Providing for Your Pet

pet careWe love our pets dearly, and it saddens us to think of what little time we actually have with them, with their lifespans being so much shorter than our own. Typically, we outlive our pets, but what if that’s not the case? Have you thought about what would happen to your pet if something were to happen to you? Have you taken the time to make arrangements for your canine or kitty companion to ensure he is protected? Should you become seriously ill or injured, and unable to care for your pet, or if you should pass away, it is critical that you have plans in place.

Designate a willing, responsible friend or family member to care for your precious pet. Speak with those closest to you (and, preferably, already familiar with your pet) and decide who is most willing and able to serve as an emergency caregiver should something unexpected happen to you. Give that person keys to your home and a list that includes important information such as the name and phone number of your veterinarian, your pet’s feeding and care instructions, and the locations of your pet’s leash, food, toys, bedding, etc.

Carry an alert card in your wallet. Make a wallet-sized card that specifies you have a pet at your home who will need care. Include the name and contact information for your pet’s emergency caregiver, as well as your pet’s name.

Make formal care arrangements for your pet. Of course, no one wants to think about their own passing, but advanced arrangements should be made for your pet in case something happens to you. Sometimes, it’s just not enough that your family member or close friend promised to take care of your pet. Things happen ~ people lose touch, relocate, change their minds, have kids… To be on the safe side, and to ensure your pet is cared for in your absence, make formal arrangements to cover his sufficient care. You may find it necessary to work with an attorney to create a special will, pet trust, or other legal document that details the specific care and guardianship of your pet, as well as the dollar amount necessary to sufficiently care for him. However, keep in mind designating a guardian in your will may not be enough. Wills divide property; they do not serve as custody agreements and your wishes may or may not be followed. And, who will take care of your pet until your will is enacted?

To safeguard your pet with care per your wishes, it is a good idea for pet parents to file with the courts a completed Pet Protection Agreement, a simple agreement that allows you to designate a pet guardian to take care of your pet, and gives you the ability to leave funds to care for your pet in the event you cannot do so yourself.

Many pet parents consider their pets to be family members, an integral part of life who we care for and love. In the same way that responsible parents plan ahead for the care of their children, plans should be made for furry family members. After all, they provide you with unconditional love and affection every day; it’s up to you to ensure they receive the same, even if you’re not there to provide it for them.

With Cats, a Bite Isn’t Always Just a Bite ~ Find Out What Your Cat’s Nip Means!

CatYour fluffy feline may be the sweetest cat around, but that doesn’t mean a nip here or a bite there might occur. While the action may seem unprovoked to you, it makes complete sense to your cat. Some kitty custodians lovingly refer to their cat’s nip as a “love bite,” while others take it as a form of aggression. Well, both are correct. Here’s how you can determine what your cat’s chomp means and how to curb it.

Play Aggression

 Remember when your kitty playfully nibbled at your toes and you thought to yourself “Oh, that’s the cutest thing ever!”? What may have been cute when Fluffy was just a tiny fur ball, likely isn’t so cute now. Cats stalk, chase, grab, leap and ambush random objects in the name of fun, and to catch vermin. Your bare toes wiggling around may look like something tasty to your cat, resulting in him pouncing and taking a bite.

So what can you do to keep Fluffy from pricking her teeth into your little piggies? Well, the obvious option is to wear socks! But another solution is to use playtime as a learning experience in how to be careful and gentle. Start by inviting your feline friend to a mellow game of play “fighting.” Consistently praise her while she remains gentle, and gradually increase the intensity of the game. As soon as you see Fluffy getting overly excited or exposing her teeth or claws, tone down the play session or quickly freeze and “play dead.” This technique should result in a calmer kitty. If not, and Fluffy proceeds to pounce, abruptly scream “OUCH,” and walk away, ignoring Fluffy. Unexpectedly ending a play session sends a very powerful message. After a few repetitions of this scenario, your cat will recognize that her own aggressive behavior equals the end of an enjoyable play session.

Petting-Induced Aggression

Remember last week when you were sitting on the sofa, watching your favorite TV show with Fluffy in your lap as you gently caressed her from head to tail? And remember when, out of nowhere, she bit your finger and ran? Animal behaviorists theorize that too much physical contact may irritate a cat if she has a low threshold for stimulation.

Watch for warning signs of an impending bite that include a quick turn of the head toward your hand, flattening or rotating of the ears, twitching of the tail, restlessness and dilated pupils. If you notice any of these warnings, stop caressing your kitty and place her gently on the floor. Or, if you realize your cat often becomes over-stimulated at the five minute mark of petting, then stop after three minutes. Be aware of her behavior and you’ll likely be able to foil an attack.

Redirected Aggression

Remember when Fluffy became irritated when she spotted another cat on your patio, and she took out her irritation on you in the form of a bite? That was the result of her perceived inability to defend her territory. Since she couldn’t reach the trigger of her anger (the cat on the patio), she lashed out at you because you were in close proximity.

To keep from being bitten in situations like this one, simply steer clear of your agitated cat. Walk away and give her time to calm down.

There are many solutions for curbing your kitty’s biting behavior, but the most important step to any solution is to be realistic and patient. Don’t push your cat beyond her limits and then get frustrated because she isn’t catching on as quickly as you’d like. As with most things in life, patience is a virtue!

Are Animal Bones Safe for Fido?

animal bones“Like a dog with a bone.” How many times have you heard that saying? Dogs and bones – the two seem to go hand-in-hand, with pet parents giving their canine companions bones for entertainment, to prevent bad breath, to help clean their teeth, and for sheer enjoyment. But are animal bones safe for Fido, or do they cause irreparable damage?

Dental Health. One of the surefire ways to ensure your pet is happy and healthy is to maintain his good dental health. Do you treat Fido with the occasional animal bone in an effort to keep his teeth and gums healthy and clean? Well, you may be doing more damage than good. It’s not uncommon for a pooch to suffer from a fractured tooth when chowing down on a bone. Think about it – a bone that is strong enough to hold the weight of a large cow is pretty tough… which means those very persistent chewers can easily break a tooth or two before the bone gives way.

Besides the risk of possible tooth fracturing, aren’t animal bones good for cleaning a dog’s teeth? Not really! You see, for an object to successfully clean teeth, it needs to scrub the teeth enough to clean off tartar, but not so much that it damages the gums or the protective enamel coating on the teeth. When your dog chews a bone, you’ll notice he tends to use his rear teeth to chew and break the bone, meaning the bone never does what is needed to prevent periodontal disease.

Digestive System Issues. When Fido manages to break the bone apart and swallow the pieces, what damage could it do? The fragments can cause digestive ailments such as esophageal blockages, pancreatitis, gastroenteritis, bowel obstruction and/or perforation, and constipation.

  • Esophageal Blockages. When a dog tries to swallow a bone fragment that is a bit too big, it can get stuck in his esophagus, resulting in difficulty breathing and even vomiting, which can be life-threatening and typically requires emergency surgery.
  • Pancreatitis. As Fido chews on an animal bone, fat that is attached to the bone and within the marrow is ingested as well. An increased fat intake can result in pancreatitis – inflammation of the pancreas – which can be extremely painful and will likely require hospitalization.
  • Gastroenteritis. Once a large piece of bone makes its way to the stomach, it can cause irritation and/or ulcers, which results in vomiting. In most cases, stomach acids will dissolve the bone fragment within a few days, but in the interim Fido can experience abdominal pain, dehydration, lethargy and other symptoms that go hand-in-hand with excessive vomiting.
  • Bowel Obstruction / Constipation / Perforation. On its way through the intestinal tract, bone fragments can obstruct or irritate the colon, resulting in constipation. In severe cases, the colon can be perforated, causing loose/bloody stool.

Bacteria. One last thing to consider before you give your dog an animal bone – does Fido have a tendency to chew for a while then save the bone for later? Once the bone reaches room temperature it is a breeding ground for bacteria, which can result in a plethora of digestive ailments.

While you may be inclined to pick up an animal bone as a treat for your four-legged friend, think twice before you do. There are many other options available for Fido’s chewing pleasure that are much safer and sure to be appreciated!

Have You Ever Heard of Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures?

Birman CatDoes the sound of someone chewing their food or tapping their fingernails make you cringe? Is there a common sound that doesn’t typically bother others, but can easily and quickly send you over the edge? If you have a kitty companion, you may not be alone.

Discovered in the United Kingdom

 A bizarre seizure disorder affecting felines was discovered a few years ago in the United Kingdom. Common, everyday sounds seemed to trigger these epileptic-like seizures, accompanied with various symptoms such as loss of balance, convulsions, running in circles, restlessness and freezing in place. Noises that induced these seizures included things as simple as the clicking of a TV remote control, rustling of a newspaper and a variety of other normal household sounds.

Researchers began investigating this odd phenomenon and soon learned pet parents from around the world witnessed the same reactions to certain sounds in their own felines. The one factor almost all cases had in common was the affected cat’s veterinarian having no explanation for the condition, and the general disbelief that sound was the trigger.

FARS, a.k.a. the Tom and Jerry Syndrome

With these findings, the researchers became even more determined to study the anomaly and find answers. They collected data from 96 affected cats and concluded that some cats do indeed suffer from seizures caused by sounds. The disorder was named Feline Audiogenic Reflex Seizures (FARS), otherwise known as “Tom and Jerry Syndrome.”

Research found some sounds did indeed cause the afflicted cats in the study to experience non-convulsive seizures, brief jerks of a muscle or group of muscles, or full-body seizures that lasted up to several minutes. The sounds that most often trigged these seizures were:

· Aluminum foil being crinkled

· Tapping of a metal spoon against a ceramic bowl

· Clinking or tapping of glass

· Crinkling of a plastic bag or paper

· Typing on a keyboard

· The clicking of computer mouse

· Clinking of coins and keys

· Hammering of nails

· A person clicking their tongue

Among the 96 cats studied, all were affected by one or more of these sounds, but the Birman breed proved to be particularly vulnerable.  The cats in the study all ranged in age from 10 to 19 years, with the average age being 15, leading researchers to conclude a seizure disorder may be overlooked by veterinarians as older animals naturally tend to have other health issues that are more obvious and recognizable.

Thanks to the UK researchers, FARS is now a known and recognizable disorder and the kitties who suffer can be treated with sound aversion and anti-seizure medication.

If your kitty companion experiences any of the signs that go along with FARS, seek veterinary attention and mention your suspicion that your kitty may have the disorder.

The Battle Against Bloat

Dog BloatGastric Dilatation Volvulus, commonly referred to as dog bloat, is one of the most heart-wrenching medical emergencies that can be experienced by a pet parent. One moment, your dog is healthy and happy, and the next he is fighting a battle between life and death; a battle in which the odds are stacked against him.

What is Bloat?

Imagine your canine companion’s stomach expanding like one of those balloons clowns use to make balloon animals. Then imagine the clown twisting the balloon to make his animal creation. This is similar to bloat, with your dog’s stomach rapidly expanding with fluid and gas, then being twisted on each end. When this happens, the stomach contents fester, pressure builds, and the blood supply to the stomach is cut off. As a result, a portion or even all of the stomach may die.

Sadly, a domino effect then begins and, if left untreated, bloat can lead to death within just a few short hours. Even sadder, up to half of the dogs who suffer from bloat will not survive, even with emergency treatment.

What are the Symptoms of Bloat?

Keep in mind, some dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat than others, particularly large chested breeds like Great Danes, Weimaraners, Rottweilers and Boxers. If you’re unsure if bloat may be a possible problem for your pooch, consult with your vet.

Bloat develops suddenly and is more common in middle-aged or senior dogs. Often times, the first symptoms may appear after your dog has eaten a large meal, ingested a large amount of water, or has been exercising vigorously before or after eating.

Be aware of these five early warning signs:

  1. Your dog is drooling more than usual.
  2. Your dog is retching, but unable to vomit.
  3. Your dog’s stomach is tight or swollen.
  4. Your dog is visibly tired but can’t seem to rest.
  5. Your dog appears to be uncomfortable or in pain. He may groan, whine or grunt – particularly when his stomach is touched or pressed.

As the problem progresses, your dog may go into shock. His gums and tongue may appear pale, his heart rate my increase greatly, his pulse weaken, and he may experience difficulty breathing, and perhaps even collapse.

Even if you have just the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your pooch to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. If the stomach has twisted, emergency surgery is the only option.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bloat?

Unfortunately, there is no clinically proven cause for bloat in dogs. There is debate in the pet medical community about genetics, temperament, stress and a host of other factors.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to try to prevent your dog from getting bloat, including:

  • Feed your dog a few times per day rather than just one big meal.
  • Slow down a speedy eater. Try a slow feeding dog bowl or put a tennis bowl in your dog’s food dish to slow his roll when it comes to scarfing down his food.
  • Provide a raised feeding station for your dog.
  • Try soaking your dog’s dry kibble in water, or try a wet food diet.
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink too much water at once.
  • Prevent your dog from exerting excessive energy just before or just after eating.
  • Consider preventative surgery. If your pooch is an at-risk breed or has a close family member who suffered from bloat, preventative gastropexy may be the answer. During the procedure, a veterinary surgeon will stitch the side of your dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall, preventing the stomach from twisting.

Bloat is a scary situation that many pet parents don’t consider, and few are prepared to recognize. Keep your dog’s best interests at heart by doing what you can to prevent bloat and, if the situation arises, to recognize it so that every effort can be made to save your precious pooch.

Believe It or Not, There IS a Right Way to Hold a Leash

Yes, you read that correctly… there is a right way, and several wrong ways, to hold your dog’s leash. Holding a leash may seem like a basic task, but the way in which you do so can mean the difference between the safety of you and your dog, and possible disaster.

I know, right now you’re probably thinking to yourself, “Seriously? How can holding my dog’s leash possibly be dangerous?” Many people don’t even think about how they hold a leash; they simply do what’s comfortable. But, consider these tidbits of information:

  • No matter how big or small your pooch, NEVER wrap the leash around your arm, wrist or any part of your body in general. You may feel doing so gives you a good grip, but it can easily result in you being dragged by your dog (say, for instance, Rover spots a squirrel and quickly takes off after it with you in tow), which can lead to something as serious as a broken bone to a minor dislocated digit. Whether you’re a pet parent to a tiny Toy Poodle or a monstrous Mastiff, being pulled abruptly by your pooch can happen, and the results can be disastrous.
  • Rather than wrapping the leash, put only your thumb through the loop of the leash, with the leash lying in the palm of your hand, forming a fist, as shown here. If you need additional support, hold the leash below the handle with your other hand.

dog leash safetyWith your hand properly gripping the leash, hold your hand on your abdomen, its exact position depending on your dog’s size and shape. Typically, it is ideal to hold your hand a bit above your navel, but you may find it best to hold it a little lower if you have a particularly large and/or strong dog. This hand placement will give you better control.

  • Speaking of control, many pet parents think they have greater control over their dog if they hold the leash tightly, but usually the opposite is true. Most dogs tend to struggle against the pressure on the neck when the leash is being held too tightly, which will only cause him to pull harder. Ironically, using just a little bit of control may be the best way to control your dog during your walks. Just remember, a tight leash tells your dog there’s something to be anxious about.
  • If your dog tends to pull, work on teaching him how to heel on command.

Bottom line: when it comes to walking your dog, learn how to take the lead (pun intended!). Proper leash holding and the right amount of control can result in delightful walks for you and your precious pooch!

Enhancing Your Senior Pet’s Quality of Life

Senior

Have you noticed your aging pet’s personality changing? Is Gus becoming grouchy, or has Cutie Pie been more cantankerous? As our cuddly companions age, we have a tendency to tolerate the various changes in their behavior and physical aptitude, conceding to them as inevitable factors of aging, rather than challenge these changes.

Your pet feels the effects of aging, just as we do. Wear and tear on her body takes its toll, making arthritis and muscle degeneration common in our senior canine companions and feline friends. The discomfort that comes along with these ailments can turn Rover from his usual affectionate, gentle self to more of a grumpy loner. And, to make matters worse, the discomfort will likely impede your pet’s desire to move, which will spark further degradation of the muscles, which will reduce bone and joint support. It’s a vicious circle of events!

Accept the Change?

Should we, as loving pet parents, simply sit back and accept these unwelcome changes in our fur friends? NO! The physical and psychological symptoms experienced by pets as they age can come to a halt, and maybe even reverse, with weight control and regular exercise. Here are a few tips that should help Fluffy and Fido feel better in no time:

  • Keep your senior pet dry and warm at all times. Extreme temperature changes and even dampness can cause your pet’s arthritis to flare-up, just as it can humans. Heating pads and warm water soaks can help relax muscles and increases blood flow, which can help alleviate arthritic pain.
  • Help your pet maintain a healthy weight, as added weight adds undue stress to your pet’s joints. Most major pet food companies offer “senior” brands that are lower in calories, higher in fiber, and contain added vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Ask your veterinarian for advice on which brand will be most beneficial to your furry family member.
  • Become a pet masseuse. Massaging your pet will move fluids through his muscles and remove tension from the tendons that surround the joints. One area at a time, rub around the joints to warm the underlying tissue. Next, place your hands over the area and apply gentle compressions over the area, establishing a rhythm as you press and release. Once you complete a full-body massage, end the experience with soft caressing to soothe your pet’s nerves. Regular massages for your pet may help prevent and/or alleviate the stiffness and pain that accompanies arthritis.
  • Invest in an orthopedic pet bed, which provide extra cushioned support and reduce stress on pressure points.

Sadly, there is no cure for the inevitable aging process, but there are effective practices that can make it less stressful on your pet. Your four-legged friend has blessed you with the best years of his life. Do all you can to ensure his senior years are comfortable and pleasant.