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New Year, New Pet: Get Your Overweight Pet on Weight Loss, Exercise Plan


Whether you have a fat cat or a pudgy pup, the New Year is the perfect time to get your beloved family pet in shape. It’s not that they need to fit into a great bathing suit by summer, it is strictly for their health and well-being. Along with your own resolutions for 2017, add some for your pet as well.

As with people, overweight dogs are susceptible to various health risks that affect many organs, according to the article “Health Risks in Overweight or Obese Dogs” at Doctors Foster and Smith at “When we overload these organs, disease and sometimes death are the consequences,” the article said. Risks can manifest in the form of diabetes mellitus, damage to joints, heart disease, digestive disorders and many more.

Basically the same can be said for overweight cats as stated in “Health Risks in Overweight or Obese Cats” at “One of the most common complications of obesity in cats is the development of diabetes mellitus (sugar diabetes).” Other consequences include liver disease, lameness and arthritis, and skin problems.

In the article “7 Surprising Ways To Help Your Pet Lose Weight (And Why It’s Important)” at, Dr. Ernie Ward, DVM, wrote, “…over half our nation’s dogs and cats are overweight. This means almost 80 million pets are at risk for developing crippling arthritis, debilitating diabetes, catastrophic kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure and many forms of cancer.”

Dr. Ward recommends seven tips to help get your pet back in tip-top shape:

  1. Calorie counts. Find out the amount of daily calories your pet needs by asking your veterinarian, and consult your vet before starting a diet because each pet has a different metabolism.
  2. Got measuring cup? Well use it, according to Dr. Ward. Don’t “guestimate.” He said, “After you calculate how many calories your pet needs, determine how much food you should feed each meal – and measure it.”
  3. It’s OK to give treats, but make sure they are not junk-food. Provide treats that are low calorie and no-sugar.
  4. Instead of store-bought dog treats, try baby carrots, green beans, cucumbers, bananas and sliced apples. “For cats, try a flake of salmon or tuna,” Dr. Ward wrote.
  5. Exercise! It’s good for you and your dog. “…anyone with a dog has a built-in, no-excuse exercise buddy,” Ward wrote. For dogs, 20-30 minutes of brisk walking helps with cardiovascular health. For cats, play with a laser pointer or remote-controlled toy for 5 to 15 minutes a day.
  6. “Almost every dog, cat and person can benefit from taking a daily omega-3 fatty acid supplement,” Ward wrote. Consult your vet before using any supplement.
  7. Cutting carbs. Dr. Ward suggests a higher protein/low carb diet. However, he advises checking with your vet first.

Our pets are our family and we are responsible for their health. There’s no better time than now to achieve your pet’s weight-loss goals and keep him or her healthy to live a long life.

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If You See a Stray Dog, Here’s How to Help
Keeping Dogs Indoors vs. Outdoors: What’s Best for Your Best Friend
Declawing Your Cat: The Pros and Cons

If You See a Stray Dog, Here’s How to Help

It happens to so many of us: You see a stray dog in the street or side of the road and you want to help but are unsure of what to do without scaring the dog or having him or her run into traffic.

According to “How to Help a Stray Pet” from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), whatever you do, don’t get into an accident so safely pull off to the side of the road. Here are tips from the HSUS:
• Catch safely: Often a dog will be scared, sick or injured. You cannot predict his/her behavior. Ensure the dog doesn’t run into traffic. “If possible, restrain the animal. Create a barrier or use a carrier, leash, piece of cloth, or length of rope to keep the animal in the area.”
• Be cautious. An animal may be scared and could bite due to fear. “When moving toward the animal, speak calmly to reassure them,” according to the HSUS article. “Make sure they can see you at all times as you approach, and perhaps entice them to come to you by offering a strong-smelling food such as canned tuna or dried liver.”
• Ask for backup. You may need help restraining the dog so you can call local animal control, or police if you are in a rural area.
• Bring the dog to safety. The HSUS article advises that if you can transport the dog, bring the dog to an animal shelter nearby. “If you plan to keep the animal in the event no owner is found, notify animal control that you have the animal or that you have taken them to a veterinary hospital for treatment.”

