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Check out our little nuggets of goodness and pet education here. Sometimes serious, usually humorous with a side of sarcasm. We laugh at ourselves regularly and are talented at eye-rolls when necessary!

How to prepare your pets for your upcoming vacation

One of our favorite times of the year…vacation season!  Of course we have vacation season for some people all year round, but we really peak May through August. Why do we like vacation season?  We get to meet new friends and see some of our long-time friends. We have been assisting pet parents with their vacation planning since 1997 and wanted to share some tips to make sure that you prepare your pets for your upcoming vacation.

 

Prepare Your Pets for Your Vacation
  • Make your pet comfortable with someone coming into their home. Some pets are slow to warm up. Ensure their success by having some of their favorite treats and toys available for your pet sitter to grab on the way in the door.
  • Leave a telephone number where you can be reached.  Sometimes your pet sitter has a question or concern about your pet when they visit.
  • Share your pet’s feeding schedule, a typical daily schedule, how your pet walks on a leash, any medications your pet needs, and any “quirks” your pet might have that need to be understood for the best time for all. 4-Legged Kids has an integrated online platform for all notes to be updated before you leave home.
  • Double check your reservation on your secure online client portal several days before you leave. Changes happen in your schedule and you want to make sure your pets have the care scheduled that they need.
  • Stock up on everything your pets need while you are gone. This includes: extra food, medicine, treats, a properly fitting collar or harness, and a few favorite toys.  Provide lick mats with peanut butter and easy cheese or instructions for frozen stuffed Kongs. We are happy to leave any approved mental stimulation toys and treats for your dogs when we leave.

 

Some Other Things to Consider
  • Is your pet up-to-date on vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, and heartworm treatment.  If it happens to be time for a treatment while you are gone we are happy to administer!
  • Keep our office phone number with you (636)405-0400 if you have any schedule changes or concerns while you are gone. Be mindful of time zones. Many times it is easier and quicker to contact us through your secure online client portal.
  • Advise your veterinarian that someone else will be caring for your pet(s) and authorize the vet to provide medical care in your absence if it becomes necessary. It is a good practice to have your card on file with your veterinarian.

 

Does your pet suffer from anxieties? Download our Guide for you to help prepare your pets for vacation. Get your Separation Anxiety Guide.

 

When you return, allow for a short transition period for you and your pet to adjust back to your normal routine at home.

 

 

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms?

Is your dog afraid of thunderstorms? While we are all grateful for the rain and the recent storms (especially to knock out some of the pollen), some of our 4-Legged Kids are less than thrilled with the thunderstorms. Do you have a dog that gets anxious (or even terrified) when thunderstorms roll in? Many of these dogs sense a storm coming from a long way away and will become more alert and their anxiety behaviors will start to ramp up.

 

Here are some strategies to help your 4-Legged Kid handle storms.

 

  • Find a “safe place” where your dog can stay during the storm…this is sometimes a bathroom, a closet, or a crate covered by a blanket.  Playing white sounds or music can also help calm your dog (or at least drown out some of the sounds of the storm).
  • Never leave your dog outside during a thunderstorm.
  • Examine your own behavior and the behavior of other people in the house.  Dogs react to human anxiety, fear and stress.  Try to remain relaxed.
  • Don’t just ignore your dog’s fear and anxiety. It is real and is an extreme source of discomfort to them.
  • Try distracting your pet by practicing basic commands or playing games together.  Reward your pet for calm behavior with praise and treats.
  • Several clients have had success with a “thundershirt.”  These can be purchased at many local pet stores or online.   Make sure to read the instructions on how to introduce your pet to a thundershirt and use it properly.

 

If your pet has extreme anxiety, you’ll want to consult your veterinarian or a dog behaviorist.  Many pets with extreme anxiety need a combination of medication and behavior therapy.

 

If your dog exhibits anxieties such as separation anxiety, you can get some practical tips in our Separation Anxiety Guide.

 

Fear Free Happy Homes has a video series on anxieties you can learn from Preventing and Alleviating Anxieties 101

Hiking with your dog in St. Louis

Hiking with your dog is a great thing to do for both them and you!  From your dog’s perspective it can be so much fun to go out in the woods…so many smells, people to admire them, and other dogs to visit.  There are lots of things to consider before lacing up those hiking boots and taking off.

 

First of all, hiking is great exercise for any dog, especially for dogs that are a bit overweight (hiking is much better than getting less food to eat!).  It’s also good for large breed dogs because it helps keep muscles strong, so they don’t have as much trouble with joints when they get older.  Plus, it’s a great way to expend a lot of the extra energy some dogs have.

