Monthly Archives: March 2013

Five Essential To-dos Before Bringing a New Pet Home

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1. Interview a Veterinarian

Not all vets are the same, and you want a veterinarian that best matches your needs. Read online reviews of the vets in your community (with a grain of salt), ask groomers in your area who they recommend, and make interview appointments with them. Our tip: Don’t rely entirely on a vet’s friendliness toward humans (i.e., you). A good veterinarian often has better skills relating to animals than to people. It is also your prerogative to ask the vet if she/he can provide a few references.

2. Pet-proof Your Home

Did you know that something as simple as chewing gum can be deadly for dogs, or that ibuprofen is toxic to cats? It is highly important to go through your home now, before you bring a new pet home, to search out hazards and get them out of the way or out of the house. This includes cabinets at pet level, counter tops, bottles of chemical on the floor, small toys, electric cords and curtain cords.

3. Choose an Age and Breed Appropriate Food

From the time they are young until the time they are seniors, your pet food choices should be guided by the pet’s specific needs, life stage, and lifestyle. You can do some cursory research to get a good idea of why it is important and what to look for, but for the best advice about the best food for your new dog or cat, consult your veterinarian.

4. Select Appropriate Cat and Dog Toys

Toys should be free of buttons, strings, and anything that can be bitten off and swallowed. Stick with rubber balls made for dogs (the harder to tear apart), nylon-bones, non-toxic stuffed toys, and ask other “pet parents” for advice on dog toys. For cats, feather wands are always popular, and a lot of cats are responsive to laser light devices. And don’t forget the old standbys: the catnip-stuffed mouse toy and the old boxes. Cats love treats too, so go with the same advices as above and treat sensibly.

5. Consider Spaying and Neutering

The best thing you can do for your pet’s health is to have him or her neutered, a term that can refer to spay or castration surgery. Yes, neutering does decrease aggression in most instances. And contrary to popular belief, it does not make a dog any less protective of his or her human family. Your new female pet, meanwhile, will not feel less-than for not giving birth. In fact, it would be worse for her to have her babies taken from her than to have never given birth at all. Still unsure? Ask your veterinarian for their recommendation.

Keeping Your Dog Warm

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Sweaters

Whether you make them yourself, or buy them, sweaters are essential for keeping a lightly furred dog comfortable. Make sure the material is durable and that it ends above the elimination area. Otherwise you will have very stinky sweaters.

Boots

Did you know that the pads on a dog’s feet can get frostbitten? While some breeds from cold climates evolved to grow heavy fur on their feet that helps to cover the pads, many dogs do not have that. If you live in an area where snow and ice are a part of the winter landscape, do your dog a favor and get her some dog booties. She will be forever grateful for them.

Winter Coat

Sweaters are fine for indoors and for when it is above freezing outside, for most dogs, but once it starts snowing that’s when things get really uncomfortable. A nice, thick, insulated winter jacket can make the difference between your dog hiding behind the sofa when it’s time for walkies, or eagerly allowing you to wrap his coat around him so that he can enjoy the weather without too much shivering. Make sure the coat is also rain resistant. Remember, snow is just powdery rain and can get a dog wet, too.

Snowsuit

And then there are other dogs that are so lightly furred, so thin skinned, and so lacking in insulating body fat that only a full body snow suit will do to get them outside. Don’t forget the dog boots if there is snow on the ground.

Heated Blanket or Pad for Bed

If you don’t want your dog jumping into bed with you or demanding to be held to stay warm (and maybe you do like those things, but within reason), an electric or self-warming bed pad is your best preemptive move.

And this goes for cats as well, since they love small warm spots, but probably not so much the sweaters and booties. We’re betting that unlike dogs, who appreciate the things that keep them warmer and comfy, the cats will lose those items fast.

5 Signs of a Bad Pet Sitter

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1. Disorderly Feeding Area

What is the condition of your pet’s water bowl? Is it dirty, or worse, completely dried up? Even if the water bowl has run dry from an accident like your pet knocking it over, an attentive sitter should be checking the water level daily at a minimum, and twice a day if the weather is especially hot.

And don’t forget the food bowl. Are there bugs in it? Has dry food gotten wet and left to putrefy, or canned food gone crusty on the plate? A pet sitter who can’t stay on top of the minimal is someone who should be shown the door.

2. Evidence of ‘Accidents’

Do you see or smell any evidence of “accidents?” Not so obvious indications that your dog was taken out too late can include a scratched up door, suspicious carpet stains, or a lingering odor. On an extended basis, your dog can develop bladder infections from trying to hold his urine for too long, and possibly even behavioral issues regarding his potty practices. If you are a cat owner, does the litter box show signs of neglect? Too infrequent or inadequate cleanings may cause your kitty to seek out other places to relieve himself, or refuse to use his box at all.

3. Lack of Respect for Your Property

Is your once-full refrigerator now bare? Do you smell cigarette smoke? Are your items moved around, or do they show signs of tampering? Is anything, especially valuables, missing? Have your neighbors reported unacceptable behavior, such as strangers being admitted into your home? Even if your pet sitter is providing overnight visits, appropriate behavior includes respect for your property. A pet sitter who does not inherently know these things should not have the responsibility of caring for your pet.

4. Unexplained Injuries

While occasional injuries to outdoor pets are not that unusual, a sudden or unexplained injury may be a cause for alarm. Signs to look for include a limp, cuts, bleeding, swelling of the limbs or around the face, and a general malaise.

5. Fearful or Hostile Pet

Another indication of potential abuse is when your pet is afraid of the sitter. Uncharacteristic hostility and aggression towards the person means it’s time to find another pet sitter.