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Lifetime Costs of Pet Ownership

This week, on Yahoo Parenting, there was a very entertaining article published, titled Here’s What It Costs to Own All the Pets Your Kid Says They Want.  The article originally appeared on Fatherly (a great site for dads, by the way!), and it was packed with the humor that we’ve come to expect from this blog. The underlying message, however, was extremely relevant to both parenting and pet ownership.

All too often, people dive into adopting a pet without much thought, because let’s face it – pets truly are a joy to have around.  That constant companionship comes at a price, though, and it’s more than monetary overhead. They require your time and energy, more than anything… and when they’re babies, they require an ungodly amount of patience.

Life after pet adoption is entirely different.  You’ll never take a last minute road trip with your best pals again… not unless your pup is welcome to tag along.  Feel like skipping out on housekeeping duties this week?  Give it a shot!  Let’s see how long you can live with that neglected litter box.

The article on Fatherly is absolutely a fun and worthwhile read, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re considering pet adoption, definitely check it out, but use it as a jumping point. Think about the situation from all angles.  Remember that pets will often hang around for more than a decade, so you’ll need to think about where you see yourself in ten years.  If you’re in your early twenties, do you suppose you’ll have children in the next decade?  If so, owning a high maintenance senior pet might conflict with the endless responsibilities that come along with caring for a newborn.  On the other hand, if you’re planning to adopt a puppy for your child who will hopefully be heading off to college at some point during the animal’s lifespan, who will be responsible for the care of the pet when that happens?  These are the types of circumstances that land well-behaved, loving senior pets in shelters across the country.

Every situation is different, but the fact remains that the cost of pet ownership goes way beyond the cost of feeding and semi-annual wellness exams.  Be sure to do your research, consider your own circumstances and plans for the future, and be fair in your decision to adopt your next family member.  Taking a pet home is a lifetime commitment.

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Halloween Safety for Pets

Halloween is such a festive and exciting time of year, but that can mean some entirely different for our pets.  While we enjoy the thrill of dressing up and gathering up all the sweets our bodies can handle, the type of excitement that is experienced by our furry companions is usually more along the lines of anxiety.  In fact, it’s not only stressful… it can be downright dangerous.  Pet ownership comes along with a mile-long list of responsibilities and among them, keeping pets safe on holidays.  Here are some things to keep in mind on the spookiest day of the year:

Keep Outdoor Cats Indoors!

It’s such a sad fact and truly not something that any of us wants to think about, but being unpleasant doesn’t make it untrue.  Cats are extremely vulnerable on Halloween, for a number of reasons.  The most obvious is that they are the target of pranks and cruelty-related incidents.  We don’t need to tell you that black cats are at an even higher risk than others.

Consider the Increase in Traffic

Another thing that makes Halloween particularly dangerous for pets is that there is a significant increase in traffic, both on foot and by vehicle. We already mentioned keeping your outdoor cats inside, but consider doing the same for dogs.  Even if they only go outside for a potty break, be sure to accompany them.  Avoid letting dogs roam freely, and don’t leave them in your yard unattended.

If you absolutely must bring them along with you when you go out, consider using a reflective collar or vest.

Be Selfish With Your Sweets

That is to say that you should not share them with your pets.  It’s seems a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised to know how often pets fall ill because their owner shared something they shouldn’t have.  Also consider that pets are both sneaky and agile. Don’t turn your back on your candy bag.  They’ll snatch it in a heartbeat.

The most common dangers found in Halloween candy are chocolate and artificial sweeteners (such as Xylitol), both of which can have varying degrees of side effects… they may even be fatal if your pet consumes enough.  So, keep an eye on your stash and keep it well out of your pet’s reach.

In addition to these three tips for their physical safety, also remember to safeguard your pet’s emotional and psychological well-being on this super busy day.  Don’t allow your doorbell to ring every few minutes if you know it’s going to torment your dog or cat.  If it bothers him, consider setting up a table and chair out front and away from the door. In extreme cases, your veterinarian may even recommend a prescription medication to help your pet relax.

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Keeping Your Cat Off of Kitchen Counters

Regardless of species, even the most well-mannered pets have a bad habit or two.  However, while it’s true that many bad behaviors in pets are due to natural instincts that are virtually impossible to break, you may not be as helpless as you may think.

Jumping on kitchen counters happens to be one of the most common complaints made by people who share their home with cats. Tons of cat owners will tell you that keeping their cat off the kitchen counter is absolutely impossible.  For most, this simply amounts to a lifetime of shooing the cat away when he or she jumps up.  It’s something that is so common that most cat owners don’t even think about it anymore.

The habit can be attributed to a number of reasons.  Namely, cats are built for jumping and climbing.  Specifically for indoor cats, this satisfies an innate need. The counter is also, quite obviously, where delicious treats and scraps of human food may be found. Finally, it brings your cat to eye level. Have you noticed more of this behavior when your cat is feeling particularly social?  The head butts, extra purring, and outpouring of affection – you’re not imagining that.

While everyone loves a friendly feline, the kitchen counter just isn’t the place for it (think of how those paws move straight from the litter box to the counter… where you prepare food!)  So, here are some suggestions that might help you curb the behavior:

Offer suitable climbing surfaces – A cat tree or wall-mount cat shelves may be the answer.  As we mentioned, your cat loves to slink around the house, jumping from the floor to the counter to the top of the fridge.  Provide a suitable alternative, instead.

Never store treats on the countertop – We totally agree: those countertop cookie jars with the paws all over them are adorable.  However, every time your cat sees you pull a treat from that jar, it reinforces the (mis)understanding that the countertop was make for strutting around on.  Store them in a pantry or lower level cabinet, instead.  Better yet, store them away from the kitchen entirely.

Clean countertops thoroughly after meal preparation – This goes along the same lines as the previous point.  Food left on the countertop makes it even more inviting for your feline friend.  After preparing meals, be sure to wipe counters down thoroughly and stash any leftovers right away.

It’s also worth mentioning that many of the ingredients that you use in your own meals are unsafe for your pets, and the same can be said for most kitchen cleaners. So, generally speaking, your cat’s tendency to hang out on your counters in not a good idea for his health OR yours.

Like any unwanted behavior, it’s best to start discouraging this when they’re still tiny, but it’s never too late. Give it a shot!

 

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Exciting News for Pet Parents on the Go!

If you’re like most of us, you prefer to take your pets with you wherever you go, including long trips out of town. Well, fortunately, car and air travel are no longer your only options! Social media and news stations across the country are buzzing about Amtrak’s latest pilot program, which allows certain pets to travel by train, right along with their owners.

Check out the full story HERE, courtesy of the Washington Post.

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Game Day Recipes Your Dog Will Love!

Whether or not you are a lover of the game, there’s no denying that football season is in full swing.  For a lot of people, this time of year means so much more than staying glued to the television every Sunday. It’s also about the time spent with friends and family who also enjoy the game, and of course, the delicious fall recipes.

This football season, we want to make sure that your best furry friend is also included, and since it’s been so long since we last shared any recipes for pets, we’ve rounded up some great fall recipes for the pups.

Reminder: If your pet has a condition that requires a restricted diet, these recipes are probably not for you.  If are unsure, but would still like to try these recipes, please first speak with your family veterinarian.

Homemade Peanut Butter, Banana, and Bacon Dog Treats

This awesome treat recipe is courtesy of Huffington Post.  If your pup, like most, loves peanut butter, this is just the treat you’ve been looking for!  As an added bonus, the recipe calls for flax seeds, which is perfect for any pooch who could use an extra bit of fiber in his or her diet.

Bananas bring the potassium, and the bacon (cooked until VERY crisp and drained well) makes them irresistible. This is a must-try for healthy dogs on unrestricted diets, and we’re sure that even the pickiest of eaters will love them.  (Caution: Be sure to stick with natural varieties of peanut butter with no artificial sweeteners. Specifically, avoid giving pets any foods that contain Xylitol.)

Get the recipe HERE!

Touchdown Tasties

This recipe was created by Lucy Postins, CEO of The Honest Kitchen in honor of the most competitive time of year.  One look at the list of ingredients, and you’ll probably want to save a few for yourself!  Ham and cheese is the reason that these treats are a tasty winner with your furry sidekick, but the real kicker is the avocadoes.  They add a nice dose of healthy fats and oils, which makes them great for your pet’s skin and hair coat.  (Caution: The flesh of an avocado is perfectly safe and healthy for your pet in reasonable quantities, but you should avoid giving him or her the skin or pit of the fruit.)

Get the recipe HERE!

Super Simple Sweet Potato Dog Treats

This is a great time of year for sweet potatoes, and just like with humans, they just happen to also be a favorite for dogs.  If you’re looking for an extremely simple dog treat recipe with ingredients that you are very likely to already have around the house, give this one a shot.  FOUR ingredients!  That’s it.

Get the recipe HERE!

We hope your pups enjoy these recipes, as well as being included in all of this season’s game day festivities!

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Participate in the Ninth Annual Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey!

According to the 2014 survey taken by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of the cats and dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese.

At first glance, that statement may not seem like anything earth-shattering, but it’s an undeniable fact that obesity shortens lives.  That’s something that applies to your feline or canine best friend just as it would to any human you know.  The explanation for that is most often found in the secondary complications that come about as a result of obesity. Those complications may include any number of ailments, such as:

All of that makes sense, right? It’s easy to see how carrying more weight can place unnecessary demands on the body and all of its organs.

Really, the list of potential complications goes on, but the most important thing to consider is your pet’s quality of life. It’s a terrible thing to watch a pet suffer from something that was entirely preventable, and obesity falls easily into that category. Allowing your pet’s weight to get out of control is an injustice to your companion and your relationship, and it’s your responsibility as a pet owner to keep your pet as healthy and happy as possible.

Fortunately, as far as disease prevention goes, keeping your pet’s weight in check is relatively simple. Just as with humans, it’s a matter of burning more calories than are consumed: the classic “eat less, exercise more.”

It can be challenging to figure out how much your pet should be eating, but your family veterinarian can be your most useful resource in determining the best possible diet for your lifestyle. If you prefer to figure it out on your own, though, you can visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention website.  There, you’ll find a number of useful tools, like a calculator for determining your pet’s caloric needs, a daily feeding and activity log, and more.

On October 7, 2015, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention will conduct its Ninth Annual Pet Obesity Awareness Day survey.  If you or someone you know would like to participate, click HERE to learn more.

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Signs and Symptoms of Seasonal Allergies in Pets

Seasonal allergies are not just a problem that plagues humans.  In fact, VPI Pet Health Insurance lists allergies as the number one health condition affecting dogs, and cats are no stranger to the problem, either.

Generally speaking, the offending substances that cause you to experience allergic symptoms are the same culprits causing your pets’ allergic reactions. Your pets, however, won’t always show the watery eyes and runny nose that you’re used to associating with the change of seasons.  What your pet experiences is quite different and most often manifests itself as a topical reaction in the form of red and/or itchy skin, ear infections, etc. In some rare cases, it also involves gastrointestinal symptoms, such as occasional vomiting or diarrhea.

Pets with seasonal allergies most often begin to experience their first signs and symptoms around the age of two to three years old.  This is due to the way that allergies work: the body takes a certain amount of time after exposure to develop a sensitivity to a substance.

Some of the most common signs of seasonal allergies in pets include:

  • Redness of the skin (with or without warmth that you can feel). While this allergic symptom may be observed anywhere on your pet’s body, it is most often seen around the face, paws, and under your pet’s belly.
  • Itchy skin, which is most often noticed by the owner when the pet engages in certain behaviors, such as chewing the feet, constant licking of a certain place on the body, frequent scooting across the floor, or rubbing the face on carpet or furniture.
  • Recurrent “hot spots” or similar lesions
  • Sensitive or constant irritation of the ears. If this is the case, the pet owner will observe behaviors, such as pawing at the ears, frequent head shaking, redness and inflammation of the outer ear, etc.

If your pet is showing signs of seasonal allergies, speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible. You’ll be glad to know that you have quite a few options for treatment.

Remember that allergies are not a disease that can be cured, but it can be managed with any combination of immunotherapy, immunosuppressive medications, antihistamines, and topical mediations (such as creams, sprays, and shampoos).  Every pet is different, so your veterinarian is your most useful resource for determining what course of action may be best for you.

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Planning to Adopt? Consider a Deaf Pet!

Adopting a pet with special needs is not a decision that anyone should take lightly.  Potential adopters should always take the time to research any extra expenses or responsibilities that may be associated with owning a pet with disabilities, as well as any “special” measures that may need to be taken to keep the pet healthy and happy. In some cases, it may simply require you to administer a few extra medications every day. Other cases may be a bit more extreme, requiring you to modify your home environment, commit to frequent veterinary visits, and more.

In the case of dogs with a hearing impairment, however, you won’t need to do much to keep these guys happy and thriving.  Fortunately, deaf dogs are just as intelligent and capable as hearing dogs, and contrary to popular belief, they are not harder to train. The only special precaution that is typically required with deaf dogs is a leash.  Even in a fenced yard, they should not be left unattended, and under no circumstances should they ever be allowed to roam freely outdoors. Otherwise, with the right amount of training and attention, deaf dogs make great family companions.

Want to learn more about what it takes to become the caretaker of a deaf pet? Below, we’ve listed a few frequently asked questions to get you started.  If you’d still like to learn more, check out www.DeafDogsRock.com.  They have a wealth of information for anyone who is interested, as well as listings of deaf pets who are currently available for adoption.

Why are some dogs deaf?

The causes of deafness in pets are almost exactly the same as the causes of deafness in humans.  In many cases, it may just be a hereditary condition that was passed down from previous generations.  Other causes of deafness may include:

  • Severe and/or chronic ear infection
  • Injury, exposure to certain topical medications, and loud noises
  • Gradual decline in hearing with age

Are certain dogs more prone to deafness?

In short, the answer to this question is “yes”. Certain breeds may be more prone to deafness due to anatomical issues, such as a narrow ear canal or a tendency to have more hair in the inner ears. Poodles, spaniels, and terriers often fall into that category.

Other breeds have a tendency toward deafness due to genetic variances, rather than anatomy.  Dalmatians and Boxers are among those breeds that are genetically predisposed.

What does it take to keep a deaf dog safe?

The most important thing to remember is that your dog will not be able to hear you calling from a distance, so you should do everything possible to make it easier to locate the animal if he or she becomes lost.

Microchips are extremely important in deaf pets, and many owners say it helps to attach a bell to their collar. It’s also critical that you invest the time and energy into properly training your deaf pet.  A few simple hand signals can go a long way toward keeping your best friend safe.

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DIY Cat Furniture Ideas, Plans, and More!

Over the years, “cat furniture” has become pretty popular among pet owners everywhere. The blanket term may refer to any number of items, including cat beds, cat trees, kitty gyms, catwalk shelving, cat houses, hidden litter boxes, and more.

It makes sense that cat furniture is so popular.  In most cases, these pieces are fun for your cat, and it gives her something that’s all her own.  Unfortunately, cat furniture can often come with a pretty hefty price tag, and although it may seem like there are countless options available on the market today, it can be challenging to find something that is the perfect fit for your home.

So, we’ve rounded up a few great ideas for DIY cat furniture that we’re sure you’ll love.  Not only do these DIY treasures come at a fraction of the cost, they are fun to create, and they give you the opportunity to build custom cat furniture that is the right size, shape, and color for your home.

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DIY Cat Tree House

This great plan from Instructables.com hits all the high notes:  it offers perching opportunities for your furry friend, a place to hide, and plenty of surface area for scratching.  We also totally love that the majority of this project consists of recycled materials, which means that this cat tree is equal parts budget-friendly and eco-friendly.  Check it out HERE!

DIY Cat Shelves

There are so many options for building your own cat shelving system, and all of them are sure to be a home run with just about any cat out there.  These are perfect for small spaces, because they allow you to give your kitty a place to climb and play, without losing too much (if any) of your floor space.

Lowe’s offers some great plans for a very attractive wall-mount cat perch that will blend in nicely with your home’s existing décor.  It’s a really pretty shelf, so you’ll definitely want to check it out HERE.

If that’s not quite your style, check out the plans from ModernCat, which offer a very easy and practical approach to the cat shelving system.

Finally, here’s a great video that we found, which makes this project look like a breeze!

DIY Hidden Litter Box

Most cat owners would agree that the litter box is their least favorite part of sharing their home with a feline companion.  Well, we can’t really do anything about the chores associated with the litter box, but we can at least offer some ideas for making it more aesthetically pleasing.  Here are two plans that we found for DIY hidden litter boxes:

Cardboard Alternatives 

Looking for something that you can create from items already found around your home?  What about making something cute out of the cardboard boxes that your cat already loves so much?  If this sounds like something that interests you, here are a couple of our favorites:  The DIY Cardboard Cat Rocket, courtesy of Apartment Therapy and The DIY Cardboard Cat Castle, courtesy of Haute Nature.

 

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How Did You Celebrate National Dog Day?

This past week, (on Wednesday, August 26th, to be precise) you may have noticed your social media feeds filling up with cute photos of all your friends’ canine companions.  We can’t speak for everyone, but in our opinion, it was a very welcome change. We think that adorable pet photos will brighten anyone’s day, and as it turns out, we’re not the only ones who feel that way.

Celebrities around the world celebrated National Dog Day, right along with the rest of us.  Some of them, like Billy Ray Cyrus and Michelle Kwan, shared something a bit less cheerful as they bid farewell to their beloved pups.  (Grab a tissue before you click those links and check out those tweets.)

Other posts and tweets, however, were quite fun.  Here are some of our favorites:

One of our favorite things about Oprah is her love for her pups.  She’s never made any secret about how much she adores her dogs, so it’s no surprise that she took to social media to show them a bit of “extra love” on National Dog Day.

Rob Thomas did the same thing on Twitter, and we thought it was equally adorable!

 

…and just a couple more…

 

Isn’t Lucy’s lab to die for?  What a cutie!

…and who can resist kid-meets-pooch?  Rascal Flatts for the win.

With so much puppy love going around, who could possibly think of anything else?  It certainly makes it hard to concentrate on work, doesn’t it?

If you somehow missed the National Dog Day festivities of 2015, don’t fret.  You’ll get your chance again next year!

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