 

Before you go hiking, make sure pets are allowed at the park you’re going to.  Can you believe that some parks don’t allow dogs?  Fortunately, most St. Louis County Parks and Missouri State Parks allow dogs to come hike all they want (as long as they are on a leash), but some Missouri Department of Conservation parks don’t allow dogs.

 

A few other things to think about before you head out….

 

  • Make sure you bring water and some type of bowl.  Your dogs are wearing fur coats all year and it can get hot during the summer…they can dehydrate easily with activity.
  • Make sure you are current with flea and tick protection (hiking, woods, ticks, do yourself a favor and spray yourself also)
  • If you’ve never been hiking before, start with a small trek and work your way up to a more adventurous one. I have such fond memories of taking an “unimproved trail” and having to poop in the woods. Your dog will appreciate the gradual introduction.
  • Always stay on  leash—there are unknown dangers in the woods (other animals, getting lost, or scaring other people, just to name a few). And, it is the rule pretty much everywhere. Some “dog experts” (sarcasm inserted) feel they are so fabulous they are above the rules because their dog has a “perfect recall”. Hmmmm…   Don’t be that person.
  • Make sure you pick up your dog poop…no one likes to step in it, smell it, have their dog eat it (yep, go back and read about Turd-Herding)
  • Microchipping is best, but at least put an easy-to-read tag on your dog’s secure collar with name and contact number, just in case they get lost and can’t find their way.

 

With our warmer weather now here, it is the perfect time to bust out of your Covid isolation, toss the masks, and breathe in the fresh air with your dog! Here is a great article with some parks in the St. Louis area to consider tackling with your dog Dog-friendly hiking trails.

Poop eating – yes I just went there!

Yes, I just went there! Poop eating in our dogs is about the nastiest thing ever, isn’t it? It is always encouraged to pick up your dog’s doo right after for many health reasons, but it is a must for the turd-herders. Of course some people just think it is a great way to have the dog do the work for them…

 

Our golden retriever, Louie, was the best at poop eating…and by the “best” I mean the “fastest”. Sometimes he would just do a snatch-and-run and then it was a game for him to swallow faster than I could catch him. Then there was the “sneaky and sly” move. He would casually walk the yard, stopping to sniff and stare off into the woods as a distraction technique. He would make the slightest movement while sniffing the ground and pretty much just curl his tongue around a tasty turd and roll it into his mouth. I guess he thought he could sneak one past me. Ugh!

 

Winter time he was in his prime. He loved his poopsicles. It was his own version of the substance vs. form argument.

 

Pick it up people…just pick it up.

 

I know it sounds like the most hideous of habits, but it is common with dogs. Enough to get it’s own big 50 cent word.  It is called COPROPHAGIA. Dogs can start the habit for many reasons like boredom, a poor diet, medical condition, scavenging behavior, and stress relief. 

 

You typically will see this behavior start as puppies. This might be just an investigative behavior, it might be self-entertainment, scavenging behavior, or a response to their mom cleaning their own poop out of the bedding area. Of course when they are in the home we get all gaggy and try to stop them or correct them and it becomes a great way to get their new human’s attention! What a fun game!

 

I am embarassed to say, I grew up with the “rub their nose in it to punish them” old-school torture when a pet would soil in the wrong place. Not only do they have NO CLUE why you just did that, but it can also encourage stool eating in some circumstances.

 

If you have a healthy, vaccinated dog, there isn’t any real “harm” in it (except when Louie would eat and come inside and throw it back up on the carpet!). Make sure you talk to your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical issues. There are products that your veterinarian can provide that you put on their food that apparently makes it taste “bad” (like whatever, their concept of bad is apparently a bit off).

 

The bigger issue is road poo. Like, when you are out on a walk or at the dog park, or if your dog plays with others. You may know the health status of your dog, but the rest are a big unknown. Your dog can get a wide range of health issue from eating other dog’s poop (or wildlife…I can’t forget to mention that! Louie LOVED snacking on, and rolling in deer poop). Avoidance is the best practice here. Keep your dog on a leash if they absolutely can’t control themselves. It would be a bit challenging to go around sprinkling nasty powder on every other dog’s poop.

 

Of course, why can’t people pick up their own poo? It is the law, but SMH (insert big eye roll here).

 

Do you have a poop eater?

 

P.S. If you are a child of the 80s like I was, you are VERY familiar with Mr. Yuk! He was created in 1971 by Dr. Richard Moriarty at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh as an easily recognizable icon to prevent children’s poisoning. Here is a nod to Dr, Moriarty on the 50th anniversary of Mr. Yuk (who I think is also quite appropriate here!).

 

a bit of that fun news story here

Protect from fleas – the battle all pet owners face

Let me tell you about Cody, a terrier buddy of ours. Cody’s mom noticed he was itching and biting at his tail and back legs.   Poor Cody, he was miserable!  She started investigating a little closer, expecting to find a dead tick (Cody goes hiking a lot and gets ticks quite often).  Instead, she found black stuff all over his back legs and tail.   She ended up doing a little research and discovered it was flea poop! She had to figure out how to protect from those fleas.

 

How in the world did Cody get fleas?  His mom is really good about keeping Flea and Tick treatment on him.  Well, the month before, Cody’s mom had bought a different flea and tick treatment (apparently, it was on sale and his Mom is always trying to save a little money).  After calling the vet, his mom learned that not all flea and tick treatments are the same.

 

A little bit of information about fleas…fleas are tiny insects that have six legs, no wings, and can leap tall dogs in a single bound.  There are nearly 2,000 species of fleas, but typically it’s the Ctenocephalides felis (the cat flea) that gives dogs the most grief.  Fleas can be more than just irritating.  Besides the usual itching and scratching, some dogs are extra-sensitive to flea saliva.  One bite from a flea may be enough to bring on the unbearable itching of flea-allergy dermatitis.  Fleas can cause more problems than itchy skin…they are carriers for intestinal parasites, like tapeworms.

 

Fortunately, for Cody, it was an easy fix.  He had to take a bath with some flea shampoo (which he HATES!).  It was stinky, but it helped with the itching.  Then, his mom had to buy more flea and tick treatment from the vet to put on him.   His Mom also had to vacuum a lot to get rid of the dead fleas.  Within a week or two, Cody’s skin was better and the fleas were all gone.

 

How can you protect your pet from those pesky fleas?  There are over-the -counter products to treat your dog, but (as Cody’s mom learned), they are not as effective as prescription products from your vet.  The prescription product may be more expensive, but they’re safer and work faster.  They generally work to repel and kill adult fleas as well as the flea eggs.  Most of these include tick treatment, too.

 

No matter what product you decide to use, make sure to follow the directions exactly.  Flea-control products are technically poison and can harm your dog if not used properly.  If your dog begins to drool heavily or shake after applying a flea control product, get him to the vet immediately.  Also, be aware that there are different products to control fleas for dogs and cats, so make sure to use the right type for your pet.

 

Another option is to check with your local pest control company. If you have an infestation in the yard it can be a tough battle to get them under control in the house.

 

If you have any questions about fleas and treatment, or are wondering if your pet might have fleas, contact your veterinarian!

When your dog runs away – first steps to take

lost dogThe other day, a friend called in a panic…her sweet lab had escaped from his yard and she couldn’t find him anywhere.  That is every pet parent’s worst fear…your 4-Legged Kid disappears.  Well, my friend didn’t know what to do.  Fortunately for her, her “baby” was microchipped and wearing an identification collar.  Animal Control found him and called the next morning…a happy reunion occurred a bit later.   I thought this would be a perfect time to share suggestions on what to do when your dog runs away.

 

Before It Happens To You
  • Make sure he has a collar with identification on it…his name, your address, your home phone number and a cell phone number.
  • Make sure his rabies tag is attached to his collar.  The number on his rabies tag is linked directly to your veterinarian, who has all your contact information.
  • Make sure to microchip your pet.  This is used as a backup identification, in case your pet loses his collar.   Veterinarians, Animal Control, and all animal shelters have scanners and check all found pets, so that they can contact pet parents.
When It Happens To You or Someone You Know
  • Social media can be useful…if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, make sure to immediately post a picture of your 4-Legged Kid.  The picture can be quickly forwarded and shared across town.
  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/stlouispets is a good local resource to post your pet information
  • https://www.facebook.com/groups/STLMOlostfoundpaws is another very active Facebook group to post your pet information
  • Make lots of posters…put these all over your neighborhood. Typically a dog will be found within 2 miles of your home.
  • Call neighbors…most likely your pet is still nearby.
  • Call local veterinarians, animal control and animal shelters and leave word with them.  If someone finds a lost pet, these are typically places they will bring the pet.

 

St. Louis has a wonderful resource to help reunite Pet Parents and their 4-Legged Kids. www.stllostpets.org was created as a collaboration of the APA, St. Louis Animal Control and the Human Society.   Residents can list lost and found pets.  These three organizations take in 90% of lost pets in the St. Louis area, so this is a great resource to try.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you be prepared, just in case your 4-Legged Kid wanders off.

