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Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

Adopting “Other-Abled” and Less Adoptable Pets

September 19-25 is National Adopt A Less Adoptable Pet Week, founded by PetFinder.com. The organization encourages shelters and rescues to create special week-long events devoted to giving overlooked pets like those with disabilities a better chance at finding homes.

This struck a chord with me, especially after living with a tri-pawd dog when Bravo lost his leg. He didn’t act disabled, though. Have you ever adopted an other-abled pet or less adoptable pet?

disabled cat

She doesn’t know she’s blind or think she’s disabled, and would make someone a loving, wonderful companion!

What Is A Less Adoptable Pet

Why less adoptable? They’re the wrong breed or have special needs. Overlooked pets include deaf dogs or deaf cats, blind pets, or those missing a limb. Many folks prefer the ‘perfect’ cute puppy or kitten and don’t want a crippled pet, or just don’t like the color of the dog or cat. Of course, we know black dogs and cats, and those with only one eye, or three legs, still love us with all their furry hearts!

Old Pets Rock!

Y’all know how I feel about golden oldie pets, after writing two award-winning books that help folks care with the needs of aging cats as well as aging dogs. Senior citizen pets have just as much love to give and often fit very well into families unable or unwilling to manage the hijinks of in-your-face puppies and kittens. Learn more about the old cat conditions here.

My Seren-Kitty nearly made it to her 22nd birthday. Magical-Dawg lived until age twelve. That means adopting an old dog or cat could still mean years of furry love. Here are some things common to aging dogs, and what you can do to help.

less adoptable pets

Old dogs make great friends.

Adult cats and dogs grown out of the “cute” phase also can have a hard time being chosen. But remember that healthy cats and small dogs can live well into their mid to late teens or longer, and you can expect to enjoy at least another half-dozen years by adopting a four-year-old pet. And usually you save costs because they’ve already been “fixed” and have their shots, as well as basic training.

disabled dog

Dogs adapt quickly to wheelchairs, and continue to enjoy life.

What Is Other-Abled Pets?

“Other-abled” pets don’t know what they’re missing. Despite loss of limbs, mobility, sight or hearing, they live and enjoy life regardless of the challenges they face. Often, the pet has less difficulty coming to terms with such changes than do owners. Cats and dogs accept conditions that devastate people. Learn about how to help deaf pets here.

other abled pets

A favorite picture of Bravo after he lost his leg. It never slowed him down! He taught Shadow-Pup all the important dog stuff.

Mobility Issues

Pets can suffer paralysis through accidents, degenerative back diseases or other health conditions. Nobody knows what happened to Willy the rescue Chihuahua, who lived with rear-limb paralysis. He wouldn’t stop dragging himself from place to place, determined to stay in the thick of things. Once owner Deborah Turner got him strapped into his K9-cart (wheelchair for dogs), he was literally off and running. Willy became the mascot for his local branch of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, had his own website, and two children’s books written about his exploits.

Our Bravo-Dawg never complained when his cancer diagnosis stole his leg. The day after his amputation surgery, Bravo walked out of the veterinary hospital, tail wagging. Oh, we felt devastated and wept many tears during his treatment, but Bravo lived every day with joy and taught us even a brief, condensed life makes a difference.

Blind Dogs and Deaf Cats

I interviewed Dr. Paul Gerding, a veterinary ophthalmologist, for one of my books. He never considered that his Labrador couldn’t still enjoy life when Katie began losing her sight. He wasn’t able to correct the progressive disease medically, but took steps to ensure the blind dog could still navigate her home and yard by memory. She continued to hunt—in safe clover fields with no ditches or holes—and at home Katie relied on the younger dog Grace to be her personal guide dog pal.

less adoptable pets other abled pets

The clinic cat for many years at our local veterinarian’s office had only one eye.

My colleague, Lynette George, shared about a special blind doggy she adopted. “Her name is CeeCee and she’s a miniature, long-hair, double-dapple dachshund.” She went from the breeder to three different owners, and then ultimately they surrendered CeeCee to the Oklahoma Spay Network because nobody really wanted to handle a blind dog. “Four months old and thinks she owns the world. She has absolutely no clue that she’s supposed to be “handicapped.” Anyway, she’s absolutely adorable. Everybody who sees her falls in love immediately. She took over Petco when she went in – kind of like she does everywhere she goes. She’s just a hoot every day. We LOVE her!”

One of my local vet offices adopted a one-eyed clinic cat (in the picture). And another local vet clinic has Captain Dan, the three-legged tuxedo kitty. What better ambassadors for adopting disabled–or other-abled–pets?

Furry Inspiration

Pets inspire us with their stoic attitudes. They don’t know how to feel sorry for themselves, and may not recognize they’re any “different” than other cats and dogs. Fluffy and Prince simply want to get on with the important business of eating, playing, and loving their family. As readers know, furry love comes in all shapes, sizes, and packages.

Do you share your home with a “less adoptable” pet? How did you find each other? Has living with an “other-abled” pet affected your life in positive ways? Please share! I’d love to hear your stories and see pictures of your special fur-kids.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Do Pets See In Color?

Do Pets See In Color?

I love this question. What do you think? Today’s Ask Amy topic is Do dogs see in color? What about cats and dogs, do they see things differently?

Do pets see color

Is it the color? Or something else that determines “favorites.”

How do you know? What colors can dogs see? What about your pets, do they have favorites or can you tell?

 

do dogs see colorMagical-Dawg never had a color preference, nor did Seren-kitty. They both had have preferences for texture of toys, though…or in Seren’s case, texture of a sleeping spot, LOL! I tend to choose deep blue colors for the kitty because it looks so good with her eyes.

Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat also don’t seem to care about color, but they do have their favorite toys. I tend to choose halters and leash color based on what looks good on them, but I choose toys based on what I believe THEY can see best.

Do you have color preferences for your pets’ toys? Does it matter to them? What have I missed in the video, do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

DON’T Hug Your Dog on National Hug Your Hound Day! Here’s Why

Several years ago when I wrote for the puppies.about.com site (now TheSprucePets) I took issue with a promotion advertised by a big-name pet food company that encouraged people to post pictures of themselves hugging dogs. Hoo-boy…Oh dear heaven, by the comments I received you’d think that I said cute babies are evil, apple pie is poison and advocated BEATING YOUR DOG! Part of that has to do with folks reading only the title and ignoring the content of the message. Oh well. That drives home the importance of titles, I suppose.

The promo really struck a chord with pet lovers. After all, who doesn’t love a hug? Hugs mean love, hugs mean happy happy happy, hugs are tail-wagging expressions of the joy we share with dogs. Right? RIGHT?!

Uh, no. And glory be, the promotion lives on. Today, September 11, has been named “National Hug Your Hound Day.”

national hug your hound day

WHY HUGS CAN BE DANGEROUS

There’s a reason that veterinary behaviorists, dog trainers and savvy owners blanched when they learned about this promotion. Why is that? Because while hugs are a natural HUMAN expression of comfort and love, they can send the opposite signal to your dog.

Children get bitten in the face as a result of inappropriate dog interaction (often hugs). Learn ways to help prevent dog bites here. There are other safer, more appropriate ways to show affection to dogs that the dog actually prefers!

“Oh no, you stupid, clueless person–you’re wrong wrong wrong, because MY DOG loves hugs, and every dog I’ve ever had loves hugs and everyone that I know has dogs that hug them back and loves hugs and…” 

Good. In this case, I would LOVE to be wrong! If you have a dog that loves hugs and hugs you back, bravo. But that also begs the question, how do you know your dog “loves hugs?”

hug your houndDEFINING “HUGS” & WHY DOGS HUG

A hug is an embrace, right? Arms go around the body and squeeze–that’s a hug. When do dogs clasp forelegs around another creature and squeeze? I can think of three scenarios:

  • Mating/Dominance displays
  • Prey capture
  • Fights/play fighting

So when your dog “hugs” you, what is he saying? And what do your hugs tell him? As a vet tech years ago, I was taught the “hug-restraint” technique to immobilize dogs for treatment. I suspect the dogs were not fooled into thinking that expressed affection. Today, of course, we know better ways to reduce fear and anxiety in dogs so we don’t have to hold ’em down.

How do dogs actually show love? Here are common ways dogs show love.

Thank heavens our dogs for the most part are very flexible and forgive humans our sometimes clueless nature, LOL! I know that I’m grateful Magical-Dawg made allowances when I didn’t understand what he tried to tell me. At least with people, you can explain your intentions. That can be a challenge with dogs.

hug your dog

FORCING HUGSIS IT FAIR?

I don’t have two-legged children. But I’ve witnessed gatherings where babies and toddlers get passed around to strangers who hug, pinch cheeks, bounce up and down, and ooh-and-aw over the cuticity. I think we’ve all seen kids wail in protest or fall silent with fear while a clueless relative or acquaintance—or a pediatrician?–insists on continued “loving but unwanted attention.” When you were a kid, do you remember that certain relative who caused no end of angst because, as a kid, you had no choice but to put up with the hugs, smooches, and cheek pinches? At least with older children, parents can explain what’s going on and help guide the adult (hopefully) into less scary interactions.

As much as we want to believe they read our minds and understand our words, dogs misunderstand a lot—and we misunderstand an equal portion of what they say. Hugs are supposed to express affection and love. So if a hug causes stress, fear, discomfort to the dog you adore, is it fair to inflict those feelings because it “feels good” to the owner?

hug your dog day

BUT—MY DOG LOVES HUGS!

Yes, many dogs can learn to tolerate–or even love hugs from a trusted human. For those who have taken the time to do this, BRAVO! Many dogs also can learn to tolerate or love tooth brushing–so is it responsible for a company with dental products to promote sticking your hands in the dog’s mouth, or is it better to explain how to do so safely?

Magical-dog loved close contact. He often pushed his head and shoulders into my lap or squeezed his face under my arm. Was he asking for a hug? Shadow-Pup does the same. I suspect it’s this type of behavior that confuses many of us–but see, he controls that interaction. My arms haven’t come down around him to capture/hold/prevent movement. So some of the confusion, I suspect, has to do with semantics and how people define a hug.

How do you know your dog “loves” hugs? What does your dog do when s/he receives a hug? Do you know what each of these signals mean? Are you sure? Click on a link or two to see if you’re right!

Sorry—Not Sorry

Perhaps your dog loves hugs. That’s great. But my entire purpose with these blogs, my books, pet advocacy and more is to EMPOWER PET OWNERS TO MAKE INFORMED CHOICES.

To stand silent and do nothing hurts my soul. I was an expert witness more than a decade ago in a trial where a dog tragically attacked and severely injured a child—and they adored each other. We don’t know why (no witnesses to the attack), but I remember this case every time a clueless cute-and-fuzzy promo makes the rounds. Read about that in this blog post.

If hissing off some readers saves one child from the trauma of a bite, or one family from the heartbreak of losing a beloved dog by mis-reading intent—I’m fine with that.

Now then, I’ll don my flame-resistant sparkles and prepare for comments. Do your dogs like hugs? How do you know? For trainers and behavior folks out there, how do you help people understand safe dog handling? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

What A Pain! Understanding Pet Pain & What to Do When Pets Hurt

September is Animal Pain Awareness Month, so I wanted to share this vital information again. We know pain hurts, but pain in pets and treating pet pain when pets hurt confuses us. They can’t tell us they feel pain, or where it hurts. Not like humans.

Because I get to work at home, there are certain perks I enjoy–such as going barefoot to work. But one afternoon last fall I moved too fast and kicked the whey outta my big toe. This wasn’t just a stubbed toe, either—it lifted and peeled the nail back to the quick, bled everywhere and hurt like the devil! Yes, I said a few choice words as I hobbled down the stairs from my office (trying not to leave a bloody trail) to get bandage material. Ooooooh, that puppy throbbed and made me whimper and howl, let me tell you.

shepherds prone to hot spots

Magic was always ready for a treat!

Pet Pain Matters, Too

I understand how Magical-Dawg felt several years ago. After a run in the field playing fetch, he started shivering when he came inside. The ninety-degree weather argued that he was not chilled. I checked him head-to-tail, and found nothing wrong. But later in the week, he again started shivering, and even growled at me when I asked him to move—very uncharacteristic.

FCC noticeFinally, after several days and two vet visits, we figured out his problem. He’d torn a dewclaw back to the quick. it hadn’t come off, so the injury remained hidden. Seren-kitty had this happen once, too, when her claw caught on bedding as she leaped from the pillow. She hid. But Magic’s short temper, shivers, and hyper-alert behavior resulted from being in pain.

I attended an online conference co-sponsored by Fear Free Pets and the San Francisco SPCA (you can still register/view the on-demand sessions). A session led by Dr. Ralph Harvey titled The Behaviors of Pain: Assessment, Scoring, and the Impacts of Animal Pain, offered information important for practitioners and pet parents to know.

