Pet Cancer Care
Canine and feline cancer patients have a variety of options for care
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Your dog or cat has been diagnosed with cancer, and you’re not sure how to proceed. Is surgery or chemotherapy the right answer? Or are there other factors involved that could affect the decision you make regarding treatment for your pet?
A pet’s age, our finances and the success rate of treatment options all play into the decisions we make about caring for our pets. The good news is that there are no wrong answers. Whatever decision you make, there are options for care.
Whether you are considering treatment or palliative care for your pet’s cancer, ask the oncologist to lay out the pros and cons. Here are some questions to ask:
- How is this type of cancer treated?
- How long will my pet live with and without treatment?
- How will my pet’s age and current health status affect the success of treatment?
- Will my pet experience any side effects of treatment?
- Can side effects be managed?
- Will a special diet help?
- How much will treatment or palliative care cost?
- Are there any clinical trials that might benefit my pet?
The answers can help you make the best decision for your dog, cat or other pet. Depending on the type of cancer and how aggressively you want to fight it, options include surgery, metronomic therapy — continuous low doses of different anticancer drugs — radiation, and integrative therapies, such as medicinal mushrooms or cold laser. Ensuring that pets are able to breathe comfortably is also important.
Each situation is different, but the most important factor is keeping pets comfortable, says veterinary oncologist Alice Villalobos.
“Even if they have a really nasty cancer, we’re able to sometimes control or slow it down or stabilize it with an anti-angiogenesis protocol,” she says.
Multimodal pain relief is a mainstay of cancer care. Generally, a single medication isn’t enough to address pain in cancer patients. Cancer pain travels along multiple pathways in the body. Using different types of medications that work in different ways helps to make pain control more effective. Dr. Villalobos likes to use what she calls the GAT protocol: gabapentin, amantadine and either tramadol or trazadone. Each works in a different way, and together they manage the different types of pain.
Some dogs with cancer are prescribed steroids such as prednisone or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for pain. They can benefit from medications such as Pepcid that protect the gastrointestinal tract from ulceration or other damage associated with use of steroids and NSAIDs.
Oxygen therapy can help pets breathe easier. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a dog or cat must spend time in an oxygen cage at the veterinary hospital, which can be expensive. Oxygen generators can be purchased online through outlets such as Craigslist, for instance, and used at home.
Timing of medication is important. Pets on prednisone may experience panting as a side effect, especially at night. Giving the drug in the morning instead of evening can make a difference, Dr. Villalobos says.
Panting can also be a sign of pain. How do you know if your pet is panting because he’s in pain or as a side effect of the drug he’s taking? The answer may depend on the type of cancer your pet has, so it’s important to talk to your veterinarian. For instance, Dr. Villalobos says, lymphoma usually isn’t painful, so in that case, the panting is likely caused by the drug, not the disease.
Most important, keep your pet’s quality of life paramount.
“We really always try to make sure the patient has got more good days than bad days,” Dr. Villalobos says.
On Veterans Day, don’t forget to remember and honor canine service members
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Warriors and dogs have been partners for more than 2,000 years. “Courage at both ends of the leash” — those words are engraved on one of the many memorials throughout the world honoring military working dogs. Dogs have gone into battle wearing armor, guarded encampments, tracked enemy combatants, delivered messages, detected mines and other explosives, scouted out snipers, located wounded, hauled armaments and laid underground telegraph wire, to name just a few of the ways they have aided armies over the centuries.
Canine loyalty, intelligence, mobility and ingenuity are among the attributes that make dogs valuable to the armed forces. The most common breeds are Belgian malinois, German shepherd and Labrador retriever. Doberman pinschers were famous during World War II as the “devil dogs” of the Marines. One of the best known was Kurt, the first canine casualty on Guam, killed by incoming mortars and grenades after he alerted troops to the presence of Japanese forces. A war dog memorial on the island features a sculpture of Kurt by artist Susan Bahary and the words “always faithful.” It lists the names of all 25 Marine war dogs who lost their lives there in 1944.
Not every military working dog fits the “big and tough” stereotype. Smoky, a four-pound Yorkshire terrier, was adopted by Cpl. William A. Wynne after she was found in an abandoned foxhole on New Guinea during World War II. For two years, the little dog nicknamed “Yorkie Doodle Dandy” rode in a backpack, went on combat and reconnaissance flights and ate Spam and C-rations with the best of them. She proved her valor and value by warning Wynne of incoming shells and, most famously, pulling a telegraph wire through a 70-foot pipe with only an eight-inch diameter. Her feat saved ground crewmen from a grueling and dangerous dig.
