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Basics for happy pets:

  • Spay or neuter your pet! This simple procedure eliminates many health and behavior problems.
  • Feed the best quality pet food you can.
  • Touch your pet. Know what its healthy body feels like.
  • Keep teeth, gums, and ears clean.
  • Vaccinate against disease.
  • Prevent your pet from roaming.
  • Maintain a clean environment: wash food bowls, clean the litterbox, scoop the yard.
  • Make sure your pet has a warm, safe, dry place to sleep
  • Prevent fleas. We'd recommend, um, er...Flea Treats! Return to archive index


Project happy Birthday logo

We are launching "Project Happy Birthday." Here's the idea: Many of us celebrate our pets' birthdays or the anniversary of their arrival in our home. This year, as part of your celebration, make a donation to your local animal shelter. It needn't be a lot of money. If every pet owner contributed $5.00 to honor their pets' birthdays, our shelters would receive millions of dollars! Please pass this idea on. If we all give a little, we can make a big difference in the lives of homeless animals. Then they might have a "happy birthday" too. Click on the logo above for more information. Return to archive index

Nail and claw care:

Your pet's nails and claws must be kept short for your pet's good health. In general, if you hear a click when your pet walks on a hard surface, it's time to trim. For cats, you need to gently squeeze the paw to extend the claw, then clip off the clear end of the claw. If your dog has light nails, the quick is usually visible; be careful not to cut into it. If your dog has dark nails, a flashlight held close to the nail will usually illuminate the quick. Otherwise, take tiny nips until you've removed enough nail.

If you're uncomfortable tackling this project, ask your vet to show you how. Keep styptic handy in case you nick a quick. It'll stop the bleeding.

If your pet balks, remember to offer lots of praise. Sometimes a helper to calm the pet while you trim can reassure the pet. We sometimes trim our cats' claws while they sleep--it may take more than one sitting to get tall the paws done. That's okay. Playing with your pet's paws between trims can make the whole process more familiar for the animal. Return to archive index

Some housebreaking tips:

The two key words are anticipate and praise. Anticipate when your pup will need to go--after a nap, after a meal, after play--and get your young'n to the right spot. When you get results, praise, praise, praise! A Flea Treat makes a nice reward, too. Praise needs to be immediate; you need to stay with the puppy until you get results.

Even housebroken dogs can learn this trick: teach a command to go with the act. Choose a code word and use it as the pup or dog "goes." Pretty soon, you can just "say the word" and your dog will go on command. This trick is invaluable in inclement weather. We tell Gracie and Glory "quickies" before we load them into the car for an outing. Very handy! Return to archive index 

Four tips for changing your pet's diet:

Only change your pet's diet for some specific reason, not on a whim. For example, your pet may be "graduating" from puppy or kitten food to adult rations, or need a low calorie food.

Choose a new food wisely. Check the ingredients listed on the back of bags, not just the front. Talk to people whose opinions you value. Read up on nutrition for your pet.

Switch food gradually. Mix a small quantity of the new food with the previous diet. At each meal, increase the amount of new food you offer in proportion to the old. Allow a week to ten days to complete the change.

Evaluate the results. A bit of slight indigestion is not unusual in pets during diet changes. Severe or ongoing problems, however, may indicate an allergy or other intolerance of the new food. Changes in coat sheen, eye brightness, and other indices of your pet's general well being may take longer to appear. At the three month mark, reevaluate your pet's progress on the new food. Return to archive index

Keeping kitties where they belong:

Everyone who has a cat (or some cats) has dealt with kitty sneaking up on "off-limits" kitchen counters or furniture. Aluminum foil can help! Lay a sheet of foil over the forbidden area. Most cats don't like the sensation of foil beneath paw and will learn to avoid the area. Return to archive index

Dealing with jumping dogs:

An easy way to train your dog (or better yet, puppy) to stay on all fours is to simply step back as the beast launches him- or herself at you. As you step back, say "off" or "no jumping." This approach is an especially nice one because you're not harming nor scolding the dog. You're simply manipulating the environment (your proximity to the dog) so that the dog's behavior (the jumping) doesn't produce the desired effect (contact with you).

