Abytes Pet and Animal

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Month: August 2015

Protect Your Pet From Outdoor Pests

Taking your pet along on your family’s camping or hiking trip? A brief trip to the vet can ensure a trip free of worry about pet health — and full of great outdoor adventure for you and your dog.
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If you’re thinking of hitting the trail with your pet, put a visit to your veterinarian’s office on your to-do list. A brief consultation can help you prioritize the preventive steps needed to protect your pet’s health and ensure a worry-free adventure.

Because before taking your pet into the great outdoors, you’ll want to take steps to protect against:

Fleas. Chances are your pet already uses monthly flea prevention. If not, start right away.
Ticks. “Ticks are by far the biggest concern,” notes Daniel O. Morris, DVM, chief of the section of dermatology and allergy in the department of clinical studies at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa. This is because ticks can give a number of diseases to pets and pet owners.
Scabies. This intense, itchy rash is caused by mites, which are often carried by foxes in the wild.

“Wooded areas and meadow areas are both good places for ticks and scabies. Fleas are really somewhat more of an urban problem,” says Dr. Morris.

You should check the product description on your flea preventive to find out if it also prevents ticks or scabies. However, you’ll have a hard time finding a product that prevents all three at the same time, which is why a trip to your vet is in order, says Morris.

What to Expect During a Pre-Trip Vet Visit

Here are some of the issues you can expect to discuss with your vet:

Preventive products. Your vet will recommend the right product for preventing ticks and scabies, taking into account your pet’s level of activity and where you plan to travel. If your pet is likely to be swimming on the trip, find out about whether you need to reapply the product and, if so, what dose is appropriate.
Early application. Most products are applied to a spot between the shoulder blades and spread from there, taking a few days to work, so it’s a good idea to apply them well before you pack the car and hit the road.
Overall pet health. Pets, like humans, can’t leap right from a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon. Ask your vet whether your pet is up to the level of activity you have planned — or if you should create a training schedule in advance.
Medications. Don’t forget to bring any pills your pet takes daily. “There’s a lot of diabetic dogs out there — packing their medications is as important as packing our own,” says Morris.
Sun protection. Most dogs’ coats are enough to protect against the sun’s rays, but dogs with bare patches or de-pigmented noses should use sunscreen. And you know your dog best — a hound that lounges belly up in a sunny meadow for too long could get a bit of a burn there, too.
Heartworm prevention. Morris notes that heartworm preventative is recommended year round almost everywhere in the United States. However, if you have not been giving your dog a heartworm preventive regularly and are going to a place where mosquitoes are likely to be found, talk to your vet about what to do.

How to Look for Fleas and Ticks

Prevention is always the best approach, but you should take the time to do a visual inspection of your pet any time you go hiking or camping.

“One thing that I do think most people don’t know or understand is that, even with these reliable products, you can still find ticks attached to the skin. It takes them a while to die and fall off. The key is that they don’t engorge on blood and there is no transfer of the infectious organisms from the tick to the dog,” explains Morris.

Removing ticks from dogs is much the same as removing them from humans: Go slowly. Morris advises “gentle traction to gradually pull the head out of the skin and not leave the mouth parts. If you’re pulling with gentle traction for a few seconds to a minute, most ticks won’t be able to hold on.”

However, Morris stresses that a visual inspection and individually removing fleas or ticks is not going to be as effective in protecting your pet as using the right, veterinary-recommended preventive product.

If you’re following your vet’s instructions for prevention, your pet should safely be able to run or swim free.

Are Two Pets Better Than One

Thinking of bringing a second pet into your home? There are a number of things to consider if you want to make the transition a smooth one.

Much like parents worry that an only child might be lonely growing up without a sibling, many pet owners share the same concerns about their animals. But is getting a second pet the right answer?

Not necessarily, according to experts.

“There have not been any controlled studies to look at this issue since there is so much individual variation between dog personalities,” says Duffy Jones, DVM, founder of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta. “Many dogs do great with having another dog around, and some are perfect being the only dog. It really depends on your particular dog and that dog’s personality and also its previous history — for example, if the dog has always had other dogs around or if it has been traumatized by another dog.”

Keep this in mind: There are other ways to get your pet to exercise and socialize besides bringing a second animal into your household. Dogs have many options, ranging from puppy classes and obedience training to dog parks, doggie playgroups, and even doggie daycare.

Cat owners can encourage activity by using toys to play with their pet at least 10 minutes (and ideally more) a day. This interaction not only helps with weight maintenance, but it can also assist in keeping their minds active, says Timnah Lee, DVM, an associate veterinarian at Tribeca Soho Animal Hospital in New York City.

What to Consider Before Bringing a Second Pet Home

There are a number of things to consider before adding a second pet to your household, whether it’s a dog and cat or two animals from the same species. “If you are interested in bringing a dog into a cat household or vice versa and adopt them from a shelter or a rescue, make sure they are cat- or dog-friendly before you bring them home,” advises Dr. Lee. “If you are planning to bring a cat into a cat household or a dog into a dog household, make sure you are ready for the commitment of two pets. That means two dogs on the leash, more litter boxes, more food, more vet bills, etc.”

In addition, consider a younger animal — puppies and kittens are often more adaptable. Introducing a new animal can also be easier when they are spayed or neutered. Ultimately there are no hard and fast rules, so be prepared for some trial and error.

Introducing the New Addition to the Family

Pet training before bringing in a new animal is crucial, says Dr. Jones, or the second pet will most likely make things worse. Also, be sure both animals are healthy and don’t carry any illnesses that could infect the other.

When it comes to the actual meeting, take your time. “Slow introductions are best for bringing a new animal into a house,” says Kenneth Porte, DVM, owner of Tri City Veterinary Clinic in Vista, Ca. “Initially, smelling each other under the door, then seeing each other in a neutral location, and finally supervised interaction.” Limit the time they are together at first, starting with 15-minute increments, and never leave the animals alone.

Finally, be sure each animal has its own food bowl — especially if you are bringing a dog and cat together — and sleeping area. Cats should also have their own personal litter boxes.

Got Pet Allergies

About 10 percent of the population is allergic to animals — but that doesn’t mean they can’t own pets. Here’s how to determine which pet’s best for you.

You may have heard rumors of hypoallergenic dogs and cats — pets that don’t cause trouble for people with allergies. In truth, there is no guarantee that a specific breed won’t cause allergies for a given individual. But with dog and cat allergies so common, many animal lovers are still looking for a solution. A strategic approach to selecting a pet — or managing your allergies with the pet you already have — may mean you can enjoy pet ownership and control your pet allergies.

Could You Have Pet Allergies?

Ideally, you will know about any pet allergies before you take on the responsibility of a pet. Many adults are already aware — or have a sense — that they are allergic to dogs or cats (or both), but others may still be in the dark, not sure that their ongoing mild allergies are truly due to the cat or dog dander they are exposed to through friends, family, and coworkers. Here’s how to find out for sure:

  • Get tested. “Testing is readily available for assessment of whether or not one has allergic sensitization to certain animals, including cats and dogs,” says asthma and allergy researcher Gregory Diette, MD, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at the Center for Global Health at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD. “The test is a measure of a specific antibody response (specific IgE) directed at the relevant allergen.” You will need to make an appointment with an allergist to get tested.
  • Get a reality check. Another good way to find out if you may be allergic to a specific animal is to spend some time with it. If you are considering adopting a certain breed of cat or dog, try to arrange an hour or more when you can play with the animal, paying attention to your body’s reactions.

“The evidence for cat allergy would be quite high if one gets itchy, red eyes, runny nose, and related symptoms, whenever they have direct contact with a cat,” says Diette, adding that it is possible to have a positive allergy test result but never have allergic symptoms.

Diette also offers this caution: Just because you do not have cat or dog allergies today doesn’t mean that you may not develop them in the future. One of the most wrenching situations for pet owners is trying to decide what to do with a pet to which they have recently become allergic.

The Best Pets for People With Pet Allergies

Did the test results reveal cat or dog allergies? That doesn’t mean you will be petless forever. Diette recommends a practical approach. “If one has a pet allergy, the best advice is to not get that type of animal,” Diette says, adding that despite some reports of hypoallergenic dogs, “there are no breeds of cats or dogs that do not produce allergen, so it is not possible to recommend one breed over another.”

The American Kennel Club lists the following breeds as good options for people with dog allergies because they are thought to produce less dander than other breeds — although you should still take some time to find out if they trigger your own allergic symptoms:

  • Bedlington Terrier
  • Bichon Frise
  • Chinese Crested
  • Irish Water Spaniels
  • Maltese
  • Poodles
  • Portuguese Water Dog
  • Schnauzers
  • Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

You might want to consider a different pet entirely. For example, if you have dog allergies, you might still be able to have a cat or you could look into other types of pets to which you’re not allergic, such as ferrets, rodents, or birds.

How to Manage Pet Allergies at Home

Although the practical response to a newly developed pet allergy would be to find another home for your pet, parting with the family dog or cat could be a heartbreaking choice and may not be necessary. If you or someone in your household has cat or dog allergies, try these strategies:

  • Keep your pet out of bedrooms.
  • Keep your pet outside if possible.
  • Groom your pet often to control shedding and dander.
  • Clean your home often to pick up hair and dander, using HEPA filters on vacuums and other air filters.
  • Talk to your vet about dander control shampoos or diluted doses of the sedative acepromizine, which may reduce the allergens produced by certain breeds of cat.

Pet allergies are highly individual, and it will take some time and effort to learn which pets you can have in your home. But the learning process is well worth the companionship and love a pet provides.

How to Choose the Right Pet for Your Child

Playing matchmaker for your child and a new pet? There are certain things to consider before making the commitment. Here’s where to start.
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Have fond memories of the pet you loved in childhood and want the same for your children? Or maybe you’re just looking for the best way to respond to your child’s request for an animal companion. Pet health care requires a significant commitment — so before you bring home a furry friend for your child, take some time to make the best match.

Are You and Your Child Ready for a Pet?

Here are the first two questions to ask yourself when considering pets and kids: Is your child ready to help take care of a pet, and are you ready to supervise?

If you’re hoping to hand the care of a new pet over entirely to your child, think again. “Parents have the ultimate responsibility for pet care, regardless of the age of the child,” cautions animal behaviorist Melissa Bain, DVM, assistant professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in Davis, Calif. “If the child is given chores to do for the pet, such as walk the dog or clean the litter box, the parents need to assure that this has occurred.”

You will also need to assume responsibility for the pet’s health, such as scheduling annual check-ups. This said, Bain stresses that children can help in different ways, depending on where they are in their own development. Even toddlers can start to play a role in pet care with the right supervision.

The primary pet-ready characteristics to look for in your child are:

Obedience. Your child is able to understand basic, age-appropriate instructions and do as he is told. This is important not just for pet health and care, but also for the safety of pets and kids.
Gentleness. Your child can control the force with which he touches or plays with an animal.
Responsibility. If you plan to give older children chores, such as feeding or walking the pet, you should be sure that they can – and will – do so at the appropriate time.

How to Involve Children in Pet Care

Many children are born into families that already include a pet, which means they become integrated into pet care early on. Here are some ways children can help, based on their age:

Toddler and preschoolers. Children this age can help adults with some basic pet chores such as pet grooming and putting new bedding in cages. However, children under age 6 should always be supervised with pets of any size, for chores or play.
Elementary school years. Children in this age range may be able to keep their own small caged pets or fish. You will still need to supervise the general care and maintenance of the animals. They can also take on greater responsibility for entertaining, feeding, and grooming larger pets, such as dogs and cats. At this age, depending on the size and obedience of the animal, dogs and kids can learn to walk well together.
Junior high and high schoolers. Preteens and teens can provide pet care without direct supervision, but you will have to check to make sure that they are indeed walking, grooming, feeding, and cleaning up after the pet as they are supposed to do.
Young adults. At this point, many younger people are leaving home — and their pets. Decisions must be made about who will take over care while they are gone.

Tips for Choosing That First Pet

For parents who are considering adding their first pet to the household for their children’s enjoyment, Bain offers these tips:

Start small. “It may be easier to try a furred pet, such as a rodent, as they require a bit more involvement, but give a bit more back than goldfish,” advises Bain. A pet store or vet is a good resource for advice on how to feed, play with, and keep your new pet clean.
Foster an animal. If you want to “try out” life with a pet for a limited period, you can find out about fostering opportunities from a local shelter or animal rescue group. Not all foster animals are abandoned or mistreated — some simply need a place to stay while their owner is deployed with the military or living in a temporary situation where pets are not allowed.
Volunteer at a shelter. This is a great family activity and will give you and your kids hands-on training in pet care basics without committing to a pet at home.

Matching Personalities of Pets and Kids

Perhaps your greatest challenge will be finding the “right” pet for your child’s personality. Bain advises being realistic about both the pet and the child. For example, a very active child should always be supervised more closely with a pet than a child who is calm and relaxed, Bain says, adding that the most difficult combination is a very active child and a fearful or nervous animal.

Bain strongly advises doing some research into the temperament of the animal breed you are considering, especially if you are trying to match dogs and kids. “Veterinary behaviorists see aggression problems as their primary problems,” she says. “Owners should research the breed and breed-type before selecting a pet, understanding what the family’s lifestyle, requirements, and make-up are. Dogs and cats should be properly and humanely socialized and trained using positive reinforcement techniques.” A little investment in obedience training involving your kids could go a long way toward ensuring a smooth relationship.

Pets and kids can go together like apple pie and ice cream … as long as you have realistic expectations based on your child’s capabilities and your pet’s needs.

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