Kids who grow up with dogs and cats are more emotionally intelligent and compassionate

It’s fun, but it’s not all fun and games. A child’s cognitive development can improve from playing with and talking to pets

Having pets teaches more than just responsibility to the children who live under the same roof.

If you’re a parent, the idea of adding the care and feeding of an animal to your responsibilities might feel like too much work. But having a dog, cat, bunny, hamster or other animal as a part of the family benefits kids in real ways. Studies have shown that kids who have pets do better — especially in the area of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which has been linked to early academic success, even more so than the traditional measure of intelligence, IQ.

Even better news is that unlike IQ, which is thought by most experts to be unchangeable (you can’t really change your IQ by studying), EQ can improve over time with practice. Animal friends can help kids do that by cultivating the very skills that lead to better Emotional Intelligence. (And pooches and kitties aren’t even trying; it just comes naturally.

The following EQ skills are developed by children with pets:

1. Compassion: Researchers Nienke Endenburg and Ben Baarda did an overview of the scientific literature in The Waltham Book of Human-Animal Interaction. “If there are pets in the house, parents and children frequently share in taking care of the pet, which suggests that youngsters learn at an early age how to care for and nurture a dependent animal,” they wrote. Even very young children can contribute to the care and feeding of a pet — a 3-year-old can take a bowl of food and set it on the floor for a cat, and at the same age, a child can be taught to stroke an animal nicely, maybe using the back of the hand so they don’t grab the animal. Supervising kids during the first few interactions is a teaching moment. Later, once they have learned the ropes, their memory and understanding of a life outside themselves will be stimulated each time they interact with the animals. Older kids can be responsible for walking a dog or playing with it in the yard, cleaning out a cat’s litter box, or taking veggie scraps from dinner to a rabbit or hamster. A study of 3- to 6-year-olds found that kids with pets had more empathy towards other animals and human beings, while another study found that even having an animal in a classroom made fourth-graders more compassionate.

2. Self-esteem: Caring for pets also builds self-esteem because being assigned tasks (like filling the dog’s water bowl) gives a child a sense of accomplishment and helps him feel independent and competent. Pets can be especially good for children who have very low self-esteem: “[A researcher] found that children’s self-esteem scores increased significantly over a nine-month period of keeping pets in their school classroom. In particular, it was children with originally low self-esteem scores who showed the greatest improvements,” write Endenburg and Baarda.

3. Cognitive development: Kids with pets play with them, talk to them, and even read to them (reading to pets is more common than you’d think), and the data backs up the idea that this additional low-stress communication benefits verbal development in the youngest kids. “Pet ownership might facilitate language acquisition and enhance verbal skills in children. This would occur as a result of the pet functioning both as a patient recipient of the young child’s babble and as an attractive verbal stimulus, eliciting communication from the child in the form of praise, orders, encouragement and punishment.”

4. Stress reduction: In surveys of kids who are asked about who they would go to with a problem, children regularly mentioned pets, indicating that for many, animals can provide emotional support and an additional way to mitigate negative emotions when they are feeling stressed. “The ‘social’ support given by pets has some advantages compared to the social support given by humans. Pets can make people feel unconditionally accepted, whereas fellow humans will judge and may criticize,” write Endenburg and Baarda. Animals are great listeners and are non-judgmental — if a kid does badly on a test or angers their parents, an animal will still provide loving support.

5. Understanding the cycle of life: Talking about birth and death with kids can be hard for parents. Learning about them via the lives of animals can be an easier way for both parties to learn about these basics of life. While experiencing the death of a pet can be difficult and painful, it can also be an important learning experience. “… the way in which their parents and others near to them deal with the situation will have an influence on how children cope with death in general throughout their lives. It is important for parents to discuss their feelings of sadness openly and to share the associated feelings with the child. Parents have to show that it is all right to have such feelings. Learning to cope with sad feelings, for instance when a pet dies or is euthanized, is important and parents have to help their children with it,” write Endenburg and Baarda.

In addition, experiencing or talking about the other side of death — birth — can be a simple and age-appropriate way to begin the discussion about sex.

Of course all of the above positive benefits depend on the structure of the family, the number of siblings or other non-parental adults around, and of course a child’s own genetic tendencies, but only children and those with few siblings (or the youngest of a group) often become more pet-oriented.

If any of the above concepts sound familiar to adult readers, that’s because some of the same benefits are relevant for grown-ups too, including the social support and stress reduction.

Source: Mother Nature Network

Covid-19: Support local animal shelters during the lockdown

FOURWAYS – Although it’s the humans in lockdown, dogs and cats are also in need during this difficult time. Here is how three Fourways-based shelters are dealing with the lockdown and how you can help.

Covid-19: Support local animal shelters during the lockdown

Shelters, like the 4Paws Animal Shelter in Riversands run by Tammy Knepscheld, have been deeply impacted by the lockdown and need support from the public. Photo: Robyn Kirk

As nearly 60 million South Africans bunker down as much as possible during a national lockdown in order to fight the spread of Covid-19, thousands of animals in shelters and rescues are also being affected.

The Fourways Review reached out to three locally-based animal shelters to find out what measures they have put in place for the lockdown, how things are going and how the public can help without leaving their homes. The three shelters are Ark Animal Centre, 4Paws Animal Shelter and the Pet Empowerment in the Townships (Pets).

Ark Animal Centre

The Ark Animal Centre in Chartwell mostly focuses its work on helping pregnant dogs and puppies get the care they need, although it also cares for adult dogs.

Candice Eilertsen of the shelter spoke to the Fourways Review, “The gates to Ark have been locked for the duration of the lockdown and we also have a sign outside explaining that we can’t accept visitors. “We’re very lucky because all the dogs [in our care] who are able to be fostered out have been fostered out – the only animals we’re still caring for at the shelter are those who are injured, pregnant dogs and moms and puppies that can’t be fostered yet.

“I’m not actually sure how we’ll get through the lockdown, especially if it lasts longer than the three weeks that were planned. But everyone is struggling right now, so we can’t ask others to support us if they can barely support themselves.

“For those who can, please give what you can, but we understand it’s difficult for everyone right now.”

She added that while the main phone lines to the shelter will not be answered during this time, members of the public can still reach out via social media or via email to find out more information about potential dogs for adoption. “I’d also recommend that pet owners find out which vets in their area will still be operating in case there is an emergency.”

Details:; the Ark Facebook page.

Covid-19: Support local animal shelters during the lockdown

The dogs and cats of 4Paws still need donations from the public to survive. Photo: Robyn Kirk


Located in the Riversands area, 4Paws Animal Shelter cares for about 300 dogs and cats in need. Tammy Knepscheld, who runs the organisation, explained how 4Paws will be operating during the 21-days.

“We’ll be running on ghost staff. One person every day will come in to check in and care for the dogs, a second person will be in charge of the cats and I will be in to oversee things and to make sure that any animals that need medical care will get help,” she said. “We don’t want people coming through at all, so no volunteers until the lockdown ends and we won’t be adopting out any animals.

“Although, if anyone is interested in adopting once lockdown ends, they are welcome to contact us and we can send photos of the animals available.”

The shelter, unfortunately, does not have enough food or funding to survive the lockdown and are in desperate need of support from the public.

You can make a donation using the banking details on their website, add them as a beneficiary on your MySchool card or SMS the word ‘paws’ to 40707 to donate R20. “Please stay safe,” Knepscheld advised the public.

Details:; 083 377 3219.


The Pets non-profit organisation is slightly different from the others on this list in that it has no formal premises, but instead is a collection of volunteers who use a network of foster homes to care for dogs and cats in need from townships around Gauteng.

Nicole Badenhorst of the organisation said, “We’ve decided that fostering out our animals for only a few weeks is too unsettling for the animals, so we haven’t done that unless people can commit to foster continuously.

