Pet Tales: How to make 2013 healthy & happy

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Getting more exercise and losing weight are two perennial New Year's resolutions for people. If pets could pick goals and resolutions, most dogs would be thrilled to get more exercise, especially if that means daily outdoor walks or trips to dog parks.

Of course, there are some dogs that don't like going out in cold or wet conditions. Pablo, our family's cocker spaniel, doesn't like his white paws to have any contact with grass that has been rained upon, but he loves snow and cold weather. He never shivers and is downright perky in the winter.

A dog coat or sweater can take the bite out of winter exercise, for big dogs like greyhounds and tiny dogs like Chihuahuas. I've even seen pit bull terriers and Doberman pinschers sporting coats and sweaters because dogs with short, sparse hair and little body fat can get uncomfortably cold.

A coat can't keep their feet warm, however. Snow sometimes clumps and forms ice balls in pads and between toes, and that makes walking painful. Sidewalk salt and de-icers can sting and burn paws. Musher's Secret wax is the solution for both problems, and it's sold everywhere -- specialty pet stores, chain pet stores, many hardware stores and on multiple websites.

Pablo doesn't have a Facebook page or his own email address, but like many pets he does get emails and messages. His are sent to my Post-Gazette email address and my Linda Wilson Fuoco Facebook page. His latest email came right before Christmas from his veterinarians at the Greentree Animal Clinic. "Three Gifts to Give Your Pets" was the headline. It suggests 1) a holiday physical exam, 2) daily exercise and 3) a health profile.

All pets should have regular veterinary exams. No one should wait until an animal gets sick before establishing a relationship with a veterinarian. I'm intrigued with the health profile suggestion, which includes having yearly or twice yearly blood and urine testing. Those aren't tests I've routinely requested.

"Many diseases in pets don't become obvious until it's too late," according to the email. Blood and urine tests can spot diseases or problems before there are any symptoms. I'll be discussing this at Pablo's next regular checkup.

Wellness examination guidelines, including blood and urine analysis, are covered on the excellent website www.vetstreet.com. Tests will vary "depending on the species, age and health needs of the patient."

Bloodwork can uncover a wide range of problems including anemia, infection or organ disease. Urinalysis can test for the presence of bacteria, blood and evidence of infection.

"For any pet, especially senior pets, a wellness examination is a good way to detect early onset of disease" including diabetes and heart disease, says the Vetstreet site.

Saving animals

Year-end 2012 reports are coming in, and there's good news from the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society. Shelters on the North Shore and in Elizabeth found new homes for 5,627 pets, including lots of rabbits. There were 6,458 appointments at the low-cost clinic, and 6,320 surgeries.

Four humane officers investigated more than 1,100 cases of animal abuse and neglect, and agents rescued 357 animals. Educators visited more than 3,000 children, teaching them compassion, kindness and empathy -- and how to be safe around dogs.

More than 1,600 dogs attended obedience training classes, and that created happier, healthier pets and owners.

Feline birth control

The Homeless Cat Management Team reports that 1,100 stray and feral cats were neutered and inoculated in 2012. The nonprofit organization has neutered 14,326 cats in the past 13 years. Volunteers opened their new clinic in Tarentum last summer. All surgeries are by appointment, which can be made at www.homelesscat.org or by calling 412-321-4060.

Kennel crackdown

Pennsylvania is known as a state with lots of "puppy mills" -- large commercial kennels that, according to critics, breed dogs and raise puppies in crowded conditions with little or no socialization or exercise.

The Dog Law Enforcement Office of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture issued its year-end report, saying the office "continues to crack down on illegal kennels," taking action against 37 operating without a license.

Pennsylvania dog wardens conducted nearly 4,505 inspections of the 2,137 licensed kennels, reports Mike Pechart, acting dog law enforcement director.

"Wardens have issued 3,013 summary citations and 55 misdemeanor complaints to dog owners in Pennsylvania, including commercial kennels that are not in compliance with the state's dog law.

"The office is also focusing its efforts on investigating the illegal sale of dogs online. Since October, six kennel owners were discovered and charged."

Anyone who keeps or "transfers" 26 or more dogs in a calendar year must obtain a kennel license. The office tip line to report problems, including kennels that are not clean, is 1-717-425-5331. An online complaint form can be found at www.agriculture.state.pa.us.

pets

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064. Got a pet health question? Email it to petpoints@post-gazette.com. It may be answered in an upcoming Pet Points column by veterinarians at the Point Breeze Veterinary Clinic.


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