For this training approach to be effective, it's important for all members of the dog's "pack" to consistently behave in the same way. Jumping should never result in front-paw contact with a human. Everyone in the household should use the same verbal command ("off" or "no jumping" but not both). When you can catch the dog doing things right (in this case, not jumping), praise the dog.

Why they do it: Sniffing or licking about the mouth is a common way for canine pack members to greet one another upon one's return to the pack. Your dog is simply doing what comes naturally. Return to archive index

Keeping your pets cool in summer heat:

  • Provide plenty of fresh, cool water, located in the shade. Use more than one container if your pet is prone to tipping the water dish.
  • A wading pool can provide a cool place to relax in the yard.
  • Shade is essential. If you must tie your pet out, make sure the pet has access to shade at all times of the day.
  • Thick coated breeds of dogs and cats may benefit from a summertime haircut. Don't shave them down--they may be prone to sunburn if you shave off the coat. But consider thinning thick undercoats to help them keep their cool.
  • Keep the interior of your home at a comfortable temperature. Fans can help. Encourage your pets to lounge in cool areas.
  • Never leave your pet in the car. Death can occur in minutes. A cracked window won't save your pet in summer heat.
  • Plan walks for morning or evening--not the heat of the day. Check the pavement temperature to avoid burned pads. Return to archive index 

Fostering abandoned kittens:

Kitten season is in full swing. We often receive inquiries about the best way to care for a newborn kitten when mom cat isn't on the scene. Some pointers:

  • First of all, determine whether the kitten is truly abandoned. Mother cats move their litters one kitten at a time, and the presence of humans can make them wary. Unless the kitten is in harm's way, leave it for an hour. Then come back and check whether the kitten is still there.
  • If you find that the kitten is still in place, it may require human assistance. Keep the kitten warm and dry. Unless you're an old hand at raising orphan kittens, contact your local humane society, cat welfare organization or other group of experts for guidance. Kittens have specific dietary requirements (cow's milk won't work) and must be fed every few hours, around the clock. They require manual stimulation of their tummies in order to defecate or urinate. They're fragile. Internal or external parasites (worms and fleas) can kill a tiny kitten. Raising one is a big commitment, but also a true labor of love.
  • If you decide you're not up for it, find a foster home through your local animal welfare organization.
  • If you decide you can care for the baby, consult your vet for detailed care instructions. In the meanwhile, check out the information offered by the Feral Cat Coalition. Good luck! Return to archive index 

Sharing music with your pets:

Okay, maybe we're kind of nuts around here. But we enjoy music, and we've found that our pets respond to it as well. We began playing around with music appreciation for our pets when we noticed that Glory would sit before the television in rapt attention whenever ice skating competitions were televised. We discovered that if we muted the volume, she lost interest. But with the volume on, she'd sit there even if we darkened the image on the screen. So we started experimenting. Here's what we've learned over the past few years of sharing music with our pets.

  • Music can help define a routine. We sing a special song to the dogs at bathtime. They know what it means and run for the bathtub. The trick is to choose a song you're not apt to sing at other times. You could have songs for walks, dinner, any recurring event.
  • Music can soothe. Ti'i the cat tolerates ear cleaning, claw trimming, and other indignities much better when we sing a lullaby as we care for him.
  • Music can distract. Our pets ignore the sounds of the outdoor world if we leave a radio on at a moderate level when they're left alone. This trick is especially handy on the Fourth of July--it eliminates anxiety from the sound of fireworks.
  • Music can be just plain fun. Ever dance with your pet? Return to archive index 

Use care with rodent poisons:

We've had too many people sharing sad stories with us this summer on our tour of fairs. Over and over, we're hearing of pets being poisoned accidentally. Occasionally we hear of a pet getting into rodent poison, which is baited to make it attractive to mice and rats. More often, though, people tell us that they carefully placed the poison in an area where their pets couldn't reach it. Then a rat, mouse, or gopher that had eaten the poison crawled off into an area accessible to the pet and died. The pet ate the dead rodent (and hence the poison) and died as well. These poisons usually contain warfarin, an anticoagulant. They cause death by exsanguination (bleeding to death). That's a rough way for a pet to go.

