Pet Kennels, Holiday Decorations and Bird Cages

Holiday Tips Offered
for Pet Owners
By The Capital-Journal

MANHATTAN -- A Kansas State University veterinarian has offered tips to pet owners during the holiday season.

Susan Nelson, a veterinarian and assistant professor of clinical sciences at K-State, said the holidays are a stressful time for both the pet and those who might interact with the pet.

For pet owners who opt to bring their pet to holiday gatherings, Nelson said the following things should be considered:

•Always ask the host if it is OK to bring a pet along.
•Bring essentials like food and water bowls, a leash, cleaning supplies and a litter box for pets that require one.

•Clean up after pets. Pick up waste in the yard, and bring a roller for pets that shed.

•Bring a crate so the pet doesn't run free in the home.

•Don't let pets hang out while people are cooking or during mealtime, unless the hosts are OK with that.

•Pets may become agitated with new people around or lots of activity.

•If a pet is nervous or prone to biting people, especially if children will be present, reconsider taking it with you.

•If a pet has anxiety or barks a lot, reconsider taking it with you.

•Not everyone likes animals. Some people may have a fear or may have allergies.

•Thank the hosts for allowing your pet to visit.

For pet owners who decide to leave their pet at home, consider the stress it may put on the pet and what the best care for the animal might be.

Nelson said a kennel is a good option for social animals that don't stress about leaving home. Pet sitters are good options for animals that are more at ease at home. She also said it is important to consider the animal's behavior before hiring a pet sitter.

Pet sitters should meet the pet ahead of time. If the pet isn't used to being home alone, owners should leave for short periods of time to prepare the animal, Nelson said. Additionally, for animals that are going to a kennel and may not be used to small spaces, consider getting a crate ahead of time to prepare the pet.

Arrange play dates for pets that might not be used to having other animals around. Send along an item that smells like home for a pet's stay at the kennel.

Kennel spots should be reserved early for the holidays. Pet owners may check into safety measures, such as video surveillance, fire alarms and sprinkler systems. Make sure pets are up-to-date on their vaccines, and find out if any others are required for their kennel stay.

Never forget to discuss what to do in a worst-case scenario, especially with an old or a sick pet.

How Do You Find a Good Kennel
for Your Pets?
Jill Rosen - Baltimore Sun

If any of you are like me, you shudder at the idea of having to leave a pet in a kennel.... a kennel where the little guy or gal doesn't know anyone...and, worse yet, you aren't quite sure if you can trust the place to take the kind of care you do with your loved one.

But, sometimes, like a lot of times around the busy holidays, a kennel is the only choice. Dr. Wanda V. Pool, a vet who owns Deepwood Veterinary Clinic in Centreville, Va., has some tips on how to find one you can feel good about.

1. Research: Find out about boarding facilities from reliable sources, like veterinarians, and tour the place before you bring your beloved pet to stay there. (Make sure no complaints have been lodged against a facility by checking with the Better Business Bureau.)

2. Sniff test: Satisfy yourself that the boarding kennel you choose is safe, clean and comfortable, providing good care from knowledgeable, experienced staff.

3. Healthy standards: Confirm that the kennel requires all boarding animals to meet health standards. The kennel should insist on current vaccinations, including protection against kennel cough (Bordetella) and the new emerging virus, canine influenza H3N8.

4. Pet Identification: Make sure your pet is properly identified during its boarding stay. The kennel should provide a highly visible ID collar as a help to kennel staff.

5. Just in Case: Kennels should require owners to provide the name and contact information of their veterinarian and/or a signed release form authorizing medical care.

6. Expecting the Unexpected: Kennels should have plans in place to handle health emergencies, including disease outbreaks.

7. Pet Inspection: Closely look at your pet when you fetch it from the kennel and look for signs of fleas, scrapes or bruises, or illness, such as discharge from the eyes or nose.

8. Relax: Maintain your composure when dropping off and retrieving pets from kennels so they can model your good behavior.

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Pet Adoptions:
When is the Right Time?
USA Today

Cute puppies can be tempting to purchase for Christmas, but the truth is many dogs end up in shelters after the holidays because families weren't ready to take them.

A press release came to me Wednesday that made so much sense I thought, well everyone knows this, so why pass it along? But apparently not everyone does know it.

Getting a pet -- or giving someone a pet -- for Christmas might seem like a good idea at the time, but the truth is many of these pets end up in shelters because people had no idea how time consuming the pet would be.

If you're tempted to get a pet for the holidays, Petfinder is encouraging people to foster animals over the holidays. They introduced the program at the end of the CBS movie Sunday A Dog Named Christmas. That movie must have hit a cord with viewers. More than 10 million tuned into watch it. A young man convinces people in a small town to bring home abandoned pets from the shelter for Christmas, including his own dad, who fought the idea the hardest.

5 Questions About Keeping
Your Pet Safe for the Holidays
By Body and Mind staff - DR. CALVIN CLEMENTS -

Position: Veterinarian, certified canine rehabilitation therapist

Company: Palmyra Animal Clinic

Years in field: 26

Q: Some pet owners might not think about dangers lurking in holiday decorations. What should people be aware of?

A: Holiday decorations enhance the season, but pet owners should be aware that these decorations can also be an attractive nuisance to their pets. In some instances, decorations can cause serious harm.

Glass ornaments can result in serious lacerations to the oral cavity, face and feet, not to mention, if swallowed, ulceration and perforation of the gastrointestinal tract. The hooks used to affix them to the tree can become lodged in the mouth, throat and gastrointestinal tract, requiring surgery to remove them.

Tinsel and garland become an attractive play toy to many pets. If swallowed, these can result in serious consequences that if not identified early results in fatality. Electric lights are often a beckoning call to be chewed and swallowed. Obviously this can result in electrical shock and serious electrical burns of the oral cavity.

A Christmas tree presents an obstacle course to the family cat daring to scale it. All too frequently this results in the Christmas tree tipping over, causing trauma to the pet and also being a fire hazard.

To avoid the hazards, decorations should be put up high. Trees should be put on stands to be taken out of reach. Low hanging tinsel and garland should be avoided. In the case of persistent pets accessing Christmas trees, the use of scat pads and motion detectors are helpful. It is highly recommended that all electrical cords be taped to the floor in such a fashion that they cannot be accessed.

Preplanning will allow pet owners to have a joyous time with minimal pet emergencies.

Q: Are poinsettias or other holiday plants really poisonous to pets?

A: The toxicity of poinsettias has been grossly overstated, likely based on myth or misclassification of the plant early in its introduction. Although they are not a source of extreme toxicity, we should not fail to mention that like most house plants, ingestion of them may cause gastric upset, vomiting and diarrhea. Although poinsettias will not cause seizures or death, it may cause a rather unenjoyable “present” on the floor.

If a pet has ingested any plants, it is best to call your veterinarian to check.

Q: Keeping the cat or dog out of the kitchen can be a trick under normal circumstances. What holiday treats might pose a special threat to pets?

A: Any change in a pet’s diet may upset their gastrointestinal system and could cause vomiting and diarrhea and, in some cases, pancreatitis. During the holidays, many treats become more available and accessible to pets. Treats that include chocolate can be harmful to pets, especially dark chocolate. Pet owners should be mindful to keep any human food and treats away from their pets.

Q: Holidays often mean having extra visitors to the house. What challenges does that pose for pets? And what precautions can owners take?

A: The hustle and bustle of the holidays is always a stress to the house pet. Changes in schedules, family being absent during the day while making shopping trips, new visitors being in the house, etc. can be stressful to a pet who doesn’t understand the busy holiday season.

Like many of us, pets respond to stress differently. Some pets become more aggressive or seek more attention, which often turns into deeds of misbehavior such as chewing, urinating indoors or outside of litter boxes, etc. Others internalize their stress response and exhibit their stress with a decreased appetite, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, excessive drinking and urinating.

Unfortunately, this can be compounded with visitors who don’t understand pets and their unique behaviors. Therefore during the holiday season it is important to remember that your pet can be extraordinarily stressed, and you should take extra steps to adhere to normal routines as it permits.

Q: What should pet owners know about traveling with their pets?

A: While traveling with pets, pet owners should practice proper restraint of their pets in vehicles. This includes pet car seats, crates or carriers, seatbelt attachments or barriers. Pets should not be allowed to roam around the vehicle, especially while it is motion. This not only puts your pet in harm’s way but you and your family as well.

Make sure that your pet is traveling on an empty stomach as some pets experience motion sickness. And remember that even pets need “bathroom breaks.”

Some pets get very scared while traveling and can exhibit varying behaviors that they may not have shown before. As a last result, there are sedatives that are available through your veterinarian.

If you are traveling, you should carry your pet’s current medical records. International health certificates may be required if you are traveling out of the United States.

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Dog Food Tips
for Buying the Best
Chantee Hale -

What your dog eats can make a big impact on your dog’s health. Good dog food has been shown to increase your pet’s life span. But how do you choose the best food for your dog?

The first rule in choosing dog food is to know what your pet needs. Has your veterinarian recommended a special diet, is your dog overweight, or is your dog a puppy, senior, or pregnant? Once you’ve answered these basic questions you can move on to selecting the right food for your dog.

What your dog likes may also factor into your choice. Smaller dogs may have trouble chewing large chucks of dry dog food so tiny pieces may be best for smaller breeds. Some dogs prefer dry food, while others may go nuts for wet. If your dog has a preference try to work with him, otherwise it’s time to start looking at labels.

Thanks to the Association of American Feed Control Officials we now have published standards for dog food, which encourages manufacturers to make their food as healthy as we’d like it to be. AAFCO’s website, found at, not only has dog food nutrient profiles to aid in your research but also alerts consumers to dog food recalls and other health concerns that are related to feeding your pet.

Now that you know your dog’s eating profile, what should you be looking for on the label? Here’s a list of ingredients that you will find in good dog foods.

Beef, chicken, lamb, turkey and other specifically named meat proteins. Foods with protein or meat ‘meal’ are made with less actual meat than foods with named whole meats. Also, be aware that foods with fish may contain ethoxguin, a product used to preserve non-human grade fish. Unless a dog food specifically states that the fish they use is ethoxyquin free don’t buy it.

Rice, Amaranth, Oatmeal, Millet, and Sweet Potatoes are acceptable fillers for dog food. As dog’s utilize protein and meat fats better than they do carbohydrates it’s important to get a dog food that has less carbs than it does protein and meat fats.

Animal fats are also good for your dog as they promote a healthy, shiny coat. Try to avoid generic fats, and buy dog foods that specifically name which animal fats they use. Also try to avoid foods that use beef tallow, vegetable oil, poultry fat, and mineral oils as they are not as good for your dog.

While these good ingredients can be found in many dog foods, some foods use ingredients that are unhealthy, or downright harmful for your pet. Here are the main bad ingredients to look out for:

Wheat is often used as filler, and manufacturers like to split it up in the ingredients list so that it looks like there is more quality food in their products.

Some dogs are also allergic to wheat, as well as brewer’s yeast, soy, and flax.
Dogs cannot digest corn, so while it does contain protine and is often used as filler in dog food for that reason, it should be avoided.

Also, chemical preservatives such as “ethoxyquin,” “BHA,” “BHT,” and “propylene glycol” can cause cancer, liver and kidney failure, and other health issues. They may make the food last longer, but as dogs are easier to poision than humans, they should be avoided at all cost. Choose foods that use natural preservative instead.

Along the same lines, but with less harmful side effects are foods with food coloring and flavor additives. That is a quick sign that there aren’t enough healthy meats and fats in the dog food.

Generic ingredients such as animal byproducts, which are no healthier for your dog than they are for you, or unspecific ingredients like ‘poultry meal’ should be avoided because you don’t really know what you’re feeding your pet.
Brewer’s rice is the leftover of the rice milling process and should be avoided, as it contains no nutrition whatsoever.

Onion is an ingredient that may seem harmless, but is actually toxic to dogs and can cause anemia. Unfortunately there are some dog foods which use onion or onion powder as flavoring.

Knowing your dog and knowing what to look for on the label will help you in the search for the perfect dog food. Even after you find it, you may desire to rotate your dog’s selection of healthy dog foods every few months to ensure that your pet gets a more balanced diet.

Author Chantee Hale (Chantee Hale) - ChanteƩ is an online content and SEO writer. Her literary fiction has been published in The First Line magazine. ChanteƩ is a prize winning author and has been featured on the Wright On Time Books website.

