Unsolicited Advice

I generally try to avoid offering unsolicited pet-related advice to my clients. I view my role as that of a caretaker whose primary responsibility is to ensure the safety and well-being of clients’ pets while they are under my care while adhering to the instructions of the pet’s guardians as closely as possible. If I was a parent to a human baby and my au-pair or daycare employee started giving me advice on how best to raise my child, I think I’d get pretty annoyed. So unless I see something going on that is putting a pet in obvious danger or ill-health, I tend to prefer to leave the pet-parenting to the pet parents.

Having said that, there are a few best-practices that I personally feel are kind of important and think that pet parents should at least be aware of so they can research them further if interested, so I’ll offer up my thoughts on them here.

PETS IN MOVING VEHICLES

I wrote a post about a year ago titled Critters in Cars: Let’s Talk Pet Safety. I think if I had to choose one topic that concerns me most, this would be it. I won’t rehash what I wrote here and invite you to read the original article instead, but the main gist is that pets should always be secured properly while in a moving vehicle.

Cat-in-car
Source: http://yandere-simulator-fanon.wikia.com

STICKS AND STONES (AND ICE AND BONES)

I was having dinner with my siblings a few weeks ago, and when I mentioned that I don’t let dogs under my care chew on or chase sticks, my sister rolled her eyes and said “Jeez, can’t you just let dogs be dogs?”. I have no doubt that most dogs would have a lot more fun with my sister than they do with me, at least until they experience one of the many unpleasant-at-best occurrences that are not at all uncommon when dogs are allowed to chew on sticks, rocks, ice, or bones. These include lacerations and infections in the mouth, broken teeth, choking, and perforated or blocked intestines. Stay tuned for a post on some safe chewing alternatives, but feel free to do some online research yourself in the meantime (or ask your vet for some recommendations).

dachshund with stick
Source: Pinterest

AND BLIND CORDS!

Every year, children and pets are killed or end up in the ER because they got a blind cord wrapped around their neck. Cats are at particular risk with their tendency to like to play with stringy things. Please make sure any blind cords you have are well-secured and not left dangling, especially if your kitty is playful.

Cat_blind_cord
Source: Blinds.com

KITTIES: KIBBLE VERSUS CANNED

Pet nutrition is a topic that often sparks fierce debate among pet professionals, and one could lose countless hours and a small fortune researching and trying different pet diets. The one theme that stands out for me in this vast sea of conflicting opinions is that cats do better on wet/canned food than on kibble, and that if you’re going to feed your cat kibble, it should be of limited quantity and heavily supplemented with wet food. You can read (lots) more about why at Catinfo.org, but the main gist is that cats very much need the extra water that is provided by wet food, and they very much don’t need the carbs that come from kibble. (Note: This does not seem to hold true for most dogs, who according to my own vet seem to do just fine on a kibble diet, although I am making no recommendations one way or the other on that topic, so be sure to check with your own vet before making any changes to your pet’s diet).

Dry-wet-pet-food-1706PETmarket
Source: Petfoodindustry.com

LITTER BOXES

Let me start by saying that if your current litter box setup is working well for you, don’t change anything. But please do keep the following points in mind:

  • Cat boxes should be scooped at least once a day.
  • If you use non-clumping litter, the litter should be entirely replaced at least every other day, preferably every day.
  • Choose a low-dust litter. Your cat is breathing in dust particles every time she uses the box, and the least you can do is to limit the number of dust particles she is forced to take into her lungs.
  • Maintain a litter depth of at least 2 inches. Your cat needs to feel like she has adquately covered up her business.
  • Studies indicate that in general, cats don’t have a preference when it comes to whether their litter box has a lid or not. The important factor seems to be that the litter box is large enough for them. So keep a lid on it if it’s working well for you and your cat isn’t having accidents outside the box, but consider going topless if your kitty is having issues. (You can read more about the studies here).
big_cats-small_litterbox
Source: Playrightmeow.com

CLEAN PLATES

I think many of us tend to think that because our pets lick their own butts, this means that their digestive systems can handle anything. While they certainly seem to have more hardy systems than our own,  this does not mean that they aren’t succeptible to bateria and viruses. The National Sanitation Foundation found pet bowls to be the fourth most germ-filled place in the home. Bottom line is, it’s important to thoroughly clean your pets’ food and water bowls daily, and to disinfect them periodically, and this IheartDogs article gives some additional details on the whys and hows.

Catdishwasher
Source: Nicola Alebertini (Flicker)

Well, that’s about all from pulpit for today. Please feel free to share any thoughts you might have on any of the topics raised here.

Veterinary Medicine Counterfeiting

Someone in a pet sitter forum I’m a member of just posted this article regarding the guilty plea of a CEO who was charged with “intentionally trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging for anti-parasite products and veterinary medicines between July 2015 and December 2016.”

The EPA is aware of this and also offers some guidance here.

For those of you who use flea and tick products on your cats and dogs, please take the following precautions to ensure that the products you have are legitimate:

1) Check the lot number/expiration date on the retail carton matches the lot number on the applicator package and/or the individual applicators.

2) Determine whether the instruction leaflet is included. It provides the following information: first-aid statements, including emergency US or related Merial branch telephone numbers; precautionary statements for humans and pets; directions for use; Frontline Plus from Merial usually has an adhesive calendar sticker with instructions for use and phone number. Treatment frequency is printed behind the front panel. Visual aids and instructions are also included.

3) The pesticide is contained in an applicator package, which is child-resistant.

4) Text on the package is in English only. There should be no stickers on the package. Related country’s approval numbers and phone numbers are printed on the box.

5) Once you open the applicator package, each individual applicator has a label that includes the registrant’s name “Merial;” the product name; “CAUTION”, “Keep out of reach of children”, “For animal treatment only”; Composition of active ingredient(s) (fipronil for Frontline Top Spot products; and fipronil and (S)-methoprene for Frontline Plus products). Text is in English. Note that for Merial Frontline Plus*: Applicator itself has the lot number and expiration date printed in the front.

 

Summer Pet Safety Tips

(Photo: Poki Soaks up the Sun)

The folks at the FACE Foundation shared these helpful infographics from the Arizona Humane Society with tips for keeping pets safe in the summer heat. As we head into the steamy DC summer, I figured now is a great time to share.

To the tips listed here, I would add something I think most of us know but that unfortunately still happens too often: DON’T LEAVE YOUR PET ALONE IN THE CAR!

summer-pet-safety-1

summer-pet-safety-2

The Ant Can’t…

…get to your pet’s food if you place the food bowl into a dish or pan with some water in it (apologies if you had high hopes for something that rhymed).

Basically, build a moat across which the ants are unable to swim.

I learned about this little life hack recently from a friend who had to employ it with her own cat down in the Dominican Republic, and then I got to test it out on a pet sit assignment when I came in one day to find ants beginning to swarm the cats’ food bowls. It worked brilliantly.

With summer coming on, I figured some of you might find this helfpul, but hope that you don’t have to use it!

AntMoatArchie
We haven’t had any ant problems yet this year, and Archie is determined to keep it that way by making sure he polishes off every…last…bit.

 

We Have a Winner!

Although no one who played our trivia name game in April guessed correctly as to which name is most common among the pets of Northwest Pets DC, I really wanted to give away a t-shirt, so I put the names of all those who played into a hat and drew from that pool. And the winner is….. (drumroll):

Leslie Scott!

Leslie, along with the majority of folks who played, guessed that Chloe was the most common name.

In fact, the correct answer to the trivia question is Ziggy. I have three kitty clients who all go by this name. Interestingly, there is no duplication of names among the rest of my furry clientele at this point!

The Ziggys

 

And because so many people answered with her name, here she is – the one and only – Chloe:

Chloe1

The MuttMix Project

I stumbled across this interesting project via the FACE Foundation’s blog, and invite my readers to participate if they’re interested (or to at least just read about it, even if they don’t want to take the survey/quiz).

From the “About the MuttMix Project” page of the International Association of Animal Behavioral Consultants:

“The idea of breeds and pet dogs are intimately connected…”

“What does this mean for mixed breed dogs? Since these breed categories are so strongly ingrained in our notion of “dog,” naturally our brain tries to put any new dog we meet into one or more of these categories…”

“We take individual characteristics that match our notion of breeds and use those traits to build a box to mentally house our mutt. And, since we have notions about breeds and behavior, we now also have a mental box of behavior we expect from this dog, all based on appearance.”

“Are we actually any good at this? First of all, can we do a good job of judging the mix of breeds in a mutt by looking at them? Second, do our preconceived notions about behavior and physical traits hold true?

This experiment aims to answer the first question. Using genetic markers, and a panel of known pure-bred dogs, we can confidently determine the ancestral mix of breeds represented in an individual dog. All of the images you will be asked to judge in this experiment are of dogs that have been tested, so we know what mix of breeds they represent.

Now, we need your help in finding out how well people are able to guess these breed mixes based on appearance.”

Click here to take the survey

MixedMutt

 

In Case of Emergency

Many of us load our emergency contact’s info into our phones under “ICE” (in case of emergency) so that first responders know who to contact in the event that we are incapacitated.

I would like to suggest that you consider including your pet sitter’s information either in the note field of your ICE contact, or as a separate ICE contact, if you have not already done so. This wikipedia article points out that you can designate multiple ICE contacts, and also provides some good tips on how to make sure the ICE contacts on your phone are accessible to first responders even if the phone is locked.

I typically ask my pet sitting clients to notify me once they have returned safe and sound from their vacation, but I know that it’s easy to forget to do this. Having your pet sitter listed as one of your emergency contacts just adds an extra layer of insurance that your pet sitter will be able to continue caring for your pets in the event that you are incapacitated and unable to request it.

If the suggestion above doesn’t work for you, please make sure that your primary emergency contact has your pet sitter’s contact info.

Thanks for your consideration, and may your ICE contact never need to be utilized!

Finally…A Really Good Pet Hair Remover

I don’t make this claim lightly, but I think I may have actually found a pet hair roller/remover that works well and is easy to use, with minimal effort required to remove the hair from the device itself once the device has removed it from your furniture.

I’ve only had the Chom Chom Roller for a couple of weeks now, so it’s always possible that it will break or stop being amazing, but for now I am more satisfied with it than I have been with any previous pet hair removal method (tape rolls, lint brushes, vacuum cleaners, etc.).

I haven’t yet tested it on clothing…I have a suspicion that good old fashioned tape rollers may work better. But it kicks butt on my furniture, and so I give it a five star rating (it gets 4.8 stars on Amazon). You can buy it from Amazon by clicking on the image below (yes, I’ll get paid on it if you do, but that’s not why I posted this…I really just like the device and wanted to share it with everyone).

Critters in Cars: Let’s Talk Safety

Head out the window, ears flapping, catching the breeze and checking out the world as it whizzes by. No doubt many dogs enjoy this experience, and many people who witness it smile at the cuteness as they drive alongside the vehicles containing said dogs.

Now imagine that the dog is a child instead. How would you feel about that?

Most of us would never consider allowing a child to stand up in the seat and stick his or her head out of the window of a moving vehicle; in fact, I’m willing to bet that most parents wouldn’t dream of not having their child buckled into a crash-tested car seat, depending on their age and size. And I think it’s safe to say that most of us (hopefully) take care to ensure that we are wearing a seat belt as well.

Dogs and cats are made of the same stuff we are: their bones break; their skin is vulnerable to lacerations; and their organs can sustain damage from blunt trauma. They are also subject to the same laws of physics that we are, and become moving projectiles when subjected to force.

Dog wearing goggles with head out of moving vehicle window.
At least this pooch is wearing goggles to protect her eyes from debris!

My impetus for writing this post was another local pet sitter who was advertising her services, including pet transportation, on a local listserv. One of the photos she posted was of a sweet little dog on her lap in the driver seat. I was immediately struck by a vision of the airbag deploying; given the angle at which the dog was sitting, a broken neck was the most likely outcome of that scenario. It probably wouldn’t have ended well for the driver, either.

I realize that this is not a fun topic, and to be honest it’s not one that I ever gave much consideration to until I took my pet first aid/CPR certification and learned about the injuries that are sustained by pets each year, especially dogs, because they are not properly secured in a moving vehicle. However, I couldn’t unlearn what I had learned, and am now a firm advocate for securing pets during transportation.

So the obvious next question is “what’s the best way to do this?” Fortunately, Lindsey Wolko took this question to heart and founded the Center for Pet Safety, whose mission is “to have an enduring, positive impact on the survivability, health, safety and well-being of companion animals and the consumer through scientific research, product testing and education.”

The center has developed the CPS Certified Program, a 501(C)(3) non-profit which requires rigorous product testing from its members who commit to meet independently developed safety standards, monitor product quality control, and commit to truth in advertising. If you are a pet owner and you want to try to mitigate injury to your pet in the event of an auto accident, please visit the Center for Pet Safety website to learn more (be sure to check out their FAQ’s, where I learned, among other things, that they advise against using a seat belt to strap a carrier in). I also recommend watching the video below so you can see how the organization conducts their safety tests, and read a helpful list of things to look for when shopping for a travel harness at the end. Warning: although no live animals are used in their tests, some people may find the visuals upsetting.

My goal here is not to make anyone feel guilty about how they choose to transport their pets in a vehicle, but rather to introduce an idea that may not have occurred to you. That scenario above with the pet on the lap when an airbag deploys? It could have been me several years ago, when I traveled along the I495 with a newly adopted kitty on my lap.

It wasn’t too long ago that seat belts and car seats for humans weren’t standard practice. But now that we know better, countless lives are saved every year. It’s at least worth considering that our pets deserve some of the same safety measures that we have come to expect for ourselves.

Harness Hell

I confess that figuring out how to use a new dog harness is one of the most challenging aspects of my job as a pet sitter. My brain just doesn’t map the process out well, and with so many different kinds of harnesses out there, it’s a sure bet that I’ll be confronted with and confounded by this on a somewhat regular basis.

I had a  meet and greet recently with a Rover client* whose Boston terrier wears what I think is a “Trixie” harness. She showed me how to put it on, but I have no confidence that when it comes time for our walk this afternoon I’ll be able to do so with any grace. The client sensed my apprehension and told me that she learned recently that her regular dog walkers have been just leashing her dog at the collar because they couldn’t figure it out, so that makes me feel a little bit better.

I was hoping to find a funny video of someone as inept as I trying to put a complicated harness on a dog and failing, but alas…I could only find sober instructional videos.

But you know what there are a ton of online? Yep…videos of people trying to get their cats to wear harnesses. While I don’t condone teasing or making any animal uncomfortable for entertainment, the following video is a stellar example of how many cats react to having something placed…well, pretty much anywhere on their bodies.

 

 

* I created a Rover profile back when I first started Northwest Pets DC, hoping that I could get some side jobs/income while I built my NWPDC clientele. The client mentioned above is the first I have worked with on the Rover platform. If you are a Rover client and you are looking for the occasional walk for your dog, please feel free to look me up on Rover and book me via their site. If you are looking for regular walks or vacation stays, please contact me through NWPDC’s contact form; call 202-999-8206; or email northwestpetsdc@gmail.com.