This week is a perfect storm of pet celebrations
Andrews McMeel Syndication
I often say, “There’s only one greatest pet in the world, and every family has it.” I’m sure you agree.
I was in a business recently, and the winner of the Employee of the Month contest was the owner’s dog -- as it had been every month for the past three years. (The dog is 3 years old.)
I’m not only a veteran veterinarian of 43 years, I’m also a lifetime pet lover. Just like you, I give our dogs nibbles from the table; I love to watch them tap dance for treats, almost rub the fur off of them in the evening while watching TV and let them take over the lion’s share of the bed.
And while our pampered pooches and fussed-on felines would probably like us to celebrate and spoil them every single day of the year with special meals, tasty treats, play and even massage, this particular month focuses on pets in several ways.
In May we celebrate Be Kind to Animals Week (May 1-7; created in 1915 by American Humane); National Pet Week (May 7-13; created by the AVMA in 1981); and Dog Anxiety Awareness Week (May 1-7; created by Assisi Animal Health).
If you go to the websites for these events, you can find a lot of great curated information designed to celebrate that special bond -- that affection-connection -- we share with our beloved pets, as well as tips and tactics to help them live happier, healthier, fuller lives.
In addition, here are my Top 5 tips to make your pet’s life the best:
1) Choose wisely. Most people spend more time looking for the right Range Rover than the right Rover. Consider your home, age, lifestyle and financial situation when choosing a pet. If you live in a small high-rise apartment and work 10-hour days, a border collie is probably not for you. Today’s hottest pet, the French bulldog? Honestly, with the breed’s myriad medical issues, probably not the best choice for the vast majority of prospective pet parents.
2) Plan for care. My sister is a physician, and she never has talks about the cost of her medical recommendations with patients. Conversely, veterinarians almost always have conversations about the costs of their recommendations. The difference is in insurance. I highly recommend purchasing pet health insurance because when your pet becomes sick or injured, you want the best medicine -- not just what you can afford. I’m a veterinarian, and I have pet insurance for all of our pets. Why? Because some procedures -- like a kidney transplant in a cat -- can cost $35,000, and some cancer treatments can soar to the tens of thousands of dollars.
3) Exercise. While fat cats and pudgy pooches are funny in cartoons, in real life they’re like tubby time bombs ticking away. These animals’ bodies are built for movement. Try and exercise your pet daily. If you can’t because of time or inability, consider day care or hiring a dog walker.
4) Nutrition. Feed smart. Don’t fall for slick marketing campaigns or aggressive sales associates at stores encouraging you to buy wildly expensive pet foods. Your dog or cat will do just fine on widely available medium-priced national brand commercial foods.
5) Healthy pets visit vets. Pets can’t tell you how they were injured, where they hurt or even how they feel. Sure, we can see clues -- loss of appetite, lethargy, limping -- but only through regular visits to the veterinarian can your pet receive a comprehensive physical exam, diagnostic tests if needed and preventive care. For you, the pet parent, regular vet visits alert you to emerging risks in your community and provide you with answers to your pet health questions.
Q: My cat is always so unhappy in the car. Do cats get carsick?
A: You bet! Cats don’t really enjoy new experiences, and riding in the car is one of those things that they don’t do very often, so it makes them anxious.
Being picked up, crammed into a carrier (as so many people do) and placed in a moving vehicle that makes noise, smells funny and makes their tummy roil is a recipe for carsickness when it comes to most cats.
Motion-sick cats might not turn a sickly pea-green color, but they may yowl, pace (as much as they can in a carrier), lick their lips, drool, vomit or have diarrhea. None of that is pleasant for them -- or you.
So how are you supposed to get your cat to the vet or get her moved to your new home? The good news is that cats can be desensitized or counterconditioned to being in a carrier and riding in the car. The bad news is that you need to start well in advance, from a few days to a few weeks, to help accustom your kitty to car travel. I don’t have enough space here to describe how to do that, but this article can get you started: fearfreehappyhomes.com/teach-your-cat-to-go-into-a-carrier-without-a-struggle.
Once your cat is comfortable going into a carrier, you can take steps to make car rides more comfortable, too. Tips include playing audiobooks (maybe a cat-centric mystery or fantasy) or cat-specific music; using a pheromone plug-in made for use in cars; placing the carrier on a level area where it won’t tip over, like the footwell of the rear passenger seat; putting a T-shirt you’ve worn into the carrier with her to provide a sense of familiarity; and talking to your veterinarian about anti-anxiety or anti-nausea nutraceuticals or medications that can help. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
What to look for
when boarding bird
-- Need to board your bird? Many birds are social and may enjoy a stay at an avian veterinary clinic or bird shop that offers boarding. Avian boarding facilities may have health testing requirements that must be met before they’ll take in a bird. Whether or not testing is required, look for one that controls the amount of exposure birds have with one another to ensure that your bird doesn’t acquire any diseases while there. Ideally, the facility you choose should emphasize good food (not a seed diet), plenty of enrichment to keep your bird entertained and cleanliness. Ask if there’s a bird cam so you can check in on your feathered friend while you’re away. With your permission, staff may post photos of your bird on social media or text photos to you. Last but not least, a great facility should be staffed by people who really know and love birds and will give your bird the best care possible.
-- It’s spring, but don’t be surprised if you see a sled dog team in training. Top competitors train nearly year-round, switching to sleds with wheels when snow disappears. Competitive sled dogs are usually a blend called Alaskan huskies, selectively bred for traits such as endurance, strength, speed, intelligence, problem-solving, aptitude for pulling and tolerance for extreme weather. While many different breeds have contributed to their makeup, studies have shown that they have a distinct genetic signature.
-- Burmese cats are solid and muscular, living up to their description of “bricks wrapped in silk.” These intelligent, charming, talkative cats often enjoy interacting with kids and dogs or spending time with their people. Burmese have a short, silky, easy-care coat that comes in sable, champagne, blue and platinum. Expect a Burmese to chat with you in a deep, raspy, rumbling voice. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts. Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker is founder of the Fear Free organization, co-founder of VetScoop.com and author of many best-selling pet care books. Kim Campbell Thornton is an award-winning journalist and author who has been writing about animals since 1985. Mikkel Becker is a behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/Kim.CampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.