10 Best Places to Live for Pet Lovers PLUS Why Dogs Snore

One Way to Help Dogs Live More Years
by Tornoe Rose ThePetReport.com

Have you owned a dog for a few years now? Then you are probably quite used to taking care of it. You feed and water it daily and groom them whenever they need it. Are you wondering what you can do to insure that your dog will live longer though? Here is a method that is helping dogs to live longer.

Be certain of the kind of food your feed the dog you have. Examine for food to make sure it has the necessary nutrients the dog needs. Do not feed your dog table scraps, this has been advised for years. This is due to the fact that table scraps can cause weight gain.

The dog food that you buy at the vets or in the grocery store has been processed not to have too much fat in it. They come for senior dogs, adult dogs, and puppies. Each group of food is geared appropriately to the age of the dog.

Make sure that you put out water every day for your dog. Similar to humans, they need to be hydrated too. So be certain that your dog’s water bowl is refreshed when necessary, or purchase the type of water bowl that has a container that feeds water to the bowl automatically.

Brush and groom your dog as often as recommended for the breed. You can brush your dog daily and bathe most dogs at least every other week. Some dogs will have to be bathed more often depending on how often they play outside and get dirty. Having a healthy coat is part of a dog’s overall health.

Make sure your dog is getting enough doily exercise; you have a variety of activities to do with your dog that will provide the exercise. If you walk for your exercise just take your dog with you, he or she will love it. Fetching things like balls, sticks, or a Frisbee will do too; many times the dogs will run gleefully to retrieve these items. Swimming is another activity that a dog can do with you for exercise, whether it is a lake or a pool. There are various types of competitions that are regularly held for dogs to be put through their paces doing different tasks. There is now what is called dog parks, which are where dogs play with different dogs.

Yearly checkups at the vet office are required for the health of your dogs. Vaccine for rabies and other diseases need to be given to the dog annually. The health of the dog’s ears and teeth are crucial to their health. It would be quite hard for your dog to consume nourishment if their teeth would be lost. Infection can occur in the ears if they are not properly cleaned and checked. The vet is the main person who can help you keep your dog in great shape.

Follow the method outlined here and add plenty of love and your dog will live a longer life. Dogs become part of our families and losing one is very heartbreaking, so take good care of your dog today. This way they can be part of your family for many years to come.

About the Author:
As a pet owner there are so many things you must learn. An important thing is to get pet health insurance to be certain that your cat is covered. Most owners of cats will go look for cheap cat insurance and buy poor coverage. Don’t make the money be the only thing you look at.

Keeping a Spring in Your Pet's Step
Heidi Bassler, veterinarian - Paw Prints

Whether it's strolls with the dog or playing with the cat, pet time is enjoyable and relaxing. Our faithful companions are happy to be with us, too. But maybe Fido and Fluffy are not as spry as they once were. If they were aching and sore, would you notice?

Arthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is the No. 1 cause of chronic pain in dogs and cats. This painful condition is often under-recognized by pet owners. The signs usually appear gradually, and many people consider them a normal part of aging.

Pets are quite stoic and cannot say in words when they hurt. Favoring a leg or limping, stiffness especially upon rising, difficulty on stairs and decreased activity all indicate a problem. They may be more common as pets age, but they are not normal. In these cases, Fido or Fluffy is asking for your help.

Degenerative joint disease is caused by long-term stresses on the joint. There are several risk factors.

Some pets are born with an abnormal joint. Others inherit this tendency. For example, hip dysplasia may be inherited and develops anytime during the first two years of life. These deformed hip joints are prone to degenerative joint disease.

A previous joint trauma predisposes to degenerative joint disease. For example, a cruciate (or ACL) tear causes instability of the knee, resulting in degenerative joint disease.

Carrying excess pounds increases the risk of degenerative joint disease. This is significant in our society because 50 percent of pet dogs and cats in this country are overweight or obese.

As pets age, they often develop degenerative joint disease in one or more joints. Although this wear and tear is common in senior pets, it still hurts. An old pet with a stiff gait is in pain.

