Tips to keep your pets healthy and safe
Ever hear the term “dog bunchers?" They are people who drive around neighborhoods looking for strays they can pick up or pets they can steal right out of people’s yards. They also reply to ads for free puppies and kittens, telling people they are looking for a family pet. But the real story is different. Most of these unfortunate creatures end up at dog auctions where they are usually cruelly handled and purchased by non-respectable laboratories for experimentation, or they will be purchased by operators of dog fighting rinks for the fighting dogs to “practice” on. Microchipping offers some protection, because most potential buyers shy away from pets that can be traced. So if you haven’t done this yet, please get that chip put in, and don’t leave your pet unattended in the yard. As an extra assurance, put a lock on the gate.
When should you say no to needles? Vaccines for distemper, parvo and other diseases have kept our pets safe from many diseases, but experts now say that yearly boosters are rarely necessary, except in puppies, kittens and young dogs and cats. A growing body or research suggests that overvaccination may play a role in various diseases, including allergic reactions, skin problems, seizures, or arthritis in later years.
Puppies and kittens need a series of shots to make up for the waning antibodies passed on by the mom, thus building their own immunity. Regular rabies vaccinations are still necessary to protect both dogs and people from contracting this deadly disease. They have to be given in accordance with local ordinances. A booster must be given a year after the initial rabies shot in puppies and kittens. After that, the 3-year shot is effective. However, if your pet ever gets in a fight with a wild critter or kills a bat, a booster shot is necessary, even if he has recently been vaccinated. Although not all wild animals or bats carry the virus, if you can safely catch the animal without getting close yourself, take it to Animal Control to have it tested in a laboratory, assume it carried the virus. Safety first!
If you want to reduce the number of vaccinations, ask your vet to perform a titer test. This test determines if antibodies from previous shots are still protecting the pet. If the test shows adequate antibody levels, you can skip the vaccination. If not, a booster is needed. By the age of 6 or 7 years, a dog may have enough immunity built up so as to need a booster only every 3 years. Combination vaccines are said to be 24% more likely to cause a bad reaction. Since the rabies vaccine is given as a separate shot, it seems lik a good idea to have it administered a week later. Ask your vet to wave the fee for a second office visit. Small dogs are more likely to have a vaccine reaction than large dogs. After all, the dosage of the vaccine is the same for all sizes.
Among the categories of vaccinations, core vaccinations for dogs include rabies, parvovirus, distemper and adenovirus. For cats, core vaccinations consist of rabies, panleukopenia virus (FPV), herpes virus-1 and feline calicivirus (FHV-1/FCV). Other vaccines may be optional or not necessary, depending on your pet’s lifestyle (i.e., indoor or outdoor, working dog or couchpotato), location (i.e., area where the risk of Lyme disease is high). Discuss these with your veterinarian.
Now a little trip to the land of toys. When you come home with goodies and toys from PetSmart or PetCo (both of these stores support adoptions from shelters so I hope you support them), you spread pure bliss among your pets But, there is no guarantee that all toys are safe. Some toys are safe for some pets, others could cost you thousands of dollar in vet fees. For instance, with my huskies, the only toys I consider safe to leave with the dog when I’m not watching are the largest Kong toys available, and even those may not be safe for a young husky. Meat bones are never safe because some can splinter, or big chunks might be chewed off and swallowed. Large Nylabones are usually safe. I discard them when they shrink in size due to many hours of chewing. I would never leave a dog alone with a toy made out of cloth because it may disappear into the stomach. These materials are not passed in the stools unless they are chewed into very tiny pieces.The same precautions go for balls and frisbies. It is surprising what a dog can swallow. A ball you might think is too large to go down the dog’s throat may do just that. I have two large full rubber balls. When we are done playing I collect them and put them away. Years ago I learned the hard way what can happen to a frisby. When I was distracted for only a minute or two, a dog had eaten about ¼ of the plastic toy. Much trouble followed. The story is too long to relate here. Moral of the story: Never leave a dog alone with a plastic toy, and that includes children’s toys. Tug-of-war toys should be used under supervision, and rawhide is not entirely safe, either, because some dogs get greedy and bite off whole sections and swallow them. These pieces may cause an intestinal obstruction making surgery necessary. A piece may even get stuck in the throat and block the trachea (wind pipe), quickly killing your pet. Last but not least, all toys should be thoroughly washed before giving them to your or cat, to eliminate the possibility of ingesting a toxic substance.
(Karen’s Corner pet health tips are not meant to replace veterinary care when needed. )
Karen Gadke, Ph.D. (Health Science) is a retired clinical study specialist, medical writer, and lecturer. She has been training and racing sled dogs, many of them rescued huskies, for 30 years. She owns both Siberians and Alaskans. Karen is an internationally published author on animal issues, awareness and education and a welcome addition to AFSBC.
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