My Cat Wakes Up Too Early! What to do...

My pet wakes me up every morning at 6:00 to go outside. When I stumble back into bed for a few more minutes' sleep, he allows me to snooze off---just to wake me up 20 minutes later. After I reluctantly stretch and make a cup of coffee, guess what he does? Yeah, he goes back to sleep! Now, I love my guy, but disturbed sleep is making me a little grumpy.  Full disclosure makes me tell you that my pet is a dog. But cats, if anything, can be much worse. If you love one of these infuriating creatures that rouse you out of bed at some ungodly hour, you know what I mean!

Cats are each different and their perceived needs are just as different. How Fluffy wakes you up is completely and entirely all her own method. I once had a cat that would climb up a rug that was hung on the wall behind my bed. My "alarm" went off when she launched herself out into space and landed on my snoozing, hapless, and unconscious body.  Every day.  So what's a sleep-deprived body to do?

Your cat may be waking you on purpose---because she desperately needs her water changed and three bits of kibble or she will surely die---but she also may be waking you up because she is awake. Before you can figure out how to get her to let you sleep, you need to understand why she isn't.

Nature structured our kitties to wake up early to hunt for food, so very early morning is likely when she wants to eat.. If she absolutely, positively, must be fed at 5:00 am, getting an automatic food dispenser may be all you need to do. Other needs may be a clean litter box, fresh water, or maybe she's lonely. Perhaps her bed gets too much light or is set in a drafty spot. The thing is, cats are seriously awesome trainers. If you got up even once to feed her, she figures she has you trained and all she has to do is remind you of your training. Her "intermittent reinforcement training method" means she believes most of the time, you'll do exactly what she wants you to do. All she has to do is remind you until you do!

Cats are naturally nocturnal, so if she's awake during the night, prowling and knocking things off a shelf (which for some reason is the most industrious thing she does) and making noise you simply can't sleep through, she's just being a cat. (My daughter has three cats. One of them has learned how to open dresser drawers and unpack all her underwear. Since it happens when nobody's home, no one knows for sure which cat it is. And they sure won't tell!) Making sure she has plenty of stimulation during the day may help even out her own sleep cycle. Households who have kids rarely have "early morning cat syndrome."

Putting her as far away from you as possible during the night and keeping your door closed might help. Finally, hiring someone to come sit and play with her during the day might be necessary, too. Unfortunately, cats are not easily trained out of their feline natures. But oh, those purrs and bumps of the head are so, so worth it!

Dental Health For Pets

Is brushing your dog's teeth really necessary? How can I possibly brush my cat's teeth? Bad breath? There's a treat for that and you may have some health issues on your hands.

Dental problems in pets are usually pretty obvious---bad breath. But there are other signs, too. Look out for these signs and see a vet if they occur.

  • Bad breath
  • Broken or loose teeth
  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Teeth that are discolored or covered in tartar
  • Abnormal chewing, drooling, or dropping food from the mouth
  • Reduced appetite or refusal to eat
  • Pain in or around the mouth
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Swelling in the areas surrounding the mouth

Periodontal disease is as bad for your pet as it is for you. It is the most common health issue in both cats and dogs. By the time your pet is three years old, he or she will probably have at least the early stages of periodontal disease. Your pet may just need a thorough cleaning, which your veterinarian or veterinary dentist (yes, there is such a thing!) does with Fido or Fluffy under general anesthesia. Take your pet for teeth cleaning at least once a year to avoid other, internal, health problems that can start from bacteria in the mouth.

But why wait a year to have his teeth cleaned? Can you imagine the problems you'd have if you didn't brush your teeth at least twice every day? Using a toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for pets isn't really difficult, and once he knows what you're doing and he enjoys the toothpaste, he'll eagerly look forward to his daily cleaning. Here are some tips on how to do it properly.

