Pet Health Care and Your Budget

Ask Dr. H:
Why Cats Make You Sneeze
By Mitchell Hecht - Medical Columnist/

Question: Why is it that I'm so allergic to cats, but not to dogs?

Answer: The answer, in a word, is dander. It's like dandruff. The trigger for pet allergies is not their hair. In fact, cats that are short-haired traditionally give off more allergen (allergy-causing substance). Proteins found in the skin of pets trigger allergies in susceptible people. It flakes off, gets in their fur as dandruff, and spreads when the pet grooms itself with its tongue.

Veterinary research has shown that twice as many folks have cat allergies as dog allergies. It may be that the protein in a cat's skin is more allergy-provoking than a dog's, or simply that cats give off a greater quantity of dander.

Since dander collects in carpeting, the fabric of furniture, and bedding, it's better for pet-allergy sufferers to have hardwood or tile floors and leather furniture. If you have carpeting, steam cleaning it every three months will help reduce dander. Vacuum cleaner bags must have an ultrafine-particle HEPA filter, or else vacuuming will just put more dust and dander into the air. Allergic folks need to keep the dog or cat out of the bedroom. Washing the floors and walls every so often is a good idea, too.

Bathing dogs and cats every four to six weeks with a mild moisturizing shampoo will greatly cut down on the dander volume and the severity of pet-allergy symptoms.

For allergy medications, long-acting antihistamines like Claritin, Clarinex, Allegra, or Zyrtec help a lot. If asthma is triggered by the pet allergy, avoidance of pets is probably best. But if you're a pet lover and willing to suffer for your feline, I'd suggest talking with your doctor about treatment options like inhaled albuterol, inhaled steroids, and Singulair (a nonsteroid, anti-inflammatory pill). A long-term approach to overcoming pet allergies is allergy desensitization shots. It will take a couple of years with regular injections, but it will help in the long term.

Dog Doesn't Chase After Bike,
He Rides the Bike
Janice Lloyd -

Mike Schelin rides a motocross bike with his dog Opee, a 8-years-old blue merle Australian Shepherd in Perris, Calif.

When I spotted this story this morning on Twitter, I decided to drop it into the blog as an example of an extreme endeavor for a dog. Very extreme. Sue Manning of the Associated Press writes about Obee, the off road racing Australian Shepherd in Perris, Calif.:

He can pull 6 Gs. He's been the centerfold for Cycle News and poses regularly for fan photos. He's a survivor of the grueling Baja 500 and has racked up more than 10,000 hours on a dirt bike.

Sometimes, you can barely see the 70-pound pooch - a blue merle Australian shepherd through the dust on his goggles and his custom helmet, complete with cam.

"I am his biggest fan," said Mike Schelin, Opee's owner, race partner and a purveyor of used motorcycle parts from a shop next to his mobile home.

Schelin got the dog in 2001 shortly after his divorce. He raises him with other dogs and two horses at a spread he calls Miracle Flats. Known as "The Dogfather" to some in the sport, Schelin always takes a back seat to Opee.

"He was my instant best friend," Schelin said. "He slept in my tool bag. There was something about him. He's had charisma since Day One. I knew I had a dog who could make a difference."

Schelin, 41, realized he had a four-legged motocross fan as a pet when he started riding in the desert with Opee on the chase.

"I felt bad for him, he would run so long." So Schelin bought a four-wheeler and they went desert riding together. The dog didn't like the dust in his eyes, so Schelin got him goggles. One day, Opee ditched the four-wheeler and hopped on the motorcycle tank, where he's been ever since, Schelin said.

Even the most skilled motocross racer has a plaster cast past and Opee is no exception. His worst crash came in the 2006 Baja 500.

"We took a spill at 75 mph in the dirt and went into a 40-foot skid," Schelin said.

The dog isn't attached to the bike or Schelin in any way. He skinned his nose and scraped his paw. Schelin sliced his leg. The injuries weren't enough to put them out of the race though.

"I would never do anything to hurt my dog," Schelin said. "Opee keeps me in check at all times. If he doesn't jump up on the bike, we don't go."

Schelin is not only racing partner but stage dad for his dog, with a few goals for the future: Do a back flip with Opee into a foam pit ("he would hold on the same way I do - gravity"); see Opee recognized as the fastest dog on the planet (he's written to Guinness); take a tandem skydive; and go to the movies to see Opee in a major motion picture.