Another uncommon canine war hero was Sergeant Stubby, a Boston terrier noted as the most decorated dog during World War I. The official mascot of the U.S. 102nd Infantry Regiment, his exploits included alerting his regiment to mustard gas attacks and incoming shells, locating wounded soldiers and capturing a German soldier, grabbing and holding him by the seat of his pants. In the trenches in France for 18 months, he participated in 17 battles and was a celebrity at home. His story hits the silver screen next year, with “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero” set for release on April 13.
Today’s combat dogs undergo rigorous training. In Afghanistan, military working dogs may wear cameras and scout areas before troops move in. They don’t typically enjoy the same media exposure as Smoky and Stubby, but Belgian malinois Cairo, a Navy SEAL dog, stepped into the spotlight in 2011 after taking part in Operation Neptune Spear, during which Osama bin Laden was killed.
Last month, five military dogs were honored at Capitol Hill with American Humane’s Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage, awarded for extraordinary valor and service. The canine honorees were Coffee, a chocolate Lab who sought out IEDs and other security threats in Afghanistan; black Lab Alphie, an explosive-detection dog in Afghanistan who now works for the TSA; Capa, an explosives and patrol dog who also received the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for meritorious service; black Lab Ranger, who served as an explosives-detection dog in Afghanistan and Iraq; and posthumously, Gabe, who was sprung from a Houston animal shelter and trained as a specialized search dog, a career in which he earned more than 40 awards.
“Soldiers have been relying on these four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare, and today military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe,” said AHA president and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert.
Dogs you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley or on a lonesome moor
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
The Wild Hunt. Gabriel hounds. Black Shuck. The Baskerville Hound. Fluffy.
Any devoted Harry Potter fan knows Fluffy, the fearsome three-headed dog who guarded the philosopher’s stone in the first volume of the Potter saga. Fluffy, purchased by Rubeus Hagrid from “a Greek chappie,” is a not-so-subtle reference to Cerberus, the canine guardian of the gate to Hades, the Greek underworld. Cerberus was also said to have been the companion of the Greek goddess Hecate, who ruled the night, the moon, magic and witchcraft.
Spectral or supernatural dogs have been featured in mythology for millennia. In Egyptian lore, the dog-headed god, Anubis, weighed the hearts of the dead to determine their fate in the underworld. He was thought to protect graves and cemeteries and, later, to escort the dead from life to afterlife.
The connection of dogs to death and the afterlife isn’t limited to Egypt and Greece. A host of ghost dog tales arose in medieval northern Europe. Stories of spectral canines are found from Scandinavia to Germany to France, but especially throughout Great Britain.
The hounds of the unearthly Wild Hunt may be the best known of these ghostly dogs. Known in Wales as the Cwn Annwn, the white hounds with red ears — a coloration that symbolizes their otherworldly nature and their association with death — run wrongdoers to earth as well as escort souls to the next world. Legend has it that they run only on certain nights throughout the year, including All Saints’ Day on November 1, Christmas and New Year’s Day.
The vision of a phantom black dog foretells death in many parts of Great Britain. One such nocturnal canine apparition is the Barghest, a black dog with red eyes who haunts lonely byways, preying on unfortunates who come his way, and foretelling death by lying across the threshold of the doomed person’s home.
Another ghastly dog who haunts the British countryside is Black Shuck. The shaggy black dog with saucer-size flaming eyes roams East Anglia. Legend has it that seeing him is a precursor of bad luck or death by the end of the year.
Some black dogs have a more benevolent reputation. The Gurt, or Great, Dog of Somerset is a benign canine whose role is to protect children. And Jo Ashbeth Coffey of Devon, England, recalls the time she was living in Berkshire and saw a large black dog on a bend in the road as she was riding home on her motorbike.
“The next day I slowed down right at that corner remembering it, and just as well. As I came around the corner there was a black horse in the middle of the road. At normal speed, it could have killed us both,” she says.
The spirit dogs of folklore have leaped into pop culture. One of the earliest, of course, is the hound of the Baskervilles, made famous in the eponymous Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may have been inspired by a sinister West Country phantom known as a yeth hound.
More recently, a Scottish deerhound (dyed black) played Padfoot in the movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Potter author J.K. Rowling may have adapted the notion of Padfoot from the legend of a black dog in the West Yorkshire area known as Padfoot, who was benevolent if offered kindness. In “Prisoner of Azkaban,” Padfoot is the canine form of shape-shifter Sirius Black.
While black dogs have a fearsome reputation in myths and legends, those of us who live with them know the real truth that’s out there: They are our sweet and soulful companions both in life and in memory.
Go, Cat, Go!
