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Dog Dentistry 101: Dental Issues to Look for in your Dog

Dogs need dental care just like cats and humans! Caring for their teeth daily can help to prevent other oral health problems. In honour of Pet Dental Health Month, we go over how to watch for the signs and symptoms of dental issues as well as inform you about the dental diseases dogs can have that, if left untreated, may require a visit to a dog hospital.

Dental Diseases in Dogs

Tooth decay is very common among humans but is rare in dogs. The most common dental issues seen in dogs are fractured teeth and periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Although there are no outward signs or symptoms in the beginning of gum disease, once it has advanced it can cause your dog to experience chronic pain, eroded gums, and missing teeth. Periodontal disease is so common that over 80% of dogs over the age of three are known to have it. It is 5 times more often to happen in dogs than in humans.

There is Such a Thing as Bad Doggie Breath: Halitosis

Most people don’t think highly of their dog’s breath daily, but if your dog’s breath is worse than normal, it could be halitosis. Halitosis is caused by a build-up of foul-smelling bacteria in the mouth, lungs, or gut. If your dog has halitosis, it can mean that there could be something wrong in their gastrointestinal tract, liver, or kidneys, or it just means they need better dog dental care. Either way, it’s always better to get your pup checked out by their veterinarian to be sure. Halitosis usually appears if the dog has gum disease, an infection, or tooth decay.

If you detect these smells in your dog’s breath, get them checked right away:

  • Unusually sweet or fruity: can indicate diabetes, especially if your dog is drinking and peeing more than normal.
  • Urine: a sign of kidney disease.
  • Unusual foul odor: a liver problem, especially if accompanied by vomiting, lack of appetite, and yellow-tinged eyes.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease in dogs is the inflammation or infection of the tissues or gums surrounding the tooth. It’s caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar, which causes periodontal pockets or receding gums around where the tooth is attached. If left untreated, the infection will make things worse for your dog. 

Plaque and Tartar Buildup

As we all know, mouths are full of thousands of bacteria which multiply on the surface of the tooth, forming an invisible layer which is the plaque (or biofilm). A dog’s tongue and chewing habits can remove some of the plaque.

However, the plaque can thicken, becoming mineralized and creating tartar if it’s allowed to remain on the tooth’s surface. The tartar builds up below and above the gum line which can lead to inflammation (gingivitis). Further plaque buildup can lead to periodontal disease. 

What Can Factor in the Development of Dental Diseases in Dogs?

  • Age and general health: dogs at any age can develop dental diseases, but the most commonly affected are adult and senior dogs.
  • Diet and chewing behavior: canned dog food rather than hard kibbles is not that good at keeping plaque from accumulating. Various toys or treats may also be contributing to some of the buildup.
  • Tooth alignment: while dogs with their teeth often crowded together (often in smaller breeds) are at greater risk of developing dental diseases, all dogs whether their teeth are straight or crooked are at risk. This is one reason why daily brushing is so important!
  • Home care: if you are not taking regular care of your dog’s teeth at home by brushing daily (if possible), this increases the risk of dental diseases as well as the amount of plaque and tartar buildup in their mouth. 

Signs and Symptoms of Oral Health Issues in Dogs

  • Problems with eating hard food
  • Red/swollen gums
  • Loose teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • “Talking” or making noises when they eat or yawn
  • Bumps or lumps in the mouth
  • Ropey saliva
  • Favouring one side of the mouth while chewing
  • Withdrawing from being touched
  • Sensitivity around the mouth
  • Stomach or intestinal upsets
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Weight loss

You should take your pooch to a dog hospital at once if you see these signs and symptoms of dental problems:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums
  • Change in eating or chewing habits
  • Visible tartar on the gum line
  • Bumps or growths in their mouth
  • Pawing at their face or mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Missing, discoloured, broken, or misaligned teeth

Prevention

Dental diseases in dogs may be common but each one we’ve mentioned is preventable! Doing your best brush your dog’s teeth at least once a day is recommended. If for some reason you are unable to do so yourself, there are toys and treats that can help. It’s best to get help from your vet if your dog resists or refuses to have their teeth cleaned. When in doubt, ask your family veterinarian about dog dental care, report any teeth issues you may have noticed, and make it a point to have your pooch checked regularly. 

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

A Merry Christmas for Pets

It is the festive season—the season of goodwill and reflection alongside the busy schedule of reaching out to family and friends. It is also a time when we can have the pleasure of sharing a little extra time with our pets or companion animals. After all, they have been there for us throughout the year, tough times and good. And they will be by our sides during the coming year as well.

So what can be the perfect gift for our pet during this gift-giving time of the year? I have always had a tough time bringing gifts home for my cat and dog. Dogs crave company and that is all they look forward to while cats take all your efforts for granted! After all, cats are the real homeowners! It is such traits in our pets that would help select the ideal gift or treat for our pets. Sweaters for the cold days, some designer bling (neck collars, leashes, etc.), their favorite treat, or a day devoted to spoiling them are just a few options. Every pet is different as every person is, and knowing what would be best for the individual pet is the key to pet gift-giving. What we can surely count on is that such a gesture would be much appreciated.

Please enjoy this festive season with your pets – but remember to enjoy responsibly:

  1. Do not bring plants toxic to pets into the house.
  2. Party food can be calorie-rich and is not ideal for pets to consume.
  3. Make sure that all pets are accounted for at the end of each day as outdoor cats can suffer from the low temperature if left out for even one night.
  4. Cats may hide by automobile tires for warmth during cold days and it is important to start the engine for a few minutes before driving to warn such a sleeping animal.

Happy holidays!

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner at Hastings Veterinary Clinic, Burnaby.

7 Fun Rainy Day Indoor Activities With Your Dog You’ll Both Enjoy

Sure, your dog needs to go outdoors for a daily walk or two, but sometimes you need to cut the dog walk short because of rainy or even stormy weather. Don’t worry about doing that, because there are a lot of fun rainy day indoor activities with your dog you can both enjoy!

Workouts and exercise for your dog should be done rain or shine. Today, we offer seven indoor games you can play together without overexerting them or yourself.

1. Tug-of-war

Toss a soft toy to your dog and ask them to fetch it. When he or she does, grab a part of the toy and start shaking it to get it out of their mouth. They will resist, of course, and eventually you can loosen your grasp and let them get away. Warn him or her not to touch your hand with their teeth if they’re too close, and you must stop the game if he or she does and try it again later. They will soon catch on to this important rule.

Take note that this game:

  • Will encourage them to be playful
  • Will be more fun for your dog when you allow them to win more than half of the time

Playing games like tug-of-war with your dog will, in fact, give them more confidence (especially if they’re shy) as well as a good workout!

2. Find the Treats

Place some treats—like, say, chopped carrots—around the room while your dog watches you. Tell him to “Find the treats” and help him or her find them. When they are all found and eaten, throw your hands up and say, “That’s all,” or “All gone.” They will catch on soon, and after he or she has learned the signals, hide treats when he or she is not in the room. Call them into the room and give him the signal “Find the treats” to send them on the search, and signal the end of the game by hand gestures and the words “That’s all.” Your pup will love it!

3. Teach Your Dog the Names of their Toys

Name your dog’s toys when you are playing tug, or toss and fetch, or any game with their toys, and reinforce these names in their memory by saying them frequently. To help support their mastery of the names, you can combine this lesson with the next game, which is:

4. Find Your Toys

Drop a number of your pup’s toys in a big pile on the floor, and ask them to find the toys by name. For example say, “Fetch Blue Bear,” and if he or she brings you the right toy, give them a treat and lots of praise. If not, fetch Blue Bear yourself and show it to them. Then, go back and drop it on the pile and say again, “Fetch Blue Bear.” Repeat these steps until he or she picks up Blue Bear and gives it to you, then praise them and give them their treat.

Next, hide Blue Bear under the other toys while he watches you and again, say, “Fetch Blue Bear.” Help them learn to fetch the right toy and give it to you and don’t get sidetracked by a game of tug of war while you are in the middle of this game, which they may try a few times.

Eventually, when you start a new game, you can have your dog fetch a particular toy for it—the tug, or toss and fetch, or any other game—by asking for it by name so that he or she doesn’t forget the names. Since you should rotate their toys every once in a while so that he or she doesn’t become bored with them, they will learn a lot of names—which comes easier to some dogs than others. When he or she has mastered this game, they are ready for the next game, which is:

5. Put Your Toys Away

Your dog will love this game, and so will you! Help him or her learn what to do by telling them it’s time to put their toys in the toy box (or wherever you keep them). Then pick up a toy and say, “Pick up ducky” and then walk over to the toy box and say, “Drop ducky” and drop ducky into it. Your dog will be very interested. After doing this a few times, touch a toy on the floor saying, “Pick up (name)” and when he or she does, lead them to the toy box and say, “Drop (name).”

