Frequently Asked Questions

Your Pet and Traveling

What should I know about traveling with my pet?

Wintertime is a season full of holidays all about being with the family. Oftentimes, his means traveling to visit distant relatives: either for you, or for them, and many count their pets among their family. But there are many important things you (or your close relatives) have to keep in mind when you consider flying your pets long distances for these holiday gatherings.

 

Traveling by plane almost guarantees someone else will be responsible for your pet’s safety during the trip, like an airline. In recent years, there have been rising rates of accidents occurring with traditional commercial airlines. Many have had increased rates of pets being lost, injured, or, unfortunately, arrive deceased. It is critically important for you to research pet related incidents for the airline you are considering sending them on. There is an arising market of pet airlines that take a great deal of pride in the care they provide to pets on the flight, consider one of these, the price may even be comparable to the extra charges many traditional commercial airlines require for bringing a pet. Some airlines may let you bring small pets with you into the cabin area, if this option is available, it is much better than sending them in the cargo hold. The risk of something happening should by no means justify trying to lie about your pet as many others have done. There is a growing trend of individuals falsely claiming their pets to be service animals, aiding them with basic tasks due to some fictitious disability. This is a federal crime and highly disrespectful and damaging to those in actual need of service animals. Alternatively, consider driving the long distance with your pet to best ensure their safety. If traveling with your pet proves too big of a concern, consider leaving them at home and hire a petsitter or send them to a pet resort where they will be well cared for. But be sure to do your research and find one that you trust.

If you do decide on traveling safely with your pet, be sure to visit a veterinarian beforehand. Most airlines and hotels across the world require documentation that your pet is healthy enough for travel. Be sure to bring this documentation with you! This is also a good opportunity to make sure you get all vaccines that are required for your pet by the country you are visiting and pick up some medication, if they are often too nervous and skittish. The USDA’s website and your local veterinarian will be invaluable in ensuring you can travel safely with your pet internationally. Be sure they have their collar, microchipping also helps prevent loss, and bringing a photo of them just in case is always a good idea.

 

It is important to make sure you plan ahead. Not all hotels and airlines will accommodate pets. Not all family members whose homes you may be staying in are expecting you to bring them along. Be sure to make sure the lodging and transportation you have arranged will accommodate your pet. Booking well in advance will help make this process far easier. Try avoiding connecting flights and flights that will be at an airport where the weather will be exceptionally high or exceptionally low (for example, to the point where you wouldn’t feel comfortable standing outside for an hour). These are typically the flights that have the highest reported incidents involving pets. Be sure you have a carrier that meets all of the restrictions of the companies you will be traveling with. Many require certain types of carriers.

 

For your pet’s comfort, it is best to spend time well before the flight acclimating them to the carrier. At least a month of acclimation is recommended. Consider having them sleep in the carrier for a night, or just putting them in it and taking them for a car ride, with the carrier on the floor. This will both help get them used to the carrier, and to the vibrations of being in a car or on a plane. Be sure to keep the carrier out of the front seat when in the car. In the event of an accident, a deploying airbag may be harmful to them. Associating the carrier with a comforting scent and leaving a favorite toy with them will also help ease their travels. On the day of the travel, try to take your dog for an extended run or have a particularly long and active play session with your cat to help tire them out and make it easier for them to sleep through the travel, depleted of energy and not feeling frantic.

 

Last but not least, when you arrive, be sure to thoroughly look over your pet. There are plenty of opportunities for something to happen to them while you aren’t around to watch them, so it is best to check and make sure they are still healthy after the flight. If anything is wrong with them – if you even suspect something may be wrong – immediately take them to a veterinarian and explain the situation. It is best they receive medical care as soon as possible if it is necessary. And of course, reward them heavily for arriving safely! They may have had a stressful trip and it is important for you to show them how much you love them for traveling with you!

 

By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Cat, Windows and Safety

Should I worry about my cat at the window?

Often times, apartments restrict what types of pets tenants can own, and often times apartment dwellers have less ability to provide the exercise necessary for dogs, so many will adopt a cat. This seems ideal, but these buildings (and other homes) house their own set of problems for cats.

