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The Art of Naming Your New Pet

Choosing the perfect name for your new family member can be a daunting task, for sure.  After all, it’s a choice that both you and your pet are going to have to live with for a lifetime.  You definitely want to choose wisely, but with all of that pressure, it’s easy to understand why so many new pet owners find themselves stumped when trying to think of the perfect name.

Before we offer some tips to get you past that mental block, here are a few common sense suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Try to avoid names that rhyme with or sound like other words that your pet will hear frequently throughout his or her life. For example, the name “Camille” might sound a lot like the common command, “heel”.
  • Stay away from the most popular names. It’s a challenge… those names are popular for a reason!  We all like them, but you don’t want to find yourself in puppy training class (or any other situation) with four other dogs who answer to the same name.
  • Avoid choosing a name that could cause embarrassment in the future. This is a mistake that is made much more commonly that one would like to think.  In general, if you would be too embarrassed to call it out in a public place (like the dog park, for instance), skip that one and move on to something a bit more PG.

Once you have a solid grasp on what you should not do when choosing a name for your pet, it’s time to give your best fur friend a moniker that your whole family can be proud of.  Here are a few prompts to get you started:

  • Name some of your favorite book, cartoon, or movie characters from your childhood. Examples may include: Pongo, Joker, Flash, Calvin, etc.
  • Are there any special features, monuments, or other cultural elements that are symbolic of your local region? For example, the names “Boudin”, “Gumbo”, and “Roux” may be fun choices for pets living in Louisiana.
  • What was your favorite subject to study in high school? Science buffs may think that “Beeker” is a fun name for a cat or dog, while mathematicians may favor something more along the lines of “Abacus” or simply “Pi”.
  • Write down 10 to 15 words that you think describe your new pet. Use these words, as well as any synonyms that come to mind, and narrow your list down until something sticks.

Of course, these are just a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.  If you still can’t think of any names that make you want to commit, ask your family and friends.  You can even host a pet-naming party, if you really want to make it a group event.

When all else fails, though… there’s always Google.


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Finding a Rental Property with Pets in Tow

Any seasoned pet-owning renter will tell you that the going can get pretty tough when you’re looking for the perfect place for you and your furry friend to call home. While the majority of landlords won’t give a second thought to fish or caged pets, dogs and cats are an entirely different story.

Last week, we talked about how to manage pet ownership with the challenges of college life.  For those who intend to live off-campus in an effort to find a pet-friendly home, this should serve as a helpful guide in addition to what you read last week.  It’s also intended to provide some useful tips for anyone who is new to the whole pets-in-a-rental dynamic.

Let’s start with a few of the most common restrictions.  Even the most pet-friendly landlords and apartment community managers have certain limits that they place on your rights when bringing pets into your home.  For example:

  • Most rentals place a limit on the number of pets allowed in a home.
  • Many will also limit the size of the animals that they allow.
  • Some rentals favor one type of animal over the other. For instance, they may allow cats, but no dogs, or vice versa.
  • Unfortunately, some rentals will also have restrictions about certain breeds of dogs, as well. Most typically, these are breeds that have been mislabeled as “inherently dangerous” or “naturally aggressive” animals.

Try not to fight against restrictions like this or take them personally.  Moreover, the last thing you want to do is to try and “sneak” an animal in.  We can promise that you will get caught, and it will just cause you more headaches in the end.  Remember that with a little perseverance (as long as you don’t own an unreasonable amount of animals), you will almost always be able to find the right rental home for your situation.

Special Considerations for Pet Owners in a Rental Home

As a pet owner in a rental home, you always want to make sure that you’ve taken all the necessary steps to prevent your pet from being a nuisance to the community.  This could mean anything from noise control to picking up waste after a walk around the block.  Whatever you do, just remember to be courteous to your neighbors.  It will save you tons of trouble in the long run.

Some other things to keep in mind include:

  • There are often additional financial responsibilities associated with renting with pets. You may have to pay a higher monthly rent, an additional pet deposit, and even sometimes a non-refundable pet fee, in additional to the security deposit that is paid by all other renters.
  • Your landlord or apartment manager may ask you for updated records on your pet. This could include medical records, vaccine information, or any licensing requirements that are specific to your local area.
  • It’s entirely possible that your future landlord will ask to “interview” your pet before agreeing to let you live there. This has become more and more commonplace, so be prepared for them to ask.
  • In some instances, the landlord may ask you to invest in a renter’s insurance policy. In addition to covering any damage to the property, this will protect both you and the landlord in the event that your pet bites someone while on the premises.

