Pet Care Tips

This is will be my last post in a series of posts talking about different aspects of animals topics…at least for now.

I worked at a vet clinic for a couple of years, also live outside city limits, and have had pets my whole life,  so if there is one thing that I have some experience with, it’s this. At the vet, I saw a lot of animals that were just then being taken in even though they had clearly needed to go for quite a while. I saw a lot of people who really did love their animals and just didn’t know they were sick. This happens and I understand. It has happened to me, too. For some though, whether that was just because they really didn’t know or they just didn’t care was a question up for debate. At home it is just a constant dropping off of animals. Watching them suffer or watching my own cats suffer because the strays fight with them or steal their food is definitely hard.  There are things that people need to consider before getting a pet. That being said, I have comprised a list of things I know from research and personal experience (which in no way makes me an expert) to save both of us the trouble of having ‘unwanted’ pets.

1.      Spay and Neuter- Gosh. I absolutely can’t stress enough. One unfixed cat and her unfixed offspring will create 420,000 cats in seven years. An unspayed dog becomes 67,000 dogs in six years. Some 70,000 puppies and kittens are born every day in the U.S. Between four million and six million pets are euthanized every year because they are homeless which means that an animal in a shelter is killed every 1.5 seconds.

Only one animal in 10 born in the U.S. gets a good home that lasts a lifetime. Communities would greatly benefit from people doing their part and getting their animals spayed and neutered, but there are great benefits that go individuals.

Better health. A dog that is spayed or neutered has no chance of developing uterine or testicular cancer; in females, the risk of breast cancer and urinary infections is drastically reduced. Reproductive cancers are common among older dogs that have been bred.

Better behavior. Male dogs that are neutered when young are much less likely to roam, mark their territory (and your belongings) with urine, and show aggression toward other male dogs. Unneutered male dogs will go to great lengths to get to a female dog in heat—they will dig their way out of yards, break fences and leashes, and cross streets in heavy traffic if a female in heat is in the area.

Easier care. An unspayed female bleeds for about 10 straight days twice a year. She bleeds on your carpet, your furniture, the interior of your car, and on the ground outside. As soon as she has marked your yard, you can anticipate a constant parade of male dogs that will pace your lawn, howl, and bark. You have a fenced yard? They will dig their way in.

No accidental pregnancies. If your dog accidentally becomes pregnant, you will have to provide additional medical care—for her and the puppies—and be responsible for finding good homes for half a dozen or more offspring. I hope that no one would want their beloved puppies to be part of 4 to 6 million pets that are euthanized each year. So do your part and be a responsible pet owner.

While it is true that surgery for your dog costs money, you should be aware that the cost of altering your dog will save you money in medical care in the long run because your animals will be less likely to experience the other costly problems in the list above.

Because of the seriousness of the pet overpopulation problem, there are countless programs that provide low-cost spaying and neutering for pets. Animal shelters often provide this service, and if your local shelter does not, they can probably tell you about a shelter nearby that does.

Here are some websites that can help you find a low-cost spay/neuter program and also talks about some of the myths of spaying and neutering:

http://www.almosthomerescue.org/spayneuter/spayneuter.htm

The environment and eco-systems can also be effected by an over-population of cats and dogs. Feral cats can carry diseases and can create an even ration of prey, birds, rodents and other small animals, to predators. Also the overwhelming amount of animal waste is creating problem in parks.

2. Flea, tick and heartworm medications- I don’t know about other places, but I know that fleas and ticks are a huge problem in Oklahoma.  Part of my job at the vet was washing dogs and in the summer, some dogs were plagued with them. God, it was awful. My skin still crawls when I think about the things I saw.  First, you should know that flea and tick collars don’t work. At least they don’t here, but it may be because it’s not strong enough to combat the overwhelming amount we have, but I would rather you be safe than sorry.  Yeah, these medications are poisonous for fleas and therefore can affect the animal over a length of time, but that’s how it kills the parasites and the health effects of letting parasites run rampant on your pet are a lot worse.  I’ve seen some natural remedies out there and I would be interested in seeing if they work, but I’m kind of apprehensive of the consequences of it not working that may ensue.

Second, if you have an outside animal, please check them every now and again to make sure they don’t have a problem that is out of control. Many diseases and anemia are the problems that an infested animal may face and if no one is paying attention then it could be late by the time someone does realize. Animals should not be treated with flea or tick treatment until they are at least 8-12 weeks old. Check with veterinarian for usage of flea and tick medicine on both babies and nursing mothers and also which parasite treatments work best in your area. When in doubt check with veterinarians. 

 Until they’re old enough, you can give them a bath with dawn dish soap. Drizzle some soap on them, lather it, scrub it and really rub it into their skin and fur.  Let them soak for around 20 minutes and then rinse well. Make sure you get it all.  You may have to try it a couple more times over the course of a couple of days before they all gone. Be careful not to drown them.  Also, from personal experience, kittens don’t respond well to this, so you can only do it when they’re pretty young and small. If you have an older kitten then you may not to attempt it because who knows, sometimes cats like water. If that doesn’t work, ask your vet for other options.

