The Importance of Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance Review

Ben and Nora VandenBerghe love Labrador retrievers so much that as soon as they put an offer on their home in Edmonds, WA, a little more than a year ago, they purchased two Lab puppies, a male and a female, from a reputable breeder.

The male, a yellow Lab named Gus, was your typical, lovable Lab. But there was something wrong with Quincy, the female. When Ben tried to hold her on his lap, she never wanted to stay very long. "At first, we just thought she wasn't as affectionate as Gus," he said, "But that wasn't the case at all. She was in terrible pain."

It turned out that Quincy had hip dysplasia, a hereditary condition common in Labs, where their hip bones don't fit properly into their sockets. As a result, the dogs are subject to painful arthritis, loss of range of motion, and muscle atrophy, according to the VanderBerghe's veterinarian, Dr. Steven Stoll of Seattle, DVM; Diplomat, ACVS. It's most common in older dogs but as the VandenBerghes discovered, it can happen in dogs less than a year old.

Fortunately, because the couple had pet insurance that covered hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia-rare in the pet insurance industry-they were able to afford an operation that turned Quincy back into a happy, playful pet. The initial visit, x-rays, surgery and ancillary costs came to more than $7,000. The pet insurance company, Petplan, paid 75% of the costs.

"I think pet insurance is great," Stoll said, "especially if you own a purebred dog prone to hereditary conditions. But do your homework and shop around. Not all pet insurance companies cover hereditary conditions."

The VanderBerghe's are grateful they made the right decision. "We weren't 100% sold on pet insurance at first but now we're glad we went for it," he said. "Just watching Quincy run around like a normal puppy again makes it all well worth it."

Americans spend in excess of $42 billion on their pets; however, only less than half of 1% of pet owners have pet insurance, according to Petplan Insurance. This translates to out of the approximately 160 million dogs and cats living in the U.S., only about 750,000 are insured. (In Great Britain, about 20% of pet owners carry insurance).

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Advice for Pet Owners
Dr. Shawn Messonnier - Washington Post

Natural Health Care for Pets

Camp Hill, Pa.: What is the best age to neuter/spay kittens?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: I usually recommend four to six months of age.


Washington, D.C.: My 10-year-old tabby cat has started slowing down a little. I feed her a small amount of kibble, which she nibbles at throughout the day and then a half a can of Wellness wet cat food at night. Do you recommend any supplements or change in diet to accommodate her "senior" status? Thanks!

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: First I would make sure she's had a recent exam and blood and urine test, to make sure there are no signs of diseases. That would explain the slowing down. In particular, make sure you pay special attention to the teeth to make sure the cat doesn't have any dental disease and to make sure the cat doesn't have arthritis. Two products that I like for geriatric pets include cholodin and Vin & Vigor. A lot of vets may not carry these product, but they can be found on my Web site with links that go directly to the manufactures.


New York, N.Y.: Thanks for taking my question! My Shih Tzu has elevated liver enzymes and is taking Denosyl. I asked my vet about adding Milk Thistle to this, but she wants to wait. Is there anything else I should give my dog in addition to the Denosyl?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: The first thing I would do is make sure the liver enzymes are really elevated. Many veterinarians misinterpret blood tests and many of the pets I see with "elevated liver enzymes" really have elevated adrenal gland enzymes. In that case, an entirely different treatment is necessary. However, if the liver enzymes are really elevated, milk thistle may be helpful. Two products that I like that help my patients with liver disease include cholodin and hepatosupport.


Arlington, Va.: My slightly obese cat is a wonderful animal, but she has bad dandruff! Do you have any suggestions on how we can treat this? And i can't just bathe her more frequently because we have yet to figure out how to give her anything more than a sponge bath -- any attempt to actually place her in a basin of water or pour water on her results in scratches and a very freaked-out cat! Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: While bathing is very important, I understand that some pets don't like being bathed. There are two supplements that they can try to help with the problem: Vin & Vigor and Ultra EFA.


