RSS

Category Archives: Health

Take a hike! (But safely!)

Hiking is a great way to take a breather with your dogs.

Hiking is a great way to take a breather with your dogs.

We have had some beautiful days this summer (and some miserable ones), and we are fortunate to live in an area with a lot of great places to hike. Hiking with your dog can be a wonderfully rewarding (and tiring! A tired dog is a good dog.) way to get some exercise and get a mental break from the endless hubbub of modern life. Unfortunately, hiking without being prepared can result in some scary situations. Fortunately, some sensible and easy steps and planning can help you make the most of your outdoor experience with your pup.

Here are some ways to avoid trouble in the outdoors:

1. Consider your dog’s fitness level. Before tackling a long hike, make sure your dog is physically capable of it. Is he overweight? Is he a smush-nosed (brachycephalic) breed? Does he have arthritis? Maybe it is best not to take him along, but instead stick to shorter walks that are more manageable for him until he’s in better shape and the weather is cooler. Dogs with short snouts are especially sensitive to the heat, and can overheat quickly even on days that don’t seem like they’re that hot.

If you’re thinking about having your dog carry a backpack, make sure it fits him well. Get him used to carrying weight gradually– don’t load him up if he’s not used to it- it’s a lot more work to hike while carrying a pack! A dog should never carry more than 10% of his weight in a pack, and you should be careful to balance it from side to side so as not to put unequal stress on his body.

2. Make sure your dog is vaccinated. Rabies is the most important, of course, because it’s deadly and can be transmitted to humans. Rabies is alive and well in Pennsylvania, and a chance encounter with a sick raccoon could end in disaster. It is simply not worth the risk to your pet or to your family. (It is also state law that all dogs be regularly vaccinated against rabies, both for their own good and for the safety of the public.)

Other vaccines may also be appropriate, depending on where you’re hiking. We see a lot of Lyme disease in this area (especially Mt. Gretna and Cornwall). Fortunately, there is a fairly effective vaccine that protects against it. Leptospirosis is another disease for which we can vaccinate. Lepto is uncommon around here, but it is out there and it can be passed from dog to human.

3. In line with the Lyme vaccine, please use a flea and tick preventative! Whether you choose a topical product such as Frontline Plus or an oral flea and tick preventative such as Nexgard, it is always going to be your dog’s first defense against Lyme and other tick-borne nasties. Be sure to reapply monthly so that your dog gets the best protection possible.

Baby Bean's first hike.

Baby Bean’s first hike.

4. Be sure to carry plenty of water and a bowl for your dog! There are plenty of options out there for lightweight and collapsible bowls that are easy to pack (or even clip on to a backpack). Make sure you have enough water (more than you think you’ll need) for both the humans and the canines. Dehydration can be very dangerous, especially with some of the horribly sticky days we’ve been having. Yes it’s heavy to carry, but it is the most important thing to take with you.

5. Tag that dog! An easily visible and up-to-date id tag (or embroidered collar) is the best way to get your dog home in the case that he gets lost in the woods. Make sure the phone number is current. Microchips make for an awesome backup to an id tag. They cannot be lost or removed, but they do require someone with a scanner in order to get your dog back to you, whereas with an id tag, you eliminate that “middle man”.

6. Carry a first aid kit! This is always a good idea whether you take your dog with you or not. There are a wide assortment of first aid kits available, whether dog or human-specific. You can also make your own. There’s a wonderful post about how to make a tiny first aid kit on the Team Unruly website. I like to make sure I’m carrying Vetwrap (a flexible bandaging material that sticks to itself), a rubber glove, disinfecting wipes, and some kind of non-stick sterile pads. I also carry a bandana with me, which can be useful for everything from bandaging up a wound to muzzling an injured dog who is scared and trying to bite. It can also be soaked in cold water and used to help cool off a hot dog (or human).

