Points on Pets

Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Medication Mojo 101: Dosing Pets Can be Stress-free

By Carolyn Cockroft “This is the medicine for Marigold’s condition,” the veterinarian informed me. She held up a package of pills as I stroked my cat reassuringly after a stressful checkup. Handing me another bottle, she continued, “And this is for you once you try giving Marigold her medicine.” Yes, this is a joke. But the reality, where Marigold is concerned, is NO joke. Dosing a pet can be challenging. Having someone to assist you is ideal but going solo can be stress-free if you apply a few tricks, lots of patience, and stay calm. Preparation is Key Before administering medicine, consult with your veterinarian for any tips (some will even demonstrate for you and let you practice in front of them with your pet).  Have at hand a towel, gloves (if needed), and a proper applicator, if required. Most importantly, have some yummy treats—a special delicacy your pet gets only at the time of medication. Delectable Disguises Hiding a pill in tasty food can turn medication into “treat time”. Check with your vet first since some medications shouldn’t be taken with food. With dogs, a spoonful of peanut butter (with no xylitol), a chunk of meat or cheese, or ice cream can work. Commercial pill pockets or paste mask the taste of medicine when wrapped around the tablet. Try a bait-and-switch approach. Give your pet a treat (or two) that’s not laced with medication. Then offer one that contains the pill. Follow up with a treat without medication. Open a capsule or crush a pill into powder and mix it into a small portion of your pet’s food. Monitor your pet’s eating to make sure all the food is consumed. Cats have an uncanny ability for knowing when they are being tricked. Their sense of smell can detect medicine even…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Is It Time to End Cat Declawing??

By Ken Byrer Recently, Maryland joined New York in outlawing cat declawing, a procedure also known as Onychectomy. In addition to those two States, several localities have also said “no more” to this operation. Should Virginia and Alexandria consider similar laws? For most our centuries with cats, we wanted them fully armed and operational to eliminate vermin and varmints. A declawed cat made as much sense as a dog that couldn’t bark or herd, or a horse that couldn’t bear a rider or pull a wagon. But when cats moved from mainly coworkers to mainly companions, humans established procedures to reflect that change. Some of these practices, like spaying and neutering, remain valued by experts, while declawing has come to be increasingly seen as harmful. People only developed declawing sometime around 1948, and possibly as part of dogfighting as much as keeping the family wing chair intact. As spaying and neutering countered natural cat behaviors of yowling and spraying, declawing addressed the natural cat behavior to scratch – now inside, in homes with stuffed sofas and lacquered wooden chair legs. A joke in the declawing ban discussion holds that upholsterers, at least, support cats having claws. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AMVA) brief on declawing thoroughly discusses the issue. The strongest pro-declaw argument holds that human guardians who cannot get their cat’s scratching under control may relinquish them, although a study in British Columbia from 2021 found no significant increase in owners giving up their cats after that province’s ban. Despite its appraisal that the issue needs more hard scientific evidence to reach a definitive conclusion, the AVMA “recommends that the procedure only be performed after exhausting other methods of controlling scratching behavior or if it has been determined that the cat’s claws present a human health risk” and also…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Here Kitty, Kitty…June is Adopt a Cat Month!

By Alberta Frost June is a month with many commemorations ranging from Flag Day to National Flip Flop Day. Two of the most notable are Father’s Day and Adopt a Cat Month.  I pair these two recognitions because when I was about three my father got me my first cat.  This creature was a tiny puff of black fur that my Dad brought home in his pocket.  It must have been a winter day because one of the first pictures I have of Fluffy (original name, right?) is of this little face peeking out from halfway up our Christmas tree.  I don’t remember what instructions my parents gave me about handling this little dynamo or if I was given any responsibility for his care, but I do remember the intense feeling of companionship I carried with me as my family and Fluffy moved from place to place over the next few years.  Long after he was gone, he engendered in me a devotion to animals, especially cats. Admittedly, I am biased regarding whether families with young children should adopt a pet – or more specifically, a cat, and there is lots of research that supports my experience.  According to Catnip (Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine), pets make all of us – from the youngest to the most senior – healthier in mind and body.  Children living with pets not only learn a sense of responsibility, but they also develop stronger, healthier immune systems.  Other sources suggests that pets contribute to the development of compassion, language skills and a feeling of competence.  In an article published in Practical Parenting, Dr. Jo Righetti identifies several benefits from cat ownership.  Among them:  cats help children nurture and learn respect and patience; and cats are quiet listeners and give unconditional acceptance. A benefit to…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Happy Bird Day to You!

