Best workplaces for pet lovers
- We’ve all heard of the Fortune 500 — the 500 most profitable U.S. companies. Well, here’s a more important ranking for pet lovers: the pet-friendly 12, a dozen companies that offer perks to pet-loving employees. They run the gamut: allowing owners to bring dogs to work and providing pet insurance, discounts for doggie daycare, pet supplies, financial assistance for pet adoptions and free pet health screening days. The “purr-ty” dozen are Genentech, Kimpton, Atlantic Health, VMWare, Salesforce, Mars, Google, Build-A-Bear Workshop, Autodesk, GoDaddy, Workday and Activision Blizzard.
- Thanks to social media, we’re seeing lots more photos and videos of cats getting baths or playing in water. You were probably under the impression that cats did a perfectly fine job of grooming themselves, but there are times when a bath can be beneficial. If someone in your family is allergic to cats, a weekly bath (for the cat) can help to keep dander levels low, reducing the person’s reaction. Cats also need baths if they get into something sticky or that would be toxic for them to lick off themselves.
- “Who rescued whom?” The popular bumper sticker is seen on numerous cars, but for Eric O’Grey, it’s more than an expression. When his doctor told him he would be dead in five years if he didn’t lose weight, he consulted a nutritionist and took her advice to adopt a shelter dog. He chose a middle-aged, overweight dog named Peety, and the two started walking. Within a year, O’Grey had lost 140 pounds and Peety 25. Their story was turned into a video, the kickoff for a contest called the Mutual Rescue initiative, in which people can share stories of how a shelter animal changed their lives. Contact the Humane Society of Silicon Valley for more information. Entry deadline is April 30.
— Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
WORDS WITH ANIMALS
Words and phrases about pets and how they entered the language
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Have you ever thought about how many words and phrases we use every day that come straight from the horse’s mouth? Expressions that are the cat’s meow? You might even say our language has gone to the dogs.
Animal-related terms are delightfully descriptive. Some are built upon animal characteristics — eagle-eyed, bird-brained, dog-eared — irrespective of accuracy (birds are actually pretty darn smart). Others come to us from languages such as Greek, Latin or Icelandic. Learning about their origins is fascinating. Here are some fun facts about pet phrases and how they came to be.
? “Animal attraction.” A reference nowadays to strongly attractive personal charm, this phrase harks back (itself a phrase used in hunting with hounds) to the 18th century, when Franz Mesmer coined the term “animal magnetism” to describe his theory of an invisible natural force that could play a role in healing and other physical effects.
? Other words describe our affinity for certain animals. An ailurophile is a person who loves cats. It comes from the Greek words “ailouros,” meaning cat, and “philos,” meaning loving. While people have been crazy for cats for more than 5,000 years, this term is relatively new, with its first known use in 1914.
Dog-lovers have their own distinctive description, also deriving from ancient Greek. They are cynophilists, or cynophiles.
? Collective terms. You’re probably familiar with the term “litter” referring to a group of kittens, but did you know that they can also be called a “kindle”? The word comes from Middle English “kindlen” and means “to give birth.” The first-known use of the phrase occurs in the 15th-century “Book of St. Albans” as “a kyndyll of yong Cattis.”
There are many different collective, or group, names for dogs, most of them related to hunting. These are called “terms of venery” and include “a mute of hounds,” from the Old French “meute,” meaning “pack” or “kennel”; “a leash of Greyhounds”; and “a couple of spaniels.” In modern times, dog-loving wordsmiths have invented their own fanciful collective terms for specific breeds, drawing on wit and word play: a waddle of Pekingese, a snobbery of salukis, a rumble of Rottweilers, a snap of whippets, a grin of Japanese chin, a bounce of beardies, a shiver of Chihuahuas. I’m partial to a court of Cavaliers, myself.
? “Hair of the dog.” Did your English teacher tell you that humans have hair while dogs and cats have fur? Technically, there’s no real difference. It’s all made of a protein called keratin. The ground hairs — soft, insulating fur — and the coarser protective guard hairs on pets are considered fur. The hair on your head has a texture that’s somewhere in between ground and guard hairs, so it’s not wrong to describe pets as having hair.
But why do we call for “hair of the dog” the morning after a night on the town? The idea of taking a nip of the same alcoholic libation that gave you a hangover dates at least to the 16th century, when John Heywood wrote in “Proverbs” (1546): “I pray thee let me and my fellow have a haire of the dog that bit us last night.” The concept is related to the even older folk remedy of placing the burnt hair of a dog who had bitten someone on the wound, according to Christine Ammer in her book “It’s Raining Cats and Dogs.”