Real estate is a huge investment, so it’s easy to understand why landlords and apartment managers work so diligently to protect their properties.  That doesn’t mean that you will be stuck with no place to go, however.  Although it may require a bit more effort on your part, we’re sure you’ll be able to find the perfect home for you and your furry sidekick.

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Pets and College: Difficult, but Doable

There are certain times of year when animal shelters tend to be at their busiest.  For example, a few weeks after Christmas, shelters begin to overflow with all of those puppies and kittens that were given as gifts to unprepared recipients.  Late spring is also a busy time, often due to unaltered stray animals and their tendency to breed around that time.

Another difficult time for animal shelters happens to be “back to school” season (more specifically, “back to college”).  College students often find themselves in situations where they suddenly feel as if they won’t be able to keep their beloved sidekick.  This doesn’t have to be the case, however.  Balancing college life with anything can really be a challenge, but it’s definitely doable. Here are some great tips for managing your relationship with your pet when you head off to school:

If you plan to live in the college dorms (where pets are obviously not allowed):

It’s wise to speak with your trusted friends and family members long before your anticipated move.  Oftentimes, your loved ones want to support you in your academic endeavors, and you may be surprised how willing they are to lend a helping hand.

The best part is that if you’re within a reasonable traveling distance, you’ll be able to visit with your best friend on weekends and holidays.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • It takes time and energy to care for a pet, and your loved ones are doing you a huge favor by making sure that your companion is safe while you’re away studying. Be sure to show your gratitude every chance you get!
  • Never leave it up to your friends or family to fund the basic needs of the animal. More specifically, they shouldn’t be held financially responsible for food or veterinary care.

If you plan to live in an off-campus apartment:

This is probably the most ideal situation for a college student with a dog or cat.  When you begin to shop for a college apartment, be sure to first narrow down your search to include only the complexes that are pet-friendly.  Here are a few additional tips:

  • If you plan to share your apartment with roommates, be sure that everyone is on the same page about the care of the animal.
  • Always try to ensure that your pet is behaving respectfully. Do not allow your pet to disturb roommates, neighbors, or apartment staff.
  • Do your best to squeeze quality time with your pet into your schedule. That’s why you’re so intent on keeping him or her with you, isn’t it?

Finally, remember that if you expect that your class schedule will be pretty heavy during the coming school year, you should plan for a friend or paid pet sitter to swing by and care for your pet through the day.  If you own a dog, you may also want to consider a doggie daycare, which also provides social enrichment for your pup.

Keeping your pet by your side throughout your college years is far from an impossible task, and we want to encourage you to consider every option before making the gut-wrenching decision to surrender your best friend to your local animal shelter.

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International Assistance Dog Week Starts Today!

Every year, beginning on the first Sunday in August, we celebrate the hard work and heroic deeds performed by assistance dogs around the world. This year, International Assistance Dog Week falls on August 2, 2015 – August 8, 2015.

Where the acceptance of service dogs is concerned, we’ve made great strides in the United States over the last year. For example, New Jersey lawmakers have introduced legislation aimed at educating employees on the rights of citizens with a disability to have a guide or service dog with them in public places. This came about after an incident in 2013 involving a legally blind man who was ordered to remove his dog from a store, even after providing proof that his dog was a trained service animal.

In other places in the country, children are being taught about proper etiquette when dealing with service dogs, which is a fantastic step toward increased safety for the disabled, the dog, and the children.

Unfortunately, even in light of all of these positive changes, the process continues to be a slow and tedious one.  Raising awareness about the importance of these animals is going to require many more years of dedication on all of our parts.  Just in the last month, we’ve seen news coverage of the following events:

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Obviously, if these events occurred within just a few days of one another, it’s reasonable to believe that this is nearly an everyday occurrence. These dogs are more than just pets to the people they serve.  They change lives in profound and positive ways, and refusing to welcome them into public places is not the way that they should be treated.

This time next year, we’re looking forward to sharing more progress and positive updates about the acceptance of service dogs.  Here’s how you can help:

If you are the owner or manager of a business, we want to encourage you to teach your employees about the importance of service animals and the work they do.  You might even consider learning more about how service dogs are changing the workplace.

International Assistance Dog Week hosts fundraising events all over the United States.  If you’re lucky, there will be one in your town this year, which is a great opportunity to support this very important cause.  You can find a local IADW event by clicking HERE.

Finally, you can show your support and stay up-to-date without ever leaving home by following International Assistance Dog Week on Facebook and joining their emailing list.

Cheers to another great year for service dogs everywhere!


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What You Need to Know About Canine Influenza

Canine influenza has been sweeping the nation, and it doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon.  It has recently been traced back to Asia and is said to have arrived in the Midwest United States in March of this year. The consequences of this very contagious illness are life-threatening, so as a responsible dog owner, you should try to stay informed about the latest “dog flu” trends.  Here are a few of the basics that you need to know right now:

  • Dogs are at highest risk of contracting canine influenza when they are confined in close quarters with other canines. In most cases, this translates to day care, boarding facilities, and grooming salons. If you’re concerned, speak with your facility’s staff to learn what measures they are taking to protect pets from spreading this and other illnesses.
  • There is a canine influenza vaccine. However, it has (thus far) been very difficult for veterinarians to obtain.  It’s also important for dog owners to understand that, much like the human flu vaccine, it does not provide complete protection.  It does, however, improve the patient’s prognosis if exposed.
  • The symptoms of canine influenza are very similar to those experienced by humans who have come down with the dreaded flu. Dogs with the virus will experience coughing (either dry or productive), fever, excessive nasal discharge, anorexia, and more.

Canine influenza is not yet well controlled, and this particular bug has moved to a total of 40 states since being introduced to the United States.  Regardless of where you live in the country, if your dog is showing signs of lethargy or respiratory illness, you should speak to your family’s veterinarian.  These symptoms are cause for concern, even in the absence of canine influenza, and you should also be careful about exposing your dog to other pets until a diagnosis has been made.

Whether your dog is a “home body” or a well-travelled pooch, take the time to learn more about this very serious condition by visiting

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Ringworm 101: A Crash Course in Dermatophytosis

Ringworm, also known as dermatophytosis, is certainly not something that any of us like to think about, especially when it comes to our beloved pets. It’s a fairly common condition, though, which means that it’s something that pet owners (especially cat owners) should know at least a little bit about.

The first thing to know about ringworm is that, although the name does suggest that it’s a parasitic worm of some type, it’s actually a fungal infection.  The fungus feeds on keratin, which is a component of your skin, nails, and hair.

Besides cats and people, ringworm is also commonly diagnosed in other companion animals, as well as some farm animals (such as sheep or cattle).  Why is ringworm so terribly common?


If one pet in the home has been diagnosed with ringworm, it’s important that you understand that the other humans and pets in the home have also been exposed.  In many cases, house mates will begin to show signs shortly after the initial pet was diagnosed, if they aren’t showing signs of infection already.

On the off chance that your family’s case of ringworm has been confined to a single pet, you should take the following precautions right away:

  • Be proactive. Even if they are not showing signs of ringworm, bring all other pets to your family veterinarian for an exam. Be sure to be courteous to other patients of the clinic, though. Inform the staff that your pet is potentially carrying a highly contagious infection so that they may take the necessary precaution to protect other pets in the hospital.
  • Use an anti-fungal cleaner to disinfect the patient’s home environment as thoroughly as possible. This means that you should throw away any items that may be too difficult to clean. It also means that any home textiles, such as curtains, sheets, and bedding, should be washed and dried appropriately.  It’s a major undertaking, but it’s entirely necessary.  (Note: There are cleaners available today that claim to be effective in treating ringworm in the home environment. If you need recommendations on which ones will work, ask your family veterinarian for suggestions.)
  • Speak with your family’s human medical doctor about the situation with your pet’s diagnosis. There are certain medications and medical conditions that make you or your family more susceptible to ringworm infection, so it’s a good idea to let your doctor know.
  • Avoid taking your pet to public places until the infection has been completely eliminated. Again, this is a courtesy to your fellow pet owners.

Throughout the course of your pet’s infection, be sure to follow your vet’s advice closely. Left untreated, ringworm can become a very severe and unmanageable problem.

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Keep Your Pets Safe and Sane on July 4th Weekend

We discuss the topic of fireworks a few times a year, and although it may seem redundant, it’s worth mentioning again. Your pet’s fear of fireworks is not only natural, but also completely understandable.  Managing your pet’s anxieties effectively is part of the long list of responsibilities that go along with being a pet owner.  So, when your dog’s fight-or-flight instincts kick in, be ready to calm them in whatever way that works.  You may have seen our “fireworks survival tips” mentioned before, but here’s a quick refresher:

  • Wear them out with something fun! Before the fireworks are scheduled to begin (which usually occurs around sunset in most places), go for a jog, enjoy a romp around the dog park, or play a simple game of fetch in the back yard.
  • Stay with your pet through the duration of the fireworks display. If you have plans, arrange for someone to watch your pet closely throughout the holiday festivities.
  • Use the holiday ruckus as an excuse to get away from home for a bit. This year, Independence Day falls on the weekend, so a weekend getaway should be feasible for most families.  Treat yourself and your pet to a nice short vacation somewhere quiet.

Whether you choose to stick it out at home with your pet or take a weekend getaway, it’s important to know that countless pets go missing on noisy holidays like July 4th. This is largely due to your pet’s natural instinct to run and hide during times of distress.  If you’ve ever lost a pet, you know that it is a heartbreaking and scary experience, regardless of the time of year.  It’s also very dangerous for your pet.  Here’s how you can prevent it from happening:

  • Keep your pets indoors! It seems like common sense, but this is how the majority of them go missing in the first place.  It doesn’t matter how secure you believe your fence to be. Bring your best friend inside!
  • If you’ll be attending any holiday events, count your pet out. Large crowds, loud noises, and flashing lights may sound like fun for you and your human friends, but we can guarantee that your furry sidekick does not agree.  Hire a trusted pet sitter to keep your pet safe during the commotion.
  • Make sure that all of your pet’s identification is up-to-date, just in case. That means that any tags should have current information, and they should still be in good enough condition to be legible.  It’s also a good idea to contact your pet’s microchip company to be sure that they have the correct information on file.

Finally, as you go about celebrating this fun holiday, remember that all of the usual rules apply.  You shouldn’t feed your pet those delicious scraps from the grill, no matter how cute he or she begs. You should also keep in mind that fireworks are never really safe, and they are just as dangerous for pets as they are for people.  Don’t let your beloved family pet become a July 4th statistic.

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Why Pets are Especially Awesome for Senior Citizens

There’s no denying that pets are a great addition to any home, regardless of the size of the family who lives there. Pets bring something special to our lives that is hard to explain with words, and most pet owners would agree that a life without a furry sidekick is simply lacking.

While we agree that pet ownership is great for anyone of any age, numerous studies have demonstrated that the benefits of owning a pet are especially noticeable in senior citizens.  Here are a few of the things we know for sure about the potential advantages of pet ownership for seniors:

Companionship and Purpose

By the time our elderly friends reach their “golden years”, it’s safe to assume that the large majority of them have some pretty impressive achievements under their belt.  They remember everything from their first job at 15 years old to the day they retired… and everything between.  They’ve watched their families grow, and the little ones they once cared for have moved on to form families of their own.  So, it stands to reason that, by comparison, the senior years can come along with a good bit of loneliness and boredom.

Owning a pet will give your senior family member a new “someone” to care for, as well as a renewed purpose in life.  Caring for a pet can be a full-time job, but its rewards are tenfold.

Exercise and Getting Outside

Pets require attention in a lot of ways, and one of the biggest influencing factors in their overall well-being is physical activity. For dogs, that often means daily walks or playing in the yard.  For cats, it may mean playing chase around the house or jumping in and out of boxes.

Whatever activity they prefer is extremely likely to require the involvement of their owner, which means that your senior family member will also be walking more or taking time to throw a ball around the yard.  It’s a great way to get your loved one moving!

Enhanced Social Life

At any age, we all have need for some level of social interaction. In our younger years, we meet these needs through our daily activities, such as making friends with coworkers, team mates, or neighbors. It’s an unfortunate truth that the need for social contact is often not met for elderly people, especially those who have outlived their spouses and friends.

Pets give us a reason to get involved in something worthwhile. We take them to training classes, the dog park, pet-friendly events, and just about anything else you can think of. Participation in these types of activities often leads to just the kind of social interaction that our senior friends need.

Other benefits of pet ownership for seniors include an increased sense of personal safety, stress management, lower blood pressure, and more.

If you’re interested in learning more about adopting a senior pet for an elderly family member, check out The Pets for the Elderly Foundation for more information.

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Socialization: A Critical Part of Your Puppy’s Overall Well-Being

The socialization of pets, particularly puppies, is the process of exposing animals to the variety of stimuli that they will experience throughout their lives, and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior suggests that it should be made a part of every puppy’s standard of care in the first few months of life.

Here are some things that you should know about socialization and its importance in every young animal’s life.

Why is socialization so important?

When adult animals are exposed to new stimuli, they often become stressed and may respond in negative ways.  These stress responses are commonly seen in the form of fear aggression and avoidance behaviors (such as hiding under or behind your furniture when guests come to visit). In fact, poor socialization (among many other contributing factors) may be one of the culprits in the rate at which dog bites are being recorded across the U.S.

As adults, dogs tend to be exposed to far more of the outside world than their feline counterparts. For that reason, the socialization of puppies receives more attention than it does with cats.

When should socialization begin?

According to the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB), socialization should begin as early as possible.  From birth, this means that puppies should be handled frequently (by trusted individuals in clean environments, of course), and they should become accustomed to the manipulation of various body parts.  For example, gentle handling a newborn pup’s feet now could make his nail trims significantly easier on the caregiver when he is an adult.

The AVSAB recommends beginning puppy classes around 7-8 weeks of age, which also means that he or she will have had at least one round of vaccines and one deworming by the first class meeting.  It’s important to note the importance of vaccines to the health of puppies, and all socialization should occur in places where the risk of illness can be minimized.

What is involved in the socialization of puppies?

In general, effective socialization involves exposure to a variety of people, other well-behaved animals, and new places whenever possible.  Special consideration should also be taken for the animal’s individual circumstances, as well.  For instance, if the pet is expected to participate in significant travel throughout its lifetime, he or she should be brought along for as many car rides as possible while still young. If the pet is expected to live in a home with cats, he or she should be exposed to cats during the socialization process.

The concept of socialization is heavily built on common sense.  By exposing young animals to new situations while they are still impressionable and curious, you allow them the opportunity to experience these things without fear or reservation. All too often, pets react fearfully to harmless stimuli simply because it’s unfamiliar.  Socialization gives your pet the best shot at a happy, outgoing life, free from depression and anxiety.

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A Few Swimming Safety Tips for Dogs (and Their Owners)

If you own any of the water-loving breeds of dogs, it’s safe to assume that keeping your pooch away from the pool during the summer is about as impossible as herding cats.  Of course, there are exceptions to any generalization, but some of the breeds that are notoriously drawn to swimming include Newfoundlands, Portuguese Water Dogs (duh!), Standard Poodles, and just about any type of Retriever or Setter.  Regardless of your pup’s breed, however, there are certain safety precautions that you should always keep in mind if your dog likes to play in or around bodies of water:

  1. The first and most important thing that you should always remember when swimming with your pooch is that your own safety comes first. If your dog panics, think carefully before you react.  Never put yourself in harm’s way to pull a dog out of the water (especially a dog that is as large as or larger than you are).
  2. Dogs should know where the exit is located. If you’re swimming in a lake, be sure that he or she is able to get to shore safely (without your help, if necessary).  If you’re swimming in a pool, show him where the stairs are.  Again, for your own safety, the idea is that you should not have to help your pup out of the water.
  3. Never assume that your best friend knows how to swim, simply because he or she is a dog. Dogs, just like humans, need the chance to become comfortable in water.  Of course, they tend to pick up the art of swimming a lot faster than we do, but they deserve for you to have a little patience, nonetheless.  Never toss your dog into the water or force the issue if your pup is obviously nervous.  Talk about traumatic!
  4. Water in your dog’s ears can be a real drag, and it could potentially cause a terrible ear infection. There are a variety of ear cleaning solutions that will clear the ears after swimming and eliminate the risk of bacteria-laden water staying trapped in the ear canals. If you have a swimming day planned, ask your vet about ear cleaning options before you go.
  5. It’s not always a good choice to swim with a special needs dog. If your dog has uncontrolled epilepsy, weakness or paralysis, or other neurological conditions, please speak with your veterinarian about water safety before you decide to take the plunge.

Accidents happen around water every year, and it’s true that a portion of those accidents involve beloved family pets.  Dog swimming safety gear is easy to find online, and if you’re not sure that a certain flotation device is the right choice, ask your vet or someone who has experience in buying such things.

It’s important to have fun, but you should always do it safely.  That goes for you AND your pets.

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