Wagz 'n Whiskerz Pet Sitting

Why Is My Cat Losing Her Claws?

Thursday, August 25, 2016, 5:50PM by Beth Crosby under Cat claws

Have you ever found what looks like your cat's claw in the carpet or scratching post? Don't worry, this is normal and healthy. Cats lose the outer sheath of their claws and reveal a sharper claw.

What causes the claws to fall out?
Scratching helps claw sheaths fall out, which keeps kitty comfortable. Like dog claws, if the sheaths do not shed, they can curl under and pierce the toe pads, causing pain and infection. So like dogs, cats need nail trims.

Is other nail care necessary?
Cutting the nail tips helps cats not scratch as much to lose their claws. Trimming can also prevent tearing nails. If your feline enjoys sitting on your belly and kneading, you know you can benefit from the trims, too! Sharp nails are painful to our tender tummies.

Starting your cat's nail trims as a kitten makes the habit much easier. You can trim the claws yourself or rely on a vet or groomer. But before you trim, be sure you know how to trim safely and are confident. You don't want to cut into kitty's quick.

When the cat's claw grows beyond the blood supply (quick), the outer sheath, or claw husk,  peels off to expose a newer, sharper nail for self-defense, climbing and hunting (even that favorite blue mouse!). Claws from each toe fall out every two to three months. Surprisingly, cats scratch to pull front claw sheaths out, but they bite and pull the rear sheaths. Claw sheaths can be all sizes from a full nail cover to one side or just a tip.

Do cats prefer a special scratching tool?
While cats enjoy stretching up on a carpeted or wooden scratching post, they also add their scent and reveal sharper claws from the exercise. Some cats enjoy a scratching on a flat, horizontal surface, so that's why you might find sheaths in carpets and rugs or cardboard scratchers.

The important take-away about cat claws is that they normally lose the claw sheaths, but check the nails occasionally to see if a trim is necessary or if the claws are too close to the paw pad.

At Wagz 'n Whiskerz Pet Sitting, your pet's health and comfort are our primary concern. We are delighted to care for your cats in their own homes and look closely for any concerns. Call us or visit us online today to schedule daily visits for your pets.

 

Cool Summer Treats for Pets

Friday, July 8, 2016, 12:42AM by Beth Crosby

During hot summer months, your pets like a cool treat as much as you do! Fortunately, you can share some human treats with your pets and you can make treats for them without much effort.

Apple slices are healthy snacks for dogs. They can have pieces of the apple however do not give apple seeds to your dog.  Cut the apple from the core and into small pieces and refrigerate. Other fruits that can be given to dogs include bananas, watermelon (remove seeds and rind), blueberries, pears (remove pit and seeds) and mango.  Cold or frozen veggies can make great summer treats for your dog as well and include carrots, green beans, cucumbers and sweet potatoes.    

Yogurt can also be a cooling treat from the refrigerator or freezer. Be sure to select plain yogurt with no flavoring, sugar or sugar substitute. You can freeze in ice cube trays and add small pieces of fruit for a convenient snack.

Other frozen treats include slices of pumpkin without seeds (or frozen canned pumpkin), pineapple, and peanut butter. Peanut butter can be put inside of chew toys like Kongs.  You can add a few baby carrots, apple pieces or some kibble into the Kong and cover the hole with peanut butter before freezing.  These make great treats and can be used to help keep dogs from getting bored while you are away.

Of course, give treats in moderation along with a healthy diet and beware of the artificial sweetener Xylitol that shows up in gums, candy, baked goods and some peanut butter. Xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs. Even small amounts of xylitol can cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), seizures, liver failure or even death in dogs.

Cats like a few human foods, too

Surprising to many, cats also enjoy fruits, such as frozen mashed bananas and fresh cantaloupe. Some also enjoy apple pieces without the peel and fresh or frozen blueberries. Since cats are carnivores, you can also share a few chunks of chilled baked chicken or tuna.

At Wagz ‘n Whiskerz Pet Sitting, your pet's health and comfort are our primary concern. We are delighted to share healthy treats with your pets. Call us at 704-615-6566 or visit http://www.wagznwhiskerz.com today to schedule visits during your summer and fall travel.

