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The Great Pet Vaccination Debate

Vet VisitIf you’re like me, you get friendly reminder cards from your veterinarian each year asking you to set up an appointment for an exam and any required vaccinations for your pet.  It got me thinking. Children-of-the-human-variety receive their vaccinations and booster shots in their childhood and adolescence, but the immunity to most of those diseases lasts through adulthood.  As our pets become more like children to us, pet parents are starting to question whether or not our pets truly need vaccinated every year or if the vaccinations could be causing more harm than good.

A few years ago, I walked into my vet’s office with my new puppy, my first as an adult. I was bombarded by pamphlets and discussions on all the different diseases that Barrett could be vaccinated against. It was my vet doing most of the talking, and I trusted (and still trust) that they are only trying to do what is best for my pets’ health. He told me about diseases, how they are contracted and, truthfully, almost scared me into signing Barrett up for every vaccine offered. What I didn’t hear from him were the possible side effects of the vaccine, how effective it really was against the diseases it claimed to prevent or if over-vaccinating can have adverse side effects. Doctors and vets operate on a risk/benefit comparison. If the collective benefit of a vaccine is greater than the potential risk, the vaccine is recommended.

How many different diseases should a pet be vaccinated against, and how often should the boosters be administered? Read More »

Pets and Plants Living In Harmony

Cat and Kitten_4522I have 2 main loves in my life (aside from my husband and family, of course): My pets, or furchildren as I like to call them, and gardening. From time to time these two loves clash. Most of my friends’ cats don’t bother the garden or the houseplants. Mine, on the other hand, have a knack for grazing on just about everything in sight. My dogs are equally mischievous. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve gotten up in the middle of the night to hear a crash in the kitchen only to find a beloved houseplant lying on the floor, dirt everywhere, and the culprit(s) nowhere to be found or found a pup trotting towards me in the yard with a seedling or two in tow.

So what is a plant enthusiast to do? First and foremost I always consider the safety and health of my pets. Before I decide to bring home a new plant, I check the ASPA’s list of poisonous plants.  The list may seem daunting at first, but there are still a lot of plants that you can bring into your home or garden that are safe for pets.  Another thing to consider is that some plants are only mildly toxic to pets, while others can be highly toxic.

mimeticSecondly I do a mental check of where the plant will reside in my home or garden, and determine if those areas are accessible to my pets. There are few places inside my house that my cats can’t reach, but they do exist, and that is where my most prized plants reside. I also have a lot of hanging baskets that the cats can’t reach.  I’ve unofficially classified my dogs as ‘diggers’ and because I know their behavior around potted plants usually leads to a muddy disaster in my house, I avoid placing plants in dog territory at dog level. A lot of keeping the peace between pets and plants requires proactive planning. Read More »

A Legacy of Cats in Rome From Antiquity to Present Day

Cat Mosaic from PompeiiDomesicated cats have a deeply rooted history in culture. Most of us are familiar with depictions and roles of ancient felines in Egyptian society, but did you know that cats were also prevalent in ancient Rome?

Domesticated cats were carried to Europe by Phoenician trade ships about 3000 years ago. This African subspecies mingled with European subspecies giving rise to the domestic cats we still keep today. There is some debate whether, in ancient times, cats were considered pests or prized predators. It is evident that these pets were valued for their hunting prowess, often tolerated for keeping rodent populations at bay and left free to roam temples and estates for the same reason. Roman soldiers transported cats on conquests to keep grain stores safe. There are also other positive associations of cats in lore that supports that they were more than just a presence, though not perhaps favored as pampered pets as much in Roman society as dogs, birds and other exotic pets at the time. Cats are associated with the goddesses Diana (goddess of the hunt) and Libertas (goddess of freedom). Regardless of how the Romans of that age felt about cats, their place in culture had been established. Read More »

Black Dog Syndrome – Discrimination Against Darkly Colored Pets

Black Lab“In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise.”
– Edgar Allan Poe, “The Black Cat”

