Pet Advice: Can You Afford a Pet?

Tips to Curb Heart Problems
By Julie Damron -

Heart disease is a common ailment in dogs and cats. According to Idexx, a world recognized veterinary laboratory, 15 percent of all dogs and 37 percent of dogs older than 7 are affected by heart disease.

As in human cases, it can be divided into types that are congenital, or occur close to birth; and types that are acquired, occurring later in life. The acquired diseases are thought to also have some inherited component. There are also maladies that tend to be more common for cats, those that affect small dogs, and those that typically occur in large dogs. There are certain forms of heart disease that are more common in certain breeds of dogs and cats.

Animals with heart disease may have a wide range of symptoms including difficulty breathing, coughing, exercise exhaustion, weakness, open-mouth breathing, collapse, reluctance to move, anorexia, vomiting and weight loss. Sometimes animals do not show any signs of illness, yet the disease process can still be very advanced. On exam these patients may have a heart murmur, arrhythmia, weakened pulse, pale gum color, decreased capillary refill time (gum color refill time when pressed), crackles or wheezes, evidence of a clot and weight loss. Many illnesses can present in this same manner, including heart disease, respiratory disease, cancer and heartworm.

A diagnostic workup will be recommended to determine the primary cause and the extent of illness. This often includes chest X-rays, EKG, blood pressure, ultrasound, heartworm test and general blood panel. Sometimes it can be very difficult to differentiate between heart disease and respiratory disease. A cardiac biomarker blood test is available to help in these situations. The blood level of the biomarker has been successfully used to distinguish between cardiac and respiratory disease; it also has been useful in identifying heart failure.

Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and extent of disease. Oxygen may be required to stabilize the dog or cat if they are in respiratory distress. The mainstay of treatment for heart disease in animals involves oral medications. Many of the same medications used in people are utilized to control the symptoms of heart disease in canines and felines. A heart-healthy diet that is low in sodium can help. Some problems need surgical intervention, such as repair of congenital problems or placement of a pacemaker. Some patients may be referred to a veterinary cardiologist for treatment. The best prevention is to provide exercise for your pet, keep his/her weight at a healthy level and schedule routine wellness exams. As with most illnesses, early intervention is important. Contact your veterinarian immediately with any signs of heart disease in your companion.

Julie Damron is a veterinarian at Sierra Veterinary Hospital in Stockton. Contact her at

Be the Master of Your Dog's Training
by Jeff Nenadic

Taking control of your dog's training is an ongoing process. Many dog owners believe that once the dog has performed an exercise on command, the dog has learned the task and that is the end of it. This is not so; if you don't practice the exercises continuously the dog will either forget, or decide that it is only necessary to respond to commands when he has a mind to. If you command your dog to do something, it should be done immediately so if he does not perform you need to correct this behavior at the time. Don't leave it until later because this laid back attitude toward training will result in a lazy dog.

You don't have to chastise the dog, just ensure that he carries out your commands when you give them. Dogs are much more responsive to friendly persuasion than forceful punishment. Just saying "No" in a firm tone should resolve any stubbornness. Shouting or screaming at your dog will frighten him, to the extent that he may be so scared that he cannot respond to your commands. Your training should be based on patience, love and friendship. Statistically the latter method of training produces well adjusted and obedient dogs.

If you have neglected your training duties, and this has resulted in your dog being disobedient, you will need to take your dog back to basics. Go through the "Sit", "Stay, "Down" and "Come" commands with your dog and make certain that he understands all of the commands, together with what his response should be to them. Usually if your dog gets it right twice, you can move on to the next command until you have completed them all. Your dog may become bored if you issue the same command over and over again so you might want to change the sequence and randomly select different commands. You should also consider taking your dog to new places for his training sessions. Both you and he might welcome a change of environment from time to time.

When you have gone through the basic training add another command such as "roll over" and continue in this manner until you have taught your dog everything that you would like him to know. Remember to praise your dog or give him treats, throughout all of the sessions, when he does well.

Daily training, if time allows, is good for all dogs from puppies to very mature pets. It alleviates boredom, enhances obedience and keeps them in good physical shape. Just setting aside 10 to 15 minutes a day to spend time training and bonding with your dog, will maintain his obedience level and allow you to spend some stress free, quality time with your pet. You could combine your own exercise schedule with the training sessions so that both you and your dog become healthy and fit together.

If you simply do not have the time for regular training sessions with your dog you could allocate this task to a member of your family, someone in your neighborhood who would like to earn a few extra bucks or a professional trainer. However, it is advisable that one person handles the basic training of a dog from start to finish.

