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January 8, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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How to Pick the Right Pet For Your Kid

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Do you have happy memories of playing with your pet when you were a kid and want the same for your child? Or are you looking for the best response to your child’s request for an animal buddy? Taking care of the health of your pet is a considerable commitment – so before you zero in on the right furry friend for your kid, spend some time to figure out the best match.

Is your child ready for the pet?

The two most important questions to consider before bringing home a pet are: can your child take care of the pet, and are you willing to supervise? If you think you can hand over the responsibility of taking care of the pet entirely over to your child, think again. It is the responsibility of the parents to care for the pet, irrespective of the child’s age. If the child is entrusted with chores, like cleaning the litter box or walking the dog, the parent needs to assure that it is done properly. It is also the job of the parent to schedule annual health check-ups for the pet.

The main qualities to look for in your child if you are planning to get him/her a pet are:

  • Obedience – Your child should be able to understand instructions and follow them. It is important for pet health and safety.
  • Gentleness – Your child should be able to control the energy with which he/she plays with the animal.
  • Responsibility – If you decide to give pet-related chores to your kid, such as walking or feeding them, you need to ensure that they are done properly.

Tips for choosing the first pet

  • Start small – Try a furred pet, like a hamster. These animals need more involvement than fishes, but also give more in return. A vet or a pet store is a good resource for advice on how to play with, feed, and keep your pet clean.
  • Fostering – You can look for fostering opportunities with the local shelter if you want to try living with a pet first. Not all foster animals are mistreated or abandoned – most of them just need a place to stay while the owner is off to some place where pets are not allowed.
  • Volunteering at the local shelter – This is a great activity for the family and will give hands-on training to your kids on the basics of pet care without the hassle committing to a pet.

Matching the personalities of kids and pets

Finding the right pet for your child is one of the biggest challenges. For example, it is not a good idea to get a nervous animal as a pet for an active child. It is essential to match the temperament of the pet and the kid. Cats and dogs should be trained using techniques of positive reinforcement. If you invest a little in obedience training with the involvement of your kids, it could go a long way in ensuring a smooth relationship with the pet.

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January 7, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Is It Time to Euthanize Your Pet?

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Euthanasia is a method of quietly and humanely inducing the death of a pet. Putting your ailing pet to sleep is one of the most difficult decisions you are going to make. A little emotional support and preparation can help you make the correct decision and cope with it.

Sometimes, an accident or a sudden illness requires you to put a hitherto healthy pet to sleep without a warning. In some cases, you may sense that the end of your pet’s life is near. If the bad days are outnumbering the good days, it is probably time to talk to the veterinarian. It is always a good idea to learn about the course your pet’s life is going to take, including the common maladies and the expected life span. When the end seems imminent, here are some decisions you may want to consider:

  • Your role – Do you want to stay with your pet through the procedure or say goodbye and leave? Do you want to look at the body of your pet? Do you want the children to be a part of the process?
  • Resting place – You can decide between a cremation or a burial. If you are going to go for cremation, you have to decide whether you want your pet to have a private cremation or the cheaper mass cremation.
  • Postmortem – You can choose to have a postmortem examination performed on your pet’s body to determine the cause of its illness.

Clues that the end is near

The following are the most commonly observed signs when a pet is nearing the end of its life:

  • Your pet is acting antisocial and reclusive
  • Your pet refuses to eat
  • Your pet is being consumed by discomfort or pain
  • Your pet is unresponsive

Other reasons to euthanize your pet include a critical injury that leaves it incapacitated or if it has become dangerous and violent. If you find yourself in any of the above circumstances, talk with your family, friends, and vet. Although the vet cannot make the decision, he/she can tell you all about its condition and the chances for recovery.

Saying goodbye

Once you have decided to euthanize your pet, the following actions may help you cope better with the loss:

  • Bid farewell – Before you put your pet to sleep, gather all your family members to spend time with your pet. It can be very emotional to say goodbye to your pet, but it will help you be at peace with your decision.
  • Honor your pet – Apart from cherishing your memories and recounting the good times you had with your pet, establishing a memorial for your pet would be helpful. You can have a clay paw print made, make a scrapbook, plant a memorial tree, write an obituary or contribute to a charity in your pet’s name.
  • Emotional support – Seek out the support of someone who can empathize with your loss. If you are having a rough time dealing with the declining health of your pet, talking to a mental health professional will help you deal with your loss better.
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January 6, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Holiday Pet Health Hazards

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As the holiday season nears, decorations come out of storage and guests start gathering. But before your planning and festivities go into full gear, take some time to gauge any hidden hazards your guests or home may present to your pets. While you might know that some foods are not good for your dog, your guests won’t. Pet-proofing your house may just save you from an emergency visit to the veterinarian.

Dangerous Food Items

With the abundance of food around at holiday time, pets end up helping themselves to trash cans and unattended plates. There are a number of food items that are lethal if consumed by your dog or cat. Here is a list of five foods you should ensure your pet avoids:

