Heartworm Disease In Dogs

Heartworm disease in dogs is a serious, potentially fatal health condition. It can cause significant lung disease, heart failure, and other organ damage in your dog. The impacts of heartworm disease can be devastating for a dog and cause a lot of anguish for the pet parent. Heartworm is easy to prevent but difficult to cure. If your dog contracts heartworm disease the chances of death are high.  Heartworms in dogs is widespread and present in all 50 states.

What is Heartworm Disease and how is it Contracted?


Heartworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm called Dirofilaria immitis. These worms can live inside, and be transmitted by, as many as 30 different species of mosquitos.  They are carried by the mosquitos and spread when a dog or other pet is bitten by an infected mosquito. The Microfilariae, an early lifecycle stage of this parasitic worm, must pass through a mosquito in order to become infective larvae. Once transmitted to a dog through a mosquito bite, they will mature into adults within about 7 months.  They will then mate and reproduce while living inside the dog.

Heartworm worms are called “heartworms” because the adult worms live inside an infected dog's heart, lungs, and corresponding blood vessels.  They can live inside your dog for as many as 7 years! 

Adult heartworms look like strands of spaghetti, with males reaching about 4 to 6 inches in length and females reaching 10 to 12 inches in length.  On average, dogs with heartworms can host about 15 worms, but there can be as many as 300 worms inside a dog's body!

Heartworms are not necessarily a threat all 12 months out of the year if the dog doesn't live in a warm climate.  However, if you travel with your dog to an area where the heartworm season is in progress, they can be at risk for heartworms if they are not taking heartworm preventative medication. 

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Heartworm disease; hard to treat, easy to prevent. It can be fatal to dogs


Heartworm disease is not contagious between dogs. A dog can't catch the disease from an infected dog.  The disease is only spread through the bite of a mosquito.  

Testing dogs for the presence of heartworm 


Veterinarians routinely perform annual blood tests called the Heartworm Antigen test.  The test detects specific heartworm proteins, or antigens, that are released by adult female heartworms into the dog’s bloodstream.  Antigen tests detect infections with one or more adult female heartworms. The earliest the heartworm proteins can be detected in a dog’s bloodstream is about 5 months after it is bitten by an infected mosquito.  

A heartworm antigen test is usually required before a Veterinarian will prescribe heartworm preventative medication. It's important to perform the antigen test prior to administering heartworm preventative medication.  If your dog takes heartworm preventative medication while they have heartworms, they can suffer dangerous effects.

If a heartworm-positive dog begins taking a heartworm preventive medication, the dog will remain infected with adult heartworms. Heartworm preventives do not kill adult heartworms, and giving heartworm preventive to a dog infected with adult heartworms can be harmful or deadly.  If the offspring of an adult female heartworm are in the dog’s bloodstream, the preventive medication may cause the heartworm offspring to die suddenly, causing the dog to go into shock and may even result in death.

Symptoms of heartworm disease in dogs


Heartworm disease can be a silent killer because the presence of heartworms in a dog can go undetected for a long time, depending on how many heartworms are in the dog's body and how long the dog has been infected for.  Obvious symptoms may not be present until the worms have gotten a significant foothold inside the dog's body.  Some symptoms of heartworm disease to be on the lookout for are:

πŸ•± Coughing: Occasional in mild cases, and persistent in more severe cases

πŸ•± Fatigue after moderate activity

πŸ•± As the disease progresses, the dog may have trouble breathing and show signs of heart failure

πŸ•± Weight loss and decreased appetite usually indicate there is a health concern for your dog. It can also indicate your dog has heartworms

If you suspect your dog may have heartworm disease, contact your Veterinarian immediately.

How to treat heartworm disease in dogs


The treatment of heartworm disease in dogs doesn't always have a high success rate. It's also hard on the dog and can be costly.  There are several treatments available through your Veterinarian. One such treatment is a drug that contains arsenic and kills adult heartworms in dogs. It's given by deep injection into the dog's back muscles.   There is also another, less invasive drug that kills the Microfilariae (adult female heartworm's offspring) in the dog’s bloodstream.  This drug is a topical medication applied to the dog’s skin.  If your dog contracts Heartworm Disease, consult your Veterinarian for the best treatment option.

As you can probably tell, Heartworm treatments are potentially toxic to the dog’s body and can cause serious complications, such as life-threatening blood clots in the dog’s lungs.  Treatment is expensive because it may require multiple visits to the veterinarian, blood tests, x-rays, hospitalization, and a series of treatments.  Clearly Prevention is the best option! Heartworm preventative medications are available in several different forms, and there are a number of brands available.  However, you will need a prescription from your Veterinarian.

How Common is Heartworm Disease in Dogs?

The American Heartworm Society estimates that roughly 1.1 million dogs were infected with heartworm disease in 2019. This estimate was based on thousands of U.S. Veterinary practices that report heartworm testing data to this organization. Note that not all dog and cat owners bring their pets to a Veterinarian for heartworm antigen testing. In fact, some pet owners don't bring their pets to a Veterinarian at all, so this number is probably somewhat conservative.

How to prevent heartworm disease in dogs


Heartworm disease is a serious matter and can have devastating repercussions.  Although treating heartworm disease in dogs is difficult and risky, preventing your dog from getting heartworm disease is simple!  There are a number of treatment options available, and most come in a flavorful chewable tablet. You will need a prescription from a Veterinarian to obtain preventative heartworm medication.  Considering the potential risks posed by heartworms it's well worth paying a few dollars a month to protect your pet from heartworm disease. There are a couple of natural prevention products but I haven't had enough input or any experience using them to opine on their effectiveness. Talk with your Veterinarian about options.

Lifecycle of Heartworm Disease in Dogs

The Heartworm lifecycle in dogs can be a bit complicated. I've shared a lifecycle chart below that helps clarify the steps in the lifecycle;  

⮚ A mosquito bites an infected dog, ingesting heartworm Microfilariae via a blood meal.  

 The Microfilariae then develops further for 10 to 30 days in the mosquito's gut and can enter it's mouthparts. At that point they become infective larvae. 

 The microfilariae can complete their maturation after they enter a dog's body via mosquito bite and  will begin causing damage to the dog's body.

I'm sharing the below Heartworm Disease Lifecycle diagram, created by the Drake Center For Veterinary Care




This Google link brought up several other diagrams of the Heartworm Lifecycle that you may find informative as well.

Where can I learn more about Heartworm Disease in Dogs (and Cats)?


For more information on Heartworm Prevention and Heartworm Disease in Dogs and Cats, visit the American Heartworm Society's web site    

Sources for this article:  My sources for the information in this article were; U.S. Food and Drug Administration, VCA Animal Hospital  Pets WebMd , and the Drake Center for Veterinary Care 

Thanks for visiting us today, I hope you found this information on Heartworm Disease in Dogs useful!

How do you prevent Heartworm Disease in your dog, cat, or other pet?  We really appreciate your input, so please leave us a comment and share!  



7 Ways The Caronavirus Changed Life For My Dogs

The Caronavirus Pandemic has changed the world, creating a New Normal in  how people are navigating their daily lives right now.  Mandatory social distancing, excessive handwashing and use of hand sanitizer, and an obsession with purchasing large quantities of toilet paper! But what about the impact COVID19 has had on our pets?  Life has changed for them too!  

Although the risk of dogs being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 appears to be extremely low,  animals can be infected with the virus that causes COVID19 ( SARS-CoV-2).  The CDC recommends that people treat pets as you would other family members to protect them against the virus.  Util we know more about how the virus could impact pets, I've made some changes to our dogs' daily routines.


Here are 7 Changes I Felt Compelled to Make in my dogs' lives due to the Caronavirus:

No Greeting or Petting

We no longer allow our dogs to greet other dogs, not even those we know.  Even with our dogs, we are practicing social distancing.  Rather than enjoy lengthy conversations in groups with other dog parents in the neighborhood, short chats from at least 6 feet away are all we have now.

It's possible that a person infected with COVID19 is asymptomatic.  If they pet a dog they might transfer germs to the dogs fur or mouth.  The dog's parent may then pet or kiss their dog and come in contact with the infected person's germs.  We just don't want to risk it. 


I can't play with my doggie friends for awhile.  I can only take walks with Mom, Dad and Icy.

For this reason, we don't let our dogs come in contact with other dogs and we don't allow anyone to pet our dogs, including children.  It's not easy to tell a child who really wants to pet Icy or Phoebe that we are all social distancing, including our dogs.  But we need to protect ourselves.

We still walk the dogs, they need the exercise and so do we.  However, we are careful about the times of day we walk them and where we walk them.  We know 7am is the dog walking hour around here, so we try to go out an hour later for our morning walk.  We've also started walking them along a lesser used grassy area instead of along the main path.

When we walk them we are mindful of how crowded the street looks as well.  If there are several people on the sidewalk, we cross to the other side or change our direction.  It's sad that we have to keep our distance from other dogs and people, but better safe than sorry!


No Therapy Dog Visits For Now


If you've been reading our blog for awhile you know that Icy is a Pet Partners therapy dog.  Icy and I love our visits to libraries, schools, nursing homes, and other places to help kids improve their reading skills, teach kids about pet care, and bring comfort and smiles to seniors.  Sadly, we've had to give up our visits for the foreseeable future, until the dangers of in person contact has passed.  And it will pass! I have confidence and faith in that.

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Icy loves being a Therapy Dog. I hope we can get back to our visits soon!

No More Starbucks Puppuccino's  


We no longer bring the dogs to our favorite public places like Starbucks for a Puppuccino or outdoor shopping areas to walk and people watch.  In fact, John and I can only go to a Starbucks drive-through, as their cafe's are take away only. Even the occasional drive-through is a rare treat for us. 


No Parks or Beaches for the Dogs 


No more fun romps at dog parks or beaches with Icy and Phoebe for us.  The parks and beaches have opened but social distancing is still required.  It would be nearly impossible to keep the dogs away from people and other dogs at the beach so we stick to walks around our neighborhood. 

So many times I get Icy out for a walk and she instinctively heads for the car, hoping for a park or beach adventure. Sadly, I steer her towards the street for our familiar neighborhood walk.  Sorry, sweet girl, no adventures for now!


Doggie Day Camp will have to wait 


No more doggie daycamp for the dogs right now.  Icy loves daycamp, it's a great opportunity to socialize with other dogs, and she gets to burn tons of energy - a necessity for any Siberian Husky! PetSmart closed their daycamp facilities for a few weeks, but then re-opened some of them. However, for now I feel safer keeping my dogs away from other dogs and retail store staff.  Am I being too cautious? Perhaps, but my dogs' health and safety is the most important thing to me.


Dog Grooming Is Out For Now


Likewise, no going to the dogs groomer either.  Phoebe will have to look like a hairy monster, or tolerate my amateaur grooming skills!  Awhile back I purchased an Andis dog grooming kit for myself and I've been practicing on Phoebe so I can groom her myself between professional grooming appointments.  Dog grooming is considered one of the "necessary businesses" but for now I think we'll pass. I feel safer keeping my dogs away from other dogs and any grooming staff. 


Mom is no hair stylist!
OK, so my Edward Scissorhands fantasy has come crashing down on me.  Phoebe doesn't exactly look like a show dog after I get through with her, LOL!!


Indoor Playtime


Playing keeps the dogs mentally stimulated and helps fight off boredom. It provides some physical exercise too, so I've busted out the puzzle games and played many rounds of Find the Treat with Icy and Phoebe.  I've also used the time to bone up on basic training like the dogs Emergency Recall Command and some tricks training.

I know the last few months have been unsettling and more than a little painful, but we will socialize and gather again once we get through the toughest days of this awful pandemic.  Our dogs will have play dates, they will run and play in dog parks and at beaches once again. But for now we all have to be patient, cautious and smart.  It's important to be aware and protect ourselves from the spread of this deadly virus.  May God bless you and your pets, I pray you will all stay safe and healthy! πŸ’–

How has the Caronavirus Pandemic effected life with your pets?  Leave us a comment and share how you are coping.

Other posts you may enjoy:


Pet Dental Health Made Easy








Health Benefits of Adding Pumpkin to Your Dog's Diet






How Therapy Dogs Help Children Improve Reading Skills





Keep Car Seats Clean With 4Knines Pet Car Seat Covers

I finally got one! A 4Knines DOG CAR SEAT COVER!  It's only been a few weeks but my new car seat cover for dogs has made our lives so much easier, and cleaner.  Pet friendly travel with dogs is always on our radar, so between muddy paws, debris sticking to their fur, and sand from the beach, the back seat of our SUV takes quite a beating!

What I Love About My 4Knines Car Seat Cover For Dogs

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Phoebe thinks our new 4Knines car seat cover is super comfy!

πŸ•The 4Knines car back seat cover fits my SUV like a glove!  I can tell it's really comfy too, because the dogs settled into it immediately as soon as they jumped onto the car cover for the first time.  The material is durable but it has comfortable cushioned quilting.

πŸ•I got the back seat cover that accommodates split rear seats.  I love that I can pull down the back seats or the rear car seat console just by unzipping the car seat cover in between the back seats!  That helps us so much.  With my ratty blanket seat cover, we always had to remove the blanket in order to pull down the rear seats. Now we just unzip and pull down the rear seat or console.  We're always hauling stuff in our SUV's cargo.  We usually need to put one or both rear seats down to accommodate large items, so this is a huge convenience.  We can still access seat belts through the seat cover too.

4Knines car seat covers are versatile, easy to clean, and fit like a glove!

πŸ• 4Knines car seat covers are super easy to clean.  Even if water or dog food spill on the cover, it's fast easy cleanup.  And the seat cover is machine washable!

I used to use an old blanket draped over the back seat, but it never stayed in place and it was constantly filthy.  Vacuuming up pet hair that stuck to the blanket was such a pain.  The blanket invariably got sucked into the vacuum, especially the fringed edges - so frustrating!  When the 4Knines seat cover gets dirty we can easily wipe up the mess, hose it down, or throw it in the washing machine.


4Knines®

This post is sponsored by 4Knines. I am being compensated to share the features and benefits of 4Knines Pet Car Seat Covers. We love sharing information and products we feel are helpful and relevant to our readers!


4Knines makes many different car seat covers for all types of vehicles; Cars, SUVs, and Trucks.  They have Rear seat covers, Front seat covers, Hammock style covers, and Cargo liners.  They come in black, tan, grey, and now a really cool new black/grey camo design.

Whether you have dogs that slobber and track muddy, dirty paws into the car or kids that puke up on the seats, a 4Knines car seat cover is a real car seat upholstery saver!

With holiday travel right around the corner, a 4Knines car seat cover can make holiday travel with pets a lot cleaner and more pleasant.  It's also a great gift idea for any pet parent!  🐢


Here's what makes the 4Knines dog car seat so durable and effective:


Photo courtesy of 4Knines


No matter what type of vehicle you drive, if you travel with dogs or cats you will love the 4Knines car seat covers.  In fact, it's great if you travel with kids in the car too.  Sticky fingers, spilled juice, or food will wipe clean off these seat covers in a snap!  Check out this beautiful fit:



4Knines also makes beautiful covers for dog beds.  Check out their web site to see their large variety of car seat protector products, dog bed covers, dog harness and dog seat belt.

Follow 4Knines on social media to see all their pet products, and get useful pet care information and tips! 




Would a 4Knines car seat cover make car rides with your pet easier?  Let us know in the comments.


Kids and Dogs; Tips To Prevent Dog Bites

Spring is in the air! That means spending more time outside, for both dogs and kids.  It's a great time to reinforce child safety around dogs. Kids and dogs can be great friends. However, children should be taught how to safely approach a dog and how to interact safely with dogs to help prevent dog bites.

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Kids should be taught how to properly approach and interact with dogs

According to a study by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year in the U.S. and nearly 1 in 5 dog bite victims need medical attention.  

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Children are the most common victims of dog bites, with over half of dog bite victims being 14 years old or younger.  Aside from causing painful injury and being traumatic, dog bites can spread germs and cause infections, such as rabies and Tetanus. 

These statistics demonstrate the importance of teaching your child how to recognize stress in dogs and how to safely interact with a dog.  Know the signs yourself as well and always supervise interactions between your kids and dogs.


SIGNS THAT A DOG IS STRESSED 


Being able to tell if a dog is stressed and may not welcome petting or other interaction can help prevent dog bites.  Here are a few signs that indicate a dog is experiencing stress:


🐢 Stiff tail or body language

🐢 A very slow wagging tail

🐢 The dog shows you the whites of their eyes (A wide-eyed "whale eye")

🐢 Licking of the lips

🐢 Yawning

🐢 Growling

🐢 Turns their back to you. Dogs often turn away from you when upset or stressed

🐢 Dog is moving away when you try to pet or hug him. He clearly doesn't want to be pet, leave him alone!

🐢 Snapping - If a dog snaps at you, immediately walk away. A snap is often the step before a dog bite.


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Dogs need personal space too! Respect their boundaries



WHAT KIDS SHOULD NEVER DO TO DOGS


I've seen kids do some things that clearly create stress or even aggression in dogs, which could potentially lead to a dog bite.  These actions should be avoided:


πŸ‘§ Don't run up to a dog, it can be scary to dogs and could be mistaken as a sign of aggression! Approach calmly and quietly and allow the dog to sniff your hand before attempting to pet him.

πŸ‘¦ Don't approach a dog yelling or squealing in high pitch tones, as many kids like to do.  That can be scary to a dog and could be mistaken for aggression.  Approach calmly and quietly. Allow the dog to sniff your hand before attempting to pet her.

πŸ‘§ Never, ever pull a dog's tail! 

πŸ‘¦ Never jump on a dog's back or try to "ride" him, no matter how small the child is or how big the dog is!

πŸ‘§ Don't approach a dog when he is sleeping, eating or has a chew stick or toy in his mouth.  Never try to take anything out of a dog's mouth!  Ask an adult for assistance.

πŸ‘¦ Never approach a strange dog without asking the owner first.  If no owner is present, stay away.

πŸ‘§ Instruct children to also ask their own parent or guardian for permission before approaching a dog's owner to ask to pet their dog.  Parents or guardians should accompany kids when they approach someone's dog and supervise the entire interaction.

Follow these dog bite prevention tips whenever you encounter someone else's dog.  They can help significantly reduce the likelihood of your child being bitten by a dog.

Do you have any other Dog Bite Prevention Tips to share? Please share them in the comments, we love hearing from you!

Other posts you might like:

Is your dog at risk for Anaplasmosis (Tick Fever)?    
How Animal Cruelty Hurts Communities
It's Baseball season! Take Your Dog Out To The Ballgame



Dog Friendly Fun in Waterville Valley, New Hampshire

If you read my blog regularly, you've probably figured out that dog friendly vacations and great dog friendly hotels are my world!  I love sharing the adventures we go on with our dogs, Icy and Phoebe. 


Traveling With Pets Takes Planning


When we first started traveling with the dogs and I had to plan pet friendly getaways, it helped me a lot to read about how other pet parents found great places to visit with pets.  It isn't always easy to find great pet friendly hotels and activities.  We've been traveling with our dogs for several years, and now we're in the pet travel groove! We have shared many of our wonderful dog friendly adventures on this blog, and we'll continue to do so to help others plan their own great pet friendly vacations!

Waterville Valley ski resort in New Hampshire is dog friendly. Pet friendly hotels and resorts. Travel with dogs
We stopped for a photo on a bridge along this beautiful dog friendly trail in Waterville Valley, NH

Our latest travel adventure with Icy and Phoebe was a trip to the Waterville Valley, New Hampshire ski resort.  No, the dogs didn't do any skiing, I did! New Hampshire is one of six states that make up New England, and it's one of my favorite New England states to visit.  The other states that make up the New England region in the Northeastern United States are; Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.  All these states are beautiful in every season and each one has something special to offer.  However, we love New Hampshire the best, in both Winter and Summer.  Waterville Valley is one of the best dog friendly vacations we've been on, so we go back as often as we can.


Waterville Valley resort has some great things to offer


🐢 Of course, the very best thing about Waterville Valley for us is that they are dog friendly!

🐢 In the middle of the resort is a charming little town square, with a few restaurants and stores around it. There's also a live web cam in the middle of the square, so you can sneak a peek at the town square action anytime.  There's a live web cam at the base of the ski area's mountain too.  We're such geeks, we love checking out the live webcams for weeks before we go, to see how the snow looks and how crowded it is at the mountain! Click here to see the Waterville Valley live webcams, called "Mountain Cams" (I Love that!).

One of the beautiful cross country ski trails runs right behind town square. It allows both foot traffic and (leashed) DOGS!  The trail is gorgeous and has a few bridges over babbling brooks as well as a really cool tunnel that goes underneath the main road.  We've had some fabulous long walks with the dogs on this trail. It's actually one of the things that keeps us going back!

 The ski resort offers both cross country and downhill (Alpine) skiing. This is great for us, because I downhill ski but my husband cross country skis.  We take turns skiing and watching the dogs so it works out perfectly for us!  Believe me, it's not easy to find a ski resort that has both types of skiing, and is dog friendly.

🐢 Within the resort, there are a few pet friendly apartments for rent but you have to book early as they fill up fast.   There's only one pet friendly hotel in the resort, but it's a real dive and typically has awful (well deserved) TripAdvisor reviews. You can read more about our Trip to Waterville Valley    two years ago when we stayed there. It was one of the worst hotel stays I've had! What a shame, they could do so much more with that piece of prime Waterville Valley real estate. 


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Seeing dog friendly signs like this one on vacation makes me smile!
The first time we went to Waterville Valley and I saw this trail marker it made my heart sing!  I'm so used to seeing No Dogs Allowed signs in so many places, it's refreshing to see a beautiful vacation resort that actually welcomes dogs! A ski resort that has both alpine and cross country skiing and it's dog friendly!?  Um... Yes, Please!

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No need to leave the dog home, bring her along on that fabulous ski vacation!

We have fun hiking for an hour or two on this cross country ski trail that allows dogs.  It's one of my favorite things to do at the resort, and needless to say the dogs love it!  


Waterville Valley resort in New Hampshire. Tunnel along a cross country ski trail that allows dogs!
Into the Tunnel of Love with Phoebe!

Planning a dog friendly vacation takes time and research


It isn't always easy finding the right accommodations for both you and your dog.  On this trip to Waterville Valley we didn't plan early enough.  As I said earlier, there is only one pet friendly hotel in the resort and it's awful.  I will never stay there again.  I checked the resort's private vacation rentals to find an apartment or condo that would accept dogs.  There were several pet friendly accommodations but only a few were still available. Most of them are larger and geared towards families.  We didn't need a place that sleeps 6+ so there was little available.

However, after much searching we happened upon the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Plymouth New Hampshire.  This hotel is owned by Marriott Hotels and is about 18 miles from the Waterville Valley ski area.  It seemed like an OK option at the time, not right in the resort but it was feasible.  Well, it turned out the be a fabulous find! 


Our pet friendly hotel room at Fairfield Inn and Suites in Plymouth, NH, near Waterville Valley.
Phoebe was very happy and comfy in our Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel room!

The Plymouth, NH Fairfield Inn and Suites hotel is fairly new and totally updated.  It was super clean and the staff was really nice, especially the General Manager.  The rooms have a microwave, fridge, and coffee maker. The bathroom was wonderful, clean and spacious with plenty of hot water in the shower!  They didn't hit us with a million rules about what our dogs can't do at the hotel, they simply welcomed us.

The icing on the cake, and something we didn't know about beforehand, is that this hotel offers discounted ski lift tickets for Waterville Valley!  I paid only $41 for a Mid-Week full day lift ticket. The regular price of a Mid-Week lift ticket is $79! That is a fabulous savings, and well worth the 18 mile drive to the ski area.  


Pet friendly hotel rooms at the Fairfield Inn and Suites in Plymouth, New Hampshire.  Close to Waterville Valley resort. Dog friendly hotels in New Hampshire
Dog Approved! Icy and Phoebe loved our room at the Fairfield Inn and Suites! They were so comfortable and happy there.
Waterville Valley is as beautiful in Summer as it is in the Winter.  I'm already planning our trip back this Summer. I look forward to doing lots of hiking with the dogs up there.  Icy and Phoebe, Get Ready for more New Hampshire adventure!

What is one of your favorite pet friendly vacation destinations? Tell us in the comments!





Snowdog Days

Here on Long Island, New York, we've had a fairly mild Winter in terms of snow.  Lots of colder weather and rain but very little of the white stuff.  My dog Icy was not pleased.  Being a Siberian Husky, she lives for cold weather and SNOW, which is why Huskies are often called "Snowdogs"!

Fortunately, last weekend Mother Nature obliged and finally delivered over 5 inches of snow for Icy's Snowdog pleasure.  Here are some fun photos of her and Cooper, Icy's Golden Retriever love interest, enjoying a romp in the snow.

This photo is my favorite.  Icy is so excited to play in the snow, she looks like a wolf rather than a dog, don't you think?


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Siberian Huskies tend to be a lot more energetic than most dogs.  When you see them playing it sometimes looks like they're playing rough.   Icy doesn't have an aggressive bone in her body, but when she plays she is pretty rough and tumble.  Both dogs are 9 years old now, and Cooper  has slowed down considerably.  Not Icy though, she's as energetic and rambunctious as when she was a puppy!


Dogs playing in snow

Here's Icy saying "C'mon Coop, let's get wild in the snow like we used to"!  And Cooper is looking at her like "Haven't you had enough yet, you crazy Husky?"

Siberian Husky and Golden Retriever playing together in the snow. Dogs in the snow

In the end both Cooper and Icy finally relax after a fun romp in the snow they've waited so long for!

Adorable Golden Retriever dog


My dog playing in the snow


How about you, have your pets played in the snow this season?  Tell us about it in the comments - we Love when you Woof back at us!


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Join us on the FLASHBACK FRIDAY BLOG HOP, hosted by our friends at the FiveSibes blog!

My very favorite photos, including this one, are the ones taken in Sedona, Arizona when we lived in Phoenix.  The dog friendly hiking in Sedona is incredible!

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Join us on the Friday Flashback Blog Hop!


Tips For Starting A Therapy Dog Program In Your Facility

As most of my regular readers know, my Siberian Husky Icy and I are a Therapy Dog team.  We've been volunteering as an animal therapy team since 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona and across Long Island, New York.  There is nothing I love more than giving back to my community with my dog by my side! It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done.

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Icy waiting for the reading to dogs program at the library to start

Over the years I have learned a lot about how to successfully manage a facility therapy dog program in libraries and schools.  I'd like to share my personal insights to help both people who run therapy dog programs, or plan to start one, and for people whose children may benefit from a therapy animal program.

THERAPY DOGS IN LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS

I have visited many libraries and schools and they are all run differently.  Most animal therapy organizations allow their member facilities to run their programs in the way that best suits them and their customers. The guidelines facilities must follow to remain in compliance usually don't include guidelines around the physical space they chooses to use for the program, or exactly how they manage the animal therapy visits.  That is both good and bad. 

It's nice to have the flexibility to manage the program in the way that best meets the needs of their participants, but some facilities do a better job of making pet therapy visits more enjoyable and effective.  Let me share some examples and tips with you.

SOME FACILITIES RUN PET THERAPY PROGRAMS BETTER THAN OTHERS


One of my favorite visits (and Icy's too!) is the Reading To Dogs programs at the library.  During these visits children read out loud to dogs, which gives them  an opportunity to practice their reading and improve reading skills in a safe, non-judgmental environment.  I'm not grading or correcting them and Icy doesn't care how well they read, as long as they'll give her a few pets and maybe a belly rub! Learn more about Reading To Dogs programs for kids in this earlier post.

At one of the libraries we visited in Phoenix, the program was very unstructured.  We showed up with our dogs, signed in, and were told to "just find a place to sit and we'll send the kids to you".  If you've ever seen a dog in a library, you know how excited kids get when they see a dog there. They can't help themselves, they invariably come rushing over to pet the dog and start asking questions.  They are oblivious to the fact that you're conducting a therapy dog reading session. 

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One of my favorite photos of Icy  reading with one of the kids at the library.  She looks so interested in doesn't she?!

One day Icy and I arrived at the library and found a tiny corner. The first child sat down to read to Icy but almost immediately, another kid came running over, excitedly yelling, and plopped down to pet Icy and begin asking questions about her.  Needless to say, the child that was reading to Icy was very put off and he immediately shut down.  The second kid's grandparent came over but seemed oblivious to the fact that this was a one on one reading session.  I finally had to gently suggest that he come back after the first child was done reading.

