Is it time to say “Goodbye” to your pet?

This is a tough topic for many people to deal with. It is charged with emotions that often cloud our ability to decide what to do. With veterinarian medicine as advanced as it is, we can keep our pets alive much longer than we could years ago, but to what end?

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There are a few things that you need to consider when trying to decide if it is time to euthanize your pet or not.

  1. Is your pet in pain? This is not always easy to determine since animals in general do not show pain until it is severe. The signs may be subtle and come on gradually as age and illnesses increase. Your veterinarian can help you determine what illnesses your pet may have, and how it impacts their life, but that will be a generalization because every animal is different. Some tolerate pain much better than others. In the case of birds they may not show signs of illness until they are very sick.

 

It helps if you pay attention to your pet’s behavior. Do you notice that your pet does not move as well as before? Does your pet refuse to jump onto things whereas before they would fly through the air? Do they walk slower, run less, and are less active in general? Has their appetite and water consumption changed? Has their breathing changed, for example they pant more or sooner than before? Do they seem to hold part of their body still when they breathe? These are all signs of pain and/or illness.

  1. Does your pet have difficulty keeping food or water down? Has their overall appetite decreased? Is your pet eating a normal amount of food but losing or gaining weight?
  1. If your veterinarian suggests treatments you have to determine what the outcome will be for your pet. Will the treatment cause pain and suffering? How long can you expect your pet to live after the treatments? Will your pet be hindered for the rest of its life because of the treatments? If the treatments are painful or cause suffering such as a loss of appetite or physical difficulties is it worth it for your pet? You also must consider the cost of treatments and weigh if they will help your pet or just prolong his suffering.
  1. Has your pet’s toilet habits changed? A change in toilet habits can be a sign of dementia in a pet. A pet who cannot get up to go out or cannot control his bowels and bladder and will eliminate and lay in it, is a good sign that it is time to let them go. A pet that has abnormal eliminations, such as blood in either stools or urine, weak or strong urine, or who has trouble eliminating is a candidate for a serious evaluation. Has your pet’s stools and urine decreased or increased yet they eat and drink the same amount? This of course depends on what your veterinarian determines the problem is.
  1. Does your pet act as if they are lost? Some will cry out as if they are calling, “Where are you?” Some pets may stand with their face in a corner and not be able to find their way out. Some will stare at walls or have a blank look in their eyes. Some may not recognize their family members. Some may wander around the house or yard and not seem to know where they are. A pet may not respond to commands that they always responded to before, even though they hear you. These can be signs of mental degeneration.
  1. After all the considerations are evaluated, you must determine if the quality of your pet’s life is going to be better, tolerable or only prolong suffering.
  1. The most difficult part of the decision and perhaps the most important is determining how much of your own emotions are playing a part in your decision making. Are you trying to keep your pet alive because you cannot tolerate the thought of losing your pet? Are you keeping your pet’s well being as the main decision maker? This is the most difficult part of the decision-making process, separating your emotions and feelings from what is good for your pet. The biggest fear that many people have is that they are not making the right decision. Or they feel that they are letting their pet down by giving up, that something more can be done. This is why it is important to go over the points in this article. We all hope for a miracle, but they rarely happen. Letting a pet go is sometimes the kindest thing we can do for them. It helps if you have a friend who is not emotionally involved that you can go over the situation with, to help you see what is going on.

I know that sometimes it is hard for me to make that decision. For this reason I talk to my veterinarian before my pets age and let them know what I want to do in the event that my pets get a terminal illness or injury. Even though we cannot foresee the future, it helps my veterinarian guide me when the time comes. This helped me with a 17 year old cat that I dearly loved. When I took her to the veterinarian, she was having a cardiac arrest. I could not say the words to tell my veterinarian to put her down. But he knew my wishes ahead of time. It made it just a bit easier for me to not have to say it.

Deciding to let a pet go is never easy. No one wants the grief and loss that it brings. We all know that it may take a long time to heal and get over the pain. I know because I have had to go through it many times. For me, I take comfort in knowing that my pets will be in Heaven waiting for me, that they are going to a better place. This is one reason why I wrote my book God’s Creatures which you can see on my website, www.sbulanda.com

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We all must deal with the loss of a beloved pet in our own way. As our pets come into our lives and then leave us, one after the other, the loss- and decision-making process never gets easier. But as good stewards of our pets, it is up to us to do what is right for them, even if it means our loss. Doing this is the deepest and most unselfish kind of love.

