Senior Dementia in Dogs

Do you have an aging dog? Have you noticed changes in your dog’s demeanor or behavior and aren’t sure what’s causing it? Your pup may be experiencing signs of dementia, or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD). I currently own an 18 year old Rat Terrier with CCD, and it has definitely been a challenging time managing its symptoms and effects with my sweet old guy. 

Senior dementia is a common problem seen in older dogs just like it is in older humans. Similar to Alzheimer’s in people, dementia in dogs often results in altered behaviors and memory loss. These changes may affect the quality of life of both the dogs as well as the dog owners, but by better understanding what is really occurring, owners may be able to lessen the negative effects of this issue.


What is Senior Dementia in Dogs?

Senior dementia is formally known as Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD) but is often also referred to as doggy dementia or doggy Alzheimer’s. Dementia isn’t specifically a disease but rather a decline in cognitive function with a collection of symptoms that result in major changes in mood, behavior, and memory. It usually negatively affects the everyday life of a senior dog and is very common as they age. The Behavior Clinic at the University of California states that 28% of dogs aged 11 to 12 years display signs of dementia and that likelihood increases to 68% of dogs when they reach ages 15 or 16.

Leticia Fanucchi, DVM, PhD, director of Veterinary Medicine Behavioral Services at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital categorizes CCD into four main types:

  • Involutive depression – This form is similar to chronic depression in people and results in anxiety.
  • Dsythymia – This form results in confusion, disorientation, and sometimes a loss of conscious
    awareness of the body.
  • Hyper-aggressiveness – This form involves the serotonin, or “happy hormone,” levels in the brain
    and usually results in an aggressive dog.
  • Confusional syndrome – This form is similar to Alzheimer’s in people where a major decline in
    cognitive function occurs.


Signs of Senior Dementia in Dogs

The signs of senior dementia in dogs revolve around the brain changes that occur as a dog ages. These changes may be gradual and worsen as the dog continues to age or they may seem more drastic in nature. Some symptoms also easily go unnoticed until the dog owner is affected by them.


Signs of Dementia

  • Soiling in the house
  • Getting lost in the house/disorientation
  • Barking without reason
  • Going to the wrong side of the door
  • Lack of interaction with people or other pets
  • Decrease or lack of appetite
  • Lower threshold for aggressive behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Staring at the walls
  • Pacing/repetitive behaviors

One of the biggest concerns that dog owners who have dogs with dementia note is the loss of house training. As some dogs develop senior dementia they get confused and may start urinating or defecating in the house. This can cause frustration for the owner who may in return get upset with their pet. This affects the human-animal bond and ultimately the quality of life of both the pet and the owner. 


Other signs of confusion due to senior dementia include disorientation in the home, staring at walls, and going to the hinged side of a door when the dog has known for years which side of the door opens to go through it. Senior dementia can cause a dog who has known its home environment for years to suddenly get lost in rooms or corners of its house.


Vocalizations, including barking, whining, and crying for no apparent reason, are also often seen in dogs with senior dementia. This may be an indication of stress, fear, or anxiety due to the confusion and they may also show aggression. Aggressive behaviors may be more common in dogs with dementia due to their lowered threshold of tolerance and patience. Normally patient and willing dogs may suddenly exhibit signs of aggression such as growling and even biting at people and other pets. Irregular sleeping patterns, repetitive behaviors such as licking and pacing, a decrease in appetite, and even not wanting to interact with other pets or their owners can be additional signs of senior dementia in dogs. These, along with other behaviors, can all put a strain on the relationships owners have with their dogs.


Illustration: Elnora Turner. © The Spruce, 2019


Causes of Senior Dementia in Dogs

The symptoms are a result of changes or damage in the brain but different symptoms and types of dementia may arise from different brain issues. No one completely understands the complete causes of dementia but there are some things that are known due to the similarities dogs have with humans with dementia. Certain proteins that accumulate in the brain around neurons and the breakdown of neurons are two things that disrupt the normal transmission of information in the brain and therefore contribute to senior dementia in dogs.


Diagnosing Senior Dementia in Dogs

Monitoring signs and symptoms of senior dementia in dogs is vital in achieving a diagnosis. The Quality of Life Scale, or HHHHHMM Scale, is often used to aid owners in determining whether or not their dog has changed as it ages. This scale goes through the signs of dementia and includes a review of the dog’s behaviors. Hurt, Hunger, Hydration, Hygiene, Happiness, Mobility and More good days than bad are assessed in the HHHHHMM Scale. This scale also helps an owner decide whether or not a pet’s quality of life is still good as dementia progresses and may also help an owner decide when euthanasia should be considered. 


