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ISSUES # 8&9 MAY 3, 2005

Outdoor pets need consideration all year round, but in the summer they can soon be forgotten. Vacations, ballgames, and family outings can be busy times for us two legged animals but we should not forget our four legged companions. They need exercise too as well as food, water, and the yearly exam at the vet. One other thing that is very important to them is grooming.

This article will focus on basic needs for outside dogs. I felt this was an appropriate time so we can bring issues and points out to remind us how important it is to keep our outdoor pets healthy and happy.

Outdoor Needs Edit Text

First let's focus on some basic outdoor needs for your dog. Preferably all pets should be kept  indoors, but to keep to reality not all are. Most dogs are outdoor pets before they reach a year old. This is due to chewing, difficult housebreaking, and a host of other factors. If you do turn your dog into an outdoor animal keep the basic needs in mind.
 
Housing
 
When choosing a house for your dog, make sure it is insulated. One that you purchase from the animal store such as Igloos, are fine. My preference is the homemade ones. They come with a shingled roof, insulated sides and floor, and they can be painted to match your house!
 
Overall, both are considered sturdy and durable. The homemade type may be a bit more costly but it may also be insulated a little better and you may be able to have it custom built.
 
There are many options available but it would be worth it in the long run to get references for homemade ones and do research on the store bought type. One important feature you should look for no matter which type you choose is a door. It will help keep the wind out and protect your pet from harsh elements such as snow and rain.
 
You will want to line the inside of the house with fresh straw in the winter and chips in the summer. Straw in the summer is not a good idea since the straw is a heat conductor and will make his house too hot for him to be comfortable. Chips such as cedar chips, are good for the summer. They smell nice and help to keep his bed drier. Eucolyptus added will help keep the fleas out of his bedding. Remember to change his bedding to help keep it nice and dry and free of mold and dust.  I suggest a rug for the floor of the house to help pad it. You don't want to use a pet bed because they don't stay clean very long and it can become a breeding ground for fleas.
 
Food and Water
 
Your pet needs to have access to fresh, clean water on a daily basis. Don't assume that because his bowl  is full of water, that it is fresh and good for him to drink. Algee and mold grown in his water bowl, contaminating his drinking supply. Change his  bowl everyday and rinse it out along with any other dirt and debree that may fall in it. There are also items that you can purchase from the pet store that keep his bowl de-iced or cool.
 
An important fact to keep in mind is his food and who else may be eating from his bowl. If you feed your dog once per day, do so in the morning so that wild animals are less apt to invade his rations. If you do feed more often, make them smaller portions at night to ensure he eats most of it before he retires. 
 
On the other hand, if there is any food left in his bowl you should throw it out. Wild animals can carry all kinds of diseases which can be transmitted through the food left in the bowl (if any) and their saliva.

You should use aluminum bowls. They are a bit more expensive but can't be chewed up or brokend. Plastic has been known to also absorb some of the nutrients from the food making it less effective in providing your pet with a balanced diet.
 
Grooming 
 
Even though I am a pet groomer by trade I will now and always have been a strong believer that all dogs, especially outdoor dogs, need to be groomed. There are so many aspects to grooming.
 
Outdoor dogs have special needs that indoor dogs that are regularly groomed are not as suseptible to. Outdoor dogs need to be bathed whether they are bathed at home or at a professional shop. Their skin cannot breathe with the dirt that can build up over time from exposure to being outdoors. This can lead to a host of other problems, some which can become very severe.
 
If you own a longer haired dog that has a thick undercoat, you will definately want to read this section. These dogs include Chow Chows, Huskies, German Shephards and Collies. Of course this is not the only breeds that fall in this category but you get the idea. These dogs are at risk for what we call "hot spots" which are the beginnings of a line of problems. 
 
This section also is not for the weak at stomache but they are here to get your attention to cut down on some of the  occurances. These are real symptoms that we have had come into our shop.
 
With long-haired dogs such as the ones mentioned above, there are risks that they take becoming outdoor dogs. First of all, they are exposed to snow, rain, and sleet. This moisture builds up over time and exposure. Since these dogs are outside most of the time they are not bathed or shaved in the winter. They will get sick if you shave off their hair but they won't get sick if you have them bathed, the undercoat blown out with a force dryer, and they are totally dry before you put them back outside. Blowing out the dead hair allows for the air to reach their skin and helps to keep their skin a little dryer.
 
Now for the rough part. If you don't do this, this is what could happen, and most times it does. 9 times out of 10, dogs are brought to us starting about April 15th through Labor Day weekend to be shaved, most are infested with maggots. At the very least their skin is rotting off of them, thier toenails are curled around into their paws, and they have open wounds with collars that are embedded into the skin.
 
NEVER leave your dog tied outdoors with a choke chain! And please, for the sake of your pet, don't try to cut out the mats. Pulling a mat toward you and cutting it can have devistating results.
 
Last fall a lady brought her chow in. He was matted pretty badly so they had tried to clean him up so they could bring him in for the winter. They had cut most of the mats out but the job was very choppy. I put the dog on my table and I had asked the lady to stay with the dog to protect myself. Chows who are not routinely groomed can sometimes be quite a challenge. They will and do bite. Well, after setting the dog on the table I noticed that there was a large amount of blood on my arm. Upon further examination I found the dog had a 5-6 inch gash in the shoulder area. The owners didn't think they had cut him even though he had yelped. The wound was horrible. It had a flap of skin that was about 4 inched wide and would gape open at times. Once he was shaved I cleaned the area with peroxide, then glued the wound "spotty", and told them to take him to the vet for antibiotics. I still have thoughts of this event and wander what ever happened to the chow. Poor guy. Please don't try that at home. Professional groomers are trained to shave out mats without cutting the animals as badly as this. They may still come out with small cuts, but nothing compared to the forementioned Chow.
 
Once your dog has developed a "hot spot" he is open to infections and other parasites. As the wound becomes infected and begins to fester it also draws flies. Hence the maggot infestations. These wounds are the results of rotting skin. Rotting skin can be avoided by simply having your dog groomed at least every month.
 
Be sure to get referrences for a professional groomer before you choose who will be caring for your pet. Call the vets office, pet stores, but don't rely solely on your friends and neighbors advice. Look at their animals and judge for yourself how good of a job their groomer does. Walk into the shop unannounced, Is it clean?  Does it smell of foul odors other than what would be expected? And don't go by how much hair is on the floor. LOL On a busy day we can have quite a few inches around our tables. We do try to sweep it up as often as we can. Especially in the summer to help eliviate flea infestation.
Be sure to ask questions. Lots of them. Even if it sounds stupid, you are placing your friend in the hands of these people.
 
You can learn a lot from your groomer, such as ear mites, fleas, "hot spots" that are developing, ear or eye infections, or injuries to the paws and toenails.
 
To Tie or Not To Tie 
 
If you chose to tie out your dog, be sure to keep a constant check on his collar. Make sure it is not weather worn or cracked. It should also be loose enough for at least two fingers to slide under it. You don't want it too tight because it will rub his neck and cause sores. Make sure your tie out is sturdy for his wieght and lengthy to give him lots of room. One thing that makes me angry is to see a dog tied out in one spot for such a length of time that there is NO grass, only mud. He needs a change of pace once in a while. He also needs toys that entertain him. You don't want him to become bored as he will tend to bark more and then become a nusience.
 
I personally prefer to let my Dachshunds run in a fenced in area. They get more exercise this way and are free to play and sun as they like. If you do use a fenced in area, be sure that the fence you use is sturdy, tall enough, and tight enough to the post to prevent sagging. You want to make sure that your fence is good enough to keep your pet contained and to keep other animals out.

Either way you go you must make absolutly sure your pet gets plenty of exercise by walking him daily and playing with him. Keep him socialized as well.

Don't keep your pet out in the sun. It can be quite hot and draining for him. Provide him with shade in the summer and sun in the winter. Always strive to keep an equal balance in his life for him so he can be healthy.
 
A Note on Fleas
 
Fleas do not die in the winter, they hibernate. You see  more fleas in the winter if your area tends to be warmer, like our season we had this year. A good preventitive to skin allergies and other problems is to use a good flea product such as Frontline Plus. It is waterproof and lasts for 30 days. It does kill the fleas and ticks. You will also want to dust your yard with a product called "7" which is for the garden. This helps to control the fleas. As said before Eucolyptus plants are really good for preventing fleas although caution should be taken as some people are highly allergic to it.
 
Final Thoughts
 
I know that many people frown upon pet owners who leave their pets outside. I feel  that most pets should not be kept outside on a permanent basis as this takes away from the human interaction they need. I also believe that they enjoy being outdoors on occasions to exercise, romp, and play. It is a learning experience for them that they cannot get by being confined in  a house all day. However you choose for your pet to live you should always assure your pet that you love them and care for them. Don't just abandoned them but make them feel as if they are a part of the family. They are! Keep their basic needs in mind and keep their minds active and attentive. Anything less than this can be considered abusive.
 
 
*This article was written by Cichlidlover. You may use it if it helps you to care for your pet, but PLEASE do not copy it and publish it as your own work.

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