October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month

October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, and while there are 3-4 million shelter dogs curled up in cages, waiting against the diminishing hope of being rescued from euthanasia, heed this advice: don’t adopt a shelter dog this month. Yes, that’s right: I’m recommending that you do not adopt a pet during Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month, for there’s more than one way to support shelter dogs.

Cute Dog

While it’s great that a commemorative month is in place to raise awareness of dogs in shelters, some would-be parents don’t always consider whether the time is right for pet adoption. Meanwhile, groomers are usually the last people that need to resort to a shelter to find a pet. Possibilities for gaining another four-footed family member abound in our profession; a deluge of neglected, matted animals seems to mysteriously turn up at our door. Customers abandon dogs, one or two locals treat grooming salons as a depository for strays, and, naturally, our dog-loving connections are bountiful. Perhaps you’ve once been tempted by a doe-eyed mutt gazing at you helplessly or by a harrowing story of animal neglect or abuse. By obliging to your humanity, you added one more number to your zoo’s keep: this is how some groomers end up with one-too-many pets in their household.

The fallout from these “do right” gestures occasionally works itself out. But not always. Having to send a dog back to the shelter is hard. It’s hard on you, it’s hard on the dog, and the people at the shelter are affected, too. For this reason, the only time you should get a dog is when you’ve been thinking about it and talking about it and discussing it with people for some time. If, after thoughtful consideration, you’ve decided it is time for a pet, then YES! Head to that local shelter you’ve researched and see if one of their dogs suits your household.

But if it’s not the right time to expand your family with a four-legged friend, you can still participate in Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month. In fact, as groomers, you can raise more awareness on pet overpopulation than most other people by promoting October’s Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog theme. This alternative could allow you to help dozens of animals instead of just one. Remember that collaborations play a role in how a shelter affords to operate. Public donations and ongoing partnerships with shelters allow for the better care of shelter dogs.

Here are some ways to make great strides toward helping homeless dogs, without the usual 15-year commitment of pet adoption.

  • Make a sign advertising October as the Adopt-a-Shelter-Pet Month, and hang it in a prominent spot in the salon.
  • Place a jar on the counter and label it for donations: “Not the right time to adopt a shelter pet? Donations go directly to (name of local shelter) and help care for the pets.”
  • For the month of October, use a sliver of space from your own advertising to promote the cause. You could simply tack a short message to the footer: “Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month is October!” If you can, list your favorite shelter.
  • Using your Facebook page, showcase a different local shelter each week in October, in honor of Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month
  • Run a special sales promotion to benefit an animal shelter (e.g. offer a $5 discount off of nail trims, or sell Halloween or Insect Shield bandannas, facials, or some other add-on for the discounted price of $5). Use signage to indicate that proceeds from that special will be donated to the shelter, and explain why.
  • Organize a drive for an animal shelter in honor of Adopt-A-Shelter-Pet Month. Find out what supplies the shelter needs and put up a sign in your shop asking for donated items – towels, canned food, bleach, and so on. Set up a collection bin for customer donations. Mention the donation drive to every caller so they can come prepared if they are inclined. Put up a promotional sign in the window to encourage drop ins from non-customers.
  • Offer the shelter coupons for free or half-price grooms to be redeemed by a dog deserving of pampering, in honor of the month.
  • Put a link to the shelter on your website or on social media and introduce Adopt-A-Pet Month.
  • Volunteer at a shelter. Although training is usually entailed, their staff will be delighted that someone with professional experience has offered to help with the dogs, and the experience will feel incredibly rewarding.
  • Sell raffle tickets throughout the month for a free basic groom, or, if your shop offers retail items, raffle off a product package. From the money you’ve raised, donate anything over your expenditures. Advertise that you are doing it.
  • Not the right time to adopt? Consider whether you’re in a position to foster. Most shelters have some animals that would do better in a foster home until they are permanently adopted. Ask the shelter what it entails. While it could be tough saying goodbye to a foster pet, it could be joyous knowing that you have given a dog some of the developmental and behavioral skills and training that made him a better adoption candidate for a permanent home.

Implementing just one of these ideas may make a huge difference to a shelter dog. Whatever course you pursue will help the shelter help more dogs. It’ll make you feel good, and it will show your clientele who you really are as a pet professional – and that’s worth it!

November Is Senior Pet Month—What Is Your Approach To Senior-Pet Care?

                This time of year, as November slowly but surely nears December, it’s customary to take stock of what you have and appreciate what it is you’re thankful for. And while material possessions often make the cut, most thank-you lists include things that can’t be measured in dollars, like the health, love, and support of family, new or old friendships, or a modicum of personal or professional success. However, if you’re anything like me, the unconditional love and companionship of a beloved pet is close to the top of the list.

