Expert safety tips: travelling with your pet


Travelling is stressful: tying up loose ends at work, making sure you pack everything you need in one suitcase (that doesn’t surpass the weight limit) and sprinting to your gate after standing in an hour-long security line. Throw a pet into the mix and now a whole new set of concerns are on the table.

Earlier this month, the tragic death of Kokito, a dog that died after a flight attendant placed him in an overhead bin, drew the ire of pet owners everywhere — as did follow-up stories of pets crossing the globe in flight mix-ups. As such, pet owners are eager to get informed about all the measures they can take to travel safely with their pets.

If you plan to bring your pet along for the ride, Dr. Camille DeClementi, Vice President of the ASPCA Animal Hospital, and Katie Lisnik, Director of Public Policy, Companion Animals from The Humane Society shared some very handy safety tips with NBC News BETTER. After all, knowledge and preparation are key in making travelling with your pet seamless, and keeping them safe from harm in the process.
Ask your vet if your pet is high-risk

DeClementi says your vet can determine travel variables by breed, and whether or not they might need anti-nausea meds or sedatives before traveling. And Lisnik warns: “Air travel can be particularly dangerous for animals with ‘pushed in’ (or, brachycephalic) faces, such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats. Their short nasal passages leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke.” She adds that senior dogs and very young dogs are more susceptible to stress-related illnesses and communicable diseases, making them better candidates for road trips than air travel.
Talk to your airline ahead of time

The cargo area should be a last resort as there are definite risks with temperature and ventilation.

The cargo area should be a last resort as there are definite risks with temperature and ventilation.

Airlines can impose restrictions on pet carrier size, how many pets are allowed on the plane per flight and where they be stored (NOT the overhead bin!), so get familiar with those rules before buying a ticket, or carrier, says DeClementi. She also advises booking a direct flight to minimize travel time, and warns against giving sedatives to pets flying in cargo. Lisnik says keeping your pet close to you in the cabin is preferable, if possible. “The cargo area should be considered a last resort as there are definite risks with temperature and ventilation,” she says.

Prep your carrier

Carrier prep is essential to pet travel, be it by car or plane. Tossing in a few toys and a blanket they love will make it feel more like home. Don’t forget to label it with your name, permanent address and telephone number, as well as the location of your final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives, Lisnik says. If you’re traveling by air, make sure to also bring a pet harness, so you can safely contain them while their carrier is x-rayed, or, request a special secondary screening that won’t require you to take them out of their carrier.
Assemble a “pet kit”

No matter how you travel, DeClementi says you should carry a “pet kit” with proof of vaccinations, food, water, bowls, waste bags and any medication your pet needs. “Additional documentation, such as a health certificate signed by a veterinarian, may be required depending on the specific travel,” she adds.
Consider your collar

Fit your pet with a collar that can’t get caught in carrier doors, and affix a permanent ID with your name, home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached. “We also strongly recommend microchipping your pet,” says Lisnik. “A GPS tracking collar may also be a good option for some families.”
The night before your flight

Follow this checklist to make sure everything is in order for your trip.

  • Don’t feed your pet 4-6 hours before the flight.
  • Bring ice chips in a cooler to give as water (ice is permitted in carry-on bags and will be allowed through security if it is 100 percent frozen).
  • Travel with wet wipes and cleaning supplies, to clean any carrier mess.
  • Wear your pet out with enough exercise, so they can crash during the trip.
  • Make sure that your pet’s nails have been clipped to protect against them getting hooked in the carrier’s door, holes and other crevices, says Lisnik.
  • Carry a current photograph and detailed information of your pet, including proof of vaccination for rabies. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.

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Pet Dental Month


Poor dental health for your pet can lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease, common dental issues for your best friend. It is estimated that most pets show signs of periodontal disease as early as three years old. Regular checkups and good dental care can help to insure that your pet stays healthy, and keep you both smiling.

