5 LIFE SAVING TIPS every dog owner must know !

Our many delighted clients tell us the care for their dogs staying at my Hound Dog Hotel is the best they’ve found anywhere (check out references here). And something that makes our doggie guests time so special with us are the exciting daily outings – imperative because quality exercise is the key to keeping dogs in good shape as much mentally as physically.

A Happy Dog is a Tired Dog – A Tired Dog is a Happy Dog!

So at the Hound Dog Hotel we take our guests on varied daily exercise sessions. We go to leash free areas where dogs can run, play, interact with others dogs, and sometimes there’s an option to swim too. I might take balls and toys, but limit ‘high energy’ play.

The reason I prefer to let my guests go at their own pace is that dogs, just like people, can get too much of a good thing. Over-running dogs can be a real health risk to them -  yet it’s surprising how easy it is to inadvertently over-do exercise and in extreme cases put a dog’s life in danger. 

This is why I wanted to share my 5 LIFE SAVING TIPS every dog owner should know......... 

1) BALL THROWING

Most dogs enjoy chasing a ball now and then. But what about the obsessed ball chaser? The dog that has no interest in playing with other dogs, and unless you count staring mad-eyed, totally fixated on the ball thrower, not interacting with their owner much either. All they want is to chase after a ball to the exclusion of everything else.

Throwers can launch a ball a long way and in hot weather a dog continuously pelting flat out over a distance can easily overheat, become dehydrated and develop Heatstroke. Once this happens without fast help they can collapse and at this point recovery is uncertain.

I expect people who have never heard of this will find this hard to believe, and assume a dog will stop when its tired. Yet unfortunately what I have described is exactly what happened to my gardener’s German Shepherd Dog. 

His GSD was anti-social, and in order to avoid other dogs he would take him to quiet places. Then to tire him out he would just keep throwing the ball with the thrower. One hot evening after such a session his dog collapsed.

He rushed his dog to the Vet Hospital where he was immediately put on a drip and kept in overnight as they tried desperately to rehydrate him. When that didn’t work vitamin and mineral infusions were tried. They did all they could yet even after an outlay of $6000 his dog could not be saved and sadly he died the next day. 

Clearly those throwing a ball mean no harm to their dog, but when chasing a ball becomes a ‘conditioned’ response dogs can lose their natural ‘off switch’ and despite being hot and exhausted they keep going (Border Collies & Pointers & Kelpies are typical examples). 

If you suspect your dog has overheated you might be able to help if you catch it early. In fact a few years ago on a 40 degree day my daughter and I were walking to Freshwater beach for a swim to cool down, when we came across a GSD (yes, another GSD with a problem) alone, clearly disorientated, tongue hanging out and pacing all over the place. He was right next to the road and in real danger of getting run over. 

On such an extremely hot day with the wind like a hair dryer set on high, you did not need be medical to see the dog was in the early stages of Heatstroke. I grabbed his collar and walked him the short distance back to my daughters place. This is what we did:
1)    used the garden hose to soak him completely
2)    offered him water (but he was so beside himself from the heat, being lost and with strangers he refused to drink much)
3)    put him in a cool place (with wet towels if they’re keeping still)

Normally a cool place would be an air conditioned room. However, my daughters unit did not have air con. So I started the car and turned on the air con in that. As soon as it cooled we put the GSD in there and then drove him to our local vet and left our details. 

We never heard from the owner so we rang the vet and were delighted to hear the GSD had pulled through. He said our actions had saved the dog’s life, so that made our rescue worthwhile.

Signs of heatstroke

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Wobbly on their feet 
  • Look like they’re drunk
  • Noticeable fluid building up in their body
  • Keep drinking to excess
  • Shaking
  • Fits
  • Unconscious

Something as low key as taking a dog out on a very hot and sunny day can cause Heatstroke in dogs. Therefore, when high temperatures are predicted walks need to be very early, late evening, or in the case of extreme heat not at all.  
 
2) CYCLING WITH A DOG

In cool temperatures with an adult dog (over 2 years old) where stamina has been built up over a long period it might be OK to exercise a dog whilst riding a bike.

