Your veterinarian makes it look so easy: Pill. Pet. And like a magic trick, suddenly the pill is inside the pet, the pet seemingly none the wiser.
If only it were that easy for you.
You go home, and you can't even find your cat when it's time for medication. Under the bed? Maybe. Behind the couch? Maybe not. How does the cat know, and how is he able to disappear as if by another talented magician?
Your dog is only marginally easier, maybe. Not quite as fussy as your cat, he'll eat the pill if it's hidden in something yummy, or so you think. But later you find the pill on the kitchen floor, and you realize he was somehow able to extricate the yummy stuff from the medicine and hide the pill in his jowls for spitting out later. Outsmarted again!
You figure it's a victory if you get half the pills in for half the number of days they're prescribed, and you hope that's good enough.
Problem is, it's not. One of the biggest problems veterinarians have in helping your pet get better is ... you. If you aren't able to follow through with medications, your pet will likely be back at the vet.
Do you dread walking out of your veterinarian's with pills? Here are some strategies to make the pill-popping easier:
-- Pop and treat. Have your veterinarian demonstrate. Always start with a positive attitude and end with a treat and praise. You can find "pill guns" through pet retailers that help with getting the pill quickly in the right place.
-- Stealth. Perhaps the most popular method is to hide the pill in something cats love, although most cats figure this out soon enough and start eating around the pill. Try treats that are designed for pill-popping: They're yummy little bits with pockets for hiding the treats.
-- Presto-chango. For pets who just won't tolerate pills (or people who just hate giving them), ask your veterinarian about using a compounding pharmacy. These businesses take all manner of medications and turn them into edible treats in pet-friendly flavors.
-- New technologies. Ask your veterinarian for the latest options. The medication you're using may be available in an easier-to-use format, such as trans-dermal.
No matter what, always give pet medications exactly as prescribed and to the end of the supply. If you have questions or problems, or if the condition hasn't improved after the medications are gone, you must call your veterinarian for advice for the health of your pet.
If you need help, ask! Your veterinarian wants your pet to get better just as much as you do.
Grinding an option to cutting nails
Q: We got a puppy a few months ago, and the breeder has been very helpful with advice, from socializing to feeding, training and more. One thing we'd never heard of, though: She doesn't cut her dogs' nails, but uses a hand-held Dremel grinding tool. This just seems weird to us, but she says it's easier on the dogs. What do you think? -- T.E., via e-mail
A: Keeping your dog's nails properly trimmed is more important than most people realize. Long nails tip the dog's foot back and can contribute to lameness, and dewclaws (those nails up on the leg) can become so long that they curve around and dig into the flesh.
And yet, there are few things people and dogs like less than clipping nails. If you misjudge and hit the quick, it's a bloody, painful mess, even with styptic powder to stanch the bleeding. Hit the quick a couple of times, and suddenly you have a dog who'd rather run, scream or bite than have those nails clipped.
Grinding your dog's nails can indeed be easier. It's so popular that the makers of canine grooming supplies have come out with their own grinders in recent years.
If you buy a grinder made especially for dogs, it'll come with the right grinding head. Otherwise, choose a medium-grit sandpaper or stone tip for your Dremel or other general-purpose hand-held grinder. Both cordless and corded models seem to work just as well for this task, but the cordless may be easier for beginners to handle.
In the early stages of training, just let your dog see the grinder, and praise and treat. In a later session, turn the grinder on and praise and treat. Praise and treat for your dog progressively, allowing the grinder to get closer to a paw and to briefly touch a nail tip. The first time you grind -- which may be several sessions after the first introduction -- be happy with working a little with just one nail, and don't forget to praise and treat.
Be sure to either clip the hair of longhaired dogs or to hold it back so it won't get wound in the shaft of the grinder. (One tip is to slip an old nylon stocking with a hole for the nail over the paw to hold the hair from the grinding tip.) Support the dog's toe, but don't squeeze too hard. Hold the grinder against the nail for no more than a couple of seconds at a time to prevent heat buildup, and don't push the grinder against the nail -- just hold it there and let the grinder do the work.
Grind across the bottom and then carefully in from the tip of the nail. Just a little bit at a time is plenty. If you do this weekly, the quick will recede, and you'll be able to maintain short nails on your dog with ease. (If you do an Internet search for "grinding dog nails," you'll find a couple of well-done step-by-step guides with pictures.) -- Gina Spadafori
(Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Following the leader shows doggy love
-- According to an informal poll on the Web site Dogster.com, the No. 1 way dogs show affection is by following their owners around the house (38 percent), followed by greeting owners at the door (24 percent) and licking them on the face (19 percent).
-- The economic downturn is hurting pets in all developed countries, it seems. In the United Kingdom, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says the number of abandoned animals increased by 57 percent in 2008. The number of people who call asking about giving up their pets is also up, by 52 percent. Britain's best-known animal-rescue center, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, is struggling to help more animals: In 2008, it reported taking in more than 1,000 more homeless pets than it had the previous year.
-- The black bear population in California has increased from 7,480 in 1986 to 33,340 in 2006. In the East, more than 70 percent of wildlife jurisdictions are also reporting an increase in the black bear population. In all, there are an estimated 850,00 black bears across the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Not surprising, conflicts between people and bears have also risen, although most of these are preventable with better behavior from people, especially better management of trash and better placement of bird feeders that attract bears looking for an easy meal.
-- One dog cashes in on his painting talent in exchange for fame and upward of $1,700 per painting. Sam, a hound mix, picks up a paintbrush and paints to the command of his amateur artist owner. Sam's paintings are gaining notoriety and rave reviews in trendy New York galleries. -- 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" and "The Dr. Oz Show" 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 more. Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to email@example.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.
Chaining a dog leads to misery, tragedy
In many parts of the country, fenced yards are uncommon, so some people keep their dogs on chains. Tethering a dog for a short while is fine but should never be a dog's 24/7 existence.
Dogs who spend their lives on chains are more likely to become dangerous, biting anyone who comes onto their turf. That's because a dog who spends his life on a chain is isolated and frustrated, and he'll sometimes lash out to protect his pitiful bit of territory.
Chaining can be dangerous for the dog, too: There are countless cases where a dog tried to jump a fence, didn't have enough chain to clear it and ended up hanging himself from his collar on the other side of the fence.
Dogs have also wrapped their chains around trees and died because they were unable to get to water on hot days. Dogs who are chained using choke collars can end up dead as well.
If you don't have a fenced yard, walking your dog or buying a kennel run for him to hang out in when you can't be with him is better than chaining him outside. -- Gina Spadafori
PETS BY THE NUMBERS
Spending on pets still growing
While the actual figures for 2009 won't be known for a couple of months yet, spending on pets increased over 2008, although the economic situation did make for a smaller increase than had been previously anticipated. Where the money went:
Food: $17.4 billion
Supplies/OTC medicine: $10.2 billion
Vet care: $12.2 billion
Live animal purchases: $2.2 billion
Pet services (grooming and boarding): $3.4 billion
Source: American Pet Products Association
Catnip cravings? Growing it is easy
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) makes some cats very happy -- but doesn't do a thing for others. Kittens under the age of 3 months do not react to catnip, and not all cats are genetically programmed to react to catnip -- the split is about 50-50.
Catnip is a harmless pleasure for those cats who enjoy it. After all, no cat ever had to operate heavy machinery, drive or take a call from a telemarketer. Indulge your cat!
Grow your own catnip in a safe place -- otherwise your cat will rip it out by the roots -- and offer cuttings regularly, by stuffing it into cat toys and rubbing places where you want your cat to scratch. It can even be dried or dehydrated for easy long-term storage. -- 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.