Missing the litter box

A tabby cat walking away from his litterbox.

 

You have a problem. Your cat is thinking outside the box, and not in a good way. You may be wondering what you did to inspire so much “creative expression.” Is your cat punishing you? Is Fluffy just “bad”? No, and no. House soiling and missing the litter box is a sign that your cat needs some help.

According to the Winn Feline Foundation, house soiling is the number one complaint among cat owners. The good news is that it is very treatable.

An accredited veterinarian can help you determine if the problem is medical or related to social or environmental stressors. In addition to a complete physical exam, the doctor will ask you specific “where and when” questions.

Health factors

Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, a specialist in feline urinary disorders at The Ohio State University, and founder of the Indoor Cat Initiative says that many veterinarians recommend a urine test for every cat with a house soiling problem. The urinalysis will determine if blood, bacteria, or urinary crystals are present — signs that your cat might have feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD).

FLUTD is very common and can cause painful urination. Cats that begin to associate the litter box with pain will avoid it. Other medical possibilities include hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, diabetes, and arthritis and muscle or nerve disorders that might prevent your cat from getting to the litter box in time.

Environmental factors
If there is no medical cause, the next step is to look at environmental factors. Start with the litter box. Your cat might be avoiding the litter box because it is not cleaned well enough, you’ve changed the type of litter you use, or there is only one box for multiple cats.

Another possibility is that your cat is “marking” — spraying urine, typically on vertical objects such as walls and furniture, or in “socially significant” areas near doors or windows. Both male and female cats mark. The most common offenders are cats that have not been spayed or neutered.

Buffington says that stress can cause elimination problems too. For example, subtle aggression or harassment by other house cats or neighborhood cats may be an issue.

Even unremarkable changes in your home can make your cat anxious or fearful. Look around. Did anything change right before your cat started having problems? Did you get a new pet? A new couch? Maybe you just moved the old couch to a different part of the room, or had a dinner party. Cats are sensitive creatures and changes that seem small to you can throw your cat off his game. Check with your veterinarian about finding solutions that work for both you and your cat

SOURCE: https://www.aaha.org/pet_owner/pet_health_library/cat_care/behavior/missing_the_litter_box.aspx

ASPCA Guide to Pet-Safe Gardening

Garden tools and dog

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) experts field tens of thousands of calls each year involving animal companions who’ve had potentially hazardous contact with insecticides, weed killers and pet-toxic plants.
“Keeping animals safe from accidental poisonings should not end once you’ve stepped outside,” says Dana Farbman, APCC pet poison prevention expert. “Protecting your pet from potential hazards in your yard is just as critical.”
While gardens and yards are lovely for relaxing, they can also prove dangerous for our animal companions.

Our experts recommend you watch out for the following:

Poisonous Plants
When designing and planting your green space, it’s a good idea to keep in mind that many popular outdoor plants—including sago palm, rhododendron and azalea—are toxic to cats and dogs. Sago palm and other members of the Cycad family as well as mushrooms can cause liver failure, while rhododendron, azalea, lily of the valley, oleander, rosebay, foxglove and kalanchoe all affect the heart. Please visit our full list—and pics!—of toxic and non-toxic plants for your garden.

Fertilizer
Just like you, plants need food. But pet parents, take care—the fertilizer that keeps our plants healthy and green can wreak havoc on the digestive tracts of our furry friends. Ingesting large amounts of fertilizer can give your pet a good case of stomach upset and may result in life-threatening gastrointestinal obstruction. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and observe the appropriate waiting period before letting your pet run wild outside.

Cocoa Mulch
Many gardeners use cocoa bean shells—a by-product of chocolate production—in landscaping. Popular for its attractive odor and color, cocoa mulch also attracts dogs with its sweet smell, and like chocolate, it can pose problems for our canine companions. Depending on the amount involved, ingestion of cocoa mulch can cause a range of clinical signs, from vomiting, diarrhea and muscle tremors to elevated heart rate, hyperactivity and even seizures. Consider using a less-toxic alternative, such as shredded pine, cedar or hemlock bark, but always supervise curious canines in yards where mulch is spread.

Insecticides
Like fertilizer, herbicides, insecticide baits, sprays and granules are often necessary to keep our gardens healthy, but their ingredients aren’t meant for four-legged consumption. The most dangerous forms of pesticides include snail bait with metaldehyde, fly bait with methomyl, systemic insecticides with the ingredients disyston or disulfoton, mole or gopher bait with zinc phosphide and most forms of rat poisons. Always store pesticides in inaccessible areas—and read the manufacturer’s label carefully for proper usage and storage.

Compost
You’re doing the right thing for your garden and Mother Earth—you’re composting! Food and garden waste make excellent additions to garden soil, but depending on what you’re tossing in the compost bin, they can also pose problems for our pets. Coffee, moldy food and certain types of fruit and vegetables are toxic to dogs and cats, so read up on people foods to avoid feeding your pet.

Fleas and Ticks
Since fleas and ticks lurk in tall brush and grasses, it’s important to keep those lawns mowed and trim. Fleas can cause excessive scratching, hair loss, scabs, hot spots and tapeworms as well as anemia from blood loss in both cats and dogs. Ticks can cause similar effects and lead to a variety of complications from tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Babesia.

Garden Tools
Unattended garden tools may seem like no big deal, but rakes, tillers, hoes and trowels can be hazardous to pets and cause trauma to paws, noses or other parts of a curious pet’s body. Rusty, sharp tools caked in dirt may also pose a risk for tetanus if they puncture skin. While cats don’t appear to be as susceptible as dogs to tetanus, care should be taken by storing all unused tools in a safe area, not haphazardly strewn on the ground.

Allergy-Causing Flora
Ah-choo! Like their sneezy human counterparts, pets have allergies to foods, dust and even plants. Allergic reactions in dogs and cats can even cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock if the reaction is severe. If you do suspect your pet has an allergy, please don’t give him any medication that isn’t prescribed by a veterinarian. It’s also smart to keep your pet out of other people’s yards, especially if you’re unsure of what kinds of plants or flowers lurk there. Keeping your pet off the lawn of others will make for healthy pets and happy neighbors.
Originally published by the ASPCA.

Hot Weather Tips

Dachshund with Ears Flapping in Wind

“Most people love to spend the warmer days enjoying the outdoors with friends and family, but it is important to remember that some activities can be dangerous for our pets,” said Dr. Camille DeClementi, Senior Toxicologist at the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center. “By following a few simple rules, it is easy to keep your pet safe while still having fun in the sun.”

Take these simple precautions, provided by ASPCA experts, to help prevent your pet from overheating. And if you suspect your pet is suffering from heat stroke, get help from your veterinarian immediately.

Visit the Vet 
A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pets get tested for heartworm if they aren’t on year-round preventive medication. Do parasites bug your animal companions? Ask your doctor to recommend a safe flea and tick control program.

Made in the Shade
Pets can get dehydrated quickly, so give them plenty of fresh, clean water when it’s hot outdoors. Make sure your pets have a shady place to get out of the sun, be careful to not over-exercise them, and keep them indoors when it’s extremely hot.

Know the Warning Signs 
Symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, stupor or even collapse. They can also include seizures, bloody diarrhea and vomit along with an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees. Animals with flat faces, like Pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively. These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.

No Parking!
Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle. “On a hot day, a parked car can become a furnace in no time-even with the windows open-which could lead to fatal heat stroke,” says Dr. Louise Murray, Vice President of ASPCA Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. Also, leaving pets unattended in cars in extreme weather is illegal in several states.

Make a Safe Splash
Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool-not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure they wear flotation devices when on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.

Screen Test 
“During warmer months, the ASPCA sees an increase in injured animals as a result of High-Rise Syndrome, which occurs when pets-mostly cats-fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured,” says Dr. Murray. “Pet owners need to know that this is completely preventable if they take simple precautions.” Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.

Summer Style
Feel free to trim longer hair on your dog, but never shave your dog: The layers of dogs’ coats protect them from overheating and sunburn. Brushing cats more often than usual can prevent problems caused by excessive heat. And be sure that any sunscreen or insect repellent product you use on your pets is labeled specifically for use on animals.

Street Smarts 
When the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your pooch’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. Keep walks during these times to a minimum.

Avoid Chemicals 
Commonly used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), and lawn and garden insecticides can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or other chemicals. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well. Call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 if you suspect your animal has ingested a poisonous substance.

Party Animals
Taking Fido to a backyard barbeque or party? Remember that the food and drink offered to guests may be poisonous to pets. Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression and comas. Similarly, remember that the snacks enjoyed by your human friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments. Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.

Fireworks Aren’t Very Pet-riotic
Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, and even unused fireworks can be hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.

 

Article originally published by the ASPCA.

The Importance of the Canine Influenza Vaccine

Bichon maltais blanc assis & coquin sur fond blanc

At River Oaks Animal Hospital, East Lake Animal Clinic, and Pet Care Center of Apopka, we have been vaccinating for canine influenza for three years, ever since this virus became a cause for concern. All around the country the news is reporting canine influenza epidemics, especially in the Midwest, and we hope that just by watching the news you will start to understand why it’s so important to have your pet protected from this!

With all the media coverage of canine influenza right now, we want to set the record straight about a few things. All over the news and the internet, we keep seeing high prices quoted for this vaccine and we want to make sure that our clients aren’t skipping this critical preventive care due to those quoted costs! We’ve seen national news sites quoting costs of $100+ for vaccines, but at our animal hospitals, we offer the vaccine for:

  • $40 for the first time the vaccine is given – comes in a package of 2 for first administration and then a booster 3 weeks later, for no additional cost.
  • $28.55 for an annual booster every year following.

Our veterinary team believes firmly that every dog should be vaccinated against the canine influenza virus, without exception. This is not a situation where you can determine the need of the vaccine based on where your dog goes or what they do. No matter what, an unvaccinated dog is at risk because they have no immunity to this potentially fatal virus.

Get Your Canine Influenza Vaccine

If your dog has not been vaccinated against canine influenza, please contact us today to schedule their vaccine appointment. This vaccine is so important to everyone’s health. Please, act now.

Reasons To Act More Like Your Pet

Pets aren’t always easy to take care of, and they often require a substantial time commitment (something you’re all too aware of at, say, 3 a.m., when Bing Clawsby is finally ready to go outside and do his business). But pets provide an amazing return on that time investment, especially when it comes to your health. Case in point: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, pet owners tend to have lower blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels than non-pet owners. But that’s not all. Pets also model many surprisingly healthy behaviors that humans would do well to emulate. Here are just a few, according to veterinarians, dog trainers, and other pet experts.

Dogo Canario puppy in yellow dandelions

  1. They focus on what matters most. You may get grumpy after a bad day at the office, but your pooch never does. “Companion animals mostly care about food, love, and shelter (not always in that order). As long as they have those things, they don’t need much else,” Mary Gardner, DVM, a veterinarian and cofounder of Lap of Love Veterinary Hospice tells Yahoo Health. “Pets also don’t complain much at all. People believe they hide their pain; I simply think they manage it differently.” If humans could model these behaviors, Gardner adds, we’d be healthier, happier, “and more people would want to be around us.”

 

  1. They practice portion control (even if not by choice). Snowball might not want to limit her kibble intake any more than you want to limit your tortilla-chip intake. Nonetheless, she typically eats reasonably sized helpings of nutritionally balanced food — and never gets to eat straight out of the bag. Follow her lead. “Both animals and people need structure and regulation when it comes to portion size,” says Jme Thomas, executive director of Motley Zoo Animal Rescue based in Redmond, Washington.

 

  1. They know how to de-stress. Your pooch doesn’t pour a glass of cabernet when the going gets rough (though, yes, it would make a very popular YouTube video if she did). She may, however, start begging for a walk or to play a game. Smart dog! “Actively seeking healthy activities — that function as de-stressors when stress levels are high — helps to reset people as well as dogs, and bring us back to a productive and functional status, from which many things feel a lot more ‘do-able,’” Marisa Scully, a certified dog behavior specialist in Philadelphia, tells Yahoo Health.

relax kitten on green grass

  1. They hit the hay. People don’t get enough sleep: According to a 2014 survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 45 percent of Americans said that a lack of sleep had impaired their activities at least once in the previous week. Learn from your cat or dog, who knows just how important it is to get enough shut-eye, says Jeff Werber, VVM, president and chief veterinarian of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles. “Whether it’s a lazy dog day afternoon, or a quick cat nap, you won’t find them burning the candles at both ends.”

 

  1. They stretch! There’s a reason one of the most common yoga moves is named downward dog. Dogs (and cats) stretch constantly — and we should do the same, notes certified dog behavior consultant Russell Hartstein. Why? Stretching can improve flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.

 

  1. They’re open to new things. Animals are naturally curious. “Open a box or empty a bag and before you know it, your cat will have climbed in to investigate. Walk your dog past a gardener planting flowers and chances are she will check it out before moving on,” Werber says. “And they’re always up for some fun. A game of catch, a walk, a visit — bring it on.” Since research has found that seeking out new experiences can keep people feeling young and healthy, we’d do well to follow suit.

 

  1. They’re comfortable getting zen. Numerous studies have found a correlation between mindful meditation and reduced stress, decreased heart disease, and a stronger immune response — and that’s something your cat already knows how to do instinctively. “Each morning I sit on the sofa with my cat, Turtle, while I drink my first cup of coffee,” says Kristen Levine, a pet living expert. “We spend about 10 minutes together, her getting neck and head rubs, me enjoying her purring and having a few meditative moments at the start of the day.It sounds simple, and it can be, but depending on the activity, it can have a powerfully relaxing or invigorating effect for both human and critter.”

 

 

Source: https://www.yahoo.com/health/7-health-lessons-our-pets-teach-us-112252958927.html

 

 

Scents and Sensitivity: Dogs Know When We’re Happy or Angry

Science is proving what pet owners have long believed: Dogs understand what we’re feeling. Specifically, dogs can recognize the difference between a happy and an angry human face, a study published Thursday in Current Biology suggests.

It’s the first research to show definitively that dogs are sensitive to our facial expressions, says coauthor Ludwig Huber, head of comparative cognition at Messerli Research Institute at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna.

In the Austrian study, 20 pet dogs of various breeds and sizes were taught to play a computer game through a series of exercises. In the first, the dogs were shown two touch screens, one with a circle and one with a square. Through trial and error, they learned that a treat would appear if they chose the right geometrical figure.

Eleven of the 20 dogs were able to catch on to rules of the game and make it to the next phase, where they were shown photos of faces. Half the dogs were rewarded for picking a happy expression and half for choosing an angry expression. The interesting catch: the dogs were shown only the upper half or the lower half of a face.

It was easier to teach the dogs to choose a happy expression than an angry one, suggesting the dogs do indeed understand the meaning behind the expression, Huber says.

As a test, the dogs were then were presented with:

the same half of the faces they saw during the training, but from different people
the other half of the faces used in training
the other half of new faces
the left half of the faces used in training
In the vast majority of cases the dogs chose the right answer 70 to 100 percent of the time.

Dogs who had been trained to recognize an expression of anger or happiness on the upper part of a face could identify the same expression when shown only the lower part, and vice versa, Huber says, adding “the only possible explanation is that they recall from memory of everyday life how a whole human face looks when happy or angry.”

Dog owners know their pets not only recognize emotions but also feel empathy.

Delilah, a 3-year-old Chihuahua, always seems to know when her owner Eva Shure is having a bad day.
Delilah knows when her owner is having a bad day.
Making eye contact and cocking her head to the right, the little dog will stare at Shure’s face as if trying to assess her feelings. “It’s weird, I can see her thinking and processing,” says Shure, a 35-year-old New York City business owner. “I’ll say, yeah, it’s not a great day and she’ll come up and sit next to me.”

Beverly Levreault, 57, says her 6-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix is always tuned in to her moods. “If I’m not feeling well, like when I have the flu, Lacey is definitely lower key and will not leave my side, ” says Levreault, a graphic designer from Williamstown, New York. “If I take her for a walk, she’s not as rambunctious as she usually is.”

Lynette Whiteman says she’s not sure that her 5-year-old Yorkie-Maltese cross is using facial expressions to gauge how she feels. “But she definitely reads my emotions,” says the 58-year-old from Toms River, New Jersey. “I run a therapy dog program and the dogs are just amazing. They go into a room and immediately pick out the person who needs help.”

Behavioral experts say the new findings, while important, wouldn’t surprise anyone with an intimate knowledge of dogs.
Coco and Lynettte
“This new work continues to build the case for just how sensitive dogs are to our subtle behaviors,” says Dr. Brian Hare, chief scientific officer at Dognition and an associate professor of evolutionary anthropology at Duke University. “This is the strongest evidence yet that dogs are even reading our facial expressions.”

That sensitivity may be the result of generations of selective breeding for a true partner, says Dr. Carlo Siracusa, director of the behavior service at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. “We have selected animals that are able to perceive our emotions and communicate with us at a level that no other animal can,” Siracusa says.

Dogs may not talk, but they are very good communicators, says Dr. Nicholas Dodman, a professor in the department of clinical sciences at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and director of the animal behavior clinic at Cummings.

“Just as we are masters of the spoken word, dogs are experts at reading body language,” Dodman says.

“It’s almost impossible to hide your feelings from a dog.”

Turns out, reading facial expressions isn’t the only thing dogs have in common with us.

They can be bitten by the computer gaming bug. “They can really become freaks for it,” Huber says with a chuckle. “They don’t want to stop playing. It’s incredible. They’ll play till they are exhausted and fall asleep.”

 

Source: http://www.today.com/pets/dogs-know-when-were-happy-or-angry-2D80489190

Orthopedic Surgery: Cruciate Ligament Repair

Cruciate Ligament Ruptures are among the most common injuries that dogs experience, but they are also serious and often painful as well! The veterinary teams at our Central Florida Vets animal hospitals—River Oaks Animal Hospital, Pet Care Center of Apopka, and East Lake Animal Clinic—are equipped to provide specialized orthopedic care for our patients who have experienced a cruciate ligament rupture or other serious knee injuries. The majority of our critical care cases are handled by our River Oaks Animal Hospital location as this facility is one of only a few hospitals in our area that has an oxygen chamber for post-surgical recovery.

What is a Cruciate Ligament Tear?

The cruciate ligament is the connective band of tissue, or the ligament, that connects the thigh bone with the lower leg bone and helps the knee to bend in a straight line. This can be disrupted, either stretched or torn, due to a genetic disposition toward this injury or because of an athletic activity that results in unstable footing or quick pivoting. It can also be caused by repetitive actions, and obesity is sometimes a factor in this type of injury as well.

Meet Sasha

2014100395152811

Just one week after surgery to repair a torn cruciate ligament, Sasha is walking well and weight bearing! Good job, Dr Greer. We so love this dog, who is so gentle. Nothing is more exciting than to see a dog come out of the cruciate ligament, or ACL, surgery, successfully and embark on a smooth recovery. Remember, each pet is an individual and their treatment and recovery from this type of condition will be different for everyone. We’ll be happy to discuss your pet’s personalized care with you. Please contact us with your questions!

Questions about Pet Obesity

At our Central Florida Vets practices, we are often asked about ongoing, at-home pet care. One of the most common concerns has to do with a healthy pet weight. Our most recent question was:

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Why is my dog so fat when I really don’t feed him very much?

 We are so glad that you’re looking to maintain your pet’s weight. Just like with humans, obesity has become a leading health issue for pets. When determining your pet’s dietary needs, it’s important to understand that:

  • Each brand of dog food will have a different caloric value per pound and you should know what yours is on the brand of food your pet eats.
  • Some foods may be higher in fat content. These will be the foods that your pet is more likely to like better. This is similar to the human desire for fast food!
  • Other factors that must be considered in dietary management are your pet’s:
    • Energy levels
    • Age
    • Living conditions

Once you understand these parts of your pet’s lifestyle, it’s important to evaluate the amount of food they eat daily and the amount of exercise they get. If your pet is not overeating and is getting adequate exercise and still looks like a football on legs, there may be another issue that is causing the weight gain. A metabolic disease can be the cause of this, but a condition of this type must be diagnosed through examination and blood tests. Weight issues can be caused by conditions such as an underactive thyroid or Cushings disease.

A River Oaks Animal Hospital Case Study

 Our veterinary team is currently working with a pet named Bonzo who is experiencing weight management issues. He is currently 67 pounds, but his healthy weight is only 15 pounds.

Bonzo’s case addresses another problem: how to lose weight.  In this case, there is an underlying disease, so we use medication and diet control. Bonzo’s food is strictly regulated and we have now started an exercise program.  With this amount of excess weight, we are aiming to boost the metabolism by splitting his meals into four portions and making sure that he walks before eating.  In other words, no energy input without energy output. We are aiming for a weight loss of about 1 to 2 pounds every ten days.

 

So far, we are on track and after a few days, Bonzo has been able to double his exercise.  The owner is committed to winning, and that is another important facet. Ignore the comments and stares you may get taking a very overweight dog to the dog park. You are doing the right thing. Overweight dogs have a higher chance of developing diabetes and joint disease.

Is Your Pet Overweight?

 If you are a pet owner with an overweight pet, talk to us. We would love to work with you to help determine the root cause, and more importantly, the treatment options available to get your pet back to their healthy weight. Remember, a healthy weight is essential for a long life!

 

 

Buster and the Eyelid Tumor Removal

Introducing our brave patient Buster! Just look at that sweet little face.

Buster

Buster recently was diagnosed with a tumor under his eyelid. Eyelid tumors are common in older dogs, and while the majority of these tend to be benign, or non-cancerous, it is important for them to be professionally evaluated. These tumors generally develop in the glands that line the eyelids. Often these tumors don’t cause a lot of problems, but they can be irritating to pets. If they are, removal is recommended.

Eyelid Tumor Removal

Generally, there are two different methods used for eyelid tumor removal, and the choice between one method and the other depends on the tumor itself. Veterinarians will often use a local anesthetic to remove as much of the tumor as possible, and then follow up with cryotherapy to remove the remainder of the tumor cells. The second method is often used when a tumor or growth is more aggressive and this involves sedating the patient and removing the tumor surgically.

At our Central Florida Vets practicesRiver Oaks Animal Hospital, Pet Care Center of Apopka, and East Lake Animal Clinic—we operate on a case-by-case basis, choosing methods of removal based on the individual pet’s needs and condition.

Sweet Buster’s Prognosis

After having a surgical removal of his eyelid tumor, Buster is doing well! His Mommy, who practices alternative therapies in her own workplace, has been using them on him to help him feel good as new and to speed up his healing process. We’re so glad Buster’s prognosis is looking good!

February is Responsible Pet Owners Month

Among companion animals, dogs are unmatched in their devotion, loyalty and friendship to humankind. Anyone who has ever loved a dog can attest to its hundred-fold return. The excitement your dog shows when you come home, the wagging tail at the sound of the leash being taken from its hook, the delight in the tossing of a tennis ball, and the head nestled in your lap-those are only some of the rewards of being a dog owner.

Owning a dog is not just a privilege-it’s a responsibility. These animals depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more. If you are considering taking a dog into your life, you need to think seriously about the commitment that dog ownership entails. If you already have a dog, you need to consider if you are fulfilling all your obligations as its owner.
The AKC is committed to helping dog owners raise happy, healthy dogs. The list below is certainly not exhaustive, but it contains some of the essential ways you can be the best dog owner you can be.

Follow these links to view a selection of our 101 suggestions:

Think First
  1. Recognize the Commitment
    Dog ownership is not something to be entered into lightly. Owning a dog is a long-term emotional and financial commitment. Before deciding that a certain dog is right for you, you must make an honest assessment as to whether your home is right for any dog.
  2. Evaluate Your Lifestyle
    If you get a dog, he (or she) will become a part of your life. You need to make sure that he’s suited for your lifestyle. For example, if you are athletic, you will probably not be happy with a dog that has a low energy level. If you are extremely neat, you will probably want a dog that doesn’t shed much. All aspects of your family’s life – hobbies, activities, personalities, schedules – should be evaluated before you get a dog.
  3. Make a List
    Based on your evaluation, determine what qualities you want in a dog. Consider size, energy level, grooming needs, trainability and temperament. Do you want a guard dog or a lap dog? Is it important that your dog get along with children? If you rent your home, are there restrictions on height, weight or breed? Answer these questions now – once you bring a dog home, it can be heartbreaking to realize that you made the wrong choice.
  4. Choose a Breed
    Once you have made your list of ideal characteristics, do some research to find which breeds fit that profile. Go to your local library, attend a dog show, and visit the AKC website. Narrow your choices to the breed that seems right for you.
  5. Get a Referral
    You have a much better chance of being satisfied if you get your dog from a responsible, ethical breeder whose primary concern is to produce dogs of high quality, good health and stable temperament. The AKC has a Breeder Referral contact for each recognized breed. These individuals can put you in contact with breeders or rescue organizations in your area.
  6. Make Contact
    Get in touch with the breed contacts in your area. Let them know that you are interested in their breed. Be able to demonstrate that you have put thought into your choice. Don’t be discouraged if the first breeder you talk to does not have puppies available right away. That person may know another breeder in the region.
  7. Ask Questions
    Ask the breeder any questions you can think of about the breed. When you find a breeder you’re comfortable with, ask to visit the kennel and view the dogs on the breeder’s premises. Inquire about health problems of the breed, and what can be done to prevent or control them. Find out what kinds of activities, including competition, the breeder’s dogs participate in and enjoy. The breeder’s dogs are a preview of what your dog will be.
  8. Consider an Older Dog
    Puppies aren’t for everyone. If an older dog better fits your lifestyle, check the AKC website for breed rescue groups. These organizations rescue purebred dogs that have been lost, abandoned or surrendered due to the death or illness of their owners. Most rescue dogs have been spayed or neutered and are screened for health and temperament problems. Rescue is a not only a great source for purebred dogs, it’s also a way to save the life of a dog in need.
  9. Expect Questions
    A responsible breeder or rescue contact will ask you extensive questions about the type of home you can offer a dog. These people are as committed as you are to making the right match between you and a dog. Give honest answers to their questions. Remember that, due to their experience in the breed, they know what issues are important in placing one of their dogs.
  10. Prepare to Wait
    Availability varies. Be aware that a puppy or dog of the breed you’ve decided on may not be easy to find. Responsible breeders do not breed often, and many times the puppies of a planned breeding are already spoken for. Just remember that a good dog is worth waiting for.
  11. Skip the Holidays
    Many people try to buy puppies as Christmas gifts for children or other family members. Most breeders do not recommend this. You should be prepared to give a new puppy your undivided attention, and that is rarely possible during the busy holiday season. A better idea is to give dog-related gifts – toys, leashes, grooming tools – and then bring your puppy home when all the excitement has died down.
Make the Commitment
  1. Pick Your Pet
    When the time has come to select your pet, consider your options carefully. Respect your breeder’s input about which puppy is right for you. If you are rescuing an older dog, ask your contact person for information on its health, temperament, behavior and history.
  2. Get It in Writing
    Information about the sale or adoption should be in writing. The contract should include, for example, details regarding any fees, spay-neuter agreements, health guarantees, terms of co-ownership, restrictions on breeding, and living arrangements. It should also include instructions on what to do if the dog, despite your best efforts, simply doesn’t work out for you or your family. Most responsible breeders will insist that the dog be returned to them.
  3. Get Your Papers
    Get your AKC registration application from the breeder when you purchase the puppy. Make sure the breeder completes the appropriate sections of the form and signs it. The breeder can also help you fill out your section correctly.
  4. Register Your Dog
    Send the completed, signed registration application to the AKC. Your dog will then become part of the nation’s largest registry of purebred dogs and as well as being eligible for a variety of competitive events can also activate the Complimentary 60-Day Trial AKC Pet Healthcare Plan*. If you rescue a dog, consider applying for a Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) number. This number will allow your dog to participate in some performance events.

AKC 60-Day
* The 60-Day Trial Plan is provided by the master policy issued to the Association of American Pet Owners. Activation required. Administered by PetPartners, Inc. Underwritten by American Pet Insurance Company, 907 NW Ballard Way, Seattle WA 98107-4607. Not available in all states and only available to U.S. residents. Eligibility restrictions apply. Contact PetPartners, Inc. for terms and conditions. Must be activated within 28 days of AKC Certificate Issued date. Visit www.akcpethealthcare.com/trial or call toll free at 1-866-725-2747.

Get Ready
  1. Prepare Yourself
    Get ready for your new friend before you bring him home, to make sure the transition will be as smooth as possible. Buy food, treats, a collar and leash, toys, grooming tools and other necessities in advance so your dog or puppy will have everything he needs.
  2. Make a Schedule
    You and your family members should decide who will be responsible for food, water, walking, exercise, clean-up and grooming. Post a schedule of tasks in a visible area of the house to remind everyone of their responsibilities.
  3. Dog-Proof Your Home
    Prepare your home before your new dog arrives. Move breakables or “chewables” to higher ground. Make electrical cords inaccessible to curious paws and noses. Block off any area of the house that you want off-limits to the dog. Put the lid down on your toilet and your shoes up in your closet. Block access to any house or garden plants that may be toxic to dogs.
  4. Set a Containment Policy
    It is essential that you have a secure method of keeping your dog on your property. Check your fence for spots vulnerable to chewing or digging. If your yard is not fenced, consider a large dog run or invisible fencing. If your property is not fenced in some way, stress to family members that the dog must be leashed at all times when taken outdoors.
  5. Get a Collar
    Your dog should wear a flat leather or nylon collar with a buckle at all times, except when in a crate. (The buckle can catch on the crate and cause injury.) The collar should be tight enough that it will not slide over the dog’s ears, but loose enough that you can fit two fingers between the collar and the dog’s neck. Check the fit of the collar often, especially if you have a fast-growing puppy.
  6. Make a Bed
    Every dog needs a quiet place to call his own. Create a comfortable area, whether a crate, a mat or a pile of blankets, for your dog to go to when he needs rest or privacy.
  7. Buy Some Toys
    Provide your dog with a variety of toys to prevent him from playing with your socks and shoes, your morning paper, or your child’s favorite doll. Get some toys that you and your dog can play with together, such as balls and plush toys, and some things to keep him busy when he’s alone, such as chewies or rope bones. Never leave your dog unattended with any toy that has small, detachable parts.
  8. Find a Veterinarian
    You should choose a veterinarian for your dog as soon as possible. Have your dog examined by the vet within a few days of his arrival. Give your vet copies of the dog’s health records, and set up a vaccination and check-up schedule.
Bring Your Dog Home
  1. Welcome Your New Pet
    At last! You’ve made all the preparations, and it’s finally time to bring your new friend home. Give him the best welcome possible. With love, patience and mutual respect, he will feel like part of the family in no time.
  2. Let Your Dog Adjust
    Give the dog time to adjust to his new home. The dog is bound to feel insecure and frightened by a change in environment, and a pup may be homesick for his mother or littermates. Show him to his crate or bed, and where to find food and water. Then leave him alone to explore the new surroundings.
  3. Name Your Dog
    Your dog will need a good name. Your breeder may have suggestions or even requirements for his AKC-registered name, but his call or informal name is up to you. Older adopted dogs can adjust quickly to a new name.
  4. Make Introductions
    Introduce your dog to your household slowly. Many pairs of hands petting him at once will only frighten him. Later, introduce him to neighbors, regular visitors and other family members. Give your dog a sense of who your – and your dog’s – friends are.
  5. Introduce Other Pets
    Other companion animals in your home should also be properly introduced to your new dog or puppy. Don’t expect them to get along right away, and don’t try to force them to play together. Give them time to adjust to one another.
  6. Housetrain
    Whichever method of housetraining you have chosen – crate training, paper training or litter box – make sure that all members of the family enforce it consistently. Accidents happen, so have a procedure for clean-up.
  7. Set House Rules
    Teach your dog from the beginning what is and is not appropriate behavior. If something is “OK” today, your puppy will think it’s OK forever. Make sure that every member of the family enforces the house rules. Consistency is the key to having a well-behaved pet.
Keep Your Dog Healthy
  1. Go to the Veterinarian
    Set up a schedule for regular check-ups with your veterinarian. Ask the vet questions about your dog’s diet, behavior, activity level or other concerns. Contact the veterinarian at once if your dog seems ill or in pain. 
  2. Feed a Good Diet
    Work with your veterinarian or breeder to find the food that is best for your dog’s age, size and activity level. Keep the diet consistent. Always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.
  3. Exercise
    Dogs need regular exercise to ensure continuing good health. Take your dog for walks, run around in the yard, throw a ball around – anything to get him up and moving. This will benefit his health and could prevent behavior problems.
  4. Vaccinate
    Dogs should follow a strict schedule of vaccinations to prevent diseases. Keep your dog current on his vaccinations, following the schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Keep a copy of your dog’s vaccination records handy.
  5. Prevent Disease
    You can take steps to prevent other diseases not covered by the regular series of vaccinations. Depending on the area of the country you live in, your dog could be at risk for diseases such as heartworm and Lyme disease. Ask your veterinarian for advice on prevention.
  6. Repel Fleas and Ticks
    Aside from discomfort, parasites such as fleas and ticks can cause serious diseases. Keep your dog, his bedding, and your home free from parasites by using the method recommended by your veterinarian.
  7. Know Your Dog’s Patterns
    You should become familiar with your dog’s patterns in terms of eating, drinking, sleeping and relieving himself. Any major variations in these patterns could indicate illness and should be reported to your veterinarian.
  8. Provide Chew Toys
    Dogs never outgrow the need to chew. Protect your possessions by providing a variety of chew toys to satisfy your dog’s urges.
  9. Bathe Your Dog
    A clean dog is a healthy dog. Bathe your dog on a regular basis appropriate to his breed and environment. Overbathing can be harmful to a dog’s skin. Use a good shampoo and be sure to rinse well. If bathing your dog is more than you can handle, take him to a groomer or veterinarian for help.
  10. Groom Your Dog
    All dogs should be groomed regularly for health and best appearance. Some short-coated breeds need just a quick brushing every week, while some longer-coated breeds need daily brushing to prevent matting and to reduce shedding. If your dog requires clipping or sculpting, you may want to consult a professional groomer.
  11. Clip Those Nails
    Keeping your dog’s nails short will keep him comfortable, prevent injury to his feet, and may save the surface of your floors. If you can hear your dog’s nails click on a hard surface, they need to be trimmed. Ask your veterinarian for advice on clipping your dog’s nails yourself.
  12. Clean Those Teeth
    To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, clean your dog’s teeth regularly. Most dogs will accept a “toothbrush” if introduced to it slowly and gently. You can also give your dog products such as hard biscuits, rope bones and nylon chews to keep his teeth clean.
  13. Prevent Obesity
    Keep your dog healthy by maintaining him at an appropriate weight. Feed him a well-balanced diet and give him plenty of exercise. Don’t give in to begging – “people food” is generally bad for dogs.
  14. Know Your Breed’s Health Risks
    You should be aware of common health problems in your breed, how to prevent them, and how to recognize their onset. For example, some giant breeds are prone to bloat, while some short-faced breeds are prone to respiratory problems. Ask your breeder or veterinarian for information about any signs or symptoms you should watch for in your pet.
  15. Protect From Poisons
    Make sure that your home and yard are free from poisonous substances, such as antifreeze, which tastes good but can cause serious illness or even death. Keep your veterinarian’s number handy in case of accidental ingestion.
  16. Be Alert to Changing Needs
    As your dog ages, his needs will change. He may require a different diet, need more sleep, and be less active. Do what you can to keep him comfortable. Your dog may not be as “fun” as he once was, but he is the same dog you loved as a puppy. You should do everything you can to pamper him in his final years.
  17. End Suffering
    If, due to illness or old age, your dog reaches a point where his quality of life is severely compromised, arrange to end his life humanely. Letting go is sometimes the kindest thing you can do. Don’t prolong the suffering because you fear the pain of losing your dog.
Keep Your Dog Safe
  1. I.D. Your Dog
    Your dog should wear an identification tag with your name, address and phone number at all times. This will increase the chances of your dog being returned to you if he is lost or runs away.
  2. Consider Microchips or Tattoos
    Microchips and tattoos are methods of permanently identifying your dog, and can be invaluable in recovering your dog should he become lost. You may wish to enroll your dog in AKC’s affiliate, the AKC Reunite service, which is the nation’s largest database of microchipped pets.
  3. Provide Shelter
    Your dog needs a sheltered area for the time he spends outside. The shelter should provide shade in summer and warmth in winter.
  4. Watch the Heat
    Dogs can succumb to heat stress in a matter of minutes. Do not leave your dog in the car when the temperature is high. When your dog is outside, he should have a shady place to lay down and plenty of fresh, cool water.
  5. Travel Safely
    Keep your dog safe in the car by using a crate, or by attaching the dog to a seat belt with a harness. Never let your dog ride free in the back of a pickup truck, or allow him to hang his head out of the car window.
  6. Find a Pet-Sitter or Boarding Kennel
    Make arrangements for your dog’s care when you go away. Have a friend or reliable pet-sitter come over to tend to the dog, or find a good kennel for boarding. If you opt for boarding, try to inspect the facilities before you drop your dog off.
  7. Prepare for Disaster
    Be prepared to care for your dog in the event of a disaster such as fire, flood, hurricane or earthquake. Make an emergency kit with clean water, food, and first aid equipment. Find out in advance if the evacuation shelters in your area allow animals. If not, develop alternatives.
  8. Establish an Emergency Contact
    Enlist a family member or friend to take care of your dog in the event of a sudden illness, hospitalization or other emergency. This person should ideally be someone your dog has spent some time with and is comfortable with. Leave a list of general care instructions in a safe place.
  9. Make a Will
    You should make arrangements for the safety and care of your pet in the event of your death. Don’t assume that a family member will step in to take care of the dog.
  10. Take Pictures
    Of course, you will want a picture of your dog to grace your desk or to send as a Christmas card. More importantly, a current photo will be invaluable in the event that your dog is lost.
Be a Friend
  1. Play!
    Dogs, of course, love to play. Set aside time each day for play sessions. Apart from the obvious benefit of having fun together, play also provides an outlet for your dog’s energy.
  2. Go On Walks
    Take your dog on frequent walks. He will enjoy exploring the neighborhood and will benefit from the exercise. Make sure that you have a good strong leash and that you maintain control of the dog at all times.
  3. Talk to Your Dog
    Your dog won’t understand your words, but he will enjoy the sound of your voice. Talking to your dog will make him feel involved. You can also use different voice levels to praise or correct your dog’s behavior.
  4. Give Treats
    Your dog will always appreciate a treat, and treats can be used as a supplement to his regular diet, as well as an excellent training aid.
  5. Love Your Dog
    Your dog will love you no matter what. Return the favor.
  6. Switch Out Toys
    Keep your dog entertained by rotating his toys. Put “old” toys out of sight for a month or two and then bring them out again – your dog will enjoy them just as much as when they were new.
  7. Give Your Time
    You are the center of your dog’s world. You may be tired after a long day at work, but your dog has spent the day anxiously awaiting your return. Reward that loyalty with your time. Pet him, talk to him, play with him, laugh with him. Let your dog know you value his company.
  8. Find the “Spot”
    Scratch your dog’s belly often. If you find the “spot,” so much the better.
  9. Leave the Radio On
    Try leaving the radio or television on when you leave your dog alone. The noise will keep him company.
  10. Plan Activities With Your Dog
    Include your dog in family activities. Take him to the park or on outings to the beach, or to special activities such as the “Dog Olympics” or dog parades. Your dog will love being out and about with you.
  11. Give a Massage
    Dogs love to be petted, and recent studies have shown that structured massages may be beneficial to your dog’s health and behavior. They may also be very relaxing for you!
  12. Make That Tail Wag
    Your dog’s tail is a barometer of his emotions. Do what you can to keep it happily wagging.
  13. Go On Trips
    Dogs can add another element of fun to a family vacation. Check ahead for lodging that accepts dogs. If flying, ask about travel accommodations for your dog when you make your reservations.
  14. Ease Separation Anxiety
    Your dog will want to be with you at all times, but for most people that simply isn’t possible. Help your dog get used to being alone. Leave him each day with a minimum of fuss. When you come home, greet him calmly. This will teach him that your leaving is not something to be concerned about.
  15. Give Kisses
    Give your dog a kiss, and see how many you get in return.
  16. Get Another One!
    Dogs are pack animals by nature and generally enjoy the company of other dogs. Your dog may benefit greatly from having a companion to play with. Be as conscientious about getting a second dog as you were about getting the first; multiple dog ownership isn’t for everyone, and some dogs do better as an “only.”
  17. Don’t Let Your Dog Down
    You aren’t a dog owner just at Christmas, or on the weekends, or in the afternoon, or when you have spare time. You aren’t a dog owner just when the dog is behaving, or when he’s a cute fuzzy puppy, or when he’s winning awards. When you bring a dog into your family, that dog is yours for life. If you can’t keep that commitment, don’t make it. And once you’ve made it, don’t break it. Your dog’s life depends on you.
Train Your Dog
  1. Be The Alpha
    Dogs need to know who’s boss – and that boss should be you. You and your dog will be much happier together if you establish yourself as the leader of the pack.
  2. Teach Basic Commands
    Teach your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, come and down. Training your dog will not only make your life easier, but will also fulfill your dog’s desire to learn and please you.
  3. Socialize Your Dog
    Expose your dog to different people and settings regularly. Take him to the park, to the pet store, on a walk through town. Praise him for accepting petting from friendly strangers, and for behaving calmly around other dogs. The more your dog learns of the world, the more comfortable he will be in it.
  4. Go to Class
    Obedience classes can be a great experience for you and your dog. You may even discover that your dog has a great talent for learning, and be able to compete in obedience, agility or tracking events.
  5. Prevent Nuisance Barking
    Don’t let your dog’s incessant barking annoy your neighbors. Teach your dog not to bark without real provocation. If your dog’s barking is causing problems while you’re away from home, try a silencing collar.
  6. Praise Your Dog
    Because your dog loves you, he wants to please you. Praise him lavishly for obeying commands and behaving well. Using positive, rather than negative, reinforcement will help your dog enjoy learning.
  7. Supervise Play With Children
    Children and dogs can be great companions, but they also require supervision when playing together. Your dog may be “good with kids,” but what if he encounters a kid that is not good with dogs? Very small children should never be left alone with a dog, no matter how stable his temperament.
  8. Give Your Dog a Job
    Keep your dog active and alert by giving him tasks to do. Teach him to fetch the paper, carry groceries in a pack or empty the dryer. Make him sit before getting a treat or lay down before going outside. Giving your dog a sense of purpose and accomplishment will increase his sense of well-being.
Breed Responsibly
  1. Breed To Improve
    Breeding should only be done for the advancement of the breed. If you are thinking about breeding your dog, consult your breeder for advice. Consider all the consequences-and expenses-of breeding a litter before you do so. Consult AKC publications for more information as well.
  2. Spay or Neuter
    The American Kennel Club encourages pet owners to spay or neuter their dogs as a responsible means to prevent accidental breeding resulting in unwanted puppies.
  3. Contain Bitches in Heat
    If your female dog goes into heat, or season, make sure to keep her properly secured. Males can sense a female in heat up to five miles away. An accessible bitch in heat can lead to unplanned breedings, not to mention fights among dogs frantic to get to her.
  4. Perform Genetic Screening
    If you plan to breed your dog, it is very important to test for health and disease. Perform all available tests to rule out the possibility of passing on a genetic defect.
Get Involved
  1. Join an AKC Club
    Your local AKC dog club is a great resource. Many clubs offer educational seminars and health clinics. It’s also a good place to start if you plan to compete in competitive events with your dog.
  2. Earn an AKC Title
    Explore the sport of dogs by participating in AKC events. The AKC offers titles for accomplishment in a wide variety of competition types and levels. Find an event that’s right for your dog, and have fun.
  3. Encourage Breed Behavior
    All purebred dogs were developed with a purpose in mind. Find activities that will encourage your dog to fulfill her breed’s purpose. The AKC offers many performance events geared toward specific breeds.
  4. Involve the Kids
    Your children can have fun and learn more about dogs and dog care by participating in AKC Junior Showmanship events. Through the National Junior Organization, your child can compete in conformation and performance events, attend seminars, and earn scholarships.
  5. Find a Mentor
    If you plan to breed or show your dog, you will want to find a knowledgeable person in the breed to show you the ropes. A mentor can be an invaluable source of experience and information, and can help make your “novice” days much easier.
  6. Read All About It
    Keep up with the latest dog news and information by reading or subscribing to AKC publications. From The Complete Dog Book to the AKC Gazette to numerous free publications, the AKC provides a wealth of materials on all areas of the dog world.
Be a Canine Ambassador
  1. Set a Good Example
    As a dog owner, you are responsible not only for your own dog’s well being, but for the status of dogs everywhere. One irresponsible dog owner in town can make life difficult for dog owners all over. Owning a friendly, clean, well-mannered dog reflects positively on the species and may help protect our rights to own companion animals.
  2. Respect Your Neighbors
    Not everyone will love your dog as much as you do. Keep your dog on your property. Don’t force your dog’s company on a neighbor who isn’t comfortable with dogs.
  3. Don’t Leave Leavings
    Always carry a plastic “baggy” or two with you when you walk your dog to pick up any waste it leaves behind, then dispose of the waste properly. Failure to clean up after your dog is disrespectful to your neighbors.
  4. Respect Local Laws
    Heed the laws regarding dog ownership in your city or county. These may include registration, leash laws and nuisance barking laws. Failure to obey the laws in your area may not only result in the loss of your dogs, but may also infringe upon the rights of others in your area.
  5. Fight Anti-Dog Legislation
    Be aware of any legislation developing in your city or state that may compromise the rights of responsible dog owners. Become an active voice against legislation directed against specific breeds. For more information, contact the Canine Legislation and Public Education departments at the AKC.
  6. Let Your Dog Help Others
    Dogs are invaluable in providing service to humans – visiting the sick, helping the disabled, locating missing persons, and much more. If your dog is of the correct temperament, you and he can reap the rewards of helping others.
  7. Get a Canine Good Citizen® Certificate
    Your dog can become an American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen by passing a test designed to demonstrate good manners and acceptable behavior in everyday situations. The CGC program has become a standard for recognizing obedient dogs and responsible dog owners throughout the country.
  8. Show Your Pride
    Of course you should let your dog know when you’re proud of him, but let others know it too. Bringing a well-behaved dog into public places or showing off his talents at competitive events is an excellent way to “advertise” the rewards of canine companionship.