But because it’s too easy to cycle at too fast a pace, and/or go too far, I’m against cycling with dogs. Here’s a first hand example of why…..

During 2016 I made a trip to the UK. I was missing having dogs around and offered to walk my friends Labradors, Libby & Bonnie. I took them to a great location called Fishers Green. Dogs are allowed off leash over the whole site and with many, easily accessible and pristine lakes they can pop in and out for a swim at any time. 

It was a really hot day but as the dogs could access the water as and when they wanted it was perfect, really super fun, and the type of outing that makes having a dog so special.

Suddenly, speeding past me, was a man cycling with two black labs running a distance behind him.  Both dogs looked hot and distraught but couldn’t stop to go to the water as they were trying to catch him. 

One of his dogs was just about managing to keep near him by cantering fast. But the older and heavier dog was struggling and lagging a long way behind. Worse still, he was clearly distressed. His tongue was lolling out and there was stress in his eyes. He was unable to close the gap and get closer to his master and this was no dog happy out ‘walkies’. This was the equivalent of a dog being drilled by the SAS.

This happened so quickly by the time I was thinking I ought to say something he was gone. But later that day I regretted that I hadn’t acted fast enough and brought to his attention the danger he was putting his dogs in.

The irony is I imagine this man loved his dogs and expect he thought he was doing a positive thing - giving his dogs ‘a good run’. But dogs can and do collapse after such intensive running and I’ve always wondered what happened to his older dog that day.

 Bonnie enjoying a swim in the pristine lakes of Fishers Green, Waltham Abbey, UK

Bonnie enjoying a swim in the pristine lakes of Fishers Green, Waltham Abbey, UK

3) THROWING STICKS

This is an unpleasant memory and although over 25 years ago what I learned that day is every bit as relevant to any dog owner today - and why I am sharing it. 

We had just got our very first dog, a wonderful German Shorthaired Pointer, Flash, who we rescued aged 2. 

We’d not had Flash long and were at the forest where he was dashing around, all high energy as GSPs are, and mad keen to chase anything. 

In my ignorance I did what millions of people do every day – threw a stick. And it’s a safe bet that just like me many millions also have no idea what could so easily happen. 

We did not seen the actual event, but even to our inexperienced, new dog owner eyes, we knew something was seriously wrong. Because in a second his whole demeanour changed. He stood still, cropped tail not wagging, no stick and with his back arched. He began gagging and we rushed him straight to our vet.

The stick must have caught in the ground and pointed up. In his enthusiasm Flash pounced on the sharp sticking up end which made a hole deep in the back of his throat. 

After an emergency operation the Vet said this was a common injury and why a dog owner should never throw sticks! He said if the stick had pierced a tiny bit deeper it would have killed Flash.  We were completely shocked. Never gave it a thought that such a thing could happen doing something so innocent.

This is a perfect example of WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW UNTIL YOU KNOW – but when you own a dog you’ve got to make it your business to find out where dangers can lie. Or like me you’ll find out the hard way.

These days I look out for sticks that are smooth and dense. I bring them back and saw off the sharp ends. I then push/screw and length of foam swimming pool noodle (the hollow sort obviously) over each end. Voila! my own safe sticks suitable water especially. Dogs love them as they are easy to find, they are safe, and they cost almost nothing! 

 Making a Safe Stick is simple and takes minutes, this is all you need

Making a Safe Stick is simple and takes minutes, this is all you need

 The finished product - how good is that and it's so easy to do!

The finished product - how good is that and it's so easy to do!


4) SWIMMING & WATER DANGERS

One of the best workouts there is, you wouldn’t want to stop a dog enjoying a swim. And lobbing toys into the water for a dog to chase seems harmless enough, yet there are dangers in water workouts too.

Continual ball chasing into water for long periods can lead to exhaustion and dehydration. And although few dogs will deliberately drink salt water, waves can force sea water down their throat - or push water in through their nose which can result in them inhaling it – not good.

Inhaled water, salt or fresh, can lead to fluid in the lungs (pulmonary oedema) The fluid then builds up inside the lungs interfering with breathing. This can cause dry (secondary) drowning which can be fatal 24 hours or even more after the event. 

If a dog does drink sea water this can lead to kidney  problems. So, if you’re taking your dog to the beach do offer your dog fresh water frequently - especially before the drive home.

Having said that, there is yet another - and very little known problem that can happen to dogs and humans when they drink too much fresh water.  This life-threatening condition is called Hyponatremia -  ‘water intoxication’.  OK OK I get it - enough with the scary stories! Except they are not just old wives tales, all these things can and do happen.

A  first class link to learn more about Hyponatremia can be found by clicking here.

More common is a dog not being offered enough water after running around. So at the Hound Dog Hotel as soon as we come back from the beach and salt water and we reach the car, out comes the big water container.

 Herbie enjoying a drink before we head back to the Hound Dog Hotel

Herbie enjoying a drink before we head back to the Hound Dog Hotel


5) FEEDING

Feeding may seem the odd one out when above I’ve been writing about exercise – but feeding too close before or after exercise is one of the factors implicated in causing a truly dreadful and agonising condition – which is nearly always fatal – called Bloat (Gastric torsion). 

If you are unlucky Bloat can occur spontaneously – but that is rare. What you want is to avoid being the cause of Bloat in your pet due to an ill-informed approach to exercise and feeding time intervals.

In over 25 years since I first had Flash and later Harry (my pair of German Shorthaired Pointers and being deep-chested more prone to get Bloat) and in all the 100’s of dogs I’ve cared for, I have never had a single incident of Bloat. 

I’m certain this is because I’ve always kept to the
feeding/exercise
exercise/feeding
routine and time intervals provided below.

ALWAYS LEAVE A 2 hour interval following any main meal before taking your dog for their exercise session. 
WAIT AT LEAST 30 mins when you get back from exercising to give your dog a chance to rest before feeding him/her. If you did a long and/or particularly hard exercise session then let them rest for 60 mins before you feed them.

Bottom line, exercise on a full stomach is a complete NO NO. And another factor is Kibble. Kibble is a really hard for dogs to digest. I’ve seen a dog fed on kibble vomit three hours later – and the shocking thing was that even after so long the kibble looked barely different to when it was eaten. 

Here are a couple of practical examples of feeding/exercise, exercise/feeding. 

If your normal practise is to feed your dog in the morning this means they should then be allowed rest and digest their breakfast for at least 2 hours before any exercise. 

But say it’s a very hot day and you’d normally feed your dog first thing, but instead are taking your dog for an early morning walk. In this case obviously breakfast waits until you get back home. But remember then to leave feeding until at least 30 minutes after your return.

Whilst on the subject of feeding, there are varied opinions regarding the optimum amount of times per day an adult dog should be fed. Some say as in the wild dogs being predators would gorge and starve, so to mimic that they choose to feed once a day.

Others say twice a day. Twice daily is what Vets recommend – and I’m in that camp. Two smaller meals are by far the better option. A huge meal once a day is in fact implicated in causing Bloat in some dogs -  so why risk it? 

Looking after your dog is not rocket science and by feeding smaller amounts of food twice a day with the right interval between feeding and exercise Bloat is extremely unlikely ever to happen to your dog.

FEED KIBBLE? A HELPFUL TIP

If you are going to feed Kibble for breakfast and take your dog out later – soften the kibble (use warm water). You should still wait the two hour interval regardless, but by softening the Kibble this makes it easier for your dog to digest.

Conversely, at the end of the day when my dogs have been exercised is when I am happier to feed hard kibble. The crunch is good to keep teeth and gums healthy. Plus as they are going to be sleeping the Kibble can be digested overnight and help a dog feel full and sated. Like us really, the difference between eating a smoothie or the fresh fruit.

Always observe your dog. If at any time – but especially after an active exercise session - their behaviour is odd, get them medical attention rapidly. Better safe than sorry.

AND FINALLY ….

Remember: YOU DON’T KNOW UNTIL YOU KNOW – but when you own a dog you’ve got to make it your business to find out!

Until next time then,

Maralyn, Hound Dog Hotel (previously Perfect Pet Sitter)