Just a few weeks left until Christmas Day – amazing how fast time goes! Have you shopped for your pet or for the pet-lover on your list yet?
Every year, various magazines and organizations list the “Best Gifts for Pets and Pet-Lovers.” There’s so much choice! Everything from beds and bowls to toys and treats, as well as the more obscure gifts, like a DNA test or a treat-tossing Wi-fi pet camera. Stocking stuffers include special treats and chews for the pets, and wine bottle stoppers and wine glass charms for the pet-lover.
Let’s look at some gift ideas for your furry friend.
Toys for Dogs
For years, KONG has made the list of top toys for dogs; 2018 is no different. The classic rubber chew toy continues to rank highly. Peanut butter and small treats entice dogs to play and chew – and receive a tasty reward for not chewing on furniture or shoes!
KONG also makes knotted toys and squeaker toys, including tennis balls, which can also be used as chews or to play fetch.
Nylabone is another classic and useful toy. Not only do dogs enjoy the chewing but they enjoy dental benefits, too. Non-edible chew toys are purportedly safe, however, at times large portions can be swallowed; that creates an emergency situation. Therefore, always supervise your dog with such toys.
Toys for Cats
KONG also creates toys for cats. A variety of choices allows you to find the purr-fect plaything for your feline friend. From plush to teaser toys, your kitty will find hours of enjoyment with these colorful and entertaining objects.
Catnip toys have been popular for decades. Often inexpensive, these enticing interactives come in a variety of shapes and styles. You can even create DIY catnip-filled projects. These also make great stocking-stuffers for your pet.
How about the animal-lover on your list?
Gifts for the Pet-Lover
Do you have a dog or cat-lover on your Christmas list? How about giving special socks? Maybe tumblers, mugs, or wine glasses (see ideas here: https://www.uncommongoods.com/fun/pets?view=all). Tea towels and jewelry are other options for the dog and cat people you know.
Books are another good choice, and there are plenty of great ones out there, for both children and adults. Buzzfeed supplies a list of 51 books animal-lovers should read; the list includes classics and children’s books.
My Books Make Great Gifts!
Speaking of, for more than 10 years I’ve written pet books for children and adults. For Christian dog-lovers, I have devotional books. For young readers, I create inspirational stories about dogs and cats that teach valuable life lessons. All of my books are available on Amazon. Some are print-only, a few are Kindle-only, and some come in both formats. You still have time to purchase a book or two and have it arrive before Christmas! And, if you want to “try before you buy,” I offer some free chapters and other giveaways on my website.
Whatever you give to your pet or the animal-lover on your Christmas list this year, may each of you enjoy a merry and blessed holiday!
Below are some websites that can help you find ideas for the pets and animal-lovers on your list!
Does the quality of your pet’s food matter to you? It should. Just like what we put into our mouths and stomachs determine our overall health, the same is true of our pets. What we feed them matters. If people tried to live on potato chips, cookies, and cupcakes, our health would be negatively affected in many ways. What our pets digest can also negatively, or positively, impact their health.
Obesity and cancer are two major health concerns in both humans and pets. Therefore, both species need proper nutrition to combat these, and other, health issues. According to the Pet Nutrition Alliance, our pets “need over 30 essential nutrients including protein, essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals.” Even though their needs are the same, dogs and cats have different nutrient requirements.
There are many and varied pet foods on the market. Some are less expensive but also possess the least amount of quality nutrition. Ingredients such as corn and wheat have become less acceptable due to several factors, including that, in the wild, canines and felines don’t eat such products. Coyotes, wolves, bobcats and cougars and carnivores; therefore, our dogs and cats require protein. Reading labels is an important way to know what’s in your pets’ food. For example, is the food comprised of meat or meat by-product? There’s a difference. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials, meat is “the muscle tissue of the animal, but may include fat, gristle and other tissues normally accompanying the muscle, similar to what is sometimes seen in raw meat sold for human consumption,” and meat by-product is “the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low temperature fatty tissue and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents.”
How do you choose your pet’s food? If you don’t want to read hundreds of labels, or if you want a place to start, there are many online reviewing sites. One such site, PetFoodReviewer.com, started last year and doesn’t contain information on all dog and cat foods, but could be a good resource starting point. DogFoodAdvisor.com and DogFoodGuru.com are two other good sites to research. These sites also provide a listing of recalls. For cat food, check out Reviews.com, We’re All About Cats, and Catological. The American FDA (Food and Drug Administration) also maintains a list of pet food and treat recalls. Check their website to find out about any recalls: https://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/RecallsWithdrawals/default.htm.
Nearly all experts tell us to not feed human food/table scraps to our pets. However, some people prefer to make their own pet food at home. Although that’s a subject for another newsletter, with Christmas on the horizon, there may be plenty of leftovers you’re not sure what to do with. The folks at Personal Creations, who shared a post last month, created a guide on using leftovers to create pet treats; in that guide, they also have a list of foods that are good for pets (such as pumpkin and turkey) and foods to avoid giving to pets (mushrooms, turkey skin, and onions). If you didn't see that publication previously, you can find it by clicking here: https://www.personalcreations.com/blog/thanksgiving-pets.
As you shop for your pets and for pet lovers on your Christmas list, look for nutritious foods and treats to keep your beloved animals healthy!
In related news, PetCo recently announced it will stop selling pet food and treats which contain artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. Read more here: http://www.petproductnews.com/News/Petco-Plans-to-Stop-Selling-Food-and-Treats-with-Artificial-Ingredients/
The holidays are a time for people to come together and celebrate, including the family pet(s). Your pet is a part of your family, so shouldn’t they get a “place” at the dinner table, too?
Of course they aren’t going to eat at the table or consume all of the same foods as humans. However, you could give them extra attention and special treatment during the season of giving.
Your dog has been smelling that turkey for hours on end, and they are coveting a taste. There’s no need to make them beg for a scrap. Let’s face it, no matter how many times you eat leftovers, at some point you just end up throwing the rest out.
Make good use of all that yummy extra food with the ultimate guide to holiday leftovers for pets. Our friends at Personal Creations compiled a list of foods to share and to avoid with regard to your furry friend. In addition to the guide on the Personal Creations website, see the infographics below which Katie and her team have shared.
Happy and Safe Thanksgiving to you and your family, including your furry ones!
We’ve entered Holiday Season 2018. Grocery stores are pulling out the turkeys and baking supplies for Thanksgiving, and big-box stores have set up Christmas trees. With Thanksgiving about a week away and Christmas only five to six weeks from now, this is a good time to remind pet parents of the dangers the holiday season can present to our furry family members.
Here are five pet safety tips to be mindful of these next two months:
Make sure you know your veterinarian’s holiday hours and the phone number of the emergency vet clinic in your community in case something should happen. Another handy number to have is the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline: 1-888-426-4435. Although we hope nothing happens to our furry family members, having these phone numbers handy and knowing if your vet (or another) is available on-call is good information to have just in case.
Find more tips and helpful information regarding holiday safety at these websites:
NEXT WEEK: A guest post from Katie at Personal Creations on Thanksgiving Food Do’s and Don’t’s for your pet, including creative food and treat ideas from your left-overs! Be sure to stop by! Meantime, check out the graphic below from Personal Creations for this week's blog post.
Many of us recognize some dogs have jobs, such as herding, hunting, and guarding. However, did you know some dogs serve in the U.S. military?
According to an article by the American Forces Press Service, the United States Military uses more than 2,000 working dogs throughout the globe. The Department of Defense’s Military Working Dog Program, based at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, deploys dogs and their handlers of the different branches of military service to various parts of the world. These teams safeguard military bases, help fight the war on terror, and detect bombs and other explosives. Because a dog’s sense of smell is so acute, they can detect the smallest trace of explosives and drugs, and they are trained to alert their handlers of such materials.
Dogs serving in the military isn’t anything new, even though their duties might be. Canines served in World War I and II as well as in Vietnam. They have been instrumental in Iraq and Afghanistan, and even in the capture of Osama bin Laden with the Navy Seals.
Different dog breeds have been used in military service, including Labs. Today’s military working dogs in the Defense Department program are primarily German and Dutch shepherds and Belgian Malinois. About 500 dogs are deployed at one time.
A memorial to dogs serving in war was dedicated in June 2006. It is found at the New Jersey Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. Learn more here: https://www.njvvmf.org/us-war-dog-memorial/.
On Sunday, November 11, America celebrates Veterans Day. Let us take time to honor our human veterans as well as our military service dogs. Both display deep loyalty to country and to each other. Let’s not forget their sacrifice!
It’s that time of year again, time for warm pumpkin-spice lattes, glowing jack-o’-lanterns, and fun, spooky costumes. Halloween is here, and though the day and evening should be fun, it can also be frightening, especially for our pets.
Our dogs and cats can become more scared than be scary during this time of year. Between haunting music and flowing, glowing costumes, our animals may end up being more frightened than Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween!
The number one thing we can do to help our pets at this time of the year is to keep them safe and secure in our homes. With the doorbell ringing constantly by trick-or-treaters, the front door opening, and the get-ups those munchkins wear, our pets can bolt out the door in fear. So, keep your furry friends safe in a room in the house with comfortable bedding, familiar toys, and maybe some soft, soothing music playing.
Other ways to keep your pet safe on Halloween include:
Read more Halloween safety tips from my blog last year here: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/blog/archives/10-2017.
Watch a video created by the American Veterinary Association here: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/halloween.aspx.
World Rabies Day was held last month, bringing about awareness of the danger of rabies in both people and animals across the world. Although humans in the U.S. contracting rabies is rare, it can and does happen.
One of my Montana friends has worked for an animal shelter in that state and volunteers with the shelter and helps other rescue organizations. I asked her to pen some thoughts about unvaccinated dogs, rabies, and other diseases that we should be concerned about if we are, or someone we love is, bitten by a dog. Below are some of her comments.
Everyone thinks of rabies when a dog bites, but that is only one of the diseases that can be inflicted.
Rabies: The most dangerous disease that people can contract through dog bites. While cases of rabies are rare, the disease is incredibly lethal. Rabies is a virus that affects the brain and once symptoms show, it’s almost always fatal. One of the most common ways to contract rabies is through the bite and saliva of an infected animal. Victims who have been exposed to an animal that could have rabies should immediately seek out medical treatment.
Capnocytophaga: This is a bacterium that lives in the mouths of humans, dogs, and cats. The bacteria don’t make dogs or cats sick, so it is not always easy to identify if your pet has it. The spread of Capnocytophaga to humans is rare. It’s typically spread through bites, scratches or close contact with a dog or cat. Most humans who do encounter dogs or cats do not become sick. However, people with a weakened immune system are at a greater risk of becoming sick.
Pasteurella: This is a type of bacteria seen in over 50% of infected dog bite wounds. The result is a painful, red infection around the bite area, but it can cause more severe conditions in people with a weakened immune system.
MRSA: Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a type of staph infection that is resistant to some antibiotics. Dogs and other animals can carry MRSA without showing symptoms. However, the bacteria can cause skin, lung, and urinary tract infections in people. In some, MRSA can spread to the bloodstream or lungs and cause life-threatening infections.
Tetanus: Tetanus is a toxin produced by a bacterium called Clostridium tetani. It can cause rigid paralysis in people exposed through deep bite wounds.
People need to remember that they are setting their animals up to fail when they allow them to get to the point of biting another person or animal. Yes, the victim may also be another animal.
Bite animals are quarantined as everyone waits and watches for signs of disease. The animal is confused about what happened and why it happened. Why are they now quarantined in a place that is not home with people who are not their family? The family has a hard time understanding that quarantine means NO contact by them, other animals, or ever the caretakers where the animal is held. The reason is simple: rabies can be transferred by an animal licking their fur and an individual then touching the fur. Plain and simple - rabies is a highly transmittable disease. The animal is NOT allowed to be comforted with the touch of anyone or thing for 14 days. Food and water are given without the door being opened. No bedding, towels, toys, etc. can be touched. At our shelter, we play soothing music during their stay and visit with them outside the cage; however, it isn’t the same as what happens when they are at home with their own family. For the dog, this situation is foreign and scary; many animals become depressed and anxious. Daily calls are made to the bite victim and to the family of the dog to let them know of the animal’s health and condition.
Why put your family, your animal, the victim and his/her family through all of this? It is always surprising to hear the reasons that an animal has NOT been vaccinated, especially for rabies, when we are called to an animal bite. “I just didn’t think that they needed to have the shot.” “We don’t believe in vaccinating.” “Animals are over-vaccinated in America.” Any one of these and more are reasons that we hear. My response is, “Was it worth it to not vaccinate your animal? To not have them at home with their family? To stress over whether you are going to have to pay for multiple injections into the bite site of the victim? To have your renter’s or homeowner’s insurance go up after the first bite and the second? Forget the third bite; the animal will be euthanized in most cities around the country. To have to put signs up in your yard about a vicious animal? To muzzle your animal when they are outside or go to the vet?
The sad fact is that many are under the false belief that their animals don’t need to be vaccinated because they never leave the house or the yard. This lack of understanding of disease prevention leads to many animals dying for no good reason. A simple vaccination can prevent days of fear and anxiety for a bite victim and their family, the owner of the animal that bit, and the community in general.
I appreciate my friend sharing her insights. May we all consider these thoughts and keep our pets healthy and free from disease, and our friends, loved ones, neighbors, and community safer.
Most towns and communities have ordinances and states/provinces have laws regarding vaccinations, vicious animal designations, and how animal control is to handle potential rabies situations. You may want to check such laws for where you live as you consider the vaccines recommended for your pets and educate others on this topic as well.
One of the most well-known national animal sanctuaries, Best Friends Animal Society, located in southeastern Utah, is about a 13-hour drive from where I live in Wyoming. I have visited twice and volunteered once. What an amazing place!
For many years, Best Friends has been on the frontlines of the “No-Kill” movement, a vision of seeing that no healthy, adoptable animal is euthanized in America’s shelters. Recently, the non-profit organization turned up the volume, and the heat, to make no-kill a reality by 2025. Staff and volunteers believe that achievement is possible.
The main Best Friends sanctuary is located outside of the small town of Kanab, Utah, which itself is located within 20 miles of the Arizona border is southeastern Utah. The beautiful red sandstone rocks of that area, which includes Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks, offers a dazzling, inspiring backdrop to the 200+ acre sanctuary. This special place provides a temporary (and sometimes permanent) home for dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, horses, and other animals. This group took in more than 20 of the Michael Vick dogs, several of which were later re-homed with loving families. Best Friends has done so much good around the country, including opening new adoption centers in places like Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, and New York. Soon, a new Best Friends center will open in Houston. They partner with other animal welfare groups across the country, such as Austin Pets Alive! And most recently, a small Texas town that receives thousands of animals each year. Texas leads the nation in number of shelter animals killed each year, and Best Friends – among other groups – wants to make a positive impact for pets in that state.
The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates the number of dogs and cats that enter animal shelters in the United States to be around 6.5 million; 1.5 million of those, including healthy, adoptable animals, are killed. That doesn’t have to happen. If adoption rates would rise above the current 50 percent, more positive outcomes for more animals would result.
Can no-kill hapen in America during the next seven years? Best Friends envisions such a possibility. With organizations like Best Friends Animal Society and adoption supporters throughout the nation like you and me, it can be done. Let’s all do our part to educate people about the joy of pet adoption and raise the mantra of #AdoptDon’tShop in our own communities as well as via social media. There are two weeks left of October’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month, and November brings Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. Think about one thing you can do to make a positive impact on shelter animals these next several weeks, and let’s help Best Friends attain the goal of #NoKill2025 – for the sake – and the lives – of these animals.
Those of us who are pet lovers know the warm, fuzzy feeling when we see a puppy or kitten at play or when we observe someone walking their dog in the neighborhood. We also know the joy in our hearts when we come home from work or school and our furry friend greets us at the door with wagging tail or a “welcome home” MEOW! Many of us pet-lovers have adopted a pet or two.
I stopped watching Saturday morning shows years ago – but recently I started again. CBS carries a program called Lucky Dog; I began tuning in regularly after seeing a few episodes. Each week, Brandon McMillan brings a dog out of a Los Angeles animal shelter, trains it, and finds it a new home. This inspiring show and its host have won several awards, and the education provided is excellent.