 

Cats love high places. It lets them watch their prey from above while feeling safe and out of harm’s way … but how safe are they? Cats have an inherent desire to climb to where they can perch to view the world around them from above. In nature, this means climbing trees where they can dig their nails into the bark for better grip and stability, but in today’s society, it often means sitting on fire escapes, on balconies, and in windowsills. Unfortunately, being made of metal or concrete, these modern perches offer no grip for kitty’s claws. Cats don’t take this into account when climbing, so they are left unprepared should they be caught off-balance while focusing too intently on some prey and not enough on balancing, leading to a fall from great heights. This is known as high-rise syndrome. 

 

There is a lot of confusion out there about whether cats are more likely to survive shorter or longer falls and if they will be injured at all from a drop of one story or more. Falling one story or more will injure your cat and will be severe enough to warrant a visit to the vet—the good news is, it is also likely for them to survive. Unfortunately, this will land them on the ground just in front of the building: often times a sidewalk or street full of even more dangers for a disoriented and frightened feline. It is important to assume your companion survived the fall and rush to their aid. There is a 90% survival rate for cats that fall and were brought in to their local vet. This means it is very important to bring them in for treatment! It most likely will save their life! This is because cats tend to distribute most of the force of the impact to their chest, head, and waist as opposed to their legs, making most of the damage internal and impossible for you to ever notice. 

 

Because of the dangers high-rise syndrome can pose, it is best to protect your pet before the problem can emerge. Keeping your cat indoors can protect them from climbing onto other people’s fire escapes or roofs, and makes it more likely for you to be able to help them should they fall. Feel free to give your cat viewing access to the outside world via windows, but be careful—most ordinary window guards won’t stop a cat. They can slide right through. Be cautious of adjustable screens on your windows as well. Cats are quite capable of squeezing their way through small openings. The best plan is to install screens and ensure they cover the entire window frame and are thoroughly locked in place. It is also important to remember cats aren’t the best at learning their lesson. They won’t know to avoid doing it again after the first fall, because they probably still never even understood what happened the first time. Keep a watchful eye on them, especially if this has happened in the past!

 

By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and Heat Stroke

How do I prevent my pets from getting heat stroke?

Summer temperatures can get quite problematic for us, but how can you make sure it doesn’t affect your pets either? They are also quite susceptible to the heat, just like us. Unfortunately, they’re not as good about complaining as we are, so it is easy to miss the signs of problems developing. 

 

Pets, just like us, will overheat in hot enough weather and freeze in cold enough weather. But, it is important to remember they are prepared for different weather than we are. Large dogs and animals with thick coats of fur can overheat much more easily than smaller dogs and hairless pets because they are meant for much colder climates; also, obese animals and animals with compact “smushed” faces tend to have a much tougher time staying cool in the hot weather. This is because cats and dogs cool off differently than humans: almost all of their cooling is done by panting; they only sweat out of their foot pads and nose. 

 

This means it is important to watch out for heat stroke on those really hot days in the summer. Pets have a higher body temperature than we do, so taking their temperature may be misleading if you don’t know what to expect. Attempting to take their temperature in the mouth or ear will be next to impossible, so I advise against trying this, try using a rectal thermometer. Cats and dogs have a normal body temperature around 100 to 102 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 to 39 degrees Celsius), temperatures above 102 Fahrenheit are dangerous and temperatures above 105 are life threatening. Some signs of heat stroke would be heavy, difficult panting, dry or tacky nose and gums (area around the teeth), very red gums, lying down excessively, and an unwillingness or inability to get up. 

 

There are different things you can do to help treat heat stroke depending on how severe it is. For the early symptoms (heavy breathing and dry nose and gums), move them to a shaded area if outdoors, or a cooler room with air conditioning or a fan and shade if indoors, and give them plenty of cool water. Water is the single most important thing to help your pet combat the heat. For the later symptoms (lying down and an inability to get up), try to cool them down with a wrapped ice pack or by dipping them in cool, not cold, water (being careful not to drown them), and contact the vet! In the final stages (unconsciousness), immediately contact the vet and seek medical attention, trying to cool them off on the way, this stage of heat stroke can be fatal and it is critical to seek help immediately. 

