Careers for the Animal-Loving Millennial

As a senior in high school, I know firsthand what it’s like to be asked every five minutes by any adults in the vicinity what it is I want to do with my life. Fortunately for me, I have always known that I wanted to go into veterinary medicine as a practicing veterinarian, but for some young animal lovers, the path to take isn’t always clear. Here are some careers for college-bound animal fans:

Artificial Insemination Technician
AI technicians use the latest in artificial insemination technology in order to safely breed cows, horses, and even dogs or cats. Technicians work with veterinarians and specialists to regulate breeding and to monitor the heat cycles of animals. More information here

Canine Nutritionist
Canine nutritionists create dietary plans for dogs and work with clients to find the best food options for their dog, whether the dog suffers from allergies or weight problems or anything in between. More information here

Animal Cruelty Investigator
Animal cruelty investigators investigate cruelty, document cases, and enforce laws against animal cruelty. This job can be heartbreaking, as investigators deal with harrowing scenes of abuse on a daily basis. More information here

Pet Adoption Counselor
Pet adoption counselors advocate for adoption and match potential owners with their perfect shelter pet. More information here

Veterinary Pathologist
Veterinary pathologists prevent and treat pathogens found in animals, domesticated or otherwise. More information here

Wildlife Rehabilitator
Wildlife rehabilitators work to rehabilitate sick or injured wildlife and educate the public on what to do if a sick or hurt wild animal is found. More information here

Saying Goodbye To Caesar

One of the saddest things I’ve experienced happened to me this week when I went to the veterinary clinic with my chinchilla, Caesar. I knew it was coming, had known for almost two weeks, but as soon as the vet left me and my mom for a few minutes with him to decide on burial options, I started to cry. I didn’t want to have to make any decisions, and I didn’t want to go through with any of it, not when I was holding him, his little heart beating fast in his little chest. Whenever I picture a pet going through euthanasia, I picture one that is old, unable to walk, clearly in so much agony that signing the paper for the needle is a blessing for the poor animal. Caesar was in pain, his energy was minimal, but it was different. Chinchillas hide their symptoms of sickness and pain very well as a defense mechanism; predators target prey that appears to be weak. This makes it hard for owners to know caesarwhen chinchillas are sick sometimes, and it makes diagnosis difficult. It also makes it hard, when the decision falls upon an owner’s shoulders, to go through with putting a beloved chinchilla (or any pet, really) to sleep. It was the right thing to do, he was in pain, but it was hard to visualize the magnitude of suffering he had to have been enduring during the last week.
I first brought Caesar to Norton Animal Hospital in November. He had been drooling and pawing at his mouth, which are two textbook symptoms for tooth problems. I was nervous when we went to the clinic but we were soon introduced to Dr. Thomas Silberhorn, who always told us all of our options and kept us informed. Caesar’s bottom front incisors had grown up into the top of his mouth because he had stopped chewing on the chews (including his wood hay manger, lava rocks, and wood chews) that were in his cage for him. Dr. Silberhorn clipped Caesar’s teeth down, prescribed an eye lubricant for his runny eyes, and we left, hoping that periodic tooth trimming would be our only worry.
It soon became apparent that something else was wrong. His teeth had become overgrown again, but Dr. Silberhorn also found an infection by Caesar’s back molars. His teeth were trimmed easily, but the infection was problematic. It was also discovered that his teeth were growing downward into his mandible, causing him pain. The latter was the most grim; surgery was possible, but the odds were not good. In order to fix it, Caesar would have had to be put under anesthesia (which was risky in itself) and his mandible would have to be drilled carefully so the teeth could be taken out. A chinchilla’s mandible is very small and fragile, and if it were to be fractured during the surgery, he would have to be put to sleep. Caesar’s lifespan and our options depended on whether or not the teeth pushing through his mandible would stay the same or get worse. Dr. Silberhorn prescribed an antibiotic for the infection and told us to come back in two weeks and see if anything had changed.
I decided right away that if it came down to surgery, I wouldn’t make Caesar go through with it. The surgery was risky, a procedure that Dr. Silberhorn himself didn’t like doing. To go through hours of surgery with the odds so badly stacked against my little friend was not a fair option. I tried not to worry about it, but the truth was that it scared me to death. We administered the antibiotic, but after a week, it was clear that Caesar was suffering terribly. He ate very little and wouldn’t even accept treats, he was drinking half as much as he did before, and he was extremely lethargic. It seemed as though the infection had gone away, but the teeth pushing through his mandible were relentless. Administering the antibiotic was not pleasant for Caesar, and after a week and a half I stopped. I didn’t want him to be mad at me for forcing his mouth open to give him medication if this was the end for him; I wanted him to know that I loved him.
This past Wednesday was our two week check in, and I couldn’t have felt worse. I wasn’t letting myself believe what was probably going to happen, and the inevitable wasn’t something I was ready for. Caesar’s infection had cleared up, but there wasn’t much to celebrate. Caesar had lost almost 100 grams in two weeks, a big drop for such a little guy. Dr. Silberhorn told us that X-rays may be the next step, but that was before he felt Caesar’s jaw, and had us feel it too. What had been a small bump before had grown huge in a matter of only two weeks. Things were going downhill extremely fast, and our choices became even more grim. Dr. Silberhorn could prescribe a painkiller, which wouldn’t solve anything, only keep Caesar alive for a little longer. The other option was to put him to sleep. We were given a few moments to decide, but I already knew what I didn’t want to do, but had to do. I couldn’t just keep him alive out of selfishness; if nothing was going to get better, and there was no medications that would help him rather than just keep him going, I had no choice but to put him to sleep.
It was the first time that I had ever cried at a veterinary clinic. Caesar was fully my pet; he lived in a huge four-level cage in my room for four years. I thoroughly cleaned his cage out every week, gave him periodic dust baths, and let him run around on my bed. I taught him to come to the cage door when I shook his treat bag, and he wasn’t afraid to jump into my hands and up my arm when invited. My grandparents had gotten him for me when I was visiting them (my grandfather had read somewhere that chinchillas were on sale at a pet store and mentioned it to me) and my parents (much to my surprise) agreed to let me go get him. I named him after Julius Caesar, my favorite historical figure after completing my 7th grade history class. I loved him so much, and letting him go was extremely hard; I’ve been upset ever since. I know that he isn’t in pain anymore, which is something to take comfort in, but I wish he hadn’t been hurting in the first place. I don’t know if he understood what was happening or not, and I don’t know if chinchillas (or any of us) go anywhere after they (or we) die. All I can do is hope that he is happy wherever he is, and that he understands that I loved him and did what I believed was best for him.

Dog Days Of Summer

 pet-water-beach-dog-web

   It may be the middle of August already, but summer still has some warm life left in it before we are thrown into the chill and sweater-strewn days of autumn. Below, you will find some great activity ideas you can do with your dog before the dreary days of winter, as well as some helpful tips to ensure Fido’s health and safety.

Take Your Dog For A Walk
The days are starting to feel a little less blistering than they did in July, so why not take advantage of some of the cooler days by taking Fido for a walk? It’s a great way to get exercise, both for you and your pup. If your dog has a habit of being destructive and chewing up things (s)he shouldn’t, try taking him/her on walks to get rid of some of that energy. Taking walks with your dog is a good way to bond, relieve stress, and enjoy the outdoors. Make sure you have a secure leash and harness/collar (although harnesses are the best for walking) and a firm grip on the leash while walking your pet. It is also important for your pet to have a collar with an identification tag and license. Before taking a walk with your dog, make sure it isn’t too hot to walk him/her by using this effective trick: put the back of your hand to the pavement and if it is too hot for you to keep your hand there for five seconds, it is too hot to walk your pet. (link)

Take Your Dog Somewhere New
There are many restaurants, hotels, campgrounds, beaches, and other attractions that allow dogs, and if you’re looking to get away for a few days, or maybe just go on a day trip or outing, bringfido.com is a valuable resource to find pet-friendly attractions near you or your intended destination. The website even has an “Events” tab where you can find dog events worldwide for you and Fido to visit. 

…Or Somewhere Close
You don’t need to go far to have a great time with your pet. Teach Fido a new trick in the backyard, or maybe play a game of fetch or Frisbee. Call up some of your friends who also have dogs and schedule a day where you meet up at the local dog park or someone’s yard for some puppy socializing and people socializing too. Run around in sprinklers, make pet friendly ice pops (recipes can be found at dogingtonpost.com), or just enjoy the sunshine —  whatever it is, Fido will be happy to spend the time with you.

