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THE PET CONNECTION
By Gina Spadafori
Pet Columnist

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a weekly drawing for pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or visiting PetConnection.com.

Sometimes I think having no pit bulls wouldn't be that bad a thing, but not for the reasons you might imagine. If pit bulls weren't around, they couldn't be beaten. Starved. Left chained outside with little protection from the elements. Subjected to ear croppings with scissors and no pain relief. Made to bear puppies with next to no food. And finally, if pit bulls weren't around, they couldn't be tossed dead (or nearly so) into a vacant lot when they come up on the losing side of a dogfight.
Every pet lover with a computer has seen the e-mails and Web sites: the dire warnings on common household products, the miracle cures and behavior-fix products, and the well-meaning but ultimately wrong health-care advice. The Internet can be the best or the worst place to do research on pet health issues. The trick is in figuring out how to evaluate the information you find, and how to locate the reliable information when you need it.
Cats seem so mysterious, but sometimes their mysteries aren't so hard to figure out. How well do you know cats? Check out these 10 fast questions, with the answers at the end. No fair letting your cat help!
Why do so many people end up with such ill-behaved dogs? The mechanics of dog training aren't difficult, after all, and it's not as if there aren't a million books, videotapes, seminars and training classes available. And yet most people end up with a dog who's "sort of" trained -- in other words, not very trained at all. So what's the problem? I've always felt it was a matter of attitude. How you approach dog training has a great deal to do with how much you're going to accomplish. View it not as a horrid chore, but as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between you and your dog. You'll have a better chance at succeeding, and you'll both have a much better time.
If you're thinking "puppy" when it comes to adding a new member to your home, you may be missing a good bet. Adult dogs are a better choice for many of today's busy families. These dogs are past the trials of puppy-raising, and are a known commodity when it comes to size, health and temperament. Even better, they can be an amazing bargain: Nearly every purebred or trendy mix can be found in a shelter or from a rescue group. And if you're patient, you can even find a dog with basic training completed.
Where others see death, Richard Avanzino sees hope. Where others see an intractable problem, Nathan Winograd sees a solution. Together, the two men -- one carrot, the other stick; one preaching evolution, the other revolution -- are the visionaries of a grassroots movement to change the way the nation's animal shelters do business.
If you are trying to make your house clean and still pet-friendly, here are some purr-fect housekeeping tips.
In recent years, dog trainers have come up with all kinds of new ways to use a dog's extraordinary sense of smell. Here are a few you perhaps knew -- and a few more we bet you did not
When you tell someone that you, as a supposedly mature, sane adult, have two rats as pets, you'll generally get one of two responses: revulsion, followed by a questioning of said supposed sanity, or delight, from those who once had rats as pets (usually when they were young) and still remember how much fun they are.
Dogs and cats are getting larger for the same reasons that people are: too much food and not enough exercise. Obesity in pets causes a lot of the same problems it does in people. But the truth is that it's not as difficult to trim down pets as it might be to fight your own battles with the bulge. What pets eat depends on what we give them.
The Fourth of July is the ultimate summer holiday, a celebration not only of America's history and traditions, but also of family, food and fireworks fun. But while we may love our pyrotechnics, pet lovers always need to remember our midsummer spectacular is no holiday for many of our animal companions.
This Fourth of July, as always, Americans will be enjoying the sights and sounds of fireworks. While we love the pyrotechnics, we need to remember our midsummer spectacular is no holiday for many of our pets. While we humans are oohing and aahing, too often our pets are frightened out of their wits. They'll spend the holiday under the bed (or in the basement) cowering, shaking, drooling and seeking safety and comfort. And it's not just on the Fourth of July: Both cats and dogs can panic at loud noises such as thunder and gunfire as well.
Kittens can be so cute -- they make us gasp in delight, and every shelter and rescue group has plenty to choose from at this time of year -- colors, coat lengths and markings galore. But how do you know you're picking a healthy baby?
As summer approaches, we get a lot of questions about puppies from people who realize that this season is a great time for adding to the family. Long days, no school, warm weather -- what could be better? A few words of warning, though, if you're one of those people with a new summer pup: Don't let the season pass you by without putting some serious effort into raising the great dog you want your puppy to become.
Happy Birthday, Chase. Your first year was wonderful, but Lord, I'm glad it's over.
I'm well aware that a cat who has been used to going out as he pleases won't accept a closed door quietly. But when you move, everything's new, and a cat won't miss territory he hasn't claimed as his own. Six months later, Ilario, my fluffy orange tabby, is content with the change.
The New Year's "neck check" is a tradition around my home -- one that has outlived three generations of pets, but still works to help ensure the safety of the animals who share my life now.
When other allergy triggers kick in, living with sneeze-triggering pets becomes even more problematic. That's why treating all your allergies aggressively will help make living with pets far easier when pollen is released in the spring.
There's nothing new or trendy about acupuncture, but the practice of it in veterinary medicine is anything but mainstream. It's part of a collection of healing techniques lumped together as "alternative" or "holistic," and traditionally not looked on with much favor in the nation's veterinary schools. In veterinary medicine, acupuncture is most often used on chronic health problems, not only pain but also chronic gastrointestinal disease, respiratory problems such as feline asthma, chronic skin conditions and kidney disease.
Trimming nails on dogs is often a hard-fought war, with bloody casualties on both sides. Because of that, many people leave the task to their groomer or veterinarian. But unless you're seeing these professionals a lot more than most people do, your pet's nails aren't being trimmed often enough.
Introducing cats is a delicate operation, with lots of pitfalls along the way. Some cats hide under the bed. Some stop using the litter box. Efforts to soothe others may be greeted with a hiss or a growl, or even a swipe with claws bared.
If you're thinking of adopting another adult cat, there is never a bad time. Here's how to ease the strain on new cat, old cat -- and you.
It was difficult not to notice Americans and their dogs at the show, the first one held since the U.K.'s new no-quarantine import laws were expanded to include U.S. and Canadian dogs.
If it's not illness or stress, you need to look at your own behavior. Are you asking something of your cat that's not possible for him to give? Your cat may not want to use the litter box if it's rarely cleaned, or is in a place with no privacy. Likewise, asking a cat to leave the couch alone is not fair if he has nothing else in the house to scratch.
You know the usual warnings: "Don't give pets as gifts." Lately, though, I've found myself swimming against that tide -- a little. When it comes to giving pets as gifts, it's not always a good idea, but it's also not always a bad idea. If you add just one word to the word "gift," it pretty much fixes the problem. That word is "thoughtful."
Many people don't realize that an adult cat may be a better choice than a kitten. You know pretty well what you're getting with a grown cat -- activity level, sociability and health. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
The problem with placing adult cats, says a friend of mine who has found homes for dozens of them, is that everyone who wants a cat usually has one already. And many of the people who are in the market for a cat would rather start with a kitten.
Many people don't realize that an adult cat may, in many cases, be a better choice than a kitten. Sure, kittens are cute, but they also can be a bit of a trial as they grow up. They need extra time, extra training and extra tolerance for all those crazy things that kittens do.
In recent years we've seen a shift in attitude when it comes to adopting an adult dog. "Recycled rovers" used to be a "hard sell." Adult dogs are now widely considered a wonderful adoption option, especially for people who aren't in a good position to raise a puppy.
Pets who aren't comfortable being handled, can't be exposed to new things or have learned to fear life's regular stresses lead lives that are difficult for themselves and for their owners. They often don't get the basic care they need, such as routine nail trims, and their major health problems may go undiagnosed because their behavior at the veterinary hospital is too much for their owners to handle. Counter-conditioning can make the difference.
If the immense scope of the recent tragedy from Hurricane Katrina hasn't convinced everyone of the importance of disaster planning, I can't imagine what will. As relief and recovery efforts continue for humans and animals alike, those of us who are fortunate to have been spared this time around must make it a priority to prepare our entire family -- including our pets -- for potential calamity. What basics do you need to know?
Anyone who has ever lived in a big city has seen dog walkers -- people who take pets out for a midday potty break while owners are at work. But a dog runner? While many a runner has a dog as a training partner, ultra-marathoner Bob Halpenny of Sacramento, Calif., may be forging new trails as an entrepreneur in the booming pet-services industry.
A choke chain is a useful training tool but not an everyday collar. Use the choke collar for training and use it correctly. If you have taken the choke collar for granted, it is time to learn some respect for this tool.
Is there an aggressive dog in your neighborhood -- or in your own yard? Learn what to teach your child.
Some of the saddest letters I get are from people who are punishing or even contemplating ending the lives of formerly well-mannered pets with new behavior problems. So many of these pet lovers chalk up the changes to "spite" or some other offbeat reason while missing the most obvious reason of all: The pet is sick. Sometimes what pet lovers assume is a behavioral problem really isn't -- it's a medical problem, one that will be resolved only with proper diagnosis and treatment.
The owners of problem barkers seem to develop an ability to ignore the noise that has their neighbors thinking of legal action -- or worse. But a dog who's barking night and day isn't having any more fun than the neighbors are, and you owe it to both your pet and those who can hear him to fix this problem.
The owners of problem barkers seem to develop an ability to ignore the noise that has their neighbors thinking of legal action -- or maybe murder. But a dog who's barking constantly isn't having any more fun than the neighbors are, and you owe it to both your pet and those who can hear him to fix this problem.
The trick to having a nice yard while being fair to your dog is to do what you can to eliminate the triggers for digging, make sure your dog is getting the exercise and attention he needs, and take your pet's natural tendencies into account when planning your outside space.
If you're going to teach your parrot to talk, you might want to think about what you want the bird to say. In other words, don't teach your bird anything you wouldn't want a small child or minister to hear. Many parrots can live a long time, and what might be funny in some situations definitely will not be appreciated in others.
Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a news story about a dog attack somewhere. When school starts, children may become especially vulnerable, walking and biking through their neighborhoods to class. And although in most cases the dog involved in a serious attack is the family's own, it's also true that many neighborhoods are not safe for walking or biking because of a dog. These animals are accidents waiting to happen because their owners either don't know or don't care that their dogs are a public menace.
Every year at this time we offer a list of the most common holiday hazards for pets: feeding problems, foreign-body ingestion and accidental poisoning. The bad news is that many pets will end up at the veterinarian's office this holiday season. The good news is that yours won't be among them if you keep an eye out for these hazards.
Some of the saddest emails I get are from people who are punishing or even contemplating ending the lives of formerly well-mannered pets with new behavior problems. So many of these pet lovers chalk up the changes to "spite" or some other offbeat reason while missing the most obvious reason of all: Their pet is sick.
Can indoor cats really be happy? Cat lovers can -- and do -- maintain vehemently opposed opinions on this issue. But you can't disagree with the fact that the free-roaming life can be dangerous for a cat. Indoor cats are statistically likely to outlive free-roaming cats by about a decade. Compared to an existence filled with cars, coyotes, traps, poisons and cat-hating neighbors, the life of an indoor cat is relatively risk-free.
If your cat is hit or miss where the litter box is concerned, chances are the choices you've made factor into the problem.
Let me tell you an insider secret from the world of veterinary medicine. There are certain people we can't wait to see come in with their pets. While as health professionals we certainly don't offer them better medical care than people we don't like as much, I do admit that these folks are shown the red carpet.
Those who think Americans spend too much on their pets aren't going to be happy with the news that soon we'll be spending even more. But for the hundreds of manufacturers and thousands of retail buyers who turned up in Orlando, Fla., recently for one of the pet industry's biggest trade shows, the news is nothing but good. "I don't want to use the term recession-proof," said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association Inc., at the group's annual Global Pet Expo. "But I will say this industry is resilient."
Avian veterinarians say that an all-seed diet is dangerous or even deadly over the long run for pet birds. Instead, the prevailing wisdom from avian experts is to feed the popular pet parrots, from budgies to macaws, a base diet of top-quality commercial pellets supplemented by a wide variety of healthy "people food."
Every year in the fall, I devote space to one of my highest priorities as a pet-care columnist: preventing dog bites, especially attacks on children. Many people imagine that the biggest threat to their child's safety is an attack by some vicious neighborhood dog and that the risk increases when children start walking to school in the fall. And while it's true those random attacks do happen (and are all over the news when they do), the fact remains that in most cases, children are bitten by dogs they know, animals belonging to family or friends.
Every year about a thousand people a day turn up in emergency rooms with dog bites, from pets of all sizes, shapes, breeds and mixes. Many of these bites could have been prevented, with some parental guidance and care beforehand. How can parents help dogs and children to get along?
Pet ownership is at an all-time high of 72.9 million households -- up 2.1 percent since the last survey two years ago -- and in those households, the number and variety of pets has also increased. Not surprising, that means the amount of money spent on these companion animals has barely hiccupped during the Great Recession, and is predicted to top $50 billion this year.
When you pick up a prescription from your veterinarian, do you know that it's likely a "people med" your pet is getting? It's true! Aside from flea- and tick-control products and some non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, most of the medications your pets receive are crossovers from human medicine.
Dedicated volunteers do the same thing every yea and bottle-feed orphaned or abandoned kittens. The bottle-raisers range from young people who'll likely raise a couple kittens once at most to seasoned old hands who've each saved dozens if not hundreds of kittens over decades of volunteering. Many of the staff at veterinary clinics and hospitals also donate their time to bottle-raise orphans, and so do countless veterinary students.
Every time I drive the 16 miles from our ranch to my hometown in northern Idaho, I pass dogs who are chained to a tree, a doghouse or just to a stake driven into the ground. Make no mistake: These aren't the pets of loving, responsible owners who want to make sure they're safe when unsupervised, so they secure them temporarily. These dogs are imprisoned within the chain's radius for their entire lives.
Signs of heat exhaustion -- the last step before heat stroke -- include bright red gums, an inability to get up and loud, raspy panting. Dogs that are going into full-on heat stroke often vomit, become severely lethargic and can have explosive diarrhea. Once heat stroke develops, cooling them down is the top priority but it often is not enough.
Never heard of breed rescue groups before? These groups represent volunteer rescuers committed to a specific breed that they are interested in. They assist with placement as well as with lost pets.
Looking for a purebred puppy? There are breeders who know what they are doing and there are breeders, well, let's just say there are other breeders. What makes the difference?
Why get a pet if you don't want a pet in your life? I have often wondered this as I walk my dogs down streets lined with fences behind which lonely outdoor dogs bark as we go by. The experts say many of these dogs will never really bond with owners who interact with them so little. When the puppy is no longer cute and the children grow tired of the care they promised to provide, when the destructiveness escalates or the neighbors complain about the noise, it's often just easier to dump the dog than solve the problem.
These days, many pet lovers respond to the idea of brushing their pets' teeth not with surprise, but with guilt. "I know I should brush my pet's teeth, but I don't because my cat won't put up with it," they say. Or they don't have time, or they forget.
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can make our pets itch and scratch. But did you know that each one of these pests can transmit serious diseases to your pets -- and to you as well? Once in full bloom, a flea infestation can be extremely difficult to eradicate. And what about mosquitoes?
Fleas, ticks and mosquitoes can make our pets itch and scratch. But did you know that each one of these pests can transmit serious diseases to your pets -- and to you as well?
The incident got on my nerves because it exemplifies everything that's wrong about children's pets. In a word: parents. If parents aren't going to behave like grown-ups and make sensible, responsible decisions, the wonderful promise that is a children's pet too often ends miserably, both for the child and for the animal. With Easter just around the corner, it's time to remind people that although pets can be wonderful for children, it's up to adults to see that any animal is a proper fit for the family and is not neglected.
Given what bunnies need to stay active, these fluffy, nose-twitching animals are affectionate and engaging pets. Kept in a barren cage or hutch and deprived of exercise and mental stimulation, however, they're not just boring, they're bored -- not to mention unhappy and unhealthy.
Cabin fever can be the bane of an indoor cat's existence, but it doesn't have to be that way. You don't have to open the door to the great outdoors to provide your cat with a more interesting life. In fact, by just looking at your home from a cat's point of view and adding a few environmental enrichments, your cat can be both safe and happy indoors. Here are five easy ways to get going.
