February is Adopt A Rabbit Month

By: Ashlie Kuehn

February is Adopt a Rabbit Month! Rabbits are the third most common pet found in shelters and animal rescue and there are so many of all ages, shapes, and sizes looking for a loving home. If you're looking for a great companion to add to your home, consider a rabbit!

Why do rabbits make great pets?

  • As generally small animals, rabbits don’t need a ton of space to roam, so they make great pets for apartment and townhouse dwellers. As long as you have room for an appropriately sized hutch and allow them rabbit-safe areas to play and explore outside their cage, a rabbit could be a great companion for those who live in smaller places.
  • Rabbits have very distinct personalities. Much like dogs and cats, rabbits have various temperaments ranging anywhere from affectionate and outgoing to shy and more reserved. Be sure to spend some time getting to know a rabbit’s personality to see if they’d be a good fit for your home!
  • Once they get to know you, rabbits form a very close bond with their owners. They’re highly social animals who love to play and spend time with their family.
  • Rabbits are most active during dusk and dawn, which aligns well with those who work normal business hours. They’ll be ready to play and interact before and after you go to work!
  • Rabbits are highly intelligent animals who can be easily trained just like cats and dogs. They can be trained to use a litter box, do tricks, run through mazes, and even run an obstacle course! Generally, it takes just a few minutes a day and some positive reinforcement to teach them new and exciting tricks.

Why choose to adoption?

  • Adopting a rabbit means saving an animal needing help and giving them a second chance at a great life. Rescues often have various sizes, breeds, ages, and personalities to fit your lifestyle.
  • Many rabbits gifted for Easter often end up in the shelter and animal rescue each year. There are millions of rabbits needing rescue and adoption not only saves the life of that animal directly but allows another animal to be helped in their place.

Before bringing any animal into your home, it’s important to do your homework and not make the decision lightly. Here are a few things to keep in mind before deciding whether a rabbit might be the right pet for you:

  • Rabbits are a commitment. With proper care and handling, they can live for 8- 12 years or more. Be sure you are prepared for their care and maintenance long-term.
  • Rabbits need attention. They are social animals and do not do well when left alone for extended periods, often leading to boredom and depression. Giving them plenty of attention and interaction each day will keep a rabbit happy and
  • Rabbits need a lot of care. While many think of rabbits as low maintenance pets, they require quite a bit of care from ensuring a proper enclosure (outdoors, indoors, or both), safe spaces to explore, playtime, socializing, bedding, toys, and a specific diet.
  • Rabbits are naturally sensitive animals.  As a prey species, rabbits can be very nervous and attentive of their surroundings. Loud and overexcited households and those with predator animals or young children can keep a rabbit in a state of fear and stress. As a result, they often are wary of being held or handled too much.

All in all, rabbits can make amazing and wonderful companions for the right family. Adoption is a big step so if you understand the care they need and are ready to take on the responsibility, check out some amazing rabbits waiting to find their forever homes and give them a second chance at life!

The Story of Whitney

December 13, 2022 was the first day of Whitney’s new life. Prior to that, her only use in the eyes of her previous owners was to give birth to litters of puppies. She was eventually surrendered to Ruff Start, and her new bright future was finally tangible.

When Whitney first visited Ruff Start’s vetting team for her spay surgery, our team noticed during her physical exam that she seemed to favor her hips while walking, likely due to some pain she was experiencing. They determined it was best to send her to a partner vet, Granite City in St. Cloud, to do a full x-ray. They found that she has arthritis/spondylosis in her back. This disease is caused by abnormal growth of bone in the spine and will lead to progressive weakness and pain. They weren’t sure how long Whitney had been dealing with this pain. The best way to help would be to perform a TPLO, Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy, on her left knee. This surgery will repair the cruciate ligament and alleviate the excruciating pain she has been dealing with. She also received a dental procedure while she was there.

Whitney is now awaiting her surgery day in her new foster home. Despite her upbringing, Whitney has been coming out of her shell and showing her goofy, loyal, gentle, playful, happy, and stubborn self. She loves to play in the snow, even to the point where she can’t help but get the zoomies around the yard! Inside, she has been getting along great with the other dogs and cats in the house, enjoys tossing toys around, and when she has worn herself out, she loves to lounge with her foster dad. She is learning all that she can experience in life and enjoying it all.

Once Whitney’s knee is fixed on February 27th, she will need to maintain a lean weight to help her back. She will be on joint supplements long-term as well as pain medication as needed. The current estimate for her time in our care is $2,500-$3,000. Whitney has had a tough life and deserves the absolute best future. Donate today to help this sweet Akita.

