Universal Press Syndicate
Puppies are overrated. I say that after spending the last six months working on raising one who's still a work in progress. Faith is a darling, bright retriever who is as good a puppy as anyone could ever hope for. I love her! But after piddle puddles, chewed headphones and all the normal silliness and mess that go along with raising a puppy, I'm reminded why most of the dogs who've ended up as part of my family have come into my home as adults.
October is Adopt-a-Dog month, and that also reminds me why, when people with a lot on their plates ask me about getting a puppy, I encourage them to consider a grown dog instead. Chosen carefully, an adult dog will be well past puppy foolishness and may have had some basic obedience training. Unlike puppies, who need constant monitoring, an adult dog should be able to be left alone while a family is at work or school after a much shorter period of training and re-adjustment.
For today's time-crunched households, there's no better deal than a good adult dog. But getting the right one is a little more difficult than going down to the shelter and picking out the cutest one.
While expecting to work on some minor behavior issues as your new dog gets used to you is reasonable, you want to avoid those animals who have too many problems, especially if one of them is aggression. Here are some questions that will help you:
-- What do you know of this dog's history? You may be dealing with a shelter, a rescue volunteer, the dog's original owner or breeder, or a nice person who found a stray. The more information you can get, the better. If you find out nothing about him because he was a stray, don't count him out. If he's healthy, friendly and otherwise fits your size, shedding and activity criteria, he's a contender.
-- Why is this dog available for adoption? Dogs become available for lots of reasons. "Losing our home," "divorce" and "death in the family" show no fault on the dog's part, but "bit our daughter" obviously is a problem.
Listen, too, for what isn't said: "He needs more exercise than we can give him" may mean "He needs more exercise than almost anyone could possibly ever give him, and he eats furniture when he doesn't get it." If you live a sedentary life, this isn't the dog for you.
-- What behavior problems does this dog have? Many things are fixable and worth considering if you honestly believe you'll take the time to work with the dog. "Pulls on the leash" is fixable. "He bites people, but only sometimes" is not, at least not by the average pet owner's standard, and not to the extent that you should take a chance on him with so many other dogs available.
Remember, too, that some problems are the owner's fault, not the dog's. "Won't stay in the yard," for example, may be easily cured by a decent fence and neutering.
-- How is he with children? Other dogs? Cats? Even if you don't have children, you're going to run into some from time to time. The same is true with other dogs. You can successfully avoid cats if you don't have them, but make certain your prospective pet at least tolerates them well if you have a cat in your home.
If you're getting an animal from a shelter, the organization should have asked the former owner to fill out a card on such things as problems with children or other animals. If you're adopting from a foster home, ask if the family has other animals and children. If there's no way to determine the dog's attitude toward children and other animals but he seems friendly, he may be OK. If you have doubts, however, hold out for an animal that you're sure fits well with your family.
Above all, take your time. This is a decision that should be for the dog's lifetime, and there are lots of pets to consider. Make the decision with your head as much as your heart. There's plenty of time after adoption to fall in love with your new canine companion.
ADOPTIONS ON THE INTERNET
Petfinder (www.petfinder.com) has become the No. 1 place to look for a pet to adopt, with thousands of listings searchable by species, breed type and geographic area. Shelters and rescue groups of all sizes use Petfinder to bring attention to the animals they're trying to place. Your local shelter will likely have listings of pets for adoption on its own Web site, as well.
While some rescue groups that work with a single breed use Petfinder, many do not. To find these organizations, visit the American Kennel Club's Web site (www.akc.org) and look up the breed you're interested in. The national rescue contact will be listed.
Universal registry helps with microchip IDs
Microchips are a modern miracle when it comes to positive identification of pets. Inserted into the skin over the shoulder blades of dogs and cats and into the breast tissue of birds, microchips can be a ticket home for a pet who's lost.
But competing microchips, incompatible scanners and too many registries have always kept the technology from achieving its full promise. While many pets have been reunited with owners because of their microchips, countless others have not.
At least one aspect of the problem is now being addressed by the American Animal Hospital Association, which has created the AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool. Created to remove some of the guesswork for veterinary hospitals and shelters, the free, Internet-based resource assists with microchip identification -- helping reunite pets and owners by checking participating pet recovery services' registries to determine which registry should be contacted.
The AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool can be accessed online at Petmicrochiplookup.org.
The association has been working with microchipping and pet recovery industry leaders for the past year on the development of this new tool. The participating companies include AKC CAR, Home Again, Petlink by Datamars and resQ by Bayer.
The AAHA Universal Pet Microchip Lookup Tool works by checking the databases of participating pet recovery services to determine which has registration information available for a microchip. Once a microchip identification number is entered into the tool, within seconds a list of all the registries with microchip registration information available along with the registries' contact information will appear in chronological order. The registry with the most recent update appears first.
If the microchip has not been registered with any participating pet recovery service, the result returned will default to the microchip's manufacturer or distributor. While the tool will not return the pet owner information contained in the registries' databases, it will identify which registries should be contacted when a lost pet is scanned and a microchip is found. -- Pet Connection staff
Coughing cat may have asthma
-- Hairballs may be blamed for a cat's chronic coughing, but the problem maybe asthma. Symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, open-mouthed breathing and heaving may indicate a cat with asthma, according to the newsletter of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. These attacks can be brought on by stress and allergens, with common allergens including cigarette smoke, pollen, dust, mold, aerosols, perfume, deodorizers, dusty cat litter and food. Common treatment ranges from allergy medication similar to bronchodilators to oxygen therapy.
-- The famed polydactyl cats from the Hemingway House museum have been allowed to keep their home, thanks to special fencing keeping the cats contained within the museum's grounds. USA Today reports that the fence was built in response to a warning from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating the museum did not have the proper animal exhibition licensing and threatening the museum with a fine of $200 per day. More than half of the cats at the museum have more than the normal amount of toes, with many of them descending directly from Snowball, a six-toed cat given to Ernest Hemingway in 1935.
-- Animals of military personnel can find a foster home while their owner is away on duty through NetPets.org, which provides volunteer foster parents nationwide.
-- Dogs who swallowed pennies did better before 1982, as pennies were made mostly with copper. In 1982, pennies changed composition to 95 percent zinc with a copper coating -- and that presents a problem for pets. A penny can get stuck in the pet's stomach and dissolve, releasing high levels of zinc into the pet's body and causing red blood cells to rupture, which could result in anemia and multiple organ failure. Symptoms that indicate penny ingestion include vomiting, abdominal pain, lethargy, pale gums, a small amount of diarrhea, weakness and depression. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.
On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars," and a monthly drawing for more than $1,000 in pet-care prizes. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Watch for signs of obesity in pet bird
Is your parrot fat? Life with little activity while in a cage with an all-you-can-eat buffet has many birds overweight and struggling with health problems. Poor food choices -- too many seeds, processed or otherwise fatty foods -- also pack the pounds on.
Amazon parrots, large cockatoos, cockatiels and budgies seem more prone to obesity than other species of pet birds. Some of the signs of obesity in birds include:
-- The presence of rolls of fat around the abdomen and hip areas, along with cleavage on the abdomen or breast area.
-- Visible fat under the skin. The skin of most normal pet birds is typically very thin and quite transparent. When the skin is wet with rubbing alcohol, you should be able to see dark pink or red muscle underneath. In overweight birds, you see yellowish fat instead.
-- Breathing difficulty, such as labored breathing, especially after physical exertion.
-- Heat intolerance, shown by excessive wing drooping or open-mouthed breathing in a hot environment.
-- Overgrown upper beaks. Some birds will grow their upper beaks excessively long if they have obesity and fatty liver disease problems. This is particularly true in Amazon parrots and budgies.
If you suspect your bird is fat -- and especially if you already know your bird is fat -- see your veterinarian right away for nutritional counseling and other ways to attack the problem. Long-term obesity and a poor diet is a major cause of joint problems and heart disease in birds in middle age. -- Dr. Marty Becker
BY THE NUMBERS
Why puppies, dogs end up homeless
Although the housing crisis and the rough economy are forcing people to give up pets, long-standing trends point to a list of reasons why dogs end up homeless:
2. Landlord issues
3. Cost of pet maintenance
4. No time for pet
5. Inadequate facilities
6. Too many pets in home
7. Pet illness
8. Personal problems
10. No homes for littermates
Source: National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy
Loose dog? Don't punish him!
Punishing a dog for running from you is one surefire way to make sure he's even harder to catch the next time. Wouldn't you keep running if you knew you'd get punished when caught?
If your dog takes off on you, kneel down and open your arms when calling to make yourself more inviting. If that doesn't work, try to use a command he knows well, like "sit" instead of "come." Many dogs know "sit" so well that they'll plant their rumps, and once they're sitting, you might be able to walk up and take their collars. Another possibility is to catch your dog's attention and run in the other direction, enticing him to follow you. The chase instinct is very strong in dogs, and it may well work.
Remember, a loose dog situation is not about dog training, but about dog saving. When you have your dog safely back on leash, praise him, be grateful and make a vow that you'll take the time to teach him this most important of commands. Because next time he's out, you may not be so lucky to get him back in one piece. -- Gina Spadafori
Pet Connection is produced by a team of team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper, by sending e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting PetConnection.com.