Tips for Keeping Your Pets Safe During Warm Weather
As we prepare to kick off summer this Memorial Day weekend, The Humane Society of the United States reminds everyone to keep pets safe during the warm months ahead.
“Summer is the perfect time to enjoy being with your pets,” said KC Theisen, director of pet care issues at The Humane Society of the United States. “But it’s important to keep your pets’ ID tags current in case they get lost, and beware of dangers associated with the warm weather, like hot pavement, hot cars and garden chemicals. With just a few extra precautions, you and your four-legged family members can have a happy and safe sun-filled season.”
The HSUS offers a few tips to keep your pets safe and healthy during summer:
Safer summer outings
- While Fido may leap at the opportunity for a joy ride, leaving any pet—dog, cat, rabbit, etc.— alone in a parked car during warm weather can be deadly. On a warm day, temperatures inside a vehicle can rise rapidly to dangerous levels. On an 85 degree day, for example, the temperature inside a car, even with the windows cracked open, can reach 102 degrees within just 10 minutes, and after 30 minutes the temperature will reach 120 degrees. Even when the temperature outside is a balmy 72 degrees, the temperature inside your car can rocket to a fatal 116 degrees in less than an hour.
- Your four-legged friend needs exercise too. However, exercising in the summer heat can be just as uncomfortable for your pet as it is for you. Take your walks in the early mornings or late evening, not in the heat of midday, and remember that hot pavement can burn the pads of your pet’s paws.
- Keep your pet inside moving cars whenever you travel. A carrier is the safest place for your cat. Letting your dog travel with his or her head outside the open car window is dangerous—flying particles and debris can cause eye damage, and some pets have actually fallen out of moving vehicles. And dogs should never ride unsecured in the back of pickup trucks, regardless of how slow you are moving.
- Heartworms, ticks and fleas are more of a problem in warmer months and can cause serious health problems. Contact your veterinarian about products that will keep your pet healthy and parasite free.
- Avoid using cocoa mulch, pesticides, fertilizers and other gardening products that can pose hazards to pets, and encourage your neighbors to do the same.
- Summertime can also bring major weather events like hurricanes and tornados. Remember, never leave your pets behind – if conditions aren’t safe for you, they are not safe for your pets. Visit humanesociety.org/disaster for tips on disaster preparedness.
- Sunburn is a hazard for pets who spend time outdoors. Use a pet-safe sunscreen to protect your pet from the sun’s harming rays, which can cause skin cancer especially of the ears and nose.
Avoid losing your pets:
- Check that your pet’s ID tags and microchip information are current, and that their collar is secure. Tags and microchips are life preservers in the event you lose a pet, and will allow whoever finds your pet to notify you quickly.
- Keep your feline friends safe and content indoors by providing them with cat grass and window perches that bring the great outdoors inside. Or consider screening in a porch or outdoor patio where you can allow your kitty some safe outdoor time. Also, cats can be trained to “walk” on a harness (never just use a collar and leash or tie your cat out), allowing you both to enjoy a little more leisure time in the yard.
- Common summer noises like fireworks and thunder may startle pets. For many animal shelters, the day after a town fireworks display is one of the busiest days of the year, as family pets become lost fleeing the sounds. Before a storm or fireworks display, bring your pet indoors or put him/her on a leash or secure tether.
For more pet health and safety tips visit humanesociety.org/pets.
Teaching a dog to relax in confinement is essential for a happy life
By Gina Spadafori
There’s nothing harder for a young puppy to learn than being alone. Dogs are social animals, just as we are. And when you bring a puppy home you’re not only asking him to do something for which he isn’t really wired, but also to do it for the first time, under the stressful circumstances of being in the new home.
Under those conditions, you’d scream, too. Especially if past experience had shown you that vocalizing brought your mom and littermates on the run. Alone? Scared? Scream, and you’ll be surrounded by help.
And yet, the ability to relax alone is a critical skill for a modern dog. Being able to relax while isolated in a comfortable carrier is essential to riding safely in a car, resting after medical care at the veterinary hospital, and even being cared for away from home by strangers during times of disaster.
On the flip side, dogs who don’t learn to stay alone are at higher risk of losing their homes or even their lives.
Veterinary behaviorists call the problem “separation anxiety,” and see it in their practices constantly. Some dogs may be capable of learning not to be frantically destructive and noisy when alone through changes in their environment, behavior modification and medications such as Prozac. Others may suffer throughout their lives, even if they stay in their homes.
For all these reasons and more, it’s essential to “crate train” a puppy. While crate-training has long been used to shape the equally important behavior we know as “house-breaking,” the use of a crate to teach relaxed confinement is just as important.
There’s a puppy at my house now, a retriever named Riley. I’m raising him for a couple of months before he goes to live with friends, and that means he’s now learning many of his first, most important “grown-up” lessons at my house, including crate-training.
I know some people “cold turkey” a pup when it comes to crate-training, but I don’t think that’s necessary. While I never open the pen or crate door on a screaming puppy (and thus reward him for the noise), I set him up for a whole lot of “win.”
With Riley, as with any young puppy, that means making sure he’s tired or has just been fed before being crated, making it more likely he’ll sleep.
I make the sessions short, and add a word and a treat to him going in. “Crate!” I say, throwing a toy or treat in and praising him for following the motion to go inside. Before he’s ready to wake up, I wake him up and take him out for a walk.
I also alternate between putting him in the crate in my office while I’m working or the pen in the living room while I’m watching TV in the evenings. The pen is harder for him to endure, because it’s around the corner from where I sit and he can’t see me from there.
I prefer letting him fuss in the pen, since being distracted from a rerun of “The Big Bang Theory” is something I can live with short term. For someone self-employed, however, not being able to work because a puppy is crying is a much bigger deal. Fortunately, the crate in my office is right next to my leg, which means he’s “behind bars” and learn ing, but not particularly isolated.
Like any normal puppy, Riley wants to be where the people and other dogs are. He’s learning quickly that that’s not always possible. This lesson takes time, and I’m patient.
I know that soon Riley will know that being alone isn’t forever, and that’s as important a lesson as any dog can learn.
Adult dogs can be perfect matches for many families
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
In recent years we’ve seen a shift in attitude when it comes to adopting an adult dog. “Recycled rovers” used to be a “hard sell,” not only because puppies have the “cute factor” advantage, but also because many people believed adult dogs were less likely than puppies to bond with a new family.
Rescue groups, shelters, veterinarians and trainers alike have long argued that’s not the case, and the message has gotten through: Adult dogs are now widely considered a wonderful adoption option, especially for people who aren’t in a good position to raise a puppy.
When choosing an adult dog, however, you need to ask questions and then think about the answers. While expecting to work on some things as your new dog gets used to you is reasonable, you want to make sure that you know what you’re getting into when it comes to such things as health, behavior and even shedding. There are no wrong answers, but here are some questions to ask about any dog you’re considering adopting:
What do you know of this dog’s history? You may be dealing with a shelter, a rescue volunteer, the dog’s original owner or breeder, or a nice person who found a stray. While it’s certainly possible for a dog found as a stray to be a perfect candidate for “rehoming,” knowing a dog’s history is usually helpful when it comes to predicting his potential future in your home.
Why is this dog available for adoption? Dogs become available for lots of reasons. “Losing our home,” “divorce” and “death” don’t reflect badly on the dog; “bit our daughter” should give you pause, at the very least. Listen, too, for what isn’t said: “He needs more exercise than we can give him” may mean a dog with exercise requirements only a marathoner could meet, or it could mean the previous owners really wanted a dog with the exercise requirements of a stuffed animal. When in doubt, ask more questions.
What behavior problems does this dog have? What health problems? Many things are fixable and worth considering if you honestly believe you’ll take the time to work with the dog. Remember, too, that some problems don’t need anything more than a dose of common sense to fix. “Won’t stay in the yard,” for example, may be easily cured by a decent fence and neutering. As for health, some dogs (like some people) need daily medication for chronic conditions, which might be a problem in some families.
How is he with children? Other dogs? Cats? Even if you don’t have children, you’re going to run into some from time to time. The same is true with other dogs. You can successfully avoid cats if you don’t have them, but make certain your prospective pet at least tolerates them well if you do share your home with a cat or two. As for dogs with aggression issues, in many cases these can be worked out, but you may need the help of good trainer or behaviorist, plus a dedication of time and money.
