Pet Connection by Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker

ROAD DOGS

WANT YOUR DOGS TO BE WELCOME WHEN YOU TRAVEL? PLAN AHEAD AND BE CONSIDERATE

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Many of us travel during the holidays to visit family or to experience the beauty of a celebration in a favorite place. We did both over the Christmas holiday, packing up the dogs for a road trip to Santa Fe, N.M., for the Yule festivities, followed by a visit with family in Magdalena.

Dogs are part of my family, but bringing them along requires a good bit of packing and preparation, not to mention higher than normal levels of supervision. Our 6-year-old cavalier, Harper, is an experienced traveler who took her first plane ride when she was just 6 months old, but senior dog Gemma and foster dog Kibo were unknown quantities as far as staying in hotels or other people's homes.

I'm happy to say that they acquitted themselves respectably during their stays in three different hotels, four different rooms, and visits to two different homes, including one with other dogs. There was a close call in a hotel hallway and in one of the homes, but a sharp eye and quick responses ensured that we didn't have any potty accidents to clean up along the way. From 20 years of traveling with dogs, here are my best tips on having a successful trip at any time of year.

-- Reserve a room early at a pet-friendly hotel, especially if you are visiting a tourist destination such as Santa Fe. The streets were crowded with visitors, and we weren't the only ones with dogs. Confirm that the room is pet-friendly a few weeks beforehand.

-- If you're driving to your destination, fill a gallon jug with water from home and mix it with the tap water at the places you visit. Even though the water is treated, different areas have different "bugs" in the system, and your dog will be less likely to have stomach upset from the change.

-- Some dogs suffer motion sickness. If yours is one of them, ask your veterinarian about Cerenia to prevent nausea and vomiting. Give it with a small amount of food half an hour to an hour before you hit the road.

-- Make feeding time easy, especially if you feed an unusual brand or a raw diet. Before you leave, contact pet-supply stores at your destination to make sure they carry your dog's food in case you run out. We pack dehydrated food and just add warm water.

-- Even the best-trained dog can have an accident in a strange place or get sick and vomit or suffer diarrhea. Bring along a bottle of odor and stain remover and towels for cleanup -- don't use the hotel's towels or the ones in your sister-in-law's bathroom!

-- A hard and fast rule for us is that all dogs must empty their bladders before setting paw in hotel or home. That's especially important if you're visiting a home (or hotel) where there are other dogs.

-- When visiting family, let the dogs meet outdoors before they all go inside. Gemma grouses in the presence of strange dogs, but once she has a few minutes to adjust -- and realize she's in their territory -- she settles down and becomes polite.

-- Take into account unusual conditions or places. Santa Fe's chilly winter climate was a shock to tiny Gemma, used to warmer California weather, but she stayed warm and cozy in a red fleece coat. At a crowded event, she rode in a tote bag, but otherwise she explored "The City Different" on her own four legs.

The best part of our trip? Being told that our dogs would be welcome back any time.

Q&A

Dialysis helps cats

recover kidney function

Q: I noticed that my cat was vomiting occasionally, and he was a little wobbly when he walked. Most worrisome, he turned up his nose at tuna. When I took him to the vet, they ran blood tests, which showed that his kidney function was abnormal because of an infection. Will dialysis help? -- via email

A: The kidneys are the body's waste removal system. They eliminate toxins from the body via the urine. When the kidneys aren't working, toxins build up, causing illness. As you discovered, an infection can prevent the kidneys from doing their job, but if they haven't been too severely damaged, dialysis can give the small, bean-shaped organs time to recuperate.

Dialysis performs the kidneys' job of waste removal until the kidneys can get back on the job. Cats who are very ill usually must be hospitalized for treatment and will receive either intermittent hemodialysis or continuous renal replacement therapy, both of which require machines with filters to remove and cleanse the blood.

Once the cat becomes more stable, the veterinarian may place what's called a peritoneal dialysis catheter, which allows the cat to stay at home between treatments. For peritoneal dialysis, expect to take your cat in for treatment three days a week. You may also need to give your cat oral antibiotics and administer fluids subcutaneously (beneath the skin) while the kidney infection is treated. It can take one to four weeks for the kidneys to heal completely.

According to the Animal Medical Center in New York City, damage caused by infections can be successfully treated 50 to 75 percent of the time. A kidney infection like the one your cat developed is a good example of how having pet health insurance can pay off.

Dialysis is expensive, especially if it requires hospitalization, but in the case of an infection, it gives the cat a chance to recover and lead a normal life. -- Dr. Marty Becker

THE BUZZ

Good food delivered

for people and pets

-- Seniors who receive food deliveries from Meals on Wheels have been known to share the meals with their beloved pets when nothing else is available, so the organization created WALOP (We All Love Our Pets), a national initiative to deliver pet food to clients who need help feeding their animals.

Since 2006, WALOP has focused on serving the relationship between people and pets, building a financial and nutritional safety net for them through donations, volunteers and help from shelters, other pet groups and organizations such as Banfield Charitable Trust, which provides grants to member programs.

-- Who doesn't love to look at pictures of dogs? When Elias Weiss Friedman realized that his photos of dogs were getting more attention than anything else he posted to Instagram, he created The Dogist, a blog dedicated to documenting the beauty of dogs. Now he pads the streets of New York City daily, looking for subjects. Friedman told The Huffington Post that his mission statement was "All the dogs," saying, "Every dog deserves recognition, and sometimes a compelling photograph can get a dog out of a shelter or inspire people to appreciate their dogs more."

-- According to a survey by website Rover.com, the most popular dog names of 2013 were Bella, Lucy, Bailey, Daisy, Lily, Molly, Lola, Maggie, Sadie and Chloe for females, and Max, Charlie, Buddy, Jack, Cooper, Rocky, Riley, Toby, Bear and Harley for males. The names frequently overlap with those given to children, cementing dogs' role as beloved family members.

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" and "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are joined by professional dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.