 

There are several things you can do to help prevent any of this from happening. The single easiest and most important thing to do is never leave your pet in an automobile while it is off. As you have noticed when you first get into your car on a hot summer day, it feels like an oven. And it feels like that to pets the whole time they are sitting in there! Even with the windows left down, it can still get very hot, very quickly, and with the windows down, it leaves an opportunity for your pet to jump out and hurt themselves or wander away and for you to lose your precious companion. If it is a dire emergency and you really do have to stop, try having someone else in the car take the pet for a short walk while you are stopped. There are other steps you can take to prevent heat stroke as well. Remember that just because your pet may be playing in a pool or lake doesn’t mean they are immune to heat stroke, check on them regularly for any of the symptoms and make sure they are drinking plenty of cool water; also, be sure to check the temperature of the swimming water isn’t getting too hot or it may be time to call it a day. If you’re letting them play outside, try to build them up to more strenuous exercise outside, let them out in the backyard first or go for a slow, calm walk before going to the park, let them realize what the temperature is like, so they don’t rush to overexert themselves. Be willing to stop often if they need it and rest in cool, shady spots and bring water with, or find somewhere where they can stop and drink. For indoor pets, be sure they have access to a room with air conditioning or a good fan and shade, give them access to plenty of cool water, and be sure to check on them as well. Just because they’re inside doesn’t mean nothing bad could happen. A cool owner is one who keeps their pets cool too.

 

By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and 4th of July Stress

What should I do to help my pet through the 4th of July?

Now that summer is here, many are looking forward to summer block parties to celebrate the beautiful weather and holidays. But it is important to remember how your pet will feel about these things. Both can be quite stressful. The number one best thing you can do to protect against the worst case scenario: your pet running away is to install a microchip. This is a permanent form of identification installed under your pet’s skin near the back of their neck that is routinely checked on stray animals that are collected by animal control and/or brought into animal shelters or veterinarians, so the ID can never be lost and will always indicate who its owner is as long as it is found by someone. Another very useful option are the newer pet GPS tracking collars and 24-hour pet recovery services that can help you recover a lost pet should they escape in a panic during the fireworks or a block party.


If you’re going to a neighbor’s block party, consider leaving your pet at home, or if the party is in your yard, consider locking them up inside the house. Loud, crowded areas with many people can be overwhelming for many animals, and not everyone at the party will know how to respect an animal which could lead to them provoking defensive behaviors like barking, biting, scratching, and/or running, and having to chase after them or deal with the ramifications of them biting or scratching someone could be very difficult. It is best to just avoid these risks. There is also the increased chance that your pet will be able to come in contact with some dangerous objects if they are outside during the party. As we have discussed previously, many “human” foods you don’t think twice about can be toxic to your pets. There is also the chance of them getting ahold of unused or used fireworks, glow jewelry (dangerous because of the contents, and the plastic coating that could block your pet’s intestines), lighter fluid or matches, and sunscreen or bug spray. Again, it is important to remember humans are very different from cats, dogs, and other pets. Bug spray and sun screen may be safe for you, but toxic to your pets. If you are worried about sunburn because your pet has a thin coat of fur/feathers or no coat, buy special sun screen intended for your pet and if you are really worried your Heartgard, Frontline, or other flea/tick/heartworm medications just aren’t good enough, there are special bug sprays for pets you can buy but they are not necessary.


For dealing with fireworks, there is actually a lot you can do. The smartest thing to do, again, is to leave them at home. Taking them with you when you go see a fireworks display gives them a wider, more open space to flee and increases the odds of you losing them. Compound this with the fact that there are many people there who don’t know how to respect animals and could create issues, there are many other loud noises from the crowds and surrounding activities, and there are many opportunities for them to eat something bad for them and this experience just becomes way too stressful for any animal. Simply leaving them in the car is no solution either because that puts them at risk of heat stroke and there is still the problem of all of the noise. All in all, they will be happier at home without you, than with you and dealing with all of these added worries. That being said, if you can stay home with your pet to help comfort them and praise them for not panicking, then that is best, but if you can’t stay home, it’s not the end of the world.


To prepare them for the fireworks, you can help desensitize them to the loud noises by buying a cd of loud, scary noises, searching the internet and playing loud noises, or having a neighbor or someone set off a few fireworks safely and legally at a safe distance from your pet, weeks, months, or even just a few days prior to the fireworks display that you anticipate will be a problem. The more used to the noise they are, the less it will affect them. Other things you can do include trying to confine your pets into rooms where they cannot easily run away and cannot easily harm themselves or damage the house (or your belongings) significantly. It is best to keep in mind if your pets would be happier each being locked in separate rooms, or the same room, and it is better if the room(s) is/are further from the fireworks. If your pet is crate/cage trained, put them in that for their own comfort, and help dampen the sound with a thick blanket over the crate, but be cautious not to cut off their air supply. Leave on a television or radio to help dampen the sound if you normally have those on, but don’t turn them up too loud to drown it out; that can be a stressor itself. Leave some lights on so they aren’t scared and in the dark, and close the blinds or curtains to dampen the flashes of bright light that could startle them. Make the room a pleasant temperature, and provide some familiar bedding or toys, to help them feel safe or distracted. Provide normal food and water, so they think it’s a normal day and can stay hydrated. Sometimes drinking water can help a little bit with relieving the anxiety. Plan to take them on a walk if they need it well before the fireworks, or make sure they have litter where they are confined to take care of themselves. And then, at the first opportunity you can, check up on them afterwards to make sure they are okay and that everyone in your house had a safe 4th of July.

