Watch Tip: Learn Your Pets’ Vital Signs

Posted on April 22nd, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoBe better prepared for emergencies involving your pets by learning how to take their normal (healthy) vital signs: pulse rate, respiratory rate, and temperature. You’ll want to know both the resting and active rates. Keep that information in your pet first aid kit, so you will recognize a problem earlier. Optionally, ask your vet to provide that information at your pet’s next exam.

Review: “Pet First Aid & Disaster Response Guide” by founder Elaine Acker

This week’s tip was inspired by Acker’s book (cover pictured at right). You already know that Sunbear Squad encourages animal lovers to be good Samaritans for companion animals, especially neighbors’ pets and lost or abandoned animals in your area. We want every animal lover to be prepared, equipped, and knowledgeable, so we like to recommend helpful resources like this book ($18.95). This is one you want in your first aid kit. But please read it first; you’ll be glad you did.
Click on the book cover to purchase the book. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Tip: New Cat Introductions

Posted on March 18th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoIf you adopt an adult cat and you already have adult cats living in your home, manage the introduction process carefully to avoid fighting and eventually achieve harmony. Remember that cats are territorial animals and most will reject newcomer cats with extreme drama and noise. Follow these steps when introducing an adult, tame adoptive house cat to your home cat tribe. Your goal is “100% safe acceptance,” no clumps of fur found anywhere, no wounds of any kind, no emergency trips to the vet! If your cats actually become friends who sleep side by side, consider yourself lucky; it doesn’t happen often.

Consider adopting a cat who has lived with other cats to minimize the amount of adjustment time and effort needed.

1. Create a private room for the new resident.

  • Provide the shelter or current owner with two items of bedding (small blankets, towels, t-shirts) a day or two in advance of pickup, with a request that the bedding be placed in your new cat’s sleeping space as bedding. When you pick up your cat, pick up the  bedding too. Put the bedding in your cat’s travel crate. Read the rest of this entry »

Please help Naoto Matsumura, a 52-year-old former Japanese farmer, feed the farm animals and pets left behind in Tomioka in the wake of the tsunami and nuclear disasters in Japan in March  2011. He lives and works alone in the “mandatory exclusion zone” near one of the destroyed nuclear reactors, feeding and watering the animals who would perish without him. His body is completely contaminated by radiation but he ignores that. He declares he will never leave except for short excursions to purchase food and maintain contacts with supporters. This photo was taken from a presentation he made about his work that is posted on YouTube. The “animal army” is becoming aware of this selfless hero and I ask you to share in supporting his work. Please share.

Chip-in site to help him buy food for the animals he cares for

A web site to share news of his activities

YouTube video captured from a presentation he made in Japan about the needs of the animals in the mandatory exclusion zone where he lives

Huffington Post article (Aug. 2011)

Watch Tip: Pet Manners in the Shelter

Posted on March 4th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoWhile looking for a new pet at an animal shelter, get information and guidance from the shelter workers and volunteers about dogs or cats you are interested in. They know the animals. Don’t overlook an animal who might be just perfect for you because it has one behavior that you don’t like. Take a second look. Remember: shelters are crowded, noisy, smelly environments that cause unwanted behaviors that will disappear once outside.

Meet Sadie, the shelter cat with “Cattidude”

Sadie lives in our home now, but she had formerly lived in the no-kill shelter where I volunteer for well over a year. She was admitted as a stray cat and surprisingly, she was declawed. Normally a declawed cat is adopted quickly, but Sadie didn’t “show” well. She had “cattitude” with a capital C. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Tip Classic: Scratching Persistently

Posted on February 26th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoListen and watch for pets who scratch or lick themselves persistently; they might be suffering severely from food allergies, mange, fleas or other parasites. Look at the fur: do you see red, rough patches or skin ulcers? This animal is in perpetual torment. Please take action. Talk to the owner or call the authorities.

“Look at the fur” ==> “Look beneath the fur”

When you watch a dog or cat who persistently scratches, you might make the same common assumption as many others do: the poor thing suffers from fleas or even worse, has developed allergies to flea saliva. If you part the hair and find pin-head sized dark things that dart or jump, and accompanying flakes of dark red “dandruff” (blood), you are correct.   Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Tip Classic: Secondhand Smoke Harms Pets

Posted on February 20th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip Logo
Secondhand smoke is a threat to pets—did you know? It is even more toxic for pets than for humans because not only do they breathe the fumes, they lick the cancer-causing residue from their fur while grooming! Cats and short-nosed dogs are most affected, but all pets in smoking households are more likely to develop lung/nasal/mouth cancers and lymphoma.