Washington, D.C.: What advice can you give to the caregivers of an elderly female dog in her declining days? She is having trouble getting up in the mornings and using her hind legs. Once she gets going, she is okay, still has energy and seems happy. We bought a rug for her to sleep on and that seems to help. My mom is worried that she will fracture her hip like an old lady, but her vet reassures us that does not happen with old lady dogs.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: If this is from arthritis, several things can be used. Cholodin flex can be helpful. She probably needs some medication at this point to help with pain. I would talk to your vet about two drugs. The first is called Tramadol. The second is Metacam or a similar drug. Good luck.


New baby in the house: My husband and I are looking forward to a first baby and are wondering whether you have any advice on how to ready a dog for this new change. Any references would be appreciated. Thanks!

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: First thing, make sure the dog has been exposed to or is exposed to babies and children right now. I would also prepare the baby's room, let the dog come in and get used to that change. If possible before the baby is brought home from the hospital, the husband could take the baby's blanket home from the hospital so the dog could get used to that smell. If the dog is particularly nervous or anxious dog, check with his veterinarian for a short acting sedative. Alternatively, natural products that may help include Rescue Remedy, Nutricalm, or composure liquid.


Alexandria, Va.: Okay, this is slightly controversial, but I was wondering what you think of skipping a well-pet exam some years. I take great care of my cats, fancy, grain-free canned food, fish oil, etc. They went to the vet last year for an exam, fecal test, vaccines, etc. and this year they're only due for a physical and they're doing just fine. In tight times I feel unwilling to shell out a bunch of money for the cats to be weighed and given a quick once-over. Is it reasonable to skip an annual exam sometimes if the pets are doing well? I don't want to be a bad owner.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: My annual exam is different from other doctor's exams. I usually do a physical examination and blood and urine testing. At least once a year and often twice a year for middle-aged to older pets. This allows me to uncover many diseases in my patients before they become clinically ill. While you do have to spend some money on these tests, it is much less expensive to do that then to wait for the pet to become ill and require treatment, if any is available at that time. Finally, remember that very few pets need annual vaccinations. Therefore, most pets should not be receiving vaccinations at their annual visits.


Takoma Park, Md.: My 5-month-old male tabby, a rescue cat, loves to bite and scratch. He is generally affectionate when I come home but after 15 or 20 minutes he goes on the attack. It's gotten to the point where I lock myself in my room when I get home. I'm even thinking of dropping him off at a shelter. Help! Is there such a thing as a cat trainer?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: My best advice is to contact a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior. A trainer will not be sufficient for this problem.


Greyhound Rescue: I am considering adopting a greyhound after I retire. Can you tell me what to look for in one of these dogs? I hear they are very gentle, is this so? Have they been abused by the tracks or owners? Also, I have a 14-year-old cat who currently rules the roost. Your thoughts in introducing a dog? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: These are typically very wonderful dogs and make wonderful pets. Common problems in rescue greyhounds include dental disease and bone and joint problems. Overall they tend to be very healthy and make wonderful pets. If the cat likes dogs there probably will not be much of a problem bringing a dog into the housejhold. If the cat hates dogs, I would not bring a dog into the house. Consulting with your vet on ways to introduce the two will be helpful. Natural products that can be used to reduce anxiety in the cat include Rescue Remedy, Nutricalm, Composure Liquid, and Feliway.


Silver Spring, Md.: I have a 3-year-old standard Dachshund that suffers from allergies during the beginning of each season as well as frequent ear and yeast infections. He's been on Medrol and I still continue to give him 3V caps. Is there a way to minimize these frequent infections? Is there a natural remedy that will help?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: I have a lot of success in my practice treating allergic pets with natural therapies. Most will be able to reduce or illiminate the need for conventional drugs after six to 12 months. There are numerous supplements that can help and working with a holistic vet is your best bet. However, here are some things to get you started: 1) frequent bathing (every 24 - 48 hours) is very important in healing diseased or damaged skin. I recommend one of the shampoos in my new lines of organic pet shampoos; the aloe and lavender anti-itch shampoo should work well. 2) A good fatty-acid such as Ultra EFA made by RX Vitamins for Pets should be given at double the labeled dose. 3) A good antioxidant will be helpful, some that include Proanthozone by Animal Health Options, NutraPro by RX Vitamins for Pet and Cell Advanced by Vetriscience. 4) Finally the supplement called Vin & Vigor by Pet Togethers has produced some amazing results in many of my allergic pets. This protocol will get you started. For more advice, check out my book "The Allergy Solution for Dogs."


Washington, D.C.: My 2-year-old tabby occasionally "cries" -- I'll see a tear on the side of her nose. Is this something I should worry about? Her eye doesn't look irritated or red at all.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: Probably not. If the eyes look fine, I wouldn't worry about it.


Rockville, Md.: Before our baby came along, we used to walk our 3-year-old pug everyday. But now that the weather's getting colder, we feel like it's just too cold for the baby. But what can we do for the puggie to make sure he's getting enough exercise? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: Well, can someone walk with the pug and someone stay home with the baby? Can someone play with the pug in the backyard, making him chase a ball, frisbee, etc.? If you have a two-story home, you can make the pug walk up and down the stairs several times during the day.


Washington, D.C.: Our barely 1-year-old cat was just diagnosed with FIP. His appetite and weight are down and he's much less energetic than before. Everything we've read and been told by our vet is this is invariably fatal and the preferable course is euthanasia. This is a tough time for us, we just put another cat to sleep this summer from a degenerative neurological issue, plus this cat was picked out by our 5-year-old son and will be especially hard on him. Are there any other possibilities for treatment? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: While it is true that this disease is usually fatal, occassionally natural therapies may be of some help. My best advice is to find a holistic vet, as each case is very different. If you are unable to find a holistic vet, here are some general guidlines that can help.

1) Try any of the immune-boosting supplements from Vetriscience (the link is on my web site). One in particular that may help is called Maitake DMG.

2) Conventional medicines such as Predinisone or other chemotherapy drugs might also temporarily help. Good luck.


Anonymous: Dr. Messonnier,

My two cats will yowl occasionally at night or in the morning for no apparent reason. I don't think they're lonely (since we're upstairs and they often sleep with us). Sometimes one cat yowls after my husband leaves for work in the morning, but he knows I'm upstairs.

They aren't fighting yowls, or sad yowls, or yowls after using the litter box -- they're just yowls. Why are they doing that? Are they just vocalizing? Or are they upset about something? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: I think they're just vocalizing. They may miss the husband. They may want to be with the wife. My cat will vocalize if she wants to be near us but is prevented from being near us by a closed door. This sounds like normal behavior. If it continues, a consult with a veterinarian who specializes in animal behavior might be helpful.


Takoma Attack Cat: Sounds like her cat maybe bored. If Takoma does not have another kitten, please consider one. I bet the cat needs a playmate during the day.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: Well the concern that I've got is bringing another kitten into the household may or may not help the problem. The cat may not be attacking out of boredom. Also, I have seen cases where the new animal brought into the household actually started exhibiting the same behavior as the original pet. If that happenend in this case, she would be attacked by two cats rather than one. I think a consult with a veterinarian specializing in behavior is the best approach.


Aging Dog Question: I have a 9-year-Daschund and not too long ago I noticed some symptoms of what I think is arthritis and/or hip dysplasia. He's gotten better, but I want to be more mindful now of taking steps to minimize this as he continues to age. I am keeping his weight in check and making sure that he gets his exercise. Are there and suppliments or other actions that you can suggest? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: First, have the pet checked out to make sure something other than arthritis is not causing the pet's signs. If it is simply arthritis, here's what I recommend for my older arthritic patients. I would use cholodin flex plus Vin & Vigor as my two starting supplements.


Kansas City, Mo.: Hi Dr. Messonnier, thanks for your time.

I have a very active 3-year-old lab mix that lost 15 lbs. in the last year (From 57 lbs. to 42 lbs.). We have had her checked for worms and had her thyroid tested. We feed her two cups of Natural Balance twice daily (more than recommended) and while she appears to have stopped losing weight (gone one month without a drop), we can't seem to get her to GAIN. Can you recommend anything to supplement her diet and help her beef up? Thanks!