Dr. Harvey noted that the gold standard for assessing human pain is self reporting. We’re asked, how bad is your pain on a scale of one-to-ten? Animals can’t do that, so veterinarians need to determine discomfort in other ways.

dog painSIGNS OF PAIN IN DOGS & CATS

The onset of pain can be sudden (acute) or chronic (ongoing). Pet parents may not notice discomfort when it progresses. You might attribute your dogs’ behavior changes to old age. Today, veterinarians consider the presence (or absence) of pain as a vital sign, and keep track of it. Pet parents can (and should!) do the same. Watch for changes in:

  • Temperament
  • Vocalization
  • Posture
  • Locomotion (movement)
  • Severe and dramatic behavior changes

What does that mean? Dogs in pain might whimper, whine, cry, or yelp when touched. They may hold up an injured leg, limp, hunch their backs, and beg for attention. Friendly pets shun attention or hide, while shy animals become more demanding. Feline pain symptoms look like fearful behavior, with the cat staying still and quiet, or trembling. Cats often hide; when you touch them they nail you. In addition, pain increases arterial blood pressure and heart rate, increases stress, and affects neurological activity.

PET PAIN BEHAVIORS

Pets in pain display a suite of signs. Dog pain signs include any one or combination of the following.

  • Hunched or prayer position
  • Glazed facial expression
  • Attention-seeking and whining (the bond with you may influence that)
  • Licking the painful area
  • Usually won’t hide the painful body part
  • Appetite rarely affected

Cats are not small dogs, and display their own pain signs:

  • Poor or lack of grooming
  • Hissing or aggression upon manipulation of painful part
  • Hide the painful part to look “normal”
  • Dissociation from environment
  • Vocalization is RARE as a sign of pain
  • Isolation or hiding
  • Hit or miss litter box issues
  • Pain faces—Feline Grimace Scale

If you love cats but haven’t heard of The Feline Grimace Scale you MUST check it out and become familiar with this. Dogs have very expressive faces–cats not so much. So providing pictures for comparison helps enormously when trying to figure out if (and how much) discomfort cats feel. You can download the fact sheet (below) plus a four-page detailed training help at https://www.felinegrimacescale.com/

cat pain feline grimace scale

Pain Varies from Pet to Pet

Pain tolerances vary from pet to pet just as in people. A one-size-fits-all program won’t work. Experts say there is a five-fold variation in pain tolerance for the same surgical procedure in humans. So if a condition would be painful in a person, assume it’s also painful in your pet.

Dang, I had no idea! My toe-throb injury kept me awake the first night despite multiple doses of Advil, and only subsided to a dull roar three days later. I waited a week before I got up the courage to look under the BandAid…Ew. Not pretty. I retired my sparkly sandals early and hoped socks and bandages would keep the loose nail from tearing away. About six weeks later, the dead nail lifted off. I said “ouch” many-several-times. And increased the dose of Advil.

cat painWhat Is Pain? The Technical Version…

How does pain work? Damaged tissue releases chemicals that sensitize nerve endings. Aggravated nerves send pain signals up the spinal cord to the brain. The brain recognizes the sensation and shouts, “Dang, that smarts!” and triggers a protective reflex. This “learned avoidance” teaches Kitty to pull back her nose from the candle flame, for instance, and urges Poochie to hold up his hurt paw so it heals.

Not all pain is severe or sudden, or requires pain drugs. For instance, antibiotics relieve pain by curing a sore throat. Heat lamps relieve chronic arthritis pain. Water is a natural anesthetic for your pet’s burning skin allergy pain.

Extreme pain, though, causes a more complicated natural response that depresses immune function, interferes with blood clotting and wound healing, and negatively affects the cardiovascular system. Extreme pain can also permanently rewire neural pathways to create a “pain memory” that keeps pets feeling pain long after the injury has healed. It’s as if the normal highway nerve impulse travels must repeatedly “detour” from the safe path and instead leap off the same painful cliff.

How to Treat Dog Pain and Ways to Relieve Cat Pain

But pets require specific dosages and metabolize drugs differently than people—human pain medicines may be dangerous to pets. For example, dogs can develop ulcers from human-type aspirin products. Cats can DIE if given people- or dog-specific pain medicines. Pain control options from your veterinarian are always the best and safest choice for cats and dogs.

Narcotic pain relievers for severe pain, such as morphine, codeine and Demerol, are available only by prescription. Veterinarians can compound some medicines into peanut butter or fish paste so your pet willingly accepts it. After surgery, drains can deliver continued pain relief into the chest and abdominal cavity, the joint, or even into the bloodstream. Chemotherapy and radiation relieves certain kinds of cancer pain. A “pain patch” delivers an opioid drug transdermally (through the skin). After we had to amputate Bravo-Dawg’s leg due to bone cancer, pain medication kept him comfortable. In most cases, your veterinarian prescribes the drugs for your pet. Once approved by the doctor, you can order them at online sources such as Chewy.

There are quite a few products for chronic arthritis pain in dogs. Not so much for cats. However, recently the FDA approved injectable Solensia (frunevetmab) specifically for cat arthritis pain. It’s the first monoclonal antibody drug approved for animals. Hurray for cats! If you have a senior feline friend, chances are the cat could benefit from arthritis pain relief. Ask your vet if this treatment is right for your cat.

Ask For Pain Relief–Advocate for Your Pets!

Depending on the condition being treated, pain medication may—or may not—be included. Ask your veterinarian about pain policies and procedures, and if there might be an extra cost or if it’s part of the fee. Any time your pet has a sudden change in behavior, please have him checked by the doctor. Treating a health issue that prompts behavior change usually solves the problem.

Some animal hospitals cut costs by eliminating pain medicine. Be aware that while anesthetics and tranquilizers keep pets asleep during a treatment, they do not relieve pain once your pet wakes up. If your veterinarian doesn’t mention it, ask about pain relief options for your cat and dog.

Over the Counter Pain Pills for Pets?

Yes, there are OTC pain treatment options for pets. Since every dog and cat needs different things, always run things by your veterinarian first.

CBD products offer a popular and effective way to address chronic pain for such things as arthritis. I recently learned about products from ElleVet, available only from veterinarians or direct from their store (click the link, below). Cornell University has clinically tested these for dose effectiveness. Even better, one product ElleVet’s Feline Complete Paste has been developed specifically for cats, in a chicken liver flavored paste that cats love. It’s suggested for joint discomfort, stress, and neuro support.

What About Magical-Dawg (and my) Toes?

We took Magic to get his boo-boo fixed. The veterinarian sedated him, clipped off the torn nail, bandaged his paw, and prescribed dog-safe pain meds with antibiotics while he healed. And the pain in my big toe also went away, and after six months, a new nail grew to replace the damage (yay!). Whether human or furred, no creature should suffer pain. Providing proper pain medicine helps pets recover more quickly and completely.

Learn about other home remedies that safely help relieve pet pain!

It’s also the right thing to do.

Have your pets ever needed pain medication–after surgery or an injury? How do you know when your pet hurts? And have you ever had an injury similar to your pets, like me?

I’m keeping my fingers (and toes!) crossed that Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat never need pain meds! Or that a heating pad or cold compress does the trick for minor whoopsies (as discussed in the natural healing book).

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers?  up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Names for Happy Cat Month

Cat Names for Happy Cat Month

Happy cat, happy life, right? Happy Cat Month should be every month! We celebrate Happy Cat Month in September, and nothing makes a cat happier than hearing his or her special cat name.

What do you call your feline friend? How did you come up with your cat’s name? I’ve got a theme going with my kitty friends. Seren (short for Serendipity) came to me at just the right time. And so did Karma-Kat, when our Magical-Dawg found him. Cats seem to name themselves and there are many popular ones these days. But you don’t have to go with the crowd.

The American Curl cat has ears that curl backwards.

PEDIGREE NAMES

Pedigree kitties are christened with a string of unique and entertaining names to designate the cattery, sometimes the breed or even the appearance. I still remember one of my all-time-fave cat names, “Celticurl’s Sinead O’Curler” for an American Curl feline.

THE HISTORICAL “CAT”

Did you know the words for “cat” seem surprisingly similar throughout the world? Historically, there appear to be three basic origins for the naming. The word for “cat” seems derived from sounds he makes, based on the actions of the animal, or associated with ancient cat-gods of the past.

Egyptians named the cat mau, which means “the seer” (from the word mau, “to see”). Perhaps these ancient people associated the cat’s unique eyes with an ability to view more than meets the eye.

Other historians speculate that the cat’s mewing vocalization inspired her to be called mau. In fact, China’s word for cat is miu–quite similar to the ancient Egyptian’s mau.

The powerful cat-headed gods of the times were alternately referred to as Bast, Bastet, Posht, or Pasht. Some people speculate puss is a natural derivation of Posht or Pasht. Others believe “puss” evolved from the Latin words pusus and pusa, which mean “little boy” and “little girl.” Admit it–you sometimes call your cats by these endearments, don’t you?

Another version connects the French le puss to the Latin lepus, which means “hare.” In fact, well into the eighteenth century, England used the word “puss” to refer to both cats and hares well into the eighteenth century.

Romans called the cat felis from the root word felix, meaning “a good and auspicious omen” linked to magical divination. Later, they used catta, the same name as the weasel, because both cats and weasels were used to catch rodents. Other words may come from the root word ghad, which means “to grasp or catch.” Seems a perfect fit for our felines. Learn more about the history of the cat in CAT LIFE.

“CAT” AROUND THE WORLD

For fun, here are a few more words for “cat” from around the world:

  • Arabic, kittah
  • Armenian, gatz
  • Basque, catua
  • Cornish, kath
  • French, chat
  • German, katze
  • katti or ket
  • Greek, kata or catta
  • Italian, gatto
  • Polish, kot or gatto
  • Portuguese, gato
  • Russian, kots or koshka
  • Spanish, gato
  • Turkish, kedi
  • Welsh, kath

Karma loves to “read” the funnies.

SHARE YOUR MONIKER!

So what do you call your cat? Coat color inspires names like Rusty, Pumpkin or Ginger, Snowball, Cotton, Tabby and Midnight. If a cat is called Suede, Fluffy or Big Foot, what image does that conjure?

Attitude often prompts telling names as well. But don’t name him “Demon-Seed” or “Stupid” unless you want him to fulfill that prediction! Cats given positive names tend to have more positive relationships with their people.

Picking a great cat name can be fun. My little Siamese wannabe is Seren—short for Serendipity because it was such a happy accident we found each other. But I suspect cats also have a “secret name” we humans can’t pronounce.

Maybe that’s why they never come when called.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Karma-Kat started sneezing a couple of weeks ago. When cats have the sniffles, you worry about curing kitty congestion. Cat colds are one of the most common health problems of kittens and adult cats. Feline upper respiratory diseases, sometimes called cat flu, often affect shelter and rescue cats. My cat Seren-Kitty also had a couple of severe bouts with kitty snorkles.

For more information about cat colds and dog coughs, see this post.

This time, we attribute Karma’s “achoo” to the work done in the house. We changed our carpet for hardwood, and they sanded the entire downstairs area. Once the dust settled, he no longer sneezed. Karma-Kat has only had sneeze-attacks one other time. I’m always alert to any change in behavior, so even a normal amount of A-CHOO makes me pay attention.

I also recorded this post on YouTube if you’d prefer:

While there are preventive vaccinations available to help protect your cats, many kittens and cats become infected very early before they receive vaccines. Once infected, a cat may develop sniffles any time they become stressed. These tips can help relieve the sniffles and cat cold problems.

cat colds

Cat Colds & Curing Kitty Congestion

Has the annual outbreak of flu, sinus infections, and general creeping-crud attacked you this season? Hopefully, you’re safe from the COVID-19 virus that causes similar symptoms in people. Thankfully, the COVID virus and variants don’t routinely cause cat flu symptoms.

I’m washing my hands constantly and staying home with the fur-kids as much as possible. That’s one more positive about working alone at home–less contact with contagious folks. I’ve been told that the flu vaccination (always a good thing!) works well when given in advance, but of course, that depends on the type of flu. The dang bug keeps changing. *sigh*

A stopped-up nose and crusty eyes are not only miserable for humans, these signs in cats also cause a wide range of health problems in cats. Discharge that’s runny and clear usually goes away in a couple of days by itself. But any time it continues longer than that, or the discharge is cloudy or thick and clogs up the eyes or nose, a virus could be the culprit. Upper respiratory infections in cats (URI) also cause mouth and eye sores.

Complications of Cat Colds

Cats have more problems with congestion than dogs. The bugs that cause kitty congestion usually aren’t lethal in adult cats. But cats won’t eat unless they can smell their food, so they starve if they get a stopped-up nose. Home care not only keeps pets more comfortable, it often decides whether they recover or not. Learn how to encourage sick pets to eat in this post.

While we often fall in love with that poor little sick shelter kitten, an upper respiratory infection (cat cold) as a baby could mean relapses for the rest of the cat’s life. Just be sure you’re aware of all the facts when you adopt your kitten. 

Curing Kitty Congestion from Cat Colds

Just like with people, there’s no real “cure” for colds, but supportive treatment can help speed up recovery. It’s important for the comfort of your cat, too.

  1. Use a vaporizer to help unclog the nose. Put your cat in a fairly small room with a cool-mist humidifier and use it just the same as you would for a child a couple of times a day. That not only helps break up the congestion, it moistens inflamed or tender eyes and nostrils and make them feel better.
  2. If you don’t have a vaporizer or humidifier, a hot shower can work. Take the pet into the bathroom with you and run the hot shower so that the air becomes filled with steam. A 10-minute session several times a day works great. Don’t go for longer than that, though, because heated air for too long can be hard for some pets to breathe, especially short-faced Persians.
  3. If the nose is crusting over, or the eyes are sealing shut, use warm wet cloths or cotton balls to soak and soften the secretions and clean them off. Don’t peel dried matter off, because that can hurt or even form scabs.
  4. To soothe sore tissue after you’ve cleaned off the mucus, dab on a bit of plain saline solution, or some baby oil. That can also make it easier to clean away any more crusts that might form. I’ve also used Udderbalm (for cows).
  5. When thick secretions fill up the lungs it can be hard for pets to breathe even when their nostrils are clear. A technique called coupage helps break up the clogged matter so the pet can clear his lungs. It’s a French word meaning “thumping on the chest” and is often used to help children with Cystic Fibrosis breathe more easily. Hold your hand in a cupped position, and gently thump on either side of the cat or dog’s rib cage to break loose the mucus. Use coupage two or three times a day along with humidified air to ease the pet’s congestion.

FOLLOW-UP CARE FOR CAT COLDS

For more on cat health and care from A-to-Z, check out CAT FACTS!

Refusing to eat can make cats sicker or even threaten their life. Wiping away the crusts and mucus to keep the nasal passages open helps, but offering pungent and more tempting foods can cut through congestion and spark the sick cat’s appetite.

Warm the food for five seconds in the microwave to just below cat body temperature—about 95 to 98 degrees. That not only makes the treat more alluring, it also unlocks the aroma so the food smells more pungent and penetrates even a stopped-up kitty nose. Moisture also helps enhance aroma, so try adding a bit of warm water, chicken broth, or tuna juice from the can to the cat’s regular food. Run it through the blender to make a mush, and there’s a good chance that will tempt his appetite.

In the past, many veterinarians recommended supplements with L-Lysine to help reduce the chance of URI flare-ups. More recent studies argue these supplements offer only marginal benefits and may even make symptoms from feline herpesvirus worse.  Ask your veterinarian for the latest recommendations. You can ask your vet about an off-label drug Famciclovir that’s shown promise in treating the condition. Meanwhile, supplementing your cat’s diet with a probiotic like Fortiflora can help by keeping digestion healthy.

Have your cats suffered from upper respiratory issues? How did you manage them? When vaccinated early as a baby, some of these bugs can be prevented but once they’re in the cat’s system, stress can cause an outbreak. Cats also are tough customers when it comes to “pilling” and medicating (although compounded medicine can help with that). What are your tips for nursing a sick cat? Please share!

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Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

Do Cats Suffer Separation Anxiety? Signs & Tips to Relieve the Angst

FTC noticeYes, cat separation anxiety affects many felines. When school restarts, and the kids go back to class, your cats (and your dogs) may suffer from separation anxiety. The signs of distress are very different, though. I encourage you to read on to learn about tips for helping your furry family members adjust.

By the way, just in time for your kiddos, the Kobo Elipsa Pack is $50 off and ready for back-to-school season. Get the full note-taking package for less — plus, it ships FREE.

More recently, with more folks working from home, the cats have finally settled into a new routine. But just about the time Kitty gets used to your new schedule, the world changes again if you go back to the office. That may make them more prone to developing separation behaviors when you go back to work or kids return to school and leave them alone.

We very often hear about doggy angst during a beloved human’s absence, but what about cats? Yep, it’s exactly the same—only different. Here’s how.

Young girl reading a book with her cat at home, sitting next to two piles of books.

Back to school can change schedules and put kitty’s tail in a twist.

How to Deal With Cat Separation Anxiety

Cat separation anxiety requires behavior modification and desensitization to soothe upset kitty feelings and reverse problem behaviors. Cats may go for years without issues, and then suddenly act out when your work schedule changes and keeps you away for long hours. Vacations also tend to trigger feline separation anxiety.

Think of separation anxiety as a form of grief. Cats don’t mean to “act bad,” they just miss you so much they can’t help themselves. And the way cats make themselves feel better can cause even more stress and upset feelings to their humans.

cat separation anxiety

Cats KNOW when you’re supposed to come home…don’t disappoint the kitty!

Cat Separation Anxiety & Scented Comfort

Like dogs with the same condition, cats may cry and become upset as you prepare to leave. More often, they don’t react to your departure. They wait to “act out” once left alone, and urinate, spray urine, and defecate on owner-scented objects—most typically the bed. Learn more about litter box problems here.

The familiar scent of kitty’s bathroom deposits actually comforts her and reduces feelings of stress. Of course, these unwelcome “gifts” increase owner stress levels. And while angry reaction is understandable, your upset feelings increase the cat’s anxiety even more.

Cats don’t potty on the bed to get back at you because you left. Think of the cat’s behavior as a backhanded compliment. Kitty wouldn’t do this if she didn’t love you so much!

Portrait of yellow sad sick cat lying at home with rabbit toy

Missing you adds stress that can even lead to illness.

Desensitize and Counter-Condition for Cat Separation Anxiety

Cats pay exquisite attention to the details of their lives. They’ll often recognize subtle clues that you’re preparing to leave long before you realize. A cat may figure out that you always freshen your lipstick just before you leave. Repeating these cues takes away their power.

  • Desensitize your cats to the presence of the overnight bag by leaving it out all the time. Put clothes in and out of the bag every day, but without leaving the house, so your cat no longer gets upset when she sees you pack.
  • Toss a catnip mouse inside the suitcase, and turn it into a kitty playground. That conditions her to identify the suitcase as a happy place, rather than associating it with your absence.
  • Use behavior modification techniques so the triggers lose their power. Pick up the car keys 50 times a day, and then set them down. Carry your purse over your arm for an hour or more. When you repeat cues often enough, your cat stops caring about them and will remain calm when you do leave.
  • Fake your departure by opening the door and going in and out twenty or more times in a row until the cat ignores you altogether. Then extend your “outside” time to one minute, three minutes, five minutes, and so on before returning inside. This gradual increase in absence helps build the cat’s tolerance and desensitizes her to departures. It also teaches her that no matter how long you’re gone, you always return.

Maine Coon Kitten

More Tips for Reducing Angst from Cat Separation Anxiety

Most problem behaviors take place within twenty minutes after you leave. The length of time you’re absent doesn’t seem to matter. Find ways to distract the cat during this critical twenty minutes so she won’t dirty your bed.

  • Ask another family member to interact with the cat during this time. A fishing-pole lure toy or chasing the beam of a flashlight can take the cat’s mind off her troubles. If she enjoys petting or grooming, indulge her in a touchy-feely marathon.
  • About 1/3rd of cats react strongly, another 1/3rd react mildly, and the last 1/3rd don’t react at all to catnip. If your feline goes bonkers for this harmless herb, leave a catnip treat to keep her happy when you leave. Using catnip every day can reduce its effects, though, so use this judiciously.
  • Food oriented cats can be distracted with a food-puzzle toy stuffed with a favorite treat. Make it extra smelly, irresistible, and something totally different than her usual fare to be sure the treat makes the proper impression.
  • Cats that have been outside and seen the real thing often don’t react, but homebody indoor-only cats enjoy watching videos of fluttering birds, squirrels and other critters. There are a number of these videos available, including the original called “Video Catnip.” Alternately, find a nature television show such as on Animal Planet, and tune in for your cat’s viewing pleasure.
  • Playing familiar music that they associate with your presence can help ease the pain of you being gone. In addition, research has shown harp music works as a natural sedative and actually puts cats to sleep. Learn about music therapy for pets in this post. Harp music CDs designed for this purpose can be found at petpause2000.com.

NEW-CatCompet-lorezNot all tips work with every cat since every feline is an individual. But using these techniques alone or in combination can heal upset kitty feelings, and turn homecomings into joyful reunions. You’ll find lots more tips in my cat behavior book COMPETABILITY: Solving Behavior Problems in Your  Multi-Cat Household.

What kinds of things have helped with YOUR cat? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

How to Love Your Cat for World Cat Day

How to Love Your Cat for World Cat Day

Today is WORLD CAT DAY (aka International Cat Day) and it’s the purr-fect time to celebrate our cat love. Maybe you wonder “why does my cat … ” do all sorts of things, or “how do I make my cat love me?” Here are my top 6 ideas how to love your cat every day of the year, so your cat loves you back–not just on World Cat Day.

WHY CAT LOVE MEANS WORLD CAT DAY

Valentine's Pet Safety

Cats are great actors and try to convince pet parents they’re already purr-fectly healthy and happy. With cats, it’s Valentine’s Day every day and a good time to think “outside the litter box” and find special ways to love your cat.

It’s fun to celebrate World Cat Day with special treats and bonus snuggles. It’s even more important to show cat love every day of the year, and your cat won’t care if it costs fifty million dollars or fifty cents. In fact, fifty minutes spent with Kitty probably makes him think he won the cat lottery!

TOP 6 WAYS HOW TO LOVE YOUR CAT

Give Comfort. Cat comfort is an important issue for you cat love. Every cat is an individual, so while one cat wants to swing from the drapes and meet new people, strangers could be a horror movie for other cats. A lot of that has to do with your cat’s socialization and parentage. Cat love means we accept each cat as an individual and adjust expectations to each special cat. Here are six ways you can share cat love and increase your cat’s purrs.

Schedule Play to Love Your Cat

Not every cat enjoys play and mostly the youngsters under a year go nuts for interactive play. Cat teasers like fishing pole lures offer a great aerobic workout for cats. It gets them off their tubby tails to help slim them down. Play increases the bond you share with your cat and can boost the confidence of shy felines and burn off the energy of bully cats that pick on others. Cats play in short bursts so schedule 10 minutes a couple times a day to play with your cats. Learn more about cat play here.

Your fur kids are more interested in playtime and fun activities, and these do help keep kitties both emotionally healthy and happy. Figure out what makes your cat purr delight. Depending on the cat, the emotional connection with their pet parents is top of the list. That’s not to say that all cats are cuddle-bugs or touchy-feely felines. For some cats, simply spending time in the same room and gazing with adoration is the ultimate in cat love.

cat safe chrismas tree

Create Cat Love Entertainment

You wouldn’t think cats get bored but they evolved as hunting machines. Sleeping all day stores up enormous energy and indoor cats look for entertainment outlets. Set up bird houses and bird baths near windows for your cat’s viewing pleasure, as a sort of “kitty TV.”

Love Cats with Hiding Ops

Cats love hiding spots. You can offer an empty box or shopping bag to satisfy many cats. Cat tunnels work great in multiple pet households to reduce feline stress, too. Cats don’t like other pets to stare at them, so a cat tunnel lets kitty travel “under the radar” to reach important locations such as the litter box. Cat tunnels can reduce the hissy behavior between cats since they don’t have to face each other.

Learn more about soothing cat angst in the ComPETability: Cat book available in print and all Ebook platforms. You can get the audio book FREE with a trial subscription to Audible by clicking this link.

Offer Scratch Places Cats Love

Cats scratch to exercise, mark territory and relieve stress. Offering your cat legal scratching outlets makes her happy and keeps her physically healthy as well. Some cats won’t want to share their favorite scratch post so be sure you have at least one for each kitty.

Cats Love Cat Naps–Offer A Snuggly Bed

Cozy fuzzy beds make cats purr with delight. Set a bed under a lamp and you’ll be your feline’s favorite buddy ever! Older cats especially appreciate soft spots to lounge, especially since cats spend up to 16 hours a day napping.

Love Kittens with Understanding

I’m sure you’re already a savvy kitty “parent” but purr-haps you know someone who’d like extra help. You can also get COMPLETE KITTEN CARE for free in an Audible trial by clicking this link.

How do you love your cat? Are there special toys or activities that your felines particularly enjoy? Do tell!

Watch out for these 8 ways we can HISS OFF our cats!

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Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

Furry Fountain of Youth & Dog Senility: Reversing Canine Cognitive Dysfunction

I’ve been blessed to share my life with two senior dogs, but only Magical-Dawg showed signs of dog senility, also known as canine cognitive dysfunction. Yes, both dogs and cats can suffer from a form of dementia, that some might described as a type of canine Alzheimer’s disease. Dogs aged 11 to 16 are most likely to develop Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (CCD), sort of the doggy version of Alzheimer’s Disease. CCD is a medical condition in which a starch-like waxy protein called beta amyloid collects in the brain and causes behavior changes. Here’s what you need to know and ways to slow down potential dog senility.

senility

Magic’s canine senility signs reversed for a time with the right diet.

Signs of Dog Senility

Dogs cared for throughout their early years live longer than ever before. It’s not unusual for Toy-breed dogs to live into their mid-to-late teens and even big dogs today enjoy a decade or more of happy life with a loving owner. A longer life, though, can leave your dog befuddled when canine brains turn to mush.

