I get so sad when I hear people criticize shelters because they adopted a pet and then the pet became ill. Then they blame the shelter. So many illnesses are beyond the control of the shelter. I adopted a Golden Retriever from a rescue several years ago and he was diagnosed with cancer a few months later. It wasn’t their fault. These things happen. A lot of complaints come from people adopting cats who get sick when they come home.
Unfortunately, cats are more prone to contagious illnesses and it can be a problem in shelters. At the ARL, any cat who shows signs of respiratory problems is immediately removed to the quarantine room where it is treated. In the case of feline leukemia, however, it is asymptomatic. Adopters of cats are given the option to have the cat tested at the time of adoption. If the adopter refuses this option, there’s not much more that the ARL can do. It’s at the adopter’s risk.
Dogs are carriers of canine influenza and kennel cough which are also highly contagious. The ARL takes the same precautions if we see a dog with symptoms. The dog is removed to a separate area and treated. However, the illness may have already spread to other animals prior to the dog showing symptoms.
It is SO difficult to contain illnesses in shelters. We all do the best that we can.
Who saw G-Force this weekend? I haven’t seen it yet but I heard it was adorable. Will this guinea pig movie create the same demand for guinea pigs as 101 Dalmations and Beverly Hills Chihuahua did for those dogs? I hope not, but we here at the ARL are braced for the predictable deluge of surrenders when people realize that guinea pigs need care, and that they’re not just cute little stuffed animals. While they may make great “first pets” or pets for children, they have special needs:
1. Plenty of Space
Guinea pigs require lots of space to move around. Ensure their living quarters are at least 2 feet wide, long and deep. Do not use aquariums because the guinea pig cannot get enough air, and avoid mesh or wire-floor cages which can hurt guinea pigs' little paws.
When choosing floor linings and cage furnishings, keep in mind that guinea pigs will chew on just about anything to wear down their constantly growing teeth, so everything placed in the cage must be nontoxic. Use plenty of lining material—shredded ink-free paper or commercial nesting materials available at pet-supply stores, for example—because guinea pigs will use the material as both bedding and bathroom. They also require plenty of high-quality hay which they use for nesting and snacking. Do not use materials such as sawdust, pine or cedar chips, or fabrics that may cause respiratory or other health problems. Finally, provide your guinea pig with a gnawing log (such as an untreated fruit tree branch), tunnels to crawl through and platforms to climb on. Add a heavy food bowl resistant to tipping and gnawing and a water bottle with a sipper tube.
2. Handle with Care
Guinea pigs may thrash around when picked up. Slowly place one hand under his chest just behind the front legs and gently cup your other hand under his hindquarters. Once you have a firm but gentle grip on the animal, lift him. Then immediately place him close to your chest or lap so he feels safe and doesn't flail about.
3. Gimme a C
Feed your guinea pig a commercial guinea pig food. Guinea pigs are prone to scurvy, a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Provide a variety of deep green leafy vegetables such as kale, collards and romaine lettuce, introduced one day at a time. Be sure to observe for any digestive changes after each addition before making that item a permanent part of the animal's diet. Treat guinea pigs to fruits, including melon slices and apples (but remove the seeds, which are toxic).
4. Naturally Clean
Guinea pigs try their best to keep clean, fastidiously grooming themselves with their front teeth, tongue and back claws. But pigs—particularly the long-haired breeds—require frequent brushing and combing to stay clean and tangle-free. Also, because their cage lining doubles as bedding and toilet, their cages needs to be scrubbed and disinfected every day. Also clean the water bottle and sipper tube daily to prevent buildup of food, algae, and bacteria.
5. The Buddy System
Guinea pigs are happiest when with other guinea pigs, so many pet care books urge owners to keep two or more together. Choose pairs that are the same sex and compatible. (For example, more than two male pigs together are likely to fight.)
Here’s an outstanding web site with just about everything you needs to know about guinea pigs! http://jackiesguineapiggies.com/piggycare.html
How many of you know that dogs can be blood donors? Yes they can! Dogs may need to have blood transfusions just as humans. The ARL is having a dog blood drive AND a human blood drive next week, Tuesday July 28. The Miller-Keystone Bloodmobile and the University of Pennsylvania's Matthew J. Ryan Bloodmobile will be parked at the ARL for donations. If you and your dog are planning on giving blood, the ARL staff will be on hand to dog-sit your dog while you are giving blood. Y102 will also be on-site doing a remote broadcast from the ARL. It will be an exciting day!
To sign up, please see the information on our Home page - www.berksarl.org. It only takes 45 minutes - please consider donating. Thank you!
Remember last month when I told you about a Harrisburg newspaper columnist who wrote about her excursion to buy a puppy? Well, once again and this time in the NY Times, we have a columnist not only telling about buying a puppy, but she even muses about how she considered rescuing a dog but instead gave in to “puppy fever.” Have a look and do what others around the country are doing, BLAST HER! http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/22/garden/pupblog.html.
She getting a double-whammy from me. She mentions how she watches the Dog Whisperer. Eek! You can only imagine what MY letter will sound like!