After they catch on, you will be able to point to a toy and command “Pick up (name)” followed by pointing to the toy box and saying, “Drop (name) in the toy box.” Don’t forget to have a little treat ready for them after they’ve dropped the toy in the toy box while they’re learning the game. Later, when your pup knows the game well enough and picks up and puts away all of their toys while you’re sitting back and watching them, give them a special treat. (We knew you’d like this game!

6. Hide and Seek

To play this game, your dog needs to understand the command “Stay.” If not, you need a helper who will hold your pet while you go into another room and hide. They can be released when you call to them. Keep calling if necessary until they find you, and then make a big fuss and praise him or her so that they understand you are playing a game with them.  Also, work on the command to “stay.” Aside from the fact that understanding this command allows the two of you to play hide and seek without help, it is one of the most useful commands your pup can learn.

7. Chasing Bubbles 

This is a great game to play when your dog needs some exercise and you aren’t feeling well. Use a child’s simple bubble solution and bubble maker and blow bubbles for your dog to chase while you are sitting in your easy chair or resting on your bed. After you’ve played this game with your pup once or twice—blowing bubbles and then chasing them and using your hand to break them—they’ll understand. Most dogs are fascinated by bubbles just like young children are! A bubble solution that is safe for a child is also safe for your dog.

Review Commands

As well as indoor games, you can spend some time on refresher lessons on obedience commands and any tricks you have taught your pup. In addition to “stay” and “no,” a useful command is “place,” which you can use to send them to their cushion or to their bed.  Treats are an excellent training tool, but check with your veterinarian regarding the types you can safely use while training your pooch if you want or need to provide them frequently.

As you can see you can have a great time with your pooch even on rainy days when you both need to stay inside from the miserable weather! These activities will help you both have fun and keep your dog active. Enjoy!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Ask an Expert: Abnormal Dog Nails

Q: My dog has been losing nails and some nails are bent out of shape. Why could his nails be abnormal?

A: Dogs that have an active lifestyle or dogs walked on pavement generally wear their nails short.

Nails that are prone to fall easily or appear abnormal in shape and size are signs of medical problems in dogs. The most common condition causing misshapen or broken nails is called Lupoid onychodystrophy. This condition may be due to multiple underlying causes and is easily treated using a combination of medication, dietary management, and supplements.

Other common causes for such symptoms include nail bed infections due to bacteria or fungus.

Happy ‘Doggieween’: Halloween Treats for Dogs Do’s and Don’ts

Halloween can be fun for dogs too, if they’ll let you dress them up. But if they get into the “human” treats, it can mean an emergency trip to the vet. There are treats you can give your pooch, but be wary of the ingredients. Any kind of human Halloween treat, candy, etc. are forbidden for dogs! Lollipop sticks can get stuck in their throat and candy wrappers can cause obstructions.

This is a good time to use that obedience training. Using the command “Leave it,” if you spot your pup sniffing around; this command can be especially helpful if any candy or chocolate lands on the floor. If you see your dog ingest something they shouldn’t have, call your vet or poison control immediately!

Halloween Treat Don’ts

Carefully read the ingredients in all treats you plan on giving to your dog. Sugary, high-fat candy can lead to pancreatitis, and symptoms may not show for about 2-4 days. You may not know it, but raisins and grapes are toxic to dogs too.

The artificial sweetener, xylitol, that is in a lot of “sugar-free” treats can cause sudden drop in blood sugar, subsequent loss of coordination, and seizures if ingested by your dog. Some treats contain white chocolate, which is still chocolate and a big no-no for dogs. Theobromine is the main ingredient in chocolate, which is harmless to humans but toxic to dogs.

Signs of Chocolate Poisoning:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Seizures

Should you see any of these signs in your pup take them to your vet straightaway!

Halloween Treat Do’s

All treats for your dog should be only given for training purposes or on special occasions. Don’t let treats replace their meals and don’t let your dog overindulge on the good treats. If your dog has allergies or is on a special hypoallergenic diet, talk to your vet about what you can give them for treat options.

Don’t forget, your dog can have treats that are beneficial to their health. Dogs can get bad breath, plaque, tartar formation, and tooth decay. You can give them dental treats that cleans their teeth, freshens their breath, and controls plaque and tartar.

Don’t forget their coat and skin either! There are treats you can give your pooch that contain Omega-3 fatty-acids, which are good for their skin and coat health.

For pups who prefer really crunchy treats, feel free to give them bite-sized pieces of raw carrots! There are other certain fruits and vegetables you can give your dog too.

Halloween Treat Ideas for Dogs

Not only can you find treats in the store to buy for your pooch, but you can also find many recipes to make homemade dog treats, including online. It can be fun to make treats from scratch and there are some that you can enjoy eating too along with your pooch.

Pumpkin is an okay treat for dogs, but only in small portions. Unless your pup is allergic (which is unlikely, as pumpkin is not a common allergen), baked pumpkin makes a good treat idea. Peanut butter is also a tasty option (again, be sure it’s only given to your dog in small amounts). There are plenty of peanut butter-flavoured treats you can find in the store!

Speaking of treats, it may be handy to keep a bag of dog treats handy during this time of the year. That way, your pup will not miss out on the festivities and they receive treats that are appropriate and safe.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Tips for an Enjoyable Halloween Night for Pets

Halloween is almost here! Costumes, parties, and plans for the day are likely already in place, including costumes for our furry friends. It is becoming quite popular to dress up your dog and the occasional cat in addition to the traditional partying and trick-or-treating on Halloween night. It is an enjoyable time and being socially inclined, dogs (and the odd cat) are happy to be involved in the fun. New commercials on TV appear to encourage pets go out trick-or-treating with kids!

Again, all fun and enjoyment with the right pet, but remember there are pets (as are humans) that may not be lining up to be part of the dressing up or socialization.

Pet families know their pets the best and it is important to assess how involved your pet may like to be during Halloween, or what the families’ overall plans should be. Addressing the following should help you make this a happy Halloween for the whole family:

  1. Pets can get anxiety from firecrackers (noise phobia) – skipping fireworks or boarding your pet in a safe, quiet kennel for fireworks nights are ideas to consider.
  2. Taking your pet for trick-or-treating may increase their chances of ingesting chocolate or candy, which can be toxic to them. Adult supervision for both your child and your pet is advised.
  3. If trick-or-treating with pets, putting a leash on should help keep them safe.
  4. Strangers can be wary of unknown pets, no matter how friendly your pooch is!
  5. If you are giving out candy to kids or will have many visitors, ensure your pet will not escape with the frequently opening front door.

Once safety for everyone is taken in to account, all you have to decide is if your pet will be a superhero, a hot dog, a prisoner, or will simply skip the dressing up!

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner at Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.

A Brief History of Social Behaviour in Dogs

Dogs love having companionship even more so than some humans probably do! In the wild, the canine families hunt in packs and have a hierarchy system. The same is true for companion dogs, even though their social behavior may not be as well studied as in the case of some of the more wild animals.

The dog’s cousin, the wild wolf, stays together in family groups and they are also very social animals. They hunt large prey, because of their strong pack mentality, which also gives them the best chance of survival. This strategy requires that individuals within the group maintain peaceful social bonds with one another. This relies largely on non-confrontational communication and a high level of social self-awareness, with individual wolves having to coordinate, cooperate, and compromise with one another in order to stay alive and well.

While survival for the pet dog is not as tricky or fickle as it would be for a wild wolf, man’s best friend is likely hard-wired for the same level of social interaction and respect for their companions. It likely helps dogs remain social animals because they tend to live with another very social species the “dog-owner”. Socialization with other dogs as well as humans is a very strong factor in how healthy and sociable a puppy will be in the future. Going to puppy classes and interacting at the park with dogs having different personalities helps puppies learn to adapt to and be respectful of the personal space of others. Leash training helps them bond with their family while also allowing them to learn to respect the personal space of other humans. In my opinion, every dog should be socialized with humans and other pets alike.

As a dog ages, it is helpful for the individual to go for walks and playtime as this would help keep the brain fresh and the joints active. Next time your dog brings you the leash or signals intent to go for a walk, it doesn’t only signify potty time! It is him (or her) telling you that it is time to freshen up the mind and body alike while spending some quality time together.

By – Dr. Jangi Bajwa,
Veterinary Dermatologist & Practice Owner
Hastings Veterinary Hospital, Burnaby.
Twitter @BajwaJangi

Pets at Work: The Pros and Cons

Have you ever felt guilty about leaving your pet at home alone when you go to work? While not every workplace is pet-friendly, there are exceptions to having pets at work that should be considered.

How Can Pets be Relevant in Your Daily Work Activities?

First of all, regardless of whether you think yourself more as a cat or a dog person, pets offer a feeling of relaxation to their owners that can certainly ease the daily pressures of work. Nurturing and looking after an animal offers a therapeutic effect relieving stress and creating a more positive environment.

Having a pet around the office means there is potential for a significant boost to productivity. Moods can be improved with a pet present and they can be a great reminder to take a break when you need to, leaving you more focused when you have to return to work.

Having a pet around while on the job can help out you and your co-workers as well. Bonding between pet owners happens naturally and encourages conversations between everyone at home, so why shouldn’t that be the case at work as well? It also helps if conversation on your part is tough to do in the first place; having a pet present can be a real ice-breaker.

Business owners, entrepreneurs, and even solopreneurs may even want to build their brand around being a service or company that not only respects pets but also cannot function without them. Companies such as Workday not only encourage their employees to bring their pets in to work but also insist upon it. Even Google has taken note of these benefits, establishing and encouraging a working environment that thrives on creativity and engagement while pets are present and supervised.

The Downsides of Pets at Work

For every pro to having a pet-friendly workplace there are cons as well. For instance, your co-workers may have an allergy to pets that will harm their work performance and decrease efficiency while on the job. Some pets may misbehave and grind productivity to a halt instead of the other way round while in an office. Some companies you work for may have a zero-pets policy in place anyway, and bringing a pet despite this policy could actually harm you and your company’s reputation – especially if it’s a restaurant!

So are Pets at Work a Good Idea or Not?

It all depends on where you work and the policies present at your company. We do not recommend bringing your pet to work where cooking and handling food for people is a daily task, nor do we recommend bringing your pet to your office if it’s not permitted. Aside from these situations, a pet can offer a sense of companionship to your work life.

Being alone in a cubicle, day in day out, can make you a little stir crazy! But having a little furry critter to lie at your feet as you work at your computer offers something to have a little chat with, even if he or she might not answer back!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

5 Dog Food Myths that Need to be Busted, Pronto

Have you ever given your dog food that you think may be safe for them, only to find out it isn’t? Contrary to popular belief, not everything you feed dogs is good for them, and some things you think are terrible for them may not actually be so. These five dog food myths are common enough, but they need to be busted, pronto, for the sake of keeping your pooch happy, healthy, and safe. 

Beware the Common Myths

“Myths” in this case are exactly what the word implies: untrue stories founded on misconceptions about dogs, their food, and the ways in which various ingredients can affect them.

We love our pets and want to feed them food that will help them grow and live long and happy lives, but there are a lot of conflicting stories about what constitutes a good diet for dogs. Here are the most common issues.

Myth #1 – It’s Okay for Dogs to Free-Feed During the Day

“Free-feeding” is the term used for leaving your dog’s food out during the day for them to casually graze on, rather than giving them food on a schedule. This may seem convenient and easy if you have to leave for work for the day or go to school, but it may not be as convenient to your dog’s overall health.

A dog that free-feeds their food is more than likely to become overweight, leading to all sorts of long-term problems. It also can end up being unsanitary—especially if you tend to feed your dog outside. Unwanted critters such as rodents, bugs, and even stray cats or dogs may smell your pup’s food and come to your home to eat it.

It’s best to feed your dog with the portioned amount they need and on a schedule. A vet can recommend you a schedule and the portions needed based on your pup’s current lifestyle, breed, size, and exercise routine.

Myth #2 – Chocolate is Okay to Give to Dogs

This one’s a very harmful myth and one that should not be believed for a second! Chocolate is actually one of the worst things you can give to a dog. Chocolate contains the ingredients xylitol and theobromine, which are harmless to humans but highly toxic to dogs. Whether it’s around Easter, Halloween, or any other major holiday involving chocolate, always keep it out of their reach.

If at any point you suspect your dog has eaten chocolate, bring them to a veterinarian—even if obvious symptoms haven’t shown up.

