We Love All Pets; Especially Yours

Please take advantage of these Pet Care tips and instructions brought to you by The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals® (ASPCA®). Use the navigation panel on your left to explore the resources available on your pet's dietary, exercising, grooming, and general care needs.

Also take some time to visit the ASPCA website http://www.aspca.org/ to learn more about protecting and supporting all pets.

Are You Allergic to Your Pet?

Are You Allergic to Your Pet? Breathe Easy—You Can Still Keep Your Animal Companion!

Although many people have discovered the beneficial effects of caring for a furry friend, the fact remains that roughly 15 to 20% of the population is allergic to animals. The result? Countless pet parents in unhappy, unhealthy situations—and their beloved pets are the cause! Allergen is the medical term for the actual substance that causes an allergic reaction. Touching or inhaling allergens leads to reactions in allergic individuals. Symptoms can include red, itchy, watery eyes and nose; sneezing; coughing; scratchy or sore throat; itchy skin, and most serious of all, difficulty breathing.

The most common pet allergens are proteins found in their dander (scales of old skin that are constantly shed by an animal), saliva, urine and sebaceous cells. Any animal can trigger an allergic response, but cats are the most common culprits. People can also become allergic to exotic pets such as ferrets, guinea pigs, birds, rabbits and rodents. There is no species or breed to which humans cannot develop allergies. Fur length and type will not affect or prevent allergies. Certain pets can be less irritating than others to those who suffer from allergies, but that is strictly on an individual basis and cannot be predicted.

Once the diagnosis of a pet allergy is made, a physician will often recommend eliminating the companion animal from the surroundings. Heartbreaking? Yes. Absolutely necessary? Not always. Keep in mind that most people are allergic to several things besides pets, such as dust mites, molds and pollens, all of which can be found in the home. Allergic symptoms result from the total cumulative allergen load. That means that if you eliminate some of the other allergens, you may not have to get rid of your pet. (Conversely, should you decide to remove your pet from your home, this may not immediately solve your problems.) You must also be prepared to invest the time and effort needed to decontaminate your home environment, limit future exposure to allergens and find a physician who will work with you. Read on for helpful tips:


Improving the Immediate Environment
  • Create an allergen-free room.
    A bedroom is often the best and most practical choice. By preventing your pet from entering this room, you can ensure at least eight hours of freedom from allergens every night. It's a good idea to use hypoallergenic bedding and pillow materials.
  • Limit fabrics.
    Allergens collect in rugs, drapes and upholstery, so do your best to limit or eliminate them from your home. If you choose to keep some fabrics, steam-clean them regularly. Cotton-covered furniture is the smartest choice, and washable blinds or shades make good window treatments. You can also cover your furniture with sheets or blankets which you can remove and wash regularly.
  • Vacuum frequently
    using a vacuum equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate arresting) filter or a disposable electrostatic bag. Other kinds of bags will permit allergens to blow back out of the vacuum.
  • Install an air purifier
    fitted with a HEPA filter. Our modern, energy-efficient homes lock in air that is loaded with allergens, so it’s smart to let in some fresh air daily.
  • Use anti-allergen room sprays.
    These sprays deactivate allergens, rendering them harmless. Ask your allergist for a product recommendation.
  • Clean the litter box frequently.
    Use low-dust, perfume-free filler. Clumping litter is a good choice.
  • Dust regularly.
    Wiping down the walls will also cut down on allergens.
  • Invest in washable pet bedding
    and cages that can be cleaned often and easily.

Decontaminating Your Pet
  • Bathe your pet at least once a week.
    Your veterinarian can recommend a shampoo that won't dry out his skin. Bathing works to wash off the allergens that accumulate in an animal’s fur.
  • Wipe your pet with a product formulated to prevent dander
    from building up and flaking off into the environment. Ask your veterinarian to suggest one that is safe to use on animals who groom themselves.
  • Note any symptoms of dermatitis
    exhibited by your companion animal. Dermatitis often leads to accelerated skin and fur shedding, which will up your allergen exposure.
  • Brush or comb your pet frequently.
    It’s best to do this outdoors, if possible. (The ASPCA does not recommend keeping cats outdoors, so make sure your feline is leashed if you take him outside.)

Taking Care of Yourself
  • If possible, have someone other than yourself do the housecleaning,
    litter box work and pet washing, wiping and brushing. If you must clean the house or change the litter, be sure to wear a dust mask.
  • Wash your hands
    after handling your companion animal and before touching your face. The areas around your nose and eyes are particularly sensitive to allergens.
  • Designate a “pet outfit”
    from among your most easily washed clothes. Wear it when playing or cuddling with your companion, and you’ll leave other clothing uncontaminated.
  • Find a physician
    , preferably an allergy specialist, who will make sure that your pet is the cause of your allergies and will help alleviate your symptoms. Medications and immunotherapy (desensitizing shots) can often allow you and your companion animal to remain together happily ever after.

Cutting Pet Care Costs

As responsible pet parents, we have an obligation to care for our furry friends in sickness and in health. But as pet care costs rise, how do we do what’s best for our pet? Here are a few tips to help you save money on your pet’s health care.

Schedule Regular Check-Ups

Don’t skip your pet’s yearly exam. It’s much more expensive—and risky—to treat illnesses than to protect against them. It’s also a good idea to shop veterinary practices by comparing fees for preventative care.

Personalize Your Pet’s Vaccines

Some vaccines are optional, while others are essential in preventing serious diseases. Never skip any shots required by local laws or mandatory for your pet’s protection, but do talk to your vet about personalizing your pet’s vaccine protocol.

Spay or Neuter Your Pet

Spaying or neutering your pet can save a lot of money by preventing serious health problems, including uterine, ovarian and testicular cancers. Many local shelters provide resources for low- or no-cost spay/neuter surgeries.

Brush Your Pet’s Teeth

Dental disease can lead to heart and kidney problems and expensive procedures. Start a dental routine to keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy. Ask your veterinarian what products to use and how often. Don’t use toothpaste made for people, which contains fluoride and may irritate your pet's stomach.

Protect Your Pet from Parasites

Flea and tick infestations can cause a host of costly medical problems from minor skin irritations to life-threatening blood loss. Stick with a topical flea and tick solution to keep the critters at bay. Make sure to only use products as directed. Never use a product intended for a dog on a cat.

Toss the Cigarettes

Secondhand smoke is no joke for pets—it can cause asthma, bronchitis, lymphoma and oral, nasal and lung cancers. Quit now and you’ll save money on vet bills. At the very least, avoid smoking around your pet.

Consider Pet Health Insurance

If the cost of an emergency veterinary visit or serious illness would be a financial strain, consider investing in pet health insurance while your pet is healthy. Be sure to read the fine print, though—not all plans are created equal.

Buy High-Quality Pet Food

A good quality pet food—formulated under the guidelines of the American Association of Feed Control Officials—is often more cost-effective than a homemade diet. Avoid overfeeding your pet, which can lead to obesity and other health problems.

Disaster Preparedness

Emergencies come in many forms, and they may require anything from a brief absence from your home to permanent evacuation. Each type of disaster requires different measures to keep your pets safe, so the best thing you can do for yourself and your pets is to be prepared. Here are simple steps you can follow now to make sure you’re ready before the next disaster strikes:

  1. Get a Rescue Alert Sticker

    This easy-to-use sticker will let people know that pets are inside your home. Make sure it is visible to rescue workers (we recommend placing it on or near your front door), and that it includes the types and number of pets in your home as well as the name and number of your veterinarian. If you must evacuate with your pets, and if time allows, write “EVACUATED” across the stickers.

  2. Arrange a Safe Haven

    Arrange a safe haven for your pets in the event of evacuation. DO NOT LEAVE YOUR PETS BEHIND. Remember, if it isn’t safe for you, it isn’t safe for your pets. They may become trapped or escape and be exposed to numerous life-threatening hazards. Note that not all shelters accept pets, so it is imperative that you have determined where you will bring your pets ahead of time:

    • Contact your veterinarian for a list of preferred boarding kennels and facilities.
    • Ask your local animal shelter if they provide emergency shelter or foster care for pets.
    • Identify hotels or motels outside of your immediate area that accept pets.
    • Ask friends and relatives outside your immediate area if they would be willing to take in your pet.
  3. Chose "Designated Caregivers”

    This step will take considerable time and thought. When choosing a temporary caregiver, consider someone who lives close to your residence. He or she should be someone who is generally home during the day while you are at work or has easy access to your home. A set of keys should be given to this trusted individual. This may work well with neighbors who have pets of their own—you may even swap responsibilities, depending upon who has accessibility.

    When selecting a permanent caregiver, you’ll need to consider other criteria. This is a person to whom you are entrusting the care of your pet in the event that something should happen to you. When selecting this “foster parent,” consider people who have met your pet and have successful cared for animals in the past. Be sure to discuss your expectations at length with a permanent caregiver, so he or she understands the responsibility of caring for your pet.

  4. Prepare Emergency Supplies and Traveling Kits

    If you must evacuate your home in a crisis, plan for the worst-case scenario. Even if you think you may be gone for only a day, assume that you may not be allowed to return for several weeks. When recommendations for evacuation have been announced, follow the instructions of local and state officials. To minimize evacuation time, take these simple steps:

    • Make sure all pets wear collars and tags with up-to-date identification information. Your pet’s ID tag should contain his name, telephone number and any urgent medical needs. Be sure to also write your pet’s name, your name and contact information on your pet’s carrier.
    • The ASPCA recommends microchipping your pet as a more permanent form of identification. A microchip is implanted under the skin in the animal’s shoulder area, and can be read by a scanner at most animal shelters.
    • Always bring pets indoors at the first sign or warning of a storm or disaster. Pets can become disoriented and wander away from home in a crisis.
    • Store an emergency kit and leashes as close to an exit as possible. Make sure that everyone in the family knows where it is, and that it clearly labeled and easy to carry. Items to consider keeping in or near your “Evac-Pack” include:
      • Pet first-aid kit and guide book (ask your vet what to include)
      • 3-7 days’ worth of canned (pop-top) or dry food (be sure to rotate every two months)
      • Disposable litter trays (aluminum roasting pans are perfect)
      • Litter or paper toweling
      • Liquid dish soap and disinfectant
      • Disposable garbage bags for clean-up
      • Pet feeding dishes and water bowls
      • Extra collar or harness as well as an extra leash
      • Photocopies and/or USB of medical records and a waterproof container with a two-week supply of any medicine your pet requires (Remember, food and medications need to be rotated out of your emergency kit—otherwise they may go bad or become useless)
      • At least seven days’ worth of bottled water for each person and pet (store in a cool, dry place and replace every two months)
      • A traveling bag, crate or sturdy carrier, ideally one for each pet
      • Flashlight
      • Blanket
      • Recent photos of your pets (in case you are separated and need to make “Lost” posters)
      • Especially for cats: Pillowcase, toys, scoop-able litter
      • Especially for dogs: Extra leash, toys and chew toys, a week’s worth of cage liner

    You should also have an emergency kit for the human members of the family. Items to include: Batteries, duct tape, flashlight, radio, multi-tool, tarp, rope, permanent marker, spray paint, baby wipes, protective clothing and footwear, extra cash, rescue whistle, important phone numbers, extra medication and copies of medical and insurance information.

  5. Keep the ASPCA On-Hand at All Times

    The free ASPCA mobile app shows pet parents exactly what to do in case of a natural disaster. It also allows pet owners to store vital medical records and provides information on making life-saving decisions during natural disasters. With a few swipes, you can:

    • Access critical advice on what to do with your pet before, during, and after a major storm—even if there’s no data connectivity.
    • Store and manage your pet’s critical health records.
    • Receive a personalized missing pet recovery kit, including step-by-step instructions on how to search for a lost animal in a variety of circumstances.
    • Build a lost pet digital flyer that can be shared instantly on your social media channels.
    • Get the latest and most relevant news about pets and animal welfare.

Emergency Care for Your Pet

Unfortunately, accidents do happen. When a medical emergency befalls our furry friends, pet parents may find it difficult to make rational decisions, especially if something occurs during the middle of the night. That’s why it’s crucial to have an emergency plan in place—before you need it.

Finding 24-Hour Emergency Care for Your Pet

Talk to your veterinarian about an emergency protocol. Does your vet provide 24-hour service or does he or she work with an emergency clinic in the area? Some practices have multiple veterinarians on staff who rotate on-call services after hours. Check to see if your primary care vet has partners who might answer an emergency call. It’s also a smart idea to keep the name, number and address of your local emergency clinic tacked to the refrigerator or stored in your cell phone for easy access.

Signs Your Pet May Need Emergency Care

Your dog may need emergency care because of severe trauma—caused by an accident or fall—choking, heatstroke, an insect sting, household poisoning or other life-threatening situation. Here are some signs that emergency care is needed:

  • Pale gums
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weak or rapid pulse
  • Change in body temperature
  • Difficulty standing
  • Apparent paralysis
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Excessive bleeding

Pets who are severely injured may act aggressively toward their pet parents, so it’s important to first protect yourself from injury.

For Dogs

Approach your dog slowly and calmly; kneel down and say his name. If the dog shows aggression, call for help. If he’s passive, fashion a makeshift stretcher and gently lift him onto it. Take care to support his neck and back in case he’s suffered any spinal injuries.

For Cats

Gently place a blanket or towel over the cat’s head to prevent biting; then slowly lift the cat and place her in an open-topped carrier or box. Take care to support the cat’s head and avoid twisting her neck in case she’s suffered a spinal injury.

Once you feel confident and safe transporting your pet, immediately bring him to an emergency care facility. Ask a friend or family member to call the clinic so the staff knows to expect you and your pet.

First Aid Treatments to Perform At Home

Most emergencies require immediate veterinary care, but first aid methods may help you stabilize your pet for transportation.

  • If your pet is suffering from external bleeding due to trauma
    , try elevating and applying pressure to the wound.
  • If your pet is choking
    , place your fingers in his mouth to see if you can remove the blockage.
  • If you’re unable to remove the foreign object
    , perform a modified Heimlich maneuver by giving a sharp rap to his chest, which should dislodge the object.
Performing CPR on Your Pet

CPR may be necessary if your pet remains unconscious after you have removed the choking object. First check to see if he’s breathing. If not, place him on his side and perform artificial respiration by extending his head and neck, holding his jaws closed and blowing into his nostrils once every three seconds. (Ensure no air escapes between your mouth and the pet’s nose.) If you don’t feel a heartbeat, incorporate cardiac massage while administering artificial respiration—three quick, firm chest compressions for every respiration—until your dog resumes breathing on his own.

What To Do If Your Pet Eats Something Poisonous

If you suspect your pet has ingested a toxic substance, please call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center’s 24-hour hotline at (888) 426-4435. Trained toxicologists will consider the age and health of your pet, what and how much he ate, and then make a recommendation—such as whether to induce vomiting—based on their assessment. A $65 consultation fee may be applied to your credit card.

End of Life Care

Coping with the impending loss of a pet is one of the most difficult experiences a pet parent will face. Whether your furry friend is approaching his golden years or has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it’s important to calmly guide the end-of-life experience and minimize any discomfort or distress. As your pet’s health declines, you may elect to care for your pet at home—with the supervision of a veterinarian—or you may decide to end his suffering with euthanasia.

Is Your Pet In Pain?

When cats and dogs are suffering, they may not show outward signs that we normally associate with pain like whimpering or crying. Sometimes an animal will continue to eat or drink in spite of pain or disorientation. Some physiological and behavioral signs that your pet might be experiencing pain include excessive panting or gasping for breath, reclusiveness, reluctance to move and food pickiness.

Caring for an Elderly Pet

The most important thing you can do for your elderly pet is to minimize any pain or distress she’s experiencing.

  • Consult with your veterinarian and treat any health problems, since undiagnosed issues can cause discomfort and rapid deterioration.
  • Surround her with her favorite things, like a warm blanket or special squeaky toy.
  • Since pressure sores can develop in pets with limited mobility, it’s also essential to provide a warm sleeping spot with plenty of cushioning.
  • Some older pets may develop incontinence, or the loss of bladder control, so be sure to check your furry friend regularly for any wetness or soiling. If your pet needs help getting up to urinate or defecate, you can purchase a sling or use a large towel to wrap under her body and assist her.
Pet Hospice Care

Pet hospice care, also known as palliative care, is an option if your pet is suffering from a terminal illness and a cure is not possible. The goal is to make a pet’s final days or weeks more pleasant with the proper use of pain medications, dietary strategies and human interaction. Pet hospice is not a place, but a personal choice and philosophy based on the principle that death is a part of life and can be dignified. When considering hospice care, pet parents should very careful not to prolong the suffering of pets who are in pain or experiencing poor quality of life.

A participating veterinarian will teach pet parents how to provide intensive home care to keep an ill pet as comfortable as possible. Hospice care requires an active commitment and constant supervision from pet parents, who work with their veterinary team to make sure their pet’s life ends comfortably. If you decide hospice care is the right course for you and your pet, you will become your pet’s primary nurse and caregiver, as well as the link between your pet and the veterinary team. Consult with your primary veterinarian and see if she recommends hospice care for your pet based on his specific needs.

Considering Euthanasia

Euthanasia provides a painless, peaceful end for a pet who would otherwise continue to suffer. Your veterinarian has special training to provide your pet with a humane and gentle death. During the procedure, your vet will inject your pet with a sedative followed by a special medication. The animal experiences no awareness of the end of life—the process is akin to undergoing general anesthesia for a surgical procedure and takes about 10 to 20 seconds.

Your veterinarian is the best person to advise you on when the time is right to euthanize—information from medical tests is often more accurate than what a pet owner can observe, and pet owners often delay the moment of euthanasia in anticipation of grief. Observing and keeping an accurate record of your pet in his daily activities can help you to decide. If you observe that moments of discomfort outweigh his capacity to enjoy life, it is time to euthanize, even if your pet still experiences pleasure in eating or socializing. If your pet is in pain, your main goal should be to minimize his suffering.

