Allergies in Dogs

From springtime through the late fall, many people are subject to seasonal allergies. But people are not the only ones suffering. For our dogs and cats, these same seasons can bring intense itching and discomfort. Yes, it seems our pets can get their own “hay fever”.

It’s a very frustrating and somewhat common situation. Pet owners by the millions flock to their veterinarians in the hope of relieving their pet’s itchiness. For many people, the constant chewing, licking, and scratching can test their love for their pets.

Current estimates show that about 20 million pets suffer from some sort of skin condition and many of these are allergies. Allergies are an over-reaction of the body’s immune system to a foreign substance, such as pollen or flea saliva. For people with allergies, we sneeze and sniffle as our bodies respond to histamine released by immune cells. These symptoms are due to the reaction of histamine with receptors in our nose and upper airways.

Our pets, however, react somewhat differently. Dogs and cats have many more histamine receptors in the skin and fewer in the nose. As histamine is released, the receptors cause an itchy feeling and the pet reacts by scratching at that site. Scratching can generate more histamine release, thereby causing more scratching. The constant assault on the skin by the pet’s claws can actually damage the skin, leading to bacterial infections. Areas of hair loss and oozing sores known as “hot spots” are very common with allergies.

Fleas are often found to be the reason for a pet’s itchiness. However, the pet who is truly allergic to fleas will often appear to have no fleas at all! Why? Because these pets are the ultimate flea catchers, doing everything in their power to bite or scratch the discomfort of the flea away. The flea’s saliva sets off an allergic reaction leading to a flurry of chewing and digging at the skin.

Allergies to airborne substances, such as pollen and mold spores, are another reason for itchiness in pets. This is known as atopy and affects many pets from springtime straight through until fall. This condition can be inherited in certain breeds.

If your pet has signs of allergies year round and you see little or no improvement with certain medications, you may have a pet that has food allergies. Contrary to popular belief, food allergies take time to develop and are not due to recent diet changes. Most pets who develop food allergies have been eating the offending food with little problem for years. Common food allergens can include any major protein or carbohydrate source in the pet’s food.

In some mild cases, the itchiness can be treated with anti-histamines or even steroids for a short period of time. However, pet owners need to be aware that allergies are not a condition that can be cured. The good news though, is that they can be well-managed with a team effort from the pet owner and the veterinary team.

Utilizing diagnostic tests such as blood testing and even skin allergy tests, veterinarians can often find ways to reduce the pet’s discomfort level. In some cases, your family veterinarian may refer you and your pet to a veterinary dermatologist. This specialist has many more diagnostic and treatment resources available to bring relief to your pet. In all cases, you, the pet owner, are a vital part of the team. It will be up to you to make sure that all pets in the household are treated for fleas or that your pet stays on the recommended hypo-allergenic diet and doesn’t sneak other treats!

Allergies are not only one of the most frequent reasons for a trip to the veterinarian, but are also a big reason for pet owners becoming frustrated with their pet. Working with your veterinary team to identify what is causing your pet’s symptoms will help keep your four-legged family member right where he needs to be…with you!

Pet Strollers – Not Just For Babies Anymore

Going for a jog in park, but your puppy won’t be able to keep up? Pet strollers are a perfect solution to your problem. Pet strollers are great for your smaller dogs or puppies. For pet owners living where the terrain is uneven and rough, the AT3 Pet Stroller is perfect. The three eleven inch wheels make the going easier when the trail is not smooth or easily traversed. This pet stroller has a front and rear entry for your pet, mesh windows to keep out insects, and a wind and rain cover. It also has front steps so your pet can easily get in, a large storage basket, and opens and folds easily with one hand. It is well ventilated for those hot days and includes a free weather guard.

When the pavement is hot and you want to take you small dog along, using a pet stroller will prevent his paws from getting burned as well as providing shade from the sun. Take your small pet around town with you in a pet stroller similar to those used for infants. Light weight, stylish and easily stored in your car, your pet can accompany you almost everywhere! When not traveling in a comfortable ventilated cabin, your pet is protected from the elements with a zip down front shade and wind cover. For your pet’s safety, the wheels have lockable brakes. So whether it is a walk in the park or shopping in the outdoor markets, take your pet along in a pet stroller. It may be a good way for him to socialize!

Keeping your Pet Healthy on a Budget

dog-railroad-tracks-resizeThe economy is in gloomy and may be for years. Whether it’s the stock market falling or crazy bail outs, saving money in tough economic times is a challenge. Pet owners also feel the stress of trying to make ends meet and many may be tempted to take shortcuts with their pet’s health care. So, when and where can pet owners cut back?

Studies have repeatedly shown that a large majority of pet owners consider their pets as a family member. We spoil them with birthday parties, presents, and all manner of toys and treats to keep them happy. But, when money is tight, extra expenses need to go. Sadly, some pet owners choose to avoid veterinary visits as one means to save money. And believe it or not, others might give up their pets completely.

Knowing what you can safely do at home to lower your pet’s health care costs is a good way to insure a healthy pet and a healthy wallet. You should also know what to avoid!!

First, don’t skimp on wellness or preventive care. Vaccinations and parasite prevention are important parts of maintaining your pet’s health and yours as well. Diseases like rabies and Leptospirosis are zoonotic, meaning they can be spread between animals and people. Similarly, intestinal parasites or even fleas and ticks, are capable of transmitting serious diseases to our families.

Some owners might choose to buy vaccines online or from a pet store. While this idea sounds like a cost-saving measure, there are many risks. It is easy enough to learn how to give a shot, but can you trust that the supplier properly stored the vaccines? Vaccines are delicate biological suspensions and require constant refrigeration to be effective. Some need proper mixing in order to work correctly. Improper preparation could make the whole process worthless. Also, your pet may have an allergic reaction to the vaccine which means a costly trip to the Animal ER.

Choosing a lower cost flea product or a “do-it-yourself” dewormer at a general merchandise store is another option a pet owner might investigate to save money. Sadly, according to the Center for Public Integrity (www.publicintegrity.org), these over-the-counter products are likely responsible for a sharp increase in pet deaths and adverse events in recent years. The EPA has received more than 25,000 reports of over-the-counter pesticide reactions in pets since 2003. So, although you might save a few dollars on the product, the extra trip to the veterinarian will likely cost a lot more!

Over the Counter Flea Products may seem like a bargain, but many do not kill fleas and may in fact cause toxic reactions in your pet. I have had many pets come in still covered in fleas and these products were just applied. Care must also be taken not to use products labeled for dog use on cats. Permethrine products are extremely toxic to cats.

Pet emergencies shouldn’t be a place for shortcuts either. Dr. Elisa Mazzaferro, an emergency veterinarian in Colorado, says many owners simply use topical antibiotics on bite wounds or lacerations in order to avoid treating the pet when initially injured. But, most of these animals end up coming into the veterinary hospital with out of control infections. Dr. Mazzaferro cautions owners against bandaging their pets without proper training. If put on too tight, homemade bandages act like tourniquets, causing swelling of the limb and serious loss of circulation. And always check with your veterinarian before giving any over the counter human medication to your pet! Many pet poisonings are caused by human medications. Tylenol is lethal to cats.

But don’t worry; you can still save on your veterinary bills with a few simple steps at home.

First, (and this sounds very simple) play with your pet! Veterinary behaviorists all agree that a tired dog is a happy dog and happy dogs don’t tear up furniture or get into trouble. Since behavior issues are the number one reason for abandoning pets, this fun task might literally save your pet’s life.

Playing with your pet has health benefits as well. A well-exercised pet is less likely to be overweight and suffer from obesity related problems such as arthritis, certain cancers, or diabetes.

Next, when exercising your pet, use appropriate restraints and confinements. Pets who roam freely are often hit by traffic, get into fights or eat something dangerous. Emergencies like these can end up hitting your wallet very hard.