Adventure cats are living the dream and carrying on their feline heritage of exploration
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
My husband and I were loading up our kayak and stand-up paddleboard a few weeks ago when I squealed, “An adventure cat!” Sure enough, a tabby cat wearing a yellow flotation device tugged at his leash as the people next to us unloaded their kayak. It was Pan’s first time out on the water, they said.
He’s not alone. Instagram is full of photos of cats hiking, camping, boating, surfing, sledding and snowshoeing (on their built-in snowshoes, er, paws). Earlier this year, Laura Moss, who founded Adventurecats.org in 2015, published “Adventure Cats: Living Nine Lives To the Fullest,” a guide to safely taking cats outdoors.
If you think about it, cats are the original adventure animals. They globe-hopped with Phoenician traders; sailed with Vikings; crossed the Atlantic on the Mayflower to help settle the New World; and traveled in wagon trains with pioneers across prairies, plains and deserts. In 1950, a black-and-white kitten climbed Matterhorn with a group of alpinists. Clearly, cats are impressive adventurers.
While exploring the great outdoors with their humans is nothing new to cats, it sometimes surprises their people how well they take to it. Emily Odum Hall of Macon, Georgia, had previously tried leash-training a couple of her cats, but they wanted nothing to do with it. Then Sophie came along. She had a laid-back personality and enjoyed hanging out with Hall and her husband in their backyard. They ventured farther, to a concert in a park. Sophie’s adventures blossomed from there, and she has been joined by Kylo Ren, an adventure cat in training.
“They really like parks and being outside and smelling new smells and seeing new sights,” Hall says. “My husband’s parents live in Florida on the St. John’s River and have a boat. We’ve taken them out on the river, and they both really enjoy that.”
The best cats for an adventurous life tend to be either laid-back or bold. Sophie and Kylo Ren fall on the easygoing end of the spectrum.
“It was her temperament and her laid-back personality that made us want to try it in the first place,” Hall says. “Sophie always has this look on her face like, ‘Oh, man, this is so much fun.’ She just goes with the flow all the time.”
Physical condition need not hold a cat back. Sophie has a neurological condition called cerebellar hypoplasia that affects her coordination. She can walk with a leash and harness, but often she rides in a sling that Hall wears. Being able to carry Sophie and Kylo Ren that way is helpful for urban adventures or places they might encounter dogs, Hall says.
The people we met who were taking their cat kayaking did so without a dry run, so to speak, but a little practice and acclimation beforehand is always a good idea. Exposing a cat to a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard, for instance, could involve having it in the yard or home, allowing him to explore it at his leisure. Place treats on it for him to find. Go slowly, fitting him with a flotation device, and reward frequently with treats while he’s wearing it. For a larger boat, start by hanging out on it at the dock, letting him get used to sounds he might hear, such as the engine starting, boat horns or gulls squawking.
Wherever you go with your adventure cat, don’t forget necessary items, such as a portable water dish, a supply of food in case you don’t get back before dinnertime, and for camping or boating, a litter box. A collar with ID and a microchip are musts as well.
“It’s so much fun having adventure cats,” Hall says. “You see people with their dogs all the time, and having two cats I can take places is a lot of fun.”
Meet the canine college mascots who are the pride of their universities.
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
It’s football season, and everywhere you turn there are bulldogs and huskies representing college sports teams. Bulldogs seem to be the clear favorite, serving as mascots for Butler, Georgetown, University of Georgia, Gonzaga, Yale and many more schools, at least 42 altogether.
Yale, credited with being the first university to have a mascot, has been repped by a bulldog since 1889. Because of concerns about breed health, though, the college switched this year from the AKC-registered bulldog to a variety known as the Olde English Bulldogge, thought to have less extreme physical characteristics. Following a long line of dogs named Handsome Dan, the current mascot is named Walter after Yale’s Walter Camp, known as the father of American football.
The husky is another popular canine mascot. Colleges claiming the husky as a symbol include University of Connecticut, University of Southern Maine, Michigan Tech, Northeastern, Northern Illinois University, St. Cloud State University in Minnesota and University of Washington.
Northeastern adopted the husky as its mascot in 1927 in honor of the sled dogs — Togo and Balto being among the best known — and their drivers who delivered life-saving diphtheria vaccine to Nome, Alaska, through near-blizzard conditions. While UConn’s Jonathan, named after Jonathan Trumbull, Connecticut’s last colonial and first state governor, is a Siberian husky, the term “husky” doesn’t always refer to that breed. Dubs, the University of Washington mascot, is actually an Alaskan malamute.
But what about other dog breeds? Do they get a shot at being big dog on campus? Here’s a look at some of the lesser known or more unusual canine college mascots.
