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Monthly Archives: November 2013

Today we are thankful….

…for puppy breath and four-footed best friends.
…for warm purring cats.
…for service dogs and military dogs and working dogs of all types.
…for sideways kitten scampers.
…for good pet owners.
…for always coming home to someone who is happy to see you.
…for cats basking in the sunshine.
…for therapy dogs and R.E.A.D dogs.
…for the vaccines that keep our pets safe from ugly diseases like rabies and distemper.
…for walking the dog on a beautiful crisp fall evening.
…for shelter pets finding their forever homes.
…for the golden years we are given with our senior pets.
…for snuggling.
…for unconditional love.
…for the advances in veterinary medicine that let us treat and heal so many beloved pets.
…for wagging tails.
…for friends and family and togetherness.

Wishing everyone a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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Posted by on November 28, 2013 in Cats, Dogs

 

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In praise of old dogs.

While October was Adopt a Shelter Pet month, November has a more specific focus: Adopt a Senior Pet.

Mostly people pass over the oldsters in the shelter in search of a young dog. Unfortunately “senior” labels are applied in some shelters to pets as young as six years old! Six is not senior unless you’re looking at a giant breed dog. Six is often the prime of life! And especially for cats.

I understand the idea of wanting to get a pet who will be with you for a very long time. But depending on what you’re looking for in a companion, an older pet might be better suited for your lifestyle. Many of the young dogs in the shelter are large and unruly, with minimal self-control and nearly no manners. Many of them are nice! dogs. They’re happy and they want to play play play. But they require a LOT of effort on your part. Training, enough exercise to tire them out so they’re not over the top in the house. Dealing with the things they’ve chewed up. Not that young shelter dogs aren’t great! But you need to know what you’re getting into if it is going to work.

An older dog presents a different set of issues. Often they’re mellower, housebroken, and they crazy edge of youth has worn off. They’re not into everything ALL THE TIME. Their physical exercise needs are often more easily met and put less strain on the relationship.

Siren at 16 years old.

Siren at 16 years old.

BUT you are also looking at getting into the time of life where more physical problems start to crop up. Joint problems in bigger dogs which can require Joint Supplements or pain medication. Dental issues. All of the older dog diseases like hypothyroidism. So before you jump into adopting an older dog, it is good to make sure that you’re financially able to deal with what you have ahead of you.

The truly senior pets languishing in shelters are what truly break my heart. They often wind up there through no fault of their own. Their owners die. They’re victims of divorce. They just aren’t that interesting anymore. It’s sad. It’s world-rocking to any pet, but especially to an older pet, to end up in a shelter environment. And it makes me terribly sad to think of them living out their last days without someone who truly loves them.

It takes a special person to bring home a truly elderly pet. It’s not something everyone can do, and it’s not something everyone should do. I have done it twice now. My first old dog was a 15 year old Miniature Poodle whose owner had to go into a nursing home. She was a high maintenance little dog with a slew of health problems, but after a lot of long hard soul-searching, I took her on as my very first dog. It was hard sometimes, but it was also wonderful. She was senile and silly and delightful. She was extremely attached to me. (That myth that a dog adopted at an older age won’t bond with you is sooooooooo not true.) I had her for about 18 months before she passed away. It was hard to see her go, but I knew that I had given her what she deserved for that time, and I felt good about that.

Harvey at 11. He lost one of his eyes to glaucoma.

Harvey at 11. He lost one of his eyes to glaucoma.

So good, in fact, that several years later I went out and brought home an old pit bull mix from a shelter. He’d been in and out of the shelter several times, had lived there for a year, and nobody ever even looked at him. It’s really amazing he lived long enough for me to meet him and save him– an old black bully breed is often tops of the euthansia list. But the people at that shelter saw something in him. And I saw it too.

Harvey was a hilarious dog. He was so sweet and eager to please but he was senile and kind of dumb as a stump. I took him to beginner obedience class. He learned to sit and to shake hands and that is all. But it was great fun anyway. He was very much an old man, but he’d still get the puppy zoomies at meal times and made me laugh and laugh. He was a sweet, gentle, placid dog. Not until after he passed away did I learn he had been a cruelty seizure years ago. I never would have guessed that from the way he acted. He loved everybody. Amazing how these dogs can trust when they have every reason not to.

