Dr. Marty Becker
Many dogs enjoy swimming as much as people do, and cool times in the local swimming spot or backyard pool are one of the best parts of summer. But you have to look out for your pet around water, since even the strongest, most enthusiastic swimmers can get into trouble.
The keys to water safety for dogs: prevention, preparedness and awareness.
Prevention: No dog should be given unsupervised access to a backyard pool or to a neighborhood pond or creek. Swimming pools are best fenced off for safety. And if that's not possible, they should be equipped with alarms that sound when the surface of the water is broken by a child or pet falling in and a ramp to help them find their way out.
Prevention also includes teaching your pet what to do when he's in the pool. Dogs don't get the idea that the steps are on one side only, and they may tire and drown trying to crawl out the side. If your pet likes to swim, work with him in the pool to help him learn where the steps are so he can get out easily.
Finally, obedience training is extremely important. Your dog should come when called, even when swimming, so you can call him back before he heads into deeper water or stronger currents. Emergency shortcut: Always carry extra retrieving toys. A dog who's heading out into a dangerous area after a ball or stick can often be lured back into shore with a second item thrown closer in. It's no substitute for training, but it could save your dog's life.
Preparedness: Before letting your dog swim in any natural surroundings, survey the area for safety. Rivers and oceans can change frequently, and an area that was safe for swimming one visit can be treacherous the next. Consider currents, tides, underwater hazards and even the condition of the water. In the late summer, algae scum on the top of standing water can be toxic, producing substances that can kill a pet who swallows the tainted water. When in doubt, no swimming. Better safe than sorry.
One of the best things you can do is to take courses in first aid and CPR for your pets. Many local Red Cross chapters offer these classes, and some veterinarians may also teach them in your community. A dog who's pulled out near death from drowning may be saved by your prompt actions -- if you know what to do.
If your dog isn't much of a swimmer, or is older or debilitated, get him a personal floatation device. These are especially great for family boating trips because most have sturdy handles for rescue when a pet goes overboard.
Awareness: Be aware of your dog's condition as he plays. Remember that even swimming dogs can get hot, so bring fresh water and offer it constantly. When your dog is tiring, be sure to call it a day. A tired dog is a good dog, but an exhausted dog is in danger of drowning. Be particularly careful of young and old dogs. Both can get themselves into more trouble than a healthy adult dog with lots of swimming experience. Young dogs can panic in the water, and old dogs may not realize they aren't as strong as they used to be. Keep them close to shore, and keep swimming sessions short.
Swimming is great exercise and great fun for all, and with these few simple precautions you can keep the cool times coming, with safety in mind.
Look for outgoing
in kitten choice
Q: We're committed to the idea of a kitten this summer, keeping a promise to our daughter for good grades. Other than just picking "the cute one," how do we know we will be getting a friendly pet? -- F.G.
A: In an ideal world, getting to meet both the mother and the father of a kitten would be very helpful in determining what sort of companion that adorable fuzz-ball will become. But since most feline fathers are of the love-'em-and-leave-'em variety, it's likely you'll be lucky to meet the mom alone.
If you get to meet only mom, that's OK. Although there are orphaned kittens who turn out to be great companions, it's more difficult for a human-raised baby cat to learn life's lessons as well as one raised by a feline mother. Cats are generally caring and attentive mothers, and they're responsible for a kitten's early learning and socialization.
Kittens learn their earliest, most basic manners from watching their mothers and from interacting with mom and siblings. For example, if a kitten pounces on her mother's tail in play, mom will quickly and in no uncertain terms teach her baby that the behavior is unacceptable. Kittens who don't have the benefit of a feline family may not learn that biting and clawing hurts and will be more likely to scratch or bite, even in play.
In a shelter situation, though, you may not be able to meet dad, mom or siblings. You don't want to choose on looks alone -- and besides, is there any such thing as a less-than-adorable kitten? -- so take a little time to personality-test the kittens you're considering.
Assuming all the kittens appear healthy (bright eyes, glossy coat, no crusting around the nose or tail, no pot belly, clean ears and no breathing issues or lethargy), you're looking for a youngster who is outgoing and adaptive.
A kitten should be curious and playful, and recover quickly from a scare if in safe surroundings. Don't expect a rambunctious baby to snuggle for long, but no kitten should be afraid of being held.
Congratulations to your future new addition! -- Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp, AnimalBehavior.net
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
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 many best-selling pet-care books. Dr. Becker can also be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker.
an American hit
-- Animal-shaped cookies originated in 1890s England, but the American manufacturer National Biscuit Company (Nabisco) displayed marketing genius in 1902 when the company put the now-familiar crackers in a small rectangular box made to resemble a circus cage and added a string to encourage parents to hang boxes as gifts to decorate Christmas trees. According to the book, "Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Things," parents were soon writing to Nabisco about how children ate the cookies. The most popular order of dismemberment: back legs, forelegs, head and lastly the body.
-- Only 15 percent of dogs and 2 percent of cats lost without an ID tag or a microchip are reunited with their owners, according to DVM360.com.
-- Mammary tumors are three times more likely in dogs than breast cancer in women and are the leading tumor disease in female dogs. A spayed dog is less likely to get mammary tumors, and the age of the dog affects the survival period. A study at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences found that the two most common genes that cause breast cancer in women also increase the risk of springer spaniels getting mammary tumors. The study also found the presence of a gene tied to the immune system protected the dogs who carried it by lowering their risk of mammary tumors. Owners of female dogs should regularly check their females for lumps in their mammary glands, similar to women monitoring for breast cancer. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon