Archive | Pet Care

Pets Are Gifts…but not under the tree

Pets Are Gifts…but not under the tree

by Laurie Griffin

In the eyes of many, an adorable kitten or precious pup under the tree on Christmas morning calls to mind a beautiful vision.  This picture includes innocent, rosy-cheeked children, filled with delight at the sight of their new darling.  Fluffy or Fido, asleep in a basket, is just waiting to be scooped up and loved, and live happily ever after.  Unfortunately, the truth of this picture is something far different.  While a pet under the tree may make for a happy moment and a great photo op, what happens when Christmas morning is over and the dust settles is usually a great disappointment for the family, and often a huge tragedy for animals.  Every spring and summer, shelters, rescue groups, and pounds across the country are brimming with animals who are Christmas gift left-overs.  Through no fault of their own, either because they grow too much, have actual, real needs, or are no longer wanted, they find themselves in the precarious position of needing new homes.  The vast majority face a very grim future.

While puppies and kittens are delightful, they are also a great deal of work.  Some can be destructive, and are not easily trained.  Young animals also grow quickly, and can soon lose their appeal and “cuteness factor”.  Unlike the vision of sleeping pups and kits in their Christmas baskets, complete with red bows around their necks, in reality, dogs and cats have real needs which take time, attention, and patience, as well as financial obligation.

Christmas morning is one of the absolute worst times to introduce a new pet to his or her family. The holidays can be overwhelming for pets, even those who have been part of their homes for years.  With all the sights, sounds, smells, house guests, and excitement, animals can become frightened, and a new puppy or kitten can feel that stress exponentially.  The celebrations of the day make the atmosphere one of chaos, and there is little time to help a new pet adjust through fear and anxiety.

Animals can teach many values to children, such as responsibility, companionship, caretaking, dependability, and love.  However, they are not objects, and receiving a Christmas pet sends children the wrong message.  Equating a puppy or kitten with a shiny, coveted toy or brand new outfit teaches that pets are things, and can be discarded when their newness and excitement wears off.  Children should be taught that an animal is not an object to be acquired, but rather a living, breathing being that is adopted into the family.  Just as with any family member, a new pet will give much to the family, but also requires a great deal in return.   Bringing an animal into a family is a life-altering decision that should be carefully researched, and only entered into when all are solidly committed to his or her lifelong care. Responsible rescue groups and shelters know that giving an animal for Christmas is strictly an impulse decision, based on highly charged emotions, and have strict policies against it.  This is the stance of the Humane Society of the United States, as well as other national organizations.  Local groups in Denton County also share this mind-set, including the Denton Humane Society.  The same applies to reputable breeders as well.

Adding a four-legged member to the family is a wonderful decision when carefully considered and all the required preparations are made.  The whirl of the holiday season is not the right time to do this.  Giving a pet as a gift is an emotional decision that often leads to a regrettable end.

Those in rescue work and other animal-related fields know that dogs and cats need to be adopted into families after all family members are included in the decision and commitment making process.  The outcome for such families is far more likely to be a positive, loving, long-term relationship for the furry and non-furry alike.

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Common Cat Illnesses

Common Cat Illnesses

Some cat owners know very little about feline healthcare.  Knowing what to look for and spotting symptoms will lead to early treatment and less stress for your pet. Only your veterinarian can properly diagnose and treat your cat, but this short list of common illnesses and symptoms can give you an idea of what to look for.

Urinary Tract Infection
Cats can get urinary tract infections just like we do, and signs will vary. Many cats will whine or yelp when using the litter box and you may find blood in their urine. They may also have ‘accidents’ even if they use the litter box without trouble otherwise. You may notice frequent trips to the box but having trouble pasing urine. Extremely mild cases will clear up before you become aware there is a problem. Antibiotics are the common first step in treating UTI and will most likely clear up the problem if it is diagnosed early. Your vet should do a series of tests to determine the origin of the problem.

Upper Respiratory Infection
This is much like the human cold. A contagious illness where one cat must come in contact with another to catch it. If your cats stay inside, you may not have to worry. A cat with a respiratory infection will sneeze, cough, runny nose or even develop a fever. You may also notice watery eyes and a raspy meow. In many cases this is more of an annoyance to the cat and vet care will not be needed. If you notice your cat is not eating or drinking and seem lethargic, they may be very sick and need to go in. Antibiotics are generally administered not to treat the virus but to hold off any secondary bacterial problems that can occur while your cat is sick.

Feline Panleukopenia
This condition is caused by a virus and is most commonly known as feline distemper, a contagious infection spread through litter boxes and contaminated food and water sources. Kittens are at the most risk. Your cat may become listless and lethargic, have severe diarrhea, vomiting and refuse to eat or drink. Their skin will become dry due to dehydration and their fur may fall out and look dull and lifeless. If you suspect distemper get to your vet as quickly as you can. It can be diagnosed through symptoms and a white blood cell count. There is no medication to fight the virus, but antibiotics will be administered to fight secondary infections. The bad news is that distemper is hard to fight off and many cats die from the infection very quickly. All cats should be vaccinated against distemper while they are kittens as a part of routine vet care.

