Monday, September 18th, 2006
You will need food, water and food bowls, leash, collar, training crate, brush, comb and canine chew toys.
Keep your dog on a leash when you are outside, unless he is in a secured (fencedin) area. If your dog defecates on a neighbor’s lawn, the sidewalk or any other public place, be sure to clean it up.
Puppies 8 to 12 weeks old need four meals a day. Feed puppies three to six months old three meals a day. Puppies six months to one year need two meals a day. When your dog reaches his first birthday, one meal a day is usually enough. For some dogs (such as larger ones or those prone to bloat), it’s better to feed two smaller meals. Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet and may be mixed with water, broth or some canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg, fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than 10 percent of his daily food intake. Puppies should be fed a high-quality brand-name puppy food two to four times a day. Please limit “people food”, because it can result in vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits, as well as obesity. Have clean, fresh water available at all times. Wash food and water dishes frequently.
Every dog needs daily exercise to keep mentally and physically stimulated. The proper amount depends on the breed type, age and health status of your dog. Providing enough exercise will improve your dog’s health and prevent household destruction and other behavior problems common in under exercised dogs.
You can help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding with frequent brushing. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don’t need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or dirt will stick to soap residue.
Small dogs, sometimes referred to as “lap dogs”, are the easiest to handle. The larger breeds, such as German Shepherd dogs, are usually too large to lift. If you want to carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog’s chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the underside, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.
Your pet needs a warm, quiet place to rest, away from all drafts and off the floor. A training crate is ideal. You may wish to buy a dog bed, or make one out of a wooden box. Place a clean blanket or pillow inside the bed. Wash the dog’s bedding often. If your dog will be spending a great deal of time outdoors, you will need to provide her with shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it’s cold.
Licensing and Identification
Follow your community’s licensing regulations. Be sure to attach the license to your dog’s collar. A dog license, ID tag, implanted microchip or tattoo can help secure your dog’s return if he becomes lost.
All dogs are descended from their wild cousin, the wolf, and share many traits seen in wolves. Dogs, and puppies in particular, are denning creatures and feel more secure in small, snug areas with low roofs – thus the success of the training crate. As pack animals, dogs do not enjoy being alone. Each pack needs a leader. Ideally, all human family members should be ahead of the dog in the pack order. Your dog should not be the leader, as this can result in aggression or other dominance displays.
A well-behaved companion animal is a joy. But left untrained, your dog can cause nothing but trouble. Teaching your dog the basics – “sit”, “stay”, “come”, “down”, “heel”, “off” and “leave it” – will improve your relationship with both your dog and your neighbors. If you have a puppy, start teaching him manners as soon as possible! Begin with basic sit and stay commands. Use little bits of food as a lure and reward. Puppies can be enrolled in obedience courses when they have been adequately vaccinated. You can contact your local human society for training class recommendations.
See a veterinarian if your dog is sick or injured. Take him for a full check-up, shots and a heartworm blood test every year.
Puppies replace their baby teeth with permanent teeth at between four and seven months of age. Clean their teeth with a dog toothpaste or a baking-soda-and-water paste once or twice a week. Use a child’s soft toothbrush, a gauze pad or a piece of nylon pantyhose stretched over your finger. Some dogs are prone to periodontal disease, a pocket of infection between the tooth and the gum. This painful condition can result in tooth loss and is a source of infection for the rest of the body. Veterinarians can clean the teeth as a regular part of your dog’s health program.
Fleas and Ticks
During the warm season, it’s important to inspect your dog for fleas and ticks daily. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several new methods of flea and tick control. Your veterinarian can tell you about these and other options.
This parasite lives in the heart and is passed from dog to dog by infected mosquitoes. Heartworm infections can be fatal. Because it is important to detect infections from the previous year, your dog should have a blood test for heartworm every spring. A once-a-month pill given during mosquito season (which varies in different areas of the country) will protect your dog. If you travel south with your pet during the winter, your dog should be on the preventive medicine during the trip. In some warmer regions, veterinarians recommend preventive heartworm medication throughout the year.
Females should be spayed (ovaries and uterus removed) and males neutered (testicles removed) by six months of age. Spaying before maturity significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer, a common and frequently fatal disease of older female dogs. Spaying also eliminates the risk of pyometra (an infected uterus), a very serious problem in older females that requires surgery and intensive medical care. And spaying protects your female pet from having unwanted litters. Neutering males prevents testicular and prostate diseases, some hernias and certain types of aggression. Please note that neutering does not affect a dog’s protectiveness. A neutered dog protects his home and family just as well as an unneutered dog.
Medicines and Poisons
- Never give your dog medication that has not been prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Do not give your dog chocolate.
- Make sure your dog does not have access to rat poison or other rodenticides.
- If you suspect that your dog has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Puppies should be vaccinated with a combination vaccine (called a 5-in-1) at 2, 3 and 4 months of age and then once annually. This vaccine protects the puppy against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and parainfluenza. A puppy’s vaccination program cannot be finished before four months of age. Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers and American Staffordshire and pit bull terriers should be vaccinated until five months of age. If you have an unvaccinated dog older than four or five months, your pet will need a series of two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart, followed by a yearly vaccination. Do not walk your puppy or your unvaccinated dog outside or put her on the floor of an animal hospital until several days after her final vaccination.
- Since laws vary around the country, contact a local veterinarian for information on rabies vaccination. The first rabies vaccine is to be followed by a vaccination a year later, and then once every three years.
- Other vaccines for dogs are appropriate in certain situations. Your veterinarian can tell you about them.
- Vaccines will protect your animal from specific viral and bacterial infections. They are not a treatment. But if your pet gets sick because he is not properly vaccinated, the vaccination should be given after your companion animal recovers.
Even in urban areas, dogs are commonly exposed to worms and possible infestation. Microscopic eggs produced by intestinal worms in infected dogs are passed in their feces, providing a source of infection for other dogs. There are several types of worms and a few microscopic parasites that commonly affect dogs. Because most of these cannot be seen in feces, a microscopic fecal evaluation is the only satisfactory way to diagnose intestinal worms and other parasites. Most puppies, even from healthy mothers in good homes, carry roundworms or hookworms. All puppies should be dewormed by a veterinarian regardless of fecal evaluation.
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Saturday, September 16th, 2006
High-quality commercially prepared cat foods have been scientifically developed to give your cat the correct balance of nutrients and calories. Your shelter or veterinarian will be able to recommend the best diet to keep your cat healthy. Buy the highest-quality food you can afford. Lower-quality foods may cost you less today, but they can increase your cat’s chances of developing health problems in the future.
Obesity is a serious health problem in cats. Ask your veterinarian to help you determine the ideal body weight for your cat, and adjust your cat’s diet to attain and maintain that weight according to your veterinarian’s suggestions.
A word about food boredom: It’s not uncommon for cats to tire of the same old thing day in and day out. Provide variety in the form of different flavors and textures. Always gradually introduce any new brand of food to prevent digestive upset.
Never feed your cat human food such as table scraps, bones, or high-fat meats. Contrary to popular myth, milk is not necessary for cats and may cause digestive upset. Meat, however, is necessary for cats (because it produces essential metabolites); that’s why placing your feline on a low-meat or no-meat diet is never recommended.
Feeding your cat
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Saturday, September 16th, 2006
Although your cat may act independent and be litter-trained, he still counts on you to provide him with food, water, safe shelter, regular veterinary care, companionship, and more. Take care of these ten essentials, and you’ll be guaranteed to develop a rewarding relationship with your feline companion.
- Outfit your cat with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your companion may slip out the door – an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your cat will be returned home safely.
- Follow local cat registration laws. Licensing, a registration and identification system administered by some local governments protects both cats and people in the community.
- Keep your cat indoors. Keeping your cat safely confined at all times is best for you, your pet, and your community.
- Take your cat to the veterinarian for regular check-ups. If you do not have a veterinarian, ask your local animal shelter or a pet-owning friend for a referral.
- Spay or neuter your pet. This will keep her healthier and will reduce the problem of cat overpopulation.
- Give your cat a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet.
- Train your cat to refrain from undesirable behaviors such as scratching furniture and jumping on countertops. Contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained with a bit of patience, effort, and understanding on your part.
- Groom your cat often to keep her coat healthy, soft, and shiny. Although it is especially important to brush long-haired cats to prevent their hair from matting, even short-haired felines need to be groomed to remove as much loose hair as possible. When cats groom themselves, they ingest a great deal of hair, which often leads to hairballs.
- Set aside time to play with your cat. While cats do not need the same level of exercise that dogs do, enjoying regular play sessions with your pet will provide him with the physical exercise and mental stimulation he needs, as well as strengthen the bond you share.
- Be loyal to and patient with your cat. Make sure the expectations you have of your companion are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved.
Feeding your cat
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Wednesday, August 16th, 2006
Your pet – your dog, cat, rabbit, or bird – is like a member of your family; and taking care of your pet’s needs is part of your normal routine. But what if your dog requires a midday walk and you won’t be home from work until early evening? Or, suppose you plan to go away on vacation, or you must leave for an extended business trip. Or, perhaps you are temporarily incapacitated due to illness. Who will make sure that your cat is fed and his litter box kept tidy? Who will feed and water your parakeet? For those times when you are unable to take care of your pet, you can enlist the services of pet caregivers such as dog walkers or pet sitters. But before making a decision on how to provide care for your pet, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with all your options.
Pet care services
Pet care is any service that provides care for domestic animals (dogs, cats, and birds, for example) when their owners are unavailable. These services can include pet sitting, dog walking, and doggie day care. Fees for each service vary widely, depending on where you live (fees are considerably higher in big cities) and the specific needs of your pet.
Daily pet care
If you work long hours and own a dog, you may need help with your dog’s daily care. In contrast to most other domestic animals, dogs require considerable attention every day. For example, dogs can become very anxious when they are left alone for long stretches of time. In addition, experts recommend that you walk your dog for a total of about an hour a day. If you need help with your dog’s daily needs, you might try one of the following options:
- Hire a professional dog walker. A dog walker can both give your dog a daily walk and make sure he is fed and watered. Professional dog walkers typically walk dogs from the same neighborhood in groups, giving them a welcome chance to socialize. A dog new to the walker will be taken individually at first, so the dog can get to know and trust her. Dog walkers usually belong to national professional organizations and are required to comply with ethics, codes and practice guidelines. For example, professional dog walkers are required to keep first-aid kits on hand, have liability insurance, and carry an emergency veterinary release. In addition, in many regions of the country, local laws regulate the activities of dog walkers by, for example, limiting the number of dogs that can be walked together and preventing dogs from being walked in certain locations. Dog walkers usually charge an hourly fee.
- Find a responsible neighbor. If you are confident in the walker’s skills and dependability, you will save money by avoiding a professional’s higher fees. If you prefer to employ a neighbor, you might ask a fellow pet owner or someone who loves animals. You might also place an ad in a local high school or college newsletter.
- Take your dog to a doggie day-care center. Doggie day care operates much like day care for small children. Daily activities typically include group playtime, mealtime, naptime, perhaps a learning activity (like obedience training), snack time, and a combination of indoor and outdoor activities, all supervised by day care center staff. You then pick your dog up at the end of the day. Doggie day care centers range from the basic to the luxurious. A basic facility should look and smell clean and employ a well-trained staff. A luxury facility might provide a “petcam” (which enables you to observe your dog on the Internet while you are at work) and limousine transportation for your dog to and from the day care center.
To find a professional dog walker or a doggie day-care center, try looking in your local yellow pages. You can shop online, as many doggie day care centers maintain Web sites. Ask friends or your vet for referrals. Some veterinary offices maintain on-site doggie day care, but space is usually limited.
When choosing between a dog walker and doggie day care, consider your dog’s temperament, size, and individual needs. Do you have a big dog that thrives on constant activity, stimulation, and exercise? Does she get along with other dogs? Is she an older dog who is less active? Your budget may also be a determining factor because a full-day day care arrangement is much pricier than a daily one-hour walk. Before you make your final decision, be sure to do a little comparison shopping.
Long-term pet care
Although pets such as cats, birds, fish, hamsters, or rabbits can, unlike dogs, be left alone during the day, if you go away on vacation or business you are also likely to need help caring for them. Here are the common types of longer-term pet care:
- Pet sitting. A pet sitter visits your home to care for your pet while you are away. For example, you might arrange for a pet sitter to take your dog out for a few walks a day. Or, a pet sitter might come to your house to feed your cat, clean her litter box, and play with her. A trained pet sitter can recognize a medical emergency and contact your regular vet, should the need arise. Other pets typically cared for by pet sitters besides dogs and cats include birds, rabbits, hamsters, and tropical fish.
- Boarding kennels. A boarding kennel is a facility that keeps your pet overnight for a period of days or weeks. For dogs, individual kennels, or pens, typically measure about 4 foot by 4 foot, and dogs usually have access to a larger area in which to exercise. Fees are based on the size of the dog and whether you request extra walks. Cats are kept in smaller pens, and though they receive attention from staff, they do not interact with other cats. Most kennels board only dogs and cats, but a few take in other pets such as rabbits and birds.
Before choosing a kennel, call a few places and make appointments to visit. While you’re there, look for cleanliness, good lighting and ventilation, a caring staff, an adequate exercise area, and dog runs. Ask about feeding and exercise schedules. Check to make sure that cats and dogs are housed separately.
- In-home boarding. In-home boarding is a more informal type of care provided by homeowners who invite dogs to come and stay at their home as a “member of their family”. This can be a good alternative for dogs who stress out in kennels, or owners who aren’t comfortable leaving their dogs at home alone, or in the care of someone checking on the dog two or three times a day. If you’re interested in in-home boarding, check to make sure the provider is bonded and insured.
If you have several pets, you are likely to save money by hiring a pet sitter to come to your home rather than arranging to board each animal. However, some dogs or cats may find that the stress of leaving home is more than they can handle; your assessment of your pet’s personality will help here. As a general rule, given that cats are more territorial but less sociable than dogs, kennels and in-home boarding are a better option for dogs than cats.
If you decide to take your dog or cat to a boarding kennel, you will be required to update his vaccinations; so a trip to the vet may be in order. Make sure you schedule this appointment well in advance of your vacation date. If you are planning a long vacation, you may want to arrange a short stay for your pet beforehand in order to make the adjustment easier. When dropping your pet off at a kennel or for in-home boarding, try to avoid long, dramatic good-byes because they are likely to increase your pet’s anxiety.
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Thursday, August 10th, 2006
A pet can be a wonderful addition to your home and family that brings joy and love. But it’s important to take the time to think about how a pet will fit into your life and which kind of pet is right for you to be sure you make the best decision. Buying or adopting a pet is like starting a new long-term relationship that brings lots of joy along with lots of responsibilities. That’s why it’s important to take the time to really think through the decision to buy or adopt a pet.
Which pet is best for you?
Here are some questions you may want to consider to help you figure out what kind of pet would fit into your lifestyle:
- How much time can you spend exercising and caring for a pet? Many pets, especially dogs, require several walks a day and lots of attention. Is there someone home during the day or would your pet be alone most of the time? Are there lots of nights when you work late and couldn’t come home to care for your pet? Do you travel frequently?
- Can you afford the cost of having a pet? The average cost of owning a dog is $600 a year, and cat owners spend about $300 a year on their pets. You’ll have to pay for annual and emergency visits to the veterinarian, food, grooming, accessories like leashes and dishes, and any boarding or walking services you’ll use.
- What kind of pet would be a good fit with your family? Think about the characteristics of your ideal pet. Do you need a pet that will get along with children or older people? Some breeds are known for being high energy while others are more relaxed. Is there anyone in your family who is allergic to pets or pet hair?
- What kind of pet would best fit your home? Do you have a yard? Lots of space? Are you near a park? Could you let a pet outside? There are some pets, like large dogs, that just aren’t suited for life in an apartment or small home. If you don’t live near a park or safe neighborhood to walk a dog, perhaps you’d be better off with a cat or other pet that doesn’t need to be exercised.
- Do you want an older pet or a younger pet? Baby animals are very cute, but they are also a lot of work. If you get a puppy or kitten, you will need to spend a time training it, but if you adopt an older animal, it may not need as much training.
Choosing the right breed
If you decide to buy a dog or cat, you’ll need to think about what kind of breed you want. There are thousands of different breeds of dogs and cats. The first step in choosing a breed is thinking about the pet characteristics that are important to you such as
- exercise needs
- background, or what the pet was bred for
- grooming needs
- energy level
Then spend some time researching different breeds to find out which ones match your list of characteristics. You can do this on the Internet or at the library.
Although all animals are different regardless of their breed, it’s important to try and find a pet that will fit your needs. For example, you may need a pet that will get along well with children or that doesn’t shed.
Buying a pet
Most people who buy a pet go to either a breeder – someone who breeds animals on a professional basis – or a pet store.
If you buy a pet from a breeder, you should be able to make an appointment to see the pet in its home and observe its living conditions. Look to make sure that the space is clean and well kept, and try to figure out how much interaction the pet has with other people and animals.
Reputable breeders usually breed their animals for temperament and health. Some breeders may even offer some form of guarantee under which they will take the pet back if it turns out to be the wrong match for you. Ask the breeder about the temperament of other pets he or she has bred, and ask to meet a parent of the animal if one is available.
Unfortunately, not all private breeders are reputable. Find out which breed club the breeder belongs to and also ask for references from a client who purchased a pet from the breeder.
Many people buy wonderful pets from a pet store, but it can be hard to learn anything about the background of a pet bought at a pet store. Some stores stock pets that are bred in large facilities that produce hundreds or thousands of pets. These animals may have health or behavior problems that you’re not aware of. Be sure to ask any pet store where it gets its animals. You may also want to contact your local business bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against the store.
Adopting a pet from a shelter
Most animal shelters have lots of pets available for adoption – everything from kittens to purebred dogs. Shelter animals can make wonderful pets, and it is far less expensive to adopt a pet from a shelter than it is to buy one.
If you’re thinking about adopting a pet, call your local shelter and ask them about the procedure. In some cases, you may be able to just walk into the shelter, choose a pet that you like, pay a small fee, and then bring your pet home. Other shelters may have a more involved process. You may have to have the pet spayed or neutered before you can bring it home, provide proof of home ownership or landlord approval, or even bring in all members of your family before adopting a pet.
When adopting a pet from an animal shelter, ask a shelter employee about the pet’s background. Some pets may have been abused, which could result in behavioral issues. Also ask about the pet’s personality. Is it friendly? Does it get along with other animals in the shelter? Does it enjoy being with people? If you have a child, be sure to introduce the pet and the child before making a decision.
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