The BEST Pet Advice

Training Tips from the Pros
Miami Herald

The Association of Pet Dog Trainers,, asked its members for their top three tips in training a new puppy.

These three come from a trainer in Chapel Hill, N.C.:

• Manage your puppy. Rather than let him practice bad behaviors, set things up so he can make very few mistakes. That means lots of puppy-proofing, crates and gating, wearing a leash in the house to stop him from jumping up, supervision, appropriate chew toys.

• Socialize your puppy. Make sure that your puppy has a great time meeting all sorts of people. Expose her to noises, objects, surfaces in a gradual, positive way. Encourage her to explore new things. Introduce her to puppies and dogs with good play skills. Remember that socialization is a process, not an event. Just because your pup has met one child, does not mean she is now socialized to all children.

• Train your puppy. You have a golden opportunity to teach your puppy how to learn and that learning is fun and rewarding.

Ask the Vet: Too Many Fish Spoil the Tank
SF Chronicle

Q: What began as an easy pet thing for our kids is getting out of control. About a year ago, we bought a basic 10-gallon fish tank and started with one angelfish and two goldfish. All was fine until the goldfish started having babies ... and babies ... and babies. Other than being really hungry and the tank getting dirtier faster, they all seem fine. But what is the right number of fish for a tank? Can we clean the tank with babies? Is there anything special we should be doing in this situation?

A: A good rule of thumb that most aquarists use is the "1 inch of fish per gallon of water" rule, meaning if a fish is an inch long, it should have a gallon of water. So in theory, your 10-gallon aquarium could hold 10 inch-long fish or five 2-inch-long fish, etc. While this rule generally suffices, one potential flaw is due to body type. For example, an inch-long goldfish with its robust body and greater volume needs more water than an inch-long but slender wrasse.

In this case, closely monitoring water quality is important. If the water is constantly dirty no matter how often water changes are done, then there are too many fish in the tank. Another potential problem with an overcrowded tank is aggression, which may manifest as constant chasing, biting and even the killing of some individuals. If these behaviors occur, it's time for a larger tank.

Yes, you can clean the tank with water changes when babies are present; just be careful as they are more delicate than adults. Most aquarists recommend changing a maximum of 40 percent of the total aquarium volume at one time. Remember never to use soaps or harsh chemicals, and consult your local aquarium shops with any questions. Happy fishing!

Andrea L. Goodnight, DVM, associate veterinarian, Oakland Zoo

It's a Dog's Life - Why Not Save a Few?
From TODAY contributor Jill Rappaport

My friends joke with me that my life has gone to the dogs! And I couldn't be happier about that. One of the true blessings of my job is being able to do stories that can not only help animals, but as in this case, save their lives.

As the owner of four wonderful dogs, all rescues, two from the city pound, I know firsthand how grateful and devoted my "fur angels" are because they know I saved them just in the nick of time. So that is why I wanted to do a special segment called "From Bow to Wow."

For the segment, I went to one of the busiest city pounds in the country, and roamed the halls, which for an animal lover is truly devastating. Many of these animals were trembling, emaciated and some were covered in feces. But as heartsick as I was, I knew I had a mission: To see some of these wonderful creatures step out of their horrible cages, accompany them to a groomer, see them get medical attention, and lastly, come on our show and hopefully find a lifelong home.

We picked four out of the thousands that are in this situation. They are all beautiful, loving dogs, all breeds, all ages. I wanted to take two older, bigger dogs because those are the hardest to get adopted. If I could, I would have taken them all, but that is where YOU come in. If you are thinking about getting a pet, PLEASE adopt. I think that the love you get back has the potential to change your life forever.

Dear viewers: If you're interested in finding information on how to adopt the dogs seen on TODAY, please visit the Animal Care & Control of New York City's site at

Survey: Cat, Dog Heartworm Cases on the Rise

American Heartworm Society works with vets to raise awareness among pet owners.

Cases of heartworm disease are on the rise across the United States, according to a new survey by the American Heartworm Society.

When compared to historical data, the survey, which is conducted on a tri-annual basis, demonstrates that the number of heartworm cases is gradually rising.

Heartworm disease, potentially fatal to dogs and cats, has been reported in all 50 states. However, the Delta, South-central, and Southeast regions of the United States have the greatest incidence, with prevalence highest in the Delta region. In many counties and parishes in this region, the survey found that there were 100 or more cases reported per clinic.

The survey results are consistent with the geographical spread of heartworm disease, particularly in the northwest United States, according to AHS. This is especially apparent in Oregon and Montana where large areas of the state that previously reported less than one dog diagnosed per clinic increased to between one and five or more dogs per clinic in 2007.

AHS is working closely with the veterinarian community to raise awareness among consumers and provide guidance on prevention and treatment.

For example, AHS has an educational outreach program called Heartworm University. AHS is also developing canine and feline heartworm guidelines, providing incidence maps to veterinarians, offering client education materials, and providing the latest information and opinions on heartworm disease.

In addition, AHS will present its latest findings at the Heartworm Symposium April 15 through 18, 2010, in Memphis, Tenn.

Major survey sponsors included Bayer Animal Health of Shawnee, Kan., Fort Dodge Animal Health of Overland Park, Kan., Idexx Laboratories of Westbrook, Maine, Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health of Kenilworth, N.J., Lilly of Indianapolis, Merial of Duluth, Ga., Novartis Animal Health of Greensboro, N.C., and Pfizer of New York. Virbac Animal Health of Fort Worth, Texas, was a minor sponsor. Banfield, The Pet Hospital of Portland, Ore., and Idexx provided additional data support.

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Tips for Helping Your Pet Lose Weight
Dr Don Palermo - McClatchy Newspapers

Weight problems are common in cats and dogs, and can be successfully managed through changes in food or a nutrition program. Combining a change in nutrition with increased exercise is the most effective way of achieving a healthy weight.

Exercise tips for cats:

–Encourage your cat to follow you when you move from room to room, particularly up and down stairs.

–Use toys to encourage your cat to play, or hide food and make him or her "hunt" for it.

–Shine a flashlight on walls or floor for your cats to chase.

Exercise tips for dogs:

–Enjoy regular walks with your dog. Walking at a constant pace will help burn calories.

–Encourage play in the yard and in the home.

–Toss a Frisbee or a ball, or play a retrieval game.

Weight gain is the result of an increase in the body fat. This is usually caused by eating too much, especially when combined with lack of exercise but there can be other contributing factors too:

Age: Older pets are less active, have less energy and require fewer calories.

Breed: Some breeds are more likely to gain weight. These include Labrador retrievers, Cocker and King Charles Spaniels and mixed breed cats.

Neutering/Spaying: Clinical studies have shown that the basic metabolism of neutered pets is lower. Neutered pets actually require fewer calories.

Medical Problems: Very occasionally, weight gain is associated with a medical disorder that may require specific treatment such as a low thyroid.

All pets have an ideal weight for their size and breed. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you what this is, and show you how to check your pet is maintaining a healthy weight.

If your pet is overweight, you may notice some of the following signs:

–Ribs cannot easily be felt when running your hand along your pet's side

–Loss of an obvious waist

–Collar needs loosening

–Difficulty walking

–Slow movement

–Shortness of breath

–Bad temper

–Sleeping more than usual

The food your pet eats plays an important role in his or her overall health and well-being. Balanced nutrition is an essential part of an active, healthy lifestyle.

Eating too much food will cause your pet to become overweight, and this increases the risk of conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and breathing problems.

If your pet is overweight, your veterinarian will recommend pet food specially formulated for weight loss. These foods provide balanced nutrition to keep your pet satisfied while losing weight.

Special pet foods are available in both canned and dry formulas, which can be used alone or together to meet your pet's needs and preferences.

You may find the new food costs are less to feed per day than your pet's previous food. Some overweight pets need a complete food that's low in calories, but high in dietary fiber to ensure your pet feels satisfied and full after eating a meal.

Here's a checklist for you to remember about your pet's weight:

–Ask your veterinarian to record your pet's current weight, and take your pet back to the clinic for regular monitoring.

–Only feed the food recommended by your veterinarian.

–Divide daily food allowance into several small meals to help satisfy your pet and allow calories to be burned more quickly.

–Don't feed people food. This can decrease the effectiveness of the recommended food.

–Low calorie treats are a great choice for your dog.

–Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.

–Increase your pet's level of exercise thorough play and regular walking.

–If you have more than one pet, feed them separately so you can monitor individual eating habits and to stop one pet from eating another's meal.

Dr. Don Palermo

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How to Introduce a New Baby to Your Dogs
By Melissa Tarkington - Special to CNN

Experts say to start training dogs before your new baby arrives

(CNN) -- Before our baby boy came home, our dogs were the objects of our affection. Tilly and Riley had playdates, organic food, regular health checkups and pricey dog toys. Doted on and walked daily, they were the focus of our evenings and weekends.

But once Cris arrived, it was a good day if we remembered to feed them. A late-night conversation often went something like this:

"Did you feed the dogs?"

"No, I thought you did."

"What about this morning?

"Nope, thought you did."

By neglecting the dogs, animal behavior experts say we created more work for ourselves, prolonged the dogs' stress levels and increased the chance one might hurt the baby.

"Everyone is overwhelmed with the presence of a new baby and it is important to tighten the schedule before the baby comes home," says Dr. Bonnie Beaver, professor and animal behavior expert at Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"Always feed them at the same time, go for a walks at a certain times. Get this set up well in advance. Abrupt changes are the most difficult for dogs to adapt to," says Beaver.

Introducing a new infant into a family with a dog takes a lot of preparation, patience and commitment. Our mistake was that we assumed, as many dog-owners might, that our dogs were looking forward to this arrival as much as we were.

"An infant is the ultimate wild-card for a dog," says Jennie Willis Jamtgaard, owner of Animal Behavior Insights and instructor at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

"It is a big transition for everyone and preparing ahead of time is really the key -- when a baby comes home, that is not the time to start to work with the dog," Jamtgaard adds.

Beaver and Jamtgaard agree there are not one, but two important transitions that occur when a baby arrives: first, the initial introduction, and, second, when the baby becomes mobile.

While toddlers tend to antagonize their pets out of healthy curiosity and can set the stage for the most severe accidents, more tension tends to be associated with the initial introduction. Experts say it is best to begin training the dog as soon as you know you are expecting.

Make sure you work on the basics, such as sit, stay, not barking or pulling on a leash before the baby comes into the picture, says Jamtgaard. "If the dog is not behaved without the baby, of course it's going to be more difficult once the baby is around," she says.

Colleen McDaniel, owner of the Academy of Canine Behavior in Bothell, Washington, and co-author of "Pooches & Small Fry: Parenting Skills for Dogs (And Kids!)," teaches her clients to make a specific area of the common room a baby-free dog zone long before the infant arrives.

For large dogs, McDaniel recommends creating a barrier out of simple materials, such as lattice fencing, that can be purchased at home and garden stores. For smaller dogs, she recommends creating a "rat hole" in the barrier so that the dog can get in and out easily. The goal of having this space is that when the baby goes on the floor, the dog has a private, stress-free place to spend time with the family.

When arriving home with an infant for the first time, Jamtgaard says it is a good idea to have one person in charge of the dog, and one in charge of baby.

She suggests one person take the animal outside and allow some time for the energy level to come down. While the dog -- or dogs -- are out, the other person can bring the baby inside and get settled.

While outside, Jamtgaard recommends giving the dogs a few of the baby's things to smell so that they learn the baby's scent. She also says that putting the TV on -- something that often settles dogs, as they know people will be in the same place for a while -- can help calm things down.

But even after a few days, tension may continue to escalate in a house with a new baby. So it is important, according to McDaniel, to understand that dogs really do sense this stress, and may wonder: Why is this baby upsetting my people?

In dealing with this, according to Beaver, Jamtgaard and McDaniel, one of the biggest mistakes parents often make is to put the dog away when the baby is in the room. Rather, it can be helpful to give the dog treats when the baby is around, to help create a positive association with the baby. "If the dog learns that it is always banished when the baby appears, the idea forms that the baby is bad news," McDaniel says.

That is where the designated space can come in handy. "You want the dog around when the baby is crying," McDaniel says. "You don't want them to think this is a wounded animal that they need to kill."

One of the biggest problems can occur when the baby becomes mobile and starts crawling around. A baby's natural curiosity, combined with the elation of being able to move means that dogs must adapt to an entirely new, even more stressful environment.

Jamtgaard says parenting is especially important during this developmental period. "Show the child how to keep their hand flat and touch the dog gently, she says, "and then give rewards to the child for being gentle."