Love is not enough for a good match.
While almost any dog can be successfully rehomed with experienced, patient new owners, dogs with severe problems are usually not good projects for beginners. You’ll be happier and better able to offer your dog a great new home if you take your time to make sure the fit is a good one. Follow your head as well as listen to your heart, and you’ll be off to a great start on a new life with the adopted dog you finally choose.
In recent years we’ve both taken adult dogs into our homes, including ones with health or behavior problems. Because we knew what we were getting and knew what we could deal with, everything worked out just fine. And it can for you, too.
Tips to make life easier on yourself — and your dog
By Dr. Marty Becker
As the veterinarian on “Good Morning America,” I’m always hearing about and looking at pictures of other people’s pets. I truly enjoy hearing about the love people share with their companion animals.
But being recognized so frequently also means I hear a great deal about the things that bother pet lovers. The other day I was thinking about those annoyances that apply to dogs, and thinking about the knowledge I’m always sharing with people. I’ve written entire books sharing tips and cutting-edge information, but here’s a short list of seven secrets I wish more dog owners knew:
Secret No. 1: Shedding is a top complaint of dog lovers, but when people choose a low-shed pet, they’re usually barking up the wrong tree. The kind of dog who sheds the least? A small one (less dog, less fur) with long fur (long fur stays in longer than short fur) who’s kept clipped short (less left on to clean up when it does eventually fall out).
Secret No. 2: Preventing accidents can save more than your pet — it saves money, too. Veterinarians like me hate to treat — and even worse, to lose — pets who’ve suffered accidents that can be easily prevented. By keeping all medications — human and pet prescriptions, and all over-the-counters — safely locked away, you’ll protect your pet from this No. 1 poisoning hazard.
Secret No. 3: Stop the post-bath shake from getting water all over your bathroom and you. It’s simple: That water-spraying shake starts at the nose, and if you hold your dog’s muzzle until you can get a towel over him, you’ll prevent him from shaking.
Secret No. 4: Getting old doesn’t need to mean misery for your dog. Working with your veterinarian to provide your old dog “neutraceuticals,” such as omega-3 oil and glucosamine, along with prescription pain medications (such as Rimadyl) can put the bounce back in your old dog’s step. Ask your veterinarian!
Secret No. 5: Most people want to take advantage of the incredible advances in veterinary medicine, from stem cell treatments to chemotherapy, but many simply can’t afford them. The solution for them is a pet health insurance policy, which can cover the bulk of costs for an expensive accident or illness without forcing any compromises on care.
Secret No. 6: It’s easy to save money on pet care without shortchanging your pet. While you shouldn’t skip wellness exams (they can spot a problem when it’s still easier and less expensive to treat) or lower the quality of your dog’s food (good nutrition means good health), you can save money by price-shopping for prescription medications (but do give your veterinarian the option of matching prices), buying items in bulk and sharing with others, keeping your pet thin (and therefore healthier) and even bartering for your pet’s needs.
Secret No. 7: “Yearly shots” are no longer recommended. Current advice is to tailor vaccines to fit your pet. Most all dogs should now get “core” vaccines on a three-year cycle for the most common and most deadly diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. All dogs need rabies shots on a schedule set by law. But other vaccines may depend on a dog’s breed type, size or the region where you live, and you’ll need to go over the options with your veterinarian.
It’s not hard or expensive to make life easier and better for both you and your dog. You just have to know the secrets!
Cats can — and do — fall out of windows
• If you live anywhere above the ground floor, your cat could be injured falling out of a window. They’re just not able to understand the risk, and sometimes jump after something interesting, such as a bird. As the weather warms, people will be opening windows, putting their pets at risk. But it’s possible to give a cat fresh air safely, no matter what kind of housing you have. If you’re in multifamily housing, you may be allowed to add heavy screening to a balcony to give your cat access to fresh air and a good view. If you’re in a detached home, you can put in a more permanent structure, such as a screened-in multilevel cat playground. And don’t open any windows that don’t have screens.
• You’ve made it as a birder if you see a bird with what appears to be bubbles on his chest, making a popping noise in hopes of attracting a mate. Experts in American bird species say the Gunnison sage grouse, which is found in Utah and Colorado, is the country’s rarest, with fewer than 5,000 remaining. Discovery magazine says the Gunnison was discovered only 13 years ago, and its numbers have been falling ever since. Private efforts to halt the population’s decline have not been effective, leading to efforts for the bird to be included on the federal endangered species list.
• Obesity is a problem in parrots, too. Some of the signs of obesity include rolls of fat around the abdomen and hip areas, along with cleavage on the abdomen or breast area. The skin of most normal pet birds is typically very thin and quite transparent. When the skin is wetted with rubbing alcohol, you should be able to see dark pink or red muscle underneath. In overweight birds, you see yellowish fat instead. Overweight birds will also commonly exhibit labored breathing after exertion or heat intolerance. Check with a veterinarian with expertise in avian care to determine root causes and develop a plan for your bird’s return to full health.
— Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
THE NOSE KNOWS
A dog’s sense of smell reveals a world we can hardly imagine
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Is there anything a dog can’t use his nose to figure out? Dogs have long been used to sniff out escaped felons and missing children (think bloodhounds), birds and animals for hunters (think spaniels, retrievers and hounds), and even truffles (think poodles).
But in recent years, trainers have come up with all kinds of new ways to use a dog’s extraordinary sense of smell. Here are a few you perhaps knew — and a few more we bet you did not:
Drugs. Dogs can be trained to sniff out all kinds of illegal drugs, finding them not only on people but also in massive cargo containers, long-haul trucks and school lockers.
Plant matter. Since fresh fruits and vegetables can bring into the country insects and diseases that have the potential to cause great damage to agriculture, dogs are used to detect foodstuffs in the luggage of people coming through customs. Dogs are also used to sniff out invasive weeds in fields, so the plants can be eradicated before they take hold.
Insects. Termites? No problem. Dogs are also being used to detect the resurgence of bedbugs in big cities.
Mold. It’s not just the mold that bedevils homeowners, but also the mold that puts the vines at wineries at risk from disease.
Explosives. Meetings of high-profile public officials likely wouldn’t occur without the diligent work of bomb-sniffing dogs.
Cows in heat. A lot of money depends on being able to artificially inseminate a cow without wasting time guessing whether she’s ready. While a bull could tell, he’s not always available, as his contribution usually arrives on the scene frozen. A dog can tell when the cow is most fertile — although it’s a good bet the dog couldn’t care less.
Cancer. While cancer detection is still in the trial stage, it’s looking pretty promising that dogs can spot a malignancy. Some day your doctor may order up a “lab test” and send in a Labrador!
Chemicals. Dogs have been known to look for items as varied as mercury and the components of potentially pirated DVDs.
While most of us tend to think scent work is the near-exclusive province of a handful of breeds — bloodhounds, German shepherds and maybe a Labrador retriever here and there — in fact, a wide range of breeds and mixes are trained to detect various scents. Because of their fine noses and friendly dispositions, beagles are used to work airports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and any manner of mixed breeds — lucky dogs pulled from shelters — have been used for other kinds of detection work.
If you’re looking for something fun to do with your dog, teach him to work with his nose, starting with the game of finding which cardboard box contains a treat for him. Trainer Nina Ottosson has developed a line of puzzles for dogs that encourage them to work with their noses as well. Check online for her food puzzles — your dog will love them!
RAISE THEM RIGHT
Structure, socialization and love are key to getting puppies off to a great start
By Gina Spadafori
While I’ve fostered homeless pets transitioning to new families for more than 30 years, only in the last decade have I been raising puppies for other people. I’m good at it, my house is set up for it (no carpets, easy-clean surfaces), and most of all — I love it!
It isn’t a “job,” and no money changes hands. But I work from home with a flexible schedule, and that makes it easier to do the early training and house-training. I love having puppies around, and since I know what I’m doing, the friends I do this for now and then end up with a pretty nice youngster in a few months’ time. There’s still a lot of growing and training to do, but a good foundation has been laid.
What do I get out of it? Puppy breath, and lots of it.