Treatment and Prevention of Senior Dementia in Dogs

There is unfortunately no way to reverse the signs of dementia in dogs but there are some medications and nutritional aids that can be administered to help potentially prevent the brain changes as a dog ages and possibly slow the progression of the dementia. Antioxidants, Omega-3 fatty acids, and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT’s) are the main dietary components that are often discussed for brain health. Some experts recommend supplementing dogs before they begin to show signs of senior dementia but there is no specific treatment or preventative regimen.

Dealing with dementia can be difficult for pet owners and caregivers, but it’s important to remember that your dog is not acting this way deliberately
. The disease progression and resulting behavior is out of their control. And like humans with Alzheimers, your dog may have fluctuating good days and bad. Give your dog extra love and attention, especially during times when their symptoms are worse or they seem most confused, this is when they need the most familiarity. And see your vet regularly to discuss any changes or worsening symptoms. Your veterinarian can guide you through the process and help keep your pup as comfortable as possible. 


Pet Tech Could Transform Your Dog’s Life in Some Surprising Ways

By Sarah DiGiulio • Originally published on

New technology aims change how we interact with our pets when we’re not home, to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

Technology has already revolutionized your life. Now it could do the same for your pet.

Imagine being at work and getting a smartphone notification that was activated by your dog at home. You open up an app and can see Fido wagging his tail on the pet cam. When you click “play” you can control a toy for Fido to chase. After a few moments, you click “treat” and one drops for him from a dispenser. You watch Fido run over and devour it, wagging his tail.

This could soon be the future of pet care, says Yaroslav Azhnyuk, CEO and co-founder of Petcube. His company is part of a growing industry that offers innovative solutions to connect owners with their pets like never before. The goal, he says, is to change how we interact with our animals when we’re not home, and to keep them safe, happy, and healthy.

“Technology allows us to give pets a voice and connect with our pets in a new, and maybe even more meaningful, way,” Azhnyuk says. “We can understand more about their behaviors, what they want. We can be close to them even when we’re not in the same physical space.”

PetCube currently sells a Wi-Fi-enabled HD camera that lets you look and listen in on your pet anytime via an app. It also lets you speak to your pet and get alerts about any disturbances in your home. And there are versions of PetCube with features that dispense treats and allow you to aim lasers so you can play with your pet anytime from anywhere.

In the near future, Azhnyuk expects it will be possible for a device to allow your pets to call you by activating a sensor at a spot in your home that you’ve trained them to stand in when they wish to connect with you. It would work on the same principles as Pavlov’s dog experiments, Azhnyuk says.


PetCube Play features an interactive camera and built-in laser toy that lets you play with your pet remotely. PetCube Bites also features an interactive camera,as well as a treat dispenser you can operate remotely. Courtesy Of PetCube


Over the decades, technology has allowed us to have closer contact with the people we care about, says Ben Jacobs, CEO of Whistle, a pet care tech company. This desire for constant access is especially true among friends and family — including pets.

“We had this concept, as pet owners ourselves, that we could use technology to improve pets’ lives and really enable a smarter era of pet care where we wouldn’t be flying blind to things like losing our pets or keeping them active and healthy throughout the day,” Jacobs says.

Whistle makes a lightweight waterproof tracker that attaches to your pet’s collar and uses Wi-Fi, GPS, and cellular technology to track a pet’s movements. Whistle’s tracker also has an accelerometer that can measure your pet’s activity levels, and it can even notify you if your pet leaves an area you’ve programmed in the app as “home.”

“The products that are succeeding in this growing market are the products that give pet parents that much-needed peace of mind,” Jacobs says.

And the market is growing. Total pet industry spending more than doubled between 2003 and 2016. And the sale of wearable pet technology is projected to grow more than 16 percent by 2020.


PlayDate’s smart ball lets you interact with your pets when you’re not home. 


Wearables make it possible to collect data about your pet’s activity levels and diet, which might alert you to unusual behaviors and health concerns, says Davide Rossi, CEO of FitBark, an activity tracker for your pet.

In the future, the data collected will be able to better inform us of what typical, healthy behavior is for pets of different ages and breeds, he says. “We start to build a snowball of metrics.”

Those metrics could help pet owners make smarter choices in caring for their animals. And that type of big data could change what veterinarians know about your pet to help owners “better take care of them, address their needs, and enhance their lives and ours,” Bob Vetere, president and CEO of the American Pet Products Association, told NBC Mach in an email.

But these devices shouldn’t lead to less physical interaction with our pets, says Dr. Marc Bekoff, professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and author of several books about animal ethics.

“Dogs are social beings that need attachment and need that social interaction,” Bekoff says. “Technology can be beneficial for dogs and their humans. But it shouldn’t be a substitute for the human’s central role in the life of a dog.”

That’s a challenge in developing these technologies, said Kevin Li, CEO of PlayDate, which developed a remote-controlled ball that allows you to play with your pet while you’re away.

“Dogs are social animals and need social interaction with us,” Li said in an email. But at the same time, he added, there’s a lot of healthy behavior they would experience in the wild that they don’t get while they sit at home all day.

That’s the goal of pet technology, Li explained. “A robotic caretaker that replaces you would be a terrible idea. In contrast, some kind of robotic care or health monitoring option would be fantastic, as it keeps your dog healthy and does things that you as a pet owner can’t do yourself.”

Tips for Keeping Your Dog’s Arthritis Pain at Bay

oldgoldenWith fall in full swing, and the cold weather on its way, have you noticed your four-legged friend walk a bit stiffer than usual, or with a slight limp, and hesitate to claim his usual spot on the sofa next to you?  If your beloved pooch is getting on in years, it’s quite possible you could be seeing the onset of canine arthritis, commonly referred to as degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis. While there are specific factors that contribute to canine arthritis, there are also several treatments available and helpful tips for keeping your dog comfortable despite his condition.

What Causes Canine Arthritis?

signs-of-arthritisWhile osteoarthritis can be caused by several varying factors, some of which can be avoided, factors that cannot be avoided include joint infection, the aging process, cartilage erosion that occurs naturally over time, hip dysplasia and problems with the immune system. Another factor that can contribute to the onset of your dog’s arthritis is trauma. For example, if your pooch broke a bone and a joint was involved, the trauma to the joint can cause arthritis.

A contributing factor that can absolutely be avoided is obesity, which has a direct impact on the development of canine arthritis. If your pooch is heavier than he should be and does not get proper, regular exercise, he will have a much greater risk of developing arthritis. Lessen this risk by providing proper, well-balanced nutrition, a daily exercise routine and regular veterinary care. And these preventive measures should be introduced to your pooch at an early age, especially in large breed dogs. Their bones have specific nutritional requirements as they grow.

How Can I Keep My Arthritic Dog Comfortable?

Sadly, just like with humans, there is no cure for canine arthritis. However, it can be treated and you, as a pet parent, can take certain measures to keep your pooch comfortable and enhance his quality of life. Your veterinarian will advise you regarding proper nutrition, low-impact exercise, and possible medications that can aid in minimizing your pet’s pain. Your vet may also recommend you help your canine companion shed a few pounds.

Ensure your dog’s comfort as, chances are, he’s experiencing stiffness as a result of the arthritis, as well as pain. Here are a few helpful tips for making him more comfortable:

  • Bedding ~ Provide your pooch with an orthopedic bed which will provide the joint support he needs. Keep a close eye on him and make sure he doesn’t lie down on cold, hard surfaces such as tile or wood floors.
  • Massage ~ Learn massage techniques as regular massages can boost your dog’s mobility and promote circulation. Click here to read a helpful article about the benefits and techniques of canine massage.
  • Hydrotherapy ~ Water applies pressure to the lower limbs which helps improve circulation and decrease inflammation.
  • Glucosamine Supplements ~ Glucosamine has proven to have positive effects for arthritic dogs, supporting and improving joint health.
  • Good Ole Tender Loving Care ~ Nothing can compare to the tender, loving care you provide your pooch. Keep him comfortable and offer him plenty of love and support.

Yes, canine arthritis can be difficult for your pet. Consider the contributing factors that you can influence and consult with your veterinarian. Together, you can provide your pet the most comfortable life possible.

Summertime Travel With (or without) Your Pet


It’s that time of year ~ summer is quickly coming to an end and you and your family want to get in a last minute vacation.  If your family includes a pet, special planning and preparation are vital. You must consider whether or not your pet is comfortable traveling, or whether they would be better suited staying at home, in familiar surroundings, with a sitter. Will you be traveling by car or airplane? Will you be staying in pet-friendly hotels? There is much to consider, so we’ve put together a few general tips that should make your travel planning a little bit simpler.

Traveling by Plane

Deciding whether or not to take Fluffy or Fido on a plane can be a stressful decision for many pet parents. While many airlines allow small breed dogs and cats to travel in the cabin under the seat (in a specially designed pet carrier, of course), larger pets must travel in the cargo hold. Consider your pet’s comfort when deciding whether they are fit to fly.

Before making any flight reservations, check with the airline in advance to inquire about their current regulations, as they vary from airline to airline and can change regularly. And, ask if they require a health certificate for your pet, as some airlines will not allow your pet to fly without one. Always try to reserve nonstop flights, avoiding plane changes when possible, in order to make the experience as stress-free for your pet as possible. Also, in the warm summer weather, try to book early morning or late evening flights to lower the chances of your pet becoming overheated. And, take into consideration the fact that short-nosed breeds like French Bulldogs and Persians may have greater difficulty with air travel. Be sure to properly exercise your pet prior to boarding.

