How to Save Money on Pet Costs

Dog Found Alive
in Massachusetts Apartment
One Month After Devastating Fire

Lola was found in the rubble of her apartment which had been decimated by fire a month earlier.

HYDE PARK, Mass.-- Fire destroyed Terisa Acevedo's apartment nearly one month ago. She was told that everything was gone, including her 2-year-old Dachshund named Lola.

But on Monday, when Acevedo, 24, went back to her apartment to tend to some business, she heard some scratching at the door, MyFoxBoston reports.

"I called out her name and she started crying. She's been in the house the whole time!" Acevedo said.

The amazing discovery led to a reunion that seemed impossible. Lola was found in the rubble of the apartment, which had been destroyed by fire.

"When I found her it just made me think that nothing else in the world can bother me right now. I'm so happy that I have her," Acevedo said.

Little Lola is now recovering at Angell Animal Medical Center in Boston. She will be reunited with her thankful owner on Wednesday.

Lost Dog Found 900 Miles from Home
John Rogers -

Family: No idea how she got from Alabama to Texas

BREWTON, Alabama (WALA) - Not far from Interstate 65 in the small town of Brewton, Alabama, the Wilson family loved a dog named Shady. They'd raised her for years, but one day in January, the family came home and Shady was gone.

"She ran away,” said 10-year-old Kaitlynn Wilson. “We thought a trucker picked her up."

With the interstate nearby, she could have gone anywhere.

After Shady went missing, the family feared the worst.

"We got one new dog,” said seven-year-old Hunter Wilson.

Nearly two months went by before the family got a call: Shady was picked up among a group of stray dogs in Brownsville, Texas - 900 miles away!

The dog’s owner originally thought the call from Texas was a joke.

"I didn't really believe it,” said Hunter.

"I thought she would be in Pensacola or something," added Kaitlynn.

Brownsville Animal Control accessed her microchip, and they were able to track her down. Then some good Samaritans volunteered to fly her home.

"I couldn't understand it,” said Hunter.

The family is ecstatic and the whole town is excited. The story even made the front page of the local paper.

Now the family is making sure their little adventurer doesn't go off on another trip.

"Now we're keeping her inside instead of outside,” said Hunter.

The family still has no idea how Shady made that journey, but they don't care. They're just glad that with a little science, a little help and a little luck, she made it home.

Plastic Surgery for a Pig?

Boris, a 3-year-old pet pig who hails from Rosewater, Australia, is about to get a brow lift – and it’s not for cosmetic reasons, the Portside Messenger reported.

The 550-pound family pet pig has been losing weight, and as a result, his excess skin is drooping over his eyes and now he can’t see.

Boris will be carried to the vet in his hometown by a horse float.

“We’ve had to let him put weight back on so he can see a bit,” said his owner, Graeme Cane.

When Cane and his wife Julie bought Boris, they were told he was a miniature breed and wouldn’t grow to be more than 132 pounds.

Boris was the runt of his litter – he used to walk under the belly of the Cane’s family dog, Boof.

Now, Boris enjoys being the town celebrity, and although he sometimes brings mud into the house, the Canes said the pig is toilet-trained and “cleaner than the dogs.”

Do Cats Reduce the Risk of a Heart Attack?
by MedHeadlines

A study by the University of Minnesota’s Stroke Research Center presented Thursday at the American Stroke Association meeting found that people who had previously or currently owned cats were less likely to die from heart attack and other cardiovascular disease.The study examined data from 4,435 people, ranging in age from 30 to 75, participating in ongoing research with the National Health and Nutritional Examination Study. The researchers found that over a 20-year period, participants who had never owned a cat were 40 percent more likely to die from heart attack, and 30 percent more likely to die from any kind of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers don’t know exactly what causes the health benefit, but lead study investigator Dr. Adnan Qureshi believes it may be related to the stress-reducing effect a cat has on its owner. He admits, however, that the personality type of a cat owner may be the major contributing factor.

“Maybe cat owners tend not to have high-stress personalities, or they are just the type of people that are not highly affected by anxiety or high-stress situations,” Qureshi said.

Some of the controversy over this study comes from previous studies that showed a greatly increased rate of heart attack survival for dog owners, but no benefit at all for cat owners.

Source: ABC News

5 Ways Pets Can Improve Your Health
By Jeanie Lerche Davis -

A pet is certainly a great friend. After a difficult day, pet owners quite literally feel the love.

In fact, for nearly 25 years, research has shown that living with pets provides certain health benefits. Pets help lower blood pressure and lessen anxiety. They boost our immunity. They can even help you get dates.

Allergy Fighters
"The old thinking was that if your family had a pet, the children were more likely to become allergic to the pet. And if you came from an allergy-prone family, pets should be avoided," says researcher James E. Gern, MD, a pediatrician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

However, a growing number of studies have suggested that kids growing up in a home with "furred animals" -- whether it's a pet cat or dog, or on a farm and exposed to large animals -- will have less risk of allergies and asthma, he tells WebMD.

In his recent study, Gern analyzed the blood of babies immediately after birth and one year later. He was looking for evidence of an allergic reaction, immunity changes, and for reactions to bacteria in the environment.

If a dog lived in the home, infants were less likely to show evidence of pet allergies -- 19% vs. 33%. They also were less likely to have eczema, a common allergy skin condition that causes red patches and itching. In addition, they had higher levels of some immune system chemicals -- a sign of stronger immune system activation.

"Dogs are dirty animals, and this suggests that babies who have greater exposure to dirt and allergens have a stronger immune system," Gern says.

Date Magnets
Dogs are great for making love connections. Forget Internet matchmaking -- a dog is a natural conversation starter.

This especially helps ease people out of social isolation or shyness, Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University in Atlanta, tells WebMD.

"People ask about breed, they watch the dog's tricks," Kaslow says. "Sometimes the conversation stays at the 'dog level,' sometimes it becomes a real social interchange."

Dogs for the Aged
"Studies have shown that Alzheimer's patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home," says Lynette Hart, PhD, associate professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.

"Their caregivers also feel less burdened when there is a pet, particularly if it is a cat, which generally requires less care than a dog," says Hart.

Walking a dog or just caring for a pet -- for elderly people who are able -- can provide exercise and companionship. One insurance company, Midland Life Insurance Company of Columbus, Ohio, asks clients over age 75 if they have a pet as part of their medical screening -- which often helps tip the scales in their favor.

Good for Mind and Soul
Pet owners with AIDS are far less likely to suffer from depression than those without pets. "The benefit is especially pronounced when people are strongly attached to their pets," says researcher Judith Siegel, PhD.

In one study, stockbrokers with high blood pressure who adopted a cat or dog had lower blood pressure readings in stressful situations than did people without pets.

People in stress mode get into a "state of dis-ease," in which harmful chemicals like cortisol and norepinephrine can negatively affect the immune system, says Blair Justice, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Texas School of Public Health and author of Who Gets Sick: How Beliefs, Moods, and Thoughts Affect Your Health.

Studies show a link between these chemicals and plaque buildup in arteries, the red flag for heart disease, says Justice.

Like any enjoyable activity, playing with a dog can elevate levels of serotonin and dopamine -- nerve transmitters that are known to have pleasurable and calming properties, he tells WebMD.

"People take drugs like heroin and cocaine to raise serotonin and dopamine, but the healthy way to do it is to pet your dog, or hug your spouse, watch sunsets, or get around something beautiful in nature," says Justice, who recently hiked the Colorado Rockies with his wife and two dogs.

Good for the Heart
Heart attack patients who have pets survive longer than those without, according to several studies. Male pet owners have less sign of heart disease -- lower triglyceride and cholesterol levels -- than non-owners, researchers say.

At End of Their Leash:
Buyer's Remorse Sinks In
for Overwhelmed Pet Owners
BY Ruth Bashinsky -

Christpher Hurst, 11, and his mother Clarissa are shown with their pet snake Cami. Melanie Kaplan knows all about buyer's remorse - having lived through it twice.

Her first experience took place when her husband surprised her with a dog he had bought from a local pet store. For Melanie it was love at first sight, but after a few weeks the Kaplans realized that having a dog was not the best fit for their lifestyle.

"We were working all day and were never home," said Kaplan, a professor from Bellmore, L.I. "We never played with the dog and never trained it. You have to be committed to take care of an animal, and we weren't committed. We realized it was an impulse purchase since we were trying to have a child and bought a dog to fill a void we were feeling."

The Kaplans are just one of the countless number of people who adopt or buy an animal or exotic pet and realize that they are not ready for it and feel a sense of remorse.

Fortunately, the Kaplans were able to find a loving home for the dog they affectionately called Mush.

"I feel like we did the right thing when we gave Mush away. He went from being alone in the house all day to being in a house full of dogs," Kaplan said.

When their family grew, they tried pet ownership again, this time buying a pair of lovebirds. But the love for the birds did not last long at all.

"My husband bought the birds thinking my daughters would like them. They did like them, but the birds made a lot of mess," said Kaplan.

In 2010, there were 40,000 cats, dogs, bunnies and other exotic pets turned in by their owners or animals that came in as strays, according to Animal Care & Control of New York City, the largest pet organization in the Northeast that rescues, cares for and finds loving homes for homeless and abandoned animals.

Julie Bank, AC&C's executive director, has noticed the problem getting worse.

"Animal shelters are filled with animals every day that are turned in by their owners because they couldn't care for them or because it was too big of a commitment for them and now that animal is displaced, alone and at risk. If nothing else, people should really think about the impact they are having," said Bank. "We are still seeing a lot of people getting pets and getting them when they are not ready. They are not researching the pets and not getting the right pets for their families. Sometimes people will get a pet as a gift. Animal Care & Control offers gift certificates so a person can come to our organization and pick the right pet for them."

To encourage pet owners to work through any issues they may be experiencing with their pets, Bank has a program in place called "Pets for Life," a resource available for pet owners that includes behavioral advice, free pet food, free or low-cost medical care and even temporary housing.

"Animal Care & Control will take animals at any time, but we hope that pet owners use that as a last resort. If you are thinking about getting a pet, why not volunteer at our shelters to see if you are a pet person first - plus it would help our organization."

Clarissa Hurst of Westchester County is one pet owner who persevered even when the going got tough. When Hurst's 11-year-old son brought home Cami, a ball python, from a reptile show, the snake was sickly and severely underweight.

Determined to save it, Hurst went as far as buying mice, grinding them up in a food processor and feeding the liquid substance to Cami through a syringe twice a day for 2-1/2 months.

"I never thought of giving the snake back. I grew up for a love of animals, and you do whatever you have to try and keep them alive," said Hurst, who also owns two cats, two ferrets and two guinea pigs.

"I really wanted Cami to grow and thrive. I could not give up. I knew how devastated my son would have been if I did."

Can We Have a Pet?
By Stacey Gill -

It’s the inevitable question, and one I was adamantly against until recently.

I had pets growing up, but I never wanted one as an adult, and once I had kids, I had all the wild animals I could handle. Of course my kids asked, but I always skirted the issue. I simply couldn’t clean up after one more member of this family.

I always thought my husband would crack way before I did. He had his beloved dog, Ginger, growing up, and he also took care of a neighbor’s bunnies for a little pocket change. He’s also a nature and animal lover who claims to have established close personal relationships with neighborhood squirrels, who would stare longingly through the patio doors of my husband’s childhood home, waiting for Kevin to come out and play.

So I was surprised when I was the one to cave two summers ago. I can’t even call it caving. I actually wanted to get the kids a pet. We were on vacation down the shore (and, yes, it is “down the shore”), and I wanted to get my kids hermit crabs. Okay, I know hermit crabs don’t count as pets in some circles, but for me this was a big step.

Kevin, though, was not having it. I had to work on him the entire week at the beach.

“I’m not getting any two-bit, disease-ridden, boardwalk hermit crab,” He said. But I said, “We’re not getting them from the boardwalk. We’re getting them from Salty’s Ice Cream Parlor/Restaurant/Gift Shop. It has the most extensive hermit crab collection in the Northeast.” Kevin was unmoved.

On the last day of our trip, just before we were about to head home not to return to the sea for another year I said, “Would you let them get a God damn, hermit crab already?”

And that is how we became pet owners. I still can’t believe I was the one to lobby for a pet, and now I find myself once again in similar circumstances.

My daughter keeps asking for a little, cageable pet. She doesn’t want much, just something with some fur on it, and my son – I knew he had to have a pet as soon as I saw the way he bonded with that personality-less, comatose hermit crab. He loves that hermit crab like no hermit crab has ever been loved before. And it’s hard to love a hermit crab.

I feel like they deserve a pet, and I think it would be good for them to learn to care for and look after a little fur-ball. And then, today, my friend sent out an email blast that her guinea pig had died unexpectedly and she was giving away the cage and all the accoutrements FREE. Even if you get an animal for free like we did with our former pet fish by winning it at the boardwalk, do you know how much the paraphernalia can set you back? Our free fish cost us $50 at the pet store because we had to get him the best darn tank money could buy. Plus, I didn’t want him to be bored in there so we got him a little fake plant and a sunken treasure chest.

When I heard free guinea pig cage and sleeping hut and water bottle and wood shavings and food, I said to myself I think it’s time we got ourselves a guinea pig.

Now, if I could only convince my husband.

Hints From Heloise: Dangerous Lily

Dear Heloise: Thank you for getting out the information about LILIES (they are poisonous to cats -- Heloise) in your recent article. My cat ate lily petals, and I was fortunate to catch her in the act. I took her to the emergency clinic, and they gave her medicine to vomit up the lily. She recovered fully; however, the emergency care was more than $1,000. -- Kathy, via e-mail

Thanks for sharing your experience, and I’m glad your cat survived. With Easter coming up, it’s a good reminder for my readers who are owned by cats. -- Heloise


Dear Readers: A reader in Texas sent a photo of her 8-year-old dachshund mix, Miles, VERY comfortable on the couch. He is black with a white chest, and has one ear pointing north! To see Miles, visit and click on “Pets.” -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: Our animal charity takes in abused dogs and cats that have no home. It is terrible that people lose their homes. Could you print what the animal shelters need? This way, people who can afford to help will know what to give. -- A Reader in Ohio

Readers: The things most shelters always need are dog and cat food, dog and cat toys, kitty/puppy milk replacement and cat litter. Call your shelters to see what their specific needs are. -- Heloise


Dear Heloise: I read the comments from a reader about hints for walking a dog. I would like to take it one step further. I’m a walker (and a previous dog owner), and countless times I encounter “leavings” from dogs on the sidewalk.

Here's my proven solution: Since dogs love to go on walks and are intelligent animals, they can be taught to “do it” in their own yard before leaving home. Simply ask your pet if it wants to go for a walk, then take it out in the yard to “do its thing” by giving it the same command every day. Don’t leave for your walk until your pet “does it.” Then, on your walk, if your pet stops to “do it,” simply tell it “no.”

It may take some time, but it will learn that if it wants to go for a walk, it has to “do it” first. -- A Walker in Oregon


Dear Heloise: I have an idea to pass on regarding how to get pets used to a new baby. Our daughter and son-in-law did this when their newborn daughter was still in the hospital. Our son-in-law took a receiving blanket and put it on the floor, and one by one the cats went over and inspected it.

When the baby came home, they all came over and sniffed, three walked away, and the fourth sat next to her for a while. None of the cats has ever bothered her.

To get used to the smell before she came home, they also allowed the cats to walk in the baby's bedroom and inspect everything. -- Tricia in Iowa

Send a hint to Heloise, P.O. Box 795000, San Antonio, Tex. 78279-5000, fax it to 210-HELOISE or e-mail it to Please include your city and state.

Ask Dr. Jill Veterinary Advice:
Clearing Up Concerns About Sleeping with Pets
By Jill Christofferson, DVM -

A recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control has received a lot of press.

The study, conducted by a veterinarian from UC Davis and a public health veterinarian from Sacramento, suggests that sleeping with your dog or cat can lead to infectious diseases in humans. The study has pet owners worried so I thought I would review the study and possibly help clear some concerns.

Fleas on your dog or cat can transmit diseases that can infect people.

Plague is a disease caused by the bacteria yersinia pestis and affects the lymph nodes, lungs or blood of people. It is usually seen in rodents. In Northern California, the ground squirrel is the most commonly affected wildlife species.

The disease is transmitted by infected fleas or by ingestion of infected rodents. If you live in an area where the plague is suspected, keep your pets, especially cats, indoors.

Bartonella is another bacteria transmitted by fleas and causes cat scratch disease. This disease is most commonly caused by a scratch of a cat which has flea feces around its toenails.

Both diseases can be treated with antibiotics but the plague can be fatal. The best prevention is to keep pets free of fleas by bathing in addition to using either topical or oral monthly flea control products.

Other bacterial diseases that can be transmitted to humans from their pets include Pasteurella, staphylococcus, and even Methacillin-resistant staph species.

These infections are usually transmitted from the skin or saliva from your pet when it comes in contact with open wounds. It can also be transmitted by bite wounds. In rare cases, it can cause serious illness especially in very young children or in the elderly or immunocompromised.

Prevention here is simple. Do not allow your pets to lick or come in contact with open wounds, sores, or surgical sites. If they do, wash the area with soap and water. If you are having or have had recent surgery, keep your pet away from the surgical site which may mean having him or her sleep off the bed for a few weeks.

Do not kiss the face of your dog or cat and do not allow them to lick around your nose or mouth.

If you or someone in your house has been diagnosed with repeated infection by a Methacillin-resistant staphylococcus (MRSA), ask your doctor about testing your pet for infection.

Toxocara species are round worms or nematodes that live in the intestines of dogs and cats. In most cases, they are identified in puppies and kittens, or dogs and cats that have recently had litters.

If humans are infected by roundworm eggs, the larvae migrate inside the body and can cause illness when migrating through the liver, lungs, brain or eyes.

Most of the infections are seen in children as they play outdoors and come in contact with soil or sand contaminated with eggs. They then don't wash their hands before putting them in their mouth.

Good hygiene can prevent these infections, as well as cleaning up feces from your yard frequently and keeping sandboxes covered.

All puppies and kittens as well as nursing dogs and cats should be dewormed. Many monthly flea control and heartworm control products also protect against intestinal parasite infection in pets and we encourage their use.

So while the risk is there, it is low if proper parasite control, good hygiene, and common sense are used when your pets sleep with you. Pets should probably not be sleeping with the very young or sick individuals, however.

Ask Dr. Jill Veterinary Advice is a column written by Jill Christofferson, DVM, of the Encina Veterinary Hospital in Walnut Creek. Contact her at

Pet Tales

"Pet Tales" is your chance to tell us, in your own words, how you met your pet. This week it's Flagler Beach resident Kristi Medlin's turn. Here's her story:

Last summer my best girlfriend and I were doing our Matanzas Beach summer weekend walk in search for shells and sea glass.

But let me back up a little bit ... a month earlier, my husband and I lost our beloved dog Ebony. He was smarter than a lot of humans that I have met and after 12 years with him, he died from a nasty cancer, leaving us heartbroken.

My husband, Chuck, was having a very hard time with Ebony not around. They were best buds. Luckily, we did still have Buddy, our black Lab, but even still, the loss of our little schnauzer wouldn't even let us consider another dog at this time.

So now back to our weekend walk ... as my friend and I were shelling on that particular Sunday, we stopped every time we saw a pup and cooed over them. Eventually we ran into a nice lady walking with her husband and, as we were making our way past her, she said, "do you want a dog?" My friend told her our story that we had just lost a dog.

During our conversation with her, we found out that the dog she was trying to give us was a mixed breed collie-type pup that her son had brought home from college. She said that she couldn't keep it as she already had two other dogs and needed to find it a good home.

I told her that we might possibly come take a look at the dog but I had to check with my husband first. With nothing to write her phone number on we challenged our memory with me remembering the first three numbers and my girlfriend remembering the last four. When we got back to the boat and our picnic area set up on the beach, I put the number that we remembered into my cell phone and didn't think any more about it. After our day in the sun we headed home.

My husband started cleaning the boat so I told him about the unusual story. He immediately said that it sounded like we needed to go see her. So, hoping that the phone number we remembered was correct, I called to find out more and made arrangements for my husband, son Sean and myself to go up to St. Augustine to see this dog that needed a new home.

Our first impression was that she was a lovely animal resembling a cross between an Irish Setter and an array of spaniel and collie. She immediately took to our son but growled at my husband! I thought, all right, you just ruined it for yourself, that's the end of this program. But surprisingly my husband said, "She's a beauty, obviously is taken with Sean, so let's try her and take her home."

His grief over the loss of Ebony is still a predominant factor for my husband, but our new, red-haired beauty girl that came with the name Foxy Brown, which we changed to Roxy, slowly won her way into his heart. It wasn't that very long before he started calling her "The Princess Queen" . . and that she is!

Law Students to Reduce Stress with Loaner Dog
By TIMOTHY WILLIAMS - The New York Times

Yale Law School is embarking on a pilot program next week in which students can check out a "therapy dog" named Monty along with the library's books.

Black's Law Dictionary? Check.

"An Introduction to Legal Reasoning"? Check.

Small, cute dog? Check.

Yale Law School, renowned for competitiveness and its Supreme Court justices, is embarking on a pilot program next week in which students can check out a "therapy dog" named Monty along with the library's collection of more than 1 million books.

While the law school is saying little so far about its dog-lending program, it has distributed a memo to students with the basics: Monty will be available at the circulation desk to stressed-out students for 30 minutes at a time beginning Monday, for a three-day trial run.

"It is well documented that visits from therapy dogs have resulted in increased happiness, calmness and overall emotional well-being," Blair Kauffman, the law librarian, wrote in an e-mail to students.

The school is not saying what sort of dog Monty is; what happens to him when school is out of session; or how Monty himself may be kept from becoming overstressed with all his play dates.

Sebastian Swett, 26, a second-year student at the law school, said he had signed up for a session with the dog but does not necessarily think that it will relieve all the pressures that come with being a student at Yale.

"I don't think its going to solve anybody's anxiety problems," he said, "but it's certainly nice to play with a dog for half an hour."

Monty, according to the memo to students, is hypoallergenic and will be kept in a nonpublic space inside the library, presumably away from those who don't much like dogs.

"We will need your feedback and comments to help us decide if this will be a permanent ongoing program available during stressful periods of the semester, for example, during examinations," the note to students reads.

A handful of other universities offer similar services, including the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh.

Yale Law School has kept its plan on such a tight leash that some faculty members were not even aware of it.