Spring Break travel – how to prepare your pets

Like most Pet Parents, as you begin to plan your Spring Break travel you wonder how to prepare your pets.  4-Legged Kids offers two great options to help you.  Your dog can stay in one of our Caregiver’s homes or one of our Team can come to your home to care for your pets (pretty much any species!).

 

Learn more about our options when you travel READ MORE.

 

If you wish to keep your 4-Legged Kid in your home while you travel we can help you make it a successful experience.  Having a Caregiver come to your home can be an ideal situation for households with multiple pets, elderly pets, or pets who become stressed when placed in a new situations.  Our Caregivers will work with you to find the ideal situation for your 4-Legged Kid.

 

Services Our Team Can Provide
  • Walks
  • Feeding
  • Any medical care necessary
  • Cleaning litter boxes
  • Collecting mail and papers
  • Watering plants
  • A security check around your home

 

You can have a Caregiver come multiple times throughout the day, or even stay at your home overnight.

 

Things to Do Before You Travel
  • Provide our Team with a telephone number where you can be reached.
  • Update your Customer Portal with all feeding and medication schedules.
  • Ensure 4-Legged Kids has the most up-to-date information for access (did you change keys? door codes? garage codes?
  • Gather everything for your Caregiver (including extra food, treats, cleaning supplies, medications, leash, litter scoop, trash bags, and towels (for rainy day walks).
  • Set your thermostat for a comfortable temperature for your pets.
  • Send a message through your Customer Portal with any last-minute changes to your pets care. Your entire team will receive it.
  • Update your veterinarian in your profile and notify them that 4-Legged Kids will be caring for your pets in case of emergency.

 

A few more tips
  • Ensure your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations, flea and tick treatment, and heartworm treatment.
  • Notify us of anything you might have forgotten to mention through your Customer Portal, which will be delivered instantly to your care team.

 

Finally, your Team does this because they love pets!  As a personal service industry, your Caregivers always appreciate tips, but they are not required.

 

We don’t just take care of Spring Break travel! For more information or to book a vacation, please call the office at (636) 405-0400 or BOOK HERE. 

 

If you are already established with 4-Legged Kids you can ACCESS YOUR PORTAL to make your reservation.

Neat facts about cats you might not have known

curious catsI love all things cats. Neat facts about cats are all over google and there are memes galore if you know where to look.

 

“Did you know?” facts about cats.
  • Cats don’t have sweat glands.
  • A cat can jump as high as seven times its height.
  • Cats have five toes on each front paw, but only four toes on each back paw.
  • Some cats have a genetic mutation called polydactyly which is extra toes on their front or back feet.
  • Cats have over one hundred vocal sounds, while dogs only have about ten.
  • A pack of kittens is called a kindle, while a pack of adult cats is called a clowder.
  • An adult cat can run about 12 miles per hour, and can sprint at nearly 30 miles per hour.
  • A cat’s tongue is scratchy because it’s lined with papillae-tiny elevated backwards hooks that help to hold prey in place.
  • The nose pad of each cat has ridges in a unique pattern, not unlike a person’s fingerprints.
  • Cat’s bodies are extremely flexible; the cat skeleton contains more than 230 bones (a human has about 206), and the pelvis and shoulders loosely attach to the spine.  This adds to their flexibility and allows them to fit through very small spaces.
  • Cats have better memories than dogs.  Tests conducted by the University of Michigan concluded that while a dog’s memory lasts no more than 5 minutes, a cat’s can last as long as 16 hours—exceeding even that of monkeys and orangutans.
  • Cats spend about 3/4 of their day sleeping. Certainly mine do!
  • Cats also purr when they are stressed or hurt
  • If you love cats you are an ailurophile. If you dislike cats you are an ailurophobe. 
  • If you are an ailurophobe you are like catnip to a cat. Imagine being a cat chilling on the couch taking a nap. A cat lover sees you as the most interesting thing in the room and they beeline towards you for a greeting. Ailurophobes generally avoid eye contact and any interaction with a cat. That makes you the most interesting and least threatening person in the room!
  • The musical Cats is based on T.S. Eliot’s poem collection called Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats

Counter Surfing and Garbage Gut in dogs

counter surfing dogWhen I think about counter surfing and garbage gut in dogs I think about Kensington (Kensie). She was a beautiful golden retriever that we cared for with our Family Boarding for years until the family moved to Florida. She was like my golden retriever’s kid sister.  They adored each other. I am pretty sure Kensie loved it when her parents traveled and she could move in with Louie.

