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PHONE GPS TRACKING SYSTEMS FOR YOUR PET-ARE THEY A GOOD IDEA?

Each year, almost half of the animals entering animal shelters around th country are strays or lost pets.  Pets can't tell anyone who their owner is and where they live so how do you find your beloved family member should you become separated?

There are about three different solutions to locating lost pets.  One is the little metal or plastic tag that hangs from the pet's collar.  The tag has the name of the pet, the home address and, maybe, a phone number of the owner.  The microchip is another solution.  They're inexpensive, passive implants that are injected under the pet's skin and can be scanned with a specialized wand when the missing pet is brought to a veterinarian.  Another solution is a pet GPS tracking system.  These GPS locators attach to your pet's collar and can remotely locate your pet at almost any time however; pet GPS tracking devices are  more expensive than the microchip.  Even so, there is a large populace of empty-nesters who are filling those nests with pets, and young couples are raising pets before committing to the bigger responsibility of raising children and they are more focused on their four-legged family members than ever.  Pet owners today are willing to spend or splurge when consumers in other arenas are cutting back.

Besides being more expensive than microchips, GPS tracking devices can come off with collars.  Some GPS tracking units are effective in areas where there isn't consistent cell phone or Internet connection.  If pet owners relocate, the new location will not be on the chip, resulting in loss of time and more stress trying to trace where the lost pet's family is currently living.  But the advantages of a GPS tracking system far outweigh the little tag and the microchip solutions.  The American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) was developed to help lower the number of missing pets in the United States which is beneficial to society by reducing the number of strays and lost pets.  In turn, this relieves the overcrowding of animal shelters and humane societies.  Many hunters use some type of pet GPS tracking system to keep from losing their dogs in the field or woods.  GPS tracking systems utilize 20 satellites or more to track the actual location of your pet but if your're in an area without good satellite connection, you may want to use GPS tracking systems in addition to other locators like a microchip.

Know what your needs are before you buy GPS tracking equipment for protecting your pet.  GPS locators can be monitored by handset, cell phones, or computers and can be designed to work within a certain range so  look for a dog tracking device with long battery life, and make sure the range is suitable for your area.  Good GPS tracking systems will go through floors, walls or other objects that can reduce range.  Some pet GPS models can give a history of your dog's movement over the last seven days and lets you create visual safety zones for your pet.  Also, consider the weight of the dog tracker device and keep your pet's size in mind.  Very small dogs may find wearing GPS tracking systems uncomfortable and may suffer neck or back injuries if forced to wear a heavy pet tracker unit for a long period of time.

GPS tracking systems can locate missing pets in all situations such as after a car accident, natural disaster or when they are lost while being shipped by plane.  Other advantages to consider when deciding on a pet GPS tracking system:

• A GPS tracking device can give the owner directions to a pet's current location.

• Pet can be tracked anywhere in the world with Internet and/or mobile phone coverage.

• Unlike the microchip, a GPS tracking devise is noninvasive.

• You don't have to wait for your pet to be found and scanned to be located.

With a pet phone GPS tracking system, you locate your pet with speed and accuracy in real time.  It's proactive because you control your pet's location by establishing geographical areas where your pet is allowed to roam.  The information of his location can be sent to you or whomever you choose.  A phone GPS tracking system will locate your pet the moment you suspect he is lost or stolen which increases the likelihood of getting him back quickly and safely.

Replace the worry and fear of searching for your pet with the confidence and ease of locating them quickly and safely with a pet phone.

THE VALUE OF AN OLD DOG IS A LESSON TO US ALL

 

     Puppies are too much fun, aren’t they?  They’re so soft and warm, cuddly and cute.  And that smell, who doesn’t love puppy smell.  Puppies are perpetual motion, excited balls of energy, so eager to play, learn and obey.  Because they are puppies, we tend to forgive the occasional act of indiscretion or “accident”.  Puppies think they can fly; that’s why they jump and hop around more than they walk.  They seem to be smiling continuously if not chewing on anything they can fit into their mouth.  Just about the time their puppy cuteness starts to wear thin, you realize you no longer have a puppy; you have a middle aged dog.

     Middle aged dogs are truly man’s best friend.  They have settled into a rhythm of life so in sync with their families.  Their energy is a little more contained, everything comes easy.  Taking a middle aged dog on a walk is an adventure all on its own.  They’re all over the map, seeking out discoveries in tall grass; a scent of another’s passing on the path in the woods; pulling on the leach in every direction with incredible speed and strength.  All of this energy is great with kids as they each have no trouble keeping up with the other.  As Henry Ward Beecher wrote; “The dog was created specially for children. He is the god of frolic.”  Middle aged dogs are ready for anything, just open the door and get moving or…not, because they are just as happy curled up quietly next to you on the couch.  Then one day, an act of desperation, fear or momentary thoughtless neglect, you come to the realization your middle aged dog is an old dog.

     When a dog becomes old he is fully matured in the truest sense of the word.  To quote Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post:

   “They can be eccentric, slow afoot, even grouchy.  But dogs live out their final days with a humility and grace we all could learn from.”

Old dogs can have a grey muzzle and cloudy eyes, be grouchy and deaf, lumpy and pimply but they also have vulnerabilities, limitless trust and gratitude.  They are funny in unique ways, unpretentious open and completely at peace with themselves.

It is said that only humans comprehend the passing of time and the concept of death but many who have spent a lifetime with a pet, who have witnessed the journey of puppy to old dog to death, may beg to differ.  They believe dogs do understand the passage of time and, if not the certainty of death, surely the onset of frailty.  They know that what once was is no more.

Dogs do not have a sole sense of fear.  They don’t feel entitled nor do they feel the injustices in life.  Dogs are pure innocence, trust and unconditional love.  There are some people who are unmoved by death but will grieve inconsolably over the death of their beloved dog.  At some time, in the life-long relationship with a dog, they become a part of who we are.

Dogs show almost all of our emotions but without the ability to differentiate therefore, they exhibit these emotions openly and innocently, much as we would if we were stripped of our pretenses.  This may evoke strong feelings of protection for the innocence.  We watch our dogs become old; we hear them moan; we watch their stiff and painful movement knowing we are watching ourselves someday.  Our dogs become old; they become crotchety and gassy and vulnerable and frail, just as we will be someday.  When they pass, we will grieve for them; we will grieve for ourselves.

 

Pet Supplements Should Be an Informed Decision

 

The demand for pet supplements is on the rise. The market has sustained a 15% annual growth since 2000, making it the $1.3million business it is today, according to the National Animal Supplement Council.  About 17% of pet owners give their cats and/or dogs supplements or so says Simmons Market Research Bureau but all these figures don’t answer the question; is a supplement right for your pet?

Pet supplements are meant to complement your pet’s diet as well as support and maintain normal biological function.  Some are “target formulas”, claiming to relieve joint problems or alleviate cognitive dysfunction in dogs.  Since these supplements contain numerous substances, how do you know if they are safe for your pets?  Some of these substances may not be suitable for pets and the Food and Drug Administration states their safety and effectiveness have not been tested in animals.  One such substance is St John’s wort.  Some supplements must be taken for a long period of time before they become effective however, will remain in the pet’s system for a few weeks after stopping use.  One such supplement is glucosamine. 

So, where do you go and who do you trust when it comes to evaluating supplements for your pet?  A veterinarian is the best source for information on supplements and if they are of any value for pets but some veterinarians aren’t as informed on supplements, so here are a few guidelines to follow when considering one for your pet:

  • The products quality.  How much of the active ingredient vital to function is in the product and is there an 800 number to call with questions?
  • The products efficacy.  Are there test results or scientific evidence supporting the product?  Can these results be viewed on the internet?  If they cannot, make sure there is a number to call the company.  If there is not, you don’t want the product.
  • Your pet’s tolerance.  Read the ingredients list and make sure the supplement does not contain a substance your pet can’t tolerate.  If your pet is on medication that is prescribed, contact your veterinarian to discuss the supplement and any reactions it may trigger.
  • The products safety.  Read the literature for tested safe doses and any reactive events.