Traveling by Car 

Decided to travel by car? If your pet is not used to car travel, take them for several short car rides prior to your trip departure to allow them the opportunity to get accustom to the experience and to feel secure. If traveling with a cat, always keep your kitty confined in a carrier to prevent the opportunity for them to crawl under your feet while driving. For Fido, don’t allow your pup to ride in the driver’s lap or in the passenger seat, especially if equipped with airbags. The safest way for your pooch to travel is with a seatbelt harness in the rear seat. Also, don’t allow your pup to ride with their head out the window at higher speeds, as dirt and other debris can enter his ears, eyes and nose and cause possible injury.

Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day or when you reach your destination. Feeding dry food will be more convenient, if your pet is accepting of it. If you do opt to stick with wet food, be sure to dispose of any unused food unless it can be refrigerated right away or kept in a cooler on ice. And be sure to take along ample supplies of water. While on the road, plan to stop every two-to-three hours for exercise and potty breaks and, at each stop, provide your pet with small portions of food and water. If you discover before your leave for your trip that your pet experiences car sickness, consult with your vet as they can prescribe medication that will help your kitty or pup feel more comfortable while in the car.

Overnight Stays

Of course, during your vacation there will be multiple nights of staying in either a hotel, campground or the home of a friend or family member. Ensure your pet is welcome wherever you may go and consider bringing a portable crate along if you aren’t comfortable leaving your pet out loose when no one is around. If in a hotel, place the “do not disturb” sign on the door to eliminate the possibility of your pet escaping should hotel personnel enter your room.

Travel Safety Tips

  1. Ensure your pet is properly identified with a tag or microchip.
  2. Groom your pet before leaving on your trip.
  3. Have your pet’s favorite food, treats and toys on hand to keep them more comfortable.
  4. Be sure to carry your pet’s proof of rabies vaccination and current health certificate just in case it is needed along the way.
  5. Keep a recent photo of your pet on hand in the unfortunate event your pet becomes lost during your travels.

Preparation is Key

Planning and preparation are necessary when traveling with pets. Consider whether your pet is comfortable when traveling and, if they are not, make other arrangements for their care. Just like humans, some pets are more comfortable in their own home and function much better in their own familiar surroundings. And, just like humans, some pets simply can’t withstand the stress of travel due to age, injury, temperament and/or illness. Be considerate of your pet’s feelings, and how their traveling with you can impact you, your family, and your vacation.

If you determine your pet is best left at home, consider hiring a reliable, professional pet sitter from Happy Tails.   You will be able to rest assured knowing your pet is being loved and cared for in the way they are accustomed.

Why Hire a Professional Pet Sitter for Your Vacation Needs?


Summer vacation time is upon us!
So, you have a fabulous vacation planned this summer… but who will take care of the critters?
As a protective pet parent, certainly you want to ensure your four-legged friend is properly cared for while you are away. You probably have a friend or family member who offered to stop by your home every other day to feed your cat and clean his litter box; or a neighbor who adores your pooch and jumped at the opportunity to look after her while you’re gone. While such options may be appealing, they’re not always ideal.

What exactly does a professional pet sitter do?
Here at Happy Tails Animal Care, our goal is to care for your dog, cat, fish, goat, hermit crab – the list goes on and on! – as if he were our own. Our 30 or 60 minute visits (depending on your preference) consist of taking care of potty needs, litter box cleaning, feeding, supplying fresh water, playing, exercising, and cleaning up after your four-legged friend. We will also administer medications, if needed, and provide lots of TLC. Together, during our initial consultation, we will determine a schedule that works best for your pet, with the goal being maintaining their regular daily routine as closely as possible. As pet owners ourselves, we want you to feel secure in the knowledge that all is well while you are away on that great vacation.

Caring for animals is our business, and we are exceptional at what we do.
Our reputation depends on it!

So what’s wrong with having your friend, family member or neighbor take care of Fido while you’re away? Well, as professional pet sitters, we are obligated to take the needs of you and your pet seriously, and to provide the service for which you are paying. Again, it is our business to ensure your satisfaction. Can you say the same for your brother or neighbor? Sure, it may be free care, but chances are they are agreeing, not out of obligation / commitment, but as a favor / choice.
And quite often, you get what you pay for!

Of course, its tempting to have a friend, family member or neighbor (or neighbor’s kid)- in other words, a “hobby sitter” provide free or cheap care for your pets so you have more cash for that awesome vacation…  but there is a simple truth that separates them from a professional pet sitter.

Your pet is a professional pet sitter’s first priority.
A professional pet sitter has an obligation to care for your pet no matter what.