“Fortunately, we have enough food, but we still have a lot of money to pay in vet bills, and that may increase if there’s an emergency during lockdown, so anyone who can donate financially is urged to get in contact to help.

“If you see any of our animals [on the website or social media] that you’d like to adopt after lockdown ends, please get hold of us and we can send you photos of them. People who want to foster [when restrictions are lifted] are also welcome to be in touch, but again, please only do so if you can really commit as these animals have already been through so much.”


Source: Fourways Review

Important Questions To Ask Your Veterinarian

Ask your vet

Image by The Paw Company

Some questions to consider when you are looking for or visiting a vet.
When you go to a veterinarian and pay for a service to treat your animals, it is your right to ask questions! Here are a few general questions then followed by what we call our “accountability” questions. Although the general questions can be answered by Google, it is best to ask the vet who has physically examined your animals. These are not the only questions.


  • Is my animal at a healthy weight?
  • Is my pet up to date on vaccinations?
  • Is this (add odd behaviour) normal for this animal?
  • How is my pet’s dental health?
  • Could I be providing more appropriate food?
  • What tick/flea treatment would you recommend?
  • What are these lumps or bumps?
  • Is my pets’ nails/claws the right length?
  • Would my pet benefit from more grooming?
  • At what age is my pet considered a senior?
  • Any preventative care I can provide for my pet?


Can you explain my bill? Always ask for your bill, receipt and full statement. This could help in case you need to take the pet to another vet or open a case against the vet or just for the record.

Can you explain the procedure to me? Understanding the procedure can help you better prepare for when your pet comes home. We have had cases where a vet said they operated “wrongly”, more than once. They should have checked and prepared for your pets’ procedure.

Who will be doing the procedure? Most people assume the vet will. Ask anyway! If they do not do it themselves then ask for the qualification of the person who will and whether the vet will supervise them. We can share horror stories on this.

Does my pet need pain medication? Which one on the statement is pain meds? If no pain medication is given ask why not, especially when you suspect your pet is in pain? We have found a vet that rarely gives pain medication. Any animal who comes in (apart from a general visit) will probably need pain meds. Rather ask!

How many consultations/operations do you do on average a day? This is very important. Some vets brag about how many they do, or claim that that makes them more qualified than others. For us as pet owners and welfare organizations, we would not want to go to a vet who brag about how busy they are. You do the maths. How much quality time will they spend on your pet? How easily can mistakes slip in if they are so busy?

Are you the only vet in this practice? If yes, our follow-up question would be when do they rest, or are they on call 24/7, especially if they do so many procedures. Being a vet is certainly a high-stress job if you care about the sentient beings you treat. If you add a lack of proper sleep, mistakes can easily occur and it could be lethal to your pets. Are you willing to take that risk with your pet?

How do they sterilize? Do they only remove ovaries or uterus or both? Do they only tie the tubes? We have had pets who fall pregnant after sterilization and that is impossible if it was done correctly!

What are their prices? This is a very debatable topic. How does it compare to other local vets? Do your homework on this! Ask whether it includes medicatioin after the procedure, the follow-up or the removal of stitches for example.

Not all vets are qualified or experienced to treat exotic pets. Even if they say they can, it is your responsibility to ask the right questions. We had a case with a vet where they didn’t know the rabbit should actually eat before the operation, unlike other animals. Here are some screening questions to help you find the right vet for your rabbits/exotic pets.

Apart from your right to get explanations for questions, you also have the right to get a second or even third opinion! Do not allow bullying from a vet or their staff when you do this. Please report them for unethical behaviour at the SAVC. Never just blindly trust a vet and do your homework. Reviews on social media and google can be manipulated so it is not our go-to measure. Take note of how often the staff changes in terms of quitting or being fired from the practice. That is usually a good indication of the boss and work culture.

If you are unsure about the treatment you received, please contact The Paw Company. You can also check out our accountability post if you are considering opening a case at the Veterinary Council. It doesn’t cost you money. Your case might seem isolated to you, but it is worth preventing another pet from having to go through what yours did!

YOUR PET IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY and making the right choice of vet for them is on you! Next week we will look at what you should consider if you want to own (be a guardian) of a bird.

Read more on winter tips to keep your pets warm.


Source: The Bulletin

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Pets don’t come trained, but you can help them!

Pets dont come trained

Training your animals and addressing behavioral concerns is your responsibility as a pet owner.
Last week we looked and the why and what of training your animals, so this week we will jump right in with some tips for training your pets. The majority of training tips about animals is focused on dogs, however, the psychology and principles remain similar for animals in general. Remember that opinions and situations might differ, but it is important that you, who know your animals best, use what works for you and them.

Also read other pet training tips.

Here are our tips

  • Their name – Choose the animal’s name wisely. It helps to consider a short name ending with a strong consonant that they can always hear clearly. A strong ending, like in the names “Jasper,” “Jack” and “Ginger.” We choose not to use their name in the negative sense for example when trying to interrupt a behaviour.
  • Start young – Although we believe you can teach an old dog new tricks, the earlier they put a particular skill or training in their memory bank, the better!
  • Reward-based training – Positive re-enforcement is our preferred method and punishment is never one! Reward-based training is less likely to cause stress or anxiety, but positive however, does not mean permissive. Don’t set your pet up for failure and allow them to rehearse the right behaviour frequently. Keep the session short, simple and fun. Give them options, but also choices in the training. Be careful not to become dependant on treats only for training. Your attentions is another great reward that can be used.
  • Train in “dogs time” – Pets live in the moment and two minutes after they’ve done something, they’ve already forgotten about it. So, when your animals are displaying unwanted behaviour, use the training techniques right away so they have a chance to make the association between the behaviour and the “correction”. Consistent repetition will reinforce what they’ve learned.
  • Direction not correction – Interrupt the unwanted behaviour as soon as possible and redirect them at that moment e.g., if they are digging a hole in your garden, guide them to the sand pit you made for them immediately.
  • Address the cause & soon – As soon as serious behavioural concerns (e.g. aggression, fear etc.) surface and you ruled out any health issues, address the behaviour immediately (hours or few days). Do not let it escalate. You need to find out what is the cause of the behavioural changes. This could be a new family member (animal or human), a kid or adult abusing them, moving, lack of stimulation or resources etc.
  • Handle reactivity – Reactivity affects their ability to train and is an important aspect to address. Reactivity is when a dog overreacts to things in its environment. These reactions can include barking, lunging, and growling. You need to limit or cease exposure to the “random” triggers and rather work on them in an isolated, well-planned setting.
  • Consent – Consent should be CLEAR, VOLUNTARY with ONGOING PERMISSION! Consent is an important part of any healthy relationship and teaching people to allow the animals to approach you is a good practice that we need to be ever-encouraging. Even when you touch your pet it should be with consent. Don’t let people just touch your pets because they are “friendly”.
  • Body language – Animals use a series of facial expressions and body postures to communicate what they feel. Your ability to understand and interpret body language can help you to pick up on unspoken issues or feelings for your animals. It is a major part of communication, meeting their needs and it will improve training. Watch out for T-E-M-P (tails, ears & eyes, mouth and posture). Never punish a growl. This is a sign that they are uncomfortable. When you punish it, next time they might skip the growl and go straight to biting. Know what is normal behaviour and what is not. Some behaviours like digging, sniffing butts or crotches, rolling in stuff and even humping/mounting are quite normal.
  • Eye contact – Training eye contact as a wanted behaviour can help you with other areas of training. To teach your animals eye contact as a behaviour, you simply need to reward them when they look at you. This teaches them that deciding to look at us is a rewarding one, and as such, they will begin to do it more often and for longer periods. Then, if you choose to, you can add in a cue like ‘look’, so you have the behaviour on cue, and you can take it on the road.
  • Hand signals vs. verbal cues – Verbal commands are great, but I like for our animals to understand hand signals too as an additional skill. This could be helpful in an emergency or when they are further from you or when you can’t talk for some reason.
  • Exercise-displine-affection – The biggest cause of misbehaviour in dogs is when their needs for exercise, discipline, and affection are not fulfilled. Especially when they do not get enough exercise to drain their excess energy and bring their minds to a more calm state, during which we can reinforce and reward that calm behaviour with affection. It is very difficult to train an overwhelmed mind and if you give affection to this overexcited behaviour, you reinforce it. Don’t reward unwanted behaviour.
  • Your mindset – If you try to train your pet when you had a long day or feel sick or frustrated, it can be detrimental to their training. Your calm, positive and assertive energy is needed for training.

