Pets: Why? Where? and How?

Boarding Kennels - Discover the Best One For Your Pet
By Kristen Nelson, D.V.M.

With summer around the corner, it is time to find a comfortable place for your pet while you are on vacation. You want to know your pet is safe and well cared for in your absence. But how do you find a good boarding kennel? How do you make sure your pet is happy so you may enjoy a guilt-free vacation? The answer is simple, do homework in advance.

Kennel Design

Before booking a reservation, take a tour of the boarding kennel. Pay close attention to the number of barriers between the animal holding area and the outdoors. I like to see at least one set of self-closing doors between the animal areas and the front door. If a dog slips its leash, they usually run to where they entered the building. Ask about the security system. Does the facility have smoke detectors? If smoke is detected, will it automatically activate sprinklers? Unfortunately, kennel fires do occur so every precaution must be taken to protect the animals inside.

Look at the layout for species-specific rooms. I prefer separate cat, dog and exotic areas. Each may be customized to reduce stress and provide behavioral enrichment. Cats especially benefit from not sharing their space with a pack of yapping dogs. Make sure there are solid partitions between animal cages or runs to prevent fights and disease transmission. A chain-link fence is not an adequate barrier between runs. I have treated many dogs for injuries suffered through fence fights! The runs and cages should not face each other. From a dog's perspective, direct, across the aisle eye contact is an aggressive gesture. Timid animals may feel threatened and aggressive ones might be stimulated. The face-to-face set up also permits disease transmission. If you see this manner of design, I suggest you find a different place for your pet.

Inspect the cages and runs for problems. Look for sharp edges, rusty bolts or other signs of disrepair. Does the cage give the animal enough room to stand, turn around and stretch out? If the answer is no, the space is inadequate for that animal. Spend the extra money to book a larger space. Most kennels clean the runs by hosing them towards a gutter or drain. Make sure the drain or gutter is covered and that the cover is fastened in place. I have treated dogs for paw injuries from stepping into an uncovered drain. I have also heard tragic stories about small pets falling into drains.

Outdoor Spaces

A sturdy wall should surround outdoor spaces used for exercising the animals. Points of entry should have double gates or doors to prevent accidental escapes. If animals are left outside unattended, the enclosure needs a roof as well. The roof will provide protection from the elements as well as protection from unwanted intruders. I treated a large cat who liked to sit on a balcony. A Great-horned owl swooped down and grabbed her. Thank goodness, the owl could not fly with the cat. He dropped the overweight feline in the pool and the cat survived.


As the saying goes, cleanliness is next to Godliness. The entire kennel, including outdoor enclosures, should be clean and free of strong odors. A powerful ammonia or disinfectant smell is a red flag. All cleaning products should be removed after use with thorough rinsing. Ask if the animals are removed from their run or cage for cleaning. If the answer is no, find a new kennel. In my view, reputable kennels remove the animal to prevent exposure to cleaning agents. When animals are left inside, they may suffer skin irritations, corneal ulcers and chemical burns on their paws. This actually happened to one of my own dogs.

Ask how many times per day the dogs are taken out for exercise. Most kennels exercise them twice a day, once in the morning and once around dinner time. In my opinion, this is not enough, especially for geriatric dogs. Check to see if the kennel will give your dog additional outs. I gladly pay extra to make sure my dog gets out at least three times per day. This is better for your pet and helps you attain a guilt-free vacation.


To protect all the animals that stay at a facility, most kennels require up-to-date vaccinations. For dogs, they usually require rabies, some form of DA2PP and Bordetella. In addition, the kennel might require vaccinations for Leptospirosis, Giardia or Lyme disease if it is a problem in the area. I also recommend heartworm, flea and tick prevention prior to a kennel stay. For cats, most kennels require rabies, FVRCP and FELV vaccinations as well as FELV/FIV status. Animals without proper vaccinations should not be boarded. Note vaccines require two weeks to achieve efficacy! People who choose not to vaccinate should use an in-home pet-sitting service. Warn the pet-sitter that your animal is not protected so they take precautions to avoid transmitting a disease into your home.


Most kennels offer one standard canine and feline diet. If an animal develops diarrhea, they often switch to a bland diet as part of their standard operating procedure. If your pet requires a special diet, bring it with in a sturdy container. Clearly mark the container with the pet's name, name of food, the number of feedings per day and the amount fed per meal. Exotic pet owners usually bring their own food. Instruct the staff about any special feeding or handling requirements. Similar rules apply for medications. For example, if you have a giant breed dog, ask the kennel to elevate the food and water bowls off the ground.

Behavioral Enrichment

Better kennels look out for a pet's emotional and physical well-being. Some install video monitors in the kennels tuned to 'Animal Planet'. Other's play soothing music and provide toys, beds or snacks to make the time away from home pass more quickly. Cat wards often have an aquarium filled with brightly colored fish. I board my dog at a kennel with a swimming pool. Study the animals in the kennel. Their behavior will tell you volumes about the environment.


In my experience, a high rate of staff turnover is a bad sign when it comes to kennels. Ask your tour guide how long the staff has been employed at that location. The Pet Care Services Association, formerly known as the American Association of Boarding Kennels provides an accreditation program for facilities and personnel. Ask if both the staff and the kennel are certified. Some kennels display their certificates and awards behind the reception counter. You know your pet likes the kennel when they are happy to see the staff even though they would rather be at home.

Emergency Care

All kennels should work with a veterinarian to provide emergency care for their animal guests. Ask who the kennel works with and then check out the clinic's reputation. If you are not satisfied request they consult your regular veterinarian in case of emergency.

Copyright 2009© Veterinary Creative, L.L.C. Permission is hereby granted for reproduction in whole or in part if credit is given to the author: Kristen L. Nelson, D.V.M.

Dr. Kristen Nelson is a member of the American Association of Human-Animal Bond Veterinarians. She writes at

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What Do Our Pets Mean to Us?
By Adrienne Crowther

I've always had at least one pet - all my life. My first pets were goldfish, turtles, then parakeets, and onto dogs, cats, guinea pigs, even mice. I truly believe I learned a lot about life from my pets. I learned about responsibility, about unconditional love, about friendship, and about love for all living beings.

While my children were growing up, we had a magnificent German Shepherd name Wotan. I was pregnant with my firstborn daughter when we got him. Purebred litters are always alphabetized, and the breeder instructed us to come up with a German name starting with -W-. I was stumped, as I had been really focused on baby names at the time, and this was just pushing me over the edge. My husband immediately came up with Wotan, the equivalent of Zeus in German mythology. Having grown up with opera-loving parents, he was also very familiar with Wagner's Ring Cycle, and the Wotan character therein.

I fell immediately in love with this puppy. The breeder told us that he probably had a 10 year lifespan. I remember cradling him in my lap during the ride home, and crying at the thought that he would probably only live until our baby's 10th birthday.

He was as much a part of our family as any of us. Our two daughters grew up with him always by their sides. He circled around the neighborhood children while they played in our yard, because he knew that his job was to protect them. When the school bus stopped in front of our house each afternoon, Wotan greeted them by climbing up the bus steps and jogging down the center aisle for petting from every child in the bus. It was a tradition that was loved by all, especially the bus driver.

He outlived the breeder's prediction by 2 years, and by age 12, he was visibly suffering. His rear legs dragged as he tried to run. His pace was much slower than that which is still vital and exuberant in our home videos. I knew we had to end his misery, but couldn't let go. I canceled 4 different appointments for his euthanasia. Three of us sat with him while he left his body at the vet's office. One of my daughters knew she didn't want to witness his lifeless body, and we respected her decision.

We were about to move to another part of the country, and really wanted him to be part of that move. He loved the beach near our home at that time, so we sprinkled half of his ashes into the water where he used to play with the waves where they met the sand. We brought the other half of his cremains with us on our long journey. We still have those ashes 10 years later. We still feel protected by his spirit.