Helpful Tips/Reminders
– Remember to never leave Fido in the car for an extended period of time. When the temperature is in the 60’s (Fahrenheit) or higher, especially on a sunny day, it is recommended to not leave your dog in the car. Temperatures rise drastically in a car, even more than people realize. If you have any doubts at all about the temperature being too hot, do not chance leaving Fido in the car.
– Mosquitoes and other bugs too much to bear? You can find many bug repellents and do-it-yourself bug repellent recipes online that use essential oils and are safe to use on and around your pet. Don’t let pests get in the way!
– Always be on the alert for fleas and ticks by using products such as Frontline and bathe your pet in anti-flea and tick shampoos. Check your dogs regularly and thoroughly for ticks, especially if you or Fido have been in an area with tall grass/brush. Keep your dog up to date on all preventative medicines and vaccines, such as heart worm pills and rabies vaccines to ensure their health and safety as well as the health and safety of other dogs they may come in contact with.
– It may not seem to be too hot, but always be sure to have water available for your pet, especially when they are outside. Take the appropriate safety measures for your pet to ensure that overheating and dehydration doesn’t occur.
– Spend time with your pet, and have a safe and fun rest of the summer, both for you and Fido.

Adoption Tips: Dogs

So, after months of prodding from your children or a move out of that pet-free apartment or even a sudden desire for a furry friend, you’ve decided that your home would be more complete with a dog. That’s wonderful; dogs, or any pet really, have been proven to raise morale (source: webmd.com) and even keep you healthier. Before you go and bring Fido home, however, there are a few things you have to make sure of.

Are you prepared for a new pet?
Before you go looking for your new best friend, make sure it isn’t just a decision you’re making on a whim; dogs are a lot of work, and are worth all of that work, but only if you’re in it for the long run. If you have other pets, make sure that they’ll be alright with a new addition to the family. A few things you’ll need for Fido before you bring him home are:
– a collar (fitted with license and identification tags as soon as you can)
– a leash
– food and water bowls
– food (dry kibble is a good start)
– a crate
– baby gates (if you have spaces you want to keep your new friend out of)
– toys
– dog bed (optional, depending on if you want Fido in your bed or not)

What type of dog are you looking for?
This is a very important question, because there are a lot of factors to look into if you’re looking for a specific breed, such as temperament around children if you have any, allergen risks, etc. If you don’t have a lot of space, such as if you live in an apartment, a big, active Great Dane probably isn’t the right choice for you. Some key factors to look into when deciding on a specific breed are as follows:
– temperament, such as energy level, protectiveness, and intelligence
– size
– cost (such as grooming)
– allergies that would prevent you from certain dog fur exposure
– health problems associated with specific breeds (such as hip dysplasia in golden retrievers)
– compatibility with children and/or other pets (based on your individual situation)

How can you adopt safely?
Shelters are always the best and first choice for pet adoptions, and many shelters have specific breeds rescued from puppy mills or otherwise unclaimed that would be perfect for your family. If you aren’t looking for a specific breed, shelters always have plenty of mutts or breeds you may just fall in love with. If you’ve gone to local shelters and just haven’t found the right dog to take home yet, you can always wait and check back at another time, or you can look into finding a reputable local breeder. Looking into petfinder.com is also a good option, but stay away from websites like Craig’s List and pet stores, where more often than not the dogs are coming from cruel puppy mills that you don’t want to help fund.

