Friday, March 22, 2013

National Puppy Day !!!

Tomorrow is National Puppy Day!  Unofficial, but it addresses the problems with puppy mills and the rearing of animals for profit and nothing more. Most people think puppy mills are not a good thing and they also do not realize that pet stores are often the final destination for puppy mill dogs. Many of us do know this and always look for puppies from shelters. Thanks to all of you who have adopted pets from shelters and rescues.  You are my heros; you never know what you are going to get but rarely are you disappointed. You have no lofty expectations.

Now I will throw in my experience as a regular person (a veterinarian in practice for many years and offering my services for free to many rescue groups and shelters.) I went to Beagle rescue years ago to get a dog friend for my single, lonely dog. It was an eye opener. I know the rescues and shelters mean well but honestly, they grilled me like I was a convicted animal abuser, checked my physical home, questioned my motives (do you want this dog to be used as a blood donor?) and finally asked me who they would use for veterinarian referral (they wanted to be sure I took good care of my dog.) I admit I was offended. I had been working with Beagle rescue in Maryland for many years.  They called my by my first name yet they acted like they didn't know me when I wanted to rescue a dog for my personal "use".  Really?  How picky can they be?

I am not the only person who has experienced this abuse. Many of my excellent clients who have lost their pets, have gone to rescues to adopt and were turned away and ended up at pet stores, spending $1,000 on a "pedigree" dog they just wanted for a pet. The pup they wanted in the shelter probably got euthanized.

I respect the folks who spend their time helping homeless animals, inspecting homes and choosing appropriate new owners, but I think there is a hint of power and control here. If a veterinarian who offers free services to homeless animals is not good enough, is any one?

Perhaps the shelter folks are forcing the adopting folks to end up at the puppy mills.  Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Pet Food and Healthy Pets

I remember the days when my cocker spaniel got one can of Kennel Ration once daily at dinner time.
He never had a Milk Bone or a RawHide or a pig's ear.  He did get table scraps, leftovers, ham bones, chicken bones, dead squirrels and whatever else he found out in the woods. Somehow "Big Daddy" lived to be 18 years old. Our dogs are still rugged but realistically I think BD was just lucky.  People often tell me similar stories but having seen dogs die from causes that could have easily been prevented makes me sad and opinionated. Please don't give your dog or cat bones, fat, or anything leftover that you would not eat. I'm okay with lean, fresh, cooked meat, vegetables and dairy but there's a limit. You simply cannot create a healthy diet for dogs and cats from your table, period, even if you are a nutritionist.

With all the press on unhealthy diets with melamine, toxins and byproducts, a new market for healthy dog and cat food has emerged and rightly so. If you ate the same food every day, year after year, you would want it to contain everything you need to live a healthy life. That time is now here for pets. Even though these diets are more expensive, so are the ingredients and the research that has gone into them.  I have seen animals that had poor body condition, thin fur, scratching, vomiting, and diarrhea get perfectly well on the right food. Sometimes it takes trial and error but it beats veterinary bills any day.

Start out your pet with a healthy, expensive food.  Feed it consistently and avoid other junk food like penis chews and pigs ears. These have been found to contain bacteria that can cause serious disease.
Really, would you chew on a pig's ear or the other thing?

You will never regret feeding an excellent diet.

Pet Health Insurance

Always a huge question is I get is "how about pet health insurance"?  Not many people have made this jump however my experience is that those who have, are either breaking even or winning.  Health insurance in general is always most beneficial if you pay for the usual expenses, shots, for example, out of pocket and purchase major medical and accident insurance. If you can't afford $300-$400 a year, you probably can't afford a healthy pet much less one who has problems. But what you need protection for are common tragedies: getting a pork chop bone stuck in the intestine, hit by car, swallowing a fish hook or racquet ball or any number of items, infections and food poisoning. Insurance won't cover hip dysplasia, allergies or anything hereditary but if your pup or kitten gets a broken leg or obstructed bowel it's expensive to diagnose and remedy. Older pets benefit from treatment for cancer treatment, skin growths that require surgery, blood tests, dental cleanings and medical treatments like immune disorders.  I should have purchased health insurance for my own Jack Russell Terrier since he managed to tear ligaments and run into injuries that I couldn't fix without a specialists. He's 13 now, and I've probably spent $10,000 on veterinary surgeons (they don't work for free.) He might live to be 17!

So I think insurance is a good idea. You are more likely to get treatment early for your pet if you have insurance and much more likely to make good decisions for the health of your pet if you have it.