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: Assuming you're feeding the correct amount of food, and assuming your vet is not concerned about other diseases for which she has not been tested, the weight loss may not be a big deal especially if she might have been overweight anyway. There are no specific secrets for helping people or pets gain weight. However, using several supplements to support a healthy GI track may be helpful. Two that I like include RX Zyme and Nutrigest, both made by RX Vitamins for Pets.


Cat behavior: My cat stretches against a wall, door or, my favorite, a floor-to-ceiling mirror, puts out her claws and slides down. She often does this in the middle of the night, waking me up. Do you know what causes this, and how can I get her to stop?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: It sounds like a normal behavior. Many cats are more active at night then during the day. Is it possible for you to cover the surface of the mirror or the door, at night, so she won't be as attracted to doing that? For example, taping some butcher paper over the door or mirror may make those surfaces less attractive.


Washington, D.C.: Our 7-year-old tabby cat eats toilet paper and tissues, if he's able to get his paws on it. He's perfectly healthy otherwise. Strangely enough, he refuses to eat any treats like the occasional salmon, tuna fish or chicken. Is there some sort of vitamin or nutrient deficiency we should be concerned about?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: No, some cat or dogs will do this. It's more of a quirky behavior then a medical problem. The best advice I can give is to keep the bathroom door closed so the cat can't get in there.


Chandler, Ariz.: My 5-year-old male Westie has had alot of allergy problems, namely paw sucking and chewing, some dermal breakouts, itchy nose and ears, and runny eyes. We tried every therapy known to veterinary science and then went to a holistic vet who had some success for a small period of time. He is now on an Atopica taper. Atopica was a miracle therapy for my Westie, his quality of life vastly improved but I am concerned about just how long he can take this drug. I would like to do a food allergy elimination trial. Your advice or comments on allergies, please. Thank you.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: For more information, see my earlier response to a similar question. I've had very good luck with holistic therapy as part of my treatment for pets with allergies. As far as a food trial, it's unlikely your pet has food allergies as I would not have expected him to respond to Atopica. However if your vet thinks food is still an issue, you can always try a food trial. Regardless, all (allergic) pets should be on a natural diet to minimize inflammation in their bodies.


Silver Spring, Md.: Thanks for taking this question. I'm trying to get my roommate to house-train his 5-year-old Maltese. Before I moved in he had taught the dog to do his business on the kitchen floor on a doggie pad. I decided that was completely unsanitary and asked him to train him. The problem is, the dog freaks out when its in the cage. Even after I walk the dog he will go in the kitchen and poop/pee, so he has to stay in the cage unless he's sitting in my room with me, which I don't like because he smells. How do I get the dog to calm down in the cage? He rattles it and howls, barks, whines. The owner is NEVER home and when he is he stays in his room and leaves the dog in the cage. Any advice would be appreciated.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: See my earlier answers about behavioral problems for supplements that may help. However, consultation with a vet who specializes in pet behavior is very important in dealing with this kind of problem. Since the dog has never learned to accept the cage and has learned to eliminate on the pad in the kithcen floor, it will be very challenging to make it stop these behaviors and learn something new. If things don't improve, it would be easier to find another roomate.


Washington, D.C.: My golden retriever is 7 years old and the vet said he has very early stages of arthritis. She recommended give him glucosamine tablets. What kind of holistic care can we give to him?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: The glucosamine tablets are fine. Other supplements that could be included are cholodinflex or glycoflex. Two homeopathic products that can work are Zeal or Traumeel. Additionally acupuncture may be of help. Only use drugs to control pain on a limited basis.


Portland, Ore.: My husband and I would like to get a cat in the next month. We have two dogs who use a doggy door to get to the backyard -- this is necessary due to work schedules and the dogs love coming in and out on their own. I have only had indoor cats and would like to keep this new cat indoors if possible. Is there anything we can do to keep the cat from using the dog door/going outside under these conditions? We will be getting a kitten if that matters.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: The only thing you could do is keep the cat confined to a part of the house where it doesn't have access to that door. If the cat has access to the doggy door, it will use it.


Durham, N.C.: Doctor, my 11-year-old chocolate Lab/Chesapeake Bay retriever has mast cell tumors that are growing rapidly. She has lost weight, but her appetite is good and she is very happy. She is currently on Temaril (sp), and I am about to ask the vet to prescribe prednisone if it will make her more comfortable. What do you think? When is it time to consider putting her down? I don't have the money for expensive treatments and do not want her to suffer. Thank you.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: First, get my book "The Natural Vet's Guide to Preventing and Treating Cancer in Dogs." There are many suggestions for supplements that may help you, many of which you can get via links on my web site, and for medicines to make her feel more comfortable. There are also guidelines in that book to help owners prepare for euthanasia.

Two supplements that might be beneficial include Ultra EFA by RX Vitamins for Pets and the Maitake DMG by Vetriscience.


Maryland: My 1 1/2-year-old cat has twice been diagnosed with ear mites. She's an indoor cat, and while I have two dogs, neither of them have this problem. I'm baffled about where they are coming from and how to make sure they don't recur. Any ideas for me?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: How did the doctor diagnosis ear mites as the cause of the problem? The only way to correctly do this is by examining a swab of the ear debris under a microscope. If this was not done, the diagnosis may not be correct. More common causes of ear problems in cats and dogs are bacteria and yeast infections. Ear mites are actually quite rare in pets. If the pet was misdiagnosed and improperly treated, that would explain why the problem recurs.


Washington, D.C.: I have a 11-week-old puppy who has never barked. Is that normal?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: It certainly can be normal. I wouldn't worry about it at this point, but at some point the dog should vocalize or attempt to bark. Certain breeds such as Basenjis do not bark but make a yodeling sound.


Ardmore, Pa.: My little, less than 4 lbs., Yorkie continues to have bad breath problems despite teeth cleaning. Other than brushing (no flossing!), is there any thing you recommend -- water supplements, OTC or prescription products? She is not big on the hard chewy products and she has had special dogfood. What is the best way to keep her breath fresh? Thanks!

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: Assuming this is not a dog who licks her rear end a lot or has anal sac disease, I've had some success with the following regimen:

1) The Oxyfresh products are very easy to administer to dogs and cats and help control dental disease.

2) To maintain a healthy GI trac (sometimes GI issues can cause bad breath) I'd recommend the following products from RX Vitamins for Pets: Nutrigest, RX Zyme and RX Biotic.


Washington, D.C.: I am having a very hard time getting my cat to the vet to have his nails trimmed (he won't let me near his paws despite trying a gentle, progressive approach). Every time I try to pick him up, he fights tooth and nail and I can't even get him close to the carrier. Do you have any suggestions? I use Feliway, but it doesn't seem to help.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: 1) The vet might be able to show you how to do this. Or, the cat might do better at the vet's office, which would require regular visits to have the nails trimmed there.

2) Anesthesia might be necessary several times a year for nail trimming.


Falls Church, Va.: Hi, my pitbull had to have the patella luxation surgery when she was just a pup. She will be 4 in February and every now and then she will limp from what my guess is overuse or irritation of the injury (very active dog and this only happens maybe once every couple of months). She doesn't really seem to be in pain: no whining, or wimpering and she still moves around, but I just wanted to know if there was anything that I could do (other than the vets suggestion of a pain pill or tranq) to help her recover quicker with less irritation. Thanks!

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: If she's very painful when this happens. I would use the pain pill sparingly. For regular control and to help prevent arthritis, consider glycoflex from Vetriscience, Megaflex from RX Vitamins for pets, cholodinflex from MVP Labs.


Baltimore: I live in a dog-friendly apartment community, and my apartment backs up to a nice big yard for my dog to play in. As expected, there are yellow urine spots in the grass. But they're not where my dog usually urinates -- they're where my neighbor's young puppy urinates.

So, I'm just curious: what causes some dogs' urine to stain (kill?) the grass, and not others'? Does it have to do with different diets? Different breeds?

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: I've never seen an answer to that questions, so I don't know. My guess is there may be a difference in urine PH. Apple cider vinegar placed in the dog's vinegar may prevent the problem.


Bastrop, TX: Could you suggest an alternative flea/tick treatment to Advantix or Frontline? Thanks.

Dr. Shawn Messonnier: In general, I don't worry about preventing fleas and ricks for most of my patients as that is not a big issue or a big problem. To help control fleas and ticks, here are three easy things you can do:

1) Spray the yard with Beneficial Nematode.

2) Bathe the pet regularly with a good organic flea and tick shampoo. I recommend the lemon grass and neem shampoo in my line of organic shampoo called Dr. Shawn's Pet Organics.

3) At least weekly, thoroughly wash the pets bedding, toys, blankets, pillows, etc.


Dr. Shawn Messonnier: I've enjoyed helping you today. If you'd like more information on natural pet care, visit my web site


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


Puppy Cam Wranglers: 'No, You Can't Have One'
By Helen A.S. Popkin -

A little more about those fuzzy faces 4 million viewers have come to adore

In a few short weeks it will be over, and then how will we go on? Think about out. Four million Shibu Inu Puppy Cam fans worldwide gained inner peace simply by tuning into to watch the real-time streaming video exploits of six adorable pups on their way to doghood.

Alas, we can’t help but see what’s coming — even though we’re all loath to admit it. Autumn, Ayumi, Amaya (the girls) and Aki, Akoni and Ando (the boys) turned only six weeks old on Nov. 18, yet grow less puppy-like every day.

Sure they still nap like babies and have yet to develop any sense of personal space (Oh, is that your head? I will step/sit/chew on it).

But their once Ewok-shaped heads are growing more elegant and defined. Soon they’ll be off to their “Forever Homes,” already adopted by loving families before most of the planet knew these pups existed. Thanks to the surprise hit of the Fall Internet season, is outfitting each puppy’s new family with its own Doggie Cams so we can continue to watch their exploits as the mature.

Even as the end of Puppy Cam nears, how much do we really know about the puppies? The couple who are the puppies’ people parents never foresaw this kind of popularity — and even now amid the media hubbub, they wish to remain anonymous. Still, Technotica was lucky enough to score an e-mail interview with the “Puppy Wranglers,” so we can all learn a little bit more about those fuzzy faces we’ve grown to love.

Technotica: Why Puppy Cam?

Puppy Wrangler: The Shiba Inu Puppy Cam was simply a way in which my wife and I could check in on our pups to make sure they were safe while we were away from the house. A coworker spied the Webcam on one of my monitors and asked if they could get the link. After that, it appears it took off like that old Breck commercial from the 1970's, "You told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so and and ..."

T: Have you done “life casting” before?

PW: Outside of watching “The Truman Show,” no, we have not.

T: Were you surprised at the response?

PW: Surprised is the understatement of the year. We had no idea it would become such a worldwide phenomenon.

T: What’s the weirdest or most surprising thing that’s happened since the Puppy Cam went “viral?”

PW: Besides being viewed by people in over 40 countries around the globe? Well, we are definitely humbled by the many stories we receive from people about how the puppies have helped them through tough times.

T: What should people enchanted with the puppies know about Shiba Inus before considering adopting one?

PW: Shibas are generally (a) very independent and intelligent dog breed. Most Shibas must always be on a leash or in an enclosed area because of their tendency to have a strong prey drive. However, early socialization with various types of other animals, people, places and things while they are still young will help them later on in life.

T: Would a Shibu Inu be a good dog for the Obama daughters in the White House?

Want to learn more about Shiba Inus?
"Shibas are generally a very independent and intelligent dog breed. Most Shibas must always be on a leash or in an enclosed area because of their tendency to have a strong prey drive. However early socialization with various types of other animals, people, places and things while they are still young will help them later on in life."

To learn more about the breed or the many Shibas waiting to be adopted from the various rescue organizations around the country, visit the National Shiba Club of America Web site:

The Puppy Wrangers also recommend reading Shiba Inus (Complete Pet Owner's Manual) by Laura Payton.

PW: Honestly, it is probably not my first recommendation as I have been told that the Obama daughters require a hypoallergenic dog. Additionally, most of Shiba Inus must be kept on leash or in a secured/fenced location due to their high prey drive. We do wish the Obamas the best in choosing the right dog for their family.

T: What do people ask most about the puppies (my bet is their sleep schedule)?

PW: The most common question is, "Can I have one?"

To that we ask that interested people really do their research on the breed, any dog breed for that manner, before making both a monetary and life-long investment. As in any relationship you want to make sure that the breed fits YOUR temperament and lifestyle.

Once you have one picked, do not immediately run off and go to the local pet store to purchase a puppy/dog. Spend a little time researching reputable breeders as they strive in each breeding to achieve the highest quality possible, relative to the breed standard for conformation, temperament and health by breeding only physically sound dogs of stable temperament that are free of known inheritable defects.

A pet store puppy, on the other hand, usually comes from puppy mills whose main goal is for making a profit regardless of genetic issues. And let us not forget that there are many wonderful Shibas that are waiting to be adopted from the various rescue organizations around the country (go here for more info on Shiba Rescue).

T: People in the chat area next to the Puppy Cam often express concern about how much the puppies sleep – but that’s just normal for puppies, right?

PW: The puppies sleep cycle is regulated by their little bodies and they are constantly growing. Much like a human baby the first stages of their life are generally about sleeping, eating and exploring their environment ... in that order. And don't you worry, we turn the Webcam and lights off each night to let the puppies get their beauty sleep.

T: Anything else puppy cam fans should know – about the puppies, the breed, etc.?

If people are interested in the breed I would recommend going to the National Shiba Club of America Web site or reading "Shiba Inus (Complete Pet Owner's Manual)" by Laura Payton.

Long-Distance Puppy Love
By Tess Malone - GW Hatchet /

Editor's Note: Tess Malone is a writer for the The GW Hatchet, the leading news source for George Washington University. This article was brought to by UWIRE, the leading provider of student-generated content. UWIRE aims to identify and promote the brightest young content creators and deliver their work to a larger audience via professional media partners such as Visit to learn more.

Students start groups on social networking Web sites to discuss the dogs they left at home.

(UWIRE) -- For freshman Elise Chen, home is only a phone call away. It's keeping in touch with Sammy, her collie-lab mix, that's the problem.

"I can talk to my dog on the phone, but I don't get anything out of it," Chen said.

Chen is not the only student who misses her pet, an integral part of many families.

According to membership in Facebook groups dedicated to the topic, at least 44,845 others are in the same boat.

There are at least six groups dedicated to missing one's pet on the social networking site; the largest, "I love college, but I miss my dog," stands at 31,056 members.

The group's wall is full of declarations of love for dogs at home, often accompanied by pictures and funny stories in the photo and discussion board sections.

Chen, one of the group's newest members, said she joined when she realized the forum was a literal representation of missing her dog. In some respects, Chen said, she actually misses her dog more than she misses her parents.

"My dog never says 'Go to bed,' or 'You have to be in by two,' " she said. "My dog just says, 'I'm happy to see you, even if it's 2:30 in the morning.' "

GW's Facebook network has its own group for pet lovers: "I Miss My Dog." Its 89 members frequently post pictures of their "four- and sometimes three-legged friends at home," as the group's description states.

The group's active members use it as a way to further express themselves on Facebook and to cope with missing their animals back home.

Like Chen, junior Jared Stone said he did not realize how much his dogs were a part of his life until he came to college.

"In the past, I had always been at home and always been around my dogs," Stone said. "I was used to having them nearby and petting them while watching TV. So in college, their absence hit me and I found the group on Facebook an accurate representation of how I was feeling."

Although a freshman like Chen is still adjusting to college life away from pets, Stone has learned that students must learn to deal with missing their pets.

"Friends fill the gap so much, but can only go so far," he said. "I've overcome it, but it's still nothing you can really get over."

Many students, including law student and "I Miss My Dog" member Rebecca Rodgers, hope to eventually have dogs of their own, but they know that college is not conducive to pet ownership.

"My studio is no place for a dog and definitely not with a crazy law school schedule," Rodgers said.

When Rodgers misses her Australian shepherd, Missy, she turns to the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.

"I tend to watch (my) particular breed of dog, Australian shepherds," Rodgers said. "Seeing other people's dogs makes me miss mine a little less."

Chen also uses technology to cope, though in a more personal manner.

"I video chat with my dog," she said.

Although she does not plan on getting a dog on campus any time soon, she jokes about adopting a "hallway dog" for Lafayette, where she lives this year.