This past week we saw the crowning of a new champion at the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Out of more than 2,800 dogs representing about 200 different breeds, a little Bichon Frise named “Flynn” pranced away with the Best In Show title. If you watched any of the judging on television you may have noticed that a judge would examine each contestant, beginning by pulling back its lips to check its teeth. In part, they compare the animal’s physical attributes to the standard for that dog’s particular breed, but they are also checking to confirm the dog’s age and health.

A pet’s teeth are a good indication of its general overall physical condition. While some ailments can cause dental problems, it’s very possible that poor dental health can cause internal disease affecting other parts of the animal’s body.

Dental issues usually result from a build-up of tartar, which begins in pets the same way it does in people, as food particles and other elements accumulate around the teeth. The teeth take on a brownish-yellow appearance and often the animal develops what many of us call “doggie breath”. That odor may be an indication that your pet has – or is developing – periodontal disease. As it progresses, periodontal disease can cause pain and discomfort for an animal. But untreated, infection in the gums could eventually spread to vital organs like the kidneys, heart and liver.

One way to keep your pet’s teeth healthier is have them checked by your veterinarian. The vet may recommend a teeth-cleaning procedure, which usually involves anesthesia, because most animals won’t sit still and open wide. Your vet may also recommend things you can do to help keep your best friend’s teeth, and its whole body, healthier.

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How to care for your pets during the fall season


Each season has its own pet care concerns and autumn is no exception. If you and your dog have been relatively inactive during the summer get out and enjoy the beautiful autumn days. Your dog may have gotten rusty during the summer, so you might want to ease into it. Take a walk, go for a run, toss a ball or visit the dog park. Stop before your dog gets too tired. You can do more the next day.

There are some good seasonal foods available now. Canned pumpkin, which is popular this time of year, is good for your dog. The soluble fiber in the pumpkin helps with digestive issues. The anti-oxidents and fatty acids in the seeds help to give him healthy skin and fur and good urinary health. The beta-carotene could reduce the possibility of your pet developing cancer. Try mixing one to two teaspoons of canned pumpkin in your dog’s food or make him some pumpkin biscuits. Most dogs love pumpkin. Apples, however, are not so good for pets. The flesh of ripe apples isn’t a problem for cats or dogs, but apple stems, leaves and seeds and cause problems. Slices of peeled apples can be an acceptable treat for dogs, but cats aren’t likely to enjoy them.

Your cat or dog can be susceptible to allergens this time of year. If he is scratching more than usual, check with your vet who can run tests to determine what your pet is allergic to. There are things that can be done to make him more comfortable. It helps to keep your leaves raked and the grass mowed.

Shedding picks up in the fall when pets shed their hair to make room for their winter coat. You don’t have to live with hair everywhere. Brush your dog or cat daily, if you can, or at least weekly. You can get much of the hair before it falls on your furniture, carpets or good black sweater. When you brush your pet you not only remove the loose hair, you also stimulate his skin and enhance the natural shine of his coat. Many dogs and cats love to be brushed. For long-haired animals, try using a shedding tool to remove excess fur from the surface of the coat. For a short-haired pet, a rubber curry comb is good.

Ticks and fleas are still with us. Check your pet when he comes in from the outside. Don’t stop using your flea and tick preventive.

If you want to dress your dog up for Halloween and take him trick-or-treating with you, consider these safety tips. If he truly hates to be dressed up and going out, don’t do it. None of you will have a good time. If he does like it, keep him close to you and be sure that he has something reflective on his costume. Chocolate can be harmful to him so keep it out of his reach. If you put up Halloween decorations, keep the electrical cords and lighted candles out of the reach of your cat or dog.

Now, that school has started, school supplies may be lying around. Pencils, permanent markers, school glue, paper clips, rubber bands and crayons can be a hazard to a pet if they are swallowed. Keep school supplies covered up and out of your pet’s reach. This also applies to the supplies needed for fall home improvements. These accidents are easily preventable, but repairing the damage isn’t.

Enjoy the autumn, but keep everyone safe. read more

Prepping pets for the coming cold


As we head into the winter months, the cold weather is going to be a bit of a shock and adjustment for a pup who, until now, has only lived in the South. To ensure we all stay safe and healthy during our daily walks and trips out in the snow, ice and bitter winds, here are five things to remember when preparing your fur baby for the cold.

They’re like us

While some breeds are bred for colder climates with their naturally thicker coats and longer hair, no pet should be left outdoors for long periods of time in freezing temperatures. Ever. Dogs and cats, just like humans, have varying tolerances for the cold. It’s important to know your pet’s individual limit. Short-hair and short-legged animals (those whose bellies hit the snow and ice when walking), get colder much quicker. Invest in a sweater or coat for these breeds and avoid putting a wet one back on before going out again, as a wet sweater will actually chill their core faster.

Wipe them down

Salt, sand and other de-icing agents on roads and sidewalks are easily picked up on paws, legs and bellies. These chemicals can be harmful if left on their coats, and especially if your fur baby licks them off. When returning home after a walk, be sure and wipe down, if not wash, these areas to remove the chemicals. Wiping down also removes wet snow and ice particles and helps dry their coat, causing them to warm up faster upon their return home.

Signs of concern

Pets need annual check-ups, too. And just like in humans, colder weather can exacerbate chronic health conditions like arthritis, diabetes, kidney and heart disease. A checkup now is as good a time as any to make sure they’re healthy and can regulate their body temperatures.  They can also be susceptible to frostbite and hypothermia. If you see signs of whining, shivering, anxiety, or weakness and lethargy, immediately get the animal inside. Frostbite can be difficult to detect on an animal, so if you have any worries or concerns, get them checked by a vet.

When they’re outside

Again, many of the precautions we take when heading outdoors also applies to our animals. When walking them, avoid stepping directly on ice. They can slip and fall too, causing injury. And frozen lakes or ponds may not support their weight. Snow and ice also mask recognizable scents that help animals find their way home. Be sure your pet has a well-fitting collar with identification tags and contact information on at all times.

When they’re inside

Offer up a couple sleeping options at night. Most homes have colder and warmer areas, and multiple places to sleep allows them to go where they’re most comfortable. With pets staying indoors more, also take a look around to pet-proof the interior. Use space heaters with caution, as they can be knocked over and be a fire hazard. Keep medications and chemicals out of reach. And always keep fresh water available. Pets need to drink water just as much in cold weather as they do in hot weather. read more

Animal advocacy groups press on to save pets affected by #Harvey


People who work with pets and animals might soon notice a boom in the number of little creatures named Harvey.

At least two animal advocacy organizations are telling stories of animals saved in the wake of the former hurricane who rescuers named after the storm that battered Texas.

Those two animals – a baby sheep and a hawk – are among thousands of animals needing help after Harvey, which has left a death toll in the double digits. An army of organizations and workers are finding that the efforts to rescue and transport dogs, cats and other creatures is nearly as intense as that to help humans affected by Harvey.

 “We are actually ramping things up,” Katie Jarl, Texas state director of the Humane Society of the United States, told USA TODAY Friday.

“When you have a population of that many thousands upon thousands of people who have lost homes and people are using the news to just find their family members – can you imagine if it’s that difficult to find your mom and dad how difficult it is to find your cat?” Jarl said.

The rescue effort for thousands of pets affected by the storm will take years, said Jarl, adding that her long days and nights getting animals flown to other parts of the country, returned to owners, treated by veterinarians and rescued from danger have been “powered by coffee.”

Jarl’s organization is one of many that have coalesced to make sure people’s furry companions get to safety and health after the storm that pounded Texas. Every organization and private company that deals with animals seems to be involved: the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Best Friends Animal Society,, Wings of Rescue, PetSmart and many more.

The furry — and not so furry creatures — are often rattled by what has happened and sopping wet when they arrive to safety. Some have gotten sick while waiting for help. Some are found clinging to furniture, while others have been saved from drowning.

The efforts are massive:

— Best Friends Animal Society has taken over the 15-acre Montgomery County Fairgrounds in Conroe, Texas, and made it into Rescue and Reunite Center where animals are being reunited with owners or triaged.

— People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, was in hard-hit Port Arthur rescuing stranded animals by boat in scenes reminiscent of Noah’s Ark.

— On Thursday, a team representing the Humane Society went to hard-hit Rockport, Texas. The workers are sleeping in the local jailhouse because it is the only place still standing with enough beds for them and they are people who have lost everything, Jarl said.

At the Montgomery County Fairgrounds site, 30 employees with Best Friends Animal Society from all over the country were handling veterinary care, animal transportation and other duties, Eric Rayvid, director of public relations and content marketing for Best Friends, told USA TODAY.

“We’re bringing all animals rescued from the flood waters here and letting people know they can come here to find their pets,” said Rayvid, the sounds of barking at the fairgrounds site in the background.

Organizations and companies have donated money, goods and services too, animal advocates said. Coldwell Banker D’Ann Harper Real Estate in San Antonio is inviting the public to a pet adoption event planned in conjunction with shelters.

The American Kennel Club Humane Fund has donated $10,000 and a trailer to help with the pet rescue to the city of Houston. paid for about 120 dogs and cats from a shelter in Louisiana to be flown by the humanitarian animal organization Wings of Rescue to Manassas, Va., on Saturday so they would have a safe place to live until they can be reunited with their families.

PetSmart Charities is giving upwards of $1 million in emergency aid and several truckloads  of pet food and supplies to help the animal advocacy groups working on the ground.

The animals that are the recipients of all this help are not always dogs and cats.  read more…

Therapeutic diets can be lifesavers for pets


Pet owners have many choices when buying dog and cat food. Some are basic foods providing an economical choice that is nutritionally complete; others are premium or super-premium foods. This trend will continue as owners seek the best nutrition available for their pets.

Pet nutrition has come a long way. As a veterinarian, I see significantly fewer problems with urinary tract stones than when I first started in practice. Dry, flaky skin that was common years ago is less so now.

There also are therapeutic diets that require veterinary supervision. My second Bernese mountain dog, Vern, had abnormal kidney values that I noticed when he was neutered. The problem increased over the next few months, and I thought we were going to lose him. After a medical work-up that including a kidney biopsy, he was diagnosed with renal dysplasia.

We gave him medication that controlled his high blood pressure and started a special kidney diet with low total protein and a high-quality protein component. He lived longer than average for a Bernese mountain dog.

Special veterinary diets are also used for pets predisposed to bladder stones. These foods are formulated to help prevent and even dissolve some types of stones.

My cat Daisy vomited all the time. Her weight and blood chemistry were normal, but clearly something was wrong. After consultation with a feline specialist, we tried a high protein/​low carbohydrate diet designed for diabetic pets. It worked like a charm, and she lived a long happy life.

Diarrhea is a common complaint in pets, but it will usually self-correct in a few days. We always check a stool sample in these patients and sometimes treat for parasites. Often a special diet is prescribed for the short, or even long, term.

Chronic loose stool also can be a big problem. Before an involved medical work-up with endoscopy and biopsy, we try a therapeutic high-fiber diet. Diets that are very low in fat may be used for pets that are prone to pancreatitis.

A pet with a food allergy may benefit with a super purified, limited antigen diet. Changing the protein fraction may help control itching and intestinal distress. Older dogs or dogs that have seizures may benefit from new diets that are designed for improving brain health.

My current dog, Millie, began limping as she aged, so I started her on a new diet designed for joint health. It has worked so well that I have yet to give her any medication for pain.

High-calorie pudding-type diets can help pets that have a feeding tube or need supplemental feeding while recovering from illness. Weight loss foods are used for pets at unhealthy excessive weights. Used incorrectly, these diets can be problematic, but with veterinary supervision, they can be lifesavers.

While commercial food is appropriate for the majority of pets, therapeutic diets can be a tremendous benefit for those who have specific needs. read more…

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Interesting: The hidden environmental costs of #dog and #cat food


Gregory Okin is quick to point out that he does not hate dogs and cats. Although he shares his home with neither — he is allergic, so his pets are fish — he thinks it is fine if you do. But if you do, he would like you to consider what their meat-heavy kibble and canned food are doing to the planet.

Okin, a geographer at UCLA, recently did that, and the numbers he crunched led to some astonishing conclusions. America’s 180 million or so Rovers and Fluffies gulp down about 25 percent of all the animal-derived calories consumed in the United States each year, according to Okin’s calculations. If these pets established a sovereign nation, it would rank fifth in global meat consumption.

Needless to say, producing that meat  — which requires more land, water and energy and pollutes more than plant-based food  — creates a lot of greenhouse gases: as many as 64 million tons annually, or about the equivalent of driving more than 12 million cars around for a year. That doesn’t mean pet-keeping must be eschewed for the sake of the planet, but “neither is it an unalloyed good,” Okin wrote in a study published this week in PLOS One.

“If you are worried about the environment, then in the same way you might consider what kind of car you buy … this is something that might be on your radar,” Okin said in an interview. “But it’s not necessarily something you want to feel terrible about. ”

This research was a departure for Okin, who typically travels the globe to study deserts — things such as wind erosion, dust production and plant-soil interactions. But he said the backyard chicken trend in Los Angeles got him thinking about “how cool it is” that pet chickens make protein, while dogs and cats eat protein. And he discovered that even as interest grows in the environmental impact of our own meat consumption, there has been almost no effort to quantify the part our most common pets play.

To do that, Okin turned to dog and cat population estimates from the pet industry, average animal weights, and ingredient lists in popular pet foods. The country’s dogs and cats, he determined, consume about 19 percent as many calories as the human population, or about as much as 62 million American people. But because their diets are higher in protein, the pets’ total animal-derived calorie intake amounts to about 33 percent of that of humans.

Okin’s numbers are estimates, but they do “a good job of giving us some numbers that we can talk about,” said Cailin Heinze, a veterinary nutritionist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine who has written about the environmental impact of pet food. “They bring up a really interesting discussion.”

Okin warns that the situation isn’t likely to improve any time soon. Pet ownership is on the rise in developing countries such as China, which means the demand for meaty pet food is, too. And in the United States, the growing idea of pets as furry children has led to an expanding market of expensive, gourmet foods that sound like Blue Apron meals. That means not just kale and sweet potato in the ingredient list, but grain-free and “human-grade” concoctions that emphasize their use of high-quality meat rather than the leftover “byproducts” that have traditionally made up much of our pets’ food.

“The trend is that people will be looking for more good cuts of meat for their animals and more high-protein foods for their animals,” Okin said.

What to do about this? That’s the hard part. Heinze said one place to start is by passing on the high-protein or human-grade foods. Dogs and cats do need protein — and cats, which are obligate carnivores, really do need meat, she said. But the idea that they should dine on the equivalent of prime rib and lots of it comes from what she calls “the pet food fake news machine.” There’s no need to be turned off by some plant-based proteins in a food’s ingredients, she said, and dog owners in particular can look for foods with lower percentages of protein.

The term human-grade implies that a product is using protein that humans could eat, she added. Meat byproducts — all the organs and other animal parts that don’t end up at the supermarket — are perfectly fine, she said.

“Dogs and cats happily eat organ meat,” Heinze said. “Americans do not.”

Okin has some thoughts about that. The argument that pet foods’ use of byproducts is an “efficiency” in meat production is based on the premise that offal and organs are gross, he says. (Look no further than the collective gag over a finely textured beef product known as “pink slime.”) But if we would reconsider that, his study found, about one-quarter of all the animal-derived calories in pet food would be sufficient for all the people of Colorado.

“I’ve traveled around the world and I’m cognizant that what is considered human edible is culture-specific,” he said. “Maybe we need to have a conversation about what we will eat.”

In the meantime, Okin suggests that people thinking about getting a dog might consider a smaller one — a terrier rather than a Great Dane, say. Or, if you think a hamster might fulfill your pet desires, go that route.

Heinze, for her part, sometimes offers the same counsel to vegetarian or vegan clients who want their pets to go meat-free. They are typically motivated by animal welfare concerns, not environmental ones, she said, but such diets are not always best for dogs, and they never are for cats. read more…

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