Once we lose our pets we have to deal with the grief. Everyone handles it in their own way. In the case of a pet who has suffered a prolonged illness, some people grieve for awhile before the pet dies. In those cases it can make the actual loss less painful. If there was no time before losing a pet to grieve, the full emotion of grief will come on right away. The pain can at times feel like physical pain. There are many ways to handle your feelings. Talking to someone who understands how much a pet can mean to you is one way. Attending a grief counseling group can also help. Some people find that volunteering at a shelter or rescue group helps.

If you know that your pet is getting on in years, getting a new pet before the pet passes can help ease the loss for some people. Providing of course that the new pet isn’t going to stress or harm the resident pet. Some people find that writing about the lost pet helps or designing a photo album dedicated to the pet. These are just a few ideas about how to go through the grief. The main thing to keep in mind is that time does heal. We may never fully get over the loss of a pet, one particular pet means more to us than any others, but we can enjoy the fond memories and love that the pet has given us.

Roaming cats worry their owners

A study conducted by researchers at the University of Exeter, found that owners who allow their cats to roam freely outdoors worry about their cat’s safety. Why then do they let their cats roam? The study shows that many cat owners feel that their cats need to roam and hunt. They feel that a cat would not be happy or fulfilled if they are kept indoors.

 

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A feral kitten we rescued a few years ago. We found her in the road on a cold, snowy Christmas eve. She was adopted to a good home. 

Unfortunately these sentiments can be detrimental to a cat’s health and even it’s life. Cats do not need to be free outdoors to roam and hunt. Cats can and do live a happy and productive life indoors. It is up to the owner to provide interactive toys or play with their cat to satisfy the cat’s need to hunt and attack prey.

Cats also need companionship, either from another animal or their owners. Most cats are very social although not in the same way as dogs are.

There are videos made for cats to watch. If a cat owner feels strongly that their cat should spend time outdoors there are cat containment systems that allow a cat to go outdoors and be safe. You only need to google “cat outdoor yards” or “cat containment systems” to find a wide variety to meet your cat’s needs.

There are a number of reasons why a cat should not be allowed to freely roam outdoors. Being outdoors, even in a city or urban environment subjects the cat to predators which can range from dogs, other cats, hawks, foxes, coyotes and other wild animals that will attack a cat either aggressively or defensively. There are also evil people who make it a sport to trap and torture or kill cats.

If a cat kills wildlife, they are exposed to various parasites and diseases. If they come in contact with other outdoor cats, they can be exposed to various cat borne diseases which could be fatal. If a cat kills and ingests some of the blood of a rodent that has eaten rodent poison, the poison in the rodent’s blood can kill the cat.

Being exposed to injury, diseases and parasites, can make the cat sick and cost the owner multiple veterinarian bills. Not to mention subject the cat to preventable suffering and death.

If the cat is not spayed or neutered, letting it roam freely will cause pregnancy and add to the feral cat population. Contrary to what many people think, feral cats do not live a good life. They are subjected to all the above-mentioned diseases and death. Most feral cats do not live past kittenhood and if they do, only live about two very harsh years, struggling to find food, water, warmth and to fend off predators.

In conclusion, there is no positive reason to let a cat roam freely outdoors. There is every reason to trap, spay, neuter and adopt feral cats.

Catnip may help cancer patients

Many of us have seen how catnip also known as catmint makes cats act like a kitten. I have seen cats who played like crazy and some who seemed to get angry and aggressive when given catmint.

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Now scientists have discovered what the chemical process is that makes cats go gaga over catnip.

It turns out it is a two step process that has never been discovered before, where the plant produces nepetalactone, a chemical called a terpene. Other plants such as peppermint, have terpene. By understanding how this chemical is produced, scientists will be able to recreate chemicals such as vinblastine that comes from the Madagascan periwinkle and used for chemotherapy. If scientists can unlock this mystery they will not have to rely on the actual plants for medicines.

Again, our pets have helped us unlock the mysteries of medicine and we will benefit from this research. The lesson for me from this study is that researching something that seems to have no benefit can unlock lifesaving techniques for both humans and animals. After all, who would think of studying catnip?