Check out the dog for injuries. If the dog has tags, try to call and locate the owner, or have the dog checked for a microchip. The dog may have a family who is searching for their canine friend.

Keeping Dogs Indoors vs. Outdoors: What’s Best for Your Best Friend

Should dogs live indoors or outdoors? There are families who have dogs who live inside and sleep alongside their humans. They are part of the “pack” and considered family. There are families who leave their dogs outside all the time. Often those dogs lack socialization and become isolated.

So what’s best?

According to “How Much Should You Keep Your Dog Outdoors?” at, Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T. Companion Animal Programs Adviser, National Outreach, wrote, “A dog who’s kept outside experiences social isolation. He may engage in excessive barking and howling in an attempt to reunite his pack.”

Schultz said that outdoor dogs who are isolated “become exceedingly independent and difficult to train.” Although bringing dogs outside to play is a great idea, it should not become their full-time home.

For those dogs who do like to spend time outdoors, it is very important to ensure they have appropriate protection from the elements and enough fresh, clean water, especially during summer months. Make sure to bring dogs inside during inclement weather. Also make sure to keep an eye on dogs outside as they could succumb to overheating during the summer. Outside dogs can be put in harm’s way if encountered by wildlife such as coyotes. Whatever you do, do not chain your dog outside, as that is very dangerous, cruel and inhumane.

“Dogs are companion animals and, as such, belong in our homes and in our lives,” Schultz wrote. Your dogs should not be restricted to a backyard. When you make an effort to train your dog, teach him or her manners and socialize your dog, “you will discover you have within him the best possible companion.”

Declawing Your Cat: The Pros and Cons

There is a lot of controversy on the subject of declawing cats. There are some countries that have actually banned the practice, considering it to be inhumane.

Some cat owners think it’s OK as they don’t believe that declawing is harmful and want to deter cats from scratching up furniture. “They don’t realize that declawing can make a cat less likely to use the litter box or more likely to bite,” according to “Declawing Cats: Far Worse Than a Manicure,” an article from The Humane Society of the United States. “Declawing also can cause lasting physical problems for your cat.”

According to the article, cat’s scratch. It’s a normal behavior for them. They do it, “to remove the dead husks from their claws, mark territory, and stretch their muscles.” They begin the behavior at approximately 8 weeks old, which is the perfect time to train them on using scratching posts and get them used to trimming their nails.

Declawing should only be considered for medical purposes “such as the removal of cancerous nail bed tumors.”

The surgery to declaw is not like having nails trimmed. It is the “amputation of the last bone of each toe,” the article said. “If performed on a human being, it would be like cutting off each finger at the last knuckle.”

According to the HSUS article, cats who have been declawed can experience:
• Pain in the paw
• Infection
• Tissue necrosis (tissue death)
• Lameness
• Back pain
• Nerve damage
• Bone spurs

The HSUS article recommends the following to help deter unwanted scratching:
• Keep your cat’s claws trimmed
• Provide scratching posts and boards throughout the home
• Ask your veterinarian for humane options

Medically, there is no benefit to declaw your cat. You can ensure everyone in the family is happy when you train your cat not to scratch furniture and other items in the home.

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From Allergies to Hot Spots, Ensure You Address Skin Problems in Dogs
How to Help Calm Your Dog When Separation Anxiety Takes Hold
Thinking of Giving a Pet as a Gift? Make Sure to Do Your Homework

From Allergies to Hot Spots, Ensure You Address Skin Problems in Dogs

There are various skin conditions found in dogs, which is why many dogs end up at the veterinarian, according to the PetMD article “5 Common Dog Skin Problems,” by Jessica Vogelsang, DVM.

According to the article, here are five common skin problems:

1. Itchy Skin. This is “officially referred to as pruritus,” which is common in dogs and is “the primary complaint associated with up to 40% of all vet visits for a skin problem.” Itching is miserable for dogs who continuously scratch, which can then cause “secondary skin lesions, infections, and hair loss from the trauma of teeth and nails on their skin.”
2. Allergies. When dogs itch, it can be due to allergies, which can be caused by the environment, food and fleas:
• An environmental allergy, also called atopy, is when allergens are either inhaled (pollen or mite dander) or absorbed through the skin (through grass). Dogs may need shots or medication.
• For dogs allergic to fleas, “One bite can be enough to trigger a systemic bout of chewing and scratching,” the article said. But once under control, so will the itching.
• Food allergies can be “triggered by a hypersensitivity reaction to a protein that the body misidentifies as a threat,” the article said. Make sure you see your vet to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment.
3. Sores and Hot Spots. Other causes of itchiness are mites and fleas and primary bacterial infections, the article said. “Hot spots, or moist dermatitis, are often seen in the dog and can spread very quickly.” Contact your vet if you see red, sticky sores.
4. Hair Loss. Caused by various issues, “from parasites such as Demodex mites to thyroid disease to Cushing’s disease,” so make sure you bring your dog to the vet for diagnosis.
5. Dull Coats. For dogs with a dull coat or dry skin, oftentimes nutritional management can be helpful along with supplements.
To ensure you receive the correct diagnosis and treatment for any skin problem, make sure to consult your veterinarian.

How to Help Calm Your Dog When Separation Anxiety Takes Hold

Do you have a dog who freaks out when you leave the house? Do you find your house destroyed when you return? Does your dog howl when placed in a crate? Or does she incessantly follow you around the house? When dogs show signs of separation anxiety they “exhibit distress and behavior problems when they’re left alone,” according to “Does Your Dog Freak Out When You Leave?” an article by The Humane Society of the United States.

Other signs are digging, chewing, barking and whining and going potty in the house.

According to the article, there is no real understanding of why some dogs suffer from the anxiety, but “dog’s behaviors are part of a panic response,” and they want you home with them.

The article points to the following triggers:
• When dogs are left alone for the first time, especially when they are constantly around humans.
• Traumatic time spent at shelter or boarding.
• Change in home routine.

For minor separation anxiety, the HSUS article recommends:
• To “ignore your dog for the first few minutes then calmly pet them” when you leave or return home.
• Leave them home with a piece of clothing that has your smell.
• Use an over-the-counter calming product.
• Use a word or action to indicate that you will return.

For more severe issues, use the above “along with desensitization training.” For those times you are away, establish a “safe place” for your dog where they cannot be destructive. This should be a place where your dog has room to play with toys but where the dog is confined loosely, the article said.

While you are teaching your dog to be calm, in the meantime you can send your dog to doggie daycare or to a friend. You can ask your vet for medication that can help with anxiety.

Whatever you do, do not punish your dog, get another dog or crate your dog. You can also speak with a behaviorist to get more input.

Thinking of Giving a Pet as a Gift? Make Sure to Do Your Homework

We seem to hear it time and again: It’s a bad idea to give a pet as a gift. This sentiment is heard often during the holiday season when many people are thinking of giving a puppy, kitten or bunny as a gift. Surely giving a pet as a gift to an unsuspecting person is not a good idea. When someone is not prepared for a new furry family member, although the initial response is excitement over the adorable pet, sometimes things turn out bad.

The most important aspect to keep in mind in the end is the animal’s welfare.

In a survey done by the ASPCA to find out about people receiving pets as gifts, “96% of the people who received pets as gifts thought it either increased or had no impact on their love or attachment to that pet,” according to the ASPCA’s “Position Statement on Pets as Gifts.” Accordingly, the survey also noted that there is “no difference in attachment based on the gift being a surprise or known in advance. Several studies conducted in the 1990’s and 2000 (Patronek, 1996, Scarlett, 1999 New, 1999, New 2000) found that pets acquired as gifts are less likely to be relinquished than pets acquired by the individual.”

The ASPCA does recommend that people only give pets to those who have made it clear that they would like to have one and that they are able to care for a pet in a responsible manner. “We also recommend that pets be obtained from animal shelters, rescue organizations, friends, family or responsible breeders—not from places where the source of the animal is unknown or untrusted,” the ASPCA article said.

Whatever you do, make sure the pet’s welfare is at the top of the list. Do your homework as you want to ensure the pet and the recipient will have a long life together.