HAVE A PLAN FOR YOUR PET JUST IN CASE SOMETHING HAPPENS TO YOU
It's a sad fact of modern life that when we think about disasters, our minds now add terrorist attacks and mass shootings to the natural calamities for which we've long been urged to keep our families prepared -- pets included, of course.
But the fact remains that we're far more likely to encounter a tragedy that won't make the news. Accidents, illness and even sudden death are regular visitors to our lives, and they commonly don't raise an eyebrow outside our immediate circle of friends and family. If something happens to you today, your pets need to be looked after, whether the situation will be temporary or, sadly, permanent.
Are you prepared?
The first step is to make sure someone (or better yet, a couple of people) know that you have pets, where they are and how to care for them. Trade information with other pet-keeping friends, family or neighbors, along with the keys to each other's homes.
I like to recommend making a folder with all your pet's information. Pictures and a physical description of your pet are a good place to start. Add to the file an overview of your pet's medical records, including proof of altering and dates of vaccinations. Instructions for any medications should include not only the dosage and where to find the bottle, but also whatever method you use to entice your pet to swallow the pill.
Don't forget a copy of your pet's license, as well as the name, address and phone number of the animal's veterinarian. Write down some information about the tricks and commands your pet knows, as well as any unique personality quirks, such as a favorite spot to be petted. Keeping all this information in an electronic file is also a good idea -- as long as there are directions on how to find it!
As part of your preparation, talk to your veterinarian about setting up plans for emergency care or boarding. If you're a long-term client who always pays bills promptly, you should have no problem getting your veterinarian to agree to run a tab or charge to your credit card if you cannot be reached immediately. I have an arrangement with my veterinarian that if anyone -- absolutely anyone -- comes in with one of my animals, the doctor will take the pet in and do what needs to be done. And he knows that either I or my heirs will settle the bill later. If you are able to make such arrangements, put those details in the folder, too, and include any information on pet health insurance policies, as well.
The final bit of information for the folder should concern arrangements for your pet if you never come home again. While no one likes to think about this possibility, you have a responsibility to your pets to provide for them after your death. You cannot leave money directly to an animal, but you can leave the animal and money to cover expenses to a trusted friend or relative. In some states, you can establish a trust in your pet's name. Talk to an attorney about what arrangement is best for you and your pets.
You should keep a copy of the file on hand in case you ever need to be evacuated with your pet. And be sure to trade copies with the person you'll be counting on to rescue your pet should you ever not be able to.
Once you have made all the arrangements, make up a card for your wallet. On it, you should note that you have pets, how many and what kind, and the names and numbers of the people whom you have designated to care for them should you suddenly become unable to do so.
A few years ago, I had major surgery, and although everything turned out well, I didn't take it for granted that I would survive, much less thrive. I put such a folder together for each of my pets, complete with arrangements for the worst-case scenario. I surprised myself in that I didn't find the exercise frightening or depressing. On the contrary, I found great peace in knowing that if something happened to me, my beloved pets would be taken care of.
'Toweling' keeps parrots
from biting when handled
Q: My parrot has bitten me badly when I've tried to clip flight feathers or nails. How can I make this easier on us both? -- via e-mail
A: Make sure you're doing these procedures properly to minimize pain. Have an expert show you exactly where and how much to clip those flight feathers and nails, and learn what to do if things get bloody by accident. Ideally, that should be an avian veterinarian, a veterinary technician or someone on the staff of a reputable bird shop.
You'll also need a towel to restrain your bird, and ask for a demonstration of the art of "toweling." An old, clean hand towel is fine for small parrots such as cockatiels and budgies, while a larger bath towel is better for large parrots such as cockatoos and macaws.
My "Birds For Dummies" co-author, avian veterinarian Dr. Brian Speer, says that toweling shouldn't be frightening for the bird. He suggests that you hold the towel with the ends draped over each hand, make eye contact with your bird, and approach from the front. Show your bird the towel and then gently wrap it around the bird, usually from the front. When using a towel to restrain your bird, you do not need to keep direct hold of the head, but do expect a few new holes to be chewed in the towel while you're working with your bird.
Wrap the towel tightly enough to control your bird, but not so tightly as to restrict breathing. Pet birds breathe by moving their breastbones forward and back, like a bellows. You must leave the towel wrapped loosely enough for your bird to draw breath normally.
When your bird is gently wrapped up in the towel, you are in control and can take care of grooming or of investigating any injuries. Attitude is everything: Always handle your bird with respect, but also with gentle firmness.
Keep in mind, too, that the towel is not supposed to terrify your bird. It's a good idea to play "towel games" now and then, covering and uncovering your bird while providing praise and special seeds for treats. That way, your bird won't come to believe the appearance of the towel is always a sign of something uncomfortable and unpleasant to come. -- Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Obesity clinic opens
at Tufts vet school
-- Can fat camp be far behind? Veterinarian Dr. Deborah Linger, a certified veterinary nutritionist, has opens an obesity clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. In yet another example of how trends in human medicine are mirrored in veterinary medicine, the program offers a medical-based regimen that includes counseling on nutrition and exercise, all aimed at helping pet owners trim down their animal companions. More than half of all pets are overweight or obese, and the problem is far from cosmetic -- excess weight triggers chronic disease, including diabetes, and makes problems such as arthritis worse.
-- Following the shocking deaths of lions, tigers, bears and other exotic animals last fall on an Ohio farm after their owner released them before committing suicide, the state has now put regulations in place in hopes of preventing similar tragedies. Ohio was once one of the easiest and least regulated places to keep exotic animals, but no more: The new law prohibits buying, selling, transferring and trading exotic animals. Those who already have them will be allowed to keep them, but they must obtain a license, insurance and have the pets microchipped, among other requirements.
-- The latest specialty in veterinary medicine is one that focuses specifically on animal welfare, reports DVM360.com. The American Veterinary Medical Association's recent recognition of the American College of Animal Welfare gives 23 veterinarians the right tobe certified as experts in the field. Others will be granted the status after meeting requirements set by the new group. The ACAW's mission is to advance animal welfare through education, certification and scientific investigation, and to ensure that the veterinary profession leads advances in animal welfare knowledge. The AVMA currently recognizes 22 other veterinary specialty organizations. -- 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.