Most information on pet supplements is by word-of-mouth; about a personal experience or about someone else’s, whether beneficial or not.

Unexpected reactions do occur and if or when they do, it must be reported to your veterinarian, to the person who recommended you give it to your pet, and to the manufacturer.  There are government agencies that collect this information for the safety of others; therefore it is extremely important that they have it.

As for the question to whether you should give your pets supplements, it’s a personal choice but, the decision to give them supplements, is a good one if you are proactive and informed.

4 Steps to Train Your Anxious Dog to Use a Magnetic Dog Door

A dog door can be hinged or spring operated or, more commonly, a “flap” which is installed into a door or wall to allow your dog to come and go at will without needing a person to open the door.  Flaps hang from the top of the opening and flap when the dog passes through.  Many pet owners find dog doors to be convenient and it reduces unwanted behavior from your dog such as scratching on doors or walls or relieving itself in the house.

Most dogs learn to use the dog door minutes after installing it.  Using bits of meat or several toys for bait and the lesson is quick and easy, but some dogs find the whole experience frightening.  The issues seem to be that the dog feels “trapped” inside when the flap is on top of him and the popping noise the magnets make when snapping closed.  Luckily, there are steps you can take to train your dog to overcome these fears and begin to enjoy the freedom of coming and going at will.

Training should be spread out over several days and, if your dog is extremely anxious, a week or more may be needed.  Don’t expect this to happen overnight.  Training will require leaving the dog door open or partially open so it is best to do it during a mild time of year or over several nice days.

° First, completely remove the flap covering from the insert.  If the flap cannot be removed, tape the flap up and completely out of the way, using heavy packing or duct tape.  Make sure it is 100% open and the dog can see outside.  By using treats, or toys, bait your dog through the opening until he passes through it with no problems.  If it is still too scary, try sitting on the opposite side of the door from your dog and using a high quality stinky treat like cheese or meat, coax your dog to just put his head through; or set the food inside the door opening and the dog outside and wait for the dog to get the courage to come through.  When he does come through, praise him profusely and play with him for 5 to 15 minutes before trying the training step again.  If you put the dog back out immediately, he may think coming in was a bad thing.

°With the flap still out of the way and the dog freely coming and going through the unobstructed opening, hang an old hand or dish towel that covers ¼ or ½ of the dog door opening.  With the opening now partially obstructed, work with your dog by entering and exiting through it.  Gradually move the towel down the opening until it covers more and more of the door.  When your dog is successfully passing through the dog door as it is completely covered with the towel you are ready to move on.

°Replace the towel with a covering that is a little firmer and more like the doors actual flap.  Ideally, your dog’s experience when passing through this door will be identical to the experience of passing through the dog door minus the popping and snapping noises.  Whether using plastic or flimsy cardboard, cut it to size so that it can swing back and forth through the door.  Attach the covering so that it covers ¼ or ½ of the dog door opening.  Once again, gradually lower the covering and when your dog is freely passing through the silent door covering, you are ready for the final step.

°Reattach or untape the dog door flap and coax your dog through.  If you still have a problem, tape the bottom half or just a corner of the flap up so it shows daylight.  Your dog has used the method successfully so he should readily pass through.  After a day or two, your dog should be ready to use the dog door in the normal way so it is safe to untape it.

Dog doors are designed to be safe for all pets with panels that are made of soft vinyl.  Some offer a more selective access to dogs using a magnet or triggering device which is mounted on the dog’s collar and activates a mechanism that unlatches the door panel when the dog comes within a certain range.  A fully automatic dog door is available allowing access for your dog while keeping strays or other unwanted animals out.

Hopefully, these steps will give a sense of security and freedom to your dog and extend a feeling of confidence knowing he will no longer have to fear being left outside or stuck inside.

 

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Remote Training Collars?

It’s remarkable the number of misconceptions and untruths there are concerning remote training collars.  They are a valuable training tool but people are hesitant to use them because of these harmful myths surrounding them.

The number one reason why people will not use a remote training collar is the belief that they are cruel, unsafe and inhumane.  This is not true.  Remote training equipment, as with many types of trainers, is safe and effective when used properly.  With a good understanding of the correct use and proper training program, the collars are effective and easy to use with no harm to the dog.  The training collar does not apply a painful jarring electrical charge as a lot of people think.  It’s not a shot of electro-convulsive therapy charge or even a wall socket/outlet kind of charge.  It’s more like a static charge you experience when you shuffle across the carpet and then touch something.  The idea is to make it uncomfortable for the dog, just enough to get his attention and communicate to him, not to cause pain.  When working your dog with the collar, you should always set the stimulation level at the lowest, just enough for the dog to feel it.  The stimulation level should produce a curious expression from your dog as if wondering what it is.  You should increase the level if there are distractions around such as a cat running across in front of him.  Chances are he won’t be paying much attention to you so you want to increase the stimulation just enough to get him to take notice.

Many people believe a remote training collar burns the skin on the dog’s neck.  Again, not true.  If the collar were set at its highest level for a long period of time, the stimulation output from the battery located inside isn’t high enough to physically burn.  If the collar isn’t fitted snug enough, it will rub back and forth wearing the hair away from the dog’s neck.  Hot spots develop if the collar is dirty and rubbing the dog’s neck creating sores which could be mistaken for a burn.  Infections can be caused by a loose collar or one which has been left on the dog too long.

Another misconception about training collars is they are stressful on the dog, that it is more humane to train dogs using traditional methods like a leash or choke chain.  Not necessarily.  The collars send a low-level of continuous stimulation to the dog until he correctly performs a certain behavior.  The stimulation stops when the dog responds to the training command.  This is quickly followed with a reward and a lot of praise.  It is important to keep the stimulation level low so as not to interfere with the dog’s concentration allowing him to think.  You want the dog to problem-solve, listen to commands and to learn what is needed to shut off the stimulation.  This technique is escape conditioning which puts the dog in control thus putting him through less stress.  Did I mention dogs learn faster as well?  If you feel intimidated using a training collar on your dog and feel they should only be used by professionals, relax.  Advanced collars and improved technology have made these systems easier to understand and use.  With 15 to 20 minutes of instruction, almost any dog owner will be able to operate and communicate with his dog.  However, thoroughly understand how to use the training collar before you put it on your dog.  If you don’t understand it, seek help from a professional.

Praise is important to your dog as it lets him know when he has done something right.  You will not progress on if you only let him know when he has done something wrong.  Some people mistakenly believe that traditional training aids such as cookies or clickers cannot be used when using a remote training collar.  Actually, praise can be used in all forms when training your dog with any method.

Remote training collars are unparalleled for speed, reliability and ease of use.  They are gentle, effective, and less forceful than a leash and collar.  Dogs need to be properly introduced to a collar as a language in order to develop good behavioral changes, which lead to reliability off the leash.  Improper use by the handler by over stimulating the dog can lead to aggressive behavior which is often redirected to the handler.  Remote training collars are the best training tool invented but in the hands of an abusive handler it can be the worst tool invented.  For those who love their dogs and take the time to learn and properly incorporate the collar into their training program will be rewarded with off leash compliance to obedience commands from their dog.

In-Home Euthanasia for Pets

Knowing when to consider this humane and personal choice.

There are more than 59% of American households with pets and, in the last several decades, they have taken more of a position as a family member and less as property, not only in the eyes of pet owners but in society as a whole.  A pet’s death can be a very traumatic and painful time for owners but it’s also a very personal time.  Having to say goodbye to your best friend in a cold and sterile environment, in front of strangers, only adds to the pain and suffering.  Home is the best place for goodbyes.  It gives comfort and privacy and removes the anxiety for both the pet and its owner.  In-home euthanasia services can cost up to $250 with an extra transportation fee of about $50 if the pet owner is located out of a designated service area.  If a pet owner wants cremation services as well, that cost will be extra.  But keep in mind that a pet owner may pay more if they make an emergency trip to an all-night veterinary hospital.  The exact number of pets who are put down at home each year is unknown but veterinarians are making euthanasia house calls now more than ever.

Deciding on in-home euthanasia is only part of the equation and, though stressful as it is, knowing when the right time to euthanize is equally as stressful.  Never is this more truthful than with first time pet owners.  The moral issue of whether or not we have the right to intervene with the natural order of things raises its nasty head.  There is the feeling of guilt and the dread of anticipatory grief that further cloud our decision-making.  This, therefore, makes euthanizing a pet an individual decision based on one’s sense of what is right for them and their pet.  When becoming a pet owner, we agree to take on the responsibilities of being our pet’s life steward.  It is a big responsibility and, like children, our pets didn’t come with a set of instructions, however, the following guide may be of some help in deciding whether or not to euthanize your pet.

The first and most important thing to keep in mind is the quality of life for your pet.  Ask yourself if your pet still enjoys his daily activities such as going for a walk, greeting you when you come home, sitting with you in your quiet times, does he still play with a favorite toy and enjoy interacting with the family?  A cat, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult when it comes to deciding when to euthanize as their species are masters at hiding disease and they are more stoic.  If a cat displayed illness or a weakness in the wild, they would become prey.  This is why it is important to watch your cat more closely when evaluating him.  Things you may want to watch for are his grooming habits; is he still grooming; does he seek out your affection and attention or is he hiding away?  Take a moment to think about the things that upset your pet’s well-being.  Do they include boredom, isolation, pain, being picked on by other animals in the home?  Are they able to perform and carry out normal bodily functions such as walking, eating, drinking and eliminating?  Is your pet in pain and, if so, do you know the source and is he on medications to alleviate the pain?  What is the pet’s medical prognosis, viable treatment options available and can you afford them?  Make sure you have all the information you need to help you make the best decision possible.

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, suffering pain due to respiratory distress and is just living to breathe, there is no quality of life.  If they are having problems resting and sleeping, many pet will need to sit up with their front legs extended out from their chest in order to open up their chest capacity, there is no quality of life and care should not be continued.  Humane pet euthanasia is indicated in these circumstances.  Relieving pain is the number one component in a pet’s quality of life.  For pets with arthritis, using a Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS), which block the pathways of pain and inflammation with fewer side effects such as peptic ulcers, is helpful.  Veterinarians have access to drugs used in pain management that are not available without prescription so consult your veterinarian to get the appropriate pain drug combination for your pet.  Pets with cancer usually have severe pain at night because, as tumors grow, they impinge on and stimulate local tissue receptors or cause tissue damage and inflammation.

If the pet is older and more prone to infections, proper nutrition is vital in keeping a functioning immune system so it is important to monitor their food intake and weight.  When an animal losses 10% or more of its body weight in a 3-5 day period, supplemental tube feeding may be necessary.  Pets with a chronic disease or cancer suffer from cachexia or a wasting syndrome in which protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism is changed and the animal losses weight, muscle mass and appetite.  An optimal diet, in this case, is one lower in simple carbohydrates and higher in proteins and fat but consult you oncologist for recommendations.  Pets need an adequate intake of fluids, one ounce of fluids per pound of body weight on a daily basis.  If the pet isn’t getting the proper intake, subcutaneous fluid supplementation may be needed to keep them hydrated.  Owners can be taught to administer sterile electrolyte balanced fluids with ease by their veterinarians.  Proper hygiene is important to the well-being of the pet, especially cats.  Acute moist dermatitis can result if excrement and urine are not cleaned from the pet.  A pet’s happiness is important to its quality of life and if the pet seems isolated, afraid or non-reactive with the rest of the family, create interaction and events of enjoyment for them.  Move them closer to where the family interacts; pet them, talk to them and play with them.  Mobility is a challenge for larger breeds of dogs.  In order to keep them from developing recumbent pneumonia and bed sores, they must be rotated or moved every two hours.  Sadly, immobility is the most common reason for humane pet euthanasia.  If a pet has more than 3-5 bad days in a row and is under palliative care, quality of life is lowered and humane pet euthanasia should be considered.

For many, after agonizing over the decision and their pet is gone, they still have remaining feelings of guilt and doubt.  They question the veterinarian and themselves about having done the right thing or perhaps waiting longer and maybe they should have tried something else.  Don’t do this as it will rob you of your confidence and make your precious memories painful.  Remember, the decision you made to euthanize your pet came out of love and caring.  Your pet would tell you this if they could so go easy on yourself; you did well.

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Knowing when to consider this humane and personal choice.

There are more than 59% of American households with pets and, in the last several decades, they have taken more of a position as a family member and less as property, not only in the eyes of pet owners but in society as a whole.  A pet’s death can be a very traumatic and painful time for owners but it’s also a very personal time.  Having to say goodbye to your best friend in a cold and sterile environment, in front of strangers, only adds to the pain and suffering.  Home is the best place for goodbyes.  It gives comfort and privacy and removes the anxiety for both the pet and its owner.  In-home euthanasia services can cost up to $250 with an extra transportation fee of about $50 if the pet owner is located out of a designated service area.  If a pet owner wants cremation services as well, that cost will be extra.  But keep in mind that a pet owner may pay more if they make an emergency trip to an all-night veterinary hospital.  The exact number of pets who are put down at home each year is unknown but veterinarians are making euthanasia house calls now more than ever.

Deciding on in-home euthanasia is only part of the equation and, though stressful as it is, knowing when the right time to euthanize is equally as stressful.  Never is this more truthful than with first time pet owners.  The moral issue of whether or not we have the right to intervene with the natural order of things raises its nasty head.  There is the feeling of guilt and the dread of anticipatory grief that further cloud our decision-making.  This, therefore, makes euthanizing a pet an individual decision based on one’s sense of what is right for them and their pet.  When becoming a pet owner, we agree to take on the responsibilities of being our pet’s life steward.  It is a big responsibility and, like children, our pets didn’t come with a set of instructions, however, the following guide may be of some help in deciding whether or not to euthanize your pet.

The first and most important thing to keep in mind is the quality of life for your pet.  Ask yourself if your pet still enjoys his daily activities such as going for a walk, greeting you when you come home, sitting with you in your quiet times, does he still play with a favorite toy and enjoy interacting with the family?  A cat, on the other hand, can be a little more difficult when it comes to deciding when to euthanize as their species are masters at hiding disease and they are more stoic.  If a cat displayed illness or a weakness in the wild, they would become prey.  This is why it is important to watch your cat more closely when evaluating him.  Things you may want to watch for are his grooming habits; is he still grooming; does he seek out your affection and attention or is he hiding away?  Take a moment to think about the things that upset your pet’s well-being.  Do they include boredom, isolation, pain, being picked on by other animals in the home?  Are they able to perform and carry out normal bodily functions such as walking, eating, drinking and eliminating?  Is your pet in pain and, if so, do you know the source and is he on medications to alleviate the pain?  What is the pet’s medical prognosis, viable treatment options available and can you afford them?  Make sure you have all the information you need to help you make the best decision possible.

If your pet is having difficulty breathing, suffering pain due to respiratory distress and is just living to breathe, there is no quality of life.  If they are having problems resting and sleeping, many pet will need to sit up with their front legs extended out from their chest in order to open up their chest capacity, there is no quality of life and care should not be continued.  Humane pet euthanasia is indicated in these circumstances.  Relieving pain is the number one component in a pet’s quality of life.  For pets with arthritis, using a Non-Steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDS), which block the pathways of pain and inflammation with fewer side effects such as peptic ulcers, is helpful.  Veterinarians have access to drugs used in pain management that are not available without prescription so consult your veterinarian to get the appropriate pain drug combination for your pet.  Pets with cancer usually have severe pain at night because, as tumors grow, they impinge on and stimulate local tissue receptors or cause tissue damage and inflammation.

If the pet is older and more prone to infections, proper nutrition is vital in keeping a functioning immune system so it is important to monitor their food intake and weight.  When an animal losses 10% or more of its body weight in a 3-5 day period, supplemental tube feeding may be necessary.  Pets with a chronic disease or cancer suffer from cachexia or a wasting syndrome in which protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism is changed and the animal losses weight, muscle mass and appetite.  An optimal diet, in this case, is one lower in simple carbohydrates and higher in proteins and fat but consult you oncologist for recommendations.  Pets need an adequate intake of fluids, one ounce of fluids per pound of body weight on a daily basis.  If the pet isn’t getting the proper intake, subcutaneous fluid supplementation may be needed to keep them hydrated.  Owners can be taught to administer sterile electrolyte balanced fluids with ease by their veterinarians.  Proper hygiene is important to the well-being of the pet, especially cats.  Acute moist dermatitis can result if excrement and urine are not cleaned from the pet.  A pet’s happiness is important to its quality of life and if the pet seems isolated, afraid or non-reactive with the rest of the family, create interaction and events of enjoyment for them.  Move them closer to where the family interacts; pet them, talk to them and play with them.  Mobility is a challenge for larger breeds of dogs.  In order to keep them from developing recumbent pneumonia and bed sores, they must be rotated or moved every two hours.  Sadly, immobility is the most common reason for humane pet euthanasia.  If a pet has more than 3-5 bad days in a row and is under palliative care, quality of life is lowered and humane pet euthanasia should be considered.

For many, after agonizing over the decision and their pet is gone, they still have remaining feelings of guilt and doubt.  They question the veterinarian and themselves about having done the right thing or perhaps waiting longer and maybe they should have tried something else.  Don’t do this as it will rob you of your confidence and make your precious memories painful.  Remember, the decision you made to euthanize your pet came out of love and caring.  Your pet would tell you this if they could so go easy on yourself; you did well.

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Pet Vaccination; How Much is Too Much?
Back in 2003, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) revised vaccination guidelines, recommending veterinarians to vaccinate adult dogs every three years instead of annually and many veterinarians have changed their protocols in respect to the new guidelines.  The change was implemented after experts agreed with the overwhelming evidence showing annual vaccinations for canine diseases were unnecessary and harmful.    It behooves the pet owner to avoid veterinarian service providers who recommend, and even demand, annual vaccines.  There are many veterinarians who choose to ignore the guidelines as they don’t want to lose the income these booster shots bring in every year.  Another  veterinarian service pet owners should avoid are those provided in a parking lot or pet supply store where you and your pet are without the benefit of a relationship with the veterinarian providing the inexpensive service.  Your pet may pay the price of inappropriate or unnecessary veterinarian care.  Vaccinations are a major stress to your pet’s immune system and can cause side effects and allergic reactions as well as long term chronic disease such as skin allergies, arthritis, leukemia, upper respiratory infections, irritable bowel syndrome, and neurological conditions as aggressive behavior, epilepsy, auto-immune disease and cancer.  It is common today for veterinarians to see sicker dogs and cats at a much younger age.  Pets as young as 5 years of age are diagnosed with cancer and auto-immune disease is also on the rise.  Combine over-vaccination with poor nutrition, poor breeding practices and environmental stresses and your left with generations of pets who are susceptible to chronic disease and congenital disorders.  Yearly veterinary checkups are imperative for your pet as this provides them with a strong health baseline, helps pet owners recognize subtle changes in their pets over time, as well as develops a relationship between your veterinarian, you and your pet.
It is best to prepare yourself for your dog’s annual veterinary visit.  Be ready to discuss the best vaccine strategy for your pet by bringing veterinary records of your pet’s vaccine history with you.  Don’t assume the clinic will have the most recent information on hand and this is more imperative if you’ve changed veterinary clinics.  Include all test results such as heartworm, antibody titer, blood and/or urinalysis.  Have a clear idea whether you want or need your pet to receive any vaccinations for which diseases and ask your veterinarian if any particular vaccines are necessary due to conditions in the area you live in.  Consider the risk.  If your pet is indoors only and is never exposed to unvaccinated animals, then the risk of infection is low.  Educate yourself so that you can have an intelligent conversation with your veterinarian concerning the good and bad of vaccinating your pet.  Know your pet’s health; whether he has health or behavioral issues that your veterinarian should be aware of and bring a list of any medications or supplements your pet is taking along with dosage, strength and frequency.  The decision to vaccinate your pet or not is very individual and should be based on extensive research before you go to your veterinarian.  If you are seeing a veterinarian for the first time, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see him without your pet to discuss his philosophy toward vaccinations and other tests such as the antibody titer test.  A “titer” is a measurement of how much antibody a certain antigen is circulating in the blood at that moment.  A dog displaying a positive antibody titer test result is considered protected from the disease for which the vaccine is intended and does not need vaccines at that time.  Never vaccinate a pet whose immune system is compromised with an infection as the vaccine might distract the  immune system from handling the infection and create the likelihood that the vaccine may not produce protective immunity.
 Should you choose to vaccinate your pet, consider asking your veterinarian to perform a health exam and other tests first then wait for the results.  If your pet is in good health, schedule a follow-up vaccine visit.  Avoid multiple vaccines in one or combination vaccines; if this is the only option available, look elsewhere.  Don’t vaccinate your pet more than every three years.  Some vaccines such as Lepto, Bordetella, or Lyme do not last more than one year however consider whether these diseases are heightened in your area before vaccinating your pet.  Schedule these vaccines separately from the rabies vaccine if your pet needs them and administer them in another part of the body.  Vaccine programs must be designed to each animals specific needs, not the masses.  You need to figure the dog’s age, environment, activities, lifestyle and previous adverse vaccine reactions, if any, in the equation.  Do not vaccinate puppies and kittens who are younger than 12 weeks of age as their immune systems are very vulnerable to the stress of the vaccine.  Keep puppies and kittens safe from exposure by avoiding pubic areas such as parks and pet stores.  Vaccinate puppies between the age of 12-15 weeks for parvovirus and distemper and wait until after they are 6 months old before vaccinating for rabies.  For kittens, one Panleukopenia combination (FRCP) and, if available, have the vaccine administered separately spaced three to four weeks apart.  Consider the lifestyle and environment of your cat; if he goes outside and you have rabies in your area, vaccinate him at 6 months of age.  Feline leukemia and FIP vaccines may not be necessary for your cat.  Keep in mind that legal requirements vary from state to state.  Studies show that a single vaccination for parvovirus, distemper and panleukopenia provide long-term protection and a simple blood test will revel if antibodies levels remain high enough to resist infection therefore a “booster” is not needed.  Vaccines do not need “boosting”.  Unless diseases are locally endemic or if a specific kennel has contracted  Bordetella, corona virus, leptospirosis or Lyme, veterinarians do not recommend vaccinations.  The leptospirosis vaccine is generally not useful because the currently licensed leptospira bacterins do not have the serovars which cause leptospirosis today.  An alternative homeopathic method used by pet owners choosing not to vaccinate are Nosodes which can be used on animals younger than three months of age if the animal is at risk.  These homeopathic medicines help protect pets against Parvovirus, Distemper, Kennel Cough, Panleukopenia and FIP.  Though some nosodes work more effectively than others, they are not vaccines and do not produce titers against these diseases but seem to offer some protection in the severity of illness if the pet has been exposed even if they don’t prevent the disease.
When it comes to vaccinating your pet, educate yourself.  You are your pet’s guardian and the decision is yours, not your veterinarians, nor should it be.  You are responsible for the care of your companion; give them the best by researching and very carefully weighing decisions about their healthcare.
Bonnie Weinhold carefully researches products for your pet for the highest quality and safety.  Find the best products for your four-legged best friend at http://www.chocolatedogadvertising.com.
Securing Your Dog While Traveling May Soon be Law
You cannot help but smile when you see a happy dog hanging his head out of a car window.  It’s because of this happiness and sense of freedom that makes it hard to convince their owners that their pet will be equally as happy tethered or sitting in a crate.  It is even harder trying to convince the pet.  But with more pets traveling by auto, law enforcement agencies and animal advocates are campaigning hard against distracted driving  while pushing equally as hard for seat-belt harnesses, car seats and other restraints for dogs which still offer some freedom of movement and a window view.  In 2009, about 89% of pets were unrestrained while traveling in the car which is an improvement from 2008 when 98% were unsecured.  As it stands now, there are no federal or state laws requiring securing your pet while traveling in the car.  In case of an accident or hitting the brakes at 50 miles an hour, an unsecured dog becomes a projectile in the car.  This is a safety hazard to the dog and to the passengers in the car.  According to the American Pet Products Association, nearly 25% of dog owners take them in the car when traveling compared to 16% ten years ago.  Since more pet owners take their companions on the road with them, the sale of dog-travel pet products are on the rise as well.  Sales of car harnesses which straps around a dog’s body and attaches to a seat belt are most preferred with sales doubling annually since 2007.  Booster seats which hook around the car headrest and tethers a small dog, keeping it off of the owner’s lap, are also a top seller.  It has the additional benefit of keeping the car cleaner.  Besides harnesses and booster seats, there are barriers for SUV’s and steel cargo barriers for wagons which keep the dog in the luggage area and away from the driver.  If a 60-pound unbelted child is traveling in the back seat of a car going 30 mph, in case of a sudden stop, would become 2,700 pounds of force.  A pet that size would become like a baby elephant.  Other problems with unsecured pets in cars is in the case of an accident, the dog runs into traffic or acts aggressively toward emergency workers who are aiding victims.  Most Pet Insurance auto claims are related to unrestrained animals jumping from a moving vehicle.  Some state legislators and law-enforcement officials are fighting for tougher regulations dealing with pets traveling in cars.  In Hawaii, drivers cannot hold animals in their lap or have them close enough to interfere with the driver’s ability to control  his/her vehicle and California, Virginia, and Oregon have introduced similar measures though none have been made a law.  In the case of an accident where airbags are deployed, a driver may sustain minor cuts and bruises but a small dog, sleeping in the front passenger seat can suffer internal injuries and die.
All of these arguments for restraining your pet while traveling are good arguments but what about a pilot study done by the Center for Pet Safety, that states pet safety restraints used in vehicles may be unsafe, therefore negating the theory of preventing your pet from becoming a projectile in case of an accident? The CPS is a nonprofit organization conducting a study to define safe travel for both companion animals and their owners.  There are no current specific safety standards concerning animal restraints and manufacture testing is not required.  Though researchers agree that tethering or containing ones pet helps reduce distracted drivers, they do not prevent your pet from becoming a projectile in the case of an accident.
In the study, the harness size selected was based on six of the top ten dog breeds which were within the “large” harness category.  A crash test dog was designed, weighed and instrumented for data collection.  No live animals were used in the study.  Twelve restraints from major brands purchased online were used, out of which four were used as a “control group”.  This group based it’s decision on product strengths and design and reputed marketplace popularity.  In their pilot study, there was a 100% failure rate of the set of four of the most popular animal travel harnesses crash tested.  
There is more that needs to be addressed and studied in defining travel safety for your pet; the issue of his becoming a projectile being just one.  Funding is needed to support these studies with a large amount coming from donations.  Hopefully, through this funding, safely traveling with your pet will be comparable to the safety of traveling with children.  Securing your pet while traveling is the responsible thing to do for both you and your pet.  Some protection is better than nothing, right?  You don’t want to jeopardize your safety and that of your pet in the case of a sudden stop or accident.  It is already law in some states and will most likely become law in all states within a few years so you might as well get your pet used to wearing one now.
So, secure your four-legged best friend as well as yourself and, both of you, enjoy the ride.

Understanding and Controlling Prey Drive

Prey drive seems to be the “buzz-word” among dog people these days.  Its text-book definition states it is the instinctual behavior of carnivores to chase and capture prey but is commonly used in describing habits in dog training.  Prey drive is what motivates a dog to give chase to a ball, animals, a car, or a child running away, which is why it is important to teach children to never run away from a dog.  Understanding your dog’s Prey drive will influence how you control him, which will keep your dog out of trouble.
The prey drive follows a sequence which is the same in all predators.  The sequence starts with the search leading to the eye-stalk, the chase, the grab bite, and then finally, the kill bite. Through the process of selective breeding, some of these five sequences are dominate or diminished in different breeds of dogs to accommodate various human purposes.  The search aspect of the sequence is essential to detection dogs like beagles and bloodhounds.  Eye-stalking is important in herding dogs while the chase is a must for racing dogs and terriers are valued for their grab bite and kill bite.  Some prey drive aspects can be undesirable  in certain dogs, such as the retriever who is to chase the prey then bring it back to the human hunter without biting it or damaging it in any way.  Herding dogs stalk and chase but inhibit the grab bite and kill bite urge to keep them from wounding the stock.  Bull terriers have amplified grab bite because humans used them to restrain bulls by hanging on to their noses but there was no need for the Bull terrier to search or stalk the prey.  Terriers may be small but that means very little when it comes to prey drive as these little dogs were bred for chasing vermin underground.  But not all small breeds have a high prey drive.   The Pekingese and Maltese make better companions and watchdogs as they have little ambition to give chase.  Dogs who are bred for guarding livestock and homes have low prey drive compared to those bred for sporting, herding or those in the hound group who have high drive.  Siberian Huskies, who are from the working group show a high instinct to chase which they will do with total abandon, ignoring the call to come back.  Sight hounds and scent hounds have high prey drive and once the instinctive drive takes over, even the most well-trained dog will ignore the call to return as well.  A high prey drive dog should always be on a leash no matter how confident you are that he will return when called.  By having an outside dog securely penned and on a leash, you will be able to control his instinctual reaction to chase what he sees moving.
Different dogs will have substantially varying levels of prey drive.  Search and rescue dogs as well as narcotics detection dogs must have enough drive to keep them searching for hours for their quarry.  In dog training, strong prey drive motivates dogs to pursue moving objects which  is an advantage.  A dog’s breed characteristics, temperament and what he was bred for defines his behavior and by understanding what he was bred for, you can control his behavior through knowledgeable training and exercise.  A dogs prey drive is “hard-wired” into them and cannot be turned on and off at will which is what makes them good at performing specific jobs.  For a dog to continue to have a healthy and stable mind, he must have physical activity daily.  If you don’t enjoy long walks or participating in dog sports, then a dog with high prey drive would not be a good choice.  Dogs who are diggers and escape artists, such as huskies and terriers, will try to escape if left unsupervised and you will be responsible for what he does if he succeeds.  Understanding prey drive matters as it will help you decide on the right breed of dog for your lifestyle.  Shelters are full of dogs whose owner picked a high prey drive dog they couldn’t handle.
When an owner stimulates his dog’s prey dive then satisfies the drive through play, the dog is happy and his overall behavior is balanced.  However, if his owner works long hours, has a hectic family schedule and doesn’t spend quality time with him, the dog’s energy level will increase to the point of behavioral problems resulting in a frustrated owner and possibly a new home for the dog.  Dogs with high drive must vent their energy or destructive behavior, such as chewing, will be their release.  Chewing will pacify a dogs adrenal system in the same way a cigarette relaxes a smoker.  Dogs with too much energy may bark too much, jump fences, or mouth parts of the human body.  Dogs were bred with a specific purpose and to get a dog based only on looks or image without understanding breed characteristics is inviting problems.  Conscientious breeders carefully screen prospective buyers to assure their breed of choice is right for their lifestyle.  They make sure these buyers have a fenced yard, time in their day to properly exercise the dog, if the buyer is physically able to handle the dog and has knowledge of the breed and its characteristics.  If the breeder feels his breed of dog may be too high prey drive for the buyer, he will refer them to a pet quality breeder of lower prey drive breeds and discourage them from owning a dog that does not fit their lifestyle.
For owners of high prey drive dogs who exhibit destructive behavior, daily exercise such as long walks are helpful or playing chase with a ball or Frisbee will use up energy.  The stress of learning in an obedience class will wear him out.  Enroll your athletic or scenting dog in agility and tracking classes to use pent-up energy.  Owners who got their high drive dog through adoption or a private party should research the   breed through the library, internet, or by talking to breeders and other owners.  Breed clubs will educate you about your breed, talk to others with high drive breeds and offer activities related to the breed.
And for the “chewers” and diggers, confining them to a crate when they cannot be watched will keep those unwanted behaviors in check.
Choosing a dog isn’t like choosing an article of clothing.  A dog is a companion, a family member so be knowledgeable of your breed of choice and be truthful to yourself when it comes to your breed of choice and your lifestyle.  In other words…choose wisely.

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence; A Correlated Generalized

Animal Abuse and Domestic Violence; A Correlated Generalized Deviance
I believe it is safe to say that a majority of defendants charged in our courts with animal abuse have prior domestic violence convictions as well.  It is because of the “generalized deviance” that domestic violence and animal abuse are correlated.  Anti-social behavior of different levels can happen in one individual but how that individual came to exercise the deviance is more complicated as there are many pathways that lead to it.  An example of one of these exercises is the individuals use of violence or other anti-social manipulations to “solve”  problems which is called “modeling” and explains why violence is often intergenerational.  Although animal abuse and domestic violence are correlated, it varies as to which occurs first.
But are there any numbers we can connect here; any studies conducted to make this deviance a little more tangible?  A study done in New Jersey found that in 88% of households where children were physically abused, there were records of animal abuse as well.  In Wisconsin, four out of five battered women cases revealed the partner had been violent toward pets.  The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study of abuse victims after arriving at domestic violence shelters and found that 85.4% of women and 63.0% of children reported incidents of pet abuse.  The Chicago Police Department’s Domestic Violence Program compiled a history of arrestees for animal fighting/animal abuse for the period of 2000-2001 and found that approximately 30% had a conviction of domestic violence on their record.  Animal abuse is often associated with other serious crimes such as drug offenses, gangs, weapons violence, sexual assault, and domestic violence and the individuals committing these acts of violence against animals are viewed as a danger to the public and therefore, must by addressed.  The whole premise of an animal abuser is to demonstrate power.  The abuser will batter an animal to hold control over his family, to isolate them and enforce submission.  He will abuse a pet to perpetuate a fearful environment; to prevent a victim from leaving or coerce them to return.  They will batter an animal to punish a victim for showing independence.
First responders and professionals who investigate abuse should be aware and trained to observe the cycle of violence.  Some states practice this observance and take it a step further by implementing cross-reporting laws.  When an animal control officer is called to investigate animal abuse in a home with children, they are mandated to report child abuse when animal abuse is confirmed.  Children are generally more willing to discuss what happened to a pet than they are to their own victimization.  In Ohio, any child under the age of 18 years of age who commits cruelty to a pet, is required to undergo psychological evaluation to determine individual or family counseling as necessary.  The legislation also permit’s the court to include a protection order for any companion animal in the home of the person seeking a criminal protection order, domestic violence protection order, a civil stalking order, a sexual offense protection order, or the approval of a civil domestic violence consent agreement.  Often a partner will abuse a pet that is in the home as a tactic to keep the victim under control.  It is understood that many victims will not leave when it puts their pets in harms way.  When questioning victims and their children, first responders should be alert for signs of child and/or pet victimization.  They should ask if the abuser or anyone else threatened to harm their pet and ask if they need help finding a safe place for their pet to go if they leave.  Many victims will not prosecute their abuser however, animal cruelty prosecution can result in incarceration or treatment that is equal to results from a domestic violence prosecution.
Domestic Violence Shelters, Animal Shelters, and Humane Organizations can do much to offer protection for animal victims.  When working with abuse victims in their safety planning, be sure they include their pets.  Question them about any threats or injuries to their pets.  Work with legislators to include pets in orders of protection and educate judges on the necessities of these inclusions.  Team up with your local animal control and humane organizations and local domestic violence shelters to establish emergency housing of pets coming from homes experiencing violence.  If there is no space available, establish a network of homes that provide emergency care for these pets through foster care agencies then incorporate these connections in school programs where they might reach children who are at risk of family violence.  Also, many YWCAs have pet shelter programs that are in partnership with the humane society, local clinics, kennels, stables, and veterinarians.
Unfortunately, victims of domestic violence often choose to stay in abusive relationships to protect their pets.  A study shows that 71% of women seeking “safe haven” in domestic violence shelters had companion animals threatened, hurt, or killed by their abuser.  Many victims never even go to a shelter because of this fear for their pets.  It is in recognition of this fact that many states have passed  laws including pets in court-issued orders of protection and to include any animal that is harmed or threatened with harm in the state’s definition of “domestic violence.”  Society doesn’t consider animal cruelty as severe as violence against humans but it is increasingly viewed as a serious issue by professionals in law enforcement and mental health.  Effective prosecution of animal abuse can provide early and timely response to those who are, or who are at risk of becoming, a threat to the safety of others.  It is a tool for protection for victims of family violence, developing new skills and understanding which will help build a truly compassionate society.

Cannabis as Pain Treatment for Pets


When pets develop cancerous tumors that eventually metastasize to other organs, veterinarians often prescribe tramadol for pain and a prognosis of a few months to live. But more pet owners complain that tramadol makes their pet sleep all the time and lethargic.  Such was the case with Denise’s 12-year-old Labrador Retriever-mix, Miles, who suffered from a splenic tumor which metastasized to his liver and lungs.  Denise didn’t like the affect tramadol caused in Miles.  That was until Denise’s friend suggested she try a tincture made of marijuana which is sold from a medical marijuana dispensary as a pet  medicine.  Mile’s appetite returned and he stopped vomiting within an hour after being given the tincture and Denise believes this is not a coincidence.  She also believes that if Miles was on the tramadol, he would be sleeping in bed, not eating or possible dead instead of running on the beach and being himself which he is now doing.

Miles had terminal cancer and would die soon, was the reasoning Denis turned to when she felt hesitant about giving Miles an unapproved drug.  She further reasoned by saying people don’t overdose on marijuana and it was used with humans suffering pain and nausea from cancer and cancer treatment.  Denise never would have considered giving Miles marijuana had the tramadol worked and now she is a “true believer” in the therapeutic effects of marijuana and will recommend it to other who have pets suffering from some aliments that would benefit.  It is a matter of better quality of life for your pet, not getting your pet high.

Federal prohibition on medical marijuana has been a battle of contention since 1996 when a referendum was approved in California allowing legal personal growing, possession and use of marijuana for patients who have a doctor’s recommendation.  Since that time, 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed  similar laws with Colorado and Washington state legalizing marijuana for recreational use in 2012.  The federal government, however, isn’t on the same page.  Federal law prohibits the use of marijuana in all forms and breaking that law leads one to face serious legal consequences.  This includes the states where medical marijuana is legal.  But public attitude is changing, showing that for the first time in 40 years, 52% of Americans favor legalizing marijuana while 77% said marijuana has legitimate medical uses.  Keep in mind that the Food and Drug Administration believes that marijuana is not safe nor effective for treating any human or animal disease.  Since 1970, marijuana has been classified as a schedule I drug meaning that the federal Controlled Substances Act believes marijuana has no current acceptable medical use and has a high potential for abuse like heroin, LSD, and ecstasy which are also schedule I drugs, while cocaine, methamphetamine, and morphine are schedule II drugs.  There are 60+ cannabinoids unique to marijuana and although it is not approved for any medical use, cannabinoid-based drugs such as Nabilone, used as an ant emetic and adjunct analgesic for neuropathic pain, as well as treatment of anorexia and weight loss in AIDS patients, are available in the United States by prescription.  Because regulations are so high for clinical research on schedule I drugs, many physicians and health care organizations such as the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, and National Association for Public Health Policy are asking to reschedule marijuana so more research can be done that could create new cannabinoid-based medications.

An increasing number of pet owners are telling their veterinarians about having experimented with or given medical  marijuana to their pets.  Some veterinarians have had their own personal pets fall victim to illnesses that, after exhausting ever avenue of legal, conventional treatment, including steroids, only medical marijuana could relieve.  They believe there is strong evidence to support the use of medical marijuana in veterinary patients as an adjunct treatment or alternative treatment for chronic pain, postoperative pain and palliative care.  Veterinarians support the AMA’s position and believe that marijuana needs to be investigated further to determine if case reports are true or whether there is a placebo affect taking place and what are the risks involved.  But pet owners are not waiting for science and are feeding marijuana to their pets to treat behavior-based disorders, irritable bowel syndrome, pain management, nausea, and appetite stimulate while cannabis oil is used topically to treat tumors.  It is illegal for a veterinarian to recommend the schedule I drug to patience even in states where medical marijuana is sanctioned and physicians are exempt from prosecution by the state.

Although many veterinarians sympathize, they are hesitant to consider marijuana as a potential veterinary drug.  For most veterinarians, the only experience they have had with pets and marijuana is treating the pet for ingesting toxic amounts of the drug.  It is clear that pet owners are giving their companions marijuana with both good and bad effects.  But the veterinary community does not want to address and talk about an area with real and potential impact on animal welfare.  The predominant view is that marijuana is only a toxic plant.  Veterinarians should not discount marijuana’s potential as an animal therapy just because it is a controlled substance or a plant as the same can be said about morphine, however, morphine’s pharmacological effects on humans and animals have been thoroughly researched and studied; medical marijuana has not, therefore, putting an animal at risk when giving it to them as a drug.  Do not assume that marijuana affects animals and humans in the same way nor should the assumptions be made that since marijuana is a natural substance it isn’t harmful.  Those in the veterinary profession can no longer sit ideally by as the rest of the country makes decisions on  medical marijuana.  There should be a well-designed controlled clinical trial on the use of medical marijuana as a pain killer in animals suffering from cancer as it affects both pets and people.

Cannabis is now a part of the fabric that makes up our society but the in the heated battle between the federal government keeping it a schedule I drug and the publics desire to make it legal both medicinally and recreationally, it is bound to cause casualties.  Is it a price you are willing to pay with your pet?


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Do You Have a Contingency Plan in Place for Your Pet?

In the United States approximately 62% of households have a pet.  In a recent independently administered ASPCA survey of 1000 pet owners, only 17% had taken the necessary legal steps to protect their pet’s future.  Among the 1000 pet owners surveyed 42% already had a valid will in place but only 18% included their pet in it.  The ASPCA estimates approximately 100,000 pets are entered into shelters every year due to their guardian becoming unable to care for them or because the guardian died.  And, of the four million pets euthanized in shelters in the United States each year, around 500,000 are euthanized because their owners did not have a contingency plan in place encase of their absence.  The pet’s fate is left to luck and circumstances if their human caretaker did not develop a plan.  Often, it is a family member of the pet owner who brings the pet to a shelter claiming they do not have the resources to care for the pet and all efforts to find it a new home have failed.  Many times the pet is quite elderly and will spend their final days among strangers in a strange land.  These orphaned animals are so despondent – not wanting to eat or interact with others, that they are labeled as unadoptable and do not “sell” well.
 
In the eyes of the law, animals are considered tangible personal property, however, estate and trust lawyers do not think of pets as property thereby rarely raising the issue of pet guardianship and animal trusts when discussing other estate planning issues with their clients.  All responsible pet owners need to have a contingency plan in place for their pets; something concrete to ensure their pets will be taken care of should something unexpected happen to them.  Start by naming, at least, two responsible friends or relatives committed to caring for your pets, permanently if you die, temporarily if you are hospitalized or incapacitated.  If a committed friend or family member cannot be established, then explore other avenues such as a pet sitter, rescue groups, or veterinarian technicians or students.  Bequeathing your pet to somebody in your will is a good option and it is better than nothing at all but keep in mind that a will can be contested over a number of matters not necessarily having to do with the pet, in which case, the will can be held up in probate, putting the state property, and this includes the pet, on hold for months at a time.
 
Having a clear and detailed set of instructions for the designated caregiver will benefit the pet greatly.  List things like diet, exercise, medications or special medical needs, daily routine, location of veterinarian, and pet sitters.  Include information pertaining to behavioral habits such as, hates the vacuum cleaner, loves to chase balls, preference time for walks, etc.  Another good idea is to carry an “animal card” in your wallet with your pet’s name, type, location, name of contact person and any special care instructions.  That way, if you are injured or incapacitated, a police officer, doctor or other responsible person knows that a pet is relying on you.  In addition, keeping an “animal document” with other estate planning materials consisting of the same information that is on the animal card, will expedite finding the pet and contacting its legal guardian as quickly as possible.
 
To ensure that your pet is well cared for, provide adequate money for the care of your pet for the remainder of its lifetime.  To do this calculation, estimate the pets yearly cost, like food vet visits, etc.,   then multiply that by its life expectancy.  Funds for lifetime care can be established in wills and estate planning and pet trusts.  You do not have to be a millionaire to leave the appropriate funds to provide for the daily life of a pet.  There are two types of pet trusts, generally speaking.  First, there is a traditional pet trust which is recognized by all states.  It allows the owner to appoint a trustee to manage a stated amount of money for the pet, specify a caregiver, outline the type of care the pet is to receive, the kind of expenses the caregiver will pay, and what is to be done should the designated caregiver can no longer care for the pet.  The other trust is a “statutory pet trust” which is authorized in a majority of states but it does not allow the pet owner to make many decisions concerning the terms of the trust.  It is a basic, bare-bones document where the state fills any and all gaps.  This trust may not give the pet owner the peace of mind desired about how their pet will be cared for upon their demise.
 
Our pets rely on us to take care of them regardless of the circumstances.  It is irresponsible to ignore these issues and not make a solid and detailed contingency plan for them.  After all, our pets are family, too.
 
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Canine Stroke – Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

 
If your dog suffered a stroke, would you know?  Do you know the symptoms and what to do?  Canine stroke symptoms are different from human stroke symptoms and usually appear suddenly.  Common symptoms in humans include paralysis on one side of the body and drooping face.  This is not so in canines.  Their stroke symptoms include changes in behavior and loss of balance.  Blindness, heart arrhythmia or collapse can occur in severe cases.  Although strokes are very rare in dogs, they recover faster than humans.  Canine stroke symptoms vary based on the location of the stroke and often include a tilting of the head, or walking in circles.  They may turn the opposite or wrong way when called, eat out of only one side of their food bowl, and act tired or lethargic.  They may suffer loss of bladder and bowel control, become blind and have a sudden change in behavior.
There are two kinds of canine stroke, ischemic and hemorrhagic but both types involve a disruption in the flow of blood to the brain. Ischemic stroke occurs when a blocked artery disrupts blood flow to the brain.  A hemorrhagic stroke happens when actual bleeding in the brain, caused by a burst blood vessel, disrupts blood flow.  Conditions which are the main cause for ischemic stroke are kidney, liver, heart or Cushing’s disease, diabetes, parasites, tumors, fat, spinal cartilage, high blood pressure, and over or under active thyroid glands.  Conditions which are the main cause for hemorrhagic stroke include all types of diseases which lead to high blood pressure such as kidney, heart, Cushing’s, blood clotting diseases, head trauma, brain tumor, consumption of rat poison, inflammation of the arteries, lung worm, immune-mediated thrombocytopenia, and abnormal blood vessel development in the brain.  Needless to say, if you see symptoms of stroke in your dog, take him or her to your veterinarian right way.
When diagnosing the stroke symptoms of a dog, the veterinarian will do a complete physical exam before running a series of tests.  He or she will view your dog’s brain via a CT scan or an MRI in order to diagnose the stroke as it will not show up on an X-ray.  Once verified that your dog has indeed suffered a stroke, the next step is finding the cause.  This may include blood tests, X-rays, ultra-sound tests, and a spinal tap.  Head trauma can also be cause for stroke.  Keep in mind that in about 50% of all cases, cause of the stroke is not able to be determined.
Treatment for canine stroke is focused on treating the cause, if determined, as a preventative for future strokes.  Corticosteroids for brain swelling along with anticonvulsant medication to prevent seizures are usually prescribed.  Studies show that dogs can recover quickly from strokes with most dogs recovering their motor functions and movement control within several weeks, however, the extent of recovery depends on the severity of the stroke and the amount of damage done to the brain.  There is a good chance that the dog’s behavior may change so pet owners must accept the truth of this fact.  The best treatment for canine stroke is to maintain a healthy lifestyle for your dog.  This goes a long way in preventing and controlling the disease and keeping it from causing more damage to the brain in the future.
Dogs suffering from kidney disease can prevent canine stroke by controlling their diet.  Feeding your dog a diet with low levels of phosphorus may slow down and reduce the mineral deposits in the kidneys.  High levels of nitrogenous wastes can cause nausea and vomiting.  Low protein diets have less nitrogenous wastes but, if not careful, can lead to dog malnutrition.  Do not change your dog’s diet without discussing it with your veterinarian first.  Obese dogs are at a higher risk for developing heart disease so a good balanced diet and frequent exercise is imperative.  Canine diabetes is a disorder of metabolism caused by less insulin being produced by the pancreas or cells that do not accept insulin normally.  Dogs suffering from diabetes will need insulin for the rest of their lives and adhering strictly to their diet is important.  Food that is high in protein and fiber with restricted fats and carbohydrates is best.
Another choice for prevention for dogs who have had a stroke is to supplement their diet with herbal supplements which are designed to support brain and nervous system function.  Look for ingredients such as passiflora incarnate or Passionflower which helps the nervous system, also Skullcap, Hyoscyamus (30C), Belladonna (30C), and Cuprum mettalicum (30C).
Keep in mind, if your dog is very young or very old, he will be at higher risk for a stroke when exposed to extreme temperatures.  Though some experts believe there is no age, sex or breed predisposition associated with domestic canine stroke, others believe that breeds with extremely thick coats and those with flat faces, such as bulldogs and pugs, are stoke-prone due to the fact that their respiratory pathways are narrow and limited , a consideration when purchasing a breed dog.
Canine stoke is a real and dangerous thing.  Knowing what to look for and how to prevent future strokes is more than half the battle.

Be My Memory – Alzheimer’s Assistance Dogs

Alzheimer’s disease is frightening.  The loss of your health as well as the part of you that makes you unique is a terrifying idea.  Those who are affected by this disease begin to lose memory, judgment, and orientation in time and to their surroundings, along with their ability to relate normally to the presence of people because of damage to their cognitive thinking.  These changes interrupt their normal function in everyday life.  The loss of orientation interferes with the ability to return home safely which could be compromising to their safety every time they step out of the door alone.
As the disease progresses, Alzheimer’s sufferers experience terrible isolation, frustration, anger and helplessness.  As the disease starts slowly, it leaves the sufferer aware of what is happening to him and what he can expect in the future.  People as young as 50 to 60 can start feeling the first effects, and active, respected professionals find themselves prisoners in their own homes, dependent on others for even the simplest things.  The resulting depression and despair often leads the patient to refuse to leave his home or bed and to refuse contact with others as well as serious deterioration of the patient’s physical health.
An Israeli dog trainer, specializing in training dogs for various disabilities, felt that there had to be a way to train dogs to help early onset Alzheimer’s sufferers live a normal life for as long as possible so as not to be a burden on their families and caretakers.  Dogs assist people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities so there should be no reason why they could not also be trained to help Alzheimer’s patients.  After consulting with medical, psychiatric, social workers, and technical experts, a service dog program was developed to specifically cope with the problems of this condition.
The first dog to be trained in the program was a smooth collie, starting when she was three months of age.  Her main job is to bring her master safely home when he becomes disoriented, avoiding obstacles such as parked cars, holes, traffic and anything else that might get in the way.  In addition, she is trained to give her charge support to avoid falls and injuries which Alzheimer’s sufferers experience when they have lost their orientation to their surroundings.
Patients often feel fear, distress, loneliness, and anxiety, and lose the ability to act with caution so the task of the dog is to be a friend and be with the patient 24 hours a day.  They are able to calm their owner and distract him from his fears and worries and improve his mood.  The dog is with him at night and when other family members are busy with other pursuits so the patient is never alone.  When their charge is feeling depressed and will  not get out of bed, the dog is trained to pester him by pulling off the blanket, bringing toys, and will not quit until his owner gets up and tends to his needs.  It is important for Alzheimer’s sufferers to keep active as it is believed to be a factor to slowing the progression of the disease.  Alzheimer’s assistance dogs enable their owners to go out for a walk without the company of other family members which is excellent for the well-being of the patient, increasing contact with other people who show an interest and are curious about the dog wearing the special harness.  This contact and interaction helps to bring the Alzheimer’s patient out of the loneliness, isolation, and boredom cycle.  The Alzheimer’s assistance dog is trained to detect unusual physical conditions or problems with their owner such as difficulties breathing, falls and the like and will call for help.
The primary task of the assistance dog is to bring his master safely home.  If the patient begins to feel lost or disoriented, he is conditioned to give the command “Home!” to the dog.  The dog takes control, leads the patient back home and barks at the door to alert the family members.  A special GPS homing device, which is attached to the dog’s harness should his master forget the command, is not able to give the command, or has wandered into a completely unfamiliar area, can be used by family members to alert the dog that it is time to come home.  The GPS device can locate the dog should the patient refuse to follow.
The task of the Alzheimer’s assistance dog is demanding, complex, and stressful, more so than any service task performed by dogs as they must be able to take the initiative when necessary and function without any commands from their owner, in response to the situation.  These dogs must be able to put up with the radical mood changes, typical of the disease; to stay loving, devoted, and able to keep working.  After much consideration and trying various possibilities, the smooth collie proved the ideal breed.  This efficient herding dog is highly trainable without being overly active or spirited and are not aggressive to people or other dogs and animals.  They have a strong play drive which is essential in their training, extremely loyal, and want to be with their people 24 hours a day.  They are tough, resilient, and tolerant of mood changes in their master and keep on working and will not let patient instabilities interfere with the dog and master bonding.  They are a healthy breed and easy to care for.
Now, a larger breeding group of smooth collies must be established from stock with proven working ability; to produce more puppies to assist more people.  Alzheimer’s assistance dogs can change the lives of people living in despair due to this horrible disease and help them live independent and functional lives for as long as possible.
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