Here’s why:

Professional vs. Non-Professional

  • When you hire a Happy Tails professional pet sitter, you’re hiring someone who has made a commitment to the care of animals. Most professional pet sitters not only have pets of their own, but have chosen the profession precisly because of a high level of care and devotion to all animals. A professional pet sitter not only invests in the care of your pet, but understands your care and concern as an owner. Hiring a professional pet sitter guarantees that you are hiring someone who will put  your pet’s needs before their own. Your neighbor’s teenage kid…. perhaps not so much.
  • A Happy Tails professional pet sitter will adhere to the vacation schedule you select, which is vital to the comfort and health of your pets. Chances are, Amy from down the street will not be able to commit to a specific schedule.
  • A Happy Tails professional pet sitter will always be there. We utilize the LeashTime mobile pet sitter app which verifies our sitters check in and out at every visit, within the scheduled time window, and for the length of time you hire us for. In the rare case a sitter has an emergency and cannot get to a scheduled visit, we always have a backup. Can you be sure your brother Bob will even show up?
  • A Happy Tails professional pet sitter will keep you informed via a written note, daily email or text message, so you know just what your furry critters are up to. Your friend Jennifer may not be so inclined.
  • A Happy Tails professional pet sitter knows exactly what to do in the event of a pet – or home – emergency, and has an emergency plan. Would 16-year old Amy from down the street know what to do, or would she simply freak out?
  • A Happy Tails professional pet sitter makes sure to protect you, your pet, and your home. Not only do we have you sign a legally binding general service contract and veterinarian notification/release form, we also carry full liability insurance and bonding created specifically for professional pet care providers. – Amy or Bob… probably not.

The Bottom Line
Trusting someone to care for your pets in your absence shouldn’t be taken lightly, or be a last minute decision. By hiring a Happy Tails professional pet sitter, you can alleviate all worries regarding your pet’s well-being, and enjoy peace of mind while you are away making life-long memories on that killer vacation!

Portrait young beauty dog

Who will provide the best care for your pets while you are away? As a pet parent, it’s an important decision to make. Let us help you make that decision by scheduling a complimentary consultation today.

Contact Happy Tails today!

Spring Training Tips for You & Your Dog


Surely you’ve heard the popular pet saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Granted, pet training is not easy, by any means. However, whether you are dealing with senior pet who has developed bad habits over the years, or you are training your new puppy or kitten to help avoid these bad habits all together, the best time to start training your pet is now – no matter what their age.

Proper obedience training is not only the best way to solve practically any behavioral problem in household pets, but training also aids in opening up a line of healthy communication between a pet parent and a pet. Clear instruction and communication can help ensure your cat does not jump on certain furniture, and can teach your dog to remain calm when visitors enter your home. But, there is more to training your pet than scolding him when he does something wrong, or rewarding him for positive behavior. Obedience training should be informative and fun, and, most importantly, should teach your pet to redirect his natural behavioral instincts to behaviors that are acceptable in your home.

If you are looking to start or continue a spring training regime with your pet, here are a few tips that should help make the process easier for you both. These are suggestions for successfully training your pet in obedience commands and behaviors:

Negative Reinforcement Does Not Stop Bad Behavior

Most times when pets display a behavior that their pet parent is trying to discourage – jumping on the furniture, scratching the carpet, having a potty accident inside the home – they do so when they are alone. So when the “crime” is discovered, many pet owners will show their pet the evidence of the incident (such as a wet spot on the floor) and discipline the pet then. Unfortunately, the “crime” is already long out of the pet’s mind by this time and the discipline only confuses him; it does anything but create a clear message, which is necessary when training a pet. Rather than negative reinforcement, reward your pet’s positive behavior to encourage him to repeat the behavior again in the future.

Be Consistent In Your Training and Rewards

If you have a large family that will all participate in the training of your pet, make sure everybody is on board with your rules and your rewards. For instance, if you are teaching your dog the “down” command to be used when he jumps up on the couch, but your significant other is using the command “off,” your pet is never going to learn the proper command. Consistency will be the key to success when it comes to obedience training. As well, if you reward your cat with a treat each time she scratches her nails on her scratching post rather than your living room rug, ensure other family members do the same.

Training Takes Time and Diligence

No matter how many obedience classes or training books are involved, it simply is not possible for any pet to be fully trained overnight. No matter how much progress your pet may make in areas such as housetraining or obedience commands, there will always be some “mistakes” that are unavoidable. Don’t stress out about these instances or curse the training methods you’ve applied. Rather, stay focused on the positive progress that you and your pet have made so far and keep rewarding positive changes. As the saying goes, good change takes time!