  1. Don't try to use an old toothbrush for humans (or even a new one). Your vet can recommend a brush suitable for your pet, or there are "sleeves" that slip over your finger and work like a toothbrush. (See this video.)
  2. Never put human toothpaste in your dog's mouth. Human toothpaste can contain additives that can do your pet harm. (If xylitol---a sugar-free sweetener---is in your toothpaste, it can kill your pet.) There are many flavors to choose from that your pet will enjoy as much as you like your mint-flavored one.
  3. Start by squeezing some out for your dog to taste. Let him think of it as a special treat.
  4. Accessing your pet's teeth is not difficult; just lift his lip.
  5. Be gentle! His mouth may be sensitive, so use gentle motions.
  6. Although most pets probably will not let you clean the inside surface of his teeth, just clean the outside surface (by the cheeks).
  7. The back upper molars and canine teeth are most likely to build up tartar, so be sure to reach these back teeth
  8. Offer a special reward, such as playing with him, petting or brushing him, or giving him a favorite toy so he associates teeth brushing with good things.

Keeping your pet's teeth clean and healthy can help prevent kidney, liver, and heart problems, so be as intentional about keeping his teeth clean as you do your own.

How to Rid Your Dog of Itchy Flea Bites and Bloodsucking Ticks

While their methods of consumption differ, fleas and ticks are bloodthirsty creatures. At best, fleas can give your dog a gnarly itch, at worst they can cause a bad case of anemia. Ticks aren't able to reproduce as quickly or jump from host to host like their agile flea counterparts. However, they can carry and transmit Lyme Disease along with a number of other illnesses to both you and your pet.

Don't wait until you've got a full-blown infestation on your hands, take care of fleas and ticks as soon as you notice them!

Ticks are Easy to Control…IF Action is Taken Quickly

Although they could make your dog sick, ticks are more likely to drink their fill and drop off. When hiking, camping, or roaming through wooded areas with tall grass, it’s crucial to thoroughly check your pup's fur for these voracious little beasts before entering your home!

Carefully run your fingers along the inside of the ears, gumline, jowls, between toes, and inside the armpits and groin. Use sharp tweezers to pluck them out, or combine equal parts water and vinegar to soak into a cotton ball. Apply pressure to the tick and surrounding area; don't squeeze or twist! 

Removing the torso without the head can cause a serious infection. If the tick doesn't drop off on their own after application, their grip should loosen just enough to be plucked out.

Fleas are a Bit More Complicated

Where there's one flea, you can guarantee there will be more. These tiny vampires can drink up to fifteen times their body weight! Unlike ticks, fleas prefer to eat, lay eggs, and defecate all in one cozy spot. When the larvae hatch, they feed on the feces (which contain blood) of the adults.

It’s obvious that being bitten repeatedly would be irritating, but what isn't so obvious is that some dogs are allergic to flea saliva. To soothe the itchy inflammation, your pet will lick and chew at the area. 

The wound becomes infected, and your dog swallows larvae.

Now you've got an entirely separate issue to deal with…tapeworm. These parasites use fleas as a conduit to find new hosts. They live in the intestines, sapping your pet's nutrients, and exiting through poop.

How to Terminate These Pests

The three most commonly used methods are topical treatments, oral medications, and home prevention including powders and sprays.

Topical treatments come in the form of gels, flea collars, and shampoos. Collars distribute a powder along the pores, while gels are administered in a straight line from the top of the neck to the tip of the tail. The idea is that your dog's natural oils will distribute the medication across their coat.

Monthly oral prevention is by far the most effective long-term option, depending on what you use. Trifexis and Nexgard are both reputable brands for fleas, ticks, and heartworms. 

Once the problems on your pet are remedied, you've got to exterminate the eggs, larvae, ticks, and fleas that could be taking refuge within the fibers of your carpet. For this, you can purchase pest-specific powders; evenly sprinkle it along the floor, allow it to sit, and vacuum it up.

Keep in mind, some pets have adverse, but non-life-threatening reactions to the ingredients in these cleaning agents. Be careful not to leave anything behind, and it’s best to wait an hour or two before allowing your dog back into the room.
Fleas can and will use you as a meal too if they aren't kept in check, so act quickly and don't let them take over your home!

Pet Fire Safety Day is July 15

You've probably never thought about your family pet becoming an arsonist, but it happens more than you might think. A cat in Maryland knocked a candle over onto a mattress and set her owner's house on fire. Fortunately, everyone (including the cat) got out alive and unharmed. A pooch in Washington pulled his bed up against a space heater, setting the whole place ablaze and sending himself and his owner to the hospital. And a Labrador Retriever in Connecticut turned a gas stove on, catching the pizza box that held his prize afire, too.

Since even the smartest of animals can't understand fire safety rules, it's up to their humans to make sure their environment is safe. Here are some actions that may save not only your pet's life in case of a fire but your own and your family's, too.

Stop Fires Before They Start

  1. Make sure there are no untended flames in your home. Use fire screens in front of fireplaces and snuff out any candles when you leave the room. Candles range high on the list of home fires.
  2. Secure electric wires so that they are covered or out of reach of pets and tiny humans. A dangling cord can invite mouths and little hands and start an electric fire before you know it.
  3. If you leave a bowl of water out on a wooden deck, use one of a material other than glass. Believe it or not, sun shining through glass and water can heat a spot of the wood and set it on fire.
  4. Put covers over stove knobs. Even if they're on top of the stove out of reach of kids, a jumping dog or cat can easily turn burners on. Unlit gas can cause an explosion and electric burners can get hot enough to set afire anything that lies on them.

Make "Be Prepared" Your Motto

  1. When you make an emergency plan for your family (and you should!), include plans for getting your pet out safely, too. Then practice your plan together.
  2. Keep a pet emergency supply bag in a readily accessible place. Include food, medicine, leash, carrier, and any records you need.
  3. Use smoke detectors and monitor them. Just because it beeps when you press the button doesn't mean that a 10-year-old monitor works properly. (The life of smoke detectors if 10 years.)
  4. Be sure you know your pet's favorite place to hide, and put a sticker on your door or window that lets emergency personnel know there is an animal inside your home.

In Case The Worst Happens

  1. If a fire starts, no matter how small, get out! Make sure everyone follows the plan and exit the building immediately.
  2. If you can't find your pet right away, go outside, leave the door open, and call for your pet.
  3. Let emergency responders search for your pet. They're trained to be inside burning buildings and are the best chance for getting your pet to safety.

July is National Picnic Month

No matter how much changes throughout the years, picnics are a pastime that never seems to fall out of favor. Hundreds of families along with their pets will be out at the parks this summer flying kites, grilling burgers, and enjoying each other's companies. If you're thinking of bringing your pup along this season, you wouldn't be the only one!

Expect to see other canines running and catching frisbees with their owners as well. Here are some ways to ensure that the whole family stays safe during your fun in the sun.

Keep Fireworks Out of Reach

Even though your kids understand that a sparkler is essentially a small flame that could burn them, our dogs don't always have the capacity to make that connection. All they see is a pretty, bright light that their human siblings love to play with, and they want to play too!

On the other hand, it’s no secret that canines are terrified of the bigger, louder, more dramatic fireworks shows. So, let them picnic with you during the day as long as they're a safe distance from any sparkler, but take them home once the bigger events start.

Beware of Bloat

We won't lecture you on the importance of staying hydrated. You've probably already thought to bring a bowl in case Fido gets thirsty after eating and playing. However, too much food and water combined with heavy panting can trigger a fatal condition in dogs called bloat. 

When kibble in the stomach absorbs liquid, it expands and releases gas. At the same time, your thirsty pup is swallowing gulps of air between laps of water. With nowhere for these excess gasses to escape to, the stomach begins to twist and turn, like a balloon animal. 

To avoid this potentially deadly condition, simply limit your dog's food intake. Sure, it’s a picnic, but if there's any chance they'll be exerting their bodies to the point of heavy panting, they can wait until later to eat. Make sure they take a break every so often and allow them to sip water once their breathing has slowed a bit.

Watch Out for Critters and Creepy Crawlies

Humans are far from being the only species that enjoys warm summer weather. Biting and stinging insects like bees, wasps, and flies are on the hunt for sugar and pollen. Be sure to cover sweet drinks and store food in airtight containers once the family is finished eating. You don't want your dog or winged guests rummaging through your leftovers.

While exploring the rest of the park or picnic area, keep your eyes peeled for anthills, skunks, and other forms of wildlife. It’s common for canines to aggravate ant colonies, wasp nests, porcupines, and skunks with their overly curious nature. 

Before you hop in your car and head home, be sure to check everyone for ticks! July is also around the time we begin to see more cases of Lyme disease contraction. If you haven't considered doing so already, pick up First Aid kit with tweezers, burn cream, sting relief, and any other tools that you feel are pertinent to your family's needs.

Have fun, and remain vigilant!