water consumption." In general, dogs need 1 oz of water for every pound of body weight, but this will also depend on several other factors like their overall health, activity level, type of food they eat, and the external temp. In hot weather, dogs need 3–6 times more water. "Staying hydrated throughout the year is not only important for yourself, it’s important for your pets as well," says Latasha Ball from Pets Global, Inc. "Sometimes it can be difficult to get your dogs to drink water or make drinking water just as much fun as they have with eating food." Here are eight suggestions to help keep your pet hydrated. 1. Keep water bowls clean "It is best to clean out their water bowls daily and fill it back up with fresh, clean water," says Sara Ochoa, DVM, Veterinary Consultant for doglab.com. "Water bowls can easily gather bacteria over time from their backwash," says Ball, "so it’s important to keep their bowls cleaned regularly and change out their water on a daily basis to make sure it’s fresh and clean. After all, if we wouldn’t drink murky water, why would your dog want to?" 2. Try a pet fountain "Some doggies really enjoy drinking water from a stream (like the hose or sink) so getting an automatic water bowl fountain can make drinking water much more enticing for them." suggests Karissa Whitman, Prior ER/ICU Veterinary Technician and current owner/blogger of FitMommyStrong. Ball agrees: "This is by far the best investment I made for my dogs. I have noticed my dogs drink a lot more water with a pet fountain. Why? Just the activity of them drinking from the water spouting up from the bowl is very fun for them. Pet fountains like the Drinkwell 2 Gallon Pet Fountain also hold a lot more water than your average water bowl." 3. Try different water temperatures "Dogs, like humans, are individuals and have preferences," advises Russel Hartstein, CEO of Los Angeles dog training company Fun Paw Care. "Some dogs like room temperature water more than cold water and vice-versa." You can help keep your pup’s water cold with ice cubes, suggests Ochoa. Don’t forget "many dogs love ice cubes! Especially during the summer. And snow during the winter, says Hartstein. This is an easy way to add water while treating your pet with something you already have around the house or outside, in the case of snow. 4. Make some pupsicles "Make puppy popsicles for your pet," suggests Ben Team, Senior Content Editor of K9 of Mine. This is a great way to treat your dog, while helping him to stay hydrated. There are many variations of frozen treats that you can try: Fruit — "You can freeze a little fruit juice and give it to your dog as a treat to help keep him hydrated. Just be sure to avoid fruits that aren’t safe for dogs (especially grapes), and be prepared for your pup to make a bit of a mess." — Team Broth — "One of our favorite things to do is to take our nutrient-dense Bone Broth and pour it into ice trays. Once it freezes, they can enjoy frozen bone broth cubes alone or in water for a fun, functional treat." — Leasa Moltke, Pet Nutrition Expert, Solid Gold Pet Treats — Freeze dog treats inside of ice cubes."This will create a game that will encourage your dog to melt the ice faster so they can get to the treats." — Lucy Harris, HelloBabyBump 5. Have multiple water bowls "To make drinking water more accessible for your dogs," says Ball, "it’s best to have more than one water bowl in your house. It’s best practice to keep a water bowl in each area that your dog spends the most time such as the living room, bedroom, kitchen and maybe one in the hallway if they spend the most time there." Make water easily accessible, all throughout the day. Whitman suggests that pet owners "Have multiple water bowls available around the house and outside (if pet has access to being outdoors)." She says, "I typically put out three large bowls of water for my two large breed dogs!" "Make sure that your dog has more than one water bowl, says Ochoa. "If they spend time outside, keep them a water bowl outside to drink in as well as on the inside." When you are placing a water bowl outside, remember that where you put it matters. "Always have water available in the shade," says Harris. She puts it this way: "You don't like drinking warm or hot water, so why would your pet? Keeping their water available for them throughout the day in a shaded area will allow them to be able to continuously drink without dealing with warm/hot water." 6. Bring water when you leave the house Debi McKee from Rescue Dogs 101 advises that you "keep fresh water available all day and always take water with you when traveling." You might want to invest in a collapsible bow, says Ball. "If your dog is riding with you in your car, it’s great to keep a collapsible bowl in your car to utilize in case your dog gets thirsty while you’re out traveling. They’re affordable and very convenient." 