Have you ever visited a pet shelter or rescue and noticed that their resident pets were mostly dark in color? It probably wasn’t your imagination. The idea that black dogs and other dark colored pets remain in shelters longer, and are more often euthanized than pets of other colors, is debated by some. But people who volunteer, work in or run animal shelters can tell you that the seeming discrimination against black animals is a reality. The condition has been given a name–Black Dog Syndrome.  Despite the gentle and loving personalities thes pets may have they are often passed over for others in the shelter, but why?  Having known and lived with several inky-black cats and dogs, I can attest that each was as affectionate and sweet as their yellow, white, tan, brown or grey counterparts, maybe even more so.  In fact, their satiny, glossy black coat may have even made them more appealing to me. So what causes these pets to be passed overin a shelter situation? Read More »

Controlling Allergies in Homes with Pets

Cold?Allergies. The very word causes many people to shudder. The itchy eyes, stuffy and runny nose aren’t fun to deal with, but a lot of us suffer from allergies; about 1 in every 4 Americans has an allergy of some sort. Some of the more common allergies are seasonal allergies (outdoor allergies) and pet allergies (indoor allergies). So, what are you supposed to do if you want a dog or a cat, but you are allergic to their dander? Depending on the severity of your symptoms there may be a way to reduce your symptoms if you decide to adopt a pet.

Tilly - IMGP3818There are many dogs and a few cats available today that are advertised as ‘hypoallergenic breeds’.  They are usually smaller companion dogs, such as Yorkies, Bichon Frises, and Maltese, or hairless breeds of cats and dogs. The truth is there is not a single breed that is hypoallergenic. All dogs and cats produce dander, excess hair and saliva that contain the allergens that cause our allergic symptoms. These smaller dogs and hairless breeds are often presented as hypoallergenic because they simply produce fewer allergens. These breeds have a slower shedding cycle and often require frequent haircuts and grooming to keep their hair a manageable length. The size of the dog is also relevant, as a larger dog will produce more dander and excess fur! Even with these benefits it is important to note that so-called hypoallergenic breeds produce allergens, and each pet is individual and can produce more allergens than its littermate.

What is a pet lover to do if a family member (or yourself) has an allergy? There are some options, though admittedly they are limited. If you are willing, there are many pharmaceuticals available both with a prescription and without to alleviate your allergy symptoms. Schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss your personal options, and any risks associated with medication.

You may also want to consider the size and coat-type of your pet. Choose a smaller pet (who produces fewer allergens) and one that doesn’t shed excessively. A German Shepherd or a Siberian Husky might not be best option for a household with allergies. No matter what breed you adopt you will want to adjust your cleaning regime.

CleaningReducing allergens in your home is possible, but can be costly depending on how resolute you are.  Some of the more manageable changes include vacuuming flooring and furniture daily, washing rugs and throws frequently, washing pet bedding and crates weekly, washing your clothing after a single wear, and washing your curtains, blinds and linens frequently. If you are purchasing a new vacuum cleaner, look for one designed for pet hair and one that contains a HEPA filter, which you should change every month or two.

If you have central air or forced heat in your home the ventilation system is spreading allergens throughout your home. Consider fitting your unit with a HEPA filter, or investing in a central air purifier which, when used at least 4 hours a day, can significantly reduce allergens in your home. If you plan to make major renovations to your home, consider opting for hard wood or linoleum flooring instead of carpeting, and limit your use of area rugs and throws.

JR in bedA lot of dog lovers, including myself, love to share the bed with pets. If you have allergies, you might want to think twice about snuggling up with Fido for 8 hours each night. You might sleep more peacefully, and feel better in the morning, if your bedroom is strictly pet-free. Set up your pets a warm, comfy bed in another room, or consider crate-training your pet at night and when you are away from the house.  Most pets can be conditioned to enjoy time in their crate if you take the time to train them properly. You should also invest in dust covers for your mattresses and pillows to keep any residual pet allergens at bay.

There are also some grooming habits that can reduce the number of allergens your pet spreads in your home. Consider bathing your pet or having them groomed once over week or two, as long as their skin doesn’t dry out or become itchy. In between baths, have a non-allergic member of your family wipe your pet’s fur with a bath wipe or baby wipe every day or two. To reduce even more allergies, have them do this outside of the home and immediately dispose of the wipes in the garbage.

