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

NATIONAL PARKS AND PETS

THE NATIONAL PARK TRIP IS A CLASSIC FAMILY VACATION, BUT DOES FIDO BELONG THERE?

By Kim Campbell Thornton

Visiting a national park is a popular pastime, especially during summer. We decided to beat the crowds last month by visiting Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks before the vacationing hordes overtook them. Two of our dogs stayed home with a pet sitter, but Harper -- our most experienced traveler -- came along for the ride.

I dithered about bringing her until the very last minute. Dogs can enter national parks, but they're not allowed on most trails or in buildings. National park lodges don't permit them, although some campgrounds and cabins make allowances for dogs. And forget about taking Buster to see Old Faithful spout or stroll along the boardwalk at Biscuit Basin checking out the steaming sulfur pools. He'll be canina non grata.

I knew all this going in, but as it turned out, the offseason was a great time to bring a dog. The rules still applied, but with trails closed by snow and many lodges not yet open, we didn't feel as if we were missing out on anything by just driving through and seeing the sights. The driving snowstorm at Old Faithful meant that Harper was more than happy to stay in the car while we waited for the geyser to blow, and, of course, we didn't have to worry that she would overheat.

Harper also stayed in the car when we pulled over to photograph bison grazing or a couple of grizzlies grubbing for grubs after their long winter nap. But when it wasn't snowing, hailing, sleeting, raining or thundering -- all of which we encountered during our two days in Yellowstone -- Harper hopped out of the car at the turnouts and walked with us as we appreciated the stunning views. If a vista required a short hike, we took turns staying with her.

At Grand Teton, it was sunnier if still cold, so Harper got more and longer walks at the turnouts and outside the visitor center. At one turnout, we put out some hides (scent) so she could practice her nose work. She found all three in record time -- just before it started hailing.

We stayed outside the parks in Jackson, Wyoming, spending three days at a bare-bones motel and three at a luxury resort offering offseason rates. Meals included car picnics, brunch at dog-friendly Cafe Genevieve and coffee at Persephone Bakery, which had outdoor seating. Other times she snoozed in her crate in the hotel room. On the two occasions that we needed to go somewhere without her -- a hike with a local wildlife biologist and a visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art -- Harper stayed at Happy Tails Pet Resort at Spring Creek Animal Hospital in Jackson, which I had called before our trip to make arrangements.

On the way home, we made a bonus visit to Zion National Park in Utah, where we met other people with dogs in tow. Zion has the same pet rules as other national parks, but it has one trail that permits dogs. The paved Pa'rus Trail follows the Virgin River for almost two miles and is an easy stroll. (Tip: Don't drive your dog through Zion's hairpin roads if he's prone to carsickness.)

For the best national park visit with dogs, make reservations at boarding kennels and pet-friendly hotels well beforehand, and keep your dog's vaccination record handy in case you decide to park him at a kennel for a day while you hike. Traveling by RV is another good option because your dog will have a safe place to stay if you go somewhere he can't. If you want to take him hiking, make your way to the nearest national forest, where dogs generally are permitted. Just don't forget your bear spray.

Q&A

Broken blood feather

requires quick action

Q: My cockatiel is always flying off his cage and crashing into the wall. I'm afraid he's going to hurt himself. Are there any particular injuries I need to worry about? -- via email

A: Cockatiels are especially prone to broken blood feathers, usually after they crash into something, just as you've described. If it hasn't happened to your bird yet, it's probably in his future.

My African ringneck parakeet once broke a blood feather after jumping off his cage. I noticed blood drops on the floor and took him to our local avian veterinarian, who fortunately is only a five-minute drive away.

Dr. Scott Weldy of Serrano Animal and Bird Hospital in Lake Forest, California, says blood feathers usually break when birds hit something hard, whether that's a window, wall, ceiling fan or the floor. If this happens to your bird, here's how to stop the bleeding: Grasp the blood feather at its base -- you may want to use needle-nose pliers to get a good grip -- and gently pull it until it pops out of the socket from which it's growing. Be careful not to jerk the feather, as that could damage the wing.

Then apply gentle pressure for a few minutes to the area where you removed the feather. That should stop the bleeding, and causes the least amount of trauma to the feather follicle, which can then start to grow a new feather to replace the lost one.

If you are uncomfortable removing the blood feather or aren't sure that the bleeding is from a broken blood feather, take your bird to the veterinarian right away. Your bird can lose blood quickly and may die without rapid treatment. Your veterinarian may also suggest intravenous fluids as a preventive measure if your bird's skin seems dry and tacky instead of supple. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton

Do you have a pet question? Send it to askpetconnection@gmail.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.

THE BUZZ

7 tips to keep pets

safe from coyotes

-- Several dogs throughout California have been attacked recently by coyotes, even when owners were present. To prevent the bold and wily wild canids from becoming too comfortable in an urban or suburban environment, take the following steps: Walk your dog on leash; secure garbage cans so coyotes can't knock them over or remove the lid; don't leave pet food outdoors; empty outdoor water dishes after your pet is indoors for the evening; never offer food to coyotes; install motion-sensitive lighting to startle coyotes that enter your yard; and accompany small or medium-size dogs outdoors early in the morning or after dark.

-- Poppy may be 24 years old, but if the other cats in her home try to steal her food, she bites them on the ear. The British cat bears the title "world's oldest" from Guinness World Records following the death last year of Pinky, a 23-year-old cat in Kansas. Poppy is blind and deaf, but her owners say she still has a feisty attitude. Live long and prosper, Poppy.

-- Does your local beach prohibit dogs? Authorities might do better to hire some border collies or bird dogs to prevent large numbers of gulls from congregating on recreational beaches, according to the results of a study presented last month in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Researcher Elizabeth Alm notes that gull droppings may contain bacteria with the potential to cause human disease and may be one source of the E. coli bacterium along shorelines, which can lead to swim advisories and beach closings. Samples from beaches where dogs chased gulls away had significantly lower E. coli counts. Alm suggests that beach managers could use border collies as part of a comprehensive management strategy to reduce bacterial contamination at public beaches. -- Kim Campbell Thornton

ABOUT PET CONNECTION

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is 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 at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.