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 24, 2014 in Dogs, Health, Safety

 

Tags: , , , ,

5 Tips to Help Slim Down Your Tubby Kitty

Obesity is a growing problem across our pet population, but indoor cats seem to be at the highest risk. While a fat cat may be cute, all that extra weight puts these cats at a higher risk offatchloe
health problems such as arthritis and diabetes, and those things are not fun to deal with for anybody. The average housecat (Domestic Shorthair) should weigh about ten pounds. There are kitties with smaller frames and those with bigger frames, so one cat may be chubby at 10 pounds while another is underweight. If your cat is a healthy weight, you will be able to feel his ribs but not see them. He’ll have a waist when you look at him from above, and his belly should tuck up– not hang down– when viewed from the side.

So… what do you do when your cat is overweight? Here are some tips to help your kitty’s weight head in the right direction:

1. Feed a higher protein diet. Digesting protein requires more energy than digesting carbs, which means your kitty will burn off more of the calories she is taking in, rather than storing them in fat. As an added bonus, it will keep her feeling full longer. Higher protein foods are more expensive than foods based on carbohydrates, but the payoff is worth it.

2. Stop free feeding. Many people allow their cats free access to as much food as they want at all times. This combined with boredom can quickly turn into a cat who eats for something to do, consuming way more calories than he is burning off, resulting in weight gain. Measuring your kitty’s food will give you control over the number of calories being consumed. The average indoor cat only requires about 200 calories a day. Many dry cat foods contain 400 or more calories per cup!

Canned food is delicious!

Canned food is delicious!

3. Feed canned food. Canned food is usually higher in protein and lower in carbs (see #1), plus it has the added benefit of providing more moisture. Since many cats are not good drinkers, any way you can add more moisture to their diet is helpful in decreasing bladder and kidney troubles. (Kitty waterfountains work great for encouraging drinking as well.)

4. Go easy on the treats. Treats are fine, but be mindful of the extra calories that they add. Choose treats that are low in calories and only feed a few of them per day. No more than 10% of your cat’s calories for the day should come from treats (and tablefood! if your cats are like mine).

5. Encourage exercise! Weight gain is a simple equation of calories being taken in being higher than the calories being burned. The more active you can encourage your cat to be, the healthier (both mentally and physically) he will be, and the easier it will be to keep him at a healthy weight. Consider feeding meals out of a food-dispensing toy such as the Slimcat Interactive Feeder. Make your kitty work for his meals!

Lots of cats also enjoy a good laser-pointer chase session, or a feather toy on a string. Whatever gets them moving!

I hope these tips make the idea of putting your kitty on a diet more manageable and less overwhelming. It is always easier to keep a cat at an ideal weight than it is to get weight off of him, but weight loss is certainly possible! Do not despair! Your kitty’s body will thank you for it, especially as he gets older.

And if all else fails, there is always the underwater treadmill!

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Cats, Health

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Scary thunderstorms and how to help your phobic dog.

It’s that time of year– hot sticky days that end in frequent thunderstorms rolling through the area. As much as I enjoy thunderstorms, my dog is terrified by them. He hides, he shakes, he wants to cling to me, he drools. It’s really not a great time for either of us. And unfortunately, my dog is not alone. There are many many dogs of all shapes and sizes who are stressed to varying degrees by thunderstorms (or fireworks or gunshots).

I’m lucky in that my dog reacts by hiding and clinging. Other dogs react by being destructive or, worse, by trying to escape the house. It is not unheard of for a dog to jump out an upper floor window to escape something scary and injure himself in doing so. We need to be proactive about these fears and phobias before they get worse and potentially endanger the lives of our dogs.

Thunderstorm phobia is not always a sound-based phobia. Dogs are extremely sensitive to the environment. They can react to pressure changes in the absence of thunder. They may be reacting to the change of the scent in the air. It has also been questioned whether the static charge in the air during a storm bothers them. Some dogs are upset by the flashing of lightning. Regardless, it is not simply a matter of hearing. (Deaf dogs can react to thunderstorms as well).