The saluki, a sleek and speedy sighthound, has been the mascot at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale since 1951. Salukis are believed to be one of the most ancient types of dogs, and that’s how they became SIU’s mascot, says Saluki breeder and all-around dog expert Caroline Coile.
“That area of Southern Illinois is known as Little Egypt,” she says, “so they wanted an Egyptian mascot, hence the saluki, an Egyptian dog. They seem like a great mascot for a track team — not so much for a football team.”
A bluetick coonhound, Smokey (the 10th of that name), leads the University of Tennessee’s Volunteers onto the football field at home games and howls when they score. The first mascot, Blue Smokey, won his place in 1953 when he barked and howled on hearing his name called as students voted for their favorite dog.
North Carolina State University teams are known as the Wolfpack, but a live wolf as a mascot wasn’t a good option. Instead, they found a dog that resembled a wolf. Tuffy, who goes by the name Wave at home, is a tamaskan, a type of dog first bred in Finland by blending German shepherds, Alaskan malamutes and Siberian huskies.
Goldie the golden retriever does more than promote school spirit for University of Tulsa’s Hurricanes. This “Golden Furricane” is a therapy dog who makes the rounds among stressed students during finals, visits alums at retirement homes and supports local pet adoption events. She’s an athlete herself, competing in dock diving and, of course, being a natural at tail-gating.
A Scottish terrier named — what else? — Scotty is the mascot for Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, founded by Scottish robber baron turned philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. When Scotty’s off duty, she goes by Maggie, after Carnegie’s mother, Margaret Morrison Carnegie.
Pint is a Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever who retrieves the kickoff tees at University of California, Davis, football games. In his off-hours, he’s a spokesdog for the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
At Texas A&M, Reveille, or Miss Rev, is the ninth rough collie to serve as the school’s mascot and was recently named No. 1 dog mascot in college football by the NCAA.
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. It’s a great way to bring a little love into your life.
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Last month we lost our little Chihuahua-Pomeranian mix, Gemma, to cancer. She was probably 16 or 17 years old, so she had a good, long life, but losing an old and beloved dog is always hard on the heart, even when you’ve had her for only four and a half years. She was not the dog we were expecting when she joined our family, but she soon let us know that she was the dog we needed.
Gemma came to us in January 2013, about two months after the death of our black-and-tan Cavalier, Twyla, who collapsed and died unexpectedly during a visit to my parents. That left us with only one dog, 6-year-old Harper. When we returned home, I told my friend Maryanne Dell, with Shamrock Rescue Foundation, which pulls and places dogs in shelters at risk of euthanasia, that we could foster a dog for her. She brought us Gemma.
This tiny dog — she weighed in at six pounds — walked into our lives and quickly took over, despite her unprepossessing appearance. She had a large bare patch on her back, and the rest of her fur had been trimmed short. She had a mouth full of bad teeth, all of which were removed except for a couple of fangs. The shelter estimated her age at 12 or 13 years. By the time we’d had her a few months, though, she could have been a poster dog for shelter adoption.
Except for a brief squat beneath our bird’s cage to mark her new territory, Gemma turned out to be perfectly house-trained. Despite her age, she set a rapid pace on our walks around the block. Sometimes she went so fast that I had to break into a jog to keep up with her. She demanded to go to nose work class with Harper and me and turned out to excel at the sport. Once it grew out, her coat was long and flowing. It was clear she was used to living in a home where she was spoiled, because she insisted on sleeping under the covers. I fought it for a while but eventually her persistence won out.
I hoped that Gemma would be one of those tiny dogs that live into their twenties, but her disease came on suddenly, and she was gone two and a half weeks later. I can’t think of a better way to honor her special personality than to spread the word about ways to help shelter dogs.
Foster a dog. That was originally the plan with Gemma, until she informed us she was staying, so that’s a risk. After we adopted Gemma, we fostered another dog a few months later. His name was Kibo. Now he’s our Keeper. Yes, we were foster “failures” twice in less than a year.
If you can’t run the risk of being a foster failure, help in other ways. Rescue groups that pull dogs from shelters often need help transporting the dogs to their foster or adoptive families. Donations of dog food, other pet supplies or money to be used as needed are also welcome. Check to see if your local shelter or favorite rescue group has a wish list on Amazon.
Spread the word about adoptable dogs through social media. Petfinder suggests posting on Facebook or Twitter that October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, or you can share a post about a different adoptable dog every day of the month.
If you can adopt a dog, don’t overlook one with a little mileage. The love you’ll get back is everlasting, even if the dog isn’t.
