DOGust and Universal Birthday for Shelter Dogs

Happy DOGust everyone! And, whew, it is HOT. So obviously it’s time for indoor parties. Do you throw birthday parties for your pets? I have friends who celebrate their dogs’ birthdays. However, if you don’t always know your dog’s birthdate. Thanks to the efforts of the North Shore Animal League and the ASPCA, the month of DOGust and the Universal Birthday for Shelter and Rescue Dogs came into being!

Photo courtesy of Pexels

At a loss at how to throw a DOGust-worthy “pawty”? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  1. If you’re going to have any outdoor activities, do it early in the morning and in the shade. Dogs can get overheated and sun- or heatstroke.
  2. Offer lots of water to human and canine guests to keep them cool and comfortable.
  3. Don’t forget refreshments. Peanut butter treats would be a good idea, or, for the ambitious, a bone-shaped puppy cake.
  4. Provide splash time in a kiddie pool and lots of toys so everyone can play. If some want to play inside, that’s okay too.
  5. In lieu of presents for your pup, request that guests make a donation to a local shelter or rescue group. This can be cash, supplies, time, or skills!
  6. For party favors, all the canine attendees could get bandanas.
  7. Remember to take plenty of snazzy photos!
  8. Have fun!

Photo courtesy of The Dodo

Animal Rights Awareness Week

In 1999, In Defense of Animals, an animal rights group, designated the third full week of June as Animal Rights Awareness Week. The goal is twofold:

  1. Help raise awareness of animal rights by educating the public about the basic needs of animals around the world
  2. Advocate for the humane and compassionate treatment of all animals.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

The focus of Purry Home Companion is mostly on pets, especially cats. However, Animal Rights Awareness Week includes animals beyond pets: wildlife (highlighting the need for conservation), farm animals, puppy mills, zoos, circuses, animals used for medical research, and any other place where animals can be found. The point of Animal Rights Awareness Week (and hopefully this post) is to get you thinking and acting. Yes, it might be uncomfortable but ultimately worthwhile. Here are some “big picture” questions to consider:

  • What rights do animals have, legally speaking?
  • How can animals, including those slaughtered for meat, be treated ethically?
  • Does animal rights extend to only certain types of animals? Why or why not?
  • How do you feel about animals used for entertainment purposes, such as in circuses and Sea World?
  • What is mankind’s effect on the environment, including the effect on animals?

Photo courtesy of Pexels

There has been a lot of discussion about the treatment of animals in circuses and amusement parks. Ringling Bros. retired its elephant and big cat acts shortly before the circus itself closed after 150 years of show business. The documentary Blackfish dressed down SeaWorld for its treatment of captive orcas. We are learning that animals have emotional, social, and psychological lives much more than we thought.

Here are a few more questions to think about:

  • Do you use pesticides that harm beneficial insects like honeybees?
  • Do the plants and animals in your garden negatively impact other wildlife? For example, if you have an outdoor cat, how does your cat’s hunting ability affect local bird populations?
  • How do you feel about testing cosmetics on animals? Do you wear cosmetics that have been tested on animals? Do you know what companies practice animal testing? Would you instead prefer to wear cruelty-free products?

Photo courtesy of Pexels

There are countless ways to raise awareness on behalf of animals. Remember to use your powers for good!

Adopt a Cat Month

Kitten season is here and so is Adopt a Cat Month! Did you know that more than 3.2 million cats enter animal shelters annually? Did you know that 860,000 cats are euthanized? Animals being euthanized due to lack of space and overpopulation makes me very sad, since this is a preventable problem. Spaying/neutering pets and catch-neuter/spay-release programs dramatically impact animal overpopulation issues in communities. If you want to add a fur person to your family, please, please consider checking out your local animal shelter or rescue group first. There are so many lovable cats (and dogs!) that deserve wonderful homes.

Moreover, this is Father’s Day weekend! Some shelters may run Father’s Day specials (read: discounts!) as well so be sure to ask about those too!

I’m so happy we adopted these two boys! I think they are quite handsome but I’m probably biased.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month

As summer kicks off, many of us will be spending more time outside doing activities like hiking, camping, swimming, and traveling. (In Texas, I plan to stay out of the heat and NOT bake as much as possible.) One consequence of outdoor activity is exposure to insects and wildlife. One of these critters are ticks, which can transmit via biting a really nasty illness called Lyme disease (Lyme borreliosis). This can affect both humans and animals and is the most commonly reported vector-borne illness in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other tick-borne diseases can include anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Yuck!

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Naturally, since May kicks off the summer season, it has been designated as Lyme Disease Awareness Month. The best way to combat Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases is to take preventive measures. Here’s how you can protect your pets:

  1. Tick-preventive products. Ask your veterinarian which would be the best solution for your pet.
  2. Vaccination. Again, speak with your veterinarian whether your dog should be vaccinated against Lyme disease. This may depend on where you live, your pet’s lifestyle, overall health, and other factors.
  3. Signs. Know the common symptoms of Lyme disease such as fever, appetite loss, lack of energy, lameness, stiffness, discomfort, pain, and joint swelling. These symptoms can progress to kidney failure as well as cardiac and neurological issues. Check here for more information.
  4. Avoid. If possible, don’t go into areas where ticks are likely to be found such as tall grasses, leaf litter, marshes, and wooded areas. (Side note: velociraptors might be hiding in tall grass too!)
  5. Check. Once indoors, make sure that a tick has not hitched a ride on you or any of your animals.
  6. Fortification. Place a barrier of wood chips or gravel between your lawn, patio, play equipment, and wooded areas. By doing so, you will restrict tick migration into recreational areas.
  7. Sprays. Have a green industry professional inspect your property and spray the perimeter to reduce tick populations.
  8. Maintenance. Clear shrubbery and brush close to the house. Prune trees. Remove litter. Mow grass short. Let the lawn dry thoroughly between waterings.
  9. Removal. If you find a tick, use gloves and specialized tweezers, not your bare hands.

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides excellent information about Lyme disease and its effects on pets. You can also find information on flea and tick preventive products, disease precautions for outdoor enthusiasts and their animal buddies, and the CDC’s boatload of data pertaining to Lyme disease. To learn how to prevent Lyme disease in people, especially children, check out information from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month

Did you know that animals, such as dogs and cats, can experience asthma and allergies just like humans do? For that reason, the National Asthma and Allergy Foundation designated May, a peak time for allergy symptoms, as National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month. While this campaign is directed at humans, conscientious pet owners should be able to recognize the way their pets may present symptoms of asthma and allergies.

Common Asthma Triggers in Pets

  • Dust
  • Pollens (grass, trees)
  • Air pollution, such as vehicle exhaust
  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Smoke (fireplaces, tobacco products)
  • Household sprays and chemical solutions, such as hair spray, flea spray, air fresheners, household fragrances, and personal perfumes
  • Cat litter dust

Common Asthma Symptoms

  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Breathing difficulties (i.e. wheezing, labored breath, shallow breath)
  • Panting
  • Dyspnea
  • Poor appetite
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Weight loss
  • Pale or blue gums* [If you spot this, go to your vet immediately.)

When we took in Garrus and Charlie, we noticed that Garrus occasionally wheezed. We had not seen this behavior in previous cats, so we brought it up with our vet. Dr R thought he might have a mild case of asthma and suggested we make a log of how often he wheezed and if we noticed other symptoms. If his wheezing episodes became more frequent or more severe, we would investigate the issue further.

At the same time, we transitioned the boys from using regular litter boxes, which they used while in foster care, to Cat Genies after they fully integrated into the household. One of the things we like most about Cat Genies is there is no dust from cat litter! Aaron discovered that safflower seeds are excellent, environmentally-friendly substitutes for the plastic granules that a Cat Genie uses. We have since noticed that Garrus wheezes infrequently now, and Dr R was most pleased by this report. Dr R remarked that she had another feline patient that displayed asthma symptoms but these decreased after her owner switched to a litter that produced much less dust. She thought the same thing had happened with Garrus.

Common Allergies in Pets

  • Contact: Medication or detergent found in flea collar (example)
  • Flea Allergy Dermatitis: Allergic to flea saliva
  • Food Allergies: Some pets don’t tolerate certain ingredients well such as beef, chicken, soy, and wheat.
  • Inhalant: Indoor or outdoor environmental factors (smoke, pollen, etc.)

Common Allergy Signs in Pets

  • Sneezing
  • Excessive grooming
  • Excessive itching
  • Paw chewing
  • Skin inflammation
  • Ear infection
  • Rashes

If you want to learn more about pet allergies and asthma, check out Buffalo Companion Animal Clinic, Pet MD for Canine Asthma, Pet MD Dog Allergy Center, Pet MD for Feline Asthma, 7 Common Cat Allergies (Pet MD), Pet Partners,and Canna Pet. If you think your pet may have asthma, allergies, bronchitis, respiratory issues, or other health concerns, please contact your veterinarian!

National Service Animal Eye Exam Month

I’ve mentioned service dogs before on Purry Home Companion, and I think it’s important for the public at large to understand and appreciate how critical the services these dogs do for their handlers. Service dogs help people with a wide range of disabilities and medical conditions, including visual impairments, hearing impairments, mobility impairments, mental disorders (such as PTSD, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder), autism, epilepsy, and diabetes. Because these working dogs are so indispensable to their handlers, much thought and care must be given to their health so they may continue to perform their duties as long as they have the will and ability to do so.

Photo courtesy of Service Dog Certifications

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) initiated a campaign ten years ago to offer free eye-screening examinations for service dogs. The only condition is for the animal to be certified by certain national, regional, or local organizations and actively working. Isn’t that cool?

Photo courtesy of Service Dog Registration

Chip Your Pet Month

Like many months throughout the year, May is a bonanza of pet-related awareness campaigns. Among others, May is Chip Your Pet Month!

Having current information on your pet’s ID tag is vitally important should ever your pet get loose or lost. However, collars can easily slip off, especially if your pet is clever enough to take it off by themselves. With a microchip implanted beneath your pet’s skin, you don’t have to worry about that occurring. If your lost pet is found and taken to a veterinary clinic or animal shelter, the microchip can be scanned, revealing a registration and contact number. Through this registry the pet owner will be contacted and be able to recover their pet.

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Check out Positively Woof for a video, Merck Animal Health, and One Fur All to learn more information about the benefits of microchipping, where to get them, and frequently asked questions.
When we adopted Garrus and Charlie, the shelter provided and implanted microchips along with their shots. The cost of these procedures is covered by the adoption fee. In our case, the adoption fee was waived because we fostered them during the Clear the Shelter event, wherein adoptable pets were free! The shelter had the microchips already registered; we simply provided our contact information and updated the cats’ names when we changed them from Aristotle and Tink to Garrus and Charlie. It was a super easy and worthwhile process. While my cats are strictly indoors, if they ever were to get out, I’d have peace of mind knowing that they had more than one method of identification and would be returned to us via that information.