What to Do If Your Pet Has Died at Home

If your pet is under the care of a veterinarian at the time of his or her passing, he or she can guide you through next steps. However, if your pet dies in your home, there are options to consider. Whether you simply want the body to be removed from your home, or you wish to permanently memorialize your pet in some special way, the choice is yours.

  • Depending on your decision, you may have to keep the body in your home for a short period of time. A well-cooled body can be held for up to 24 hours, but the sooner it can be taken somewhere else, the better.
  • Placing the wrapped animal in a refrigerator or freezer is recommended, with one exception—if you plan to have a necropsy (autopsy) performed to determine cause of death, the body should not be frozen (refrigeration is still okay). It is essential that you contact a veterinarian as soon as possible if you would like a necropsy.
  • If the animal is too big to be put into a refrigerator or freezer, the body should be placed on a cement floor or concrete slab, which is the best way to draw heat away from the carcass. Do not cover or wrap the body in this instance. Doing so will trap in heat and not allow the body temperature to cool.
  • As a last resort, you may keep the body in the coldest area of your home, out of the sun, packed with bags of ice. In this case, the body should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent it from getting wet.
Pet Cremation and Burial

It is very common for pet owners to have their deceased pets cremated. You need to decide if you wish to keep your pet's ashes as a remembrance. If so, you will want to arrange an individual (or private) cremation, meaning that your pet will be cremated alone. Businesses that offer individual cremation commonly offer home pick-up/delivery of remains as part of their service packages.

Depending on local laws, it may be legal to bury an animal on your own property. It is typically illegal to bury an animal on public lands such as parks. If you desire burial for your pet but do not have land of your own, check to see if there is a pet cemetery or memorial park in your area.

Other Options

If you wish to simply have your pet’s body removed from your home, consult your local government to find out if your sanitation department picks up animal remains.

Dealing with Pet Loss

There are many forms of grief that are completely normal in the wake of the loss of a beloved pet. For support dealing with the loss of a pet, call the ASPCA Pet Loss Hotline at (877) GRIEF-10.

Finding a Lost Pet

It’s every pet parent’s nightmare: Your dog or cat has gotten loose and you don’t know where he or she is. Don’t panic—there are steps you can take to locate your pet. Swift action, coupled with major neighborhood networking, will increase the odds of having your furry friend back in your arms. The key is to get the word out to as many people in as many places as possible, so don’t be shy about enlisting the help of your friends and family in the search efforts.

Remember, identification can be a lifesaver for a lost pet. It’s a good idea for all your animal companions—even indoor-only pets—to always wear a collar with an ID tag that includes your name, current phone number and any relevant contact information. If you’ve chosen to microchip your pet as a means of permanent identification, keep in mind that microchips are only as good as the information provided to the chip’s company. If you’ve moved or changed your phone number since registering your pet’s chip, be sure to submit an update as soon as possible.

If your pet does go missing, below are actions you can take to begin the search process.

Search Your Home and Alert Neighbors

As soon as you notice your pet is missing, talk to your family members or housemates and ask where they last saw your pet. Search your home carefully—under beds, in closets, dark places, small places, behind bulky furniture—in case your pet may be hiding or sleeping somewhere. Shaking a food dish, treat jar or favorite toy will sometimes lure animals out of a hiding place. If you are sure your pet is not in or around the home, take a slow ride or walk around your neighborhood. Bring along a recent photo of your pet and ask neighbors if they’ve seen him or her. Check under porches and shrubs, and ask neighbors to check in sheds and garages in case your pet was accidently locked in.

Work the Phones

Calls should be made to the local animal control agencies, veterinary hospitals, shelters (both municipal and private) and rescue groups in your area. One of them may already have your pet in custody. Check in with shelters daily—and pay these visits in person with photos of your pet to distribute to shelter staff. If there are no shelters close to your home, contact the police.

Tell Your Social Media Networks

Send an email about your lost pet to local friends, colleagues and family members and ask them to pass on the information to anyone they can. Then, be sure to share the news with your social media networks. Most communities have local “Lost Pet” Facebook pages where they will post information about missing pets. Reach out to those page administrators and see if they will share information about your pet. You can create your own Facebook page or digital card for your lost pet, and share it across your social networks—and ask friends and family to spread the word to their contacts.

Create a “Lost Pet” Flyer

You’ll want to create a flyer that will stand out and get noticed by people who may have seen your pet. Repeated viewings of a consistent message are more likely to stick in people’s minds, so we recommend sticking with one design for your flyer.

You’ll want to create a flyer that will stand out and get noticed by people who may have seen your pet. Repeated viewings of a consistent message are more likely to stick in people’s minds, so we recommend sticking with one design for your flyer.

Blanket the Neighborhood

Good places to post your flyers include dog parks and runs, pet supply stores and pet grooming shops and veterinary offices. Various commercial establishments like grocery and convenience stores, gas stations, laundromats, bars, cafes and restaurants are other good high-traffic options.

Cover lampposts and trees near where you think your pet was lost, and around busy commercial and pedestrian sections of town. Put up flyers around schools or at kids’-eye level. Children can be more observant than adults, especially when it comes to animals.

Don’t Give Up!

This one is important! Remember that many lost animals have found their way back home.

Finding Professional Behavior Help

Many behaviors that are completely natural for dogs and cats—like barking or meowing, scratching, biting, digging, chewing, escaping and running away—can prove to be challenging for some pet parents. Although advice abounds in the form of popular TV shows, books and well-meaning friends and family, often the best and most efficient way to resolve your pet’s behavior problems is to seek assistance from a qualified professional. Professionals in the pet-behavior field fall into four main categories:

  • Trainers
  • Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs)
  • Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs)
  • Diplomats of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Dip ACVBs)

Here are some frequently asked questions from pet parents who are seeking professional behavioral help for their pet:

What are the differences between pet-behavior professionals?
Trainers

Pet trainers use a number of different titles, such as “behavior counselor,” “pet psychologist” and “pet therapist.” The level of education and experience among this group of professionals varies greatly. Most learn how to work with animals through apprenticeships with established trainers, volunteering at animal shelters, attending seminars on training and behavior and training their own animals. And some are certified by specialized training schools.

Certified Professional Dog Trainers (CPDTs)

The Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), an independent organization created by the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT), offers an international certification program. To earn the designation of Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT), an individual must accrue a requisite number of working hours as a dog trainer, provide letters of recommendation and pass a standardized test that evaluates her or his knowledge of canine ethology, basic learning theory, canine husbandry and teaching skill. A CPDT must abide by a code of ethics and earn continuing education credits to maintain certification.

Applied Animal Behaviorists, Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs)

An applied animal behaviorist has earned an MS, MA or PhD in animal behavior. They are experts in dog and cat behavior and often in the behavior of other companion animal species as well, like horses and birds. Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (CAABs, those with a doctoral degree) and Associate Certified Applied Animal Behaviorists (ACAABs, those with a master’s degree) received supervised graduate or post-graduate training in animal behavior, biology, zoology and learning theory at accredited universities.

Effective applied animal behaviorists will have expertise in (a) behavior modification, so they know the techniques that produce changes in behavior, (b) the normal behavior of the species they’re treating, so they can recognize how and why your pet’s behavior is abnormal, and (c) teaching and counseling people, so they can effectively teach you how to understand and work with your pet. Most CAABs work through veterinary referrals, and they work closely with veterinarians to select the best behavioral medications for pets.

Veterinary Behaviorists

Knowledge of animal behavior isn’t required to earn a veterinary degree, and animal behavior isn’t comprehensively taught in most veterinary training programs. However, some veterinarians seek specialized education in animal behavior and earn certification through the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists. To become a Diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists (Dip ACVB), veterinarians must complete a residency in behavior and pass a qualifying examination.

In addition to having knowledge of domestic animal behavior and experience treating pet behavior problems, veterinary behaviorists can prescribe medications that can help with your pet’s treatment. Issues that often require the use of medication include separation anxiety, phobias, compulsive behaviors and fear of people, objects or other animals.

What kind of training does my pet need?

Once you’ve determined that you and your pet need some professional help to keep your household harmonious, consider what kind of training or treatment you need.

Group Class

If your pet needs to learn some basic manners and skills, like sit, down and come when called, you might benefit most from group obedience classes. Group glasses are also ideal for young puppies who need socialization.

Private Sessions

If your dog or cat has a specific behavior problem, seeing a professional outside of a classroom context would be best. Problems like resource guarding, handling issues, separation anxiety and aggression toward people or other animals require custom treatment plans and individual attention from a qualified behaviorist. Other less serious behavior issues that trainers and behaviorists can’t usually address in a group class include house training problems, excessive barking and destructive chewing.

Day Training & Board-and-Train

Day training is a great service for busy pet parents. The trainer comes to your house while you’re at work, or alternatively, some train your dog in their home or facility. The trainer teaches your dog the specific obedience behaviors you want, for example recalls (coming when called), wait, stay, walk on-leash without pulling and greeting people and pets politely. If the trainer is qualified as a behaviorist, she can also treat issues like resource guarding, handling issues, some other types of aggression, some types of excessive barking or meowing and some fears.

Board-and-train services involve leaving your pet in the trainer’s kennels for a specified period of time. Be sure that you know and agree with the methods that your board-and-train or day training professional plans to use, since you will not be there to supervise. This method should also provide a training package with instruction for you. Board-and-train and day training programs are only effective if the trainer teaches you some skills so that you can maintain your pet’s new behaviors after her training is done.

How Do I Decide Which Professional to Choose?

After you’ve decided between group classes, one-on-one private help and board-and-train, how do you figure out which professional is right for you and your pet? Your decision will be based on a number of factors, including the type of problem your pet has, the professional’s education and experience and the availability of behaviorists and trainers in your area.

Ask the right questions.

We advise contacting more than one professional in your area so that you can compare their methods, credentials and experience before making a choice. Don’t hire any professional without first thoroughly interviewing her or him and asking for a couple of references from former clients or veterinarians. A good behaviorist or trainer will be happy to speak with you about her or his qualifications, background and treatment or training methods.

Consider the nature of your pet’s behavioral problem.

If your pet has a serious behavior problem that puts him, people or other animals at risk, or if he’s developed a problem that causes him significant stress, seek an expert with both academic training (either a master’s or doctoral degree) and practical experience. Although some CAABs, ACAABs and Dip ACVBs charge more per session than trainers, it’s because they’ve acquired a great deal of knowledge through years of study and research.

Rule out physical problems.

If your pet has a behavior problem, contacting a trainer or a behaviorist is a great first step on the road to resolution. However, some behavior problems can be caused or exacerbated by physical problems. For example, if your nine-week-old puppy urinates indoors when you’re not supervising him, he probably simply needs house training, but if your five-year-old dog who hasn’t made a mistake in the house for years suddenly starts urinating indoors, you might have a medical condition on your hands.

Trainers and behaviorists specialize in pet behavior problems. Only licensed veterinarians can diagnose medical conditions. If you think that your pet is sick, injured or experiencing any kind of physical distress, please contact your veterinarian immediately.

Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks are two of the most frequent pet care concerns in America. While prevention is the best defense against these parasites, it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of fleas and ticks so you can help your pets if necessary. Read on for more information.

Fleas

Fleas are the most common external parasite to plague companion animals. They are wingless insects that feed on blood, can jump up to two feet high and are persistent in the environment.

Fleas can live for as few as 13 days or as long as 12 months—and during that time, can produce millions of offspring. Though there are many species of fleas, the one that most often affects both dogs and cats in North America is the cat flea, Ctenocephalides felis.

Symptoms of Fleas on Dogs

Fleas are most commonly noticed on a dog’s abdomen, the base of the tail and the head. Common symptoms of fleas on dogs include:

  • Droppings or “flea dirt” in a dog’s coat (small dark "grains of sand")
  • Flea eggs (tiny, white grains)
  • Allergic dermatitis
  • Excessive scratching, licking or biting at skin
  • Hair loss
  • Scabs and hot spots
  • Pale gums
  • Tapeworms
Symptom of Fleas on Cats

If you see your cat scratching often and persistently, invest in a fine tooth comb and run it through her fur, paying special attention to the neck and the base of the tail. If you see small, fast-moving brown shapes about the size of a pinhead in her fur, your cat has fleas. Other symptoms:

  • Droppings of “flea dirt” in a cat’s fur (small dark "grains of sand")
  • Flea eggs (tiny, white grains)
  • Itchy, irritated skin
  • Persistent scratching
  • Chewing and licking
  • Hair loss
  • Tapeworms
  • Pale lips and gums
Causes of Fleas
  • Fleas are easily brought in from the outdoors.
  • Fleas thrive in warm, humid climates at temperatures of 65 to 80 degrees.
  • Adult fleas spend most of their lives on the animal, laying eggs in the fur.
  • These eggs drop out onto rugs, upholstery, bedding and furniture; the new adult fleas will, in turn, find their living host (either human or animal).
Flea Complications
  • Fleas can consume 15 times their own body weight in blood, which can cause anemia or a significant amount of blood loss over time.
  • This is especially problematic in young puppies or kittens, where an inadequate number of red blood cells can be life-threatening.
  • Some pets have heightened sensitive to the saliva of fleas, which can cause an allergic reaction known as flea allergy dermatitis.
Flea Treatment

Consult your veterinarian if you suspect your pet has fleas. It is important that all of your pets are treated for fleas, including indoor and outdoor cats, and that the environment is treated as well. Once your veterinarian confirms the diagnosis, a treatment plan may include the following:

  • Topical or oral treatment or the use of shampoos, sprays and powders on the pet.
  • Thorough cleaning of your house, including rugs, bedding and upholstery. Severe cases may require using a spray or a fogger, which requires temporary evacuation of the home.
  • It is very important not to use products on your cat that are intended for dogs.
  • Lawn treatments may also be needed if your pet keeps getting re-infected every time it goes outside.
Flea Prevention
  • Use a flea comb on your pet and wash his bedding once a week.
  • Keep the outside of your house free of organic debris, such as rake clippings and leaves, and remember that fleas like to hide in dark, moist, shady areas.
  • There are many preventative flea control products available, both as prescription and over-the-counter formulas.
Ticks

Ticks are parasites that feed on the blood of unlucky host animals, such as cats and dogs. Like mites and spiders, ticks are arachnids. Although their presence may not even be noticed by the host, ticks can transmit many diseases through their bite.

Tick species and disease transmission tend to vary based on where you live, so check with your vet about what is common in your area.

Tick Transmission
  • Most species of ticks require blood meals from a host to survive.
  • Ticks bury their head into a host’s skin when they bite and then gorge themselves on blood.
  • Ticks tend to be most active in late spring and summer and live in tall brush or grass, where they can attach to dogs and outdoor cats.
  • Ticks can be transferred from pets coming into the household from outdoors.
  • Ticks prefer to attach close to the head, neck, ears and feet, but can be found anywhere on your pet’s body.
  • Ticks are particularly prominent in warm climates and certain wooded areas of the Northeast.
How Do I know if My Pet Has Ticks?
  • Most ticks are visible to the naked eye. Ticks are often the size of a pinhead before they bite, and not noticed until they swell with blood.
  • While these parasites rarely cause obvious discomfort, it is a good idea to check your pet regularly if you live in an area where ticks are prevalent, especially if he spends a lot of time outside.
  • Run your hands carefully over your pet every time he comes inside, and especially check inside and around the ears, head and feet.
Complications Associated with Ticks
  • Blood loss
  • Anemia
  • Tick paralysis
  • Skin irritation or infection
  • Lyme Disease
    1. Lyme disease is a bacterial infection than can affect humans, dogs, cats and other mammals.
    2. Its primary carrier is the deer tick, which can attach to a dog or human and transmit the bacteria that cause the disease.
    3. Clinical signs of Lyme disease include depression, swelling of the lymph nodes, loss of appetite, fever, swollen, painful joints and kidney failure.
    4. Lyme disease is most effectively treated with antibiotics.
    5. With prompt, proper treatment, your pet’s condition should start to improve within 48 hours.
  • Cytauxzoonosis
    1. Cytauxzoonosis is a lethal infection caused by tick bites.
    2. This blood parasite is common in the South and is carried by bobcats.
    3. Ticks who feed on bobcats may transmit the infection to domestic cats, for whom the disease is fatal.
    4. Clinical signs of infection include: high fever, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, jaundice, coma and death.
    5. The infection progresses rapidly—in a matter of weeks—and there is no known cure, though several studies have proved successful in managing certain strains of the disease.
Tick Treatment and Removal

If you do find a tick on your pet, it is important to take care when removing it. Any contact with the tick’s blood can potentially transmit infection to your pet or even to you. Prompt removal is necessary, but it is important to stay calm and not rush. Follow these step-by-step tick removal instructions:

Step 1: Prepare
  • Put on latex or rubber gloves so you’ll never have direct contact with the tick or your pet’s bite area.
  • Because throwing a tick in the trash or flushing it down the toilet will not kill it, you should prepare a screw-top jar containing rubbing alcohol to put a tick in after removal. This also allows you to hold it for veterinary testing.
  • If possible, enlist a partner to help you distract and soothe your pet and hold her still during removal.
Step 2: Remove
  • Using a pair of tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the animal’s skin as possible.
  • Pull straight upwards with steady, even pressure and place the tick in your jar.
  • Do not twist or jerk the tick. This may leave the mouth-parts embedded in your pet, or cause the tick to regurgitate infective fluids.
  • Do not squeeze or crush the body of the tick, because its fluids may contain infective organisms.
Step 3: Disinfect and Monitor
  • Disinfect the bite area and wash your hands with soap and water, even though you were wearing gloves.
  • Sterilize your tweezers with alcohol or by carefully running them over a flame.
  • Monitor the bite area over the next few weeks for any signs of localized infection, such as redness or inflammation.
  • If infection occurs, please bring your pet—and your jarred tick—to your veterinarian for evaluation.
Tick Prevention
  • Many of the same products on the market that treat fleas also kill ticks and prevent against future infestation. Speak to your vet about the best product for your pet.
  • Ensure a tick-free lawn by mowing it regularly, removing tall weeds and making it inhospitable to rodents by keeping garbage covered and inaccessible.

Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Programs

Whether you’ve recently adopted a pet or you’re considering doing so, one of the most important health decisions you’ll make is to spay or neuter your cat or dog.