Myth #3 – Bones are Okay for Dogs

Yes, dogs love to chew on bones, but it depends on both the bone and your dog. Here’s the general rule: cooked bones, whether they’re from pork, chicken, beef, or other animals, are more dangerous than raw ones because cooking makes them brittle and more likely to break or shred.

Yes, you can buy raw marrowbones from butchers and pet stores and they will be safer, but bones carry no guarantees and might break, even if they’re not too small or not too big and are cooked or raw. More importantly, they can cause your enthusiastic bone-crunching pet to break a tooth or, worst-case scenario, cause a gastrointestinal blockage that would require immediate veterinary attention.

Bones may not harm your pup, but why take a chance? Give him or her something else to chew, such as carrots or chew toys.

Myth #4 – Grains are Bad for Dogs

Actually, grains such as wheat, corn, soy, barley, and rice are not harmful to dogs. They are harmful, however, if your dog has a diagnosed wheat allergy or a food allergy that is triggered by grains. If your dog is not intolerant to wheat, however, then it’s perfectly fine to give your dog food containing other grains. They should not be the only part of your dog’s diet—it’s best that they’re combined with protein, such as chicken.

Myth #5 – Pork is Bad for Dogs

This is only slightly true. Uncooked or raw pork is most definitely bad for dogs—but once it’s cooked thoroughly (minus any rubs or spices), it’s actually as harmless as cooked chicken, beef, or any other meats. Just be sure to trim any additional fat off of the piece of pork you want to feed your dog, and portions must be appropriate for their size. While straight-up pork from loins, chops, etc. is fine, what’s not fine is ham or bacon—both are made of pork, but they are processed and contain higher fat and salt content as well as ingredients that could harm your dog.

The best way to feed your dog is by keeping their needs in mind while choosing dog food, which means their diet will change over time. After all, what is suitable for a puppy (up to one year) differs for an adult dog (one to seven years or so) and a senior dog (seven and up). You may have to alter their diet if he or she develops health problems such as diabetes, obesity, or food allergies.

Your veterinarian will guide you through the mysteries of finding the best dog food for your pup, and can help debunk any other myths you may encounter—and there is bound to be others!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to the Hastings Veterinary Clinic and a clickable link back to this page.

Animal Health Week 2017

October 1st to 7th is a very special week for our pets – it’s Animal Health Week! Sponsored by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, this week celebrates the wonder of the human-animal bond, which is the unique and wonderful relationship that exists between a pet and its owner – a relationship based on unconditional love. Many studies have already defined the healing power of this bond, especially in reducing stress and heart disease, and in providing critical emotional support for the elderly and infirm.

Never judgmental, always forgiving, and possessing undying devotion and loyalty for their owners, pets truly provide us with a unique relationship that is hard to duplicate between people. Not only is the human-animal bond unique to every pet and owner, it is celebrated in unique ways as well.

Every year the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) surveys pet owners throughout the United States and Canada in an effort to learn more about peoples’ relationships with their pets. Here are some of the highlights from the past few years:

  • 84 percent of respondents refer to themselves as their pet’s “mom” or “dad&”
  • 72 percent of married survey respondents greet their pet first when they return home, compared with 13 percent who say they greet their spouse or significant other first, and 7 percent who greet their children
  • 63 percent of respondents celebrate their pet’s birthday, and 43 percent give their pet a wrapped gift
  • 87 percent of pet owners include their pet in holiday celebrations, with Christmas being the most celebrated holiday with a pet at 98 percent
  • 65 percent of pet owners have sung or danced with their pet
  • 66 percent would opt for their pet if stranded on a desert island and given the choice of a companion

As a general rule, pet owners are far more forgiving of inadequacies or misbehavior in their pets than they are for their own friends and family members! And what do our pets ask for in return? Nothing but our companionship.

So take a moment to rejoice in the human-animal bond that you share with your own pet and ensure that you are living up to your end of the bargain. Call your veterinarian to double-check that you have availed yourself of all of the preventative health measures your pet requires. Make sure that your pet is on a quality diet appropriate for his/her age and health care needs. Have your pet properly identified (i.e., tag and microchip) to ensure a speedy recovery should your pet become lost. And, finally (especially for dog owners) – grab the leash and watch your pet come alive. Go for a walk – it will do you both good!