Best Behavior: What Works for Your Pet

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dogs, petsFor a while, it seemed as though Cesar Milan was the authority on dog behavior. Then, criticism arose of his “alpha dog” approach to training. There were other factors involved in the criticism, but ultimately much of it comes down to varying opinions on changing a pet’s behavior. So, if you need to train your pet, what should you do?

As long as it is humane, you should do whatever works best for you and your pet. There are plenty of options to try and it may take a little time to find out which one works for you. But, it is worth it in the long term.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a common method based on the premise that dogs and cats will remember instructions better when they are rewarded each time that they perform well. It also operates under the notion that punishment of any kind only promotes fear and does not inspire positive action.

Trainers who focus on training with this method may use verbal and hand signals, and clickers as cues, and treats and toys as rewards. When a pet does not perform properly, the trainer may ignore or re-instruct the animal in proper behavior while withholding the rewards. Some believe that this method is slower, but also believe it’s the best, safest method.

The Alpha Method

The alpha approach, made popular for many by Cesar Milan, is a more tough ownership method. It involved being more stern and only giving praise at precise moments when the animal has done something positive, and followed an order. Tools for this type of training may include:

  • Choke chains and collars.
  • Bite simulation via a hand grip.
  • Stern authoritative sounds and motions.

This approach is not generally meant to be entirely negative; positive reinforcement is to be appropriately timed and balanced with the alpha moments.

There is some tension between pet owners who use varying methods. The important thing to remember is that no two animals respond to the exact same training. Therefore, as long as the animal is not clearly being abused, it owners must have the freedom to attempt various proven methods until they find the one that suits them. Most training can be done at home, but sometimes reaching out to a professional trainer is best, as is a talk with the vet. If your pet is showing signs of behavioral issues, we can offer help at Pet Vet Hospitals.

Pumpkin and Your Pets

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beagle in pumpkinThe pumpkins are out. Whether for classic fall decorations, Halloween, or Thanksgiving, they’re everywhere. They come in their original form, in lattes, in pies, and in pumpkin-spiced everything. But, pumpkin isn’t just for décor and favorite fall treats. Your pets can enjoy some, too.

Pumpkin for pets comes in the form of natural, non-sweetened, canned pumpkin, pumpkin seeds, and some cooked varieties. Some pet foods, treats, and treatments also include it. It can be beneficial for:

Digestion: Pumpkin has lots of natural fiber that is safe for your pets. All natural, canned pumpkin that has no extra sugars, spices, etc., is a common way to treat mild digestive trouble, such as diarrhea. There is some available in most pet stores and pet sections of your local grocery store. Even if their aren’t showing signs of digestive trouble, a little dab of pumpkin from time-to-time with their food can help keep them regular.

Healthy Weight: Even if you’re feeding your pet a good diet full of protein and vitamins, you may need a little more to help them keep their weight under control. Pumpkin is full of fiber and low on calories. Replacing just a little of their food with some pumpkin may help them lose a little extra weight without leaving them unsatisfied. They generally like the taste, too.

Additionally, it has antioxidants that are believed to help maintain a healthy urinary tract, plus plenty of vitamins and minerals that may help fight disease and promote a healthy fur coat. Take a look at your pet store or talk to your vet about healthy pumpkin options for your pet. Not all versions of the treat are right for all pets, and some may simply not like it. If you want to supplement your dog or cat’s diet with something that provides similar benefits as pumpkin, ask us at Pet Vet Hospitals what else you can use. Otherwise, you and your pet can both enjoy some pumpkin together this fall.

Leash Laws: Know Pet Ownership Laws

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dog-237187_1280Pets are available everywhere; they’re up for adoption, for purchase, and for free. We’re so accustomed to being able to simply go pick up a pet and take it home, and do little else, that it’s easy to forget there are laws and regulations out there for pet owners. It is unfortunate that it’s so easy to have a pet without obeying these rules, because they exist for many reasons—in particular, to protect pets, their owners, and others.

State-by-State, City-by-City

Pet ownership laws vary everywhere. All states have their ordinances, and cities might have some additional stipulations. Of course, ultimately, any federal regulations supersede a state’s decision. These ordinances cover a wide variety of potential safety and health risks, and their preventions, such as:

  • Consistent, mandatory vaccinations.
  • Rabid animals, or animals with other diseases that are potentially dangerous for humans.
  • Animals off-leash.
  • Animal bites and attacks.
  • Pet licenses.
  • The number of pets owned.

How to Know Pet Ownership Laws

These issues often do not come up until an incident occurs, and so it is easy to let the details of following licensing, vaccinations, and other ordinances slide; sometimes people forget, and sometimes they believe that nothing will happen to them or their pet.

It is not worth the risk.

The best thing to do is to research your state and local pet ownership laws well before getting a pet. It is very easy in the current information age; just go online to your state and city’s official websites. Then, once you know all your pet ownership laws, do not wait to apply the rules to your pet and life:

  • Get your pet licensed if necessary.
  • Microchip them.
  • Begin and maintain all vaccinations.
  • Save for medical expenses, and consider pet insurance.
  • Make a habit of all other regulations for daily care (keeping the dog on a leash, picking up after pets, etc.).

If you live in the Houston area, we can advise you a great deal on the local laws regarding pet care. Bring your pet in for vaccinations and more, and let us help you remain a law-abiding pet owner.

Saying Goodbye to a Pet

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cat, cats, petsIt’s something that no pet owner wants to imagine, but will eventually have to face: saying goodbye to a pet. Because it is an unfortunate fact of life, it’s important to be prepared for it. There are steps that owners must take and difficult decisions that they must make when a pet passes on.

Euthanasia

Pets owners must decide for themselves if euthanasia is right for their pets. It is an incredibly difficult decision to make, but if a pet is suffering at the end of its life, and the vet has determined that quality of life is simply too low, or there is some other medical reason that the animal must be put down, euthanasia is a humane option. It’s gentle, painless, and allows a person to be there for the pet at the very end. The vet will give the family all the time they need, and then administer a sedative so the pet will sleep. After that, the medication will be administered, and the animal will rest in peace.

Natural Passing at Home

If a pet parent wants the animal to pass in the comfort of home, a vet can advise on the best way to go about that so the pet is as comfortable as possible. There is also the terrible possibility of an animal passing suddenly at home. When these things happen, there are several possible steps.

First, it is important be aware of any regulations regarding animal remains in a city or neighborhood. For safety reasons, there may be regulations regarding burial, cremation, and removal. If the animal dies suddenly, the owner may want a necropsy (an animal autopsy) to find the cause prior to cremation or burial. If the pet will be cremated or taken elsewhere for other memorial arrangements, it is important to keep the animal’s body cool, and to not wait long before moving it.

They are part of the family and saying goodbye to a pet can be incredibly difficult. If your pet is approaching the end of his or her life with you, you can be assured that we at Pet Vet Hospitals will treat you and your pet with all the love and respect possible.

Fall for Pets

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Fall is coming swiftly. The leaves will be changing colors, the weather cooling, and people will become more and more eager for pumpkin spice lattes—pumpkin spice everything, in fact—Halloween, Thanksgiving, and all that follows. Your pets will be happy to join you in the fun. There are fall-themed treats for them, and some of them might even let you dress them in costumes.

As you enjoy all that fall has to offer, remember to play it safe with your pets, as well. Fall brings about some changes that could be harmful to your pet, and ruin the fun.

Depositphotos_54192935_s-2015Leaf Piles

Running and jumping through leaves seems fun, and there are plenty of classic—or cliché—images of people and their pets doing it. Remember, however, that there are a few dangers associated with this. Piles of leaves, especially those which have been sitting for some time, are gardens for bacteria and mold. If your dog gets into these growths, they could become sick.

Mushrooms and Other Plants

With the new weather comes decaying plants. Many environments become breeding grounds for mushrooms, which can make the curious, hungry dog or cat ill. Other seasonal plants are potentially toxic, such as the chrysanthemum.

Rodenticides

The cooler weather drives rodents and other pests into homes, and many people ward them off with rodenticides. While this is normal practice, it should be done very carefully; these toxins are bad for pets, too. They can potentially be fatal, so always place them in areas that are very difficult for pets to reach, even by accident.

Precautions don’t mean the end of fun. Continue enjoying the fall as you play it safe with your pets. If you need some help with your pets’ health along the way, come see us at Pet Vet Hospitals. We’re here for you throughout the seasons.

Back-to-School: Pets and Separation Anxiety

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Summer has been fun, and now it’s time to go back to school. Students and teachers alike, of all ages, have begun classes. This also means that many pets have been left at home while their owners are away, and some may take this change rather hard because they’ve become accustomed to having a family member around.

Separation anxiety can come in many forms. And, even if you pet has never shown signs before, any significant change may stir some anxiety.

labrador-380800_1920Your dog, for instance, might:

  • Bark and howl.
  • Pace and run.
  • Tear and chew at furniture, and other things.
  • Dig into trash and other places.
  • Urinate and defecate in the house.

Cats may do the same or similar when they’re upset by an owner’s absence, in addition to:

  • Scratching at furniture and other things.
  • Urinating to mark territory.
  • Climbing and knocking items off of shelves, and counters.

The best thing to do is prepare your pet well before the semester begins. Let your pet grow accustomed to your absence by leaving for brief periods of time. Over time, work toward the schedule you will have once classes start.

If your pet is already showing signs of separation anxiety, try some natural remedies. Go for long walks to exhaust your dog and play with your cat for a while every day. Make some extra time in general to spend with your pets to make them feel safe and loved. Leave plenty of distractions for them in the form of safe toys and treats.

If these don’t work, look into day care or professional training. It takes patience, but if significant time passes with no results, it may be time to seek the help of your vet to make certain there are no medical issues causing the separation anxiety, and to find out if there are any other options.

If you’re concerned about your pet’s reactions to your going back to school, call us at Pet Vet Hospitals and let us help.

Microchipping: The Details

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Dogs and Cats Hanging Over White BannerMicrochipping has become more common recently and it’s a very good thing; millions of pets go missing every year and the use of microchipping makes those disappearances much less likely. In fact, many shelters and rescue groups have made it mandatory and include it in adoption fees.

The Process

In this quick and easy, and not terribly painful process, the veterinarian uses a needle to insert a tiny microchip under your pet’s skin, most often between the shoulder blades, the same place where you put his topical flea treatment. This little microchip has a number and a scanner can pick up that number should your pet go missing. This procedure can be done to most pets that have the potential to be lost.

The Cost

As high-tech as this little chip is, it is not very costly. If you adopt your pet, there may be a discount, or the procedure may be included in your normal adoption fees. Some vets offer it at a discounted rate if you have it done in addition to other procedures. In some other countries, microchipping is mandatory as part of a pet’s registration, and there are even some places in the U.S. in which the law requires it.

The price is particularly reasonable considering the peace of mind that comes with it. If your pet runs away, or is taken, and even if he does not have his collar off, you’ll be able to find him. All you have to do is register the number and call, and find your lost loved one. It’s that simple, and that safe.

We offer microchipping at Pet Vet Animal Hospitals, and we highly recommend it. Bring your pet in, whether he is a new or longtime companion, and let us help keep your furry family member safe.

Save Pets: Adopt a Pet from a Rescue

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dogs people connection adoptionIf you’re a pet owner, or animal lover, you have heard people say that it’s better to adopt a homeless pet than to purchase one. While it is important to note that pets in stores and from expensive breeders need homes, too, and that it’s not their fault that they are the result of a problematic system, there are some very good, specific reasons why it is a better idea to adopt from your local shelters and rescue groups.

Value for Your Money

Money may not be a primary concern for you; you just want a happy, healthy friend. But, for many of us, cost is still a concern, and you will pay far less for a shelter pet than for one from a pet store or breeder. Some rescues and foster pets have higher costs, but that is because they go to great lengths to keep the animals in comfort while they wait for their forever homes, and they may still cost significantly less than a breeder.

But, what about value? There is no certainty that your purebred, or petstore animal will be any better or healthier than an adopted pet. In fact, some purebred pets are at greater risks for illness and birth defects because of overbreeding. Animals are put up for adoption for many reasons, and illness or defect are only a small percentage.

The Need

Rescue and shelter pets have, generally, been abandoned. Perhaps their owners moved and could not take them, could not take care of them for monetary reasons, the pet became too large, or maybe the animal was abandoned somewhere with no one around to explain why. Many, many pets sit in shelters never to be adopted. This results in overflow, lack of funding for proper care, and it is the reason why kill shelters still exist. If you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue, you are giving a pet a second chance at life, and possibly saving its life.

Veterinarians offer common health services at reduced prices, sometimes volunteering time to keep homeless pets healthy at reasonable costs, or for free. At Pet Vet Hospitals, we encourage rescuing and adopting homeless pets. Check out our list of local shelters and non-profit organizations from which you may adopt. As soon as you adopt a pet, bring your new family member in for a check-up.

The Dangers of Hot Cars for Pets

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We all know that we shouldn’t leave our pets in cars, particularly when it’s hot. We hear it all the time, see local news reports on it. There are plenty of excuses for doing it, but they are not truly good ones. We know that it can harm them, but how much do you know about why it’s harmful?

Too many pets still die from heat exhaustion in cars because people still don’t take the warnings seriously. They may think, “It’s all exaggerated,” or, “I have the windows down and I won’t be gone long.” The risks, however, are too great to convince yourself it’s okay.

dog-237187_1280The temperature in your car rises incredibly fast. It can go from 80 degrees Fahrenheit to 90 degrees in a matter of ten minutes, and upward from there. And, don’t be fooled by the fact that your pet is shaded by the car; the temperature can reach a level well above that outside the car, and rolling down the windows helps little, to not at all. This means that even if the temperature outside seems reasonable, the car could still become too much for your pet. This puts your pet at risk not only of heatstroke, but heart attack and dehydration, as well. Additionally, your pet could suffocate in a hot, closed car.

Even if you are merely running into a store for one single item, finding the item, a long checkout line, and other things could prevent you from returning in time. Your dog may panic and make the situation even worse. Plenty of incidents could happen to exacerbate the circumstances.

We want only the best for your pets at Pet Vet Animal Hospital. Always do what you know is right for them, and if they need care, call us and let us help you and your furry family member.

Hot Cats: Cool Them Off in Summer

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cat-649164_1920The summer heat can be stifling for everyone, your cat included. Your poor cat is covered in fur and has few options to keep cool—just shade, a cool floor, and water. You can help your cat stay cool this summer, and prevent potentially dangerous, heat-related problems.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Make sure your cat has plenty of water, and offer chilled water sometimes, or place some ice in the bowl. Staying hydrated is very important and the cold water will add some heat relief to that hydration. Refresh the water regularly. You can even offer your cat frozen treats.

Lounge in the Shade

Your cat probably has favorite spots. Make those spots a little better in terms of temperature by shading it, especially if it is outside. Add a fan to the room, or point it at the area. Your cat will seek hard, cold floors when he’s feeling warm, so make sure those areas are kept cool. You can even buy cat cooling beds and pads to help; these are particularly useful if your air conditioner or electricity fails and you are out of options.

Lazy Days

Avoid the outdoors. If your cat is purely an indoor cat, this may not be an issue. However, if your cat is accustomed to an open window as “cat TV,” it is best to close the window and avoid the incoming heat. An indoor/outdoor cat should stay indoors as much as possible. If your cat is crying to get out, try to distract him with a toy or treat, and lift the window shades instead.

There are plenty of ways to prevent heatstroke and other related problems this summer. You and your cat can enjoy the summer together and stay cool. If your cat is showing signs of heat-related distress, call us at Pet Vet Hospitals and let us help.