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It’s raining, and the dog needs walking. To add to your troubles, your bunny chewed through the phone cord—again. Sure, your kids adore their animals. But are pets worth the effort and expense?

1. It Teaches Responsibility and Promotes Self-Esteem

Completing tasks such as walking the dog or cleaning the birdcage gives kids a sense of accomplishment. Even children as young as two can help fill the food bowl.

2. It Increases Nonverbal Communication

In a Kansas State University study of preschoolers, those who had a cat or dog showed more empathy compared with preschoolers who didn’t have a pet.

3. It Alleviates Loneliness

With parents out working during the day, kids appreciate having a pet’s company after school. “It’s nice to have a greeting committee,” says Hamer.

4. It Revs Up Reading Skills

Some schools and libraries in Canada and the United States offer READ (Reading Education Assistance Dog)programs, in which children read aloud to attentive pooches. Students who may be reluctant to read out loud at school may feel more confident reading to animals. “Kids up to age seven assume the dogs listen and understand,” says Hamer.

5. It Decreases Homework Anxiety

Petting animals can lower blood pressure, so having a pet nearby could help prepare kids to tackle even their least favourite school subjects.

6. It Keeps Families Talking

“Pets are a conduit between parents and kids,” says Hamer. So even cleaning the aquarium together can help open the lines of communication.

As pet owners, we want to make sure our furry friends are safe from harm. Here are 12 things to look out for to ensure your pet is in safe surroundings.

Your pet's safety, in the house as well as outside of it, should be a top priority. Here are tips on what you can do to make their environment as safe as possible.

1. Keep electrical cords out of sight

Puppies and kitties tend to chew on electrical cords, which can cause shocks or burns. Prevent injury by tucking away cords and encasing them in a cord organizer. To prevent another pet hazard—cats pulling lamps or other appliances down on themselves—try a single cord shortener.

2. Get rid of rubber bands and strings

Rubber bands and strings are favourite playthings for cats, in particular. Yet if swallowed, these can cause pets a lot of discomfort and may have to be removed surgically. If you see a string hanging from your pet’s mouth, gently pull it out.

3. Choose plants carefully

Cats like to chew on houseplants, but many varieties, including poinsettia, can make them sick. If your cat or dog has eaten a plant and seems ill, call poison control with the correct botanical name of the plant. Better yet, don’t keep toxic plants around the house.

4. Tag your pet

Dogs and cats should always wear identification tags. Some humane societies issue a tag and keep your name on file so they can contact if the pet is found. Another option is to tag the pet with a microchip. About the size of a grain of rice, the chip is implanted beneath the pet’s skin by a veterinarian. Later, should your pet be found, the chip can be scanned by a vet, an animal control officer, or the humane society.

5. Watch out for cold cats

In cold weather, watch out for cats that may have climbed up inside your car’s wheel wells or engine compartment looking for warmth. If your cat or others in the neighbourhood have access to your car, knock on the car’s hood or honk the horn before starting the engine on wintry days.

6. Keep dogs in the shade

On hot days, it’s better to leave a dog tied up at home in the shade than to take it with you in the car. The inside temperature of car left closed in the sun can skyrocket to well over 38 degrees Celsius in 10 minutes. A dog left in the car could suffer brain damage or die from heat exhaustion. If you must leave the dog in the car, park in the shade, put the dog in a crate inside the car so that all the windows can be left open, and leave a supply of water.

7. Double up

When you go out, leave your pet two bowls of water. That way, if one gets knocked over in your absence, there will always be a backup.

8. Be aware of dehydration

Dehydration in pets is a serious health risk. Among the telltale signs are a dry mouth, sunken eyes, loss of skin elasticity, and exhaustion. To test for dehydration, gently pull the skin on your dog or cat’s back. If the pet is dehydrated, the skin won’t have its usual elasticity and won’t snap back. If your pet suffers from dehydration, always seek a veterinarian’s care.

9. Ensure the doghouse is comfy

A good doghouse is large enough for the dog to comfortably lie down and sit up in, yet small enough that its body heat can warm the inside. You can put hay inside for insulation, but watch for allergic reactions. Make sure that the entrance is sheltered from the wind, and that the floor is raised to prevent dampness from creeping in.

10. Clean up spilled antifreeze

Spilled antifreeze must be cleaned up immediately and completely from the garage or driveway. The scent and sweet taste can be attractive to animals, and even a small amount is enough to poison a pet.