Image by AbsoluteDogs

  • Make deposits into your relationship bank account – Trick training is a great way of teaching your pet and bonding with them. Playing games to learn is another awesome way to learn and have fun. Free play is also necessary and training should not just be formal. The best enrichment activities include natural behaviour and time with you. Are you making deposits into your relationship bank account with your pet through play and quality time? If your dog doesn’t find you engaging, it’s unlikely they’ll focus on you over the distractions in their environment (chew toys, other dogs, cyclists, smells – you name it!). Follow Absolute Dogs for more on this.
  • The breed – although we never blame the breed, a Border collie might learn a new behaviour with 4 tries, while an Afghan hound might need 40 tries. A power breed like a Pitbull can do more damage when not trained or be tougher to handle than a Chihuahua that is not trained. We encourage using breed-specific type of activities.
  • Patience – Patience, in general, is important for training. You can’t expect your pet to learn everything in a few hours. It takes time and lots of practice to reinforce a behaviour. When you ask something of your dog, give them time to think. Do not expect that because they did something well two days ago that it will automatically happen today.
  • Decide on house rules – It is important to decide in advance what the house rules are and the whole family must stick to them! Be consistent.
  • Help your dog relax – Especially when you have an anxious or fearful pet, you need to help them manage stress better. This can include getting enough sleep, engaging in sniffing, letting them chew, vet checks, safe herbal remedies or prescribed medications if necessary. PTSD in pets is a reality. You should set up a private den which is their spot alone and where they can go to debrief or relax and feel safe. When your puppy gets home, give them a warm hot-water bottle and put a ticking clock near their sleeping area which can imitate the heat and heartbeat of litter mates that will soothe your pup in their new environment.
  • Routine – Establishing a daily schedule for your new pup or other animals is essential to having a well-behaved, balanced pet.
  • Food – You can use food and treats for positive reinforcement and in games, but wean them from expecting only treats too. There is a difference between giving your dog a piece of food from the hand and your dog only getting food if it comes from your hand. When we feed dogs exclusively through interaction with us we make eating conditional, when food is a basic welfare need which should come with zero strings attached. Food aggression and guarding need to be addressed through training, however, we do believe eating should be a sole dining experience. Great if your pets can eat close to each other, but they should not be forced to do so.
  • Pet-proof your yard & home – It is your responsibility to make sure that your yard is safe and secure, especially if you are still training your pet.
  • The right equipment – Many pet parents don’t realize the importance of choosing the right type of collar, harness, and leash for their dog. Certain dogs, for example, should wear a harness and should never be leashed or even handled by the collar. I prefer the harness above a collar and leash for health and safety reasons. Teach them from a young age to be comfortable with a harness and leash. Choosing the right bowl for eating and know which toys are safe for your animals.
  • Undivided attention – If you’re like many busy animal parents today, you’re multitasking when you’re interacting with your dog. For example, you play tug-of-war with one hand while talking on the phone or checking Facebook with the other. Give them your undivided attention because they deserve it!
  • Leaving mom too early – baby animals learn valuable information from their parents, especially the mom. Studies suggest pups and kittens should stay with mom for 12 weeks and I agree!

Image by Dr. Karen Becker

Special considerations with the training of small dogs (Dr. Karen Becker)
“Small dogs have unfairly gotten a reputation for being yappy, nervous and snappy. All dogs are capable of learning good manners through fear-free training.” If you have a small dog, help them stand tall with these training tips:
1. Get down close to her level instead of looming over her.
2. Offer extra-small training treats.
3. Use a harness, as well as small-sized toys and training tools.
4. Teach your dog a verbal “lift-off” cue to signal you’re about to pick her up.
5. Let her regularly socialize with safe humans and other dogs on her own terms.
6. Don’t accept obnoxious behaviour just because of size.

Meeting your pet’s needs is your responsibility and that includes health, diet, providing fresh clean drinking water, exercise, mental stimulation, love, proper care, a commitment to their lifespan and more. Training them or addressing behavioural issues is a crucial part of this. Contact a trainer or behaviourist for professional help, depending on what the need may be. Be consistent, have patience and end every session on a positive note!

Next week we will look at some foods your dog can eat!


Source: The Bulletin


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Helping your pets in an emergency

Knowing what to do during an animal emergency can be the difference between life and death.

When your animals suffer an injury or poisoning, knowing what first aid to do can have a massive impact on their recovery, safety and comfort.  This is an important topic with much more to learn, but let’s get into some of the basic tips.

First do your research
Knowing and understanding what illnesses and conditions our pets might face is the key to the longevity of life. Whichever animal species you are a guardian (owner) of, learn about first aid and CPR for the particular animal, the breed, or species-specific health conditions they may suffer from. Also learn about the medications they can take, body language and signs of pain or stress in the particular specie.

Always be prepared for emergencies in advance. This includes physically, like your first aid kit, emotionally by knowing what to do and financially because emergencies can be expensive. Some of the most likely emergencies may include, poisoning, wounds, seizures, drowning or choking. Save your veterinarian’s emergency number and a backup one in case, in advance.

Prevention is always better than cure! Keep them healthy, dewormed, vaccinated and treated against ticks and fleas. Feed a species-appropriate diet and provide proper enrichment (mental/physical/social, etc.). Make sure their enclosure/yard is the right size and safe to prevent injury and stress. Keep dangerous objects and products out of their reach and KEEP THEM OUT OF THE STREETS!

Prevention also includes regular health checks, whether at your vet or by yourself. 

Health-Check list

  • Behaviour
  • Body Condition
  • Skin & Coat
  • Ears & Eyes
  • Nose & Mouth
  • Nails & Paws
  • Stool check
  • Vitals like breathing, heart rate, body temperature


  • First, stay calm and ensure the safety of yourself and others. Assess the situation before acting. Remember that injured animals can be frightened and may act differently than usual when you touch or interact with them.
  • Contact your vet. There may not always be a vet available immediately, but staff may be able to suggest immediate action you can take to help your pet. Have a pen close by in case another number is given.
    More effective treatment can be provided if they are taken to the vet immediately instead of waiting for a call-out vet.
  • If there is a risk of biting, put a muzzle on. If you don’t have one, you can make a temporary one, but it should never cause difficulty breathing and the nose need to be open. Small dogs or cats may be restrained by putting a towel over their heads or wrapped around their body.
  • Never give human medicines to a pet without consulting with your vet as it could do more harm. Some medications are fine in one specie but lethal in another.
  • Do not give food or something to drink in case an anesthetic is needed.
  • Drive carefully when taking the patient to surgery.
  • Do not remove penetrating objects. It needs to be stabilized and only removed by a trained individual.
  • Don’t try to deal with serious injuries yourself.

Your pet First Aid Kit

It is important to fit your first aid kit for the particular specie of animalsyou are a guardian (owner) of. What you may need for a bunny can be different from what you need for a dog. It is also important to store the supplies together and where they are easily accessible. You can put it in a backpack, tackle boxes, toiletries bags, etc.


Rescue packs for poisoning – This for us is a must-have since poisoning emergencies occur daily.  These kits include activated charcoal which may buy precious minutes, to get them to the vet to save their life. They still need to go to the vet after administering this rescue pack. You can usually buy them from your local SPCA or other organizations for less than R50.

Dressings / “white goods” – These are items like medical tape, non-stick pads, roll gauze, gauze squares, and cotton-tipped applicators. They can be used to help stop bleeding, cover and protect the wound or keep the dressing in place. It’s also helpful to include an old white sheet.

Cleaning supplies/disinfectants – Pre-packaged pads like alcohol pads or betadine pads work well in smaller kits. Bottles with these solutions can be stored in your larger kit. Hand sanitizer can also be useful and I guess many of you currently have stock of this.

Tools to use – This will include scissors, tweezers, a flashlight, a CPR barrier mask, gloves, duct tape, and a carabiner that can all be useful in an emergency. Nail clippers specifically for your pets, syringes and plastic bags can also be included.

Pet-specific items – A muzzle, an extra leash, a harness and booties are pet-specific items that should be considered based on your pet and your needs. Many of these items have the potential for multiple uses! Some form of restraint is important to protect your pet from further injury or cause injury to you.

Water – Water is not only useful for drinking, but also for flushing wounds, soothing burns, washing off toxins, soaking a paw, or cooling an overheated pet. Keep some water in your first aid kit along with a collapsible water bowl.

Medications – In addition to a small quantity of your pet’s regular medications, you can also include something to help stop bleeding, something for mild allergic reactions and sugar tablets that can help a diabetic pet or a pet with low blood sugar.

Hydrogen peroxide or small amounts of salt can induce vomiting and help get rid of ingested toxins or foreign objects. Vomiting should not always be induced, so only do this under the direction of a veterinarian, as some toxins or materials will cause more harm if they are vomited up. Additionally, hydrogen peroxide should never be given to a cat, as it can cause severe stomach bleeding.
Talk to your vet about which medications as they know your pet best.

Thermometer – A thermometer is necessary for determining if your pet has a fever or is hypothermic (the normal body temperature for a dog and cat is approximately 37-39°C) The temperature should be taken rectally, as it more accurately reflects the pet’s core body temperature. To make the insertion easier on your pet, keep a petroleum or water-based lubricant in the first aid kit.

A thermal blanket can be helpful too.

Treats – This can be used to distract your pet, help keep them calm, or even as a reward for being a “good boy or girl” during an emergency.

Emergency information cards – You don’t want to be looking for numbers when an emergency happens, so save all the important local numbers in one place and have a copy of it in your first aid kit.  You can put an emergency card about your pets in your wallet and car. Here are example cards to print. 

Please note that this is not a complete kit content list!

When your pet is choking you can perform the Heimlich maneuver, but when they are not breathing nor have a pulse, you will need to perform CPR, which may differ a bit for example with birds versus dogs.

When you are away, please don’t leave your pets without someone checking in every 8-12 hours at least. Have an emergency plan for pets when something happens to you and include them in your will, in case of death. Consider adding small bords somewhere in your home near an entrance in case of a fire, which includes how many and what kinds of pets live there. This should not be obvious to thieves.
It is always better to be prepared for an emergency or know first aid and not use it than to need it and not have the skills.  You can contact Langamed to attend one of their pet first aid courses.


Source: The Bulletin

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Your pets, allergies & how you can help them.


Allergies are not just something that happens to humans.
Many people suffer from allergies and would agree it is not a pleasant experience, right?  Pets experience allergies too and it is our job as pet guardians (owners) to help them by addressing it with your trusted veterinarian.

Allergies is not a simple topic and it is important to see your vet if your pets show signs and symptoms of allergies.  It is also important not to follow advice online from non-qualified individuals. What I share here, I learned from a trusted vet, Dr. Karen Becker who is passionate about education and keeping pets healthy! 

What is an allergy?
Allergic reactions are produced by your pet’s immune system, and the way their immune system functions is a result of both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment). 

Typical signs & symptoms of allergies

  • Itchy skin or redness
  • Licking and chewing at their body
  • Regular digestive problems like cramps, bloating, excessive gas, chronic diarrhea, etc.
  • Ear infections and shaking or scratching their ears.
  • Tiredness

Causes of allergies
There are many reasons for pet allergies, including seasonal allergies, food allergies and environmental allergies which we will shortly look at.

1.Seasonal allergies
As the seasons change, you might notice your pets itching & scratching thanks to seasonal environmental allergies. Dr. Karen shares that seasonal allergies in pets almost always involve the skin rather than the eyes and respiratory tract and that animals with seasonal allergies are typically very itchy, and the itch-scratch cycle results in irritated, inflamed skin, hot spots, and secondary infections. This is why it is important to address it immediately, even prevent it!

4 Classic symptoms of seasonal allergies (Dr. Karen Becker)

  • Intense itchiness. Dogs and cats with allergies are usually very itchy. They scratch at themselves and may show signs of irritability. Some might bite or chew at a specific area of the body, while others are itchy from nose to tail. You may catch your pet rubbing his body against your furniture or along the carpet to help relieve that awful itch.
  • Hair loss and skin issues. As the itch-scratch cycle worsens, the skin becomes inflamed and tender, which can set the stage for secondary infections. There might also be areas of hair loss and oozing or crusty sores, including hot spots — areas of inflamed, infected skin resulting from an overgrowth of normal skin bacteria.
  • Problems with the ears and feet. Pets with seasonal allergies typically have issues with their ears and feet. The ear canals grow itchy and inflamed, and they often become infected with yeast or bacteria. Symptoms of an ear infection include scratching at the ears, head shaking, hair loss around the ears, and a bad smell or discharge coming from the ears.
  • Respiratory symptoms. Although it’s uncommon, some pets, especially cats, can develop symptoms like those of an allergic human, such as a runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, and coughing.

2.Food allergies
“Food allergy” is a term that is widely used by pet owners and vets, but in most cases, it could be more of an intolerance or sensitivity to certain foods or ingredients, but still something to be addressed. It might not necessarily be a reaction by the immune system, but rather one by the digestive system.  Most vets will probably suggest an elimination diet trial to try and find out what causes the allergy. Remember that you don’t always need the most expensive food on the market to curb the allergy, especially if it is highly processed.

The authors of The Forever Dog, which includes Dr. Karen, writes that coconut meat or unsweetened dried coconut chips are the perfect single-ingredient treat for dogs suffering from food allergies. It has been shown to improve beneficial gut bacteria and strengthen the gut lining. 

Interestingly they also write how studies show that the more puppies are offered healthy human table scraps, the more protection they have from developing allergies later in life.


3. Dust mites and fleas
Dust mites survive on a diet of dead skin, bacteria, fungi and viruses in the environment. They prefer to feed on the skin of hypersensitive (allergic) individuals because the lipids in their skin are different from those of non-allergic people and pets. What makes them allergenic is a protein found in their feces. One important step to help with this is to replace your dog’s bed with a safe, nontoxic pet bed made of organic materials like silk since dust mites can’t survive in silk.

It’s important to note that fleas aren’t typically attracted to healthy pets. They’re drawn to the weakest animals they can find, first, so one of the best defenses against flea infestations is to feed your dog a nutritionally balanced, species-appropriate fresh-food diet that will help keep his immune system functioning optimally. They still need tick and flea treatment and Dr. Karen suggests opting for non-toxic or chemical treatments on the market.

4. Other environmental allergens
There are so many other things in the environment and your home that can cause allergies to certain pets.  Mold, pollen, trees, certain plants (some even toxic to pets), grass, even your stay soft, cleaning products, their toys and bedding, your deodorants/perfume or scented candles and the fumes of non-stick cookware might hold risks for pets too. Have you ever considered the health impact of what products you use on your lawn or in your garden? Anything applied to your lawn will end up in your pet.  It is important, as their guardian (owner) to create a safe environment for them and to keep them healthy.

DR. Karen shares what you can do.

  1. Diet – Evaluate their diet and supplement it with essential fatty acids (EFA) and lauric acid.
  2. Environmental factors – It’s important to remove the environmental factors that can negatively impact your dog’s immune system, including:
  • Poor water quality – make sure to provide fluoride- and chlorine-free drinking water.
  • Too many vaccines – you can ask your vet to run a titer test first instead of giving unnecessary vaccinations.
  • Toxic household chemical load – eliminate dog beds treated with PBDEs (flame retardants) and toxic household cleaners.
  • Yard chemicals – eliminate pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers around your home.
  • EMFs –  provide your dog with a safe zone that’s free from toxic levels of electromagnetic fields from electrical devices in the home.

3. Talk to a trusted vet – Talk to your integrative veterinarian about giving your pet natural antihistamines, and if necessary, consider a desensitization protocol ideally initiated before the start of allergy season.

4. Baths & foot soaks

  • Once warm weather arrives, rinse your pet regularly and do daily foot soaks and eye rinses. Since dogs and cats who are outside a lot collect millions of allergens, it’s just common sense to rinse them off, which can provide immediate relief for irritated, inflamed skin.
  • When it’s time to actually bathe pets (when they’re stinky, dirty, or have a skin infection), Dr. Karen recommends using only grain-free and pH-balanced shampoos. Oatmeal is a carbohydrate and carbs can feed yeast, she doesn’t recommend oatmeal shampoos for yeasty pets.
  • Follow up with a lemon juice or vinegar rinse to help manage yeast infections. Just add one cup of vinegar or one cup of lemon juice — or 10 drops of peppermint oil with 10 drops of lavender oil — to about 4 litres (a gallon) of water. Since lemon juice can also lighten fur, she usually recommends vinegar or the essential oil mixes for dogs with dark coats. Using cooled green tea as a soothing rinse can also help with inflamed and irritated skin. Do not try this if your pet is allergic to the ingredients.

Itchy paws all-natural paw soak
This simple home remedy can dramatically reduce your pet’s intense itch by removing the allergens causing them and helping them enjoy life more!

  • For foot soaks use povidone-iodine (brand name, Betadine), which is an organic iodine solution found at local drug stores.
  • Add just enough water in the foot soak to cover your dog’s feet, and enough iodine to turn the water to the colour of iced tea.
  • Alternative – use white vinegar diluted 50/50 with water, especially if your dog’s coat or paws are light in colour, since Betadine may darken light fur.
  • Can use once a day.
  • There’s no need to rinse your dog’s feet after the soak. Just pat the paws dry and you’re done.
  • To receive the full benefit of the soak, your dog needs to stand in the solu­tion for 2 to 5 minutes.
  • Keeping the paws submerged is key.
  • Don’t go more than 2 or 3 days using the same foot soak solution.

Itch spray

  • Keep in fridge.
  • Can spray on several times a day.
  • As with all this advice, please make sure your pet is not allergic to the products or ingredients and it shouldn’t cause unnecessary stress, so introduce it slowly and offer rewards for it.

Do you think you are allergic to your pets?
Another great article by Dr. Karen Becker shared how, contrary to popular belief, pet allergies are not caused by pet hair. Rather, they’re often caused by pet dander, saliva or a specific protein found only in intact male dogs. If you or a family member loves dogs but is allergic to them, you’ve probably at least considered that a “hypoallergenic” dog might make sense for you. According to the science, there’s no truly hypoallergenic dog, however, there are certain breeds that are considered better for allergy sufferers than others.

A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Rhinology and Allergy concluded that the amount of dog allergens found in households with dogs does not vary depending on the breed. In other words, families with so-called “hypoallergenic” dogs are living with the same level of allergens in their homes as people with non-hypoallergenic pets.

Interestingly it appears that some people are allergic only to male dogs. In an interview with CNN, allergist Dr. Lakiea Wright of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston explains: “Up to 30% of people who are allergic to dogs are actually allergic to one specific protein that’s made in the prostate of a dog. If you’re allergic to only that specific protein in the male dog, you may be able to tolerate a female or a neutered dog.”

This is yet another good reason to get your pets spayed and neutered.

Keep your pets healthy and address the allergies as soon as possible to prevent any further discomfort or pain for your pets. Please choose to use cruelty-free products in your home too (cleaning & cosmetic).  


Source: The Bulletin

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Responsible pet parents spay and neuter their pets.


Spaying and neutering have many benefits, including health, behaviour & community benefits.

There are two big reasons why you should spay and neuter your pets.  We have a massive pet overpopulation crisis worldwide, with not nearly enough homes, never mind good homes.  This means that millions of healthy animals are being euthanized (killed humanely) annually. Another reason is it is good for their health!


You need to understand the magnitude of this overpopulation crisis and then, hopefully, you will understand why many of us advocate so hard for it.

  • One female cat and her offspring can exponentially produce 370 000 cats in just seven years.
  • One female dog and her offspring can exponentially produce 67 000 dogs in six years.
  • Only 1 out of every 10 dogs born, find a home.
  • According to Rescue Rehab SA, approximately 1 million dogs and cats are euthanized in South Africa every year, that is 2740 a day!
  • According to the Humane Society of the USA, a cat or dog is euthanized at shelters every 10s.
  • A report by Mars Petcare showed 224 million animals are homeless in the USA, UK, SA, Mexico, Greece, Russia, China, India & Germany and about 30% of animals in SA are homeless.
  • At least one in four pets brought to shelters are purebred and this number is climbing.

Although we promote adoption, we can’t adopt our way out of this problem, so we need to fix (pardon the pun) it. We have heard all the bad excuses, debunked the myths and I educate about it daily on the SPAY & NEUTER SA page.

One of the worst excuses I have heard is that preventing pets from having litters is unnatural and that if God thought it was a problem he would make them sterile.  The fact is that we have already interfered with nature by domesticating dogs, cats and other animals. We domesticated the dog 15 000 years ago and the cat 8 000 years ago. In doing so, we helped create this problem. Now it’s our responsibility to solve it. It’s also unnatural to be killing so many of them in our pounds and shelters each year. You can’t blame the shelters, but you should blame breeders and dealers of any kind.



When you spay and neuter your pets it can lead to longer and happier lives.  There are many benefits of spay and neuter for their health which include a lower risk for certain diseases like cancers and pyometra. It certainly eliminates the stress associated with pregnancy.  It improves behaviour, especially when dealing with females in heat and males marking or spraying and wandering out of the yard in search of these females which they can smell from far away. 



It’s important to recognize the difference between sterilization and desexing (traditional spay and neuter). Whereas the former procedure eliminates a dog’s ability to procreate, desexing sterilizes but also eliminates the dog’s ability to produce sex hormones for the remainder of their life. defines it as follows:

The word “spay” refers to the sterilization of female pets. During the ovariohysterectomy, or the typical “spay”, the ovaries, fallopian tubes and uterus are removed from a female dog or cat.

The term “neuter” refers to the castration of male pets.  During orchiectomy, or the typical “neuter”, the testes are removed from a male dog or cat.

Both the spay and neuter procedure makes them unable to reproduce and reduces or eliminates breeding-related behaviours. In females it eliminates her heat cycle.


An experienced vet can spay and neuter at an age as young as 6-8 weeks old, however, the risks involved with anesthesia may be slightly greater at this age.  Older females that are not spayed are at risk too. There is generally no other age limit for the procedure as long as your pet is healthy.

We support spay and neuter at around 6 months of age. We have done so with our pets who all reach ripe old ages and are rarely sick.


Most veterinarians and the most recent research recommends that animals are spayed before their first heat cycle (before the age of 7 months or so). This drastically reduces the risk of mammary tumors later in life, prevents uterine infections and unwanted pregnancy. Pregnancy can put unnecessary stress on your pet’s body.


Please prevent this, but if it did happen, the suggested time for animals that have recently given birth is about 2 weeks after the young have been weaned and the mother’s milk has dried up.


Dogs have outward signs of being in heat. The vulva swells, and there is bleeding present for 1-1 ½ weeks. Just after the bleeding stops, most dogs will be receptive to mating for 1-2 weeks. Most dogs will go into heat twice a year, in the spring and fall.  Some dogs may skip the fall cycle.

Cats go into heat for the first time typically when they are 5-7 months old. A cat will be in heat (receptive to mating and able to become pregnant) for up to two weeks and then go out of heat. If she has not been mated, two weeks later, she will go back into heat again. This cycling in and out of heat will continue for several months.

Cats can have their first heat cylce at around 4 months of age.


Even though spay and neuter are major surgical procedures, they are some of the most common procedures done by vets.  As with any surgery, there are risks associated with anesthesia and potential surgical complications. The overall occurrence of these risks is very rare.


Probably not. Just like people, pets become overweight when they eat too much or exercise too little. Choosing a diet that is species-appropriate and suited to the health and lifestyle of your pet is important to prevent weight gain.


The spay and neuter will most likely not alter your pet’s basic personality which is mainly determined by the breed and a few other factors. It can result in some behavioural changes, but usually for the better! 


Spraying is common in unneutered male cats. They want to mark their territory and it would be best to neuter your cat before they develop this behaviour. Males may still engage in full-testosterone male behaviors while their male sex hormone levels diminish after surgery. This can take 6-8 weeks. Remember that male rabbits can still be fertile for a few weeks after neutering, as there may be sperm left in the reproductive tract!


During a spay or neuter surgery, the animal is fully anesthetized, so they feel no pain. Afterward, some animals seem to experience some discomfort temporarily, but with pain medication, discomfort may not be experienced at all.


According to, most spay and neuter skin incisions are fully healed within about 10–14 days, which coincides with the time that stitches or staples, if any, will need to be removed.


Even though this procedure is a common procedure for vets, not all vets are good at it, so do your homework on the vet! Cats & dogs are common patients, but please use an exotic qualified vet for other animals!


The massive overpopulation crisis includes more than just cats and dogs, so the answer is mostly yes.  There might be exceptions due to safety or medical reasons and those animals need highly responsible owners to prevent litters. Spaying or neutering a bird is not a routine surgery like it is with many mammals and can be riskier. There are many other ways to prevent your birds from reproducing offspring. Removing eggs of egg-laying animals (the right way) is another method.


Although possible, most vets will probably advise against it due to more swelling and a higher risk of bleeding. This surgery may take longer and be more expensive.


No darling, it takes two to tango if you missed biology class.  The female can only have so many puppies/kittens at once, but the male can impregnate many females around the same time.


Yes, for sure!  Do you know that guy called Murphy?  Animals get in and out of yards and saying it was an unexpected litter doesn’t fly.  If your pet is not spayed or neutered, you can totally expect it.


Apart from the usual veterinary advice like keeping your pet still and keeping the wound clean, you also need to phone your vet the moment you think something is not right and keep the freshly-neutered males away from non-spayed females for some time.

When it comes to male neuters for various species, after the testicles are removed, it takes time for all of the residual sperm to clear out of the pipes. Ask your vet how long, but some sources suggest days to weeks. During this time, a freshly-neutered male can still impregnate females.


It probably depends on what you spend money on and whether your pet’s health is a priority to you. The cost of spaying or neutering depends on the sex, size, and age of the pet, your veterinarian’s fees, and a few other factors. Remember that spay or neuter surgery is a one-time cost and the cost far outweighs the cost of health-related issues due to not sterilizing or even for raising litters. There are many opportunities to do this at more affordable rates and adoption fees include it!

n general, spaying tends to be more expensive than neutering. Spaying involves opening your dog or cat’s stomach to access the animal’s reproductive organs where neutering is less complex.

The cost may vary from town to town, but according to, the average cost of a spay in South Africa is around R1350 for a female cat and around R1800 to a crazy R4000 for a female dog. Neuters can cost around R750-R1000 for a male cat and around R1200 – R2500 for a male dog.

There are always two sides to a coin and it is important to look at both.

Some research shows that in desexing spays and neuters – surgical procedures that remove the gonads and associated sex hormones – can have a long-term negative impact on their health.

The research mostly suggest this more in large dog breeds. The advice then is to have them spayed or neutered after they turned one year old, but again then they need a highly responsible owner. You must also remember that the relationship between sex hormones, health and wellness is more complex and can be influenced by many aspects like sex, breed, age, environment and more.

I have not yet seen these negative effects and I think there is more research needed on this as single case studies are not enough. With this massive overpopulation crisis worldwide, the benefits far outweigh the risk for me.

If this does occur, it seems that hormone restoration therapy may be beneficial to symptomatic spayed and neutered dogs.

What are alternatives then? 

When a pet is left intact, it requires a highly responsible pet guardian who is fully committed to and capable of preventing mating and litters.

Another option is sterilizing so the testes or ovaries can continue to produce hormones. This can be accomplished through vasectomy and hysterectomy. According to Dr. Karen Becker, traditional spaying and neutering are basically the only techniques vets are currently taught and we need to change that.

Changing the fate of animals and the massive overpopulation crisis resolves around three principles namely sterilization, education, stricter and enforced laws for those who don’t respond to being asked nicely.  No breeding can be “responsible” when we have a massive overpopulation crisis and when you support breeders, you are part of the problem.


  • Spay & neuter your pets.
  • Share, educate & advocate for it.
  • Donate to spay & neuter campaigns.
  • Support petitions on the topic.
  • Don’t support animal dealers, breeders, or pet shops that fuel the overpopulation crisis.
  • Adopt from reputable organizations.

Can you see now why reputable animal welfare organizations are all up-in-your-business about spay and neuter?


Source: The Bulletin

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Going away? Where Will They Stay?

Going away? Where Will They Stay?

It’s that time of year, the time when we all just want to put up our feet, get away and relax.

Finding Pet Friendly Accommodation can be hard, and well, expensive too. Does this mean you have to stay home? Of course not. But you do have to make sure your animals are safe and cared for.

How do you choose between moving your animals to a boarding facility or having someone Pet sit for you at home? Do you ask a friend or family member you can trust, if so, do you take your animals to them, or will they stay in your home? Should you choose a boarding facility, what do you look for, how do you know that your animals will be safe and properly cared for?

Here are a few pointers:

  • If you choose to ask a friend or family member then it is important that your animals know the individual, make sure they are trustworthy and will be able to identify when an emergency arises. It is important that they know what vet you use, so they can take your animals to the vet if needed. Many people who do not own Bulldogs struggle to identify when normal breathing or behavior turns into stressed behavior. If you choose to move your animals to the home of the friend or family member, while you are away, then there are some points to consider. Are there other animals in their home? Are those animals (and your own) social? If they have children, will your animals be okay with kids in the new environment? Will your friend be able to keep your animals in the routine they are used to while having your animals in his/her home? When asking someone close to you to look after your animals, having your animals stay in their own environment can be much less stressful for them.
  • If you choose to use a Pet sitter, then we advise you to do your homework. There are many individuals who do this for extra income over the festive season, we urge you to please work through a trusted, well-established company and ask for references. Using a Pet sitting agency or company means you have someone who comes to your home and stays with your animals for a fee. You can provide them with instructions on care and medications, they will follow the routine your animals are used to, and your animals will be comfy at home. We advise that you arrange to meet with the Pet sitter, allow your pets to meet them and see how they interact with your animals. There is a company called GoSit SA which we gladly recommend if you choose to go this route. They are an amazing group of animal lovers who go above and beyond for their clients and their furry family members.
  • If you prefer boarding your animals, then we also advise that you look at the boarding facilities in your area and go visit them all. That way you can see what the facilities look like and how they operate. If you find one you like, ask them if you can bring your pets along for a visit so they don’t feel overwhelmed with everything being strange when they go for their stay. The boarding areas should be warm, clean, dry, and comfortable. Dogs who don’t get along with others should not be able to make eye contact with others. A proper facility will ask to see the vet books of your animals as well as insist that vaccinations are up to date. Ask them for references and look on the internet and Facebook, often they will have reviews from members of the public who used them before. Discuss your animals needs with the facility, you can provide them with instructions on medication administration, grooming, food etc. Find out what their procedures are in terms of emergencies and vet visits. a Proper facility will do exactly what your animals need.

Whether you choose family, friend, a pet sitter or boarding facility, here is a helpful list of information you can provide your temporary carer, to help them provide the very best service and care:

  • Vet details
  • Knowledge of any pre-existing medical conditions
  • Who to call in an emergency
  • Any medication that your dog is on, instructions and dosage
  • Your dog’s usual feeding routine
  • A note of your dog’s microchip information in case they get lost
  • What time you usually walk your dog and how much exercise they need per day
  • Any behavior issues that they will need to be aware of
  • If staying in your own home or someone else’s, the rules for the household, such as if your dog is allowed up on the furniture etc.
  • Whether you are happy for them to let your dogs interact with others and if not, why. this will be helpful during walks.

Source: English & French Bulldog Rescue SA

What will happen to the animals you are responsible for when you die?

What will happen to the animals you are responsible for when you die

Image by The Paw Company

Do you have an Emergency Plan for your pets and are they included in your Will?

A Will may be the most important personal document you ever sign, because it governs the administration and disposal of all that you have striven for in life. It is not uncommon for people to make provision in their last will for all of their earthly possessions but do you have a plan for your pets if you should fall ill or die? 

There was a long line of individuals to assist with people like the Queen’s dogs, but unfortunately, this isn’t the case for most humans. We have seen first-hand the confusion as these animals arrive in shelters and have to try to cope in kennels. Often being split up or waiting long periods of time before being adopted or eventually just humanely killed because there are just not enough homes with this massive overpopulation crisis.

There are basically 4 options:

  • Forever home – Leave them in their own home and a caretaker moves in.

Some people let a caretaker move into their home and keep the pets where they are familiar with everything.  It could be for some time or until their death. Just make sure there is no “incentive” to get rid of the pet soon. Have an arrangement with a short-term caretaker like a pet sitter until your affairs are sorted or a long-term one (vetted properly). Always have back-ups… least 3 back-ups!

  • Forever family – Adopt them to a new family (if your family will not take them) through a reputable organization. Donate to them for doing it.
  • Forever sanctuary – There might be special organization for this, especially for older pets. Donate to them or even considere leaving your estate to them.
  • Opt for PTS

You know your pets best.  One of mine for example would not easily adjust to a new home or person due to anxiety so in our will the instructions were to PTS. If your pet has a disease or might be diagnosed with one, be specific about when you want euthanization or what sort of treatment or measures you want to be taken. If your pet needs frail care after your death, I would lean more towards PTS unless they can go to a special organization that deals with frail care like a sanctuary.

Appointing your trusted Veterinarian to carry out euthanasia within a certain amount of days from your passing is always an option if no family member or friend can take your pets.

What will happen to the animals you are responsible for when you die

Image: Pixabay

When you leave money for the care of your pets, make sure that it is enough for the species and breed.  Older pets require more funds for vet care.  Take your regular expense for your pet and multiply that by an extra-long life expectancy.

You can create a PET TRUST where you choose trustees that will honour your wishes and manage the funds for care. The Trust can manage the funds and check-ins with the caretaker. Be very specific about vet checks, what the funds may be spent on, or pay the caretaker on a monthly budget.  Ideally, the trustees should not be the caretaker or even a family member.  Some people leave all their property and money in this Trust. You can also consider an animal welfare organization to manage the above and in return donate to them too. Choose a reputable one that has been around for some time.

Apart from taking care of your own pets, you can also help ensure that animals are protected in years to come by including the SPCA or other reputable animal welfare organizations as a beneficiary in your Will. They can use your gift effectively to assist all species of animals, uplift their lives and improve their welfare in whatever situation they find themselves. Please note that if you do this for an SPCA, you have to mention that SPCA specifically otherwise it will go to the national fund and not directly to them.

ust like you would not leave a child alone when you are hospitalized or evacuated, you should not leave an animal either. You chose to have them, they didn’t get to choose you as their owner and you are responsible for this living being. Read more about having an emergency plan for your pets.

Please make provision for your pets so an already overwhelmed animal welfare organization doesn’t have to. Talk to a company that specializes in estate planning for pets! Remember pets grieve too for their human and furry companions.


Source: The Bulletin

Are you helping your pets cope during stormy weather?

Are you helping your pets cope during stormy weather?

Image: Pixabay

Stormy Weather affects many pets and there is no excuse for NOT helping them cope, or for getting out of your yard.

Why don’t people attend to the needs of their pets during stormy weather as they would tend to their child’s special needs? My heart breaks for those animals who are failed by their owners. There is always an increase in lost and injured pets after stormy weather or fireworks. In many cases, it is the same animals that are out in the streets and it is PREVENTABLE!

If your dog is afraid of stormy weather or other loud outside noises, leaving them outdoors while they are anxious or panicked is the worst thing you can do. Dogs regularly run away or seriously injure themselves attempting to escape outdoor enclosures or runs during stormy weather and other noisy events.

So many excuses are given by the owners including that they have tried “everything”, which I don’t believe. There will be very few exceptions where nothing worked. When we suggest options, they say money is the issue, however they can eat out, do their hair and nails, go on vacations, but they can’t take proper care of the animal they chose to have.

One of the five freedom of animal welfare includes the freedom from fear and distress and for me, this refers to love and understanding for the animals in your care and their needs. Creating an environment that is free from fear and distress is essential for their well-being. Not only is it important to provide them with the necessary physical comforts and to ensure that their mental health is taken into consideration, it is your moral duty.

Noise phobia is a reality and many cats, dogs and other animals can suffer from it. The good news is that you can do something about it if you care enough for those animals. I understand that we can’t control the weather, but you can do a lot to help them cope better with weather or other noise phobias.

Are you helping your pet cope

Weather noise phobia – Image by The Paw Company


Noise phobia describes a fearful reaction to certain sounds in the environment. It’s important to understand the difference between fear, anxiety, and phobia in your dog.

It is important to recognize that animals, both domesticated and wild, are naturally programmed to be scared of loud noises. This is an instinctive and evolutionary reaction to an unknown danger, which can cause the animal to flee before the brain has had time to process the sound. This can lead to harm. Generally, animals are more sensitive to their surroundings than humans. While both cats and dogs can suffer from noise phobias, it is more common in dogs.

Animals that depend on their hearing for survival are especially susceptible to the issues that come with noise pollution including prolonged exposure. If your pup is suffering from noise phobia, it is essential to address the issue quickly. Dogs that become sensitive to one sound are likely to become reactive to other noises too.

Common pet noise phobias include thunderstorms, fireworks and gunshots, but common household noises such as a vacuum cleaner, alarm and more can also be triggers and few pet parents take note of it. According to research, these loud or high-pitched noises increase cortisol in your dog’s body and could negatively impact their behaviour, health, and possibly lifespan.


There are several causes of noise aversion and certain breeds are predisposed. According to a 2008 study shared by Dr. Karen Becker, dogs tend to develop noise aversion in one of four ways:

  • Lack of habituation — The dog encounters a novel, startling sound and fails to learn that it has no consequence or meaning, continuing to show fear instead.
  • Stress-induced dishabituation — The dog experiences a stressful event and is therefore at a higher level of stress at the same moment of the environmental sound and is unable to cope with the noise as he previously had, resulting in a fear response.
  • Sensitization — A noise bothers a dog more and more over time, causing them to be more sensitive to it rather than learning to ignore it.
  • Social transmission — The dog learns to fear a noise from another dog in the household.

I also think that taking puppies/kittens away from their moms before 12 weeks can have an impact as they learn valuable behaviour from their moms.


  • Vocalization.
  • Hiding or escape.
  • Excessive panting and/or salivation.
  • Destructive behaviours.
  • Trembling and pacing, or freezing in place.
  • Uncontrolled urination and/or defecation.


A full-blown storm phobia may be the result of a combination of barometric pressure changes, static electricity, wind, odours, thunder, lightning, and low-frequency rumbles that precede a storm. However, if your dog does not display any other signs of canine noise aversion or separation anxiety, the static electricity is likely causing them to be anxious.

Storms can also physically hurt dogs because the sound frequencies produced during storms can be painful to your dogs’ ears and the static electricity that accumulates in their fur due to changes in pressure can be unpleasant. So, when dogs are freaking out during stormy weather, they’re not just unsure of what’s happening, but they may be experiencing a painful physical reaction

Thunderstorms literally charge the air with electricity, making it easier for the static build-up to occur in the coat of your pet. It’s even easier for static to build up in larger dogs and those with double or long coats.  If your dog has a static build-up in its coat, he or she might get a mildly uncomfortable shock to their sensitive nose if they touch it against metal and this could lead to a full-on phobia.

Those nasty little shocks might explain why your dog takes off for the corner of the bathroom or another enclosed space in your home when stormy weather is imminent, as these places are grounded and there is less of a threat of static electricity zapping your poor dog.


Storm phobias tend to get worse over time instead of better and this is why, the earlier you start to address it, the better. There are many things you can do to help your noise-phobic dog. Rather than saying or doing something that might reinforce anxious behaviour, try simply observing your pet during a fearful episode and see what you can do to help calm them.

Are you helping your pet cope

Noise phobie and stormy weather – Image Dr. Karen Becker

  • reating a safe space for them to retreat to, is one of the first things to do!
  • Make sure your yard is secure and safe as many pets who try to escape get stuck on palisades or hurt on another fencing. You can contact Pet Safety Solutions for this.
  • Make sure they are microchipped AND that you registered the microchip on more than one database. Make sure your microchip information is up-to-date as well as your pets having an up-to-date tag on their collar. This is a big challenge when we find pets with out-of-date details.
  • Consult with a fear-free behaviourist (there is a difference between a trainer and a behaviourist) to help desensitize your pet.
  • Teach your pet to use a Kong or chew toy so that they can engage in this calming activity during the next thunderstorm occasion.
  • If you know your pet is prone to extreme stress during this time, then see your veterinarian before the time for some medication. Consult your integrative veterinarian about herbal, homoeopathic, TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) and flower remedies that could help alleviate your dog’s stress. Don’t use human medication! Please note that these remedies/medication has to be used with behavioural therapy!


  • On the day of the expected thunderstorms, look for your animals, especially cats before it starts.
  • Close doors, windows and curtains so your pet is not startled by sudden flashes or tries to escape when spooked.
  • If your cat is not used to being indoors, provide extra litterboxes inside.
  • Create a safe spot for your pet to retreat to when they’re feeling anxious about an approaching storm. It should be indoors, in an interior room of your home, one with no windows, if possible. Place a crate in the space along with bedding, water, treats and a toy. Anything that can help mask the sounds too. Cats also feel secure in and love boxes.
  • Put on the TV or soft calming music, to mute the thunderstorm bangs.
  • Distract your pet with treats or play time during the storm. Give them something to chew. Creating an association between play and the cracks of lightning will aid in generalizing a positive emotional state during thunderstorms or fireworks.
  • Stay home with your pets in these frightening times as you would with frightened children and stay calm as they can feel your anxiety. If your pet is hiding, don’t try to lure them out. This can make them more anxious & stressed.
  • Try putting gentle, continuous pressure on your pet to calm them. If they’ll allow it, try leaning gently on or against them without petting or stroking. If this is helping, you’ll feel your pet’s muscles begin to relax. If instead, they seems to grow more anxious, this isn’t a technique that will be beneficial for tehm. If your dog seems to respond well to pressure applied to their body, there are wraps available like the Thunder-shirt that many pet owners and veterinarians find extremely helpful. T-touch is a specific massage technique that may also help anxious pets. For some, a weighted blanket or wrapping helps too.
  • Ear protection for dogs is available, if they are comfortable with it, which can decrease the intensity of the sounds at least.
  • If your dog is crate trained, they may go there voluntarily to self-soothe, or you can lead the way. A blanket draped over the crate may help them relax. However, if your dog doesn’t normally use a crate, or worse, has a fear of crates due to a past bad experience, this isn’t the time to use one and it should never be forced.


There are those days that you might be at work when a thunderstorm starts. There is still no excuse for not providing for your pet in these times. When we make plans, we check the weather in advance and make arrangements accordingly. I will easily cancel plans because I care that much for my fur-family members.

  • You will need to work with a fear-free behaviourist to address this fearful and anxious behaviour by employing behaviour modification techniques designed to alleviate noise aversion. Use a teaspoon to knock on various surfaces around the house and follow up with a treat. This teaches your dog that startling sounds predict yummy food. Watch this video by best behaviour for more details.
  • Provide a safe and secure place to rest (quiet room or crate). Leave windows and curtains closed in that room to muffle the sounds. I would rather leave such a dog in the house. You can clean up poop and pee later as their safety should take priority.  If you can’t keep them in the house, then use an outside building or build a kennel your pet feels secure in and which is soundproofed as much as possible.
  • Some recent studies interestingly show a positive effect of daily probiotics on anxiety. Specifically, the bacteria Bifidobacterium longum showed a reduction in overall anxiety and stress in dogs.
  • Check in on them during your lunchtime. You can even discuss this with your boss. 
  • Provide your pet with food before the thunderstorm as it can help calm them or they might be too stressed to eat later.
  • Providing comforting items such as a blanket or toy can help to ease their anxiety. If you are not a source of their anxiety, you can leave a shirt or item with your smell on with them.
  • Place a few drops of the essential oil of lavender on your dog’s collar or bedding before a stressor occurs. Even better, learn more about zoopharmacognosy, which allows your pet to self-select remedies that best soothe her during periods of anxiety. Invest in an Adaptil collar for your dog, which is a pheromone designed to have a calming effect on dogs.
  • You can set up calming music to put on when you are not there. Nowadays you can access it remotely.
  • Invest in cameras to check in on them. With some, you can even talk to them and offer treats. 
  • Have a pet sitter, friend or family member check in on those days or consider a daycare option when stormy weather is expected.
  • Get some enrichment toys and get rid of pent-up energy before you go to work. Yes, you will need to get up earlier, but that is what you do when you truly care.
  • If your pet is at risk of escaping and for some reason outsmarting you by getting out, consider getting a GPS microchip so if your dog gets out you can track them.

If you find a lost dog, please take them to the SPCA or local shelter. If you can no longer take care of your animals and meet their needs, then surrender them to reputable local shelters including your nearest SPCA and don’t get animals again.

our pets didn’t get to choose where they live, you took that choice into your hands, so now do what is right for them. Having a pet is a huge responsibility, so to ensure the happiness and well-being of our beloved companion animals, we must always meet all the needs of our pets.


Source: The Bulletin