Ways you can help the most vulnerable pets and people when temperatures rise
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Above-average temperatures in all 50 states are predicted for well into October, according to the federal Climate Prediction Center. That's bad news for pets and people with little protection from the heat: those who live on the streets or have little income for frills such as air conditioning, and seniors, who may have difficulty caring for pets at the best of times, let alone when temperatures soar into triple digits.
Heat can be a big challenge, especially in urban areas, says Lori Weise, founder of Downtown Dog Rescue (DDR) in Los Angeles.
"A person might be able to go inside a building that's air conditioned, but they're not going to be able to bring their dog or cat inside."
If you've ever seen a homeless person with a dog or cat, you may have wondered if they have any special needs, especially when it's hot out. Or maybe you have a neighbor or friend who's a senior citizen and are concerned about how they're faring. It's not always easy to know how to help, but there are some simple, kind ways at all expense levels that you can contribute to their well-being.
You may see homeless people with pets regularly as you walk city streets. Keeping a bottle of water on hand to give away is a generous gesture that doesn't cost much or take much time. Including a silicone collapsible pet bowl is a nice touch; they're available in sets of five for less than $12.
Cooling bandanas for any size pet and cooling vests for small pets are available for less than $10. Carry a couple with you to give away.
Ask what they need. If a grocery store or pet supply store is on your way, offer to buy some water they can share or a bag of food for the pet.
Share information about programs that can help. In Los Angeles, DDR offers a weekly opportunity for shelter and aid.
"We invite anybody living in the Skid Row community to come in to the Inner City Law Center on Wednesdays between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.," Weise says. "Pets are welcome, and we have water and granola bars and pretty comprehensive services for cats and dogs: food, collars, leashes, crates, pretty much any supply they need, including a buggy for older or small dogs."
It's not just homeless people who need help. Families who are struggling because of unemployment or health issues may need help with pet care. Others may simply be inexperienced pet owners who don't recognize that their animals need better shelter, shade or flea treatment.
Options for shelter include looking on Craigslist for a gently used plastic doghouse that you can offer. It's also a good resource for a child's pool that the dog can splash in.
"Home Depot sells shade cloths, and they're inexpensive -- about $39," Weise says. "You could string one of those up in a backyard and instantly have some shade for the dog."
Sometimes people don't know about advances in flea treatment. People who haven't had a dog since childhood may think it's normal for dogs to have fleas. Casually suggest your favorite flea-control product, Weise suggests.
Check in with senior neighbors to see if they need help walking their dog. They may have health conditions that make it unwise or difficult for them to go out in the heat.
"I think people get weird about doing things like that," Weise says. "But you can offer in a way that's not insulting or trying to teach the person a lesson, just saying, 'I would love the honor of treating you to this.'"
How to trim
Q: I just got a new puppy, and I'm afraid to trim her nails. I "quicked" my previous dog once, and I still shudder when I remember the screaming and the blood. How can I do it right? -- via Facebook
A: Ouch! We feel your pain -- and your former dog's. But now is your chance to redeem yourself and set your puppy's paws on the path to good walking condition. Here's how to get started.
First, get the right size clippers for your dog. Ask your veterinarian, a professional groomer or the dog's breeder to recommend an appropriate pair that's not too large and not too small.
Get a lesson. Your veterinarian, a veterinary technician or a professional groomer can demonstrate the best technique to use.
The goal is to trim off the dead part of the nail without hitting the quick -- the blood vessel that feeds the nail. If your dog has white nails, the quick is usually pretty easy to see -- it's the dark line you see running through the middle of the nail. It can be more difficult to spot if your dog has dark nails, but shining a penlight on the nail will often highlight it.
Trimming just before the nail curves is usually the best way to avoid quicking a dog. Hold your puppy's paw firmly in one hand, and use your dominant hand to trim the nail. Do just one or two at a time, taking off just a small amount to make sure you don't hurt her. If necessary, a spouse, child or friend can distract her with a spoonful of peanut butter.
Clip nails often, not only to keep them short, but also to accustom your dog to having her feet handled. How can you tell if the nails are at a good length? They shouldn't touch the ground when your dog is standing. -- Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Truth in labeling?
Not always, study finds
-- Got meat? Seven of 14 pet foods labeled vegetarian or vegan were found to contain traces of meat -- beef, pork or mutton -- according to the results of a study by Nutrition Support Service researchers at the University of California-Davis veterinary hospital. The highly sensitive test detected the presence of mammalian DNA in six dry diets and one canned diet. The foods may have been contaminated with trace amounts of meat-based ingredients during storage or processing, says Dr. Jennifer Larsen, but even if accidental, the presence of meat violates pet food labeling laws. Study results appeared in the Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition.
-- Does your dog need braces? Believe it or not, sometimes orthodontia has therapeutic benefits for pooches with tooth trouble. For instance, a tooth that doesn't line up correctly can dig painfully into the palate and prevent the dog from closing his mouth comfortably. Braces can bring it back into alignment. Braces for Bowser are installed, adjusted and removed with the dog under anesthesia and usually are worn for only a few months. The good news is that a Rin Tin Tin grin costs a lot less than braces for human teenagers.
-- The Million Cat Challenge is halfway toward its goal of saving one million shelter cats over a five-year period. Launched in December 2014 by co-founders Dr. Kate Hurley and Dr. Julie Levy, the campaign is now the world's largest feline life-saving initiative. As of April 4, 2016, 500,000 cats have had their lives saved because of its initiatives to help shelters reduce feline admissions, improve operations, promote adoptions and sterilize and vaccinate feral cats. Currently, more than 900 shelters participate in the program, which is sponsored by Maddie's Fund. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.