 

Resources

Modern Dog Magazine

American Kennel Club

VCA Animal Hospitals

 

Offering Options When Walking Dogs Can Minimize Chances of Dog Bites

Tuesday, June 14, 2016, 8:41PM by Beth Crosby under Dog Walking Safety

Dogs are at heart, wild animals. They long to romp and roam freely but for the safety of our dogs and others, we use leashes.

Leashes can cause frustration
When dogs are well-balanced and in unthreatening situations, they seldom show signs of aggression. But when confronted with pain or a threat to their safety, dogs might react with redirected aggression. This is when the dog bites or tries to bite something or someone other than the source of pain or frustration. Because the natural instinct in confrontation is fight or flight, dogs feel frustrated when tethered by a leash and unable to get away.

Dogs give warning signs
If you are walking a dog that seems alarmed or concerned by an approaching animal or oncoming situation, you will notice that your dog gives off body language to alert you to the frustration.  Walking head-on toward the target or threat builds tension and if not handled correctly, the dog might bite you or another animal in redirected aggression.  Professional dog trainer Dee Launder of Well-Heeled Dogs defines redirected aggression as a situation "when a dog directs (aggression) from a primary target to a secondary target". The dog looks at the other dog or situation as the source of its frustration, but the frustration is really caused by the leash restraining the dog's ability to escape the threat. Dogs are not able to distinguish between what causes pain and what they are focused on so dogs attack the closest thing when they reach their limit.

Know the signals
A dog's instinct is to redirect its aggression, whether the secondary target is you or the dog walking alongside it. But the redirect comes only after the dog warns with body language. The dog stiffens and stares but does not look directly at the threat. This is called whale eye, which occurs when the dog's eyes are looking in a direction other than the direction of the head. If the dog has a long tail, the tail stands up stiff or moves quickly - it "chatters".  A curly tail will uncurl slightly and a nub will stick straight out, according to Launder. Understand what the dog is trying to tell you when it attempts to get away from the situation by trying to get out of the collar or away from the leash.  You might even see snarling or a lumpy whisker bed, which is a precursor to the snarl.

Provide an alternative
Launder suggests that the best option is to stop the dog from looking at the threat. Turn your dog at a 90-degree angle or in a circle so it isn't staring at the oncoming animal. With proper training, you can teach your dog to avoid the instinct to become aggressive to a potential threat.  Instead of fight or flight, you show the dog a better behavior. When the dog complies, stop and reward with praise then you can continue to walk away from the threat.

Earn your pet's trust
Another critical component is that the dog must trust that the owner will get it out of the confrontation. Offer the dog an opportunity to follow a command and be praised. Launder says this is part of "training humans for dogs", which is her tag line. She also encourages owners to use reassuring language in a pleasant tone to get the dog back to a relaxed and neutral state, but avoid baby talk and coddling. Dropping to your knees and petting the dog when it behaves inappropriately reinforces the behavior you wish to stop. Responsible dog walking requires that you notice your surroundings and your dog's body language. Only then can you keep your dog, yourself and other innocent animals and people safe.

 

Pet Sitting Business Requires More than Love of Pets

Sunday, May 1, 2016, 7:44PM by Beth Crosby under Professional Pet Sitters

Many people tell us that we must have a great job just playing with dogs and cats all day. It is a great job, but the responsibility goes far beyond play.

First, a potential pet sitter considers the time and money required to establish the business. In addition to the time spent with the pets, we add travel time, training, scheduling, accounting and marketing.  Initially, the pet sitter or team of pet sitters manage the visits and the office. On-line software and mobile phones make the tasks easier, but we quickly realize that we are doing more than walking dogs. After we pet sit, we manage the office, scheduling and sitters. Pet sitting is a full-time job!

We love what we have chosen to do! But as we add sitters to our team, we know that pet sitting is not a job for everyone. After we have gotten business licenses, filed with the Secretary of State, participated in training, first aid certification, gotten insurance and found an accountant and attorney, we must screen potential pet sitters to join our team to provide our clients with the absolute best care for their pets and their homes.  Each sitter submits to a thorough background check and must go through an orientation to understand the exceptional level of care that is provided to each and every client.

Recently we shared a post on our Facebook page about our association with Pet Sitters International. This is a link to an article that the international professional educational program posted.  In addition to spending weekends, holidays and vacations with your furry family members, we stay current on trends, pet training techniques, foster opportunities and local events. We strive to be your resource for your pet's care.

