The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, January 12, 2007


New Year's resolutions for pet owners

With the new year upon us, perhaps you will consider some New Year's resolutions for your furry friend.

I will have my pet spayed or neutered.

A happy, healthy cat or dog has a longer life and is a much better family member when it is spayed or neutered. It is an economical, one-time expense that lasts a lifetime. For females, spaying before the first heat cycle can greatly decrease the chances of developing breast cancer later in life. For males, neutering will prevent testicular, prostate and perianal cancers.

I will provide my pet health care appropriate for his age and condition.

Get the needed testing or screening done so pets can have early treatment and you can develop good base data on your pet's health and a good relationship with your veterinarian. Screening includes a complete blood count, biochemical profile, urinalysis, thyroid testing, and fecal centrifugation analysis. Regular screening should be performed around age six for most dogs and cats. Minimum database screening can be expensive when paying out of pocket. Consider a pet insurance policy, as many policies will cover some of the cost of regular preventative medical screening. See for more information and free online policy estimates.

I will give heartworm medication/flea prevention/control every month.

Flea and tick prevention is more important than ever. Carlisle is a Lyme- endemic area. A new concern for veterinarians in our area is another tick- borne disease called anaplasmosis. Heartworm prevention is not just for preventing mosquito-borne heartworm disease; it also prevents roundworm and hookworm infections which can be spread in the winter. Children and immunocompromised individuals can contract roundworms from exposure to pets. Giving your pet a heartworm/ GI worm preventative also protects human health. Don't skimp in the winter: prevent parasites every month.

I will start my pet on a proper diet for his age/medical condition.

One of the great developments in animal nutrition is that we have appropriate foods for different stages of life and medical conditions. The best diets available for animals are specially formulated, and have been tested in scientific feeding trials. High-quality ingredients are important, but many diets made with "special all-natural ingredients" have no science behind their formulation. Raw food diets have never been scientifically shown to be better for animals and in fact could result in metabolic bone disease over time if the calcium and phosphorous ratios are not correct. In addition, if they are not irradiated, the bacteria from the raw food could harm human family members — especially children and/or immunocompromised individuals. A veterinarian trained in animal nutrition can provide the most valuable recommendation on what to feed your pet.

I will give my dog or cat healthy treats.

In addition to the best possible diet, I resolve not to feed my pet "junk food" treats. Many grocery store treats contain excessive calories and artificial colors. Many veterinarians sell dental chews and treats that are ideal for dogs and cats. Contrary to popular belief, not all table food is bad for dogs. Dogs are omnivores who benefit from low-calorie fresh fruits and vegetables. Introduce these slowly and in small amounts to avoid GI upset. Avoid onions, raisins and grapes, which can be toxic to dogs. Table scraps such as meat trimmings, skin, carbohydrate- or salt-laden foods may make your pet ill.

I will learn to groom my pet for good health.

Many minor grooming procedures can be done at home where it is less stressful to the pet. You may find skin tumors or infections during a regular grooming session that can be brought to the attention of your pet's doctor. If you have an older pet, you may notice differences in muscle condition during regular grooming.

I will exercise and play with my pet more.

Our pets are part of our family so carve out a small amount of time with them each day or a dedicated time each week. They become much better pets when you include them in your life. Exercise is the best way to prevent obesity. Pets kept at a lean, healthy body weight are not in the veterinary office as frequently as their obese counterparts. A recent article in a prominent veterinary journal proved that lean pets live 20% longer.

I will care for my pet's teeth daily at home.

Regular home dental care is one of the best gifts you can give your dog or cat. Tartar and gingivitis can lead to serious and often painful mouth infections. Many animals will continue to act normally despite severe oral pain. Infections from the mouth can spread to the liver, heart valves, and urinary tract. Professional dental care helps your dog or cat live longer. There is no such thing as "too old" for dental anesthesia an older animal with a normal heart and lungs and normal lab values is at the same anesthesia risk as a young animal with the same physical and laboratory findings. Regular brushing, oral gels, prescription dental diets, mouth rinses, and a new plaque-preventing additive to your pet's water are all available to prevent dental problems. Not every pet is an ideal candidate for brushing, especially cats. If your pet will not let you brush, at least try an oral rinse or water additive.

I will enroll in a basic training class.

It is especially important for puppies to have basic obedience training to prevent problems later in life. Older animals with behavior problems can benefit tremendously by learning basic obedience. Begin by enrolling in a local obedience class. Look for an instructor who is a certified dog trainer (CPDT). The American Kennel Club (AKC) Canine Good Citizen Program is a ten-step certification program that rewards dogs with good manners. The program continues to gain acceptance worldwide as the standard for well-trained dogs and responsible dog ownership. See for details.

I will donate time/effort/resources to a local animal welfare group.

Both your time and your money are needed at local shelters and humane groups in our area. You may be surprised what your talents can do for these organizations that need your help. Some animal hospitals have Good Samaritan funds set up for people who are struggling to afford needed veterinary care for their pets. Consider donating to such a fund.

I will certify my dog as a therapy animal.

If your dog is especially social, patient and people-oriented, he might be a good therapy animal. We have discovered that pets increase life span, help speed recovery by patients young and old and are a great morale booster to people in various psychiatric and medical treatment programs. See Therapy Dogs International or the Delta Society for more information. To begin the process of making your dog a therapy dog, see

Dr. Tiffany Rule is a Carlisle resident and veterinarian at Countryside Veterinary Hospital in Chelmsford. She can be reached at

2007 The Carlisle Mosquito