YOUR VETERINARIAN NEEDS TO BE A PARTNER IN YOUR PET'S HEALTH
Time passes at such a crazy pace -- and if age creeps up swiftly on us humans, then it practically gallops where our pets are concerned.
Because pets age more quickly than people, they may get illnesses earlier than you'd think. Making sure your pet has regular checkups with the veterinarian is the best way to catch and treat developing health issues before they become serious problems.
I recommend twice-yearly wellness visits. Just as in human medicine, veterinary care has come a long way in its ability to detect health problems before they become symptomatic -- and to treat many of those problems simply and effectively.
The old adage about an ounce of prevention is just as true in your pet's life as it is in your own. Preventive, proactive veterinary care can add years to your pet's life.
For some pets, the veterinarian is just a vaguely familiar person who gives them treats and rudely palpates their privates once a year. For others, though, this is someone associated with all kinds of discomfort: strange and disturbing odors, barks and hisses of unfamiliar animals, and memories of pain from visits during an illness or following an accident. The veterinarian's office can be a scary place, indeed.
But it doesn't have to be that way, and it shouldn't be.
Making sure you and your pet have found the right veterinary practice can cut down on the stress and strain of visits. Having a practitioner -- and an actual veterinary practice, from front desk to veterinary technicians and more -- you can trust and count on when it comes to your pet's health care is essential to your pet having a life as long, healthy and happy as possible. Because without a well-run practice, an expert team and great veterinarians, neither you nor your pet will be likely to go as often as you need to, and that means less than optimal health for your pet.
What makes a great veterinarian? It starts with your level of confidence and trust and goes from there.
-- Does your dog's veterinarian put you at ease? Do you feel comfortable calling or coming in with any question or concern? Are you taken seriously when you bring your pet in for something non-specific, like overtiredness, a slight change in bathroom habits or becoming snippy with the kids?
-- Does the veterinarian acknowledge your role as "Dogtor Mom" or "Dogtor Dad"? A good practitioner respects the fact that you are her eyes and ears at home. You're the one who knows your pet's normal habits and attitudes, and you can be trusted to raise an alarm when something is outright wrong or your pet is just a little "off."
Do you like the way pets are treated at the practice? It's fair to expect to have confidence in everyone from the receptionist to the surgeon in your vet's practice. Ask for a tour of the entire clinic before becoming a client. Beyond reception areas and exam rooms are the areas where the nitty-gritty work of the office takes place, and most veterinarians will be happy to show you around. Employee- and pet-only rooms should reflect the same level of care, compassion and cleanliness as the ones out front. In fact, they must. I have a mantra that you should demand from your veterinarian: that she treat your pet exactly as if you were standing there looking over her shoulder.
When you find the veterinarian you can feel that way about, you have found the right one. Make that appointment for a wellness check and get your pet's health on track!
(Dr. Marty Becker is currently on a national tour for "Your Cat: The Owner's Manual," his newest book with fellow Pet Connection writer Gina Spadafori. "Your Dog: The Owner's Manual" is now available in paperback. For information on where to meet Dr. Becker, visit Vetstreet.com/dr-marty-becker.)
Be ready to leave
a dog park quickly
Q: I disagree with your opinion on dog parks, and so does the dog-trainer whose class we took. She says she would never step foot in one. I know people who have had their pets attacked! Please spread the word. -- via Facebook
A: Dog parks tend to be only as good as the people using them, but I wouldn't put them all into the category of "never visit." As dog owners, we all need to look out for the safety of our own dogs as well as make sure our dogs are not causing problems for others using a dog park or run.
So how can you tell a "good" park from a "bad" one?
The best way to check out a dog park is to go during off-peak hours. You want to see clean grounds and clear rules for pickup and good behavior, a double-gated entry so dogs don't walk in on leash (a known fight trigger), and, in the best parks, a separate area for small dogs so they're not trampled or looked at as prey by large ones. People should be paying attention to keep their own dogs out of trouble, not answering their e-mail and checking their text messages.
And since a "good" park can change when a clueless person steps in with a dog who shouldn't be there, you need to be prepared to leave when you do not feel safe.
When they work, dog parks are great for getting pets the exercise they need. When they don't work, they put people and pets at risk of injuries, perhaps even deadly ones. So go forth and unleash, but do so with common sense and caution. -- Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com.
How many bones
for cat? Depends
-- No one really can say how many bones a cat has, and the Manx is one of the reasons why. A long-tailed Maine Coon cat will have more vertebrae than a Manx with no tail or a Manx mix with just part of a tail. And a cat with extra toes -- they're called polydactyl -- will have extra bones as a result. The range is usually between 230 and 250, with the average cat counting about 244 bones. Any way you count it, the average cat has about 30 more bones than we do. But we have something cats don't: collarbones. Without a collarbone, though, a cat can fit its body through openings the size of its head. Assuming he isn't overweight, of course.
-- Fleas aren't just an annoying problem for your pet, they can also transmit disease to humans. When you protect your pet against fleas, ticks and other parasites, you are minimizing your risk from zoonotic disease. Talk to your veterinarian about what parasite control is most effective in your area.
-- Was your pet just skunked? Take 1 quart of 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, such as Ivory. Mix and immediately apply to the stinky pet. Then rinse thoroughly with tap water. For a big dog, such as a Labrador, you might double the recipe to improve coverage. Common sense dictates keeping the mix out of sensitive areas like the eyes and ears. Obviously, no one wants to take the time to run to the store when you have a stinky dog, so buy the ingredients now and keep them on hand. But remember -- don't mix them until immediately before application. And don't store the leftovers. -- Mikkel Becker and Dr. Marty Becker
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 affiliated with Vetstreet.com and 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.