Watch Tip: Searching for Your Lost Pet in Shelters

Posted on July 24th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoWatch tip for week of July 24:

If your pet goes missing, make time to visit regional shelters personally to better your chances of success. Searching should be a time-consuming and intense effort to save your pet’s life. Don’t just ask the lobby staff; search the kennel areas personally. Call shelters you can’t visit and describe your pet without using breed names because misidentification at shelters is very common. Remember in some areas, stray pets are killed in 3 days. Your pet may not have much time!

Lost in Space … Lost in Time … Lost in Translation: All Death Sentences

Think about it: approximately 8 million dogs and cats are brought into shelters in America each year and only 4 million make it out alive. The rest are killed. Many were cherished, deeply missed, their return still hoped for. Every day many thousands of lost pets are killed after days of stress in the shelter, waiting in vain for their families to find them. This is an unimaginably horrible end-of-life story for your beloved cat or dog.

The obstacles to finding your lost pet can be immense. Distance, timing, and misidentification all deter search efforts.

Lost in Space: Your dog might run for many miles in just hours, to end up in a pound a good distance away. But your cat is likely to be nearby. Either scenario is dangerous. A good Samaritan might have picked up your dog or cat and driven him or her to a shelter further away if the nearby shelter is commonly believed to be a dangerous shelter. These would-be rescuers are not thinking about where you will search; they are thinking only about where pets will not die too soon. The result is deadly because you might not think of searching at the distant shelter.

It is particularly deadly if the shelter has poorly administered practices so your pet is killed because of mistaken identity. Target, a heroic dog from Afghanistan celebrated before millions of viewers on Oprah, was mistakenly killed in an Arizona shelter when a careless shelter worker grabbed her from a holding pen of dogs by mistake, shelter practices not followed. Oops.

Lost in Time: Your pet might have found refuge in a fellow animal lover’s home or yard. Because the animal lover knew of short “hold” times for pound/shelter animals, he or she decided to find you, the owner, personally, and shelter your animal in their home instead of calling animal control. But they did not have the means of finding you. One ad on Craiglist and one call to the nearest shelter might be their only efforts to reach you, the owner. Will you receive those important messages?

Weeks later, the good Samaritan has concluded that your dog or cat was dumped or discarded. They try to find a suitable home for your pet but they can’t. So 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 8 weeks later, your pet finally arrives at your local shelter, long after you have given up the search. Days later, your pet dies lonely and confused.

Lost in Translation: You know your family dog is a Greyhound mix or your family cat is a Russian Blue. Your local pound or shelter answers your inquiry to say “No, we don’t have a Greyhound.” “No, we don’t have a Russian Blue.” Your dog is listed as a lab mix instead. Your cat is listed as a DSH, domestic short-hair.

Remember, dogs especially have very malleable genes. Even within a breed, much variety exists. And among shelter staff, much confusion about dog breeds exists. Your Llasa Apso might be listed as a poodle. Your dachshund mix might be listed as a black and tan coonhound mix. You can’t trust the pound/shelter’s ability to guess the breed of your dog or cat. If it were easy to guess, not nearly so many would die each year.

The single most important protection you can provide your pet is IDENTIFICATION. Make very sure your pet is wearing a collar with current tags and is microchipped to improve their chances of getting back to you! Even if you believe your pet will never go outside, think of the woman who ran to the store and left her dryer running. The dryer lint caught on fire. She came home to a house fire and her dog missing. The dog escaped from the house when the firemen burst in the door.  No one can foresee every emergency.

Watch Tip: DEET is Poison for Dogs & Cats

Posted on July 17th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoTip for week of July 17:

Important: NEVER apply human bug repellents to your dogs or cats, especially those with DEET (Off®, Cutters®, Repel®, etc.). If a product label does not specifically state it is safe for use on a dog or cat, assume that it is toxic for either type of pet. Purchase and use products made specifically for dogs on dogs and for cats on cats. Teach your children and grandchildren about the dangers too.

Yes, they are family, but they are not human

Loving pet parents could find themselves in vet clinics, praying desperately for a miracle, because they naively sprayed a human insect repellent on their pet—or perhaps their uninformed child did it. Without thinking about the power of chemicals and the differences between our species, they created a tragedy.Veterinarians can tell many stories about the dogs and cats they have treated for DEET toxicity. This danger is widely known.

If your dog or cat that was sprayed or wiped with a DEET product and is showing symptoms such as skin irritation or burn, vomiting, tremors, staggering gait, seizures, you must immediately rush your pet to the vet for intensive care.

I understand very well how it can happen. Years ago I nearly killed my favorite tree in our yard, a young red oak tree, with Cutters spray. It was being attacked by large buzzing June bugs and I lost patience one evening. Without thinking, I angrily grabbed the first can of insect repellent I found and sprayed the tree thoroughly, hoping to kill the bugs. I felt immediate satisfaction about having taken action, but my heart dropped the next day when all the leaves fell off the poor tree. Thankfully the tree recovered and grew a new set of leaves before the summer ended. If the bugs had been chewing on my dog or cat, I shudder to think of what I might have done. That was one powerful chemistry lesson.

Protecting your pet from insects and the diseases insects carry is very important. If you haven’t already, resolve to visit a pet retailer soon to purchase specific repellents for your pets so you are prepared for your next outing. (Again, remember to use only dog products on dogs and cat repellents on cats.) There are many natural formulations available now. Also you can easily find recipes for home-made repellents online that just might work very well for your four-legged family.