Dogs, cats and even reptiles can react negatively to the stress of going through or evacuating from a natural disaster
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Nicole Morrison’s four Cavalier King Charles spaniels were quieter than normal on the Monday morning that Morrison and her friends rushed around packing their vehicles for evacuation from Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The spaniels weren’t allowed to go out in the yard to potty because water was already rising.
“They knew something was very, very wrong,” Morrison says.
The next month, Jackie O’Neil of Marathon, Florida, faced a similar situation as she and her husband, Tom, loaded their Jeep Cherokee with an assortment of land tortoises, freshwater turtles, and Pal, a 12-year-old ball python. The expected storm surge from Hurricane Irma could have killed the freshwater reptiles, O’Neil says, but the critters weren’t happy.
“Reptiles hate change,” she says.
Pets who experience an evacuation, superstorm or other natural disaster may undergo behavior changes caused by stress, anxiety and fear. It’s not unusual for pets in these situations to break house-training, stop using the litter box, vocalize more than normal, hide or behave aggressively, even if they have been reunited with their family. They may pant, pace or lose weight.
“Pets under stress have a different chemical environment in their bodies and brains than relaxed ones do,” says Fear Free-certified veterinarian Kathryn Primm of Applebrook Animal Hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “Stress increases cortisol and other chemicals that tell the body to switch into fight-or-flight mode. Animals who are normally very bonded to their people can escape and be lost. One should never depend on the pet to act normally in an evacuation situation.”
Morrison and her dogs retreated to a ranch owned by friends. Her three older dogs had visited the ranch before, so they settled in nicely.
“The puppy was very confused for the first 36 hours or so,” Morrison says. “It was the first time she had been in the car for nearly three hours, and I later discovered she had puked up her breakfast in her crate. It was also the first time she had been separated from her littermate sister, so she was very anxious.”
Your response can determine how well your pet survives and thrives emotionally during and after a disaster. The following tips will help you and your pets decompress and get back to normal.
- Whether you’re in a hotel, shelter or friend’s home, try to set up a small space where your pet can feel secure, such as a crate or bathroom.
Give the safe space a familiar scent and appearance with a favorite toy or an item of clothing you’ve worn. Muffle new odors with species-specific pheromone sprays.
- Reduce stress with interactive play such as games of fetch or batting at a fishing-pole toy.
- As much as possible, keep mealtime, walks and other routines on their normal schedule.
- Pets such as reptiles may need to adjust to a different climate. The O’Neils, who evacuated to their daughter’s home in Atlanta, found that the cooler weather there slowed down their reptiles, already slightly stressed from travel and confinement.
- Avoid showering pets with excessive amounts of attention, even if you’ve just been reunited with them. Extreme amounts of “togetherness” may trigger separation anxiety when things get back to normal.
- For pets who continue to have behavior issues after you’ve returned home or set up house in a new place, schedule a veterinary visit to rule out any physical problems that could be causing the change in behavior. If they get a clean bill of health, begin retraining as if the animal were a puppy or kitten to help them regain normal skills and behaviors.
OLD CAT, YOUNG CAT?
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
You love your old cat, but he’s not as active as he used to be. It’s wonderful to cuddle with him on the sofa, but you miss his antics as a youngster. Wouldn’t it be great to get a kitten so you could enjoy those good times again and still relish the pleasure of your aging cat’s company?
Not so fast. It’s easy to think that a young pet and an old one will get along and that the young one will even rejuvenate a senior, but sometimes expectations and reality clash. Senior cats faced with a rambunctious kitten may be grumpy or even aggressive, and youngsters can become fearful or learn bad habits when their overtures are forcefully rejected. Here’s what to know to help ensure a happy, respectful relationship.
First, think twice before getting a kitten at all. Introducing a young cat to senior cat household can be a bigger problem for cats than introducing a young dog to a senior dog household, says Marsha Reich, DVM, a veterinary behavior specialist who lectured at the American Veterinary Medical Association conference in Indianapolis last month. That’s because cats in general don’t welcome the addition of other cats to their environment.
A senior cat who doesn’t want to interact with a kitten may begin by simply walking away, but that doesn’t always work.
“Some young cats want to play with the senior cat no matter what,” Dr. Reich says. “These are the ‘me, me, me’ kitties. In some cases, the younger cat stalks the senior cat with what seems like play but is really aggression, ending with the senior cat aggressively defending himself from the younger one or fleeing the younger one and being chased. If the senior cat doesn’t think it’s play, it’s not play.”
This can lead the older cat to engage in more active behaviors to avoid interaction. Hissing, growling, swatting and chasing are all signs that a cat has had enough of another’s behavior.
