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Home alone… DOs & Don’ts

All pet parents face the issue of leaving their pet alone at home – sometimes for a shorter duration and sometimes for a longer one. Here’s how to make home alone a pleasurable time for your pooch.

Leaving your pet home alone leaves the pet parent with a series of ‘Oh-I-Am-Not-Comfortable-About’ pet peeves. One, being the emotional guilt of keeping the doggie alone with no one to give him company while he’s probably feeling scared or insecure. Two, the thought that after a long hard day at work, you might return to a littered house owing to the fury of your furry mate, a house that awaits strenuous corrective work. Three, your stay in your neighbourhood might be threatened, thanks to neighbours’ cribbing about your dog barking incessantly in your regular absences. What should and should not be done to keep everyone happy and content?

Dr Aradhana Pandey

Dr Aradhana Pandey

Separation anxiety…
Pet dogs when left alone commonly tend to display ‘separation anxiety’ which literally refers to ‘anxiety in dogs when they are separated from their pet parents or environment’. Scientifically, it leads to the secretion of stress hormones leading to hyper excitability which is followed by stress and immunosuppression. Dr Aradhana Pandey, pet parent & canine specialist at Doggy World, sheds light about its manifestations, “Initially the dogs become hyperactive and indulge in barking, biting, running around, damaging and throwing objects.  The longer duration of separation leads to dullness, sadness, refusing food and becoming sick.” But, she says, dogs can be trained to deal with it, let’s see how.
Training them for the ‘wait’
Dogs can be trained and gradually conditioned to be at home without feeling stressed out. “Train the dogs by leaving them alone for short durations and gradually increase the time duration.  Try to leave the dog in a familiar and comfortable environment.  Make arrangements for an attendant who can speak and play with him. The dog’s regular routine of feeding and walks should be followed. Love and pat the dog when you are back. Offer him some treats and take him for walk and play,” says Dr Aradhana.
When left for short durations…
Leaving pet dogs alone at home, even for a short duration may not be as harmless as it seems like, if certain precautions are not followed. The emotional well being aside, the pet’s physical well being may also be threatened. It may cause hyper excitability that may lead to increased heart rate, respiration rate, rise of body temperature, etc.  In severe cases, it can even result in cardiac arrest. Your canine pals might injure themselves or ingest toxic and dangerous objects. However, with suitable remedial measures, these hazardous occurrences may be avoided. And most of these measures revolve around controlling the environment the doggy has been placed in.
Tips to follow

  • Leave the dog in familiar environment (where he normally lives).
  • Provide him with some toys to play.
  • A Kong filled with his favourite treats works well.
  • Give him some chewable treats (artificial bone, etc.) that he likes.
  • Make drinking water available at all times.
  • Take care of room temperature. It should not be too hot or cold.
  • Keep away toxic and hazardous objects.
  • Take care of electric wirings.
  • Keep the radio on.

When left for long duration like a vacation…
When you wave a temporary ‘goodbye’ to your pet, while going for a long break, a series of concerns from the pet’s diet to a possibility of depression onset in the pet may trouble you. You may either choose to leave your pet dog in the company of known people at home or at a relative’s (whom the dog is accustomed to) or even leave him under ‘professional care’ at a pet boarding organisation. Whatever be the chosen option, certain things to be followed would be the same. Says Dr Aradhana, “Leaving the pet for a longer duration leads to separation stress, loss of health condition, immunosuppression and diseases.”
Some important DOs

  • He should be kept in a familiar place and his routine of feeding, walking and playing should be strictly followed.
  • The person in charge should pat and love him.
  • Talking to the dog makes him stress free hence often talk to the dog and remain in his company.
  • No drug therapy is recommended,however, if necessary small dose ofsedatives can be given.

Some important DON’Ts

  • Never keep dog in hot environment as this may lead to heat stress that can be fatal.
  • No toxic and dangerous objects should be in the vicinity of dogs.
  • Don’t chain the dogs as it can at times lead to choking.
  • Don’t keep the dogs in balcony, roof top from where he can jump and injure himself.

Also, once you are back, do not forget to pet him and praise him for being good boy…that too home alone!
(With inputs from Dr Aradhana Pandey, Doggy World, New Delhi).

children and dog

Dos and Don’ts for avoiding dog bites

We tend to forget that dogs do not communicate in the same way as humans. Training is the key to preventing dog bites. By that we mean that dogs, children and adults need to be trained in how to approach and communicate effectively.

Humans make eye contact when communicating and make contact through an open handshake. Both of these behaviours may be seen as a threat to dogs.

Sleeping dogs: Teach children not to approach a sleeping dog. If you need to wake the dog up, call him from a distance to allow him time to become oriented. Provide the dog with a bed that is separated from noisy high activity areas. This will minimise the risk of unintentionally waking the dog in fright.

Feeding dogs: Children should be taught not to approach a dog who’s eating or gnawing on a bone. Dogs may become protective of their food or bones. Dogs can be conditioned to accept interference with their food from the time they enter the house as a puppy. This training should continue throughout the dog’s life, especially if there is a possibility of children entering the property.

When approaching a dog:

  • Children should be taught to leave strange dogs alone and to report stray dogs to an adult who may be able to deal with the dog appropriately.
  • If a dog is in the company of his pet parent, it is essential to ask the pet parent’s permission to approach the dog.
  • The pet parent of the dog must initiate the introduction of a new person to the dog. The dog should be approached on an angle, not from the front or rear.
  • Once closer to the dog, slowly extend the back of the hand and allow the dog to sniff the hand before tickling under the chin or the side of the chest.
  • Dogs should not be patted on the top of the head or the shoulders.
  • An open palm facing the dog may be seen as a threat by the dog and may cause the dog to act defensively.
  • If the dog doesn’t sniff or back away, do not attempt to pat him.
  • Establishing eye contact with a dog can send a strong message of domination which can be perceived as a threat to the dog.

Supervising children around dogs: Young children can be rough and unrelenting. They may be unaware that their behaviour is annoying for the dog. Discourage rough, inappropriate play, as this may overexcite the dog. Adults should initially control the child’s movements when they are learning to interact with dogs. One good way to start is by holding and guiding a young child’s hand to pat the dog gently. Young children need constant supervision when in contact with dogs.

When approached by a strange dog: Children are easily excited. A common reaction in their excitement is to run and squeal. This behaviour can frighten a dog who may only be curious, or want to join in the fun. It is useful to teach children to stand straight and still (like a tree trunk!) and not raise their hands above their heads.

Important dog behaviour to recognise: As with other animals, dogs have a special way of communicating with each other and humans. Most people recognise the wagging tail as a sign of a happy dog, but fewer people really know or understand other signs of dog’s body language. A dog’s body language gives us clues about how a dog may be feeling.

A dog should be left alone if he:

  • Lifts his lips.
  • Growls.
  • Backs off.
  • Raises the hair on his back.

DO’s and DON’Ts in first aid

Preparing for a medical emergency involving your pet is always best accomplished before the event takes place. Dr. Shailesh Ingole guides you for important decisions about first aid and also when to take your pet quickly to a veterinary hospital. An awareness of various first aid measures can help the owners to save their pets’ valuable life. Let’s see how.

Abscess:

It is localised accumulation of pus which is caused by an infection introduced from bites or penetrating wounds. It may appear as a painful swelling or if ruptured, as a draining wound.

  • If ruptured, clean the wound with soap and water. Rinse well and pat dry.
  • If there is swelling, hot fomentation can be done for 10 to 15 minutes. Repeat 3 to 4 times daily.
  • Get it examined by a veterinarian.
  • Do not attempt to open the abscess yourself.

Wound bandaging:

Bandages are used for various reasons i.e. to protect wounds from dirt, to discourage the pet from licking the wound, as support for sprains or to prevent motion etc. For all these reasons, proper application is important. First step in proper bandaging is careful cleaning of the wound. All dirt, dried blood should be washed with soap and water. Hair should be clipped and then patted dry.

  • After cleaning the wound, the contact layer is the first layer applied and it should be sterile, stay in close contact but should not stick the wound, should be absorbent and free of fibres.
  • After cleaning the wound, apply an antibiotic ointment and then place the contact layer.
  • After the contact layer, apply the second absorbent layer to hold the contact layer. This layer is usually a cotton material. It is important to use the proper size as the materials that are too narrow may cause a tourniquet effect if wound causes swelling. If materials are too wide then they are difficult to apply. Any wrinkles may cause the bandage to become uncomfortable for your pet.
  • Finally apply the outer layer i.e. porous adhesive tape or elastic tape. Do not pull elastic tapes beyond their limits as this will result in bandage failure. The tape should be in contact with the skin or hair at the bandage margins.
  • Bandages should be checked regularly for signs of swelling, odor, discoloration of skin, saturation of bandage etc and then should be changed. Draining wounds bandage should be changed every 3 to 4 hours, otherwise every 24 hours.

Insect bites :

Any insect can cause problems if they bite your pet. A bite causes swelling, redness and itching. Certain bites can cause swelling in the face.

  • Apply cold fomentation to the sting area.
  • To neutralize the acidic venom, apply a paste of baking soda and water to the sting area.
  • Do not administer any medications without contact-ing your veterinarian.

Bleeding:

Pets suffer blood loss as a result of trauma. If bleeding is severe or continuous, the animal may lose enough blood to cause death. Pet owners should know how to stop bleeding if their pet is injured.

  • Apply direct pressure by gently pressing gauze over the bleeding area, absorbing the blood and allowing it to clot. Do not disturb blood clots. If gauze is not available, then bare hand or finger can be used.
  • If there is severe bleeding wound on the foot or leg, gently elevate the leg so that the wound is above the level of the heart. This will slow down the bleeding and simultaneously apply direct pressure to maximise the use of elevation.
  • The pressure above and below the wound can also be applied along with direct pressure. The pressure above the wound will help to control arterial bleeding, whereas pressure below the wound will control the bleeding from veins.
  • Internal bleeding is a life threatening condition and is not visible on the outside. However, some of the external signs observed include pet becomes pale and pet is cool on legs, ears or tail. If any of these signs are evident, the pet should be immediately taken to the veterinary clinic.

Burns:

When heat, flame, chemicals or electricity causes injury, do the following:

  • Extinguish all flames.
  • For thermal or electrical burns, immediately apply cold water compresses to the site of injury, changing them frequently to keep the site cool. Transport your pet to the veterinary clinic as soon as possible.

(Dr. Shailesh D. Ingole is working as an Associate Professor at Bombay Veterinary College, Mumbai and practicing at Pets Care Centre, Mumbai. He can be reached at: Clinic: 24440486, Mobile: 9821097256, Resi: 28676080.)