"Your Dog: The Owner's Manual" isn't just another book on dog care.
When I say "hundreds of secrets, surprises and solutions for raising a happy, healthy dog," I'm not kidding. In my work, I balance my decades of real-world experience as a practicing veterinarian with my access to the leaders in the veterinary and pet care world. The result: an insider's view of what's tried and true, as well as what you need to know about what's new. And I share it all, with you.
Here are 10 of my top insider's secrets from "Your Dog: The Owner's Manual" that will help any dog lover. Secrets? They might as well be, they're so little known. Surprises? To most people, you bet. Solutions? (BEGIN ITAL)Absolutely(END ITAL). Read on!
-- Secret No. 1: Shedding is a top complaint of dog lovers, but when people choose a low-shed pet, they're usually barking up the wrong tree. The kind of dog who sheds the least? A small one (less dog, less fur) with long fur (long fur stays in longer than short fur) who's kept clipped short (less left on to clean up when it does eventually fall out).
-- Secret No. 2: Preventing accidents can save more than your pet -- it saves money, too. By keeping all medications – human and pet prescriptions, and all over-the-counters -- safely locked away, you'll protect your pet from the No. 1 poisoning hazard.
-- Secret No. 3: Stop the post-bath shake from getting water all over your bathroom -- and you. It's simple: That water-spraying shake starts at the nose, and if you hold your dog's muzzle until you can get a towel over him, you'll prevent him from shaking.
-- Secret No. 4: New training tools like head halters and front-clip leashes can make walking your dog a pleasure for you both. These tools are like power-steering for your dog. I also share how to develop an exercise program that will improve the health of both you and your dog.
-- Secret No. 5: Getting old doesn't need to mean misery for your dog. Working with your veterinarian to provide your old dog "neutraceuticals" such as omega-3 oil and glucosamine, along with prescription pain medications, can put the bounce back in your old dog's step.
-- Secret No. 6: Learn why every pet owner needs to keep several over-the-counter remedies on hand -- and when your veterinarian may direct you to use them. You'll want to stock up on Pepto-Bismol (for upset tummies), hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting) and Benadryl (for allergies).
-- Secret No. 7: Most people want to take advantage of the incredible advances in veterinary medicine, but some simply can't afford them. The solution for many is pet health insurance. The surprise? Despite several companies offering such insurance with good track records and countless satisfied customers, fewer than 2 percent of dog lovers protect their pets this way.
-- Secret No. 8: Your dog doesn't have to hate going to the veterinarian. If you work with your veterinarian to keep early experiences pleasant -- such as not having nails trimmed at your vet's place and having your pet given pats and treats on every visit -- your dog will love going to the hospital.
-- Secret No. 9: It's easy to save money on pet care without short-changing your pet. You can save money by price-shopping for prescription medications, buying in bulk, keeping your pet thin and even bartering for your pet's needs.
-- Secret No. 10: "Yearly shots" are no longer recommended. Most dogs should now get "core" vaccines on a three-year cycle. There is no longer any "one size fits all" when it comes to vaccines.
These 10 secrets? They're just the beginning of what you'll find I've shared with you in "Your Dog: The Owner's Manual." And if you're a cat lover, I have great news for you, too: "Your Cat: The Owner's Manual" will be out next spring.
Pet food labels
hard to decipher
Q: I'm never sure what I'm getting when I read pet food labels. What does it really mean when the label says a food is "natural" or "organic"? -- via email
A: It sounds great when your dog's or cat's food is described as "natural" or "organic," doesn't it? It's easy to imagine happy cows and chickens being raised sustainably on Farmer Jan's property. The real definitions don't have anything to do with how farm animals are raised or the quality of the food, though. In the eyes of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the term "natural" does not have an official definition. It simply means that a pet food does not contain artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials, a trade organization that develops nutrient standards and ingredient definitions for pet foods, says a "natural" food or ingredient is one that is made only from plant, animal or mined sources and is not produced by or subject to a chemically synthetic process. Foods described as natural may not contain anything artificial, except in amounts that might occur unavoidably during manufacture. The AAFCO says the term "natural" should be used only to describe products when all of the ingredients -- not counting chemically synthesized vitamins, minerals and other trace nutrients -- meet this definition.
No rules govern the use of the word "organic" on pet food labels. The term "organic" refers to the conditions under which plants were grown or animals were raised. Typically, foods that claim to be organic may not contain ingredients that are genetically engineered or produced using sludge or irradiation, or that contain certain synthetic substances, and they must be free of sulfites, nitrates or nitrites. Products labeled organic cannot contain non-organic ingredients if organic sources are available.
Feeding an "organic" or "natural" diet is no guarantee against contamination. It's great to look for foods that meet the ideals you desire for a pet's diet, but it's always a good idea to call the manufacturer -- contact information is required to be on the label -- and ask exactly what is meant by the terms "natural" or "organic." -- Kim Campbell Thornton
Meet Dr. Becker
on national tour
As part of the launch of his newest book, "Your Dog: The Owner's Manual," Dr. Marty Becker is traveling around the country to meet pet lovers for talks and book signings.
Dr. Becker's tour starts this week in Houston and travels to more than 30 cities in all, with events being held at select PETCOs.
He's traveling in a customized 45-foot bus wrapped with information on the tour, including links for following the bus from coast to coast via Facebook and Twitter (search for "DrMartyBecker on both). Along with him will be co-author Gina Spadafori and her dog, McKenzie, a 6-year-old retriever who has her own Facebook fan page (at Facebook.com/McKenzieTheDog).
Come say hello as Dr. Marty Becker's BIG Bus Tour rolls to a city near you -- visit DrMartyBecker.com for cities, dates and times of the events.
And if you can't make it to an event, you can still be a part of the tour by helping your favorite shelter or rescue group to win thousands of dollars in pet supplies.
With the help of more than 40 companies that donated new pet care supplies, Dr. Becker is hosting a contest to get thousands of dollars in products to shelters voted on by his Facebook fans. Hundreds of new products with a total retail value of more than $70,000 are up for grabs, and it's all free to enter in support of your own favorite shelter or rescue group.
To nominate your favorite 501(c)3 shelter or rescue group, simply post it to Dr. Becker's Facebook page (Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker). On May 18, 50 finalists will be chosen randomly, and then voting begins. The group with the most votes gets a grand prize of pet supplies valued at $20,000, with other groups winning additional prizes ranging from $4,000 to $1,000.
For more information on the contest and the tour, visit DrMartyBecker.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.