There's no doubt vacation travel has gone to the dogs ... and the cats as well. The recent request for travel stories brought them in by the scores.
What a change! When I was growing up as a typical baby boomer, with family vacations spent in our hot station wagon, our dog was never allowed in hotels -- he slept in the car on the road.
Nowadays, not only are pets welcome, but some places also provide room service.
I'll share a few more tales (or should that be tails?) from the road over the next few weeks. Here are a few already in from readers.
-- Lynda Demsher, via e-mail: This summer, four pointers enjoyed a vacation on the Oregon Coast. It didn't start out as a doggie vacation, but after I started looking at my pictures from the three weeks we spent there in July, I realized that it was, indeed, the dogs' days. We went to the coast to fish, so our son towed the boat while my husband and I towed the trailer.
Our son has a big, blocky wirehaired pointing griffon male and a small German shorthaired pointer female. We have a female wirehaired pointing griffon and a male German wirehair. All are great hunting dogs, with the two griffs particularly fond of the water.
We had three 65-pound-plus, hairy dogs and one 40-pound, hyperactive shorthair in the trailer for three weeks. The first thing we did was "trailer-train" them: No dog is allowed out of the door of the trailer unless given permission, each dog has a consistent eating and sleeping place, they are all leash-trained, and they heel on command.
Even though they are powerful dogs, I could walk all of them while the guys were out fishing, two to a double-hooked leash, because they do heel well together. For their obedience, they got to run free on the beach every day, go on long leash-walks, got unlimited attention by dog-loving RVers, and were allowed to get on the bed and the couch in the trailer.
I must emphasize that people who RV with dogs have a responsibility to make sure their pets are well-socialized, neutered or spayed, trained and have good dispositions. People who travel with dogs must also be willing to exercise them a lot, since RV travel is very confining, even for little dogs.
-- Cosette Augustine, via e-mail: For a number of years we took our cat, Punkin, with us when we traveled from New Jersey to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where we stayed in our condo on the shore. Usually we stayed in a motel on the way one night.
The first time we took Punkin to a hotel, the next morning she was nowhere to be found! We figured she would appear, so we put out her food and went to breakfast. When we returned to pack up and leave, there was still no cat. We looked everywhere and knew she couldn't have possibly gotten out of the room.
Finally, in the last place we looked, we removed the mattress and box springs from the wood frame, and there she was. The wall end of the wood frame was open. I guess she didn't really want to get back in the car!
-- Trudy Wolcott, via e-mail: My husband and I traveled to Portland, Ore., this summer with our bichons Cosette and Chloe. We set up their portable crate in the back of our pick-up cab. We stopped every two to three hours at the rest stops along the interstate to give them (and us) a needed break.
Portland is a very pet-friendly city. One evening, Chuck and I ate at a nice restaurant along the waterfront and were allowed to "park" our dogs under our table. The staff was kind enough to bring water for them. The dogs were content in the crate and were well-behaved in the hotel room.
Here are a couple of tips: Take a travel bag just for your pet that includes his own towel, shampoo and conditioner. I also included a pet thermometer and a list of veterinarians in the cities along our route. You can never tell when you pet may become ill or injured.
-- Gina Spadafori: Good advice, all. If you want to share your pet-travel story, just drop me a note at email@example.com.
Polite pet travel
For all the stories of great pet travel, there were plenty of e-mails from people who weren't so happy with what other people let their pets get away with. It's essential that pet lovers remember that pets can be banned just as easily as they are now welcomed in many places. Essential rules for polite pet travel:
-- Pick up after your pet. No excuses.
-- Keep your pet under control. Keep your pet quiet and don't allow him to intrude on others.
-- Leave rooms as clean as you find them. Take along sheets to put over bedding, or crate your pet at night.
Do your part to keep pets welcome so we can all enjoy our trips with our animal companions!
Drug instructions need to be exact
Q: I am a veterinary technician with eight years of experience. I work at a veterinary hospital, and I have also worked for boarding facilities as well as boarding dogs in my own home. I'm also a retired dog trainer, having owned my own company.
Many times I've had an animal dropped off for boarding with a prescription medication (or two or three) that must be administered while the owners are gone. The prescription bottle says: "Use as directed."
I have a boarder staying with me now, and I thought I had contact numbers, but nobody is answering. I have to find out about the drugs this dog is on, and I am trying to find out how much and how often the drugs are to be given.
"Use as directed" on a prescription bottle is, in my opinion, a way of saying, "I am too lazy to type the prescription on the bottle." There should be a law against such labeling on prescription bottles for pets!
Please let your readers know about this problem. And inform them not to accept any medications that aren't properly labeled with instructions that can be easily followed. -- D.B., via e-mail
A: Yours is one of the best suggestions I've read in all the time I've been writing about pets. As I've often written, health care for our pets works best when we work as a team with our veterinarians. An educated, involved pet owner is every bit as important as a gifted veterinarian when it comes to maintaining the health of our pets.
I encourage every person to be sure to never walk out of a veterinarian's office without a clear understanding of the medication a pet has been prescribed, what it's for, how to give it, how it works, and what the possible problems with the medication can be.
Talking to your veterinarian about medications is essential, but it's also helpful to have some basic references on hand. Two I like to recommend are "The Pill Book Guide to Medication for Your Dog and Cat" (Bantam, $7) and "Pills for Pets: The A to Z Guide to Drugs and Medications for Your Animal Companion" (Citadel, $15). Online drug references, such as those at VeterinaryPartner.com and the human drug reference library at MedlinePlus (MedlinePlus.gov), are also useful.