Canine genetics and behavior

Dog owners and breeders know that certain behaviors dominate certain breeds. For example herding dogs have the instinct to herd. Hounds have the instinct to hunt with their nose, some breeds are better guard dogs and the list goes on. This is what makes breed traits what they are. But it has been somewhat of a mystery about how this happens genetically because not all dogs in a particular breed have the same strength of the trait for that breed and some lack it entirely.

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In a new study, James A Serpell of the University of Pennsylvania and colleagues Evan L. MacLean of the University of Arizona, Noah Snyder-Mackler of the University of Washington, and Bridgett M. vonHoldt of Princeton University conducted a study to try to unravel how genetics affect breed trait behavior.

Their study concluded that genes do play a large part in breed behavior, and those gene most affect the brain rather than other bodily tissues. However, they stressed that there is a large margin to allow for the differences between individual animals.

What this means to the dog owner, and especially the potential dog owner, is that getting a dog from a reliable, ethical and trusted breeder is critical to your dog’s behavior. The genetic tendencies can and do vary from line to line. It also means that if you adopt a mixed breed or purebred dog, you will have no idea what it’s genetically controlled behavior will be.

This is important to understand because if behavior issues arise, you will have to allow for the possibility that it is genetically influenced. The method that you use to alter any unwanted behavior that is genetically influence will be different than simple training methods. Always consult a certified behavior consultant. You can find one at www.iaabc.org.

Also keep in mind that genetically influenced behavior is not limited to dogs but is a part of the makeup of all living beings. Yes, environment and learning also comes into play.

Parasite from cats killing sea otters

For decades scientists have been studying why some California sea otters are dying. Recently researchers led by the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine’s Karen C. Drayer Wildlife Health Center and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have linked feral and domestic cats as the source of Toxoplasma that is killing sea otters.

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photo from pixabay

The parasite forms egglike stages referred to as oocysts. Feral cats eat rodents and birds that have the oocysts in their bodies. From there the oocysts live in the cats until they are passed through the cat feces. The feces are washed into the sea and live in the kelp. Then snails eat the oocysts and the sea otters eat the snails.

People who own cats can help by keeping their cats indoors. Cat feces should not be flushed into septic or public wastewater systems since they will cycle back into the ground.

The oocysts are also washed into the waterways by rainwater, therefore preserving wetlands, forests and grasslands will help keep the parasite and other pollutants out of the oceans. Managing storm water runoff and replacing pavement with permeable surfaces will help.

If all cat owners in California, especially those who live near the ocean, do what they can to help, we can reduce the death rate of sea otters.

Cats do bond to humans

A recent study by Kristyn Vitale of Oregon State University showed that cats’ bond to their human caretakers the same as dogs and human infants (attachment security). In this study cats were put in a novel room with their caretakers for two minutes, then they were left there for two minutes alone. After that the caretaker returned and the cat’s reaction was observed.

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The findings show that a cat’s attachments to humans are stable, and present in adulthood. As a result of this finding, the researchers are currently looking into how this impacts the many cats and kittens that are in shelters. They want to see how socialization and fostering influence a cat’s ability to have attachment security.

I am personally glad to see that researchers are finally exploring this aspect of a cat’s personality. Those of us who own cats know how attached they can be to us. For years people have misunderstood cats, labeling them as aloof because they show their affection differently than dogs.

Pet safety tips from House Method

Hi Loyal Followers,

Every once in a while, someone sends me interesting articles to post on my blog or web site. Dylan Farrow, the Editor for pet care and pet safety at House Method sent me four articles that I thought I would share with you. All the information is good.

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I have only one exception to the recommendation in one of the articles. It says that you must bathe your dog once a month. This is not always a good idea because it can dry your dog’s coat causing your dog’s skin to flake. Dog coats are not meant to be washed that often. Some breeds that have oilier coats can tolerate it, but please check with your veterinarian or groomer to see how often your dog needs a bath.

Sue

Pet Safety Guide

Are Your Plants Safe for your Pets?

Best Vacuum For Pet Hair

Keeping Your Home Less Hairy

 

 

Weight gain in cats

In a first of its kind study by researchers at the University of Guelph, Ontario Veterinary College (OVC), Dr. Adam Campigotto, along with Bernardo and colleague Dr. Zvonimir Poljak tracked the weights of 19 million cats to see if there was a pattern of weight gain or loss.

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This information is important because weight gain or loss can indicate health issues in cats. Also the study offers a baseline for the weight of cats. What is interesting is that the research showed that cats continue to gain weight until they are about eight years of age.

It is interesting to note that the researchers found that male cats tended to reach higher weight peaks than females. Also spayed or neutered cats tended to be heavier. What was also interesting is that they found that the average weight of neutered eight-year-old cats increased between 1995 and 2005 but was steady after that.

The researchers want to focus on ways to reduce obesity in cats as well as on keeping cats healthy. They recommend that cat owners buy a scale and regularly weigh their cats to help maintain a healthy weight for their cat.

Homemade cat food

In an attempt to give cats a healthier lifestyle many cat owners have opted to make their own cat food. A search on the internet will turn up many recipes. But is homemade cat food good for your cat?

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A first of its kind study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, have determined that most homemade diets do not provide cats all of their essential nutrients. Not surprising, some recipes may contain ingredients that are potentially toxic to cats.

Even recipes that were written by veterinarians lacked nutrients and/or were deficient in meeting the nutritional needs of cats. For example, some recipes lacked up to 19 essential nutrients.

The study suggests that if you want to make your own cat food that you should consult a board certified veterinarian nutritionist to design a diet that will meet your individual cat’s needs. Keep in mind that age and health issues will change a cat’s nutritional needs.

It is a good idea to check with some online sites that evaluate cat and dog food. http://catfooddb.com/blog/cat-food-advisor

Money-Saving Tips for Traveling With a Dog – by guest blogger Nick Burton

As dog owners, our canine companions enrich our lives in many ways, and it can be heart-wrenching to set out on a trip without them. Luckily, we don’t have to say “bye” if we make the right preparations. If you’re a dog owner who is planning to travel, these money-saving tips will help ensure that you and your pup have the best experience possible.

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Photo Credit: Unsplash

Reserve a Pet Sitter

Traveling with your dog provides a great opportunity to spend quality time together in a new and exciting place. However, that doesn’t mean they’ll be able to join you for every single activity during the trip. For the times when you must leave your pup behind for a bit, it’s important that they’re not alone, as it can cause them severe anxiety. That’s where a pet sitter comes in. Research area pet sitters that fits within your budget and can keep your dog company. Just make sure the person is reputable and trustworthy.

Pack All the Things

 The more stuff you pack for your dog, the more comfortable they will be and the less you will have to buy when you arrive at your destination. Be sure to bring along the essentials:

You can find many of these items for a good price from online retailers like Amazon. When you place your order, use a promo code for Amazon.com to knock the price down even more.

Strategize the Destination

Choosing a destination for you and your pup may take a little more work than if it was just you. Not only do you have to make sure it’s a place where you can have fun and relax, but you also have to consider your dog’s needs as well. Wherever you decide to go, make sure there are dog-friendly activities within a reasonable distance. For instance, if you plan on dining out quite a bit, you’ll want to make sure there are dog-friendly restaurants around. You also may want to look for open spaces where they can safely run and play. Dog parks and beaches that offer pet-friendly areas can be great options at no cost to you.

Strategize the Lodging

 Along with your destination, you’ll want to consider your dog’s needs as you choose the lodging during your trip. One of the easiest ways to do this is by searching online for pet-friendly hotels. However, if you already have lodging in mind (e.g., a hotel, bed and breakfast, vacation home, campground, etc.), you can contact the facility and ask about their pet policy. You can typically find pet-friendly places to stay wherever you go; you’ll just need to make sure you understand the rules. Once you’ve gone over the pet policy, be sure to abide by the guidelines so that you, your dog, and the other occupants can all enjoy your time.

Warm Your Pup Up to Traveling

Another budget-friendly way to plan your trip with your dog is to warm them up to whatever mode of transit you’ve chosen. For example, if you’re driving and your pup is not used to riding in a vehicle, take them for some short trips in your vehicle to break them in. If you’re flying or taking a train or bus, take them to the airport or station and let them see and smell the surroundings. Also, if you’re using a travel carrier, having them spend time in the carrier and lining it with some of their bedding before you leave can help them get comfortable with it.

Traveling with your pup can provide a lot of quality time together. Just be sure to hire a pet sitter if you have to leave your dog behind for an activity, and pack all of the necessary supplies. Keep your dog’s needs in mind when you choose your destination and lodging, and try to ease them into the traveling process. The extra time and effort it takes to plan a trip with your dog will prove well worth it when you’re enjoying a new place together.

NOTE From Sue: These tips can apply to any pet that goes traveling with you.