Pet Advice & Ideas

Owning a Dog Can Increase Your Lifespan

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If you own a dog, you probably find yourself gushing to others about how great your four-legged furball is. Now, there are compelling new scientific studies that prove just how amazing they really are!

Published in Circulation, a journal of the American Heart Association, the evidence shows that dog owners have a lower risk of death over the long term and are less likely to die from heart disease when compared to non-owners.

Researchers also determined that dog owners who experienced a heart attack or stroke had a significantly lower risk of dying from these causes when compared to non-owners.

The research shows that for dog owners:

  • The risk of all-cause mortality is lowered by 24%, and the chance of dying from heart disease is reduced by 31%.
  • The risk of death for heart attack patients living alone was 33% lower, and 15% lower for those living with a partner or child.
  • The risk of death for stroke patients living alone was 27% lower, and 12% lower for those living with a partner or child.

The studies were originally used to see whether dog ownership was associated with reducing cardiovascular mortality, but the data showed that it fought off other causes of death as well.

“These two studies provide good, quality data indicating dog ownership is associated with reduced cardiac and all-cause mortality,” said Glenn N. Levine, MD, chair of the writing group of the American Heart Association. “While these non-randomized studies cannot ‘prove’ that adopting or owning a dog directly leads to reduced mortality, these robust findings are certainly at least suggestive of this.”

So what is causing dog owners to live longer than non-owners?

There have been many documented mental and physical health benefits to owning a dog. When it comes to mental health, dogs have been known to reduce stress and increase social interaction.

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“Dogs offer companionship, reduce anxiety and loneliness, increase self-esteem, and improve overall mood,” said cardiologist Dr. Dhruv S. Kazi, in an editorial that accompanies the studies.

Previous studies have also shown the physical benefits of owning a dog. Just petting a dog can lower a person’s blood pressure! In addition, “Dog ownership may increase time spent outdoors, which has an independent positive effect on cardiovascular health,” said Dr. Kazi.

In fact, owning a dog can end up improving other health measures such as blood pressure and heart rate. By walking a dog 20 to 30 minutes a day, owners will meet the American Heart Association’s recommended 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise to improve their cardiovascular health.

If you were on the fence about adding a furry family member to your household, remember, walking your dog isn’t just good for your pup — it’s very, very good for you too!

Dog Training: The Secret to Canine Cooperation

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We love our dogs — and we want other people to love our dogs as well. This is why some basic dog training will enhance your bond with your dog while improving their relationship with your friends and family. Having a well-trained dog or puppy will make your life a whole lot easier and enhance your experience as a dog parent.

Whether you are interested in basic obedience training or simply want to teach your new puppy the house rules, the key to any successful dog training begins with the fundamentals: communication and consistency.

Here are some successful dog training tips:

 

Reward behaviors that you want to enforce
Obedience training can be overwhelming for new dog parents, especially when trying to break your dog from bad habits like jumping up on people, leash pulling or barking. Let's face it, trying to train your dog to do what you want him to do – like to 'sit' on request – is a more straightforward task than breaking your dog's bad habits. However, all good training methods utilize the fundamental principles of consistency and clear communication.

Most dogs are people-pleasers – they want to learn. But it is up to us as dog parents to be competent communicators. We must let our dogs know what we want to happen and ensure that we don't unintentionally reward undesirable behaviors to confuse our messaging. Rewarding your dog comes in many forms including verbal praise, pets and treats like Tasty Rewards.

Establish a routine
Dogs thrive on routine. It is easy to reinforce good habits when your dog understands what it is that you expect from them. If there are multiple people in your household, it is imperative that everyone be on board with helping to maintain a consistent routine.

When house-training a new puppy, begin by establishing a routine that includes not only when your puppy goes outside but also where. Establishing a regular time and place for potty breaks will help your puppy learn to recognize what the desired behavior is.

If you want to teach your new dog to sit on request, then everyone involved in puppy training must use the same cues to request that behavior. If half of the household is asking your dog to 'sit' but the other half is saying 'sit down' for the prompt, it can create a confusing situation for your new pup. It is critical to establish what the verbal prompts will be and make certain that everyone is using the same language from the start.

