Sunday, August 7, 2011


Well, we've gotten you through the initial step of deciding whether or not you wanted a new pet.  Then, we gave you some suggestions for how to go about looking for that new pet.  In last week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats, we presented some ideas on what to look for when choosing a veterinarian to take care of that new pet.  Hopefully, you're still with us as the final part of this topic discussion takes place this week.  We all agree that properly caring for your pet takes a firm commitment to do the right things.  As the introduction at the top of the opening page of this blog says, "Our goal is to not only help dog and cat owners take better care of their pets, but also to enrich the owner/pet relationship.  An educational experience for all who are interested.  Enjoy your pet and help your pet benefit from you!"

A well-informed pet owner will almost always be a better pet owner.  When I was still working in veterinary medical practice, I always appreciated a client who asked questions.  It didn't matter how many questions a client had for me...I made an effort to answer every one of them.  If I didn't  know the answer, I made sure that I found the answer.  With that in mind, look over this list of The Top 10 Questions Veterinarians Get About Pets:

No. 1: What Type of Food is Healthiest for Pets?

Any major brand of pet food is fine, says Peter Vyorst, DVM, a veterinarian at the Pet Health Center at North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington, N.Y. “Dry versus wet depends on what the owner and the pet prefer,” Dr. Vyorst says. You should feed puppy or kitten food for the first year and then switch to an adult food.

Look for food that has been certified by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), suggests Gregg Takashima, DVM, president of the American Animal Hospital Association and a practicing veterinarian in Lake Oswego, Ore. This demonstrates that the pet food company is meeting nutritional recommendation standards.

No. 2: How Much Food Does My Pet Need?

“Each pet food is different and each pet is different,” says Christina Buchter, DVM, a veterinarian also with the Pet Health Center at North Shore Animal League America, the world’s largest no-kill animal rescue and adoption organization. “Therefore, you should use the food bag and your pet as a guide.” Keep in mind that the amount of food fed depends on your pet’s lifestyle and metabolism — if you compare two identical healthy pets, the more active pet will need more food. In general, Dr. Buchter says you should feed your pet three times a day until it is 4 months old, and then reduce it to twice daily.

No. 3: Is My Pet Too Plump?

Many pet owners don’t know how to determine if their pet is overweight. “You should be able to feel your pet’s ribs, but also feel a thin fat layer covering over them. Behind the ribs there should be a waist,” Buchter says. If you think your pet is overweight, try cutting back on its food. Vyorst suggests decreasing the amount you feed by 5 to10 percent. If that doesn’t work, ask your vet about low-calories diets.

No. 4: What Vaccinations Should My Pet Get?

For a healthy pet, Vyorst says vaccinations should be started at 6 weeks of age and given every three-four weeks until the pet is 4 months old. He says puppies are given DHLPP vaccine, which protects against many contagious diseases including hepatitis. A kitten is given FVRCP vaccine to prevent many potentially deadly contagious illnesses. Both puppies and kittens are given a rabies vaccine at 4 months. Puppies also get a vaccine to guard against kennel cough. Dr. Takashima suggests asking your vet questions about specific shots for your particular pet — the recommendation will depend on where you live, your travel plans, and your lifestyle.

No. 5: Can My Puppy Go Outside Yet?

“It is safest to wait until the puppy has finished the series of vaccinations before letting it go outside,” Vyorst says. That is usually at 4 months old.

No. 6: Should I Brush My Pet's Teeth?

Poor pet dental hygiene can cause gum disease and that, Vyorst says, makes dogs and cats more prone to heart and kidney disease. A professional dental cleaning under anesthesia will remove plaque and tartar. Regular brushing will keep the tartar from coming back. “Two to three times weekly is a good goal to aim for,” says Buchter. If your pet does not tolerate brushing, there are dental chews and special diets available.

No. 7: What's the Scoop on Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Medicine?

Takashima and Vyorst generally recommend using this triple protection (against fleas, ticks, and heartworms) all year-round. But Takashima adds that where you live and your lifestyle will determine your pet’s individual medication plan.

No. 8: How Often Should I Bathe My Pet?

Most dogs without a skin condition don’t need a bath more than once a month, says Buchter. In fact, bathing your dog more than once a week could cause dry skin. But be sure to clean your pet’s ears more often to prevent infection — once or twice a week is recommended, depending on the amount of dirt or wax you find. Vyorst advises using your finger and a piece of gauze and any major brand of ear cleaner.

No. 9: Why Does My Pet Eat Poop?

This habit may turn your stomach, but it could be just that — a habit, says Takashima. Your dog or cat could also be doing it out of boredom or just have a huge appetite. Generally speaking, a pet isn’t eating feces because he’s missing an essential nutrient. “Perfectly healthy pets with no deficiencies will often do this,” he says. It’s best to discourage the behavior because “it is one way of introducing parasites, not to mention the bacteria.”

No. 10: Can My Pet Make Me Sick?

“In general, if your pet has a cold, or if you do, you cannot transfer it to each other,” Buchter says. However, she notes, there are a few conditions, including intestinal parasites and skin diseases, that could be transferred to people.

The most common question Takashima receives: Isn’t my dog or cat the best you’ve ever seen? “The answer is always … of course!” he says.

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Did you recognize some of the things you've been wondering about in that list of questions?  As you've often heard, there are no stupid questions...if something puzzles you enough to formulate a question, go ahead and ask your veterinarian the next time you see them.

Take a few minutes away from reading right now and listen to this podcast from the American Veterinary Medical Association, titled "Things To Ask Your Veterinarian":

By now, you should have a pretty good idea that better communication between you and your veterinarian is one of the most important things you can work toward as you strive to be the best pet owner you can be.

Just as a final reminder of the idea that "Chance favors the well-prepared," here is a last list of advice:

Pet Care Requires Planning

How do you mark summer's arrival? Do you stock up on suntan lotion? Buy yourself a new beach bag? Maybe you're thinking about a summer vacation and planning where and when you'll go. You've probably already sent in the deposits and medical forms for your children's camps and signed everyone up for swimming lessons. But have you given any thought to your four-legged friends? Start thinking now about what to do with your pet during summer vacation.

Take a few minutes and check off these five items for Fido or Fluffy:

1. Hydration. You don't leave for a day at the beach without packing a cooler of snacks and drinks, right? Well, dogs and cats need the same TLC during the hot summer months. If your animals are able to go outside, buy an extra bowl or two for outdoor hydration. If your exercise plans include taking along your dog, make sure you bring along a collapsible bowl or water bottle.

2. Fur care. You make appointments for your highlights and haircut, so make sure you give your pet the same amount of attention. Flea and tick baths and dips are a priority, so make appointments at your vet or groomer now to avoid problems later. And book a trim now for pets with longer hair, and you'll find your dog panting with happiness, not heatstroke.

3. Shade. If your animals spend a lot of time outside, see if your yard has appropriate spots for shade. If not, figure out where you can hang a temporary sheet in a corner of the yard and purchase the equipment you'll need. Or get a real doghouse.

4. Put together a pet-care bin. Throw one in your car and stash one by your front door or mudroom, especially if you live near the beach. Keep a towel, soft brush and collapsible water dish in a canvas bag. That way you'll always be ready for fun, and the wet sandy paws that tend to go with it.

5. Doggy day (and night) care. Going on vacation? Chances are, a lot of others are, too, so line up your pet care now -- not at the last minute. If you're giving the job to a neighbor's daughter, have her do a trial run while you are there so you're comfortable with her knowledge. No matter who's going to be in charge of your pet, make sure the person has critical information about your pet (including appropriate shots and paperwork) before you leave. If you don't have that organized, there are many great pet organizers on the market.

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Helpful Buckeye will be back next week with a completely new topic for your enjoyment.  Don't forget, you can always contact Helpful Buckeye at:  with an e-mail question.  We don't give out e-mail addresses to anybody.

Helpful Buckeye went to a couple of the AZ Cardinals' training camp practices this past week, held here in Flagstaff.  Desperado went with me to the second one...this was her first time to go to a practice in the 12 summers we've been in Flagstaff.  Desperado's OK with football, but it's not her favorite sport to watch.  That would be baseball.  However, she really got into the practice routines that the different position players go through.  There were good-sized crowds of spectators for these practices, especially the later one...because that was their first chance to see the new quarterback the Cardinals picked up.  If Kevin Kolb can get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald with anywhere near the recent success rate of Kurt Warner, the Cardinals should have a decent season.


Helpful Buckeye got several e-mail answers to the question last week about my herbs.  Only one reader, Helene from Richmond, VA, had the right answer.  Basil, Spearmint, Lavender, and Rosemary all are found in the Mint family of plants.

Helpful Buckeye and Desperado enjoy preparing AND eating different types of foods and recipes.  Normally, one or the other of us will take the lead in the preparation and the other will assist with chopping, slicing, and necessary clean-up.  This week, Helpful Buckeye decided to introduce 5 new entree recipes to our weekly plan of menus.  This means I will be doing mostly everything in getting the meal to the table.  Desperado deserves the break...meanwhile, two quotes from Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) painter, born in the Netherlands, apply to my culinary efforts this week: "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together," and " lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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