Those darn burrs!
Q: We are fortunate to live in an area with close access to public space where we can take our setter-mix for long hikes. At this time of year, though, the burrs are so bad that it takes more time to clean out her tail and feathers than we spend walking her. We do not want to shave her beautiful coat, but we're tired of pulling the burrs out. She's tired of it, too. Any suggestions? -- F.B., via e-mail
A: Here's a trick I picked up years ago from a top hunting-dog trainer: Use Pam non-stick cooking spray. Spritz a little into the burr area, and you should have an easier time working out the stickers.
Since you're walking your dog so frequently, you might also consider a thin vest to cover a good portion of her body fur. It won't help protect her leg feathering, but it will reduce the total area that's attracting the burrs. K9 Top Coat makes a lightweight stretch vest in bright safety orange Lycra with reflective strips. An added bonus: increased visibility when you're walking your dog on these days when sunset comes ever earlier.
The vest is $36.50 to $41.50, not including shipping, from K9 Top Coat (www.K9topcoat.com, 888-833-5959.)
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Halloween décor protects pets
In recent years, decorating the home for Halloween has become almost as big a deal as putting up lights for Christmas. One new pet-related product dresses up the house with a twist: It keeps pets in while making it easy to hand out treats.
The Eerie Entrance is made out of reinforced cardboard and is designed to fit in the top opening of a standard storm door. It can also be trimmed to fit smaller openings. To install, remove any existing window or screen in the storm door and replace it with Eerie Entrance. The product is designed to be reused and can be folded for storage.
Of course, animals who become extremely agitated by visitors are best kept away from the front door, confined to a back room or a crate until all the ghoulish visitors are gone. But for friendly pets who'll try to scoot out an open door, the Eerie Entrance is a clever idea. Eerie Entrance costs $30 and is available from Taylor Gifts (www.taylorgifts.com, 800-829-1133).
PETS ON THE WEB
Help for animals in disaster time
Through her pioneering work rescuing animals in times of disaster, Terri Crisp has done something few of us ever accomplish: She has changed our way of thinking. Because of people like Crisp, disaster planning and response now includes animals, in part because of the hands-on work of dedicated, trained animal lovers in disaster zones, and in part because of the recognition by emergency-response planners that people consider animals to be part of the family and will risk their own lives to save their pets.
Of course, no disaster-response expert suggests that anyone put lives at risk. Crisp's rescue group, Noah's Wish, strongly encourages all animal lovers to prepare themselves with the supplies and knowledge needed to evacuate their two- and four-legged family members before they are in danger. On its Web site (noahswish.org), Noah's Wish explains the steps of emergency preparedness for pet lovers. The group also hosts training seminars to prepare those who'd like to volunteer to help others in time of need.
In the wake of recent hurricanes, donations are also very much needed to help Noah's Wish teams working with on-site disaster relief.
Preventive care essential for birds
A wild bird's survival strategy is to appear as healthy as possible to avoid the notice of predators. Many popular pet bird species are not many generations removed from the wild, but the same survival strategy that worked in a natural habitat is a bad one in captivity. Pet birds will sometimes show no sign of illness until they're too sick to be helped.
Proper daily care -- good nutrition and fastidious cleanliness -- is essential to preventing life-threatening illness, as is a solid working relationship with an experienced avian veterinarian. Here's why an avian veterinarian can make a difference:
-- Scarcity of urgent care. Emergency clinics are mostly geared for dog and cat care, not specialized bird care. And even if you develop an excellent relationship with an avian-savvy veterinarian, he will not always be available for emergency response.
-- Cost savings. From the start-up costs of a proper cage to annual well-bird exams with necessary diagnostic testing, preventive care isn't cheap. Still, heading off illness is less expensive in the long run than trying to save the life of a bird in crisis.
-- Quality of life. Just because a bird is hiding his illness doesn't mean he isn't feeling dreadful. It may be days, weeks, months or even years before your bird finally gets so sick that he stops caring what happens to him. Misery has been his companion for a long time at that point, and that makes a strong argument for early intervention.
The place to start? An examination by an avian veterinarian, who'll take the time to establish the good health of your bird, correct little health problems before they become critical, and advise you about anything you're doing that might be endangering your pet's health long-term.
(Pet Rx is provided by the Veterinary Information Network (VIN.com), an online service for veterinary professionals. More information can be found at www.veterinarypartner.com.)
Strings not safe for playful cats
Kittens and cats love playing with yarn, as well as string, ribbon, and anything that twists and dances. Problem is, there's always a chance your cat will decide to eat his plaything. And that's where the fun stops, because any sort of yarn, ribbon or string can cause havoc in your cat's intestines, causing a problem that may need to be surgically treated.
These are preventable emergencies. If you knit or sew, put your supplies securely away after you're done with them. Same thing goes if you're wrapping packages: Put the ribbon away after the task is done.
Even if your pet's not really the playful type, she may find one kind of string irresistible: juice-soaked string from a roast or turkey. Dispose of these tempting dangers carefully, putting them in a container your cat can't get into.
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 email@example.com. You can also read her frequently updated Web log or view her column archives at www.spadafori.com.
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