You can reduce the risk of such an awful fate for your pet by considering the following:

  • Make your property rodent-unfriendly. Clear brush. Don't leave things out that will attract them (like bags of birdseed). Screen vents over crawl spaces. Pick up any fruit that falls from trees in your yard. Wrap the trunks of fruit trees with copper strips to keep rats out.
  • Trap, don't poison. You can use mousetraps or sticky traps. Check them regularly and remove any dead animals. Traps are also available for burrowing rodents.
  • Talk with your neighbors. A dying rodent won't observe property lines. Offer to help them find non-toxic ways to deal with rodents.
  • If you know a neighbor is using rodent poison, check your yard regularly and remove any dead rodents before allowing your pet into the yard. Return to archive index 

Continuing with Flea Treats in winter:

  • In mild climates, fleas decrease but don't disappear over the winter months. Our coastal climate in southern California is flea central year-round. If you live in a mild winter area, keep up with the Flea Treats.
  • Even in cold winter areas, a sudden warm snap can bring the little varmints hopping out of their cocoons and onto your pets. Continuing to offer the treats will protect your pets.
  • Flea Treats are good for your pets' skin, coat, and nervous system. They make a great healthy treat.
  • Rex and Fluffy are used to their treats each day. It can be tough to explain to them that they don't get their goodies because the fleas are gone. Return to archive index 

Plan early for holiday travel:

If you're planning to board your pet while you travel over the holidays, make reservations now--this week--at your favorite pet boarding facility. Kennels and catteries fill up early during peak travel times. Click here to learn more about options when you plan to travel without your pets. If you're undecided about whether to take your pets along, you can also find suggestions about traveling with your pets, organizing your pets' transporation gear, and acclimating cats to car travel in our tips archive. Happy planning! Return to archive index 

A Painless way to help homeless pets:

Often pet stores offer "free with purchase" promotions. Recently, for example, we received a free 16-pound container of cat litter with the purchase of our cats' preferred brand of dry cat food. Now, this particular cat litter isn't the kind we use for our cats' litter box. But we took it anyway. We'll drop it off at our local animal shelter next time we head out that way. We've seen similar offers for free canned food with the purchase of a bag of dry food and many other pet "freebies." Even if you can't use the freebie, those animals at your local shelter can use it. Your community may also have a program to collect pet items for programs that offer support to aged or ill pet owners. So next time you see a free offer for pet products, take it! Pass it on to your favorite animal organization. They'll be glad you did.

PS: We follow the same procedure when our grocery store runs "free" coupons for "people" foods that we can't use. We then always have plenty on hand to donate to food drives for the hungry. Return to archive index 

Halloween safety for pets:

  • Keep pets indoors on Halloween. Cats, especially black ones, are often victims of horrible abuses during Halloween. Dogs can be spooked by all the strange costumes and activity.
  • If your animals are excited by the frequent visits to your door by trick-or-treaters, confine them away from the front door in a quiet part of your home. Provide toys to keep them happily occupied.
  • Keep candy out of your pets' reach. Chocolate can be deadly. Check your walk for candy dropped by children before taking your pets out the next morning.
  • Extinguish candles when leaving the room. A curious pet could be burned or even set your house afire.
  • If you dress your pets in costumes, remove the costumes before leaving your pets unsupervised.
  • If you decorate your home, choose decorations that are non-toxic to pets and place them in areas where your pets won't be tempted to chew on them. Dried "harvest" arrangements, for example, could contain plants that are toxic or be dyed with toxic colors. Return to archive index 

Electrical safety and pets:

A few days ago I was doing chores at home when I overheard this odd humming noise coming from elsewhere in the house. I investigated, and found that our cat Hina had chosen to nap on our paper shredder and had bumped the rocker switch, turning on the shredder. I hastily unplugged the shredder, shuddering at the image of a shredded cat tail that could have resulted.

I should have known better. Our other cat, Ti'i, knows how to turn on a heating pad.

In honor of our ingenious cats, here's a little checklist to help keep your buddies safe in your home.