Most people say they love animals and we do – big or small we love them all.  But we go beyond having an interest in pets. We do the work to provide superior pet sitting with reliable pet sitters and maintain a professional business that you can trust for years to come.

 

 

Is Pet Insurance Worth the Cost?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016, 1:33PM by Beth Crosby under Pet Health

Health insurance is a hot topic these days, and pet insurance is another option to consider. Would you be able to do more for your pets in an emergency if you had insurance? Perhaps, but not necessarily.

Three websites have released their 2016 top pet insurance providers, and all three agree that Healthy Paws offers the best return on your premiums, followed by PetPlan.

Consumers Advocate, the Canine Journal, and LovePets.com compared several insurance plans and provided readers limitations and exclusions to consider.

Consumer Reports recommends that you compare what you pay in premiums and deductibles to the payout or reimbursement. Read sample policies, including the terms and conditions. Be aware of limitations, cost sharing, and service fees. Also, look for a percentage reimbursement as opposed to a judgment of what is "reasonable".

If you need the confidence that your pet has at least some coverage or you own a breed prone to cancer, hip dysplasia or other illness, you might consider pet insurance. You might also consider a high deductible if you want insurance only for catastrophic coverage.

What should you consider when comparing pet insurance policies?
Are you looking for a wellness policy or help in the case of an unexpected accident or illness?

  • Does the policy include annual caps, lifetime caps, or per incident/condition caps? Some policies pay no more than $1,500 for surgery. Read the fine print. The large print touts benefits, but the fine print tells what is excluded.
  • Are deductibles annual or per condition? Lower per condition deductibles can be good for chronic health issues.
  • Does the company offer mobile applications or require claim forms?
  • What are the restrictions and exclusions on coverage? Most policies limit pre-existing conditions, and some limit hereditary or congenital conditions, such as hip dysplasia. Others deny certain breeds, while no policies accept bills from all veterinarians. Some accept only certain veterinary practices. Look for a list of limitations and exclusions.
  • What charges are reimbursed and how quickly are they paid?
  • How long has the company been in business?
  • How are premiums determined and when do they rise? Do diagnoses result in higher premiums at renewal?
  • What do reviews reveal about the company and policy you selected? Check customer satisfaction ratings, as well as talking with your vet or pet sitter about their experiences with specific companies. Veterinarians generally are not involved in insurance reimbursement, but clients will tell them of good and bad experiences.

 

Be aware of dual coverage
Sometimes you can get plans from your veterinarian that offer a better coverage than insurance, such as puppy plans that include wellness vaccines and spaying or neutering.

Some policies offer riders for wellness care that generally do not compensate the cost.

Know the difference in wellness plans and insurance plans
Banfield offers an "Optimum Wellness Plan" that offers vaccines and discounted services and products. But this is not an insurance policy, and the monthly payment program might leave a remaining balance for services provided with early termination. An example of this would be terminating coverage on a pet that moved to an area that doesn't have a Banfield clinic nearby.

The North American Pet Health Insurance Association represents this growing segment of pet owners' spending, so be aware that insurance for your pets is financed like human health insurance. Insurance companies charge more than they pay out.

Sometimes, pet health insurance makes sense monetarily, while other times it pays off in peace of mind. The financial cost might not be worth the benefit. So do your homework before deciding whether pet insurance is a good fit for you and your pet.

Resources:
Consumers Advocate

Canine Journal

Love Pets

 

11 Reasons Your Cat Needs Daily Visits When You Are Away

Monday, March 14, 2016, 8:54AM by Beth Crosby under Cat Care

Cats are independent beings. They interact with us on their own terms, but like independent older people, they need someone to check on them. Here are some reasons cats need daily visits.

1. Cats hide and can get hurt. The term “curiosity killed the cat” may be extreme however cats can find themselves in very dangerous situations. We don't know how he did it, but one of the cats we care for found himself trapped inside a shower stall!  Because we were visiting every day, he was “rescued” fairly quickly but had no access to food/water or a litter box.  Fortunately, he was fine but was definitely terrified and very happy to get out when we arrived.   