Feeding the Ferals
By Sarah Bultema - Loveland Reporter-Herald

Couple’s compassion for cats drove them to care for, spay and neuter local colony

A colony of feral cats sits around a water bowl at the old sugar factory on Thursday. Melodee and Mark Warter have been feeding the cats and recently were instrumental in having all but two of them spayed or neutered.

Loveland’s Melodee Warter never questioned whether she’d feed the feral cats living near her husband Mark’s shop.

“I won’t let anything go hungry,” she said.

So Melodee and Mark began feeding the cat colony twice a day.

Like many feral cats — felines that have not been socialized with humans and cannot be tamed — these cats won’t let the couple touch or pet them.

However, they offer the Warters plenty of joy and entertainment, starting when Mark pulls up in his truck to feed them.

“You wouldn’t believe the welcome committee when you pull in,” Melodee said, noting that all 13 cats scurry to Mark as fast as they can.

Yet as much as the Warters love the cats, they worried about the colony as it kept growing with each new litter born.

Hoping to stop the overpopulation, Melodee trapped two females and took them to her vet to be spayed. It cost $200, and she simply couldn’t afford the operation for the rest.

That’s when she learned about the Northern Colorado Friends of Ferals, a local nonprofit that helps trap and sterilize cats for free.

Now, with the help of the nonprofit and its volunteers, the Warters have spayed or neutered 11 of the 13 cats in the colony, stopping most of that group’s population growth in its tracks.

Currently, there are an estimated 30,000 feral cats living in Larimer County — animals that might not survive without the help of dedicated community members who feed them.

However, many of these caretakers aren’t aware of proper procedures and available resources in place to give the cats a good life while also controlling the population.

“If you feed them, you’ve got to be responsible and put forth the effort to get them spayed or neutered,” said Sarah Swanty, director of the Fort Collins Cat Rescue.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help. We will help you. We care about these animals like you do.”

To provide each cat with the care it needs, a caretaker must first determine whether the animal is feral, or instead a lost or stray cat.

Try asking neighbors if they know where the cat belongs. Also, contact the Larimer Humane Society and file a found report, Swanty said. That way, anyone who might be searching for the cat can easily find it.

If no owner is found, get in touch with a local feline agency to make a plan of action for the animal.

Before a feral kitten reaches about 16 weeks old, it can be socialized with humans and someday adopted out. Therefore, caretakers are encouraged to trap kittens and take them to a foster home or shelter where they can get used to people.

“Kittens are a big issue. They need to be socialized ... and be adopted out to start getting this population under control,” said Leslie Vott, founder of Friends of Ferals.

Besides, “Kittens would much rather be sitting in front of a fireplace than crawling under a trailer.”

While agencies like Friends of Ferals have successfully adopted out many of these kittens, adult feral cats usually can’t be tamed.

Instead, they need to be spayed or neutered to prevent the feral population from growing.

“It’s important in terms of quality of life for cats,” Vott said, noting that an overpopulation can spread disease between cats, lead to fights and injuries and deplete food resources. “They need to be altered.”

Caretakers can borrow a trap from one of the local agencies and take the animal to be spayed or neutered. The Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Friends of Ferals will perform the procedure at a very low cost or even free of charge.

After a night in observation with these organizations, the cat usually can be released back to its home. The top of its left ear will be snipped, symbolizing to future caretakers that the cat has been altered and doesn’t need to be trapped again.

Once the animal is sterile, the caretaker can choose to continue feeding the cat. Many agencies offer free food to help alleviate the caretakers’ own costs.

However, feeding a feline (or any animal) in Loveland for more than five days makes the provider the official owner of the animal, said Cary Rentola of the Larimer Humane Society. That means a caretaker is responsible for the cat’s care, as well as its licensing fees and any damage it may cause.

“If you choose to take responsibility, you need to be aware of what that means,” Rentola said, adding that community members should call any of the local cat organizations for more information and advice.

Warter, who looks after a Loveland feline colony, plans to continue caring for her cat companions for as long as they need her.

“I make their life better,” she said.

“They have it hard enough. They need a friend.”

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Dog Gives Birth To 17 Puppies

An Ohio family knew its pet dog was pregnant. And owner Jen Potts told WCMH-TV in Columbus that a few puppies would be nice.

But the dog, Kibosh, gave birth to 17 puppies.

Potts said that she was out when the dog started delivering, and her husband told her on the phone that they kept coming and coming.

Potts went online to see if her dog, a South African boerboel, had set a world record. But she found that another dog once had a litter of 24.

All the puppies survived, but "she's done having babies," Potts said.

She said the family plans to sell the dogs for $1,000 each.

Good Dog (Bad Bill):
Area Vets Talk About
the Upper Limits of Pet Costs

Kristin Howard is pictured with her dogs. She has spent about $1,000 a year on each of them in veterinary care.

Kristin Howard has had a few pets in her time.

Two dogs, four cats, three rats, umpteen hamsters and guinea pigs, a slew of fish and mice, a turtle and a raccoon. Yes, a raccoon. Named Popeye.

“I’ve always had pets around and couldn’t imagine my life without them,” Howard says. “For me, animals are a part of my family — most of the time I actually like them more than my family!” she laughs.

Really? You count rats as family?

“Rats are wonderful pets. They really are like little dogs. They have great personalities, and mine even learned their names,” Howard says.

It’s little wonder that she’s never been one to cut corners when it comes to the vet — even for her rats.

“I had a rat (Izzy) who had a tumor that grew to be the same size as she was. I ended up having it removed, and she lived for another year,” she says. “People thought I was crazy for paying for surgery on a rat that I paid $3 for, but she was my pet, and I wanted to do everything I could for her.”

At $200, that one surgery put Howard on the high end of average annual U.S. expenditures for a single pet. Now that she has a couple dogs, she’s spending a lot more — around $1,000 each of the two years she’s had them.

“I spend more on my dogs than I do on myself,” Howard says of Gus and Sydney, her French bulldog/Lhasa Apso mixes. “I follow the vet’s advice, and luckily I have found a vet who cares about what is best for my pet and is cost-effective rather than just trying to make as much money as they could.”

Pet owners in general are spending more and more at the vet these days — average U.S. household vet expenditures are up 10 percent from 2001, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In Lawrence, Dr. Herschel Lewis says the amount each client has been spending at his clinic has been noticeably on the rise ever since he opened it in 1965.

He attributes that to a number of things — better diagnostics that uncover more treatable conditions, more and better vaccines, the advent of more costly specialists, and so on.

“But it’s as much a reflection of the general economy. People are spending more money, but there’s more money to spend,” Lewis says.

He says, too, that people are taking better care of their pets than they used to.

“When I first came to Lawrence, I’d routinely have a car accident case when there was a home KU football game. People would just let their dogs run wild,” Lewis says. “Now I seldom see that Saturday afternoons, and I’m sure that’s the case with my colleagues, too. People are taking better care of their animals — their attitudes have changed.”

Option A or option B
For the first six years, Erica Eden’s golden retriever Mabel was fit as a fiddle. As her mom puts it, “she’s a lover, a cuddler and a serious protector.”

But then Mabel seemed to have chronic health problems. First she tore her ACL. Then she got some sort of infection that made her breath smell foul and kept her from walking. Later, she reinjured her ACL. And then came the big blow.

“Her face swelled up, and she’d had bee stings before, so I gave her some Benadryl,” Eden says. “The swelling went down, but there was still something hard there. ...

“I usually go the 24 or 48 hours before calling the vet with something like that. But I just knew there was something really distinct about it, something wrong. I know it sounds weird, but I just knew it.”

Turns out, it was cancer.

“Because I’ve had such health problems, I guess I’m more aware, or maybe I’m just more crazy,” says Eden, who has been diagnosed with cancer herself.

Her Lawrence vet felt the tumor was serious enough to require immediate surgery, even though it would be on a weekend. Getting the cancer out cost her nearly $1,000.

“At the time, all I could think about was whether she’d make it out of the surgery. I didn’t think about how much it would cost or how I’d pay for it until reality sunk in when I went to pick Mabel up,” Eden says.

Pet care by the numbers
Number (and percent) of households owning:

Dogs: 43 million (37 percent)
Cats: 37.4 million (32 percent)
Birds: 4.4 million (4 percent)
Horses: 2.1 million (2 percent)
Veterinary visits per household per year:

Dogs: 2.6
Cats: 1.7
Birds: 0.3
Horses: 2.2
Veterinary expenditure per animal (mean):

Dogs: $200
Cats: $81
Birds: $9
Horses: $92
— Source: U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, 2007,

Many pet owners must weigh a treatment’s cost upfront, though, especially when it comes to non-life-threatening problems — which makes for tough decisions, says Dr. Lewis.

“It’s not unlike in human medicine,” Lewis says. “Example — like it or not, dentistry is a luxury. If you don’t have the money, you don’t have the root canal, even though it’s in your best interest. Same goes for the pet population.”

Indeed, pets’ teeth — along with cancer — are among the most frequently untreated maladies, he says. Eye care, joint problems, torn ligaments, diabetes, allergies and urinary stones are others.

A good vet will be sympathetic to a pet owner’s difficult choice between a tight budget and an expensive procedure, says Dr. Jon Haggard at Eudora Animal Hospital.

“It’s our job to let people know what all is available. It’s not our job to say, ‘This is what I’d do,’” Haggard says.

“If you want to go with option A, the Cadillac option, (we refer you to) the specialist and you might spend $3,000 on doing biopsies and ultrasounds and as much diagnostics as possible,” he says. “Some clients want to go as far as possible to cure the animal.

“Option B is we can do things here and come up with the best solution that we can,” Haggard says. “We understand some options can be out of reach.”

Pet owners can buy pet health insurance, which is available in varieties comparable to human health insurance — everything from bare minimum catastrophe coverage to Cadillac coverage. But only a few pet owners have even the minimal coverage at both Lewis and Haggard’s clinics. They say paying insurance premiums doesn’t yet make financial sense given the relatively low cost of even major procedures.

“On the coasts, where costs are much higher, it probably makes more sense,” Lewis says. “But in the Midwest, it’s going to be a while before pet insurance is more common.”

Haggard says one of the most common decisions pitting price against a pet’s well-being is a torn knee ligament, which is especially common in larger dogs. To really fix such injuries usually costs several thousand dollars at an orthopedic specialist, he says. In-house surgery at a non-specialist like the Eudora Animal Hospital can often achieve comparable results for $600 or so.

For those who can’t afford either option — or for older, less active pets — some anti-inflammatory medication and immobilization can be effective for less than $100, Haggard says.

Most animals will heal fine, even with the cheaper option, Haggard says. “It may be fine for a couple months and they may take a bad step and they’ll carry it again for a while. But they do heal and do fairly well.

“We all grew up farm kids — Dr. Shiner, Dr. Shane, myself — we all grew up farming. So our philosophy is a little bit different than somebody who has never lived on a farm and has never seen things in that light.”

On the street
What’s the most money you could spend if your pet were really sick?

The last cat I had I spent close to $8,000 over two years…when you’re in the moment, you can’t really say no (to the cost).

— Sydney Silverstein

“I bet monthly we get a squirrel, a rabbit, a raccoon,” Haggard says, adding that nondomestic pets are sent to Operation Wildlife. “There are people who have pet skunks. At least annually we’re asked to de-scent a skunk — people take in all kinds of pets.”

Do U See What I See?
By Stephanie Rutz -

The old saying “you can’t see the forest for the trees” applies to most of us.

Then there are those who can see what’s wrong with your house, but fails to see their own.

In grooming dogs, I see some things that the owners miss because they see their pets on an everyday basis.

When you are used to grooming the same dog every six to eight weeks, when there is a change in the animal, sometimes I may be the first to see it.

On more than one occasion I have brought it to a customer that there was a problem with their pet that required medical attention.

Some stories have a happy ending and sometimes they don’t.

I sometimes think twice before I mention things to a pet owner – not all welcome hearing my comments.

This story is different – the owners welcomed my advice willingly.

Last year, I was asked to dog sit for a couple in Sun City.

Their family consisted of two adult dogs and one cat.

Both the dogs, varying in age, were well mannered and adjusted.

They were a pleasure to sit.

I enjoyed the view from their patio as much as the dogs did.

I would sit on the patio and rub down these two heavy shedders, as their loose fur would become airborne.

The one dog, much older than the other, wanted to sit outside as long as I would.

His aged legs and his hips wouldn’t allow him to sit on the cold concrete any length of time, not to mention the difficulty he experienced trying to get up.

I though if he had a pillow bed outside he would enjoy his sun bathing more easily.

I also noticed that the cat, who seemed to perch herself on the tall kitchen table, made that area her whole world.

I had decided to open the shade just enough for her to have a view.

When I left that day I looked back to the kitchen window; not only was the cat enjoying her view, so was the younger dog, peering out the newly opened shade.

After the week was over I had plenty of time to study all the pets habits and personalities.

I wrote up my report to the owners, making certain suggestions that would make their pets lives more enriched.

One of the things I suggested what the changing of their feeding time, which was at night.

I had left one on my articles on “Mommy you turned my stomach”, an eye-opening story of bloating.

Bloating is a serious medical problem with larger dogs that eat at night and drink too much water or exercise after their meal.

Unless the animal receives surgery within hours of the event, it is usually terminal.

In my notes I mentioned other things to be addressed.

Not knowing this couple, I wasn’t sure how it may be taken.

I hoped the advice would be received in the fashion I gave it.

Apparently, they did.

They hired me to come and sit the pets again.

I was happy to see that the small suggestions I made – they changed.

The cat has a room with a view and the dogs have a comfort zone in their own back yard.

The best thing was to see the ol’ boy could lie outside on his new over-stuffed bed from the patio, while her younger buddy cruised the fence line.

So all in all, everyone was a happy camper!

View Photos of Singles -
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Traveling With Your Dog –
5 Tips To Ensure A Great Trip
Amy P -

Preparing for a trip can be a very stressful time. Especially when you have decided to take the family dog along. Here are just some of the things to consider before taking that road trip - How long is the trip? What dog items should you bring? What hotels accepts pets? What if your dog has a medical emergency?

So you are planning a vacation and you have decided to take your dog with you. Great idea! However, you have a small problem. You have never taken your dog on a road trip with you before. So, now what? Luckily other people have done this and are willing to share some great tips on how to travel with your dog. I have traveled numerous times with my dog Jake. He's a pro now! Every dog is different. Some dogs can make a trip pleasurable while some can make it a very bad experience. There are a couple of things that you should consider before you take your dog on a road trip with you.

How long is the trip?

Is this the first time your pet will be traveling with you on a road trip? Even if you have traveled before with other dogs, all dogs are different. Some can tolerate being in the car for a long time. And others can not.

Here are some things to help your dog get acclimated to car travel and to avoid motion sickness. Start by taking your dog for short rides, perhaps to the store, then gradually start taking them for longer rides. Usually after a few short trips they should have overcome their motion sickness. If this doesn't work, I would consider kenneling your dog. It's not fun traveling with a sick or unhappy dog.

Are you going to be traveling on windy roads? Some dogs may get car sick. I remember traveling with my dog, Jake, for the first time to the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. After about 10 minutes into the windy roads he started to get sick. We had to pull over and let him get some fresh air. With time he got used to the windy roads. We still travel there often with him and he loves it!

Is your pet in good condition to travel?

Just like when you are traveling, if you don't feel well enough for it, neither will your dog. I recommend taking your dog to the vet for a check up. This also gives you the chance to make sure that your dog is current on all of his shots. It's highly recommended to bring along a copy of their records on your trip. Some states may require you to have them with you. Your veterinarian may know which states require health certificates and proof of rabies vaccination. If not, check with the humane society.

Depending upon where your travels are, other vaccines that you may want to consider are the Bordetella (kennel cough) vaccination and Lyme disease vaccination. If you think that there is a slight chance that your dog may be around other canines, your vet might suggest the Bordetella vaccine. Kennel cough is highly contagious. I would also consider the Lyme vaccination if you are traveling to the northeast where Lyme disease is prominent. Lyme disease is usually transmitted through a tick bite. In areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, I would check your dog for ticks when he comes in from outdoors.

Even though your dog may not have fleas or ticks now, where you travel they might pick some up. Before you leave for your trip, I highly recommend using Frontline on your dogs to help prevent a flea or tick infestation.

Dog accessories you should take with you

Dogs have luggage too. Your dog may be anxious and excited about going on a trip. To help ease some of their stress, pack some of their favorite toys and favorite blanket to snuggle up in.

Bring their dog carrier or crate if they have one. This will make dog travel safe for them and for you. If you were to have to come to a screeching stop, your dog can become an projectile which can result in serious injury or death.

Make sure to bring plenty of food and water for them. Not all convenience stores are convenient for your pet and they may not carry dog food. Don't forget your dog's food and water dish. As Jake would be sure to remind you, dog treats are a must!

And for the just in cases; You never know when your dog might just get away from you. He will be in a strange place not familiar to him and he might not be able to find his way back to you. Make sure that your dog has his tags on him. One of the tags should have your dog's name, your name, address, and a phone number. Jake has our cell phone number on it so we are always able to be contacted. You can always have your dog micro-chipped. This is a great option, however, the average person does not have the device to scan it. I would also have their rabies and license tag on your dog as well.

Also, don't forget to pack a first aid kit. This brings us to the next tip...

