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The Decision to Declaw

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in Scratching Post Articles

Currently there is an overwhelming amount of discussion over the hot issue of whether it is humane to have a feline declawed. There is a tremendous amount of information both positive and negative over this topic, yet the elective decision to have a feline friend declawed should be decided between the owner and the veterinarian. There are certainly health concerns and behavioral issues that should be taken into account before making a decision. However if having your feline friend surgically declawed creates a permanent home then it is probably in their best interest.

The surgical procedure of declawing a feline is called onychectomy, during this procedure the feline must be put under anesthetic while the claw and the end toe bone joint are amputated. Any surgically procedure creates an element of risk from anesthetic complications as well as post operative complications. The medical risks associated with declawing include infection, nail re-growth, hemorrhage, and death. Pain medication is a must with this surgery since it is believed to be significantly painful.

Getting the Cat Ready for Surgery
Generally a feline must be dropped off at the veterinary clinic in the morning hours with a surgery scheduled around lunch time. The cat will need to stay for a couple of nights; the number of nights is at your veterinarians’ discretion. Accompanying the surgical procedure is generally a few safety options that are recommended but not required. One of which is a pre anesthetic blood panel that can check the vital organs prior to surgery. It is a great idea to have this done before putting a cat under anesthetic, some cats can have a serious illness that they are very stoic about hiding and the illness may show up in the blood panel. If a feline has an abnormal blood panel result there is a good change for anesthetic reactions, surgical complications and death. Another option generally offered is the application of an intravenous catheter and administration of intravenous fluids. Again something highly recommended, pets under anesthetic typically have a drop in blood pressure and the use of fluids will aid in maintaining a normal blood pressure and maintain proper hydration, making your feline much happier when waking up. Also that catheter can be used to administer emergency medication if one does arise. If the feline does not have a catheter and there is a problem with the anesthetic a catheter will have to be placed which can take away precious minutes ultimately leading to loss of brain function and a high likelihood of death.

Methods to Declaw Cats
One method that may be used to amputate the claw and lower toe digits is with the use of a sterile resco clipper. This method is commonly practiced since it is the fastest method. The claw and bone of the third toe digit are severed and either glue or sutures are used to close the wound. Bandages are necessary to help control bleeding, and pain is controlled with a strong pain killer such as a fentenayl patch. Special litter such as litter made from newspaper or shredded paper must be used for at least ten days since clay litter will clump inside the toe incision. Complications can arise and the most common seen are infection, pain as if the feline is walking on eggshells and re-growth of the third digit bone that leads to infection. If the bone does attempt to re-grow another surgery is required to remove more toe bone.

Disarticulation method is also commonly practiced, but is felt to be more difficult and takes longer which puts any pet at risk since they must be under anesthetic longer. This procedure is commonly done with a scalpel blade used to cut and remove the entire third toe digit. The pain factor is about the same as the resco method and the same complications can arise. Laser surgery is also available for this procedure and can have some benefits. Pain can be reduced, there is virtually no bleeding, and bandages are not needed, yet the cost can be a significant difference. Also, if a veterinarian is not experienced using the laser complications can arise such as tissue burns that can delay healing. Always discuss the method that will be used before submitting your feline to this procedure.

Additional to the onychectomy or declaw procedure another option is available yet less prevalent, a tendonectomy can also be surgically preformed by severing the tendon attached to the toe, the claw remains intact. This procedure does appear to be less painful in the short term, the incisions are quite small, there is no blood loss, no glue or sutures, no bandages and no need for special litter. Yet the procedure has a different array of complications such as having to trim the claws, joint complications and arthritis.

Why do Pet Owners have their Cat Declawed?
The number one reason cat owners claim to have a feline declawed is due to the natural behavior of scratching and stretching that can be destructive to household items. Even once the claws are removed the behavior will still remain intact. It is always recommended to try to make every attempt to modify this behavior before resorting to surgery. By keeping the claws trimmed and providing appropriate materials for your cat to scratch one can significantly reduce the urge for your cat to scratch on household items. Professional animal trainers can also be hired to help with a problem cat and can offer lots of clever tips to train your cat not to scratch on household items. In addition to modifying behavior there are products on the market that can prevent your cat from being able to tear up items in the house that an owner may want to consider before deciding on surgery. One item is an acrylic nail cover with a blunt tip that only needs to be changed every few weeks. Any cat that has had a declaw or tendonectomy should remain indoors for the remainder of their life. Cats without claws have lost a major defense mechanism, are unable to hunt prey, climb trees or defend themselves against predators.

Additionally there is concern over the behavior of declawed felines. Some people claim there is a higher risk of urine marking, and aggression but this has not yet been determined in any research studies. “Declawed cats showed more jumping on tables then intact cats and more house soiling then intact cats but latter the difference was not significant” The decision to declaw should be taken seriously due to the irreversible consequences to a feline, but if the procedure is a last resort and prevents relinquishment then it is in the felines best interest. According to one study there was a seventy percent increase in the cat relationship after the declaw procedure.

Sources: dvmnews.com, avma.org, aahanet.org, cfa.org; veterinarypartner.com

Pet Food Recall Continues As More Food and Treats Are Added

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

For the last few weeks, the attention of pet owners has been turned to what’s in our cupboards and pantries as news of additional recalls of dog and cat food as well as treats continues.

This week Sunshine Mills and T.W. Enterprises recalled products—dog biscuits and bully treats—and Menu Foods announced that it was backdating its recall dates to Nov. 8, instead of the Dec. 3 date it originally published.

Lists of the most current recalled foods and treats can be found at avma.org, and the FDA is encouraging all pet owners to visit there often as the list has changed several times since its original release on March 16.

More resources for this recall can also be found at http://www.fda.gov/oc/opacom/hottopics/petfood.html.

In a separate recall, Eight In One Inc., a division of United Pet Group Inc., announced that they are recalling all packages of Dingo Chick’N Jerky, Dingo Kitty Chicken Jerky and Dingo Ferret Chicken Jerky after reports of possible salmonella poisoning.

The treats were sold around the country at Target, PetSmart and other stores.

Travel with Fido Friendly: Booking a Fido-friendly Hotel

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Pets Best on 8/8/2007 in Lifestyle

The listing states “Dogs Allowed.” But before you drive two hours to your destination and then find out that “Dogs Allowed” means in a crate outside, here are a few tips to help in the decision making process:

Are there pet restrictions?
Some pet-friendly properties enforce restrictions such as the amount of dogs they will accommodate. You may think three small Chihuahuas equal one medium dog, but better to check with management before making that reservation. If Fido weighs 50 pounds or more, you may be limited in hotel choices. And since you are asking, go ahead and ask if there are breed restrictions as well. The breeds that are getting a bum rap these days (and you know who you are) may be your cute and cuddly “buddy” at home, but he may strike fear in the hearts of those who don’t know and love him like you do.

Are there pet fees or pet deposits?
You have a budget in mind for your vacation and that budget could be sent into a tailspin if you have not allocated an additional fee for your pet. As an example, your property of choice could charge you $25.00 and higher per pet, per night! The hotel could ask for a $100.00 non-refundable deposit. Ask the questions before you check in to avoid an unpleasant surprise.

Do you offer any pet amenities?
Because dog travel is taking on a life of its own, many hotels realize how important your best friend is to you, and they want you to be just as happy with the treatment of Fido as you are with your amenities. Now I am not talking about a fluffy robe for your puppy, but you can expect extras such as: dog bed, dog food and water bowls, treats upon check-in, dog walking service, pet sitting and perhaps an on-site doggie masseuse. Don’t expect these amenities for free, however, so be sure to ask if there is an additional cost.

Are there dog parks nearby?
One last barking request you may wish to pose to your innkeeper is that of recreation for Fido. Are there walking trails or doggie parks? How Fido-friendly is the town? Are there restaurants that allow you to dine al-fresco?

By being pro-active and asking the questions ahead of time, you will have no surprises waiting for you at the lovely B&B or historic hotel you are anxious to visit.

Common Sense Care Tips Keep Pets Safe in Summer

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

Posted by Kim Campbell Thornton on 8/8/2007 in General Articles

Summertime brings fun in the sun, but it also signals potential dangers such as heatstroke, sunburn, insect stings and water hazards to dogs and cats. To ensure a safe, adventure-filled summer for your pet, we offer several ways to recognize, treat and prevent problems.

Heat and humidity affect pets, especially breeds with flat-faces — such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese and Persians — or pets with heavy coats. High temperatures can lead to heat exhaustion or the more dangerous heatstroke. Pets who are outside or enclosed in cars are most at risk of heatstroke.

Heed these signs of heat exhaustion and heatstroke:

Panting excessively
Fatigue
Dizziness
Nausea
Loss of consciousness

Treat early signs of heat exhaustion by pouring cool — not cold — water on the coat and working it into the hair. Loss of consciousness is an emergency situation and requires immediate veterinary care.

Practice prevention by keeping your pet cool. Leave at-risk pets in air-conditioned comfort during the day. If your pet stays outdoors in hot weather, provide plenty of cool, fresh water and a shady place to rest. Be aware of how the sun travels through your yard. A spot that looks shaded in the morning may be in full sun a few hours later. Schedule walks for cool mornings and evenings.

Most importantly, never leave your pet in a car during warm months. The inside of a car heats up to more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in less than 10 minutes. Don’t be fooled by outside temperatures of 70 degrees. The temperature is a lot hotter inside a vehicle.

Apply sunscreen when your pet goes outdoors. Dogs and cats with thin or light-colored coats are susceptible to sunburn, and cats that get sunburned are more likely to develop skin cancer. Dogs who lie on their back outdoors can get painful sunburns on their bellies, but the areas most prone to sunburn are the nose, face, and ear tips.

Purchase pet sunscreen at pet supply stores, or apply zinc oxide or PABA-free sunscreen. Avoid getting it in your pet’s eyes.

Next threat: Pests like bees, wasps, fire ants and mosquitoes can put the “p” in pain for your pets. Reactions to insect bites and stings range from slight swelling and pain to anaphylaxis — a sudden, severe allergic reaction that can be fatal if not treated immediately. If your pet is stung, seek veterinary help right away in the event of an allergic reaction.

Mosquito bites don’t provoke a skin reaction, but they can transmit potentially fatal heartworm disease. The best way to prevent heartworm disease is by giving a heartworm preventive pill orally once a month. While some flea-control medications repel mosquitoes, it’s important to remember that they don’t prevent heartworm disease if a mosquito does bite your pet.

Third summertime hazard – water. Does your dog love swimming in the pool or riding on the family boat? Be sure he knows how to get out of the pool or onto the boat. Problems occur when pets fall into pools or off boats and panic.

Teach your dog how to find the pool steps and climb out. Then put him into the pool and see if he can get out on his own. Repeat this until he is consistently able to get out of the pool on his own. If you have a boat, put the dog in the water next to the boat and then ‘rescue’ him. This way, he’ll be prepared if he falls off the boat unexpectedly.

Consider purchasing a product such as a Skamper-Ramp, which can be used in pools and on boats. Another sound buy: life vests made for dogs. They come in various sizes to accommodate different breeds.

For those trips in the car, if your dog likes to ride with his head hanging out the car window, consider protecting his eyes with a pair of Doggles — strap-on eyewear that offers UV protection and impact-resistant lenses. Doggles can also be protective for dogs that ride on boats, catch balls or flying discs, or enjoy hiking in wooded areas.

Take the Palm Test

One way to ensure that the sidewalk is not too hot for your dog’s feet is to simply place your hand, palm side down, on the concrete. If it feels too hot to your touch, it will be too hot for your shoe-less canine. If you need to walk your dog in the hot sun, bring water and try to walk on cooler surfaces like grass.

Now you and your pets can enjoy a safe, fun and cool summer.

Hiking With Dogs

Posted on: August 8th, 2007 by

All the plans are set, the course laid out, safety gear purchased, and all preparations have been made. But what about your dog? This question is becoming increasingly popular as families decide to no longer leave their beloved canine companions at home but instead choose bring them along for the hike.

There is no more agreeable and easy-going hiking partner than a well-behaved and friendly dog. With the inclusion of a dog to the hiking pack, certain precautions and arrangements must first be made to ensure that everyone, including the dogs, have a pleasant time without worry of the rough terrain and possible disasters for both dog and owner.

Remember that you, your family, and your dog will not be the only ones on the hiking trails. Depending of the trail you decide to take, there could be several people or several hundred people with their families and other dogs (and possibly horses) traveling along the same path. This is not the place for an aggressive or poor-mannered dog.

Dogs that have not been well trained and those that have aggression issues should be left at home for the protection of other hikers as well as themselves. Dogs that do not listen well to their owners can also find them in very dangerous situations as they may stray easily from the hiking trail or encounter things along the trail that should not be touched, such as poisonous plants and wild animals.

Dogs that do venture to the hiking trails should carry their own packs. Packs should hold provisions for at least one week should you ever become stranded or found off course. Since a dog can hold up to one-third its body weight, carrying their own packs is not a problem.

Ethics
How well-behaved will your dog be on the hiking trails and around other people and their dogs? In order to maintain a friendly environment and enjoy your hiking time, the following behaviors should be enforced:

Do not allow your pet to chase wildlife.
Leash your dog around water sources and in sensitive trail areas.
Do not allow your dog to stand in any sources of drinking water.
Be mindful of the rights of other hikers not to be bothered by even a friendly dog.
Bury your pet’s waste or deposit it in the nearest trash bin.
Take special measures at shelters. Leash your dog in the sheltered area, and ask permission of other hikers before allowing your dog in a shelter. Be prepared to “tent out” when a shelter is crowded, and on rainy days.
Do not let wet dogs loose in shelters as they tend to rub against other hikers and cause more muddy and slippery conditions within the shelter.
Clean up after your dog when leaving a shelter by sweeping up.
Do not allow the dog to beg or steal food from other hikers.
Verify that dogs are permitted on the trails you wish to hike. Many national and state parks do not allow dogs.

Health
Hiking is a very aerobic activity that should not be undertaken by those in poor health or those who cannot handle the rigorous conditions of a hike. This is equally important for dogs and because of this, the following should be considered prior to bringing Fido along for the hike:

All dogs should be wearing a collar with proper identification tags. Be sure to obtain a proper dog license and attach an ID tag to your dog’s collar.
Make sure your dog has updated vaccinations, nails trimmed and is in good health. Get a rabies tag and attach it to the collar.
Dogs under 15 months of age can easily sustain bone damage as they are in their growing phase, and long walks can permanently damage the bones or growth plates. Remember to keep walks short while they’re in this phase.
Long walks for older dogs with arthritis or other medical conditions that make it difficult for them to walk could also cause damage and pain, so consider this, too, before you take your dog out for a long hike.
Female dogs in heat could cause aggression issues in other dogs along hikes, and the owner could end up with an unwanted pregnancy. Those dogs that are spayed need the veterinarian approved resting and recuperation time prior to hiking.
Male dogs should be neutered prior to hiking and allowed time to rest and heal properly. Aggression and wandering are common traits in unaltered male dogs.
Fleas and ticks are abundant in the great outdoors, so be sure that your dogs are up-to-date on their preventive topical medications.
Pet first aid kits should be carried.
Feel confident that your dog listens to you and is well behaved.
To avoid sickness, do not feed your dog right before you exercise or hike. Feed them afterward when they are rested.
Bring lots of water and a bowl for Fido to drink from.
Bring food or treats, even if you plan on being gone for only a short period of time.
Avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day to keep your dog from overheating.
Have a towel handy to clean your dog up or clean wounds that may occur during the hike.

Park Rules
Every national or state park will have different rules and regulations for their parks and those enjoying the hiking trails. These should be posted at the entrance to the park, but you should contact the park first to obtain a copy of the rules and regulations prior to setting off on your hike. Such rules are in place to keep you and your pets safe. Even with the rules in hand, dog owners should acquire the following:

Always keep your eye on your dog. Mischief can happen quickly.
Never leave your dog unattended.
Always fill in any holes your dog digs.
Always use a leash. (Each park has different regulations as to the length of the leash.)
Dog owners must obtain permits for their dogs (where necessary).
All dogs should be up to date on their vaccinations.
Always clean up after dogs.
Aggressive dogs are not allowed on any public hiking trails or open beach areas.

U.S. Parks
Now that you are armed with all this knowledge and are ready to hit the trails with your canine companion, where do you go? Lucky for us, there are many parks across the United States that allow dogs. To help you find them, here are a few “dog friendly” directory listings on hiking trails.

DogFriendly.com – http://www.dogfriendly.com/server/travel/guides/park/park.shtml
Hike with Your Dog – http://www.hikewithyourdog.com
Pet Friendly Travel – http://www.petfriendlytravel.com/?page=state_parks

Hiking Resources
There are also many offline resources that can help you become more knowledgeable about hiking with your dog. Some of these resources include books, such as:

A Guide to Backpacking With Your Dog by Charlene G. Labelle
First Aid for Dogs: What to do When Emergencies Happen by Bruce Fogle
Ruffing It: The Complete Guide to Camping With Dogs by Mardi Richmond
The Canine Hiker’s Bible by Doug Gelbert
The Pet Travel and Fun Authority of Best-of-State Places to Play, Stay & Have Fun Along the Way: 35,000+ Accommodations, Pet Sitters, Kennels, Dog Parks … Tons-of-Pet Fun & More Guide! 12th Edition by M. E. Nelson

Hiking with your dog should be a fun experience that allows for not only exercise, but also the gift of bonding between owners and their dogs. By following not only the rules of the national or state park, but also by acting in an ethical manner that respects nature and others who are enjoying the hiking trails, your hike will be a positive and memorable experience. There is nothing better than fresh air, lush greenery surrounding you, and a furry hiking companion by your side each step of the way.

References:
Copeland, D. (2005). Backpacking Doggy Style: Basics for Hiking with Dogs.

Hiking with Dogs. (2007). Appalachian Trail Conservatory.