If you've decided to join those indulging in a little Y2K worrying by stocking up on batteries, flashlights and food, it really wouldn't hurt to make sure your pet is covered in the event of an emergency as well.
While no one knows what -- if anything -- will happen when the clocks click over to the year 2000, I figure that if fear drives people to make disaster plans they should have made years ago, then we're all better for it.
First on your list of pet provisions should be food and bottled water, along with any medications your pet normally takes. Make sure you have a couple of weeks' supply on hand at any given time. Better still is to always keep extra in the house, and to rotate your stock to keep it fresh. If you use canned food, make sure the brand you use has pop-top lids, or double-check that you have a non-electric can opener on hand.
You should also keep some basic first-aid supplies on hand, along with a booklet on how to use them. You can find ready-made first-aid kits in many pet-supply stores, catalogs and on Web sites. Pet-Pak Inc. (800-217-PETS; www.petpak.com) makes some fabulous kits you can buy directly, with all the basics packed in a neat plastic container.
Most ingredients of a pet first-aid kit can be found at any good drugstore, though, if you want to collect them on your own. And they're not all that different from what you should keep on hand for yourself.
For dogs and cats, include adhesive tape, Benadryl antihistamine; Betadine antiseptic; buffered aspirin, such as Ascriptin; cotton swabs, balls and rolls; eye wash; tweezers; hydrogen peroxide; cornstarch or styptic powder for minor bleeding (available at pet-supply stores); plastic syringes with needles removed (for administering liquid medications or irrigating wounds; get them from your vet); scissors; sterile gauze, both rolls and pads; syrup of Ipecac; pet thermometer; tranquilizers (as prescribed by your vet); antibiotic ointment; Vet Wrap padded bandages; and water-based lubricating jelly.
For birds, add a pair of needle-nosed pliers for pulling blood feathers, along with a heating pad, and a high-energy liquid (such as Pedialyte) or a ready-to-mix glucose solution. Instead of regular first-aid tape, which sticks to feathers, keep paper or masking tape in the kit. An old towel should also be at hand, for safely restraining your bird.
All pets should have carriers where you can get at them (as opposed to in the far reaches of the basement or rafters of the garage). Leashes, collars and up-to-date ID tags are a must, too. (I also use the 24-hour tracking service of 1-800-HELP4PETS, on the Web at www.help4pets.com.) Muzzles aren't bad to keep around, either, for an injured animal can lash out in pain. You can make one for most dogs out of gauze with a couple of loops around the muzzle and a tie behind the ears. Comfortable ready-made restraints for dogs and cats can be found in many pet-supply catalogs.
The end of the year is a good time to put household records in order, and that has a role in emergency planning, too. Make a folder for each pet, and put all pertinent information inside: medical records, registration papers, pictures, and information on emergency contacts if you're not available. Make a duplicate file and trade folders with a pet-loving neighbor or friend so your pets have a "godparent" in case of an emergency.
Y2K or not, chances are you'll never need to rely on any of your preparations. But if you ever need to, your pet will be better off for the time you spend now planning for the worst. And so will you.
PETS ON THE WEB
Elizabeth Cusulas' Doggy Carols page (www.ddc.com/waggers/carols.html) doesn't have any new tunes for the '99 holiday season, but the ones there already are a howl. My clan liked the sentiments expressed in "Tennis Ball," sung to the tune of "Silver Bells":
Perfection, round and inviting
Roll and play
All the day
Please, Santa, toss some our way.
You won't want to miss "O Puppy Tree" or "Hark! The Joyous Doggies Call," either. But wait! There are also Christmas lyrics for cat lovers at the Cats' X-mas Carols page (www.blakjak.demon.co.uk/cat_xmas.htm). How about this one, to the tune of "Deck the Halls":
Wreck the halls and steal the ribbons
Fa la la la la, la la la la
Christmas time's such fun for kittens
Fa la la la la, la la la la.
I had a lot of fun with these sites, and I know you will, too.
The hazards of the Christmas tree are so inviting that it's safer for your pet to make the whole thing off-limits. If you can, set up the tree in a room with a door you can close when you're not around to supervise. If that's not possible, consider baby-gates to keep puppies and dogs away, or consider surrounding the tree with foil or carpet-runners with the points up to stymie cats. Electronic solutions include motion detectors made for pet training that shriek when jostled, or mats that give off a slight static shock when stepped on. If you can do nothing else, avoid the most dangerous ornaments, including "angel hair" (made from spun glass), glass ornaments or icicles. You wouldn't trust a young child alone around a Christmas tree, would you? Consider your pet just as in need of supervision.
QUESTIONS FROM THE PACK
Q: I run at least 30 minutes a day. I would love to get a dog that can run with me. What is the best breed? -- A.J., via e-mail
A: So many breeds and mixes would thrive on a 30-minute daily run that it's actually easier to rule out those that aren't as suitable. The toy breeds wouldn't be your best choice, nor would such short-legged dogs as the basset hound, dachshund or Welsh corgi. Heavy giant breeds, too, aren't built for jogging, so you can probably rule out the St. Bernard and Newfoundland. Dogs with short faces don't do as well exercising on warm days, so you might want to rule out the boxer.
Now I'm sure someone out there is going to write me about what a wonderful jogging pal that his or her corgi, boxer or Newfie is, and it's true that anything can work if you work at it. But some breeds are better suited than others, based on physical characteristics alone.
Of the breeds and mixes that remain -- and there are dozens! -- you can find plenty of choices. Anything from the small-mediums, such as Shelties, to large and leggy, such as greyhounds, would do just splendidly. It's all a matter of personal choice.
If safety is an issue, you might want to consider a breed that would by looks alone give a would-be attacker pause. In this category, place the Doberman, Rhodesian ridgeback and the German shepherd.
If responsiveness is what you're looking for, some of the breeds that are easier to train include the border collie and golden retriever. A breed that was born to the road is the Dalmatian, a dog that was developed to run alongside a horse-drawn carriage.
Don't forget the mixes, too. My friend Robyn is an avid exerciser, and her dog, a shepherd-cattle dog cross, could not be a better running companion.
If you do choose a purebred, be sure to buy from a reputable breeder who has certification that the parents are free of hip and elbow problems, crippling congenital defects that will doom your dog's future as a runner. X-rays or verbal assurances aren't enough. You must see certification from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or from the University of Pennsylvania-developed Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP).
Don't push a pup into running. Work on his leash training as he's growing, but give his bones a chance to get fully developed before putting any roadwork on him. Better yet, look for an adult dog who, with a little training, can get immediately on the road with you.
Q: Our cat won't drink water unless it's ultrafresh. That means she won't drink it from a bowl, but instead comes running when we're near a sink. She likes to drink from the tap. We can't spend our lives turning taps on for the cat. Any ideas? -- W.L., via e-mail
A: Your cat is certainly not alone in her fastidiousness where drinking water is concerned. Some cats love fresh running water so much that they learn to turn on taps themselves -- but can't be bothered to learn to turn them back off, of course!
Cats can be hard to keep hydrated, a situation that can lead to urinary-tract problems. The more water you can get your cat to drink, the better. That's why I'd recommend doing anything you can to keep your cat happy. Share the bathroom tap with your pet. C'mon, what does it hurt?
You can also find continuous-flow feline drinking fountains that recycle the water to make it seem fresh to a cat. Hammacher Schlemmer (800-543-3366; www.hammacher.com) has one. You can also usually find them advertised in the back of magazines such as Cat Fancy.
Gina Spadafori is the award-winning author of "Dogs for Dummies," "Cats for Dummies" and "Birds for Dummies." She is also affiliated with the Veterinary Information Network Inc., an international online service for veterinary professionals. Write to her in care of this newspaper, or send e-mail to writetogina(at)spadafori.com.
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