You and your pet
Pets have specific daily needs and fulfilling these will make for a happier, more trusting pet.
Pet vaccinations, similar to human vaccinations, protect animals from life-threatening illness. Using parallel methods of protection as in humans, pet vaccines initiate defensive immune response, preparing the animal’s body to fight a potential future infection. Depending on your pet type and geographical location, the veterinarian will recommend vaccinations based on their need for protection. Pet vaccinations, especially for young pets, are highly recommended.
Why vaccinate pets?
It is important to vaccinate pets for the same reasons it is important to vaccinate humans. Pets, especially those kept outdoors, are highly susceptible to numerous health risks, some of which may even cause death. In majority of cases, vaccination prevents these illnesses, averting the spread of infection. Within the last few years, the occurrence of numerous diseases has lessened due to the increase in pet owner awareness and the increase in pet vaccination.
Risks of pet vaccinations
Vaccinations carry very little risk, though some pets may experience adverse, mild and temporary reactions. The most common side-effects are:
- Pain or swelling at the injection site
The following side-effects should be promptly communicated to the veterinarian:
- Excessive pain or swelling lasting longer than two days
- Inability to sleep
- Swollen legs or face
- Trouble breathing
When should my pet be vaccinated?
After purchasing your new pet, contact your veterinarian to inquire about creating a vaccination schedule. Pets are vaccinated on a routine schedule, with younger pets requiring multiple series of vaccines to gradually build up immunity. Also, younger pets are more susceptible to infection because their immune systems are less developed, thus a series of vaccinations is critical. The veterinarian will implement a vaccination schedule according to local regulation, as well as protecting your new pet from common diseases within your locality.
Your pet’s first veterinary exam is important to their well-being. As a responsible pet owner, it is critical that you provide your pet with superior care; taking your new pet to the veterinarian is the first step. The veterinarian will want to get acquainted with your new family addition as well as offer advice on nutrition and general health.
Pets purchased from breeders are often given a particular window to get the animal examined. Typically, an exam within the first week of ownership is recommended to ensure the animal is in good health. During your first visit, you will be required to fill out forms for your pet’s medical record, so be sure to have important personal information with you in order to complete the paperwork.
During your visit, the veterinarian will perform a new pet physical, and the following will be thoroughly examined:
- Abdominal area for bloat or abnormality
- Bellybutton (in puppies and kittens) for possible hernia
- Condition of the skin and coat
- Genitals for malformation
- Heart and lungs to check for irregularity
- Joint movement
- Teeth, ears, and eyes
Getting to know your pet
When first visiting the veterinarian, it is important for the physician to get to know your pet’s personality and disposition. The vet may also ask questions about your pet’s behavior, diet, and daily activities. In getting to know your new pet, the veterinarian will establish the pet’s medical record, taking note of specific habits. This provides a record of normalcy to which the veterinarian can compare your pet should they ever be brought in when you report odd behaviors. Getting better acquainted with your new pet will also enable the vet to recommend suitable vaccinations for their lifestyle.
After you bring your pet home, it is important to implement the rules of the house right away. Introducing your pet to obedience training can strengthen the bond between owner and pet and provides a level of expectation for your pet. One of the most important training regimens to begin is “potty-training”, so pets have an understanding of where they should relieve themselves. Both male and female animals urinate to mark their territory, so bathroom training is essential. Remember that when training, you have to be consistent with training regimens, and communicate in a way that your pet understands.
What pets can be trained?
Nearly any pet can be trained when given enough attention, patience, and time. Some trainable pets include:
Newspaper and litter box training
Litter box training a cat is one of the simplest things to teach a pet. Once you show your cat where the box is, gently scrape its paw in the litter, informing the cat that they are allowed to dig; this will peak their interest, as they prefer to bury their waste. Start by limiting your cat to the litter box area, closing off other rooms of the home. After your cat begins to use it faithfully, gradually give the cat more space away from the litter box. If your cat has an accident outside of the box, check to make sure the box is clean. Cats are very meticulous and prefer clean spaces; if the litter box is too dirty, your cat may start relieving themselves just outside of it.
Bunnies can also be litter box trained using a method similar to cat training. After you bring your bunny home, pay attention to where they use the restroom. Like cats, they prefer to have clean living spaces and will relieve themselves in a similar location each time. After their spot is defined, place a litter box over it filled with rabbit-specific litter. The rabbit should gradually begin using the box.
