Month: June 2010

Life after Loss: Getting a New Cat

Getting a new pet after losing a beloved animal companion can be very difficult for many pet parents.  Some are able to get a new pet within days of losing the old pet, others may take months and sometimes even years, or never get another pet again. This is not a decision that anyone else can make for you – there are too many factors that play into it to allow for some easy guidelines, but perhaps, the following can provide a better understanding of the process.

Each pet is unique

First and foremost, every pet guardian knows that it’s not possible to ever replace a lost pet, but that doesn’t change the fact that to many, it still feels like that’s exactly what they’re doing when they bring another animal into their lives. It helps to remember that each and every animal is unique, and that your relationship with the new pet will probably be completely different than the one you had with your lost loved one. I’d like to think that our animals would want us to open our hearts to another; that, in fact, they are celebrating when we’ve recovered from our grief over losing them enough to even begin to contemplate  a new addition to the family.

How do you know when the time is right?

How do you know when the time is right? This varies from person to person. Just like grief is an individual journey, so is opening your heart to another animal. Don’t judge others, or yourself, if you’re not ready, or if you’re ready before others may feel that it’s appropriate.

This issue can be complicated in families where one family member may be ready for another pet, but the other is still deeply immersed in grieving the lost companion. This will require honest and caring discussions. Don’t surprise the family member who is not ready with a new puppy or kitten – rather than bringing happiness, this may complicate their grief, and it’s not fair to a new animal to come into this type of situation. Be mindful of other animals in the household who may also be grieving the loss, and think about whether a new pet would help them or whether it would add to their stress.

Think carefully about what kind of an animal you want to get. You may love a certain breed or coloring, but be aware that just because you adopt another animal that may look like your lost one, the new one will not be a carbon copy of your lost pet. He will be his own, unique personality and the two of you will form your own, unique relationship.

Do you “just know” when it’s time?

Ultimately, I believe that you “just know” when the time is right. Or, alternatively, a new animal will find you. Opening your heart to another and beginning the joyful journey of getting to know and love a new animal companion in no way diminishes the love you had for your lost pet.   Lost love and memories can beautifully coexist with new love and happiness.

About the author

Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets

Did you miss Thursday’s Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets teleseminar with Mary Shafer and Barbara Techel? If so, you missed an inspirational hour filled with wonderful discussions about special needs pets and the amazing lessons they teach us.  But not to worry! You can still listen to the interview by clicking on the link below. You can also save the recording to disk so you can listen to it on the media player of your choice by right clicking on the link, and then selecting “save target as” (for PC’s) or “save link as” (for Mac’s).

Thanks to everyone who joined us on the call!

Inspired and Inspiring – The Rewards and Challenges of Living with Disabled Pets

About the author

The Final Farewell – Options After Your Pet Dies

cat_on_grave_cemetery

One of the reasons why I wrote Buckley’s Story was because I wanted to help others  who are faced with losing a beloved animal companion.   After losing  Amber, and being faced with the devastating grief losing an animal companion brings yet again, it’s become even more important to me to share information that may help other grieving pet parents.

An article by John Grogan, the author of Marley and Me, titled Bringing Marley Home, really brought home to me how far reaching the decision of what to do with your pet’s remains can be.  If you’ve read the book or watched the movie, you may recall that Marley was buried in the Grogan family’s backyard.  Well, the Grogans moved to a new home recently, and the fact that Marley was buried at the old house nagged at them.  One moning, Grogan’s wife finally said what they’d all been thinking – Marley’s body needed to come to the new house with them.  At first, Grogan resisted.  The thought of exhuming Marley’s body sounded to him like something “those nutty dog people” would do.   But they decided to bring Marley “home.”  You can read the full article here.  The article convinced me that there’s a need to talk about this topic here in the Pet Loss Category.

A very personal decision

There are so many components to coping with losing a pet.  One that isn’t often talked about until a pet parent is faced with the decision is what to do with the pet’s body after death.  Most pet parents don’t want to think about this issue, but the time when it becomes an issue and when you’re in the throes of shock and grief is not the best time to think about it calmly and rationally.  It can often lead to a hasty decision that may result in regret later on.  It’s best to think about this difficult issue ahead of time.  Some people may think that’s morbid, but it really is part of being a responsible pet parent.  The decision what to do with a pet’s body is an individual one, and is guided by each person’s feelings about loss, death, and remembrance.  The ultimate goal of this decision is to find a way to preserve your pet’s memory in a way that feels right.

Burial

Home burial is an option chosen by many people as a way of keeping the pet’s body close.   People often choose a pet’s favorite location in the yard, and place a permanent marker as a memorial.  This could be a stone, a statue, or even a tree planted in the pet’s memory.  However, this may not be an option in some municipalities, so be sure to check your local ordinances.  You will also need to make sure that you dig a deep enough grave to ensure that the remains will not be disturbed.

As evidenced by Marley’s story above, this is probably only a good option if you know you’re not going to move, or if you’re sure that when you do move, you’ll either be able to leave your pet’s body behind, or go through what the Grogan family went through and exhume and move the body.

Another  burial option may be burial at a pet cemetery.  Most states have these, and some states have multiple locations.  The advantage of burial at a pet cemetary is that you won’t have to worry about your pet’s body being disturbed, or about what happens when you move.  Check your local listings for locations.

Cremation

Cremation is the most commonly chosen option for a pet’s body.  Some veterinarians offer this service, but most will contract it out to a crematorium that specializes in pets.  Usually, there are two options.  In a   group cremation, the pet’s ashes are cremated along with other pets, and the ashes are not returned to the owner.  In an individual cremation, the pet’s body is cremated by itself and ashes are returned to the owner.  Check with your veterinarian and/or local crematorium, there are sometimes various options even for individual cremations.  As those of you who read Buckley’s Story know, I was able to choose a witnessed cremation for Buckley, which meant I was able to be present for the actual cremation.  I needed that peace of mind to know that it was really her ashes that were being returned to me.  I choose the same option for Amber as well.

If you choose to have your pet’s ashes returned, what you do with them becomes  once again a very individual decision.  You may want to keep them in an urn in a special place in your home.  For some people, this is a way to bring the pet home one last time.   There are beautiful urns available, or you may already have a special container that is meaningful to you for this purpose.  Others may choose to scatter the ashes in a place where the pet loved to spend time, such as the backyard or a favorite park.  I keep my departed cats’ ashes on the dresser in my bedroom, and it brings me great comfort to see them there every day.  I also have a clause in my will that when my time comes, my ashes and those of any pets that have gone before me will be mingled together.

Memorial Service

Regardless of whether you choose burial or cremation, I think it’s important to have some sort of ritual or memorial service to mark a pet’s passing.  This can be something as simple as lighting a candle in the pet’s memory, or as elaborate as holding a full-fledged memorial service for family and friends.  Either way, a conscious marking of the occasion will go a long way towards helping you cope with the grieving process.

It is not easy to talk, or even think about, a pet’s death, but these are necessary decisions that are better made while you’re not in the throes of the initial devastating grief after losing a pet.

About the author

Handmade Goodies for Cats

Guest post by Kate Benjamin

Over at Moderncat.net, we are huge fans of handmade goodies for cats. There are so many wonderful crafters on Etsy who make the cutest and smartest things! And it’s obvious that they all love their cats very much. Here are just a few of my most favorite Etsy finds.

Lovin’ Like Kittysville

http://www.etsy.com/shop/likekittysville

You can’t beat these beautiful retro-style kitty beds from Like Kittysville. Each bed is handcrafted with gorgeous designer and vintage fabrics. The boomerang shape fits kitty perfectly.

Tasty Treats from Jake & Micah

http://www.etsy.com/shop/JakeandMicah

These adorable catnip fortune cookies from Jake & Micah and are sure to please kitty! Each one comes with a cat-themed fortune.

