Vet Pet Tips

 Dr. Justine Lee

Each week, Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified veterinary specialist in both emergency critical care and toxicology and the CEO and founder of VetGirl, a subscription-based podcast service offering RACE-approved veterinary continuing education, and an author of two popular books on pets, addresses some of the quirkier issues that puzzle pet owners.


Do I Really Need Puppy Obedience?

Beagle

Puppy obedience classes are highly recommended by anyone who works with dogs. Not only does it make your life easier, but it also ensures that your dog will come back to you when danger is present (like an oncoming car). More importantly, puppy obedience teaches you how to appropriately train a dog. The use of verbose commands “Come here Fido, sweet little sugar doll, come sit and be a good dog” does not relay an appropriate message to your dog. All your dog hears is the Gary Larson comic “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, Fido, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Instead, short, brief commands (i.e., “SIT,” “STAY,” “COME,” “HEAL,” “GET,” “OFF,” “MY,” “LEG.”) are the first commands you (and your dog) should learn.

Your dog will quickly acclimate to learning and obeying you which will serve you both in the long run. Dogs display a lot of eagerness when following commands or doing agility training, as it’s both mentally and physically stimulating. Lastly, your veterinarian appreciates a well-obedient dog instead of the one that requires the 4-technician body tackle just to restrain her. So for my sake, if not for your own, or if not for your dog’s, and if not for every other person in your home who doesn’t want to be jumped on, please invest in puppy obedience.

Can My Cat Donate Blood?

Believe it or not, we do blood transfusions in veterinary medicine, too. Cats that lose blood from surgery or develop anemia (from kidney failure, immune problems, cancer, or feline leukemia) may need a blood transfusion to boost their red blood cell count. Cats only have three main blood types: A, B, and AB. Okay, there is one other new blood type called Mik (named after a cat named Michael), but this type is so rare that there’s not a good test for it yet. That being said, all cats need to be blood typed (which can be simply done by running a blood test) before getting a transfusion, as there is no “universal donor” in cats (they can’t take your O-negative blood).

If you live near a veterinary school or large specialty referral hospital, consider having your cat become a periodic blood donor. Not only will Kitty get a gold star from her veterinarian, but she’ll also get free cat food, a physical exam and good cat karma for the future. Cat blood donors have to be fairly friendly, weigh over ten pounds (that’s lean body weight, not fat, mind you), be between 2-7 years of age, current on vaccinations, healthy with a normal physical exam, not receiving any medications (other than heartworm, flea, and tick preventative), and indoor only (and that includes all the companion housemate cats too). Cats also have to test negative for feline leukemia (FeLV) and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), must never have been previously bred, and never have been previously transfused. While that sounds like a long list, see if your cat qualifies as she can help save another kitty’s life. It’s a very rewarding feeling!

Do Dogs Have Personalities or Feelings?

Dog sits outside

Most humans can instinctively tell when their dog is “in a mood.” Some dogs may avoid children and display affection only for one family member, while some dogs love everyone in the household equally. These personality traits vary between breeds and age and are also affected by other factors, such as the human-animal bond, socialization, an innate emotion, or training. Dogs can also display “human emotions” such as sadness, grief, jealousy, loyalty, and anxiousness.

One example of animal emotion dates back to the mid-80s with Koko, the famous gorilla who understood American Sign Language. Koko had a kitten named All Ball who was killed by a car after escaping from the cage. Koko demonstrated human emotion by signing that she wanted to “cry” after learning that All Ball was gone. Another example of animal emotion comes from Dr. Jane Goodall’s work with primates. She watched a chimpanzee die of a broken heart when his mother, Flo, died; Dr. Goodall noted signs such as lethargy, inappetance, hiding, whimpering, crying sounds, and avoidance of other animals until Flint finally died. While examples such as these stir debate on whether or not animals have emotions, most people who have interacted with animals realize the vast capability of emotions they may show.

Why Does My Dog’s Pee Turn My Lawn Brown?

Dog pees

Animals and humans have a high nitrogen content in their urine, but dogs are the only ones who get blamed for peeing outside and getting caught red-handed. While nitrogen is one of the key ingredients in fertilizer, the concentration and amount in dog urine is so high that it actually burns and kills the grass.

You can minimize the damage to your lawn using these tricks of the trade. First, do what my dog, JP, does and have him lift his leg and pee through the chain link fence onto my neighbor’s lawn. My neighbor has such horrible brown spots and really should take the time to take care of his lawn (luckily, he doesn’t have any pets, so the likelihood he’ll discover this is minimal).

Secondly, consider constructing a graveled area in the back of your yard. I have a gravel area with hostas and ferns and when I give JP the command to “go to the back,” he knows that that’s what I mean. After rewarding and training him, it’s the first place he goes to urinate without any grass burning in the process.

Third, consider watering the area down after your dog urinates. Dilution is the solution to pollution, so you can minimize the damage and severity of grass burns by just pouring water on it. Finally, there are holistic medications or “lawn-saving” chewable pills out there that work by changing the pH of Fido’s pee, but as a veterinarian, this can be playing with fire (or nitrogen). Certain crystals or stones may form in an altered urine pH, so changing Fido’s pH just to save your lawn is not safe unless medically directed.

Why Does My Dog Drag His Butt On the Ground?

Jack Russell sits

If you’ve ever caught your dog dragging his butt across your nice white carpet and leaving a little brown streak for you, this is a sign that he either has an anal sac problem or a dingle berry stuck.

These nasty little sacs are actually scent glands that produce a foul, malodorous brown juice that makes Fluffy’s feces stink even more. Dogs use these glands as an identification marker for each new dog on the block. Unfortunately, these glands can cause chronic problems in some dogs (usually small, white fluffy dogs named “Fluffy” with chi-chi owners who can’t believe they are even having this discussion). Inflammation, infection, impaction, or rarely cancer can cause this classic butt-rub. When you see this, it’s time for a trip to the groomer or veterinarian for a little TLC (which is done via gloved finger and rectal exam, I’m afraid).

Why Do Dogs Have Dewclaws?

Dog paw

Why does your dog have that cute but annoying little dewclaw on the side of his leg that gets caught on things and starts bleeding? That first “finger” or digit is frequently absent in some dogs; if it’s present, you’re the proud owner of a dog with a dewclaw. This extra finger can vary from a tiny vestigial skin flap to a fully developed finger. Evolutionarily, dogs didn’t have to hold pens or use utensils, so their need for a thumb was reduced to a minimum. That being said, some dogs can live with them without every having any problems, but hunting dogs, working dogs, or those who hike and run a lot may have a higher chance of having their extra finger or toe traumatized.

These little dewclaws are often removed by the breeder within the first few days of birth, but if your dog happens to still have his, you can have the dewclaws easily removed when he’s neutered under anesthesia. Otherwise, you might end up having to pay for it later on a more emergent (and more expensive) visit when he just ripped his dewclaw off while running in the dog park.

Why Are So Many People Allergic to Cats and What Causes These Allergies?

Girl and cat

We’re not sure why it seems like more and more people are allergic to cats recently. Perhaps through appropriate client counseling, more owners are keeping their cats indoors for the health and safety of their furry friends, so the allergens are more prominent. It could also be that cats have topped dogs in overall popularity, and with more than 80 million cats in homes it could be that more people are now discovering that they are allergic. Unfortunately, the culprit is Fel d 1, a glycoprotein that cats naturally produce and secrete from their sebaceous glands and then shed in the skin and saliva. As cats groom themselves, they shed this allergen all over their body (and your house, carpet, bed, linens, and clothes), triggering your red, itchy eyes and runny nose.

Does My Dog Need the Lyme Vaccine?

Tick

Lyme disease (not "Lymes" disease) was named after Old Lyme, CT, where the disease was discovered. The citizens of Old Lyme are quite proud of their viropathological heritage (city motto: Catch old Lyme! It’s contagious!”). Lyme disease is a very serious illness that manifests in symptoms such as shifting leg lameness and joint swelling to life-threatening Lyme nephropathy. You can’t pronounce this for a reason — it’s too scary to comprehend. This nephropathy, also called protein-losing nephropathy (PLN), is a life-threatening, debilitating illness where the kidneys lose too much protein and end up failing (causing chronic weight loss, excessive urination, constant thirst, diluted urine, anemia, vomiting, and high blood pressure). Because there are numerous other diseases such as other tick-borne disease (i.e., Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Ehrlichia, etc), immune-mediated diseases, other infections, or even cancer that can resemble the signs of Lyme disease, it is important to seek veterinary attention for further workup.

