Monday, March 27, 2017

Use simple rules-of-thumb to ensure that a healthy pet's hydration needs are met

I had to laugh with a client a few months ago as we chatted about attending one of the first puppy classes with her new little one.

“One of the other people in the class asked the facilitator, ‘How much water do I need to bring for my dog? I don’t want him to get dehydrated.’ I was thinking, ‘What?’ The class is about an hour long. Bring water? That seemed a little much,” she said.

The attention on sufficient water intake for the pup wasn’t surprising to me, given the world’s current hyper-fascination with staying hydrated. Water bottle in hand, shall we sally forth and delve into some perspective on the hydration needs of pets?

Water is indeed necessary for optimal health, and though there are basic guidelines for healthy pets, the amount that a pet requires if they’ve some special needs will vary. In the latter case, you'll need to chat with your veterinarian.
A pup's needs can differ slightly from an adult dog's, so ask your vet. 

Adult dogs in good health and comfortably safe, temperate surroundings should average about one ounce per pound of body weight of clean, fresh water daily. Dogs are notoriously good at sipping throughout the day, but cats, not so noticeably. As a rule of thumb, if adult cats are being fed a canned diet (which is roughly 70% water), they’re getting much of their daily intake that way. If they are on dry food, they, like all cats, should have a supply of fresh, clean water offered at will so that they get the 5-10 ounces that healthy, averaged-sized cats require daily.

All of that said, water intake for pets who are infirm usually require more water, and the situation varies. Pets with renal insufficiency, thyroid issues and diabetes fall into this category.  If your pet is in one of those groups, or is recovering from an illness--including one with symptoms that include diarrhea and vomiting--ask your clinician about adjusting your pet’s intake accordingly. With warmer temperatures in the summer, one can expect increased hydration needs as well.

As a caregiver, there are a few ways that I monitor not only how much water my charges are taking in, but how well their body is putting it to use, and there are markers that you can just as easily look for. If the water bowl needs filling more than usual (and their activity level has not changed and the weather is comfortable), that’s an obvious signal, but I also look for other things: if their stools are more firm than I’m used to seeing, if their gums are dry and sticky (smelly breath can sometimes accompany this) or if they are lethargic. Changes like these need to be discussed with your veterinarian, and the sooner the better, as they can be clues when there's a health condition developing.

By and large, I find that dogs and cats do a good job in their own of adjusting their own water intake needs, so as long as your pet’s intake is falling within the amounts above and they acting normally, you need not fret.

I will say that some dogs have an affinity for indulging a fresh gulp of water whenever possible. I’ve a couple of charges who fit this description; they have been evaluated by their vet and are deemed healthy, so it’s simply a matter of mindfully rationing their water intake so that they are able to get outside to relieve themselves--and not needing to resort to doing so in the house.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Bad mouth or breath odor in pets should be taken seriously

Changes in a pet's behavior, appearance, weight and willingness to eat are very clear signs that something is up. But that's not the only thing that's an indicator. The way that they smell—and my focus here, the way that their mouth or breath smells—can be an equally important signal that there's a problem.

It's important to remember that aside from the occasional bout of halitosis or after eating something especially smelly, like tuna, what comes out of your pet's mouth shouldn't smell offensive. If the odor is foul or smells sweet, a visit with the vet for an exam is most definitely in order. 

The most common culprits

Periodontal disease is the most common source of stinky breath in pets—and it's preventable. Regular brushing at home is helpful. So is ensuring that pets have professional dental exams, cleanings and any treatment (performed under anesthesia) performed by a veterinarian or even a Board Certified Veterinary Dentist, is a protocol that you might hear referred to as Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT). This can safely and effectively take care of dental issues, some of which unfortunately can lead to poor organ health.

Though not as common, something as simple as a foreign object stuck in the gum or in between teeth can harbor bacteria and cause a problem, leading to mouth odor. An injury to the mouth, or tissue around the mouth that's diseased can result in odorous breath as well, and that needs attention by a vet. 

Organ dysfunction and illnesses are a possibility 

Breath that smells like ammonia is a sign of compromised kidney (renal) function. One of the breakdown products that the kidneys typically work to filter into the urine, blood urea nitrogen (BUN), instead builds up in mammals with kidney dysfunction. Ammonia, which is a breakdown product of urea, then finds its way into saliva, which is how the smell is detected on the breath of pets with renal insufficiency. 

Sweet-smelling odors in the breath of pets is associated with diabetes mellitus. With diabetes, glucose can't be broken down efficiently so that it can be used to fuel the body, so ketone bodies are produced and build up in the blood. The body tries to expel excess ketones—which emit a fruity odor or that of nail-polish remover—through respiration, and thus, are detected in the breath. 

Gastrointestinal disease, though a lesser-seen culprit behind stinky breath in pets, can be a contributor.

Other causes can be behind your pet's mouth odor, but there's no question that it's a sign of something that needs addressing. The most sound advice that I can offer is to skip the products on the market designed to take care of problem and instead, make an appointment with your pet's veterinarian. 

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Throwing shade on those without pets is a haughty endeavor

I don't pass judgment on those who decide to forgo a life intimately shared with pets day-to-day. It's not for everyone. Having pets demands a mindset and resources that one might not be able to tap in to now or ever. 

There's a level of commitment, understanding, patience, time and thinking ahead that must be summoned. And it compels resources outside of that: the financial means to support a pet, an ability to provide a stable home, reasonable access to options when decision-making needs to be employed. Also necessary is a willingness to set aside one's own needs so that an animal friend can be put first, both in the minutiae of daily life and when big things happen. Not everyone can handle this.

But still, people with pets persist in their judgments of people who choose to live life without them. So, I'm going to do my best here to shift the direction of the sun so that the proverbial shade is casted more thoughtfully.  

Consider that there might be more than meets the eye when it comes to a family of any composition that makes the decision to be pet-free. 

I say, 'Hats off!' to those who forgo the notion of sharing their lives with pets. They most often understand what an undertaking it is. They don't live under the pretense of 'I'll figure it out', knowing deep down that it's likely they won't, and put the companion animal or their familial relationships at a disadvantage. Yes, that's very much 'pro-pet'.

Yes, even though these people could provide a physically 'safe' place, the humans—for work or other commitments—would never be home nearly enough to provide adequate time or enrichment that is so very much needed for any companion animal's well-being, or maybe they really don't have the financial means. This, while their outwardly pet-loving counterparts who are all-too-willing to hit up others for a donation to provide the utmost tops in veterinary treatment because their own resources are stretched too thinly with their multiple-pet household; the more, the merrier! they're known to exclaim.

I often think of the folks who murmur to me in those familiarly hushed tones, 'I just couldn't do it again': the thought of facing the grief of the eventuality of losing a pet. Yes, including those, who are the product of a different generation or attitude and bear the emotional scars of pet loss when euthanasia, as we are aware, was handled with much less care and mindfulness than it typically is today. Perhaps someone has their hands full with supporting themselves and loved ones emotionally and the idea of being responsible for another living thing is not even close to being on the table. I find that sometimes, cultural norms can be behind the practice of not keeping pets.

One thing that I know is that a rough exterior of, I'm just not as in to animals as you are often reveals itself. It's quick. It offers no opportunity for questions, and for cut-to-the-bone reasons. It's safe. It can be complicated. But an unfortunate, knee-jerk response from the other side is to take it at face value, and then some.

It's unfair to toss around judgments about people simply because they've made a life choice to be without pets, and worse yet, to rub it in. I've met people from all walks of life who really do love pets and would like it if their lives were different, but because of the barriers that they face or that they have the sense to impose upon themselves, they find themselves being unfairly begrudged or even shamed at least a little by those who make the decision to welcome a pet into the family. The snide comments, the social media posts, the transparent attitudes of 'Oh, they don't like pets!'

As an aside, I have to admit that find it unfortunate to be witness to the, "If they don't like dogs [or cats or whatever], I don't like them" idea. I'm very enthusiastic about traveling, but wouldn't it be silly to not like people who might not be as keen on it? Of course it would. 

There's no shame in having a pet-free lifestyle. The truth is, we often have no idea what's behind one's decision, and no matter the reasoning, all I can say is that it's good enough for me. And to be honest, I'm not concerned with that decision. So, let's stop and think before assuming or wisecracking. Those who don't have pets for whatever reason, or don't feel comfortable with them are equally as wonderful and thoughtful as those that do—and I find, sometimes more so. In that way, it doesn't seem too far fetched that pet guardians could learn a thing or two from their pet-free counterparts.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Increase your lost pet's chances of getting home safely with up-to-date microchip information and other easy tips

A few weeks ago, I had commented in a post that there was something that I'll do differently with the next animal members of my tribe— I'll invest in pet health insurance—but that's not the only thing. 

I'd have any pets in my future microchipped from the start.

Having had hospiced both members of my companion animal tribe within the last year and half, I'm mindfully taking my time before welcoming another. I have to say that when my pets joined the family, the first of which was nearly 20 years ago, things were different. These days, we have more tools and knowledge to advocate for pets, and to keep them happy and safe. And an easy part of that is microchipping

The fact is, pets can't speak for themselves if they're separated from their guardian, but a microchip can—and volumes so. The chip, as they are referred to, contains the registered owner's contact information. Though not tracking devices (like global positioning devices, or GPS), microchips do use radio-frequency identification (RFID) and once implanted, they last the pet's lifetime. The microchip, which is about the size of a grain of rice, is easy to implant (click here to see a demonstration) and for the pet, feels much like getting a vaccination. It's also affordable, less than $50. 

It seems important to note that: 

  • roughly 22 percent of dogs who enter animal shelters and are not microchipped end up back home with their families. That, compared to 52 percent who are microchipped.

  • just under 40 percent of microchipped cats that enter an animal shelter are reunited with their owners, while a staggering less-than-2 percent of cats that are without a chip make it home.

As someone who is out and about quite a bit with my work, I encounter a lot of dogs who are lost. I'm always pretty thrilled when I see that the pet is wearing a collar with an identification tag bearing the guardian's name, address and phone number, because it's easy to facilitate a reunion. But if they aren't wearing one, I hope that they're microchipped. When they're not—or if the contact information isn't valid, something I'll talk more about in a minute—that complicates things, as you can imagine. 

One of the things I always remind pet owners when I meet them for the first time and especially if they are new to the area, is to ensure that their contact info is up-to-date now that they've settled into their new digs. I'll get in touch with existing clients through the year—usually a couple of weeks before their booked service begins—and ask them to check that the information on the pet's chip is current. Doing so is easy and only takes a couple of minutes. By logging on to the registry of the company that a pet's chip is enrolled with and entering in the individual microchip number, one can verify that everything is up to date. If it isn't, that can be fixed that on the site, or by calling the company directly. Alternately, the chip number can be entered on the American Animal Hospital Association's Universal Microchip Lookup site (click here).

Having current contact info is also important for a pet's identification tags. If the ID tags need updating or are worn, it's time to create some new ones. One might even consider a snazzy new collar that has a telephone number directly on it. Don't forget the power of images: with smartphone cameras, it's easy to capture photos of pets and because they are digital, they can be updated often. I take a lot of photos of my charges from different angles, and in varying situations, paying close attention to any unique markings.

For dogs under my care (especially if their humans are traveling abroad or are on a cruise), I attach a tag embossed with my name and contact information to their collar. If a dog gets separated from me outdoors, it will be easy for a human to contact me immediately once they are found, and I can verify that they belong with me. 

If you live in Michigan and have lost a pet, use the power of the internet and social media. Create a post on For the Love of Louie--Michigan Lost Pet Lookers' Facebook page and contact your local shelter or humane society (Humane Society of Huron Valley has a lost/found page) to submit a report.

There are plenty of easy measures to ensure that pets makes it home safe and sound if they are lost, but as always, it starts with their guardians.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. She has been a featured guest on the Pawprint Animal Rescue Podcast, talking about her career working with companion animals and writing about her experiences. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.