Human medication can threaten pets
• Medication meant for people, both prescribed and over-the-counter, had the dubious honor of being the top-ranked pet poison for 2009, according to calls to the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center (www.ASPCA.org/APCC). Last year nearly 46,000 calls involved medications meant for people. At No. 2 on the list was insecticides, with 29,000 calls. The most common poisoning problem with these particular products was the misuse of flea and tick medications, typically a cat made ill by the use of a product meant for dogs. Food items ranked third, with 17,000 calls about common food toxins, including chocolate, grapes, raisins, avocado and products with the sweetener Xylitol, a common ingredient in gum. Rounding out the list were plants, including lilies, which are extremely poisonous to cats, and the improper use of veterinary prescriptions.
• North Carolina State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine requires all veterinary students to complete training in disaster response. According to DVM360.com, the students are taught to work with both people and animals in disasters and learn skills such as setting up mobile animal shelters located near emergency shelters for displaced people. They also learn how to respond to an epidemic in animals and stop the spread of disease that may jump to people.
• Rabbits rejoice! The first eight veterinarians to earn a new specialty certification in rabbits and other small mammals have completed their training. The new “exotic” specialists have extra training in treating the maladies of common small pets, not only rabbits but also hamsters, rats and other “pocket pets.”
• A gene in dogs has been linked to compulsive disorder. A 10-year study at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine found that Dobermans with compulsive tendencies had a higher frequency of a risk-associated genetic marker compared with normal members of the breed. The research may allow for earlier intervention for obsessive compulsive behavior, as well as treatment or prevention of compulsive disorders in both dogs and humans.
— Dr. Marty Becker and
Mikkel Becker Shannon
Pet Facts – Cropping, docking still commonly done
• Of the more than 150 breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, 13 commonly get ear crops, 48 have docked tails, and 11 have both cropping and docking. Ear crops seem more likely to disappear as a common practice sooner, as fewer pet owners choose to have their puppies’ ears sliced into an upright posture, and fewer veterinarians will perform the procedure. The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes ear cropping and tail docking when done solely for cosmetic purposes and has encouraged the elimination of these procedures from breed standards.
•The average price for hay is $3 to $6 per bale, according a poll on www.thehorse.com. Only 10 percent of respondents were paying less than $3 per bale, while 21 percent paid $6 to $9 per bale, and 8 percent paid more than $11 per bale. A bale of hay commonly lasts about two to four days per horse.
• Rather than using drugs to sedate a cat for minor veterinary procedures, a new process called “clipnosis” may be used to calm and immobilize the animal. The technique places clips along the back of a cat’s neck, mimicking the way a kitten is carried by the scruff by a mother cat. Clipnosis has not yet been widely recognized as a safe and practical method of immobilization, but it may be growing in popularity with a recent study. The trial on 18 cats who were clipped four different times over a period of months found that the animals were not stressed, and some even purred while “clipped.” None of the animals displayed signs of pain or stress during the process. The more the animals were clipped, the more tolerant they became of the process. One caveat: The procedure was not effective on cats who were already excited or agitated.
• Women make up 77 percent of graduating veterinarians. Family-friendly hours and the wide availability of part-time or fill-in work are among the reasons why the profession is appealing, according to DVM360.com.
— Dr. Marty Becker and
Mikkel Becker Shannon
Resting Easy – A Few Clicks Can Donate A Comfortable Bed For Shelter Pets
By Dr. Marty Becker
Part of my work as a veterinarian involves staying current on the latest in disease prevention and treatment, which means I go to a lot of conferences.
I also speak at a lot of conferences, which is what took me recently to Orlando, where the North American Veterinary Conference is held every year. While I was in Florida, I taped some public service announcements, and that’s how I learned of a need for pet beds in shelters.
When I was at the Orange County Animal Services shelter I saw a sparkling-clean facility with a loving staff, all set up for 250 pets but filled with 800. This situation is not special to Orlando, of course, for all over the country job losses and foreclosures are forcing many to give up their pets. At OCAS, as in many other shelters, there aren’t enough beds to go around. Some pets share what beds there are, but others sleep on the floor, without even the little bit of warmth and comfort that comes from being off the concrete.
