Adopting a pet as a holiday gift can sound like a great idea. After all, the image of a fuzzy puppy or kitten popping out from under the Christmas tree is enough to melt the hearts of every Grinch and Scrooge out there.
Unfortunately, this heartwarming scene doesn’t always have a happy ending. Adopting a pet is a huge responsibility that should involve significant thought and planning.
Factors to Consider
Whether you are planning to surprise a loved one with a pet or adopting one for yourself, there are several important factors to consider:
Do people routinely tell you how wonderful your dog is? If you are used to hearing “You have the best dog in the world!”, and you’re interested in sharing your dog with others who may benefit from your dog’s sweetness, perhaps you should consider therapy dog training! After all, what better way to spread the happiness and comfort that your dog brings than taking your sweet pup into a hospital or to a senior center where there are people who would appreciate a visit from a special four-legged companion?
Anyone who owns a dog knows how much this special bond adds to their quality of life, and there’s science to back it up. Recently, therapy dogs have been recognized by the scientific community for the health and healing benefits that they offer. Studies show that simply petting a dog stimulates the release of “feel good” neurochemicals, and contributes to lowered blood pressure, less depression, and an overall reduction in stress. There are numerous ways that therapy dogs can provide support, companionship, hope, and other health benefits to help people heal from both physical and psychological ailments.
What is a Therapy Dog?
Unlike a service dog, which is specifically trained to provide a set of services for an individual with specific needs, therapy dogs are trained to provide comfort and companionship for individuals who are in an institutionalized setting, such as a hospital or nursing home. Over the past several years, therapy dogs have become more common in other public places where people often need some cheering-up by a visit with a sweet and friendly canine.
Some examples of the amazing ways therapy dogs touch the lives of those they come into contact with include:
- Elevating the mood of patients in hospitals and nursing homes.
- Reducing anxious feelings in airports, schools, and other settings.
- Providing social and emotional support to individuals with a variety of ailments.
- Reducing the stress and anxiety that often accompany physical and mental disorders.
Therapy Dog Credentials
A dog of any breed or age can become a therapy dog, provided they have the right personality traits, are well trained, and consistently and reliably demonstrate exemplary behavior. Therapy dogs should be:
- Reliably friendly towards strangers
- Well-socialized around children and adults
- Highly responsive to basic obedience commands
- Highly adaptable to new environments, noise, smells, and other novel stimuli
Most therapy dog organizations also require that dogs be in excellent health, fully vaccinated and undergo routine physical examinations with their veterinarian. They must also be clean and well-groomed at the time of their visits.
If you think your dog has what it takes to become a therapy dog, your team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center has some suggestions on how to get started.
Since there’s a lot more to becoming a therapy dog than just knowing that you have a great dog, it’s important to understand the requirements and steps involved. Now comes the serious preparation and team training, as it’s not just your dog entering into a hospital, nursing home, library, or school – you’ll be there, too – so you both need to be a well-functioning team.
- The first step for most therapy dog training protocols is for the dog to have gone through a basic obedience training class and graduated with flying colors.
- Next, comes taking and passing the AKC Good Citizen Program, and lots of practice to make sure your dog has mastered its obedience skills in a variety of public settings and other real-life situations.
- Step three involves either enrolling in a therapy dog training course or a dedicated home training program. A therapy dog should be extremely responsive to its handler, and be able to stay calm and happy despite loud noises, abrupt movement, medical or other equipment, the attention of strangers, and any other distraction that may occur.
- In order to become an animal-assisted therapy team, you and your dog must successfully pass a final evaluation, be certified, and registered with a national therapy dog organization.
Finally, remember that our goal is to help your pet have a healthy and long life with you, so don’t forget the wellness examinations, vaccinations, and parasite prevention! As always, don’t hesitate to contact us with your questions and concerns regarding your pet’s well-being.
Dealing with a dog or cat that can’t make it outdoors or to the litter box in time can be incredibly frustrating. Following your pet around, encouraging it to go in the appropriate spot, only to turn around and see a new puddle on the floor can leave even the most patient pet owner at wit’s end.
There are many possible causes for incontinence in pets, ranging from an infection or disease to a simple lack of proper house training. Exploring the potential cause is part of good preventive care and should be pursued. In cases where the cause cannot be treated, pet diapers may be the solution.Continue…
Cat owners know the unique joys and challenges of life with cats. You want the best for your cat, but sometimes figuring out what these notoriously fickle creatures want and need can feel like dancing on the tip of a pin!
Still, we adore cats at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center and we’ve seen a thing or two over the many years we’ve been taking care of our clients’ cats. We’ve come up with the top 5 things cats hate and what you, as a loving owner, can do about it!
You are minding your own business, when out of nowhere comes the odd, surprising, and utterly weird sound of honking or wheezy snorting from your dog. You run to your pet’s aid, only to discover that he or she is perfectly fine, standing there as though nothing has happened. But what did happen? Do you call us or drop everything and rush your pet in as an emergency?
It is likely that what your pet just experienced is known as paroxysmal respiration, more commonly called “reverse sneezing”. Hearing a reverse sneeze can certainly be alarming, but it’s often a normal occurrence for a dog or cat.Continue…
Traveling with a pet can be fun, but it also presents some significant challenges: Picking the best mode of transportation, finding a pet-friendly place to stay, knowing what you will do with your pet once you’re there, and all the extra packing, organizing, and worrying that goes along with bringing a four-legged companion on a vacation or long distance trip.
Airline travel with pets, in particular, can be a lot of work, but with planning, preparation and a little help from your Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center team, you and your pet will be jet-setting off into the sunset in good style.Continue…
Discovering a lump or bump on your pet can be concerning at best, frightening at worst. It’s understandable to worry: Is it normal? Does my pet need to see the veterinarian right away?
While new lumps and bumps on our pets should never be ignored, in many cases, they end up being nothing to worry about. Our medical team at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center has seen countless lumps and bumps, so you can rely on us to help determine when one is a problem that needs to be addressed and when it’s not.Continue…
We may not speak the same language as our cats, but that doesn’t mean they can’t communicate effectively with us. While often appearing independent and aloof, cats are constantly communicating their mood, likes, and dislikes with us through that beautiful hind-end appendage, their tail!
When you know what to look for, a cat’s tail can be a wealth of information. With careful observation, and a little help from us at Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, you’ll be understanding “cat speak” in no time!Continue…
At our altitude of 5,280 feet above sea level, most Denver residents and visitors don’t experience the debilitating effects of altitude sickness – that is, until they head to the mountains. The nausea, dizziness, and shortness of breath that accompany altitude sickness affect approximately 20% of individuals above 8,000 feet, and can really put a damper on a day of skiing, hiking, or sightseeing.
Pets are also susceptible to an increase in altitude, which can include many of the same symptoms experienced by humans. If allowed to advance, altitude sickness in pets can lead to a potentially deadly buildup of fluid in the lungs and brain, especially, if the pet is engaging in any physical activity.
Enjoying the wonderful outdoor opportunities that our Colorado mountains have to offer with your pets is one of the beauties of living in this area, but safety must be the first priority. For low altitude pet owners, knowing the signs of altitude sickness in pets, and when to seek help, is an important part of keeping them safe while in the mountains.Continue…
Was your dog running happily through the yard one minute, then limping and unable to put weight on one of its rear legs the next? Or, have you watched your older dog become less active due to a gradual deterioration in one of its knees, a problem that you know is affecting your dog’s quality of life?
A torn cranial cruciate ligament (called CCL in pets and ACL in humans) may be to blame. This is a common problem in dogs and, in many cases, requires surgery to correct and to prevent further damage to the knee joint as time goes on.
Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) surgery is one of the most widely used procedures for repairing a torn CCL in dogs (and sometimes cats). At Lone Tree Veterinary Medical Center, we are fortunate to have a skilled and certified TPLO surgeon on our medical team who has helped hundreds of dogs return to an active life through TPLO surgery. Since we have seen so many successful results with this procedure, we thought it important to explain what TPLO surgery is, why it’s so effective, and offer tips for supporting your dog’s orthopedic health after TPLO surgery.Continue…