No matter how you decide to arrange your dog's training requirements, if you want to be the master never allow the dog to become the master of you.

About the Author
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'Eccentricities' Turn Birds into Interesting Pets
By DR. LARRY BAKER “ For the Herald & Review

A fractured tibia was evident. It is the bone between the ankle and the knee. It wasn't a dog, not a cat, nothing the average small animal practitioner sees on a daily basis. It was a Quaker parrot - a small, green bird about the size of a dove. All 3 ounces of Piccolo was wandering around the floor as the owner got out of the bed before daylight, finding Piccolo beneath his foot. Fortunately, the principal injury was a broken leg rather than a crushed abdomen.

Piccolo was brought to my clinic, where a digital dental system, normally used to diagnose tooth abnormalities, worked well to find the fracture in the exact center of the tibia. Piccolo had not been able to crawl back into his cage because his right leg had failed him. The decision that had to be made was whether a simple splint was to be applied or a small stainless steel pin inserted into the bone under general anesthesia.

A splint was chosen for its simplicity and ease of placing it on the affected limb. A few extra pieces of tape were added to give Piccolo something to chew on since birds are notorious for removing splints. He went home about an hour after admission, able to drag his splinted limb across the floor behind him. Most likely, the limb will heal within two to three weeks.

Birds are not that different from other species. They have a heart, liver, kidneys and bones that can break. The main difference from cats, dogs and humans is that most pet birds are smaller. Limbs break much easier. X-rays can be more difficult to take. Restraint, anesthesia and vital signs monitoring are more difficult. But in other ways, there is little difference. Diabetes, heart disease and fractured limbs occur in all of these species. But birds are more fragile. In the wild, a Quaker with a broken limb probably wouldn't survive very long. In a cage with caring owners, he has a great chance of becoming normal in a few weeks.

Birds can make excellent pets. They have interesting personalities, likes and dislikes. In spite of the similarities between birds and other species of animals, they also have interesting differences. Birds have hollow bones through which air travels. They have many more vertebrae in their necks than do other animals. Giraffes and humans have seven. Birds have 11 to 25 and can place their heads on their backs, to preen feathers. Many birds, especially Quakers, can easily learn to talk and mimic other sounds, such as a telephone ring.

Some of these characteristics, common in the avian population, would be viewed as eccentricities in humans and other species. And some of those eccentricities are what make birds such as Piccolo comical and enjoyable as a pet. He is a talker and a phone imitator. He is part of the Dalke family, who moved to Blue Mound from Nebraska. And if he can keep from roaming through the home during hours of darkness, he may be around for 30 years as a special pet.

Speaking for Alex this week is Dr. Larry Baker, who practices small animal medicine and veterinary dentistry at 2800 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive in Decatur. To submit a question, write to Ask Alex, c/o Herald & Review, Box 311, Decatur, IL 62625 or e-mail

The Benefits of Training Your Cat
by Jay Stephens

Are you looking for some inside information on cat training advice and training guide? Here's an up-to-date report from cat training advice, cat litter training, cat obediance, cat potty training, cat training dvd, cat training guide, all from experts who should know.

Despite all of the stereotypes, kitties are not completely self-sufficient creatures. They still need their human families to feed and water them, and to shelter them. And, despite all of their protests against it, kitties need their humans to love them just like any other animal. Adopting a cat can be a very good feeling, as well as a major challenge at times. We want our family life to be calm and warm, not frantic and frustrating, so we need all of the members, including the small furry ones, to be at their best behavior. Training your cat can ensure that you have a gentle, loving pet that does not eat your furniture and pee in your houseplants. Training your cat does not only protect it from potential threats, but keeps your belongings safe from destruction as well.

Cats claw, scratch, bite and chew for many reasons. If they are doing these things to food items or their cat toys, that is great, but many times they will find something else. Cats that chew on the new carpet or the electrical cords are not only destroying your possessions, they are also endangering their own lives. Kittens will chew on things for the same reasons that puppies and human babies do- they are discovering their world, as well as teething. Give them substitutes and reward them for chewing on the right items. If an older cat has suddenly developed a urge to gnaw on things other than food or usual toys, then consider whether he is bored, or if it is possible that he has a nutritional inbalance.

Knowledge can give you a real advantage. To make sure you're fully informed about cat training advice,keep reading.

