Author Archives: Chryssa Rich

Pets as souvenirs: Adopting a foreign cat or dog

Two cats cuddle.
By: Chryssa Rich
For Pets Best Insurance

If you’re traveling internationally and want to adopt a pet, make sure you do your homework so it all goes smoothly. A little time and effort will help you bring home the best souvenir ever! Here’s my story.

It was September 16th in San Miguel de Allende, and the city was absolutely chaotic with Dia de la Independencia celebrations and preparations for the Running of the Bulls. I walked the decorated cobblestone streets to my job at a New Orleans-style restaurant, but when I got there, realized I had arrived for the wrong shift.

To kill time, I headed to an Internet café two blocks from home. The woman behind the counter had a fluffy white kitten in each hand, and she explained they’d been found on the street and didn’t belong to anyone. Over the next 10 seconds, my thoughts went like this… “I wonder if I’m still allergic to cats? I think white cats are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. Delta had pet tickets for $80, funny, but I could take her back to the states with me. She looks part Siamese, so I bet she’s smart.”

I pointed to the kitten that looked female, and asked in Spanish “Can I have it?” She said “sure” and handed it to me. I then asked “Is it a girl?” and she giggled, because in Mexico they have special gender words for animals, macho and hembra, so I had basically asked her if the kitten was a human girl. Either way, she wasn’t sure.

A pet shop owner confirmed kitty was hembra, and the next day I flipped though a Spanish magazine and found the name “Luisa”. I was so afraid I’d be allergic, I tried to make her sleep in a small box at the foot of my bed. But every night she’d dig into the bed covers with her little nails and climb up to curl up behind my knees, where she still sleeps today.

Almost a year went by, and I wasn’t able to get Luisa spayed because it was too expensive. Even though I earned pesos, I was American and therefore presumed wealthy. Vets wanted to charge me US$300 – $500. Luisa was an indoor cat and in heat for the third time. Her caterwauling was so bad, I had to sleep at friend’s houses. Despite feeling guilty about adding more cats to this world, I figured the only solution was to let her get pregnant. One night I waited for her boyfriend to appear – a giant orange tomcat with no tail – and let her out to play. Luisa ate an entire bowl of food the next morning and slept for 12 hours.

A few weeks later I decided it was time to head back to the United States. Luisa needed proof of rabies vaccination, a bill of good health from a vet and one of those $80 airline tickets to return home with me. The well-cat checkup only took a few minutes – the vet simply checked for signs of illness or infection.

I had a special harness so Luisa could walk around in the airport (and pee in the fake soil of a decorative plant) and we got through Customs no problem. One security guard was supposed to remove her from her airline-approved pet carrier and check the lining of the bag, but didn’t because “Last time I tried that, I got scratched.” They didn’t notice she was pregnant, and I’m not sure if that would have affected anything. There is some evidence that stress can trigger pre-term labor in pets, but I preferred to take that risk over leaving my beautiful kitty with strangers in Mexico.

Luisa’s five kittens were born in Boise, Idaho the morning of her due date, September 23rd, 2003. Two kittens didn’t survive, but I was happy to keep one myself and adopted the others out. I had both cats spayed as soon as possible.

Today, Luisa and her daughter Monica are 8 and 7 years old. They have moved with me countless times, including cross-country twice. I’ve never been allergic to either of them; interestingly, I was allergic to the black calico kitten. Luisa still plays with her stuffed hippo, and Monica is a spitting image of her father, except that ironically, she has an extra-long tail.

How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’d like to talk to you today about the importance of keeping your dog’s toenails trimmed and the proper way to do it.

Keeping your dog’s toenails short is important so that they don’t snag or become torn or infected, especially if your dog has dewclaws. Those dewclaws can actually grow around and curl into the pad and become painful.

When you trim the nails you’ll want to use a trimmer that looks like a pair of scissors. This size would be good for a dog like Tula. Something larger, like this, would be appropriate for a larger dog.

Sometimes it’s hard to know how far to go on the nail. Tulah has really nice white nails so you can see where the pink part is. That’s the quick and it’s alive. So for her I would want to take only where the white part is, making sure not to nick the pinker part.

It may be a two-person job for you; someone to hold the dog and to comfort them, while the other person uses the toenail trimmers.

So for Tulah, we will go just about to there. If you do trim too much and you start to get some bleeding, don’t despair. Put gentle pressure on the end of the tip of the nail. You can use a little cornstarch or a warm cloth to provide some pressure. Typically, that will stop the bleeding.

If you’ve got questions or concerns or are wary about trimming your dog’s nails, contact your veterinarian. They should be able to assist you.

I’m Dr. Caldwell, and that’s how you trim nails.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth

Hi, I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’d like to talk to you today about the importance of dental health and the proper way to brush your dog’s teeth.

Did you know that infected teeth can not only be painful, but a source of bacterial infection for the rest of the body? Bacteria can actually gain access to the bloodstream and travel to the liver or even the valves of the heart.

Keeping your dog’s mouth healthy is an important job of their overall health. Brushing the teeth might be a two-person job; someone to hold or comfort the dog while the other person uses the toothbrush. You’ll want to use a toothbrush that has a small head, or if you have a larger dog, an old toothbrush of yours should be fine. Be sure to use a special canine-formulated dog toothpaste as fluoride can be toxic to dogs.

You’ll want to aim the toothbrush along the top of the gum line and try not to neglect the molars and using a gentle motion on both sides. What that will do is help eliminate plaque which turns into tartar.

Brushing your dog’s teeth can be a challenge, but if you start young as puppies, typically they’ll get used to it, especially if you make it fun. Try shorter periods of time more frequently. The average dog should probably have their teeth brushed every day and we understand that most people don’t have the time to do that, but if you could go for at least once a week or even once a month, it’s better than nothing at all.

If you’ve got concerns about your dog’s breath or you’re seeing changes along the gum or with the teeth, contact your veterinarian. I’m Dr. Caldwell, and that’s how you brush teeth.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Hi. I’m Dr. Fiona Caldwell and I’m a practicing veterinarian at Idaho Veterinary Hospital. I’d like to talk to you today about the importance of keeping your dog’s ears clean and how to do it.

Keeping your dog’s ears clean is important because if wax and moisture build up in the canal it can be a place for bacteria and yeast to grow. You’ll want to use a good ear cleaner that’s made for dogs. Typically, the cleaner can be instilled directly into the canal, kind of like this. You’ll want the moisture to go down into the canal. You can actually feel the base right here where that cartilage is, and you’ll want to just rub like this, in kind of a squishing motion. It takes about thirty seconds to a minute or so of just squishing it around.

Then I really like cotton balls. They’re a great way to just sweep your finger in through that canal and get any of that moisture out. Sometimes you’ll see a little bit of brown debris.

The average dog probably needs their ears cleaned every time you bathe them or groom them. If your dog has floppy ears or is prone to ear infections, you may find that it needs to be done more frequently. If you’re getting a lot of debris out, it could indicate an infection and typically they need to be treated with medication.

You’ll want to be cautious not to use Q-tips in your dog’s ears because Q-tips can push debris further in, and if your dog moves suddenly you can actually cause damage to the canal.

A healthy ear tends to make a healthier pet. If you’ve got questions or concerns, you should call your veterinarian.

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