Critters for Kitty from Oh Boy Cat Toy!

http://www.etsy.com/shop/OhBoyCatToy?section_id=6247801

Oh Boy Cat Toy makes some of the most awesome catnip stuffed critters! Watch kitty as she attacks the giant roach, or sneaks up on the felt snail. These are sure to be a favorite.

Drink Up With an Olive Meowtini from K Grant Designs

http://www.etsy.com/listing/40482894/olive-meowtini-cat-nip-toy

It’s martini time with this fabulous Meowtini set from K Grant Designs! The set comes with two jumbo olives stuffed with catnip and presented in a martini glass. Kitty might get a little tipsy!

Marvelous Melissa Makes Recycling Fun

http://www.etsy.com/listing/42954957/felted-wool-cat-nip-mice

These little critters may not be able to see, but they will sure give kitty a run for her money! Marvelous Melissa makes her Three Blind Mice from recycled felted wool sweaters. Each one is filled with a little catnip for an extra kick.

Kate Benjamin is the founder and editor of Moderncat, a resource for cat owners with a modern style. She seeks out the newest products for living with cats in a modern home. She tries to identify not only products that fit a modern aesthetic, but also items that are truly innovative and that make living with cats a more enjoyable experience. Moderncat combines product reviews with other useful information for cat owners in a clear and concise format.

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Hot Weather Safety Tips for Pets

The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) reminds pet parents and animal lovers how to keep pets safe and healthy during summer’s dog (and cat) days.

“Summertime is a wonderful time for family and friends to get together and enjoy themselves, often with a beloved pet,” says Dr. Steven Hansen, Senior Vice President of ASPCA Animal Health Services. “However, even the healthiest pets can suffer from dehydration, heat stroke and sunburn if they’re overexposed to the heat.”

Here are just some of the ways animal lovers can help ensure their pets have a safe summer:

  • Visit the Vet. A visit to the veterinarian for a spring or early summer check-up is a must. Make sure your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations. Pets should also be given a blood test for heartworm every year in the early spring. The deadly parasite is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito, and it is recommended that dogs and cats be on a monthly preventive medication year-round.
  • Keep Cool. Dogs and cats can become dehydrated quickly, so give your pets plenty of water when it is hot outdoors. Also make sure your pet has a shady place to escape the sun, and when the temperature is very high, don’t let your dog linger on hot asphalt. Being so close the ground, your dog’s body can heat up quickly, and sensitive paw pads can burn. “Never leave your animals alone in a parked vehicle,” adds Dr. Louise Murray, Director of Medicine at the ASPCA’s Bergh Memorial Animal Hospital. “On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop, which is potentially fatal.”
  • Know the Symptoms. According to Dr. Murray, “the symptoms of overheating in pets include excessive panting or difficulty breathing, increased heart and respiratory rate, drooling, mild weakness, seizures, and an elevated body temperature of over 104 degrees.” “Animals with flat faces, like pugs and Persian cats, are more susceptible to heat stroke since they cannot pant as effectively,” she says. “These pets, along with the elderly, the overweight, and those with heart or lung diseases, should be kept cool in air-conditioned rooms as much as possible.”
  • Just Say No. Summertime is the perfect time for a backyard barbeque or party, but please remember that the food and drink you serve your guests may be poisonous to pets. “Keep alcoholic beverages away from pets, as they can cause intoxication, depression, comas, or even death,” says Dr. Hansen. “Similarly, remember that the snacks you serve your friends should not be a treat for your pet; any change of diet, even for one meal, may give your dog or cat severe digestive ailments.” Avoid raisins, grapes, onions, chocolate and products with the sweetener xylitol.
  • Pest-Free Pets. Commonly-used flea and tick products, rodenticides (mouse and rat baits), insecticides, and herbicide lawn products can be harmful to cats and dogs if ingested, so keep them out of reach. While there are flea products that can be used safely on dogs, these same products can be deadly to cats, because of the presence of the chemical permethrin. Be sure to read directions on these products carefully. When walking your dog, steer clear of areas that you suspect have been sprayed with insecticides or herbicide lawn products. Keep citronella candles, oil products and insect coils out of pets’ reach as well.
  • Water Safety is Pet-friendly. Do not leave pets unsupervised around a pool, as not all dogs are good swimmers. Introduce your pets to water gradually and make sure pets wear flotation devices while on boats. Rinse your dog off after swimming to remove chlorine or salt from his fur, and try to keep your dog from drinking pool water, which contains chlorine and other chemicals that could cause stomach upset.
  • Beware of “High Rise Syndrome.” “During warmer months, we see an increase in injured animals as a result of ‘High-Rise Syndrome,’ which occurs when pets fall out of windows or doors and are seriously or fatally injured,” says Dr. Murray. “Pet owners need to know that this is completely preventable if they take simple precautions.” Keep all unscreened windows or doors in your home closed and make sure adjustable screens are tightly secured.
  • No Fireworks for Fido. Please leave pets at home when you head out to Fourth of July celebrations, and never use fireworks around pets. Dr. Hansen explains, “While exposure to lit fireworks can potentially result in severe burns or trauma to curious pets, even unused fireworks are hazardous. Many types of fireworks contain potentially toxic substances such as potassium nitrate, copper, chlorates, arsenic and other heavy metals.”

If your dog or cat accidentally ingests a potentially toxic substance this summer, it is important to contact your local veterinarian or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 for immediate assistance. For more information on having a fun, safe summer with your pet, please visit www.aspca.org.

Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first humane organization established in the Americas and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animal welfare. One million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501 [c] [3] not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. The ASPCA, which is headquartered in New York City, offers a wide range of programs, including a mobile clinic outreach initiative, its own humane law enforcement team, and a groundbreaking veterinary forensics team and mobile animal CSI unit. For more information, please visit www.aspca.org.

About the author

Book Review: Good Grief – Finding Peace After Pet Loss by Sid Korpi

good  grief

There are quite a few books about pet loss on the market, and I’ve read a good number of them over the years, but none has resonated with me as much as Good Grief – Finding Peace After Pet Loss by Sid Korpi.  Korpi is a writer, editor, journalist and ordained minister, and most importantly, a lifelong animal lover who understands the human-animal bond.   While most pet loss books focus on the stages of grief and the psychology of the mourning process, Korpi goes beyond those aspects in her book.  She shows the reader how to :

  • Emotionally prepare for a pet’s euthanasia and understand when it’s time
  • View death not as an ending, but (as animals see it) a natural transition
  • Cope with being around insensitive people
  • Memorialize and celebrate the pet’s life
  • Move on after loss and love again.

The book addresses all aspects of the grieving process, from understanding what to expect to how to move on after loss.  I particularly enjoyed the two sections Korpi presents about afterlife connections.  She shares stories of humans and animals and how they’ve connected with their surviving loved ones after their deaths.  Some of the stories are taken from her own life, others come from a wide variety of animal lovers from around the world, and all are comforting and will reassure the reader that the love betwen humans and their beloved animal companions truly is eternal.  Korpi also offers suggestions on how we can feel and encourage this connection with our departed loved ones.

The section on memorializing methods offers many wonderful suggestions on how to remember a pet in both public and private ways, stressing that this is an important part of the grieving process.   Korpi addresses the role of spirituality, philosophy and religion in healing from pet loss by sharing the different viewpoints, including some from the perspectives of various religious leaders.   The book contains an impressive bibliography  and grief support resource section.

What makes this book different from other pet loss books is Korpi’s compassion, empathy and sometimes, even a gentle sense of humor.  Rather than feeling like a book written by a counselor, reading Good Grief feels like a conversation with a supportive, caring friend.  It certainly provided comfort for my own grieving heart.

For more information about Sid Korpi and her book, please visit her website.

About the author

How to Choose the Right Vet for Your Pet

For most people, choosing the right vet for their pets is much harder than choosing the right physician for themselves.   When choosing a vet, you’re not just looking for  someone with exceptional medical skills, but also for someone with excellent people skills who understands you and your pet.  And since most veterinarians work with a team of professional support staff, you’ll want to evaluate them, too, as you look for the best fit for you and your furry family members. 

The worst time to find a vet is when your pet has a medical emergency, so plan ahead and do your research before you need one.   The following suggestions can help you in your search.

Yellow Pages/internet search

While this is a good start, I think this should only be a first step.  Proximity to your home will certainly be a factor in your decision, but it shouldn’t be the only one.  A good vet is well worth driving a few extra miles.  If you’re using the internet to look for a vet, use common sense if you’re visiting review sites such as Yelp.  The opinions posted there are only that – opinions.   Do your own research and make up your own mind after visiting potential vets. 

Word of mouth/referral from friends, neighbors or family members

With most service businesses, word of mouth is usually the best way to find a provider.  But a word of caution:  make sure that the person referring you shares your philosophy when it comes to how to care for a pet.  Not all pet owners consider pets members of the family, and even among the ones who do, there are varying degrees.   Don’t necessarily trust a referral from someone you just met.  When I got Feebee, who was my first cat, I was not only clueless when it came to how to select a vet, I was also new to the area, so I did what most people would do – I asked a neighbor who had a dog and a cat and didn’t pursue any other recommendations, nor did I research the clinic myself.  I later found out that the vet I took Feebee to had a reputation for cutting corners during anesthetic procedures, especially in the area of pain control.  Sadly, I didn’t find this out until after Feebee had already been neutered and had had a dental cleaning.

Membership in the American Animal Hospital Association

Member hospitals voluntarily pursue and meet AAHA‘s standards in areas of quality medical care, facility and equipment. 

For cats – look for a feline vet

If at all possible, look for a vet specializing in cats.  Cats are not small dogs, and feline vets can address your cat’s special needs better.  Your cat’s vet visit may also be less stressful in a feline-only hospital.  (Read Is Your Vet Cat-Friendly for more on this topic).  For a listing of feline veterinarians, use the Find a Feline Practitioner search on the American Association of Feline Practioners’ website.

Facility

Does the hospital have separate cat and dog waiting areas?  Is the hospital clean and odor-free? Is the staff dressed in clean uniforms and lab coats?  Don’t rule out an older looking hospital – a fancy new facility doesn’t always guarantee that your pet will also get top-of-the line medical care. 

Make an appointment without your pet

I think this is the best way to evaluate a veterinary practice.  Make an appointment and ask for a tour of the facility.  By going to see potential vets without your pet, you will be more relaxed and it will give you a chance to evaluate not only facility, but also the practice philosophy of the clinic.  If you want to speak to a veterinarian during this trial visit, offer to pay for an office visit.  Most vets will not charge you for an introductory visit, but it sets the right tone for a future relationship of mutual respect.  Come prepared with a list of questions that are important to you.  For example, if you’re holistically oriented, make sure that your vet is, too, or at the very least, is open to holistic modalities even if he or she doesn’t practice them.

Other questions to ask:

  • How many veterinarians are at the practice?
  • Will my pet always see the same veterinarian?
  • Are appointments required?
  • What happens if I have an emergency after clinic hours?
  • Are dogs and cats housed in separate areas?
  • Are diagnostic services such as x-rays, blood work, ultrasound, EKG, endoscopy done in-house, or will they be referred to a specialist?

Cost

While the cost of veterinary care is most certainly a factor in the decision pocess, I don’t believe that it should be the determining one.   When we bring pets into our lives, we know that they will need veterinary care – that’s part of being a responsible pet parent.  Even if we’re fortunate that they never get sick, they’ll still need preventive care.  Depending on what part of the country you’re in, routine veterinary care can run anywhere from $500-1500 a year.  These numbers can include annual wellness exams, parasite control, labwork, dental care, and more. 