? “Chowhound.” I think most of us who have dogs understand why this term is applied to enthusiastic eaters. It was also the title of a 1951 Looney Tunes animated short featuring a bulldog always in search of a meal. He probably would have enjoyed a hush puppy, a fried cornmeal cake supposedly named because it was tossed to noisy hounds with the admonition, “Hush, puppy!”
Pets get a ticket to ride
• Amtrak now permits people to bring pets on board certain Northeast train routes. A cat or small dog confined to a carrier can ride the rails on trips up to seven hours. Available routes are Boston to Lynchburg, Newport News and Norfolk, Virginia; Northeast Regional service lines; and the Downeaster route from Boston to Brunswick, Maine. The pet fare is $25. With the pet inside, the carrier must weigh no more than 20 pounds. Pets must be at least 8 weeks old and have up-to-date vaccinations.
• Got diabetes? Dogs can sniff out hypoglycemia — low blood sugar — simply from the scent of your sweat. Researchers tested six dogs who had been trained to detect hypoglycemia by taking sweat samples from their owners during both a hypoglycemic episode and a normal blood glucose period. They stored the samples in glass vials and then placed the vials in steel cans. The dogs correctly identified the hypoglycemic samples 87.5 percent of the time. “Our results suggest that properly trained dogs can successfully recognize and raise the alert about a hypo using smell alone,” the researchers wrote.
• The Siberian cat is Russia’s natural feline treasure, with a long, triple-layered coat; a fancy ruff around the neck and “britches” on the legs; and an abundance of personality. These cats are friendly, intelligent and full of curiosity. Count on a Siberian outwitting you at every turn if you’re not careful — and maybe even if you are. He’s one of the larger cat breeds, weighing up to 18 pounds or more, and his luxurious fur coat comes in all colors and combinations. Siberians have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, but that varies by individual. Some are more allergenic than others. Try before you buy.
— Kim Campbell Thornton
Festive threats to pets include fatty foods, alcohol and open doors
By Dr. Tony Johnson for Universal Uclick
As I strolled through the grocery store last month, I noticed that the Christmas decor was already up. In my mind, it was still summer, but apparently the good folks at my local fooditorium wanted to ring in the holidays a tad early this year. Some day, I am certain they will start putting up the tinsel in June.
The holiday season is one of togetherness, and pets are increasingly a big part of the holiday festivities. During this otherwise joyous season, a few pet dangers are lurking, though. This info will help keep your pet safe during all the fun and avoid expensive trips to the pet ER.
Food — The biggest holiday threats to pets come from the same threats to your waistline and chances of you fitting into your skinny jeans — food! The holiday season is all about food (yeah, and love and family and all that other stuff, too), and there’s plenty of it to be had: cookies, roast beast, puddings and more cookies. To you, it may just mean another hour on the stair stepper, but to your dog, human food can cause real problems.
Vomiting and diarrhea are common side effects from eating too much people food (the medical term we throw about is “dietary indiscretion”), and in some cases, this can proceed to a more serious condition called pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, the gland that makes digestive enzymes as well as insulin. When the pancreas becomes inflamed, it releases these enzymes and begins digesting itself. This can be a serious and painful condition that often requires hospitalization.
It is probably a good idea to either keep pets confined during any holiday parties, or make sure guests (especially kids) know not to give treats to your pets. Dogs and cats have been known to drag an entire turkey off the counter when the owner’s back is turned (you know they’ve gotta be thinking, “SCORE!”), so make sure you stay aware of their whereabouts during meal preparation.
If you do want to include your pet in the meal and fun, stick to a bit of lean turkey and low- or no-fat veggies (no onions, though, as these can cause anemia in dogs and cats), and skip the gravy, dressing and pecan pie. Sugar-free items that contain xylitol are also toxic to pets.
Booze — It is true: Don’t get your Doberman drunk during the holidays (or any other time), and don’t let any lampshade-wearing guests try to give your pug a mug of beer. And no one wants to see a basset with a hangover.
Your dog or cat’s liver is not equipped to process alcohol, and even small amounts can be life-threatening. Put boozy party leftovers well out of reach. That includes whisky-soaked fruitcakes, trifles laced with liqueurs and the rum balls that Aunt Martha sends every year.
Open doors — People come and go much more during the holidays than other times of year, and all that traffic can lead to plenty of opportunities for escape. In the ER, we see many pets who made a break for freedom when Uncle Floyd came a-callin’ with his special tuna surprise. Dogs and cats can dart out the door without anyone even noticing, and there’s a whole big world of hurt just waiting for them out there. Ensure that pets are safely put away when you are expecting guests, and make a nightly head count to make sure that all the furry family members are accounted for before turning in for your visions of sugar plums.
Here’s hoping you have a sane season, and that all family members make it through safely, no matter how many legs they have.
How and what should your cat eat? Experts weigh in
By Kim Campbell Thornton
How hard can it be to feed a cat? You just set down a bowl of dry food and go, right? Wrong. Feline experts would prefer that you feed cats on a schedule, measure their food so they don’t eat too much and switch them to canned food for a healthier diet.
What’s wrong with free-feeding — setting out a bowl of dry food and refilling it as needed so cats can snack at will?
“Pouring a bowl of dry cat food and topping it off is the way to diabetes,” says Deb Greco, DVM, senior research scientist at Nestle Purina. “It’s unlimited food, and cats often never get satiated. If you’re eating constantly, you never have time to burn fat.”
Measuring an appropriate amount of food and giving only that amount per meal is one way to ensure cats don’t take in too many calories. For the average cat, that might be one-quarter cup twice a day. Use a measuring cup rather than a scoop so you know exactly how much you’re giving. The amount recommended on the package is a guideline. Don’t be afraid to adjust it up or down depending on your cat’s weight.
Why canned food? Cats need high levels of protein and plenty of water. A canned diet provides both. While dry food is convenient and can certainly meet a cat’s dietary needs, it has drawbacks.
Dry food is high in carbohydrates, and cats’ teeth aren’t made for eating it. Their sharp molars are made for tearing meat off bones, not grinding pieces of kibble. A cat’s digestive system isn’t suited to dry food, either, says Kristi Krause, DVM, a feline medicine specialist at Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital in Lake Forest, California.
“They don’t have the salivary amylase to start breaking down the carbohydrate portion of the food,” she says. “They preferentially use protein, preferentially use fat, and store the carbohydrates. That’s where we start getting our fat cats and diabetics because they eat these higher carbohydrate diets and automatically store the carbohydrates.”
Cats who do eat dry food need plenty of fresh water, so make it attractive to them. It’s difficult for cats to see still water, Dr. Greco says, so simply setting out a bowl of it may not be enough. Running water is a better option because cats can hear it. Consider leaving a faucet dripping in a bathroom or providing a pet fountain.
Water placement is another important consideration. “They may feel vulnerable sitting at a bowl, especially one that’s in a corner with their back to other cats that might jump on them,” Dr. Greco says.
Dr. Greco and Dr. Krause advise new kitten owners to give canned food from the start, but if your adult cat has the munchies for his crunchies, or you can’t give up the convenience, they recommend giving some canned food every day as a treat or a topper to dry food. That’s because cats may require a canned diet at some point in their lives.
“If your cat ends up with some kind of bladder condition, kidney disease or diabetes, I’m going to tell you that he can no longer eat dry food,” Dr. Krause says. “I want that cat to at least be accustomed to eating canned food.”
And if you feed primarily dry food, give your cat a workout by placing his kibble inside a food puzzle so he has to work to get at it throughout the day. That will help keep him from gorging and ensure that he gets plenty of activity.
READY FOR DISASTER
Include your pets in your family’s preparedness plans
By Dr. Marty Becker
Tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, floods and earthquakes — there are few places on Earth that are not vulnerable to one or more natural disasters.
We’ve learned from countless disasters that people often will put their own lives at risk — and the lives of first responders as well — if there are no options for relocating with their animal companions. Public planning now includes pets, and your own planning should, too. Here are the basics you need to know:
Have a plan. Prepare for all possibilities, and make sure everyone in your family knows what to do. Try to figure out now what’s most likely for you and your community, and how you will respond. Where will you go? What will you take? You need to get these answers in advance. Get to know your neighbors, and put a plan in place to help each other out. Find out from local shelters and veterinary organizations — and your family’s own veterinarian — what emergency response plans are in place and how you fit into them in case of a disaster.
ID your pets. Many, if not most, animals will survive a disaster. But too many will never see their families again if there’s no way to determine which pet belongs to which family. That’s why pets should always wear a collar and identification tags with your cellphone number and the numbers of a couple of out-of-area contacts. Better still is the additional permanent identification that can’t slip off, such as a tattoo or an embedded microchip.