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When 'no' means 'no'
Training your new puppy to understand the word 'no,' can be an effective tool. But be clear what you expect when you use that word. For instance, the word 'no' might be used specifically for those situations when you want your dog to immediately stop what they are doing – such as running out of the house or chewing on something they shouldn't. The key is to not overuse it.

Develop well-defined cues to shape other behaviors. If you want to break your over-eager pup from the habit of jumping up on strangers, then it may be more useful to use a specific cue like 'off.' Simply repeating 'no' for any undesirable behavior can lead to uncertainty, or lose significance from overuse. Remember, be specific and use distinct commands to produce more positive outcomes.

The power of recall
Training your dog to come to you when called is an extremely valuable behavior that provides a measure of safety and security for both you and your pup. As with any other dog training exercise, a clear direction will produce a consistent outcome.

To begin with, always use your dog's proper name. Most dog parents have several nicknames for their pups, but when working on recall or other dog training exercises, it is imperative to stick to your dog’s proper name. Save your favorite 'pet' names for cuddling on the couch or informal playtime.

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There are many tools and methods to use when training your dog or puppy, but the most successful training outcomes depend on clear communication. Be fair, be consistent, and reward your dog for good behavior. A well-trained dog who understands your expectations will have more confidence, be allowed more freedoms and be a much happier canine.

Toxic Algae: Is it safe for my dogs to swim?

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On a beautiful sunny August day, three dogs named Abby, Harpo, and Lizzy went for a swim at a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were happy and healthy pups. And by the days’ end, all three were gone. The cause: toxic algae.

It sounds like a scene from The Blob or straight out of your worst nightmares. How can something as benign as a swim in a lake turn deadly? Sadly, these tragic stories are popping up in the news from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the far reaches of the southeast. The good news is, knowledge is power. You can avoid these potentially devastating situations by being aware of your pet’s surroundings. Information is hard to find and often confusing, even for a veterinarian- so I put some information together that I hope you will find helpful. Here’s what all dog owners need to know about toxic algae blooms:

What is toxic algae?
Blooms of blue-green algae derive from small bacteria called cyanobacteria. In large numbers, these bacteria aggregate to resemble a greenish sludge on the surface of bodies of water. While the current blue-green algae blooms in the news are associated with lakes and ponds, algae blooms occur worldwide in all types of bodies of water. Some, but not all, forms of these algae produce deadly toxins. These blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB).

Why is this happening so much lately?
While toxic blooms are nothing new, they do happen more frequently in the hot, sunny days of summer and fall. Summer rainstorms also dump nutrient-rich runoff into bodies of water, fueling the algae’s growth. Slow-moving water is more likely to experience blooms, hence the increased incidence in ponds and lakes versus oceans and rivers.

Do toxic blooms only affect dogs?
No, the toxic effects of HABs can affect many animals. We see these incidents most commonly in dogs because they spend more time swimming than other pets. In addition, they often swallow water while they are swimming and are more likely to ingest a toxic dose.

These toxins can cause illness in people, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the toxins can be absorbed by fish and shellfish, causing a chain reaction in the food supply. A 2015 outbreak on the West Coast decimated fisheries, causing die-offs of fish and shellfish from Alaska all the way down the California coast.

What are the effects of the toxins?
When a dog swallows water with algal toxins or grooms the algae off his fur, the effects can be seen in minutes to hours. Algae produce different types of toxins that affect the liver, GI tract, and neurologic system. With liver disease, clinical signs start in minutes to hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, seizures, and weakness. With neurotoxins, pets can also fall ill in minutes to hours. Affected animals produce excessive saliva, experience tremors, have difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse. Both types are deadly. Even touching toxic algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory inflammation.

Regardless of the specific toxin, any of these symptoms after swimming in a lake should be considered a medical emergency. There is no known antidote to the toxin. Your veterinarian can provide supportive care and treat the symptoms, but sadly many dogs succumb to the illness.