October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog Month. Every year, nearly 3.5 million dogs (and just about as many cats) enter America’s animal shelters. Many thousands of others go into rescue. If you’ve been considering adopting a pet, particularly a dog, this is a great time to add a furry friend to your household. Many shelters discount their adoption fees during this month, encouraging more adoptions, and ultimately, saving more lives.
Ready to Adopt?
Here are five questions to ask yourself if you’re considering adopting a dog (or any pet for that matter):
If you answer “yes” to the above questions, then your decision to adopt a dog in need of a home is the right one! Begin your search locally for your next furry friend. Or, if you have a specific type of dog in mind, such as breed, age, sex, etc., go to Petfinder.com, put in your zip code and your pet parameters (i.e., adult, female, cocker spaniel) and see what this amazing database can find for you.
Adopting a dog saves two lives: the one being adopted and the next one in need of rescue and a home. Having a pet makes a home more cozy, warm, and loving. Just over one year ago, my husband and I adopted a Shih Tzu who had spent the first three years of his life at a puppy mill. He may never have had a home if it wasn’t for Hearts United for Animals, who rescued him and posted his availability for adoption on Petfinder as well as HUA’s website. Now, he is loved and spoiled – and I’m happy about that! You will be, too, after you adopt your next furry friend.
For a person like me, October 4 is a special day – it’s World Animal Day. Started in the United Kingdom, this special day was created to bring greater awareness to the plight of animals and promote better animal welfare throughout the world.
Celebrated in different ways in different countries, the goal of this day is to increase awareness and education, thereby, creating “a world where animals are always recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.”
I love that mission. In so many places across the world, animals are regarded as property, and therefore, disposable, useless, and of little or no regard. Dogs are sold in Asian meat markets; elephants, rhinos, walrus, and bears are killed for horns, ivory, gall bladders and paws for men’s sexual prowess drugs and as a “food delicacy;” and wild horses, monkeys, tigers, and others are killed for livestock pasture, rice fields, and farms in rainforests. Just as bison were slaughtered to the brink of extinction during 1800s America to subdue native peoples and set up Caucasian farms and ranches, so, too, are other regions of the world adversely impacting habitats and animals.
In western America, that fate is manifested in this day and age by the removal of the gray wolf and grizzly bear from the endangered species list.
I once lived in grizzly bear country – on the western edge of Yellowstone National Park. Humans and bears learned to live together, with the animals only killed when they attacked someone. Often, those attacks were human-caused: people leaving out garbage, dog food, bird seed, and other temptations; the bears, like most creatures, went for the easy food, just like Yogi and the pick-a-nic basket. If people confined food items and garbage, bears would not be attracted, and therefore, there would be less conflict with humans. Yet, people continue to want to establish domain and subdue whatever they feel gets in their way. Humans and animals CAN co-exist as long as people are willing to take the risks associated with living with wildlife. After all, the animals called these areas home long before humans brought in their cattle, sheep, and farms.
As a Christian, I believe God made us all, animals and humans (see Genesis 1;20 - 26). Humankind is supposed to be His crown of creation (we often don’t act that way!); animals were made to be companions for us. Interestingly, God provided plants for both animals and humans to eat; there wasn’t a carnivorous creature in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 1: 29 – 31). God established humans to have dominion over His created works; however, dominion doesn’t mean conquering – it means stewardship, which means caregiver. We are to take care of what He made, not abuse His creation.
World Animal Day is this Thursday, October 4. Show your support for animals, including pets, by doing something to help the cause. Serve at an animal shelter or rescue, at a nature preserve or sanctuary; clean up a lake or river near you; pick up trash in your community; educate others of the importance of habitat and the value and joy of interacting with animals, whether wild or domestic; set up a bird feeding area in your garden, backyard or patio; and share what you’re doing and what is being done around the world via social media.
We can all make a positive difference in the lives of animals, in the habitats of our local communities, and positively affect creatures and creation around the world. Each of us has a part we can play to care for nature and ensure animals, birds, and habitats are still here for future generations.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.