For more than a quarter-century, pet owners have turned to the "Home Veterinary Handbook" series when faced with questions about pet illnesses and injuries. Fortunately, newly updated and revised editions of both of these classic reference books were released in the last few months, authored by a team of four veterinarians led by Dr. Debra Eldredge.
Eating problems in cats too often get dismissed, thrown under the general heading of, "What do you expect? Cats are finicky." If your cat is simply off food for a day, there's no reason to worry. But a persistent lack of appetite needs to be taken seriously.
Are pets on your list of New Year's resolutions? They should be, along with plans for making the world a little bit better not only for your own animals, but also for others in need. With this in mind, we're again sharing some of the best ideas of our readers. Although problems can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to animal cruelty or homeless pets, the fact is that every little bit helps. After all, if every one of us animal lovers did one small thing a couple of times a year, the total effort would be grand indeed.
The phrase "Beware of Dog" is so old that its Latin equivalent -- cave canem -- has been found on signs in Roman ruins. The word "watchdog" isn't quite so old; the first mention of it is by Shakespeare, in "The Tempest." Dogs have always gone to war, serving as everything from spike-collared attack forces to munitions haulers, from messengers to modern-day sentries and bomb- and drug-sniffers. The dogs really stepped up in World War I, when more than 15,000 of them served as guard dogs, messengers, sentries and rat-killers for Allied forces.
The best way to get a puppy is to plan. Consider carefully where the puppy came from and how it was raised. A reputable breeder presents a method here for socialization and what you should look for when it is your turn to pick from the litter.
Is air travel safe for pets? While no one can guarantee a trouble-free trip, the good news is that the vast majority of pets get where they're going in fine shape. Even better news: Careful planning on your pet's behalf will help make things go even more smoothly.
With car companies struggling for sales in a tough economy, it's no surprise that two of them are chasing buyers that have so far proven willing to keep spending when they can: pet lovers.
A cat show is a rare opportunity to see dozens of beautifully groomed cats, not only of the more common breeds, but also some of the rarest in the world. If you love cats, you'll find spending a couple of hours at a cat show to be interesting, educational and just plain delightful. Bring your natural curiosity and your love of cats, and you can have a wonderful time. Here are a few tips to make the visit more comfortable and productive.
One thing that never fails to get a smile out of me is seeing my big orange cat, Ilario, happily curled up and purring loudly next to -- and occasionally on top of -- one of my four dogs. I love how well everyone gets along: They don't just tolerate each other -- they actually like each other. It didn't start out that way, though.
Cats are good at hiding signs of illness, and even better at hiding when they're ill. That's why we cat owners need to know our cats well, so we can notice the subtle changes that may mean something deadly is brewing. Learn to know what's normal for your cat, and what routines he likes to follow.
Classically dogs chase cats and cats hate dogs. In reality, cats and dogs frequently share homes with little friction. If you are planning on mixing species and aren't sure how to go about it or if your mixed species pets are having roommate issues already, read this article.
Although the indoor life is far safer for cats and is gaining favor among cat lovers, household confinement does have some hazards, and plants are certainly among them.
Our lovingly spoiled and mostly domesticated former hunters get food served to them these days, often in fancy bowls. But that doesn't mean they've lost the senses their wild kin rely on to survive.
The very reason our ancestors first decided they wanted cats around is used today in arguing against allowing any cats to roam freely: They hunt, efficiently. The predatory skill cats brought to eliminating rodents in grain storage is now argued to be a danger to endangered species and prized songbirds. That's another good reason for keeping pet cats inside, but what to do with the ferals -- pets gone wild and their unsocialized offspring?
Cat lovers are a special breed. For those of us who love the cat's fierce independence, tempered by the ability to adopt us as family -- and I am one of these, owned by five cats -- here are some behavior tips for cats.
It's easy to see why cats are such popular pets. Unlike dogs, they don't need to be walked, usually come litter-box trained by their mothers and rarely dig huge holes in the yard -- or bite the letter carrier. Unfortunately, in a lot of people's minds this translates into "Cats need absolutely no care and exist just to sit on my lap and purr while I watch TV." Instead of living the challenging life of a hunter, our cats have food delivered to them on a predictable schedule. We rarely do anything to make up for their lack of mental stimulation, and we consider their natural behaviors, such as scratching and nocturnal play, to be behavior problems.
Hardly a day goes by when there isn't a news story about a dog attack somewhere. When school starts, children may become especially vulnerable, walking and biking through their neighborhoods to class. To be fair, dogs aren't the biggest risk that children face growing up. Organized sports, for example, are 10 times more likely to result in a child's trip to the emergency room than are dogs. Make sure your children know how to behave around dogs to protect themselves.
The list of ways dogs have helped humans throughout history is almost endless. They've guarded livestock, herded sheep, driven cattle and protected human dwellings from castles to condos. Dogs assist people with disabilities, sniff out illegal drugs and find food from birds to truffles. From detecting heart attacks and seizures before they happen to dragging drowning people to safety, it's hard to imagine any form of technology that could surpass the uncountable number of ways in which dogs lend us a helping paw.
When my 14-year-old Sheltie, Drew, was diagnosed with kidney failure, my veterinarian offered me something that wasn't really an option when I started writing about pets a couple decades ago: hospice.
Veterinarians have long recognized something very sad about how cats are treated: Compared to dogs, cats aren't given much medical care at all. And that's just not right.
I always do my "neck checks" around the first of the year. It's easy to remember that way, especially for me, a person who has a hard time remembering much of anything when it comes to appointments: heartworm and flea medications on the first of the month, neck checks the first of the year, annual exams on each pet's birthday.
As I write this in Northern California, it's daylight, but the sun is obscured by the smoke from hundreds of wildfires. Countless families have evacuated their homes or stand ready to, along with their animals. As I write this, I wonder again: Am I ready for a levee break, living as I do near the confluence of two great rivers? Am I ready for an earthquake?
When your pet is lost, a tag is practically tantamount to bus fare home. The tag is so simple that it is taken for granted and can easily be lost.
Got kids? Got dogs? Can you tell a hazard when you see one? Do you know what hazards your children must walk past on their way to school? Do your children know what to do if attacked by a dog?
A reader asks "Why are so many "experts" trash-talking choke chains?"
It's the question every pet lover dreads, the one for which there's often no easy answer: "When is the right time to say goodbye?" Choosing to end a pet's life is the hardest decision we make when it comes to our pets, and we can tell you from decades of experience that it's a decision that never gets any easier
I understand why people choose to have it done, and I understand that in some cases it's a cat's only hope for staying in a good home. But I have never considered declawing for my own cat, and I cannot see it as anything but a last-chance effort after all other options have been tried.
Dogs are content to live in dog-smell heaven, a place where water is only for drinking or swimming and never has soap added. New research shows that weekly bathing with an appropriate shampoo will not only keep your dog pleasant to be around, but will also minimize or even eliminate skin problems.
Pets don't try to hold it, move to a more discrete area or blame it on their human family. It's usually no secret when a pet passes gas and commits a four-pawed faux pas. They don't giggle with embarrassment or blush. Intestinal gas is just a natural part of digestion, after all, however funny we humans may find it.
When Dr. Helen Hamilton of Fremont, Calif., noticed an upswing in very sick puppies coming into her veterinary practice, she started asking her clients where they got their pets. They were coming from the Internet. But when Hamilton and her staff went to the source of some Internet puppies, what she discovered horrified her. "There were dogs with no eyes, dogs missing ears, dogs with old, untended bite wounds and cage wire injuries," she said. "We saw, over two days, two different females in labor go on the auction block."
One of the most exciting developments in dog training in recent years has been the widespread use of a little piece of plastic and metal known as a clicker. The clicker first became used in training dolphins and whales at marine parks, and is now common in other kinds of animal training as well.
Clicker training is a no-force technique that works on animals of all sizes, ages and abilities. And that's also true of the people who would administer clicker training, since it doesn't require strength or much coordination on the part of the trainer.
Like professional wedding photographers, photographers specializing in pets have experiences and skills that set them apart when capturing the essence of their subjects. As with selecting a wedding photographer, choosing someone to take an artistic portrait of your pet requires some research to achieve a lifetime of satisfaction.
When you're looking for an easy way to train your pet, it doesn't get much better than clicker training. The no-force technique works on animals of all sizes, ages and abilities. And that's true of the people who would administer clicker training, since it doesn't require strength or much coordination on the part of the trainer. Best of all: It's fun for trainer and pet alike.
Keeping a cat inside reduces the risk of an early death from accident or disease, and it's also more considerate of your neighbors. Indoor cats also can't prey on native birds and small animals. But when we keep cats from roaming, we take away a large part of what makes them happy, which means we need to put in "environmental enrichments" to make up for the loss.
We all know of the dogs who work actively to serve us -- those who help in law enforcement, those who find victims after a disaster, or those who assist people with disabilities. These animals perform an invaluable service, without a doubt. A less active and perhaps less lauded form of service is done by other dogs, often trained and handled by dedicated volunteers. These dogs do their duty by sitting quietly, by listening, by offering undivided attention and unconditional love to people who need it most -- those isolated by illness or struggling with tragedy.
We're not sure that cats miss the litter box more in the winter, but we do seem to hear about the problems more at this time of year. While diseases such as diabetes often factor into litter box problems, when the weather is cold, it's a cat's arthritis that may be worsened. Veterinarians know that arthritis is underdiagnosed in cats, largely because owners write off the symptoms as "just old age." And on the human side, we suspect that when the weather turns colder and houses close up for warmth, every little thing starts to annoy us -- like the smell of the litter box, or (worse) the smell of a cat who's not using the litter box at all.
Most dog lovers know that having a dog park is a privilege, hard-won and still considered experimental by many public officials.
The change in pet potential from the wild-caught birds of yesterday to the hand-raised birds of today is dramatic. Well-socialized birds from reputable breeders and bird shops can be delightful pets who truly do become members of the family. For many of these pets, cages are where they stay at night, nothing more. To achieve the full potential of a properly raised parrot, however, you need to set the right tone from the first.
What many people don't realize is that training is a way of communicating with your dog, of sharing a common language. The more you teach your dog, the more you both will get out of your relationship. Training will also make your dog a better companion, because he'll become more confident and secure, and more comfortable and trusting in your leadership.
Even as I'm enjoying the crispness and beauty of fall, I'm aware that it means winter is around the corner, and with it, the seasonal challenges for our pets.
She has her work cut out for her every time she picks up the phone. Some problems can be fixed, she knows, while others cannot.
f you have a new puppy, it's time to learn about crate-training. Every year more people turn to this method, with good reason: It's easier on pups and people alike.
If you are in a financial pinch -- who isn't these days? -- here are some things you can do to economize while still doing a great job of caring for your pet's health.
In recent months the worsening economy has had us all tightening our budgets. Pet lovers are no exception, and although our animals provide us with comfort and companionship during difficult times, there's no doubt that many people are looking to make sure they're getting the most "bang for their buck" when it comes to caring for their pets. The most important advice we can offer you is to focus on prevention.
Knowing that you're not alone in your grief is important, as is realizing that the loss of a pet is a unique experience for each individual. Factors that play into how the loss is handled include whether the death was sudden or followed a prolonged illness, whether the pet owner had to elect euthanasia, whether it was the first time the person experienced losing a pet, and the person's living situation.
I am dead-set against declawing kittens -- in case they might one day scratch -- nor do I believe the procedure should ever be the first option when faced with a destructive cat. But I'm also realistic enough to know that in a battle of spouses over shredded furniture, declawing may be the only thing between a cat and a trip to a shelter.
When it comes to the raging controversy over declawing cats, it's important to remember that sometimes the choice comes down something this simple: What's better?
I practice what I preach because I believe good dental care is essential not only to your pet's health, but also to his quality of life. Broken, rotting teeth and infected gums make pets miserable.
The problem with the "animals vs. people" debate heard after any sort of disaster is that it misses the point. For all the many reasons why animals need to be taken care of as part of disaster planning and rescue operations, perhaps the most compelling is this one: If you don't plan for pets, people will die.
Disaster preparedness is so easy to let slide. We get all worked up after something like the 9/11 attacks, Hurricane Katrina or even a false alarm like the turn of the century's perceived threat to our computer systems. We read up, we stock up, we move on. And then, we forget. In a pinch, we take the can opener out of the emergency kit and don't replace it. We rotate the food and water into our kitchen cupboards, but we don't buy anything new to rotate into the supplies in the garage. It's human nature, of course, to react to immediate threats and to put off preparing for something that might never happen.
Can a pet lover really have fresh vegetables, bright flowers and lovely landscaping sharing the yard with dogs? Yes, you can. I turned to Cheryl S. Smith, a dog trainer and avid gardener, and author of the landmark landscaping guide "Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs."
Do you pause when a black cat crosses your path? I sometimes do, and then I laugh at myself for being influenced by such a silly old myth, even for a second. But that's the funny thing about cats -- more than any other domestic animal, they are the subject of countless myths, legends and old wives' tales. While some stories about cats are harmless, others are too dangerous not to debunk. Here, from my archives, are some stubborn old myths about cats -- and the facts to counter them.
If you're buying a purebred puppy, you need to find a reputable breeder. I simply can't stress this enough. If you don't make that effort, you may end up dealing with expensive health problems caused by poor breeding and vexing behavior problems brought on by a lack of socialization and by unsanitary kennel conditions.
Summer is a wonderful time to be a dog or to have a dog. The long days offer lots of opportunity to get some exercise, shake up the routine and try something new that will strengthen the bond for both of you. If everything checks out after a veterinary visit, get moving! Here are some ideas.
The term "dog days" has more to do with astrology and the constellation Sirius than with our canine companions here on Earth. Still, we thought we'd celebrate the warm dog days of summer by offering up some cool facts.
Time magazine called The Bark "the New Yorker for dog lovers." Oprah calls it a "must read." Famous writers and illustrators are delighted to be asked for contributions. The Bark is an award-winning magazine that stands out in the pet category like a red-spotted Dalmatian at a dog show.
Gardeners are already thinking of spring. And if you are a dog lover who also dreams of a beautiful yard, take heart: Dogs and lush gardens aren't mutually exclusive. But 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.
Adopting an adult dog from a shelter is a wonderful thing to do. But sometimes people are hesitant to try it because they worry their new pet won't be reliable in the house and can't be made so because of the myth that "old dogs can't learn new tricks." If you're stalling on adoption or are already struggling with an adult dog who doesn't seem to "get it," take heart: You can teach an adult dog to do his business outside.
As much as people love spending time with their dogs, it's should be no surprise that many will figure out any way possible to keep from leaving them home when it's time to go to work. While no one knows for sure how many businesses allow dogs, Pet Sitters International, which promotes the annual "Take Your Dog to Work Day," says the trend is small but growing.
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, you may observe something that seems odd for a body preparing for winter: Your dog is shedding more than usual. But rest assured, it's perfectly normal.
People are starting plans to bring dogs home for the holidays. My "ground rules" suggestion is that the person who has the ground sets the rules, and the decision to bend or break them is hers alone. If you want to take your pet to a family gathering but your son-in-law says absolutely not in his house, respect that.
The longer a behavior problem persists, the longer it will take to solve. Do not let your pet think doing the wrong thing is all right by doing nothing to change the behavior. Why wait to have a well-behaved pet?
Summer is the time when we enjoy our yards the most -- or would, if our dogs hadn't pulled up the shrubs, sat on the flowers, dug holes in the lawn and left yellow spots everywhere. But it doesn't have to be that way. While it takes planning, work and dog-savvy, you can have a dog and a nice yard.
I am a chronic law breaker when it comes to exercising my dogs, and oh, do I wish I didn't have to be. In this, I'm not alone: A massive underground of determined dog lovers trades information on places to run our dogs off-leash with the least chance of being ticketed. Believe me, we'd rather be legit -- so give us legal opportunities for off-leash recreation.
No purchase is more important when you get a parrot than the cage. The cage is where your parrot will spend time when you're not home, when the family is sleeping, or when you can't pay attention to your pet.
Big sports-utility vehicles have been the dog-haulers of choice for years, along with minivans. But with gas prices so high, SUV sales are stalled as people look for smaller vehicles. If you can't fit your St. Bernard comfortably into a Smart Car, are there still choices for you? You bet.
Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of summer. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble. The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
The "ear-tip" is a highly effective device that those who care for feral cat colonies use to monitor the success of their efforts. It also helps animal control officials know which colonies of cats are well-managed and stable.
Our bodies are built to heal, and given the right opportunities, they usually do. We are constantly confronting a dizzying array of pathogens. If we are healthy, we have a good chance of fending off these disease-causing agents. Our normal defense mechanisms keep our body's systems humming happily. This is as true in pets as it is in people.
The trend toward keeping cats indoors is generally a good one, but many cat lovers resist because they know instinctively that an indoor life probably wouldn't be what a cat would choose for himself. After all, who would want to be kept cooped up when the wide world offers so much in the way of sights, smells and sounds?
Your dog may breeze through years of senior citizenship without any significant health issues, but sooner or later, age catches up with even the most resilient of canine companions.
Every year huge numbers of adorable baby rabbits go to new homes for Easter, along with chicks and ducklings by the thousands. And that's bad news for the vast majority of these babies.
I'm not particularly squeamish about needles or, indeed, most aspects of pet care, so I wasn't the least bit troubled about pushing fluids under my dog's skin every morning for the rest of his life. I did suspect, however, that the rest of his life wouldn't be that long a time period. Turns out, I sold both Drew and subcutaneous fluid therapy short.
People flip over puppies, but to us, a well-loved older dog is one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. An older dog has a nobleness, a look in the eyes that speaks of years of the special love that only a pet can give -- trusting, nonjudgmental and unwaveringly true.
The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road. From "ruffing it" at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels, the time has never been better to pack your pet and go. Still, traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes. The travel industry wants to help, that's for sure.
Traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes. Finding lodgings can be difficult, luxurious inside dining is largely sacrificed in favor of eating takeout in the car or a park, and spending hours tripping through quaint shops becomes a thing of the past when a dog is waiting. Traveling with dogs offers some challenges, but nearly all are surmountable with common sense and creativity.
Eating problems in cats too often get dismissed -- thrown under the general heading of, "What do you expect? Cats are finicky." But cats are prone to a variety of eating issues that can make simple feeding a permanent or even life-threatening issue.
Emergencies always seem to happen when your family veterinary office is closed, don't they? You're having a great time and suddenly your pet seems ill. Is he sick enough for a trip to the emergency clinic?
Anyone who has ever pulled out a credit card at the emergency clinic for something that wasn't as dire as it seemed comes away wishing for a better knowledge of what constitutes an urgent situation -- and what doesn't. But as big an "ouch" as a non-emergency can be to the budget, it's a lot better than the opposite situation: an emergency that goes untreated until it's too late for your pet.
To keep your cat healthy, you must be able to recognize what is normal for your pet so you can tell when something isn't right. Changes in appetite, drinking habits, litter-box routines, grooming, and even a change in the sound of your cat's voice can all mean trouble -- and should mean a trip to the veterinarian.
In 40-plus years of sharing my life with pets, I've been bitten twice, both times by my own dogs. In each case the perpetrator was attempting to settle a dispute with another canine family member when a sharp tooth nicked my flesh as I tried to end the argument.
How fortunate for my furry housemates that I learned long ago that mental exercise can be satisfying to bored, bounce-off-the-wall pups on days when an outing isn't possible. Most breeds were developed to work, and few dogs today are asked to. Giving them a job to do is good for them, and they like it.
Your dog barks non-stop. Your dog digs, ruining your yard. Your dog chews anything he can get his teeth on. What's missing from this picture? Chances are, it's exercise.
A sick bird too often means a dead bird. That's because by the time their illness is noticed, birds are usually very ill indeed, and sometimes too far gone to be helped even by the best veterinarian.
Nearly everything about your cat's anatomy suggests her genetic heritage to hunt, and hunt well. Her feet are designed for silent stalking; her claws can hook anything and won't let go; her teeth are long, pointed and razor-sharp. So what do you feed a creature who is so obviously designed to fend for herself?
It takes a lot for a new pet product to reduce me to staring in amazement, but the new CatGenie managed to do exactly that. The automatic cat box does it all -- removes the waste, disposes of it through the sewer system, rinses the non-absorbent filler clean, and then dries itself before resetting. At last month's Global Pet Expo in San Diego, I stood and gawked at the thing as it went through its cycle. And again. And again.
What do you know about cats? A little mystery can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes misinformation can be deadly. Here are a few enduring myths and the facts to counter them - and no, cats are not dangerous around babies.
When I look around the waiting room at one of the two Idaho veterinary hospitals where I practice, I too often see something that concerns me. Where are the cats?
For many, a kitten is the only choice: A healthy feline baby is nearly irresistible, and the choices are many during "kitten season," which is at its height now. But feline experts say that for many people, saving a cat others pass on -- an older cat, or one with special needs -- can be intensely satisfying on a personal level, and that benefit is one that should not be discounted.
Cats like places more than they like people, right? Wrong. Your cat would rather be with you, no matter where you move to. But if you handle the days before and after moving day improperly, you're at a real risk of losing your cat. That's why it's important to take some time to do it right.
It's not a mystery that caressing a purring cat is a pleasurable experience -- it'll even lower your blood pressure. But what is a mystery, strangely enough, is the mechanics of purring itself. In short: -- or even all the reasons why. The most common explanation of the source is that a purr originates in the voice box, with what are called the "vestibular folds," or false vocal cords.
Do you pause when a black cat crosses your path? Even pet experts sometimes do, and then laugh for being influenced by such a silly old myth, even for a second. But that's the funny thing about cats -- more than any other domestic animal, they are the subject of countless myths, legends and old wives' tales. While some stories about cats are harmless, others are too dangerous not to debunk. Here, from our archives, are some stubborn old myths about cats -- and the facts to counter them.
Cat lovers are members of an exceptional club. A relationship with a cat can be joyful, entertaining and sometimes frustrating, but in the end, it's always rewarding. Life with a cat is special, if you know what to expect.
The Cats' House, as it's known, has been 15 years in the development, outliving several of the cats who inspired the renovations. It's a work in progress still, but no matter what else, the home is a true feline paradise. Catwalks hang from most of the ceilings, cutting through walls so the feline residents can continue their room-to-room travels without descending. Floor-to-ceiling climbing posts and clever cat-sized staircases provide access to the overheads. For the shy cat, nooks and crannies abound.
When the weather warms up, so does feline romance. That soon means kittens who need new homes are suddenly everywhere. But with so many to choose from, how can you decide which one fits with your personality and lifestyle?
When is an outdoor cat not an outdoor cat? When he is confined to an outdoor cat area similar to the flight cages some zoos use to house flying birds. Ths could be the addition to your home that your cat has been looking forward to.
Cancer is the most common natural cause of death in dogs in the United States and Canada. And while the diagnosis is one that every pet lover dreads, the fact is that canine cancer is more treatable than ever before. Even better: Veterinarians now know more about what steps can be taken to help prevent the dreaded disease.
The problem with placing adult cats, says a friend of mine who has found homes for dozens of them, is that everyone who wants a cat usually has one already. And many of the people would rather start with a kitten. That's a shame on both counts. Most cats enjoy the company of others of their own kind, especially if left alone inside all day while the family is at work or school. An adult cat can often ease into a household more quickly, and without the sometimes over-the-top behavior of an energetic youngster.
A reader asks "What would be the best place to meet veterinarians? I'm not kidding: I want to marry a vet."
This week, the cats have their turn, with tips from "The Ultimate Cat Lover." Each "must know" piece in the book has been developed with the help of one of the top experts in each area of expertise, and these experts are noted at the end of each tip.
Like many a human in mid- to late-middle age, my retriever Heather finds it easy to put on weight. Despite an active lifestyle -- at age 9, she's still good for two hours of nonstop hiking and swimming -- she tends to put on a pound or two during the winter, when her activity levels drop along with my own. Heather is not alone. Even as physicians report with alarm that our weight averages are increasing, veterinarians are noticing the same with our pets. Dogs and cats are getting larger for the same reason people are: too much food and not enough exercise.
When it comes to parrots, too many people get in over their heads, choosing a pet who's too large, too loud, too expensive and, ultimately, too much to handle. Parrots are wonderful pets, although they are much more work than many realize. Before you fall in love with a parrot who's not a good fit for you, consider a few species who may fit the bill better.
The house cat is required to be a perfect citizen despite his natural tendencies to scratch, mark territory, hunt, and engage in other feline frolicking. It's all about communicating in a language that cats can understand.
Here's a rule to remember with feline aggression: Never, ever hit your cat. Fear and pain can cause a cat to lash out. The best way to deal with a scared cat is to let him be, while a sick cat needs a veterinarian. But most times what we see as "meanness" in a cat is just part of being a cat. You can change this behavior, but only if you understand what's behind it and react properly.
Every year at this time we seem to get a little extra bounce in our step, and our pets do, too. But even as we're enjoying the brisk beauty of fall, we need to remember it means winter is around the corner, and with it, an awareness of seasonal challenges for our pets. That's why we're focusing here on how to enjoy the season, but also how to prepare pets for what's to come next -- winter.
With all the pets I've had in my life, you'd think I'd have seen just about everything. And for the most part, that's true. But there's one thing I haven't dealt with because I've been both careful and lucky. I've never had a pet go missing for good. I've come close a couple of times.
Over the years I've heard from readers whose dogs died when the collar rings became caught on the tooth of another dog in play, on a piece of fencing in the yard or even a heater grate in the house. In other cases, dogs were injured and traumatized, and the owners who saved their lives by getting them free of the collar's deadly grip were often bitten by their terrified dogs.
This week and next, we're pulling out some of the best "must know" information from our just-released books, "The Ultimate Dog Lover" and "The Ultimate Cat Lover." Each "must know" piece in the book has been developed with the help of one of the top experts in each area of expertise, and these experts are noted at the end of each tip. This week we look at dogs.
Water your cat! Encouraging increased fluid intake is one of the best things you can do to keep your cat healthy.
The quality of pet health books just took a grand leap upward with the publication of two pairs of references that coincidentally manage to complement each other beautifully.
Grass awns may be a regional problem but there are still people in the South West who do not know what foxtails are and what they do. Anyone who owns a dog in the South West U.S. should become familiar with foxtails and know what to look for.
A few years ago a friend gave me a T-shirt that had on it an expression in French: "J'embrasse mon chien sur la bouche." Translated, it means, "I kiss my dog on the lips," but the design didn't help anyone guess that. Total strangers would ask me to explain. And over the handful of years before I wore out the garment, I noticed a big difference in the reactions to the translation.
It may seem odd, but there's a parallel between abductions and dog attacks. Most children who are victimized aren't randomly selected; they're attacked by a person or dog known to them. Just as an abductor is more likely to be someone known to the child -- an estranged parent, say -- a dog involved in a serious attack is more likely to be an animal the child knows, kept by the family, a friend or a relative.
Holidays are anything but fun for many pets. While we humans love the change in routine, the parties, the guests and the decorations, our furred and feathered family members too often find the disruptions disturbing -- and sometimes dangerous. Like all holidays, Halloween is not without its hazards. The two biggest problems are injuries and poisoning -- and animal emergency clinics traditionally see plenty of both.
The best solution for nervous pets is to confine them for the evening in a crate or a quiet room. Xylitol is a bigger risk than chocolate. And what about costumes for pets? Make sure they're inedible and comfortable and have fun.
We're still sorting through our New Year's resolutions, most of which seem to involve our pets (walk them more, brush their teeth more often). As we swing into the new year for real, we thought we'd share some information from two of our favorites of the books we've written together, "BowWow" and "MeowWow."
While researching for books, we found these fun trivia facts about cats and dogs.
Fun feline facts from "MeowWow: Curiously Compelling Facts, True Tales & Trivia Even Your Own Cat Won't Know".
Law of the Well-Placed Pet Mess: No matter how large the floor, pet-related organic matter will always be placed where a human being is most likely to plant a bare foot.
Have you thought about adopting a cat this year? Whether you are looking for your first cat, a companion cat to one you already love or an addition to a busy, active household, now's a great time to bring home a shelter cat.
They don't purr like a cat or fetch like a dog. They have neither soft fur nor pleading eyes. But for a lot of people, reptiles and amphibians are perfect pets. But which of these pets is best for a beginner? Iguanas are popular but are not suitable for any but the most dedicated of pet lovers.
For us, pet-related trivia seems to hold endless fascination. We collect it, we share it from our homes a thousand miles apart, and we file it. Because, well, you never know when pulling out that file will remind you of something you're been meaning to write about. Cat got your tongue?
There's no doubt vacation travel has gone to the dogs ... and the cats as well. The recent request for travel stories brought them in by the scores. What a change! When I was growing up as a typical baby boomer, with family vacations spent in our hot station wagon, our dog was never allowed in hotels -- he slept in the car on the road. Nowadays, not only are pets welcome, but some places also provide room service.
Here's a handful of items that have changed the world for cat lovers.
Your dog barks nonstop. Your dog digs, ruining your yard. Your dog chews anything he can get his teeth on. What's missing from this picture? Chances are, it's exercise. It's not news that we humans don't get enough exercise, so it's no surprise that our dogs aren't moving much either. While most pet lovers recognize that exercise is good for their dogs, few seem to make the connection between a lack of exercise and behavioral problems that have excess energy and boredom as components.
Cats like places more than they like people, right? Wrong. Your cat would rather be with you, no matter where you move to. But if you handle the days before and after moving day improperly, you're at a real risk of losing your cat. That's why it's important to take some time to do it right.
Some dogs, like some people, are high maintenance -- they need lots and lots of attention. For many dogs, the attention they need comes in a category that most Americans say they don't have time for already -- exercise. All dogs need exercise. Even little ones. Even old ones. Even ones who really don't seem to mind a sedentary lifestyle. They need exercise, just as you do, and for the same reasons.
The solution to staying in shape -- and having fun -- may be just a tail wag away. Check out the latest fitness trend: people-dog workout classes that focus on strength, flexibility and aerobics while unleashing plenty of fun for you and your dog. By teaming up with your best workout buddy -- your dog -- both of you can shed pounds, tone muscles and strengthen your connection.
The first time I wrote about disaster preparation for pets, some 20 years ago, there wasn't much to write about. I called a disaster-response official and he seemed rather puzzled at the questions I wasn't asking. Pets? Who cares? I'll guarantee you no disaster-response expert would dare voice such an opinion today. What has become apparent over the years is that if no plans are made for pets, people won't leave their homes. And when people won't leave, that puts everyone in greater peril.
Puppies grow up too soon, as anyone who has ever loved one can tell you. When your pup has grown, you've lost not only some of the cuteness, but also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get him off to a good start in life. It's always easier to prevent problems than to try to fix them later, and one of the most important ways to do this is by socializing your puppy.
After many years of caring for and writing about pets, two things constantly surprise us: How little it takes for some people to break the human-animal bond and dump a pet, and how much it takes for some people to even admit there's a problem with a pet.
My dogs love spring and summer -- longer days, less inclement weather -- but they always seem a little disappointed when they realize they're not going to be getting as many rides in the car. That's because in the winter there's little risk to letting a well-mannered dog wait in the car during a quick pop inside the bank, drugstore or any number of local businesses that make up a morning's errand run. But when the days get warmer, it's no longer acceptable to leave a dog in the car, even for a few minutes. That's because the heat can build up quickly, even on a day that's just pleasantly warm, putting any pet in the car at grave risk for heatstroke.
Cats and houseplants don't have to be an either-or proposition. To have both, all you need to do is give your cats some plants of their own and make the other houseplants less attractive.
Some common pet practices are really life-threatening temptations of fate. Something you might not think twice about doing and have seen plenty of other dog owner's do could end up being the one thing you'll regret as long as you live.
Agility, dock diving, flyball, freestyle, obedience, tracking, hunt tests and more -- there's an activity for every dog.
Here's a rule to remember when it comes to dealing with feline aggression: Never, ever hit your cat. While it may make you feel better -- at least in the short run -- a smack won't help you change a cat who appears to delight in sinking teeth and claws into you at seemingly unpredictable moments.
Anyone who has yet to be convinced that Americans are crazy about their pets would see things differently after a couple of hours at Global Pet Expo. The convention center floor was packed with more than 2,000 booths and marked the launch of some 600 new pet products.
The approach for converting a bird to a healthier diet needs to be gradual, encouraging, and sometimes a little bit sneaky. You can usually convert even the most extreme seed junkie to a better diet if you're patient and persistent.
No purchase is more important when you get a parrot than the cage. The first rule of caging: Buy the biggest cage you can afford. Forget the generic categorizations you'll find in pet stores. Those descriptions represent the minimum size to consider -- a better bet is at least one size bigger. For a cockatiel, get a cage for a small parrot. The bigger, the better, always, as long as the bar spacing isn't so big that your pet could escape.
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.
Emergency veterinary clinic are often pretty exciting places, even over the holidays. While staying busy makes the time go by more quickly, I'd bet that the staff of most emergency clinics would rather not spend their time trying to save the lives of pets who may not have been there if their families had been a little more cautious. As any veterinarian will tell you, prevention is always better than a cure.
If there's anything more versatile than a tennis ball, I can't imagine it. One afternoon, I just sat down with a pad and started jotting down all the things you can do with a dog and a tennis ball.
Seems we're experiencing some big changes in the way many people care for their cats. Of the e-mails and letters I got after writing on how to keep indoor cats happy, very few argued that it was impossible. I still heard from people who hate free-roaming pet cats enough to kill them, but mostly I heard from cat lovers who were committed to keeping cats in and had ideas for making the arrangement better for all.
Can cats and dogs get along? While cats and dogs scheming against each other is a comedic staple, millions of real-life cats and dogs live in harmony, and millions of people feel no family would be complete without at least one of each pet. Getting a dog and cat to accept one another can be difficult, though, as anyone who's tried to introduce them knows. There are some basic steps to getting both pets to at least call an interspecies truce.
Can cats and dogs get along? While cats and dogs scheming against each other is a comedic staple, millions of real-life cats and dogs live in harmony, and millions of people feel no family would be complete without at least one of each pet. Getting a dog and cat to accept one another can be difficult, though, as anyone who's tried to introduce them knows. There are some basic steps to getting both pets to at least call an interspecies truce.
If something happens to you today, your pets need to be looked after, whether the situation will be temporary or, sadly, permanent. Are you prepared?
Solid, tabby or tuxedo, longhaired or short, a cat's coat is one of the most beautiful things about this special pet. It's also one of the most annoying, if you're fussy about fur. How much do you know about cat fur? Enough to make a decision about what kind of coat type you could live with?
The long days of summer are a great time to have -- or be -- a pet. But this glorious season for outdoor activities is not without its hazards. Knowing what to look out for is half the battle. Cats have enough sense to nap on warm afternoons, but dogs do not. Protect your pets from poisonous plants, troublesome garden materials or yard chemicals. Use any pesticides or fertilizers according to label directions.
When the days get warmer, it's no longer acceptable to leave a dog in the car, even for a few minutes, even with the windows down. That's because the heat can build up quickly, even on a day that's just pleasantly warm, putting any pet in the car at grave risk for heatstroke. Car rides and errands aren't the only risks to pets in warmer weather.
Here's a riddle for you: How is it that cats are the most popular pets and yet more households have dogs? The answer: Many households with dogs have only one, while cat lovers prefer their pets in multiples. Problem is, while dogs truly do love the company of their own species as well as ours, many cats would prefer to be "only children." That means adding a second cat can be a difficult operation, with many pitfalls along the way. But most cats will eventually adapt to the change, and for some, the addition of a companion is a wonderful idea.
These days, my allergies and asthma are under good control, thanks to the advice of understanding doctors and to some new medications. I also have to give credit to my own dedication in following a few rules to reduce the impact of my pets on my allergies.
We get e-mails every day asking about "the farm." What farm, you ask? The one where many imagine their unmanageable dog will be welcomed. A farm where dogs run leash-free, with no children to bite, no cats to kill, no home or yard to destroy, and no nearby neighbors to hear the barking, barking, barking. Of course, no such farms exist.
All the animals get along, not only the "farm" animals, but also the more traditional household pets. This happens not because we're all one happy family, but because I know enough about animals to realize that we are not family at all.
Call them the Finger Crossers, if you will -- those folks who know if their dogs get loose they'll get them back only when conditions are absolutely right (if there isn't another dog to play with, a squirrel to chase or a scent to follow). Or if they're fast or lucky enough to corner their dogs. If you're one of these folks, you may well be in the majority. While "Come" or "Here" is one of the most basic of dog commands, it's probably the one most dogs know and respond to the least. Some dogs are naturally more inclined to come when called than others. But a reliable recall is possible for any dog -- even yours.
This year, for our "Best in Show" dog car, we went traditional and chose the quintessential minivan, the redesigned Dodge Grand Caravan. Chrysler may be struggling for survival, but its minivans still offer plenty to the dog lover looking for a comfortable ride for a canine companion.
When the weather turns colder and houses close up for warmth, every little thing starts to annoy us. Like the smell of the litter box, or (worse) the smell of a cat who's not using the litter box at all. But don't blame the cat.
Pet odors aren't irresolvable. Eliminating them can be challenging, but following a few simple tips from the experts can leave your house smelling fresh and clean this holiday season.
Thanksgiving is at hand, and the rest of the holiday season looms ahead. It's a busy time, but you need to make sure in the whirl of activities that you aren't ignoring any danger to your pets.
Dogs aren't really designed to stay by themselves, and many times they get themselves into trouble. One helpful tool for avoiding problems is to leave your dog with a treat-dispensing toy to keep your pet busy when you go.
During the holiday season, people travel to be with family and friends. Despite all the best and warmest of intentions, the potential for friction is always there, and one area of possible conflict comes with a collar: the visiting dog. While it's natural for a dog lover to want to bring a pet to a family gathering, it's not always a good idea. Before you consider bringing your dog home for the holidays, be realistic about how others might view your furry family member.
The signs of illness in cats can be particularly subtle, so much so that owners often don't realize their cats are sick until they're really sick -- and sometimes that's too late. A monthly hands-on examination will help you become aware of changes that could signify something serious.
Nothing is more important to your bird than the cage you buy and where you put it. You want your bird to be safe and feel secure in his cage. He should also feel included as part of the family, even when he's confined. A proper cage -- well-designed, large, and made of safe and sturdy materials -- and proper placement can achieve all these goals.
The first step in turning an adult dog into a reliable house pet is to embrace a key concept: There's no such thing as a "partially" house-trained dog. He either is or he isn't.
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Study after study shows that people are not only crazy about pets, but they also love to spend money on them. We're certainly not arguing against buying that perfect dog collar or cat toy, but we do want you to know that you don't have to buy a lot of things for your pets to care for them well. In fact, some of the best gifts you can give your pet don't cost any money at all -- your attention. In the Valentine's Day spirit of giving the best to those we love, we offer a few suggestions that will make you and your pet happier and healthier -- and may even save you money in the long run.
Punishing a dog for running from you is one surefire way to make sure he's even harder to catch the next time. The No. 1 rule of catching a loose dog: Never punish a dog for running away, and never, ever punish a dog for coming to you.
Failure to use a litter box is the top behavior complaint of cat lovers, sending countless cats to shelters every year. But that doesn't have to be the sad outcome, if you're willing to work on the problem.
Are Halloween costumes for dogs silly or harmless? If putting a costume on your dog means you'll fuss over him and maybe take him somewhere interesting, like the costume contests that are everywhere these days, then sure, it's a no-lose proposition. But while buying the costume, don't forget to send a little of that discretionary income to your local shelter, just because.
If there's one parrot problem that has both bird owners and veterinarians pulling out their own hair in frustration, it would have to be feather-picking, a bird's willful destruction of his own plumage. Feather-picking is a symptom of something else that's wrong with your bird. The only hope you have of "curing" feather-picking is finding out and treating what's behind the behavior.
If you're looking for a way to lower your stress, improve your health and get your children off the couch, part of the answer may be fish -- not eating them, but keeping them.
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.
These days, it seems as if many of us have a roll of duct tape floating around as part of some vague disaster plan. If that's true of you, here's something specific to do with it: Include it in a preparedness kit for your pets.
More cats are being kept indoors for safety these days. And while that's generally good news, it does mean that plants need to follow them in, to keep those indoor cats happy. Plants are an important part of an ideal environment for indoor cats that should also include a variety of toys, cat trees and scratching posts, and screened porches or window perches.
How much do dogs hate baths? Enough so that the dog who doesn't hear you when you yell, "Get off the couch!" is perfectly able to pick out the magic word when you whisper, "I think the dog needs a bath" and go looking for a hiding place.
Is "people food" safe for dogs? Some is, some isn't, and knowing what's OK to share can mean the difference between a healthy treat and a trip to the emergency clinic.
How do you know when a situation is critical enough to find a veterinarian immediately? Anything is worth at least a call if you're not sure what's wrong, but some things require urgent attention.
For years those who care about iguanas have been struggling against ignorance and the toll it takes on these reptilian pets. Iguanas are relatively inexpensive pets to acquire. But caring for them properly is neither cheap nor easy -- a point too often not realized at the time of purchase -- and there the problems start. The cost of a proper setup can set a new iguana owner back a lot more than the price of the pet itself, but incorrect housing can kill an iguana. So too can an incorrect diet.
I have never understood why anyone would want to keep a dog entirely outside. What's the point? You don't get the benefits of companionship from a dog you see once or twice a day, just to throw down some food for or maybe play a quick game of fetch with. How can you know an animal you don't really live with? How can he know you?
Many new dog owners are familiar with the situation comedy version of giving the dog a bath. (It usually culminates in the dog running through the mud having drenched the human participants.) Fortunately, life does not have to immitate art in this regard.
More households have dogs than cats, but cats far outnumber dogs as pets. How is this possible? Because many cat lovers believe that when it comes to feline friends, one is simply not enough. Single-dog households are routine, but with cats, the more the merrier! If you've ever thought about getting a companion for your cat, there's no time like early summer. Kittens are everywhere, and healthy, well-mannered adults are also in good supply. You're sure to find the perfect pal for your cat with a trip or two to the shelter.
I'm often asked how I've come to know so much about pets. After all, I'm not a veterinarian, nor do I have a degree in biology or animal behavior. I have a degree that has taught me how to ask the right questions and to explain the answers. Sometimes, what I think has helped me most is to recognize that sometimes the knowledge comes from places I never would have imagined.
Dogs drown. Most times, some caution on the part of their owners -- not only around rivers, but near any body of water -- would prevent potential problems. The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
A top reason cats lose their homes is destructive scratching when furniture trumps the cat-owner bond. Understanding why a cat scratches -- and how easy it is to prevent damage to furniture -- helps keep cats in their homes.
An iguana makes an interesting addition to any family but you need to know what you are doing. This isn't just a funny looking dog or cat; iguanas have some very unique needs. If you -- or your child -- have an iguana on your wish list, make sure you know what to do to keep your new pet healthy.
Having pets unfortunately means having to occasionally deal with messes. Keeping things clean involves preparation (and some basic knowledge of odor and stain removers).
Not reading directions may be a point of pride for many people, but when it comes to flea products, it's an attitude that can kill a cat.
The common wisdom used to be that we didn't "own" cats. While we wouldn't suggest telling your cat that he's "owned" -- because he still doesn't think so -- we can do a lot better by our cats than we ever have before. And that's really true for older cats.
Today, nearly all aspects of spaying have improved. The bottom line for pet owners: Animals spayed with laparoscopy recover faster and have less pain than those operated on using the traditional technique. It's time for a change!
The first week in May is "Be Kind to Animals Week." The "have-nots" of the pet world are still many, and there is still much to be done. Here are a few suggestions, not only for "being kind to animals" this week, but all year around.
The last few weeks in my home have been magical, in a way only other cat lovers can understand. I've watched a tiny kitten come into a home already filled -- to the brim, some might say -- with four boisterous dogs, a raucous prankster of a parrot and an extremely bossy rabbit. Within days, she went from overwhelmed to relaxed to ruling, and now the entire family is under her spell.
Every year as spring approaches, shelters and rescue groups face a daunting challenge: Find homes for the cats before the kittens arrive. That's because once kitten season starts, even the sweetest, handsomest and most well-mannered cats may run out of time before anyone recognizes them for the wonderful companions they are and adopt them.
If your cat's stressed out, there's a pretty good likelihood that you soon will be, too. That's because stress is a key factor in the development of health problems that lead to litter-box misses. While that's not the only thing feline stress can cause or make worse, one can argue that what veterinarians call "inappropriate elimination" can be deadly. That's because many a frustrated cat-owner will give up on a cat who cannot be relied upon to hit the box. These cats often end up at the shelter, where their past puts a pall on their future.
When it comes to food, household cleaners and plants, veterinary experts say that pet lovers spend too much time worrying about products that aren't much of a problem and generally don't know about the things that truly are. Check out the biggest concerns -- and most overblown worries -- based on the 150,000 calls a year into the Animal Poison Control Center.
We know what dogs like; we know what pups want. No, this isn't a song from the '80s by The Waitresses; this is the ultimate dog toy. Never heard of Kong? Read on.
Dogs are content to live in dog-smell heaven, a place where water is only for drinking or swimming and never has soap added. Sadly, from a canine point of view, we make the rules that dictate how often dogs must be bathed. But how often is that?
The best way to deal with a scared cat is to let him be, while a sick cat surely needs a veterinarian. Most times what we see as "meanness" in a cat is just part of being a cat. You can change this behavior, but only if you understand what's behind it and react properly. Here's what makes cats go crazy and how to correct the problem.
The observable delight cats get from a good scratch is reason enough to provide them with non-destructive opportunities to indulge in this satisfying behavior. But too many people seem far too willing to deny their pets this normal behavior by declawing them without even trying to train them.
No parrot can ever be happy without toys. Playthings are essential to maintaining the physical and mental well-being of parrots large and small. They help keep pet birds fit while fighting the boredom that can contribute to behavioral and health problems such as feather-picking.
I have always had difficulty understanding why people keep dogs outside. If keeping a beautiful house and yard are of the utmost importance to you, then don't get a dog. If you know someone in your family can't abide a dog in the house, for whatever reason, then don't get a dog. If you can't let a dog be a part of your family, then don't get a dog.
If you're trying to save money -- and really, who isn't? -- it's important to understand a couple of key concepts when it comes to budgeting for pet care.
Box turtles require around 50 percent animal protein in their diets. In the wild, that comes from worms, grubs, snails, different kinds of insects and even the carcasses of dead animals. Your turtle should eat cooked meat (avoid fat), live earthworms and slugs (make sure they're pesticide-free; you should be able to buy these at pet-supply stores that specialize in reptiles), and feeder fish (available at aquarium stores).
Though the death of a pet can be a sad and perhaps scary experience for a child, it is also a chance for parents to set a model for grief and death. For most children, this will be the first time they deal with death, and it's an opportunity to teach them how to deal with painful experiences.
Bonney Brown seems oddly upbeat for woman who has seen some pretty awful things since Hurricane Katrina slammed into the states along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Working in the devastated New Orleans area, the spokeswoman for the Bethesda, Md.-based Alley Cat Allies is one of countless people -- many of them volunteers -- who have struggled to save stranded animals and to get them reunited with their owners, if at all possible.
The No. 1 behavior problem reported to veterinarians when it comes to cats? Missing the litter box, by far. But don't blame the cat. If your cat is hit or miss where the litter box is concerned, chances are the choices you've made factor into the problem.
We spend millions of dollars every year to fill feline litter boxes. But what about the object you put the litter in? Before you pick up the one of those common plastic trays you need to remember that when it comes to potty choices, your cat's opinion is the only one that really matters.
The Honda Fit is about as perfect a little car as can be imagined, especially for dog owners. The space inside is so large compared to the tiny size of the vehicle that you start to wonder if the Fit is really a circus car. You wouldn't want to cram that many dogs inside, but you could manage a couple of big ones with comfort and ease, especially since the Fit's seats fold flat and low to the floorboards.
Given a choice, your dog would probably prefer to go everywhere with you. But for most dogs, the reality is that they live with a family who goes to work and school, leaving them with lots of alone time. While few dogs really like being alone, for some, the behavior problems that result -- called separation anxiety -- can put their very lives at risk.
"Slipped disks" is a condition caused by the untimely degeneration of one or more of the disk-shaped structures that serve as cushions between the bony vertebrae of the spine. When these disks go bad, the material contained within them is extruded, thereby compressing the most sensitive nearby structure: the spinal cord.
It has long been a core belief in the community that people who didn't pay for a pet were more likely to "get rid of it" for pretty much any reason at all -- or for no reason at all. In recent years, though, organizations have challenged those views
How we love our fresh starts and New Year's resolutions! Have you thought about spending some time in 2005 making a difference for animals? Every animal lover should. Although the need can seem overwhelming, especially when it comes to animal cruelty or homeless pets, the fact is that every little bit helps. After all, if every one of us animal lovers did one small thing a couple of times a year, the total effort would be grand indeed.
During "kitten season," it's harder for an adult cat to find a home. Competing with cute and fuzzy is tough even for the sweetest, prettiest and most well-mannered cats. Being overlooked at the shelter is bad news for the cats, but it's also unfortunate for many people who don't realize that an adult cat may be a better choice than a kitten. An adult cat can slide quickly into your life.
We all live in a new society after September 11, 2001, our pets included. The tragedy affected everyone and raised the "what if I'd been there" question as everyone imagined what the ordeal had been like for the victims. How can you protect your pets in case of disaster?
One of my cats is easily aroused, sometimes reacting to petting by scratching the person in whose lap he finds himself -- which, more than likely, of course, is mine. Over the years, I've worked to lengthen his short fuse, starting with the most important rule when it comes to dealing with feline aggression: Never, ever hit your cat.
March is when winter finally lets go, although usually not without a final blast or two. The start of spring means many things -- the first early blooms, longer, warmer days and a time to clean the house. But for dog lovers, there's one thing spring brings most of all: mud, mud and more mud.
Late last year I sold my home and bought another. I fell in love with the new place for its large yard and the creek-side acreage that ran behind the property -- perfect for exercising my dogs. But the first time I looked at the house, I saw something more: a perfect spot for a bird cage.
Animal shelters have long been recommending high-tech microchips as a complement to the low-tech collar and tag. The recent introduction into the United States of a microchip that operates on a different frequency from the ones already in use has put a glitch into the nation's microchip system, with the potential for placing thousands of pets at risk if not resolved.
Everyone wants a cat who'll spend these cold evenings serving as a purring lap warmer. But some cats need help to learn how to be that contented companion. Feline aggression is often misunderstood and even more often mishandled. With time and patience, you can turn most quick-to-hiss cats into a pet who loves attention.
Old books can be eye-opening for today's dog lover, with their advice on harsh, even brutal dog-training methods, warnings on deadly diseases we rarely consider, and time-consuming recipes for preparing canine rations. Flipping through the pages got me thinking about not only how relatively easy we have it today, but also which of modern life's advances have had the most impact on how we care for our dogs.
The advances in veterinary medicine in just the last couple of decades have been dramatic, and these days many of the same lifesaving options in human medicine are also available to pets, often through skilled veterinary specialists. Still, the idea that advanced treatments for cancer and other diseases or injuries are too much "to put a pet through" remains a common one.
To keep your cat healthy, you must be able to recognize what is normal for your pet so you can tell when something isn't right. Changes in appetite, drinking habits, litter-box routines, grooming, and even a change in the sound of your cat's voice can all mean trouble -- and should mean a trip to the veterinarian.
You might never have had to worry about ticks before, but now is a good time to talk to your veterinarian about their prevalence in your area. Many tick species have moved out of their original habitats, carried away by migratory birds, coyotes and deer. One or more species of ticks can now be found in every state, including Alaska and Hawaii. Ticks used to be active from spring through fall, but warmer winters mean that some species are staying active as late as February, depending on where they are located.
The travel industry used to grudgingly accept the fact that many people traveled with pets. Now, many hotels, motels and resorts actively court pet lovers, and a few are marketed almost exclusively to this once-neglected group of vacationers.
All dogs need exercise. All of them. The amount of exercise varies by the type of dog, the shape, the size and the original purpose of the breed or breeds that lurk in the genetic code of a particular dog, but all dogs need something to do.
The key to moving pets is to secure them before and during the move, and then settle them safely and quickly into a routine after the move is completed. Cats are a particular worry at moving time because they form a bond not only with the people in a home but also with the home itself.
Mud is the constant nemesis of all dog lovers, and it's never so bad as in the spring. The best way to keep floors clean is to never let them get dirty. And that means catching those muddy paws before they come inside. Here are some tips:
The best way to keep floors clean is to never let them get dirty. And that means catching those muddy paws before they come inside.
Take one fish in a plastic bag, one fishbowl and one child, and what do you have? Chances are you'll soon have a dead fish and a very unhappy child. But it doesn't have to be that way. The secret of making your child's first fish tank a success is choosing the right equipment and the right fish, along with equal parts planning and patience.
In a dog lover's perfect world, everyone would have dogs, love dogs, work with dogs or be a dog. Luckily, you can visit that perfect world anytime you want, just by peeking between the covers of one of the many mysteries produced by some of the dog world's best authors. The godmother of the dog mystery, Susan Conant, unabashedly writes about the dog world from an insider's perspective. "I was reading lots of mysteries," Conant said, "and I knew there was no series about dogs. What I wanted to do was hold a mirror up to all of us, and I thought that all of us would be amused by our reflection."
If your dog's nails are so long that they're forcing her foot out of position, you can take them back to where they should be in two ways.
Forget the better mousetrap: Build a better nail-trimmer, and grateful pet lovers will beat a path to your door. Or at least that's the idea behind a trio of new nail-trimmers that takes the age-old designs and improves on them, a little or a lot.
The kidneys act like a water filtration system in reverse, trapping and recycling substances the body needs, such as proteins, and letting waste materials pass through. If any part of this complex filtration process breaks down, toxins in the bloodstream can rise to life-threatening levels. Treatment -- often giving massive amounts of fluids -- is aimed at restoring the kidneys to normal function, so they can resume doing their job of filtration.
What do an ironing board, clingy plastic food wrap and a condom have in common? In an emergency medical situation, all can be pressed into service to help save the life of your pet.
In the past few years, a huge amount of work has been done to make veterinary practices more "feline-friendly," and a lot of information about ways to keep cats calmer before, during and after their visits has become available.
The person who found Chase couldn't have been more clear about what got her attention -- it was the promise of a reward on the tag that made her call. Would she have kept the dog otherwise? We'll never know.
Many of us resolve to turn over a new leaf at the beginning of the year. We'll lose weight, exercise more, save more money -- you name it, the list is as long as that of the bad habits so many of us have in common. But while you're vowing to shape up, why not add a resolution or two that will help animals? After all, you'll never have any regrets when you vow to help pets.
Modern veterinary care is not inexpensive. Every day I get complaints from readers who remember when "Good Ol' Doc Jones" patched up their cats for next to nothing. These days, readers complain, many veterinarians want use to available diagnostics to see what's really going on (and reduce risk during anesthesia), suggest newer procedures to fix things that were fatal not that long ago, and pretty much try to do the best job they can with all the advances of the last couple of decades. Go figure.
When it comes to attitude, there's nothing like a terrier. Dog-show judges love terriers for their showy in-your-face demeanor, but many pet lovers would find them difficult to live with, were it not for the fact that most of the dogs are small and endlessly entertaining.
Dressing up? Tricks and treats? Halloween sounds like the perfect holiday when it comes to including your pet in the fun. And it can be, with a few basic precautions. While we humans love the change in routine that holidays often bring -- the parties, the guests and the decorations -- our furred and feathered family members too often find the disruptions disturbing and sometimes dangerous.
We're on the verge of kitten season now, which means we'll soon be getting questions about feline pregnancy from people who often had no idea they'd be midwife to pets who are often not much more than kittens themselves. Typical questions include: How long does a cat's pregnancy last? Do I need to help my pregnant cat with delivery? How do I know if she's close to delivering? How soon after my cat gives birth can she be spayed?
Old ideas can be hard to eradicate. That's true when it comes to house-training, with many people still following horrid old methods such as shoving a puppy's nose in the mess and swatting him with a rolled-up newspaper. If you have a new puppy, learn about crate-training. Every year more people turn to this method, with good reason: It's easier on pup and people alike.
What do you do when your bird escapes the home and is loose outdoors? With all the pets I've had in my life, you'd think I'd have seen just about everything. And for the most part, that's true. But there's one thing I haven't dealt with because I've been both careful and lucky: I've never had a pet go missing for good.
If you want a friendly reptilian pet who's easy to care for, your choice is an easy one: You want a bearded dragon. Beardeds live to be about 10 years old and will mature at 18 to 24 inches in length, including the tail.
As anyone who has ever tried to sleep in the same room with an itchy dog can tell you, canine allergies can be miserable for both pets and people. For dogs, the problems are mostly skin-related: They scratch, chew their skin, rub against stationary objects or shake their heads in frustration from itchy ears.
Never before have I been in a position to make end-of-life decisions for two pets at the same time. With a nearly 16-year-old Sheltie being treated for chronic kidney failure and a 7-year-old retriever in chemotherapy for a malignancy that turned up on her annual wellness check, you can well imagine that I spend a fair amount of time thinking that some hard decisions aren't that far away.
Did you get a rabbit for Easter? Then you'll need to know how to best care for your new pet. Rabbit rescue groups have long warned that the gift of an adorable baby bunny to a child at Easter ends up as abandonment or neglect when the pet's novelty wears off. But while we recognize the problem -- and encourage the adoption of shelter and rescue-group rabbits who need homes -- we like to think parents will do the right thing and teach their children to respect and care for pets.
Does the smell of your dog's ears arrive in the room before he does? Does he keep you up at night shaking his head and digging at his ears? He likely has an ear infection. Understanding canine ear infections won't just make your dog more comfortable or even help you sleep. Their early diagnosis and treatment can prevent a lifetime of ear problems and even save your dog's hearing.
The choice of whether or not a pet is obese isn't made by the animal, but by the person taking care of that animal. Pets aren't in control of what they eat. We are. And too many of us are doing a horrible job when it comes to feeding our pets.
Puppies constantly try new behaviors to see what pays off for them. In the wild, this early trial-and-error form of learning would be critical for survival. In our homes, constantly trying new things is how a puppy learns to fit in with his new family.
as cute as kittens are, an adult cat can often ease into a household more quickly, and without the sometimes over-the-top behavior of an energetic youngster. If you're trying to find a home for an adult cat -- perhaps because a relative or neighbor has passed on, or a cat has just "showed up" and you already have a houseful -- it's never an easy task. But if you're determined to do your best for the cat -- and be patient while you try -- you probably will succeed.
If you've ever loved an old dog or have one who is approaching his golden years, you have lots of "remember whens." And you can have lots more with the help of "Good Old Dog: Expert Advice for Keeping Your Aging Dog Happy, Healthy and Comfortable."
Puppies are overrated. After piddle puddles, chewed shoes and all the normal silliness and mess that goes along with raising a puppy, I'm reminded why most of the dogs who've ended up as part of my family have come into my home as adults. And I'm reminded why, when people with a lot on their plates ask me about getting a puppy, I encourage them to consider a grown dog instead. Chosen carefully, an adult dog will be well past puppy foolishness and may have had some basic obedience training. Unlike puppies, who need constant monitoring, an adult dog should be able to be left alone while a family is at work or school.
People flip over puppies, but to me, a well-loved older dog is one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. An older dog has a nobleness about him, a look in the eyes that speaks of years of the special love that only a pet can give -- trusting, nonjudgmental and unwaveringly true.
Cold weather is ruff, er, rough on older dogs, but they don't have to be miserable. Your dog's health in later years is not entirely in your control, but you can have a real impact on a pet's attitude by keeping him warm, comfortable and keeping his mind and body gently active.
No longer are mobility issues an impediment to an excellent quality of life. In fact, dogs and cats -- and even unusual pets such as rabbits and ferrets -- can be fitted for assistive devices that allow them to sustain the activities they've become accustomed to.
It's true that cats are territorial and will seek out familiar places when stressed, which is why they sometimes attempt to return to their old homes when moved. But they'll be much happier going where you go if you take steps to ease their transition from one home to another.
Moving is tough on families, pets included. Animals always know when something's amiss, even if they can't understand exactly what's changing, or why.
Just as vacations with children are different from adults-only trips, vacationing with your pet works out better if you plan the journey with an eye to finding places where your animal companions are truly welcome. The travel industry used to grudgingly accept the fact that many people traveled with pets. Now, many hotels, motels and resorts actively court pet lovers, and a few are marketed almost exclusively to this once-neglected group of vacationers.
When Elaine Richards first saw something move across the lanes of traffic on one of the busiest stretches of highway in the country, she thought it was a discarded magazine, pushed along by the brisk winds off the San Francisco Bay. What had flittered across the lanes was a kitten, stranded on the roadway approaching San Francisco's Bay Bridge. She also knew she was his only hope.
My Plymouth Voyager, loyal and trusty companion during travels to countless dog events, on dog-accompanied vacations and even two cross-country moves with dogs, was never designed to traverse a rutted cow pasture where retrievers were being trained for hunting competitions. By the end of the day, ol' Forrest Green was dripping something that meant a trip to the mechanic. After nearly a decade, I'm in the market for a new "dogmobile." And I'd like to share the story of my hunt.
A large container of dried minced onions was on a kitchen counter. It never occurred to Gina that her dog Benjamin would find dried onions worth the effort to pull off the counter, much less eat. But she was wrong. In a few days, the dog was near death with a case of what's called Heinz-body anemia.
With veterinary medicine growing more complicated by the day, it's nearly impossible for one person to know it all. That, along with the demand for human-quality medicine for animals considered to be family, is good news for the growing number of veterinary specialists. The expertise they bring, in turn, is good news for our animals.
Most shelters have come a long way in housing cats, and the trend these days is toward so-called "colony" housing, keeping small groups of cats in large, feline-friendly enclosures. Popular with human visitors and less stressful for resident felines, colony housing has caught on in both small community-based rescue groups and large urban shelter organizations.
The best way to save your pet from an accidental poisoning is to know which items are poisonous and to keep those out of your pet's reach.
The first step in turning an adult dog into a reliable house pet is to embrace a key concept: There's no such thing as a "partially" house-trained dog. He either is or he isn't. Why is realizing this important? Because if you have a dog who is "sometimes" reliable, you have a dog who doesn't understand what's required of him, probably because no one taught him properly in the first place.
Toys are essential to maintaining the physical and mental well-being of parrots large and small. Playthings help keep pet birds fit, while also fighting the boredom that can contribute to behavioral problems such as feather-picking.
Parrots are incredibly intelligent and yet we too often see these brilliant beings kept as little more than decorative objects, prized for their plumage and locked for nearly all their lives in cages that are too small no matter how large. Is it any wonder so many pet birds die young, or rip out their own feathers in frustration?
An adult cat can slide quickly into your life. You know pretty well what you're getting with a grown cat -- activity level, sociability, health, etc. Given time in a loving environment, a grown cat forms just as tight a bond with his new people as any kitten can.
If there's one parrot problem that has both bird owners and veterinarians pulling out their own hair in frustration, it would have to be feather-picking, a bird's willful destruction of his own plumage. Feather-picking is a symptom of something else that's wrong. The only hope you have of "curing" feather-picking is finding out and treating what's behind the behavior.
Every now and then we hear from someone who wants us to write about how awful it is to have dogs or cats on the bed. If you're thinking we're going to suggest that all pets be forbidden a spot on the bed, you're barking up the wrong tree. That said, there are good reasons to keep your pets off the bed and maybe even out of the bedroom.
Is it possible for pet lovers to be friends with those who don't care about animals? Probably not, I've always figured, considering the fact that no one in my own personal inner circle is without furred or feathered family members. And they're not casual animal lovers either. Their pets go on vacations, have greeting cards sent in their names, and are not to be forgotten on birthdays and holidays.
Making a child happy is a wonderful thing. But if you're considering getting a pet for your child, or if you've already done so, you have think beyond the joy that comes on the day the pet comes home. You must also consider the long-term lessons a pet can teach, and your role in helping bring those lessons home.
Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, wildfires and even man-made disasters have brought home to us all in recent years that a crisis can happen at any time, in any community. Just as you can't leave preparing for your human family members to chance, you need a plan to ensure the safety of your pets.
The very fact that some newspapers have a pets section really irritates some people. Believe me, I know. I hear from them constantly -- nasty e-mails and letters from people who refer to dogs as "filthy parasitic scavengers" and cats as "vermin that should be poisoned like rats." They chide me for suggesting that our pets "love" us and bemoan any money spent on animals. They are angry, and I am the focus of their rage. I can only imagine how difficult life has been for these people in recent years, as interest in and spending on pets has increased dramatically. It must be hard for them to maintain that level of rage.
With seven permanent pets and an ever-changing number of guests and fosters, I'm constantly looking for easier ways to keep my house looking and smelling clean. Products come and go, but the struggle continues. Over the years, I've learned the hard way how to keep pet mess and smell to a minimum.
Today there's a wide range of options for pets with cancer, everything from hospice care aimed at pain-management to the most aggressive surgical, chemo and radiation therapies. The outcome? Cures for some pets, long-term remissions for others and, for the rest, a good quality of life for a little extra time.
We're delighted to see retailers and pet owners again trying to reduce the "carbon pawprint" of pets. It's possible to do a lot with what you have by making a few good decisions.
I always do my "neck checks" around the first of the year. It's easy, taking a few minutes to check for wear and fit on the collars, and for legibility on the tags.
This is the summer when people are discovering the wonders close by, skipping that exotic jet-away for a vacation that's shorter, cheaper and accessible by car. And that means a lot of pets are going, too. The trend toward taking dogs along has been building for a long time, with both low-end and luxury hotels increasingly not only accepting dogs, but also actively welcoming them with such previously unheard-of lures as room service and dog walkers.
I like having pets on the bed. In the wintertime, they're like heating pads. I've always kept things clean by putting a washable cover on top of the bedding. Still, there are good reasons to keep your pets off the bed and maybe even out of the bedroom, among them behavioral problems and allergies.
Your puppy or kitten is grown before you know it and every week brings a new stage of growth. A pet's whole life is full of moments to cherish. It sounds simple but do not forget to take pictures.
One of the many myths about cats is that they prefer to live alone, but that's not necessarily true. When people ask me about getting a second adult cat, I always encourage them to do so.
When Easter draws near, you can be sure of an increase in sales of chocolate and rabbits. If you're ready for a surprisingly special pet, wait a few weeks, check the shelters and pick a pair. They do well in multiples -- after they're altered, of course -- and you'll find wonderful rabbits ready for re-homing in the weeks after Easter.
We too often see these brilliant beings kept as little more than decorative objects, prized for their plumage and locked for nearly all their lives in cages that are too small, no matter how large. Is it any wonder so many pet birds die young, or rip out their own feathers in frustration?
I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits. Just as in human medicine, veterinary care has come a long way in its ability to detect health problems before they become symptomatic -- and to treat many of those problems simply and effectively.
An eye-popping $50 billion dollars is spent on pet care every year, with the lion's share going to the dogs, literally. But even though thousands of dog-care supplies are on the market now with thousands more introduced all the time, I think there are but a handful that have been game-changers. Here are my top five.
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 to keep your dog more comfortable and allows you to spot health problems before they become serious, even life-threatening.
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.
A joke we call "Give your cat this medicine at home" starts out with a cat lover putting off the trip to the veterinarian with a sick cat to avoid the following chain of events: cat hides under the couch, human attempts to extricate the cat and stuff it into a carrier, cat claws shred human flesh like a feline Freddy Krueger, cat finally womanhandled (man of the house nowhere to be found, so manhandled not a possibility) into the carrier, and a quick drive to the veterinary hospital, often while being serenaded with the unhappy sounds of a cat plotting revenge.
Your veterinarian makes it look so easy: Pill. Pet. And like a magic trick, suddenly the pill is inside the pet, and the pet seemingly none the wiser. If only it were that easy for you.
Your veterinarian makes it look so easy: Pill. Pet. And like a magic trick, suddenly the pill is inside the pet, the pet seemingly none the wiser. If only it were that easy for you.
Less than one in five pet owners are successful in giving medications to their pets as directed by their veterinarians. It's difficult to give medication to an animal who absolutely doesn't want it, so a lot of prescriptions end up in the cupboard (or on the floor) rather than in the pet. Are you in the majority when it comes to pill problems? If so, read on.
We don't like to plan for our own deaths, but it's something that needs to be done. How can you ensure that your pets will be well cared for if something happens to you?
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. 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. Dogs and lush gardens aren't mutually exclusive.
Why does the Federal Emergency Management Agency care about what happens to pets during disasters? It's simple: Because they've learned that if no one plans for animals, people will also suffer. "Pets are more and more treated like members of the family," said Cindy Taylor, a spokesperson for FEMA's Project Impact, which works to get the word out about disaster preparedness, including offering tips for pet lovers. "The consequences of not planning for pets have consequences for humans."
Parrots aren't like other pets. They're wickedly smart, relatively high-maintenance, very messy and exceptionally long-lived. I'm going to think long and hard before making the plunge, and not just because many kinds of parrots are likely to outlive me now.
Hurricanes in the South, Wildfires in the West: Some disasters have seasons, but others don't. Which is why no matter where you live, you need to be ready -- and include your pets in your plans. Disaster preparedness is so easy to let slide. We get all worked up after a major disaster is in the news, and certainly after we're lucky enough to be reminded of the potential. We read up, we stock up, we move on. And then, we forget.
Sometimes the news about dangers to humans from animal-carried diseases reads like an installment from the Threat-of-the-Month Club. And you have to wonder: Are the pets who live in our homes and sleep on our sofas a health risk? In a word, "yes." In a few more words, "not really." The risk of your well-cared-for pet making you sick are low and can be made even lower by taking a few commonsense precautions. As I often say, "Get rid of the risk and keep the pet."
When I see a news story about a dog attacking a child, I look for the reason. What I'm looking for -- and usually find -- are the indicators that the situation was already well on the way to being dangerous when the attack happened. The dog, typically, was young, male and unneutered. He was also unsocialized, usually a backyard dog with little to no interaction with the family. Even more likely, the dog was in effect trained to defend his turf by being kept full-time on a chain or in a small kennel run.
The best way to save your pet from an accidental poisoning is to know what items are poisonous and to keep them from your pet's reach. Some poisonings are a result of something an animal gets into, like a household product. But a surprising number of cases come from something intentionally given to an animal by the owner who's trying to help.
Long maligned as an effeminate dandy, the poodle has been the butt of jokes for generations, probably ever since the first person put a fancy haircut on what had been a hardworking hunting dog. But the soul of the poodle is still there, under everything that's ever been done to that hair.
An ounce of neutering is worth a pound of kittens. It sounds obvious but apparently it isn't obvious enough. If you have an unneutered cat or dog at home, don't take any chances when it comes tot he pet overpopulation problem. Be part of the solution.
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.
I'm the guy you don't want to meet in the middle of the night. No, I am not a mugger, a thief or a cat burglar -- I am an emergency veterinarian.
For those who work to educate people on the cruelty and danger of keeping dogs on chains, the tragic news in April of two children killed by chained dogs within days of each other came as a sad shock but no real surprise. After all, incidents of this kind are anything but rare. More than 30 times in the last 18 months, a child has been killed by a dog kept on a chain, according to the group Dogs Deserve Better.
Ferrets are these masked mischief-makers who make wonderful companions but have become so popular as pets that their domestication and inbreeding have made them susceptible to a handful of common -- often preventable -- illnesses. Learn about the top preventable health problems in ferrets.
Prevention is always a better option, no matter what the problem. It's usually easier, less expensive and certainly less painful. That's never been more true than when it comes to cancer. While cancer is more treatable than ever before, veterinarians also now know more about what steps can be taken to help prevent the dreaded disease.
Five tips for nine lives, all of them guaranteed to save you money and spare your cat. You can't beat that!
If you want to save money on pet care, you need to work on preventing illness instead having it treated after health problems have advanced. By practicing preventive care, you will save money, and you'll also spare your pets a lot of suffering.
In pets, as in people, having one doctor to oversee and coordinate care has definite advantages. But in these days of larger veterinary hospitals, it can be more difficult to see the same veterinarian routinely. Is it worth the effort to have a "primary care veterinarian"? For the most part, it is.
Dr. Kate Hurley is an upbeat woman, especially for someone in her line of work. Walking down a line of cats up for adoption at the Sacramento, Calif., SPCA, the veterinarian stops to make eye contact with each one and coo baby talk at the friendlier felines. She loves them all, even if she can't save them all. But she's working on the latter cause, to be sure.
Cleaning isn't just about neatness -- it's also about health. Clean, fresh food and water are essential to pet birds, and so, too, is keeping their environment as free as possible of bacteria, fungus and molds, all of which can lead to disease.
While any dog can become lost at any time, a dog who has just been adopted or moved is at a higher risk of going missing. The best time to protect your dog -- old or new, young or not so -- is before he gets out.
As pets take on a more important role in our lives, they are increasingly a part of our holiday festivities. I love the holidays, but emergency veterinarians like me definitely see more pets in our ERs as people cook, bake and visit their way toward the new year. I hope this information helps keep your pet safe during all the fun.
A Texas family is now suing a retail pet chain, saying a disease carried home with a cockatiel the company sold them killed a family member in 2006. While the courts will have to settle the matter, the news likely has many bird lovers looking over at the cage and saying: "What? My cockatiel can kill me?" Technically, yes. Realistically, not very likely.
Puppies are not toys. They are living, breathing (not to mention eating and urinating) beings who need a lot of attention. Who has time for a pup during the holidays? With a houseful of guests, who will make sure the puppy isn't being mauled by overly enthusiastic children and guests? Who has time to get his house-training started right?
Puppies need structure, consistency and lots of positive reinforcement. But more than anything, they need your time. Every minute with a puppy spent training, socializing and preventing problems will save you time and aggravation down the road. Teach your puppy to get things right from the start.
For me, the holiday season starts with the first letter from a parent asking for advice on a Christmas puppy. This year, a new record: late September, about the same time as I spotted the first Christmas decorations being unpacked in a shop. I have to give those early parents points for thinking ahead, because a pet should never be an impulse purchase. But year after year, I still have to advise that a Christmas puppy is rarely the best of ideas.
As adorable as puppies can be, anyone who's raising one will tell you they can drive you crazy. To get through those sometimes trying months and come out with the dog you want, always remember two things in dealing with puppies: Be patient and be positive. Every puppy needs to be guided on the road to good behavior, and along the way many a puppy strays off the path into trouble. The best way to avoid problems is to set up your home and your handling of the puppy so his only choice is to do what's right and get praised for it.
Are we being unreasonable when we expect perfection -- or should that be "purr-fection"? -- from our cats? We ask our cats to relieve themselves where we want them to instead of anywhere in their territory, as they would prefer. We ask them to scratch in one place instead of marking every surface, as would be natural for them. We ask them to ignore their ability to jump gracefully onto tables and countertops and to adjust their naturally nocturnal schedule to our daytime ones.
If you want to take better care of your cat, the last thing you should be doing is treating him like a dog.
The hottest topic at last month's Western Veterinary Conference was improving the quality of life for aging, sick and injured pets. More than 6,000 veterinarians picked up the latest information at some 700 hours of scientific presentations. But the biggest audiences were at the dozens of presentations educating veterinarians on new pain-management techniques, with more than 100 veterinarians turned away from one such symposium.
The best indoor spaces for rabbits are both safe and stimulating. The right housing has room for a large litter box, a generous stack of hay, a water crock, toys to chew and toss, and a towel to arrange and rearrange. A surprising must-have: a cardboard digging box, double or triple the size of your bunny.
In recent years the popularity of "house rabbits" -- litter-box trained bunnies with as many house privileges as some cats -- has made these quiet, surprisingly playful pets more popular among adults. And now's a great time to adopt one, since it's not long after Easter that the thrill wears off for many children given a baby rabbit -- and for the parents who realize that they'll be caring for a pet that their child will no longer care much about.
A healthy rat from a reputable source is a great pet for a child -- and indeed for almost any animal lover.
Look, we get the shelter volunteer thing: The work can be depressing, and it's truly not for everyone. But just because you aren't cut out for shelter volunteering doesn't mean you can't help animals in your community. And in these current economic situations, your help has never been more needed.
The men up here in Northern Idaho like to project a Rambo-like image to the outside world, but inside there's sometimes a secret love that they won't freely admit, even to their own wives and especially to their veterinarians. You see, real men don't own cats. That's their story, and they're sticking to it.
It makes a veterinarian happy to walk into an exam room and see a pet who's squeaky clean and perfectly groomed. That's because it's a sign of a pet owner who's paying attention to all aspects of preventive pet care and overall comfort.
The day Ellen DeGeneres was weeping on her talk show over pet-rescue volunteers who took back a dog she'd given away, I was in the midst of adopting a dog from a different rescue group. And I was reminded, again, of two things: All rescue groups are different, in terms of philosophies and policies, and good contracts make good adoptions, but good people make better ones.
A rescued adult dog needs patience while adjusting to his new home. In the beginning, he will be on his best behavior, but at some point -- a few weeks or months, sometimes a year -- you will see that he has become comfortable and knows he's home.
Can you donate a bed for a shelter pet? Let's help shelter pets rise up, lie down and move out.
Over the years I've heard from readers whose dogs have choked to death when their collar rings became caught on the tooth of another dog in play, on a piece of fencing in the yard or even a heater grate in the house. In other cases, dogs were injured and traumatized, and the owners who saved their lives by getting them free of the collar's deadly grip were often bitten by their terrified dogs.
But don't blame the dog: Most can indeed be completely house-trained if you work with them and be consistent and patient.
In a convincing show of dominance that would make even the Republican Party drool with envy, the Labrador retriever is America's top dog for the 15th consecutive year. Is the Labrador really that perfect a dog, so good a fit in so many kinds of families? While the Lab's probably not all that much better a family dog than some of the lesser-known but equally family-friendly breeds around, it's certainly true Labradors have a lot to offer.
Most dog lovers -- including those who wouldn't think of leaving home without first securing themselves and their children with a seat belt -- don't provide the same protection for their dogs. The results can be tragic.
I now look back on the dog camp experience as four of the happiest days of my life. Joyful dogs, relaxed people and lots of clear, pine-scented air in a drop-dead gorgeous lakeside setting.
Looking for a friendly, funny, quiet, clean, inexpensive and even eco-friendly pet? What you're looking for ... is a rabbit.
Dog runs or parks -- public, fenced areas set aside for off-leash play -- offer dogs the chance to meet others and burn off some energy. But not all dogs are well-suited to the often rough play of a dog park. Get some tips from a veterinary behaviorist.
One of the best things to happen to dogs and those who love them is the growth in popularity of off-leash recreation areas nationwide. But the free-wheeling atmosphere of a dog park is not a good fit with every canine, and it's important to know before you click off the leash if your dog belongs inside an off-leash recreation area. And you need to know a few things about your behavior, too, to make your pet's dog-park experience better and safer for all.