If you do use price as a determining factor in your search for a vet, be aware that simply asking for prices for certain services does not necessarily tell the whole story.  For example, prices for spay/neuter surgeries can vary widely between practices – sometimes, the disaparities are due the difference in the level of care your pet will receive.

Finding the right vet for your pet is one of the most important decisions you’ll make – there is nothing more reassuring than having a vet you know you can trust and rely on throughout your pet’s life.

About the author

The Gallery Cat

Guest Post by Bobbi Hahn

She was “mature” when I began working here six years ago.  With each passing year, more gray appears in her shiny black coat.  Once a sleek, panther-like feline, with four fashionable white mittens and a snowy white chest, she’s now a little rounder . . . and a lot slower.  (Aren’t we all?)  She has a narrow muzzle with long whiskers, a shiny black nose, and the longest fangs I’ve ever seen on a cat; they’re visible when she has her mouth closed! Her large green eyes are the color of the sea on the best day of summer.

Her name, befittingly, is Princess.  She was once the alpha cat, ruler of the feral colony living in the area around the art gallery I manage.  Now, she defers to the younger, completely black Petruce.  Although most feral cats are skittish around people and avoid them at all costs, Princess was already socialized when I met her.  Granted, it took a while for her to trust me, but we eventually became friends.  She thoroughly enjoys her life outdoors, but is quick to come in for a nap under the hot gallery lights – especially if the day is particularly cold or rainy because she hates getting wet!

She’s usually waiting for me on the porch when I arrive on my bike each morning; if not, when she hears my tread on the wooden floor, she’s quickly by my side, waiting for me to unlock the door.  Once inside, she walks me to the bathroom, where I store the cat food.  We go out onto the porch together, and she waits while I pour three separate piles of food on the floor: one for her, one for Petruce, and one for Grey Kitty, whose real name is Bob.  He’s a big, sturdy grey male.  He was standoffish for the longest time, but with frequent bribes of food, I got him to come closer and closer.  When he finally accepted me, the transformation in his attitude was dramatic: now, he purrs and rolls onto his back for tummy rubs, often delaying his meal for several minutes in favor of some lovin’.

If I neglect to put out water with her food, Princess will give me an hour or so to realize my mistake.  If the water bowl is still empty, she’ll sit at the full-length glass door and stare inside until I notice her.  If you’ve ever been the subject of the intensity of a cat’s stare, you’ll understand why I scramble to see to her needs, all the while apologizing for my deplorable lack of service.

When it’s cold out, she’ll sometimes spend the entire day inside, curled into a tight ball of feline contentment in her round cat bed; on other days, equally as cold, she’ll sleep in a patch of sun among the foliage out front, or occasionally on the still-warm hood of a car.

She shows her appreciation for my care with a gift now and then . . . sometimes it’s a mouse, often it’s a lizard.  Dead or alive, the status really doesn’t seem to matter; I suppose it’s the thought that counts.  She once brought a lizard into the gallery and dropped it at my feet.  It quickly sought shelter behind a bookcase and I thought, “Oh, great! Now I’ll have to go on a lizard hunt behind every piece of furniture in here!”  But Princess caught it again and brought it back to me.  I grabbed some cat food from the bathroom and lured her out to the porch.  As I put the food down behind her, she dropped the lizard, turned around, and began eating.  I gingerly picked the lizard up by the tail (it didn’t appear to be injured at all), and flung it into the leaves on the ground.  Princess turned around, looked at the now-empty floor, then up at me as if to say, “Okay…where’s my lizard? I put it down right THERE!”

She has a fan club of loyal followers who return to this area each year.  The first question I hear from them is, “Where’s Princess? Is she still around?”  She loves the attention, and will tolerate petting for . . . oh . . . an hour or so.  She has no problem with most adults, but she disappears whenever a child comes near.

