Whether it is lost or stolen, losing a pet is an agonizing experience. According to the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, only about 2 percent of cats and 15 percent of dogs that enter U.S. animal shelters as strays every year are reunited with their owners.
The reason is shockingly simple -- too many owners fail to put identification on their animals, especially cats, to ensure their safe return home. Yet, even the most responsible pet owners can face unexpected circumstances that cause their animals to accidentally stray. This is especially true during summer when windows and doors tend to be open.
The following are common types of identification that can mean the difference between life and death for your best friend. Remember, with each of these methods, it is imperative to keep your information up to date.
All cats and dogs need to wear collars with city licenses and rabies vaccination tags. Personal ID tags are essential backups. The tag should include the owner's name, address, telephone numbers (day and evening) and the pet's name. Also:
- If you are willing to pay a reward, put the word "reward" on the tag.
- If you are traveling, put a temporary tag on your pet with the contact information of someone who knows how to reach you.
- Use a collar especially made for cats that has a short piece of elastic sewn in it. These collars allow the cat to escape if it gets caught on window blinds, furniture, fencing or other objects.
- Tag your cat even if you never let it outside. It could slip through an open door and easily become lost in the neighborhood.
A tattoo is a permanent ID system that involves marking a code on the pet's skin. The finder calls a database and uses the code to obtain the owner's current address and phone number.
This is an invaluable ID should a pet be stolen for research, since laboratories will instantly know the animal is not abandoned, but a beloved pet.
Microchips are tiny electronic capsules embedded under the pet's skin. When a pet is found, any agency with a scanner, including many animal care and control agencies, veterinary clinics and research labs, can quickly identify a code that links the animal to its owner through a database.
Please, for your pet's sake, show you care by properly identifying him/her.
Vaccinating Your Pet
To protect your pet from getting a serious disease, keep his vaccinations up-to-date. This is important even if your pet is kept indoors. Consider the risk if your pet ever slips through the door or needs to go to a veterinary hospital for treatment. As the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.
It is also important to keep in mind that vaccinations take a few days to a few weeks to become effective.
Vaccinating against rabies
Vaccinating your pet against rabies is not an option -- it is required by law throughout most of the United States. Check with your local animal care and control agency to see how often your pet must be vaccinated.
Putting a Collar on Your Pet
It can be difficult to place the first collar on your new pet -- especially if you have a new kitten. Try using a catnip toy to distract the cat's attention from the new feeling of wearing a collar. By the time it finishes playing with the new toy, it may have forgotten the collar entirely.
Pain in the neck
Keep in mind that collars do not expand, but puppies and kittens grow quickly! If not loosened, collars can literally grow into your pet's neck -- an excruciating, constant pain. So check your pet's collar at least every week until it is full-grown (that can be more than a year for large breeds). You should be able to easily slip two or three fingers between the collar and your pet's neck.
If you have a cat, be sure to buy a "break-away" collar that can easily break if it gets stuck on something. This will prevent the collar from strangling your cat.
However, don't let this simple task stop you from putting a collar and an ID tag on your young pet, just in case it slips by you and gets lost.
Every Dog Needs a Den
Why use a den?
Dogs are den animals. They need their own sanctuary that is just large enough for them to fit inside and feel secure. They need a "home away from home" where they can go when they are stressed. If you don't provide your dog a "den" of its own, it may make do with whatever is around -- a chair, the narrow place behind the couch, or the wedge of space between the bed and the wall.
A crate is an indoor doghouse that is used for brief periods of time. Its primary function is to serve as a bed or den. It can also be an ideal tool to housetrain your pet or to keep canines that suffer from separation anxiety from destroying the house while you run a few errands. However, the dog is not supposed to live in the crate. Endless hours in the crate can lead to severe social and isolation problems for your dog -- and it will no longer see the crate as a special retreat.
When you are home, your dog needs to be out with you. In fact, the crate should be kept in the room where the family spends most of its time. That way, your dog can seek refuge from the hubbub of household activity, yet still feel like a part of the family.
Once your dog realizes that the crate is a sanctuary and that no one can bother it while it is in its "den," your dog will begin to seek out the crate on its own. For more information on crate training, call your local animal shelter.
Prevent Accidental Poisonings
Many household items can prove to be lethal to your pets -- know what they are and how to keep your animals away from them. A list of household dangers is available at the ASPCA's Animal Poison Control Center.
Plants are often overlooked, but some plants, if ingested, cause ailments ranging from mouth irritations to stomach problems, and some can be fatal. Examples of toxic plants include azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, Easter lily, azalea, rhododendrons, and Japanese yew.
People often make the mistake of thinking that people food is okay for pets. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it is not. Here are some foods to avoid giving to your pets.
- Milk is not easily digested by most adult animals and can cause them to develop diarrhea.
- Bones are very dangerous. They can lodge in a dog's passageways or cut its intestines.
- Chocolate can be lethal and should be avoided at all times.
- Onions can destroy a dog's red blood cells, leading to anemia.
Also, be as vigilant at poison-proofing your house for a pet as you would be for a child. Keep cleaning products in a high, closed cabinet. There should be nothing below counter level because liquid drain cleaners, as well as tub and tile cleaners, can be lethal. Also, take precautions in the garage -- bags of insecticide and auto care liquids need to be stored high off the ground.