So how do you prevent your dog from getting it? Unfortunately, the Lyme vaccine isn’t 100% protective and is considered controversial. Even experts in internal medicine debate on whether or not to recommend it. In general, if your dog is completely covered by ticks all summer, or you live in a tick-infested area, the vaccine may be worth it, but consult with your veterinarian. When in doubt, I generally recommend using flea and tick preventative. There are several veterinary prescribed flea and tick preventatives that are very effective when given on a monthly basis. If you live in a high exposure area (i.e., New England; Minnesota, and basically anywhere along the east coast), use a spot-on flea and tick preventative with a prescription Preventic® collar together.

Why Do Cats Puke So Much?

Cat hides its eyes

I’ve always pondered why we cat owners are so tolerant of cat vomit. I mean, if you vomited once a week for years, wouldn’t you go to a medical doctor? If your dog vomited once a week all his life, chances are you’d take him to a veterinarian sooner than later. So why is it that we cat owners tolerate cat puke so much more? Maybe we’re blaming frequent vomiting on hair balls, but if your cat is puking that often and there isn’t any hair in the puke, think again. There may actually be a medical cause for all that vomit.

If your cat is vomiting up hair balls, you’ll see Kitty actively retching (with her stomach heaving) and having what we vets grossly call a productive vomit. In other words, she’ll bring up some bile (yellow-tinged fluid), undigested food, or hair. That said, retching or vomiting can also mimic other problems, such as something stuck in the mouth, throat, or esophagus. If the vomit is nonproductive (i.e., nothing comes out), your cat may be coughing instead, which is a classic sign of asthma. Regardless, if you find your cat doing either more than once or twice a month, something more serious may be going on that warrants a trip to the veterinarian. Chest and abdominal x-rays, some basic blood work, and a sterile lung fluid wash (also called an endotracheal lavage) should be done to rule out asthma. Before you blame Kitty for ruining your Persian carpet, make sure you aren’t missing a medical problem!

Can I Run With My Dog When it is 90° F Outside?

Dog runs with owner

While I applaud you for exercising your pooch, dogs can’t handle heat and humidity extremes. Dogs maintain their body temperature primarily by panting and release heat via their paw pads. They don’t have sweat glands, so when it’s hot and humid, they can easily overheat, no matter how much water you carry along.

Certain breeds are more predisposed to overheat, such as older Labrador retrievers with airway problems (which is called laryngeal paralysis and results in noisy breathing or a gradual change in bark), overweight animals, dark-haired dogs, or dogs with a flattened or smooshed nose including French bulldogs, English bulldogs, pugs, Shih-Tzus, and Pekingese dogs. Most people realize that temperatures above 90° F are unbearable for all (two or four-legged alike). The problem temperature is usually 80 to 85° F; you may feel that this isn’t too hot, but if it’s humid out, your dog can’t exchange heat well, as there is little evaporative cooling on the tongue. This is actually one of the more dangerous temperature ranges, simply because most owners think it’s okay.

When exercising your dog, make sure he has frequent access to cool water, and when in doubt, stop. Remember, your dog may not show signs of heat exhaustion until it’s too late, and constant panting, lagging behind, concentrated (dark yellow) urine, discolored (dark red) urine, and collapse are all signs of heat stroke. Cool your dog off immediately by spraying him with water, and make sure to bring him to a veterinarian for immediate, aggressive IV fluids, supportive care, and monitoring. Heat stroke is often fatal even with aggressive therapy and 24 hour care. Prevent this terrible problem by letting your dog rest in the air conditioning while you run outside.

How Do I Make My Cat Shed Less?

Maine Coon cat

There’s not much else you can do to prevent your cats from shedding aside from constant brushing or grooming. While there are liquids, ointment, liniments, sprays, and other supplements advertised, don’t believe the hype. The most important tip to minimize shedding is to brush your cat daily (or at least weekly), particularly if he has medium to long hair. The more hair you brush or rake out (with those FURminators), the less it will cling to your furniture, floor, fleece, and feet. There are a few breeds that don’t shed, such as the Devon Rex or hairless Sphynx, but you have to get used to touching that greasy, ratlike skin that only a mother could love.

Can My Dog Donate Blood?

Dog donates blood

Yes, please, and thank you! Just like human patients, veterinary patients also require blood transfusions if they are anemic, have a clotting problem, have hemophilia, or have acute blood loss from trauma or cancer. Young to middle-aged (1 to 7 years of age), good natured dogs that weigh more than 50 lbs and are healthy, vaccinated, and only on preventative medication (such as flea, tick, and heartworm prevention) are the primary candidates for donation. If you live near a veterinary school or a large veterinary specialty clinic, call to see if you can help out other pets by volunteering your dog’s blood. The process isn’t painful and dogs don’t typically need to be sedated. They just lie quietly on their side while getting lots of TLC, petting, and soothing during the 15- to 20-minute donation process. Afterwards, they get to pick a toy or bone of their choice, and get a few snacks for being such a loyal participant.

Are Household Plants Really Poisonous?

Cat sits near plants

Most household or outdoor plants are only mildly toxic to dogs. The majority of common household plants cause oral irritation and gastrointestinal signs. Poinsettias are commonly implicated, but generally only cause drooling, pawing at the mouth, nausea, and mild vomiting or diarrhea. Ironically, the least toxic plants are the ones that people are the most educated about. That said, please note that there are a few poisonous plants that can cause serious, fatal, rapid poisoning. In general, you shouldn’t let your dog chew on random plants or trees outside. If you see your pet chewing on one, call your veterinarian or Pet Poison Helpline at 1-800-213-6680 immediately for treatment advice! For an in-depth list of toxic plants, click here for more information.

Does My Dog Need Sunscreen?

If you live in Texas or at high elevation, and own an outdoor, short-coated, white dog with a pink nose who spends a lot of time sunbathing outside with constant sun exposure, you should use sunscreen. Despite all that fur, it’s important that you be cognizant of the risks of sunburn in you and your pet. Avoid keeping your dog out in the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and if you do, make sure to provide ample shade and water. Before smothering sunscreen all over your pooch, be sure to check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain zinc oxide (Desitin) or salicylates (aspirin); these can be toxic if licked off and ingested in large amounts. Stomach irritation can also occur if excessive amounts are ingested, so be careful about putting too much on in an area where she can lick it.

If your dog has a medical condition like lupus or pemphigus that results in a crusty appearance to the nose, consult with a dermatologist before putting sunscreen on her nose or letting her outside. Remember, despite all that fur, sunburn can be just as painful for your dog!

Do Dogs Mourn?

Chocolate Labrador retriever

Owners often notice changes in their dog’s behavior when a family member dies, be it another dog or a human. He or she may become more aloof, inappetant, or lethargic with grief. He or she may start sleeping in unusual locations or may act more “clingy” to their human companion. As “time heals all things,” the dog may return back to his or her normal self after several weeks or months.

In 1996, a study was performed by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) called the Companion Animal Mourning Project. This study evaluated the response of surviving pets after losing a 4-legged companion, and found that 63% of dogs either became quieter or vocalized more. Over 50% of pets become more affectionate to their caretaker, and often times changed their location of where and how long they slept. Thirty-six percent of dogs ate less than usual, while 11% become completely anorexic.

This study found that 66% of dogs showed four or more behavioral changes secondary to the loss of a 4-legged companion. Based on this study, and having had owners of pets go through this, I know that dogs do mourn and are saddened by the absence of their 4-legged and 2-legged best friends.

Why Do Cats Prefer to Drink Running Water?

Cat drinks water from a faucet

Cats are curious creatures by nature and enjoy playing in water while staying mostly dry. Remember that cats are desert creatures; they have specially designed kidneys (extra long loops of Henle, if you really must know) to help concentrate their urine and absorb as much water from their kidneys as they can. You hardly ever see cats sitting at the water bowl as much as a dog does for that reason. Most times, healthy cats prefer to drink out of a dripping faucet just for variety, although a plain bowl of clean, fresh water will suffice just fine.