                There’s nothing that compares to the adorability of a new puppy or kitten. Their energy, enthusiasm, and excitement is contagious, and watching them learn and mature as they grow from infant to adolescent to adult is as wonderful as it is rewarding. However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t also recognize the soft spot I have in my heart for senior pets. My first cat lived to be 23, and while her last few years brought a fair share of challenges, I gained a deep appreciation for the time I had with her, as we spent much more time together than we ever did when she was a kitten.

                In many ways, it’s fitting that November is host to both Thanksgiving and Senior-Pet Month. Caring for a senior pet is a difficult task that should not be taken lightly, but as pet parents, it’s our duty to do everything we can to make our four-legged friends’ twilight years as happy and comfortable as possible. If nothing else, caring for our elderly pets with the compassion and care they deserve serves as a way to thank them for the years of love and companionship, and it’s the least we can do.

Vet Examining Dog

A Proactive Approach to Elder Pet Care is Vital

                According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats and small dogs reach old age around the time they turn 7. Large breeds tend to not live quite as long as smaller breeds, and are typically considered geriatric at age 6. Therefore, when pets reach this advanced age, a little extra care goes a long way. For starters, as with humans, trips to the doctor should happen more frequently—as an essential aspect of senior-pet care, it’s recommended that elderly dogs and cats visit the vet twice a year. Additionally, their diet becomes more important—when pets reach advanced age, it may be time to consider a diet centered around senior-dog or -cat food, to ensure that (your) pets are getting all the nutrients their changing bodies require. However, while there are many parallels that can be drawn between senior-dog care and senior-cat care, caring for aging dogs and cats can be very different, too.

Old Dog
Caring for Senior Dogs

                As dogs age, providing them with the care they so desperately need becomes more of a challenge. In an interview with NPR, veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman likens elderly dogs to elderly people, remarking that as dogs age, proper diet and exercise become increasingly important. Senior dogs are also more susceptible to devastating diseases like cancer and cognitive dysfunction—the canine equivalent of Alzheimer’s. However, out of all the dangers facing aging dogs, one of the most serious may be temperature. "They're less able to thermoregulate. So we have to take account of that by making sure they have some kind of blanketlike coat or contraption on to keep them warm and not keep them out so long in cold weather,” Dodman explains. “The same goes for heat. You really don't want to leave them out in the yard, especially tied up on an extremely hot day. They can dehydrate. They're less able to cope with the change in temperature, and it's a recipe for disaster."

                One easy solution to this problem would be to stock up on products designed to help your aging dog regulate his or her body temperature. Originally developed by NASA for the US space program in the 1960s, ThermaPet™ technology features a metallized polyethylene terephthalate (MPET) insulation that helps warm pets using their own body heat through passive reflective heat transfer. Additionally, not only does ThermaPet technology help keep pets warm and stave off the negative effects of extreme cold, but it also offers warming relief to pets suffering from joint discomfort. And with ThermaPet products that include classic beds, nesting beds, mats, blankets, and apparel, they offer a warming solution that’s perfect for any dog, young or old.

                In addition to ThermaPet products, for owners of geriatric dogs interested in taking extra precautions in the cold-weather months, a coat may be a good place to start. While many dogs have a thick coat that provides some degree of insulation in the extreme cold, there’s still something to be said for the additional protection from the elements that only a coat can provide. Additionally, if you’re a pet parent who’s particularly concerned about the effect inclement weather may have on your aging dog, paw-protection wax and boots add an extra layer of protection from snow, ice, salt, and sand, as well as a deterrent against licking paws, keeping road-treatment chemicals out of sensitive gastrointestinal tracts.

                On the other end of the spectrum is the extreme heat of July and August. Every year, there are many well-publicized and heartbreaking stories of dogs suffering injury or even death after being left in a hot car on a brutally warm summer day. With the extreme heat and harmful UV rays from the sun beating down on an enclosed vehicle, the temperature inside that car can be significantly higher than the temperature outside, and it can spell disaster for unsupervised canine inhabitants in a matter of minutes—that’s why it’s important to never leave ANY dog, particularly an elderly dog with a diminished ability to regulate his or her body temperature, inside a hot car. For aging dogs, however, concerns over heat extend far beyond the cabin of a car or truck.

                As is the case with cold weather, pet parents must take precautions to protect their pets outside during extreme heat, too. Cool Pup™ offers a wide array of products to keep pets cool and hydrated in the summer heat. Customer favorites like Portable Bowls are perfect for offering pets cool, clean water at home or on the go. But if you’re a pet parent who typically leaves your dog(s) outside during the day, the groundbreaking Faucet Waterer might be the product for you. Faucet Waterers securely attach to any outdoor faucet or spigot—the unique design dispenses water when your dog licks the lever, and water stops flowing when they stop licking!