Newspaper training a puppy is best started when they are very young. Begin by keeping the dog in a confined area with a bed on one side and newspaper on the other. Because dogs have a natural inclination to eliminate away from their living area, the puppy should eliminate on the newspaper side of their confinement. Each time they use their designated newspaper, offer praise. Be sure to keep one small piece of soiled newspaper on top; it will allow the dog to smell their scent and understand where their bathroom area is. As they continue using the correct area, begin to cluster the newspaper in an increasingly smaller area; gradually move it closer to the door you wish your pet to eliminate outside of, eventually placing it outside the door entirely. Continue praising the puppy as you move the newspaper and they continue to use it. Once you remove the paper from the house entirely, be sure to take your puppy outside before bed, when they wake up, and periodically throughout the day and praise them as they continue to eliminate in the correct place.
If any pet has an accident inside, be sure to use an enzyme-based cleaner not a cleaner that contains ammonia. In time, the ammonia will mimic the smell of urine which will encourage your pet to continue eliminating in that same spot.
Crate training is the easiest way to train a dog to eliminate outside, because it doesn’t allow them room to go inside. A proper-sized crate is just big enough for your pet to stand, turn around, and lay down. With little extra room, the dog will be discouraged to eliminate within. Immediately after letting the pet out of their crate, take them outside to use the restroom, offering praise after they go. With persistent, continual training, the dog will eventually only go outside.
Professional obedience training
If your pet is stubborn or difficult to train, or you want them to learn impressive tricks, a professional obedience trainer may be a good idea. Puppies can start as young as 8 weeks old, whereas horses wait until they are at least 2 years old.
Most professional trainers use a system of operant conditioning with positive and negative reinforcers. Because animals respond well to this sort of consistent training, they are capable of understanding what is expected of them, what is deemed “good” behavior, and which behaviors are unacceptable. Reinforcers (positive or negative) are gestures following a behavior with the intention of encouraging the behavior.
- Positive reinforcers: positive gestures, such as being given a treat, or loud verbal praise; it is a reward given when the correct behavior is performed with the intent of strengthening the good behavior.
- Negative reinforcers: the removal of an unpleasant gesture after a display of good behavior. By removing an unpleasant act when the correct behavior is performed, pets learn that bad behavior gets an unlikeable stimulus which will be removed only when they behave well. Most sporting horses are trained with negative reinforcers such as spurs or a riding crop.
Some professional pet trainers believe in only using positive reinforcers, others use different methods entirely. Be sure to search for a trainer that meets your needs, standards, and anticipated level of expertise.
Having a pet is similar to having a child, meaning as a pet owner, you are fully responsible for their well-being. If you work eight hours every day, consider hiring a pet sitter, or train your pet to stay in a crate while you’re away. Giving pets a specific routine will help them remain confident and content. Pets have specific daily needs and fulfilling these requirements will make for a happier, more trusting pet, thus strengthening the bond between you and your animal.
Altering living conditions to accommodate weather changes
As the weather changes, your pet’s living space will require adjustments, especially for those pets and owners living in places with very cold winters or very warm summers. During the rainy season, adequate shelter should be provided for pets remaining outdoors, offering a dry place to sleep and eat. In very cold locales, pets with shorter hair will need blankets or some sort of sweater to keep warm. If a pet has very short hair, keeping them indoors is highly recommended. You will also want to check daily that an outdoor pet’s water dish hasn’t frozen over. In warm climates, pets with long hair should be closely monitored for overheating. To keep outdoor pets cool in warmer months, consider shaving their hair or giving them a small wading pool to cool off in.
Certain pet breeds are very active and require daily exercise. If your pet is of a breed needing exercise daily, consider:
- Going for a jog
- Playing tug-of-war with a rope toy
- Stimulating your pet with play hunting toys
- Throwing a ball and playing fetch
- Walking to a local park
How do I know when to feed my pet?
With pet feeding, it is important to implement a routine feeding time, and remain consistent throughout the course of owning your pet. Once a feeding schedule is introduced, pets will adapt accordingly and will expect their meals at your planned time. Young, growing pets generally need to be fed more frequently than their adult counterparts, but be sure to check with the breed or species standard.
How much do I feed my pet?
The amount of food you give your pet will depend on their breed or species specifications, as well as their size. A 10 pound dog will eat much less than a 50 pound dog, but two different breeds of similar height and size may have different feeding requirements based on activity level. Often pet food packaging will state a recommended amount for a pet’s height and weight, but always check to make sure this is acceptable for your breed. For example, a Whippet is similar in size to a Spinone, but they certainly do not eat the same amount of food. If you have difficulty finding what amount to feed your pet, you can always consult with your veterinarian.
Some pets require daily grooming, whether it be brushing or deshedding. Pay careful attention to the needs of your pet; neglected pets can end up with horribly tangled hair, requiring a groomer to eventually shave it all off. Hair mats also provide the ideal climate for bacteria to breed. Also be sure to bathe your pet according to their breed needs.
All pets need a clean habitat. Cleaning out their home daily, removing waste, and replacing anything that is destroyed and potentially dangerous is important. Pet waste can also harbor bacteria and disease so removing it from a pet’s surroundings is a primary way to stop infection from starting or persisting.
If you’re having difficulty getting your pet to perform the skills you want, consider how little or often you’ve trained them. Pets require repetitious conditioning, and most benefit from a training regimen with reward. In order for a pet to learn, an owner must dedicate a significant amount of time and patience to train their pet. Working with your pet daily will reiterate training “lessons” and will provide your pet a better opportunity for success.
Keeping your pet clean is an essential aspect of pet ownership. Pets, like humans, need to be bathed to maintain the health of their skin and coat. How often you bathe your pet will depend on the type of hair they have and their propensity to get dirty. Certain types of pets need to be bathed once a week, while others clean themselves and don’t need baths – ever. It is important to understand your pet’s specific grooming needs, and it is equally as important to meet them, either by means of at-home grooming or by hiring a professional groomer.
If you plan on home-grooming, it is important to obtain the supplies necessary to properly clean your pet. The following is a list of some supplies you might consider:
- Brush – either a massaging brush or bristle brush help smooth and shine hair
- Dematting comb – helps comb out mats in fur
- Ear cleaner –gently clean pets’ ears
- Eye-stain cleaners – great for pets with excess tear production. Cleans stains around eyes and disinfects
- Facial scissors – with rounded tips to avoid poking eyes
- Grooming table and grooming arm – allow you to safely secure your pet while grooming them
- Nail Clippers –keep pet’s nails at a healthy length
- Oatmeal baths – for pets with allergies. Help soothe skin and prevent dryness
- Professional pet clippers – cut through pet hair with ease
- Shedding blade – catches a pets’ undercoat and helps pull out shedding hair
- Soft Paws or Soft Claws – protective silicone coating put over a cat or dog’s nails to prevent harm to furniture or floors
- Toothbrush – rid pets’ mouth of bacteria and plaque
If you prefer to take your pet to a professional groomer, many of these services are combined in packages to allow you to easily select a desired grooming session. If any extra services sound appealing, ask you groomer if they offer such services or if they could perform them for your pet.
Pets have sensitive stomachs and gastrointestinal tracts. While many pet owners think by feeding their beloved pet table scraps is showing affection, it may actually cause a serious medical reaction. There are numerous “human” foods that cause severe stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting for pets and should be entirely avoided when possible.
The following foods are harmful to pets’ digestive tracts and overall well-being:
- Baby food
- Chicken bones
- Cocoa powder
- Dough containing yeast
- Fat trimmings
- Fish bones
- Fruit seeds/pits
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw eggs
- Raw or undercooked meat
If you are unsure whether a food is poisonous to your pet, please consult the veterinarian prior to feeding it to your animal. Should your pet accidently consume one or multiple of these foods, contact our office immediately.
Whether you have watched your pet age or you have adopted an older pet, senior pet care is very different than caring for a younger animal. As your pet ages, you will notice tell-tale signs that they are entering their senior years, with greying facial hair and decreased mobility. Providing your pet with proper nutrition and superior care can increase their lifespan and ensure further comfort during their last remaining years.
Common ailments affecting senior pets
Similar to humans, senior animals are prone to specific injury and disease. Some of the more common illnesses include:
- Cancer (numerous types)
- Heart disease
- Increased irritability
- Hip or elbow dysplasia
- Lack of appetite
- Liver disease
- Sore joints which make it difficult to get up, stand, or walk
Recommended care for senior pets
It is highly recommended that older pets receive semi-annual veterinary check-up exams rather than one annual exam. Because pets are at an increased risk for disease and cancer, semi-annual exams can help detect problems closest to when they started so treatment can be promptly implemented. This also allows the vet to potentially detect and treat issues before they become major health concerns.
Maintaining physical and mental exercise with your pet is an important factor in promoting wellness. Adjusting the frequency and duration of exercise may be necessary to accommodate ailing joints, but some amount of daily exercise is highly recommended. You also want to continue stimulating your pet’s mind with toys or games that require cognitive stimulation.
For pets with joint issues or mobility problems, supplements such as glucosamine can be introduced into the diet to promote flexibility and increased range-of-motion. Ask the veterinarian about which supplements would be beneficial to your pet. You may also want to consider purchasing an orthopedic bed for your pet. These comfortable surfaces conform to a pet’s body, providing superior support and creating a restful surface for them to lie on.
Most people struggle with the thought of losing their beloved pet, and having to say goodbye can be one of the most difficult things you will have to face. Some pets will pass in their sleep, while others may require the painful decision to put them down. Whatever the case may be, dealing with the loss is exceedingly difficult.
Many pet owners fear choosing euthanasia for their pet because they see it as giving up on them or lacking the ability to provide for them. In reality, deciding to euthanize a suffering pet is one of the most humane choices you can make. Oftentimes, we selfishly try to keep our pets with us as long as possible, causing our pet pain and misery. If your pet would benefit from an eternal sleep, the veterinarian can walk you through the procedure and answer any questions you might have. Some veterinary offices will even allow you to stand by your pet as they introduce the final injection.
Dealing with the loss
After we lose a beloved pet, it is always difficult adjusting to life without them. Most pet owners suffer one or multiple stages of grief in various sequences:
- Denial – wondering how you will survive without your pet. Often ask yourself “why” questions, such as “why me?” or “why now?”.
- Anger – usually anger is directed at people around you and is your only way to outwardly express your feelings.
- Bargaining – asking yourself “what if” questions about alternative decisions you could have made or things you could have done differently.
- Depression – a feeling of emptiness without your pet or feeling that life isn’t as happy as it used to be.
- Acceptance – the acknowledgement that your new reality exists, though not stating it is acceptable. Finally understanding that your pet is gone.
Pet owners cope in various ways, and there are numerous services that help make the loss of a pet easier. There are pet crematories that can help preserve your pet, pet loss hotlines, and even support groups. Finding an outlet that allows you to manage your loss is very important.
Getting a new pet
In their process of healing, some pet owners decide to get a new pet, thinking it may help heal their grief. In reality, a new pet should not be introduced until a pet owner is ready to move on. Allow yourself to go through the stages of grief before considering a new animal. Pet owners who do not let themselves heal before getting a new pet are more likely to place the pet in a shelter at a later date. The following guidelines are intended to help you choose your new pet:
- Avoid comparing your new pet to the pet you lost. They will never be the same and you are only adding grief and stress for your new pet.
- Consider purchasing a new pet before you lose your elderly pet; this may cause your older pet to hang on longer and prevents you from having to get acquainted with a new pet while still mourning the loss of another.
- Do not give your new pet the same name or a nickname of your pet that has passed.
- Do not purchase a pet as a replacement for your pet that has passed away.
- Look for a pet that is different from your last pet, either in breed, species, or personality.
- Take time to think about what kind of pet you want and what sort of pet fits in with your lifestyle.
If you are having trouble grieving the loss of your pet or have questions about choosing euthanasia, feel free to contact our office at your convenience.
Pets are thought of as family members rather than animals, and pet owners are increasingly concerned with affording their pet excellent health care. Similar to human health insurance, some companies and organizations are now providing pet health insurance, which can allow pet owners to avoid expensive veterinary bills. Most pet insurances work the same as human medical insurance; there is a standard monthly fee as well as qualifications a pet must meet. Most plans also have exclusions that will not be covered under the pet insurance.
What is covered and what is excluded?
While different providers have different regulations, the following are typically excluded from a pet insurance plan:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Preventative and routine care
- The veterinary exam fee
Included with most pet health insurances are:
- Blood tests
- Cancer treatment
- Hereditary disease (unless the condition is preexisting)
- Overnight hospitalization
- Pet emergency accidents
Pet health insurance policies differ in price depending upon your coverage level. Plans that cover minimal health problems can be purchased for less than twelve dollars per month, while more comprehensive packages could be as much as one-hundred and fourteen dollars per month.
Pet insurance tips
When choosing an insurer, you want to be overly critical and examine all aspects of their policies. Check to see whether you can choose your own veterinarian or if you have to visit one of their providers. Determine whether they have exclusions for particular breeds’ susceptibility to certain diseases. Understand the age restrictions and coverage details based on pet maturity. Figure out if the insurance company increases your monthly premium once a claim is made. You may also want to examine the insurer’s policy for reimbursement (e.g. how complicated it is, what percentage is reimbursed, etc.).
If you have any questions regarding pet insurance, our veterinarian would be happy to assist you in choosing a provider that meets your needs.
As a pet owner, you will soon learn that you can’t always be home to take care of your pet. Whether your travel destination doesn’t allow pets or you simply work eight hours per day, hiring a pet sitter may seem fitting. Before hiring someone to look after your pet, always check their references and verify whether the sitter is a member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters or Pet Sitters International. Both of these institutions pride themselves on providing superior knowledge about professional pet care so being affiliated with either is notable. Check that the pet sitter is insured and licensed in pet CPR. When you have finally found a pet sitter who meets your requirements, be sure there is a signed agreement outlining your pet’s care, including how frequently the pet sitter will visit.
Benefits of hiring a pet sitter
- Attention is still given to your pet, even when you’re away.
- Can eliminate destructive behaviors caused by anxious pets.
- Pet sitters can also take care of the house while you’re away.
- Pets with separation anxiety can become accustomed to the pet-sitter, relieving any stress and allowing them to be more relaxed.
- You have peace-of-mind, knowing that your pet is being effectively cared for.
- Your pet doesn’t have to adjust to a new environment or someone else’s schedule.
- Your pet gets to stay in an environment they are comfortable in.
When leaving on vacation, many pet owners opt to leave their pet behind at a boarding house or with family or friends; however, you should know that you can always take your pet with you. Traveling with your pets allows them to experience new sights and smells, averts separation anxiety, and prevents you from worrying about your pet while you’re away. Before traveling with pets, be sure to check local regulations regarding pet travel and safety. Also confirm that the places you will be staying (hotel, friend’s house, etc.) allows pets. Always make sure traveling pets have proper identification tags on their collars, as well as internal microchips for added safety.
Each airline has different regulations regarding pet travel. Some airlines allow small pets in the cabin when kept in a carry-on, others do not. Most airlines require a certificate of health and proof of vaccination dated no more than 10 days prior to your flight. Many also recommend that pets traveling in winter months travel midday and in the early morning or late evening during summer months. It is also recommended that you purchase a non-stop flight which does not change planes. The following requirements are true for most major airlines:
- Allow your pet a familiar toy during the flight.
- Attach a pet water container to the side of the crate.
- Crate must have slits for ventilation and handles to grip.
- Crate should be lined with absorbent materials in case of pet accident.
- Crate should have contact information labeled clearly on it along with a current photo of the pet owner.
- Pet should have proper identification on collar.
- Pets need to be secured in a bolted crate.
- Trim your pet’s nails to avoid catching on crate openings.
Traveling by car is one of the most common ways pet owners travel. For pets accustomed to car rides, travel is fairly easy on both pet and owner. Pets will need a comfortable area to lie down, frequent stops for exercise, and ventilation via windows. Be sure to bring your pet’s leash and an adequate supply of food and water for the trip. Pets should never be left in the car alone and should never have access to a fully opened window. If you are traveling with cats, it is suggested that they remain in a small crate which allows more security than being allowed to roam the car.
Bus or Train
Generally, pets are not allowed on trains or buses, though some exceptions do exist. If you plan on traveling by bus or train, be sure to check with local regulation. Service pets for owners with disabilities are usually allowed on most trains and buses.