How To Fix Fido’s Separation Anxiety

Separation-Anxiety-in-Dogs-600x399With our puppy Watson, leaving him home while we were out was always a problem; he’d tear up bedding, destroy everything in his wake, and eat things that should never pass his mouth. This was a huge issue; it was too hot to bring him everywhere in the summer, and too cold in the winter (leaving dogs in a too hot or cold car is never an option). My dad could no longer bring him to work during the day, and there was no way either one of my parents could leave their jobs just for Watson to never have to be left alone during the work week. Doggy day care was an option, except for the fact that it was a very expensive one.
On a side note, before you assume it’s separation anxiety bothering Fido, make sure there’s nothing wrong with him physically; his peeing on the floor may be a urinary tract infection, not an anxiety problem. Also be sure that there aren’t any behavioral problems that may be making your dog act this way; it can’t be fixed if you mistake it as anxiety over you leaving.
Our method, we eventually figured out, was pretty simple. To ease this separation anxiety, the exit from your home must be calm, just like the entrance when you return home to your dog. Watson, being as high strung as he is, needed something other than a nice goodbye to calm him down, so when we leave him, we give him a little treat that has natural sedatives to make him relax and lay down while he’s home. Make sure that your dog has no allergies before you use a sedative, and it’s also a good idea to check with your trusted veterinarian that it is okay for your dog to have sedatives as well.
Another good idea is to give your dog a Kong or other fun toy filled with a treat or tasty Kong gel. This keeps your dog entertained with something other than tearing up your couch or bed, and also lets the dog associate your leaving with a positive reward.
Another way to tire your dog out is to take him/her for a walk or run to the dog park before leaving him/her home. We do this with Watson so when he’s home he’ll sleep, and it’s usually as effective as the sedative, depending on how long the exercise session is.
While my dad is at work, he keeps Skype up on his computer to monitor Watson when he’s home alone during the work week. This monitoring isn’t accessible by everyone, but if it’s possible for you, I highly recommend it; plus, it also works when you go out and want to check on your dog with the Skype app. This way, if your dog is misbehaving, you can go home and prevent any real damage to your things or injury to your dog before it happens.
We have three dogs, so when Watson is home alone, we put him in a room with Daisy, one of our three, and he enjoys laying with her. Abbie, our other dog, goes in another room because she’s older and doesn’t like to play with young Watson even though he really wants to play with her. If you have more than one dog, your dog with separation anxiety may enjoy being with his/her brother/sister as it may give him/her a bit of comfort.
When you return home, make sure the greeting is just as calm as the goodbye. Greet your dog, but then wait until he/her calms down before paying attention to him/her. This establishes the calm environment your dog will eventually associate with your comings and goings, making for less stress and tension on both sides.

Spay & Neuter: Why It Helps

Many dog and cat owners feel that spaying or neutering their pet is unnecessary; according to some studies, some pet owners believe that neutering a male cat/dog “removes his masculinity” and can be “demeaning” to the dog or cat’s sense of being a male. In all honesty, this is purely an excuse for not getting the procedure done. Male cats and dogs, once neutered, do not feel or exhibit themselves as being anything less than “manly”. Neutering your pet has many benefits, both for him and for you.
When a dog/cat has been neutered, it reduces destructive behavior due to the angst of wanting a mate. The scratching, chewing, marking of territory (urinating where they shouldn’t) or overall destruction of furniture, shoes, walls, etcetera can be reduced or even eliminated just from the procedure. Your pet will be more content, have no chance of testicular tumors,will be less likely to have prostate gland problems, will reduce the urge to roam and get lost, as well as reduce urges to fight. All of these prevent injuries and make for a happier, longer pet life.

Spaying your female dog/cat has benefits as well; if you have more than one cat (being of opposite sexes), or if you allow your cat/dog to roam (not recommended, ever), there will never be the fear of coming home to a pregnant cat/dog. This lowers the level of unwanted kittens/puppies put into shelters, being euthanized, or left on the streets. There are also uncertain complications that can arise in your pet’s health from the prospect of pregnancy and delivery; just like a human birth, not everything can be 100% certain. Spaying your female pet also eliminates the heat cycle: that uncomfortable time when your cat or dog tries to find a mate. Female dogs that aren’t spayed can menstruate just like humans, which can cause a mess in your home (cats do not menstruate; if your cat is bleeding, contact emergency veterinary help right away).

Just like with male pets, spaying your female pet reduces the urge to roam, reduces the chance of reproductive diseases, and provides a happier temperament, making your pet (male or female)  lead a healthier, happier life, and not having to deal with the symptoms of not being fixed makes you happier, too.

Disease Detectors: Kennel Cough

Kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, can happen due to many viruses and bacteria. Bordetella is a main bacterial cause of kennel cough, which can also be paired with a virus; so not only does the dog have Bordetella, it may also have another virus, such as canine herpes, canine distemper, or the parainfluenza virus.
While kennel cough can seem bad, what with the terrible hacking coughing and choking it can cause, it usually isn’t serious, and many dogs can get themselves better without treatment.

Causes

Dogs can get kennel cough by being exposed to infected particles of viruses or bacteria that are in the air. Once inhaled, the particles can coat the respiratory tract.
Usually, this tract has a layer of mucus that protects the tract from infection and diseases, but this lining can be weakened by cold temperatures, cigarette smoke, crowded shelter/kennel conditions, and stress because of travel. Once weakened, the mucus cannot combat the particles, and the dog can get sick.

Symptoms

Kennel cough can be categorized by a few symptoms listed here:

*Excessive coughing
*Sneezing/runny nose
*Eye discharge
*Loss of appetite
*Low energy

Prevention/Treatment

Kennel cough is contagious, so if you have more than one dog and suspect one of them has kennel cough, immediately separate the sick dog from the other(s).
Contact your veterinarian if you think your dog has kennel cough, or is having any abnormal symptoms similar to those above, as these can also sometimes indicate other more serious problems.
Dogs can usually fight off kennel cough on their own, but you may want to get medication from your veterinarian.
Use a harness when the sick dog is on a leash to minimize coughing and discomfort.
Avoid leaving your dog in kennels that seem overcrowded, unsanitary, or poorly ventilated.
Dogs with kennel cough will usually bounce back within three weeks, but if not, contact your veterinarian. Prolonged kennel cough can lead to pneumonia.

Disease Detectors: Feline URIs

An upper respiratory infection (or URI for short) in cats is usually caused by viruses; particularly the herpes virus. Once a cat has gotten the virus, he/she can become a carrier; not always suffering from symptoms, but still harboring the infection. A URI is very infectious, and can spread throughout a shelter/kennel fast by means of nasal discharge, the sharing of water/food bowls, and through grooming.

The other way a URI can be caused is through bacteria. This is less common, and can be found in overcrowded shelters and other stressful situations.

The general symptoms of URIs are:
*Coughing
*Sneezing with Discharge
*Drooling
*Fever
*Nasal/Oral Ulcers
*Rapid Breathing/Open Mouth Breathing
*Irritated Eyes

Stress is a key factor in the development of URIs; cats who are under high stress, especially in shelter conditions, are more susceptible.
Flat-faced breeds, such as Persians, are more prone to URIs because of their already impaired breathing from their unique facial structures.

Upper respiratory infections are usually treated with medication, and, in the case of a multi-cat household, isolation. The best way to make sure a cat recovers is to bring him/her to a veterinarian who can properly prescribe the best method of treatment. If a cat with a URI is left untreated, the infection can escalate drastically to pneumonia and even blindness as well as permanent breathing issues.

URIs are preventable by:
*Keeping Cats Indoors
*Keep Stress at a Minimum
*Keep Cats up to Date with Vaccines
*Wash Hands After Becoming in Contact with Infected Cats

Is Your Pet Prepared for a Natural Disaster?

Pet RecueNo matter where you live, a natural disaster can strike at any moment, whether it be a wicked Kansas tornado, a South Carolina flash flood, a Texas drought, or a New England snow storm, you and your pet must always be prepared. Many dogs, cats, birds, and other animals are lost in hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, and the loss of a pet can be devastating. Make sure  Fluffy, Fido, and Polly are all safe in case of a natural disaster with these helpful tips.

ID Your Dog/Cat

Dogs Resue

The best way to ensure the return of a lost or displaced dog or cat in any situation is to get them collars with ID tags, stating your pet’s name and your phone number and even address for safe return. Another option that would be even safer is to get both an ID tag, and get a microchip inbedded in your pet’s skin. The microchip has your address, name, and phone number and can be scanned for the safe return of pets. ID tags can be bought and ingraved at most pet stores and microchips can be imbedded in your pet at your local and trusted veterinarian.

Do Not Leave Your Pets Behind

No matter the situation, never leave your pets behind. They may be trapped, drowned, or otherwise killed in the disaster. Always make sure to bring your pet with you when you evacuate, and make sure that they’re with you at all times. If the situation is so dire it isn’t safe for you and your family, why would you leave your pets to weather the storm?

Pack Accordingly

While Fido may need only food, water, a leash and a carrier, small animals, such as chinchillas, would require a secure carrier, toys, sticks to chew on, water, food, bedding, salt licks, etc. Whatever is normally provided for your pet should be brought along in a good amount; in a natural disaster, you never know how long it will be until you can restock on items, so plan and pack accordingly. Ask your local veterinarian for a complete list of first-aid pet items needed for a natural disaster, or buy an emergency kit at the online ASPCA Store. Handbooks and fliers are also available, and should be available upon asking at your trusted veterinarian clinic.

Emergency Contacts List

Put together a list of emergency contacts and information about your pet that would be brought with you at the time of evacuation. Have a list of your veterinarian clinic and/or hospital numbers, emergency pet caregiver numbers, and certificates of vaccinations, as well as pictures of your pet with the family.

No matter the situation, make sure that your pets are well taken care of and just as safe as you and your family. In the wake of the destruction of homes and lives, don’t add a pet’s abandonment, loss, or death to the heartbreak that comes with natural disasters.