 

Kensie had a super bad habit. She was a counter surfer. Like no other. She was super sneaky about it. I can’t tell you how many sticks of butter she snagged in the middle of cooking before I realized it.

 

That was when we were first getting to know each other. I realize quickly I had a pro counter surfer in the house and had to adjust the way I did things. Counter surfers are happy to forage in trash cans and that can quickly lead to a situation known fondly in the veterinary field as “garbage gut”.

 

Dogs have pretty sturdy digestive systems. Over-consumption and access to table scraps, trash, spoiled foods, and raw meat can lead to some unpleasant symptoms like diarrhea, lethargy, vomiting. In many cases these dogs need a visit to the veterinarian for treatment.

 

Ways to Prevent Counter Surfing and Garbage Gut in Dogs

 

  • Keep food and other items out of reach.  Prevention is always the best option.  Keep counters clear of food, so there’s nothing to steal.  Problem solved!  Sounds easy, right? It can be more challenging with multiple people in the house (especially kids as I have personally noticed)
  • Make sure to supervise your dog when food is out.  Providing instant feedback will teach your dog that stealing food is not the right thing to do.  If you’re not going to be home, make sure your dog can’t get into the kitchen.  Once he gets rewarded positively for stealing food, it will be even more challenging to get him to stop.
  • Never give your dog scraps from your dinner plate or when you are preparing dinner.  Always put all food for your dog in his or her bowl.  That way, he learns the only place food comes from is his bowl.
  • Never chase or give attention to your dog when he counter surfs…many times he’s just looking for attention and a game of chase is a positive reward for stealing food.
  • Teach your dog the command, “Leave It.”    This can be taught in various ways, but your dog simply learns that when you say “leave it,” that means he should leave whatever he’s trying to get.
  • Since most counter surfing happens in the kitchen, provide a place for your dog to lay while in the kitchen…a bed or pillow off to the side can be ideal.  Whenever your dog starts sniffing around, send him to his “spot” and away from the counter.   This can be a good time to reward your dog with a treat.  That way he associates his “spot” as a positive place to be.
  • Many people will choose to kennel during meal prep and meal times. There is also an option to baby gate your dog outside the food area.

 

Hopefully, one or more of these ideas can help you train your pet to stop counter surfing.  Counter surfing and the possibility of garbage gut is preventable with supervision and persistence.

New Kitten Care – how to prepare your home

new kitten careI have spent decades hosting mamas and their babies as a foster for local rescues including Open Door Animal Sanctuary.  I get the privilege of loving on those little scraps and preparing them for their happy future with a new family. YES it is tough to let them go sometimes! It is important to prepare yourself and learn about new kitten care and how to prepare your home.

 

Bringing Your New Kitten Home

 

  • Within a couple of days of a kitten arriving at your home, take her to the veterinarian for an exam, parent education and vaccinations.  Make sure to use a cat carrier for transporting her, both for her safety and sense of security.  This carrier should be used at all times when your kitten leaves your home.
  • Set up a “kitten room.”  This should be a small room with an easily cleaned floor.  Provide a bed, litter box, food and water (not near the litter box), something to scratch on, and a few safe toys. Remove exposed wiring or other dangerous objects. String, ribbon, and rubber bands are all easily overlooked but dangerous to a kitten! Remember they can climb!
  • Initiate a schedule of feeding, playing and handling to provide the kitten with the structure of regular activities.  You can turn on a small nightlight for your kitten at nighttime (she will learn this is the cue for bed, plus the light will help her navigate the room in the dark).  Be aware of the sleep needs of your kitten and allow her plenty of time to sleep when she is tired.
  • Handle your kitten gently and frequently for short periods of time.  Practice touching her near her eyes, ears, paws, etc.  This will be good practice for veterinarian exams.

 

The First Few Weeks
  • Once your kitten is used to using her litter box, you can gradually expand her territory to exploring nearby rooms under your watchful eye.
  • Be prepared for your kittens sense of adventure and curiosity.  Watch for dangerous objects and direct the kitten to acceptable play and scratch items.  Kittens under 3 months of age should have close supervision when away from their “kitten room.”
  • Provide your kitten with stimulating and safe toys to play with. Sometimes this can be as simple as a wad of paper to bat around! There are many fun wands and toys on the market that will provide hours of enjoyment for both of you.
  • Most importantly, always treat your kitten with love and kindness.  Help them grow to be a loving, gentle cat.

 

Hopefully these tips on new kitten care and preparing your home will help your kitten acclimate to her new space as easily as possible.

 

If you are new to pet ownership and are needing care when you travel, 4-Legged Kids is the place to come for your new kitten care! READ MORE

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