General Interest

Spring Safety Tips

posted March 9th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Anna Holton-Dean

At the first hint of spring, most of us are ready to pack up the sweaters, throw open the windows, start the deep cleaning and DIY projects… Need I go on? But as a pet owner, there’s much more to consider amid thoughts of glistening porcelain, a prize-winning yard or a breezy afternoon drive.

The tips below, courtesy of the ASPCA and resident TulsaPets contributors, will help ensure a less eventful spring for you and your furry companions— and that’s a good thing when you are looking to avoid trips to the pet E.R. Before you begin painting, cleaning or landscaping, check these springtime safety tips off your list for a safer, healthier season of blooms and sunshine.

The Allures of Easter

Chocolate bunnies might bring a smile to your face, but they can be toxic to cats, dogs and ferrets. Worse still, Easter lilies can be fatal if ingested by a pet. Also, according to the ASPCA, kittens love to nibble on synthetic, shiny green grass, which can lead to obstructions in the digestive tract, vomiting and dehydration.

Equally important are the fates of little animals sold during the season. “While bunnies, chicks and other festive animals are adorable, resist the urge to buy—these cute babies grow up fast and often require specialized care.” in short, keep all Easter candy and décor away from pets’ reach and leave the raising of baby chicks to the experts.

Screen the Scene

Many pet owners enjoy spring breezes by opening windows. However, they are putting their pets at risk says the ASPCA. Cats are prone to jump or fall through unscreened windows. “Be sure to install snug and sturdy screens in all of your windows. If you have adjustable screens, make sure they are tightly wedged into window frames.”

Car Safety

In warm weather, you might be tempted to let Fido enjoy a well-known pastime. There’s no denying dogs love to feel the wind in their furry faces, but allowing them to ride in the bed of a truck or stick their heads out of a car window is dangerous.

Insects or flying debris (rocks or pebbles) could cause eye or ear injuries and lung infections. An abrupt stop or turn could result in injury or, even worse, the pet being ejected from the vehicle. Pets should always be secured in a crate or harness designed for them.

Spring Cleaning

Before you pull out the commercial cleaners for heavy duty scrubbing, make sure all chemical-containing substances are out of your pet’s reach. If possible, use chemical free, but if you must use a commercial product, read the safety read the safety warning and directions for proper use and storage to ensure Fido or Fluff y’s safety.

DIY 101

Products such as paint, stains, solvents and mineral spirits can be toxic to pets, causing severe irritation or chemical burns, the ASPCA says. Read all labels to make sure the product is safe to use around pets or keep them away while the products are in use.

Along the same lines, it is wise to confine pets in a safe area while using hazardous items such as nails, staples, insulation, blades or power tools. Fido might complain, preferring to see the action, but it’s better to endure barking than break for an emergency trip to the vet.

Garden with Care

Fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides may keep our plants and lawns healthy but their ingredients may be hazardous, even fatal, if ingested by a pet, the ASPCA says. Always store these products out of your pet’s reach and carefully follow the safety warning and directions.

Plant Caution

Many popular springtime plants are poisonous or toxic to pets if eaten. The previously mentioned Easter lilies are off limits, along with rhododendrons and azaleas. Do your research and check the ASPCA’s website for a full list of toxic and non-toxic plants for your home and garden. Due diligence in the beginning can save you heartache in the end.

Make Vet Trips Routine

Make regular pet checkups a priority, Mary Green of K9 Manners & More reminds us. “Visiting the vet once a year for a dog is equal to us humans going once every seven years.” That’s certainly not sufficient for prevention’s sake. She also says spring brings kennel cough and parvovirus, along with “kitten season.” So be sure pets are current on vaccinations and spay/neuter now, animal advocate Ruth Steinberger advises.

if you suspect your pet has springtime allergies, let your vet know. Just like humans, pets can have allergies to food, dust, plants and pollen the ASPCA warns. Reactions can range from minor sniffling and sneezing to anaphylactic shock.

Keep Creepy Crawlers at Bay

April showers not only bring May flowers, but lots of bugs! Make sure your pet is on year-round heartworm preventive medication and flea and tick control. Also, it’s a good idea to check with your vet for a plan specifically tailored to your pet’s needs.

While Out and About

With more trips to the park and longer walks, it’s more likely that your pet could wander off. The ASPCA advises all pets have microchips in place for identification or wear a tag with your home address, cell phone number and any other pertinent information. “Canines should wear flat (never choke) collars.”

Also, don’t forget the water on longer walks for hydrating you and Fido. And should your pet run off in pursuit of a female in season—or be the object of another’s affection—you’ll be thankful you took care of that spay/neutering issue already.

Wild Deliveries

posted March 9th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Nancy Gallimore Werhane

When you start your busy day, you take care of yourself, your family and maybe a few pets, right? When Annette Tucker starts her day, she has about 100 mouths to feed, and that’s during the “slow” season.

By title, Tucker is wildlife rehabilitator, president, director of operations and self-proclaimed head pooper scooper at Wild Heart Ranch (WHR), a state and federally licensed medical clinic, rehabilitation and pre-release care facility for all species of wildlife.

Every day, one employee and a dedicated group of volunteers join her in caring for everything from orphaned deer to a great horned owl with a sprained wing. A quick scan down the rescue group’s Facebook page also reveals a bobcat, raccoons, turtles, hawks, possums, geese, and the newest arrivals, a litter of tiny baby squirrels.

Wild heart ranch started in 1996 when Tucker moved to a small farm near Claremore, Okla. already an animal advocate, Tucker’s farm naturally became a sanctuary for numerous domestic animals in need. Then one day a friend brought her a pair of orphaned baby raccoons, and a mission was launched. Tucker discovered her passion for wildlife rehabilitation and never looked back.

For 12 years, she funded the care of more than 1,000 wild animals per year from her own pocket, working two jobs to do so. One of Tucker’s jobs was as a veterinary assistant— experience that helped her support the animals tremendously through the years.

In June of 2008, Wild heart ranch was finally established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and became Tucker’s full-time job. With help from Wild heart’s co- founder and vice president, Sandy Brooks, Tucker’s support system grew quickly to include Veterinarian Lesleigh Cash Warren, 40 hard-working volunteers, a dedicated board of directors, generous sponsors and, of course, her family and friends.

WHR RELIES ON DONATIONS OF FUNDS AND SUPPLIES TO SUPPORT
THEIR CARE OF INJURED, ILL OR ORPHANED WILD ANIMALS. A
COMPLETE WISH LIST CAN BE FOUND ON THEIR WEBSITE, BUT
THE FOLLOWING LIST OF SUPPLIES IS MOST NEEDED DURING THE
BUSY SPRING AND SUMMER BABY SEASON.
• BABY FLAKED RICE CEREAL
• OLD BLANKETS
• ANY CANNED PET FOODS
• DRY DOG FOOD
• OLD OR FREEZER BURNED MEAT (NOT COOKED OR SEASONED, NO PORK)
• MEDICAL OR WOUND SUPPLIES
• CLEANING SUPPLIES, LAUNDRY SOAP, DISH SOAP
• LIVESTOCK FEED FOR DEER (CORN CHOPS, SWEET FEED)

From her start with two little masked babies, Tucker has created a safe haven where all species of wild animals can receive professional medical and supportive care with the end goal of release back into the wild whenever possible. By the end of 2012, nearly 20,000 wild animals received care at WHR.

The current relative calm at the ranch is about to be shattered. As we head into spring every year, Mother Nature turns into one giant labor and delivery room. if everything goes as planned, baby birds hatch safely, bunnies are snug in their nests, raccoons are tucked away in hollow trees, baby deer are safe hiding in the tall grass, and all receive their mothers’ expert care.

Unfortunately, sometimes Mother Nature’s plans get derailed. Each year hundreds of baby animals are orphaned and well-meaning humans try to figure out what exactly is the right thing to do for them. as Tucker and her volunteers gear up for another busy baby season, they are also working hard to educate the public about how to properly aid wildlife during this delicate time of year.