If you have a dog training challenge, Happy Tails can help. Socialization and exercise are an integral part of any training program. We can help you and your dog reach your training goals with daily dog walks, socialization activities, and training reinforcement in coordination with your training program. As they say, a tired dog is a happy dog. And a more focused dog during training sessions!

Contact us today!

Protecting Your Precious Pets from Coyotes


You may recall the news last winter when dogs were being targeted by coyotes, warranting local police to warn pet owners to keep a close eye on their dogs. Coyotes are a common sight in Dutchess County – especially in Millbrook, Clinton Corners, and other towns – due to our large wooded areas, farms, and many deer (great coyote meals!)  I live on a large horse farm with many acres of  surrounding woods, and just last night as I out with my dogs, I heard a large group of coyotes seemingly very close, apparently celebrating a fresh meal. Its an unmistakeable sound, and can be very unsettling.

Like many animals, coyotes can grow accustom to human activity, with coyotes seen in residential areas rarely threatening human safety, but they will attack and kill pets, especially cats and small dogs. In January 2014, I lost my beloved 13lb rat terrier, Oliver, to coyotes – IN MY BACK YARD! It was a horrible experience, both for me as well as for my other dog, who witnessed it. Its not something I ever want to hear happening to anyone else. So what can you, as a pet parent, do to protect your pet from a coyote threat?

Prevention is Key!

While it’s always good to know what you can to do to help your pet in the event of a coyote attack, it’s even better to know what you can do to prevent one.

  1. NEVER feed coyotes! Feeding not only endangers your family and your neighbors as it lures coyotes into your residential area, but it is also illegal in Connecticut. Be sure to eliminate any food sources that may attract the wild animals, including bird seed and pet food, and ensure your outdoor garbage bin is closed at all times, with bags inside securely tied shut.
  2. NEVER assume that a fence will keep a coyote from entering your yard. Coyotes are amazing athletes and can leap over 7-foot high fences with ease. Do not leave your pet unattended outdoors, unless in a completely enclosed run, especially at night. When I lost Oliver, it was after dark and I had just gone inside for a flashlight. I was inside no more than 15 seconds. But that is all it takes when a coyote knows there are critters around and is stalking your yard.

    Check the perimeter of your yard often for signs of an unwanted animal’s presence. If you do find an unwelcome animal in your yard, keep your pets inside and call Animal Control immediately. I didn’t connect the dots, but for about a week prior to my incident, my large dog, Chloe, was very alert and would bark and lunge toward one far corner of my yard. I believe the coyotes were lurking in the wooded area just beyond the edge of my yard, checking things out. I just didn’t make the connection.

  3. NEVER allow your pet to roam at night. No matter how stealthy your cat may be, she can easily fall victim to an even stealthier coyote. If your cat must go out, at least keep her inside during the coyotes’ prime hunting hours, which are early evening through early morning.
  4. NEVER be unprepared. Keep noisemakers, such as an air horn or whistle, on hand at all times in the event a coyote wanders into your yard, or approaches while you’re walking your dog.Always keep a well-stocked pet first aid kit readily available. You can purchase a pre-stocked kit, or confer with your vet as to what items he recommends so you can create your own. As important as the contents of your first aid kit is instructions on how to use each item in the event of an emergency.
  5. Be sure to keep your pet’s ID tag and/or microchip information current, as a scare from a wild animal may cause him to high tail it out of there, and you want to ensure a happy reunion.

If a Coyote Threatens to Attack

If you and your pet are ever in the dire situation where a coyote threatens to attack, here are a few tips that just may save your pet’s life.

  1. If you and your pet are approached by a coyote, don’t run away. Yell, clap your hands loudly, use your noisemaker, wave your arms, throw sticks and rocks, and/or try to make yourself look larger. Your display of aggression will likely scare the animal away.
  2. If your pet is small, pick him up. Do not crouch down beside him! Try to stay calm and quiet and move slowly toward other people, or a car, building, or other shelter.
  3. If your pet is within the confines of your yard and a coyote threatens to attack, use your water hose and sprayer to scare him away.

Know what threats are lurking outdoors, work with your vet to have a plan in place in the event of an attack, and do your best to avoid a potentially dangerous encounter with a coyote, or any other wild animal.

Do You Influence Your Dog’s Behavior?


I’m sure you’ve heard it be said that dogs and their owners often resemble one another. Well it also may be that we often, directly or indirectly, influence our dogs’ behavior. While inherited genetics play a great role in how your dog behaves, outside influences can also have a bearing on his behavior. These outside influences – especially you – can mold a dog’s attitude. This may explain why pups from the same litter, despite their shared genes, often display different behaviors when they are separated; the result of their being exposed to different things in their own particular environments. Just like humans, dogs learn from experience, and that has a bearing on their behavior.

