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Pets: Let’s See Some ID

Posted on: May 11th, 2009 by

Keeping tabs on your tabby when you travel and pinpointing where your door-dashing dog may be is getting easier – and in some cases, going a little high-tech.

It goes without saying that all pets – whether they prefer to live a pampered life indoors or are tail-wagging and ready to join you as a travel mate – need to sport collars with identification tags that post the pet’s name and your phone number. Yes, even though your cat may vow to never step a paw outside, he could suddenly find himself in the outside world due to a loose window screen or a door inadvertently left open by say, the handyman. Some dogs with high-prey or hunting drives may slip off their collars on a walk in pursuit of a squirrel or the ice cream truck.

An ID tag should include your cell phone number so you can be reached quickly should you and your pet be separated when you are away from home during pet-friendly travel and stays at hotels.

Double up on the safety side by also booking an appointment with your veterinarian to inject a microchip into your pet in the shoulder region. This chip, about the size of a grain of rice, offers lifetime identification and contains vital info that can be read at animal shelters and veterinary clinics simply by waving a hand-held scanner around the shoulder area.

Don’t worry, this procedure is quick, virtually pain free and may not require your pet being place under anesthesia. The vet cost, depending on your locale, can range between $30 and $50. Some clinics offer special discount days, so be sure to ask to save a little money. In addition, the specific microchip company charges a nominal activation fee (under $20). Some companies donate some of that fee to animal rescue and recovery efforts.

You must enroll with the microchip company in order to activate the chip’s info. Sadly, nearly 40 percent of people forget to do this and all a shelter or vet clinic can detect is the presence of a microchip. So, please fill out the enrollment form the day your pet is microchipped.

Help for Houdini hounds has also gone high-tech. Just like you have GPS navigational systems in your car (to avoid making wrong turns or finding the closest sushi bar), there are bite-sized GPS systems for dogs that fit onto collars. If your dog leaps over the back fence or gets away from you on a trip, you can quickly locate him in real time using your laptop computer or cell phone.

No matter how cautious you may be, more than 5 million pets get lost or stolen each year. Currently, only 1 in 10 returns to their homes. Equipping your pet with these forms of ID can go a long way in improving the odds that you and your pet will be happily reunited. Don’t forget to include identification stickers on the pet carrier when you plan to travel with your dog or cat.

Pet Adoption: Choosing the Right Fit

Posted on: May 11th, 2009 by

Sure, that puppy or kitten in the window is cute. Yes, they’re looking at you with pleading eyes. But that doesn’t mean you should take them home.

Will your potential cat require lots of grooming? Will she spend more time lounging in your lap or sprinting through the house, attacking dust bunnies? Will she be patient enough to deal with children?

Or, how large will your dog grow to be? Will he need to run for miles every day? Will he be likely to suffer from specific kinds of hereditary health problems? There are plenty of questions to consider before you snap on that leash and take your new pet home.

First, you should compare information on various breeds to know which kinds will be a fit with your household and your lifestyle. It’s true that there are an overwhelming number of breeds – there are dozens of cat breeds and over 150 dog breeds commonly recognized in the U.S. – but don’t worry; numerous books and websites have been written to help make this comparison relatively painless.

Make a list of the breeds that might be compatible with your family and use it as a guide while you check out pets that are available for adoption. Keep in mind, though, that general breed characteristics won’t guarantee the specific characteristics of an individual animal.

You’ll also find plenty of mixed-breed animals for adoption. Because these animals don’t conform to breed standards for behavior and physical characteristics, you’ll want to make a checklist of the qualities you’re looking for: Will your new pet need to be patient with young children? Get along well with other pets? Behave when left home alone for hours? When meeting potential pets at a shelter or adoption center, the people there should be able to tell you about the animals’ individual temperaments – be sure to ask lots of questions.

Also, think about whether you should adopt a full-grown animal versus a puppy or kitten. Little ones may be adorable, but they may also pose more problems. Will a member of your family be home to care for them until they can safely be left alone? Most shelter animals are full grown animals who have been around the block, experienced a few things, and may appreciate a good home even more.

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