According to information provided by WHR, one of the best ways to help our wild friends is to steer clear and avoid disturbing nesting sites whenever possible. Tucker advises to think carefully before heading out to spring clean around your house. Thinking of trimming a dead tree limb? Check it first to see if it might be housing a family of raccoons or a nest of baby squirrels.

Planning to clean up an old junk pile? Look for signs of it being used as a temporary nursery. You might see little trails leading into the pile or other small signs that a family is living there. Planning to clean out your gutters? Check for active bird nests before you just sweep everything away.

But what do you do if you find that a bird or wild animal has set up a nursery on your property? “Waiting a bit to deal with the project at hand is always ideal,” Tucker says. Most young families just need a few weeks before the babies are ready to leave the nest and move on.

If your project can’t wait, talk to the experts at WHR to find out how to best deal with the situation. “Finding a nest doesn’t mean you cannot perform your task,” Tucker says. “It just means you will do things a little differently and learn a little patience to support the lives at stake.”

The first rule of thumb Tucker preaches is, whenever possible, babies are better off with their mothers. “We are happy to take in any orphan,” she says. “But it’s sad when a few weeks with mom are traded for several weeks with us.”

If you find a baby bird, returning it to the mother’s nest is ideal. “She is so much better at being a bird example to her babies than we are,” Tucker says. If you should find babies you believe to be orphaned, Tucker advises to make sure the mother is not returning to the nest before intervening. Just because you do not see her, doesn’t necessarily mean she isn’t caring for her young.

WILD HEART RANCH CONTACT INFO:
10491 S. 4190 RD.
CLAREMORE, OK 74017
(918) 342-WILD
[email protected]
WWW.WILDHEARTRANCH.ORG
WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/WILDHEARTRANCH

Take mother rabbits for example. Rabbit nests are just shallow indentions in the ground lined with a bit of the mother’s fur and covered by grass. According to Tucker, rabbits only nurse their young at night and do not sit on their nests during the day because that would attract predators.

Because they are not the smartest moms when it comes to selecting a nest site, Tucker claims it is not uncommon to find a family of newborn rabbits in the middle of your back yard—yes, even if you have a dog or cat in residence.

If you want to see if the mother rabbit is still caring for her young, Tucker suggests using a bit of string or twigs to make an X on top of the nest. If you check the next morning and the X has been disturbed, you will know the mother rabbit is still on the job. She also recommends placing a tomato cage around the nest to protect the babies from family pets. The mother can still get in, but larger animals cannot.

So how do you know when to intervene in helping newborn wild animals? Tucker offers these specific guidelines to determine when it’s time for a baby to go to a wildlife rescue. Intervention is necessary for:

• A baby whose mother is known to be dead.

• A baby that is cold to the touch, injured or dehydrated.

• Any animal or bird, young or adult, which has been caught by a domestic animal. Some internal injuries and puncture wounds are not obvious, and the animal should be checked over by a professional.

• A baby whose nest cannot be located.

If you determine that you do have an orphaned animal in need of assistance, Tucker offers these instructions for ensuring the baby has the best chance of survival. “Do not feed or give milk, water or anything to any animal until you first speak with a wildlife rehabilitator,” Tucker says.

Instead she advises to get the baby secure in a small box with soft, clean, string-free bedding and then warm it slowly if it is cold. “We want them warm and calm when they arrive, so we can immediately get started helping them,” she says. Stress is a primary cause of death in baby animals, so keeping handling to a minimum is vital, no matter how cute the baby.

The first litter of baby squirrels to arrive at WHR signals the tip of the spring breeding season iceberg, and Tucker and her crew are ready. “We expect to accept between 700 and 800 orphaned animals at the ranch by this June,” she predicts.

Her ultimate hope is that instead of taking matters into their own hands, people will ask for information and assistance when dealing with wildlife. “In my world,” she says, “there are no stupid questions when it comes to helping an animal.”

Dental Dangers

posted January 14th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Kiley Roberson

Is your pet’s smile making him sick? The truth is that more than 85% of pets over age 3 suffer from some sort of dental disease. Tartar buildup on your pet’s teeth means bacteria, and bacteria leads to infections. Many pets develop heart disease or kidney disease as a result of harboring harmful bacteria in their mouths over time.

Veterinarians, like Dr. Heather Owen at Animal Acupuncture, are constantly reminding clients to provide annual dental exams and cleanings for their pets followed by care at home. “Smaller pets may need to have their teeth cleaned every six months,” Owen explains. “Larger pets need a cleaning every year. I tell people to flip their lip; if there is tartar, they need to be cleaned.”

Still, pet owners are reluctant to follow these recommendations. Some don’t like the idea of using anesthesia to put their pets to sleep during dental procedures because they think it’s dangerous. That’s why many groomers have started offering Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry (AFPD).

Marketing brochures show calm dogs sitting on the laps of “pet dental hygienists” who gently scrape tartar off the pets’ teeth. For anyone who has a senior pet or anyone who has lost a pet under anesthesia, this idea might seem to be right on target. But, Owen says, don’t be fooled.

“Don’t do it,” Owen warns. “You can pay a groomer to brush your pet’s teeth and check for bacteria if you want, but they are not educated in veterinary dentistry nor are they trained. This is a money making trend in the industry, and that is it.”

Veterinarians use ultrasonic scalers and sharp dental instruments for cleanings. This is one reason a general anesthetic is needed. Beyond keeping the patient from moving, heavy sedation or general anesthesia allows a more thorough procedure of the entire mouth and hard to see areas. Sedation also helps keep the pets from inhaling the bacteria as it is scraped from their teeth, which could make them very sick.

Dr. Owen says that Anesthesia-Free Pet Dentistry is not only dangerous, it’s a scam on pet owners. “The biggest danger is causing your pet harm,” Owen says. “Without sedations, we cannot take oral X-rays which are imperative in helping to assess the health of your pet’s teeth.

“We cannot protect their airway, allowing them to inhale massive amounts of bacteria. We could hurt them with the scaler if they unexpectedly move on us, and we cannot extract painful or infected teeth. In essence, it is a waste of your time and money.”

In a veterinary office, dental cleanings are followed by a polishing step that helps remove the microscopic divots from the tooth enamel and creates a smooth healthy surface. Many veterinarians also apply a barrier sealant that helps repel plaque-causing bacteria and has been shown to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. Neither of these can be done sedation free.

In fact, without anesthesia, only the visible portions of the teeth can be cleaned. Areas under the gum line and the insides of the teeth will still have tartar and bacteria. In time, the teeth will deteriorate and become painful.

Under a safe anesthetic, veterinarians are able to probe all areas of the mouth and use tools to remove plaque and bacteria from under the gum line. This actually stops the disease process. Veterinarians also use X-rays to help find potential problem areas, and you won’t find X-ray equipment at an anesthesia-free dental facility.

If you are concerned about the cost of dentals, use the February dental discount month to help your money go further. Brush your pet’s teeth daily at home. Listen to your veterinarian’s recommendations. They are trained in this area!

The anesthesia used is safe, and the risks are minimal—more so if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often (less time under). Be certain to have your veterinarian listen to his or her heart and perform blood work prior to sedating/anesthetizing your pet. Ask your vet to take dental X-rays to examine along with you!

If you know your pet needs a proper dental cleaning, but the thought of general anesthesia frightens you, talk with your veterinarian. “The anesthesia used is very safe, and the risks are minimal,” Owen says. “It’s even better if you have your pet’s teeth cleaned more often, because they are actually under for a shorter amount of time.”

While no anesthetic protocol is 100 percent safe, anesthetic complications are extremely rare. Ask your veterinarian to show you the monitoring equipment and explain how a well-trained staff makes anesthesia as safe as possible.

You can also reduce the need for dental cleanings by using dental home care products designed to remove plaque buildup in between the veterinary visits. The gold standard is to brush your pet’s teeth daily. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and special toothpaste designed for pets. You should never use human toothpaste. If you’re worried your pet might have teeth troubles, here are some signs to look for:

• Bad breath

• Excessive drooling

• Inflamed gums

• Tumors in the gums

• Cysts under the tongue

• Loose teeth

These are signs that your pet may have a problem in his mouth or gastrointestinal system and should be checked by a veterinarian.
Taking good care of your pet’s pearly whites is important to his or her overall health. While anesthesia-free dentistry might sound like a good idea, the truth is the benefits are strictly cosmetic, and risks are dangerous. Keep your pet safe with regular dental cleanings at the vet’s office; that sparkling smile will thank you.

 

Gypsy Vanner Horses

posted January 14th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Sherri Goodall

The first time you see a Gypsy Vanner horse galloping toward you, you have to ask, “What kind of horse is that?”

With sturdy bodies and dense “feathered” legs, impossibly long tails and thick manes flying in the wind, they look like they might just take off and fly like a fanciful unicorn.

Whitney Forsyth, the wife of the husband/wife team of Green Country Gypsy Horses, assured me these gorgeous creatures are a very old and recognized breed going back several hundred years. There are only around 2,000 Gypsy horses in the U.S. The Forsyths are one of a handful of breeders in Oklahoma.

The Gypsy horse has its roots in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. They are descended from draft horses such as Clydesdales and Shires. These huge draft horses were bred with Dales Ponies and Fells Ponies to reduce the size, yet retain the strong bone structure and the unique feathering that distinguishes this breed.

The Gypsy people, known as Roma, have traveled through Europe, England and Asia for hundreds of years. Their nomadic life required horses that could pull their heavy, ornately handcrafted wagons through the countryside. Traveling in caravans, these horses are sometimes known as Gypsy “Vanner” horses. They go by several different names (see sidebar).

Not only did the horses need to be strong enough to “drive,” or pull carts and wagons, they needed to be able to graze wherever the Gypsies wandered. The horses are “cold-blooded” vs. “warm-blooded.” This term defines muscular, heavyset horses that are bred to be calm, steady and patient. They also are able to endure brutal winters without shelter. At the end of the day, the horses needed to be docile enough so that the children could learn to ride and spend time with them.

Known for their colorful culture, it makes sense that the Gypsy people wanted fancy horses. They love the massive amounts of mane and feather moving in the wind when the horses are driving or galloping by—it is truly spectacular. The more hair, the better the horse. Some think their unusual appearance made the horses more difficult to steal.

During shows, the horses’ flowing manes and tails are braided and decorated with vibrant colored ribbons matching beautiful blankets and finery worn by their riders.

One of the breed’s most noteworthy  characteristics is its incredibly gentle nature. Whitney says the Gypsy horses are known as the Golden Retrievers of the horse world. If they could crawl in your lap, they would!

Whitney’s horses would rather be outside than in a barn, no matter what the weather. They are extremely social and gather at the same hay feeder even though there are several feeders around.

When we visited, the youngest fillies, Magnolia and Jubilee, trotted right over to us and began nuzzling our faces, hands and bodies. The rest of the herd, two geldings and several mares, came galloping over soon. It was like a giant hug fest with each horse wanting more attention. The Forsyths have 10 horses now.

The stallion, Icor — the most magnificent specimen of all — was in a separate pasture. He is considered one of the best stallions of the breed in the U.S. and an Elite Stallion in the Selective Breeding Program in the Irish Cob Society in Europe. He’s a Bay Roan with black feathers. Many of the Gypsy horses have one blue eye and one brown. Some have both eyes blue. One of his pregnant mares was with him. Icor, too, proved gentle, curious and friendly. His mane was a mass of thick black hair that fell over his neck as a fur stole. Whitney was constantly pushing it out of his eyes. Another characteristic of these horses is the heavy forelock that falls over its muzzle. Supposedly, this was to protect the horse’s eyes and face from harsh weather.

The beautiful Karma of this story is the coincidence of it all.

The Forsyths took their first trip to Romania in 1994, volunteering with the Romanian Evangelistic Medical Mission. They fell in love with the Roma people and their country. In 2001, they were blessed with the opportunity to adopt a baby girl from Romania. Simona is her name, and she is of Gypsy descent.

The story gets even better…Simona seemed to have a passion for horses, and began riding lessons when she was 7. At a fall festival in Tulsa, the Forsyths saw the Gypsy Vanner horses for the first time. Simona had an immediate visceral connection to these special horses, and the Forsyths understood why, once they learned of the horses’ special history.

It was a match made in heaven. Soon the Forsyths bought their first Gypsy Vanner horse, Argyle, for Simona. At 14, Simona is an accomplished, award-winning rider with Argyle and competes in hunter jumper events. Her dad competes in western events. They travel with their horses to Gypsy horse shows around the country and have won several awards. The Gypsy horse is quite versatile and able to participate most equestrian events.

As much as Simona loves to ride, she also loves spending time in the pasture with the horses, as well as participating in their care. When they see her coming, they meet her at the gate for extra scratches. For more information and a chance to visit, go to www. greencountrygypsyhorses. com.

The Pet Name Game

posted January 14th, 2013 by
  • Share

 

To most people, naming a pet is almost as important as naming a child. Everyone wants to give their pet a name that has some significance. “Why bother?” some may wonder. Probably because a name helps you get close to your pet, because it’s personal, and because naming is what humans do. People often consult popular pet names very much the way they consult popular baby names before bestowing the perfect one.

You may be wondering how pet owners come up with such colorful names. One popular way to name pets is to choose the name you’ve always liked or wanted to name your baby. Another way is to name the pet after a human in history or someone you know. Still another way is to name the pet something ironic, like TulsaPets reader Mariann Ostapowich Haggerty who named her 150-pound Great Dane “Tynnee.”

Recently, we asked our readers to submit their unique pet names. The following list includes some of our favorites.

“Menses,” a cat submitted by Sarah Cockburn

“Nubby” submitted by Jodi Koch

“Muzby,” because her owner thought when she adopted the Boston Terrier that she “muzby crazy” submitted by Caryn Adams

“Macabee,” a Scottish Terrier Schnauzer mix submitted by Jaime Squaresky Chasen

“Rufus,” a Pit Bull mix submitted by Angela Webb

“Fallacy,” a rescued Scottie named after FDR’s Falla;

“Queen Santa Anna Belle,” or “Queenie” for short, a Schnauzer wilder than the Santa Anna Winds submitted by Sam Newcomb Wolohon

“Steinbeck,” a lab submitted by Lisa Hood Parker

“Dexter, the Super Pup,” a mutt submitted by Natalie Thomas

“Kelso,” named after Ashton Kutcher’s character on “That 70s Show;” yet he turned out more like grumpy Dr. Bob Kelso on “Scrubs” submitted by Amanda Thompson Sumner

“Pepper and Gordita,” two rats

Pet Owner New Years Resolutions

posted January 14th, 2013 by
  • Share

by Anna Holton-Dean

At first glance this may appear to be just another article on New Year’s Resolutions, but we’ve gone further than that.

It goes beyond the usual “exercise more, eat better” mainstays (which we have included) and incorporates resolutions to improve the quality of life not just for you, but your pet, homeless pets and even the community. Adopt some of these ideas as your own and make a difference in 2013!

1. Regular exercise

Overweight pets are at risk for heart disease and other health problems. Going for a walk is the perfect exercise for pet owners. Dog owners tend to walk about twice as much as non-dog owners, according to oregonlife.com.

Routine walks will keep both of you healthy. An added bonus is that a tired dog equals a well-behaved dog. Exercising can help ward off bad behavior. Cat owners, also, shouldn’t forget that Fluffy needs playtime too. Dedicate at least five minutes a day to engaged, interactive playtime.

2. Mix It Up

Venture to a new dog park, try a new walking route or hike through a nature trail. Introduce yourself to another pet and owner at the park and make a new friend. Determine to get out of your comfort zone and see what comes of it—you might renew your enjoyment for exercise in the process.

3. Get Groomed

Keep Fido washed, brushed, nails trimmed, etc. Routine care and maintenance can prevent costly vet visits (for issues such as matting) and improve his quality of life. Don’t you feel better after a visit to the salon? And so will your pet, Debbie Davis of Muddy Paws Grooming says.

“Yes, little doggies that are unkempt come to us with their heads down and sad. After they are groomed, they come to life and strut around proudly,” she says. An added bonus is the bond it builds between you and your pet. “Since most of us consider our dog a part of our family, caring for our pet’s needs is a natural nurturing process,” she says.

4. Clean Bill of Health

Ensure your pet’s health by making an appointment with your veterinarian. Mark Shackelford, DVM, recommends all senior pets—7 years and older—have wellness blood tests once yearly to screen for potential problems that may not be apparent at the time of the physical exam.

“We can find early pathology of some organ systems that can be reversed or at least slowed in their progress,” he says. “We also recommend that pets receive their heartworm and flea/tick preventatives all year due to our mild winters.

We’ve found that using flea and tick preventatives all year greatly decrease the probabilities of infestation during the spring and summer. Heartworm tests should be performed yearly, along with vaccinations, due to possible gaps in timing in administering the heartworm preventative.

Occasionally, we will recommend radiographs to diagnose and/or monitor the progress of arthritis in older pets as well. Also, glaucoma screening is done during the yearly checkup for some older animals that are high risk.”

5. Ensure Those Pearly Whites

Dental health is just as important as the rest of his physical health. It should be an equal priority. Make teeth brushing part of your daily routine. Use a toothbrush specially made for pets or a children’s soft-bristle type.

Pet toothpaste is optional, but never use a product intended for humans. It may take some time for it to become a habit, but it’s well worth it for your pet’s health sake.

6. Training Classes

Don’t get exasperated over your pup chewing on shoes; be proactive. It is never too soon to think about training, according to our resident expert Mary Green.

“I believe that training or learning is a process, rather than an event. Learning begins when the dog comes home, and there’s never a day when the process is complete,” she says.

“A dog’s education is as important to his wellness as are food, water and shelter. For most pet owners, training should involve integrating the dog into your family life. The foundation that all well-mannered pets should have includes proper house training, chew-training, responding to basic commands such as sit, lie down, and come.”

7. Take Time for Thanks

Be appreciative of all the good things in your life, such as how wonderful your dog is. This can play into training time for example. One of the biggest elements of successful training is looking for desirable behaviors and reinforcing them with something your dog likes and appreciates—a treat, a butt scratch, a game of tug or the opportunity to go for a walk. Never miss an opportunity to thank your dog for good behavior.

8. Clean Out Clutter

While cleaning out your own clutter, such as documents or old clothing, go through Fluffy or Fido’s toys and donate anything he or she no longer plays with to a local shelter. Your pet’s trash may be a homeless animal’s treasure.

9. Buy American Obviously, it’s good to buy U.S. products for economic reasons, but more importantly, there have been numerous recalls on products made in China and Korea, including pet treats. Even if it’s cheaper, it may not be safe. Buy American made, and even better, buy local when possible.

10. Give Back

There are therapy dog programs which greatly benefit the community through the animals’ contributions, but this particular resolution is directed at you, the human. There are many small ways you can be a part of animal welfare initiatives right from your own home. Whether you are limited in time or physical ability, there is a way to be involved, Ruth Steinberger of SpayFIRST says.

“This is the time to resolve to use them!” she says. “Signing a petition does not always replace hands on work, but make no mistake; petitions have resulted in policy changes, procedural changes and even prosecutions in cruelty cases which looked like they may go unaddressed. Sign them and pass them on to others on your email list.”

Steinberger says part of the reason animal cruelty has not been taken as seriously as domestic violence, child abuse or drunk driving—all of which were not seen as “real crimes” just a few decades ago—is that the other issues have been made into local election issues. She advises to “make these issues local and watch what happens.

Mailing money to a different state because we are appalled by cruelty does not get one single message to our own leaders. Resolve to write at least one letter a month to one of your own elected officials reminding them that you are a voter and your vote depends on their compassion toward animals.

“Eyes in the courtroom have prevented creeps from getting out of cruelty cases and have changed the way the courts view cruelty prosecutions,” she says. “The judge and prosecutor know that the concerned citizens sitting in the courtroom are likely voters. Resolve to attend a cruelty hearing on behalf of an innocent animal victim who went through much worse than a single boring day. Your time, even a small amount of it, can make a huge difference if you spend it locally!”