Five Tips for Every Pet Owner

By Sarah Horn ’07 

    1. Just because they can eat it doesn’t mean they should. Many common household items can cause potentially life-threatening illness if ingested by pets. Grapes, chocolate, avocado, onions, garlic, and sugarfree gum (sweetened with xylitol) are all toxic when ingested by certain pets. For a more comprehensive list of common household toxins and what species they affect, or if you’re concerned about something your pet has eaten, visit the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control website.

 

    1. Dr. Google did not earn a medical degree. While we’ve all sought advice from the Internet in the throes of panic, it can often incite more fear than reassurance. If you’re concerned about your pet, reach out to a veterinary professional. Contact your veterinarian’s office during normal business hours and your local emergency veterinary hospital on nights, weekends, and holidays. It will save you time and prevent you from the stress of the unknown before you find yourself burrowed deep in an Internet rabbit hole.

 

    1. Stranger danger can be real. Always ask before allowing your dog to approach another dog. Even though your canine may be dog-friendly, there are plenty of others that aren’t. Unfortunately, we see this in practice all the time. Some dogs can be more reactive on a leash as well, so a leashed dog approached by another dog may react defensively. Besides the obvious snarling, growling, and lunging, more-subtle signs may indicate that a dog should not be approached—holding its ears back and flat against its head, standing still and staring with wide “whale eyes,” and having raised hackles. Some owners tie a yellow ribbon on the leash if their dog does not do well when approached by other dogs. If you notice this, avoid interactions between your dog and theirs.

 

    1. Prevention is the best medicine. Annual physical exams are extremely important, even if your pet isn’t due for any lab work or vaccines. While your pet may seem happy and healthy to you, a thorough examination allows a trained professional to look for any abnormalities that may not be apparent. If certain conditions are detected and managed early, such as heart disease, it can prolong your pet’s life.

 

    1. Consider protecting more than your pet’s core. Core vaccines like those for rabies, canine parvovirus, and feline panleukopenia target illnesses that have a high morbidity and mortality rate, are widespread, and are easily prevented with vaccination. Some non-core vaccines, however, are just as important, depending on where you live and your pet’s lifestyle. Vaccinations against Lyme disease, leptospirosis, and feline leukemia should be strongly considered for pets at risk in areas where these diseases are endemic. Vaccinating your dog for leptospirosis is also a way of protecting your family from this zoonotic disease, as an infected dog can transmit this disease to people.

 

Sarah Horn ’07 is a veterinarian at Androscoggin Animal Hospital in Topsham, Maine.

This piece first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Bowdoin magazine.

thumb: