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Dogs: Regular brushing, bathing, and nail care are essential. Special care for puppies while bathing is needed – consult your veterinarian for specific recommendations. Be sure to protect your pet’s eyes and ears when bathing.
Cats: Regular brushing to prevent matting of hair is important. Cats rarely need a bath, but one can be given if necessary (be sure to use a shampoo designed specifically for cats or kittens – dog shampoos may be irritating).
Be sure to consult with your veterinarian regarding your pet’s diet. Check the ingredient label on pet food and special use foods for information on processing, water content and other components such as vitamins and minerals.
Dogs: The amount fed will vary with the type of food and the individual dog. Consult your veterinarian regarding the proper formulation to use and frequency of meals. The formulation and frequency of meals will change as your pet ages.
Cats: Consult your vet regarding an appropriate diet for your kitten. Dry foods have the advantage of providing a rough surface that will help reduce plaque and tartar buildup on your kitten’s teeth but canned foods can be fed/supplemented if desired. The amount fed will depend on the diet, as well as the age, size, and activity level of your pet.
Remember: If canned foods are left unrefrigerated, they can spoil. So feed your pet only at regularly scheduled times.
Preventive Care for your Pets
Be sure to have all new pets examined by a veterinarian to ensure that it has no major health problems and is started on a program of preventive care. Assuring your pet’s well-being requires regular care and close attention to any hint of ill health. Consult your veterinarian if your pet shows any of the following signs:
- Abnormal discharge from the nose, eyes, or other body openings
- Abnormal behavior, sudden viciousness, or lethargy
- Abnormal lumps, limping, or difficulty getting up or lying down
- Loss of appetite, marked weight losses or gains, or excessive water consumption
- Difficult, abnormal, or uncontrolled waste elimination
- Excessive head shaking, scratching, and licking or biting any part of the body
- Dandruff, loss of hair, open sores, or a ragged or dull coat
- Bad breath or excessive tartar deposits on teeth
The shots your pet needs, and when, depend on your pet’s risk of infection, age, breed, and environmental exposures. Your dog should be checked for intestinal parasites, fleas and heart worm disease, and appropriate treatment should be administered when needed. Your cat should be checked for intestinal parasites, fleas, and ear mites and appropriate medications given for these problems.
*Remember – Your pet is an individual and the need for specific vaccinations, timing of boosters, and risk factors for disease are best assessed by your veterinarian.
Spaying / Neutering your Pet
Thousands of dogs and cats are euthanized each year because there aren't enough homes for them. If you don't plan to breed, spay or neuter your pet.
Dogs: Spaying your female pet can help prevent cancers of the reproductive tract and may decrease the incidence of reproductive infections. Neutering your male dog will also prevent cancers and decrease the incidence of prostate problems. The incidence of more aggressive behavioral problems has also been shown to be reduced when dogs are spayed or neutered.
Cats: Spaying/neutering decreases the incidence of some tumors and reproductive infections. A male cat should be neutered if it will be a house pet because the strong urine odor of un-neutered males will make your cat an unacceptable house mate.
*Your veterinarian can discuss with you the benefits of spaying/neutering and the best time to schedule the procedure.
It’s part of your cat’s nature to sharpen its claws, so save your furniture and walls by providing a scratching post. For indoor cats, if you decide to declaw, consider declawing only the front feet, so if the cat gets outside it has some mechanism of defense. For outdoor cats, you can avoid declawing by keeping nails trimmed or using nail caps.
Dental care is an important part of your pet’s preventive health care. It is estimated that by age 3 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show some signs of gum disease. Bad breath is an early warning sign of gingivitis. Particularly at risk are small dog breeds which are more likely to develop tooth problems because their teeth are crowded into small mouths. Bad breath, a yellow brown crust of tartar around the gum line, pain or bleeding when the pet eats or when you touch its gums may indicate the presence of gum disease. Prevention is the key:
Visit your veterinarian for an initial exam and discuss a routine for preventive care Start a dental care routine at home – remove plaque regularly from your pet’s teeth Your veterinarian can offer more information on dietary options – foods that can help reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar from teeth when the pet eats
Pet regular checkups
Seasonal Pet Health - Heat Stroke
As with humans, heat stroke can kill or result in serious injury. During those warm humid days, your pet needs access to proper ventilation, cool clean water and shade.
- Never leave your pet in a car on hot days
- Exercise your pet during the cool part of the day
- Be aware of rapid breathing; loud panting; or staggering
- If your pet displays signs of heat stroke, immediately get the animal to a shady ventilated area, and, if possible, sponge it off with cool water
- Also, summertime means the celebration of the 4th of July. Fireworks and pets don’t mix. The sound of fireworks can terrify your animal. A pet’s ears are more sensitive than ours and loud noises may damage your pet’s hearing. If possible, keep your pet indoors.
Pet Considerations for Winter
It is best to keep pets indoors during the winter months, but if this is not possible, outdoor pets must be provided with shelter. Indoor pets should be kept in a draft-free, warm area with their bed elevated slightly off the floor. During cold weather remember:
- Shelter should be insulated or heated
- Shelter should be elevated off the cold ground to prevent moisture accumulation and should have a door of some kind to keep out the wind, sleet, and snow
- Outdoor pets require extra calories to keep warm – feed your pet according to its needs when the thermometer drops
- In severely cold or inclement weather, no pet should be kept outside
- Be sure to remove snow and salt from your pet’s paws
- If your pet exhibits signs of frostbite (skin is red, gray or sloughs off), administer first aid (see First Aid section below for more information)
- Holiday Concerns
Plants and other items associated with the holiday season can be toxic to your pet. Keep pets away from poinsettia plants, balsam/pine/cedar/fir, Christmas tree preservatives, snow sprays, holly berries and leaves, mistletoe, antifreeze, and more. Also, cats are often attracted to string-like objects, will eat tinsel, needles and thread, rubber bands, and other similar materials. Do not allow your pet to play with ribbons or yarn and do not put them around your pet’s neck.
Note: Do not allow friends or relatives to give your pet “special treats.” Holiday “treats” (fatty food scraps, bones from fish, pork, and poultry, and chocolate) can be harmful or toxic to pets.
Pet First Aid
It is important to be aware of your pet’s normal behavior, so you can recognize what is not normal. Your veterinarian’s telephone number should be kept with other emergency phone numbers. Never leave dangerous objects like pins, string, ribbon, or fish hooks within reach of your pet.
During the winter months, it is important to store all snow removal products out of the reach of pets and remove salt from your pet’s paws. Frostbitten skin is red or gray and may slough off. If your pet exhibits signs of frostbite:
Apply warm, moist towels to thaw out the frostbitten areas slowly until the skin appears flush
- Contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for further care
- Remember: a sick or injured animal is often in a frightened state, so if emergency first aid is necessary protect yourself (even if it is your own pet).
Family pets risk poisoning from all kinds of places: snakes; plants; perfumes and aftershaves; common household materials; pesticides; weed killers; fertilizers; paints – the list is endless. Most often, poisoning is accidental. Poison-proof your home - be sure to keep poisonous materials out of reach of your pet. If your pet is poisoned:
- Keep the animal warm and quiet
- Try to determine what the poison was and amount ingested
- Immediately call your veterinarian or your nearest poison control center
- Bring the container (or label) of the poison with you if you need to take your pet to the vet
Traveling With Your Pet
Over 50% of pet owners vacation or travel with their pet. In many cases that means airplane rides for your animal. Keep in mind – some ill or physically impaired pets cannot withstand the rigors of travel. Before undertaking any trip, consult your veterinarian – the age and size of your pet, time and distance of the flight/ride must be considered. If traveling to friends, a hotel, parks, campgrounds – make sure pets are allowed, bring a portable kennel and notify front desk/maid service.
- Be sure your pet is properly identified with a current tag or microchip
- Properly groom your pet before travel
- Pack your pet’s favorite food, toy(s) and dishes
- Have both proof of rabies vaccination and a current health certificate with you when traveling, especially when crossing state or international borders
Travel by Air
Security procedures do not prohibit you from bringing a pet on your flight. You should contact your airline or travel agent, however, before arriving at the airport to determine your airline's policy on traveling with pets. Major airlines require that the pet be examined by a veterinarian no more than ten days prior to the date of travel so be sure to bring current health and rabies vaccination certificates. If you are planning to bring an animal on-board the plane with you, you will need to present the animal to the security checkpoint screeners for screening.
- Book a nonstop, midweek flight and avoid plane changes if possible
- During warm weather periods choose early morning or late evening flights
- In colder months, choose mid-day flights
- Arrive at the airport early, exercise your pet
and personally place it in its crate
Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding instructions for your pet during travel
- Promptly pick up your pet upon arrival
- Note: Pet owners who are considering air transportation for the family pet are cautioned to carefully consider the use of tranquilizers or sedatives.
Transport crates are available from most airlines or pet shops, and should be purchased in advance so your pet can become acclimated to the crate prior to travel. The crate must:
- Be large enough to allow the animal to stand, turn around, and lie down
- Have a leak proof bottom that is covered with plenty of absorbent material
- Be ventilated on opposite sides, with exterior rims and knobs so that airflow is not impeded
- Be strong and free of interior protrusions, with handle or grips
- Be appropriately and clearly labeled - Include your name, home address, home phone and destination contact information
- Clearly indicate on the crate “Live Animal”, with arrows indicating the crate’s upright position
NOTE: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows each airline to decide if they will allow you to travel with your pet in the passenger cabin. If an airline does allow you to bring your pet into the cabin, the FAA considers your pet container to be carry-on baggage and you must follow all carry on baggage rules. Travelers should also be aware that if the final destination is a foreign country or even Hawaii, there may be quarantine or other health requirements to consider.
Pet Travel by Car
When traveling by car, be aware of weather conditions. Do not leave your pet in the car when the temperature and/or humidity are high or when temperatures are near or below freezing. Your pet should be confined to a cage or crate to allow them to feel secure and to avoid having a pet under your feet while driving. Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads outside car windows – particles of dirt can enter their eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infection.
- Plan to stop every two hours for exercise and give small portions of food and water at each stop
- Be sure to take along a large container of cold water in case other reliable water sources are not available
- Stick to the regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day
- Dispose of unused canned food unless it can be refrigerated
- Remember to bring a leash
- Pack a first aid kit
- Make sure your pet has an ID tag (with both your home and travel destination information) should your pet get loose/lost while traveling