I thought of the senior dogs and cats sleeping on hard surfaces, becoming stiffer and more painful every day, lessening their chances of being adopted.
I thought about skinny pets, cold pets, pets in drafts and on wet floors, all of whom would be healthier, happier and more adoptable if this one basic comfort were available to them.
Like all my readers might have felt, I can’t take all those pets home. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t help and couldn’t get others to help. That’s when it came to me: Let’s get these pets some beds.
In other words, let’s help shelter pets rise up, lie down and move out.
Turns out the people at the Kuranda company of Annapolis, Md., are already on this. These cot-style beds are popular with shelters (and pet owners, too, of course) because they’re easy to assemble, durable, chew-resistant and easy to keep clean. The company has a program where people buy beds and have them sent directly to any of hundreds of shelters. The cost for a donated bed is discounted 30 percent off the regular price.
In just a few days of sending the word out through our PetConnection.com Web blog, and my Facebook and Twitter accounts, the 100 beds OCAS had requested had been donated.
It’s a great start, and now I’m reaching out even more, to help pets in other shelters.
Can you donate a bed for
a shelter pet? It’s easy! Go
to Kuranda’s Web site
(kuranda.com) and click on “Donate a Bed.” You can then choose from dozens of shelters, sorted alphabetically and also searchable by state. When you’ve chosen your shelter, the site will display what kind of beds the shelter has requested. Buy a bed, and the company will send it to the shelter you’ve chosen. It’ll take you just a couple of minutes and a credit card.
I have no association with the company and didn’t know about the program before the folks at OCAS pointed it out. And of course, there are lots of other ways to help your local shelter, with donations of time, money or goods — and by adopting!
Whatever it takes, let’s do it. The need is great, and it only takes a little from each of us to help.
Grooming for Health Regular Coat Care Can Spot Problems Early
By Dr. Marty Becker
Beauty is more than skin-deep when it comes to your dog. Keeping your pet well-groomed not only gives you a clean-smelling companion, it also helps keep your dog more comfortable and allows you to spot health problems before they become serious, even life-threatening.
How important is grooming to your pet’s comfort? Consider a simple mat, so easy to overlook. Have you ever had your hair in a ponytail that was just a little too tight? A mat can feel the same way to your dog, a constant pull on the skin. Try to imagine those all over your body, and you have a good idea how uncomfortable an ungroomed coat can be.
Your dog need never know what a mat feels like if you keep him brushed and combed — but that’s just the start of the health benefits. Regular grooming allows you to look for lumps, bumps and injuries, while clearing such things as mats and ticks from his coat. Follow up with your veterinarian on any questionable masses you find, and you may detect cancer early enough to save your pet’s life.
For shorthaired breeds, keeping skin and coat in good shape is easy. Run your hands over him daily, a brush over him weekly, and that’s it.
For other breeds, grooming is a little more involved. Breeds such as collies, chows, Keeshonden and Alaskan malamutes are “double-coated,” which means they have a downy undercoat underneath harsher long hair. The down can mat like a layer of felt against the skin if left untended. To prevent this, divide the coat into small sections and brush against the grain from the skin outward, working from head to tail, section by section. In the spring and fall — the big shedding times — you’ll end up with enough of that fluffy undercoat to make a whole new dog. Keep brushing and think of the benefits: The fur you pull out with a brush won’t end up on the furniture, and removing the old stuff keeps your pet cooler in the summer and lets new insulation come in for the winter.
Silky-coated dogs such as Afghan hounds, cockers and Maltese also need constant brushing to keep tangles from forming. As with the double-coated dogs, work with small sections at a time, brushing from the skin outward, and then comb back into place with the grain for a glossy, finished look. Coats of this type require so much attention that having a groomer keep the dogs trimmed to a medium length is often more practical. In fact, experts say that the pets who shed the least are longhaired dogs kept trimmed short by a groomer.
Curly and wiry coats, such as those on poodles and terriers, need to be brushed weekly, working against the grain and then with it. Curly coats need to be clipped every six weeks; wiry ones, two or three times a year (but clipping every six weeks will keep your terrier looking sharper).
