Taking Care of Your Best Friend

Over the past few years, I've been writing about proper maintenance of the machines in your shop. This month, I plan to talk about maintaining something that's not necessarily essential to your shop, but if you have one, its value can't be underestimated.

You guessed it; this article will be about the maintenance of your shop pets. They come in a variety of species – dogs, cats, parrots, snakes, rats, monkeys and various other critters. I saw a shop cow once in Kentucky, but that's another story. We love them all but we also have to protect them when they spend time at the shop.

Shop Dog

Now my wife says a shop cat makes more sense than a shop dog, but shop dogs seem to be more popular...let’s talk about the old shop dog first.

Yup, man's (and woman's) best friend! The shop dog is like a part of the crew. He's been in your shop for years and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Keep in mind the shop dog can do wonders for keeping morale up and most customers enjoy a well trained and well behaved furry, drooling dog, to pet while they are picking up their finished engine components. The key here is well trained and well behaved.

However, if strangers coming in and out of your shop bother your dog you need to reconsider even having it there. A good shop dog will allow about anybody who wants to pat its head and scratch it behind its ears. You need a shop dog that has a very laid back disposition. Actually the lazier the better; after all, the dog is there to provide company to you, and to break up the monotony of the long workday. You don’t want a dog that will growl and scare your customers, jump all over them or intimidate them in any way. You don’t want your customers' kids (or your customers) crying because your dog just scared the crap out of them. And speaking of crap – make sure it's cleaned up.

You need to protect your shop dog from the customers as well. Everybody likes to give the dog a treat. But think about it…if every customer who comes in your shop gives the dog a treat, you will surely find your shop dog in need of a diet. Keep the treats to a minimum! If a customer wants to give your dog a treat, 1) they should ask first, or 2) they should get a pre-authorized treat from you to give to the dog.

As a shop dog owner you got to keep an eye for anything that even looks like a food from falling onto the shop floor. Heck, my dog can snatch a piece of chicken falling off my plate in mid-air before it hits the floor from 20 feet away.

Making sure your dog eats only what you give them is the hardest thing to police in your shop. Food is one thing but machine shops are full of smells, chemicals and a lot of things that may look good or smell good to a dog, but have nasty side effects if ingested. I must admit, I was very surprised at the effects of some certain things we all have in our shops and homes. Everyday stuff we would never even think could have an unfortunate effect on our pets.

Around the shop (or home) here are some common items that need your attention:

Bleach, carpet shampoo and deodorizer, Febreze, grout sealer, mosquito repellent, Swiffer® WetJets and toilet cleaning tablets are all potentially dangerous to your pet. Got mice? Mice poison and rat poison kills dogs and cats as wells as rats and mice!

While any chemical can be toxic depending on the circumstances of exposure, many cleaners can be safely used per label directions. Bleach, for example, can be used in safety to disinfect surfaces when used properly. However, if ingested by your pet it will cause, upset stomachs, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea or oral burns. Keep these and other hazards out of reach from your pet.

Well-intended pet owners can unknowingly poison their pets simply by giving their pet people medicine. Something as common as pain reliever for people can be deadly for your pet. Also, never give a dog cat medicine or vise versa. Dogs need dog medicine and cats need cat medicine.

Who doesn’t like Chocolate?

Food for people can be very harmful to your pet and not just from over-eating. We know how much people like chocolate and dogs like chocolate too, but it can be deadly for them. Chocolate poisoning in dogs can bring about epileptic seizure and can kill. While not dangerous to humans, chocolate contains theobromine, a naturally occurring stimulant. It increases urination and affects the heart and nervous system. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include vomiting, diarrhea or hyperactivity. In time, your dog's heart rate will increase which can lead to hyperthermia, muscle tremors, seizures, coma and even death.

The best way to prevent chocolate poisoning is to keep chocolate away from your pets. But, in the unlikely event that your pet gets ahold of some, you need to get it out of his system as soon as possible. It's best if a veterinarian treats the animal ASAP. Of course sometimes, you don't have that time. You will need to perform first aid then transport the dog to the vet.