"I'm surprised to hear of it," said John Witt, a professor who was awarded a Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship last year for a project on the laws of war through American history. "I've always found library books to be therapeutic. But maybe that's just me."

Why You Should Protect Your Dog
 from Lyme Disease - and How to Do It
By ARAcontent -

The urge to be outside during spring and summer is something that's shared by people and dogs. We all learn to tolerate the bites from mosquitoes and other pesky insects, but there's one pest that both people and pets need to really watch out for: Lyme disease-carrying ticks.

While you might hear a lot about checking yourself for ticks after a hike in the woods, you need to check your dog, too - and remember that it's possible for him to pick up ticks even if you live in an urban area. A number of tick species carry the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi, which causes Lyme disease, but the most common is the deer tick.

While humans can look for the tell-tale sign of a bull's-eye-shaped rash on their skin, there's no such convenient warning for dogs, says Dr. Ernest Ward, a well-known veterinarian who has published numerous articles on

"Lyme disease symptoms in dogs are more difficult to detect than in people," says Ward. "When people are bitten by a tick carrying the infection, they see a 'bull's-eye' rash at the site of the bite within three to 30 days. This rash doesn't appear in bitten dogs."

Ward advises dog owners to look for other signs, like lameness, swollen joints, fever, lethargy or decreased appetite. Lameness and limping are common symptoms because Lyme disease affects the joints. The painful limping that suddenly appears may shift from one leg to another. "Some pet owners describe their dogs as 'walking on eggshells,'" Ward adds. "This may eventually disappear and then recur weeks or months later."

Because Lyme disease symptoms are often delayed or go unrecognized, it's possible for Lyme disease to progress to an advanced state before it's considered a problem. However, rare cases of Lyme disease can lead to kidney disease or failure, which is potentially fatal.

If your dog exhibits the symptoms of Lyme disease, it's important to get him to a veterinarian quickly. A veterinarian can administer a blood test to confirm the presence of Lyme disease and prescribe antibiotics to treat it. Sites like can help you find a veterinarian near you, as well as provide you with credible pet health information and a secure place to store all of your pet's health records. MyPetED also offers a mobile app for iPhones and iPads, which can help you locate a veterinarian, even when you're far from home.

Taking preventive measures can be an effective way to keep your dog Lyme disease-free. While avoiding areas where ticks live, such as grassy, wooded or sandy areas, it's not always possible, particularly with pups that are eager to get outside and play. Instead, be sure to thoroughly inspect your dog after each walk or romp through the woods. If you find ticks on your dog, it's important not to touch them - wear gloves and use tweezers to remove them instead.

For extra protection against Lyme disease, you can opt for a vaccine, which is usually administered in two doses at two- to three-week intervals, and needs to be repeated annually. Be sure to talk to your veterinarian about whether vaccination is the right choice for your dog. He or she might also recommend a topical preventive, such as those that repel both fleas and ticks.

Just a few simple steps can prevent your pet from contracting Lyme disease. When you know what to do and what to look for, you'll be able to concentrate on having fun with your dog in the great outdoors.

Care Tips When Keeping Pet Salamanders
James Miller -

Salamanders can actually live for a very long time. In fact, some of them can live for up to 25 years. However, this can only be achieved if you take good care of your pet salamander. If you want your pet to live a longer life, then below are some guidelines on how to care for your salamander properly:

Number 1: Before you acquire a salamander, you need to secure a special collection permit from your local division of wildlife and conservation department. Your local authority might be issuing this permit to allow you to keep a salamander at home.

Number 2: Provide a tank or aquarium appropriate for your salamander. A tank that measures 1x2 feet is enough for a small to medium-sized salamander. However, you can go to as large as 3x4 feet. It should be tight enough to keep the salamander from escaping.

Number 3: Make sure you fill the tank with sand or soil for about 4 inches deep. Dig a hole in the sand and put a bowl of water in it. You may also use an old cake pan or loaf bread pan so it will fit well with the height of the sand. You need to provide an appropriate substrate for burrowing too.

Number 4: Put fresh water into the container. Salamander loves to stay in damp, green and dark areas; hence you can put green plants inside the tank. When you add water inside the tank, the runoff will eventually keep the sand wet.

Number 5: Secure rocks and other things that can be used as shades like driftwoods and leaves and put it inside your tank. But, make sure you put it in an organized manner so it will not ruin your set up.

Number 6: Salamanders produce excessive waste. Because of that, you need to clean the tank every now and then. If you fail to do this, ammonia will lodge inside the tank causing your tank to be polluted. If this will happen, your salamander will get sick and eventually die.

Number 7: See to it that your tank is always dry for terrestrial terrarium, but keep your substrate slightly damp. If you are keeping semi-aquatic salamanders, make sure that the land part is moist, but not submerged in water. In the meantime, the water on the wet-side should always be clean.

Number 8: Salamanders can be kept in room temperature. Generally, salamanders have sensitive skin and they have the tendency to acquire chemicals instantly. Thus, they don't need certain UV lights. Instead, see to it that you rotate the daylight and dark cycle to imitate their natural environment.

Having a pet at home may wipe out your stress and give you a different feeling of happiness. Surely, you will find a worthwhile moment with your own salamander. However, once you have your own salamander, make sure that you don't forget your responsibilities as a pet owner. Take good care of your salamanders well so they will live long and happily with you.

In L.A.,
a Good Chicken Sitter Isn't Hard to Find
Matt Hickman -

In most cities and towns across the country, it’s not difficult to find someone who will, for a certain price, walk your dog, brush your cat, feed your fish, and pet your rabbit while you’re away at work or on vacation. The dog-walking/pet-sitting business is a booming, often lucrative one and an industry that I once, as a graduate student in New York, worked in (in case you were wondering, I’m certified in pet CPR and can remove Great Dane poop from a sidewalk in one single swoop …what can I say? I have skills).

And now, with an increasing number of self sufficiency-minded folks beginning to keep chickens in urban and suburban areas, you can hire trained chicken sitters to watch over your brood — and perhaps supervise conjugal visits — while you’re out of town.

L.A. at Home recently spoke with Anna Goeser, Master Gardener, veteran chicken keeper (15 years), and proprietress of Easy Acres Chicken Sitting, a professional chicken sitting service or what L.A. at Home calls “the latest indulgence for L.A. urban gardeners.”

Starting at $20 a day, Goeser will do what most other urban pet sitting firms fail to offer on their menu of services: clean coops, put out food and water, and collect eggs. In the event that a flown-the-coop client keeps free-range chickens, she’ll let them out in the morning to roam and hustle them back into the coop in the evening. Goeser also offers domestic pet sitting and yard maintenance services. Although the Easy Acres Chicken Sitting website doesn't list preferred methods of payment, I do wonder if Goeser accepts fresh eggs along with Visa, Mastercard, Discovery, and cash.

In addition to years of chicken keeping at her own home, Goeser possess a much-needed skill of the trade: she’s not at all intimidated by the sometimes unruly backyard beasts. She tells L.A. at Home: “You can't imagine how many people are afraid of chickens. People are really freaked out by them. Over the years I've heard so many stories from people who were chased by chickens. It is hard to find people to look after them when you go out of town."

As it turns out, Goeser isn’t the only fearless flock-tender for hire. After doing a quick online search, I found several other dedicated chicken sitting companies including Chicken Sitting and Just Us Hens, both based in Portland, Ore. (shocker!) and Sound Chicken Sitting in Seattle. And as it turns out, many non-poultry-centric pet-care companies that primarily focus on sitting of the canine and feline variety will also look after chickens, horses, and other critters primarily found in barnyards, not backyards (are there are nanny goat nanny services out there?) Also, if you want to see what detailed instructions left for a chicken sitter look like, check out this post at the Urban Chickens Network blog.