If you smoke, be aware of the increased risk of cancer for your pets

Have you ever noticed the smoke residue that coats the walls and windows inside the home of a smoker? In addition to coating lung tissues, that toxic airborne residue infiltrates porous materials, such as clothing and pet fur. Secondhand smoke causes cancer in cats and dogs just like it does in non-smokers who are forced to breathe the same air. The smoke can also cause breathing difficulties and eye/skin irritations. Plus, with their sensitive noses, just imagine how dogs and cats must dislike the strong acrid odors. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Tip: Select Pets for Temperament

Posted on February 12th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoAdvocate for choosing a canine companion based on rational criteria, not size or cuteness. Large dogs and little dogs generally take the same amount of daily care and training time. Learn the advantages of keeping large dogs in the family; they are often overlooked in shelters by would-be adopters, more of whom prefer small dogs.

Every dog and cat is an individual

If we could influence more adopters to select a pet based on temperament and lifestyle considerations, more large dogs and adult dogs might be chosen. Today there is more demand for small dogs and puppies. In some areas of the country, there are not enough small dogs in shelters and rescues to satisfy demand so would-be adopters purchase small-breed puppies instead of adopting. Also, purchasing puppies is often faster and easier than adopting. Read the rest of this entry »

Watch Tip Classic: Identification is Essential

Posted on January 29th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip Logo

Watch for collars that are too loose or too tight, and that don’t have ID tags. Pets deserve better from their families. A roaming pet without identification is at high risk for being picked up as a stray and might even be euthanized. Roaming pets can travel long distances. Reasonably-priced ID tags are available nearly everywhere. Speak with the owners or just do it anonymously. You may save a life.

Why Not Provide Tags for Adoptions?

Shelters and rescues often provide microchips for adopted pets, but they are not visible to human eyes; scanners are needed. The specific microchip technology used can be a factor in linking pets to owners as well. And even if a microchip is identified, the owner information can be out of date, causing a whole new set of hoops for the current owner. Collar tags have some important advantages: they are immediately visible by neighbors, assuming the pet allows their approach. A roaming pet can be returned home without aid of animal control. Responsible pet owners provide BOTH microchips and tags.

Could the animal welfare community provide tags at the point of adoption? Remember the most likely time for newly adopted pets to escape is right after adoption. A common refrain is “I was going to get my tags on Monday” but the dog or cat escaped on Saturday soon after arriving at the new home. Think about the pets: they don’t know they have been adopted! They believe that they are in the wrong place and must get back to where they were.

War Hero Dog Died for Lack of a Collar and Tags

Target’s family didn’t put a collar and tag on her or get a microchip implanted. They didn’t prevent her from escaping from her yard. And the neighbor who found Target without wearing any identification of course had no idea who she was, so called the pound. She was picked up by animal control and her photo was posted on the internet.

Her family found her photo but did not check the web site to learn the weekend hours that the pound was open. They came on Monday to pick her up. At the pound earlier that morning, a careless employee was performing her routine euthanasia duties and picked Target by mistake, not following the organization’s process. “Oops.”

Who was Target? Ask Oprah Winfrey, whose show Target appeared on. In Afghanistan, three stray dogs prevented a suicide bomber from detonating a bomb in the middle of a military barracks, and the bomb went off harmlessly near the perimeter. One of the dogs died from injuries suffered from the blast. The other two dogs, later named Target and Rufus, were brought to America by a charity to live out their lives in the land of plenty, where they have been widely celebrated for their roles in preventing a tragedy. Read more here.

Do you see one mindless assumption after another here? These are shameful mistakes that manifest a careless, uninformed regard for animal life by Target’s family and the pound. If she had been wearing a collar with a phone number, the neighbor who found her running loose would have had her back home quickly. Target should be alive today—no excuses.

Watch Tip: Veterinary Financial Assistance Funds

Posted on January 22nd, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoThe economy can affect ill or injured companion animals too. If you are lucky enough to be financially secure, think about those who have lost their jobs and can’t pay for vet treatments for their sick or injured pets as a result. They need assistance but some large financial assistance non-profits are struggling now too because giving is down. Some have closed! Please consider donating.