By Jane Koska It’s World Migratory Bird Day! Created in 1993 by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and now observed on the second Saturday in May, World Migratory Bird Day is a celebration of the billions of birds that migrate worldwide. WMBD 2022 will be observed on May 14. The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology defines migration as an annual, large-scale movement of birds between where they breed in summer and their nonbreeding (winter) grounds. In the Northern Hemisphere, spring brings a northward migration as species return from their winter homes in the tropics to northern regions where they raise their young. Several factors contribute to triggering migration, including changing day length, temperatures, and food supplies. While scientists still don’t fully understand how birds navigate, it seems to be a combination of using the sun and stars as a compass, sensing the earth’s magnetic field, and even using landmarks. Many of us associate migration with V-shaped flocks of geese flying south in the fall, but geese are just one example of migratory birds. (But note that as lawns, parks, and golf courses have proliferated, some Canada geese have become non-migratory, breeding and overwintering in the same area.) Of the more than 650 species of North American breeding birds, more than half are migratory. Long-distance migrants range in size from the tiny ruby-throated hummingbird, weighing less than half an ounce, to the elegant tundra swan with its more than five-foot wingspan. Songbirds like the Baltimore oriole and birds of prey like the osprey all migrate south in the fall and north in the spring. Migration is a truly amazing natural phenomenon. That tiny hummingbird visiting a backyard feeder in summer may have flown non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico during its migration. Tundra swans winter on the Chesapeake Bay and raise their…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Running Into Spring: How to Keep Your Pets Active

By Kristin Bieling In the DC region, April brings the first real sign of spring after a long and cold winter. April means longer days with more sunshine and time for people to play in our expansive network of parks and trails. It also signals it’s time for the annual White House Easter Egg Roll and the blooming of our world-famous cherry blossoms. For runners and fitness enthusiasts in the area though, April means one thing: the Boston Marathon. Every year on the third Monday of April, thousands of runners toe the start line for the renowned marathon, which is 26.2 miles. According to the Boston Athletic Association (BAA), which owns and sponsors the race, over 30,000 people are entered for 2022 and they expect over 500,000 spectators. Runners train for months, sometimes years, to qualify. While training for a marathon or engaging in other forms of exercise will keep us fit, we also need to ensure our furry friends stay fit too. Refer to these tips for exercising with your dog, according to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA): Ask an expert. Always consult your vet before beginning a fitness regimen for your pooch. Rule out any health concerns and watch for pain or discomfort during or after exercise. Younger dogs: Remember that pups under 18 months old shouldn’t participate in long periods of jogging or running as their bones are still forming. Brisk, shorter walks are a good substitute during this time. Also consider a less intense game of fetch in your yard or at a local park versus long runs. Training time: Runners crossing the finish line in record times at the Boston Marathon certainly didn’t jump off the couch and into their running shoes. Just like humans, dogs need sufficient time to…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Saying Goodbye: Reflections on the Loss of a Pet

By Cheryl Burns It wasn’t all that long ago that I was writing an article for this very column. It was a piece about pet adoption featuring stories about how our two cats joined our family. As I sent it off, I hoped it captured some of the love and joy that pets can bring. Between the time I wrote the article and when it ran, our world had shifted dramatically. It was an otherwise unremarkable day in May when my husband noticed some swelling in Smoky Tiggs Burns’s neck. After checking to make sure that it wasn’t something normal (we later thanked Sweet Potato Bailey Burns for serving as the “control group kitty”), we called the vet. She saw us that day. After examining our sweet grey girl, she uttered the words we all hope we’ll never hear from a doctor, whether they’re caring for a beloved person or a pet: “it’s cancer.” The next week was a whirlwind. Smoky deteriorated quickly. She needed her lungs drained. Twice. Just seeing her shaved coat was enough to start our tears. The initial test confirmed cancer, but we had to wait a few days for the details. Was it bad, or was it worse? It was worse. Large cell lymphoma, especially when it affects the T-cells, can be rapidly fatal for cats. It can kill in a matter of days. I remember telling the vet who’d diagnosed Smoky that we’d made an appointment to see a feline oncologist. Our appointment was less than a week away, which seemed pretty fast for such specialized care. She told us to get in sooner. In some ways, we were quite lucky. We were able to make decisions based more on our hearts than on our wallets. We knew from the start that we could…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Love and Loss in the Animal Kingdom

By Jaime Stephens Love is in the air this month and thoughts turn to love, not just for humans, but in the animal kingdom as well. Unlike birds, where nearly 90% partner for life, and like some humans, not all mammals are monogamous. In fact, only 3-5% of the approximately 5,000 different mammals in existence today form life-lasting bonds with a partner. Swans mate for life. If they lose their mate, they go through a grieving process as humans do and either keep to themselves and remain alone, find another place to live, or join a new flock (and hopefully find a new mate). In addition to helping their mates build nests, the males are also good fathers. They are one of only two male birds in the Anatidae family, the biological family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans, that share egg incubation duties. Coyotes are dedicated to their mates, including those now frequently seen in urban areas (and frequently sighted in Alexandria, at least in the West End!). Only the alpha pair in a pack mate, with the remaining herd helping to raise their young. Bonds between alpha pairs are only broken upon the death of one of the pairs. Researchers from The Ohio State University followed 236 coyotes in the Chicago area over a six-year period and found no evidence of polygamy or of a mate ever leaving its partner while they were still alive. Gray wolves, rare in most of the United States and Europe but found in Canada, Asia, and Alaska,  are similar to coyotes, with the alpha female and the alpha male usually only the two that mate. In a larger pack, it is not unusual for a second pair to mate as well. Beavers are also monogamous and mate for life, raising…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Patience is Truly a Virtue and a Gift – Introducing a New Pet to Your Home

By Lisa Velenovsky Patience is Truly a Virtue and a Gift – Introducing a New Pet to Your Home It’s 2022, and you’re determined that this year will be better than ever! Perhaps your personal happiness plan includes adding a new pet to your family. Whether you’re a first-time pet owner or a seasoned pet parent adding another furry (or not-so-furry) friend to the household, the road to success begins well before a pet crosses your threshold. What’s Your Perfect Pet? Of course, step #1 is deciding what type. It’s important to be realistic about your lifestyle and what’s required to responsibly care for a specific pet. Longing for a puppy, but no time for training, regular exercise, and dealing with a high-energy ball of fur? Maybe a mature, independent cat is a better fit. Or perhaps it’s really a goldfish you need. If you’re not sure, head to Chewy’s “What Pet Should I Get” quiz – https://be.chewy.com/what-pet-should-i-get-take-our-quiz-and-find-out/ – or check out Best Friends Animal Society’s list of questions to ask yourself when choosing a pet – https://resources.bestfriends.org/article/choosing-pet. Whatever you decide, everyone who will be living with the pet, including children and other pets, should be part of the selection process whenever possible. And while you may be tempted to surprise someone with a new pet as a gift, consider giving a gift certificate for the pet instead, allowing the recipient to be part of the selection process since a pet is a lifetime commitment. Next, you need to prepare for their arrival into your home and life. Patience is key, especially if your new pet is a cat or dog, which the overwhelming majority are. Even if you’re an old hand at this, every pet will have different requirements. Have a safe room or space already set up with…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips

By Kristen Bieling  Keeping Your Pets off Santa’s Naughty List: Pet-proofing and Other Holiday Tips Despite spending the last year jumping on the kitchen counter, scratching the sofa arms, chasing each other up and down the stairs at 3 a.m., and harassing the neighborhood birds, my cats are positive they’re on Santa’s nice list (and they aren’t wrong…). The holidays can be such a joyful and fulfilling time spent indulging with friends and family but can also be stressful when you have pets in your home. With the proper precautions though, you can keep your sanity and keep your pets off Santa’s naughty list. Munchies and Liquid Holiday Cheer. Just like we feebly attempt to watch our waistlines around the holidays, we should watch what our pets ingest too. Table scraps in general should be avoided, but especially any items containing chocolate or xylitol as those are especially toxic to animals. Other toxic or harmful items include onions, grapes/raisins, coffee/caffeine, unbaked bread dough/yeast, salt, raw eggs, and nuts. Also take special care to discard bones and produce seeds/pits. Turkey bones, for example, can splinter when ingested and wreak havoc on our pets’ internal systems. Additionally, the essential oils in peach pits and apple seeds can cause nervous system depression if a high quantity is ingested. Secure all trash away from pets to avoid any accidental harm. Although wine, beer, and other liquid holiday cheer flows freely at many holiday parties, pets should not partake even by accident. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), as little as 1 ounce (less than a standard, bar-sized shot) can kill a pet and PetMD indicates that, for cats, even a little over a tablespoon can kill an adult. Santa’s Helper Tip: If you’re hoping to treat your…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic

How to Hire a Pet Sitter During a Pandemic By Steph Selice The COVID-19 pandemic continues, and life goes on. As we adapt to what the new coronavirus variants will bring, people with pets will still need to plan around their work and school schedules, holidays, travel, and family emergencies. Pet sitters have ridden the roller coaster of the last 20 months along with the rest of us. Here are a few things they might want us to keep in mind. Get Vaccinated and Stay Healthy It’s essential that you, your pet sitter, your family, and your pets stay healthy, so please get vaccinated and take care of yourselves. Your pet sitter will want to know that you and your pets have had your shots and are in good health. Because pet sitters visits dozens of homes during the year, knowing your home is safe to work in is important. They will have guidelines for vaccinations and health status, social distancing, and use of masks, so they can help keep your pets and your home clean and safe. You’ll want everyone to be healthy and your home to be clean enough for a visitor. If you or one of your humans or pets is experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or another illness, let your pet sitter know, just as you would expect them to tell you. Decide What Pet Sitting Services You Want Before hiring, think about what services you’ll need. Do you want someone to check on your pet regularly during the workweek, walk your dog, or care for your pets while you’re away from home? Do you want someone who’s affiliated with your vet’s office (many in those offices also work as pet sitters)? Do your pets take medication, eat prescription food, or have special needs? What else does…

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