If the child does behave aggressively toward the dog, Jamtgaard says the dog should go away until the child learns to be gentle. "It's not a punishment for the dog, but a reward to be taken away from a child that is treating it badly," she says.

Even as children get older, it is never a good idea do leave them unsupervised, says Beaver, who has also written two books, "Canine Behavior: Insights and Answers" and "Feline Behavior."

"People get complacent and if they have a loving dog, they will trust it. But a child pulling on a dog's fur or poking its eyes could cause the dog to snap out of panic or fear," Beaver says. "In these cases, the dog is always the one to lose."

In our case, Cris and the dogs turned out to be fast friends. Now that Cris is 5 years old, it is our cat that ends up being on the run (from Cris, not the dogs!).

Steps you should take:

1) Establish separate daytime and nighttime routines -- and stick with them -- to make things as simple as possible.

2) Create an enclosed, private area within the common room for your dog to hang out in. They want to be with their family.

3) Set up barriers within the house. Metal step-on baby gates work best. Dogs are responsive to these and can be on the other side and still see what is going on. Great for high-stress times such as meals, bathing and bed-time.

4) Desensitize your pet to the baby's things early on. Let them check out the crib, changing table, high chair and other furniture as soon as it is brought into the home.

5) Use food and treats as rewards. If dogs get food when the baby is in the room, this creates a positive association with the baby.

6) Secure the diaper area: Tall canisters with foot-activated lids keep odors contained and soiled diapers out of reach.

Things NOT to do:

1) Leave baby and dog together unsupervised.

2) Ban the dog when baby is in the room.

3) Force dog and baby to interact if the dog seems fearful or nervous.

4) Ignore bad behavior and wait to correct these once the baby is home.

5) Ignore warning signs that the dog is stressed or irritable.

6) Expect dogs to tolerate everything that a child does. Children must learn to behave appropriately with animals.

Birds of a Feather
Jamaica Observer

IF you're into having your own personal orchestra 24/7, owning birds as pets may be the solution for you. Not only are they the cutest things, they'll keep your ears entertained for hours on end.

And if you want a more interesting birdie pet, you can always get one that does more than screech - one that will be your own personal friend who will talk right back at you.

If you are interested in a pet bird, there are many things you need to consider before you get one.

You need to think about how much time you can devote to the bird and how much you can tolerate in terms of noise. For example, if you don't have a lot of time, you probably shouldn't get a lone parrot, cockatiel or budgie as they need company; and if you can't tolerate too much noise, know that parrots screech a helluva lot, while cockatiels and lovebirds, while noisy, are less so than parrots. Finches, doves, and canaries are also way quieter than the others.

A home
You should also know that birds need space; they have wings to fly, don't they? They need lots of room or you'll feel guilty about confining an animal that's inherently nomadic. Pet birds generally get to exercise only within their cages, so you can't scrimp on size.

Most species of birds will feed on seeds and nuts. Others like the macaw don't mind fruits like apples and bananas. Find out exactly what your selected species of bird requires and decide if you can afford to provide it before getting a bird.

Keeping safe
Birds are extremely susceptible to encountering danger in some ordinary household things. You need to be vigilant about protecting your bird from dangers throughout your home.

These include:

There are a wide variety of items which can prove toxic to your bird if they eat or inhale them. These include insect sprays, ammonia, bleach, glues, nail polish remover, paint and perfumes.

The wrong foods
Anything high in sugar or salt is inappropriate, as are foods high in fat. Also note that things like chocolate, which is toxic to many pets, is also harmful to birds. Caffeinated or alcoholic beverages are also dangerous.

Ceiling fans
For obvious reasons ceiling fans are dangerous for birds who may be flying around. Your bird may also be stressed out by a ceiling fan running near its cage.

Other animals
Keep dogs and cats away from your birds.

14 Tips to Help Pets Age with Grace
By Carol McGraw - McClatchy Newspapers

Things you can do to help senior dogs and cats live comfortably.

Cats and dogs are living longer, and sometimes presenting care issues for their owners.

The average life expectancy of a cat has nearly doubled since 1930, with indoor cats living an average of 8 to 16 years, according to the Peoria (Ill.) Humane Society. The average life expectancy of a dog is 12.8 years, but the number varies widely depending on breed and size.