His ashes are secured in a ceramic cremation urn made by a local artist. It sits elegantly on a small wooden shelf in our living room. The shelf serves as an altar for things we love and have loved.

Adrienne Crowther

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How to Measure Your Dog's Temperature
By Ingela Johansson

Do you know what the normal temperature is for your beloved canine companion? Canine temperature is slightly different than that of a human. The canine's normal temperature is 100.5 to 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit when you measure it rectally.

You can however also take a canine's temperature through the ear. The normal temperature through the ear for your canine is between 100.0 degrees and 103.0 degrees Fahrenheit. If you take your dogs temperature and it is higher than what is listed here you may need to bring the dog to the vet.

The instructions for taking your dog's temperature rectally are similar to taking the temperature like you would on a newborn child. You will need to be two people for this task so be sure to have another person readily available. You can use any kind of oral or rectal thermometer, it does not matter if it is digital or mercury. Have a water-based lubricant ready as well. When you have everything you need lay the dog on his side. Have your helper cover the dog's upper body and head by simply hugging it. It is an effective way to cover and keep the dog calm during this task. Once there is a firm grip on your pet and they are calm, lift the dog's tail and gently insert the lubricated thermometer into the rectum of the dog. You will need to have it inside at least one inch. Wait for the needed time to pass and then simply read what the temperature of your pooch is.

Doing an ear reading on your dog is done the same way you would take your own temperature. Insert the ear thermometer into the ear channel and point it towards the eardrum. Temperature in the ear is actual measuring the heat waves of the blood in the brain through the waves in the eardrum. It is considered to be an effective and accurate method of taking body temperature.

Contact your veterinarian if your dog has a body temperature less than 99 degrees or over 104 degrees!

Learn more about dogs and different dog breeds, visit the website now!

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What I Am Asked Most About Dogs in Heat
By Del Erben

As a dog trainer, I get asked a variety of questions. One of the most frequent question or questions revolves around dogs in heat or more specifically, a puppy in heat. Let's take a look at some of the more common questions and answers dealing with this.

How and when does a dog come into heat?
The normal cycle is about 21 days. Of course, every dog is different but the normal one first goes into heat at about 6 months old. It is not rare to start their first heat cycle earlier than that and some dogs start to go into heat for the first time later than that.

What exactly is heat?
A good way of explaining heat is to refer to the human's menstruation period. It is the period of time in which the female dog can become pregnant.

How can you tell if a puppy or dog is in heat?
The most obvious sign that a dog is in heat is evidenced by her bleeding from the vaginal area. Another sign includes more intense urination and swelling in the area.

How frequently does a Dog go into Heat?
Usually a dog (or puppy) will go into heat two times a year. This cycle is about every 6 months but does vary with dogs. There are some dogs that go into heat more and some do less than two times a year.

If a dog is in heat, will she Get Pregnant Most of the Time?
This is a very commonly asked question which is impossible to answer because it is all relative. Whether the dog gets pregnant is determined by a number of factors. While it is true that she can only get pregnant while in heat it is not true that she will certainly get pregnant. There are about 10 days in which she is at her highest progesterone.

Why Do Cats Love to Hide and Attack You As You Walk By?
By Luke Blaise

Cats love to hide and attack you as you walk by for several reasons, but the main reason is that they are playing. This type of playing makes use of their hunting instincts. In fact, even very young kittens will do this to other young kittens, so it is something that is an ingrained thing to do and completely natural.

Most cats will just jump out at you and then run away, but if your cat actually comes and bites you on the foot then you need to put an end to it before it becomes a chronic behavior problem. The longer a behavior problem continues the harder it is to correct.

If your cat does bite you after coming out of hiding then make a large stomping sound with your food, or say "OUCH" loudly. This will stop your cat and scare them away, letting them know that this behavior will not be tolerated.