There wasn't a library staff in sight to oversee the program or help in any way. I went to this library twice before I became discouraged and never returned.  This type of environment puts the therapy dog handler and the kids who want to read in an awkward position.  It's not a pleasant or effective experience.

At another Phoenix library it was a totally different story.  Their program was perfectly executed and managed.  This library was a joy to be a part of and I continued my visits for a couple of years.  I left only because we moved out of state.  They did so many things right:

🐢 They had a separate room for the visits and set it up perfectly.  There were no more than 3 dogs at any one time and the sessions were one child at a time reading to a dog.  For kids who struggle with reading, group reading sessions can be stressful and unpleasant, lowering their confidence.  Here, each child had one on one time to read and interact with the dog in a non stressful environment.

🐢 Kids signed up in advance for the program and waited outside the room for their turn to read.  No other kids interrupting or making the child uncomfortable.

🐢 At the end of their 15 minute reading session, the child was given a lovely printed certificate that said "I read with Icy today!" The kids loved the certificates, it gave them a sense of accomplishment and pride.

🐢 They didn't allow therapy dog handlers to give out candy or other edibles to the children, which is smart.  Sticky fingers and books are not a good combination! Parents also don't appreciate their kids being randomly given sweets or other foods in the middle of the day.  They did allow us to give out stickers, which the kids loved.  One or two fun stickers for each child adds a nice touch and feeling of pride and accomplishment to a therapy dog visit. 

🐢 They Paid Attention!  If kids started entering the room, crowding a dog, or squealing in high pitch tones they stepped in.  They didn't just leave the handlers alone to supervise the groups of children who participate in the program.   The handler's responsibility is to their dog. They shouldn't be left to their own devices to manage groups of children in a facility.

🐢 They had books available for the children to select to read. They also obtained input from local elementary schools on books that should be offered. 

I miss that library and their staff so much!  Of the many libraries we've visited as a therapy dog team, that one was my favorite.

MORE TIPS TO RUN YOUR THERAPY DOG PROGRAM WELL


🐾 Ensure therapy dog handlers don't bring any dog treats or food that contains nuts.  Dogs love peanut butter treats but they should be left at home. There are so many kids with nut allergies!

🐾 Always have someone manage both the participant's signup process and the room.  Don't let kids just walk in and sit down.  Explain to a parent or guardian what the program is, how it works, and ask them to sign up.

🐾 Manage the visits!  Be there to support the therapy dogs and their handlers, who are volunteering their time to help you and the kids at your facility.  If a child starts crying uncontrollably, becomes frightened of the dog, wanders out of the room, or acts out please step in to help.  It's unfair to leave therapy dog handlers to be responsible for a child that wanders off or to handle behavioral issues. 

🐾 Remember that the handler's first responsibility is to their DOG.  They will explain to a child how to best pet and interact with their individual dog, and they will help a child with a word or sentence if they need it but they are not teachers or babysitters. I have seen parents drop their kids off to read to the therapy dogs at the library and not return for well over an hour!

🐾  Have a cart or table with a large variety of books available for the kids to read. Many times a child selects a book that is either way above or below their level, or they just don't like the book they chose.  When they have to run out of the room and search the shelves for another book, they run out of time.  Have plenty of books to choose from within easy reach.

🐾 Try to limit therapy team visits to one hour, and kids' reading sessions to approx. 15 minutes per child.  Most dogs become tired or need a break after an hour. Being a therapy dog is very mentally stimulating for the dog and they can get tired, or sometimes they've just had enough.  If a handler feels the need to leave early or give the dog a break by leaving the room or walking outside, please respect that.  The handler's biggest responsibility is to advocate for their dog. Part of that is to know when their dog is becoming stressed or has had enough.  Just like people, dogs have good days and bad days. Please don't be offended!

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Another adorable photo of Icy reading with a child.  I get a kick out of her putting her paw on the book!

I hope you have found these tips helpful.  By following these tips your pet therapy program should run smoothly for everyone!

Have you ever run or participated in a therapy animal program?  Please tell us what your experience was like in the comments!