Diabetes
The disease is the same in cats as humans; the body does not produce enough insulin to properly maintain blood sugar levels. If diabetes is not properly diagnosed it can severely shorten the life of your cat. Early symptoms of feline diabetes may include increased appetite with no weight gain. You may even notice weight loss in your pet. Your cat may also drink and urinate excessively. As the disease progresses you may notice your cat becomes less active and their coat loses its luster. In some cats, they may have weakness, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea and muscle weakness. Breathing will become labored. Your vet will run both blood and urine tests to screen your cat for diabetes. If the results are positive, there are a number of treatments available depending on the severity of the disease.

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Pet Olympics

Pet Olympics

Get Into the Spirit of the Games

The Summer Olympics only comes around every four years, but sporting events for pets happen year round in cities across the country. From frog jumping contests to surfing dogs and pot-bellied pig races, pets prove that they can be both competitive and entertaining. Here are just a few of the competitions held across the states.

Pups Catch Waves

For four consecutive summers, dogs have been hanging ten in the Loews Coronado Bay Resort Surf Competition at Imperial Beach, California. Dogs don surf trunks, doggie wetsuits and bandanas and hit the waves on boards with or without their owners steering at the rear. In June, some sixty surfing dogs paddled into the waves in hopes of nabbing the title of best surfing hound. (Dogs can compete in three categories includes 40 pounds and under, 41 pounds and over as well as a doggie owner team surf duo.) For information on the surfing contest and to see videos of dogs hitting the waves go to oewssurfdog.blogspot.com.

Frogs Hop and Pigs Run

The long-standing traditions of county fairs embrace more than deep-fried food and twirling roller coasters and, if you’re lucky, pot-bellied pig races and frog jumping contests. The Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is a long-standing tradition that dates back to the early 1800s. This traditional hop attracts frog owners from across Northern California each May to determine whether their green friend can make the biggest leap. Contrary to popular belief, people actually keep Pot Bellied Pigs as pets. As well as making intelligent, affectionate and very trainable pets they are also quick on their little hooves. Many county fairs feature pig races daily. You can watch these chubby oinkers in action at the Wisconsin State or Marin County Fair simply by going online.

Run Jack Run

The Jack Russell Terrier Trials are held each October at Susquehanna State Park in Havre de Grace, Maryland.  Sure, there are the traditional show dog competitions but the real fun for these quick, agile pups is in the racing events. From the starting line, dogs follow a straight course following a lure on a string controlled by a generator. The first dog into the hay bale at the end is declared the winner. For more fun, dogs can partake in muskrat swimming races, weenie bobbing and even high jump contests.

Cat Olympics

As many cat owners know, it’s a challenge to get their tiger-like buddies to play with a toy mouse from the pet store let alone participate in some sort of cat contest. In lieu of cat games, some owners opt instead to post photographs of their purring partners participating in more cat-like activities such as Mouse Toss, Freestyle Sleeping, Relay Drinking and Bird Watching. You can submit your cat’s own unique athletic talent at catolympics.blogspot.com or check out special abilities of other cats from across the country. Let the games begin!

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Is Your Pet Ready for Summer?

Is Your Pet Ready for Summer?

Ginna Anthony, Beau’s Bath House and Doggie Spa

Let’s face it –most of us enjoyed the mild winter in Denton this year! Unfortunately, that means consequences when it comes to spring and summer allergies. Many veterinarians are expressing concern that such a mild winter will pose serious problems for our dogs and cats. The biggest threat to our pets comes from fleas, ticks and mosquitoes.

Fleas not only transmit disease, but they are also the top allergen that affects dogs each year, leading to painful itching, scratching and secondary skin infections. Ticks carry a variety of serious illnesses, including Lyme Disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. A really bad infestation can even kill a pet. And don’t forget about the mosquito – the carrier of heartworms to your pet.

Remember, the best defense is a good offense! That statement is true for pretty much everything and when it comes to your pets – start early to protect against spring and summer problems. Fleas have a 21-day life cycle from egg to adult. A single flea can become 1,000 fleas in just a couple of weeks! Start by treating your pet. There are many choices today – topical and oral preventative treatments (such as Frontline or Advantage). Not all of them treat ticks, but most tick treatments will treat fleas. Whether you use a topical or oral preventative, be sure to read the instructions carefully. There are treatments that work on dogs but are deadly on cats. A simple visit to the vet for a heartworm test will tell you whether your dog has been exposed and allow you to begin a heartworm preventative program.

Many pet owners will treat their pets and stop there; however, not only do you have to treat your pets, but your entire domain! Your yard and house should be treated at the same time you treat your pet in order to eliminate the pest.

Fleas like hot and humid weather and ticks like moisture. Ticks are worse in wooded areas; fleas thrive in hot and shady areas. Treating your yard should not only include the grass but the flower beds and under/around your patios. But be sure to watch out for harsh or harmful pesticides. When in doubt, consult the county agent for their suggestions as to what will work in your specific area.

Please take a few minutes to make sure your pet is adequately protected against fleas and ticks. Take this time to check their vaccination records to make sure they are current and have been tested for heartworms. When it comes to your pet, an ounce of prevention is more than worth a pound of cure:
• Get ahead of the game with treatments for your pet
• Keep your lawn cut short and manicured
• Bathe your pet regularly and watch for fleas and ticks

Remember, if you have any questions, your vet is always the best source of information when it comes to the health of your pet.

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Pets, Pregnancy and Preparation

Pets, Pregnancy and Preparation

Preparing your pet for a new baby is as important as preparing your home. Here are some tips to get you started.

Reduce the Attention – Your pet is used to being the center of attention. If a pet is demanding, nudges, paws, or barks for attention, he could injure or frighten the baby. Get him used to sharing you.

The Baby’s Room – Before the baby comes, let him spend time in the room while you set up the crib, etc. Teach him to lie down in a specific place; if he doesn’t, remove him from the room and try again later. If the room is off limits, install a barrier/gate or a screen door, allowing him to see and hear what’s happening.

Check Up & Groom – Visit the vet for a routine exam and vaccinations. Make sure nails are trimmed and edges smoothed before the baby comes home.

Obedience – Your dog should respond to verbal commands (sit, stay, place, etc.) and remain calm when sitting next to you. Practice walking “nice” on a leash when pushing a stroller, in noisy, hectic and new situations. NO jumping on people, furniture, the baby’s crib or changing table; NO play-biting, this can cause serious injury.

Crate Training & Doggie Sitter – Crates provide a safe haven and a place that he can call his own; never crate more than a few hours. Establish a private spot for your dog; stock it with his favorite toys, blanket, food and water. Make plans for a “doggie” sitter; a friend/family member is perfect during the birthing time.

Sights, Smells and Sounds – Using a controlled process, expose your dog to as many babies as possible. Babies look, smell, sound and move differently than big humans. Use treats, toys and positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior. A doll can help them get used to the real thing; take a stroller when you walk your dog; sprinkle baby powder or baby oil on your skin to introduce new smells. Before the baby comes home from the hospital, bring home a blanket they have been wrapped in and present it to your dog. Let him smell it completely. After the blanket is received with good behavior have him “sit” and give praise/treats. Use your baby’s name often, socialize your dog, play a recording of baby sounds, toys, mobiles, etc.

Bringing the Baby Home – Have a neutral person carry the baby into the house while you do your normal “greeting,” and keep it brief and calm. Use a leash for better control during the first few encounters. It’s important that “new baby” and “first baby” have a chance to bond. Introduce him to the newest member of the family by holding the baby in your lap; let the dog “smell” but not touch the baby, and be careful that the dog does not nudge or paw the baby. If he misbehaves, remove him from the area, calmly and without emotion, and try again later.

Tending to the Baby – Don’t exclude your dog; instead, let him be part of the activity, allowing him to sit next to you while you are feeding or bathing. Never allow him to sleep or lie under the crib or cradle as they can easily be knocked down. Never leave your dog alone with your baby, make sure that they are supervised at all times.

Play Time – Reserve one-on-one doggie play time; incorporate the new baby at the end of that time. It’s important your dog maintains his position in the “pack.” It’s no longer the same, but he is still a member of the pack.

Remember that no matter how much you plan ahead, the addition of a new family member may be difficult for your pet so please remember patience and love go hand in hand!

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Summer Fun with your Pet

Summer Fun with your Pet

Traveling with Your Pet

•  Always check websites like petswelcome.com or pettravel.com before leaving to make sure your hotel accepts pets, and call the hotel to check on any restrictions or fees.

•  Make sure you keep a list of Emergency Veterinary Clinics in the areas you will be traveling.

•  Rabies vaccinations are a must and required for all travel local and abroad. Check with your vet for the complete range of vaccinations required, and of course, check with the airline and country that you might be visiting.

•  Unfortunately, if you’re not traveling by car, domestic travel in the US is problematic. While some local transportation businesses may allow pets, Amtrak and Greyhound buses do not.

•  Car trips can be hazardous to your pet. A sudden stop, or accident can send your pet flying, if they are sitting on your lap or seat. There are special harnesses for dogs like seatbelts, and a cat-carrier can always be used to transport your cat safely.

•  Some dogs and cats do not travel well in a car. Consider speaking with your vet about sedatives. If your pet gets car sick, consider travel-sickness pills. Check with your vet for recommendations and dosage.

•  There have been too many incidents of cats and dogs suffering from heatstroke after being left in a hot car. Leave at least two windows (for cross draft) open slightly to provide fresh air. However, we strongly recommend that you do not leave animals in the car in hot climates or during the warmer months, as even a short time in a hot vehicle can be injurious to your pet.

The Fourth of July and Your Pet

July 4th is filled with barbeques, loud music, and most of all, fireworks. As with every family gathering, your pet will want to take part! It is important to keep in mind that the festivities can present dangerous and stressful situations for your pet.

•  Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays. This may sound like fun, but the loud noises and bright lights may aggravate even the most stable of pets.

•  If you know your pet is stressed by loud noises like thunder, consult your veterinarian for ways to help alleviate the fear and anxiety they experience during fireworks displays. Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep them company while you’re attending picnics or parades.

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