Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why Pets Are Not Good Gifts

We see lots of Christmas puppies this time of year at the veterinary practice I work at. New pets seem to be popular gifts. But unless you know, with 100% certainty that the recipient of the pet wants and has the ability to care for the pet, it is probably a better idea to choose a different present. Last spring we visited the local animal shelter and were very saddened by the huge influx of rabbits and bunnies they shelter had to take in after Easter.

There are a lot of differences between giving a pet as a gift and giving something else. Pets as gifts are unusual in that they make a lot of demands on the gift recipient that other types of presents do not. To give a pet to someone is to give them something that will demand a great deal of their time and money in the months - or in the case of a cat or dog, or some other pets - years to come. That's placing some serious demands on the receiver of a gift.

New puppies and kittens can be especially expensive. They require a series of vaccinations that spans many weeks until they are 16 to 20 weeks old depending on where you live and the biggest health threats around your area. By the time these series are complete, including dewormings and other routine puppy and kitten preventative health measures, the person who receives the gift will likely spend several hundreds of dollars. Then there is spaying or neutering surgeries, that will again be in the hundreds of dollars for most new pets. Food, training classes, beds, litter pans, and scratching posts all add into what the new owner will have to pay for as well.

The cost to buy a puppy or a kitten as a gift to someone else is actually the smallest cost associated with owning that new pet.

Where and when I think giving a pet as a gift can work, are in cases such as when a family had decided that they are ready to have a pet, but the parents decide to time the arrival of the new pet (that they would be getting anyway) with a holiday or birthday. They knowingly are taking on all the additional expense and labor involved with getting a new pet onto themselves, not placing that burden onto someone else.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tips for Keeping Your Pet Safe on Halloween

A lot of people worry about the dangers from Halloween tricksters, or other strangers, with more evil intentions, to their pets on Halloween night. Some shelters stop adopting out black cats, or all cats, for the month of October. From my research, I was not able to find any evidence that animal cruelty increases around Halloween. It seems that the people who intentionally hurt animals don't limit themselves to October to do so.

However, it seems that no one has ever really studied the issue in a serious way either, and lack of good evidence may be due more to a lack of any well done study. That's why many rescue organizations take a 'better safe than sorry' approach by setting limits on adopting out pets that may be at risk.

This Halloween danger to pets seem to get a lot of press, and a cause a lot of worry in the minds of many pet owners. However, there are many very real, and much more common Halloween hazards for cats and dogs that many owners never think about. I've written about many of the major Halloween hazards to cats and dogs in this article:

Pet Safety Tips on Halloween

Monday, September 22, 2008

Close the Door

Sometimes Complex behavior problems have simple solutions.
I don't know how many times I've heard someone, both clients and personal acquaintances say something like, “I can't keep Fido off my bed no matter what I do! I've tried everything.”

Everything? Really? I had a lot of problems with my cats urinating on my bed. The very first thing I 'tried' worked very well. I closed my bedroom door.

My cats are very smart. But they're short, and they don't have thumbs. Closed door = problem solved. I often wonder why more people don't come up with this on their own. I didn't like keeping my door closed in the beginning. It was annoying to remember to close it behind me all the time, but falling exhausted at night onto a wet, stinky pillow is a very effective reminder. Now I'm used to it.

Years ago, shortly after we'd adopted our cat Sheeba, she began urinating all over the house. I wasn't surprised because that's why we adopted her - to prevent her from being euthanasia by her previous owners for urinating all over their house. I was actually more surprised that we'd gotten about 4 good months out of where she faithfully used her litter box. Things changed when our other cat, Magic, began attacking her.

Out of frustration, I eventually closed her into our bedroom to keep the two cats apart. Her urination behavior came back under control away from Magic, but making her live in one little room filled me with enough guilt that I broke down and called an animal behavior specialist. The behaviorist was kind enough to talk with me a little on the phone, so I ended up never needing to actually go in and see her in person. I told her my dilemma – the cats don't get along, but I felt bad keeping Sheeba in a small space all the time.

She told me not to feel bad. Often, she said, what I had done is exactly what they would have recommended. Just getting the cats apart. The stress of the fighting, or from trying to hide and avoid the fighting, was very upsetting for Sheeba. While the separated living situation wasn't ideal, it probably made her feel much safer and more relaxed. The fact that she stopped urinating all over when she was away from Magic was probable proof that she was much happier in the bedroom than she'd been with the run of the house.

It was nice to hear that my solution was really a solution, and not just another problem, like I thought. Behavior problems are tricky because the emotions, and preconceived ideas of the pet owner can really get in the way, just like mine did. That's why it's good to talk with a veterinarian. If nothing else they have more experience in dealing with these problems and have an outside, objective point of view that really makes a big difference.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Puppy Classes for Socialization

Even if you've had dogs your whole life, and you know how to train a puppy well, there are still some benefits to enrolling in a puppy class. Dogs have a short period when they are young in which socialization happens. The more access they have to other dogs and other people in this sensitive window, the better. Well socialized dogs are calmer when meeting strangers, less anxious and less prone to problems like separation anxiety, and easier to deal with at the veterinarian and groomers office.

You may think that it would be easier and cheaper to simply take the puppy to the dog park every day. The problem with this approach is that the sensitive period for socialization occurs when the puppy is still at risk for many infectious diseases. Their immune systems aren't mature yet, and they have not completed their series of puppy vaccinations. It just isn't safe to take them out and expose them to unknown dogs at this point.

A good puppy class will require proof of vaccinations in order to enroll. Even if there are more vaccines yet to get, you know that the puppies in the class are current on their shots for their age right now. The puppy class provides a safer environment for your puppy to meet new dogs and people with a greatly reduced heath risk.

Good classes also occasionally invite owners to trade dogs during class so that the puppies learn to take instruction from people other than their owners. This is a very useful skill, and helps dogs feel more comfortable with their vet, groomer, or your house guests.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Why Canned Cat Food is the Best Choice for Diabetic Cats

On various pet health websites, and also in the veterinary hospital I work in, I've seen questions and debates about whether or not dry cat food causes diabetes in cats. To me this question is missing the point a bit.

Just like in people, there isn't necessarily any one or few things that cause diabetes. There are risk factors. Having a lot of risk factors increases your risk of developing diabetes, but doesn't mean that you will. Cats are the same. Dry food may be a risk factor, but plenty of cats live happily their whole life eating dry cat kibble. If they don't have any other risk factors to developing diabetes, then dry cat food alone probably isn't enough to push them over the edge.

The important question, in my mind, is how to best help cats who are diabetic right now. If we could predict these kinds of things beforehand, that would be wonderful, but we can't. Even with every risk factor to diabetes development present, many cats will remain healthy. Living bodies are still mysterious that way.

So without further delay, here's all the information I tracked down in my research about why diabetic cats should eat canned cat food:
Why Diabetic Cats Should Only Be Fed Canned Cat Food

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Ask Your Pet Questions Here!

So far in this blog I've mainly been linking to pet health articles I've already written, or occasionally writing a new piece specifically for this blog. Since my main goal with creating a pet health blog in the first place was to answer some common questions many people have about their pet's health, I want to know if there's a subject you'd like more information on, or a question you're having difficulty finding the answer to.

I've found in my 10 plus years of working in the veterinary field that some veterinarians are better at explaining things than others. Also, some pet owners are hesitant to ask more questions when they don't understand something. Or maybe they don't even realize that they don't understand until they've had a little bit of time to think about what they heard from the veterinarian.

I am not a veterinarian. I'm a veterinary nurse with lots of experience. Before going into the veterinary field I was a wild animal trainer, so animal behavior is one of my very favorite areas of special interest. If I don't know the answer to your question, I'll do my very best to find out. Research is another favorite hobby of mine.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Office Chairs: Selecting a Pet Proof Chair, Or Pet-Proofing the Chair You Have

This is my cat on one of our destroyed office chairs. Through a lot of trial and error, I've learned what makes a great pet-proof office chair. When Associated Content asked for an article on the subject of selecting a pet-proof office chair, I knew I had some useful tips to offer. I've been down this road more than once with my own *cough* sweet and loving *cough* cats.
Click here to read the full article.
If you have your own tip, I'd love to hear it. I know there's more than one (or tow) ways to pet-proof a chair! Please share your pet-proofing tip here, or in the AC article comment section.