Affected dogs become disoriented, wander, cry and pace, and can become lost in the house when out of your sight. Their behavior can change from confident to frightened, and the awake/sleep cycles may turn upside down. Dogs can forget house training, how to find the door or be unable to tell you when they need to “go.” And most heartbreaking of all, senile dogs lose interest in petting, ignore their beloved owners or furry friends, and might not recognize you.

Treating Dog Senility

While there’s no cure for CCD, the drug Anipryl (selegiline hydrochloride) is FDA-approved to treat cognitive dysfunction in dogs. According to veterinary researchers, about 1/3rd of treated dogs return to normal, another 1/3rd improve, and the final 1/3rd aren’t helped at all. There also are special diets designed to help turn back the clock on canine senility. Bright Mind dog food helped Magic a lot! Sadly, even improved dogs eventually revert and again develop senility signs.

A longer life is not necessarily a better life, especially if your dog no longer recognizes you. But there are ways to help your dog stay connected with the world and ward off signs of CCD, simply by exercising his brain.

Brain function studies in dogs proved that problem-solving activities kept them sharp, connected to the world around them, and even extended their lifespan. Just as with people, canine mental and physical stimulation drastically improves your dog’s cognitive function.

dog senility7 Tips To Keep Canine Brains Youthful

“Use it or lose it” applies to dogs just as it does to humans. Don’t delay. Keep dogs both mentally and physically spry from puppyhood on. That helps prevent or at least slow brain aging changes. Here are tips to keep King mentally spry into his old age.

  1. Make Play A Daily Treat. Interactive games keep your dog engaged with you and reward him for responding. Toys don’t need to be expensive, either. Old socks become tug toys and used tennis balls work great for fetch. They’re even more attractive if old and they smell like the owner. Read more about how pets play.
  2. Slim Pudgy Pooches. Overweight dogs have trouble exercising and avoid moving which can allow joints—and brains—to rust. Ask your vet for a slimming program that’s safe for your overweight canine. Fortunately, our current dog, Shadow-Pup hasn’t had a weight problem and continues to have a waist. I just wish that I had the same metabolism! Learn more tips for slimming pudgy pets here.
  3. Adopt Another Pet. Proper introductions of a playful younger cat or dog can serve as a furry fountain of youth to an old-fogey dog. Even if he’s irked at the young whippersnapper, keeping Junior-Pet in line can keep your dog sharp. When we brought home Magical-Dawg, he helped keep Seren-kitty active. Yes—cats can also suffer from senility, and by the time Seren reached 21 years, she displayed signs of kitty dementia.
  4. Practice Commands. Just because he’s old doesn’t mean he can’t perform. Practice the pleasures that make King’s heart leap for joy—for obedience champions, put him through his paces. If he has trouble, adjust the Frisbee toss or vault heights. Make necessary accommodations so he can still succeed and feel like the champion he is.
  5. Treats for Tricks. Teach the old dog new tricks using healthy treat rewards. Make treats smelly so he won’t have to strain old eyes to see.
  6. Give A Challenge. Puzzle toys that dispense treats turn meals into fun games. For food fanatics, puzzle toys encourage activity and brain-teasing challenges that exercise problem-solving abilities.

Planning For What-If…

We can’t predict any dog’s lifespan. Our beloved Bravo-Dawg succumbed to bone cancer before the age of three and never had the chance to reach senior status.

But when a special dog reaches senior citizenship, we treasure our time together even more. My first GSD lived just over 13 years, and Magical-Dawg barely made it to eleven before we lost him. Keeping your dog mentally active helps keep dogs connected with life—and us. And that ensures their golden years sparkle.

How do you keep your older dog’s brain nimble? Are there special games or activities that you enjoy doing together? In one of my thrillers, a tracking dog still has the “nose” despite his age—and I based that on an interview with a tracking dog Bloodhound (profiled in the Aging Dog book) who continued to track even though he’d gone blind! Of course, you can find all the must-knows about old dog care in the book. But many tips are common sense–please share!

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National Kitten Day! Must-Knows About Newborn Kitten Development

National Kitten Day! Must-Knows About Newborn Kitten Development

Every year when Spring rolls around we celebrate kitten season! On July 10, we celebrate National Kitten Day, so if a new baby is in your plans, here’s some updated kitten care info. If you love kittens, learning about newborn kitten development helps you know what to expect, and help the baby along the way.

Even if it’s not yet kitten season, it’s helpful to figure out the best age to adopt kittens. Read on to learn about the cat behavior of a three-week-old baby compared to one six weeks old. So whatever time of year, prepare now with all your kitten questions so you’re ready when the purr-fect cat or kitten becomes available.

kitten development stages

Mother cats take good care of kittens.

Kitten Season Brings Roaming Cats

Cats are considered kittens until about one year of age. Before that, though, the girl kitties can become pregnant. It’s not unusual for the unwanted youngsters to roam, looking for someplace safe. That’s how we found Karma-Kat. He showed up in late January, just before an ice storm hit. At age 8 months or so, his “cute” had worn off, and somebody lost him either accidentally or on purpose. Their loss, and our gain.

kitten development

Newborn Kittens are blind and deaf, and use cries to call for mom and help.

Cat & Kitten Development

In the Northern hemisphere, intact girl kitties begin to go into heat in February, and can become pregnant as early as four or five months of age. Within about 63 days, new furry babies make their appearance so brace yourselves for a bumper crop of cute-icity.

Kittens gain two to four ounces a week from birth to five to six months of age. The kitten immune system is also fully developed by six to eight weeks of age, while the immune protection he gained from Mom begins to fade.

kitten development

Kitten play can be relentless.

Kitten Development & Nonstop Kitten Play

Play and interaction with others takes over during weeks five to seven. Social play with Mom and siblings begins now, and includes running, rolling, biting, wrestling, climbing, and jumping. Mom-cat and siblings let the baby know if he bites or claws too hard and they’ll hiss at him or put an end to the game. If you want to avoid kittens chasing your feet, adopt a pair together! Learn more about fostering kittens with socialization tips here.

Orphan Kitten & kitten development

Handraised newborn kittes need to be fed every 4 hours or so with an appropriate kitten milk replacement.

Kitten Development & Ideal Adoption Age

When kittens are adopted too early, or are orphaned and hand raised, you’ll have extra challenges to bringing up baby. By watching mom, kittens learn to use the litter box, for example. What’s cute in a tiny kitten becomes aggravating or even dangerous when he gets older and can tip playtime into play aggression.

Adopting a pair of kittens can be a good option, so the babies wrestle and play with each other rather than targeting your ankles. If you also have dogs, read about introducing your cat to dogs here. Learn more about cat-to-cat introductions here. If you are the “mother figure” it’s up to you to teach Baby about the litter box, playing “nice” and eating grown-up food. Learn more about kitten adoption do’s and don’ts here.

kitten dayKitten Socialization For A Lifetime of Love

NEW-KITTEN-COVER-lorez

All your kitten must-knows — discounted Ebook here!

Puppies get more attention when it comes to socialization and puppy developmental stages are a bit different. But socialization is equally important in kittens. The problem is–prime kitten socialization takes place between two-to-seven weeks of age! Oh, the baby will learn after that, but his is the best time to pre-program a cat for success. When you adopt a kitten at this age, it’s up to you to expose him to a wide range of situations so he’ll be willing to accept them as he ages. That’s called “socialization” and can mean the difference between living with a well-adjusted and loving feline, or dealing with a scared or aggressive cat. 

Good experiences with people and other pets during this time ensure they’ll be well-adjusted adult cats. It’s ideal for kittens to stay with their littermates and mother until twelve weeks of age so they learn best how to get along with other cats, and learn all the important “cat rules” of the world. But very often, shelters need the space and adopt out babies earlier–or the kitten is alone in the world anyway, and benefits from being adopted earlier.

It’s important to have handy all the important kitten info. So if you’ve read this far, here’s an EBOOK deal for you–a discounted copy of COMPLETE KITTEN CARE by clicking here.

TEACH KITTENS NOW TO ACCEPT…

Handling and grooming by you and strangers teaches him to accept such things, so the veterinarian won’t have to fight him for an examination. This is the best age to train him to accept the cat carrier and leash. That allows him to travel with you when necessary, either to the vet or groomers or across town to visit Grandma. And if you think another pet (dog or cat), or a child might be in your future, introduce him to positive experiences at this age. That way, he’ll accept them as a normal part of his world and you’ll prevent behavior problems down the road.

How old was your cat when you adopted him? Have you ever needed to hand-raise a kitten? What do you think is the best age to adopt–and why? Please share!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Cat Hairballs & Shedding: 7 Tips to Solve the Big Hairy Deal

Cat Hairballs & Shedding: 7 Tips to Solve the Big Hairy Deal

Karma-Kat recently has “urped” up more cat hairballs, and I know why. I bet you didn’t know that in hot weather, cats lick and groom themselves to cool off. Of course, that can lead to more hairballs, so in hot weather or shedding season, you may see an uptick in these problems.

Cat hairballs can be a big problem with longhair cats.

Longhair cats like this Persian require extra grooming help to prevent cat hairballs.

Cat Hairballs: What You Need to Know

It’s shedding season, and cat hairballs (sometimes even dog hairballs, URK!) can be a problem at this time of year. Many cat owners discover wads of wet fur—hairballs—late at night when they step on them with bare feet. Cats seem to instinctively choose to decorate the most stainable portions of the carpet. Refer to this post about cleaning accidents on the carpet.

It’s normal for cats—especially those with long fur—to experience hairballs once in a while. Cats spend up to 50 percent of their awake time grooming and swallow fur in the process. What doesn’t end up in the litter box comes out the other end as nasty cigar-shaped cat hairballs.

cat hairballs prevented by combing and brushing

Combing it out means it won’t be swallowed–and end up on your carpet! Refer to this post for managing fur in your house.

But swallowing lots of fur isn’t healthy, and hairballs are more than a nasty nuisance. Kitties that produce three or more hairballs a month should be checked by the vet to rule out other health issues.

Hairballs cause diarrhea, appetite loss, coughing, retching, constipation—or even deadly intestinal blockage. Cats have had hairballs as big as baseballs that require surgery to be removed! Most cases won’t need surgery, though, and most hairballs can be easily eliminated. Refer to these tips to untangle your cat hairballs problems.

cat hairballs are reduced by grooming cats

Grooming cats reduces the chance for hairballs.

7 CAT HAIRBALLS TIPS

Groom the cat. The cheapest, easiest hairball cure for cat hairballs is to regularly comb and brush your cat. Any hair you remove won’t be swallowed to end up staining your upholstery. The Furminator eliminates up to 90 percent of shed fur. Seren-kitty LOVES her Furminator (Magic loves his dog version, too).

Feed a hairball diet. A variety of commercial products are designed to prevent cat hairballs. They include extra nondigestible fiber. That helps push swallowed hair through the digestive tract, so it is eliminated naturally with each bowel movement. Most of these are dry diets, though, and cats do much better on wet foods.

Add some fiber. If you’d rather not switch foods, just add fiber to kitty’s regular diet. Cats love and need lots of protein but that sometimes promotes constipation and doesn’t help move the swallowed hairs. Mix in a teaspoon of plain bran or Metamucil to canned meals. Flaxseeds or psyllium husks, available in health food stores, also act as natural laxatives and work well. Add ¼ teaspoon of flaxseeds or psyllium for every meal.

Offer pumpkin. Canned pumpkin—the plain type, not for pies—is very rich in fiber and cats often love the taste. Get a jumbo-size can, and divide into teaspoon-size servings and freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw one serving at a time, mixing into the regular food or offer as a treat once or twice a week. Some cats actually love fresh green beans or cat grass, so offer for extra treats and bowel health.

Give a bit of honey. If your cat doesn’t appreciate canned pumpkin, you can offer a natural laxative, two or three times a week. Combine raw oatmeal, honey, and olive oil into a paste. Offer one to two tablespoons as a treat when hairballs are a problem.

Lubricate the gut. Butter will make your cat purr, but it won’t help hairballs. Digestible fats like butter can cause diarrhea and usually get absorbed before they can move the problem out. Instead, offer non-medicated petroleum jelly. It looks nasty but many pets like the taste. It will coat the hairball to make it slide more easily out of the system. If kitty refuses to accept a finger-full scraped into his mouth, just spread the jelly on his paw so he has to lick it off as he grooms. We’ve been using Vetoquinol Laxatone for Karma (maple flavoring, who knew?!). Commercial hairball remedies often add salmon or malt flavoring to similar petrolatum products. Take care to follow label instructions or your veterinarian’s advice, though. Overuse of these products can interfere with the pet’s use of fat-soluble vitamins.

Do your cats suffer from hairballs? How do you manage the problem? Do tell!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? NOTE: Some links to books or other products may be to affiliates, from which I may earn a small percentage of sales, but I do not recommend anything unless I feel it would benefit readers. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Potty Training Puppies? Here’s How To House Train Puppies

Potty Training Puppies? Here’s How To House Train Puppies

Whether you have a tiny puppy, like when Shadow-Pup arrived, or a big old dawg — my Bravo (below) at one time tipped the scales at 120 pounds — potty training puppies keep your house hygienic and offers discipline and routine to our dog.

A new puppy brings great joy, but potty training puppies can lead to frustration. Puppy potty accidents start your relationship off on the wrong paw. Without the right training, he won’t know how to please you. He may not even know how to go potty on grass. Even older dogs can benefit from refresher training if they’ve had potty training lapses.

house training puppies

Don’t let that innocent look fool you — Bravo had his share of “whoops” messes!

House Train Dogs–Listen to Their Needs

When Magic came to live with us at 8 weeks, he already knew a potty word — “take-a-break” — and never had an accident in the house. His breeder did all the prep work for us, but of course, we still had to follow up. However, our Bravo-Boy had spent his whole 12-weeks of life outside on a ranch. He got to “go” when (and wherever) the urge struck. Oy.

Think of potty training from your puppy’s point of view. When he has to go, he won’t wait–he simply squats in place. He won’t understand why you’re always mad when you come home. If he’s punished but not shown what you want, he’ll think you don’t want him to potty at all. Rubbing his nose in it makes him wonder, “She want me to eat that stuff?” Punishing teaches puppies to potty when you’re not watching, or to hide deposits more carefully.

potty train puppies

Potty Train Puppies by Catching Him In The Act

Timing is key when teaching cause-and-effect. He won’t understand your anger has anything to do with the deposit he created five minutes ago. Unless caught in the act, or pointed out within 30-90 seconds, correcting the baby won’t work.

Instead, catch the pup in the act…of doing something right. Then throw a happy-dance praise party to tell him how smart he is! People work more eagerly for a bonus than a reprimand, and dogs are no different. Once he learns he gets paid to go in the right spot—positive reinforcement—he’ll virtually cross his legs to please you. 

Oh, and be sure to clean up the mess so the smell won’t draw him back to the scene of the crime. Here are some tips for cleaning up potty accidents.

house training puppies

Our new boy, Shadow, at 13 weeks old (estimate) does very well, but we still use the crate. He LOVES his crate because that’s where he’s fed and gets special treats. He’s a multi-sprinkler, too–pees multiple times, so he gets extra time outside. *s*

How to House Train Puppies: How Long Can He “Hold It?”

Pups need a bathroom break after every meal, nap, and playtime. Depending on his age and breed, feed him two to four or more times a day. Prevent potty accidents by anticipating when the puppy needs a break. Your pup has a baby-size bladder and limited capacity to “hold it” no matter his best intentions.

If you have puppy-friendly adult dogs, your puppy often will copy the adult dog’s behavior. So if your adult dog has good potty etiquette, that can speed up the process. Bravo helped me teach Shadow his cue-word to go to the bathroom: “Take A Break.” You’ll love having a cue word especially late at night, or during inclement weather! Learn about puppy intros to other pets here.

It can vary a bit between breeds with large and giant breeds having a bit more “storage” capacity and Toy breeds a bit less. Learn more about puppy development here. In general, here’s what to expect:

  • Two-month-old pups need a break about every two hours
  • Three-month-old pups can hold it for four hours.
  • Four-month-old pups can wait five hours
  • Five-month-olds can wait about six hours
  • Seven-month-old pups should be able to wait about eight hours.

8 Steps to Potty Training Puppies

Dogs can be potty trained at any age, but puppies learn much more quickly than adults. Puppies are so cute that owners forgive puppy-size accidents, but adult-size deposits aren’t cute and often lose the grown-up pet his home. Use these 8 puppy potty training tips to housebreak puppies and ensure he grows up to be the best friend he’s meant to be. Learn more about caring for your puppy in the book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE. 

  • Create a schedule. Base potty breaks on the pup’s age, activity level, and mealtimes.
  • Choose a location. Dogs rely on scent cues to remind them what’s expected. Whether you create an indoor toilet spot with newspaper, pee-pads or a doggy litter box, or select an outdoor potty, take him to the same place each time.
  • Concentrate on business. Keep him on leash until he’s productive, or he’ll only play and then have an accident inside. Take off the leash for a playtime as part of his reward for eliminating.
  • Name the deed. When he squats, say a cue word that identifies the action. I’m teaching Bravo the same “take-a-break” command that means to get down to business. It’s a bit less off-putting than saying “poop & pee” if your dog is in public. *s* Make sure your entire family uses the selected cue consistently. Once the puppy has been productive, reward with lots of praise, play or a tiny treat that doesn’t upset his regular nutrition.
  • Confine and supervise. Puppies don’t want to live up close and personal to their own waste, so confinement can be a great tool. A small room won’t work-he can poop in one corner and sleep in the other–and be sure you’ve puppy proofed the area to avoid danger. If the pup isn’t productive after fifteen minutes during a potty break, confine in a crate for fifteen minutes and then try again. If he potties in the crate, that confines the mess to an easily cleaned area. He’ll have to live with his mistake for a short time. The next time he’ll be more likely to empty when offered the opportunity. Alternatively, hook his leash to your belt so he can’t sneak away and do the dirty deed.
  • Watch for warnings. Puppies sniff the ground and walk in circles before they pose. If he squats inside, pick him up so he stops the process, and move him to the designated legal toilet area. Give your cue word, and praise when he’s successful in the right spot.
  • Clean accidents. Use an odor neutralizer to eliminate the smells that lure your puppy back to the scene of the crime. We also confine the new pet to an easily cleaned area of the house, using baby gates.
  • Roll up newspaper. When you find an accident, it means you’ve not paid attention to his needs. If you’re feeling really aggravated, don’t hold back. Roll up that newspaper—and hit yourself over the head with it, and resolve to do better next time. Just like puppies, owners take time and patience to learn important lessons.

Oh, and you can also trick train cats! Here’s how.

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Is Your Puppy Chewing? Here’s How To Stop Dog Chewing

Is Your Puppy Chewing? Here’s How To Stop Dog Chewing

FCC noticeChewing is normal behavior for dogs—and for some cats. You can’t stop dog chewing, and shouldn’t try. Puppies and kittens test their world the same way human infants do. Everything goes into the mouth. Teething youngsters chew objects to relieve the discomfort, but adult dogs rarely outgrow the habit the way (we hope!) people do.

I last wrote about canine chewing when Bravo came to live with us as a new pup. He chewed everything within reach (Oh, my poor coffee table!), including chew toys. We still have Magic-markers on the baseboard and plaster from our last beloved dog. Now we have to re-do flooring in the laundry room, courtesy of Bravo-Dawg.

These days, we THINK we have a handle on Shadow-Pup. We have to really watch him, though, because Shadow likes to chew sticks–yikes!–and has already got one piece caught across the roof of his mouth. When you have a baby-dawg, or even adult canines, it can be a constant struggle to monitor them for safe chewing.

Dog chewing is a fact of life and learning how to stop puppy chewing can save your relationship, and sanity. If you have a new puppy, or even an adult dog with a chew -aholic habit, a primer on chewing basics may be welcome about now!

Puppies begin chewing very early in life. It helps those baby teeth come in, and later, feels good when the permanent teeth erupt. But even adult dogs chew for recreation. It just feels good! Learn more about puppy development here.

What’s the worst thing your dog ever chewed up and destroyed? Some items may seem funny–like stealing socks–until Monster Pup eats it and it takes emergency surgery to get it out. Our first dog chewed my husband’s brand new steel toed work boots that had cost a mint–not funny. And Magic  left teeth marks on the windowsills. I call them Magical-Markers! Urk.

chewing

This Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy loves army boots

How To Stop Puppy & Dog Chewing Behavior

You can’t stop puppy chewing because it’s normal dog behavior. Puppies don’t chew your prized possessions because they’re mad at you. They instinctively use teeth the way human babies reach out with tiny fists. Your puppy chews to explore the world, to manipulate objects, to relieve boredom, and because it feels good.

Destructive chewing still makes owners howl. Years ago I hobbled for weeks when my pup gnawed a quarter inch off just one of my high heels.

He also chomped my husband’s favorite property—the TV remote. He targeted items that smelled like us to feel closer to us, and soothe puppy loneliness, but we still didn’t appreciate the compliment!

Dog Chewing Dangers

Chewing gets pups in trouble when they aren’t provided with legal chewing opportunities, and forbidden objects are left within reach. Puppy chewing can break teeth, result in dangerous swallowed objects, or burns and electrocution if Junior bites an electrical cord or eats a poisonous plant. If your dog swallows something he shouldn’t, hopefully, he’ll vomit. Teething increases the urge to gnaw because it relieves sore gums, but dogs usually continue the habit into adulthood.

Don’t try to stop it. Instead, prevent puppy chewing problems by removing temptation, and offering lots of better (legal) opportunities. Refer to these 8 tips to manage your puppy’s gnawing habit.

dog chewingTraining Tips to Stop Puppy & Dog Chewing

      • Puppy Proof the House: Getting a new puppy forces us to become better housekeepers. Keep tempting objects like shoes, handbags, tissues, and your child’s favorite stuffed toy safely out of reach.
      • Confine the Pup: When you can’t supervise, provide a “safe” room that has no dangerous or forbidden temptations. Baby gates work well to control puppy access and can block off a hallway, stair, or room.
      • Use Repellants: Products that taste nasty can keep puppy teeth at bay. Bitter Apple applied to electrical cords helps train pups to leave dangerous items alone. Many dogs find the scent of Vicks Vapo-Rub offensive. Paint Vicks on wooden baseboards or apply to cloth draped over other forbidden targets to keep puppy teeth at bay.
      • Don’t Confuse Him: Puppies can’t always tell the difference between your new designer sandals and the “legal” old slipper. It’s best to offer chew toys he won’t confuse with forbidden objects. Nylabone makes some popular puppy teething toys.
      • Make A Trade: Chasing a pup to retrieve your stolen wallet becomes a great game of keep-away, and can teach your smart-aleck pup to swipe things to invite a tag marathon. Instead, when you catch your pup chewing a forbidden object, tell her “no.” Offer an irresistible legal chew toy (maybe filled with liverwurst?) as a trade. Make the chew good for the teeth, to help with dental health.
      • Offer Puzzle Toys: Rubber chew toys with openings stuffed with healthy treats keep puppies interested and on target. Some are mint or peanut butter scented to be more appealing. Fill up puzzle toys like Buster Cube, and Kong products with soft food, peanut butter or commercial treats designed just for puppies.
      • Provide Chewies: Healthy chews or edible “dental” chews come in all shapes and sizes, complete with a variety of powerful scents and flavors. Soak rawhide in warm water and zap in the microwave for ten seconds to soften the leather and make it more pungent for tiny puppies. Monitor rawhide fun, though. Larger pups gnaw off and swallow pieces, and eating too much rawhide spoils appetites and may prompt constipation or even blockage. My Shadow-Pup loves dehydrated fish skins–pungent, tasty, and digestible. Bully Sticks are usually a good option.

  • Rotate Toys: Puppies get bored with the same-old every day. Provide at least three to five “legal” options for your chew-happy baby and rotate a couple of times a week. That keeps puppy happy, your precious belongings undamaged, and your fur-kid safe despite himself.
Dog chewing is normal, so don’t blame the dog! And today’s Ask Amy has advice, too. How have you managed your chew-aholic dog?

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Top 10 Puppy Proofing Tips to Save Dog Lives for National Puppy Day!

Top 10 Puppy Proofing Tips to Save Dog Lives for National Puppy Day!

It’s National Puppy Day! But when you have a puppy, every day is puppy day, with puppy proofing a requirement. Whether you plan to adopt a puppy, or already live with a cute puppy-kid, it’s important to know the top puppy proofing tips to save dog lives. Loving a puppy goes beyond teaching them where and when to potty. When  Shadow-Pup showed up at our house, we revisited all the must-know puppy issues!

If you know someone with a new furry wonder, I hope you’ll consider “gifting” them with all the info they need with a copy of my book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE.

WHAT IS PUPPY PROOFING?

Puppy proofing is the canine version of human baby-proofing when a new bundle of joy arrives. It’s vital you know how to puppy proof your home and yard. Puppies explore their world with nose pokes, paw pounces, and chewing everything within reach throughout their development stages.

For your new puppy, everything is a potential game. He uses his mouth the way infants reach out and grab. So tug-games with the curtains or your underwear, keep-away when he steals your wallet, un-planting the potted palm or eating poisonous plants, and nosey sniffs of the candle flame get him in trouble. Depending on your puppy’s temperament, he could really push your buttons!

FTC noticeDuring teething, he’ll want to chew even more to relieve the discomfort, but most dogs love to chew their whole life. Puppies not only damage your property, he could hurt himself or die from munching dangerous objects. Like cat toys–that’s why we’ve been careful about puppy introductions to other pets.

puppy proofing

Think Like A Puppy for Puppy Proofing

Anything that moves, looks fun or interesting, or dangerous will attract your furry delinquent. Get a puppy-eye-view of your home by crawling around on all fours to channel your “inner puppy” –it’s okay, you don’t have to wag or bark, just find and address the dangers. Remember, some pups aren’t really grown up mature dogs until 18 months, and even adult dogs can get into trouble. Here are some of the most common trouble spots.

5 POPULAR PUPPY PROOFING TARGETS

  1. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets often house poisonous cleaning supplies. When cabinets are within puppy reach, be sure the baby can’t paw them open. Child-proof latches are a good idea. Find out why your pup likes to follow you to the bathroom here.
  2. Toilet paper is a popular puppy toy. Drinking out of the toilet is another nasty habit that could be dangerous if a small pup falls in and drowns or ingests chemical cleaners. The easy fix is—shut the bathroom door, and/or always put the lid down.
  3. Pups jump up on windowsills to look out. That may tempt them to grab curtains or play tug with the cords on the window blinds. Some pups have strangled in these cords so tie them up out of reach.
  4. Wastebaskets can be incredibly rewarding for a puppy to pillage. Table scraps to old used tissues can be found, so invest in waste baskets with lids, hide them behind latching doors, or set them on countertops out of reach.
  5. Dirty laundry must smell like heaven to puppies. Concentrated beloved human scent found on worn socks and underwear or shoes can be very appealing. But a swallowed sock can stop up his innards–learn how, and when, and why you might want to make your puppy vomit. The pillow your head rests on when you sleep also smells like you–what’s up with him sucking on it? So protect the laundry basket, and close the closet door to keep puppy marauders from stealing and chewing shoes, purses or brief cases left on the floor. Puppies may confuse throw pillows with legal chew toys, so make it easy for them to tell the difference and put forbidden objects out of reach.

puppy proofing

5 PUPPY DANGER ZONES to PUPPY PROOF!

  1. If you have cats, be sure the litter box is out of reach. Puppies like to snack on poop, especially kitty potty deposits and aside from the unsanitary issue, this will hiss off the cat and cause potential inter-pet problems. Most cats can leap onto a tabletop to find their litter box, which keeps it out of dog range. Use pet doors and baby gates to give your cat privacy.
  2. Electrical cords tempt puppies to chew. If shocked, sometimes even rescue breathing and CPR may not save them. Bad tasting products like Bitter Apple may help but don’t rely on these as some funny canines like the taste. It’s better to keep the cords out of reach by installing baby gates to make rooms off-limits, moving electrical items and their cords elsewhere, or bundle the cords together. Home and pet product stores offer products designed to do this.
  3. Some common houseplants are poisonous if chewed and swallowed. Even if nontoxic, your puppy may have great fun gnawing and dragging pieces around the house, or practicing his excavation technique. Either hang baskets or set houseplants on tables out of reach, or throw away if they’re of the toxic variety.
  4. Find a safe place out of puppy tooth range to store cell phone, TV remote or other such objects. Swallowed objects can make your puppy sick or even kill him.  If you’re paper training the puppy, remember that the newspaper, books, magazines or music left on the floor may invite puppy potty attention you don’t want.
  5. Puppies also spend time in the yard. Don’t think a fence makes him safe. Puppies can wiggle out of tiny openings or get caught and injured trying to escape. We should put anything that can be turned into a toy out of reach. Shut lawn and garden chemicals in puppy proof rooms or boxes.

More Tips for New Puppies

What have I missed? Are there DANGER ZONES unique to your neck of the woods? I cover a whole lot more in my book COMPLETE PUPPY CARE, and I’d love to hear what else has been a safety issue for your furry wonders!

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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book giveaways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

Leaving Pets Behind: Choosing Pet Sitters

When the holidays or business travel rolls around, pet sitters can be a big help when you plan vacations with or without your dog or cat. After delaying plans for over two years due to the virus, many of us now will travel to visit family and friends, have folks visit, or spend vacation time away from home. Time off from work and a change of routine offers humans much-needed stress relief. But the same is not always true for furry family members. That’s where pet sitters come in.

28th annual Professional Pet Sitters Week™ to be celebrated March 6-12

Pet Sitters International is highlighting the resiliency of pet sitters during this annual observance that recognizes the importance of professional pet-care services and the viability of pet sitting as a career.

Lying on red sofa young woman with cat and dalmatian dog

“Professional pet sitters and dog walkers’ businesses were significantly impacted by the pandemic, but they persevered, continuing to tailor their safety measures and their service offerings to meet the needs of their clients,” said PSI President Beth Stultz-Hairston. “We’re thrilled to see business rebounding for so many pet sitters across the globe and are happy to celebrate their dedication and highlight their value this Professional Pet Sitters Week.”

“It is also the perfect time to highlight the viability of professional pet sitting as a career,” said PSI Founder and CEO Patti Moran. “Professional pet sitting has long been a profitable and rewarding career option, and with 70 percent of U.S. households now owning a pet, the need for professional pet sitters will continue to grow.”

VACATIONING WITH & WITHOUT PETS

FCC noticeCats prefer staying in their home amid familiar surroundings. Some do well if left alone for a day or two when provided with adequate food and water, and extra litter boxes. That’s not appropriate for kittens, cats older than 10 years, or any cat with a health issue that needs attention, though.

No pet should be unsupervised for longer than a couple of days. Make arrangements to have a friend, a neighbor, or a professional pet sitter visit at least once a day to clean the toilet facilities, check food and water (and medicate, if needed), and perhaps play or cuddle with the cats.

Leaving dogs at home is also an option. But unless your dog is litter box trained (yes, it can be done!), people visits must be more frequent for potty breaks and meals. Some dogs eat four-days’-worth of food at one time if it’s all left out at once.

Beautiful cat exploring an old open suitcase on hardwood floor.

PICK A PET SITTER

Pet sitters are the ideal choice. You can search via professional organizations such as National Association of Professional Pet Sitters and Pet Sitters International or even Roverto find members in your area. You can also learn more and perhaps become a TrustedHousesitters Member! Whatever you chose, check out the pet sitter’s credentials, how long they’ve been in business, if they’re bonded/insured, what services they provide, and be specific about fees. Find out how much time the pet sitter spends on each visit—average is 30 minutes but for dog walking (especially multiple pets) or grooming/medicating it may take more time and require a higher cost.

Ask for references (and check them!) before you decide if the service or individual is a match for you and your pets. It’s also important to see if the candidate interacts well with your cats and dogs. Some pet sitters specialize in special needs animals. For instance, they may be able to medicate your diabetic cat or “pill” your reluctant dog.

PROVIDE INFORMATION

Be sure to leave caretakers with detailed information about each pet’s care needs, veterinary contact information, and emergency phone numbers to reach you. Leave your pets’ leash, medications and other “must haves” in an easy access area and show the pet sitter where to find them.

Alert the neighbors about the pet sitter or family friend coming and going from your home so they expect them in the neighborhood, and give the pet sitter your neighbor’s name and phone number. Talk with your veterinarian about signing a “just in case” authorization for medical care (you can designate the dollar amount). That way, emergency care is available and funded even if you are unavailable to give your okay in person.

PREP YOUR PETS!

Of course, you can’t ask your cats and dogs about what THEY want when you’re gone. So do your best to prepare them for the absence. A fractious or fearful pet may not accept even the most dedicated and friendly pet sitter. Gradual introductions are key, and it may be love at first sight (YAY!) or could take some time for especially shy felines to accept that stranger in the home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan for your vacation or absence at least a couple of weeks in advance, especially for cats. Ask the pet sitter to meet with your pets to see how they get along. A savvy pet sitter knows what pets expect and won’t push the fur-kid past limits. For instance, they won’t force petting or close interaction when the dog or cat prefers distance. Over time, though, when the “stranger” visits several times and perhaps plays a favorite game or drops treats for the pet, a more positive association develops. You can find more detailed tips in my short quick tips guides, MY CAT HATES MY DATE as well as MY DOG HATES MY DATE.

Benefits of Planning Ahead

Preparing for your pets’ comfort during your vacations gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your time free from worries. After all the joy they bring you throughout the year, don’t your cats and dogs deserve happy howl-adays, too?

So…do you contract with a pet sitter, or perhaps a neighbor or family member to care for pets when you’re gone? Or do you board the dog? How does that work for you? How many readers take the dog along for the trip–or even the kitty? What tips and tricks make the travel problem free? Please share!


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I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Do you have a new kitten and need answers? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter. Stay up to date with the latest book give aways and appearances related to my September Day pet-centric THRILLERS WITH BITE!

PET POISON! 7 Top Toxins & Pet 1st Aid to Keep Cats & Dogs Safe

PET POISON! 7 Top Toxins & Pet 1st Aid to Keep Cats & Dogs Safe

When you live with pets, be aware of poison prevention all year long, not just during March’s Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. A couple of years ago, we had a scare when Bravo-Dawg got into pet poison. Like many folks, I take a variety of vitamins to improve and maintain my health. I keep them organized in a pill caddy with a separate compartment for each day of the week. I keep the full bottles in a closed bottom drawer in the kitchen, while the pill caddy rests on the countertop pushed far back against the backsplash, well out of paw-reach.

Or so I thought. Within the 30 minutes between my departure for a meeting, and my husband’s return home from work, Bravo got a hold of the pill caddy. Like any good pet parent, my husband cleaned up the mess — and when I returned home about 90 minutes later, he told me about Bravo’s latest infraction.

Human Pills & Pet Poison

OH NO! The vitamins wouldn’t hurt him, but on that day for the first time, I also included OTC pain meds to relieve my chronic backache. I panicked, grilled my husband — did you find any pills? What kind? how many? Four or five day’s worth of pills were in question, so I sifted through coffee grounds and other schtuff in the trash.

I found four of the pain pills — so at most, Bravo ate one. Typically, dogs show toxic signs within 20 minutes, which might include vomiting blood, drunk behavior, seizures or even collapse. Bravo acted like his normal, goofy self, which makes me suspect he had a guardian angel that prevented him from gulping the dangerous pills. He ate all the vitamins. Oy.

Easter Lily poisonous to pets

Easter lilies are highly toxic to pets, especially cats. Be safe this Easter season!

Protect Pets from Poisoning

Dogs are prone to poisoning because, like human infants, they put everything in their mouths. Cats are more discriminating about what they eat, but contact poison can affect any pet if they walk through something toxic or it spills on fur and ingested during grooming.

Symptoms vary depending on the poison, amount of exposure, and the individual animal. You may see anything from drunken staggers and collapse, to salivation, seizures, or hyperactivity.

7 TOP PET POISONS & FIRST AID HELP

  1. Poisonings from human medications (both over-the-counter and prescription meds) has become the most common pet poisoning over the last several years. Dogs either gulp down tasty candy-coated pills, or owners give them human drugs without realizing the risks. Cats may play with pills, and accidentally swallow them. Be aware that pets don’t metabolize Tylenol, aspirin, ibuprofen or neproxin (Aleve) the same way people do, and can die from taking them. A single extra-strength Tylenol can kill a cat. Keep meds out of reach in pet-proof cabinets.

poison pills
2. Chemical toxicity used to top the list but the safer flea and tick products have reduced the numbers of overdosing. Problems still happen when you misunderstand directions. What’s safe for a dog may be deadly for a cat! Wash your pet immediately if you suspect toxicity, and call the vet. Antifreeze poisoning also can be an issue because it often tastes sweet, which attracts dogs.

lilies poison pets

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?!!! Lilies are toxic to cats & dogs.

3. Plant poisonings are dangerous to mouthy pets. Some varieties that can be harmful to pets include lilies, azalea, rhododendron, sago palm, kalanchoe and schefflera. Dogs fall victim most often because of their urge for recreational chewing. But some cats nibble leaves or paw-play with plants and may be poisoned when they later lick their claws clean. Holidays can offer all kinds of risks so prepare for holiday safety with these tips, and also beware of Easter lilies this holiday–learn more here!

4. Pest baits also tempt dogs and cats, and can poison pets that catch or scavenge poisoned rodents, roaches or snails. Rodent baits contain the same cereal grains often used in commercial pet foods so dogs may willingly eat the poison. Anticoagulants like warfarin prevent blood from clotting, and cause uncontrolled and fatal bleeding from the rectum, nose, and even the skin. Pest poisons may take 24 to 72 hours to induce signs, but once the dog or cat shows distress, treatment may not be as effective and can be too late. Veterinarians have antidotes for some, and others require gastric lavage and supportive care. Pets get poisoned by eating dead varmints that have succumbed to pest baits, too.

BEWARE THE DANGERS OF SWEET POISON!

5. Dogs love sweet flavors and often poison themselves by eating chocolate. Dark chocolate and Baker’s chocolate contains higher concentrations of the caffeine-like substance, theobromine, but even eating too much of that candy Easter bunny can prompt a bout of diarrhea and vomiting. Find out more about chocolate toxicity here.

grape toxicity

DANGER! Grapes are highly toxic and can quickly kill dogs.

Poison in Grapes & Raisins

6. Both fresh and dried grapes (raisins) are quite toxic in dogs. We don’t know the exact poisonous substance that causes the reaction, and sensitivity varies from dog to dog. No dog should eat any amount of this fruit because even a small dose can be fatally toxic for your dog. Be particularly aware of wild grapes in the yard or fields.

The most dramatic and serious problem caused by grape/raisin toxicity is sudden kidney failure with a lack of urine production. For unknown reasons, not all dogs suffer kidney failure after ingestion of grapes or raisins. Researchers continue to investigate why some dogs die and others are not affected by the poison.

The first signs of distress often include vomiting and/or diarrhea with only a few hours of ingestion. After about 24 hours, you may see grapes or raisin pieces in the feces or vomitus. Affected dogs lose their appetite, become lethargic and unusually quiet. They may suffer abdominal pain, and “hunch” their back from the discomfort. Dehydration develops from the diarrhea and vomiting, but they only pass small amounts of urine. Eventually they stop urinating at all when the kidneys ultimately shut down. Prognosis is guarded, even when treated, and most dogs die once the kidneys stop producing urine. Grape/raisin toxicity is an emergency that needs prompt veterinary intervention.

Poison in Sugar Free Treats

7. Xylitol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol used for sweetening sugar-free products. You’ll find it in chewing gum, candy, toothpaste, some peanut butter products, or even baked products. It also comes as a granulated powder. Both forms are highly toxic to dogs. Xylitol ingestion causes a rapid release of insulin in the dog, which in turn results in a sudden decrease in blood glucose levels. Depending on the size of your dog, a single piece of sugar-free gum may cause symptoms that result in death.

The ingested substance may cause vomiting, incoordination, seizures, or even liver failure. Bleeding may develop in the dog’s gastrointestinal track or abdomen, as well as dark red specks or splotches on his gums. Usually the symptoms happen quickly, within fifteen to thirty minutes of ingestion, but some kinds of sugar-free gum may not cause symptoms for up to twelve hours. See this warning video from the FDA:

FIRST AID FOR PET POISONING

If you see or suspect your dog has eaten toxic foods or substances, induce vomiting immediately (but only if the dog remains conscious). Take a sample of the vomitus or feces if available to help the doctor be sure of the diagnosis. You’ll find more tips on how to make pets vomit at this post.

Invisible poisons also threaten pets. Learn about carbon monoxide poisoning in this post.

If you suspect that your pet has been poisoned call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Details on specific signs and treatments of various poisons are also listed in “The First-Aid Companion for Dogs and Cats.” For more information on the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center.

Today, my vitamins and other meds live in a pet-proof area. Knowing Shadow-Pup, his next lesson from Karma-Kat will be how to open drawers.

He already figured out the doors, counters, and cabinets.

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Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

Pet Poison Alert! 199 Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

This month, we celebrate Pet Poison Prevention Awareness Month. Here in Texas, many folks spend this time of year preparing for spring gardens. Two years ago, we dug out old roses (many infected with rose rosetta disease, arg!), and continue to plant new ones, along with other perennials. My jonquils, and other bulb plants now poke shy heads above the mulch, ready for a burst of color.

Shadow-Pup helped! And Karma-Kat will enjoy any cut flowers I bring in later. That’s why I’m so careful about exactly what we plant, and the kinds brought inside for our own and pet enjoyment. I had some lovely patio container plants last fall, and wanted to bring them inside for the winter. Unfortunately, I couldn’t risk plants toxic to pets.

Flowers are gorgeous, and dogs may enjoy them, too–as long as they’re non-toxic!

Poison pet plants can kill cats and dogs any time of year, but spring can be particularly dangerous when new plants pose dangers. While dogs munch, cats more often play and claw plants, and ingest poison when they clean themselves. Check out this post for more about top pet toxins.

That’s why at my house, we love roses, which are edible. Of course, the thorns can be a hazard. 🙂  And if you have neighborhood cats, use these tips to shoo cats away from gardens.

This is a great idea for all public gardens, and perhaps your own. Dogs often enjoy digging in gardens, a problem even if plants are safe.

Poison Pet Plants & What to Do

I received an email from ProFlowers.com a couple of years ago with this great infographic to share. Refer to this helpful poison chart (below) to avoid toxic plants all year long.

Of course, my advice is to keep toxic plants out of the house entirely when you have pets (or toddlers!) eager to taste-test everything. Accidents do happen, though, so this is a handy guide to bookmark (and share!) with other pet parents.

Meanwhile, why not keep an emergency kit on hand? My go-to is the First-Aid Companion for Dogs & Cats not only for poisons but for everything from torn nails to (gasp!) gunshots or snakebite. It’s a good time to “gift” the pet people in your life, too…although my wish for you and your pets is that you’ll NEVER need the emergency advice!

Have your pets ever “snacked” on something toxic? Do tell! What happened? what did you do…and what would you advise others based on your experience?

Poison Pet Plants

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World Spay Day and Pros & Cons of Dog Neutering

World Spay Day and Pros & Cons of Dog Neutering

It’s World Spay Day! Yes, actually, there really are both pros and cons to dog neutering and puppy sterilization that may surprise you. It did me. After all, we’ve heard from animal welfare advocates for years preaching the gospel of spay/neuter. Heck, I preached this myself and for the majority of dogs and cats (ESPECIALLY cats!), “the big fix” is the best thing that ever happens to them.

There’s evidence, though, that the pros and cons of dog neutering are not so black and white. While the University of Georgia’s sample of 40,139 canine death records from the Veterinary Medical Database from 1984 to 2004 concluded that neutered dogs live a year and a half longer (on average) than intact dogs, other studies point out potential increase in hip dysplasia or cancer. Oy.

Chihuahua

Dog Neutering & Puppy Sterilization

So what’s a responsible pet parent to do? Most pet lovers recognize that neutering boy puppies they don’t plan to breed or show in performance venues can be the responsible choice. Sterilization reduces several potential behavior problems, such as roaming, marking, mounting, and fighting.

Ask Amy Shojai: When Should I Fix M...
Ask Amy Shojai: When Should I Fix My Pets

Animal welfare organizations provide statistics that show over 80 percent of owned dogs in the United States are sterilized. Hurray! but what about the other 20 percent? And what about in other countries?

Veterinarian sterilization operation on dog

Veterinarian sterilization operation on a dog.

Objections to Dog Sterilization?

Is there any good reason to NOT neuter your puppy? Surgical castration permanently removes 100 percent of the dog’s testosterone, and that can cause consequences some new studies indicate may pose problems, depending on the timing and the breed.

People with puppies they hope to develop into performance dogs—hunting, herding or other athletic-intensive activities—may be reluctant to castrate their male dogs. The sexual hormones generated by the male dog’s testis give him that “male” look, and impact bone, joint and musculature development important for performance. Also, some cancers–like prostate cancer–once thought to be preventable through neutering may in fact increase in incidence. Studies indicate that large breed dogs that are neutered are at increased risk for bone and spleen cancers.

Another study of 759 Golden Retrievers at the University of California/Davis showed a doubling in the incidence of hip dysplasia in male dogs neutered before their first birthday. This early neutering also showed an increase in the occurrence of cranial cruciate ligament tear and lymphosarcoma in males and of cranial cruciate ligament tear in females. Older age sterilization was associated with the later development of mast cell tumors and hemangiosarcoma in females. Different breeds may have different results, but this information may be helpful in choosing when to time neutering your puppy.

JAVMA (the AVMA publication) shared this insightful discussion about sterilization of dogs–when it should be done, and what should be considered. The bottom line turns out–IT DEPENDS. 

But...PUPPIES are so CUTE! (sorry, not a good reason..)

But…PUPPIES are so CUTE! (sorry, not a good reason..)

Myths About Dog Neutering

Other objections are less founded in actual science and are more myths or opinions that are hard to change. There continues to be a perception that “fixed” boy dogs lose their ability to do protection work, get fat and lazy, and are less “macho.” None of these is accurate. Maturity and removal of sex hormones affect metabolism. If you don’t adjust food intake as the puppy matures, he will pack on too much “table muscle.”

Finally, in some areas around the world (including the southern states in the US), the stray or feral population can account for a significant number of unwanted dog pregnancies. Surgical sterilization of stray and feral populations is both labor and cost-prohibitive. Currently, many veterinarians say they perform pet dog and cat sterilizations at a loss, simply as a service to owners, yet the economic climate makes even these opportunities out of financial range for many people.

It’s important to learn all the facts, and figure out the best options for your individual puppy. Different breeds and lifestyles may impact your decision. So do your research, consult with your veterinarian, and ask questions. Your puppy is counting on you!

What do you think? Go ahead and comment–let ‘er rip! *s*


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6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips & How to Brush Doggy & Kitty Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips & How to Brush Doggy & Kitty Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

Do you brush dog teeth? How about brushing cat teeth? The AVMA sponsors National Pet Dental Health Month every February.

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3.

But it’s never too late (or too soon) to get your pets’ pearly whites checked out by your veterinarian. Often the doctor has some great tips for keeping cat teeth clean and dog breath at bay, including how to brush doggy teeth.

Does the thought of brushing dog teeth make you cringe, roll your eyes, whimper, slink away–and feel guilty? You’re not alone. But once that puppy-sweet breath morphs into curl-your-eyebrows stench, it’s long past the time to address that stink-icity.
Reach pups early to accept teeth brushing

Why Brushing Dog Teeth is Important

FCC noticeBy the time dogs (and cats!) reach the age of three, most of them have some amount of dental disease. Pets will benefit from toothy attention all year round. After all, pets don’t brush their teeth, and they tend to gulp—not chew—their food. Just think what your teeth would look like in three years if you never brushed!

Dogs (and cats) share a lot of the same dental issues with humans. A veterinary dental visit involves anesthesia, ultrasonic scaling, polishing, and sometimes fluoride treatment, or antibiotics, especially after removing teeth.

Dr. Jan Bellows, a board-certified veterinary dentist, says your veterinarian can use a plant-based gel called Vetigel that stops the bleeding from pulled teeth within seconds. Veterinary dentists also may use professional sealants like Sanos Dental Sealant, that helps prevent plaque from attaching under your pet’s gums for up to 6 months.

You can reduce the number of veterinary dental treatments (and your guilt factor) with easy home care tips. Here are 6 no-guilt tips to freshen up your dog’s breath.

Healthy treats for dog dental health

6 Easy Fresh Breath Tips

    • Dry food won’t “cure” dental disease, but it doesn’t stick to teeth as readily as wet foods. Crunching dry food can reduce dental problems by about 10 percent, though, so offering your dog “crunchies” after moist dinners can help. At my house, Shadow-Pup and Karma-Kat love Greenies. You can get tiny fish-shaped Greenies treats for cats, and different treat-sizes Greenies for dogs. At Karma’s last exam, our veterinarian said his teeth looked like a one or two-year-old (he’s actually nearly nine!).
    • Many dogs relish healthy people foods like raw veggies or fruit, and chewing on these “detergent” foods can help scrub teeth clean. Offer dogs carrots or apple slices for healthy natural dental snacks. Make ’em big pieces, too, so he must gnaw off a piece rather than gulp it whole. Here are some safe people foods for pets.
Dogs love apples & it's good for teeth.

Eating “detergent” foods like apples is good for dog teeth.

  • Special “dental diets” and treats available in grocery stores or dispensed from the veterinarian can help, especially with dog breeds that seem more prone to dental issues like the Yorkshire Terrier. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal of approval on the food or treats. That affirms the product has passed stringent requirements and dogs what it claims. Here’s the list of cat-approved and tested products. And here’s the list for dog products. I particularly like the Science Diet Oral Care for Dogs and for Cats, but ask your veterinarian for a recommendation.
  • Most veterinary dentists dislike cow bones, pig hooves, and other hard chew objects that may break your puppy’s teeth. Sterilized bones designed for doggy dental care, though, may be just the ticket. Lately, Shadow-Pup has enjoyed these trachea “bone” dog treats, fully digestible and crunchy.
  • Puppies love to chew. Offer your dog a legal object that also has dental benefits, like the “dental toys” that contain a nubby surface designed to scrub the teeth. Please supervise, though. Too many of the so-called “indestructible” chew toys get eaten, and cause blockage problems.
  • A wide range of commercial dental chews (rawhide, ropes, treats) available for dogs may also prevent doggy breath. Some are infused with special enzymes that kill bacteria and help prevent plaque. Also, look for dental rinse products from your veterinarian. Ask your vet for a recommendation, as the professional products work best.

brush cat teethHow To Brush Kitty or Doggy Teeth (Without Getting Bit!)

Adult dogs often object to tooth brushing. It’s best to start puppies with a dental hygiene program while they’re too little to argue. Just turn it into a tasty game and your pooch will BEG for the attention. Here’s how.

  1. Mess With His Mouth. Over several weeks, get your dog used to having his mouth handled. You can get pups used to having something inserted into their mouth by flavoring your finger with low-salt chicken broth, or peanut butter (yum!).
  2. Treat With Toothpaste. Offer doggy or kitty toothpaste as a treat. Special meat-flavored toothpaste is available that gives pets the incentive to open wide. Never use human toothpaste. Pets can’t spit so they end up swallowing the foam, and swallowed fluoride can be dangerous and damage your dog or cat’s internal organs. Dr. Bellows recommends the PetSmile brands, since they also have the VOHC seal of approval. These pet toothpastes come in London broil, rotisserie chicken, and cheese flavors!
  3. Use Toy Props. Once they accept mouth handling and like the toothpaste, try propping the puppy’s mouth open with a favorite toy. Simply encourage him to bite on a chew object, and wrap your hand around his muzzle to hold it in place. That gives you access to his open mouth and also gives him something to do with his teeth. Use the same toy each time, so he identifies it with tooth attention–and getting a GREAT reward afterward. Practice doing this several times and praising him while giving toothpaste treats before you introduce a toothbrush.
  4. Choose Pet Brushes. Special pet toothbrushes are smaller and may be designed to better fit the dog’s or cat’s mouth. A soft child’s toothbrush works well.
  5. “Finger” The Teeth. Some puppies better accept your finger. Finger toothbrushes are available for brushing pet teeth, or simply wrap a damp cloth over your fingers and use that to scrub the outside of his teeth. Puppy tongues clean the inside surface of teeth so you won’t have to worry about poking too far inside the mouth.
  6. Praise The Performance. Experts recommend you brush after every meal, but two to three times a week is good. Always be sure to praise and throw a happy puppy-kitty party afterwards so your pet finishes with a good taste over the experience—literally!

Keeping breath fresh goes beyond good dental hygiene, too. Pungent breath makes you avoid dog kisses and purring lap snuggles (awww, you hurt his feelings!). It also points to potentially painful, dangerous dental problems that can damage your dog’s and cat’s organs. Yes, it’s THAT important.

So…do you brush your dog’s or cat’s teeth? What about offering “dental-friendly” foods and treats? How do you keep your pooch  and kitty kissable fresh? Do tell!

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Pet Dental Problems: 9 Dental Issues You Share With Your Cats and Dogs

Pet Dental Problems: 9 Dental Issues You Share With Your Cats and Dogs

Pet dental problems rate as important to cats and dogs as your own dental issues are for you. Could your dog’s breath melt your glasses? Does your cat’s smile look like five miles of bad road? Pet dental problems are surprisingly similar to their owners’ dental issues. February is National Pet Dental Health Month and a good time to check out your pets’ pearly whites. You can even learn how to brush your pet’s teeth in this post.

I write about pet dental health every year. These days I pay closer attention to Shadow-Pup because, for some weird reason, he likes rocks. That is, he picks up rocks whenever we go outside, brings them in, and then wants to play with and chew them. Shadow-Pup also raids the fireplace for lava rock embers, to do the same–and the pup wants to chew sticks! Oy! They already have lots of “legal” and safe chews, but he wants to play keep-away with rocks–and of course, I fear a broken tooth, or a tummy full of blocked foreign objects, or choking or worse. Urk!

While some cats drool when happy during petting, drooling cats and dogs point to dental problems. Hopefully, you won’t have that issue. Here are common dental issues you share with your cats and dogs (hopefully NOT eating rocks!), as well as ways to avoid them.

Your own veterinarian probably offers routine dental cleaning, and performs extractions, and Xrays. If your dog or cat requires more advanced care, expect a referral to a specialist  able to do oral surgery to remove tumors, for instance. Other services include root canals to salvage broken teeth, metal crowns, or occasionally orthodontics to better position crooked teeth.

pet dental problems

9 PET DENTAL PROBLEMS

  • Stinky mouth odor, referred to as halitosis, develops when bacteria grow on the tooth surface or tongue. Mouthwash and chewing gum may mask your halitosis, but dogs and cats don’t gargle. They don’t spit, either, making fluorinated products dangerous for pets when they’re swallowed. Rinses added to pet water bowls help freshen breath. Dogs benefit from “dental” chew toys that offer some cleaning properties or incorporate bacteria-killing enzymes.
  • Plaque develops when bacteria mineralize into hard yellow to brown deposits on the teeth, often at the gum line. People typically remove most of this by brushing, flossing, and even chewing “detergent-type” foods like apples. Some dogs enjoy carrots and apples, but most pets gulp mouthfuls of food without too much chewing. Cats and dogs also lack opposable thumbs that make brushing or flossing possible.
  • Gingivitis—redness, and swelling of the gums—happens when the bacteria in the plaque release enzymes that cause inflammation. People might see blood on the toothbrush. Owners might see blood on the dog’s chew toy.
  • Receding gums develop because of the inflammation, and forms pockets around the tooth that exposes bone, leading to loose teeth and bone loss. People with painful mouths and loose teeth complain to the dentist. Cats also may stop eating, but dogs eat through the pain without showing much discomfort until it’s terrible.
  • Periodontal disease (decayed teeth, sore gums, bleeding mouths) affects 80 percent of pets by the age of three. Besides mouth and tooth problems, chewing pumps bacteria into the bloodstream. That damages the heart, liver, and kidneys in both people and pets.

pet dental problems

  • Cavities don’t affect pets in the same way as people, but cats can develop a sneaky cavity called resorptive lesions. The decay starts at or below the gum line. It eats the tooth from the inside out and leaves a fragile shell that can break. Cornell University says 20 to 60 percent of all cats have resorptive lesions with up to 75 percent of cats age five and above affected. This type of cavity can’t be fixed.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT PET DENTAL PROBLEMS

  • puppy bookBrushing teeth, as with people, is the first line of defense. Yes, you can teach pets to tolerate or even welcome tooth brushing (complete how-to details in Complete Puppy Care–works for cats, too!). Meat-flavored toothpaste with plaque-retardant enzymes and pet-size brushes used after each meal—or at least a couple of times a week—help enormously to reduce bad breath and plaque control. Learn how to brush your dog’s teeth here!
  • Dentistry treats pet teeth similarly to humans, but since dogs and cats won’t open wide and say “ah” a professional veterinary dentistry requires anesthesia. Trying to clean pet teeth without anesthesia can be much less effective. Most veterinarians provide ultrasonic scaling, polishing, tooth extraction, and antibiotics with pain medication when necessary. Veterinary dental specialists also perform root canals, provide crowns and even offer pet orthodontia (braces) to correct misaligned teeth that cause the pet discomfort.
  • Dental “treats” and specially formulated diets are available to improve cat and dog dental health. Look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance, which endorses such products.

Keep both your relationship and your pets’ breath smelling sweet. Don’t limit it to this month, either. Use the opportunity to “brush up” on the facts of your pet’s tooth health.

(This article originally appeared in another form on the Huffington Post).

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Dog Flu, What You Should Know About Canine Influenza

Dog Flu, What You Should Know About Canine Influenza

It’s flu season for people (on top of all the COVID crappiocca). But what about pets? Is dog flu a problem and do our pet dogs need flu shots? I first wrote about canine influenza in this post back in 2015 when dog flu hit the news. Has anything changed since then? In a word, yes.

People catch viruses from other people. During the past couple of years, with many activities suspended, we’ve stayed at home and our dogs also became home-bodies. But soon (please please please, paws crossed!) when the weather improves and we’re comfortable mingling, many of our dogs will accompany us on outings. Very young, very old, and immunocompromised dogs have the greatest risk for contracting any infectious illness.
dog flu canine influenza

Are Dogs At Risk for Canine Influenza?

Dogs don’t interact with bunches of other dogs every day, the way people expose themselves riding buses or during work and social events. Show dogs and other performance canine athletes, as well as those visiting dog parks, boarding facilities, or daycare risk more exposure by coming in contact with other dogs. Proper vaccinations help protect pets if exposed.

What about dog flu? Back in 2015, a localized outbreak in Chicago affected about a thousand dogs. Since that time, they have identified cases in almost every state. Unlike people, dog flu isn’t seasonal and can happen at any time. Organizations that track the canine influenza virus reported outbreaks in 8 states in late 2021, in northeast states, in California and Florida, and in Texas.

TWO DIFFERENT DOG FLU VIRUSES

Just as with people, there are different kinds of flu that affect dogs. Canine influenza A (H3N8) virus is closely related to a common flu virus found in horses for over 40 years. It’s thought that the virus mutated and became infectious to dogs, with first reported outbreak ten years ago in 2003 in Greyhounds. Today, they considered H3N8 a dog-specific canine flu.

A newer strain caused the Chicago outbreak of dog flu. That was the first appearance of Influenza A H3N2 strain of the virus in North America; however, it was first detected in 2007 in dogs in South Korea.

It’s thought that this a “bird flu” adapted to affect dogs. Canine H3N2 virus has since appeared in China and Thailand where it also can spread to and from cats as well as dogs. However, studies indicate that neither virus transmits well to other companion animal species. Further, it is different from human seasonal H3N2 viruses. There have been no reports of dog-to-human transmission, and it is not considered contagious to people.

HOW DOGS CATCH FLU

Dog flu is highly contagious between dogs, in part because it’s so new and few dogs have immiunity. Up to 90% of dogs exposed to the virus get it–but 10-20% contract the virus but don’t show symptoms. However, about 1 out of every 5 infected dogs suffer severe illness and need hospitalization. Sadly, up to 8% of dogs die from complications of the illness.

The virus spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids—sneezing, coughing, sniffing, licking. That means dog-to-dog contact can spread the virus, or aerosol infection from a sneeze/cough. Dogs also catch dog flu from licking toys after contagious dog has mouthed them. Stress caused by travel, confinement or interaction with strange dogs increases your dog’s susceptibility.

SIGNS OF DOG FLU

Both strains of dog flu can cause high fever, loss of appetite, coughing, nasal discharge, and lethargy. Some dogs develop red or runny eyes, and in most cases, there’s a history of contact with other sick or “carrier” dogs.

  • MILD FORM: Dogs with mild symptoms may have a “wet” cough (resembling “kennel cough”) with nasal discharge. In mild cases, these signs last 10 to 30 days and usually go away on their own. Cough suppressants and/or antibiotics may be prescribed if a secondary bacterial infection exists. According to Cornell, some infected dogs won’t show signs at all (some experts say probably 20% are asymptomatic). However, they are still contagious and can spread the disease.
  • SEVERE FORM: Symptoms may be more severe in cases caused by the H3N2 virus. Signs may be a high sudden fever (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit), followed by hemorrhagic pneumonia, coughing up blood and difficulty breathing. Illness can be complicated with bacterial pneumonia. Hospitalization with aggressive treatment with antibiotics, fluids are vital. Isolation to protect other dogs from contracting the disease is important.

DIAGNOSING CANINE INFLUENZA

Diagnosis starts with symptoms. If your dog has a cough, runny nose, and lethargy, ask your veterinarian for an exam. Further tests to confirm a diagnosis may include blood tests, or PCR of nasal secretions or lung tissue. Cornell has further information on current tests.

A vaccine (NOBIVAC® CANINE FLU BIVALENT) is available for protection against both known strains of dog flu. Many boarding and daycare facilities now require this preventive vaccine to protect your dog and others. Your veterinarian will advise you best whether dog flu affects your neck of the woods, and if vaccination is a good idea for your dog.

For more information about dog flu, refer to these links:

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Cold Weather Pet Protection

Cold Weather Pet Protection

fcc

Cold weather pet protection becomes more important this time of year. Here in North Texas we’re bracing for temps to drop. Wind chill makes it even more uncomfortable or even dangerous for our dogs and cats. Refer to these blizzard tips from the ASPCA for additional help.

Outside animals, like feral cats or stray dogs, suffer greatly. House pets used to warm indoor temps need extra help, too. It seemed like a good time to remind everyone about cold weather pet protection.

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION

Here in Texas, the weather stays HOT HOT HOT well into November and December. Now it’s the first weeks of February, and it’s the coldest part of the year. For cats and dogs that will spend a lot of time outside during the cold winter months, it’s important to get ’em ready now.

It takes time for that winter coat to grow. And it’s not fair to the dog to expect him to “get hairy” overnight when the first frost freezes. The video below, from a past KXII-TV pet talk, still has good information with suggestions and cautions for prepping pets for the colder weather to come.

furry chow chow prone to hot spots

Thickly furred dogs like the Chow have more cold weather protection.

How do you get your dogs ready? Slow, incremental exposure to cold weather. That helps build up the pet’s adaptive ability, including fur growth. And if your pet has little furry protection, provide a warm sweater or coat for insulation.

Magical-Dawg always loved cold weather, and would stay out in the wind and wet if we’d let him. Karma-Kat, on the other paw, has a very good idea about how to stay comfy and already has the warmest spots staked out for snoozing in sunny puddles on the carpet. Or under the stained-glass lampshades.

Shadow-Pup also has some undercoat for insulation. But his short fur risks frostbite or worse, if exposed to wind and cold for more than ten minutes or so.

Magic adored snow!

COLD WEATHER PET PROTECTION FOR CATS

Feral cats and community cats (those who roam neighborhoods without one special family) don’t have that luxury. They need extra help. Many of the tips, below, work equally well to create safe outdoor spots for your dogs, too.