Every Dog is Unique

Dog behavior can vary from being fearless, to being afraid of one’s own shadow; from being quick and adept at learning training commands, to needing extra special attention and repetitiveness to learn even the simplest command. The differences from dog to dog might be slight for some, but all dogs learn and recall things in unique ways, depending on their characters.

Dogs Have Their Own Logic

Our canine companions are unable to work things out the way humans do, but they do develop their own unique logic which can be due to inherited genes, but it can also be due to both bad and good lessons they have learned through past experiences with their pet parents and others.

Pet Parents Do Play a Role in How Their Dogs Behave

Several studies have investigated the role a pet parent plays in a dog’s developing behavior. One study found the pet parents of highly aggressive cocker spaniels tend to be emotionally less stable, shy, undisciplined and more likely to be tense than owners of low aggressive spaniels. Another proved dogs and their pet parents show a degree of similarity in their personality profiles. And yet another collected data from an online questionnaire answered by pet parents that, when compared to their dog’s mentality assessments, was able to successfully match pet parents with their dog based on the results. It is a fact that people’s characteristics influence dogs, their behavior and their personality traits.

The nature of the relationship between dogs and their pet parents has an important impact on the quality of life for the dog. Just as pet parents can teach their dogs acceptable behaviors, such as how to respond when a visitor arrives, or how to react when given a specific command, they can also teach them unacceptable behaviors, often times without realization. So while it may be true that dogs and owners tend to look alike, the same can be said about how they behave. When your dog spends time with you, your human behaviors, tastes and even your schedule can rub off on him. He can even pick up on your moods, preferences, anxieties and fears, making him more susceptible to pick up the same characteristics as his own.

Are you thinking “Oh my goodness! The last thing I want is for my dog to act like me!”? Well, the good news is, the rubbing off goes both ways! Dogs enter our lives with their own temperaments and breed tendencies, their own likes and dislikes, and their own fears and anxieties. And their characteristics influence how we act. In addition, the more socialized your dog is, the more people (including your pet sitter!)  and other animals he is around, the more positive influences are incorporated into what he learns.

So, it’s a two-way street. A dog enhances our lives just as we do his, with each of us providing loyal companionship, affection, protection and fun. And the fact that we can work together to help boost positive personality traits and do away with traits that don’t serve us well is just one more of the many reasons to love dogs!

Tips to Keep Your Precious Pets Safe and Warm this Winter

Meteorologists may be calling for a warmer winter in our area this year, but that doesn’t mean we won’t experience the usual frigid temperatures we’ve come to expect. After all, warmer than 20 or 30 degrees is still, well, COLD! As you brace for another winter of snow and ice, be sure to make preparations to ensure your furry family members enjoy a safe, comfortable and warm winter, too.

Winter Safety

Just as humans can experience the discomfort of cold, so too can our pets. They may be equipped with fashionable fur coats, but they can still get uncomfortably cold, nonetheless. And those left outdoors for extended periods of time can be stricken with a wide array of illness and injuries, including hypothermia.

Keep your four-legged family members safe this winter with the following tips:


A pre-winter wellness exam is a good way to ensure your pet is in good health before the cold winter weather arrives.


It’s wise to have your heating unit checked for carbon monoxide leaks before winter sets in. As it is odorless and invisible, carbon monoxide can cause serious, and sometimes deadly, health problems for people and their pets. And since your pet will likely spend much more time at home than you will this winter, she’s more vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Do you use a fireplace, wood/pellet stove or space heater to keep warm? Expect your pet to snuggle up nearby to enjoy the warmth. Make sure the space heater can’t be knocked over by your pet (a tail wagging with happiness and warmth can be dangerous!), and always keep a close eye on your pet to ensure she doesn’t come into contact with flames from the fireplace, heating coils, or other hot surfaces. When selecting a space heater, one with an overheat sensor and a sensor that turns the unit off if it is tipped over is ideal for pet parents.


Think of it this way ~ if you are outside and get cold enough to come inside, chances are your pet is just as cold. Try to keep kitties inside at all times during the winter months, and accompany your pooch outdoors long enough for him to relieve himself and get in some activity.

Know your pet’s limits, as cold weather tolerance varies depending on age, size, coat thickness, health, body fat stores, and activity level. If your pet has a medical condition such as heart or kidney disease, diabetes, or an endocrine disorder, it can compromise his body’s ability to regulate body heat so it’s safest to greatly limit his time outdoors. Very young and senior-aged pets, as well as pets with chronic disease, are also more vulnerable to the cold than healthy youngsters and adults, so be aware of their time outdoors as well. If you need help determining your pet’s temperature tolerance, consult with your vet.


fleecedogsIf your pet is visibly uncomfortable in the winter weather, consider buying him a winter coat, fleece, or sweater. Some dogs with thicker coats will not need clothing, except perhaps in the coldest temperatures, But for some breeds, or young and senior dogs, it may be a necessity. If your pet whines, shivers, appears anxious, loses the pep in his step, or freezes (not literally, of course!) when it’s time to go outside, clothing can help keep them warm while enabling them to comfortably get some exercise. There are many wonderful styles and brands of dog clothing available that will keep your pup fashionably cozy.


