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February 2011 Newsletter

Caring for your Old Dogs in the New Year
By Gina Spadafori
Courtesy of SacPaws.com

People flip over puppies, but to me, a well-loved older dog is one of the most beautiful creatures on earth. An older dog has a nobleness about him, a look in the eyes that speaks of years of the special love that only a pet can give – trusting, nonjudgmental and unwaveringly true.

Your dog's health as he ages is not entirely in your control, but you can have a real impact on his attitude. Your dog doesn't know he's getting older. His gray hairs concern him not, nor does he worry about the other visible effects of time – the thickening of his body, the thinning of his limbs. He doesn't count the number of times he can fetch a ball before tiring and compare that to his performance when he was a young dog in his prime.

A dog lives in the now. Just as he doesn't reflect on his past, he can't imagine his future. Your dog takes his cues from you. When you're upbeat, encouraging and loving, he'll be at his best, no matter his age.

This time can be a special one for both of you, and it's up to you to make the most of it.

As your dog ages, increase the frequency and diminish the intensity of his exercise. Instead of taking your dog to the park once a week to chase tennis balls until he's exhausted, take him for a long walk daily. If your dog is having problems with physical activity, talk to your veterinarian. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications may help, as may supplements such as glucosamine and omega-3 oils, or complementary treatments such as acupuncture. Your veterinarian can also prescribe medications that may address the confusion and anxiety some old dogs experience.

Your dog has no real sense of shame or embarrassment, so he suffers no loss of face if you come up with some ideas to make his life a little easier. Here are a few tips to get you thinking:

  • Beds: Think soft. Think cushioned. Think low. Think heated. Your dog will thank you for all of these thoughts, especially at this time of year.
  • Clothes: Older dogs, like older people, have a more difficult time maintaining their body temperature. This problem is even more pronounced in slender, short-coated breeds like the greyhound or whippet, or in tiny dogs. So check out the sweater selection at your local pet supply store.
  • Ramps and steps: If your dogs are allowed on the couch and the bed, consider buying or building steps to help the dog who can no longer make it in one jump. You wouldn't want to watch TV without your dog at your side, would you? A permanent ramp going down the back-porch step or a collapsible one to help your dog into the car will also be appreciated.

While you're making household adjustments, don't forget to make an appointment for a senior dog checkup, ideally twice a year, to improve your odds of catching little problems before they become big ones. Your veterinarian will likely recommend some diagnostic tests in addition to a physical examination – typically blood work and an X-ray – to spot problems early, or to establish a baseline of what's normal for your dog. You should also discuss having your dog's teeth treated and cleaned under anesthesia, because gum infections and mouth pain will affect his comfort and health.

The senior dog checkup is also a good time to determine if your dog's slowing down means his diet will need to change to take excess weight off his joints.

Helping to keep your older dog healthy and fit will mean his senior years will be happier and more comfortable. And that will be good news for you both.

Indoor-only Cats Need Distractions
By Gina Spadafori
Courtesy of SacPaws.com

I've had indoor-outdoor cats all my life, but I plan to keep my current cat indoors from now on. In the past, I have halfheartedly tried to keep cats in, but gave up when their yowling to go out drove me crazy. To add another twist: I'm moving next month, and I can put netting on the patio in the new apartment. Do you have any tips for me?
—Via e-mail

Moving is absolutely the best time to convert a free-roaming cat to an indoor-only one. That's because when you move to a new home, your cat is completely uprooted from her familiar territory. What she's given in her new home is all she'll come to know, and she'll soon accept the new living space as her own.
But you must keep her inside, with no exceptions. If you let her out, she'll want out more – and maybe take off looking for her old digs.

Because cats are so territorial, some cat lovers find that their free-roaming pets keep showing up at their old homes after a move. Converting your cat to an indoor pet is the best thing for her health and safety, but there's more to it than just keeping the door closed.

Make sure your cat has lots of things to keep her active and interested. Spend more time engaging her in interactive games by using a "cat fishing pole" and other toys that require your involvement. You'll both get more out of the fun!

Invest in a good cat tree – a tall one with cubbyholes for hiding and platforms for looking down on the world. In addition to the tree, offer other opportunities for approved scratching, which is natural, healthy behavior for your cat.

Turn her into a huntress. Use "food puzzles" to add a degree of difficulty to eating, and offer small portions of food in places that require effort to find. Provide outdoor space safely. If you can't screen in a porch or balcony, provide a cat-sized perch near a screened window. Fresh air is always appreciated.

Boredom and obesity are the enemies of indoor cats. It doesn't take much more than imagination to turn your apartment into a jungle gym for your cat. Once you've done it, she won't miss the outdoors anymore – and she'll live a longer, healthier life for being spared the dangers that lurk beyond the door.

Pets of the Month

Congratulations to February’s pets of the month: Enkidu, Swedgie, and Henna!  They are a trio of Maine Coon, tuxedo, and calico cats who are adored by their parents. They were recently interviewed by their mom, Lisa, and had this to say.

  Enkidu
  Enkidu
  Swedgie
  Swedgie
  Henna
  Henna

How we met our family:

Enkidu: I was the first cat. My grandma’s piano student needed to find a home for her neighbor’s Maine Coon litter, and that’s when I came to my Mama’s home in 2002. I was only four months old and very sweet and frisky.

Swedgie:  I picked my Mama from a cage in Petco. I was a rescue tuxedo cat and the most friendly kitty there! I kept throwing a ball out of my cage and playing catch with her. Her heart was taken, and she took me home shortly after in 2007. When I got home, I met my new brother Enkidu, who needed a companion since he was an only child for so long.

Henna: I also was a rescue calico cat at PetSmart, and my story was so sad. I had a litter at a very young age, and my kittens nursed off of me for too long, leaving me very frail and weak. My Mama and Papa rescued me in 2008 and nursed me back to health with yummy food, vitamins, and treats. I’m a very loving mama to my new baby, Stella.

What we have to say about the companion human(s) we share our home with:

We three cats live with our Mama Lisa, Papa Aaron, and Baby Stella. They give us lots of love, treats, and brushings. We only met Stella a year ago, and we weren’t sure what to make of her, but she seems to be a lot of fun. She pets us and chases us, but we enjoy playing with her. We’re still not sure if she’s a cat or a human though.

Our favorite hobbies:

I, Enkidu, love doing crossword puzzles with Papa and listening to classical music.

I, Swedgie, love batting at door handles and opening doors, as well as listening to jazz.

I, Henna, love drinking water out of a dripping faucet and watching TV with my family.

Our favorite foods:

We love treats, especially Dentabites, and our wet food, especially the gravy! Our dry food will do when we don’t get our first choices.

Our favorite toys:

I, Enkidu, have a favorite white ball that is covered in soft cloth and has a rattle in it. It was my first toy and the only one that continues to drive me crazy.

I, Swedgie, love to scratch on my scratch pad, but most of all, I like to instigate a game of chase with my brother and sister.

I, Henna, love all my noisy balls and roll them down the hallway. Sometimes when Stella leaves her toys on the floor, I also like to push them around!

Our most exciting adventures:

Enkidu’s — My most exciting adventure was in Long Beach when I would hike to the beach, two blocks from our house. I would come home smelling like the salty, sandy beach. I would even bring home gifts for my Mama and Papa sometimes, like half-dead birds.

Swedgie’s — I love to escape, so I’ll try at any chance. When I get out, I run around and quickly realize I’d rather be back in, but the adventure is getting out. I’ll climb screens and bat at door handles, and that is the biggest part of the adventure.

Henna’s — My exciting adventures involve chasing birds that nest in the trees around our house. I dart from one window to the next, cackling at the birds.

Our idea of a perfect day:

A perfect day is the whole family home all day, getting brushed, chasing bubbles, getting catnip sprinkled on our scratch pads, getting lots of treats, and cuddling on the couch sleeping in our favorite spots.

Secret skills or abilities that few people know about us:

Enkidu — I play catch like a dog.

Swedgie — I am such a smart observer; I watch everything my parents do and figure out how to do it on my own, specifically opening doors and windows.

Henna — I have amazing balance on even the most narrow balance beams.

What we like most about our pet sitter:

Carol gives us plenty of treats and spends time brushing us and giving us love! She’s so sweet and loving!

Service Announcements

Several clients have been using our online payment option through Chase Bank. To sign up, go to www.chase.com/quickpay and provide your banking information.  It is safe, easy, and free to use.

With the nice weather, more people are starting to travel earlier in the year.  If you have plans for spring or summer, please let us know so that your pets will have company while you are gone.

We can provide email updates while you are gone.  Just let us know if you would like updates and how often and we will let you know what your pets are up to!

Focus on Fundraising

One of my clients is raising money for Team Donate Life, which supports organ donation.  There is a special Pasta Feed on Saturday, February 25th, at the Folsom Community Center at 6pm.  The price is $20-$25 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under.  Dinner includes pasta, salad, bread, and drinks.  Please contact Elizabeth Kelly for more information at 916-606-2274 or eakelly21@sbcglobal.net.

Please read on to learn more about why Elizabeth and her husband, Bill, are so passionate about this cause…

My husband, Bill and I were recently presented with the opportunity to participate in what may be considered, as the ultimate challenge of a lifetime. In June 2011, the 30th annual Race Across America begins in Oceanside, CA. Competitors climb over 110,000 feet while crossing 14 states in their 3,000+ mile campaign to the finish line, just nine days later, in Annapolis, Maryland. Race Across America has established itself as the most recognized and longest endurance cycling event in the world today.

We have chosen to be a part of a team of passionate cyclists from Team Donate Life to compete in Race Across America. We will be riding on an 8 person team dubbed the Organ Re-cyclers. Team Donate Life exists to educate the public regarding the life-saving benefits of organ donation while raising funds toward continued transplant research.

In September 2008, I donated a kidney to a young woman who was undergoing dialysis 5 times a week.  Since this event, we have become close friends and are now taking our story to the streets to show how organ donation can save a life.  Stacy, the recipient of my donation, and her husband will be racing across America with Bill and I.  We will be the first donor/recipient to attempt this feat. We are not great cyclists, but the passion for our cause will help us along the way.

More important than reaching our ultimate fitness goals, is the effort to greatly reduce the number of people waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. On average, 20 people die every day in the U.S. awaiting an organ transplant. The total number of individuals waiting for an organ transplant today numbers more than 90,000. One name is added to the list for an organ transplant every 15 minutes.

Your support matters! Our team goal is to raise $100,000 so we can help make a difference in the world. With over 75% of your donation going to public awareness, programs, and ongoing research, you can join the “team” to Race Across America and increase awareness for this very important cause.

Please make your tax-deductible donation of any amount payable by check to Team Donate Life. Or, go to www.teamdonatelife.com to donate online (on behalf of Elizabeth and Bill Kelly).  Any donations would be appreciated.  We are also requesting gift baskets for raffle prizes for an upcoming fundraising event.  If you can help us with this type of donation it would be needed by February 17, 2011.

If you would like more information on the Race Across America, I invite you to visit their website at www.raceacrossamerica.org An opportunity like this is rare. Please join the team as we cycle with a purpose!

Thank you,

Elizabeth and Bill Kelly (916-606-2274)

 

   
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