It can be difficult (and sometimes painful) to interrupt and redirect a cat who is behaving aggressively. With cats, managing the environment is often the best way to reduce conflict. Give the younger cat something to entertain him, such as interactive toys or a bird feeder that he can watch from a window. Spend more time playing with him so he has less time and desire to annoy your old cat.
When you can’t be there to supervise, keep the cats separated. If your older cat is sedentary, confine him to a comfortable room with everything he needs: food, water, a litter box and a comfy place to nap.
Place resources such as food and water bowls and litter boxes in separate areas. Neither cat should be able to guard those items and prevent the other from using them.
Sometimes owners are surprised that there’s a problem because the cats seemed to get along at first, Dr. Reich says. Often, that’s because the kitten was recovering from a respiratory infection or some other kittenhood illness so his behavior was muted until he was feeling better.
Finally, consider whether your senior cat is grouchy because he’s in pain. Degenerative joint disease is seen in 90 percent of cats older than 12 years. Other conditions that may cause pain include lower urinary tract infections, dental disease, kidney disease and endocrine disorders such as diabetes. Loss of vision and hearing can also contribute to spats between cats because the older one doesn’t see or hear cues from the younger pet. Take your cat in for a checkup to rule out potential health problems and get them treated if necessary. Your veterinarian has more options for managing pain in cats than in the past.
How to help kittens grow up
• Kitten rental plan? Why not? The Humane Society of Silicon Valley in California thinks at least one thing in the Bay Area should be affordable. If you love kittens but aren’t sure you’re ready to commit to a cat, a kitten rental plan, er, fostering is the way to go. Kittens — they usually come in small groups — and all the supplies needed to care for them are free with a two-hour orientation to teach you the ropes of feeding and raising them until they’re ready to go back to the shelter for adoption. And if you fall in love? Talk to the shelter about a lifetime ownership plan. Silicon Valley isn’t the only place with kitten fostering programs. Check your local shelter and take home a kitten entertainment unit today.
• If you love pointers, retrievers, spaniels or setters and find yourself in Tennessee, don’t miss the National Bird Dog Museum in Grand Junction, just 50 miles east of Memphis. The 25,000-square-foot museum is home to sporting dog art, photography, trophies and historical artifacts relating to more than 40 breeds of bird dogs. It’s also the seat of the Field Trial Hall of Fame, which honors the sport’s greats, both canine and human. Leashed dogs are welcome, and guided tours are available.
• Dental disease is a common health problem in pet rabbits. Veterinarians commonly see tooth fractures, overgrown teeth, teeth with sharp edges (“Bunnicula,” anyone?), infected tooth roots and gums, and tooth root abscesses. If your bunny isn’t eating or is losing weight, it might be related to a painful mouth problem. Bunnies can be born with dental problems, but other causes include a poor diet or chewing on inappropriate items. If your rabbit prefers only soft foods, drops food often, has difficulty closing his mouth or drools frequently, take him to the veterinarian. — Kim Campbell Thornton
KITTY COME HOME
If your cat has gone on a walkabout, the following tips can help you track him down and lure him home
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Anyone who has lived with them knows that cats are ninjas when it comes to slipping unnoticed out of doors and then hiding successfully from anyone searching for them. These little predators who live in our homes are hard-wired to remain hidden, and living a soft indoor life doesn’t dull their instincts. Trying to find a lost cat can be like searching for a specific grain of sand on the beach.
The first rule of success is knowing how to look. Cheryl M. Melton of Sallisaw, Oklahoma, vice president and western area director for Forever Friends Humane Society, became an accidental expert in 2013 after a family adopted a cat from her rescue group. The same night they took him home, he slipped out the door and disappeared.
“I was determined to find Thomas,” she says. “This was the jumping-off point for me in finding lost cats.”
Thomas was finally recovered. Since then, Melton has helped owners find other missing meowsers.
Even though you can’t see them, “lost” cats typically stick close to home. They may take refuge in bushes or a shed and hunker down for about 24 hours. They use their senses to gather information and won’t move until they feel safe. Then they will begin to search for food, water, shelter and, sometimes, other cats. If you have a neighbor who is known for feeding cats, check with her first, Melton advises.
“I have found that cats do not usually go further than 200 yards from the point of exit,” she says.
“They don’t go in a straight line, and they don’t stick to roads like dogs do. They tend to slowly work their way around, and it seems like they always work their way forward. The cats I have found have been very close to home, not more than a half mile at most.”
Look for your cat at dawn or dusk. Cats are crepuscular, meaning those are the times of day they are most active. They like to hunt when it’s still cool or when it’s dark out.
Put up flyers. They are the number-one way pets are returned to owners, Melton says. Put a large color photo of your cat on the flyer, topped with the words “Missing!” and “Reward!” At the bottom, add other details, including contact information. Post flyers on street corners up to a half-mile from your home. Place them at eye level so the driver of a car can see them.
“Put one on your door for your mailman to see, and make sure flyers are distributed to neighbors, pet stores, feed stores, shelters and online,” Melton says.
Because at the time she didn’t know how to look, it took Melton a month to track down Thomas.
“Once I learned more about staying close to the point of exit, that made all the difference, and we got him within the week,” she says.
One thing Melton learned from the search for Thomas was that no matter how loving and friendly a cat is, being lost is a scary situation for him. Even though your cat knows you, he may be too afraid to come when you call. Be prepared to set and monitor a humane trap once you locate your cat.
“Don’t give up hope,” Melton says. “Your kitty could be found in a day or a month or a year. It all depends on the area, the depth of the search and, of course, the cat.”
Try out fun sports, perfect skills or just chill at dog camp
By Kim Campbell Thornton
If you loved going to camp when you were a kid (or even if you didn’t), think of how great it could have been if you’d had your dog with you. Now, going to camp with your dog can be a dream vacation if you love the great outdoors, dog sports, traditional camp activities like canoeing or swimming, or just spending some down time with your best friend.
Dog lovers can find canine-oriented camps across the country, including ones aimed at kids. They go to try out new activities, hone skills their dogs already have or build a dog’s confidence.
“Camp gives you a different way to see how dogs learn and affords your dog the opportunity to try any and every sport of interest to you or them,” says dog trainer Bev Blanchard, who started out as a camper and now teaches freestyle, agility and canine massage classes at Camp Gone to the Dogs in Vermont.
Most dog camps offer a variety of activities, including barn hunt, dock diving, flying disc, herding, lure coursing, rally, tracking and therapy dog training. Others specialize in a single sport, such as agility or nosework. They are ideal for competitors who want to improve their skills in a specific activity.
“The trust, teamwork and focus that was built with my dog in a marathon series of searches — with lots of breaks for my dog — could not have been replicated anywhere else,” says Mary Wakabayashi of Aliso Viejo, California, who went to nosework camp with her dog Hina. “The instructors built on what my regular instructors say and gave another dimension and perspective to being a better teammate for my dog.”
Hate the idea of organized dog sports? You and your dog can still have fun. Go swimming, canoeing or hiking, try stand-up paddle boarding, make doggie crafts or just lie under a tree together watching the birds.
“Some people come with their older dogs, and that’s what they do,” Blanchard says.
Here are 10 camps where you and your dog can play to your heart’s content:
? The mother of all dog camps is Camp Gone to the Dogs (camp-gone-tothe-dogs.com), which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year. Camps take place in Marlboro, Vermont, or Stowe, Vermont.
? Camp Dogwood (campdogwood.com)in Lake Delton, Wisconsin, offers camp experiences in fall, winter and spring.
? Camp Unleashed (campunleashed.com) has sessions in Blue Ridge, Georgia, or the Berkshire Mountains in Becket, Massachusetts.
? Try “barks and crafts,” learn canine CPR, study dog nutrition or play outdoors at Canine Camp Getaway (caninecampgetaway.com) in Lake George, New York. Human campers will appreciate the on-site bar/lounge and spa.
? Learn backcountry safety at Canine Wilderness Companion Adventure Camp (citydogcountrydogtraining.com/camps-classes) at Yachats on the central Oregon coast. Skills include trail manners; hiking, camping and kayaking with dogs; and wilderness first aid.
? Dogs of Course (dogsofcourse.com) offers a three-and-a-half day nosework training camp in Wimberly, Texas, near Austin.
? Camp is for kids, too. The Canine Coach in Minneapolis-St. Paul has a four-day Dog Camp for Kids (thek9coach.com/dog_camp_for_kids.php), geared to ages 5 to 13. Kids and dogs can go together, or if your home is lacking a dog, a trained dog who is familiar with kids will be provided.
? Enjoy a rustic camping experience with nearby hiking and mountain biking trails with Maian Meadows Dog Camp (maianmeadows.com/2.html) at Lake Wenatchee in Washington.
? Six days at Lake Tahoe’s 33-acre Wild Blue Dog Camp (wildbluedogs.org/home) includes Canine Good Citizen training, water sports, classes in Fear Free dog grooming and more.
? Yellowstone Dog Camp (yellowstonedogsports.com/index.php/summer-camp) in Red Lodge, Montana, offers 90 acres with an indoor arena, hiking trails, ponds for swimming and sheep for herding. Activities include rally, tricks, retriever training, nature walks and flyball.