By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and Fleas & Ticks

Why should I worry about fleas and ticks?

What are fleas and ticks? First off, let’s address the difference between fleas and ticks. There are many differences, but the one you probably care most about is how to tell them apart. Fleas are usually quite small, found in large numbers and move and jump around a lot. Ticks are noticeably larger (you will actually see what looks like a bug rather than moving little dots), they are usually only found by themselves or with one other tick, and they are usually physically attached to the skin and fairly immobile. Ticks are more likely to infect humans as well as pets, but both fleas and ticks can and will gladly feed on you and your pets and many of these diseases can affect humans as well as pets. So protecting your pet also helps protect you.


Why should you care? Both of these nasty little critters are something you will want to be cautious of as the owner of a pet that you let outdoors ever, even supervised. Fleas, through their persistent biting, giving them a direct path to your pet’s blood, can spread a wide variety of diseases. The shear act of biting and their saliva may cause dermatitis for your pet and your pet’s loss of blood can cause anemia, while the parasites hiding in the flea can allow it to cause tapeworms, plague (yes, the bubonic plague. It actually still is a problem throughout the world. Often causes death), typhus and flea-borne spotted fever (muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, rashes), and bartonella (varies wildly, could cause no symptoms or could cause sudden death). Ticks on the other hand, tend to not cause any problems just due to their presence (no dermatitis), but still carry a wide range of parasites that can infect their host: lyme disease (characteristic ringed rash, causes kidney failure, arthritis, and fatigue), typhus (outside of the Rockies) and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (muscle pain, nausea, vomiting, rashes), and tularemia (typhoid-like symptoms, pneumonia, damage to glands).


How do fleas and ticks get to you or your pets? Typically, the adults of the species will climb up tall standing grass and low shrubbery and wait for a human or animal to walk past and brush along the leaves they are waiting on and they take their opportunity to latch on and start eating. A common myth is that they climb up trees and wait for an animal to pass underneath before dropping on their prey; this is not at all commonly done by either group. Typically they just wait on the low shrubbery. Both fleas and ticks are quite patient animals: fleas can go for days to weeks without feeding, lying in wait, while some ticks can last up to three years without a single meal.


What can you do about them? The best medicine you can ever give anyone is preventative medicine. It is always much easier to prevent a disease than to cure it. And in the way of flea and tick prevention, there are plenty of choices. There are topical ointments, collars, and oral pills you can give your pets to help prevent fleas and/or ticks. Some products combine protection against both into one drug or even include prevention and/or for other parasites as well, while others sell separate drugs for each individual parasite you want to stop to allow you to use a more specific drug. It is entirely up to you to decide what you best need based on how often you take your pet outside and where you take them outside, for example do you take them camping up north in forested parts of Michigan or Wisconsin, to visit family and play in the deserts of Texas, or just on walks in your local suburban forest preserve or park? Many people usually pair a flea or tick preventive with their heartworm preventive, as the seasons of these pests overlaps quite a bit. One popular combination is Sentinel for heartworm and Program for flea and tick, while others use the stronger K9 Advantix II or BioSpot Defense Spot On to help stop fleas and ticks. Generally, one of the most popular choices that pet owners seem to be most satisfied by to treat fleas and ticks is Frontline Plus, paired with Heartgard for heartworm prevention. Frontline offers a guarantee that if purchased from a veterinarian and taken for at least three months, you can request more products for free, a refund, or a complimentary inspection of your pet and personal treatment from their employees if you are dissatisfied with the protection offered by their product. To most, this confidence in their product and care for the customers is enough to convince them that this is the best preventive. But which will you choose now that you know?



By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and Heartworm

What’s this about heartworm prevention?