Loss hurts whether it comes after only a year or it comes after 14 years. I do think it is a different kind of loss. When you get a pup, you’re looking at having that dog for years and years. If that is cut short prematurely, it’s a true tragedy. And if you come to the end of those golden years, you have so much to look back on. But when you go into a shelter or a rescue mentally prepared that you’re going to bring home a pet that you will likely not have for a long time, you develop a different kind of relationship. No less close. No less affectionate. But you know. You know what you’re doing, you know what you’re facing, and you know that it is so worth it to that life you’ve provided, finally, with his forever home.

I would love to see more people even consider adopting older pets. Sometimes you’re the right person for it, the right family for it, and sometimes you’re not. But I would love to have more people at least think about it realistically and maybe they will find out as I did, as so many others have, that providing a cushy retirement home for an old guy in need could be a very rewarding part of life.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Cats, Dogs, Shelter Adoption

 

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10 things every spoiled rotten cat should have.

1. Care Credit. Care Credit is a credit card designed specifically for medical uses- accepted at doctors offices, dentists, and the like it is also accepted by many veterinarians. It is easier to get than many credit cards and offers the benefit of six months interest free financing for six months on purchases over $200. If you have an unexpected sick kitty emergency and a tight budget, this is a great way to get your furry little guy the care he needs. It is easy to apply online so that you can be prepared.

2. Cat fountain. Cats originated in the desert and are generally not great drinkers. Not drinking enough is hard on the kidneys for one, but it also frequently contributes to the large amount of kitty bladder problems that we see. Dilution is the solution to pollution, as they say, and if your kitty is making crystals in his urine, keeping him better hydrated can help flush them out. There are a wide variety of kitty fountains out there– running water can be more attractive to cats, it stays fresher, and it’s more fun, thus encouraging cats to drink more. (Adding canned food to their diet is also very beneficial for the same reasons). Drinkwell Fountains are among the most popular and they come in a variety of prices and designs.

3. Cat trees. Cat furniture comes in a huge variety of shapes, sizes, designs, and colors. There are some truly beautiful cat trees out there, and there are more that are designed simply for function. A cat tree allows your cat to make use of the vertical space in your home. Cats like to climb, they like to be up high, and they like to scratch. Cat trees give them an appropriate place to do all of these things. Placing it by a window makes it even more appealing- there’s so much for a cat to see out there!

4. The Furminator. Cats shed. Like crazy. Short-haired, long-haired it makes no difference. Some cats have trouble with hairballs because of all the fur they groom off and swallow, and that’s no fun for anybody. The Furminator comes in designs specific for both long-haired beauties and their short-haired counterparts. They remove an incredible amount of hair, so you must use them as directed and not over-brush any single area. But they can really cut down on the fur left around your house and the little squishy presents your cat coughs up for you from time to time.

5. The laser pointer. Cats love to play with laser pointers, chasing the dot here and there around the house. It plays into all of their hunting and chasing instincts and can be great fun for both the cat and the person in charge of the laser. This can become a frustrating game for cats if they never get to “catch” the dot, so you do want to allow them to win sometimes. And in some cases, cats can become terribly obsessed, so this is a game that should be played in moderation. It’s a great workout for a sedentary housecat though!

6. Feather Wand. Another great toy that nourishes the hunting and chasing instinct within your feline friend. These toys are avaiable in a multitude of designs at most petstores- some of them look like feather dusters on the end of a long thin stick, others have feathers dangling from a string. Whichever your cat finds more fun is the right choice. Tease and encourage your cat to chase this toy, encourage him to sit up on his hind legs and reach up to bat at it. Give him a full-body workout! And again, remember that to keep him interested and prevent frustration, you want to let him win sometimes. Let him grab those feathers and give them a few chomps before you gently detatch him and start the game again.

7. Food-dispensing toys. Obesity is a tremendous problem in housecats in our country, and one way to combat it is to feed limited amounts. And one way to make those limited amounts both more interesting and longer-lasting is to feed portions in toys made to dispense food as they are played with. There is a wide variety out there for dogs, but there seem to be less marketed toward cats, which is a real shame. Shopping for a small-dog sized toy may be the easiest option. Put your kitty’s kibble in the toy and encourage him to figure out how it works. This will play into his hunting instincts as well as his desire to eat. Gone for a long day at work? Leave one or two toys in various places around the house for kitty to discover during the day. It’ll keep him more active and it will keep his mind more engaged, resulting in a more satisfied and less annoying feline housemate.