Whether your pet wears an ID tag or is microchipped, it is of the utmost importance to keep the information current. More dogs go missing in the winter months than any other time of the year, and it’s very easy for your pet to lose his scent and get lost when there’s snow or ice on the ground.


When your pet returns indoors after a trek outside, thoroughly wipe off his feet, legs and underside. During the winter months, it’s common for pets to pick up rock salt, ice, antifreeze and other toxic chemicals in their paw pads. A good wipe down and inspection of your dog can help prevent chapped and raw pads and possible ingestion of these toxins.


Rock salt can be extremely irritating to a dog’s sensitive paw pads, causing your dog to lick his paws. Use pet safe ice-melt whenever possible. Antifreeze is a year round concern. Most antifreeze, unless it contains a bittering agent, has a sweet taste that can be appealing to your pets. But, the ingestion of an amount comparable to a teaspoon is enough to kill your pets. If they get even a couple of licks, get to the veterinarian immediately. Make sure to check regularly under your car and clean up any pools of antifreeze that may be forming. Better yet, be an agent for change by using pet-friendly antifreeze that isn’t fatal if swallowed in small amounts and that does contain a bittering agent.


Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation.

Just as humans enjoy snuggling indoors when the weather outside is frightful, so do our pets. Sure, your pups may enjoy a good romp outside in the snow, but be vigilant of their limits. Winter weather can be fun for all, but it can just as easily turn badly if the proper steps aren’t taken to keep your pet safe and warm.

Pet Holiday Safety – the Gift That Keeps on Giving!

The holiday season has arrived! It’s time for family get-togethers, gift giving, decorating, holiday feasts, houseguests, and so much more! Whether you’re the hostess with the mostest, or planning a few low-key holiday activities, you want to ensure all of your family members enjoy the season – even the four-legged, furry ones!

From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, here are some holiday pet care tips to help keep your canine companion and favorite feline safe, happy and healthy during this festive season:

Holiday Safety


No matter how well-behaved Fido or Fluffy may be, it’s best to keep holiday decorations out of paw’s reach. Toxic holiday plants such as holly, poinsettias and mistletoe may look especially inviting to your kitty, and the results of even a small nip can be dangerous. Plastic and glass tree ornaments may be mistaken for toys, electrical wires can be chewed, tinsel and garland can be choking hazards, and holiday figurines can easily be knocked over and broken with the flip of a tail, resulting in a risk of ingestion or lacerations.


‘Tis the season for deliciously scented candles, the smells of cinnamon, gingerbread, pine and pumpkin wafting through the air. Just as the scent can draw you in, it can be equally enticing to your pet. Prevent possible burns and injuries by keeping lit candles completely out of paw’s reach, and never leave them burning unattended. Not only can your pet accidentally burn himself, but a simple flick of a paw or twitch of a tail can knock a burning candle over, causing a house fire.


Sure, those beautifully wrapped boxes sitting under the tree look festive, but they can be harmful for a curious canine or kitty. Our pets have a keen sense of smell, and if the contents of a gift smell appealing, that’s all it takes to pique Fluffy or Fido’s interest as to what’s inside. Most pets will be more than happy to unwrap the gift and eat the wrapping and the contents, making way for a very unhappy digestive tract. And those bows you picked to match the wrapping paper, and the ribbons you curled yourself, can be a serious choking hazard for your pet. So where should you keep holiday gifts? You guessed it – out of paw’s reach!


If you’re having guests stay in your home for the holidays, a few pre-emptive measures can help keep your pet safe and sound. First, make sure everyone in your home keeps their medication (prescription and OTC) tucked safely away. The last thing you want is for your prying pet to ingest something that may very well be lethal. Second, inform your houseguests that sharing food and drink with Fido and Fluffy is a big no-no. There are several holiday meal ingredients – such as onions, sage, raisins and garlic – that are toxic for your pet. Finally, with houseguests comes commotion, so be sure your pet has a quiet, comfortable place to retreat.

The holidays are a time for peace, love, sharing, giving and happiness.  Give your pet peace, love and happiness during the holidays – and every day! – and he’ll be sure to share many years of companionship and unconditional love with you in return!

All of us at Happy Tails are here for your pet care needs throughout the upcoming busy weeks.
We wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons.