By STEVE DALE
Tribune Media Services
Q: I know my dog is overweight and I resolve to take him on more walks. I can use the exercise, too. That's my resolution. Every year, you announce your own resolutions. Will you do that for 2013? -- S.J., Henderson, NV
Q: I recall that you were instrumental in beginning a national movement to pay attention to cats, so more are adopted from shelters and so cats get proper veterinary care. Do you have a resolution in this vein for 2013? -- P.K., Miami, FL
A: I do, indeed. In 2013, I'll encourage pet owners to see veterinarians for preventive care. Sadly, according to a study conducted by Bayer Animal Health, a quarter of owners don't understand the importance of preventive care for their pets. The number of households not seeing the veterinarian at all in the course of a year increased by eight percent for dogs and a confounding 24 percent for cats compared to five years ago, according to the 2012 American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook. Our pets deserve better.
Skipping preventive care veterinary has consequences. A long list of preventive illnesses is on the rise, leading to higher costs for pet owners. And most importantly, pets are suffering, even dying when they shouldn't be. This alarming trend needs to be reversed and I'll work (with others) to help make that happen 2013.
Here are additional topics I'll focus on this year:
1. Breed-specific legislation: Breed bans have been instituted by communities, even states and entire nations. Dogs referred to as pit bulls lead the list of forbidden pets. The reality is, breed bans have had no impact on the frequency of dog bites. Instead, I support enforcing sensible dangerous dog laws, which apply to all breeds or mixes. I also support education, so dog owners understand the importance of early socialization.
2. Senior pets: The good news is, with appropriate preventive care, proper nutrition, exercise and a little luck, overall, our pets are living longer than ever. But longevity has the same drawbacks for pets as people -- physical and cognitive ailments related to aging. Fortunately, a rapidly growing list of products can improve quality of life for elderly pets. I'll be writing about these in 2013.
3. Tubby tabbies, plump puppies: TV's "Biggest Loser" could create a spin-off show about overweight and obese pets, since the problem is downright epidemic. Diet can pre-empt the problem. Research confirms that there's a correlation between spaying/neutering pets and subsequent changes in energy and metabolism. New Royal Canin spayed/neutered diets address this issue (cat formulas are available in the U.S. now and dog formulas will be released later this year). Certainly, exercise is important; without it, pets can grow huge. I resolve to encourage pet owners to understand that overweight and obese pets are likely to suffer changes in their quality of life, and their chances increase for diabetes, arthritis, some types of cancer and behavioral problems.
4. Shoot 'em up: For reasons inexplicable to me, police are increasingly shooting innocent dogs. You read that right. And I plan to shed further light on this issue in 2013.
Q: Is it possible to get a cat to tolerate nail clipping? -- S.V., Chicago, IL
A: Absolutely, and it all begins with the clipper. I really like the new Purrfect Claw Clipper (also great for small dogs, ferrets, Guinea pigs, and larger parrots). Learn more at www.purrfect.co/.
Ideally, it's also a great idea to begin with a new clipper the pet hasn't seen before and set up a positive association. Take the clipper out and show it to your cat as you offer treats. Repeat this several times until your cat simply doesn't care that you're holding a nail clipper.
Next, hold kitty in your lap, gently push out a nail and confidently clip. If you're nervous, your cat is likely to pick up on your anxiety. If possible, enlist someone to offer the cat a treat as you cut. It's a good idea to clip one paw at a time at first, and to quit before your cat gets 'freaky.' Avoid cutting to close to a blood vessel called the quick.
Dr. Sophia Yin has a wonderful video on her website about nail clipping for dogs, and the technique is much the same for cats. Check www.drsophiayin.com (click Resources tab). She also addresses the topic in her book, "Low Stress Handling, Restraint and Behavior Modification of Dogs and Cats (CattleDog Publishing, 2009; $149). The 480-page book, including 1,600 color photos, comes with a DVD.
Q: Many shelters encourage adopting pets to seniors. I want to get a pet, but I'm afraid the animal would outlive me, only to be left homeless again. Also, I know many shelters have you sign a contract indicating that if something happens to you, the animal will be returned to the shelter, instead of going to a family member who may also be bonded to the pet. Can you comment? -- J.E., Pinellas Park, FL
A: If you're in generally good health, you're never too old to adopt a pet. What's imperative is choosing the right pet for your lifestyle. Your best bet might be an older animal. You'll be saving a life and you won't have to deal with the crazy antics of a kitten or house training a frolicking puppy.
You're right that responsible shelters and rescue organizations mandate contracts such as you describe. The intent is to prevent pets from landing in another shelter, and perhaps being euthanized. However, if you became incapacitated and a responsible family member was willing to care for your pet, there's not a shelter or rescue I know of that would argue. If you are concerned, a legal will could supersede a shelter or rescue contract.
Steve Dale welcomes questions/comments from readers. Although he can't answer all of them individually, he'll answer those of general interest in his column Send e-mail to PETWORLD(at)STEVE DALE.TV. Include your name, city and state. Steve's website is www.stevedalepetworld.com; he also hosts the nationally syndicated "Steve Dale's Pet World" and "The Pet Minute." He's also a contributing editor to USA Weekend.
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