Click here to visit the ASCPA website to find great tools for finding low cost Spay/Neuter Programs.

Moving with Your Pet

Moving to a new home may be one of the most stressful life events you’ll ever have to tackle. But in the chaos of cardboard boxes, packing tape and moving trucks, you might not realize how stressed your pets feel, too. Read on for ways to make the transition as safe and easy as possible for your furry friends.

Choosing a New Neighborhood, House or Apartment

Before you pick out your dream home, make sure your pet will love it just as much as you do. It’s a good idea to walk around the neighborhood to determine whether the area seems safe for your pets. Be on the lookout for neighborhood dogs that seem aggressive or are left unattended. When it comes to square footage needs, cats and dogs differ:

  • For your feline friends, ensure your potential new space allows for plenty of room to build vertically—it’s easy to create a lot of vertical space with shelving, such as kitty blocks on top of furniture.
  • Consider your dog’s needs on a case-by-case basis. Older dogs, puppies and dogs with house training issues will need to go outside often, which might be difficult in an apartment building with lots of stairs or a house without a yard.
Packing Up Your Home

Cats aren’t big fans of change. You can help your cats (and skittish dogs) adjust to the moving process by bringing in moving boxes early, and by keeping your furry friends in a familiar room you plan to pack up last. On moving day, keep your pets in a quiet room with the door shut, or at a friend’s house. This will ensure that your cat or dog won’t get scared and try to make a quick getaway while the movers load up the truck. During the moving process, try to keep your pet’s routine as normal as possible.

Planning Your Road Trip

Many pets haven’t spent much time in crates or cars. In the weeks or months leading up to the big trip:

  • Prepare your pets by gradually acclimating them to their crates. First, place their food inside an open crate, and eventually have them eat their meals in the crate with the door shut.
  • Try carrying your pets around the house in the crate or taking a short drive.
  • You can help your pets develop a positive association with the crate by providing treats and playtime at the conclusion of crate time.

Taking these steps will make moving day a lot more comfortable for you and your furry friends.

Pet-Proofing Your New Home

It is a good idea to pet-proof your new home. Tuck away electrical cords, plug up nooks where your pet could get stuck, make sure that all windows have secure screens, remove any poisonous houseplants and confirm that no pest-control poison traps have been left anywhere in the house.

Settling In

When you arrive at your new home at the end of your long journey, it will be tempting to set your dog or cat loose in the house to explore. However, a new and unfamiliar space can be overwhelming to your pets.

  • Start by allowing them to adjust to one room—their “home base”—which should include their favorite toys, treats, water and food bowls and litter box for cats.
  • When they seem comfortable, gradually introduce them to other rooms in the house, while keeping some doors shut.
  • You can relocate your cat’s litter box from the “home base” room to a more permanent location by moving it slowly over time. Try moving the litter box one foot forward each day.

With patience, your cat or dog will be king or queen of your new home in no time.

Spay/Neuter Your Pet

By spaying or neutering your pet, you’ll help control the pet homelessness crisis, which results in millions of healthy dogs and cats being euthanized in the United States each year simply because there aren’t enough homes to go around. There are also medical and behavioral benefits to spaying (female pets) and neutering (male pets) your animals.

Here are some of the medical benefits:
  • Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life. Spaying helps prevent uterine infections and breast tumors, which are malignant or cancerous in about 50 percent of dogs and 90 percent of cats. Spaying your pet before her first heat offers the best protection from these diseases.
  • Neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer and some prostate problems.
And behavioral benefits:
  • Your spayed female pet won't go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they'll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!
  • Your male dog will be less likely to roam away from home. An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate, including finding creative ways escape from the house. Once he's free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other male animals.
  • Your neutered male may be better behaved. Unneutered dogs and cats are more likely to mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Your dog might be less likely to mount other dogs, people and inanimate objects after he’s neutered. Some aggression problems may be avoided by early neutering.

Spaying/neutering your pets is also highly cost-effective. The cost of your pet's spay/neuter surgery is far less than the cost of having and caring for a litter.

Debunking Spay/Neuter Myths and Misconceptions
  • Spaying or neutering will not cause your pet to become overweight. Lack of exercise and overfeeding will cause your pet to pack on the extra pounds—not neutering. Your pet will remain fit and trim as long as you continue to provide exercise and monitor her food intake.
  • Neutering is not as a quick fix for all behavior problems. Although neutering your pet often reduces undesirable behaviors caused by a higher level of testosterone, there’s no guarantee that your dog’s behavior will change after he’s neutered. Although the surgery will reduce the amount of testosterone in your dog’s system, it won’t eliminate the hormone completely. Neutering will also not reduce behaviors that your pet has earned or that have become habitual. The effects of neutering are largely dependent on your dog’s individual personality, physiology and history.
When to Spay or Neuter Your Pet
  • For dogs: While the traditional age for neutering is six to nine months, puppies as young as eight weeks old can be neutered as long as they’re healthy. Dogs can be neutered as adults as well, although there’s a slightly higher risk of post-operative complications in older dogs, dogs that are overweight or dogs that have health problems.
  • For cats: It is generally considered safe for kittens as young as eight weeks old to be spayed or neutered. In animal shelters, surgery is often performed at this time so that kittens can be sterilized prior to adoption. In an effort to avoid the start of urine spraying and eliminate the chance for pregnancy, it’s advisable to schedule the surgery before your own cat reaches five months of age. It’s possible to spay a female cat while she’s in heat.

Talk to your veterinarian to determine the best time to spay or neuter your pet.

Helping Your Pet Before and After Surgery

Your veterinary clinic will provide pre-surgical advice that you should follow. In general, avoid giving your cat any food after midnight the night before surgery. A puppy or kitten, however, needs adequate nutrition, and your veterinarian may advise that food not be withheld.

Your veterinarian can also provide post-operative instructions for you to follow. Although your pet may experience some discomfort after surgery, your veterinarian can take various measures to control pain. Depending on the procedure performed, medication for pain may be sent home with your pet.

Here are tips for a safe and comfortable recovery:

  • Provide your pet with a quiet place to recover indoors and away from other animals.
  • Prevent your pet from running and jumping for up to two weeks following surgery, or as long as your veterinarian recommends.
  • Prevent your pet from licking the incision site, which may cause infection, by distracting your pet with treats or by using an Elizabethan collar.
  • Avoid bathing your pet for at least ten days after surgery.
  • Check the incision site daily to confirm proper healing.

If you notice any redness, swelling or discharge at the surgery site, or if the incision is open, please contact your veterinarian. Also call your veterinarian if your pet is lethargic, has a decreased appetite, is vomiting or has diarrhea or any other concerns following surgery.

Travel Safety Tips

For some pet parents, a trip is no fun if the four-legged members of the family can’t come along. But traveling can be highly stressful, both for you and your pets. If you’re planning to take a trip with pets in tow, we have some tips to help ensure a safe and comfortable journey for everyone.

Remember, no matter where you’re headed or how you plan to get there, make sure your pet is microchipped for identification and wears a collar and tag imprinted with your name, phone number and any relevant contact information. It’s a good idea for your pet’s collar to also include a temporary travel tag with your cell phone and destination phone number for the duration of your trip.

Traveling by plane?

Unless your furry friend is small enough to ride under your seat, it’s best to avoid air travel with your pets. If you must bring your pet along on the flight, here are a few suggestions to keep your pet safe while flying the friendly skies.

  • Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel during a layover.
  • Make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a checkup. Prior to your trip, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of your departure. Tranquilizing your pet is generally not recommended as it could hamper his or her breathing, so use this time to check with your veterinarian for ways to relax your pet if you suspect he or she may become afraid, anxious or uncomfortable mid-flight. For travel outside of the continental United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary. Contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.
  • Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably, and lined with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels—to absorb accidents. Prior to your trip, tape a small pouch of dried food outside the crate so airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he or she gets hungry during a layover. The night before you leave, freeze a small dish or tray of water for your pet. This way, it can’t spill during loading and will melt by the time he or she is thirsty. Make sure the crate door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in case of an emergency.
  • Make sure your pet’s crate has proper identification. Mark the crate with the words “Live Animal,” as well as with your name, cell phone and destination phone number, and a photo of your pet. Should your pet escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver. You should also carry a photograph of your pet.
  • Tell every airline employee you encounter—on the ground and in the air—that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. This way, they'll be ready if any additional considerations or attention is needed. If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and deplaning may be warranted.
Taking a Road Trip?

Traveling with a pet by car involves more than just loading the animal in the back seat and motoring off, especially if you will be driving long distances or plan to be away for a long time. Here are a few car travel safety tips to help you prepare for a smooth and safe trip.

  • Prep your pet for a long trip. Get your pet geared up by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. If you’re traveling across state lines, bring along your pet's rabies vaccination record. While this generally isn't a problem, some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings.
  • Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. Secure your pet’s crate so it will not slide or shift in the event of an abrupt stop. If you decide to forgo the crate, don't allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window, and always keep him in the back seat in a harness attached to a seat buckle.
  • Prep a pet-friendly travel kit. Bring food, a bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid, and any travel documents. Pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity. Be sure to pack plenty of water, and avoid feeding your pet in a moving vehicle. Your pet's travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure, and always opt for bottled water. Drinking water from an area he or she isn’t used to could result in stomach discomfort.
  • Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Vaccinations for Your Pet

Vaccines help prevent many illnesses that affect pets. Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life. Not only are there different vaccines for different diseases, there are different types and combinations of vaccines. Vaccination is a procedure that has risks and benefits that must be weighed for every pet relative to his lifestyle and health. Your veterinarian can determine a vaccination regime that will provide the safest and best protection for your individual animal.

Understanding Vaccines

Vaccines help prepare the body's immune system to fight the invasion of disease-causing organisms. Vaccines contain antigens, which look like the disease-causing organism to the immune system but don't actually cause disease. When the vaccine is introduced to the body, the immune system is mildly stimulated. If a pet is ever exposed to the real disease, his immune system is now prepared to recognize and fight it off entirely or reduce the severity of the illness.

Vaccines are very important to managing the health of your pet. That said, not every pet needs to be vaccinated against every disease. It is very important to discuss with your veterinarian a vaccination protocol that’s right for your pet. Factors that should be examined include age, medical history, environment, travel habits and lifestyle. Most vets highly recommend administering core vaccines to healthy pets.

Core Vaccines

Core vaccines are considered vital to all pets based on risk of exposure, severity of disease or transmissibility to humans.

For Dogs: Vaccines for canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies are considered core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the dog’s exposure risk. These include vaccines against Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria.

For Cats: Vaccines for panleukopenia (feline distemper), feline calicivirus, feline herpesvirus type I (rhinotracheitis) and rabies are considered core vaccines. Non-core vaccines are given depending on the cat's lifestyle; these include vaccines for feline leukemia virus, Bordetella, Chlamydophila felis and feline immunodeficiency virus.

Your veterinarian can determine what vaccines are best for your pet.

Determining the Timing and Frequency of Vaccinations

Your veterinarian can best determine a vaccination schedule for your pet. This will depend on the type of vaccine, your pet’s age, medical history, environment and lifestyle.

For puppies: If his mother has a healthy immune system, a puppy will most likely receive antibodies in mother’s milk while nursing. Puppies should receive a series of vaccinations starting at six to eight weeks of age. A veterinarian should administer a minimum of three vaccinations at three- to four-week intervals. The final dose should be administered at 16 weeks of age.

For adult dogs: Some adult dogs might receive certain vaccines annually, while other vaccines might be given every three years or longer.

For kittens: Kittens automatically receive antibodies in the milk their mother produces if their mother has a healthy immune system. When the kitten is around six to eight weeks of age, your veterinarian can begin to administer a series of vaccines at three- or four-week intervals until the kitten reaches 16 weeks of age.

For adult cats: Adult cats might be revaccinated annually or every three years.

Local Laws Regarding Mandatory Vaccines

Each state has its own laws governing the administration of the rabies vaccine. Some areas require yearly rabies vaccination. Other areas call for vaccines every three years. In almost all states, proof of rabies vaccination is mandatory.

Risks Associated with Vaccination

Immunizations should mildly stimulate the animal’s immune system in order to create protection from specific infectious diseases. This stimulation can create mild symptoms, ranging from soreness at the injection site to fever and allergic reactions.

There are other, less common side effects like injection site tumors and immune disease associated with vaccination. That said, it is important to realize that vaccines have saved countless lives, and play a vital role in the battle against infectious diseases. As with any medical procedure, there is a small chance of side effects. In most cases, the risks are much smaller than the risks of disease itself. But it is important to talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s medical history before he is vaccinated.

Most pets show no ill effect from vaccination. Vaccine reactions may be minor and short-lived or require immediate care from a veterinarian. Clinical signs include:

  • Fever
  • Sluggishness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Facial swelling and/or hives
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Pain, swelling, redness, scabbing or hair loss around the injection site
  • Lameness
  • Collapse
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Seizures

It is best to schedule your pet’s appointment so that you can monitor him for any side effects following administration of the vaccine. If you suspect your pet is having a reaction to a vaccine, call your veterinarian immediately.

General Dog Care

A dog can be a wonderful addition to any home, but whether you're an experienced pet parent or a first-time adopter, it's important to keep your canine companion's health and happiness a top priority. Below are some useful tips for all dog parents.

Feeding
  • Puppies eight to 12 weeks old need four meals a day.
  • Feed puppies three to six months old three meals a day.
  • Feed puppies six months to one year two meals a day.
  • When your dog reaches his first birthday, one meal a day is usually enough.
  • For some dogs, including larger canines or those prone to bloat, it's better to feed two smaller meals.

Premium-quality dry food provides a well-balanced diet for adult dogs and may be mixed with water, broth or canned food. Your dog may enjoy cottage cheese, cooked egg or fruits and vegetables, but these additions should not total more than ten percent of his daily food intake.

Puppies should be fed a high-quality, brand-name puppy food (large breed puppy foods for large breeds). Please limit "people food," however, because it can result in vitamin and mineral imbalances, bone and teeth problems and may cause very picky eating habits and obesity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and be sure to wash food and water dishes frequently.

Exercise

Dogs need exercise to burn calories, stimulate their minds, and stay healthy. Individual exercise needs vary based on breed or breed mix, sex, age and level of health. Exercise also tends to help dogs avoid boredom, which can lead to destructive behaviors. Supervised fun and games will satisfy many of your pet's instinctual urges to dig, herd, chew, retrieve and chase.

Grooming

Help keep your dog clean and reduce shedding with frequent brushing. Check for fleas and ticks daily during warm weather. Most dogs don't need to be bathed more than a few times a year. Before bathing, comb or cut out all mats from the coat. Carefully rinse all soap out of the coat, or the dirt will stick to soap residue.

Handling

To carry a puppy or small dog, place one hand under the dog's chest, with either your forearm or other hand supporting the hind legs and rump. Never attempt to lift or grab your puppy or small dog by the forelegs, tail or back of the neck. If you do have to lift a large dog, lift from the underside, supporting his chest with one arm and his rear end with the other.

Housing

Your pet needs a warm, quiet place to rest, away from all drafts and off the floor. A training crate or dog bed is ideal, with a clean blanket or pillow placed inside. Wash the dog's bedding often. If your dog will be spending a lot of time outdoors, be sure she has access to shade and plenty of cool water in hot weather, and a warm, dry, covered shelter when it's cold.

Licensing and Identification

Follow your community’s licensing regulations. Be sure to attach the license to your dog’s collar. This, along with an ID tag and implanted microchip or tattoo, can help secure your dog’s return should she become lost.

Fleas and Ticks

Daily inspections of your dog for fleas and ticks during the warm seasons are important. Use a flea comb to find and remove fleas. There are several new methods of flea and tick control. Speak to your veterinarian about these and other options.

Medicines and Poisons

Never give your dog medication that has not been prescribed by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your animal has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for 24-hour animal poison information at (888) 426- 4435.

Spaying and Neutering

Female dogs should be spayed and male dogs neutered by six months of age.

Vaccinations

Your dog may benefit from receiving a number of vaccinations.

Dog Supply Checklist
  • Premium-quality dog food and treats
  • Food dish
  • Water bowl
  • Toys, toys and more toys, including safe chew toys
  • Brush & comb for grooming, including flea comb
  • Collar with license and ID tag
  • Leash
  • Carrier (for smaller dogs)
  • Training crate
  • Dog bed or box with warm blanket or towel
  • Dog toothbrush
The Scoop on Poop

Keep your dog on a leash when you are outside, unless you are in a secured, fenced-in area. If your dog defecates on a neighbor's lawn, the sidewalk or any other public place, please clean it up.

Preparing Your Dog for a New Baby

When you bring a new baby home, your dog will face an overwhelming number of novel sights, sounds and smells. She may find some of them upsetting, especially if she didn’t have opportunities to spend time with children as a puppy. You’ll drastically alter your daily routine, so your dog’s schedule will change, too. And, out of necessity, she’ll get less of your time and attention. It may be a difficult time for her, especially if she’s been the “only child” for a while.

To make things go as smoothly as possible for everyone, it’s important to take some time to prepare your dog for the arrival of your new addition. In the months before the baby comes, you’ll focus on two things:

  • Teaching your dog the skills she’ll need to interact safely with her new family member
  • Helping your dog adjust to the many new experiences and changes ahead
Making a Plan

Your dog will benefit from any training you can accomplish before your baby’s birth.

  • Teaching your dog some basic obedience skills will help you manage her behavior when the baby comes. Please see the section below, Teaching Your Dog Important New Skills, for specific training guidelines. Consider enrolling in a group class to get a head start.
  • Four months before the baby arrives: Gradually introduce your dog to the new experiences, sights, sounds and smells she’ll encounter when you bring your baby home, and associate these new things with rewards. This will help your dog learn to love life with the baby.
  • One to two months before the baby arrives: Anticipate the changes you’ll make to your dog’s daily routine, and start making those changes.
Teaching Your Dog Important New Skills

Having good verbal control of your dog can really help when it comes to juggling her needs and the baby’s care. The following skills are particularly important.

Basic Manners:

  • Sit and down
  • Stay, wait at doors and settle: These skills can help your dog learn to control her impulses, and they’ll prove useful in many situations. For example, you can teach your dog to lie down and stay whenever you sit in your nursing chair.
  • Leave it and drop it: These two behaviors can help you teach your dog to leave the baby’s things alone.
  • Greet people politely: A jumping dog can be annoying at best—and dangerous at worst—when you’re holding the baby.
  • Relax in a crate: If you crate train your dog, you’ll know that she’s safe when you can’t supervise her, and she’ll have a cozy place of her own to relax when things get hectic.
  • Come when called
Special Skills:
  • Hand targeting: If your dog is nervous or timid, teaching her to target your hand with her nose will give her something to do when she’s around the baby, which might make her feel more comfortable and confident. After your dog learns how to target your hand, you can even teach her to gently touch the baby with her nose!
  • Please go away

Teaching your dog to go away when you ask will enable you to control her movements and interactions with your baby. For example, you can use this cue to tell your dog to move away from the baby if he’s crawling toward her and she seems uncomfortable. Many dogs don’t realize that moving away is an option! If she learns that she can simply walk away from the baby when he makes her nervous, she’ll never feel trapped in a stressful situation—and she won’t be forced to express her anxiety by growling or snapping. Here’s how to teach your dog this invaluable skill:

  • Show her a treat, say “Go away,” and toss the treat four or five feet away from you. Repeat this sequence many times.
  • The next step is to refrain from tossing the treat until your dog starts to move away. Say “Go away,” and move your arm as though you’re tossing a treat. When your dog moves in the direction of your gesture, even if she only takes one step, say “Yes!” Then immediately toss a treat four or five feet away, in the direction your dog started to move.
  • After more repetitions, try waiting until your dog takes several steps away before you say “Yes!” and toss the treat.
  • Play fetch: Teaching your dog to play fetch with a toy can prepare her for safe, fun interaction with your child.
Preparing Your Dog for Lifestyle Changes

Many dogs experience anxiety when their lifestyles are drastically altered. Although things will change with the arrival of your new baby, you can minimize your dog’s stress by gradually getting her used to these changes in advance.

Plan and Practice Changes to Your Daily Routine

If you can predict how your schedule will change when the baby comes, begin a slow transition toward that new schedule now. If you plan to nap in the afternoon when the baby is sleeping, start taking occasional afternoon naps. If you plan to walk your dog at different times of day, gradually switch to the new routine.

Life with a baby can be hectic and sometimes unpredictable. It may help to prepare your dog for a less consistent daily schedule. Try varying the time you feed your dog. For example, if she gets breakfast every morning at 7:00 A.M. sharp, start feeding her at random times between 6:00 A.M. and 10:00 A.M. Alternatively, you can plan to stick to your dog’s regular schedule with the help of an automatic feeder,. These products have built-in timers, so you can set them to deliver food at set times each day, whether you’re around or not.

Consider hiring a dog walker to take over the responsibility of exercising your dog, at least for the first few weeks after the baby arrives. Interview dog walkers and choose one now. To help your dog get used to leaving your house without you, you can have the dog walker start taking her on occasional walks.

If your dog enjoys playing with other dogs, consider taking her to a doggie daycare once or twice a week after the baby comes. Investigate your options now, and have your dog spend time at the daycare so that she gets used to this new activity. Alternatively, you can plan to take your dog to friends’ or family members’ houses once or twice a week for some quality time with people she knows and likes. Begin these visits now.

If you’re really ambitious, you can practice getting up in the middle of the night with your dog. Teach her to settle quietly in an area where you plan to nurse the baby.

Minimize Changes in Attention

Resist the temptation to lavish your dog with extra attention in the weeks before the baby’s due date. This will only set her up for a bigger letdown when the baby comes and takes center stage. Instead, start scheduling short play and cuddle sessions with your dog, and gradually give her less and less attention at other times of day. Schedule your sessions randomly so that your dog doesn’t come to expect attention at any particular time.

Make New Rules Now

When the baby comes home, some of your dog’s privileges will likely change. It will be easiest for her to accept these changes if you institute new rules in advance.

If you don’t want your dog on the furniture or the bed after the baby arrives, introduce that restriction now.

If you don’t want your dog to jump up on you when you’re carrying your new baby or holding him in your lap, start teaching her to keep all four of her paws on the floor.

If your dog is used to sleeping in bed with you and you want that to change with the baby’s arrival, provide a comfortable dog bed that she can use instead. If necessary, you can place the new bed in an exercise pen or a crate to prevent her from jumping up onto your bed during the night. Likewise, if you want your dog to sleep in another room when the baby arrives, establish this habit well in advance.

Even if your dog adores children, she might accidentally scratch your baby’s delicate skin while riding beside him in the car. Consider installing a car barrier, purchasing a dog seatbelt or teaching your dog to relax in a crate when she’s in the car. You can find barriers, special seatbelts and crates at most major pet stores.

Having a vocal dog in your home can be a great deterrent to burglars, and many people appreciate their dog’s watchdog skills. However, when your baby’s trying to take a nap, your dog’s barking at falling leaves, neighbors and scurrying squirrels outside will get old very quickly. Now is the time to start teaching her that she doesn’t have to be quite so vigilant.

If the Baby’s Room Will Be Off-Limits

Some people decide that they’d like their dog to wait outside the baby’s room unless invited in. The easiest way to accomplish this is to teach your dog to sit-stay or down-stay by the door. When you’re not training, keep the baby’s door closed or install a tall baby gate in the doorway so that your dog gets used to restricted access.

If the Baby’s Room Won’t Be Off-Limits

Put a dog bed in an out-of-the-way spot in the baby’s room, and keep a container of dog treats in the room. Every once in a while, leave a few treats on your dog’s bed when she’s not looking. Later on, she can discover them on her own. She’ll learn to love her new spot in the baby’s room!

You can train your dog to settle on her new bed in the baby’s room when you need her to stay out of the way.

If you plan to spend time in the baby’s room when you’re nursing or rocking him to sleep, teach your dog to spend quiet time in the room with you. While you sit in a chair, your dog can relax on her bed. Try giving her a new chew bone or a food puzzle toy to work on during your quiet-time sessions. After the baby comes, when you rock or feed him, you can occasionally toss a treat to your dog while she’s lying on her bed. This practice will make her happy to be around the baby and reward her for staying in her spot during quiet time.

If you don’t have time to teach your dog the Stay cue, you can use a leash or tether attached to a heavy piece of furniture to remind her to stay on her bed. If you prefer, you can screw an eye hook into a baseboard to secure the tether. This practice will allow your dog to enjoy time with you and the baby but prevent her from jumping up or pawing at you.

To some dogs, a crib might seem like the perfect place for a cozy nap! If your dog is agile enough to climb into your baby’s crib, it’s important to let her know now that she’ll never be allowed to curl up there. If she approaches the crib and spends more than a few seconds investigating it, simply call her to come to you. If she complies, praise her warmly. If your dog tries to jump up to put her front paws on the crib, immediately clap your hands and say “Off!” in a firm tone of voice. Then take her by the collar and lead her away from the crib. If you think she might try to sneak into the crib when you’re not supervising her, keep the baby’s door closed or use a baby gate to block the doorway.

Preparing Your Dog for New Experiences

For dogs who haven’t spent much time with them, babies can seem like pretty bizarre—and even frightening—creatures. They make loud, screeching noises, they smell different, they definitely don’t look like grown-up humans, and they move in strange ways. It’s a good idea to introduce your dog to as many baby-like sights, sounds, smells and movements as possible so that some aspects of the baby are familiar when you bring him home.

Introduce Your Dog to Baby Sights, Sounds and Smells

Unwrap new baby supplies, such as toys, car seats, highchairs and swings, from their packaging and introduce them to your dog one or two at a time. You can also place smaller items on the floor when you’re around to supervise your dog. Let her investigate them, but if she picks them up, immediately redirect her attention to one of her own toys or chew bones. (Keep in mind that it might be difficult for your dog to tell the difference between her things and the baby’s! That’s why it’s important to help her start learning now).

Start to use a little bit of the baby’s lotions, shampoos, creams and powders on yourself so that your dog associates them with a familiar person. If you can, borrow clothes and blankets that smell like a baby to get the dog used to that smell, too.

If your dog is sensitive to strange noises, she might become agitated or frightened when she hears the baby cry. To help her get used to the sound in advance, purchase a recording of realistic baby noises and play it frequently. Whenever you play the recording, give your dog plenty of attention, treats and anything else she likes. After 5 to 10 minutes, turn the recording off and ignore your dog for half an hour or so. Do this several times a day. Instead of becoming afraid or upset when she hears baby sounds, she’ll learn to look forward to them because they predict attention and treats for her! If you try this procedure and find that your dog seems really afraid of the recorded baby noises, you may need to start with the volume very low. When she gets used to the sound at a low level, you can gradually increase the volume. Remember to give her plenty of delicious treats, like bits of cheese, hot dog or chicken, every time she hears the baby sounds.

Practice with a Doll

Some behaviorists recommend purchasing a lifelike doll and using it to simulate common activities you’ll do with the baby, such as feeding, carrying and rocking. Of course, your dog will quickly discover that the doll isn’t a real baby, but her initial reactions to it may help you determine which obedience skills you should focus on before the baby’s arrival. The doll can also help you practice caring for the baby and interacting with your dog at the same time.

Some dogs will jump up when you lift a doll and hold it your arms. It’s important to plan what you’ll do if this happens. A good solution is to ask your dog to stay in a sit or down whenever you hold, lift or handle the doll.

You can use the doll to teach your dog to gently give kisses. If you have sanitary concerns, you can teach her to lick the doll’s feet only. Praise your dog for any kind of gentle contact with the doll, and give her plenty of treats.

If your dog tries to bite the doll (knowing that it’s not a real baby, she might think it’s a toy), say “No.” Then immediately redirect her attention to an appropriate toy, and praise her enthusiastically if she plays with that instead. Teach her to be extremely gentle with anything you’re holding in your arms like a baby.

Prepare Your Dog for the Baby’s Touch and Movement


Handling

When your child is old enough to understand the lesson, you’ll teach him to handle your dog gently. However, not knowing any better, young babies often grab dogs’ fur, ears, tails and anything else within reach. To prepare your dog for this inevitability, accustom her to the types of touching you can expect from your baby, including grabbing, poking, pushing and pulling. If you teach your dog that good things happen when she gets poked and prodded, she’ll be able to better tolerate potentially uncomfortable interactions with the baby.

Poke the Pup

Poke your dog gently and then give her a treat. Gently tug on her ear and then give a treat. Gently grab her skin or pinch her and then give a treat. In a cheery voice, say something like “Oh, what was that?” each time you poke, pull or pinch your dog. Later on, when the baby does these things, you can say the same phrase. With repetition, your dog will start to anticipate tasty treats and simply look to you each time she gets pinched or grabbed. Practice these handling exercises four to eight times per day, and use especially exciting treats, like cheese, chicken or hot dogs. (Training sessions can be short—about five minutes long). When you start your training, be very gentle. Over time, make your touches more intense, like they will be when the baby delivers them.

Movement

Some dogs have never seen a human crawl, so it can be an intimidating experience—especially because crawling puts a person right at their eye level. So it’s a good idea to help your dog get used to crawling before your baby starts to become mobile. Accomplishing this is easy! Crawl toward your dog. As soon as she lifts her head to look at you, pet her and give her treats. Eventually, she’ll start to anticipate fun and goodies when she seems you crawling in her direction. Everyone in the family should participate in this exercise. When your baby comes and your dog is completely comfortable with this new game, incorporate the baby into the picture, too. Have him sit on your back, supported by your partner, when you crawl. Remember to cuddle your dog and give her treats so that she continues to enjoy this strange, new human behavior!

Bringing the Baby Home

First impressions are important. Your dog should have pleasant experiences with your baby right from the start.

When bringing your baby home from the hospital, send everyone else into the house first so your dog can express her usual excitement to see people. After she’s had a minute or two of greeting time and expends some of her energy, have someone leash her. This is important, even if you have no reason to believe that she’ll react poorly to the baby. That person should also get some small treats ready to use during your dog’s first few moments with the baby. (It may help to prepare these treats in advance and keep them in a container near the front door).

It’s crucial to stay calm and relaxed when you and the baby enter the house. If you seem nervous and jumpy, your dog will pick up on your feelings and may become nervous as well, thinking that the bundle in your arms is something to worry about. Instead, speak to your dog in a soft but cheerful voice as you walk into the house. Have your helper distract her with plenty of treats so that her attention is divided between them, your baby and the other people present. The helper can ask your dog to respond to obedience cues, like sit and down, using the treats to reward her polite behavior. Praise your dog for any calm interest in the baby. Avoid scolding your dog. Remember, you want her to associate the baby with good things, not your displeasure.

Meeting the Baby

Whether you choose to allow your dog to investigate the baby right away or to wait until a later time, orchestrate the event carefully. Choose a quiet room, and sit down with the baby in your arms. Have a helper leash your dog and bring her into the room. Again, avoid nervous or agitated behavior. Talk to your dog in a calm, happy voice as you invite her to approach. Convince her that meeting and interacting with her new friend is fun, not stressful.

If your dog’s body language is relaxed and friendly, have your friend walk her toward you and the baby, keeping the leash short but loose. If she wants to, let your dog sniff the baby as you continue to speak softly to her. Praise her warmly for gentle investigation.

Even if your dog seems curious and calm, you may feel a little nervous about letting her get close to the infant. That’s normal for new parents and perfectly reasonable. Initially, you might feel most comfortable allowing only brief interactions. Let your dog sniff the baby’s feet for a couple of seconds. Then gently interrupt her investigation by praising her and asking her to sit or lie down. Reward her for complying with a few small, tasty treats. (Your helper can hand them to you or deliver the rewards to your dog himself). If you like, repeat this sequence a few times. Then have your helper distract your dog with a new chew bone or a food puzzle toy.

Daily Life with the Baby


Teaching Your Dog to Love the Baby

As the baby settles in, continue to focus on associating him with good things for your dog. You may be tempted to give her plenty of attention when the baby’s asleep and then try to get her to lie down, be quiet and leave you alone while the baby’s awake. It’s actually much better to do the opposite. Try to give your dog lots of attention when the baby is present. Teach her that when he’s around, she gets treats, petting, playing—and anything else she likes. When you feed the baby, you can feed your dog, too. When you walk your dog, do your best to take the baby along. (Baby “backpacks” and slings are great for dog parents). This strategy, though it requires some skillful multitasking on your part, teaches your dog a valuable lesson. She’ll learn to love it when the baby is awake and active because that’s when good things happen for her.

Obviously, giving both the baby and your dog attention at the same time is easier if there are two adults in the home. But when that’s not possible, you can still accomplish a lot by holding your baby in your lap while you talk to your dog and stroke her, give her treats or toss a ball for her.

Also teach your dog that when your baby isn’t around, things get very boring. Your dog can be with you, but try to ignore her most of the time. This will make her eagerly anticipate the baby’s next active time and help her bond with him.

Out from Underfoot

It can be really hard to care for an infant if your dog insists on being underfoot. To make things easier and safer for everyone, you can teach her to move away when you ask.

  • Say a cue, like “Go away” or “Shoo!”
  • Show your dog a treat.
  • Toss the treat on the floor, a few feet away from you.
  • Repeat this sequence 10 times.
  • The next step is to refrain from tossing the treat until your dog starts to move away.
  • Say your cue.
  • Extend your arm and point, using the same motion that you did when tossing the treat.
  • The moment your dog moves in the direction of your gesture, say “Yes!” Then throw the treat past her.

Over your next few training sessions, gradually increase the number of steps your dog must take before you toss her a treat. Eventually, you can wait until she moves several feet away before you toss the treat. Once your dog has mastered this skill, you’ll be able to use it in other situations, too. When your baby starts to crawl, for example, you can use the cue to teach your dog to move away from him when she feels uncomfortable.

Quiet Time Together

Another great way to encourage your dog to stay out of the way while you’re tending to the baby is to teach her to settle down for some quiet time. Keep a dog bed or comfy mat in the room where you usually feed the baby. When it’s time to nurse or give him a bottle, provide something tasty for your dog, too. You can reward her for doing a nice down-stay on her bed, tossing a piece or two of kibble every few moments. Alternatively, you can give your dog an exciting new chew bone or food puzzle toy to work on while you care for the baby in the same room.

Polite Manners Around the Baby

As often as possible, reward your dog for behaving politely when she’s close to the baby. Encouraging calm, controlled behavior now will pay off in the weeks and months ahead—as your baby becomes more and more interesting and exciting to your dog. If someone in your family has time, consider taking your dog to a group obedience class or hiring a private trainer to show you how to teach the basics in your own home. A well-trained dog will make your first few days, weeks, months and even years with your child much easier!

What Was That?!

Baby sounds, especially those that are very loud, may upset and confuse your dog. Most dogs simply learn to ignore them, but some need extra help. If your dog seems distressed when the baby makes noise, associate the sounds with things your dog loves. If the baby squeals or cries, toss a tasty treat to your dog right afterward. After a little repetition, your dog will discover that baby sounds don’t signal anything bad. In fact, they predict the delivery of food!

Troubleshooting


If Your Dog Is a Little Nervous About the Baby


Sniff the Baby

Some dogs are nervous about babies or even a bit afraid of them and go out of their way to avoid contact. If your dog seems a little worried about the new member of your family, you can teach her how to touch the baby with her nose on cue. This exercise will give her a safe way to interact with him and get used to his scent, appearance and sounds—without being forced to stay close for more than a few seconds at a time.

To get started, you’ll need to first teach your dog to touch your hand with her nose. Once your dog will touch your hand on cue, you can transfer this behavior to the baby.

Put your hand on the baby, palm facing toward your dog. Say “Touch,” and then reward your dog for approaching and touching your hand.

After a few repetitions, change the rules a little. First, say “Touch.” Then, right as your dog moves forward to touch your hand with her nose, quickly move your palm a few inches so that your dog inadvertently touches the baby. The instant she does, say “Yes!” Then give her a few extra treats. Repeat this exercise until your dog clearly tries to touch the baby with her nose instead of your hand. (For some dogs, this might take just a few repetitions. Others may need a few training sessions before catching on).