If, however, you notice that (a) your older cat is hovering constantly by the water bowl, (b) he is trying to lift the toilet seat to get a drink, (c) the clumps in the litter box are bigger than the size of your head (or his!), or (d) you’re constantly refilling his dish, bring him to a veterinarian for some blood work and urine testing to nip any medical problems in the bud. That’s because there are some diseases such as diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney failure, or feline lower urinary tract disease where thirst and water balance (and hence your cat’s ability to stay hydrated) are impacted; in these situations, it’s imperative to treat the underlying disease immediately and also to ensure that your cat is drinking even more water than normal. Since some cats will drink more out of kitty water fountains (where the water is constantly trickling, like a melodic stream), these gadgets are beneficial if your cat happens to have any of these diseases above. I’d recommend that you run out to your local pet store to get a fountain if your cat is diagnosed with one of these medical conditions – it’s worth it!

Is Febreeze® Toxic to Pets?

Dog rests his head

Contrary to what you read on the Internet, Febreeze® is not generally toxic to animals. I use it throughout my pet-friendly house without any problems. That said, use common sense and don’t spray it directly on your dog or on her bed. She wasn’t meant to smell like gardenias or fresh laundry, anyway.

The exception to this is if you own a bird or if your pet has underlying lung disease such as asthma or bronchitis. Birds are very sensitive to chemicals, and even cooking on a Teflon pan can cause toxic fumes that can kill your bird. Now it is true that any chemical irritant can trigger an allergic reaction and asthmatic attack, so do your spring cleaning when your pets are in another part of the house where it’s well ventilated.

How Toxic is Chocolate, Really?

Chocolate

Chocolate contains two toxic agents which are methylxanthines: theobromine and caffeine. The severity of toxicity depends on how much your dog ate, his size and weight, the type of chocolate, and his sensitivity to these drugs. Side effects of chocolate toxicity include hyperactivity, vomiting, diarrhea, heart arrhythmias, and even seizures at high doses.

The amount of “true” high quality chocolate (versus cheap cocoa) or amount of methylxanthines vary with what your dog ingested: milk chocolate has 60 mg/oz, dark chocolate has 150 mg/oz, and baker’s chocolate has 450 mg/oz. If you’re not mathematically gifted or too stressed out in times of doggy emergencies to figure out how many kilograms your dog is and divide it by how many ounces he ate of what type of chocolate, fear not – you can just call Pet Poison Helpline and they will tell you what to do.

Why Do Dogs Get “Red-Eye” in Photos?

Dog checks out camera

The tapetum lucidium is the tissue layer in the back of the eye (specifically, the choroid) that gives off the red eye appearance in photos. This is an iridescent tissue layer that reflects light and allows dogs to see better in less light, while also making the eyes look like they are shining in the dark. When you take photos of your dog, the flash from your camera reflects off this tapedum, resulting in a red-eye appearance. This effect is more prominent in certain breeds; for example, dogs with blue eyes often have a red tapetum, while dogs with brown eyes have a green tapetum. Thanks to red-eye reducing camera functions, you can reduce the severity of it; if not, there’s always Adobe Photoshop.

Why Do Dogs Shed More at the Vet?

Dogs sits with vet

Even the courageous underdog gets nervous at the veterinary clinic, and you may notice that he starts shedding massive amounts of hair — this is the “flight or fight” instinct kicking in. Not only does the heart rate increase from stress, but so does the respiratory system; this is why he starts panting or breathing harder in an attempt to get more oxygen into his lungs. Your dog’s body is preparing for escape mode (“Help me! I sense a mean vet joke coming on!”). At the same time, all the blood vessels and hair follicles are dilating to allow blood to flow to the escape muscles (“Run, Ubu, run!”), and for this reason, hair may start to shed like mad. Don’t worry too much (or your own hair may start to come out too); signs should resolve shortly after you bring Ubu home. And hopefully your dog remembers that there are no mean vets in existence — or so we like to think!

Are There Doggy Dentists Out There?

Dogs holds toothbrush toy

Veterinary medicine has become more specialized, and now there are veterinarians specializing in oral surgery and dentistry (typically, the abbreviations AVDC — Diplomate of the American Veterinary Dental College, follows their name). These are veterinarians who have finished veterinary school and completed a residency in dentistry. Most general practitioners do routine teeth cleaning, extractions, or minor dental surgery, but options exist for referral to a veterinary dentist if your dog requires a root canal, major jaw surgery, or a silver cap (makes a Rottie or pit bull look even tougher!). Click here to find your local veterinary dental specialist; that way you can make sure those canine canines come correct.

Do I Really Have to Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Dog has teeth brushed

Veterinarians and dentists recommend that you brush your dog’s teeth as often as possible — some say once a day, some say two to three times a week. Brushing as frequently as possible is the most effective way of preventing tooth decay and helping to preserve oral health, particularly if you have a dog prone to bad teeth (like greyhounds or miniature poodles!).

For dogs, the most important factor in brushing is the abrasiveness of the tooth brush — you don’t want a brush so rigid that they’ll hurt your dog’s gums — so choose bristles that are soft and will fit in your dog’s mouth appropriately. This mechanical scrubbing helps remove the plaque which builds up constantly. What you are trying to prevent by brushing is the build up of plaque before it mineralizes and hardens into tartar (or calculus). Tartar can only be removed with dental cleanings under general anesthesia, so ideally, you want to prevent tartar build up instead of putting your dog under anethesia.

Another option is to use an old pair of panty hose or a 4X4 gauze wrapped around your finger to gently scrub away at the plaque — surprisingly, your dog will tolerate this quite well. This may be a good “starter” method before you try to jam a 6” piece of plastic into his mouth. Just make sure he doesn’t bite your finger! Oh, the things we do for love.

Do Cats Get Cavities?

Cat holds toothbrush

Because cats don’t typically want to eat chocolate, sweets, or acidic foods, they’re less likely to have sacchrolytic acid-producing bacteria (in other words, the bacteria that cause cavities) in their mouth. Also, cats are lucky because their teeth don’t have to last a century, since they unfortunately don’t live as long as humans. Cats also rarely get cavities because their teeth are just physically shaped differently from ours; cats have fewer nooks and crannies in their teeth in which to develop cavities.

In fact, their sharp and razorlike teeth are designed to help rip and tear away at meat. This differs from the flat, “occlusal” surfaces on the teeth of omnivores (which are flat and designed to grind and chew). But, as you’ll soon discover when you get cat’s dental bill, cats develop feline oral resorptive lesions (FORLs) or cervical line lesions that require a lot of veterinary dental visits and teeth brushing at home.

Similarly to some people, cats can be predisposed to a mouth full of cavities; unfortunately, there’s not much we can do to prevent this aside from routine oral care. While these FORLs aren’t the same thing as cavities, they’re similar — these lesions eat away at the gum, enamel, and dentin of the outside tooth, and make the pulp (the inside of the tooth where the nerves and blood vessels are) exposed and painful, causing your cat to get more finicky.

If you notice redness of the gums, not eating, or severe halitosis, bring your cat to a vet to see if your cat needs dental work or extractions. Unfortunately for your wallet, you can only fix these by having your vet extract ‘em, I’m afraid, no matter how much you brush or floss your cat’s teeth.

Is One Dog Year Really Equivalent to Seven Human Years?

Elderly golden retriever

Unfortunately, there’s no hard fast rule on this 1:7 age ratio. In fact, there isn’t even any accurate scientific data on this topic. Keep in mind that different species or breeds age at different rates, as weight, obesity, nutrition, genetics, and environmental factors may play a role. Furthermore, the 1:7 ratio is likely to be inaccurate in the age extremes: very young or very old dogs. For example, a 1-year-old dog may have reached “puberty,” but this doesn’t correlate to a 7-year-old girl. In general, one dog year is equivalent to seven human years in the “middle-aged” years only.

Here is a much better guide to comparing the age range of the two species: the first year of a puppy’s life is equivalent to a human teenager (approximately a 15 year old), while a two year old pet is equivalent to a young adult (approximately a 24 year old). After that, each year is equivalent to approximately four human years. I like to group ages into broader categories: infant, toddler, child, adolescent, young adult, adult, middle-aged, elderly, and geriatric. Because this is again, factor dependent, the most important thing to remember is that as your dog ages, so will his body.

Are There Lemon Laws for Puppies?

Golden retriever puppies

Various states have puppy lemon laws that look out for the two-legged consumer; after all, you never know if some shady puppy dealer is pulling the wool over your Shetland’s eyes (“Dermatitis? Neva heard of it.”). Depending on your state, lemon laws apply to people who sell pets for profit or pay state tax on the sale of a pet, like pet stores and backyard breeders, so it often exempts humane societies and animal shelters.

Within these laws, you usually have legal rights for a full refund of the purchase price during a certain time frame (usually 10 to 14 days), or reimbursement for veterinary costs up to the purchase price. Some states will extend the warranty for up to a year for inherited defects, so check with your local state rules.

If you find a backyard breeder who isn’t responsible or is not willing to guarantee the health of your new puppy, find a better breeder. You don’t want to be putting money in these dealer’s pockets, anyway. If your state or county doesn’t have any lemon laws, rally your pet-loving friends and have your council member, senator, or representative pass pet-protecting laws to look out for our pets. At our clinic, we strongly support puppy lemon laws, as we want everyone to have access to healthy, happy pets.

What’s Doggy Daycare All About?

Dogs play outside

Doggy daycare is just like kiddie daycare — it’s a place where you can take your dog for a few hours to socialize and play with other dogs instead of keeping her cooped up all day while you work. And just like kiddie daycare, there are some cautions you should be aware of. You know how kids are more predisposed to snotty noses and dirty germs when they run around in groups? So are puppies. Find a reputable doggy daycare that requires current vaccines along with the kennel cough vaccine. Make sure your dog’s vaccines are up to date and haven’t been given within the past one to two days (it hasn’t had enough time to kick in yet!).

Another caution about doggy daycare centers is that there is a natural canine hierarchy, and if you have a dominant or aggressive dog, you should consult with your vet before taking her to a dog park or doggy daycare. In general, I do not recommend taking dog-aggressive, toy-aggressive, or dominant dogs to dog parks or daycare, as they are prone to start fights, and you may then be financially responsible for bite wound repair at a veterinarian, which will run you several hundreds to thousands of dollars. On the other hand, if you have a very small, submissive dog, he may get “beaten up” at dog parks or doggy daycare.

Find a doggy daycare that is clean, has multiple people supervising the daycare, provides multiple water bowls, and is strict about their vaccine and health policy. Check it out a few times before you actually bring your dog there. Do they have size-appropriate play times? Find out their injury policy, and who their emergency veterinarian is. In general, doggy daycare is a wonderful opportunity for easy-going dogs to have some play time with their friends on the block in a safe environment. Just make sure it meets all your strict parental requirements!

Is One Cat Year Really Equivalent to Seven Human Years?

Elderly cat sleeps

While people think that one dog year equals seven human years, that’s not exactly true, and it doesn’t hold for cats either. There’s no rule on this 1:7 age ratio, nor is there accurate scientific data on this topic. Remember that different species or breeds age at different rates, as weight, obesity, nutrition, genetics, and environmental factors may play a role.

While this formula acts as a good general guideline, it is more likely to be inaccurate in the age extremes: very young or very old pets. For example, a one-year-old cat may have reached “puberty,” but this doesn’t correlate to a seven-year-old girl. Likewise, many cats can commonly live until fifteen to twenty years of age. This correlates to a 105- to 140-year-old human, and there aren’t many humans that live to age 140. In general, one cat year is most equivalent to seven human years in the “middle-aged” years only.

The first year of life is equivalent to a youth (approximately a fifteen-year-old), while a two-year-old cat is equivalent to a young adult (approximately a twenty-four-year-old). After that, each year is equivalent to approximately four human years. I like to group ages into broader categories: infant, toddler, child, adolescent, young adult, adult, middle-aged, elderly, geriatric, and uh, dead. Because this is factor dependent, the most important thing to remember is that as your cat ages, so will its body, so make sure to keep up with those geriatric checkups at your veterinary clinic.


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Tips excerpted with permission from "It's a Dog’s Life… But It’s Your Carpet: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Four-legged Friend" and "It's a Cat's World...You Just Live in It: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your Furry Feline" by Dr. Justine Lee. Published by Three Rivers Press, an imprint of Random House USA.