This year, the Fourth falls on a Tuesday, which means many people will be making a four-day celebration of it. The fireworks will be popping from Friday through Tuesday, and that means the folks in the emergency veterinary clinics will be hopping. It doesn't take much to help ensure that your pet won't be one of those in need of medical assistance. A few commonsense precautions will go a long way toward making the holiday safer for your pet.
If there's one holiday that's not popular at U.S. shelters and veterinary emergency hospitals, it's probably the Fourth of July. That's because the fireworks and other celebrations of this midsummer bash trigger pet care tragedies -- a flow of lost pets, sick pets and injured pets.
Safer anesthetic agents, monitoring by specially trained veterinary technicians, and protocols that stress a pet's safety and comfort before, during and after anesthesia have minimized risks substantially.
Warm weather came early this year to much of the country, and that means lakes and rivers -- and even swimming pools -- are already being enjoyed by dogs who love to swim. But every spring, dogs are at risk of drowning. Most times, some caution on the part of their owners would prevent any problems. The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
The swimming motion comes naturally to most dogs, but all dogs arenít designed to be Michael Phelps. For example, bulldogs generally canít swim without sinking because of their shape. Even those who love to swim and are good at it can get themselves into problems. Thatís where you come in, to keep the experience safe for all.
The number of people who travel with their dogs is growing, and so too are the options for pets on the road. From "ruffing it" at campgrounds to enjoying fabulous four-star hotels, the time has never been better to pack up your pet and go. Still, traveling with a dog is no picnic sometimes.
Many people insist on declawing their cats before even finding out if they have a problem. Others declaw at the first sign of a trouble. Those who try to let their cats keep their claws often insist on yelling at them or hitting them when the animals claw furniture. Cats needs to scratch, for physical and emotional reasons, and we need to provide our cats with places to dig in their claws joyfully.
Let's not kid ourselves: Things are tight, and people are learning to make do with less. That's the bad news. The good news: You don't have to shortchange your pets to save money. By focusing on prevention, smart buys and sharing, you can slash what you spend on your pets. Read some tips.
It's a fact of life that cats scratch, and it's good for them to do so. But you don't have to live with shredded furniture or ratty-looking walls and flooring. It's easy to teach a cat to use a scratching post as long as you understand what he's looking for in the way of communication, claw conditioning and fulfillment of his need to stretch and exercise.
We don't like declawing, and we don't recommend it as a first reaction to any behavior problems in cats. That said, we understand how in some cases it's a cat's last chance to stay in a good home rather than face uncertain prospects at a shelter. And we know that a well-done veterinary declawing with full pain control is no worse in the short-term than many other surgeries. But we still don't recommend it as anything except a last-chance alternative to losing a good home. In other words: It shouldn't be a preventive or immediately reactive approach to a behavior problem that can be dealt with in other ways.
Does your cat decorate your furniture by lavishly scratching the fabric? Inappropriate furniture scratching is one of the most common problem behaviors of felines. It would be wonderful if we could just explain the situation to the cat: "It's OK to scratch your post but not OK to scratch the sofa."
Some people seem to have bad luck over the holidays, and I have traditionally been one of them. I've filled the house with smoke from a poorly laid fire in the fireplace just before guests arrived for dinner, and I've tripped over a sleeping dog on Christmas morning and ended up in the emergency room (the dog was fine; I went home with a cast). But that's nothing compared to the disasters that seem to dog the pets in our family over the years. I've spent good parts of many holidays in after-hours veterinary clinics, and a few times those trips were for problems that could have been prevented.
Some people seem to have bad luck over the holidays, and I have traditionally been one of them. I've filled the house with smoke from a poorly laid fire in the fireplace just before guests arrived for dinner, and I've tripped over a sleeping dog on Christmas morning and ended up in the emergency room (the dog was fine; I went home with a cast). But that's nothing compared to the disasters that seem to dog the pets in our family over the years. I've spent good parts of many holidays in after-hours veterinary clinics, and a few times those trips were for problems that could have been prevented.
We're in full stride on kitten season now, which means I'm getting questions about feline pregnancy from people who often had no idea they'd be midwife to pets who are often not much more than kittens themselves. The question I'm asked least often is the most important of all: How soon after my cat gives birth can she be spayed?
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder, you may be observing what seems rather odd for a body preparing for winter: Your dog is shedding more than usual. Be reassured: It's perfectly normal.
As the days grow shorter and the nights grow cooler, you may be observing something that seems rather odd for a body preparing for winter: Your dog is shedding more than usual. Be reassured: It's perfectly normal.
Onyx is an old box turtle -- old enough that her shell is worn completely smooth. But even in her advanced years, she's active, her eyes are bright and her appetite hasn't slackened one little bit. As she bites into a strawberry, she smears it all over her face and front feet, and it's obvious she enjoys the treat.
Dogs panting. Spectators sweating. Handlers stressing. I've been there, several times, and I can assure you: It's miserable. But it's Westminster, the one and only. Which means if you have a top show dog, you're going to move heaven and earth to be there -- and most of them will be on Feb. 14 and 15.
Some of the best gifts you can give your pet don't cost any money at all and require only your attention. In this week's Valentine's Day spirit of giving the best to those we love, we offer a few suggestions that will make you and your pet happier and healthier -- and may even save you money in the long run.
A dog show has to be one of few competitive endeavors in which the majority of spectators don't know who the players are and don't really care who wins. Most people come to a show to see beautiful dogs, buy a new leash or toy, or even try to figure out the answer that old question: Do people look like their dogs?
Even though I know the signs of aging pets mean the hardest part of sharing a life with them is inching ever closer, I never regret having an old dog around. To me, an older dog is one of the most beautiful of life's many gifts to us.
I didn't know so many clever gizmos had been invented to keep children from opening cupboards, putting their fingers in power outlets or bumping their heads on coffee tables. You just can't be too careful. The same is true for cats. Over the years I've been saddened by letters and e-mails from readers whose cats have died in household accidents that were largely preventable, if only the people had known of the risks beforehand.
Disaster preparedness is so easy to let slide. We take the can opener out of the emergency kit and don't replace it. We use the food and water we've stored, but we don't buy anything new to rotate into the disaster supplies. We mean to, of course. And yes, we'll get to it ... next month.
Can you get a good night's sleep if you share your bedroom -- and your bed -- with pets? Yes, but it can be difficult to manage. More than half of the people coming to the famous Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., for help sleeping reported sharing their bedrooms -- and often their beds -- with pets. While banning the pets may be the only answer for some people, there are other options to try first that will solve the problems of many.
The truth about cats and dogs is that while a few of them will fight like ... well, you know, most of them can learn to live together peacefully, even happily, in the same household. The key to such blissful cohabitation is getting the relationship off to a good start -- by introducing the animals slowly and carefully.
While not all small dogs are so ill-mannered, one does tend to meet more small canine miscreants than large ones. It's not that small dogs are prone to bad behavior, mind you, but rather that the owners of small dogs tend to overlook behavior problems that would be absolutely intolerable in a 50-, 80- or 100-pound dog.
If you can get a good night's sleep, you'll be better able to cope with almost anything, even allergies. That's why one of the best pieces of advice to those who are allergic to their pets is this: Declare your bedroom a "no-pets zone," at least during the height of spring allergy season.
It used to be that carrying a tiny dog in an expensive handbag was the nearly exclusive behavior of aging society matrons. In recent years, the age of high society has drifted downward at least half a century, as women like Paris Hilton have set off a fashion fury with their constant carrying of diminutive canines. Toy dogs have never been more popular or more fashionable. Cast as furry accessories in the pages of fashion magazines, the smallest dogs are suddenly the biggest trend in pets. But there are problems with being a must-have accessory for the fashion-forward.
I like having pets on the bed. In the wintertime, my cats and dogs are like heating pads I don't have to plug in or recharge -- and they'll readjust automatically every time I move. This surely won't mollify anyone who believes pets are disgusting, but I've always kept things clean by putting a washable cover on top of the bedding to catch all the dirt and stray hair. Still, there are good reasons to keep your pets off the bed, and maybe even out of the bedroom -- among them, behavioral problems and allergies.
Regular, gentle exercise is key to health and happiness for senior dogs. As your dog ages, build him up to regular, moderate exertion and wean him off the intense, leaping games of fetch or the pavement-pounding miles of running you may have enjoyed together in his younger days.
Rabbits, who are a popular pet for children, are an even better pet for adults. Once liberated from the confinement of a backyard "hutch" and provided with a safe and secure indoor environment, bunnies really shine. They're playful and adorably willful, trainable and even amenable to using a litter box. They're quiet pets that fit perfectly into quiet households.
After I wrote about pet-rescue groups, I got quite a few e-mails of support, most from people who are themselves rescue volunteers and were happy to see their efforts acknowledged and publicized. But one e-mail that wasn't so supportive really caught my attention.
Take that basic concept - "I bet my dog can jump farther off the dock than yours can" - add a network with air time to fill and a sanctioning body or two to run things and keep the records straight, and suddenly, you've got a sport. The sport is easy to understand -- jumps off an elevated dock into a portable pool are measured for distance -- and fun. Although the top teams are now getting sponsorships and are training for even longer jumps, in dock-diving even new competitors can do well.
Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of warmer weather. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble. The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of summer. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble.
Poop happens. So do urine and vomit. While most pet messes come from young pets or old ones, even pets in the prime of their lives can get sick sometimes, leaving you looking at -- or worse, stepping in -- something you need to clean up. If you want to make that mess a memory instead of a smelly stain, don't delay your cleanup.
Are you a bird newbie? Surprised at how messy they can be? Here is a list of supplies that can make life with your bird a lot sweeter.
The trick to having a nice yard and a happy dog is to do what you can to eliminate the triggers for digging, and then take your pet's needs into account when planning your landscaping.
It's true that cats aren't dealing with long commutes, tight budgets and all the other modern strains that we people have. But it's also true that many of them feel stressed. You need to care about that, because when a cat is stressed, he's more likely to get sick or develop behavior problems.
When my 15-year-old Sheltie collapsed in the yard, I was pretty sure I wasn't going to lose him that night. That's because I knew there was a good chance that what he had was something called "Old Dog Vestibular disease" -- and that chances were good that he'd be fine after a visit to my veterinarian.
While the chances are that you'll be raising your own puppy -- most people do, after all -- making the most of those first few months is key to a great start.
If told to imagine a "typical" cat, you're doing well if you think "tiger-striped." That's because the tabby pattern, with its familiar stripes, is the most common in all of catdom. It's so dominant that even some apparently solid-colored cats can be discovered, on close inspection, to have faint stripes, especially on their heads, legs and tails.
The two biggest problems with this ghoulish holiday are frightened pets and poisoned pets -- and animal emergency clinics traditionally see plenty of both. With the increase in activity, cats and dogs get nervous and some will take off if they can. That means an increase in animals hit by cars. Other animals may be a cause of injury: All those costumed young visitors can trigger territorial instincts or fear-responses in some dogs, who may then become a bite risk.
The Jekyll-Hyde turn some cats make when being petted has their owners convinced they're crazy. But that's not the case: Some cats need to be taught to accept the loving attention of their owners. The conversion takes time and patience, but it's worth it for all.
While no one can guarantee a trouble-free trip, the good news is that the vast majority of pets traveling by air get where they're going in fine shape. Even better news: Careful planning on your pet's behalf will help make things go even more smoothly. Animals move through the airline system as unaccompanied cargo or as travelers' baggage. Unaccompanied pets and most animals traveling as baggage travel in pressurized cargo holds, while some small pets are allowed into the cabin as a carry-on.
Parrots are highly intelligent creatures that require a great deal of attention and care. They can thrive in the right homes, but they are often bought by people who have little knowledge of what they require. As a result, many birds end up being relinquished to shelters or re-homed. Or worse, they remain in homes where they are ignored, becoming unhappy and self-destructive.
Too often, pet owners leave veterinary hospitals with prescriptions they don't fully understand for pets who don't want to take their medicine. Pets need to get their medicine exactly as prescribed for the best possible outcome. But a recent study confirms what veterinarians suspected: Only 10 percent of cat owners and 30 percent of dog owners succeed in medicating their pets correctly. That's why it's important to ask some basic questions and make sure you understand all the answers before leaving your veterinarian's office with medication in hand.
Whether you choose a small tank with a few freshwater fish or a stunning saltwater setup that makes you feel like a deep-sea diver without getting wet, you'll be getting some of the proven health benefits of keeping fish.
Every fall as kids go back to school, we like to remind everyone of the importance of teaching youngsters how to be safe around dogs. And while children are 10 times more likely to be hurt in organized sports than be bitten by a dog, the risks of the latter can and should be minimized.
There's nothing harder for a young puppy to learn than being alone. Dogs are social animals, just as we are. And when you bring a puppy home you're not only asking him to do something for which he isn't really wired, but also to do it for the first time, under the stressful circumstances of being in the new home.
The clicker itself isn't magic. What it provides is timing -- it allows a trainer working with a dog who understands the game to let the pet know that the behavior he's doing right now is the one that's being rewarded. And that means the behavior will be repeated.
When my dogs get older, they get twice-yearly wellness checks. I have come to believe that catching changes and problems early is not only better for my pets, but also for my budget. Recently, after just such an exam, I got the news every pet-lover dreads: There's a spot on the X-ray of my 7-year-old flat-coated retriever. The suspicion? Cancer.
Some pet-lovers consider anesthesia so high-risk that they hesitate to OK or even refuse entirely elective procedures that have long-term benefits to an animal's health and comfort. Other pet-lovers think anesthesia is too expensive, blaming changes in protocols for increased cost. The good news about veterinary anesthesia is that although it can never be risk-free, it's safer and more comfortable than ever. The bad news is that those things that improve safety for pets do indeed increase the cost.
Dr. Marty Becker is now part of the Pet Connection Team! His philosophy of practice has always been to "match the science with the soul." This means he strives for a state-of-the-art veterinary practice with competent veterinarians and staff who are lifelong learners (the science) balanced with a veterinary team who is caring and compassionate (the soul). "I'm a veteran veterinarian, and I love practicing and communicating with people who love pets as much as I do. I've pulled a puppy wiggling from its mother and watched the animal take a first breath. I've been there when a cat, cradled in her family's arms, drew her last breath. My hands have healed some pets and comforted others, made dogs' tails wag and cats purr, hugged an anxious pet owner, and poured the last few handfuls of dirt on my pets' graves at our Almost Heaven Ranch."
Reptilian pets are intriguing and mysterious to some, intimidating and frightening to others. If there's one reptile perfect for changing the minds of those in the latter group, it's the bearded dragon. Affectionately called "beardeds" by their fans, these lizards are not only tame around humans, but many also seem to enjoy the contact. Even better, they're relatively easy keepers, suitable for almost any pet lover or family situation.
Cover your bases with collar, tag and microchip, and don't give up when your pet goes astray. And if you find someone's pet, don't assume he's been dumped because he isn't wearing a collar. Start looking for an owner by taking the animal to a nearby veterinarian or shelter to be checked for a microchip.
Is there anything a dog can't use his nose to figure out? Dogs have long been used to sniff out escaped cons and missing children (think bloodhounds), dinner (think spaniels, retrievers and hounds), and even truffles (think poodles). But in recent years, trainers have come up with all kinds of new ways to use a dog's extraordinary sense of smell. Here are a few you may know -- and a few more we bet you did not:
Take excess weight off your pet. More than half of all pets in the United States are overweight -- many of them desperately so. Veterinarians say that we have gotten so used to seeing fat pets that we have come to think it's normal.
The menu at our Cafe McMutts then, as now, featured dead mice, dead birds, assorted dung and the skeletal remains of various forest animals. These dietary indiscretions might freak out some people, but I've lived on a ranch my whole life, as has Teresa, and we think of them as kind of cute. Or we did, until the day Sirloin went too far in his journey to smell hell.
Is there anything a dog can't use his nose to figure out? Dogs have long been used to sniff out escaped cons and missing children (think bloodhounds), dinner (think spaniels, retrievers and hounds), and even truffles (think poodles). But in recent years, trainers have come up with all kinds of new ways to use a dog's extraordinary sense of smell.
What is more adorable than a tiny kitten pedaling soft paws on your chest and purring up a storm? Enjoy your kitten, but never forget to make the most of this special time to ensure you'll end up with a wonderful cat. Kittens begin to learn life's lessons at an early age -- 3 weeks is the start of a critical period in their lives as companion animals. From the time their eyes open until the fluffy babies are about 10 weeks old, kittens are developing impressions of the world that will stay with them for life.
The beak of a bird is a tool with many features. It's a weapon that can put a dent in any enemy or damage the relationship with a friend. It can be a delicate tool for feeding a newly hatched chick or for the precise adjustment of feathers while grooming. With their beaks, birds can pick a lock, crush a walnut or peel the skin off a grape.
Once you take an animal into your home as a pet, I believe you must be prepared to provide decent care. That includes shelter and sustenance, as well as the basics of preventive care, such as vaccines and heartworm medication. The responsibility of caring for a pet must also include working with a veterinarian when the animal is sick.
but if your family's "little ones" have four legs and bark, the better time to hit the road is now. The weather's cooler and the hot travel spots are, too. And that means you'll find favorite destinations a little less crowded and possibly a lot more friendly to people traveling with their canine companions.
When choosing a cat litter, keep in mind who the real customer is here: your cat. It doesn't matter how much you like a filler. If your cat doesn't like it, you'll be finding waste in places you neither anticipated nor wanted. Find the brand your cat likes, and then keep the box scrupulously clean. It's the only way to go.
Your cat really isn't asking for anything more than you would when it comes to a bathroom. All that's required for most cats is that the bathroom be clean, quiet and offer no surprises. That sounds simple, but the failure to use a litter box is the top behavior complaint of cat lovers, sending countless cats to shelters every year.
There's something about those nasty eight-legged pests that evokes a visceral reaction and does more than trigger a desire for parasite control: The sight of a tick, says internationally known flea and tick expert Dr. Michael Dryden of Kansas State University, makes pet owners dream of a nuclear option able to annihilate the blood-sucking pests in as complete and painful a way as possible.
I hate ticks. The morning after a recent walk, I felt something move along my neck, just above the hairline. Ugh! A tick! After I disposed of the tick on me, I checked the dogs for ticks again, threw my clothes and bed linens in the washer and myself in the shower. It felt good, even though I know ticks can survive a cycle in the washing machine. After a thorough check, we were still tick-free ... but only until our next walk.
Chico's city shelter no longer accepts "nuisance" cats trapped and brought in by citizens, nor cats presumed to be lost pets. The city shelter also no longer accepts cats given up by their owners for adoption. Those animals now go to the Butte Humane Society, a local nonprofit that had already been pulling cats from the city shelter for adoption.
October is Adopt-a-Dog month, and that also reminds me why, when people with a lot on their plates ask me about getting a puppy, I encourage them to consider a grown dog instead. Chosen carefully, an adult dog will be well past puppy foolishness and may have had some basic obedience training. Unlike puppies, who need constant monitoring, an adult dog should be able to be left alone while a family is at work or school after a much shorter period of training and re-adjustment.
Three-day holiday weekends are busy times at veterinary emergency clinics. While most of the animals who'll end up in emergency care over the Fourth of July weekend will be there because they should be, others have problems that could probably wait. It's sometimes hard to tell a mild health problem from an emergency. But every day, people spend money they didn't need to for emergency clinic trips they didn't have to make.
I hear a great deal about the things that bother pet lovers. The other day I was thinking about those annoyances that apply to dogs. Here's a short list of seven secrets I wish more dog owners knew
Even the fiercest advocate of a no-punishment training approach will find one thing in common with the trainer who believes that a dog's actions need consequences: They'll both agree that your dog is likely not getting enough exercise, and that sedentary lives are at the root of a lot of canine behavior problems.
Minimizing visiting pet conflicts isn't hard, as long as everyone follows basic "petiquette" in planning and managing visits.
Some of the saddest emails I get are from people who are punishing or even contemplating ending the lives of formerly well-mannered pets with new behavior problems. So many of these pet lovers chalk up the changes to "spite" or some other offbeat reason while missing the most obvious reason of all: Their pet is sick.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has long served as an unofficial national championship for the nation's dog-show competitors. The two-day show kicks off this year on Feb. 14. Westminster is a special show where only champions can compete. At all other dog shows, most competitors are trying to earn their dogs' championships. And that's when following the action can get confusing.
Retrievers are popular for good reason. But anyone associated with a shelter or rescue group can tell you that despite their popularity, retrievers are not for everyone. They get dumped by the hundreds, often by people who didn't research the downside to owning one of these dogs or who proved unwilling to put in the effort it takes to keep one.
Call them the Finger Crossers, if you will -- those folks who know if their dogs get loose they'll get them back only when conditions are absolutely right: if there isn't another dog to play with, a squirrel to chase or a scent to follow. Or if they're fast or lucky enough to corner them. If you're one of these dog owners, you may well be in the majority. While "come" is one of the most basic of dog commands, it's probably the one dogs obey the least.
When a cat's need to hunt isn't fulfilled with live action, he turns to the next best thing: feet moving beneath the covers, hands dangling at an owner's side, arms, legs, you name it. Instead of letting a kitten believe your body parts are fair game, provide him with toys that will satisfy his urge to hunt as well as save your skin.
The first rule is to make sure your dog understands what you mean when you say "come." And that involves training. And punishing a dog for running from you is one surefire way to make sure he's even harder to catch the next time.
The key to moving pets is to keep them secure before and during the move, and settle them safely and quickly into a routine after. Start by ordering ID tags with the new address and phone number, so you'll have the tags securely attached to your pets' collars when moving day arrives. If you don't have a phone at your new residence yet, use a cell phone number, but don't let your pets go without ID, even for a minute.
Looking for a way to keep your dog busy on those days when the cold limits outside activity? It's easy: Exercise his mind.
What "big-boned" is to big people, "fluffy" is to big pets. In surveys about pet body types (ideal, overweight, obese), about half of pet lovers with obese pets said their pets were at an ideal body weight. Because we equate food with love, we're killing our pets with kindness.
Here's a riddle for you: How is it that more families have dogs than have cats, but cats outnumber dogs as pets? The answer: Many families have more than one cat.
In a lot of multi-feline families, relations between cats are a bit strained. And when cats aren't happy, nobody's happy. The noise of cats grumbling threats at each other or engaging in frequent rumbles can get on one's nerves and even mean trips to the veterinarian. And the litter-box problems that can be a part of such turf wars can turn an entire house into a toilet. Living with more than one cat doesn't have to be so contentious. The trick to domestic harmony for cohabiting felines is to introduce -- or reintroduce -- them slowly and carefully.
The Kitty Tease (a well-made cat toy) and a parrot play gym catch Gina's attention. The Kitty-Tease is an award-winning "cat fishing pole" toy that has been going strong for 20 years. Gina's parrot Eddie lights up whenever Gina puts him in his new play gym.
In a lot of multi-feline families, relations between cats are a bit strained. And when cats aren't happy, nobody's happy. The noise of cats grumbling threats at each other or engaging in frequent rumbles can get on one's nerves and even mean trips to the veterinarian. And the litter-box problems that can be a part of such turf wars can turn an entire house into a toilet.
In recent years I've been delighted to see the development of alternatives to the choke chain. These products are easier to master and easier on the dog, and they make possible one of the greatest pleasures in keeping a dog: taking a nice long walk with your friend.
One of the best things to happen to dogs is the growth in popularity of off-leash recreation areas. Dog parks have emerged as a way to provide what most dogs desperately need: more exercise. Sedentary dogs develop health issues, such as obesity, and behavior problems that are worsened by excess energy and boredom, such as digging, barking, destructive chewing and that catch-all complaint of dog lovers everywhere: "He's too hyper!"
Every time I've put a pet in the air, I've chewed my nails down with worry until they reached their destination. And every time, there hasn't been a hitch or anything worse than a delayed flight. While no one can guarantee a trouble-free trip, the vast majority of pets get where they're going in fine shape. But to make the odds of that happening even better, you need to be an advocate for your pets when they fly.
There's no such thing as a dog who's "partially house-trained." Your dog either gets the concept of not using the house for a bathroom, or he doesn't. Admitting you've got a dog who doesn't get it is the first step to setting up a training program that will finally deal with the problem.
Looking for solid proof that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? Spend the Fourth of July at an emergency veterinary clinic. I did exactly that a few years back, and it was an eye-opener. The sad stream of animals hit by cars, cut by jumping through windows and knocked down by heat made an impression that I've never forgotten.
There's one pet care routine as familiar to generations of dog and cat owners as daffodils in the spring: Yearly shots. But it may surprise many that these annual needlings are no longer necessary for most pets.
The same folks who provide Veterinary Partner also offer a blog called VetzInsight. Rather than explain what occurs in a disease process and how to treat it - which was Veterinary Partner offers - our goal is not only to inform on larger issues but to tap into the numerous emotions at play within the human-animal bond. We're here to learn and have fun. If you're interested in learning more about a broader look at veterinary medicine, the veterinarians, the clients, and the patients, VetzInsight is a great learning experience.
A dog's body is made for motion -- as a hunter and a scavenger -- and thanks to centuries of selective breeding, also for countless physical tasks in the service of humankind. An animal with that strong an instinct to take off running wants and needs exercise to be happy and healthy -- no matter how cushy his spot is on the couch.
With kitten season in full swing and competition for good homes never keener, summer is the worst time to be a homeless adult cat. But no matter the challenges, it seems we animal lovers always have or know of a cat who needs a new home. While adult cats can be very hard to place, it's not impossible to find a good home.
Pets seem to enjoy fall as much, if not more, than we do. They all seem to perk up as the evenings get cooler. With their incredible eyesight, cats find interest in the early darkness, and dogs love being able to go for walks without enduring the heat. We need to remember, though, that fall means winter is coming, and we must remind ourselves of what that means when it comes to caring for our pets.
One thing I love about the return of nice weather -- dog washing moves outside for my two retrievers. No more soggy bathroom, no more drippy paw prints in the house. Clean dogs, without having to clean up the house afterward.
All dogs can be at risk when water is involved. Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of summer.
More products pulled, more questions and more worries: The pet-food problem, which started on March 16 and has continued with additional recalls for more than a month, has left pet owners wondering how to feed their animals safely.
The first thing that people need to know when they lose a pet is that they need to act quickly -- and broadly. So says Liz Blackman, owner of 1-800-HELP4PETS, a company that helps reunite lost pets with their owners.
Most snakes aren't all that interested in biting; they prefer to hide or skedaddle when faced with a threat. If they can't escape, they'll bite. That's when dogs typically get bitten: They put their noses where they don't belong, and instead of letting a snake slither away, they bother the reptile until it strikes.
Spend any time at a veterinary emergency hospital and you'll see that some people who bring their pets in didn't need to -- the condition was minor and could have waited until morning. But then you worry about the people you don't see: those who don't recognize a truly life-threatening illness in their pets. Will those pets make it until morning? And how much suffering will they endure until then?
The years have brought me enough sad experience that I have my own set of guidelines to help my decisions. I try to remain clear in my understanding of who will benefit from the decisions I make, and I try hard to make sure it's always my pet. In other words: everything to maintain or improve quality of life, and nothing to simply prolong it.
Just as with human medicine, advancements in the way we think of and treat pain for animals is improving the quality of life for pets, with veterinarians now being able to choose from a wide array of products and strategies to ease the hurt. "Animals can feel all the same aches and pains that we can because they share the same physiologic structures," says Dr. Robin Downing, owner of Colorado's The Downing Center for Animal Pain Management.
Advocates of TNR -- trap, neuter and release -- say maintaining healthy, neutered feral cat colonies is the best way to reduce feline numbers and problems. And, they argue, it's both a kinder and more effective way than trapping and killing untamable cats.
Dogs seem to be even more excited about walks in the autumn crispness, and cats seem to love playing in the leaves, no doubt looking for the mice who are busy beneath. But even as we're enjoying the brisk beauty of fall, we need to remember it means winter is around the corner, and with it, an awareness of seasonal challenges for our pets.
Mud, mud and more mud. The soupy remains of winter on the paws of our pets is the constant nemesis of all dog lovers, and it's never so bad as in the spring. The best way to keep floors clean is to never let them get dirty. And that means catching those muddy paws before they come inside. Here are some tips:
Little attention used to be paid to animals after back and joint surgery. When the stitches were taken out, we veterinarians figured our job was done. Looking back, I shudder to think of the withered limbs and stiff joints, and the weakened bones, cartilage, ligaments and tendons that resulted. With 20/20 hindsight, veterinarians now know we broke the most basic medical mantra, which is to first, "Do no harm."
The Christmas puppy is one of those ideas that seem so perfect, but the months that follow are the worst for raising and training a puppy. By summer, too many of those puppies are untrained and too often on their way to being unwanted. The "puppy cutes" are long gone, and the boisterousness of adolescence is at its peak. I hear every day from people who are ready to give up. "If we can't get him to stop (jumping up, disobeying, digging, barking, chewing), we have to get rid of him," they say.
Biting, destructiveness, noisiness, house-soiling can be more of a threat to a pet than cancer. That's because too often behavior problems are eventually "solved" by getting rid of the pet. While some behavior problems aren't fixable, most can be. Quick-fix, half-hearted efforts are doomed from the start.
Play fighting is a joy to a kitten but when it is directed at a loving hand, this play is suddenly not so cute. And neither are the scratch markes borne by the owner. How does one get from the athletic young fluff ball practicing hunting skills to the snuggling purr machine we want?
About once a month, I'll get a frantic e-mail from someone who's frustrated to the point of desperation. "Help!" the e-mail will scream. "I have a Jack Russell, and he digs, barks and chews when we're gone. He's too hyper! We can't take it anymore!" Sometimes, it's all I can do not to write in return: "High energy? Digging? Barking? Chewing? Congratulations! You have an authentic Jack Russell terrier! What did you expect?"

   
About the author(s)
Gina Spadafori

Gina has two loves in her life -- animals and writing. As former director of the VIN Pet Care Forum on America Online, the world's largest online area for animals, and with her award-winning columns and books, she has finally accomplished one of her life's goals -- a career writing about animals.

Pet Connection is an award-winning column on pets and their care written by Gina and Dr. Marty Becker that appears in newspapers across the United States through the Universal Press Syndicate.

Gina is the author of Dogs for Dummies and co-author (with VIN owner/founder Paul D. Pion, DVM, DACVIM) of Cats For Dummies, both from IDG Books Worldwide. Dogs for Dummies was named the Best General Reference book by the Dog Writers Association of America as well as the most outstanding writing on dogs in 1996. Cats For Dummies was named "Best Work on Feline Behavior," "Best Work on Feline Nutrition" and "Best Work on Responsible Cat Care" by the Cat Writers Association. Both books are top-sellers, offering nearly 400 pages of advice on choosing, raising, training, caring for and living with a pet. They've been translated into several languages.

Gina has also been a columnist and regular contributor to the AKC Gazette, the official magazine of the American Kennel Club, and she has written on pets for other magazines, including Modern Maturity. She has also been quoted in scores of newspaper and magazine articles, and appeared on TV and radio.

She has taught basic dog-obedience classes and competed in obedience trials with her own dogs. Gina has earned the esteem of trainers and other top-selling pet writers, all of whom have praised her breezy writing style and dogged pursuit of the facts. She also counts among her readers scores of veterinarians, many of whom use her articles in their practices to help educate their clients.

Gina has been active in efforts to help homeless pets, organizing and running a breed-rescue program in her community. She has served on the board of directors for both the Cat Writers Association and the Dog Writers Association of America, and served as contest chair of the DWAA writing contest in 1993. The DWAA has three times awarded her its Maxwell Medallion for Best Newspaper Column, and Pedigree dog food presented her with its Outstanding Journalist Pet Care Award in 1993. In 1995, she was honored with the Geraldine R. Dodge Award for an article promoting cooperation between shelters and breed-rescue groups. The Cat Writers Association has twice awarded her column a Certificate of Excellence.


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