Safety Tips for Your Dog Over the Holidays

The holidays are a busy and often stressful time for all of us, including our 4 legged friends. Here are some things to remember to keep your pets safe and healthy for the new year.

Have a quiet place where your dog feels safe to go and get away from noise and holiday company.  If they are used to being in a crate, make sure it is located in a quiet area.  There is also great dog specific music that is made to calm canine nerves.  Go to, www.throughadog’ to learn more.

Holiday guests and changes in schedules can disrupt a dogs routine. For your sake and the sake of your dog, remember to schedule regular walks and playtime, and keep feeding times as close to normal as possible.

And finally, remember to look closely to make sure there are no hazards from decorations lying around on the floor.  This is especially important if you have a new puppy, who like a young child, likes to put everything in his mouth. Also, check for gifts that may contain things like chocolate and make sure those are placed up high on a counter rather than under the tree.

Dodger and Ruby want everyone to have a safe and happy holiday season!!

Taming the Savage Beast – The Benefits of Canine Massage

Whoever thought that massage was just for humans hasn’t had a good conversation lately with their dog.  Thanks to research done at the C.S.U. School of Veterinary Medicine and other Universities and Clinics throughout the world we are finally beginning to understand the profound effect that touch can have on our animal companions. Similar to humans, massage can have a positive impact on a number of conditions ranging from strains, tension, tightness, stress, and anxiety to pain from arthritis or other medical conditions.  There have also been studies showing that it supports the immune system and aides in athletic performance. But as with human massage, performing true medical massage requires a firm background in anatomy and pathology and utilizes specific treatments appropriate to working with disease, pain, and injury recovery. It is also never done instead of seeing a Veterinarian, but is done in conjunction with regular medical veterinary care.

However, any pet companion can bring comfort and stress reduction to an animal by gently applying basic massage strokes with the intent of soothing and comforting their companion.  An example would be if  an animal is experiencing trauma or an increase of stress levels from traveling, being in a shelter or any other unfamiliar condition.  Canine massage is also helpful if an animal is experiencing the loss of a pet buddy or other companion.

Remember to go slow and stay focused.  You can do more good with five minutes of conscious massage than twenty minutes with your mind and heart elsewhere.

Squeeky the Pig’s miraculous massage at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

Squeaky was a 14 year old pot bellied pig that I got to know and love while volunteering at Best Friend’s Animal Sanctuary in August of 2012.  He was the office pig and beloved friend of all of the workers in the sanctuary’s Pig Haven. When he quit eating and showed signs of illness everyone became worried.

Best Friends Lesley 021Before beginning my massage on Squeaky I  spoke to him and let him know what we were going to do. Rather than forcing anything on him I sat quietly in his space until he decided to come to me.  At that point I gently place one hand on his back to allow him to connect with my touch.  At this point we were two beings connecting and finding each other’s comfort level.

Very soon I felt a shift in Squeaky’s energy;  he quieted and began to relax, signaling me that he was ready to allow me to go to work. I started with effleurage strokes down each side of his body and then did some exploratory palpation.  As you can see in the picture the hackles on Squeaky’s back went up at this point signaling me that he liked what was going on and letting me know that he wanted me to continue.

I had been working with Squeaky for about 30 minutes when he stood up, walked a few yards from me and pooped.  Until then I didn’t know that pigs could smile but after relieving himself Squeaky clearly had a grin on his face.  An hour later he ate his lunch for the first time in several days and was moving around much more freely than he had previously been doing.  The next day he greeted me at the door of the pig office with his tail wagging and went to his bed to get ready for his massage.  Here’s what I know after massaging Squeaky:

The benefits of loving touch are not restricted to humans.

Pigs are intelligent, gentle beings housed in unusual looking bodies

When you connect in a loving way to any animal healing takes place for everyone.

Squeaky’s example let to other pigs now enjoying the joy of massage therapy.






Gingerbread Dog Treats

My house was filled today with wonderful smells coming from my oven as I baked batches of treats for all of my favorite four legged friends.  It’s a great way to give a gift to any dog lover as well as providing something healthy and tasty for your own animal.


Henna, Ruby and Dodger waiting for the oven timer to go off.

Why do I make my own?  Well, according to animal experts like nutritionist, Hilary Watson, “Snacks should not make up more than 10 to 15% of your dog’s daily food intake. As long as they are kept at this ratio they should not interfere with a complete and balanced diet.” Snacks should be given in little pieces as a reward for a behavior you wish to reinforce or a new behavior you want to teach. One normal size dog cookie can be broken into several pieces, each one being about the size of a normal kibble making one biscuit go a long way. Store bought snacks can be a very expensive way of feeding your dog something that is not necessarily good for him.  If you do decide to purchase snacks rather than bake them be a good label reader.  Avoid snacks with a high fat content that say things like, “bacon and cheese,” as well as high calorie table scraps. Yes, your dog probably loves these but the extra fat can begin to pack on unwanted pounds adding to problems like osteoarthritis, and heart disease.  Also, be aware of ingredients like dyes, and long lists of additives. Too much of the wrong kind of snacking is as bad for a dogs health as it is for yours. About 44% of dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese, according to Ernie Ward, DVM, president of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. He founded the group in 2005 to highlight the growing problem of heavy, out-of-shape pets. But today, Ward says, “too many commercial dog treats are loaded with fat and sugar which makes them almost irresistible.” “This is why your dog will dance and howl and yip and run and do amazing things just to get one of these goodies. I call them calorie grenades.”

A great alternative to commercial snacks are baby carrots or making your own treats. When I do make treats I make it fun and interesting by trying new additions to my basic recipe, finding a new fun doggie cookie cutter to use, putting on some favorite music while I bake and taking cute pictures of my dogs who are always at my side waiting for the next batch to appear.  It’s actually fun, easy and your dog will love you for it.

These Gingerbread Cookies are fun to make this time of year.  I also like to add a cup of pumpkin to the recipe. When the cookies first come out of the oven everyone gets one but from them on I break each cookie in to three pieces, each piece counts as one serving.

These are as fun to make as they are to share!

1 cup molasses
1 cup water
½ cup vegetable oil
6 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger or one tsp. of dried powder ginger

Directions:  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the molasses, water, and oil in a medium bowl.

In another large bowl mix the flour, the baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Combine well. Divide this dough in four sections and roll each piece into a ball, wrap each ball in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 – 5 hours.

After the dough is well-chilled put dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll dough out into 1/4″ thickness. Cut dough with a cookie cutter into gingerbread men or other fun shapes.