  • Unplug anything that doesn't need to be plugged in. Pets can't turn on appliances if they're unplugged. You may also save on your electrical bill, as many appliances draw a small amount of current even when turned off.
  • Protect pets from cords. If you have a chewer, keep cords encased in a chew-proof sleeve. A length of PVC pipe will do the trick.
  • Teach your pets that cords are off-limits. Some folks advocate scolding the cord, rather than the pet. We felt silly doing so, but Opie got the hint pretty quickly that cords were out of bounds.
  • If you use space heaters, be sure to place them where pets can't knock them over.
  • Don't use electrical heating devices in your pets' sleeping areas. Instead, provide them with beds in your home, where it's warm.
  • These simple suggestions will help to keep your pets safer. They'll also reduce the risk of a fire in your home. Return to archive index 

Remember local charities:

This year, many of us have felt called upon to donate to special funds to aid those most affected by the attack on our nation on September 11. That overwhelming need, unfortunately, doesn't reduce the needs of other worthwhile organizations that depend on charitable giving to provided needed services. Please remember the organizations that serve needy people and animals in your community. Our Project Happy Birthday is a good place to start your search. Return to archive index 

Hand feeding pets safely:

If you have a dog or a cat, always offer treats from your open palm. Holding a treat in your fingertips is an invitation to an unintentional nip. Teach your kids to offer tidbits (healthy tidbits, that is) to your pets in this manner as well. It's very difficult for the animal to reach up and take a treat without grabbing the fingertips that hold the treat when you hold it above the animal's head. Remembering this simple tip, and teaching it to your children, can prevent an unnecessary trauma. Return to archive index 

Stand up for animals in the new year:

It's resolution time again. This year, why not continue one or more of the following resolutions in your list?

  • I resolve to spend a little more time each day with my best buddy.
  • I resolve to support animal welfare organizations in my community.
  • I resolve to report cases of animal neglect or abuse to the proper authorities (often your local humane society or law enforcement agency--look up the number now and keep it handy).

Let's all do what we can to make 2002 the best year ever for animals! Return to archive index 

Grooming hints when your pet is unwilling:

  • Keep some favorite treats at hand. A pet is often willing to tolerate nail clipping, ear cleaning, or the like if snacks are dispensed throughout the procedure.
  • Enlist the aid of a human counterpart. Sometimes a belly rub is just the trick to take the edge off the procedure for the pet.
  • Schedule grooming projects for times of day when the pet is normally calm, relaxed, or even asleep. Approach with a calm, soothing voice so as not to startle your pet.
  • Don't try to bathe, trim, clean ears, and brush teeth in a single sitting if your pet doesn't enjoy these events. You may find that clipping just a few nails at a sitting works better. Break the projects down into smaller tasks that your pet can tolerate. Return to archive index 

Does your pet need a pet?

Domestic dogs, like their wild counterparts, are social animals. Cats are somewhat more variable in their enjoyment of conspecifics, but many cats enjoy a feline buddy. If your pet is an "only" at your house, you may find that life is easier for you (and happier for your pet) if you adopt a pal for your pet. Here's the why and how:

  • Pets who are with their humans all the time usually see their people as their "pack." Many pets, however, spend a large part of each day home alone while their humans earn the money to bring home the kibble. These animals may be sad, bored, anxious, or lonely, and thus act out.
  • Signs that your dog is struggling through long days alone include excessive chewing, digging or barking. Cats may claw inappropriately or "forget" what the litter box is for. A cold shoulder when you return is another hint.
  • If you choose to add another pet, check with your local shelter. Most will arrange for you to bring your current pet down for a "play date" to see how the animals get along. This step is important. Keep looking until you find a new pet that your pet seems to warm up to.
  • Plan the homecoming for a time when you can supervise for a few days as the pets build their bond. Quarantine the new arrival until you have your vet check the animal out. Expect that they will form a dominance hierarchy that may differ from what you anticipated. Allow them to work it out so long as no one is being harmed. Be patient and loving with all the animals. For more suggestions on the multiple-pet household, click here. Return to archive index 