As a former pet care provider, I can’t say that I’d be willing to sit chickens (I draw the line at pilling other people's cats and interacting with most reptiles). I do admit they make me a bit nervous and besides, I’m too busying conjuring up my own fantasy niche pet-sitting business: Boozehounds, New York’s first doggie daycare/after-work cocktail lounge.

Urban chicken keepers: how have you dealt with your backyard brood while traveling? Have you enlisted a friend or neighbor or hired a "professional?"

Seven Tips for Saving Money on Pet Costs
by Miranda Marquit -

Americans spend more than $41 billion each year on pets. From routine care to pet spa appointments, the pets industry is big business. Increasingly, people consider their pets to be part of the family, and spend accordingly. This can include everything from specially made pet clothes to expensive medical procedures.

Even those most in love with their pets, though, occasionally wonder how they can reduce the costs associated with pet ownership. The economy may be showing signs of recovery, but, for many, the recession is still a reality. And that means that costs need to be cut somewhere. If you are looking for ways to cut back on pet expenses, here are seven ideas:

1.Find the recommendations for vaccines: Double check the vaccine requirements. Some vaccinations are no longer required each year. Find out from your vet, or check with the American Animal Hospital Association for recommendations on how often to get your pet vaccinated. With the new guidelines recommending three years for some vaccines, instead of one year, you could see your costs go down if you have been over-vaccinating.

2.Do some things yourself: There are some things you can do yourself. Save money on grooming by bathing and brushing your pet yourself. You can also brush your pet’s teeth, saving money on dental visits. Cleaning your pet’s ears, clipping claws and other basic things can be done at home, saving you having to pay someone else to do these things.

3.Follow feeding directions on packages: You might be surprised to find that you are over-feeding your pet. Follow the directions on the package so that your food lasts an appropriate amount of time. Your pet will be healthier, and you’ll save money on pet food. Additionally, don’t get the cheapest food with fillers. Find a good quality pet food that results in better health. As with humans, prevention is a great way to save money on heath care down the road.

4.Comparison shop on pet items and services: Shop around for the best prices on vet services, as well as the items that you purchase for your pet. This also includes shopping around for medications. Make sure you are comparing products and services of similar quality, and look online as well as at smaller pet stores.

5.Look for coupons and discounts: You can find coupons for some pet products, and many pet food companies will provide you with free samples. Check your local paper, and look online for coupons and promos.

6.Stay away from unnecessary expenses: Really evaluate whether or not you need something. Your cat probably doesn’t want to wear a sweater. Your dog doesn’t seriously need a special facial. Consider what you are buying, and whether your pet needs it. After all, Fido doesn’t care about a rhinestone collar. Fido just wants you to play with him.

7.Spay/Neuter your pet: Interestingly, spaying or neutering your pet can have positive health impacts. You reduce the chance of certain cancers, and pets are less likely to prowl the neighborhood.

Some feel that pet insurance is another way to save money, but you need to make sure that the benefits outweigh the costs, and that you have very specific idea of what you need in terms of coverage.

Lost in Suburbia:
Why Did the Dog Cross the Road?
By Tracy Beckerman - GateHouse News Service

“Hi. Your dog Riley is in my backyard playing with my dog,” said a friendly voice on my answering machine. I looked around for the familiar black snoring lump on the floor and realized with a start, that the lump was nowhere to be found.

I did recall letting the dog out back to do his business.

I did not recall letting the dog back in.

Still, I could not fathom how he had done a Houdini on me and disappeared from our property since our backyard is completely fenced in. Then I scanned the backyard and noticed a distinct lack of fence-ness where a section of our fence had once been in the back corner.

I realized that the dog did not, in fact, pole vault over the 6-foot fence as I had suspected, but merely walked through the gaping hole to freedom.

Although I was understandably concerned by this discovery, I was relieved to know that he had merely gone on a jaunt a couple of blocks away and not run off to join the Iditarod.

I quickly called the friendly voice back and discovered that my dog was cavorting in her backyard with her dog, and p.s., this was not the first time he had been over there. Not only that, but she reported seeing my dog across the street several times at the homes of two other dogs as well.

I was stunned. Apparently my dog had been leading a double life for quite some time. While I thought he had been happily chasing squirrels in our fenced-in backyard, he had actually been several blocks away cavorting with a cute little terrier, a pretty goldendoodle and a sexy samoyed. On each occasion, he had darted off before the owners could see who he was, and returned to our backyard before I could notice his absence.

Could it be that my dog Riley, sweet, neutered Riley, was actually a doggie Don Juan?

I’d bet his Milk Bone dog biscuits on it.

I grabbed his leash and jumped into the car to bring him back to his bachelor pad.

This time the terrier’s owner had managed to keep him contained in their backyard and when I got her house, I found Riley and his lady friend romping together joyfully. Little did she know he had a harem on the street.

“Well, I can see why he would want to come over here,” I said to the dog’s owner. “She’s very cute.”

“Hmm, he may have come over for her the first time, but after that, I think it was to see me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Every time he was here, I tried to catch him to see who he belonged to, but he kept running away from me, so I did the only thing I could think of to get him to come to me.”

“What’s that?” I wondered.

“I gave him treats.”

The World's Most Expensive Dog

Man's best friend is costlier than ever. A red Tibetan mastiff named Big Splash, or Hong Dong in Chinese, was bought by a coal baron from the north of China for 10 million yuan (just over $1.5 million). The Tibetan Mastiff, also known as DoKhyi, is an ancient breed and a type of domestic dog originating with nomadic cultures in Central Asia. "When I started in this business, ten years ago, I never thought we would see such a price," Mr. Lu of the Tibetan Mastiff Garden in Laoshan, told The Telegraph.

Guide Dog Goes Blind

Guide Dog Goes Blind,
So Man Gets New Dog to Lead Them Both

Sometimes, man's best friend needs a little help of his own.

Albanpix Ltd. / Rex / Rex USA. When Graham Waspe's guide dog, Edward, lost his sight, new guide dog Opal, right, came along to help both of them.

Graham Waspe counted on his guide dog, a yellow Labrador named Edward, for six years. So Waspe wasn't about to give up on him when cataracts left Edward blind.

The 60-year-old man and his wife, Sandra, kept the loyal four-legged helper and adopted a second dog to help lead both man and dog together. The new Labrador, a 2-year-old female named Opal, has become fast friends with her predecessor.

"They've become quite good friends and get on happily together," Waspe, who lives in England and is partially blind, told the New York Daily News. "There are certain times I'm sure where Opal will help and Edward is happier by having another dog around."

The trio now visits local schools to raise awareness for the blind and guide dogs, and Waspe says Edward is still much beloved. "He is still very popular -- just as much, if not more than before," Waspe told the Daily Mail in London.

Waspe said the family is going to stay together, no matter what, and told the Daily News he and Sandra would care for Edward "until the day that either we go or he goes."

Polish Dog Gives Birth to 17 Puppies

WARSAW, Poland -- Seventeen whimpering Great Dane puppies born by cesarean section are keeping their mother, another dog and their breeder constantly busy trying to feed the unusually large litter.

The eight male and nine female pedigree puppies were born Monday at a veterinary clinic near Warsaw, after their breeder Gabriela Kubalska decided to spare the mother, 4-year-old Hania, a long labor.

They are Hania's very first litter, Kubalska said Thursday.

Hania, looking tired, her puppies and another female Great Dane helping to nurse the litter, occupy most of the ground floor at Kubalska's house in a Warsaw suburb. The tiny pups nursed and slept by their mother on Thursday.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback in Germany made headlines in September when she gave birth to 17 puppies.