"Pets are living a lot longer. They get better nutrition, better medical care and aren't out wandering neighborhoods having accidents," says Rebecca Ruch-Gallie, coordinator for community practice at the James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colo.

Here are some tips on caring for elderly pets, from Ruch-Gallie:

• Schedule regular checkups with a vet, and have blood work done periodically. The tests can catch kidney and other ailments early.

• Make a list of what your animal is capable of when he's young; then watch for signs of deterioration so you can catch problems early.

• Give your pet senior diet products, available from many pet food companies. These special foods contain supplements that help ease arthritis and are good for sensitive stomachs.

• It's essential to provide fresh water. Cats are particularly finicky and won't touch "old" water.

• Consider giving your pet supplements with glucosamine and chondroitin, which are good for healthy joints. And nonsteroid anti-inflammatories can help keep them moving and manage pain.

• Watch for fearful behavior, which sometimes shows up as aggression.

• Some animals get cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is similar to Alzheimer's. Symptoms include disorientation, less social interaction, altered sleep patterns and house soiling, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. Treatments are available to manage the symptoms.

• Continue playing with your pet, and give it regular exercise. But don't overdo it.

• Groom your pet often. As animals get older, the natural oils aren't distributed as well. This will also help you feel suspicious lumps early.

• Consider treating them to massage, acupuncture and physical therapy, which are good to keep them mobile.

• Don't let them become overweight. It can contribute to diabetes and cause joint pain.

• Dental hygiene is important. Start when they are young by brushing their teeth and getting them regular checkups.

• Keep their environment enriched with interesting things to look at, and which allows them to safely move around — no dangerous stairs or high perches.

• Talk to your veterinarian early on about warnings that indicate an animal no longer has any quality of life, so you can plan a comfortable, rather than painful, death.

Two-Nosed Rabbit Found in Pet Shop
Press Association

A pet shop worker found a bunny with two noses in a delivery of six-week-old dwarf rabbits at a store in Milford, Connecticut.

The owner of the Purr-Fect Pets shop says he has never seen anything like it in 25 years in the business.

He says the bunny eats, drinks and hops around like the rest of the litter.

The Seven Litterbox Habits of Highly Effective Cat Owners
By DR. PATTY KHULY - Miami Herald

Got a cat? Then you probably have a litterbox. As more cat owners tune in to the importance of keeping cats indoors (for their safety and for environmental concerns), the litterbox issue is becoming more critical to the health and welfare of our felines.

Here's the scoop:

The most common behavior problem reported in cats is ''house soiling.'' It's also the No. 1 reason cats are remanded to shelters.

There are three reasons cats tend to exhibit what we euphemistically call, ''elimination disorders:'' Medical, such as a urinary tract infection; communication, as when your kitty's stressed over something and announcing his presence; and litterbox issues.

Many times cats just don't like their litterbox accommodations. Something may be ''off.'' And any number of circumstances can make the bathroom box less appealing. Next thing you know, she's not using it.

So take heed of the following:

• Cleanliness. Stay at least one step ahead of your cat's litterbox cleanliness needs. If you're just barely keeping up, the chances she'll stray from her box increase exponentially if she's stressed.

• Location. As in real estate, the location of the litterbox is critical. Moving it around can have disturbing side effects. But if he's not using it all the time, you may need to try several locations to see what he likes best.

• Multiple cats. Here's the key stat: 1.5 litterboxes for every two cats is considered the minimum. Sure, some can get away with less, but once you have three cats, you're risking your cats' comfort and your household's aromatic integrity.

• Changes. Pick a product and litter depth your cats like and stick with them. The ones on sale look soooo tempting, but consider that your cats have to readjust significantly every time you make a change.

• Size. Yes, it's been proven -- bigger is better when it comes to litterboxes. Not only do cats feel more comfy and free in a sizable sand box, they also feel less threatened by invaders.

• Lids. Lids and close quarters can be especially disconcerting for cats who have to compete with other cats over territory. After all, how would you feel if you might be ambushed every time you left the bathroom?

• Litter. Studies show that cats prefer clumping litters. And odor-controlling litters can stretch the life of a slightly dirty box.

Dr. Patty Khuly practices in South Miami and blogs at Send questions to, or Dr. Dolittler, Tropical Life, The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132.

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