Help! How do I ..........???
Many of our homes who adopt a Labrador have never had a dog before and for anyone who has ever had a baby will know what that feeling is like. One of “help, what have I done" even though you have been looking forward to their arrival! We’ve asked our adopters to give you some pointers. These are purely their own thoughts from their own experiences, so if you are ever in any doubt, consult your vet. Also you can check out our Success Stories under the adopting link on the main menu bar.
Please note that we do not recommend leaving dogs in cars at all, but in a hectic world with many demands on all of us sometimes it is necessary for the safety and security of the dog to leave them in the car with decent ventilation even on warm days as long as the dogs are not left NO MORE THAN A FEW MINUTES. Under the Animal Welfare Act it is illegal to cause an animal unnecessary suffering and there are penalties imposed if caught. There have been various tragedies over the years so please think carefully about this.
Chocolate for dogs
Many owners will say that their dog eats human chocolate and it’s fine – well bully for them! Chocolate can be poisonous to dogs, and can increase the heart rate and may even result in convulsions or death. It may sound dramatic, but as an owner who has seen her dog with “Twisted stomach” (also known as “bloat”), it is terrifying to see your animal in such pain. Our dog didn’t get a twisted stomach from chocolate, but something that he picked up from the street. However, I’d really urge other owners not to feed their dog human chocolate – if in doubt, ask your vet. Also check out the information below re other items which can be dangerous to dogs.
Christmas can be a nightmare for dog owners as there are loads of hazards which could harm your dog. Here are some things to be vigilant about:
- Alcohol - generally we tend to drink more alcohol at Christmas and use it in our cooking. Alcohol is intoxicating for our pets so please don't leave it out where dogs can get at it and don't feed your dog any food or sauces which have been made with alcohol. If your dog has consumed alcohol, seek advice from your vet as soon as you can.
- Antifreeze - essential for our cars when the weather is cold, but it can be fatal to dogs and cats. Even a small amount can kill an animal, so please make sure you mop up any spillages - antifreeze is sweet tasting and irresistible to animals.
- Chocolate - as mentioned above, it can be fatal if eaten by a dog. It contains a toxic element called Theobromine which dogs are particularly sensitive to. Humans can process this toxin, but dogs are unable to, so even the smallest amount can be fatal. Often presents left under the tree which contain chocolates can be too much of a temptation to a dog's highly sensitive nose, so be vigilant! You don't want a dog with diarrhoea or being sick or even having convulsions, meaning an emergency vet visit.
- Christmas decorations - real trees may be the bees knees, but pine needles can very easily get into your dogs paws and will require a trip to the vet. Glass baubles can either get stuck in a dog's throat (yes, they will try to eat them!!) or if broken can also hurt their paws. Tinsel and foil are not good if eaten by your pet.
- Christmas plants - Poinsettias, Amaryllis and Mistletoe. Their red glow isn't just appealing to humans, many dogs will find these plants irresistible too. Therefore, it's important these plants are kept out of reach, as they are poisonous and can cause mouth or stomach irritation from just eating a small part of the plant. Mistletoe berries, in particular, can be even more toxic than poinsettias.
- Christmas puddings, pies and cake! Certain fruits can be fatal to dogs, particularly raisins found in mince pies, Christmas pud and cake, so please don't feed your dog these treats. Also be careful if you are having grapes or dried fruit with cheese. Grapes can also be fatal to dogs. Check out our list of dangerous foods below - the list is not exhaustive, so if you are unsure about anything, check it out with your vet.
- Costumes! It may be tempting to dress up your dog in a costume, but it can annoy animals and pose health and safety issues. If you do put your dog into a costume, make sure they can breathe, see and hear. If possible avoid masks on your pet and remember to remove any small or dangly accessories that could be chewed or swallowed!
- Turkey! Cooked turkey bones can become lodged in a dog's throat or perforate its intestinal tract. Very distressing for the dog and very expensive for you, so please be careful.
- Finally, don't forget your dog's feelings. We often get over-whelmed with all the visitors, late nights etc. and your dog is the same and won't always want to be in the thick of it! Make sure your pet has a safe place to relax and be away from all the noise and bustle if they want to. Remember, they like routine so make time to take your dog out on their normal walks - a lack of exercise can make a dog out of sorts and not so friendly!!
Cold weather advice
During the winter, you need to keep an eye on your pets and LRK offer the following tips:
- Check your dogs paws and ears as they can get frostbite, also paws can be irritated by the salt and grit put down on roads and paths
- Keep your pets away from antifreeze, as it can be fatal causing kidney damage if drunk. Dogs and cats are drawn to it because of its sweet taste.
- Like humans, dogs who suffer from arthritis find the cold weather aggravates it, so keep your pet warm, even give them a heat pad to help ease the pain.
- Dogs with short hair can feel the cold. They are ok when exercising, but if you are out and standing still a lot with your dog, do consider getting your pet a coat, and one that is highly visible.
Costs of owning a dog
When we first thought about getting a dog, we spoke to lots of friends who had dogs to find out realistically how much it costs to own a dog. Before we knew it, we had a long list of expenses! However, it did not deter us from getting a dog, we just decided to open a "GOLF" account or its full name of "Getting our little friend" account!! It really helped budgeting a set amount of money each month into this account even before we got our first dog. It also meant that when we took on our first rescue Labrador, we had a nice pot of money to buy him a new bed, lead etc. So, my advice is think about the following - food costs; vets bills (for usual visits such as yearly injections, but also emergency visits), regular treatments for worming and fleas; dog insurance; any regular medication for ongoing conditions; treats; toys; bedding. I would really urge anyone who is thinking about buying or rescuing a dog is to do your research first of all - it will save you a lot of heartache if a little while down the line you can no longer afford them.
Research has shown that some quality time with a pet can reduce human stress levels! So rather than reach for the treat tin for both of you, why not spend some time having a game with your pet? Spending some quality time with them is a great way for you both to relax. Having a pet can also help with loneliness and dpression and many PAT (Pets as Therapy) dogs do a terrific job in nursing homes and going into schools, especially with children who have learning difficulties.
We don't think that many people will say no to having a warm, furry head on your lap to stroke. And whilst my husband has tried to convince me that he is just as cute as our Lab, I'm not buying that!!
There are many items which can cause dogs terrible problems, which owners may not necessary realise. Obviously items such as cleaning products which you would assume could be harmful, but did you realise that grapes and dried fruit can be fatal? We've listed items below, but will be adding other items as and when advised (thanks to Kayleigh from our local vets for supplying our first set of information and we'll update this list as and when we get more information). With anything, if you are in the slightest doubt, call your vet for clarification - your dog may seem ok at the time you have discovered that they have chomped something they shouldn't have, but remember it can sometimes take several days before symptoms appear and it may be too late by then.
- Alcohol - some idiots think it is funny to let their dogs drink alcohol and weave about, well news flash - it's not.
- Antifreeze - tastes sweet, but fatal to dogs and cats too
- Blue-green algae - during the hot weather, this can form on ponds, lakes etc.
- Bones - may taste nice, but often cause very high vet bills when they need to be removed!
- Brazil nuts
- Bulbs - flowers grown from bulbs, such as daffodils, tulips and lilies are poisonous and can be fatal
- Cheese - whilst small amounts can be ok, excessive amounts can cause problems
- Chewing gum - this contains a sweetener called xylitol and can cause liver failure. Eating one pack can be fatal.
- Chocolate - this contains Theobromine which can trigger fits and heart problems, as well as diarrhoea and sickness
- Christmas pudding (see above re other Christmas hazards)
- Citrus foods
- Citrus household products
- Currants - can cause canine kidney failure
- E-cigarettes - these contain concentrated nicotine which can damage the heart
- Garlic - same family as onions - see below
- Grapes - as little as 3 can kill a dog, as they can cause canine kidney failure
- Laundry detergent - this can create frothy vomit which will harm the lungs
- Leeks - same family as onions - see below
- Macadamia nuts
- Mince pies
- MSG (food enhancer)
- Onions - toxic for dogs
- Painkillers for humans - items such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen can cause kidney and liver failure
- Poinsetta plants - very popular at Christmas, but dangerous to dogs
- Raisins - see under currants
- Socks and slippers - fun as toys, but they can do as much damage as a bone!
- Sultanas - see under currants
- Tomatoes - not high risk, but can be bad. They feature in some dog treats, but are only in small amounts
The best advice we had was to get a fireworks CD and then gradually introduce the sounds to your dog. However, we were lucky that our dog was only 5 months old when we rescued him so it was far easier. We had the firework noises playing in the background as we played with our dog and whenever he seemed concerned about the noise, we just reassured him and carried on playing with him. Another bit of good advice we had was not to over-dramatise the situation, for example by cuddling him and trying to be over-protective. By us showing that we weren't concerned about the noises, our dog learned to be the same. We even ended up watching a firework display going off in the distance, with all 3 of us sitting in the boot of our car on our drive! However, check out the LRK points below, especially if you have an older dog.