Litter box changes:

Cats are pretty picky when it comes to doing their business. Changes in their routine can lead to "accidents." However, with a bit of patience, you can change the type of litter you use, the location of the box, or the style of box with little stress for your kitty and mess for you. Here's how:

  • To change the type of litter you use, put a thin layer of the new litter under the type of litter your cat is accustomed to using. Each time you change the box, increase the amount of the new litter and decrease the amount of the old litter. If at any point your cat begins to balk at the box, then slow down the process. You can complete the process in as few as two litter box changes or as many as twelve--it depends on your cat's attitude to new things.
  • To move the box, begin by moving it just a foot or two from the old location. Move it a bit more each day until it's where you want it to be. Again, let your cat set the pace. Some cats will tolerate a box relocation, even to the other end of the house, all at once. Most, however, will appreciate a more gradual change.
  • If you want to change the type of box you use, set up the new box right next to the old one. Gradually reduce the amount of litter you put in the old box until it's empty. Then remove the old box. Again, your cat's temperment is the determining factor in how long a process this change will be. Return to archive index 

Flea collars don't belong in your vacuum cleaner:

We've spoken with lots of folks who've placed a flea collar, flea powder, or other toxic substance into their vacuum cleaner bag in an effort to control fleas in the home. The problem with this approach is that vacuums not only take air in, they also discharge air back into the environment. If you think about it, that's only logical: your vacuum bag (or the dirt collection compartment on a bagless model) would explode if the machine kept sucking air in but didn't blow any back out.

So if you put something toxic in the vacuum, you'll be blowing air that's been exposed to that toxic substance back into your home environment. Not a terrific idea. A better plan is to empty the vacuum into your outdoor trash area each time you use it. Then any fleas you've vacuumed up won't hop out of the vacuum into your home. If you use bags, you can replace the bag after each use, or seal the vacuum bag in a plastic bag and store it in your freezer between uses. The cold will kill the fleas in the bag.

Of course, if you use our Flea Treats®, your pets won't be dragging fleas into your home in the first place, so these measures will only be necessary as you tackle any existing problem when you begin using the treats. Once you get the fleas cleared out of your home, and keep your pets on the treats, you won't have fleas in the house. Return to archive index 

Skip the bunnies, ducklings and chicks this Easter:

These little beings are fragile, living creatures. The young children to whom they are most often given may not understand that cuddling and handling can stress and even kill their friend. Such attention is inhumane for such tiny creatures, and a bad outcome can be pretty traumatic for the child involved, as well. So leave the live animals out of your plans. Head down to the toy store and present your favorite child with a stuffed animal, instead. Return to archive index 

Murder by dog--what it means for pet owners:

Most everyone is familiar with the story of the two Presa Canarios who mauled a woman to death in San Francisco in January, 2001. Recently the owners of the dogs were convicted of a number of charges, including murder, as a result. Survivors of the victim are also pursuing a civil suit against the owner of the apartment building in which she (and the vicious dogs) lived.

While we were not present in the courtroom and have relied on media reports, it certainly appears that these convictions were well deserved. However, dog owners everywhere might be rightfully nervous as a result. Especially if your big sweetie pie happens to be a Rottweiler. Especially if you live in a rented dwelling. Will your community consider ordinances banning breeds of dogs considered "vicious?" If the landlords in San Francisco are found liable, will your landlord throw you out? The best defense, as they say, is a good offense. Here are our suggestions:

  • First, make an honest assessment of your dog's temperament. If your dog displays aggressive tendencies towards people or other dogs, get yourself to a training program. Maintain the dog under your control (on a leash) at all times. Use a muzzle if you must. Ask your vet for ideas. Do whatever it takes to help your pet overcome those tendencies. They could cost a life (human or animal--even your dog's.)
  • Don't believe that aggression isn't important in small dogs. A Pomeranian killed an infant in California a few years ago.
  • Pay attention to local politics. Most communities list items on the city council's agenda in the paper. If your town is considering banning certain breeds of dogs (Pit Bull Terriers seem to be the most popular targets), get involved. Speak at a meeting. Take your well-behaved dog with you. Circulate petitions.
  • Especially if you own one of the breeds that others often perceive as "vicious," help your dog to earn its Canine Good Citizen certificate. This AKC program recognizes well-mannered dogs. Dogs of any age, registered or not, may earn this certification. For more information, visit the AKC website.
  • Check with your insurance agent to see if renter's insurance will cover a dog-bite claim. Be prepared to explain to your landlord that your dog is well tempered (show them the CGC certificate) and that your insurance covers your dog.

Of course, in addition to our own dogs' behavior, we must also consider other dogs in our community. We believe that with rare exceptions, vicious dogs are made, not born. Here's how you can help when someone else's dog shows aggressive behavior.

  • First, don't tease dogs. Teach your children not to tease dogs. Teasing frustrates dogs and can lead to confusion and aggressive tendencies.
  • Report packs of dogs running at large in your community to the agency responsible for animal control. Report them every time you see them.
  • Report animal cruelty. If your neighbor or colleague mistreats a pet, teaches it aggression, or trains it to fight other dogs, stand up for that dog. Document the abuse and report it to the police.
  • Help the inexperienced dog owner. Recommend your favorite book or dog trainer. Offer advice and support. Be a mentor.
  • Don't contribute to pet overpopulation. Spay or neuter your pet. Unwanted dogs may end up in homes where mistreatment is their fate. Return to archive index 

Choose wisely when buying second hand pet equipment :

Often, you can find a great price on a used litter box, doghouse, scratching post, or some other goodie for your pet at a garage sale, swap meet, or thrift store. It's always nice to score a deal on a new item for your best buddy. Keep these tips in mind when evaluating such bargains:

  • Is it sanitary? Some disease-causing agents are quite robust, even outside a living host. For example the virus that causes feline leukemia can live for up to three months or so on a surface. Ask your vet about what disinfecting procedure will ensure the cleanliness of your find.
  • Is it safe? Splinters on the edges of an old doghouse, or fraying carpet on a scratching post, can spell trouble for your pet. Examine the object carefully for such defects. Many problems can be fixed--a little sandpaper and a fresh coat of paint can fix a rough edge on a doghouse, for example.
  • Is it the right size for your pet? A poodle-sized dog bed won't help your Great Dane. But, if it's a "too good to pass up" price, you might consider buying the item, then donating it to your local shelter. They'll love you for it. Return to archive index 

Bath time can be pleasant:

Before bathing your pet, moisten two cotton balls with baby oil; place one gently in each of your pet's ears. The cotton will help prevent water from entering the ear canal during bathing, which minimizes the risk of ear infection. If you dry your pet with a hair dryer after bathing, leave the cotton ball in place until you're done. It'll dull the whine of the dryer, which disturbs many pets. And by the way, if you do use a dryer, make sure it's set to a low heat setting so you don't burn your pet's tender skin. Return to archive index 

Grapes and raisins may be dangerous to dogs:

Information has surfaced recently suggesting that grapes and raisins can be hazardous, even fatal, to dogs. Cases under study focus on dogs eating large quantities of grapes or raisins at a single sitting, and subsequently suffering and dying from kidney failure. The ASPCA is collecting data now. A few questions remain unanswered:

  • Will small amounts of grapes or raisins have a cumulative ill effect on dogs?
  • Can cats be affected by eating these foods?

Until we know more, we recommend that you eliminate grapes and raisins from your pet's diet. For more information, visit the ASPCA website. Return to archive index 

Train your cat:

We've found, when we're out talking with folks on our live tour, that most folks either adore cats or truly despise them. Oddly enough, most people cite the same reason for the admiration or the disdain. Cats are independent, they tell us. Cats do as they please. Cats don't listen.

We've found that cats can be friendly and taught certain behaviors. The trick is to treat them as if you expect them to be friendly, and to train them as if you expect them to learn. Here are some tips to help you:

  • Cats are friendly once they learn that humans are sources of good things. Call your cat to you. Give it a treat (food, a game, a tummy rub--whatever your cat loves best) when it responds. With some consistent behavior on your part, you should notice more friendly behavior from your cat. This change may take three days or three months, depending on your cat. Once your cat will come to you on command, invite visitors to your home to call your cat and to reward it as you have during training sessions when it responds. Now you have a friendly cat!
  • Other behaviors, such as stay, down, off, (we use down to mean "lie down" and "off" to mean "get off" with our pets), fetch, and so forth can be taught using the same technique. Reward movement towards the desired behavior with your cat's favorite reward. Be patient and consistent, and soon you'll have a cat that does tricks.

Of course, as with dogs, individual cats will vary in their response to training. But in general, we believe the whole species has been sold short in terms of their trainability and friendliness. A bit of effort on your part can pay off in the form of a more loving, tractable cat. Give it a try, and let us know how it goes. Return to archive index 

Garlic and onions aren't for pets:

You can easily locate products marketed for dogs and cats that contain garlic and/or onions. We don't recommend these products, for one simple reason: ingestion of these ingredients can cause hemolytic anemia in our pets. For more information, the most concise, reliable information we've found is available by clicking here. If you'd like to range more widely in your search, go to your favorite search engine, and type in "cats garlic dogs onion" as your search string. You'll find articles promoting the feeding of these foods to our pets, products for sale containing them, and much discussion about their potential hazards. We believe in playing it safe. Steer clear of garlic and onion. By the way, if you foster puppies or kittens, or care for an ill pet, be careful with baby food. Many (human) baby foods contain these ingredients for flavor. Read labels before you buy. Return to archive index 

Kids and dogs--a cautionary tale

The big black dog was a lab mix, 12 years old, sweet, gentle, and the best family dog you could ever ask for. He had two human kids, boys, 7 and 3 years old. They were all best friends. One morning, the boys were sitting on the landing of the staircase, enjoying a snack, and the big black dog bit the face of the 3 year old. I have known this dog and the boys all their lives, and this old beast was the last animal on the planet I would expect might turn on a child.

Once the shock of the news wore off, I began to think about the episode and I realized that perhaps this tragedy could have been avoided.

The dog was in the household before the children were, and his humans took all the right steps to prepare the dog for a baby's arrival. Everything went fine. Then the boys (each in turn) started eating solid food, and the big black dog eagerly "cleaned up" anything the boys dropped from their high chairs. The babies noticed this and began to toss food from the trays for the dog. Long after the boys left the high chair, they continued to share their food with the dog.

Meanwhile, the dog aged. He began to slow down a bit, to grow just a bit crankier, and to markedly prefer human food to his dog food. The boys obliged him by sharing. The dog also began to show some signs of "doggie dementia," occasionally looking confused in familiar surroundings, even though his vision and hearing seemed to remain good. Finally, this unhappy event took place when the 3 year old was eating and didn't offer some to the dog. The child required stitches and antibiotics. The dog was euthanized, after much discussion and emotional pain. His adult humans decided that while he could no longer share a home with the children, rehoming at his advanced age and declining state might be more traumatic than a humane injection.

Now, I know that young children should not be left unsupervised with dogs. And I know that young children should not feed dogs, as the dog can become confused over whose food is fair game. And I watched these little boys feed the dog thousands of times, and thought nothing of it, because the dog was this particular big black dog, who was sweet and gentle, and the best family dog you could ever ask for.

In light of this event, we'd like to suggest the following tips to help keep the boundaries clear for kids and dogs.

  • Keep the dog out of your dining room while you're eating. Especially with sloppy kids in the house. You can let the dog come in after the meal to "clean up," if you don't object to your dog eating people food.
  • Don't let your young children offer food to your pet. Period.
  • Remember that as your pet ages, the personality may change. Be prepared to supervise or to separate your pet and your children when you can't be right there.

The big black dog was a fine dog. He didn't deserve an end like this. And the 3 year old boy is a wonderful child. He didn't deserve an injury like this, not to mention the trauma. Let's all remember what we can do to keep our kids and our pets safe. Return to archive index 

FTI Pet Products, Inc.
12913 Harbor Blvd. Ste. Q3-248
Garden Grove, CA 92840
1.888.FLEA TREat (888.353.2873)


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