The Story of Sasha

Meet Sasha! This 11-year-old spayed female Pit Bull mix arrived at Minneapolis Animal Care and Control last month. Her owner sadly perished in a housefire, and Sasha and her two canine siblings had nowhere to go. The other dogs have both been placed, and now it’s Sasha’s turn. Sasha can join Ruff Start if a foster steps up for her.

Although a senior, Sasha still has some zest. She is good with other calm animals, with slow introductions, and would appreciate a lower-energy home. She likes to be happy and warm with something comfy to lie on. She was in a short-time foster home recently and spent most of her time napping and sleeping in bed at night with her 10-year-old human foster brother.

Do you have some room in your home for this old sweetie? Please fill out a foster application today: https://ruffstartrescue.org/get-involved/foster/

Donate today to sponsor Sasha’s care if she joins Ruff Start and the care of the hundreds of other local impound dogs who we will welcome into rescue this year.

February is Pet Dental Health Month

Not even your pet likes bad breath!

By: Hailee Ekeren

Dental health is just as important in your furry pets as it is in you. Routine and preventative care is an important way to keep your pet healthy! Bad breath can be one of the first signs of dental disease; dental disease can often lead to heart, liver, and kidney problems if left untreated.

Signs of Dental Disease:

  • Brownish/yellow tarter on teeth
  • Red, swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Pawing at the face or mouth area

It is important to note that 8 out of 10 dogs and 7 out of 10 cats show signs of dental disease by 3 years old!

Causes of Dental Issues:

  • Broken teeth
  • Abscesses
  • Infections
  • Periodontal disease
  • Misalignment of teeth
  • Cysts/tumors in the mouth
      • This is the most common clinical condition in cats and dogs with an estimated 80% of dogs and 70% of cats have some form of this disease.

When To Consider A Trip To The Vet:

  • Bad breath
  • Broken teeth
  • Abnormal chewing
  • Reduced appetite
  • Signs of blood on your pet’s food/water bowls or chew toys
  • Swelling or excessive drooling around the mouth

Promoting Good Dental Health:

  • Regular professional teeth cleaning which should begin by 1-2 years old and happen at least once a year.
  • Regular at home tooth brushings (Multiple times a week)
  • Some pet food and treat products provide dental-related benefits
FUN FACT! Adult dogs have 42 teeth and cats have 30 teeth!

The Story of Rhea

We often rescue animals that may have come from a sad past, and many times it’s difficult to determine the extent of it. As a rescue, we know that it’s our job to do everything we can to ensure their bright future.

Rhea was found abandoned outside St. Paul Animal Control (SPAC) one very cold night last week. She had splayed toes and a pee-stained coat, indicating she had most likely been living in an unsanitary crate for some time. We don’t know who left her, but we’re glad she can now receive the care she needs.

At 2 years old, this pitbull mix is only around 40 pounds and severely underweight. Rhea needs to gain 5-10 pounds to reach a healthy weight. Food may not have been readily available in her past life, as indicated by her protective nature when it comes to treats.

According to the SPAC employees, Rhea is incredibly sweet and loves to be pet and cuddled, despite her history. When receiving her vaccinations at the impound, she was friendly and unbothered, enjoying her belly rubs and the attention. Rhea passed her cat and dog tests with flying colors at the shelter. She enjoyed greeting them both with a gentle demeanor and a wagging tail.

Rhea had her freedom ride with a Ruff Start foster yesterday and is settling into her foster home. She is receiving the love and care she needs and possibly experiencing it for the first time in her life. She has been finding trust with her new people and enjoying her newfound freedom by moving about her foster home and making a Rhea-sized spot up on the couch. She was pampered with a bath and nail trim – both of which she behaved perfectly for. When it was time for bed last night, she wasn’t interested in sleeping in her crate, understandably, but did well sleeping in her new dog bed. Rhea has a lot to learn but has already made great strides in such a short amount of time.

Please donate today to sponsor Rhea’s time at Ruff Start Rescue and ensure we’re here to help when dogs like Rhea need us most.

Training Tip Tuesday – A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

Training Tip Tuesday – A Tired Dog is a Good Dog

By: Kim Astle

Dogs need a mix of physical and mental exercise to be balanced… Here’s why.

Dogs need mental stimulation. 30 minutes of mental stimulation equals an hour of physical exercise. The more you exercise your dog, physically, the more stamina they will build up. So, in turn, it takes longer to tired them out.

Activities like licking or sniffing help them decompress mentally. This is really important for puppies and adolescent dogs.

So many dogs are hyper because they haven’t learned to switch between high excitement and low excitement and disengage. To disengage is to learn that just because something is exciting doesn’t mean they have to interact with it.

Introduce calm and rest one or two days a week. This can be a game changer, especially for reactive or anxious dogs who need down time to absorb and process emotions and learning. Without rest days, they can plateau or even regress.