  1. Chocolates – Chocolate based products have methylxanthines, which include theobromine and caffeine. Depending on the amount and type of chocolate consumed, your dog or cat may face serious complications. Diarrhea and vomiting are the most commonly observed side-effects of eating chocolate. Other effects include hyperactivity, anxiousness, tremors, stumbling, seizures, and abnormal heart rhythms. If it is treated early, the prognosis is good.
  2. Xylitol – The artificial sweetener, xylitol, which is found in sugar-free products, is deadly to dogs. If ingested, it causes the blood sugar to drop, which can result in lethargy, vomiting, collapse, weakness or seizures. The signs start appearing as early as 15 to 30 minutes after ingestion but might be delayed for up to 12 hours. In some cases, liver failure can happen within 72 hours of ingesting it.
  3. Raisins and grapes – Although the mechanism isn’t clear, eating raisins or grapes can lead to kidney failure in dogs. Since it is not known how much a dog should consume in order for it to be dangerous, it is safer to keep them out of the pet’s reach – and inform your guests about the potential danger. Signs that your dog might have consumed raisins or grapes include vomiting, lethargy, increased thirst and urination, and loss of appetite.
  4. Toxic plants – If you own a cat, lilies are the plant you have to worry about, as consuming them can cause kidney failure. If there is an arrangement with lilies, get it out of your home and ensure that you clean up the pollen – every part of the plant is poisonous. Eating poinsettias may cause mouth irritation, whereas mistletoe and holly cause gastrointestinal symptoms.
  5. Fat trimmings – Avoid feeding bones or fatty leftovers to your pet even if it is tempting to do so. Possible consequences include pancreatitis, diarrhea, severe vomiting, broken teeth, blockage of the esophagus or intestines – which would require immediate surgery.

If your pet is exposed to a toxin, call your veterinarian, local clinic or pet poison control center immediately. If you know what your pet has swallowed and need to go to the emergency room, take the box or wrapper with you so that the veterinarian can calculate the ingested dose.

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January 5, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Why Your Dog Needs To Be Walked

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Majority of the dog breeds came into being for a particular purpose, for instance, herding, sporting, working and so on. Therefore, irrespective of whether your dog is a mixed breed or a pure bred; there is a high chance of it carrying genetic traits which stimulate it to pursue some kind of activity.

Unfortunately, several dogs today don’t get enough opportunities to undertake activities that their genetic instincts drive them to perform. Also, rarely do pet dogs exercise on their own and most dogs get bored of trying to find stimulation playing or running in a small backyard or other restricted spaces in your home.

Importance of pet exercise

All dogs, big or small, require at least one hour of exercise on a daily basis. The requirements may vary depending on the dog breed. Dogs love familiar surroundings. In fact, ‘sniff walks’ allow them to connect with importance scents around the neighborhood.

Just like us, dogs also need a bit of socialization every other day. We all look forward to our weekly coffee date with a close friend or group of friends. The same holds true for dogs as well. They also wish to play and have fun with their dog buddies. It is particularly important for pups as they need to learn how to socialize and interact with other dogs in a friendly way.

Here is another great reason for walking your dog. It is an opportunity for you to practice disciplinary skills with the animal, while also reinforcing your loving bond with it. As you come across another person or dog in the neighborhood or park, your dog gets a chance to demonstrate its social skills. Animal behaviorists have observed that those dogs that go out for a daily walk are usually better behaved. There are fewer chances of them being aggressive or destructive or have dominance/separation problems.

How to walk your dog

Yes, there is a proper way of walking your pet, which is beneficial for the mental development of the animal. As the pet owner, you should be walking your dog, rather than the dog walking you. Why? When a dog walks ahead of the owner, it gets the idea that he/she is leading the walk, not the owner. You don’t wish to communicate that to your pet.

What should be the duration of the walk? Typically, a 20 minute walk should be enough for most dogs, young and old, when they are physically healthy. For highly active dogs, a longer or more vigorous walk might be needed. In fact, active dogs may even require two walks daily. You could also try short, slow jogs to get your pet moving.

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January 4, 2016
by Lynn Merton
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Tips for Bringing Your Pet to the Workplace

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Bringing your pet to the workplace is increasingly seen as a win-win by companies. It provides a more pleasant work atmosphere and increases the productivity of the employees. One in five companies in the United States allow their employees to bring along their pets to work. However, if you are planning to take your pet to the office, you should prepare in advance and have contingencies for potentially problematic situations so that you have a safe and successful experience. If it is done right, it can improve the visit of your pet and boost your reputation in the workplace. Here are some useful tips when bringing your pet to work:

  1. Permission – Most of the companies allow only dogs in the workplace. You should check in with your employer beforehand to find out the animals that you are allowed to bring to work.
  2. Anxiety – Your office can turn out to be a very anxious environment for your pet. Ensure that you make the place more “homey” by bringing your pet’s favorite blanket, toy, or snack to make it feel more comfortable.
  3. Food and water – A thirsty or hungry pet can be a huge distraction in your workplace. To keep your pet in line, make sure that you bring along plenty of water and food.
  4. Avoid conflict – Make sure that you keep your pet isolated from the pets of other employees.
  5. Watch out for other pets – While it may be easy for you to read the mood of your animal, it is not so easy to gauge the mood of an animal you are unfamiliar with. Keep your ears and eyes open for any sign of aggressiveness from the other pets. For instance, if another dog has its hackles up and is staring with its ears turned forward, or growls aggressively, it indicates adrenaline in the system and is a sign that the dog is ready to attack.
  6. Conflict resolution – Even with the utmost care, it is not possible to avoid conflict between pets. If your pet gets into a fight with another animal at work, keep calm and have a blanket nearby. Throw the blanket over the quarreling pets to distract them and remove your animal from the scene.
  7. Authority – Ensure that your pet understands that you are the boss at home and in the workplace. Pets are prone to challenging the authority of the owners in unfamiliar environments. Your pet should understand that you are the leader. Ignore your pet’s requests for attention and keep eye contact to a bare minimum. Once the pet tires of the attention seeking tactics, call him/her for a little play session.
  8. Grooming – Ensure that your animal is groomed and cleaned before you take him/her to the workplace. It takes only one complaint from an allergic coworker to cause a problem.