Another option is to use a shaker can to scare them, but the problem with this approach is you always have to have the can handy. Remember, that the consequences for your cat attacking you must be immediate; otherwise your cat will not associate the punishment with what it did.

If you do see your cat before it comes out to attack you, try to talk to it, or just throw a toy to the cat. Or you could just avoid that area. Eventually they will give up waiting for you to walk by and move onto another activity.

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Choosing Fish For Your Aquarium - Freshwater Fish
By Maxwell Sharp

You've got your tank and you are all ready to set it up. What kind of fish are you going to put in it? Don't make the common mistake of stocking your tank with appealing looking fish and wishing for the best.

Many new aquarium owners do this, to their dismay. If often leads to disaster for the owner and the fish. Do more than just wish, figure out your preferences, do your research and you'll be a happy aquarium owner with healthy fish.

First, think about what kind of fish you might like to have in your tank. Do you want active fish that will amuse you or slow-moving fish that will provide a calm energy? Maybe you would like brightly colored fish?

On the other hand, maybe you would like fish that coordinate with your d├ęcor? Perhaps you would like fish of particular shape or size. All of these things should be taken into consideration when choosing fish for your freshwater aquarium.

After you have clarified your preferences, you will want to understand the requirements of the fish you have chosen for your tank. Fish of different breeds have different needs. Here are some questions to consider.

Can your chosen fish share a tank with others? What does this fish eat? Does he eat at the bottom of the tank or the top? What temperature works best for this fish? How much room does this fish need to thrive?

Does this fish prefer open areas or lots of places to hide? What kind of pH does this fish prefer? Do all the breeds I have chosen have the answers to these questions in common?

Another major consideration is dietary needs. Mixing bottom feeders and top feeders is fine, as long as the top feeders are not too aggressive. You want some of the food to reach the bottom for the bottom feeders.

You also want to be careful that you don't choose fish that feed on each other. That's right. Some fish qualify as food for other fish you have chosen.

The other characteristic to watch out for is aggression. Smaller fish and fish with long, flowing fins are frequently targets for aggressive fish. Unless you have specifically chosen a low-aggression breed, you will want to limit yourself to one male per tank.

Males are general aggressive in many types of fish. It's best to have several females for that one male, but it really does depend on the type.

A good place to find the answers to these questions is your local fish store. The staff should be knowledgeable about which types of fish thrive together and under what circumstances. Browse the fish at the store, determine which ones meet your preferences, and cross check to see if they will live in harmony, and enjoy your aquarium.

Maxwell Sharp is a freshwater aquarium enthusiast and the owner of Create your own amazing freshwater aquarium using our guide at

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Top 10 Angelfish Facts
By Brian Malone

Here are my top 10 facts about Angelfish:

1. They are one of the most commonly kept freshwater aquarium fish. This is due to their unique shape and color plus their intelligent behaviour. They are believed to recognize their owners.

2. They are thin, with round bodies and elongated triangular dorsal and anal fins. Natural Angelfish have vertical colored stripes to provide camouflage.

3. They are ambush predators and prey on small fish and macroinvertebrates. They should be fed a mixture of flake, frozen and live food.

4. They're eggs are generally laid on a submerged log or a flattened leafs.

5. When mating, they form monogamous pairs. These relationships are long term. If one of the pair are removed or die the remaining fish will often never form another relationship. When they become parents they will watch over the eggs until they are hatched.

6. They originate from the Amazon River, Orinoco River and Essequibo River basins in tropical South America.

7. They are best kept in a warm aquarium, ideally around 80°F (27°C). The prefer a pH of below 7.5 but can thrive in a wide range of pH values.

8. They generally reach maturity at around six to twelve months. If the eggs are removed immediately after spawning they can spawn every seven to ten days.

9. It is relatively easy to breed them in an aquarium.

10. Breeding them can make it very difficult to identify their gender until they are ready to breed and also can remove their rearing instinct resulting in them eating their young.

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