Practice preventive care. Disease follows disaster, which is why keeping a pet as healthy as possible with up-to-date vaccinations is essential. Prepare a file with up-to-date medical records, your pets’ microchip or tattoo numbers, your veterinarian’s phone number and address, feeding and medication instructions, and recent pictures of your animals. Trade copies of emergency files with another pet-loving friend or family member. It’s a good idea for someone else to know about your pet, should anything happen to you.
Have restraints ready. Even normally calm pets can freak out under the stress of an emergency, especially if injured. You should be prepared to restrain your pet — for his safety and the safety of others.
Keep leashes, muzzles and carriers ready for emergencies. The means to transport your pet shouldn’t be something you have to find and pull from the rafters of your garage. Harnesses work better than collars at keeping panicky pets safe. Shipping crates are probably the least-thought-of pieces of emergency equipment for pet owners, but are among the most important. Sturdy crates keep pets safe and give you more options for housing your pets if you have to leave your home.
Keep supplies on hand. Keep several days’ worth of pet food and safe drinking water ready to go in the event of a disaster, as well as any necessary medicines. Canned food is better in an emergency, so lay in a couple of cases, and don’t forget to pack a can opener with your emergency supplies. For cats, keep an extra bag of litter on hand. And pack lots of plastic bags for dealing with waste.
Learn first aid. Pet-supply stores sell ready-made first-aid kits, or you can put your own together fairly easily with the help of any pet-related first-aid book or website. Keep a first-aid book with your supplies. If you check around in your community, you should be able to find a pet first-aid class to take that will give you the basic knowledge you need.
Be prepared to help. You may be lucky enough to survive a disaster nearly untouched, but others in your community won’t be so fortunate. Check out groups that train volunteers for disaster response, and consider going through the training. Disaster-relief workers do everything from distributing food to stranded animals to helping reunite pets with their families, and helping find new homes for those animals who need them. Volunteering in a pinch is not only a good thing to do, it’s also the right thing for anyone who cares about animals and people.
Do you have a pet question?
Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
TAKE A HIKE
Your dog’s company can enhance your experience of the great outdoors
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with your dog and wear him out, especially if he’s the super-active type. It’s quite possibly the most accessible activity you can do with your dog. Wherever you live, you probably have access to dog-friendly hiking trails within 30 minutes of home. We’ve gathered eight tips to help you both have the best hike possible.
1. Puppies can go hiking as long as you condition them gradually. Start with short hikes of a half-mile to a mile, and slowly work up to longer distances.
2. Watch the weather. It’s not just flat-faced dogs who are sensitive to heat and humidity. Plenty of dogs wilt quickly, even in moderate temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Any time the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s too hot for most dogs to exert themselves. If you’re going on a short hike near home, consider hosing down your dog before you leave to help him stay cool, or stop during the hike at a place where he can go swimming or get wet.
3. Bring plenty of water and a snack. For a day hike in optimum temperatures over moderate terrain, a quart of water and some cut-up boiled chicken or hot dogs (frozen the night before) should be enough to keep your dog hydrated and full of pep.
4. Because of the uneven terrain and changes in elevation, hiking is harder on the body than just going for a walk. Pay attention to your dog’s condition, especially if he’s a puppy or an old dog. You never want to see him panting heavily or unable to go on. Remember that dogs are lower to the ground and may not have the benefit of a breeze.
5. Keep your dog on leash so he doesn’t disturb wildlife or other hikers. Accidents happen, though, so he should be trained to come to a whistle. The sound will carry over a longer distance than your voice if you get separated. He should also know and respond to the commands “sit,” “stay” or “wait,” “down,” “heel” and “quiet.”
6. Know how to treat injuries. You can find a pet first-aid course in your area through the Red Cross. Carry a first-aid kit that contains items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes and Benadryl (check with your veterinarian ahead of time so you’ll know the appropriate amount to give if your dog suffers an insect bite or sting).
7. Tote that load. Your dog can carry his water, snacks, first-aid kit, a folding water dish and poop bags in a canine backpack. Before buying, check the fit to make sure it stays on securely without being too tight or too loose or restricting his movement. You should be able to comfortably fit two to four fingers between the straps and your dog’s body. Features that can add to his comfort include a mesh back panel for ventilation and padding beneath the straps. Other conveniences you may appreciate are D-rings for attaching items to the pack, weather-sealed zippers, attachment points for the leash and a handle on top that allows you to hold onto or lift your dog if necessary.