Blog and graphic by Kim Astle, one of Ruff Start Rescue’s volunteer trainers, who focus on supporting our fosters and helping create successful dogs.

The Story of Malina

WARNING: Graphic Photos

Malina was brought into rescue a week and a half ago. She had obviously been fighting to survive for quite some time. Her neck was enlarged, infected, and a source of pain.

When her rescuers discovered her, they reached out to a Ruff Start volunteer who reached out for a foster, and Malina joined the rescue. The home Malina was found in also had a male adult cat, and together they had 2 kittens. The kittens joined Ruff Start on Saturday, and the male went home with the rescuers to work on his socialization before being placed with a foster.

Malina has been incredibly loving and affectionate in her foster home. It’s amazing that she still has so much love to give, despite how poorly she has been cared for in the past. She’s starting to talk and chatter a bit, and she’s learning to play with toys! We don’t know if she was played with much before, as she was unsure of what to do with toys at first. She’s very curious and has done well with the other cats in her foster home. She will be able to interact more with them when her quarantine ends.

At this time, Malina is on antibiotics. She has a checkup with Ruff Start’s vetting team on Tuesday to see if she’s healing well enough with medicine alone or if she needs surgical repair of any of her wounds.

Malina has so much life left, and we are determined to make sure she gets the best care possible so she can live it happily. Can you please help us ensure that by making a gift toward her care?

The Dangerous Truth About Rawhide

 The Dangerous Truth About Rawhide

By: Kristin Johnson

As fur-parents, it is our responsibility to ensure that we’re keeping our canine companions safe and healthy. Sometimes that’s no easy feat considering their endless energy and love of chewing anything they can get their paws on!

Providing our pups with an outlet for their need to chew is important – it relieves anxiety, burns energy, helps with teething, and satisfies their instinct to use those teeth! There are many options on the market today, and one such option is rawhide. Though rawhide chews have been around since the 1950s, it is becoming more widely known that they can be dangerous (and even fatal) for our canine companions – but why?

What is rawhide?

Rawhide is the hypodermic interstitial tissue, the inner layer of animal hide, typically from cows raised for meat production. While the outer layer of the hide is used for leather products, the inner layer is used to produce dog chews. It is tough yet flexible due to its high level of collagen. It is washed and sterilized with a variety of (often harmful) chemicals, such as sodium sulfide, lime, chromium salts, bleach, and hydrogen peroxide. It is then molded and dyed to form what you see in pet stores today.

Rawhide chews are long-lasting because they’re tough to chew through. Depending on how the dog chews, it will generally take them a long time to break off any pieces. The rawhide will usually soften and break down over the time it takes for them to chew through it. The smaller pieces that are softened, broken down, and chewed thoroughly can pass through a dog’s digestive system when consumed slowly, but it is best if they are not swallowed.

What are the risks of giving my dog rawhide?

Though dogs may love this convenient, long-lasting chew, there are several life-threatening health risks that come with chewing and consuming rawhide.

  • Choking hazard: When dogs consume rawhide chews too small for their size or break off large chunks without chewing them properly, it poses a choking hazard. The rawhide may get stuck in the trachea or esophagus, blocking their airway and creating a life-threatening veterinary emergency.
  • Intestinal blockages and digestive issues: Rawhide is highly indigestible and can wreak havoc on a dog’s digestive system. The most fatal risk of consuming rawhide is an intestinal blockage. When dogs don’t adequately chew pieces they break off of the rawhide, it may become lodged in their digestive tract. Rawhide swells several times its size when wet, so it is possible that even smaller pieces can cause a blockage. A blockage can lead to severe abdominal pain, fluid loss and dehydration, intestinal rupture, infection, and even death.
  • Harmful chemicals: As mentioned earlier, rawhide chews are produced with a variety of harmful chemicals and toxins due to limited regulation of its production. You may also find formaldehyde, lead, arsenic, and strychnine in rawhide produced in countries other than the U.S.
  • Contamination: Bacterial contamination has happened often with rawhide production over the years, so much so that the FDA has issued several major recalls. Campylobacter, salmonella, and E. coli have all been detected in rawhide products, which are harmful to both canines and humans.

How can I determine what’s best for my dog?

It’s important to remember that rawhide isn’t the only type of chew that could get your pup into trouble and it’s best to educate yourself (and others!) on the importance of choosing the right product. Though it’s easy to stay away from the word “rawhide,” it’s our duty as fur-parents to learn what’s best for our dogs. Things to consider when choosing a chew, treat, or toy for your dog include:

  • Chewing style: Some dogs take their time chewing. They may even be slow, methodical, and careful about it! On the other hand, some dogs inhale just about anything edible (or not) as quickly as possible. Many toys and chews on the market today list the chewing style on the product packaging, usually as soft, moderate, or aggressive. Make sure you know what your dog’s chewing style is and select a product accordingly. Rawhide is most dangerous for aggressive chewers.
  • Size and breed: We know that dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of their teeth, jaw, and throat are important to consider when determining the best product for chewing. Like chewing style, this is often listed on product packaging small, medium, and large in reference to the weight of your dog. It’s a good idea to talk to your vet about what they recommend for your dog when considering their body type.
  • Health history: Dogs with a history of gastrointestinal issues should avoid rawhide due to its lack of digestibility and the exposure to harsh chemicals. It is almost guaranteed to wreak havoc on a sensitive stomach, and dogs that are more susceptible to these issues are at a greater risk for acute pancreatitis, which can result in death. When choosing a chew or treat, make sure you consider digestibility and what your dog’s digestive system has reacted well to in the past.
  • Age: Age is important when it comes to chewing! Puppies have different needs than an adult or senior dog. Teething puppies need softer chews that will protect and massage their delicate baby teeth, while adult dogs can handle harder chews that are designed for dental cleaning and mental stimulation. Senior dogs may have weakened muscle tone and bone structure in addition to sensitive gums and teeth that require soft chews. Hard chews such as rawhide may cause a jaw or tooth fracture.

What are the safe alternatives to rawhide?

There are numerous alternatives to rawhide on the market today. The more you pay attention to what your dog likes and needs, the easier it will be to find the safest product for your dog! We suggest trying:

  • Kong toys: Kong toys are the go-to brand for many dog owners for a reason! They come in just about every shape and size you could imagine, and dogs love their texture for chewing. They’re interactive, inexpensive, and very durable.
  • Bully sticks: Bully sticks are long-lasting, easily digestible, clean your dog’s teeth, and are an excellent source of protein. Conveniently, dogs love them! They come in all shapes and sizes, but Best Bully Sticks is a popular choice.
  • No-Hide chews: Earth Animal is a brand that makes long-lasting chews that resemble rawhide called No-Hide. Unlike most rawhide, it’s USA-made, easily digestible, and free from toxic chemicals. It comes in different flavors so you can choose what’s most appealing for your pup!
  • Antlers: Naturally-shed antlers are a great option for the adult aggressive chewers. They’re long-lasting, a natural source of minerals, and are unlikely to splinter.

The Story of Adira

Running down the streets of Houston being shot at. This was Adira’s reality before she was rescued.

10-week-old Adira was rescued by a couple who encountered teenagers running after a small puppy, shooting her with a BB gun. The couple grabbed Adira to keep her safe. Luckily, she had sustained no injuries from the BBs. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to keep her in their home and would struggle to feed her. They posted her in a Facebook group commonly used to rehome animals in Houston, and a Ruff Start foster immediately went to pick her up.

We thought her troubled days were behind her when she joined Ruff Start, but Adira then began having seizures. She was very skinny and had been living on the streets, which led us to believe the seizures were a symptom of low blood sugar. To confirm the reasoning, Adira visited the vet the next day. While she was there, the vet found ringworm on all four of her paws and her tail, which can be treated with medication. They tested her blood sugar, but it was within the normal range. With that, the vet’s best guess was that she has a congenital liver shunt, which would likely require surgery, medication, a special diet, and follow-up appointments.

When Adira continued to have 1-4 seizures a day, her foster knew she had to resolve the problem and rushed her to an emergency vet. The doctor determined it wasn’t a liver shunt – her blood and liver values were normal. There she stayed the night for observation and was put on anticonvulsant medication, which helped her seizures subside. The vet then considered the possibility that Adira may be having seizures due to a viral infection. At that point, they decided to run additional tests and send Adira back to her foster home while we await further test results.

Adira is doing well in her foster home and is slowly regaining her energy and becoming a playful puppy. She’s very sweet and soaks up all the love; she enjoys napping like a baby in her foster’s arms. 💕 She is in the best care while we await test results, and she is stable for the time being. As a rescue, we will continue to do whatever is possible to ensure the best quality of life for Adira.

We appreciate our community’s support when unexpected costs like these arise. Can you help us help Adira so she can live a happy, healthy life in Minnesota?

Betty White Challenge 2023

“Animals are near and dear to my heart, and I’ve devoted my life to trying to improve their lives.” -Betty White

Today would have been animal advocate Betty White’s 101st birthday. In honor of Betty and the amazing work she accomplished in her lifetime, we’ve received a $5,200 matching donation from our friends at Audiology Concepts.

The #BettyWhiteChallenge encourages people to get involved with their local animal rescue or shelter. This includes donations, of course, but also volunteering, fostering, or even adopting an animal looking for their forever home. Ruff Start Rescue would be honored if you chose to memorialize Betty by supporting RSR in one of these ways to help animals in need. If you donate today, you can double your impact!

Ruff Start Rescue