What if your dog has a medical emergency?

There is always the slight chance that your dog will need some medical attention. Make a list of the animal hospitals for the areas where you will be traveling. I recommend locating the ones that have after-hours. On your list I would either print out directions or even better, a small map. Google Maps is a popular map engine to use for directions.

What if you have to stay over night in a hotel?

Research the area you will visit or travel through before you leave - even if you are not planning on stopping. Plans can change, forcing you to stay overnight somewhere in a hotel. Not all hotels allow pets in their rooms.

Make sure to read your hotel's pet policy. Some may have a size limit. While some hotels do not charge for your pet, others do. Sometimes it's a one time fee and sometimes they charge per night. DO YOUR RESEARCH!


Planning ahead is the key to a successful road trip with your dog. By planning ahead, you eliminate some of the stresses of traveling. Be prepared, do your research, and make a checklist of things to do before your trip. Happy traveling!

Author: Amy P
Article Source:

Ask a Vet:
How Can I Help My Dog to Control
His Bladder When He's Excited or Nervous?

Have a non-emergency question about your pet's health? Dr. Heather Oxford of L.A. veterinary hospital California Animal Rehabilitation (CARE) is here to help! In this installment of Ask a Vet, Dr. Oxford has some tips for reader Steph on helping her dog to overcome bladder-control problems.

Steph's question: I have a 2-year-old male (neutered) golden retriever. He wets on the floor every time he gets excited or if he does anything wrong. It is awful! I can't have company over without worrying about my dog wetting on the floor. Will he ever outgrow this, or is there any medication that I can give him to help him control his bladder?

Heather Oxford, DVM: Your dog may be experiencing urinary dribbling due to overly submissive behavior, which is not easily corrected with medication. He will likely not outgrow this, and it may worsen if not addressed appropriately. The problem is that you cannot correct this by verbal reprimands because this will actually trigger more fear and anxiety, making the problem worse. The key is prevention.

First, maintain a calm, soft vocal tone when addressing the dog in any way to avoid hyper-excitation for good behaviors or overly submissive, fear-based reactions to bad behaviors. Second, ignore the dog when you first come home while he is overly excited and pay him attention only when he has calmed down. This should help to discourage him from becoming overly excited in the first place, since he gets the reward of your attention only when he displays the desired behavior.

Finally, if you catch him in the act of an undesired behavior do not punish him; simply redirect his attention to a more constructive activity. For example, if you catch him chewing on a shoe instead of yelling "No!" or "Bad dog," remove the shoe and replace it with a chew toy. After following these guidelines, if your dog shows no improvement, consult with a veterinary behaviorist. Good luck!

The Healing Power of Pets
By Riley Polumbus -

Dori, a schnauzer, comforts patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center with her owner, Terry Hinde. The pet partners, members of Heeling Friends, make regular visits to the hospital.

For ages, pets were thought to have healing power. And now the results from clinical studies prove this point — pets are good for humans.

From Australia to Japan, in the United Kingdom, and across the United States, findings demonstrated that pets reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, thus lowering risk of heart disease. Dog owners benefit from the exercise of daily walks. Pet owners are less prone to loneliness, depression, anxiety and fear.

Dogs have been recruited into health care settings for their healing power. Trained therapy dogs helped cardiac patients lower their stress and anxiety and improve heart and lung health. Joint replacement patients who worked with therapy dogs needed less pain medication than patients without dogs.

Pets have helped to stimulate seniors with Alzheimer’s disease. In another study, children with autism became calmer around service dogs and had fewer outbursts.

Although Steamboat Springs does not have any therapy pets working with health care professionals where treatment goals are set and measured, we do have a popular pet visitation program. Lynette Weaver, executive director of Heeling Friends, said local pet partner teams can help patients relax and make them feel better.

“Patients welcome them with open arms,” Weaver said. “By the time the team leaves, the patients are smiling and in better shape than when they got there.”

Heeling Friends has been operating for more than 10 years, using the Delta Society’s Pet Partners program standards as its guide. Delta Society is a nonprofit organization “dedicated to improving human health through therapy and service animals.” Pet/owner teams first must undergo evaluation and training and then must make a minimum of two visits per month.

Currently, Heeling Friends has 28 active teams who participate in one of three visitation programs. Teams go to see patients at Yampa Valley Medical Center and/or residents at Doak Walker Care Center. They also participate in the Reading Education Assistance Dogs program with Steamboat Springs’ elementary students.

I had the opportunity to follow pet partners Dori, a schnauzer, and Terry Hinde during a recent visit to YVMC and the Doak Walker Care Center. One patient expressed that visits from Heeling Friends always are comforting and can be especially nice for patients who have pets at home who they cannot see while in the hospital.

Patients are not the only benefactors of the visits. Dori brought smiles to several employees. In an environment that often can be challenging, taking a moment to, as Weaver puts it, “paws to make you smile,” can heal the healers. The pets also bring comfort to families and friends who are visiting their loved ones.

At the Doak Walker Care Center, pets reside alongside residents. This helps the skilled nursing center feel more like a home and less like a medical facility.

“The neat thing about the animals, it gives you that homey feeling,” said Kathy Ulmer, recreation assistant at the Doak.

The Doak is home to two cats, Lola and Alex, along with several birds and a large fish aquarium. Ulmer said the birds and fish stimulate the residents. And Lola makes her way around nearly every resident room during the day.

Additionally, employees are encouraged to go through the Very Important Pets screening program to allow their pets to accompany them at work. Five employee-owned dogs currently are permitted to visit.

Everyone, not just the sick, can benefit from the healing power of pets. What you spend on pet care, you could save on health care. Giving your time to another is fulfilling in itself and can improve not only your health, but also your quality of life.

Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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How To Get Your Horse To Stand Still
Posted by: Pet Blogger -

Standing still does not come natural to horses. Just watch horses grazing out in the field, they are constantly moving about.

Nevertheless, teaching a horse to stand still is one of the most elemental foundations train a horse under the saddle, first, you must teach them to stand quietly for grooming, the vet, and the farrier.

In order to teach a horse to obediently stand still when requested, they are going to need to learn the move cue to teaching them just about anything. One of the easiest approaches to get a horse to stop doing something you don’t want them to do, is to make it your idea. If they won’t stand still, fine, then make them move. Make it your idea! Keep him moving until they want to stop. Then when they do stop, praise them for it. Whenever they decide to move, direct them in a circle around you, continually giving voice commands and body language that encourages them to keep moving, make him work!

When you cease commanding them to move, they should then decide on their own they want to stop and stand still. If they become inclined to move again, continue to ask them to move, not roughly or in a way that will incite fear in him. When you sense that he is willing to stop moving, cease giving the move commands and allow them to stop and stand still, then praise them for it. Fundamentally, you will be giving them what they asked for, but technically you are in charge because won’t allow him to stop until you are ready. After a while, they will clue in that just stopping and standing still is a really nice thing to do.

When you have successfully accomplished this with your groundwork training and it’s time to mount the horse and they won’t stand still to be mounted, apply the same process by keeping them moving until they want to stop. Try again to mount, if he stands still to let you mount, then climb aboard, but if he begins to move again, continue to repeat the process until he stands still for you to mount. If you have done this enough during the groundwork stages of training, it shouldn’t take too long for them to clue in when mounting.

This training method will help your horse learn the difference between the move and halt commands, and what it means to work. Since horses are principally lazy creatures, if given the chance, they would rather stand quietly than work, so utilizing this can be a great way to teach them to do what you want.

If you found this article helpful you can find more horse articles and tips like this at the Hitching Post, a site for Equestrian Singles and Country Folks in general.

Find out practical advice in the sphere of house train a dog – please go through the web site. The times have come when proper info is truly only one click of your mouse, use this opportunity.

Ever Been Called 'Sly as a Fox?'
If So, Good for You

It is during that short period of time, between sunlight and darkness, when many a creature begins stirring. Crepusclar animals, (from the Latin word, crepusculum, meaning twilight) have chosen this secretive time of day as their active time. Many of these animals, such as deer, mice and rabbits, have chosen twilight for obvious safety reasons. It is harder for predators to see them. Unfortunately, some of the predators adapted to this defensive time shift. One of those predators is the red fox.

Native to North America, Eurasia, Africa and introduced into Australia, the red fox is alive and doing well. There is a healthy and fluctuating population of red foxes across Niagara. However, due to their habit of hunting and travelling generally during twilight and dark, they offer few viewing opportunities. When they are seen, it is easy to identify them. An adult red fox has a distinctive rusty red coat with a white underbelly. The tips of his ears and his feet look like they have been dipped in black paint. A large fluffy red tail with a white tip finishes the picture. As it is with most species, there are some colouring variations. About 10% of the wild red fox population is not red. There are silver and black coated individuals along with some that have stripes and dark patterns across their shoulders and backs.

Their eyes are gold or yellow in colour and resemble a cat's eyes with distinctive vertical-slit pupils. Being the largest of the true foxes, an adult red fox can weigh between 3.5 to 7.6 kg. They grow to between 45 and 90 cm with a tail that ranges between 30 to 55 cm in length. These are fast, agile animals that can reach speeds of 70 km/h for short bursts. They have excellent eyesight, hearing and sense of smell. They are a mouse's worst enemy.

They are opportunistic hunters and will eat a variety of foods. Insects, earthworms, crayfish, rabbits, mice, fruits and darn near anything else they can catch they will eat. They have an unusually small stomach. Relative to their size, and compared to wolves and coyotes they can eat only half as much. To compensate for this shortcoming they cache excess food throughout their territory in small shallow holes. This serves two purposes. It means they have numerous food stations in times of shortage and even if another predator finds one cache they have others as backups.

The red fox often co-exists in the same general area as other predators such as the coyote. In the case of the coyote the fox will usually avoid contact or confrontation. A fox is a solitary hunter and relies on its keen senses for success. It is not too proud to scavenge from human refuse. Many a pet with an outdoor feeding bowl has found it mysteriously empty. The only trace of the thief is a slight skunk-like odour.

The skunk-like odour comes from a scent gland just under the fox's tail.

Although similar in odour to a skunk the fox possess no ability to use this scent as a defensive weapon. It does use this scent and urine to mark its territory and cache locations.

The red fox forms both monogamous and polygamous relationships. It is assumed that the availability of suitable mates dictates which form the relationships will take. Males will fight for the right to mate with a female. While a female may mate with several males during the breeding season she will eventually select one to be her mate. Five is the average number in a litter.

A main den is either dug or claimed from other ground digging animals. The young, called kits or pups, are raised in the main den and stay with the parents for eight to 10 months. There may be smaller satellite dens dug close by that are often connected by tunnels to the main den. A fox will also have several other small dens throughout its territory that can be used for food storage or emergency shelter.

Foxes communicate using body language and vocalizations. They use yips, screeches and growls to convey different messages or warnings.

During the early settlement years the human habit of having free-ranging chickens and livestock proved too temping a food source for many a fox. The human desire for fox pelts and the need to protect livestock placed the foxes squarely in the crosshairs. Considered a pest and a carrier of disease the relationship between humans and foxes was not good. Often vilified as a sneaky and sly they were aggressively hunted. The changing nature of human agricultural methods and reduction in demand for fur products has made life a little easier for them.

How Do You Say Goodbye to a Great Cat?
Jill Rosen -

Mookie, a wonderful cat featured in Collared last year. died this weekend. Believe it or not, he was a few weeks shy of 23. A vet tech said today that the cat age equivalent charts only go to 22, and that a 22-year-old kitty is like a 104-year-old human. That means Mookie, at essentially 108, was literally off the charts.

Arthur, a writer here at The Sun, was Mookie's person. He called Mook his miniature lion, a tiny beast, regal, feisty and sweet. Mook roamed Arthur's house and kept it warm. The ever-hungry kitty insisted on Fancy Feast food, gobbled as many salmon treats as Arthur would hand over, and leaned into who knows how many decadent head rubs. The kitty, in turn, would allow as many hugs as Arthur asked for, and, as a serious lap cat, would hop into position for long movies and work at the computer, purr-o-meter cranked to 11. They gave one another untold happiness.

In Collared last year, this is what Arthur said of Mookie's coming into the world: "On an afternoon in early May, 1987, an orange and white long-haired puff ball eight weeks old was selected from a caged kitten threesome at the New Bedford, Massachusetts animal shelter, as he showed a promise of greatness. He could bathe in a coffee mug, but what spirit."

Seeing the bond between these two was what inspired me two years ago to adopt my first pet, Leo. I had thought I didn't like cats. Mookie, Arthur said, had that way with non-believers.

Anyway, there's a man out there now who's really, really missing his kitty. I'd like to open this space for people not only to say goodbye to a little lion, but also I'm hoping all of you who've loved and lost pets might offer some advice and stories. How did you get through it? How did you honor their memory? What made your furry one so special?

In fact, I'm thinking about introducing a running feature for Unleashed, like Collared, that we could call Endings. Just as a way for people who reach the end with their pets could have a place to go.

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