Storms are scary.

Storms are scary.

It is also important to note that you are not going to reinforce your dog’s fear/phobia by offering him moral support, by talking to him quietly and soothingly, or by feeding him treats. If you’re terrified of snakes and you end up trapped in a room full of snakes, and a friend comes in and puts her arm around you and starts telling you that it’s ok, calm down, we’ll find a way to get through this safely, is it going to make you more afraid of snakes?

Reknowned behaviorist Patricia McConnell has some wonderful blog posts on this subject: You Can’t Reinforce Fear; Dogs and Thunderstorms, and Reinforcing Fear II and Thunderphobia III. Both are excellent reads.

Many dogs, especially when they are puppies, will benefit from some preventative maintenance when it comes to storms. It is important to do your best if you are nervous about storms to remain calm and not pass that anxiety along to your dog. Turn thunderstorm time into a party! Pop some popcorn and toss some in your pup’s direction with each rumble of thunder. Does your pooch have a favorite toy or game? Break that out and have a good time together. Anything you can do to build a positive association toward storms will work in your favor.

If your dog will not accept his normal treats or show interest in his regular toys, this means he’s stressed. You can try upping the ante– offering really delicious treats like cheese or hotdogs (or a bullystick to chew on).

Some dogs, no matter what you do to storm-proof them, are going to end up scared, unfortunately. Breed does appear to play some sort of a role– Border Collies, for example, are especially prone to storm phobia and other sound sensitivities. However, it can happen to any dog of any breed or mix, and it can appear at any time in life– sometimes not until old age.

Fortunately, there are many different options out there to try to help your dog be more comfortable. A lot of dogs prefer to be able to hide during storms. They may be more comfortable in a closet or a basement, for example. Many dogs are attracted to bathrooms during storms. If it’s going to storm and you’re not going to be home, making sure your dog has access to his hiding spots is important. Playing music or leaving the television on can help drown out some of the noise, and closing curtains can block the flashing lightning.

Steve makes his Thundershirt look good.

Steve makes his Thundershirt look good.

There are also many commercially available products which may be of some help. A lot of these products seem to be hit-or-miss. They work amazingly for some dogs, and not at all for others, so you have to experiment a bit. The Thundershirt is one of the most popular available items. It is an adjustable, snugly fitting shirt that provides comforting pressure that may help relieve anxiety (think swaddling an infant). The manufacturer does offer a money-back guarantee if the shirt does not help and you return it within 45 days.

Another interesting product available is the Storm Defender Cape. This cape-type blanket is lined with a special material that cuts down on the static that can build up during a thunderstorm, and prevent the reaction and anxiety that it can produce in some dogs.

Dog Appeasing Pheromones, also known as DAP, can comfort a dog who is stressed. DAP is available in a spray, a collar, or a plug-in diffuser. This is a product that is userful for a dog who is generally anxious, but the spray especially can be helpful for an especially stressful event like a storm.

If all else fails and your dog continues to be terrified of thunderstorms, there are also medications available to help. The downside of medication is that it works best when given an hour or so before a storm hits, so the timing can be tricky (plus you have to be there). However, if you think that is the best option for your dog to get through this summer that has so-far been heavy with storms, give us a call. It’s no fun to be terrified, and if we can help alleviate that terror, we want to do so.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Leptospirosis: Is your dog at risk?

Leptospirosis is a type of bacteria that dogs can pick up from wet, marshy areas or standing water and from eating rodents. The bacteria can either be ingested (from drinking it, from licking paws, from eating infected critters) or it can be transmitted through some type of wound (a small, unnoticed cut on a paw, for example). It results in a disease that causes liver and kidney failure.

It can also be transmitted from dog to human through blood or urine. In humans, the most common symptoms are fever, headache, chills, muscle pain, and in the most severe cases, liver and kidney failure.

In the past, we have included the vaccine for leptospirosis in our distemper combination vaccine (the L in DHLPP). This has never provided great protection, but lepto is one of those diseases that doesn’t get that much attention. There are a bunch of different variations of it (similar to the flu) and the vaccine only works against specific strains. It also, in combination form, only lasts for about six months. We prefer to vaccinate dogs with the DHLPP vaccine every three years, so we have really not been protecting our at-risk patients.

Fortunately, the vaccine has been improving over the years.

steveswim

Pond-swimming is fun.

Because of this, we are now able to offer vaccine protection that lasts a full year. But this means giving it as a separate vaccine, which is why we are changing our protocol a bit.

Instead of vaccinating all dogs (except those who are sensitive to it– leptospirosis is the most common offender with regards to vaccine reactions) regardless of risk and not protecting them for very long, we will now only be vaccinating dogs who are at risk of contracting the disease.

These are dogs who are exposed to wet or marshy areas, ponds, standing water. Dogs who live on farms, who hike frequently, hunt, or camp are at increased risk. Dogs who have a lot of exposure to areas where wildlife is, especially if it’s a wet area, are at increased risk. Dogs who live in a highly urban environment where rats or other rodents may be a problem are at increased risk. These are the dogs who should be vaccinated against the disease.

Dogs who live a comfortable suburban life, whose life consists of a manicured lawn and walks on sidewalks are at a much lesser risk, and probably do not need to be vaccinated.

The new vaccine is given annually, and separate from the distemper combo. If your dog has previously been vaccinated with the lepto componenent in the combination vaccine, the new vaccine will not need to be boostered. For pups who have never been vaccinated against lepto, they will need to have the vaccine boostered in 3-4 weeks, and then it will become an annual vaccine.

It gets to be a lot, all of these separate vaccines, but we are trying our best to tailor our healthcare to the specific needs of your individual pet. We don’t want to be given vaccines that aren’t needed, but we want to protect those pets who are at risk. If we can prevent a serious disease, especially one that can be transmitted from dog to human, we want to do that. If we can avoid giving unnecessary vaccines to dogs who really don’t need them, we want to do that too. We want to provide the care that best fits your pet and his lifestyle.

Concerned that your dog should be vaccinated against leptospirosis? Give us a call at 665-2338 and any of our staff members would be happy to talk to you about the risk factors and help you make the right choice for your pet.

For more information, check out these handy websites:
Interactive map of Leptospirosis cases
A very nice risk-assessment test tool

 
 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

‘Tis the season for… knee injuries?

Ah, Spring. The air is warm. The grass is green. The bunnies are frolicking on the lawn. And your dog, fresh from a hard winter spent snoozing on the couch, just came up lame after chasing something cute and furry across the yard.

Cruciate Ligament tears in dogs is, unfortunately, a common injury , and one of the leading causes of hind-leg lameness. The cruciate ligament reaches from the upper legbone to the lower leg bone in the dog, and is an important factor in keeping the knee stable. When this tears, the knee joint moves around far more than it should, causing pain and leading to arthritis and dejenerative joint disease. Think football injury in people. It’s very uncomfortable for the dog.

While all breeds of dogs (and even cats, though it is uncommon) are at risk for this injury, there is a number of predisposing factors. Large breeds, especially dogs who are overweight, are at increased risk. Middle-age dogs are more likely to rupture their cruciates, and for whatever reason, spayed females are at an increased risk. There are breed factors too– Labs and Rotties are overrepresented. Pit bulls are another type of dog frequently affected. And not to leave out the little dogs, Cocker Spaniels have a higher than average occurrance of this problem. Small breed dogs with kneecaps that slip out of place (luxate) are at higher risk because there is already stress and instability in the knee joint.

