Staying home more with pets

Are you at home more? With all that is happening in the world right now, we are spending more time than ever at home, but how is this affecting our pets?

Many people are now working and studying from home and in general, reducing their time spent out in the community. Our pets, on the most part, are enjoying these changes and are relishing the increased time with their owners. Dogs are pack animals, so they love companionship, and with owners being home more, the bond they share with their people has intensified.

Separation anxiety in pets

Many pets are enjoying the extra attention and are less likely to experience moments of loneliness, but what happens when it’s time to get back to the office? For some dogs and cats, life will just simply slip back into old routine, however, others will experience separation anxiety. When trying to overcome separation anxiety, it important to try and do it gradually. For pets that have experienced severe separation anxiety in the past, simply moving to a different room of the house and closing the door is a great first step. In less severe cases, you might start by leaving the house for 10 minutes, then coming back. The intervals in your absence can be increased over time. Providing entertainment for when you’re away can be a great distraction for your pet too. Puzzle treats and self-play toys are a great option.

Staying home more

Signs of anxiety in dogs

  • Destructive behaviour such as chewing off limits items
  • Escaping from the house or backyard
  • Barking and howling
  • Pacing
  • Digging
  • Loss of appetite
  • Shivering

Signs of anxiety in cats

  • Over self-grooming;
  • Toileting issues such as not using their litter tray
  • Seeming bored or depressed
  • Hiding
  • Loss of appetite

Is your dog getting too much exercise?

Many dogs are enjoying joining their owners out on more walks around their local areas, but is there such thing as too much exercise for our furry friends?

Exercise provides your dog with a long list of physical and mental benefits. It keeps joints limber and promotes good range of motion, maintains muscle mass and helps to maintain cardiovascular health, decrease obesity, or maintain an appropriate weight.

Daily exercise can strengthen your relationship and reinforce your dog’s need for routine. Dogs quickly get used to having structure in their day and enjoy the day-to-day predictability provided by a regular walk.

Dogs need exercise to maintain peak physical and mental well-being, but the type they should get depends on their condition, health history, breed, and age. Some breeds have more endurance than others and can exercise for a much longer periods of time before showing signs of being tired.

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A good plan for active dogs and their owners, is to alternate days of cardio exercise (consistent exercise for 20 minutes or more) and strengthening with one full day of rest, which is a free day with no planned activities.

If a dog is overweight or obese, the owner must be gentle when starting a new exercise plan for the dog. Dogs carrying extra weight are at a real risk of joint injury, back injury, respiratory distress, cardiovascular problems or heat stroke if exercised too rigorously.

Moderation is the key and walking is much less likely to trigger distress in a dog with heart disease compared with high impact activities such as running, jumping or energetic play.

So while, exercise is important, it is also important to be aware of the signs of over exercising your dog. RSPCA has reported an increase during the current lockdowns of dogs showing these issues.

Wear-and-Tear on Paw Pads

Dogs can suffer from painful feet, as the pads on their feet can develop tears if they are over exercised.  Some dogs find the opportunity to run and play so appealing that they will continue to do so even if their feet are in pain. A lot of walking is done on hard pavements and concrete which can be like sandpaper continually rubbing against the paw pads.

Pad injuries can be extremely painful, which can be likened to walking on a ruptured blister on the bottom of your foot. Overworked pads may have tears with visible flaps of skin present, may appear red, worn away, or thinner than normal. If the paws are infected, you may even see swelling or pus. Check your dogs feet regularly and see your local vet if such injuries occur.

Joint Injury

Extreme exercise can cause strain and sprains in various joints. The toe joints are particularly susceptible; as are the wrist and elbow joints. Dogs carry about 60 percent of their weight on their front limbs, which puts the majority of stress on those joints.

The rear legs can also experience excessive-exercise injuries, particularly in the knee joints including strains, sprains and tears. This is especially true in breeds with very straight rear legs.

Breeds who are long and low to the ground such as Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Pekingese have unusually shaped joints which increases the chances of excessive exercise induced limb and back injuries.

Age is also a factor to consider. Over doing the exercise with older dogs that have osteoarthritis can actually accelerate the progression of the condition as it causes degeneration of joint tissues and associated pain. Over exercise for young puppies (especially large and giant breeds) can result in joint problems later in life.

Sore Muscles

Like humans, dogs can experience sore muscles and stiffness after a big exercise session and can be a sign that your dog may be getting too much exercise.

The after effects of exercise generally show up after the dog has had the opportunity to rest after exercise. When the dog is ready to get up, they may struggle to stand, refuse to walk up or down stairs or even refuse a meal because it hurts to bend down to the food. Very sore pups may even cry out when first moving about.

Extreme cases of over exertion can cause a dog may develop exertional rhabdomyolysis, a condition in which the muscle tissue breaks down. As the muscle dies, it causes excruciating pain and the breakdown products can in turn, lead to kidney damage or failure.

Heat Sickness

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are generally more of a concern during warmer months when dogs can overheat. An increase in body temperature to above 41⁰ can not only result in dehydration and breathing difficulties but also potentially life-threatening hyperthermia.

Particular breeds such as brachycephalic breeds (which include short-nosed dogs like Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers, and Shih Tzu’s) can’t cool off as efficiently as other breeds so are at a higher risk of heat sickness.

Age is also a factor, as very young and old dogs have difficulty regulating their body temperatures, so too much exercise can cause them to overheat.

While it’s good to know the signs of over-working your dog, but it’s even better to prevent issues from occurring. Dogs relish play time with their owners and will often push through muscle and joint pain and fatigue just to get more fun into their day. It is up to the owner to set boundaries and limit the extent of exercise in order to avoid over-exercise-related injury and exhaustion. Monitoring your pet closely for signs of separation anxiety or exercise exhaustion and adapting accordingly, will ensure that your pet remains happy and healthy.

RSPCA is a great resource with many great articles that can offer help in these times.

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We hope you are all coping with the changes you and your pets have had to deal with in 2020. We have all been thrown in the deep end on this one and its easy to forget how these changes may be effecting our furry friends. We thank you all as well for your support in our endeavours. We hope our little blog and pet supplies have given you a bit of respite. Keep safe and role on 2021.

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