7. Add water to their dog food and vice versa Lauren Burke from Early Alert Canines explains an issue all-too-familiar for dog parents: "My service dog (trained by the org I now work for) often refuses to drink water." What’s her solution? "She's very food motivated," says Burke, "so often I will 'float' her food — meaning put about a cup of water into her cup of food." "Let’s face it," says Team, "Water isn’t exactly delicious — it’s just wet. So, if you’re trying to get your four-footer to drink more water, consider adding something tasty to his dish." Here are a few different ways that you can add some more moisture to your dog’s diet: "You can try giving them some wet food instead of or in addition to their dry extruded ‘kibble.’ This wet food is simply their dry food with water added." — Hartstein "Have them drink their food. Dry kibble is packed full of protein and holistic ingredients for your pup to be at their best, but adding some wet food or bone broth to their favorite dry food can take hydration to the next level." — Moltke "A small piece or two of a dog-safe fruit (like watermelon or a couple of squished blueberries) may work for some pups, while others may find a small splash of chicken stock makes their water more appealing." — Team 8. Try an elevated feeder "[I]f you have a larger dog that doesn’t want to drink from a bowl on the floor, it could simply be that it’s uncomfortable," says Whitman. "Try using an elevated dog feeder so they aren’t having to reach their head down too far just to lap up some water." We hope these suggestions will be useful and help keep your dog healthy and safe. "If you suspect your dog is seriously dehydrated, contact your vet immediately," advises Team. "It is usually pretty easy to rehydrate a dog who is only slightly dehydrated, but seriously dehydrated dogs may require intravenous fluids, and their electrolytes may become unbalanced and require attention too."
Russell Hartstein, a certified dog behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer with FunPawCare, tells BestCompany that meeting your dog’s needs is a multifaceted concern. Dogs need socialization, play, water, food, shelter, love, emotional support, training, behavior, grooming, medical health, and exercise. In this article, we have a few suggestions from industry experts to help your dog exercise, while giving opportunities to play, bond, and get some of those emotional needs met. 1. Go exploring Erin Clifford, Chicago-based Holistic Wellness Coach, and Rockstar Doggy Momma"Expand upon your walking environment. It is great for dogs to experience new sites and smells. For instance, if you live near a forest preserve or state park, go hiking together. If you live in the city, go explore it. You can take your dog to different dog-friendly public parks or use stairs or hills to enhance your dog’s workouts. Hint: this is also great exercise for the doggy momma or daddy!" 2. Practice Yoga Li-ran Bukovza, founder of Puppy Tip"Practicing yoga with your dog not only helps with bonding and relaxation, but it also has some wonderful mental and physical benefits. There are many places offering Doga classes or you can simply learn some techniques and do it from the comfort of your own home. Doga helps with relieving anxiety and promotes an overall sense of well-being, along with helping to stretch muscles, ease pain, and improve overall flexibility." 3. Take a hike Bukovza“Hiking is also a wonderful way to spend time with your dog: it allows for plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sensory stimulation. However, keep in mind this may not be the best choice for older dogs since it can put a lot of strain on their joints and paws. Always be sure to hike on trails that are dog-friendly and remember to keep your dog on a leash. Also, check with your veterinarian as to whether or not your dog is in good enough shape for these cardio activities.” 4. Have fun in the water Clifford“Swimming is great exercise for a pup of any age. Young pups love to swim, and it is great for a senior dog who is not as mobile or has orthopedic concerns. Many cities have local dog beaches and lakes. Plus, many year-round indoor facilities are popping up all over the country.” Rob Jackson, president and CEO, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance“Get wet! Try swimming, paddleboarding or surfing. Living in warmer weather? Most dogs are natural swimmers but some are not; luckily, lots of canine fitness centers are popping up and will teach your dog how to swim. What if you want to swim together? You might want to hit a dog-friendly beach and tackle the waves, and don’t forget to bring the paddle board—another great workout for both you and your pup." BONUS TIP: Enjoy your ready-made running buddy You thought you were only getting 4 suggestions. Check out this bonus suggestion: Jackson"Go for a run with your dog! Recent studies show that exercising with a partner increases motivation and makes you more likely to stick with it. Why not make your pup your exercise partner? Here are four reasons why you should: Dogs don’t complain. It’s healthy. For both of you. Share a sweat session and a bond. Tucker your pup out!" Stay tuned for more ways that pet parents can keep boosting their puppers’ wellness throughout more of the areas that Harstein outlined. For more on Hartstein, check out dog training in LA at funpawcare.com.
Pet owners are always trying to do the best for their fur babies. When it comes to meal time, some wonder whether feeding Fido the same kibble everyday is helping or harming him. To understand the complexities of this question, we reached out to industry experts, asking for advice. Here is what they said. Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM, serves on the advisory board for Pup Life Today. She advises that “As long as your dog eats a nutritionally complete and balanced diet and is doing well on it, there is no need to switch between different foods.” Sara Ochoa, DVM is a veterinary consultant for doglab.com. She agrees: “If your dog is doing good on one type of food they never have to switch from that food. The saying ‘If it ain't broke, don’t fix it,’ applies here. If they are doing great on a type of food, do not change.” What about nutritional needs? “It isn’t harmful to feed your dog the same food every day as long as it meets all of his nutritional needs,” says Li-ran Bukovza, founder of Puppy Tip. He adds, “That said, it's always a good idea to check with your vet or a pet nutritionist that the food you give your dog is complete and balanced.” So, what is the deal with all of the different dog food choices? “Just like in the wild,” explains Krystn Janisse from Homes Alive Pets, “animals are designed to eat a variety of foods to get all of their essential nutrients. While dog food is "formulated to be complete and balanced," this doesn't mean that every diet is right for every dog.” To switch or not to switch? Dr. Amanda Nascimento, DVM, MVSc., PhD. explains, "If it is a balanced diet, you can feed your pet with the same diet every day. However, they will enjoy it much more if they have a variety of different ingredients in their diet." “Dogs do fine eating the same thing every day, but some do enjoy a change in food so even having a mixture of two different types of food will help change up their diets just a little bit,” says Ochoa. “[S]witching up foods just for the sake of variety can be hard on your dog’s digestive system,” Bukovza warns. “However, if your dog isn't sensitive to diet changes, rotating dog food every few months can have great benefits and may even help with picky eating habits.” How does rotational feeding work? “For rotational feeding purposes, switch your dog's diet at least 2–3 times per year,” suggests Janisse. “More experienced rotational feeders switch much more frequently, sometimes every week or even daily if their pet has adapted to the transitions well.” When should you definitely switch Fido’s food? “While you don't have to switch up your dog's food regularly, there are times in a dog’s life when it’s appropriate to change his diet,” says Bukovza. “For example, puppies need more calories than adult dogs since they're still growing and senior canines often require other types of nutrients to keep their joints and brains healthy.” Nascimento adds, “It is recommended to change the diet, if your pet has health issues, such as allergies, diabetes, heart problems, and etc. Or if the diet is not adequate for their nutritional needs." “Sometimes a food switch can be prompted by changes in the dog's appearance, digestion, activity or health,” says Janisse. She adds, “Allergies are a very common reason for switching foods, but not always the most effective. Many ‘food allergies’ are related to poor digestion, so removing ingredients from their diet is like putting a band-aid on a bullet wound. The results are temporary, and the underlying problem is still going to rear its ugly head. Finding food that better supports digestion, using digestive supplements like probiotics, and talking to your vet about potential health concerns are much more likely to resolve the problem.” If you do notice any changes in your dog’s appetite, appearance, or health, always contact a specialist to see if a change in food could improve your dog’s health, digestion, and happiness.