Remember too that topical spot-on products purchased from your veterinarian and properly used may provide the protection your pet needs. Be aware that some sensitive dogs and cats won’t tolerate these products, so watch them carefully for 24 hours after applications. Also, near the end of the monthly use cycle, the products might lose some effectiveness in some environments.

Watch Tip: How to Greet a Dog

Posted on July 10th, 2011 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoLearn how to greet an unfamiliar dog safely, without making them defensive, to prevent “fear bites.” Remember that polite behavior for greeting humans directly translates to rude, threatening behavior for greeting dogs (as well as cats). Be sure to train children in particular. Dogs are often euthanized after biting in response to a perceived threat by someone who used polite human greeting behaviors instead of polite dog greeting behaviors.

Unlearn polite human greeting behaviors … greet a dog or cat safely

Yesterday at the shelter where I volunteer, a group of new volunteers were being led through the dog kennel room as part of a shelter volunteer orientation tour. I was returning a dog to a kennel after a walk, and several of the volunteers left the group to investigate the dog as I was leading him toward his enclosure. Two well-meaning people quickly approached the young dog straight-on, with hands outstretched, staring directly into the eyes of the shelter dog. Chief, the dog, a young, sensitive coonhound mix, feeling threatened, immediately moved through the open gate to the back of the kennel with his tail tucked and head lowered. “What’s wrong with him?” one of the new volunteers asked.

I had just found the topic for my weekly post.

In the western world, we are taught at an early age to greet new people by approaching them with upright posture, looking directly into their eyes and offering a hand to shake or squeeze. It becomes second nature to us, so as a result, many of us animal lovers greet every living thing–except bugs–using those same “good manners.”

We must UNLEARN that set of social rules to avoid frightening dogs, cats, and other animals, who will perceive full-front posture, staring, and outstretched arm as rude and threatening (unless they were very well-socialized with humans during the crucial developmental period).

In other words, polite human greetings are bad manners for greeting dogs and cats! In fact the two greeting languages are almost all completely opposite.

  • Assume you have permission to greet Ask the pet’s human for permission first, from 10 feet away
  • Approach first Let the dog or cat approach you, keeping your hands relaxed at your sides, speak in soft tones
  • Stand up straight Crouch and swivel sideways (scatter a treat or two on the ground if you have any)
  • Look straight into the eyes Look at the shoulder or the ground
  • Reach out and shake hands Hang your hands at your side or offer a limp hand to sniff, palm down
  • Never sniff a person Allow the dog or cat to sniff you until he or she finally stops
  • Never yawn in anyone’s face Yawn widely to signal that you are relaxed

If you must approach the pet:

  • Walk briskly toward the person Walk slowly in a curve toward the shoulder, using a slumping posture

There’s just one rule that applies in both situations:

  • Speak politely in a low-volume level tone of voice

When the pet greeting ritual is complete and the sniffing is ended, FINALLY you can begin to stroke or scratch the shoulder or under the chin.You have been accepted as safe.

Don’t bounce your hand on top of the head of a dog or cat (patting) and never hug a pet you don’t know well. Both of these behaviors are considered to be dominating and offensive.

Don’t allow children to greet unknown animals that are not leashed and led by an adult. If your child is politely greeting a leashed dog, watch the dog’s posture closely and listen for growls. If the dog growls, “freezes,” or the hair on the back is erect, it is stressed and may be preparing to bite. (Remember, some dogs don’t growl before biting.) Your child must “make like a tree:” stand up straight, putting fists under the chin, elbows close to the body, looking up, away from the dog. Some recommend wrapping arms around the head to cover the face, elbows out, hands in back of the head.

People will say that dogs and cats “just seem to like” me. Well, I know better. I just have learned good greeting manners for pets, so most dogs and cats feel at ease in my presence within a minute or two. When at ease, those affectionate animals happily display their love for humans, asking for scratches and belly rubs. It’s not magic. It’s just the result of using the correct greeting language.

Watch Tip: Cooling Overheated Pets

Posted on July 5th, 2011 by Anna Nirva


Learn how to recognize and early-treat heatstroke in dogs and cats, so you can improve the odds if your pet gets heatstroke, a frequent killer. Heatstroke requires immediate action to reduce body temperature followed by urgent veterinary treatment. Learn symptoms and treatments to reduce body temperature. Remember, prevention is the best cure. On warm days, prevent exertion and never leave your pet in a vehicle. It is a truly dangerous myth that cracking a window open will prevent heat stroke.

What should you look for? What should you do?

Your dog or cat could be suffering from heatstroke if you observe

  • rapid panting
  • drooling, foamy mouth
  • swollen tongue
  • uncoordinated movements, wobbly walking
  • anxiety
  • diarrhea
  • hot ears, top of head, legs, paws.

EMERGENCY: take immediate action or your dog or cat could die. First, if your pet is conscious and alert, responding to your words, start cooling where you are. Cool the your pet with cool, continuously flowing air or water that draws heat out of the body. (Attempting to cool your pet by laying him or her in a pool of cool unmoving water might actually make your pet worse by causing the surface blood vessels to constrict, shunting heat back to the body’s core!) Don’t forget to cool ears, head, paw pads, feet, and legs, anywhere blood flow is nearer the skin. Read the rest of this entry »