For cats, it is extremely rare to get heartworms, so doctors give prevention to cats. Why is heart worm prevention important? Heartworms spend their adult life in the right side of the heart and the large blood vessels connecting the heart to the lungs.  In many cases, heartworm treatment is very intensive and can be high risk. If your dog gets heartworm disease, they can become very sick. In severe cases, heartworm disease will cause your dog to get right sided heart failure. Other symptoms of heartworm disease include a cough, loss of appetite, weight loss, fluid accumulation in the abdomen (ascites), and even death. Because heartworm disease can cause severe illness and because diagnosis/treatment can be very expensive, it is much more practical and safe to prevent heartworm. http://www.petfooddirect.com/blog/2010/04/why-is-heartworm-prevention-important/

3. Vaccines- Like children vaccines, whether pets really need them and whether they are beneficial is a rather lively debate. Also, like children vaccines, they are not without risk, but this is something you’ll have to choose for yourself. For me, this is where the thieving corporations win. I would rather fork over a couple of bucks each year than run the risk of one of my cats getting sick and I not be able to save them. Some vaccines are required by state such as rabies and that does not go without common sense. Others aren’t, but are recommended by veterinarians also for good reason.

4. Time and care-  Dogs need to be walked, cats need clean litter boxes, both need to be played with and loved, it’s a fact.  If you don’t have time then you shouldn’t get either one. I’ve never had a dog, but of the friends of mine that have dogs, all their dogs have incredible amounts of energy.  If you already have a dog and it’s tearing up your house, it’s probably because it needs time to burn off some energy. This goes for cats as well. Smaller, lap type dogs usually do better even without that time.

Cats need clean littler boxes. Most people, myself included, hate scooping litter boxes, but guess what? It has to be done, preferably every day, but at least every other day.  I personally hate using public bathrooms. They’re disgusting and I avoid them at all costs; I even schedule my water intake around when I’ll be home to avoid public bathrooms.  I imagine that if I don’t want to use a public or dirty bathroom then my cats probably don’t want to either. If you have a cat that is peeing outside the litter boxes, it’s probably one of two things: It needs a cleaner litter box, or it has a urinary tract infection which means it needs to be taken to the vet.

5. Food- What most consumers don’t know is that the pet food industry is an extension of the human food and agriculture industries. Pet food provides a convenient way for slaughterhouse offal, grains considered “unfit for human consumption,” and similar waste products to be turned into profit. This waste includes intestines, udders, heads, hooves, and possibly diseased and cancerous animal parts. These are called animal by-products. The ingredients are listed in order of weight and you’ll usually find that within the first couple ingredients.  Cats and Dogs are carnivores, so they do better on meat base diet. Too much vegetables (which I’ve seen quite a lot of commercials for products bragging about their use of vegetables. I’m curious as to why this is) will lead to a deficiency in nutrients.

I got this information from http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=359 and it has a great amount of very important information. It was too long to put on here, but it’ll be there if you want to read it.

6. Make sure that you get a pet that matches your life style. Are you home a lot? If so you can get a lap dog or a dog that requires more attention. If not, cats are pretty low maintenance. They do their own thing and they don’t need all of your attention. Are you active? Maybe a lap dog wouldn’t be that great of an idea, maybe go for a bigger, more energetic dog. Do you have a lot of empty time slots? If not, then you may not want to get a long haired pet. There are things to consider when getting your first pet, so make sure you do your homework and get one that will match your life style. Also consider adopting a pet rather than going straight to a breeder. There are plenty of lovable dogs and pure breeds are not the only dogs that love. And if you’re determined to have a pure breed then still check your local shelter. Around 25% of the shelter dog population are purebred.  http://www.americanhumane.org/animals/adoption-pet-care/caring-for-your-pet/spaying-neutering.html

7. Last, but not least take your pet the vet if it seems sick. This isn’t something that will necessarily mean they’re homeless if they do, at least I hope not, but it’s something that every pet owner should be aware of. Lethargy, any kind of behavior changes, peeing outside the litter box, weight loss are all signs that there could be something wrong with your animal. Sick animals aren’t that different from sick people. They feel pain just like we do, they need medication, just like we do and when they’re sick they might want a little extra love and attention, just like we do. And while I’m on the subject, finish out the whole prescription. Follow it to the T. This happens with people too. They start to feel better, so they stop taking their medication. What happens is the bacteria don’t die all the way. It may stay away for time, but it doesn’t die. When it comes back it has evolved into a more resistant bacteria. Sometimes it takes more than one round, but eventually it will become resistant to that type of antibiotic. Follow prescriptions, length, amount given, every letter, every instruction down to the very last letter. It will avoid a lot of future problems.

So these are my care tips. I hope they help or will help you in the future in any sort of way.  I love animals and I don’t want to see them hurt or have to be put down because of mistake we made. You must want to see it either, or wouldn’t have taken the time to read this.

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