The Internet and hopes for the future, though good coping aids, can only help those missing their pets to an extent.

Rodgers said, "Sometimes I look over my shoulder and expect a dog to follow me around."

More Than a 100 Animals Perish in Bronx Pet Shop Fire

More than 100 frantic birds, reptiles and small animals died trapped in their cages Wednesday when fire raged through a Bronx pet shop.

The blazing end to Stephanie and Amanda's Pet Center on Southern Blvd., a favorite attraction for kids in their Morrisania neighborhood, sent its owner home in tears when he realized almost all was lost.

"He couldn't take it. He just couldn't stay and watch what was happening," said 52-year-old Joel Rivera, who manages the shop for his cousin, David Rivera.

"He's been here 30 years and all of a sudden, it's all gone. His business, the animals, all gone. Maybe we can start all over again," he said, wiping away tears with the back of his hand.

A dry cleaner and a photo shop next to the pet shop also burned down, and a nearby five-story apartment building was evacuated but sustained only minor damage. No one in the buildings was injured.

Rivera said many of the 140 firefighters summoned to the three-alarm blaze risked their lives to save as many of the doomed creatures - parrots, parakeets, rabbits, guinea pigs, lizards and other reptiles, at least two cats and a pair of guard dogs - as they could.

"I got the lizards and they got two of our three macaws," which were worth $2,000 each, he said. "They tried to get other animals out, but they couldn't. There were too many cages, maybe 50 to 60, and too much fire."

"I'll miss them, all of them," Rivera said. "I used to play with the parrots. I'd put them on my shoulder. I was with them all the time. And the rabbits, all the kids around here loved them. They used to come in and take their pictures."

Fire officials said the blaze erupted in Urrego Alba Cleaners at 1105 Southern Blvd. about 4:15 p.m. and quickly spread to the other buildings. The cause was under investigation.

During the height of the fire, which wasn't brought under control until about 7 p.m., several blocks of Southern Blvd. were cordoned off in both directions. Service on the elevated No. 2 and 5 subway lines was suspended between E. 149th and E. 180th Sts. Transit officials said thick smoke billowing from the buildings was near the tracks and creating an unsafe situation.

One Dog's Long Road from Katrina
Kristin Kalning,

“We have a dog for you!” read the e-mail from Dandelion Dog Rescue. “Judy’s driving her up from New Orleans. Can you wait a few days?”

Outside, that November day, it was raining. It had been clear and sunny the day I started driving north from where I'd grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area to move to Seattle. But about halfway across Oregon, it started to rain. It kept raining through my first week, as I unpacked and drove in lost circles and tried to settle into working remotely for my Berkeley, Calif.-based company. As I read the e-mail about our soon-to-be dog, it was still raining. The gray dreariness matched my mood.

“Sure,” I wrote back. “We can wait a few more days."

Piecing together a history

Several months earlier, my husband and I had decided to add a dog to our family. A friend, who knew about the plight of the animals left behind in Hurricane Katrina, encouraged us to consider one of those dogs. After contacting an rescue organization, we saw a picture of Diamond, a black German Shepherd mix from St. Bernard Parish. She'd been through hell, and yet, somehow she looked hopeful. I just knew she was meant to be mine.

Pet Poisoning: Are You Taking the Right Precautions?
by Casey Cavalier, Dallas Pet Health Examiner

Pets are sensitive to household products. It pays to know how to handle them inside
and outside of the home.

No matter how many nice smelling or "green" cleaning products we buy at home, our housekeeper insists on using bleach in every room of the house. I noticed our dogs sneezing when she leaves, and wondered if cleaning products containing bleach could be agitating Buddy and Annie.

Regardless, I think the time has come to make a permanent switch and use the non-toxic products we have on the shelf. But, it's not always possible or pracical to use chemical-free products.

That's why it's important to to read labels and store products properly. Our pets, like our children, should not have access to any dangerous products used inside or outside of the house.

The Environmental Protection Agency has issued the following precautions, to be taken by families with pets:

--Follow all label precautions

--Keep products in original containers

--Keep pets away from products

--Know where to call for help

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores!

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