If you suspect your dog has gotten into chocolate, you need to induce vomiting. To do that, use three percent hydrogen peroxide, one-to-two teaspoons by mouth every 15 minutes until vomiting occurs. You can also use Syrup of Ipecac. Use two to three teaspoons, only once. You can get Syrup of Ipecac at almost any pharmacy (you don't need a prescription.) Syrup of Ipecac is inexpensive and will keep for several years if stored at room temperature.

After vomiting, give the dog by mouth activated charcoal mixed with water to a slurry consistency. The dosage is 1 teaspoon for dogs who are less than 25 pounds and 2 teaspoons for dogs weighing more than 25 pounds. These are guidelines and should never replace professional treatment from a licensed veterinarian.

Antifreeze or ethanol Glycol is a dog killer and to a dog it tastes like candy. Antifreeze attacks a dog’s kidneys and can cause permanent kidney damage or death. Treatments include intervention with fluids and multiple blood tests to attempt to dilute the poison in the system.

Signs of antifreeze ingestion include changes in breathing patterns, vomiting, depression, and lack of coordination, seizures, coma, and even death. Treatments are to induce vomiting immediately by orally administering straight hydrogen peroxide (give your pet 3 tablespoons first and then as needed, and then immediately bring your pet to the veterinarian. Call ahead to let them know you are bringing a pet that has ingested antifreeze. I talked to my vet and he said they also intravenously feed straight vodka or everclear to thin the poison out of the blood stream. Now I am not advocating getting your dog drunk as a preventive measure as this should only be done by a veterinarian.

The best cure is prevention. Mop up, clean up, cover and store any liquids that may be harmful to your best friend.

Animal Poison Control Center: 1-888-426-4435 call if you suspect your pet has ingested anything that may be harmful

Transmission oil, engine oil, honing oil, grease, dry sweep, shop rags, plastic caps, straws, wood, vinyl, are not at all healthy for any pet. Even if you drop part of a burrito on the floor and the dog quickly gobbles it up, you need to be concerned what else he gulped down in the process Watch what your shop dog eats!

The whole environment needs inspection when your pet is at the shop. Chips from the boring bar can become embedded into the paws and cause a nasty infection. Even de-icers for us folks up in the great northern part of the USA need to be cleaned off the dogs paws, as dogs will lick them clean and ingest the toxin from the de-icier and off to the vet we go!

The chemicals you use to clean with can have an effect on your pet’s lungs. If it bothers you, let me tell you, your dog is bothered by it even more. Flying debris from grinding tools can cause an eye injury in dogs as they do in people. The side of your hot tanks or jet washers or cleaning ovens can burn the fur or worse burn the end of the dog’s nose. The hot tank chemicals can blind. Loud noises can ruin their hearing.

Dogs in general like to chew on just about anything; I know my dog has got to be part beaver. She can make quick work and any thing made of wood. She doesn’t swallow the wood but it does make one heck of mess that may cause me, one of my employees or customers to slip and fall. Plus I gotta clean it up, I have tried to teach my dog to use a broom but it ain't working.

Your dog’s coat needs to be cleaned on a regular basis. With all the grease and oils in your shop you know your dog is rubbing up against anything and everything it can to scratch that itch. Give your dog regular baths, and make sure you really pay close attention to the paws, especially between the toes. Brush his teeth and trim his toenails, and brush out the dog’s coat on a regular basis.

On a final note ….keep the trash out of your pets reach! Put a lid on that waste basket, as there is more than just old food in the trash. Broken glass, cans, and other sharp objects are a recipe for disaster. Keep your shop clean, your pets healthy, and service your customers better than the rest. You will end up with happy pets and happy customers.

I would like to thank the fine folks at the Winona Veterinary Hospital for their help in putting this article together.


See you in the shop!

By David P. Monyhan

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