Pet Advice & Ideas

FDA Loosens Restrictions On Telemedicine For Pets

Veterinarian Practicing Telemedicine With Patient

In a news release on March 24, 2020 the FDA announced that “it intends to temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the pandemic.” Learn more about this positive development and how it might affect pet parents below.

---

News Update from Dr. V:

I think it was maybe four years ago when I started asking my colleagues if we could start talking about veterinary telemedicine. The answer was a near-unanimous “no!” I lectured to empty rooms about this topic I’m passionate about and wrote articles no one understood.

Sure, maybe a few veterinarians here and there showed some interest in a telemedicine app, but the chances are pretty low that it’s something you’ve used with your vet. Well, that’s all about to change.

Until COVID-19 shut down entire states and even countries in a matter of weeks, we’ve always assumed that if your pet had a problem, you would take them to the veterinarian. As a profession we are very married to the idea that unless you have your hands on the pet, you won’t get a complete picture of what’s going on and wouldn’t be doing right by the pet.

What is a VCPR?

Legally, a hands-on examination has always been required for us to create what’s called a VCPR- a valid client patient relationship. Without this VCPR, a veterinarian cannot diagnose or prescribe medication to your pet. While each state defines this VCPR, they’ve all been pretty consistent in requiring this.

Let’s pause here for a moment because the next thing I’m about to say is super important.

Once you establish that VCPR with a veterinarian, it is good for a specific amount of time- usually a year. During that period of time, in almost every state, your veterinarian can do telemedicine visits with you, including follow ups and prescribing medication. I’m not saying they will do it, but they could from a legal perspective — and that’s been the case for quite a long time, actually.

What people are talking about right now is that the FDA has temporarily removed the requirement for the veterinarian to be in the same location to establish a VCPR. In this case, you could have a telemedicine visit with a veterinarian you’ve never met, and they could make a diagnosis and prescribe a medication without ever seeing you. It happens all the time in human medicine, but those laws are very different.

So does that mean when you get up tomorrow you can google “online vet” and get some heartworm pills for your dog with a remote visit? Probably not. Here’s why:

The FDA is a federal organization. But the rules surrounding the practice of medicine are determined by the state. In this case the state laws take precedence. In only a handful of states, such as California, they have made an emergency exemption where a California veterinarian can establish a remote VCPR with a California client. I can’t tell you what other states this is happening in, because the laws are changing quite literally daily. It’s astounding.

But to get back to what I said earlier, even if you can’t establish a relationship with a new vet online, you’ve likely already been able to conduct a telemedicine visit with your current one. It’s just that very few were willing to do it. That’s what’s changing.

“Woman

How is COVID-19 going to affect you as a pet parent?

  1. You may be asked to do drive-up medicine. Although you’ve probably heard that two dogs did test positive for COVID-19 in their system, there is no evidence they get sick from it or can infect others. The health precautions we are taking have to do with keeping both you and the veterinary staff safe, and that means practicing social distancing. Many clinics are asking clients to remain in their cars or limit the number of people in the exam room to one. We don’t like it either, but it keeps us safer.

  2. You may be asked to postpone wellness care. Again, it’s to keep us all safe. In addition, many veterinarians are donating as many masks and gloves as they can to help the doctors and nurses keeping us safe in the hospitals. This is a community effort.

  3. You may find your vet is suddenly offering telemedicine. I’m biased, but I think this is great. It’s important to note that telemedicine is only useful in some situations. An emergency will always require a visit to the ER. Pets will still need surgeries and bloodwork and x-rays and get hurt, and we’re doing all we can to stay open and be there for you when you need us. 

So when are veterinarians using telemedicine?

Most of the time, it’s for things like follow up visits, skin issues like hot spots, recurring ear infections, mild limping, “is this normal” questions, prescription refill requests, flea and tick medications, and general advice. It’s a limited list, but it covers a lot of ground. Again, every veterinarian is allowed to decide for herself if and when they want to offer telemedicine, so there’s no requirement that they do.

I may be biased, but I hope they all decide to do so! If they’re not offering telemedicine services, it never hurts to ask if they will consider it. It can get put into place very quickly. In fact, I’ve spent the last two weeks working behind the scenes with my colleagues to pull together resources to help those in the profession get onboarded with telemedicine as quickly as possible- so if you see my name out there, say hi! 

I do this because I believe in helping pet owners in any way I can, and this is my way of serving the community in time of crisis. 

Thinking of you all and hoping you remain safe and well,

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

4 Simple Ways To Help Your Pet Lose Weight

Dog Exercising to Lose Weight

Did you know that more than half of the dogs and cats in the U.S. are overweight? All that extra heft puts our beloved pets at-risk for many serious health conditions.

The good news is that solving your companion animal’s weight problem might be easier than you’d expect!

Check out these helpful pet weight loss tips to ensure your beloved friend will live an even healthier and happier life:

  1. Select A Wholesome Diet 

    One vital measure towards curbing weight is also a simple one — selecting the perfect food. Choose a diet that states an animal-specific protein source (such as chicken or fish) as the number one ingredient. Avoid foods pumped up with corn, wheat and glutens, as carb-loading will sabotage any weight-loss efforts. Our wholesome dog foods and cat foods provide a complete spectrum of nutrition that your pet needs to thrive at a healthy weight.

    If you have a hefty dog at home who is ready to drop some pounds, try our Adult Weight Loss Formula — this recipe is enhanced with L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism and weight management.

  2. Use a Measuring Cup for Portion Control 

    Did you know as few as 10 extra pieces of kibble can lead to excess weight gain in smaller dogs? Just by measuring meal portions, you can help your dog or cat shed unwanted weight! Each pet’s metabolism is different, so it’s a good idea to consult with your veterinarian — they can calculate your pet’s ideal daily intake.

    “Cat

  3. Only Feed Healthy Treats

    It feels great to give your pet a tasty treat — but you can feel even better when that treat has a nutritious benefit! Many treats out there aren’t much better than canine candy bars — that’s why at Life’s Abundance, we believe that every treat should have a purpose, and every calorie should have a benefit. Over the years we’ve worked to create the best healthy dog treats and cat treats on the market. Your pet won’t hesitate to scarf down our delicious treats - and get a boost of nutrition at the same time!

  4. Short Daily Exercise

    Research has proven that the one of the most effective ways to live a healthier and happier life is daily exercise, for both pets and humans! As little as 20-30 minutes of brisk walking can have a remarkable effect on your health and your dog’s, improving cardiovascular health, enhancing mood and boosting immune function. If you have a cat, get them active for 10-15 minutes twice a day, whether it be with their favorite toy or even using a laser pointer.

-----

Many pets around the country struggle with weight problems — implementing any of these four suggestions could drastically improve the life of any pet, especially if they have a weight problem.  

Be sure to share this post with other pet parents! It just might be the first step in the process toward a better life for a precious cat or dog.

5 Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make

Dog Running In Field

Deciding to bring a new dog into your family is exciting — it’s also a long-term life decision. It’s important to be prepared before you embark on the journey of bringing a new four-footer into the home!

There are some common problems that folks run into, but once you’re aware of them, you can steer your pup towards a healthy and happy future.

Here are five common mistakes dog parents make:

  1. Impulse Adoptions 

    It’s common knowledge that dogs have an average lifespan of 10-15 years. But when those puppy-dog eyes are melting your heart, it can be easy to forget that you’ll need to budget for a decade or more of veterinary bills, food, supplies and grooming. If you have children, the companion animal of a ten-year-old is likely to become yours when your child goes off to college. Sleep on any adoption decision, and do your homework before you bring that pup home!

  2. Failing to Spay or Neuter

    For starters, spaying and neutering drastically reduces the risk of some cancers. These procedures can also reduce behavioral problems, such as roaming, fighting, and mood swings. Most obviously, spaying and neutering reduces dog overpopulation. Your veterinarian will know the best timing for your dog’s spay or neuter surgery.

  3. Poor Training Techniques

    Unfortunately, some pet parents use punishments rather than reward-based training — this can create major barriers to the bond you share with your pet. Instead, concentrate your efforts on setting boundaries to set your pet up for success.

    Keep them safe using supervision and a controlled environment — use a leash during walks or in a pet-proof room or crate when home alone. Above all, you should provide rewards for good behavior, like healthy dog treats. This will reinforce appropriate behaviors and prevent problems from becoming habits.

    Dog Being Rewarded With Treats

  4. Failing to Vaccinate

    This mistake represents a troubling trend - more and more new pet parents are failing to vaccinate their companion animals. Distemper and parvovirus in dogs are still very present in much of the United States and prove fatal for a significant number of pets annually — the bottom line is vaccines do save lives.If you have a new puppy or dog , make sure you provide them with ‘core vaccines’, which includes protection against rabies, distemper and parvo in dogs. If you have rescued an adult who has no verifiable vaccination history, two boosters of core vaccines are advised. For non-core vaccines, such as canine lyme, discuss these preventatives with your vet.

  5. Being Reactive and Not Proactive

    Last but not least, new pet parents tend to be reactive rather than proactive when it comes to their companion animal’s overall health. Obviously, it is important to address health problems with your veterinarian when they arise. However, it is equally important to take the steps now to ensure the long-term health of your furry friend. Remember, a dog’s health starts with their primary nutrition source — their food. Make sure they are eating a high-quality diet that is complete and balanced!

    New pet parents need to know that getting off to the right start, including diet and lifestyle choices, can improve the health, longevity and quality of life for their pets. Avoid these common mistakes and you will be well on your way to being a happy pet parent with a happy, healthy new best friend!

---

New pet parents need to know that getting off to the right start, including diet and lifestyle choices, can improve the health, longevity and quality of life for their pets. Avoid these common mistakes and you will be well on your way to being a happy pet parent with a happy, healthy new best friend!

True Or False: Only Old Pets Get Dental Disease

Vet Examining Dog Dental Care

 

Let's play 'True or False' with our staff veterinarian, Dr. Jessica Vogelsang!

When I say “puppy breath,” what do you think of? It’s most likely a pleasant thought, right? People like puppy breath (well, at least dog lovers do!)

Now what about when I say “dog breath?” Not such a great thought! No one wants to be told they have dog breath, not even a dog. So what causes the transformation from the sweet smell of puppy breath to the putrid stench of dog breath?

It’s easy to combat bad breath with dental treats, but it’s important to monitor your pet’s complete oral health on a regular basis. Did you know that medical conditions such as kidney disease, diabetes, and liver disease can also manifest in the breath?

In honor of February being National Pet Dental Health Month, we’re going to play ‘True or False’ to see what you know about your pet's pearly whites!

“Only old dogs and cats get dental disease.”

  • False: While dental disease is obviously more severe in older pets who have had years to accumulate the effects of periodontal disease, over 80% of dogs and 70% of cats develop oral disease by the age of three. This is why it’s so important to begin preventive care early in life!

“It’s time to get your dog’s teeth cleaned when you can start seeing buildup.”

  • False: Dental disease is a progression that begins with signs invisible to the naked eye. The bacteria in our mouths combine with food bits to produce the invisible sticky film called plaque, which coats the teeth and sneaks up beneath the gum line. Over time, this plaque hardens into tartar, the visible brown stuff you can see on your pet’s teeth.

    This stews below the gumline and causes gingivitis, which results in the inflamed reddened gums most commonly visible on the back teeth. Left untreated, the bacteria begin to wreak havoc on the tissues and bone underneath the gums, and that’s when things get ugly.

 

Alt Text!

“Anesthesia-free dental cleanings are almost as good as a full cleaning.”

  • False: Now we’re getting into rough waters. Dogs and cats need anesthesia in order to have a full dental cleaning, because no pet likes the feeling of a dental scaler plunging into their sore gums. I mean, who can blame them?