Poorly trained kitties will often start using the entire house as their personal litter box. If you have ever walked in the house when the litter box needs to be changed, you know how disgusting that can truly be. If your cat is using items like your bed or favorite chair to potty on, he might be sending you a message. Does he dislike the new litter you bought? Did you move his litter box? Or, have you started spending too much time with that guy in 2A that stomps his feet at kitty when you are not in the room? Although most cats will train well to the box and never have issues, some are more stubborn and this behavior can often be the deal breaker for many families.

A well-trained cat will charm and amuse your guests when they come to your home. He will make your days seem warmer and brighter. Because he knows what is expected of him, he will not have as much stress, leading to a calmer more easily controlled cat. Calmer cats are more affectionate because they are not nervous or high-strung. Training your cat allows him to focus on good behaviors and the things that make a cat's life a good one; napping, eating and stalking dust motes in the sunny patch by the window.

As a cat owner myself, I have learned the benefits of training my cats because it just makes my life much easier. My cats are well-behaved and are very passionaite these traits are wonderful and I hold them dear to my heart. I found a website that has more information on training your cat take advantages of all the information the site has to offer.

About the Author
My name is Jay Stephens. I am a pet lover and I currently live in Canada

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Your Pet Should Get a Lyme Disease Vaccination
Ask Dr. Watts - Dr. Michael Watts, Vet Care,

Q: Should I have my dog vaccinated against Lyme disease?

A: The best way to prevent tick-borne diseases is to properly apply a veterinary-quality tick control product all year. However, despite making this recommendation until I am blue in the face, I routinely see dogs contract Lyme disease. In fact, I have seen several dogs die from terrible complications from this illness. As a result of my first hand experiences, I have become an advocate of vaccinating many dogs against the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

The answer to whether or not a particular dog should be vaccinated depends on many factors. Vaccination decisions should always be made in consultation with your dog’s veterinarian after a thorough physical examination and risk assessment. Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog’s health, breed, lifestyle, immune status, and tick control program in helping you decide. He may also want to run a screening test for the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.

Personally, I recommend vaccination for most puppies and young adults. Except in puppies, I like to test for prior exposure at the time of the initial vaccination. For older dogs, I am less likely to recommend the vaccine. An older dog that is not infected either has a low risk lifestyle, an adequate tick control regimen, or natural immunity against the disease. A recent five year study demonstrated there may be some benefit to vaccinating dogs after they have been treated for Lyme disease.

There is much misinformation out there regarding the Lyme vaccine. Much of the confusion comes from the fact that there are three distinct types of vaccination available. Each has a different set of risks and benefits. The three types of Lyme vaccine are:

Whole cell bactrin - This vaccine is the “traditional” Lyme vaccine and is still widely used. It is essentially the whole bacteria ground up and put into a jar. It is made up of many, many proteins. The whole cell bactrin has the highest risk of inappropriate immune reaction. I do not use this vaccine because of its reactivity. However, it is the most commonly administered type of Lyme vaccine.

Recombinant DNA, non-adjuvanted - This vaccine is my preferred product. There is only a single Lyme protein used in the vaccine. It is the Outer Surface Peptide A, or OspA. OspA is the protein the Lyme bacteria uses to inject itself from the tick into the dog. Once the bacteria enters the dog’s body, the protein is no longer exhibited on the surface of the organism. In essence, it’s like a sock turning inside out. The immune system cannot see the protein once an infection occurs. This means that the vaccine only works in the tick. If there is vaccine failure or previous infection, there is no additional immune reaction in the dog.

Since it is a single protein, the vaccine does not pose much risk of allergic reaction or other excessive immune stimulation. I have used the vaccine for about seven years and cannot recall a single adverse event. The only negative I have experienced is the cost. It is the most expensive vaccine that our practice uses.

Recombinant DNA, adjuvanted – Frankly, I do not understand why this vaccine is marketed. They go through the expensive technical process of making a recombinant vaccine. Then they add an artificial adjuvant to increase its reactivity. The long term effects of chemical adjuvants are controversial and I try to avoid them as much as possible in my vaccine selection. I prefer the non-adjuvanted vaccine which uses a canarypox virus in place of a chemical adjuvant. (Canarypox has no effect on dogs - it does not even affect birds other than canaries.)

Dr. Watts is a companion animal general practitioner and owner of Clevengers Corner Veterinary Care. He can be reached through or by calling 428-1000.

Are Corner Aquariums A Solution To Space Shortage?
by Joe Slavin

If you have decided on buying an aquarium, you may want to consider one of the corner aquariums which are the best option to fill an otherwise void space. There are a wide variety of models to pick from, which can be from the basic through to ones which come complete with cabinets or stands and hoods incorporating lighting and filtration solutions so that the exterior look is appealing and at the same time efficient.