Sex and the Single Pet:
A Course in Common Sense
By Patty Khuly, Special for USA TODAY

Patty Khuly is a small-animal veterinarian in Miami, Fla. She is author of, an award-winning blog on pet health; she writes weekly for the Miami Herald and monthly for Veterinary Practice News. Her USA TODAY guest column appears each Friday. Khuly lives in South Miami with her son, Max, dogs Vincent and Slumdog, goats Poppy and Tulip, and a backyard flock of chickens.

Should pets have sex?

I should have saved this topic for Valentine's Day — or maybe not, considering it's not exactly a romantic one. As such, it's plenty appropriate for any time of the year if you consider that (1) pet overpopulation isn't going away anytime soon and (2) some people remain impossibly clueless on the subject of sex and the single pet (hence #1).

In case you don't completely understand the cluelessness I refer to, here's a question I received last week (and I paraphrase to protect the English language and your sensibilities, alike):

"I have a dog and he's in adulthood already but he's not yet had sex. Will that make him aggressive the older he gets?"

How does a self-respecting veterinarian respond to a question like that? In my case, I gave it a tongue-in-cheek spin in keeping with what I felt was its fundamental ridiculousness:

"Great question! Unneutered or unspayed (intact) dogs and cats will not become more aggressive if they are not sexually active. Indeed, lack of sexual activity is not considered a risk factor for aggression in any species — perhaps with the exception of humans and some non-human primates."

Depressingly agrammatical and typo-ridden as it was when delivered, the question succinctly revealed an all-too-pervasive point of view: Pets are like people. They like sex, too. And when they can't get it, they — like some of us — act out aggressively.

It's a surprisingly popular sentiment, this "my pet needs sex" thing. And it can be tough to argue against such a powerfully anthropomorphic argument when it comes to dogs and cats, but here's how I try:

Dogs and cats are not like people when it comes to sex. For example, females don't cycle the same way, and there's no evidence, behaviorally or otherwise, that sexual activity brings them any specific pleasure (male dog owners' rudimentary observations notwithstanding).

While unneutered canine and feline males have a strong sexual drive in the presence of females in heat, most will be largely unmoved by females when they're not hormonally receptive. They're normally not lookin' for love everywhere they go (though they might seek it out once they smell it).

Because female dogs don't come into heat but once every six months and since female cats are induced ovulators (meaning that once they've mated they're usually pregnant), it would seem that opportunities for sexual frustration would be relatively low in cats and dog.

Sure, I'll accept that some males might have a tendency to get testy if they can't approach an intact female in estrus, but neutered males typically couldn't care less. So then, according to the "pets-suffer-like-us" argument in favor of sexual activity for pets, it follows that all male dogs should be castrated — if for no better reason than because it serves their psychological health best.

Further, it's effectively posited that if you're to take the female dog and cat's point of view to anthropomorphic extremes, you'd be more than convinced that "tying" (nature's way of making sure the girl dog can't run away before the boy dog is done) and barbed penises (an accurate description of the feline appendage, I kid you not) do not recommend the sex act to any female of the canine or feline persuasion.

As a veterinarian it's sometimes frustrating to have to deal with people who want their pets to have sex. Personally, I find it a little discomfiting to deal with people who want their females' tubes tied or their males vasectomized just so they can purchase the pet version of "safe" sex for their animals.

It's not that I find either surgical procedure objectionable. In fact, I'll happily perform them given a good enough reason (and I've heard some), but sexual pleasure doesn't rank high among my criteria. I mean, I don't know about you, but pet owners who would take their personal hedonistic philosophies to surgical extremes on behalf of their pets kind of give me the creeps.

Personal peccadillos aside, the bigger problem here is that people who have a tendency to get all weird about their pets' sex lives are also the ones least likely to spay and neuter them. As in, "I won't neuter him or spay her until s/he's gotten it on at least once." What's that all about, anyway?

Should these geniuses ever condescend to sterilize their pets at all, it's not because veterinarians like me have convinced them with our sterling arguments. Nor does the concept of pet overpopulation and their personal contribution to animal suffering move them toward enlightenment. It's times like these I can't help thinking the truism holds: A lack of basic sex education breeds overpopulation. And not just for pets.

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How To Take Care
Of Pet Fish

Compared to other things, aquariums usually require very little care and daily attention. In fact, if you started maintenance on your aquarium by the time you begin reading this article, you will probably have been through before you even finish the article. So what is involved in aquarium care? We are going to look at four aspects of aquarium care that you will find very beneficial.

One has to do with the lighting. One thing you have to remember is that aquarium light does not need to be on at all times except when observing or feeding the fish or if the aquarium contains any live plants. The room light is generally considered sufficient and will keep the finish fairly active. In fact, leaving the light on for long periods can even cause algae growth explosions which of course you do not want. So how can you ensure consistent light and dark cycles are maintained, especially if you are a forgetful aquarium owner? You can install an inexpensive electrical timer that will turn the lights on and off and this will probably leave you with peace of mind knowing that your fish are getting the right doses of light.

Good aquarium care also means that you feed the fish two or three times per day and for only two or three minutes per feeding session. If you are a beginner, this may require some practice until you know the correct amounts of food to give. Do not overfeed the fish. The side effects are obvious; the water quality deteriorates, there is increased algae growth, the water gets cloudy and this often results in fish being prone to infections and diseases. This is as a result of uneaten food that accumulates in the aquarium.

Good aquarium care also means taking the time to simply observe the fish behavior especially during mealtimes. Look to see if every fish has got something to eat. Look out for fish that are picky about their food. Of course, each type of fish acts differently and it may take some time to determine 'normal' behavior for each fish type. If you take time each day to make this observation, your experience will grow.

Also do not forget to check the aquarium equipment and ensure that everything is working as it is supposed to. Consider the various pumps, heaters and filters as the life support system of the fish. This should be done daily. Excellent aquarium care takes some time and experience and is also a source of joy when you realize that your fish are safe and happy in their aquarium habitat.

Tips and Guidelines
For Bird Pet Owners

Bird cages should be equipped with proper food bowls, perches and bird toys, cleaned regularly, and birds are to be provided with proper food and care. Birds generally will do a good job of taking care of themselves if provided with some basic needs. However if one is to truly keep his pet in top shape he needs to follow some routine procedures and live to his responsibilities.

First of all one should provide his bird with proper food. There are basically two types of bird categories: seed eaters or hard-bills, like finches and canaries, and hookbills like parakeets and cockatiels. Seed eaters eat seeds of different grasses and plants when in their native environments. Providing these birds with commercial seed mixes and leafy greens such as chicory or dandelions, and slice of apple or orange will nourish them very well. On the other hand, hookbills consume leaves, fruit and berries so preferably they should be supplied with large seeds like safflower and sunflower together with an assortment of fruit and vegetables. They can consume these items very efficiently thanks to their strong, bigger beaks.

Bird cages should have a minimum of one food bowl, one water bowl for drinking and another for bating. These should be cleaned daily as when they eat, birds leave seeds and seed hulls in the feed dish and drinking bowl. Water and food must be replenished daily as what could appear as a full cup of seed might be all hulls. One should make sure bowls are made of a durable material and they allow thorough cleaning and disinfections. Bird cages should also have perches of an appropriate size and placed as such as to encourage the bird to move from one to the other by flying or hopping. In case of larger birds, like parrots, one should avoid placing more than two perches in their parrot cages as they could limit the space available for movement. Food and drinking bowls should not be placed beneath perches, as bird droppings would foul their contents.

Although finches and canaries usually do not use bird toys, parrots enjoy objects that they can manipulate or climb on, or chew up or hide in. Therefore bird toys are critical for parakeets, lovebirds, and cockatiels and should be placed in all parrot cages. There is a wide variety of wooden and plastic bird toys available. Some birds also enjoy their reflection from small mirrors.

Birds tend to keep themselves quite clean, but may need a bit of help. All birds enjoy and require a bath. Most birds self-bathe pretty vigorously in a shallow water bowl within their Bird cages. The bathing bowl should be kept separate from the bird’s drinking water. Another form of hygiene that birds maintain is preening. Self-preening is form of caring and grooming its feathers. Preening will ensure that their feathers are neat and nice. It is very important to trim a bird’s nails periodically when they start to curl or curve around, as they could have problems sitting on their perch. If properly taken care of, birds live for quite a long time and all members of the family can enjoy their presence.

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