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Clauren Ridge Gives to Oklahoma Humane Society

posted April 24th, 2019 by
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OKLAHOMA WINEMAKER, CLAUREN RIDGE

DONATES PORTION OF WINE SALE PROCEEDS

TO THE OKLAHOMA HUMANE SOCIETY

 

OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma – Oklahoma-based vineyard and winery, Clauren Ridge, is giving back to the community by donating $1 from every bottle of wine sold to the Oklahoma Humane Society, with year-to-date proceeds totaling $7680.

Clauren Ridge Pic 1“We are excited to partner with the Oklahoma Humane Society and proud of the donations we have already been able to accrue. This has been made possible by the retail partners who have been willing to give a local winery a spot on the shelf, and by the customers in our community who purchase our products. Our goal has always been to work with and for the community in which we live. We act on this by attempting to increase knowledge and love for viticulture and vinification, and more importantly by working with and giving back to the local businesses and charities that make this community such a special place to live,” said Carter Burleson, Manager of Operations at Clauren Ridge Vineyard & Winery.

Clauren Ridge wines are sold at many local Crest, OnCue, and Homeland Stores, among others. They are also the official wine provider of the OKC Energy soccer team.

“We are thrilled with this new partnership with Clauren Ridge. They have identified a need in our community and are putting their dollars into a cause that will make a difference in the lives of cats and dogs right here in Oklahoma. Their generous donation will help us further our mission of making our state a more humane place for our animal population,” said Dana McCrory, President and CEO of the Oklahoma Humane Society.

 Clauren Ridge

 

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About Oklahoma Humane Society

The Oklahoma Humane Society is the largest animal-related charity in the state of Oklahoma with the goal of eliminating euthanasia in our community through pet adoption, spay and neuter, out-of-state pet relocation, community cats, and saving infants through our neonate nursery.  We are an independent 501(c) 3 non-profit unaffiliated with the Humane Society of the United States and receive no government funding or tax dollars. Visit www.okhumane.org to learn more.

Conscientious Dog Owner

posted April 22nd, 2019 by
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How to be a Conscientious Dog Owner

by   Nick Burton

Conscienteous

 

As a dog owner, it may be a shock to learn that not everyone shares your love for man’s best friend. You see Spot as more than a companion; he is an essential member of your family. You accept his flaws, laugh when he tracks mud in your kitchen and love when he answers your hugs with sloppy face licks.

Others, like those you run into during a walk and your neighbors,  probably won’t share your enthusiasm, so here are a few tips to make sure that your dog isn’t a disturbance.

 

You are the master — be in control

A courteous dog owner values the importance of obedience. Some people shun training because they believe it requires a certain amount of meanness toward the dog, but it is, in fact, a crucial element to your dog’s happiness. Think about what happens in the absolute absence of obedience training. An untrained dog will likely be aggressive, destroy property and possibly hurt someone. This undesirable behavior is not because the dog is “bad,” but because he doesn’t know any better. Dogs are pack animals that look to a pack leader for guidance on correct behavior. And for your dog, you are the pack leader.

 

Train for courtesy, and your sanity

Obedience training will accomplish several goals. People appreciate a friendly, well-trained dog. It’s easier than you think to instill good behavior in your dog because your canine companion naturally wants to be led.

Consider two typical problem dog behaviors: pulling on leashes during walks and excessive barking. Simple repetition of expected actions during walks can nip lousy leash habits. Take steps to calm a dog as part of the walking process, such as slowly pulling on the leash, then stopping to do a few household tasks. This doesn’t confuse your dog, it reinforces the need for restraint and cements your position as the one in control.

Dog barking is similarly best curtailed as a process of establishing acceptable behavior, but also requires some common-sense tactics on your part. Ignoring barking, refraining from yelling (to your dog, it’s like you’re barking along with him), teaching the “quiet” command and asking for incompatible behavior such as giving a treat for going to his bed when another dog passes the house – are all training-based ways to limit barking.

If you need additional weapons in your training arsenal, look to training accessories. For example, some people opt for clicker training, others like to use training collars. The latter can be particularly effective at behavior modification, especially if your dog has a tendency to bark at the mailman or ignores commands. Whatever method you choose, remember that you’re helping your dog be a model animal citizen.

 

Wear him out

A tired dog is usually a well-behaved dog. And remember, by keeping your dog active, you’re not only helping him to expend pent-up energy, but you’re also contributing to his health and fitness. Avoid missing walks and play time to ensure your dog’s behavior doesn’t falter. If you need the extra help, look into hiring a regular pet sitter to help your dog get in his daily steps when you’re stuck at work.

 

Protect the planet from pooch poop

A courteous, well-behaved dog owner, of course, picks up after their pet. Make sure dog waste is bagged and properly disposed of during a walk – every time. And, since dog feces contain numerous nasty pathogens, it’s essential to remove it from your yard quickly, too. A yard full of dog poop is not just your problem – it can be a neighborhood eyesore, foul-smelling and unhealthy for your dog.

 

Accept others’ opinions

Not everyone is going to love your dog. Your pet could sit quietly and happily in his poop-free yard, and your neighbor across the street may still complain. Some just aren’t dog people. You may think non-dog lovers are missing out on a joy of life, but they disagree. And research suggests that the benefits of dog ownership may be exaggerated. Resist the need as a die-hard dog lover to defend the species. Accept their opinion, and do your best to prove them wrong through training and proper dog ownership practices.

 

Photo credit: Unsplash

Game On

posted March 27th, 2019 by
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Game On

Teaching responsible pet ownership through friendly family competition

 

By Travis Brorsen

 

Five-year-old Titan and 7-year-old Hattie had been begging their parents for a dog for years. Their parents, BJ and Kari, decided the kids were finally old enough to contribute to the care of a pet. They debated, researched, planned and finally settled on an Australian Shepherd Mix puppy. Known for their intelligence, energy and trainability, the Aussie Mix seemed like a good fit for the high energy Bender family. Hattie also struggles with anxiety, and they felt a dog could be a distraction and a comfort to her. BJ and Kari introduced the kids to the female pup, and they were instantly smitten. The family decided on the name, Rosé.

 

At first, the kids couldn’t get enough of Rosé’s spunk and playfulness. It was cute when she scooped up a toy or a sock and wanted to play tug of war. It was funny when she ran circles around them in the living room. In the beginning, Titan and Hattie were eager to help feed Rosé and let her outside, but after a few weeks, their excitement waned. Their parents were left to pick up the slack.

 

BJ, a senior marketing representative, and Kari, a dentist, both worked full time. While they loved Rosé and believed she was the perfect addition to their family, they were struggling to adjust to her feeding and sleeping schedule and also to match her seemingly boundless energy. Rosé was a gift for their children, but they also added her to the family to help teach them responsibility. How could they get their kids “back in the game” and encourage them to engage in Rosé’s care again?

 

BJ is a friend of mine from high school, and when he reached out to me on Facebook, I was happy to help. The Bender’s is a story I hear often, especially around the holidays. Kids ask for a puppy for a holiday gift and promise to help take care of it. The parents oblige. However, after a few weeks, the kids lose interest, and the parents take over.

 

Another issue with puppies is they can play rough. As the old saying goes, “It’s all fun and games until someone starts crying.” If a puppy nips or scratches a child, they may be hesitant to play with her again. It can be difficult for puppies to end a play session since dogs don’t have an on/off switch. Naturally, many of the calls I get after the holidays involve people asking me for suggestions on how to re-engage their children and get them involved with their puppy again.

 

My training philosophy involves meeting and spending time with my families and assessing their dynamic. I’m interested in what motivates them. I then develop a plan that utilizes their strengths and brings them together as a team. I believe the key when working with kids is to make the process fun and feel like a game! Interestingly, the process is the same when it comes to puppy training.

 

The Benders are a close-knit and active family. They love spending time outdoors and doing things together. Hattie and Titan both love sports and competition, especially with each other. I realized if I could develop a plan that would appeal to the children’s interests, as well as incorporate what motivates them, we could really turn things around.

 

My strategy with the Benders was to create a “family fun task chart” so that each person’s duties were crystal clear. For example, each week there are a handful of duties that have to be done: feeding, taking the dog out for potty time, walking, playtime and a training element like “sit.” I established four principal tasks for each week and gave each of them a different one each day. This way, it wouldn’t feel monotonous and, let’s be honest, nobody wants to be on poop duty every day.

 

I then added bonus points so the kids could be rewarded for going above and beyond. These included extra playtime, practicing the training element, picking up Rosé’s toys and putting them away, just to name a few. The only rule was, if the kids wanted to take on their parents’ tasks, they could get those points added to their name. I created a graph on a dry erase board, so each family member could track their progress. When I left the family that first night, I was going to offer a monetary reward for the winner, but after the parents saw the fire in Hattie and Titan’s eyes, they said family competition would be all they needed to motivate them.

 

After one week, it was time to check in. I was hopeful, but I really didn’t know what to expect. As I sat down with the family, Hattie shouted, “I’m winning,” and it wasn’t long until each member of the family had a story to tell about an experience they had during the past week. Titan piped in “I don’t mind picking up the poop; I really don’t!” BJ also recalled both children asking if they could spend extra time with Rosé.

 

I could tell they were on a good path, so I left the family for another week. The objective was clear, and the task was fun. When I returned for the final two-week check-in, I was amazed at what I saw. Rosé was responding to each family member in a different way. Rosé was attentive and responsive to the family. She was also calmer, and so were the kids. It seemed the routines and trust they were all building together had already started making an impact. As I looked around the kitchen, I saw another chart. I asked BJ about it, and he said, “Oh yeah, they liked the system so well, we are doing it with their household chores now.” Say what?!

 

In the end, BJ and Kari explained, Hattie and Titan didn’t need a tangible reward. All they needed was a little motivation and some friendly family competition.

 

“It’s amazing what kids will do when we believe in them and use positive reinforcement. It would have been easy to tell them they had to pitch in because they wanted the dog in the first place,” said Kari. “We never thought of turning it into a game. I guess that’s what we do when training Rosé as well, isn’t it?” I had to laugh and tell Kari, “Sometimes I feel like I’m training people with pet problems and not the other way around.”

 

While participating in this exercise, the children thought they were just having fun, playing with Rosé while enjoying a little family competition. But the reality was, they were creating habits of responsible pet ownership. Unbeknownst to them, they were also engaging in relationship-building activities that would create a bond with Rosé based on mutual love, trust and respect.

 

I have no doubt the relationships the children continue to build with Rosé and nurture with their parents will teach them life lessons about kindness, caring and learning. These lessons will impact every pet they have for the rest of their lives. I’m so impressed with the Benders’ commitment to Rosé and to each other, and I’m happy to have helped them with their success.

 

 

Travis Brorsen is one of the most sought after dog trainers in America today. Travis is founder and CEO of Greatest American Dog Trainers and is Animal Planet’s pet expert and trainer, hosting their new series, “My Big Fat Pet Makeover,” which just finished Season One.

Luna the Therapy Dog

posted March 26th, 2019 by
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THE LOVE AND LIFE OF LUNA THE THERAPY DOG

By Heide Brandes

 

Nacole Schopfer’s mother was unable to speak or walk. When Nacole visited her mother in hospice care, the only way they could communicate was through hand signals. It was a depressing and hard time for them both.

 

But when Nacole started bringing her new snow-white Husky pup named Luna to the nursing home on visits, she noticed a change in her mom’s attitude.

 

“I just saw the huge impact that Luna had on my mom and how much happier my mom became. Luna was really good at it. She would always walk up to the bed and say hi to mom,” said Nacole. “My mom was unable to walk or speak, but when Luna would come and visit, it would just make her day. She’d be smiling and happy, and that was a huge thing. And the other residents, they loved Luna too.”

 

Although Nacole already had two other dogs, she had an idea that Luna could be more than just a pet and a companion. She had an impact on people. She had a calming influence on people. She could help people.

 

“Once I realized that she was a really good fit for therapy work, I started looking more into it,” Nacole said.

 

Thanks to training and an eager spirit, Luna is now known as “Luna The Therapy Dog.” Every month, she and Nacole visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and more to help others deal with stress and other life challenges.

 

For the white dog with the fluffy tail and bright pink booties on, helping others seems to come naturally.

 

THE LIFE OF LUNA

Nacole found Luna as a puppy through a Craigslist ad in December 2014. She had two other dogs already, but she had always wanted a Husky. Knowing that Huskies are a high-energy and intelligent breed, she also knew Luna would need training.

 

“Luna went through training with Kira Schultz Area Pet Trainer. We took six- to eight-week classes at PetSmart—beginner, intermediate, advanced and therapy. And before her therapy class started, we took our Canine Good Citizen test and passed that,” Nacole said. “Kira is able to do the testing for therapy and Canine Good Citizen, but not every PetSmart trainer is. After all of those classes and training, we tested with Alliance of Therapy Dogs and became certified in June.”

 

Training Luna early and daily was the secret to her becoming a natural for therapy work. Exposing the young hound to the nursing home environment to visit Nacole’s mother also helped.

 

“Luna was able to visit my mom without being certified because my mom was a resident, and Luna was so well behaved,” she said. “I saw the huge positive impact it had not just on my mom but on other residents as well, so we decided to become a certified therapy team.”

 

After her PetSmart training, Luna didn’t have to go through all of the training to pass the test with ATD, but Nacole wanted her to be the best therapy dog possible, and with that comes lots of training.

 

“But I thoroughly enjoy it; it’s such a bonding experience,” Nacole said.

 

A DOG’S LIFE

Once Luna received her therapy dog certification, the requests for her came quickly. Within that same month, Luna and Nacole made their first site visit to the First Presbyterian Church in Oklahoma City.

 

“I’m not sure if it was a preschool or daycare type of facility, but this school found Luna’s page on Facebook and messaged us to come out during the summer for an animal camp,” Nacole said. “We got to go and visit the kids, and we loved it. We had snow cones and the little kids got to read to her. Luna loved it. She loved all the kids hugging on her and all the attention that she got from the kids and the teachers.”

 

Seeing the success of Luna’s first visit, Nacole looked into other places to bring her. She emailed organizations throughout the metro, offering the pair’s services.

 

“We started visiting [the Academy of Contemporary Music] at UCO once a month to visit all the students and teachers there,” Nacole said. “They loved it, and seeing Luna was definitely stress relief for them. They call it their ‘Stress Paws’ event.”

 

Soon, Luna was in high demand. The team visited the University of Oklahoma Medical Center patients and staff, specifically patients who requested therapy dogs. Next, the two partnered with Good Shepherd Hospice and The Fountains at Canterbury (assisted living) to make visits as well.

 

While Luna and Nacole took the month of January off in remembrance of Nacole’s mother’s passing, the months fill up quickly for Luna.

 

“I can see how she gives stress relief. I love seeing the smiles on people’s faces, and they love interacting with her,” said Nacole. “We also do education. We did an education seminar at Dogtopia where I worked on the differences between service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals because not many people know the differences among the three. We have another one planned for sometime in the spring.”

 

Nacole said Luna’s personality is what makes her so good with other people.

 

“She’s very curious, and she’s a character. She’s my most vocal dog, and she loves doing anything and everything,” said Nacole. “She’s also very courteous. She likes to know what’s going on all the time.”

 

Nacole also knows the responsibility and impact therapy dogs can have. It’s a responsibility she takes seriously.

 

“I know personally what it feels like to be a family member of a hospice patient. I was really, really close with my mom. So I understand how much having a therapy dog visit can brighten your day because you don’t always have people to come and visit,” she said. “I definitely wouldn’t be able to volunteer at hospice with a different dog or on my own. Luna is definitely my support, and I just want to spread her love and her joy to other people.”

 

The need for more therapy dogs in the area is growing. Many times, Luna and Nacole may be the only visitors residents and patients have every month.

 

“If you are interested, contact us. I can answer any questions,” Nacole said. “You should start training early because the dogs have to be OK with wheelchairs and noises and food and just a variety of situations.”

 

Luna now has her own following on Facebook and Instagram as well. You, too, can follow on Facebook @LunaTheTherapyHusky and on Instagram @luna.thetherapydog.

 

And when people see Luna, they also notice her hot pink and black booties.

 

“Everyone asks about the boots. Not only does it help to keep her feet sanitary and protect people from accidental scratches, it’s also how she knows she is working,” Nacole said. “It’s just so rewarding for both of us to help other people.”

Welcome Home to Travis Brorsen

posted March 26th, 2019 by
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Say Hello and Welcome Home to Travis Brorsen

World Famous Dog Trainer and Oklahoma Native

 

By Anna Holton-Dean

 

Growing up in Perry, Travis Brorsen was a typical Oklahoma kid. Elected a state FFA officer his senior year in high school, his interests in pets, education and public speaking were piqued—areas that would all meld together and later culminate into his passion and dream career as a highly sought after, world-known dog trainer and educator. He just didn’t know it yet.

After graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2001, Travis packed his bags and headed for Los Angeles where he attended acting school and pursued an acting career. “My parents thought I would just be heading home at any time, but I’m a very competitive person. So, I was driven to do it,” Travis says. “I did four years of acting school until I got my first job as a guest star on ‘JAG.’”

The part was for a guy in his 20’s, a Marine from Oklahoma. His agent told him if he couldn’t land this job, he should consider a different line of work. Fortunately, he got the part and went on to star in other shows like “Desperate Housewives” and “Bones,” along with other pilots and movies.

In the down time of the 2008 writers’ strike, Travis noticed almost everyone had a dog except him; with all of the great parks in L.A., a four-legged companion was exactly what he needed. So, on a visit home to Oklahoma, he adopted his first pet Presley, an unruly Boxer. “I did not know what I was doing at all. It felt like a nightmare; I was a bad (pet) parent,” Travis remembers. “I did everything wrong from putting him in the crate when he was in trouble to yelling his name when he did something wrong. All of the things I teach now, I was doing them wrong at the time.”

He could never have anticipated all the ways Presley would impact his life.

“Presley was an unruly pup, and it was all my fault. After a little guidance and pet education, Presley truly changed the course of my life,” Travis says. “That’s why I got into behavior and training, to help other pet owners bridge the gap before it is too late.”

It was the Boxer’s misbehavior—running off during a hike at Runyon Canyon—that led to the pair’s appearance on CBS’s “Greatest American Dog.”

“A lady ran up to me and said, ‘Is that your dog?’ I thought, ‘Oh no, what did he do?’ She said, ‘Oh no, he’s great,’ and she asked if we were interested in auditioning for a reality show called ‘Greatest American Dog,’ all about building relationships between the owner and the pet. I thought that’s great because we don’t have one.”

While Travis’ first impression was that reality shows are not a respectable thing for an actor to be a part of, he decided to give it a shot and went to the interview.

“Halfway through the interview process, they asked, ‘Is your dog even trained?’ I was like ‘No, I thought that was why we’re here’… We were cast, and each week we barely made it, but I was soaking it all in.”

No one expected Travis and Presley to come out on top, but the pair came from behind and won the entire competition including $250,000—the most money ever won by a dog and human, but it was the knowledge Travis gained that would eventually prove invaluable. Through the experience he found a passion to help other dogs and their owners create similar positive learning and relationship building experiences. “I learned the best ways of training a dog, keeping it short and turning it into a game. I learned patience, mutual respect and unconditional love,” he says.

Meanwhile, everyone assured him a big break was sure to follow as an actor or T.V. host. But after a year and a half with no offers and the winnings depleted, Travis knew he needed to do “something worth something” with the money he had left. He and Presley moved back to Oklahoma where he created “Adventures with Travis & Presley,” an early childhood education program focusing on bully prevention and character building, which is now being used in thousands of elementary schools across the country. He and Presley would go to conferences and speak at any venue where people needed to be empowered.

Travis also apprenticed under Victoria Stilwell who was a judge on “Greatest American Dog.” Stilwell is a world-renowned dog trainer from Animal Planet’s show, “It’s Me or the Dog,” known for her positive reinforcement. The two trainers worked on many projects together including an updated version of “Rin Tin Tin.”

After winning “Greatest American Dog,” Travis built a highly successful dog training business in Los Angeles. In 2012, he married his sweetheart—also an Oklahoma native—Broadway singer Heather Jones. That same year the couple adopted another Boxer, Pete, from the Boxer Rescue of Oklahoma, and the family moved to New York where he founded Greatest American Dog Trainers, proving himself to be a successful trainer on both coasts.

Dubbed “the Animal Guru” by the New York Post, he was also approached by a production company to host and produce a show, “My Big Fat Pet Makeover,” which went on to air on Animal Planet, can be streamed on Hulu and at animalplanet.com, and viewed on many Southwest Airlines flights.

With the successful training business still thriving in New York, and the addition of their son, Bleu, in 2017, the Brorsens decided to move back to Oklahoma in 2018 (while Travis maintains his NYC clientele and travels there frequently) to prioritize family life and a new project benefitting Oklahomans with disabilities.

“Part of moving back to Oklahoma was to create healthy, ‘Made In Oklahoma’ dog treats. Our first line is a single ingredient, all natural, premium beef jerky treat. We partnered with Enid’s 4RKids, a nonprofit that provides jobs for adults with disabilities. [Individuals at] 4RKids hand cut, pack, label, seal and ship all of our treats. Each bag purchased helps provide jobs for their organization. ‘Pete’s Mesquites Beef Jerky Treats’ can be found online and at all A1 Pet Emporium locations.”

Most recently, he appeared on “The Rachel Ray Show,” was nominated for TV’s Best Dynamic Duo for the Fox Reality Awards and was honored with the Humanitarian of the Year at the New York Pet Fashion Show in 2018.

And here at OKC Pets, we’re excited about his newest role in 2019 as a contributor to our publication. You can check out his first article in this issue on teaching children responsible pet ownership. It may just be the information you need to quell quarrels, relieve parents and ensure the pet’s forever home.

And If you see him out and about around the OKC metro, be sure to welcome Travis home.

Wise About Wildlife

posted March 25th, 2019 by
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Be Wise About Wildlife

Protect your pet—and wild animals—by preventing unwelcomed encounters

 

BY MARY LOGAN WOLF

 

 

On the kind of Oklahoma day that drives dogs to water, a web-footed lunk of a Lab named Goliath set out for his afternoon swim. Nothing unusual about that, says devoted dog-mom Jennifer Nguyen. Nguyen and her husband live east of Edmond. With a farm pond within a stone’s throw of their home, their amiable canine takes a dip as often as he can.

This time when he returned, he flopped down on the patio rather than barreling into the house as usual. The behavior threw a red flag, so Jennifer stepped out to check. She found Goliath obsessively licking his front foot. A closer inspection revealed something alarming. “I could see his foot was three times its normal size,” she recalls. “Because of where he’d been and what he’d been doing, I assumed he’d probably been bitten by a snake.”

Nguyen knew Goliath needed immediate medical attention. She loaded her dog into the car and headed straight to the veterinary hospital. What followed was a 24-hour, four-alarm snake bite emergency that forced the Nguyen’s to make difficult and expensive decisions to save the life of their dog.

“When they determined it was a snakebite, they asked me if I had seen the snake that had bitten him, but I didn’t,” she says. “We have three of the most common poisonous snakes out here, and they’re all bad.”

She would learn soon enough that Oklahoma’s native pit vipers—copperheads, cottonmouths, and five types of rattlesnakes—pack a powerful bite, but each one delivers a venom with varying effects on the victim, some worse than others. The size of the snake, the location of the wound and the victim’s size can also play a role. While it’s possible for a dog to survive a snake bite without professional care, it’s a tremendous gamble, one the dog-loving Nguyen’s weren’t willing to take.

“We knew if we didn’t do something pretty fast, there was a good chance our beloved fur baby would not be going home with us,” she says.

Goliath received the needed anti-venom that afternoon. At $500 per vial, it’s a costly but highly effective treatment administered for several hours via IV. The next afternoon, the Nguyen’s took Goliath home where he recovered without incident.

Feral Rendezvous

What happened to the Nguyens’ pet is not uncommon for Oklahoma pet owners. As the weather warms, people and pets find themselves whining for the great outdoors. At the same time, Oklahoma’s native wildlife become increasingly active, adding more opportunities for a curious dog or cat to meet with a less-than-friendly feral animal. When this happens, for one species or the other, the outcome is often negative, resulting in injury, disease and sometimes death.

An emergency veterinarian at Blue Pearl Emergency Pet Hospital in Oklahoma City, Dr. Jennifer Jaycox handles the aftermath of pet scuffles with wildlife, among other crises. While Jaycox says the majority of cases are bites and scratches received from rodents and squirrels, she sees her share of more severe injuries. Earlier this year, she treated a dog with deep gore wounds to his body—telltale signs of a brawl with an angry wild hog. While metro pet owners aren’t likely to bump into a feral pig while dog-jogging around Lake Hefner, rural residents with hunting dogs, or other dogs that are prone to exploring, should be aware of the danger.

            A problem more common for residents west of I-35 arrives on the prongs of the slow-moving porcupine. “I’ve seen four or five cases of dogs with porcupine quills in their faces,” says Jaycox. “Often, the dog tries to bite the animal and gets the quills in its throat, mouth and tongue.”

            With roughly 700 to 800 tiny barbs at the end of each tip, porcupine quills are nearly impossible to remove without anesthetizing the dog. Owners who attempt to remove them on their own inflict great pain on their pet and often end up breaking or cutting the quills off in the process, leaving the ends embedded.

            “When quills are embedded, they can continue to work their way inward. I’ve heard of cases where the quills worked their way into the chest cavity of a dog. When we extract the quills, we have to be sure we’re very thorough and get them all out,” Jaycox explains.

Protecting Your Pet

While most dogs and cats tend to receive injuries as they prey on wildlife, it’s not uncommon for smaller pets to find themselves on the menu of some wild predators—namely coyotes, bobcats, hawks, owls and bald eagles. All are proficient hunters who manage to survive and thrive in and around metropolitan and suburban neighborhoods. 

            “People mistakenly assume their busy suburban neighborhood makes it safe for their dog or cat to roam loose,” says Jaycox. “They don’t realize there are some wild animals that adjust very well to city life.”

            She recently treated a puppy with bite wounds received from a mysterious animal that entered the owner’s yard at dusk and tried to drag the puppy away. “The owner couldn’t make a positive identification, but from the description of the animal’s behavior and the wounds, we’re pretty sure it was a coyote,” Jaycox recalls.

            Coyotes and bobcats typically snatch their prey and take off with it, leaving few, if any clues for the despondent owner. Rather than demonizing wild animals for doing what comes naturally, pet owners are better served by taking precautions to ensure their pet’s safety. Install adequate fencing but be aware that bobcats and coyotes can clear a standard chain-link barrier. To ensure the safety of smaller animals, keep a close eye on them outside, particularly at night or early morning when wildlife tend to be more active. Maintaining your yard will provide less attractive places for snakes, rodents and other food sources preferred by predators to hide, and remember that pet food, food bowls and bird feeders may attract unwelcomed visitors.

Unfriendly Skies

Pet owners tend to focus on earth-bound dangers such as marauding dogs, speeding cars and infighting with yard companions, but attacks from on high are not unheard of for animals of 15 pounds or less. Two dogs treated at Blue Pearl this year suffered injuries after riding the unfriendly skies in the talons of a predatory raptor. The birds dropped the dogs in-flight, Jaycox says, but left identifiable wounds in their flesh. Some might say the dogs were saved by the skin of their teeth; as Jaycox relates, the blessing is their canine epidermis.

            “Dogs have very loose skin, which can make it difficult for the bird to carry them. The talons slip through their skin, especially while the bird is flying. They were lucky they survived,” she says.

Don’t Eat That!

While a tussle with a wild critter isn’t something your dog is likely to forget, the greater risk may lie in what wildlife leave behind. Scat of all kinds holds a special allure for domestic pets, primarily dogs, and especially puppies, who enjoy smelling, eating and sometimes rolling in it. The natural inclinations typically elicit a negative reaction from the owner and rightly so. Animal feces carries nasty parasites; one of the nastiest is raccoon roundworm.

            Named for the masked bandit that serves as its most prolific host, the disease has little effect on raccoons. Thankfully, dogs that contract it typically remain symptom free, but the eggs shed in affected animals’ droppings can release an assemblage of horrors—confusion, loss of coordination, seizures and even blindness— on other animals, particularly humans who ingest it. As Jaycox explains, the microscopic spawn takes two to four weeks to become infectious but may remain so for months, putting people and animals who dig in the dirt at serious risk of ingesting it.

            “The big danger is the fact that it can infect humans and children and cause serious neurologic or ocular problems,” says Jaycox. “Young children playing may put dirt or sand in their mouths that is potentially contaminated with eggs.”

            The eggs also remain viable in an animal’s carcass. The best prevention? Dispose of pet waste daily, keep your dog on monthly heartworm and parasite prevention and away from dung and dead animals. 

Vaccination: Just Do It

Thanks to advances in veterinary medicine, pets appreciate substantial protection from several zoonotic diseases, meaning those that pass from animals to humans. The presence of rabies, leptospirosis, raccoon roundworm and other ailments reinforce the importance of routine vaccinations and other preventive medications. The Oklahoma Centers for Disease Control reports 30 known cases of in-state rabies last year. The disease occurred in domestic and wild animals, with skunks claiming the highest number of cases by far. While rabies can affect any mammal, in the U.S. it prevails in wild species by some 92.4 percent. Notably, animals most likely to carry rabies are those known to thrive in and around the Oklahoma City metro—bats, raccoons, skunks and foxes.   

            “A lot of people think they don’t need rabies vaccine because their pet stays inside all the time, but it only takes a second for them to wander outside or a bat gets in their garage, and suddenly they’re face to face with a potentially rabid animal,” Jaycox stresses. “Vaccinate your pet, even if you think there is no way they could ever be exposed.”

Bobcat Fever

Bobcats found along the margins of the metro may prey on small pets and birds when the opportunity presents itself, but they play host to a far greater threat to domestic cats. According to Jaycox, bobcats carry a disease known as bobcat fever that is present throughout the southeastern U.S. In Oklahoma, it is particularly prevalent in the outlying areas surrounding Oklahoma City. Caused by a blood-borne parasite, domestic housecats contract the ailment when bitten by a tick that has fed on a disease-carrying bobcat.

            Stressing the importance of tick control for cats year-round, she adds the disease is fast acting and obstructs blood flow, causing acute respiratory distress and eventually organ failure. “We have a particularly virulent strain here, and the vast majority of cats die from it,” says Jaycox. “Treatment is supportive care. Really, there’s not much else we can do.”

            From bobcats to opossums, wild animals living free in un-wild places are a call to greater awareness for pet owners. As suburbia swells into areas previously claimed by wildlife, and wild animals adapt to survive, taking sensible precautions will ensure a more peaceful coexistence, better health and broader appreciation for all species, domestic and untamed.

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