    Without anesthesia, cleanings are limited to scraping off the plaque you can see with the naked eye. This type of cleaning makes the teeth look better, but they’re often no healthier afterwards. It’s like cutting a weed and leaving all the roots — it looks better temporarily, but you haven’t done anything to stop it from spreading.

“Some dogs are more prone to dental disease than others.”

  • True: Short-nosed breeds such as pugs and French bulldogs are more prone to disease due to their propensity for teeth overcrowding and misalignment. This creates a big net for food debris to stick around, no pun intended.

    Small dogs such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Poodles, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also develop dental disease earlier in life. Their small mouths just struggle to fit all 42 teeth and often end up misaligned. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Boxers, and Shih Tzus have genetic quirks that impact their dental health as well.

“My vet’s going to judge me for this and it’s stressing me out.”

  • False (I hope!): Being vets, we are accustomed to seeing significant diseases. I don’t care about anything except helping the pet feel better! Everyone who comes into the clinic has done a tremendous thing by coming in and getting treatment.

    I can’t speak for every veterinarian on this earth, but I do know without a relationship of trust and working together, you’re not going to get the optimal results for your pet. If you don’t have a strong honest relationship, for whatever reason, I’d highly encourage you to seek out another provider. It’s fine! Both you and your pet deserve that bond.

---

How’d you do? Let us know in the comments below.

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

5 Ways To Improve Bad Cat Behavior At Home

Cat Being Petted In Kitchen

When you bring a dog into your home, you usually know what to expect—tail wags, belly rubs, and a personality that aims to please. Cat behavior, on the other hand, can be completely unpredictable!

We love our kitties dearly, but sometimes they can be downright frustrating, whether they are treating the expensive sofa like a cat scratching post or refusing to drink anything other than your glass of water.

Here are five common cat behavior problems and tips to thwart them:

1. Using furniture as a scratching post

This destructive behavior is perhaps one of the most common cat behavior complaints. There's nothing more aggravating than seeing everything from your footboard to your sofa scratched up by your cat.

You can do a lot to make kitty happy and save your furniture by providing her with her own scratching posts and pads. For a low-cost alternative, you can even attach a small piece of carpet to the wall. If nothing deters the behavior, talk to your vet about cat claw caps — these are little silicone covers that slip over your kitty's sharp claws.

2. Refusing to use the litter box

Felines have a good reputation for being easy to litter train — but sometimes, they will take it upon themselves to go in other places besides their designated box. Some cats are just extremely particular and don't want to get their paws dirty in a soiled box, so more frequent scooping may be in order.

If you only have one litter box for your cat, try getting a second one for another room. Certain cats may prefer one room over another, or just prefer to have options!
Other cats prefer their litter pan to be in a private spot, so try relocating it. Something as simple as the type of litter you're using could send a picky cat off in search of a new toilet space. If the problem persists, talk to your vet to ensure there's nothing going on health-wise that could be causing the issue.

3. Spraying around the house

Simply put, a spraying cat is usually just a feline trying to let others know where their turf is. Some cats spray because they're insecure, nervous or anxious as well.

If your cat is marking the corners of the windows, the opening to the litter pan, and everywhere else, you likely have a seriously territorial kitty. Spaying and neutering does tend to lower their drive to mark. A few other changes that may prevent cat spraying include:

  • Giving each cat in your home their own litter box, plus one extra for the household
  • Promptly cleaning sprayed areas with an odor remover (cats tend to respray the same areas)
  • Separating your cat from other cats if possible

Cat Sitting In Litter Box

4. Eating your houseplants

Take a look at a cat in the wild and you’ll notice that they munch just about anything that offers some nutrition. Even big cats that prefer meaty main courses will occasionally nibble on some greens.

Keeping your houseplants out of the cat's view is best. If that's not a possibility, bring in some cat-friendly houseplants that are safe and fun for kitty to chew, such as wheatgrass or catnip plants. Make sure you avoid any toxic houseplants if your plant-curious kitty has issues. Incorporating nourishing cat food and healthy cat treats could better satisfy your little purr-factory and prevent them from making a meal out of your ferns.

5. Making yowling noises

Cat yowling is common when a kitty wants your attention, so this could be the cause. If the yowling and loud meowing has started out of nowhere, make sure your kitty is not in pain and pay a visit to the vet. Otherwise, set aside some time for play or petting at least a few times a day. It's possible that you landed yourself a needy feline that isn’t shy about demanding affection.

---

Maybe there's no such thing as a bad kitty in your book, but some cats do have behavior problems that call for extra support, care and attention. Hopefully these tips can improve some of those pesky behaviors that drive cat parents across the globe crazy!

How To Overcome Aggressive Dog Behavior

Small Dog In Front of Beware of Dog Sign

Just like humans, dogs can get scared — and when they do, they may defend themselves by acting out aggressively. If your dog is behaving this way, it’s your job to do what you can to help them get over that fear!

Here are some tips for overcoming aggressive dog behavior at home:

  • Learn About the Breed

Some dog breeds are naturally more fearful than others. For example, the Chihuahua has a notorious reputation for acting aggressively out of fear. To understand your dog's fear, it can be helpful to educate yourself about the breed of the dog you have.

If you have a Chihuahua and research the breed, you would learn that they act aggressively because they are small-statured and more likely to be treated as prey by larger animals! Also, female Chihuahuas are more likely to act aggressively than males.

  • Socialize Your Dog

Aggressive dog breeds do exist, but the primary personality of a dog comes from the environment it’s raised in and social interactions. A dog that doesn't have a lot of interaction with humans or other dogs is far more likely to be scared or aggressive.

If you adopt a puppy, socialization should be a big part of their training from an early age. If you bring home an older dog that has not been properly socialized, this aggressive dog behavior can be harder to correct but not impossible.

"Nervous

  • Aggression Triggers and How To Avoid Them

Avoidance is something most pet parents deem as a last resort when it comes to dealing with a fearful and aggressive dog. However, it’s sometimes best to keep your dog away from certain environments or triggers that you know may lead them to aggressive dog behavior.

These are some ways to avoid aggressive dog behavior at home:

  • Close the blinds so your dog can't see strangers approaching or passing your residence
  • Avoid areas on walks where small children are playing
  • Remind home visitors to not reach for the dog to try and pet them
  • Keep your dog separate from other pets as much as possible
  • Avoid behaviors that your dog may deem menacing, such as staring them in the eyes

Food aggression is quite common among all breeds — the remedy for this is to ensure your dog is fed separately from other pets and that they have their own bowl.

In addition, make sure your dog’s food and treats are supplying them with the nutrition that their bodies need. In many cases a dog’s diet can directly affect their mood and behavior.

Canine fear and aggression are normal behaviors for some individual dogs, and you will likely love your pooch in spite of their tendency to lash out when afraid. If you're still having issues with a nervous dog after trying to help at home, enlist the help of a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.

7 Signs Of Arthritis In Dogs and Cats

Woman Plays With Her Dog At Beach

As your furry friend gets older, are they showing signs of slowing down? Arthritis in dogs and cats can potentially be treated, giving your pet an active life for years to come.

Here are seven common signs that may indicate your pet has arthritis or other joint problems:

1. Limping

Did your cat land wrong when jumping off the couch or is it a sign of something else? If your pet's limping seems to be related directly to a potential injury, it's important to have it checked out by a vet.

But if your pet seems to regularly have issues with limping, it may be a sign of a developing condition that could impact their joint health.

2. Stiffness

Many of us pet parents relate to the extra time it takes to get going in the mornings or during cold weather. Just like us, arthritis may be to blame more than old age. When your pet's joints hurt, they don't want to move as much, and who could blame them? The trouble is, this causes their muscles to become even tighter and stiffer after long periods of time without activity.

3. Problems Moving or Standing

Tight muscles and achy joints can also keep your pet from wanting to move as much as they used to. You may notice that your dog or cat has problems standing up or moving around, almost as though their muscles are bound.

This isn't far from the truth — the lack of use and limiting motion can cause your pet's muscles to atrophy, making early treatment of arthritis in dogs and cats important.

4. Refusing Normal Activities

Is your pet no longer wanting to jump, climb or run as they once did? When joint disease and arthritis make these activities painful, your pet may not want to partake in them anymore. Though this could be a temporary situation, make sure to pursue treatment options if the behavior continues for more than a few days or weeks.

Cat Lounges On Red Couch

5. Snapping

Your precious pet may be the friendliest animal on the planet, but if they have suddenly become grumpy it's important to find out why. If an animal is in pain, touching may add to their discomfort. That's why it's vital to take a pet to the vet if you see them reacting to being petted or touched in certain areas.

6. Licking Sore, Swollen Joints

Animals lick their bodies to soothe pain — licking sore joints is no exception. When your pet spends significant amounts of time licking their joints, it's a good indicator that the underlying area is painful for them.

Some animals that are in pain can even end up creating bald spots from the continuous licking. The good news is that this is something you can easily watch for and monitor.

7. Shying Away from Attention

When your social butterfly has become a wallflower, it's because your pet is having a slightly different response to the snapping symptoms listed above.
To avoid pain, your precious pet is trying to avoid being petted, lifted or played with. It's vital that these symptoms be treated relatively quickly, before the temporary behavior becomes a permanent pet problem.

---

By keeping an eye out for some of these symptoms and involving your veterinarian early, you may be able to help avoid years of chronic pain for your pet. For more advanced arthritis and joint treatments, talk to your vet about options such as cold laser therapy and underwater treadmills.

Pet parents in the know often turn to dog supplements and cat supplements that specifically support joints. Agility Formula for dogs and cats not only addresses joint health, but supports the entire musculoskeletal system. If you have a pet approaching middle age or just want to be proactive as they get older, try our Agility Formula and see what a difference it can make!

Dog Years Are A Myth — Find Your Pup’s True Age

Giving A Puppy A High Five

We love our dogs — so much, in fact, that we are obsessed with comparing their age to our own. The problem is that the formulas we have used to calculate dog years may be completely wrong!

A new study of doggie DNA by the University of California, San Diego shows that young dogs with a lot of energy may actually be older than you think.

After comparing the results of over 100 labrador retrievers with around 300 humans, the study shows that:

  • Dogs mature quickly in their first year, but their aging slows over time.
  • By age two, the DNA of a labrador is similar to a human entering their early 40s.
  • By age ten, a labrador is most comparable to a human aged 68.

This data on dog years, yet to be peer-reviewed, shows many similarities between the aging process between humans and dogs, researchers found, with an eight-week-old puppy resembling a nine-month-old baby.

“The expected lifespan of labrador retrievers, 12 years, correctly translated to the worldwide lifetime expectancy of humans, 70 years,” researchers noted.

Unfortunately, the new equation isn’t as simple as multiplying our dog’s age by 7 to find out their age in human years. Here’s the formula: 16 x ln(your dog’s age) +31.

If you have a scientific calculator on hand, you can calculate the dog years to human years yourself — or follow the guide below. We’ve done the math for you!

Table for Human Years to Dog Age

The aging rates of different breeds could vary drastically, so future research will be needed to determine the differences. Studying different breeds with different lifespans could shed some new insight on the aging process of both humans and dogs! 

Happy Dogs In Park

National Cat Lover's Month: The Best Of Cat News In 2019

Woman Kisses Gray Cat

If I were to ask my cat Penelope if she knew that December was National Cat Lover’s Month, she’d probably plop down in the most dramatic patch of lighting she could find, start to groom herself, and say, “Of course, darling, we always save the best for last. Now fetch me a treat.”

I’m the first to admit that in the world of petdom, cats often get short shrift compared to their larger, furrier, droolier dog counterparts. What can I say? Dogs just seem so much needier than their independent, above-it-all feline housemates. I know it’s not true, and I’d like to give them their due in their month of celebration.

So in honor of National Cat Lover’s Month, I’m sharing my favorite cat news, discoveries, or insights from 2019. After all, cats deserve no less!

A Scientist Shares How To Pet Your Cat

We all know intuitively that there are right ways (gentle, front-to-back) and wrong ways (staring into their face, clutching them to your chest) to pet a cat. But a researcher from Nottingham Trent University took it a step further and actually collated the research data that exists in order to perfect the rules for successful cat-petting.

The number one factor in whether or not a cat enjoys getting pet? Whether or not the cat was the one to initiate the interaction. As anyone who has had to endure those rib-crushing hugs from Great Aunt Edna over the holidays can attest, this makes perfect sense.

Free Quilty

Like Puss in Boots or Robin Hood, Quilty the Cat is a rogue at heart. Quilty wasn’t satisfied with his plush digs in a Houston shelter, and decided to make a run for it. Over and over and over, he’d open the door handle and let all the residents of the cat room run amok. Each morning the staff would come in perplexed, having to retrieve the 15 cats Quilty had set free, and finally placed a camera to figure out what was going on.

Eventually Quilty was identified as the prison-breaking culprit and sent to solitary confinement, where his irritated pout earned him a whole different type of freedom: that of internet darling. The best part is, he earned the ultimate escape: he is being matched with the perfect home.

Cats Absolutely Love Us

Though some might interpret a cat’s natural independence as a lack of interest compared to, say, the neverending ardor of a Golden Retriever, the truth is cats do form strong bonds to their people. According to a Current Biology journal article from September that compared the attachment behaviors of cats to that of human babies, they exhibited the same patterns of caregiver attachments as infants!

So cat lovers, rejoice in the scientific proof of what you already knew — of course our cats love us. They just show it in their own cat-like way.

Cute Kitten Wants To Play

A Dog Would NEVER Interrupt an NFL Game Like This

Right in the midst of a Cowboys/Giants Monday night game, a black cat decided he was going to show the world who really held the power and brought the game to a screeching halt with nothing more than his presence on the field.

Not satisfied with merely showing up and running around, he proceeded to dramatically work his way to the endzone, working the crowd into a frenzy as he led a start-and-stop saunter into touchdown range. I haven’t heard cheers that loud at an NFL game since Prince rocked the halftime Superbowl show! Yes, cats know dramatic entrances.

Cats Know Us Better Than We Think

It’s a common belief that dogs sense and respond to our moods due to thousands of years of selective breeding. While cats are also domesticated, they evolve not from a pack species but a solitary one, so we’ve long assumed that cats aren’t as attuned to our behavioral cues as canines. But that assumption is incorrect.

Take, for example, the pointing test- a test of human-animal communication long thought to be passable only by a select few animals such as, you guessed it, the dog. But when researchers actually placed cats in the test with their owner, they followed their owner’s pointing hand as often as the dogs did- if, that is, they were paying attention.

___

2019 was the year when cats came into their own and proved, this time with the rigors of science behind them, that they are well aware of their place in our world and enjoy being a part of it. They just do it on their own terms. Will we ever understand them entirely? Probably not. Do we need to? Not really. They are who they are: fun, loving, neurotic, playful, aloof, or whatever the heck they choose to be on any given day. That’s part of the fun of having one in the house.

Best wishes to your family in the coming year!

Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM

Dr V 

Why You Should Consider Fostering Senior Dogs Or Cats

Woman Playing With Senior Foster Dog At Beach

About ten years ago, I was on my way to a rescue to meet a Labrador named Lucy. She was four years old, bouncy, loved kids, and would have been the perfect companion for my one-year old Golden Brody.

While we were there, I saw a little black potato hovering in the shadows. That was Kekoa, they explained. She wasn’t who I had come to meet, but she sure did love meeting new people and I asked if it was okay if she came over to say hi.

Kekoa was ten or so. It was her second time being returned to the rescue. You could see in her eyes both the defeat of her return and the hope of a new family. She licked my hand gently, then gave my toddler son a very delicate kiss on the face. When she turned to leave, he ran after her. Even at two, my son knew something so many don’t:

There is no love as profound as that of a senior pet.

