Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Winter Pet Care Points

It's December in New Orleans, at least that is what the calendar is telling us. With temperatures creeping into the eighties though, and ridiculously high humidity, some folks may be finding it hard to believe that it is actually winter and not the second coming of August. Of course we all know that cooler air always returns soon enough, and when it does our furry, four-legged friends will need some extra care, just like they do in the height of hot summer months.

Here in the deep south there are a number of safety concerns for busy pet parents in late fall and early winter, ranging from the potential danger posed by popular holiday plants such as poinsettias, to the inescapable chill that comes with the draftiness of old houses. Of course winter pet care and safety will vary somewhat according to the size and breed of your pet, but some of the basics are the same, chief among them being temperature concerns. In general, if it's too cold out for you it's probably too cold for your pet as well which means important precautions are in order.

Does that mean your dog or cat will need a sweater this winter? You might be surprised to learn that many smaller breed dogs and those with shorter hair can actually benefit from wearing sweaters and vests in cold weather. Fortunately in New Orleans snow is a rare occasion, but just like in summer, you also want to be mindful of paws. Pups and kitties coming in contact with frosty pavement can experience a range of issues including chapped paws and itchy skin. Also, frostbite can occur when paws have been submerged in cold water.

We can't say enough about not leaving pets in the car in the heat of summer, but did you know a car can act as a refrigerator in winter? Animals can't keep warm in cold cars despite their coats, and by holding in the cold air your vehicle can actually cause your pet to freeze to death.

When it's cold outside we naturally crank up the heat inside, but this means that drier air conditions indoors can potentially contribute to itchy, flaky pet skin and even too-dry paws (not to mention dry, cracked sinuses for pet parents). Consider keeping a humidifier on hand and check paws regularly to be sure they don't need attention.

Hydration is just as important in the winter as it is in the summer, so always be sure pets have plenty of water to drink. If leaving a water bowl outside for a pet in cold weather, be sure to use a plastic one and not a metal one.

Space heaters and heat lamps are a no-no! Pets can suffer burns if their bodies or tails get too close to flames or heat elements, and if a pet knocks a heater over your home could catch fire. While snow storms and hurricanes are unlikely in New Orleans in the winter, power outages are a real possibility so be sure to plan ahead.

In review:

Don't leave pets outside in freezing temperatures.
Don't leave pets in a cold car.
Don't leave space heaters on for pets.

Do make sure pets have adequate warm shelter when spending time outside.
Do provide beds with sides for both dogs and cats indoors.
Do protect your pet's paws and check them regularly.

For more tips, be sure to see our Pinterest board Winter Pet Safety and Care!

More info:

Frostbite in dogs

8 Tips For Caring For Your Pet This Winter

SPCA Cold Weather Safety Tips

How to Care For Outdoor Cats in Winter

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Glimpse at the Dog Run at Wisner Playground

This month at Petit Pet Care we're taking a run at New Orleans' dog parks. The city currently has three officially sanctioned places for pet parents to let their dogs off the leash to run and play. Two are free to use and the third requires the purchase of an annual permit. Over the next several months we'll discuss the features of each.

Prior to 2010 the city had acquired a number of unofficial spaces from levee banks to public playgrounds, and even empty lots, where people had been bringing their dogs and letting them off the leash to get some exercise. Most of these places, with the exception of the playgrounds, were not fenced in and lacked amenities such as fountains, shade areas, or restrooms, and often their use was the source of much controversy within the surrounding neighborhoods.

Even in places that were fenced in, dogs (and some of their owners) were not particularly welcome for a variety of reasons from trampled playing fields to excess pet waste not being picked up by negligent owners. In 2012 the City of New Orleans announced plans to create as many as twenty official dog parks across the area. One year later, that plan was cut back to ten parks. So far, two have been realized: the dog runs at Wisner Playground uptown, and at Crescent Park in the Bywater, It's the former we are focusing on here.

Located at 4876 Laurel St., the Wisner Dog Run opened in December of 2013, and was the first official place in the city where pet parents could legally let dogs of the leash without paying for an annual permit in order to use it. Prior to this time, the park had been one of those unofficial sites that occasionally was the source of controversy. Fortunately, the park was already slated for renovations, and since it was already being used as an unofficial dog park, area residents were able to successfully advocate for a separate area for dogs to be included in the park upgrades.

With the creation of the 8.500 square foot dog run, (technically, since the area is less than an acre, it isn't considered an actual dog park) the park now has a separate area between the playground and sports fields where does can legally be let off the leash to roam and romp and do their business.

Within that space are benches where pet parents can sit, drinking fountains for dogs and humans, and even complimentary pet waste bags.

Unfortunately, there are no separate areas for large and small dogs at the popular Uptown spot, and while there are some trees planted in the area, there is no real shade, as of 2015. The run isn't well maintained and tends to get muddy when it rains. There are also no restrooms, and children under eight years old are prohibited from the run area.

Puppies under six months are also prohibited, and all dogs visiting the park must be spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and wearing collars and tags. There is a limit of three dogs per household visiting the run at one time. No food, (including human) treats or chews allowed, or glass containers, and no smoking, booze, drugs, or firearms as well. Park hours are 6 am to 10 pm. 

UPDATE: Fall 2016
NORDC has stepped up the maintenance of the dog run this year.  Holes have been filled in and crushed rock was added in areas where water pooled, so it doesn't get muddy after it rains. 

Helpful links:

Wisner Dog Park - Facebook

Friends of Wisner Park

NORD/Wisner Playground and Dog Run

More on the Wisner Dog Run:

Uptown Gets First Off-Leash Dog Run

New Orleans' Dog Park Plan

Wisner Dog Run opens signalling new day for dog parks in New Orleans

Important note: Always remember, unless a park is a designated official dog park, leash laws still apply!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Pet Care 101: Comparing Kitty Litter

This month at Petit Pet Care we're focusing on cat care, specifically the litter box. As you can imagine, we have had some extensive experience with cat litter. While setting up a cat box seems simple enough, there are a few important considerations you should be aware of such as size, placement, and of course the choice of a litter.

In terms of size, you want a box big enough so that kitty isn't cramped; in terms of placement, you want to put the box someplace where kitty has easy access (and even a little privacy if possible) to take care of business. Multiple cats require multiple boxes. Of course, once all that is sorted out, the next and possibly most important step, will be filling the box with your choice of cat litter.

With all the different cat litter varieties available on the market it can be difficult to choose which one to buy. We won't get into an extensive explanation on the subject  here, but all litters are not created equal. There's the cheap stuff you can get at the dollar store, the eco-friendly kind made from recycled materials, the "light" type litter, the fancy pellet variety, clay, low-dust, scented, un-scented...

Cat litter serves a very specific and important purpose. Besides giving your pet a hygienic place indoors to go to the bathroom, its function is to absorb urine as well as to cover feces, while reducing odor causing bacteria. There are two main types: clumping and non-clumping. The difference between them is fairly obvious; when wet, the particles in the clumping type stick together then dry in a clump, which makes for easy scooping. Another advantage of the clumping variety is that it doesn't have to be replaced every week.

So how do you decide which one you should use? And why is cat litter choice such a big deal? Well, for one thing, some cats are very particular, and if the litter box isn't up to their standards, they'll leave you a little present someplace to let you know it's time to clean the box and/or change the litter.

Here are our top three:

In third place is World's Best Cat Litter, a flushable, eco-friendly variety, which believe it or not is made from corn! It clumps upon contact with urine, making for an easy cleanup, and a small bag can last up to 30 days in a single cat household. (Odor control and clumping are better with the top two.)

Our second place choice is Tidy Cat Scoop - though not the light version. While it is a bit on the dusty side, it has pretty good odor control, and obviously the clumping makes for an easy cleanup.

In first place for us is Arm and Hammer Clump and Seal clay-based. Why is it our favorite? It has small particles, low dust, clumps tight and virtually no odor.

Also, Tidy Cat's Breeze Litter Pellets get an honorable mention here; it does the job with no dust, but it requires a specific type of litter box with puppy pads.

As a responsible pet parent, the last thing you want is a strong odor in your home alerting visitors to the presence of your family pet(s) before they ever actually meet them. Hopefully we've given you enough information to help you make the best choice for your family.

For more detailed information on litter box setup and litter choices see the links below:

6 Best Types of Cat Litter

Clumping vs Non-Clumping Litter: The Pros and Cons of Each

How to Select, Set Up, and Maintain the Litter Box

When it Comes to the Litter Box... Keep it Simple

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September, Cooler Temps, and Safe Pet Travel

 September has arrived and the air is finally becoming less humid. Plants that were stifled and scorched in the intense heat of July and August are bouncing back and have started putting out new growth. The intermittent breeze has become more frequent, making it far more pleasant to be outside, and a couple mornings this month it almost seemed like long-sleeve weather. While it will still be in the 80s for a while, and we won't see any real fall color in New Orleans until around November, it's nice to be able to be outside without the constant strain of oppressive heat.

While a slight dip in temperature is cause enough for celebration in these parts, about this time of year a number of people often start to relax for another reason - the midpoint of hurricane season. With September being seen as the climax of the period, if we get through the month without any major storms, many folk believe things will be okay for the rest of the time until the official close of the season in November.

Thankfully, 2015 has been a relatively quiet hurricane season with no named storms approaching the area, let alone any need to evacuate. It's always a good idea though to be prepared just in case. For starters, keeping a pet evacuation kit handy can save you from racing around at the last minute trying to get important supplies when store shelves are likely to be empty.

It can be difficult enough to find an available hotel room even a few days out when there is a storm approaching, but evacuating with pets can make it even more of a challenge, particularly if you have more than one. Having a list of pet-friendly hotels on hand will make the process a lot smoother for both you and your animals.

In the event that you are unable to find a hotel to evacuate to that accepts pets, your next best option may be to find one near a PetSmart PetsHotel. This way you can board your pet in a safe location overnight and still be nearby.

Of course, knowing the best way to get out of town when an evacuation is called is also crucial. No one wants to be sitting in gridlock traffic on the Interestate for several hours at what is already a stressful time. Say what you will about Twitter and Facebook, but social media is an excellent resource for keeping up with what is happening on the roads, especially when you don't have access to your favorite local TV or radio broadcasts.

When traveling with pets, The Huff Post recommends taking a trial run. If your pet isn't used to being in the car for long periods of time it could get sick or anxious. Your pet will need frequent bathroom breaks during your road trip out of town as well as plenty of bottled water to stay hydrated. You won't want to feed your pet while the car is moving, so be sure to plan your stops around his or her regular meal times.

When traveling across state lines Web MD recommends bringing a copy of your pet's vaccination papers along as some states require proof at interstate crossings. If your pet isn't microchipped, be sure it is wearing a collar with ID tags that clearly identify it and contain your direct and current contact information. You may also want to get a temporary tag with the information for your travel destination in case you and your pet get separated.

Make sure pets are crated or otherwise properly restrained for the journey. Items like favorite blankets and spill-proof water bowls will help to make time on the road a lot less stressful, and leashes and harnesses will help ensure your pet doesn't get away from you at rest stops. While everyone hopes to never have to evacuate, when it comes to traveling with pets, a little planning will go a long way.

Useful links:

Nola Ready
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development
DOTD New Orleans Traffic
Pet Boarding Packing and Tips
Traveling by Car or Truck With Pets

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Ten Years Later: Katrina, Pets, and Remembrances

August in New Orleans can be oppressively hot to say the least. 2015 daily high temperatures have been off the charts with heat indices in the triple digits, leaving both people and pets seeking the comfort of shade and air conditioning. However, August has also become a time of reflection and remembrance.

Ten years ago this month, New Orleans experienced its worst nightmare. Hurricane Katrina made landfall on August 29, 2005 as a Category 3 storm, causing over one billion dollars in damage along the Gulf Coast, and leaving eighty percent of the Crescent City under water. Despite being urged to evacuate, many residents had refused to leave town without their pets, a decision that would prove fatal for some.

The staggering and devastating losses of Katrina (followed two weeks later by Rita) prompted new state and federal legislation requiring that pets be included in disaster evacuation planning and execution. Fast forward to 2008 and all of the lessons learned three years before were applied during a dress rehearsal in the form of hurricane Gustav. The mayor hyped things up by calling Gustav "The mother of all storms," compelling people to get out of town as there would be no "shelter of last resort" available.

As a result of the new laws, over 1,600 pets were evacuated  many with their owners, While Gustav caused a lot of wind damage, it turned out to be not as serious for New Orleans as residents had been led to believe it would be. However, because the mayor's scare tactic worked, city officials and first responders were able to attend to important matters at hand and test out new measures for recovery.

At the same time city officials were preparing for the arrival of Gustav, a memorial was unveiled in council chambers dedicated to the thousands of pets lost in Katrina and Rita. The statue of a seated dog and cat, created by Baton Rouge artist Richard Chashoudian, sits outside council chambers in city hall. (Unfortunately it can only be accessed on council meeting days.)

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of Katrina, New Orleans once again faces the potential approach of yet another named storm, but unlike 2005, it has been a relatively quiet season. It's still early to know if Erika will actually visit New Orleans, let alone rise above tropical storm status, but at least Nola pet parents now have access to a wider range of resources and information to assist them should they need to evacuate with their four-legged family members.


Hurricane Preparedness

Pet Evacuation Kit Provisions

Pet Disaster Safety

Pet-Friendly Hotels


National Hurricane Center

Kinship Circle Animal Disaster Response

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Heat Is On!

It's that time of year again and the heat is on! Summer is in full swing and already the humidity levels are making it difficult to be outdoors for any length of time. For pet parents, summer is additionally challenging because the increased heat and intermittent rain storms also mean a number of backyard pests will have the ideal conditions to be fruitful and multiply.

Here in the deep south, biting insects such as mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can be a problem at any time of the year, but they are a particular headache during the summer months when both people and pets are spending more time outdoors. These pests are a nuisance for the entire family, particularly because of the potential health hazards they can cause.

It's important to remember that mosquitoes can spread heartworms, fleas can spread tapeworms, and ticks can spread Lyme as well as other diseases, and those are just the problems they cause for pets! The more time your animals spend outside, the more important it will be to keep up their regular vet visits and medications that protect against these pests.

Dogs and cats aren't the only animals that can be seriously affected by these common outdoor pests. More and more people are keeping rabbits and chickens penned and cooped in the backyard and these need to be protected as well.

While it's impossible to eradicate the entire mosquito population, we already know there is a lot we can do on the preventive end to keep them at bay, from getting rid of standing water to using aromatic plants such as citronella geranium to discourage them from making themselves at home in the yard.

When it comes to deterring and fleas and ticks it's important to keep lawns and recreation areas free of leaves other debris that could provide them with a place to hide and breed. You can also create barriers around the edge of the yard with wood chips or gravel.

While getting ahead of pests is essential to summer safety, it's also important to give pets any protection you can from the intense heat. Don't forget that sidewalks and other paved surfaces heat up in the sun and can burn pet paws. Doggie boots can go a long way to keeping your pup's tender pads protected.

If your pets are going to be outside for an extended period of time, make sure they have access to adequate shade as well as an ample supply of fresh water.  Don't forget your pet can also suffer heatstroke! This brings up a topic that can not be overstated at this time of the year: Never, never, never leave your pet locked in a hot car.

Helpful links:

Keep Pets Safe in the Heat

Keeping Rabbits Cool is Crucial in Summer Heat

Dog Friendly Decks: Natural, Dog Safe Mosquito Control

Flea and Tick Season: When to Use What Treatment

Preventing Ticks in Your Yard