If the day is warm, I’ll eat my lunch outside on the porch, usually with Princess or Petruce by my side.  If I haven’t packed a lunch, one of them will usually meet me as I return to the gallery after getting something at the deli.  The cat will walk by my side, giving a perfect impression of a dog at heel, although a cat would never admit to such a thing.

When I leave at the end of my workday, Princess is usually on the porch and she’ll come over for a quick scratch behind the ears.  I tell her I love her and will see her tomorrow; then she accompanies me down the steps and walks away from the gallery, her workday also at an end.

Editors’s Note:  Today is the one-year anniversary of Princess’ passing.

Bobbi Hahn has lived with her husband and two wonderful cats beside a lagoon on Hilton Head Island, SC for six years. She works as the General Manager of a gift store/art gallery, a job she absolutely loves because she meets people from all over the world, in a breathtakingly beautiful setting. She enjoys biking on the beach, cooking, reading, and fussing over friends and family when they come to visit. Her poetry has been published in several anthologies; her essays have been featured on numerous online websites; her writing and photos are included in Hilton Headings, the second anthology by Island Writers’ Network. For more information, please visit her website: www.bobbihahn.com.

About the author

First Aid for Cats

first-aid-for-cats

Would you know what to do if your pet had a medical emergency?  Administering first aid until you can get your pet to a veterinarian can save your pet’s life.  Most of us have some basic knowledge of first aid for humans – but would you know what to do for your pet?

The following situations will generally all require the attention of a veterinarian, and are only designed to help you stabilize your pet until you can reach your veterinary hospital.

Bleeding

Arterial bleeding is an immediate, life-threatening emergency.  Arterial blood will be bright red, bleed in spurts, and will be difficult to stop.  For any type of bleeding, place a clean cloth or sterile gauze over the injured area and apply direct pressure for at least 5-7 minutes.  Don’t apply a tourniquet unless absolutely necessary.

Loss of Consciousness

In case of drowning, clear the lungs of fluid by lifting the animal’s hindquarters higher than his head and squeezing the chest firmly until fluid stops draining.  In case of electrical shock, DO NOT touch the pet until it is no longer in contact with the electrical source, or you’ll get shocked yourself.  In case of airway obstruction, check for a foreign object and attempt to gently remove it (see Choking).  If the animal is not breathing or has no pulse, begin CPR.

Vomiting

Pets vomit for many reasons, not all of them are medical emergencies.  In order to determine whether you’re dealing with an emergency, examine vomit for blood or other clues as to cause.  If you suspect poisoning, bring a sample of the suspected poison, preferably in its original packaging, to the veterinarian.  Gently press the pet’s stomach to check for any abdominal pain.  Abdominal pain, enlarged stomach, and unproductive vomiting are serious signs – call your veterinarian immediately.

Choking

Gently pull your pet’s tongue forward and inspect mouth and throat.  If you can see a foreign object, hold the mouth open and try to remove it by hand,with tweezers, or a small pair of pliers.  Take care not to push the object further down the animal’s throat.  If the animal is not breathing, start CPR.

Heat Stroke

This is a life-threatening emergency.  If you can’t get your pet to a veterinarian immediately, place the pet in a cool or shady area.  Bathe the animal with tepid water, and monitor rectal temperature.  When temperature drops below 103°, dry the pet off.  Continue monitoring temperature while transporting your pet to the clinic.

Bee or Wasp Sting

Bee stings are acid, use baking soda to neutralize the venom.  Wasp stings are alkaline, use vinegar or lemon juice to neutralize the venom.  Apply a cold pack to the sting.  Watch for allergic reactions – in case of severe swelling or difficulty breathing, transport your pet to a clinic immediately.

CPR

Lay the animal on his side and remove any airway obstructions.  If the airway is clear, extend the animal’s neck, hold the tongue out of his mouth, and close the animal’s jaw over his tongue.  Holding the jaws closed, breathe into both nostrils for 5 to 6 breaths.  If there is no response, continue artificial respiration.

If there is also no pulse, begin cardiac compressions.  Depress the widest part of the chest wall 1.5 to 3 inches with one or two hands:
Dogs over 60 lbs:  60 times per minute
Animals 11-60 lbs:  80-100 times per minute
Animals 5-11 lbs:  120-140 times per minute
For very small animals (1-5 lbs), place hands around the pet’s ribcage and begin cardiac massage.

Continue artificial respiration:
Dogs over 60 lbs:  12 breaths per  minute
Animals 11-60 lbs:  16-20 breaths per minute
Animals less than 10 lbs:  30+ breaths per minute

Normal Vital Signs

Normal temperature for dogs and cats:  100.5° – 102.5°
Normal heart rate for cats:  160-240 beats per minutes
Normal heart rates for dogs:  70-160 beats per minute
Normal respiratory rate for cats:  20-30 breaths per minute
Normal respiratory rate for dogs:  10-30 breaths per minute

The American Red Cross offers Pet Safety and First Aid check lists and training.  Check your local chapter for a course in your area.  They also offer cat and dog first aid books that come with a DVD demonstrating some of the techniques.

About the author

Book Review and Giveaway: Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa, M.D.

Oscar, the cat who can predict when nursing home patients die, has received quite a bit of press over the last few years.   Oscar, one of several resident cats at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Rhode Island, seems to instinctively know when one of the patients at the facility is getting ready to die.   After over fifty correct calls by Oscar, Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, began to investigate this phenomenon and, in 2007, published an article about it in the New England Journal of Medicine. 

Making Rounds with Oscar – The Extraordinary Gift of an Ordinary Cat is the result of Dosa’s interviews with family members and of patients and staff members at Steere House.   Dosa, who admits that he doesn’t know much about cats, and who is initially skeptical about Oscar’s abilities, hears a common thread in all the interviews:  over and over, patients and staff members tell Dosa how much Oscar’s presence has meant to them and their families during their time at the nursing facility.  Oscar provides comfort and quiet, gentle support when nothing or noone else can. 

This cat’s extraordinary talents will come as no surprise to cat lovers, nor will they question Oscar’s abilities.  He truly is a remarkable cat, and he, and the other cats who live at the nursing home, clearly demonstrate how having cats at a nursing home can have a wonderfully calming and beneficial effect on the patients, staff and visitors. 

Sadly, the title of the book is a bit misleading.  If you were expecting to learn more about Oscar’s extraordinary abilities and how he knows when someone is about to die, you will be disappointed.  The majority of this book is devoted to dementia and Alzheimer’s, and the devastating effect these diseases have not only on the patient who is suffering from them, but also on the patient’s family members and caregivers.  As such, the book surely is a wonderful resource for families who are dealing with this heartbreaking disease in a loved one, but it will leave cat lovers feel a little cheated. 

I really wanted to like this book.  I love the idea of a nursing home with resident cats.  There have been numerous accounts of how patients who stopped responding to and recognizing loved ones will still respond to animals.  This has been written about exceptionally well by Jon Katz in his book Izzy and Lenore about Izzy, his hospice trained dog.  Dosa, too, acknowledges that he believes that animals are a way for these patients to still connect, but, in my opinion, falls short of exploring the premise more deeply.

This is, perhaps not surprisingly, given Dosa’s medical specialty, primarily a book about dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s, and it addresses those topics well and in great depth.  However, Oscar, the star of the book and its title, an exceptional cat with the special ability to not only predict death, but to comfort a dying patient through his or her final moments, does not get the attention he deserves.  I had hoped that the book would take a look at a possible scientific explanation behind Oscar’s abilities, and perhaps, also address the spiritual dimension of why this gifted cat does what he does.  This is a good book, full of compassion, caring and hope, but it left me wanting more.

I’m giving away one copy of this book to one lucky reader.  For a chance to win, please leave a comment telling me why you want to win this book.  For an extra chance to win, tweet about the giveaway or share on Facebook and post the link in a separate comment.  This giveaway ends Friday, June 25.

About the author