As we know from all of those commercials on TV, heart health is the number one health issue in humans, but it is just as important for pets. Heartworm disease is a very serious problem for dogs and cats and can also affect some exotics like ferrets. The disease is spread by mosquito bites, so it is a more serious problem for outdoor pets but mosquitos can still get in the front door when you enter or exit each day and through open windows with no screen, so it is still a potential problem for indoor pets too. The problem with heartworms is that by the time they are found in an infected pet, it is usually difficult to treat and a slow process and there is even no approved treatment for cats. Without treatment, it is certainly fatal, and with treatment it will still cause health problems for your pet for several weeks or even months as they are treated.


What does this mean you can do? The easiest thing is to be sure to routinely give your pets some form of heartworm preventive. This is because the best way to stay healthy isn’t to treat existing diseases, but to prevent the diseases from ever affecting your pets. They are also a fantastic supplement to your pets’ prescriptions because heartworm preventives are also often designed to help simultaneously combat hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, fleas and their eggs, ear mites, ticks, and/or mange. Heartworm preventives are actually a prescription medication, as mandated by the FDA, and can harm pets if they take more than their prescribed dosages. This may sound surprising to some readers because they have often seen medications for sale online from companies like 1800PetMeds, but this does not make it an over-the-counter medication. In fact, the origin of the medications from these online pharmacies has been found in some cases to be foreign countries that have far less safety regulations. Please carefully consider purchasing from these sites.


So you should give a heartworm preventative, but when should you give it? That really depends on you and your situation. At the bare minimum, it is recommended you begin a prevention program towards the end of Spring (around the beginning of April) and lasting until the beginning of Fall (around the end of September). This is the time that is considered mosquito season here, and this is the time when your pets are most vulnerable. Again, this is the bare minimum; the recommended level is a bit higher frequency. The American Heartworm Society now actually recommends owners use preventives year round to truly protect their pets. Heartgard, in fact, has stated that if a dog is on their company’s product year-round as prescribed by a licensed veterinarian in the USA, they will reimburse owners for the vet bills associated with heartworm treatment should the dog test positive, showing just how confident they are their product is at preventing the disease, how important it is to get this preventive from a veterinarian and not an online pharmacy, and how important year-round protection is. Other heartworm preventives you may consider using include Advantage, Interceptor, Revolution, and Sentinel.


How do you know if your pet is infected with heartworms? The easiest way is with annual testing right before you begin treating your pet for the season or right before mosquito season if you treat them year-round. Alternatively, you may just notice some symptoms in your pet on your own. The first symptom will be a persistent cough eventually followed by fatigue, reluctance to exercise, reduced appetite, vomiting, and/or weight loss. Later stage symptoms that indicate worsening health is a swollen belly, seizures, fainting, and/or difficulty walking. The final, most severe symptoms that indicate immediate veterinary care should be sought is dark brown or red urine, pale gums, and sudden moments of labored breathing. Unfortunately, cats are excellent at hiding symptoms and in some cases the first symptom you will observe is sudden collapse and death. So please, use some sort of prevention to stop your pets from ever getting infected with such a harmful parasite.



By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and Allergies

Your Pet and People's Allergies

For a person with dog allergies, life in a dog-loving country isn't easy. Nearly 40% of U.S. households have a dog. Dog dander gets everywhere, including places where dogs have never set a paw. According to the National Institutes of Health, detectable levels of pet dander are in every home in the U.S.



So how can you get through life with an allergy to man's best friend? Here's a rundown of the causes and treatments of dog allergies, along with tips on reducing exposure.


Symptoms of Dog Allergies


The symptoms of dog allergies are usually like those of any other nasal allergy.

They include:
coughing and wheezing
red, itchy eyes
runny, itchy, stuffy nose
sneezing


Some people with dog allergies also have skin reactions. For instance, their skin might break out where a dog licks them. Others with more severe allergies might develop hives on their face or chest. People withasthma as well as pet allergies can have especially serious symptoms.
We'd gotten a lot of requests to put together some info and tips on dealing with pet allergies.  But, WebMD has a lot more info - so check out what they have to say!


Causes of Dog Allergies


You may have heard that some dog breeds trigger allergy symptoms while others don't, or that short-haired dogs are safe while long-haired dogs prone to shedding are not. But on the whole, experts say that isn't the case. In fact, one dog and another of the same breed can give off very different levels of allergen.
It's not the dog's hair or fur that's the real problem. Instead, people are usually allergic to the dander -- flakes of dead skin -- as well as the saliva and urine. So no matter how long or short the hair, any dog can potentially cause an allergic reaction.


You might wonder why dog dander has such an effect on you. People with allergies have oversensitive immune systems. Their bodies overreact to harmless substances -- like dog dander -- and attack it as they would bacteria or viruses. The sneezing and watery eyes are just the side effects of the body's attempt to destroy or flush out the allergen.


Testing for Dog Allergies


Your doctor can do either a skin test or a blood test called a RAST (radioallergosorbent test) to find out if you have dog allergies. Even if you're pretty certain that you're allergic, testing is always a good idea. Some people who assume that they have dog allergies turn out not to have them. Instead, they're allergic to the pollen or mold that the dog is carrying in on its coat from outside.


While allergy tests are helpful, they're not always conclusive. So if you own a dog, your doctor might want you to try living without it for a while to see how you do. To get a good sense of your symptoms, it might take some extended time apart. It often takes months before the level of dander in the house drops down to a level resembling that of a house without a dog.


Treating Dog Allergies


Dog allergies can be treated with standard allergy drugs. Your doctor might recommend:
Antihistamines , which block the effects of a chemical that triggers dog allergy symptoms. They're sold over the counter -- like Allegra, Claritin, Benadryl, or Zyrtec -- or some by prescription. Some antihistamines are available as nasal sprays -- for instance, Astelin.


Decongestants , which reduce swelling in the nose and relieve congestion. Examples are over-the-counter Sudafed and Allegra-D.


Other drugs, which affect allergy or asthma symptoms in different ways. Prescription steroids -- such as Flonase or Nasonex sprays -- are a common treatment for allergies.


Allergy shots are another option for people with dog allergies. They don't work for everyone, and a full course of treatment can take years. But they can really help some people with pet allergies. Talk about the pros and cons with your doctor.

Your Environment and Dog Allergies


Most allergists agree that although medication may help, the best way to control dog allergies is to avoid contact with dogs. Here are some tips:

Keep your distance.

Don't touch, pet, or kiss a dog.

As best you can, avoid going to homes with dogs.

If you have to stay in a house with a dog, ask if it can be kept out of the room in which you'll sleep for a few weeks beforehand.
Use your medicine. If you know that you'll be coming into contact with a dog soon, start taking your medicine a few weeks ahead of time. By taking medication preventatively, you can stop an allergic reaction before it starts.
Be wary of visitors who own dogs. Dog dander can cling to clothing and luggage. So even if your house guests leave their dogs at home, they can bring the dander with them -- and that can cause you a lot of trouble.


Of course, some of the above advice won't help that much if you already have a dog in your home. Even then, there are still things you can do:
Clean fanatically. Dog dander can get everywhere. So you need to sweep and mop the floors, vacuum rugs, and clean furniture regularly. If possible, get a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Regular vacuum filters can't catch the allergens and just send them back into the air.


Make your home easier to clean. Pull up the carpet. Get rid of the rugs and drapes. Ditch the dusty, overstuffed furniture. Reducing the number of items that can catch dust and dander can help with your dog allergy symptoms.


Filter the air. Central heat and air conditioning can push dog dander into every room in your house -- even those that the dog isn't allowed in. A central air cleaner -- as well as filters on the vents themselves -- can help.


Keep the dog out of your bedroom. Since you spend a third of every day in the bedroom, it's key to keep it as free of dog dander as possible. A closed door won't completely seal out the allergens, but it will help.
Don't give the dog free rein. Protect yourself by making other areas of the house dog-free too. Depending on the climate and surroundings, you can also consider keeping the dog outside as much as possible.
Will bathing your dog have any effect on allergy symptoms? Experts aren't sure; some studies have shown that baths reduce the amount of airborne dander, while others haven't found a difference. You can certainly try out weekly baths and see what happens. Just make sure that someone without dog allergies is doing the actual bathing.


You may find that these techniques help your dog allergies. But if they don't, you have to consider more drastic measures -- like giving up the dog. It's hard to do, but you have to think realistically. It's unfair to people with dog allergies if they can't be in their own homes without enduring a runny nose and relentless sneezing fits. Uncontrolled allergies can also contribute to asthma, which is a serious disease.


So if you or a family member has dog allergies, talk to a doctor. Getting control of symptoms will not only make you feel better, but it will help protect you from becoming sicker.



-WebMD

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Your Pet and Food

What Can't My Pets Eat?

While your pets may be curious about your unusual foods and willing to try anything you give them, there are many things you should think twice about before sharing it with them.



Today, we’ll only discuss the really poisonous ones to avoid. The most common cause of poisoning to pets at home is caused by them eating medications intended for humans. Humans and dogs (or cats, birds, turtles, or really any other animal you keep as a pet) are very different. This means even if your pet is sick, something that may help you (prescription-strength or even over-the-counter) may be very dangerous for them; if they have a bad cough, Delsym is not the solution! Take them to the vet to get a prescription that is not harmful to your pet and will also cure their ailment. It almost should go without saying, but if a sick dog is not like a sick human, a healthy dog is even less like a sick human, so make sure to keep your medicine bottles in a cabinet where your cat can’t knock it around for your dog to eat right through. Watch the pantry as well; many spices and baking ingredients, like baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg, can be poisonous to a curious canine rummaging his snout around wherever it will fit. Also, be cautious of what plants you bring into the home or yard. Most people warn you about Poinsettias but cats and dogs usually can’t eat enough of the flower in one sitting for it to kill them; it will still make them sick and should be avoided, but there are far worse plants. For example, seasonal Holly or Mistletoe is quite lethal to both cats and dogs and should not be hung up in any areas they can get to (or over an area they get to, since plants will shed leaves and even the pollen they will release into the air can harm your pets). Year-round, people tend to enjoy Lilies, which are another plant very toxic to cats and dogs and should not be brought into any areas they have access to, and shouldn’t even be brought into the home if you haven’t had the flower emasculated (have the pollen removed). Tomato plants and potato plants, both members of the Deadly Nightshade Family,  you may grow out in the yard contain deadly poisons in their leaves and stems (any part safe enough for you is safe enough for your pets in this case), so watch your pets around the garden or think twice about planting these crops.


In that vein, there are several foods that unlike the tomato, are poisonous to your furry friend. Chocolate is the one people are most familiar with: about one ounce of milk chocolate per pound your pet weighs is considered a lethal dose or one ounce of baker’s chocolate per nine pounds your pet weighs will kill them. All types of chocolate are lethal and the more bitter it is, the less it takes to kill a pet, this is because it contains Theobromine, a compound lethal to most species (Humans are the odd exception). Macadamia nuts and grapes or raisins contain other poisons lethal to cats, dogs, birds, and most other pets; it only takes about 6 nuts or 7 grapes to be a lethal dose, and even less when these are paired with chocolate, maybe in a cookie or chocolate bar form. One you may not think about is a sugar substitute in many sweeteners, diet products, gums, and candies: xylitol. Exactly how much xylitol is in a given product varies wildly from brand to brand, but usually about a full pack of gum contains more than enough to kill them, so make sure you put away even the things you don’t always think of as food. The active ingredient in alcohol, ethyl alcohol, is just another on the long list of things lethal to animals, but this one should be more obvious since we all know it can be lethal to humans as well; the tough thing to remember about it is how much is safe to drink is largely based on your weight, and you have to remember your pet weighs far less than you do. For example, two teaspoons of Whiskey is enough to put a five pound cat into a coma.

Things to think about for your exotic species: most turtles and tortoises are vegetarians, or primarily herbivorous, so they generally don’t want meat, but that doesn’t make every plant safe; avocadoes and spinach can both be lethal to these little guys. Avocadoes are also quite lethal to birds and small rodents, but (despite ASPCA’s claims) are not harmful in any short-term ways to cats or dogs. Lastly, just because your rodents like fruits and nuts doesn’t make them all safe either: almonds, citrus fruits, even raw potatoes are all harmful. Consider talking with your vet about other foods that you should be sure to avoid if you own exotic pets; their care can vary quite significantly from most standard pets.



 

By: Anthony Barnstable

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Your Pet and Winter Walks

Will my pet be warm enough on winter walks?

Many of us love our pets, and love giving them the exercise they need. This usually means taking them for walks and most dogs tend to need half an hour to a full hour running around outside to get a good workout for the day, but this can be problematic when winter rolls around, especially in areas where it gets below freezing, snowing regularly. For this reason, many people tend to cut their walks a bit shorter, for their own comfort but is this also in the pets’ best interest? An animal’s ability to stay warm in the winter is based on more than you may think; their age, size, breed, and health all influence this ability.

Younger pups and senior dogs will both have a much harder time regulating their body temperature than a dog just reaching his prime, so as he or she gets older, it may become harder to make it through those long walks without a little protection or some stops back home to warm up. Smaller dogs also tend to have a harder time with the cold than larger dogs: think about it, most animals that hibernate like to pack on some weight for the winter because it is just added insulation, so a larger dog in the litter will fare better than the smaller ones. This ties into breed; larger breeds will also tend to stay warmer in the winter. Pets with thicker coats of fur will do just fine in the cold weather; they were bred to have thicker coats for just this reason. Your Husky or Saint Bernard will be just fine on the walk, but your fears about your Chihuahua or Greyhound feeling Winter’s bite are well placed. Think about where your pet comes from if you know: a Siberian Husky or Russian Fox was obviously built for the cold, but the Mexican Hairless Dog comes from a much warmer part of the world, so he or she wouldn’t naturally be used to the cold. Consider whether or not you have recently groomed your pet as well. Good hygiene for your pets is important but trimming off their hair to look more fashionable may be a bad idea for your Poodle in the wintertime. If you keep your pets outside normally, consider letting them in for the winter or at least make sure their external housing structure is well insulated and does not leave your pets exposed to the rain or snow when they're inside. If they are not warm where they sleep, they certainly won’t be warm on your walks. Lastly, look at your pets’ health. If they show any noticeable signs of illness, bring them in for a check-up and hold off on any walks for a little while. Whining immediately before, during, or after the walk may be their way of telling you it is too much for them. Other common behaviors that the weather is getting to your pet are shivering, attempts to burrow, or general fear or angst towards you.

Keep in mind, most pets have fur and their ancestors did live out in the wild, so most of them can handle the weather, but if your pet is not normally from a cold area, keep an eye on them outside.

-Anthony Barnstable

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What is a service animal?

What is a service animal and how are they used?

In many countries around the world, service animals are used by individuals with various disabilities to help them perform day-to-day tasks that would otherwise be very difficult for them. The most common service animal is the dog. Some common examples of needs for service dogs are for pulling a wheelchair, guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, protecting a person having a seizure and alerting help, reminding a person to take prescribed medication for a mental illness, or calming a person suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder during an anxiety attack, but there are many other cases where service dogs are needed.

 

In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act legally permits that state and local governments, businesses, and nonprofit organizations that serve the public permit service dogs (and in special circumstances, service miniature horses) to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of their facilities where the public is allowed to go. Religious organizations are exempt from this law, although most generally still allow the animals out of respect and courtesy. Currently, service monkeys are not a legally recognized service animal for use in public places, but in the United States, additional species of service animals besides dogs and horses are not allowed to be discriminated against when the person with a disability purchases a home. Additionally, even more species of service animals are allowed to accompany passengers on commercial airlines. In Illinois, the law extends even further to provide equal rights to service dogs-in-training when they are accompanied by their trainer, regardless of disability. Foreign countries provide varying protection for these animals.

 

In general, service dogs are trained from the time they are puppies to provide the best assistance possible for the individual they will work with. Because every individual’s needs are different, this often means each animal is custom-trained, learning commands and behaviors other service dogs will not necessarily know. Training usually lasts for the first year to year and a half of the service dog’s life and the dog then usually remains in service for eight to ten years after training is complete. After a dog retires, it usually remains at home as a pet of the individual who worked with it during its service years or with the family or individual that originally trained the dog. There are professional organizations that will train service dogs for people in need for a fee. Some nonprofit organizations or charitable individuals will train service dogs to donate to those in need. Others choose to simply train their service dogs themselves due to the high prices of professionally trained dogs and because of the incredibly limited amount of dogs these organizations can train. Due to the limited amount of time in which a dog can serve as a service dog and the significant amount of time that is necessary for training, the supply provided by these charitable individuals and professional organizations is nowhere near enough to meet the huge demand the community of people with disabilities in need of a service animal.

 

While on duty, service dogs wear vests or harnesses that in some way denote they are working animals. They are trained to avoid all distractions while wearing the gear, because the health and safety of their owners rests in their ability to focus and avoid distraction. It is problematic to allow these animals to act as pets while on duty, so it is not courteous to ask to pet the dog or to ask the owner to remove the gear and allow the dog to play. When their gear is removed at home or in another location the owner deems acceptable, they often relax, are friendly, and play like any other dog; although, service dogs will still obey all commands given by their owner even while their gear is off as it may be critical to protecting the health and safety of that individual.

 

By: Anthony Barnstable

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