8. Turbo Scratcher or other scratch pad. Cats need to scratch. It helps them to care for their claws, shed old claw coverings, as well as stretch their shoulders and backs. We often complain about cats scratching inappropriately, but far too often we don’t provide our cats with appropriate places to scratch that they find enjoyable. Cardboard scratching pads are available in a variety of sizes and designs, some laying flat on the floor, others at an angle. The Turbo Scratcher combines a cardboard scratch pad with a fun ball in a track that seems to be especially appealing to young cats. It is always good to get good habits instilled in them early!

9. Catnip mice. This is a classic, but it is still an extremely popular toy with cats and cat owners alike. Available in a wide variety of colors and sizes from realistic to neon, cats love to bat and chase these toys around (and some cats can be trained to retrieve them, which is fun!). The catnip makes them more appealing to many cats, and they seem to be a hit with nearly all cats. Plus they’re inexpensive, and that never hurts!

10. Cardboard boxes. Speaking of inexpensive. Just like young children who find the boxes more fun to play with than their expensive Christmas present, a lot of cats really enjoy cardboard boxes. They hide in them, they sleep in them, they lie in wait and pounce out of them. Some cats really enjoy scratching and biting them. The possibilites are endless and the supplies are cheap. Never underestimate the appeal of an empty cat-sized box.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2013 in Behavior, Cats, Health

 

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Rabies: It’s still out there.

Fortunately, with the development and availablity of good rabies vaccines combined with the fairly loud social message that all dogs and cats should be vaccinated, rabies infections in domestic pets has dropped off dramatically. Even so, there are not infrequent stories on the news about rabid dogs and cats, and in some cases human exposure. Several years ago, a dog owner in New Sewickley, PA was bitten by his own rabid dog. Which is really an unfortunate situation.

The original news report stated that the dog was unvaccinated, and that it had been in contact with a skunk four months previously. The dog suddenly turned aggressive and the owner was bitten. The dog was put down and tested for rabies, and the test was positive. The owner received post-exposure shots (ouch). The dog had also been in contact with three other resident dogs- one who was current on vaccines will be quarantined for 90 days, one who had an expired rabies vaccine will be quarantined for 180 days, and a 3-month-old unvaccinated puppy was euthanized. So much grief all the way around which could have been largely prevented.

There is so much question about vaccines these days, and the questioning of their necessity and the dialogue about what is appropriate for my dog is extremely important. There is an increase in people who are giving minimal vaccines out of fear of side-effects (realistic or not), but I think also in people who have written off all vaccines as either bad or unnecessary. In addition there is the population of people who do not vaccinate due to cost or the effort required to have it done. Yes, vaccines are necessary. Not all of them and potentially not as frequently as they are sometimes recommended, but these diseases are still out there and they are still killing animals. With rabies, the potential is there for much worse.

We don’t see much rabies anymore in domestic animals in this country, but it does happen. And even if your dog never leaves the yard, there is still risk. Dogs can come in contact with all sorts of wildlife even in an urban backyard. All it takes is one scuffle and a bite to infect your unprotected dog. I remember a story told to me by an elderly gentleman a couple years ago whose equally elderly spaniel was accosted by a raccoon while the two of them were just hanging out on their porch. It was the middle of the day, the coon came right up on the porch when it very much did not have to. The dog sustained minor injuries, thankfully the owner none. The raccoon disappeared and was never tested, but that man was thanking his lucky stars that his dog had been vaccinated because while it could have been distemper or something else, it very well could have been rabies.

Ever have a bat get into your house? I have heard any number of stories that involved invading bats and very excited and acrobetic cats. The possibility that the bat could be rabid combined with an unvaccinated cat could lead to disaster.

Scary stuff.

Please please protect your pets from rabies with a simple vaccine. And this includes cats as well, whether they are strictly indoors or strictly outdoors. One vaccine, followed by a booster a year later, and then boosters every three years after that as long as they are done on time. That’s all it takes for some peace of mind in regards to your pets’ health and that of your family and children.

The CDC tracks cases of diagnosed rabies all over the country. The map from 2010 is the most recent that I could find, and it shows a heavy helping of rabies in cats and dogs, especially in our area. Most of the cases were in cats, and yes probably largely barn cats and feral cats, but all it takes is one of those cats in the wrong place at the wrong time to cause a nightmare and potentially some heartbreak. It’s not worth it to play with fire that can actually kill you or your loved ones.

Not sure if your pets are up to date? Give us a call at 665-2338 and we can certainly check our records for you.

 
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Posted by on November 7, 2013 in Cats, Dogs, Health

 

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