Even loving your pet has money saving benefits. Dr. Phil Zeltzman, a board certified veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania, says that petting and caressing your pet can help find those little lumps and bumps sooner. Cancer is very common in our pets and can be very expensive to treat. Earlier detection generally means a better outcome and usually less expensive treatments.

Despite all of these precautions, some pets will just get into trouble or develop a serious disease. Although veterinary medicine is still a bargain compared to other health services, most of us would be hard pressed to pay a big veterinary bill out of pocket. Companies like Pets Best Insurance (www.petsbest.com) offer a variety of insurance plans to assist owners with unexpected costs. But even today only a small percentage of pet owners insure their pets’ health. (See Pet Resources for more Pet Insurance Links)
ASPCA Pet Health Insurance

CareCredit is also another option. CareCredit offers a full range of payment plans to meet every financing need. With the popular No Interest Payment Plans* there are no interest charges if the balance is paid in full within the specified time period. Or, if you prefer an even lower monthly payment, you can choose the low interest, Extended Payment Plan* for treatment plans from $1,000 to over $25,000. Plus, there are no up front costs, no annual fees, and no pre-payment penalties. It’s easy to apply and you’ll receive an online decision in seconds.carecredit-026

We all want to keep our furry friends safe and healthy, but it is challenging when just feeding the family stretches your budget. Talk with our staff about your pet’s specific health needs and see what should be addressed immediately and what can wait.

Debra Garrison, DVM

Dental Disease

For many people, dealing with their pet’s bad breath is just part of pet ownership. But, unfortunately, dogs with dental disease are at a higher risk for heart disease. How can you help to make sure your pet is not one of those destined to be on heart medication?

Most of us understand the importance of good oral health for ourselves and visit our dentist at least twice a year. But only a small percentage of people would do the same thing for their pets. Studies in human dentistry and medicine have shown that there appears to be an association between heart disease and dental disease. Is this true for our pets as well?

In a recent nationwide veterinary study, more than 45,000 cases of dogs with serious dental disease were reviewed. These dogs were compared with another 45,000 dogs of similar gender, age, and breed that did not have any dental disease. Their report shows that there appears to be a strong association between the health of your pet’s mouth and the incidence of other health issues, such as heart murmurs or even infection of the lining of the heart.

Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. A recent American Animal Hospital Association report on compliance within veterinary practices showed than less that 35% of pets who need a dental cleaning ever receive one. The reasons for this level of non-compliance are many, but often, pet owners will report that they just didn’t know their pets needed dental work or even that their pets suffered from periodontal disease.

Just as with people, periodontal disease in our pets starts the same way. It begins when food particles, saliva, and bacteria attached to the teeth produce a filmy matrix called “plaque”. If this matrix is not disrupted, “calculus” forms. More commonly known as tartar, the calculus makes the surface of the tooth rough and provides a better hold for more bacteria and helps to protect the bacteria from being dislodged. These bacteria will then infect the gums, causing a condition known as gingivitis. If not treated appropriately, gingivitis can progress into periodontal disease, destroying the bone that supports the tooth. It’s hard to believe, but there may even be an association between dirty teeth and other serious diseases. The same bacteria that cause dental disease have been found in the hearts of dogs with heart disease.

To help prevent dental problems from becoming a serious health issue, veterinarians recommend that oral health care start early. Your new puppy or kitten should become comfortable with you examining its mouth. Early training will help the pet to learn to tolerate brushing and other preventive measures and will help you recognize abnormalities. Simple awareness of the health of your pet’s mouth can help you to provide better health care for your pet. As your pet ages, a weekly check of the mouth may also help to find issues before they become dangerous. You should take time to look for plaque and tartar, especially on the large canine teeth in the front of the mouth and the big shearing teeth in the back of the mouth. Other potential areas of concern include fractured teeth, gum tissue that is overgrown or does not appear to be a healthy pink color, bleeding from the gums or any ulceration in the mouth. In addition to using your eyes, your nose can be an important tool as well. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath! If you can detect any foul odor, or if you see any problems in your pet’s mouth, your pet should be seen by your family veterinarian.