11. Keep chocolate away from dogs

Chocolate contains theobromine, which is toxic to dogs. Just one ounce of unsweetened chocolate can cause a small dog trouble. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning include hyperactivity, heavy panting, seizures, muscle tremors, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you suspect a pet has eaten chocolate, take it straight to the vet.

12. Police those butts

Puppies can get nicotine poisoning by chewing on cigar or cigarette butts. Don’t leave ashtrays where a pooch can get to them.

They're your pet's healthcare provider, but how much do you really know about their treatment practices? Here are four interesting things about veterinarians that may have you looking at them in a different light.

Pet doctor care

The treatment your veterinarian and their vet technicians provide is worth the price you must pay.  Often you're finishing up with the vet when the receptionist delivers the good news: The bill is ready for you. Now for the bad news: It'll cost you a chunk of change for baby's Bordetella shot and its freshly emptied anal sacs.

But why should you have to pay so much to help a poor, defenseless (not to mention super cute) creature? After all, if you can't find charity at the vet's office, where can you?

Ask Georgette Wilson, DVM, manager of vet operations at Pfizer Animal Health in New York City, and she'll tell you that charity is all a matter of perspective.

"If you're looking for an educated, compassionate, and fair hand in the care and well-being of your animal, chances are your vet's already giving it in droves,'' Wilson said. "Unfortunately, too many people fail to recognize the value vets bring to their pets. We're asked over and over again that, if we love animals so much, why aren't we offering our services for free?''

To answer that question -- and help you understand why veterinarians are worth their weight in currency -- the following are four things you may not know about them, but should. They just may change the way you think about paying on the way out.

1. They are trained as vigorously as doctors of human medicine

Consider this:
•    It takes four years of college and four years of veterinary school to become a vet. Then, students must pass both national and state exams to practice, and take continuing education courses to keep up with new developments.
•    It's statistically harder to get into veterinary school than it is to get into a human medical school because of the limited number of vet schools, as compared to medical schools. (There are only 28 vet schools in the United States).
•    Vets going into specialty practice (there are about 20 in veterinary medicine, from cardiology and ophthalmology to behavioral medicine and surgery, etc) go on to do an internship and residency, with each step becoming more competitive.
"When all is said and done, a vet can have as many as 11 to 12 years of additional training after high school,'' Wilson said. "Most people don't know that.''

2. It's not about the money for vets

While today's veterinarians can make a good living, it's not nearly as much as their counterparts in human medicine. Depending on where they live and their specific field of practice, they can make anywhere from about $35,000 (for equine veterinarians) to $117,000 a year (for laboratory animal veterinarians), according to the most recent estimates. Vets in private practice earn around $50,000, and those in government earn around $70,000.
"The reward for us is really not about money, because we don't make as much as many people think,'' Wilson said. "It's really about seeing pets get better.''

3. They love science and medicine

"People always say I must love animals to be in veterinary medicine. And I do, but I also love science and medicine," Wilson said. In fact, she and others agree it's the combination of all three that draw people into veterinary practice.
And that's a good thing, since there's plenty of each involved in treating the broad spectrum of species examined and treated by veterinarians. While human physicians must learn about male and female anatomy and physiology, vets need to understand cats, dogs, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, horses, birds, rodents, rabbits, amphibians, reptiles, and so on.
Vets also need to know how each species functions and responds to available medications, and have a solid understanding of the basic behaviors, care requirements, diseases and parasites related to each species.

4. They offer value beyond the prescription

Finally, while vets bring their medical skills and knowledge in treating their patients and educating their patient's owners, they also offer the softer side of what it takes to be a communicative, concerned and knowledgeable caregiver - and a great advocate for your pet.
"Becoming a vet is a lot of hard work and we take seriously our duty to act in the best interests of our client's pets,'' Wilson said. "Even if owners don't like our recommendations or paying for them, we try to help them understand the value of our experience, education, and expertise. I always hope, as all vets do, that at the end of a visit, owners leave feeling good about how we've helped them.''

Rather than skimping on visits to the vet, pet owners should consider pet insurance and other forms of financial assistance.

Shopping for perfect dog dishes can be a lot of fun but you’ll want to consider your dog's physical comfort and ease of digestion. There are plenty of options available

Choose the right size and style

The dish should be big enough to accommodate your dog’s regular meal without spilling over, but the depth depends on Sparky’s snout.

Deep dishes are fine for dogs with long snouts but shallow dishes work best for puppies as well as short-snounted breeds like Pugs and Bulldogs. Many puppies eat with unbridled gusto and, if the dish is too deep, they may choke while snarfing up those tasty bits at the bottom. Short-snouted dogs don’t have a lot of room between mouth and nose so they’re at risk of inhaling food when it piles up at the sides and bottom of a deep dish.

If your dog has long ears that tend to drag lazily through his food, look for an elongated dish that allows the ears to flop neatly on the outside. Otherwise, round bowls are best for most dogs.

Plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel?

Plastic and ceramic are often the least expensive options and they come in a great variety of colours and graphics. Ceramic is heaviest which means it can’t be pushed around the kitchen by an enthusiastic four-legged diner. The drawback with both ceramic and plastic is that they’re easily scratched or chipped which can lead to bacteria entering the crevices.  

Stainless steel is often the most expensive option but it’s also the most durable and easiest to clean and sanitize. If heft is important, choose a stainless steel dish with a weighted and skid-proof bottom.

What other types of dishes are available?

▪ Portable water and food dishes are perfect for travel. Usually made of heavy canvas with waterproof liner, these nifty dishes collapse to fit under a car seat or in knapsack.

▪ Dogs who gobble food too quickly (which can cause digestive upset) can be helped with “slow-feeding” dishes. These include raised partitions or domes that create obstructions. The idea is that the dog will slow down because he’ll need to work harder at extracting every last morsel.

▪ Dogs who fling food and water from their dishes are perfect candidates for a new product called "neater feeder" which works as a splash guard. Dishes are placed in the neater feeder which stops flying food and water from landing on floors, cabinets, and the human’s shoes.

As much as you hate fleas, ticks and skunk odour, your pet probably does, too. Help your pets stay clean and pest-free with these easy to follow tips.

1. Pick a Tick

If you live in a tick-infested area, spot-check your pet for ticks every night before you go to bed (and don’t let the animal accompany you there). Animals get Lyme disease, too, and it’s important to remove ticks promptly. Also, don’t forget to keep a small cup of bleach nearby when you’re de-ticking. Depositing the ticks in a cup as they’re removed will kill them on the spot.

2. Collar Fleas

A weekly vacuuming of rugs and floors is an effective way to keep fleas under control. For extra punch, toss a piece of flea collar into the bag of the vacuum cleaner to kill any fleas before they can multiply. Make sure to stretch the collar first, to activate it.

3. Starve an Ant

During ant season, place a pet’s food dish in the centre of a pie pan filled with water to keep ants out of the food.

4. Stump a Skunk

When a pet gets skunked, deodorize him with a bath of equal parts white vinegar and warm water instead of the usual tomato juice concoction. Vinegar is a lot cheaper and works just as well at removing odours.

Looking for the latest way to keep your cat or dog healthy? Try some of these exciting holistic therapies for everything from doggy arthritis to ear infections.

Healing Therapies

Is your cat or dog suffering from an ailment? Well, pets can benefit from a range of alternative treatments that humans also use. Here are four to consider.

1. Chiropractic Therapy

This therapy helps restore proper mobility of the joints and spine. “The vet runs her fingers down the animal’s spine to feel where it’s out of alignment,” explains Dr. Linda Hamilton, of Natural Healing Veterinary Care in Winnipeg. The vet then makes an adjustment as needed. This therapy especially helps with problems such as hip dysplasia and degenerative joint disease.

2. Massage Therapy

Margaret Clark of Wings Equine & Canine Massage in Abbotsford gives dogs a sports massage. This improves circulation, boosts an immune system and makes the coat shiny. She massages the whole animal, explaining that “if it’s the left front leg that’s sore, quite often the right hind leg needs the massage the most.” It’s great for dogs suffering from arthritis, stiffness and muscle cramps, or those recovering from surgery.

3. Homeopathy Therapy

“Rather than treating a specific disease or body part, I’m treating the whole animal,” explains Vancouver’s “The Roving Vet,” Dr. Shulamit Krakauer. So if your dog gets chronic diarrhea, she’ll ask about his health history; perhaps the dog also had itchy skin or ear infections, or he eats dirt. “These may be manifestations of a chronic immune imbalance,” she says. In this holistic therapy, the vet prescribes a remedy of tiny doses of a natural substance, given in pellet form. This treatment is said to stimulate the body’s own healing powers.

4. Acupuncture Therapy

Vets insert fine needles into specific spots on the body to stop pain, stimulate body flow and release brain chemicals that promote well-being. Hamilton says that while animal acupuncture points are similar to those on humans, “there are some anatomical differences.” This therapy works well for musculoskeletal problems such as knee pain and neurological troubles such as spinal injuries. If the animal won’t sit still, Hamilton uses an infrared device instead of needles to activate the acupuncture points.

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