“I don’t want to get attached only to have to say goodbye so soon.”

First things first: People who foster pets of any age are a special kind of angel. Whether you are giving a puppy, senior, or new mother space in your home, you are doing them a tremendous service.

As an extension of the shelter system, foster families provide innumerable benefits to the community:

  1. The pet is able to wait for their forever family in a loving home environment, instead of a shelter that may be loud, crowded, and stressful. We know stress results in increased illness, and potentially reduces their adoptability. I mean, when would you rather go on a date? On a nice Saturday afternoon or Tuesday night after a terrible day at work? Calm environments allow us to be our best selves.
  2. You’re creating space for another animal at the shelter. The number one limitation in a shelter environment is space. By acting as an extension of that space, you are helping your shelter serve a larger community and reduce the number of euthanasia due to overcrowding.
  3. You have so much to offer. You’re watching their behavior. You know their preferences. You have a better idea than anyone else who is a good and maybe a not-quite-perfect long-term family for this pet. Making the right placement is key in a successful adoption.

These benefits apply to anyone. I know lots of people who prefer to foster animals under 4 months of age. I have a friend who likes to foster kittens because she knows she gets an endless supply of adorable little fuzzballs in her house, but she still has the flexibility of her busy lifestyle because she knows they are adopted quickly and rarely require a commitment of more than a month.

Foster Dog And Cat Laying Together

I also know a lot of families who choose to foster young pets knowing they are likely to keep one as a permanent family member- the ever present ‘foster failure’. For these families, fostering is a way to test their children’s ability to be responsible pet owners without the pressure of a long-term commitment if the time just isn’t right.

The motivations for fostering senior dogs or cats are a little different.

We all know senior pets are often the first to be euthanized at a shelter. This is a sad reality. With limited space, shelters need to allocate space to the most adoptable animals and those who are older, with health problems or a grey face are often the last chosen for adoption. This despite the fact that they are usually the most low-key, relaxed pets who are past the whole chewing thing, past the whole tearing up the yard thing, and just want a place to be happy.

It is a myth that seniors are more high maintenance than other pets. When in good health, it’s usually the opposite.

When you bring a puppy or a kitten into your home, they don’t have the life experience to know just how great you are. A senior, on the other hand? They’ve seen some things. They’ve had a life, and you have no idea how great or terrible it was, but something terrible must have transpired because they are here, homeless.

They understand the difference between their home and the shelter.

They understand what love looks like, and unfortunately what lack of love looks like.

They appreciate you in a different way.

You can make a bigger difference in one month of a senior’s life than you can in months or years with a younger pet, because those moments are just that important. Dogs and cats don’t hold grudges. They have astonishing capabilities for forgiveness. In this life, what they remember is this week. And the love you show in your time as a foster can erase years of sadness and neglect. Isn’t that amazing?

The timeline is a little more variable in a senior foster situation. Puppies and kittens are gone in a flash. They move on to something incredible — a forever home. Seniors may be with you for quite some time. It is a relationship. Your time together ends because they are adopted, or because their time on earth has come to a conclusion. Either way, you know you have provided something priceless to them.

My friend Karen fell into senior hospice unintentionally. She has the right heart for it. She has a type: anything with a huge head, preferably with lots of Shar Pei rolls. The rescue called her once with a perfect foster who just happened to be a senior, and she said yes. She says yes a lot now.

Three senior fosters so far that I know of.

I see her take these souls in knowing it is unlikely they will know any homes other than hers, and in their eyes you see the dawning realization that they are safe.

They go on car trips.

They sleep on couches.

They live the Instagram life.

Her stories have inspired other people to take in senior pets as well, because she does such an incredible job of documenting the transformation that can take place in just a few weeks of joy. That’s all you need. There’s no minimum amount of time it takes to make a difference in someone’s life.

November is Adopt a Senior Pet month, so it’s the perfect time to remember that. Whether you are adopting or foster, there’s ways anyone with the right heart can make a difference in the life of a senior. How about you?

Dr V 
Dr. Jessica Vogelsang, DVM