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How do I know if a lake or pond is experiencing a HAB? Is all algae toxic?
Not all algae produces deadly toxins. In fact, most do not. That’s the good news. The bad news is, one cannot tell simply by looking whether an algal bloom is toxic or not. Blooms often produce a greenish scum on the surface of the water, but can appear brown as well. Sometimes there is no mat on the surface at all and the water simply has a greenish tint. If you see water that looks like this, don’t take chances. Keep yourself and your pets away unless you have specifically been given the green light by your local municipality.

According to the CDC, the following warning signs indicate a body of water that is potentially unsafe:
Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that: smell bad look discolored have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Is there an agency that monitors water safety?
Suspect water can be tested to determine whether toxins are present in the water. Just because the water in one lake is deemed safe, it doesn’t mean the lake a few miles away is also safe.

To reiterate: these blooms are found across the globe, in lakes, ponds, and oceans. Your county or state health department is usually your best resource for finding out the current status in your area. Some states list “HAB Incident Reports” indicating harmful algal blooms in the region, such as this site maintained by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

A last word of caution: In an era of tightening budgets, routine monitoring is not the standard in many places and testing may not occur until after a problem is noted.

When in doubt, just stay out!

Pet Vaccine Facts: Dogs vs. Cats

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It’s National Pet Immunization Awareness Month! Did you know that in addition to the “core vaccines” all cats and dogs need, there are also non-core diseases that you can get vaccines for as well? Your family vet will tell you which non-core vaccines your pet should receive, depending on factors such as their age and breed.

In honor of this awareness month, talk to your vet to make sure your four-footers have their latest vaccines and boosters. Always keep your vaccination records and schedule annual checkups for your furry family members to ensure they stay healthy and happy!

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Is Therapy Training Right for Your Pet?

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Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a wonderful way for your companion animal to help people in need. Registered therapy animals visit schools, hospitals, prisons, libraries, nursing homes and other facilities where interactions with pets could help people. Pet therapy activities, such as petting, brushing, walking, playing fetch, doing tricks or even something as simple as gazing into each other’s eyes, not only help people take their mind off their own problems, they can have physiological effects, too.

Oftentimes, animals can reach humans in a way that other people can’t, making them feel safe and unconditionally loved. There’s no denying that the human-animal bond is powerful. Fearful children and patients feel braver and stronger in the presence of a companion animal. Studies have chronicled numerous positive effects for hospital patients, including lowered blood pressure rates, heart rates and stress levels. Even though cats, birds, rabbits and other small animals make wonderful therapy workers, in this post we’ll be focusing on therapy dogs and what characteristics are needed for a good candidate.

Characteristics Well-Suited to Therapy Dog Requirements

To determine whether or not your dog is cut out for therapy work, keep in mind that the most successful therapy dogs really enjoy interacting with people, willingly allow strangers to pet them, are able to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, are able to remain calm around distractions and pay close attention to their handlers. These canines should be comfortable around children, as well as a variety of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, canes and walkers. They also need to be tolerant of potentially rough handling and jerky movements, as children and people suffering from illness may not be able to be as gentle as you or me. Additionally, dogs who are brave, like to nudge your hand for attention, or frequently put their head in your lap usually make for amazing therapy workers.

Generally speaking, most therapy dog training programs require your pooch to be at least one year old, have proof of up-to-date vaccinations and be tested to ensure they’re free from infectious organisms. To become a registered therapy animal, your dog must undergo a temperament evaluation to establish that his or her personality is a good fit for the program. Even though therapy dog requirements vary, the certification process usually involves two or three supervised visits to judge how well your dog reacts when faced with new environments.

How Do I Get My Therapy Dog Training Certification?

There are several national non-profit programs that certify dogs for pet therapy. Among these, Therapy Dogs International, Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Pet Partners are stellar organizations and great places to start learning more about this community of healers. 

If you feel like your companion animal might be well suited to this important work, contact one of the local chapters in your area. They will tell you everything you need to know about therapy dog training and how to register. Many of you will be happy to note that dogs need not be purebred for certification.

