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THE PET CONNECTION
By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

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Prepare now for the most Dangerous Holiday for Companion Animals

I love the Fourth of July. I love the picnics and parades, and especially the fireworks. But I love my pets, too, so I usually stay home.
 
My cats live indoors, so I don't worry about them running off in fear, and my backyard is double-fenced, so I don't worry about my dogs bolting when let outside, either. But I know I would spend the evening worrying if I left them alone, and with good reason: Pet-advocacy groups warn that more pets are lost or killed, injured or panicked on this day than on any other.
 
Even if your pet is not the nervous type, it is a good idea to think twice before heading out the evening of July 4, or at least to take some precautions. Here are some tips:

  • Line up some chemical calm. If you know your pet looks for a place to hide and shiver at the neighborhood's first noise, call your veterinarian in advance to get a medication to keep him calm. While you are at it, ask if your vet is available for after-hours emergencies, and if not, get the location and phone number of the nearest emergency clinic. You never know if you will need it. One usually calm dog I know jumped through a sliding-glass door after firecrackers went off in the yard behind him. Fortunately, his owners knew where to take him, and he got the prompt care he needed to save his life.

  • Set up a safe room. For truly terrified pets, it's not a bad idea to secure them in a quiet room, or a crate if they're used to one. Synthetic pheromone sprays -- Feliway for cats, Adaptil for dogs, both available at pet stores -- mimic the natural substances that calm anxious pets, and help many pets over the rough spots. Clothing that "hugs" your pet, such as Thundershirts, has also been shown to help. And many people have used the homeopathic Rescue Remedy on their pets; a few drops in drinking water may help. 

  • Keep your pets secure. Make sure all your pets are safely confined and provided with plenty of fresh, cool water (nervous animals drink lots of water). Bring outside pets inside, at least into the garage. Allow your cat no access to the outside, and be sure keep your dog on leash outside, even in your own yard if you're not sure about your fencing. Frightened dogs have been known to go over -- or even through -- fences that would normally hold them. And cats are often the targets of cruel pranksters, some of whom enjoy terrorizing animals with fireworks.

  • Prepare for the worst. Make sure your pet is wearing a collar with ID tags. When animal-control agencies are closed, there's no way for your pet to be traced to you unless you have made sure your phone number is also on that collar. And if you don't have time to get your pet microchipped, get it done before next year's fireworks. 

  • Know what to do if you lose your pet. Start looking as soon as you discover your pet is missing. Cover your neighborhood with fliers and check with veterinarians, emergency clinics and shelters. When dealing with shelters, remember that a phone call is not enough. Shelter staff cannot remember every animal in the place, and may not be able to recognize your pet from your description even if they have seen it. It is important to check in person at least every other day.

With so much to worry about, I feel a lot better staying home. Besides, I live close enough to my city's fireworks show that I can get a pretty good view without leaving my pets alone. - By Gina Spadafori

Q&A
Grooming can help keep pets healthy

Q: I'm a professional groomer, and I get physically sick to my stomach at how bad some dogs are when they come in. Can you tell people to pick up a brush and comb now and then? -- via Facebook
 
A: Beauty is more than skin-deep when it comes to your dog. Keeping a pet well-groomed not only produces a clean-smelling companion, but it also helps to keep pets more comfortable and helps owners to spot health problems before they become serious, even life-threatening. I'm happy to spread the word.
 
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.
 
It's also good for pet owners, since clean pets trigger fewer allergies. Clean, soft fur also makes pets more ... well, pet-able. And if you want a cleaner house, regular grooming will help with that, too. In my home, two of our dogs are furry hand-grenades, truly heavy shedders. We keep their long hair clipped short by our groomer, and that drops the shed rate remarkably.
 
While every dog needs brushing and combing -- you brush your hair between salon visits, don't you? -- regularly scheduled grooming appointments will help you keep on top of hair care, and will help with the nail trims so many owners hate even more than most dogs do. -- Dr. Marty Becker
 
Do you have a pet question? Send it to petconnection@gmail.com.
    
THE BUZZ
Avoiding a cat's gaze attracts his attention 

  • Why, in a room full of people, will a cat invariably make a beeline to the one person in the room who hates or is allergic to cats? Cats don't like eye contact from strangers -- they find it intimidating. When a friendly cat wanders into a room, he'll notice that all the people who like cats are looking at him. So he heads for the one who he thinks is being polite -- the person who isn't looking at him. The cat doesn't realize that the person isn't looking because he doesn't want the cat near him. It's just a little bit of cross-species miscommunication.

  • Natura Pet Products has again recalled products across much of its dry food brand line for Salmonella concerns. The products include Innova Dry, EVO, California Natural, Healthwise, Karma and Mother Nature. Recall alerts are available on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's website, which can be accessed at http://tinyurl.com/FDA-PFRecalls

  • Keeping on top of ticks is more important than ever with the emergence and spread of Lyme disease. The Companion Animal Parasite Council reports that the disease continues to spread beyond its well-established base in the Northeast and eastern Midwest Unites States and is now found in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina. Lyme is one of a handful of tick-borne diseases that affect people and pets alike. Talk to your veterinarian about effective parasite control for your pet. A map of Lyme disease in the U.S. can be found at the association's website. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
       

Date Published: 7/1/2013 8:06:00 AM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 07/01/2013

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Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of Dogs for Dummies, Cats for Dummies and Birds for Dummies. She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her at petconnection@gmail.com.

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