Whether it’s a casual meeting or a routine social gathering, you and your dog need to be prepared for canine contact. Just like taking your child to the park or school, your pet could be exposed to disease or emotional trauma. What can you do to promote fun and avoid adversity?
Beginning socialization as a puppy is ideal, but many pets are rescued and adopted as traumatized adults, fraught with phobias. When these animals come together at the dog park, day care, boarding facility, groomer or veterinary clinic, the stress level is high! Learn to read the facial and body expressions of your dog and nearby dogs. Not all dogs want to be buddies! Do your best to exude a calm attitude onto the leash. If you are uptight, your dog will sense “danger” and feel the need to protect. Conversely, a dog who feels vulnerable is often the pet that gets picked on by others. If you know you or your dog is out of balance emotionally, take him into only well-controlled social situations. Pay attention to the behavior of pets around you. Don’t become distracted with human socializing!
Use safe and effective collars or harnesses. A collar should not be able to be pulled over a dog’s head. You need to be able to control your pet for his own safety and that of others. Collar types and leads can be controversial. Work with a trainer with whom you can agree and see results. Your pet should be able to walk at your side with a pleasant expression and tail happily wagging. You should both be able to enjoy the excursion!
What about germs? The best way to know if your pet will be protected should he become exposed to common communicable disease is with a blood titer test. In particular, a holistic veterinarian routinely recommends this test to verify protection and to avoid excessive vaccination. Remember, not all vaccinated dogs are protected. Protection is not automatic. A healthy body must mount an immune response to a vaccine in order to afford the individual with disease protection.
Just like children, well-fed, well-exercised, healthy pets are naturally resistant to many microbial insults. Feed your dog a balanced, species-appropriate, fresh, meat-based diet. Fresh food that contains probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, whole food vitamins, minerals and antioxidants will afford your pet a protective shield against the world’s germs and toxins.
Pet-to-pet contact can also lead to parasite transmission. Internal worms are contracted via sniffing stool or licking paws that have been contaminated with fecal matter. Sniffing butts doesn’t help this situation either, but is a natural, unavoidable behavior. External parasites such as mites and fleas can pass from dog to dog or animal environments to your dog.
Submit a stool sample to your veterinarian at least annually to be analyzed for worms. This will allow your vet to deworm your pet properly. There are many types of internal parasites. A monthly heartworm preventative is not only for heartworm (which comes from mosquitoes), but also aids deworming of some fecally transmitted parasites. Some spot-on products deter or kill internal and external parasites. Not all oral or topical preventatives are safe for all dogs. Discuss specific concerns with a holistic veterinarian.
Before your dog visits another canine, mist him with an effective and safe essential oil spray. This may deter external parasites. Fleas and mites don’t like oils such as peppermint, citronella, cedar wood or lemongrass. Holistic veterinarians discourage the conventional spot-ons, which are toxic pesticides absorbed into your pet’s body.
To ease your mind and any pet tension, apply a few drops of lavender or blue tansy to your pet’s fur and your neck or wrist to promote a sense of calm. Only use therapeutic grade oils on pets. Those which state “for external use only” may not be safe for pets who lick themselves.
For greater anxiety, a blend of passion flower, oat straw, valerian and skull cap can be placed into your pet’s mouth or onto the food as an oral Western herbal formula for tranquil relaxation.
Pleasant canine contact is not always natural. It may require a bit of knowledge and nurturing to proceed successfully and end happily!
Jodie Gruenstern,DVM,CVA is a UW-Madison graduate and has been practicing veterinary medicine in Muskego, Wisconsin since 1987. She is a certified veterinary acupuncturist and food therapist by the Chi Institute. Dr. Jodie is the owner of the Animal Doctor Holistic Veterinary Complex, an integrated small animal practice. She has been an advocate for natural pet care through writing, speaking, radio, television and the manufacturing of unique products. Dr. Jodie is founder of the non-profit iPAW: Integrating People for Animal Wellness.