And, remember … a good therapy dog is only half of the partnership. You, as the handler, are vitally important to this equation. Be forewarned, it’s a significant investment of your time, and the work can be emotionally demanding. But most who do this work find the benefits to others far outweigh the personal costs.  

Have you ever had a personal experience with pet-assisted therapy? We would love to hear your story, just leave your comments in the section below.  

LINKS:

Alliance of Therapy Dogs https://www.therapydogs.com/

Pet Partners https://petpartners.org/

Therapy Dogs International https://www.tdi-dog.org

Protect Your Dog from Heat Exhaustion

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Every summer, our local parks department posts warning signs at the trailhead of my favorite hike warning of the dangers of overheating. Not for people. For their dogs.

The trail is five miles round trip, winding up a rocky mountain with little shade and no access to water. If you get into trouble out on the trail, you have to either be carried out or airlifted. Fortunately, most people heed warm weather warnings for themselves, bring enough water and have the appropriate hiking attire, all of which help make rescues a rare event. The same cannot be said for their dogs, unfortunately … hence the sign.

Dogs love us and want to go along with whatever we ask them to do. This leads to dangerous situations when well-meaning nature lovers, who just want to include their canines in summer activities, forget the very real risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs.

Risk Factors

Heat exhaustion doesn’t come out of nowhere, making it a problem we can both anticipate and prevent. That’s a good thing! While any pet or person can experience this condition, there are specific risk factors that you need to be aware of that make some dogs more susceptible to heat than others:

Age: Both the very young and the very old are more affected by heat. Regulating body temperature is a complicated physiological process, and pets at both ends of the age spectrum have more difficulty fending off temperature extremes.

Breed: You can’t walk ten feet these days without encountering an adorable Frenchie or Boston Terrier, but hopefully those walks are taking place early in the morning (hint, hint). Any squishy-faced breed (referred to as brachycephalic) is more prone to heat stroke due to their anatomy.

Coat: When I first adopted my black lab Kekoa, I was shocked at how much more quickly she heated up during walks. Why? Dark-coated fur absorbs more heat. In addition, those beautiful thick coats that keep breeds like Huskies toasty in the snow can also predispose them to heat-related illness.

Weight: As if we needed another reason to warn against carrying extra pounds, obesity is a known risk factor for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

All of these risk factors add up. Let’s just say, if you have a black-coated, overweight, senior French bulldog, you might as well just follow them around with a fan and a thermometer all summer (and get them on a diet!).

Early Warning Signs

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are progressive illnesses. It takes time for a pet to go from normal body temperature to dangerously hot. During that process, he or she may exhibit any one of the following signs, meaning it’s time to stop what you’re doing and get into the shade.

Panting: Yes, dogs pant as part of the normal cooling process- but if they’re panting so much they can barely pause to take a sip of water, they’re too hot.

Drooling: Excessive drooling is a sign of heat exhaustion. Paradoxically, so are dry gums. A pet’s mouth should be moist but not dripping with saliva, nor should the gums be dry to the touch.

Red gums: Gums should be pink. Dark gums, which can look nearly red, can signal a problem.

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Late-Stage Warning Signs

If your pet exhibits any of these during hot weather, I would proceed to a veterinarian immediately. Left unchecked, heat stroke can sadly lead to kidney failure or even death.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Staggering gait
  • Seizures
  • Petechiae (pinpoint red spots on gums & mucous membranes)
  • Blood in stool or tarry, dark stool

What Should You Do if You Suspect Heat Exhaustion or Stroke?

If you’re not sure how severe your pet’s symptoms are, you can always call your local veterinary ER for advice. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially with something as dangerous as heat stroke.

Avoid the temptation to douse your pet in cold water. It can actually worsen things by causing the peripheral blood vessels to constrict. You can spray your pet with cool (not cold) water while you proceed to the ER.