But one of the biggest risk factors is Weekend Warrior Syndrome. You know the dogs I’m talking about– during the week, they spend most of their time sleeping on the couch while their family is away at work or school or evening activities. But on the weekend, everybody has time to exercise the dog, and he’s got tons of energy but maybe he isn’t as physically fit as he thinks he is. He goes tearing off after a rabbit, or maybe he’s just romping in the yard, being a dog, and bam! He is limping dramatically.

The hurty knee sit.

The hurty knee sit.

The weird thing about cruciate ligament injuries is that they can be a chronic issue. The ligament can stretch or tear just a little bit at a time, so you might notice your pooch being a little stiff for a few days, limping a little bit, and then it goes away and he’s fine. You might see him sitting funny, with one of his legs propped out to the side. He might especially have trouble after he’s been resting and still for a while. He might sometimes walk with a limp, only putting down his toes instead of his whole foot (referred to as “toe touching”) but then it goes away. And then one day he jumps out of the car or off the couch– nothing unusual at all– and he’s hurt. Because all this time, his ligament has been tearing a little bit at a time, and then all of a sudden– like an old shoestring– it finally tears the whole way through.

When this happens, especially in a big dog, the best course of action is surgical repair.

In small dogs (under 30 pounds), it is possible to get away without surgery. There is an increased risk of arthritis and chronic lameness with the non-surgical route. Strict crate rest is imperative for at least 8 weeks following injury. The dog must be leash-walked to potty and there can be no running or jumping at all. Usually pain and swelling is managed with a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication prescribed by your vet.

This conservative course of action can be an option in a larger dog too, especially when money is an issue or the dog is older and a couch-potato, but the outcome is generally not as good. The weight of a big dog, especially if he is overweight, just makes for a more difficult healing process and increased arthritis, and the increased work asked of the opposite leg makes it more likely to have a problem as well. Unfortunately, once a dog tears one cruciate ligament, his chance of tearing the other is 30-40%.

There are a variety of different types of surgery to repair a knee with a torn cruciate ligament. The surgeon will choose which surgery is the most appropriate based on size, weight, structure, activity level, and his own comfort with the procedure.

One of the most common surgical repairs is called an extracapsular or “fishing line” repair. In this surgery, the torn ligament is replaced by a nylon cord threaded through holes drilled in the bones to recreate a ligament. The idea is to keep the knee stable enough for long enough for the body to form scar tissue to keep the knee stable on its own. This procedure can work wonderfully for some dogs, especially smaller, less active dogs.

For larger or more athletic and active dogs, often a surgeon will look toward a surgery that changes the angles of the knee so that the bones stay where they belong.

The first of these two surgeries is called a Tibial Tuberosity Advancement (TTA). Basically, the very front of the tibial bone is cut and angled forward to change the physics of the knee, keeping the femur from sliding. This stabilizes the knee and lets the dog resume a normal, active lifestyle with less of a risk of developing severe arthritis in the joint with time and wear.

The second common surgery that involves changing the angles of the bones of the knee is called a Tibial Plateau Leveling Operation (TPLO). Again, this is a surgery that involves cutting bone and this time rotating it to provide more stability.

11 years old and lookin' good with two bum knees.

11 years old and lookin’ good with two bum knees.

Both of these surgeries are extremely effective, but unfortunately they also come with a fairly large pricetag. The good news is that they are generally successful as long as the post-operative instructions for restriction, range of motion exercises, and a very gradual return to normal activity are followed.

There is a very owner-effort-intensive period following surgery. The dog must be kept quiet, must be leash-walked to potty, and cannot be allowed to run or jump. For many dogs, this involves being kept in a crate. It’s hard to keep a dog mentally entertained enough to keep him sane while he’s not allowed to run or play, but it’s crucial if the surgery is going to be successful. When you get tempted to let your dog have “just a little bit of freedom”, just visualize the enormous vet bill you just paid to have his knee fixed and remember how much you don’t want to pay to have it fixed a second time.

Rehab is another option for post-op dogs. A variety of exercises are used to help increase the strength in the repaired leg in ways that are safe and gradual. A lot of times, an underwater treadmill is used, so that a dog is able to walk and use the leg without having to bear all of his weight on it.

So the good news is that for this common injury in dogs, there are a lot of options and surgery is generally successful. The downside is that surgery and rehab are very expensive, the recovery process is quite time-consuming and can be stressful, and the dog will end up with some measure of arthritis in the injured knee no matter what. But surgery does make a tremendous difference, especially for dogs who are high-energy and athletic, and many of them can return to the lively, fun life they were leading before they got hurt.

For more information, check out these websites:
ACVS page for Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease
Information about rehab for dogs from West Chester Veterinary Rehab

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Dogs, Health

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Why we recommend heartworm preventative for all dogs.

You might notice that we are starting to get more vocal about our recommendation that all dogs either be on monthly heartworm preventative year-round or tested for the disease annually. In the past, we’ve encouraged it, but we’ve kind of slipped a bit recently. It’s easy to get neglectful about preventative when you live in Pennsylvania– it’s not like we’re in The South where they have hundreds upon hundreds of afflicted animals. Heartworm has never been a huge risk in Pennsylvania, and it’s still not.

But.

It is a growing risk.

Heartworm disease is quite literally worms living and growing in the heart. heartwormThe larvae are passed from infected mosquitos biting and transmitting them into a dog’s bloodstream. From there, they spread throughout the bloodstream, and as they mature and grow they migrate to the heart and lungs, where they take up residence. Left unchecked, a heartworm infection can lead to severe heart disease, failure, and death. It is not a nice disease. It can be treated, but the treatment is expensive and somewhat risky depending on the severity of the infection. Often, the damage to the heart is permanent.

Check out this nifty interactive map on the Pets and Parasites website. Click on Heartworm and follow the prompts to check out the PA map. This map shows the number of reported tests and positives. There is not a lot of heartworm… but there is not no heartworm, either. We don’t know how many positive tests were not reported, and we also don’t know how many infected dogs are going undetected. This is the scary part, because these dogs form a reservoir from which heartworms can be spread. If a mosquito bites an infected dog and then later bites your dog, your dog can become infected. It happens as quickly and easily as that.

Our world is changing, and with it, the incidence and distribution of parasites and diseases such as Lyme disease and heartworm disease also changes. It used to be that heartworm disease was not a big concern because we get cold cold winters that killed off all the mosquitos. This past winter was cold, but unusually so. We have seen a trend toward milder weather, and mosquitos like mild.

Another big change is with the animal rescue community. We are seeing more and more small rescues which are rescuing dogs from poor Southern animal shelters and bringing them up here. These dogs frequently carry heartworm disease, and while they might be treated once they get here, they still bring that disease to the area. In addition, many of these rescue groups use a slow-kill method of treatment, which we are now discovering is leading to heartworms which are immune to all of the heartworm preventative drugs we have. Fortunately, this has so far been contained to the area around the Mississippi River, but it’s a scary scary thought.

katrinadogs

Dogs left in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Photo by Tom Fox.

All of these factors contribute to our goal of testing and protecting all dogs against heartworm disease. A monthly tablet (Sentinel) or chew (Heartgard Plus) can stop heartworm infections before they develop by killing any of the larvae your dog might have picked up in the last month. If you kill them off monthly, the worms never have a chance to grow and cause harm. In addition, our heartworm preventative medications help control many of the intestinal parasites which are more common to our area– things like roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms.

If your dog is not currently on heartworm medication, or if you’re not very consistent about giving it and you would like to schedule an appointment to have your dog tested, please give us a call at 717-665-2338. Our staff can give you the information you need and point you toward the test that would best fit your dogs’ lifestyle. We can also get your pup started on preventative to make sure he does not develop this horrible disease.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Dogs, Health, parasites, Puppies

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are retractable leashes a safe choice for your dog?

Ah, the ever-popular retractable leash, also commonly known as a Flexi leash. They seem like a great idea on paper– a plastic handle with a leash rolled up inside, giving your dog 15 feet of freedom to explore his world. A thumb on the button will lock the leash at the current length, but unlocked, the length of the leash is dictated by the dog.

Unfortunately, in the real world, the retractable leash isn’t always the best idea.

First and foremost is the concern for human safety.

Flexi-Lead-Warning

Have you ever looked at the special precautions and safety information attached to one of these leashes? Extensive and downright frightening! It is definitely user beware! Cuts, burns, facial injuries, even finger amputations!

According to Consumer Reports, in 2007 there were 16,564 hospital-treated injuries to humans that were associated with leashes. While the report did not differentiate between Flexi and non-Flexi injuries, it did state that “[t]he most common injuries reported were burns and cuts, usually sustained when the cord came in contact with skin as it rapidly paid out from the handle of a leash.” As no other leashes have cords that pay out from a handle, these have to be retractable-leash related injuries. (Do a quick Google images search for “Flexi Leash injury” if you’re feeling brave– there is some awful looking stuff out there!)

Unfortunately, far too often it is not the user of the leash who gets injured. Far too often, innocent bystanders are literally caught up in the leash and injured either by the cord itself or by the handle flying toward them when the dog-owner loses his grip. This is especially scary when you think of how easily a child could get caught up in one of these leashes, and how soft their skin is.

Secondly, there is the concern for the safety of dogs.

There is no shortage of stories about dogs getting into trouble while on retractable leashes. Dogs are hit by cars when they bolt after something and the owner doesn’t have the reflexes to lock the leash (or the locking mechanism fails) before the dog runs out into the street. Dog bites and fights are always a possibility when dogs are not really under the control of their owner fifteen feet behind them. Not all dogs appreciate a strange dog rushing up to them, and a dog coming around the corner far ahead of his owner can lead right into a dangerous situation. There is also the risk of damage to a dog’s neck and throat if he hits the end of the leash at a high rate of speed and is stopped dead by the collar around his throat. Ouch.

You also run the very real risk of a dog getting away from you and getting scared by the big plastic handle “chasing” them, causing them to run in fear and get lost or hit by a car or some other awful scenario. Dogs can also be hurt by the flying plastic handle recoiling toward them.

Most of these scenarios can be avoided by using care and paying attention to your dog, and by only using a retractable leash in appropriate environments.

Flexi leashes really are not appropriate for any place where you are near traffic or large numbers of people or dogs. This includes petstores and veterinary hospitals! The other patients waiting in a veterinary waiting room are likely stressed and not feeling at the top of their game. This combined with an unwelcome greeting from a friendly dog on a long leash can result in even more stress for a sick pet, as well as a dangerous situation. If you must use a retractable leash in these situations, it should be locked at a short length at all times. And keep your thumb off the button of temptation! In public, a traditional four to six foot leash is really a much better choice for keeping your dog safe, as well as keeping the dogs and people around you safe.

Retractable leashes can be a great tool in certain circumstances, however. For example, letting your pooch out to potty in an unfenced area, whether your own backyard or at a reststop or hotel while traveling. They are also a way to give well-mannered dogs the opportunity to explore and be dogs in open, secluded areas. They can be great for hiking on trails that are not heavily traveled. They can be great out in the gamelands when you need to keep your dog with you, but there’s nobody around that he is going to bother.

Hiking on a Flexi.

Hiking on a Flexi.

It’s always best to use a retractable leash with a harness in case your dog does take off on you. That way he does not risk damage to his throat or neck. It also differentiates for him when it is ok to pull (to extend the flexi) vs when it is not (on a regular leash attached to his collar).

Used thoughtfully, retractable leashes can indeed provide a benefit to dog and handler, but it is important to be aware of the risks and to always be careful and attentive about your environment and the impact your dog may be having on others with his Flexi freedom.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 10, 2014 in Dogs, Health, Puppies