Another critical step in avoiding pet poisonings is to read labels. Flea control is commonly labeled specifically for dogs or cats. This is because the agents used for dogs are not safe for cats. Follow the label directions and amounts correctly.
Some pet owners may mistakenly think that the medications used to treat human symptoms will work for animals, as well. Never give your animal a human medication. Even something as simple as aspirin can be lethal to your pet. Products such as Acetaminophen and any aspirin product can cause stomach bleeding in your pet. Medications such as birth control and vitamins can also cause internal bleeding.
Cats tend to be attracted to unusual flavors, so keep them away from calamine lotion, diaper rash ointments, sunblock, and analgesic ointments. These products contain an acid related to those in aspirin and will prove toxic if ingested.
And remember, administer only medications prescribed or approved by your veterinarian.
Preventing Poisoning of Your Pet
According to the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC), an average of 200 dogs per year are poisoned intentionally. While this represents less than one half of one percent of calls the center receives annually, it remains a problem that can be addressed through owner awareness.
In many cases of intentional poisoning, an animal has disturbed a neighbor or relative, and as retaliation, the animal is poisoned. What can pet owners do to prevent this? If you know you have a problem with a neighbor or relative, try to work it out with him or her. For example, if your dog is barking in the middle of the night, it may become a problem that others may attempt to solve themselves. Showing your neighbors respect will go a long way. However, if you suspect your dog is at risk, don't hesitate to contact authorities. Also, make sure to keep your dog in sight at all times.
One of the first measures to take if you suspect your animal may be in danger of being poisoned is to observe your neighbors. See if their behavior reflects ill feelings toward your pet. If this is the case, talk to them.
Also, be on the lookout for foreign objects and food products in your yard. If you see something suspicious, call your vet or the NAPCC at (888) 426-4435. If you find food products, freeze a sample of them immediately. This preserves the substance for lab testing by authorities.
There are many things that can poison an animal. Pesticides and insecticides are common in cases of intentional and accidental poisonings. Rodent poisons are also common. If you suspect these substances were used, look for bluish-green pellets in areas frequented by your pet, as well as in its stool.
Because animals are attracted to its sweet taste, antifreeze can easily be used to taint an animal's food or drink. In cases of antifreeze ingestion, look for florescent green vomit. Also, switching to a low-tox brand of antifreeze can help reduce the risk of a fatal poisoning.
Pets and Poisons
If you suspect your pet has been poisoned, what can you do to increase its chances for survival?
Post your veterinarian's telephone number in a convenient location. You should also post the address and number of a nearby emergency clinic, along with the number of the National Animal Poison Control Center (NAPCC), which is (888) 426-4435.
Because neighborhood veterinary clinics rarely see poisonings, the NAPCC is a unique resource for both pet owners and veterinarians. They employ a staff of veterinarians and licensed technicians who are skilled in veterinary toxicology and are available 24 hours a day. The NAPCC can provide very detailed treatment protocols to your veterinarian.
Take immediate action
If your pet ingests poison, make sure to observe the animal closely. To treat a poisoning successfully, it's helpful to have a history of your pet's symptoms, including when the symptoms were first noticed, where the animal has been in the past few hours, and whether anything has been seen in the yard (pieces of uneaten meat, any vomit with discoloration), or passed through the stool.
Provide a history
Providing a detailed history of symptoms to your veterinarian is critical. Immediately collect and preserve any vomit, food products you may find, medication bottles, and stool samples to help your vet rule out or determine intentional poisoning. Freezing vomit and stool samples is the best method to preserve them as evidence. You can do this yourself, or take it to your vet to freeze and later send to a laboratory for testing.
As a concerned pet owner, it's up to you to provide your vet with information that could potentially save your pet's life. Symptoms are important as they allow vets to work backward and figure out the cause. Only after other explanations can be ruled out can your vet explore the idea that someone may have maliciously poisoned the animal.
Following these steps may help save your animal's life after an accidental or intentional poisoning. If you have cats, keep them indoors. If you have dogs, be aware of their surroundings and behavior and don't let them roam free.
- Kennel cough (infectious tracheobronchitis) is a contagious, upper-respiratory disease.
- It is transmitted by an airborne virus and often complicated by secondary bacterial infection.
- Kennel cough occurs more commonly in puppies and young adult dogs.
- It is often caught at kennels or shelters where dogs are exposed to many other dogs.
- Because the virus is airborne, normal cleaning and disinfecting of kennel surfaces cannot eliminate it.
Dogs with kennel cough are usually bright and alert and usually eat well; however, they have a dry, hacking cough or bouts of deep, harsh coughing often followed by gagging motions. The gagging sometimes produces foamy mucus. Most dogs with kennel cough do not have a fever.
- If your dog has these symptoms, consult your veterinarian for treatment. Antibiotics may be prescribed to prevent or cure a secondary infection.
- Keep dogs in a relatively warm environment and make sure they are rested to help prevent the development of pneumonia.
- Prevent the spread of this disease by keeping your dog away from other dogs.
Important to know
Not every cough is "kennel cough." Some dogs bark almost continuously while sheltered, which can lead to a sore throat or many other upper-respiratory diseases.
If your dog has a fever, is less active than normal, has a decreased appetite, has discharge from the eyes or nose, has difficulty breathing, or is older than three years, a more serious problem may be present.