The following tips are applicable to just about any animal. I have accumulated this information from my own experiences with my pets (which include dogs, fish, birds, turtles and rabbits) as well as from veterinarians, animal rescue organizations and other animal-related sources. None of this information is to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary care.
1. If you leave the house for any reason, tell your pet(s) where you are going, when you will return and what job you would like them to do (take a nap, watch the house, etc.) while you are gone. I always tell my dogs that I am going to run an errand and when I will be back (i.e. 2 hours, around their dinner, etc.). I also tell them to take a nap while I'm gone and to be good boys. This tends to relieve their anxiety about me being gone. If it is a longer trip, I always tell them how many days I will be gone.
2. Animals like their routines. If their routine is going to change for a day or longer, tell them why and how the change will impact their routine. For example, if you are going to have to work late for a couple of weeks, tell your pet. This will help to ward off any unwanted behavior that they may exhibit as their way of protesting the dislike of the change to their routine.
3. If your animal has seizures, ask your vet to do an allergy test for food allergies. One of our dogs began to have seizures shortly after we brought him home from the shelter. Our vet had a comprehensive allergy test done and discovered that he had many allergies (cigarette smoke, bermuda grass, chicken, rice, etc.). The food that he was eating was made up primarily of chicken and rice. Thus, we changed his food to one of those listed on the 'approved foods and treats' list provided by the testing company. Since changing his food, he has not had another seizure. So although food allergies may not always be the cause for seizures, it is worth investigating with your vet.
4. Prior to bringing a plant or flower into your home, find out if the plant or flower is poisonous to animals. The reactions to the toxic substance in some plants and flowers can range from mild nausea to death. I had a family member's cat die because it ate part of a leaf from an Easter lily. Other common house plants that are poisonous include, but are not limited to, Philodendrons and Poinsettias. For a more inclusive list check the internet, ask your veterinarian or ask someone at the store that is selling the plant or flower.
5. If you suspect that your pet has ingested a poisonous substance, seek veterinarian assistance immediately. If it is after hours, contact the nearest after-hours emergency facility for animals. Try to bring a sample of whatever the animal has ingested or has been bitten by if it is safe for you to do so. For example, one of my dogs had picked up a spider in his mouth and quickly spit it back out. I assumed the spider had bitten him in his mouth. So, I put the spider in a plastic bowl and took my dog to the after-hours emergency vet for treatment. Fortunately, since I had the spider with me, the vet could tell me that it was a type of spider that was not poisonous.
6. Keep the contact information on your pet's identification tags and/or microchip up to date. If your pet is lost and someone from animal control or from your neighborhood finds the animal, this will assist in expediting the return of your pet to you.
7. Post a pet-related notice for rescue personnel on the windows by each exterior door of your home. On each notice, include the number and type of animals that reside in your home as well as the name and phone number of your veterinarian. This will alert the rescue personnel that there are animals in the home and who has medical records on file about each pet in case there is a fire or other major catastrophe involving your home. Some animal rescue organizations (i.e. Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, etc.) have this type of sticker for your window and may provide them free or for a nominal fee upon request.
8. Plan for your pet's future in case something should happen to you. Many states allow you to set up trusts for your pet so that they are taken care of in the manner that you desire in the event that you should pass away before they do. For more information, visit www.hsus.org/petsinwills or consult with your family attorney.
9. If you have to relinquish your family pet for any reason (i.e. divorce, loss of your residence, etc.), fully explain to the pet why you have to do this. It is very important for an animal to be told why they won't be a part of the family that may have raised them. I have seen from client's pets and animals at the rescue shelters the impact that not knowing this type of information has on animals. Some become aggressive and think that no one likes them. Others become very withdrawn and harbor a lot of guilt that it was their fault that they are not with their family anymore.
10. Teach children the proper way to approach an unfamiliar animal. This includes asking the animal's human companion for permission to pet the animal. Some animals are not used to children and can react in an adverse manner if approached too quickly.
If you have any helpful tips about animals that you would like to see printed in a future publication (i.e. newsletter, book, magazine article) or on this web site, please e-mail it/them to me at email@example.com.
"There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face."
~ Ben Williams
"When I play with my cat, how do I know that she is not passing time with me rather than I with her?"
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