There is a great advancement you should know about. After you have done your weekly exam, you can further help to protect your pet by using a barrier sealant called OraVetTM. This product has helped to revolutionize at home dental care for pets. In less than one minute per week, your pet’s teeth can be protected and the effects of plaque and calculus can be minimized. By adhering to the surface of the teeth, OraVetTM gel actually helps to repel plaque causing bacteria. Without plaque formation, dental disease is much less likely to begin or get worse. For optimal results, see your veterinarian to have your pet’s teeth cleaned, followed by an initial application of OraVetTM applied after the dentistry. You then simply continue weekly applications with a home care kit.

You are an important part of the fight against dental disease. Working with your veterinarian, you can learn to identify potential problems earlier and help your pet lead a, healthier life. For more information on veterinary dentistry, visit www.oravet.com.

Medicating your Dog

Having to give your dog medication is not a task most pet owners look forward to performing. However, in order for your pet to get well it is important that they receive their medication. This handout includes some tips that will, hopefully, make medicine time a more enjoyable experience for both you and your pet.

The easiest way to medicate your pet is usually going to be to hide the pill in food or a pill pocket treat. Simply, place the pill in a small amount of your pets food or in a treat, such as cheese, meat, canned food or peanut butter. It is usually best to hide the pill in a small amount of food, rather in the animals entire dinner bowl, so that you can closely monitor if your pet actually consumed the medication. Some pets are quite adept at eating around their pill or spitting out their medication.

Some pets are not able to take a pill in a tasty treat due to dietary restrictions. Other pets are simply tricksters to maneuvering around the pill and spitting it out. For these pets it may be necessary to manually administer the pill. To give a pill by mouth for your dog, follow these easy steps:

  • Gather the correct dose of the medication and place it in a quick and easily accessible location.
  • Lubricate the medication with a small amount of butter or margarine. This will allow the pill to slide smoothly down your pets throat.
  • Bring your pet to a safe location where you can comfortably control his movements
  • Hold the pill between your thumb and index finger
  • From above, grasp the dogs muzzle with the hand not holding the pill. Your grasp should be placed so that your thumb and fingers are on opposite sides of the mouth behind the canine teeth. Be careful not to get your fingers fully in the mouth.
  • Using a firm, but gentle grip, tilt your pets head toward the ceiling. If the mouth does not drop open, use your ring and pinkie fingers of the hand holding the pill to press down on the lower teeth between the canines.
  • When the mouth is open, quickly place the pill on the back of the tongue. The pill will be swallowed quickest if it is placed behind the arch of the tongue.
  • Close your pets mouth and hold it closed while lowering the head back to a normal position.
  • If your pet does not automatically swallow the pill, then gently rub the underside of its throat, and lightly blow on or rub its nose. These actions will stimulate a swallow reflex in your pet.
  • Closely observe your pet after performing this procedure to make sure that the pill is not regurgitated or spit out.
  • Remember, throughout the entire procedure to offer praise and encouragement. And when the pill is swallowed, lavish your pet with praise and a tasty food reward.
  • Use Pill Yums, a pocketed treat which is designed to hide the pill without any mess. They come in 3 sizes and are available on Amazon.com

 

Medicating Your Cat

Medicating your catHaving to give your cat medication is not a task most pet owners look forward to performing. However, in order for your pet to get well it is important that they receive their medication. This handout includes some tips that will, hopefully, make medicine time a more enjoyable experience for both you and your pet.

The easiest way to medicate your pet is usually going to be to hide the pill in food. However, pets are finicky and this technique may not work.

