It’s not at all uncommon to see posts on pregnancy forums where a contributor shares that her OB-GYN advised getting rid of the family cat. The fear is that the pregnant mom might contract toxoplasmosis, a rare parasitic disease that can be transmitted via a cat’s feces, and passed along to the unborn baby. Toxoplasmosis can lead to miscarriage or cause malformed babies. For some parents, this fear is so great that they are compelled to part with their beloved cat/cats. Every year shelters take in cats who lose their homes when a new baby is on the way.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), it is not necessary for pregnant women to part with their cats. By following safety tips, mothers-to-be and family cats can happily share a home. In fact, according to the CDC, people are more likely to get toxoplasmosis from eating raw meat or from gardening than from their cats.
Gardening season is just around the corner and for those of you planning a dog-friendly garden, it’s important to think about your pet’s safety before ordering plants and fertilizers. The ASPCA Poison Control Center (APCC) recently announced the top ten toxins of 2016 based on calls to the poison control hotline. Of the 180,639 hotline calls, 2.6 percent involved gardening products, including herbicides and fungicides, and 5.2 percent were plant related.
It’s surprising how many popular plants are toxic to our pets. Here are just a few examples: azalea, begonia, caladium, daffodil, daylily, dahlia, Easter lily, hydrangea, and iris. The APCC provides a search-based Poisonous Plants page where you can look up your favorite plants and see if they are safe for your pets.
Designing for Dogs
While it’s great to have soft sun-drenched grassy areas in your dog-friendly garden, it’s just as important to provide shady spots by planting trees or adding a pergola or dog kennel. A water feature such as a fountain or a faucet with a drinking station for the dogs is also a necessity.
Since we had a blanket of snow and ice on the ground for the last two weeks, I was very surprised to find ticks on our dogs when we returned from a recent hike. It was a sunny day and the temperatures had gone above freezing. According to Cornell University experts, the persistent snow cover helps insulate overwintering ticks in the leaf litter. Once temperatures go above freezing these ticks become active and attach themselves to unsuspecting hosts. Really, the bottom line is that every season is tick season in New York State.
High local deer populations have contributed to a rise in reported Lyme disease cases in people and pets in New York State and the surrounding areas, according to Cornell University. My husband and I were both bitten by infected ticks last year and had to be treated with antibiotics. Now, we’ve become experts at spotting those tiny black specks on our dogs’ legs during hikes in the woods. There are always some of those pesky ticks that escape our notice. Usually, they are hiding behind the dogs’ ears or have already embedded into the skin on their necks. These we find later either dead on our floors – thanks to flea and tick preventative – or crawling between the bristles of a grooming brush.
While winter can be hard on all dogs, it’s especially tough on seniors. Veterinarians say it’s important for families who share their lives with a senior dog to be on the lookout for changes in behavior during the winter. For example, is your senior slowing down on walks or losing interest in going outside altogether. Pay attention to how easily a senior dog can rise from a lying down position, or if he or she is reluctant to climb the stairs. Also, families should be on the lookout for any signs of shaking or shivering, or changes in eating habits.
All of these changes could signal a health issue. Being extra sensitive to changes in your senior dog and staying on top of physical exams can go a long way in preventing problems.
We lost our Rottweiler mix, Lucy, three years ago and while she will always live in our hearts, there are plenty reminders of her still around the house. Lucy suffered from severe separation anxiety. Crating wasn’t an option as that made her even more nervous, so we did what we could to dog proof the house.
I dreaded coming home from work every day because I never knew what to expect. It could be curtains or blinds ripped from the windows, chewed floor molding, ripped up rugs, holes in the walls around the doors and windows, or all of the above. I will never forget the frantic look on Lucy’s face when I returned home. Her eyes were huge and she was panting like she had just come back from a strenuous hike. I often wondered what our border collie, Jason, must have thought as he watched his “sister” going through these episodes. So often he tried to calm her down by licking her mouth and she seemed to enjoy that.
I just renewed my annual membership for our foxhound, Bella, in the HomeAgain Pet Recovery Service. I debated whether or not to spend the $19.99 membership fee. If I hadn’t renewed the membership, Bella’s microchip number and our contact information would remain in the HomeAgain Recovery Database. I could still access that database to update contact information. And if Bella ever did get lost and was taken to an animal hospital or shelter, they could scan for the microchip, read its unique code, and reach out to HomeAgain to retrieve our contact information.
So why pay a membership fee?
As a HomeAgain member, I get much more support from the company. If Bella should ever get lost, HomeAgain will send out lost pet alerts to veterinarians, shelters, and Volunteer Pet Rescuers in the area where Bella was last seen. As a Volunteer Pet Rescuer, I get these email alerts all the time. They include a photo of the missing pet, the exact location where he/she was last seen, and a lost pet flyer with the pet’s photo and contact information.
Environmental protection matters to me, and this year I am extending my “go green” attitude to include our dogs. For starters, I need to reconsider how I am disposing of doggy poop. Currently I use plastic grocery bags to pick up after our dogs. That means using plastic shopping bags instead of cloth. And those plastic poop bags end up in the regular garbage where they can take up to 400 years to degrade.
Not picking up the poop is never a good option, either. According to environmental experts rainstorms wash the waste into sewers where it can eventually find its way into rivers and beaches. It’s also a health hazard to leave dog waste laying around your yard, and it’s disrespectful to neighbors not to pick up after your dog in the neighborhood or community parks. Not to mention, in many communities you’re breaking the law by not cleaning up after your dog.
Pet fish offer a nice alternative for busy households or for families with members who are allergic to dogs or cats. You don’t have to walk, groom or clean up after fish every day. And while it’s true that you can’t pet or cuddle with fish, there are some aquarium buddies who do have friendly and interesting personalities. Some fish learn to recognize their owners, others can be fed by hand and still others entertain families with their fun antics or their habit of rearranging ornaments in the aquarium.
Before rushing out to purchase a fun fish, do some homework just as you would before adding any new pet to the family. When deciding on what type of fish or what size tank you want, consider your living space. The rule of thumb is an inch of fish per gallon, so keep that in mind when choosing a species of fish.
One night I got a call from my friend asking if I had styptic powder. She had cut her dog’s nail too close to the quick and now the nail was bleeding profusely. I pulled out our pet first-aid kit to find that not only were we all out of styptic powder, but we were short on many other medical supplies as well. It was time to head to the store.
Experts at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recommend that anyone who shares a home with a pet should keep a pet first-aid kit on hand. You can purchase a first-aid kit designed for people and add pet-specific items to that, or you can purchase a specialized kit at a pet store or from a catalog. Alternately, you can start your own kit from scratch.
In February it will be two years since we adopted our American foxhound, Bella. As I watch her sleeping in the shadow of the Christmas tree, I can’t help thinking back on how she came into our lives. It was about six months after we said goodbye to Lucy, our 15-year-old Rottweiler/shepherd mix. Our hearts were broken, but we wanted to make a loving home for another shelter dog. Also, we were worried about Jason, our huskie/corgie mix, who was pining away after his “sister.” I would come home from work and find him lying on the floor facing the corner. He just seemed so depressed. We knew that he was lonely and needed a canine companion.
As the coordinator of the Adopt a Pet features in The Record newspaper, I am frequently on the pet profile web pages of shelters and rescue groups in Northern New Jersey. That’s how I came upon the photo of Bella on the Save the Animals Rescue Team II page. I would scroll through the images and kept stopping at her photo. Those soulful eyes just kept calling to me. There was also a nostalgic pull as I grew up with hounds in Ireland.