The best solution is, as always, prevention. Make sure pets have plenty of access to shade and cold drinking water when they’re outside during warm weather. Keep them indoors entirely during significant heat waves. Avoid walks during the middle of the day. If you’re going on a hike where help is not likely to be easily accessible if you run into trouble, over-prepare.

Have a fun, and SAFE, summer!

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Why Consumers Trust Lifeʼs Abundance Pet Food

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NOTE: Life’s Abundance is not the subject of any FDA investigations or cases of DCM.

The FDA’s June 27 update linking 16 dog food brands to reports of the canine heart disease dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) has pet parents understandably concerned. Our hearts go out to affected families, and we’re happy to address your questions about our brand.

Our Purpose is You

At Life’s Abundance we are fueled by our passion for helping families, including pets, live longer, happier, healthier lives. You and your family are at the top of our minds as we develop products, select ingredients, choose suppliers and answer your questions.

If you already feed your companion Life’s Abundance food, thank you for placing your trust in us. If you or someone you know is considering making a switch, we hope you will choose Life’s Abundance.

Our way of thinking sets us apart, but it doesn’t end there.

  • Authenticity. We don’t buy into fads and marketing gimmicks. Our formulas are based on proven science and evolve only when research confirms that an adjustment will provide a nutritional benefit. In fact, because we are proactive in our approach, we were among the first to include guaranteed probiotics in our foods.
  • Guaranteed Taurine. We guarantee minimum amounts of taurine in all of our dry dog foods. Though this nutrient is not required by AAFCO, we have always seen it as an important and beneficial supplement in our dog foods.
  • Regular Testing. We regularly test all of our dry foods. Some tests are standard protocol and some go above and beyond standard requirements. For example, after a 2018 FDA report indicated there may be a link between DCM and taurine deficiency, we re-tested taurine levels in all of our dry dog food diets. Then, later that year we re-tested Vitamin D after a series of recalls due to an excess of this nutrient. In all cases, we remain vigilant about the safety of our products.
  • Proven Results. For two decades families like yours have trusted us to provide the best nutrition for their pets. Generations of dogs and cats have thrived on our products and thousands of pet parents have shared their experience through reviews we can be proud of.
  • Feeding Trials in Process. We recognize the importance of standardized, scientific testing and the value of Feeding Trials and we are underway with the process to trial all of our dry dog foods.
  • Quick Notification System. We are proud of the fact that we have never had a recall. But, what we are most thrilled with is our Quick Notification System. Unlike most brands, because we have a direct relationship with customers, in the event there is ever an issue with a product, we will be able to notify consumers immediately. Rather than waiting to hear about a problem in the news, from a friend, or never hearing about it all, Life’s Abundance will contact you directly by email, phone or even mail. That’s a level of service you simply can’t get anywhere else.

As a company and as pet parents ourselves, news of events like DCM makes us pause to acknowledge what it means to be based on a foundation of integrity, and to appreciate those families whose well being our products support.

Be assured, we are monitoring this investigation closely and will provide updates as they become available.

Bulletin: FDA Named 16 Dog Food Brands Involved in Official Reports of Heart Disease

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NOTE: NO LIFE'S ABUNDANCE PET FOODS ARE INVOLVED IN THIS FDA REPORT OR DCM.

In July of last year, the FDA's investigation of consumer reports concerning an increase in the number of incidents of a heart disease called canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). The dogs did not have a predisposition to DCM but they did frequently eat dog foods containing peas, lentils and other legume seeds or potatoes as main ingredients.

The FDA has updated their investigation into the DCM cases and named 16 brands eaten by dogs involved in the official report. Only brands named 10 or more times are in this list while some reports listed multiple brands and other listed none.

Top 16 Pet Food Brands Associated with DCM Cases:

  1. Acana - 67
  2. Zignature - 64
  3. Taste of the Wild - 53
  4. 4Health - 32
  5. Earthborn Holistic - 32
  6. Blue Buffalo - 31
  7. Nature's Domain - 29
  8. Fromm - 24
  9. Merrick -16
  10. California Natural -15
  11. Natural Balance -15
  12. Orijen -12
  13. Nature's Variety - 11
  14. NutriSource - 10
  15. Nutro - 10
  16. Rachael Ray Nutrish - 10

Officials said “The FDA is working with the pet food industry to better understand whether changes in ingredients, ingredient sourcing, processing or formulation may have contributed to the development of DCM."

If you or someone you know is feeding one of the brands listed above, now may be a good time to make the switch to a premium Life's Abundance diet. If you already feed Life's Abundance to your companion, you can remain confident in your choice and our commitment to helping families, including pets, live long, healthy lives!

Related Post: Why Consumers Trust Life's Abundance Pet Food

DIY Projects to Make Your Home Pet-Friendly

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If you're like a lot of new and prospective first-time home buyers, having your own home gives you the opportunity to do something you've always dreamed of ... welcoming a companion animal into your family!

In fact, it turns out that home buying decisions rely significantly on pet-related considerations. For pet parents, a house in a community with pet-oriented features will almost invariably win out over a community with numerous pet restrictions. With over 60% of American households that include a pet or want one, that's many millions of home buyers focused on their pets' needs.

Our love of pets is not just affecting buying habits, it's driving renovation decisions. This summer, countless families will be starting do-it-yourself projects with an eye toward making their homes more suitable or more comfortable for dogs and cats. In this post, we'll be taking a deep dive on some of the most common DIY projects for pet parents. So strap on your toolbelts, recharge your power tools, dig out your measuring tape, crack your knuckles and let's get down to brass tacks. Or, nails, probably nails would be better. To the list!

Hot Dog a Doggie Door!

Your dog wants to go outside. Then he wants to come back in. Then he wants to go outside again. And the cycle repeats. Rather than giving yourself over to the whims of your dog, who quite frankly will be much happier if he can run around the yard whenever the inclination strikes, why not remove yourself from this equation entirely? A dog door offers the ideal solution. And, as far as renovation projects go, relatively easy to install.

Project Difficulty: pretty simple, actually.

Laying Down the P-Lam

Life is not always neat. Dogs and cats can track in all sorts of crud into your home. And sometimes they have accidents, too. Rather than risk a pee incident with your carpeted house, why not upgrade your flooring to something decidedly more pet-friendly? Scratch-resistant, stain-proof plastic laminate flooring offers a great way to avoid the unpleasantness of carpet stains. New homeowners, be forewarned, though ... tearing out old carpet and pads and laying down all new flooring is a bit of a challenge.

Project Difficulty: moderate, but big payoff.

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The Wonderful World of Built-Ins

Like the groovy conversation pits of 60's post-modern ranch houses, the understated elegance of built-ins to accommodate pet food and water bowls, not to mention pet beds, are all the rage with your fellow DIYers. There's no better way to demonstrate that your pets truly matter to you (as in, this house was literally made for you to be here). Functionally, they're a dream. Straightening up for company has never been so simple. Though it is a bit more labor-intensive than first-time DIYers should tackle, if you have a good plan, anything is possible.

Project Difficulty: complex, unless you've had woodworking experience.

The Deluxe Mud Room

Mud rooms are not just for ranches and farm houses anymore. If you have rambunctious doggos who love to romp and wallow in the dirt, and maybe young children who enjoy the same, having a room between the messy great outdoors and the cozy cleanness of your living areas can provide the perfect buffer. Now, savvy homeowners are outfitting their mud rooms with plumbing! While some install an oversized sink that functions as a doggie bathing area, other deluxe mud room conversions also function as a laundry room as well as a changing area. Wouldn't it be nice to peel off dirty clothes and drop them in the wash before you enter your inner sanctuary? The benefits are tangible and numerous, if you're ready for a bigger project.

Project Difficulty: challenging (as they say, when plumbing's involved, best to leave it to the professionals).

The best part of committing to pet-friendly renovation projects, aside from the obvious benefits of each, is that not only is there very little chance you'll regret your decision but also that you'll almost certainly derive great satisfaction from these renos. A recent survey showed that four out five people were very satisfied post-project, even when they paid someone else to do all the work. And that number only goes higher when you do the work yourself! 

So, the only question left now is, what will you build?

Fire Safety & Prevention for Families with Pets

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When my mother was five years old, her house burned down due to a stove that was accidentally left on overnight. Decades later, she still remembers that night as if it were yesterday … the smoke filling the hallways, the feel of the grass under her bare feet. It happened, she said, so fast. Fortunately, everyone made it out alive.

When it comes to fire safety, most of us know the basics: pre-plan evacuation routes and during a fire, don’t open doors without first feeling for heat. But do your plans include your pet? An estimated 500,000 pets are adversely affected each year by house fires. For this reason, July 15th is designated as National Pet Fire Safety Day in order to raise awareness of pet safety during house fires and help you prepare so everyone is protected!

Safe Pet Evacuation

The first part of your pet fire safety plan should be to review your evacuation protocol, if you have one. And if not, today’s the day to make one!

1. Designate specific people for specific pets. Knowing in advance who grabs Oliver’s leash and who gets Fiona’s cat carrier streamlines the evacuation. Ideally the leashes and carriers should be kept in easily accessible locations.
2. Know your evacuation routes. A second story window is not going to be an accessible route for a large dog, so plan for exits pets can use whenever possible. It is important to remember that family members should never put themselves in danger for a pet, as difficult as that may be. First responders are trained to rescue our four-legged family members when it is unsafe for us to do so.
3. Display a window cling. Speaking of first responders, did you know you can put a vinyl adhesive sticker near your front door that alerts firefighters that there are pets in your home? Many fire stations make these available to the public, or you can easily shop for them online. Make sure they are updated regularly so first responders know how many pets are living in the home, should an emergency arise when you are away or incapacitated.
4. Keep collars on at all times. This is good practice in general, but in the specific case of house fires this makes it much easier for a firefighter to safely bring your pet out of the house. And, should they escape during an evacuation (not uncommon in times of extreme distress), he or she will have their contact information readily available on their tags.

Fire Prevention

Did you know dogs and cats are blamed for about 1,000 house fires every year? No, these are not deliberately destructive acts of arsonist-inclined companion animals. But still, yikes! Take the time to employ a few preventive strategies to ensure your dog or cat doesn’t inadvertently cause a flammable disaster.

1. Use flameless candles. Pets and open flames are a dangerous mix, particularly when you have a curious cat who likes to knock things off the coffee table. Flameless candles powered by LEDs are a pretty and safe alternative. If you really want to light that scented candle, make sure your pets are never left unattended in the same room.
2. Use knob covers on the stove. Did you know that stove tops are the number one way pets accidentally start fires? One minute they’re trying to get a look over the counter to see if there’s any food up there, the next thing you know you’re getting a call from the fire department while you’re in the middle of a work meeting. Knob covers- the same type used to prevent toddlers from starting the stove- work like a charm.
3. No glass on wooden decks. Many people like using glass bowls for pet dishes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but glass can act like a magnifying glass and set a wooden deck aflame. It might seem crazy, but it happens! Switch the bowls out for ceramic or plastic, and you’re all set.
4. Use a monitored security system or smart alarm. Traditional smoke alarms are a vital component of fire safety, but they’re only useful for people in the house at the time. Pets home alone have no way of alerting us if there’s a problem, but monitored security systems can react quickly before a fire gets out of hand no matter where you are in the world. Conversely, a good alternative to monitored systems are smart alarms. Today’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors function not only as in-house alarm systems, they can also send text and push notifications wherever you’d like. Our system controls the thermostat, the smoke detector, security camera, and tells us if one of the kids left the front door open.

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We’ve come a long way since that chilly night decades ago where my mother watched her house disappear. With today’s safety precautions, there’s a lot you can do to make sure your family doesn’t endure a similar tragedy. Or if you do, that everyone makes it out quickly and safely. By taking steps now to minimize the dangers and to develop a well-defined plan, everyone in your home can have peace of mind and rest a little easier.

Dr V
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM