Points on Pets

Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Resolutions for a Happier, Healthier Pet

By Jaime Stephens December is the most festive time of year, with Hanukkah, Christmas and the promise of a new year ahead, but did you know that December is also National Cat Lover’s Month?  It’s an excellent time to think not only about your own health, but the health of your pets, and to get the New Year off to a good start. The number one most preventable health issue for both cats and dogs in the United States is obesity.  According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention’s 2018 clinical survey, 55.8% of dogs and 59.5% of cats were classified as clinically overweight or obese by their veterinary healthcare professional. Obesity is said to occur when an animal’s weight exceeds an additional 30% of their ideal weight. Forty to forty-five percent of dogs aged 5 – 11 years of age weigh in higher than they should. Only 39% of dog owners and 45% of cat owners, however, consider their pets overweight. Common conditions of both overweight dogs and cats include diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, lameness and limping and, in cats, kidney disease and congestive heart failure. Cats, in particular, are very adept at hiding their discomfort and pain. In addition to having a healthier pet, maintaining an acceptable average weight provides a higher quality of life, a longer life expectancy, and lower veterinary costs. As with humans, maintaining a healthy weight requires a commitment to both a healthier diet and an active lifestyle.  To help keep your pet trim, first consult with your vet about the best diet based on your pet’s particular needs. Before you visit your vet, there are a few ways to determine whether your pet may need to slim down. Does their stomach sag?  This is a clear indication that your dog is overweight,…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Hosting and Visiting in Homes with Pets During (After?) COVID

By Steph Selice Americans may be traveling more this holiday season than they have in the last 3 years. Many of us will be hosting family and friends for the first time since COVID lockdown began in March 2020. Others will be visiting their folks again, and even bringing their pets. Vets and other animal care professionals have some useful suggestions to share as you think about how you want to host and visit this season. Their insights may help you and your loved ones decide how to safely enjoy the coming months together, and how this will work best for your pets. Being (Safe) Hosts with the Most If you’re hosting this year, the rules for safely caring for your pets and for theirs remain much the same as before COVID. It’s important to prepare your pets for hosting people and animals they don’t see often or may not know. Make sure your pets feel safe and at home. Do what’s needed to make them know that even with new (or familiar) visitors, your place is still their place. Talk with guests about your house guidelines before they arrive. No one likes to be unpleasantly surprised during a visit. If you want guests to leave their pets at home, tell them, and give them enough time to find a petsitter, kennel, or pet hotel. Decide whether to welcome kids and other pets. As with other hosting-related decisions, do what works for your family. If saying no is best for your humans and pets, you can always make other arrangements to see loved ones outside your home. If you decide to host, a couple of weeks before a visit, prepare a sanctuary space for your pets. This can be in a bedroom or quiet area of your home. Include food,…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Halloween and Your Pets

By Cindy McGovern Pet costumes can be as simple as a scarf or cape, or as complex as elaborate outfits with helmets and wigs. There are themed costumes like Star Wars and Disney characters, as well as other movie and television favorites. Americans spend almost $500 million on Halloween costumes for their pets according to the National Retail Federation. Pet costumes comprise 15% of the $3.2 billion spent on all costume sales. On average, more than 30 million people purchase pet costumes. A quick internet search shows an angel costume with set of wings and halo for about $12 to a Yoda costume complete with light saber for $40 to $70, depending on the size of the dog. Not surprisingly, a pumpkin is the top pet costume: hot dogs and bumble bees take the second and third place, respectively. While it may be cute to see your furry friend dressed up to celebrate the holiday, is it a good idea? Wearing a costume can cause stress for some animals. You should only dress up your pet if you know they enjoy it. If you do opt for a Halloween costume, be sure to try on the costume before Halloween, ensuring it doesn’t limit movement, sight, or their ability to breathe, meow, or bark. Make sure it isn’t dangerous or simply annoying to your pet and check for small, dangling, or easily chewable pieces that could present a choking hazard. Ill-fitting costumes can get caught or twisted on external objects or on your pet, leading to injury. Pets who are wearing a costume should always be supervised by a responsible adult so if something goes wrong, it can be addressed immediately. If your pet seems distressed or shows abnormal behavior, remove the costume and try a festive collar or bandana instead….

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Volunteering During COVID

By Steph Selice Over the last 2 1/2 years, animal service organizations around the world have stepped up to meet the unique challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with help from millions of devoted professional staff and dedicated volunteers. Though many U.S. shelters and rescues cut back on their public hours to meet CDC guidelines, they continued to adopt animals out to pet lovers. And they still offer ongoing care for all their animals, day in day out. Just as animal rescue groups face even greater strains on their staffing, finances, logistics, and supplies, many folks who love pets still want to help. If you volunteer during this pandemic, what options do you have, and what should you be aware of? Animal Rescues Are Thinking Outside the Box The unprecedented use of virtual meetings and events and online training since March 2020 has helped many animal rescues manage tasks from training staff and volunteers to fundraising and marketing. Rescues have adapted their volunteer offerings, from asking pet lovers to come in and comfort their animals during Fourth of July celebrations, to running fundraisers (even galas) online using virtual resources, to finding new ways to pair dog walkers with potential pets who need exercise. Check on your local rescue websites for their current volunteer opportunities, which may keep evolving along with the pandemic. Most organizations will ask you to fill out an application form online and interview or attend an orientation and training sessions, virtually and/or in person. Some kinds of volunteer work that involve contact with children or special-needs groups might require further training and a background check. Much of the latter can be done online, except for in-person interviewing and fingerprinting. Fostering and Ongoing Pet Care Are Always in Demand One of the most promising improvements in animal rescue since…

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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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