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Warning: Top 10 Winter Dangers for Pets

Posted on: June 9th, 2009 by

Posted by Pets Best on 6/9/2009 in Articles from Newsletters

With winter well underway, you’ve probably spent time and energy to winterize your house and your car. But have you thought about winterizing for your pet?

Severely cold weather brings threats to pet health and safety, and many of these might shock or surprise you. Here we have listed some of the most serious threats and what you can do to avoid them:

Killer Wind Chill – Dogs who spend plenty of time outdoors, even if protected by a doghouse, run a risk of death due to the cold. The doorway of your dog’s house should be faced away from the wind or covered. Also, the house should be well-insulated and just big enough for them to stand up, turn around, and lie down inside comfortably. A doghouse that is too big won’t contain your dog’s body heat and stay warm. For multiple dogs, consider a house large enough to let them cuddle together.

Undernourishment/Dehydration – In cold weather, keeping warm requires a lot of energy. If your dog or cat spends a lot of time outside, you’ll want to increase their supply of food, particularly protein, to keep them—and their fur—in tip-top shape. Also, outdoor pets may become dangerously dehydrated if their water freezes solid. A good heated water bowl prevents this problem.

Severely Dry Skin – The air in most houses becomes dry during the colder months, depleting moisture from dog skin and fur. A dog whose skin is dry and itchy may habitually scratch or bite at their skin, possibly creating sores or “hotspots.” To improve skin, coat and circulation, brush your dog vigorously and regularly. Dogs with dry skin may benefit from fatty acid supplements during the winter. Also, pet shampoos formulated with oatmeal can help soothe dry skin.

Catastrophic Car Trouble – Outdoor cats are often drawn to the warmth of a parked car’s engine, and may cuddle up beneath the car or inside the engine compartment. They run the risk of serious injury or death if the engine is started, so knock on the hood of your car or honk the horn to warn cats away before you turn the key.

Chemical Poisoning – Antifreeze that leaks or spills from your car’s radiator can kill dogs and cats alike. They are attracted by the sweet taste of the antifreeze, which almost always results in death of the pet unless treated immediately. Keep antifreeze containers sealed tight and out of reach, and clean spills immediately. Consider using antifreeze that is free of ethylene glycol, the component that makes antifreeze both sweet and toxic.

Chemicals and salts that are used to melt winter ice on sidewalks and roads can also be poisonous. Dogs and cats can pick them up on the pads of their feet during a walk; afterward, licking their paws could cause stomach upset or illness. It’s best to rinse the pet’s paws with lukewarm water as soon as possible after each outing.

Tongue Injuries – In freezing temperatures, metal bowls and buckets pose a threat. Pets’ tongues can stick to the cold metal, and animals can injure themselves trying to pull away. For safety’s sake, switch to plastic or ceramic-type pet bowls when it’s below 32 degrees outside.

Frostbite Injuries – Even short-term exposure to temperatures below zero can lead to frostbite of the feet, nose or ears. In these areas the skin might appear red, gray or whitish and could peel. Prevent frostbite by removing ice and snow from paws and fur right away. Balls of ice can form in the areas between the toes and toe-pads; you may want to clip the fur between toe pads to reduce the amount of snow that collects there.

Hypothermia Alert – Dogs and cats who lack thick fur coats and have low body fat reserves are generally not suited for cold temperatures. Pets who are old or who have been ill can also be sensitive to winter weather. When it’s frigid outside, it is especially important to keep them indoors or to provide a warm shelter outside the house. Consider dressing Fido in a warm dog sweater or jacket whenever you go for a walk.

Fire Danger – Portable space heaters may be handy, but in homes with active dogs and cats they could be deadly. Every year, numerous house fires start with space heaters knocked over by pets. If you choose to use one, make sure it is the type that will shut off automatically when it is tipped.

Lost Dogs – More dogs are reported lost during the winter than any other season, as canines often lose track of scent trails in the snow and can become disoriented. Dogs may also panic during snow storms and run away. When outside a fenced yard, dogs should always be kept on leash and should wear current identification tags.

Tips for a Newly Adopted Kitten

Posted on: June 2nd, 2009 by

Kitten-proof accessible rooms. Remove anything that can be knocked over, broken or ingested.

Do not use your hands to play box with the kitten. This gives action gives the wrong message to cats that biting and scratching at the human hand is acceptable behavior.

Initiate object-oriented play. For example, use a feather on a pole. Play mouse by pulling a small toy mouse across the room in short jerky movements. Drag a string across the room.Use a laser pointer to play catch the bug.

Let the kitten choose their favorite game and win about every five minutes by using the toy to lead to a treat.

Begin “gentling process” as early as possible. Use affection and object play in addition to lots of treats as reward for good behavior.

Submitted by Dr. Rolan Tripp of the Animal Behavior Network. Visit www.animalbehavior.net for more information.

8 Tips for Cutting Pet Care Costs

Posted on: May 29th, 2009 by

It’s a sad sign of the recession: according to a recent survey, more than 80% of animal shelters and rescue groups say they have taken in pets that were given up because of job losses or other money problems.

Other cat or dog owners may be trying to cut spending by skipping veterinary exams, a tactic that could backfire because it invites pet health problems that could be very expensive later on.

So what’s a cash-strapped pet lover to do? Here are 8 sure-fire tips for cutting the cost of pet ownership:

    1. Don’t try to save money by buying cheap pet food. Quality food has less fillers and more real nutrition, meaning your pet won’t eat as much. Also, the health benefits of better pet foods can cut down on the need for veterinary care in the future.
    2. Buy food and other pet supplies in bulk. You might save 5 to 10 percent by shopping at warehouse clubs such as Costco. You might also want to check the prices at the large discount stores, like Target or Wal-Mart, where items usually cost less than at pet specialty stores.
    3. Shop around for pet medications. Check online outlets like 1800petmeds.com and find out what they charge for the medicine (both prescription and non-prescription) your pet’s doctor has recommended. You may be pleasantly surprised!
    4. Save with coupons. Using a search engine like Yahoo! Or Google, type in “pet coupons” and click “search.” You’ll be able to print out dozens of manufacturer’s coupons. Also, check your newspaper for coupons from your favorite pet store chain such as Petco or Petsmart.
    5. Try shopping for dog or cat toys and other new pet supplies at a dollar store. They often carry the same products as other stores, but charge a lot less.
    6. Fire your groomer! Invest in a pet trimmer and go online for basic grooming tips. This tactic could pay for itself in just one or two grooming sessions.
    7. Brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis can save on a professional teeth cleaning, which could cost hundreds of dollars.
    8. Consider pet health insurance. If you don’t already have a policy for your pet, do some research, compare insurance companies and choose the pet insurance policy that fits your needs best. Depending on your pet, this could save you thousands of dollars a year!

Traveling with pets? Car safety tips

Posted on: May 28th, 2009 by

It’s nearly summer. Time for a vacation. Every year around this time a strange, beautiful sound, like a choir of angels, fills the air. It beckons me out of the house and, strangely, into my car. What is it? Ah yes, it’s the call of the open road!

Whether I drive to the mountains, the beach, or to my favorite picnic spot, I like to bring my dog—a huge, floppy-eared adventure-loving Labradoodle named Murphy. A road trip with pets, of course, is more complicated than traveling without them, but well worth the effort. After all, pets often enjoy the adventure of travel as much as humans do. (Maybe even more!)

Here are a few tips to make sure you and your pets arrive safe and sound.

  • Never, ever, ever leave pets in a parked car, even with the windows down. When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside your car can reach more than 100 degrees in just 10 minutes, possibly leading to death.
  • Consult your veterinarian before you go. If your pet has any health conditions (or a very nervous disposition) that could be aggravated by traveling, take these into account.
  • If it’s Fido’s first road trip, start by taking him on several small trips around town to make sure he does well with car travel.
  • Make sure to pack your pet’s food, a supply of cool water, a leash, comfortable bedding and any medications your pet might need.
  • For extended trips, check with motels or hotels along the route to make sure they are pet-friendly.
  • Make time for rest stops, when you should offer your pet a drink and check for signs of stress or car sickness.
  • Make sure your pet is wearing ID tags. Bring a photo of the pet in case they get away and become lost.

Finally, you should seriously consider using a pet car harness—a “seat belt” specifically designed for dogs. In the State of California, these pet restraints are mandatory, and for good reason: every year hundreds of dogs are injured, maimed or killed in car accidents.

I recently priced some harnesses that range from $12.99 for small dogs up to $29.99 for big guys like Murphy. This seems like a pretty good deal when you think about what you’d pay if they were hurt. Protecting your best friend is priceless.

Oh, one last tip—make sure to have fun and take lots of pictures! Those memories are priceless, too.

Pet Insurance Scams? Are You Being Cheated?

Posted on: May 22nd, 2009 by

When it comes to my dog, I’m pretty devoted. I always want the best for him. But, like most people, I’m not an expert. I learn a lot by talking to various people; my vet, the dog trainer, other dog owners, etc.

The other day, in an online chat room for pet owners, I met a guy who was extremely upset. He had purchased a pet health insurance plan from a major pet insurance company (NOT Pets Best) and he felt he had been scammed.

What was the scam? When he first enrolled in the pet insurance plan, he knew that it would be renewed every year. What he did not know is that, once the insurance policy was renewed, any condition that existed during the previous year suddenly became a “preexisting condition!”

What does this mean? Consider the following hypothetical (but very frightening) scenario:

  • Let’s say your dog is diagnosed with a serious illness on a Monday. You schedule a costly, major surgery for Wednesday.
  • Your insurance plan is set for renewal on Tuesday.
  • The dog has surgery on Wednesday.
  • You submit your insurance claim for the surgery on Thursday, and the claim is denied: under the terms of the plan, the illness was a preexisting condition.

Any condition, he says, that existed even one day before the policy renewal will not be covered. Also, if your pet has a condition that lasts more than a year, it won’t be covered for the duration of the condition.

I was pretty happy to point out that this is not the case with Pets Best—all Pets Best plans include Lifetime Continuous Coverage, and won’t automatically disqualify claims as preexisting after the policy is renewed. This is extremely important when it comes to treating chronic problems like diabetes or cancer.

It just goes to show that you need to really understand the ins and outs of a policy before you make a decision.

A company might advertise the fact that their pet insurance policies reimburse you for 90% of your veterinary bills. Sounds good, right? Do some digging, though, and you could find so many exclusions it would take a contortionist to wiggle their way through them. Or a payment schedule that caps their reimbursements at a ridiculously low rate.

If you find that a specific company’s policy is confusing and hard to unravel, do what I do—go online and find out what other folks are saying about that company and their policies. Often, if the company’s customers feel like they’ve been scammed, they will want to help you so you won’t make the same mistake.

I definitely did my research, and most of the folks I talked to agreed that the Pets Best name says it all. They really are the best!