I’ll soon be starting with another 10-week-old puppy, so I’m getting the house puppy-proofed and dragging the crates and pens out of the shed to help with the house-training. After a couple of months, the retriever pup will go home with friends for good, and I’ll let my own pets recover for a while before I start another puppy project.
While it’s unusual for most puppies to be given a head start with an experienced puppy raiser, the practice has long been part of the lives of service dogs, such as those who assist wheelchair users or the vision-impaired. The advantages of a loving, consistent and structured upbringing are many.
While the chances are that you’ll be raising your own puppy — most people do, after all — making the most of those first few months is key to a great start.
Your puppy wants to be part of your family, and he craves loving leadership. So if you’re starting with a puppy, here are a few things to keep in mind:
• Bond with your puppy. Dogs are social animals. Don’t throw your pup into the backyard, however nice the doghouse you’ve put there. Make your pup a member of your family.
• Socialize your puppy. Be careful with this until all the puppy shots are done — no parks or areas where other dogs frequent. You don’t want your puppy getting sick. But after the veterinarian gives the go-ahead, pull out all the stops. Expose your pup to all the sights, sounds, smells, people and other animals that you can.
• Never let your puppy do anything you wouldn’t want a grown dog to do. Puppies jumping up are cute. Dogs doing the same are not. It’s always easier to prevent a problem than to try to fix it later.
• Teach your puppy using positive methods, and make training fun! The dog-training world has made great strides in developing positive training techniques. Find a book, a tape, a class — or all three — that will help you make the most of these exciting new ways to train. And don’t overlook puppy classes — they’re great for socialization.
• Realize your puppy will make mistakes, and don’t get angry when he does. Puppies are babies! Don’t expect perfection and don’t be heavy-handed. It’s better to distract and redirect puppies than to punish them.
Love your puppy, play with your puppy, enjoy your puppy. But you should always, always be thinking of how you’re molding this little baby into the confident, obedient dog of your dreams. Time passes all too quickly in the life a puppy.
The great life you want with your dog starts with the effort you put into a puppy. Keep your attitude positive, and enjoy every minute. I know I do.
Patience when adopting an adult pet pays off in love
By Gina Spadafori
Even though my pets, from dogs to goats to horses, generally get along with others not of their kind, I believe most animals like having a companion of their own species. This is why I keep at least two of almost every type of pet I have, and why, three months ago, I added a cat.
Not a kitten — a cat. I thought my middle-aged indoor cat, Ilario, seemed lonely after my other cat had died. And while kittens are always appealing, I knew that many wonderful adult cats need homes.
I had one opening and wanted to fill it with a middle-aged cat. Enter Mariposa.
Within a month, I knew I’d made the right decision in adopting her. An adult cat can slide quickly into your life. You know pretty well what you’re getting with a grown cat — activity level, sociability, health, etc. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
If you’re thinking of adopting a kitten, I encourage you to think cat instead. (Or better yet: one of each!) Because adult cats are generally more reserved than kittens, you need to cut them some slack in the adoption process. And then give them plenty of time to adjust to their new home.
Mariposa spent the first two weeks alone in a closed spare bedroom, secluded away from Ilario and the dogs to give her time to adjust to the upheaval. When I went in to feed or clean the box, I sat quietly on the bed, letting her choose how much she cared to interact. For the first few days, all I saw of her was the flash of her tail as she slid under the bed. When she started greeting me by purring and jumping up beside me to be petted, I moved to the next stage, putting a baby gate across the open doorway.
After a few days and some hissy interactions, the two cats were happily sharing the sunny spot in the spare bedroom. But while Ilario came and went over the baby gate, Mariposa did not. She felt safer with the dogs on the other side of the gate, and I didn’t push it. Another couple weeks went by before she felt brave enough to explore a little more.
My dogs are not cat-aggressive. If they were, I’d never risk having a cat in the home. But they are naturally curious, so I kept a close eye on interactions. After a few sniffs and one aborted chase that ended with Mariposa flying over the baby gate to safety — my dogs know the “leave it” command very well — everyone decided to get along. Each week they seem to get along better than the week before.
I made it easy, of course, with three litter boxes (experts advise one per cat, plus one) and separate feedings for everyone. Two cat trees at opposite ends of the house offer places for togetherness or quiet time alone. Not that either cat is often alone: As I’d guessed he would, Ilario loves having another cat in the home.
My biggest challenge now? Finding space on the bed. With two cats and two dogs, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of room left over. Mariposa, for her part, sleeps on top of me.
That’s going to be uncomfortable in the summer, but on these cold evenings I have to admit: It makes me even happier for adopting her than I ever would have dreamed possible.
Off The Chain
For most dog owners, the ‘choke’ collar is a poor choice
By Gina Spadafori
Years ago when I started training dogs, I couldn’t have imagined doing so without a slip-lead collar, commonly known as a “choke” collar. These days, I can’t remember the last time I put one on a dog, and I may never feel the need to do so again.
That’s because the options for training and control have changed, and are now easier on dog and owner alike.
The choke chain was never without problems. In the old days, the important thing to remember was to never leave the collar on your dog unless you were training or walking.
It is, after all, a choke collar, and over the years I’ve heard from readers whose dogs died when the collar rings became caught on the tooth of another dog in play, on a piece of fencing in the yard or even a heater grate in the house. In other cases, dogs were injured and traumatized, and the owners who saved their lives by getting them free of the collar’s deadly grip were often bitten by their terrified dogs.
This is what it has come down to, for me: If your dog is wearing a choke-chain collar as his everyday collar, replace it with a buckle or snap-together collar today. And then, like many trainers and behaviorists, I advise that when you take that chain collar off, you throw it away.
Some good dog trainers still use slip-style collars and leads, at least some of the time, and they’re still the top choice for almost escape-proof handling in veterinary hospitals.
But this is a piece of equipment that’s nearly impossible for the average dog owner to use properly. When the collar isn’t used properly, it’s ineffective at best, and cruel at worst.
There are only two ways to put on a choke-chain collar: with the moving end over the dog’s neck (as intended), or under the dog’s neck (incorrect). By the simplest law of averages, you’d think folks would get them on right half the time, but it never seems to work that way. When the moving part of the chain is under the dog’s neck, the chain doesn’t release easily when the leash is slackened. And that means the collar is constantly tight, choking the dog.
Even if the collar’s put on correctly, the choke collar is very difficult to use in the way that expert dog trainers have over the years. A choke-chain collar is meant to be loose at all times, except for the occasional split-second tightening to correct a dog’s behavior. But people don’t seem to know that, so I am always seeing gasping dogs in tight choke chains dragging their owners behind them.
These days, my advice on choke chains is this: Don’t bother. Get the help of a good trainer to choose training equipment that’s not so hard to master — and learn how to use it. For some dogs, a buckle or snap-together collar will be all you need, or a limited-slip collar known as a “martingale.” For others, a head halter or front-clip harness will work best. The pinch collar has advocates, too. It looks horrific, but it can’t tighten down to choke a dog the way a slip-lead collar can.
They’re all easier for the average person to use, and less likely to cause unintentional harm than a slip-lead collar. And that’s why after so many years of giving advice, I’ve changed my recommendation on this topic. You simply don’t need to master the choke-chain collar to teach any old dog new tricks anymore.
ARE YOU PREPARED?
Simple steps now may save your pet in a disaster
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Disaster preparedness is so easy to let slide. We get all worked up after something like Hurricane Sandy and decide it’s time to “do something.” We read up, we make plans, we stock up, we move on. And then, we forget.
We take the can opener out of the emergency kit and don’t replace it. We use the food and water we’ve stored, but we don’t buy anything new to rotate into the disaster supplies. We mean to, of course. And yes, we’ll get to it … next month.
The good news is that in recent years, disaster experts have pushed people to prepare for their pets as well — a 180-degree change in attitude, driven by the risks people have taken with their own lives to protect their pets when disasters strike. And public planning for disaster relief includes temporary housing for pets.
The bad news? Most people aren’t as ready. But it’s not hard to start, and step one is checking your pet’s ID.
Most animals will survive a disaster, but many never see their families again because there’s no way to determine which pet belongs to which family if pets and people get separated. That’s why dogs and cats should always wear updated identification tags, and preferably be microchipped, too. Take some clear, sharp pictures of your pet as well, to help with any search.
What next? Get a big storage bin with a lid and handles to prepare a disaster kit for your pet.
Then it’s time to shop. Keep several days’ worth of drinking water and pet food as well as any necessary medicines, rotating the stock regularly. For canned goods, don’t forget to pack a can opener and a spoon. Lay in a supply of empty plastic bags, along with paper towels, both for cleaning up messes and for sealing them away until they can be safely tossed. For cats, pack a bag of litter and some disposable litter trays.
Hard-sided crates and carriers are among the most important items to have on hand. Sturdy crates keep pets of all kinds safe while increasing their housing options. Crated pets may be allowed in hotel rooms that are normally off-limits to pets, or can be left in a pinch with veterinarians or shelters that are already full, since the animals come with rooms of their own.
Leashes for dogs and harnesses and leashes for cats are important, too, because frightened animals can be difficult to control. Pack a soft muzzle for each pet to keep everyone safe if a frightened or injured pet starts lashing out in fear or self-defense. And finally, put a first-aid kit in the bin, along with a book on how to treat pet injuries.
Make a note on the calendar to check on supplies and rotate food and water a couple of times a year. You may never have to pull out your disaster kit, but it’s always good to be prepared. For more guidelines, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has tips for pet owners at Ready.gov/animals.
Landmark study looks at dogs’ health for life
• A landmark study of a popular breed of dog is expected to produce information that will likely help set medical research priorities in pets and people. The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study was developed by the Morris Animal Foundation, the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University and the Golden Retriever Club of America and will track the health status of goldens as they age and the environment in which they live. This includes everything from food and exercise to exposure to pesticides to the water they drink. The study will also collect data on cancers, diabetes, arthritis and epilepsy, among other health issues common in pets and people both. Golden retrievers under the age of 2 are being sought, with more information available at caninelifetimehealth.org.
• Search-and-rescue dogs don’t need to be worrying about their jobs. Researchers at the University of Dortmund in Germany are working to determine reliable scent markers to help find people who are lost or caught in collapsed buildings after a disaster. The study identified 12 chemical compounds that could be identified by a machine for the purpose of finding someone. That’s a long way from having a machine that works with the speed, agility and highly developed scenting ability of a dog under difficult and ever-changing conditions in the field.
• Keeping dogs and cats continues to be very popular, according to the findings of the American Veterinarian Medical Association in its newly released “U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook.” The survey of 50,000 households puts the number of cats in the United States at 74.1 million and the number of dogs at 70 million — both figures down slightly from the last survey five years ago. The most dramatic drop has been in the number of horses, down 2.4 million in the same period to 4.8 million in 2012. — Gina Spadafori
Pick of The Litter
Five veterinary products to watch in the new year
By Dr. Marty Becker
Every year, I go to as many veterinary conferences as I can. I have always loved to learn and I need to stay on the cutting edge for my work in the media.
Last year, several veterinary products caught my attention. They’ll be worth watching as they roll into veterinary practices this year. In random order:
• Zeuterin: A few years ago, I made the decision to return to practice. I missed it, so now I see pets and their people at two north Idaho veterinary hospitals whenever I can.
Recently, I was able to participate in the staff training for a product that will revolutionize the way we neuter dogs. Zeuterin is a U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved non-surgical product injected directly into the testicles. It’s fast, it’s easy on everyone and it has already proven its value in neutering overpopulations of dogs in third-world countries and in the abandoned area around the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. (ArkSciences.com)
• Kerdog by SophiaDog: I first saw this product last summer at the American Veterinary Medical Association’s annual conference. It had quite the buzz on the trade-show floor, and with good reason. It’s a wheeled cart for dogs that does more than support an animal undergoing rehabilitation. The product has pedals for the rear paws that teach the animal to use his legs while strengthening the muscles. Eventually, the pedals are removed and the dog walks with support from the cart, and then on his own. (SophiaDog.com)
• OraStrip Quick Check: Your veterinarian can tell in minutes if your dog has periodontal disease with OraStrip Quick Check, a diagnostic strip that tests a pet’s saliva and color when active disease is present. Treatment options can then be explored in time to reduce the suffering caused by this painful and harmful condition. (Orastrip.com)
• IDEXX VetConnect Plus: I love my tablet computer, and I love seeing all the ways we’re starting to use these in veterinary medicine. With this system from IDEXX, my patient’s laboratory reports show an easy-to-read interactive format and can be viewed on a desktop, laptop or tablet. They’re all in one place, and I can use my tablet to go over the Cloud-based results with the pet’s owner. The company says more than 3,000 veterinary practices in the United States are already using the system since it was launched last July. (IDEXX.com/vetconnectplus)
• Royal Canin Veterinary Diets’ CALM: With proven links between illness and behavior problems to the increased levels of stress caused by anxiety, there’s a need for food to soothe anxious pets. New from Royal Canin Veterinary Diets is CALM, the first product of its kind, available through veterinarians. CALM includes three proven ingredients to relieve stress and anxiety without the use of medication. (Royalcanin.us/calm)
These are the five products that really caught my attention last year, but I easily could have listed a couple dozen more. Changes and innovations are a constant in medicine, which is yet another reason to work with your veterinarian to stay on top of pet care breakthroughs. Your pet will benefit, and so will you.
MORE BANG FOR THE BUCK
Let your vet help keep your pet healthy, and you’ll save in the long run
By Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
If you’re trying to save money — and really, who isn’t? — it’s important to understand a couple of key concepts when it comes to budgeting for pet care:
1. It’s almost always less expensive to prevent health problems than to treat them.
2. Taking your pet’s health care expert — your veterinarian — out of the picture is never going to be the best way to save money.
And, yes, they go hand in hand. Veterinarians know money is always an issue, and they’re ready to offer wellness plans that will help you keep your pet healthy. A wellness check once or twice a year can catch little problems before they’re big ones, and gives you access to cutting-edge care and advice that will help you save at home, too.
Some more tips for keeping costs down include:
•Take the weight off your pet. Extra pounds increase the likelihood of serious health problems, such as arthritis, diabetes and cancer in pets just as they do in people. And yet few people recognize when their pet is overweight — or even grossly obese!
If your pet is normal weight (you should be able to feel his ribs), measuring food, keeping treats to a minimum and working in a daily exercise session will keep him that way. If your pet is overweight, get your veterinarian’s help to reduce weight slowly to avoid the health risks of sudden weight loss, especially in cats.
•Change your buying habits. You can save money buying the largest bags of food or litter, or get case discounts on canned goods. Split your dry food purchases with family or a friend, and store portions in an airtight container. (Do keep product info from the bag, though, in case there are questions or problems.)
Other purchases should be considered carefully. Replace things such as collars when wear first shows — you don’t want a collar to break and your dog to get loose in a dangerous situation. Buy quality, not silliness: One good collar is a better value than a lot of shoddy but cute ones.
Be careful when cutting down on toys, though: Good chew toys have saved many an expensive pair of shoes.
• Get the do-it-yourself bug. Most people can learn to handle basic pet grooming at home, from bathing to nail trims. If nothing else, you can probably stretch out the time between professional grooming with some at-home care. Check your library for grooming guides and hone in on breed-specific tips with an Internet search.
•Don’t forget the value of bartering. Ask about trading goods and services for your pet’s needs.
•Poison-proof your home. Go through your home with an eye toward possible hazards. From food hazards such as raisins, Xylitol-sweetened goodies and chocolate to houseplants such as lilies, many poisoning risks can be prevented just by removing them. Both over-the-counter and prescription medications are also a danger, and these are best dealt with by putting them behind cupboard doors.
Don’t be shy about asking your veterinarian to work with you on keeping costs down. For example, ask your veterinarian to give you prescriptions for medications to be filled elsewhere or to match prices. Comparison shopping for medications may offer considerable savings, especially if there are generic equivalents available.
We also recommend looking into pet health insurance, because no pet lover wants to say no to a pet who can be saved because the money isn’t there for the care. Because plans differ, do your research before buying to make sure the most likely health problems of your pet are covered.
Talk to your veterinarian, and you’ll get even more good advice.