March 28, 2008

The Pet Lover Chronicles: 5 Things To Consider When Moving To A New Neighborhood

One of the main reasons people have pets is comfort. Pets give you complete and unconditional love all the time. What do they ask in return? Nothing really; maybe an occasional pat on the head or a gentle tummy rub. We, as owners, try our very best to give back to our pets in every way imaginable. This is why one of the major considerations when moving to a new home or neighborhood is the effect it will have, emotionally and physically, on our beloved pet. Our pets feel as anxious and restless in such situations and it is best to think in advance when it comes to your pet’s health and overall welfare.

Moving to a new home is never easy. No matter how intense the preparation, moving jolts the senses and gives us a feeling of uneasiness. Simultaneously eager and anxious, we try our best to make this life-changing event as smooth as possible. Our pets are also affected in such situations; they are just as anxious as we are.

How do we find a pet-friendly neighborhood? Here are the 5 things we should consider:

1. Proximity
One of the first things to check out when moving in is the nearest veterinary hospital or clinic. In case of medical emergencies, knowing that a good medical facility is just nearby will bring peace of mind. To avoid future pet health dilemmas, it is advisable that you find a veterinary hospital even before you need one.

2. A vet you can trust
A rapport between you and the hospital staff is vital so it is best to make arrangements early on. "My advice is to get a testimonial from someone you can trust to recommend a hospital or a specific doctor," says Paul Gambardella, V.M.D., M.S., Diplomate ACVS, Hospital Director of Oradell Animal Hospital in Paramus, New Jersey. Being comfortable and having an open line of communication with your new vet is essential for your pet’s health and well-being since you are your pet’s advocate. Your pet cannot speak for itself; you can. It is also not enough that you trust your vet’s knowledge and capabilities, it is equally important that he has the license to back up his competence. Remember: your pet’s life is too important to entrust to an unlicensed vet. If you have doubts, you can check the local listings at or for a list of licensed vets in your area.

3. A clean, well-equipped facility
The hospital itself is as important as the vet. A tour should be on your itinerary to make sure it not only has the necessary facilities but maintains a high quality of sanitation. According to Gambardella, "There are no red flags until you experience the hospital and its staff, and then the first impression usually hinges on appearance and odor. If the facility appears dirty and/or there is an unpleasant odor, then this may be a reflection on the level of care that is provided."

4. Competent hospital staff
Even the best vets need assistance from capable, well-trained personnel. Remember that you are entrusting the health and life of your pet unto the hands of these practitioners so it is imperative that they are qualified to deal with various medical situations. It would not hurt to find out what kind of training they have undergone to qualify for the job. Ideally, you must be able to have confidence in the complete package - your vet, the staff, and the hospital itself.

5. A pet-friendly environment
Of course, this may seem obvious; but most of the time our pets get the shortest straw when it comes to health issues. We should give equal attention to our pet’s health and well-being since we are going to share our home with it. One of the most common pet problems is, yes, you guessed it - fleas and ticks. Most pets have hair or fur, so most pets will have fleas or ticks. It’s best to check the new neighborhood for these pests and be aware of applicable flea and tick removal methods. It may not be a pleasant task but all pet owners will have to go through the process of flea and tick removal at least once in their lifetime. Also, look for nearby pet-friendly places like restaurants, parks or even a dog beach. Also see if there are pet lovers clubs or associations in the area.

These options allow you to spend time with your pet beyond the confines of your house. It is also a great way to meet new friends. Joining a club of pet owners who share the same enthusiasm for pets as you do will give a sense of belonging and support; members of such clubs are always more than happy to help out a fellow pet lover.

Take the time and effort to find the ideal neighborhood not just for you but also for your pet. Doing so will give you the assurance that you have done your best to give it a long, healthy, and fruitful life.

Next on The Pet Lover Chronicles: "Pet" Peeves and Tick Removal

March 26, 2008

Fleas On My Pillow

It was one scary Monday morning for me; the sight of red dots scattered on my pillow sent me rolling over to the other side of my bed. With eyes still fixed on the dark red stains I hurriedly got on my feet, took several steps back so gentle I could hear the air through my nostrils as I breathed. My pet dog Linda, a Bearded Collie, was nowhere in sight. I share my bed with Linda on the weekends.

My back against the wall I checked my head for cuts and bruises hoping that I find one because I was beginning to feel creepy. A cut will somehow justify the presence of blood on my pillow. Then I heard a loud crash - and the sound of glass shattering into pieces.

I looked down and saw, its frame broken, the surrealist painting given to me by my girlfriend. I may have poked it with my elbow while I was scanning my head for cuts. I looked at my stained pillow and the shards of glass on the floor. In my mind I imagined myself blindfolded and begging for my life while my girlfriend waves a baseball bat and furiously screaming German profanities at me.

I knelt beside the bits of glass in exhaustion when I saw reddish-brown critters crawling out of the busted artwork. There were about twenty of them, I took a closer look and I remember cursing before I finally blurted out, "Fleas!"


I called Linda almost shouting; she came in running all the way from the kitchen happy to see me already out of bed. I brushed over her fur. No fleas.


When I glanced back at the blood-stained pillow it looked more crumpled than when I last looked at it. It actually seemed like a tablet of stone. The next thing I knew, I was already on my bed. Left hand holding one side of the pillow, my head cautiously slanted backwards, I slowly lifted the pillow. No fleas.


Linda joined me on the bed. On the headboard I saw what seemed like a trail of dark-brown marks in single file, all dots stationary except one. I looked closer, the dark brown dots were dried blood. My eyes followed the moving one. Again I let out an expletive or two. I saw the biggest flea I’ve ever seen with blood oozing out of its abdomen determinedly trudging along. I must have crushed it with my head while I was tossing and turning. Gross!


Obviously, the flea had one big feast the whole night, with me and my Linda on the main menu. Using my fingers I immediately squeezed the pot-bellied tick while cursing.


I ran to the mirror to check for bite marks. There were none on my face, then I took my shirt off. Boy! My chest and abdomen were riddled with what appeared to be kiss marks. Hah! How I wish! Only then did I realize they were sort of itchy. I muttered a slew of cusswords so much that I hardly noticed my girlfriend already knocking loudly at my door. Her painting! I was damned.


Fleas are immune to profanity.

March 25, 2008

Lyme Disease and the Migration of Ticks

Lyme disease is on the rise, with a record number of cases reported every year. Ticks are the main culprit and it’s about time we learn a little bit more about these two.

One thing about ticks, not only are they natural suckers (for they feed on blood), but next to mosquitoes, they are the most prolific carriers of diseases for humans. Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Colorado tick fever, tularemia and some hard-to-remember names such as ehrlichiosis and equine encephalitis. I’m not familiar with most of these diseases but what I know of them is enough to make me cringe.

Ticks are spreading. Their natural habitats are the wooded areas of the northeastern states, like New Jersey, Connecticut and New York. But we humans, together with our pets, love to get close to nature. That is why we build our homes farther away from the cities and nearer to forests, mountains and grasslands. And when we have settled, we go out with our pets and go camping and hiking. Unintentionally, we carry back these parasites with us to the suburbs and the metropolis.

Of all the afflictions caused by ticks, it is the number of cases of Lyme disease in people that has annually increased. I believe it has something to do with what I call the migration of ticks. These arachnids-contrary to popular beliefs, they are not insects and are more related to spiders-can easily move great distances. All they have to do is wait for a host, cling to it, and let themselves be carried anywhere.

Do we get Lyme disease from dogs? The answer is no. Even if your dog has the ailment, it is the infected tick that can get us sick. The best prevention is for you to check your pet regularly for ticks. If you do find these troublemakers, follow these steps on the proper way to remove them. You can also apply these in case you find a tick on a person:


March 19, 2008

The Price Is Right for Animal Rights

Whenever we hear the phrase "Come on down!" it is impossible not to think of Bob Barker. Host of the famous TV game show The Price Is Right for 28 years, he has won a multitude of awards as Best Host and even obtained the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award for Daytime Television. What we don’t know is that, apart from being one of the regular faces of daytime TV, Bob Barker is also an animal lover. A man who lives by his principles, he eventually became an animal rights activist and has been a vegetarian since 1979.

Not all animal lovers become activists though and Bob Barker joins the select few who choose to speak for our animal friends. In 1999, he was invited to speak to a group of congressmen in Washington, D.C. regarding Bill HR2929 or the "Captive Elephant Act", a public safety bill which aims to prevent injuries, deaths and personal property damage caused by rampaging elephants who have become dangerous due to their training and confinement. This legislation prohibits the use of elephants in traveling shows, circuses, and as rides. Before he could address the congressmen, however, Bob was rushed to the George Washington University Hospital due to a blockage in his left carotid artery and underwent surgery.

Instead of crying over spilled milk, he saw the silver lining in the situation. "There was so much media attention to my illness that it really worked out better than a public relations representative could have planned,” Bob says. He adds, “The bill, as a result, got far more publicity than we ever could have hoped for. In fact, one friend of mine said that I had done a lot more for elephants flat on my back than I could have ever done on my feet. And that¿s probably true.”

In his now defunct but popular game show, Bob’s animal rights activism still shows in a more subtle manner - the show does not give away fur coats or anything made of leather; if you win a trip to Spain, don’t expect to watch any bullfights. Aside from this, the show occasionally highlights an animal from a shelter. Bob says, “Once a week we¿ll have an animal on the show in some sort of setting that came from a shelter. I will mention that if you don¿t live out here, just go to the shelter near your home and you¿ll find a fine friend.”

Taking his love for animals a step further, he founded the DJ & T Foundation for his wife and mother who share his penchant for animals. This foundation helps free and low-cost spay/neuter clinics and animal rights organizations all over the U.S. through financial grants.

The veteran TV personality has had a love affair with animals ever since he was young. "I loved animals then, I love animals now… and I always shall. Not just dogs and cats but everything,” says Bob. He has such a deep compassion for animals that when asked to say a few profound words upon his receipt of his Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award he says, "Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Just last February, Bob gave $1 million to his alma mater, Drury University, as a grant for its new program called the "Bob Barker Endowment Fund for the Study of Animal Rights". Bob Barker may have retired from daytime TV but his fight for animal rights is far from over.

Fleas Attack!

Fleas as biological weapons.

Fleas are on the attack again. I know how much of an itchy nuisance they can be, so when I saw my dog scratching furiously the other day I brought him to the tub and gave him a thorough bath. Then I covered him up with flea powder. Soon he was a happy dog again and couldn’t wait to go out the yard and play.

The fleas have fled. At least for now.

But dogs are not the only creatures that should be wary of fleas. In fact these parasites are even more dangerous for humans; they are so fatal that fleas have been used as weapons in biological warfare.

The Japanese experimented with fleas during World War II. These insects were infected with Yersinia pestis, the bacteria that caused the Black Death of the Middle Ages, then dropped them over Chinese cities using a flea bomb. They were hoping to recreate that same plague that claimed the lives of millions of people in Europe. Their attempts managed to kill a few hundreds.

These experiments, however, proved promising that the Japanese even planned to manufacture giant submarines capable of launching aircraft bombers which in turn can carry more sophisticated flea bombs.

Ironically, the Chinese army was one of the first to make use of this biological weapon in actual warfare. Human and animal carcasses infected with the plague were thrown into enemy cities’ water supplies, again with the hope that a pandemic would occur.

During the Cold War, the United States and the former Soviet Union both saw the potential of these flea weapons. The U.S. later focused their research more on mosquitoes as disease carriers while, on the other hand, scientists who worked on the Soviet biological weapons program claimed success and had allegedly amassed a large stock of the bacteria for deployment. Until now, information regarding this claim is scarce and unverified.

Reading through all that doesn’t make me scared of fleas. I get rid of them not because I’m afraid of a possible resurgence of the plague. I do it because I love my dog and no flea is going to make him itchy and unhappy.

Obesity in Dogs

Is your dog ‘too fat’? If it has a round belly and a waist that is wider than its chest, then chances are it is suffering from obesity, a condition in which one is considered having too much body fat or excess weight. Obesity is an increasing problem in humans, with over 300 million clinically obese adults worldwide based on data from the World Health Organization (WHO), but a recent study reveals that it also poses a significant health issue in dogs.

According to Dr. Craig Thatcher, veterinary nutritionist at Virginia Tech, whose research was published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (JVIM), the prevalence of obesity in dogs is between 22 and 40 percent. This translates to making one-third of dogs in the US obese, says Science Daily News, an online news magazine. Such figures are staggering enough to raise concern. Thus, pet owners and veterinarians should always be on the watch.

Obesity generally refers to an excess of body fat that causes health problems and impairment of body functions. However, its incidence varies from one pet to another due to differences in breed and size and several other reasons.

Interestingly, the factors that lead to obesity in dogs are the same as those of humans. These include: increased caloric intake, inadequate exercise, age, genetic predisposition, environment, and lifestyle.

An article by Pet Tales Magazine summarizes why pet obesity happens: "The amount of calorie ingested is more than the amount of calories burned so that the excess energy is stored as fat tissue in the body." But Thatcher adds that genetics can also increase a pet’s risk of becoming overweight. For instance, when measuring obesity, it is important to take into account that breeds like Labrador retrievers and cocker spaniels are genetically more likely to carry extra pounds than other pooches.

Like humans, dogs suffer from health complications associated with being obese. Some of which include: diabetes, heart disease, heat intolerance, decreased stamina, liver disease, skin problems, and joint complications. All these mean one thing: obesity can decrease the quality and the length of your pet’s life.

But don’t you worry! You can help your dog fight obesity. The first step is to consult the veterinarian, especially if you feel that your pet may be overweight. Your vet will make an assessment based on your dog’s size, frame and Body Condition Score (BCS), a 9-point scale that determines the animal’s ideal body weight (1 - extremely thin; 5 - ideal; and 9 - obese). BCS is like the equivalent of Body mass index (BMI), which is often used to compare levels of obesity in humans by measuring the weight of a person according to height.

Also, look out for signs of obesity in your dog. An indication is the inability to feel your pet’s ribs when you run your hands over its chest. A round abdomen, which is a result of excess abdominal fat, is another sign. An animal of normal weight should have an abdomen, tucked up nicely from the chest up to the hips.

The next step is to initiate a wellness program. Together with pet owners, veterinarians can advise an effective weight loss plan. They can make a pretty good plan that is safe and fit for your pet! The program should include the following:

1. A balanced diet

2. Adequate exercise

3. Recondition pets’ eating habits/behavior

As in any weight loss program, this requires 100% commitment. Thus, pet owners should be willing to devote their time to comply with the requirements of the program. They should carefully monitor their pets’ progress to determine if they are effectively losing weight.

If you want your pets to live longer and healthier lives, don’t let them grow ‘too fat.’ Save them while you still can. Get them off the obesity track straightaway.

March 17, 2008

Landmark for Man’s Best Friend

My buddy Sam is making quite a racket, which she calls singing, in the bathroom as she takes her pre-bedtime bath. The snatches I could hear through the din of the shower sound like "Here Comes the Sun", her favorite tune, only she has changed the words to "The walk of fame, the walk of fame, and I say it’s all right…" Well, blame this on a dated news article she received from a friend in her email today. That really perked up her curiosity. And when she read it to me, I got curious, too.

When Sam got out of the bathroom she looked at me and said, " Hey, poor doggie, you needn’t wait up for me. You look so sleepy." Then she patted my head. I thumped my tail twice, as I always do to say goodnight. One last pat for me and the words, "’Night Spy. Today the walk of fame, tomorrow the world!" Then she began singing again. With that thought and sound ringing in my head, I snoozed off.

Sam has groomed me for this moment - November 5, 2007- but the hubbub in Battersea Park, London still took me by surprise. There were blinding flashbulbs everywhere I looked. Microphones and recorders were thrust in front of me. Television cameras were following my every move. And the crowd was constantly calling my name. As they led me to the bench dedicated to my honor, I held my head high, walked with all the grace I could muster, and tried to acknowledge everyone who wanted my attention. I beamed beside Sam when she received the plaque with the inscription that I was inducted by Sky Movies and the Kennel Club to the first ever permanent ¿Dog Walk Of Fame¿. I have done my master proud!

While we were walking towards the white limousine which was to take us to our next appointments, Sam whispered to me, "Spy, you’re in great company." I saw the benches with the names of Bullseye (Oliver!), Lassie (Lassie Come Home), Toto (The Wizard of Oz), Bobby (Greyfriars Bobby, The True Story of a Dog), Gromit (Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit), Chance & Shadow (Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey), and Fang (Harry Potter films). We are the first "Walk of Famers" voted in by hundreds of film fans and dog lovers.

It was a hectic day. But, as befitting a celebrity, I was pampered. After each appointment, a dog groomer brushed my fur and made sure that no tick nor flea had jumped onto me, checked my teeth, and cleaned my paws. My every whim was granted to offset the exhaustion that may have beset me. In one television interview I was gifted with a doggie goodie bag bursting with treats, collars, toys, beds, pillows, etc. But what really caught my fancy was the portable pet carrier which I know will truly be useful for Sam and me because we like to travel and have fun outdoors.

Our final destination was a studio where my photos were taken for my first product endorsement. Sam accepted this because it is a product that we really use and find effective in controlling ticks and fleas. And she knows that I really don’t like these parasites.

The photographer shot many angles of me in varied poses with different props. The advertisers and staff were all praises for my regal bearing, my keen ability to follow instructions, and my photogenic qualities. Now, they told me that they saved the best shoot for last. They wanted me in an action shot to show that without ticks and fleas, a dog can definitely lead an active life. I am to leap when the ball bounces up. I get ready, timing my jump. I was still in midair when the ball bounced down then veered to a standing spotlight. As the spotlight toppled towards me, the people in the studio were shouting "Spy, look out!" But I heard only one voice, Sam’s voice saying, "Spy!"

I felt my body shaking. I thought, "Oh no! What has happened? Where is Sam?"

"Spy…," I heard again. I opened my eyes. Sam was bending over me. She said, "Spy, it’s time to get up. This is the first time you’ve overslept." I looked around me, confused. We are not in London? There is no plaque?

"C’mon buddy, eat breakfast then we’ll hit the road for our morning run." Sam urged on. Do you mean I just had a… Sam, seemingly hearing my thoughts said, "We got to stop dreaming. Let’s see what we can accomplish today. Who knows, it just might be THE one thing that will qualify you to this year’s Dog Walk of Fame."

March 12, 2008

A House to Call Home: Pets And Domestic Violence

In Atlanta, Georgia, the cries of domestic violence victims have ceased somewhat because of an establishment called Ahimsa House. A shelter like no other, Ahimsa House provides support for pets that are also victims of domestic abuse. A considerable number of victims in domestic violence shelters reports that, in most cases, their partner had also hurt or sometimes even killed their pet. In fact, most of them choose to stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of their beloved animal companion.

There are many shelters for human domestic violence victims in Georgia but Ahimsa House is the first and only shelter of the same kind founded specifically for animals. Pets of domestic violence victims get kicked, beaten, and tortured in an effort to instill fear in abused family members. Concern for their pet delays or prevents them from escaping this vicious cycle of violence; in cases like these, these pets are as terrorized as their human counterparts. To help victims end this cycle and start anew, Ahimsa House provides support not only for human victims but also for their pets by providing them a temporary home.

Programs are slowly beginning to materialize and thrive in other states to address the growing issue of domestic violence against animals. These include:

A nationwide network is currently being established by these programs in an effort to achieve a far-reaching drive to alleviate the effects and eventually eradicate domestic violence.

It warms my heart to know that such establishments exist, an establishment that cares enough for our pets to give them shelter and support in their time of need - a house every pet can truly call home.

The Horse Whisperer: A Ride Of Healing

A kid staring blankly into space. A kid sitting alone while other kids his age happily play and laugh together. A kid that cannot express himself effectively and is unable to grasp others’ input. A kid trapped in his own world - a world only he can come to know. You can imagine how terribly difficult it is to interact with someone who possesses these qualities; but for those with autistic children, it’s an everyday affair.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), recent studies show that 1 in 150 8-year olds are autistic - and autism is no laughing matter. This disorder is characterized by an inability to interact and communicate effectively with others; what makes it all the more dreadful is its incurability. An autistic child will grow up to be an autistic adult so it is important that we learn how to deal with autism early on.

The Winslow Therapeutic Center in Warwick, NY introduces a new friend for people affected by the curse of autism - our powerful worker and The Lone Ranger’s trusty sidekick, the horse. More than pulling wagons, horses can now ease the pain of autism both for the afflicted and his loved ones, thanks to therapeutic horseback riding. According to one of the center’s volunteers, "Horses stimulate human body and motion at the normal walk. So what horses can do for children who can¿t walk or need assistance walking, is they get that natural stimulation of the muscles moving."

Horses in the Winslow Therapeutic Center go through an intense selection process and undergo special training before becoming "therapeutic horses". They are trained to be more alert and not too jumpy; they aren’t easily startled and are afraid of almost nothing. Riding these "special" horses brings a smile to an autistic person’s lips, promotes camaraderie, and fosters healing. Step by step, the Winslow Therapeutic Center sees development in each of its patrons’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well being.

People who have been to the center have nothing but good things to say about its staff and horses. Laura Toro, one of its satisfied clients, says that her son Keelan has shown improvements since he joined the center’s animal-friendly therapy sessions.

Serving the public since 1974, the Winslow Therapeutic Center joins many other similar organizations in the fight against autism making sure that its victims do not suffer alone.

March 11, 2008

Top 10 Tips for a Tick-Free Spring Season

It’s springtime once again! Go out and enjoy the warmer weather. Bask in the sun and play your favorite sport. Go hiking or simply take a walk with your pet buddy.

But before you take a trip anywhere, make sure you’re protected! Beware of ticks that may proliferate during this season. Surely, you don’t want these nasty creatures to ruin your time.

Ticks in Springtime

Ticks are tiny, flat, brown, blood-sucking parasites. They thrive in tall grasses and shrubs where they wait to attach to a host. They usually feed on the blood of mammals like birds, rodents, reptiles and our pet dogs and cats. And yes, they feed on human blood, too.

As the temperature rises, ticks get more active and dangerous. Hence, the start of spring is also associated with the onset of tick season.

Ticks can transmit a number of bacterial and viral infections to humans and pets. The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), an organization at the forefront of environmental and public health, reports that based on the World Health Organization (WHO) project on Urban Pests in 2005, "ticks are responsible for transmission of more cases of human disease than any other arthropod vectors in North America and Europe." Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) include Lyme disease, spotted fever, hepatitis, tularemia, and encephalitis among many others.

Because of the health risks involved, it is important that you protect yourself and your pet from ticks. This means getting enough information about them and taking the proper measures to avoid tick bites and infection.

Be Aware!

To safeguard yourself from ticks, the Borreliosis and Associated Diseases Awareness UK (BADA-UK), a charity group in the United Kingdom run by volunteers who suffer from the effects of TBDs, is organizing an awareness campaign this coming April 7th to13th. The campaign is called the "Tick Prevention Week," which aims to increase awareness and consciousness on the dangers of ticks and TBDs. It also suggests correct tick prevention and removal methods for reducing the risks of transmission and infection.

Top 10 Safety Tips

BADA-UK says "the best and easiest defense against tick-borne infection is to avoid being bitten." It lists down ten simple precautions that will help you stay safe and tick-free:

1. Cover up! Wear suitable clothing when you’re out walking.

2. Use an insect repellent.

3. Always carry a tick remover.

4. Walk with care, stick to areas where bare ground is visible.

5. Have a "tick buddy".

6. Create and maintain a "safe zone" in gardens.

7. Keep your pets tick-free.

8. Treat pet accessories with repellents.

9. Clean and groom pets thoroughly.

10. Don’t bring ticks home.

Now that you know of several ways to protect yourself from ticks, you are now set to spend more time outdoors. As long as you are conscious and responsible enough to practice these safety reminders and to continue learning helpful information on ticks, you’ll be able to stay safe wherever you are. So what are you waiting for? Delight yourself with the pleasant weather. Travel anywhere. You can even bring your friends and pets with you if you like. Have a tick-free spring season!

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