Caring for Your Dog and Cat

Caring for Your Dog and Cat

When a kitten or puppy is taken away from his family, he will be lonely for his brothers and sisters, and for his mother.

He will need to be cuddled and treated gently, to be protected from noise and confusion by his new family, as he gradually becomes acquainted with them.

When he first arrives, try to feed him some warm milk. After that feed him frequently and lightly.

The first ten days are the most difficult for both pet and owner. Since most animals are creatures of habit, your pet should be kept on a fairly rigid schedule suitable to both his needs and your family’s.

Best Age to Get a Puppy or Kitten

The best age for taking a puppy from the litter is between 6 and 8 weeks, 7 weeks being ideal. This gives him enough time to socialize with his littermates and to be introduced to his new pack or family. Cats are not pack animals but, as with puppies, 7 weeks is a suitable age.

Pet Check-Up

Give your puppy or kitten a few days to adjust to you and to its new surroundings and watch out for any obvious signs of trouble. Then take it to the vet for a general examination, a worm check and a vaccination. Young puppies and kittens are fragile and tire easily. Over-handling or abuse by young children must be avoided.

Vaccinations

The two main diseases which are fatal to dogs and should be vaccinated against are distemper and hepatitis. The only dangerous disease fatal to cats which requires vaccination is feline enteritis. Dogs can be given a temporary vaccination as early as 6 weeks, with the permanent vaccination given at around 10 – 12 weeks. Kittens can be permanently vaccinated at 6 weeks of age.

Booster vaccinations may be necessary for animals which lead isolated lives, seldom coming into contact with other disease-carrying animals which would stimulate their defense mechanisms. For these pets – living in apartments, for instance – annual booster vaccinations until they are from 5 to 7 years old will maintain an immunity which will last for the rest of their lives.

Pet Foods

Of the three main needs in the diet – protein, carbohydrates and fats – protein is the most important for both growing puppies and kittens.

New puppies should have 3 to 4 meals a day of such things as milk, cereals, and baby-type foods, with a gradual introduction of finely chopped meat. They should also have regular vitamin, mineral and calcium supplements up to 12 months of age while the skeleton is forming. Variety is important at this stage so introduce vegetables, boiled rice, offal, and the various types of meat – chicken, rabbit, mutton.

During the first week or two at home kittens should be fed on a slightly warmed milk and cereal mixture, strained baby meat, vitamins, minerals and calcium powder. Gradually add a variety of minced meat to the mixture, plus occasional eggs, cheese and small quantities of vegetables or cereals.

Reference: Cat Food

Variety is particularly important with cats’ diets because cats tend to become very selective eaters and if they are not introduced to a varied diet as young kittens they will always be selective and restrictive in their food intake.

As the cat grows up, include larger chunks of meat or fish so that it may clean and strengthen its teeth as it chews. A lot of veterinary work is done on cat’s teeth because they have been traditionally fed soft, mushy foods.

From three to four meals a day at 6 weeks, dogs and cats usually reduce their own food intake until, by 12 months, they eat just one meal a day. Ideally this should be in the morning for energy.

Nutritionally, there is no difference between raw and cooked meat. For the sake of their teeth and gums both cats and dogs should be given non-splintering bones. Brisket bones are ideal.

Avoid rabbit or chicken carcasses which have many small bones and avoid pressure-cooked or boiled bones which can cause constipation. Bones should never be counted as part of your pet’s nutritional diet.

Fat is an energy source and aids digestion so regularly include a small amount of fatty meat. Vegetable oils are a good way of adding fat.

Canned pet foods can be a false economy if fed as the pet’s sole diet as they have a high water content – sometimes as much as 80 percent – and an animal fed on nothing but canned foods of this type can be actually starving.

Dry and semi-moist pet foods are all good nutritionally and make a useful addition to meat or fish dishes. But be careful not to feed an adult cat on too high a content of dried foods as there is a definite relation between dry food and urinary trouble in cats.

In general, a combination of dried, canned and fresh foods is probably the best diet for your pet.

Reference: Dog Food

House Training

It’s not easy to generalize. Toilet training is a process of conditioning, more of a problem in dogs than in cats since cats are basically very clean creatures.

The times that young puppies want to go to the toilet are the same times as young babies: after eating and on waking up.

These are the times when the owner should concentrate on training the puppy by taking it to the place where he wants it to relieve itself and, when it does, praising and making a great fuss of it.

When it relieves itself in the wrong place the owner should criticize it and then take it, with encouragement, to the place where it is supposed to go. Rubbing an animal’s nose in its own excretions is primitive, humiliating and pointless.

Deworming

Dogs and cats get four main internal parasites:

  1. roundworms
  2. tapeworms
  3. hookworms
  4. whipworms

Your pet is most susceptible to worm infestation during the first 12 months of its life and this is when owners should pay special attention to the problem. Rather than routine or sporadic administration of worm dosing, the best solution is to regularly drop a sample of the pet’s feces into the vet for checking.

Vets charge a very small fee for this service. Then the animal is treated accordingly, avoiding unnecessary or inappropriate dosing. A rough guide for checking your puppy or kitten for worms is: first check as early as 3 weeks, then check weekly up to 6 weeks, then make monthly checks until they are about 6 months old, then further checks at 9 and 12 months.