Some pets are not able to take a pill in a tasty treat due to dietary restrictions. Other pets are simply tricksters to maneuvering around the pill and spitting it out. For these pets it may be necessary to manually administer the pill. To give a pill by mouth for your cat, follow these easy steps:

  • Gather the correct dose of the medication and place it in a quick and easily accessible location.
  • Lubricate the medication with a small amount of butter or margarine. This will allow the pill to slide smoothly down your pets throat.
  • Bring your pet to a safe location where you can comfortably control his movements
  • Hold the pill between your thumb and index finger
  • From above, grasp the cats head and muzzle with the hand not holding the pill. Your grasp should be placed so that your thumb and fingers are on opposite sides of the mouth behind the canine teeth. Be very careful not to get your fingers directly between teeth.
  • Using a firm, but gentle, grip tilt your pets head toward the ceiling. If the mouth does not drop open, use your ring and pinkie fingers of the hand holding the pill to press down on the lower teeth between the canines.
  • When the mouth is open, quickly place the pill on the back of the tongue. The pill will be swallowed quickest if it is placed behind the arch of the tongue. However, avoid putting the pill to far down your pets throat as you may stimulate the gag reflex.
  • Close your pets mouth and hold it closed while lowering the head back to a normal position. If your pet does not automatically swallow the pill, then gently rub the underside of its throat, and lightly blow on or rub its nose. These actions will stimulate a swallow reflex in your pet.
  • Closely observe your pet after performing this procedure to make sure that the pill is not regurgitated or spit out.
  • Remember, throughout the entire procedure to offer praise and encouragement. And when the pill is swallowed, lavish your cat with praise.

Disc Disease in Dogs

iv discAs pet owners, we all hope that our dogs never have to experience disc disease. However, this is a fairly common condition in some breeds and in many geriatric pets. Discs are essentially cushions that help to absorb tension and pressure between the vertebrae. Humans have this same mechanism and can also suffer from disc disease. By acting as shock absorbers, discs help to protect the very delicate nerves found within a dogs spinal column.

There are several reasons that may cause your dog to develop disc disease. In many cases, disc disease occurs due to a trauma, such as falling, jumping off of furniture, being struck by a car or even rough-play. Discs can also degenerate as a pet becomes geriatric. Obese dogs are very prone to developing disc disease as well due to the extra pressure on the back caused by the fat. Certain breeds, such as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels and other breeds with long backs can be more prone to developing disc disease especially if overweight.

The symptoms of disc disease are normally rather obvious. These signs will vary; however, depending on which disc is affected as this disease can occur anywhere on the spinal cord. For example, if your dog leaps from the bed and a disc in the middle back becomes slipped (known as a slipped disc), they will have greater pain in this area and the rear legs may be more affected. The abdomen may become rigid, the dog may tremble and in some cases they may even lose control of their bowel and bladder. In cases where a disc in the upper vertebrae around the neck is affected, the dog will likely have difficulty holding its neck and head up. In any case, the dog will be weakened and often lethargic. In severe cases, disc disease can also lead to paralysis.

As pet owners, we all hope that our dogs never have to experience disc disease. However, this is a fairly common condition in some breeds and in many geriatric pets. Discs are essentially cushions that help to absorb tension and pressure between the vertebrae. They can rupture applying pressure to the spinal cord and delicate nerves.

As pet owners, we all hope that our dogs never have to experience disc disease. However, this is a fairly common condition in some breeds and in many geriatric pets. Discs are essentially cushions that help to absorb tension and pressure between the vertebrae. They can rupture applying pressure to the spinal cord and delicate nerves.

As pet owners, we all hope that our dogs never have to experience disc disease. However, this is a fairly common condition in some breeds and in many geriatric pets. Discs are essentially cushions that help to absorb tension and pressure between the vertebrae. They can rupture applying pressure to the spinal cord and delicate nerves.

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, you should seek immediate veterinary attention. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough exam and will likely need to take X-Rays to further assess the health of your dogs vertebral column. If caught early, disc disease can be successfully treated with medications. Anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, pain medications or a combination can be used to treat this condition. Be sure to closely follow your veterinarians instructions on how to administer these medications. Dogs with acute ruptures will need surgery to remove the debris in the spinal canal and relieve the pressure on the spinal cord. I had a disc rupture a few years ago which did need surgery to remove the debris and I must say that the surgery has given me great relief and I am now pain free.

Treatment does not just involve giving medications. Your pets activity may need to be restricted and jumping and rough-play are definitely prohibited. This means no more leaping from furniture! If your pet is overweight, it will also be very important to begin a high quality diet that promotes weight loss. Your veterinarian will recommend a diet that is right for your pet. Once your pet has been cleared for increased exercise by your veterinarian, regular walks will greatly benefit your dogs weight and overall health.

Advances in Pet Dentistry

Doggy Kiss

For many people, dealing with their pet’s bad breath is just part of pet ownership. But, unfortunately, dogs with dental disease are at a higher risk for heart disease. How can you help to make sure your pet is not one of those destined to be on heart medication?

Most of us understand the importance of good oral health for ourselves and visit our dentist at least twice a year. But only a small percentage of people would do the same thing for their pets. Studies in human dentistry and medicine have shown that there appears to be an association between heart disease and dental disease. Is this true for our pets as well?

In a recent nationwide veterinary study, more than 45,000 cases of dogs with serious dental disease were reviewed. These dogs were compared with another 45,000 dogs of similar gender, age, and breed that did not have any dental disease. Their report shows that there appears to be a strong association between the health of your pet’s mouth and the incidence of other health issues, such as heart murmurs or even infection of the lining of the heart.

Dental care of dogs and cats is one of the most commonly overlooked areas of pet health care. A recent American Animal Hospital Association report on compliance within veterinary practices showed than less that 35% of pets who need a dental cleaning ever receive one. The reasons for this level of non-compliance are many, but often, pet owners will report that they just didn’t know their pets needed dental work or even that their pets suffered from periodontal disease.

Just as with people, periodontal disease in our pets starts the same way. It begins when food particles, saliva, and bacteria attached to the teeth produce a filmy matrix called “plaque”. If this matrix is not disrupted, “calculus” forms. More commonly known as tartar, the calculus makes the surface of the tooth rough and provides a better hold for more bacteria and helps to protect the bacteria from being dislodged. These bacteria will then infect the gums, causing a condition known as gingivitis. If not treated appropriately, gingivitis can progress into periodontal disease, destroying the bone that supports the tooth. It’s hard to believe, but there may even be an association between dirty teeth and other serious diseases. The same bacteria that cause dental disease have been found in the hearts of dogs with heart disease.

To help prevent dental problems from becoming a serious health issue, veterinarians recommend that oral health care start early. Your new puppy or kitten should become comfortable with you examining its mouth. Early training will help the pet to learn to tolerate brushing and other preventive measures and will help you recognize abnormalities. Simple awareness of the health of your pet’s mouth can help you to provide better health care for your pet. As your pet ages, a weekly check of the mouth may also help to find issues before they become dangerous. You should take time to look for plaque and tartar, especially on the large canine teeth in the front of the mouth and the big shearing teeth in the back of the mouth. Other potential areas of concern include fractured teeth, gum tissue that is overgrown or does not appear to be a healthy pink color, bleeding from the gums or any ulceration in the mouth. In addition to using your eyes, your nose can be an important tool as well. Pets are not supposed to have bad breath! If you can detect any foul odor, or if you see any problems in your pet’s mouth, your pet should be seen by your family veterinarian.

There is a great advancement you should know about. After you have done your weekly exam, you can further help to protect your pet by using a barrier sealant called OraVetTM. This product has helped to revolutionize at home dental care for pets. In less than one minute per week, your pet’s teeth can be protected and the effects of plaque and calculus can be minimized. By adhering to the surface of the teeth, OraVetTM gel actually helps to repel plaque causing bacteria. Without plaque formation, dental disease is much less likely to begin or get worse. For optimal results, see your veterinarian to have your pet’s teeth cleaned, followed by an initial application of OraVetTM applied after the dentistry. You then simply continue weekly applications with a home care kit.

You are an important part of the fight against dental disease. Working with your veterinarian, you can learn to identify potential problems earlier and help your pet lead a, healthier life.


Introducing the family dog to your new baby

Introducing Family Dog to new baby

Congratulations on your new baby! When most pet owners learn that they are expecting, they begin to wonder how their pets will react to the new baby and how to introduce them to each other. Introducing your dog to the new arrival is an important process and should be started well before the baby is born and arrives home. When working through the training process, remember that no matter how well you know your pet, accidents do happen and a baby should never be left alone with a pet under any circumstances. The process outlined below will help you as you begin the introduction process and your life with the new addition.

Most dogs learn quickly to adapt to a new baby in the home. However, extra precautions should be taken if your pet has ever shown aggression to adults or other babies and toddlers. Great care should also be taken if your pet has ever demonstrated predatory behaviors in the past. Predatory behaviors are such things as stalking, catching and/or killing small animals, such as birds, squirrels, mice, cats, other dogs etc. If your dog has ever demonstrated these aggressive behaviors, it is best to err on the side of caution and consult with a behavioral specialist. This specialist will be able to work with you one on one to develop acceptable behaviors in your pet and ensure the safety of your new baby.

The introduction process and essential steps should begin well before the baby arrives home from the hospital. Most non-aggressive dogs will view your new infant with great curiosity and after an initial period of exploration will adapt easily to the changes in your household. However, in any new situation it is essential that your pet know, understand and quickly obey certain obedience commands.

The two most essential commands for this introduction are sit and stay. These two commands may initially be encouraged with food rewards and should be practiced frequently. However, as these commands will soon be associated with the new baby, they should not be used as punishment or taught in a harsh manner. Instead, treat the learning process as a game and work to make it an enjoyable experience for your pet, as this process will soon be associated with the new baby.

Once the basic commands of sit and stay have been successfully mastered, begin teaching your pet to remain in the sit and stay positions as you move away from him. Once your pet will hold the sit and stay commands as you walk and turn away, begin adding in some elements that the animal will experience once the baby is home. For example, while holding a baby doll, give the sit/stay command and then proceed to feed, burp or diaper the baby. This will acclimate your pet to many of the new behaviors that will occur around the house and will soon be associated with the positive reinforcement of the sit/stay games. Be sure to reward your pet with praise, attention and food rewards during each step of this process, as the hopefully positive experience will soon be associated with your new baby.

Once the baby is born, but before it is brought home, bring home some of the baby’s personal items, such as a blanket or outfit. These items may initially be given to the pet to sniff and lick in order to become familiar with the baby’s scent. After this period, take the items and practice the sit/stay game by giving the sit/stay command and then performing common actions while holding the scent items. Also practice having the animal sit/stay while you are standing close to them with the scent items, this allows them to practice proper behavior with the new scent close by.

Your pet should be introduced to the new baby in a calm, quite and controlled environment. Unfortunately, this is not usually the description of a family just arriving home from the hospital. Therefore, the best time to introduce your pet to the baby is after the initial excitement period. Do allow your dog to greet the mother upon arrival and get used to the babies scent on her skin and clothing.

When the initial excitement has calmed, the introduction can take place. Depending on your pet, one person should either sit or stand while holding the baby. A second person should hold the leashed dog and give the sit/stay command. The dog should be allowed to slowly move closer to the baby as long as it obeys the sit/stay commands and is not unduly aroused by the babies cries, movements or scent. If your pet becomes agitated, then stop the exercise and begin again after the animal calms down. Once the animal is acclimated to the babies noises then, depending on your comfort level, allow the animal to sniff the baby, but do not allow him to get close enough to bite. After the animal is calm and obedient on the leash, then the same exercises should be practiced with the dog off the leash. Your initial introductions may take anywhere from an hour to a few days, depending on the comfort level and calmness of your pet. Once you are confident in your pets ability to remain calm around the new baby, allow him to wander supervised around the house. Be sure to watch his reactions and interest level in the baby, as you make this acceptance period a fun experience for everyone involved.

As a responsible pet owner, it is essential to remember that no matter what amount of introduction or socialization has occurred, an infant should never be left unsupervised at any time with a family pet. Unfortunately, accidents and aggression do happen. If you are at all concerned with your pets reaction to a new addition consult a behavioral specialist.

Traveling with Your Cat

Traveling with your cat

At some point in most pet owners lives, it becomes necessary to travel with your pet. Unfortunately for cat owners, most cats are not inclined to enjoy the travel experience. This handout will explain some tips for keeping your cat comfortable and helping them tolerate the travel experience.

Cats tend to naturally be highly territorial animals. Unfortunately, most travel destinations do not tend to lend themselves to be known and comfortable territory for your cat. On top of introducing them to new surroundings upon arrival, your pet has likely also been confined in a travel carrier for the trip. This confinement may also be stressful to your pet as many cats do not like to be confined to small and non-familiar spaces. This combination of lack of familiarity with their surroundings and control over their surroundings tends to make travel an overall stressful experience.

Your cat may come to tolerate the travel experience with time. However, unless a cat was introduced to travel as a kitten, it may never come to enjoy excursions away from its familiar territory. In order to lessen the stress during a big trip and prepare your cat for the travel experience it may be helpful to practice some of the following tips:

  • Introduce your pet to their carrier in familiar and comfortable territory. This will help combat the negative association that your cat may have developed by linking the carrier to undesirable outcomes, such as the vet or kennel.
  • Make the carrier as familiar and friendly as possible. Line the carrier with a favorite blanket and include a special treat or toy to entice your cat to spend time inside.
  • Introduce your pet to short, frequent car trips with pleasurable destinations.
  • Include treats, toys or other special items to ensure that your cat associates positive experiences with the travel excursions.

Choosing an appropriate travel carrier will play a large role in how comfortable both you and your cat are with traveling. Aspects of the carrier should be chosen with the animals comfort, your ease of transport and any outside regulations, such as the airlines, in mind. Some things to consider for your comfort are the way the cat is put into the carrier, such as top, side or front entry and whether the carrier has soft or hard sides. The ease of cleaning should also be considered. Most plastic shell and wire mesh carriers are easy to wipe clean, whereas, some cloth luggage-type carriers require machine washing. It is also ideal for the carrier to have a separate bottom tray to hold an absorbent pad to keep fecal matter away from your pet. If your cat prefers to be hidden from view, then a covered, enclosed carrier would be ideal. Whereas if your cat prefers to view what is happening around them, then perhaps a wire mesh carrier would suit.

girl with cat

However, before purchasing any carrier, check with your preferred mode of travel and accommodations to make sure that your ideal carrier also fits their guidelines and regulations. Some general guidelines to follow for purchasing a carrier to be used on an aircraft are that the walls of the carrier should have adequate ventilation (preferably three sides); the walls of the carrier should be strong enough to prevent it from being crushed; the carrier must have sturdy handles; an attached water bowl must be present and the cage should allow the animal to stand up and turn around easily.

Basic Tips for Airline Travel with Your Cat:

  • Determine all airline regulations for acclimation, carrier specifications, baggage liability, and vaccination records several weeks prior to flying. Bring all pertinent veterinary records and other documentation to the airport with you to avoid delays.
  • Schedule a direct flight if possible. This will minimize the chances of a delay and of your pet having to wait in inclimate weather to be loaded into cargo.
  • Have your cat examined by its veterinarian before the trip to determine its suitability to fly. Your veterinarian may recommend a mild sedative for cats that may be overly stressed during their travel.
  • Some airlines will allow passengers to travel with small pets in coach and first class. Inquire as to this possibility and the regulations well before arriving at the airport.
  • Make sure that your pets carrier is well marked with permanent identification, including your contact information, flight number, destination and destination contact information.
  • Consider in advance all food, water and medication that you may need for your cat and be sure to pack it in an easily accessible location.

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