If you think your pet may have arthritis, talk to your veterinarian. Treatment focuses on preventing progression of joint damage and alleviating pain. There are many treatment options, and different pets respond differently. Often, combining two or more approaches yields the best results.

Weight control is often the single most important factor to control the progression of degenerative joint disease and the pain associated with it. In some cases, appropriate weight loss is all that is needed. An average Labrador retriever carrying an extra seven pounds is overweight; a typical cat with two extra pounds is obese. Your veterinarian can help guide you to your pet's ideal weight.

Therapeutic diets are available that address arthritis in dogs. These diets are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been found to have anti-inflammatory and healing properties in the joint. Omega-3 fatty acids may be derived from fish oils or certain plants, such as flax seed. Dogs and cats, however, are essentially unable to utilize omega-3 fatty acids from sources other than fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are inactivated by light, air and heat. In addition, dogs and cats require a huge dose to reap benefits. For these reasons, pre-made veterinary therapeutic diets are the ideal choice when nutrition is chosen for arthritis treatment.

Glucosamine and chondroitin are available as supplements for arthritis. Because they are components of cartilage, adding them to the diet provides the building blocks needed to help repair damaged cartilage.

Although omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine-chondroitin are available over-the-counter, caution should be exercised when choosing a brand. Because these products are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration, there is no guarantee that they contain what the label says and are free from contaminants. Studies have shown that this is a problem with most glucosamine and chondroitin products labeled for human use. Some companies voluntarily have their product analyzed by an outside lab to guarantee its content. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a reputable brand.

Injections of polysulfated glycosaminoglycans are beneficial to many dogs and cats with arthritis. They help inflamed joints by increasing joint lubrication and stimulating cartilage repair. Injections are given in the muscle, and the tiny molecules quickly move into damaged joints. Although the injections are most effective if administered early in the course of disease, I have seen profound results in some severely arthritic patients. Side effects are extremely rare.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs decrease joint pain by decreasing inflammation at the diseased joint. Human drugs in this class include aspirin and ibuprofen. Use of these drugs safely is species-specific, so never give an over-the-counter product to your pet without first talking to your veterinarian. Any non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug can cause nausea or more serious side effects in pets, such as liver or kidney failure. If your pet is on these drugs long-term, monitoring and lab work are important.

Other ways to alleviate degenerative joint disease pain include acupuncture and physical therapy, such as swimming and controlled leash walks.

Your pet may need some help keeping his golden years comfortable. With a lifetime bond between you, it will warm your heart to see a spring in his step again.

Dr. Heidi Bassler is medical director of the Veterinary Center of Greater Newburyport (www.vetcgn.com). Do you have questions for Dr. Bassler? Send them to heidibasslerdvm@comcast.net.

Click on banner to visit The Pet Warehouse

Pet Connection
Gina Spadafori and Dr. Marty Becker - PoconoRecord.com

The pleasure we get from spending time with our dogs is one of the reasons we have them. But as much as we would love to take them everywhere, the reality for most of us is that our dogs spend a lot of time alone.

Dogs aren't really designed to stay by themselves, and many times they get themselves into trouble. One helpful tool for avoiding problems is to leave your dog with a treat-dispensing toy to keep your pet busy when you go.

One of the original treat-dispensing toys, and a regular presence in my dogs' toy box, is the Kong www.kongcompany.com). The toy is made of a hard rubber, and although I've heard of a few dogs destroying the Kong, most do not. The Kong can be filled with dog treats, kibble, peanut butter, soft cheese or some commercial treats made expressly for this toy. Some dog owners fill the Kong with peanut butter and then freeze it. The Kong works because it takes time for the dog to get all the treats out from inside it.

Another treat-dispensing toy that has been on the market for a while is the Buster Cube www.bustercube.com). This is a cube-shaped hard plastic toy with a hole in one side. Treats or kibbles are put in the cube, and then a dial around the hole can be adjusted to let a few treats out at a time or just one. The dog has to flip the cube to get the treats out. I always have a Buster Cube around, but I have to admit the Buster Cube can be noisy if the dog is flipping it around on concrete or a tile floor.

Busy Buddy makes a toy called Twist'N Treats www.premier.com). The top and bottom can be unscrewed so that treats can be placed inside. Then the difficulty of getting the treats out can be adjusted by how closely together you tighten the top and bottom. While testing this toy, I found my Australian shepherds figured it out very quickly, got the treats and then got bored. But my business partner at Kindred Spirits Dog Training, Petra Burke, said her Pomeranian, Keely, loves this toy and continues to play with it even after the treats are long gone.

Busy Buddies also makes Tug-a-Jug. Ever put a handful of treats in a plastic water bottle for your dog to play with? This toy is along those lines, except that the bottle is too hard for the dog to chew up, unlike the water bottle. In addition, there is a stopper in the Tug-a-Jug bottle, a hard rubber rope with a larger end inside the jug. If the stopper is pulled out away from the bottle, no treats come out. If the stopper is pushed into the bottle, treats will come out. Bashir, my 5-year-old Aussie, loved this toy. He could think about it, puzzle it out, carry it around and get the treats. He worked at it for an hour and a half before I took it away so I could try it with another dog. However, Petra's Aussie, Logan, chewed off the rubber stopper. This could have been dangerous had he swallowed it.

Designer Nina Ottosson www.nina-ottosson.com) offers the Dog Pyramid. Treats go inside, and a hole is near the top on one side to release the treats. The dog needs to knock the toy over to get the treats, but once knocked over, the toy always rights itself because of the heavy bottom. One of Kindred Spirits' trainers, Connie, has a 12-week-old puppy named Peaches. Connie said she began giving Peaches her morning kibble in the toy. It kept Peaches occupied so Connie could begin her day.

One of my dogs' favorite treat-dispensing toys is a kiddie pool. I get an inexpensive plastic kids' pool and fill it with water. I then drop a big block of ice in the middle as well as a handful of baby carrots and apple slices. The dogs can drink, play, splash, chew on the cube of ice and dunk for the treats.

When you introduce a new toy, always do so while you're there to supervise. Some dogs can be amazingly inventive or destructive, and you don't want your pet to hurt himself on a new toy.

Pet Connection contributor Liz Palika owns Kindred Spirits Dog Training in the San Diego area. She's also the author of many top-selling books on pet care.)

Q: I am desperately trying to integrate a 3-year-old Great Dane rescue into our home with two very spoiled and loved cats. As long as the Dane can't get to them, they are OK, but she chases them if she can. I don't want to give any of them up, but I am concerned about the safety of our cats. Any advice?

— E.W., via e-mail

A: Getting dogs and cats to get along is easier if you start a "no-chasing cats" rule from day one and know how to enforce it. Since your dog has already experienced a few cat-chasing thrills, you'll need to prepare yourself for a longer haul in convincing all parties to get along.

Start by giving your cats a room that is off-limits to your dog. A dog-free sanctuary will help the cats accept the Dane while you are working on improving the dog-cat relationship. Put the cats' food, water, beds, litter and scratching posts in this room. Add a Feliway diffuser — this product is a feline pheromone that helps cats relax.

After the cats are happy in their temporary sanctuary, you can move on to the next step and open the sanctuary door. Keep the Dane with you on a leash and do not allow her to enter the cat sanctuary. Teach her to respect this room as off-limits with a sharp "ah-ah" when she begins to cross the threshold. Use the leash to insist.

Over time, your cats will probably venture out of their safe room to see what you are doing. By keeping your Dane on leash, either connected to you or connected to a piece of heavy furniture near you, you can prevent any future cat chases. When the cats are out and you see the dog getting worked up, assume she is thinking about chasing cats. Interrupt her train of thought with that "ah-ah" and then give her something else to think about. Ask her to "sit," and then deliver a tasty chew for her obedience. Praise her "no interest" behavior toward the cats.

Your Dane must learn basic obedience so you can insist she follow your instructions on a daily basis. This will help her understand and obey your house rules. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to a dog trainer who makes house calls to help you teach her the basics of canine obedience on- and off-leash in your home.

Be sure you also give your dog enough outdoor exercise and indoor play daily to exhaust her physically and mentally. You don't want your cats to be the best game in town, so offer alternatives.

If you are able to prevent any further chases, give your cats a safe, no-dog place to hang out, and help your Dane learn your house rules, you can achieve your happily ever after canine-feline-human home.

Your cats may never love your Dane, but they will regain their quality of life. You can be sure they will also appreciate you for having their backs until your new dog learns that chasing cats is against your house rules.

— Susan and Dr. Rolan Tripp, AnimalBehavior.net

Cancer in dogs is the No. 1 cause of disease-related death in dogs 2 years of age or older, with one in four dogs dying from cancer. The Morris Animal Foundation www.morrisanimalfoundation.org) is seeking to raise $30 million for cancer research by 2012. It will use the money to fund prevention studies related to genetics and tests on innovative techniques to save lives and ease suffering, to fund a tumor-tissue bank, and to establish an endowment to continue research for the future. The foundation points out that the research helps people as well as pets.

•Cats can hear nearly three times more frequencies than humans can. For you technical types, a cat's hearing stops at 80 kilohertz, a dog's at 45 kHz, and a human's at a pathetic 20 kHz. Because cats can rotate their ears and focus each ear independently, they also can hear well from all directions.

•Earth is home to about 1,000 species of bats, but fewer than 50 species live in North America.

•A new product called Bowlingual claims to decode your dog's barks and is being released for sale in Japan this month. The product purports to decode a dog's vocalizations into human language and emoticons. The microphone transmits a bark to the handheld monitor, offering translations that its makers say include joy, sadness and frustration.

•Carl Switzer, most famous for his childhood role as Alfalfa in the "Our Gang" comedies, died in 1959 at the age of 31, shot to death in an argument over a dog.

— Dr. Marty Becker and Mikkel Becker Shannon

Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "Good Morning America" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Gina Spadafori. The two are also the authors of several best-selling pet-care books.

On PetConnection.com there's more information on pets and their care, reviews of products, books and "dog cars." Contact Pet Connection in care of this newspaper by sending e-mail to petconnection@gmail.com or by visiting PetConnection.com.

The best candidate for a dog park is a healthy, well-socialized and friendly dog of medium size or larger. Smaller dogs are more easily hurt, and shy ones can be intimidated.

Dogs who are aggressive toward people or other dogs have absolutely no business in a dog park — no excuses.

Puppies who have not completed their course of vaccinations and haven't been cleared by the veterinarian for outings should also stay clear. That's because you just can't tell the disease status of other canine visitors. And until your pup's immunity is where it should be, you're taking a potentially deadly risk by introducing him to a dog park.

The biggest problem with dog parks is not the dogs, but the people. Some of those problems are caused by people who know better, but other conflicts could easily be prevented with a little knowledge and foresight on the part of dog owners who truly don't know better.

The preparation begins before you ever set foot inside a park with your dog. Don't go in with food for either you or your dog) or with your dog's favorite toy, since these high-value items can trigger fights. Do go in with lots of cleanup bags, and be sure to use them.

Once inside, don't open a book or get too involved in socializing with the other dog lovers. Your dog needs to be monitored at all times to keep him out of trouble. Don't allow your dog to be bullied, and don't allow your dog to bully others. Sometimes the park mix isn't a good one, and you'll need to take your dog home.

Dog parks work only when people work at them. Be responsible for your dog and help to keep the drive for more dog parks alive.

— Gina Spadafori

Dogs with pushed-in "pug-nosed" faces — boxers, bulldogs, shih tzus and, of course, pugs — are formally known as "brachycephalic" and come with some special health risks.

Perhaps primary among these is an intolerance to heat, because these dogs don't pant as well as other dogs. A dog with a more conventional face and throat is able to pass air quickly over the tongue through panting. Saliva evaporates from the tongue as air is passed across, and the blood circulating through the tongue is cooled and circulated back to the rest of the body.

In a brachycephalic dog, the extra work required to move the same amount of air causes the airways to become inflamed and swollen. This can lead to a more severe obstruction, distress and further overheating. As a result, these dogs are at high risk for heat stroke and should never be put in a position of being stressed by heat.

These dogs may also present a higher risk during anesthesia, which is why it's important to discuss pre-anesthetic screening and risk-management with your veterinarian before any procedure requiring that your dog be anesthetized.

— Dr. Marty Becker

Deal of the Week 120x60 AmeriMark.com
AmeriMark Direct is a leading direct marketer of women's apparel, shoes, name-brand cosmetics, fragrances, jewelry, watches, accessories, and health-related merchandise.

Tips For Bathing Your Cat

Cats normally do not need help getting and staying clean. They are fastidious about their cleanliness and spend much of their day primping and preening. Cats learn from a very young age to stay clean, as the mother always teaches their young the art of bathing. Cat owners rarely need to give their cats a bath, however, there are some situations where you may find it is time to bath kitty. You never know when your cat will get so dirty that they need a little extra help. If your cat is afflicted with skin allergies or has a flea infestation, you might need to bathe your cat. Sick and older cats may have a difficult time keeping clean, too. You will find that your cat probably resists getting a bath, but you can do it if you are prepared.

Get Your Supplies
The best place to bath your cat is in a small, enclosed room. If you have a sink in your laundry room, that would work perfectly. A deep bathroom sink would also do the trick. The idea is to get your cat in a small area to help him or her feel safer during the process. Another idea is to use a baby tub and place it inside your own bathtub. This might cause an aching back on your part, but may be just the thing for your cat.

In addition, you will want to make sure that you have everything you need on hand before you begin. It will be almost impossible to stop what you are doing with a struggling cat to run and get a towel or shampoo. You will need several old towels, mild, non-irritating shampoo such as baby shampoo or pet shampoo, and a cup for rinsing. You might even consider using a turkey-basting tool to reach under the chin, around the neck and between the legs. In addition, if your cat’s fur is matted, you might want to consider cutting these mats away before beginning.

Get the Bath Ready
When you have gotten all of your supplies where you need them, you will want to prepare the bath. Your cat will not like very hot or very cold water, so lukewarm water works best. Think of the temperature you would use to bath an infant. That is what you need when you wash your cat. Next, fill up the tub or sink. You do not need a lot of water when you bath your cat–just enough to rinse the cat off. It is also a good idea to place a non-skid mat or folded bath towel in the bottom of the sink or tub before you begin filling it with water. This prevents the cat from slipping around on the bottom of the sink or tub.

Ease your Cat into the Water
It is now time for the hard part. You have to get your cat and ease him or her into the water. This may sound easier than it is. Some cats may struggle with you more than others may. Only you know your cat’s personality. The best way to go about doing this is to lower your cat into the water. Do this by placing one hand under the cat’s belly and one hand firmly, but gently on the cat’s back. Lower the cat from its hind legs into the water. If your cat is still struggling, you might want to wrap a towel around your cat to prevent scratches. You might be surprised by your cat’s reaction. Some cats will sit there quietly and let you work. Others will be scared and will try to run from you. You will get wet, but you may think about holding the cat’s body close to your own while bathing so he or she feels more secure. Never raise your voice or move too fast, as this can send your cat into a frenzy.

Begin the Bath
After your cat is somewhat situated in the water, you can begin to bathe. Work quickly, but gently. The best method for bathing your cat is to start with the head and work your way down. Be careful not to get water or shampoo in your cat’s ears or eyes. You will only need a very small amount of shampoo. If you get too much, you will have to rinse longer. If you are treating fleas, then you will want to follow the directions on the flea shampoo at this point. You can use vegetable oil if you need to remove sticky substances from your cat’s fur. Use this sparingly because this will leave an oil residue on your cat’s fur, although it is harmless.

Why Dogs Snore
By Rod Jones • BestStrength.com

We all know that it is not unusual for pet owners to allow their pets to sleep with them on their beds at night. In deed, one third of pet owners have at some point, allowed their pets to sleep on their beds. Dogs readily provide a companionship that can’t be shown by any other breed of animal. However, this doesn’t mean to say that cat owners do not let their cats or another pets sleep with them too.

It is facilitated too by dogs having a sleep pattern that is very much like our own. Dogs usually trust their owners completely, which makes them a bit more relaxed during the night. This explains why most dogs fall asleep easily and later on, enter into a deep sleep where REM sleep activities can occur. In deed, once a dog enters this stage, the owner may need to call them several times before they can truly be roused from sleep.

For sure, lots of us have already seen a dog ‘running’ during sleep or, at times, barking with his eyes closed too. These dogs are believed to be dreaming. Breathing patterns can also be observed among dogs while they are asleep. For instance, there are breeds which breathe heavily and there are breeds which breathe more lightly. The heavy breathers are much more likely to snore than those which do not breathe as heavily.

Some people find that dogs that snore are quite a nuisance during the night, depending on the degree and frequency of the phenomenon. Like with humans, there are various reasons why dogs snore, although most deal with the blocking of the passage of air in the windpipe, which in turn is caused by the collapse of certain areas along the throat. It is the same problem as with human beings.

A snoring dog should be checked for various issues to determine which treatment can be best provided. Some dogs are especially prone to specific allergic reactions that cause constriction in the airway. It may also be that there is some excess tissue in the areas that are inhibiting proper breathing. It is best if a veterinarian checks on different factors through careful evaluation of the dog’s anatomical features and general physical symptoms.

Is you dog overweight? I ask this because, as with humans, obese dogs are more likely to snore than thin ones. This is because they will have more flesh surrounding their windpipes. Therefore, they have excess tissue hanging around their throats, which can cause blockages. Once this problem has been fixed, the chances of snoring will be decreased. This would not only be good for your dogs, but you may eventually enjoy a decent night’s sleep too.

The general facial features of the dog affect the amount of snoring too. Some dogs seem to have pushed-in faces which narrows their air passages to a certain degree. The construction of their nasal passages also largely contributes to their problems in breathing. They are pretty much like humans with the flu, who are forced to breathe using only twenty-five percent of their nostril capacity. Dog breeds with shorter faces need to expend lots of effort to breathe properly. It costs them more effort to breathe and they are also more prone to snoring.

Minor surgery can afford your dog great relief. Be sure though that, before any decision is made, you are well educated about the potential risks and consequences of surgery to stop a dog snoring. Most procedures are irreversible, so careful thought must be given to any operation you allow. In fact, it is best to follow the guidelines offered by your veterinary doctor.

Click on banner to visit this site

Click here for "Dating Tips, Relationship Advice and Intimacy"

Click here for "Headlines You Should Know!"

10 Best Places to Live for Pet Lovers
By Kimberly Palmer - US News & World Report

Green spaces and good weather make pets—and their owners—happy

For the 4 in 10 American families that own at least one dog, choosing a place to live isn't just about the humans in the family: They want their pets to be happy, too. For dog owners, cities with lots of dog parks and open green spaces, as well as relatively mild temperatures, mean their pooches can stay in shape more easily. Cat owners, as well as those who live with more unusual pets, such as rabbits or birds, usually want to make sure their area has enough veterinarians to care for their animals. And all pet lovers can be affected by local and state regulations that specify where their pets are allowed and what type of vaccines they need.

That's why we focused on weather, population density, and the availability of green space when creating our top 10 list for the best places to live for pet lovers. After narrowing down the field based on those factors, we interviewed pet experts on the most animal-friendly towns. Len Kain, cofounder of DogFriendly.com, says he first looks at the availability of dog parks as well as major attractions that allow pets. "Can you take your dogs to outdoor concerts? Drive-in movie theaters? Outdoor malls? These are all important issues to travelers and the people who live there," he says.

Some spots that appear pet friendly at first glance, such as San Francisco or Seattle, have limited pet-friendly housing, Kain adds. "Places with expensive housing tend to be more restrictive with pet housing," he says.

Kain also warns that local laws and regulations, which frequently change, can make life tough for pet owners. Some cities, such as Jackson, Wyo., have strict no-dog policies in many of their parks, and dog beaches in Los Angeles are virtually impossible to find. On the Maryland and Delaware coasts, on the other hand, there are dog-friendly beaches for anyone who purchases a relatively inexpensive permit. New York's laws have been slowly shifting in favor of allowing dogs on beaches, Kain says. Rocky Point, N.Y., on the shore of the Long Island Sound, allows dogs during less popular hours: before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. in the summer and anytime during the winter. (They must be kept on a leash.)

Vicki Kung, cofounder of www.dogpark.com, says that as the exurbs expand away from cities, smaller cities and towns are gaining more dog parks. "Dog park advocates are no longer the lunatic fringe of community recreation resource users. There are so many cities that now support dog parks that community groups are having an easier time pointing to success stories and benefits," she says. California and Florida have been leaders in the creation of dog parks, she adds, while Idaho, Montana, and many of the southern states have been catching up. Butte, Mont., offers plenty of hiking trails on nearby mountain paths for dog owners.

For anyone with multiple pets or pet-related businesses, Kain recommends living within at least 100 miles of a large veterinary center, usually found at universities, in case pets need specialized care. The University of California-Davis and the University of Florida-Gainesville both have such centers.

Rabbit owner Adam Goldfarb, director of the pets at risk program for the Humane Society of the United States, says it's also important for owners of less common animals to make sure they have access to veterinary resources. He prefers living in a location with more than one rabbit vet, for example. That kind of information can be found on animal society Web sites, such as the House Rabbits Society or the Association of Avian Veterinarians.

Animal lovers looking to adopt pets from their homes also have plenty of options. Goldfarb says that rural areas, particularly those in the South, tend to have the most animals in need of homes, as do large urban ones, such as Baltimore and Detroit. Ellicott City, Md., is an easy drive from Baltimore's animal shelters and also offers more than 100 square miles of green space within 15 miles of the city.

Check out these top 10 places for pet lovers to live:

-Ellicott City, Md.
-Rocky Point, N.Y.
-Auburn, Ala.
-Butte, Mont.
-Yankton, S.D.
-Lewiston, Idaho
-Glasgow, Ky.
-Aiken, S.C.
-Flower Mound, Texas
-Wolf Trap, Va.

Aquarium Beginners Shouldn't Skimp,
Experts Says

Keeping an aquarium could cost you more than a few fins, but that is the best way to avoid taking a dive in the hobby.

"Most people who fail (at) keeping fish do so because they haven't spent enough," says Rich Terrell, aquariumist at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium in Highland Park.

He, other professionals and dedicated hobbyists agree to a simple strategy to make fish-keeping go swimmingly.

• Decide on the fish you really want to have and build your tank around it. That will help determine size of the fish, size of the tank and use of salt or fresh water.

• Spend as much as you possibly can, because cutting corners leads to problems.

• Small tanks create a greater possibility of errors, too, and greatly limit the number of fish you can have.

"It's a matter of big-tank-small-risk, small-tank-big-risk," says Gary Knabe, owner of Elmer's Aquarium in Monroeville. He explains that it is easier for bacteria problems to emerge in small tanks where the amount of water is easier to foul.

Terrell agrees.

"The solution to pollution is dilution," he says.

That alone may lead to deeper water than was first expected, but a cautious entry is the easiest route to failure, he and the others say.

Calling a 10-gallon tank "one of the biggest mistakes a beginner can make," he takes a practical look.

"The cost-per-gallon goes down the higher you go," he says.

In the swim of things

Letting the king fish be the guide is going to decide a great deal about your aquarium.

That, Terrell and others say, will determine salt or fresh water use, size, and types of fish, among other aspects.

Heather Mason, manager at Seahorse: A Pet Paradise in Hampton, says some customers come in and want fish that match Nemo and Dorie from the animated comedy "Finding Nemo."

That means a Clown Fish and a Blue Tang. That also means salt water.

Julie Logan from Seahorse adds choosing a calm community fish and mixing it in with something like a Dog Face Puffer is akin to homicide.

"He'll eat a little Damsel in a minute," she says, referring to a small, community fish that she believes is a good choice for a basic aquarium.

That type of issue can be important in subtle ways, too. Terrell says mixing Giant Danios and Leaf Fish would be bad because the Danios are quite active and would scarf up any available food before it drifts to the ultra-docile, floating Leaf Fish.

Size obviously is important in fish selection. The general rule is one inch of fish per one gallon of water. Simply put, that limits an owner to 10-inch-long fish in a 10-gallon tank.

But, Terrell says, that size includes any type of bottom-feeder or algae-eater added to clean the tank. Necessary inclusion of the practical, cleaning creatures thus limits the inhabitants of a small tank.

Bill Sensor, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Club, says a 10- to -20-gallon tank might work for a beginner, but warns about the limitations. He, Terrell and Knabe agree that the 29-gallon size, a standard in many shops, is a wiser choice.

Reeling in the gear

Fresh water or salt, an aquarium is more than a big bowl of water.

Sensor suggests a beginner should plan on spending $150 to $200. Knabe says it will probably cost about $300, counting some sort of stand for the aquarium. Terrell says it might be as much as $500.

That price can go a little higher for salt-water fish as the equipment is a little more expensive, Knabe adds. For instance, lights are a little brighter and warmer to simulate tropical sun and it is possible to get involved in machines to imitate ocean wave movement.

Whatever the cost, a fish-keeper will need a tank, a hood with a light to illuminate and imitate sun, a heater for the water, a thermometer, gravel or stone substrata, and other items.

That doesn't count the price for fish, which range greatly, but can be $5 for a Damsel to $450 for an Electric Blue Jack Dempsey. In between there are $8.98 Red Tail Shark and $59.98 Koi.

One of the important matters is bacteria to help create a living aquarium, Knabe points out. That helps break down fish waste and keeps tanks more natural, he adds.

It also creates a period of curing the aquarium in which bacteria are added to fish-less water to create a natural environment. Logan also points out bacteria-laden "living rock" than can be added to the bottom of a tank for that reason.

It can be two or three weeks before any fish are added to the tank in this process.

Care is less than many pets. (Walks, for instance, are unheard of.) Terrell suggests it amounts to about an hour a week. Knabe says it could be even less, and is centered on changing about 15 percent of the water twice a month with a siphoning system.

Overall, though, Knabe says, modern filters and cleaning devices have made the process much easier than in the past. He points out automatic-feeding timers that take care of that job when the owners are away.

Whatever way a hobbyist goes, Terrell suggests, there is one important rule to remember: settle on one dealer or expert for advice. Wisdom from various sources can work in countervailing ways.

"Then, when you have a problem, there is not one of those people who will know what to do to solve it," he says.

Plunging in

Don Tuttle bought a guppie for his son 40 years ago.

The Plum man now has 90 tanks in his home, the largest of which is 180 gallons. That doesn't count the ones outside he isn't using. Right now. He raises and sells fish and is active in providing equipment for new hobbyists.

Tuttle and others involved in fish-keeping or marketing say it is not unusual for people to get involved deeper and deeper in the hobby and to become active in breeding or other aspects.

"There is always something to learn," says Gary Knabe, owner of Elmer's Aquarium in Monroeville.

"It's not that difficult," Tuttle says of the ever-growing interest. He is vice president of the Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society. "There are just so many things out there."

Bill Sensor, president of the group, has 23 tanks ranging from 10 to 75 gallons in his home and agrees the range of interest creates that growth. He points to the number of sub-groups in the area, such as the Pittsburgh Area Killifish Association, that deal with specific breeds and attend to specific interests.

Dealing with other fish-keepers can lead to more advanced collections, he says, as they can lead collectors to fish that might not be on sale at a commercial market.

The society will have its fall auction Sept. 20 at the North Hampton Volunteer Fire Department, 5149 N. Pioneer Road, Hampton.

Joining clubs or dealing with other collectors also can broaden a fish-keeper's knowledge, says Rich Terrell, aquariumist at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium in Highland Park. He says "research is important because some fish don't belong together and you have to know that."

Help and advice also can be found at organizations such as Fishy Things, a Monroeville consultant and aquarium designer. Its founder, Glynn Galloway, says the company creates aquariums in commercial spaces or will help a beginner at home. Their help costs a minimum of $55 per service.

They often deal with water-chemistry issues, a matter that often is challenging for a beginner, he says.

"We like to be able to go in and prevent issues from worsening," he says

Click here to visit The EZ Online Shopping Network of Stores

No comments: