TIPS TO MAKE LIFE EASIER ON YOURSELF – AND YOUR DOG
As the veterinarian on "Good Morning America," I'm always hearing about and looking at pictures of other people's pets. I truly enjoy hearing about the love people share with their companion animals.
But being recognized so frequently also means I hear a great deal about the things that bother pet lovers. The other day I was thinking about those annoyances that apply to dogs, and thinking about the knowledge I'm always sharing with people. I've written entire books sharing tips and cutting-edge information, but here's a short list of seven secrets I wish more dog owners knew:
-- 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. Veterinarians like me hate to treat -- and even worse, to lose -- pets who've suffered accidents that can be easily prevented. By keeping all medications -- human and pet prescriptions, and all over-the-counters -- safely locked away, you'll protect your pet from this 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: 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 (such as Rimadyl) can put the bounce back in your old dog's step. Ask your veterinarian!
-- Secret No. 5: Most people want to take advantage of the incredible advances in veterinary medicine, from stem cell treatments to chemotherapy, but many simply can't afford them. The solution for them is a pet health insurance policy, which can cover the bulk of costs for an expensive accident or illness without forcing any compromises on care.
-- Secret No. 6: It's easy to save money on pet care without shortchanging your pet. While you shouldn't skip wellness exams (they can spot a problem when it's still easier and less expensive to treat) or lower the quality of your dog's food (good nutrition means good health), you can save money by price-shopping for prescription medications (but do give your veterinarian the option of matching prices), buying items in bulk and sharing with others, keeping your pet thin (and therefore healthier) and even bartering for your pet's needs.
-- Secret No. 7: "Yearly shots" are no longer recommended. Current advice is to tailor vaccines to fit your pet. Most all dogs should now get "core" vaccines on a three-year cycle for the most common and most deadly diseases, including parvovirus and distemper. All dogs need rabies shots on a schedule set by law. But other vaccines may depend on a dog's breed type, size or the region where you live, and you'll need to go over the options with your veterinarian.
It's not hard or expensive to make life easier and better for both you and your dog. You just have to know the secrets!
Cats love to chew
on fresh grasses
Q: We have two cats, and I need some suggestions on how to get them to leave the houseplants alone. -- via Facebook
A: Give your cats their own plants and make yours harder to get to. That way you can both be happy.
For your cat's chewing pleasure, always keep a pot of tender grass seedlings -- rye, alfalfa and wheat -- growing in a sunny spot. Parsley and thyme are herbs that many cats enjoy smelling and chewing, and both can be grown indoors. Try some different varieties, especially with the parsley.
Catnip is a natural for any cat garden, but the herb is so appealing to some cats that they just won't leave it alone. Keep seedlings out of reach of your pet, or the plant may never get a chance to reach maturity. Once you've got a mature plant, snip off pieces to give your cat, stuff into toys or rub on cat trees.
When your cat has his own plants, you can work on keeping him away from yours. Put plants up high, or better yet, hang them. For the plants you can't move out of harm's way, make them less appealing by coating leaves with something your cat finds disagreeable. Cat-discouragers include Bitter Apple, a nasty-tasting substance available at any pet-supply store, or Tabasco sauce from the grocery store. Whenever you find what your cat doesn't like, keep reapplying it to enforce the point.
To prevent digging, pot your plants in heavy, wide-bottomed containers and cover the soil of the problem plants with rough decorative rock.
Remember that some houseplants, especially lilies, are toxic to cats. Check the list provided by the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA.org/APCC) and rehome any plants that are dangerous to your pets. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Gina Spadafori
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Cats can -- and do --
fall out of windows
-- If you live anywhere above the ground floor, your cat could be injured falling out of a window. They're just not able to understand the risk, and sometimes jump after something interesting, such as a bird. As the weather warms, people will be opening windows, putting their pets at risk. But it's possible to give a cat fresh air safely, no matter what kind of housing you have. If you're in multifamily housing, you may be allowed to add heavy screening to a balcony to give your cat access to fresh air and a good view. If you're in a detached home, you can put in a more permanent structure, such as a screened-in multilevel cat playground. And don't open any windows that don't have screens.
-- You've made it as a birder if you see a bird with what appears to be bubbles on his chest, making a popping noise in hopes of attracting a mate. Experts in American bird species say the Gunnison sage grouse, which is found in Utah and Colorado, is the country's rarest, with fewer than 5,000 remaining. Discovery magazine says the Gunnison was discovered only 13 years ago, and its numbers have been falling ever since. Private efforts to halt the population's decline have not been effective, leading to efforts for the bird to be included on the federal endangered species list.
-- Obesity is a problem in parrots, too. Some of the signs of obesity include rolls of fat around the abdomen and hip areas, along with cleavage on the abdomen or breast area. The skin of most normal pet birds is typically very thin and quite transparent. When the skin is wetted with rubbing alcohol, you should be able to see dark pink or red muscle underneath. In overweight birds, you see yellowish fat instead. Overweight birds will also commonly exhibit labored breathing after exertion or heat intolerance. Check with a veterinarian with expertise in avian care to determine root causes and develop a plan for your bird's return to full health. -- Dr. Marty Becker and 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.