8. Bug out. Protect your dog from fleas and ticks with an oral or spot-on preventive. If the local insect population is especially intense, you can try applying an all-natural citronella spray to his coat. Be aware that the effect probably won’t last more than an hour, so you’ll need to reapply it regularly.
Most important, have fun! See you on the trail.
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
7 smart ways to reduce pet expenses without cutting back on good care
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Are pet-care costs taking a bite out of your budget? You might be tempted to skimp on veterinary care or quality pet food, but there are better ways to save money without compromising your pet’s well-being. Here are some of my favorite budget-boosting tips.
Ask about discounts. If your pet has severe periodontal disease, he may benefit from professional cleanings more than once a year. If that’s the case, your veterinarian may give you the same discounted rate offered during National Pet Dental Health Month (February). Some clinics offer discounts if you bring in more than one animal at a time for exams, or if your pet is a rescue animal. Groomers may offer discounts if you bring your pet in on a regular basis, or if you bring in more than one pet at a time. Don’t be afraid to ask; the worst they can do is say no, and you might even get them to start a new policy.
Buy smart. Ask your veterinarian if there is a generic equivalent of the medication your pet needs. With a prescription, you can take advantage of low-cost pharmaceuticals from big-box retailers such as Costco or Target. Your veterinarian may also have samples of medications, including flea- and tick-control products, or be willing to match the price found at an online pharmacy.
One word: email. Your local pet supply store or your favorite pet food brand likely has an email list you can join. They send out coupons and notices of sales or special events. One pet supply store I know of has a monthly “Yappy Hour,” with special prices between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Buy food in bulk. Whether you feed canned, dry or frozen pet food, bulk options are available. Buy the largest size container, and store excess dry or frozen food in your freezer, or split it — and the savings — with a friend or neighbor. If you make your pet’s food yourself because he’s on a special diet, look for a pet food co-op in your area. Scoop: Another item you can buy in bulk for big savings is cat litter.
Choose quality. Whether you’re buying food, collars and leashes or toys, look for top-notch ingredients and materials. They’ll always perform better. Well-made toys and other items last longer, so you don’t have to replace them as often. High-quality foods contain more and better nutrients, so pets need to eat less. Even if you pay more upfront, your costs are less on the back end. And speaking of the back end, your pet’s poop will be smaller, firmer and less stinky on a good-quality food, so it’s a win-win all the way around.
Offer a trade. The barter economy is alive and well. If you have skills in construction, social media, interior design, cooking or, well, you name it, you may be able to work out a deal for a service exchange with your pet’s trainer, groomer, pet sitter or veterinarian. It never hurts to ask.
Take a walk. Your dog needs regular exercise to stay healthy; in fact, all pets need some kind of exercise for both mental and physical well-being. For dogs, a walk is something you can easily do every day, in any place. For cats, toss a wadded-up piece of paper down the hall, or sit on the sofa and direct the beam from a flashlight on the floor for them to chase. Pets who get an appropriate amount of exercise and who live in an interesting environment have fewer behavior problems and better health.
Short-nosed dogs and cats often have difficulty breathing. What you should know about the problem
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Most people recognize pet overpopulation, cruelty and animal fighting as animal welfare issues, but there’s one that many don’t think about or may even consider cute. We’re talking about extreme physical traits, such as the excessively flat faces seen in many Persian cats, bulldogs, Pekingese, pugs, Boston terriers and other brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds.
Snorting and snoring, or the undershot jaw of the bulldog or boxer, are often thought to be endearing characteristics. But when those traits cause animals to gasp for air after minimal exertion, develop heatstroke or even die from exposure to heat and humidity, it’s no life for a dog — or cat. It’s not great for their humans, either, who pay high veterinary bills to treat their animals or lose them to an early death.
Pets with extremely flat faces are prone to a condition called brachycephalic syndrome. They may have pinched or narrowed nostrils, known as stenotic nares; an elongated soft palate, which partially blocks the airway; everted saccules, small sacs just inside the larynx that can turn inside out and block the airway; and a hypoplastic, or narrowed, trachea. When the nostrils are too small, nasal cartilage is too soft or the airway is blocked, it’s difficult for the animal to draw breath. Dogs with the combination of a short muzzle and undershot jaw can also have difficulty breathing.
A side effect of brachycephalic syndrome is that pets with it have a harder time regulating their body temperature in hot or cold weather. They can’t stay outdoors in warm weather, let alone go for a walk. Allergies can worsen the problem.