Fleas are the intermediate hosts of the common tapeworm so, in addition to tapeworm tablets, control of fleas is important in eliminating the tapeworm.

The hydatid tapeworm (which, along with the roundworm, is the only internal parasite considered a major public health risk connected with pets) is related to sheep and only occurs in sheep-raising areas.

The common tapeworm cannot be transmitted to humans. The number of children suffering from roundworm larval infestation is very small but of course precautions should be taken. The larvae of the hookworm can penetrate the skin of human feet but this is very rare.

Desexing

One of the two main reasons for having a female dog or cat desexed is the nuisance value. Bitches come on heat usually twice a year for two or three weeks while undesexed female cats come into season much more regularly, particularly in spring and summer.

A second and equally valid reason for desexing female pets is the elimination of what, in humans, we call “women’s troubles” in later life – diseases of the sexual organs such as breast diseases and cancer of the uterus which are quite common in dogs and cats.

Dogs and cats become sexually mature at about four and a half to five months and this is an ideal age for desexing. The main fallacies regarding desexing of female dogs and cats are that they put on weight, have a change of personality and suffer from never having had a litter.

None of these things is true. However, a dog or cat which has had one or more litters may still be desexed, although the operation at that stage is a much bigger one, more expensive, more uncomfortable and the animal takes longer to recover.

The two main reasons for desexing male cats and dogs are over-aggression and over-sexual behavior. Provided castration is done while the animal is young – before its masculine traits have become habitual – it usually eliminates these problems.

There is a very strong case for desexing male cats. It stops them from spraying bad-smelling urine, keeps them at home and stops them fighting other cats. Vets see a great number of fight wounds and abscesses in undesexed male cats.

Grooming

Regular grooming for long-haired pets is essential – most particularly for long-haired cats whose fur can get so matted from neglect that vets have to anesthetize the cat before clipping away the fur.

Long-haired dogs such as the collie and the Old English sheepdog should be groomed for 5 to 10 minutes daily and clipped in summer for their own comfort. Short-haired dogs should be groomed after their weekly bath, short-haired cats once or twice a week.

Bathing

Dogs, particularly, should be bathed once a week in summer, less often in the cooler months.

In hot summers – especially when there is a high degree of humidity as well – regular bathing once a week is essential for the control of fleas and ticks and for general skin care. A great number of skin diseases such as eczema and dermatitis which occur in dogs and cats are mainly related to heat and humidity.

Another fallacy is that cats cannot be bathed. A lot of cats are difficult to handle and get very upset at being bathed but there is no reason why a cat should not be given a monthly insecticidal shampoo in summer. Preparations such as malathion are safe for cats.

Fleas are a major problem during the summer and ticks claim many pet lives each year.

The best way to control them is to bath your pet first with a shampoo, rinse this off, then apply an insecticidal rinse, saturating the coat. Let this dry on the coat, do not rinse it off. Add a flea collar and your pet will have effective protection.

Flea and Tick Control

Flea powders are usually only partially effective. On long-haired pets such as collies and persians they have very little effect because they cannot saturate the long coat. The oral systemic tablets and drops are very effective but they have a limited use in that they remain in the blood stream for only 8 hours or so.

Daily inspection for ticks in the animal’s coat is vital if you live in a tick-infested area. Run your hands over your pet’s coat, particularly around the head and neck (take the collar off), between the toes, in the ears, round the anus, along the tail – in all the awkward places where the tick might lodge.

Ticks take four days to engorge themselves on the animal’s blood before reaching their full size (equivalent to a split pea) and producing their toxin. Fortunately there is an antidote for this toxin but it is expensive and must be given in the early stages if it is to be effective.

Dog Mites

Dogs are subject to four different kinds of mange, but as each kind is caused by a particular type of mite burrowing into or puncturing the skin, the treatment in all cases should be aimed at the mites.

Sarcoptic mange may attack man and many of the domestic and wild animals including the fox and wombat, but as the mites seem to prefer a particular species of host the spread from one species to another is not rapid or easy.

In dogs the disease may begin on any part of the body, but usually on the elbows and hocks, causing the dog to scratch continually. The hair may or may not fall out. There is usually a marked loss of condition. Spread from dog to dog is rapid.

Demodectic mange usually begins with a falling of the hair around the eyes, producing a spectacled appearance. It may occur all over the body, producing a shiny, hairless skin without much irritation.

It is usually confined to dogs under a year old and attacks mainly the short-haired breeds. The disease runs a slow course and is accompanied by a mousy smell. It may end fatally if not treated.

A veterinary surgeon would probably diagnose the trouble and advise appropriate treatment immediately, but if no vet is available some home treatment can be tried.

Reference: Dog Mites

Pet’s Teeth and Nails

Cats’ teeth should be checked regularly – at least once a year – for tartar which if left, can cause several kinds of gum and teeth problems. Dogs’ teeth should always be checked when the dog is taken to the vet for a routine check.

Dogs who run on concrete should never need to have their nails clipped but dogs who run on grass and carpet may have to – two or three times a year. Cats’ claws shouldn’t need clipping. If your cat scratches the furniture provide it with its own scratching post.

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