For many fish keeping enthusiasts, especially in the smaller type homes being built today, if space is at a premium, this is where the corner aquarium comes into it's own being the ideal space saver. Fishkeeping has been a very popular pastime for many millions of people in all corners of the world and now with these type of tanks being available, gives the option to be a fishkeeper to many millions more.

The normal oblong style of aquariums we see are more often than not situated against a wall, but this may possibly deny the householder the room required for a bit of furniture with greater priority. Not only in the home, but in offices and restaurants where space can be at a premium, corner fish tanks again can fill the needs of the proprietors. They will still do the job of relaxing and entertaining the occupants without taking up valuable space that could reduce their profits.

There is no need to sacrifice style with these types of aquariums as there is a good array to choose from. Some have a bowed front, others have a straight front and others have a front with one large glass panel and two smaller ones on either side. A corner fish tank aquarium can even be custom made to fit any space and to suit most situations. In actual fact you can fill a piece of previously wasted space with an ornamental fish tank and receive the pleasure and ambiance given with such a display.

A pair of tanks could be situated in flanking corners of an area to produce a pleasing result and illuminate a dull corner. This also gives the fish keeper the opportunity to vary the types of aquariums he wants. For instance you might go for a fresh water aquarium in one area and a saltwater aquarium in the other.

When set in place these corner fish tanks especially with complementary aquarium stands and hoods can be aesthetically pleasing. They will equally provide lots of enjoyment and relaxed atmosphere to clients in eating places, office settings or to any pet fish devotee. .

About the Author
To find out more about aquariums and lots of accessories, visit => or if you are in the UK click this link for corner aquariums =>

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Can You Really Afford That Pet?
Gloria Nye -

During a recession, many families are desperate to find ways to cut corners with expenses, and, unfortunately, pets often bear the consequences.

Animal shelters are reported to be at capacity and unable to rescue all of the pets being given up by owners who can no longer afford to keep them.

More than one in three Americans are pet owners, owning more than 65 million dogs and 77 million cats. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says annual costs for a dog can range from $1,000 to $2,000 in the first year, depending on the size of the dog. That figure does not include kenneling, if the owner has to travel, which can easily cost $15 to $25 per day.

Cats cost slightly less per year, but most people have more than one, and cats live longer on average. So costs for cats over time are about the same or more than for dogs. Rabbits cost slightly more per year than cats, and Guinea pigs cost slightly less. Even the costs for the care of small rodents, birds and fish can be $200 to $300 per year.

Americans spend an average of $350 per year in medical expenses for a dog, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Diagnostic testing or surgery can cost $1,000 to $5,000.

Americans spent $36 billion on their pets in 2005, and $8.6 billion of that spending was for veterinary care.

Even a free pet can be expensive to maintain. “Cost to own” is usually associated with car buying, but it is relevant to pet ownership, too. And time also should be factored in as a cost to any potential pet owner.

Before getting any pet, be sure you can afford the ownership costs for its projected life span. A helpful pet ownership expense worksheet for children and parents is available with this column at or

If you already own a pet and you are experiencing financial difficulty, ask the local animal shelter or Humane Society if they know of a nonprofit or low-cost animal hospital in your area that you can use for pet medical services. Locally, a good resource is Hope for Animals, based in Thibodaux. You can reach the nonprofit animal-rescue group at 447-3103 or

Shop around and find pet medical care you can afford for preventative annual exams. Cutting costs by buying cheaper pet food does not save money if your pet’s health deteriorates and you have to pay for additional veterinary care and treatments or prescriptions. Spending more for quality pet food can save money in the long run because better quality pet food can prevent health problems that will cost more money to treat.

Do not jeopardize your own financial security to care for a pet you can no longer afford. Ask for help. Contact your local food bank and animal shelter to ask if pet food assistance is available.

Even in tough times, it is not all glum. As one pet owner says, “We pet owners live longer and less stressful lives than those who don’t own pets, so maybe there is some cost savings to us in the long run.”

Gloria Nye is an LSU AgCenter agent in Opelousas. You can reach her at (337) 948-0561.
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Keeping Your Pets Safe in the City
Susan NC Price - Chicago Pets Examiner

Amber wears a pinch collar; Crystal has traditional leash and collar.When keeping a pet in an urban environment, remember: Cities are made by and for people. The safest place for an unsupervised pet is inside its own home, whether condo or rental apartment, hotel room or (in the case of small or aquatic pets) its cage or aquarium.
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