Another Day in Your Pets' Life

Hi Babies! Smile for the camera!

I'm not cute! I'm vicious! Rawwr Raawwrr! Alright fine, I'm cute.

Honey, I think you may have a fever.

Just one last hug before I go to school. K Bye mom!

No dog bed? No problem.

Baby is drowsing, cozy and fair
Mother sits near, in her rocking chair...

We are absolutely captionless!

My mom wants me to get braces, I'd rather just wear a hat.

A loving (and warm) family.

You go ahead on your vacation, I'll watch your fish for you.

He's right behind me, isn't he....

Just a little to the left! Now hold still!

Yoga kitty says: The key to innear health is inner peace.

Knock knock. We're cute. Give us candy.

Is it 8am already? Just 5 more minutes pleeeeeeeez

Mommy, I'm tiewwwwd. Cawwwy meeeee!

Keep your eyes closed for just 1 more second. I promise the surprise is almost here!

Thanks to Judy B in California

"Did you lose a cat?"

The Traveling Pet Show

Dog Helps Paralyzed Marine
Janice Lloyd -

Sam Farr, 23, and his Golden retriever Noble, a service dog. Farr said he hopes he and Noble can go to school and they are planning a Caribbean cruise.

Sometimes it takes a dog to make life better, much better. A Marine paralyzed during an on-duty accident is getting a new lease on life thanks to a service dog named Noble.

When the vehicle in which Sam Farr was driving went over a cliff in North Carolina two years ago, his spinal cord was partially severed. During his rehabilitation in a Georgia hospital, volunteers from Canine Assistants visited and asked Farr if he'd like a service dog.

After 18 months of training ,Farr, 23, is enjoying getting out with Noble. He told the Associated Press the hardest part of being paralyzed is going out. "Sometimes I feel there's no point, like it's a waste of time because I can't do the things I used to do."

Not since Noble has entered the picture. They have been to the mall, the movies and a restaurant.

READERS: Big hooray from us. We've done stories on Canine Assistants , an incredible organization that transforms lives. Jennifer Arnold is the founder. She raises and trains the Goldens on her farm in Milton, Ga, and provides the dogs free of charge to people in need. Milk-Bone is a sponsor, but we also know one of Arnold's training secrets: peanut butter.

Noble's Facebook page, chronicling his journey to becoming a service dog, is part of an ad campaign for Milk-Bone. He has over 34,000 friends and counting

Popovich has Purr-fect Performing Companions
By Yvonne T. Betowt, The Huntsville Times

Bob Gathany, The Huntsville Times Bob Gathany / The Huntsville TImes - Gregory Popovich's Pet Comedy Theater at Merrimack Hall Wednesday evening Feb. 23, 2011. Popovich delivers a cartload of cats to the stage.

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- Teach an old dog new tricks?

No problem.

Herd geese?

No problem.

Ignore a cat?

That could present a problem for famed Las Vegas entertainer Gregory Popovich, who was in town this week with his Pet and Comedy Theater featuring a menagerie of animals at Merrimack Hall.

"If you ignore a cat, he won't respond the next time (he is supposed to do a trick)," said Popovich while touring the Greater Huntsville Humane Society shelter early Thursday afternoon. "You have to pet them each time and they will remember it and respond, most of the time."

And respond they do.

Amid mass confusion of loud music, flashing lights, a cheering audience, and props constantly being moved around on stage, 14 cats climb their perches and sit waiting for Popovich to invite them to perform.

"Sometimes for some reason they won't respond, but the show must go on and I just move on to the next one," said Popovich, 46, who grew up in Russia, the son of circus performers and dog trainers. "As a boy I was always around dogs and boys love dogs. But as I got older I realized cats have more intelligence. They are smart enough to ignore you."

He brought his collection of some 30 animals, including the 14 cats, 12 dogs, a parrot, mice, doves, and nine humans to Huntsville as part of the show's southern and East Coast tour that began in January.

Bob Gathany / The Huntsville TImes - Gregory Popovich's Pet Comedy Theater at Merrimack Hall Wednesday evening Feb. 23, 2011. Popovich and dog firemen rescue jumping cat from "burning building."

He performed to three sold out evening performances and a nearly sold out Wednesday morning matinee this week. About a dozen children who take part in the Dance Your Dreams program at Merrimack, attended the morning performance, said Merrimack Marketing Director Ashley Dinges.

"Kids are the toughest audience," said Popovich, who has five human performers, including his daughter Anastasia Alexandrova, and four groomers for the animals. "They are very honest and if they don't like something, they let you know it."

Popovich was invited to perform with Ringling Brothers Circus 20 years ago and became the first Russian to work for "The Greatest Show on Earth."

But after a year, he decided to move on to other venues such as Circus Circus in Las Vegas. When not on the road, he and his troupe perform at Planet Hollywood Casino. He bases his shows on ideas from his idol, vaudeville great Charlie Chaplin.

Most of his four-legged performers were adopted from animal shelters in Los Angeles, including the geese after the owner of the farm where they lived died.

While on the road, Popovich always tries to visit local shelters, but never adopts from one because he said it would not be a good idea to take a new animal on the road. He subtley encourages people during his performance to adopt shelter pets.

Michael Mercier/The Huntsville Times. Las Vegas entertainer Gregory Popovich visits the Greater Huntsville Humane Society while in Huntsville with his Comedy and Pet Theater.

Use Your Mouse to Play with a Cat
Terrence Petty -

Technology allows people to remotely interact with shelter animals

A cat sits over a robotic toy in the cat play room at the Oregon Humane Society in Portland. More than 90,000 cat lovers from 112 countries have remotely played with the kittens at the Oregon Humane Society since September, thanks to real-time computer technology.

PORTLAND – More than 90,000 cat lovers from 112 countries have played with the kittens at the Oregon Humane Society since September, wiggling and yanking on kitty toys at the shelter’s play room.

You’d think such a large number of people would be tripping over each other. But these visits are by remote, thanks to real-time technology that lets fans of felines use their computers to manipulate the toys, which dangle from robotic arms.

It’s a game of cat and computer mouse.

The kitties whack and tug at the toys and occasionally tumble with each other while their human playmates watch via cat-cam.

Cats being cats, sometimes they ignore the toys, too.

The technology, called iPetCompanion, was invented by a small Idaho robotics company, Apriori Control, and was first tested by the Idaho Humane Society in Boise last June.

“After launching our first site live in Idaho, we received an enormous response from Humane Societies around the country,” said Scott Harris, head of Apriori.

He chose the Oregon Humane Society for the next launch.

“All I had to do was provide space and kittens,” said Barbara Baugnon, communications director at the Portland shelter.

One purpose of the program is to increase cat adoptions by letting would-be owners play with the cats without having to travel to the shelters.

That’s working. Adoptions are up 16 percent at the Oregon Humane Society, and have increased at the Boise shelter as well.

But it’s not the whole point. People overseas who have played with the Idaho and Oregon kittens are probably not about to book a flight to the Pacific Northwest to adopt a cat.

Still, they benefit. Interacting with cats can have a soothing effect on humans, even if it is done remotely.

Some of the human playmates are people who can’t own cats, whether because of building rules, allergies or other reasons. Disabled people with limited mobility also play with the kitties.

The average interactive time per viewer at the Idaho shelter is nearly 14 minutes; at the Oregon shelter it’s just shy of 15 minutes, said Harris.

The Idaho site has had more than 86,000 unique visitors from 108 countries. For both shelters, the greatest number of visitors have been American, followed by Germans, Australians, Canadians, Britons, Estonians and Swiss.

Some 71.3 percent of people who visit the Idaho site come back again; that rate in Oregon is 85.6.

And having humans available to play 24/7 can be good for the felines’ mental and physical health as well.

“The basic idea of an online kitty play room is great for both people who are, for one reason or another, unable to play with their own cat, and for the kittens, to help with socialization, reduce boredom in the shelter and promote later adoption,” said Dr. Dennis C. Turner, an author and researcher in animal behavior at the University of Zurich in Switzerland.

“I hope this innovation will be adopted by other shelters throughout the world,” Turner, an expert on cat behavior and human-cat relations, said in an e-mail.

Baugnon, at the Oregon shelter, hopes the interactive play rooms will help more people understand that cats need attention from their human owners, just as dogs do.

“Over the years, dogs have been elevated in status. Now they’re members of the family,” she said.

Cats, she worries, sometimes get unequal treatment.

“We want people to understand cats aren’t OK by themselves. We are hoping people realize these are beings that want to be part of the family,” Baugnon said.

There have been some glitches. During the first week, the kittens at the Idaho shelter broke all of the toy mechanisms in the play room, said Dr. Jeff Rosenthal, executive director at the Idaho Humane Society.

The mechanisms were toughened up to withstand the “destructive capacity of a roomful of kittens.”

Currently, you have to use Internet Explorer to interact with the kittens, but Harris is working on that. He also said he is working with a large pet-toy distributor interested in selling iPetCompanion.

While hundreds of other shelters have expressed interest, Harris said, the $8,200 installation cost is an obstacle unless sponsors can be found to foot the bill.

In the meantime, he said, the technology is being put to other uses as well – including plans to control the feeding of an even bigger cat, a zoo lion, over the Internet.

Dolphins Help Save Tired Dog Stuck in Canal
By Paul Gessler -

MARCO ISLAND, FL: Some persistent dolphins are being credited with saving a dog that had run away on Marco Island. The dog's owner said he had been missing for 15 hours before the dolphins alerted neighbors.

Cindy Burnett says her 11-year-old Doberman named Turbo disappeared late Sunday night after his gate was left open.

And that's when Burnett and her sons went looking for him.

"I searched and searched and called his name. I drove through this street at least five or six times," she said.

Late Monday morning, Turbo was finally found.

"He was shivering and a lot of distress," Burnett said.

She says Turbo could have been in the canal water for 15 hours. And she says it would have been longer if it weren't for a persistent splashing coming from the water.

"The lady here who had gotten him out of the canal said, 'No, the dolphins were with him,'" Burnett explained.

Dolphins got a neighbor's attention - alerting them to a stranded pooch in shallow water.

"If he had to tread water all night long, I know he wouldn't have been able to," Burnett said.

The neighbor jumped in the water after calling 9-1-1 and got Turbo out. But she wasn't home Wednesday when we tried reaching her.

While Turbo has been reunited with his family, Burnett says she doesn't expect him to get too close to the water any time soon.

Cat Recuperating
After Losing Ear to Frostbite
By Katherine Landergan -

A stray cat that was befriended by workers at the Wentworth Institute of Technology is recovering from a severe case of frostbite that nearly claimed the animal’s life, according to the Animal Rescue League in Boston.

Wentworth maintenance workers were familiar with the cat, but had not seen it around campus for some time until it reappeared on Thursday, Jennifer Wooliscroft, communications director of the rescue league, said in a prepared statement yesterday.

The cat looked unhealthy so workers called the Animal Rescue League. As senior rescue technician Bill Tanguay was transporting the cat, its ear fell off, Wooliscroft said.

“When our shelter veterinarian examined her, she found that she had severe frostbite,’’ Wooliscroft said. “The padding on her paws was worn away, and we unfortunately had to remove her tail.’’

But Wooliscraft said that in spite of the cat’s troubles, she is expected to recover once the frostbite has been treated.

“Even though she’s had a pretty rough time, she’s making everyone here smile,’’ she said.

Wooliscraft said the cat, named Elsie Maude by the shelter staff, is recovering and should be healthy enough to be put up for adoption within a week.

Katherine Landergan can be reached at klandergan@globe .com.

Family Dog Might Make Teens More Active
By Randy Dotinga - HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay News) -- Teenagers who live in homes with dogs get a bit more daily exercise than teens without pooches, new research finds.

The study doesn't prove that dog ownership directly leads to more active kids, but "there does still seem to be some association between owning a dog and adolescent physical activity," said John Ronald Sirard, an assistant professor of kinesiology at the University of Virginia.

"What's causing it, we don't know yet," he added.

In the big picture, the study fits into wider research looking at equipment in the home that boosts exercise, he said. "We see the dog as one of those pieces of physical equipment," Sirard explained.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons to own a dog other than to get a teenager to move around more. Some studies have suggested that pet owners are healthier than other people, although research findings have been inconsistent. In terms of dogs in particular, research from Australia has suggested that their adult owners are more physically active than others.

In the new study, published in the March issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers examined a 2006-2008 survey of 618 adolescent/parent pairs in the United States. The teenagers -- 49 percent were male and their average age about 14 -- wore devices to measure their physical activity.

White and wealthier families were more likely to own dogs. When the researchers adjusted the figures to account for factors that might throw off the results, they found that teens in families without dogs got an average of 29.5 minutes of physical activity a day compared to 32.1 minutes among those with dogs, Sirard said.

"It's a small difference, but it's a piece of a larger puzzle," Sirard said. "Anything we can do to tip the balance in favor of more physical activity is going to be a good thing, even though it's not the magic bullet."

However, neither dog owners nor non-owners got enough exercise to meet current guidelines, which suggest an hour of activity a day.

Still, teens with dogs were less sedentary than their peers without a four-legged friend, but it's unclear what specific role the dog might play. Sirard said it could be that teens walk the family dog or play with it. Or it may just be that families that are more active have more dogs.

Katherine D. Hoerster, a postdoctoral fellow at the VA Puget Sound Healthcare System, who has studied dogs and exercise, said the ultimate goal is to get teens to be more active.

The study is "an important first step" in understanding whether it would be useful to try to encourage dog walking in young people, said Hoerster, who's familiar with the research findings.

Pets and Alzheimer's:
 More Ways to Help Your Dog
By Steve Dale for USA WEEKEND

What can you do in real-life to potentially delay or even – who knows – prevent cognitive decline in pets? It all begins with providing lots of enrichment, a lifetime of learning, adequate exercise and appropriate nutrition.

Many dogs attend puppy classes, but learning shouldn’t stop there. Use the techniques you’ve learned in your puppy class to continue teaching your dog. Sometimes those approaches come in handy; for example, you can teach your dog not to jump at the door greeting visitors. You can also teach dogs (in good health) to find dinner in a game of hide ‘n seek. Pour the kibble into enrichment toys (such as Busy Body or Kong toys, or the Talk to Me Treatball), which you hide for your pup to seek. This game provides exercise for the brain as well as some physical activity. There are even ‘board games’ for dogs, such as the Nina Ottoson interactive brain games for dogs.

In truth, let out to run in the backyard, most dogs typically sprint around a few times, and then chill because unless you are there, there’s little for a dog to do. A walk around the block is far more enriching; with each sniff the pup checks out the 4-1-1 on every dog, cat or squirrel who has recently dropped by. There’s usually an opportunity to meet other dogs and their people; and Carl Cottman, director of Alzheimer’s Disease Research at the University of California, Irvine, notes that it’s been shown that social activity stimulates canine brains. Cottman says that brain exercises (thinking and learning) are good for the brain, and physical exercise turns out to be good for brain health as well.

“We’re pretty convinced that engaging novel activities and increasing and changing around the complexity of the environment are all effective at helping to preserve brain volume in rats, and probably in dogs and in people,” says Jeffrey Kaye, director of NIA-Layton Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and chair of a Task Force for the National Alzheimer’s Association.

For cats, enrichment and exercise are no less important – and veterinary behaviorist Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, director of veterinary affairs for Cancog Technologies, says our cats may be in more need of both compared to dogs. While increasingly people keep their cats indoors, they are likely under-exercised and bored. However, by changing around the environment too dramatically, you could instantly have one stressed out cat, since cats unaccustomed to change generally detest anything new and different.

“One easy way to change up the environment for a cat or a dog is to rotate the toys,” says veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, and director of the Behavior Clinic of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Aside from playing with your cat, and having a second cat or another pet in the home for the cat to interact with, some of the same techniques to enrich lives in dogs can be used for cats. Feeding some or even all of the cat’s food in toys that dispense kibble is a great idea for activating a cat’s prey drive. You can do the same with moist food by spooning small portions of the food into several little containers or plastic lids, and put them in various locations around the house.

Is Your Cat a Bully?
by Melissa Breyer -

The truth about cats and dogs is that dogs are not always the bullies–many cats stealthily torment their canine roommates. It isn’t about physical size; it’s all about attitude. Bully cats want to control practically every situation. They may even attempt to push their people around, too, by demanding meals when they want them and nipping hands when they have decided they have received enough petting.

If your cat is a threat to your dog; there’s help. According to Arden Moore in The Cat Behavior Answer Book (Storey, 2007), bully cats do not accept punishment or corrections, but they do have a weak spot–they want attention. Use that to your advantage. Retraining a bossy feline is much like training a dominant dog. Start by exercising your cat more frequently to expend some of his excessive energy and turn his attention to you instead of your poor dog. Protect your hands by engaging him in games with a fishing pole toy or cat teaser (a coiled wire with a small bundle of lightweight wood on one end that moves erratically, imitating the movement of a butterfly).

With regard to protecting your dog, the first step is to stop the attack. Look for early warning signs and stop a fight before it starts. Right before an attack, a cat will typically dip his head, arch his back end, and shimmy a bit. If you see this, try to remain calm. Scolding and high-pitched shrieks may only serve to fuel any aggression. Instead, step in and try distracting with food treats, a favorite toy, or spend a moment rubbing under his chin. Cats can’t be happy and mad a the same time.

Separate the two when you cannot be around to supervise them. Avoid having them together during high-energy times, like at mealtimes and when you arrive home. Reintroduce them when they are both tired–for instance, after you have played with your cat and taken your dog for a brisk walk. When you do reintroduce them, keep your dog on a leash and let him learn your cat’s signals. Do this until you see that both pets are calm. Then unleash your pup. Finally, make sure your cat’s claws are trimmed to avoid any injuries.

Shanghai’s New Dog Rules
Mean One Best Friend Per Household
By Bloomberg News

Shanghai, China’s richest city, is extending the country’s one-child policy to animals as it moves to limit residents to one dog per household in a bid to curb the growing popularity of man’s best friend.

The population of dogs is causing headaches for the city government which is banning certain breeds because of an increasing number of attacks under new rules passed by lawmakers, according to a statement released by the municipality today.

Shanghai’s population may have reached 23 million people last year as more migrants moved to the city, China Daily reported Feb. 23. Dog ownership has also risen dramatically with incomes in China, which passed the one-child policy in 1979 to limit its human population.

The city’s gross domestic product last year grew 9.9 percent to 1.687 trillion yuan. The city now has 600,000 unlicensed dogs, according to a report in the Shanghai Daily. The newspaper added that the government will also impose a 200 yuan fine on dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets.

“As incomes rise, more people want pets,” said Shaun Rein, Shanghai-based managing director of China Market Research Group. “It’s becoming a serious issue about dogs running around, pooping and causing a mess.”

The Shanghai government wants to cut down on the number of animals in urban areas to decrease cases of animal attacks and prevent rabies, according to a statement on its website. Canine abuse has also been targeted, it said.

Last year, police handled about 140,000 cases of people being bitten by unlicensed dogs, compared with 100,000 such incidents in 2006, according to the Shanghai Daily report. Banned attack dogs include Tibetan mastiffs, Beauceron wolfdogs and English bulldogs, the newspaper said.

Owners who violate the new law will face fines of as much as 1,000 yuan ($152), the Shanghai-based newspaper said. A dog that attacks people more than once can be seized by police, it said.

The new regulations go into effect May 15.

Is Your Dog or Cat too Fat?
By Rob Manker, Chicago Tribune reporter

The skinny

A report Wednesday by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says half of all dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight or obese. Overall, one-fifth are obese, defined as 30 percent or more over their recommended body weight, according to the report. It also cites numerous health problems such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and kidney disease the excess weight causes for big dogs and fat cats. So not only do they look like us, they eat like us too.

Gary Bogue:
Have You Pet-Proofed Your Swimming Pool?
By Gary Bogue - Contra Costa Times

I got the shivers

just standing by the window

it's so cold outside

Dear Gary:

Monday afternoon I was catching up on the Sunday paper at my kitchen table.

I do not know what made me look out back, but I noticed waves in my pool.

Confused, I got up to look and found my Yorkie in the spa! Our spa is elevated so water was flowing out of the waterfall into the pool.

He was treading water but not making a sound. I do not know how long he had been in the water.

Our other Yorkie had been wandering from the slider to me but I did not know why. I think he was trying to get my attention.

We have a doggie door in the screen and the slider was open. It was a scary moment.

We have always been cautious with the pool and spa, never letting the dogs outside when we are not home and checking them when we are home. And they are never outside with our slider closed.

The way our pool and spa are situated in our yard makes it difficult to put up any type of fencing.

I think it's time to get those alarmed floaters that are used for small children.

I am so thankful that the outcome was good. I still shake when I think of what would have happened if I did not notice when I did.

The water is only about 48 degrees!

Linda, Discovery Bay

Dear Linda:

Whew! That was close.

I'm very happy for you that it all worked out well.

Now is a good time to remind us all to think about pool safety for our pets and children if we have pools or spas. You obviously can't be too careful!

When it (I hope) gets warm one of these days, the pools will get a lot of use. And even if it's not warm, those pools are still there waiting for pets or kids to slip and fall, as you discovered just in time.

Go to and do a search for pool safety alarm for pets and children. They have excellent Pet (and child) Immersion Alarms that fit on collars and bracelets. A LOUD alarm instantly sounds at a base station when the unit is immersed in water.

It may save the life of someone you love.

Avian Society meeting

Contra Costa Avian Society invites you to join them at their next monthly educational club meeting, 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Contra Costa Water District building, 1331 Concord Ave., Concord. Meet other pet and wild bird enthusiasts, plus raffle, door prize and munchies.

Dr. Duane Flemming, UC Davis Veterinary School graduate and founding member and past president of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association will talk about options for a trust for your pet: "Long-lived pets -- Consider a Pet Trust."

Go see what the big squawk is all about. It's free!

A final note

I totally agree with your response to the writer with the especially naughty cat.

With only one exception, I have used the "timeout" method successfully in training all my cats not to scratch the furniture or claw the curtains: the problem that bugs me the most.

My cats have all been indoor/outdoor so I haven't had to deal with TP stunts, etc.

I make sure the cat knows physically what I want by holding its paws to the couch, saying "No" firmly the first time.

If it happens a second time I repeat that process, then 5 minutes in the bathroom. If it happens more times, timeouts can take longer.

It usually takes only a few of these sequences to cure the problem forever -- including when I am gone from the house! (Mari, Berkeley)