LRK issue the following advice:
- If at all possible, exercise your dog before it is dark and make sure they have eaten before the fireworks begin, as dogs may become unsettled and not eat during fireworks (yes, even Labradors!).
- Let your dog hide, if that is what they want to do. It might be tempting to try and coax them out of their hiding place, instead make them as comfortable as possible.
- Check that your house and garden are secure and that your dog can't escape. Make sure you shut all the doors and windows in your home and don't forget to draw the curtains. This will block out any scary flashes of light and reduce the noise level of fireworks.
- As mentioned above in one of our adopter's comments about fireworks, try to act and behave as normal, as your dog will pick up on any odd behaviour. Remain calm, happy and cheerful as this will send positive signals to your dog. Distract your dog from the noise by having the TV or radio on.
- Make sure you keep a collar on your dog, with your contact details on it, in case they do accidentally escape.
- If at all possible and you are intending to leave the house on fireworks night, try and make sure you can get someone who your dog is familiar with to dog sit that evening.
- Don't take your dog to a big firework display. Excessive yawning and panting can indicate that your dog is stressed. And don't tie your dog up outside while fireworks are being let off.
- Make sure you top up their water bowl. Anxious dogs pant more and get thirsty and try not to change their routine more than necessary as this can be stressful for some dogs.
Dogs can pick up fleas from other animals or in other areas outside the home. It is very important that you treat your dog regularly with a flea treatment. It is far better to do this rather than your dog, and potentially your home, becoming infested! If your dog is scratching itself more than usual, have a word with your vet. One of our owner's brushes her dog each morning and end ends by using a flea comb just to check that nothing "nasty" has come to stay! It also gets rid of excess hairs and leaves her Lab with a shiny coat which is admired by lots of other owners!
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an outbreak, ensure you speak to your vet about treating your house as well, as otherwise the cycle will start all over again as the fleas can be living in your pet's bedding, your carpets etc.
When the weather gets better, we love being outside and so do our pets. However, keep an eye out for slugs and snails (see under Lungworm below). Also, various flowers, particularly those grown from bulbs, such as daffodils, can be poisonous. If in doubt, check with your vet.
Owning a dog is a great way to get you out and about. Rain, snow, wind or sun - most Labradors don't care what it is like and will be up for exercise!
Walking your dog twice a day is recommended. If circumstances allow, take along a frisbee or a ball for your dog to play with.
If you live near an agility training group, and your dog is young and fit enough, it's a great way for them and you to get exercise.
We were advised to groom our dog daily, firstly as a way of bonding with him, but secondly getting to know his body, so that if any lumps appeared, we would more likely pick it up. It’s also a great way of getting a dog used to being handled. Each day our dog is brushed, has his ears cleaned with a dog friendly wipe, his teeth are brushed with doggie toothpaste (never use human toothpaste!) and he gets his paws checked so that we can check his claws and also see if there is anything lodged in his paws. It’s a great way of interacting with your dog and it doesn't take that long once you get into the routine. The only downside is that you have to have the treats ready – well there has to be some reward for him!
With the growing trend for children in the UK to celebrate Halloween, LRK recommends that dog owners take steps to protect their pets:
- Halloween can be frightening for family dogs, as they are not used to seeing people in costumes. Make sure that your dog is walked before the trick or treaters come knocking at your door.
- Ensure that your dog is kept inside and in a safe and secure place. If you do open the door, make sure that your dog cannot run out; if necessary put your pet on a lead when answering the door and make sure they have a collar on, with your contact details, in case they try to escape.
- As with Christmas and Easter, there are lots of sweet treats about. Not only can chocolate kill, but sweet wrappers can cause choking and intestinal obstruction so keep an eye on your pet.
- Carved pumpkins can look pretty, but make sure they are out of reach and cannot be knocked over by an agitated pet.
- As with Christmas, it can be tempting to dress your dog up in a costume, but they can annoy animals and pose health and safety hazards. If you do put your dog into a costume, make sure it can breathe, see and hear. If possible, avoid masks on your pet. Remove any small or dangly accessories that could be chewed or swallowed.
All we want to do is to remind owners to be sensible with their pets and to consider what might happen and also for those who are trick or treating with their children to be aware of how an animal might react if scared. At this time of year, vets do see an increase in the number of avoidable accidents.
Whilst most of us love the hot summer months, the heat can be a nightmare for our furry friends. A lot of vets see pets suffering from heat stroke or dehydration. It is so important to ensure that your dog has access to water and a shady area at all times. You can also get "cooling pads" for dogs so if your home gets warm in the summer, or you have to go on a car journey with your dog, it might be worth checking these out.
If your dog is showing any of the following symptoms, then contact your vet immediately - excessive panting, lethargy, vomiting, drooling, a fever or has collapsed. This is because if not treated, heat stroke can result in permanent organ damage. Whilst waiting to get advice from the vet, try to get your dog to drink cool water if possible. Also, you can wipe them down with a wet towel, but don't leave it draped over the dog, as that can allow the heat to stay trapped inside them.
Also be aware that if you take your dog onto the beach, the hot sand can scorch their little pads! Like humans, dogs can also get sunburn. You can get sunscreen for dogs, so ask your vet or at a pet shop. After a trip to the beach, don't forget to brush your dog down to get rid of any sand or wash them to get rid of any salty water.
There's lots to think about when you go away, particularly if you are travelling abroad. Make sure you are up to date with the regulations of the country you are travelling to. The website www.gov.uk/defra will give you more information.
Also, if travelling in the UK, you may find it useful to make a note of the details/location of a local vet, close to where you are staying. As an owner whose dog has epilepsy, we always ring the local surgery before travelling to ensure that we can get emergency treatment if our dog had a bad fit. Some practices just tell you to ring up if there is an issue, but some like to pre-register your dog, which isn't a problem, but you don't want to be messing about with things like that if something occurs.
Check out the information above re heat issues, if you are going somewhere hot.
Also, make sure you have enough of their food to last for the trip. You don't want to run out and give them an alternative which may cause problems with their tummy!
Insurance for your dog
We're so glad we have always had dog insurance. Our first Labrador seemed a bit off colour and our vet recommended him to a specialist vet to monitor his heart and it turned out he had an irregular heart beat. The various tests cost about £2,000. Our next Labrador ended up with twisted stomach, again another £2,000 odd bill, both of which we would have struggled with had we not had insurance. Also, it is worth looking around as some of the companies charge you an excess fee, but then also put 10% extra on the final cost of the bill - sneaky! Also, don't forget that if you do decide to change your insurance company, any existing conditions will not be covered with the new company.
Lungworm is a type of parasitic worm called Angiostrongylus Vasorum, which can affect dogs.
Basically the worm needs a slug or snail to act as a host in order for it to grow and that's where your dog could get the Lungworm infection from if he or she eats either a slug or snail which is infected. Not all slugs or snails carry the worm, but we know what Labs are like for eating things and if your dog regularly tries to eat them, they stand a greater chance of getting it.
Because the infection affects the cardiac and respiratory systems, your dog may have a chronic cough, be reluctant to exercise, have difficulty breathing and may have weight loss. If your dog is showing any usual signs, then get it checked out as soon as you can with your vet.
Under the Microchipping of Dogs (England) Regulations 2015, new laws made in February 2015 mean that from 6th April 2016 it will be compulsory for all dogs over the age of 8 weeks old in England to be fitted with microchips, so don't get caught out.
Even though it isn't law yet, it is really worth doing this because if your dog runs off or is scared by say fireworks, it will help in tracking him or her down. See below re name tags.
Name tags for dogs
It amazes me how many dogs I see out without collars on when they are either in a park, on the beach or even walking along the street. Microchipping is an excellent extra layer for protecting your dog, but if a dog escapes and they have a collar and name tag with your contact details on it, that could reunite you with our beloved pet much quicker. As someone who has come across several dogs who were lost, it made it much easier for me to ring their owners and they could be reunited quickly. Seeing the relief on their faces was great and it must have been a worrying time for them whilst they were trawling the streets trying to find their pets.
No, we don't mean the cuddly bear! We mean that product excreted from your dog's backside. So many dog owners are considerate and pick up, but there are still those who think it is above them to do this. They may or may not be aware that dog faeces can cause blindness in children if a dog is not wormed regularly. So come on, you know who you are, don't get the rest of us a bad name and pick up after your dog!