Please take a few moments to write to her:
Ms. Jill AbramsonManaging Editor for NewsThe New York Times620 Eighth AvenueNew York, New York 10018
If you’ve visited the ARL, you know that we have a critter room often jam-packed with a wide assortment of animals: rabbits, hamsters, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats, birds, ferrets, reptiles and quite often even chickens. The adoption fee varies for these small pets but most are about $10. Some people are outraged that we would charge this much money for a small pet when they could be purchased at a pet store for the same or less. After all, some people may reason, it doesn’t cost much to feed these small pets. But that’s not what you are paying for when you adopt a pet from a shelter. Do you realize that it takes several staff members to clean the critter room and feed these pets each day? Every cage needs to be cleaned, bedding changed, bowls washed and provided with food and water. And if any of the pets have health issues, they need special attention from the staff. We recently had a guinea pig with a sore on his foot. He needed daily medication and cleaning of the wound.
Adopting from a shelter is not to get a “cheap pet” but to save their lives and support the shelter. After all, once the pet gets home it will require food and vet care. If the pet gets sick, it may cost a whole heck of a lot more than its adoption fee to treat it! Adopting a pet is about love and wanting to help the animals.
How many times have you heard people say that they want to buy a puppy instead of adopting a homeless dog “because they know what they’re getting” behavior-wise? They think that if they raise the dog from a pup, that the dog won’t have behavior issues. Guess again! They make the faulty assumption that bad behavior is all a result of the way the dog was raised. You may instead get a dog who has genetically inherited behavior issues. Just like people, pets are a combination of genetics and how they are treated. Here's an example: I worked with a woman last week who was so distraught over her 10-week old Poodle mix’s dog-to-dog aggression issues. She was completely bewildered by the young pup’s reaction when another dog approached her. The puppy violently attacks other dogs. I explained to her that dog behavior is quite often a result of behaviors inherited from the dog's parents. In her puppy’s case, the dog didn’t like when other dogs “got into her face.” She was okay if the other dog was aloof or not too energetic. It’s just part of the dog’s personality – she prefers that other dogs keep their distance. So, just like some humans prefer that others don’t get into their space, some dogs do too!
Other behavior issues can be inherited as well: food aggression is very commonly a behavior trait passed along from the parents, as is possession aggression (also termed resource guarding). Anxiety-based behavior problems like separation anxiety can clearly be traits inherited from past generations.
Can a genetically sound puppy develop behavior problems? Absolutely! That’s where the environment comes in (the way the dog is treated). Use of punishment techniques, lack of training, and many other things can bring about bad behaviors in dogs.
The bottom line is this: There are no guarantees when it comes to dogs’ behavior. So why not rescue a homeless dog instead of buying a puppy?
When you’re in the animal business, it’s easy to notice what other people are doing with their animals. I live in a neighborhood with lots of dogs, and most people are highly considerate and seem to treat their dogs well. Most people carry plastic bags to pick up after the dogs, and just about all dogs are on a leash. But occasionally, we see some really dumb or irritating things. In just one walk around the neighborhood the other day, I saw an elderly man walking a very energetic Jack Russell terrier and the man was reading a book! I was astounded that he didn’t trip on something and fall, not to mention what the dog was doing while he wasn’t paying attention! We had lots of mushrooms in the grass last month with all of the rain and if the dog was eating any of them, the dog could have been poisoned.
And then there was the lady who has a highly excitable and aggressive dog. She’s usually very attentive to the dog and feeds him treats if she sees someone approaching. But this particular day, she was talking on her cell phone!! She didn’t see me coming with my 2 dogs (one of which is also excitable). Thank goodness I was paying attention and quickly scooted around the side of a house. To me, walking your dog should be no different than driving your car – pay attention to where you’re going!And lastly, on this same walk, I see a neighbor with a new dog, a Lab. I sighed with sadness. This neighbor and her husband purchased a Border Collie several years ago and they never walked him anywhere other than out to the yard to potty, then back into the house. Predictably, the dog went nuts from lack of physical and mental exercise, and he turned aggressive. So they bought yet another Border Collie. They heard that if you buy another dog to keep the first one company that the dog will be better behaved. Not!! So they get the second Border Collie and don’t walk that one either. Then that one became aggressive. Now I see this third dog...and he’s not getting walked either. Sadly, I heard that they euthanized the first Border Collie. You would think that they could see a pattern here. I feel so bad for these dogs. They’re virtually in prison.
I hope that my future walks through the neighborhood are happier!
Just when I thought I’ve heard of every possible bad thing that can happen to a dog… Did you know that it is legal in 44 states for someone to kill and eat their own dog? Oh yes. Why am I blogging about this, you ask? Last week in Philadelphia, a man was cited for importing dogs from Korea and breeding them to be eaten. About half a dozen dogs were seized and are now in the custody of a rescue group. I understand that in certain Asian cultures, dogs had been used as food sources. But unknowingly, I thought that it was a last resort when they had no other food. I really doubt that Philadelphia has a food shortage so desperate that dogs need to be bred for food.
I realize that I can be naïve to other cultures because I was raised in sheltered suburbia. But how can our laws be so antiquated to allow eating dogs? Our society has hopefully evolved considerably from when these laws were enacted. At least I thought it had. Isn’t it time for a complete revamp of dogs laws instead of slowly chipping away at the existing laws?
Many people like to adopt dogs in the summertime when they may have more time to train the dogs and get them accustomed to their new homes. That’s a great strategy because most dogs take some time and work to adjust. I am frequently asked about the best way to introduce a new dog to a dog already in the home. There are several things to do to ensure the most successful match:
The more dogs in your home, the more need for obedience training and structure. But it’s always best to train your dogs so that they know what you are saying to them!