7 tips on rabbit care
- Considering a pet bunny? Rabbits are friendly, entertaining and can be housetrained. Those traits make them good companions, but they have some special needs. Here are some tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association: Bunny newbies should stick to a single rabbit. Choose one who is alert and active with a full, shiny coat. Have males neutered to prevent urine marking and females spayed to prevent unwanted litters. Rabbits don’t enjoy being held close or carried around and can injure themselves in the struggle to get away. Rabbits require regular grooming, especially if they have long fur. Without appropriate toys and supervision, rabbits may chew dangerous or inappropriate items, such as electrical cords or expensive furniture. Rabbits should live indoors and with good care can live as long as 15 years.
- If your dog’s nickname is Sir Barks-a-lot, take steps to teach him when it’s OK to bark and when he should hold his tongue. When you want him to stop barking, give a cue for him to do something else, such as “down” (some dogs don’t like to bark when their belly is on the floor) or “come.” Whichever you choose, praise and reward your dog for responding and for being quiet.
- A fine-tooth comb is your best friend if you’re not sure your dog or cat has fleas. Run it through your pet’s fur, starting at the head and moving toward the tail. If your pet is harboring any of the nasty little bloodsuckers, they’ll be trapped in the comb’s narrow teeth. Check most carefully at the neck and the rear end, both areas where fleas are often found. If you find one, know that there are lots more that you don’t see. Ask your veterinarian about an oral or topical preventive to protect your pet. — Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
Independence Day is a frightening event for many pets. Here’s how to help dogs and cats stay safe and serene
By Kim Campbell Thornton
What is your pet’s least favorite holiday? If our dogs and cats could express an opinion, it’s likely they would choose the Fourth of July. While we associate it with picnics and parades, our pets are often fearful of the “rocket’s red glare and bombs bursting in air.”
Some pets enjoy watching fireworks, while others run outdoors and figuratively shake their fist and yell bad words at the pyrotechnics. But pets who are fearful of fireworks can respond with full-blown panic, jumping through windows or over fences in a frenzied attempt to escape the scary sounds. Others whine or moan, tremble uncontrollably or run and hide in as small an area as possible. Cats typically head beneath the bed, while dogs may curl up inside a dark closet.
“Before she lost enough of her hearing that she no longer minded, my beagle-mix became a shaking, drooling mess every year, including one night when she tried to climb into the refrigerator,” says Eliza Rubenstein of Costa Mesa, California. “Our annual patriotic tradition involved alprazolam and three hours of driving around.”
A pet’s fireworks phobia can take away enjoyment of Independence Day for everyone in the family. For a dog or, rarely, cat whose reaction to fireworks rises to the level of abject fear and panic, the following tips can help them cope.
- Go for a ride. As Rubenstein discovered, being inside a car seems to help insulate dogs from the noise. Drive to an area away from the fireworks if possible.
- Get out of town. Susan Rosenau of Bellingham, Washington, lives with two French bulldogs whose reaction to fireworks is “complete panic.”
“We’re planning a trip to Canada for the Fourth of July this year just to avoid them,” she says.
You might not be able to leave the country, but you may be able to send your pet to stay with a relative or friend who lives in an area where fireworks are uncommon. A boarding kennel or pet sitter away from fireworks is another option.
- Keep pets indoors. Provide a hiding place that will prevent your pet from being exposed to the brightly lit sky and dampen the sound. This may be a covered crate in a room with the curtains drawn, a closet or a bathroom with no windows. Some pets feel safe in the bathtub. Sally Bahner’s cat, Mollie, heads for the linen closet or the vanity in the bathroom.
- Give your pet a favorite toy to add to his comfort level.
“Our greyhound-mix really liked to be inside and with his stuffed hedgehog on his bed,” says Melissa Frieze Karolak of Cleveland. “I think he taught our terrier that the best place to be when loud noises happen is inside.”
- Sometimes wearing a snug-fitting shirt or cape offers a feeling of security to a dog or cat. You can also find specially made earmuffs and eye shades to help limit a pet’s exposure to sound and light.
- Fearful dogs may benefit from a synthetic pheromone called Adaptil, which mimics the sebaceous gland secretions given off by mother dogs as they nurse. It’s thought to have a calming effect. A similar product called Feliway is available for cats.
If your dog’s fear of fireworks is so severe that he can’t function, harms himself or is destructive in his attempts to escape, talk to your veterinarian about medication that may help. Be sure you understand how to use it. Generally, it’s necessary to give medication before fireworks begin. If you wait, it will be less effective. Read instructions carefully to make sure you administer medication correctly. You may also want to ask for a referral to a board-certified veterinary behaviorist.