Cat-Ching! Careers for Cat Lovers

Dog Carried Off By Predatory Bird, Vet Says

Woman Found Dog Suffering From Crushed Leg More Than 400 Yards Away

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- A 3-year-old dog suffered a crushed leg after being picked up by a large predatory bird and dropped more than 400 yards away.

Kelly Emerson and her husband were dog-sitting the toy Pomeranian, named Anya, on Thanksgiving weekend. When she let Anya and several other bigger dogs outside, the little pup disappeared.

"Thinking that there was safety in numbers, I went inside to make a pot of coffee and came back out and Anya was missing," Emerson said.

Emerson was finally able to locate the dog, suffering from a mangled leg, in a neighbor's driveway. The dog's humerus bone had been completely broken in half.

Dr. Mitchell Spindel, a veterinarian at Animal Ark in Clemmons, said it was an animal attack, most likely that of a large bird. Spindel said large birds like a red-shouldered hawk can do a lot of damage in the blink of an eye.

"Their beaks are strong and they'll grab," he said. "But it's the talons that really do the damage."

Emerson said the dog's leg had to be amputated.

"How do you explain to somebody that (their animal has) been lifted off by a predatory bird?" she said. "It doesn't sound real. It's just such a freak thing."

"We've seen an owl swooping through as we were feeding the horses, and we have hawks that have a nest behind our neighbor's barn," she added.

It's not just birds that are searching for an evening meal.

Spindel said low food supply is forcing foxes, raccoons, and coyotes into local neighborhoods. He urged pet owners to keep a close eye on their small pets.

"This year we've heard more coyote stories than ever before," Spindel said.

Emerson said Anya should be able to live a normal life on three legs.

"I feel extremely paranoid now," she said. "I know there's not safety in numbers. And so we have to come out with our animals and make sure that the coyotes aren't around and the birds don't swoop down and get them."

Lost Dog's Tale Has a Happy Ending
The Dallas Morning News

Sometimes you find the best stories in your own back yard.

Or, in this case, in your own back parking lot.

More than a year ago, a stray dog took up residence in the parking area behind the newspaper building.

It's so unusual to see a dog running loose in downtown Dallas that the black Labrador retriever mix caught everyone's attention.

But the poor thing was so skittish that you rarely got more than a fleeting glimpse of her as she cowered down and scurried away.

Because no one could get anywhere near her, some kind souls here made do by putting out food and water each day.

But that couldn't go on forever. Someone remembered a story we had run about Capp Evans, a local fellow who has success catching wary strays when no one else can.

His help was enlisted, and the dog some were calling "Belo" was snared on Saturday.

A wonderful dog sanctuary in East Texas, Straydog Inc., agreed to take the poor old mutt in.

And on Monday, as is routine with all new arrivals there, she was taken to a veterinary clinic in Athens for spaying and medical care.

Bill Arnold, the president of Straydog, said he couldn't believe his ears when the vet called to say the dog was in good health, was already spayed and ... had a microchip implanted!

A microchip ID was the last thing anyone expected from what appeared to be a hard-knocks street dog.

Using information from the chip, a call was placed to James Tubbs of Cedar Hill. He's the father of the dog's owner, 28-year-old Alisa Holmes of Dallas.

Alisa said her father scared her when he called.

"He said, 'You're not going to believe this. Are you sitting down?'

"I said, 'I am now. What?'

"He said, 'They found Shadow.' And I screamed."

Shadow's sojourn goes back to Thanksgiving weekend of last year. She was riding in the back of Alisa's pickup. Somewhere between Cedar Hill and Alisa's apartment in North Dallas, Shadow disappeared.

You can spare her the lectures on dogs in the back of trucks. To say she grieved is putting it mildly.

"I have never felt a sadness that deep," Alisa said. "I'm fortunate. No one in my immediate family has died. The closest thing to me that I ever lost was my dog."

That night and for weeks after, Alisa retraced her path, searching for Shadow. She distributed 200 fliers, visited animal shelters and scoured lost-pet Web sites.

She had rescued Shadow as a newborn pup five years before. Shadow's mother, a street dog, gave birth to the litter beneath the broken pavement of an abandoned service station in Arlington.

Shadow suffered from periodic seizures. Alisa theorized that her beloved dog must have had a seizure during the trip home that night and fallen from the truck.

When Alisa got the incredible news on Monday that Shadow was found, it was too late to get to Athens before the clinic closed.

But she and her father were there two hours before it opened Tuesday morning. Alisa hadn't slept all night.

"I smiled so much my cheeks were hurting," she said.

Folks around the newspaper have been smiling, too, as word has spread about the happy outcome for the poor old parking-lot dog.

Alisa said Shadow snored loudly her first night back. What deep, sweet sleep that must have been – home again.

Why Trampolines Can Be Dangerous

Outdoor Pets Need Safety from Cold Temps
By Pete Keesling - The Gilroy Dispatch

Life as a small-town veterinarian means that a simple trip to the market may turn into a lengthy discussion about someone's pet. I never know who I might see at the store. And I love it. I run into friends all the time when I go into town, and often we spend time catching up on each other's family members, including the furry and feathered ones. It's also a time when I get some of my best stories for this column. And such was the case this past Sunday when I went to the grocery store for a few things early in the morning.

A neighbor told me about a very lucky cat that had "adopted" him, and now was living the good life in his backyard. This kitty probably started life as a feral, but somehow ended up fat and sassy in the backyard of Bob and his wife. Lucky for them, their new cat has become a champion gopher hunter. (Something I always wished for Rumpy the Cat … he's caught a few rodents over the years, but his primary food interest is the kibble bag.) Bob is so proud of his feline addition that he sometimes treats him with a little milk. And I'll bet that cat gets a few other treats at times! Sounds like a good match for them all.

Bob also reminded me that outdoor pets need some special attention this time of year. He's right. Frosty mornings mean that dogs need some escape from the freezing cold. Does your pooch have an enclosure to use as a retreat from the cold? Is his doghouse is clean and free from spiders? I'm forever amazed when I hear someone tell me that his pooch doesn't like to use his house and prefers to sleep outside. This may be true for some canines, but when the temperature gets into the low or mid-twenties at night, outside dogs need protection. Do your canine buddy a favor, let him have the choice of going into the garage or a small doghouse. And make sure that his water bowl has fresh water, not ice, in it. If water freezes in his bowl, he won't be able to drink.

And here's an often overlooked seasonal hazard. Every year, we talk about the consequences if a pet chews on Christmas decorations. But rarely does someone mention the dangers of candles. Besides a risk for fire, candles present another potential health problem for small pets, particularly birds. Scented candles and lamps contain volatile oils that fill the room with wonderful holiday smells. Nice as they smell, these oils can be irritating to a small animal's airway. I know of several cats and birds that have become very ill from inhaling these fumes. Pets and burning candles are a bad mix. Keep candles away from your pets!

And now for a question this week that hits close to home. Then I have to get over to the store for some shopping ... and a few more stories!

Q: Have you seen all the different gifts for pets? It's crazy what new stuff comes out each year. What gifts do you give your pets?

A: You're right, some of the new gift ideas this year are amazing. The high-tech industry has come up with all kinds of electronic gadgets. But my favorites are still the traditional presents. Rumpy the Cat will get a new catnip mouse toy. Janey and Georgie will each get one of their own as well. They're good cats … they share their toys.

Holly, our retriever, gets a toy, but she might do well with a sweater. She's aging quickly and keeping warm becomes more important in her later years.

But how about some of the other gimmicks that are on the market these days? There's everything from a new indoor potty pad for dogs (about $150) to a spray that makes it easier to clean up after your dog on a walk in the park. It's called, appropriately enough, Poop-Freeze. The inventive entrepreneur is at work in this challenging economy. You won't find these around our home. We'll stay traditional.

But here's a not-so-new idea that dog owners should consider. Anyone who travels in the car with their pooch should consider getting some kind of safety restraint for their canine companion. There are several different restraints that clip to the seat belt system making car travel much safer for pets and their owners. I'm forever amazed at drivers who pass me with their little lap dog sitting in front of them. Even a small fender bender could result in serious injury to a little dog crushed between its owner and the steering wheel.

But there's an even more compelling reason for restraining pets in a moving vehicle: driver safety. The other day I rode with a friend whose little terrier was very excited to be out on the road for a trip to the hardware store. This little dog was jumping back and forth from the front to the rear of the car as we went down the road.

