Where Animal Lovers Pursue Animal Careers

Pet Words

Keep An Eye Out For Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

Beat the Heat – Signs of Heat Stroke in Dogs

By Audrey Pavia

Protect Dogs for Heat Stroke

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Especially for dogs. Pet owners are home a lot more, spending time barbecuing in the backyard and going on family outings. Dogs get more quality time with their people, and some lucky pups even get to go on road trips.

While summer offers plenty of opportunity for dogs to be outside having fun, it also poses some risks. Heat stroke and dehydration are dangers dogs face when the weather is hot. Unlike humans, dogs don’t cool themselves by sweating, but mostly through panting. This is not a very efficient way of cooling the body in hot weather, making dogs particularly susceptible to overheating.

Some dogs are even more prone to heat-related illness, including older dogs, dogs who are under the weather, and breeds with short muzzles, such as bulldogs and pugs.

You can do a lot to help protect your dog from suffering in the summer heat by keeping him cool, and recognizing potential signs of distress.

Making sure your dog stays hydrated will go a long way to ensuring his comfort during the summertime. Water is essential at all times of the year, but particularly during the summer when hot weather saps moisture from your dog’s body. Make sure your dog always has access to plenty of cool, fresh water so he can keep himself hydrated. If he’s outdoors, drop ice cubes in his water bowl frequently to keep the water chilled.

Dogs love to be outside during the summer, but it’s crucial your dog be able to get out of the hot sun when he’s had enough. Be sure he has a shady area where he can cool off when he needs to. On particularly hot days, keep him indoors in the air-conditioning.

Of course, never leave your dog in the car, even with the windows cracked. On a hot day, the temperature inside a car can quickly rise to more than 120 degrees, which can be fatal to your dog.

If you are hiking or playing with your dog outside, keep an eye out for these signs of heat stroke:

  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty breathing, including heavy panting
  • Tongue and mucous membranes are a bright red color
  • Thick saliva
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rectal temperature over 104 degrees F (100-102 is normal)

If your dog shows any signs of heat stroke, get him out of the heat right away. If possible take him into an air-conditioned building. If his temperature is higher than 104, put him in a bathtub of cool (not ice cold) water. Take his temperature again in 10 minutes. Once his temperature is back to normal, make an appointment with a veterinarian to have him examined. Heat stroke can sometimes cause damage to internal organs.

Signs of severe heat stroke include staggering when trying to walk; seizures; dark red, purple of blue gums; and coma. If your dog is experiencing these symptoms, wrap him in cool wet towels and rush him to a veterinarian immediately.

By taking the right precautions and keeping an eye out for heat stroke, you can make sure your dog has a safe, fun and happy summer.


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.

Flea Control – Protect Your Pets from Fleas

Flea Control: When Natural Doesn’t Work

By Lisa King


Anyone who owns a cat or a dog must deal with fleas. They not only make your pets miserable, they bite people, too, causing annoying itchy bumps.

Fleas prefer warm, humid conditions, which means they are seasonal in cold climates but are a problem all year round in the Southeast and Southwest. Dogs bring fleas into the house from outside, but even if you only have indoor cats, be on the lookout for fleas. People can track the eggs in on their shoes.

Natural flea prevention is the safest method (see last month’s article “All Natural Flea Control for Pets” by Stacy Mantle), but sometimes stronger measures are required. If you have a persistent flea problem, ask your veterinarian for advice. Consider the people as well as the pets in your household when choosing flea products—if you live with a pregnant woman or small children, topicals—the spot-on medications that you apply between your pet’s shoulder blades— might not be the best choice. Although topicals kill fleas for a month, it can take a few days for all the fleas to die. In addition, in some areas fleas have evolved to be resistant to certain types of topicals.

If you use topicals on your cat, make sure you are using a product formulated specifically for cats. Many topicals for dogs contain permethrin, which is fatal to cats.

Oral flea medications are an option that will not impact others in your household. Capstar kills all fleas within 30 minutes or so, but has no residual effect. Spinosad (sold as Comfortis) is a fast-acting neurotoxin that can have serious side effects in some animals but is very effective at killing fleas for an entire month. Both medications are approved for cats and dogs.

Sometimes it is worth the risk of side effects to use these strong oral medications. One of my cats is severely allergic to flea bites. He scratches them so hard that he wears off the fur and skin on his neck and face. He has had to take several rounds of antibiotics for skin infections. I finally broke down and gave him spinosad, which he tolerates well, and it has kept him flea-free.

Remember that for every flea you find on your dog or cat, there are dozens more in your home. Here are a few measures you can take to minimize the flea activity in and around your house:

  • Feed your pets a high-quality diet. The healthier your dog or cat is, the easier it will be for him to resist a flea infestation.
  • Bathe your dog regularly with a mild shampoo. If your cat will cooperate (or at least not attempt to eviscerate you), wash him as well, but less often.
  • Use a flea comb on your pets every couple of days during flea season. Drop the fleas in a cup of water with a few drops of dish detergent in it—this will cause them to sink and drown.
  • Wash all pet bedding regularly. Also wash blankets, pillows and rugs where your pets spend time.
  • Vacuum regularly and thoroughly, and not just your floors. Fleas also lay eggs on upholstery and curtains. If you have sofas with slipcovers, you can de-flea them easily by simply throwing the covers in the wash.
  • Keep your pets’ claws clipped. That way, even if they do get a few fleas and scratch, they will do less damage to their skin.
  • Spread beneficial nematodes on your lawn and gardens. They are available at garden stores and some pet supply stores. They not only kill fleas, but many other pests as well.

 


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”

 

Dog and Equestrian Relationships

Dog and Equestrian Relationships

By Audrey Pavia

It’s difficult to find a horse owner who doesn’t also live with at least one dog. Horses and dogs are a natural combination. If you love horses, chances are you love dogs, too.

Although dogs and horses can often become great friends, danger is inherent whenever these two species come together. The sheer size of a horse, combined with its nature as a prey animal, can mean trouble for even the mellowest dog. Likewise, dogs can pose a great danger to horses as well.

In order to keep your dog safe around horses, it’s important to remember that horses are often afraid of dogs, and will kick, bite or strike to defend themselves. A well-placed kick from a horse can cause severe injury or death.

Conversely, a dog can cause damage to a horse by biting it, chasing it or scaring it to the point where the horse injures itself trying to escape.

Before allowing your dog to be around horses, follow these precautions:

  • Train your dog. Provide your dog with basic training so he will respect your authority when in the presence of a horse. Teach him that horses are not to be chased or barked at. This is especially important if the horse is being ridden.
  • Use a leash. When your dog first meets a horse, keep him on leash so you can control his reaction. Do not allow him off leash until you are certain he will not harass the horse.
  • Teach respect. If your dog has no fear of horses, teach him to stay away from the horse’s legs. Some dogs are so comfortable around horses; they can get underfoot and be stepped on. A healthy fear of horses is a good thing for a dog.
  • Gauge the horse. Before allowing your dog to approach a horse, get a sense of the horse’s reaction to your dog. Determine if the horse seems undisturbed—head and neck are level with the rest of the body, the eye is calm, muscles relaxed—before allowing your dog anywhere near the horse. If the horse is tense, with his head raised and nostrils flaring, or is being ridden, keep your dog away.
  • Watch for pack mentality. Your dog may ignore horses when he’s alone, but could become harassing when in the company of a more aggressive dog. If another dog is present, determine whether this dog might be a bad influence on your normally well-behaved canine.
  • Discourage play. Horses and dogs sometimes like to play together, but this should be discouraged. Horses may find it fun to have a dog run alongside them when they are galloping through a field, but a playful kick from the horse can prove fatal to the dog. This behavior also encourages aggression on the part of the dog, and should not be permitted.
  • Supervise your dog. Never take for granted that your dog is safe around horses. Always keep a close watch on him whenever a horse is nearby.