To protect pets with brachycephalic syndrome, it’s important not to let them get fat or overexert themselves in the heat. They must stay in an air-conditioned environment, and need plenty of shade and fresh water when outdoors. Walking dogs with a harness instead of a collar that puts pressure on the neck can also help them breathe easier.
Noisy breathing, gurgling, gasping and a foamy nasal discharge are all signs that a dog is having trouble getting enough air. Other signs of difficulty breathing are fainting and blue gums and tongue, indicating a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream. Left untreated, chronic lack of oxygen puts a serious strain on the heart, and breathing difficulty worsens with age.
For dogs with serious respiratory difficulty, surgery can correct stenotic nares, elongated soft palate and everted saccules. A dog who can’t walk across the room without turning blue and gasping for air is a clear candidate for reconstructive surgery.
It’s best if this is done early in life if it’s obvious that a pet has a problem. When the procedure is performed before the problem becomes serious, it usually has good results. Surgery may be less effective if performed when animals are older. If necessary, stenotic nares and an elongated soft palate can be corrected at the same time. A good time to do it is when the animal is spayed or neutered. You’ll be able to hear the difference in breathing immediately after surgery.
No one wants to experience the heartbreak of a pet who can’t breathe. Animal lovers can help by not purchasing dogs or cats with extreme facial conformation, no matter how cute they are. Breeders can work toward producing animals with not-so-flat faces and larger nostrils that enable them to breathe effortlessly and do all the things a pet should be able to do: chase a toy, walk around the block, play at the beach or compete in dog sports.
BIG DOG ON CAMPUS?
College students with pets can be less stressed and less lonely, but making the situation work calls for commitment and cooperation
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When Kate Eldredge of Vernon, New York, returned to Cornell University in 2010 for her sophomore year, it wasn’t to dorm life with a new roommate. She brought along her own furry roommate: Queezle, a 4-year-old Belgian Tervuren.
Kids leaving home after graduating from high school don’t always leave by themselves. Sometimes, the family dog or cat goes along as well. Studies show that having a pet at college has benefits, but only when it’s done right.
Factors to consider in making life work with a college pet include the student’s maturity level, the pet’s personality, campus housing rules, whether the pet will receive enough attention from a busy student, and who will care for the animal if the student must be away from campus. Here, experts share their experiences and advice for making a smooth transition.
Deb Eldredge, DVM, notes that her daughter Kate was already an experienced dog trainer and handler at the time she left for college. And she knew that Kate’s course schedule as an English major gave her enough time to make sure Queezle got the activity she needed.
When it comes to housing, colleges and universities that permit pets typically limit animals to certain floors or buildings. Rules address concerns such as noise, grooming and waste disposal. Pet-friendly dorms may also limit animals by size, breed or species.
When Eliza Rubenstein went to Oberlin College in Ohio in 1991, freshmen and sophomores were required to live in dorms, where pets weren’t permitted. But her golden retriever, Alfy, was a huge part of her life — they made pet-assisted therapy visits and participated in obedience trials — and she successfully made a case for exemption from the dormitory requirement.
“I know that I missed out on some of the bonding and socialization that I’d have experienced had I lived in a dorm, but I met lots of friends with Alfy as my icebreaker, too, and I got involved with the local student-run animal shelter, which in turn introduced me to my future co-author and lifelong best friend,” says Rubenstein, who wrote “The Adoption Option: Choosing and Raising the Shelter Dog for You” with Shari Kalina.
Cornell required freshmen to live in a dorm, but after that first year, Eldredge lived off campus so she could have Queezle with her.
“Although I loved my dorm, life without dogs just was not an option,” she says. And her dog-friendly apartment proved to be a boon when Dr. Eldredge’s own dog, Hokey, was undergoing radiation therapy at Cornell for nasal cancer.
Who pays for the pet’s food and veterinary care or looks after him when his new caregiver can’t be at home? College students or new college graduates may foot the bill themselves through part-time or full-time jobs, or share the expenses and responsibilities with parents.
For Eldredge, it helped to have a mother who was a veterinarian and only two hours away by car. And she arranged her schedule around Queezle’s walk times as much as possible and recruited friends to help when she couldn’t.
Whether young people are in school or just starting out in life, having the family pet along on the adventure can bring continuity and contentment, but it’s a serious commitment.
“As positive as my own experience was, I don’t know that I’d recommend taking a pet to college for most students,” Rubenstein says. “College, even with no pets involved, is a time of lots of work and not much money for most of us. If you’re thinking of adding an animal to the mix, be sure you plan for the challenges as well as the fun.”
IT TAKES AN ARMY
Veterinarians train to save America’s community cats
They live on our streets, in fields and barns, behind shopping centers and in our neighborhoods. They eat on back porches and in city parks, fed by dedicated cat lovers. They’re the felines now called “community cats,” and while many of them are feral, some are strays or abandoned former pets who have adapted to life outdoors.
Some estimates suggest there are as many unowned as owned felines in the U.S., most of them unvaccinated and never spayed or neutered. Left free to reproduce, they’ll create the next generation of community cats, and the next, and the next.
Operation Catnip aims to change that, says founder Dr. Julie Levy, director of the shelter medicine program at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine. The trap-neuter-return (TNR) organization has been running free high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter clinics for community cats in Gainesville, Florida, since 1998. In 2014 alone, they helped 2,693 cats and prevented the births of an estimated 6,142 kittens just in the first year following surgery.
Now, thanks to a grant from PetSmart Charities, they’re throwing open their operational model and training program to veterinarians, veterinary students and veterinary technicians from all over the country.
“Our vision is to train an army of veterinarians to spay and neuter America’s community cats,” said Levy. “This approach, along with vaccination, will allow us to reduce cat population, control infectious diseases and improve the lives of the cats.”
Operation Catnip clinics are run MASH-style, with each cat tended by volunteer veterinarians, technicians and veterinary students. Each cat receives a medical examination and, if healthy, is spayed or neutered, treated for fleas and other parasites, and returned to the same place she or he was trapped.
It’s easy to tell if a cat has been treated at the clinic, because of the distinctive “ear tip” each one receives during their surgery. This means those cats can easily be identified as having already been sterilized, so they won’t be trapped again, putting them through unnecessary stress and taking the place of cats who still need care.
One graduate of the program, Dr. Amy Karls, was so inspired by her training with the Operation Catnip program that she now volunteers her services with four different community cat organizations near her North Grafton, Massachusetts, home — all that on top of her full-time career as a veterinarian.
“I wasn’t taught the high-volume, high-quality surgical techniques now commonly used in TNR programs while I was in veterinary school,” she said. “We learned new surgical skills, colony management and trapping techniques, and feline medical and behavioral pearls.”
America is a nation of cat lovers. One 2007 study found that 81 percent of us would prefer to see cats left where they are rather than killed, if those were the only two choices. Programs like Operation Catnip offer something better than either: reduced population over time, vaccination to help prevent infectious disease, and a chance for healthy feral cats to return to their homes in our communities without adding to the feline population.
It also offers a chance for veterinarians to become better surgeons, and for all veterinary professionals to learn innovative strategies for managing community cats in their hometowns.
“I was able to bring everything I learned back to our local rescue and TNR groups,” said Karls. “It was truly wonderful to see so many people united for the common goal of improving the lives of the homeless cat population.”
To learn more about Operation Catnip, or to sign up for one of their upcoming training sessions, visit operationcatnipclinic.org.
What to know about vaccinating your dog or cat
By Dr. Marty Becker
In case you’ve been on a desert island for the past few months, vaccinations are in the news. Fearing vaccine-related reactions or other concerns, some people are leery not only of vaccinating their children against preventable illnesses, but also their pets.
Protecting against something you’ve never seen can be a difficult concept for both pet owners and veterinarians. Many veterinarians (and probably 90 percent of vet techs) who have graduated in the past 10 to 20 years have never seen a case of canine distemper. For the pet owner — add in families, friends, co-workers and acquaintances — who has also never seen or known a dog with the disease, it’s easy to begin to believe the threat doesn’t exist, isn’t serious or is overblown.
Those of us who have been practicing longer (35 years, in my case) have seen the green discharge from the eyes and nose, the hardening footpads, the neurological signs and death. Many deaths. We know this invisible and now infrequent killer can gain ground quickly in a community of dogs that are unvaccinated or under — vaccinated and kill indiscriminately and grotesquely. Distemper and parvo outbreaks occur in shelters across the country every week because approximately half of the dogs coming in have never been vaccinated.
For 35 years I’ve told pet owners, if you love your dog or cat specifically, and dogs and cats in general, you’ll get your pets vaccinated not only to give them potentially life-saving protection, but also to put an invisible blanket of protection over the whole pet community.
That doesn’t mean your pet needs every vaccination out there. Your pet’s vaccination program should be individualized, based on factors such as his age, health, medical history, lifestyle (is he a homebody or does he go to dog parks or cat or dog shows?), and the prevalence of disease in your locale. Here’s what you should know:
Dogs and cats should receive core vaccines — those that protect against the most common and most serious diseases. In dogs, core vaccines are distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis and rabies. In cats, they are panleukopenia, calicivirus, rhinotracheitis (herpesvirus) and rabies, as required by law.
For a minimal vaccine program, veterinary immunology expert Ronald D. Schultz, Ph.D., recommends a first vaccination no earlier than 8 to 10 weeks of age (6 weeks for shelter animals), followed by one or two more doses, the last when the animal is 14 to 16 weeks or older. Get a titer test two or more weeks after the final vaccination to make sure the immune system has responded to the vaccines.
At one year, your pet can receive a booster vaccination or titer to ensure he has antibodies to disease. Then you can simply do titers every three years for the rest of the animal’s life and revaccinate as needed, or you can revaccinate every three years for the rest of the animal’s life.
In dogs, give non-core vaccines, such as those for leptospirosis or giardia, only if your pet is at high risk of the disease. The coronavirus vaccine is not recommended by the current guidelines. In cats, vaccines with little or no efficacy include those for feline infectious peritonitis, feline immunodeficiency virus, virulent calicivirus and bordetella. Alice Wolf, DVM, an internal medicine specialist and professor of small-animal medicine at Texas A&M University, advises against giving those vaccines to cats.
Some animals are more at risk of vaccine reactions than others. They include certain breeds, such as akitas, American cocker spaniels, American Eskimo dogs, Great Danes and Weimaraners; young puppies or kittens who are stressed from being transported to new environments; animals who are sick or have a fever; animals with white coats and pink noses or with dilute coat colors; and small dogs in general. Talk to your veterinarian about ways to reduce the risks.
Can dogs be jealous? Science says, “Yes.”
By Kim Campbell Thornton
When we are on a walk with all three of our dogs and someone stops to pet them, Harper, our 7-year-old cavalier, pushes forward to be first. When they move on to one of the other dogs, she nudges them, as if to say, “No, pet me, pet me.”
Is Harper jealous or envious of the attention received by the other dogs? The answer used to be no — that jealousy is a complex emotion not experienced by dogs. Then University of California, San Diego psychology professor Christine Harris, working with former honors student Caroline Prouvost, decided to test whether that was actually true.
Their study, published last July in the journal PLOS ONE, found that dogs may well experience a basic form of jealousy. One of the definitions of the word “jealous” is one who is solicitous or vigilant in maintaining or guarding something. In this case, dogs may have evolved to protect social bonds from interlopers (or in Harper’s case, protecting her share of attention from people and making sure other dogs don’t get any).
When their owners showed affection toward another dog, the dogs in the study snapped and pushed at their owners or the rival dog, which for experimental purposes was a stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail. In contrast, they were less likely to display jealous behaviors when the owner showed interest in a novel object, such as a jack-o’-lantern bucket, or when the owner read aloud a children’s book that had pop-up pages and played melodies.
Dogs were about twice as likely to push or touch owners when they interacted with the stuffed dog (78 percent) as when the owner paid attention to the bucket (42 percent). Thirty percent of the dogs tested tried to get between their owner and the stuffed dog.
“Our study suggests not only that dogs do engage in what appear to be jealous behaviors, but also that they were seeking to break up the connection between the owner and a seeming rival,” Harris said. “We can’t really speak to the dogs’ subjective experiences, of course, but it looks as though they were motivated to protect an important social relationship.”
Your response might be, “So what?” If you’re a dog owner, you’ve probably seen your dog exhibit jealous behaviors. The research is important, though, because it adds to our knowledge of the canine brain and helps to support the growing body of research indicating that dogs have sophisticated social and cognitive abilities.
You probably know as well that pets can be jealous of more than just other dogs. Sometimes they are a roadblock in the path to true love. It’s not unusual for pets to resent attention given to a new person in the owner’s life, whether that’s a boyfriend or a baby. They may seek more attention for themselves or even try to insert themselves between the owner and the new person. That’s especially common when the pet is used to getting all the owner’s attention. It’s no surprise he doesn’t want to compete with anyone else for it.
If your pet is jealous of the new love of your life, seek to create a love triangle — the good kind. Have your significant other become the giver of all good things: walks, meals, treats, toys. If the new kid on the block is a baby, provide those things to the dog (or cat) in the baby’s presence. In both cases, you’ll be helping your pet develop a positive association with the newcomer, joining best friend to best friend. What could be better than that?