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Before You Adopt: Consult a Vet

Posted on: May 10th, 2009 by

If you were planning to buy a horse, of course, you’d have the animal examined first. For horses, a veterinarian’s inspection is normally expected before the sale, so why wouldn’t you do the same for a dog or cat? Having a pet checked out at the time of adoption can save pet owners a lot of time, money and heartache.

Yes, rescuing a pet should make you feel good, but before you let your heart decide, consider an inspection by your veterinarian to check the pet’s health. This is especially important with older pets. Many shelters have veterinarians on staff, so be sure to request a copy of any veterinary inspections that have been done.

It’s smart to do the inspection right away. Make it your next stop after the adoption. Otherwise your attachment will overwhelm any problems discovered.

Unfortunately, pet lovers tend to make adoption decisions with their hearts, not with their heads. Sure, that puppy in the window may be adorable. That kitty’s eyes may call out, “save me!” But often, by the time an owner finally gets around to taking their new pet to the veterinarian’s office, a bond has been formed; when they discover that their new pet has health issues that may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars to treat, it’s too late to make a rational decision.

A veterinary inspection will let you determine your new pet’s overall health, make sure their vaccinations are up to date, learn about proper nutrition for your specific pet and any behavior problems that you might expect. It will arm you with knowledge.

Even if you end up deciding to adopt a pet who has medical or behavior issues, you’ll be better prepared to address the situation. Pets with health issues or modest behavior issues can be wonderful if you are aware and well-equipped.

Training Tips For After Adopting a Puppy

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by

Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network – May 07, 2009

The following excerpts from an article by Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network will greatly assist you in having a positive long-term relationship with your newly adopted dog.

Never use physical discipline. Dogs don’t hit each other and do not understand the behavior. Striking a dog will result in the wrong behavior as the dog ages. It causes a loss of trust.

Help the puppy to succeed. New puppies should be either on leash or confined when indoors. The leash is tethered to you as you move about the house. Take the puppy out every few hours to the toilet area. Use food or praise as rewards for correct elimination.

Keep accidents hidden. Don’t let the puppy see you cleaning up any accidents, since the human attention may be a social reinforcer of the habit.

Begin socialization early. Isolation may adversely affect the puppy. Enroll in puppy classes at 8 weeks of age or thereafter. Allow to meet and greet other humans and dogs as much as possible.

Day Care. Enroll the puppy in a day care program at least once a week between 3-6 months of age, then one day a month until two years of age to improve socialization, intelligence, exercise and reduce chance of separation anxiety later in life.

Begin “gentling’ exercises daily. A combination of handling to develop the puppy’s personality into a calm, trusting, friendly and compliant pet. It establishes a positive human leadership without fear or domination. You may want to give a small treat before and after each session.

Dog Age in Human Years

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by

As a veterinarian I am often asked “What age is my dog compared to human years?” This is especially relevant as dogs age or become “senior pets.” Dogs will age by several factors, but breed (or size) is the most important factor. Giant breed dogs age faster than small breed dogs for example. Other factors (just as with humans) can affect aging, such as: body weight, general health, exposure to toxins or high risk factors, diet and genetic predisposition.

The important age categories or changes are when a pet leaves childhood to become an adult and when a pet becomes a senior.

Dog Age Categories

  • Infancy will last only a few weeks, until about 6-8 weeks of age.
  • Childhood will last from 2 months until approximately 4 months for small breeds and 2-9 months for large breed dogs.
  • Teen years again will also vary by breed, with small dogs lasting from 4-9 months of age and large breeds typically from 9-18 months old.
  • Adulthood starts at 9-12 months for small breeds and 18-24 months for large breeds.
  • Senior years can start as early as 7 for giant breeds and not until age 11-12 for smaller breed dogs.

For example: a 9-year-old Great Dane is a senior citizen, while a Chihuahua would need to be 12-14 years old to be a senior given good health and proper nutrition.

The following chart will help to determine your dogs biological age to human years.

Dog Age in Human Years

Training Tip for After Adopting a Puppy

Posted on: May 7th, 2009 by

The following excerpts from an article by Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network will greatly assist you in having a positive long-term relationship with your newly adopted dog. For more information, please visit www.animalbehavior.net for online behavior training courses.

Never use physical discipline. Dogs don’t hit each other and do not understand the behavior. Striking a dog will result in the wrong behavior as the dog ages. It causes a loss of trust.

Help the puppy to succeed. New puppies should be either on leash or confined when indoors. The leash is tethered to you as you move about the house. Take the puppy out every few hours to the toilet area. Use food or praise as rewards for correct elimination.

Keep accidents hidden. Don’t let the puppy see you cleaning up any accidents, since the human attention may be a social reinforcer of the habit.

Begin socialization early. Isolation may adversely affect the puppy. Enroll in puppy classes at 8 weeks of age or thereafter. Allow to meet and greet other humans and dogs as much as possible.

Day Care. Enroll the puppy in a day care program at least once a week between 3-6 months of age, then one day a month until two years of age to improve socialization, intelligence, exercise and reduce chance of separation anxiety later in life.

Begin “gentling’ exercises daily. A combination of handling to develop the puppy’s personality into a calm, trusting, friendly and compliant pet. It establishes a positive human leadership without fear or domination. You may want to give a small treat before and after each session.

Do You Have Time for a Pet?

Posted on: May 6th, 2009 by

Before you adopt or acquire a pet is the best time to reflect on how much time you can devote to a pet. Too often people get pets because they are cute, or because a friend has recommended a certain breed, or maybe because they just want to be a good Samaritan and save a shelter pet’s life. But if you’re too busy to give them the attention they need, you’re not doing them a favor.

Make sure to choose the type of pet that is right for you and your situation.

Time allotted for a pet can vary dramatically; goldfish, for example, need relatively little time and effort (but remember that no pet is maintenance-free). A large dog, on the other hand, will require plenty of exercise and attention to keep from being bored. Lonely pets, especially dogs, can be very destructive.

One nice thing about cats is that they don’t need as much attention as dogs. You won’t have to walk them on a leash—usually indoor cats are fine with the workout they get simply from playing or using a scratching post. Outside cats typically limit their exercise to honing their hunting skills. Cats can be kept in apartments much easier and tolerate being alone longer than dogs. That is not to say they don’t need human interaction, but they usually don’t exhibit destructive behavior as often as dogs that are left alone too long.

Because they are pack animals, dogs are more social and depend on interaction with others. Without it, they can become self destructive—for example, by licking themselves excessively they can cause a skin infection known as a “hot spot” which may develop into a “lick granuloma.” However, in most cases the destruction is focused on the pet’s environment: your house and yard. Dogs (and even some cats) can become territorial and aggressive when isolated for too long, damaging furniture and walls by clawing and chewing. Dogs may dig and bark excessively in the house and yard. Some breeds tend to bark more than others, just as some breeds will naturally dig more than others.

Certain breeds of dogs need more exercise (and some require strenuous exercise every day) to avoid becoming bored and destructive. Retrievers, setters, terriers and herding dogs, for instance, need lots of exercise or a “job” that keeps them busy. Toy breeds, giant breeds and others may require less exercise, but will still need social interaction with other dogs or humans daily.

Be fair to your pet and yourself by asking, before you adopt, about the amount of time and attention they will need. You should strongly consider owning two pets so they have companionship and can entertain one another if you are often gone from the house more than a few hours every day.