2. Animals instinctively hide illness to remain predators instead of prey. When cats are sick enough to show it, they decline quickly. As Professional Pet Sitters, we are familiar with kitty behavior and more specifically, the behavior of our clients' cats.  We notice when things are not quite right and can alert our client and know when to take a pet to vet. We ask our clients to sign a release form allowing us to bring their pets to the vet in case of an emergency and ask that they advise their vet that their Pet Sitter has permission to bring pet and that they will cover costs. We have seen medical emergencies such as a deadly urinary tract blockage that required immediate veterinary care. 

3. Some cats refuse to use a soiled litter box. Some want daily scooping, some want more! Automatic litter box cleaners scare some cats, so they avoid the litter box.  When we care for kitties, we clean the boxes every visit – even if there are multiple visits daily.

4. Pet Sitters love pets! They will play with your cats and help them exercise. As Professional Pet Sitters, we know how important playtime is to keep pets happy and healthy. 

5. Well-meaning friends sometimes forget, but as Professional Pet Sitters, we will confirm your request for visits before you leave and send updates after every visit so you know how your kitty is doing while you are away.  We also can ensure that, if required, your cat receives medications in the right dosage and at the right times. 

6. Daily Pet Sitter visits ensure you know of interruptions in heat, air conditioning or loss of electricity that can affect your cat.  We also can bring in mail, packages and newspapers, leave lights on or off and provide a sense of security for you home while you are away.

7. If you set out a few days' food, we find that sometimes one cat eats all of the food and other cat(s) gets minimal or no food. Auto-feeders can malfunction, or the battery dies, and cats are left with no food.

8. Cats will gnaw on plants and strings. A pet sitter will notice if the cat exhibits signs of eating a poisonous plant or swallowing a string.

9. What if you are delayed and the cat is left alone longer than you planned? If your travel plans change for any reason, we will continue caring for your pets as long as you need us so that there is no interruption in their routine.

10. Cats like to control their interaction with humans, but they do need interaction, if only for fresh food and water. Cats can become anxious when left on their own for long periods of time and feel better with a reassuring human's visit.

11. Pet Sitters clean up and note vomit. If your cat vomits near the food or water bowls, they often avoid the mess. So your cat may not eat or drink for the duration of your absence.

But you'll never even see my cat.
Some pet owners tell us we'll never see their cat, but we check on your cat and observe food and litter use noting any inconsistencies or changes in patterns. 

My cat doesn't like strangers.
If you are going to be gone for more than a day or two, it's good practice to have your Pet Sitter visit for a few short stints before a longer departure so that the cat is familiar with the sitter and isn't so stressed by your absence.  We also find that after a couple of visits, many cats who are usually shy actually come out and spend time with their Pet Sitter for cuddles, playtime and treats. 

Daily visits are as important to your cats as eating and using the litter box!

 

Good Breath, Clean Teeth Suggest Good Health

Monday, February 15, 2016, 9:43AM by Beth Crosby under Pet Health

February is Dental Health month, perhaps because oral hygiene has a direct correlation to heart health.

Dental care is important for dogs, cats, and rabbits. The bacteria attacking your pet's teeth and gums can enter the blood stream and damage internal organs, causing pain and illness.

Rabbits can develop several dental issues, and many are related to diet. They need more fresh greens and hay than pellets to maintain the natural growth and wearing of their teeth. Dog and cat diets are addressed below.

Canine and feline owners know to brush their furry kids' teeth at least weekly, but few of us do. Outside of looking for dark tartar on your pets' teeth, how do you know if they need more invasive treatment? The American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC) reports that the majority of dogs and cats show evidence of periodontal disease by age 3.

What are the symptoms of dental disease?
Dr Lori Hoe of Main Street Veterinary Hospital in Cornelius tells us that animals show signs of dental distress, even if they try to hide it. Most of us know that bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, loose teeth or finicky eating suggest dental disease. Dr. Hoe says other dental signs include:
1. Swollen face, especially under eyes, which could be the tooth root abscessing
2. Tilting the head to chew
3. "Just 'not acting right'" in general, especially in cats.  Cats can have painful resorbtive lesions and might act just a little off, hide, eat less, or even show no signs at all. These lesions begin on the outside of the tooth and look like a thinning of the tooth's enamel but eventually reveal the sensitive dentin inside the tooth before being resorbed into the gum completely.

When do you start caring for pets' teeth?
As with any training, the earlier you start, the better your pet will respond. Rub your puppy's and kitten's gums with your bare finger. Dr. Hoe provides this short guide on how to get started brushing your pet's teeth.

Brush your pet's teeth daily using a toothbrush designed for pets. A flavored pet toothpaste will enhance the experience for your pet. Use only a toothpaste made specifically for pets. Human toothpaste can upset a pet's stomach. When you've finished brushing, reward the pet with something they enjoy such as playing fetch or chasing a laser light.

In addition to brushing, examine your pet's mouth daily. Keep a journal and record any changes you see with the date and description. Look for color changes, fractures, breaks, and changes to the gums or throat tissue. Any of these is reason to visit the vet.

Your veterinarian will look at your pet's teeth and gums during every annual visit. Dr. Hoe says the majority of the pets they see over about 5 years old have some degree of dental disease. To get a thorough dental exam, your pet will need to be sedated and put under general anesthesia for the vet to examine each tooth, X-ray as needed and scale and polish teeth, as our dentists do. Anesthesia is based on weight and is much safer than even in recent years. The benefits of good oral hygiene far outweigh the risks of anesthesia.

Do any dental cleaning products work?
 Besides brushing regularly, Dr. Hoe recommends using a water additive like "Healthy Mouth".  She also recommends dental diets such as Hill's TD or Royal Canin Dental Diet as well as chews designed to clean teeth. Of course, always check with your pet's veterinarian before changing its diet.  ​

Now is the time to get started!
Annual dental screenings are a must, and routine dental cleanings and X-rays are important as the pet ages. Many veterinary clinics offer dental care discounts in February. Main Street Veterinary Hospital has a February dental promotion offering 5% off of any dental service or product. 

You can also begin brushing your pets' teeth today and inquire about a dental check-up any time of the year. If you love your pets, take care of their teeth!

 

Bacteria, Slime, and Germs, Oh My!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016, 12:01PM by Beth Crosby under Pet Bowl Slime

Have you noticed the bacteria growing in your pets' food and water bowls?

You won't, because the naked eye fails to see the disease-causing elements growing in the water and food bowls your pets visit many times daily. So when pink slime or biofilm appears, the population of gross things growing in the bowl is like dollars in a bank vault!

Your pets might be trying to tell you the water is not only stale, but teeming with bacteria, fungus and yeast. We think that our pets came from the wild and can tolerate the bacteria and germs that undomesticated animals can, but we give our dogs and cats immunizations, more regular diets, and the comforts of our homes. Our furry friends will still go out and nibble questionable finds and drink from puddles. So we must consider their food and water dishes and wash bowls daily to keep our pets healthy. The unseen nasties growing in their bowls can contribute to infections of the urinary tract, ear, and bladder.

If your pets are drinking or eating less than usual or seem dehydrated, you might need to empty the bowls and clean them well. Pink slime develops from fatty acids in food and soapy residue, so be sure to wash bowls daily and rinse well. If your water is chlorinated, the chlorine dissipates as the water sits, losing its effectiveness against unhealthy germs. Pets need fresh water daily, and the bowls need to be cleaned daily.

Cleaning is simple enough. Simply wash both food and water bowls with a clean brush or non-abrasive cleaning agent, such as baking soda or salt, and develop a daily cleaning schedule. The dishwasher's sanitizing cycle is also effective in killing the airborne bacteria that grow in warm, still water.  (If this is too much to start right away, strive for daily cleaning and if you miss a day, be sure to clean them the next day!) Let one person take responsibility for regular cleaning, so that no confusion arises in whose day it is to clean the bowls.

Bacteria form colonies called biofilm that adhere to the surfaces of pet bowls. The plaque that forms on our teeth is a biofilm. This goo, which can include pink slime, can include living and dead microorganisms, yeast, and fungi. This biofilm must be broken down before the bowl can be cleaned with soapy water. That is why salt or baking soda is a good option before cleaning with soapy water.

The bacteria known as pink slime, or Serratia Marcescens, is especially prevalent in PVC plastics, so consider introducing stainless or ceramic bowls. These surfaces are less likely to scratch, so algae don't have a cozy place to grow uninterrupted.

So if you love your pets and care for them, take a moment to wash their dishes daily. Would you use the same fork for more than one meal without washing it? The pets don't think so!

 

Pet Products That Work

Monday, February 2, 2015, 12:14PM by Pat Blaney

With an estimated $58 billion in sales expected in 2014[1] for pet care and products, pet owners find so many choices.  Just take a walk through a pet supply store and you will find aisles full of foods, treats, toys and equipment meant to show your pet just how much you care about them!

In my experience, many of these things don’t necessarily offer a sure-fire solution and not every product works for every pet every time.  If they did, there would not be as many choices as there are.   Working with our clients’ pets and having my own has given me the opportunity to try many products.  Here are a few that I think actually work.

Harness Lead

One of the challenges when it comes to walking dogs is pulling.  Whether it is a 15 pound terrier or a 95 pound lab, a pulling dog can make a walk an unenjoyable experience – not to mention be a safety concern.  This product reduces pulling and is escape proof.  We use this and recommend it to our clients with excellent results. (harnesslead.com)

Walk Your Dog With Love Harness

With a 100% money back guarantee, you can’t go wrong with this product.  It is a no choke, no pull, easy on harness that works. (walkyourdogwithlove.com)

Fizzion Pet Stain & Odor Remover

Let’s face it.  Pets have accidents.  This economical, oxygen-based cleaner cleans pet stains, removes odors, is non-toxic and safe to use. (fizzionclean.com)

Dura Scoop Original Cat Litter Scoop

I believe this is the best cat litter scoop available.  Its metal design and comfortable handle make it easy to use and it will not bend or break.  (durascoop.com)



[1] American Pet Products Association

 

I Am A Pet Sitter

Sunday, November 9, 2014, 9:46AM by Pat Blaney

“My mother has Alzheimer’s and we just moved her into assisted living.” “My brother was just diagnosed with cancer.”  “My husband and I are getting a divorce.” These are some of the things I hear from my clients.  You may assume that I hear these things because I am a counselor or chaplain.  No.  I hear these things because I am a pet sitter.

Because my role consists of caring for a furry family member, I have the honor of being a part of my clients’ lives. I let them know when their pet is not feeling well or if their behavior seems unusual.  I alert them to things about their pet that could indicate a medical condition.  I take out the trash and water the plants.  I bring in the mail and newspapers.  I take the chicken out of the freezer and run to the pet store to pick up dog food.  I hurry to a client’s house because she has locked herself out and I am the only other person that has a key.  I see my role as part of the village that it takes to have and care for a pet and sometimes that finds me assisting my clients at the most difficult times. I send sympathy cards, give encouraging words, leave flowers or treats for human and pet.

When asked, I provide advice on the best pet toys or food or the best vet in town. Because I live in an area that sees many new residents from other parts of the country, I recommend the best hairdresser, doctor, dentist, accountant and carpet cleaner.   I know how helpful that is because when I moved to the area more than eight years ago, I had no idea about any of those things.  I find it nice to get a recommendation.

Most of my clients do not really know all that it takes for me to be a good pet sitter. They know I love their pet and see how their pet responds to me.  They know that the people who I have on my team are cheerful, reliable and care for their pets as if they were their own.  I don’t think they know how much I spend on liability insurance or workman’s comp insurance or the fees that I pay my state to be in business.  They are not aware of what it takes for me to keep track of my accounting records or to stay on top of scheduling last minute requests for service or cancellations.  They probably have no idea about how long it took for me to decide that I needed to raise my rates because I was worried that they might discontinue service.  They don’t know all the steps that I take in order to assure that the individual I hire to join my team will be responsible, reliable, kind, dependable and detail-oriented.  I don’t think they know how many hours I work every single day to make sure that every single pet gets the individualized care that is needed – how Dixie can’t eat Scout’s food because she is allergic, that Nelly must have her medication at a certain time of day or that Maggie will not eat her food directly from the fridge – it must be warmed for exactly 12 seconds in the microwave.

No, they may not know those things. What they do know is that they can count on me to be there for them and that when they bring me a little further into their lives, they can trust that I take that confidence seriously.

I sometimes question if I really do make a difference in the lives of my clients. Today I got the following email:

You are priceless, and I would spend my last dollar to have you as my pet sitter.  The kitties agree!

I guess the answer is that I do.