Give Your Pet the Gift of Enrichment

November 27th, 2019 by Heaven At Home Staff

 

During the holiday rush, owner distraction and plummeting temps can leave your fur-friend feeling bored. And boredom can spell trouble. If you don’t want your pup to redecorate the house, or your senior pet to withdraw, consider pet enrichment tips to make your fur-friend’s season “merry and bright.”

Canine Enrichment

What Is Canine Enrichment?

With an increasing population of senior pets, research has focused on ways to stave off cognitive decline through play and engagement. Evidence now suggests that mentally-engaging activities help reduce the clinical incidence of canine cognitive dysfunction.

“Creating an enriching environment with enriching activities is one of the greatest gifts you can give your senior pet,” says Dr. Laurie Brush, founder of Heaven at Home Pet Hospice.“It vastly improves a senior pet’s quality of life.”

More Than Fun for Fido

In one study, older dogs receiving environmental enrichment plus an antioxidant diet showed the most improved cognitive scores, while environmental enrichment alone improved scores more than the group given the dietary treatment without enrichment. Increased perfusion to brain tissue, decreased bodyweight, upregulation of growth factors and improved synaptic plasticity may all be molecular mechanisms underlying the benefits of enrichment and activity therapies. Providing low-stress and predictable social interactions, play, outlets for other natural behaviors, and sensory-stimulating opportunities all serve to create an enriched environment.

Dogs Love Novelty

Researchers who were trying to uncover why dogs tire of toys have discovered that dogs possess “Neophilia” – the love of new things. (WE could have told them that!) You can make an old toy seem new again by changing its scent, or you can restrict access to toys and offer them in rotation to re-pique your pet’s interest. Otherwise, be sure that Fido’s on Santa’s list if you want to keep him busy throughout the long winter ahead.

Food Puzzles – A Win-Win

“Sniff and Nudge” type toys are engaging for pets of any age. Think Busy Buddy or Westpaw toys where you hide treats for Fido to find. For senior dogs who are experiencing cognitive decline, puppy versions of these toys work well if you make sure you show your pet how to get the treats.

Sensory Exposure

From snuffle mats (shaggy mats in which you hide treats) to jaunts BEYOND your back yard, new smells stimulate the mind of your fur-friend like nothing else can. That’s because the part of a dog’s brain that is devoted to analyzing smells is, proportionally speaking, 40 times greater than ours.

Training & Playing Don’t End in Puppyhood

Spending a few minutes each day on reward-based basic obedience or simple trick training is a great method for mental stimulation and appropriate social interaction, especially in less mobile animals. Likewise, encouraging play even in older animals offers opportunities for engagement. A play partner should support the appropriate level activity and not pester or distress the older animal. Toys can also be a good outlet for older animals but daily rotation, food and owner facilitation may be necessary.

“Dognition”

For the pup who has everything, Duke University’s Canine Cognition Center has created Dognition.com – a science-based website you can join for assessment tools and monthly enrichment games. Dognition is dedicated to enriching the relationships between dogs and their owners through cognitive science. By tailoring fun, science-based games to subscribers and by offering everyday “citizen scientists” a chance to contribute to research that furthers the study of dog cognition, The Dognition Experience helps owners discover what is extraordinary about their dogs, while contributing to the greater good of all dogs. Annual membership is currently $79; a one-time assessment is $29.

Give your fur-friend a December to Remember with the gift of enrichment!

 

Feline Enrichment: Kitties Need Enrichment Too!

Similar to dogs, senior cats can also suffer cognitive decline and benefit from enrichment. However, while there is some overlap in strategy, feline enrichment caters to the unique makeup of cats. As a result, activities that cater to visual stimulation, hunting instincts and spatial awareness prevail. Here are some ways to keep your aging kitty engaged:

  • Provide safe outdoor time for cats with bungee harnesses or cat-specific fencing. Screened porches or outdoor enclosures do not encourage as much activity as walks or large fenced areas, but will help present new sights and sounds.

  • Access to windows, preferably with perches, provides mental stimulation as your cat looks out the window. Regularly move beds and perches. This mimics a changing outdoor environment and encourages cats to explore.
  • Ensure there is vertical space for cats both indoors and outdoors to help foster activity and provide safe places in a multicat household. Cats like to be up high, physical condition permitting. Providing access to elevated places makes cats happy. Provide your cat with a carpeted tree or condo, preferably with hiding spots, cat perches and shelves. Single perches with room for only one cat at a time are a good way to help your cat escape from any other household animals.

  • Cats will get bored with a toy after a while, so it is important to provide only a few toys at a time on a rotating basis to keep your cat’s interest. Social activities with humans can be the single most effective way to enrich your indoor cat’s environment. Schedule playtime a few times each day, and rotate toys and games you use each time.

In Memoriam: Capois

November 7th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Capois’s Story:
We brought our big beautiful boy home when he was just 6 wks old. Even though the time we had with him was not near long enough. We enjoyed the wonderful 8 years we had together. It would take me days to go through all of the wonderful things about Capois and the joy he constantly brought into our lives. He was an ambassador to his breed. The first day that we had to come home without you greeting us at the door was incredibly painful. The silence since you have been gone has been deafening. It has only been a little over 10 months since you were called home. And I am just now able to write this. It has gotten easier. But the missing you part will most definitley never go away. It took months for me to be able to go through your things. Your bed is still next to ours. But I have a good plan in mind of where it will go. There are so many things to miss about you. The keep away games you played with your tennis ball or always making sure you had a ball to greet people with. The way you intently watched tv and some of the commercials you were sure to let us know you hated. We miss how you wanted to be friends with whoever you would meet, human or animal. People would always compliment on how handsome,funny and smart you were. They didn’t even know the half of it. You were like an old soul. We will miss you always running after the garden hose, taking our socks, barking at the television, always ready to go for a car ride. You were always excited to go anywhere for a bath and even to the vet! You found joy in just about anything. A cue all of us humans should take from our furry companions. I miss so many things about you. The symptoms of your cancer came on so suddenly and within days we had to make the heart wrenching decision to let you go with peace and dignity.
Tomorrow, November 6th, would have been Capois’ 9th birthday. No matter how painful this has been, I would do it all over again for him. People often say “He was lucky to have you.” But I truly feel “WE” were lucky to have him. So this is a Happy Birthday to our big beautiful boy. And one day we will see you again… Just on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge.

I am very grateful to all of the staff and to Dr. Laurie for her willingness to come over late into the night to help with your passing. You helped to keep me calm and answer my questions all while explaining each step and for giving us a few moments alone after. Even as we loaded him into your vehicle and said our last goodbyes. You saw that I was lost and falling apart. So you offered a hug. Thank you for your compassion. And we are so glad people like you exist.


In Memoriam – Rusty

November 7th, 2019 by Laurie Brush

Rusty’s Story:
We got Rusty as a puppy and he was such a cute puppy. He was a red heeler and irish setter mix. He was a very protective dog of all of us. Rusty could catch a frisbee and loved the water. He was more than my dog, he was my friend. My nickname for Rusty was rusty boy. I would talk to Rusty like he was a person. He acted like he understood me. We had Rusty for 15 wonderful years. We really miss him, he was part of our family. I know he is at the rainbow bridge with our other animals.

It made it nicer to have Heaven at Home. They are a great place. Very caring and understanding


 
Compassionate home care for your companions!
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