 


About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.

Benefits of Hugging Your Cat

Hug Your Cat!

By Sandy Robins

Did you know that June 4 is officially Hug Your Cat Day? It’s the purrfect oppurrtunity to celebrate the power of the purr.

It’s actually been scientifically proven that cats are good for us. Research done at the University of Minnesota deduced that cat owners are 40 percent less likely to have a heart attack.

There is no question that if you have had a bad day at the office or, for any reason, are particularly stressed, the moment your cat greets you at the door and insists on a game of fetch (as my Ziggy does) or simply climbs on your lap, you begin to relax and benefit from your cat’s slow and gentle purr.

There are many ways to celebrate this wonderful human-feline bond. Sitting and relaxing with your cat on your lap is a no-brainer.

Grooming your cat can be considered “hugging” her, too, because it is a great way to bond. Once you have found the ideal grooming tool, cats enjoy being brushed and it’s a great way to spend time with her, not to mention the benefits of getting rid of shedding fur.

I mention the ideal grooming tool because lots of cats don’t like the feel of anything metal on their fur and skin. They prefer a grooming mitt that offers a simultaneous massage—who can resist that?

Hugging also falls under the heading of playing with your cat. Cats enjoy all kinds of games and will turn anything into a fun toy—such as a cardboard box that you had something delivered in.

However, the best games are interactive ones .In other words, games that involve both you and your favorite feline—just like Ziggy’s endless games of fetch, which we play with a wand toy. Wands and laser tools are a great way for the two of you to interact. Cats enjoy pounce-and-play type games and will often include a couple of head butts during the games. This is their way of hugging you back.

Cats blink at their people and also yawn, which are recognized signs of affection; so be sure to blink back. Your feline will understand the communication.

But the most important thing to remember is that cats enjoy their people every day. It’s not a matter of hugging your cat, but how many times you hug them in a day that really counts!

Hug Your Cat Day is a great idea to have on the pet calendar. Actually, every day should be hug your cat day. Your cat deserves nothing less.


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

The ABCs of Gardening with Pets

The ABCs of Gardening with Pets:
Safe Natural Flea & Tick Repellants

By Stacy Mantle

The use of herbs as natural pest repellents on pets and in gardens is nothing new, and it can be a very effective way to decrease or eliminate your reliance on chemicals. However, when planting herbs, be sure to consider herbs that add to the health of you and your pet, while naturally repelling fleas and ticks.

There are a number of plants that can help you naturally control pests on pets in your garden and around the house. When the proper herbs are mixed between your plants in a garden, they can help naturally repel fleas and ticks, while attracting valuable insects such as ladybugs and worms.

Beware of Toxic Plants
Some of the most effective herbs used to control insects are not only toxic to fleas and ticks, but to pets as well. Common herbs that are generally recommended for flea-and-tick repellent, but can be toxic to your pet if consumed, include:

  • Flea Bane (Pennyroyal)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Citronella
  • Fleawort
  • Wormwood
  • Tansy
  • Sweet Bay
  • Rue

These herbs should be avoided in the yard and garden when you have pets.

Safe, Natural Repellents

This leads us to some useful plants that not only act as natural repellents, but are safe for your pets if they decide to snack on them while you’re away. (Note that while these will repel fleas and ticks, they might also work to attract other animals.)

Star Anise is a cousin to the magnolia vine, and placing whole star anise pods around your home can help keep cockroaches and termites at bay. Anise is a natural dog attractant, and many canines have been known to react in the same way cats react to catnip. Star Anise is known to promote vitality and the licorice-spiced plant has quickly become one of the most sought after plants in the world for its healing qualities—shikimic acid, the starting ingredient in the human prescription medication, Tamiflu, is extracted from it.

Catnip is from the mint family and is a very safe and highly effective for the control of fleas and ticks. According to Iowa State University, nepetalactone (the essential oil in catnip) is 10 times more effective than DEET. Remember that anything from the mint plant family is very invasive and can easily take over a garden if left unchecked. Instead, consider some well-positioned containers to keep mint under control. As you know, catnip will act as an attractant for most cats, so you may find your favorite feline rolling around in your garden each morning.

Rosemary is a natural pest repellent that works especially well as a flea, tick and mosquito repellent. You may see rosemary as a natural supplement in many herbal shampoos and conditioners due its effectiveness in repelling pests while serving as an invigorating and refreshing scent for pets and people. Since it does well in nearly any climate, Rosemary is a wonderful addition to any garden.

Lavender is a natural calmant for pets and people, and it also happens to be a great option for natural pest control. These are perfect for containers and will keep pets calm as they lounge on the patio. Not only is it a great way to repel pests, it can help heal sensitive skin after a bite. Simple rub some essential oil directly on the bite and the itch and pain will immediately dissipate.

Lemongrass is not only used to create delicious Asian food, it’s a natural mosquito repellent. You’ll find that this herb naturally attracts cats and naturally repels dogs (under most circumstances), so keep that in mind when you plant. Another benefit to this plant is its ability to keep deer from your garden. Generally, the more fragrant a plant, the less likely deer will be interested in approaching. Consider placing in containers as it has the ability to take over your garden.

Sage has one of the longest histories for medicinal and culinary plants. Egyptians used it as an agent against delirium; the Romans used it to stop bleeding; and it is still used to reduce swelling in injuries. Not only does sage have medicinal values, it’s a natural repellent for fleas and ticks. Consider planting some in containers around your garden. Since it’s a desert plant, sage is naturally drought repellent and low-maintenance, doing particularly well in dry desert climates.

Chamomile is not only easy to grow; it makes for some wonderful tea and offers a broad range of medicinal purposes for man and pets. It’s also a natural repellent for fleas and ticks. Steep a tablespoon of in a cup of water, then cool and add it to your pet’s food or water. This can help relieve gas in pets, encourage healing, expel worms and act as a natural calmant. This makes chamomile one of the most versatile herbs around.

Sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) around plants can also help stop most pests, especially fleas and ticks. Not ready to start a garden? You can also apply food-grade DE to your pets coat and on their bedding to repel keep fleas and ticks. To obtain food-grade DE, check your local garden store or order Flea Dust directly from DERMagic. Flea Dust is safe for all animals, including birds and fish. (Do not use pool DE or DE that is not food-grade as it is treated with chemicals during processing.)


Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com, a columnist for many publications, including Animal Behavior College and Pet Age, and the bestselling author of the fantasy novel, “Shepherd’s Moon.” For more information about Stacy, please visit www.StacyMantle.com

Canine First Aid

Being prepared with CPR could help save your dog’s life.

By Audrey Pavia

Canine First Aid & CPR

Scenario: Your dog is sick or injured. What do you do? The first thought for most dog owners is to rush him to a veterinarian. But steps you take before you get to the animal hospital can mean the difference between life and death.

April is Pet First-Aid Awareness month; making it a good time to prepare should your dog need immediate medical help.

First-Aid Kit

It’s important to keep a first-aid kit handy in the event of an injury. If your dog is injured or ingests poison, you can intercede on his behalf just before you take him to an animal hospital.

For your dog’s first-aid kit, you can purchase a pre-made first-aid kit designed for dogs, or assemble your own. If you decide to put together a homemade pet first-aid kit, gather the following items:

  • Emergency information: Your veterinarian’s phone number and the number of an emergency referral veterinary hospital where you can take your dog after hours. (Visit the Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society website to search for a local emergency hospital) Keep the number of the Animal Poison Control Center in the first-aid kit as well (888-4ANI-HELP).
  • Gauze: A roll of gauze to wrap a wound or tie around your dog’s muzzle to keep him from biting if he’s injured.
  • Towels and cloth: Small towels or strips of clean cloth to control bleeding or protect a wound.
  • Adhesive wrap: An adhesive wrap made especially for use on animals to wrap gauze or cloth bandages.
  • Milk of Magnesia or activated charcoal: To absorb toxins in case your dog ingests poison. (Contact a vet or Poison Control Center before administering.)
  • Hydrogen peroxide: To induce vomiting when giving orally in the event a dog has swallowed something poisonous. (Contact a vet or Poison Control Center before administering.)
  • Thermometer: A digital fever thermometer for determining your dog’s rectal temperature. (This information can be reported to your vet upon arrival at the hospital.)

Keep your dog’s first-aid kit in a bag or box clearly labeled and place it somewhere you will remember in case an emergency occurs. Always take your dog to a vet immediately after you apply first aid.

Pet First Aid & CPR

Knowing how to perform CPR on your dog in the event he stops breathing can be a lifesaver. Understanding how to manage a wound or electric shock can make a difference in your dog’s survival.

The Red Cross offers pet first-aid classes around the country that are designed to teach you how to manage emergencies when they come up. You will learn how to respond to health emergencies and provide basic first aid for pets. You can take either Dog First Aid, or Cat and Dog First Aid.

The courses cover the following:

  • Understanding basic pet owner responsibilities
  • Administering medicine
  • Managing breathing and cardiac emergencies
  • Managing urgent care situation
  • Treating wounds
  • Treating electrical shock
  • Caring for eye, foot and ear injuries
  • Preparing for disasters

 

To find a pet first-aid class in your area, visit www.redcross.org/take-a-class. [The Red Cross also has a Pet First Aid app, available through the App Store, Google Play and Kindle Fire.]

About the Author: Audrey Pavia is an award-winning freelance writer and author of “The Labrador Retriever Handbook.” She is a former staff editor of Dog Fancy, Dog World and The AKC Gazette magazines. To learn more about her work, visit www.audreypavia.com.

 

All-Natural Flea Control for Pets

How to keep pets at bay all year long.

By Stacy Mantle

Cat Scratching may be Fleas

You don’t have to share your home with pets to find yourself falling victim to a flea infestation, but the chances of you seeing fleas are a lot higher with pets. While chemical-based flea repellents are the easiest way to treat, they are also the most dangerous method and [could] pose a risk to you, your pets and your family.

Late last year, the EPA agreed that many of the flea and tick collars on the market are dangerous and have cancelled registrations of collars containing the flea-fighting agent, propoxur, which includes collars manufactured by Wellmaker International and Sergeant’s Pet Care Products Inc.

According to the EPA, “The registrants agreed to phase out the products by producing them until April 1, 2015, and stopping distribution after April 1, 2016. Although the products do not meet the current safety standard they do not pose a public health risk if label directions are followed.”

Don’t despair. There are many ways to control flea and tick infestations without waging chemical warfare on your family.

Know Your Enemy, Know Your Environment

The life cycle of a flea is three to four weeks, which is important to keep in mind when you first do battle with the pests. This is important to know because it can take you at least that long to eradicate them from your home. Fleas are notorious for learning how to adapt to situations, so be very vigilant to any symptoms of flea bites. As fleas can lay up to 60 eggs a day, and a cocoon surviving on average a year without feeding, infestations can happen quickly.

Temperature and humidity levels increase the likelihood of a flea and tick infestation. To see when conditions are at their worst in your area of the country, use the weather channel’s handy app.

Bathing Your Pet

Last year, DERMagic released the first “Flea Barthat is formulated with diatomaceous earth (DE). This all-natural shampoo is made in the USA and provides protection against the pests. [DE is a desiccant; it works by drying out fleas’ waxy outer layer. They dehydrate and die.]

If you decide to purchase DE on your own, you need to ensure it is food-grade. DE used in pools has been processed by heat, which nullifies the insecticide benefits. It is often treated with toxic chemicals and is dangerous to use around you or your pets.

After shampooing, use a fine-toothed flea comb seeking out adult larvae or flea dust. The use of a flea comb should be done daily.

Cleaning Your home

Vacuuming is one of the most effective ways to rid your home of fleas and it should be done frequently. After each vacuuming, you should remove the bag and clean filters right away. You should also plan on washing your pet’s bedding each week.

Apply DE in areas that flea infestation are most likely to occur. This includes pet bedding, carpeted areas, nooks and crevices where larvae are most likely to live.

Natural Pest Spray & Flea Traps

Other natural pest control favorites that I know work include: Buzz Guard Natural Insect Repellent, Mad About Organics Natural Insect Repellent, and NatuRepel from A Balanced K9. They are all highly effective and safe for dogs (although remember to use with caution – too much of anything is dangerous!) Remember, less is more with essential oils and they should never be used on or around cats. If you are in need of a household deterrent, one of the more effective (but natural) ones I’ve found is BioDefense. But, look around and you’ll find dozens of others that are all natural and safe if you follow directions closely.

Remember, all natural does NOT mean that they are safe to use on cats, so pay very close attention to labeling.

At night, placing a dish of soapy water beneath a small nightlight near where your pet sleeps can help trap the little creatures overnight. If you’re not comfortable having your pets around soapy water, there are many electric flea traps available that are safe and effective.

Nutritional Support

Flea infestations in pets are often linked to nutritional deficiencies and poor diets. One of the most important things you can do for your pets is keep them on a good diet. Feed your pets a superb diet that is natural and free from additives or preservatives. Other digestive aids such as omega 3s, fish oils and plant enzymes can sometimes help strengthen their immunity. While many “natural” websites tout the use of garlic or onion for your pets, these things can cause extreme toxicity in dogs and cats and should be avoided.

External Control

There has been a great deal of success in using nematodes, which are microscopic worms that eat flea larvae. Nematodes can be purchased at your local pet and garden stores (but they are virtually useless in the West where temps exceed 100 degrees). While studies are still ongoing, it’s widely accepted that nematodes do best in climates that have a sandy, moist soil. Initial results with studies in California, Texas and Louisiana have seen up to 95percent reduction in fleas. However, areas such as Florida have not seen those types of results.

Natural Control to Avoid

  • Essential oils can be either very beneficial or extremely toxic in pets. For this reason, it’s important that you avoid using them on pets unless you have consulted with an expert.
  • Brewer’s Yeast can result in skin allergies in many pets.
  • Garlic can result in damage to your cat’s red blood cells, which may result in hemolytic anemia and eventual death. Dogs have also shown severe reactions to garlic, and so this common home remedy should be avoided.

About the Author: Stacy Mantle is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and the bestselling author of “Shepherd’s Moon.” Learn more great tips for living with animals by visiting PetsWeekly.com or get to know a little more about the author at  www.StacyMantle.com

 

Cat Hairballs – Cough It Up

Preventing hairballs—or their aftermath—helps keep cats healthy (and floors clean).

By Sandy Robins

This April 25 marks the ninth year cat lovers will celebrate National Hairball Awareness Day. It is interesting to note that felines aren’t the only hairball expellers; rabbits do, too. So do cud-chewing animals such as cows, oxen, sheep, goats, llamas, deer and antelopes. And—wait for it—people, too! A human hairball is called a trichobezoar. It’s common in people who compulsively play with their hair and swallow it.

Now, this is not a day you want to celebrate by being greeted by a big hairball presented by your cat. A celebration would be NOT waking up to a hairball on the rug.

Most cats are able to expel hairballs by vomiting them up. But often that is the tip of the iceberg of hair—so to speak. Ingested hair can cause a serious blockage in the intestinal tract and lead to all sorts of complications.

It’s so important to remember that while cats are self-groomers, they still need help from their pet parents, especially if the cats have long hair and, also if they are elderly and simply are not agile and mobile enough to groom themselves properly.

There are lots of excellent grooming tools on the market that help get rid of thick undercoats. I am always telling my friends with cats that grooming should be considered a fun way to spend quality time with their cat rather than a chore. My cats really enjoy being massaged with a hand mitt, which picks up the loose hair as your brush.

For owners who need to deal with their cats’ ingested hair, there are products, such as Petromalt Hairball Relief Gel from Sergeants PetCare, which can help alleviate the formation of hairballs by coating the digestive tract to prevent build up—they also act as a laxative. It’s simply a matter of putting a dollop on a front paw and letting the cat lick it off. For really fussy cats, put a blob on their lower chin and let them take over from there.

For anyone wanting to know more about hairballs, the National Museum of Health and Medicine (NMHM) in Washington, D. C., has a virtual hairball exhibition on its website. You can learn why hairballs develop in the stomach and see examples of them from various animals, including humans.

There are also craft books such as Crafting with Cat Hair, which shows readers how to transform stray clumps of fur into soft and adorable handicrafts. From kitty tote bags and finger puppets to fluffy cat toys, picture frames and more, these projects are cat-friendly, eco-friendly and require no special equipment or training.

For the past couple of years, there have been all kinds of hairball events, including a celebrity lookalike competition where people were asked to brush their cats and take the fur and style it into a celebrity. I took part last year and got my cats’ shedded fur to look like Howard Stern—well sort of….

On a final note: when you’re stressed and want to pull your hair out, remember it’s simply a phrase, not a call to action. Brush your cat regularly instead!


About the Author: Sandy Robins is the 2013 winner of the “Excellence in Journalism and Outstanding Contribution to the Pet Industry Award.” Her work appears on many of the country’s leading pet platforms, such as MSNBC.com, MSN.com and TODAYShow.com. She is a regular contributor and columnist in multiple national and international publications, including Cat Fancy, as well as the author of the award-winning books “Fabulous Felines: Health and Beauty Secrets for the Pampered Cat” and “For The Love of Cats.” Learn more about Sandy on her website or Facebook page. #welovecats

 

Pet Identity Crisis

Make sure your pets have proper ID at all times because you never know when they’ll need it most.

By Lisa King

Pet Protection Matters Most in Times of Emergency

Having a dog or cat go missing is a very traumatic event. Not knowing whether they’ve been hit by a car, been pet-napped or have simply wandered off is nerve-wracking. Providing your pet with effective identification is the best way to ensure that if the worst happens, you can be reunited with your lost pet.

Some dogs are real escape artists and will take advantage of a loose board in a fence or an open gate; some have been known to dig under fences to get free. If the escape happens while you are at work, you might not find out for hours, giving your dog plenty of time to wander quite a distance.

Even if you have indoor-only cats, a door left ajar can mean a missing cat. Two of my cats once pushed a loose screen out of a window and went on a walkabout for several minutes before someone noticed. Fortunately, we were able to round them up quickly.

If someone finds your pet and brings him to a shelter, the staff will make every effort to find you. If your pet has no ID and you don’t turn up looking for him, he is at risk of being euthanized. But this tragic outcome is easy to prevent.

A simple metal tag bearing your pet’s name and your phone number attached to his collar can make all the difference. These can be custom made at most pet supply stores or ordered online. Someone who finds your wandering pet needs only call your number to let you know where your dog or cat is.

Another option is a specially designed flash drive. These are available in shock-proof, waterproof cases that attach to your pet’s collar. You program your contact information onto the drive so whoever finds your dog can plug the drive into his computer and contact you. These devices can also include medical information if your pet has a serious condition.

Since collars can come off—especially cat collars, which should always be breakaway collars—all your pets should be micro-chipped. If your pet is ever stolen, the thieves can remove tags, but cannot remove the microchip.

Some countries require that all pets be microchipped. Most U.S. shelters routinely microchip their cats and dogs, but if not, you can pay your veterinarian a one-time fee of about $50. She will inject the tiny chip (about the size of a grain of rice) with a syringe, usually just under the skin between the shoulder blades.

This procedure is no more painful than a vaccination would be for you. The chip remains inactive until it is scanned. You must then put your contact information into a pet database. If your pet is picked up and brought to a shelter, he will be scanned to see if he is microchipped. If so, shelter staff will contact you through the database. Always keep your contact information up to date. The chip will remain usable for the life of your pet.

Since there are a few different types of chips, shelter staff might have to check several registries before they find your pet. You can simplify the job by putting a tag on your pet’s collar that names the type of microchip he is carrying. Newer scanners can read all types of chips, but older ones can miss certain chips.

Microchipping may sound pricey, but it can save you the trouble and expense of searching the neighborhood, posting fliers, and paying rewards, not to mention the anxiety and heartache of losing a family member.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea” and the recently released “Vulture au Vin.”

 

Allergies in Dogs – Providing Allergy Relief for Dogs

allergy free dogs

Allergies in dogs, what to know…

By Lisa King

Even though the eastern part of the U.S. is covered in ice and snow and California is experiencing heavy rains and mudslides at press time, spring will eventually come. When it finally arrives, people with seasonal allergies will begin sneezing and wiping runny eyes. Although their symptoms are very different, dogs can suffer from seasonal allergies, too.

Allergies are basically an overreaction of the immune system to a specific trigger. While in allergic humans, spring (and in some cases fall) brings on upper respiratory misery, in dogs who are allergic to pollen the symptoms are usually skin-related. Although allergic dogs sometimes sneeze and have runny eyes, they usually scratch, chew and lick themselves excessively, especially their feet. A dog who scratches all the time can create open sores, hair loss, hot spots and skin infections. These dogs also are more susceptible to ear inflammation and infections. Not to mention, they feel miserable from all the itching.

If you notice your dog scratching excessively, take him to your veterinarian to have him evaluated. He might have flea-bite dermatitis, an allergy to flea bites, another spring and summer phenomenon. This condition is usually relieved by effective flea control and thorough house cleaning.

However, if fleas aren’t the problem, your vet might diagnose your dog with a seasonal allergy. There are several ways you can help your allergic dog be happier and more comfortable. Clean off his feet when he comes in from outside so he doesn’t track pollen and other allergens into the house. Bathe him often; this removes allergens in his coat. Vacuum your home frequently to keep floors free of allergens. Wash your dog’s bedding and blankets often, too, to remove accumulated allergens. If it’s feasible, request that people remove their shoes before they come into the house to reduce tracking in pollen. Keep track of the pollen count in your area, and on bad days reduce the amount of time your dog spends outdoors.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can be effective in reducing minor inflammation. Many supplements formulated for dogs are available at pet supply stores. Ask your vet if your dog should be eating an anti-inflammatory diet. These diets are formulated to contain very little grain.

Medications that suppress the immune system can help reduce allergic reactions. Some over-the-counter oral antihistamines, such as Benadryl, are safe for dogs, but check with your vet for dosage recommendations, which will vary based on the size of your dog. These medications reduce itching and inflammation, but can make your dog sleepy.

If you try all these measures to mitigate your dog’s allergies but he is still scratching, your vet might recommend oral or injectable steroids. They are effective with many allergic dogs, but they can have side effects, especially if used over the long term. Cyclosporin, sold as Atopica, is the same drug that people take to prevent organ transplants rejection. It is an oral medication, and its use in dogs is relatively new. It can be more effective than steroids and has fewer side effects, but it is also more expensive.

Your vet might also recommend an intradermal skin test, which is similar to a human allergy test. The vet will shave off a patch of hair and apply specific allergens to isolate the one causing problems. If she is able to find the source of your dog’s problems, she can give your dog a series of allergy shots or a vaccine to prevent future reactions. These solutions can be costly, however.

Some dogs grow out of allergies, but some dogs’ allergies get worse as they age. If you think your dog might have seasonal allergies, the wisest course is to take him to the vet as soon as he begins scratching to prevent his symptoms from becoming too severe so he can enjoy the spring weather outdoors with you.


About the Author: Lisa King is a freelance writer living in Southern California. She is the former managing editor of Pet Product News International, Dogs USA, and Natural Dog magazines. Lisa is also the author of the well-received murder mystery novel “Death in a Wine Dark Sea and the soon-to-be-released “Vulture au Vin.”