Choosing the Right Pet

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Adopting a new pet into your home and family is a big decision. Or, it should be. For many of us, the pets we adopt become our best friends and closest companions, so it’s only natural that we want the best pet possible. Likewise, as pet owners we need to know that we can meet our pet’s needs and give them the best possible life, too. Here are a few things to consider when adopting a pet… Continue…

New Year’s Resolutions: Tackling Pet Obesity

Obese cat sitting on floorThis time of year, many of us are thinking of our New Year’s Resolutions.  Maybe you are going to quit smoking, make a commitment to hit the gym more often, or spend more time with your kids.  New Year’s Resolutions aren’t just for people, though.  Your pet may have some life changes to make as well!

Did you know that approximately 54% of the nation’s pet population is overweight, with the number getting larger every year?  About 20% of these pets have owners who do not recognize that there is a problem.  We see a lot of these pets here at Oakland Veterinary Referral Services because obese pets are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, breathing problems, kidney disease, exacerbation of osteoarthritis, and a shortened life expectancy.  Many pet owners are either not aware of these health risks, or they find their pudgy pets cute and don’t address the problem.

Here is a different way to think about your pet’s weight according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention:

  • A 95 pound Golden Retriever is equivalent to a 5’4” human female weighing 184 pounds or a 5’9” male weighing 214 pounds.
  • A 10 pound Chihuahua is equivalent to a 5’4” human female weighing 242 pounds or a 5’9” male weighing 282 pounds.
  • A Domestic Shorthair cat that weighs 15 pounds is equivalent to a 5’4” human female weighing 218 pounds or a 5’9” male weighing 254 pounds.
  • A pig ear fed to a 40 pound dog is the equivalent of an adult human drinking 72 ounces of Coca-Cola.
  • A regular dog biscuit fed to a 20 pound dog is similar to an adult eating 2 Keebler Elf Fudge Double Stuffed cookies.

Check out your pet’s Pet-to-Human Weight Equivalent Translator and get tips on safe weight loss in dogs and cats, at this site. It is important that you discuss your pet’s need for weight loss and your plan for accomplishing it with your veterinarian to ensure a successful outcome for your pet.  Please contact us today with any questions or concerns, and have a happy, healthy 2013!

Winter Weather Warnings for Your Pet

Winter has arrived, and with its entrance comes a whole new set of concerns for taking care of your pets.  While it’s true that they wear fur coats all of the time, animals can still suffer from weather-related injury and illness.

It’s best to keep your pet indoors during the coldest part of the year, if possible.  Cats especially can freeze to death, or they are killed while trying to find warmth, such as under the hood of a car.  If you do keep an animal outdoors, be sure that it has adequate shelter out of the wind and moisture.  Also make sure that it has access to fresh, non-frozen water at all times.  Animals that are trying to keep warm outdoors will also need extra calories to do so.

Never shave a pet that will be spending any time outdoors.  Short-haired animals may even benefit from wearing a sweater or coat when outside.  Very young and very old animals will have a lesser ability to keep themselves warm and should spend limited time in the cold.

Inside or out, be sure that your pet has a warm, comfy place to snuggle up.  Tiled or uncarpeted areas are often chilly!  Also, take care around space heaters and fireplaces, which can be a hazard for cold or curious pets.

Wipe your pet down after it comes in from the outdoors to remove any moisture or harmful chemicals, such as antifreeze, or rock salt from its coat and paws.  You should pay close attention to your pet’s paws as they may become chapped or even cut on icy, uneven ground.  Animals that have long hair in between their paw pads may need to have the area trimmed to prevent ice and snow from accumulating.

Overall, it is probably best to keep your pet indoors as much as possible during cold snaps.  Pets can suffer frostbite and hypothermia just as people can.  Long, unsupervised time outdoors increases the likelihood of these things occurring.  Play it safe and keep your pet warm this winter!

Keeping a Pet-Safe Garden

dog and cat in a gardenIt’s that time of year again, when warmer temperatures and longer days make us head outdoors to spend more time in the fresh air and sunlight. If you happen to be a gardener, it’s probably also the time that you’re just itching to start digging in the dirt, and you may be deciding what flowers and veggies you may want to plant. It’s important to keep in mind that although gardening can be a very rewarding hobby, it can also be dangerous for our furry friends. Luckily, creating a pet-safe garden is not very difficult. We just need to take a few extra precautions to ensure that our yards and gardens are as safe as they are beautiful.

Avoid Poisonous Plants

The most obvious way to create a pet-safe garden is to choose the right plants. Not all pet owners realize that a great many garden plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Popular varieties such as azalea, rhododendron, oleander, foxglove, lily of the valley, sago palm, tulip and daffodil all fall into this category. Pets that eat these poisonous plants can experience everything from an upset stomach and diarrhea, to seizures and liver failure. Be sure to  check the ASPCA’s comprehensive list of toxic plants before deciding which plants will make it into your garden.

While not toxic, it’s also a good idea to avoid trees, shrubs and plants that are likely to cause allergies. Many of the same plants that cause allergies in humans will affect your pet as well. Look for pollen-free plant species whenever possible. If you do select a plant with a high allergy potential, avoid planting it under windows that you’ll have open during the summer.  If you already have one of these trees or hedges in your yard, keep it heavily sheared so it will flower less.

Choose Your Mulch Carefully

Many gardeners use cocoa bean mulch—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. It has an attractive odor and color that make it a popular choice, but cocoa mulch can pose serious problems for your dog. To be safe, opt for shredded pine, cedar, or hemlock bark instead. Also try to avoid mulch that has been treated with weed inhibitor or insect repellent.

Rethink Toxic Chemicals

Try to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or weed killers in your yard and garden. These pose a danger to dogs and cats because anything picked up on their paws could be licked off later. There are plenty of organic, earth-friendly products available as an alternative that are safe for both pets and humans. Ask your local gardening center for recommendations and they should be able to point you in the right direction.

Insecticides are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t safe for our furry friends. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton and most forms of rat poisons. Again, a conversation at your gardening center may be able to provide you with some effective but natural alternatives.

Compost Piles and Worm Bins

These eco-friendly practices can be great for your garden, but be sure they’re not accessible to your pets. Dogs that view garbage and rotting food as a special treat may consider this a buffet, but it’s one that could make them sick.

Garden Tools

Just like toddler-proofing, be sure to keep all pruning shears, trimmers, tillers, rakes and other gardening tools picked up and stored safely out of reach of your pets.

Gardening is a great hobby, and with a little extra planning and effort, it’s not difficult to ensure that your hobby will be safe for your pet.