                However, as popular as Cool Pup’s hydration solutions may be, the most popular Cool Pup product is arguably the Reflective Cooling Harness. With innovative cooling inserts and reflective strips for added visibility, these functional and versatile harnesses are must-have items on summertime walks. Additionally, as the pavement heats up, paw-protection wax and boots can protect paws in the summer much like they can from the cold and ice in the winter.

                Extreme temperatures are not the only challenges facing elderly pets. Much like humans, as pets age, their joint function deteriorates, often resulting in arthritis and hip dysplasia—a common condition among dogs. While joint pain and discomfort are often degenerative and may not always be curable, there are many steps pet parents can take to improve their elderly dog’s quality of life. For instance, a dog suffering from hip and joint issues may benefit from taking supplements. From those containing glucosamine and chondroitin to alleviate hip and joint pain, to those rich in omega-3 and omega-6 to decrease inflammation and boost immune health, there are many vet-developed and -approved supplements on the market today.

                If you’re reluctant to introduce supplements to your senior-dog-care regimen, there are other options available to you.  As cushiony and comfortable as most dog beds are today, a standard polyfill bed may not have the level of support that an arthritic dog may need—that’s why an orthopedic bed might be the best choice for your dog. With a design that’s similar to the memory-foam beds on which you and I may sleep, canine orthopedic beds utilize memory-foam technology or medical-grade egg-crate foam to create a comfortable and supportive sleeping surface for aging dogs of all sizes.

                As a dogs’ joint function deteriorates, so does their ability to climb onto beds or couches, or into cars or SUVs, and for these dogs, RampSteps are a necessity. Whether at home or on the go, RampSteps make it possible for aging dogs to access the hard-to-reach elevated areas that they would’ve easily jumped onto in their younger days. Additionally, for those pets requiring the most support, Lift & Go Leads offer just that. With comfortable, supportive neoprene construction, front and hind support, and built-in handles for lifting, these innovative leads are the ideal travel and walk-time essential for aging and ailing pets alike.

Old Cat
Caring for Senior Cats

                Typically, cats have longer lifespans than their canine counterparts, and they’re often considered to be more self-sufficient than dogs, but that doesn’t make senior-cat care an easy task. The differences between kittens and senior cats are extreme—for starters, kittens have seemingly bottomless energy reserves. They’re constantly on the move, running and darting from room to room, stalking and pouncing on toys, bugs, and other pets, and getting bolder and more curious with each passing day. As cats age, however, many trade in the laser pointer for a comfy spot on the couch. When cats are younger and more active, they’re more likely to care for their nails by scratching at a scratching post (or worse, the furniture). However, as they age, the relative inactivity of elderly cats can sometimes lead to faster nail growth, boosting the importance of regular nail care—that’s why having a pair of top-notch nail clippers on hand is of the utmost importance.

                According to PetMD, periodontal disease is “one of the most common diseases affecting cats today,” and while it affects cats from all walks of life, it is especially important to take steps to prevent and combat this disease on senior cats. Regular brushing is key—whether at the dentist or at home—as brushing is key to preventing periodontal disease. Dual-end toothbrushes and finger brushes are available for at-home use, and toothpaste is also available for an added protection. However, if your cat resists having his or her teeth brushed, sprays, finger wipes, and regular wipes all offer an effective alternative to brushing.

                Heat loss is another issue with aging felines. For example, have you ever noticed how a majority of cats will fold their legs underneath themselves as they sit? It might look odd, but this minimizes the heat they allow to escape, effectively keeping them warm. Much like with dogs, as cats age, it is important to monitor and help them regulate their temperature, and for an animal that values heat as much as a cat, a thermal mat like the Meow Town™ ThermaPet Cat Mat might be the perfect solution. As with the selection of ThermaPet products available for dogs, these mats warm cats using the animal’s own body heat, not electricity. This innovative design offers maximum warmth and comfort while eliminating the threat of electric shock that is present with many heated mats.

                As with their human caretakers, the needs of dogs and cats change and evolve as pets age, and it’s important to remember that caring for your four-legged friends as they near the end of their lives is a delicate balancing act—one that requires a great deal of love, patience, and compassion. While the thought of living without the creature that has been by your side for years can be difficult to bear, it’s important to make sure they’re still enjoying a relatively good quality of life. Some would argue that the most important aspect of senior-pet care is not the detection and treatment of diseases (although that is still quite important), but rather keeping your elderly pet as comfortable as possible. Sometimes love is the best medicine, so when in doubt, spend as much time as possible with your senior pet and shower him or her with love, just as s/he has done to you throughout his or her long life.