My friend was trying to negotiate traffic with this pooch in and out of his lap, constantly barking. I couldn't help but wonder how he could drive safely with this kind of distraction. I told him about the safety restraints available and he laughed. She'd never go for that, he told me. Leashes and harnesses make her nervous, he told me.

Nervous? Kind of like I felt as we drove down the road, his dog bouncing and barking from seat to seat. It was a nerve-wracking ride. When we finally got home, I noticed (for the first time) one of his bumper stickers on the back of his car. "DOG IS MY CO-PILOT."

Tell you what … I'm not flying with him again.

Pete Keesling is a veterinarian at San Martin Veterinary Hospital. He writes a bi-weekly column for South Valley Newspapers and hosts a radio talk show, Dr. Pete’s Petpourri, Sundays at 1 p.m. and Friday mornings at 7:10 on KSCO 1080 AM. If you have questions about pet care, e-mail them to


Holiday Shoppers Guide: Save Pets From the Holiday Stress
Courtesy of ARAContent - The Friday Flyer

Tis the season for holiday cheer with Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching quite near. End-of-the-year festivities may bring friends and families closer, but with all of the season’s hustle and bustle, many pets may become overwhelmed and confused or exhibit negative behaviors resulting from unfamiliar sounds, smells and visitors that surround them before the New Year.
“Holidays can be a hectic time for everyone, including the family pet, which is why it’s important to make sure pets receive the attention and care they need amidst this busy time of year,” says certified veterinary technician and dog trainer, Gayle DiMenna. “Providing consistency for your pet by maintaining the same feeding and exercise schedule will lessen your pet’s stress and confusion.”
“During the holidays we always have friends and family over, which is difficult for our dog who is very shy and tentative around strangers,” says Jill Diffendaffer, pet parent to beagle-dachshund mix, Gracie. “We’ve found over the past couple of years that by planning ahead for guests and setting aside some play time for Gracie, the holidays are much more enjoyable for everyone.”
To ensure your pets have a happy, safe and low stress holiday, take extra care for your pet and plan ahead with these simple solutions:
* Try to maintain your pet’s usual routine, including consistent feeding, play and exercise schedules.
* If possible, try to exercise your pet, especially dogs, before guests come over to help decrease any hyperactivity and stress.
* Consider leashing your dog before opening the door for visitors to ensure greater control over your pet and to prevent escapes.
* Dogs tend to pant more when they become stressed. Be sure to keep water readily available to prevent dehydration.
* Prepare a quiet place for your pet to use as a retreat when holiday activities and guests become overwhelming.
* Try a pheromone-based product, such as Comfort Zone with D.A.P. for dogs and Comfort Zone with Feliway for cats, which can calm and soothe pets having trouble coping with holiday stress.
* Never leave your pet alone with unfamiliar children, regardless of how well behaved your pet is, to avoid potential incidents.
* Make sure your pet wears his tags at all times in case he escapes from the house or yard.
* Do not let guests feed your pet food from their plates, which can be hazardous to your pet’s health. Instead, leave treats out for your guests to give to your favorite furry friends as a reward for good behavior.
Pet parents looking for additional tips and advice can visit for more information.

Paw Prints: Keep the Holidays Safe and Merry for Pets
Heidi Bassler, veterinarian
The Daily News

The annual holiday season is well underway. In addition to an abundance of delicious food, decorations are a festive way to celebrate. The eating habits of dogs and cats are sometimes less than desirable, and holiday items such as poinsettias and tinsel may be unwittingly viewed by a pet as a potential menu item.

Here are some tips on how to pet-proof your home in December:

For plant lovers, poinsettias, holly and mistletoe are holiday favorites. Poinsettias are frequently considered to be toxic to pets. The good news is that they are actually low on the toxicity scale. Nevertheless, try to keep this flower away from your pet. Poinsettias contain an irritating sap that may cause blistering in the mouth or an upset stomach. The pet may paw at his face, shake his head or salivate excessively. Some cats and dogs may vomit. In severe cases, hospitalization for supportive care and fluids may be necessary until the pet recovers.

The berries of holly and mistletoe are potentially more dangerous than poinsettias. Both the holly berries and the holly plant can cause severe gastrointestinal upset. A few mistletoe berries can also cause vomiting and diarrhea. But if eaten in larger quantities, these berries can affect the heart and lead to collapse. If your pet chews on a holiday plant, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (888-426-4435) for advice. It is helpful if you know the name of the plant consumed.

Cats have an endless fascination with string-like objects. During the holidays, this list includes ribbon, tinsel and string used to tie roasts and poultry. The latter is soaked in meat juices and may be tasty for pets. Ingestion of string objects can lead to a serious gastrointestinal condition called "linear string foreign body."

Sometimes a string passes through the abdomen without incident. However, when the first part of the string moves faster, the intestines bunch together like an accordion. As the string tightens, it cuts through the soft intestinal tissue. This is a very serious condition that requires major surgery and hospitalization. It is most often seen in cats, but may occur in dogs, too. The affected pet is lethargic and not eating; he may vomit and his tummy is painful. If you think your pet may have eaten a string object, contact your veterinarian. The outcome is much more likely to be favorable if it is diagnosed early.

Cats and dogs may be enticed by the extra electric extension cords used during December. If a pet chews through the rubber casings, he may receive a severe shock or become electrocuted. Clinical signs may be immediate or they may occur up to two days later. Pale-colored burns may be evident on the lips or tongue. The electric current may damage the lungs and cause severe breathing problems. Electrocuted pets may seizure and die. If your pet has chewed through an electric cord, he should be carefully monitored by your veterinarian for several days. Try to keep unsupervised pets out of rooms with electric cords, or encase the cords in plastic tubing (PVC pipe). Be particularly watchful of puppies and kittens, as they are the most frequent victims of electric shock.

Button batteries are a hazard if they are consumed, and their small size makes them an easy target for ingestion. If unintentionally left on a table or floor, they can be a curiosity for some pets. Button batteries may release chemicals that cause erosions in the esophagus or stomach within 12 hours. They may also contain heavy metals such as mercury. Affected pets may vomit, drool and not eat. Treatment involves removing the battery with endoscopy or surgery, and medicating for erosions or heavy metal intoxication as needed.

Alcohol should be kept away from pets. Accidental ingestion may occur during social gatherings, when pets have access to open alcoholic drinks. Pets may vomit and appear drunk. Signs include unsteady gait, depression and disorientation. Affected pets should be seen by a veterinarian. Decontamination may be performed by the medical team, and blood pressure, temperature, heart function and fluid balance may need to be monitored. Dogs are more likely to ingest alcoholic beverages, but both dogs and cats are susceptible to illness.

The holidays can be fun for everyone, and a seasonal doggie sweater or new pet toy can be a festive addition to your home tradition. With a watchful eye and some simple precautions, this season can be safe for your furry friend, too.

Dr. Heidi Bassler is medical director of the Veterinary Center of Greater Newburyport. Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to

Cat-Ching: Careers for Cat Lovers
By Darcy Lockman, Studio One Networks - Montana's News Station

Are you eager to spend more time with cats? If the answer is yes, you have something in common with online cat boutique owner Esra Gulenc of Houston, Texas. Back in 2003, Gulenc's job meant 40 hours a week away from black medium-hair Supercat and tabby Alexander the Great. She wanted more quality time with the kitties, but also needed to earn a living. Gulenc decided to use her passion for cats, as well as their paraphernalia, to create an online store tailored to felines.

Today,, Felinerina both pays Gulenc's rent (for her home and two separate offices) and lets her indulge in an almost daily, worldwide search for unique kitty booty. "I do what I love, but to make sure I had a chance at being successful, I did my research and found my niche," she explains. The success was not overnight. It took a year and a half for Gulenc to turn a profit. It was worth it for the ultimate payoff: "My cats can come to work with me!"

Gulenc is only one cat fancier to turn her passion into profit. Here, other cat-lovers turned cat-professionals offer advice on what it takes to develop cat-ching.

Cat Sitter
Although it requires little capital, becoming a cat sitter is no small commitment. To build a business, you'll need to be available at times when pet owners leave town. "You're 24/7, and you're definitely home for the holidays," says Jill Weiner, owner of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based A Friend Pet Sitter. "You have to go into it knowing that you're on a different schedule than the rest of the world."

Weiner's work entails 30-minute home visits during which she might clean kitty litter, refresh water and food, play with a cat, or administer medication. It also includes becoming bonded (that is, insured for inadvertent damage to a client's property), hiring employees, meeting with cat owners interested in her services and marketing her company. "You need social skills and personality," says Weiner. "You can't forget that it's a service industry."

The National Association of Professional Pet Sitters ( the trade organization for pet sitters, providing tools and education to help its members' businesses. The association also provides certification, although this isn't necessary to start a cat sitting business.

Cat Behaviorist
Cat behavior consultants work with pet owners and their felines to strengthen those relationships. But they begin, first and foremost, with a curiosity about what makes cats tick. Jackson Galaxy, a cat behavior consultant in Redondo Beach, Calif., explains that an aspiring behaviorist spends a great deal of time observing cats. Galaxy did this by working at shelters for many years and by reading veterinary studies and books on cat behavior. "You start to get ideas as you watch the cats and the reading helps you develop your point of view," he explains.

If learning in the trenches is not for you, more formal training is available, as well as certification, through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. You can find out about both of these at, their website. Like with pet sitting, marketing is key, as are people skills. The animal may be your client, but it's their human companion who does the hiring.

Perhaps the most effective way to market yourself is to get to know other cat professionals (veterinarians, groomers, pet store owners, cat sitters) in your area. Call them to set up meet-and-greets at their offices and provide them with your credentials and a list of your services. When their clients need a behaviorist to consult with, your card will be a paw swipe away.

Cat Trainer
You know you're a born cat trainer when "you eat, sleep and breathe cats," says Karin McElhatton, a certified animal trainer and owner of Los Angeles-based Studio Animal Services. "You have to be totally happy to spend all your waking moments thinking about how to get cats to do things."

If that sounds like you, finding a cat trainer who allows you to apprentice is the next step. This is no Donald Trump-style quickie process. A trainer-in-training can apprentice for as many as two years -- without pay. "You need to have an alternate means of support while you're learning," says McElhatton.

Once the apprenticeship is complete, a cat trainer will most likely work for an animal talent agency -- training cats for stage, print, or television and film roles. (It's rare to be hired privately as a cat trainer, as most owners are not willing to pay someone to train their pet to roll over.) It's important to note that a cat trainer's responsibility doesn't end when he or she leaves work. The trainer is usually responsible for the care, including the housing, of the cats.

While more costly than hands-on education, certification from animal training schools is also available. To learn more, visit, the Search 4 Career Colleges website.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is always hiring. The job might entail administrative, marketing, web design or many other types of work. The Society has offices and clinics throughout the country and is in constant need of staff. "There's no one skill set required to work at the ASPCA," explains ASPCA senior vice president Gail Buchwald, "but a good starting point is a love of animals and a commitment to animal welfare."

While employees work with and for felines and canines, volunteers do have the opportunity to work in a cats-only capacity as "cat socializers," spending time with cats waiting to be adopted. Buchwald points out that "for an animal lover, there is no greater privilege and no career as gratifying as helping animals in need." For job postings, visit, their website.

Cat Groomer
Sure, a cat can bathe itself, but tooth brushing and mat extraction are out of its range. For these procedures, as well as others involving tools and ointments, a visit to the cat groomer is in order. Groomers give baths and blowouts. They comb and brush hair, not to mention cleaning the wax out of kitty ears. Groomers offer valuable advice on how to reduce shedding. They are often the first to identify skin and hair problems in cats.

While pet groomers do not need to be licensed, most earn diplomas from pet grooming schools. These schools offer courses as short as six weeks or as long as one year, depending on how much a student wants to learn about pets and their needs. Equally as important as the course work is "a love of cats," says Leigh Ann Gray, a cat groomer at AAA Pet Grooming in Sparta, Mich. "Cats that don't like to be groomed can really freak out, and that can be dangerous. So you need love and patience." On the upside: "Cats are good listeners! You can carry on a conversation while you bathe them and they are attentive no matter what." For more information, visit, the Pet Groomer website.

Embarking on a cat-centered career -- in any area -- requires time and effort. But none of the cat careerists above has any regrets. "I got into cat sitting because I couldn't have a cat in my apartment," says A Friend Pet Sitter's Weiner. "Now I have more cats in my life than any single apartment could hold."

Copyright (c) 2008 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.

About The Author: Darcy Lockman is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New York Times and Rolling Stone. She grew up with a feisty tabby cat named Cleopatrick and later roomed with a couple of calicos.

What You Should Know Before Buying a Puppy From a Pet Shop or Breeder
by Deni Goldman, Boston Animal Advocate Examiner

Before you go out an choose a new puppy to love, there are some very important things to consider.

Too many puppies are being sold for the sole purpose of money-making...with minimal concern for the puppies themselves. Fortunately, Massachusetts has its own set of laws regarding puppy sales; Unfortunately, not everyone adheres to those laws, and on many occasions, new dog owners wind up suffering losses...financially, physically and emotionally.

If you are looking to buy your puppy from “a breeder”, be certain that it is “a breeder”. First, ask to see the puppies’ mother. A reputable breeder will have the mother on site. Second, ask to see the mother interact with her puppies, and be sure that she is nursing them. Since most breeders advertise their puppies early, there should be no problem seeing them all interact together when you visit the facility. Third, since most breeders only breed one or two breeds, if there are multiple breeds present, consider that is may not be a legitimate operation.

If you are looking to buy your puppy from a “pet shop”, first be certain that the pet shop is licensed within Massachusetts. Second, ask to see the shop’s license (it must be posted inside the facility, visible to customers). Third, if you do buy a puppy, demand to receive a copy of of the dog’s complete medical record, and a notice of a 14-day warranty for the purchase of the puppy (this is required by State Law). Fourth, ask for the records showing that a veterinarian has examined the puppy within 7 days prior to you buying him/her (this as well is required by State Law). Fifth, have your new puppy examined by your own veterinarian within 14 days of bringing him/her home. If anything is found to be wrong, this vet report will allow you full refund for the puppy.

As difficult as it is to look into those pleading new puppy eyes, and then return him/her to a pet shop...stay strong...a puppy sold under false pretenses can be dramatrically sad for you, your family, and that little pup. Puppies taken from their mothers too early, or separated from their sibblings too soon, may suffer from separation anxiety and/or social and interactive behavior problems. Puppies brought into the state from breeders outside the state, along with their premature separation from their mothers and litter mates, run risks of having undeveloped immune systems, making it easy for them to get sick upon relocation.

The mere fact that it only takes seconds to embrace a young pup’s love is how so many wrongfully-run puppy establishments generate so much revenue. Be excited, be loving ...but please be careful where you select your new “best friend”!

N.M. Pet Stores to Require ‘Hobby Breeder’ Permits
The Dog Channel

Animal control measure in New Mexico outlines adequate food and space requirements.

Bernalillo County, N.M., commissioners moved Tuesday to prohibit the sale of cats and dogs at pet stores unless the store has an approved hobby breeder permit, according to the commissioners’ administrator.

The measure was approved as an amendment to an animal control ordinance also approved at the Board of County Commissioners meeting.

Details of the permitting process were not immediately available.

The animal control ordinance sets forth adequate food and space requirements, among other things, for pet shops, groomers, kennels, breeder sites, and shelters. It defines “pet shops” as “any premises, or part thereof, open to the public which engages in the purchase, sale, exchange or hire of animals of any type, except the term shall not apply to premises used exclusively for the sale of livestock.”

The commissioners had initially posited the idea of instituting a ban on the sale of pet shop cats and dogs. At that time, a suggestion was also made to ban sales of cats and dogs coming from “puppy mills” or “kitten mills.”

The Rise of Beds, and Falls of Dogs
By KEVIN HELLIKER - The Wall Street Journal

As mattresses get thicker and thicker, more canines struggle to get on them; introducing the staircase for pets

Without fanfare or marketing, the bedding industry has been raising the altitude of its products, satisfying customer preferences for ever-thicker mattresses. Yet that preference is creating a hazard for a tall bed's shortest occupant: the dog.

Anecdotally, veterinarians across the country report among house dogs a rise in such disorders as elbow and shoulder arthritis, hip dysplasia and degenerative disk disease. As the lifespan of pets rises thanks to better food and medicine, the old dog that once leapt with abandon now hesitates on the edge of bed -- or jumps and hurts itself.

Little dogs like the Pekingese are soaring off of high beds without fear. "For a little dog to take a flying leap off a bed that's five to six times higher than he stands is an act of courage, and a recipe for injury," says Stephen Crane, an academic animal doctor and diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons.

The peril is too new to have generated peer-reviewed veterinary research. But the problem is evident in the white-hot popularity of a relatively new product: pet stairs, specifically designed to lead Fido from bed to floor by land rather than air.

Pet stairs are one of the fastest-growing categories at national pet retailers such as Drs. Foster & Smith Inc., which offers five models ranging from $40 to $170. Vermont-based Orvis, the upscale outdoors retailer, launched its first pet staircase four years ago and now carries four, including a $200 carpet-and-hardwood model. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. offers a $64 variety, while a Web site called Puppy Stairs offers a range of models, from a bare-bones version for $77 to a designer model swathed in heavy-duty foam and washable upholstered covers in decorator fabrics for $535.

Even amid the downturn, pet stairs are strong sellers. "From day one through today our pet segment has been steady, growing by 10% annually," says Joel Lederhause, owner of Discount Ramps.Com, which about five years ago added pet ramps to a wide range it sells for other purposes.

Pet Staircases
pupSTEP +Plus, Drs. Foster & Smith, $39.99
Collapsible and lightweight, this four-stepper makes up in price what it lacks in style.

Ultra Lite Pet Stairs, Walmart, $63.98
This resin version looks like a sturdy choice.

Lightweight Portable Pet Steps, Orvis, $189
The extra cost buys a foam ramp and microfiber.

Designer Large Dog Ramps, Puppy Stairs, $535
This Web retailer's priciest option includes a two-piece foam ramp and adjoining cube. It also offers buyers a choice of washable fabric colors and the option for a "non-scoot pad."
To be sure, pet retailers have long sold a wide variety of products to keep pets off beds and other furniture. But the animals are winning that war. Dogs reside in about 40% of American households, and in steadily rising numbers they are sleeping in human beds. An American Pet Products Association survey found that a record 40% of dogs slept in an adult bed in 2006, along with 7% that slept in a child's bed.

And beds keep rising. Until the last decade, standard mattress and box springs were each about 8 inches thick, in part to facilitate the regular flipping of mattresses, as recommended for maintenance purposes. But in recent years, the development of the no-flip mattress sparked a thickness race. On the market today are mattresses twenty inches thick.

"It's the 'Princess and the Pea' phenomenon -- the high bed being a cue to quality," says Tim Oakhill, executive vice president of marketing at Simmons Co., the Atlanta-based bedding giant. In his own bedroom, says Mr. Oakhill, "It's not just a case of slipping into bed. I have to kind of hop up." He adds that the family dog "is having trouble getting up there."

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Matt CollinsEven before the advent of thicker mattresses, Kathleen Zaslaw came to regard her bed as a primary suspect in the arthritis that crippled her now-dead Dalmatian. Upon obtaining two new Dalmatians, she bought a set of wooden stairs from Orvis. "It looks like a fancy piece of furniture," she says, adding that it perfectly complements her oak bedroom furniture. Most importantly, now that she and her husband have a bed that hovers nearly 30 inches off the ground, "the stairs are great for the safety and health of the dogs."

Heather Hyde, a partner at American Rebel PR in Los Angeles, purchased pet stairs on her veterinarian's recommendation after her cocker spaniel underwent leg surgery. In researching the product, she found options ranging from traditional stairs to metal ramps to stepping blocks made of industrial-strength foam. Ultimately, Ms. Hyde chose an offering from Puppy Stairs.

Now, all three of her dogs use the stairs to climb into bed -- and so does she. Otherwise, climbing into bed is akin to mounting a horse. "This bed is higher than my stomach," says Ms. Hyde.

Some customers are buying pet stairs for themselves, says one purveyor, who requested anonymity because her company's stairs are neither built for nor marketed to humans.

Whether higher beds are resulting in human injury isn't known. Only this decade has much medical research accumulated on the risk that bunk beds pose to falling children. Well-substantiated is that bed falls are a cause of injury in nursing homes.

Dog products aren't the only option for people wanting an easier climb into bed. As beds rise in height, a market is developing for what sleep lovers may call a stairway to heaven. "These hardwood bed stairs give you a step up to your bed [and] conceal a roomy storage area under the top bed step," says, in its pitch for human bed stairs costing $129.

The other alternative is to lower the bed, which can be accomplished by purchasing a newfangled product called the "low-profile box spring," whose thinness offsets the thickness of today's cushier mattresses. For dog owners, a simpler and cheaper solution would be to "keep the dog out of bed," says Dr. Crane, of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. "But that advice is going to be rejected."

Write to Kevin Helliker at

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