Good grooming is about more than keeping your pet looking beautiful and clean-smelling, although that’s certainly one of the pleasant payoffs. Regular grooming relaxes the dog who’s used to it, and it becomes a special time shared between you both. A coat free of mats, burrs and tangles, and skin free of fleas and ticks, are as comfortable to your dog as clean clothes fresh from the wash are to you. It just makes you feel good, and the effect is the same for your pet.
Some added benefit for you: Giving your dog a tummy rub after every session is sure to relax you (and your dog, of course) and ease the stress of your day. And for allergy sufferers, keeping a dog clean may make having a dog
Plan For Pet-Friendly Yard Exercise, Fences Can Keep Plants Safe From Dogs.
By Gina Spadafori
Every year more of my yard gets turned over to sustainable projects, from my pet chickens and their fresh eggs to an ever-growing collection of raised beds and containers planted with the veggies I love — and some flowers, too.
This year, I’m taking back a huge swath of lawn, fencing it off and having a contractor really go to town, doubling the size of my garden and putting in drip irrigation and mulched paths to save on weeding and water. The way I’m planning it, my yard will be beautiful and productive — and I’m doing this while continuing to share my life with my dogs.
And you can, too. That’s because dogs and lush gardens — whether productive or decorative — aren’t mutually exclusive.
You can’t just plant whatever you want where you want it and throw a bored, unsupervised dog into the mix. Instead, plan your yard to take your dog into account, and mind your dog’s needs to get him to leave the plants alone. The basic guidelines:
• Exercise your dog. A dog with too much energy isn’t one you want to leave alone all day in a nice yard — and yet that’s exactly what many people do. If you don’t take care of your dog’s exercise requirements, he’s going to take care of them on his own, by digging a hole to China or by removing the shrubs in your yard.
Dogs who don’t get daily exercise are likely to expend that energy and cure boredom by doing things people don’t like — digging, chewing and barking. Dogs who are well-exercised are more likely to sleep while you are gone. When you leave, you should also offer your dog alternatives to choosing his own amusements: Provide him with chew toys. You can make them more appealing by praising him for using them and by stuffing hollow toys — such as a Kong — with something delicious, like peanut butter.
• Work with your dog’s habits. Observe how your dog uses your yard, and plan accordingly. For instance, many dogs consider it their duty to run the fence line, leaving a well-worn trail where many people hope to put flowers. Instead of fighting with your dog, go with his natural instincts. Place your beds and plantings away from the fence line, and let him do his guard-dog patrolling behind those plants.
• Consider giving your dog a yard of his own. At my house, the dogs are never let out in the main yard without supervision — and the veggie garden and chicken areas are fenced off — but they come and go at will into a side yard that’s just for them. A low fence covered with climbing roses hides from view both the dog yard and the chicken/veggie areas.
• Redirect digging. Some breeds were developed to dig, and expecting them not to indulge in it is unfair. You can find most of these digging dogs in the terrier group — the word terrier comes from terra, for “earth.”
You can keep many dogs from digging if you keep them exercised, limit their access to dirt and make the digging experience unpleasant. Sometimes, putting the dog’s own stools in the hole and covering them with dirt deters them. Many dogs won’t dig if their own mess is under the surface.
Another option is giving your dog a dig zone. While hardly clean fun, it is good fun, especially for dogs who are happiest with their noses in the dirt and their paws flying.
• Put special plants in safer places. Raised beds and hanging planters are the place to put your most precious plants. In borders, put the plants that can take being stepped on in front. What are some dog-friendly plants? Mint is a good one. This plant is nearly indestructible and greets each assault with a wave of cool mint smell. Some lilies are tough enough to be stomped or sat on, as well, and your gardening center may have suggestions for others that are dependable growers in your region.
Dogs don’t know a wisteria from a weed, and they never will. That’s why it’s up to you not to leave them unattended around plants you want left alone. When you leave for work, limit your dog’s space for his safety and to protect your plants. Most of a dog’s time alone is spent sleeping anyway, so he doesn’t need to have the entire run of the house and yard. Outings — for jogging, walking, fetch or swimming — should be done with your supervision.
If your dog is allowed in your yard under your supervision only, the chance of his digging or chewing is just about nil — you can stop him before the damage is done. And you can enjoy your beautiful yard together.
I know at my home, we do.