Make it a habit to wash your hands after interacting or petting your animal, and don’t touch your eyes or face immediately after touching them. If you can’t find a non-allergic family member to do the cleaning or grooming while you are out of the house, arm yourself with a dust mask to reduce the number of allergens you are exposed to during these sometimes unpleasant, but necessary tasks. Always have an antihistamine on hand (such as Benadryl) in case of a sudden allergy attack.

 

buddiesIf you are or a family member is allergic to dogs, and you choose to try to manage that allergy and adopt a dog, be sure to have a solid back-up plan in case the allergies become unbearable. Allergies can build and develop over time, so after a few months living with your new pet, allergies might become more severe. Before bringing your pet home, develop a back-up plan to either co-exist with your pet and your allergies, and have an alternative home set up ahead of time with a reliable friend or family member who will care for the pet if you are unable to. After you adopt a pet, they become your responsibility to care for. It isn’t fair to your new pet to be put back into a shelter for something that they cannot control. We’re all pet lovers and advocates here, so I don’t think that won’t be a problem among our readers.

Owning a pet can be a rewarding experience that is second to none. Often the companionship and friendship that your furry friend will give you outweigh the hassle of allergy shots, excessive cleanliness, and expense that comes with managing allergies. Each person, pet, and their allergies/allergens are unique. Do plenty of research and prepare yourself well in advance of choosing a pet and you will be rewarded tenfold.

Thanks,

Heather

Cat Trees – A View From Above

New Cat TreeOne of the very first things I learned when I got my first kitten was that they love to climb and perch at the highest level of a room. I would come home to pin pricks in my curtains and kittens perched at the tops of the windows. When they got bigger, I would return to holes in the curtains or draperies on the floor. Read More »

Warm Weather Worries – Common Pet Parasites and Pests

FleaParasites can afflict pets any time of the year, however during the spring and summer months, they tend to be more prevalent. Our pets spend a lot more time outside when the weather is warm, and parasites breed more readily. Even if your pets spend all or most of their time indoors, it is possible for parasites to find them whether carried in on our clothes or by crawling through our screen doors. Here are some common parasites to look out for and ways to combat them this summer. Read More »

Dealing with Pet Hair & Shedding

Do you see the hair?Don’t you wish that you could stop your pets from shedding all over the house? Shedding is a natural occurrence in all dogs and cats, except hairless breeds. Some shed their coats more often than others; some breeds shed seasonally and others rain fur all over your house all year. I currently have three dogs, two of which seem to shed enough for at least a dozen dogs! While, it isn’t possible to stop shedding altogether, there are some preventative measures you can take to keep the hair in your house to a minimum.

 

Read More »

Pet Obesity

Big and RoundObesity in pets is becoming an epidemic and is a top health concern for pets according to veterinarians. It is estimated that 54 million cats and 34 million dogs in the US are clinically obese. Many pet owners struggle with keeping their pets at an ideal weight…it’s hard to deny those puppy dog eyes and we just want our pets to be happy, right, so why can’t they have a few extra treats if they want them? Unfortunately, a few extra pounds can be detrimental. The excess weight on our pets can cause a variety of other health problems, the same way obesity can have adverse effects on human health.  A few extra pounds on a dog may not seem like anything to worry about, but the added weight can exacerbate arthritis, cause joint and bone issues, and it can greatly increase the possibility that your pet will develop diabetes or cardiac/respiratory disease. Thier immune systems can be diminished, making their ability to fight off other illnesses and disease.  It’s best to learn how to prevent pet obesity before weight related complications arise, because even if your pet loses weight, the damage may be irreversible. Read More »

Investing in Pet Insurance

 CockatielRecently, my 14 year old female cockatiel, Charlie was pacing at the bottom of her cage (her usual method of begging to be let out) when she got her leg caught in the grating of the cage. Panicked, I raced forward to help her, but unfortunately my bird’s panic took over and she injured her leg trying to free herself. I knew immediately she had broken it because she could not use it at all and there was blood on her perch, indicating that the bone had gone through the skin. I rushed her to the emergency vet and 4 hours and $360 later, she was ready to go home, dressed in a splint and bird sized e-collar. She’s recovering well, which is great news, however the cost of this endeavor got me to thinking: would pet insurance be worth the investment? Read More »

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