Whilst some people think it's great fun to throw a stick for a dog, please be careful as vets see dogs on a regular basis with injuries after the stick has been thrown and the dog runs into it and impales itself on the stick, causing injuries, sometimes fatal. So just be mindful when playing with your dog.
Taking on another dog after your dog has died
Tough call - I won't lie to you, but I wanted other dog owners to know how we felt. We waited a long time to be in a position to rescue a dog and when my husband started working from home, it was the perfect time. Boycie was the light of our life and adored by us. However, he died suddenly because of a heart issue when he was just coming up to his 4th birthday. We were heartbroken and a couple of days later we were talking to Maggie about losing him and whether it was right to take on another dog so soon. Maggie told us about a little boy who had been a working dog for a private security company and they had just left him in kennels and never went back for him. The kennels had him for about a year and kept him in terrible conditions when LRK managed to get him away from them, so we went to meet him as luckily he was staying with one of the LRK helpers. He ended up coming home with us that day! The first couple of weeks were a struggle because we were still grieving for our other dog and it didn't help that within 3 days of getting him, he had a massive fit. It turned out he was epileptic, so LRK weren't sure if this was why he had been abandoned. But, we persevered and we now have a loving, happy boy. The one thing I would say to anyone else who is unsure about getting another dog is to remember that even though your heart may just have been broken, a dog somewhere may be having his or her heart broken by either being badly treated or their family can no longer keep them and how can you explain that to a dog who has loved their family, only to be torn away from them? We still think of Boycie, but that's how it should be and we knew that we had so much love in our hearts to give another dog the same amount of love that Boycie had been given.
The first experience we had of a tick on our dog was when I was stroking his head and felt something hard. I checked it out and thought initially it was a wart. However, on looking closer we realised it was a tick. As we had no idea how to remove it, we took our dog to the vets the next day and the nurse removed it for us. I'm really glad we did because on chatting to her, she gave us some good advice and one of the things was to purchase a tick remover, just to be on the safe side. Dogs can get ticks from woods, parks, fields etc. and the tick basically starts gorging on the dog's blood. You might think they are just bits of grass or seeds and try and pull them off. That's the worst thing you can do as you need to ensure the whole body is removed in one go as ticks can cause serious illness to animals and humans. We heard about one dog that had to have an operation to remove part of a tick's body that had been left in him when the owner tried to pull it off. The tick remover we have is like a flat piece of metal with pincers at the end which have a gap between them. The idea is to slide the remover along the part of the dog's body where the tick is so that you get the remover under the tick's body. Don't rush to force it out, but gently pull upwards so that you are slowly pulling the tick's body out of your dog's skin as it is essential not to leave any part of the body in the dog as this can cause infection or illness. Afterwards wash the area thoroughly, with a dog friendly antiseptic if you have it. Keep an eye on the area for a couple of days to ensure it hasn't got infected.
Our first Labrador was only 5 months old when we took him on and to say he was boisterous was an under-statement!! We found a great local dog training school. Yes, it was pricey at £10 a session, however it was held outside and as well as training, the dogs did agility which was great for interaction. We did try another organisation who held an indoor training session, but quite frankly it was chaos! We actually took our dog to the outdoor training classes for about a year in the end because he enjoyed the sessions so much. The training was pitched at the right level so we ended up with a well behaved dog, but one that still had character. I’d definitely recommend checking out local training schools.
Once you take on a dog, please ensure you get it registered with a local vet. Word of mouth is the best way, so take time to talk to other dog owners to see which vet they use and find out if they are happy with the service.
Labradors are well known for being "hoovers", i.e. they will suck up anything they sniff out and we mean anything! They are also prone to issues with their hips, so please try not to over-feed them. Excessive weight will cause potential heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and joint pain. It's easy to look into those brown eyes which are pleading with you for another titbit, but you aren't doing them any favours. When they do that, try to remember other dogs you have seen that are over-weight and struggle when it is hot, or can't climb up stairs and are puffing and panting. There are lots of healthy alternatives you can give them, such as raw carrot chunks, which are also good for their teeth. If in doubt about anything you can give to your dog, or for advice on weight issues, speak to your vet.
Worming your dog regularly is really important, particularly because of the threat of Toxocariasis. Basically it's a small threadlike worm that can reside in a dog's intestine and then worm eggs come out in the dog's faeces which can contaminate the soil. If children, who may be playing with a dog who is infested or by soil which is contaminated, put their fingers in their mouths they run the risk of swallowing some of the worm eggs, which can cause blindness.