Economic Hardship results in Euthanasia for Treatable but Ill Companion Animals

If a family must choose between keeping a roof overhead and paying for life-saving surgery for their beloved companion animal, that animal often ends up surrendered to pounds and shelters now. Sometimes the companion animals have only minor ailments but their treatment cost is beyond reach. Shelters and pounds experience the same economic constraints, as we are all afloat in the same economic sea; they euthanize those pets to save money for their taxpayers. And so dogs and cats die when they should have lived.

If you are a compassionate person, this double tragedy of pet loss and family guilt is hard to contemplate.  And you could do something about it: you could support those national organizations that provide financial assistance to families with ill or injured pets. Keep them going! Add a few to your annual giving list. Some have closed their doors permanently, such as Feline Outreach, or temporarily, such as American Animal Hospital Association Foundation’s Helping Pets Fund.

Your local shelter, rescue, SPCA or humane society might provide a special fund for ill or injured homeless animals in their care as well; please inquire.

Check out this list of life-saving financial assistance organizations for pets:

In alphabetical order, with text taken from their web sites:

The Brown Dog Foundation:
Bridging the gap between the cost of medical care and saving the family pet, in memory of a special Chocolate Lab, like Sunbear was, named Chocolate Chip. The Donate link takes you to PayPal.

Cats in Crisis:
Cats in Crisis Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping cats and kittens with special medical needs receive the veterinary treatment they need to live happy, healthy lives. Their donation page provides a good variety of options.

Feline Veterinary Emergency Assistance Program:
We are a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Charity Organization that provides emergency financial assistance to cat and kitten guardians who are unable to afford veterinary services to save their companion when life-threatening illness or injury strikes. Their “Please Help Us” page provides both PayPal and ChipIn options.

In Memory of Magic:
Since 1998, IMOM has funded non-routine veterinary care for more than 1800 companion animals. They have a a strong desire and determination to help people help pets, founded in memory of Magic, a special black cat. See the handy ChipIn widget that makes giving easy on the home page.

The Pet Fund:
The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c) 3 nonprofit association that provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need veterinary care. This group provides many ideas for giving on their web site.

RedRover Relief Fund (Formerly UAN Lifeline Grants):
The RedRover Relief program provides funding to Good Samaritans, animal rescuers and pet owners to help them care for animals in life-threatening situations. The donation page is slow to open but is secure.

The Humane Society of the United States maintains a comprehensive list at this link that includes funding for specific types of illnesses such as cancer and heart disease.

The needs are so great just now. Please do pick a fund to support and share this post with others with means to do the same. Even small gifts matter to the lives of those animals and families being helped; you can imagine how uplifting it feels to know that faraway animal lovers care and understand how desperately they want to help their pet to live.

Watch Tip: Products Not Tested on Animals

Posted on January 15th, 2012 by Anna Nirva

Watch Tip LogoBe a compassionate shopper; this is a New Year’s resolution you can keep. Purchase products for your home and personal care (including cosmetics) that are not tested on animals, so that you do not support animal testing laboratories and the companies that contract them. Proven alternatives to animal testing are available, especially for consumer products. Test-free consumer products are widely available now and many are no more expensive. Read labels; look for the words “not tested on animals.” If you don’t see those words, assume that the product is tested on animals.

Shoppers, start here, if you don’t find compassionate products locally:

None of these lists is all-inclusive. Each has different participation criteria. A company may choose not to sign the required statements or agreements required to participate in a listing.

What is animal testing?

Personal care products, cosmetics, and household cleaning products are tested on animals in laboratories, but USA laws do not require it. Large consumer product manufacturers typically contract with animal testing laboratories. Rats, mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, monkeys, and other animals are kept in small cages and kennels throughout their short lifetimes. They are forced to swallow or inhale test substances, and in one common test, up to 50% of them are expected to die. Caustic chemicals are applied to sensitive eyes (or applied to fur and skin). (Medical testing is a related subject not addressed here but very serious concerns exist.)

Yet test results are often unreliable, inconclusive or inapplicable to humans, many believe. The tested products are often included in consumer products, even if test results indicate some level of toxicity. If you are concerned about household or personal care products being safe for your family, you should also the question that animal testing used to justify that professed safety. And for animal lovers who believe animals suffer pain and deserve compassionate treatment, you should boycott products and companies that do not align with your values.

More information about testing:

Be aware that some types of products, including pharmaceuticals and some chemicals, require animal testing by law.

Five Simple Things You Can Do to be Compassionate to Animals