IF A DOG OR CAT IS GOING TO MESS, YOU'LL FIND IT -- WITH A BARE FOOT
When I was in high school, I signed up for physics and calculus. I knew that to become a veterinarian I would have to develop a far greater grasp of science and math than the one I seemed to have been born with.
My physics teacher gave me a "C" out of mercy. My calculus teacher wasn't nearly as generous, and I spent the rest of my academic career -- high school and college -- sticking as close to the English department as I could. I abandoned all hope of veterinary medicine and settled (more or less) happily into a career as a writer specializing in pet care and veterinary medicine.
But that doesn't mean I'm incapable of making a brilliant scientific discovery.
Oh sure, maybe mine doesn't have anything to do with mass or energy. And OK, so maybe the people who hand out the Nobel Prizes won't be calling. But that doesn't mean my discovery has no significance to the lives of millions of people. Consider this: How often do you recognize the importance of, say, Einstein's work in your daily life?
Everyone who has spent more than a month with a cat or dog has stepped squarely into my discovery. In fact, stepping in it is just the way I happened upon it.
Call it Gina's Law of the Well-Placed Pet Mess. No matter how large the floor, pet-related organic matter will always be placed where a human being is most likely to plant a bare foot. Poop, pee, barf or hairball -- it doesn't matter. If it lands on the floor, chances are you'll step in it.
Keep the cleaning supplies handy, and accept it as one of the absolute laws of nature. You have no other choice.
Of course, one can't rest on one's laurels. I'd been working until recently on proving my theory that the affection level of pets is directly related to the level of contrast between the color of their fur and that of the shirt you're wearing. I thought I had it nailed when I discovered that my black sweater was irresistible to white cats. But then I noticed that my friend's golden retriever was just as eager to snuggle no matter what I was wearing, shedding her long, silky fur without regard to my reputation as a scientist.
I've now shelved the Gina's Law of Shedding in favor of a field of study that shows more promise: the apparent ability of pets to do whatever is most embarrassing to you in front of the person you'd be most mortified to have see it. Call it Gina's Law of That's Not My Pet: I Think He Belongs to the Neighbors.
When one of my dogs brought my dirty underwear out to meet a person I'd just starting seeing (in what I hoped would become a romantic way), I knew I was on to something. And then a friend called with the exciting news that her dog had managed on a recent occasion to upchuck what was clearly a feminine hygiene product in front of a visiting minister.
With news like that, can you fault me for believing that my best scientific discoveries are still in front of me? All that's left is to name the phenomenon and wait for the media to call.
Smaller dogs need
more dental care
Q: Are you aware of any genetic problems with small dogs that cause them to have excessive plaque buildup? If so, are there any remedies? -- via email
A: As a general rule, the smaller the dog, the faster the plaque buildup. For most dogs and cats, regular dental cleanings (as often as twice a year in some cases) are as important to pets' long-term health as they are to ours. Keeping teeth in good health prevents bad breath, preserves teeth into old age, and protects their organs from the constant shower of bacteria caused by rotting teeth and gums. Over the course of a lifetime, good dental health will add significantly to your pet's quality of life and perhaps even extend his lifetime.
You should not attempt to clean your dog's teeth with a dental pick because you likely will cause more problems than you'll prevent -- damaging the surface of the tooth enamel and, in so doing, giving bacteria a nice little niche to call home. Nor should you patronize a "no-anesthesia" groomer to clean your pet's teeth, since all that does is make bad teeth look better cosmetically.
Start your pet's dental health regimen with a trip to your veterinarian, who should check your pet's mouth, teeth and gums. Then he or she can make recommendations based on what is found. For many pets, that'll mean a complete dentistry under anesthesia, and possibly some periodontal work and even the removal of broken or rotting teeth.
After the problems are treated, at-home care can keep things in good shape. Here are the basics:
-- Brush or wipe the teeth regularly. Use a toothpaste designed for dogs and cats a couple of times a week at least, although daily is better. A children's soft toothbrush works well, as does one made especially for pets. You can also use a brush that fits over your fingertip, or plain gauze wrapped around your finger. Some vets suggest that gauze may be more readily accepted by cats, especially if dipped in tuna or clam juice first.
-- Offer teeth-cleaning foods and toys. Diets designed to scrape teeth may help, but these must be used in combination with regular brushing and with toys that help wipe the teeth. Soft chewies or a rope toy are best. Avoid chews that are rock-hard or are prone to breaking into sharp pieces, as these can break teeth or slice gums. Your veterinarian can also suggest rinses that help keep the teeth and mouth healthier.
With proper home care, you'll slow the buildup of plaque and increase the time between cleanings by your veterinarian. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
still killing pets
-- Chicken jerky treats made in China and sold by several companies have been implicated in pet deaths, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The FDA has been unable to identify the source of the problem, and veterinary experts have cautioned people to read labels and avoid the treats. More recently, concerns have spread as complaints about sick pets have come in to the FDA about other Chinese-made treats. More than a thousand pets have been killed by the treats, according to the FDA. Some companies have so far refused to recall the products, which remain for sale through many retailers.
-- Veterinary Pet Insurance dug through its database to come up with a list of the most unusual names for cats: Pico Del Gato, Dingleberry, Dumpster Kitty, Schnickelfritz, Koobenfarben, Sassy Pants Huska, Vincent Van, Kitty Gaga, Beefra and Mister Biggl.
-- According to LiveScience.com, dogs who are trained to help people with epilepsy are able to alert to a seizure almost an hour before it happens. These dogs join the wide-ranging ranks of dogs whose special skills help people cope with illness, including those who alert to falling blood sugar levels for diabetics. -- Gina Spadafori
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.