At this point, start pointing to your baby instead of presenting your hand after you say your cue.

If your dog enjoys this activity, she might soon start taking the initiative to gently sniff or nose the baby on her own. If this happens, be sure to praise her enthusiastically and give her a treat. Praise may be enough to maintain your dog’s new friendly behavior, but it’s a good idea to keep periodically rewarding her with treats, too. Doing so will help her learn that being close to the baby isn’t scary—it earns her your happy attention and, sometimes, something delicious.

Handouts at the High Chair

Timid dogs often have a hard time when babies start to become more active, more vocal and mobile. Luckily, this period coincides with the time when babies start learning about gravity by throwing finger foods from the high chair onto the floor. Allowing your dog to help you clean up these tasty experiments may convince her that having a baby in the house is a very good thing!

What NOT to Do

Never force your dog to interact with your baby. Let her approach him on her own. When she seems nervous, speak softly to her and praise her for bravely investigating.

If Your Dog Responds Aggressively to the Baby

Dogs who show aggression toward a new baby in the home often do so because they have not been well socialized to children and find them foreign and frightening. Some dogs don’t fear babies, but they become aggressive when guarding their food, toys or chew bones. Babies and young children can’t understand that they should leave the dog’s things alone. They may also have difficulty recognizing a dog’s warning signs or find growling and barking amusing. A child’s failure to heed such warnings can have disastrous consequences. A small percentage of dogs seem to react to babies as though they’re squeaky toys, and this response can be extremely dangerous, too. All of these situations put children at great risk of receiving a bite.

What to Do

Get help. If your dog shows aggressive behavior around your baby in any situation—or if you think she might—keep her away from him at all times and immediately contact an animal behavior expert. Please see our article on Finding Professional Behavior Help to locate a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB or Associate CAAB), a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB) or a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) in your area. Make sure that the professional you hire is qualified to help you. It’s important that he or she has extensive experience in successfully treating aggression in dogs.

Should You Correct Your Dog for Aggressive Behavior?

Obviously, it’s important that your dog learn to inhibit her aggressive behavior toward your child. However, the best way to deal with an aggressive dog is not to verbally or physically punish her. Punishment can backfire because it teaches your dog that bad things happen when your child is present—which is yet another reason to dislike him. If your child becomes a signal for punishment, your dog may fear or resent him even more. In particular, it’s important to avoid punishing your dog for growling, snapping, showing teeth or otherwise giving aggressive warnings when she’s upset. If you are fortunate enough to have a dog who warns you before biting, never scold or otherwise punish her for this behavior. If you inhibit her warning system, it may disappear—and you may not have a way to know when your dog is feeling uncomfortable or aggressive. She may just suddenly bite! As long as your dog growls, you have the opportunity to remove your dog or your child from bad situations.

The most effective and humane way to resolve aggression problems is to focus on changing your dog’s motivations for behaving aggressively. If your dog is aggressive toward your baby, you can improve her behavior by teaching her to like being around him. Again, it’s crucial to seek professional guidance. A qualified behaviorist or trainer can come to your home, thoroughly evaluate your situation and walk you through a systematic, safe behavior modification plan.

Preparing Your Dog for Life with a Toddler

Many dogs who haven’t spent time around children find toddlers confusing and intimidating. Some find them downright scary! Read on to learn about what you can do to influence the developing relationship between your dog and your growing child.

Prepare in Advance

A wonderful thing about babies is that they start out not doing much at all and then become more active and mobile as they develop. These slow changes will help your dog get used to your newest family member gradually, setting both of them up for successful interactions. But before you know it, your baby will be a poking, grabbing, crawling machine! When your baby’s still young, start preparing your dog for a toddler’s touch, movements and unpredictable behavior.

Handling

As they explore the world, young children do a lot of grabbing, poking and pulling. You’ll eventually teach your child to treat your dog with gentleness and respect—but he won’t be able to grasp these concepts as a toddler. So before he starts crawling around, it’s important to help your dog get used to rough and even painful handling.

Poke the Pup

To prepare your dog for the way your baby will touch her, teach her that wonderful things happen when her various parts get poked and prodded. Use small, delicious treats, such as chicken, cheese or hot dog, to “pay” your dog for tolerating each and every slightly uncomfortable sensation.

If possible, dedicate a little time every day to practicing the following exercises. As you work with your dog, keep in mind that it’s important for your touch and her treat to happen in the correct order. The idea is to teach your dog that uncomfortable touching always predicts the delivery of goodies. That way, she’ll learn to look forward to it! So touch your dog first, and then give her a treat. These two events shouldn’t happen at the same time.

Poke your dog gently in the side or rump, and then immediately give her a treat. Repeat the poking five times in a row, four to eight times a day, until your dog feels a poke and looks up at you for her treat. When this happens, start gradually making the pokes a little more forceful.

Gently pull your dog’s ear, and then give her a treat. Repeat until your dog happily looks for her treat right after you pull her ear. Do the same exercise with your dog’s tail. Just as you’ll do when helping your dog get used to poking, do plenty of repetitions and gradually increase the pressure of your ear and tail pulling.

Pinch your dog, and then give her a treat. Repeat until your dog looks at you excitedly right after you pinch her. Start with very gentle pinches. Over two or three weeks of daily practice, work up to harder and harder pinches.

Gently tug on a handful of your dog’s fur, and then give her a treat. Repeat until your dog looks for her treat right after you tug on her fur. Then start to gradually increase the forcefulness of your tugs.

You can say something like “Oh, what was that?” in a cheerful voice each time you do something mildly annoying to your dog. Later, when your toddler touches her in an uncomfortable way, you can say the same thing to let your dog know that a tasty treat is coming.

If your dog starts to get jumpy when you reach for her, you’ve likely increased the intensity of your pokes and pulls too quickly. Go back to very gentle touching for a while. Only start to slowly increase intensity again when your dog seems relaxed and happy after you touch her. Make sure you also touch her in your usual gentle manner plenty of times throughout the day so she doesn’t decide that all touching is unpleasant.

Movement: Introduce “Baby Moves”

Some dogs have never seen a human crawl, so it can be an intimidating experience—especially because crawling puts a person right at their eye level. So it’s a good idea to help your dog get used to crawling before your baby starts to become mobile. Accomplishing this is easy! Crawl toward your dog. As soon as she lifts her head to look at you, pet her and give her treats. Eventually, she’ll start to anticipate fun and goodies when she sees you crawling in her direction. Everyone in the family should participate in this exercise. When your baby comes and your dog is completely comfortable with this new game, incorporate the baby into the picture, too. Have him sit on your back, supported by your partner, when you crawl. Continue to cuddle your dog and give her treats so that she continues to enjoy this strange, new human behavior! She should take it all in stride when the baby starts crawling on his own.

Resource Guarding Prevention

Babies and young children have no idea that dogs sometimes get upset when people get close to their food, chew bones or toys. Even if your dog has never behaved aggressively when someone approaches one of her favorite things, it’s a good idea to do some resource guarding prevention anyway.

Before your baby starts to crawl, start teaching your dog that when someone approaches her and a valued resource, wonderful things happen—and she gets to keep her stuff.

  • When your dog is eating her dinner, walk up to her and toss something far more delicious into her bowl, like a small piece of chicken, cheese or hot dog.
  • After a week or two of daily repetition during each meal, do the same thing, but reach into your dog’s bowl and place the tasty treat right on top of her kibble.
  • The following week, start reaching down to feed your dog the delicious morsel from your hand, right next to the bowl.
  • After another week, approach your dog, pat her on her back and then reach down to feed her the treat.
  • Next, approach and then reach down to touch the edge of your dog’s bowl with your empty hand. After withdrawing your hand, reach down again to give her the wonderful treat.
  • The next week, approach, reach into your dog’s bowl with your empty hand and touch her kibble with your fingers. Then feed her the treat.
  • Finally, approach, reach down and take away your dog’s bowl. Then feed her a treat, put an extra treat into her dish and give it back to her so she can finish her meal.

Continue to periodically do this exercise, sometimes just approaching to pat your dog while she eats, sometimes putting your hands into her dish and sometimes taking the dish away. Always give her a treat right afterwards.

Eventually, your dog will start to see you coming and happily back away from her bowl so that you can take it away and spruce it up with a fabulous goodie! At this point, ask other adults to practice with your dog as well. After she learns that anyone approaching her while she eats means that she’s going to get a reward, she’ll be much less likely to react aggressively if your unwitting child happens to approach her during a meal.

You can do similar exercises when your dog is chewing bones or playing with her toys. The more good experiences your dog has when people approach her and her favorite things, the better.

Teach Your Dog to Retreat

Many dogs don’t realize that they can move away from a baby when they feel tired or nervous about interacting. If they don’t know that retreating is an option, they sometimes resort to aggressive behavior, like growling, snapping or even biting. This is natural for dogs when communicating with each other—but it’s clearly undesirable if such behavior is directed toward your child.

When a dog growls or snaps at a baby, his parents wisely swoop in to the rescue. Although necessary, the removal of the baby is exactly what the dog wants, so it reinforces her aggressive behavior. To prevent this unfortunate cycle of events, teach your dog that she doesn’t have to defend herself—she can choose to move away instead. (Of course, until your dog has mastered the skills below, step in to remove your child whenever your dog starts to look nervous—before she feels the need to express her discomfort).

Walking Away Is an Option

If you’ve already taught your dog a “Go away” cue, you can use it to tell her how to escape from uncomfortable situations. If you see your baby crawling toward your dog or if you see your dog start to look anxious while interacting with him, say “Go away” in a calm, cheerful tone. Avoid sounding angry. Your dog hasn’t done anything wrong, and your disapproval will only intensify her anxiety. Then point in the direction you’d like your dog to go. When she moves a few feet away from your baby, toss her a treat. After some repetition, your dog will learn that when she’s uncomfortable, she doesn’t have to rely on aggression to relieve her distress. She can simply go somewhere else. Make sure, however, that moving away from the baby is physically possible for her.

  • Minimize the amount of furniture in rooms, so that your dog doesn’t get cornered behind sofas or underneath tables.
  • Pull furniture a couple of feet away from the walls to create convenient escape routes.
  • Teach your dog that it’s okay to jump over the sides or backs of chairs and sofas so that she won’t feel trapped on them if your baby reaches for her.
Designate Safe Zones and Teach Your Dog to Use Them


Choose Some Safe Zones

Note the layout of your home and designate or create ‘safe zones’ for your dog. These areas should be in the rooms where you spend most of your time. Comfy elevated spots usually make the best safe zones because your dog can easily hop up onto them to get out of your toddler’s reach. One option is to simply put a dog bed, small rug, mat or blanket on your sofa. Or, if you’re handy, build a sturdy shelf or platform for your dog to use instead. Provide good footing by gluing or stapling carpet to its surface.

Teach Your Dog to Go to the Safe Zones
  • When you’ve decided where your dog’s safe zones will be, help her learn to use them.
  • Standing right next to your dog’s designated safe zone, say a cue, like “Go to your spot.”
  • Show your dog a treat and then toss it onto the spot.
  • When your dog hops up onto the spot to get her treat, praise her as she eats it.
  • Clap your hands to encourage her to come down so that you can repeat the sequence again.
  • Repeat this sequence about 10 times. The next step is to teach your dog to go to the spot in response to your cue alone, without following a tossed treat.
  • Say your cue, “Go to your spot.”
  • Point to the spot, using the same motion that you did when tossing the treat. If your dog seems confused, try patting the spot as you encourage her to jump up.
  • The moment your dog hops up onto her spot, say “Yes!” Then immediately feed her a treat.
  • Clap your hands to prompt her to come down again.

Spend a few days practicing the steps above. (Aim for two or three 5- to 10-minute training sessions per day). When your dog readily jumps up onto her safe zone after you give her the cue, start to stand further away from it. At first, just stand a step away when you say “Go to your spot.” Then, during your next training session, try standing two steps away. Continue to slowly increase your distance from the safe zone, just a step or two at a time. After a week or two of practice, you’ll be able to stand all the way across the room and send your dog to her safe zone.

When you see your child crawling toward your dog, you can start using the “Go to your spot” cue if you see your dog become nervous about being close to him. Periodically reward her with a treat, chew bone or stuffed Kong toy to enjoy.

Teach Your Child to Respect Your Dog

As your child develops, teach him to respect your dog’s body, safe zones and belongings. Always supervise interactions so that you can guide your child as he learns to communicate and play with your dog appropriately. Playing an active role in the development of a relationship between your child and your dog will benefit everyone.

Show your child what gentle, enjoyable petting looks like. Teach him to stoke and scratch your dog in her favorite spots. Explain that hitting, kicking or pinching dogs, as well as riding, teasing and intentionally scaring them are NOT okay.

Teach your child to play structured games with your dog, like fetch, tug-of war and hide-and-seek. Training games, trick training and clicker training are also a lot of fun for both kids and dogs.

Enroll your dog in obedience classes with an instructor who welcomes children so that your child can learn to be with his dog in a gentle, effective way. When your child gives your dog cues, be sure to back him up. For instance, if your child says “Sit” and your dog complies, help your child praise her like crazy and hand him a treat to give her! If he says “Sit” and she hesitates, immediately repeat “Sit.” If you do this consistently, your dog will learn that every time your child requests a behavior, you will too—so she might as well respond to your child and earn a reward more quickly.

Teach Your Dog to Like Other Children

Your child will eventually want to have friends over to play, so it’s important for your dog to become comfortable with unfamiliar children.

If you have friends with kids, ask them to visit as often as possible. Make sure your dog has a wonderful time during these visits. If she already likes kids, ask young visitors to toss her favorite toy or tell her to sit or lie down to earn tasty treats. If you don’t have friends with children, take your dog on frequent outings in well-populated areas. When you encounter friendly children who would like to interact with your dog, take advantage of the situation. Coach them carefully to ensure good experiences. Always give them treats to feed or toss your dog. If your dog is great with your own child but nervous, fearful or aggressive around other children, seek assistance from a qualified professional as soon as possible. Don’t wait until your child matures and your dog’s behavior becomes a problem.

Troubleshooting


If Your Dog Is A Little Nervous About Your Toddler

Some dogs are nervous about toddlers or even a bit afraid of them and go out of their way to avoid contact. If your dog seems a little worried about your child, use the tools described above to prevent tense situations and focus on teaching her to associate him with things she loves. When it’s time to feed your toddler breakfast or dinner, feed your dog her meal as well. When you take your toddler out in the stroller for walks, bring your dog along. When you’re playing with your toddler, don’t isolate your dog elsewhere in the house. Find ways for her to participate in games, too.

Handouts at the High Chair

Timid dogs often have a hard time when babies start to become more active, more vocal and mobile. Luckily, this period coincides with the time when babies start learning about gravity by throwing finger foods from the high chair onto the floor. Allowing your dog to help you clean up these tasty experiments may convince her that having a baby in the house is a very good thing!

What NOT to Do

Never force your dog to interact with your toddler. Let her approach him on her own. When she seems nervous, speak softly to her and praise her for bravely investigating.

If You Have an Older, Disabled or Injured Dog

Dogs who are elderly, dogs who have chronic pain and dogs with sensory deficits, such as deafness or blindness, may have trouble adjusting to life with a child because of the unpredictability and chaos that children inevitably bring. If you know your dog may not react well to your child for these reasons, take steps now to prevent problems from arising.

Make sure that your dog is thoroughly evaluated by her veterinarian annually so that you’re aware of any medical conditions that might impact her behavior with your child.

Like other animals, dogs may become aggressive when touched if they’re hurt, confused or frightened. Always keep this in mind—even if you have a close bond with your dog and she has never shown aggression to you or other adults. Do not make the mistake of thinking that because your dog is good-natured and loves you that she’ll refrain from snapping or biting your child.

If she’s elderly or frail, you may need to keep your dog in a safe area when the baby starts crawling around. Although it will take some extra effort on your part, it’s better to vigilantly separate your dog and your child than to put the two of them in a risky situation.

A dog who reacts by snapping when touched, either because of chronic pain or advanced age, may not be good candidate for living safely with a young child. If you feel that you cannot successfully keep your dog separated from your child at all times or help control her pain with medication, it may be wise to consider re-homing her with a friend, family member or other adopter who has no children.

If Your Dog Responds Aggressively to Your Toddler

Dogs who show aggression toward a toddler in the home often do so because they have not been well socialized to children and find them foreign and frightening. Some dogs don’t fear toddlers, but they become aggressive when guarding their food, toys or chew bones. Young children can’t understand that they should leave the dog’s things alone. They may also have difficulty recognizing a dog’s warning signs or find growling and barking amusing. A child’s failure to heed such warnings can have disastrous consequences. A small percentage of dogs seem to react to young children as though they’re squeaky toys, and this response can be extremely dangerous, too. All of these situations put children at great risk of receiving a bite.

What to Do

Get help. If your dog shows aggressive behavior around your toddler—or if you think she might—keep her away from him and immediately contact an animal behavior expert.

Should You Correct Your Dog for Aggressive Behavior?

Obviously, it’s important that your dog learn to inhibit her aggressive behavior toward your child. However, the best way to deal with an aggressive dog is not to verbally or physically punish her. Punishment can backfire because it teaches your dog that bad things happen when your child is present—which is yet another reason to dislike him. If your child becomes a signal for punishment, your dog may fear or resent him even more. In particular, it’s important to avoid punishing your dog for growling, snapping, showing teeth or otherwise giving aggressive warnings when she’s upset. If you are fortunate enough to have a dog who warns you before biting, never scold or otherwise punish her for this behavior. If you inhibit her warning system, it may disappear—and you may not have a way to know when your dog is feeling uncomfortable or aggressive. She may just suddenly bite! As long as your dog growls, you have the opportunity to remove your dog or your child from bad situations.

The most effective and humane way to resolve aggression problems is to focus on changing your dog’s motivations for behaving aggressively. If your dog is aggressive toward your toddler, you can improve her behavior by teaching her to like being around him. Again, it’s crucial to seek professional guidance. A qualified behaviorist or trainer can come to your home, thoroughly evaluate your situation and walk you through a systematic, safe behavior modification plan.

Dog Nutrition Tips

A balanced diet is critically important to your dog’s cell maintenance and growth and overall health. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies, or instructions from your vet, your pet should be able to get all the nutrients he or she needs from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are specially formulated with these standards in mind.

But dogs of different ages have different nutritional requirements. So, how much—or how little—should you be feeding your four-legged friend? Read on to learn what your pet’s body needs at the various stages of life.

Nutrients Your Dog Needs

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. There are the six essential classes of nutrients dogs need for optimum healthy living.

Water

Essential to life, water accounts for between 60 to 70% of an adult pet’s body weight. While food may help meet some of your pet's water needs (dry food has up to 10% moisture, while canned food has up to 78% moisture), pets must have fresh clean water available to them at all times. A deficiency of water may have serious repercussions for pets. A 10% decrease in body water can cause serious illness, while a 15% loss can result in death.

Proteins

Proteins are the basic building blocks for cells, tissues, organs, enzymes, hormones and antibodies, and are essential for growth, maintenance, reproduction and repair. Proteins can be obtained from a number of sources including animal-based meats such as chicken, lamb, turkey, beef, fish and eggs (which have complete amino acid profiles) and in vegetables, cereals and soy (but these are considered incomplete proteins).

Please note: Do not give your pet raw eggs. Raw egg white contains avidin, an anti-vitamin that interferes with the metabolism of fats, glucose, amino acids and energy.

Fats

Fats are the most concentrated form of food energy, providing your pet with more than twice the energy of proteins or carbohydrates. Fats are essential in the structure of cells, needed for the production of some hormones, and are required for absorption and utilization of certain vitamins. Fats also provide insulation and protection for internal organs. A deficiency of essential fatty acids (such as linoleic acid) may result in reduced growth or increased skin problems.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide energy, play a vital role in the health of the intestine, and are important for reproduction. While there is no minimum carbohydrate requirement, there is a minimum glucose requirement necessary to supply energy to critical organs such as the brain.

Fibers are kinds of carbohydrates that alter the bacterial population in the small intestine, which can help manage chronic diarrhea in dogs. For dogs to obtain the most benefit from fiber, the fiber source must be moderately fermentable. Moderately fermentable fibers—including beet pulp, which is commonly used in dog foods—are best to promote a healthy gut while avoiding the undesirable side effects of highly fermentable fibers, like flatulence and excess mucus.

Other examples of moderately fermentable fibers include brans (corn, rice and wheat) and wheat middlings. Foods that are high in fiber are not good for dogs with high energy requirements, and who are young and growing.

Vitamins

Tiny amounts of vitamins are necessary in dogs for normal metabolic functioning. Most vitamins cannot be synthesized in the body, and therefore are essential to obtain in the diet.

Please note that when feeding your dog a complete and balanced diet, it is unnecessary to give a vitamin supplement unless a specific vitamin deficiency is diagnosed by a veterinarian. Due to over supplementation, poisoning due to excess vitamins (hypervitaminosis) is more common these days than vitamin deficiency (hypovitaminosis). Excess vitamin A may result in bone and joint pain, brittle bones and dry skin. Excess vitamin D may result in very dense bones, soft tissue calcification and kidney failure.

Minerals

Minerals are nutrients that cannot be synthesized by animals and must be provided in the diet. In general, minerals are most important as structural constituents of bones and teeth, for maintaining fluid balance and for their involvement in many metabolic reactions.

Weaning and Feeding Your Puppy

If you’re responsible caring for puppies in the first few months of their lives, you’ll need to be prepared to move them from a diet of mom’s milk to regular puppy food. This process of gradually reducing a puppy’s dependency on his mother’s milk, known as weaning, should generally begin between three and four weeks of age and is ideally completely by the time the puppy is seven to eight weeks.

When to Wean a Litter of Puppies

Puppies receive complete nutrition from their mother’s milk for the first four weeks of life, so there is no need to feed them anything during that time. However, in the event that the mother dog is ill or doesn’t produce enough milk during these four weeks—or if the pups are found as orphans—it may be necessary to feed them commercial milk replacer. If you find yourself in this situation, contact your veterinarian for product and feeding recommendations.

After that time, it’s best to let weaning be a gradual process that occurs over several weeks. This allows the mother dog to slowly dry up her milk supply and puppies need time to learn important behaviors from their mother and littermates, including how to interpret signs of dominance, inhibit their own biting habits and submit to more dominant dogs. Puppies generally begin eating puppy food around three to four weeks of age.

How to Wean a Litter of Puppies

Start by separating the mother from her litter for a few hours at a time. This time apart will reduce the pups’ dependency on their mother’s milk and overall presence. While separated, introduce the puppies to eating from a pan. The amount of food, the frequency and length of separation can gradually be increased. As the puppies become independent and self-confident, they can spend more and more time away from their mother until they are completely weaned.

Take your time. It can be frustrating if puppies don’t immediately take to the transition, but be patient—periodic setbacks are normal!

Caring for the Mother During the Weaning Process

To prevent the mother from overproducing milk—which can lead to painful, engorged mammary glands—it is important to follow a feeding and separation schedule both for her and the puppies. This should be discussed with your veterinarian to ensure that the puppies are receiving adequate nutrition, and that the mother’s food intake is being adjusted properly when she is no longer nursing her litter.

Feeding Your Puppy During the Weaning Process

While weaning, it’s a good idea to feed puppies the same high-quality puppy food they’ll eat throughout their entire growth period. Be sure to moisten the food with warm water (or puppy milk replacer) to create a soupy mix that’s appealing to their sensitive palates.

Puppies often play with their food when it is first introduced, but they will quickly learn what to do with it! Start with small quantities, and gradually increase the amount of puppy food. By the time the pups are completely weaned at seven to eight weeks old, they should be eating their dry food consistently.

How Much Dry Food to Feed Your Puppy

Puppies require up to twice the energy intake of adult dogs and, depending on the breed, will need to be fed a food that contains 25 to 30% protein. Remember, the adult size of a dog is determined genetically—not by how fast the animal grows. Do not overfeed in an attempt to accelerate a puppy’s growth rate.

If they are allowed to overeat, puppies can consume too many calories, grow too rapidly and develop health problems. Small breeds often reach their adult body weight in nine to twelve months. As puppies, its okay to leave dry food out for small them to peck as they wish. But most medium-breed puppies and all large- or giant-breed pups can suffer from bone or joint problems if they eat too much during this stage and benefit most from controlled feeding.

Feeding Your Adult Dog

Adult dogs require sufficient nutrients to meet energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels may vary dramatically between pets, and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.

How Much to Feed Your Dog

The amount you feed your adult dog should be based on his or her size and energy output. For example, an animal with a normal activity level should receive what we call “maintenance” energy. A pampered lap dog may require just 10% of that, while an active pet who exercises regularly outdoors may require maintenance plus 20 to 40%.

You may need to adjust portions as you learn your dog’s ideal “maintenance” amount. Pet owners should always consult with their dog’s veterinarian to determine the best feeding schedule and types of foods for their pets.

Outside factors, like the temperature, can contribute to how much your dog should eat. Since keeping warm and cool require extra energy expenditure, extreme hot or cold weather can also increase a dog’s energy needs. Talk to your pet’s veterinarian about what to do when the mercury dips or soars.

Feeding Working Canines

A dog’s energy needs will increase with his or her work and stress level, and the dietary needs of working canines—such as police dogs, guide dogs and cattle dogs—will depend on their occupations. A dog with a moderate work load may require an energy increase of 40% compared to maintenance, whereas a dog with a high work load may require an extra 50 to 70%.

Feeding Your Dog as He Recovers from Surgery

An animal recovering from surgery or suffering from a disease may have an increased nutritional requirement for repair, healing and fighting infection. Be sure to check with your veterinarian on your pet’s post-opt nutritional needs.

Limiting Treats

Treats should be given in moderation and represent five percent or less of the dog’s daily food intake. The rest should come from a nutritionally compete dog food. When using treats as motivation, such as during training exercises, use the smallest pieces you can.

Setting a Feeding Schedule

We recommend all dogs be fed twice daily. Simply divide the amount of food your pet requires into two meals, spaced eight to twelve hours apart. Dogs may be fed in a number of ways that meet both the owner’s and the animal’s needs. These methods include portion-control, free-choice and timed feeding.

  • Portion-control feeding refers to controlling the amount of food that your pet consumes by measuring your pet’s food and providing it in one or meals daily. This method is often used for weight control programs and for animals that might overeat if fed free-choice.
  • Free-choice feeding allows food to be available to your pet at all times, as much as your pet wants, and whenever he or she wants it. This method is best when feeding dry food, which will not spoil when left out. Most nursing mothers are often free-choice fed, but some dogs will overeat when fed in this manner, resulting in obesity.
  • Timed feeding involves making a portion of food available for your pet to eat for a specific period of time. For example, food can be placed in the dog’s bowl for 30 minutes. After that time, if the pet has not consumed the food, it is removed.
Feeding Your Senior Dog

Dogs begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to 12 years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes, too. Some of these may be unavoidable while others can be managed with diet. When feeding your older dog, the main objective should be to maintain health and optimum body weight, slow development of chronic disease and minimize diseases that may already be present.

Your Pet’s Size Will Determine When to Begin a Senior Diet

As your dog ages, health issues may arise including deterioration of skin and coat, loss of muscle mass, more frequent intestinal problems, arthritis, obesity, dental problems and decreased ability to fight off infection. Since smaller dogs live longer and don't experience these age-related changes as early as bigger dogs, size is used to determine when it’s time to feed your canine a senior diet.

A good guideline to follow is:

  • Small breeds and dogs weighing less than 20 pounds—7 years of age
  • Medium breeds and dogs weighing 21 to 50 pounds—7 years of age
  • Large breeds and dogs weighing 51 to 90 pounds—6 years of age
  • Giant breeds and dogs weighing 91 pounds or more—5 years of age
Avoid "Senior" Diets That Have Reduced Levels of Protein

Studies have shown that the protein requirement for older dogs does not decrease with age, and that protein levels do not contribute to the development or progression of renal (kidney) failure. It is important to feed older dogs diets that contain optimum levels of highly digestible protein to help maintain good muscle mass.

Older dogs have been shown to progressively put on body fat in spite of consuming fewer calories. This change in body composition is inevitable and may be aggravated by either reduced energy expenditure or a change in metabolic rate. Either way, it is important to feed a diet with a lower caloric density to avoid weight gain, but with a normal protein level to help maintain muscle mass.

Talk To Your Veterinarian About Increasing Your Senior Dog’s GLA And FOS Intake

Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) is an omega-6 fatty acid that plays a role in the maintenance of healthy skin and coat. Although it is normally produced in a dog's liver, GLA levels may be diminished in older dogs.

Aging can affect a dog’s intestinal bacteria, which can result in symptoms of gastrointestinal disease. Senior diets for dogs should contain FOS (fructooligosaccharides) to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Look For Foods with High Levels of Vitamin E and Beta-Carotene

Antioxidants such as vitamin E and beta-carotene help eliminate free radical particles that can damage body tissues and cause signs of aging. Senior diets for dogs should contain higher levels of these antioxidant compounds. Antioxidants can also increase the effectiveness of the immune system in senior dogs.

Maintain Consistency

Routine care for geriatric pets should involve a consistent daily routine and periodic veterinary examinations to assess the presence or progress of chronic disease. Stressful situations and abrupt changes in daily routines should be avoided. If a drastic change must be made to an older pet's routine, try to minimize stress by introducing the change in a gradual manner.

Overweight Dogs

One of the most common pitfalls dog parents should watch out for is overfeeding. Attempts to shower our dogs with love by means of big meals and lots of tasty treats are sweet, but misguided. In dogs, as with humans, extra weight can lead to health problems. Be sure to indulge your four-legged friend with affection, not food!

Causes of Obesity in Dogs

Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, it can be detrimental to the health of a dog. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.

Obesity develops when energy intake exceeds energy requirements. This excess energy is then stored as fat. The majority of cases of obesity are related to simple overfeeding coupled with lack of exercise. Certain groups of dogs appear to be more prone to obesity than others. Specific breeds, such as Labrador retrievers and pugs, and older dogs are particularly susceptible.

How to Tell if Your Pet is Overweight

There are a few ways easy ways to identify whether your pet has put on the pounds. You should be able to feel the backbone and touch the rubs in an animal of healthy weight. If you cannot feel your pet’s ribs without pressing, there is too much fat.

Also, you should see a noticeable waist between the back of the rib cage and the hips when looking at your pet from above. When viewed from the side, there should be a “tuck” in the tummy, meaning the abdomen should go up from the bottom of the rib cage to inside the thighs. Dogs who fail these simple tests may be overweight.

How to Help Manage Your Dog’s Weight

We have a few tips that can help your pet shed the extra padding. Please note, if your pup has put on weight, we recommend that you consult your pet’s vet before starting on a weight loss program.

  • Correct your pet’s diet. Overweight animals consume more calories than they require. Work with your veterinarian to select a more suitable food and determine your pet’s caloric requirements. The diet should contain a normal level of a moderately fermentable fiber and fat to prevent the skin and coat from suffering during weight loss.
  • Increase regular exercise. Increasing physical activity can be valuable to both weight loss and weight maintenance. Regular exercise burns more calories, reduces appetite, changes body composition and will increase your pet’s resting metabolic rate.
  • Modify your behavior. A successful weight management program means making changes in your behaviors that have contributed to your pet’s weight. For example, you may be giving your pet too many treats or not giving her enough opportunities to exercise.
  • Here are some ways you can commit to your pet’s weight loss:
    • Remove your pet from the room when the family eats
    • Feed your pet several small meals throughout the day
    • Reduce snacks and treats, and feed all meals and treats in your pet’s bowl only
    • Provide non-food related attention with lots of affection

Common Dog Diseases

As a dog parent, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of common illnesses so you can seek veterinary help for your canine friend as soon as possible. Read on for information about diseases and other medical inflictions that frequently impact dogs.

Cancer

Finding out that a loved one has cancer can be very scary and confusing. When that loved one is your dog, it’s important to keep in mind that different veterinarians might have different views on the best way to treat the disease. It’s always a good idea to seek out a second opinion, perhaps from a veterinary oncologist, and carefully review your options.

Cancer is a class of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably, invade surrounding tissue and may spread to other areas of the body. As with people, dogs can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can be localized (confined to one area, like a tumor) or generalized (spread throughout the body).

Causes of Cancer

Cancer is a “multifactorial” disease, which means it has no known single cause. However, we do know that both hereditary and environmental factors can contribute to the development of cancer in dogs.

Cancer Symptoms

Symptoms of cancer in dogs may include:

  • Lumps (which are not always malignant, but should always be examined by a vet)
  • Swelling
  • Persistent sores
  • Abnormal discharge from any part of the body
  • Bad breath
  • Listlessness/lethargy
  • Rapid, often unexplained weight loss
  • Sudden lameness
  • Black, tarry stools (a symptom of ulcers, which can be caused by mast cell tumors)
  • Decreased or loss of appetite
Diagnosing Cancer in Dogs
  • If a lump is present, the first step is typically a needle biopsy, which removes a very small tissue sample for microscopic examination of cells. Alternately, surgery may be performed to remove all or part of the lump for diagnosis by a pathologist.
  • Radiographs (xrays), ultrasound, blood evaluation and other diagnostic tests may also be helpful in determining if cancer is present or if it has spread.
Dogs More Prone to Cancer
  • Though cancer can be diagnosed in dogs of all ages and breeds, it is much more common in older dogs.
  • Certain breeds are prone to specific cancers. Boxers, Boston terriers and Golden Retrievers are among the breeds that most commonly develop mast cell tumors or lymphoma, while large and giant breeds like Great Danes and Saint Bernards are much more likely to suffer from bone cancer than smaller breeds.

It is important to be familiar with the diseases to which your dog might have a breed disposition.

Cancer Prevention
  • Having your dog altered at a young age can dramatically reduce their chance of getting certain types of cancer.
  • Breast cancer can be avoided almost completely by having your dog spayed before her first heat cycle, while a neutered male dog has zero chance of developing testicular cancer.
Cancer Treatments
  • Treatment options vary and depend on the type and stage of cancer.
  • Common treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy or a combination of therapies. Success of treatment depends on the type and extent of the cancer and the aggressiveness of the therapy. Of course, early detection is best.
  • Some dog owners opt for no treatment of the cancer, in which case palliative end of life care, including pain relief, should be considered. Regardless of how you proceed after a diagnosis of cancer in your pet, it is very important to consider his quality of life when making future decisions.
  • Some cancers can be cured, while others cannot. Please note that if your dog’s cancer is not curable, there are still many things you can do to make your pet feel better. Don’t hesitate to talk to your vet about your options. And remember good nutrition and loving care can greatly enhance your dog’s quality of life.
Knowing When to Consult Your Vet

Contact your veterinarian immediately if your dog shows any of the clinical signs mentioned on the list above. Should your dog receive a diagnosis of cancer, you may wish to consult a veterinary oncologist, often employed by specialty veterinary practices and teaching hospitals.

Diabetes

Diabetes in dogs is a complex disease caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. After a dog eats, his digestive system breaks food into various components, including glucose—which is carried into his cells by insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas. When a dog does not produce insulin or cannot utilize it normally, his blood sugar levels elevate. The result is hyperglycemia, which, if left untreated, can cause many complicated health problems for a dog.

It is important to understand that diabetes is considered a manageable disorder—and many diabetic dogs can lead happy, healthy lives.

Diabetes can be classified as:

  • Type I (lack of insulin production)
  • Type II (impaired insulin production along with an inadequate response to the hormone).

The most common form of the disease in dogs is Type I, insulin-dependent diabetes, which occurs when the pancreas is incapable of producing or secreting adequate levels of insulin. Dogs who have Type I diabetes require insulin therapy to survive.

Diabetes Symptoms in Dogs

The following are signs that your dog may be diabetic:

  • Change in appetite
  • Excessive thirst/increase in water consumption
  • Weight loss
  • Increased urination
  • Unusually sweet-smelling or fruity breath
  • Lethargy
  • Dehydration
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Vomiting
  • Cataract formation, blindness
  • Chronic skin infections
Causes of Diabetes

The exact cause of diabetes is unknown. Autoimmune disease, genetics, obesity, chronic pancreatitis, certain medications and abnormal protein deposits in the pancreas can play a major role in the development of the disease.

Dogs More Prone to Diabetes
  • It is thought that obese dogs and female dogs may run a greater risk of developing diabetes later in life (6-9 years of age)
  • Some breeds may also have a greater risk, include Australian Terriers, Standard and Miniature Schnauzers, Dachshunds, Poodles, Keeshonds and Samoyeds
  • Juvenile diabetes can also be seen and is particularly prevalent in golden retrievers and keeshonds
Diagnosing Diabetes

To properly diagnose diabetes, your veterinarian will collect information about clinical signs, perform a physical examination and check blood work and urinalysis.

Treating Diabetes
  • Every diabetic dog is an individual and will respond differently to therapy. Diabetes treatment is based on how severe the signs of disease are and whether there are any other health issues that could complicate therapy.
  • Some dogs are seriously ill when first diagnosed and require intensive hospitalized care for several days to regulate their blood sugar levels.
  • Dogs who are more stable when first diagnosed may respond to oral medication or a high-fiber diet that helps to normalize glucose levels in the blood
  • For most dogs, insulin injections are necessary for adequate regulation of blood glucose. Once your pet’s individual insulin treatment is established, typically based on weight, you will be shown how to give him his insulin injections at home.
  • Spaying your dog is recommended, as female sex hormones can have an effect on blood sugar levels.

As your veterinarian will explain, it’s important to always give your dog insulin at the same time every day and feed him regular meals in conjunction with his medication; this allows increased nutrients in the blood to coincide with peak insulin levels. This will lessen the chance that her sugar levels will swing either too high or too low. You can work with your vet to create a feeding schedule around your pet’s medication time. It is also important to avoid feeding your diabetic dog treats that are high in glucose. Regular blood glucose checks are a critical part of monitoring and treating any diabetic patient, and your veterinarian will help you set up a schedule for checking your dog’s blood sugar.

Diabetes Prevention

Although a certain form of diabetes—the type found in dogs less than a year of age—is inherited, proper diet and regular exercise can go a long way to avoid the development of diabetes. Aside from other negative effects, obesity is known to contribute to insulin resistance.

If You Suspect Your Dog Has Diabetes

If your dog is showing any abnormal clinical signs as listed above, make an appointment to see your veterinarian immediately. If a diabetic dog is not treated, he can develop secondary health problems like cataracts and severe urinary tract problems. Ultimately, untreated diabetes can cause coma and death.

Heartworm

Heartworm is a parasitic worm that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an infected animal. The worms travel through the bloodstream—harming arteries and vital organs as they go—ultimately completing their journey to the vessels of the lung and the heart chamber about six months after the initial infection. Several hundred worms can live in one dog for five to seven years.

Heartworm disease is serious and can be fatal.

Heartworm Symptoms

Symptoms of heartworm can include:

  • Labored breathing
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss, listlessness and fatigue after only moderate exercise
  • Some dogs exhibit no symptoms at all until late stages of infection
Heartworm Causes
  • Heartworms are transmitted from animal to animal by mosquitoes.
  • An animal must carry at least two heartworms (a male and a female) in order for female heartworms to reproduce.
  • Females produce babies called “microfilaria,” which are shed into an animal’s bloodstream but are not capable of directly causing heartworm without first passing through a mosquito.
  • Microfilariae must be taken up by biting mosquitoes, and transform into infective larvae over a two-week period inside the insect.
  • When a mosquito next bites a susceptible animal, the infective larvae enter the tissues and begin a migration into the blood vessels.
  • Heartworms enter an animal’s bloodstream as tiny, invisible larvae, but can reach lengths of more than twelve inches at maturity.
Diagnosing Heartworm
  • Heartworm disease is diagnosed by examination, radiographs or ultrasound, and a veterinarian-administered blood test.
  • All dogs should be routinely screened with a blood test for heartworm either annually in spring or before being placed on a new prescription for a heartworm preventative.
Dogs More Prone to Heartworm
  • Heartworm infestation can happen to any dog, but since mosquitoes are their carriers, dogs who live in hot, humid regions are at greatest risk.
  • The disease has been seen in every state except Alaska, but is most common in or on the East Coast, southern United States and Mississippi River Valley.
Preventing Heartworm
  • Heartworm is easily preventable with an inexpensive, chewable pill or topical medication available as a vet’s prescription. The pills or topical are usually administered monthly and can be given to dogs under 6 months of age without a blood test. Older animals must be screened for the disease prior to starting medication.
  • The American Heartworm Society recommends keeping your dog on the medication all year long. Not only does this avoid errors, but many of the products also prevent other intestinal parasites.
Heartworm Treatment

After diagnosis, a thorough examination of the infected dog should be conducted to evaluate the best course of treatment and the potential risks involved.

  • The most common course of treatment is a series of injections of drugs called adulticides into the dogs’ muscle. This cure has a high success rate and usually requires hospitalization.
  • All treatment protocols require several weeks of exercise restriction after treatment and are not without risk. Disease prevention is a much better and safer option.
  • After treatment, your dog should be placed on a preventative medication to reduce the risk of infection.
When to Consult Your Veterinarian

If you notice that your dog’s energy has decreased, he seems ill, or he’s exhibiting any of the general symptoms described above, please contact your veterinary immediately.

Kennel Cough

Kennel cough is a term loosely used to describe a complex of respiratory infections—both viral and bacterial—that causes inflammation of a dog’s voice box and windpipe. It’s a form of bronchitis and is similar to a chest cold in humans.

Though it usually clears up on its own, kennel cough is highly contagious to other dogs.

Symptoms of Kennel Cough
  • A persistent dry cough with a “honking” sound.
  • Gagging
  • Coughing up white foamy phlegm
  • Fever
  • Nasal discharge

In most cases, she’ll appear healthy except for the cough.

Causes of Kennel Cough

Dogs can catch kennel cough in several ways:

  • Kennel cough can spread through aerosols in the air, directly from dog to dog, or through germs on contaminated objects.
  • Kennel cough is often spread in enclosed areas with poor air circulation, like a kennel or an animal shelter.
  • Kennel cough can also spread through direct contact like shared water dishes or even greeting another dog.

Most kennels will not board a pet without proof of a recent vaccination against parainfluenza and Bordetella, two of the main causes of kennel cough.

Dogs More Prone to Kennel Cough
  • Dogs who have frequent contact with other dogs, especially in enclosed or poorly-ventilated areas, are most prone to becoming infected.
  • Young and unvaccinated dogs are also at higher risk.
Kennel Cough Prevention
  • The best way to prevent kennel cough is to prevent exposure.
  • Vaccinations are also available for several of the agents known to be involved in kennel cough, including parainfluenza, Bordetella and adenovirus-2.
  • Ask your vet if these are recommended, and how often.
  • Vaccinations aren’t useful if a dog has already caught the virus.
Kennel Cough Treatment

See your veterinarian if your dog develops a cough. In some cases, you may be advised to simply let kennel cough run its course and heed the following:

  • Dogs with kennel cough should be isolated from other dogs.
  • A humidifier, vaporizer or steam from a shower can provide relief for irritated breathing passages.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to cigarette smoke or other noxious, irritating fumes.
  • A cough suppressant or antimicrobial may be prescribed.
  • If your dog pulls against her collar while being walked, replace it with a harness until the coughing subsides.
  • Supportive care is very important—be sure your dog is eating, drinking and in a stress-free environment.
Kennel Cough Recovery
  • In most cases, the signs of kennel cough gradually decrease and disappear after three weeks.
  • Young puppies, elderly dogs and other immunocompromised animals may take up to six weeks or more to recover.
  • Animals may remain infectious for long periods of time even after the symptoms have cleared up.
When to Consult Your Veterinarian
  • If you suspect your dog has kennel cough, immediately isolate her from all other dogs and call your veterinarian.
  • After a dog has been diagnosed, you should see some improvement in your dog’s condition within one week of treatment, but be alert to how long the symptoms last.
  • If your dog has nasal discharge, is breathing rapidly, refuses to eat or seems lethargic, take her back to the veterinarian right away.
  • Serious cases of kennel cough can lead to pneumonia if left untreated.
Parvovirus

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral disease that can produce life-threatening illness.

The virus attacks rapidly-dividing cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. Parvovirus also attacks the white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.

Parvovirus Symptoms

The general symptoms of parvovirus are:

  • Lethargy
  • Severe vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration
Parvovirus Causes
  • Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be transmitted to any person, animal or object that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces.
  • The virus can live in the environment for months, and may survive on inanimate objects such as food bowls, shoes, clothes, carpet and floors.
  • Unvaccinated dogs can contract parvovirus from the streets, especially in urban areas where there are many dogs.
Dogs More Prone to Parvovirus
  • Puppies, adolescent dogs and canines who are not vaccinated are most susceptible to the virus.
  • Breeds at higher risk are Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, American Staffordshire terriers and German shepherds.
Parvovirus Prevention
  • Make sure your dog is up-to-date on his vaccinations. Parvovirus should be considered a core vaccine for all puppies and adult dogs.
  • Generally, the first vaccine is given at 6-8 weeks of age and a booster is given at four-week intervals until the puppy is 16-20 weeks of age, and then again at one year of age.
  • Older dogs who have not received full puppy vaccination series may be susceptible to parvovirus and should also receive at least one immunization.

Because parvovirus can live in an environment for months, take extra care if there has been an infected dog in your house or yard. Parvo is resistant to many typical disinfectants and can be difficult to eradicate.

  • A solution of one part bleach to 32 parts water can be used where organic material is not present.
  • Clean and disinfect the infected dog’s toys, food dish and water bowl in this solution for 10 minutes. If these objects are not able to be disinfected, they should be discarded.
  • You can also use the solution on the soles of your shoes if you think you’ve walked through an infected area.
  • Areas that are harder to clean (grassy areas, carpeting and wood, for example) need to be sprayed with disinfectant or even resurfaced.
Parvovirus Treatment
  • There are currently no drugs available that can kill the virus. Treatment consists of aggressive supportive care to control the symptoms and boost your dog’s immune system.
  • Dogs infected with parvovirus need intensive treatment in a veterinary hospital, where they will receive antibiotics to control secondary infections, drugs to control the vomiting, intravenous fluids to treat dehydration and other supportive therapies.
  • The average hospital stay is about 5-7 days.
  • Treatment is not always successful, so it is important to make sure your dog is vaccinated.
Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that may affect the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii. There’s good reason that the very word “rabies” evokes fear in people—once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100% fatal.

Ringworm

Although the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all—but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. This highly contagious disease can lead to patchy areas of hair loss on a dog and can spread to other animals—and to humans, too.

Common Dog Behavior Issues

If you're looking for help treating your dog’s behavior issue, or just curious about why your dog does what he does, you've come to the right place. If you are looking for professional training and quality customer service in the Onondaga/Syracuse area, check out our friends over at

Aggression

Aggression is the most common and most serious behavior problem in dogs. It’s also the number-one reason why pet parents seek professional help from behaviorists, trainers and veterinarians. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to identify and managing Aggression

Barking

Barking is one of many forms of vocal communication for dogs. People are often pleased that their dog barks, because it alerts them to the approach of people to their home or it tells them there’s something that the dog wants or needs. However, sometimes a dog’s barking can be excessive. Because barking serves a variety of functions, you must identify its cause and your dog’s motivation for barking before you can treat a barking problem Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Barking

Destructive Chewing

It’s normal for puppies and dogs to chew on objects as they explore the world. Chewing accomplishes a number of things for a dog. For young dogs, it’s a way to relieve pain that might be caused by incoming teeth. For older dogs, it’s nature’s way of keeping jaws strong and teeth clean. Chewing also combats boredom and can relieve mild anxiety or frustration. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Destructive Chewing

Food Guarding

Guarding possessions from humans or other animals is normal behavior for dogs. Wild animals who successfully protect their valuable resources—such as food, mates and living areas—are more likely to survive in the wild than those who don’t. However, we find the tendency to guard valued items undesirable in our domestic pets, especially when the behavior is directed toward people. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Food Guarding

Howling

Howling is one of many forms of vocal communication used by dogs. Dogs howl to attract attention, to make contact with others and to announce their presence. Some dogs also howl in response to high-pitched sounds, such as emergency vehicle sirens or musical instruments. Read on to learn what to do if your dog howls excessively. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Howling

Mounting and Masturbation

Mounting, thrusting (humping) and masturbation are normal behaviors exhibited by most dogs. Dogs masturbate in various ways. They mount and thrust against other animals, people and objects, such as wadded-up blankets, dog beds and toys. Sometimes, dogs just rub against people or objects (without mounting them), or they lick themselves. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Mounting and Masturbation

Mouthing, Nipping and Play Biting in Adult Dogs

Most pet parents don’t enjoy dogs who bite, chew and mouth their hands, limbs or clothing during play and interaction. The jaws of an adult dog can cause significantly more pain than puppy teeth, and adult dogs can inadvertently cause injury while mouthing. Mouthing is often more difficult to suppress in adult dogs because adults aren’t as sensitive to our reactions as puppies are, and they’re usually more difficult to control physically because of their size. Adult dogs who mouth people probably never learned not to do so during puppyhood. It’s likely that their human parents didn’t teach them how to be gentle or to chew toys instead. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Mouthing, Nipping and Play Biting in Adult Dogs

Separation Anxiety

One of the most common complaints of pet parents is that their dogs are disruptive or destructive when left alone. Their dogs might urinate, defecate, bark, howl, chew, dig or try to escape. Although these problems often indicate that a dog needs to be taught polite house manners, they can also be symptoms of distress. When a dog’s problems are accompanied by other distress behaviors, such as drooling and showing anxiety when his pet parents prepare to leave the house, they aren’t evidence that the dog isn’t house trained or doesn’t know which toys are his to chew. Instead, they are indications that the dog has separation anxiety. Separation anxiety is triggered when dogs become upset because of separation from their guardians, the people they’re attached to. Escape attempts by dogs with separation anxiety are often extreme and can result in self-injury and household destruction, especially around exit points like windows and doors. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Separation Anxiety

Whining

Whining is one of many forms of canine vocal communication. Dogs most commonly whine when they’re seeking attention, when they’re excited, when they’re anxious or when they’re trying to appease you. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Whining

Dog Bite Prevention

Increasing Safety, Reducing Risks

To reduce the number of injuries from dog bites, adults and children should be educated about bite prevention, and dog owners should practice responsible dog ownership.

Understanding dog body language is a key way to help avoid being bitten. Know the signs that dogs give to indicate that they’re feeling anxious, afraid, threatened or aggressive.

  • An aggressive dog may try to make herself look bigger. Her ears may be up and forward, the fur on her back and tail may stand on end or puff out, and her tail may be straight up—it may even wag. She may have a stiff, straight-legged stance and be moving toward or staring directly at what she thinks is an approaching threat. She may also bare her teeth, growl, lunge or bark. Continued approach toward a dog showing this body language could result in a bite.
  • An anxious or scared dog may try to make herself look smaller. She may shrink to the ground in a crouch, lower her head, repeatedly lick her lips, put her tail between her legs, flatten her ears back and yawn. She may look away to avoid direct eye contact. She may stay very still or roll on her back and expose her stomach. Alternatively, she may try to turn away or slowly move away from what she thinks is an approaching threat. If she can’t retreat, she may feel she has no other alternative but to defensively growl, snarl or even bite.
  • Many dogs can show a mixture of these body postures, indicating that they feel conflicted. Remember to avoid any dog showing any of signs of fear, aggression or anxiety—no matter what else the dog is doing. It’s important to realize that a wagging tail or a crouching body doesn’t always mean friendliness.
Safety Tips for Children

Be aware of the fact that any dog can bite. From the smallest to the largest, even the most friendly, cute and easygoing dogs might bite if provoked. The vast majority of dog bites are from a dog known to the person—his or her own pet, a neighbor's or a friend's. You can help protect your child from dog bites by discussing with him the appropriate way to behave around dogs. We offer the following tips:

  • Children should not approach, touch or play with any dog who is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies. Animals are more likely to bite if they’re startled, frightened or caring for young.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet unfamiliar dogs without asking permission from the dog’s guardian first. If the guardian says it is okay, the child should first let the dog sniff his closed hand. Then taking care to avoid petting the dog on the top of the head, he can pet the dog’s shoulders or chest.
  • Children should not try to pet dogs who are behind a fence or in a car. Dogs often protect their home or space.
  • If a child sees a dog off-leash outside, he should not approach the dog and should tell an adult immediately.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, he should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand very still, like a tree, until the animal moves away. Once the dog loses interest, the child can slowly back away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog, he should curl up in a ball with his knees tucked into his stomach, and fingers interlocked behind his neck to protect his neck and ears. If a child stays still and quiet like this, the dog will most likely just sniff him and then go away.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog does attack a child, the child should “feed” the dog his jacket, bag, bicycle—or anything that he has for the dog to grab onto or anything he can put between himself and the dog.
Recommendations for Pet Parents

Although you can’t guarantee that your dog will never bite someone, there are many ways that you can significantly reduce the risk.

  • Adopt from a well-managed animal shelter whose staff and volunteers can fill you in on the dog’s background, personality and behavior in the shelter.
  • Spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. Healthy puppies can be spayed or neutered as early as eight weeks of age. Spayed or neutered dogs may be less likely to bite.
  • Socialize your dog! Well-socialized dogs make enjoyable, trustworthy companions. Undersocialized dogs are a risk to their owners and to others because they can become frightened by everyday things—which means they are more likely to aggress or bite. Socializing is the opposite of isolating. It’s important for puppies to meet, greet and enjoy a variety of people, animals, places and things. Done properly, socializing helps puppies feel comfortable and friendly in various situations, rather than uncomfortable and potentially aggressive. The main rule for effective socializing is to let your dog progress at her own pace and never force her to be around someone or something when she’s clearly fearful or uncomfortable.
  • Take your dog to humane, reward-based training classes—the earlier the better. We recommend starting your puppy in puppy kindergarten classes as early as eight weeks, right after her first set of vaccinations. Early training opens a window of communication between you and your dog that will help you consistently and effectively teach her good behavior.
  • Make your dog a part of the family. Don’t chain or tie her outside, and don’t leave her unsupervised for long periods of time—even in a fenced yard. Most tethered dogs become frustrated and can feel relatively defenseless, so they’re much more likely to bite. Well-socialized and supervised dogs are much less likely to bite.
  • Don’t wait for a serious accident to happen. The first time your dog shows aggressive behavior toward anybody, even if no injury occurs, seek professional help from a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist (CAAB), a veterinary behaviorist (Dip ACVB), or a qualified Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT).
  • Err on the safe side. Be aware of common triggers of aggression, including pain, injury or sickness, the approach of strangers or strange dogs, the approach of people in uniforms, costumes or unusual attire (especially hats), unexpected touching, unfamiliar places, crowds, and loud noises like thunder, wind, construction, fireworks and appliances. If possible, avoid exposing your dog to these triggers. If she seems stressed or panicked in crowds, leave her at home. If she overreacts to visitors or delivery personnel, keep her in another room when they come to your house. Work with a qualified behavior and training professional to help your dog become more comfortable with these and other situations.
  • Always supervise children and dogs. Never leave a baby or child younger than 10 years old alone with a dog. Teach your children to treat your dog gently and with respect, giving the dog her own space and opportunities to rest.
  • Fulfill basic animal-care responsibilities. License your dog as required by law and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. Don’t allow your dog to roam alone.

General Cat Care

Have you recently added a feline friend to your family? Congratulations! We know you’ll be thrilled to have your new cat in your home. If you are considering adopting a cat, please visit your local shelter.

Feeding

We recommend purchasing high-quality, brand-name kitten or cat food. Your veterinarian will be able to assess your new cat or kitten and determine the best diet. Factors such as age, activity level and health make a difference in what and how much a cat should eat.

  • Cats require taurine, an essential amino acid, for heart and eye health. The food you choose should be balanced for the life stage of your cat or kitten. Properly balanced foods will contain taurine.
  • You will need to provide fresh, clean water at all times, and wash and refill your cat’s water bowls daily.
  • Treats should be no more than 5-10% of the diet.
  • Many people feed baby food to a cat or kitten who is refusing food or not feeling well Please read labels carefully: If the baby food contains onion or garlic powder, your pet could be poisoned.
  • Take your pet to your veterinarian if signs of anorexia, diarrhea, vomiting or lethargy continue for more than two days.
Grooming

Most cats stay relatively clean and rarely need a bath, but you should brush or comb your cat regularly. Frequent brushing helps keep your cat's coat clean, reduces the amount of shedding and cuts down on the incidence of hairballs.

Handling

To pick up your cat, place one hand behind the front legs and another under the hindquarters. Lift gently. Never pick up a cat by the scruff of the neck or by the front legs.

Housing

Your pet should have her own clean, dry place in your home to sleep and rest. Line your cat's bed with a soft, warm blanket or towel. Be sure to wash the bedding often. Please keep your cat indoors. Outdoor cats do not live as long as indoor cats. Outdoor cats are at risk of trauma from cars, or from fights with other cats, raccoons and free-roaming dogs. Coyotes are known to eat cats. Outdoor cats are more likely to become infested with fleas or ticks, as well as contract infectious diseases.

Identification

If allowed outdoors, your cat must wear a safety collar and an ID tag. A safety collar with an elastic panel will allow your cat to break loose if the collar gets caught on something. And for both indoor and outdoor cats, an ID tag or an implanted microchip can help ensure that your cat is returned if he or she becomes lost.

Litter Box

All indoor cats need a litter box, which should be placed in a quiet, accessible location. In a multi-level home, one box per floor is recommended. Avoid moving the box unless absolutely necessary, but if you must do so, move the box just a few inches per day. Keep in mind that cats won't use a messy, smelly litter box, so scoop solid wastes out of the box at least once a day. Dump everything, wash with a mild detergent and refill at least once a week; you can do this less frequently if using clumping litter. Don't use ammonia, deodorants or scents, especially lemon, when cleaning the litter box. If your cat will not use a litterbox, please consult with your veterinarian. Sometimes refusal to use a litter box is based on a medical condition that required treatment.

Scratching

Cats need to scratch! When a cat scratches, the old outer nail sheath is pulled off and the sharp, smooth claws underneath are exposed. Cutting your cat’s nails every two to three weeks will keep them relatively blunt and less likely to harm the arms of both humans and furniture. Provide your cat with a sturdy scratching post, at least three feet high. The post should also be stable enough that it won't wobble during use, and should be covered with rough material such as sisal, burlap or tree bark. Many cats also like scratching pads.

Health

Your cat should see the veterinarian at least once a year for an examination and annual shots, and immediately if she is sick or injured.

Medicines and Poisons

Never give your cat medication that has not been prescribed by a veterinarian. If you suspect that your animal has ingested a poisonous substance, call your veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center for 24-hour animal poison information at (888) 426-4435.

Spaying and Neutering

Female cats should be spayed and male cats neutered by five months of age.

Vaccinations

Your veterinarian will make recommendations based on your cat's age and health.

Cat Supply Checklist
  • Premium-brand cat food
  • Food dish
  • Water bowl
  • Interactive toys
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Safety cat collar with ID tag
  • Scratching post or scratching pad
  • Litter box and litter
  • Cat carrier
  • Cat bed or box with warm blanket or towel

Cats and Babies

Although we know that cats and babies can co-exist harmoniously in the same family, there are still precautions that new or expecting parents can take to help safeguard both baby and feline.

Preparing for Your Baby’s Arrival
  • Keep your cats indoors, and do not befriend neighborhood cats while pregnant! The feline parasitic infection toxoplasmosis can be caused by a cat eating small mammals or birds. This parasite in a pregnant woman can result in miscarriage, stillbirth or such birth defects as blindness, deafness, hydrocephalus or epilepsy. Toxoplasmosis cysts are shed in the feces of infected animals. Since cats often use gardens as litter boxes, always wear gloves when gardening. Also wear gloves when washing raw vegetables and fruits, handling raw meat or scrubbing food prep surfaces, and avoid rubbing your eyes until your hands have been washed. It’s also best not to eat or feed your cat raw or undercooked meat. To prevent any cysts that are passed in the feces from becoming infectious, scoop fecal matter at least twice a day.
  • Some cats do not tolerate change well. These are the cats most likely to be affected by a new baby, so use the entire pregnancy to slowly prepare them. Play tapes of baby noises to acclimate your cat to the new sounds she's about to hear, or rub baby lotion on your hands before engaging in a pleasant activity with your cat to create positive associations with baby odors. Set up nursery furniture as soon as possible, and allow your cat several weeks to investigate before you select surfaces to declare off limits—such as the changing table and crib. Then, at least one month before the baby arrives, make the surfaces unwelcoming. Cut sheets of cardboard to the size of the furniture surfaces and cover one side with double-sided adhesive/masking tape. Cats tend to avoid sticky surfaces, and by the end of the month should learn to steer clear of these sites.
  • If the litter box has been kept in the soon-to-be nursery, begin several months ahead of time to move it a few inches a day to its new location. If the transition is made too quickly, your cat may return to soil in his old spot. Covering that area with a solid object like a diaper pail or dresser may deter him.
  • Finally, any cat care routines that will be shifted from a parent after the baby arrives should actually be switched one to two months before the birth. These might include feedings, grooming, play sessions and sleep locations. The cat may need time to adjust to the style and skills of the new caregiver.
After Your Baby is Home
  • When you first arrive home from the hospital, peacefully greet your cat in a quiet room without interruption. Once you've had a few minutes to reconnect, let in everyone else—partner, baby, grandparents, baby nurse and other well-wishers.
  • Place a used receiving blanket or piece of infant-wear in a quiet area where the cat can investigate it. Make sure that the crib and other baby sleeping-locations are off-limits to the cat. A newborn cannot turn over or even move her head at first, so a heat-seeking cat who chooses to cuddle up close to the baby's face could make it difficult for the child to breathe. Close the door to the nursery when the baby is napping. If there is no door, either install a temporary screen door or place a crib tent over the crib to keep the cat out. These precautions also prevent the cat from urinating in the crib, something she may try if extremely stressed.
  • With the baby safely at rest, now's the perfect time to grab a catnap with your favorite feline.

Cat Nutrition Tips

Looking for more information about how to structure your kitten, adult cat or senior cat’s diet? Read on for important nutrition tips to help keep your feline friend healthy.

Nutrients Your Cat Needs

Nutrients are substances obtained from food and used by an animal as a source of energy and as part of the metabolic machinery necessary for maintenance and growth. Barring any special needs, illness-related deficiencies or instructions from your vet, your pets should be able to get all the nutrients they need from high-quality commercial pet foods, which are formulated with these special standards in mind. Here are the six essential classes of nutrients fundamental for healthy living.

Kittens

If you’re responsible for taking care of kittens in the first few months of their lives, you should be prepared to move them from a diet of milk to regular kitten food.

Weaning a Kitten

Weaning is the process of transitioning kittens from mother’s milk to solid food. During weaning, kittens gradually progress from dependence on a mother’s care to social independence. Ideally, weaning is handled entirely by the mother cat. However, if the kitten in your care has been separated from his mother or if you are fostering a litter or a pregnant cat about to give birth, seeing the young ones through a successful weaning process may be up to you.

Adults

Adult cats should eat enough of a high-quality, nutritious food to meet their energy needs and to maintain and repair body tissues. The amount you feed your adult cat should be based on his or her size and energy output. Activity levels vary dramatically between pets and will play an important role in determining caloric intake.

Senior Cats

Cats begin to show visible age-related changes at about seven to twelve years of age. There are metabolic, immunologic and body composition changes, too. Some of these are unavoidable. Others can be managed with diet.

Overweight Cats

Obesity is an extremely common problem in pets and, as with humans, can be detrimental to the health of a cat. The overweight pet has many added stresses upon his body and is at an increased risk of diabetes, liver problems and joint pain.

Common Cat Diseases

As a cat parent, it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms of common illnesses so you can seek veterinary help for your feline friend in a timely manner if necessary. Read on for information about diseases and other medical inflictions that frequently impact cats.

Cancer

Cancer is a class of diseases in which cells grow uncontrollably, invade surrounding tissue and may spread to other areas of the body. As with people, cats can get various kinds of cancer. The disease can be localized (confined to one area, like a tumor) or generalized (spread throughout the body).

Diabetes

Diabetes in cats is a complex disease caused by either a lack of the hormone insulin or an inadequate response to insulin. After a cat eats, her digestive system breaks food into various components, including glucose—which is carried into her cells by insulin. When a cat does not produce insulin or cannot utilize it normally, her blood sugar levels elevate. The result is hyperglycemia, which, if left untreated, can cause many complicated health problems for a cat.

Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV)

Cats infected with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) may not show symptoms until years after the initial infection occurred. Although the virus is slow-acting, a cat’s immune system is severely weakened once the disease takes hold. This makes the cat susceptible to various secondary infections. Infected cats receiving supportive medical care and kept in a stress-free, indoor environment can live relatively comfortable lives for months to years before the disease reaches its chronic stages.

Feline Leukemia Virus (FelV)

First discovered in the 1960s, feline leukemia virus is a transmittable RNA retrovirus that can severely inhibit a cat’s immune system. It is one of the most commonly diagnosed causes of disease and death in domestic cats. Because the virus doesn’t always manifest symptoms right away, any new cat entering a household—and any sick cat—should be tested for FeLV.

Heartworm

Spread by infected mosquitoes, heartworm is increasingly being recognized as an underlying cause of health problems in domestic cats. Cats are an atypical host for heartworms. Despite its name, heartworm primarily causes lung disease in cats. It is an important concern for any cat owner living in areas densely populated by mosquitoes, and prevention should be discussed with a veterinarian.

High-Rise Syndrome

Many pet parents eagerly open their windows to enjoy the weather during the summer months. Unfortunately, unscreened windows pose a real danger to cats, who fall out of them so often that the veterinary profession has a name for the complaint—High-Rise Syndrome. Falls can result in shattered jaws, punctured lungs, broken limbs and pelvises—and even death.

Rabies

Rabies is a viral disease that affects the brain and spinal cord of all mammals, including cats, dogs and humans. This preventable disease has been reported in every state except Hawaii. There’s good reason that the very word “rabies” evokes fear in people—once symptoms appear, rabies is close to 100% fatal.

Ringworm

Although the name suggests otherwise, ringworm isn’t caused by a worm at all—but a fungus that can infect the skin, hair and nails. Not uncommon in cats, this highly contagious disease can lead to patchy, circular areas of hair loss with central red rings. Also known as dermatophytosis, ringworm often spreads to other pets in the household—and to humans, too.

Upper Respiratory Infections

A cat’s upper respiratory tract—the nose, throat and sinus area—is susceptible to infections caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria.

Worms

Cats can acquire a variety of intestinal parasites, including some that are commonly referred to as “worms.” Infestations of intestinal worms can cause a variety of symptoms. Sometimes cats demonstrate few to no outward signs of infection, and the infestation can go undetected despite being a potentially serious health problem. Some feline parasitic worms are hazards for human health as well.

Common Cat Behavior Issues

Aggression Between Cats in Your Household

Some cats just won’t give peace a chance. There are several reasons that cats might not get along. The most common is undersocialization—a lack of pleasant experiences with other cats early in life. If your cat grew up as the only cat, with little or no contact with other felines, he may react strongly when he’s finally introduced to another cat because he’s afraid of the unknown, he lacks feline social skills, and he dislikes the disruption to his routine and environment. Cats tend to prefer consistency over change. This is especially true if the change involves a newcomer to your cat’s well-established territory. Cats are a territorial species. While some cats overlap their territories a great deal, others prefer to keep a good distance from their neighbors. Two unrelated males or two unrelated females may have a particularly hard time sharing space. Another cause of strife may be a feline personality clash. Cats usually don’t get to pick their housemates, and sometimes we humans just don’t select the right match. In some cases, however, cats get along just fine until something scary or unpleasant (like fireworks or the odor of the veterinary clinic) becomes associated with the other cat. In other cases, relationships change as the cats mature. If one cat reaches the age of one to three years old and then trouble brews, social maturation may be a factor. Any sudden change in your cat’s behavior could be an indication of an underlying medical condition. If you notice any unusual physical or behavioral symptoms, or if your cat stops eating, please see your veterinarian right away. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Aggression Between Cats in Your Household

Aggression in Cats

Aggression is the second most common feline behavior problem seen by animal behaviorists. Although cat aggression is sometimes taken less seriously than dog aggression—perhaps because cats are smaller and don’t pursue people to bite them—aggressive cats can be formidable. They have five potential weapons (their teeth and all four clawed paws) compared to a dogs’ sole weapon of his or her mouth. Cats can bite and inflict severe lacerations, which are painful and can easily become infected. They can also cause cat scratch fever, a usually benign but potentially serious infectious disease that causes flu-like symptoms. Fights between cats rarely result in fatalities, but they can lead to infections and result in considerable veterinary expenses for cat parents. Aggressive cats can be risky to have at home and can pose a real danger to family and visitors. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Aggression

Destructive Scratching

Cats like to scratch. They scratch during play. They scratch while stretching. They scratch to mark territory or as a threatening signal other cats. And because cats’ claws need regular sharpening, cats scratch on things to remove frayed, worn outer claws and expose new, sharper claws. All this scratching can cause a lot of damage to furniture, drapes and carpe Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Destructive Scratching

Litter Box Problems

At least 10% of all cats develop elimination problems. Some stop using the box altogether. Some only use their boxes for urination or defecation but not for both. Still others eliminate both in and out of their boxes. Elimination problems can develop as a result of conflict between multiple cats in a home, as a result of a dislike for the litter-box type or the litter itself, as a result of a past medical condition, or as a result of the cat deciding she doesn’t like the location or placement of the litter box. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Litter Box Problems

Meowing and Yowling

The cat’s meow is her way of communicating with people. Cats meow for many reasons—to say hello, to ask for things, and to tell us when something’s wrong. Meowing is an interesting vocalization in that adult cats don’t actually meow at each other, just at people. Kittens meow to let their mother know they’re cold or hungry, but once they get a bit older, cats no longer meow to other cats. But they continue to meow to people throughout their lives, probably because meowing gets people to do what they want. Cats also yowl—a sound similar to the meow but more drawn out and melodic. Unlike meowing, adult cats do yowl at one another, specifically during breeding season. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Meowing and Yowling

Older Cats with Behavior Problems

As they age, cats often suffer a decline in functioning, including their cognitive functioning. It’s estimated that cognitive decline—referred to as feline cognitive dysfunction, or FCD—affects more than 55% of cats aged 11 to 15 years and more than 80% of cats aged 16 to 20 years. Memory, ability to learn, awareness, and sight and hearing perception can all deteriorate in cats affected with FCD. This deterioration can cause disturbances in sleeping patterns, disorientation or reduced activity. It can make cats forget previously learned habits they once knew well, such as the location of the litter box or their food bowls. It can increase their anxiety and tendency to react aggressively. It can also change their social relationships with you and with other pets in your home. Understanding the changes your cat is undergoing can help you compassionately and effectively deal with behavior problems that may arise in her senior years. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Older Cats with Behavior Problems

Urine Marking in Cats

The most common behavior problem reported by pet parents of cats is inappropriate elimination. It’s estimated that 10% of all cats will eliminate outside their litter box at some point in their lives. Quite a few of these cats have issues with some characteristic of their litter box (please see our article on Litter Box Problems for more information), but approximately 30% don’t have litter box problems at all. These cats are urine marking, and urine marking isn’t a litter box problem—it’s a communication problem. Urine marking is a form of indirect communication used by cats. Click here to see recommendations from the ASPCA to manage Urine Marking in Cats